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Title: Kate Danton, or, Captain Danton's Daughters - A Novel
Author: Fleming, May Agnes, 1840-1880
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kate Danton, or, Captain Danton's Daughters - A Novel" ***

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by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions
(www.canadiana.org))



                              KATE DANTON;


                       CAPTAIN DANTON'S DAUGHTERS

                                _A Novel_

                          BY MAY AGNES FLEMING,

AUTHOR OF "NORINE'S REVENGE," "GUY EARLSCOURT'S WIFE," "A WONDERFUL
WOMAN," "A TERRIBLE SECRET," "A MAD MARRIAGE," "ONE NIGHT'S MYSTERY,"
ETC.



TORONTO:
_BELFORD BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS._
MDCCCLXXVII.

Printed and Stereotyped by
The Globe Printing Company,
26 & 28 King Street East,
Toronto.

Bound by
Hunter, Rose & Co.
Toronto.



  "----A woman's will dies hard,
  In the field, or on the sward."



    "There were three little women
      Each fair in the face,
    And their laughter with music
      Filled all the green place;
    As they wove pleasant thoughts
      With the threads of their lace.

    Of the wind in the tree tops
      The flowers in the glen,
    Of the birds--the brown robin,
      The wood dove, the wren,
    They talked--but their thoughts
      Were of three little men!"



CONTENTS.


       I.--Grace Danton

      II.--Kate Danton

     III.--A Change of Dynasty

      IV.--Rose Danton

       V.--Seeing a Ghost

      VI.--Rose's Adventure

     VII.--Hon. Lieutenant Reginald Stanford

    VIII.--The Ghost Again

      IX.--A Game for Two to Play at

       X.--The Revelation

      XI.--One Mystery Cleared Up

     XII.--Harry Danton

    XIII.--Love-making

     XIV.--Trying to be True

      XV.--One of Earth's Angels

     XVI.--Epistolary

    XVII.--"She Took Up the Burden of Life Again."

   XVIII.--"It's an Ill Wind Blows Nobody Good"

     XIX.--Via Crucis

      XX.--Bearing the Cross

     XXI.--Dr. Danton's Good Works

    XXII.--After the Cross, the Crown

   XXIII.--"Long have I been True to You, now I'm True no Longer"

    XXIV.--Coals of Fire

     XXV.--At Home



KATE DANTON.



CHAPTER I.

GRACE DANTON.


A low room, oblong in shape, three high narrow windows admitting the
light through small, old-fashioned panes. Just at present there was not
much to admit, for it was raining hard, and the afternoon was wearing on
to dusk; but even the wet half-light showed you solid mahogany
furniture, old-fashioned as the windows themselves, black and shining
with age and polish; a carpet soft and thick, but its once rich hues dim
and faded; oil paintings of taste and merit, some of them portraits, on
the papered walls, the red glow of a large coal fire glinting pleasantly
on their broad gilded frames.

At one of the windows, looking out at the ceaseless rain, a young lady
sat--a young lady, tall, rather stout than slender, and not pretty. Her
complexion was too sallow; her features too irregular; her dark hair too
scant, and dry and thin at the parting; but her eyes were fine, large,
brown and clear; her manner, self-possessed and lady-like. She was very
simply but very tastefully dressed, and looked every day of her
age--twenty six.

The rainy afternoon was deepening into dismal twilight; and with her
cheek resting on her hand, the young lady sat with a thoughtful face.

A long avenue, shaded by towering tamaracks, led down to stately
entrance-gates; beyond, a winding road, leading to a village, not to be
seen from the window. Swelling meadows, bare and bleak now, spread away
to the right and left of the thickly-wooded grounds; and beyond all,
through the trees, there were glimpses of the great St. Lawrence, turbid
and swollen, rushing down to the stormy Gulf.

For nearly half an hour the young lady sat by the window, her solitude
undisturbed; no sign of life within or without the silent house. Then
came the gallop of horse's hoofs, and a lad rode up the avenue and
disappeared round the angle of the building.

Ten minutes after there was a tap at the door, followed by the entrance
of a servant, with a dark Canadian face.

"A letter, Miss Grace," said the girl, in French.

"Bring in some more coal, Babette," said Miss Grace, also in French,
taking the letter. "Where is Miss Eeny?"

"Practising in the parlour, Ma'moiselle."

"Very well. Bring in the coal."

Babette disappeared, and the young lady opened her letter. It was very
short.

    "Montreal, November, 5, 18--.

     "My Dear Grace--Kate arrived in this city a week ago, and
     I have remained here since to show her the sights, and let her
     recruit after her voyage. Ogden tells me the house is quite ready
     for us, so you may expect us almost as soon as you receive this. We
     will be down by the 7th, for certain. Ogden says that Rose is
     absent. Write to her to return.

    "Yours sincerely,
     Henry Danton."

     "P. S.--Did Ogden tell you we were to have a visitor--an invalid
     gentleman--a Mr. Richards? Have the suite of rooms on the west side
     prepared for him. H. D."

The young lady refolded her note thoughtfully, and walking to the fire,
stood looking with grave eyes into the glowing coals.

"So soon," she thought; "so soon; everything to be changed. What is
Captain Danton's eldest daughter like, I wonder? What is the Captain
like himself, and who can this invalid, Mr. Richards, be? I don't like
change."

Babette came in with the coal, and Miss Grace roused herself from her
reverie.

"Babette, tell Ledru to have dinner at seven. I think your master and
his daughter will be here to-night."

"Mon Dieu, Mademoiselle! The young lady from England?"

"Yes; and see that there are fires in all the rooms upstairs."

"Yes, Miss Grace."

"Is Miss Eeny still in the parlour?"

"Yes, Miss Grace."

Miss Grace walked out of the dining-room, along a carved and pictured
corridor, up a broad flight of shining oaken stairs, and tapped at the
first door.

"Come in, Grace," called a pleasant voice, and Grace went in.

It was a much more elegant apartment than the dining-room, with flowers,
and books, and birds, and pictures, and an open piano with music
scattered about.

Half buried in a great carved and gilded chair, lay the only occupant of
the room--a youthful angel of fifteen, fragile in form, fair and
delicate of face, with light hair and blue eyes. A novel lying open in
her lap showed what her occupation had been.

"I thought you were practising your music, Eeny," said Grace.

"So I was, until I got tired. But what's that you've got? A letter?"

Grace put it in her hand.

"From papa!" cried the girl, vividly interested at once. "Oh, Grace!
Kate has come!"

"Yes."

The young lady laid down the letter and looked at her.

"How oddly you said that! Are you sorry?"

"Sorry! Oh, no."

"You looked as if you were. How strange it seems to think that this
sister of mine, of whom I have heard so much and have never seen, should
be coming here for good! And papa--he is almost a stranger, too, Grace.
I suppose everything will be very different now."

"Very, very different," Grace said, with her quiet eyes fixed on the
fire. "The old life will soon be a thing of the past. And we have been
very happy here; have we not, Eeny?"

"Very happy," answered Eeny; "and will be still, I hope. Papa and Kate,
and Mr. Richards--I wonder who Mr. Richards is?--shall not make us
miserable."

"I suppose, Eeny," said Grace, "I shall be quite forgotten when this
handsome Sister Kate comes. She ought to be very handsome."

She looked up at an oval picture about the marble mantel, in a rich
frame--the photograph of a lovely girl about Eeny's age. The bright
young face looked at you with a radiant smile, the exuberant golden hair
fell in sunlight ripples over the plump white shoulders, and the blue
eyes and rosebud lips smiled on you together. A lovely face, full of the
serene promise of yet greater loveliness to come. Eeny's eyes followed
those of Grace.

"You know better than that, Cousin Grace. Miss Kate Danton may be an
angel incarnate, but she can never drive you quite out of my heart.
Grace, how old is Kate?"

"Twenty years old."

"And Harry was three years older?"

"Yes."

"Grace, I wonder who Mr. Richards is?"

"So do I."

"Did Ogden say nothing about him?"

"Not a word."

"Will you write to Rose?"

"I shall not have time. I wish you would write, Eeny. That is what I
came here to ask you to do."

"Certainly, with pleasure," said Eeny. "Rose will wait for no second
invitation when she hears who have come. Will they arrive this evening?"

"Probably. They may come at any moment. And here I am lingering. Write
the note at once, Eeny, and send Sam back to the village with it."

She left the parlour and went down stairs, looking into the dining-room
as she passed. Babette was setting the table already, and silver and
cut-glass sparkled in the light of the ruby flame. Grace went on, up
another staircase, hurrying from room to room, seeing that all things
were in perfect order. Fires burned in each apartment, lamps stood on
the tables ready to be lit, for neither furnace nor gas was to be found
here. The west suite of rooms spoken of in the letter were the last
visited. A long corridor, lit by an oriel window, through which the
rainy twilight stole eerily enough, led to a baize door. The baize door
opened into a shorter corridor, terminated by a second door, the upper
half of glass. This was the door of a study, simply furnished, the walls
lined with book-shelves, surmounted by busts. Adjoining was a bathroom,
adjoining that a bedroom. Fires burned in all, and the curtained windows
commanded a wide western prospect of flower-garden, waving trees,
spreading fields, and the great St. Lawrence melting into the low
western sky.

"Mr. Richards ought to be very comfortable here," thought Grace. "It is
rather strange Ogden did not speak of him."

She went down stairs again and back to the dining-room. Eeny was there,
standing before the fire, her light shape and delicate face looking
fragile in the red fire-light.

"Oh, Grace," said she, "I have just sent Babette in search of you. There
is a visitor in the parlour for you."

"For me?"

"Yes, a gentleman; young, and rather handsome. I asked him who I should
say wished to see you, and--what do you think?--he would not tell."

"No! What did he say?"

"Told me to mention to Miss Grace Danton that a friend wished to see
her. Mysterious, is it not?"

"Who can it be?" said Grace, thoughtfully. "What does this mysterious
gentleman look like, Eeny?"

"Very tall," said Eeny, "and very stately, with brown hair, and beard
and mustache--a splendid mustache, Grace! and beautiful, bright brown
eyes, something like yours. Very good-looking, very polite, and with the
smile of an angel. There you have him."

"I am as much at a loss as ever," said Grace, leaving the dining-room.
"This is destined to be an evening of arrivals I think."

She ran upstairs for the second time, and opened the parlour door. A
gentleman before the fire, in the seat Eeny had vacated, arose at her
entrance. Grace stood still an instant, doubt, amaze, delight,
alternately in her face; then with a cry of "Frank!" she sprang forward,
and was caught in the tall stranger's arms.

"I thought you would recognize me in spite of the whiskers," said the
stranger. "Here, stand off and let me look at you; let me see the
changes six years have wrought in my sister Grace."

He held her out at arm's length, and surveyed her smilingly.

"A little older--a little graver, but otherwise the same. My solemn
Gracie, you will look like your own grandmother at thirty."

"Well, I feel as if I had lived a century or two now. When did you
come?"

"From Germany, last week; from Montreal at noon."

"You have been a week in Montreal then?"

"With Uncle Roosevelt--yes."

"How good it seems to see you again, Frank. How long will you stay
here--in St. Croix?"

"That depends--until I get tired, I suppose. So Captain Danton and his
eldest daughter are here from England?"

"How did you learn that?"

"Saw their arrival in Montreal duly chronicled."

"What is she like, Grace?"

"Who?"

"Miss Kate Danton."

"I don't know. I expect them every moment; I should think they came by
the same train you did."

"Perhaps so--I rode second-class. I got talking to an old Canadian, and
found him such a capital old fellow, that I kept beside him all the way.
By-the-by, Grace, you've got into very comfortable quarters, haven't
you?"

"Yes, Danton Hall is a very fine place."

"How long is it you have been here?"

"Four years."

"And how often has the Captain been in that time?"

"Twice; but he has given up the sea now, and is going to settle down."

"I thought his eldest daughter was a fixture in England?"

"So did I," said Grace; "but the grandmother with whom she lived has
died, it appears; consequently, she comes to her natural home for the
first time. That is her picture."

Miss Danton's brother raised his handsome brown eyes to the exquisite
face, and took a long survey.

"She ought to be a beauty if she looks like that. Belle blonde, and I
admire blondes so much! do you know, Grace, I think I shall fall in love
with her?"

"Don't. It will be of no use."

"Why not? I am a Danton--a gentleman--a member of the learned profession
of medicine and not so bad-looking. Why not, Grace?"

He rose up as he said it, his brown eyes smiling. Not so bad-looking,
certainly. A fine-looking fellow, as he leaned against the marble
mantel, bronzed and bearded, and a thorough gentleman.

"It is all of no use," Grace said, with an answering smile. "Doctor
Danton's numberless perfections will be quite lost on the heiress of
Danton Hall. She is engaged."

"What a pity! Who is the lucky man?"

"Hon. Lieutenant Reginald Stanford, of Stanford Royals, Northumberland,
England, youngest son of Lord Reeves."

"Then mine is indeed a forlorn hope! What chance has an aspiring young
doctor against the son of a lord."

"You would have no chance in any case," said Grace, with sudden
seriousness. "I once asked her father which his eldest daughter most
resembled, Rose or Eeny. 'Like neither,' was his reply. 'My daughter
Kate is beautiful, and stately, and proud as a queen.' I shall never
forget his own proud smile as he said it."

"You infer that Miss Danton, if free, would be too proud to mate with a
mere plebeian professional man."

"Yes."

"Then resignation is all that remains. Is it improper to smoke in this
sacred chamber, Grace? I must have something to console me. Quite a
grand alliance for Danton's daughter, is it not?"

"They do not seem to think so. I heard her father say he would not
consider a prince of the blood-royal too good for his peerless Kate."

"The duse he wouldn't! What an uplifted old fellow he must be!"

"Captain Danton is not old. His age is about forty-five, and he does not
look forty."

"Then I'll tell you what to do, Grace--marry him!"

"Frank, don't be absurd! Do you know you will have everything in this
room smelling of tobacco for a week. I can't permit it, sir."

"Well, I'll be off," said her brother, looking at his watch, "I promised
to return in half an hour for supper."

"Promised whom?"

"M. le Curé. Oh, you don't know I am stopping at the presbytery. I
happened to meet the curate, Father Francis, in Montreal--we were
school-boys together--and he was about the wildest, most mischievous
fellow I ever met. We were immense friends--a fellow-feeling, you know,
makes us wondrous kind. Judge of my amazement on meeting him on Notre
Dame street, in soutane and broad-brimmed hat, and finding he had taken
to Mother Church. You might have knocked me down with a feather, I
assure you. Mutual confidences followed; and when he learned I was
coming to St. Croix, he told me that I must pitch my tent with him.
Capital quarters it is, too; and M. le Curé is the soul of hospitality.
Will you give me a glass of wine after that long speech, and to fortify
me for my homeward route?"

Grace rang and ordered wine. Doctor Danton drank his glass standing, and
then drew on his gloves.

"Have you to walk?" asked his sister. "I will order the buggy for you."

"By no means. I rode up here on the Curé's nag, and came at the rate of
a funeral. The old beast seemed to enjoy himself, and to rather like
getting soaked through, and I have no doubt will return as he came. And
now I must go; it would never do to be found here by these grand
people--Captain and Miss Danton."

His wet overcoat hung on a chair; he put it on while walking to the
door, with Grace by his side.

"When shall I see you again, Frank?"

"To-morrow. I want to have a look at our English beauty. By Jove! it
knows how to rain in Canada."

The cold November blast swept in as Grace opened the front door, and the
rain fell in a downpour. In the black darkness Grace could just discern
a white horse fastened to a tree.

"That is ominous, Grace," said her brother. "Captain Danton and his
daughter come heralded by wind and tempest. Take care it is not
prophetic of domestic squalls."

He ran down the steps, but was back again directly.

"Who was that pale, blue-eyed fairy I met when I entered?"

"Eveleen Danton."

"Give her my best regards--Doctor Frank's. She will be rather pretty, I
think; and if Miss Kate snubs me, perhaps I shall fall back on Miss
Eveleen. It seems to me I should like to get into so great a family.
Once more, _bon soir_, sister mine, and pleasant dreams."

He was gone this time for good. His sister stood in the doorway, and
watched the white horse and its tall, dark rider vanish under the
tossing trees.



CHAPTER II.

KATE DANTON.


Grace went slowly back to the parlour and stood looking thoughtfully
into the fire. It was pleasant in that pleasant parlour, bright with the
illumination of lamp and fire--doubly pleasant in contrast with the
tumult of wind and rain without. Very pleasant to Grace, and she sighed
wearily as she looked up from the ruby coals to the radiant face smiling
down from over the mantel.

"You will be mistress to-morrow," she thought; "the place I have held
for the last four years is yours from to-night. Beautiful as a queen.
What will your reign be like, I wonder?"

She drew up the arm-chair her brother had vacated and sat down, her
thoughts drifting backward to the past. Backward four years, and she saw
herself, a penniless orphan, dependent on the bounty of that miserly
Uncle Roosevelt in Montreal. She saw again the stately gentleman who
came to her, and told her he was her father's third cousin, Captain
Danton, of Danton Hall. She had never seen him before; but she had heard
of her wealthy cousin from childhood, and knew his history. She knew he
had married in early youth an English lady, who had died ten years
after, leaving four children--a son, Henry, and three daughters,
Katherine, Rosina and Eveleen. The son, wild and wayward all his life,
broke loose at the age of twenty, forged his father's name, and fled to
New York, married an actress, got into a gambling affray, and was
stabbed. That was the end of him. The eldest daughter, born in England,
had been brought up by her maternal grandmother, who was rich, and whose
heiress she was to be. Mrs. Danton and her two youngest children resided
at the Hall, while the Captain was mostly absent. After her death, a
Canadian lady had taken charge of the house and Captain Danton's
daughters. All this Grace knew, and was quite unprepared to see her
distant kinsman, and to hear that the Canadian lady had married and
left, and that she was solicited to take her place. The Captain's terms
were so generous that Grace accepted at once; and, a week after, was
domesticated at the Hall, housekeeper and companion to his daughters.

Four years ago. Looking back to-night, Grace sighed to think how
pleasant it had all been, now that it was over. It had been such a
quiet, untroubled time--she sole mistress, Rose's fits of ill-temper and
Eeny's fits of illness the only drawback. And now it was at an end
forever. The heiress of Danton Hall was coming to wield the sceptre, and
a new era would dawn with the morrow.

There was a tap at the door, and a voice asking: "May I come in, Grace?"
and Grace woke up from her dreaming.

"Yes, Eeny," she said; and Eeny came in, looking at her searchingly.

"Have you been crying?" she asked, taking a stool at her feet.

"Crying? no! What should I cry for?"

"You look so solemn. I heard your visitor go, and ran up. Who was it?"

"My brother, who has just returned from Germany."

"Dear me! Didn't I say he had eyes like you? He's a Doctor, isn't he?"

"Yes."

"Grace, I thought you said you were poor?"

"Well, I am poor--am I not?"

"Then who paid for your brother studying medicine in Germany?"

"Uncle Roosevelt. He is very fond of Frank."

"Is your Uncle Roosevelt rich?"

"I believe so. Very rich, and very miserly."

"Has he sons and daughters?"

"No; we are his nearest relatives."

"Then, perhaps, he will leave you his fortune, Grace."

"Hardly, I think. He may remember Frank in his will; but there is no
telling. He is very eccentric."

"Grace, I hope he won't leave it to you," said Eeny soberly.

"Really, why not, pray?"

"Because, if you were rich you would go away. I should be sorry if you
left Danton Hall."

Grace stooped to kiss the pale young face.

"My dear Eeny, you forget that your beautiful sister Kate is coming. In
a week or two, you will have room in your heart for no one but her."

"You know better than that," said Eeny; "perhaps she will be like Rose,
and I shall not love her at all."

Grace smiled.

"Do you mean to say you do not love Rose, then?"

"Love Rose?" repeated Eeny, very much amazed at the question; "love
Rose, indeed! I should like to see any one who could love Rose. Grace,
where is your brother stopping? At the hotel?"

"No; at Monsieur le Curé's. He knows Father Francis. Eeny, do you hear
that?"

She started up, listening. Through the tempest of wind and rain, and the
surging of the trees, they could hear carriage wheels rattling rapidly
up to the house.

"I hear it," said Eeny; "papa has come. O Grace, how pale you are!"

"Am I?" Grace said, laying her hand on heart, and moving towards the
door. She paused in the act of opening it, and caught Eeny suddenly and
passionately to her heart. "Eeny, my darling, before they come, tell me
once more you will not let this new sister steal your heart entirely
from me. Tell me you will love me still."

"Always, Grace," said Eeny; "there--the carriage has stopped!"

Grace opened the door and went out into the entrance hall. The
marble-paved floor, the domed ceiling, the carved, and statued, and
pictured walls, were quite grand in the blaze of a great chandelier. An
instant later, and a loud knock made the house ring, and Babette flung
the front door wide open. A stalwart gentleman, buttoned up in a
great-coat, with a young lady on his aim, strode in.

"Quite a Canadian baptism, papa," the silvery voice of the young lady
said; "I am almost drenched."

Grace heard this, and caught a glimpse of Captain Danton's man, Ogden,
gallanting a pretty, rosy girl, who looked like a lady's maid, and then,
very, very pale, advanced to meet her master and his daughter.

"My dear Miss Grace," the hearty voice of the sailor said, as he grasped
her hand, "I am delighted to see you. My daughter Kate, Miss Grace."

My daughter Kate bowed in a dignified manner, scarcely looking at her.
Her eyes were fixed on a smaller, slighter figure shrinking behind her.

"Hallo, Eeny!" cried the Captain, catching her in his arms; "trying to
play hide-and-go-seek, are you? Come out and let us have a look at you."

He held her up over his head as if she had been a kitten, and kissed her
as he set her down, laughing and breathless.

"You little whiff of thistle-down, why can't you get fat and rosy as you
ought? There, kiss your sister Kate, and bid her welcome."

Eeny looked timidly up, and was mesmerized at one glance. Two lovely
eyes of starry radiance looked down into hers, and the loveliest face
Eeny ever saw was lighted with a bewitching smile. Two arms were held
out, and Eeny sprang into them, and kissed the exquisite face
rapturously.

"You darling child!" the sweet voice said, and that was all; but she
held her close, with tears in the starry eyes.

"There, there!" cried Captain Danton; "that will do. You two can hug
each other at your leisure by-and-by; but just at present I am very
hungry, and should like some dinner. The dining-room is in this
direction, isn't it, Grace? I think I know the way."

He disappeared, and Kate Danton disengaged her new-found sister, still
holding her hand.

"Come and show me to my room, Eeny," she said. "Eunice," to the rosy
lady's-maid, "tell Ogden to bring up the trunks and unpack at once.
Come."

Still holding her sister's hand, Kate went upstairs, and Eeny had eyes
and ears for no one else. Eunice gave her young lady's order to Ogden,
and followed, and Grace was left standing alone.

"Already," she thought, bitterly, "already I am forgotten!"

Not quite. Captain Danton appeared at the head of the stairs, divested
of his great-coat.

"I say, Ogden. Oh, Miss Grace, will you come upstairs, if you please?
Ogden, attend to the luggage, and wait for me in my dressing-room."

He returned to the parlour, and Grace found him standing with his back
to the fire when she entered. A portly and handsome man, florid and
genial, with profuse fair hair, mustache and side-whiskers. He placed a
chair for her, courteously, and Grace sat down.

"You are looking pale, Miss Grace," he said, regarding her. "You have
not been ill, I trust. Ogden told me you were all well."

"I am quite well, thank you."

"You wrote to Rose, I suppose? Where is it she has gone?"

"To the house of Miss La Touche; a friend of hers, in Ottawa. Eeny has
written to her, and Rose will probably be here in a day or two, at
most."

The Captain nodded.

"As for you, my dear young lady, I find you have managed so admirably in
my absence, that I trust we shall retain you for many years yet. Perhaps
I am selfish in the wish, but it comes so naturally that you will pardon
the selfishness. Kate is in total ignorance of the mysteries of
housekeeping. Heaven help me and my friends if we had to depend on her
catering! Besides," laughing slightly, "some one is coming before long
to carry her off."

Grace bowed gravely.

"So you see, my fair kinswoman, you are indispensable. I trust we shall
prevail upon you to remain."

"If you wish me to do so, Captain Danton, I shall, certainly."

"Thank you. Is that rich old curmudgeon, your uncle, alive yet?"

"Yes, sir."

"And your brother? In Germany still, I suppose."

"No, sir; my brother is in Canada--in St. Croix. He was here this
evening."

"Indeed! Where is he stopping? We must get him to come here."

"He is on a visit to M. le Curé, and I do not think means to stay long."

The door opened as she said it, and Kate and Eeny came in. The sisters
had their arms around each other's waist, and Eeny seemed entranced.
Kate went over and stood beside her father, looking up fondly in his
face.

"How pretty the rooms are, papa! My boudoir and bedroom are charming.
Eeny is going to chaperone me all over to-morrow--such a dear, romantic
old house."

Grace sat and looked at her. How beautiful she was! She still wore
slight mourning, and her dress was black silk, that fell in full rich
folds behind her, high to the round white throat, where it was clasped
with a flashing diamond. A solitaire diamond blazed on her left
hand--those slender, delicate little hands--her engagement ring, no
doubt. They were all the jewels she wore. The trimming of her dress was
of filmy black lace, and all her masses of bright golden hair were
twisted coronet-wise round her noble and lovely head. She was very tall,
very slender; and the exquisite face just tinted with only the faintest
shadow of rose. "Beautiful, and stately, and proud as a queen!" Yes, she
looked all that, and Grace wondered what manner of man had won that
high-beating heart. There was a witchery in her glance, in her radiant
smile, in every graceful movement, that fascinated even her father's
sedate housekeeper, and that seemed to have completely captivated little
Eeny. In her beauty and her pride, as she stood there so graceful and
elegant, Grace thought her father was right when he said a prince was
not too good for his peerless daughter.

He smiled down on her now as men do smile down on what is the apple of
their eye and the pride of their heart, and then turned to Eeny,
clinging to her stately sister.

"Take care, Eeny! Don't let Kate bewitch you. Don't you know that she is
a sorceress, and throws a glamour over all she meets? She's uncanny, I
give you warning--a witch; that's the word for it!"

Eeny's reply was to lift Kate's hand and kiss it.

"Do witches ever eat, papa?" laughed Miss Danton; "because I am very
hungry. What time do we dine?"

"What time, Miss Grace?" asked the Captain.

"Immediately, if you wish, sir."

"Immediately let it be, then."

Grace rang and ordered dinner to be served. Thomas, the old butler, and
a boy in buttons made their appearance with the first course. Grace had
always presided, but this evening she sat beside Eeny, and Miss Kate
took the head of the table.

"The first time, papa," she said. "If I make any blunders, tell me."

"Oh, papa!" exclaimed Eeny, "I thought some one else was coming. A sick
gentleman--Mr. what?--oh, Richards?"

The face of Captain Danton and his eldest daughter darkened suddenly at
the question. Grace saw it in surprise.

"He will be here presently," he said, but he said it with an air of
restraint; and Kate, leaning forward with that radiant smile of hers,
began telling Eeny some story of their life at sea that made her forget
Mr. Richards.

They adjourned to the drawing-room after dinner. A long, low, sumptuous
apartment, very stately and very grand, and decorated with exquisite
taste.

"What a beautiful room!" Kate said. "We had nothing half so quaint and
old as this at home, papa?"

There was a grand piano near one of the tall windows, with a music-rack
beside it, and the young lady went over and opened it, and ran her
fingers with a masterly touch over the keys.

"That's right, Kate," said her father; "give us some music. How do you
like your piano?"

"Like is not the word, papa. It is superb!"

The white hands sparkled over the polished ivory keys, and the room was
filled with melody. Eeny stood by the piano with a rapt face. Captain
Danton sat in an arm-chair and listened with half-closed eyes, and Grace
sat down in a corner, and drew from her pocket her crochet.

"Oh, Kate, how beautifully you play?" Eeny cried ecstatically, when the
flying hands paused, "I never heard anything like that. What was it?"

"Only a German waltz, you little enthusiast! Don't you play?"

"A little. Rose plays too, polkas and waltzes; but bah! not like that."

"Who is your teacher?"

"Monsieur De Lancey. He comes from Montreal twice a week to give us
lessons. But you play better than he does."

"Little flatterer!" kissing her and laughing, and the white hands busy
again. "Papa, what will you have?"

"A song, my dear."

"Well, what do you like? Casta Diva?"

"I'd be sorry to like it! can you sing the Lass o' Gowrie?"

"I shall try, if you wish."

She broke into singing as she spoke, and Grace's work dropped in her lap
as she listened. What an exquisite voice it was! So clear, so sweet, so
powerful. The mute-wrapped stillness that followed the song was the best
applause. Miss Danton rose up, laughing at her sister's entranced face.

"Oh, don't stop!" Eeny cried, imploringly. "Sing again, Kate."

There was a loud ring at the doorbell before Kate could answer. Captain
Danton and Grace had been listening an instant before to a carriage
rolling up the drive. The former started up now and hurried out of the
room; and Kate stood still, intently looking at the door.

"Who is that?" said Eeny. "Mr. Richards?"

Kate laid her hand on the girl's shoulder, and still stood silent and
intent. They could hear the door open, hear the voices of the Captain
and his man Ogden; and then there was a shuffling of feet in the hall
and up the stairs.

"They are helping him upstairs," said Kate, drawing a long breath. "Yes,
it is Mr. Richards."

Eeny looked as if she would like to ask some questions, but her sister
sat down again at the piano, and drowned her words in a storm of music.
Half an hour passed, nearly an hour, Miss Danton played on and on
without ceasing, and then her father came back. The girl looked at him
quickly and questioningly, but his high coloured face was as
good-humoured as ever.

"Playing away still," he said, "and Eeny's eyes are like two midnight
moons. Do you know it is half-past ten, Miss Eeny, and time little girls
were in bed?"

Grace rose up, and put her work in her pocket. Eeny came over, kissed
her father and sister good-night, and retired. Grace, with a simple
good-night, was following her example, but the cordial Captain held out
his hand.

"Good-night, my little housekeeper," he said; "and pleasant dreams."

Miss Danton held out her taper fingers, but her good-night was quiet and
cool.

Her father's housekeeper, it would seem, did not impress her very
favourably, or she was too proud to be cordial with dependants.

Up in her own room, Grace turned her lamp low, and sitting down by the
window, drew back the curtains. The rain still fell, the November wind
surged through the trees, and the blackness was impenetrable. Was this
wintry tempest, as her brother had said, ominous of coming trouble and
storms in their peaceful Canadian home?

"I wonder how she and Rose will get on," thought Grace. "Rose's temper
is as gusty as this November night, and I should judge those purple eyes
can flash with the Danton fire, too. When two thunder-clouds meet, there
is apt to be an uproar. I shall not be surprised if there is war in the
camp before long."

Her door opened softly. Grace turned round, and saw Eeny in a long
night-dress, looking like a spirit.

"May I come in, Grace?"

"It is time you were in bed," said Grace, turning up the lamp, and
beginning to unbraid her hair.

Eeny came in and sat down on a low stool at Grace's feet.

"Oh, Grace, isn't she splendid?"

"Who?"

"You know whom I mean--Kate."

"She is very handsome," Grace said quietly, going on with her work.

"Handsome! She is lovely? She is glorious! Grace, people talk about Rose
being pretty; but she is no more to Kate than--than just nothing at
all."

"Did you come in merely to say that? If so, Miss Eveleen, I must request
you to depart, as I am going to say my prayers."

"Directly," said Eeny, nestling more comfortably on her stool. "Did you
ever hear any one play and sing as she does?"

"She plays and sings remarkably well."

"Grace, what would you give to be as beautiful as she is?"

"Nothing! And now go."

"Yes. Isn't it odd that papa did not bring Mr. Richards into the
drawing-room. Ogden and papa helped him up stairs, and Ogden brought him
his supper."

"Who told you that?"

"Babette. Babette saw him, but he was so muffled up she could not make
him out. He is very tall and slim, she says, and looks like a young
man."

"Eeny, how soon are you going?"

"Oh, Grace," she said, coaxingly, "let me stay all night with you."

"And keep me awake until morning, talking? Not I," said Grace. "Go!"

"Please let me stay?"

"No! Be off!"

She lifted her up, led her to the door, and put her out, and Eeny ran
off to her own chamber.

As Grace closed her door, she heard Kate Danton's silk dress rustle
upstairs.

"Good-night, papa," she heard her say in that soft, clear voice that
made her think of silver bells.

"Good-night, my dear," the Captain replied. And then the silk dress
rustled past, a door opened and shut, and Miss Danton had retired.



CHAPTER III.

A CHANGE OF DYNASTY.


With the cold November sunlight flooding her room, Grace rose next
morning, dressed and went down stairs. Very neat and lady-like she
looked, in her spotted gingham wrapper, her snowy collar and cuffs, and
her dark hair freshly braided.

A loud-voiced clock in the entrance-hall struck seven. No one seemed to
be astir in the house but herself, and her footsteps echoed weirdly in
the dark passages. A sleepy scullery maid was lighting the kitchen fire
when she got there, gaping dismally over her work; and Grace, leaving
some directions for Ma'am Ledru, the cook, departed again, this time for
the dining-room, where footman James was lighting another fire. Grace
opened the shutters, drew back the curtains, and let in the morning
sunburst in all its glory. Then she dusted and re-arranged the
furniture, swept up the marble hearth, and assisted Babette to lay the
cloth for breakfast. It was invariably her morning work; and the table
looked like a picture when she had done, with its old china and
sparkling silver.

It was almost eight before she got through; and she ran upstairs for her
bonnet and shawl, and started for her customary half-hour's walk before
breakfast. She took the road leading to the village, still and deserted,
and came back all glowing from the rapid exercise.

Captain Danton stood on the front steps smoking a meerschaum pipe, as
she came up the avenue.

"Good morning, Hebe!" said the Captain. "The November roses are brighter
in Canada than elsewhere in August!"

Grace laughed, and was going in, but he stopped her.

"Don't go yet. I want some one to talk to. Where have you been?"

"Only out for a walk, sir."

"So early! What time do you get up, pray?"

"About half-past six."

"Primitive hours, upon my word. When is breakfast time?"

"Nine, sir. The bell will ring in a moment."

It rang as she spoke, and Grace tripped away to take off her bonnet and
smooth her hair, blown about by the morning wind. The Captain was in the
dining-room when she descended, standing in his favourite position with
his back to the fire, his coat-tails drawn forward, and his legs like
two sides of a triangle.

"Are the girls up yet, Grace? Excuse the prefix; we are relatives, you
know. Ah! here is one of them. Good-morning, Mademoiselle."

"Good-morning, papa," said Eeny, kissing him. "Where is Kate?"

"Kate is here!" said the voice that was like silver bells; and Kate came
in, graceful and elegant in her white cashmere morning robe, with cord
and tassels of violet, and a knot of violet ribbon at the rounded
throat. "I have not kept you waiting, have I?"

She kissed her father and sister, smiled and bowed to Grace and took her
place to preside. Very prettily and deftly the white hands fluttered
among the fragile china cups and saucers, and wielded the carved and
massive silver coffee-pot.

Grace thought she looked lovelier in the morning sunshine than in the
garish lamplight, with that flush on her cheeks, and the beautiful
golden hair twisted in shining coils.

Grace was very silent during breakfast, listening to the rest. The
Captain and his eldest daughter were both excellent talkers, and never
let conversation flag. Miss Danton rarely addressed her, but the
Captain's cordiality made amends for that.

"I must see that brother of yours to-day, Grace," he said, "and get him
to come up here. The Curé, too, is a capital fellow--I beg his pardon--I
must bring them both up to dinner. Are the Ponsonbys, and the Landry's,
and the Le Favres in the old places yet?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'll call on them, then--they don't know I'm here--and see if a little
company won't enliven our long Canadian winter. You three, Grace, Rose
and Eeny, have been living here like nonettes long enough. We must try
and alter things a little for you."

The Captain's good-natured efforts to draw his taciturn housekeeper out
did not succeed very well. She had that unsocial failing of reserved
natures, silence habitually; and her reserve was always at its worst in
the presence of the Captain's brilliant daughter. That youthful beauty
fixed her blue eyes now and then on the dark, downcast face with an odd
look--very like a look of aversion.

"What kind of person is this Miss Grace of yours, Eeny?" she asked her
sister, after breakfast. "Very stupid, isn't she?"

"Stupid! Oh, dear, no! Grace is the dearest, best girl in the world,
except you, Kate. I don't know how we should ever get on without her."

"I didn't know," said Kate, rather coldly; "she is so silent and
impenetrable. Come! You promised to show me through the house."

They were alone in the dining-room. She walked over to the fire, and
stood looking thoughtfully up at the two portraits hanging over the
mantel--Captain Danton at twenty-seven, and his wife at twenty-four.

"Poor mamma!" Kate said, with a rare tenderness in her voice. "How
pretty she was! Do you remember her, Eeny?"

"No," said Eeny. "You know I was such a little thing, Kate. All I know
about her is what Margery tells me."

"Who is Margery?"

"My old nurse, and Harry's, and yours, and Rose's. She nursed us all,
babies, and took care of mamma when she died. She was mama's maid when
she got married, and lived with her all her life. She is here still."

"I must see Margery, then. I shall like her, I know; for I like all
things old and storied, and venerable. I can remember mamma the last
time she was in England; her tall, slender figure, her dark, wavy hair,
and beautiful smile. She used to take me in her arms in the twilight and
sing me to sleep."

"Dear Kate! But Grace has been a mother to me. Do you know, Margery says
Rose is like her?"

"Whom? Mamma?"

"Yes; all except her temper. Oh!" cried Eeny, making a sudden grimace,
"hasn't Rose got a temper!"

Kate smiled.

"A bad one?"

"A bad one! You ought to see her tearing up and down the room in a
towering passion, and scolding. Mon Dieu!" cried Eeny, holding her
breath at the recollection.

"Do you ever quarrel?" asked Kate, laughing.

"About fifty times a day. Oh, what a blessing it was when she went to
Ottawa! Grace and I have been in paradise ever since. She'll behave
herself for a while when she comes home, I dare say, before you and
papa; but it won't be for long."

Grace came in, and Kate drew Eeny away to show her over the house. It
was quite a tour. Danton Hall was no joke to go over. Upstairs and down
stairs; along halls and passages; the drawing-room, where they had been
last night; the winter drawing-room on the second floor, all gold and
crimson; a summer morning-room, its four sides glass, straw matting on
the floor, flower-pots everywhere, looking like a conservatory; the
library, where, perpetuated in oils, many Dantons hung, and where
book-shelves lined the walls; into what was once the nursery, where
empty cribs stood as in olden times, and where, under a sunny window, a
low rocker stood, Mrs. Danton's own chair; into Kate's fairy boudoir,
all fluted satin and brocatelle; into her bed-chamber, where everything
was white, and azure, and spotless as herself; into Eeny's room, pretty
and tasteful, but not so superb; into Rose's, very disordered, and
littered, and characteristic; into papa's, big, carpetless, fireless,
dreadfully grim and unlike papa himself; into Grace's, the perfection of
order and taste, and then Eeny stopped, out of breath.

"There's lots more," she said; "papa's study, but he is writing there
now, and the green-room, and Mr. Richards' rooms, and----"

"Never mind," said Kate, hastily, "we will not disturb papa or Mr.
Richards. Let us go and see old Margery."

They found the old woman in a little room appropriated to her, knitting
busily, and looking bright, and hale, and hearty. She rose up and
dropped the young lady a stiff curtsey.

"I'm very glad to see you, Miss," said Margery. "I nursed you often when
you was a little blue-eyed, curly-haired, rosy cheeked baby. You are
very tall and very pretty, Miss; but you don't look like your mother.
She don't look like her mother. You're Dantons, both of you; but Miss
Rose, she looks like her, and Master Harry--ah, poor, dear Master Harry!
He is killed; isn't he, Miss Kate?"

Kate did not speak. She walked away from the old woman to a window, and
Eeny saw she had grown very pale.

"Don't talk about Harry, Margery!" whispered Eeny, giving her a poke.
"Kate doesn't like it."

"I beg your pardon, Miss," said Margery. "I didn't mean to offend; but I
nursed you all, and I knew your mamma when she was a little girl. I was
a young woman then, and I remember that sweet young face of hers so
well. Like Miss Rose, when she is not cross."

Kate smiled at the winding up and went away.

"Where now?" she asked, gayly. "I am not half tired of sight-seeing.
Shall we explore the outside for a change? Yes? Then come and let us get
our hats. Your Canadian Novembers are of Arctic temperature."

"Wait until our Decembers tweak the top of your imperial nose off," said
Eeny, shivering in anticipation. "Won't you wish you were back in
England!"

The yellow November sunshine glorified garden, lawn and meadow as Eeny
led her sister through the grounds. They explored the long orchard,
strolled down the tamarack walk, and wandered round the fish pond. But
garden and orchard were all black with the November frost, the trees
rattled skeleton arms, and the dead leaves drifted in the melancholy
wind. They strayed down the winding drive to the gate, and Kate could
see the village of St. Croix along the quarter of a mile of road leading
to it, with the sparkling river beyond.

"I should like to see the village," she said, "but perhaps you are
tired."

"Not so tired as that. Let us go."

"If I fatigue you to death, tell me so," said Kate. "I am a great
pedestrian. I used to walk miles and miles daily at home."

Miss Danton found St. Croix quite a large place, with dozens of
straggling streets, narrow wooden sidewalks, queer-looking, Frenchified
houses, shops where nothing seemed selling, hotels all still and
forlorn, and a church with a tall cross and its doors open. Sabbath
stillness lay over all--the streets were deserted, the children seemed
too indolent to play, the dogs too lazy to bark. The long, sluggish
canal, running like a sleeping serpent round the village, seemed to have
more of life than it had.

"What a dull place!" said Kate. "Has everybody gone to sleep? Is it
always like this?"

"Mostly," said Eeny. "You should hear Rose abuse it. It is only fit for
a lot of Rip Van Winkles, or the Seven Sleepers, she says. All the life
there is, is around the station when the train comes and goes."

The sisters wandered along the canal until the village was left behind,
and they were in some desolate fields, sodden from the recent rains. A
black marsh spread beyond, and a great gloomy building reared itself
against the blue Canadian sky on the other side.

"What old bastille is that?" asked Kate.

"The St. Croix barracks," said Eeny uneasily. "Come away Kate. I am
afraid of the soldiers--they may see us."

She turned round and uttered a scream. Two brawny redcoats were striding
across the wet field to where they stood. They reeled as they walked,
and set up a sort of Indian war-whoop on finding they were discovered.

"Don't you run away, my little dears," said one, "we're coming as fast
as we can."

"Oh, Kate!" cried Eeny, in terror, "what shall we do?"

"Let us go at once," said Kate, "those men are intoxicated."

They started together over the fields, but the men's long strides gained
upon them at every step.

"I say, my dear," hiccoughed one, laying his big hand on Kate's
shoulder, "you musn't run away, you know. By George! you're a pretty
girl! give us a kiss!"

He put his arms round her waist. Only for an instant; the next, with all
the blood of all the Dantons flushing her cheeks, she had sprung back
and struck him a blow in the face that made him reel. The blood started
from the drunken soldier's nose, and he stood for a second stunned by
the surprise blow; the next, with an imprecation, he would have caught
her, but that something caught him from behind, and held him as in a
vise. A big dog had come over the fields in vast bounds, and two rows of
formidable ivory held the warrior fast. The dog was not alone; his
master, a tall and stalwart gentleman, was beside the frightened girls,
with his strong grasp on the other soldier's collar.

"You drunken rascal!" said the owner of the dog, "you shall get the
black hole for this to-morrow. Tiger, my boy, let go." The dog with a
growl released his hold. "And now be off, both of you, or my dog shall
tear you into mince-meat!"

The drunken ruffians shrunk away discomfited, and Eeny held out both her
hands to their hero.

"Oh, Doctor Danton! What should we have done without you?"

"I don't know," said the Doctor. "You would have been in a very
disagreeable predicament, I am afraid. It is hardly safe for young
ladies to venture so far from the village unattended, while these
drunken soldiers are quartered here."

"I often came alone before," said Eeny, "and no one molested me. Let me
make you acquainted with my sister--Kate, Doctor Danton."

Kate held out her hand with that bewitching smile of hers.

"Thank you and Tiger very much. I was not aware I had a namesake in St.
Croix."

"He is Grace's brother," said Eeny, "and he is only here on a visit--he
is just from Germany."

Kate bowed, patting Tiger's big head with her snowflake of a hand.

"This is another friend we have to thank," she said. "How came you to be
so opportunely at hand, Doctor Danton?"

"By the merest chance. Tiger and I take our morning constitutional along
these desolate fields and flats. I'll have these fellows properly
punished for their rudeness."

"No, no," said Kate, "let them go. It is not likely to happen again.
Besides," laughing and blushing, "I punished one of them already, and
Tiger came to my assistance with the other."

"You served him right," said the Doctor. "If you will permit me, Miss
Danton, I will escort you to the village."

"Come home with us," said Eeny, "we will just be in time for luncheon,
and I know you want to see Grace."

"A thousand thanks, Mademoiselle--but no--not this morning."

Kate seconded the invitation; but Doctor Danton politely persisted in
refusing. He walked with them as far as St. Croix, then raised his hat,
said good-bye, whistled for Tiger, and was gone.

The young ladies reached the hall in safety, in time to brush their hair
before luncheon, where, of course, nothing was talked of but their
adventure and their champion.

"By George! if I catch these fellows, I'll break every bone in their
drunken skins," cried the irate Captain. "A pretty fix you two would
have been in, but for the Doctor. I'll ride down to the parsonage, or
whatever you call it, immediately after luncheon, and bring him back to
dinner, will he nill he--the Curé, too, if he'll come, for the Curé is a
very old friend."

Captain Danton was as good as his word. As soon as luncheon was over, he
mounted his horse and rode away, humming a tune. Kate stood on the
steps, with the pale November sunlight gilding the delicate rose-bloom
cheeks, and making an aureole round the tinsel hair watching him out of
sight. Eeny was clinging round her as usual, and Grace stopped to speak
to her on her way across the hall.

"You ought to go and practise, Eeny. You have not touched the piano
to-day, and to-morrow your teacher comes."

"Yes, Eeny," said Kate, "go attend to your music. I am going upstairs,
to my room."

She smiled, kissed her, opened the parlour door, pushed her in, and ran
up the broad staircase. Not to her own room, though, but along the quiet
corridor leading to the green baize door. The key of that door was in
her pocket; she opened it, locked it behind her, and was shut up with
the, as yet, invisible Mr. Richards.

Eeny practised conscientiously three hours. It was then nearly five
o'clock, and the afternoon sun was dropping low in the level sky. She
rose up, closed the piano, and went in search of her sister. Upstairs
and down stairs and in my lady's chamber, but my lady was nowhere to be
found. Grace didn't know where she was. Eunice, the rosy English maid,
didn't know. Eeny was perplexed and provoked. Five o'clock struck, and
she started out in the twilight to hunt the grounds--all in vain. She
gave it up in half an hour, and came back to the house. The hall lamps
were lighted upstairs and down, and Eeny, going along the upper hall,
found what she wanted. The green baize door was unlocked, and her sister
Kate came out, relocked it, and put the key in her pocket.

Eeny stood still, looking at her, too much surprised to speak. While she
had been hunting everywhere for her, Kate had been closeted with the
mysterious invalid all the afternoon.

"Time to dress for dinner, I suppose, Eeny," she said looking at her
watch. "One must dress, if papa brings company. Did you see Eunice? Is
she in my room?"

"I don't know. Have you been in there with Mr. Richards all the
afternoon?"

"Yes; he gets lonely, poor fellow! Run away and dress."

Eunice was waiting in her young lady's boudoir, where the fire shone
bright, the wax candles burned, the curtains were drawn, and everything
looked deliciously comfortable. Kate sank into an easy-chair, and Eunice
took the pins out of the beautiful glittering hair, and let it fall in a
shining shower around her.

"What dress will you please to wear, miss?"

"The black lace, I think, since there is to be company, and the pearls."

She lay listlessly while Eunice combed out the soft, thick hair, and
twisted it coronet-wise, as she best liked to wear it. She stood
listless while her dress was being fastened, her eyes misty and dreamy,
fixed on the diamond ring she wore. Very lovely she looked in the soft,
rich lace, pale pearls on the exquisite throat; and she smiled her
approval of Eunice's skill when it was all over.

"That will do, Eunice, thank you. You can go now."

The girl went out, and Kate sank back in her chair, her blue eyes,
tender and dreamy, still fixed on the fire. Drifting into dream-land,
she lay twisting her flashing diamond round and round on her finger, and
heedless of the passing moments. The loud ringing of the dinner-bell
aroused her, and she arose with a little sigh from her pleasant reverie,
shook out her lace flounces, and tripped away down stairs.

They were all in the dining-room when she entered--papa, Eeny, Grace and
strangers--Doctor Danton and a clerical-looking young man, with a pale
scholarly face and penetrating eyes, and who was presented as Father
Francis.

"The Curé couldn't come," said the Captain. "A sick call. Very sorry.
Capital company, the Curé. Why can't people take sick at reasonable
hours, Father Francis?"

"Ask Doctor Danton," said Father Francis. "I am not a physician--of the
bodies of men."

"Don't ask me anything while the first course is in progress," said the
Doctor. "You ought to know better. I trust you have quite recovered from
your recent fright, Miss Danton."

"A Danton frightened!" exclaimed her father. "The daughter of all the
Dantons that ever fought and fell, turn coward! Kate, deny the charge!"

"Miss Danton is no coward," said the Doctor. "She gave battle like a
heroine."

Kate blushed vividly.

"As you are strong, be merciful," she said. "I own to being so
thoroughly frightened that I shall never go there alone again. I hope,
my preserver, Herr Tiger, is well."

"Quite well. Had he known I was coming here, he would doubtless have
sent his regards."

"Who is Herr Tiger?" asked the Captain.

"A big Livonian blood-hound of mine, and my most intimate friend, with
the exception of Father Francis here."

"Birds of a feather," said the young priest. "Not that I class myself
with Doctors and blood-hounds. You should have allowed Tiger to give
those fellows a lesson they would remember, Danton. Their drunken
insolence is growing unbearable."

Dinner went on and ended. The ladies left the dining-room; the gentlemen
lingered, but not long.

Kate was at the piano entrancing Eeny, and Grace sat at her crochet.
Miss Danton got up and made tea, and the young Doctor lay back in an
arm-chair talking to Eeny, and watched, with half-closed eyes, the
delicate hands floating deftly along the fragile china cups.

"Give us some music, Kate," her father said, when it was over. "Grace,
put away your knitting, and be my partner in a game of whist. Father
Francis and the Doctor will stand no chance against us."

The quartet sat down. Kate's hands flew up and down the shining octaves
of her piano, and filled the room with heavenly harmony, the waves of
music that ebbed, and flowed, and fascinated. She played until the card
party broke up, and then she wheeled round on her stool.

"Who are the victors?" she asked.

"We are," said the Doctor. "When I make up my mind to win, I always win.
The victory rests solely with me."

"I'll vouch for your skill in cheating," said Grace. "Father Francis, I
am surprised that you countenance such dishonest proceedings."

"I wouldn't in any one but my partner," said the young priest, crossing
over to the piano. "Don't cease playing, Miss Danton. I am devotedly
fond of music, and it is very rarely indeed I hear such music as you
have given us to-night. You sing, do you not?"

"Sing!" exclaimed her father. "Kate sings like a nightingale. Sing us a
Scotch song, my dear."

"What shall it be, papa?"

"Anything. 'Auld Robin Gray,' if you like."

Kate sang the sweet old Scottish ballad with a pathos that went to every
heart.

"That is charming," said Father Francis. "Sing for me, now, Scots wha
hae."

She glanced up at him brightly; it was a favourite of her own, and she
sang it for him as he had never heard it sung before.

"Have you no favourite, Doctor Danton?" she asked, turning to him with
that dangerous smile of hers. "I want to treat all alike."

"Do you sing 'Hear me, Norma'?"

Her answer was the song. Then she arose from the instrument, and Father
Francis pulled out his watch.

"What will the Curé think of us!" he exclaimed; "half-past eleven.
Danton, get up this instant and let us be off."

"I had no idea it was so late," said the doctor, rising, despite the
Captain's protest. "Your music must have bewitched us, Miss Danton."

They shook hands with the Captain and departed.

Grace and Eeny went upstairs at once. Kate was lingering still in the
drawing-room when her father came back from seeing his guests off.

"A fine fellow, that young doctor," said the Captain, in his hearty way;
"a remarkably fine fellow. Don't you think so, Kate?"

"He is well-bred," said Kate, listlessly. "I think I prefer Father
Francis. Good-night, papa."

She kissed her father and went slowly up to her room. Eunice was there
waiting to undress her, and Kate lay back in an arm chair while the girl
took down and combed out her long hair. She lay with half-closed eyes,
dreaming tenderly, not of this evening, not of Dr. Danton, but of
another, handsomer, dearer, and far away.



CHAPTER IV.

ROSE DANTON.


Next morning, when the family assembled at breakfast, Captain Danton
found a letter on his plate, summoning him in haste to Montreal.

"Business, my dear," he said, answering his eldest daughter's enquiring
look; "business of moment."

"Nothing concerning--" She paused, looking startled. "Nothing relating
to--"

"To Mr. Richards. No, my dear. How do you ladies purpose spending the
day?"

He looked at Grace, who smiled.

"My duties are all arranged," she said. "There is no fear of the day
hanging heavily on my hands."

"And you two?"

"I don't know, papa," said Kate listlessly. "I can practise, and read,
and write letters, and visit Mr. Richards. I dare-say I will manage."

"Let us have a drive," said Eeny. "We can drive with papa to the
station, and then get Thomas to take us everywhere. It's a lovely day,
and you have seen nothing of St. Croix and our country roads yet."

Eeny's idea was applauded, and immediately after breakfast the barouche
was ordered out, and Thomas was in attendance. Mr. Ogden packed his
master's valise, and the trio entered the carriage and were driven off.

"Attend to Mr. Richards as usual, Ogden," said the Captain, as Ogden
helped him into his overcoat. "I will be back to-morrow."

Grace stood in the doorway and watched the barouche until the winding
drive hid it from view. Then she went back to attend to her
housekeeper's duties--to give the necessary orders for dinner, see that
the rooms were being properly arranged, and so forth. Everything was
going on well; the house was in exquisite order from attic to cellar.
Ogden shut up with Mr. Richards, the servants quietly busy, and Danton
Hall as still as a church on a week-day. Grace, humming a little tune,
took her sewing into the dining-room, where she liked best to sit, and
began stitching away industriously. The ticking of a clock on the mantel
making its way to twelve, the rattling of the stripped trees in the
fresh morning wind, were, for a time, the only sounds outdoor or in.
Then wheels rattled rapidly over the graveled drive, coming to the house
in a hurry, and Grace looked up in surprise.

"Back so soon," she thought? "They cannot have driven far."

But it was not the handsome new barouche--it was only a shabby little
buggy from the station, in which a young lady sat with a pile of trunks
and bandboxes.

"Rose!" exclaimed Grace. "I quite forgot she was coming to-day."

A moment later and the front door opened and shut with a bang, flying
feet came along the hall, a silk dress rustled stormily, the dining-room
door was flung open, and a young lady bounced in and caught Grace in a
rapturous hug.

"You darling old thing!" cried a fresh young voice. "I knew I should
find you here, even if I hadn't seen you sitting at the window. Aren't
you glad to have me home again? And have you got anything to eat? I
declare I'm famished!"

Pouring all this out in a breath, with kisses for commas, the young lady
released Grace, and flung herself into an arm-chair.

"Ring the bell, Grace, and let us have something to eat. You don't know
how hungry I am. Are you alone? Where are the rest?"

Grace, taking this shower of questions with constitutional phlegm,
arose, rang the bell, and ordered cakes and cold chicken; the young lady
meantime taking off her pretty black velvet turban, with its long
feather, flung it in a corner, and sent her shawl, gloves, and fur
collar flying after it.

"Now, Rose," expostulated Grace, picking them up, "how often must I tell
you the floor is not the proper place to hang your things? I suppose you
will be having the whole house in a litter, as usual, now that you have
got home."

"Why did you send for me then?" demanded Rose. "I was very well off. I
didn't want to come. Never got scolded once since I went away, and I
pitched my clothes everywhere! Say, Grace, how do you get on with the
new comers?"

"Very well."

Here Babette appeared with the young lady's lunch, and Miss Rose sat
down to it promptly.

"What is she like, Kate--handsome?"

"Very!" with emphasis.

"Handsomer than I am?"

"A thousand times handsomer!"

"Bah! I don't believe it! Tall and fair, with light hair and blue eyes.
Am I right?"

"Yes."

"Then she is as insipid as milk and water--as insipid as you are, old
Madame Grumpy. And papa--he's big and loud-voiced, and red-faced and
jolly, I suppose?"

"Miss Rose Danton, be a little more respectful, if you want me to answer
your questions."

"Well, but isn't he? And Mr. Richards--who's Mr. Richards?"

"I don't know."

"Isn't he here?"

"Yes, certainly."

"Then why don't you know?"

"Because I have not, like Rose Danton, a bump of inquisitiveness as
large as a turnip."

"Now, Grace, don't be hateful. Tell me all you know about Mr. Richards."

"And that is nothing. I have never even seen him. He is an invalid; he
keeps his rooms, night and day. His meals are carried upland no one sees
him but your father, and sister, and Ogden."

"Mon Dieu!" cried Rose, opening her eyes very wide. "A mystery under our
very noses! What can it mean? There's something wrong somewhere, isn't
there?"

"I don't know anything about it; it is none of my business, and I never
interfere in other people's."

"You dear old Granny Grumpy! And now that I've had enough to eat, why
don't you ask me about my visit to Ottawa, and what kind of time I had?"

"Because I really don't care anything about it. However, I trust you
enjoyed yourself."

"Enjoyed myself!" shrilly cried Rose. "It was like being in paradise! I
never had such a splendid, charming, delightful time since I was born! I
never was so sorry for anything as for leaving."

"Really!"

"Oh, Grace! it was beautiful--so gay, so much company; and I do love
company! A ball to-night, a concert to-morrow, a sociable next evening,
the theatre, dinner-parties, matinees, morning calls, shopping and
receptions! Oh," cried Rose, rapturously, "it was glorious!"

"Dear me!" said Grace, stitching away like a sewing-machine; "it must
have been a great trial to leave."

"It was. But I am going back. Dear Ottawa! Charming Ottawa! I was
excessively happy in Ottawa!"

She laid hold of a kitten slumbering peacefully on a rug as she spoke,
and went waltzing around the room, whistling a lively tune. Grace looked
at her, tried to repress a smile, failed, and continued her work. She
was very, very pretty, this second daughter of Captain Danton, and quite
unlike the other two. She was of medium height, but so plump and rounded
as to look less tall than she really was. Her profuse hair, of dark,
chestnut brown, hung in thick curls to her waist; her complexion was
dark, cheeks round and red as apples, her forehead low, her nose
perfection, her teeth like pearls, her eyes small, bright and hazel.
Very pretty, very sparkling, very piquant, and a flirt from her cradle.

"Did you learn that new accomplishment in Ottawa, pray?" asked Grace.

"What new accomplishment?"

"Whistling."

"Yes, Jules taught me."

"Who is Jules?"

"Jules La Touche--the son of the house--handsome as an angel, and my
devoted slave."

"Indeed! Has he taught you anything else?"

"Only to love him and to smoke cigarettes."

"Smoke!" exclaimed Grace, horrified.

"Yes, m'amour! I have a whole package in my trunk. If you mend my
stockings I will let you have some. I could not exist without cigarettes
now."

"I shall have to mend your stockings in any case. As to the cigarettes,
permit me to decline. What will your papa say to such goings on?"

"He will be charmed, no doubt. If he isn't, he ought to. Just fancy when
he is sitting alone of an evening over his meerschaum, what nice,
sociable smokes we can have together. Jules and I used to smoke together
by the hour. My darling Jules! how I long to go back to Ottawa and you
once more! Grace!" dropping the cat and whirling up to her, "would you
like to hear a secret?"

"Not particularly; what is it?"

"You won't tell--will you?"

"I don't know; I must hear it first."

"It's a great secret; I wouldn't tell anybody but you; and not you,
unless you promise profoundest silence."

"I make no promises blindly. Tell me or not, just as you please. I don't
think much of your secrets, anyhow."

"Don't you?" said Rose, nettled; "look here, then."

She held out her left hand. On the third finger shone a shimmering opal
ring.

"Well?" said Grace.

"Well!" said Rose, triumphantly. "Jules gave me that; that is my
engagement ring."

Grace sat and looked at her aghast.

"No!" she said; "you don't mean it, Rose?"

"I do mean it. I am engaged to Jules La Touche, and we are going to be
married in a year. That is my secret, and if you betray me I will never
forgive you."

"And you are quite serious?"

"Perfectly serious, _chère grogneuse_."

"Do Monsieur and Madame La Touche know?"

"Certainly not. _Mon Dieu!_ We are too young. Jules is only twenty, and
I eighteen. We must wait; but I love him to distraction, and he adores
me! Tra-la-la!"

She seized the cat once more, and went whirling round the room.

Her waltz was suddenly interrupted.

A gentleman, young, tall, and stately, stood, hat in hand, in the
doorway, regarding her.

"Don't let me intrude," said the gentleman, politely advancing. "Don't
let me interrupt anybody, I beg!"

Grace arose, smiling.

"Rose, let me present my brother, Doctor Danton! Frank, Miss Rose
Danton!"

Miss Rose dropped the kitten and her eyes, and made an elaborate
curtsey.

"My entrance spoiled a very pretty tableau," said the Doctor, "and
disappointed pussy, I am afraid. Pray, continue your waltz, Miss Rose,
and don't mind me."

"I don't," said Rose, carelessly, "my waltz was done, and I have to
dress."

She ran out of the room, but put her head in again directly.

"Grace!"

"Yes!"

"Will you come and curl my hair by-and-by?"

"No, I haven't time."

"What shall I do, then? Babette tears it out by the roots."

"I am not busy," said the Doctor, blandly. "I haven't much experience in
curling young ladies' hair, but I am very willing to learn."

"You are very kind," said his sister, "but we can dispense with your
services. You might get Eunice, I dare say, Rose; she has nothing else
to do."

