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Title: Ringfield - A Novel
Author: Harrison, S. Frances (Susie Frances), 1859-1935
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 "Ringfield - A Novel" ***

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RINGFIELD

A NOVEL


BY

S. F. HARRISON,

"SERANUS"


[Transcriber's note: Author's full name is Susie Frances Harrison]


AUTHOR OF "THE FOREST OF BOURG-MARIE," "PINE, ROSE AND FLEURE DE LIS,"
"CROWDED OUT, AND OTHER SKETCHES," "THE CANADIAN BIRTHDAY BOOK," ETC.



TORONTO

THE MUSSON BOOK COMPANY, LIMITED

1914



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER I
  THE HOLY WATERS

    CHAPTER II
  THE WHITE PEACOCK

    CHAPTER III
  THE MAN IN THE CHAIR

    CHAPTER IV
  THE HOUSE OF CLAIRVILLE

    CHAPTER V
  THE UNSEEN HAND

    CHAPTER VI
  THE MISSIONARY

    CHAPTER VII
  THE OXFORD MAN

    CHAPTER VIII
  THE "PIC"

    CHAPTER IX
  PAULINE

    CHAPTER X
  THE PICNIC

    CHAPTER XI
  "ANGEEL"

    CHAPTER XII
  THE HEART OF POUSSETTE

    CHAPTER XIII
  A SICK SEIGNEUR

    CHAPTER XIV
  FATHER RIELLE

    CHAPTER XV
  THE STORM

    CHAPTER XVI
  IN THE BARN

    CHAPTER XVII
  REVELRY BY NIGHT

    CHAPTER XVIII
  A CONCERT DE LUXE

    CHAPTER XIX
  REHABILITATION

    CHAPTER XX
  A RURAL AUTOCRAT

    CHAPTER XXI
  THE NATURAL MAN

    CHAPTER XXII
  THE TROUSSEAU OF PAULINE

    CHAPTER XXIII
  THE SEIGNEUR PASSES

    CHAPTER XXIV
  RELAPSE

    CHAPTER XXV
  THE TROUSSEAU AGAIN

    CHAPTER XXVI
  THE GLISSADE

    CHAPTER XXVII
  THE CARPET BAG

    CHAPTER XXVIII
  THE HAVEN

    CHAPTER XXIX
  THE WILL OF GOD

    CHAPTER XXX
  THE QUEST OF HAPPINESS



CHAPTER I

THE HOLY WATERS

  "...... the sounding cataract
      Haunted me like a passion."


In a country of cascades, a land of magnificent waterfalls, that watery
hemisphere which holds Niagara and reveals to those who care to travel
so far north the unhackneyed splendours of the Labrador, the noble fall
of St. Ignace, though only second or third in size, must ever rank
first in all that makes for majestic and perfect beauty.

It is not alone the wondrous sweep and curve of tumbling brown water
that descends by three horseshoe ledges to a swirl of sparkling spray.
It is not alone the great volume of the dark river above sent over,
thrust down, nor the height from which the olive is hurled to the white
below.  So, too, plunge and sweep other falls--the Grand Loup in
Terrebonne, the Petit Loup in Joliette, the Pleureuse, the Grand
Lorette, the Tuque, the big and little Shawenigan, the half-dozen or so
"Chaudière," the Montmorenci or La Vache, but none of these can equal
the St. Ignace in point of dignified, unspoilt approach and picturesque
surroundings.  For a mile above the cataract the river runs, an inky
ribbon, between banks of amazing solitariness; no clearing is there, no
sign of human habitation, hardly any vestige of animal life.  The trees
stand thick along the edges, are thick towards the high rocky
table-land that lies on either side; it is, in short, a river flowing
through a forest.  And when it drops, it drops to meet the same
impassable wooded banks; it is now a cataract in a forest.  Rocks are
turbulently heaped upon one hand; upon the other, the three great
ledges meet the shock of the descending waters and define the leap by
boldly curved thick masses of olive, topaz, and greenish jelly.  Where
it is brown, it is nearest the rocky bed; where olive, more water is
going over; and where green, it is so solid that twice a yard measure
alone will penetrate the reach of rock beneath.  The white of its
flowing spray is whiter than the summer cloud, and the dark green of
the pines framing it, shows often black against the summer blue.  Its
voice--roar as of wind or steady thunder--calling always--has silenced
other voices.  Birds do not build, nor squirrels climb too near that
deep reverberating note, although the blue heron, fearless, frequently
stands in summer on the spray-washed rock and seems to listen.  Below
the filmy smoke of rainbowed arches there is quiet black water, with
circles, oily, ominous, moving stealthily along, and below these--a
quarter of a mile down--the rapids, swift, impetuous, flashing,
ushering in the latter half of the St. Ignace, here at last the river
of life and motion, bearing stout booms of great chained logs, with
grassy clearings and little settlements at each side, curving into
lilied bays, or breaking musically upon yellow beaches, a River of Life
indeed, and no longer a river of Death and Negation!

For in the countryside, the _paroisse_ of Juchereau de St. Ignace, the
upper part or inky ribbon of the river was frequently called by that
gloomy name; a Saguenay in miniature, icy cold, black, solitary,
silent, River of Death, who shall live in sight of your blackness?  Who
may sing aloud at his toil, whether he dig, or plant, or plough, or
trap, or fish?  Beautiful though the grand sweep and headlong rush of
the fall, the people of the settlement avoid its sombre majesty and
farms were none and smaller clearings few along the upper St. Ignace.
A quarter of a mile back from the fall lay the village, holding a
cluster of poor houses, a shop or two, a blacksmith's forge, a large
and well-conducted summer hotel patronized for the fishing, a sawmill,
depending for power on the Rivière Bois Clair, a brighter, gayer stream
than the St. Ignace, and lastly a magnificent stone church capable of
containing 1500 people, with a Presbytère attached and quarters for
some Recollet brothers.

Such was and is still, doubtless, with a few modifications, the hamlet
of St. Ignace, fair type of the primitive Lower Canadian settlement,
dominated by the church, its twin spires recalling the towers of Notre
Dame, its tin roof shining like silver, the abode of contented
ignorance and pious conservatism, the home of those who are best
described as a patient peasantry earning a monotonous but steady
livelihood, far removed from all understanding of society or the State
as a whole.  With each other, with Nature, and with the Church they had
to do--and thought it enough to keep the peace with all three.

Yet change was in the air, destiny or fate inevitable.  The moving on
process or progressive spirit was about to infect the obscure, remote,
ignorant, contented little _paroisse_ of Juchereau de St. Ignace when
one April morning there stood upon the edge of rock nearest the great
fall, still partly frozen into stiff angular masses, two men of
entirely different aspects, tastes, and habits, yet both strongly
agreed upon one essential point, the importance of religion, and, more
particularly, the kind of religion practised and set forth by the
Methodist Church.

The elder was Monsieur Amable Poussette, owner of the sawmill at Bois
Clair and proprietor of the summer hotel, a French Canadian by birth
and descent and in appearance, but in clothes, opinions, and religious
belief a curious medley of American and Canadian standards.
Notwithstanding the variety of his occupations, one of which was
supposed to debar him from joining the Methodist Church, he was an
ardent member of that community.  The younger man was a Methodist
preacher, working as yet on the missionary circuit, and to him M.
Poussette was holding forth with round black eyes rolling at the
landscape and with gestures inimitably French.

"See, now," he was saying, standing perilously near the wet edge of
rock, "there is no difficult thing!  I own the ground.  I give the
money.  I have it to give.  My friend Romeo Desnoyers, of Three Rivers,
he shall come at this place, at this point, and build the church.  It
will be for a great convenience, a great success.  My guests, they will
attend.  I myself will see to that.  I shall drive them over."

The younger man smiled faintly.  It was necessary at times to restrain
M. Poussette.  He pulled him back now, but gently, from the slippery
rock.

"In the summer--yes, of course, I see that.  I see that it is needed
then.  The rest of the year----"

"The rest of the year!  Bigosh--_excusez_,--I tell you, it is needed
_all_ the year round.  Look at that big ugly barn full of bad
pictures--yes, sir, I went to Mass regular, when I was a boy--_petit
garçon_--well, every one was the same, sure.  But now, ah!--excuse
_me_.  A seegar?  Yes?  You will thry one?"

The minister declined, but M. Poussette lit one of a large and
overfragrant variety, while he frowned at the fall, rolled his large
eyes around again and finally led the way through thick underbrush and
across fallen logs to the deeply-rutted highroad where a horse and
_caleche_ awaited them.  The prospective church builder took a long
last look and then said:--

"And you--you shall preach the first sermon.  How long does it take to
build nice church, nice pretty Methodist church--not like that big
stone barn I used to go to Mass in?"

At this the Reverend Joshua Ringfield did more than smile.  He threw
back his fine head and laughed heartily.

"Oh--Poussette!" he cried; "you're the funniest fellow, the funniest
man alive!  Ask somebody else how long it takes to build any kind of
church--how should I know!  But if you're in earnest, and I admire you
for it if you are, and I wish there were more like you, I'll come and
do the preaching with pleasure.  You'll require a bigger man than I am,
I'm afraid though."

"No, no," pronounced Poussette with fierce and friendly emphasis,
driving away at a reckless pace.  "See now, this is it.  This is my
affair.  It will be my church, and my friend, Mister Romeo Desnoyers of
Three Rivers, shall build it.  Bigosh--_excusez_; I'll have only
friends in it; you're my friend, I am good Methodist since I hear you
preach, and Goddam,--well, _excusez_ again, sir, I'll have you and no
other.  We'll say July, and you will have one, two, three months to get
the sermon ready.  Get on there, _m'rch donc, animal-l-l_!  I am too
long away from my business."

Ringfield, who was right in supposing that his friend and patron had
tasted of the "viskey blanc" before starting, refrained from any
criticism of the scheme, promising his services merely, should they be
required, and that evening saw him depart for the west to attend a
course of lectures at a theological college.  Before many hours the
tumbling, foaming Fall, the lonely river, the Bois Clair settlement and
Poussette were almost forgotten.  A camping trip with friendly
Ontarians succeeded the lectures, then ensued a fortnight of hard
reading and preparation for the essay or thesis which his Church
demanded from him as token of his standing and progress, he being as
yet a probationer, and thus the summer passed by until on the 6th of
August a letter reached him from the Lower Province bidding him attend
at the opening services of the new Methodist church recently built at
St. Ignace through the enterprise and liberality of M. Amable
Poussette.  The letter, in Canadian French, had an English postscript;
"I pay all expense.  Me, Amable Poussette, of Juchereau de St. Ignace."

Ringfield put the letter away with a frown.  He was busy, in demand,
ambitious.  Born in one of the Maritime Provinces, he owed all he was
to Ontario, and now--Ontario claimed him.  Return he might some day to
the rapid rivers, the lonely hills, the great forests and the remote
villages, but not now.  Now, just as he was beginning to fill his
place, to feel his power, to live and work, and above all preach, a man
among men, a man for men, he resented any interruption in his plan of
existence, in his scheme of self-consecration.  The big bustling cities
of Western Ontario and of the State of Ohio, where some of his holidays
had been spent, were very far away from the hamlet of Juchereau de St.
Ignace, a mere handful of souls--yes, Souls, and here Ringfield stopped
and reconsidered.  After all, there was his word, and Poussette, though
rough, was not a bad fellow.  It would take, say, three or four days
out of his last week of recreation, but still, he was engaged,
earnestly and sincerely engaged in the work of bringing souls to
Christ, and, no small thing, his expenses would be paid.  The better
counsel, as it seemed, prevailed, and he went east the next night.

Meanwhile the energetic Poussette, mill owner of Bois Clair, rich man
and patron of the countryside, had put his plan into execution, and in
the space of three months a tract of rocky ground on the north side of
the Fall had been cleared and a neat, convenient church erected from
the native woods, furnished with benches, a table and chair for the
minister, and a harmonium.  St. Ignace was quite excited, for the thing
seemed pure imbecility to the French, who were to a man true Catholics,
but Poussette stoutly asserted his belief that before long conversions
to Methodism would be numerous and for the present there were his
"guests," a couple of families from Beaulac, the foreman of the
mill--_voilà un congrégation très distingué_!  Much, too, would depend
upon the choice of a preacher, and Poussette was cherishing the hope
that some inducement might be held out to retain Ringfield in their
midst.

Of this the younger man was at first ignorant.  Impatience at detention
in such a place warred with strict conceptions of duty, yet his
excellent training in subservience to his Church and a ready gift of
oratory assisted him in a decision to do the best he could for the new
_paroisse_, heretofore so distinctively Catholic, of Juchereau de St.
Ignace.  That M. Poussette's congregation was more _distingué_ than
numerous did not for a moment affect the preacher on the warm, rainy
Sunday when he stood within sound of the great Fall and read from the
forty-seventh chapter of the Prophet Ezekiel.  Romeo Desnoyers, thin,
keen, professional looking; Poussette and his wife, the latter an
anaemic, slightly demented person who spoke no English; Mr. Patrick
Maccartie, foreman of the mill, who likewise was ignorant of English,
despite his name, and the Methodist contingent from Beaulac were
planted along the front seats at markedly wide intervals, for Poussette
had erected his church on a most generous scale.  Summer visitors of
all denominations trickled in out of the moist forest arcades, so that
when Ringfield rose to conduct the service he was facing seventy or
eighty people, far more than he or the architect had expected to see,
although doubtless inferior in numbers to the great throngs existing in
the imagination of M. Poussette.

The opening hymn and prayer over, the young man took his Bible and read
in natural colloquial tones but with considerable emphasis as follows:--

"Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold,
waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for
the fore-front of the house stood towards the east, and the waters came
down from under, from the right side of the house, at the south side of
the altar".

A slight pause was here made by the reader and caused a rustling in the
porch to be the more distinctly heard, as a late comer, a lady,
evidently afraid of the weather because of cloak and veil, moved to a
seat near the door and sat down.  The reader, seeing only a female
figure merge itself in the congregation, resumed.

"Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me
about the way without unto the outer gate by the way that looketh
eastward; and behold, there ran out waters on the right side."

Again there was that slight pause, and again, too, a rustling as of
silken feminine garments.  Ringfield caught Poussette's eye, but it was
somewhat vacant; evidently the analogy of the picture was lost upon him.

"And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he
measured a thousand cubits and he brought me through the waters; the
waters were to the ankles.  Again he measured a thousand, and brought
me through the waters; the waters were to the knees.  Again he measured
a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins.
Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a River that I could not
pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a River that
could not be passed over.  And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou
seen this?  Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of
the river."

With the climactic force and aptness of the description his voice had
grown louder till it completely filled the building.  His fine head
erect, his steady passionless blue-gray eyes fastened more on the dark
sopping cedars outside the window than upon the people in front, his
large but as yet undeveloped frame denoting strength, vigour, rude
health--all testified to his unsullied manhood, to the perfection of
sane mind in pure body which it was his highest joy and duty to retain.

There is an asceticism among Methodists of his class which does not
differ greatly from that enforced by other religious orders.  Thus
Ringfield, handsome, healthy, with pulsing vitality, active senses and
strong magnetic personality, was consecrated to preaching and to what
was called "leading souls to Christ" as much as any severe,
wedded-to-silence, befrocked and tonsured priest.  And over and beyond
this self-consecration there was the pleasure involved in fulfilling
his mission, and herein perhaps he differed from the conventional and
perfunctory Roman.  The sound of his own voice, the knowledge that he
was bound to interest, to convince, even to convert, the very attitude
in which he stood, with chest inflated, head thrown back, hand
uplifted, all these things delighted him, communicated to his lively
sentient side many delightful and varying sensations.  As the _prima
donna_ among women so is the popular preacher among men.

"Now, when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very
many trees on the one side and on the other.  Then said he unto me, ...
everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall
come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish,
...  And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it
... they shall be a place to spread forth nets: their fish shall be
according to their kinds, exceeding many....  And by the river, upon
the bank ... shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaves shall not
fade, ... because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary; and
the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for a
medicine."

This concluded the customary reading of a portion of Scripture, but
when the second hymn had been sung and the preacher began his sermon he
asked the congregation to let their minds revert for a moment to that
Vision of the Holy Waters which he was about to take as a text.  Yet,
although throughout the sometimes flowery, sometimes didactic, but
always eloquent address which followed, more than one present looked
for a reference to the landscape outside, so markedly similar to that
pictured by the prophet, nothing of the kind occurred.  The four
thousand years of religious growth, the spread of Gospel knowledge and
counsel, the healing qualities of the Stream of Salvation flowing down
the ages through a dark world of sin and affliction, the medicine for
the soul of man and the spiritual food for his spiritual nature--these
were the thoughts so warmly sketched and the lessons so skilfully drawn
from the passage in question.

At the conclusion of the service, Ringfield was moving out quietly
behind the others, with that sense of slight collapse upon him which
frequently follows oratorical efforts, when Poussette and the
architect, Desnoyers, turned back and shook hands with him.

Madame Poussette, standing irresolutely near the door, weak,
vacant-eyed, badly dressed, was staring at another woman, the veiled
and cloaked figure who had rustled in during the reading of Scripture,
but the veil was lifted now and the cloak hanging over her arm.  The
face and form were undoubtedly those of a most attractive, youthful and
well-dressed person, in fine, a lady, and Ringfield at once recollected
her presence in the congregation.  So mutual was their recognition,
that, accustomed to being sought in this manner, he was about to
inquire if she wished to speak with him, when Poussette came between
them, taking his wife's arm, and the opportunity was lost.  In a few
moments they were driving along the road to Bois Clair, and the young
minister, looking back, could discern no trace of the lady.  So little
did he connect her with the remote wildness of the place, so different
did she appear even in a moment's glimpse from the natives and visitors
alike, who had made up the morning assembly, that he did not ask M.
Poussette for any information.  As for the latter, no achievement had
ever put him into such good humour with himself as the building of the
new church; and the Sunday dinner at which M. Romeo Desnoyers and the
Rev. Joshua Ringfield were guests of honour, was eaten with the utmost
relish and hilarity.  Cabbage soup, the French Canadian staple; young
Beauport ducks, dressed plentifully with onions; deep pies in earthern
bowls containing jointed chickens and liver cut in shapes; apples and
pears baked in the oven with wine and cream; good butter, better bread,
and indifferent ice cream, _crême d'office_, made up one of the
characteristic meals for which "Poussette's" was famous, and it need
not detract from Ringfield's high mental capacities to state that
having partaken of this typical and satisfying fare, he was compelled,
when he could escape the importunities of his French friends, to walk
away by himself along the muddy highroad for the benefit of his health.



CHAPTER II

THE WHITE PEACOCK

  "Nor shall the aerial powers
  Dissolve that beauty--destined to endure
  White, radiant, spotless, exquisitely pure,
  Thro' all vicissitudes."


Rocky slabs and mounds of Laurentian gneiss, forest trees and a young
wood interspersed with mats of juniper constituted the chief scenic
attraction in the vicinity of the Fall, so that it might truly be said,
all roads at St. Ignace lead to the Fall--it was so much more directly
beautiful.  But Ringfield from choice walked away from the river and
struck inland by a miry sloppy path which was nevertheless beautiful
too, bordered by splendid ferns, mossy trunks upholding miniature pines
in their rich brown crevices, plants of aromatic teaberry, and at
intervals shallow golden pools where the wild white arum bloomed
alongside the pinkish purple of other water flowers.

His thoughts were not, however, upon all the lovely detail at his feet,
for just at present he found himself more interesting than the
landscape.  A very unusual thing had occurred.  Poussette, during the
drive home, had anticipated a more serious proposal on the morrow by
asking him briefly and to the point whether he would remain in the
Province, at St. Ignace in fact, and become pastor of the new church.
The small stipend which in all probability the Methodist Church would
cheerfully pay was to be augmented by Poussette's own gift.  Not
content with presenting his favourite denomination with a building out
of debt and ready for use, he proposed also to equip it with a pastor
after his own heart, for he combined thoroughness with an impulsive
nature in a manner peculiar to himself.  This Poussette was indeed a
character, an original.  Very fat and with every indication of becoming
fatter still, fond of tweed suits and white waistcoats, and quick at
picking up English in a locality where the tongue was not prominent, he
owed much of his progressive spirit to the teachings of a certain
French Canadian named Magloire le Caron, born in the county of
Yamachiche but latterly an American citizen.  This Magloire or Murray
Carson, as he was known in Topeka, Kansas, had numbered the young
Poussette among his hearers some ten years before when on tour in his
native country in the interests of a Socialistic order.  The exodus of
French Canadians to the neighbouring "States" is frequently followed by
a change of name, so that, M. Lapierre or St. Pierre becomes Mr. Stone,
M. Dupont Mr. Bridge, M. Leblanc Mr. White, M. Lenoir Mr. Black, Leroy,
King, and so on.

Poussette was, to his credit, among those who gauged Le Caron's
sentiments fairly correctly, and he had no wish either to leave his
country or to change his name.  Succeed he would--and did; make money
above all, but make it just as well in St. Ignace or Bois Clair as in
the States; learn English but not forget French, both were necessary;
become "beeg man," "reech man," but marry and live where his name would
be carried down most easily and quickly.  As for his change of
religion, it was a good evening's entertainment to "seet roun," in the
bar and listen to Poussette's illustrated lecture entitled "How I
became a Methodist"; the illustrations being repeated sips of whisky
and water, imitations of different priests and anecdotes of indifferent
preachers.

Most of this Ringfield was familiar with, but while Poussette as a sort
of accepted "character," a chartered entertainer, was one thing,
Poussette as a patron, importunate, slightly quarrelsome, and
self-willed, was another.  For a few months the arrangement might work
well enough, but for the entire winter--he thought of the cold, of the
empty church at service time, of the great snowdrifts lasting for weeks
and weeks, and more than this too, he thought of his plans for
self-improvement, the lectures he would miss, the professors and
learned men he would not meet, the companionship of other students he
must perforce renounce.

Reflections of this kind were continuing to occupy him when he suddenly
saw through the trees on the right hand the gleam of open water.  He
had reached Five Mile Lake or Lac Calvaire, a spot he had heard of in
connexion with fabulous catches of fish, and on the opposite side of
the shining water he also discerned the roof of a large house, painted
red, and somewhat unusual in shape.  That is, unusual in the eyes of
the person who saw it, for the steep, sloping roof, the pointed
windows, the stone walls, and painted doors, are everyday objects in
French Canada.  The house at Lac Calvaire was a type of the superior
farm-house built in the eighteenth century by thrifty and skilful
fur-traders, manufacturers and lesser seigneurs, differing rather in
appearance and construction from the larger chateaux or manoirs, a few
of which at one time existed along the banks of the St. Laurent, but of
which now only three well-preserved examples survive.  As the size of
the original grants of land or seigneuries varied, some eighteen,
twenty and twenty-five miles long by six, eight, twelve miles wide,
others less, certainly few larger, so the lesser properties, accounts
of which are rare among works dealing with the state of society at the
time, varied also.  While numerous collections of facts pertaining to
the original fiefs or seigneuries (usually called _cadastres_) exist,
it is not so common to meet with similar attempts to define and
describe the exact position of others in the early colony beside the
seigneurs.  The large land-holder figures prominently in colonial
documents, but the rise of the trader, the merchant, the notary, the
teacher, the journalist, is difficult to follow.  Very often the
seigneur was also the merchant; to be _grand marchand de Canada_ in the
new colony signified solid pecuniary success.

As far back as the year 1682 the Sieur de la Chinay _et autres
marchands de Canada_ equipped, it is presumed at their own expense,
several ships, and proceeded to Port Nelson, raiding and burning the
Hudson Bay Post, and carrying away sixteen subjects of His Majesty.
The Sieur de Caen gave his name to the Society of Merchants still
farther back, in 1627.  Henry, in 1598, and Francis, in 1540, each
granted letters patent and edicts confirming certain Court favourites
and nobles in possession of the great fur-bearing districts of
Hochelaga, Terres Neuves, and also of "_La Baye du Nord de Canada oui a
été depuis appelle Hudson est comprise_".  It is plain that commerce
had as much to do with early colonization as the love of conquest,
ecclesiastical ambition, or the desire on the part of jaded adventurers
and needy nobles for pastures new.  From the Sieur de Roberval to the
merchant princes of Montreal is an unbroken line of resolute men of
business enterprise, bearing in mind only that what the French began,
the English, or rather the Scotch, "lifted" with increasing vigour.  In
1677 royal permission was given to open mines in Canada in favour of
the Sieur de Lagny.  The "Compagnie du Castor de Canada," carried on
what even at this day would be regarded as an immense trade in beaver
skins.  "La Manon," wrecked about 1700, carried beaver skins amounting
to 107,000,587 livres.  The Sieur Guigne, known as the Farmer of the
Western Domain, paid at one time the sum of 75,000 livres per annum on
account of beavers.

In lesser degree the same was true of moose skins and of the finer furs
for apparel and ornament, and thus for many a long year honourable
names and well-descended families were found among those who bought and
sold and quarrelled and went to law in the spacious marketplace of Le
Bas Canada, with the wide and only partially known or understood
Atlantic rolling between them and the final court of appeal--His Most
Christian _Matie_ in France.

Nothing, it is certain, of this was in Ringfield's mind as he looked at
the steep roof and the stone walls of the house at Lac Calvaire.  The
dwelling, like the country surrounding it, held little attraction,
still less what is called romance or glamour for him, for his was not a
romantic nature.  Yet neither was he dull, and therefore the aspect of
the house moved him, out of curiosity alone, to skirt the banks of the
reed-fringed lake and find a nearer view of what struck him as unusual.
This was not difficult, as the lake was a short oval in shape, and
before he walked five or six hundred yards he came to the low stone
wall or fence which appeared to completely surround the manor and over
which he soon was desultorily leaning.  The garden grew in front of him
somewhat fantastically, with irregular beds marked out with white
stones, and directly facing him was a badly hewn, clumsily scooped
fountain half filled with weeds and dirty water.  Behind the house were
trim rows of dark poplars, and there appeared to be a long chain of
barns and other farm buildings extending into the very heart of a dense
plantation of pine.  As he looked, still leaning on the low wall, the
place kindled into life and activity.  Pigeons came from some point
near and settled on the rim of the fountain.  From a door at the side
issued an old woman with a dish in her hand, followed by a couple of
dogs and four cats.  These all disappeared among the barns.  A minute
later a wagon came lazily along the road, driven by a dark-eyed,
habitant-hatted man who turned in at a gate without taking much notice
of the loiterer.  Two plump, dark-eyed servant girls and a little boy
came round the corner of the largest barn; they were apparently dressed
in their best, carried prayer-books, and were evidently on their way to
evening service at St. Ignace, in the handsome church designated by the
heretic Poussette as a "big stone barn full of bad pictures".  Finally
there emerged upon the scene, proceeding in a deliberate, dainty,
mincing manner along the garden walk, now rapidly drying in a burst of
fierce August sunshine, the most wonderful, the most imposing, yet the
most exquisite and delicate object Ringfield's eyes had ever beheld.
If a moment before he had thought of retracing his steps and turning
away from a house too full of people on a hot Sunday afternoon to
permit of further lingering in its vicinity, now, he found it
impossible to move, fascinated by the beauty of the rare creature
slowly coming towards him.  For this was a white peacock, tempted by
the sudden radiance out to take the air.  It paused for an instant as
if to consider the effect and stood, displaying a colossal fan of snowy
feathers, tipped with glittering frost-like filaments.  Perhaps it
intuitively knew that Ringfield had never seen one of its kind before.
It continued to stand, while he continued to gaze, and two or three
times it shook that resplendent wheel of shining downy plumes,
trembling in each sensitive fibre with pride and glorification in its
beauty.  With each shake, there fell upon the ear the tinkle as of some
faint and far-distant fairy bell; it was the friction of the
spear-shaped sparkling tips as they met in air.

Ringfield thought it the whitest thing he had ever seen.  It was like
snow, or sugar, so finely spun and glistening.  Then its air of
arrogance captivated him--the creature was so fully aware of its
charms.  He spoke to it and the bird came on nonchalantly; then
gracefully executed a wide turn, carrying that shining palpitating tail
with it and walked back to the house.  At the same moment he old woman
with the dish reappeared and commenced driving the bird before her.

"O don't do that!" exclaimed Ringfield, forgetting that probably she
knew no English.  "The rain is over for a while.  Let it have its walk.
I've never seen one like it before."

The old woman was smiling as if to encourage him, but he saw directly
that she did not understand him.  He was answered however, and by a
voice from the doorway.  The lady he had seen that morning at church
was addressing him.  Laughing lightly, she came out to the garden and
Ringfield advanced to meet her.  Thus they had the bird between them.

"I am speaking to the Reverend Mr. Ringfield?" said she pleasantly, and
the young man was reassured.  This new acquaintance, whether
_châtelaine_ of the curious house or stranger, spoke excellent English.

"I saw you in church this morning," responded he.  So much of a mutual
introduction was easy and necessary; after that, with a dignified
withdrawal of the peacock, conversation naturally turned to the subject
of the morning service.

"I do not think I can ask you inside," she said presently, "for like
many old houses, particularly those built of stone, ours is cold in
winter and hot or rather close in summer.  We might walk toward the
poplar grove there, I should so like to speak to you about that sermon."

Ringfield assented with a pleased brightness.

"And what are your conclusions as to the sermon?" he said, when they
were seated in an old and crumbling arbour looking upon the lake.  "I
am afraid I did not give myself quite enough time on this important
occasion.  Preparation is everything."

"I do not allude exactly to the sermon, not the devotional part of it.
Sermons are not much in my line.  I meant rather the reading you gave,
that wonderful description of the river, the fall, the waters issuing
from under the sanctuary--you see I have remembered the words--the
trees for medicine and healing, even the fish,--why I never thought
there could be anything like that in the Bible!  You chose it
purposely, of course?"  The young man did not reply for an instant.  A
hint of flippancy in the speech of his companion seemed to create a
barrier between them.

"Purposely!  Well, yes, I suppose I did.  Purpose, intention, design,
must, should enter into all earnest preaching, and whatever may be the
faults of mine I endeavour at least to be that, to be earnest.  But I
am glad you were struck with the parallel; not many in that
congregation would be at all likely to."

"You might have dwelt more upon that parallel in the sermon.  I
expected you would."

"Well, no, there are canons of good taste, good form, as the world puts
it, in preaching as in other matters.  It was sufficient to indicate
the parallel; people could then look up chapter and verse for
themselves.  As no doubt you have done."

"Quite impossible.  I do not possess a Bible."

Ringfield turned a reproachful eye upon her.

"We are Catholics, you see, or supposed to be.  I have a 'Key of
Heaven' and five other devotional works.  But I never read them."

The other was silent.  Looking for the first time with serious interest
at the lady whose ease of manner and cultured speech were remarkable
for the place, he perceived that in a moment she had revealed much.
How few people, how few women in particular, would display a spirit of
utter frankness towards a stranger on so important a topic as religious
belief!  And how quick she had been to appreciate the literary side at
least of his quotations from Ezekiel!  What more was striking or
unusual about her he could not then take time to consider, for people
so recently complete strangers cannot, it is conceded, discuss each
other or a situation as they may after several days or weeks of
intimacy.  He was conscious of feeling that in a certain sense he had
met with as clever a brain as his own and with some one in whose
personal history or life story there was an element of romance, of the
unexpected, the unconventional, absolutely foreign to his own
experience of life.  He therefore hastened to change the subject.

"It may be that you have heard.  If not, I may tell you that Mr.
Poussette has offered me the new church at St. Ignace.  I took this
long walk out here to-day to think it over.  I--well, frankly, I hardly
know what to say."

"In your profession you are not supposed to consult your own wishes,
but rather the general good.  Is not that the case?"

Ringfield smiled, but also shot a look at his companion.

"I suppose I may put it that I have had a 'call'.  A call to the new,
flourishing and highly attractive 'parish,' as our friends the
Anglicans call it, I should say, the 'mission,' of St. Ignace.  I am
not speaking satirically, I might do worse."

"You are considering it, now, this afternoon?"

He paused for a mere fraction of a moment.  "I was."

"In the meantime, you have another service this evening and I am
detaining you here when you should be on your way back to the Fall and
the village."

It was true.  Ringfield was forgetting the time.

"Had it not been for the bird--" he began, and from that point the
conversation, at one time strongly personal and introspective, became
ordinary.  Ringfield closed the gate behind him, lifted his hat and
turned back along the road without having ascertained the name of the
lady or her condition in life.  The service hour arrived, so did the
small but enthusiastic congregation.  The rain had entirely ceased and
the air was perceptibly cooler.  The preacher had prepared a sermon of
more florid style than the one delivered in the morning, and he
appeared to have the absorbed attention of those who understood the
language, while the French contingent listened respectfully.  The
passage of Scripture to be read aloud had been chosen since the
morning, since the afternoon walk in fact, but there was no one present
from the house at Lac Calvaire to hear and understand part of the
thirty-eighth chapter of Job, beginning with the verse, "By what way is
the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?" and
ending with the thirteenth verse of the succeeding chapter, "Gavest
thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?"



CHAPTER III

THE MAN IN THE CHAIR

  "From out the crumbling ruins of fallen pride
  And chambers of transgression, now forlorn."


The house at Lac Calvaire was, as stated, a fair specimen of the
dwellings erected in the first half of the eighteenth century by those
Canadians who, living frugally though comfortably, felt that affection
for the soil, for the natural features of the wild but picturesque
country, even for its severe and strenuous climate, which in many cases
prompted them to make homes and found families.  In the year 1729, a
Clairville, rich trader in furs and skins, built the house five miles
from the majestic and lonely Fall.  This Clairville was the grandson of
a certain François Gaillard, body servant and faithful follower of the
Sieur de Clairville--Antoine-Louis-Onesime--who came to New France in
1664.  The nobleman in question led a truly chequered life in the gay
garrisons of the new world, varied by a couple of voyages to the gayer
Court he had left behind, but through all the reckless episodes of his
long and stirring career, François was by his side, patient, adroit,
silent when necessary, at other times a madcap for freak and fantasy.
Faith of a gentleman--François Gaillard was everything his noble master
should have been, and that master too often such as the poorest lackey
might have been ashamed to be, yet--faith of a gentleman--De Clairville
atoned for much ere he died.  François, his foster-brother, received at
his master's death a gift of land under the Crown to him and his heirs
for ever, the name Gaillard to be abandoned for that of Clairville.  In
1684 the Sieur de Clairville died; François survived him twenty years,
leaving one son and two daughters.  These became _Clairvilles_; there
were no De Clairvilles.  The son prospered, as did _his_ son, another
François, who built the strong stone farm-house and planted the poplars
and laid the foundation of a well-known name, respected and quoted far
and near in the community.  Both house and family seemed to bear
charmed lives.  Canada was lost to France and in that losing many fine
manor-houses and farms were destroyed, but Clairville and Clairville
Manor went untouched.  For this, the peculiar situation of the house,
so far back from the Fall, its existence almost undreamt of by English
soldiery, ignorant of the country, was, of course, responsible.  A
Clairville went to France at the close of the Revolution, made himself
useful and remained in some post under the Government.  Another went up
to Quebec, became a sound lawyer, and batonnier of his district.  Both
of these individuals, however, died unmarried, and the next owner of
the manor neither distinguished himself nor contributed to the glory of
his line.  That glory, such as it was, for the ignoble François was the
founder of it, gradually departed.  The Clairvilles deteriorated, sold
off large parcels of their land, married undesirable persons, till, in
the present generation, the culmination of domestic ruin seemed
probable.  For the Clairville now inhabiting the manor was not only
reduced in purse and delicate in health but suspiciously weak in
intellect.

When Ringfield woke on the Monday following his inaugural service, the
sun was shining brightly into his room at Poussette's, and it is a fact
that in his mind he saw a picture of a dazzling fan of foamy white
feathers waving proudly in that sunlight.  It really was the bird and
not the lady that intercepted other and more pertinent reflections
having to do with his future movements.  He loitered about all morning,
fished, lunched with his guide, made a pencil sketch of the Fall, and
then about three o'clock in the afternoon walked out to Lac Calvaire.
He neared the house; at first he saw no one, it was the middle-day
siesta.  No peacock was visible, no lady.  Then he saw a face at a
window and it stared at him.  Ringfield, taken by surprise, returned
the stare.  To the stare succeeded a weak smile, then a beckoning
finger, then an insistent tapping.  The window was closed, with a
roughly crocheted curtain half-drawn back on a string.  The young man
had no cause to hesitate, for he knew nothing of what lay inside the
house.  He was also a clergyman, which means much.  It means, if you
rightly understand your office, that you must be always ready to go
anywhere, to do anything, that may be of the smallest benefit to your
fellow-man.  It means, that because of that high office, there is
nothing really beneath your attention, too insignificant for your
study, and yet you are so far above the rest of mankind, the mere lay
portion of the world, that, like a God in courage and in calm, you may
indeed enter where Angel and Devil alike fear to tread.  At least, that
is the old and orthodox conception of the clerical profession, and
although it might be sometimes foolishly and conceitedly pushed to
extremes by other men, there was nothing in Ringfield of the mere fussy
moralist and pulpit egoist.  After all, as he entered the house and,
guided by the voice of its owner, found his way to the room looking on
the dusty country road, he saw nothing very terrible, only a thinnish,
fair, middle-aged man, wearing a black skull-cap and clad in a faded
and greasy but rather handsome theatrical-looking dressing-gown and
seated in a worn arm-chair.  As for the room itself, he suppressed an
exclamation of mingled surprise and impatient remonstrance, for,
although of large proportions and not badly lighted, it was so littered
with books, papers, maps, and pamphlets, so overgrown with piles of
dusty blue-books, reports, dictionaries and works of reference, thick
and antiquated, thin and modern, local and foreign, standing on end, on
tables, on the mantel-shelf, extending into the old-fashioned cupboards
minus doors, taking up a ragged sofa, a couple of arm-chairs, and a
dilapidated _armoire_, and even the greater portion of a bed, that
almost every gleam of sunlight was obscured, and upon this warm damp
August afternoon the air was heavy and close with a suggestion of
staler odours still.

"I saw you yesterday," said the man in the chair, "from this window,
but you did not see me, eh?  You were greatly interested in the bird."

He paused, and a weak smile changed to a haughty air, accompanied by a
flourish of the hand.

"It is without doubt rare, a great curiosity.  But there have been
white peacocks at Clairville a long time, many years, many years."

"Clairville!  That is your name, the name of the young lady, the name
of this place?"

"Of this house.  Also the estate.  This house is, or should be, the
Manoir of the Clairvilles, of the _De_ Clairvilles.  You are some kind
of clergyman?"

"I am.  I am a Methodist."

"Have you read much?"

Ringfield, looking around somewhat whimsically at so many books, on a
pile of which he was obliged to sit, felt unusual ignorance.  He was
probably in the presence of some famous scholar.

"Not much.  Not anything like what you must have read if you have even
gone through a quarter of all these!"

"Ah!"

The strange man, savant, scientist, bibliophile, whatever he was, drew
his dirty dressing-gown around him with another flourish of complacent
self-admiration.

"I am--you are quite right, Mr. Clergyman--a great reader.  I have read
every book in this room two, three, many times over.  You
were--surprised--to see all this book, all this document, all this
pamphlette--here, at this place, eh?"

Ringfield, as yet only partly guessing at the peculiarities of his
host, assented politely.

"My name is Ringfield," he said, noting for the first time the strong
broken accent of the other and his use of French idiom.  "I am a
Methodist minister, spending some time at St. Ignace, and yesterday I
encountered a lady, who, I believe, lives here.  At least, I----"

The other cut him short.

"Ringfield?  That is your name?  _Anneau, champ_--no the other way,
Champanneau.  We have not this name with us.  Yet, I do not know, it
may be a good name."

The young man was superior to the slighting tone because he belonged to
the class which lives by work, and which has not traced or kept track
of its genealogy.  He was so far removed from aristocratic tendencies,
ideas of caste, traditions of birth, that he scarcely apprehended the
importance of such subjects in the mind of anyone.

"The English name, Champney," continued the man in the chair, "you know
that--might derive from it, might derive.  But I am not so well
acquainted with the English names as with the French.  You _comprenez
pour quoi, sans doute_.  I am derive--myself, from a great French name,
a great family."

The satisfaction with which he repeated this oracular statement
continued to amuse Ringfield, a son of the people, his friends of the
people, but it did not amuse the third person who heard it, the lady
who, advancing into the dark stuffy room, received a pleased glance
from the minister and a half-fearful, half-defiant scowl from the man
in the chair.

"Henry!" exclaimed she, with great volubility and a kind of fierce
disgust, "how is this?  What can you mean by so disobeying me?  This is
no place to bring strangers!  Nor do I want strangers brought into any
part of this house at any time of the day!  It is suffocating here.  Do
you not find it very heavy, very close in here?" she added, to
Ringfield, who had risen and slightly changed countenance as she
pronounced the word "stranger".

He looked from the lady to the man in the chair in astonishment, for he
saw the former in a new and painful light.  So dark was the frown upon
her usually serene countenance, so angry the light in her fine hazel
eyes, so anxious and perturbed her entire being, that she appeared
almost ugly.  Not only so, but added to impatience and anger there
seemed something like repugnance, disgust, directed at the miserable
pedant who under the fires of womanly wrath blinked and smiled, but had
no defence ready.

"It is altogether my fault that I am here," said Ringfield quietly; "I
took another walk in this direction, hoping for a sight of the peacock."

"And you saw something else instead!  Ah!--there is much I must explain
to you, you who come among us not knowing, not understanding.  You see
only the outside.  But I suppose I must tell you who we are.  This is
my brother, my only brother, in fact my only living relative, Henry
Clairville.  I am Miss--Mademoiselle Clairville."

Ringfield bowed to her and to the man in the chair.

"We are the last of what--of what it pleases him to call our Line.  It
is all most foolish, most absurd.  But I cannot tell you here.  Since
chance has brought you our way again, and as you may take up your
residence in the neighbourhood--have you decided yet?--I feel I must
make some explanation of how you find us, my brother and myself.  Can
you row? or paddle?"

Her manner, gradually changing and growing easier every moment, made it
easy for Ringfield, who answered her with a smile.

"Of course."

"I asked, because some clergymen are so useless in some directions
while good enough in others."



CHAPTER IV

THE HOUSE OF CLAIRVILLE

  "High instincts, before which our mortal nature
  Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised."


The hall through which they passed was sufficiently dark to prevent the
masculine eye of Ringfield noting that long and systematic neglect
marked every inch of the wall, every foot of flooring, every window,
door, stair, sill and sash.  Nothing was clean, nothing was orderly,
and as the books and papers contained in the invalid's room had
overflowed into the halls, lying on the steps and propped up on chairs
and in corners, the dirt and confusion was indescribable.  Hideous
wallpapers were peeling off the damp and cracking wall, tattered shreds
showing, by the accumulation on their fly-specked yellow edges of thick
dust, how long they had waved upon the close air of this uncared-for
house.  All the woodwork was rough and horrid to the touch by reason of
the millions of similar fly-specks; had nothing ever been washed here?
Cats were alarmingly abundant.  Three lay about in the hall; four were
stretched on the grass in front of the door, and Ringfield saw two
more--so large and brown and with such huge tigers' heads, prowling
under the trees, that he scarcely took them for cats.  The chain of
barns, farm-buildings and sheds was all in the same dilapidated, dirty
condition, and it was hardly strange that the vision of that white
loveliness--the peacock--which had tempted him in this direction,
crossed his mind as they proceeded to the landing-place.  And yet the
Clairvilles were not without servants.  Mademoiselle, having regained a
measure of her wonted serenity, began to describe her retainers,
proving that servants were almost as numerous as cats in that
neighbourhood.  The elderly woman, the man, the two girls and the boy,
were all one family, and living "about" as their mistress carelessly
put it, in the barns and out-buildings, divided the work among them.
The woman's husband, Xavier Archambault, employed at the Fall as
assistant to look after the bridge and dam, helped at odd moments in
the business of the estate, thus making in all six servants, a rather
large contingent for a dwindling concern; and Ringfield, listening to
these wonders, could not fail to observe that their united wages must
reach a high figure.

"Oh--they are not paid!" exclaimed mademoiselle, "at least, not in
money.  My brother, who is, as I was going to tell you, a person of
stronger character than you might imagine, has never paid a cent of
wages to anyone in his life.  He has managed to infect all his
work-people, and, indeed, many in the village, with his own belief that
it is an honour to labour for him and his, he being a De Clairville and
the highest in rank in this part of the country.  Of course you, having
lived in the West, and knowing so much of the world, must see how
foolish this is, how it involves us--my brother and myself--in many
unpleasant and difficult situations."

A note of challenge in her voice led Ringfield, who had taken off his
coat and was paddling, to stop sharply and observe her.

"Pray be careful!" she cried in sudden alarm.  "When I was at home all
the time I could stand any kind of behaviour in a canoe, but lately I
seem to be losing my nerve.  I suppose you _must_ kneel?"

"Certainly.  Much the easier, therefore the safer way."

"Therefore!  All easy things--safe?"

He was clumsy at this kind of refined innuendo, and considered before
replying.

"No, perhaps not.  But I give you my word not to disturb the
equilibrium again."

The lake, a basin of clear water, small as Lower Canadian lakes go, and
framed with thick foliage reaching to the edge, was absolutely silent,
absolutely deserted, on this warm afternoon.  Ringfield found it almost
too hot to talk, but his companion seemed to enjoy the unburdening of
various confidences, and as she had such a willing listener she had
every opportunity, of taking her own time, and of delivering herself in
her own way, of a remarkable tale.

That, within two days of his enforced sojourn at St. Ignace, the young
preacher found himself thus--floating on a silent desolate lake in one
of the remotest parishes of Quebec, listening to a family history of
mediaeval import from the lips of a woman, young too, cultivated,
self-possessed to the degree of hauteur, whose Christian name was as
yet unknown to him, was in itself remarkable.

Ringfield, ardent, gifted, good, inherited directness of aim, purity of
ideals, and narrowness of vision, from the simple working stock from
which he had sprung, and it would have been easy for a man of the world
to foresee the limitations existing in such a nature.  When
mademoiselle therefore began the Clairville history by relating some
circumstances in the flighty career of the Sieur De Clairville, hinting
at certain deflections and ridiculing uncertain promises of
reformation, of reparation--for even the seventeenth century had its
cant--the matter was far from being either real or relevant to her
listener.  What had he to do with a bundle of old-world memoirs, even
when edited and brought up to date by an interesting woman!  What to
him was the spotless character of the ignoble François, son of a
butcher, created a Clairville for his plebeian virtues, or the lives of
each succeeding descendant of François, growing always a little richer,
a little more polished, till in time the wheel turned and the change
came in the fortunes of the house which culminated in the present!  All
these were mere abstractions, dull excerpts from some period of remote
and unfamiliar history, because that system which gave him his secular
education did not include knowledge of his country from an historical
standpoint.

Macaulay and Alison, Gibbon and Grote, Motley and Bancroft--but not yet
Garneau or Parkman.  The lady might have romanced indeed, with glib
falseness gilding picturesque invention, and he would not have detected
it.

As it was, the truth remained sufficiently high coloured.  He listened,
he apprehended, but he could not see that it mattered.

"So now," remarked mademoiselle, trailing her large firm white hand
through the water and knitting her firm black brows still closer, "I
have brought the story up to the appearance on the scene of my brother,
whom you have met, no doubt pondered over, perhaps shrunk from."

"No, no!" cried Ringfield.  "You mistake.  I was conscious only of
having no right to enter."

"Ah--I could see, I could see.  Poor Henry!  He is the victim of many
delusions.  One--that he is a great invalid and cannot leave his room,
that room you saw him in to-day.  Another--that we are properly De
Clairvilles, but that we have somehow lost the prefix, the 'De,' in
course of years, and that a Bill may have to pass in Parliament to
permit us using it legally.  There has been already in this antiquated
province a case very similar to ours, but it was a genuine case, which
ours is not.  My brother owns the largest collection of old French and
old French-Canadian memoirs and books in the country, I believe, and it
may be that out of constant poring over them has come this ruling
passion, this dominant idea, to prove himself a seigneur, and more, a
noble, _grand seigneur de France_!  Voilà! but I forget, Mr. Ringfield
hardly speaks French, and I--hate the sound of it, only it crops out
sometimes."

"But why--and you--how do _you_ speak such good English?  I have been
wondering over that much more than over the case of your brother."

Ringfield, as he asked the question, stopped paddling and sat down
cautiously opposite his companion.  Her dark brows clouded even more
and the warm colouring of her face went white; she again resembled the
fury who had lectured the unfortunate pedant in the arm-chair.

"I knew you would ask that.  Every one does.  I suppose it is to be
expected.  Well then, my mother was English and I was educated at a
mixed school, ladies' school at Sorel, not a convent.  I was quick at
the language--_voilà_!"

"Perhaps it was rude in me to ask.  I believe I am deficient in
manners; my friends often tell me so.  But you spoke such _good_
English; better far than mine."

"That would not be difficult.  You have the accent strange to me, that
of the West.  Then I have studied for the stage, in fact, and now I
suppose I shall frighten you altogether and make you upset the canoe
when I tell you that I am _on_ the stage."

It only needed some such declaration to convince Ringfield that, still
floating on this silent, desolate lake he was indeed removed from all
his usual convictions, prejudices and preferences.  What had he to do
with the stage!  To the Methodist of his day the Stage was deliberately
ignored in the study of social conditions.  It was too evil to be
redeemed.  Its case was hopeless.  Then let it alone and let us pretend
it does not exist.  This in effect was his actual state of mind.

"I have never been to the theatre," he said simply.  "They say that at
some future day we, as Methodists, may have to take up the question of
amusements and consider the theatre seriously.  It may be that we shall
have to face other facts--the craving in this age of people, especially
our young people, for greater liberty of thought, and I suppose,
corresponding liberty of action.  But so far these questions have not
come very much before me, and I must plead entire ignorance of all
matters connected with the profession to which you belong."

Mademoiselle Clairville's brow was now completely serene; a laugh was
on her lips and a smile in her eyes as she listened to the staid
phrases of her new friend.

"You and your young people!" she cried.  "How old are you yourself,
pray?  Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty--no, hardly twenty-seven.  You
may tell me your age quite frankly, for I will tell you mine.  I am
twenty-nine.  Do you not think that I look much younger?"

He was in truth a good deal surprised, for to his age--twenty-six, as
she had correctly guessed--twenty-nine seems old for a woman.

Before he could frame a clumsy allusion to her youthful appearance she
had continued with a change of manner:--

"But sometimes I look older, yes, old enough.  Tell me, you who preach
your English sermons, so long, so much longer than our Catholic ones,
about trees and rivers and _fish_--do you never preach too about men
and women and their faults and vices and tempers?  Ah! there, _Monsieur
le p'tit curé_, you should know that I am a good subject for a sermon,
I and my temper!  For I have a temper.  Oh, yes, indeed I have."

There being no instinct--at least not as yet developed--of gallantry in
Ringfield's composition, he did not seek to weakly deny her
self-imputed charge.  Had he not already seen a proof of the truth of
it in her treatment of Henry Clairville?  Was there not even now a
curious malicious gleam in her dark eye, a frown upon her forehead, a
kind of puckered and contemptuous smile upon her lips?  Handsome and
probably clever, even good she might be, and yet remain--unamiable.

"I am afraid you have not had a happy life," said he, very gently, and
the simplicity and kindness of his manner smote upon her stormy
countenance, so that it melted and all the ugly hardness and latent
shrewishness died away.

"I have not, I have not!" she cried.  "You see my situation here, my
surroundings.  Henry, my poor unfortunate brother; the old house, which
might be so comfortable, falling to pieces for lack of money to keep it
up; these terrible people, the Archambaults, pretending to work, but
living on me and eating up everything on the place; the village, with
none in it to know or speak to that I care about; the lonely country
all around, cold in winter, hot in summer; the conviction that Henry
will get worse; the fear of--the fear of----."  She stopped.

"The fear of what?" said Ringfield quietly.  "You need have no fear
whatever of anything.  You are one of God's children.  Perfect love
casteth out fear.  Dear Miss Clairville, so recently a stranger, but
rapidly becoming so well known to me, never mind about sermons and
conversions.  Never mind about Catholic or Protestant, bond or free,
English Church or Methodist.  Just think of one thing.  Just cling to
one thought.  You are in God's hands.  He will not try you too far."
Very impressively he repeated this, bending forward till he could look
into her troubled eyes.  "I believe, and you must believe too, that in
His infinite goodness He will not try you too far."

A shiver passed over her frame.  She lowered her eyes, her mouth
twitched once or twice, then she remained silent and passive while
Ringfield, thinking he had said enough, resumed his paddling.  It was
some minutes before conversation recommenced and then Mademoiselle
Clairville requested him to return.

"Do not think," said she, "that I am offended at your preaching to me,"
and now a mild sadness had succeeded to her wilder mood, "but one of
the servants is signalling to me from the shore; my brother probably is
in need of me.  You will come to see us, to see me again, and I shall
hope to hear that you will remain at St. Ignace for the winter at
least.  Here is one patient of the soul, and we may soon find another."

"If it would make any difference to you,----" he began, still without
any trace of innuendo or latent gallantry, but she interrupted him with
some flashing out of former merriment:--

"How could it, when I am away nearly all the time or try to be?  I am
now, like you, considering an offer, and may say adieu to St. Ignace,
the Fall, and Henry, any day.  But even if I go, some fascination will
draw me back.  It always does."

As he left her at her own gate the face at the window was still
blinking at them.  Dimly the ardent young Methodist began to discern
some contingencies in life of which he had never dreamed.  And how
admirably he had perjured himself in the interview!  Had he not
forgotten the particular sect to which he belonged?  Had he not
besought his hearer to forget whether she was Catholic or Protestant?
Had he not, in short, for the first time in his ministerial experience,
fulfilled the plain duty of a true Christian without stopping to think
of ways and means and artifices?  Looking back, he was amazed to
remember how earnest he had been and how sudden but genuine was his
sympathy with this lonely woman.  Apprehensive for her safety and
content of mind, stimulated as he had never been before by her frank,
original presence, he mentally resolved to remain at St. Ignace for her
sake, or if her protracted absence ensued, as she hoped, to manage to
return when she did.

He had arrived at this decision when, on drawing near Poussette's, he
perceived that individual himself in little straw hat and large white
apron standing at the door engaged in critically examining an enormous
catch of fish--black bass and lunge, just brought in by the guides.
Ringfield asked the time, for he began to realize how long he had been
absent.  It was nearly seven o'clock and the evening meal was over.

Poussette at first tried to be angry.  He declared that there was
nothing left.  Ringfield smiled and strode to the fish lying in
glittering silver heaps on the grass.  He lifted up the biggest bass
and carried it into the house, and the coolness of the deed appeased
Poussette.

"That is all right, Mr. Ringfield," said he, slapping him quite
affectionately on the back.  "You shall have a good tea, a good tea,
after which you shall hear what we have to say.  Mister Desnoyers,
Patrick, myself, all wait for you and all shall be arrange, eh?  Every
one round come in, come in and drink _bon santé_ in something good I
got on Saturday.  Ah--you shall see, you shall see!"

As Ringfield went in to his "good tea" Madame Poussette came out.
Rather to his astonishment, she sang to herself in passing, and
although her sad vacant eyes were not bent on him, he felt as if the
words were intended for his ear.  What were those words?

His knowledge of French was limited, but still he could make out a kind
of rhyming refrain--

  "Derrière
    Chez mon père
  Il-y-avait un grand oiseau."


He stopped and tried to catch more as Madame went down the walk singing
low to herself.

  "Derrière
    Chez mon père
  Il-y-avait un grand oiseau.
    la, la, la, la--
  C'était beau ça, c'était beau."



CHAPTER V

THE UNSEEN HAND

  "The procession of our Fate, howe'er
  Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
  Of infinite benevolence and power."


Had Ringfield continued his conversation with the _châtelaine_ of
Clairville he would in all probability have asked a few questions about
her theatrical career, placing it in his imagination in one of the
large American centres to which in the seventies or eighties all
Canadian artists gravitated.  In this he would have been wrong.

In a back street in the purely French quarter of Montreal stood a
pillared and placarded building once known as the home of an ambitious
coterie, the _Cercle Littéraire_, which met fortnightly to discuss in
rapid incisive Canadian French such topics as "Our National
Literature," "The Destiny of Canada," and "The Dramatists of France,"
from which all _politique_ was supposed to be eliminated.  The building
had originally been a house and private bank belonging to a courtly
descendant of an old family, a De Lotbinière, who grew French walnut
and cherry trees, lettuces and herbs in the back garden.  When the
banker died the _Cercle Littéraire_ bought the house for a small sum,
comparatively, seeing that it was built of good grey stone, had many
bright green shutters and an imposing façade of four pillars, and from
one part of it issued once a month the extremely high-class
journal--organ of the society--called "Le Flambeau," the other part
which comprised a fair-sized hall, retiring rooms, and secretary's
office and quarters, being altered to suit the needs of the _Cercle
Littéraire_.  But in time the glories of the exclusive and classically
minded coterie faded, its leading spirits died or disappeared, the
superior monthly organ--torch for all the country--burnt itself out,
lost subscribers--in fact the whole business was declared insolvent,
and the nervous, gifted, but too sanguine editor-in-chief (there were
three editors), M. Anselme-Ferdinande Placide De Lery, _avocat_, and
the devoted, conscientious, but unprogressive secretary, old Amédée
Laframboise, scientific grubber and admirable violinist, had to get out
of Rue St. Dominique as best they could and go back to the law and the
local orchestra.  For several years the house was vacant, and then at
last it held a still more gifted, more numerous, and, all things
considered, more successful coterie within its walls than "Le Flambeau"
had been able to procure for it.  A certain travelling organization, a
company of good actors and actresses direct from Paris, which had
landed in America the previous year, giving comedies and pretty
domestic pieces in New York and other cities, not meeting with the
success it expected, came to French Canada in the hope of reaping
substantial profits in a congenial atmosphere.  Ah--what a mistake was
this!  To think that if in Philadelphia or Boston "Le Bourgeois
Gentilhomme" or "La Joie Fait Peur" did not make money, either play
would do so in the Montreal of thirty years ago!  It was a mistake,
certainly, from the monetary point of view; on the other hand, many
friends were made, much good feeling and admiration prevailed and, in
short, the company, stranded in a Canadian town, found living cheap and
easily earned, plenty of good fellows--French--and settled down as a
local stock affair, fitting up at no great expense the banker's house
with the walnut-trees and bright green shutters under the name of the
Théâtre des Nouveautés.

This was the playhouse in which Mlle. Clairville acted.  This was the
clever company which, secure in New France from blasé critics, produced
the comedies and tragedies of Molière, Corneille, Dumas, Halévy, Mme.
de Genlis, as well as serving up adaptations like "Le Vieux Oncle Tom,"
"Le Prince de Denmarque," "Le Condamné," "L'étranger," also attacking
with superb, delicious confidence the then popular operas of "La Grande
Duchesse," "La Belle Hélène," and "Il Trovatore."  What acting it was,
so vigorous, dashing, resourceful!  How Mme. d'Estarre jumped easily
from a Précieuse to Eva, and from Gertrude, a dark-eyed _bourgeoise_
Queen with frizzed hair and train of cotton velvet, to
Camille--wickedest play known at that time!  Then when Mlle.
Pauline-Archange-Emma-Louise de Clairville joined the company, what a
Hamlet she made with her fine figure and her remarkably firm, white
hands, what a Phedre, once when the actor was ill, what an "Oncle Tom"!
What a Duchess of Gerolstein later, when the company discovered that it
could sing, collectively at least, and what a Helen, in flowing Greek
costume, fillet of gold braid, and sandals!

This was indeed Acting--to merge mannerisms, to defy fate and the jeers
of any sober English reporter who strayed into the Theatre of
Novelties!  When Mme. d'Estarre found that she had to return to France
unexpectedly, on account of the ill health of her children, left behind
in a provincial town, she was given a grand benefit, and although the
public (who were getting a little tired of madame, she was over fifty)
did not respond as gallantly as might have been expected, the members
of the company with true Gallic chivalry made up the large amount
necessary to carry her across, bring her back and provide in the
interim for the afflicted children.  This was Pauline's opportunity;
she naturally succeeded to the position of leading lady, and kept it
until her faults of temper developed and she had the pleasurable
excitement of a fierce quarrel with her manager.  Thus, while her
talent was conceded, her stormy temperament prevented her achieving
anything like permanent success, and every few months she would
reappear at St. Ignace, live drearily in the dingy house, lecture the
servants, abuse and weep over her brother, when suddenly tiring of this
she would return and have to begin again at the foot of the ladder.

Ignorant of these cloudy and strenuous careers, Ringfield saw only an
impulsive and unhappy woman old enough to fascinate him by her unusual
command of language and imperiousness of conduct, and young enough for
warm ripe brunette beauty.  To be plain, first love was already working
in him, but he did not recognize its signs and portents; he only knew
that an ardent wish to remain at St. Ignace had suddenly taken the
place of the tolerant and amused disdain with which he had once
considered Poussette's offer.

A couple of days later he had returned from a long afternoon on the
river when a man around the place named Crabbe came to him with a
letter.  Opening it, he found it to contain another offer from a
prominent citizen of Radford, a large and thriving Western town, to
fill a certain pulpit of some distinction during the absence of the
pastor in Europe.  The time mentioned was ten months and Ringfield sat
down at once to consider the importance of this offer.  He would be at
last in a cultivated community.  Much would be expected of him and he
would have every chance to put forth what was best in him.  For several
years he had been labouring on the missionary circuit and the work was
hard indeed, with slender results.  Here was sufficient remuneration,
comfortable housing in a more sympathetic climate, and the prospect of
receiving a still more important call in the future should he make his
mark.  Such considerations, if mundane, need not also be mercenary;
each man is worthy of his hire and his pulse beat in pleased excitement
as he viewed the rosy outlook.

But--Miss Clairville!  A vague foreboding of the truth flitted through
his brain; men wiser in love and affairs of the affections than our
young Methodist minister have been self-deceived, and although he
sternly put her image away he dimly avowed to himself that she was
already occupying far too much of his thought.  Here was a clear way
opened, or so he imagined, referring each move as it occurred to the
guidance and knowledge of the Higher Power, and he could find no other
than an affirmative answer to the letter which he kept turning over in
his pocket, and still kept reading through the evening in the general
room.  He had excused himself from the already over-convivial group on
the front verandah, and being provided with paper, sat at the table
composing his reply.

The lineaments of his singularly fine and noble countenance were easily
seen through the window where the guides, M. Desnoyers and Poussette
were sitting, and the vision of the black-coated, serious young scribe
inditing what he had informed them was a very "important" letter,
subdued the incipient revelry.

Poussette was uneasy.  He had not yet received any direct answer from
Ringfield to his own offer, and for many reasons he preferred to attach
and retain him rather than any other "Parson" he had ever encountered.
But Ringfield was wrapped in his own thoughts and quite unconscious of
the highly improving spectacle he made, lifting his eyes only to nod
pleasantly to Mme. Poussette who had glided in and was sitting by the
window.  His letters were three: one to Mr. Beddoe who had invited him
to Radford, another to his relatives on the farm at Grand River, and a
third to Miss Clairville.  He had not hesitated to write to her, for
short as their intercourse had been, her emotional nature had
manifested itself so warmly and their talk had been so completely out
of the ordinary, that higher things than convention must always govern
their friendship.  His conscientious side held itself responsible for a
slightly superfluous act of sudden interest and attachment, and the
mentor's tone in which he pleaded with her, to ask herself whether the
theatre must be her goal, would have deceived anybody unaccustomed to
cold analysis of motives.  He gave her, in short, good advice in the
guise of kindly sentiments, ending by avowing himself her "friend in
Christ" and protesting that her true welfare and happiness would always
be of interest to him.

The letter written, he leant back, resolving not to send it by post but
by some ignorant, unsuspicious hand (therein was the new-found subtlety
and shyness of the true lover), and the change in attitude confused the
watchers outside who guiltily resumed their smoking and conversation.
And the strange, silent woman at the window, supposing Ringfield to be
in want of something--paper, stamp or ink--rose and stood by his side.
Thus she saw two envelopes addressed and ready for the mail, and a
third as yet innocent of any inscription.  That she could read English
he doubted, yet he felt an objection to letting her look over his
shoulder.  He rose, and going to the office, where Poussette hastily
preceded him, gave in the two letters for Ontario, and then informed
him of his decision.

The Frenchman's disappointment was genuine and comic, partaking of
tragedy and despair.  Desnoyers was called in; also the guests and the
two guides, with servants forming a picturesque and interested
background, so that Ringfield suddenly found himself the centre of an
admiring, friendly, but inclining-to-be quarrelsome crowd.  Nothing
occurred, however, to alter his decision, and, true to his idea of
duty, he set off two mornings later, having committed the letter for
Miss Clairville to the man called Crabbe, a slouching sort of
Englishman who occasionally served as guide, ran a small open-air
general store, and about whom there seemed to be some mystery, his
accent and grammar being out of the common.

Forty-eight hours after, Ringfield arrived at his destination, and
walking up from the train to the house of Mr. Beddoe, the gentleman who
had written to him, was shown into a small parlour to wait a few
minutes.  Voices came from across the hall for a while, then he heard a
visitor depart and the next moment Mr. Beddoe himself entered the room.

The surprise of this individual on perceiving Ringfield was genuine and
complete; his countenance fell and he stood gazing.

"You did not expect me so soon, I see," said the young man easily.
"Well, I was in rather a quandary, something else having offered, so I
decided quickly, hating indecision.  You got my note of acceptance all
right, I hope?  It should have reached you _at the latest_ yesterday."

"Yes, yes," murmured Mr. Beddoe, "but, sit down, Mr. Ringfield, sit
down--the truth is--a rather peculiar thing has occurred.  I--ah--I may
as well make you acquainted with it at once.  Our pastor, who, without
being mentally weakened to any extent by a troublesome and obstinate
illness, for which, as you know, we have sent him abroad for a trip,
was extremely absent-minded in many little ways, and it has transpired
that before his departure he wrote himself to the Rev. Mr. Steers of
Bradford, arranging with him to take the pulpit for the time he should
be away.  He neglected to inform us of the fact, but Mr. Steers came in
just after we had written to you, and as he is a married man with a
family, and as he certainly expected the duty and the remuneration for
a period, I felt that you would have to reconsider our offer.  I sent
you a telegram embodying all this."

"I never got it.  Telegraphic facilities are uncertain in that part of
Quebec.  For example, St. Ignace is the village, but Bois Clair the
name of the post office, and there is no telegraph at either place.
Montmagny----"

"That was where we telegraphed," broke in Mr. Beddoe, "but probably
there was some delay in sending on the message and we did not look for
you quite so soon.  Mr. Steers has just left; he is a very reasonable
sort of man, and if you think you are bound to keep us to our offer we
will talk it over with him."

The young man had taken a chair at Mr. Beddoe's invitation, but he
still clutched his florid and somewhat old-fashioned carpet-bag and he
did not make any suggestions.

"Of course," exclaimed the other, uneasy at the silence, "you will
remain here with us until the matter is settled, and I feel sure a
satisfactory settlement can be made.  You spoke of an alternative.
Would that do for Mr. Steers?"

Ringfield roused himself to say that he did not think it would.

"It's not the place for a married man," he went on.  "There are no
houses such as you are accustomed to up here; the people are mostly
French, the climate is extreme; it is, in short, only a mission, and as
I've just come from there, and understand the place, I think I had
better go back and leave Mr. Steers in possession of the field."

"Oh!  But----" returned Mr. Beddoe, noticing a faint tinge of sarcasm
in the tone of the speaker, "we do not ask you to do this.  It's all
most unfortunate!  These great distances, so difficult to find a
person--we did our best."

Ringfield rose; there was clearly no reason why he should remain in
Radford whether he went back to St. Ignace or not, and just then the
condition of his purse was extremely important.  This detail was set
right in time, in about two months; meanwhile a visit to his friends in
the country would give him an opportunity to decide as to his future
movements.

The sojourn on the farm occupied three days, at the end of which he did
what he knew he would do from the moment of meeting Mr. Beddoe.  He
bought a ticket for Bois Clair with almost the last money he had in the
world, and within ten days of leaving Poussette's the steamer plying on
the river to St. Ignace deposited him at the familiar rickety wharf
once more.

It was nine o'clock and dark, with a light rain falling.  The
passengers, mostly tourists, were stepping off in that timorous way
peculiar to people unaccustomed to the primitive, by the light of a
lantern waveringly but officially displayed by Crabbe, the surly guide
to whom Ringfield had given his letter, and behind Crabbe, a little
higher up on the bank, stood Poussette, whose costume as usual was
characteristic.  He wore a checked tweed suit of light brown, a straw
hat, and an enormous chef's apron tied round his waist under his coat.
Visions of fried bass or lunge, of potatoes _sauté_, and even of hot
pancakes, danced before Ringfield's weary eyes, for he was both tired
and cold, and accordingly he gaily pushed his way through the loiterers
and fresh arrivals until he reached his host.

"Well, Poussette!" he cried, "I'm to be your man after all, it seems!
They didn't want me in the West, I found, or rather I thought it wiser
to come back and take advantage of your kind offer.  I suppose you can
put me up somewhere for to-night, and to-morrow we can talk the matter
over."

The Frenchman had started violently on seeing Ringfield and a great
change came over his manner.  Where was the welcome the minister had
looked for?  On this fat, usually smiling countenance he could discern
naught but astonishment, disappointment, anger!

What could have happened during that futile journey westward and back?
Poussette vouchsafed no reply, no solution.  He avoided the puzzled
stare of the other man, and after giving some orders in French to
Crabbe and the other guide, Martin, a very decent Indian, quickly went
up to the house without greeting his guests.

Ringfield was suddenly seized with a sense of the ludicrous.  He told
himself that he managed to be _de trop_ wherever he went, but he also
firmly resolved that no temper, no caprice on his patron's part should
affect him now.  If possible he must remain at St. Ignace and ignore
whatever had caused the singular change in Poussette's attitude.  There
was indeed fish for supper, but he fancied that the cunning touch of
the chef was wanting, and he was right.  Poussette had not entered the
kitchen.



CHAPTER VI

THE MISSIONARY

  "Nor is it a mean phase of rural life,
  And solitude, that they do favour most,
  Most frequently call forth and best sustain
  These pure sensations."


The following day Ringfield's curiosity naturally ran high; he was
entirely in the dark as to the peculiar treatment he had received at
the hands of Poussette, and it followed that one strong idea shut out
others.  Miss Clairville's image for the time was obliterated, yet he
remembered to ask Crabbe whether the letter had been safely delivered,
to which the guide replied rather curtly in the affirmative.  He
supposed Pauline to be still at the manor-house, but the truth was, on
the receipt of his letter a sudden temper shook her; she wrote at once
to M. Rochelle, her former manager in Montreal, requesting a place in
his company, and the evening that brought Ringfield back to St. Ignace
took her away.

There were symptoms of thaw stirring in Poussette, and the minister did
his best to encourage them, but on the Saturday afternoon following his
return, when it was necessary to hold some sustained business
conversation with his patron, the latter could not be found.  The bar
was a model of Saturday cleanliness, damp and tidy, smelling equally of
lager beer and yellow soap.  Fresh lemons and newly-ironed red napkins
adorned the tall glasses ranged in front of Sir John A. Macdonald's
lithograph, and the place was dark and tenantless, save for Plouffe, a
lazy retriever, stretched at the door.  The dining-room was abandoned,
the general room was full of children engaged in some merry game, but
otherwise the place wore that air of utter do-nothingness which
characterizes a warm afternoon in the country.  Yet Ringfield
persevered and at last heard familiar accents from the "store" across
the road, a kind of shack in which a miscellaneous collection of
groceries, soft drinks, hardware and fishing appliances were presided
over by the man called Crabbe.  Ringfield crossed, and found the two
men lolling on chairs; Poussette slightly drunk and Crabbe to all
appearances decidedly so.  The place was of the roughest description;
it had no windows but an open space occupied by a board counter on
which were boxes of cigars, bottles, a saucer of matches and the mail,
duly sorted out for the inhabitants by Crabbe, who was supposed to be a
person of some importance and education, and postmaster as well as
guide.  As Ringfield paused at this aboriginal place of barter, not far
removed from the rough shelter up the road under the trees where some
Indians held camp and displayed their grass and quill wares on planks
supported by barrels, he was struck by the sight of his own name.
There in front of him lay the missing telegram which Mr. Beddoe had
dispatched to Montmagny nearly a fortnight before.  He took the folded
yellow paper up and put it in his pocket--no need to open it there and
then.

"How long has this been here?" he asked, but Crabbe only moved uneasily
in his chair, reaching sideways in a pretence of arranging boxes
underneath the improvised counter, his hands shaking so that the goods
tumbled out of them.

Poussette laughed and swore, yet a gleam of good nature seemed to
illumine his puffy face, and Ringfield, catching at this ray of
kindness, hoped he had come at the right moment.

"Why, Poussette!" he said.  "I'm sorry to see you neglecting a good
business like yours in this manner.--Get up, man, and walk along the
road with me.  Where is the fun, or glory, or enjoyment of this
muddling and tippling--I am ashamed of you!  Come on, I say!"

But Poussette was hard to move; Crabbe, on the other hand, rose and
shuffled out of doors in the direction of the forest; Ringfield thought
he saw Madame Poussette's skimp skirts behind a tree; presently she
emerged and stood talking to the guide.

"Come now, Poussette!  There's your wife.  Don't let her see you like
this.  Then there's Father Rielle."

"Where?"  Poussette rose, superstitious fears of the village _curé_
giving him strength and aiding his resolution.

"Nowhere at present.  But he's coming to tea.  The cook told me he was."

"What cook?  I'm the cook!"--with great dignity.

"No, no.  You are cook extraordinary, when you wish it.  I mean Frank,
who gets the wood and keeps the fire going, who cooks under you--you
know well enough whom I mean.  Now, are you coming?"

Poussette allowed himself to be hauled out of the shack and presently
he and Ringfield were walking up the road.

"I've got to get you sober for to-morrow, you see.  To-morrow's Sunday
and I want to know about the music.  If we are going to introduce our
hymns to St. Ignace, you must help me to find some one to play the
harmonium.  Better be a lady.  Do you know any one?"

But Poussette was not following.  The mention of the priest had
awakened a flood of memory.

"Father Rielle--I don't know if I like that one or not.  One's enough,
you're enough, Mr. Ringfield.  Give Father Rielle a drink and let him
go."

"I'm not talking about Father Rielle at all just now.  I'm talking
about our church and some one to play for us.  And look here,
Poussette, this returning of mine wasn't my own doing.  I want you to
know this.  The man who wrote to me telegraphed afterwards--here's the
message in my pocket--and you see I never got it.  I'm here now and we
must make the best of things.  That fellow Crabbe mislaid the message
or detained it knowingly, I can't tell which, and I don't like him,
Poussette, I don't like his looks at all.  He's a low fellow, always
drunk, and if I were you I wouldn't be seen going about with him.  I'm
astonished at you, Poussette, with such a good businesss, two good
businesses, you may say, well-to-do and prosperous as you are, keeping
such a fellow on the premises.  For I suppose he rents the shack from
you.  Well, I know I wouldn't have him round the place at all."

Poussette wagged his head in imbecile accord.

"Low fellow--Crabbe--_marche donc_--get off, _animal_, don' come my
place 'tall."

"You know I'm talking _right_, Poussette.  Get rid of Crabbe.  And
sober up now, man; don't let folks see you like this."

Ringfield put his arm through the other's and led him aside under a
thick canopy of trees as a party of fishermen and Martin came along.

"Look here--I'll make a pillow for you, here, out of these balsam
twigs!  You lie down--that's it--and get a good sound sleep.  Got a
cigar?  And a light?  That's all right.  Now, you sleep--yes, don't
bother about the smoke now--just go to sleep and when you wake up, have
your smoke, clear your head, shake yourself and show up at tea-time,
straight and sober as I am!  You'd better!  Father Rielle's over for
tea.  You wouldn't like him to see you like this!"

Poussette collapsed on the improvised balsam couch, but managed to
remark that he would not get up on account of Father Rielle, nor give
him anything good to eat.

"Why, I thought you liked him!  Liked his good opinion, anyway!"

"Beeg liar!  Beeg rascal!  I like you, Mr. Ringfield, when you don'
take away my girl.  You leave my bes' girl alone and I like you--first
rate.  Bigosh--excuses, I'll just go to sleep--for--while."

Ringfield rose from the ground and sighed.  He earned his livelihood
pretty hard when such scenes came into his life.  Pastoral slumming,
one might term it, for he had only just laid Poussette respectably to
rest when he encountered Crabbe, lurching dully along the road, and at
the sight of him Poussette's extraordinary remark about his "best girl"
came back.  What possible connexion could have suggested itself to
Poussette between the faded sickly creature he called his wife and the
visitor from Ontario?  Ringfield thought it not unlikely that Poussette
was confusing him with Crabbe, for to-day was not the first time he had
seen the woman wandering in the proximity of the shack.  However,
Crabbe gave him no opportunity for ministerial argument or reasoning,
for as soon as he perceived the other he turned, and straightening in
his walk very considerably, soon disappeared in the forest.

Ringfield was thus thrown on his own resources after all, and in
thinking over the question of the Sunday music, not unnaturally was led
to associate Miss Clairville with it.  He did not know her to be
exactly musical, but he gathered that she could sing; at all events,
she was the only person he had met in St. Ignace capable of making
arrangements for a decorous and attractive service, and he resolved to
see her and ask for her co-operation.  Thus again he was drawn by
inclination and by a steady march of events along the road that led to
Lac Calvaire.  Arrived at the _métairie_ he was told of Pauline's
departure for Montreal, and also that Henry Clairville was confined to
his bed by a severe cold.  Some new awkwardness led Ringfield over the
threshold; the old Archambault woman who had attended the front door
threw open another on her left hand, and the next moment he found
himself in what must have been once the _salon_ of the family.  The
furniture was of faded tapestry; a spinning-wheel, an armoire of dark
mahogany, miniatures, one very old and very ugly oil painting of some
mythological subject, cracked with age, the gilt frame thick with
fly-specks; a suit of Court clothes hung ostentatiously on a common
nail--these were the impressions he received as he sat waiting to hear
whether the Sieur would see him.

Suddenly he started.  The woman had closed the door, the room had been
empty when he entered it and yet--there were three cats in front of his
chair!  Where had they come from?  The window was closed, how had they
got in?  Watching, Ringfield saw what greatly astonished him, for
presently the cats walked towards the door and a miracle appeared to
happen!  They not only walked towards it but through it, and he was
ignorant of the apparent cause of the miracle until observing the door
very closely he discovered a little door down at the bottom, a cat door
through which they were in the habit of calmly passing back and forth
at will.  Another cat door appeared in the hall where he stood a minute
later before being shown out, for Mr. Clairville would not receive him,
and nothing more impressed him with the idea of being in a strange
house given over to strange people than the knowledge of a system of
little doors cut in the big ones for the use of a dozen cats.

Once more on the road, Ringfield experienced that sense of frustration
inseparable from first love.  He had been so confident of seeing Miss
Clairville once again, and now, as he learned from the servant, it
might be Christmas before she would return, and despite his
resolutions, he knew he should be very lonely indeed, without any
congenial soul in the village, for a period of four months.  He roused
himself, however, to think of the morrow's duties, particularly of the
music, and at tea that evening he found the person he wanted through
the kind offices of Father Rielle, who was a very liberal Catholic,
well acquainted with the whole countryside and who could ask, as he
said, in eloquent broken English, nothing better than co-operation in
good works with his young Methodist _confrère_.  Poussette was present
at the evening meal, rather pale and subdued and pointing with the
pride of a true _chef_ to the omelettes which were his alone to make by
special dispensation, and after supper Ringfield walked out to the
great Fall, remaining till it was dark and late--so late that he knew
no one would pass that way.  Then he knelt on a slab of rock and lifted
up his voice in this wise:--

"O Lord," he began, "look down on Thine unworthy servant.  Help him and
guide his footsteps aright.  He has returned to this place and to this
people.  Assist him to preach the truth of the Gospel in the wilderness
and to those who know Thee not.  Make him kind and keep him humble.
Give him light and understanding that he may be acceptable in this
place and that he may witness for Thee and for the Gospel, and that his
labours may be blessed and the harvest thereof indeed be great."  He
paused, his eyes opening on the white wilderness of the Fall.  Knowing
that the roar of its foaming waters would drown his voice he did not
scruple to use his fine, sonorous tones to the full, and went on again:
"Strip from Thy servant, O God Most High, all that savours of self.
Strike at sin if it lodgeth in him; cause him to remember now his
Creator in the days of his youth.  Grant him wisdom in dealing with the
froward, and may Thy Holy Spirit descend in this solemn evening hour
and be with him now through the watches of the night and to-morrow when
he rises to plead Thy righteous cause.  For Christ's sake, Amen."

The mixture of the orthodox circuit style with an occasional direct and
colloquial abruptness made this prayer worthy of record, and after
silent meditation under the dark, swaying pine-trees, Ringfield, braced
by temporary abandonment of self, returned to Poussette's.  As he rose
from his knees, however, something rolled down several ledges of rock
and he promptly went after it and picked it up.  It proved to be a
book, not very large, and opening easily, but there was no light to
view it by, and it was not until he came near the village windows that
he discovered it to be, much to his astonishment, a well-worn copy of
Tennyson's Poems.  On the fly-leaf were the initials "E. C. H." and
underneath, the word "Oxford" and date "1873".  Ringfield took it up to
his room; some tourist had probably dropped it, and it was safer with
him than with Poussette.  But when had an Oxford man passed that way?



CHAPTER VII

THE OXFORD MAN

  "Here Nature was my guide,
  The Nature of the dissolute; but Thee,
  O fostering Nature!  I rejected..."

Ringfield, now committed to his duty at St. Ignace, was experiencing
that reaction which must always follow upon a sudden change in the
affairs of life when the person concerned has a tendency towards the
reflective.  The absence from the manor house of that interesting
personality, Miss Clairville, threw him altogether on the society of
the village, but, apart from Poussette, who had become mysteriously
friendly again, the two individuals most in need of his ministrations
were Mme. Poussette and the shambling guide, Edmund Crabbe, in whom
were the dregs of a being originally more than the preacher's equal.
Old world distinctions would seem to be of small account in such a
hamlet as St. Ignace and yet questions of caste were felt even there.

Crabbe, the owner of the "Tennyson," was that melancholy wraith of
breeding, a deteriorated gentleman, spoken of in whispers as an "Oxford
man," slouching along the winding country road, more or less in liquor,
with the gait and air of a labourer, yet once known as the youngest son
of a good county family.  Few would have recognized in the whiskered
blear-eyed, stumbling creature an educated Englishman of more than
middle-class extraction.  In drink an extraordinary thing occurred.  He
then became sober, knew himself, and quoted from the classics; when
sober, he was the sullen loafer, the unmannerly cad, and his service as
guide alone redeemed him from starvation and neglect.  Ringfield, who
had seen him, as he supposed, drunk on the Saturday afternoon when Miss
Clairville's departure had been made known, concluded to call upon him
at his shack a few days later, and was considerably surprised to find
the place roughly boarded up, while sounds of talking came from a
shanty at the back.  The latter was on the plumed edge of an odorous
hemlock wood; squirrels and chipmunks ran, chattering, hither and
thither in quest of food, and a muskrat, sitting on a log near the
water, looked unconcernedly at Ringfield as he stood, hesitating, for a
few seconds.  While he thus remained, a boy came along, looked at the
"store" and scudded away; then came a little girl, and, finally, one of
the maidservants from Poussette's.  Muttering her annoyance, she too
waited for a while and was on the point of going away, when the door of
the cabin opened, and Crabbe looked out.  He held himself erect, he had
shaved, his faded _negligé_ shirt was clean and laced with blue--a
colour that matched his eyes, and his voice had a certain expressive
and even authoritative drawl in it.

"No supplies to-day, my good people," he said, affecting to suppose
Ringfield a customer.  "Call to-morrow, or--ah--the next day.  Sorry to
inconvenience you, but I've had to take a few hours off, writing
letters to the Old Country, asking about my remittance and so forth.
So I can't attend to business."

In these polite if slightly satirical cadences there was the element of
superiority; the woman and the girl faded away, while Ringfield hardly
knew how to proceed.

"I have come over just for a chat," he finally said, "if you are not
too much engaged.  I have a good deal of time on my hands, and I'm
trying to get to know the people around.  I am speaking to Mr. Crabbe,
I think?"

"You are not sure, eh?  Want to apologize for calling me a low fellow
to mine host Poussette, I expect!  Well, come in and have your chat.
I'm not much in favour of clergymen, but then--you're only a Methodist,
I hear.  You don't count."

He shut the door, after piloting the other in, and led the way into a
sort of dining and living room, in the middle of which was a long,
narrow table covered with white oilcloth, graced by a monster bouquet
of wild-flowers, grasses and ferns at the end; at the other end was a
tumbler and a bottle and Ringfield saw clearly enough that it held
whisky.  Yet he did not comprehend that Crabbe was drunk, while the
bold, blue eyes, the erect stature and the loud voice did not make a
single suspicion.  Indeed, surprise and pity worked in him a kind of
false modesty.

"I certainly should never have used that expression.  My defence is,
that Poussette, though a good fellow, is rough, and difficult to
impress in English, you understand, especially when he is about
half-tipsy himself!"

Looking around, the sight of faded photographs of English scenes on the
wall, of a large lithograph of Tennyson and of many well-bound books
and other evidences of refinement, led Ringfield to say, in vague
apology, "If I had known----"

"Known what?" said Crabbe in loud, dictatorial, dangerous tones, all
shiftiness gone.  "That I was a gentleman, eh?  Well, gentle is as
gentle does, I suppose, and I've never scored anywhere, so here I am,
here I _am_, Ringfield (bringing his hand down on the table) that's
your name, I believe--and I've not worn so badly all these years.  From
Oxford to Manitoba; then robbed and ruined by a shark of a farming
agent, damn him, down here to this wilderness and hole of a Quebec
Province for a change.  For keeps, I imagine."

He went round the table and poured out some whisky, drank it off raw,
and still Ringfield did not understand.  He thought this was the sober
phase, the other, the drunken one, and feeling his way, ventured on
general topics.

"Well, I'm here too by a curious twist of circumstances.  I'm a
'varsity' man--Toronto, you know--and might look for something
different from St. Ignace."

"You're a what?" cried the other.  "O Lord!" and a strange kind of rude
contempt filled the rich cadences with which he spoke, so different
from the surly repression of his ordinary tone.

"O I see!" he drawled presently.  "I'm an Oxford man myself--worse
luck--and much good it's done me; hope you've benefited more thereby.
What disgusting rot, Ringfield, filling us up with Horace and Virgil,
and then sending us out to a land like this!  I'm the youngest of five;
there was nothing left for me at home, and then there was fuss about a
woman--there always is."

"Is there?" echoed the other sweetly, determined not to be annoyed.
"Don't lay everything at their door.  Our mothers, Crabbe, our
sisters----"

The Englishman suddenly ran amuck, as it were.

"In God's name, Ringfield, drop that!  I can see you know nothing about
it, nothing about life or women--God, Ringfield, women are the Devil!
If I thought you'd listen and not preach----"

The other's hand, which had been lifted in horror and deprecation, came
down again.

"I don't care to listen," he said, "but I can gather your meaning--all
the same!  Don't take any more of that vile stuff, you'll make yourself
drunk.  Here----" and then, with sudden fury, the preacher grabbed the
bottle, threw it out of the window among the debris of rotting fruit
and rusty cans and faced the Englishman.

For a moment Crabbe looked, spat, and swore like a fiend; then he
collapsed into his chair, though still gazing at Ringfield with those
full, rolling eyes and that hateful, superior smile.

"I'll hear anything you have to tell about yourself," continued
Ringfield, "but I won't listen to tales of other people, men or women.
And what's the use of telling me about yourself?  That won't do any
good.  Put it all back in the past, man; put it all away.  Now is your
accepted time, now is your day of salvation, right here, this moment.
But I won't preach to you.  I won't vindicate my calling and talk
religion, as you'd call it, in this place and at this hour, because I
see you're not ready.  I thought you were sober.  Now I see my mistake,
and now, I don't know _how_ to talk to you.  I don't know how to begin!
I've never tasted the stuff myself--not even a glass of wine has ever
passed my lips, and my mother, Crabbe, used to make home-made wine and
give it to us--all but me.  I wouldn't taste it.  If I understood the
fascination of it, if I could follow the process, if I could sympathize
at all with you, then I might appreciate the difficulty and realize the
force of the temptation.  But I can't!  Other vices, take theft or
treachery, or cowardice, or insubordination; the seed of hatred
suffered to grow till the black Death Flower of Murder be born;
covetousness, sins of temper, all these I understand.  And in some
degree those other temptations to which you have alluded."

A slight wave of colour surged in the young minister's cheeks.  Crabbe
was apparently beyond impressing.  He sat and whistled, looking wisely
at his nails.  The loss of the whisky did not trouble him, for he
remembered where he had a second bottle hidden, and a small quantity
yet remained at the bottom of the tumbler, unnoticed by Ringfield.  But
presently he broke out again.

"As for women," he cried thickly, as if he had not heard the other's
latest speech.  "I've had enough of them, too much, as I said before.
You be warned, Ringfield!  You keep out of trouble!  I wouldn't swear
that I did not take to drink on account of them, and then, look
here--the trouble followed me out to this country, even to St. Ignace,
even to this hut and hole.  What d'ye think of that?"

"Why, who is there here?" exclaimed Ringfield, but as he spoke he had a
vision; the foolish wife of Poussette seemed to come along the path,
chanting as she came some minor French refrain and tapping at the
uncared for window as she passed.  She might have been attractive once,
and Crabbe was not a very young man now.  Some graces she must have
had; a way of catching at the side of her skirt, suggesting a curtsy;
plenty of fair hair and a child's smile playing at the corners of her
mouth--not so foolish then.  But wise or foolish, she had been another
man's wife, unless he had encountered her in her maiden days, which
seemed improbable.

"I cannot think," went on Ringfield, striving to shut this vision out,
"how women, any woman, plain or fair, sane or mad, could bring herself
to care for you,--and not because,--hear me, Crabbe, you are beyond
caring about.  God forbid!--but because your form of vice must ever be
so distasteful to a woman.  And then you are all wrong about your
surroundings.  You are, you have been, at least, a man of education,
and yet you call this a hut and a hole.  It is you who make it so!  You
vilify, where you might ennoble.  You defile where you should enrich
and keep pure.  You are set here, in the midst of the most beautiful
scenes of Nature, scenes that cannot be matched anywhere in the world,
and yet you despise them and use them for your own undoing and that of
others.  Nature lies at your door and you are answerable for your
treatment other."

Crabbe laughed surlily.  "She's no business lying--where'd you say--at
my door.  Nature, always Nature!  Much good it's done me, Nature, and
all that rubbish.  I hate it, I hate and abhor it, Ringfield.  That's
what makes me drink.  Too much Nature's been my ruin.  I'd be sober
enough in a big town with lively streets and bustle and riot and row.
I wouldn't drink there.  I'd show them the pace, I'd go it myself once
more and be d----d to all this rot and twaddle about Nature!  Nature
doesn't care for me.  So careful of the type she seems, but so careless
of the single life.  She doesn't bother her head about me, or you, or
Henry Clairville or Pauline!"

He paused, and Ringfield shivered with sudden poignancy of
recollection.  What right had this miserable scion of good family, so
fallen from grace, so shaken and so heartless, to call the lady of
Clairville Manor by her Christian name?

"Or Mme. Poussette!" said the minister hurriedly, but with meaning, as
he pronounced the name, his voice trembling in spite of himself.
"Nature, it is true, does not care for any of us.  Nature will let you
starve, get drunk, go mad.  Therefore, we need a greater than Nature.
Therefore, having this committed unto us we speak as----"

"O Mme. Poussette!" interrupted Crabbe, pouring the contents of the
tumbler down his throat.  "Shall I get you some?  No?  Well, I don't
blame you, don't blame you.  Mme. Poussette, poor creature!  I have
heard she was pretty once.  That was before I came, before--God's truth
this, Ringfield--before I taught her husband to drink deep."

"I might have known!" escaped from the other.  "Our own people rarely
drink--like you."

"He was no innocent!  He tippled, tippled.  Then I came along and set
up my sign, Edmund Crabbe Hawtree, Esquire; no, we'll drop the last and
stick to E. Crabbe without the Esquire, d----n it!  Lord! what a mess
I've made of it, and this rankles, Ringfield.  Listen.  Over at Argosy
Island there's a slabsided, beastly, canting Methodist Yankee who has a
shop too.  Must copy the Britisher, you see.  Must emulate--gentleman."

His sentences were beginning to be less clear now.  His head was
falling forward.  "Well! then--this fine fellow does well out of _his_
shop; sets up another down the river and yet another over at Beausoley.
He's made money!  He's rich, married, and has a big family.  Why don't
I make money, Ringfield, and get away from here?  Why don't you make
money and not go about preaching?  Eh?  So careless of the single life!
Who said that?  Whoever said that, knew what--was talking about.  I
know what I'm talking about.  I'm a gentleman, that's what I am,
Ringfield, and yet I can't make money."

The wagging head toppled--he fell over on the table.  The fire and
youth Ringfield had observed were gone and in their place were the
decrepit tone and the surly animalism which one associated with the
guide.  Here, then, thought the young and impressionable minister, is
the living result of two corroding vices; the man is a sot, but
something beside the lust for liquor has helped to make him one.  He
has followed after sin in the shape of his neighbour's wife, and
perhaps the latter's decline may be traced to the working of remorse
and the futile longing after a better life.

As he was thus thinking, the vision of his thought actually flitted
past the window without turning her head.  Still with those thin hands
picking at her shabby skirts and with that tremulous smile she emerged
from the wood and Ringfield heard her singing long after the rustling
of the closely arched branches had ceased.  Crabbe seemed to be
dropping asleep when Ringfield touched him on the arm and tried again
to reason with him.

"Tell me, I ask it for your own good and for that of the poor
unfortunate woman who has just gone by, tell me what there is between
you, how far the matter went, how long ago it was.  Tell me, and I will
help you perhaps to get away, leave this place and all in it.  That
would be the best thing.  Come, Crabbe, I'll believe in you if you've
lost belief in yourself.  Can I, can anyone, do more than that?"

The Englishman rallied, passed a hand across his brow, then rose
unsteadily to his feet, looking around the cabin.  Habit called for a
drink at this juncture and he saw nothing to drink.  Anger awoke in
him; he grew maniacal, dangerous, and the late September shadows filled
the room.

"What woman do you mean?" he cried.  "_In vino veritas_!  You thought I
was sober.  So I was.  Sober enough before you, the preacher, to know
that I'm getting drunk rapidly, beastly drunk too, and being so, and
the gentleman I am, or meant to be, I don't thank you for interference
in my affairs.  What woman are you thinking of?  What woman passed my
window?"

"Mme. Poussette."

The guide's face stared, then broke into unmistakable and contemptuous
laughter.

"Didn't I tell you I was a gentleman?  You've made a big mistake,
Ringfield.  Even in my deterioration" (he had difficulty with this
word) "I remember who I am, and I don't go after married women.
Matrimony's one of the Church's sacraments, Ringfield, isn't it?
Perhaps not; I have forgotten.  Anyway, Mme. Poussette is the wife of
my best friend, my best friend I tell you, and whoever cares for her
faded hair and finicking ways it isn't I.  Sweeter pastures once were
mine.  Have I named the lady of my choice or have I not?  The gay
Pauline, the witty Pauline, the handsome Pauline!  Ah!  You admire her
yourself.  You wrote her a letter.  I gave it to her and we read it
together and laughed at it.  'Yours in Christ.'  Ha-ha!  We laughed at
it, Ringfield."

Even in his foolish insults he paused, for an awful expression appeared
for a moment on the other's face.  In that moment Ringfield realized
what Miss Clairville had become to him.  No one can bear to hear his
love traduced, and he believed that in his cups this villain, Crabbe,
was lying.  They faced each other and Ringfield was not the cooler nor
the saner of the two.

"Pauline!  Miss Clairville!  What can she be to you?  Hanger on of
womanly footsteps," burst from him, scarcely knowing what words formed
in his brain and emptied themselves upon the darkening air of the
cabin.  "Stealthy and gloating admirer of her beauty, even the despised
companion and disloyal friend of her brother--all these you may be, but
surely nothing more to her."

"What I am to her I know well enough and can tell you easily enough.
She's done with me, hates and fears me, won't have anything to do with
me, and yet she belongs to me and I'm not likely to forget it.  And I
belong to her.  That's another reason why I wouldn't go after Mme.
Poussette."

"You mean--that she is, that you are--oh! impossible!  You mean--what
do you mean?  Not that you are married to her?"

Extreme agony and repulsion gave shrillness to Ringfield's voice.  To
have met and loved, to have coveted and dreamed of that warm, imperious
yet womanly presence, and to hear this dreadful truth concerning
her--if it were the truth.

"Well, you've guessed it.  Yes, married to her, by heaven!" said
Crabbe, and he lurched forward and fell.

Ringfield saw and heard him fall, but he was already out of the shack
and speeding through the forest paths; dim arcades of larch and pine
met over his head while upon the river and the great Fall were stealing
long bars of bright silvery light from the level sun.  Soon the silver
would mellow to gold as the daily marvel of the sunset was
accomplished, but Ringfield was beyond such matters now.  Nature could
do no more for him in this crisis than it had done for Edmund Crabbe,
and the virginity, the silence and fragrance of the noble wood, brought
him no solace.  Yet as he sped he could not choose but breathe and the
air filled his breast and then fed his mind so that presently coming
upon a glade or opening in which was a large slab of grey lichened rock
he lay down at length to think.  And that Nature which could do nothing
for him spiritually in this hour of trial conspired to comfort and
restore him physically.  He could not pray.  His accustomed resources
had failed him; instead, as it grew quite dark around, he fell asleep.



CHAPTER VIII

THE "PIC"

  "How dreadful the dominion of the impure!"


The September days gave place to October ones and still Miss Clairville
remained away.  The tourists had departed and Ringfield could judge
more accurately of the mental and moral status of the countryside.  The
congregation of Sunday scarcely numbered two score, but Amable
Poussette and wife were always present and the rule seemed to be that
any who had tired of Father Rielle came to Ringfield whether they
understood him or not; poor Catholics were thus in danger of becoming
even worse Methodists, and he exerted all his faculties and talents in
general directions concerning conduct and character.  The beautiful
skies and water, the rocks and great Fall, were as impressive as
before, but they no longer filled so much space in the mind of the
young preacher, who now saw all things in the visible universe from the
standpoint and through the jaundiced eye of the disappointed and
unhappy lover.  All Nature mocked him and it would go hard indeed with
him should religion, too, fail him in such a juncture, but the spirit
of work and priestly endeavour kept him as yet from sheer wretchedness;
he prayed daily to think less of the world and more of his calling and
it seemed as if the fate which brought him back to St. Ignace to love
and suffer in loving would spare him further, since there was no sign
of Miss Clairville's return.  His preaching could not fail, because he
brought to it a fine original gift and an automatic precision and
certainty resulting from the excellent training of his Church, but
between Sundays the time dragged.  His labours among the few scattered
and uneducated families of conflicting race and origin seemed
unconvincing and empty, and a new shyness possessed him; he disliked
hearing any mention of the Clairvilles, for Crabbe's story he had come
to accept as true without a word of questioning; indeed, Miss
Clairville's own words came back to him as a proof.

"Another patient of the soul," she had said.  Also, she had referred to
something dark and of sinister import, fatal yet compelling, which
always drew her back from livelier and more congenial places, and, as
he judged, from a sphere of work which paid, to the house at Lac
Calvaire.  That the society of her brother was the attraction,
Ringfield could not admit, and what other ties or friends had she?  So
far as he could learn--none, and thus he read her story; growing up
unprotected and motherless, without any standard to judge by, she must
have accepted the attentions and fallen under the spell of a man who
probably appealed to her pity and also to her intellect.  Crabbe had
been the only man in the neighbourhood capable of understanding her
cultivated allusions; the remnants of the mixed education she had drawn
from the school at Sorel and the pedantic dreary associations of the
manor house.  But in the contemplation of such a thing as her marriage
to such a man Ringfield's fancy failed.  The whole plan of creation was
altered and blackened.  He did not wish to know on what terms Pauline
and this man now met.  He tried to shut out all the images such a story
conveyed, and thus he asked no questions nor did he hear any gossip,
proving that the affair was old, and if once known to the country
people, accepted and forgotten.  Why could he not treat it in the same
fashion?  His faith was not shaken in the sense of belief in a Supreme
Being, but he no longer lived so much for and by his faith; Nature and
God were put back in the past, as he had said to Crabbe, and all his
thought was for the duty of the hour and for the guidance and
sustenance of others.  He imagined he had lowered his own dignity by
writing, on the first impulse of desperate first love, the letter which
Crabbe had read with Pauline, and he strove to regain that clerical
calm and judicial bearing that had suffered so violent a shock.  But
when six weeks of this repressed existence had sped and autumnal winds
were sweeping down from the glacial north of Terrebonne, bringing cold
rains and occasional snow flurries with them, he felt that he must at
least call at the manor to inquire after Henry Clairville.  Little at
any time was heard of the latter except when "Ma'amselle" returned to
her native heath, at which times the Archambaults were whipped into
work and obedience by the forcible tongue and stormy temper of their
mistress.  Messages and parcels then passed between the domain and the
village; Father Rielle made his call and the whole village and
_paroisse_ quickened with energy under Pauline's determined sway.
Crabbe--this Ringfield heard from Poussette--was also sent about his
business; he was no longer encouraged to play cards and drink with
Henry, who fared as he might at the hands of the tyrant family swarming
all over the estate.

On a chilly October day, Ringfield once again traversed the muddy road
leading to Lac Calvaire, his heart sore over the revelation that had
reached him, and he could not repress a painful sigh as he came in
sight of the _métairie_.  The lake was dull grey, the maples were
shedding their leaves without painting them red and yellow, and the
pines looked unusually sombre against a pale and cheerless sky.  A pair
of kingfishers were flying from side to side of the road, and a forked
object sailing high up in the air proclaimed itself a bird, otherwise
there was no sign of life till, approaching the front of the
_métairie_, he observed the peacock taking its airing in a neglected
garden.

Nothing had affected the pose and splendour of this radiant creature as
it paraded up and down, gently swaying its lustrous and shimmering
tail; the drooping fortunes of the house were not reflected in its mien
or expression, and it was not until Ringfield was met by four lean cats
prowling about him in evident expectation of food and petting that he
descried unusual neglect in the appearance of house and garden.  Three
ugly blotched and snorting pigs ran out from under some bushes and
followed him.  He saw no smoke arising, no face at any window, heard no
lively bustle in the farm-yard, no amusing and contentious chatter in
Canadian French from the barns and out-buildings which sheltered the
various members of the Archambault family.  A curious feeling rushed
over him and with it a conviction--the place was deserted.  He went at
once to the chain of farm buildings and examined them all; all were
empty, with every sign of hurried and agitated flight rather than of
orderly and complacent departure.  The horses were gone, the two wagons
and buggy, the buckboard.  Traces of fright and apprehension were met
at every step; a dirty hairbrush dropped on the ground; a clock
abandoned on a bench outside the door as if too heavy; tins opened and
rifled of their contents; a tub half full of soiled clothes in foul
water.  All these he saw, scarcely taking in their meaning, until
returning to the manor he opened the front door and went in.  There in
the usual place he found Henry Clairville, alive, and no more.  Still
clad in the greasy dressing-gown and still seated in the tattered
arm-chair, the unfortunate man was clearly very ill.  Patches appeared
on his face, which was both pallid and flushed; his neck showed red and
sore and his body hung down limply over the side of the chair.
Evidently he had tried to get to his bed which stood in a corner, and
failed.  His eyes were staring and full, yet glassy; sense and
recognition alike were wanting, while the delirious accents which
escaped now and then from his parched lips were altogether in French.
In short, Ringfield, though unaccustomed to disease, knew that the man
before him was very ill, of what did not enter his head, although there
came to his mind a description of the plague in a boy's story-book.  He
did what he could, singlehanded, which was to snatch some warm clothing
from the bed, cover up the sufferer so that draughts might not reach
him, fetch water and leave it on the table near the chair and see that
all animals were excluded.  He then quickly sought for a secluded spot
near the lake, hung his own clothes about on branches to air, and took
a plunge into the clean, cool water, after which he was ready to return
to St. Ignace and get assistance.

Dr. Renaud, the village practitioner, drove out at once, taking a woman
with him, who, as soon as she learned she had to deal with the "Pic"
ran screaming from the house, thus clearing up the mystery of the
Archambaults.

"They knew," said Ringfield, "and I didn't.  But I guessed something of
the kind and took the only precaution open to me.  I washed in pure
water.  And now what are we to do?  Has M. Clairville no one belonging
to him but his sister?"

"Not to my knowledge," said Dr. Renaud, who spoke good English, "and we
do not wish her to return."

"Certainly not."

"Then I can only think of one person in the village."

"A nurse?"

"Not a professional nurse, but, as I say, the only person I know of
close at hand who can do what is necessary until we get a nurse, if the
man lives to require one.  A male nurse would be better, but who is
there here?  No.  I am thinking of the right one if I can only get her,
if I can only get her?"

"She lives in the village?"  Ringfield was curious; he thought he had
met every one in the village, yet here was some paragon of female
skill, virtue and strength with whom he was not acquainted.

"You must have met her.  Of course you know her.  I speak of Mme.
Poussette.  Ah!  You shall smile and you shall frown, but you shall see
what a miracle she can work!  You shall yet envy this sick seigneur.
Madame is noted for her care of the sick and dying.  You are surprised?
Yes?"

"I cannot help it.  Anyone would be.  She looks so frail, so delicate,
and surely she is also what we call afflicted, peculiar.  Is she a fit
and sensible person for a case like this?"

"Ah!  Mon Dieu!" exclaimed the doctor with a slight impatience.  "These
afflicted ones, these peculiar ones--they are still capable of
something.  Many times have I seen it; the old, old tottering
_grandmère_, the crazy aunt, the bad-tempered husband, even the
inebriate, can find, when they are guided, work which suits and
maintains them.  Even when the mind is shaken, if it is only a little,
just a little, to care for others, a bird or a cat, or a sick person,
this will keep the wits steady.  A case like this moreover!" repeated
Dr. Renaud, laying his finger to his nose.  He was round, jolly,
bow-legged, and brusque, with pronounced features overstrong for his
height, merry eyes, and a red birthmark.  "This is the case.  We are,
you and I and presently Father Rielle, responsible for M. Clairville.
He must not be moved except to his bed; he is too far gone for more.
The wife of Poussette is, to my knowledge, the only person we can get
to sit here, administer drink and medicine, make him comfortable.
Well, not even she can do that but--you _comprenez_.  And she is
capable, I know her well.  She is as she is" (and the doctor made the
sign of the Cross), "yet she is worth ten saner women, for she has no
nerves, no fears, no imagination.  Tell her what to do, place her here
to do it, and she will not fail; I have seen her a dozen times in the
village nursing sick women and their babies.  She's as good as most
doctors and better than most nurses.  Yes, yes, we will get madame to
him at once."

"But she may take it!"

"I think not.  Her body like her mind is purged of all evil humours,
_mon ami_.  She is already more than half spirit and waits in peace for
old age and quiet decay."

Ringfield got into the doctor's buggy in silent surprise.

"Besides, if she did take it, and it killed her, I cannot see any great
calamity.  I will tell you her history.  She was well educated at a
good convent near Montreal; her father was a doctor, as I am, but a far
cleverer one.  Yes, I lift the _chapeau_ to that one, that old Dr.
Pacquette as regards the great art and science of medicine.  But as a
father--ah!  God pity him where he is now, according to our belief, in
purgatory for many long years to come.  _Bien_!  Dr. Pacquette had lost
his wife, and his daughter, a fairy thing, was allowed, even
encouraged, to grow up as she pleases.  They have grand friends in
Montreal, her father's people still live on Rue St. Denis, great rich
people; if you go there, drive out over the mountain and you shall see
her old home, the Pacquette Château.  Well, this Mme. Poussette when
she is a girl (Natalie-Elmire-Alexandre, I don't give you all her name)
she is very pretty, and the old doctor wish her to make a grand
marriage, and he has every one up to the house and make a big time for
them, and introduce her to all the young men, all the _rich_ young men.
But while she has been at that convent she has met with Amable
Poussette, who was not so stout then, had a good figure and a lively
tongue, and the end is, they are married at Ancien Lorette by a young
priest, who might have known better.  Some months after, she goes home
to her father to be taken in and forgiven and nursed, for she has by
this time a young infant about six weeks old.  Well, you can perhaps
imagine _le vieux_ Pacquette when it is all explained.  He is enraged,
he drives her from his door, she passes all one long, cold night in the
snow outside the _château_ on Cote des Neiges hill and when she is
found by the servants two days later, she is as you see her, monsieur,
and the baby is dead!  Never again the bright little Natalie-Elmire,
but instead, a pale, faded, vacant-eyed, timid woman.  Ah!  If I ever
meet _le vieux_ Pacquette in the next world!"

The doctor nodded his bald head sagaciously; as for Ringfield, he was
thinking that here was the opportunity for which he unconsciously had
been waiting, to ask for and probably receive Miss Clairville's equally
dramatic story, when he beheld another buggy coming around a corner of
the road driven recklessly by one of the Archambault boys and in the
buggy sat mademoiselle herself.  Her attire, always so different from
village modes, was true on this occasion to her theatrical calling, for
to Ringfield's eye at least she appeared like some Oriental personage,
caught and brought home in native garb, coupled with a very bad temper.
Red and black was her habit and black and red her eyes and angry
compressed lips.

The doctor stood up in his buggy and Miss Clairville in hers, and, as
for a quarter of an hour the excited talk was in rapid French,
Ringfield could only gather that the doctor was endeavouring to
restrain her from going to see her brother.  At last, turning away from
Renaud with an imperious wave of the hand, she addressed herself to the
minister in English.

"I understand it is to you the doctor owes his knowledge of my poor
brother's sickness.  I only heard of it myself last night on the stage
at eleven o'clock, but I came at once--look at me in all this sinful
finery, I can see you are calling it!  Oh, yes, you are.  Well, now
that I have come and thrown up my part and my place in the company in
Montreal, he will not allow me to finish my journey and go on to
Clairville!"