"Who's Eunice?"

"Your sister's maid; you can ring for her; she understands hair-dressing
better than Babette."

Rose ran up stairs. At the front window of the upper hall stood Ogden
and Eunice.

Rose nodded familiarly to the valet, and turned to the girl.

"Are you Eunice?"

"Yes, Miss."

"Are you busy?"

"No, Miss."

"Then come into my room, please, and comb my hair."

Eunice followed the young lady, and Ogden returned to the mysterious
regions occupied by Mr. Richards.

Once more the house was still; its one disturbing element was having her
hair curled; and Grace and her brother talked in peace below stairs.

It was past luncheon-hour when the barouche rolled up to the door. Kate,
all aglow from her drive in the frosty air, stopped her laughing chat
with pale Eeny at the sight which met her eyes. Standing on the portico
steps, playing with a large dog Kate had reason to know, and
flirting--it looked like flirting--with the dog's master, stood a
radiant vision, a rounded girlish figure, arrayed in bright
maize-colored merino, elaborately trimmed with black lace and velvet,
the perfect shoulders and arms bare, the cheeks like blush roses, the
eyes sparkling as stars, and the golden-brown hair, freshly curled,
falling to her waist.

"Oh, how beautiful!" Kate cried, under her breath.

The next moment, Eeny ran up the steps, and favoured this vision of
youthful bloom with a kiss, while Kate followed more decorously.

"How do, Eeny?" said Rose. "Kate!"

She held out both her hands. Kate caught her in a sort of rapture in her
arms.

"My sister!" she cried. "My darling Rose!"

And then she stopped, for Doctor Danton was looking on with a
preternatural gravity that provoked her.

"When did you come, Rose?" asked Eeny.

"Two hours ago. Have you had a pleasant drive, Kate?"

"Very, and I am hungry after it. We have kept Miss Grace waiting, I am
afraid; isn't it past luncheon-time? Come to my room with me, Rose. Are
you going, Doctor? Won't you stay to luncheon?"

"Some other time. Good morning, ladies. Come, Tiger."

He sauntered down the avenue, whistling, and the three sisters turned
into the house.

"Very agreeable!" said Rose. "Grace's brother; and rather handsome."

"Handsome!" exclaimed Kate. "He is not handsome, my pretty sister." She
took her in her arms again, and kissed her fondly. "My pretty sister!
how much I am going to love you!"

Rose submitted to be kissed with a good grace, but with a little envious
pang at her vain, coquettish heart, to see how much more beautiful her
superb sister was than herself. She nestled luxuriously in an arm-chair,
while Eunice dressed her young mistress, chattering away in French like
a magpie. They descended together to luncheon; pale Eeny was totally
eclipsed by brilliant Rose, and all the afternoon they spent together
over the piano, and sauntering through the grounds.

"Retribution, Eeny," said Grace, kissing Eeny's pale cheek. "You forgot
me for this dazzling Kate, and now you are nowhere. You must come back
to Grace again."

"There is nobody like Grace," said Eeny, nestling close. "But Kate and
Rose won't be always like this. 'Love me little, love me long.' Wait
until Kate finds out what Rose is made of."

But despite Eeny's prophecy, the two sisters got on remarkably well
together.

Captain Danton did not return next day, according to promise, so they
were thrown entirely upon one another. Instead, there came a note from
Montreal, which told them that business would detain him in that city
for nearly a fortnight longer. "When I do return," ended the note, "I
will fetch an old friend to see Kate."

"Who can it be?" wondered Kate. "There is no old friend of mine that I
am aware of in Montreal. Papa likes to be mysterious."

"Yes," said Rose; "I should think so, when we have a mystery in the very
house."

"What mystery?"

"Mr. Richards, of course. He's a mystery worse than anything in the
'Mysteries of Udolpho.' Why can nobody get to see him but that
soft-stepping, oily-tongued little weasel, Ogden?"

Kate looked at the pretty sister she loved so well, with the coldest
glances she had ever given her.

"Mr. Richards is an invalid; he is unable to see any one, or quit his
room. What mystery is there in that?"

"There's a mystery somewhere," said Rose, sagaciously. "Who is Mr.
Richards?"

"A friend of papa's--and poor. Don't ask so many questions, Rose. I have
nothing more to say on the subject."

"Then I must find out for myself--that is all," thought Rose; "and I
will, too, before long, in spite of half a dozen Ogdens."

Rose tried with a zeal and perseverance worthy a better cause, and most
signally failed. Mr. Richards was invisible. His meals went up daily.
Ogden and Kate visited him daily, but the baize door was always locked,
and Ogden and Kate, on the subject, were dumb. Kate visited the invalid
at all hours, by night and by day. Ogden rarely left him except when
Miss Danton was there, and then he took a little airing in the garden.
Rose's room was near the corridor leading to the green baize room; and
often awaking "in the dead waste and middle of the night," she would
steal to that mysterious room to listen. But nothing was ever to be
heard, nothing ever to be seen--the mystery was fathomless. She would
wander outside at all hours, under Mr. Richards' window; and looking up,
wonder how he endured his prison, or what he could possibly be about--if
those dark curtains were never raised and he never looked at the outer
world. Once or twice a face had appeared, but it was always the keen,
thin face of Mr. Ogden; and Rose's curiosity, growing by what it fed on,
began to get insupportable.

"What can it mean, Grace?" she would say to the housekeeper, to whom she
had a fashion, despite no end of snubbing, of confiding her secret
troubles. "There's something wrong; where there's secrecy, there's
guilt--I've always heard that."

"Don't jump at conclusions, Miss Rose, and don't trouble yourself about
Mr. Richards; it is no affair of yours."

"But I can't help troubling myself. What business have papa, and Kate,
and that nasty Ogden, to have a secret between them and I not know it? I
feel insulted, and I'll have revenge. I never mean to stop till I ferret
out the mystery. I have the strongest conviction I was born to be a
member of the detective police, and one of these days the mystery of Mr.
Richards will be a mystery no more."

Grace had her own suspicions, but Grace was famous for minding her own
business, and kept her suspicions to herself. Rose's manoeuvring
amused her, and she let her go on. Every strategy the young lady could
conceive was brought to bear, and every stratagem was skilfully baffled.

"Why don't you have Doctor Danton to see Mr. Richards, Kate?" she said
to her sister, one evening, meeting her coming out of Mr. Richards'
room. "I should think he was skilful."

"Very likely," said Kate, with an air of reserve, "but Mr. Richards does
not require medical care."

"Oh, he is not very bad, then? You should bring him down stairs in that
case; a little lively society--mine, for instance--might do him good."

Kate's dark eyes flashed impatiently.

"Rose," she said, sharply, "how often must I tell you Mr. Richards is
hypochondriacal and will not quit his room? Cease to talk on the
subject. Mr. Richards will not come down-stairs."

She swept past--majestic and a little displeased. Rose shrugged her
plump shoulders and ran down stairs, for Doctor Danton was coming up the
avenue, and Rose, of late, had divided her attention pretty equally
between playing detective amateur and flirting with Doctor Danton. But
there was a visitor for Rose in the drawing-room; and the young Doctor,
entering the dining-room, found his sister alone, looking dreamily out
at the starry twilight.

"Grace," he said, "I come to say good-bye; I am going to Montreal."

Grace looked round at him with a sudden air of relief.

"Oh, Frank! I am glad. When are you going?"

Doctor Frank stared at her an instant in silence, and then hooked a
footstool towards him with his cane.

"Well, upon my word, for a sister who has not seen me for six years,
that is affectionate. You're glad I'm going, are you?"

"You know what I mean; it is about Rose Danton."

"Well, what about Miss Rose?"

"I am glad you are going to get out of her way. I am glad she will have
no chance to make a fool of you. I am glad you will have no time to fall
in love with her."

"My pretty Rose! My dark-eyed darling! Grace, you are heartless."

Grace looked at him, but his face was in shadow, and the tone of his
voice told nothing.

"I don't know whether you are serious or not," she said. "For your own
sake, I hope you are not. Rose has been flirting with you, but I thought
you had penetration enough to see through her. I hope, I trust, Frank,
you have not allowed yourself to think seriously of her."

"Why not?" said Doctor Danton; "she is very pretty, she has charming
ways, we are of the same blood, I should like to be married. It is very
nice to be married, I think. Why should I not think seriously of her?"

"Because you might as well fall in love with the moon, and hope to win
it."

"Do you mean she would not have me?"

"Yes."

"Trying, that. But why? Her conduct is encouraging. I thought she was in
love with me."

Again Grace looked at him, puzzled; again his face was in shadow, and
his inscrutable voice baffled her.

"I do not believe you ever thought any such thing. The girl is a
coquette born. She would flirt with Ogden, for the mere pleasure of
flirting. She flirts with you because there is no one else."

"Trying!" repeated the Doctor. "Very! And you really think there is no
use in my proposing--you really think she will not marry me?"

"I really think so."

"And why? Don't break my heart without a reason. Is it because I am
poor?"

"Because you are poor, and not handsome enough, or dashing enough for
the vainest, shallowest little flirt that ever made fools of men. Is
that plain enough?"

"That's remarkably plain, and I am very much obliged to you. My darling
Rose! But hush! A silk dress rustles--here she comes!"

The door opened; it was Rose, but not alone; both sisters were with her,
and Doctor Danton arose at once to make his adieus.

"I depart to-morrow for Montreal," he said. "Farewell, Miss Danton."

"Good-bye," letting the tips of her fingers touch his. "Bon voyage."

She walked away to the window, cold indifference in every line of her
proud face.

He held out his hand to Rose, glancing sideways at his sister.

"Adieu, Miss Rose," he said; "I shall never forget the pleasant hours I
have passed at Danton Hall."

He pressed the little plump hand, and Rose's rosy cheeks took a deeper
dye; but she only said, "Good-bye," and walked away to the piano, and
played a waltz.

Eeny was the only one who expressed regret, and gave his hand a friendly
shake.

"I am sorry you are going," she said. "Come back soon, Doctor Frank."

Doctor Frank looked as if he would like to kiss her; but Kate was there,
queenly and majestic, and such an impropriety was not to be thought of.

It was Kate, however, who spoke to him last, as he left the room.

"Take good bye from me to Tiger," she said. "I shall be glad when Tiger
comes back to St. Croix."

"'Love me, love my dog,'" quoted Rose. "How about Tiger's master, Kate?"

"I shall always be pleased to see Doctor Danton," said Kate, with
supreme indifference. "Sing me a twilight song, Rose."

Rose sang "Kathleen Mavourneen" in a sweet contralto voice.

Kate stood listening to the exquisite words and air, watching Doctor
Danton's full figure fading out in the November gloom, and thinking of
some one she loved far away.

    "O hast thou forgotten how soon we must sever;
      O hast thou forgotten how soon we must part?
    It may be for years, and it may be forever,
      Then why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?"



CHAPTER V.

SEEING A GHOST.


Three days after the departure of Grace's brother, Captain Danton
returned to the Hall. Strange to say, the young Doctor had been missed
in these three days by the four Misses Danton. Even the stately Kate,
who would have gone to the block sooner than have owned it, missed his
genial presence, his pleasant laugh, and ever interesting conversation;
Rose missed her flirtee, and gaped wearily the slow hours away that had
flown coquetting with him; Eeny missed the pocketfuls of chocolate,
bon-bons, and the story books new from Montreal; and Grace missed him
most of all. But Eeny was the only one honest enough to own it, and she
declared the house was as lonely as a dungeon since Doctor Frank had
gone away.

"One would think you had fallen in love with him, Eeny," said Rose.

"No," retorted Eeny; "I leave that for you. But he was nice; I liked
him, and I wish he would come back. Don't you, Kate?"

"I don't care, particularly," said Kate. "I wish papa would come."

"And bring that unknown friend of yours. I say, Kate," said Rose
mischievously, "they say you're engaged--perhaps it's your fiancé."

Up over Kate's pearly face the hot blood flew, and she turned hastily to
the nearest window.

"Too late, ma soeur," said Rose, her eyes dancing. "You blush
beautifully. Won't I have a look at him when he comes, the conquering
hero, who can win our queenly Kate's heart."

"Rose, hush!" cried Kate, yet not displeased, and with that roseate
light in her face still.

Rose came over, and put her arm around her waist coaxingly.

"Tell me about him, Kate. Is he handsome?"

"Who? Reginald? Of course he is handsome."

"I want to see him dreadfully! Have you his picture? Won't you show it
me?"

There was a slender gold chain round Kate's neck, which she wore night
and day. A locket was attached, and her hand pressed it now, but she did
not take it out.

"Some other time, my pet," she said, kissing Rose. "Come, let us go for
a ride."

Rose was an accomplished horsewoman, and never looked so well as in a
side-saddle. She owned a spirited black mare, which she called Regina,
and she had ridden out every day with Doctor Frank while that gentleman
was in St. Croix. Kate rode well, too. A fleet-footed little pony, named
Arab, had been trained for her use, and the sisters galloped over the
country together daily.

Eeny and Grace, both mortally afraid of horse-flesh, never rode.

Between music, books, and riding, the three days' interval passed
pleasantly enough.

Rose was an inveterate novel reader, and the hours Kate spent shut up
with that unfathomable mystery, Mr. Richards, her younger sister passed
absorbed in the last new novel.

They had visitors too--the Ponsonbys, the Landrys, the Le Favres, and
everybody of note in the neighbourhood called. Father Francis, M. le
Curé, the Reverend Augustus Clare, the Episcopal incumbent of St. Croix,
an aristocratic young Englishman, came to see them in the evening to
hear Miss Danton sing, and to play backgammon.

The Reverend Augustus, who was slim, and fair, and had face and hands
like a pretty girl, was very much impressed with the majestic daughter
of Captain Danton, who sang so magnificently, and looked at him with
eyes like blue stars.

The day that brought her father home had been long and dull. There had
been no callers, and they had not gone out. A cold north wind had
shrieked around the house all day, rattling the windows, and tearing
frantically through the gaunt arms of the stripped trees. The sky was
like lead, the river black and turbid. As the afternoon wore on, great
flakes of snow came fluttering through the opaque air, slowly at first,
then faster, till all was blind, fluttering whiteness, and the black
earth was hidden.

Kate stood by the dining-room window watching the fast-falling snow. It
had been a long day to her--a long, weary, aimless day. She had tried to
read, to play, to sing, to work; and failed in all. She had visited Mr.
Richards; she had wandered, in a lost sort of way, from room to room;
she had lain listlessly on sofas, and tried to sleep, all in vain. The
demon of ennui had taken possession of her; and now, at the end of every
resource, she stood looking drearily out at the wintry scene. She was
dressed for the evening, and looked like a picture, buttoned up in that
black velvet jacket, its rich darkness such a foil to her fair face and
shining golden hair. Grace was her only companion--Grace sitting
serenely braiding an apron for herself, Rose was fathoms deep in "Les
Miserables," and Eeny was drumming on the piano in the drawing-room.
There had been a long silence, but presently Grace looked up from her
work, and spoke.

"This wintry scene is new to you, Miss Danton. You don't have such wild
snow storms in England?"

Kate glanced round, a little surprised.

It was very rarely indeed her father's housekeeper voluntarily addressed
her.

"No," she said, "not like this; but I like it. We ought to have
sleighing to-morrow, if it continues."

"Probably. We do not often have sleighing, though, in November."

There was another pause.

Kate yawned behind her white hand.

"I wish Father Francis would come up," she said wearily. "He is the only
person in St. Croix worth talking to."

The dark, short November afternoon was deepening with snowy night, when
through the ghostly twilight the buggy from the station whirled up to
the door, and two gentlemen alighted. Great-coats, with upturned
collars, and hats pulled down, disguised both, but Kate recognized her
father, the taller and stouter, with a cry of delight.

"Papa!" she exclaimed; and ran out of the room to meet him. He was just
entering, his jovial laugh ringing through the house as he shook the
snow off, and caught her in his wet arms.

"Glad to be home again, Kate! You don't mind a cold kiss, do you? Let me
present an old friend whom you don't expect, I'll wager."

The gentleman behind him came forward. A gentleman neither very young,
nor very handsome, nor very tall; at once plain-looking and
proud-looking. The pale twilight was bright enough for Kate to recognize
him as he took off his hat.

"Sir Ronald Keith!" she cried, intense surprise in every line of her
face; "why, who would have thought of seeing you in Canada?"

She held out her hand frankly, but there was a marked air of restraint
in Sir Ronald's manner as he touched it and dropped it again.

"I thought it would be an astonisher," said her father; "how are Grace
and Eeny?"

"Very well."

"And Rose? Has Rose got home?"

"Yes, papa."

At this juncture Ogden appeared, and his master turned to him.

"Ogden, see that Sir Ronald's luggage is taken to his room, and then
hold yourself in readiness to attend him. This way, Sir Ronald, there is
just time to dress for dinner, and no more."

He led his visitor to the bedroom regions, and Kate returned to the
drawing-room. Rose was there dressed beautifully, and with flowers in
her hair, and all curiosity to hear who their visitor was. There was a
heightened colour in Kate's face and an altered expression in her eyes
that puzzled Grace.

"He is Sir Ronald Keith," she said, in reply to Rose. "I have known him
for years."

"Sir Ronald; knight or baronet?"

"Baronet, of course," Kate said, coldly; "and Scotch. Don't get into a
gale, Rose; you won't care about him; he is neither young nor handsome."

"Is he unmarried?"

"Yes."

"And rich?"

"His income is eight thousand a year."

"_Mon Dieu!_ A baronet and eight thousand a year! Kate, I am going to
make a dead set at him. Lady Keith--Lady Rose Keith; that sounds
remarkably well, doesn't it? I always thought I should like to be 'my
lady.' Grace, how do I look?"

Kate sat down to the piano, and drowned Rose's words in a storm of
music. Rose looked at her with pursed-up lips.

"Kate is in one of her high and mighty moods," she thought. "I don't
pretend to understand her. If she is engaged in England, what difference
can it make to her whether I flirt with this Scotch baronet or not? What
do I care for her airs? I'll flirt if I please."

She sat still, twisting her glossy ringlets round her fingers, while
Kate played on with that unsmiling face. Half an hour, and the
dinner-bell rang. Ten minutes after, Captain Danton and his guest stood
before them.

For a moment Rose did not see him; her father's large proportions, as he
took her in his arms and kissed her, overshadowed every one else.

"How my little Rose has grown!" the Captain said looking at her fondly;
"as plump as a partridge and as Rosy as her name. Sir Ronald--my
daughter Rose."

Rose bowed with finished grace, thinking, with a profound sense of
disappointment:

"What an ugly little man!"

Then it was Eeny's turn, and presently they were all seated at the
table--the baronet at Kate's right hand, talking to her of Old England,
and of by-gone days, and of people the rest knew nothing about. Captain
Danton gallantly devoted himself to the other three, and told them he
had brought them all presents from Montreal.

"Oh, papa, have you though!" cried Rose. "I dearly love presents; what
have you brought me?"

"Wait until after dinner, little curiosity," said her father. "Grace,
whom do you think I met in Montreal?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Why, that brother of yours. I was loitering along the Champ de Mars,
when who should step up but Doctor Frank. Wasn't I astonished! I asked
what brought him there, and he told me he found St. Croix so slow he
couldn't stand it any longer. Complimentary to you, young ladies."

Kate gave Rose a mischievous look, and Rose bit her lip and tossed back
her auburn curls.

"I dare say St. Croix and its inhabitants can survive the loss," she
said. "Papa, the next time you go to Montreal I want you to take me.
It's a long time since I have been there."

"I thought you were going back to Ottawa," said Grace. "You seem to have
forgotten all about it."

Rose gave her an alarmed look; and finding a gap in the tête-à-tête
between her sister and Sir Ronald, struck smilingly in. He was small and
he was homely, but he was a baronet and worth eight thousand a year, and
Rose brought all the battery of her charms to bear. In vain. She might
as well have tried to fascinate one of the gnarled old tamaracks
out-of-doors. Sir Ronald was utterly insensible to her brightest smiles
and glances, to her rosiest blushes and most honeyed words. He listened
politely, he answered courteously; but he was no more fascinated by
Captain Danton's second daughter than he was by Captain Danton's
housekeeper.

Rose was disgusted, and retreated to a corner with a book, and sulked.
Grace, Kate, and Eeny, who all saw through the little game, were
exceedingly amused.

"I told you it was of no use, Rose," said Kate, in a whisper, pausing at
the corner. "Do you always read with the book upside down? Sir Ronald is
made of flint, where pretty girls are concerned. You won't be 'my lady'
this time."

"Sir Ronald is a stupid stick!" retorted Rose. "I wouldn't marry him if
he were a duke instead of a baronet. One couldn't expect anything better
from a Scotchman, though."

It was the first experience Kate had had of Rose's temper. She drew back
now, troubled.

"I hope we will not be troubled with him long!" continued Rose,
spitefully. "The place was stupid enough before, but it will be worse
with that sulky Scotchman prowling about. I tried to be civil to him
this evening. I shall never try again."

With which Miss Rose closed her lips, and relapsed into her book,
supremely indifferent to her sister's heightened colour and flashing
eyes. She turned away in silence, and fifteen minutes after, Rose got up
and left the room, without saving good-night to any one.

Rose kept her word. From that evening she was never civil to the Scotch
baronet, and took every occasion to snub him. But her incivility was as
completely thrown away as her charms had been. It is doubtful whether
Sir Ronald ever knew he was snubbed; and Kate, seeing it, smiled to
herself, and was friends with offended Rose once more. She and the
baronet were on the best of terms; he was always willing to talk to her,
always ready to be her escort when she walked or rode, always on hand to
turn her music and listen entranced to her singing. If it was not a
flirtation, it was something very like it, and Rose was nowhere. She
looked on with indignant eyes, and revenged herself to the best of her
power by flirting in her turn with the Reverend Augustus Clare.

"He is nothing but a ninny!" she said to Grace; "and has eyes for no one
but Kate. Oh, how I wish my darling Jules were here, or even your
brother, Grace--he was better than no one!"

"My brother is very much obliged to you."

"You talk to me of my flirting propensities," continued the exasperated
Rose. "I should like to know what you call Kate's conduct with that
little Scotchman."

"Friendship, my dear," Grace answered, repressing a smile.

"Remember, they have known each other for years."

"Friendship! Yes; it would be heartless coquetry if it were I. I hope
Lieutenant Reginald Stanford, of Stanford Royals, will like it when he
comes. Sir Ronald Keith is over head and ears in love with her, and she
knows it, and is drawing him on. A more cold-blooded flirtation no one
ever saw!"

"Nonsense, Rose! It is only a friendly intimacy."

But Rose, unable to stand this, bounced out of the room in a passion,
and sought consolation in her pet novels.

Kate and Sir Ronald were certainly very much together; but,
notwithstanding their intimacy, she found time to devote two or three
hours every day to Mr. Richards. Rose's mystery was her mystery still.
She could get no further towards its solution. Mr. Richards might have
been a thousand miles away, for all any of the household saw of him; and
Grace, in the solitude of her own chamber, wondered over it a good deal
of late.

She sat at her window one December night, puzzling herself about it.
Kate had not come down to dinner that day--she had dined with the
invalid in his rooms. When she had entered the drawing-room about nine
o'clock, she looked pale and anxious, and was absent and _distraite_ all
the evening. Now that the house was still and all were in their rooms,
Grace was wondering. Was Mr. Richards worse? Why, then, did they not
call in a Doctor? Who could he be, this sick stranger, in whom father
and daughter were so interested? Grace could not sleep for thinking of
it. The night was mild and bright, and she arose, wrapped a large shawl
around her, and took her seat by the window. How still it was, how
solemn, how peaceful! The full moon sailed through the deep blue sky,
silver-white, crystal-clear. Numberless stars shone sharp and keen. The
snowy ground glittered dazzlingly bright and cold; the trees stood like
grim, motionless sentinels, guarding Danton Hall. The village lay hushed
in midnight repose; the tall cross of the Catholic and the lofty spire
of the Episcopal church flashed in the moon's rays. Rapid river and
sluggish canal glittered in the silvery light. The night was noiseless,
hushed, beautiful.

No; not noiseless. A step crunched over the frozen snow; from under the
still shadow of the trees a moving shadow came. A man, wrapped in a long
cloak, and with a fur cap down over his eyes, came round the angle of
the building and began pacing up and down the terrace. Grace's heart
stood still for an instant. Who was this midnight walker? Not Sir Ronald
Keith watching his lady's lattice--it was too tall for him. Not the
Captain--the cloaked figure was too slight. No one Grace knew, and no
ghost; for he stood still an instant, lit a cigar, and resumed his walk,
smoking. He had loitered up and down the terrace for about a quarter of
an hour, when another figure came out from the shadows and joined him. A
woman this time, with a shawl wrapped round her, and a white cloud on
her head. The moonlight fell full on her face--pale and beautiful. Grace
could hardly repress a cry--it was Kate Danton.

The smoker advanced. Miss Danton took his arm, and together they walked
up and down, talking earnestly. Once or twice Kate looked up at the
darkened windows; but the watcher was not to be seen, and they walked
on. Half an hour, an hour, passed; the hall clock struck one, and then
the two midnight pedestrians disappeared round the corner and were gone.

The moments passed, and still Grace sat wondering, and of her wonder
finding no end. What did it mean? Who was this man with whom the
proudest girl the sun ever shone on walked by stealth, and at midnight?
Who was he? Suddenly in the silence and darkness of the coming morning,
a thought struck her that brought the blood to her face.

"Mr. Richards."

She clasped her hands together. Conviction as positive as certainty
thrilled along every nerve. Mr. Richards, the recluse, was the midnight
walker--Mr. Richards, who was no invalid at all; and who, shut up all
day, came out in the dead of night, when the household were asleep, to
take the air in the grounds. There, in the solemn hush of her room,
Rose's thoughtless words came back to her like a revelation.

"Where there is secrecy there is guilt."

When the family met at breakfast, Grace looked at Kate with a new
interest. But the quiet face told nothing; she was a little pale; but
the violet eyes were as starry, and the smile as bright as ever. The
English mail had come in, and letters for her and her father lay on the
table. There was one, in a bold, masculine hand, with a coat-of-arms on
the seal, that brought the rosy blood in an instant to her face. She
walked away to one of the windows, to read it by herself. Grace watched
the tall, slender figure curiously. She was beginning to be a mystery to
her.

"She is on the best of terms with Sir Ronald Keith," she thought; "she
meets some man by night in the grounds, and the sight of this
handwriting brings all the blood in her body to her face. I suppose she
loves him; I suppose he loves her. I wonder what he would think if he
knew what I know."

The morning mail brought Rose a letter from Ottawa, which she devoured
with avidity, and flourished before Grace's eyes.

"A love letter, Mistress Grace," she said. "My darling Jules is dying to
have me back. I mean to ask papa to let me go. It is as dull as a
monastery of La Trappe here."

"What's the news from England, Kate?" asked her father, as they all sat
down to table.

The rosy light was at its brightest in Kate's face, but Sir Ronald
looked as black as a thunder cloud.

"Everybody is well, papa."

"Satisfactory, but not explanatory. Everybody means the good people at
Stanford Royals, I suppose?"

"Yes, papa."

"Where is Reginald?"

"At Windsor. But his regiment is ordered to Ireland."

"To Ireland! Then he can't come over this winter?"

"I don't know. He may get leave of absence."

"I hope so--I hope so. Capital fellow is Reginald. Did you see him
before you left England, Sir Ronald?"

"I met Lieutenant Stanford at a dinner party the week I left," said Sir
Ronald, stiffly--so stiffly, that the subject was dropped at once.

After breakfast, Captain Danton retired to his study to answer his
letters, and Sir Ronald and Kate started for their morning ride across
the country. She had invited Rose to accompany them, and Rose had rather
sulkily declined.

"I never admire spread-eagles," sneered the second Miss Danton, "and I
don't care for being third in these cases--I might be _de trop_. Sir
Ronald Keith's rather a stupid cavalier. I prefer staying at home, I
thank you."

"As you please," Kate said, and went off to dress.

Rose got a novel, and sat down at the upper half window to mope and
read. The morning was dark and overcast, the leaden sky threatened snow,
and the wailing December wind was desolation itself. The house was very
still; faint and far off the sound of Eeny's piano could be heard, and
now and then a door somewhere opening and shutting. Ogden came from Mr.
Richards' apartment, locked the door after him, put the key in his
pocket, and went away. Rose dropped her book and sat gazing at that
door--that Bluebeard's chamber--that living mystery in their
common-place Canadian home. While she looked at it, some one came
whistling up the stairs. It was her father, and he stopped at sight of
her.

"You here, Rose, my dear; I thought you had gone out riding with Kate."

"Kate doesn't want me, papa," replied Rose, with a French shrug. "She
has company she likes better."

"What, Sir Ronald! Nonsense, Rose! Kate is Sir Ronald's very good
friend--nothing more."

Rose gave another shrug.

"Perhaps so, papa. It looks like flirting, but appearances are
deceitful. Papa!"

"Yes, my dear."

"I wish you would let me go back to Ottawa!"

"To Ottawa! Why, you only left it the other day. What do you want to go
back to Ottawa for?"

"It's so dull here, papa," answered Rose, fidgeting with her book, "and
I had such a good time there. I shall die of the dismals in this house
before the winter is over."

"Then we must try and enliven it up a little for you. What would you
like, a house-warming?"

"Oh, papa! that would be delightful."

"All right, then, a house-warming it shall be. We must speak to Grace
and Kate about it; hold a council of war, you know, and settle
preliminaries. I can't spare my little Rosie just yet, and let her run
away to Ottawa."

Rose gave him a rapturous kiss, and Captain Danton walked away, unlocked
the green baize door, and disappeared.

When Kate came back from her ride, Rose informed her of her father's
proposal with sparkling eyes. Kate listened quietly, and made no
objection; neither did Grace; and so the matter was decided.

Rose had no time to be lonely after that. Her father gave her _carte
blanche_ in the matter of dress and ornament, and Miss Rose's earthly
happiness was complete. She, and Kate, and Grace went to Montreal to
make the necessary purchases, to lasso dressmakers and fetch them back
to St. Croix.

"I know a young woman I think will suit you," said Ma'am Ledru, the
cook. "She is an excellent dressmaker and embroideress; very poor, and
quite willing, I am sure, to go into the country. Her name is Agnes
Darling, and she lives in the Petite Rue de Saint Jacques."

Rose hastened to the Petite Rue de Saint Jacques at once, and in a small
room of a tenement house found the seamstress; a little pale, dark-eyed,
dark-haired creature, with a face that was a history of trouble, though
her years could not have numbered twenty. There was no difficulty in
engaging her: she promised to be ready to return with them to St. Croix
the following morning.

They only spent two days in the city, and were, of course, very busy all
the time. Grace took a few moments to try and find her brother, but
failed. He was not to be heard of at his customary address; he had been
talking of quitting Montreal, they told her there; probably he had done
so.

The Dantons, with the pale little dressmaker, returned next day, all
necessaries provided. The business of the house-warming commenced at
once. Danton Hall--ever spotless under the reign of Grace--was rubbed up
and scrubbed down from garret to cellar. Invitations were sent out far
and wide. Agnes Darling's needle flew from early dawn till late at
night; and Grace and the cook, absorbed in cake and jelly-making, were
invisible all day long in the lower regions. Eeny and Rose went heart
and soul into the delightful fuss, all new to them, but Kate took little
interest in it. She was Sir Ronald's very good friend still, and, like
Mrs. Micawber, never deserted him. Captain Danton hid his diminished
head in his study, in Mr. Richard's rooms, or took refuge with the Curé
from the hubbub.

The eventful night at last came round, clear, cold, and near Christmas.
The old ball-room of Danton Hall, disused so long, had been refitted,
waxed, and decorated; the long drawing-room was resplendent; the supper
table set in the dining-room was dazzling to look at, with silver,
Sèvres, and glittering glass; the dressing-rooms were in a state of
perfection; the servants all _en grande tenue_; and Danton Hall one
blaze of light. In the bedroom regions the mysteries of the toilet had
been going on for hours. Eunice was busy with her mistress; Agnes the
seamstress was playing _femme de chambre_ to Rose. Grace dressed herself
in twenty minutes, and then dressed Eeny, who only wore pink muslin and
a necklace of pearls, and looked fairy-like and fragile as ever. Grace,
in gray silk, with an emerald brooch, and her brown hair simply worn as
she always wore it, looked lady-like and unassuming.

The guests came by the evening train from Montreal, and the carriages of
the nearer neighbours began coming in rapid succession. Kate stood by
her cordial father's side, receiving their guests. So tall, so stately,
so exquisitely dressed--all the golden hair twisted in thick coils
around her regal head, and one diamond star flashing in its amber
glitter. Lovely with that flush on the delicate cheeks, that streaming
light in the blue eyes.

Rose was eclipsed. Rose looking her best, and very pretty, but nothing
beside her queenly sister. But Rose was very brilliant, flitting hither
and thither, dancing incessantly, and turning whiskered heads in all
directions. They could fall in love with pretty, coquettish Rose, those
very young gentlemen, who could only look at Kate from a respectful
distance in speechless admiration and awe. Rose was of their kind, and
they could talk to her; so Rose was the belle of the night, after all.

Sir Ronald Keith and two or three officers from Montreal, with side
whiskers, a long pedigree, and a first-rate opinion of themselves, were
the only gentlemen who had the temerity to approach the goddess of the
ball--oh! excepting the Reverend Augustus Clare, who, in his intense
admiration, was almost tongue-tied, and Doctor Danton, who, to the
surprise of every one except the master of the Hall, walked in, the last
guest of all.

"You look surprised, Miss Danton," he said, as they shook hands. "Did
not the Captain tell you I was coming?"

"Not a word."

"I returned to-day, knowing nothing of the house-warming. The Captain
met me, and, with his customary hospitality, insisted on my coming."

"We are very glad he has done so. Your sister tried to find you when we
were in--good Heaven! what is that?"

It was a sudden, startled scream, that made all pause who were standing
near. Butler Thomas appeared at the moment, flurried and in haste.

"What's the matter?" asked Captain Danton; and the startled faces of his
guests reiterated the question. "Who cried out?"

"Old Margery, sir. She's seen a ghost!"

"Seen what?"

"A ghost, sir; out in the tamarack walk?--She's fell down in a fit in
the hall."

There was a little chorus of startled exclamations from the ladies.
Captain Danton came forward, his florid face changing to white; and
Kate, all her colour gone, dropped her partner's arm.

"Come with me, Doctor Danton," he said. "Yes, Kate, you too. My friends,
do not let this foolish affair disturb you. Excuse us for a few moments,
and pray go on as if nothing had happened."

They left the ball-room together. The music, that had stopped, resumed;
dancing recommenced, and "all went merry as a marriage-bell." There was
only one, perhaps, who thought seriously of what had taken place. Grace,
standing near the door talking to an elderly major from the city, heard
Thomas' last words to his master as they went out.

"Ogden says it was him she seen, but Margery won't listen to him. Ogden
says he was out in the tamarack walk, and she mistook him in the
moonlight for a ghost."

Grace's thoughts went back to the night when she had seen the mysterious
walker under the tameracks. No, it was not Ogden, that old Margery had
seen, else Captain Danton and his daughter would not have worn such pale
and startled faces going out.

It was not Ogden, and it was not a ghost; but whose ghost did Margery
take it to be? The apparition in the tamarack walk must have resembled
some one she knew and now thought to be dead, else why should she think
it a spirit at all?

The whiskered major, who took Grace for one of the Captain's daughter's,
and was slightly _ebris_, found her very _distraite_ all of a sudden,
and answering his questions vaguely and at random. He did his best to
interest her, and failed so signally that he got up and left in disgust.

Grace sat still and watched the door. Half an hour
passed--three-quarters, and then her brother re-entered alone. She went
up to him at once, but his unreadable face told nothing.

"Well," she asked, anxiously, "how is Margery?"

"Restored and asleep."

"Does she really think she saw a ghost?"

"She really does, and was frightened into fits."

"Whose ghost was it?"

"My dear Grace," said the Doctor, "have sense. I believe the foolish old
woman mentioned some name to Miss Danton, but I never repeat nonsense.
She is in her dotage, I dare say, and sees double."

"Margery is no more in her dotage than you are," said Grace, vexed.
"Perhaps she is not the only one who has seen the ghost of Danton Hall."

"Grace! What do you mean?"

"Excuse me, Doctor Frank, I never talk nonsense. You can keep your
professional secrets; I'll find out from Margery all the same. Here is
the Captain; he looks better than when he went out. Where is Kate?"

"With Margery. She won't be left alone."

As she spoke, Rose came up, her brightest smiles in full play.

"I have been searching for you everywhere, Doctor Frank. You ought to be
sent to Coventry. Don't you know you engaged me for the German, and here
you stand talking to Grace. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, sir."

"So I am," said the Doctor. "Adieu, Grace. Pardon this once,
Mademoiselle, and for the remainder of the evening, for the remainder of
my life, I am entirely at your service."

Grace kept her station at the door watching for Kate. In another half
hour she appeared, slightly pale, but otherwise tranquil. She was
surrounded immediately by sundry "ginger-whiskered fellows," otherwise
the officers from Montreal, and lost to the housekeeper's view.

The house-warming was a success. Somewhere in the big, busy world
perhaps, crime, and misery, and shame, and sorrow, and starvation, and
all the catalogue of earthly horrors, were rife, but not at Danton Hall.
Time trod on flowers; enchanted music drifted the bright hours away; the
golden side of life was uppermost; and if those gay dancers knew what
tears and trouble meant, their faces never showed it. Kate, with her
tranquil and commanding beauty, wore a face as serene as a summer's sky;
and her father playing whist, was laughing until all around laughed in
sympathy. No, there could be no hidden skeleton, or the masks those wore
who knew of its grisly presence were something wonderful.

In the black and bitterly cold dawn of early morning the dancers went
shivering home. The first train bore the city guests, blue and fagged,
to Montreal; and Doctor Frank walked briskly through the piercing air
over the frozen snow to his hotel. And up in her room old Margery lay in
disturbed sleep, watched over by dozing Babette, and moaning out at
restless intervals.

"Master Harry! Master Harry! O Miss Kate! it was Master Harry's ghost!"



CHAPTER VI.

ROSE'S ADVENTURE.


December wore out in wild snow-storms and wintry winds. Christmas came,
solemn and shrouded in white; and Kate Danton's fair hands decorated the
little village church with evergreens and white roses for Father
Francis; and Kate Danton's sweet voice sang the dear old "Adeste
Fideles" on Christmas morning. Kate Danton, too, with the princely
spirit that nature and habit had given her, made glad the cottages of
the poor with gifts of big turkeys, and woolly blankets, and barrels of
flour. They half adored, these poor people, the stately young lady, with
the noble and lovely face, so unlike anything St. Croix had ever seen
before. Proud as she was, she was never proud with them--God's poor
ones; she was never proud when she knelt in their midst, in that lowly
little church, and cried "Mea culpa" as humbly as the lowliest sinner
there.

New-Year came with its festivities, bringing many callers from Montreal,
and passed; and Danton Hall fell into its customary tranquillity once
more. Sir Ronald Keith was still their guest; Doctor Frank was still an
inmate of the St. Croix Hotel, and a regular visitor at the Hall. More
letters had come for Kate from England; Lieutenant Stanford's regiment
had gone to Ireland, and he said nothing of leave of absence or a visit
to Canada. Rose got weekly epistles from Ottawa; her darling Jules
poured out floods of undying love in the very best French, and Rose
smiled over them complacently, and went down and made eyes at Doctor
Frank all the evening. And old Margery was not recovered yet from the
ghost-seeing fright, and would not remain an instant alone by night or
day for untold gold.

The sunset of a bright January day was turning the western windows of
Danton Hall to sheets of beaten gold. The long, red lances of light
pierced through the black trees, tinged the piled up snow-drifts, and
made the low evening sky one blaze of crimson splendour. Eeny stood
looking thoughtfully out at the gorgeous hues of the wintry sunset and
the still landscape, where no living thing moved. She was in a cozy
little room called the housekeeper's room, but which Grace never used,
except when she made up her accounts, or when her favourite apartment,
the dining-room, was occupied. A bright fire burned in the grate, and
the curtained windows and carpeted floor were the picture of comfort. It
had been used latterly as a sewing-room, and Agnes Darling sat at the
other window embroidering a handkerchief for Rose. There had been a long
silence--the seamstress never talked much; and Eeny was off in a
daydream. Presently, a big dog came bounding tumultuously up the avenue,
and a tall man in an overcoat followed leisurely.

"There!" exclaimed Eeny, "there's Tiger and Tiger's master. You haven't
seen Grace's brother yet, have you Agnes?"

"No," said the seamstress, looking out, "is that he?"

He was too far off to be seen distinctly; but a moment or two later he
was near. A sudden exclamation from the seamstress made Eeny look at her
in surprise. She had sprang up and sat down again, white, and startled,
and trembling.

"What's the matter?" said Eeny. "Do you know Doctor Danton?"

"Doctor Danton?" repeated Agnes. "Yes. Oh, what am I saying! No, I don't
know him."

She sat down again, all pale and trembling, and scared. Doctor Frank was
ringing the bell, and was out of sight. Eeny gazed at her exceedingly
astonished.

"What is the matter with you?" she reiterated. "What are you afraid of?
Do you know Doctor Danton?"

"Don't ask me; please don't ask me!" cried the little seamstress,
piteously. "I have seen him before; but, oh, please don't say anything
about it!"

She was in such a violent tremor--her voice was so agitated, that Eeny
good-naturedly said no more. She turned away, and looked again at the
paling glory of the sunset, not seeing it this time, but thinking of
Agnes Darling's unaccountable agitation at sight of Grace's brother.

"Perhaps he has been a lover of hers," thought romantic Eeny, "and
false! She is very pretty, or would be, if she wasn't as pale as a
corpse. And yet I don't think Doctor Frank would be false to any one
either. I don't want to think so--I like him too well."

Eeny left the sewing-room and went upstairs. She found Doctor Danton in
the dining-room with his sister and Rose, and Rose was singing a French
song for him. Eeny took her station by the window; she knew the
seamstress was in the daily habit of taking a little twilight walk in
her favourite circle, round and round the fish-pond, and she could see
from where she stood when she went out.

"I'll show her to him," thought Eeny, "and see if it flurries him as it
did her. There is something between them, if one could get to the bottom
of it."

Rose's song ended. The sunset faded out in a pale blank of dull
gray--twilight fell over the frozen ground. A little black figure,
wearing a shawl over its head, fluttered out into the mysterious
half-light, and began pacing slowly round the frozen fish-pond.

"Doctor Frank," said Eeny, "come here and see the moon rise."

"How romantic!" laughed Rose. But the Doctor went and stood by her side.

The wintry crescent-moon was sailing slowly up, with the luminous
evening star resplendent beside her, glittering on the whitened earth.

"Pretty," said the Doctor; "very. Solemn, and still, and white! What
dark fairy is that gliding round the fish-pond?"

"That," said Eeny, "is Agnes Darling."

"Who?" questioned Doctor Danton, suddenly and sharply.

"Agnes Darling, our seamstress. Dear me, Doctor Danton, one would think
you knew her!"

There had been a momentary change in his face, and Eeny's suspicious
eyes were full upon him--only momentary, though; it was gone directly,
and his unreadable countenance was as calm as a summer's sky. Doctor
Frank might have been born a duke, so radically and unaffectedly
nonchalant was he.

"The name has a familiar sound; but I don't think I know your
seamstress. Go and play me a waltz, Eeny."

There was no getting anything out of Doctor Danton which he did not
choose to tell. Eeny knew that, and went over to the piano, a little
provoked at the mystery they made of it.

But destiny that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will, had made
up its mind for further revelations, and against destiny even Doctor
Frank was powerless. Destiny lost no time either--the revelation came
the very next evening. Kate and Eeny had been to St. Croix, visiting
some of Kate's poor pensioners, and evening was closing in when they
reached the Hall. A lovely evening--calm, windless, still; the moon's
silver disk brilliant in an unclouded sky, and the holy hush of eventide
over all. The solemn beauty of the falling night tempted Kate to linger,
while Eeny went on to the house. There was a group of tall pines, with a
rustic bench, near the entrance-gates. Kate sat down under the
evergreens, leaning against the trees, her dark form scarcely
distinguishable in their shadow. While she sat, a man and a woman
passed. Full in the moonlight she saw that it was Doctor Danton and
Agnes Darling. Distinct in the still keen air she heard his low, earnest
words.

"Don't betray yourself--don't let them see you know me. Be on your
guard, especially with Eeny, who suspects. It will avoid disagreeable
explanations. It is best to let them think we have never met."

They were gone. Kate sat petrified. What understanding was this between
Doctor Danton and their pale little seamstress? They knew each other,
and there were reasons why that acquaintance should be a secret. "It
would involve disagreeable explanations!" What could Doctor Frank mean?
The solution of the riddle that had puzzled Eeny came to her. Had they
been lovers at some past time?--was Doctor Frank a villain after all?

The moon sailed up in the zenith, the blue sky was all sown with stars,
and the loud ringing of the dinner-bell reached her even where she sat.
She got up hastily, and hurried to the house, ran to her room, threw off
her bonnet and shawl, smoothed her hair, and descended to the
dining-room in her plain black silk dress. She was late; they were all
there--her father, Grace, Rose, Eeny, Sir Ronald, the Reverend Augustus
Clare, and Doctor Danton.

"Runaway," said her father, "we had given you up. Where have you been?"

"Star-gazing, papa. Down under the pines, near the gates, until five
minutes ago."

Doctor Frank looked up quickly, and met the violet eyes fixed full upon
him.

"I heard you, sir," that bright glance said. "Your secret is a secret no
longer."

Doctor Danton looked down at his plate with just a tinge of colour in
his brown face. He understood her as well as if she had spoken; but,
except that faint and transient flush, it never moved him. He told them
stories throughout dinner of his adventures as a medical student in
Germany, and every one laughed except Kate. She could not laugh; the
laughter of the others irritated her. His words going up the avenue rang
in her ears; the pale, troubled face of the seamstress was before her
eyes. Something in the girl's sad, joyless face had interested her from
the first. Had Doctor Danton anything to do with that look of hopeless
trouble?

With this new interest in her mind, Kate sent for the seamstress to her
room next morning. Some lace was to be sewn on a new dress. Eunice
generally did such little tasks for her mistress, but on this occasion
it was to be Agnes. The girl sat down with the rich robe by the window,
and bent assiduously over her work. Miss Danton, in a loose négligée,
lying half buried in the depths of a great carved and cushioned chair,
watched her askance while pretending to read. What a slender, diminutive
creature she was--how fixedly pale, paler still in contrast with her
black hair and great, melancholy dark eyes. She never looked up--she
went on, stitch, stitch, like any machine, until Kate spoke, suddenly:

"Agnes!"

The dark eyes lifted inquiringly.

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-two."

"You don't look it. Are your parents living?"

"No; dead these many years."

"Have you brothers or sisters?"

"No, I never had."

"But you have other relatives--uncles, aunts, cousins?"

"No, Miss Danton--none that I have ever seen."

"What an isolated little thing you are! Have you lived in Montreal all
your life?"

"Oh, no! I have only been in Montreal a few months. I was born and
brought up in New York."

"In New York!" repeated Kate, surprised. And then there was a pause.
When had Doctor Danton been in New York? For the last four years he had
been in Germany; from Germany he had come direct to Canada, so Grace had
told her; where, then, had he known this New York girl?

"Why did you come to Montreal?" asked Kate.

There was a nervous contraction around the girl's mouth, and something
seemed to fade out of her face--not color, for she had none--but it
darkened with something like sudden anguish.

"I had a friend," she said hastily, "a friend I lost; I heard I might
find that--that friend in Montreal, and so--"

Her voice died away, and she put up one trembling hand to shade her
face. Kate came over and touched the hand lying on her black dress,
caressingly. She forgot her pride, as she often forgot it in her womanly
pity.

"My poor little Agnes! Did you find that friend?"

"No."

"No?" repeated Kate.

She thought the reply would be "yes"--she had thought the friend was
Doctor Frank. Agnes dropped her hand from before her face.

"No," she said sadly, "I have not found him. I shall never find him
again in this world, I am afraid."

Him! That little tell-tale pronoun! Kate knew by instinct the friend was
"him," men being at the bottom of all womanly distress in this lower
world.

"Then it was not Doctor Danton?"

Agnes looked up with a suddenly frightened face, her great eyes
dilating, her pale lips parting.

"I saw you by accident coming up the avenue with him last evening," Kate
hastened to explain. "I chanced to hear a remark of his in passing; I
could not help it."

Agnes clasped her hands together in frightened supplication.

"You won't say anything about it?" she said, piteously. "Oh, please
don't say anything about it! I am so sorry you overheard. Oh, Miss
Danton, you won't tell?"

"Certainly not," answered Kate, startled by her emotion. "I merely
thought he might be the friend you came in search of."

"Oh, no, no! Doctor Danton has been my friend; I owe him more than I can
ever repay. He is the best, and noblest, and most generous of men. He
was my friend when I had no friend in the world--when, but for him, I
might have died. But he is not the one I came to seek."

"I beg your pardon," said Kate, going back to her chair. "I have asked
too many questions."

"No, no! You have a right to ask me, but I cannot tell. I am not very
old, but my heart is nearly broken."

She dropped her work, covered her face with her slender hands, and broke
out into a fit of passionate crying. Kate was beside her in a moment,
soothing her, caressing her, as if she had been her sister.

"I am sorry, I am sorry," she said; "it is all my fault. Don't cry,
Agnes; I will go now; you will feel better alone."

She stooped and kissed her. Agnes looked up in grateful surprise, but
Miss Danton was gone. She ran down stairs and stood looking out of the
drawing-room window, at the sunlit, wintry landscape.

So Doctor Frank was a hero after all, and not a villain. He had nothing
to do with this pale little girl's trouble. He was only her best friend
and wanted to hide it.

"People generally like their good deeds to be known," mused Miss Danton.
"They want their right hand to see all that their left hand gives. Is
Doctor Frank a little better than the rest of mankind? I know he attends
the sick poor of St. Croix for nothing, and I know he is very pleasant,
and a gentleman. Is he that modern wonder, a good man, besides?"

Her meditations were interrupted by the entrance of Rose, looking very
charming in a tight jacket and long black riding-skirt, a "jockey hat
and feather" on her curly head, and flourishing her riding-whip in her
gauntleted hand.

"I thought you were out, Kate, with your little Scotchman," she said,
slapping her gaiter. "I saw him mount and ride off nearly an hour ago."

"I have been in my room."

"I wish Doctor Frank would come," said Rose. "I like some one to make
love to me when I ride."

"Doctor Frank does not make love to you."

"Does he not? How do you know?"

"My prophetic soul tells me, and what is more, never will. All the
better for Doctor Frank, since you would not accept him or his love if
he offered them."

"And how do you know that? I must own I thought him a prig at first, and
if I begin to find him delightful now, I suppose it is merely by force
of contrast with your black-browed, deadly-dull baronet. Will you come?
No? Well, then, adieu, and _au revoir_."

Kate watched her mount and gallop down the avenue, kissing her hand as
she disappeared.

"My pretty Rose," she thought, smiling, "she is only a spoiled child;
one cannot be angry, let her say what she will."

Out beyond the gates, Rose's canter changed to a rapid gallop. She
managed her horse well, and speedily left the village behind, and was
flying along a broad, well-beaten country road, interspersed at remote
intervals with quaint French farm-houses.

All at once, Regina slipped--there was a sheet of ice across the
road--struggled to regain her footing, fell, and would have thrown her
rider had not a man, walking leisurely along, sprung forward and caught
her in his arms.

Rose was unhurt, and extricating herself from the stranger's
coat-sleeves, rose also. The hero of the moment made an attempt to
follow her example, uttered a groan, made a wry face, and came to a
halt.

"Are you hurt?" Rose asked.

"I have twisted an ankle on that confounded ice--sprained it, I am
afraid, in the struggle with the horse. If I can walk--but no, my
locomotive powers, I find, are at a standstill for the present. Now,
then, Mademoiselle, what are we to do?"

He seated himself with great deliberation on a fallen tree and looked up
at her coolly, as he asked the question.

Rose looked down into one of the handsomest faces she had ever seen,
albeit pallid just now with sharp pain.

"I am so sorry," she said, in real concern. "You cannot walk, and you
must not stay here. What shall we--oh! what shall we do?"

"I tell you," said the young man. "Do you see that old yellow farm-house
that looks like a church in Chinese mourning."

"Yes."

"Well--but it will be a great deal of trouble."

"Trouble!" cried Rose. "Don't talk about trouble. Do you want me to go
to that farm-house!"

"If you will be so kind. I stopped there last night. Tell old
Jacques--that's the proprietor--to send some kind of a trap down here
for me--a sled, if nothing else."

"I'll be back in ten minutes," exclaimed Rose, mounting Regina with
wonderful celerity, and flying off.

Old Jacques--a wizen little habitant--was distressed at the news, and
ran off instantly to harness up his old mare, and sled. Madame Jacques
placed a mattress on the sled and the vehicle started.

"Who is the gentleman?" Rose asked carelessly, as they rode along.

Old Jacques didn't know. He had stopped there last night, and paid them,
but hadn't told them his name or his business.

A few minutes brought them to the scene of the tragedy. The stranger
lifted those dark eyes of his, and looked so unspeakably handsome, that
Rose was melted to deeper compassion than ever.

"I am afraid you are nearly frozen to death," she said, springing
lightly to the ground. "Let us try if we cannot help you on to the
sled."

"You are very kind," replied the stranger, laughing and accepting. "It
is worth while having a sprained ankle, after all."

Rose and old Jacques got him on the sled between them though his lips
were white with suppressed pain in the effort.

"I sent Jean Baptiste for Dr. Pillule," said old Jacques as he started
the mare. "Monsieur will be--what you call it--all right, when Dr.
Pillule comes."

"Might I ask--but, perhaps it would be asking too much?" the stranger
said, looking at Rose.

"What is it?"

"Will you not return with us, and hear whether Dr. Pillule thinks my
life in danger?"

Rose laughed.

"I never heard of any one dying from a sprained ankle. _Malgré cela_, I
will return if you wish it, since you got it in my behalf."

Rose's steed trotted peaceably beside the sled to the farm-house door.
All the way, the wounded hero lay looking up at the graceful girl, with
the rose-red cheeks and auburn curls, and thinking, perhaps, if he were
any judge of pictures, what a pretty picture she made.

Rose assisted in helping him into the drawing room of the
establishment--which was a very wretched drawing-room indeed. There was
a leather lounge wheeled up before a large fire, and thereon the injured
gentleman was laid.

Doctor Pillule had not yet arrived, and old Jacques stood waiting
further orders.

"Jacques, fetch a chair. That is right; put it up here, near me. Now you
can go. Mademoiselle, do me the favour to be seated."

Rose sat down, very near--dangerously near--the owner of the eyes.

"May I ask the name of the young lady whom I have been fortunate enough
to assist."

"My name is Rosina--Rose Danton."

"Danton," repeated the young man slowly. "Danton; I know that name.
There is a place called Danton Hall over here--a fine old place, they
tell me--owned by one Captain Danton."

"I am Captain Danton's second daughter."

"Then, Miss Danton, I am very happy to make your acquaintance."

He held out his hand, gravely. Rose shook hands, laughing and blushing.

"I am much pleased to make yours, Mr. ----" laughing still, and looking
at him.

"Reinecourt," said the gentleman.

"Mr. Reinecourt; only I wish you had not sprained your ankle doing it."

"I don't regret it. But you are under an obligation to me, are you not?"

"Certainly."

"Then I mean to have a return for what you owe me. I want you to come
and see me every day until I get well."

Rose blushed vividly.

"Oh, I don't know. You exact too much!"

"Not a whit. I'll never fly to the rescue of another damsel in distress
as long as I live, if you don't."

"But every day! Once a week will be enough."

"If you insult me by coming once a week, I'll issue orders not to admit
you. Promise, Miss Danton; here comes Doctor Pillule."

"I promise, then. There, I never gave you permission to kiss my hand."

She arose precipitately, and stood looking out of the window, while the
Doctor attended to the sprain.

Nearly half an hour passed. The ankle was duly bathed and bandaged, then
old Jacques and the Doctor went away, and she came over and looked
laughingly down at the invalid, a world of coquettish daring in her
dancing eyes.

"Well, M. Reinecourt, when does M. le Médecin say you are going to die?"

"When you think of leaving me, Mademoiselle."

"Then summon your friends at once, for I not only think of it, but am
about to do it."

"Oh, not so soon."

"It is half-past two, Monsieur," pulling out her watch; "they will think
I am lost at home. I must go!"

"Well, shake hands before you go."

"It seems to me you are very fond of shaking hands, Mr. Reinecourt,"
said Rose, giving him hers willingly enough, though.

"And you really must leave me?"

"I really must."

"But you will come to-morrow?" still holding her hand.

"Perhaps so--if I have nothing better to do."

"You cannot do anything better than visit the sick, and oh, yes! do me
another favour. Fetch me some books to read--to pass the dismal hours of
your absence."

"Very well; now let me go."

He released her plump little hand, and Rose drew on her gloves.

"Adieu, Mr. Reinecourt," moving to the door.

"_Au revoir_, Miss Danton, until to-morrow morning."

Rose rode home in delight. In one instant the world had changed. St.
Croix had become a paradise, and the keen air sweet as "Ceylon's spicy
breezes." As Alice Carey says, "What to her was our world with its
storms and rough weather," with that pallid face, those eyes of darkest
splendour, that magnetic voice, haunting her all the way. It was love at
sight with Miss Danton the second. What was the girlish fancy she had
felt for Jules La Touche--for Dr. Frank--for a dozen others, compared
with this.

Joe, the stable-boy, led away Regina, and Rose entered the house.
Crossing the hall, she met Eeny going upstairs.

"Well!" said Eeny, "and where have you been all day, pray?"

"Out riding."

"Where?"

"Oh, everywhere! Don't bother!"

"Do you know we have had luncheon?"

"I don't care--I don't want luncheon."

She ran past her sister, and shut herself up in her room. Eeny stared.
In all her experience of her sister she had never known her to be
indifferent to eating and drinking. For the first time in Rose's life,
love had taken away her appetite.

All that afternoon she stayed shut up in her chamber, dreaming as only
eighteen, badly in love, does dream. When darkness fell, and the lamps
were lit, and the dinner-bell rang, she descended to the dining-room
indifferent for the first time whether she was dressed well or ill.

"What does it matter?" she thought, looking in the glass; "he is not
here to see me."

Doctor Frank and the Reverend Augustus Clare dropped in after dinner,
but Rose hardly deigned to look at them. She reclined gracefully on a
sofa, with half shut eyes, listening to Kate playing one of Beethoven's
"Songs without Words," and seeing--not the long, lamp-lit drawing-room
with all its elegant luxuries, or the friends around her, but the bare
best room of the old yellow farm-house, and the man lying lonely and ill
before the blazing fire. Doctor Danton sat down beside her and talked to
her; but Rose answered at random, and was so absorbed, and silent, and
preoccupied, as to puzzle every one. Her father asked her to sing. Rose
begged to be excused--she could not sing to-night. Kate looked at her in
wonder.

"What is the matter with you, Rose?" she inquired; "are you ill? What is
it?"

"Nothing," Rose answered, "only I don't feel like talking."

And not feeling like it, nobody could make her talk. She retired
early--to live over again in dreams the events of that day, and to think
of the blissful morrow.

An hour after breakfast next morning, Eeny met her going out, dressed
for her ride, and with a little velvet reticule stuffed full, slung over
her arm.

"What have you got in that bag?" asked Eeny, "your dinner? Are you going
to a picnic?"

Rose laughed at the idea of a January picnic, and ran off without
answering. An hour's brisk gallop brought her to the farm house, and old
Jacques came out, bowing and grinning, to take charge of her horse.

"Monsieur was in the parlour--would Mademoiselle walk right into the
parlour? Dr. Pillule had been there and seen to Monsieur's ankle.
Monsieur was doing very well, only not able to stand up yet."

Rose found Monsieur half asleep before the fire, and looking as handsome
as ever in his slumber. He started up at her entrance, holding out both
hands.

"_Mon ange!_ I thought you were never coming. I was falling into
despair."

"Falling into despair means falling asleep, I presume. Don't let me
disturb your dreams."

"I am in a more blissful dream now than any I could dream asleep. Here
is a seat. Oh, don't sit so far off. Are those the books? How can I ever
thank you?"

"You never can--so don't try. Here is Tennyson--of course you like
Tennyson; here is Shelley--here are two new and charming novels. Do you
read novels?"

"I will read everything you fetch me. By-the-by, it is very fatiguing to
read lying down; won't you read to me?"

"I can't read. I mean I can't read aloud."

"Let me be the judge of that. Let me see--read 'Maud.'"

Rose began and did her best, and read until she was tired. Mr.
Reinecourt watched her all the while as she sat beside him.

And presently they drifted off into delicious talk of poetry and
romance; and Rose, pulling out her watch, was horrified to find that it
was two o'clock.

"I must go!" she cried, springing up; "what will they think has become
of me?"

"But you will come again to-morrow?" pleaded Mr. Reinecourt.

"I don't know--you don't deserve it, keeping me here until this hour.
Perhaps I may, though--good-bye."

Rose, saying this, knew in her heart she could not stay away if she
tried. Next morning she was there, and the next, and the next, and the
next. Then came a week of wild, snowy weather, when the roads were
heaped high, going out was an impossibility, and she had to stay at
home. Rose chafed desperately under the restraint, and grew so irritable
that it was quite a risk to speak to her. All her old high spirits were
gone. Her ceaseless flow of talk suddenly checked. She wandered about
the house aimlessly, purposelessly, listlessly, sighing wearily, and
watching the flying snow and hopeless sky. A week of this weather, and
January was at its close before a change for the better came. Rose was
falling a prey to green and yellow melancholy, and perplexing the whole
household by the unaccountable alteration in her. With the first gleam
of fine weather she was off. Her long morning rides were recommenced;
smiles and roses returned to her face, and Rose was herself again.