"Certainly, you must not think of going!" cried Ringfield.  "On no
account must you do such a thing.  Do you know what is the matter with
him?"

"Oh, the 'Pic' I suppose, but I'm not afraid of it."

"Yet you have not been vaccinated, I fear!"

"Who told you that?  Dr. Renaud, I suppose.  Of course.  No!  No one is
ever vaccinated here, no good Catholics at any rate.  Good orthodox
ones, like myself."

The doctor frowned, for he disliked the tone of bravado in which these
words were uttered.

"It's no question of faith.  It's a question of common sense and
precaution.  I have charge of the case and I will not permit you or
anyone else to cross the threshold of Clairville Manor."

"You would class me then with the Archambaults!  My own people, who eat
and drink at my expense and who turn their backs on me in the hour of
trial!  Poor Henry, it will finish him, I fear, yet I and none other
must be there to nurse him.  _Mon Dieu_, but it is a shame!"

"Silly girl!" snapped Renaud.  "There is no nursing for you in this
case.  Assuredly, Mlle. Pauline, you do not enter the house, I cannot
allow it.  Besides, mademoiselle, you return home too late.  If you
remained at Clairville longer, and had the place cleaned out, and saw
to it that it was kept clean, your brother might escape these
sicknesses, but poor girl, poor girl, I find it hard to blame you.
Antoine! turn back and drive to the village.  Mademoiselle goes now
along with us."

His allusions if they pained did not soften her, but it was at
Ringfield she continued to look.

"I shall have no place to stay," she said poutingly.

"It's a pity you came at all," said the doctor.  "They can find you a
room at Poussette's."

"I will die sooner than go to that man's house.  It is a common place,
not fit for me."

"Come, come, you are excited.  We know Poussette's weakness for a
pretty face and a fine figure, but here is our new and true friend to
look after you."

"Mine is not a pretty face, Dr. Renaud, and I prefer to look after
myself.  You do not understand, I am out of a position by coming here.
I only heard last night that Henry was ill and I came at once,
expecting to be in my own home; I did not know what was the sickness he
had; I have left the theatre to come here and now I have nowhere to go."

Ringfield spoke at last.

"There need be no difficulty at all about your going to Poussette's,
Miss Clairville.  You will oblige me by taking my room, which is the
largest and best in the house.  As for me, I can do with anything.  If
you wish I will go back to your house, sleep there in place of the
servants, and keep you aware of all that goes on, of your brother's
progress at least."

"Quite unnecessary," broke in the doctor testily.  "I am in charge of
this case, and one patient at one time is all I care for.  Drive back,
Antoine, to Poussette's, where you will leave ma'amselle.  Drive quick,
too, for I wish to see the carpenter, Alexis Gagnon, next door to M.
Poussette, where I think a room can be got for Mr. Ringfield.  Allons!
we have wasted one good half-hour already!"

"You blame me of course for that!" said Pauline, still gazing at
Ringfield, but talking to the doctor.

"Faith, I do," said the latter grimly, and she said no more.

In the Maison Pension of Alexis Gagnon, the village wag, carpenter and
undertaker, Ringfield was accommodated with a room which had a balcony
at the back looking on a square of Arctic garden, where amid circles
and triangles of whitewashed stones the tobacco plant and some
sunflowers lasted into the autumn.  The news of monsieur's serious
illness had now filtered through the parish, and Poussette's was full
of men discussing the affair, as Pauline, looking like an outraged and
defeated savage queen, passed into the hall, trailing her cheap red
silken draperies up to Ringfield's room.  The door to the bar was
partly open; whisky was going round as supposed to be good to ward off
the "Pic," and prominent in the noisy crowd was the shambling figure of
Crabbe, who did not appear to notice Pauline, nor she him, and
Ringfield, observing them both, could hardly bring himself to believe
their extraordinary story.  The brilliant if wayward actress, with her
fine carriage and white hands, could never have belonged to that
derelict of a man, lower even than the rough Frenchmen from the rafts
and chantiers now demanding more "visky blanc".  Yet in youth many
things are possible, and the recital of Mme. Poussette's history seemed
to prepare the way for Pauline's.  Meanwhile Dr. Renaud had spoken to
madame, and within an hour she was ready, and, being driven to Lac
Calvaire, entered upon her labours without qualm or protest.



CHAPTER IX

PAULINE

  "A conspicuous flower,
  Whom he had sensibility to love,
  Ambition to attempt and skill to win."


Thus the next day and for many days to come Ringfield met the lady of
his dreams at breakfast and at dinner; her third meal was served
privately to her in her own room at a quarter to seven, and he wondered
why until he remembered her vocation.  Though at present not acting she
evidently retained the habits of the profession, and for the first few
days she continued to wear the scarlet silken and spangled drapery in
which she had left the theatre, modified by different wraps and
scarves; then a trunk arrived and she appeared more discreetly and
soberly clad.  One evening it became unusually warm for the season, and
stepping out on his balcony he perceived her seated on hers; he
returned her gracious and encouraging salutation, wholly different from
the self-conscious manner she affected at the dining-table, and he
hoped now to be able to take up the acquaintance where it had been
dropped.  For his part he meant to ignore that miserable story of
Crabbe's; he would treat her as the lady she was and the sincere,
much-tried creature he thought her.  Her mood just now chanced to be
charming, and as she rose, again wearing the gay dress of the theatre,
which showed her throat and elbows in their perfection, Ringfield, even
with his slight experience, knew that she was beautiful.  That same
Nature which was so forced upon his notice in his new resting-place was
strong within him this evening, and he could not refuse to harbour
certain natural impulses of admiration and delight, especially as she
was unusually animated in voice, expression and gesture.

"Do you not think it dreadful, Mr. Ringfield, that poor Mme. Poussette
is alone with my brother all this time?  Should I not be there too and
take my share in some way?  Oh, not in this dress of course; I
understand your look.  I have only put this on because it is cooler
than any other I have with me.  See--I have pinned up the train around
me!  I must not scandalize the country-folk!  I may tell you this--the
people of the village think me very peculiar.  In their opinion I might
mend my manners."

"Oh, _their_ opinion!" came from Ringfield with a smile.

"Well, even here, even in St. Ignace, there is a standard, you see."

"Of manners?  Yes, I suppose so.  And of morality, let us hope."

"You are not certain?  What have you found out, what departure from the
standard in other places?  _Mon--Dieu_!  I hope not--you are thinking
of Montreal and the Hotel-Champlain!"

"The chief vice I have encountered here," returned Ringfield firmly,
"is drink, and as a result other things connected with it, ensuing
naturally."

Miss Clairville sat down suddenly, and as she did so her draperies
whorled about her till she looked like some crimson flower with her
dark head for its centre.  "Oh!" she said under her breath, "surely
there are worse things than drink!"  Some latent emotion betrayed
itself in her voice; small wonder, he thought, if Crabbe were really
anything to her.

"Certainly there are, but they are easier to deal with.  There is my
difficulty, for I know I am going to find it very difficult to make an
impression, to work any lasting reform here."

"And you wish to?"

"I wish to if I can."

"I thought at first you were only a preacher."

He laughed.  "Only a preacher!  That conveys a great deal.  You must
have but a poor idea of my vocation, of the saving grace and special
power of all true religion."

"Religion!  But if religion can do so much, why would not Father Rielle
succeed as well as you?"

"Ah! there you have a problem, I admit.  Perhaps, however, he has been
here too long; perhaps he is accustomed to the situation and is not so
deeply impressed by it.  Besides, I am not so much concerned with the
habits of the rough fellows we see about here; as far as I can judge,
the lumbermen, mill-hands, labourers, and people of the village are
remarkably sober, considering the temptations and loneliness of the
life and certain contingencies which prevail.  For example, when you
take two or three dozen uneducated men and isolate them for months in a
lumber camp, or a mine, or send them to work on remote booms and rafts,
depriving them of all family ties and Christian influences, and
removing them from all standards of conduct and character, what wonder
that you are confronted by this grave problem?

"But I was not thinking of such cases.  I was thinking rather of a
successful man like Poussette, good-hearted, respected by all who know
him, and yet so weak!  So weak in this respect that he neglects his
business and allows himself to be led into disgrace and humiliation
by----"

"I never knew Mr. Poussette drank!" exclaimed Miss Clairville
hurriedly.  "I am quite surprised.  He is such a kind man and a friend
of Henry's, and Father Rielle thinks highly of him, although he no
longer attends his church."

Ringfield was now satisfied that she had broken into his speech
purposely to avoid the mention of the Englishman's name, but he
determined to stand his ground.

"I was about to say that while I blame Poussette for his weakness I
blame still more the individual who in my opinion has led him on.
Living in the neighbourhood so long you must recognize the man I mean."

Her attitude did not in the least change, nor was her gay mood
impaired, but she did not reply, and the silence was a challenge to him.

"I mean the unfortunate Englishman who runs that grocery and liquor
shack across the road, who calls himself a gentleman, Crabbe, the
guide.  You know him?"

"I have seen him."

"You _know_ him?"

Surprised, she answered less brightly: "Yes, I know him."

"You knew him better perhaps years ago?  You knew him when he was
master of himself, when he first came here.  He is, he tells me, an
English university man, and in the course of our conversation one day
he quoted from 'In Memoriam' in the intervals of a semi-drunken
confession."

He now had all her attention; she tried to maintain her proud air, but
something was working in her to the exclusion of all coquetry, all
dissimulation.

"If you know him so well, why--why come to me for information?  Of
course any one living here, as you say, must have met him."

"But he has spoken to me of you as if he knew you very well, as if----"
He could not continue, and even in her own uneasiness she felt a pity
and tenderness for him.

"Why do you bother yourself about us--about him, I mean?  Or me.  I
shall be going away soon, I hope; you will not remain all your life in
such a little place as St. Ignace; try and forget what he has said."

"I cannot.  It is with me day and night.  Tell me if it is true!"

"Why should I tell you?"

"Because I must know.  Because, if a lie, such a tale must be traced
back from where it came--the black imagination of a depraved and
incorrigible villain.  Because if true, if true----" his voice failed
him, and although it was now quite dark, Miss Clairville could detect
great excitement in his usually calm and pleasantly austere manner.

She leant to him over the balcony.

"But I cannot tell you here!  I cannot go to you; will you then come to
me?  There will be none upstairs at this hour in this house; they are
all gone to see the boat come in at the wharf.  There is her whistle
now!  Would you mind coming very much, Mr. Ringfield?  Do you think it
wrong of me to ask you?"

"Wrong, Miss Clairville?"

"Improper, I mean.  Even here there are the _convenances_, the
proprieties."

"Proprieties!  When we are talking of our immortal souls and of our
hopes of salvation!  When truth is at stake, your character, your
future perhaps--think if that had been told to anyone else!" he
exclaimed half to himself.

"Then you will come?" Miss Clairville's tone was full of a radiant
incredulity.  She leant still farther towards him, and her eyes burned
into the surrounding darkness of the night.

"I will come at once.  I--if I meet anyone I can say that I am calling
on you to hear about your brother."

She smiled, then frowned, in the dark.  Would it be her lot to teach a
good man subtlety?  Should she tell the truth?  She had not long to
wait or think about it, for in five minutes Ringfield was knocking at
her door.  Nothing subtle as yet looked forth from his earnest eyes,
and the grasp with which he took and held her hand was that of the
pastor rather than that of the lover, but the night was dark and
heavily warm, and although there were stars in the sky he did not look
at them.  Jupiter was just rising, giving a large mellow light like a
house lamp, round and strong, and casting a shadow, but the fall of a
sable lock on Miss Clairville's white neck was already more to him.
They were soon seated side by side on the balcony.  She had regained
something other usual manner.

"You must not think that I am ungrateful for your interest in me," she
said.  "I believe that you are a good man, a Christian I suppose you
call yourself, outside and above all creed, all ritual, the first I
have ever met.  No, I am not forgetting Father Rielle.  He did the best
he could for me, and Henry and others, but I could never follow the
rules of the Romish Church, although born and bred a Catholic.  With
grand music one might stay in that communion, but not as our service is
rendered here.  And then, the confession!  That is all right when you
have nothing to confess, but not for me!  Oh--Mr. Ringfield, why is it
I cannot confess to Father Rielle, but that I can or could to you?"

"Then that story is true?"

"What was the story?  What did he say?"

They talked now in whispers, and Ringfield told her in four short and
to him abhorrent words.  "He said--you were his wife."

Great was his relief when Pauline, starting from her seat, almost
screamed aloud her agitated reply.

"No, it is not true!  I never married him.  That is--at least--no, I
entirely deny it.  I am _not_ his wife.  I am _not_ married to him."

In his state of mind and inexperience he failed to notice the equivocal
nature of this denial.  He heard the impassioned negatives; he saw
fear, resentment, and a sort of womanly repulsion in the frightened
gesture she flung upon the air, and what he wished to hear and prayed
to hear, that he heard.  Crabbe then had deliberately lied perhaps,
considering his condition, he had only boastfully invented.

"Thank God!" he ejaculated, standing up and taking Miss Clairville's
finely formed white hand in both of his own.  "Thank God!" he repeated,
and, with restored confidence and renewed enthusiasm in all good works,
he seized the opportunity to speak of what was in his heart.  "Now you
must listen to me.  I believe, I honestly believe, that by His all-wise
and all-knowing ruling I have been sent here to help you and be your
friend.  That letter I wrote to you--you received it I know, for I
heard about it.  I went West from a sense of duty.  I was not required,
and again the sense of duty brought me back to St. Ignace and--you."

"Oh, not only me!  You would have come back in any case.  You say it
was Duty, not,--not----"  Not Desire?  If this were thought in some
vague and unapprehended shape, it was not spoken.  Ringfield gave her
hand a strong and kindly pressure and let it fall.

"It was duty, yes, duty revealed to me by my Maker, to serve and obey
whom is not only my duty but my whole desire and pleasure."

"You really mean what you say in telling me this?  It sounds like
things we read, like the little books they gave us at Sorel-en-haut.
_Mon Dieu_! but those little books!  And one big one there was, a
story-book about a girl, all about a girl.  A girl called Ellen, Ellen
something, I have forgotten."

"That must have been 'The Wide, Wide World'.  And you read that while
you were at school!"

"Yes, when I was a young girl.  I am afraid it didn't do me much good."

These interchanges of simple talk marked the progress of their
friendship.  Any fact about her past or present life, no matter how
trivial, was of astonishing interest to him.  And to her, the knowledge
that she was already and swiftly, passionately, purely dear to a being
of Ringfield's earnest mould and serious mien, so different to the
other man who had come into her life, gave a sense of delicious triumph
and joy.  They continued to talk thus, in accents growing momentarily
more tender, of many things connected with her youth and his calling,
and the fact that they kept their voices down so intimately low lent
additional zest and delight to the situation.  Only when Ringfield
alluded directly to Edmund Crabbe did she show uneasiness.

"You must give me the right to settle this affair with him," said her
visitor.  "We cannot risk such statements being made to people of the
village, to such a man as Poussette, for example."

"Oh--Poussette!"  Miss Clairville found it possible and even pleasant
now to laugh.  "Do you not know then all about Mr. Poussette?  He is in
love with me, too, or so he says.  Yes, I have had a great deal of
bother with him.  That poor Mme. Poussette!  It is not enough that one
is faded and worn and has lost one's only little child, but one must
also be _wished dead_, out of the way by one's husband.  Ah--you are
startled, _mais c'est la belle verité_!  It is a good thing to be a
clergyman, like you, Mr. Ringfield; you are removed from all these
_bétises_, all these foolish imaginings.  You do your work and look
neither to the right nor the left.  How I wish I were like you!  I only
pray, for I do pray sometimes, that no thought of me will ever darken
your young and ardent life; I only hope that no care for me will ever
turn you aside from your plain duty."

"Do not, please," broke in Ringfield, pushing back his chair so loudly
that she was obliged to beg more caution, "use that tone to me.
Twenty-six is not so very young.  I should have spoken and felt as I
feel and as I speak when I was twenty.  So Poussette is added to your
list of admirers!  Will it be Father Rielle himself next, I wonder?
Oh, Miss Clairville--I was right!  The theatre is no place for you.  I
ask you to leave it, to forsake it for ever.  This your opportunity.
Do not go back to it.  I do not, it is true, know anything about it
from actual experience, but I can gather that it presents, must
present, exceptional temptations.  Will you not be guided by me?  Will
you not take and act upon my advice?"

"But the special troubles that beset me are here, not within the
theatre!  If Poussette is silly, with his ridiculous attentions when he
thinks his wife is not looking, if the other person, if----"

"You mean this man Crabbe?"

She inclined her head; at the mention of the name all spirit seemed to
die out of her.

"If he maligns me, slanders and lies about me, that is here--here at
St. Ignace, and not at the theatre.  Why, then, do you expect me to
return here for good?  I come back too often as it is.  I should leave
here altogether, but that some influence, some fate, always draws me
back."

"Whose influence? for with fate I will have nothing to do.  God and a
man's self--with these we front the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
Crabbe's evil influence still!  You knew him when he called himself by
another name?"

"Yes, Mr. Edmund Hawtree.  We, we----  I suppose you would call it a
flirtation.  He was very different then, as you may believe."

Jealousy leapt into Ringfield's breast, the first he had ever known,
and a common retort sprang to his lips.

"I should hope so!  I cannot bear to think of your having known him
well under any circumstances.  The man is low!  Whether drunk or sober
he has nothing to commend him, and I believe him to be utterly
irreclaimable and lost."

"In this world perhaps.  But not necessarily in the next?  Do you
decline, then, to continue the work of reformation?"

He winced, and upon recalling what he had said saw his error.  "No, I
retract that.  He is human, therefore a soul to be saved, as one of
God's creatures, but whether the man can be reinstated in society is a
doubtful matter.  You are right to defend him, and I am sad only when I
grudge you those memories of him.  You knew him then so very well?"

She understood the pleading tone and she endeavoured to be candid, but
how explain certain things to a man of Ringfield's calibre?  To
another, a glance, a smile, the inflection of a word, of a syllable,
and all would be clear.  How was she to frame an explanation which
should receive his tacit and grave but unenlightened approval?  How far
he could conjecture, disassociate, dissect, limit and analyse, weigh
and deduct, the various progresses in a crude amalgamation people call
Love, she did not know, and there lay her difficulty.

"I will tell you what I can.  I was quite young when I met Mr. Hawtree,
'Crabbe,' as he is now known.  It is his second name.  He had been
unfortunate in money affairs, I understood, and had not been trained to
any kind of work.  It was after I returned from Sorel that I found him
here.  He frequently came to visit Henry; they described themselves as
gentlemen together, and I suppose they were not wise company for one
another, but at first I did not take any notice.  He fell in love with
me, and talked a great deal to me, improving my English as he called
it, and you can understand how little opportunity I had had of reading
or continuing my studies.  I have no talent for the _ménage_; besides,
Henry's methods had been long in practice, and I could not unchange
them, at the age of nineteen!  Mr. Hawtree and I were thus thrown very
much together, yet one thing kept occurring which made me very
miserable.  I found out that he was drinking, and Henry too!  Then
another thing--my bad temper.  Ah! how I suffered, suffered, in those
days with that man, Mr. Ringfield!"

"I can well believe it."

"And he with me!  Perhaps some other kind of woman would have suited
him better, a timid, angelic, gentle little being who would have
appealed to him more.  When we quarrelled he grew like all you English,
haughty and sneering--ah! when I think of it!  And I changed to a
fury--the Clairville temper--and gave back even more, even worse, than
I got.  But do not let us talk any more about it!  You have discovered
what I would have hidden, and for my part I get on better when I make
myself forget it and him altogether."

He was silent; new and conflicting ideas clashed in his brain, while
very close to him in the warm, fragrant night sat this alluring, sorely
tried and lonely creature, who soon found the silence insupportable.
To keep talking was safe; to be long silent impossible, since they
seemed to draw nearer and nearer with every moment, and soon it would
either be Ringfield's hand upon that dark lock he perceived adorning
her white neck, or her head with its crown of hair stealing tenderly
towards his shoulder.  From such a precipitation of events they were
saved by timely recollection of their position and the sounds which
reached them from the road.  The boat was leaving again, and they knew
they had been thus together for an hour.  Ringfield rose.

"There is now only the man himself to be seen and made to understand
that such stories about you must cease.  I shall speak to him at once,
to-night perhaps, certainly to-morrow."

At this she quailed and could not control herself; she laid her hands
on his arm and all the delicate art of the actress was called upon to
assist her pleading.

"Oh!" she cried, "do you not see that it is better left alone?  You
take my word--you take my word of honour with you this night--I was
never married to that man.  Let it rest there.  Do not speak with him
about me.  I could not bear it!  I should be so ill, so worried, so
unhappy.  We scarcely see each other now; let it all be dropped and
forgotten.  He--he--exaggerated, forgets----  Oh!  I do not know how to
put it, but you must not speak of it.  He did not know what he was
saying, you know that yourself."

"That was what I thought at first, certainly."

They remained standing; eye on eye and her firm hands still clasping
his arm.  "You will promise me?"

He reflected a moment and then gave her his promise.

"On this condition, that if he speaks of it again, to my knowledge, to
anyone, anywhere, I must then confront him and prove it a lie on your
own showing."

Miss Clairville, only too glad to have gained her point, readily
acceded, and Ringfield at once withdrew, fortunately without meeting
anyone on the stairs or verandah.  And now once more for him prospects
were partly fair.  Pauline's denial satisfied him; easily deceived on
such a score, he knew nothing of intermediate stages of unlicensed and
unsanctified affection.  In his opinion women were either good or bad,
married or unmarried, and to find this coveted one free was enough.
The problem was how to manage the future; whether he would ever be in a
position to marry, for it had come to that, and whether Miss Clairville
would consent to leave the stage; as far as he was concerned the sooner
the better.



CHAPTER X

THE PICNIC

            ".... The charm
  Of pious sentiment diffused afar
  And human charity and social love."


There is an idea which prevails among many thoughtful people, but which
is nevertheless a good deal of a fallacy, that in the complex and
congested life of cities greater opportunities for observation of
character can be found than in the country.  Ringfield, for example,
would have combated this idea, feeling that he might have left college
and taken up his work in some large Western town, preaching every
Sunday to a numerous and flourishing congregation, and continued thus
for several years without encountering the strongly marked types he had
met within a few weeks at St. Ignace.  It may be said in general of
life in cities of the new world that dwellers in such populous centres
are apt to undergo considerable change of character; their natural
traits become altered or turned aside, dissimulation and caution are
engendered by force of circumstances, while conformity to usage and
imitation enter largely into daily conduct.  Thus, environment becomes
stronger than heredity; respectability at least is demanded,
individualities disappear, and the natural man is outwardly vanquished.
In the village, family failings, vices and virtues remain on
exhibition, as it were, for years, known to all about.  The blend here
and there is recognized; individuals are often remarkable for
peculiarities or defects of moral and physical construction, and
heredity is strong.  The simplicity of surrounding life supplies an
impressive background for the elemental passions which reveal
themselves in primitive or aboriginal force.  Absence of standards,
absence of amusements, the lack of contrast, these are a few of the
causes that contribute towards the self-centred existence led by most
inhabitants of rural communities.  To prove this, one has but to think
of a cripple, or a dwarf, or a drunken man, or a maniac; also, to
revert to pleasanter images, of an unusual flower or animal, or of
convincing and conspicuous personal beauty.  What is a cripple in the
city?  He is passed by without a glance, for there are, alas! many like
him.  What is a dwarf?  He only suggests the unnatural or unpleasant;
the last circus or a fairy-book.  What is a drunken man in a city?  Or
what a poor maniac?  Officers of the police, and places of correction,
physicians and nurses are at hand; the suffering and the evildoer are
taken away and we know them no more.

But if we change a little part of speech and write the cripple, and
proceed to think of the cripple in a village, or the dwarf, or the
drunken man or the maniac, we instantly perceive how their presence
must greatly colour the limited society in which they exist; how they
must either amuse or disgust, arouse sympathy or create fear, as the
case may be, and although a calla lily and a red-blooming cactus, a
parrot or Persian kitten, are scarcely regarded as curiosities or
rarities in the city, they may easily come to be regarded as such in
the village.

From uninteresting and unimpersonal generalizations and aggregations
such as dwarfs, cripples, lunatics, cats and parrots, we turn to the
individuals of the species and behold--it is now The Cripple, The
Dwarf, The Maniac, and so on, and how profoundly important the
appearance and conduct, habits and dwellings of these--our
companions--immediately become.  We cannot get away from them, nor they
from us.  And the beautiful young girl!  She is often safer in the
city, where a kind of dove-like wisdom soon informs and protects, than
in the lonely and silent places of the wilderness.  The beauty that was
fatally conspicuous in the village finds its rival and its level in the
town.

Ringfield had certainly had his full share of ministering to the
decadent and the unhappy at St. Ignace, and he was therefore very
pleased one day to be called on by the Rev. Mr. Abercorn, incumbent of
St Basil's at Hawthorne, the latter a small settlement, about nine
miles distant, in which the English element predominated.  Once a year
the congregation of St. Basil's gave a picnic tea, when members of
surrounding denominations met tranquilly on common ground and neutral
territory.  Macaulay's description of the peculiar position of the
Church of England is nowhere truer than in some isolated districts like
these Lower Canadian hamlets.  She does, indeed, occupy a happy middle
place between the unadorned wooden temples with whitewashed windows of
the sects, and the large, aggressive stone churches of the Romish
faith.  Were her clergy as alive to the situation and the peculiar
wants of the _peuple gentil-homme_ as they ought to be, one would meet
with greater numbers of adherents to the Episcopal ritual.

Mr. and Mrs. Abercorn were fully in sympathy with the countryside, and
acted themselves as runners and scouts in connexion with the picnic
tea, the lady seconding her husband in the most able and sagacious
manner, the latter bringing to his duties all those charms of culture
and presence which ministers of the Episcopal Church so often possess,
even when not too richly dowered with profound theological learning or
magnetic gifts of oratory.  Moral and social wisdom, tact and
experience of the world, often atone for intellectual shortcomings,
especially in rural districts, and Ringfield was compelled to admit
that he was not the only worker in the neighbourhood capable of
understanding the wants of the people.  Mr. Abercorn was about fifty,
but as enthusiastic and energetic as a much younger man.

"I knew something of French life and character before I came out here.
My wife is a native of Jersey.  Our severe climate with its long,
rigorous winter and short but hot summer has helped to form the
national character; also the scenery.  I mean that the beauty of the
place, of all these fine but lonely, austere rivers and forests creates
a melancholy, reflective tendency, and this makes it difficult in the
matter of recreation, which last is what so many of our people require,
particularly the French.  I would have amusements going all the time if
I could afford it, but that, of course, is not feasible; the _joie de
vivre_ is only to be arrived at modestly, and in our small way we try
to make our picnic tea a success.  We hope you will come over and join
us on that occasion.  We shall be having it later than usual this year,
one reason for this being the fact that such serious illness exists in
your own parish.  I refer to Mr. Henry Clairville.  It would not do to
have much visiting between the parishes.  And how is he getting on, for
I suppose you hear all about him from time to time."

Ringfield, as it happened, knew very little of what was transpiring at
the Manor House, but remarked that the worst was over, that the wife of
Poussette was still absent from her home, and that Miss Clairville had
not returned to her vocation.

"Ah," ejaculated Mr. Abercorn thoughtfully, "a peculiar family, a
peculiar family indeed; but they are very fortunate in having you here.
Oh, yes, I am not in the least bigoted, you know,--can't afford to be
down here,--and I only hope you'll stay and make a great success of the
new church.  If everything goes well, we'll hold our picnic on the 1st
of November, sort of Harvest Festival and Thanksgiving all in one, and
either I or Mrs. Abercorn will drive over for you, as I suppose you
will not be setting up a horse just yet."

On the day appointed Ringfield was sitting dully enough in his room
over the carpenter's shop.  Pauline was lingering on at Poussette's,
partly because she had no other place to go, and partly because
Ringfield was near.  Their relations had not outwardly progressed since
the evening on her balcony; several other meetings had taken place, but
once assured that she was free, Ringfield settled to his work,
preferring to put the whole episode from him for a while, until he
could feel satisfied that she might be approached on the subject of the
theatre.  Thus their feelings were like Tennyson's wood, all in a mist
of green with nothing perfect; meanwhile only a couple of planks
separated them at this very instant, and, as usual, his thoughts were
hovering about her at this hour, about half-past one o'clock, when he
heard his name called by a younger member of the Gagnon family (a
numerous one of five boys and four little girls), and descended to meet
Mrs. Abercorn.  This lady was taking the opportunity, in her rôle of
auxiliary parson and general parochial assistant, of putting in a good
word for Hawthorne and St. Basil's as she sat in her buggy at the door,
surrounded by Poussette, Martin, and eight or ten children.

An intractable little mare pawed and shuffled in an uncertain frame of
mind, apparently viewing with special disfavour the fiddling of Antoine
Archambault, who had been hanging around the village ever since
Pauline's return.  Glancing consciously up, Ringfield thought he
perceived a white hand and gleaming bracelet at the window of his old
room.

"We have a rough drive before us, with a bad four miles in one place,"
said Mrs. Abercorn, "so we'll get away at once.  You haven't been over
to Hawthorne yet, Mr. Ringfield, how is that?  But never mind, you'll
be one of us after this afternoon at any rate.  Do you play croquet?"

Looking rather astonished, Ringfield said "_No_," and the emphasis led
Mrs. Abercorn to smile as she observed him more closely.  She herself
was one of those people of good birth who instinctively ask, no matter
where they are placed, of everybody they meet, "Is she a _lady_?" "Is
he a _gentleman_?" but who, in spite of this inherent and clannish
trait, manage to make friends with the mammon of No-Family.  She was
literally as broad as she was high; short hair, turning grey, was
fantastically curled about her clever, dark eyes; she had two hats, one
for summer and one for winter, the latter a man's old seal cap; her
skirts and jackets were skimp and dowdy, and her features and
complexion unattractive, yet the authority and ease, the whole manner
of the true lady made her a delightful companion, and she would have
been equally diverting and diverted at a Royal Audience in Buckingham
Palace or at a bean-feast on an Indian reserve.  She displayed
ornaments that were not precisely jewels, the value of which was of
genealogical order; thus, she wore her grandfather's fobs and seals,
her mother's bracelets of bog-oak and lava, and her brooch contained
the hair of her only child, long deceased.  She had had one
dinner-dress for ten years of black "uncrushable grenadine," cut
square, and it was quite true that she was the niece of an earl and the
daughter of an admiral, and that she had eloped with the Rev. Marcus
Abercorn eighteen years ago.

Ringfield had never met any one like her before, but in spite of her
accent, so extremely English that in the Canadian country it was almost
certain to be dubbed "affected," and in spite of a bright worldliness
he found unusual in a clergyman's wife, he liked her very much and
watched her manipulation of the mare--Flora Macdonald--with great
interest, and not a little apprehension.

The bad four miles turned out to consist of alternate patches of
ancient corduroy road, the logs exposed for a foot or so above the
soil, and a long hogs-back of dyke-veined limestone, the ridges of spar
and quartz cutting deep into the rock.

Mrs. Abercorn sighed eloquently for the lanes of Old England as the
mare pranced, and the buggy flew over the various obstructions, bumping
and swinging in a reckless manner Ringfield had never seen equalled.

"We are a little late," said his aristocratic charioteer, her hat
crooked and her mouth quite as vicious as Flora's when touched up with
a ragged whip, "but we'll be in time for a game of croquet before tea.
We have the tea at five, because it's beginning to darken so early, and
then we have a nice little show in the school-house: Marcus and I both
believe in amusing the people.  So you see it's not exactly a picnic,
but quite a lot of things put together.  You'll see presently."

And he did.  Father and mother of their people, Mr. and Mrs. Abercorn
had instituted a remarkable series of "events," as they say on regatta
programmes--nautical, terpsichorean, athletic, musical and
histrionic--grouped under the head of "games" and the large and
delighted crowd drawn from several parishes rewarded their cheerful and
untiring efforts.  The Rector was not only all things to all men but to
many women and numerous children as well, and Ringfield noted that,
unlike the West, the men assembled were nearly all old men; there was a
marked scarcity of boys and youths, and these old men appeared to be
many years older than they had any right to appear.  Many of them
possessed but a couple of sound teeth apiece, others had retained the
lower set more or less horribly intact, while a single tusk adorned the
upper gum.  Absence of regular visits to the dentist, or indeed of any
visits at all, had wrought this ruin in faces also wrinkled and
weather-beaten by exposure to the strenuous climate.  The women showed
to better advantage than the men, and the French were more
prepossessing and better preserved than the English, especially in the
matter of teeth, owing probably to a steady diet of onions and
comparative lack of meat.

Diversity among the ladies included the fat, motherly looking ones,
several of whom were spinsters; the young, too-smartly dressed
daughters of farmers, possessing very little beauty, but of good height
and figure; one person clothed entirely in black silk and very
conscious of a new kind of watch, of gold and colours and small, pinned
to her left bosom; and last, a couple of conventional Englishwomen
staying at the Rectory.

It was natural that Mrs. Abercorn should desire to present to her
friends and a few of the "quality" so good-looking a young man as
Ringfield, and as soon as the buggy had been tied up under a grove of
maples, he was led about by the energetic queen of the feast, whose
attire, weird enough while driving, had now culminated in a highly
rational although unusual aspect.  Everything upon her partook of an
unpleasing and surely unnecessary brevity; thus her figure was too
short for her breadth, and her skirts too short for her figure; her
jacket was too short over her hips, and her gloves too short over her
wrists; her hair was too short on her neck and her veil too short over
her nose.  Yet the rakish hat settled, and the fobs and seals shaken
out, she appeared mentally fresh and charming, and the rich cadences of
her cultivated voice gave Ringfield pleasure, slightly recalling Miss
Clairville's accents, and he was happy in experiencing for the first
time in his life that amiable naturalness, inimitable airiness, ease
and adaptability, which characterize the Anglican clergy and their
method of doing things.  Attenuated tennis, Lilliputian Badminton,
swings, a greased pole, potato and sack races, fiddling, and dancing on
a platform, for the French, all these he passed in review with Mrs.
Abercorn and the English ladies, presently participating in a merry
game of croquet on a rocky, uneven, impossible kind of ground.  The
Rev. Marcus, and the person in black silk joined in this game of
croquet, the latter so exclusive that it gave Ringfield the feeling
that people must have when they are chosen for a _quadrille d'honneur_.

Without relief or intermission the amusements held sway till about
half-past four, when even the quality tired of their croquet; the day,
though bright, was cold, and a bonfire on the rocks was greatly
patronized by the very old and very young, while distant preparations
for tea were viewed, at first with stealthy, half-reluctant admiration,
and then with open restlessness.  The patriarchs--toothless and
wrinkled, yet not a man of them over fifty-eight--stood around in
expectant silent clusters, and also in their best clothes, of which a
great deal of faded red neck-tie and pepper and salt trousers seemed
chiefly to strike the eye.

The tea was to be served in the large barn adjoining the church,
surrounded on two sides by tall plantations of Indian corn, a rough
kind known as horse corn, and not used at table.  Very soon those
engaged in the games fell away by twos and threes, and the rector and
his wife gaily beating the covers afforded by forest and grove, all
gradually converged to the meeting point outside the big doors of the
barn, through which were now passing the wives and daughters of the
plough, bearing coarse bedroom jugs of tea and coffee, plates of cakes,
pies, and sandwiches.  The people waiting thus in patient content at
the doors were orderly and sober, and none ventured to enter till their
rector, having unearthed even the remotest and shyest member of his
flock, advanced in florid hurry and taking his wife and Ringfield with
him, passed under the hanging branches of maize, asparagus, fern and
crabapples which decorated the great door.  The floor of the barn,
although partially cleared, was still half full of straw, and flecks of
it flew through the air as the people trooped in, decently awed but
amused too, for the ripple of lowered laughter and pleased hum of
voices resounded throughout the building.  The walls, draped with flags
and coloured curtains, held sheaves of grasses and several lamps in
brackets at the sides, and the food, good, plain, with plenty of it,
adorned the two long tables that ran down the middle.  Ringfield, at
the head of a table, was comparing the scene with some Harvest Homes of
his youth, and wondering who would start the Doxology, when he heard
the rector say, standing a long way off at the end of the other table:--

"We have the Rev. Mr. Ringfield of St. Ignace with us this afternoon,
and I have no doubt that he is already as anxious as the rest of you
for a share of the good things we see here before us, so I am going to
ask him to say--ah--Grace, then we can fall to.  Mr. Ringfield, will
you be kind enough to ask the blessing?"

There was a pause, not because Ringfield was unready on these occasions
nor because of any fear lest his special kind of intercessory
gastronomic prayer might fail to carry conviction with it, but on
account of the intrusion of two belated arrivals down by the door.  He
could not distinguish very clearly, but there seemed to be some one
either invalided or very young in a basket-chair, wheeled in by a young
woman of twenty-two or twenty-three, who entering brusquely, on a run,
and laughing, was silenced, and the chair and its occupant pushed back
against the wall.  This slight but untimely interruption over,
Ringfield gazed solemnly around--it was already growing a little dim in
the barn--and spoke as follows, with head thrown back, and closed
eyes:--

"O Lord, the giver of all good things, who sendest seed-time and
harvest, rain and sun on the fruits of the earth and crownest the year
with fatness, look down on us at this time and bless us."  At this
point the Anglicans present sat down under the impression that the
"grace" was over.  They rose again in confusion as Ringfield
continued:--

"We thank Thee for these, Thy temporal blessings vouchsafed unto us as
a people.  We have Thy pledge in the book of Thy Holy Word, that while
the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest shall not fail.  We thank
Thee for the fields white with harvest.  We thank Thee for our great
and beautiful country; for its beneficent laws, its opportunities, its
great and unequalled privileges, and we pray for our rulers, for all in
authority, for all engaged in the ministry of whatever denomination,
for the Queen and the Royal Family.  We pray for him whose duty it is
to go in and out before this assembly; grant him wisdom and spiritual
strength; bless also the partner of his life work, and may their united
labours prevail and resound to Thy glory and the honour of Thy name,
and while we remember at this time to thank Thee with full hearts for
these temporal gifts, let us be swift to remember also Thy choicer,
greater, holier gift of Free Salvation; Mercy, Pardon, Peace, and
glorious relief from sin and its thraldom--these may be ours for the
asking.  O Lord, if any sinner lurk among us, if any poor sinner be at
this board to-night, search him, O Lord, and purge his mortal body, try
it with Thy true refiner's fire.  As our snows are pure, so let us be
pure.  As our waters are deep yet clear, let our minds be clear of
evil, and rid of all offence; and for all who by reason of sin, or
pain, or sickness, or any other infirmity either of body or of mind
cannot be with us at this time, we pray that Thou wilt comfort, uplift,
forgive and relieve them.  All--for Christ's sake--Amen."



CHAPTER XI

"ANGEEL!"

  "Like a sheep enthralled
  'Mid thorns and brambles."


On the conclusion of this address, which was Ringfield's idea of a
"grace" and which was modelled on the Methodist formula customary on
such occasions, the people, whose appetites had been held over-long in
check, took their seats with expressions of relief and in some cases
with audible grunts and whispers of annoyance.  The truth was,
Ringfield had exhibited a want of tact in expatiating in an eloquent
prayer on things better left alone, from the village point of view.  It
was bad enough to occupy so much time when already it was darkening and
soon the lamps would have to be lighted; it was bad enough to pray in
public for the rector and his wife; it was entirely inexcusable to hint
at the presence of a sinner in their midst, at the very board now
covered with the home-made dainties cooked and sent in by the ladies of
Hawthorne.  In itself perhaps the prayer, though trite and redundant
(Ringfield was not in his best vein, no longer single-minded), was
eloquent and pointed, and the reference to the snows and rivers of the
country extremely poetic and suggestive, yet it was not in accordance
with the best taste, although prompted by the best feeling.  The rector
and his wife, ignoring their own sentiments, made haste to smooth away
the little difficulty that had thus unexpectedly arisen, and in a few
minutes all was in a pleasant clatter and babble with the pouring of
tea, cutting of huge three-decker cakes, and passing of large, solid
plates holding pyramids of equally large and solid sandwiches.
Ringfield, devoting himself to the English visitors and the person in
black silk, who was the widow of a deceased lumber king correctly
reputed to have left an enormous fortune, was by the nature of things
the last to perceive that he had wounded the delicate sensibilities of
the company, and therefore he made a good meal, unconscious of the
comments lower down his table and also around the rector.

"It's always the way with them Methodists," said one speaker in a
careful undertone, a venerable body of fifty or so, with four teeth
left in his head, bent, bald and wrinkled.  "They pride themselves on
what they call 'extem-pore' speaking." He gave the word only three
syllables of course.  "Why, it's mostly out of the Prayer Book anyway!
He said 'any other infirmity,' did you notice?  And we say, 'any other
adversity,' don't we?  Well, where's the difference?"

"The tairms are not precisely in the nature of synonyms," remarked the
schoolmaster, a Scotchman of sandy and freckled appearance, who was
cutting a sandwich into small pieces with his penknife and then
frugally conveying them to his mouth with the aid of the same useful
implement.  "But in a sairtain sense ye can _call_ them synonyms."

"It's out of course and all irregular like to pray for the Queen and
the Royal Family on a day like this.  'Twould be best keep that for
Sundays where it belongs," said the wife of the ancient who had spoken
first.

"What can ye expect, ma'am, when they come to it without their notes?
Stands to reason, if any man's going to preach earnest, _earnest_, mind
you, he'll require some notes or heads jotted down, clear and easy to
be got at, before him."  This was the opinion of another elderly man,
but of a fat and comfortable if blustering variety, who had come out
from the English provinces thirty years before as cook with a regiment,
and was now the Hawthorne butcher and general store-keeper, also
accounted a rich man.

"But that's not the point," he went on with husky and stertorous
fervour.  "The point is not whether what he said was well said or ill
said; the point is, he should never have spoke them words at all.
Point?  To almost point the finger at us sitting around this hospitable
board declaring we were all sinners!  So we are, all of us.  The Litany
says so, don't it?  Don't it say, 'miserable sinners'?"

"It does, it does," murmured a sympathetic female engaged in feeding
two out of eleven kinds of cake to a child on her lap.

"And the rector leaves it there, where it ought to be left.  In my
opinion, ma'am, it don't do no good to pray nor preach too direct.
It's casting a stone, that's what it is, it's casting a stone."

"Perhaps he was nervous, poor young man, at seeing so many people,"
said the young mother of the child who was crumbling the cake all over
its mouth and fingers and dress without swallowing any, having
previously been regaled with maple sugar and molasses candy outside,
and consequently not feeling very hungry.  "Perhaps he has heard about
Angeel."

The latter was the common pronunciation of Angele, the name of the
little girl in the basket-chair who was engaged like the rest in eating
and drinking in company with her nurse not far from Mr. Abercorn.

At the word "Angeel" several warning coughs around her, winks, nudges
and a kick under the table, made the young woman so flurried that she
slapped the child for not eating properly, and the child immediately
beginning to cry, a diversion was created, but not before Ringfield had
overheard a few remarks touching his recent prayer, not exactly
flattering to his self-esteem.  Soon the conversation lapsed as the
piles of cake, custard and pumpkin pies and jugs of tea were depleted;
and Mr. Abercorn, upon whom the quiet and gathering gloom had a
depressing effect, jumped up and asked for volunteers to assist in
lighting the lamps.

"We usually get through without artificial aid to our eyes and our
mouths, but that is when the picnic tea is held in October.  We are at
least a fortnight late this year.  We shall want the tall men for
this--Jacobs, Enderby, Anselme--you take these three lamps on the other
side while I find somebody to help me with mine."

"On the score of height, at least," said Ringfield pleasantly, leaving
his seat and striding down the centre of the barn, "I can offer my
services.  Which are the ones to be lighted?  These two and the one
just over our heads?"

"Very good of you, I'm sure," responded the rector briefly.  "They are
quite steady on their brackets, I suppose, men?  Now shut those doors;
we don't want any draught.  Be careful with the matches, everybody!"

The others had got to work first, and along their side of the wall,
Anselme, Jacobs, and Enderby, the butcher, slowly lit their three
lamps, when, Ringfield, busy over a refractory wick and just in the act
of applying a match, in turning his head, saw directly beneath him the
basket-chair and its occupant as well as the young woman in charge of
it.

The shock of perceiving what was in reality more of a Thing than a
person, being an unfortunate child of about nine years of age,
otherwise well formed, but with a weak and hanging head enlarged very
much beyond its normal size and yet with a pair of shrewd eyes and a
smiling mouth, told upon his nerves.  He started, leant too heavily on
the bracket, and in a second the lighted lamp, as yet without a
chimney, fell on the floor.

In another second the straw and decorations were all in a blaze, the
barn full of smoke and commotion; and he was conscious only of himself
and the rector wildly stamping, grovelling, and pushing with might and
main for what seemed hours of fear and suspense.  The men tore the
great doors open; there were, happily, no corridors to tread, no stairs
to descend; the women and children first, and then their husbands and
fathers, rushed out, mostly uninjured, into the cool twilight air, and
when Ringfield came to himself he found that in some way he too was
outside the barn, holding on to the basket-chair, nearly hysterical
from the fright he had sustained, but still endeavouring to calm the
dreadful child and its nurse, both of whom were shrieking wildly.

"Angeel!  Angeel!" cried the girl, and then in French: "Oh, what would
they say to me if anything happened to you!  It doesn't matter about
me, only you, Angeel, only you!"

Ringfield looked around, dazed.  The comfort, jollity, and abandon of
the picnic tea were things of the past.  The barn had been saved and
the fire was out, but the groups of excited, tearful women and
coatless, dishevelled men, the rector with one hand badly burnt, Mrs.
Abercorn loudly deploring the loss of her hat and an antique
bracelet--all was forlorn, changed, miserable!  And all this was his
fault, his doing, the result of his carelessness!  He could scarcely
frame the words with which to deeply lament the unfortunate accident,
but his very genuine contrition softened the rector's heart even while
he felt some resentment at the sudden fatality which had spoiled the
day and in his own case was destined to leave a very unpleasant
remembrance.

"The question is," said Mr. Abercorn, talking to Enderby and the
schoolmaster, "whether we are to go on with the rest of the programme.
I'm the only one, happy to say, at all injured, and already the pain is
better.  Plunge in, men, and get out all the burnt stuff and tidy the
tables.  It might have been worse; thank God, none were hurt!  And we
mustn't let Mr. Ringfield feel badly about it.  The bracket was weak,
I'm sure it was weak, and he's a stranger among us.  What are you
saying, Enderby?  A judgment on him?  Nonsense.  I thought you had more
sense.  Ask him to remain for the evening and everything shall go on as
we intended to have it."

But Ringfield did not care to stay.  Everything was against him; for
the first time in his life he felt himself a failure,--in the way.  How
had he come to be so careless?  Well he knew, for the face of the
dreadful child, in spite of its deformity, evinced a strong, strong,
insistent resemblance to a face he knew.  The dark hair and eyes, the
shape of the forehead, the way the hair grew on the forehead--where had
he seen it all reproduced not so very long ago?  Miss Clairville's
expression, colouring, and animated play of gesture lived again in this
mysterious child.

About seven o'clock, just as Mrs. Abercorn's "nice little show" was
beginning, he took his way home.  The path lay along the darkest road
he had ever seen; there was neither moon nor stars, and the blackness
of a country road bordered by dense forests can only be understood by
those who have travelled at such a time, and for the nine miles that he
plodded stupidly along--for he declined to wait to be driven--given up
to sombre and sinister thoughts, he was a most unhappy man.



CHAPTER XII

THE HEART OF POUSSETTE

  "Yet is the creature rational--endowed
  With foresight, hears too, every Sabbath day,
  The Christian promise with attentive ear,
  Nor disbelieves the tidings which he hears, ..."


About a week later, Ringfield was descending the hilly road behind
Poussette's at four o'clock in the afternoon, when he discerned a new
arrival at the wharf, and as the tourist season was over, the boat only
making a few occasional trips, he was curious concerning the lady who,
showily if neither correctly nor expensively attired, was looking about
her in disappointment and consternation.  Poussette himself hurried out
in his character of host; his manner was more than usually warm and
familiar as he took her bag and umbrella, and Ringfield soon learnt
that she was Miss Sadie Cordova from Montreal, although originally from
New York, a member of the Theatre of Novelties, who had come to pay
Miss Clairville a visit.  This new acquisition to St. Ignace society
was more consistently lively than Pauline, not being troubled with
moods, and she brightened the place up very considerably in various
directions; she did not share Pauline's room, for Poussette gallantly
led her to the apartment vacated by Mme. Poussette, but the two friends
were constantly together, and Ringfield at first rejoiced in the advent
of the gay Cordova, as it intimated a sensible enjoyment of life on
Pauline's part in place of moping and brooding, and as it also appeared
to keep Edmund Crabbe off the premises.  But these two good ends were
gained at the expense of a third, for the constant and animated, even
tender attentions of the host were altogether too obvious, although at
first no complaint could be made, since so much feminine society served
to keep Poussette also steady and sober.  Still, card-playing in the
mornings, noisy operatic music in the afternoons (there was no piano,
only an old American organ, in the house) and coquettish scufflings,
dancing, and conscious giggling _tête-à-têtes_ in the hall every long,
lamp-lit evening soon became wearisome, and Ringfield, made vaguely
uneasy, took on himself to reprove Poussette.

The place was the bar--always the most attractive spot in the house,
for the Indian guide, a sober, worthy man, kept it absolutely clean and
tidy, and there were comfortable _habitant_ chairs and a wide hearth
for logs.  These were burning brightly now, as the first November snows
were falling, and while Ringfield expostulated with Poussette, the
latter spread out his fat hands to the blaze.  Upon the little finger
of the left hand sat a square seal ring of pale cornelian, and as
Ringfield looked he clearly saw the capital letter "C" picked out in
red upon the white.  New and hateful pangs, suspicions, jealousies,
assailed him; he was sure that this must be Pauline's ring, although he
had never noticed her wearing it, and the thoughts thereby engendered
did not tend to make him listen calmly to Poussette's line of defence.
So far from being offended at the clerical interest in his affairs, the
Frenchman was immensely flattered and encouraged to speak out.

"And are you quite sure," said Ringfield in conclusion, "are you
perfectly certain that Miss Cordova knows you are a married man?  In my
opinion there is small harm in the lady! the poor, thoughtless creature
is too much occupied with her silly clothes and music and trivial
passing of the time to work lasting mischief, but I remember that she
follows a godless calling--she is an actress and has been one longer
than Miss Clairville.  You must be careful.  It is time Mme. Poussette
was relieved from her charge and came home."

"But how--come home?  Come at this place again?  Bigosh--but that will
not do, Mr. Ringfield--at all, sir!  Beeg fuss, sure--my wife come at
this place so soon after leave nurse Henry Clairville!  Dr. Renaud will
tell you that.  No, sir,--Madame is come no more on me, on St. Ignace
at all.  When she leave me, go nurse seeck man down with the 'Pic,' she
is no more for me.  _Voyez_--m'sieu, I am tired of my wife.  I shall
try get a divorce."

Ringfield was astounded.  "You, Poussette!  A divorce!  From that poor,
unhappy woman who has done you no harm, and will have nothing to live
upon?  How can you do such a thing?  Why, you must not let your mind
dwell on such a thing for an instant!  I do not believe in divorce, or
at least only in rare and exceptional cases, and yours is not one of
these.  You understand me--your wife may be delicate, even afflicted,
but no man puts his wife away for these reasons.  All the more you must
cherish her, comfort her, keep her by you.  If she grew worse you would
be justified in putting her, as we say, under restraint, or in the care
of those best fitted to look after her, but even then you would remain
her husband.  That is the unwritten law of our and of all true
religion."

Poussette spat into the fire and considered.  Father Rielle had told
him this in almost the same words many times over; he had left the
Catholic communion for that reason, and had hoped for better things
from the young minister.

"Don't Methodists divorce?" said this nineteenth-century rural Henry
the Eighth.

Ringfield moved uneasily in his chair.  "They may--they can--they
do--but as I have told you, the causes must be exceptional ones.
Bitter tragedy--abhorrent false conduct, you understand me?"

The other nodded.  "My wife--nothing like that the matter with her.
All the contree, all the reever know Mme. Natalie Poussette--good
woman, sure.  No--but see now, m'sieu, now I am talking, and I tell you
my trouble.  I'm not so bad _garçon_, you know; kind of fond of drink
now and then--I 'pologize, 'pologize, m'sieu, for you see me a leetle
bit dhrunk.  Now--understand.  I'm by nature a most loving kind of man,
and I'm fond of leetle children.  Yes, sir, bigosh, _excusez_ a leetle
bit of swear--but that is my nature, that is me, and I would like, sir,
some leetle babee of my own.  I make quite a bit of monee, m'sieu, with
the 'otel and the mill, and a leetle bet and a leetle horses.
_Bien_--what you say?  Very well.  What must I do with this
monee--while I live, and if I die?  'Give it to the Church,' Father
Rielle, he say.  'No, sir,' I say!"

And Poussette jammed a couple of smouldering logs with his heel; they
instantly knit together and sent out a big crackling shower of sparks
that caused both men to retire their chairs farther from the hearth.

A suspicion crossed Ringfield's mind.  "Did you send your wife to nurse
Henry Clairville or did she go of her own accord?"

"_Certainement_--my wife go herself.  Dr. Renaud--come for her.  She
will not take the 'pic'.  She will take nothing.  She will nevaire die,
that woman!"

The remark was saved from being distasteful to the listener by the fact
that it was given with a melancholy despairing gesture, which to a less
serious person than Ringfield might have been amusing.  But his sense
of humour, originally meagre, was not developing at St. Ignace as fast
as it might, and he saw nothing humorous in this view of madame's
immunity from disease.  Before he could frame a reply, Poussette went
on:--

"So you see, I like you, Mr. Ringfield, and I'm going to pay you good
monee, and I believe you--good Christian man, and I want you to help me
get a divorce.  Mme. Poussette (you can say like this to the
Government)--Mme. Natalie Poussette, poor woman--she is so delicate, so
fonny, so--so ill, she cannot have any leetle babee; no leetle children
play round their fader--that's me, Amable Poussette, beeg man, rich
man, good Methodist, built a fine church on top of the Fall.  So this
Mister Poussette after many years live with his wife, after long time
he wants to marry another woman and have plenty small babee, play round
in the summertime (here Poussette hushed his voice) under the beeg
trees, and in the water, learn to swim in the reever, splash like old
duck, old feesh!  Many a time I feel like go on the dhrunk.  Well sir,
nice, bright, young wife, sing, act, dance--we'd have beeg tam
together, and I'd dhrink nothing but tea, sure!  Go to Morréall, buy
_tiquette_ on the theatre, ride on the street car, make transfer to
Hochelaga Park, get out, have nice glass beer--just one, m'sieu--go on
the _boutiques_, buy nice bonnett, eh?  I have monee to do like that,
but [with the national shrug] I have no wife.  I am tole there is
everything very fonny there all year round, but me--I have only been
there two, three tam; no good go alone, meet bad company, get on the
dhrunk then, sure.  Bigosh--_excusez_, Mr. Ringfield, there's nothing
like young, handsome wife and plenty babee keep their father straight.
Eh?  So I tell you what I want to do.  I will be for selling this
place; get three thousand dollar for it; go to Morréall every winter;
perhaps go on that Hotel Champlain or some other nice _maison pension_
and have big tam--what do you say?  That's no bad thing--" Poussette
was very earnest here--"for me--to wish young wife, clever wife, and
leetle babee play round!  Before I have the hairs gray, or lose what I
have.  _Regardez un peu, m'sieu_!"