It took that sprained ankle a very long time to get well. Three weeks
had passed since that January day when Regina had slipped on the ice,
and still Mr. Reinecourt was disabled; at least he was when Rose was
there. He had dropped the Miss Danton and taken to calling her Rose, of
late; but when she was gone, it was really surprising how well he could
walk, and without the aid of a stick. Old Jacques grinned knowingly. The
poetry reading and the long, long talks went on every day, and Rose's
heart was hopelessly and forever gone. She knew nothing more of Mr.
Reinecourt than that he was Mr. Reinecourt; still, she hardly cared to
know. She was in love, and an idiot; to-day sufficed for her--to-morrow
might take care of itself.

"Rose, _chérie_," Mr. Reinecourt said to her one day, "you vindicate
your sex; you are free from the vice of curiosity. You ask no questions,
and, except my name, you know nothing of me."

"Well, Mr. Reinecourt, whose fault is that?"

"Do you want to know?"

Rose looked at him, then away. Somehow of late she had grown strangely
shy.

"If you like to tell me."

"My humble little Rose! Yes, I will tell you. I must leave here soon; a
sprained ankle won't last forever, do our best."

She looked at him in sudden alarm, her bright bloom fading out. He had
taken one of her little hands, and her fingers closed involuntarily over
his.

"Going away!" she repeated. "Going away!"

He smiled slightly. His masculine vanity was gratified by the
irrepressible confession of her love for him.

"Not from you, my dear little Rose. To-morrow you will know all--where I
am going, and who I am."

"Who you are! Are you not Mr. Reinecourt?"

"Certainly!" half laughing. "But that is rather barren information, is
it not? Can you wait until to-morrow?"

His smile, the clasp in which he held her hand, reassured her.

"Oh, yes," she said, drawing a long breath, "I can wait!"

That day--Rose remembered it afterward--he stood holding her hands a
long time at parting.

"You will go! What a hurry you are always in," he said.

"A hurry!" echoed Rose. "I have been here three hours. I should have
gone long ago. Don't detain me; good-bye!"

"Good-bye, my Rose, my dear little nurse! Good-bye until we meet again."



CHAPTER VII.

HON. LIEUTENANT REGINALD STANFORD.


Rose Danton's slumbers were unusually disturbed that night. Mr.
Reinecourt haunted her awake, Mr. Reinecourt haunted her asleep. What
was the eventful morrow to reveal? Would he tell her he loved her? Would
he ask her to be his wife? Did he care for her, or did he mean nothing
after all?

No thought of Jules La Touche came to disturb her as she drifted off
into delicious memories of the past and ecstatic dreams of the future.
No thought of the promise she had given, no remorse at her own falsity,
troubled her easy conscience. What did she care for Jules La Touche?
What was he beside this splendid Mr. Reinecourt? She thought of
him--when she thought of him at all--with angry impatience, and she drew
his ring off her finger and flung it across the room.

"What a fool I was," she thought, "ever to dream of marrying that silly
boy! Thank heaven I never told any one but Grace."

Rose was feverish with impatience and anticipation when morning came.
She sat down to breakfast, tried to eat, and drink, and talk as usual,
and failed in all. As soon as the meal was over, unable to wait, she
dressed and ordered her horse. Doctor Frank was sauntering up the
avenue, smoking a cigar in the cold February sunshine, as she rode off.

"Away so early, Di Vernon, and unescorted? May I--"

"No," said Rose, brusquely, "you may not. Good morning!"

Doctor Frank glanced after her as she galloped out of sight.

"What is it?" he thought. "What has altered her of late? She is not the
same girl she was two weeks ago. Has she fallen in love, I wonder? Not
likely, I should think; and yet--"

He walked off, revolving the question, to the house, while Rose was
rapidly shortening the distance between herself and her beloved. Old
Jacques was leaning over the gate as she rode up, and took off his hat
with Canadian courtesy to the young lady.

"Is Mr. Reinecourt in, Mr. Jacques?" asked Rose, preparing to dismount.

Jacques lifted his eyebrows in polite surprise.

"Doesn't Mademoiselle know, then?"

"Know what?"

"That Monsieur has gone?"

"Gone?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle, half an hour ago. Gone for good."

"But he will come back?" said Rose, faintly, her heart seeming suddenly
to stop beating.

Old Jacques shook his head.

"No, Mam'selle. Monsieur has paid me like a king, shook hands with
Margot and me, and gone forever."

There was a dead pause. Rose clutched her bridle-rein, and felt the
earth spinning under her, her face growing-white and cold.

"Did he leave no message--no message for me?"

She could barely utter the words, the shock, the consternation were so
great. Something like a laugh shone in old Jacques' eyes.

"No, Mademoiselle, he never spoke of you. He only paid us, and said
good-bye, and went away."

Rose turned Regina slowly round in a stunned sort of way, and with the
reins loose on her neck, let her take her road homeward. A dull sense of
despair was all she was conscious of. She could not think, she could not
reason, her whole mind was lost in blank consternation. He was gone. She
could not get beyond that--he was gone.

The boy who came to lead away her horse stared at her changed face; the
servant who opened the door opened his eyes, also, at sight of her. She
never heeded them; a feeling that she wanted to be alone was all she
could realize, and she walked straight to a little alcove opening from
the lower end of the long entrance-hall. An archway and a curtain of
amber silk separated it from the drawing-room, of which it was a sort of
recess. A sofa, piled high with downy pillows, stood invitingly under a
window. Among these pillows poor Rose threw herself, to do battle with
her despair.

While she lay there in tearless rage, she heard the drawing-room door
open, and some one come in.

"Who shall I say, sir?" insinuated the servant.

"Just say a friend wishes to see Miss Danton," was the answer.

That voice! Rose bounded from the sofa, her eyes wild, her lips apart.
Her hand shook as she drew aside the curtain and looked out. A gentleman
was there, but he sat with his back to her, and his figure was only
partially revealed. Rose's heart beat in great plunges against her side,
but she restrained herself and waited. Ten minutes, and there was the
rustle of a dress; Kate entered the room. The gentleman arose, there was
a cry of "Reginald!" and then Kate was clasped in the stranger's arms.
Rose could see his face now; no need to look twice to recognize Mr.
Reinecourt.

The curtain dropped from Rose's hand, she stood still, breath coming and
going in gasps. She saw it all as by an electric light--Mr. Reinecourt
was Kate's betrothed husband, Reginald Stanford. He had known her from
the first; from the first he had coolly and systematically deceived her.
He knew that she loved him--he must know it--and had gone on fooling her
to the top of his bent. Perhaps he and Kate would laugh over it together
before the day was done. Rose clenched her hands, and her eyes flashed
at the thought. Back came the colour to her cheeks, back the light to
her eyes; anger for the moment quenched every spark of love. Some of the
old Danton pluck was in her, after all. No despair now, no lying on sofa
cushions any more in helpless woe.

"How dared he do it--how dared he?" she thought "knowing me to be Kate's
sister. I hate him! oh, I hate him!"

And here Rose broke down, and finding the hysterics would come, fled
away to her room, and cried vindictively for two hours.

She got up at last, sullen and composed. Her mind was made up. She would
show Mr. Reinecourt (Mr. Reinecourt indeed)! how much she cared for him.
He should see the freezing indifference with which she could treat him;
he should see she was not to be fooled with impunity.

Rose bathed her flushed and tear-stained face until every trace of the
hysterics was gone, called Agnes Darling to curl her hair and dress her
in a new blue glacé, in which she looked lovely. Then, with a glow like
fever on her cheeks, a fire like fever in her eyes, she went down
stairs. In the hall she met Eeny.

"Oh, Rose! I was just going up to your room. Kate wants you."

"Does she? What for?"

"Mr. Stanford has come. He is with her in the drawing-room; and, Rose,
he is the handsomest man I ever saw."

Rose shook back her curls disdainfully, and descended to the
drawing-room. _A la princesse_ she sailed in, and saw the late M.
Reinecourt seated by the window, Kate beside him, with, oh, such a happy
face! She arose at her sister's entrance, a smile of infinite content on
her face.

"Reginald, my sister Rose. Rose, Mr. Stanford."

Rose made the most graceful bow that ever was seen, not the faintest
sign of recognition in her face. She hardly glanced at Mr. Stanford--she
was afraid to trust herself too far--she was afraid to meet those
magnetic dark eyes. If he looked aback at her _sang-froid_, she did not
see it. She swept by as majestically as Kate herself, and took a distant
seat.

Kate's face showed her surprise. Rose had been a puzzle to her of late;
she was more a puzzle now than ever. Rose was standing on her dignity,
that was evident; and Rose did not often stand on that pedestal. She
would not talk, or only in monosyllables. Her replies to Mr. Stanford
were pointedly cold and brief. She sat, looking very pretty in her blue
glacé and bright curls, her fingers toying idly with her châtelaine and
trinkets, and as unapproachable as a grand duchess.

Mr. Stanford made no attempt to approach her. He sat and talked to his
betrothed of the old times and the old friends and places, and seemed to
forget there was any one else in the world. Rose listened, with a heart
swelling with angry bitterness--silent, except when discreetly addressed
by Kate, and longing vindictively to spring up and tell the handsome,
treacherous Englishman what she thought of him there and then.

As luncheon hour drew near, her father, who had been absent, returned
with Sir Ronald Keith and Doctor Danton. They were all going upstairs;
but Kate, with a happy flush on her face, looked out of the drawing-room
door.

"Come in papa," she said; "come in, Sir Ronald; there is an old friend
here."

She smiled a bright invitation to the young Doctor, who went in also.
Reginald Stanford stood up. Captain Danton, with a delighted "Hallo!"
grasped both his hands.

"Reginald, my dear boy, I am delighted, more than delighted, to see you.
Welcome to Canada, Sir Ronald; this is more than we bargained for."

"I was surprised to find you here, Sir Ronald," said the young officer,
shaking the baronet's hand cordially; "very happy to meet you again."

Sir Ronald, with a dark flush on his face, bowed stiffly, in silence,
and moved away.

Doctor Frank was introduced, made his bow, and retreated to Rose's sofa.

Capricious womanhood! Rose, that morning, had decidedly snubbed him;
Rose, at noon, welcomed him with her most radiant smile. Never, perhaps,
in all his experience had any young lady listened to him with such
flattering attention, with such absorbed interest. Never had bright eyes
and rosy lips given him such glances and smiles. She hung on his words;
she had eyes and ears for no one else, least of all for the supremely
handsome gentleman who was her sister's betrothed, and who talked to her
father; while Sir Ronald glowered over a book.

The ringing of the luncheon-bell brought Grace and Eeny, and all were
soon seated around the Captain's hospitable board.

Lieutenant Reginald Stanford laid himself out to be fascinating, and was
fascinating. There was a subtle charm in his handsome face, in his
brilliant smile and glance, in his pleasant voice, in his wittily-told
stories, and inexhaustible fund of anecdote and mimicry. Now he was in
Ireland, now in France, now in Scotland, now in Yorkshire; and the bad
English and the _patois_ and accent of all were imitated to the life.
With that face, that voice, that talent for imitation, Lieutenant
Stanford, in another walk of life, might have made his fortune on the
stage. His power of fascination was irresistible. Grace felt it, Eeny
felt it, all felt it, except Sir Ronald Keith. He sat like the Marble
Guest, not fascinated, not charmed, black and unsmiling.

Rose, too--what was the matter with Rose? She, so acutely alive to
well-told stories, to handsome faces, so rigidly cold, and stately, and
uninterested now. She shrugged her dimpled shoulders when the table was
in a roar; she opened her rather small hazel eyes and stared, as if she
wondered, what they could see to laugh at. She did not even deign to
glance at him, the hero of the feast; and, in fact, so greatly overdid
her part as to excite the suspicions of that astute young man, Doctor
Danton. There is no effect without a cause. What was the cause of Rose's
icy indifference? He looked at her, then at Stanford, then back at her,
and set himself to watch.

"She has met him before," thought the shrewd Doctor; "but where, if he
has just come from England? I'll ask him, I think."

It was some time before there was a pause in the conversation. In the
first, Dr. Frank struck in.

"How did you come, Mr. Stanford?" he asked.

"On the Hysperia, from Southampton to New York."

"How long ago?" inquired Kate, indirectly helping him; "a week?"

"No," said Lieutenant Stanford, coolly carving his cold ham; "nearly
five."

Every one stared. Kate looked blankly amazed.

"Impossible!" she exclaimed; "five weeks since you landed in New York?
Surely not."

"Quite true, I assure you. The way was this--"

He paused and looked at Rose, who had spilled a glass of wine, trying to
lift it, in a hand that shook strangely. Her eyes were downcast, her
cheeks scarlet, her whole manner palpably and inexplicably embarrassed.

"Four, weeks ago, I reached Canada. I did not write you, Kate, that I
was coming. I wished to give you a surprise. I stopped at
Belleplain--you know the town of Belleplain, thirty miles from here--to
see a brother officer I had known at Windsor. Travelling from Belleplain
in a confounded stage, I stopped half frozen at an old farm-house six
miles off. Next morning, pursuing my journey on foot, I met with a
little mishap."

He paused provokingly to fill at his leisure a glass of sherry; and
Doctor Danton watching Rose under his eyelashes, saw the colour coming
and going in her traitor face.

"I slipped on a sheet of ice," continued Mr. Stanford. "I am not used to
your horrible Canadian roads, remember, and strained my ankle badly. I
had to be conveyed back to the farm-house on a sled--medical attendance
procured, and for three weeks I have been a prisoner there. I could have
sent you word, no doubt, and put you to no end of trouble bringing me
here, but I did not like that; I did not care to turn Danton Hall into a
hospital, and go limping through life; so I made the best of a bad
bargain and stayed where I was."

There was a general murmur of sympathy from all but Sir Ronald and Rose.
Sir Ronald sat like a grim statue in granite; and Rose, still fluttering
and tremulous, did not dare to lift her eyes.

"You must have found it very lonely," said Doctor Danton.

"No. I regretted not getting here, of course; but otherwise it was not
unpleasant. They took such capital care of me, you see, and I had a
select little library at my command; so, on the whole, I have been in
much more disagreeable quarters in my lifetime."

Doctor Frank said no more. He had gained his point, and he was
satisfied.

"It is quite clear," he thought. "By some hocus-pocus, Miss Rose has
made his acquaintance during those three weeks, and helped the slow time
to pass. He did not tell her he was her sister's lover, hence the
present frigidity. The long morning rides are accounted for now. I
wonder"--he looked at pretty Rose--"I wonder if the matter will end
here?"

It seemed as if it would. Doctor Danton, coming every day to the Hall,
and closely observant always, saw no symptoms of thawing out on Rose's
part, and no effort to please on the side of Mr. Stanford. He treated
her as he treated Eeny and Grace, courteously, genially, but nothing
more. He was all devotion to his beautiful betrothed, and Kate--what
words can paint the infinite happiness of her face! All that was wanting
to make her beauty perfect was found. She had grown so gentle, so sweet,
so patient with all; she was so supremely blessed herself, she could
afford to stoop to the weaknesses of less fortunate mortals. That
indescribable change, the radiance of her eyes, the buoyancy of her
step, the lovely colour that deepened and died, the smiles that came so
rapidly now--all told how much she loved Reginald Stanford.

Was it returned, that absorbing devotion? He was very devoted; he was
beside her when she sang; he sought her always when he entered the room,
he was her escort on all occasions; but--was it returned? It seemed to
Doctor Frank, watching quietly, that there was something
wanting--something too vague to be described, but lacking. Kate did not
miss it herself, and it might be only a fancy. Perhaps it was that she
was above and beyond him, with thoughts and feelings in that earnest
heart of hers he could never understand. He was very handsome, very
brilliant; but underlying the beauty and the brilliancy of the surface
there was shallowness, and selfishness, and falsity.

He was walking up and down the tamarack walk, thinking of this and
smoking a cigar, one evening, about a week after the arrival of
Stanford. The February twilight fell tenderly over snowy ground, dark,
stripped trees, and grim old mansion. A mild evening, windless and
spring-like, with the full moon rising round and red. His walk commanded
a view of the great frozen fish-pond where a lively scene was going on.
Kate, Rose, and Eeny, strapped in skates, were floating round and round,
attended by the Captain and Lieutenant Stanford.

Rose was the best skater on the pond, and looked charming in her
tucked-up dress, crimson petticoat, dainty boots, and coquettish hat and
plume. She flitted in a dizzying circle ahead of all the rest,
disdaining to join them. Stanford skated very well for an Englishman,
and assisted Kate, who was not very proficient in the art. Captain
Danton had Eeny by the hand, and the gay laughter of the party made the
still air ring. Grace stood on the edge of the pond watching them, and
resisting the Captain's entreaties to come on the ice and let him teach
her to skate. Her brother joined her, coming up suddenly, with Tiger at
his side.

"Not half a bad tableau," the Doctor said, removing his inevitable
cigar; "lovely women, brave men, moonlight, and balmy breezes. You don't
go in for this sort of thing, _ma soeur_? No, I suppose not. Our
good-looking Englishman skates well, by the way. What do you think of
him, Grace?"

"I think with you, that he is a good-looking young Englishman."

"Nothing more?"

"That the eldest Miss Danton is hopelessly and helplessly in love with
him, and that it is rather a pity. Rose would suit him better."

"Ah! sagacious as usual, Grace. Who knows but the Hon. Reginald thinks
so too. Where is our dark Scotchman to-night?"

"Sir Ronald? Gone to Montreal."

"Is he coming back?"

"I don't know. Very likely. If it were to murder Mr. Stanford he would
come back with pleasure."

"He is a little jealous, then?"

"Just a little. There is the Captain calling you. Go."

They went over. Captain Danton whirled round and came to a halt at sight
of them.

"Here, Frank," he said; "I'm getting tired of this. Take my skates, and
let us see what you are capable of on ice."

Doctor Frank put on the skates, and struck off.

Rose, flashing past, gave him a bright backward glance.

"Catch me, Doctor Danton!" she cried. "Catch me if you can!"

"A fair field and no favour!" exclaimed Stanford, wheeling round. "Come
on Danton; I am going to try, too."

Eeny and Kate stood still to watch.

The group on the bank were absorbed in the chase. Doctor Danton was the
better skater of the two; but fleet-footed Rose outstripped both.

"Ten to one on the Doctor!" cried the Captain, excited. "Reginald is
nowhere!"

"I don't bet," said Grace; "but neither will catch Rose if Rose likes."

Round and round the fish-pond the trio flew--Rose still ahead, the
Doctor outstripping the Lieutenant. The chase was getting exciting.
There was no chance of gaining on Rose by following her. Danton tried
strategy. As she wheeled airily around, he abruptly turned, headed her
off, and caught her with a rebound in his arms.

"By Jove!" cried the Captain, delighted, "he has her. Reginald, my boy,
you are beaten."

"I told you you stood no chance, Stanford," said the Doctor.

"What am I to have for my pains, Miss Rose?"

"Stoop down and you'll see."

He bent his head. A stinging box on the ear rewarded him, and Rose was
off, flying over the glittering ice and out of reach.

"Beaten, Reginald," said Kate, as he drew near. "For shame, sir."

"Beaten, but not defeated," answered her lover; "a Stanford never
yields. Rose shall be my prize yet."

Rose had whirled round the pond, and was passing. He looked at her as he
spoke; but her answer was a flash of the eye and a curl of the lip as
she flew on. Kate saw it, and looked after her, puzzled and thoughtful.

"Reginald," she said, when, the skating over, they were all sauntering
back to the house, "what have you done to Rose?"

Reginald Stanford raised his dark eyebrows.

"Done to her! What do you imagine I have done to her?"

"Nothing; but why, then, does she dislike you so?"

"Am I so unfortunate as to have incurred your pretty sister's dislike?"

"Don't you see it? She avoids you. She will not talk to you, or sing for
you, or take your arm, or join us when we go out. I never saw her treat
any gentleman with such pointed coldness before."

"Extraordinary," said Mr. Stanford, with profoundest gravity; "I am the
most unlucky fellow in the world. What shall I do to overcome your fair
sister's aversion?"

"Perhaps you do not pay her attention enough. Rose knows she is very
pretty, and is jealously exacting in her demands for admiration and
devotion. Sir Ronald gave her mortal offence the first evening he came,
by his insensibility. She has never forgiven him, and never will. Devote
yourself more to her and less to me, and perhaps Rose will consent to
let you bask in the light of her smile."

He looked at her with an odd glance. She was smiling, but in earnest
too. She loved her sister and her lover so well, that she felt
uncomfortable until they were friends; and her heart was too great and
faithful for the faintest spark of jealousy. He had lifted the hand that
wore his ring to his lips.

"Your wishes are my law. I shall do my best to please Rose from
to-night."

That evening, for the first time, Stanford took a seat beside Rose, and
did his best to be agreeable. Kate smiled approval from her place at the
piano, and Doctor Danton, on the other side of Rose, heard and saw all,
and did not quite understand. But Rose was still offended, and declined
to relent. It was hard to resist that persuasive voice, but she did. She
hardened herself resolutely at the thought of how he had deceived
her--he who was soon to be her sister's husband. Rose got up abruptly,
excused herself, and left the room.

When the family were dispersing to their chambers that night, Reginald
lingered to speak to Kate.

"I have failed, you see," he said.

"Rose is a mystery," said Kate, vexed; "she has quite a new way of
acting. But you know," smiling radiantly, "a Stanford never yields."

"True. It is discouraging, but I shall try again. Good-night, dearest
and best, and pleasant dreams--of me."

He ascended to his bedroom, lamp in hand. A fire blazed in the grate;
and sitting down before it, his coat off, his slippers on, his hands in
his pockets, he gazed at it with knitted brow, and whistling softly. For
half an hour he sat, still as a statue. Then he got up, found his
writing-case, and sat down to indite a letter. He was singing the
fag-end of something as he dipped his pen in the ink.

    "Bind the sea to slumber stilly--
    Bind its odour to the lily--
    Bind the aspen ne'er to quiver--
    Then bind love to last forever!"

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Danton Hall, February 26, 18--

     "My Dear Lauderdale: I think I promised, when I left
     Windsor, to write to tell you how I got on in this horribly Arctic
     region. It is nearly two months since I left Windsor, and my
     conscience (don't laugh--I have discovered that I have a
     conscience) gives me sundry twinges when I think of you. I don't
     feel like sleeping to-night. I am full of my subject, so here goes.

     "In the first place, Miss Danton is well, and as much of in angel
     as ever. In the second place, Danton Hall is delightful, and holds
     more angels than one. In the third place, Ronald Keith is here, and
     half mad with jealousy. The keenest north wind that has ever blown
     since I came to Canada is not half so freezing as he. Alas, poor
     Yorick! He is a fine fellow, too, and fought like a lion in the
     Russian trenches; but there was Sampson, and David, and Solomon,
     and Marc Antony--you know what love did to them one and all.

     "Kate refused him a year ago, in England--I found it out by
     accident, not from her, of course; and yet here he is. It is the
     old story of the moth and the candle, and sometimes I laugh, and
     sometimes I am sorry for him. He has eight thousand a year, too;
     and the Keiths are great people in Scotland, I hear. Didn't I
     always try to impress it on you that it was better to be born
     handsome than rich? I am not worth fifteen hundred shillings a
     year, and in June (D. V.) beautiful Kate Danton is to be my wife.
     Recant your heresy, and believe for the future.

     "Angel, No. 2.--I told you there were more than one--has hazel
     eyes, pink cheeks, auburn curls, and the dearest little ways. She
     is not beautiful--she is not stately--she does not play and sing
     the soul out of your body, and yet--and yet----. Lauderdale, you
     always told me my peerless fiancée was a thousand times too good
     for me. I never believed you before. I do believe you now. She
     soars beyond my reach sometimes. I don't pretend to understand her,
     and--tell it not in Gath--I stand a little in awe of her. I never
     was on speaking terms with her most gracious majesty, whom Heaven
     long preserve; but, if I were, I fancy I should feel as I do
     sometimes talking to Kate. She is perfection, and I am--well, I am
     not, and she is very fond of me. Would she break her heart, do you
     think, if she does not become Mrs. Reginald Stanford? June is the
     time, but there is many a slip. I know what your answer will
     be--'She will break her heart if she does!' It is a bad business,
     old boy; but it is fate, or we will say so--and hazel eyes and
     auburn curls are very, very tempting.

     "You used to think a good deal of Captain Danton, if I recollect
     right. By the way, how old is the Captain? I ask, because there is
     a housekeeper here, who is a distant cousin, one of the family,
     very quiet, sensible, lady-like, and six and twenty, who may be
     Mrs. Captain Danton one day. Mind, I don't say for certain, but I
     have my suspicions. He couldn't do better. Grace--that's her
     name--has a brother here, a doctor, very fine fellow, and so cute.
     I catch him looking at me sometimes in a very peculiar manner,
     which I think I understand.

     "You don't expect me before June, do you? Nevertheless, don't faint
     if I return to our 'right little, tight little' island before that.
     Meantime, write and let me know how the world wags with you; and,
     only I know it is out of your line, I should ask you to offer a
     prayer for your unfortunate friend

     "Reginald Stanford."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE GHOST AGAIN.


Rose Danton stood leaning against the low, old-fashioned chimney piece
in her bedroom staring at the fire with a very sulky face. Those who
fell in love with pretty Rose should have seen her in her sulky moods,
if they wished to be thoroughly disenchanted. Just at present, as she
stood looking gloomily into the fire, she was wondering how the
Honourable Reginald Stanford would feel on his wedding-day, or if he
would feel at all, if they should find her (Rose) robed in white,
floating in the fish-pond drowned! The fish-pond was large enough; and
Rose moodily recollected reading somewhere that when lovely woman stoops
to folly, and finds too late that men betray, the only way to hide that
folly from every eye, to bring repentance to her lover, to wring his
bosom, is to--die!

The clock down stairs struck eleven. Rose could hear them dispersing to
their bedrooms. She could hear, and she held her breath to listen, Mr.
Stanford, going past her door, whistling a tune of Kate's. Of Kate's, of
course! He was happy and could whistle, and she was miserable and
couldn't. If she had not wept herself as dry as a wrung sponge, she must
have relapsed into hysterics once more; but as she couldn't, with a
long-drawn sigh, she resolved to go to bed.

So to bed Rose went, but not to sleep. She tossed from side to side,
feverish and impatient; the more she tried to sleep, the more she
couldn't. It was quite a new experience for poor Rose, not used to
"tears at night instead of slumber." The wintry moonlight was shining
brightly in her room through the parted curtains, and that helped her
wakefulness, perhaps. As the clock struck twelve, she sprang up in
desperation, drew a shawl round her, and, in her night-dress, sat down
by the window, to contemplate the heavenly bodies.

Hark! what noise was that?

The house was as still as a vault; all had retired, and were probably
asleep. In the dead stillness, Rose heard a door open--the green baize
door of Bluebeard's room. Her chamber was very near that green door;
there could be no mistaking the sound. Once again she held her breath to
listen. In the profound hush, footsteps echoed along the uncarpeted
corridor, and passed her door. Was it Ogden on his way upstairs? No! the
footsteps paused at the next door--Kate's room; and there was a light
rap. Rose, aflame with curiosity, tip-toed to her own door, and applied
her ear to the key-hole. Kate's door opened; there was a whispered
colloquy; the listener could not catch the words, but the voice that
spoke to Kate was not the voice of Ogden. Five minutes--ten--then the
door shut, the footsteps went by her door again, and down stairs.

Who was it? Not Ogden, not her father; could it be--could it be Mr.
Richards himself.

Rose clasped her hands, and stood bewildered. Her own troubles had so
occupied her mind of late that she had almost forgotten Mr. Richards;
but now her old curiosity returned in full force.

"If he has gone out," thought Rose, "what is to hinder me from seeing
his rooms. I would give the world to see them!"

She stood for a moment irresolute.

Then, impulsively, she seized a dressing-gown, covered her bright head
with the shawl, opened her door softly, and peeped out.

All still and deserted. The night-lamp burned dim at the other end of
the long, chilly passage, but threw no light where she stood.

The green baize door stood temptingly half open; no creature was to be
seen--no sound to be heard. Rose's heart throbbed fast; the mysterious
stillness of the night, the ghostly shimmer of the moonlight, the
mystery and romance of her adventure, set every pulse tingling, but she
did not hesitate. Her slippered feet crossed the hall lightly; she was
beside the green door. Then there was another pause--a moment's
breathless listening, but the dead stillness of midnight was unbroken.
She tip-toed down the short corridor, and looked into the room. The
study was quite deserted; a lamp burned on a table strewn with books,
papers, and writing materials. Rose glanced wonderingly around at the
book-lined walls. Mr. Richards could pass the dull hours if those were
all novels, she thought.

The room beyond was unlit, save by the moon shining brightly through the
parted curtains. Rose examined it, too; it was Mr. Richard's bedroom,
but the bed had not been slept in that night. Everything was orderly and
elegant; no evidences of its occupant being an invalid. One rapid,
comprehensive glance was all the girl waited to take; then she turned to
hurry back to her own room, and found herself face to face with Ogden.

The valet stood in the doorway, looking at her, his countenance wearing
its habitual calm and respectful expression. But Rose recoiled, and
turned as white as though she had been a ghost.

"It is very late, Miss Rose," said Ogden calmly. "I think you had better
not stay here any longer."

Rose clasped her hands supplicatingly.

"Oh, Ogden! Don't tell papa! Pray, don't tell papa!"

"I am very sorry, Miss Rose, but it would be as much as my place is
worth. I must!"

He stood aside to let her pass. Rose, with all her flightiness, was too
proud to plead with a servant, and walked out in silence.

Not an instant too soon. As she opened her door, some one came upstairs;
some one who was tall, and slight; and muffled in a long cloak.

He passed through the baize door, before she had time to see his face,
closed it after him, and was gone.

Rose locked her door, afraid of she know not what; and sat down on the
bedside to think. Who was this Mr. Richards who passed for an invalid,
and who was no invalid? Why was he shut up here, where no one could see
him, and why was all this mystery? Rose thought of "Jane Eyre" and Mr.
Rochester's wife, but Mr. Richards could not be mad or they never would
trust him out alone at night. What, too, would her father say to her
to-morrow? She quailed a little at the thought; she had never seen her
indulgent father out of temper in her life. He took the most
disagreeable contre-temps with imperturbable good-humour, but how would
he take this?

"I should not like to offend papa," thought Rose, uneasily. "He is very
good to me, and does everything I ask him. I do hope he won't be angry.
I almost wish I had not gone!"

There was no sleep for her that night. When morning came, she was almost
afraid to go down to breakfast and face her father; but when the bell
rang, and she did descend, her father was not there.

Ogden came in with his master's excuses--Captain Danton was very busy,
and would breakfast in his study. The news took away Rose's morning
appetite; she sat crumbling her roll on her plate, and feeling that
Ogden had told him, and that that was the cause of his non-appearance.

As they rose from the table, Ogden entered again, bowed gravely to Rose,
and informed her she was wanted in the study.

Kate looked at her sister in surprise, and noticed with wonder her
changing face. But Rose, without a word, followed the valet, her heart
throbbing faster than it had throbbed last night.

Captain Danton was pacing up and down his study when she entered, with
the sternest face she had ever seen him wear. In silence he pointed to a
seat, continuing his walk; his daughter sat down, pale, but otherwise
dauntless.

"Rose!" he said, stopping before her, "what took you into Mr. Richards'
rooms last night?"

"Curiosity, papa," replied Rose, readily, but in secret quaking.

"Do you know you did a very mean act? Do you know you were playing the
spy?"

The colour rushed to Rose's face, and her head dropped.

"You knew you were forbidden to enter there; you knew you were prying
into what was no affair of yours; you knew you were doing wrong, and
would displease me; and yet in the face of all this, you deliberately
stole into his room like a spy, like a thief, to discover for yourself.
Rose Danton, I am ashamed of you!"

Rose burst out crying. Her father was very angry, and deeply mortified;
and Rose really was very fond of her indulgent father.

"Oh, papa! I didn't mean--I never thought--oh, please, papa, forgive
me!"

Captain Danton resumed his walk up and down, his anger softened at the
sight of her distress.

"Is it the first time this has occurred?" he asked, stopping again; "the
truth, Rose, I can forgive anything but a lie."

"Yes, papa."

"You never have been there before?"

"No, never!"

Again he resumed his walk, and again he stopped before her.

"Why did you go last night?"

"I couldn't sleep, papa. I felt worried about something, and I was
sitting by the window. I heard Mr. Richards' door open, and some one
come out and rap at Kate's room. Kate opened it, and I heard them
talking."

Her father interrupted her.

"Did you hear what they said?" he asked sharply.

"No papa--only the sound of their voices. It was not your voice, nor
Ogden's; so I concluded it must be Mr. Richards' himself. I heard him go
down stairs, and then I peeped out. His door was open, and I--I--"

"Went in!"

"Yes, papa," very humbly.

"Did you see Mr. Richards?"

"I saw some one, tall and slight, come up stairs and go in, but I did
not see his face."

"And that is all!"

"Yes, papa."

Once more he began pacing backward and forward, his face very grave, but
not so stern. Rose watched him askance, nervous and uncomfortable.

"My daughter," he said at last, "you have done very wrong, and grieved
me more than I can say. This is a serious matter--more serious by far
than you imagine. You have discovered, probably, that other reasons than
illness confine Mr. Richards to his rooms."

"Yes, papa."

"Mr. Richards is not an invalid--at least not now--although he was ill
when he came here. But the reasons that keep him a prisoner in this
house are so very grave that I dare not confide them to you. This much I
will say--his life depends upon it."

"Papa!" Rose cried, startled.

"His life depends upon it," repeated Captain Danton. "Only three in this
house know his secret--myself, Ogden, and your sister Kate. Ogden and
Kate I can trust implicitly; can I place equal confidence in you?"

"Yes, papa," very faintly.

"Mr. Richards," pursued Captain Danton, with a slight tremor of voice,
"is the nearest and dearest friend I have on this earth. It would break
my heart, Rose, if an ill befell him. Do you see now why I am so anxious
to preserve his secret; why I felt so deeply your rash act of last
night?"

"Forgive me, papa!" sobbed Rose. "I am sorry; I didn't know. Oh, please,
papa!"

He stooped and kissed her.

"My thoughtless little girl! Heaven knows how freely I forgive you--only
promise me your word of honour not to breathe a word of this."

"I promise, papa."

"Thank you, my dear. And now you may go; I have some writing to do. Go
and take a ride to cheer you up after all this dismal talk, and get back
your roses before luncheon time."

He kissed her again and held the door open for her to pass out. Rose,
with a great weight off her mind went down the passage, and met Eeny
running upstairs.

"I say, Rose," exclaimed her sister, "don't you want to go to a ball?
Well, there are invitations for the Misses Danton in the parlour."

"A ball, Eeny? Where?"

"At the Ponsonbys', next Thursday night. Sir Ronald, Doctor Frank, papa,
and Mr. Stanford are all invited."

Rose's delight at the news banished all memory of the unpleasant scene
just over. A ball was the summit of Rose's earthly bliss, and a ball at
the Ponsonbys' really meant something. In ten minutes her every thought
was absorbed in the great question, "What shall I wear?"

"To-day is Wednesday," thought Rose. "Thursday one, Friday two, Saturday
three, Monday four, Tuesday five, Wednesday six, Thursday seven. Plenty
of time to have my new silk made. I'll go and speak to Agnes at once."

She tripped away to the sewing-room in search of the little seamstress.
The door was ajar; she pushed it open, but paused in astonishment at the
sight which met her eyes.

The sewing-room was on the ground floor, its one window about five feet
from the ground. At this window which was open, sat the seamstress, her
work lying idly on her lap, twisting her fingers in a restless, nervous
sort of way peculiar to her. Leaning against the window from without,
his arm on the sill, stood Doctor Danton, talking as if he had known
Agnes Darling all his life.

The noise of Rose's entrance, slight as it was, caught his quick ear. He
looked up and met her surprised eyes, coolly composedly.

"Don't let me intrude!" said Rose, entering, when she found herself
discovered. "I did not expect to see Doctor Danton here."

"Very likely," replied the imperturbable Doctor; "it is an old habit of
mine turning up in unexpected places. Besides, what was I to do? Grace
in the kitchen was invisible, Miss Kate had gone riding with Mr.
Stanford, Miss Rose was closeted mysteriously with papa. Miss Eeny,
practising the 'Battle of Prague,' was not to be disturbed. In my
distraction I came here, where Miss Darling has kindly permitted me to
remain and study the art of dressmaking."

He made his speech purposely long, that Rose might not see Miss
Darling's confused face. But Rose saw it, and believed as much of the
gentleman's story as she chose.

"And now that you have discovered it," said Rose, "I dare say we will
have you flying on all occasions to this refugium peccatorum. Are you
going? Don't let me frighten you away."

"You don't; but I want to smoke a cigar under the tamaracks. You haven't
such a thing as a match about you, have you? No matter; I've got one
myself."

He strolled away. Rose looked suspiciously at the still confused face of
the sewing-girl.

"How do you come to know Doctor Danton?" she asked abruptly.

"I--he--I mean the window was open and he was passing, and he stopped to
speak," stammered Agnes, more confusedly still.

"I dare say," said Rose; "but he would not have stopped unless he had
known you before, would he?"

"I--saw him once by accident before--I don't know him--"

She stopped and looked piteously at Rose. She was a childish little
thing, very nervous, and evidently afraid of any more questions.

"Well," said Rose, curtly; "if you don't choose to tell, of course you
needn't. He never was a lover of yours, was he?"

"Oh, no! no! no!"

"Then I don't see anything to get so confused about. What are you
working at?"

"Miss Eeny's jacket."

"Then Miss Eeny's jacket must wait, for I want my new silk made for
Thursday evening. Come up to my room, and get to work at once."

Agnes rose obediently. Rose led the way, her mind straying back to the
scene in the sewing-room her entrance had disturbed.

"Look here, Miss Darling," she broke out; "you must have known Doctor
Danton before. Now you needn't deny it. Your very face proves you
guilty. Tell the truth, and shame the----. Didn't you know him before
you came to Danton Hall?"

They were in Roses room by this time. To the great surprise of that
inquisitive young lady, Agnes Darling sank down upon a lounge, covered
her face with her hands, and burst into tears.

"Goodness me!" exclaimed the second Miss Danton, as soon as surprise
would let her speak, "what on earth is the matter with you? What are you
crying about? What has Doctor Danton done to you?"

"Nothing! nothing!" cried the worried little seamstress. "Oh, nothing!
It is not that! I am very foolish and weak; but oh, please don't mind
me, and don't ask me about it. I can't help it, and I am very, very
unhappy."

"Well," said Rose, after a blank pause; "stop crying. I didn't know you
would take it so seriously, or I shouldn't have asked you. Here's the
dress, and I want you to take a great deal of pains with it, Agnes. Take
my measure."

Rose said no more to the seamstress on a subject so evidently
distressing; but that evening she took Doctor Frank himself to task. She
was at the piano, which Kate had vacated for a game of chess with Mr.
Stanford, and Grace's brother was devotedly turning her music. Rose
looked up at him abruptly, her fingers still rattling off a lively
mazurka.

"Doctor Danton, what have you been doing to Agnes Darling?"

"I! Doing! I don't understand!"

"Of course you don't. Where was it you knew her?"

"Who says I knew her?"

"I do. There, no fibs; they won't convince me, and you will only be
committing sin for nothing. Was it in Montreal?"

"Really, Miss Rose--"

"That will do. She won't tell, she only cries. You won't tell; you only
equivocate. I don't care. I'll find out sooner or later."

"Was she crying?"

"I should think so. People like to make mysteries in this house, in my
opinion. Where there is secrecy there is something wrong. This morning
was not the first time you ever talked to Agnes Darling."

"Perhaps not," replied Doctor Danton, with a very grave face; "but, poor
child! what right have I to make known the trials she has undergone? She
has been very unfortunate, and I once had the opportunity to befriend
her. That is all I know of her, or am at liberty to tell."

There was that in Doctor Frank's face that, despite Rose's assurance,
forbade her asking any more questions.

"But I shall never rest till I find out," thought the young lady. "I've
got at Mr. Richards' and I'll get at yours as sure as my name is Rose."

The intervening days before the ball, Rose was too much absorbed in her
preparations, and anticipations of conquest, to give her mind much to
Agnes Darling and her secrets. That great and hidden trouble of her
life--her unfortunate love affair, was worrying her too. Mr. Stanford,
in pursuance of his promise to Kate, played the agreeable to her sister
with a provoking perseverance that was proof against any amount of
snubbing, and that nearly drove Rose wild. He would take a seat by her
side, always in Kate's presence, and talk to her by the hour, while she
could but listen, and rebel inwardly. Never, even while she chafed most,
had she loved him better. That power of fascination, that charm of face,
of voice, of smile, that had conquered her fickle heart the first time
she saw him, enthralled her more and more hopelessly with every passing
day. It was very hard to sit there, sullen and silent, and keep her eyes
averted, but the Danton pluck stood her in good stead, and the memory of
his treachery to her goaded her on.

"It's of no use, Kate," he said to his lady-love; "our pretty Rose will
have nothing to say to me. I more than half believe she is in love with
that very clever Doctor Frank."

"Dr. Frank? Oh, no; he is not half handsome enough for Rose."

"He is a thoroughly fine fellow, though. Are you quite sure he has not
taken Rose captive?"

"Quite. He is very well to flirt with--nothing more. Rose cares nothing
for him, but I am not so sure he does not care for her. Rose is very
pretty."

"Very," smiled Mr. Stanford, "and knows it. I wonder if she will dance
with me the night of the ball?"

The night of the ball came, bright, frosty, and calm. The large, roomy,
old-fashioned family carriage held Rose, Eeny, Sir Ronald, and Doctor
Danton, while Mr. Stanford drove Kate over in a light cutter. The
Ponsonbys, who were a very uplifted sort of people, had not invited
Grace; and Captain Danton, at the last moment, announced his intention
of staying at home also.

"I am very comfortable where I am," said the Captain, lounging in an
arm-chair before the blazing fire; "and the trouble of dressing and
going out this cold night is more than the ball is worth. Make my
excuses, my dear; tell them I have had a sudden attack of gout, if you
like, or anything else that comes uppermost."

"But, papa," expostulated Kate, very much surprised, for the master of
Danton Hall was eminently social in his habits, "I should like you to
come so much, and the Ponsonbys will be so disappointed."

"They'll survive it, my dear, never fear. I prefer staying at home with
Grace and Father Francis, who will drop in by-and-by. There, Kate, my
dear, don't waste your breath coaxing. Reginald, take her away."

Mr. Stanford, with the faintest shadow of a knowing smile on his face,
took Kate's arm and led her down stairs.

"The brown eyes and serene face of your demure housekeeper have stronger
charms for my papa-in-law than anything within the four walls of the
Ponsonbys. What would Kate say, I wonder, if I told her?"

As usual, Captain Danton's two daughters were the belles of the room.
Kate was queenly as ever, and as far out of the reach of everything
masculine, with one exception, as the moon; Rose, in a changeful silk,
half dove, half pink, that blushed as she walked, with a wreath of ivy
in her glossy hair, turned heads wherever she went. Doctor Frank had the
privilege of the first dance. After that she was surrounded by all the
most eligible young men in the room. Rose, with a glow on her rounded
cheeks, and a brilliancy in her eyes, that excitement had lent, danced
and flirted, and laughed, and sang, and watched furtively, all the
while, the only man present she cared one iota for. That eminently
handsome young officer, Mr. Stanford, after devoting himself, as in duty
bound, to his stately fiancée, resigned her, after a while, to an
epauletted Colonel from Montreal, and made himself agreeable to Helen
Ponsonby, and Emily Howard, and sundry other pretty girls. Rose watched
him angry and jealous inwardly, smiling and radiant outwardly. Their
fingers touched in the same set, but Rose never deigned him a glance.
Her perfumed skirts brushed him as she flew by in the redowa, but she
never looked up.

"He shall see how little I care," thought jealous Rose. "I suppose he
thinks I am dying for him, but he shall find out how much he is
mistaken."

With this thought in her mind, she sat down while her partner went for
an ice. It was the first time that night she had been a moment alone.
Mr. Stanford, leaning against a pillar idly, took advantage of it, and
was beside her before she knew it. Her cheeks turned scarlet, and her
heart quickened involuntarily as he sat down beside her.

"I have been ignored so palpably all evening that I am half afraid to
come near you," he said; "will it be high treason to ask you to waltz
with me!"

Alas for Rose's heroic resolutions! How was she to resist the persuasive
voice and smile of this man? How was she to resist the delight of
waltzing with him? She bowed in silence, still with averted eyes; and
Lieutenant Stanford, smiling slightly, drew her hand within his arm. Her
late partner came up with the ice, but Rose had got something better
than ice cream, and did not want it. The music of the German waltz
filled the long ball-room with harmony; his arm slid round her waist,
her hand was clasped in his, the wax floor slipped from under her feet,
and Rose floated away into elysium.

The valse d'ecstase was over, and they were in a dim, half-lighted
conservatory. Tropical flowers bloomed around them, scenting the warm
air; delicious music floated entrancingly in. The cold white wintry moon
flooded the outer world with its frosty glory, and Rose felt as if
fairyland were no myth, and fairy tales no delusion. They were alone in
the conservatory; how they got there she never knew; how she came to be
clinging to his arm, forgetful of past, present, and future, she never
could understand.

"Rose," said that most musical of voices; "when will you learn to forget
and forgive? See, here is a peace-offering!"

He had a white camellia in his button-hole--a flower that half an hour
ago had been chief beauty of Kate's bouquet. He took it out now, and
twined its long stem in and out of her abundant curls.

"Wear it," he said, "and I shall know I am forgiven. Wear it for my
sake, Rose."

There was a rustling behind them of a lady's-dress, and the deep tones
of a man's voice talking. Rose started away from his side, the guilty
blood rushing to her face at sight of her elder sister on Doctor
Danton's arm.

Kate's clear eyes fixed on her sister's flushed, confused face, on the
waxen camellia, her gift to her lover, and then turned upon Mr.
Stanford. That eminently nonchalant young Englishman was as cool as the
frosty winter night.

"I should think you two might have selected some other apartment in the
house for a promenade, and not come interrupting here," he said,
advancing. "Miss Rose and I were enjoying the first tête-à-tête we have
had since my arrival. But as you are here, Kate, and as I believe we are
to dance the German together--"

"And you resign Miss Rose to me?" said Doctor Frank.

"There is no alternative. Take good care of her, and adieu."

He led Kate out of the conservatory. Doctor Frank offered his arm to
Rose, still hovering guiltily aloof.

"And I believe you promised to initiate me into the mysteries of the
German. Well, do you want me?"

This last was to a man-servant who had entered, and looked as if he had
something to say.

"Yes, sir--if you are Doctor Danton."

"I am Doctor Danton. What is it?"

"It's a servant from the Hall, sir. Captain Danton's compliments, and
would you go there at once?"

Rose gave a little scream, and clutched her companion's arm.

"Oh, Doctor Frank, can papa be sick?"

"No, Miss," said the man, respectfully, "it's not your father; it's the
young woman what sews, Thomas says--" hesitating.

"Well," said Doctor Frank, "Thomas says what?"

"Thomas says, sir, she see a ghost!"

"A what?"

"A ghost, sir; that's what Thomas says," replied the man, with a grin;
"and she's gone off into fainting-fits, and would you return at once, he
says. The sleigh is at the door."

"Tell him I will be there immediately."

He turned to Rose, smiling at her blank face.

"What shall I do with you, Mademoiselle? To whom shall I consign you? I
must make my adieus to Mrs. Ponsonby and depart."

Rose grasped his arm, and held it tight, her bewildered eyes fixed on
his face.

"Seen a ghost!" she repeated blankly. "That is twice! Doctor Frank, is
Danton Hall haunted?"

"Yes; haunted by the spirit of mischief in the shape of Rose Danton,
nothing worse."

"But this is the second time. There was old Margery, and now Agnes
Darling. There must be something in it!"

"Of course there is--an over-excited imagination. Miss Darling has seen
a tall tree covered with snow waving in the moonlight, and has gone into
fainting fits. Now, my dear Miss, don't hold me captive any longer; for,
trying as it is, I really must leave you."

Rose dropped his arm.

"Yes, go at once. Never mind me; I am going in search of Kate."

It took some time to find Kate. When found, she was dancing with a
red-coated officer, and Rose had to wait until the dance was over.

She made her way to her sister's side immediately. Miss Danton turned to
her with a brilliant smile, that faded at the first glance.

"How pale you are, Rose! What is it?"

"Am I pale?" said Rose, carelessly; "the heat, I dare-say. Do you know
Doctor Frank has gone?"

"Gone! Where?"

"To the Hall. Papa sent for him."

"Papa? Oh, Rose--"

"There! There is no occasion to be alarmed; papa is well enough; it is
Agnes Darling."

"Agnes! What is the matter with Agnes?"

"She has seen a ghost!"

Kate stared--so did the young officer.

"What did you say, Rose?" inquired Kate, wonderingly.

"She--has--seen--a--ghost!" slowly repeated Rose; "as old Margery did
before her, you know; and, like Margery, has gone off into fits. Papa
sent for Doctor Frank, and he departed half an hour ago."

Slowly out of Kate's face every trace of colour faded. She rose
abruptly, a frightened look in her blue eyes.

"Rose, I must go home--I must see Agnes. Captain Grierson, will you be
kind enough to find Mr. Stanford and send him?"

Captain Grierson hastened on his mission. Rose looked at her with wide
open eyes.

"Go home--so early! Why, Kate, what are you thinking of?"

"Of Agnes Darling. You can stay, if you like. Sir Ronald is your
escort."

"Thank you. A charming escort he is, too--grimmer than old Time in the
primer. No; if you leave, so do I."

Mr. Stanford sauntered up while she was speaking, and Rose drew back.

"What is it, Kate? Grierson says you are going home."

Kate's answer was an explanation. Mr. Reginald Stanford set up an
indecorous laugh.

"A ghost! That's capital! Why did you not tell me before that Danton
Hall was haunted, Kate?"

"I want to return immediately," was Kate's answer a little coldly. "I
must speak to Mr. Ponsonby and find Eeny. Tell Sir Ronald, please, and
hold yourself in readiness to attend us."

She swept off with Rose to find their hostess. Mrs. Ponsonby's regrets
were unutterable, but Miss Danton was resolute.

"How absurd, you know, Helen," she said, to her daughter, when they were
gone; "such nonsense about a sick seamstress."

"I thought Kate Danton was proud," said Miss Helen. "That does not look
like it. I am not sorry she has gone, however, half the men in the room
were making idiots of themselves about her."

Kate and Reginald Stanford returned as they had come, in the light
sleigh; and Sir Ronald, Rose and Eeny, in the carriage. Rose, wrapped in
her mantel, shrunk away in a corner, and never opened her lips. She
watched gloomily, and so did the baronet, the cutter flying past over
glittering snow, and Kate's sweet face, pale as the moonlight itself.

Captain Danton met them in the entrance hall, his florid face less
cheery than usual. Kate came forward, her anxious inquiring eyes
speaking for her.

"Better, my dear; much better," her father answered. "Doctor Frank works
miracles. Grace and he are with her; he has given her an opiate, and I
believe she is asleep."

"But what is it, papa?" cried Rose. "Did she see a ghost!"

"A ghost, my dear," said the Captain, chucking her under the chin. "You
girls are as silly as geese, and imagine you see anything you like. She
isn't able to tell what frightened her, poor little thing! Eunice is the
only one who seems to know anything at all about it."

"And what does Eunice say?" asked Kate.

"Why," said Captain Danton, "it seems Eunice and Agnes were to sit up
for you two young ladies, who are not able to take off your own clothes
yet, and they chose Rose's room so sit in. About two hours ago, Agnes
complained of toothache, and said she would go down stairs for some
painkiller that was in the sewing-room. Eunice, who was half-asleep,
remained where she was; and ten minutes after heard a scream that
frightened her out of her wits. We had all retired, but the night-lamp
was burning; and rushing out, she found Agnes leaning against the wall,
all white and trembling. The moment Eunice spoke to her, 'I saw his
ghost!' she said, in a choking whisper, and fell back in a dead faint in
Eunice's arms. I found her so when I came out, for Eunice cried lustily
for help, and Grace and all the servants were there in two minutes. We
did everything for her, but all in vain. She lay like one dead. Then
Grace proposed to send for her brother. We sent. He came, and brought
the dead to life."

"An extraordinary tale," said Reginald Stanford. "When she came to life,
what did she say?"

"Nothing. Doctor Frank gave her an opiate that soothed her and sent her
to sleep."

As he spoke, Doctor Frank himself appeared, his calm face as
impenetrable as ever.

"How is your patient, Doctor?" asked Kate.

"Much better, Miss Kate. In a day or two we will have her all right, I
think. She is a nervous little creature, with an overstrung and highly
imaginative temperament. I wonder she has not seen ghosts long ago."

"You are not thinking of leaving us," said Captain Danton. "No, no, I
won't hear of it. We can give you a bed and breakfast here equal to
anything down at the hotel, and it will save you a journey up to-morrow
morning. Is Grace with her yet?"

"Yes, Grace insists on remaining till morning. There is no necessity,
though, for she will not awake."

Kate gathered up the folds of her rich ball-dress, and ran up the
polished oaken stair, nodding adieu. Not to her own room, however, but
to that of the seamstress.

The small chamber was dimly lighted by a lamp turned low. By the bedside
sat Grace, wrapped in a shawl; on the pillow lay the white face of Agnes
Darling, calm in her slumber, but colourless as the pillow itself.

Kate bent over her, and Grace arose at her entrance. It was such a
contrast; the stately, beautiful girl, with jewelled flowers in her
hair, her costly robe trailing the carpetless floor, the perfume of her
dress and golden hair scenting the room, and the wan little creature, so
wasted and pale, lying asleep on the low bed. Her hands grasped the
bed-clothes in her slumber, and with every rise and fall of her breast,
rose and fell a little locket worn round her neck by a black cord.
Kate's fingers touched it lightly.

"Poor soul!" she said; "poor little Agnes! Are you going to stay with
her until morning, Grace?"

"Yes, Miss Danton."

"I could not go to my room without seeing her; but now, there is no
necessity to linger. Good-morning."

Miss Danton left the room. Grace sat down again, and looked at the
locket curiously.

"I should like to open that and see whose picture it contains, and
yet--"

She looked a little ashamed, and drew back the hand that touched it. But
curiosity--woman's intensest passion--was not to be resisted.

"What harm can it be?" she thought. "She will never know."

She lifted the locket, lightly touched the spring, and it flew open. It
contained more than a picture, although there was a picture of a
handsome, boyish face that somehow had to Grace a familiar look. A slip
of folded paper, a plain gold ring, and a tress of brown, curly hair
dropped out. Grace opened the little slip of paper, and read it with an
utterly confounded face. It was partly written and partly printed, and
was the marriage certificate of Agnes Grant and Henry Darling. It bore
date New York, two years before.

Grace dropped the paper astounded. Miss Agnes Darling was a married
woman, then, and, childish as she looked, had been so for two years.
What were her reasons for denying it, and where was Henry Darling--dead
or deserted?

She look at the pictured face again. Very good-looking, but very
youthful and irresolute. Whom had she ever seen that looked like that?
Some one, surely, for it was as familiar as her own in the glass; but
who, or where, or when, was all densest mystery.

There was an uneasy movement of the sleeper. Grace, feeling guilty, put
back hastily the tress of hair--his, no doubt--the ring--a wedding-ring,
of course--and the marriage certificate. She closed the locket, and laid
it back on the fluttering heart. Poor little pale Agnes! that great
trouble of woman's life, loving and losing, had come to her then
already.

In the cold, gray dawn of the early morning, Grace resigned her office
to Babette, the housemaid, and sought her room. Agnes Darling still
slept--the merciful sleep Doctor Frank's opiate had given her.



CHAPTER IX.

A GAME FOR TWO TO PLAY AT.


A cold, raw, rainy, dismal morning--the sky black and hopeless of
sunshine, the long bleak blasts complaining around the old house, and
rattling ghostily the skeleton trees. The rain was more sleet than rain;
for it froze as it fell, and clattered noisily against the blurred
window-glass. A morning for hot coffee and muffins, and roaring fires
and newspapers and easy-chairs, and in which you would not have the
heart to turn your enemy's dog from the door.

Doctor Danton stood this wild and wintry February morning at his chamber
window, looking out absently at the slanting sleet, not thinking of
it--not thinking of the pale blank of wet mist shrouding the distant
fields and marshes, and village and river, but of something that made
him knit his brows in perplexed, reflection.

"What was it she saw last, night?" he mused. "No spectre of the
imagination, and no bona-fide ghost. Old Margery saw something, and now
Agnes. I wonder--"

He stopped, there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," he said, and Grace entered.

"I did not know you were up," said Grace. "But it is very fortunate as
it happens. I have just been to Miss Darling's room, and she is crying
out for you in the wildest Manner."

"Ah!" said her brother, rising, "has she been awake long?"

"Nearly an hour, Babette tells me, and all that time she has been
frantically calling for you. Her manner is quite frenzied, and I fear--"

"What do you fear?"

"That last night's fright has disordered her reason."

"Heaven forbid! I will go to her at once."

He left the room as he spoke, and ran upstairs to the chamber of the
seamstress. The gray morning twilight stole drearily through the closed
shutter, and the lamp burned dim and dismal still. Babette sat by the
bedside trying to soothe her charge in very bad English, and evidently
but with little success. The bed-clothes had been tossed off, the little
thin hands closed and unclosed in them--the great dark eyes were wide
and wild--the black hair all tossed and disordered on the pillow.

Babette rose precipitately at the Doctor's entrance.

"Here's the Doctor, Mees Darling. May I go now, Monsieur?"

"Yes, you may go; but remain outside, in case I should, want you."

He shut the door on Babette, and took her place by the sick girl's
bedside.

Babette lingered in the passage, staring at the stormy morning, and
gaping forlornly.

"I hope he won't be long," she thought. "I want to go to bed."

Dr. Frank, however, was long. Eight struck somewhere in the house; that
was half an hour, and there was no sign of his coming. Babette shivered
under her shawl, and looked more drearily than ever at the lashing sleet.

Nine--another hour, and no sign from the sick-room, yet. Babette rose up
in desperation, but just at that moment Grace came upstairs.

"You here, Babette!" she said, surprised. "Who is with Agnes?"

"The Doctor, Mademoiselle! he told me to wait until he came out, and I
have waited, and I am too sleepy to wait any longer. May I go,
Mademoiselle?"

"Yes, go," said Grace, "I will take your place."

Babette departed with alacrity, and Grace sat down by the storm-beaten
window. She listened for some sound from the sick-room, but none
rewarded her. Nothing was to be heard but the storm, without, and now
and then the opening and shutting of some door within.

Another half-hour. Then the door of the seamstress's room opened, and
her brother came out. How pale he was--paler and graver than his sister
ever remembered seeing him before.

"Well," she said, rising, "how is your patient?"

"Better," he briefly answered, "very much better."

"I thought she was worse, you look so pale."

"Pale, do I? This dismal morning, I suppose. Grace," he said, lowering
his tone and looking at her fixedly, "whose ghost did old Margery say
she saw?"

"Whose ghost! What a question!"

"Answer it!"

"Don't be so imperative, please. Master Harry's ghost, she said."

"And Master Harry is Captain Danton's son?"

"Was--he is dead now."

"Yes, yes! he was killed in New York, I believe."

"So they say. The family never speak of him. He was the black sheep of
the flock, you know. But why do you ask? Was it his ghost Agnes saw?"

"Nonsense! Of course not! What should she know of Captain Danton's son?
Some one--one of the servants probably--came up the stairs and
frightened her out of her nervous wits. I have been trying to talk a
little sense into her foolish head these two hours."

"And have you succeeded?"

"Partly. But don't ask her any questions on the subject; and don't let
Miss Danton or any one who may visit her ask any questions. It upsets
her, and I won't be answerable for the consequences."

"It is very strange," said Grace, looking at her brother intently, "very
strange that old Margery and Agnes Darling should both see an apparition
in this house. There must be something in it."

"Of course there is--didn't I tell you so--an overheated imagination. I
have known more extraordinary optical illusions than that in my time.
How is Margery--better again?"

"No, indeed. She will never get over her scare in this world. She keeps
a light in her room all night, and makes one of the maids sleep with
her, and won't be alone a moment, night or day."

"Ah!" said Doctor Frank, with professional phlegm. "Of course! She is an
old woman, and we could hardly expect anything else. Does she talk much
of the ghost?"

"No. The slightest allusion to the subject agitates her for the whole
day. No one dare mention ghosts in Margery's presence."

"I hope you will all be equally discreet with Miss Darling. Time will
wear away the hallucination, if you women only hold your tongues. I must
caution Rose, who has an unfortunate habit of letting out whatever comes
uppermost. Ah! here she is!"

"Were you talking of me?" inquired Miss Rose, tripping upstairs, fresh
and pretty, in a blue merino morning dress, with soft white trimmings.

"Do I ever talk of any one else?" said Dr. Frank.

"Pooh! How is Agnes Darling?"

"As well as can be expected, after seeing a ghost!"

"Did she see a ghost, though?" asked Rose, opening her hazel eyes.

"Of course she did; and my advice to you, Miss Rose, is to go to bed
every night at dark, and to sleep immediately, with your head covered up
in the bed-clothes, or you may happen to see one too."

"Thank you for your advice, which I don't want and won't take. Whose
ghost did she see?"

"The ghost of Hamlet's father, perhaps--she doesn't know; before she
could take a second look it vanished in a cloud of blue flame, and she
swooned away!"

"Doctor Danton," said Rose, sharply, "I wish you would talk sense. I'll
go and ask Agnes herself about it. I want to get at the bottom of this
affair."

"A very laudable desire, which I regret being obliged to frustrate,"
said Doctor Danton, placing himself between her and the door.

"You!" cried Rose, drawing herself up. "What do you mean, sir?"

"As Miss Agnes Darling's medical attendant, my dear Miss Rose,--deeply
as it wounds me to refuse your slightest request--I really must forbid
any step of the kind. The consequences might be serious."

"And I am not to see her if I choose?" demanded Rose, her eyes quite
flashing.

"Certainly you are to see her, and to fetch her jelly, and chicken, and
toast, and tea, if you will; but you are not to speak of the ghost. That
blood-curdling subject is absolutely tabooed in the sick-room, unless--"

"Unless what?" inquired Rose, angrily.

"Unless you want to make a maniac of her. I am serious in this; you must
not allude in the remotest way to the cause of her illness when you
visit her, or you may regret your indiscretion while you live."

He spoke with a gravity that showed that he was in earnest. Rose
shrugged her shoulders impatiently, and walked to Agnes' door. Grace
followed at a sign from her brother, who ran down stairs.

The sick girl was not asleep--she lay with her eyes wide open, staring
vacantly at the white wall. She looked at them, when they entered, with
a half-frightened, half-inquiring gaze.

"Are you better, Agnes?" asked Rose, looking down at the colourless
face.

"Oh, yes!"

She answered nervously, her fingers twisting in and out of her
bed-clothes--her eyes wandering uneasily from one to the other.

"Wouldn't you like something to eat?" inquired Rose, not knowing what
else to say.

"Oh, no!"

"You had better have some tea," said Grace decisively. "It will do you
good. I will fetch you up some presently. Rose, there is the breakfast
bell."

Rose, with a parting nod to Agnes, went off, very much disappointed, and
in high dudgeon with Doctor Frank for not letting her cross-examine the
seamstress on the subject of the ghost.

"The ghost she saw must have been Mr. Richards returning from his
midnight stroll," thought Rose, shrewdly. "My opinion is, he is the only
ghost in Danton Hall."

There was very little allusion made to the affair of last night, at the
breakfast-table. It seemed to be tacitly understood that the subject was
disagreeable; and beyond an inquiry of the Doctor, "How is your patient
this morning?" nothing was said. But all felt vaguely there was some
mystery. Doctor Frank's theory of optical illusion satisfied no
one--there was something at the bottom that they did not understand.

The stormy day grew stormier as it wore on. Rose sat down at the
drawing-room piano after breakfast, and tried to while away the forlorn
morning with music. Kate was there, trying to work off a bad headache
with a complicated piece of embroidery and a conversation with Mr.
Reginald Stanford. That gentleman sat on an ottoman at her feet, sorting
silks, and beads, and Berlin wool, and Rose was above casting even a
glance at them. Captain Danton, Sir Ronald, and the Doctor were playing
billiards at the other end of the rambling old house. And upstairs poor
Agnes Darling tossed feverishly on her hot pillow, and moaned, and slept
fitfully, and murmured a name in her troubled sleep, and Grace watching
her, and listening, heard the name "Harry."

Some of the gloom of the wretched day seemed to play on Rose's spirits.
She sang all the melancholy songs she knew, in a mournful, minor key,
until the conversation of the other two ceased, and they felt as dismal
as herself.

"Rose, don't!" Kate cried out in desperation at length. "Your songs are
enough to give one the horrors. Here is Reginald with a face as gloomy
as the day."

Rose got up in displeased silence, closed the piano, and walked to the
door.

"Pray don't!" said Stanford; "don't leave us. Kate and I have nothing
more to say to one another, and I have a thousand things to say to you."

"You must defer them, I fear," replied Rose. "Kate will raise your
spirits with more enlivening music when I am gone."

"A good idea," said Kate's lover, when the door closed; "come, my dear
girl, give us something a little less depressing than that we have just
been favoured with."

"How odd," said Kate languidly, "that Rose will not like you. I cannot
understand it."

"Neither can I," replied Mr. Stanford; "but since the gods have willed
it so, why, there is nothing for it but resignation. Here is 'Through
the woods, through the woods, follow and find me.' Sing that."

Kate essayed, but failed. Her headache was worse, and singing an
impossibility.

"I am afraid I must lie down," she said. "I am half blind with the pain.
You must seek refuge in the billiard-room, Reginald, while I go
upstairs."

Mr. Stanford expressed his regrets, kissed her hand--he was very calm
and decorous with his stately lady-love--and let her go.

"I wish Rose had stayed," he thought; "poor little girl! how miserable
she does look sometimes. I am afraid I have not acted quite right; and I
don't know that I am not going to make a scoundrel of myself; but how is
a fellow to help it? Kate's too beautiful and too perfect for mortal
man; and I am very mortal, indeed, and should feel uncomfortable married
to perfection."

He walked to the curtained recess of the drawing-room, where Rose had
one morning battled with her despair, and threw himself down among the
pillows of the lounge. Those very pillows whereon his handsome head
rested had been soaked in Rose's tears, shed for his sweet sake--but how
was he to know that? It was such a cozy little nook, so still and dusky,
and shut in, that Mr. Stanford, whose troubles did not prey on him very
profoundly, closed his dark eyes, and went asleep in five minutes.

And sleeping, Rose found him. Going to her room to read, she remembered
she had left her book on the sofa in the recess, and ran down stairs
again to get it. Entering the little room from the hall, she beheld Mr.
Stanford asleep, his head on his arm, his handsome face as perfect as
something carved in marble, in its deep repose.

Rose stood still--any one might have stood and looked, and admired that
picture, but not as she admired. Rose was in love with him--hopelessly,
you know, therefore the more deeply. All the love that pride had tried,
and tried in vain, to crush, rose in desperation stronger than ever
within her. If he had not been her sister's betrothed, who could say
what might not have been? If that sister was one degree less beautiful
and accomplished, who could say what still might be? She had been such a
spoiled child all her life, getting whatever she wanted for the asking,
that it was very hard she should be refused now the highest boon she had
ever craved--Mr. Reginald Stanford.

Did some mesmeric rapport tell him in his sleep she was there? Perhaps
so, for without noise, or cause, his eyes opened and fixed on Rose's
flushed and troubled face. She started away with a confused exclamation,
but Stanford, stretching out his arm, caught and held her fast.

"Don't run away, Rose," he said, "How long have you been here? How long
have I been asleep?"

"I don't know," said Rose, confusedly: "I came here for a book a moment
ago only. Let me go, Mr. Stanford."

"Let you go? Surely not. Come, sit down here beside me, Rose. I have
fifty things to say to you."

"You have nothing to say to me--nothing I wish to hear. Please let me
go."

"On your dignity again, Rose?" he said, smiling, and mesmerizing her
with his dark eyes; "when will you have done wearing your mask?"

"My mask!" Rose echoed, flushing; "what do you mean, Mr. Stanford?"

"Treating me like this! You don't want to leave me now, do you? You
don't hate me as much as you pretend. You act very well, my pretty
little Rose; but you don't mean it--you know you don't!"

"Will you let me go, Mr. Stanford?" haughtily.

"No, my dear; certainly not. I don't get the chance of _tête-à-tête_
with you so often that I should resign the priceless privilege at a
word. We used to be good friends, Rose; why can't we be good friends
again?"

"Used to be!" Rose echoed; and then her voice failed her. All her love
and her wounded pride rose in her throat and choked her.

Reginald Stanford drew her closer to him, and tried to see the averted
face.

"Won't you forgive me, Rose? I didn't behave well, I know; but I liked
you so much. Won't you forgive me?"

A passionate outburst of tears, that would no longer be restrained,
answered him.

"Oh! how could you do it? How could you do it? How could you deceive me
so?" sobbed Rose.

Stanford drew her closer still.

"Deceive you, my darling! How did I deceive you? Tell me, Rose, and
don't cry!"

"You said--you said your name was Reinecourt, and it wasn't; and I
didn't know you were Kate's lover, or I never would have--would
have--oh! how could you do it?"

"My dear little girl, I told you the truth. My name is Reinecourt."

Rose looked up indignantly.

"Reginald Reinecourt Stanford is my name; and the reason I only gave you
a third of it was, as I said before, because I liked you so much. You
know, my dear little Rose, if I had told you that day on the ice my name
was Reginald Stanford, you would have gone straight to the Hall, told
the news, and had me brought here at once. By that proceeding I should
have seen very little of you, of course. Don't you see?"

"Ye-e-e-s," very falteringly.

"I looked up that day from the ice," continued Stanford, "and saw such a
dear little curly-headed, bright-eyed, rose-cheeked fairy, that--no, I
can't tell you how I felt at the sight. I gave you my middle name, and
you acted the Good Samaritan to the wounded stranger--came to see me
every day, and made that sprained ankle the greatest boon of my life!"

"Mr. Stanford--"

"Call me Reginald."

"I cannot. Let me go! What would Kate say?"

"She will like it. She doesn't understand why you dislike me so much."

He laughed as he said it. The laugh implied so much, that Rose started
up, colouring vividly.

"This is wrong! I must go. Don't hold me, Mr. Stanford."

"Reginald, if you please!"

"I have no right to say Reginald."

"Yes, you have a sister's right!"

"Let me go!" said Rose, imperiously. "I ought not to be here."

"I don't see why. It is very pleasant to have you here. You haven't told
me yet that you forgive me."

"Of course I forgive you. It's of no consequence. Will you let me go,
Mr. Stanford?"

"Don't be in such a hurry. I told you I had fifty things to--"

He stopped short. The drawing-room door had opened, and Captain Danton's
voice could be heard talking to his two companions at billiards.

"All deserted," said the Captain; "I thought we should find the girls
here. Come in. I dare-say somebody will be along presently."

"Oh, let me go!" cried Rose, in dire alarm. "Papa may come in here. Oh,
pray--pray let me go!"

"If I do, will you promise to be good friends with me in the future?"

"Yes, yes! Let me go!"

"And you forget and forgive the past?"

"Yes--yes--yes! Anything, anything."

Stanford, who had no more desire than Rose herself to be caught just
then by papa-in-law, released his captive, and Rose flew out into the
hall and upstairs faster than she had ever done before.

How the four gentlemen got on alone in the drawing-room she never knew.
She kept her room all day, and took uncommon pains with her
dinner-toilet. She wore the blue glacé, in which she looked so charming,
and twisted some jeweled stars in her bright auburn hair. She looked at
herself in the glass, her eyes dancing, her cheeks flushed, her rosy
lips apart.

"I am pretty," thought Rose. "I like my own looks better than I do
Kate's, and every one calls her beautiful. I suppose her eyes are
larger, and her nose more perfect, and her forehead higher; but it is
too pale and cold. Oh, if Reginald would only love me better than Kate!"

She ran down-stairs as the last bell rang, eager and expectant, but only
to be disappointed. Grace was there; Eeny and Kate were there, and Sir
Ronald Keith; but where were the rest?

"Where's papa?" said Rose, taking her seat.

"Dining out," replied Kate, who looked pale and ill. "And Reginald and
Doctor Danton are with him. It is at Mr. Howard's. They drove off over
an hour ago."

Rose's eyes fell and her colour faded. Until the meal was over, she
hardly opened her lips; and when it was concluded, she went back
immediately to her room. Where was the use of waiting when he would not
be there?



CHAPTER X.

THE REVELATION.


Next morning, at breakfast, Captain Danton was back; but Reginald's
handsome face, and easy flow of conversation, were missing. George
Howard, it appeared, was going on a skating excursion some miles off,
that day, and had prevailed on Mr. Stanford to remain and accompany him.

Rose felt about as desolate as if she had been shipwrecked on a desert
island. There was a pang of jealousy mingled with the desolation, too.
Emily Howard was a sparkling brunette, a coquette, an heiress, and a
belle. Was it the skating excursion or Emily's big black eyes that had
tempted him to linger? Perhaps Emily would go with them skating, and
Rose knew how charming piquant little Miss Howard was on skates.

It was a miserable morning altogether, and Rose tormented herself in
true orthodox lover-like style. She roamed about the house aimlessly,
pulling out her watch perpetually to look at the hour, and sighing
drearily. She wondered at Kate, who sat so placidly playing some song
without words, with the Scotch baronet standing by the piano, absorbed.

"What does she know of love?" thought Rose, contemptuously. "She is as
cold as a polar iceberg. She ought to marry that knight of the woeful
countenance beside her, and be my lady, and live in a castle, and eat
and sleep in velvet and rubies. It would just suit her."

Doctor Danton came up in the course of the forenoon, to make a
professional call. His patient was better, calmer, less nervous, and
able to sit up in a rocking-chair, wrapped in a great shawl. Grace
persuaded him to stay to luncheon, and he did, and tried to win Miss
Rose out of the dismals, and got incontinently snubbed for his pains.

But there was balm in Gilead for Rose. Just after luncheon a little
shell-like sleigh, with prancing ponies and jingling bells, whirled
musically up to the door. A pretty, blooming, black-eyed girl was its
sole occupant; and Rose, at the drawing-room window, ran out to meet
her.

"My darling Emily!" cried Rose, kissing the young lady she had been
wishing at Jericho all day, "how glad I am to see you! Come in! You will
stay to dinner, won't you?"

"No, dear," said Miss Howard, "I can't. I just came over for you; I am
alone, and want you to spend the evening. Don't say no; Mr. Stanford
will be home to dinner with George, and he will escort you back."

"You pet!" cried Rose, with another rapturous kiss. "Just wait five
minutes while I run up and dress."

Miss Howard was not very long detained. Rose was back, all ready, in
half an hour.

"Would your sister come?" inquired Miss Howard, doubtfully, for she was
a good deal in awe of that tall majestic sister.

"Who? Kate? Oh, she is out riding with Sir Ronald Keith. Never mind her;
we can have a better time by ourselves."

The tiny sleigh dashed off with its fair occupants, and Rose's depressed
spirits went up to fever heat. It was the first of March, and March had
come in like a lamb--balmy, sunshiny, brilliant. Everybody looked at
them admiringly as the fairy sleigh and the two pretty girls flew
through the village, and thought, perhaps, what a fine thing it was to
be rich, and young, and handsome, and happy, like that.

Miss Howard's home was about half a mile off, and a few minutes brought
them to it.

The two girls passed the afternoon agreeably enough at the piano and
over new books, but both were longing for evening and the return of the
gentlemen. Miss Howard was only sixteen, and couldn't help admiring Mr.
Stanford, or wishing she were her brother George, and with him all day.

The March day darkened slowly down. The sun fell low and dropped out of
sight behind the bright, frozen river, in a glory of crimson and purple.
The hues of the sunset died, the evening star shone steel-blue and
bright in the night-sky, and the two girls stood by the window watching
when the gentlemen returned. There was just light enough left to see
them plainly as they drew near the house, their skates slung over their
arms; but Mr. George Howard came in for very little of their regards.

"Handsome fellow!" said Miss Howard, her eyes sparkling.

"Who?" said Rose, carelessly, as if her heart was not beating time to
the word. "Reginald?"

"Yes; he is the handsomest man I ever saw."

Rose laughed--a rather forced laugh, though.

"Don't fall in love with my handsome brother-in-law, Em. Kate won't like
it."

"They are to be married next June, are they not?" asked Emily, not
noticing the insinuation, save by a slight colour, which the twilight
hid.

"So they say."

"They will be a splendid-looking pair. George and all the gentlemen say
that she is the only really beautiful woman they ever saw."

"Tastes differ," said Rose with a shrug. "I don't think so. She is too
pale, and proud, and cold, and too far up in the clouds altogether. She
ought to go and be a nun; she would make a splendid lady-abbess."

"She will make a splendid Mrs. Stanford."

"Who?" said Mr. Stanford himself, sauntering in. "You, Miss Howard?"

"No; another lady I know of. What kind of a time had you skating?"

"Capital," replied her brother; "for an Englishman, Stanford knocks
everything. Hallo, Rose! who'd have thought it?"

Rose emerged from the shadow of the window curtains, and shook hands
carelessly with Master George.

"I drove over for her after you went," said his sister, "come, there's
the dinner-bell, and Mr. Stanford looks hungry."

"And is hungry," said Mr. Stanford, giving her his arm. "I shall
astonish Mrs. Howard by my performance this evening."

They were not a very large party--Mr. and Mrs. Howard, their son and
daughter, Mr. Stanford and Rose--but they were a very merry one. Mr.
Stanford had been in India once, three years ago, and told them
wonderful stories of tiger hunts, and Hindoo girls, and jungle
adventures, and Sepoy warfare, until he carried his audience away from
the frozen Canadian land to the burning sun and tropical splendours and
perils of far-off India. Then, after dinner, when Mr. Howard, Senior,
went to his library to write letters, and Mrs. Howard dozed in an
easy-chair by the fire, there was music, and sparkling chit-chat, racy
as the bright Moselle at dinner, and games at cards, and fortune-telling
by Mr. Howard, Junior; and it was twelve before Rose thought it
half-past ten.

"I must go," said Rose, starting up. "I had no idea it was so late. I
must go at once."

The two young ladies went upstairs for Miss Danton's wraps. When they
descended, the sleigh was waiting, and all went out together. The bright
March day had ended in a frosty, starlit, windless night. A tiny moon
glittered sparkling overhead, and silvering the snowy ground.

"Oh, what a night!" cried Emily Howard. "You may talk about your blazing
India, Mr. Stanford, but I would not give our own dear snow-clad Canada
for the wealth of a thousand Indies. Good-night, darling Rose, and
pleasant dreams."

Miss Howard kissed her. Mr. Howard came over, and made an attempt to do
the same.

"Good-night, darling Rose, and dream of me."

Rose's answer was a slap, and then Reginald was beside her, and they
were driving through the luminous dusk of the winter moonlight.

"You may stop at the gate, my good fellow," said Mr. Stanford to the
driver; "the night is fine--we will walk the rest of the way--eh, Rose?"

Rose's answer was a smile, and they were at the gates almost
immediately. Mr. Stanford drew her hand within his arm, and they
sauntered slowly, very slowly, up the dark, tree-shaded avenue.

"How gloomy it is here!" said Rose, clinging to his arm with a delicious
little shiver; "and it is midnight, too. How frightened I should be
alone!"

"Which means you are not frightened, being with me. Miss Rose, you are
delightful!"

"Interpret it as you please. What should you say if the ghost were to
start out from these grim black trees and confront us?"

"Say? Nothing. I would quietly faint in your arms. But this is not the
ghost's walk. Wasn't it in the tamarack avenue old Margery saw it?"

"Let us go there!"

"It is too late," said Rose.

"No it is not. There is something delightfully novel in promenading with
a young lady at the witching hour of midnight, when graveyards yawn, and
gibbering ghosts in winding-sheets cut up cantrips before high heaven.
Come."

"But Mr. Stanford--"

"Reginald, I tell you. You promised, you know."

"But really Reginald, it is too late. What if we were seen?"

"Nonsense! Who is to see us! And if they do, haven't brothers and
sisters a right to walk at midnight as well as noonday if they choose?
Besides, we may see the spectre of Danton Hall, and I would give a
month's pay for the sight any time."

They entered the tamarack walk as he spoke--bright enough at the
entrance, where the starlight streamed in, but in the very blackness of
darkness farther down.

"How horribly dismal!" cried Rose, clinging to him more closely than
ever. "A murder might be committed here, and no one be the wiser."

"A fit place for a ghostly promenade. Spectre of Danton, appear! Hist!
What is that?"

Rose barely suppressed a shriek. He put his hand over her mouth, and
drew her silently into the shadow.

As if his mocking words had evoked them, two figures entered the
tamarack walk as he spoke.

The starlight showed them plainly--a man and a woman--the woman wrapped
in a shawl, leaning on the man's arm, and both walking very slowly,
talking earnestly.

"No ghosts those," whispered Reginald Stanford. "Be quiet, Rose; we are
in for an adventure."

"I ought to know that woman's figure," said Rose, in the same low tone.
"Look! Don't you?"

"By--George! It can't be--Kate!"

"It is Kate; and who is the man, and what does it mean?"

Now Rose, maliciously asking the question, knew in her heart the man was
Mr. Richards. She did not comprehend, of course, but she knew it must be
all right; for Kate walked with him there under her father's sanction.

Mr. Stanford made no reply; he was staring like one who cannot believe
his eyes.

Kate's face shown in profile was plainly visible as they drew nearer.
The man's, shrouded by coat-collar and peaked cap, was all hidden, save
a well-shaped nose.

"It is Kate," repeated Mr. Stanford, blankly. "And what does it mean?"

"Hush-sh!" whispered Rose; "they will hear you."

She drew him back softly. The two advancing figures were so very near
now that their words could be heard. It was Kate's soft voice that was
speaking.

"Patience, dear," she was saying; "patience a little longer yet."

"Patience!" cried the man, passionately. "Haven't I been patient?
Haven't I waited and waited, eating my heart out in solitude, and
loneliness, and misery? But for your love, Kate, your undying love and
faith in me--I should long ago have gone mad!"

They passed out of hearing with the last words. Reginald Stanford stood
petrified; even Rose was desperately startled by the desperate words.

"Take me away, Reginald," she said trembling. "Oh, let us go before they
come back."

Her voice aroused him, and he looked down at her with a face as white as
the frozen snow.

"You heard him?" he said. "You heard her? What does it mean?"

"I don't know. I am frightened. Oh, let us go!"

Too late! Kate and her companion had reached the end of the tamarack
walk, and were returning. As they drew near, she was speaking; again the
two listeners in the darkness heard her words.

"Don't despair," she said earnestly. "Oh, my darling, never despair!
Come what will, I shall always love you--always trust you--always--"

They passed out of hearing again--out of the dark into the lighted end
of the walk, and did not return.

Reginald and Rose waited for a quarter of an hour, but they had
disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared.

"Take me in," reiterated Rose, shivering. "I am nearly frozen."

He turned with her up the walk, never speaking a word, very pale in the
light of the stars. No one was visible as they left the walk; all around
the house and grounds was hushed and still. The house door was locked,
but not bolted. Mr. Stanford opened it with a night-key, and they
entered, and went upstairs, still in silence. Rose reached her room
first, and paused with her hand on the handle of the door.

"Good-night," she said shyly and wistfully.

"Good-night," he answered, briefly, and was gone.



CHAPTER XI.

ONE MYSTERY CLEARED UP.


The fire burned low in Rose's pretty room, and the lamp was dim on the
table. The window-curtains were closed, and the sheets of the little
low, white bed turned down, the easy chair was before the hearth, and
everything was the picture of comfort. She flung off her wrappings on
the carpet, and sat down in the easy chair, and looked into the glowing
cinders, lost in perplexed thought.

What would be the result of that night's adventure? Reginald Stanford,
good-natured and nonchalant, was yet proud. She had seen his face change
in the starlight, as once she had hardly thought it possible that
ever-laughing face could change; she had seen it cold and fixed as
stone. How would he act towards a lady, plighted to be his wife, and yet
who took midnight rambles with another man? Would the engagement be
broken off, and would he leave Canada forever in disgust? Or would he,
forsaking Kate, turn to Kate's younger sister for love and consolation?

Rose's heart throbbed, and her face grew hot in the solitude of her
chamber, at the thought. He would demand an explanation, of course;
would it be haughtily refused by that haughty sister, or would the
mystery of Mr. Richards be opened for him?

A clock down-stairs struck two. Rose remembered that late watching
involved pale cheeks and dull eyes, and got up, said her prayers with
sleepy devotion, and went to bed.

The sunlight of another bright March day flooded her room when she awoke
from a troubled dream of Mr. Richards. It was only seven o'clock, but
she arose, dressed rapidly, and, before eight, opened the dining-room
door.

Early as the hour was, the apartment was occupied. Grace sat at one of
the windows, braiding elaborately an apron, and Captain Danton stood
beside her, looking on. Grace glanced up, her colour heightening at
Rose's entrance.

"Good morning, Miss Rose," said her father. "Early to bed and early to
rise, eh? When did you take to getting up betimes?"

"Good morning, papa. I didn't feel sleepy, and so thought I would come
down."

"What time did you get home last night?"

"I left a little after twelve."

"Did you enjoy yourself, my dear?"

"Yes, papa."

"Reginald was with you?"

"Yes, papa."

"It's all right, I suppose," said her father, pinching her blooming
cheek; "but if I were Kate, I wouldn't allow it. Young man are
changeable as chameleons, and these pink cheeks are tempting."

The pink cheeks turned guiltily scarlet at the words. Grace, looking up
from her work, saw the tell-tale flush; but Captain Danton, going over
to the fire to read the morning paper, said nothing.

Rose stood listlessly in her father's place, looking out of the window.
The wintry landscape, all glittering in the glorious sunshine, was very
bright; but the dreamy, hazel eyes were not looking at it.

"Rose!" said Grace suddenly, "when did you hear from Ottawa?"

Rose turned to her, roused from her dreaming.

"What did you say?"

"When did you hear from Ottawa--from M. Jules La Touche?"

Again the colour deepened in Rose's face, and an angry light shone in
her eyes.

"What do you want to know for?"

"Because I want to know. That's reason enough, is it not?" replied
Grace, sewing away placidly.

"I don't see that it's any affair of yours, Mistress Grace. Jules La
Touche is a nuisance!"

"Oh, is he? He wasn't a month or two ago. Whom have you fallen in love
with now, Rose?"

"It's no business of yours," said Rose angrily.

"But if I choose to make it my business, my dear, sweet-tempered Rose,
what then? Do tell me the name of the last lucky man? I am dying to
know."

"Die, then, for you won't know."

"Suppose I know already."

"What?"

"It's not Mr. Stanford, is it?"

Rose gave a gasp--in the suddenness of the surprise, colouring crimson.
Grace saw it all, as she placidly threaded her needle.

"I wouldn't if I were you," she said quietly. "It's of no use, Rose.
Kate is handsomer than you are; and it will only be the old comedy of
'Love's Labour Lost' over again."

"Grace Danton, what do you mean?"

"Now, don't get excited, Rose, and don't raise your voice. Your father
might hear you, and that would not be pleasant. It is plain enough. Mr.
Stanford is very handsome, and very fascinating, and very hard to
resist, I dare say; but, still, he must be resisted. Mr. La Touche is a
very estimable young man, I have no doubt, and of a highly respectable
family; and, very likely, will make you an excellent husband. If I were
you, I would ask my papa to let me go on another visit to Ottawa, and
remain, say, until the end of May. It would do you good, I am sure."

Rose listened to this harangue, her eyes flashing.

"And if I were you, Miss Grace Danton, I would keep my advice until it
was asked. Be so good for the future, as to mind your own business,
attend to your housekeeping, and let other people's love affairs alone."

With which Rose sailed stormily off, with very red cheeks, and very
bright, angry eyes, and sought refuge in a book.

Grace, perfectly unmoved, quite used to Rose's temper, sewed serenely
on, and waited for the rest of the family to appear.

Eeny was the next to enter, then came Sir Ronald Keith, who took a chair
opposite Captain Danton, and buried himself in another paper. To him, in
Kate's absence, the room was empty.

The breakfast bell was ringing when that young lady appeared, beautiful
and bright as the sunny morning, in flowing white cashmere, belted with
blue, and her lovely golden hair twisted in a coronet of amber braids
round her head. She came over to where Rose sat, sulky and silent, and
kissed her.

"_Bon jour, ma soeur!_ How do you feel after last night!"

"Very well," said Rose, not looking at her.

"Reginald came home with you?" smiled Kate, toying with Rose's pretty
curls.

"Yes," she said, uneasily.

"I am glad. I am so glad that you and he are friends at last."

Rose fidgeted more uneasily still, and said nothing.

"Why was it you didn't like him?" said Kate, coaxingly. "Tell me, my
dear."

"I don't know. I liked him well enough," replied Rose, ungraciously. "He
was a stranger to me."

"My darling, he will be your brother."

Rose fixed her eyes sullenly on her book.

"You will come to England with us, won't you, Rose--dear old
England--and my pretty sister may be my lady yet?"

The door opened again. Mr. Stanford came in.

Rose glanced up shyly.

His face was unusually grave and pale; but all were taking their places,
and in the bustle no one noticed it. He did not look at Kate, who saw,
with love's quickness, that something was wrong.

All through breakfast Mr. Stanford was very silent, for him. When he did
talk, it was to Captain Danton--seldom to any of the ladies.

Grace watched him, wonderingly; Rose watched him furtively, and Kate's
morning appetite was effectually taken away.

The meal ended, the family dispersed.

The Captain went to his study, Sir Ronald mounted and rode off, Grace
went away to attend to her housekeeping affairs, Eeny to her studies,
and Rose hurried up to her room.

The lovers were left alone. Kate took her embroidery. Mr. Stanford was
immersed in the paper Captain Danton had lately laid down. There was a
prolonged silence, during which the lady worked, and the gentleman read,
as if their lives depended on it.

She lifted her eyes from her embroidery to glance his way, and found him
looking at her steadfastly--gravely.

"What is it, Reginald?" she exclaimed, impatiently. "What is the matter
with you this morning?"

"I am wondering!" said Stanford, gravely.

"Wondering?"

"Yes; if the old adage about seeing being believing is true."

"I don't understand," said Kate, a little haughtily.

Stanford laid down his paper, came over to where she sat, and took a
chair near her.

"Something extraordinary has occurred, Kate, which I cannot comprehend.
Shall I tell you what it is?"

"If you please."

"It was last night, then. You know I spent the day and evening with the
Howards? It was late--past twelve, when I escorted Rose home; but the
night was fine, and tempted me to linger still longer. I turned down the
tamarack walk--"

He paused.

Kate's work had dropped in her lap, with a faint cry of dismay.

"I had reached the lower end of the avenue," continued Reginald
Stanford, "and was turning, when I saw two persons--a man and a
woman--enter. 'Who can they be, and what can they be about here at this
hour?' I thought, and I stood still to watch. They came nearer. I saw in
the starlight her woman's face. I heard in the stillness her words. She
was telling the man how much she loved him, how much she should always
love him, and then they were out of sight and hearing. Kate, was that
woman you?"

She sat looking at him, her blue eyes dilated, her lips apart, her hands
clasped, in a sort of trance of terror.

"Was it you, Kate?" repeated her lover. "Am I to believe my eyes?"

She roused herself to speak by an effort.

"Oh, Reginald!" she cried, "what have you done! Why, why did you go
there?"

There was dismay in her tone, consternation in her face, but nothing
else. No shame, no guilt, no confusion--nothing but that look of grief
and regret.

A conviction that had possessed him all along that it was all right,
somehow or other, became stronger than ever now; but his face did not
show it--perhaps, unconsciously, in his secret heart he was hoping it
would not be all right.

"Perhaps I was unfortunate in going there," he said, coldly; "but I
assure you I had very little idea of what I was to see and hear. Having
heard, and having seen, I am afraid I must insist on an explanation."

"Which I cannot give you," said Kate, her colour rising, and looking
steadfastly in his dark eyes.

"You cannot give me!" said Reginald, haughtily. "Do I understand you
rightly, Kate?"

She laid her hand on his, with a gentle, caressing touch, and bent
forward. She loved him too deeply and tenderly to bear that cold, proud
tone.

"We have never quarrelled yet, Reginald," she said, sweetly. "Let us not
quarrel now. I cannot give you the explanation you ask; but papa shall."

He lifted the beautiful hand to his lips, feeling somehow, that he was
unworthy to touch the hem of her garment.

"You are an angel, Kate--incapable of doing wrong. I ought to be content
without an explanation, knowing you as I do; but--"

"But you must have one, nevertheless. Reginald, I am sorry you saw me
last night."

He looked at her, hardly knowing what to say. She was gazing sadly out
at the sunny prospect.

"Poor fellow!" she said, half to herself, "poor fellow! Those midnight
walks are almost all the comfort he has in this world, and now he will
be afraid to venture out any more."

Still Stanford sat silent.

Kate smiled at him and put away her work.

"Wait for me here," she said, rising. "Papa is in his study. I will
speak to him."

She left the room. Stanford sat and waited, and felt more uncomfortable
than he had ever felt in his life. He was curious, too. What family
mystery was about to be revealed to him? What secret was this hidden in
Danton Hall?

"I have heard there is a skeleton in every house," he thought; "but I
never dreamed there was one hidden away in this romantic old mansion.
Perhaps I have seen the ghost of Danton Hall, as well as the rest. How
calmly Kate took it!--No sign of guilt or wrong-doing in her face. If I
ever turn out a villain, there will be no excuse for my villainy on her
part."

Kate was absent nearly half an hour, but it seemed a little century to
the impatient waiter. When she entered, there were traces of tears on
her face, but her manner was quite calm.

"Papa is waiting for you," she said, "in his study."

He rose up, walked to the door, and stood there, irresolute.

"Where shall I find you when I return?"

"Here."

She said it softly and a little sadly. Stanford crossed to where she
stood, and took her in his arms--a very unusual proceeding for him--and
kissed her.

"I have perfect confidence in your truth, my dearest," he said. "I am as
sure of your goodness and innocence before your father's explanation as
I can possibly be after it."

There was a witness to this loving declaration that neither of them
bargained for. Rose, getting tired of her own company, had run
down-stairs to entertain herself with her music. Stanford had left the
door ajar when he returned; and Rose was just in time to see the embrace
and hear the tender speech. Just in time, too, to fly before Reginald
left the drawing-room and took his way to the study.

Rose played no piano that morning; but, locked in her own room, made the
most of what she had heard and seen. Kate had the drawing-room to
herself, and sat, with clasped hands, looking out at the bright March
morning. The business of the day went on in the house, doors opened and
shut, Grace and Eeny came in and went away again, Doctor Frank came up
to see Agnes Darling, who was nearly well; and in the study, Reginald
Stanford was hearing the story of Miss Danton's midnight stroll.

"You must have heard it sooner or later," Captain Danton said, "between
this and next June. As well now as any other time."

Stanford bowed and waited.

"You have not resided in this house for so many weeks without hearing of
the invalid upstairs, whom Ogden attends, who never appears in our
midst, and about whom all in the house are more or less curious?"

"Mr. Richards?" said Stanford, surprised.

"Yes, Mr. Richards; you have heard of him. It was Mr. Richards whom you
saw with Kate last night."

Reginald Stanford dropped the paper-knife he had been drumming with, and
stared blankly at Captain Danton.

"Mr. Richards!" he echoed; "Mr. Richards, who is too ill to leave his
room!"

"Not now," said Captain Danton, calmly; "he was when he first came here.
You know what ailed Macbeth--a sickness that physicians could not cure.
That is Mr. Richards' complaint--a mind diseased. Remorse and terror are
that unhappy young man's ailments and jailers."

There was a dead pause. Reginald Stanford, still "far wide," gazed at
his father-in-law-elect, and waited for something more satisfactory.

"It is not a pleasant story to tell," Captain Danton went on, in a
subdued voice; "the story of a young man's folly, and madness, and
guilt; but it must be told. The man you saw last night is barely
twenty-three years of age, but all the promise of his life is gone; from
henceforth he can be nothing more than a hunted outcast, with the stain
of murder on his soul."

"Good heavens!" exclaimed his hearer; "and Kate walks with such a man,
alone, and at midnight?"

"Yes," said Kate's father, proudly "and will again, please Heaven. Poor
boy! poor, unfortunate boy! If Kate and I were to desert him, he would
be lost indeed."

"This is all Greek to me," said Stanford, coldly. "If the man be what
you say, a murderer, nothing can excuse Miss Danton's conduct."

"Listen, Reginald, my dear boy--almost my son; listen, and you will have
nothing but pity for the poor man upstairs, and deeper love for my noble
daughter. But, first, have I your word of honour that what I tell you
shall remain a secret?"

Reginald bowed.

"Three years ago, this young man, whose name is not Richards," began
Captain Danton, "ran away from home, and began life on his own account.
He had been a wilful, headstrong, passionate boy always, but yet loving
and generous. He fled from his friends, in a miserable hour of passion,
and never returned to them any more; for the sick, sinful, broken-down,
wretched man who returned was as different from the hot-headed,
impetuous, happy boy, as day differs from night.

"He fled from home, and went to New York. He was, as I am, a sailor; he
had command of a vessel at the age of nineteen; but he gave up the sea,
and earned a livelihood in that city for some months by painting and
selling water-colour sketches, at which he was remarkably clever.
Gradually his downward course began. The wine-bottle, the gaming-table,
were the first milestones on the road to ruin. The gambling-halls
became, at length, his continual haunt. One day he was worth thousands;
the next, he did not possess a stiver. The excitement grew on him. He
became, before the end of the year, a confirmed and notorious gambler.

"One night the crisis in his life came. He was at a Bowery theatre, to
see a Christmas pantomime. It was a fairy spectacle, and the stage was
crowded with ballet-girls. There was one among them, the loveliest
creature, it seemed to him, he had ever seen, with whom, in one mad
moment, he fell passionately in love. A friend of his, by name Furniss,
laughed at his raptures. 'Don't you know her, Harry?' said he; 'she
boards in the same house with you. She is a little grisette, a little
shop-girl, only hired to look pretty, standing there, while this fairy
pantomime lasts. You have seen her fifty times.'

"Yes, he had seen her repeatedly. He remembered it when his friend
spoke, and he had never thought of her until now. The new infatuation
took possession of him, body and soul. He made her acquaintance next
morning, and found out she was, as his friend had said, a shop-girl.
What did he care; if she had been a rag-picker, it would have been all
one to this young madman. In a fortnight he proposed; in a month they
were married, and the third step on the road to ruin was taken.

"Had she been a good woman--an earnest and faithful wife--she might have
made a new man of him, for he loved her with a passionate devotion that
was part of his hot-headed nature. But she was bad--as depraved as she
was fair--and brought his downward course to a tragical climax
frightfully soon.

"Before her marriage, this wretched girl had had a lover--discarded for
a more handsome and impetuous wooer. But she had known him longest, and,
perhaps, loved him best. At all events, he resumed his visits after
marriage, as if nothing had happened. The young husband, full of love
and confidence, suspected no wrong. He sanctioned the visits and was on
most friendly terms with the discarded suitor. For some months it went
on, this underhand and infamous intimacy, and the wronged husband saw
nothing. It was Furniss who first opened his eyes to the truth, and a
terrible scene ensued. The husband refused passionately to believe a
word against the truth and purity of the wife he loved, and called his
friend a liar and a slanderer.

"'Very well,' said Furniss, coolly, 'bluster as much as you please, dear
boy, and, when you are tired, go home. It is an hour earlier than you
generally return. He will hardly have left. If you find your pretty
little idol alone, and at her prayers, disbelieve me. If you find Mr.
Crosby enjoying a _tête-à-tête_ with her, then come back and apologize
for these hard names.'"

"He went off whistling, and the half-maddened husband sprang into a
passing stage and rode home. It was past ten, but he was generally at
the gambling-table each night until after one, and his wife had usually
retired ere his return. He went upstairs softly, taking off his boots,
and noiselessly opened the door. There sat his wife, and by her side,
talking earnestly, the discarded lover. He caught his last words as he
entered:

"'You know how I have loved--you know how I do love, a thousand times
better than he! Why should we not fly at once. It is only torture to
both to remain longer.'

"They were the last words the unfortunate man ever uttered. The gambler
had been drinking--let us hope the liquor and the jealous fury made him
for the time mad. There was the flash, the report of a pistol; Crosby,
his guilty wife's lover, uttered a wild yell, sprang up in the air, and
fell back shot through the heart."

There was another dead pause. Captain Danton's steady voice momentarily
failed, and Reginald Stanford sat in horrified silence.

"What came next," continued the Captain, his voice tremulous, "the
madman never knew. He has a vague remembrance of his wife's screams
filling the room with people; of his finding himself out somewhere under
the stars, and his brain and heart on fire. He has a dim remembrance of
buying a wig and whiskers and a suit of sailor's clothes next day, and
of wandering down among the docks in search of a ship. By one of those
mysterious dispensations of Providence that happen every day, the first
person he encountered on the dock was myself. I did not know him--how
could I in that disguise--but he knew me instantly, and spoke. I
recognized his voice, and took him on board my ship, and listened to the
story I have just told you. With me he was safe. Detectives were
scouring the city for the murderer; but I sailed for England next day,
and he was beyond their reach. On the passage he broke down; all the
weeks we were crossing the Atlantic he lay wandering and delirious in a
raging brain-fever. We all thought, Doctor and all, that he never would
reach the other side; but life won the hard victory, and he slowly grew
better. Kate returned, as you know, with me. She, too, heard the
tragical story, and had nothing but pity and prayer for the
tempest-tossed soul.

"When we reached Canada, he was still weak and ill. I brought him here
under an assumed name, and he remains shut up in his rooms all day, and
only ventures out at night to breathe the fresh air. His mind has never
recovered its tone since that brain fever. He has become a monomaniac on
one subject, the dread of being discovered, and hanged for murder.
Nothing will tempt him from his solitude--nothing can induce him to
venture out, except at midnight, when all are asleep. He is the ghost
who frightened Margery and Agnes Darling; he is the man you saw with
Kate last in the grounds. He clings to her as he clings to no one else.
The only comfort left him in this lower world are these nightly walks
with her. She is the bravest, the best, the noblest of girls; she leaves
her warm room, her bed, for those cold midnight walks with that unhappy
and suffering man."

Once again a pause. Reginald Stanford looked at Captain Danton's pale,
agitated face.

"You have told me a terrible story," he said. "I can hardly blame this
man for what he has done; but what claim has he on you that you should
feel for him and screen him as you do? What claim has he on my future
wife that she should take these nightly walks with him unknown to me?"

"The strongest claim that man can have," was the answer; "he is my
son--he is Kate's only brother!"

"My God! Captain Danton, what are you saying?"

"The truth," Captain Danton answered, in a broken voice. "Heaven help
me--Heaven pity him! The wretched man whose story you have heard--who
dwells a captive under this roof--is my only son, Henry Danton."

He covered his face with his hands. Reginald Stanford sat confounded.

"I never dreamed of this," he said aghast. "I thought your son was
dead!"

"They all think so," said the Captain, without looking up; "but you know
the truth. Some day, before long, you shall visit him, when I have
prepared him for your coming. You understand all you heard and saw now?"

"My dear sir!" exclaimed Stanford, grasping the elder man's hand;
"forgive me! No matter what I saw, I must have been mad to doubt Kate.
Your secret is as safe with me as with yourself. I shall leave you now;
I must see Kate."

"Yes, poor child! Love her and trust her with your whole heart,
Reginald, for she is worthy."

Reginald Stanford went out, still bewildered by all he had heard, and
returned to the drawing-room. Kate sat as he had left her, looking
dreamily out at the bright sky.

"My dearest," he said bending over her, and touching the white brow:
"can you ever forgive me for doubting you? You are the truest, the best,
the bravest of women."

She lifted her loving eyes, filled with tears, to the handsome face of
her betrothed.

"To those I love I hope I am--and more. Before I grow false or
treacherous, I pray Heaven that I may die."



CHAPTER XII.

HARRY DANTON.


A spring-like afternoon. The March sun bright in the Canadian sky, the
wind soft and genial, and a silvery mist hanging over the river and
marshes. Little floods from the fast-melting snow poured through the
grounds; the ice-frozen fish-pond was thawing out under the melting
influence of the sunshine, and rubber shoes and tucked-up skirts were
indispensable outdoor necessaries.

Rose Danton, rubber-shoes, tucked-up skirts, and all, was trying to kill
time this pleasant afternoon, sauntering aimlessly through the wet
grounds. Very pretty and coquettish she looked, with that crimson
petticoat showing under her dark silk dress; that jockey-hat and feather
set jauntily on her sunshiny curls; but her prettiness was only vanity
and vexation of spirit to Rose. Where was the good of pink-tinted
cheeks, soft hazel eyes, auburn curls, and a trim little foot and ankle,
when there was no living thing near to see and admire? What was the use
of dressing beautifully and looking charming for a pack of insensible
mortals, to whom it was an old story and not worth thinking about? The
sunny March day had no reflection in Rose's face; "sulky" is the only
word that will tell you how she looked. Poor Rose! It was rather hard to
be hopelessly in love, to be getting worse every day, and find it all of
no use. It was a little too bad to have everything she wanted for
eighteen years, and then be denied the fascinating young officer she had
set her whole heart on. For Mr. Stanford was lost again. Just as she
thought she had her bird snared for certain--lo! it spread its dazzling
wings and soared up to the clouds, and farther out of reach than ever.
In plain English, he had gone back to the old love and was off with the
new, just when she felt most sure of him.

A whole week had passed since that night in the tamarack walk, that
night when he had seemed so tender and lover-like, the matchless
deceiver! And he had hardly spoken half a dozen words to her. He was
back at the footstool of his first sovereign, he was the most devoted of
engaged men; Kate was queen of the hour, Rose was nowhere. It was
trying, it was cruel, it was shameful. Rose cried and scolded in the
seclusion of her maiden bower, and hated Mr. Stanford, or said she did;
and could have seen her beautiful elder sister in her winding-sheet with
all the pleasure in life.

So, this sunny afternoon, Rose was wandering listlessly hither and
thither, thinking the ice would soon break upon the fish-pond if this
weather lasted, and suicide would be the easiest thing in the world. She
walked dismally round and round it, and wondered what Mr. Stanford would
say, and how he would feel when some day, in the cold, sad twilight,
they would carry her, white, and lifeless, and dripping before him, one
more unfortunate gone to her death! She could see herself--robed in
white, her face whiter than her dress, her pretty auburn curls all wet
and streaming around her--carried into the desolate house. She could see
Reginald Stanford recoil, turn deadly pale, his whole future happiness
blasted at the sight. She pictured him in his horrible remorse giving up
Kate, and becoming a wanderer and a broken-hearted man all the rest of
his life. There was a dismal delight in these musings; and Rose went
round and round the fish-pond, revelling, so to speak, in them.

As her watch pointed to three, one of the stable-helpers came round from
the stables leading two horses. She knew them--one was Mr. Stanford's,
the other Kate's. A moment later, and Mr. Stanford and Kate appeared on
the front steps, "booted and spurred," and ready for their ride. The
Englishman helped his lady into the saddle, adjusted her long skirt, and
sprang lightly across his own steed. Rose would have given a good deal
to be miles away; but the fish-pond must be passed, and she, the "maiden
forlorn," must be seen. Kate gayly touched her plumed-hat; Kate's
cavalier bent to his saddle-bow, and then they were gone out of sight
among the budding trees.

"Heartless, cold-blooded flirt!" thought the second Miss Danton,
apostrophizing the handsomest of his sex. "I hope his horse may run away
with him and break his neck!"

But Rose did not mean this, and the ready tears were in her eyes the
next instant with pity for herself.

"It's too bad of him--it's too bad to treat me so! He knows I love him,
he made me think he loved me; and now to go and act like this. I'll
never stay here and see him marry Kate! I'd rather die first! I will die
or do something! I'll run away and become an actress or a nun--I don't
care much which. They're both romantic, and they are what people always
do in such cases--at least I have read a great many novels where they
did!" mused Miss Danton, still making her circle round the fish-pond.

Grace, calling from one of the windows to a servant passing below,
caused her to look towards the house, just in time to see something
white flutter from an open bedroom window on the breeze. The bedroom
regions ran all around the third story of Danton Hall--six in each
range. Mr. Stanford's chamber was in the front of the house, and it was
from Mr. Stanford's room the white object had fluttered. Rose watched it
as it alighted on a little unmelted snowbank, and, hurrying over, picked
it up. It was part of a letter--a sheet of note-paper torn in half, and
both sides closely written. It was in Reginald Stanford's hand and
without more ado (you will be shocked to hear it, though) Miss Rose
deliberately commenced reading it. It began abruptly with part of an
unfinished sentence.

     --"That you call me a villain! Perhaps I shall not be a villain,
     after all. The angel with the auburn ringlets is as much an angel
     as ever; but, Lauderdale, upon my soul, I don't want to do anything
     wrong, if I can help it. If it is _kismit_, as the Turks say, my
     fate, what can I do? What will be, will be; if auburn ringlets and
     yellow-brown eyes are my destiny, what am I--the descendant of many
     Stanfords--that I should resist? Nevertheless, if destiny minds its
     own business and lets me alone, I'll come up to the mark like a
     man. Kate is glorious; I always knew it, but never so much as now.
     Something has happened recently--no matter what--that has elevated
     her higher than ever in my estimation. There is something grand
     about the girl--something too great and noble in that high-strung
     nature of hers, for such a reprobate as I! This is _entre nous_,
     though; if I tell you I am a reprobate, it is in confidence. I am a
     lucky fellow, am I not, to have two of earth's angels to choose
     from? And yet sometimes I wish I were not so lucky; I don't want to
     misbehave--I don't want to break anybody's heart; but still--"

It came to an end as abruptly as it had begun. Rose's cheeks were
scarlet flame before she concluded. She understood it all. He was bound
to her sister; he was trying to be true, but he loved her! Had he not
owned it--might she not still hope? She clasped her hands in sudden,
ecstatic rapture.

"He loves me best," she thought; "and the one he loves best will be the
one he will choose."

She folded up the precious document, and hid it in her pocket. She
looked up at the window, but no more sheets of the unfinished letter
fluttered out.

"Careless fellow!" she thought, "to leave such tell-tale letters loose.
If Kate had found it, or Grace, or Eeny! They could not help
understanding it. I wish I dared tell him; but I can't."

She turned and went into the house. No more dreary rambles round the
fish-pond. Rose was happy again.

Suicide was indefinitely postponed, and Kate might become the nun, not
she. Kate was his promised wife; but there is many a slip; and the
second Miss Danton ran up to her room, singing, "New hope may bloom."

If Rose's heart had been broken, she would have dressed herself
carefully all the same. There was to be a dinner-party at the house that
evening, and among the guests a viscount recently come over to shoot
moose. The viscount was forty, but unmarried, with a long rent-roll, and
longer pedigree; and who knew what effect sparkling hazel eyes and
gold-bronzed hair, and honeyed smiles, might have upon him? So Eunice
was called in, and the auburn tresses freshly curled, and a sweeping
robe of silvery silk, trimmed with rich lace, donned. The lovely bare
neck and arms were adorned with pale pearls, and the falling curls were
jauntily looped back with clusters of pearl beads.

"You do look lovely, Miss!" cried Eunice, in irrepressible admiration.
"I never saw you look so 'andsome before. The dress is the becomingest
dress you've got, and you look splendid, you do!"

Rose flashed a triumphant glance at her own face in the mirror.

"Do I, Eunice? Do I look almost as handsome as Kate?"

"You are 'andsomer sometimes, Miss Rose, to my taste. If Miss Kate 'ad
red cheeks, now; but she's as w'ite sometimes as marble."

"So she is; but some people admire that style. I suppose Mr. Stanford
does--eh, Eunice?"

"I dare say he does, Miss."

"Do you think Mr. Stanford handsome, Eunice?" carelessly.

"Very 'andsome, Miss, and so pleasant. Not 'igh and 'aughty, like some
young gentlemen I've seen. Heverybody likes 'im."

"What is Kate going to wear this evening?" said Rose, her heart
fluttering at the praise.

"The black lace, miss, and her pearls. She looks best in blue, but she
will wear black."

"How is Agnes Darling getting on?" asked Rose, jumping to another topic.
"I haven't seen her for two days."

"Getting better, Miss; she is hable to be up halmost hall the time; but
she's failed away to a shadow. Is there hanythink more, Miss?"

"Nothing more, thank you. You may go."

Eunice departed; and Rose, sinking into a rocker, beguiled the time
until dinner with a book. She heard Mr. Stanford and Kate coming
upstairs together, laughing at something, and go to their rooms to
dress.

"I wonder if he will miss part of his letter," she thought, nervously.
"What would he say if I gave it to him, and told him I had read it? No!
I dare not do that. I will say nothing about it, and let him fidget as
much as he likes over the loss."

Rose descended to the drawing-room as the last bell rang, and found
herself bowing to half a dozen strangers--Colonel Lord Ellerton among
the rest. Lord Ellerton, who was very like Lord Dundreary every way you
took him, gave his arm to Kate, and Stanford, with a smile and an
indescribable glance, took possession of Rose.

"Has your fairy godmother been dressing you, Rose? I never saw you look
so bewildering. What is it?"

Rose shook back her curls saucily, though tingling to her finger-ends at
the praise.

"My fairy godmother's goddaughter would not bewilder you much, if
Cleopatra yonder were not taken possession of by that ill-looking peer
of the realm. I am well enough as a dernier resort."

"How much of that speech do you mean? Are you looking beautiful to
captivate the viscount?"

"I am looking beautiful because I can't help it, and I never stoop to
captivate any one, Mr. Stanford--not even a viscount. By-the-by, you
haven't quarrelled with Kate, have you?"

"Certainly not. Why should I?"

"Of course--why should you! She has a perfect right to walk in the
grounds at midnight with any gentleman she chooses."

She said it rather bitterly. Stanford smiled provokingly.

"_Chacun à son gout_, you know. If Kate likes midnight rambles, she must
have a cavalier, of course. When she is Mrs. Stanford I shall endeavour
to break her of that habit."

"Did you tell her I was with you?" demanded Rose, her eyes flashing.

"My dear Rose, I never tell tales. By-the-way, when shall we have
another moonlight stroll? It seems to me I see very little of you
lately."

"We will have no more midnight strolls, Mr. Stanford," said Rose,
sharply; "and you see quite as much of me as I wish you to see. My
lord--I beg your pardon--were you addressing me?"

She turned from Stanford, sitting beside her and talking under the cover
of the clatter of spoons and knives, and flashed the light of her most
dazzling smile upon Lord Ellerton, sitting opposite. Yes, the peer was
addressing her--some question he wanted to know concerning the native
Canadians, and which Kate was incapable of answering.

Rose knew all about it, and took his lordship in tow immediately. All
the witcheries known to pretty little flirts were brought to bear on the
viscount, as once before they had been brought to bear on Sir Ronald
Keith.

Kate smiled across at Reginald, and surrendered the peer at once. King
or Kaiser were less than nothing to her in comparison with that handsome
idol on the other side of the table.

Dinner was over, and the ladies gone. In the drawing-room Kate seated
herself at the piano, to sing a bewildering duet with Rose. Before it
was ended the gentlemen appeared, and once more Lord Ellerton found
himself taken captive and seated beside Rose--how, he hardly knew. How
that tongue of hers ran! And all the time Lord Ellerton's eyes were
wandering to Kate. Like Sir Ronald, pretty Rose's witcheries fell short
of the mark; the stately loveliness of Kate eclipsed her, as the sun
eclipses stars. When at last he could, without discourtesy, get away, he
arose, bowed to the young lady, and, crossing the long, drawing-room,
took his stand by the piano, where Kate still sat and sung. Stanford was
leaning against the instrument, but he resigned his place to the
viscount, and an instant later was beside Rose.

"Exchange is no robbery," he said. "Is it any harm to ask how you have
succeeded?"

Rose looked up angrily into the laughing dark eyes.

"I don't know what you mean."

"My dear little artless Rose! Shall I put it plainer? When are you to be
Lady Ellerton?"

"Mr. Stanford--"

"My dear Rose, don't be cross. He is too old and too ugly--low be it
spoken--for the prettiest girl in Canada!"

"Meaning me?"

"Meaning you."

"Why don't you except Kate?"

"Because I think you are prettier than Kate?"

"You don't! I know better! I don't believe you!"

"Disbelieve me, then."

"You think there is no one in the world like Kate."

"Do I? Who told you?"

"I don't need to be told; actions speak louder than words."

"And what have my actions said?"

"That you adore the ground she walks on, and hold her a little lower
than the angels."

"So I do. That is, I don't precisely adore the ground she walks on--I am
not quite so far gone as that yet--but I hold her a little lower than
the angels, certainly."

"That's enough then. Why don't you stay with her, and not come here
annoying me?"

"Oh, I annoy you, do I? You don't mean it, Rose?"

"Yes, I do," said Rose, compressing her lips. "What do you come for?"

"Because--you won't be offended, will you?"

"No."

"Because I am very fond of you, then."

"Fond of me!" said Rose, her heart thrilling--"and you engaged to Kate!
How dare you tell me so, Mr. Stanford?"

Rose's words were all they should have been, but Rose's tone was
anything but severe. Stanford took an easier position on the sofa.

"Because I like to tell the truth. Never mind the viscount, Rose; you
don't care about him, and if you only wait, and are a good girl,
somebody you do care about may propose to you one of these days. Here,
Doctor, there is room for another on our sofa."

"Will I be _de trop_?" asked Doctor Frank, halting.

"Not at all. Rose and I are discussing politics. She thinks Canada
should be annexed to the United States, and I don't. What are your views
on the matter?"

Doctor Danton took the vacant seat and Stanford's conversational cue,
and began discussing politics, until Rose got up in disgust, and left.

"I thought that would be the end of it," said Stanford. "Poor little
girl! the subject is too heavy for her."

"Only I knew you were done for, Mr. Stanford," said Doctor Danton, "I
should have fancied I was interrupting a flirtation."

"Not at all. Rose and I did not get on very well at first. I am afraid
she took a dislike to me, and I am merely trying to bring her to a more
Christian frame of mind. A fellow likes to be on good terms with his
sister."

"So he does. I noticed you and our charming Miss Rose were at
daggers-drawn even before you got properly introduced; and I couldn't
account for it in any other way than by supposing you had made love to
her and deserted her--in some other planet, perhaps."

Stanford looked with eyes of laughing wonder in the face of the
imperturbable Doctor, who never moved a muscle.

"Upon my life, Danton," he exclaimed letting his hand fall lightly on
the Doctor's shoulder, "you ought to be burned for a wizard! What other
planet do you suppose it was?"

"Has that sprained ankle of yours got quite strong again?" somewhat
irrelevantly inquired the physician.

Reginald Stanford laughed.

"Most astute of men! Who has been telling you tales?"

"My own natural sagacity. How many weeks were you laid up?"

"Three," still laughing.

"I was here at the time, and I recollect the sudden passion Rose was
seized with for long rides every day. I couldn't imagine what was the
cause. I think I can, now."

"Doctor Danton, your penetration does you credit. She's a dear little
girl, and the best of nurses."

"And do you know--But perhaps you will be offended."

"Not I. Out with it."

"Well, then, I think it is a pity you were engaged before you sprained
that ankle."

"Do you, really? Might I ask why?"

"I think Rose would make such a charming Mrs. Stanford."

"So do I," said Mr. Stanford, with perfect composure. "But won't Kate?"

"Miss Danton is superb; she ought to marry an emperor; but no, destiny
has put her foot in it. Captain Danton's second daughter should be the
one."

"You really think so?"

"I really do."

"How unfortunate!" said Stanford, stroking his mustache. "Do you think
it can be remedied?"

"I think so."

"By jilting--it's an ugly word, too--by jilting Kate?"

"Precisely."

"But she will break her heart."

"No, she won't. I am a physician, and I know. Hearts never break, except
in women's novels. They're the toughest part of the human anatomy."

"What a consolating thought! And you really advise me to throw over
Kate, and take to my bosom the fair, the fascinating Rose?"

"You couldn't do better."

"Wouldn't there be the deuce to pay if I did, though, with that
fire-eating father of hers? I should have my brains blown out before the
honey-moon was ended."

"I don't see why, so that you marry one of his daughters, how can it
matter to him which? With a viscount and a baronet at the feet of the
peerless Kate, he ought to be glad to be rid of you."

"It seems to me, Doctor Danton, you talk uncommonly plain English."

"Is it too plain? I'll stop if you say so."

"Oh, no. Pray continue. It does me good. And, besides, I don't know but
that I agree with you."

"I thought you did. I have thought so for some time."

"Were you jealous, Doctor? You used to be rather attentive to Rose, if I
remember rightly."

"Fearfully jealous; but where is the use? She gave me my _coup de congé_
long ago. That I am still alive, and talking to you is the most
convincing proof I can give that hearts do not break."

"After all," said Stanford, "I don't believe you ever were very far gone
with Rose. My stately fiancée suits you better. If I take you at your
word, and she rejects the baronet and the viscount, you might try your
luck."

"It would be worse than useless. I might as well love some bright,
particular star, and hope to win it, as Miss Danton. Ah! here she
comes!"

Leaning on the arm of Lord Ellerton, Miss Danton came up smilingly.

"Are you two plotting treason, that you sit there with such solemn faces
all the evening?" she asked.

"You have guessed it," replied her lover; "it is treason. Doctor, I'll
think of what you have been saying."

He arose. Lord Ellerton resigned his fair companion to her rightful
owner, and returned to Rose, who was looking over a book of beauty; and
Doctor Danton went over to Eeny, who was singing to herself at the
piano, and listened, with an odd little smile, to her song:

    "Smile again, my dearest love,
      Weep not that I leave you;
    I have chosen now to rove--
      Bear it, though it grieve you.
    See! the sun, and moon, and stars,
      Gleam the wide world over,
    Whether near, or whether far,
      On your loving rover.

    "And the sea has ebb and flow,
      Wind and cloud deceive us;
    Summer heat and winter snow
      Seek us but to leave us.
    Thus the world grows old and new--
      Why should you be stronger?
    Long have I been true to you,
      Now I'm true no longer.

    "As no longer yearns my heart,
      Or your smiles enslave me,
    Let me thank you ere we part,
      For the love you gave me.
    See the May flowers wet with dew
      Ere their bloom is over--
    Should I not return to you,
      Seek another lover."

Doctor Danton laughed.

    "'Long have I been true to you,
       Now I'm true no longer!'"

"Those are most atrocious sentiments you are singing--do you not know
it, Miss Eeny?"

Mr. Stanford beside Kate, Lord Ellerton listening politely to Rose, and
Doctor Frank with Eeny, never found time flying, and were surprised to
discover it was almost midnight. The guests departed, "the lights were
fled, the garlands dead, and the banquet-hall deserted" by everybody but
Reginald Stanford and Captain Danton. They were alone in the long,
dimly-lighted drawing-room.

"You will take Kate's place to night," the Captain was saying, "and be
Harry's companion in his constitutional. I told him that another knew
his secret. I related all the circumstances."

"How did he take it? Was he annoyed?"

"No; he was a little startled at first, but he allowed I could not do
otherwise. Poor fellow! He is anxious to see you now. If you will get
your overcoat, you will find him here when you return."

Mr. Stanford ran upstairs in a hurry, and returned in fur cap and
overcoat in ten minutes. A young man, tall and slender, but pale to
ghastliness, with haggard cheeks and hollow eyes, stood, wrapped in a
long cloak, beside the Captain. He had been handsome, you could see,
even through that bloodless pallor, and there was a look in his great
blue eyes that startlingly reminded you of Kate.

"You two know each other already," said the Captain. "I claim you both
as sons."

Reginald grasped Harry Danton's extended hand, and shook it heartily.

"Being brothers, I trust we shall soon be better acquainted," he said.
"I am to supply Kate's place to-night in the tamarack walk. I trust no
loiterers will see us."

"I trust not," said Harry, with an apprehensive shiver. "I have been
seen by so many, and have frightened so many that I begin to dread
leaving my room night or day."

"There is nothing to dread, I fancy," said Stanford, cheerfully, as they
passed out, and down the steps. "They take you for a ghost, you know.
Let them keep on thinking so, and you are all right. You have given
Danton Hall all it wanted to make it perfect--it is a haunted house."