And Ringfield could not refuse to examine the fine head of black hair
thrust towards him.  He was touched in spite of clerical scruples.

"No, no, certainly not a bad thing," he said gently, "not at all an
unnatural thing.  I think I understand, Poussette, I can see----" and
Ringfield seemed to feel something in his throat, at any rate he
coughed and hesitated.  "I can see that your position has its
difficulties and its--its trials.  But, Poussette, we all have those.
We all have to deny ourselves in some way, in some unexpected quarter.
We cannot always have what we want, that is, in fact, at the root of
all religious feeling, and, if I am not mistaken, at the root of all
religious belief as well.  If the great Creator of the universe has had
to suffer and deny Himself, as we know, in the past, has He not still
to suffer as He looks on at the wickedness and sinful passions of the
sons of men?  The universe is not absolutely happy, perfect--would that
it were!  And so this law of suffering runs through everything and
assails everybody.  None can hope to escape.  We--ministers of the
Gospel--we do not question this; we recognize that it is so, and all we
can do is to impress it upon you who listen to us.  I have tried to do
this; I have preached upon this--that to each individual man, woman and
child, there comes--there must and will come a time, when material
success, health, wealth and happiness are non-important, and when moral
issues, when duty, character and conduct are the great essential facts
of life to be met and grappled with.  You--Poussette--have been no
exception to this rule in the past--you know the habit of life to which
I refer--and now here is this new trial, this new difficulty about your
wife.  Even were I able to do anything for you--because it is a lawyer,
a notary you require, not a minister--I could have nothing to do with
your marrying again.  That--I must tell you plainly--is out of the
question.  It is not good for man--some men--to live alone; my Church,
my Bible tell me this, and may be I am learning to know it from
experience of such cases as yours; but once married, and married to one
in whom there is no fault, you must not seek to lightly undo what God
and the sacraments of the Church in which you were united have wrought.
I fear, Poussette, that in leaving Father Rielle and coming to me, you
were not acting honestly, openly."

Poussette, in admiration of his hero's beautiful pastoral diction, felt
no resentment and exhibited no temper.  "No fault!" he exclaimed.  "Ah,
but there--that is not so, Mr. Ringfield.  Look, sir, look now, there
is fault enough--beeg fault--what I have said.  That is enough, and I
have plenty monee to make it more than enough."

"Money--money!" Ringfield exclaimed in his turn, "The root of many
kinds of evil.  How much money have you, my friend?  You are accounted
rich, as it goes in St. Ignace, at Bois Clair, in Hawthorne, but in
Quebec, in Three Rivers, in Montreal--no!  You would soon find the
difference.  The rich man of the country might easily become the poor
man of the town; living is expensive there--you might find your
business here--I mean the mill--not pay so well with you absent; in
short, Poussette, you would be foolish to change your way of life!  It
is not worth your while to leave St. Ignace, but I know who ought to
go, to be sent to the right about pretty quickly too, and that is--this
man, Edmund Crabbe.  What do you think of helping me to get him away?
He's a public nuisance in spite of his education, and we should all do
better without him."

Ringfield was always torn by painful, shameful jealousy when he thought
of the Englishman, and his entire nature appeared to change.  He could
not have called him "Hawtree" or "Mr." for his life; that savoured of
gentility and the fervid past when the man was perhaps a picturesque
figure, quoting the English classics in the guise of an unfortunate
exile.  Besides, if he fathomed Poussette's feelings correctly, the
latter in his own jealousy of Crabbe might be found a powerful ally.
The plain truth was--three men wanted the same woman; and vaguely, it
seemed to Ringfield as if he--the worthiest--had chief right to her; he
feared not Poussette, the married and the marred, the uneducated, the
inferior one of her own race, but he still feared the perversely
cultured, doubtlessly gifted, decadent "Oxford man," the social
superior of every one in the village.

Poussette again reflected.  Any latent jealousy he had entertained of
the minister tended to disappear under the fire of these inquisitorial
interviews, and Ringfield might always be credited with having fine
command over his features.

"Ah, well, m'sieu," said the Frenchman, sagaciously nodding, "Crabbe is
no harm.  You get me my divorce; let me marry Ma'amselle Pauline, live
with her at the beeg house, and I'll promise--_parole d'honneur_,
m'sieu--to see no more that man."

"The Manor House!  It will be a long time before any one can live
there, I should think!" said Ringfield impatiently, concealing the
spasm of tortured pride that passed over him as he heard Poussette's
tactics defined.  "And what if she will not marry you?  Mlle.
Clairville is wedded to the theatre, she tells me, and although of that
I cannot approve, it would not be so bad as marrying a divorced person."

"But we are great friends, sir!  Many a tam I have kept that house,
many, many months, m'sieu, supply well with food--the meat and the
dhrink, the chickenne and the wine.  Her brother is _fou_--mad, he has
not one cent monee.  How then shall mademoiselle fare?  I am good
tenant of her brother, the Sieur, Seigneur of St. Ignace, and I send my
peep there with good things to eat; he will tell you, sir, of the old
tam and all about the _corvée_ when every one in the _paroisse_ do same
thing; one man feesh, another man beeg chickenne or turkey, another
patackes, another flour from the mill.  Why, sir, if it was not that I,
Amable Poussette, was good friend there, I don't know, I don't _know_,
m'sieu, how they get along 'tall!  Those Archambault--all bad peep--all
bad together; the old woman, the old man, the girl, the boy--all the
same, sure."

"Who pays them?--You?"

"No, m'sieu; do better things with my monee."

"But they don't believe in the _corvée_, surely?"

"It is like this."  And Poussette tapped the other's knee with his fat
fingers, thereby displaying the cornelian ring to much advantage, and
Ringfield saw with satisfaction that on top of the large "C" was cut a
little "S".  Had the relations between Poussette and Miss Cordova so
quickly progressed and of what nature were they?  The eye of the
Frenchman gave a comprehensive wink.  "It is all right, Mr. Ringfield,
all right, sir, Mees Cordova--she put the ring on my finger herself;
she was just fooling last night and I like to be good friends with her;
then she speak for me to Mees Clairville, and so--_vous comprenez_,
sir.  But no--I pay no money to these Archambault.  It is like this.
There have been Clairville many years at St. Ignace; there have also
been Archambault too a long tam.  They say once one was married with
another, but I do not know; I would not ask M'sieu Clairville, and I
would not ask Ma'amselle Pauline.  This is a long tam ago, I only speak
of what I hear.  I know this, m'sieu--it is not a nice place, not a
nice life for a lady like Mees Clairville.  Have you not seen her on
the theatre?  You would like to see her at that?"

"No, decidedly not.  I have never seen a play.  I do not approve of the
life she leads, and trust that when her brother is better she will not
return to her vocation."

"But how--she must make some leetle monee of her own, and it is for why
she goes on the theatre.  I have seen her act and sing."

"Can she sing?"

"Ah, you shall hear.  She will sing for me, m'sieu, and
bigosh--_excusez_, Mr. Ringfield--I'll get her sing to-night.  And if I
do that, will you, sir, do one great thing for me?"

Ringfield smiled.  "I won't promise, Poussette.  You're a deeper
character than I thought you were.  At any rate, I'll do nothing about
a divorce--make sure of that, man!"

Poussette, with large, noble gestures, waved the divorce away.

"I say nothing.  I will do nothing.  But if you will be so kind, sir,
as to speak of me to Mees Clairville, should my wife, Mme.
Natalie--die!  Tell her, sir, how I am good man, _au fond_, sir, by my
nature; how I love the leetle babee, plenty small babee; how I am kind,
jolly man, by my nature, sir; how I would like to marry with her, give
her good tam.  You tell her this, Mr. Ringfield, for me, and make me
your best friend, sure?"

Half-laughing, half-shocked, and for the moment forgetting his own
views and dreams concerning her, Ringfield acceded to the unusual
request.

"And remember, m'sieu--tell her I go no more on the dhrunk after I
marry with her--no, sir, go no more 'tall.  If we live in Morréall,
tell her I'll go no more on that Hotel Champlain neither; a friend of
mine, Napoleon Legendre, he has a temperance 'otel in Craig Street; I
go there, sir, and never touch even one glass of beer.  Tell her that.
And tell her I am for selling this place, and p'raps buy Clairville
Château.  Tell her----"

"Enough, enough, my good Poussette!" cried Ringfield, jumping up as he
heard feminine voices nearing their retreat.  "Your virtuous
resolutions do you credit, and may you be enabled to perform and carry
them through--if not to the letter at least in the spirit."

"And you don't think me _bad, low_ kind of _garçon_, eh?"

"I do not, indeed."

"Say"--and Poussette's hand instinctively moved towards the
counter--"you will dhrink a leetle glass beer, just one, sir, on that
with me?"

"Poussette!"

With an injured expression, and a rapidity amazing for so fat a man,
Poussette slipped round behind the counter and brought out two bottles
of ginger ale; in a twinkling the tall tumblers were ready and he
offered one to Ringfield with a deep and exaggerated bow.

"Ah--I see.  I beg your pardon, Poussette.  I thought you meant the
other kind.  Of course I will drink with you and with pleasure."

The glasses were placed side by side, each taking one and looking
intently at one another.  In that moment all selfishness died out of
Ringfield; he felt the importance of the opportunity.

"Will you shake hands first, Poussette?"

"_Mais oui_, m'sieu!  _Certainement_, but wait, sir, one moment!"

With repeated rubbings on the clean roller-towel behind him, turning
back of cuffs and a general straightening of the person and freshening
of the attire, the Frenchman at length proffered his fat hand, and
Ringfield clasped it with a firm, bold grasp; his muscles were twice as
strong as those of the Frenchman, for while the one had been chiefly
employed in the kitchen, at a rude desk, and had rusted in long loafing
and idling intervals, the other had maintained his rowing and paddling
and his interest in other athletic pursuits; even a half-dozen lessons
in boxing had he laid to his credit.

"Now I've got you," said he, smiling, as the fat hand lay tightly
imprisoned in the lean one, "and I'm not going to let you go till you
make me a promise.  See here--Poussette--promise me now--not to touch a
drop of liquor again for a whole year.  We'll let it go at that; I
won't say anything about beer.  By degrees, man, we'll fight the Devil
and all his works.  By degrees, and by prayer, and by every argument in
favour of right living that I can bring before you--we'll fight this
thing out together, you and I.  Don't wait for some hysterical
occasion, but do your plain duty now, while I hold your hand in mine.
If you should marry again, Poussette, and should ever have those little
children playing about you--what then?  You'd want to lead a straight
life then--and before, I know you would.  Come--make me the promise
now--and if you break it, as you may do, come to me and tell me of it;
make it a second time and so--each interval may be longer, do you
see--if you 'take the pledge' as it is called, it is likely to be in
public, and your friends and fellow-drinkers hear about it, and
ridicule you and laugh at the idea, and so you are driven to drink
again.  What do you say, Poussette?"

"It is then--just between you and me, sir?"

"That's the idea.  Of course I shall say nothing about it to a third
person.  Come--you promise!"

Poussette seemed uneasy.

"But--m'sieu--just you and me?  That seems, sir, just same thing as go
confess to Father Rielle.  Beg pardon, Mr. Ringfield, but bigosh,
sir--that is same sure as go on the confession."

Ringfield saw the point.

"I understand, Poussette.  You are right.  We must not be ashamed of
trying to be good.  Nothing done in the corner, eh?  Well, then, you
tell--anybody you like."

"The new lady--Mees Cordova!  Will that be all right, sir?"

"Why Miss Cordova?  Oh, well--never mind!  So long as I've got your
word, Poussette, the word of an honest man, eh?"

"I'll thry, sir."

"That's good.  That's all right.  You're a _man_, Poussette."

The Frenchman wiped the tumblers thoughtfully and gazed intently into
space.  Perhaps he saw there the future small Poussettes playing out of
doors; perhaps too, he saw the faded, weary woman who bore his name,
still watching the sick man in the old manor house.

"You see, m'sieu," he said impressively, "if Mme. Poussette was to come
right, if she come again on me here, feex up things around the house,
be well and jolly, I would not send her away, I would not thry get this
divorce.  Fonny things happens--but I don't know about my wife.  Dr.
Renaud think she will always be the same.  It is hard for me, Mr.
Ringfield, sir--me, jolly kind of man--have a wife go like silly person
all over the place, sing and walk by herself, make up songs, fonny
_chansons_.  Ah, you don't know how I have hard tam with that one!
But, I'll wait till I see how she is in two, three weeks; the
doctor--he say Henry Clairville almost well now."

"And it is understood you will leave Miss Clairville alone--and Miss
Cordova.  Remember, Poussette, you have engaged me to preach in your
church and to minister here in this parish.  I must refuse to do either
if you offend against common decency and morality.  Besides--Miss
Clairville will never, I am positive, listen to you.  You must see as
well as I do, her pride in her family connexions, however worthless
these are to-day."

"_Bien_," said Poussette jauntily, "if not Mees Clairville, then Mees
Cordova.  That is for why I wear her ring.  I can persuade,
sir--bigosh, _excusez_ m'sieu, I can persuade!"

"So it seems," said the other drily, and would have continued his
lecture had not the two ladies, who had been in the hall laughing and
smiling around the bar door, now appeared boldly on the scene, and
Ringfield made his escape, not before he had promised to look in that
evening during an improvised concert at which Miss Sadie Cordova would
dance, and Miss Clairville act and sing.



CHAPTER XIII

A SICK SEIGNEUR

  "He sits alone
  On stormy waters in a little boat
  That holds but him and can contain no more!"


Meanwhile the house of Clairville was undergoing drastic changes at the
hands of Mme. Poussette.  The patient, propped up in his ancient and
tattered bed, was now strong enough to look at books; many hours he
passed in this way while madame roamed over the doleful house, setting
in order and cleaning as well as she could.  Her strength, patience and
endurance were remarkable; she could dust, sweep, scrub, hammer, all
day long and never experience fatigue; walls were rubbed down, windows
opened and washed, furniture drawn forth from dusty armoires and
cupboards raked out--and still the work went on, each day bringing to
light some dark, unfamiliar nook, some unexplored room or closet.  At
Poussette's she never worked at all; sensitiveness to strangers and
fear of the servants mastered her; at Clairville she worked
incessantly, and when her nursing was done, entered upon her labours in
this Augean house with steady passionless activity.

Clairville was badly pitted and every remnant of good looks had left
him, yet on the first day that he could put his feet to the floor he
would have sent madame into the front room, saying:--

"Bring me the suit of clothes you will see hanging on a nail in the
wall".

She stared at him, knowing his weakness of body better than he knew it
himself.

"What for, m'sieu?"

"What for?  What are clothes for, idiot of a woman!  To put on, to
wear.  I shall habit myself as a gentleman.  Faith--it is time, too!"

"But, m'sieu----!"

"Bring me that suit, I say."

Madame hesitated, because she had removed the suit in question a week
before to an old trunk in an empty room--she was not very clear which
one--and it would take her some minutes to find it.

"If m'sieu will get back into his bed----"

"I will do nothing so foolish.  I was thinking of getting up.  I _am_
up and should be holding a levee--  How do you do, my Lord
Marquis?--pray enter.  M. le Chevalier de Repentigny; open there for my
friend, the Intendant!  Gentlemen, I greet you.  You perceive me at my
toilet--but these lackeys are too slow!  Fetch me my clothes, I say!
Ah--misery!  I cannot stand!  I cannot--cannot even sit!  Help me to
bed, you woman there--help me, quick!"

And madame, instead of running for the suit of Court clothes, managed
to lay Henry Clairville down again before he fainted.  However, the
next day he was slightly stronger and the next and the next, so that on
the fifth day he was nearly as well as ever, and again demanding the
suit, she went to the room upstairs and hunted for it.  Its colour was
a faded claret, and lacings of dingy silver appeared on the front and
round the stiffened skirt that stood out from the waist--a kind of cut
to make even a meagre man look well among his fellows; a three-cornered
hat went with it, and into this relic of strenuous days, madame soon
assisted her charge.

"How does it fit?" he inquired anxiously

"It is without doubt large at present for m'sieu, but m'sieu has been
ill.  After a while it will fit better."

"And how do you think I look in it?" he continued, gazing with
fringeless expressionless eyes on her vacant but concerned countenance.
"You see, to meet these gentlemen I must at least try to appear as well
as they do.  A Sieur de Clairville must guard the appearance at all
costs!  Where is my sister, Pauline-Archange--why does she not come and
assist me in the entertainment of the Court?  Of the Court, do I say?"

Here Clairville drew himself up as well as he could, and winking at his
nurse gravely informed her that the most Christian King, Louis of
France, being in North America for the good of his health, might call
at the manor to see its master at any moment.

"If you will be very secret, my good woman, I will tell you this
further, but it must be between us only--His Most Christian Majesty of
France is just recovering from the 'Pic'.  But do not alarm yourself; I
have not been with him much.  Fear not, madame, neither for yourself
nor me."

Madame clasped her hands and looked upwards; she seemed to be crying,
and yet she shed no tears.  She knew there was something wrong.  _She_
was wrong.  The Sieur de Clairville was wrong.  The old habit of
prayer, fervid, poetic, Catholic prayer, asserted itself and
accordingly the mystic rosary of Our Lady returned to her.

"_Priez pour nous, sainte Mère de Dieu.  Mère aimable, priez pour nous.
Mère adorable, priez pour nous.  Vierge puissante, priez!  Vierge
fidèle, priez pour nous.  Rose mystérieuse, priez pour nous.  Maison
d'or, Etoile du matin, priez pour nous.  Santé des infirmes, priez pour
nous._"

Henry Clairville listened.  Gradually he sank into the chair, and the
tears, the slow, painful, smarting tears of weak mind and middle
age--coursed down his thin, pitted cheeks.  Madame sat down too and
sobbed.

"Oh, have I offended you, m'sieu?  Why did I pray?  What makes us pray
at all?  Is there One who hears a poor woman like me?  But she might
hear you, m'sieu, a grand gentleman like you--and so I prayed."

"A grand gentleman!  Thank you--madame, thank you," said he, trembling.
"I believe I am that, or I was once.  I have been very ill, I see.  You
must not take any notice if I go a little out of my head; it is
nothing; Pauline is well accustomed to it, and so may you be if you
remain here long.  Only be lively with me, be always lively and pray
aloud no more.  I do not like these prayers.  But why are you here?
Where are my servants--Maman Archambault, Antoine, and the rest?"

"The servants of m'sieu left when m'sieu was taken sick."

"And you are doing their work?"

"As well as I can, m'sieu, when I can leave you.  Just a little work I
do, to amuse me, keep me from thinking."

Clairville trembled again and could not lift his eyes to this afflicted
patient creature.

"I recollect now," he murmured, "you were always a kind woman.  It was
you who took the child away?"

"It was I, m'sieu."

"Eight years ago, was it not?"

"Nine, m'sieu."

"Nine, then.  It was the year of the great snow.  Does she--does my
sister ever go to see it?"

"I cannot tell, m'sieu.  She is not in St. Ignace often, and m'sieu
knows that when ma'amselle goes abroad it is to Montreal and to the
theatre."

"But you--you know about it, if it lives, if it is well, and has--has
its mind?"

"It lives--yes, truly, m'sieu--it is never ill and it has its mind!"

"Mon Dieu!" muttered Henry Clairville.  "_That_ has its mind and I--I
am sometimes bereft of mine.  And you--you----" he pointed to madame,
and though innocent and unoffending she quailed before the seigneurial
finger.  "You even--you woman there--you have not always your mind!
Oh--it is dreadful to think of it!  I would be ill again and forget.
Tell me--is there, is there any resemblance?  Say no, madame, say no!"

"I never go to Hawthorne, m'sieu, I cannot tell you.  But I do not
think so.  I have never heard.  They are nearly all English in that
parish; they would not concern themselves much about that--the poor
_bébé_, the poor Angéle.  God made her too, m'sieu.  Perhaps some day
she will be taken away by mademoiselle to a place where such children
are cared for.  That is why Mademoiselle Pauline works so hard at the
theatre to make much money."

"She would need to!" burst from Henry Clairville.  "What she does with
the money she makes I do not know, it never comes this way!  I cannot
make money.  She ought to remember me sometimes, so that I could
establish this place afresh, find new servants, for example.
Alas--what shall I do without them?"

He raised his voice and the old peevish tone rang out.

"Be tranquil, m'sieu.  It is I--I myself, nursing you, who shall do all
that is required."

He sighed heavily, then a sudden fire leapt into his eyes.  "Let us see
how far I can walk.  Open that door, I wish to see if I can cross the
hall."

"After so long, m'sieu!  It is not possible.  May St. Anne give you
courage, for it is assuredly six or seven years since m'sieu has left
his apartment."

"Nine--nine!" said he impatiently.  "The year the child came into this
world.  I vowed then and all St. Ignace knows I have kept the vow--I
would never leave my room again."

"M'sieu, all know, it is true, of the vow, but none know the reason for
it.  I have kept my faith, m'sieu."

"But she, my sister, she is so flighty, so excitable--she may have told
a thousand times!"

"I think not, m'sieu."

"Father Rielle is unsuspecting; likewise Dr. Renaud.  Well, well, who
gains by considering evil?  Not one so weak and battered as I.
Nevertheless, I will walk, madame.  I will conquer this fear and this
weakness and will show the strength and temper of a Clairville, of a De
Clairville, I should say.  Open then, madame."

Thus with his black skull-cap on his bald head, and the faded claret
and silver habit upon his shrunken limbs, he tottered over the
threshold of his disorderly, uncared for room which he had occupied
without one moment's intermission, night and day, summer and winter,
for eight years, ten months and four days, and madame, preceding him,
watched in an agony of fear but also of hope--yonder was a new field
for her powers of cleansing and purifying.  Dust in thick rolls,
cobwebs in floating black triangular and looped clusters, stale odours
and rubbish--the apartment which had served as bedroom, dining-room,
_salon_ and study so long, would naturally be in a disgraceful
condition.  Henry Clairville's ghost it was that passed from that room
to the hall, but the ghost walked--more than Henry Clairville had done
for nine years.

The door of the chief _salon_ was open, and he entered, Mme. Poussette
assisting him, still with clasped hands and awestruck eyes, and,
although all the changes which had been wrought by her indefatigable
fingers could not be appreciated by him, as it was so long since he had
seen the room, he missed something.  The suit, hanging for years upon
its common nail, till it was encrusted with flyspecks, riddled with
moth-holes, and tarnished, rusty and faded, now covered his meagre
frame, but the other things he looked for he failed to find.  He gazed
at the walls, perceiving the one old, cracked and discoloured painting.

"Where are the others?" he demanded piteously.  "There were four
others, all valuable, all of great value."

"There was but this one when I came, m'sieu."

"Then Pauline has sold them--to keep that wretched child alive, to pay
for its board and keep and _tendresse--tendresse_, perhaps, on part of
some one while I--I have been neglected and kept short of the things I
might have had--the wine, the comforts, the fruits!  Ah--but I am a
most unfortunate man, I who should be seigneur of the parish!  Is it
not so, madame?  Here have I been starving and yet--there was money,
you see--my sister had money all the time!"

Madame's lips moved; she said nothing.  Far from having suffered
privation during her stay at Clairville, she had been able to provide
both for herself and the invalid, food and drink of the best quality
procurable in that part--the Archambaults having hoarded large
quantities of the supplies sent up by Poussette's "peep".  The love of
acquisition for its own sake had spread even among the youngest members
of the family, and had one demanded suddenly of any of them the
simplest meal, one would have been met by violent protestations that
there was nothing in the house!  To such an extent had this smuggling
and hoarding spread that in looking through the kitchen and cellars
madame had encountered a great store of provisions, mostly in good
condition; sacks and barrels full of vegetables, apples, winter pears
and nuts; tins full of bread and cakes, some mouldy, some fresh, and
various kegs and bottles full of wine and spirits.

"Then," he continued, "where are my choice books, my _éditions de
luxe_?  There were some splendid volumes here, rare, you understand,
worth money.  She must have sold them also.  I recollect when she
begged me to let her take them out of my room.  And a violin--of the
most superb--that is gone!  You know nothing of all these?"

"I know nothing--truly--m'sieu."

"And my cats?  Who has dared to interfere with my cats, my dear
friends?  Le Cid--Chateaubriand--Phédre--Montcalm--eh?  What has been
done with them?  And the doors, the little doors I had made for
them--nailed up, I see!  Ah--ah, madame--this is your work!  You have
killed them!  Say then, am I not right?  Miserable wretch of a woman!"

He was staggering now about the room between weakness and temper and
she assisted him to a chair.

"You have killed them!" he gasped repeatedly.

"No, m'sieu, not one.  Indeed, m'sieu, I speak the truth.  The cats of
m'sieu were fourteen; how could I kill so many?  No, but I fed them and
put them away in the barns--yes--and nailed up the little doors, it is
true, for I could not do my work with the cats of m'sieu always between
the feet.  I spoke of them once to you, because there were two who
wished to enter your room, lie on the bed----"

"Yes, yes!  Le Cid and Montcalm.  Good cats, good friends!"

"Lie on the bed, but I could not allow them.  Thus, for three days they
sat outside the door of m'sieu."

"And the peacock?  Is it that I shall find him banished also when I
walk forth from my house?  Mlle. Pauline has rid herself of him?"

"Not so, m'sieu.  I have cared for the bird and indeed for all the
animals."

Clairville, quieter now, was thinking.

"Did some one sing to me about cats as I lay there on my bed?"

Madame reddened.

"Yes, m'sieu--it was I who made a song about the 'Cats of Clairville'.
To amuse myself only, m'sieu, I often do like that."

He looked at her, then down at his speckled, bony hands.

"We are both mad, I think," he said in the most matter-of-fact way,
"but you, of course, more so than I am.  Well, to-day I have walked in
here.  To-morrow I shall walk all over this house, and next week,
madame, next week I shall walk to the village--well, half-way.  Some
day I may even go to church.  Oh--you shall see, you shall see!"

And with that, natural fatigue, engendered by the wholly unusual
exercise intervened; his nurse moved a sofa into the hall, and there he
slept for many hours, while she routed out his room as well as she
could; his physical recovery from that day was miraculously rapid, and
in a fortnight he was as quick and light upon his feet and as much
given to the open air and walking as he had been previously doggedly
convinced that he could not use his legs and that the least breath or
whiff of fresh air would destroy him.  So much for the after-effects of
the "Pic" and the sweet uses of adversity.

The fine November days that followed were the days that Canada can give
in wonderful perfection--when the thick canopy of leaves has been
caught up, shrivelled, and disappeared, when a great expanse of sky,
forest and river lies before the enraptured vision, with every twig and
branch, every stump and hollow in the ground, every undulation and
hillock of withered grass, showing as clearly cut and sharply defined
as in winter, while the air is frequently warmer than in June and a
singular mellow haze fills all the forest paths.  Now can be closely
seen the different forms of the trees, each trunk and each limb no less
interesting than the brilliant foliage which lately enveloped them; the
abandoned nests are bare, some on the ground transfixed between the
bushes, or pendant from the branches of tall trees.  The evergreens of
various kinds supply the note of colour which alone gives hope and
promises relief from neutral brown and grey, and underneath what once
was a leafy forest arcade are all the roots of spring--the spotted
erythronium, the hepatica, the delicate uvularia, the starry
trientalis.  Through such spacious aisles and along such paths of
promise Henry Clairville walked every day while the fine weather
lasted, wearing the ancient suit and the black skull-cap, and often
attended as far as Lac Calvaire by the white peacock and two cats, and
always watched from window or door by the faithful Mme. Poussette.
Fear of contagion kept the Archambaults away, all save Antoine, who,
constituting himself a bodyguard for Pauline in the village, took
messages to and fro the Manor House.

When M. Clairville had seen the stores and provisions in his cellar,
sufficient, with a few additions, for the entire winter months at
least, he demanded of madame if she would remain with him and manage
his house, and the poor woman assented with delight.  Poussette did not
want her; she had no place in the world, no ties; only occasionally was
she required to nurse sick people in the village; here was a
comfortable remote haven where she might be of use, busied in
exercising those faculties remaining to her, which at Poussette's were
rotting and rusting away.  She remained therefore, to cook and wait
upon him; a new existence sprang up for both, and it was when this sort
of thing had lasted for a month that the parish priest, Father Rielle,
thought it his duty to call.



CHAPTER XIV

FATHER RIELLE

          "--his moods
  Of pain were keen as those of better men,
  Nay, keener, as his fortitude was less."


The writer has elsewhere stated that the Roman Catholic clergy in this
part of the world are easily divided into two classes, the rotund, rosy
and jolly, and the thin, ascetic and reserved; the _curé_ of St. Ignace
belonged to the latter, and possessed a strongly marked characteristic
face, the droop of his bitter mouth and the curve of his chiselled nose
being almost Dantesque in effect.  He had conserved a type of feature
which, common enough up to the present, seems to be in danger of
extinction; the passing of the aquiline, the slow disappearance of the
Roman nose, are facts patent to thoughtful observers of national
traits.  Any contemporaneous collection of portraits of representative
men in the higher walks of life reveals the fact that this fine racial
curve is rapidly becoming extinct.  From the Duke of Wellington down,
this nose has been associated with men prominent in military and naval
affairs, in literature (notably poetry and criticism) and in finance
and diplomacy, until the possession of such a significant organ has
become almost the _sine qua non_ of an individual destined to be famous
or successful.  Varieties of course existed, such as when combined with
beetling brows and sunken eyes one recognized the professor or
arch-critic of his generation.  Or, when taken with the square
forehead, thin mouth and visionary eyes of the military genius, one saw
some great general.  Or simply existing in some silly scion of good
family, and meaning nothing whatever, in this case usually over-high at
the thin bridge, and in profile far too strong for the weak rest of the
face.  In women of gentle extraction this nose was found beautifully
proportioned.  In belles of the mid-Victorian era were the lineaments
of Caesar clearly revealed, associated with the delicacy of colouring
and rounded chin and cheek which redeemed them from hard masculinity,
so that fifty years ago in any representative gathering of England's
fairest and noblest the observer would note a similarity of feature,
especially in profile, between peers and peeresses, poets and
poetesses, statesmen and the _grandes dames_ of society.  Caricatured,
it lived in the drawings of Leech and Du Maurier.  Taken seriously, it
inspired creative artists both of pen and brush when dealing with the
heroic.  Superficial writers confused it with the Hebraic nose, and in
prints of criminal and depraved characters one frequently found it
distorted and wrenched to conditions of ugliness.  Tennyson and the
latest murderer apparently owned the same facial angle, if one
corrected the droop of the eyebrow, the curve of the nostril, the set
of the ear.  Thus the Roman or aquiline nose made itself and its
possessor known to the world.  Other noses might, if they liked, take a
back seat! this nose never.  Sala, Lamb, Kingsley--all had varieties of
the nose.  The American variant is seen in hundreds of nineteeenth
century writers, preachers, New England farmers, old Cape Cod
characters, Gloucester fishermen, actors, especially of tragic mould;
showmen, lecturers, bankers--the nose has prospered in the new world.
The significance of the feature is matched by its endurance, by the
persistency with which it appears in every decade up to the present.

For with the opening of a new century the nose, aquiline in its purest
state, equine with its accompaniment of cruel gums and sharp teeth in
its worst, seems on the point of disappearing.  The contemporary
portraits of great men and beautiful women no longer display it.  There
is a new nose.  It is to be hoped that it retains the powers with which
the organ was originally endowed; for example, we suppose that it still
can detect and appreciate, repulse and define odours.  But as a
sign-post showing the path to glory, as an index of force of character
or intellect, it is practically useless.  The new nose is modest,
retiring, seeketh not its own, is never puffed up.  You would know it
for a nose, certainly, but its ample and aristocratic proportions are
wanting; it lacks a bridge, is spineless, immature, unfinished.  Yet it
is set in the faces of many eminent thinkers and workers among the
younger men; it is already allied to keenness of vision and talent, and
may or may not be associated with birth and good breeding.  The query
is--is it a new nose, or only one that has always been with us, but is
now gradually supplanting the old one?  Did the nose aquiline largely
represent class, and does the phenomenon of the new semi-straight,
semi-nothing nose represent the intrusion of mass?  Against this timid
and, it may be, spurious generalization, one may pit the working-man
with the nose of a duke, and the young colonial ruler with the
unformed, delicate feature of a school-girl.  So we accept the fact
that in our own day types are passing.

The English face is going.  It has served its turn, perhaps.  Infusion
of American and colonial blood will help to change it.  The high-nosed
country gentleman or landed noble, with Berserk or Viking blood in his
veins, finds that, like Alice in Wonderland, it takes all he can do to
keep where he is, and the work entailed takes something, a good deal,
out of him.  One thing goes, then another; finally, he casts away his
birthright, the arch or bridge of his nose, and his son and the younger
members of his family appear shorn of that important feature.  The
plebeian nose, so long as it is neither pug nor pig, is safer, better.
Men are not afraid of it.  Syndicates and boards breathe more freely
when the barriers of nose are broken down, and a good mediocrity of
feature may yet avert a war or preserve a treaty.  At all events, a
study of our chief contemporaries will bear out a considerable portion
of this reasoning.  The beauties of society and the stage have a
leaning to noses tiptilted like the petals of a flower, or to a nose
which is a kind of modification of the Greek, frequently found among
Americans.  For instance, in Canada there is fast growing up a new type
of head, clean-shaven, firm, expressionless young faces, who bring
their thick, straight dark hair and blue-grey eyes from the country to
the town.  They are forsaking the plough and the roadside school for
the warehouse and the pestle and mortar.  It is not openly reported of
such that they would rather wear a black coat and starve than wear
fustian and do well, to quote Thomas Hardy, but the stress of things
drives them.  The rural communities are dull; amusements are lacking;
there seems nothing to live for outside work.  Nature poets and
wild-animal delineators are not among these set, earnest,
straight-featured faces.  The former are more likely to be denizens of
cities.  In this slightly dour Canadian face there are but few aquiline
noses, and yet such is the danger of generalizing that perhaps the
first people readers of this page meet after perusing it might be a
group of students, none with Celtic hair and eyes and all with Roman
contours.  Likewise, on opening the current number of a leading musical
journal, the long, high, prominent nasal organ of Sir Edward Elgar
confronts us, whose peculiar cast of thought confirms the impression
that spirituality, fine artistic conception and capacity to achieve are
still the dower of those possessing this fast-disappearing feature.
Ringfield belonged to the tribe of straight-nosed, grey-eyed
thinkers--a finished contrast to Father Rielle, whose worn profile
suggested the wormwood and the gall.  Looks, however, not being in all
cases indications of the character within, the priest was an
exceedingly simple and earnest man, constitutionally timid, and
physically frail; thus, he passed for what is known as a "deep" man,
when he was nothing of the sort, and although it may be a mooted point
whether in a Catholic community the local priest has or has not the
entire conscience of that community at his mercy by means of the
confessional, it was certain that there were a few things that Father
Rielle did not know.  Had he been social, convivial, fond, like most of
his brother priests, of a game of cards, of good living and long
drinking, he might have worked more reforms in the countryside, and
holding the reins of priestly government stern and tight prevented some
lapses from the moral code.  That is to say, a worse man might have
achieved better results, but as it was not in his nature to haunt
Poussette's, make friends with the guides and call at unconventional
hours upon his parishioners, he missed several revelations that fell to
Ringfield's share.  Crabbe was not upon his visiting list, nor Pauline
of late years; for Henry Clairville he entertained a certain sad
respect, as for a gentleman and landed proprietor fallen from grace
indeed, but by the Will of God rather than by personal shortcomings.
His tendency to fatalism was Calvinistic in its intensity, and he trod
his accustomed path baptizing, marrying, burying, with the sour curve
of his thin profile growing sourer every day.  Thus this silent,
censorious-looking priest presented a strong contrast to the optimistic
young Ontarian, yet one emotion was common to them both--Father Rielle
had for years nursed a hopeless passion for Miss Clairville.

It happened that the knowledge of Mme. Poussette's remaining on at
Clairville as housekeeper to its master came to Father Rielle as
something of a shock.  Certain things are right and certain things are
wrong in certain places; some things are right and some things are
wrong in all places.  Madame had a husband who, although plainly tired
of her, had not yet openly neglected her; she also had a good home, and
in her condition of mind it was not wise, according to the priest, that
she should leave her husband and home to live with Henry Clairville.
Dr. Renaud was questioned, but as medical men are everywhere less
concerned with the conventions than are lawyers or priests, he only
intimated that madame was probably happier at Clairville than in her
own home, and that he saw no reason for disturbing the arrangement.

"But," said Father Rielle in their common tongue, "is it because the
wife of Poussette is a little afflicted, light of head while sad of
heart, that rules and customs no longer apply to her?  I take it--it
will make a scandal in the village and every man who is sick must
expect some other man's wife to come in and care for him, and finally
live in his house and take care of it.  Our society may be small, but
in some matters it is best conducted as are large communities.  I think
M. de Clairville should be instructed that his conduct is wrong."

"You call him 'de' Clairville, I see," replied the doctor from his
buggy outside Gagnon's carpenter shop.  "Well, it does not matter!
Faith--he is both vicious and mad enough to be in truth the seigneur of
all the parish as he styles himself--as nobles and seigneurs used to
go.  I have little knowledge of such myself!  I am a plain man! my
father was Renaud the harness-maker of Three Rivers.  First I was fond
of horses, then I was fond of gathering herbs and flowers, then I was
fond of mixing medicines and quacking my friends when they were ill;
then my mother saved some money and sent me to college and then one
fine day I awoke, and I am Dr. Renaud!  And you--you are one of the
three Rielle brothers, likewise from Three Rivers; one is a notary, one
a priest--yourself--and the youngest keeps the Hôtel Jacques Cartier at
Sorel-en-haut.  That is funny, that!  You should have made him
something else."

"It is true," replied the priest mildly, "I am not in love with his
calling, but people who travel must be lodged.  I use his place myself
once or twice a year; it is the Will of God that such places must be;
it is clean, and his wife, at the age of seventeen, already cooks well;
he is lately married at the age of thirty-five.  I myself am four years
older.  But of M. de Clairville I would say--that he must be brought to
see that he is doing this poor Mme. Poussette a wrong, and I was going
to ask you if you would drive me out to visit him this afternoon.  That
is, if, as I hear, it is quite safe to go there now."

"It would afford me pleasure indeed, _mon père_," said Dr. Renaud, "but
unfortunately I am waiting here for the young man who has charge of the
new church by the river,--Poussette's fancy, Mr. Ringfield."

"You are driving him to Clairville?"  A quick jealousy animated the
priest's eager question.

"I am, but we can make room for you.  Certainly, my friend, we are
neither of us so very stout and you are thin; you shall sit in our
laps--oh yes, I take no denial!  You shall come with us, Father Rielle,
and we three shall descend upon this sick seigneur of yours and his
housekeeper and see what they are doing.  Drive her back in the
evening, if you like."

While the priest hesitated, Ringfield and Poussette appeared at the
door, and the instant the latter heard of the expedition he also wished
to go.

"I cannot see why!" cried Dr. Renaud angrily.  "One _charrette_ will
not hold us all; it is going to snow and I must get back before dark.
I'm calling here to leave an order for Gagnon about a coffin for old
Telesphore Tremblay who died yesterday, and I have promised to see his
poor wife to-night."

"Then I shall take my own buggy and Mr. Ringfield can go with me.  The
_curé_ can go with you, sir."

"Well, if the whole village wishes to pay its respects to a crazy man
all at the same time, let them come!" roared the irascible doctor.
"You didn't care to go till you saw us going.  But put your horse in,
put him in; we will wait for you."

"_Bien_, M'sieu!  I have three hams and a sack of potatoes; they shall
go too."

This dialogue had been overheard by Pauline, sitting at cards with Miss
Cordova in the front room, and with her natural impetuosity she jumped
up, declaring that if Henry were well enough to see "these others," he
was well enough to see her.  Her impulsive movements sent the cards and
counters flying up through the air, and one card hit Miss Cordova on
the left eye directly over the pupil.  As lightly as if flicked by a
clever finger, but as unerringly as if deliberately and viciously aimed
at her, one of the four sharp points of cardboard selected her dark eye
for its target, and with a scream she too sprang up, overturning the
table and seizing Pauline by the shoulder.  The pain and distress were
considerable, and Miss Clairville, opening the window, called for Dr.
Renaud, who came at once to look at the eye and recommended bathing,
bandages and complete rest.  The exquisite tenderness of the inflamed
organ gave Miss Cordova so much annoyance that after ten minutes she
retired to her room, and the doctor again proposed himself ready to
start for Lac Calvaire.  The weather, fine and mild for so long, was
changing now with every hour, and it was becoming strangely dark
overhead.

"Whoever comes with me must prepare for a storm," said he, glancing at
the blackening sky, "only a few flurries of snow, perhaps, but one
cannot tell--it may prove more."

"You are sure there can be no danger of infection?" asked Ringfield,
with an anxious glance at Pauline, who had raced to her room, stuck
imitation solitaires in her ears, donned a worn-out but well-fitting
seal jacket and muff and a dashing black and scarlet hat, and now stood
in the village street--the embodiment of piquant French
womanhood--quite conscious of her charms and insufferably weary of
having no audience to show them off to!  A certain disdain sprang into
her treatment of Ringfield at this time, and it was a question with
her, should he ever ask her to be his wife, whether she would not
inevitably tire of the high aims and lofty ideals he no doubt would
impose upon her.

"You don't suppose I'd be going if there were, do you?" she remarked in
English tartly, curving her arching black brows at him; "how many are
we--five?  That's three too many, in my opinion.  Father Rielle--I go
with you in Mr. Poussette's buggy; you others there, you three
messieurs--you can go how you please."

The priest flushed, then a sudden glance passed between him and
Ringfield, and in that look each knew what the other wished and hated
him for it!  Still, Father Rielle followed Pauline instantly, and there
was no opposition as she lightly leapt into Poussette's buggy, and with
a wave of her muff, adorned by a bright scarlet bow, two of the five
were soon out of sight.



CHAPTER XV

THE STORM

  "Snow is at the door
  Assaulting and defending, and the wind,
  A sightless labourer, whistles at his work."


Dr. Renaud now called on the minister and Poussette to make haste; he
had been delayed by the accident to Miss Cordova and already large flat
flakes were falling.

"Just the size of half-dollars, eh?  The idea is, Poussette, to bring
madame home; that is to say, the _curé's_ idea, but he's gone off with
another woman.  I suppose you are jealous now, of this one I mean, not
the other."

"Not me, much.  Father Rielle, he's no harm.  He cannot marry
mademoiselle nor any one else; besides, he has no money.  Mlle.
Pauline--she is for the money."

"Ah--ha, I believe you.  We used to read or sing, I forget which, at
college, about 'Les beaux yeux de sa Cassette'.  I do not know the
origin of the quotation, but you understand, Mr. Ringfield, what it
means, and our young lady in front there has learnt in a bitter school
the value of money.  _Cassette--cassette_--cash-box; you will see, if
she ever settles down, it will be, as our friend Poussette says, for
the money."

Ringfield's throat was dry, he did not speak; his stern gaze, directed
at the leafless landscape over which the first slow snows were falling,
gave no indication of the tumult within; besides, the aspect of the
road and condition of the elements were calculated to banish personal
emotions, for even Poussette's hilarity was silenced by the increasing
velocity of the wind and the darkness dropping upon them.  It was only
five miles to the _métairie_, but at the end of the second mile the sky
was absolutely blank and the snow so thick that heaps of it lay on the
horse's flanks and on their own laps and hands.  It kept increasing at
such magical rate that the roadway was obscured and twice Dr. Renaud
found himself out on the rocky plateau at the left, instead of the
middle path.  The priest and Miss Clairville had vanished in front, but
the three men could hear the sound of a horse on the slabs of rock
behind them, coming very swiftly too, and in a few minutes a second
buggy dashed madly by.  The horse was running away, no doubt badly
frightened by the violence of the storm, and Ringfield recognized Mr.
and Mrs. Abercorn in the agonized couple holding bravely on, while the
excitable little mare dashed through the snow.

"My hands are freezing!" cried Dr. Renaud.  "This is a big surprise--a
regular blizzard.  We'll have to stop somewhere till it's over.  I
never beheld such darkness--at three o'clock in the afternoon--nor such
sudden heaps of snow.  Lucky for us if it does not turn to hail."  He
had scarcely uttered the words when the snow flagged, ceased to fall,
then the hail began.  Colder and colder grew the air with a strange,
unnatural feel in it as if in the proximity of icebergs, or of the hour
closest on dawn, and the hail, at first small and round, pretty and
harmless, came gently chattering about the horse's ears and back, came
faster and larger, came at last too fast and too large, came as stones
come that are flung by enemies and rioting mobs of people anxious for
vengeance.  The doctor was afraid for his horse; one ear was cut and
bleeding and the animal could no longer face the blinding streams of
hail; he was covered and the men all got out, burying their heads in
their coats; but Ringfield, the worst off, since he had come without
gloves or muffler, was for ever casting anxious glances ahead, which
Poussette and the doctor understood.

"I _bette_ you!" cried the former; "Mr. Ringfield, sir, the _curé_--he
don't know what to do with Miss Clairville.  He'll never get her home,
sure.  He's no good with a horse--my horse too--I guess we better go
after him, eh?"

"Stay where you are!" shouted the doctor.  "Farther along the forest
begins again, and these hailstones are snapping off the branches as if
they had been slashed with axes.  I can hear.  You may be killed.
Surely this cannot last long!"

But there seemed no diminution of the hail; it lay a foot deep in
pieces the size of marbles or of small apples, and the autumnal grasses
and bushes of juniper and sumach were beaten flat with the rocky ground
from which they derived scant sustenance.

The three men were by this time suffering greatly from the sudden and
unexpected cold, and as it was impossible to continue the drive to
Calvaire in face of the biting hail, they were about to attempt to
return to St. Ignace when the darkness partly lifted, the air grew
gradually milder, and streams of steady rain came pouring down;
overhead the clouds met, charged, and thunder raged at intervals.

Ringfield, now greatly alarmed and fancying he heard noises from the
wood in front, even cries of distress, could no longer be detained, but
bidding farewell to the others strode forward in the direction of the
forest, slipping as he walked and already drenched to the skin, his
clothes freezing upon him and clogging his difficult steps.
Fortunately, for one who did not know the locality well, the daylight
had partly returned.  He judged that by keeping to the road he ran no
risk of losing his way, but when a turn revealed another road, he was
naturally perplexed, as the face of the country had greatly changed
since he had made his last visit to the Manor House.  Afraid to stand
long, for trees were thick about him and the lightning still flashing,
he went on again up the new road, and after a few minutes running saw a
deserted barn in a hollow and made for it.  In this dell or glade the
trees had been thinned out, either by forest fires or by the owner, but
one tall pine remained beside the forlorn and ruined barn as if for
companionship--a lonely sentinel.

Ringfield, wet and shivering, rushed up to the barn door, and finding
it half-open had nearly flung himself through it when he was arrested
by voices within, or rather a voice--that of a woman.  He did not
immediately think of Miss Clairville, for no horse nor conveyance were
outside, but, had he listened more carefully, he would have recognized
her educated accents; as it was, in a moment or two she herself came to
the door, and upon seeing Ringfield started, but asked him to enter.

The barn contained some old boxes and rusty tools, a short ladder led
to a loft above full of dry hay, and there Miss Clairville explained
she had taken refuge when the hail first began.

"But Father Rielle----" said Ringfield looking vaguely around.

"Oh, you shall not meet with him here.  He left me and said he would
try to go on to Clairville, get a fresh horse--Poussette's was badly
cut--and come back for me.  You have not met him?"

"No, then you are alone?"

"Of course, and neither wet nor frightened, while you appear to be
both!" said she, gaily at first, but catching her breath as she
observed his stern, anxious gaze.

Ringfield, drawing a deep sigh, suddenly lost his self-control.

"Oh, how you torture me!" he cried, extending his arms as if to enfold
her, then dropping them as he recollected his condition.

"Torture you?  You--Mr. Ringfield, so calm and self-contained, the
Reverend Mr. Ringfield of St. Ignace!  I torture YOU!  Why what have I
done to-day, then?  Have I made the weather or caused the storm?  Is it
MY snow or MY rain, or MY hail, and _ecoutez bien_--MY thunder and MY
lightning raging there?"

"No--no--but to run off like that, and with that poor priest--poor
fellow--I saw how it was with him!  You are sure he is not here now?"
Ringfield cast an eye up at the loft.

"Certainly not!  Would he let you talk like that about him?  But listen
to this fearful storm!  How can we think of anything else--and you--you
so wet--wet and tired!  It seems a little calmer now; perhaps you had
better try again and walk on to Clairville.  There you may fall in with
the _curé_ or Dr. Renaud and then come back for me."

"I will not leave you in this desolate place for a moment!  Yet I feel
as if we were surrounded by people--why is it--I cannot understand why!
To whom were you talking while I was outside?"

"Ah, there, _tais-toi, mon ami_!"

Miss Clairville pushed him down on one of the boxes and tried to draw
off his stiff and dripping coat, but he restrained her; their hands
meeting sent him beside himself, and, seizing one, he pressed a warm,
lingering kiss upon it.  Adept in these matters, Pauline kept up a gay
chatter, and as she drew her hand away seemed only uneasy--neither
fluttered nor deeply moved.

"I assure you," she exclaimed brightly, "I am quite safe here.  I am
not in the least wet, my old coat has done me good service--_voyez_--my
feet are dry, and all I would ask is a light to cheer me while you are
absent, but that I cannot have and I must be content.  Although that
unnatural dark is over, the shades of the true night will soon be
falling and it is lonely here.  So the sooner you go the better."

"But where can I go?  Will it not be better to remain here with you
until Father Rielle returns?"

"I think not--he is slow--that priest!  See--if you go now, you will
surely overtake him.  Keep to your right after regaining the road and
you will soon find the lake."

"Well, then, I will go," said Ringfield rising.  "But if I might speak
to you now, might tell you all I hope and fear and think almost
continually, if I might ask you, too, to think about it, and tell
me--tell me--it is so difficult for me to say what I wish to--you seem
so gay, so satisfied, so----"  His voice broke off, for her face
changed ominously, and the strongest argument he could have adduced,
the folding of her to his heart, the silent embrace which should make
her his, was still denied him.  To the outsider there might have been a
touch of humour in the situation, but not so to either person
concerned.  She echoed his last words.

"Satisfied!  Me!  You think I am that?  My God, yes, I have to say it
in English--it means more!  I--satisfied!  Happy--you will say next, I
suppose.  Me--happy and satisfied.  I'm the most miserable woman on
God's earth!  I have had ideals, aspirations--but how could I fulfil,
achieve them, living in this place and with my temper, my heredity.
Look at Henry.  I tell you he is mad--mad and worse!  Think of having
lived with him!  Think of Clairville!  You do not know half of what I
have gone through!"

A dreadful thought, a dreadful question occurred to Ringfield as he
marked the dark wave of hair on Miss Clairville's brow, and again he
saw the child in the basket chair at Hawthorne, but he frantically
stifled the thought and forbore to question, and the next moment she
was weeping and pushing him towards the door.

"Go now," she sobbed.  "Go before it gets darker.  You might lose your
way.  Go--go."

He went out at once, pulling the door after him as well as he could and
ran through the hollow till he reached the road, where it seemed
brighter.  The rain gave signs of falling less steadily, when, as often
occurs after a protracted storm, there came a lull, followed by one
terrific and astounding burst and explosion of thunder, accompanied by
a vivid blue and orange blaze and afterwards complete silence and a
great calm.  The storm now rolled onward, having spent itself in that
locality; but knowing from the sound that some place or object had been
struck, Ringfield stopped, stepped behind a mass of boulders and
juniper bushes and looked back down into the little hollow.  The barn
was apparently uninjured but the noble pine had suffered.  The ripping,
tearing sound he had heard was explained by the sight of a broad
orange-coloured strip or band that ran longitudinally from the top of
the tree to the bottom, indicating where the bark had been peeled off
by the force of the fierce current.  As he stood gazing thus at the
seared and stricken pine, the door opened from the side of the barn and
Miss Clairville slowly stepped out, followed by a man in whom, with an
exclamation of extremest repulsion and surprise, Ringfield clearly
recognized Edmund Crabbe.

The shock of this and the full meaning of it set Ringfeld's nerves and
pulses tingling, and he stepped farther back into the shade as he
watched them.  They advanced to the great pine, examined it, and he
could see that Crabbe's arm went around her waist.  The guide himself
seemed, even at that distance, to be more neatly dressed than usual, he
wore a tweed cap with coat to match and did not look as if he had been
drinking, but as with him that was the sign that he was about at his
worst, Ringfield could only turn away in disgust and pursue his way to
Clairville.  It was not a pleasant thought that Crabbe must have been
in the loft, while a somewhat tender scene had been enacted, and he
suddenly felt a contempt and pity for the woman who could play two men
at the same time in such barefaced fashion.  Then, as lovers will, he
rebuked himself for this; perhaps Crabbe had taken refuge in the loft
without her knowledge, and the great final crash had brought him down;
perhaps she had known he was there, but was ashamed of producing him in
a semi-drunken condition, perhaps--then Ringfield saw the distant
lights of the Manor House and hastened towards them.  A little farther
on he overtook the priest, leading Poussette's horse and buggy, and it
was not long before they were able to take off their wet clothes at
madame's fire and exchange confidences about the storm.

In the large kitchen were also Mr. and Mrs. Abercorn, Dr. Renaud and
Poussette, and the priest, who was naturally held accountable for
Pauline's safety, reported her as resting comfortably in the barn.

Ringfield did not say much; of Crabbe no mention was made by the
others, and it was probable that nobody had seen him, or dreamt of his
being out in the neighbourhood on such a day.



CHAPTER XVI

IN THE BARN

  "Poor now in tranquil pleasure, he gave way
  To thoughts of troubled pleasure."


Pauline had yielded to an erratic but harmless impulse in driving off
recklessly with the priest; her nature, so long restrained by residence
in a dull, circumscribed village instead of a lively town, needed some
such prank to reanimate and amuse it.  She seized the reins
dramatically, insisted upon driving, and Father Rielle was nothing
loath since he did not care about nor understand horses very well, and
since it was dangerously novel and bitterly pleasant to sit and watch
Miss Clairville.  Her fine features and splendid colouring showed well
against the dull background of sky and forest; the ribbon on which her
muff was slung, tied moreover in a dashing bow, was a bit of true
scarlet matching some rosettes in her hat.  As she looked behind for a
wilful instant she caught sight of Ringfield sitting up stiffly on the
two fat laps provided by Amable Poussette and the doctor, and her laugh
rang musically in the priest's ear.

"Poussette's is the fastest horse in the village!" cried she.  "See--I
will give him a little of the whip.  _Voilà_--now he will think he has
his master behind him.  _March-ch, donc, animal_.  Get up--bigosh,
_excusez, mon père_.  That's it!  Watch him now!  I'm not an actress
for nothing.  See now--he'll be galloping presently, but trotting is
all we care for, my good beast!  So you are going to bring Mme.
Poussette back with you, I understand,--tear the fair lady from my poor
brother!"

"Who has told you that _canard_?" said the priest, folding his arms and
leaning back as far as the little _calèche_ would allow.  "No, I did
not think of doing so to-day; you doubtless heard me talking of the
matter to Dr. Renaud.  I cannot tell what you think of it, but in the
absence of all servants it seems to me that Poussette's wife should
return to her home while you both make new arrangements for managing
his house.  But perhaps you intend remaining there to-night,
mademoiselle?"

"I have no such intention, _mon père_, I assure you.  I am glad Henry
has recovered; I shall see him once or twice, of course, and then I
shall return to Montreal and not come back here for years--if I can
help it.  But look at the snow!  It is coming faster and faster and
growing darker and darker.  The wolf's throat is sunshine compared to
this.  Shall we turn back?"

"No!" said the _curé_ with his sour face steadily turned toward her.
"I do not mind the snow nor shall you.  I would drive so--like
this--beside you and looking at you, to the end of the world, of life.
Drive faster, faster yet, till we leave those others behind.  Take that
opening there on your left.  I know of a shelter that will
serve--Leduc's barn--you may remember it.  Arrived there, you must hear
me."

Pauline, irritated though not greatly surprised, stooped, and making a
small hard ball of the wet snow lying thickly around their feet, flung
it backwards into the priest's face; he caught her left wrist, held it
in a tight grip, and although she was a strong woman, he was the
stronger, being a man, and she could not escape.  The darkness closed
down upon them, the snow came down in blinding, tickling clouds, and in
her anger and distress she could not drive properly.  Poussette's horse
being accustomed to being driven to the barn, went in that direction of
his own accord, and thus they arrived in a whirlwind of snow--the
priest still holding her wrist with something else than sourness
showing in his thin features--a few minutes before the hail commenced
falling.  Pauline, dragging herself as she descended to the ground from
an over-zealous admirer, ran into the shelter and tried to fasten the
door, but the other, leaving Poussette's horse and _voiture_ to fare as
best they might, was quick upon her heels and followed her inside the
barn.

Thus they escaped the worst portion of the storm, but the darkness
endured; they remained standing looking at one another, and Pauline,
though she was both cold and frightened, managed to give her habitual
laugh.

"Because you are 'Father Rielle,'" she exclaimed, "you think you are
entitled to pursue a recreant sheep of the flock even over here!  Oh!
it is not on account of the storm--I know that--that you follow me!  I
have seen this coming for some time, and I have feared it!"

The priest staggered, passed his hands over his eyes and made a hasty
sign of the cross.  Opportunity, propinquity, a sudden
temptation--these had assailed him and for one moment all the devils of
hell were let loose in this good man's brain and heart.  The silence
seemed eternal that followed on his movement; as the air lightened
around them she fancied his countenance distorted by suffering, and his
averted eyes spoke of his shame and contrition.

"My daughter," he said at length, "fear what you will but never again
fear me.  You witness my remorse, my tears--yes, behold, my
daughter--and you know, you tell yourself that I cannot, will not harm
you--nor any woman.  But now you would hear what I would say, because
you must not refuse.  You have left our Holy Catholic communion, you
are no longer daughter of the true Church, is it not so, my daughter?"

An old habit asserting itself, Pauline automatically answered; "_Oui,
mon père._"

"You have gone on the stage, you have developed into a brilliant but
wayward coquette; you have for your friend a woman who has left her
husband and thinks about marrying another.  Is this not so, my
daughter?"

And again, despite her experience of his singular lapse from conduct,
Pauline's lips answered: "Oui, mon père."

"Worst of all, you have set yourself to fascinate and wound this young
man, this stranger among us, and you are leading him on to think of you
night and day, I suppose, as I do!"

"_Mon père_--do not confess it!"

"Why not?  You will not use your knowledge of my secret since you will
not be believed.  I--thanks to my training and the example of my
glorious Church--can choke, can bridle, can conceal this passion--but
not so this other.  Can you deny that you have been with him,
encouraged him?"

Pauline would have answered hotly, her rudimentary fear of the _curé_
disappearing before the mention of Ringfield, when her eyes fell upon a
book that lay at the foot of the ladder, a small green book that she
knew well by sight, having read in it with Edmund Crabbe years before,
when he was known as "Mr. Hawtree" and had been her lover.  The book
was a collection of poems by Edwin Arnold, and back into her memory
stole those passionate lines:--

  The one prize I have longed for
  Was once to find the goal of those dear lips;
  Then I could rest, not else; but had you frowned
  And bade me go, and barred your door upon me,
  Oh, Sweet!  I think I should have come with lamps
  And axes, and have stolen you like gold!


She stood staring at the cover, for upon it lay three or four large
spreading dark patches; were these wet spots caused by the snow?  Her
eyes, then traversing the ladder, noticed footprints, and cakes of
blackened snow upon the steps.  To whom belonged these tell-tale signs
of occupation?  Glancing farther up she saw the end of a stick
protruding from the loose piles of straw that trickled over the top of
the ladder, and she recognized the stick, a stout one with a peculiar
ferule that also belonged to Crabbe.  He must be in the loft, either
sleeping or keeping silence, and now she found herself in the most
uncomfortable position a woman can possibly occupy; to her already
crowded list of lovers had been added another, and as the quarry of
four strongly contrasted men, each possessing more than average
persistence of character, she must have excited pity and sympathy in
the breasts of women less fatally attractive, but scarcely one thrill
of envy.  She recognized in the priest potentially the fiercest lover
of them all; a man of only two or three ideas, this one of cruel,
hopeless, unattainable passion for herself would easily dominate him
and render him, fresh to the emotions and therefore ignorant of how to
control and deal with them, utterly unreasonable, even it might be
violent and offensive.  What wonder then if her thoughts like her eyes
turned toward the loft above her.  Despite her flighty tendencies, her
town and theatre friendships and quarrels, her impulsive and emotional
nature, Crabbe was the only man who had gained an ascendancy over her;
for him she had forsaken prudence, but for him only, and strongest of
associations, closest of ties--he alone had appealed to and satisfied
her physical side.  She had given him much but not all, and now in this
moment of hatred of the _curé_, of herself, and a moving disgust at the
conflicting facts of her difficult life, she thought of the Englishman
as a desired refuge.  There came crowding into her mind those small
delicate acts and gestures which make as we say "the gentleman."  She
recollected Crabbe as he was when he first presented himself at the
_métairie_, the self-possession of his easy manner, subtly tinctured
with that dose of romance necessary to her imagination; the unconscious
way, to do him justice, in which his talk of blight and exile and
ruined fortunes had aroused all her dormant sympathies.

"Oh," she cried, hoping that if in the loft he would hear, "all this is
so dreadful, so different from the life I meant to lead, from the life
I believe I was intended to lead!  Hear me, Father Rielle: all men I
hate and abhor, all, save one, and not the one you are thinking of!
Hear me again: if I can find the money I will leave Clairville as I
said, for good, for ever.  I shall leave the theatre in Montreal, leave
Canada, and I will go where my talents shall be understood and
requited.  It is true I have a temper and a tongue.  It is true I am
hard to teach and hard to get on with, and how do I know--perhaps there
lurks in me a trace of that I fear so in Henry--yet I am resolved to
try.  If you mean what you say, and are not mad in your turn, will you
help me to carry this out?  I would leave at once, make my way abroad,
study and become the actress I know I could if I got my chance.
Perhaps in another country, perhaps if I could reach Paris, where I am
not known, where it is not known, where----"

She stopped, following the priest's gaze so that both saw now what
happened, the heap of straw at the top of the ladder was dislodged, the
stick belonging to Crabbe slid down to the floor of the barn and the
moment after he himself appeared.  His face was somewhat red and
swollen but his attire was neater than usual, and the step with which
he descended the ladder almost normally steady, besides, he appeared on
the side of morality, and as champion of feminine rights made a better
figure than one would have deemed possible in so broken a man.

"Sorry to interrupt this _tête-à-tête_," said he, stopping to pick bits
of straw off himself, "but it seemed about time that somebody
interfered.  I perceive Miss Clairville is rather tired, and--look
here, Father Rielle--I give you two minutes by this old turnip or
hour-glass of mine--it was with me on the prairie and may not keep very
good time, but it ticks--I give you two minutes to apologize to
mademoiselle for your--ah--detention of her, and then you may leave us
for the Arctic regions outside.  Polar, by Heaven, hail falling as big
as walnuts!"

It was true; the darkness still reigned and a terrific noise, caused by
the large stones rattling on the roof and splintering the distant
forest branches.  The priest on hearing that authoritative drawl behind
him, cowered, his fear of personal violence from Crabbe, who bore a bad
name, mastering his ecclesiastical dignity; but as he perceived that
the guide was fairly sober he gathered courage and replied in rapid
French:--

"You will not I hope be so evil-minded, monsieur, as to misunderstand
my sentiments towards Mademoiselle Clairville, whom I have known from
her childhood.  I am only saying to her what I have felt for a long
time--I would be the means of saving her from herself, from such
friends as you, and from the ills attendant on the profession she has
chosen.  My affection for her is solely that of the parish priest who
has watched her career and felt saddened by it, yet who would reward
evil by good."

"How would you reward her?  By making love to her?"

"I have been in communication with the Mother Superior of a convent
near Three Rivers, my birthplace.  There is a fine appointment there,
waiting for a person of talent--gifted--to instruct in elocution and
possibly music.  I thought----"

"You thought it would suit me!" cried Pauline, in a frenzy of disgust
and irritation.  "Me!  For the stage and its triumphs a convent with
simpering nuns!  For Paris with its gay shops and drives, the town of
Three Rivers, Province of Quebec, _dans le Bas Canada_!  Oh!  I see
myself, thank you, in that _galère_, I assure you!  No--no--that
honourable extinction is not for me yet awhile.  _Après, mon pere,
après--après_, I may return and be glad of the haven, but not now."

"The two minutes are up," said Crabbe laconically.  "I'm sorry to turn
you out in such an afternoon, Father Rielle, but it is best for you and
for mademoiselle.  The hail's not quite so big as it was.  I advise you
to go at once."

The priest, divining some understanding between Crabbe and Pauline, and
gradually calling to mind certain episodes of several years back,
glanced from one to the other.

"I am not sure that I am not myself in the way," he said grimly.  "Such
rapid and excessive sensitiveness on behalf of Mlle. Clairville is
creditable, but scarcely, I should think, its own reward."

"Do you deny that your being here is a menace to Miss Clairville's
peace and that you--you a frocked and tonsured priest--have addressed
words of love to her?  If I did not utterly despise you, I should kick
you out into the storm."

"You need do neither.  I do not deny that I love Miss Clairville; I
deny only that I have menaced or threatened her in any form.  I say
this to you--man of unclean, unholy habits--the priest is human.  He is
as God made him.  He lives or dies, loves or hates by the will of God.
When I look at Miss Clairville, I think of her as the possible helpmeet
of my life, had it been spent in the service of this world instead of
in the service of God.  I think of her, monsieur, even reverently,
purely, as the possible mother of my children."

This astonishing speech had much effect upon Pauline, who commenced
weeping; the priest's voice--always a beautiful one--had dropped with a
mournful cadence on the four last words, and Crabbe did not reply.

"Who can do more than that?" resumed the _curé_.  "But that I cannot
offer.  Such care and worship, such devotion and tenderness I may not
give.  What then!  I can at least be the instrument which shall shape
her future career.  I can point the way and deliver her from all these
temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.  I do so now.  I ask
her to renounce the world now, at this moment, and to enter upon a new
life to which it shall be my high and glorious privilege to introduce
her."

The subtlety of the priest saved him.  The noble melancholy of his
words and gestures was abundantly convincing, and suddenly the
situation, at one time threatening to become unpleasantly melodramatic,
became normal.  The reversion to the light commonplaces and glib
phrases of society was felt in Crabbe's careless tones as he spoke of
the weather, adding:--

"'Tis never too late to be polite.  I'm putting my watch back into my
pocket, and I'll go with you, Father Rielle.  My refuge--a temporary
one--is no longer needed, it's lightening very considerably, and I
suppose you'll be going on to Clairville."

"But what am I to do?" exclaimed Pauline.  "I would rather not be left
here alone!"

"I am afraid you must make up your mind to that.  Poussette's horse is
hardly fit to be driven.  Let Father Rielle take him to the Manor House
and then come back for you with one of the others."

This was agreed upon, the two men left at once and for the space of ten
or fifteen minutes she was alone.  At the end of that time she could
hear footsteps on a rapid run, and soon Edmund Crabbe re-entered the
barn.  The cool air had invigorated him, and he flung off his cap and
faced her.

"I could not leave you in that summary fashion, after so long," he
said, "after so long, Pauline!  Well--I have lived to be of some
service to you--or so I think.  Whether Platonic or not, you had better
not encourage his reverence to that extent again, do you hear?  A
veritable Cassius of a man!  And, by the way, you are looking very well
just now, lady dear.  I never saw you handsomer, Pauline!"

Miss Clairville's colour, already high, leaped more redly in her cheeks
and she trembled; the ancient power that this man held over her, the
ring of his rich English inflections, the revival of habit and
association made her weak as water, so that she suddenly sat down and
could find nothing to say.  But Crabbe was quite at his ease, the
encounter with Father Rielle had sharpened his wits and given him a
restored opinion of himself, and in Pauline he saw a very handsome and
attractive, warm-hearted and talented woman, still young and once very
dear to him.  The dormant affection in both was near the surface and
Crabbe, knowing from her silence and downcast eyes how she felt, put
some check on himself.

"Small use to either of us," he sighed, "to renew those passionate
scenes of our youth!  But I can still admire you and wish with all my
heart--my heart you doubtless think black and altogether corrupt,
Pauline--that you were for me to win afresh and wear openly this time,
and that I might offer you a future unsullied.  I suppose that your
Methodist parson is after you, too, and that he will be the lucky one!
He's handsome, d----n him--and steady as mountains; he does thy work, O
Duty, and knows it not.  I have little doubt but that flowers bend
before him in their beds, that fragrance in his footing treads, and
that the most ancient heavens----what's the rest of it?  But you know,
Pauline, you know you'll never be happy with him!"

Miss Clairville murmured something he did not catch, and it was a
marvel to see how completely she lost her gay, assertive air, her
dashing theatrical address in the presence of the guide.

"He's been at me several times about reforming.  Well, if I did what
would there be for me here?  A big, long purse, Pauline, that's what I
want--a big, long purse, my girl, and then you and I might leave this
place and all these old harrowing associations.  What about that
Hawthorne business?  Do you ever hear?"

"Sometimes," whispered Miss Clairville.  "Antoine, as you may have
noticed, acts for me.  I give him the money, but I never go myself.  I
could not bear to see it--to see her--and it is not necessary."

"Poor girl!" said Crabbe, with much feeling.  "It's hard on you, damned
hard, I know.  What's the matter?  Oh--the swearing!  I'm sorry, live
too much by myself--forget myself.  But Pauline, almost I think Father
Rielle's advice will have to be followed.  It would be a haven--a
haven--better than the stage.  If I could reform, could change my skin
and lose my spots--but no!  Even the fulminations of your latest
admirer cannot work that miracle--I'm incorrigible!  When I think of
what I was, of what I might have been, and of what I am, despair seizes
on me and then I'm only fit for--the bottle!  There's no help for me,
I'm afraid.  Why, Pauline, this is Heaven's truth--I'm not perfectly
sober now."

As he spoke, again were heard footsteps on a run outside the barn.

"I know you're not," said Miss Clairville in agitation, "but I don't
shrink from you as I used to do.  Perhaps it was my fault.  Oh--who can
this be?  Father Rielle returning?"

"Hardly.  He was told to drive back for you.  It's some one seeking
shelter, like ourselves.  Hark--the hail is stopping, and now the
thunder and lightning and a good old-fashioned midwinter storm!"

"I know who it is," said she, still more hurriedly, and pushing Crabbe
towards the ladder,--"it is Mr. Ringfield.  You must go back to the
loft.  I could not have him meet you here.  He thinks--he thinks--you
know what he thinks."

"And he's not far wrong, either," said Crabbe complacently.  "But
perhaps I'd better do as you say; don't detain him now.  When he's gone
I'll get you out of this somehow."

Thus in a few minutes Ringfield entered the barn, found Pauline, as he
supposed alone; but afterwards, watching from the high road, saw the
guide emerge and noted the familiar relation in which they stood in
front of the stricken pine.

More than simple religious feeling entered at this moment Ringfield's
young and untried heart, his vanity was deeply wounded, and the thought
that Miss Clairville could allow Edmund Crabbe to caress her was like
irritating poison in his veins.  Yet he was in this respect unfair and
over-severe; the fact being that Pauline very soon observed, on coming
into closer contact with the guide, the traces of liquor, and she then
adroitly kept him at a distance, for in that moment of disenchantment
Ringfield's image again came uppermost.

It was not possible for her to be wise either before or after the
event; she had not sufficient coldness nor shrewdness of character to
enable her to break with all these conflicting surroundings and begin
life over again as she had eloquently described to the priest, for
without money she could not leave St. Ignace, and she could not raise
the money without taking some situation which might unfit her for the
stage and prolong the time of probation too far into middle life.
Pauline might age early, and at thirty-five she saw herself maturing
into a gaunt and grizzled dame, incapable of all poetic and youthful
impersonations.  To be thus crippled was torture to her lively
imagination, and in this _danse macabre_ of thought, a grim procession
of blasted hopes, withered ideals and torturing ambitions, her mind
gave itself first to one issue, then to another, while it was clear
that her position at St. Ignace was fast growing untenable and that
something would have to be done.

To live at Poussette's on the charity of its host was, although the
sister of the seigneur, to invite insult.  To yield a second time to
the ingratiating addresses of the guide was to lose her self-respect,
while to indulge in and encourage a pure affection for Ringfield was a
waste of time.  She recognized the truth of Crabbe's candid
statement--how could she do the young man such an injustice as to marry
him!



CHAPTER XVII

REVELRY BY NIGHT

  "Two passions both degenerate, for they both
  Began in honour, ..."


The scene in the kitchen of the Manor House presented a forcible
contrast to the wild world without.  The near approach of winter and
the news that M. Clairville was convalescent and well enough to receive
visitors had brought the Abercorns from Hawthorne to pay their somewhat
belated respects--they had never called before--and their arrival at
the _métairie_ created much astonishment.  The rate at which the mare
had raced through the Turneresque "Hail, Snow and Rain" relaxed as she
neared Lac Calvaire, and they were able to disembark (in the language
of the country) in safety if not in comfort at the door opened by Mme.
Poussette.  The parishes being nine miles apart, one entirely French,
the other mostly English, not much gossip penetrated, and the Rev.
Marcus and his wife were startled to hear that Henry Clairville had
left his room, walked all over his house and even reached half-way to
the bridge one afternoon.  But as they were both cold and fatigued,
madame led them (and shortly after Dr. Renaud and Poussette as well),
by dark and tortuous paths, to her kitchen, a large room built on the
generous scale of the seventeenth century, with a deep overhanging
fireplace, and thick, arched recesses serving as closets, and furnished
with swinging shelves and numerous bins where the provisions sent in
periodically by Poussette were safely stored, thus being well protected
from the rigours of a Lower Canadian winter.

Mrs. Abercorn was glad to come to the fire, her short squat figure lost
in the depths of a chair which Mme. Poussette had found in one of the
disused rooms, padded and carved, but also torn and moth-eaten;
nevertheless a comfortable refuge on such a day, and soon the reverend
lady sank into a soothing slumber, while her husband read from a book
he carried in his pocket.

It grew dark and madame was lighting a couple of lamps when the priest
and Ringfield entered.  Explanations were in order, but as neither of
them mentioned Edmund Crabbe, Miss Clairville's true position was not
made known, and it was arranged that as soon as somebody's clothes were
sufficiently dried and somebody's horse rubbed down and fed, somebody
should pick her up at Leduc's barn and so return with her to St. Ignace.

"Of course _you_ will go, Dr. Renaud," said Mrs. Abercorn, waking up
abruptly and joining in the conversation with her usual judicial air.
"But take some supper first."

"Has not mademoiselle already waited overlong?" exclaimed Poussette.
"It is nearly six o'clock and dark--shall I not return now, and bring
her back with me?"

"I think not," said the doctor, who partly understood the situation.
"She will not expect to reach Clairville at all to-night, and, as Mrs.
Abercorn says, as soon as I have something to eat, and a little to wash
it down with--I myself shall go for her.  Here, Poussette--off with
your coat!  Stir yourself now, and bring us the best the manor affords.
It's no secret that since Mme. Archambault and her tribe have cleared
out, we are masters of all contained in these generous closets--these
roomy cellars I have heard of so often.  Madame--the cloth, if you
please, the dishes, the plates!  Poussette--the wine, the old liqueurs,
the glasses!"

"But sir, consider the fate of ma'amselle!" cried Poussette piteously.
"She is alone--oh, poor lady--in Leduc's barn, without light, without
warmth, with nothing to eat or drink!  How then--do you wish to desert
her?"

"Not I," said the doctor composedly.  "But I know mademoiselle, she is
true Canadienne, not afraid of a little snow, a little storm!  And the
secret of my profession is--always to eat and always to drink when good
food and good drink are going.  Madame, make haste there!"

"If I could assist you,----" began Mr. Abercorn, but stopped, for his
glance wandered to his wife, who had never approved of Miss Clairville.

"You must not dream of such a thing, Marcus.  Leave me here in this
strange house, and go back by yourself along that awful road?
Certainly not.  Perhaps Father Rielle is going that way sooner than
you, Dr. Renaud.  Are you not, sir, anxious to--what do you call
it--_chercher_ mademoiselle?"  Despite her knowledge of French it was
the way of this lady to address the inhabitants of the countryside in
English, it "accustomed them to it" and, she fervently hoped, tended to
bring about the ultimate "Anglifying of the Province," to borrow a term
much used by that distinguished patriot, Louis Honore Papineau,
previous to 1857.

The priest, who had as yet no intention of returning to the barn,
preferring that others should encounter the uncertain temper of one so
recently tried in uncommon and painful ways, professed much interest in
her plight, remarking, however, that he feared he did not drive well
enough to find his way over the plateau of rock which lay between the
road and the shelter.

"Then there is only Mr. Ringfield left!" exclaimed Mrs. Abercorn, much
as if she were marshalling people in to dinner.  "Yes, yes--_you_ shall
go for her, poor thing, but probably she deserves it; living on your
charity, I hear, Mr. Poussette, and the other woman too; shocking, I
call it!  And belonging to quite an old family, _quite_ old, I believe."

The idea of Pauline not paying anything towards her board while staying
at Poussette's was painfully new to Ringfield; he had never thought of
the matter, but now recalled her chronic condition of impecuniosity,
and he saw directly how humiliating this must be for her and why it was
necessary that she should find something to do.  Henry Clairville, her
natural and proper protector, could not apparently help her, the
Englishman was fully as impotent, and Ringfield at once decided, while
listening to the conversation, to seek her again and offer her a part
of his stipend, the first instalment of which had been paid over by
Poussette that morning.  Everything favoured his quiet withdrawal, for
the heat of the fire, the stacks of celery, and the splendid cognac,
smuggled from the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and purchased by
Poussette for twenty cents a bottle, were beginning to tell on both Mr.
Abercorn and the doctor.

"Twenty cents, did you say?" hastily inquired the former, "I never
heard anything like that!  I think I must, I really must have a taste,
just a drop, just a sip--thank you, Dr., thank you.  My dear--a little
for you too?  No?  Well, well, after all that exposure I do not
believe, I really do _not_ believe a little would hurt you.  Ah! that's
it, Dr., a small wineglassful for Mrs. Abercorn.  There, my dear, I am
sure you require it."

"Do you no harm," said Dr. Renaud.  "'Tis fine stuff, the best French.
Makes one feel like a boy."  And he began to sing.

  "Quand j'étais sur mon père,
    Je n'avais rien à faire
  Quand j'étais sui mon père
    Qu'une femme a chercher.
  A present j'en ai une,
  A present j'en ai une
    Qui me fait enragé.


"Change that to '_en roulant ma boule_' and I'm with you," said Mr.
Abercorn, and the Doctor took him at his word; Mrs. Abercorn becoming
very sleepy, was provided with rugs and pillows on a sofa in the hall,
while the two gentlemen sipped cognac and munched celery till slumbers
also overtook them.

Ringfield then moved.  "Where is M. Clairville?" he asked Mme.
Poussette, tilting his chair back as she passed.

"In his bed, M'sieu.  He overwalked this morning and knows nothing of
the storm, and after a _petit verre_ of this good cognac he has gone to
sleep.  It is good for the brain--this cognac; will not M'sieu join the
others?"

"No, thank you," he said, smiling, "You know I never touch these
things.  But I was thinking of going out to see the night.  Surely the
rain is almost over!  Do I go this way?"

"The other door, if you please, M'sieu."

Poussette's anxiety as he noted Ringfield's departure was ludicrous.
He overturned bottles, knocked down a chair, while he cast frightened
glances at the priest sitting reading his breviary austerely under the
lamp.  How could he escape?  Ah--the horses--they had not been properly
attended to!  The next moment he was off, out of the kitchen and
hastily rummaging in the large and dreary stables for a lantern.  A
whole row of these usually hung from the ceiling of a small outhouse
close at hand, and Ringfield had already taken one, lighted it, and was
a quarter of a mile along the road; Poussette, fearing this, made such
insane haste, "raw haste, half-sister to Delay," that the blanketing of
the horse and the other preliminaries took more time than usual, and he
had hardly driven out of the gate when Father Rielle, who had changed
his mind, also left the kitchen from where his sharp ears had caught
these various sounds, and searching for a third lantern, found one,
lighted it, and set off on foot behind Poussette in the buggy.

Thus--a little procession of three men and three lanterns was
progressing along the slippery, lonely road towards the barn where Miss
Clairville was awaiting rescue, the first of whom to arrive was
Ringfield.  Striding to the half-open door he boldly called her name,
and shoving the lantern inside perceived her to be entirely alone.

"Oh--it is you then!  I am so glad--it seems hours since you went away.
I have not been exactly frightened, for I know these woods and there is
nothing alive in them, but the position of this barn--so remote, so
down by itself in the little hollow--if anything did attack me, my
voice would never be heard."

"But you were not alone when I left you!  You may not be alone now!"

"How did you find that out?" her face changed; she had not calculated
on his having seen Crabbe.

"I think I knew all the time; your restlessness, your anxiety to get me
away, your pushing me down on that box and changing the subject--why,
when I saw him come out, and--and wind his arm around your waist, then
I knew you had been lying to me!  How could you do it!"  He waved the
lantern towards the loft but could see nothing there.

"He is gone, gone," said she earnestly; "he has gone to the village to
get some rig or other and come back with it for me, but of course I
would rather go with you."

"I cannot believe a word you say!" exclaimed Ringfield in an agony,
setting the lantern down.  "Not a word--not a word.  Do you think you
can play all your life like this with men?  You cannot play with me at
all events.  There are forces here (he struck his breast), passions
here, instincts here I never dreamed of, I never knew I possessed.  It
is not good, nor wise, nor necessary for me to love you, Pauline, but I
do--I do!  And you must fear them, you must respect them, these
instincts, these forces, as much in me as you would do in other men."

"I do, I do!  Only I do not like to see you and that other man
together--I always feel something happening, I do not know what! but I
will tell you all about it.  Father Rielle drove me to this place; we
got out, came in, and then he talked most foolishly, most wildly--hurt
my wrist--see here!  And while I was wondering how I could put him off,
get rid of him, I discovered that the other man was in the loft.  I saw
his stick, then I heard him; and then he came down and he and Father
Rielle went away together."

"But he came back--for I saw him, I saw you both.  You went outside to
look at the tree."

"Yes--he went away, but he came back, and while we were talking I heard
you coming and so--and--so----"

"You got him out of the way in time!  Then after I left he was here
again with you?"

"For a little while, just a little while."

Ringfield suddenly snatched her hands and bent his stern offended gaze
upon her.

"You have been hours with that man, hours--I know it.  And to pretend
to me that there was no one there, while you allowed me to open my mind
and heart to you--the indignity of it, the smallness and vileness of
it; oh!--can not you see how I suffer in my pride for myself as well as
in my affection for you?  As for the man, he knew no better, and I
suppose he wished for nothing better, than to listen and look, to watch
us, to spy----"

He choked with sorrowful wrath and temper; an access of jealous,
injured fury entirely possessed him for an instant, then with a great
effort, and an inward prayer, he partly regained his ministerial calm.

"You must see that I am right," he resumed; "he calls himself a
gentleman--you call him one; but is that a gentlemanly thing to do?
Gentleman?  To stay here in hiding and let us talk on as we did!  And
what does it signify that he is or has been 'an Oxford man'--the term
has no relevancy here, no meaning or sense whatever.  Tell me this once
more, for I have grave doubts--has he any legal right over you?"

Pauline resolved to answer this question truthfully.  How would
Ringfield accept the delicate distinction of a moral right involving
only those ties, those obligations, known to themselves and not to the
world?

"No," she said, firmly.  Then a great burst of colour filled her face
as she continued.  "But he should have had.  Now you know.  Now you
know all."  And Ringfield, as almost any other man would have done,
mistakenly concluded that she was the unfortunate mother of the
unfortunate child in the distant parish, Angeel!  In this, perhaps the
crucial moment of his whole existence, his manhood, his innate simple
strength, his reason and his faith, all wavered, tottered before him;
this experience, this knowledge of evil at first hand in the person of
one so dear, flamed round him like some hideous blast from the hot
furnace of an accepted hell, and he realized the terrors of things he
had read about and seen depicted--lost souls, dark and yet lurid pits
of destruction, misshapen beasts and angry angels--the blood flowed
from his arteries and from his stricken heart up to his frightened
brain, and surged there while he stood, not raising his eyes to this
ill-starred woman.  It was child's play to read one's Bible; it was
child's play to read about sin; it was bald and commonplace to receive
converts after service, or to attend death-beds of repentance; here was
that suffering entity, the Sinner, alone with him, weak in her strength
and strong through her weakness, and with her delicate, guilty,
perverted impulses he had to deal, and no longer with pulpit
abstractions.  But while they stood thus, another turn in the affairs
which revolved around the lonely barn carried with it a new sound; a
horse's trot was plainly heard, likewise the humorous lilt of a shanty
song.

"It is Mr. Poussette!" whispered Pauline, rushing to the lantern and
extinguishing it.  "He is coming for me and I shall have to go with
him.  I can manage him--better than the priest--but you--what must I do
with you?  He is a gossip--that one--and it will work you harm in your
religion, in your church, if he finds you here with me."

"Oh, why are you so impetuous!" returned Ringfield.  "You should not
have blown out the light!  He knew doubtless that I was coming for
you--there would be nothing in that.  Where is the lantern--I will
light it again."

"You cannot reach it, I have hidden it down behind those boxes.  No,
no--I could not have him find you here with me.  The loft--the loft!
There is the ladder!"

And in two minutes he found himself, after scrambling up in the dark,
crawling about on his hands and knees in the same heap of straw that
had served to conceal Edmund Crabbe a few hours before, and doomed, in
his turn, to overhear the conversation of any who might be below.

In a few moments the horse came to a standstill, and Poussette
approached, carrying his lantern, Miss Clairville receiving him with
just that successful mixture of hauteur and coquetry, which kept him
admiring but respectful.  His delight at being the first, as he
supposed, to reach her, was as absurd as it was genuine, but there was
no delay, and she was soon comfortably wrapped up in Poussette's
_voiture_ and being rapidly driven to the manor-house.  When he thought
it was quite safe, Ringfield shook himself free from the hay and straw
that encumbered him, and prepared to descend the ladder, but he had
scarcely enjoyed the luxury of stretching his long limbs (for he could
not stand upright in the loft) when he heard footsteps approaching, and
looking down, he perceived Father Rielle enter the barn, lantern in
hand, and with thin, high-nosed, sour countenance depicting intense
surprise, eagerly explore the place for Pauline.  Ringfield held his
breath, but had enough sense to lie down again in the straw, and feign
slumber; happily the priest did not concern himself with the loft, but
the absence of the bird he had expected to find, caged and waiting,
seemed to mystify him.  He remained for several minutes lost in
thought, then setting the lantern on one box, moved others around,
strewed them with a thick layer of hay he found on the floor, and lying
down with his cloak pulled well over him, settled to a night's rest.
Ringfield, thus imprisoned, passed for his part a miserable night; he
dared not move and his excited brain kept him from sleeping.  Towards
four o'clock the lantern flickered out; at six, while it was yet dark,
the priest arose and went his way, and an hour later Ringfield also
retraced his steps to the village.  Like a man in an exceedingly
unpleasant, but most distinct dream, he found himself bound in a net of
intrigue from which there seemed no chance of escape.  It was Sunday
morning and at eleven he would have to take charge of the service and
address the usual congregation as Father Rielle had already partly
done, the early mass at St. Jean Baptiste-on-the-Hill being held at
half past seven.

The road between the grim leafless trees was now swept clean of both
snow and hail by the streams of heavy rain which had poured the
previous night, and the air was mild.  Much havoc had been wrought in
places by the furious storm; the rocky ground was littered with
branches and twigs of all sizes; rivers of yellow mud ran where the
clay road should be, and against this desolation there glowed
occasional plants of bright green, low along the ground, that had
escaped the winter's rages of a high level.  Crows were silhouetted
against the pale blue sky laced with streamers of white, and spring
seemed to be in the air rather than late autumn; the excited birds
called to each other as they flew high over the forest, as if to hail
this pleasant morning, a contrast to the stormy night.  Suddenly the
sun shone through those cloudy gossamers and irradiated the bright
green ferns and orange lichens, drawing the eye to the cross of gold
that topped Father Rielle's fine church.  Ringfield went out of his way
to look at the fall; it was much swollen from the rain and thundered
over its brown rocks more loudly than he had ever heard it.  Above the
bridge were swaying large quantities of floating timber, washed down by
the violence of the storm, and as he looked he saw three of these
derelicts ride to the brink, and tumble over, and among them a little
dog, that had got out there he could not tell how, which for a moment
stood on a rolling tree whining piteously, and then fell with it down
those ledges of furious frothing waters.

He ran close to the edge, and looked over, but there was no trace of
the animal for fully five minutes; then he saw its poor little body
emerge, battered, knocked about by stones and trees at the foot of the
great cascade, and at the sight his good sense and right feeling seemed
to return to him.  He had temporarily, as he himself would have put it,
forgotten his Creator in the days of his youth; now all came back to
him; the duties of his position, its dignity and its obligations, and
he strove hard, by prayer and concentration of mind, to be as he had
been, and forget Miss Clairville and her tempestuous existence for a
while, as he took upon himself the work of the sacred day.  He preached
later from the verse, "Yet in the Church I had rather speak five words
with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than
ten thousand words in an unknown tongue," and his voice and magnetic
delivery were not impaired.  The little dog, the little dead dog,
figured in the sermon; like the Ancient Mariner when he leaned over the
rotting vessel's side and watched the beautiful living things moving in
the waters, his heart gushed out with sympathy as the image of the dog,
seeing his death, and recognizing no escape from it, remained with him.
The eyes of the poor animal seemed ever before him; large, pathetic
brown eyes, with soft patches of lighter brown fur above them, a
quivering nose and trembling paws--could he not have saved it?  No--for
motion once given to those rolling logs, they would carry anything on
with them, and it was already too late when he first perceived it--a
small, shivering, unhappy little object--with fear shining in its large
eyes, those eyes he had seen looking directly at him as if to say:
"Help me, my brother, help me from this Death!  Help me, for the love
of God, as you believe in God and in His Omnipotence and Goodness!"



CHAPTER XVIII

A CONCERT DE LUXE

        "----Consumed
  And vexed and chafed by levity and scorn,
  And fruitless indignation, galled by pride,
  Made desperate by contempt."


Ringfield, who had confessed to a fixed and abiding ignorance of the
stage, was also ignorant of music, except so far as he could recognize
a few patriotic airs and old-country ballads.  Of church music there
was nothing worth speaking of or listening to in the Methodist
conventicles of those days, so that he brought an absolutely open mind
to a consideration of Miss Clairville's voice and method when he first
heard her sing.  That had been one evening in an impromptu and
carelessly inadequate manner in company with Miss Cordova--whom, with
her bleached hair, green eyes accentuated by badly-drawn,
purplish-black eyebrows, and a shrill American accent, he was learning
to dislike and avoid as much as possible; but now a better opportunity
presented itself.  A Grand Evening Concert, Concert de Luxe, was to be
given at Poussette's for the survivors of Telesphore Tremblay, a
woodcutter who lived at the edge of the forest of Fournier, and who had
generously left behind him one of those long legacies of thriving sons
and daughters for which French Canada is famous.  The modest birth-rate
of the province of Quebec is not in these days of "race suicide" a
thing to be ungrateful for: many Tremblays remain, with their family of
eighteen or twenty-four, of sturdy, healthy boys and girls, for the
most part pure French, with an occasional streak of Scotch or Irish,
and a still rarer tincture of Indian.  Frugal, sober, industrious, and
intelligent along certain limited lines, the habitant sets an example
of domestic bliss, which, in its unalterable and cheerful conviction of
what are the duties of parents to the state and to the Church, tends to
the eternal and unimpoverished perpetuation of the French Canadian
race.  The Tremblays were named as follows, and as some interest
attaches to the choice of triple, and even quadruple, titles, largely
chosen from the saints of the Roman Calendar, augmented by memories of
heroes, queens, and great men in history, it is thought well to give
them at length.  Thus the sons, nine in number, were:--

  Alexis Paul Abelard
  Joseph Maurice Cleophas
  Hector Jerome Panteleon Etienne
  Jean Gabriel
  Jules Alfred Napoleon
  François-Xavier Hercule Narcisse
  Patrick Zenophile
  Pierre Joseph Louis-Felippe
  Alphonse Arthur

while the daughters were:--

  Minnie Archange
  Emma Catherine Lucille
  Victoria Cécile
  Marie-Antoinette Colombe
  Brigide Zenobie
  Eugenie Louise Angelique
  Bernardette Ste. Anne.


The dining-room at Poussette's was transformed for the occasion into a
moderate sized concert hall, by the erection of a platform at one end
by Antoine Archambault under Pauline's skilled directions, and by rows
of planks crosswise over chairs, the people of the village joining
forces with those at Poussette's, just as in towns others conspire
together to hold fêtes and bazaars; but Ringfield stood afar off and
would have nothing to say to it.  Miss Clairville intercepted him that
day after dinner and asked him to assist her.

"I cannot think," said she, "how you remain so narrow in one respect,
while broad enough in others!  I am sure that sermon yesterday about
the widow and the fatherless was the most beautiful thing I ever heard,
and that you have ever said.  How then--is it wicked to get up a
concert, act, sing, and amuse ourselves, and all for a good object,
that we make money for the unfortunate?  Ah--but I do not understand
you at all!"

"No, I suppose I cannot expect you to do so," replied Ringfield sadly.
"But I have never approved of similar practices in the city, and it
seems to me that I must now include the country.  Why not make a
personal canvass from house to house, through the mill, and so on, and
interest the members of our small community in the Tremblays--I believe
you would raise more."

"Ah!" exclaimed Pauline, with a swift shrug of impatience; "see
now--how we should quarrel always!  Quarrel?  I think it would be one
grand, great long fight, if I--if I----" she faltered, and he noted
with quick passion the drooping of her ordinarily flashing eyes.

"If you----" he repeated softly.  "Oh--say the rest, or if you would
rather not--I will say it for you.  You mean, if you could make up your
mind to leave all this, leave everything and everyone you have known,
and come to me--is that it?"

They were for a moment completely alone, but as Antoine might approach
at any instant, laden with boughs of evergreen for decoration purposes,
conversation was of a stolen and hurried kind.  Ringfield, in whom
first love had rapidly modified all natural shyness of the sex, was no
lukewarm lover; he took Pauline's hands, and bringing them to his lips,
pressed ardent kisses upon them, urging her to at once decide in his
favour and give him the right to guard her interests for ever.  How or
where they would live was no matter, her best impulses must surely move
all her heart towards him, and at last he heard from her a soft answer,
which was nevertheless a clear affirmative, and now, not only hands but
lips joined in this rare moment, and Pauline, no longer estimating the
minister as one unlearned in the subtle lists of love, felt happier
than she had done for months.  She had made, she told herself, the best
choice offered her, and for the moment she swore resolutions of holy
living and quiet dying, all in the character of Ringfield's wife.  As
for him, the kiss had sealed all and changed all.

"Now at last I shall live again, be a free agent, able to do my work!
You can have no conception of what it has been for me to get up my
sermons, for example, or to go about among the people here, thinking of
you, wondering if you would ever come to me or not.  I have pictured
you going back to that other man, and I have hated you for it, hated
you both!"

"Oh--hush, hush, be careful!"  Miss Clairville, like all women, was now
afraid of the passion she had awakened.  "Let us get to work--some one
may come in--you do not mind helping me now?"

"Not--if you mean what you say!  Not--if this time you are telling me
the truth!"

"You cannot forget that lapse of mine, it seems.  Well, I do mean it, I
do, I do!  And you--you mean it too?  You would take me even with my
past, and that past unexplained, with my faults and my temper?"

"I have told you before that I would," he returned firmly.  "No matter
what has happened; no matter what you have done, what anyone else has
done, I would, I will, I do take you!  You are Heaven's choicest,
dearest gift to me--and what am I but an erring man trying to walk
straight and see straight!"

Miss Clairville's eyes sparkled with mischief, while her mouth remained
solemn.

"Then you must not talk of hating.  Love your enemies, Mr. Ringfield,
and bless them that persecute you.  That isn't in the Catholic Manual
in those words perhaps, but I have seen it somewhere, I think in the
Testament Nouveau.  You see----  I am always 'good Methodist' as our
friend Poussette would say."

"You shall be a better one in the future," exclaimed Ringfield,
tenderly, and as at that moment Poussette himself appeared, to lend
assistance, the interview was at an end.

And now ensued a scene which a week earlier would have sorely tried
Ringfield's patience, but which now sufficed to amuse him, so secure
was he in Pauline's affection and so contented with her recent
promises.  The evergreens were brought to her, seated on the platform
and wearing gloves to protect her hands; she cut off the branches,
trimmed them, and sometimes handed them to Poussette, and sometimes to
Ringfield, who then nailed them up at the back of the improvised dais
to make a becoming background; she also twined the smaller pieces into
festoons and ropes for the side of the room, and Poussette, who could
not keep his admiration a secret, hovered about her, continually
pressing her fingers as he received the greens, patting her back,
offering her the scissors and the ball of twine much more frequently
than she required them.  It was a relief to the couple most concerned
when Miss Cordova entered, wearing an elaborately pleated and not too
clean violet dressing gown, over which she had put on a dark blue
blanket coat and her host's fur cap to keep her warm.  Thus from the
ill-assorted trio was formed a comfortable _partie carrée_, for
Poussette seemed careless as to which lady he attended and he still
bore the cornelian ring upon his finger.  Ringfield, forgetting his
scruples, had promised to take the chair and introduce the artists;
Antoine was door-keeper, and Poussette, clad in tweeds, a white
waistcoat and tie of bright blue, would receive the guests in his own
effusive way, seating the ladies carefully on the fresh yellow planks
with great gallantry and address.

At eight o'clock the room began to fill, the village turning out well,
and a few coming all the way from Hawthorne, among these Enderby, the
Cockney butcher, and his wife and daughter, and as soon as Ringfield
had made a few appropriate remarks, couched this time in safe and
secular terms, the first number was given, consisting of an orchestral
selection by four players belonging to St. Ignace and to the choir of
Father Rielle's big church, St. Jean-Baptiste-on-the-Hill.  A cornet,
two fiddles and a flute rendered the music with good time and fair
intonation, and as it was lighthearted, even gay in character,
melodious and tripping, Ringfield thought it must be of operatic
origin, but found later on to his intense surprise that it was a
transcription of Mozart's Twelfth Mass, interpreted by Alexis Gagnon,
the undertaker, as first violin, his eldest son, second violin,
François Xavier Tremblay, one of the beneficiaries, on the cornet, and
Adolphe Trudel, a little hunchback, on the flute.

This selection, performed with more gusto and enthusiasm than
customary, gave so much satisfaction that it had to be repeated after
noisy and prolonged applause, and then Miss Cordova appeared at the
side of the platform, dressed in Spanish costume and carrying
castanets.  The opera of "Carmen," at that time quite new, had been
performed in some small towns of the United States by a "scratch"
company, including Pauline's acquaintance and--to show that Art is a
reality, and some people born into it, at their best in it and unfit
for anything else--the lady was greatly changed, not only in
Ringfield's eyes, but in her own.  The greenish-yellow hair looked dull
gold by lamplight; her eyes gleamed blackly from their blue
crystallized lids (the bath of indigo being a stage device known to all
devotees of the art), and her dancing, which immediately commenced to
her own castanets and a subdued "pizzicato" from the two violins, was
original and graceful, and free from any taint of vulgarity.  Her
draperies of handsome black and yellow stuffs were high to the throat
and reached to her ankles; her expression was dreamy, almost sad; one
would have said she was figuring in some serious rite, so dignified her
mien, so chaste and refined her gestures.  If Bizet has idealized the
heroine of Prosper-Merimée's crude but strong little story, Sadie
Cordova idealized in her turn the orthodox tempestuous, unhappy Carmen
of the modern stage.  The beauty of the music with its rhythmic
measured beat, and the grace of her swaying changeful poses, riveted
all eyes and ears, and Ringfield, to whom such an exhibition was
altogether new, was absorbed in watching this woman he had endeavoured
not to despise, and whom he certainly would have exhorted in his most
earnest fashion to flee St. Ignace directly, had he known that she was
a person who had experimented more than once in matrimony, not having
waited for the death of her first husband before she married the
second, and that she had two children living.

The next on the programme was a baritone solo from a young habitant,
another of the Tremblay family, a portion of a Mass in which he was ill
at ease, and over-weighted; this apparently not mattering to the
populace, he was encored, and returned to sing, in his own simple
fashion and without accompaniment, one of the many beautiful melodies
known to him from his childhood--A Chanson Populaire.

  Quand un Chrétien se determine
      A voyager,
  Faut bien penser qu'il se destine
      A des dangers;
  Mille fois a ses yeux la mort
      Prend son image,
  Mille fois il maudit son sort
      Dans le cours du voyage.


  Quand tu seras dans les portages,
      Pauvre engagé,
  Les sueurs te couleront dea visages
      Pauvre affligé,
  Loin de jurer, si tu me crois,
      Dans ta colère,
  Pense à Jesus portant sa croix--
      Il a monté au Calvaire!


What words were these--to be sung at a mixed concert in a summer hotel
in the primitive village of St. Ignace?  Ringfield knew enough French
to follow them, and as the minor plainsong of the melody floated
through the hall, he saw Miss Clairville's eyes filling with tears
where she sat in the front at one side awaiting her turn.  She had
often spoken to him of the beautiful national music of her
province--this was the first time he had heard it.  But quickly now
followed Poussette with a solo on the concertina, in which his fat body
laboured to and fro, and his fat hands plunged the instrument to one
side, then to the other, while his broad smile and twinkling eyes first
pleased, then convulsed the audience.  After him came Miss Clairville,
and Ringfield, nervously reading out the title of the song, did not
observe how she was dressed until she had reached the platform and had
greeted her audience.  The black and scarlet garb so familiar to him
was now accompanied by a smart little jacket of red worn rather
queerly, since one arm only was thrust in and the empty sleeve caught
up in some way he did not understand, while on her head she wore a kind
of arch hussar's cap.  It was evident that her selection was familiar
to some in the audience, those who had seen her as "La Grande Duchesse
de Gerolstein" in Montreal, and a few who had attended similar
functions to the present.

"It's only an old turn of mine," she managed to whisper to Ringfield,
"but they all like it.  Le Sabre de Mon Père--I never tire singing it
myself.  You look stupid enough this minute to be my Fritz--but
there--you do not understand!"

The accompaniment was played on the American organ, moved for that
occasion up to the platform, but even that could not detract from the
passionate pride and fire with which Miss Clairville rendered that
spirited song, so far removed from opera "bouffe" or "comic" opera;
indeed the noble character of the first strain was considerably
enhanced by the church-like quality of the accompaniment.  So far
Ringfield was greatly surprised, for he had seen and heard nothing that
failed to appeal to the artistic and elevated side of life, and Pauline
threw additional vigour and life into her representation of the
autocratic Duchess, half-acted, half-sung, as she observed her latest
captive; new chains were being forged by the unexpected grandeur and
beauty of her thrilling voice and all went breathlessly and well until
the door at the end of the room opened and a startling figure appeared.
This was Edmund Crabbe--but no longer Crabbe the guide, the dilatory
postmaster, the drunken loafer; in his stead appeared Crabbe Hawtree,
Esquire, the gentleman and "Oxford man," in his right mind and
clothed--_mirabile dictu_--in full and correct evening dress.
Piccadilly and Pall Mall need not have been ashamed of him; the
regulation coat, waistcoat and trousers were there, a little worn, but
still in fashion; the white tie was there, the stiff collar and cuffs,
the patent leather pumps, even a white silk handkerchief tucked inside
the waistcoat, and some kind of sprig in the buttonhole.  He paused,
carefully shutting the door behind him, and stood while Pauline
finished her song; at its conclusion he walked up through the rows of
village people--shanty and mill hands, habitants and farmers--and
presented the artist with a handsome bunch of florist's roses, quite in
the accepted style of large cities, and her surprise was evident.  She
started, stared at him, faltered, and might have spoken but for the
impassive and nonchalant air with which he faced her.  As for
Ringfield, a great anger and distress filled his mind.  What spasm of
reform had animated this fallen, worthless creature to create an
impression which could not, in the nature of things, lead to systematic
rehabilitation?  To ape the garb of worthy men, to stand thus, tricked
out in the dress of a remote civilization from which he had thrust
himself forever, before the woman he perhaps had wronged, and with so
easy and disdainful a bearing, seemed to Ringfield the summit of
senseless folly and contemptible weakness.  Subjected during the rest
of the evening to the cynical, amused and imperturbable gaze of this
man, whom, in spite of his Christianity, he hated, Ringfield made but a
sorry chairman.  His French stuck in his throat; he cast dark and angry
looks at the noisy flirtation going on between Poussette and Miss
Cordova, and it was with relief that he heard the patriotic strains of
"God Save the Queen" from the strength of the company, in which the
hoarse bass of the transplanted cockney, Enderby, the Hawthorne
butcher, was paramount.

Crabbe was waiting for Pauline and gave her his arm down from the
platform.

"Well," said he, openly displaying his admiration, "you gave us a
Gregorian Grand Duchess to-night, but I, for one, will not quarrel with
you for that.  All the old time vivacity and charm were there, I assure
you, and I do not find as much alteration in your style and appearance
as I expected from hearing that you had joined the Methodists!"

Pauline glanced quickly from Crabbe to Ringfield; she foresaw an open
and unseemly quarrel, and as one could never tell when Crabbe was
sober, she rather feared than welcomed the bright audacity of his
manner, the amiable ease with which he held the situation.  In the
presence of the guide Ringfield always lost his austere calm; his
manners underwent deterioration and he stood now with a rigid
_gaucherie_ spoiling his fine presence, and a pitiful nervousness
prompting him to utter and do the wrong thing.

"I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Methodists all the same,
you know," continued Crabbe, giving her arm a final and caressing pat
as he released her, "but still I've seen better chairmen."  Crabbe was
now leaning lazily against the wall and occasionally moved his arm
across Miss Clairville's back, as if he might at any moment fold it
around her waist as he had done outside the barn.

"Your French needs polishing up a bit.  How would a course at one of
our theological colleges down here do for you?  It's a pity you
couldn't have six months even at Laval--but, of course, Sabrevois and
the long procession of colporteurs is more in your line.  But in spite
of such small defects you remain a man of cheerful yesterdays, and we
may presume--equally confident tomorrows, and therefore, to be envied."

The three stood comparatively alone, the people having passed out and
Poussette and Enderby talking apart in a corner.  Every vestige of
healthy colour fled from the minister's face, and his hands clasped and
unclasped with peculiar and unnatural tension.  In his brain a prayer
had formed.  "My Dear God--" he kept saying to himself--"my Dear
God--help me from myself!  Protect me now lest I offend Thee, and be
forever cast from Thy Holy Presence.  Remove this temptation from me,
or give me strength to meet it and endure, and so rise triumphant."

His lips moved and the word "God" made itself faintly heard.  Pauline
went closer to him and saw the set strain of his face and watched the
tightening fingers.

"Oh, you are right--we torture you, he and I, with our foolish ways
that you do not understand!"

"I understand well enough," he returned below his breath; "I understand
better than you think.  But come now, come away with me!"

"Come--where?  I am living here, remember!"

"Come away--away!"

A new recklessness animated Ringfield; he was now the one to dash aside
convention and make a bold attempt for mastery.  "It is not yet very
late.  The snow is dry and hard--we can walk for half an hour."

Crabbe smiled in a slow infuriating way.

"I claim, I demand the lady for something better than a walk, under
dreary midnight skies, over cold and inhospitable winter snows!  Like a
man in a certain chronicle I have made a supper and would bid you both
attend--one at least."

"A supper?  But whom----"  Pauline stopped, although glad of the
diversion Crabbe's words offered.  She had seen him hand a couple of
bills towards the Tremblay fund; she now recollected preparations
towards extra cooking during that day, which she had set down to
Poussette's mania for treating and feeding people, but which now must
be attributed to the guide, and in her hand were the forced roses sent
from Montreal--there was no nearer place.  Crabbe must be out of his
senses, for never before even in the old days when his remittance came
to hand had she seen him so lavish.  He read her meaning.

"Who pays, eh!  Is that it, my lady?  Well, I do on this occasion, and
the fact is--well, I'll tell you all about it at supper."

Pauline, still incredulous but extremely curious, took small notice of
Ringfield after this, and as Enderby was approaching, and she
particularly avoided meeting anyone from Hawthorne on all occasions,
she departed with the guide.  There was a very attractive supper ready
for her in a private room, where Miss Cordova was also present in her
Spanish costume, a giddy chaperone who soon retired and left the two
together, and Pauline could hardly credit the fact that Crabbe was
genuinely sober, clad in his irreproachable evening suit, his hair
neatly brushed with a kind of military cut, and his features composed
and pleased, recalling much of what he had been when first they met;
and she also observed with much surprise that Poussette was present at
the feast altogether in the character of menial and inferior, with his
coat off, bustling about with the glasses, corkscrews and towels.
Instead of hobnobbing with the guide, he waited upon him with
discretion and assiduity, and Pauline even fancied that towards herself
there was a grain more of respect than of admiration in the hotel
keeper's bearing.



CHAPTER XIX

REHABILITATION

  "Cast from the pedestal of pride with shocks."


All through the little supper, made gay by the brilliant dresses of the
ladies and the bunches of roses in the middle of the table, a
restlessness marked the guide's manner; he was clearly anxious to have
it over, get rid of Poussette and Miss Cordova, and be alone with
Pauline.