"It is haunted," said his companion, gloomily. "What am I better than
any other evil spirit? Oh, Heaven!" he cried, passionately, "the horror
of the life I lead! Shut up in the prison I dare not leave, haunted
night and day by the vision of that murdered man, every hope and
blessing that life holds gone forever! I feel sometimes as though I were
going mad!"

He lifted his cap and let the chill night wind cool his burning
forehead. There was a long, blank pause. When Reginald Stanford spoke,
his voice was low and subdued.

"Are you quite certain the man you shot was shot dead? You hardly waited
to see, of course; and how are you to tell positively the wound was
fatal?"

"I wish to Heaven there could be any doubt of it!" groaned the young
man. "My aim is unerring; I saw him fall, shot through the heart."

His voice died away in a hoarse whisper. Again there was a pause.

"Your provocation was great," said Reginald. "If anything can extenuate
killing a fellow-creature, it is that. Are you quite positive--But
perhaps I have no right to speak on this matter."

"Speak, speak!" broke out Harry Danton. "I am shut up in these horrible
rooms from week's end to week's end, until it is the only thing that
keeps me from going mad--talking of what I have done. What were you
going to say?"

"I wanted to ask you if you were quite certain--beyond the shadow of
doubt--of your wife's guilt? We sometimes make terrible mistakes in
these matters."

"There was no mistake," replied his companion, with a sudden look of
anguish, "there could be none. I saw and heard as plainly as I see and
hear you now. There could be no mistake."

"Do you know where your--where she is now?"

"No!" with that look of anguish still. "No, I have never heard of her
since that dreadful night. She may be dead, or worse than dead, long ere
this."

"You loved her very much," said Reginald, impelled to say it by the
expression of that ghastly face.

"Loved her?" he repeated. "I have no words to tell you how I loved her.
I thought her all that was pure, and innocent, and beautiful, and
womanly, and she--oh, fool, that I was to believe her as I did!--to
think, as she made me think, that I had her whole heart!"

"Would you like to have some one try and trace her out for you? Her fate
may be ascertained yet. I will go to New York, if you wish, and do my
best."

"No, no," was the reply. "What use would it be? If you discovered her
to-morrow, what would it avail? Better let her fate remain forever
unknown than find my worst fears realized. False, wicked, degraded, as I
know her, I cannot forget how madly I loved her--I cannot forget that I
love her yet."

They walked up and down the tamarack-walk in the frosty starlight, all
still and peaceful around them--the sky, sown with silver stars, so
serene--the earth, white with its snowy garb, all hushed and
tranquil--nothing disturbed but the heart of man, all things at peace
but his storm-tossed soul.

"I am keeping you here," said Harry, "and it is growing late, and cold.
I am selfish and exacting in my misery, as, I fear, poor Kate knows. Let
us go in."

They walked to the house. When they entered, Reginald secured the door,
and the two young men went upstairs together. Ogden sat sleepily on a
chair, and started up at sight of them. Harry Danton held out his hand,
with a faint sad smile.

"Good night," he said; "I am glad to have added another to the list of
my friends. I hope we shall meet soon again. Good night, and pleasant
dreams."

"We shall meet as often as you wish," answered Reginald. "You have my
deepest sympathy. Good night."

The white, despairing face haunted Reginald Stanford's dreams all night,
as if he had indeed been a ghost. He was glad when morning came, and he
could escape the spectres of dream-land in the business of everyday
life. He stopped in the hall on his way down stairs, to look out at the
morning, wet, and cold, and dark, and miserable. As he stood, some one
passed him, going up to the upper bedroom regions of the servants--a
small, pallid little creature, looking like a stray spirit in its black
dress--Agnes Darling.

"Another ghost?" thought Mr. Stanford, running down stairs. "They are
not far wrong who call Danton Hall a haunted house."



CHAPTER XIII.

LOVE-MAKING.


A dismal March afternoon, an earth hard as iron, with black frost, a
wild wind troubling the gaunt trees, and howling mournfully around the
old house. A desolate, wintry afternoon, threatening storm; but despite
its ominous aspect, the young people at Danton Hall had gone off for a
long sleigh-ride. Reginald and Kate had the little shell-shaped cutter,
Rose, Eeny, Mr. Howard, Junior, Miss Howard, and Doctor Frank, in the
big three-seated family sleigh. Amid the jingling of silvery bells,
peals of girlish laughter, and a chorus of good-byes to the Captain and
Grace, standing on the stone stoop, they had departed.

Captain Danton and his housekeeper spent the bleak March afternoon very
comfortably together. The fire burned brightly, the parlour was like
waxwork in its perfect order; Grace, with her sewing, sat by her
favourite window. Captain Danton, with the Montreal _True Witness_, sat
opposite, reading her the news. Grace was not very profoundly interested
in the political questions then disturbing Canada, or in the doings and
sayings of the Canadian Legislature; but she listened with a look of
pleased attention to all. Presently the Captain laid down the newspaper
and looked out.

"The girls and boys will be caught in the storm, as I told them they
would. You and I were wisest, Grace, to stay at home."

Grace smiled and folded up her work.

"Where are you going?" asked the Captain.

"To get the remainder of this embroidery from Agnes Darling. Do you know
what it is?"

"How should I?"

"Well, then, it is a part of Miss Kate's bridal outfit. June will soon
be here, although to-day does not look much like it."

She went out and descended to the sewing-room. All alone, and sitting by
the window, her needle flying rapidly, was the pale seamstress.

"Have you finished those bands, Miss Darling? Ah, I see you have and
very nicely. I am ready for them, and will take them upstairs. Are these
the sleeves you are working on?"

Miss Darling replied in the affirmative, and Grace turned to depart. On
the threshold she paused.

"You don't look very well, Miss Darling," she said, kindly; "don't work
too late. There is no hurry with the things."

She returned to the parlour, where Captain Danton, who had become very
fond of his housekeeper's society of late, still sat. And Agnes Darling,
alone in the cosy little sewing-room, worked busily while the light
lasted. When it grew too dark for the fine embroidery, she dropped it in
her lap, and looked out at the wintry prospect.

The storm that had been threatening all day was rising fast. The wind
had increased to a gale, and shook the windows and doors, and worried
the trees, and went shrieking off over the bleak marshes, to a wild gulf
and rushing river. Great snowflakes fluttered through the leaden air,
faster and faster, and faster, until presently all was lost in a dizzy
cloud of falling whiteness. A wild and desolate evening, making the
pleasant little room, with its rosy fire, and carpet, and pretty
furniture, tenfold pleasanter by contrast. A bleak and terrible evening
for all wayfarers--bitterly cold, and darkening fast.

The seamstress sat while the dismal daylight faded drearily out, her
hands lying idly in her lap, her great, melancholy dark eyes fixed on
the fast-falling snow. The tokens of sickness and sorrow lingered more
marked than ever in that wasted form and colourless face, and the ruddy
glow of the fire-light flickered on her mourning dress. Weary and
lonely, she looked as the dying day.

Presently, above the shrieking of the stormy wind, came another
sound--the loud jingling of sleigh-bells. Dimly through the fluttering
whiteness of the snow-storm she saw the sleighs whirl up to the door,
and their occupants, in a tumult of laughter, hurrying rapidly into the
house. She could hear those merry laughs, those feminine tones, and the
pattering of gaitered feet up the stairs. She could hear the deeper
voices of the gentlemen, as they stamped and shook the snow off their
hats and great-coats in the hall. She listened and looked out again at
the wintry twilight.

"Oh!" she thought, with weary sadness, "what happy people there are in
the world! Women who love and are beloved, who have everything their
hearts desire--home, and friends, and youth, and hope, and happiness.
Women who scarcely know, even by hearsay, of such wretched castaways as
I."

She walked from the window to the fire, and, leaning against the mantel,
fixed her eyes on the flickering flame.

"My birthday," she said to herself, "this long, lonesome, desolate day.
Desolate as my lost life, as my dead heart. Only two-and twenty, and all
that makes life worth having, gone already."

Again she walked to the window. Far away, and pale and dim through the
drifting snow, she could see the low-lying sky.

"Not all!" was the better thought that came to her in her
bitterness--"not all, but oh! how far away the land of rest looks!"

She leaned against the window, as she had leaned against the mantel, and
took from her bosom the locket she always wore.

"This day twelvemonth he gave me this--his birthday gift. Oh, my
darling! My husband! where in all the wide world are you this stormy
night?"

There was a rap at the door. She thrust the locket again in her bosom,
choked back the hysterical passion of tears rising in her heart, crossed
the room, and opened the door. Her visitor was Doctor Danton.

"I thought I should find you here," he said, entering.

"How are you to-day, Miss Darling? Not very well, as your face plainly
testifies; give me your hand--cold as ice! My dear child, what is the
trouble now?"

At the kindness of his tone she broke down suddenly. She had been alone
so long brooding in solitude over her troubles, that she had grown
hysterical. It wanted but that kindly voice and look to open the closed
flood-gates of her heart. She covered her face with her hands, and broke
out into a passionate fit of crying.

Doctor Frank led her gently to a seat, and stood leaning against the
chimney, looking into the dying fire, and not speaking. The hysterics
would pass, he knew, if she were let alone; and when the sobbing grew
less violent, he spoke.

"You sit alone too much," he said quietly; "it is not good for you. You
must give it up, or you will break down altogether."

"Forgive me," said Agnes, trying to choke back the sobs. "I am weak and
miserable, and cannot help it. I did not mean to cry now."

"You are alone too much," repeated the Doctor; "it won't do. You think
too much of the past, and despond too much in the present. That won't do
either. You must give it up."

His calm, authoritative tone soothed her somehow. The tears fell less
hotly, and she lifted her poor, pale face.

"I am very foolish, but it is my birthday, and I could not help--"

She broke down again.

"It all comes of being so much alone," repeated Doctor Frank. "It won't
do. Agnes, how often must I tell you so? Do you know what they say of
you in the house?"

"No," looking up in quick alarm.

"They accuse you of having something on your mind. The servants look at
you with suspicion, and it all comes of your love of solitude, your
silence and sadness. Give it up, Agnes, give it up."

"Doctor Danton," she cried, piteously, "what can I do? I am the most
unhappy woman in all the world. What can I do?"

"There is no need of you being the most unhappy woman in the world;
there is no need of your being unhappy at all."

She looked up at him in white, voiceless appeal, her lips and hands
trembling.

"Don't excite yourself--don't be agitated. I have no news for you but I
think I may bid you hope with safety. I don't think it was a ghost you
saw that night."

She gave a little cry, and then sat white and still, waiting.

"I don't think it was a ghost," he repeated, lowering his voice. "I
don't think he is dead."

She did not speak; she only sat looking up at him with that white, still
face.

"There is no need of your wearing a widow's weeds, Agnes," he said,
touching her black dress; "I believe your husband to be alive."

She never spoke. If her life had depended on it, she could not have
uttered a word--could not have removed her eyes from his face.

"I have no positive proof of what I say, but a conviction that is equal
to any proof in my own mind. I believe your husband to be alive--I
believe him to be an inmate of this very house."

He stopped in alarm. She had fallen back in her chair, the bluish pallor
of death overspreading her face.

"I should have prepared you better," he said. "The shock was too sudden.
Shall I go for a glass of water?"

She made a slight motion in the negative, and whispered the word,

"Wait!"

A few moments' struggle with her fluttering breath, and then she was
able to sit up.

"Are you better again? Shall I go for the water?"

"No, no! Tell me--"

She could not finish the sentence.

"I have no positive proof," said Doctor Danton, "but the strongest
internal conviction. I believe your husband to be in hiding in this
house. I believe you saw him that night, and no spirit."

"Go on, go on!" she gasped.

"You have heard of Mr. Richards, the invalid, shut upstairs, have you
not? Yes. Well, that mysterious individual is your husband."

She rose up and stood by him, white as death.

"Are you sure?"

"Morally, yes. As I told you, I have no proof as yet and I should not
have told you so soon had I not seen you dying by inches before my eyes.
Can you keep up heart now, little despondent?"

She clasped her hands over that wildly-throbbing heart, still not quite
sure that she heard aright.

"You are to keep all this a profound secret," said the Doctor, "until I
can make my suspicions certainties. They say women cannot keep a
secret--is it true?"

"I will do whatever you tell me. Oh, thank Heaven! thank Heaven for
this!"

She had found her voice, and the hysterics threatened again. Doctor
Danton held up an authoritative finger.

"Don't!" he said imperatively. "I won't have it! No more crying, or I
shall take back all I have said. Tell a woman good news, and she cries;
tell her bad news, and she does the same. How is a man to manage them?"

He walked across the room, and looked out at the night, revolving that
profound question in his man's brain, and so unable to solve the enigma
as the thousands of his brethren who have perplexed themselves over the
same question before. After staring a moment at the blinding whirl of
snow he returned to the seamstress.

"Are you all right again, and ready to listen to me?"

Her answer was a question.

"How have you found this out?"

"I haven't found it out. I have only my own suspicions--very strong
ones, though."

A shadow of doubt saddened and darkened her face. Her clasped hands
drooped and fell.

"Only a suspicion, after all! I am afraid to hope, seems so unreal, so
improbable. If it were Harry, why should he be here? Why should Captain
Danton protect and shield him?"

"That is what I am coming to. You knew very little of your husband
before you married him. Are you sure he did not marry you under an
assumed name?"

A flash of colour darted across her colourless face at the words. Doctor
Danton saw it.

"Are you sure Darling was your husband's name?" he reiterated,
emphatically.

"I am not sure," she said faintly. "I have reason to think it was not."

"Do you know what his name was?"

"No."

"Then I do. I think his name was Danton."

"Danton!"

"Henry Richard Danton--Captain Danton's only son."

She looked at him in breathless wonder.

"Captain Danton's only son," went on the Doctor. "You have not lived all
these months in this house without knowing that Captain Danton had a
son?"

"I have heard it."

"Three years ago this son ran away from home, and went to New York,
under an assumed name. Three years ago Henry Darling came first to New
York from Canada. Henry Darling commits a crime, and flies. A few months
after Captain Danton comes here, with a mysterious invalid, who is never
seen, who is too ill to leave his room by day, but quite able to go out
for midnight rambles in the grounds. Old Margery has known Captain
Danton's son from childhood. She sees Mr. Richards returning from one of
those midnight walks, and falls down in a fit. She says she has seen
Master Harry's ghost--Master Harry being currently believed to be dead.
Shortly after, you see Mr. Richards on a like occasion, and you fall
down in a fit. You say you have seen the apparition of your husband,
Henry Darling. Putting all this together, and adding it up, what does it
come to? Are you good at figures?"

She could not answer him. The ungovernable astonishment of hearing what
she had heard, struck her speechless once more.

"Don't take the trouble to speak," said Doctor Frank, "my news has
stunned you. I shall leave you to think it all over by yourself, and I
trust there will be an end of tears and melancholy faces. It is ever
darkest before the day dawns. Good-evening!"

He was going, but she laid her hand on his arm.

"Wait a moment," she said, finding her voice. "I am so confused and
bewildered that I hardly understand what you have said. But should it
all be true--you know--you know--" averting her face, "he believes me
guilty!"

"We will undeceive him; I can give him proofs, 'strong as Holy Writ;'
and, if he loves you, he will be open to conviction. All will come right
after a while; only have patience and wait. Keep up a good heart, my
dear child, and trust in God."

She dropped feebly into a chair, looking with a bewildered face at the
fire.

"I can't realize it," she murmured. "It is like a scene in a novel. I
can't realize it."

She heard the door close behind Doctor Frank--she heard a girlish voice
accost him in the hall. It was Miss Rose, in a rustling silk
dinner-dress, with laces, and ribbons, and jewels fluttering and
sparkling about her.

"Is Agnes Darling in there?" she asked suspiciously.

"Yes. I have just been making a professional call."

"Professional! I thought she was well."

"Getting well, my dear Miss Rose; getting well, I am happy to say. It is
the duty of a conscientious physician to see after his patients until
they are perfectly recovered."

"I wonder if conscientious physicians find the duty more binding in the
case of young and pretty patients than in that of old and ugly ones?"

"No," said Doctor Frank, impressively. "To professional eyes, the
suffering fellow-creature is a suffering fellow-creature, and nothing
more. Think better of us, my dear girl; think better of me."

After dinner, in the drawing-room, Captain Danton, with Grace for a
partner, the Doctor with Eeny, sat down to a game of cards. Kate sat at
the piano, singing a fly-away duet with Miss Howard. Mr. Howard stood at
Miss Danton's right elbow devotedly turning the music; and in a little
cozy velvet sofa, just big enough for two, Reginald and Rose were
tête-à-tête.

In the changed days that came after, Doctor Frank remembered that
picture--the exquisite face at the piano, the slender and stately form,
the handsome man, and the pretty coquette on the sofa. The song sung
that night brought the tableau as vividly before him years and years
after, as when he saw it then.

The song was ended. Miss Danton's ringed white fingers were flying over
the keys in a brilliant waltz. George Howard and Rose were floating
round and round, in air, as it seemed, and Stanford was watching with
half-closed eyes. And in the midst of all, above the ringing music and
the sighing of the wild wind, there came the clanging of sleigh-bells
and a loud ring at the house-door. Rose and George Howard ceased their
waltz. Kate's flying fingers stopped. The card-party looked up
inquisitively.

"Who can it be," said the Captain, "'who knocks so loud, and knocks so
late,' this stormy night?"

The servant who threw open the drawing-room door answered him. "M. La
Touche," announced Babette, and vanished.

There was a little cry of astonishment from Rose; an instant's
irresolute pause. Captain Danton arose. The name was familiar to him
from his daughter. But Rose had recovered herself before he could
advance, and came forward, her pretty face flushed.

"Where on earth did you drop from?" she asked, composedly shaking hands
with him. "Did you snow down from Ottawa?"

"No," said M. La Touche. "I've snowed down from Laprairie. I came from
Montreal in this evening's train, and drove up here, in spite of wind
and weather."

Captain Danton came forward; and Rose, still a little confused,
presented M. La Touche. The cordial Captain shook with his usual
heartiness the proffered hand of the young man, bade him welcome, and
put an instant veto on his leaving them that night.

"There are plenty of bedrooms here, and it is not a night to turn an
enemy's dog from the door. My cousin, Miss Grace Danton, M. La Touche;
my daughter, Eveleen; and Doctor Frank Danton."

M. La Touche bowed with native grace to these off-hand introductions,
and then was led off by Rose to the piano-corner, to be duly presented
there. She had not made up her mind yet whether she were vexed or
pleased to see her lover. Whatever little affection she had ever given
him--and it must have been of the flimsiest from the first--had
evaporated long ago, like smoke. But Rose had no idea of pining in
maiden solitude, even if she lost the fascinating Reginald, and she knew
that homely old saw about coming to the ground between two stools.

M. La Touche had the good fortune to produce a pleasing impression upon
all to whom he was introduced. He was very good-looking, with dark
Canadian eyes and hair, and olive skin. He was rather small and slight,
and his large dark eyes were dreamy, and his smile as gentle as a
girl's.

Mr. Stanford, resigned his place on the sofa to M. La Touche, and Rose
and the young Canadian were soon chattering busily in French.

"Why did you not write and tell me you were coming?"

"Because I did not know I was coming. Rose, I am the luckiest fellow
alive!"

His dark eyes sparkled; his olive face flushed. Rose looked at him
wonderingly.

"How?"

"I have had a fortune left me. I am a rich man, and I have come here to
tell you, my darling Rose."

"A fortune!" repeated Rose, opening her brown eyes.

"Yes, _m'amour_! You have heard me speak of my uncle in Laprairie, who
is very rich? Well, he is dead, and has left all he possesses to me."

Rose clasped her hands.

"And how much is it?"

"Forty thousand pounds!"

"Forty thousand pounds!" repeated Rose, quite stunned by the magnitude
of the sum.

"Am I not the luckiest fellow in the world?" demanded the young legatee
with exultation. "I don't care for myself alone, Rose, but for you.
There is nothing to prevent our marriage now."

Rose wilted down suddenly, and began fixing her bracelets.

"I shall take a share in the bank with my father," pursued the young
man; "and I shall speak to your father to-morrow for his consent to our
union!"

Rose still twitched her bracelets, her colour coming and going. She
could see Reginald Stanford without looking up; and never had he been so
handsome in her eyes; never had she loved him as she loved him now.

"You say nothing, Rose," said her lover. "_Mon Dieu!_ you cannot surely
love me less!"

"Hush!" said Rose, rather sharply, "they will hear you. It isn't that,
but--but I don't want to be married just yet. I am too young."

"You did not think so at Ottawa."

"Well," said Rose, testily; "I think so now, and that is enough. I can't
get married yet; at least not before July."

"I am satisfied to wait until July," said La Touche, smiling. "No doubt,
you will feel older and wiser by that time."

"Does your father know?" asked Rose.

"Yes, I told him before I left home. They are all delighted. My mother
and sisters send endless love."

Rose remained silent for a moment, thoughtfully twisting her bracelet.
She liked wealth, but she liked Reginald Stanford better than all the
wealth in the world. Jules La Touche, with forty thousand pounds, was
not to be lightly thrown over; but she was ready at any moment to throw
him over for the comparatively poor Englishman. She had no wish to
offend her lover. Should her dearer hopes fail, he would be a most
desirable party.

"What is the matter with you, Rose?" demanded Jules, uneasily. "You are
changed. You are not what you were in Ottawa. Even your letters of late
are not what they used to be. Why is it? What have I done?"

"You foolish fellow," said Rose, smiling, "nothing! I am not changed.
You only fancy it."

"Then I may speak to your father?"

"Wait until to-morrow," said Rose. "I will think of it. You shall have
my answer after breakfast. Now, don't wear that long face--there is
really no occasion."

Rose dutifully lingered by his side all the evening; but she stole more
glances at Kate's lover than she did at her own. Jules La Touche felt
the impalpable change in her; and yet it would have puzzled him to
define it. His nature was gentle and tender, and he loved the pretty,
fickle, rosy beauty with a depth and sincerity of which she was totally
unworthy.

Upstairs, in her room, that night, Rose sat before the fire, toasting
her feet and thinking. Yes, thinking. She was not guilty of it often;
but to-night she was revolving the pros and cons of her own case. If she
refused to let Jules speak to her father, nothing would persuade him
that her love had not died out. He might depart in anger, and she might
lose him forever. That was the very last thing she wished. If she lost
Reginald, it would be some consolation to marry, immediately after, a
richer man. It would be revenge; it would prove how little she cared for
him; it would deprive him of the pleasure of thinking she was pining in
maiden loneliness for him. Then, too, the public announcement of her
engagement and approaching marriage to M. La Touche might arouse him to
the knowledge of how much he loved her. "How blessings brighten as they
take their flight!" and jealousy is infallible to bring dilatory lovers
to the point. No question of the right or wrong of the matter troubled
the second Miss Danton's easy conscience.

On the whole, everything was in favour of M. La Touche's speaking to
papa. Rose resolved he should speak, took off her considering cap, and
went to bed.

M. La Touche was not kept long in suspense next day; he got his answer
before breakfast. The morning was sunny and mild, but the snow lay piled
high on all sides; and Rose, running down stairs some ten minutes before
breakfast-time, found her lover in the open hall door, watching the
snowbirds and smoking a cigar. Rose went up to him with very pretty
shyness, and the young man flung away his cigar, and looked at her
anxiously.

"What a lovely morning," said Rose; "what splendid sleighing we will
have."

"I'm not going to talk of sleighing," said M. La Touche, resolutely.
"You promised me an answer this morning. What is it?"

Rose began playing with her cord and tassels.

"What is it?" reiterated the Canadian. "Yes or No?"

"Yes!"

M. La Touche's anxious countenance turned rapturous, but Miss Grace
Danton was coming down stairs, and he had to be discreet. Grace lingered
a few moments talking of the weather, and Rose took the opportunity of
making her escape.

After breakfast, when the family were dispersing, M. La Touche followed
Captain Danton out of the room, and begged the favour of a private
interview. The Captain looked surprised, but agreed readily, and led the
way to his study, no shadow of the truth dawning on his mind.

That awful ordeal of most successful wooers, "speaking to papa," was
very hard to begin; but M. La Touche, encouraged by the recollection of
the forty thousand pounds, managed to begin somehow. He made his
proposal with a modest diffidence that could not fail to please.

"We have loved each other this long time," said the young man; "but I
never dreamed of speaking to you so soon. I was only a clerk in our
house, and Rose and I looked forward to years of waiting. This legacy,
however, has removed all pecuniary obstacles, and Rose has given me
consent to speak to you."

Imagine the Captain's surprise. His little curly-haired Rose, whom he
looked upon as a tall child, engaged to be married!

"Bless my soul!" exclaimed Captain Danton, naïvely; "you have taken me
completely aback! I give you my word of honour, I never thought of such
a thing!"

"I hope you will not object, sir; I love your daughter most sincerely."

The anxious inquiry was unneeded. Captain Danton had no idea of
objecting. He knew the La Touche family well by repute; he liked this
modest young wooer; and forty thousand pounds for his dowerless daughter
was not to be lightly refused.

"Object!" he cried, grasping his hand. "Not I. If you and Rose love each
other, I am the last one in the world to mar your happiness. Take her,
my lad, with my best wishes for your happiness."

The young Canadian tried to express his gratitude, but broke down at the
first words.

"Never mind," said the Captain, laughing. "Don't try to thank me. Your
father knows, of course?"

"Yes, sir. I spoke to him before I left Ottawa. He and all our family
are delighted with my choice."

"And when is it to be?" asked the Captain, still laughing.

"What?"

"The wedding, of course!"

M. La Touche's dark face reddened like a girl's. "I don't know, sir. We
have not come to that yet."

"Let me help you over the difficulty, then. Make it a double wedding."

"A double wedding?"

"Yes. My daughter Kate is to be married to Mr. Stanford on the fifth of
June. Why not make it a double match."

"With all my heart, sir, if Rose is willing!"

"Go and ask her then. But first, of course, after this, you remain with
us for some time?"

"I can stay a week or two; after that, business will compel me to
leave."

"Well, business must be attended to. Go, speak to Rose, and success to
you!"

Jules found Rose in the drawing-room, and alone. His face told how
eminently satisfactory his interview had been. He sat down beside her,
and related what had passed, ending with her father's proposal.

"Do say yes, Rose," pleaded Jules. "June is as long as I can wait, and I
should like a double wedding of all things."

Rose's face turned scarlet, and she averted her head. The familiar
announcement of Reginald's marriage to her sister, as a matter of
certainty, stung her to the heart.

"You don't object, Rose?" he said uneasily. "You will be married the
same day?"

"Settle it as you like," answered Rose petulantly. "If I must be
married, it doesn't much matter when."

That day, when the ladies were leaving the dinner-table, Captain Danton
arose.

"Wait one moment," he said; "I have a toast to propose before you go.
Fill your glasses and drink long life and prosperity to Mr. and Mrs.
Jules La Touche."

Every one but Grace was electrified, and Rose fairly ran out of the
room. M. La Touche made a modest little speech of thanks, and then Mr.
Stanford held the door open for the ladies to pass.

Rose was not in the drawing-room when they entered, and Kate ran up to
her room; but the door was locked, and Rose would not let her in.

"Go away, Kate," she said, almost passionately. "Go away and leave me
alone."

Rose kept her chamber all the evening, to the amazement of the rest. The
young Canadian was the lion of the hour, and bore his honours with that
retiring modesty which so characterized him, and which made him such a
contrast to the brilliant and self-conscious Mr. Stanford.

Rose descended to the breakfast next morning looking shy and queer.
Before the meal was over, however, the bashfulness, quite foreign to her
usual character, wore pretty well away, and she agreed to join a
sleighing-party over to Richelieu, a neighbouring village.

They were six in all--Kate and Mr. Stanford, Rose and Mr. La Touche,
Eeny and Doctor Frank. Sir Ronald Keith had departed some time
previously, for a tour through the country with Lord Ellerton, and his
memory was a thing of the past already.

The Captain, an hour after their departure, sought out Grace in the
dining-room, where she sat at work. He looked grave and anxious, and,
sitting down beside her, said what he had to say with many misgivings.

"I am double her age," he thought. "I have a son old enough to be her
husband; how can I hope?"

But for all that he talked, and Grace listened, her sewing lying idly in
her lap; one hand shading her face, the other held in his. He talked
long and earnestly, and she listened, silent and with shaded face.

"And now Grace, my dear, you have heard all; what do you say? When I
lose my girls, shall I go back to the old life, or shall I stay? I can't
stay unless you say yes, Grace. I am double your age, but I love you
very dearly, and will do my best to make you happy. My dear, what do you
say?" She looked up at him for the first time, her eyes full of tears.

"Yes!"



CHAPTER XIV.

TRYING TO BE TRUE.


Late that evening, the sleighing party returned in high good
spirits--all exhilaration after their long drive through the frosty air.
Crescent moon and silver stars spangled the deep Canadian sky,
glittering coldly bright in the hard white snow, as they jingled merrily
up to the door.

"Oh, what a night!" Kate cried. "It is profanation to go indoors."

"It is frostbitten noses to stay out," answered Reginald. "Moonlight is
very well in its place; but I want my dinner."

The sleighing party had had one dinner that day, but were quite ready
for another. They had stopped at noon at a country inn, and fared
sumptuously on fried ham and eggs and sour Canadian bread, and then had
gone off rambling up the hills and into the woods.

How it happened, no one but Reginald Stanford ever knew; but it did
happen that Kate was walking beside Jules La Touche up a steep, snowy
hill, and Reginald was by Rose's side in a dim, gloomy forest-path. Rose
had no objection. She walked beside him, looking very pretty, in a black
hat with long white plume and little white veil. They had walked on
without speaking until her foolish heart was fluttering, and she could
stand it no longer. She stopped short in the woodland aisle, through
which the pale March sunshine sifted, and looked up at him for the first
time.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"For a walk," replied Mr. Stanford, "and a talk. You are not afraid, I
hope?"

"Afraid?" said Rose, the colour flushing her face. "Of what should I be
afraid?"

"Of me!"

"And why should I be afraid of you?"

"Perhaps because I may make love to you? Are you?"

"No."

"Come on, then."

He offered his arm, and Rose put her gloved fingers gingerly in his
coat-sleeve, her heart fluttering more than ever.

"You are going to be married," he said, "and I have had no opportunity
of offering my congratulations. Permit me to do it now."

"Thank you."

"Your M. La Touche is a pleasant little fellow, Rose. You and he have my
best wishes for your future happiness."

"The 'pleasant little fellow' and myself are exceedingly obliged to
you!" her eyes flashing; "and now, Mr. Stanford, if you have said all
you have to say, suppose we go back?"

"But I have not said all I have to say, nor half. I want to know why you
are going to marry him?"

"And I want to know," retorted Rose, "what business it is of yours?"

"Be civil Rose! I told you once before, if you recollect, that I was
very fond of you. Being fond of you, it is natural I should take an
interest in your welfare. What are you going to marry him for?"

"For love!" said Rose, spitefully.

"I don't believe it! Excuse me for contradicting you, my dear Rose; but
I don't believe it. He is a good-looking lamb-like little fellow, and he
is worth forty thousand pounds; but I don't believe it!"

"Don't believe it, then. What you believe, or what you disbelieve, is a
matter of perfect indifference to me," said Rose, looking straight
before her with compressed lips.

"I don't believe that, either. What is the use of saying such things to
me?"

"Mr. Stanford, do you mean to insult me?" demanded Rose furiously. "Let
me go this instant. Fetch me back to the rest. Oh, if papa were here,
you wouldn't dare to talk to me like that. Reginald Stanford, let me go.
I hate you!"

For Mr. Stanford had put his arm around her waist, and was looking down
at her with those darkly daring eyes. What could Rose do?--silly,
love-sick Rose. She didn't hate him, and she broke out into a perfect
passion of sobs.

"Sit down, Rose," he said, very gently, leading her to a mossy knoll
under a tree; "and, my darling, don't cry. You will redden your eyes,
and swell your nose, and won't look pretty. Don't cry any more!"

If Mr. Stanford had been trying for a week, he could have used no more
convincing argument.

Rose wiped her eyes gracefully; but wouldn't look at him.

"That's a good girl!" said Stanford. "I will agree to everything rather
than offend you. You love M. La Touche, and you hate me. Will that do?"

"Let us go back," said Rose, stiffly, getting up. "I don't see what you
mean by such talk. I know it is wrong and insulting."

"Do you feel insulted?" he asked, smiling down at her.

"Let me alone!" cried Rose, the passionate tears starting to her eyes
again. "Let me alone, I tell you! You have no business to torment me
like this!"

He caught her suddenly in his arms, and kissed her again and again.

"Rose! Rose! my darling! you love me, don't you? My dear little Rose, I
can't let you marry Jules La Touche, or any one else."

He released her just in time.

"Rose! Rose!" Kate's clear voice was calling somewhere near.

"Here we are," returned Stanford, in answer, for Rose was speechless;
and two minutes later they were face to face with Miss Danton and M. La
Touche.

Mr. Stanford's face was clear as the blue March sky, but Rose looked as
flushed and guilty as she felt. She shrank from looking at her sister or
lover, and clung involuntarily to Reginald's arm.

"Have you been plotting to murder any one?" asked Kate. "You look like
it."

"We have been flirting," said Mr. Stanford, with the most perfect
composure. "You don't mind, do you? M. La Touche, I resign in your
favour. Come, Kate."

Rose and Reginald did not exchange another word all day. Rose was very
subdued, very still. She hardly opened her lips all the afternoon to the
unlucky Jules. She hardly opened them at dinner, except to admit the
edibles, and she was unnaturally quiet all the evening. She retired into
a corner with some crochet-work, and declined conversation and coffee
alike, until bedtime. She went slowly and decorously upstairs, with that
indescribable subdued face, and bade everybody good-night without
looking at them.

Eeny, who shared Grace's room, sat on a stool before the bedroom fire a
long time that night, looking dreamily into the glowing coals.

Grace, sitting beside her, combing out her own long hair, watched her in
silence.

Presently Eeny looked up.

"How odd it seems to think of her being married."

"Who?"

"Rose. It seems queer, somehow. I don't mind Kate. I heard before ever
she came here that she was going to be married; but Rose--I can't
realize it."

"I have known it this long time," said Grace. "She told me the day she
returned from Ottawa. I am glad she is going to do so well."

"I like him very much," said Eeny; "but he seems too quiet for Rose.
Don't he?"

"People like to marry their own opposite," answered Grace. "Not that but
Rose is getting remarkably quiet herself. She hadn't a word to say all
the evening."

"It will be very lonely when June comes, won't it, Grace?" said Eeny,
with a little sigh. "Kate will go to England, Rose to Ottawa, your
brother is going to Montreal, and perhaps papa will take his ship again,
and there will be no one but you and I, Grace."

Grace stooped down and kissed the delicate, thoughtful young face.

"My dear little Eeny, papa is not going away."

"Isn't he? How do you know?"

"That is a secret," laughing and colouring. "If you won't mention it, I
will tell you."

"I won't. What is it?"

Grace stooped and whispered, her falling hair hiding her face.

Eeny sprang up and clasped her hands.

"Oh, Grace!"

"Are you sorry, Eeny?"

Eeny's arms were around her neck. Eeny's lips were kissing her
delightedly.

"I am so glad! Oh, Grace, you will never go away any more!"

"Never, my pet. And now, don't let us talk any longer; it is time to go
to bed."

Rather to Eeny's surprise, there was no revelation made next morning of
the new state of affairs. When she gave her father his good-morning
kiss, she only whispered in his ear:

"I am so glad, papa."

And the Captain had smiled, and patted her pale cheek, and sat down to
breakfast, talking genially right and left.

After breakfast, Doctor Frank, Mr. Stanford, and M. La Touche, with the
big dog Tiger at their heels, and guns over their shoulders, departed
for a morning's shooting. Captain Danton went to spend an hour with Mr.
Richards. Rose secluded herself with a book in her room, and Kate was
left alone. She tried to play, but she was restless that morning, and
gave it up. She tried to read. The book failed to interest her. She
walked to the window, and looked out at the sunshine glittering on the
melting snow.

"I will go for a walk," she thought, "and visit some of my poor people
in the village."

She ran up stairs for her hat and shawl, and sallied forth. Her poor
people in the village were always glad to see the beautiful girl who
emptied her purse so bountifully for them, and spoke to them so sweetly.
She visited half-a-dozen of her pensioners, leaving pleasant words and
silver shillings behind her, and then walked on to the Church of St.
Croix. The presbytery stood beside it, surrounded by a trim garden with
gravelled paths. Kate opened the garden gate, and walked up to where
Father Francis stood in the open doorway.

"I have come to see you," she said, "since you won't come to see us.
Have you forgotten your friends at Danton Hall? You have not been up for
a week."

"Too busy," said Father Francis; "the Curé is in Montreal, and all
devolves upon me. Come in."

She followed him into the little parlour, and sat down by the open
window.

"And what's the news from Danton Hall?"

"Nothing! Oh!" said Kate, blushing and smiling, "except another
wedding!"

"Another! Two more weddings, you mean?"

"No!" said Kate, surprised: "only one. Rose, you know, father, to M. La.
Touche!"

Father Francis looked at her a moment smilingly. "They haven't told you,
then?"

"What?"

"That your father is going to be married!"

Her heart stood still; the room seemed to swim around in the suddenness
of the shock.

"Father Francis!"

"You have not been told? Are you surprised? I have been expecting as
much as this for some time."

"You are jesting, Father Francis," she said, finding voice, which for a
moment had failed her; "it cannot be true!"

"It is quite true. I saw your father yesterday, and he told me himself."

"And to whom--?"

She tried to finish the sentence, but her rebellious tongue would not.

"To Grace! I am surprised that your father has not told you. If I had
dreamed it was in the slightest degree a secret, I certainly would not
have spoken." She did not answer.

He glanced at her, and saw that her cheeks and lips had turned ashen
white, as she gazed steadfastly out of the window.

"My child," said the priest, "you do not speak. You are not
disappointed--you are not grieved?"

She arose to go, still pale with the great and sudden surprise.

"You have given me a great shock in telling me this. I never dreamed of
another taking my dear dead mother's place. I am very selfish and
unreasonable, I dare say; but I thought papa would have been satisfied
to make my home his. I have loved my father very much, and I cannot get
used to the idea all in a moment of another taking my place."

She walked to the door. Father Francis followed her.

"One word," he said. "It is in your power, and in your power alone, to
make your father seriously unhappy. You have no right to do that; he has
been the most indulgent of parents to you. Remember that now--remember
how he has never grieved you, and do not grieve him. Can I trust you to
do this?"

"You can trust me," said Kate, a little softened. "Good morning."

She walked straight home, her heart all in a rebellious tumult. From the
first she had never taken very kindly to Grace; but just now she felt as
if she positively hated her.

"How dare she marry him!" she thought, the angry blood hot in her
cheeks. "How dare she twine herself, with her quiet, Quakerish ways,
into his heart! He is twice her age, and it is only to be mistress where
she is servant now that she marries him. Oh, how could papa think of
such a thing?"

She found Rose in the drawing-room when she arrived, listening to Eeny
with wide-open eyes of wonder. The moment Kate entered, she sprang up,
in a high state of excitement.

"Have you heard the news, Kate? Oh, goodness, gracious me! What is the
world coming to! Papa is going to be married!"

"I know it," said Kate coldly.

"Who told you? Eeny's just been telling me, and Grace told her last
night. It's to Grace! Did you ever! Just fancy calling Grace mamma!"

"I shall never call her anything of the sort."

"You don't like it, then? I told Eeny you wouldn't like it. What are you
going to say to papa?"

"Nothing."

"No? Why don't you remonstrate! Tell him he's old enough and big enough
to have better sense."

"I shall tell him nothing of the sort; and I beg you will not, either.
Papa certainly has the right to do as he pleases. Whether we like it or
not, doesn't matter much; Grace Danton will more than supply our
places."

She spoke bitterly, and turned to go up to her own room. With her hand
on the door, she paused, and looked at Eeny.

"You are pleased, no doubt, Eeny?"

"Yes, I am," replied Eeny, stoutly. "Grace has always been like a mother
to me: I am glad she is going to be my mother in reality."

"It is a fortunate thing you do," said Rose, "for you are the only one
who will have to put up with her. Thank goodness! I'm going to be
married."

"Thank goodness!" repeated Eeny; "there will be peace in the house when
you're out of it. I don't know any one I pity half so much as that poor
M. La Touche."

Kate saw Rose's angry retort in her eyes, and hurried away from the
coming storm. She kept her room until luncheon-time, and she found her
father alone in the dining-room when she entered. The anxious look he
gave her made her think of Father Francis' words.

"I have heard all, papa," she said, smiling, and holding up her cheek.
"I am glad you will be happy when we are gone."

He drew a long breath of relief as he kissed her.

"Father Francis told you? You like Grace?"

"I want to like every one you like, papa," she replied, evasively.

Grace came in as she spoke, and, in spite of herself, Kate's face took
that cold, proud look it often wore; but she went up to her with
outstretched hand. She never shrank from disagreeable duties.

"Accept my congratulations," she said, frigidly. "I trust you will be
happy."

Two deep red spots, very foreign to her usual complexion, burned in
Grace's cheeks. Her only answer was a bow, as she took her seat at the
table.

It was a most comfortless repast. There was a stiffness, a restraint
over all, that would not be shaken off--with one exception. Rose, who
latterly had been all in the downs, took heart of grace amid the general
gloom, and rattled away like the Rose of other days. To her the idea of
her father's marriage was rather a good joke than otherwise. She had no
deep feelings to be wounded, no tender memories to be hurt, and the
universal embarrassment tickled her considerably.

"You ought to have heard everybody talking on stilts, Reginald," she
said, in the flow of her returned spirits, some hours later, when the
gentlemen returned. "Kate was on her dignity, you know, and as
unapproachable as a princess-royal, and Grace was looking disconcerted
and embarrassed, and papa was trying to be preternaturally cheerful and
easy, and Eeny was fidgety and scared, and I was enjoying the fun. Did
you ever hear of anything so droll as papa's getting married?"

"I never heard of anything more sensible," said Reginald, resolutely.
"Grace is the queen of housekeepers, and will make the pink and pattern
of matrons. I have foreseen this for some time, and I assure you I am
delighted."

"So is Kate," said Rose, her eyes twinkling. "You ought to have seen her
congratulating Grace. It was like the entrance of a blast of north wind,
and froze us all stiff."

"I am glad June is so near," Kate said, leaning lightly on her lover's
shoulder; "I could not stay here and know that she was mistress."

Mr. Stanford did not seem to hear; he was whistling to Tiger, lumbering
on the lawn. When he did speak, it was without looking at her.

"I am going to Ottawa next week."

"To Ottawa! With M. La Touche?" asked Kate, while Rose's face flushed
up.

"Yes; he wants me to go, and I have said yes. I shall stay until the end
of April."

Kate looked at him a little wistfully, but said nothing. Rose turned
suddenly, and ran upstairs.

"We shall miss you--I shall miss you," she said at last.

"It will not be for long," he answered, carelessly. "Come in and sing me
a song."

The first pang of doubt that had ever crossed Kate's mind of her
handsome lover, crossed it now, as she followed him into the
drawing-room.

"How careless he is!" she thought; "how willing to leave me! And
I--could I be contented anywhere in the world where he was not?"

By some mysterious chance, the song she selected was Eeny's "smile
again, my dearest love; weep not that I leave thee."

Stanford listened to it, his sunny face overcast.

"Why did you sing that?" he asked abruptly, when she had done.

"Don't you like it?"

"No; I don't like cynicism set to music. Here is a French
chansonnette--sing me that."

Kate sang for him song after song. The momentary pain the announcement
of his departure had given her wore away.

"It is natural he should like change," she thought, "and it is dull
here. I am glad he is going to Ottawa, and yet I shall miss him. Dear
Reginald! What would life be worth without you?"

The period of M. La Touche's stay was rapidly drawing to a close. March
was at its end, too--it was the last night of the month. The eve of
departure was celebrated at Danton Hall by a social party. The elder
Misses Danton on that occasion were as lovely and as much admired as
ever, and Messrs. Stanford and La Touche were envied by more than one
gentleman present. Grace's engagement to the Captain had got wind, and
she shared the interest with her step-daughters-elect.

Early next morning the two young men left. There was breakfast almost
before it was light, and everybody got up to see them off. It was a most
depressing morning. March had gone out like an idiotic lamb, and April
came in in sapping rain and enervating mist. Ceaselessly the rain beat
against the window-glass, and the wind had a desolate echo that sounded
far more like winter than spring.

Pale, in the dismal morning-light, Kate and Rose Danton bade their
lovers adieu, and watched them drive down the dripping avenue and
disappear.

An hour before he had come down stairs that morning, Mr. Stanford had
written a letter. It was very short:

     "Dear Old Boy:--I'm off. In an hour I shall be on my way
     to Ottawa, and from thence I will write you next. Do you know why
     I am going? I am running away from myself! 'Lead us not into
     temptation;' and Satan seems to have me hard and fast at Danton
     Hall. Lauderdale, in spite of your bad opinion of me, I don't want
     to be a villain if I can help it. I don't want to do any harm; I do
     want to be true! And here it is impossible. I have got intoxicated
     with flowing curls, and flashing dark eyes, and all the pretty,
     bewitching, foolish, irresistible ways of that piquant little
     beauty, whom I have no business under heaven to think of. I know
     she is silly, and frivolous, and coquettish, and vain; but I love
     her! There, the murder is out, and I feel better after it. But,
     withal, I want to be faithful to the girl who loves me (ah! wretch
     that I am!), and so I fly. A month out of sight of that sweet
     face--a month out of hearing of that gay, young voice--a month
     shooting, and riding, and exploring these Canadian wilds, will do
     me good, and bring me back a new man. At least, I hope so; and
     don't you set me down as a villain for the next four weeks, at
     least."

       *       *       *       *       *

The day of departure was miserably long and dull at the Hall. It rained
ceaselessly, and that made it worse. Rose never left her room; her plea
was headache. Kate wandered drearily up stairs and down stairs, and felt
desolate and forsaken beyond all precedent.

There was a strange, forlorn stillness about the house, as if some one
lay dead in it; and from morning to night the wind never ceased its
melancholy complaining.

Of course this abnormal state of things could not last. Sunshine came
next day, and the young ladies were themselves again. The preparations
for the treble wedding must begin in earnest now--shopping, dressmakers,
milliners, jewellers, all had to be seen after. A journey to Montreal
must be taken immediately, and business commenced. Kate held a long
consultation with Rose in her boudoir; but Rose, marvellous to tell,
took very little interest in the subject. She, who all her life made
dress the great concern of her existence, all at once, in this most
important crisis, grew indifferent.

She accompanied Kate to Montreal, however, and helped in the selection
of laces, and silks, and flowers, and ribbons; and another dressmaker
was hunted up and carried back.

It was a busy time after that; the needles of Agnes Darling, Eunice, and
the new dressmaker flew from morning until night. Grace lent her
assistance, and Kate was always occupied superintending, and being
fitted and refitted, and had no time to think how lonely the house was,
or how much she missed Reginald Stanford. She was happy beyond the power
of words to describe; the time was near when they would never part
again--when she would be his--his happy, happy wife.

It was all different with Rose; she had changed in a most unaccountable
manner. All her movements were languid and listless, she who had been
wont to keep the house astir; she took no interest in the bridal dresses
and jewellery; she shrank from every one, and wanted to be alone. She
grew pale, and thin, and hysterical, and so petulant that it was a risk
to speak to her. What was the matter?--every one asked that question,
and Grace and Grace's brother were the only two who guessed within a
mile of the truth.

And so April wore away. Time, that goes on forever--steadily, steadily,
for the happy and the miserable--was bringing the fated time near. The
snow had fled, the new grass and fresh buds were green on the lawn and
trees, and the birds sang their _glorias_ in the branches so lately
tossed by the wintry winds.

Doctor Danton was still at St. Croix, but he was going away, too. He had
had an interview with Agnes Darling, whose hopes were on the ebb; and
once more had tried to engraft his own bright, sanguine nature on hers.

"Never give up, Agnes," he said, cheerily. "Patience, patience yet a
little longer. I shall return for my sister's wedding, and I think it
will be all right then."

Agnes listened and sighed wearily. The ghost of Danton Hall had been
very well behaved of late, and had frightened no one. The initiated knew
that Mr. Richards was not very well, and that the night air was
considered unhealthy, so he never left his rooms. The tamarack walk was
undisturbed in the lonely April nights--at least by all save Doctor
Frank, who sometimes chose to haunt the place, but who never saw
anything for his pains.

May came--with it came Mr. Stanford, looking sunburned, and fresh, and
handsomer than ever. As on the evening of his departure from the Hall,
so on the eve of his departure from Ottawa, he had written to that
confidential friend:

     "Dear Lauderdale.--The month of probation has expired. To-morrow
     I return to Danton Hall. Whatever happens, I have done my best.
     If fate is arbitrary, am I to blame? Look for me in June, and
     be ready to pay your respects to Mrs. Stanford."



CHAPTER XV.

ONE OF EARTH'S ANGELS.


Mr. Stanford's visit to Ottawa had changed him somehow, it seemed to
Kate. The eyes that love us are sharp; the heart that sets us up for its
idol is quick to feel every variation. Reginald was changed--vaguely,
almost indefinably, but certainly changed. He was more silent than of
old, and had got a habit of falling into long brown studies in the midst
of the most interesting conversation. He took almost as little interest
in the bridal paraphernalia as Rose, and sauntered lazily about the
grounds, or lay on the tender new grass under the trees smoking endless
cigars, and looking dreamily up at the endless patches of bright blue
sky, and thinking, thinking--of what?

Kate saw it, felt it, and was uneasy. Grace saw it, too; for Grace had
her suspicions of that fascinating young officer, and watched him
closely. They were not very good friends somehow, Grace and Kate Danton;
a sort of armed neutrality existed between them, and had ever since Kate
had heard of her father's approaching marriage. She had never liked
Grace much--she liked her less than ever now. She was marrying her
father from the basest and most mercenary motives, and Kate despised
her, and was frigidly civil and polite whenever she met her. She took it
very quietly, this calm Grace, as she took all things, and was
respectful to Miss Danton, as became Miss Danton's father's housekeeper.

"Don't you think Mr. Stanford has altered somehow, Frank, since he went
to Ottawa?" she said one day to her brother, as they sat alone together
by the dining-room window.

Doctor Danton looked out. Mr. Stanford was sauntering down the avenue, a
fishing-rod over his shoulder, and his bride-elect on his arm.

"Altered! How?"

"I don't know how," said Grace, "but he has altered. There is something
changed about him; I don't know what. I don't think he is settled in his
mind."

"My dear Grace, what are you talking about? Not settled in his mind! A
man who is about to marry the handsomest girl in North America?"

"I don't care for that. I wouldn't trust Mr. Reginald Stanford as far as
I could see him."

"You wouldn't? But then you are an oddity, Grace. What do you suspect
him of?"

"Never mind; my suspicions are my own. One thing I am certain of--he is
no more worthy to marry Kate Danton than I am to marry a prince."

"Nonsense! He is as handsome as Apollo, he sings, he dances, and talks
divinely. Are you not a little severe, Grace?"

Grace closed her lips.

"We won't talk about it. What do you suppose is the matter with Rose?"

"I wasn't aware there was anything the matter. An excess of happiness,
probably; girls like to be married, you know, Grace."

"Fiddlestick! She has grown thin; she mopes in her room all day long,
and hasn't a word for anyone--she who used to be the veriest chatterbox
alive."

"All very naturally accounted for, my dear. M. La Touche is
absent--doubtless she is pining for him."

"Just about as much as I am. I tell you, Frank, I hope things will go
right next June, but I don't believe it. Hush! here is Miss Danton."

Miss Danton opened the door, and, seeing who were there, bowed coldly,
and retired again. Unjustly enough, the brother came in for part of the
aversion she felt for the sister.

Meantime Mr. Stanford sauntered along the village with his fishing-rod,
nodding good-humouredly right and left. Short as had been his stay at
Danton Hall, he was very well known in the village, and had won golden
opinions from all sorts of people. From the black-eyed girls who fell in
love with his handsome face, to the urchins rolling in the mud, and to
whom he flung handfuls of pennies. The world and Mr. Stanford went
remarkably well with each other, and whistling all the way, he reached
his destination in half an hour--a clear, silvery stream, shadowed by
waving trees and famous in fishing annals. He flung himself down on the
turfy sward, lit a cigar, and began smoking and staring reflectively at
vacancy.

The afternoon was lovely, warm as June, the sky was cloudless, and the
sunlight glittered in golden ripples on the stream. All things were
favourable; but Mr. Stanford was evidently not a very enthusiastic
disciple of Isaac Walton; for his cigar was smoked out, the stump thrown
away, and his fishing-rod lay unused still. He took it up at last and
dropped it scientifically in the water.

"It's a bad business," he mused, "and hanging, drawing, and quartering
would be too good for me. But what the dickens is a fellow to do? And
then she is so fond of me, too--poor little girl!"

He laid the fishing-rod down again, drew from an inner pocket a
note-book and pencil. From between the leaves he drew out a sheet of
pink-tinted, gilt-edged note paper, and, using the note-book for a desk,
began to write. It was a letter, evidently; and after he wrote the first
line, he paused, and looked at it with an odd smile. The line was,
"Angel of my Dreams."

"I think she will like the style of that," he mused; "it's Frenchified
and sentimental, and she rather affects that sort of thing. Poor child!
I don't see how I ever got to be so fond of her."

Mr. Stanford went on with his letter. It was in French, and he wrote
very slowly and thoughtfully. He filled the four sides, ending with
"Wholly thine, Reginald Stanford." Carefully he re-read, made some
erasures, folded, and put it in an envelope. As he sealed the envelope,
a big dog came bounding down the bank, and poked its cold, black nose
inquisitively in his face.

"Ah! Tiger, _mein Herr_, how are you? Where is your master?"

"Here," said Doctor Frank. "Don't let me intrude. Write the address, by
all means."

"As if I would put you _au fait_ of my love letters," said Mr. Stanford,
coolly putting the letter in his note-book, and the note-book in his
pocket. "I thought you were off to-day?"

"No, to-morrow. I must be up and doing now; I am about tired of St.
Croix and nothing to do."

"Are you ever coming back!"

"Certainly. I shall come back on the fourth of June, Heaven willing, to
see you made the happiest man in creation."

"Have a cigar?" said Mr. Stanford, presenting his cigar-case. "I can
recommend them. You would be the happiest man in creation in my place,
wouldn't you?"

"Most decidedly. But I wasn't born, like some men I know of, with a
silver spoon in my mouth. Beautiful wives drop into some men's arms,
ripe and ready, but I am not one of them."

"Oh, don't despond! Your turn may come yet!"

"I don't despond--I leave that to--but comparisons are odious."

"Go on."

"To Miss Rose Danton. She is pining on the stem, at the near approach of
matrimony, and growing as pale as spirit. What is the matter with her?"

"You ought to know best. You're a doctor."

"But love-sickness; I don't believe there is anything in the whole range
of physic to cure that. What's this--a fishing-rod?"

"Yes," said Mr. Stanford, taking a more comfortable position on the
grass. "I thought I would try my luck this fine afternoon, but somehow I
don't seem to progress very fast."

"I should think not, indeed. Let me see what I can do."

Reginald watched him lazily, as he dropped the line into the placid
water.

"What do you think about it yourself?" he asked, after a pause.

"About what?"

"This new alliance on the tapis. He's a very nice little fellow, I have
no doubt; but if I were a pretty girl, I don't think I should like nice
little fellows. He is just the last sort of a man in the world I could
fancy our bright Rose marrying."

"Of course he is! It's a failing of the sex to marry the very last man
their friends would expect. But are you quite sure in this case; no
April day was ever more changeable than Rose Danton."

"I don't know what you mean. They'll be married to a dead certainty."

"What will you bet on the event?"

"I'm not rich enough to bet; but if I were, it wouldn't be honourable,
you know."

Doctor Frank gave him a queer look, as he hooked a fish out of the
water.

"Oh, if it becomes a question of honour, I have no more to say. Do you
see this fellow wriggling on my hook?"

"Yes."

"Well, when this fish swims again, Rose Danton will be Mrs. La Touche,
and you know it."

He said the last words so significantly, and with such a look, that all
the blood of all the Stanfords rushed red to Reginald's face.

"The deuce take your inuendoes!" he exclaimed. "What do you mean?"

"Don't ask me," said Doctor Frank. "I hate to tell a lie: and I won't
say what I suspect. Suppose we change the subject. Where is Sir Ronald
Keith?"

"In New Brunswick, doing the wild-woods and shooting bears. Poor wretch!
With all his eight thousand a year, and that paradise in Scotland, Glen
Keith, I don't envy him. I never saw anyone so hopelessly hard hit as
he."

"You're a fortunate fellow, Stanford; but I doubt if you know it. Sir
Ronald would be a far happier man in your place."

The face of the young Englishman darkened suddenly.

"Perhaps there is such a thing as being too fortunate, and getting
satiated. I wish I could be steadfast, and firm, and faithful forever to
one thing, like some men, but I can't. Sir Ronald's one of that kind,
and so are you, Danton; but I--"

He threw his cigar into the water, and left the sentence unfinished.
There was a long silence. Doctor Frank fished away as if his life
depended on it; and Stanford lay and watched him, and thought--who knows
what?

The May afternoon wore on, the slanting lines of the red sunset flamed
in the tree-tops, and shed its reflected glory on the placid water. The
hum of evening bustle came up from the village drowsily; and Doctor
Danton, laying down his line, looked at his watch.

"Are you asleep, Stanford? Do you know it is six o'clock?"

"By George!" said Reginald, starting up. "I had no idea it was so late.
Are you for the Hall?"

"Of course. Don't I deserve my dinner in return for this string of
silvery fish? Come along."

The two young men walked leisurely and rather silently homeward. As they
entered the gates, they caught sight of a young lady advancing slowly
towards them--a young lady dressed in pale pink, with ribbons fluttering
and curls flowing.

"The first rose of summer!" said Doctor Frank. "The future Madame La
Touche!"

"Have you come to meet us, Rose?" asked Stanford. "Very polite of you."

"I won't be _de trop_," said the Doctor; "I'll go on."

Rose turned with Reginald, and Doctor Danton walked away, leaving them
to follow at their leisure.

In the entrance Hall he met Kate, stately and beautiful, dressed in
rustling silk, and with flowers in her golden hair.

"Have you seen Mr. Stanford?" she asked, glancing askance at the fish.

"Yes; he is in the grounds with Rose."

She smiled, and went past. Doctor Frank looked after her with a glance
of unmistakable admiration.

"Blind! blind! blind!" he thought. "What fools men are! Only children of
a larger growth, throwing away gold for the pitiful glistening of
tinsel."

Kate caught a glimpse of a pink skirt, fluttering in and out among the
trees, and made for it. Her light step on the sward gave back no echo.
How earnestly Reginald was talking--how consciously Rose was listening
with downcast face! What was that he was giving her? A letter! Surely
not; and yet how much it looked like it. Another moment, and she was
beside them, and Rose had started away from Reginald's side, her face
crimson. If ever guilt's red banner hung on any countenance, it did on
hers; and Kate's eyes wandered wonderingly from one to the other. Mr.
Stanford was as placid as the serene sunset sky above them. Like
Talleyrand, if he had been kicked from behind, his face would never have
shown it.

"I thought you were away fishing," said Kate. "Was Rose with you?"

"I was not so blessed. I had only Doctor Frank--Oh, don't be in a hurry
to leave us; it is not dinner-time yet."

This last to Rose, who was edging off, still the picture of confusion,
and one hand clutching something white, hidden in the folds of her
dress. With a confused apology, she turned suddenly, and disappeared
among the trees. Kate fixed her large, deep eyes suspiciously on her
lover's laughing face.

"Well?" she said, inquiringly.

"Well?" he repeated, mimicking her tone.

"What is the meaning of all this?"

Stanford laughed carelessly, and drew her hand within his arm.

"It means, my dear, that pretty sister of yours is a goose! I paid her a
compliment, and she blushed after it, at sight of you, as if I had been
talking love to her. Come, let us have a walk before dinner."

"I thought I saw you give her something? Was it a letter?"

Not a muscle of his face moved; not a shadow of change was in his tone,
as he answered:

"A letter! Of course not. You heard her the other day ask me for that
old English song that I sang? I wrote it out this afternoon, and gave it
to her. Are you jealous, Kate?"

"Dreadfully! Don't you go paying compliments to Rose, sir; reserve them
for me. Come down the tamarack walk."

Leaning fondly on his arm, Kate walked with her lover up and down the
green avenue until the dinner-bell summoned them in.

And all the time, Rose, up in her own room, was reading, with flushed
cheeks and glistening eyes, that letter written by the brook-side,
beginning, "Angel of my Dreams."

When the family assembled at dinner, it was found that Rose was absent.
A servant sent in search of her returned with word that Miss Rose had a
headache, and begged they would excuse her.

Kate went up to her room immediately after dinner. But found it locked.
She rapped, and called, but there was no sign, and no response from
within.

"She is asleep," thought Kate; and went down again.

She tried again, some hours later, on her way to her own room, but still
was unable to obtain entrance or answer. If she could only have seen
her, sitting by the window reading and re-reading that letter in French,
beginning "Angel of my Dreams."

Rose came down to breakfast next morning quite well again. The morning's
post had brought her a letter from Quebec, and she read it as she sipped
her coffee.

"Is it from Virginie Leblanc?" asked Eeny. "She is your only
correspondent in Quebec."

Rose nodded and went on reading.

"What does she want?" Eeny persisted.

"She wants me to pay her a visit," said Rose, folding up her letter.

"And of course you won't go?"

"No--yes--I don't know."

She spoke absently, crumbling the roll on her plate, and not eating. She
lingered in the room after breakfast, when all the rest had left it,
looking out of the window. She was still there when, half an hour later,
Grace came in to sew; but not alone. Mr. Stanford was standing beside
her, and Grace caught his last low words:

"It is the most fortunate thing that could have happened. Don't lose any
time."

He saw Grace and stopped, spoke to her, and sauntered out of the room.
Rose did not turn from the window for fully ten minutes. When she did,
it was to ask where her father was.

"In his study."

She left the room and went to the study. Captain Danton looked up from
his writing, at her entrance, in some surprise.

"Don't choke me, my dear, what is it?"

"Papa, may I go to Quebec?"

"Quebec? My dear, how can you go?"