It was a quarter to twelve when this was arrived at, and Crabbe took
the precaution of closing the door securely after the Frenchman, and of
seeing that the blind was sufficiently lowered over the one window
which looked on the side of the cleared yard nearer the river, but he
did not think of looking out of the window.  Perhaps if he had he would
not have recognized Ringfield in the straight dark shadow that kept
walking up and down, up and down, as long as the light shone from that
room.  When he at last found himself secure and alone, the Englishman's
stoicism, pride, and remorse, all came forth at one bound.  He sat down
and swept the dishes away from him, reached for Pauline's hand, and
bent his head down over it upon the table, smothering different
ejaculations, which, warm and earnest enough, were totally removed from
his usual style of impassioned speech--he uttered nothing profane.  But
he sobbed--sobbed.

"Oh, what is it?" cried Miss Clairville in alarm.  "What has happened?
I never saw you like this before.  It frightens me--why you sound as if
you were crying, but that would be impossible.  Oh, tell me, tell me!"

He grew calmer, lifted his head and felt for his handkerchief.  "Yes,
it's quite possible!  I believe I have shed a tear or two.  The first
in how many years, Pauline?  Ah--that I could not, would not wish to
compute, but it's over now, I----"

He stopped, released her hand and began settling his clothes with the
familiar touches she remembered so well.  "I--well; Pauline, it's this;
I've come into money.  Now you know.  Now you understand.  And another
thing--I know how to make money--what's more.  Nothing succeeds like
success, you see, and by Heaven--one thing followed on another till I
could have gambled for luck, lost all, and won all back!  Oh--I don't
know what I'm saying, but I mean that one thing would have been enough,
and there came two, two at once, here in the middle of this gloomy
wood, this Inferno of a place I have hated so well and so long.
Gad--it isn't half bad to-night though!  I feel like a gentleman, I
hope I look like one; I can act like one at least: pay my way, pay for
this little spread, pay for your roses--what did you think when you saw
them?"

Pauline did not take her eyes off him.  She was alarmed, not believing
a word he said, and she did not answer with her usual spirit.

"I thought them very wonderful of course in this out-of-the-way place.
Did you send for them?"

"My lady is cautious.  New for her.  Where is our Gallic zeal and
impetuosity gone?  You're afraid of me!  I see it.  You think I'm
drunk?"

She shook her head, but her smile was somewhat wan.

"Here, I'll convince you.  Take my hands, both of them.  Both of them,
I say.  At once, madam."

She did so and he drew her near, nearer, till their knees were touching.

"Now you answer me.  Are they steady?"

"Yes."

"Very reluctantly given.  Are they quite steady and firm like your own
or like those of your parson friend?"

"Oh, don't, don't!  Yes--quite firm, quite steady."

"You see!  Now look at my eyes, look into them, lady dear.  At once,
madam.  You find that trying, do you, but persevere.  Well--what do you
find?  Are they wild, bloodshot, glazed, glaring?  No?  Only your image
therein.  And by God, Pauline, there never was and never will be any
image half so beautiful, half so dear.  That you must and will believe.
Well, then--no, don't draw your hands away--about this money, for I'm
perfectly sober and desirous of telling you the truth.  You have the
right to know.  One thing led to another, but the first of it was like
this.  I've always been a scribbler in my lazy moments, as you know,
but perhaps you can't be expected to know that I have put care and
strong thought, art and heart both, into some verse that I occasionally
would take out and look over, and then lock away again.  How could I,
forlorn and degraded, an outcast from society, hope to effect anything
in literature!  Yet I never destroyed any of these pet lucrubations of
mine, and one day, a few months ago, I picked out a poem, copied it
fair when my hand wasn't shaking, and sent it to a magazine in England.
They took it--and I was so surprised that I went on a good long drunk.
But when I got straight again I found a handsome cheque awaiting me and
the hope, very warmly expressed by the way, that I would let him, the
editor, have many more in the same vein.  Many more, mind you, with
cheques to match, so long as my industry holds out and I can find
enough to say.  Now consider for a moment what that signifies to a man
like me, fallen so low, I confess it, ostracized and exiled, cut off
from all old associations and without hope of overcoming my fault
sufficiently to enable me to make a fresh start.  It meant not only
money, but employment, and congenial employment.  It meant that after
all, these years of leanness have not been wasted, that I have
something to say if I can only retain the knack, the trick, of saying
it in the way people will like, the public like.  This alone would be
much, but with it goes, you see, some money, so, as I said, one thing
brings another; and money after all, Pauline, is what many a man as
lost as I am mostly requires.  It isn't as if I'd _had_ money,
squandered it and lost it; I never had it--I never had it."

He paused, and for a moment there had sounded that high dangerous ring
in his voice she knew so well, and Miss Clairville drew her hands away.

"But that was not all," she said coldly.  "You spoke of something else,
of two things that had happened.  What was the other?"

"The second grew out of the first, out of what I have told you.  The
poems--they were a couple of ranch episodes,--I'll let you see them
presently--were signed by my full name, Edmund Crabbe Hawtree.  I never
supposed any one I knew would see them, or seeing them trouble their
heads about the writer; in fact, I never thought about the matter.  But
somebody did see them and did remember me, and did take the trouble to
find out who I was, and where I was, and I've had within the last
fortnight two letters from a well known firm of lawyers in London
informing me that I am without doubt the man they have been searching
for during the past year, and that quite a respectable little fortune
awaits me.  There have been a few deaths in the family; I am next of
kin and so that's all there is about it.  Simple as you like, but true
beyond a doubt, and so I thought I'd celebrate the event to-night with
you, Pauline, and perhaps confer with you--you woman of the world, with
your knowledge of life and of me--of me, alas!  Me at my worst,
Pauline, but let us hope really my worst."

He rose and walked around the room, unconscious of the dark shadow that
also walked austerely outside the window.  "This money--it is a great
thing that has happened to me.  It is difficult to realize.  Don't mind
my walking up and down; it soothes me and I'm excited too, I think."

Pauline seemed dazed.

"Is there a title?  Is it much--the money that has been left you, I
mean?  Very much?"

"A good deal, but no title."  And Crabbe could not and did not try to
suppress the satisfied smile which told how he had gained in
self-respect during the last few days.

"I expect you'll think it a good deal.  Of course in England it will be
different.  There must be two houses with it; a town house--no, that
was sold a long while ago, I believe; anyway, there would be more to do
with it over there than on this side.  I wonder how soon I ought to go."

"Go!  You are going!  But how much is it?"

"Oh!  Didn't I say?  About ten thousand; pounds you know, Pauline,
pounds, not dollars."

"Ten thousand pounds!"

"A nice little sum, lady dear?"

"All that money yours?"

"Yes, and not a penny too much, not a penny too much.  I have to
revenge myself on fate, or Providence, or whatever you call it, for
these years of misery.  I have to think of what I might have done and
lose no time in doing it.  Pauline, I must think of you."

A softer mood held him now and he dropped upon his knee and laid his
head upon her lap, but she could not follow his swift changes of
emotion; the mention of the money had obliterated every other thought,
and whether it was the woman in her or the potential miserliness of her
race--the Clairvilles were traditionally stingy--she seemed unable to
get away from the mere image of the ten thousand pounds.

"But, _Mon Dieu_, what a great change there will be!  You will be
everything and I shall be nothing!  A poor actress, a doubtful lady!
Oh!  I shall be nothing to you, I can see, I can see!  _Mon Dieu_, but
this is only to bring more trouble upon me!"

Crabbe, as he will still be called, was at this much astonished.  To do
him justice he had for some time, ever since Ringfield's advent in the
village in fact, found himself wishing that he might sincerely reform
and offer Pauline the honour of marriage, and with it some hopes of a
respectable competence.

"What nonsense are you saying?" he returned angrily.  "Isn't money what
we both require, what we have always required?  And here it is now, as
much as we want, and more, a great deal more, than we deserve or we
expected!  Why, I'll marry you now, Pauline, and you'll keep me steady;
you and the travel and all the strangeness and the glory of it.  You
don't need any educating, any furbishing up--thank Heaven you were
always a lady!--but we'll go abroad, of course, for a while and I'll
show you Paris, Pauline, Paris, where you told Father Rielle you wanted
to go and act; and you shall buy all you want at the shops, and I'll
take you to the Louvre.  Oh, yes, and you must go and see Mme.
Bernhardt if she is acting; you might have been her rival if you'd
begun earlier, with your moods and fancies and tempers.  Then we'll
come back to London, and I'll take you for a day to my old lodgings in
Jermyn St., just to square up things.  Then we'll progress quietly to
the Towers, Langmere, Suffolk; that's the estate; not the most
interesting of counties, but everything will be new and equally
interesting to you, and thus we'll sober down to the regulation old
English married couple.  Dost like the picture, my lady of St. Ignace,
my _châtelaine_ of Clairville?"

"Always Clairville, always St. Ignace."  She clasped her hands above
her head in weariness.  "If something could happen like what you
describe, but no--it is impossible.  They say that Henry's sight is
going now, that very soon he will not be able to walk about by himself
at all, that he is better in body but worse in mind, that he is
forgetting all caution and speaking openly of the child--what is to be
the end of it?"

"If anything could happen!  Something _has_ happened.  What I am
telling you is true.  I am rich, able to take care of you, to put an
end to this sordid existence; you shall be taken away from Henry and
the child, and the old associations.  Don't you believe me?"

"I should like to; but it's too much, too sudden, too good to be true."

"But it _is_ true; here are the letters; here is money, a little of
what is due, and here are the poems.  You see, even if there were any
mistake, any hitch about the estate, I still have a career open to me.
There's an old manuscript novel of mine lying about somewhere; I
believe I can get that taken; and I feel, I know there's something in
it,--life, truth, suffering!  But there's no hitch, no mistake, I swear
it to you, Pauline; and whenever you're ready, I am; and we will, in
melodramatic language, fly together from these dreary wilds.
Fortunately residence at St. Ignace doesn't imply creditors.  I've
taken a room here at Poussette's, and I shall live in comfort for the
short time that may elapse before we start.  One thing, I hope, I hope,
I shall keep sober.  Would you take me if you thought I wouldn't, lady
dear?"

He sat, stooping forward, his hair slightly disarranged, his blue eyes
no longer choleric but gently smiling.  She realized that he was still
goodlooking, still a gentleman, a man of culture and even talent, young
enough to move the world, and almost as young in appearance as herself;
for mental anxiety and care of any kind always showed directly in her
mobile features, and she was already beginning to track a few grey
hairs and a few unbecoming wrinkles.

"There's another reason," she said evasively.  "You have no idea how
persistent this young man, the minister, has become.  I have warned
him, I have told him--not everything, of course, but a great deal--yet
still he follows me, and to-day, I cannot remember what I said; but I
have certainly led him to expect that I shall marry him."

"What!  The parson!  I thought you had more sense.  Never do, never in
the world.  And now in the light of my proposals, see what you would be
throwing away."

"But he is very earnest, very determined.  He may keep me to my word.
He may not get over it if I refuse, if I manage to leave St. Ignace
with you."

Crabbe laughed and kissed her lightly on the ear.  He said nothing, but
produced first letters and papers from his pocket and then a small
case.  Pauline opened it; a pair of beautiful ear-rings flashed in the
lamp light.  In her ears were the imitation ones; she thought no longer
of anything but whisking these out and putting on the others.  Together
they studied the papers and read the letters; and before they parted
for the rest of the night she had promised to be ready in a month to
marry him wherever he would prefer to have the ceremony performed, and
to go abroad with him.  She was to say that he had certainly come into
some money but not to say how much; she was to busy herself with making
arrangements for her brother's future comfort, as in all probability
the pair would never revisit St. Ignace; and she was to make in
particular a visit of a few days to Hawthorne on special and private
business connected with the child Angeel.



CHAPTER XX

A RURAL AUTOCRAT

  "The discipline of slavery is unknown
  Amongst us--hence the more do we require
  The discipline of virtue."


The presence of Enderby at the Tremblay concert had not been altogether
due to the excellence of the programme or the merit of the
beneficiaries; he had in fact driven over with the intention of
speaking to Ringfield on a subject of some importance--the future of
the child in the basket chair.  This excellent but domineering
storekeeper was the leader of society at Hawthorne; the settlement was
not rich in old families, either English or French, and very early in
his career he and his wife had taken the helm and continued to hold it,
preserving strict notions of etiquette and maintaining a decorous state
which would have become the Lieut.-Governor of a Province.  Large,
stern and florid, he was always the same in manner whether serving
behind his counter or taking up the money on Sundays: shining example
of intelligence, thrift, and British insularity, such a man as Clarence
Enderby carries the love of British institutions all over the globe,
and one forgives his syntax for the sake of his sincerity.  He had
always been a fiery conservative and a staunch member of the Church of
England; and two or three months before Ringfield's arrival he had
organized what was known to all beholders passing his shop by a
japanned sign hanging outside as the "Public Library," a collection of
forty-seven volumes of mixed fiction in which the charming and highly
illuminative works of E. P. Roe were chiefly conspicuous, reposing in a
select corner of the establishment, somewhat towards the centre, and
equidistant from the dry goods, rubbers, hardware and hammocks, and
from the candies, groceries, fancy jewellery and sheet music.  The
proprietors of these country "general stores" are great men in their
way: years ago they rolled up fortunes for themselves in their
district; potential Whiteleys and Wanamakers, they were the true
pioneers in the departmental store business, and on a lilliputian scale
"Enderby's" would have compared very well with the Army and Navy Stores
of London.  Absence of competition creates a monopoly, and Enderby's
was the best store in a large district including Hawthorne, St. Ignace,
Beauscley, his only rival being the Yankee referred to by Crabbe, who
did not, however, bear a very good character, having been detected in
smuggling some of those old French brandies and liqueurs, although he
was outwardly a teetotaller and his place had no licence.  Enderby, on
the other hand, always drank a glass of beer with his Sunday dinner;
indeed, the arrival of the malt of which his wife and daughter also
partook, was a part of Sunday observance, while on birthdays and other
anniversaries wine or toddy made their appearance.  But extreme
regularity and temperance in all things was a strong feature of his
character, and he was therefore exceedingly jealous of the honour and
good moral standing of the village, and the harbouring of Angeel had
been for a long time a matter involving much worry.  At the picnic
Ringfield's ill-timed allusion to "sinners" had hurt him most
particularly, and the more he thought of it the more he grew convinced
that the minister could throw some light on the origin of the child and
the manner in which it had come to be living at Hawthorne; for up to
the present time almost complete ignorance prevailed.  This was in
itself extraordinary since the area was so small and the population so
settled, but shrewd guessers were nearly hitting the mark when they
supposed, from certain memories, inferences, and coincidences, that the
child belonged to Miss Clairville, and this was precisely the point
which offended the store-keeper; had the affair originated in his own
parish, no matter how disreputably, he would have guarded the secret,
striven to make the best of it, or, if the case abounded in direct
violations of morality by those above him in station, all the more he
would have preserved an absolutely rigid silence.  His contention
was--that the business belonged to some other parish, probably that of
St. Ignace, and that when strangers, ignorant of this, visited
Hawthorne, they took it for granted that Angeel was part of the
village, thus bringing undeserved slur and unmerited obloquy upon an
innocent community, and he took advantage of the concert to ask for a
few words with Ringfield.  The latter had just been compelled to
witness the desertion of Pauline as she went off with Crabbe and Miss
Cordova when he turned to find Enderby waiting to speak to him.
Poussette had withdrawn.

"I hardly know, sir, just how I ought to introduce the subject," said
the butcher, in his loftiest manner, eyeing the minister up and down.
"For I have hardly ever spoke to a clergyman of your denomination
before."

Ringfield with a somewhat constrained smile assured the speaker that he
was mortal and fairly rational, although he was a Methodist.

"Yes, of course, I know that, and there is those who might have found
great enjoyment in that there prayer you gave us, sir, some time back,
great profit I may say, without fear of exaggeration."

"Prayer?" repeated the other, for a moment forgetting the incident
alluded to.  "Oh, yes, I know what you mean; it was, I understand, a
trifle long for the occasion, a trifle long perhaps, but I spoke from
my heart and with my heart, and I forgot probably that you were all
waiting, and the viands were kept waiting too and so forth.  I shan't
offend again, I hope."

"I 'ope not, sir, I 'ope not.  Now this evening you did it all to
perfection, and all were very much obliged to you."

"Thank you, thank you very much," said Ringfield, his gaze wandering
off to the hall where glimpses of drapery and musical clinking of
bangles and bracelets assailed his senses.  Miss Clairville was never
without earrings and other jewelry, and if the proper idea of ornament
is to attract attention to the parts thus graced, in her case there was
reason for her wearing such, since she possessed both beautifully
shaped ears and fine hands and arms.

"But, sir, the length of prayers is not all!  Some of us could--I say
this without fear of exaggeration--could go through the entire Litany
and the Apostles' Creed backwards, which would take a man some time,
and yet what would be the good of it?  Stands to reason, sir, there
must be something more than length, mere length of time in prayers."

"Of course, of course.  You are quite right, Enderby."

"There must be appropriateness and truth and feeling, but none of it
must bear too direct, says you--on the parties present or the occasion,
be it wedding or funeral, or christening, or a mere social affair like
the Harvest Home yonder.  I see how it is with you; you can't always
help it, for you can't always control your thoughts and likewise your
words, not having no notes."

"But what did I say amiss on that occasion?" began Ringfield, nervously
divining that this lecture was but the prelude to the statement that in
some way he had offended.  "I am quite sure, I am positively certain,
that I had no intention of using words or phrases which were the
reverse of appropriate or true, yet you seem to think that I was thus
unfortunate."

Enderby gave a great sigh.  "If you don't remember you mustn't find
fault with my remembering, for it made quite a stir at the time.  It
quite took my wife's appetite away, sir."

"What did?" said Ringfield shortly.

"Your saying in that grieved, yet bold way, that we were all sinners,
and that sinners were sitting even then at that very board."

"Was that all?" exclaimed the minister with sudden relief, and an
uncontrollable smile.  "Surely you are accustomed to that.  Surely you
do not consider yourselves in Hawthorne to be so perfect, so
infallible, as to be beyond criticism and impatient of censure!  If so,
all I can say is I am very glad I used those terms, and I should say, I
should think, that no matter what Church you belong to, you, Enderby,
would see the absurdity of rating me for offering a prayer couched in
the language most natural to me, and of which I am not ashamed.  Do you
deny that we are all sinners?"

"I do not, sir, and that is just what my wife and others complains of.
You did not content yourself with saying we were _all_ sinners; you
said 'if any sinners lurked at the board,' as if pointing the finger,
and it is for an explanation of that I have come to you to-night, sir.
We all felt that the presence at the feast of the unfortunate little
girl you of course observed, must 'ave 'ad something to do with it, and
I think you ought to know, coming among us as you did, and may do
again, just how we felt about it.  I'll tell you all I know, and then
I'd be obliged if you, sir, would tell me what you know."

Ringfield looked helplessly around but there was no hope of diverting
Enderby's attention; he must go through with it and only trust that he
might be believed, and once again that slight sense of the ludicrous
came upon him.  Tragedy was in the air; yet, as often happens in real
life, it was being pushed to comedy point, and he grudged even the
shadow of a jest at this important crisis in his dealings with Miss
Clairville, who was now sitting at supper with the new edition of
Crabbe.

"You had better take a chair, Enderby," he said, setting the example.

"Thank you, sir, and I 'ope I am not detaining you.  I wish to say,
sir, that now for eight years the constant presence of the child and
its nurse in our little village has been a source of much trouble and
talk.  We are a united and respectable, most respectable community,
sir."

The sternness with which this remark was given led Ringfield to say
soothingly, "I am sure you are--it is, I mean.  I am quite sure you
are."

"Not only respectable, and has always been so, but superior."

"Yes, yes, I understand."

"And therefore it goes against our grain to 'ave 'arboured the
maid--that's what we used to call them in England--and the time has
come, I think, to do something about it."

"I see.  Yes, the position is a difficult one.  How did she come to the
village in the first place?  She was not born there, then?"

"No, sir, I am thankful to say, unless greatly and cruelly deceived.
The manner of her coming, or rather of her being found, was this; the
young person who has charge of her, who is now about twenty-three by
all counts, has always been light headed, and cannot or will not,
explain clearly who she is or where she comes from.  All we know of her
is that she came here with the child one stormy night in the middle of
winter, just like the stage or a story book, appearing at the Rectory
and carrying an anonymous letter begging for shelter and charity.  Mr.
Abercorn found them--it was on Christmas Eve--and he took them in to
his wife and she to the kitchen.  The girl was a pretty dark-haired
slip of fifteen or so, with the light manner and the gay laugh you may
have noticed, gay but empty, and could give no account of herself; the
child not as bad as she has since grown to be, but already strange
looking, and some thought as stupid as the girl."

An exclamation of dismay escaped from Ringfield.

"Better if it had been!" he cried.

"Well, I may say that I agree with you, sir.  The rector and his wife
got a home for them in the village, and although we have learned
something about them it is very little, and as the money for their
support comes from here, I thought it time, sir, to look more
thoroughly into the affair."

"From here?  You are sure?"

Ringfield was ready to defend, even shield, Miss Clairville if
necessary.

"It was brought or sent by one of the servants at the Manor House out
by the lake.  Without fear of exaggeration, sir, I may state that we
'ave long known this to be the case; Antoine Archambault, the young man
around this room not ten minutes ago, is the bearer, and he, I suppose,
knows all about it--the girl is apparently his sister, or in some way
related to him--but I wouldn't care to talk to him about it and so,
sir, I come to you."

"But I know nothing!" exclaimed Ringfield, rising.  "Nothing whatever,
not nearly as much as you do.  It is no use speaking to me upon the
matter.  I cannot assist you in the least.  What do you propose to do?"

"Why," said Enderby, flushing a darker red and rising ponderously,
"this is what we propose to do, for we're tired of the affair, as isn't
ours, and never was by right.  The child will soon be grown up, if it
lives, and it's getting stronger on its legs every day and will soon be
playing with the other children.  We don't want it--we don't want it
any longer at Hawthorne, and we propose to find the parents and bestow
it again upon those to whom it originally belonged.  That's what we
propose, and we look to you, sir, to help us."

"Whom do you suspect, or have you direct proof and knowledge?"
Ringfield, to whom the situation was full of anguish, could hardly
frame his sentences.  "Pray recollect," he continued, "that in these
unhappy cases it is not always wise, not always necessary, to press the
matter home.  I am a strong believer in the natural expiation that
people undergo who allow themselves to err in these directions; the
mere fact that the person or persons responsible for Angeel have had
her removed to a distant parish while still caring for her shows how
deeply the affair has been felt.  I would not advise you to be hasty."

"'Asty--says you--'asty?  After a matter of eight years?  I'm sorry I
didn't begin before this," cried the exasperated storekeeper, holding
the virtues and morals of all Hawthorne as it were in his hand.  "You
ask me if I suspect any one and I answer--that I do," and he huskily
whispered Miss Clairville's name.

Knowing what would be expected of him, Ringfield strove to appear even
more greatly shocked than he was, and retreated a step or two in
consternation.

"Be very careful," he managed to say sternly, "be extremely careful how
you thus refer to a lady who bears, I am told, a very high character in
her native place, even if she has been obliged to seek the town and the
theatre for her living."

"You 'ave not heard this mentioned before?"

"Never."

"But Miss Clairville attends your church?"

"She certainly has attended a few of the services, but I do not think
she has ever openly made a profession of the faith; she remains at
heart, I think, a Catholic.  Perhaps," said Ringfield, lamely, "you
might see Father Rielle about this.  As parish priest and as a friend
of her brother's he would be the proper person to advise you.  And now,
having assured you that I know nothing more than I have learnt in the
last few moments from yourself, you must excuse me if I leave you.  It
is late, and I perceive your wife and daughter are growing restless in
the hall.  Are you driving back to Hawthorne to-night?"

"I am," returned Enderby, hastily looking at his watch; "but I shall
come over again, sir, and see what can be done.  In the meantime, will
you not assist me in some way--by speaking to Antoine, who has picked
up a little English, or by conferring with the priest?"

Ringfield hesitated.

"The question is," he replied, "whether as this affair is now
practically inside another parish and another village, I have any
business to interest myself in it at all.  Well,--I will think about
it, Enderby, I will think about it, and possibly I may be able to help
you.  You would like to get the child away?  I see the propriety, even
the need of that."

He suddenly thought of something which had not occurred to him before.
"How would it be if I were to assume control of the affair for you?
Supposing that without much trouble, I and Father Rielle look into the
matter and endeavour to remove the child from her present home and have
her admitted to some institution?  Would you still insist on its being
done in such a way that parentage and--and so on, must all be made
clear?"

Enderby was silent, but the angry flushing of his face had subsided a
little.  Ringfield saw his chance and pressed it home.

"Try and see if that would not be the better way--to let me control the
matter and quietly take the child away without any fuss and scandal and
naming of names.  In the meantime I can make my inquiries and
communicate with you.  Dr. Renaud now--he will be able to advise us,
and I should think your own rector and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Abercorn,
for I hear the lady has done a great deal of the parish work; but if
you think it better to leave it entirely to me, I will see what can be
done."

"The rector, sir, is easy, terrible easy in his ways; he would let
anything go on for any length of time to save trouble.
Well--good-night to you, sir, and you may expect to see me again soon."

"Good-night, Enderby, good-night.  We have had a very successful
entertainment, I think.--Here is Poussette going to turn us out; it's
after eleven!"

An unusual hauteur in the Frenchman's demeanour did not escape the
minister, who was not, however, disposed to ask any questions.  The
truth was--the unexpected turn in Crabbe's fortunes had been partially
explained to the host, but to no one else, and secrecy had been
impressed upon him.  The ex-guide had displayed a wealth of money, had
received and dispatched letters and telegrams full of suggestive
mysteries, and--most wonderful of all--had not called for drinks.
Poussette was so far keeping his own vow made to Ringfield and Miss
Cordova, but at any moment an outbreak might occur, for excitement
breeds thirst even in sober individuals.

Outside the lighted window walked Ringfield to and fro, waiting till
the Englishman should emerge and go to his shack, but as the reader
knows this did not happen.  He saw the light carried about, then it
entirely disappeared, and afterwards two lights appeared upstairs, but
in opposite ends of the house; Crabbe had escorted Pauline to her door
and then betaken himself to the small room at one side which coincided
with that occupied by Miss Cordova at the other.  It was not long
before everything was dark and quiet, and Ringfield, extremely baffled
and uneasy, turned to go home.  But Alexis Gagnon, supposing the
minister upstairs and asleep, had locked the door, and now the only
mode of entrance possible was the undignified one of climbing the rude
fence and scaling the well-remembered balcony which led to his room.
This brought him very close to Pauline's chamber, looking on the
familiar balcony, but he could detect nothing wrong or unusual;
Poussette was wrapped in sleep and even Martin, the Indian guide and
choreman, had evidently long gone his rounds and entered the house.

Ringfield could not be expected to understand the sudden change in
Crabbe's fortunes, and he spent the rest of that night in dreary and
bitter speculations as to the probable causes which had led Pauline to
desert him openly for the Englishman.  Why had he not the power, the
audacity, the social courage which the guide undoubtedly possessed, to
seize her and bear her off bodily on these occasions?  This--a relic of
savagery--would alone overcome the ease with which Crabbe confronted
him, and despite vices and faults usually carried off the palm.  As one
progressed the other retrograded; the Englishman, dreaming of a good
name and character restored, lay peacefully beneath Poussette's roof,
not worrying about Pauline, for he knew that, short of the marriage
ceremony, he had the strongest right and authority any man could have
over her; while Ringfield, distrusting and suspecting every one around
him, tossed and sighed all night, wondering what stability there was in
her mind and what worth he might set upon her promises.  Some
deterioration, some loss of fine simplicity, some decrease in his
healthy optimism, was already visible in his look and bearing; he in
his turn was discovering the impotence of Nature to heal, sooth, or
direct, and it might have been said of him that he began to go in and
out without noting the objects so suggestive and inspiring--the sky,
the thundering flood, the noble wood, the lonely river.  As Crabbe had
cried to him in utter desolation of soul--what had Nature to do with a
man's heart and self and life?  Nature mocked him, passed him by,
viewed him coldly.  Poetry--did not Crabbe quote poetry?  The
bitterness of Job, the pessimism of Solomon, began to colour his
attitude of mind, and thus by slow degrees his physical powers declined
from their original high level.  He did not get enough sleep, he did
not eat enough food, he took long walks with his eyes on the ground, he
found visiting a bore and preaching a stumblingblock.  Nothing saps the
strength like the rotting virus of jealousy; nothing so alters the face
and vilifies the expression as living in a state of perpetual dislike
and suspicion of any person or persons; as Crabbe's countenance
cleared, as his eye brightened and his complexion lost its dissipated
blotchy hue, Ringfield suffered by comparison.  He seemed to fail in
some mysterious indefinable way; his thick hair looked thinner on his
temples, his eyes were larger and the set of his mouth reminded one of
Father Rielle in its slow, new writhing smile.  If this were Love--how
should any escape?  But not only Love, but Hate, and Doubt, and Fear,
were all warring in a good man's breast.



CHAPTER XXI

THE NATURAL MAN

  "Wretched at home, he gained no peace abroad;
  Asked comfort of the open air, and found
  No quiet in the darkness of the night,
  No pleasure in the beauty of the day."


Pauline, on retiring to her room, was naturally in a whirl of excited
feelings; never had she dreamt of escape from her surroundings under
such auspices as these.  The new affection she had been nursing for
several months speedily melted as she lived over again the
extraordinary sensations of the past hour.  Crabbe came in for some of
the glory; she congratulated herself on partly belonging to him, and
with characteristic quickness she amused herself, being too wide awake
for bed just then, in turning out her drawers and boxes and in tying up
the Grand Duchess costume and other accessories in a bundle which she
intended to leave as a present for Sadie Cordova.

"I shall never require those again, thank Heaven!" said she to herself
as she moved about the plain little room, "or these stage paints and
other 'fixings' as Sadie calls them."

The imitation earrings went into the bundle; her old sealskin coat and
muff and some photographs of herself and associates in theatrical
costume.  It was a case of "on with the new life" carried out with that
conviction and sincerity that distinguished all Miss Clairville's
actions.  If she was to marry a rich Englishman, and go to England with
him, travel and keep a maid, she would do it thoroughly; the stage as
well as "Poussette's," the Hotel Champlain as well as Henry and Angeel
must be completely blotted out, else there could be no happiness for
her.  Yet at moments there survived, along with this directness of
upward aims, a curious sense of caution, of dislike to part with
certain relics of value, or anything that had figured in her theatrical
life; the Clairville instinct was atavistically working against the new
creature, Pauline; heredity asserting itself in the midst of new and
promising environment.

The next few days brought remarkable changes, veiled by great care and
deliberation on Crabbe's part.  He gave up the shack to Martin and had
a bonfire of his effects.  He read the Montreal advertisements of
clothing, and sent for a complete wardrobe and two large trunks, yet
his manner to the few at Poussette's was sufficiently repressed to
discourage curiosity.  Every hour Pauline expected him to leave her, be
mysteriously lost, then reappear sullen and sodden, but nothing of the
kind occurred.  The news of his rehabilitation had spread, but the
community was too small and the place too remote to understand it
thoroughly; meanwhile, the virtuous aspect of both himself and Amable
Poussette was almost enough to drive a man to drink, so depressing was
the atmosphere of the bar--that place once so cheerful!  The lemons
grew dry and crinkled one by one; the lager glasses gradually came to
require dusting; the spirit bottles were discreetly put behind almanacs
and large advertisements of "Fall Fairs"; over all was settling a
blight born of conversion and sobriety.  Pitiful to relate--the person
who should have been most pleased and interested in this moral
spectacle was bitterly dubious; Ringfield would not, at this stage,
consent to believe in Crabbe's reformation, but winced and shied at
reports of altered prospects.  The subject was easily of first
importance to all at Poussette's, but the Englishman's disdain of
explanations and Pauline's fine-lady air precluded much reference to
the matter; the minister could only accept the position.

And what was the position?  Had not Miss Clairville given him a certain
soft and memorably tender answer, turning away all his jealous wrath;
and filling his soul with "Comfort and Joy, Comfort and Joy"?  Had not
his lips pressed hers, his embrace enveloped her yielding form, her
eyes, melting and languorous, drooped before his fiery ones?  Were
these things nothing to her, while to him they almost constituted a
marriage?  Even with daily evidence of the strongest, he could not
bring himself to believe that she was anything but true.

Once they met in the wood, face to face, and there could be no excuse
on her part, no elegant evasion of the relations between them, as with
those chilling superior accents she persevered in ignoring the past.
Snow was again on the ground, every twig encased in a round tube of
glassy ice through which showed the grey, brown, or black stem, for a
wonderful glissade had followed the milder weather.  The pendent
branches were freighted with soft, white tufts and cushions, and just
as Miss Clairville met Ringfield, under his heavier tread there broke a
large arm of larch stretched across the path.  Thus he was compelled to
halt; the rebound and crash had sent snow flying all over her face and
clothes, and naturally he began to brush it off.  She kept her hands in
her muff--the old one after all, for Crabbe's purchase had not yet
arrived--and regarded him, with some abatement, it is true, of the
aristocratic hauteur she wore so loftily at Poussette's, but still with
an air far removed from the intimate and sympathetic self she had
revealed in their first meetings.

"I believe you would have passed me!" said he bitterly, forcing that
raw and unpleasant smile.  "If it had been a street, I mean, with
anyone about, or coming out of church!  Surely nothing that has
happened can justify you in avoiding me like this!"

"Avoiding you?"  She opened her large eyes in haughty incredulity.
"Why, I have been waiting for an opportunity like this to meet you and
talk it over! tell you something about myself, rather.  What odd ideas
you get, _bizarre, mon ami_!  Have you heard about my friend, Mr.
Hawtree?"

Ringfield answered unintelligibly, looking away from her.

"Have you not?  Oh--you have!  I thought it very likely.  Well, he has
come into a little money; more than a little, indeed, but I am not to
tell.  How then--do you think I shall be able to keep the secret?  I am
the bad one at that, sure,--as Mr. Poussette would say."

By degrees her old racy manner returned, and looking over her muff she
permitted her eloquent mischief-making eyes to speak.  "What else have
you heard?"

"That--you are going to marry him."

"Ah--and that, of course, you do not believe!"

"For the matter of that, I never believe anything you say.  How can I,
how can anyone?  You promised me--you know, what--and here you coolly
talk to me about this other man, this wreck of a man, this sot, this
Crabbe!  And he is not the only one, I daresay Poussette gets his pay
sometimes, and perhaps the priest as well!"

"Gets his--pay!  _Mon Dieu_, but it is you, you, to insult a woman!
Yes, to insult me!"

"I am not intending it, I am not aiming insult, but I know whereof I
speak.  I impute no more than this; no man works for nothing.  If
Poussette harbours you, as he does, he must exact something, if only
silly songs and smiles, the faculty of amusing him now that he has
dropped drinking, and must feed his lower senses in some manner.  I
impute no more--no more than frivolity and waste of time, the abasement
of impulses noble enough in themselves."

"Oh--what a creed, what a creed!  I deny such a charge, such an
imputation.  I sing and act before Mr. Poussette as I would before you,
and Miss Cordova too.  We are artists--do you know what that means, Mr.
Ringfield?  And suppose we do not pay--what is that?  Mr. Poussette is
agreeable to the arrangement, it is a plentiful house, and always more
than enough in it to eat and drink.  I am Ma'amselle de Clairville and
Sadie Cordova is my friend.  We take our holiday here--that is all.
_Ma foy_, but why must every one anger me?  Why do you purposely
misunderstand?"

She stamped her foot and trembled.

"I have only one thing to ask you.  Do you intend to--my God, that I
should have to ask it--to marry him?"

"_Certainement_."  A return to her natural manner was characterized by
more French than she customarily used.  "I am considering it, thinking
of it, as you did when coming to St. Ignace."

"Considering it!  And when--when--is it likely to be?"

"Oh--that is for him, for Mr. Hawtree to decide, but I think it will be
at Noël, Christmas time, and in Montreal.  Next week I pay some visits;
after that I go to the Hotel Champlain, in Jacques Cartier Square, to
prepare myself for my new _rôle_, you see."

"Your new _rôle_?  But are you not then leaving the theatre?  Oh--I
understand now, I see what you mean.  And you think this is your duty,
to end your life thus by consenting to marry this man?"

"To end my life? to begin it rather.  Believe me--it is better for me
so."

Great distress showed in Ringfield's voice and bearing; he was in that
state of mind when it became necessary to insist upon his sufferings,
to rehearse his wrongs, and thus an hour wore away in the petty strife
which in his case was characterized by ceaseless strivings to win again
that place in her heart filched from him by her old lover; on her part
the quarrel and the cold weather acted equally in stimulating her to
fresh coquetries.  Farther and farther they withdrew into the heart of
the snowy wood, till, when quite remote, they sat down on a fallen log,
beautiful in summer with mosses, lichen and waving ferns, now converted
to a long white cylinder, softly rounded at either end.  Here
Ringfield's ardour and his conscientious feelings for her future broke
out in a long and impassioned speech in which he implored her to change
her mind while there was time and to remember her warm promises to
himself.  He did not embrace her, and throughout his discourse, for
such it might aptly be termed, he was more the saviour of souls than
the lover.

"And although I claim no reward for the fact," he concluded sternly,
"it is due me, when I tell you that I know all about that poor child at
Hawthorne, poor Angeel, and that I am going to take the whole matter on
myself and remove her to a more suitable home and surroundings."

Miss Clairville flushed an angry red.  "You--you know all?" she
repeated.  "But how--how did you find out?  You have seen Henry,
perhaps--oh! you have been talking to him, my poor brother!"

"No," returned Ringfield.  "You forget that people talk to me, bring
these stories to me, make me the recipient of confessions.  I have seen
and I have heard, therefore I know.  But I will do as I have said.  I
shall write to the proper people to look after Angeel, and I shall see
that she is removed before long from Hawthorne."

"Where to?"

"Perhaps to a hospital; that of the Incarnation at Lalurette."

"But that is a Catholic institution!"

"So much the better."

"This is extremely kind, extremely generous of you!" said she, in her
most English, and therefore haughtiest manner.  "But I myself have had
the same intention.  We can work together, I suppose!"

"No, I prefer that you leave this to me."

To this she replied sneeringly, and a new cause of recrimination ensued.

Pauline rose abruptly from the snowy mound and walked to the road,
Ringfield following her, and they did not know that never again on this
earth and during this life would they meet thus--part thus--alone, with
full opportunity to say what they thought, what they wished.

Sadness fell on both as they shortly went different ways, but whereas
the lively nature of one was soon occupied gaily at Poussette's with
fresh purchases to look at and approve, in the other grief was
succeeded by a gathering of all his forces, as he mentally resolved
(swore, to rightly translate his indomitable mood) to prevent the
marriage.  For this was what he had arrived at; nothing more nor less,
and how it might be done haunted him continually as he walked by night
on the frozen road, or sat at meals within sound of Crabbe's cynical
and lettered humour, and within sight of Pauline's white hands on which
gleamed a couple of new and handsome rings.

She must not marry him!  That became the burden of his thought, and the
time-limit of three weeks, bringing it to Christmas Eve, was to him as
the month before execution of the condemned criminal.

She must not marry him!  What then, could or in all likelihood would,
prevent this consummation?  The hours flew by and he thought of no
plan.  The hard weather still held and grew harder, colder, until the
great drifts blocked all the roads, and St. Ignace was cut off from the
outside world.  Still, any hour a thaw might set in and, at the worst,
the railway was hardly ever impracticable for more than a couple of
days.  Delay there might be, but one could see that Crabbe would not
refuse to welcome even delay; he sat at the head of the chief table
clad in the regulation tweeds of the country gentleman, and with a kind
of fierce and domineering inflation in his manner that subdued the
irrepressible hilarity of Poussette, threatening to break out again,
for by way of keeping his pledge as to liquor, he seemed to take more
beer than was necessary or good for him.  The Cordova, held as a
willing witness and prospective bridesmaid, had to "learn her place"
under the new _régime_, and felt fully as miserable as she looked, for
now no longer revelry graced the night.  Poussette's unnaturally long
face matched with Pauline's hauteur and Crabbe's careless air of
mastery; he, the sullen cad, the drunken loafer, having become the
arbiter of manners, the final court of appeal.  One day Ringfield had
been lashed to even unusual distress and mortification by the offensive
manner of the guide, who in the course of conversation at the table had
allowed his natural dislike of Dissent and Dissenters to show; "damned
Methodists," and all that sort of talk.  The very terms annoyed
Ringfield; they savoured of the Old Country, not of Canada, where
denominational hatred and bigotry should be less pronounced, and as he
left the room Poussette joined him in the hall.

"Bigosh, Mr. Ringfield, sir--but I don't know how you stand that talk
so long--no, sir, I don't know at all!"  He patted the other on the
back.

"Well, Poussette, I must do the best to stand it that I know how.  You
and I agree about a good many things.  Tell me--do you believe
that--that Mr.--that he is really a reformed man, really changed in his
habits?  And is he going to marry Miss Clairville?  You are around with
him a good deal; you are likely to know."

"The day is feex," returned Poussette without enthusiasm.  "The day is
feex, and I am bes' man."

"What do you think about it, though?  Don't you think he'll break out
again?"

Ringfield's anxious bitter inflections could not escape Poussette.
"Ah-ha!  Mr. Ringfield, sir--you remember that I wanted Miss Clairville
for myself?  Bigosh--but I have got over that, fine!  Sir, I tell you
this, me, a common man--you can get over anything if you make up the
mind.  Fonny things happens--and now I snap the finger at Mlle.
Pauline.  Why?  Because I feex up things with Mees Cordova even better."

"Mme. Poussette----" began Ringfield.

"Mme. Poussette is come no more here on me at all, I tell you.  No more
on St. Ignace at all."

"But you cannot _marry_ Miss Cordova, Poussette!"

"I know very well that, Mr. Ringfield, sir.  No.  For that, sir, I will
wait.  My wife must die some day!  Mees Cordova will wait too; she will
_ménager_ here for me, and I will threat her proper--oh! you shall see
how I will threat that one!"  Poussette seductively nodded his head.
"I will threat her proper, sir, like a lady.  Mme. Poussette--she may
stay with Henry Clairville all the rest of her life!  I would not take
her back now, for she leave me to go nurse him, and not threat me
right.  No sir, not threat me, her husband, Amable Poussette, right at
all."

"I'm in no mood for these difficult distinctions in morality!" cried
Ringfield in exasperation.  "What day is this wedding--tell me that!"

Poussette gave him the day and hour--eleven o'clock in a certain
Episcopal church in Montreal on the 24th of December, and then they
parted.

From this moment a steady pursuit of one idea characterized Ringfield's
actions.  Already charged to explosive point by pressure of emotions
both worthy and the reverse, he immediately entered into correspondence
with several charitable institutions with regard to Angeel, and he also
wrote to Mr. Enderby and Mr. Abercorn.  It was now the ninth of the
month and the snow still held.  Sobriety still held and long faces; the
American organ was never opened, and Pauline and her satellite, Miss
Cordova, were mostly buried in their bedrooms, concocting an impromptu
trousseau.



CHAPTER XXII

THE TROUSSEAU OF PAULINE

  "--the whole domain
  To some, too lightly minded, might appear
  A meadow carpet for the dancing hours."


"Tra-la!" sang Miss Clairville, as she pressed heavily on the folds of
a purple cloth skirt which had once done service in the "Grand
Duchess," but was now being transformed by hot irons, rows of black
braid and gilt buttons into a highly respectable travelling dress.

"I thought at first of giving this old thing away, but see how well
it's going to look, after all!"

The Cordova, busy heating an iron on the "drum" which stood in a corner
of the room, looked at the skirt and at first said nothing.

"It's too dark for a bride's travelling-dress," she said after a while.

"Do you think so?  But not for a dark bride," said the other with an
uneasy frown.  "Well, I'm not a girl, you see; besides, without a
sewing machine you and I could never manufacture an entire costume.  I
meant to give it to you; in fact, I had it tied up in that bundle once,
then I changed my mind--woman's prerogative--and here it is."

"Thank you, but I shouldn't care for it anyhow, purple's not my colour;
it looks awful with my kind of hair."

Pauline glanced up coldly at the bleached head bending over the irons.

"Perhaps it does.  Well--it's too late now even if you did care for it.
I'll wear plenty of white around my neck and down the front; a cascade,
_jabot_ effect always suits me."

She wound a white scarf around her as she spoke, and bent an old black
hat into a three-cornered shape on top of her head.

"There, my dear, there is the true French face, only you don't know it!
If I could take you to my home, you would see--well, you would not see
much beyond Henry and his eternal books, though they tell me he reads
no more.  I'm thinking of an old portrait I resemble."

Miss Clairville now sat on the bed, having relinquished the work of
doing over the cloth skirt to her friend.

"Why are you keeping that red and black dress there, the theatre dress?
You will never need that, travelling!"

"No, I suppose not, only----"

Pauline eyed the dress.  The family trait of acquisitiveness combined
with a love of hoarding was asserting itself, and she could scarcely
make up her mind to part with things when the time came.  Besides, this
dress carried her back to meetings with Ringfield, and again she saw
the passionate admiration in his eyes as they talked in whispers on her
balcony.

"Oh--a fancy of mine!  I look well in it.  I wore it when Henry was
taken ill with the 'pic'."

With a loud shriek Miss Cordova dropped an iron on the floor.

"What is it now?  _Quelle bétise_!  Stupid--I wasn't with him!  I
meant--about that time.  But if you want the dress, take it, take it!
_Mon Dieu_! what a state your nerves must be in!"

"I'm much better than when I came here," said Miss Cordova quickly.
"Say, Pauline,--did you know I thought of sending for the children?"

"Your children?  To come here?"

"Yes.  Now, Pauline, it sounds queer, I know, and worse than anything
I've ever done, yet--it isn't as bad as it sounds.  But, but--well, I
may just as well out with it.  Mr. Poussette has proposed!"

"To you?"

Miss Cordova stopped in her work.  "Yes.  He seems to be serious and I
like it here, like him too, so I guess we'll fix it up somehow.  Of
course his wife's living, but she's not right in her head, so she don't
count."

"And your two husbands are alive, but as one drinks and the other was
married when he met you, _they_ don't count."  Miss Clairville was
staring in front of her.  "My dear girl--have you never heard of such a
thing as bigamy?  You're talking nonsense, and you must not allow Mr.
Poussette to get you into trouble.  You can't marry him, Sara!"

"Of course.  I know that.  But we are both willing to wait.  Schenk
can't last long; he's drinking harder than ever from last accounts, and
Stanbury--well, perhaps I'd better stop short of saying anything about
English swells, but Charlie Stanbury had no right to me in the first
instance, and now I'm not going to let the faintest thought of him stop
me in my last chance of a home and quiet, peaceful living.
Oh--Pauline--I was never the same after I discovered how Stanbury
wronged me!  Nothing seemed to matter and I went from bad to worse.
But since I've been here, I've seen things in a different light, and
I'd like to stay here and bring the children away from New York and let
them grow up where they'll never hear a word about their father or
about me and Schenk."

She spoke with sad conviction, her eyes filling, her hands trembling as
she worked on at Pauline's skirt.

"You'd give up the theatre and all the rest of it, and come and live at
St. Ignace if you could?"

"Indeed I would, Pauline.  Indeed, indeed I would."

"This is too droll!  For here am I, pining to get away and be free of
this place for ever!  But that's because I belong here."

"Yes, and because you have no children to think about.  If you
had--you'd understand.  While Schenk's alive he may find me any day in
New York, but I don't believe he'd ever think of looking for me here.
My mother'd know how to send the children along, I guess, and they'd
always have enough to eat and drink, and fresh air and a place to play
in, and I'm sure Mr. Poussette would be kind to them.  You know he's a
funny-talking man, but he's got a real good heart, and Maisie and Jack
might have a good time here."

"Yes, I know, but----"  Miss Clairville's aristocratic and
sophisticated side was dubious.

"But what?  It's all very well for you, just making a fresh start,
getting married and going to Europe and wanting to see a little more of
the world than the Champlain House and St. Ignace, but I've had enough
of the world--too much!  I want to bring up my children honest, honest
and respectable, and I can't do it, Pauline, in one room on Sixth Ave.
Maisie, now, wants to be out in the streets every evening; she'd
rather--than stay with me at the theatre even."

"How old is Maisie?" asked Miss Clairville suddenly.

"Why, she's most eleven years of age, I reckon.  Let's see!  I met
Stanbury in--seventy-seven; Maisie--yes, she's just eleven, and Jack's
nine and half.  Say--wasn't it a good thing that I didn't have any
family to Schenk?"

"How can you be so very vulgar!" said Miss Clairville with a curling
lip.  "But I suppose it was a good thing--the Will of God--according to
Father Rielle.  Eleven!  And Angeel's nine.  Nearly ten."

"Angeel?  Who's she?  You don't mean to tell me that you----"

"What do you mean?" said Miss Clairville fiercely.  "What right have
you to imagine such things?  I'll tell you some day about Angeel, but
just now I prefer to discuss something pleasant.  We will resume our
packing, my dear.  Here is this blanket coat.  What am I to do with it?"

"Give it away, of course.  You'll never wear it again, Pauline, where
you're going!"

"I know I shan't," replied Miss Clairville, compressing her lips as she
regarded with a critical eye the antiquated wine-red garment adorned
with a white sash, and tuque to correspond.  "But I look so well in
this, too!"

"If you don't want it, let me have it for Maisie.  Why--it would be
just the thing for her, running around here all winter!  Say,
Pauline--ain't it funny to think she's the child of an English swell?
Stanbury's from a real good family, I can tell you.  I guess your Mr.
Hawtree would be likely to know all about him.  You might ask him.
Then there's this white evening dress.  My--it's dirty enough, goodness
knows!  It ought to be French cleaned, but who's to do it in this
out-of-the-way place?  Here are a lot of roses falling out of it--do
they belong to it?"

"That's my Camille dress.  The roses go around the skirt--see?--in
garlands: same around the waist and on the hair.  I might turn it into
a _peignoir_, I suppose.  But I think I will give it to you, Sara; you
can keep it till Maisie grows up and do it--how do you say?--do it over
for her.  Is she fair or dark?"

"Dark--just like Stanbury.  Say, won't you tell me about Angeel now?"

"No, no!  _O--pour l'amour de Dieu_, don't drag her in at this time!
Haven't I enough to worry me?  What shall I do if Edmund breaks out
again?  I haven't seen him all day."

Miss Cordova was very thoughtful for an instant.

"Seems to me you ought to've had more under-clothes," she said
solemnly, and Pauline laughed.  "And what you have got are far too
plain.  My--the ones I saw just before I came away from New York!  Say,
Pauline--there was twenty-five yards of lace, honest, to one nightgown!"

"Was there?  At Sorel we were not allowed one yard; frilly things, and
too much lace and ribbons are the mark of bad women.  Did you ever hear
that?"

"I guess my mother held some notions like those.  She used to
say--quality was the thing, and was never satisfied till she got the
best lawn, soft as silk, but she never had much trimming on them.  Cut
plain and full, was almost always her directions.  Well, now--yes, I
guess you'll have to wait till you go to Paree before you replenish
that side of your wardrobe.  Is your Mr. Hawtree free with his money?"

"Yes, yes!" rejoined Pauline hurriedly.  The fact being that after the
initial flourish and purchase of a few pieces of jewellery and other
trinkets Crabbe had tightened his purse-strings, as it were, not from
miserliness, but because it was necessary to use caution until they
reached London, when larger sums would be paid over on due recognition
of his identity.  "Free enough for the present.  As for me, I have
saved nothing, nothing!  How could I, with this need for ready money
hanging over me?  So I do not like to ask too much, just now, and, like
a man, he provides me with diamond earrings while I lack proper shoes
and an umbrella."

"Take mine!" said Miss Cordova earnestly.  "It's real silk and it won't
matter if there's an 'S' on the handle.  It was his--Stanbury's."

"My dear girl," cried Pauline, "I couldn't!  You'll need it yourself.
See--it's silver mounted and valuable!"

"I know it, and that's why I want you should have it.  We've been good
friends, Pauline, even if there is a difference in our education, and
I'd like to give you some little thing.  Do please take the umbrella."

All Miss Clairville's latent womanliness sprang to the surface as she
jumped off the bed and enfolded her friend in a warm embrace.

"God knows, you will never be forgotten by me, Sara!  We've struggled
together too long for that.  You have a sweet temper and a kind heart,
and _le bon Dieu_ takes note of that.  I wish now you _could_ marry Mr.
Poussette, for I see that you'll miss me when I'm gone, and that's not
a bad idea about your children.  I hope I'll never have any; I'd be
afraid, I'd be afraid.  Well, I'll accept the umbrella then, _in
memoriam_ if you like.  And you take the white dress, and these long
yellow gloves, and this sash for Maisie, and here's a _bijou_ imitation
watch and chain for Jack--eh?  What's the matter?"

Miss Cordova leant heavily on her friend.

"They are calling us," she said.

"Who are?"

"I don't know.  Listen!  Some one's wanted.  It's me.  It's me.
Perhaps Schenk's come!  Pauline, what shall I do?"

"Absurd!  No one can get here; you forget the roads and the snow.
Schenk?  He is miles away!"

"Then it's for you.  Yes.  They're coming up.  Listen--it is you,
'Ma'amselle Clairville,' I hear them say!"

"But why be so alarmed?" cried Pauline, and she threw open the door.

Antoine Archambault and Poussette stood outside.

"Your brother the seigneur is dying, mademoiselle," said Poussette,
"and desires to see you at once.  There is no time to lose."

"What is it?" asked Miss Cordova, not comprehending the foreign tongue,
and they told her.

Miss Clairville's face changed.  She trembled visibly, made the sign of
the cross--so potent is habit, so strong are traditions--but uttered
nothing.

"She is ill!" said Miss Cordova, and she led her friend to a chair.

"No, no, I am not ill.  But I do not want to go.  _Je ne le veux pas_.
I do not wish at all to go.  I will not go, Sara!"

"It's hard, I guess," said the other woman sympathetically, "but it's
natural he should want to see you before he dies.  Of course, she'll
go, Mr. Poussette, and I'll go with her."

"No, no!" said Pauline, starting up, "if I go it must be alone.  But
why should I go?"

She looked piteously from one to the other.  "What good can I or anyone
do to him if he is dying?  Perhaps there is some mistake."

Antoine spoke in voluble French in accompaniment to Poussette's
gestures, and at the words she drooped appallingly.

"Come, Pauline, perhaps it will not be so terrible after all.  You were
going to visit him this week anyway."

"I know, I know, but this is different, dreadful, startling.  It makes
me so--I cannot describe.  Who is with him?  Only Mlle. Poussette!  Oh,
why--why?  It will spoil my marriage, Sara; perhaps it will prevent my
marriage!"

"Nothing of the kind!  No, no.  You will be married the sooner, I
daresay.  Where is Mr. Hawtree?  Why don't he come up and talk to you?"

"He is being driven with Alexis Tremblay to the station!  A train may
pass through this morning."

Pauline now recollected that he had gone to Montreal to make final
preparations for the wedding; among other things, the drawing up of an
antiquated contract according to the mixed law of the Province.  A
sudden wish woke in her to run away and join him and so evade the
painful scene which must ensue if she obeyed her brother's commands.

"Death's a dreadful thing anyway, I guess," remarked Miss Cordova to
fill in the silence, touching Pauline's thick loops of hair as she
spoke.  "I just know how you feel."