"Very easily, papa. Virginie wants me to go, and I should like to see
her. I won't stay there long."

"But all your wedding finery, Rose--how is it to be made if you go
away?"

"It is nearly all made, papa; and for what remains they can get along
just as well without me. Papa, say yes. I want to go dreadfully; and I
will only stay a week or so. Do say yes, there's a darling papa!"

"Well, my dear, go, if you wish; but don't forget to come back in time.
It will never do for M. La Touche to come here the fourth of June and
find his bride missing."

"I won't stay in Quebec until June, papa," said Rose, kissing him and
running out of the room. He called after her as she was shutting the
door:

"Doctor Frank goes to Montreal this afternoon. If you are ready, you
might go with him."

"Yes, papa; I'll be ready."

Rose set to work packing at once, declining all assistance. She filled
her trunk with all her favourite dresses; stowed away all her
jewellery--taking a very unnecessary amount of luggage, one would think,
for a week's visit.

Every one was surprised, at luncheon, when Rose's departure was
announced. None more so than Mr. Stanford.

"It is just like Rose!" exclaimed Eeny; "she is everything by starts,
and nothing long. Flying off to Quebec for a week, just as she is going
to be married, with half her dresses unmade. It's absurd."

The afternoon train for Montreal passed through St. Croix at three
o'clock. Kate and Reginald drove to the station with her, and saw her
safely seated beside Doctor Frank. Her veil of drab gauze was down over
her face, flushed and excited; and she kissed her sister good-bye
without lifting it. Reginald Stanford shook hands with her--a long,
warm, lingering clasp--and flashed a bright, electric glance that
thrilled to her inmost heart. An instant later, and the train was in
motion, and Rose was gone.

The morning of the third day after brought a note from Quebec. Rose had
arrived safely, and the Leblanc family were delighted to see her. That
was all.

That evening, Mr. Stanford made the announcement that he was to depart
for Montreal next morning. It was to Kate, of course. She had strolled
down to the gate to meet him, in the red light of the sunset, as he came
home from a day's gunning. He had taken, of late, to being absent a
great deal, fishing and shooting; and those last three days he had been
away from breakfast until dinner.

"Going to Montreal?" repeated Kate. "What for?"

"To see a friend of mine--Major Forsyth. He has come over lately, with
his wife, and I have just heard of it. Besides, I have a few purchases
to make."

He was switching the tremulous spring flowers along the path with his
cane, and not looking at her as he spoke.

"How long shall you be gone?"

He laughed.

"Montreal has no charms for me, you know," he replied; "I shall not
remain there long, probably not over a week."

"The house will be lonely when you are gone--now that Rose is away."

She sighed a little, saying it. Somehow, a vague feeling of uneasiness
had disturbed her of late--something wanting in Reginald--something she
could not define, which used to be there and was gone. She did not like
this readiness of his to leave her on all occasions. She loved him with
such a devoted and entire love, that the shortest parting was to her
acutest pain.

"Are you coming in?" he asked, seeing her linger under the trees.

"Not yet; the evening is too fine."

"Then I must leave you. It will hardly be the thing, I suppose, to go to
dinner in this shooting-jacket."

He entered the house and ran up to his room. The dinner-bell was ringing
before he finished dressing; but when he descended, Kate was still
lingering out of doors. He stood by the window watching her, as she came
slowly up the lawn. The yellow glory of the sunset made an aureole round
her tinseled hair; her slender figure robed in shimmering silk; her
motion floating and light. He remembered that picture long afterwards:
that Canada landscape, that blue silvery mist filling the air, and the
tall, graceful girl, coming slowly homeward, with the fading yellow
light in her golden hair.

After dinner, when the moon rose--a crystal-white crescent--they all
left the drawing-room for the small hall and portico. Kate, a white
shawl on her shoulders, sat on the stone step, and sang, softly, "The
Young May Moon;" Mr. Stanford leaned lightly against one of the stone
pillars, smoking a cigar, and looking up at the blue, far-off sky, his
handsome face pale and still.

"Sing 'When the Swallows Homeward Fly,' Kate," her father said.

She sang the song, softly and a little sadly, with some dim
foreshadowing of trouble weighing at her heart. They lingered there
until the clock struck ten--Kate's songs and the moonlight charming the
hours away. When they went into the house, and took their night-lamps,
Stanford bade them good-bye.

"I shall probably be off before any of you open your eyes on this mortal
life to-morrow morning," he said, "and so had better say good-bye now."

"You leave by the eight A. M. train, then," said the Captain. "It seems
to me everybody is running off just when they ought to stay at home."

Stanford laughed, and shook hands with Grace and Kate--with one as
warmly as with the other--and was gone. Kate's face looked pale and sad,
as she went slowly upstairs with that dim foreshadowing still at her
heart.

Breakfast was awaiting the traveller next morning at half-past seven,
when he ran down stairs, ready for his journey. More than breakfast was
waiting. Kate stood by the window, looking out drearily at the matinal
sunlight.

"Up so early, Kate?" her lover said, with an expression of rapture. "Why
did you take the trouble?"

"It was no trouble," Kate said, slowly, feeling cold and strange.

He sat down to table, but only drank a cup of coffee. As he arose,
Captain Danton and Grace came in.

"We got up betimes to see you off," said the Captain. "A delightful
morning for your journey. There is Sam with the gig now. Look sharp,
Reginald; only fifteen minutes left."

Reginald snatched up his overcoat.

"Good-bye," he said, hurriedly shaking hands with the Captain, then with
Grace. Kate, standing by the window, never turned round. He went up to
her, very, very pale, as they all remembered afterward, holding out his
hand.

"Good-bye, Kate."

The hand she gave him was icy cold, her face perfectly colourless. The
cold fingers lingered around his for a moment; the deep, clear, violet
eyes were fixed wistfully on his face. That was her only good-bye--she
did not speak. In another moment he was out of the house; in another he
was riding rapidly down the avenue; in another he was gone--and forever.



CHAPTER XVI.

EPISTOLARY.


[From Madame Leblanc to Captain Danton.]

     Quebec, May 17, 18--.

     Dear Sir:--I write to you in the utmost distress and
     confusion of mind. I hardly know how to break to you the news it is
     my painful duty to reveal, lest some blame should attach itself to
     me or mine, where I assure you none is deserved. Your daughter Rose
     has left us--run away; in fact, I believe, eloped. I have reason to
     think she was married yesterday; but to whom I have not yet
     discovered. I beg to assure you, Captain Danton, that neither I nor
     any one in my house had the remotest idea of her intention; and we
     are all in the greatest consternation since the discovery has been
     made. I would not for worlds such a thing had happened under my
     roof, and I earnestly trust you will not hold me to blame.

     Six days ago, on the afternoon of the 11th, your daughter arrived
     here. We were all delighted to see her, Virginie in particular;
     for, hearing of her approaching marriage with M. La Touche, we were
     afraid she might not come. We all noticed a change in her--her
     manner different from what it used to be--a languor, an apathy to
     all things--a general listlessness that nothing could arouse her
     from. She, who used to be so full of life and spirits, was now the
     quietest in the house, and seemed to like nothing so well as being
     by herself and dreaming the hours away. On the evening of the third
     day this lassitude left her. She grew restless and nervous--almost
     feverishly so. Next morning this feverish restlessness grew worse.
     She refused to leave the house in the afternoon to accompany my
     daughter on a shopping expedition. Her plea was toothache, and
     Virginie went alone. The early afternoon post brought her what I
     believe she was waiting for--a letter. She ran up with it to her
     own room, which she did not leave until dusk. I was standing in the
     entrance-hall when she came down, dressed for a walk, and wearing a
     veil over her face. I asked her where she was going. She answered
     for a walk, it might help her toothache. An hour afterward Virginie
     returned. Her first question was for Rose. I informed her she was
     gone out.

     "Then," exclaimed Virginie, "it must have been Rose that I met in
     the next street, walking with a gentleman. I thought the dress and
     figure were hers, but I could not see her face for a thick veil.
     The gentleman was tall and dark, and very handsome."

     Half an hour later, Rose came back. We teased her a little about
     the gentleman; but she put it off quite indifferently, saying he
     was an acquaintance she had encountered in the street, and that she
     had promised to go with him next morning to call on a lady-friend
     of hers, a Mrs. Major Forsyth. We thought no more about it; and
     next morning, when the gentleman called in a carriage, Rose was
     quite ready, and went away with him. It was then about eleven
     o'clock, and she did not return until five in the afternoon. Her
     face was flushed, her manner excited, and she broke away from
     Virginie and ran up to her room. All the evening her manner was
     most unaccountably altered, her spirits extravagantly high, and
     colour like fever in her face. She and Virginie shared the same
     room, and when they went upstairs for the night, she would not go
     to bed.

     "You can go," she said to Virginie; "I have a long letter to write,
     and you must not talk to me, dear."

     Virginie went to bed. She is a very sound sleeper, and rarely
     wakes, when she lies down, until morning. She fell asleep, and
     never awoke all night. It was morning when she opened her eyes. She
     was alone. Rose was neither in the bed nor in the room.

     Virginie thought nothing of it. She got up, dressed, came down to
     breakfast, expecting to find Rose before her. Rose was not before
     her--she was not in the house. We waited breakfast until ten,
     anxiously looking for her; but she never came. None of the servants
     had seen her, but that she had gone out very early was evident; for
     the house-door was unlocked and unbolted, when the kitchen-girl
     came down at six in the morning. We waited all the forenoon, but
     she never came. Our anxiety trebly increased when we made the
     discovery that she had taken her trunk with her. How she had got it
     out of the house was the profoundest mystery. We questioned the
     servants; but they all denied stoutly. Whether to believe them or
     not I cannot tell, but I doubt the housemaid.

     The early afternoon post brought Virginie a note. I inclose it. It
     tells you all I can tell. I write immediately, distressed by what
     has occurred, more than I can say. I earnestly trust the poor child
     has not thrown herself away. I hope with all my heart it may not be
     so bad as at first sight if seems. Believe me my dear sir, truly
     sorry for what has occurred, and I trust you will acquit me of
     blame.

     With the deepest sympathy, I remain,

    Yours, sincerely,
    Mathilde Leblanc.


[Miss Rose Danton to Mlle. Virginie Leblanc. Inclosed in the preceding.]

     Wednesday Night.

     My Darling Virginie:--When you read this, we shall have
     parted--perhaps forever. My pet, I am married! To-day, when
     I drove away, it was not to call on Mrs. Major Forsyth, but be
     married. Oh, my dearest, dearest Virginie, I am so happy, so
     blessed--so--so--oh! I can't tell you of my unutterable joy! I am
     going away to-night, in half an hour. I shall kiss you good-bye as
     you sleep. In a day or two I leave Canada forever, to be happy,
     beyond the power of words to describe, in another land. Adieu, my
     pet. If we never meet, don't forget your happy, happy
     Rose.


[Miss Grace Danton to Doctor Frank Danton.]

     Danton Hall, May 21, 18--.

     My Dear Frank:--Do you recollect your last words to me as you
     left St. Croix: "Write to me, Grace. I think you will have news
     to send me before long." Had you, as I had, a presentment of what
     was to come? My worst forebodings are realized. Rose has eloped.
     Reginald Stanford is a villain. They are married. There are no
     positive proofs as yet, but I am morally certain of the fact. I
     have long suspected that he admired that frivolous Rose more than
     he had any right to do, but I hardly thought it would come to this.
     Heaven forgive them, and Heaven pity Kate, who loved them both so
     well! She knows nothing of the matter as yet. I dread the time when
     the truth will be revealed.

     The morning of the 19th brought Captain Danton a letter from
     Quebec, in a strange hand. It came after breakfast, and I carried
     it myself into his study. I returned to the dining-room before he
     opened it, and sat down to work; but in about fifteen minutes the
     Captain came in, his face flushed, his manner more agitated and
     excited than I had ever seen it. "Read that," was all that he could
     say, thrusting the open letter into my hand. No wonder he was
     agitated. It was from Madam Leblanc, and contained the news that
     Rose had made a clandestine marriage, and was gone, no one knew
     where.

     Inclosed there was a short and rapturous note from Rose herself,
     saying that she had been married that day, and was blessed beyond
     the power of words to describe, and was on the point of leaving
     Canada forever. She did not give her new name. She said nothing of
     her husband, but that she loved him passionately. There was but one
     name mentioned in the letter, that of a Mrs. Major Forsyth, whom
     she left home ostensibly to visit.

     From the moment I read the letter, I had no doubt to whom she was
     married. Three days after Rose's departure for Quebec, Mr. Stanford
     left us for Montreal. He was only to be absent a week. The week has
     nearly expired, and there is no news of him. I knew instantly, as I
     have said, with whom Rose had run away; but as I looked up, I saw
     no shadow of a suspicion of the truth in Captain Danton's face.

     "What does it mean?" he asked, with a bewildered look. "I can't
     understand it. Can you?"

     There was no use in disguising the truth; sooner or later he must
     find it out.

     "I think I can," I answered. "I believe Rose left here for the very
     purpose she has accomplished, and not to visit Virginie Leblanc."

     "You believe that letter, then?"

     "Yes: I fear it is too true."

     "But, heavens above! What would she elope for? We were all willing
     she should marry La Touche."

     "I don't think it is with M. La Touche," I said, reluctantly. "I
     wish it were. I am afraid it is worse than that."

     He stood looking at me, waiting, too agitated to speak. I told him
     the worst at once.

     "I am afraid it is with Reginald Stanford."

     "Grace," he said, looking utterly confounded, "what do you mean?"

     I made him sit down, and told him what perhaps I should have told
     him long ago, my suspicions of that young Englishman. I told him I
     was certain Rose had been his daily visitor during those three
     weeks' illness up the village; that she had been passionately in
     love with him from the first, and that he was a villain and a
     traitor. A thousand things, too slight to recapitulate, but all
     tending to the same end, convinced me of it. He was changeful by
     nature. Rose's pretty piquant beauty bewitched him; and this was
     the end.

     "I hope I may be mistaken," I said; "for Kate's sake I hope so, for
     she loves him with a love of which he is totally unworthy; but, I
     confess, I doubt it."

     I cannot describe to you the anger of Captain Danton, and I pray I
     may never witness the like again. When men like him, quiet and
     good-natured by habit, do get into a passion, the passion is
     terrible indeed.

     "The villain!" he cried, through his clenched teeth. "The cruel
     villain! I'll shoot him like a dog!"

     I was frightened. I quail even now at the recollection, and the
     dread of what may come. I tried to quiet him, but in vain; he shook
     me off like a child.

     "Let me, alone, Grace!" he said, passionately. "I shall never rest
     until I have sent a bullet through his brain!"

     It was then half-past eleven; the train for Montreal passed through
     St. Croix at twelve. Captain Danton went out, and ordered round his
     gig, in a tone that made the stable-boy stare. I followed him to
     his room, and found him putting his pistols in his coat-pocket. I
     asked him where he was going, almost afraid to speak to him, his
     face was so changed.

     "To Montreal first," was his answer; "to look for that matchless
     scoundrel; afterwards to Quebec, to blow out his brains, and those
     of my shameful daughter!"

     I begged, I entreated, I cried. It was all useless. He would not
     listen to me; but he grew quieter.

     "Don't tell Kate," he said. "I won't see her; say I have gone upon
     business. If I find Stanford in Montreal, I will come back. Rose
     may go to perdition her own way. If I don't--" He paused, his face
     turning livid. "If I don't, I'll send you a despatch to say I have
     left for Quebec."

     He ran down-stairs without saying good-bye, jumped into the gig,
     and drove off. I was so agitated that I dared not go down stairs
     when luncheon-hour came. Eeny came up immediately after, and asked
     me if I was ill. I pleaded a headache as an excuse for remaining in
     my room all day, for I dreaded meeting Kate. Those deep, clear eyes
     of hers seem to have a way of reading one's very thoughts, and
     seeing through all falsehoods. Eeny's next question was for her
     father. I said he had gone to Montreal on sudden business, and I
     did not know when he would return--probably soon.

     She went down-stairs to tell Kate, and I kept my chamber till the
     afternoon. I went down to dinner, calm once more. It was
     unspeakably dull and dreary, we three alone, where a few days ago
     we were so many. No one came all evening, and the hours wore away,
     long, and lonely, and silent. We were all oppressed and dismal. I
     hardly dared to look at Kate, who sat playing softly in the dim
     piano-recess.

     This morning brought me the dreaded despatch. Captain Danton had
     gone to Quebec; Mr. Stanford was not in Montreal.

     I cannot describe to you how I passed yesterday. I never was so
     miserable in all my life. It went to my heart to see Kate so happy
     and busy with the dressmakers, giving orders about those
     wedding-garments she is never to wear. It was a day of unutterable
     wretchedness, and the evening was as dull and dreary as its
     predecessor. Father Francis came up for an hour, and his sharp eyes
     detected the trouble in my face. I would have told him if Kate had
     not been there; but it was impossible, and I had to prevaricate.

     This morning has brought no news; the suspense is horrible. Heaven
     help Kate! I can write no more.

    Your affectionate sister,

    Grace Danton


[Lieutenant R. R. Stanford to Major Lauderdale.]

     Quebec, May 17.

     Dear Lauderdale:--The deed is done, the game is up, the play
     is played out--Reginald Reinecourt Stanford is a married man.

     You have read, when a guileless little chap in roundabouts, "The
     Children of the Abbey," and other tales of like kidney. They were
     romantic and sentimental, weren't they? Well, old fellow, not one
     of them was half so romantic or sentimental as this marriage of
     mine. There were villains in them, too--Colonel Belgrave, and so
     forth--black-hearted monsters, without one redeeming trait. I tell
     you, Lauderdale, none of these unmitigated rascals were half so bad
     as I am. Think of me at my worst, a scoundrel of the deepest dye,
     and you will about hit the mark. My dear little, pretty little Rose
     is not much better; but she is such a sweet little sinner, that--in
     short, I don't want her to reform. I am in a state of indescribable
     beatitude, of course--only two days wedded--and immersed in the
     joys of _la lune de miel_. Forsyth--you know Forsyth, of
     "Ours"--was my aider and abettor, accompanied by Mrs. F. He made a
     runaway match himself, and is always on hand to help
     fellow-sufferers; on the ground, I suppose, that misery loves
     company.

     To-morrow we sail in the Amphitrite for Southampton. It won't do to
     linger, for my papa-in-law is a dead shot. When I see you, I'll
     tell you all about it. Until then, adieu and _au revoir_.

     Reginald Stanford.


[Mrs. Reginald Stanford to Grace Danton.]

     Quebec, May 18.

     Dear Mamma Grace:--I suppose, before this, you have heard
     the awful news that my Darling Reginald and I got married. Wouldn't
     I like to see you as you read this? Don't I know that virtuous
     scowl of yours so well, my precious mamma-in-law? Oh, you dear old
     prude, it's so nice to be married, and Reginald is an angel! I love
     him so much, and I am so happy; I never was half so happy in my
     life.

     I suppose Madame Leblanc sent you the full, true, and particular
     account of my going on. Poor old soul! What a rare fright she must
     have got when she found out I was missing. And Virginie, too.
     Virginie was so jealous to think I was going to be married before
     her, as if I would ever have married that insipid Jules. How I wish
     my darling Reginald had his fortune; but fortune or no fortune, I
     love him with all my heart, and am going to be just as happy as the
     day is long.

     I dare-say Kate is furious, and saying all kinds of hard things
     about me. It is not fair if she is. I could not help Reginald's
     liking me better than her, and I should have died if I had not got
     him. There! I feel very sorry for her, though; I know how I should
     feel if I lost him, and I dare say she feels almost as bad. Let her
     take Jules. Poor Jules, I expect he will break his heart, and I
     shall be shocked and disappointed if he does not. Let her take him.
     He is rich and good-looking; and all those lovely wedding-clothes
     will not go to waste. Ah! how sorry I am to leave them behind; but
     it can't be helped. We are off to-morrow for England. I shall not
     feel safe until the ocean is between us and papa. I suppose papa is
     very angry; but where is the use? As long as Reginald marries one
     of his daughters, I should think the particular one would be
     immaterial.

     I am sorry I cannot be present at your wedding, Grace; I give you
     _carte blanche_ to wear all the pretty things made for Mrs. Jules
     La Touche, if they will fit you. Tell poor Jules, when he comes,
     that I am sorry; but I loved Reginald so much that I could not help
     it. Isn't he divinely handsome, Grace? If he knew I was writing to
     you, he would send his love, so take it for granted.

     I should like to write more, but I am going on board in an hour.
     Please tell Kate not to break her heart. It's of no use.

     Give my regard to that obliging brother of yours. I like him very
     much. Perhaps I may write to you from England if you will not be
     disagreeable, and will answer. I should like to hear the news from
     Canada and Danton Hall. Rapturously thine,

     Rose Stanford.


[Grace Danton to Dr. Danton.]

     Danton Hall, May 30.

     Dear Frank:--"Man proposes--" You know the proverb, which
     holds good in the case of women too. I know my prolonged silence
     must have surprised you; but I have been so worried and anxious, of
     late, that writing has become an impossibility. Danton Hall has
     become a _maison de deuil_--a house of mourning indeed. I look back
     as people look back on some dim, delightful dream to the days that
     are gone, and wonder if indeed we were so merry and gay. The
     silence of the grave reigns here now. The laughter, the music--all
     the merry sounds of a happy household--have fled forever. A convent
     of ascetic nuns could not be stiller, nor the holy sisterhood more
     grave and sombre. Let me begin at the beginning, and relate events
     as they occurred, if I can.

     The day after I wrote you last brought the first event, in the
     shape of a letter from Rose to myself. A more thoroughly selfish
     and heartless epistle could not have been penned. I always knew her
     to be selfish, and frivolous, vain, and silly to the backbone--yea,
     backbone and all; but still I had a sort of liking for her withal.
     That letter effectually dispelled any lingering remains of that
     weakness. It spoke of her marriage with Reginald Stanford in the
     most shamelessly insolent and exultant tone. It alluded to her
     sister and to poor Jules La Touche in a way that brought the
     "bitter bad" blood of the old Dantons to my face. Oh, if I could
     have but laid my hands on Mistress Rose at that moment, quiet as I
     am, I think I would have made her ears tingle as they never tingled
     before.

     I said nothing of the letter. My greatest anxiety now was lest
     Captain Danton and Mr. Stanford should meet. I was in a state of
     feverish anxiety all day, which even Kate noticed. You know she
     never liked me, and latterly her aversion has deepened, though
     Heaven knows, without any cause on my part, and she avoided me as
     much as she possibly could without discourtesy. She inquired,
     however, if anything had happened--if I had bad news from her
     father, and looked at me in a puzzled manner when I answered "No."
     I could not look at her; I could hardly speak to her; somehow I
     felt about as guilty concealing the truth as if I had been in the
     vile plot that had destroyed her happiness.

     Father Francis came up in the course of the day; and when he was
     leaving, I called him into the library, and told him the truth. I
     cannot tell you how shocked he was at Rose's perfidy, or how
     distressed for Kate's sake. He agreed with me that it was best to
     say nothing until Captain Danton's return.

     He came that night. It was late--nearly eleven o'clock, and I and
     Thomas were the only ones up. Thomas admitted him; and I shall
     never forget how worn, and pale, and haggard he looked as he came
     in.

     "It was too late, Grace," were his first words. "They have gone."

     "Thank Heaven!" I exclaimed. "Thank Heaven you have not met them,
     and that there is no blood shed. Oh, believe me, it is better as it
     is."

     "Does Kate know?" he asked.

     "Not yet. No one knows but Father Francis. He thought as I did,
     that it was better to wait until you returned."

     "My poor child! My poor Kate!" he said, in a broken voice, "who
     will tell you this?"

     He was so distressed that I knelt down beside him, and tried to
     sooth and comfort him.

     "Father Francis will," I said. "She venerates and esteems him more
     highly than any other living being, and his influence over her is
     greater. Let Father Francis tell her to-morrow."

     Captain Danton agreed that that was the very best thing that could
     be done, and soon after retired.

     I went to my room, too, but not to sleep. I was too miserably
     anxious about the morrow. The night was lovely--bright as day and
     warm as midsummer. I sat by the window looking out, and saw Kate
     walking up and down the tamarack avenue with that mysterious Mr.
     Richards. They lingered there for over an hour, and then I heard
     them coming softly upstairs, and going to their respective rooms.

     Next morning after breakfast, Captain Danton rode down to the
     village and had an interview with Father Francis. Two hours after,
     they returned to Danton Hall together, both looking pale and ill at
     ease. Kate and I were in the drawing-room--she practising a new
     song, I sewing. We both rose at their entrance--she gayly; I with
     my heart beating thick and fast.

     "I am glad the beauty of the day tempted you out, Father Francis,"
     she said. "I wish our wanderers would come back. Danton Hall has
     been as gloomy as an old bastille lately."

     I don't know what Father Francis said. I know he looked as though
     the errand he had come to fulfil were unspeakably distasteful to
     him.

     "Reginald ought to be home to-day," Kate said, walking to the
     window, "and Rose next week. It seems like a century since they
     went away."

     I could wait for no more--I hurried out of the room--crying, I am
     afraid. Before I could go upstairs, Captain Danton joined me in the
     hall.

     "Don't go," he said, hoarsely; "wait here. You may be wanted."

     My heart seemed to stand still in vague apprehension of--I hardly
     know what. We stood there together waiting, as the few friends who
     loved the ill-fated Scottish Queen so well, may have stood when she
     laid her head on the block. I looked at that closed door with a
     mute terror of what was passing within--every nerve strained to
     hear the poor tortured girl's cry of anguish. No such cry ever
     came. We waited ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, half an hour, an
     hour, before that closed door opened. We shrank away, but it was
     only Father Francis, very pale and sad. Our eyes asked the question
     our tongues would not utter.

     "She knows all," he said, in a tremulous voice; "she has taken it
     very quietly--too quietly. She has alarmed me--that unnatural calm
     is more distressing than the wildest outburst of weeping."

     "Shall we go to her?" asked her father.

     "I think not--I think she is better alone. Don't disturb her
     to-day. I will come up again this evening."

     "What did she say?" I asked.

     "Very little. She seemed stunned, as people are stunned by a sudden
     blow. Don't linger here; she will probably be going up to her room,
     and may not like to think you are watching her."

     Father Francis went away. Captain Danton retired to his study. I
     remained in the recess, which you know is opposite the
     drawing-room, with the door ajar. I wished to prevent Eeny or any
     of the servants from disturbing her by suddenly entering. About an
     hour after, the door opened, and she came out and went slowly
     upstairs. I caught a glimpse of her face as she passed, and it had
     turned to the pallor of death. I heard her enter the room and lock
     the door, and I believe I sat and cried all the morning.

     She did not come down all day. I called in Eeny, and told her what
     had happened, and shocked the poor child as she was never shocked
     before. At dinner-time I sent her upstairs, to see if Kate would
     not take some refreshment. Her knocking and calling remained
     unanswered. She left in despair, and Kate never came down.

     Another sleepless night--another anxious morning. About eight
     o'clock I heard Kate's bell ring, and Eunice go upstairs. Presently
     the girl ran down and entered the room where I was.

     "If you please, Miss Grace, Miss Kate wants you," said Eunice, with
     a scared face; "and oh, Miss, I think she's ill, she do look so
     bad!"

     Wanted me! I dropped the silver I was holding, in sheer affright.
     What could she want of me? I went upstairs, my heart almost choking
     me with its rapid throbbing, and rapped at the door.

     She opened it herself. Well might Eunice think her ill. One night
     had wrought such change as I never thought a night could work
     before. She had evidently never lain down. She wore the dress of
     yesterday, and I could see the bed in the inner room undisturbed.
     Her face was so awfully corpse-like, her eyes so haggard and
     sunken, her beauty so mysteriously gone, that I shrank before her
     as if it had been the spectre of the bright, beautiful, radiant
     Kate Danton. She leaned against the low mantelpiece, and motioned
     me forward with a cold, fixed look.

     "You are aware," she said, in a hard, icy voice--oh so unlike the
     sweet tones of only yesterday--"what Father Francis came here
     yesterday to say. You and my father might have told me sooner; but
     I blame nobody. What I want to say is this: From this hour I never
     wish to hear from anyone the slightest allusion to the past; I
     never want to hear the names of those who are gone. I desire you to
     tell this to my father and sister. Your influence over them is
     greater than mine."

     I bowed assent without looking up; I could feel the icy stare with
     which she was regarding me, without lifting my eyes.

     "Father Francis mentioned a letter that R----"; she hesitated for a
     moment, and finally said--"that she sent you. Will you let me see
     it?"

     That cruel, heartless, insulting letter! I looked up imploringly,
     with clasped hands.

     "Pray don't," I said. "Oh, pray don't ask me! It is unworthy of
     notice--it will only hurt you more deeply still."

     She held out her hand steadily.

     "Will you let me see it?"

     What could I do? I took the letter from my pocket, bitterly
     regretting that I had not destroyed it, and handed it to her.

     "Thank you."

     She walked to the window, and with her back to me read it
     through--read it more than once, I should judge, by the length of
     time it took her. When she faced me again, there was no sign of
     change in her face.

     "Is this letter of any use to you? Do you want it?"

     "No! I only wish I had destroyed it long ago!"

     "Then, with your permission, I will keep it."

     "You!" I cried in consternation. "What can you want with that?"

     A strange sort of look passed across her face, darkening it, and
     she held it tightly in her grasp.

     "I want to keep it for a very good reason," she said, between her
     teeth; "if I ever forget the good turn Rose Danton has done me,
     this letter will serve to remind me of it."

     I was so frightened by her look, and tone, and words, that I could
     not speak. She saw it, and grew composed again instantly.

     "I need not detain you any longer," she said, looking at her watch.
     "I have no more to say. You can tell my father and sister what I
     have told you. I will go down to breakfast, and I am much obliged
     to you."

     She turned from me and went back to the window. I left the room
     deeply distressed, and sought the dining-room, where I found the
     Captain and Eeny. I related the whole interview, and impressed upon
     them the necessity of obeying her. The breakfast-bell rang while we
     were talking, and she came in.

     Both Eeny and her father were as much shocked as I had been by the
     haggard change in her; but neither spoke of it to her. We tried to
     be at our ease during breakfast, and to talk naturally; but the
     effort was a miserable failure. She never spoke, except when
     directly addressed, and ate nothing. She sat down to the piano, as
     usual, after breakfast, and practised steadily for two hours. Then
     she took her hat and a book, and went out to the garden to read. At
     luncheon-time she returned, with no better appetite, and after that
     went up to Mr. Richards' room. She stayed with him two or three
     hours, and then sat down to her embroidery-frame, still cold, and
     impassionate, and silent. Father Francis came up in the evening;
     but she was cold and unsocial with him as with the rest of us. So
     that first day ended, and so every day has gone on since. What she
     suffers, she suffers in solitude and silence; only her worn face,
     haggard cheeks, and hollow eyes tell. She goes through the usual
     routine of life with treadmill regularity, and is growing as thin
     as a shadow. She neither eats, nor sleeps, nor complains; and she
     is killing herself by inches. We are worried to-death about her;
     and yet we are afraid to say one word in her hearing. Come to us,
     Frank; you are a physician, and though you cannot "minister to a
     mind diseased," you can at least tell us what will help her failing
     body. Your presence will do Captain Danton good, too; for I never
     saw him so miserable! We are all most unhappy, and any addition to
     our family circle will be for the better. We do not go out; we have
     few visitors; and the place is as lonely as a tomb. The gossip and
     scandal have spread like wildfire; the story is in everybody's
     mouth; even in the newspapers. Heaven forbid it should come to
     Kate's ears! This stony calm of hers is not to be trusted. It
     frightens me far more than any hysterical burst of sorrow. She has
     evidently some deep purpose in her mind--I am afraid to think it
     may be of revenge. Come to us, brother, and try if you can help us
     in our trouble.

     Your affectionate sister,
     Grace.



CHAPTER XVII.

"SHE TOOK UP THE BURDEN OF LIFE AGAIN."


The second train from Montreal passing through St. Croix on its way
to--somewhere else, was late in the afternoon of the fifth of June.
Instead of shrieking into the village depot at four P.M., it
was six when it arrived, and halted about a minute and a half to let the
passengers out and take passengers in. Few got in and fewer got out--a
sunburnt old Frenchman, a wizen little Frenchwoman, and their pretty,
dark-skinned, black-eyed daughter; and a young man, who was tall and
fair, and good-looking and gentlemanly, and not a Frenchman, judging by
his looks. But, although he did not look like one, he could talk like
one, and had kept up an animated discussion with pretty dark eyes in
capital Canadian French for the last hour. He lifted his hat politely
now, with "_Bon jour, Mademoiselle_," and walked away through the main
street of the village.

It was a glorious summer evening. "The western sky was all aflame" with
the gorgeous hues of the sunset; the air was like amber mist, and the
shrill-voiced Canadian birds, with their gaudy plumage, sang their
vesper laudates high in the green gloom of the feathery tamaracks.

A lovely evening with the soft hum of village life, the distant tinkling
cow-bells, the songs of boys and girls driving them home, far and faint,
and now and then the rumbling of cart-wheels on the dusty road. The
fields on either hand stretching as far as the eye could reach, green as
velvet; the giant trees rustling softly in the faint, sweet breeze; the
flowers bright all along the hedges, and over all the golden glory of
the summer sunset.

The young man walked very leisurely along, swinging his light rattan.
Wild roses and sweetbrier sent up their evening incense to the radiant
sky. The young man lit a cigar, and sent up its incense too.

He left the village behind him presently, and turned off by the pleasant
road leading to Danton Hall. Ten minutes brought him to it, changed
since he had seen it last. The pines, the cedars, the tamaracks were all
out in their summer-dress of living green; the flower-gardens were
aflame with flowers, the orchard was white with blossoms, and the red
light of the sunset was reflected with mimic glory in the still, broad
fish-pond. Climbing roses and honeysuckles trailed their fragrant
branches round the grim stone pillars of the portico. Windows and doors
stood wide to admit the cool, rising breeze; and a big dog, that had
gambolled up all the way, set up a bass bark of recognition. No living
thing was to be seen in or around the house; but, at the sound of the
bark, a face looked out from a window, about waist-high from the lawn.
The window was open, and the sweetbrier and the rose-vines made a very
pretty frame for the delicate young face. A pale and pensive face, lit
with luminous dark eyes, and shaded by soft, dark hair.

The young man walked up, and rested his arm on the low sill.

"Good-evening, Agnes."

Agnes Darling held out her hand, with a look of bright pleasure.

"I am glad to see you again, Doctor Danton; and Tiger, too."

"Thanks. I thought I should find you sewing here. Have you ever left
off, night or day, since I left?"

She smiled, and resumed her work.

"I like to be busy; it keeps me from thinking. Not that I have been very
busy of late."

"Of course not; the wedding-garments weren't wanted, were they? and all
the trousseaux vanity and vexation of spirit. You see others in the
world came to grief besides yourself, Miss Darling. Am I expected?"

"Yes; a week ago."

"Who's in the house?"

"I don't know exactly. Miss Danton is in the orchard, I think, with a
book; Eeny is away for the day at Miss Howard's and the Captain went up
the village an hour ago. I dare say they will all be back for dinner."

Doctor Frank took another position on the window-sill, and leaned
forward, saying with a lowered voice:

"And how does the ghost get on, Agnes? Has it made its appearance
since?"

Agnes Darling dropped her work, and looked up at him, with clasped
hands.

"Doctor Danton, I have seen him!"

"Whom? The ghost?"

"No ghost; but my husband. It was Harry as plainly as ever I saw him."

She spoke in a voice of intense agitation; but the young Doctor listened
with perfect coolness.

"How was it, Agnes? Where did you see him?"

"Walking in the tamarack avenue, one moonlight night, about a week ago,
with Miss Danton."

"And you are positive it was your husband?"

"Do you think I could make a mistake in such a matter? It was Harry--I
saw him clearly in the moonlight."

"It's surprising you did not run out, and fall down in hysterics at his
feet."

She sighed wearily.

"No. I dared not. But, oh, Doctor Danton, when shall I see him? When
will you tell him I am innocent?"

"Not just yet; it won't do to hurry matters in this case. You have
waited long and patiently; wait yet a little longer until the right time
comes. The happiness of knowing he is alive and well, and dwelling under
the same roof with you should reconcile you to that."

"It does," she said, her tears falling softly. "Thank Heaven! he still
lives. I can hope now; but, oh, Doctor, do you really think him Captain
Danton's son?"

"I am certain of it; and no one will give you a more cordial welcome
than Captain Danton, when I tell him the truth. Just now I have no
proof. Do you know what I am going to do, Agnes?"

"No."

"Crosby is married, and living in New York. I mean to take a journey to
New York shortly, and get a written declaration of your innocence from
him. There--no thanks now. Keep up a good heart, and wait patiently for
a month or two longer. Come, Tiger."

He was gone, whistling a tune as he went. The entrance hall was
deserted, the dining-room was empty, and he ran up stairs to the
drawing-room. Grace was there with her back to the door; and coming up
noiselessly, he put his arm around her waist, and kissed her before she
was aware.

She faced about, with a little cry, that changed to an exclamation of
delight, upon seeing who it was.

"Oh, Frank! I am so glad! When did you come? I expected you a week ago."

"I know it," said her brother; "and I could have come too; but it struck
me I should like to arrive to-day."

"To-day! Why? Oh, I forgot the fifth of June. It is hard, Frank, isn't
it, just to think what might have been and what is."

"How does she take it?"

"She has been out nearly all day," replied Grace, knowing whom he meant;
"she feels it, of course, more than words can tell; but she never
betrays herself by look or action. I have never seen her shed a tear, or
utter one desponding word, from the day the news reached her until this.
Her face shows what she suffers, and that is beyond her power to
control."

Doctor Frank walked thoughtfully to the window, and looked out at the
fading brilliance of the sunset. A moment later, and Eeny rode up on
horseback, sprang out other saddle on the lawn, and tripped up the
steps.

Another moment, and she was in the drawing-room.

"I saw you at the window," she said. "I am glad you have come back
again. Danton Hall is too dismal to be described of late. Ah! Dear old
Tiger, and how are you? Doctor Frank," lowering her voice, "do you know
what day this is?"

Doctor Frank looked at her with a faint shadow of a smile on his face,
humming a line or two of a ballad.

"'Long have I been true to you. Now I'm true no longer.' Too bad, Eeny,
we should lose the wedding, and one wedding, they say, makes many."

"Too bad!" echoed Eeny, indignantly. "Oh, Doctor Frank, it was cruel of
Rose, wasn't it? You would hardly know poor Kate now."

"Hush!" said the Doctor, "here she comes!"

A tall, slender figure came out from the orchard path, book in hand, and
advanced slowly towards the house. Was it the ghost, the wraith, the
shadow of beautiful Kate Danton? The lovely golden hair, glittering in
the dying radiance of the sunset, and coiled in shining twists round the
head, was the same; the deep large eyes, so darkly blue, were clear and
cloudless as ever, and yet changed totally in expression. The queenly
grace that always characterized her, characterized her still; but how
wasted the supple form, how shadowy and frail it had grown. The haggard
change in the pale face, the nervous contraction of the mouth, the
sunken eyes, with those dark circles, told their eloquent tale.

"Poor child!" Doctor Frank said, with a look of unspeakable pity and
tenderness; "it was cruel!"

Eeny ran away to change her dress. Grace lightly dusted the furniture,
and her brother stood by the window and watched that fragile-looking
girl coming slowly up through the amber air.

"How tired she looks!" he said.

"Kate?" said Grace, coming over. "She is always like that now. Tired at
getting up, tired at lying down, listless and apathetic always. If
Reginald Stanford had murdered her, it would hardly have been a more
wicked act."

Her brother did not reply.

A few minutes later, Kate walked into the room, still with that slow,
weary step. She looked at the new-comer with listless indifference,
spoke a few words of greeting with cold apathy, and then retreated to
another window, and bent her eyes on her book.

Captain Danton returned just as the dinner-bell was ringing; and his
welcome made up in cordiality what his daughter's lacked. He, too, had
changed. His florid face had lost much of its colour, and was grown
thin, and his eyes were ever wandering, with a look of mournful
tenderness, to his pale daughter.

They were all rather silent. Grace and her brother and the Captain
talked in a desultory sort of way during dinner; but Kate never spoke,
except when directly addressed, and silence was Eeny's forte. She sat
down to the piano after dinner, according to her invariable custom, but
not to sing. She had never sung since that day. How could she? There was
not a song in all her collection that did not bring the anguish of some
recollection of him, so she only played brilliant new, soulless
fantasias, that were as empty as her heart.

When she arose from the instrument, she resumed her book and sat down at
a table studiously; but Doctor Frank, watching her covertly, saw she did
not turn over a page in an hour. She was the first to retire--very
early, looking pale and jaded to death. Half an hour later, Eeny
followed her, and then Captain Danton pushed away the chess-board
impatiently. He had been playing with the Doctor, and began pacing
feverishly up and down the room.

"What shall I do with her?" he exclaimed. "What shall I do to keep my
darling girl from dying before my eyes? Doctor Danton, you are a
physician; tell me what I shall do?"

"Take her away from here," said the Doctor, emphatically. "It is this
place that is killing her. How can it be otherwise? Everything she sees
from morning till night brings back a thousand bitter recollections of
what is past and gone. Take her away, where there will be nothing to
recall her loss; take her where change and excitement will drown
thought. As her mind recovers its tone, so will her body. Take her
travelling for the summer."

"Yes--yes," said Grace, earnestly. "I'm sure it is the very best thing
you can do."

"But, my dear," said Captain Danton, smiling a little, "you forget that
the first week of July we are to be married."

"Oh, put it off," Grace said; "what does a little delay matter? We are
not like Rose and Reginald; we are old and steady, and we can trust one
another and wait. A few month's delay is nothing, and Kate's health is
everything."

"She might go with us," said the Captain; "suppose it took place this
month instead of next, and we made a prolonged wedding-tour, she might
accompany us."

Grace shook her head.

"She wouldn't go. Believe me, I know her, and she wouldn't go. She will
go with you alone, willingly--never with me."

"She is unjust to you, and you are so generously ready to sacrifice your
own plans to hers."

"Did you ever know a young lady yet who liked the idea of a
step-mother?" said Grace, with a smile. "I never did. Miss Danton's
dislike and aversion are unjust, perhaps; but perfectly natural. No, no,
the autumn or winter will be soon enough, and take Kate travelling."

"Very well, my dear; be it as you say. Now, where shall we go? Back to
England?"

"I think not," said Doctor Frank. "England has nearly as many painful
associations for her as Danton Hall. Take her where she has never been;
where all things are new and strange. Take her on a tour through the
United States, for instance."

"A capital idea," exclaimed the Captain. "It is what she has wished for
often since we came to Canada. I'll take her South. I have an old
friend, a planter, in Georgia. I'll take her to Georgia."

"You could not do better."

"Let me see," pursued the Captain, full of the hopeful idea; "we must
stay a week or two in Boston, a week or two in New York; we must visit
Newport and Saratoga, rest ourselves in Philadelphia and Washington, and
then make straight for Georgia. How long will that take us, do you
suppose?"

"Until October, I should say," returned the Doctor. "October will be
quite time enough to return here. If your daughter does not come back
with new life, then I shall give up her case in despair."

"I will speak to her to-morrow," said the Captain, "and start the next
day. Since it must be done, it is best done quickly. I think myself it
will do her a world of good."

Captain Danton was as good as his word. He broached the subject to his
daughter shortly after breakfast next morning. It was out in the
orchard, where she had strayed, according to custom, with a book. It was
not so much to read--her favourite authors, all of a sudden, had grown
flat and insipid, and nothing interested her--but she liked to be alone
and undisturbed, "in sunshine calm and sweet," with the scented summer
air blowing in her face. She liked to listen, dreamy and listless, and
with all the energy of her nature dead within her, to the soft murmuring
of the trees, to the singing of the birds overhead, and to watch the
pearly clouds floating through the melting azure above. She had no
strength or wish to walk now, as of old. She never passed beyond the
entrance-gates, save on Sunday forenoons, when she went slowly to the
little church of St. Croix, and listened drearily, as if he was speaking
an unknown tongue, to Father Francis, preaching patience and
long-suffering to the end.

She was lying under a gnarled old apple-tree, the flickering shadow of
the leaves coming and going in her face, and the sunshine glinting
through her golden hair. She looked up, with a faint smile, at her
father's approach. She loved him very much still, but not as she had
loved him once; the power to love any one in that old trustful, devoted
way seemed gone forever.

"My pale daughter," he said, looking down at her sadly, "what shall I do
to bring back your lost roses!"

"Am I pale?" she said, indifferently. "What does it matter? I feel well
enough."

"I don't think you do. You are gone to a shadow. Would you like a
change, my dear? Would you not like a pleasure tour this summer
weather?"

"I don't care about it, papa."

"But you will come to please me. I shall take you to the Southern
States, and fetch you back in the autumn my own bright Kate again."

There was no light of pleasure or eagerness in her face. She only moved
uneasily on the grass.

"You will come, my dear, will you not? Eunice will accompany you; and we
will visit all the great cities of this New World, that you have so
often longed to see."

"I will do whatever you wish, papa," she said, apathetically.

"And you will give Eunice her orders about the packing to-day, and be
ready to start to-morrow?"

"Yes, papa."

"Ogden will remain behind," continued her father, in a lowered voice. "I
have said nothing to any one else as yet about Harry. I shall go and
speak to them both about it now."

"Yes, papa."

She watched him striding away, with that look of weary listlessness that
had grown habitual to her, and rose from her grassy couch with a sigh,
to obey his directions. She found Eunice in the sewing room, with Agnes
Darling, and gave her her orders to pack up, and be prepared to start
next morning. Then she went back to her seat under the old apple-tree,
and lay on the warm grass in a state between sleeping and waking all day
long.

The day of departure dawned cloudless and lovely. Grace, her
brother, and Eeny went to the station with the travellers, and saw
them off. Kate's farewell was very cold, even to Eeny. What was the
use of losing or being sorry to part with any one, since all the
world was false, and hollow, and deceitful? She had lost
something--heart--hope--conscience--she hardly knew what; but something
within her that had beat high, and hopeful, and trusting, was cold and
still as stone.

The little party on the platform went back through the yellow haze of
the hot afternoon, to the quiet old house. Ah! how indescribably quiet
and lonely now! Some one might have lain dead in those echoing rooms, so
deadly was the stillness.

There was one consolation for Grace and Eeny in their solitude. Doctor
Frank was going to remain in the village. It was chiefly at the
solicitation of Father Francis that he had consented.

"Dr. Pillule is superannuated," said the young priest, "and
old-fashioned, and obstinately prejudiced against all modern
innovations, at the best. We want a new man among us--particularly now
that this fever is spreading."

A low fever had been working its way, insidiously, among the people
since early spring, and increasing since the warm weather had come.
Perhaps the miasma, arising from the marshes, had been the cause; but
several had died, and many lay ill those sunny June days.

"Your mission lies here," Father Francis said, emphatically. "You can do
good, Doctor Danton. Stay!"

So Doctor Danton stayed, hanging out his shingle and taking up his abode
at the village hotel. Doctor Pillule all of a sudden, like the Moor of
Venice, found his occupation gone. Every one liked the pleasant young
Doctor, whose ways were so different from those of Doctor Pillule, and
who sat by their fevered bedsides, and talked to them so kindly. Every
one liked him; and he soon found himself busy enough, but never so busy
that some time, each day, he could not run up for half an hour to Danton
Hall.

July came, and brought a letter from Captain Danton to Grace. Like many
others, he hated letter-writing, and, never performed that duty when he
could possibly avoid it. But Kate declined writing, absolutely; so it
fell to his lot. They were in New York, on the eve of departure for
Newport, and Kate had already benefited by the change. That was nearly
all; and it was the middle of July before the second arrived. They were
still at Newport, and the improvement in Kate was marked. The wan and
sickly look was rapidly passing away--the change, the excitement, the
sea-bathing, the gay life, were working wonders.

"She has created somewhat of a sensation here," said the latter, "and
might be one of the belles, if she chose; but she doesn't choose. Her
coldness, her proud and petrified air, her strange and gloomy manner,
throws a halo of mystery around her, that has fixed all eyes upon her,
and set all tongues going. We are quite unknown here, and I don't choose
to enlighten any one. I dare say, more than one little romance has been
concocted, founded on poor Kate's settled gloom; but, beyond our names,
they really know nothing. Some of the young men look as if they would
like to be a little more friendly, but she freezes them with one flash
of her blue eyes."

August came, burning and breezeless, and they were at Saratoga, drinking
Congress water, and finding life much the same as at Newport. Kate had
recovered her looks, the Captain's letters said; the beauty that had
made her so irresistible had returned, and made her more irresistible
than ever. There was nothing like her at Saratoga; but she was as deeply
wrapped in mystery as ever, and about as genial as a statue in Parian
marble.

The end of August found them journeying southward. The beginning of
September, and they were domesticated in the friendly Georgian
homestead; and then, Kate, tired after all her wanderings, sank down in
the tropical warmth and beauty, and drew a breath of relief. She liked
it so much, this lovely southern land, where the gorgeous flowers
bloomed and the tropic birds flitted with the hues of Paradise on their
wings. She liked the glowing richness of the southern days and nights,
the forests and fields so unlike anything she had ever seen before; the
negroes with their strange talk and gaudy garments, the pleasant house
and the pleasant people. She liked it all, and the first sensation of
peace and rest she had felt all these months stole into her heart here.
And yet it had done her a world of good--she was a new being--outwardly
at least--although her heart felt as mute and still as ever. Her life's
shipwreck had been so sudden and so dreadful, she had been so stunned
and stupefied at first, and the after-anguish so horribly bitter, that
this haven of rest was as grateful as some green island of the sea to a
shipwrecked mariner. Here there was nothing to remind her of all that
was past and gone--here, where everything was new, her poor bruised
heart might heal.

Captain Danton saw and thanked Heaven gratefully for the blessed change
in the daughter he loved, and yet she was not the Kate of old. All the
youth and joyousness of life's springtime was gone. She sang no more the
songs he loved; they were dead and buried in the dead past; her clear
laugh never rejoiced his heart now; her fleeting smile came cold and
pale as moonlight, on snow. She took no interest in the home she had
left; she made no inquiries for those who were there.

"I have had a letter from Danton Hall," he would say; "and they are
well." And she would silently bend her head. Or, "I am writing to Danton
Hall; have you any message to send?" "Only my love to Eeny," would be
the answer; and then she would stray off and leave him alone. She was as
changed to him as she was changed in other things. Grace stood
between--an insuperable barrier.

September drew to a close. October came, and with it the time for their
departure. Kate left reluctantly; she longed to stay there forever, in
that land of the sun, and forget and be at peace. It was like tearing
half-healed wounds open to go back to a place where everything her eye
rested on or her ear heard, from morning till night, recalled the bitter
past. But fate was inexorable; farewell must be said to beautiful
Georgia and the kind friends there; and the commencement of the second
week of October found them starting on their journey to their northern
home.



CHAPTER XVIII.

"IT'S AN ILL WIND THAT BLOWS NOBODY GOOD."


They journeyed northward very slowly, stopping for a few days at all the
great cities, so that October was gone and part of November when they
reached Montreal. There they lingered a week, and then began the last
stage of their journey home.

It was a desolate afternoon, near the middle of that most desolate
month, November, when Captain Danton and his daughter stepped into the
railway-fly at St. Croix, and were driven, as fast as the spavined old
nag would go, to Danton Hall. A desolate afternoon, with a low leaden
sky threatening snow, and earth like iron with hard black frost. A
wretched complaining wind that made your nerves ache, worried the
half-stripped trees, and now and then a great snowflake whirled in the
dull grey air. The village looked silent and deserted as they drove
through it, and a melancholy bell was slowly tolling, tolling, tolling
all the way. Kate shivered audibly, and wrapped her fur-lined mantle
closer around her.

"What is that wretched bell for?" she asked.

"It is the passing bell," replied the father, with a gloomy brow. "You
know the fever is in the village."

"And someone is dead."

She looked out with a dreary, shivering sigh over the bleak prospect.
Gaunt black trees, grim black marshes, dull black river, and low black
sky. Oh, how desolate! How desolate it all was--as desolate as her own
dead heart. What was the use of going away, what was the use of
forgetting for a few poor moments, and then coming back to the old
desolation and the old pain? What a weary, weary piece of business life
was at best, not worth the trouble and suffering it took to live!

The drive to the Hall was such a short one, it hardly seemed to her they
were seated before they were driving up the leafless avenue, where the
trees loomed unnaturally large and black in the frosty air, and the dead
leaves whirled in great wild drifts under the horse's feet. The gloom
and desolation were here before them too. When they had gone away,
nearly six months before, those bleak avenues had been leafy arcades,
where the birds sang all the bright day long, flowers had bloomed
wherever her eye rested, and red roses and sweetbrier had twined
themselves around the low windows and stone pillars of the portico. Now
the trees were writhing skeletons, the flowers dead with the summer,
nothing left of the roses but rattling brown stalks, and the fish-pond
lying under the frowning wintry sky like a sheet of steel.

She went up the stone steps and into the hall, still shivering miserably
under her wraps, and saw Grace, and Eeny, and the servants assembled to
welcome them, and listened like one in a dream. It all seemed so flat,
and dead, and unsatisfying, and the old time and the old memories were
back at her heart, until she almost went wild. She could see how Eeny
and Grace looked a little afraid of her, and how differently they
greeted her father; and how heartily and unaffectedly glad he was to be
with them once more. And then she was toiling wearily up the long, wide
stairway, followed by faithful Eunice, and had the four walls of her own
little sitting room around her at last.

How pretty the room was! A fire burned brightly in the glittering steel
grate, the curtains were drawn, for it was already dusk, that short
November afternoon; and the ruddy, cheery light sparkled on the
pictures, and the book-case, and the inlaid table, and the two little
vases of scarlet geraniums Grace had planted there.

Outside, in contrast to all this warmth, and brightness, and comfort,
she could hear the lamentable sighing of the wild November wind, and the
groaning of the tortured trees. But it brought no sense of comfort to
her, and she sat drearily back while Eunice dressed her for dinner, and
stared blankly into the fire, wondering if her whole life was to go on
like this. Only twenty-one, and life such a hopeless blank already! She
could look forward to her future life--a long, long vista of days, and
every day like this.

By-and-by the dinner-bell rang, arousing her from her dismal reverie,
and she went down stairs, never taking the trouble to look at herself in
the glass, or to see how her maid had dressed her. Yet she looked
beautiful--coldly, palely beautiful--in that floating dress of deep
blue; and jewelled forget-me-nots in her rich amber hair. Her face and
figure had recovered all their lost roundness and symmetry, but the
former, except when she spoke or smiled, was as cold and still as
marble.

Father Francis and Doctor Danton were in the dining-room when she
entered, but their welcome home was very apathetically met. She was
silent all through dinner, talking was such a tiresome exertion; nothing
interested her. She hardly looked up--she could feel, somehow, the young
priest's deep, clear eyes bent upon her in grave disapproval, against
which her proud spirit mutinied.

"Why should I take the trouble to talk?" she thought; "What do I care
for Doctor Danton or his sister, or what interest have the things they
talk of for me?"

So she listened as if they had been talking Greek. Only once was she
aroused to anything like interest. Their two guests were relating the
progress of that virulent fever in the village, and how many had already
been carried off.

"I should think the cold weather would give it a check," said her
father.

"It seems rather on the increase," replied the priest; "there are ten
cases in St. Croix now."

"We heard the bell as we drove up this afternoon," said the Captain;
"for whom was it tolling?"

"For poor old Pierre, the sexton. He took the fever only a week ago, and
was delirious nearly all the time."

Kate lifted her eyes, hitherto listening, but otherwise meaningless.

"Pierre, who used to light the fires and sweep the church?"

"Yes; you knew him," said Father Francis looking at her; "he talked of
you more than once during his delirium. It seems you sang for him once,
and he never forgot it. It dwelt in his mind more than anything else,
during that last illness."

A pang pierced Kate's heart. She remembered the day when she had strayed
into the church with Reginald, and found old Pierre sweeping. He had
made his request so humbly and earnestly, that she had sat down at the
little harmonium and played and sung a hymn. And he had never forgotten
it; he had talked of it in his dying hours. The sharpest remorse she had
ever felt in her life, for the good she might have done, she felt then.

"My poor people have missed their Lady Bountiful," continued Father
Francis, with that grave smile of his--"missed her more than ever, in
this trying time. Do you remember Hermine Lacheur, Miss Danton?"

"That pretty, gentle girl, with the great dark eyes, and black ringlets?
Oh, yes, very well."

"The same. She was rather a pet of yours, I think. You taught her to
sing some little hymns in the choir. You will be sorry to hear she has
gone."

"Dead!" Kate cried, struck and thrilled.

"Dead," Father Francis said, a little tremor in his voice. "A most
estimable girl, beloved by every one. Like Pierre, she talked a great
deal of you in her last illness, and sang the hymns you taught her.
'Give my dear love to Miss Danton,' were almost her last words to me;
'she has been very kind to me. Tell her I will pray for her in Heaven.'"

There was silence.

"Oh," Kate thought, with unutterable bitterness of sorrow; "how happy I
might have been--how happy I might have made others, if I had given my
heart to God, instead of to His creatures. The bountiful blessings I
have wasted--youth, health, opulence--how many poor souls I might have
gladdened and helped!"

She rose from the table, and walked over to the window. The blackness of
darkness had settled down over the earth, but she never saw it. Was it
too late yet? Had she found her mission on earth? Had she still
something to live for? Was she worthy of so great a charge? A few hours
before, and life was all a blank, without an object. Had Father Francis
been sent to point out the object for which she must henceforth live?
The poor and suffering were around her. It was in her power to alleviate
their poverty and soothe their suffering. The great Master of Earth and
Heaven had spent His life ministering to the afflicted and
humble--surely it was a great and glorious thing to be able to follow
afar off in His footsteps. The thoughts of that hour changed the whole
tenor of her mind--perhaps the whole course of her life. She had found
her place in the world, and her work to do. She might never be happy
herself, but she might make others happy. She might never have a home of
her own, but she might brighten and cheer other homes. As an unprofessed
Sister of Charity, she might go among those poor ones doing good; and
dimly in the future she could see the cloistered, grateful walls
shutting her from the troubles of this feverish life. Standing there by
the curtained window, her eyes fixed on the pitchy darkness, a new era
in her existence seemed to dawn.

Miss Danton said nothing to any one about this new resolution of hers.
She felt how it would be opposed, how she would have to argue and combat
for permission; so she held her tongue. But next morning, an hour after
breakfast, she came to Grace, and in that tone of quiet authority she
always used to her father's housekeeper, requested the keys to the
sideboard.

Grace looked surprised, but yielded them at once; and Kate, going to the
large, carved, old-fashioned, walnut wood buffet, abstracted two or
three bottles of old port, a glass jar of jelly, and another of
tamarinds; stowed away these spoils in a large morocco reticule,
returned the keys to Grace, and, going upstairs, dressed herself in her
plainest dress, mantle, and hat, took her reticule, and set off. She
smiled at herself as she walked down the avenue--she, the elegant,
fastidious Kate Danton, attired in those sombre garments, carrying that
well-filled bag, and turning, all in a moment, a Sister of Mercy.

It was nearly noon when she returned, pale, and very tired, from her
long walk. Grace wondered more than ever, as she saw her dragging
herself slowly upstairs.

"Where can she have been?" she mused, "in that dress and with that bag,
and what on earth can she have wanted the keys of the sideboard for?"

Grace was enlightened some hours later, when Father Francis came up, and
informed the household that he had found Kate ministering to one of the
worst cases of fever in the village--a dying old woman.

"She was sitting by the bedside reading to her," said the priest; "and
she had given poor old Madame Lange what she has been longing for weeks
past, wine. I assure you I was confounded at the sight."

"But, good gracious!" cried the Captain, aghast, "she will take the
fever."

"I told her so--I expostulated with her on her rashness, but all in
vain. I told her to send them as much wine and jellies as she pleased,
but to keep out of these pestiferous cottages. She only looked at me
with those big solemn eyes, and said:

"'Father, if I were a professed Sister of Charity, you would call my
mission Heaven-sent and glorious; because I am not, you tell me I am
foolish and rash. I don't think I am either; I have no fear of the
fever; I am young, and strong, and healthy, and do not think I will take
it. Even if I do, and if I die, I shall die doing God's work. Better
such a death as that than a long, miserable, worthless life.'"

"She is resolved, then?"

"You would say so if you saw her face. Better not oppose her too much, I
think; her mind is set upon it, and it seems to make her happy. It is,
indeed, as she says, a noble work. God will protect her."

Captain Danton sighed. It seemed to him a very dreary and dismal labour
for his bright Kate. But he had not the heart to oppose her in anything,
let it be never so mad and dangerous. He had never opposed her in the
days of her happiness, and it was late to begin now.

So Kate's new life began. While the weeks of November were ending in
short, dark, dull days, and cold and windy nights, with the dying year,
many in the fever-stricken village were dying too. Into all these humble
dwellings the beautiful girl was welcomed as an angel of light. The
delicacies and rich wines that nourished and strengthened them they owed
to her bounty; the words of holy hope and consolation that soothed their
dying hours, her sweet voice read; the hymns that seemed a foretaste of
Heaven, her clear voice sang. Her white hands closed their dying eyes
and folded the rigid arms, and decked the room of death with flowers
that took away half its ghastliness. Her deft fingers arranged the folds
of the shroud, and the winding-sheet, and her gentle tones whispered
comfort and resignation to the sorrowing ones behind. How they blessed
her, how they loved her, those poor people, was known only to Heaven and
themselves.

There were two others in all these stricken houses, at these beds of
death--Father Francis and Dr. Danton. They were her indefatigable
fellow-labourers in the good work, as unwearied in their zeal and
patience and as deeply beloved as she was. Perhaps it was that by
constantly preaching patience, she had learned patience herself. Perhaps
it was through seeing all his goodness and untiring devotion, she began
to realize after a while she had been unjust to Doctor Danton. She could
not help liking and respecting him. She heard his praises in every mouth
in the village, and she could not help owning they were well deserved.
Almost without knowing it, she was beginning to like and admire this
devoted young Doctor, who never wearied in his zeal, who was so gentle,
and womanly, and tender to the poor and suffering. Doing the brother
tardy justice, it began dimly to dawn on her mind that she might have
done the sister injustice too. She had never known anything of Grace but
what was good. Could it be that she had been prejudiced, and proud, and
unjust from first to last?

She asked herself the question going home one evening from her mission
of mercy. The long-deferred wedding was to take place on Christmas eve,
and it was now the 7th of December. She was walking home alone, in the
yellow lustre of the wintry sunset, the snow lying white and high all
around her. Her new life had changed her somewhat; the hard look was
gone, her face was far more peaceful and gentle than when she had come.
Its luminous brightness was not there, perhaps; but the light that
remained was far more tender and sweet. She looked very lovely, this
cold, clear December, afternoon, in her dark, fur-trimmed mantle, her
pretty hat, fur-trimmed too, and the long black plume contrasting with
her amber-tinted hair. The frosty wind had lit a glow in her pale
cheeks, and deepened the light of her starry violet eyes. She looked
lovely, and so the gentleman thought, striding after her over the snowy
ground. She did not look around to see who it was, and it was only when
he stepped up by her side that she glanced at him, uttering a cry of
surprise.

"Sir Ronald Keith! Is it really you? Oh, what a surprise!"

She held out her gloved hand. He took it, held it, looking piercingly
into her eyes.

"Not an unpleasant one, I hope? Are you glad to see me?"

"Of course! How can you ask such a question? But I thought you were
hundreds of miles away, shooting moose, and bears, and wolves in New
Brunswick."

"And so I was, and so I might have remained, had I not heard some news
that sent me to Canada like a bolt from a bow."

"What news?"

"Can you ask?"

She lifted her clear eyes to his face, and read it there. The news that
she was free. The red blood flushed up in her face for a moment, and
then receded, leaving her as white as the snow.

"I learned in the wilds of New Brunswick, where I fled to forget you,
Kate, that that man was, what I knew he would be, a traitor and a
villain. I only heard it two weeks ago, and I have never rested on my
way to you since. I am a fool and a madman, perhaps, but I can't help
hoping against hope. I love you so much, Kate, I have loved you so long,
that I cannot give you up. He is false, but I will be true. I love you
with all my heart and soul, better than I love my own life. Kate, don't
send me away again. Reginald Stanford does not stand between us now.
Think how I love you, and be my wife."

She had tried to stop him, but he ran on impetuously. He was so haggard
and so agitated speaking to her, that she could not be angry, that she
could not help pitying him.

"Don't," she said, gently; "don't, Sir Ronald. You are only paining
yourself and paining me. What I told you before, you force me to tell
you again. I don't love you, and I can't be your wife."

"I don't expect you to love me yet," he said, eagerly; "how should you?
I will wait, I will do everything under Heaven you wish, only give me
hope. Give me a chance, Kate! I love you so truly and entirely, that it
will win a return sooner or later."

"Ah! don't talk to me," she said, with an impatient sigh; "don't talk to
me of love. I have done with that, my heart feels like dust and ashes. I
am not worthy of you--I am not worthy of such devotion. I thank you, Sir
Ronald, for the honour you do me; but I cannot--I cannot marry you!"

"And you will let that poltroon Stanford boast, as he does boast, that
you will live and die single for his sake!" he cried, bitterly. "He has
made it the subject of a bet in a London club-room with Major Lauderdale
of the Guards."

"No!" said she, her face flushing, her eyes kindling; "he never did
that!"

"He did do it. I have proof of it. You loved him so well--he
boasted--that you would never marry. He and Lauderdale made the bet."

She drew a long, hard breath, her eyes flashing, her white teeth
clenched.

"The dastard," she cried; "the mean, lying, cowardly dastard! Oh, if I
were a man!"

"Take your revenge without being a man. Prove him a liar and a boaster.
Marry me!"

She did not answer; but he read hope in her flushed and excited face.

"Besides," he artfully went on, "what will you do here? You have no
longer a home when your father marries; unless you can consent to be
subject to the woman who was once his housekeeper. You will have no
place in the world; you will only be an incumbrance; your step-mother
will wish you out of the way, and your father will learn to wish as his
new wife does. Oh, Kate, come with me! Come to Glen Keith, and reign
there; we will travel over the world; you shall have every luxury that
wealth can procure; your every wish shall be gratified; you shall queen
it, my beautiful one, over the necks of those who have slighted and
humiliated you. Leave this hateful Canada, and come with me as my
wife--as Lady Keith!"

"Don't! don't!" she cried, lifting her hand to stop his passionate
pleading. "You bewilder me; you take my breath away! Give me time; let
me think; my head is whirling now."

"As long as you like, my dearest. I don't ask you for love now; that
will come by-and-by. Only give me hope, and I can wait--wait as long as
Jacob for Rachel, if necessary."

He lifted her hand to his lips, but let it fall quickly again, for it
felt like ice. She was looking straight before her, at the pale, yellow
sunset, her dark eyes filled with a dusky fire, but her face as
colourless as the snowy ground.

"Are you ill, Kate?" he said, in alarm; "have I distressed you? have I
agitated you by my sudden coming?"

"You have agitated me," she replied. "My head is reeling. Don't talk to
me any more. I want to be alone and to think."

They walked side by side the rest of the way in total silence. When they
reached the house, Kate ran up to her own room at once, while Captain
Danton came out into the hall to greet his old friend. The two men
lounged out in the grounds, smoking before-dinner cigars, and Sir Ronald
briefly stated the object of his return, and his late proposal to his
daughter. Captain Danton listened silently and a little anxiously. He
had known the Scottish baronet a long time; knew how wealthy he was, and
how passionately he loved his daughter; but for all that he had an
instinctive feeling that Kate would not be happy with him.

"She has given you no reply, then?" he said, when Sir Ronald had
finished.

"None, as yet; but she will shortly. Should that reply be favourable,
Captain Danton, yours, I trust, will be favourable also?"

He spoke rather haughtily, and a flush deepened the florid hue of the
Captain's face.

"My daughter shall please herself. If she thinks she can be happy as
your wife, I have nothing to say. You spoke of Reginald Stanford a
moment ago; do you know anything of his doings since he left Canada?"

"Very little. He has sold his commission, and quitted the army--some
say, quitted England. His family, you know, have cast him off for his
dishonourable conduct."

"I know--I received a letter from Stanford Royals some months ago, in
which his father expressed his strong regret, and his disapproval of his
son's conduct."

"That is all you know about him?"

"That is all. I made no inquiry--I thought the false hound beneath
notice."

Captain Danton sighed. He had loved his pretty, bright-eyed,
auburn-haired Rose very dearly, and he could not quite forget her, in
spite of her misdoing. They sauntered up and down in the grey, cold,
wintry twilight, until the ringing of the dinner-bell summoned them
indoors. Kate was there, very beautiful, Sir Ronald thought, in that
dark, rich silk, and flashing ornaments in her golden hair.

Long that night, after the rest of the household were sleeping, Kate sat
musing over the past, the present, and the future. She had dismissed
Eunice, and sat before the fire in a loose, white dressing-gown, her
lovely hair falling around her, her deep, earnest eyes fixed on the red
blaze. What should she do? Accept Sir Ronald Keith's offer, and achieve
a brilliant place in the world, or sink into insignificance in this
remote corner of the earth? It was all true what he had said: in a few
days her father would be married. Another would be mistress where she
had reigned--another, who might look upon her as an incumbrance and a
burden. She had been content to remain here while she held the first
place in her father's heart; but another held that place now, and would
hold it forever. What should she do in the long days, and months, and
years, that were to come? How should she drag through a useless and
monotonous existence in this dull place? Even now, earnestly as she
sought to do good in her mission of mercy, there were hours and hours of
wretched, unspeakable dreariness and desolation. When her work was
ended, when the fever was over, what would become of her then? That dim
vision of the cloister and veil was dim as ever in the far distance. No
ardent glow, no holy longing filled her heart at the thought, to tell
her she had found a vocation. Her life was unspeakable empty and
desolate, and must remain so forever, if she stayed here. Other thoughts
were at work, too, tempting her on. The recollection of Sir Ronald's
words about her recreant lover--the thought of his insolent and cowardly
boast stung her to the soul. Here was the way to revenge--the way to
give him the lie direct. As Sir Ronald Keith's wife, a life of splendour
and power awaited her. She thought of Glen Keith as she had seen it
once, old and storied, and gray and grand, with ivy and roses clustering
round its gray walls, and its waving trees casting inviting shadows.
Then, too, did he not deserve some return for this long, faithful,
devoted love? Other girls made marriages _de raison_ every day, and were
well content with their lot--why should she not? She could not forever
remain indifferent to his fidelity and devotion. She might learn to love
him by-and-by.

The fire waned and burned low, the hours of the bleak winter night wore
on, and three o'clock of a new day struck before the solitary watcher
went to bed.

The Scotch baronet was not kept long in suspense. Next morning, as Miss
Danton came down the stone steps, with something in a paper parcel for
her poor, sick pensioners, Sir Ronald Keith joined her.

"I have passed a sleepless night," he said. "I shall never rest until I
have your answer. When am I to have it, Kate?"

Her face turned a shade paler, otherwise there was no change, and her
voice was quite firm.

"Now, if you wish."

"And it is yes," he cried, eagerly. "For Heaven's sake, Kate, say it is
yes!"

"It is yes; if you can take me for what I am. I don't love you; I don't
know that I shall ever love you, but I will try. If I marry you, I will
be your true and faithful wife, and your honour will be as sacred as my
salvation. If you can take me, knowing this, I am yours."

He caught her in his arms, and broke out into a torrent of passionate
delight and thankfulness. She disengaged herself, cold and very pale.

"Leave me now," she said. "I must go to the village alone. Don't ask too
much from me, Sir Ronald, or you may be disappointed."

"Only one thing more, my darling. Your father is to be married on the
twenty-fourth. I am sure you will have no wish to linger in this house
after that. Will you not dispense with the usual formalities and
preparations, and be married on the same day?"

"Yes, yes," she said, impatiently; "let it be as you wish! What does it
matter? Good-morning."

She walked away rapidly over the frozen snow, leaving the successful
wooer to return to the house and relate his good luck.



CHAPTER XIX.

VIA CRUCIS.


So once more Miss Danton was "engaged;" once more preparations for a
double wedding went on; once more her wedding day was named.

There was very little noise made about the matter this time. Father
Francis and Doctor Danton were almost the only two outside the household
who knew anything about it, and somehow these were the very two Kate
herself wished most to keep it from.

She was ashamed of her mercenary marriage; in spite of herself she
despised herself for it, and she felt they must despise her for it too.
She shrank away guiltily under the clear steadfast, searching gaze of
Father Francis, feeling how low she must have fallen in his estimation.
She respected and esteemed the priest and the Doctor so much, that it
was humiliating to lose their respect by her own voluntary act. But it
was too late to draw back, even if she wished it; her fetters were
forged--she was bound beyond recall.

Sir Ronald Keith had got the desire of his heart--Kate Danton was his
promised wife, and yet he was not quite happy. Are we ever quite happy,
I wonder, when we attain the end for which we have sighed and longed,
perhaps for years? Our imagination is so very apt to paint that desire
of our heart in rainbow-hues, and we are so very apt to find it, when it
comes, only dull gray, after all.

Sir Ronald loved his beautiful and queenly affianced with a changeless
devotion nothing could alter. He had thought her promise to marry him
would satisfy him perfectly; but he had that promise, and he was not
satisfied. He wanted something more--he wanted love in return, although
he knew she did not love him; and he was dissatisfied. It is not exactly
pleasant, perhaps, to find the woman you love and are about to marry as
cold as an iceberg--to see her shrink at your approach, and avoid you on
all possible occasions. It is rather hard, no doubt, to put up with the
loose touch of cold fingers for your warmest caress, and heavy sighs in
answer to your most loving speeches.

Sir Ronald had promised to be content without love; but he was not, and
was huffish and offended, and savagely jealous of Reginald Stanford and
all the hated past.

So the baronet's wooing was on the whole rather gloomy, and depressing
to the spirits, even of the lookers-on; and Kate was failing away once
more to a pale, listless shadow, and Sir Ronald was in a state of
perpetual sulkiness.

But the bridal-cakes and bridal-dresses were making, and the December
days were slipping by, one by one, bringing the fated time near. Miss
Danton still zealously and unweariedly continued her mission of love. No
weather kept her indoors, no pleadings of her future husband were strong
enough to make her give up one visit for his pleasure or accommodation.

"Let me alone, Sir Ronald Keith," she would answer, wearily, and a
little impatiently; "it will not be for long. Let me alone!"

The fever that had swept off so many was slowly dying out. The sick ones
were not so bad or so many now, but that Miss Danton, with a safe
conscience, might have given them up; but she would not. She never
wanted to be alone--she who had been so fond of solitude such a short
time ago. She was afraid of herself--afraid to think--afraid of that dim
future that was drawing so very near. Every feeling of heart and soul
revolted at the thought of that loveless marriage--the profanation of
herself seemed more than she could bear.

"I shall turn desperate at the very altar!" she thought, with something
like despair. "I can't marry him--I can't! It sets me wild to think of
it. What a wretch I am! What a weak, miserable, cowardly wretch, not to
be able to face the fate I have chosen for myself! I don't know what to
do, and I have no one to consult--no one but Father Francis, and I am
afraid to speak to him. I don't love him; I loathe the thought of
marrying him; but it is too late to draw back. If one could only die,
and end it all!"

Her arm lay across the window-sill; her head drooped and fell on it now,
with a heavy sigh. She was unspeakably miserable, and lonely, and
desolate; she was going to seal her misery for life by a loveless
marriage, which her soul abhorred, and she had no power to draw back.
She was like a rudderless ship, drifting without helm or compass among
shoals and quicksands--drifting helplessly to ruin.

"If I dared only ask Father Francis, he would tell me what to do," she
thought, despondingly; "he is so wise and good, and knows what is best
for every one. He would tell me how to do what is right, and I want to
do what is right if I can. But I have neglected, and avoided, and
prevaricated with him so long that I have no right to trouble him now.
And I know he would tell me I am doing wrong; I have read it in his
face; and how can I do right?"

She sat thinking drearily, her face lying on her arm. It was the
afternoon of the 14th--ten days more, and it would indeed, be too late.
The nearer the marriage approached, the more abhorrent it grew. The
waving trees of Glen-Keith cast inviting shadows no longer. It was all
darkness and desolation. Sir Ronald's moody, angry face frightened and
distressed her--it was natural, she supposed. She did not behave well,
but he knew she did not care for him; she had told him so, honestly and
plainly; and if he looked like that before marriage, how would he look
after? She was unutterably wretched, poor child; and a remorseful
conscience that would give her no rest did not add to her comfort.

She sat there for a long time, her face hidden on her arm, quite still.
The short, wintry afternoon was wearing away; the cold, yellow sun hung
low in the pale western sky, and the evening wind was sighing mournfully
amid the trees when she rose up. She looked pale, but resolved; and she
dressed herself for a walk, with a veil over her face, and slowly
descended the stairs.

As she opened the house door, Sir Ronald came out of the drawing-room,
not looking too well pleased at having been deserted all the afternoon.

"Are you going out?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Where?"

"Up the village."

"Always up the village!" he exclaimed, impatiently, "and always alone.
May I not go with you? It is growing, late."

"There is no occasion," she replied, looking at him proudly. "I need no
protector in St. Croix."

She opened the door and went out, and walked rapidly down the bleak
avenue to the gates. The authoritative tone of the baronet stung her
proud spirit to the quick.

"What right has he to talk to me like that?" she thought, angrily. "If I
loved him, I would not endure it; I don't love him, and I won't endure
it."

Her eyes flashed as she walked along, lightly and rapidly, holding her
haughty head very erect. Greetings met her on every hand as she passed
through the village. She never paused until she reached the church, and
stood by the entrance gate of the little garden in front of the Curé's
house. There she paused irresolute. How peaceful it was--what a holy
hush seemed to linger round the place! All her courage left her, and she
stood as timid and fluttering as any school-girl. While she hesitated,
the door opened, and Father Francis stood looking at her.

"Come in, Miss Danton," he said. "You look as if you were almost
afraid."

She opened the little gate and went up the path, looking strangely
downcast and troubled. Father Francis held out his hand with a smile.

"I thought you would come to see me before you left Canada," he said,
"although you seem to have rather forgotten your old friends of late.
Come in."

"Are you alone?" Kate asked, following him into the little parlour.

"Quite alone. The Curé has gone two miles off on a sick call. And how
are the good people of Danton Hall?"

"Very well," Kate answered, taking a seat by the window and looking out
at the pale, yellow sunset.

"That is, except yourself, Miss Danton. You have grown thin within the
last fortnight. What is the matter?"

"I am not very happy," she said, with a little tremor of the voice;
"perhaps that is it."

"Not happy?" repeated Father Francis, with a short, peculiar laugh. "I
thought when young ladies married baronets, the height of earthly
felicity was attained. It seems rather sordid, this marrying for wealth
and title. I hardly thought Kate Danton would do it; but it appears I
have made a foolish mistake."

"Thank you," Kate said, very slowly. "I came here to ask you to be cruel
to me--to tell me hard truths. You know how to be cruel very well,
Father Francis."

"Why do you come to me for hard truths?" said the priest, rather coldly.
"You have been deluding yourself all along; why don't you go on? What is
the use of telling you the truth? You will do as you like in the end."

"Perhaps not. I have not fallen quite so low as you think. I dare say
you despise me, but you can hardly despise me more than I despise
myself."

"Then why walk on in the path that leads you downward? Why not stop
before it is too late?"

"It is too late now!"

"Stuff and nonsense! That is more of your self-delusion. You, or rather
that pride of yours, which has been the great stumbling-block of your
life, leads you on in that self-delusion. Too late! It would not be too
late if you were before the altar! Better stop now and endure the
humiliation than render your own and this man's future life miserable.
You will never be happy as Sir Ronald Keith's wife; he will never be
happy as your husband. I know how you are trying to delude yourself; I
know you are trying to believe you will love him and be happy by-and-by.
Don't indulge such sophistry any longer; don't be led away by your own
pride and folly."

"Pride and folly!" she echoed indignantly.

"Yes, I repeat it. Your heart, your conscience, must own the truth of
what I say, if your lips will not. Would you ever have accepted Sir
Ronald Keith if your father had not been about to marry Grace Danton?"

The sudden flush that overspread her face answered for her, though she
did not speak. She sat looking straight before her into vacancy, with a
hard, despairing look in her dark, deep eyes.

"You know you would not. But your father is going to marry a most
excellent and most estimable woman; his affection is not wholly his
daughter's any longer; she must stand a little in the shade, and see
another reign where she used to be queen. She cannot hold the first
place in her father's heart and home; so she is ready to leave that home
with the first man who asks her. She does not love him; there is no
sympathy or feeling in common between them; they are not even of the
same religion; she knows that she will be wretched, and that she will
make him wretched too. But what does it all matter? Her pride is to be
wounded, her self-love humiliated, and every other consideration must
yield to that. She is ready to commit perjury, to swear to love and
honour a man who is no more to her than that peasant walking along the
road. She is ready to degrade herself and risk her soul by a mercenary
marriage sooner than bear that wound to pride!"

"Go on!" Kate said, bitterly; "it is well to have one's heart lacerated
sometimes, I suppose. Pray go on."

"I intend to go on. You have been used to queening it all your life--to
being flattered, and indulged, and pampered to the top of your bent, and
it will do you good. When you are this man's miserable wife, you shall
never say Father Francis might have warned me--Father Francis might have
saved me. You have ruled here with a ring and a clatter; you have been
pleased to dazzle and bewilder the simple people of St. Croix, to see
yourself looked up to as a sort of goddess. Your rank, and
accomplishments, and beauty--we are talking plain truth now, Miss
Danton--all these gifts that God has bestowed upon you so bountifully,
you have misused. It doesn't seem so to you, does it? You think you have
been very good, very charitable, very condescending. I don't deny that
you have done good, that you have been a sort of guardian angel to the
poor and the sick; but what was your motive? Was it that which makes
thousands of girls, as young, and rich, and handsome as yourself, resign
everything for the humble garb and lowly duties of a Sister of Charity?
Oh, no! You liked to be idolized, to be venerated, and looked up to as
an angel upon earth. That pride of yours which induces you to sell
yourself for so many thousand pounds per annum was at the bottom of it
all. You want to hold a foremost place in the great battle of life--you
want all obstacles to give way before you. It can't be; and your whole
life is a failure."

"Go on," Kate reiterated, never stirring, never looking at him, and
white as death.

"You have fancied yourself very good, very immaculate, and thanked
Heaven in an uplifted sort of way that you were not as other women,
false, and mean, and sordid. You wanted to walk through life in a
pathway of roses without thorns, to a placid death, and a heritage of
glory in Heaven. The trials of common people were not for you; sorrow,
and disappointment, and suffering were to pass Miss Danton by. You were
so good, and so far up in the clouds, nothing low or base could reach
you. Well, it was not to be. You were only clay, after all--the
porcelain of human clay, perhaps, but very brittle stuff withal. Trouble
did come; the man you had made a sort of idol of, to whom you had given
your whole heart, with a love so intense as to be sinful--this man
abandons you. The sister you have trusted and been fond of, deceives
you, and you find that trouble is something more than a word of two
syllables. You have been very great, and noble, and heroic all your
life, in theory--how do we find you in practice? Why, drooping like any
other lovelorn damsel, pining away without one effort at that greatness
and heroism you thought so much of; without one purpose to conquer
yourself, without one effort to be resigned to the will of Heaven. You
rebel against your father's marriage; everybody else ought to be lonely
and unhappy because you are; the world ought to wear crape, and the
light of the sun be darkened. But the world laughs and sings much as
usual, the sun shines as joyously. Your father's marriage will be an
accomplished fact, and our modern heroine says 'yes' to the first man
who asks her to marry him in a fit of spleen, because she will be Grace
Danton's step-daughter, and must retire a little into the background,
and look forward to the common humdrum life ordinary mortals lead. She
doesn't ask help where help alone is to be found; so in the hour of her
trial there is no light for her in earth or Heaven. Oh, my child! stop
and think what you are going to do before it is too late."

"I can't think," she said, in a hollow voice. "I only know I am a
miserable, sinful, fallen creature. Help me, Father Francis; tell me
what I am to do."

"Do not ask help from me," the young priest said, gravely; "ask it of
that compassionate Father who is in Heaven. Oh! my child, the way to
that land of peace and rest is the way of the Cross--the only way. There
are more thorns than roses under our feet, but we must go on like
steadfast soldiers to the end, bearing our cross, and keeping the
battle-cry of the brave old Crusaders in our hearts, 'God wills it.'
Your trouble has been heavy, my poor child, I don't doubt, but you
cannot be exempt from the common lot. I am sorry for you, Heaven knows,
and I would make your life a happy one if I could, in spite of all the
harsh things I may say. It is because I would not have your whole life
miserable that I talk to you like this. Your heart acknowledges the
truth of every word I have said; and remember there is but one recipe
for real happiness--goodness. Be good and you will be happy. It is a
hackneyed precept out of a copy-book," Father Francis said, with a
slight smile; "but believe me, it is the only infallible rule. Rouse
yourself to a better life, my dear Kate; begin a new and more perfect
life, and God will help you. Remember, dear child, 'There is a love that
never fails when earthly loves decay.'"

She did not speak. She rose up, cold, and white, and rigid. The priest
arose too.

"Are you going?" he asked.

"Yes."

"You are not offended with me for all this plain talk? I like you so
much, you know, that I want to see you happy."

"Offended?" she answered, "oh, no! Some day I will thank you; I cannot
now."

She opened the door and was gone, flitting along, a lonely figure in the
bleak winter twilight. She never paused in her rapid walk until she
reached Danton Hall; and then, pale and absorbed, she ran rapidly
upstairs, and shut herself into her room. Throwing off her bonnet and
mantle, she sat down to her writing-desk at once, and without waiting to
think, took up a pen and dashed off a rapid note:

     "Sir Ronald:--I have deceived you. I have done very wrong.
     I don't love you--I never can; and I cannot be your wife. I am very
     sorry; I ask you to forgive me--to be generous, and release me from
     my promise. I should be miserable as your wife, and I would make
     you miserable too. Oh! pray forgive me, and release me, for indeed
     I cannot marry you.

     "Kate Danton."

She folded the note rapidly, placed it in an envelope, wrote the
address, "Sir Ronald Keith," and sealed it. Still in the same rapid way,
as if she were afraid to pause, afraid to trust herself, she arose and
rang the bell. Eunice answered the summons, and stared aghast at her
mistress' face.

"Do you know if Sir Ronald is in the house?" Miss Danton asked.

"Yes, Miss; he's sitting in the library, reading a paper."

"Is he alone?"

"Yes, Miss."

"Take this letter to him, then; and, Eunice, tell Miss Grace I will not
be down to dinner. You can fetch me a cup of tea here. I do not feel
very well."

Eunice departed on her errand. Kate drew a long, long breath of relief
when she closed the door after her. She drew her favourite chair up
before the fire, took a book off the table, and seated herself
resolutely to read. She was determined to put off thought--to let events
take their course, and cease tormenting herself, for to-night at least.

Eunice brought up the tea and a little trayful of dainties, drew the
curtain, and lit the lamp. Kate laid down her book and looked up.

"Did you deliver the note, Eunice?"

"Yes, Miss."

"And my message to Miss Grace?"

"Yes, Miss."

"Very well, then--you may go."

The girl went away, and Kate sat sipping her tea and reading. She sat
for upward of half an hour, and then she arose and took the way to the
apartments of Mr. Richards. It was after ten before she returned and
entered her sitting-room. She found Eunice waiting for her, and she
resigned herself into her hands at once.

"I shall go to bed early to-night," she said. "My head aches. I must try
and sleep."

Sleep mercifully came to her almost as soon as she laid her head on her
pillow. She slept as she had not done for many a night before, and awoke
next morning refreshed and strengthened for the new trials of the new
day. She dreaded the meeting with her discarded suitor, with a nervous
dread quite indescribable; but the meeting must be, and she braced
herself for the encounter with a short, fervent prayer, and went down
stairs.

There was no one in the dining-room, but the table was laid. She walked
to the window, and stood looking out at the black, bare trees, writhing
and groaning in the morning wind, and the yellow sunshine glittering on
the frozen snow. While she stood, a quick, heavy tread crossed the
hall--a tread she knew well. Her heart throbbed; her breath came quick.
A moment later, and Sir Ronald entered, the open note she had sent him
in his hand.

"What is the meaning of this folly, Kate?" he demanded, angrily,
striding towards her. "Here, take it back. You did not mean it."

"I do mean it," Kate said, shrinking. "I have behaved very badly; I am
very sorry, but I mean it."

His black brows contracted stormily over his gloomy eyes.

"Do you mean to say you have jilted me? Have you been playing the
capricious coquette from first to last?"

"I am very sorry! I am very sorry!" poor Kate faltered. "I have done
wrong! Oh, forgive me! And please don't be angry."

He broke into a harsh laugh.

"You are sorry! and you have done wrong! Upon my soul, Miss Danton, you
have a mild way of putting it. Here, take back this nonsensical letter.
I can't and won't free you from your engagement."

He held the letter out, but she would not take it. The strong and proud
spirit was beginning to rise; but the recollection that she had drawn
this on herself held her in check.

"I cannot take back one word in that letter. I made a great mistake in
thinking I could marry you; I see it now more than ever. I have owned my
fault. I have told you I am sorry. I can do no more. As a gentleman you
are bound to release me."

"Of course," he said, with a bitter sneer. "As a gentleman, I am bound
to let you play fast and loose with me to your heart's content. You have
behaved very honourably to me, Miss Danton, and very much like a
gentlewoman. Is it because you have been jilted yourself, that you want
the pleasure of jilting another? It is hardly the thing to revenge
Reginald Stanford's doings on me."

Up leaped the indignant blood to Kate's face; bright flashed the angry
fire from her eyes.

"Go!" she cried, in a ringing tone of command. "Leave my father's house,
Sir Ronald Keith! I thought I was talking to a gentleman. I have found
my mistake. Go! If you were monarch of the world, I would not marry you
now."

He ground his teeth with a savage oath of fury and rage. The letter she
had sent him was still in his hand. He tore it fiercely into fragments,
and flung them in a white shower at her feet.

"I will go," he said; "but I shall remember this day, and so shall you.
I shall take good care to let the world know how you behave to an
honourable man when a dishonourable one deserts you."

With the last unmanly taunt he was gone, banging the house door after
him until the old mansion shook. And Kate fled back to her room, and
fell down on her knees before her little white bed, and prayed with a
passionate outburst of tears for strength to bear her bitter, bitter
cross.

Later in the day a man from the village hotel came to Danton Hall for
the baronet's luggage. Captain Danton, mystified and bewildered, sought
his daughter for an explanation of these strange goings on. Kate related
the rather humiliating story, leaving out Sir Ronald's cruel taunts, in
dread of a quarrel between him and her father.

"Don't say anything about it, papa," Kate said, imploringly. "I have
behaved very badly, and I feel more wretched and sorry for it all than I
can tell you. Don't try to see Sir Ronald. He is justly very angry, and
might say things in his anger that would provoke a quarrel. I am
miserable enough now without that."

Captain Danton promised, and quietly dispatched the Scotchman's
belongings. That evening Sir Ronald departed for Quebec, to take passage
for Liverpool.



CHAPTER XX.

BEARING THE CROSS.


The dead blank that comes after excitement of any kind is very trying to
bear. The dull flow of monotonous life, following the departure of the
Scotch baronet, told severely on Kate. The feverish excitement of that
brief second engagement had sustained her, and kindled a brighter fire
in her blue eyes, and a hot glow on her pale cheeks. But in the stagnant
quiet that succeeded, the light grew dim, the roses faded, and the old
lassitude and weariness returned. She had not even the absorbing task of
playing amateur Sister of Charity, for the fever was almost gone, and
there was no more left for her to do.

There was no scandal or _éclat_ this time about the broken-off marriage,
for it had been kept very secret--only in the kitchen-cabinet there were
endless surmisings and wonderings.

The wedding garments made for the second time for Miss Danton were for
the second time put quietly away.

Father Francis, in all his visits to Danton Hall, never made the
slightest allusion to the event that had taken place. Only, he laid his
hand on Kate's drooping head, with a "Heaven bless you, my child!" so
fervently uttered that she felt repaid for all the humiliation she had
undergone.

So very quietly at Danton Hall December wore away, and Christmas-eve
dawned, Grace Danton's wedding-day. About ten in the morning the large,
roomy, old-fashioned family sleigh drove up before the front door, and
the bridal party entered, and were whirled to the church. A very select
party indeed; the bride and bridegroom, the bride's brother, and the
bridegroom's two daughters.

Grace's brown velvet bonnet, brown silk dress, and seal jacket were not
exactly the prescribed attire for a bride; but with the hazel hair,
smooth and shining, and the hazel eyes full of happy light, Grace looked
very sweet and fair.

Eeny, in pale silk and a pretty hat with a long white plume, looked fair
as a lily and happy as a queen, and very proud of her post of
bride-maid.

And Kate, who was carrying her cross bravely now, very simply attired,
sat beside Doctor Frank and tried to listen and be interested in what he
was saying, and all the time feeling like one in some unnatural dream.
She saw the dull, gray, sunless sky, speaking of coming storm, the
desolate snow-covered fields, the quiet village, and the little church,
with its tall spire and glittering cross. She saw it all in a vague,
lost sort of way, and was in the church and seated in a pew, and
listening and looking on, like a person walking in her sleep. Her father
going to be married! How strange and unnatural it seemed. She had never
grown familiarized with the idea, perhaps because she would never
indulge it, and now he was kneeling on the altar steps, with Frank
Danton beside him, and Eeny at Grace's left hand, and the Curé and
Father Francis were there in stole and surplice, and the ceremony was
going on. She saw the ring put on Grace's finger, she heard the Curé's
French accented voice, "Henry Danton, wilt thou have Grace Danton to be
thy wedded wife?" and that firm, clear "I will," in reply.

Then it was all over; they were married. Her pale face drooped on the
front rail of the pew, and wet it with a rain of hot tears.

The wedding quartet were going into the sacristy to register their
names. She could linger no longer, although she felt as if she would
like to stay there and die, so she arose and went wearily after. Her
father looked at her with anxious, imploring eyes; she went up and
kissed him, with a smile on her colourless face.

"I hope you will be very happy, papa," she whispered.

And then she turned to Grace, and touched her cold lips to the bride's
flushed cheek.

"I wish you very much happiness, Mrs. Danton," she said.

Yes, she could never be mother--she was only Mrs. Danton, her father's
wife; but Father Francis gave her a kindly, approving glance, even for
this. She turned away from him with a weary sigh. Oh, what trouble and
mockery everything was? What a dreary, wretched piece of business life
was altogether! The sense of loneliness and desolation weighed on her
heart, this dull December morning, like lead.

There was to be a wedding-breakfast, but the Curé, and Father Francis,
and Doctor Frank were the only guests.

Kate sat at her father's side--Grace presided now, Grace was mistress of
the Hall--and listened in the same dazed and dreary way to the confusion
of tongues, the fire of toasts, the clatter of china and silver, and the
laughter of the guests. She sat very still, eating and drinking, because
she must eat and drink to avoid notice, and never thinking how beautiful
she looked in her blue silk dress, her neck and arms gleaming like ivory
against azure. What would it ever matter again how she looked?

Captain and Mrs. Danton were going on a brief bridal-tour to
Toronto--not to be absent over a fortnight. They were to depart by the
two o'clock train; so, breakfast over, Grace hurried away to change her
dress. Dr. Frank was going to drive Eeny to the station, in the cutter,
to see them off, but Kate declined to accompany them. She shook hands
with them at the door; and then turned and went back into the empty,
silent house.

A wedding, when the wedded pair, ashamed of themselves, go scampering
over the country in search of distraction and amusement, leaves any
household almost as forlorn as a funeral. Dead silence succeeds tumult
and bustle; those left behind sit down blankly, feeling a gap in their
circle, a loss never to be repaired. It was worse than usual at Danton
Hall. The wintry weather, precluding all possibility of seeking
forgetfulness and recreation out of doors, the absence of visitors--for
the Curé, Father Francis, Doctor Danton, and the Reverend Mr. Clare
comprised Kate's whole visiting list now--all tended to make dismalness
more dismal. She could remember this time last year, when Reginald and
Rose, and Sir Ronald, and all were with them--so many then, so few now;
only herself and Eeny left.

The memory of the past time came back with a dulled sense of pain and
misery. She had suffered so much that the sense of suffering was
blunted--there was only a desolate aching of the heart when she thought
of it now.

December and the old year died out, in a great winding-sheet of snow.
January came, and its first week dragged away, and the master and
mistress of the house were daily expected home.

Late in the afternoon of a January day, Kate sat at the drawing-room
window, her chin resting on her hand, her eyes fixed on the white
darkness. The wind made such a racket and uproar within and without,
that she did not hear a modest tap at the door, or the turning of the
handle. It was only when a familiar voice sounded close to her elbow
that she started from her reverie.

"If you please, Miss Kate."

"Oh, is it you, Ogden? I did not hear you. What is the matter?"

Mr. Ogden drew nearer and lowered his voice.

"Miss Kate, have you been upstairs to-day?"

Kate knew what he meant by this rather guarded question--had she been to
see Mr. Richards?

"No," she said in alarm; "is there anything the matter?"

"I am afraid there is, Miss Kate. I am afraid he is not very well."

"Not very well!" repeated Miss Danton. "Do you mean to say he is ill,
Ogden?"

"Yes, Miss Kate, I am afraid he is. He wasn't very well last night, and
this morning he is worse. He complains dreadful of headache, and he
ain't got no appetite whatsomever. He's been lying down pretty much all
day."

"Why did you not tell me sooner?" Kate cried, with a pang of remorse at
her own neglect. "I will go to him at once."

She hastened upstairs, and into her brother's rooms. The young man was
in the bedroom, lying on the bed, dressed, and in a sort of stupor. As
Kate bent over him, and spoke, he opened his eyes, dull and heavy.

"Harry, dear," Kate said, kissing him, "what is the matter? Are you
ill?"

Harry Danton made an effort to raise, but fell back on the pillow.

"My head aches as if it would split open, and I feel as if I had a
ton-weight bearing down every limb. I think I am going to have the
fever."

Kate turned pale.

"Oh, Harry, for Heaven's sake don't think that! The fever has left the
village; why should you have it now?"

He did not reply. The heavy stupor that deadened every sense bore him
down, and took away the power of speech. His eyes closed, and in another
moment he had dropped off into a deep, lethargic sleep.

Kate arose and went out into the corridor, where she found Ogden
waiting.

"He has fallen asleep," she said. "I want you to undress him, and get
him into bed properly, while I go and prepare a saline draught. I am
afraid he is going to be very ill."

She passed on, and ran down stairs to her father's study, where the
medicine-chest stood. It took her some time to prepare the saline
draught; and when she returned to the bed-chamber, Ogden had finished
his task, and the sick man was safely in bed. He still slept--heavily,
deep--but his breathing was laboured and his lips parched.

"I will give him this when he awakes," Kate said; "and I will sit up
with him all night. You can remain in the next room, Ogden, so as to be
within call, if wanted."

Kate remained by her sick brother through the long hours of that wintry
night. She sat by the bedside, bathing the hot face and fevered hands,
and holding cooling drinks to the dry lips. The shaded lamp lit the room
dimly, too dimly to see to read; so she sat patiently, listening to the
snow-storm, and watching her sick brother's face. In the next room Mr.
Ogden slept the sleep of the just, in an arm-chair, his profound snoring
making a sort of accompaniment to the howling of the wind.

The slow, slow hours dragged away, and morning came. It found the
patient worse, weak, prostrated, and deadly sick, but not delirious.

"I know I have the fever, Kate," he said, in a weak whisper; "I am glad
of it. I only hope it will be merciful, and take me off."

Kate went down to breakfast, which she could not eat, and then returned
to the sick-room. Her experience among the sick of the village had made
her skilful in the disease; but, despite all she could do, Harry grew
weaker and worse. She dared not summon help, she dared not call in the
Doctor, until her father's return.

"He ought to be here to-day," she thought. "Heaven grant it! If he does
not and Harry keeps growing worse, I will go and speak to Father Francis
this evening."

Fortunately this unpleasant duty was not necessary. The late afternoon
train brought the newly-wedded pair home. Kate and Eeny met them in the
hall, the latter kissing both with effusion, and Kate only shaking
hands, with a pale and anxious countenance.

Mrs. Grace went upstairs with Eeny, to change her travelling costume,
and Captain Danton was left standing in the hall with his eldest
daughter.

"What is it, my dear?" he asked; "what has gone wrong?"

"Something very serious, I am afraid, papa. Harry is ill."

"Ill! How?--when?--what is the matter with him?"

"The fever," Kate said, in a whisper. "No one in the house knows it yet
but Ogden. He was taken ill night before last, but I knew nothing of it
till yesterday. I sat up with him last night, and did what I could, but
I fear he is getting worse. I wanted to call in the Doctor, but I dared
not until your return. What shall we do?"

"Send for Doctor Frank immediately," replied her father, promptly; "I
have no fear of trusting him. He is the soul of honour, and poor Harry's
secret is as safe with him as with ourselves. Grace has heard the story.
I told her in Montreal. Of course, I could have no secrets from my wife.
I will go to the village myself, and at once; that is, as soon as I have
seen the poor boy. Let us go up now, my dear."

Kate followed her father upstairs, and into the sick man's room. With
the approach of night he had grown worse, and was slightly delirious. He
did not know his father when he bent over and spoke to him. He was
tossing restlessly on his pillow, and muttering incoherently as he
tossed.

"My poor boy! My poor Harry!" his father said, with tears in his-eyes.
"Misfortune seems to have marked him for its own. Remain with him, Kate;
I will go at once for Doctor Danton."

Five minutes later the Captain was galloping towards the village hotel,
through the gray, gathering dusk. The young Doctor was in, seated in his
own room, reading a ponderous-looking volume. He arose to greet his
visitor, but stopped short at sight of his grave and anxious face.

"There is nothing wrong, I hope?" he inquired; "nothing has happened at
the Hall?"

The Captain looked around the little chamber with the same anxious
glance.

"We are quite alone?" he said.

"Quite," replied his brother-in-law, very much surprised.

"I have a story to tell you--a secret to confide to you. Your services
are required at the Hall; but before I can avail myself of these
services, I have a sacred trust to confide to you--a trust I am certain
you will never betray."

"I shall never betray any trust you may repose in me, Captain Danton,"
the young man answered gravely.

Some dim inkling of the truth was in his mind as he spoke. Captain
Danton drew his chair closer, and in a low, hurried voice began his
story. The story he had once before told Reginald Stanford, the story of
his unfortunate son.

Doctor Frank listened with a face of changeless calm. No surprise was
expressed in his grave, earnest, listening countenance. When the Captain
had finished his narrative, with an account of the fever that rendered
his presence at once necessary, a faint flush dyed his forehead.

"I shall be certain now," he thought. "I only saw Agnes Darling's
husband once, and then for a moment; but I shall know him again if I
ever see him."

"I shall be with you directly," he said, rising; "as soon as they saddle
my horse."

He rang the bell and gave the order. By the time his cap and coat were
on, and a few other preparations made, the hostler had the horse at the
door.

It was quite dark now; but the road was white with snow and the two men
rode rapidly to the Hall with the strong January wind blowing in their
faces. They went upstairs at once, and Doctor Frank, with an odd
sensation, followed the master of Danton Hall across the threshold of
that mysterious Mr. Richards' room.

The Captain's son lay in a feverish sleep, tossing wildly and raving
incoherently. Kate, sitting by his bedside, he mistook for some one
else, calling her "Agnes," and talking in disjointed sentences of days
and things long since past.

"He thinks she is his wife," the Captain said, very sadly; "poor boy!"

The Doctor turned up the lamp, and looked long and earnestly into the
fever-flushed face. His own seemed to have caught the reflection of that
red glow, when at last he looked up.

"It is the fever," he said, "and a very serious case. You sat up last
night, your father tells me, Miss Kate?"

"Yes," Kate answered.

She was very white and thoroughly worn out.

"You are not strong enough to do anything of the kind. You look
half-dead now. I will remain here all night, and do you at once go and
lie down."

"Thank you very much," Kate said, gratefully. "I can sleep when I know
you are with him. Do you think there is any danger?"

"I trust not. You and I have seen far more serious cases down there in
St. Croix, and we have brought them round. It is a very sad story,
his--I am very sorry for your brother." Kate stooped and kissed the hot
face, her tears falling on it.

"Poor, poor Harry! The crime of that dreadful murder should not lie at
his door, but at that of the base wretch he made his wife!"

"Are you quite sure, Miss Danton," said the young Doctor, seriously,
"that there may not have been some terrible mistake? From what your
father tells me, your brother had very little proof of his wife's
criminality beyond the words of his friend Furniss, who may have been
actuated by some base motive of his own."

"He had the proof of his own senses," Kate said, indignantly; "he saw
the man Crosby with his wife, and heard his words. The guilt of Harry's
rash deed should rest far more on her than on him."

She turned from the room, leaving her father and the young Doctor to
watch by the sick man all night. The Captain sought his wife, and
explained the cause of her brother's sudden summons; and Kate, in her
own room, quite worn out, lay down dressed as she was, and fell into a
profound, refreshing sleep, from which she did not wake until late next
morning.

When she returned to her brother's chamber, she found the Doctor and the
Captain gone, and Grace keeping watch. Mrs. Danton explained that Frank
had been summoned away about an hour previously to attend a patient in
the village; and the Captain, at her entreaty, had gone to take some
rest. The patient was much the same, and was now asleep.

"But you should not have come here, Mrs. Danton," Kate expostulated.
"You know this fever is infectious."

Mrs. Danton smiled.

"My life is of no more value than yours or my husband's. I am not
afraid--I should be very unhappy if I were not permitted to do what
little good I can."

For the second time there flashed into Kate's mind the thought that she
had never done this woman justice. Here she was, generous and
self-sacrificing, risking her own safety by the sick-bed of her
husband's own son. Could it be that after all she had married her father
because she loved him, and not because he was Captain Danton of Danton
Hall?

"Father Francis ought to know," she mused; "and Father Francis sings her
praises on every occasion. I know Eeny loves her dearly, and the
servants like and respect her in a manner I never saw surpassed. Can it
be that I have been blind, and unjust, and prejudiced from first to
last, and that my father's wife is a thousand times better than I am?"

The two women sat together in the sick-room all the forenoon. Kate
talked to her step-mother far more socially and kindly than she had ever
talked to her before, and was surprised to find Grace had a ready
knowledge of every subject she started. She smiled at herself by and by
in a little pause in the conversation.

"She is really very pleasant," she thought. "I shall begin to like her
presently, I am afraid."

Early in the afternoon, Doctor Frank returned. There was little change
in his patient, and no occasion for his remaining. He stayed half an
hour, and then took his hat to leave. He had more pressing cases in the
village to attend, and departed promising to call again before
nightfall.

The news of Mr. Richards' illness had spread by this time through the
house. The young Doctor knew this, and wondered if Agnes Darling had
heard it, and why she did not try to see him. He was thinking about it
as he walked briskly down the avenue, and resolving he must try and see
her that evening, when a little black figure stepped out from the shadow
of the trees and confronted him.

"'Angels and ministers of grace defend us,'" ejaculated the Doctor; "I
thought it was a ghost, and I find it is only Agnes Darling. You look
about as pale as a ghost, though. What is the matter with you?"

She clasped her hands and looked at him piteously.

"He is sick. You have seen him? Oh, Doctor Danton! is it Harry?"

"My dear Mrs. Danton, I am happy to tell you it is. Don't faint now, or
I shall tell you nothing more."

She leaned against a tree, white and trembling; her hands clasped over
her beating heart.

"And he is ill, and I may not see him. Oh, tell me what is the matter."

"Fever. Don't alarm yourself unnecessarily. I do not think his life is
in any danger."

"Thank God! Oh, thank God for that!"

She covered her face with her slender hands, and he could see the
fast-falling tears.

"My dear Agnes," he said, kindly. "I don't like to see you distress
yourself in this manner. Besides, there is no occasion. I think your
darkest days are over. I don't see why you may not go and nurse your
husband."

Her hands dropped from before her face, her great dark eyes fixed
themselves on his face, dilated and wildly.

"You would like it, wouldn't you? Well, I really don't think there is
anything to hinder. He is calling for you perpetually, if it will make
you happy to know it. Tell Miss Danton your story at once; tell her who
you are, and if she doubts your veracity, refer her to me. I have a
letter from Mr. Crosby, testifying in the most solemn manner your
innocence. I wrote to him, Agnes, as I could not find time to visit him.
Tell Miss Kate to-day, if you choose, and you may watch by your
husband's bedside to night. Good afternoon. Old Renaud is shouting out
with rheumatism; I must go and see after him."

He strode away, leaving Agnes clinging to the tree, trembling and white.
The time had come, then. Her husband lived, and might be returned to her
yet. At the thought she fell down on her knees on the snowy ground, with
the most fervent prayer of thanksgiving in her heart she had ever
uttered.

Some two hours later, and just as the dusk of the short winter day was
falling, Kate came out of her brother's sick-room. She looked jaded and
worn, as she lingered for a moment at the hall-window to watch the
grayish-yellow light fade out of the sky. She had spent the best part of
the day in the close chamber, and the bright outer air seemed
unspeakably refreshing. She went to her room, threw a large cloth mantle
round her shoulders, drew the fur-trimmed hood over her head, and went
out.

The frozen fish-pond glittered like a sheet of ivory in the fading
light; and walking slowly around it, she saw a little familiar figure,
robed like a nun, in black. She had hardly seen the pale seamstress for
weeks, she had been too much absorbed in other things; but now, glad of
companionship, she crossed over to the fish-pond and joined her. As she
drew closer, and could see the girl's face in the cold, pale twilight,
she was struck with its pallor and indescribably mournful expression.

"You poor, pale child!" Miss Danton said; "you look like some stray
spirit wandering ghostily around this place. What is the matter now,
that you look so wretchedly forlorn?"

Agnes looked up in the beautiful, pitying face, with her heart in her
eyes.

"Nothing," she said, tremulously, "but the old trouble, that never
leaves me. I think sometimes I am the most unhappy creature in the whole
wide world."

"Every heart knoweth its own bitterness," Miss Danton said, steadily.
"Trouble seems to be the lot of all. But yours--you have never told me
what it is, and I think I would like to know."

They were walking together round the frozen pond, and the face of the
seamstress was turned away from the dying light. Kate could not see it,
but she could hear the agitation in her voice when she spoke.

"I am almost afraid to tell you. I am afraid, for oh, Miss Danton! I
have deceived you."

"Deceived me, Agnes?"

"Yes; I came here in a false character. Oh, don't be angry, please; but
I am not Miss Darling--I am a married woman."

"Married! You?"

She looked down in speechless astonishment at the tiny figure and
childlike face of the little creature beside her.

"You married!" she repeated. "You small, childish-looking thing! And
where in the wide world is your husband?"

Agnes Darling covered her face with her hands, and broke out into a
hysterical passion of tears.

"Don't cry, you poor little unfortunate. Tell me if this faithless
husband is the friend I once heard you say you were in search of?"

"Yes, yes," Agnes answered, through her sobs. "Oh, Miss Danton! Please,
please, don't be angry with me, for, indeed, I am very miserable."

"Angry with you, my poor child," Kate said, tenderly; "no, indeed! But
tell me all about it. How did this cruel husband come to desert you? Did
he not love you?"

"Oh, yes, yes, yes."

"And you--did you love him?"

"With my whole heart."

The memory of her own dead love stung Kate to the very soul.

"Oh!" she said, bitterly, "it is only a very old story, after all. We
are all alike; we give up our whole heart for a man's smile, and,
verily, we get our reward. This husband of yours took a fancy, I
suppose, to some new and fresher face, and threw you over for her sake?"

Agnes Darling looked up with wide black eyes.

"Oh, no, no! He loved me faithfully. He never was false, as you think.
It was not that; he thought I was false, and base, and wicked. Oh!" she
cried, covering her lace with her hands again; "I can't tell you how
base he thought me."

"I think I understand," Kate said, slowly. "But how was it? It was not
true, of course."

Agnes lifted her face, raised her solemn, dark eyes mournfully to the
gaze of the earnest blue ones.

"It was not true," she replied simply; "I loved him with all my heart,
and him only. He was all the world to me, for I was alone, an orphan,
sisterless and brotherless. I had only one relative in the wide world--a
distant cousin, a young man, who boarded in the same house with me. I
was only a poor working-girl of New York, and my husband was far above
me--I thought so then, know it since. I knew very little of him. He
boarded in the same house, and I only saw him at the table. How he ever
came to love me--a little pale, quiet thing like me--I don't know; but
he did love me--he did--it is very sweet to remember that now. He loved
me, and he married me, but under an assumed name, under the name of
Darling, which I know now was not his real one."

She paused a little, and Kate looked at her with sudden breathless
interest. How like this story was to another, terribly familiar.

"We were married," Agnes went on, softly and sadly, "and I was happy.
Oh, Miss Danton, I can never tell you how unspeakably happy I was for a
time. But it was not for long. Troubles began to gather thick and fast
before many months. My husband was a gambler"--she paused a second or
two at Miss Danton's violent start--"and got into his old habits of
staying out very late at night, and often, when he had lost money,
coming home moody and miserable. I had no influence over him to stop
him. He had a friend, another gambler, and a very bad man, who drew him
on. It was very dreary sitting alone night after night until twelve or
one o'clock, and my only visitor was my cousin, the young man I told you
of. He was in love, and clandestinely engaged to a young lady, whose
family were wealthy and would not for a moment hear of the match. I was
his only confidante, and he liked to come in evenings and talk to me of
Helen. Sometimes, seeing me so lonely and low-spirited, he would stay
with me within half an hour of Harry's return; but Heaven knows neither
he nor I ever dreamed it could be wrong. No harm might ever have come of
it, for my husband knew and liked him, but for that gambling companion,
whose name was Furniss."

She paused again, trembling and agitated, for Miss Danton had uttered a
sharp, involuntary exclamation.

"Go on! Go on!" she said breathlessly.

"This Furniss hated my cousin, for he was his successful rival with
Helen Hamilton, and took his revenge in the cruelest and basest manner.
He discovered that my cousin was in the habit of visiting me
occasionally in the evening, and he poisoned my husband's mind with the
foulest insinuations.

"He told him that William Crosby, my cousin, was an old lover, and
that--oh, I cannot tell you what he said! He drove my husband, who was
violent and passionate, half mad, and sent him home one night early,
when he knew Will was sure to be with me. I remember that dreadful night
so well--I have terrible reason to remember it. Will sat with me,
talking of Helen, telling me he could wait no longer; that she had
consented, and they were going to elope the very next night. While he
was speaking the door was burst open, and Harry stood before us, livid
with fury, a pistol in his hand. A second later, and there was a
report--William Crosby sprang from his seat and fell forward, with a
scream I shall never forget. I think I was screaming too; I can hardly
recollect what I did, but the room was full in a moment, and my husband
was gone--how, I don't know. That was two years ago, and I have never
seen him since; but I think--"

She stopped short, for Kate Danton had caught her suddenly and violently
by the arm, her eyes dilating.

"Agnes!" she exclaimed, passionately; "what is it you have been telling
me? Who are you?"

Agnes Darling held up her clasped hands.

"Oh, Miss Danton," she cried, "for our dear Lord's sake, have pity on
me! I am your brother's wretched wife!"



CHAPTER XXI.

DOCTOR DANTON'S GOOD WORKS.


The two women stood in the bleak twilight looking at each other--Agnes
with piteous, imploring eyes, Kate dazed and hopelessly bewildered.

"My brother's wife!" she repeated. "You! Agnes Darling!"

"Oh, dear Miss Danton, have pity on me! Let me see him. Let me tell him
I am innocent, and that I love him with my whole heart. Don't cast me
off! Don't despise me! Indeed, I am not the guilty creature he thinks
me!"

"Agnes, wait," Kate said, holding out her hand. "I am so confounded by
this revelation that I hardly know what to do or say. Tell me how you
found out my brother was here? Did you know it when you came?"

"Oh, no. I came as seamstress, with a lady from New York to Canada, and
when I left her I lived in the Petite Rue de St. Jacques. There you
found me; and I came here, never dreaming that I was to live in the same
house with my lost husband."

"And how did you make the discovery? Did you see him?"

"Yes, Miss Danton; the night you were all away at the party, you
remember. I saw him on the stairs, returning to his room. I thought then
it was a spirit, and I fainted, as you know, and Doctor Danton was sent
for, and he told me it was no spirit, but Harry himself."

"Doctor Danton!" exclaimed Kate, in unbounded astonishment. "How did
Doctor Danton come to know anything about it?"

"Why, it was he--oh, I haven't told you. I must go back to that dreadful
night when my cousin was shot. As I told you, the room was filled with
people, and among them there was a young man--a Doctor, he told us--who
made them lift poor Will on the bed, and proceeded to examine his wound.
It was not fatal."

She stopped, for Kate had uttered a cry and grasped her arm.

"Not fatal!" she gasped. "Oh, Agnes! Agnes! Tell me he did not die!"

"He did not, thank Heaven. He lived, and lives still--thanks to the
skill and care of Doctor Danton."

Kate clasped her hands with a fervent prayer of thanksgiving.

"Oh, my poor Harry!" she cried, "immured so long in those dismal rooms,
when you were free to walk the world. But perhaps the punishment was
merited. Go on, Agnes; tell me all."

"The wound was not fatal, but his state was very critical. Doctor Danton
extracted the bullet, and remained with him all night. I was totally
helpless. I don't remember anything about it, or anything that occurred
for nearly a fortnight. Then I was in a neighbour's room; and she told
me I had been very ill, and, but for the kindness and care of the young
Doctor, must have died. She told me William lived, and was slowly
getting better; but the good Doctor had hired a nurse to attend him, and
came to the house every day. I saw him that very afternoon, and had a
long talk with him. He told me his name was Doctor Danton, that he had
come from Germany on business, and must return in a very few days now.
He said he had friends in Canada, whom he had intended to visit, but
this unfortunate affair had prevented him. He had not the heart to leave
us in our forlorn and dangerous state. He would not tell his friends of
his visit to America at all, so they would have no chance to feel
offended. Oh, Miss Danton, I cannot tell you how good, how noble, how
generous he was. He left New York the following week; but before he went
he forced me to take money enough to keep me six months. I never felt
wholly desolate until I saw him go, and then I thought my heart would
break. Heaven bless him! He is the noblest man I ever knew."

Kate's heart thrilled with a sudden response. And this was the man she
had slighted, and perhaps despised--this hero, this great, generous,
good man!

"You are right," she said; "he is noble. And after that, Agnes, what did
you do?"

"I dismissed the hired nurse, and took care of poor Will until he fully
recovered. Then he resumed his business; and I went back, sick and
sorrowful, to my old life. I can never tell you how miserable I was. The
husband I loved was lost to me forever. He had gone, believing me guilty
of the worst of crimes, and I should never see him again to tell him I
was innocent. The thought nearly broke my heart; but I lived and lived,
when, I only prayed, wickedly, I know, to die. I came to Canada--I came
here; and here I met my best friend once more. I saw Harry, or an
apparition, as I took it to be, until Doctor Danton assured me to the
contrary. He did not know, but he suspected the truth--he is so clever;
and now that he has seen him, and knows for certain, he told me to tell
you who I was. Miss Danton, I have told you the simple truth, as Heaven
hears me. I have been true and faithful in thought and word to the
husband I loved. Don't send me away; don't disbelieve and despise me."

She lifted her streaming eyes and clasped hands in piteous supplication.
There were tears, too, in the blue eyes of Kate as she took the little
supplicant in her arms.

"Despise you, my poor Agnes! What a wretch you must take me to be! No, I
believe you, I love you, you poor little broken-down child. I shall not
send you away. I know Harry loves you yet; he calls for you continually
in his delirium. I shall speak to papa; you shall see him to-night. Oh!
to think how much unnecessary misery there is in the world."

She put her arm round her slender waist, and was drawing her towards the
house. Before they reached it, a big dog came bounding and barking up
the avenue and overtook them.

"Be quiet, Tiger," said Kate, halting. "Let us wait for Tiger's master,
Agnes."

Tiger's master appeared a moment later. One glance sufficed to show him
how matters stood.

He lifted his hat with a quiet smile.

"Good evening, Miss Danton; good evening, Mrs. Danton. I see you have
come to an understanding at last."

"My brother--we all owe you a debt we can never repay," Kate said
gravely; "and Agnes here pronounces you an uncanonized saint."

"So I am. The world will do justice to my stupendous merits by-and-by.
You have been very much surprised by Agnes' story, Miss Danton?"

"Very much. We are going in to tell papa. You will come with us,
Doctor?"

"If Mrs. Agnes does not make me blush by her laudations. Draw it mild,
Agnes, won't you. You have no idea how modest I am."

He opened the front door and entered the hall as he spoke, followed by
the two girls. The drawing-room door was ajar, but Eeny and her teacher
were the only occupants of that palatial chamber.

"Try the dining-room," suggested Kate; "it is near dinner-hour; we will
find some one there."

Doctor Frank ran down-stairs, three steps at a time, followed more
decorously by his companions. Grace seated near the table, reading by
the light of a tall lamp, was the only occupant. She lifted her eyes in
astonishment at her brother's boisterous entrance.

"Where is papa?" Kate asked.

"Upstairs in the sick-room."

"Then wait here, Doctor; wait here, Agnes! I will go for him."

She ran lightly upstairs, and entered the sick man's bedroom. The shaded
lamp lit it dimly, and showed her her father sitting by the bedside
talking to his son. The invalid was better this evening--very, very
weak, but no longer delirious.

"You are better, Harry dear, are you not?" his sister asked, stooping to
kiss him; "and you can spare papa for half an hour? Can't you, Harry?"

A faint smile was his answer. He was too feeble to speak. Miss Danton
summoned Ogden from one of the outer rooms, left him in charge, and bore
her father off.

"What has happened, my dear?" the Captain asked. "There is a whole
volume of news in your face."

Kate clasped her hands around his arm, and looked up in his face with
her great earnest eyes.

"The most wonderful thing, papa! Just like a play or a novel! Who do you
think is here?"

"Who? Not Rose come back, surely?"

"Rose? Oh, no!" Kate answered, with wonderful quietness. "You never
could guess. Harry's wife!"

"What!"

"Papa! Poor Harry was dreadfully mistaken. She was innocent all the
time. Doctor Frank knows all about it, and saved the life of the man
Harry shot. It is Agnes Darling, papa. Isn't it the strangest thing you
ever heard of?"

They were at the dining-room door by this time--Captain Danton in a
state of the densest bewilderment, looking alternately at one and
another of the group before him.

"What, in the name of all that's incomprehensible, does this mean? Kate,
in Heaven's name, what have you been talking about?"

Miss Danton actually laughed at her father's mystified face.

"Sit down, papa, and I'll tell you all about it. Here!"

She wheeled up his chair and made him be seated, then leaning over the
back, in her clear, sweet voice, she lucidly repeated the tale Agnes
Darling had told her. The Captain and his wife sat utterly astounded;
and Agnes, with her face hidden, was sobbing in her chair.

"Heaven bless me!" ejaculated the astonished master of Danton Hall. "Can
I believe my ears? Agnes Darling, Harry's wife!"

"Yes, Captain," Doctor Frank said, "she is your son's wife--his innocent
and deeply-injured wife. The man Crosby, in what he believed to be his
dying hour, solemnly testified, in the presence of a clergyman, to her
unimpeachable purity and fidelity. It was the evil work of that villain
Furniss, from first to last. I have the written testimony of William
Crosby in my pocket at this moment. He is alive and well, and married to
the lady of whom he was speaking when your son shot him. I earnestly
hope you will receive this poor child, and unite her to her husband, for
I am as firmly convinced of her innocence as I am of my own existence at
this moment."

"Receive her!" Captain Danton cried, with the water in his eyes. "That I
will, with all my heart. Poor little girl--poor child," he said, going
over and taking the weeping wife into his arms. "What a trial you have
undergone! But it is over now, I trust. Thank Heaven my son is no
murderer, and under Heaven, thanks to you, Doctor Danton. Don't cry,
Agnes--don't cry. I am heartily rejoiced to find I have another
daughter."