"_Mon Dieu_--be quiet, Sara!  It isn't his death I mind so much as his
dying.  Do you not see--he will make me promise, he will bother me into
something; dying people always do--I can't explain.  If he would just
die and have done with it!"

Even the men felt the unusual distress of mind which prompted this
outburst of selfish candour, and Miss Cordova drew away.

"Seems to me your brother's in the hands of the Lord and I guess He's
mightier than you are.  My mother's a New England woman and was always
afraid about my going on the stage, and I suppose I've gone wrong
_some_, but I couldn't, like you, go back on a poor, dying creature.
Say, Pauline, hadn't you better see a clergyman?  Where's that young
man?  Where's Mr. Ringfield?"

"I do not require his services, thank you.  But yes--you mean well.  If
I'm anything, I'm a Catholic, my dear--and now take all these things
and put them away.  I think I shall never _marier_ with anyone in this
world.  I must go, I suppose.  Antoine will drive, and I shall go
alone."

Miss Cordova silently moved about the small room, not sharing in the
gloomy views of the prospective bride, for she carefully went on
packing the scanty trousseau which included badly mended _lingerie_,
the red dinner dress, and three gay satin waists bought by Crabbe in
the shops of St. Laurent, Main Street, one of canary and black lace,
another of rose colour, and a third of apple-green.  There were veils
enough to stock a store, ties, collars, ribbons, small handkerchiefs
and showy stockings in profusion, with a corresponding dearth of strong
sensible clothing.  The trousseau of Pauline was essentially French in
its airiness; its cheap splendours attested to one side of her peculiar
character and the sturdier and more sensible attributes of the _belle
Canadienne_ were for the time obliterated.  The blanket coat and tuque
and the Camille dress were tied up by Miss Cordova for Maisie, and
within half an hour Pauline had departed with Antoine, and the others
lapsed to the unsettled calm which overtakes a community when it is
known that the inevitable must shortly occur.  That unpleasant negative
condition of waiting for a death was now shared by all at Poussette's
as the news spread through St. Ignace.  Father Rielle was seen to drive
away, and Dr. Renaud was already at the Manor House, but Ringfield,
shut up in his own room, reading and pondering, heard nothing of the
matter for several hours.  However, Poussette and Miss Cordova, to
relieve tedium, went into the kitchen, where, secure from both Stanbury
and Schenk, the ex-actress took a lesson in cooking, by tea-time
producing pancakes so excellent that they rivalled if not excelled
those of her instructor.  Indeed, with this happily met couple, time
flew by on feathered wings.  Miss Cordova was quick on her feet, bright
in her talk, and her vivacity and grace charmed the susceptible
Frenchman, too long accustomed to the shrinking nervous figure of the
absent Natalie.  She stood on chairs and renewed her youth, looking
into tins and boxes and bringing to light jams and biscuits the host
had forgotten.  She sang snatches of Offenbach and Verdi, she beat the
eggs while Poussette made up his fire, and when he squeezed her hand or
put his fat arm around her waist she did not prudishly push him away,
but, gently resisting, rebuked him in such affectionate terms that he
politely restrained those damaging caresses.  In short, she managed
Poussette instead of being persuaded by him, and this in itself pleased
her and restored her self-respect; her previous relations with Stanbury
and Schenk suffered by comparison, and if she secretly hoped for the
death or removal of Mme. Poussette it was with soft womanly compunction
and pity, and with stern resolves not to overstep the mark of purity.

So--in this poor, obscure, half-educated soul, this Guinevere of lowly
life, burnt the flame of natural goodness.  Ignorant of ritual, she had
long ago compiled a prayer for herself which ran; "O God--I wasn't a
good girl, and I haven't been a good woman, but I've tried to be a good
mother.  Help me to be a Holy Saint after I die.  Amen."



CHAPTER XXIII

THE SEIGNEUR PASSES

  "Mortality's last exercise and proof
  Is undergone; the transit made that shows
  The very soul, revealed as it departs."


Henry Clairville lay in the ancient and tattered bed which not even the
activities of Mme. Poussette could render more than moderately decent.
The sands of life were running out indeed; a great change was apparent
in his pinched and freckled features, and his small colourless eyes had
sunk entirely back into his head.  Two large cats slept at his feet and
three more lay under the bed; despite all madame could do to remove
them, these five out of the fourteen persisted in returning again and
again to the familiar habitat which custom or attachment had made
necessary.  Their brown tigery sides rose and fell peacefully in the
sound slumber induced by the plentiful fare of Clairville, but no sleep
came to their master.  Occasionally he would stretch forth a withered
hand to try and stroke one or other of his pets, but they had gradually
slipped to the foot of the bed, their weight, which was considerable,
having formed a deep pit in the lumpy feather mattress.  Mme. Poussette
sat in the room, Dr. Renaud across the hall in the faded _salon_, while
the priest arranged the holy office of the Blessed Sacrament in a
corner with his back turned, occasionally repeating aves and prayers
under his breath.

Pauline's entrance, subdued from her native impetuosity to something
chastened and severe, was still out of harmony with the shabby carpet,
the patched counterpane, and the meagre daylight; she brought into the
room an extraordinary sense of brightness, and yet she had taken some
trouble to amend her costume and bring it within the range of things
sorrowful and sober.  Her side face, in particular, nothing could tame;
the exquisite ear, defined by a diamond, showed youthfully against the
dark hair looped thickly just behind it, the full chin and curved lips
were always on the point, seemingly, of breaking into a smile, whereas
the front face betrayed both age and agitation by the vertical lines of
the forehead and by the strained expression of the eyes, oftener fiery
and worried than calm and pleasing.

Mme. Poussette left her chair and approached the lady of the Manor, but
nothing more than a fleeting contemptuous glance did the latter bestow.
At the sight of Henry and the cats all her courage returned and a
measure of her temper.

"I was sent for and I am here," she said, advancing to the middle of
the room with not a shred of kindness in her manner.  Was it not as it
had always been--hateful, uncongenial, difficult?  Why must she feign
hypocritical interest and sympathy?  "And I know why you sent for me,
but I tell you, Henry, it is of no use.  I will promise nothing."

The seigneur moved heavily from his side to his back and weakly opened
his small eyes upon her.  It was evident that he was clear in his mind.

"You were sent for and you are here," he repeated, "but you did not
wish to come.  Did not Nature work within you, bidding you come?  Did
not sisterly love, sweet kinship, weigh with you at all?"

"Not in the least," replied Miss Clairville coldly.  She continued to
stand, although the other woman proffered a chair, nor did she unfasten
her fur coat or draw off her gloves.  Her brother took note of this.

"You had better sit," he murmured.

"I will not!  In this room--you know I have never sat here since----
You know the vow I made.  And why."

"I know, my sister, I know.  Nevertheless, sit now."

Father Rielle turned half round.  "Sit, my daughter.  It will not be
for long."

And from Dr. Renaud came the sharp order: "Sit--at once."

Overruled, but with annoyance and aversion in every movement, Pauline
took madame's chair.

"I cannot stay--I mean--I cannot stay long.  Oh--Henry, why have you
brought me here?  I can do you no good, and the sight of you will do me
harm, it always does!"

This outburst was more natural to her stormy temperament than her
previous rigidity; her hands clasped and unclasped, while the frown
between her eyes, almost the shape of a barred gate, broke up as a few
wild tears fell upon her lap.  Clairville, for his part, though a dying
man, showed resolution and calm obstinacy.

"You ask that question--and yet you profess to know why I sent for you?
If you do not come to me of your goodwill, I must send for you, that is
clear.  You are hearing nothing of me, for I have been too long a dead
man to the world, but I continue to hear much of you.  This
marriage--is it true?"

"I was coming to you," she said hastily, and with evasion; "I had made
arrangements so that when I leave Canada for good I shall have nothing
to reproach myself for."

"I ask--and see that you answer--you are going to be married?"

With an uneasy glance at the priest, Miss Clairville murmured: "Yes".
Then louder, as if in an effort to assert herself: "It is to Mr.
Hawtree, an old friend, your friend.  There is nothing new or
surprising, nothing peculiar in that.  Only what is new is this--that
he will not have to work, that he has come into some money, that we can
go away and live in other places; live indeed how or where we like.
Henry--think what that will do for me!  Think how it will change all my
life and how at last I shall realize my dreams, if not fulfil my
ambitions!  And then I may be able to help you too, perhaps--and--and
Angeel.  That is--I am not sure of this, but I shall try and do so."

Clairville seemed to be endeavouring to look at his sister more closely.

"I cannot hear you very well.  Will you approach the bed, Pauline?  I
am feeble, you see--I am----"  Terrible coughing now interrupted him,
and he called upon the doctor.

"Renaud!" he gasped.  "Where is Renaud?"

"Not far off," replied the medical man, sauntering easily to the
bedside.  "Come then, Mlle. Pauline, do your best for your brother.
Take his hand.  Bend your face--so.  Lower, if you please!  Madame will
go to the other side,--a good woman, mademoiselle, a good kind woman!"

"Have I said she was anything else?" returned Pauline, stiffly obeying
the doctor's instructions, but with obvious dislike in every movement.
She took the seigneur's hand, she forced herself to place her head
almost upon his pillow.

"You are uncomfortable, my poor Pauline!  You shrink from me, you would
avoid this meeting, this last scene on earth, but remember, this hour,
this scene comes to all, will come, must come to you.  If you marry, if
you have good loving children, when this hour comes, you shall not pray
in vain nor weep, for they will surround you, but I, Pauline, I have
only you, you and one other."

"But that other!  You have not sent for her?  She is not here."

"No, not yet.  I spare you that, Pauline; she will arrive later,
after--I am gone.  Father Rielle knows at last; he never suspected.
Renaud knows; speak to her, Renaud, tell her."

Another fit of coughing shook him, and the cats, disturbed in their
sleep, stood up, arching their brown backs and yawning.

"Take them off, take them away!" moaned Pauline, her eyes closed, but
the seigneur shook a menacing finger.

"They do no harm," said the doctor tersely.  "Keep his feet warm, I
daresay."

"Not even that, Renaud, not even that.  But leave them--good cats, good
friends."

The cats curled up again in conscious attitudes, while from under the
vast and ancient bed came a loud and insistent purring, rising and
falling with triumphant, happy cadences--the song of the mother-cat,
impervious to all save her immediate surroundings.

"If they were dogs," cried Miss Clairville, in fretful fear and
mortification, "they would not sleep like that!  They would know you
were ill, dying, and they would keep watch and show affection.  I
always hated cats, and now I shall hate them more than ever."

"What are cats?" said the doctor with a yawn, which vanished as he
glanced down at his patient.  "Come, you are here to arrange a few
details with monsieur your brother--make haste then.  Madame, some
water and a little brandy in it!  So.  Now, Mademoiselle, attend."

"There is not so much for me to say," said the sick man, pressing
Pauline's hand with wistful entreaty, "as there is from me to hear from
you yourself.  I have confessed my fault, my sin, and yet, not my sin,
Pauline.  Angele is my child, by Artémise Archambault, as you have
always known, but she is more, she is my daughter, legitimately
begotten, in proper wedlock.  This you did not know, my poor Pauline.
She is a true Clairville, my sister, a De Clairville, I should say."

Pauline was now entirely overcome with a new emotion, that of intense
surprise and consternation; instantly the consequences of legitimizing
"Angeel" rushed at her.  Instead of a low _liaison_ there was marriage;
the child and she were heirs alike; they were relations and should be
friends, and what she had feared to hear timidly broached--some plan to
keep the child near her--would now be insisted upon.

"Oh!" she cried, drawing away, "this is worse than anything I came
prepared to hear!  This is the worst, cruellest of all.  Far better had
she been nameless, far, far better.  Perhaps--ah! yes--now I
understand; he is ill, he wanders, he does not know what he is saying."

"Tell her, Renaud."

"It is all true, mademoiselle.  Believe what he says, for he was never
clearer in the head, not often so clear in life and health as now."

At this she broke down completely, sobbing aloud.  The priest gently
intervened.

"I cannot allow this, my daughter.  You must respect the hour, the
condition of monsieur, the place, the death-bed of a Christian,
mademoiselle!"

Pauline's sudden sharp sobs were all that could be heard.  She had
never wept like this in her life before.

"What is it you want me to do?  Not take her with me, not have her to
live with me?  I could not, Henry, I could not.  Even if I could
overcome my horror of her--poor innocent child, for it is not her fault
she is as she is--I have no right to visit her on Edmund when we are
married.  Yes, yes--you must see that we shall be separated.  Angele
and her mother--oh! it is not possible--yet I must call her so since
you say it, your wife, Henry, the Archambault girl, will live here.
They will be comfortable, and if we do well where we are going, if
Edmund comes into his money----"

Clairville interrupted her.

"It is of him, too, Hawtree, that I would speak.  I fear, I fear--he is
not what he should be, to be your husband, my poor Pauline.  His
talk--he has told me much of his past, of women, other women.
Pauline--he has loved in many places."

"Yes, but I was the last--and best!" broke from Miss Clairville in a
burst of self-pity.  Her eager accents lent pathos to the triumphant
declaration and she fancied the priest laughing in his corner! the
doctor gave a snort of ridicule and even the lips of the impassive
nurse seemed to contract with a contemptuous smile.

"He tells you so, he tells you so.  Well, may it be so then, and Heaven
bless you, Pauline.  If I--if I----" his lean hand moved jerkily; it
wandered in search of her head, but instead of those dark locks of hair
it fell on the back of a cat.  Pauline was swayed by extraordinary and
clashing emotions.  He--her hated and despised brother--was trying to
bless her, to lay unsanctified and sinful yet yearning hands upon her,
and it was a blow to her pride to learn forbearance in such a school
and from such a teacher.  But he had spoken almost his last words.  He
collapsed, groaning, and the doctor and Mme. Poussette each passed an
arm under him.  Father Rielle appeared at the bedside with the
sacrament.

"Not for a minute or two," said Dr. Renaud.  "He is still worried in
his mind.  It is you, mademoiselle, always you.  He is uneasy about the
child.  I know what he wishes; that you will be friendly with her,
treat her as your own blood, stay here with her, it may be, for a
season.  Promise, mademoiselle, and quickly."

"I cannot!  I cannot!"

"Nonsense!  Promise--and at once."

Father Rielle whispered in her ear: "Promise, my daughter."

"It will be useless.  I should not keep such a promise."

"What does that matter?  Promise--to soothe his dying moments, even if
you break it afterwards.  The Church thus orders, and the Church will
make good, will console."

Thus hemmed in, Pauline bent and gave her promise; much shaken and
still violently sobbing, she then left the room and Renaud accompanied
her.  The act was significant, the leech of the body withdrawing to
make room for the leech of the soul.  The door was softly drawn to by
Mme. Poussette; the low sound of Father Rielle's voice was heard at
intervals, then there was a silence.  Ten minutes later the priest and
nurse came out, throwing wide the door on the remains of Henry
Clairville, just passed from this world to the next.  At the same
instant, a strange incongruous sound came from the room, and Pauline,
wide-eyed and panting, stopped sobbing, and stood up with her hands
pressed over her heart.  It was the penetrating chant of three lusty
kittens, new-born, blind and helpless, yet quick to scent their mother
and grope towards her furry bosom.

Madame hastily re-entered, driving all the cats before her, including
the outraged mother, who took this summary eviction with hoarse and
angry cries, and the kittens, gathered roughly into madame's apron,
continued to emit shrill, smothered squeals all the way to the kitchen.
Dr. Renaud passed in to verify the death, and the incident of the cats
was not lost upon him; indeed, it appealed to his professional instinct.

"In the midst of Death we are in Life," he remarked jocularly, stepping
back into the hall to get ready for the drive homeward.

Miss Clairville glanced at these preparations, and speedily made up her
mind.  She had grown quiet and was already relieved at the prospect of
leaving Clairville immediately.

"It cannot matter now whether I go or stay, surely!  Dr. Renaud, I go
with you, is it not so?"

"Faith--it doesn't matter any longer now, as you say.  Quick with you
then, for I have much in the village to arrange; a Clairville does not
die every day.  Madame has the young Antoine with her, she will not be
afraid.  I can send somebody out to sit with her, and you will be best
at Poussette's."

The day was cold but bright and intensely sunny, and Pauline's relief
and gratitude to the doctor brought back her colour; she sat up,
casting her care behind her, and let him talk.

"Well, there was not much to be done with him; the 'pic' had weakened
the system, and after so many years of incarceration in a sleeping-room
the chest and lungs were delicate; hence the congestion and cause of
death.  Well, well--let me see--I remember your brother twenty-three
years ago when I first came to St. Ignace.  A strange, bookish,
freakish character, but a gentleman, that goes without saying,
Ma'amselle Pauline.  And you, just a little black-haired girl, reciting
French tragedy in the untidy garden!  Ah--ah!  I see it clearly--no
father, no mother, save old Victoria Archambault, and yet you grew up a
handsome young lady, always thinking of making your fortune, eh?  And
you cannot have made it yet or you would not be contemplating marriage
with our friend the Englishman."

Pauline's face changed at this; the barred gate stood out over her
eyes, and with ease and happiness fading from her mouth and expression
she turned on Renaud.

"Who was there to help me make it or to care if I made it at all?  Now
that you know the truth and see what Henry is and was, how could I be
anything or do anything in such a _milieu_!  You taunt me, you--who
profess to have known nothing of the Archambault affair all these
years!"

"I give you the word of honour, mademoiselle, I swear it to you--I knew
nothing!  Recollect--your brother never would admit a doctor, you were
strong and healthy and much away from Clairville; of the child I only
heard from those at Hawthorne and I did not connect what I did hear
with either you or the seigneur, as he liked to call himself.  These
afflicted ones, these peculiar ones--Mme. Poussette kept the secret
well.  But two days ago he sent for me and told me everything; how he
was properly married in the parish of Sault au Recollet to Artémise
Archambault, she, the half-witted, the empty-headed--God knows whether
that was the charm or what--and of the birth of the child, he told me.
What could you expect from the union of two such natures?  If you
marry, mademoiselle, mate neither with a bad temper nor an unbridled
thirst."

"Ah, be quiet, Dr. Renaud!  You are the blunt well-wisher, I suppose, a
type I detest!  How can I help myself!  I have chosen, and you know the
Clairville character."

"Yes, I know, but count before you jump--'tis safer.  Jesting aside,
ma'amselle, and although I come from a death-bed I jest with a light
heart as one who sees on the whole enough of life and never too much of
death--you are still too young and too brilliant a woman to marry
anything but well.  But I have said, I have finished."

"And not too soon"--was Miss Clairville's inward thought, as with new
fears pricking at her heart she kept silence, so unusual a thing with
her that the garrulous Renaud observed it and endeavoured to correct
his pessimism.

"Enough of Life and not too much of Death," he repeated, gaily
flourishing his whip.  "It has a queer sound, that, eh?  But it is like
this, ma'amselle; when I bring to life, when I usher into this world, I
see the solemnity and the importance of life in front of me and I am
sad; it makes me afraid.  When I assist at the grave I am calm and
happy, light-hearted even, because there our responsibility for one
another ceases, so long as we keep the Masses going."

"The Masses!  For their souls you mean, for his soul?  How then--do you
believe that, Dr. Renaud?"

"Eh?  Believe--mademoiselle?  Come, you take me at a disadvantage.  Am
I not a good Catholic then?  Pardon me, but I never discuss these
questions.  Without the Church we should be much worse than we are, and
faith--some of us are about as bad as we can be already."

Pauline, tired out, said no more, but leaning back fell into dreaming
of her marriage and of the life before her.  Her brother was gone,
peacefully and honourably on the whole; of Angeel it was not necessary
to think, and if Artémise were to remain at Clairville as its mistress,
a very good way might be opened toward conciliating the neighbourhood
and of managing the child for the future.  The Archambaults would most
likely all return, evict Mme. Natalie Poussette, who would return to
her husband, and Clairville Manor again assume the lively air of a
former period, with French retainers young and old overrunning the
house and grounds.

Once more in thought Miss Clairville saw the culmination of her hopes
all revolving around the interesting Hawtree, and once more she began
in fancy to add to, sort over, and finally pack away the airy trousseau
which must now be enriched by at least one sober black suit, hat and
mourning veil.



CHAPTER XXIV

RELAPSE

  "How shall I trace the change, how bear to tell
  How he broke faith----"


The Hotel Champlain is a hostelry not on the list which promises the
highest class of entertainment for the tourist; one has not to go there
unless one is French or in some way connected with or interested in
French life and character, yet the _cuisine_ is excellent and the rooms
clean and neat.  The occasional presence of pompous Senators from the
provinces on their way to the legislative halls of the capital ensures
a certain average of cooking and attendance; at other times prevail the
naturally comfortable instincts of the host and hostess, M. and Mme.
Alphonse Prefontaine, a couple bearing the same initials as the
Poussettes, the wife a Natalie too, but extremely different in ideals
and character.  Thus, monsieur, the host, had voyaged, been to "Paris,
France," emphasized in case you should think he meant that village,
Paris, Ontario; had written a brochure on his travels and was a great
patron of such arts as at that time the French population of Montreal
were privileged to offer.  Madame, the wife, with well-frizzed black
hair, strong features and kindly dark eyes, was handsome enough for a
Lady Mayoress, had excellent if a little showy taste in dress and had
reared a large and healthy family.

To their comfortable roof Crabbe repaired rather than to any English
one, because he was not yet completely reinstated in his own
self-respect, and to patronize places suited to him in a prosperous
future might now invite too much criticism.  The Prefontaines knew Miss
Clairville well and had heard from her of the rich Englishman to whom
she was about to be married, and Crabbe was therefore received with
more than Gallic fervour, assigned one of the best rooms, and after
seeing a clergyman and attending to other matters touching the
approaching ceremony, shut himself up with certain manuscripts that he
wished to look over before mailing them to England.  He had arrived at
noon on the day of Henry Clairville's death and the next morning
accordingly brought him the news in print.  He grew thoughtful for a
while, meant to dispatch a telegram of condolence to Pauline, then
forgot it as he became interested in his work.  Two poems in particular
came in for much revision: "The Lay of an Exiled Englishman," and
"Friends on the Astrachan Ranch," pleased him with their lines here and
there, yet the general and final effect seemed disappointing to his
fine critical side; like many another he saw and felt better than he
could perform.

"A Tennysonian ring, I fear.  Yet what man alive and writing now can
resist it?  It slides into the veins, it creeps along the nerves, it
informs us as we speak and move and have our being.  I'll read
aloud--ghastly perhaps, but the only way to judge effect."

He began, and the long lines rose and fell with precision and academic
monotony; he was no elocutionist, but read as authors read their own
works, as Schubert played his own music, and as he read the snow fell
in thick swirling masses outside his window and the cold grew more and
more penetrating and intense.  A knock at the door roused him.  It was
a servant of the house who spoke English.  The host had sent to know
whether the guest was warm.

"Well, come to think of it," said Crabbe, "I'm not too warm, by any
means.  You can tell them to fire up downstairs, certainly.  What time
is luncheon here?"

"Do you mean dinner, sir?"

"Oh, yes, dinner, of course.  One o'clock?  Very well."

"No order, sir?  For the bar, I mean?"

Crabbe stared at the speaker then straightened himself and looked out
of the window.  Was it snowing at St. Ignace, and on Henry Clairville's
grave?  Would Pauline go into mourning?

"No, I think not.  A bottle of Bass at my dinner--that's all."

The interruption over, he went back to his poetry, and this time read
on until he had finished.  Then he was silent, staring at the table
with his legs straight out in front of him, and his hands in his
pockets.

"What rot your own poetry can sound!" he finally observed with a frown.

"Verse certainly needs an audience, and there's a turn, a lilt that
reminds me of Carleton occasionally--that won't do.  Must go at it
again.  Must go at it again.  Better have a smoke."

He found and lit his pipe, read over the stanzas, this time in his
head, and the room grew steadily colder, until he could hardly stand
it.  He rang the bell.

"Look here!  Tell Mr. Prefontaine his guests are freezing in this
house.  Get him to fire up, there's a good fellow--and--look here?  How
soon will dinner be ready?"

"Not for some time, sir.  Perhaps, if you're cold, a hot Scotch----"

But Crabbe was again buried in his work.  At one he dined, very much
admired by Mme. Prefontaine and her three daughters; he had his
innocent tipple and then went back to his room.  By three o'clock it
was growing dark and he rose to pull down the blind, when a step
outside in the hall arrested him.  The step seemed familiar, yet
incongruous and uncongenial; it was followed by a knock, and, going
forward, Crabbe opened the door to Ringfield.

Astonishment showed in the Englishman's face, but he spoke amiably
enough and invited the young man inside.  Ringfield's countenance wore
its perennial grave aspect, but it could also be seen that at that
moment he was suffering from the cold.  He wore no muffler, and his
hands were encased in mere woollen gloves; he had also the appearance
of being a martyr to influenza, and Crabbe regarded him with his usual
contemptuous familiarity.

"What's brought you to town this infernally cold day?" he said.
"You're not going to be married, you know."

The pleasantry did not apparently disconcert the other, but he looked
carefully around as if searching for something before he answered.

"To be candid, I followed you here to have a talk with you."

"The deuce you did--white choker and all!  You have a cheek, haven't
you?  Then you must be pretty flush, after all, even if you have not
any expectations, like me, Ringfield.  You've never congratulated me,
but let that pass.  As you are here, what do you want to talk about?"

The two stood facing each other, with the paper-strewn table between
them.

"I should almost think you could guess," murmured Ringfield with an
effort to be easy.  "But before I, at least, can do any talking I must
get warm.  I'm chilled--chilled to the bone."  And indeed he looked it.
His hollow eyes, his bluish lips, his red hands and white fingers
indicated his condition, and he had also a short, spasmodic cough,
which Crabbe had never noticed at St. Ignace.  Suddenly in the guide
there awoke the host, the patron, and he drew the blind, placed chairs
and grumbled at the stove-pipe.

"Oh for an open fire!" he cried.  "Eh, Ringfield?  One of your little
Canadian open stoves would do, a grate--anything to sit before!  Why,
man, I'm afraid you have got a touch of the ague, or something worse,
perhaps pneumonia."

"Not as bad as that, surely," returned the other with his wry smile.
"I walked from the station to save a cab, and I'm only a little
chilled."

"A warm drink!" cried Crabbe, from the depths of his new and hospitable
instincts.  "Say the word, and I'll order it.  By heaven,
Ringfield,--you look poorly, and I've wanted one myself all day."  His
hand was on the bell.

"No, no!  Don't make a fuss over me.  I shall be all right after a
while.  Besides I never take anything of the kind you mean, I fancy.
Some camphor--if you had that, or a cup of boiling hot tea.  I'll go
downstairs and ask for that.  Or coffee."

"Tea!  Good Lord!  Tea, to a man sickening with pneumonia!"

"But I'm not--really I'm not.  I'm feeling warmer already."

"I know better.  'A hot Scotch,'" he said.  "Oh for some of the
Clairville brandy now, eh?  By the way, her brother's dead."

Ringfield shivered, but not this time on account of the cold.  Some
strange sensation always attacked him when Crabbe spoke of Pauline.

"Yes.  I did not hear of it until she returned."

"She went to see him, then?"

"Yes."

"That must have been after I left.  Poor girl!  Well, was she very
knocked up?  Have you seen her?"

Ringfield shook his head and the guide attributed the action more to
cold than to sympathy.  His mind was made up; Ringfield must take
something, must be warmed up and made fit, and whisky was the only
means known to the Englishman, who did not own a "Manual of
Homoeopathy".  Whisky it must be.  Again his hand went to the bell, and
again Ringfield remonstrated, but his _gauche_ utterances were of no
avail in face of Crabbe's decision of character and natural lording of
it.  The boy appeared, the order was dispatched, and as Ringfield
noticed the growing exaltation in the guide's manner, a sort of
sickness stole upon him.  Here, thrust into his hand, was the greatest
opportunity yet given to him to preserve a human soul and to save the
woman he loved, but he looked on, dazed, uncomfortable, half guilty.

"If this works you harm," he said, "it will be through me, through me.
I'd rather not, Crabbe; I'd rather not."

But the word of the guide prevailed, and in three minutes a couple of
hot strong glasses were on the table.  Crabbe for his part was really
curious.  Could it be that this man, his visitor, had never tasted
spirituous liquor?  Wine, of course, he must have taken, being a
clergyman.  This thought immediately attracted him, and with a sense of
its literary value he sought to question Ringfield as to the effect of
the Communion wine upon a teetotal community.  By this time there was
no doubt the minister had suffered a severe chill and the temptation
became very strong to try the hot glass that stood in front of him.

Crabbe jeered.

"What do you suppose will happen to you if you taste it, even if you
drain it?  What can one glass do?  Nonsense.  I've taken a whole bottle
of Glenlivet in an evening--then you might talk!"

His hand played with the glasses, and watching him, Ringfield felt all
the awful responsibility of his office.  Once before he had shattered a
hateful bottle, once he had lifted up his voice in self-righteous
denunciation of the sin of drink and the black fruit thereof, but now
he appeared helpless, paralyzed.

At what moment the evil finally entered into him and conquered him does
not signify; horrible visions of Pauline and this man going away
together, laughing and chatting, embracing and caressing, swam before
his jaundiced eyes.  To delay, to prevent the marriage had been his
dream for weeks, and now he saw one way to accomplish this wished-for
hindrance to their union.  Should Crabbe be made drunk, should he yield
again after so long abstinence from liquor, who could say what the
consequences might prove?  A shred only of common compunction animated
him as he said: "I tell you frankly I'm afraid of the stuff.  And I'm
afraid for you."

Yet all this time he was watching the guide's expression.

Already the steaming fumes were working upon him; the familiar,
comforting, stimulating odour was there, his hand was clasping the
glass, in another moment he would drain it, then what would happen!

"Afraid!  Afraid?  Of one glass!  Ringfield--you're a fool, a prig, and
a baby.  Besides, the spirit is all burnt out by this time, evaporated,
flown thence.  Come--I'll set you the example.  Drink first and preach
afterwards."

And with the peculiar gloating eye, the expressively working, watering
mouth that the drunkard sometimes shows, the Englishman led off.  It
was a long, hot drink, but he threw his head back and never paused till
he had drained the last drop, and once again tipped the glass towards
his throat.  Ringfield, alarmed, fascinated, deeply brooding, watched
the proceeding in silence, his nature so changed that there was no
impulse to seize the offending glass, dash it on the ground or pour the
contents on the floor, watched ardently, hungrily, for the sequel.
Would Crabbe remain as he had been after the enlivening draught, or
would he by rapid and violent stages decline to the low being of former
days?  While Ringfield thus watched the guide the latter stared back,
broadly smiling.

"Still shaking!" he cried; "still 'chilled to the bone' and shivering?
You are such an impossible fellow--you will not give my remedy a
chance.  Perhaps whisky doesn't suit you.  I know--it was gin you
wanted.  'The gin within the juniper began to make him merry.' Lots of
people don't know that's Tennyson.  Eh, Ringfield?  Afraid?  Afraid of
imperilling your immortal soul?  Nuisance--a soul.  Great nuisance.
Great mistake.  Well--are you or are you not going to drink this other
glass?  I can't see good stuff wasted.  I'm astonished at you.
I'm--'stonished."

He leant forward and bent his elbows on the table; the papers fluttered
in all directions, but he had forgotten about them.  His gaze--wide,
blue and choleric--was alternately bent on Ringfield and on the tumbler.

The minister went pale, his heart beat spasmodically and his fingers
curled and tingled.  No power, no wish to pray was left in him, no
sense of responsibility; he was too far gone in jealous vindictiveness
to be his own judge or critic, and he stared at the guide, saying: "If
you get drunk it is your own fault.  You'll be doing it yourself.  I
have nothing to do with it, nothing.  I will not touch the stuff, you
shall not make me."

Yet he did not attempt to remove the glass and Crabbe sniffed at the
tempting fumes.  His right hand embraced them, his hair fell over his
forehead, his eyes and mouth worked strangely, and in a twinkling what
the other had foreseen happened.  With an unsteady, leering flourish
Crabbe raised the coveted tumbler to his lips and drank it off.

Appalled and conscience-stricken, Ringfield fell back against the door,
the room being small and contracted, and covered his face with his
hands.  In ten minutes the guide was coarsely drunk, but sensible
enough to ring the bell and demand more whisky.  Committed to his wrong
course, the minister interfered no longer, and suffered a servant to
deliver the stuff into his hands at the door, on the plea that the
gentleman inside was not very well.  Thus things went from bad to
worse, Crabbe noisily reciting passages from English poets and the
Greek anthology, and insisting on reading his lines to Ringfield after
a third "go" of spirits.

"How does this strike you?" he cried, whipping a narrow piece of
writing-paper out of his pocket; "I've written many an epitaph, but
none that I liked better than this:--

  "Chaste I was not, neither honourable, only kind;
  And lo--the streets with mourners at my death were lined!"

And he added gravely that it was in the best Greek style.  "I've got
another, 'On a Woman Who Talked too Much,' but I can't remember it.
Don't you write poetry?  You don't?  Oh!  I remember now.  You're the
parson.  Want to convert me, want to reform me, eh, Ringfield?  You
write something better than poetry--sermons.  Look here--Ringfield--did
you know I was intended for the Church myself at one time?  I was.
Honour bright--before I came out to this blasted country--excuse
freedom of speech--before I knew you, and before I met Henry Clairville
and Pauline."

The name seemed to convey some understanding of his condition with it,
and he stopped a minute in his talk.  The other man was still leaning
by the door; it might be expedient to keep people of the house from
seeing Crabbe's condition.

"Now--don't you say this isn't your fault," continued the guide,
shaking his head wisely.  "You ordered the whisky, you know you did.
You were 'chilled to the bone' and you ordered it.  And you're a parson
all the same, can't get over that, can't help yourself, can you,
Ringfield?  Remember meetin' you many years ago somewhere, there was
whisky too on that occasion, and you c'ngratulated me, you know, on
going to be married.  But you were--premature, that's what you were,
Ringfield--premature.  Wonder where I met you before!  Must have been
in the Old Country; must have been at Oxford together."

He now raised his head, and drinking off the fourth and last strong
tumblerful of spirit, smiled vacantly in the other's face, and
collapsed upon the table.

Ringfield, ashamed and bitter, stood and watched this sad scene with
folded arms and tightly drawn mouth.  Was it true?  Was this his work?
This dishevelled, staring-eyed, sodden, incoherent creature, shrewdly
wise in his cups, had taken the place of the elegant and easy English
gentleman, the educated Oxford man, dabbler in high-class verse and
prospective happy bridegroom, and what woman would care to have his arm
around her now?  With the thought came a wave of self-righteous
indignation; he had partially effected what he had hoped to bring about
in some other way, the gradual but sure alienation of Crabbe from
Pauline, and with a half-guilty satisfaction driving out remorse he
descended and found M. Prefontaine, having first locked the door and
put the key in his pocket.  Explanations of his friend's seizure were
made, apparently in good faith, and much solicitude expressed.

"However, I think you had better leave him entirely alone this evening,
and I can look in later," concluded Ringfield, whose serious mien and
clerical garb commended him; "I am familiar with his attacks and I will
also see him in the morning before I leave, in case he requires
anything, although by that time he will very probably have quite
recovered."

This sounding perfectly frank and natural, M. Prefontaine took no more
thought of the guest in No. 9, and gave Ringfield the room opposite,
No. 8, from which he could listen for his friend's "attacks" and render
assistance if required.

At half-past ten, therefore, he unlocked Crabbe's door, and found the
guide almost as he had left him, his head on the table and his legs
stretched out underneath, but Ringfield, scanning the room with a
careful eye as he had done earlier in the day, on his arrival, at
length perceived what he had expected and desired to see--a
travelling-flask of wicker and silver-plate half hidden on the dressing
table behind a tall collar-box.  Turning the gas low, but not
completely out, he went away quietly, again locking the door behind
him.  What Poussette had told him then was true, and it was this, that
before his departure for Montreal the guide had purchased enough spirit
to fill a large flask, and whether shallow subterfuge or not, Crabbe
certainly had a standing temptation at his elbow which he must have
forgotten when Ringfield entered, cold and shivering and plainly in
need of a stimulant.  Poussette's theory--that the Englishman had
absented himself in order to enjoy a deliberate "spree" as it is
called, was incorrect.  Crabbe had simply brought the stuff with him
from force of habit, the conventional notion of preparing for a
journey, particularly in such a climate.  Therefore the burden of his
recent fall certainly must be laid to Ringfield, who had lifted neither
voice nor hand to hinder; for while pursuing an evil course the latter
seemed powerless to cast out the emotions of blinding hate and jealousy
that tore at his vitals and rendered him a changed and miserable
creature.  The next morning he visited Crabbe again and found him, as
he had hoped, absolutely sodden and useless; his elasticity and nerve,
his good looks, his air of authority, having all disappeared, and a
wretched physical sickness begun.  He knew his plight, but did not
recognize his tempter, did not mention Pauline's name and seemed to
wish to be left alone.  Ringfield candidly and sorrowfully made further
explanations to M. Prefontaine, who promised to say nothing of the
matter and to look after Crabbe as soon as he was able.

"Mlle. Clairville has written to us of the gentleman, and we regret
this should have happened.  You will carry her our best regards and
good wishes for her wedding.  These Englishmen are sometimes great
drinkers, but they recover quickly."

Ringfield paid his bill and walked out as he had walked in, with the
same constrained, unhappy expression, and the same cold hand grasping a
florid carpet-bag.  He had told M. Prefontaine that he was returning to
St. Ignace, but he had no such intention; he went along Jacques Cartier
Square a few yards, and then disappearing around a corner, found a
quiet back street, where, over antiquated shop-fronts, he saw several
cards of _appartements à louer_ and one with a similar legend in
English.  Here he entered and secured a front room, so situated that
its view commanded that side of the square on which stood the Hotel
Champlain.  He had made up his mind to remain there until he saw Crabbe
emerge, when, if possible, he would again detain, hinder, or, in some
unthought-out way, keep him from St. Ignace and Miss Clairville.  Thus
he passed the hours, patiently waiting at his narrow window in the Rue
St. Dominique for a sight of his unfortunate rival.

Now M. Alphonse Prefontaine had a friend named Lalonde, a very clever
man and a member of that useful profession which lives upon the lives
and secrets and follies and crimes of others--in fine, a detective, and
having quite recently lost his wife (a cousin of Mme. Prefontaine) he
had given up his house and come to live at the Hotel Champlain.  He had
been present when Ringfield first appeared in the rotunda with his
countrified carpet-bag, had heard him ask for his friend, had seen him
again later in the afternoon, and also in the morning, and having
naturally a highly-developed trait of curiosity, had sauntered out when
Ringfield did, and discovered that, instead of returning to the
country, the young man with the clergyman's tie and troubled face was
lodging in the next street.  To anyone else, even to the Prefontaines,
this would have signified nothing, but Lalonde was good at his
business, and the discovery at least interested him; he could say
nothing more.  He, too, knew Miss Clairville well, and was expecting to
see her on her wedding-day, so that it was quite natural he should
express a desire to meet Crabbe, even if the latter were scarcely in a
condition to receive callers.  M. Prefontaine accordingly took him up,
but all they saw was an exceedingly stupid, fuddled, untidy wretch who
was not yet conscious of the great mistake he had made in giving way to
his deplorable appetite, and who did not realize the import of what was
said to him.  Lalonde was sufficiently curious to examine the flask and
Crabbe's valise, but he retired satisfied that the guide had not been
tampered with.  Drunkenness and that alone had caused the present sad
state of affairs.



CHAPTER XXV

THE TROUSSEAU AGAIN

  "--the bitter language of the heart."


The shop over which Ringfield was lodging for the time was an emporium
of Catholic books, pictures and images, one of those peculiarly Lower
Canadian stores in the vicinity of the Rue Notre Dame, existing side by
side with Indian curio shops, and rendering it possible for the
emigrant and tourist to purchase maple sugar, moccasins, and birch bark
canoes at the same time that he invested in purple ribbon bookmarks,
gaily painted cards of the Virgin, and tiny religious valentines with
rosy bleeding hearts, silver arrows and chubby kneeling infants.
Amulets and crucifixes, Keys of Heaven and lives of the Blessed Saints,
cheap vases of ruby and emerald glass, candles and rosaries, would at
another time have afforded Ringfield much matter for speculation, but
the fact was that almost as soon as he had deposited his bag on the
table of the narrow bedroom assigned to him, the cold he had so long
neglected caught him seriously, and for an entire day and a half he
insisted on sitting at his window when he should have been in bed.  On
the next day his feverish symptoms increased to such an extent that the
man who owned the room and who was a widower, managing for himself,
sent for a nurse.  Tossing on the bed, and frequently rising to look
out of the window, Ringfield fretfully objected, but his landlord was
firm, and sent a message at once to the Hospital of the Incarnation,
the nearest charitable institution and the parent of several
flourishing branches, among which was that at Lalurette where Ringfield
had thought of placing Angeel.  It was early on Thursday evening when
the message was sent, and at ten o'clock Archibald Groom, the
shopkeeper, came to say that a person recently arrived from the country
was below, but that she spoke very little English.  He was not
answered, and bending over the bed he saw that his lodger was
delirious, eyes glassy and staring and head rolling from side to side,
with high colour and stertorous breathing.

To call the nurse, who was waiting in the shop, was the work of an
instant; she came quickly and noiselessly up the dark stair and saw at
once a case of brain fever, partly brought on by exposure and neglected
cold, also recognizing in the sick man the well-known minister at St.
Ignace and her husband's _protégé_.

Mme. Poussette, for it was she, possessed more discretion than sense,
and more sense than wit; she looked calmly upon her patient as upon a
stranger and set about her work in silence.

Meanwhile Edmund Crabbe, on partially recovering from his first fit of
intemperance, sat up, and perceiving the well-filled flask he had
brought with him, seized it, and began afresh upon its contents.  He
had left St. Ignace on Monday morning, and it was now Thursday; Henry
Clairville was dead and buried; the funeral obsequies being of a
complex nature, shabby and ornate, dignified and paltry, leisurely and
hurried, while the ceremony was at least well attended, since, as Dr.
Renaud had said, a Seigneur did not die every day.  Profuse in the
matter of lappets, crucifixes, and in the number of voluble
country-folk and stout serious-lipped priests, Father Rielle, who had
charge of the proceedings, was compelled to accommodate himself to
circumstances, or fate, or "the Will of God," in the shape of the
Archambaults--who, as Pauline foresaw, had all returned, this time to
claim their own.

The disappearance of Mme. Poussette occasioned no comment; for two days
after the death of Henry Clairville no one spoke to her or thanked her
for all she had done, and while the funeral was in progress she put her
few things in a box, and counting a small store of money Poussette had
given her from time to time, went with Antoine Archambault to the
station at Bois Clair, and was no more seen at St. Ignace.  Of all the
characters in this simple history, none perhaps was so sincerely
deserving as this unfortunate Mme. Poussette, and as she passes from
the stormy little village in behind the gate of the serene but busy
hospital, it is pleasant to contemplate the change there in store for
her.  To many women who are plain and unattractive in the ever-varying
hat and gown of fashion, and who, if they try to hold their own, must
sooner or later resort to artificial aids to attain even moderate good
looks, there is yet a refuge, that of some severe and never-changing
style of dress or uniform, which bestows upon them another kind of
beauty.  The kitchen dish or utensil has its charm as well as the
sprigged china of the closet; the jug going to the well is as grateful
to the eye as the prismatic beaker upon the table, and, in like manner,
the banded or braided hair, the perfect cleanliness of fresh print or
linen and the straight serviceable lines of skirt and waist often
contribute to make a plain woman fully as attractive as her prettier
sisters.  Thus Mme. Poussette, about whom there was never anything
repulsive or vulgar, presented new features to the world in her
exquisitely neat hospital garb; more than this, she liked her work, and
gradually her expression grew less vacant; she left off humming and
whispering to herself, and we leave her thus, contented, respected and
of use, and, therefore, almost happy.

Indeed, many there are beside Mme. Natalie Poussette who find as life
slips by and the feverish quest of happiness dies within them, that
they become happy almost without knowing it in the pursuit of other
things once despised, such as work, friendship, the need of earning, or
the love of an abstract subject.  What a contrast then does this
"afflicted," this "peculiar" one afford to the restless, imaginative,
gifted but unstable Pauline, in whom the quest of happiness had so far
only resulted in entanglement and riot of conflicting emotions!

As she remained much indoors at this time, awaiting Crabbe's return,
she dwelt much on the past, words rising to utterance that she thought
would never be heard on earth touching the problems of her lonely
childhood, her meeting with Crabbe, her aversion to her brother; also,
the brighter pictures of the future in which she already lived the life
of a London beauty and belle, or crossed to Paris and continued buying
for her trousseau.  Miss Cordova, with the superior wisdom of a mother,
let her friend talk and agreed with all she said; her own opinion of
Pauline's choice in men was not in the guide's favour, but she saw it
was too late to interfere.  The story of Angeel was now cleared up and,
had Ringfield remained in the village, he would have learnt as well as
the rest of the unexpected parentage of that poor child, and of the
turn in the affairs of the country-side which brought the Archambaults
on top.  However wasted and however dilapidated, the Clairville domain
and Manor House was one of the oldest in the province, and it began to
be rumoured that a considerable fortune existed in Henry's collection
of books and memoirs, offers for which were already reaching the
helpless widow and mother of Angeel.

Occupied with her own dreams, Miss Clairville took little notice of her
home under a new regime, and day by day she watched instead for the
return of her lover, bringing definite arrangements for the marriage.
There seemed at least a diminution other natural active outlook on life
as a whole, and if she feared from Crabbe's rather dilatory methods
that their union was in danger from too long delay, she did not say so,
even to her confidante.  The latter was bent upon carrying through her
project with regard to Maisie and Jack, but this could not be effected
until the spring, and thus, without the stimulus of the Englishman's
presence, and with the remembrance of death and agitation so recently
in their midst, both women were quieter than usual.

As for Ringfield, no one missed him very acutely until Saturday
morning, when, upon the receipt of a letter from Mme. Prefontaine,
"Poussette's" was thrown into considerable excitement.  Pauline, who
could rarely keep anything to herself, read her letter aloud and
immediately jumped up in terror.

"Why did not some one tell me they were together; together, at the
Hotel Champlain?  I tell you--something will happen!"

"To which of them?" asked Miss Cordova satirically.  In spite of a good
deal of nonsense in her composition, there was an under-stratum of
shrewd wisdom, inherited, no doubt, from her New England mother, and
her admiration for her more brilliant friend did not blind her to
certain irregularities of disposition and many weak points in Pauline's
character, inseparable from her abnormal bringing up.  "I wouldn't
excite myself so much if I were you," continued the other.  "I've
learnt not to worry about men harming other men; it's when they come to
harming women I think it's time to worry about them.  Look at me--I
don't know for certain whether Ned Stanbury's alive or not; I know
Schenk's alive, although he may not last long, but I never worry about
their meeting.  But if Schenk came here to disturb me, or went to my
mother's to get the children from her, then I might take on."

"But, my dear, everything's different in my case!" exclaimed Miss
Clairville, fretfully pacing up and down the common room.

A village dressmaker, one of the numerous Tremblays, had, in a great
hurry, made her a black dress; her face showed sallow against it now,
and even her hands, always conspicuously well-kept and white, looked
yellow and old as they hung down at the side of her tall, straight
figure, or clasped and unclasped restlessly behind her.  A key to much
of her present unhappy mood lay in her last exclamation; family pride,
another kind of pride in her personal knowledge of the world, in her
consciousness of gifts and physical attractions, the feeling that she
was in every way Miss Cordova's superior, all this rendered Pauline's
affairs, in her own eyes, of vastly greater importance and intrinsic
excellence and interest than those of her companion.  A
Clairville--there could be no doubt of this--was a lady, a gentlewoman,
to use an incorruptible phrase, whereas, no matter how unsmirched the
simple annals of Sadie Cordova, the small farm, the still smaller shop
were behind the narrow beginnings of the painstaking and pious Yankee
shoemaker who retired in middle life to the country and died there.
Pauline's father and brother, both weakly degenerates, could
nevertheless boast of a lineage not inconsiderable for older lands, of
possessions identified with the same, such as portraits and books and
furniture, of connexions through marriage with the law and the militia,
and, above all, of having lived on their land for very many years
without doing anything, most distinguished trait of all.  Hence,
Pauline's remark; how could Miss Cordova fully understand or properly
sympathize with the altered conditions by which the daughter of the
manor was now second in importance to one of a family of menials, the
flighty, giggling, half-witted Artemise-Palmyre, whose marriage to
Henry Clairville was an accepted fact.

"You cannot understand," Pauline had said for the tenth or eleventh
time, and Miss Cordova listened, outwardly smiling and not immediately
replying.

"Do you suppose your brother's marriage was legal and binding?" she
said after a while, and Pauline stopped in her walk.  The idea was not
altogether new.

"I fancy it must have been," she managed to say carelessly.  "Dr.
Renaud and his Reverence know all about it, and even if it were not,
where is the money to enable me to--how do you say--contest it?"

"Wouldn't Mr. Poussette lend it to you?"

"Oh, what an idea!  Do you think I would take it from him, I, a
Clairville?"

She had nearly used the once-despised prefix and called herself a De
Clairville, for since Henry's death her intolerant view of his darling
project had strangely altered; so many things were slipping from her
grasp that she clutched at anything which promised well for the future.

"Well, I'm sure you deserve money, Pauline, from one quarter or
another; you've worked hard enough for it, I know, and now I do hope
your Mr. Hawtree will turn up soon and be all right, and that you'll be
happily married to him and get away for a time from all these troubles.
I want you should know, Pauline, that I think it was noble of you to
work so hard to raise that money to keep little Angeel; yes, I call it
noble, and I'm proud of you and sorry I ever thought----"

She paused and Pauline took up the unfinished phrase.

"Sorry you ever thought she was mine?  I forgive you, my dear, but
about my nobility, make no mistake.  What I did I did, but I did it all
coldly, passively, with nothing but hatred and loathing in my heart,
with nothing but pride and selfishness setting me on to do it.  I know
this was wrong, but I could not get into any other frame of mind; I
could never overcome my horror and repulsion of the whole matter.  And
now--it is just as bad--worse.  If I thought I should have to live with
her, with them, I could not stand it, Sara, I could not, I could not!
Why must I be tried so, why must I suffer so?  Oh, it is because I have
a bad heart, a bad nature!  Yes, yes, that must be it!  I have a bad
nature, Sara, a bad, bad nature!"

"No, no, Pauline!" said her friend soothingly, and the matter dropped.

Later they were sitting, towards evening, sewing at some item of the
impalpable trousseau, Pauline alternating her spasmodic needle with
reading over Mme. Prefontaine's letter and jumping up to listen down
the stair.

"What do you expect's happened, anyhow?" cried Miss Cordova at last, in
exasperation.  "Mr. Ringfield's a clergyman! he's a perfectly moral
man, and I guess that means something.  What are you afraid of?  Now if
it was me and Schenk or Stanbury----"

Pauline's attitude and expression were alike tragic.  In her cheap
black dress her look of apprehensive despair was full of mournful
intensity as she stood with one hand lifted and her expressive eyes
fixed on shapes imaginary.  Her friend's philosophy was equal to the
occasion.

"Seems to me if you think so much about things that _might_ happen but
you ain't sure they _have_ happened, you kind of _make_ 'em happen.
Sit down and be calm, for goodness sake, Pauline!"

"I can't, I can't!  Oh, what's that now?"

With her hands over her heart she bounded to the top of the narrow
stair.

"Reminds me of myself the other day when I thought Schenk was after me.
Do you hear anything, Pauline--you look so wild?"

"Yes, yes!  Some one has arrived.  _Grand Dieu_--which of them?
Sara--go and see!"

Miss Cordova rose and drew her friend back within the room.

"Maybe it's neither; only some one for M. Poussette."

"No, no, it is one of them and for me.  I hear my name."

She sank upon a chair as footsteps were heard slowly, heavily, and
somewhat unsteadily ascending the stair.  The arrival was Edmund
Crabbe, with the lurch of recent dissipation in his gait and his blue
eyes still inflamed and bleared.

With a half-furtive, half-defiant air he advanced to Pauline, but
before he could utter a word, either of justification or apology, she
sprang at him with impetuous gestures and deeply frowning brows.  To
see her thus, in the common little room at Poussette's, clad in the
plain garb of cheap mourning, yet with all the instinctive fire and
grandeur of the emotional artist, was to recall her as many could,
declaiming on the narrow stage of the Theatre of Novelties.

  Je suis Romaine, helas! puisque Horace est Romain.
  J'ai reçevu son titre en reçevant sa main,

or again, in the diaphanous rose-garlanded skirts of Marguerite
Gautier, laying bare the secrets of her heart to her adoring lover.
Oblivious of Miss Cordova, Pauline rushed at her own lover but did not
embrace him.

"Oh, where is he?" she cried.  "What have you done to him?--or with
him?  I insist upon the truth; I must know, I must know all.  He
followed you!"

"He did, he did.  He followed me, as you say, madam, but what of that?"
Crabbe stood, greatly astonished and rather mortified.  In the presence
of Miss Cordova, for Pauline to display such concern for the other man
was, to say the least, annoying.  To be dignified in his resentment was
to invite ridicule, for the drink still showed in his walk, but he
managed to frown and in other ways show honest astonishment and wrath.
"A nice welcome!" he went on, with difficulty repressing a certain
thickness of utterance and steadying himself as well as he was able,
the chairs being both occupied.  "If you mean the parson, if these airs
and sighs, these sulks and tender concerns are for him--you may spare
yourself.  He is all right.  Though I beg pardon--you never sulk,
Pauline, whatever you do.  I'll swear to that, lady dear.  'Tis good
and hot and strong while it lasts, and now I'm back, give it me, for I
know I deserve it.  I've been at it again, Pauline.  Drink, I mean, my
girl."  Tears stood in his eyes.

"I understand.  You need explain no further.  But what do you mean
about Mr. Ringfield--how is he all right?  Where is he?  I was afraid,
afraid of something happening to one of you.  Sara laughs, but she
doesn't know how I feel."

"And never will!" said Crabbe, giving Pauline's shoulder a clumsy,
caressing pat; "Miss Cordova has her points, but she is not Us, she is
not We of the grand emotional parts!  Just a bundle of emotions, nerves
and impulses--that's all you are, madam!"

His affection, breaking through the still thick speech and weakened
movements, was irresistible; Pauline sighed and smiled, shook off her
tremors and allowed herself to descend with him to the dining-room,
where over supper she listened to the recital of his adventure in
Montreal.

"It was the cold then, that made you, that drove you to it again!" she
said thoughtfully.

"Cold, and--and--loneliness.  I was lonely, Pauline, and by Heaven--if
you'll really take me, lady dear, the sooner we're married the better.
If your parson were in the house at this moment I should order him to
perform the ceremony."

"Oh--that would not suit me!  Mr. Ringfield--of course, that could not
be.  We must leave as soon as possible, that is all, and as this is the
nineteenth, and we have arranged for the twenty-fourth, that is only
four days to wait."

"Four days!  I'll keep straight, I promise you, Pauline."

"And was he--was Mr. Ringfield with you much at the Hotel Champlain?
What did he do there?  Why did he go?"