"Oh, take me to Harry!" Agnes pleaded. "Let me tell him I am innocent!
Let me hear him say he forgives me!"

"Upon my word, I think the forgiveness should come from the other side,"
said the Captain. "He was always a hot-headed, foolish boy, but he has
received a lesson, I think, he will never forget. How say you, Doctor,
may this foolish little girl go to that foolish boy?"

"I think not yet," the Doctor replied. "In his present weak state the
shock would be too much for him. He must be prepared first. How is he
this evening?"

"Much better, not at all delirious."

"I will go and have a look at him," said Doctor Frank, rising. "Don't
look so imploringly, Agnes; you shall see him before long. Miss Danton,
have the goodness to accompany me. If we find him much better, I will
let you break the news to him and then fetch Agnes. But mind, madame,"
raising a warning finger to the sobbing little woman, "no hysterics! I
can't have my patient agitated. You promise to be very quiet, don't
you!"

"Oh, yes! I'll try."

"Very good. Now, Miss Danton."

He ran up the stairs, followed by Kate. The sick man lay, as he had left
him, quietly looking at the shaded lamp, very feeble--very, very feeble
and wasted. The Doctor sat down beside him, felt his pulse, and asked
him a few questions, to which the faint replies were lucid and
intelligible.

"No fever to-night. No delirium. You're fifty per cent. better. We will
have you all right now, in no time. Kate has brought an infallible
remedy."

The sick man looked at his sister wonderingly.

"Can you bear the shock of some very good news, Harry darling?" Kate
said stooping over him.

"Good news!" he repeated feebly, and with an incredulous look. "Good
news for me!"

"Yes, indeed, thou man of little faith! The best news you ever heard.
You won't agitate yourself, will you, if I tell you?"

Doctor Frank arose before he could reply.

"I leave you to tell him by yourself. I hear the dinner-bell; so adieu."

He descended to the dining-room and took his place at the table. Captain
Danton's new-found daughter he compelled to take poor Rose's vacant
place; but Agnes did not even make a pretence of eating anything. She
sat with her hands clasped tightly in her lap, her eyes fixed steadily
on the door, trying with all her might to be calm and wait.

The appetite of the whole family was considerably impaired by the
revelation just made, and all waited anxiously the return of Kate. In
half an hour the dining-room door opened, and that young lady appeared,
very pale, and with traces of tears on her face, but smiling withal.

Agnes sprang up breathlessly.

"Come," Kate said, holding out her hand; "he is waiting for you!"

With a cry of joy Agnes hurried out of the room and upstairs.

At the green baize door Kate restrained her a moment.

"You must be very quiet, Agnes--very calm, and not excite or agitate
him."

"Oh, yes! yes! Oh, let me go!"

Miss Danton opened the door and let her in. In a moment she was kneeling
by the bedside, her arms around his weak head, showering kisses and
tears on his pale, thin face.

"Forgive me!" she said. "Forgive me, my own, my dear, my lost husband.
Oh, never think I was false. I never, never was, in thought or act, for
one moment. Say you forgive me, my darling, and love me still."

Of course, Kate did not linger. When she again entered the dining-room,
she found one of those she had left, gone.

"Where is Doctor Frank?" she asked.

"Gone," Grace said. "A messenger came for him--some one sick in the
village. Do take your dinner. I am sure you must want it."

"How good he is," Kate thought. "How energetic and self-sacrificing. If
I were a man, I should like to be such a man as he."

After this night of good news, Harry Danton's recovery was almost
miraculously rapid. The despair that had deadened every energy, every
hope, was gone. He was a new man; he had something to live for; a place
in the world, and a lost character to retrieve. A week after that
eventful night, he was able to sit up; a fortnight, and he was rapidly
gaining vigour and strength, and health for his new life.

Agnes, that most devoted little wife, had hardly left these three
mysterious rooms since she had first entered them. She was the best, the
most untiring, the most tender of nurses, and won her way to the hearts
of all. She was so gentle, so patient, so humble, it was impossible not
to love her; and Captain Danton sometimes wondered if he had ever loved
his lost, frivolous Rose as he loved his new daughter.

It had been agreed upon that, to avoid gossip and inquiry, Harry was not
to show himself in the house, to the servants, but as soon as he was
fully recovered, to leave for Quebec, with his wife, and take command of
a vessel there.

His father had written to the ship-owners--old friends of his--and had
cheerfully received their promise.

The vessel was to sail for Plymouth early in March, and it was now late
in February.

Of course, Agnes was to go with him. Nothing could have separated these
reunited married lovers now.

The days went by, the preparations for the journey progressed, the eve
of departure came. The Danton family, with the Doctor and Father
Francis, were assembled in the drawing-room, spending that last evening
together. It was the first time, since his return to the Hall, Harry had
been there. How little any of them dreamed it was to be the last!

They were not very merry, as they sat listening to Kate's music. Down in
that dim recess where the piano stood, she sat, singing for the first
time the old songs that Reginald Stanford had loved. She was almost
surprised at herself to find how easily she could sing them, how little
emotion the memories they brought awoke. Was the old love forever dead,
then? And this new content at her heart--what did it mean? She hardly
cared to ask. She could not have answered; she only knew she was happy,
and that the past had lost power to give her pain.

It was late when they separated. Good-byes were said, and tender-hearted
little Agnes cried as she said good-bye to Doctor Frank. The priest and
the physician walked to the little village together, through the cold
darkness of the starless winter night.

At the presbytery-gate they parted, Father Francis going in, Doctor
Danton continuing his walk to the distant cottage of a poor sick
patient. The man was dying. The young doctor lingered by his bedside
until all was over, and morning was gray in the eastern sky when he left
the house of death.

But what other light was that red in the sky, beside the light of
morning? A crimson, lurid light that was spreading rapidly over the face
of the cloudy heavens, and lighting even the village road with its
unearthly glare? Fire! and in the direction of Danton Hall, growing
brighter and brighter, and redder with every passing second. Others had
seen it, too, and doors were flying open, and men and women flocking
out.

"Fire! Fire!" a voice cried. "Danton Hall is on fire!"

And the cry was taken up and echoed and reëchoed, and every one was
rushing pell-mell in the direction of the Hall.

Doctor Frank was one of the first to arrive. The whole front of the old
mansion seemed a sheet of fire and the red flames rushed up into the
black sky with an awful roar. The family were only just aroused, and,
with the servants, were flocking out, half-dressed. Doctor Frank's
anxious eyes counted them; there were the Captain and Grace, Harry and
Agnes, and last of all, Kate.

The servants were all there, but there was one missing still. Doctor
Frank was by Grace's side in a moment.

"Where is Eeny?"

"Eeny! Is she not here?"

"No. Good Heaven, Grace! Is she in the house?"

Grace looked around wildly.

"Yes, yes! She must be! Oh, Frank--"

But Frank was gone, even while she spoke, into the burning house. There
was still time. The lower hall and stairway were still free from fire,
only filled with smoke.

He rushed through, and upstairs; in the second hall the smoke was
suffocating, and the burning brands were falling from the blazing roof.
Up the second flight of stairs he flew blinded, choked, singed. He knew
Eeny's room; the door was unlocked, and he rushed in. The smoke or fire
had not penetrated here yet, and on the bed the girl lay fast asleep,
undisturbed by all the uproar around her.

To muffle her from head to foot in a blanket, snatch her up and fly out
of the room, was but the work of a few seconds. The rushing smoke
blinded and suffocated him, but he darted down the staircases as if his
feet were winged. Huge cinders and burning flakes were falling in a
fiery shower around him, but still he rushed blindly on. The lower hall
was gained, a breeze of the blessed cold air blew on his face.

They were seen, they were saved, and a wild cheer arose from the
breathless multitude. Just at that instant, with his foot on the
threshold, an avalanche of fire seemed to fall on his head from the
burning roof.

Another cry, this time a cry of wild horror arose from the crowd; he
reeled, staggered like a drunken man; some one caught Eeny out of his
arms as he fell to the ground.



CHAPTER XXII.

AFTER THE CROSS, THE CROWN.


The glare of a brilliant April sunset shone in the rainbow-hued western
sky, and on the fresh, green earth, all arrayed in the budding promise
of spring.

Grace Danton stood by the window of a long, low room, looking
thoughtfully out at the orange and crimson dyes of the far-off sky.

The room in which she stood was not at all like the vast old-fashioned
rooms of Danton Hall. It was long and narrow, and low-ceilinged, and
very plainly furnished. There was the bed in the centre, a low,
curtainless bed, and on it, pale, thin, and shadowy, lay Grace's
brother, as he had lain for many weary weeks. He was asleep now, deeply,
heavily, tossing no longer in the wild delirium of brain-fever, as he
had tossed for so many interminable days and nights.

Grace dropped the curtain, and went back to her post by the bedside. As
she did so, the door softly opened, and Kate, in a dark, unrustling
dress and slippers of silence, came in. She had changed in those weeks;
she looked paler and thinner, and the violet eyes had a more tender
light, a sadder beauty than of old.

"Still asleep," she said, softly, looking at the bed. "Grace, I think
your prayers have been heard."

"I trust so, dear. Is your father in?"

"No; he has ridden over to see how the builders get on. You must want
tea, Grace. Go, I will take your place."

Grace arose and left the room, and Kate seated herself in the low chair,
with eyes full of tender compassion. What a shadow he was of his former
self--so pale, so thin, so wasted! The hand lying on the counterpane was
almost transparent, and the forehead, streaked with damp brown hair, was
like marble.

"Poor fellow!" Kate thought, pushing these stray locks softly back, and
forgetting how dangerously akin pity is to love--"poor fellow!"

Yes, it has come to this. Sick--dying, perhaps--Kate Danton found how
dear this once obnoxious young Doctor had grown to her heart. "How
blessings brighten as they take their flight!" Now that she was on the
verge of losing him forever, she discovered his value--discovered that
her admiration was very like love. How could she help it? Women admire
heroes so much! And was not this brave young Doctor a real hero? From
first to last, had not his life in St. Croix been one list of good and
generous deeds?

The very first time she had ever seen him, he had been her champion, to
save her from the insults and rudeness of two drunken soldiers. He had
been a sort of guardian angel to poor Agnes in her great trouble. He had
saved her brother's life and honour. He had perilled his own life to
save that of her sister. The poor of St. Croix spoke of him only to
praise and bless him. Was not this house besieged every day with scores
of anxious inquirers? He was so good, so great, so noble, so
self-sacrificing, so generous--oh! how could she help loving him? Not
with the love that had once been Reginald Stanford's, whose only basis
was a fanciful girl's liking for a handsome face, but a love far deeper
and truer and stronger. She looked back now at the first infatuation,
and wondered at herself. The scales had fallen from her eyes, and she
saw her sister's husband in his true light--false, shallow, selfish,
dishonourable.

"Oh," she thought, with untold thanksgiving in her heart, "what would
have become of me if I had married him?"

There was another sore subject in her heart, too--that short-lived
betrothal to Sir Ronald Keith. How low she must have fallen when she
could do that! How she despised herself now for ever entertaining the
thought of that base marriage. She could thank Father Francis at last.
By the sick-bed of Doctor Frank she had learned a lesson that would last
her a lifetime.

The radiance of the sunset was fading out of the sky, and the gray
twilight was filling the room. She rose up, drew back the green
curtains, and looked for a moment at the peaceful village street. When
she returned to the bedside, the sleeper was awake, his eyes calm and
clear for the first time. She restrained the exclamation of delight
which arose to her lips, and tried to catch the one faint word he
uttered:

"Water?"

She gently raised his head, her cheeks flushing, and held a glass of
lemonade to his lips. A faint smile thanked her; and then his eyes
closed, and he was asleep again. Kate sank down on her knees by the
bedside, grateful tears falling from her eyes, to thank God for the life
that would be spared.

From that evening the young man rallied fast.

The Doctor, who came from Montreal every day to see him, said it was all
owing to his superb constitution and wondrous vitality. But he was very,
very weak. It was days and days before he was strong enough to think, or
speak, or move. He slept, by fits and starts, nearly all day long,
recognizing his sister, and Kate, and Eeny, and the Captain, by his
bedside, without wondering how they came to be there, or what had ailed
him.

But strength to speak and think was slowly returning; and one evening,
in the pale twilight, opening his eyes, he saw Kate sitting beside him,
reading. He lay and watched her, strong enough to think how beautiful
that perfect face was in the tender light, and to feel a delicious
thrill of pleasure, weak as he was, at having her for a nurse.

Presently Kate looked from the book to the bed, and blushed beautifully
to find the earnest brown eyes watching her so intently.

"I did not know you were awake," she said, composedly. "Shall I go and
call Grace?"

"On no account. I don't want Grace. How long have I been sick?"

"Oh, many weeks; but you are getting better rapidly now."

"I can't recall it," he said, contracting his brows. "I know there was a
fire, and I was in the house; but it is all confused. How was it?"

"The Hall was burned down, you know--poor old house!--and you rushed in
to save Eeny, and--"

"Oh, I remember, I remember. A beam or something fell, and after that
all is oblivion. I have had a fever, I suppose?"

"Yes, you have been a dreadful nuisance--talking all day and all night
about all manner of subjects, and frightening us out of our lives."

The young man smiled.

"What did I talk about? Anything very foolish?"

"I dare say it was foolish enough, if one could have understood it, but
it was nearly all Greek to me. Sometimes you were in Germany, talking
about all manner of outlandish things; sometimes you were in New York,
playing Good Samaritan to Agnes Darling."

"Oh, poor Agnes! Where is she?"

"Taken to the high seas. She and Harry had to go, much against their
inclination, while you were so ill."

"And Eeny--did Eeny suffer any harm that night?"

"No; Doctor Frank was the only sufferer. The poor old house was burned
to the ground. I was so sorry."

"And everything was lost?"

"No, a great many things were saved. And they are building a new and
much more handsome Danton Hall, but I shall never love it as I did the
old place."

"Where are we now?"

"In the village. We have taken this cottage until the new house is
finished. Now don't ask any more questions. Too much talking isn't good
for you."

"How very peremptory you are!" said the invalid, smiling; "and you have
taken care of me all this weary time. What a trouble I must have been!"

"Didn't I say so! A shocking trouble. And now that you are able to
converse rationally, you are more trouble than ever, asking so many
questions. Go to sleep."

"Won't you let me thank you first?"

"No, thanks never would repay me for all the annoyance you have been.
Show your gratitude by obedience, sir--stop talking and go to sleep!"

Perhaps Doctor Frank found it very pleasant to be ordered, for he obeyed
with a smile on his face.

Of course, with such a nurse as Miss Danton, the man would be obstinate,
indeed, who would not rally. Doctor Frank was the reverse of obdurate,
and rallied with astonishing rapidity. His sister, Eeny, and Kate were
the most devoted, the most attentive of nurses; but the hours that
Captain Danton's eldest daughter sat by his bedside flew like so many
minutes. It was very pleasant to lie there, propped up with pillows,
with the April sunshine lying in yellow squares on the faded old carpet,
and watch that beautiful face, bending over some piece of elaborate
embroidery, or the humble dress of some village child. She read for him,
too, charming romances, and poetry as sweet as the ripple of a sunlit
brook, in that enchanting voice of hers; and Doctor Frank began to think
convalescence the most delightful state of being that ever was heard of,
and to wish it could last forever.

But, like all the pleasant things of this checkered life, it came to an
end all too soon. The day arrived when he sat up in his easy chair by
the open window, with the scented breezes blowing in his face, and
watched dreamily the cows grazing in the fields, and the dark-eyed
French girls tripping up and down the dusty road. Then, a little later,
and he could walk about in the tiny garden before the cottage, and sit
up the whole day long. He was getting better fast; and Miss Danton,
concluding her occupation was gone, became very much like the Miss
Danton of old. Not imperious and proud--she never would be that
again--but reserved and distant, and altogether changed; the delightful
readings were no more, the pleasant _tête-à-têtes_ were among the things
of the past, the long hours spent by his side, with some womanly work in
her fingers, were over and gone. She was very kind and gentle still, and
the smile that always greeted him was very bright and sweet, but that
heavenly past was gone forever. Doctor Frank, about as clear-sighted as
his sex generally are, of course never guessed within a mile of the
truth.

"What a fool I was!" he thought, bitterly, "flattering myself with such
insane dreams, because she was grateful to me for saving her sister's
life, and pitied me when she thought I was at death's door. Why, she
nursed every sick pauper in St. Croix as tenderly as she did me. She is
right to put me back in my place before I have made an idiot of myself!"

So the convalescent gentleman became moody, and silent and generally
disagreeable; and Grace was the only one who guessed at his feelings and
was sorry for him. But he grew well in spite of hidden trouble, and
began to think of what he was to do in the future.

"I'll go back to Montreal next week, I think," he said to his sister;
"now that the fever has gone, it won't pay to stay here. If I don't get
on in Montreal, I'll try New York."

Man proposes, etc. That evening's mail brought him a letter that
materially altered all his plans. He sat so long silent and thoughtful
after reading it, that Grace looked at him in surprise.

"You look as grave as an owl, Frank. Whom is your letter from?"

Doctor Frank started out of his reverie to find Kate's eyes fixed
inquiringly upon him too.

"From Messrs. Grayson & Hambert, my uncle's solicitors. He is dead."

Grace uttered a little cry.

"Dead! Frank! And you are his heir?"

"Yes."

"How much has he left?" Mrs. Danton asked, breathlessly.

"Twenty thousand pounds."

Grace clasped her hands.

"Twenty thousand pounds? My dear Frank! You have no need to go slaving
at your profession now."

Her brother looked at her in quiet surprise.

"I shall slave at my profession all the same. This windfall will,
however, alter my plans a good deal. I must start for Montreal to-morrow
morning."

He rose and left the room. Grace turned to her step-daughter.

"I am afraid you must think us heartless, Kate; but we have known very
little of this uncle, and that little was not favourable. He was a
miser--a stern and hard man--living always alone and with few friends. I
am so thankful he left his money to Frank."

Doctor Frank left St. Croix next morning for the city, and his absence
made a strange blank in the family. The spring days wore on slowly.
April was gone, and it was May. Captain Danton was absent the best part
of every day, superintending the erection of the new house, and the
three women were left alone. Miss Danton grew listless and languid. She
spent her days in purposeless loiterings in and out of the cottage, in
long reveries and solitary walks.

The middle of May came without bringing the young Doctor, or even a
letter from him. The family were seated one moonlight night in the
large, old-fashioned porch in front of the cottage, enjoying the
moonlight and Eeny's piano. Kate sat in a rustic arm-chair just outside,
looking up at the silvery crescent swimming through pearly clouds, and
the flickering shadows of the climbing sweetbrier coming and going on
her fair face. Captain Danton smoked and Grace talked to him; and while
she sat, Father Francis opened the garden gate and joined them.

"Have you heard from your brother yet?" he asked of Grace, after a few
moments' preliminary conversation.

"No; it is rather strange that he does not write."

"He told me to make his apologies. I had a letter from him to-day. He is
very busy preparing to go away."

"Go away! Go where?"

"To Germany; he leaves in a week."

"And will he not come down to say good-bye?" inquired Grace,
indignantly.

"Oh, certainly! He will be here in a day or two."

"And how long is he going to stay abroad?"

"That seems uncertain. A year or two, probably, at the very least."

Grace stole a look at Kate, but Kate had drawn back into the shadow of
the porch, and her face was not to be seen. Father Francis lingered for
half an hour, and then departed; and as the dew was falling heavily, the
group in the porch arose to go in. The young lady in the easy-chair did
not stir.

"Come in, Kate," her father said, "it is too damp to remain there."

"Yes, papa, presently."

About a quarter of an hour later, she entered the parlour to say
good-night, very pale, as they all noticed.

"I knew sitting in the night air was bad," her father said. "You are as
white as a ghost."

Miss Danton was very grave and still for the next two days--a little
sad, Grace thought. On the third day, Doctor Frank arrived. It was late
in the afternoon, and he was to depart again early next morning.

"What are you running away for now?" asked his sister, with asperity.
"What has put this German notion in your head?"

The young man smiled.

"My dear Grace, don't wear that severe face. Why should I not go? What
is to detain me here?"

This was such an unanswerable question that Grace only turned away
impatiently; and Kate, who was in the room, fancying the brother and
sister might wish to be alone, arose and departed. As the door closed
after her, Captain Danton's wife faced round and renewed the attack.

"If you want to know what is to detain you here, I can tell you now.
Stay at home and marry Kate Danton."

Her brother laughed, but in rather a constrained way.

"That is easier said than done, sister mine. Miss Danton never did more
than tolerate me in her life--sometimes not even that. Impossibilities
are not so easily achieved as you think."

"Suppose you try."

"And be refused for my pains. No, thank you."

"Very well," said Mrs. Grace with a shrug; "a wilful man must have his
way! You cannot tell whether you will be refused or not until you ask."

"I have a tolerably strong conviction, though. No, Mrs. Grace, I shall
go to Germany, and forget my folly; for that I have been an idiot, I
don't deny."

"And are so still! Do as you please, however; it is no affair of mine."

Doctor Frank rode over to the new building to see how it progressed. It
was late when he returned with the Captain, and he found that Kate had
departed to spend the evening with Miss Howard. If he wanted further
proof of her indifference, surely he had it here.

It was very late, and the family had retired before Miss Danton came
home. She was good enough though, to rise, very early next morning to
say good-bye. Doctor Frank took his hasty breakfast, and came into the
parlour, where he found her alone.

"I thought I was not to have the pleasure of seeing you before I went,"
he said, holding out his hand. "I have but ten minutes left: so
good-bye."

His voice shook a little as he said it. In spite of every effort, her
fingers closed around his, and her eyes looked up at him with her whole
heart in their clear depths.

"Kate!" he exclaimed, the colour rushing to his face with a sudden
thrill of ecstasy, and his hand closing tight over the slender fingers
he held. "Kate!"

She turned away, her own cheeks dyed, not daring to meet that eager,
questioning look.

"Kate!" he cried, appealingly; "it is because I love you I am going
away. I never thought to tell you."

       *       *       *       *       *

Five minutes later Grace opened the door impetuously.

"Frank, don't you know you will be la--Oh, I beg pardon."

She closed it hastily, and retreated. The Captain, standing in the
doorway, looked impatiently at his watch.

"What keeps the fellow? He'll be late to a dead certainty."

Grace laughed.

"There is no hurry, I think. I don't believe Frank will go to Germany
this time."



CHAPTER XXIII.

LONG HAVE I BEEN TRUE TO YOU, NOW I'M TRUE NO LONGER.


Far away from the blue skies, and bracing breezes of Lower Canada, the
twilight of a dull April day was closing down over the din and tumult of
London.

It had been a wretched day--a day of sopping rain and enervating mist.
The newly-lighted street-lamps blinked dismally through the wet fog, and
the pedestrians hurried along, poising umbrellas, and buttoned up to the
chin.

At the window of a shabby-genteel London lodging-house a young woman
sat, this dreary April evening, looking out at the cheering prospect of
dripping roofs and muddy pavement. She sat with her chin resting on her
hands, staring vacantly at the passers-by, with eyes that took no
interest in what she saw. She was quite young, and had been very pretty,
for the loose, unkempt hair was of brightest auburn, the dull eyes of
hazel brown, and the features pretty and delicate. But the look of
intense sulkiness the girl's face wore would have spoiled a far more
beautiful countenance, and there were traces of sickness and trouble,
all too visible. She was dressed in a soiled silk, arabesqued with
stains, and a general air of neglect and disorder characterized her and
her surroundings. The carpet was littered and unswept, the chairs were
at sixes and sevens, and a baby's crib, wherein a very new and pink
infant reposed, stood in the middle of the room.

The young woman sat at the window gazing sullenly out at the dismal
night for upwards of an hour, in all that time hardly moving. Presently
there was a tap at the door, and an instant after, it opened, and a
smart young person entered and began briskly laying the cloth for
supper. The young person was the landlady's daughter, and the girl at
the window only gave her one glance, and then turned unsocially away.

"Ain't you lonesome here, Mrs. Stanford, all alone by yourself?" asked
the young person, as she lit the lamp. "Mother says it must be awful
dull for you, with Mr. Stanford away all the time."

"I am pretty well used to it," answered Mrs. Stanford, bitterly. "I
ought to be reconciled to it by this time. Is it after seven?"

"Yes, ma'am. Mr. Stanford comes home at seven, don't he? He ought to be
here soon, now. Mother says she wishes you would come down to the
parlour and sit with us of a day, instead of being moped up here."

Mrs. Stanford made no reply whatever to this good-natured speech, and
the sulky expression seemed to deepen on her face. The young person,
finished setting the table, and was briskly departing, when Mrs.
Stanford's voice arrested her.

"If Mr. Stanford is not here in half an hour, you can bring up dinner."

As Mrs. Stanford spoke, the pink infant in the crib awoke and set up a
dismal wail. The young mother arose, with an impatient sigh, lifted the
babe, and sat down in a low nurse-chair, to soothe it to sleep again.
But the baby was fretful, and cried and moaned drearily, and resisted
every effort to be soothed to sleep.

"Oh, dear, dear!" Rose cried, impatiently, giving it an irritated shake.
"What a torment you are! What a trouble and wretchedness everything is!"

She swayed to and fro in her rocking-chair, humming drearily some
melancholy air, until, by-and-by, baby, worn out, wailingly dropped off
asleep again in her arms.

As it did so, the door opened a second time, and the brisk young person
entered with the first course. Mrs. Stanford placed her first-born back
in the crib, and sat down to her solitary dinner. She ate very little.
The lodging-house soups and roasts had never been so distasteful before.
She pushed the things away, with a feeling of loathing, and went back to
her low chair, and fell into a train of dismal misery. Her thoughts went
back to Canada to her happy home at Danton Hall.

Only one little year ago she had given the world for love, and thought
it well lost--and now! Love's young dream, splendid in theory, is not
always quite so splendid in practice. Love's young dream had wound up
after eleven months, in poverty, privation, sickness and trouble, a
neglectful husband, and a crying baby! How happy she had been in that
bright girlhood, gone forever! Life had been one long summer holiday,
and she dressed in silks and jewels, one of the queen-bees in the great
human hive. The silks and the jewels had gone to the pawnbroker long
ago, and here she sat, alone, in a miserable lodging-house, subsisting
on unpalatable food, sleeping on a hard mattress, sick and wretched,
with that whimpering infant's wails in her ears all day and all night.
Oh! how long ago it seemed since she had been bright, and beautiful, and
happy, and free--hundreds of years ago at the very least! She sighed in
bitter sorrow, as she thought of the past--the irredeemable past.

"Oh, what a fool I was!" she thought, bursting into hysterical tears.
"If I had only married Jules La Touche, how happy I might have been! He
loved me, poor fellow, and would have been true always, and I would have
been rich, and happy, and honoured. Now I am poor, and sick, and
neglected, and despised, and I wish I were dead, and all the trouble
over!"

Mrs. Stanford sat in her low chair, brooding over such dismal thoughts
as these, while the slow hours dragged on. The baby slept, for a wonder.
A neighbouring church clock struck the hours solemnly one after
another--ten, eleven, twelve! No Mr. Stanford yet, but that was nothing
new. As midnight, struck, Rose got up, secured the door, and going into
an inner room, flung herself, dressed as she was, on the bed, and fell
into the heavy, dreamless sleep of exhaustion.

She slept so soundly that she never heard a key turn in the lock, about
three in the morning, or a man's unsteady step crossing the floor. The
lamp still burning on the table, enabled Mr. Reginald Stanford to see
what he was about, otherwise, serious consequences might have ensued.
For Mr. Stanford was not quite steady on his legs, and lurched as he
walked, as if his wife's sitting-room had been the deck of a
storm-tossed vessel.

"I s'pose she's gone to bed," muttered Mr. Stanford, hiccoughing. "Don't
want to wake her--makes a devil of a row! I ain't drunk, but I don't
want to wake her."

Mr. Stanford lurched unsteadily across the parlour, and reconnoitred the
bedroom. He nodded sagaciously, seeing his wife there asleep, and after
making one or two futile efforts to remove his boots, stretched himself,
boots and all, on a lounge in the sitting-room, and in two minutes was
as sound as one of the Seven Sleepers.

It was late next morning before either of the happy pair awoke. A vague
idea that there was a noise in the air aroused the gentleman about nine
o'clock. The dense fog in his brain, that a too liberal allowance of
rosy wine is too apt to engender, took some time to clear away; but when
it did, he became conscious that the noise was not part of his dreams,
but some one knocking loudly at the door.

Mr. Stanford staggered sleepily across the apartment, unlocked the door,
and admitted the brisk young woman who brought them their meals.

Mr. Stanford, yawning very much, proceeded to make his toilet. Twelve
months of matrimony had changed the handsome ex-lieutenant, and not for
the better. He looked thinner and paler; his eyes were sunken, and
encircled by dark halos, telling of night revels and morning headaches.
But that wonderful beauty that had magnetized Rose Danton was there
still; the features as perfect as ever; the black eyes as lustrous; all
the old graceful ease and nonchalance of manner characterized him yet.
But the beauty that had blinded and dazzled her had lost its power to
charm. She had been married to him a year--quite long enough to be
disenchanted. That handsome face might fascinate other foolish moths; it
had lost its power to dazzle her long, long ago. Perhaps the
disenchantment was mutual; for the pretty, rose-cheeked, starry-eyed
girl who had captivated his idle fancy had become a dream of the past,
and his wife was a pale, sickly, peevish invalid, with frowsy hair and
slipshod feet.

The clattering of the cups and saucers awoke the baby, who began
squalling dismally; and the baby's cries awoke the baby's mamma. Rose
got up, feeling cramped and unrefreshed, and came out into the parlour
with the infant in her arms. Her husband turned from a dreary
contemplation of the sun trying to force its way through a dull, yellow
fog, and dropped the curtain.

"Good-morning, my dear," said Mr. Stanford, pouring out a cup of tea.
"How are you to-day? Can't you make that disagreeable youngster hold his
confounded tongue?"

"What time did you get home last night?" demanded Mrs. Stanford, with
flashing eyes.

"It wasn't last night, my dear," replied Mr. Stanford, serenely,
buttering his roll; "it was sometime this morning, I believe."

"And of course you were drunk as usual!"

"My love, pray don't speak so loudly; they'll hear you down stairs,"
remonstrated the gentleman. "Really, I believe I had been imbibing a
little too freely. I hope I did not disturb you. I made as little noise
as possible on purpose, I assure you. I even slept in my boots, not
being in a condition to take them off. Wash your face, my dear, and comb
your hair--they both need it very much--and come take some breakfast. If
that baby of yours won't hold its tongue, please to throw it out of the
window."

Mrs. Stanford's reply was to sink into the rocking-chair and burst into
a passion of tears.

"Don't, pray!" remonstrated Mr. Stanford; "one's enough to cry at a
time. Do come and have some breakfast. You're hysterical this morning,
that is evident, and a cup of tea will do you good."

"I wish I were dead!" burst out Rose, passionately. "I wish I had been
dead before I ever saw your face!"

"I dare say, my love. I can understand your feelings, and sympathize
with them perfectly."

"Oh, what a fool I was!" cried Rose, rocking violently backward and
forward; "to leave my happy home, my indulgent father, my true and
devoted lover, for you! To leave wealth and happiness for poverty, and
privation, and neglect, and misery! Oh, fool! fool! fool! that I was!"

"Very true, my dear," murmured Mr. Stanford sympathetically. "I don't
mind confessing that I was a fool myself. You cannot regret your
marriage any more than I do mine."

This was a little too much. Rose sprang up, flinging the baby into the
cradle, and faced her lord and master with cheeks of flame and eyes of
fire.

"You villain!" she cried. "You cruel, cold-blooded villain, I hate you!
Do you hear, Reginald Stanford, I hate you! You have deceived me as
shamefully as ever man deceived woman! Do you think I don't know where
you were last night, or whom you were with? Don't I know it was with
that miserable, degraded Frenchwoman--that disgusting Madame
Millefleur--whom I would have whipped through the streets of London, if
I could."

"I don't doubt it, my dear," murmured Mr. Stanford, still unruffled by
his wife's storm of passion. "Your gentle sex are famous for the mercy
they always show to their fairer sisters. Your penetration does you
infinite credit, Mrs. Stanford. I was with Madame Millefleur."

Rose stood glaring at him, white and panting with rage too intense for
words. Reginald Stanford stood up, meeting her fierce regards with
wonderful coolness.

"You're not going to tear my hair out, are you, Rose? You see the way of
it was this: Coming from the office where I have the honour to be
clerk--thanks to my marriage--I met Madame Millefleur, that most
bewitching and wealthy of French widows. She is in love with me, my
dear. It may seem unaccountable to you how any one can be in love with
me, but the fact is so. She is in love with me almost as much as pretty
Rose Danton was once upon a time, and gave me an invitation to accompany
her to the opera last night. Of course I was enchanted. The opera is a
rare luxury now, and la Millefleur is all the fashion. I had the
happiness of bending over her chair all the evening--don't glare so, my
love, it makes you quite hideous--and accepted a seat beside her in the
carriage when it was all over. A delicious _petit souper_ awaited us in
Madame's bijou of a boudoir; and I don't mind owning I was a little
disguised by sparkling Moselle when I came home. Open confessions are
good for the soul--there is one for you, my dear."

Her face was livid as she listened, and he smiled up at her with a smile
that nearly drove her mad.

"I hate you, Reginald Stanford!" was all she could say. "I hate you! I
hate you!"

"Quite likely, my love; but I dare say I shall survive that. You would
rather I didn't come here any more, I suppose, Mrs. Stanford?"

"I never want to see your hateful, wicked face again. I wish I had been
dead before I ever saw it."

"And I wish whatever you wish, dearest and best," he said, with a
sneering laugh; "if you ever see my wicked, hateful face again, it shall
be no fault of mine. Perhaps you had better go back to Canada. M. La
Touche was very much in love with you last year, and may overlook this
little episode in your life, and take you to his bosom yet. Good
morning, Mrs. Stanford. I am going to call on Madame Millefleur."

He took his hat and left the room, and Rose dropped down in her chair
and covered her face with her hands.

If Kate Danton and Jules La Touche ever wished for revenge, they should
have seen the woman who so cruelly wronged them at that moment.
Vengeance more bitter, more terrible than her worst enemy could wish,
had overtaken and crushed her to the earth.

How that long, miserable day passed, the poor child never knew. It came
to an end, and the longer, more miserable night followed. Another
morning, another day of unutterable wretchedness, and a second night of
tears and sleeplessness. The third day came and passed, and still
Reginald Stanford never returned. The evening of the third day brought
her a letter, with Napoleon's head on the corner.

     "Hotel Du Louvre, Paris, April 10.

     My Dear Mrs. Stanford:--For you have still the unhappiness
     of bearing that odious name, although I have no doubt Captain
     Danton will shortly take the proper steps to relieve you of it.
     According to promise, I have rid you of my hateful presence, and
     forever. You see I am in brilliant Paris, in a palatial hotel,
     enjoying all the luxuries wealth can procure, and Madame Millefleur
     is my companion. The contrast between my life this week and my life
     last is somewhat striking. The frowning countenance of Mrs.
     Stanford is replaced by the ever-smiling face of my dark-eyed
     Adèle, and the shabby lodgings in Crown street, Strand, are
     exchanged for this chamber of Eastern gorgeousness. I am happy, and
     so, no doubt, are you. Go back to Canada, my dear Mrs. Stanford.
     Papa will receive his little runaway with open arms, and kill the
     fatted calf to welcome her. The dear Jules may still be faithful,
     and you may yet be thrice blessed as Madame La Touche. Ah, I
     forget--you belong to the Church, and so does he, that does not
     believe in divorce. What a pity!

     "I beg you will feel no uneasiness upon pecuniary matters, my dear
     Rose. I write by this post to our good landlady, inclosing the next
     six months' rent, and in this you will find a check for all present
     wants.

     "I believe this is all I have to say, and Adèle is waiting for me
     to escort her on a shopping expedition. Adieu, my Rose; believe me,
     with the best wishes for your future happiness, to be Ever your
     friend,

     "Reginald Reinecourt Stanford."



CHAPTER XXIV.

COALS OF FIRE.


One afternoon, about a fortnight after the receipt of that letter from
France, Rose Stanford sat alone once more in the shabby little parlour
of the London lodging-house. It was late in April, but a fire burned
feebly in the little grate, and she sat cowering over it wrapped in a
large shawl. She had changed terribly during these two weeks; she had
grown old, and hollow-eyed, a haggard, worn, wretched woman.

It was her third day up, this April afternoon, for a low, miserable
fever had confined her to her bed, and worn her to the pallid shadow she
was now. She had just finished writing a letter, a long, sad letter, and
it lay in her lap while she sat shivering over the fire. It was a letter
to her father, a tardy prayer for forgiveness, and a confession of all
her misdoings and wrongs--of Reginald Stanford's rather, for, of course,
all the blame was thrown upon him, though, if Rose had told the truth,
she would have found herself the more in fault of the two.

"I am sick, and poor, and broken-hearted," wrote Mrs. Stanford; "and I
want to go home and die. I have been very wicked, papa, but I have
suffered so much, that even those I have wronged most might forgive me.
Write to me at once, and say I may go home; I only want to go and die in
peace. I feel that I am dying now."

She folded the letter with a weary sigh and a hand that shook like an
old woman's, and rising, rang the bell. The brisk young woman answered
the summons at once with a smile on her face, and Mrs. Stanford's baby
crowing in her arms. They had been very kind to the poor young mother
and the fatherless babe during this time of trial; but Mrs. Stanford was
too ill and broken down to think about it, or feel grateful.

"Here, Jane," said Mrs. Stanford, holding out the letter, "give me the
baby, and post this letter."

Jane obeyed; and Rose, with the infant in her lap, sat staring gloomily
at the red coals.

"Two weeks before it will reach them, two weeks more before an answer
can arrive, and another two weeks before I can be with them. Oh, dear
me! dear me! how shall I drag out life during these interminable weeks.
If I could only die at once and end it all."

Tears of unutterable wretchedness and loneliness and misery coursed down
her pale, thin cheeks. Surely no one ever paid more dearly for love's
short madness than this unfortunate little Rose.

"Marry in haste and repent at leisure," she thought, with unspeakable
bitterness. "Oh, how happy I might have been to-day if I had only done
right last year. But I was mad and treacherous and false, and I dare-say
it serves me right. How can I ever look them in the face when I go
home?"

The weary weeks dragged on, how wearily and miserably only Rose knew.
She never went out; she sat all day long in that shabby parlour, and
stared blankly at the passers-by in the street, waiting, waiting.

The good-natured landlady and her daughter took charge of the baby
during those wretched weeks of expectation, or Mrs. Reginald Stanford's
only son would have been sadly neglected.

April was gone; May came in, bringing the anniversary of Rose's
ill-starred marriage and finding her in that worst widowhood, a day of
ceaseless tears and regrets to the unhappy, deserted wife. The bright
May days went by, one after another, passing as wretched days and more
wretched nights do pass somehow; and June had taken its place. In all
this long, long time, no letter had come for Rose. How she watched and
waited for it; how she had strained her eyes day after day to catch
sight of the postman; how her heart leaped up and throbbed when she saw
him approach, and sank down in her breast like lead as he went by, only
those can know who have watched and waited like her. A sickening sense
of despair stole over her at last. They had forgotten her; they hated
and despised her, and left her to her fate. There was nothing for it but
to go to the alms-house and die, like any other pauper.

She had been mad when she fancied they could forgive her. Her sins had
been too great. All the world had deserted her, and the sooner she was
dead and out of the way the better.

She sat in the misty June twilight thinking this, with a sad, hopeless
kind of resignation. It was the fifth of June. Could she forget that
this very day twelvemonth was to have been her wedding-day? Poor
Jules--poor Kate! Oh, what a wretch she had been!

She covered her face with her hands, tears falling like rain through her
thin fingers.

"I wonder if they will be sorry for me, and forgive me, when they hear I
am dead?" she thought. "Oh, how I live, and live; when other women would
have died long ago with half this trouble. Only nineteen, and with
nothing left to wish for but death."

There was a tap at the door. Before she could speak it was opened, and
Jane, the brisk, came rustling in.

"There's a gentleman down-stairs, Mrs. Stanford, asking to see you."

Rose sprang up, her lips apart, her eyes dilating.

"To see me! A gentleman! Jane, is it Mr. Stanford?"

Jane shook her head.

"Not a bit like Mr. Stanford, ma'am; not near so 'andsome, though a very
fine-looking gentleman. He said, to tell you as 'ow a friend wanted to
see you."

A friend! Oh, who could it be? She made a motion to Jane to show him
up--she was too agitated to speak. She stood with her hands clasped over
her beating heart, breathless, waiting.

A man's quick step flew up the stairs; a tall figure stood in the
doorway, hat in hand.

Rose uttered a faint cry. She had thought of her father, of Jules La
Touche, never once of him who stood before her.

"Doctor Frank!" she gasped; and then she was holding to a chair for
support, feeling the walls swimming around her.

Doctor Frank took her in his arms, and kissed her pale cheek as tenderly
and pityingly as her father might have done.

"My poor child! My poor little Rose! What a shadow you are! Don't cry
so--pray don't!"

She bowed her weary head against his shoulder, and broke out into
hysterical sobbing. It was so good to see that friendly familiar face
once more--she clung to him with a sense of unspeakable trust and
relief, and cried in the fullness of her heart.

He let her tears flow for awhile, sitting beside her, and stroking the
faded, disordered hair away from the wan, pale face.

"There! there!" he said, at last, "we have had tears enough now. Look up
and let me talk to you. What did you think when you received no answer
to your letter?"

"I thought you all very cruel. I thought I was forgotten."

"Of course you did; but you are not forgotten, and it is my fault that
you have had no letter. I wanted to surprise you; and I have brought a
letter from your father breathing nothing but love and forgiveness."

"Give it to me!" cried Rose, breathlessly; "give it to me!"

"Can't, unfortunately, yet awhile. I left it at my hotel. Don't look so
disappointed. I am going to take you there in half an hour. Hallo! Is
that the baby?"

Reginald Stanford, Junior, asleep in his crib, set up a sudden squall at
this moment.

Doctor Frank crossed the floor, and hoisted him up in a twinkling.

"Why, he's a splendid little fellow, Rose, and the very image of--What
do you call him?"

"Reginald," Rose said, in a very subdued tone.

"Well, Master Reginald, you and I are going to be good friends, aren't
we, and you're not going to cry?"

He hoisted him high in the air, and baby answered with a loud crow.

"That's right. Babies always take to me, Rose. You don't know how many
dozens I have nursed in my time. But you don't ask me any questions
about home. Aren't you curious to know how they all get on?"

"Papa is married, I suppose?" Rose said.

"Of course--last January. And Danton Hall was burnt down; and they have
built up another twice as big and three times as handsome. And Mr.
Richards--you remember the mysterious invalid, Rose?"

"Yes."

"Well, Mr. Richards turned out to be your brother Harry, who lived shut
up there, because he thought he had committed a murder, some time
before, in New York. And Agnes Darling--you have not forgotten Agnes
Darling?"

"Oh, no."

"Agnes Darling turns out to be his wife. Quite a romance, isn't it? I
will tell you all the particulars another time. Just now, I want you to
put on your bonnet and come with me to my hotel. Don't ask me why--I
won't tell you. We will fetch the baby too. Go, get ready."

Doctor Frank was imperative, and Rose yielded at once. It was so
indescribably delightful, after all these weeks of suspense and despair,
to see Frank Danton's friendly face, and to listen to his friendly
voice, commanding as one who had the right. Rose had her hat and shawl
on directly, and, with baby in her arms, followed him down stairs. A
hansom stood waiting. He helped her in, gave the cabman his orders, took
his place beside her, and they rattled off.

"When am I going home?" Rose asked, suddenly. "Have you come to fetch
me?"

"Not precisely. You are to return with me, however."

"And when are we going?"

"That is not quite decided yet. It is an after-consideration, and there
is no hurry. Are you particularly anxious to be back to Canada?"

"I am tired of being lonely and homeless," poor Rose replied, the tears
starting. "I want to be at rest, and among the dear familiar faces.
Doctor Frank," she said, looking at him appealingly, "have they forgiven
me, do you think?"

"Whom do you mean by they, Mrs. Stanford?"

"Papa and--and Kate."

"I have reason to think so. Of course, it must have been rather
disagreeable to Kate at first, to have her lover run away and leave her,
but I really think she has got over it. We must be resigned to the
inevitable, you know, my dear Rose, in this changeable world."

Rose sighed, and looked out of the window. A moment later, and the cab
drew up before a stately hotel.

"This is the place," said the Doctor. "Come!"

He helped her out, gave his arm, and led her up a long flight of broad
stairs. It was quite a little journey through carpeted corridors to the
gentleman's apartments; but he reached the door at last. It opened into
a long vista of splendour, as it seemed to Rose, accustomed so long to
the shabby Strand lodgings. She had expected to find the Doctor's rooms
empty; but, to her surprise, within an inner apartment, whose door stood
wide, she saw a lady. The lady, robed in bright silk, tall and stately,
with golden hair twisted coronet wise round the shapely head, stood with
her back to them, looking out of the window. Something in that straight
and stately form struck with a nameless thrill to Rose Stanford's heart;
and she stood in the doorway, spell-bound. At the noise of their
entrance, the lady turned round, uttered an exclamation of pleasure, and
advanced towards them. Doctor Frank stood with a smile on his face,
enjoying Mrs. Stanford's consternation. Another second and she was
clasped in the lady's arms.

"Rose! Rose! My dear little sister!"

"Kate!" Rose murmured, faintly, all white and trembling.

Kate looked up at the smiling face of the Doctor, a new light dawning on
her.

"Oh, he has never told you! For shame, Frank, to shock her so! My
darling, did you not know I was here?"

"No; he never told me," Rose said, sinking into a chair, and looking
hopelessly at her sister. "What does it mean, Kate? Is papa here?"

"I leave the onerous duty of explaining everything to you, Kate," said
the Doctor, before Kate could reply. "I am going down stairs to smoke."

"That provoking fellow!" Kate said, smilingly, looking after him; "it is
just like him."

"Is papa here?" Rose repeated, wonderingly.

"No, my dear; papa is at Danton Hall, with his wife. It was impossible
for him to come."

"Then how do you happen to be here, and with Doctor Frank?"

Kate laughed--such a sweet, clear, happy laugh--as she kissed Rose's
wondering face.

"For the very best reason in the world, Mrs. Stanford! Because I happen
to be Doctor Frank's wife!"

Rose sat, confounded, speechless--literally struck dumb--staring
helplessly.

"His wife!" she repeated. "His wife!" and then sat lost in overwhelming
amaze.

"Yes, my dear; his happy wife. I do not wonder you are astonished,
knowing the past; but it is a long story to tell. I am ashamed to think
how wicked and disagreeable, and perverse, I used to be; but it is all
over now. I think there is no one in all the wide world like Frank!"

Her eyes filled as she said it, and she laid her face for a moment on
her sister's shoulder.

"I was blind in those past days, Rose, and too prejudiced to do justice
to a noble man's worth. I love my husband with my whole heart--with an
affection that can never change."

"And you forgive me?"

"I forgave you long ago. Is this the baby? How pretty! Give him to me."

She took Master Reginald in her arms, and kissed his chubby face.

"To think that you should ever nurse Reginald Stanford's child! How
odd!" said Rose, languidly.

The colour rushed into Mrs. Frank Danton's face for a second or two, as
she stooped over the baby.

"Strange things happen in this world. I shall be very fond of the baby,
I know."

"And Grace, whom you disliked so much, is your mother and sister both
together. How very queer!"

Kate laughed.

"It is odd, but quite true. Come, take your things off; you are not to
leave us again. We will send to your lodgings for your luggage."

"How long have you been married?" asked Rose, as she obeyed.

"Three weeks; and this is our bridal tour. We depart for Paris in two
days. You know Frank has had a fortune."

"I don't know anything. Do tell me all about it--your marriage and
everything. I am dying of curiosity."

Mrs. Doctor Danton seated herself in a low chair, with Reginald
Stanford's first-born in her lap, and began recapitulating as much of
the past as was necessary to enlighten Mrs. Stanford.

"So he saved Eeny's life; and you nursed him, and fell in love with him,
and married him, and his old uncle dies and leaves him a fortune in the
nick of time. It sounds like a fairy tale; you ought to finish
with--'and they lived happy forever after!'"

"Please Heaven, we will! Such real-life romance happens every day,
sister mine. Oh, by-the-by, guess who was at our wedding?"

"Who?"

"A very old friend of yours, my dear--Monsieur Jules La Touche."

"No! Was he, though? How did you come to invite him?"

"He chanced to be in the neighbourhood at the time. Do you know, Rose, I
should not be surprised if he accomplished his destiny yet, and became
papa's son-in-law."

Rose looked up, breathlessly, thinking only of herself.

"Impossible, Kate!--What do you mean?"

"Not at all impossible, I assure you. Eeny was my bride-maid, and you
have no idea how pretty she looked; and so Monsieur La Touche seemed to
think, by the very marked attention he paid her. It would be an
excellent thing for her; he is in a fair way of becoming a millionaire."

A pang of the bitterest envy and mortification she had ever felt,
pierced Rose Stanford's heart. Oh! what a miserable--what an unfortunate
creature she had been! She turned away, that her sister might not see
her face, and Kate carelessly went on.

"Eeny always liked him, I know. She likes him better than ever now. I
shall not be at all surprised if we find her engaged when we go home."

"Indeed!" Rose said, trying to speak naturally, and failing signally.
"And when are we going home?"

"Early in November, I believe. Frank and I are to make Montreal our
home, for he will not give up his profession, of course; and you shall
come and live with us if you like the city better than St. Croix."

Rose's slumbers that night were sadly disturbed. It was not the contrast
between her handsome bedroom and downy pillows, and the comfortless
little chamber she had slept in so long; it was not thought of her
sister's goodness and generosity: it was the image of Eeny, in silk and
jewels, the bride of Jules La Touche, the millionaire.

Somehow, unacknowledged in her heart of hearts, there had lingered a
hope of vengeance on her husband, triumph for herself as the wife of her
deserted lover! There would be a divorce, and then she might legally
marry. She had no conscientious scruples about that sort of marriages,
and she took it for granted Monsieur La Touche could have none either.
But now these hopes were nipped in the bud. Eeny--younger, fresher,
fairer, perhaps--was to have him and the splendid position his wife must
attain; and she was to be a miserable, poor, deserted wife all her days.

I am afraid Mrs. Stanford was not properly thankful for her blessings
that night. She had thought, only one day before, that to find her
friends and be forgiven by them would be the sum total of earthly
happiness; but now she had found them, and was forgiven, she was as
wretched as ever.

The contrast between what she was and what she might have been was
rather striking, certainly; and the bitterest pang of all was the
thought she had no one to blame, from first to last, but herself.

Oh, if she had only been true! This was what came of marrying for love,
and trampling under foot prudence, and honour, and truth. A month or two
of joy, and life-long regret and repentance!

Doctor Danton, his wife, and sister, took a hurried scamper over London,
and departed for Paris.

The weather in that gay capital was very warm, indeed, but delightful to
Rose, who had never crossed the Channel before. Paris was comparatively
familiar ground to the young Doctor; he took the two ladies sight-seeing
perpetually; and Mrs. Stanford almost forgot her troubles in the
delights of the brilliant French city.

A nurse had been engaged for baby, so that troublesome young gentleman
no longer came between his mamma and life's enjoyment. Her diminished
wardrobe had been replenished too; and, well-fed and well-dressed, Rose
began to look almost like the sparkling, piquant Rose of other days.

The Dantons had been three weeks in Paris, and were to leave in a day or
two en route for Switzerland. The Doctor had taken them for a last drive
through the Bois de Boulogne the sunny afternoon that was to be their
last for some time in the French capital. Kate and Rose, looking very
handsome, and beautifully dressed, lay back among the cushions,
attracting more than one glance of admiration from those who passed by.

Mrs. Danton was chatting gayly with her husband, and Rose, poising a
dainty azure parasol, looked at the well-dressed Parisians around her.

Suddenly, the hand so daintily holding the parasol grasped it tight, the
hot blood surged in a torrent to her face, and her eyes fixed and
dilated on two equestrians slowly approaching. A lady and gentleman--the
lady a Frenchwoman evidently, dark, rather good-looking, and not very
young; the gentleman, tall, eminently handsome, and much more youthful
than his fair companion, Rose Stanford and her false husband were face
to face!

He had seen them, and grown more livid than death; his eyes fixed on
Doctor Danton and his beautiful wife, talking and laughing with such
infinitely happy faces.

One glance told him how matters stood--told him the girl he had forsaken
was the happy wife of a better man. Then his glance met that of his
wife, pretty, and blooming and bright as when he had first fallen in
love with her; but those hazel eyes were flashing fire, and the pretty
face was fierce with rage and scorn.

Then they were past; and Reginald Stanford and his wife had seen each
other for the last time on earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The summer flew by. They visited Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and were
back in Paris in October. About the middle of that month they sailed
from Havre to New York, and reached that city after a delightful
passage. It being Rose's first sight of the Empire City, they lingered a
week to show her the lions, and early in November were on the first
stage of their journey to Danton Hall.



CHAPTER XXV.

AT HOME.


Late in the afternoon of a dark November day our travellers reached St.
Croix, and found the carriage from the Hall awaiting them at the
station. Rose leaned back in a corner, wrapped in a large shawl, and
with a heart too full of mingled feelings to speak. How it all came back
to her, with the bitterness of death, the last time her eyes had looked
upon these familiar objects--how happy she had been then, how hopeful;
how miserable she had been since, how hopeless now. The well-known
objects flitted before her eyes, seen through a mist of tears, so
well-known that it seemed only yesterday since she had last looked at
them, and these dreary intervening months only a wretched dream. Ah! no
dream, for there sat the English nurse with the baby in her arms, a
living proof of their reality. One by one the old places spun by, the
church, the presbytery, with Father Francis walking up and down the
little garden, his soutane tucked up, and his breviary in his hand, all
looking ghostly in the dim afternoon light. Now the village was passed,
they were flying through wide open gates, and under the shadow of the
dear old trees. There was Danton Hall, not the dingy, weather-beaten
Danton Hall she knew, but a much more modern, much more elegant mansion;
and there on the gray stone steps stood her father, handsome and portly,
and kindly as ever; and there was Grace beside him--dear, good Grace;
and there was Eeny, dressed in pale pink with fluttering ribbons, fair
and fragile, and looking like a rosebud. A little group of three persons
behind, at sight of whom Kate uttered an exclamation of delight.

"Oh, Frank! there are Harry and Agnes! To think papa never told us! What
a charming surprise!"

That was all Rose heard; then she was clasped in her father's stalwart
arms, and sobbing on his breast. They all clustered around her
first--their restored prodigal--and Grace kissed her lovingly, and
Eeny's soft arms were around her neck. Then the group in the background
came forward, and Rose saw a sunburned sailor's face, and knew that it
was her brother Harry who was kissing her, and her sister Agnes whose
arms clung around her. Then she looked at the third person, still
standing modestly in the background, and uttered a little cry.

"Jules! M. La Touche!"

He came forward, a smile on his face, and his hand frankly outstretched,
while Eeny blushingly hovered aloof.

"I am very happy to see you again, Mrs. Stanford--very happy to see you
looking so well!"

So they had met, and this was all! Then they were in the
drawing-room--how, Rose could not tell--it was all like a dream to her,
and Eeny had the babe in her arms, and was carrying it around to be
kissed and admired. "The beauty! The darling! The pet!" Eeny could not
find words enough to express her enthusiastic rapture at such a miracle
of babydom, and kissed Master Reginald into an angry fit of crying.

They got up to their rooms at last. Rose broke down again in the
seclusion of her chamber, and cried until her eyes were as sore as her
heart. How happy they all looked, loving and beloved; and she, the
deserted wife, was an object of pity. While she sat crying, there was a
tap at the door. Hastily drying her eyes, she opened it, and admitted
Grace.

"Have you been crying, Rose?" she said, tenderly taking both her hands,
and sitting down beside her. "My poor dear, you must try and forget your
troubles, and be happy with us. I know it is very sad, and we are all
sorry for you; but the husband you have lost is not worth grieving for.
Were you not surprised," smiling, "to see Mr. La Touche here?"

"Hardly," said Rose, rather sulkily. "I suppose he is here in the
character of Eeny's suitor?"

"More than that, my dear. He is here in the character of Eeny's
affianced husband. They are to be married next month."

Rose uttered an exclamation--an exclamation of dismay. She certainly had
never dreamed of this.

"The marriage would have taken place earlier, but was postponed in
expectation of your and Kate's arrival. That is why Harry and Agnes are
here. M. La Touche has a perfect home prepared for his bride in Ottawa.
Come, she is in Kate's room now. I will show you her trousseau."

Rose went with her step-mother from her chamber into Eeny's
dressing-room. There was spread out the bridal outfit. Silks, in rich
stiffness, fit to stand alone; laces, jewels, bridal-veil, and wreath.
Rose looked with dazzled eyes, and a feeling of passionate, jealous envy
at her heart. It might have been hers, all this splendour--she might
have been mistress of the palace at Ottawa, and the wife of a
millionaire.

But she had given up all for love of a handsome face; and that handsome
face smiled on another now, and was lost to her forever. She choked back
the rebellious throbbing of her heart, and praised the costly wedding
outfit, and was glad when she could escape and be alone again. It was
all bitter as the waters of Marah, to poor, widowed Rose; their
forgiveness, so ready and so generous, was heaping coals of fire on her
head; and at home, surrounded by kind friends and every comfort so long
a stranger to her, she felt even more desolate than she had ever done in
the dreary London lodgings.

But while all were happy at Danton Hall, save Captain Danton's second
daughter, once the gayest among them, the days flew by, and Eveleen
Danton's wedding-day dawned. Such a lovely December day, brilliant,
cloudless, warm--just the day for a wedding. The little village church
was crowded with the rich and the poor, long before the carriages from
the Hall arrived. Very lovely looked the young bride, in her silken robe
of virgin white, her misty veil, and drooping, flower-crowned head. Very
sweet, and fair, and innocent, and as pale as her snowy dress, the
centre of all eyes, as she moved up the aisle, on her father's arm.
There were four bride-maids; the Demoiselles La Touche came from Ottawa
for the occasion. Miss Emily Howard, and Miss La Favre. The bride's
sisters shared with her the general admiration--Mrs. Dr. Danton; Mrs.
Stanford, all auburn ringlets, and golden brown silk, and no outward
sign of the torments within; Mrs. Harry Danton, fair as a lily, clinging
to her sailor-husband's arm, like some spirit of the sea; and last, but
not least, Captain Danton's wife, very simply dressed, but looking so
quietly happy and serene. Then it was all over, and the gaping
spectators saw the wedding party flocking back into the carriages, and
whirling away to the Hall.

Mr. and Mrs. La Touche were to make but a brief tour, and return in time
for a Christmas house-warming. Doctor Frank and his wife went to their
Montreal home, and Mrs. Stanford remained at St. Croix. The family were
all to reassemble at Ottawa, to spend New Year with Madame La Touche.

Rose found the intervening weeks very long and dreary at the Hall.
Captain Harry had gone back to his ship, and of course Agnes had gone
with him. They had wanted her to stay at home this voyage, but Agnes had
lifted such appealing eyes, and clung in so much alarm to Harry at the
bare idea of his leaving her, that they had given it up at once. So
Rose, with no companion except Grace, found it very dull, and sighed the
slow hours away, like a modern Mariana in the Moated Grange.

But the merry New Year time came round at last; and all the Dantons were
together once more in Eeny's splendid home. It made Rose's heart ache
with envy to walk through those lovely rooms--long vistas of splendour
and gorgeousness.

"It might have been mine!--It might have been mine!" that rebellious
heart of hers kept crying out. "I might have been mistress of all this
retinue of servants--these jewels and silks I might have worn! I might
have reigned like a queen in this stately house if I had only done
right!"

But it was too late, and Mrs. Stanford had to keep up appearances, and
smiles, though the serpents of envy and regret gnawed at her vitals. It
was very gay there! Life seemed all made up of music, and dancing, and
feasting, and mirth, and skating, and sleighing, and dressing, and
singing. Life went like a fairy spectacle, or an Eastern drama, or an
Arcadian dream--with care, and trial, and trouble, monsters unknown even
by name.

Mme. Jules La Touche played the rôle with charming grace--a little shy,
as became her youth and inexperience, but only the more charming for
that. They were very, very happy together, this quiet young pair--loving
one another very dearly, as you could see, and looking forward hopefully
to a future that was to be without a cloud.

Mrs. La Touche and Mrs. Stanford were very much admired in society, no
doubt; but people went into raptures over Mrs. Frank Danton. Such eyes,
such golden hair, such rare smiles, such queenly grace, such singing,
such playing--surely nature had created this darling of hers in a
gracious mood, and meted out to her a double portion of her favours. You
might think other ladies--those younger sisters of hers
included--beautiful until she came; and then that stately presence, that
bewitching brightness and grace, eclipsed them as the sun eclipses
stars.

"What a lucky fellow Danton is!" said the men. "One doesn't see such a
superb woman once in a century."

And Doctor Frank heard it, and smiled, as he smoked his meerschaum, and
thought so too.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so we leave them. Kate is happy; Eeny reigns right royally in her
Ottawa home; and Rose--well, poor Rose has no home, and flits about
between St. Croix, and Montreal, and Ottawa, all the year round. She
calls Danton Hall home, but she spends most of her time with Kate. It is
not so sumptuous, of course, as at Ottawa, in the rising young Doctor's
home; but she is not galled every moment of the day by the poignant
regrets that lacerate her heart at Eeny's. She hears of her husband
occasionally, as he wanders through the Continent, and the chain that
binds her to him galls her day and night. Little Reginald, able to trot
about on his own sturdy legs now, accompanies her in her migratory
flights, and is petted to death wherever he goes. He has come to grief
quite recently, and takes it very hard that grandpa should have
something else to nurse besides himself. This something else is a little
atom of humanity named Gracie, and is Captain Danton's youngest
daughter.


THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *

_By May Agnes Fleming._



NORINE'S REVENGE.

"Mrs. Fleming's stories are growing more and more popular every day.
Their delineations of character, lifelike conversations, flashes of wit,
constantly varying scenes, and deeply interesting plots, combine to
place their author in the very first rank of Modern Novelists."





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