Crabbe, to tell the truth, was asking that same question of his brain,
as he made heroic endeavours to recollect the details of his last
debauch.  He paused, and, with a trick characteristic of him, pushed
away his plate and cup, although he had only begun his meal.

"That's what I'd like to know myself, Pauline.  I was sitting at the
table, smoking, and reading over some of my stuff--poor stuff it seems
to me at times; however let that pass--when a knock came to the door,
and I opened to our clerical friend!  That's all I can remember."

"How did he look?  How long did he stay?  Do try and recollect.  Try
and answer."

Crabbe did try, but without avail.

"That's all I know, my dear girl.  I must have been pretty bad."

"You must, indeed," said Miss Clairville, rising.  A little of the
hauteur Ringfield associated with her showed in her bearing, and as the
guide drew his food again towards him, she eyed him almost with
disfavour.  "Then you do not know where he is, or what he went for, or
how long he stayed."

"I do not, lady dear--I do not."

Pauline was deeply mystified, and perhaps her vanity was also touched;
the mental spectacle of the two men fighting each other for possession
of her had faded and a certain picturesqueness had gone from life.
However, her marriage remained; she had four days, but only four, to
make ready in anticipation of the great event which was to remove her
at once and for ever from St. Ignace and Clairville, and in the light
of which even Crabbe's backsliding seemed a trivial matter.  She
therefore returned to Sadie Cordova with restored equanimity, and
Ringfield--his avowal and his present whereabouts and condition yielded
to those prenuptial dreams and imaginings which pursued even so
practised a coquette and talented woman of the world as the once
brilliant Camille and Duchess of Gerolstein.  Nevertheless, agitation
was in the air.  Poussette went to and fro in much and very voluble
distress.  The night closed in and brought no letter, no telegram from
Ringfield; how then--who, who would conduct the service?  It was the
week of Christmas and a few more were already in the village, members
of families from afar and two or three visitors.

The feast of Noël is full of importance to all of the Romish faith, and
Poussette knew of great things in preparation for the stone church on
the hill of St. Jean Baptiste in the way of candles, extra music and a
kind of Passion-play in miniature representing the manger, with cows
and horses, wagons and lanterns, the Mother and Child, all complete.
Should Ringfield not return----even as he spoke the wooden clock in the
kitchen pointed to ten; the last train had passed through Bois Clair
and Poussette abandoned all hope, while in order to prove his intense
and abject depression of mind, he broke his promise to the minister and
helped himself to some whisky.

Thus, the absence of his mentor worked this unfortunate relapse, and
should Crabbe find out, there looked to be an old-time celebration at
Poussette's with Pauline and Pauline's rights entirely forgotten.  As
it was, Miss Cordova caught the culprit before he was quite lost, and
mounting guard over the bar, entered upon those duties which, once
shouldered, remained hers for a considerable length of time.

"Division of labour," she said smartly, and Poussette gave a foolish
smile.  "You take the kitchen and I'll take the bar.  Then when Maisie
and Jack arrive I can look after 'em.  As like as not, Maisie'll be
hanging round for a drop of lager--what she could get, that is, out of
the glasses--I've seen her!  And don't you fuss about Sunday, Mr.
Poussette!  We'll get on just as well as if we had a church to go to
and a sermon to listen to.  Guess you won't be wanting to see yourself
taking around the plate to-morrow, anyway."

Poussette, lying crumpled up in a reclining chair, watched his new
friend with dawning reason and admiration.

"Fonny things happens," said he, wagging his head, "I'll go to sleep
now and wake up--just in time--you'll see--to go to church, help Mr.
Ringfield take roun' the money--oh--I'll show you, I'll show you, Miss
Cordova."

"You'll show me, will you?" said the barkeeper, absently.  "What'll you
do if he don't come at all?  He can't come now, and you know it."

"I tell you--fonny things happens!  I'll preach myself, read from the
Bible, sure."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE GLISSADE

  "The calm oblivious tendencies of nature."


Probably the most beautiful spectacle ever afforded by the natural
world is that of a complete and far-reaching ice-storm, locally known
as a glissade, transcending in delicate aerial fantasy the swiftly
changing faint green panorama of early spring or the amber hazes of
opulent autumn.  A true and perfect glissade is comparatively rare;
like a fine display of the auroral arches, another wonder in the
visible universe, or the vast expanding and nobly symbolical rainbow,
it does not often occur, nor when it does, is it always a spectacle of
permanence as well as beauty.  The conditions under which it develops
may frequently exist in the upper atmosphere, but to ensure the magical
and lovely effects which so singularly transform the plainest
landscape, these conditions must remain unchanged for a certain length
of time in order that the work of crystallization may be thoroughly
carried out.  The movements and fluctuating currents of the air do not
often long maintain this tranquil and stationary poise, and
consequently we may sometimes witness attempts on the part of Nature to
create these distinctive and wondrous results which are quickly doomed
to thaw and oblivion.  In the next place it follows that what we see so
seldom must greatly impress us because of its unfamiliarity and from
the fact that its evanescence renders its loveliness more precious; the
element of surprise increases our enjoyment, and all the more since the
materials in use are the oldest and most familiar in the world.  Then,
to crown the work, there is not at any other season of the year or
during any variation of a winter climate, anything more soothing,
entrancing, more grateful and refreshing than the texture of the air
itself, the feeling of the air during the period of suspended
atmospheric action.  It is not joyous, but it is better than joy.
There is nothing violent, nothing extreme; there is no dust, no flurry,
no glare.  It is not cold but only pleasantly, smoothly cool, and the
final impression is one of temporary transportation to some calm
celestial region of infinite peace and purity.

Standing at the left of Poussette's church on the brink of the Fall,
the eye, on the Monday following Crabbe's ignominious return, would
have rested lovingly upon such a scene of enchantment.  The great
triple ledges of water which formed the cascade were only partially
frozen, and the spray, still dashing in parts against the rocks and
bare branches standing around them, seemed to congeal in mid-air, while
the tall pines spreading on either hand were bending from their normal
by weight of icy trappings.  So much for the general effect--of a soft
yet crystalline whiteness covering and outlining every object--but in
detail, what a marvel of delicate tracery, what a miracle of intricate
interlacing of frosted boughs!  Every twig was encased in a transparent
cylinder of flashing ice, every hillock crusted over with freshly
fallen snow; the evergreens, in shape like giant algae, drooped wide
fans to the earth, painted, spangled, and embroidered with glittering
encrustations; the wires across the river from Bois Clair to Montmagny
were harps of shining silver strings, the rough fences turned to
graceful arabesques, the houses changed to domes and turrets and
battlements of marble.

The sun was veiled as yet, but occasionally from behind the
greyish-white of a cloudless spreading sky a pale yellow gleam stole
forth, creating fires of prismatic rose and violet in each glassy twig
and leaf.  At these times, too, there woke and stirred a faint, faint
wind, almost a warm wind, and then, here and there, a little cushion or
mat or flag of snow would fall, or an icy stem break off.  The silence
was absolute, animal life appeared suspended, the squirrels no longer
ran chattering in quest of food, as on mild days they will near
habitations, no bird was seen or heard.  This state of coma or trance
held all created things, and as with most Canadian scenery, small
chance was there for sentiment; the shepherd of the Lake country or the
mountaineer of Switzerland were not represented by any picturesque
figure, although small spirals of smoke floated up from the straggling
settlements, and a habitant wife sometimes looked out from a door or a
window, her face dark and shrivelled for the most part, and with clumsy
woollen wraps thrown around head and shoulders.

The absence of human interest and the silence intensified the serene
splendours of the forest and great Fall on such a day as this, when
growth and change had reached a standstill and when the cool brooding
of the air recalled the moments before dawn or the remote and unnatural
quiescence that marks an eclipse.  To walk near the forest would mean
to encounter huge mounds of snow hiding the levelled logs and boulders,
stalactites of ponderous icicles depending from the tree trunks where
the openings faced the light and the sun; farther in, and once safely
past these glacial outposts, scarcely any signs of storm appeared; last
year's leaves, still matted together underfoot, were tangled with the
green vine of the creeping linnaea and a rare root of the lustrous
winter-green.  Here, beneath the thick canopy of branches not all
devoid of their foliage since many larches and pines were to be found
there, was another climate; coming from that bland whiteness which was
not cold, these dark arcades of forest struck chills to the feet and
face; damp odours rose from rotting mould and wood not protected by a
snowy covering, and broad sallow fungi, wide enough to sit upon, looked
of an unearthly tint in the drear half-light.

Naturally the sight of these glittering plains and frosted forests,
unusual even in that land of snow and ice, called for sightseers, and
at Poussette's every one had been up early to gaze on the outside
world, among whom were Miss Clairville and Crabbe, the latter feeling
his recent backsliding very keenly.  Pauline had now finally packed her
little trousseau and other belongings, and arrangements were being made
to enable Poussette to leave his business and Miss Cordova her sewing;
the party of four were to descend on the Hotel Champlain on Wednesday,
the wedding would take place on Thursday, the married couple sailing at
once for Liverpool.

Leaning on her lover's arm, Pauline therefore easily found warmth and
words with which to admire the landscape spread before her, for was she
not soon to leave it, exchanging these frigid and glacial glories for
life in a European capital, and, once for all, abandoning all ideas of
a career and relegating everything at St. Ignace and Clairville to a
place in her memory?  Beautiful, then, she found it, and gaily
proposing a walk along the decorated road, suddenly remembered Angeel
and resolved to visit her and say good-bye.  Crabbe demurred.

"Why should you?" he said, with the nettled intolerance of a being
angry with himself, and prone to visit his ill-temper on others.

"But I must, Edmund!  I meant to before.  If Henry had not died, or if
we had never found out about the other matter, I would have gone!"

"I see no reason.  The brat has its mother, hasn't it?"

"Oh, don't be so hard!  Yes, yes, of course, but she might like to
remember me, wish to see me once again,--it may be for the last time."

"Gad--I think it will.  I'm not worth much, 'pon my soul, but I can
take you away and save you from all this annoyance.  I hate every hour
of delay, I dislike this loafing about here now.  I wish--by Heaven!  I
were leaving Poussette's this minute for good and all."

His eye roved discontentedly over the forest and road, and then came
back wistfully to Pauline.  It was evident that his affection was of a
sincere and unselfish order, and that with her to shield and serve and
with her lively handsome personality as his constant companion, he
might yet recover lost ground and be the man he might have been.

"I keep telling you that we have not so long to wait," she said
brightly, as she went indoors to get ready for the walk, and Crabbe,
turning his gaze in the direction of the bridge, became interested in
the aspect of the Fall, still thundering down in part over those mighty
ledges, except where the ice held and created slippery glaciers at
whose feet ran the cold brown river for a few hundred yards till it was
again met by fields of shining ice.  Two objects caught his eye, one,
the golden cross on the church over at Montmagny, the only one of its
kind in the valley and much admired, the other, a curious spot of
reddish colour at the far end of the bridge.  The cross he soon tired
of, but the bit of red aroused his curiosity; it seemed almost square,
like a large book or package, and was apparently propped up against the
stonework that supported the bridge.  What it was, he did not trouble
to conjecture, and as Miss Clairville came out with several parcels
which he took from her, he forgot the circumstance as he turned and
walked a few steps with her.  Thus, her quicker brain was not directed
to an explanation of the blot of red; had she seen it, and solved it,
which was highly probable, the events of the day might have been vastly
different.

"What are these things?" said Crabbe, fingering the parcels with a
fretful note in his voice.

"Just some little presents, little trifles for her, Angeel.  Nothing I
cannot spare, Edmund.  She belongs to me, after all.  I shall never see
her again, and I must not do less for her than for Maisie and Jack.
You are coming with me?  It is not worth while.  I prefer to go alone,
_mon ami_."

"Why not?  A walk with you may keep me out of mischief, although with
your theatrical friend mounting guard over Poussette I think I can
promise you abstinence for the next few days."

Miss Clairville stopped in her brisk walk and searched his worn face.
"You are not well," she said suddenly, "you are not looking well."

He raised his arms, then dropped them with a kind of whimsical
desperation.  "How can I be well, or look well?  My pride has suffered
as well as my health.  I'm ill, ashamed, and sorry.  What'll we do,
Pauline, if I can't keep sober?"

He had often said this to her, but never with such depth of sorrowful
meaning as now.

"What shall we do, lady dear?" he repeated in a helpless, fretful
murmur.  "What shall we do?"

Her figure stiffened, she was again the tragic muse, the woman of the
world with experience and authority behind her, and, woman-like, as he
weakened, she grew stronger.

"You are not likely to," she cried with a fine encouraging gesture.
"It is possible, I admit, but not probable.  For you, Edmund, as well
as for me, it is new places, new images, for the snows of this forlorn,
this desolate, cold Canada; the boulevards of Paris, for the hermit's
cell in the black funereal forest.--There goes your friend Martin now,
_voilà_!  _B'jour_, Martin."

"_B'jour_, mademoiselle!"

"Those apartments you spoke of in London, in German Street.  Tell
me--is that some colony where musicians, perhaps, gather, or the
long-haired art students I have heard so much about?"

Crabbe stared.

"Students!  Colony!  Jermyn Street?  Oh--I see--_German_ Street--I see,
I understand."

He laughed, but not quite freely--spontaneously.  Indeed, so much did
he feel some unaccustomed stress, he did not stop to set her right.
What did her ignorance of a certain London locality matter?  what did
anything matter just now but the one leading uppermost thought--let
nothing prevent our leaving this place together and leaving it soon, no
failure of mine, no caprice of hers, no interference of another?  New
resolution showed in his features; he dropped her hand which he had
been holding and turned back towards Poussette's.

"You are right, as usual," he said soberly.  "There's no need for me to
go with you.  I'll turn home-along as they used to say in Devonshire,
and try to do a little writing while I can, for after to-morrow I fear
it will not be easy.  So good-bye to you, lady dear, good-bye for an
hour or two, good-bye!"

A little chilled by standing, in spite of that soft wind, Pauline ran
lightly along towards Lac Calvaire, conscious always of her fine
appearance and humming operatic snatches as she ran, bent upon an
errand, which if not precisely one of mercy was yet one prompted by
good-will and a belated sisterliness.  The glowing prospects ahead
opened her heart, not by nature a hard one, and happy in the character
of _grande dame_ and patron of the afflicted she went forth briskly on
her long walk at first.  She reflected that her thirtieth birthday was
past, but that before a year had elapsed she would be firmly planted
abroad enjoying plenty of money, change of scene, and variety of
occupation, and even should Crabbe relapse, she saw herself rejuvenated
and strong in hope, capable of studying fresh parts beneath a new and
stimulating sky.  Yet under these comforting reflections there lurked
an uneasy fear; the Clairville streak in her made her suspicious of her
present happiness, and as she perceived the well-known reddish gables
of her home, through the surrounding pines and snow, a qualm of unrest
shot through her.  It was only a week since she had driven away with
Dr. Renaud, and here she was, again drawn by irresistible force towards
the detested Manor House of her fathers, now completely in the hands of
the Archambaults, with the giggling, despised Artémise and the
afflicted Angeel seated in possession, and this unrest, this fear, was
intimately concerned with the future and the fate of Ringfield.

She said to herself as if speaking to Miss Cordova:--

"You have not felt the force of that strong character pushing against
your own, nor the terrible grip of that hand-pressure, nor the
insistence of those caresses which hurt as well as delighted, so
different from the lazy, careless little appropriations of my present
lover,--pats and kisses he might give to a child."

Ringfield's arms had drawn her to him till she could have cried out
with fear, his eyes had shudderingly gazed into hers as if determined
to wrest any secret she possessed, his lips had pained her with the
fierce anger and despair of those two long kisses he had pressed upon
her own--how could she forget or belittle such wooing as that, so
different from Crabbe's leisurely, complacent courting!  She neither
forgot nor underrated, but she had deliberately and cruelly left one
for the other, and deep in her heart she knew that something sinister,
something shocking and desperate, might yet befall, and what she feared
to hear was of Ringfield's suicide, for she fancied him capable of this
final act of self-pity and despair.

By the time she reached Clairville the sun was again shining and the
beauty of the glissade beginning to wane.  Dark-haired Archambaults
flitted about behind dingy windows--and, wondrous sight on a
mid-December day--the white peacock, tempted by the calm air, was
taking a walk in the wintry garden.  Pauline summoned up her courage to
enter the house and was rewarded by the hysterical delight of Angeel,
brought up to admire and adore this haughty relation, who was soon
dispensing her small bounties in order to make the visit as short as
possible.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE CARPET-BAG

          "... this solitude
  That seems by nature framed to be the seat
  And very bosom of pure innocence."


The squarish spot of scarlet observed by Crabbe at the farther end of
the bridge was the unaesthetic carpet-bag brought by Ringfield with him
from the West; a field of glaring Turkey red, in design depicting a
kind of colossal sunflower with a green heart instead of a black one.
So contemptuous had always been the attitude of the guide towards his
clerical rival that he had quite forgotten this bag although it was so
conspicuous; such bags, moreover, were quite common at the time, and
these facts rendered him unsuspicious.  Therefore, as he neared the
fall and looked along the bridge and still observed that flaming spot
of vivid colour, it was natural that, in place of going to his work as
he had told Miss Clairville he intended to do, he should turn off in
the opposite direction and leisurely walk forth to examine the
phenomenon.

The bridge was knee-deep in unbroken snow, for no vehicle had crossed
since the late storm, and there had been no service at Poussette's
church.  Crabbe walked on, not without some difficulty, lifting his
feet higher and higher as he neared the centre of the structure.
Underneath roared and tumbled the savage fall, although just above the
bridge on his right hand the river was partly frozen, and large cakes
of ice, loosened by the milder weather, were going over the first of
the brown ledges with a rapid, rocking plunge.  Each side of the bridge
was a network of icy spars, dazzling in the sunshine, now becoming much
brighter, and Crabbe, turning to look on the wonderful scene around and
beneath him, had forgotten his ultimate goal--the alluring
carpet-bag--when a singular thing occurred.  His right foot, as he put
it down through the snow went through the snow and went beyond it; he
felt the unexpected depth before he realized what had happened, that
there was at this point a hole in the planks forming the footway and
that probably from the weight of the snow and ice an old and rotting
board had suddenly given way and dropped out.  His leg had gone
entirely through, and in the fright and concern of the moment he
fancied the hole wearing larger and the rest of his body following, but
this was not the case.  He was in some peril, it was true, but the
opening was not so large as he thought, the chief danger arising from
the fact that in his struggles to pull himself up again he might bring
about further loosening of the boards.  If he had been watched by any
one at Poussette's his relief was at hand, but he feared that at this
time of day no one might be looking out, and this was the case.
Besides, the bridge lay, not directly in front of the village and the
hotel, but rather to one side; a large grove of pine-trees intercepted
the view, and unless he could speedily succour himself there was slight
prospect of help from outside.  Fortunately it was extremely mild.

He hesitated to call, because, as his nervousness subsided, he disliked
to cut a poor figure, but at this point in his dilemma what he had
feared actually happened; as he brought his leg and almost half of his
body up through the hole another piece of planking came away and he was
left clasping the edge of rotten wood in a state of collapse hardly to
be described, his eyes alternately gazing at the sunny, unfeeling skies
above and the gaping cavern immediately beneath.  He was swaying now in
mid-air and he found his voice and called repeatedly, but it was not
likely that amid the surrounding tumult of angry waters his voice would
be heard.  With a great effort he pulled himself up, praying that the
board might hold; he got on to one knee, then on to both, he swung out
until he gripped the icy railings, and then with another wrench, he was
free of the ugly hole and safe--safe after all and none the worse
except in nervous tremors and a slight strain of the back for what
must, however, remain in his memory as a thrilling and most alarming
experience.  Fear of Death for an instant had gripped him, and he saw
himself, as do the drowning, engulfed in the rushing icy waters and
shot down to a violent fate with Pauline's wild voice in his ears and
Pauline's pale face before his eyes.  Yet, the peril over, he breathed
freely again, and carefully holding on by the rail all along the path
lest some other treacherous pitfall should lurk beneath the snow,
reached the end of the bridge in safety.

Then he saw the carpet-bag and remembered it, and in that instant a
pang of horrid doubt and fear passed through him and he looked around
for Ringfield.  Escape from death gave him additional courage and
sharpened his wits; his brain cleared now and did him good service, he
felt himself a man, able to resist and proud to endure, and he hoped to
meet the parson and demand explanations from him, for he could scarcely
be blamed for divining some connexion between the deadly gap in the
bridge and the carefully planted decoy--the carpet-bag.  Yet in this
induction he was wrong.  The hole under the snow had not been known to
Ringfield and the bag had been left by him in a certain position of
safety while he was inside the little church--nothing more.  Even as
Crabbe was standing with growing wrath and gathering resolution in his
expression and demeanour Ringfield walked out and confronted him.

Hatred, nothing less, looked forth from his lowering brows and bitter
mouth, and he was met by answering hate, wedded to cruel scorn, in the
guide.  The latter spoke first.

"Do you know what has nearly happened?" he cried with a fine tempest of
wrath kindling in his usually contemptuous manner.  "I could have you
arrested, more than that, my good sir, Mr. Methodist
Parson!--convicted, perhaps worse, for the trap you led me into!  You
and your bag--confound you!"

Ringfield, who could hardly look more miserable on this accusation than
he did already from illness and other causes, made some dumb motion
with his hands and started as he perceived the traces of struggle about
the other.

"My bag?  The carpet-bag?  What has that to do with you, with us?  What
are you talking of?  What trap?  I know nothing of any trap."

"Do you know nothing of a man caught there in the middle of the bridge
where the footway has fallen out--do you know nothing of that man
struggling to lift himself up from that cursed hole and crying for
help?  You know nothing, do you?"

Ringfield's surprise was genuine, as Crabbe was beginning to see.

"Certainly I know nothing, have heard nothing.  I have been in the
church some time, an hour I should think.  A hole----"

Then he remembered.

"The dog!" he cried.  "The little dead dog!  Now I understand.  He must
have fallen through.  I wondered at the time how he got out there under
the bridge on top of those rolling logs that carried him over the fall.
Once there, it was impossible to save him.  I remember his eyes."

"What are you talking about now?" said the other angrily.  "I'll swear
you knew something of that hole and meant to see me go down through it."

Ringfield smiled with that slow, wry smile of his.

"I knew nothing of the hole.  But I am not so sure that I would be
sorry if I saw you go down through it this moment, so long as it was
not my direct work.  You and I can never be friends.  You and I cannot
expect tolerance of each other.  We are enemies, we must always be
enemies, to the death--to the death!"

Crabbe had, as usual, the upper hand in ease and coolness, and being
now quite restored in physical courage he began to note the signs of
illness and misery in the other's face.  He was almost sorry for him
and said so.

"I'm sorry for all this, Ringfield, I really am.  It's some
misunderstanding, I suppose.  I can't blame you for admiring Pauline.
I don't blame you for it.  You're a man, despite your calling, same as
I am.  And I have liked you better since you have shown me your rough
side.--By Heaven, I have, Ringfield!  Things have turned out in an
unexpected way with me, and you have suffered on account, and if not in
silence, as we might look for from you, why, it only proves you a man
like the rest of us!  You'll get over it, you know.  She's to leave
here for good with me the day after to-morrow; everything's settled and
it's much the best thing that could happen for both of us.  I wish you
would be reasonable and understand this and make her going away easier."

This rambling speech was received at first in silence, then Ringfield
spoke, his slow utterances affording a contrast to the half-jocular,
half-querulous words of the ex-guide.

"That word reasonable!  Be reasonable!  You--you ask me to be
reasonable!  As if I were at fault, as if I were doing her the injury!
God knows I have my own battle to fight, my own self to overcome, but
that is beside the question.  Do you see nothing unreasonable in your
own relation to--to Miss Clairville?  When I came here--and God knows
I'm sorry at times I ever came or stayed--I met Miss Clairville.  I
talked to her and she to me.  I learned her mind, or thought I did.  I
fathomed her heart, or she allowed me to think so, and thus I became
acquainted with her story, the story that is concerned with her young
life and with you.  I was deeply affected, deeply moved, deeply
interested--how could it be otherwise!  And then to my eternal sorrow,
as I fear, I grew to love her.  She--she--returned it."

Crabbe made some indistinct remark, but Ringfield went on without
caring to ask what it was.

"I tell you--she returned my affection and gave me proof of it.  All
that, whatever it was between us, is very sacred and I am not going to
talk about it.  Then you know what happened; you would not leave her
alone, you followed and I believe annoyed and pestered her, using the
power you have over her for her destruction and despair."

"The whole thing is monstrous," cried the other hotly.  "You have cast
your damned ugly, black shadow over this place too long as it is!  Miss
Clairville is no child; she knows, has always known, her own mind, and
I do not grudge her a slight flirtation or two with any one she
fancies; it is her way, a safe outlet for her strong yet variable
temperament.  You take things too seriously, that's all."

And the guide, slapping and shaking the snow from his clothing and
adjusting his cap, walked down from the bridge to one side and sat upon
a rock in sheer fatigue.  It was the identical rock from which
Poussette had been pulled back by Ringfield on that April day when the
affairs of the parish had been discussed, and was no safer now than at
that time, in fact, footing was precarious everywhere around the fall,
for the same glassy covering, slowly melting and slippery, had spread
to all objects in sight.

Ringfield, too, turned and stood a few yards behind the guide and again
he kept that peculiar silence.

"Now consider," said Crabbe quietly, looking in his pocket for matches
and holding his pipe comfortably in his hand.  "I'm perfectly ready to
sympathize with you.  I know when you first saw me you cannot have been
very pleasantly impressed, and all that, but that's all or nearly all
over, and I'm going to try and turn over a new leaf, Ringfield.  No
more Nature for me, nor for her; we are to flee these dismal wilds and
try a brighter clime,--a brighter clime!  You must be generous and
confess that I can do more for her than you can.  It will be a new
lease of life for us both, but candidly, Ringfield--lazy dog and worse
that I have been--I think more of what it will mean for her than for
myself."

"If you consider her happiness and her--her good name so much," said
Ringfield, trembling and white, "why did you lie to me about your
relations with her?"

"When did I lie to you?"

"You cannot have forgotten.  That day in the shack, the first day I met
you."

"That is easily explained." Crabbe continued to look at and think of
his pipe, oblivious of the white countenance behind him.  "I spoke
after a fashion.  The thing--I mean our relations--amounted virtually
to a marriage.  The difference was in your thought--in your mind.  You
pictured a ceremony, a religious rite, whereas I intended to convey the
idea of a state, a mutual feeling----"

"You allowed me to think of a ceremony, you encouraged me to think of
it."

"Nothing of the sort.  Besides, I was not sober at the time.  Make
allowances, my Christian friend, always make allowances."

"Then what of the child?  If you mentioned anything it should have been
the child."

At this Crabbe turned, and so sudden was his movement that Ringfield
retreated as if caught guiltily; in doing so he very nearly slipped on
the icy rocks that sloped imperceptibly towards the rushing fall, and
he was about to warn the guide, who was farther down the bank than
himself when the latter, rising abruptly, cried:--

"The child?  What child?  There never was any child.  Thank heaven, we
were spared that complication!"

"You deny it?  You deny it in the face of the likeness, of the stories
of the village and the entire countryside; in face of the misery its
existence has caused her--the mother, and of the proof in your own
sodden, embruted condition, in face of her own admission----"

"Admission?  It is impossible she can have admitted what never
occurred.  What did she say?"

"She implied--implied--made me think----"

"Made you think?" said the guide in disgust.  "Made you think?  That's
what's been the matter with you all along;--you think too much.  You
wanted a bigger parish, Reverend Father, to occupy your time and mind.
St. Ignace was too small."

This tone of banter was the one least calculated to appease the jealous
and vindictive spirit holding Ringfield in its grasp.  He became
whiter, more agitated, and held up one hand as if to guard himself, yet
there was nothing furious in Crabbe's manner; rather the contrary, for
he was relieved at hearing of the natural misapprehension by which he
had been looked upon as Angeel's father.  But Ringfield was difficult
to convince.  No gossip had reached him where he lay at Archibald
Groom's, with Madame Poussette watching him, nor at the Hotel Champlain
where he had staggered the night before for a mad moment only, as he
asked for news of Crabbe and was told that he gone back to St. Ignace;
therefore he knew nothing of the _affaire Archambault_, as some of the
provincial papers called it, and had heard only the bare facts of Henry
Clairville's death and burial.  To complete his ignorance, the
charitable institutions to which he had written had neglected to answer
his letters, for such an offer coming from such a source required time
for consideration, and his brain, neither a subtly trained nor
naturally cunning one, was incapable of those shifting drifts of
thought which occupy themselves with idly fitting certain acts to
certain individuals.  His literal mind had always connected.  Miss
Clairville, from the day of the Hawthorne picnic, with Angeel, and to
be told that they were not, as he had supposed, mother and child, was
only to merge him in the absolutely crushing puzzle of a
question--whose child then could she be?  Might it not be--for here at
last his mind gave a twist, fatal to its usual literal drift--her child
by some one other than Crabbe?  For who could mistake the eyes and
their expression, the way the hair grew on the forehead, the shape of
the hands, white and firm like Pauline's,--resemblances all made the
stranger by association with the unnaturally formed head and shoulders
of the unhappy child?

The two stood facing each other; the Christian minister, originally a
being of blameless instincts and moral life, but now showing a
countenance and owning a temper distorted to sinful conditions from the
overshadowing of the great master passion; and the battered exile,
genuine, however, in his dealings with himself, and sincere in the
midst of degradation.  So the Pharisee and the publican might have
stood.  So in all ages often stand those extreme types, the moral man
who has avoided or by circumstances been free of temptation, and the
sinner who yet keeps a universal kindliness or other simple virtue in
his heart.  Anguish in one was met by cheerful contempt and growing
pity in the other, and once more Crabbe essayed to reason with
Ringfield.

"Believe me," he said, "I would give way to the better man, and you, of
course, are he, if I thought Miss Clairville's future would thereby be
benefited, but I cannot imagine anything more uncongenial than the life
which you--pardon me--would be likely to offer her.  She has no money
and she loves money.  She is tired of her home and all these
surroundings; I can take her from them for ever.  She is gifted,
intelligent, and brilliant, and I can show her much that will interest
and transform her.  She runs a risk, certainly, in marrying me, but she
knows my worst, and by Heaven--Ringfield, there's a power of comfort in
that!  No setting on a pedestal, no bowing to an idol--and then perhaps
she will help in the working out of the tiger and the ape, make the
beast within me die.  How the old familiar lines come back to one here
in this solitary place!  I suppose I'll go down to Oxford some day and
see my old rooms,--take Pauline.  We'd like to keep in touch with you,
Ringfield, send you a line now and then after you leave St. Ignace, for
I don't figure you remaining here all your life at the beck and call of
Poussette."

Ringfield's eyes were on the ground, for a deep mystification still
possessed him; he had scarcely heard the latter part of Crabbe's
speech, for there remained unanswered that question in his tortured
mind--whose child was Angeel if not Pauline's, for he still saw the
basket-chair with the dreadful face in it as he looked down in the
barn, and still heard those damaging whispers from Enderby the night of
the concert.

A groan escaped him; he threw a pained and bitter glance at Crabbe and
again studied the ground.

"I find it hard to believe you.  Hard, hard.  The people at Hawthorne
all say it was--it was her's.  Enderby told me."

"God help you for a silly lunatic if you listen to the tales of country
people, Ringfield!  They may have said so, they may have said all kinds
of stuff--I never spoke of it to a living soul myself, even in my cups;
I'll swear I left it alone even then."

"But now, now you can speak!  The time has come to speak!  If not you,
then who, who could be that poor child's father!"

"Why, of course I can tell you that!" said Crabbe, coming a pace
nearer.  "I wonder you have not guessed by now.  Her brother, Henry
Clairville.  It was a bad business, but he paid for it, as we all do,
Ringfield, we all do."

With a fierce gesture of extreme astonishment the minister sprang
forward and in his excitement struck the guide on the breast, a heavy
blow.  Startled into forgetting his dangerous position, Crabbe threw
himself backward, seeing, as he thought, sudden madness in the other's
eyes, and immediately his doom was sealed.  He slipped, tripped, tried
to save himself, rolled from one ice-covered boulder to another, was
cast from one mighty cauldron of furious seething waters to another,
and finally disappeared in the deeper pools that formed the lower and
greater fall.  His poor body, bruised and beaten, choked and maimed,
had met the same fate as the little dog--and, strange to relate--he had
uttered no cry as he sank backwards into the cold watery abysses from
which there was no escape; his face only showed surprise and reproach
as he looked his last on Ringfield and this world.  When upon the
bridge he had expected death, set his teeth and prayed, felt all vital
force drop away, then by degrees flow back again, but now, when Death
clutched him from behind and thrust him over those slippery precipices,
to the last moment there was only a profound consternation in his
staring blue eyes, as if he found it impossible to believe he was being
sucked down, whirled down, to eternity.  Such was the end of Edmund
Crabbe Hawtree, Esquire, of Suffolk, England.

Ringfield had not moved since Crabbe had fallen.  His face was horrible
in the white intensity of its passion, and he continued to stare at the
spot where a moment before the guide had been sitting without making
the slightest endeavour to go to the rescue, or, by shouting for
assistance, attract the attention of people on the inhabited side of
the river.  The image of the little dead dog merged into that of Crabbe
and vice versa; he confused these images and saw unnatural shapes
struggling in stormy waters, and thus the time wore on, ten, twenty,
thirty minutes, before he perceived a man at the far end of the bridge.
At first he thought it was Poussette, then it looked like Martin;
finally he knew it for Father Rielle, and at this everything cleared
and came back to him.  He recollected the great hole spoken of by
Crabbe and knew that he ought to call out or lift a hand in warning,
yet he did neither.  Father Rielle, however, was not too preoccupied to
observe the hole; he walked around it instead of over or through it and
had the presence of mind to pause, and after a few minutes' kneading
and compressing lumps of the damp snow into a species of scarecrow,
erected the clumsy squat figure of a misshapen man by the side of the
yawning gap and passed on.  The sun was radiantly bright by now and the
ice beginning to melt off from twigs and wires; the red carpet-bag
flamed forth more emphatically than ever, and presently the two men
were not more than a few paces apart.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE HAVEN

  "Stripp'd as I am of all the golden fruit
  Of self-esteem; and by the cutting blasts
  Of self-reproach familiarly assail'd."


Ringfield bared his head as the priest approached, standing with
lowered eyes and heaving breast.  Father Rielle stopped short in wonder
as he noted the pale drawn face, the working hands, the averted eyes
and trembling lips.

"Can I do anything for you?" he cried in his excellent English.
"Monsieur is not well perhaps?  This peculiar day, this air----"

"You are right.  I am not well.  I have been very ill, but that was
nothing, only illness of the body.  Yes, there is one thing you can do
for me.  Oh! man of God!  What does it matter that I do not belong to
your communion?  It must not matter, it shall not matter.  Father
Rielle, I need your help very much, very, very much."

In still profounder astonishment the priest took a step forward.

"You are in trouble, trouble of the soul, some perplexity of the mind?
Tell me then how I can help?"

And Ringfield answered:--

"Father Rielle, I wish to confess to you.  I wish you to hear a
confession."

"Oh!  Monsieur, think!  We are not of the same communion.  You have
said so yourself.  You would perhaps ridicule my holy office, my
beloved Church!"

"No, no!  I am too much in earnest."

"You wish me to hear a confession, you, a minister of another religious
body not in sympathy with us, not a son of the only true Church?  I do
not care to receive this confession, Monsieur."

Ringfield's hand pressed heavily on the priest's arm and his agonized
face came very close.  Father Rielle's curiosity naturally ran high.

"Monsieur," he said nevertheless coldly, not choosing to display this
desire to know too suddenly, as there darted into his mind the image of
Miss Clairville, "it is true you have no right to demand absolution
from me, a priest of the Holy Catholic Church, it is true I have no
right to hear this confession and give or withhold absolution.  Yet,
monsieur, setting dogma and ritual aside, we both believe in the same
Heavenly Father, in the same grand eternal hope.  I will hear this
confession, my brother, _in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti_,
Amen.  And may it bring peace to your soul."

There was a silence, and then Ringfield led the way to the little
church.  Father Rielle, who had never been inside the finished edifice
before, although he had frequently walked through it while the builders
were at work, entered respectfully and crossed himself in the porch.

"Ah!" he whispered or rather breathed in French as if disinclined to
speak louder, "if you were but as I am, my brother, if you were but one
of the true flock shepherded by the only Shepherd!  Perhaps this is but
the beginning.  Perhaps you desire to cast away your inadequate faith
and come to us, be one with us.  My brother, I pray that this may be
so.  With us alone you shall have comfort to your soul and sweet solace
in affliction, peace of mind, honesty of conviction, and after many a
struggle, purity of life."

As he ceased, Ringfield, by some extraordinary instinct which mastered
him, at once fell upon his knees at the side of Father Rielle, who had
taken a seat not far from the door, where he might command a view of
the bridge in case of interruption, and with that dangerous hole in the
footway in his memory.

"If I say 'Holy Father,' will that be right?"

"Quite right, my son.  Have no fear.  Say on."

Ringfield bowed his head on his hands and began:--

"Holy Father----"

The priest waited quietly.  His thin sensitive visage was transfigured
and his whole being uplifted and dignified as he thus became the
Mediator between Man and God.

"Holy Father, I know no form of word----"

"That does not matter.  Whether you cry 'Peccavi' or 'Father, I have
sinned,' it is all the same."

"Holy Father, I have sinned, sinned grievously before God and Heaven,
before men and angels, but most of all have I sinned before my own
ideals and conceptions of what I meant to be--a Christian clergyman.
Hear my confession, Holy Father; with you to love, love a woman, would
be sin; it was not sin for me, and yet in loving a woman it became sin
also with me, for it blotted out God and humanity.  I not only loved--I
also hated; I lived to hate.  I hated while I was awake and while I
slept, in walking, in eating, in drinking, so that my life became a
burden to me and I forsook the throne of God in prayer."

The priest, in the moment's pause which had followed these words of
self-abasement, had seen something across the river that claimed his
attention, nevertheless he gravely encouraged the penitent.

"Keep nothing back, my son.  Let me hear all."

What he had seen was a man running up and down in front of Poussette's,
in some agitation as he fancied, presently to be joined by two or three
others.

"Thus I lived, hating.  I left this place, hating, and I followed him,
you know whom I mean, hating.  I met him there or rather I sought him
out and helped him to fall, watched him drink strong liquor and did not
intervene, did not stay his hand.  I made him drunk--I left him
drunk--I left him drunk.  I went away and lied.  I said he was ill and
I locked the door and took the key.  I went back again and saw him; he
was still drunk and I was glad, because I thought 'This will keep him
here, this will make her hate and avoid him, this will prevent the
marriage'."

Father Rielle, though listening intently, still kept his gaze riveted
on the peculiar actions of the men outside Poussette's.  The running to
and fro continued, but now suddenly an impulse prompted them to go in
one direction; they pointed, gesticulated, and then with startling
rapidity disappeared around the corner of the bridge.  By this time the
priest was convinced that something was transpiring of serious and
uncommon import, yet he gave precedence to the wants of the penitent,
kneeling with head on his hands.

"I vowed he should never marry her--you know of whom I am speaking, of
both?"

"I know, my son."

"I say--I followed him.  I took a room--I will tell you where,
later--which enabled me to watch him should he go out.  Then I fell ill
myself and had to be kept in bed.  O the torture, the pain, of knowing
that I might miss him, that he might leave without my knowledge, I,
from weakness, being unable to overtake him!  And that happened, that
came to pass, as I feared it would."

"You watched him go?"

"No.  When I recovered sufficiently to walk, I went to find him.  I
went to that place where I had helped to make him drunk, but he was
gone."

"What day was that?"

"I do not know.  I have lost track of the days, lost track of the time."

Father Rielle was now more than professionally interested; he saw that
the man before him was in a terrible state of incipient mental collapse.

"Surely you can tell me what day this is?" he cried.

"I cannot."

"Nor yesterday?"

"No."

"Yesterday was Sunday."

"Sunday?  The word has no meaning."

"But at least you know where you are, where we both are at this
instant."

"Yes, I know that.  We are in the church built by M. Poussette."

"Yesterday was Sunday and there should have been a service here, but
you were absent.  How long have you been here?  Were you waiting for
me?"

"No."

"For him?"

"Yes."

"And he came?  Over the bridge?"

In a flash the priest divined, as he thought, the fate of Crabbe.

"_Mon Dieu!  M'tenant je comprends_!  The hole I passed and all-but
stumbled through!  You cut that, you waited to see him fall through and
drown!  Perhaps he has ceased to struggle!  Ah! that is why the crowd
is gathering at Poussette's!"

Father Rielle rose to his feet and thrust aside the appealing hands of
the other, but the strength exerted in this supreme moment was terrific
and the priest could not escape.

"No, no," sobbed Ringfield, dry-eyed and trembling.  "I know what you
think--that I pushed him over, that I pushed him down, but I did not.
I wished to kill him, I wished to put him out of the way, but I had not
the courage.  He crossed in safety, the hole was not my doing.  He
stood there on the rock and he lied to me about her, about Miss
Clairville, and I struck him and he stumbled and fell."

"You pushed him, God forgive you, I know you pushed!  You have killed
him and now you are keeping me here.  Let me go, let me go!"

"I did not push, I swear it!  Only in my mind, only in my thoughts, did
I kill him.  I struck him and he fell.  But it is true that I am guilty
in thought, if not in deed, and I will take my punishment."

"What do you mean?  What are you saying?  One moment you are innocent
of this man's death; the next you are saying you are guilty."

Ringfield at last removed his heavy clasp from the priest's arm and
stood quietly waiting, it seemed, as if for condemnation or sentence.

"Before God, it was not my hand that sent him to his death, still,
having come to my senses, I desire to suffer for my fault, and I will
give myself up to take what punishment I deserve.  I have disgraced my
calling and my Church.  I can never preach again, never live the life
of a Christian minister again.  Some shelter I must seek, some silence,
some reparation I must make----"

He bent his eyes on the ground, his whole mien expressed the contrition
of the sinner, but Father Rielle thought more of the affair from the
standpoint of crime than from that of sin.

"What do you mean by punishment?" he said, torn between curiosity to
know what had really become of the guide and a wish to hear everything
Ringfield had to say.  While the priest was thus hesitating to move
along the road to the point where by making a slight detour among some
pines he could cross farther down, a striking but wholly incongruous
figure emerged from the trees.  With shining top hat, fur-lined coat,
gauntlets and cane, M. Lalonde, the Montreal detective, came forward
with his professional conceit no whit impaired by juxtaposition with
these glacial and solitary surroundings.  He handed his card to the
priest and bowed to them both.

"_Mon Dieu_!" muttered Father Rielle, "it is true then!  You saw it
all!  You saw it all--I can see!"

"What there was to see, I certainly saw," returned M. Lalonde, with a
careless glance of pity at the forlorn figure of Ringfield.  "I not
only saw, but I heard.  I followed this gentleman from the Hotel
Champlain as he followed--our late acquaintance--to this place.  Permit
me, monsieur, permit me, _monsieur le curé_, to testify if necessary
that you are entirely guiltless of the death."

"In act, yes, but not in thought," groaned Ringfield in deepest anguish.

"The law cannot punish for sins of thought; we leave that to the
Church.  If, monsieur, you had but inquired further into what is known
now in provincial annals as the Archambault affair, perhaps you might
have been spared some misapprehension and much suffering.  Mr. Henry
Clairville left a wife."

"A wife!"

"You did not know that?  Eh?  A wife certainly, as well as a child.  A
daughter."

"But who----"

"I reciprocate your astonishment.  The child's nurse is its mother;
she, the empty-headed, the foolish Artémise.  She was not of age, it is
true, but there--it is done and who cares now, who will interfere or
contest?  The matter will drop out of sight completely in a few days;
meanwhile, monsieur, I return as I came.  The morning is fine and I
shall enjoy my walk back to the station at Bois Clair.  _Monsieur le
curé_, you have my card.  At any time in your _paroisse_ should you
have any more interesting family secrets to divulge, pray do not forget
my address.  _Allons_!  I will walk with you to the scene of the
tragedy, as we shall see it shortly described in the papers.  As for
you, monsieur, have courage and be tranquil.  Rest, monsieur, rest for
awhile and leave these scenes of strife and unhappiness as soon as you
can.  I understand your case; my professional knowledge avails me here,
but there are some who might not understand, and so make it hard for
you."

The priest looked at Lalonde's card and then at Ringfield.

"Sinner, or worse," he cried, "I cannot, cannot stay.  I must go where
my duty calls me and see if I can be of use, see whether a man lives or
has been shot down to death.  Do nothing till I return; at least do
nothing desperate.  I will seek you as soon as I may.  There will be a
way out for you yet; I know a haven, a refuge.  Only promise me;
promise not to give up to remorse and contrition too deeply."

Ringfield stood pale and quiet and gave the promise, but Father Rielle
and Lalonde ran along the road leading back from the fall until they
reached a point where the river was sufficiently frozen to admit of
walking across.  Arrived at last among those who had left Poussette's a
quarter of an hour before, they were just in time to view the body of
the guide where it lay wedged between two large ice-covered boulders.
In a few minutes Martin drew it forth; Dr. Renaud was speedily
summoned, but life was surely quite extinct, and now the priest and
physician met in consultation as to the task of breaking the tragic
news to Miss Clairville.  In a little while the whole of St. Ignace
gathered upon the river-bank to discuss the accident in voluble and
graphic French.  It was seventeen years since any one had gone over the
fall in such a manner and only the oldest present remembered it.

The body of the unfortunate Englishman was taken to Gagnon's
establishment and placed in the room recently occupied by Ringfield,
who went home with the priest and to whom he seemed to turn in
ever-increasing confidence and respect.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE WILL OF GOD

  "I hope, said she, that Heaven
  Will give me patience to endure the things
  Which I behold at home...."


The glorious noonday sun was lighting up all the road to Clairville and
making it possible for the peacock to revive his display of a
glistening fan of feathers tipped with frosted filaments that were only
rivalled by the pendant encrustations of the surrounding trees, and in
a window of the manor Pauline was standing looking at the bird after
showing Angeel the various little trifles she had brought with her.
The child's infirmity did not prevent her from enjoying the good things
of life; indeed, as frequently occurs in such cases, her senses were
almost preternaturally acute and her faculties bright and sensitive in
the extreme.  In place of any system of general education, impossible
during those sequestered years at Hawthorne in charge of her incapable
mother, she had picked up one or two desultory talents which might yet
stand her instead of mere bookishness; she was never without a pencil
in her long white fingers and busied herself by the hour with little
drawings and pictures of what she had seen in her limited experience,
and some of these she had been exhibiting now to the person she held
both in awe and adoration.  Her kinship to this elegant, dark-haired
lady had only recently been explained, and Pauline was trying to
accustom herself to being addressed as "ma tante" and "tante chérie"
with other endearing and embarrassing terms of regard.

But the time was going on and Miss Clairville turned from the window; a
very little of Angeel was all she could stand just now.

"At this rate our beautiful view will soon disappear," she said,
sitting down beside the basket-chair.  "See then, _mon enfant_, how
already the ice drips off the trees and all the pretty glass tubes are
melting from the wires overhead!  It is so warm too, like a day in
spring.  _Eh! bien_, I must go now back to my friends who are waiting
for me.  I have nothing more to show little girls.  You have now the
beads, the satin pincushion, and the little red coat that is called a
Zouave jacket--see how gay! and you will find it warm and pleasant to
wear when your kind _maman_ makes it to fit you.  And here too are the
crayons to paint with and a new slate.  _Soyez toujours bonne fille,
p'tite_, and perhaps some day you will see your poor aunt again."

"Not my poor aunt!  My rich, _rich_ aunt."

"Ah--_tais toi, ma p'tite_!  But you, too, are not poor any longer.
That reminds me, I must have a little talk with your kind _maman_."

With some difficulty overcoming her dislike of the individual and
aversion to the entire family arrangement, Pauline walked out to the
hall which separated the faded _salon_, where she had been sitting,
from the still untidy bedroom and called for Artémise.  In a few
moments the widow of Henry Clairville came in sight at the top of the
staircase leading to the upper room, her bright black eyes dulled and
frightened and her hands trembling visibly, for was not Mlle.
Clairville her enemy, being not only a relative now by marriage but her
late mistress, tyrant and superior?  But the certainty of leaving the
neighbourhood in a very few days put Pauline so much at her ease that
she could afford to show her brightest and most amiable side to her
sister-in-law, and thus she made a graceful if authoritative advance to
the bottom of the staircase and stretched forth both her white hands,
even going the length of imprinting a slow kiss on the other's sunburnt
cheek.  Few could at any time have resisted the mingled charms of so
magnetic a personality, with something of the stage lingering in it, an
audacity, an impulsiveness, rare among great ladies, and it must be
remembered that in the limited society of St. Ignace, Miss Clairville
passed as a great lady, and was one indeed in all minor traits.  Then
the touch of her skin was so soft, there always exhaled a delicate,
elusive, but sweet perfume from her clothes and hair, and even in her
mourning she had preserved the artistic touches necessary to please.
No wonder that the poor Artémise should burst into weak tears and cry
for pity and forgiveness as that soft kiss fell upon her cheek and
those proud hands grasped her own.

"_Chut_!" cried Miss Clairville, drawing the other into the _salon_.
"I am not angry with you, child!  If Henry made you his wife it was
very right of him and no one shall blame you nor complain.  Only had I
known--ah, well, it might not have made so much difference after all.
You are going to be very comfortable here, Artémise, and I shall write
to you from time to time--oh, have no fear! regularly, my dear!  And
Dr. Renaud and his Reverence are to see about selling Henry's books and
papers, and it is possible that they bring you a nice sum of money.
With that, there is one thing I should like you to do.  Are you
listening to me, Artémise?"

"_Bien_, mademoiselle," answered Artémise, through her sobs.  "I
listen, I will do anything you say.  I am sorry, ma'amselle.  I should
not be here, I know; it is you who should be here, here at Clairville,
and be its mistress."

Still secure in her ideas of impending ease and happiness, and unaware
of the course of tragic accident which was operating at that same
moment against her visions of release and freedom and depriving her of
the future she relied on, Pauline laughed musically at the notion.

"Oh, that--for me?  No, thank you, my dear.  In any case I had done
with Clairville.  If not marriage, then the stage.  If not the
stage--and there were times when it wearied and disgusted me, with the
uneducated people one met and the vagaries of that man, Jean
Rochelle--then a paid situation somewhere.  The last--very difficult
for me, a Clairville [and again she very nearly used the prefix, a
tardy endorsing of Henry's pet project], and with my peculiar needs.
To be sure, a religious house had offered me a good place, thanks to
Father Rielle, at a good figure for Canada, but there are other
countries, Artémise, there are other countries, and I am still young,
_n'est-ce-pas_?"

"Mademoiselle will never be old.  She has the air of a princess, the
complexion--_d'une vierge_!"

Pauline was much amused and laughed once more with so thrilling a
cadence in her rich voice that the child in the basket-chair clapped
its hands and laughed too.

"So now, Artémise, try and understand what I tell you, for I shall not
see you again before I leave, and these are my last wishes, to be
faithfully carried out.  I know the world, my dear, and I have had many
trying, many sad experiences, and as you grow older, and I trust wiser,
you will begin to realize what a charge Angeel will be.  Are you
attending, Artémise?"

"_Oui, oui, ma'amselle_."

"Very well.  I have told Dr. Renaud to come and see you often and
advise you; he will be a kind of guardian for you both, and will attend
you, as he did Henry, free of charge.  The debts in the village and at
Poussette's cannot possibly be paid, but I will speak to Maman
Archambault about the future.  The sale of Henry's effects will bring
enough, I hope, to enable you to find, still through Dr. Renaud, some
kind teacher for Angeel, and I wish, I particularly wish that this
talent for drawing and painting shall be encouraged.  Do you understand
me?"

"_Oui, Ma'amselle_."  Pauline's bright eye had transfixed the wandering
gaze of Artémise, who by almost superhuman efforts was trying to
collect her thoughts and remember all these directions.

"She can never hope for companionship, nor--certainly not--for school
advantages, nor yet marriage; how then?  She must amuse herself, fill
in the time, be always occupied.  Maman Archambault and you will sew
for her, cook for her, and watch over her, and if at any time the money
comes to an end----Artémise, listen, I tell you!  Collect your wits and
keep looking at me."  For the girl's attention was clearly wandering
now to something outside the house.

"_Oui, Mademoiselle, oui, oui._"

Pauline stamped her foot in her annoyance.

"The creature is not following what I say!" she exclaimed.
"Angeel--you can remember!  You know what I have been saying.  You are
to learn to draw, perhaps to paint, to make little pictures,
caricatures--oh, it will be so pleasant for you, and by and by people
will pay you to do this for them.  See, _petite_, you must be very wise
for yourself, for the poor kind _maman_ cannot be wise for you."

And Angeel's heavy head nodded sagely in swift discernment of this
evident truth, for Artémise was now tired of the subject and of
Pauline's endless farewells and preferred to look out of the window.

Rare sight on a December day, the peacock was still pacing to and fro,
for the air was as mild and balmy as in June, and although the road ran
water and the trees were rapidly losing their icy trappings the
courtyard had been swept of snow and therefore remained almost dry.
The beauty of the glissade was over.  But Artémise looked only for a
moment at the peacock.  Along the road from the direction of the
village were advancing two men, Dr. Renaud and the priest; behind them,
a few steps, walked Martin, the Indian.  They came near the stone
fence, they stopped, all three, and seemed to confer, studying from
time to time the front of the house.  Absorbed in watching them,
Artémise listened no longer at all to Miss Clairville's pronouncements
and indeed very little was left to say.  Pauline put on her gloves,
slung her muff around her neck and submitted to a frantic embrace from
the warm-hearted, lonely little girl, then turned to bid farewell to
the mother.

"Two hours by my watch!" she cried gaily.  "Which of us has been the
gossip, the chatterbox, eh, Artémise!  _Eh! bien_, I wish you a very
sincere and a very long good-bye."  Some emotion crept into her throat,
into her voice.  The child was her brother's.  This poor girl, the
mother, bore her own name, and she could not harden her heart entirely
against the ill-starred couple, and why should she!  She was bidding
them both farewell, probably for ever, and the prospect so soothed her
that she ejaculated, "Poor children!" and wiped away a tear.

"Take great care of yourself, Artémise, for Angeel's sake and mine, and
for the sake of the name you bear and the place it has held in the
country.  But what are you looking at so intently?  What is the matter
out there, Artémise?"

At that instant the priest detached himself from the others and
entering the domain walked slowly up to the door and knocked.

Pauline, not comprehending the nature of the visit, went herself and
opened to Father Rielle.  His long face told her nothing--was it not
always long?  The presence of Renaud and the guide, whom she also saw
in the background, told her nothing; their being there was perhaps only
a coincidence and they had not turned their faces as yet in her
direction.  Precisely as Crabbe had met his fate without seeing it
arrive, although half an hour earlier he had foreseen death and prayed
against it, she faced the priest with a smiling countenance, her
tremors past, her conviction--that her lover was alive and well and
able to take her away that instant if necessary--quite unaltered.
Father Rielle had a difficult task to perform and he realized it.

Twice he essayed to speak and twice he stammered only unmeaning words.
Pauline translated his incoherent and confused murmurs with
characteristic and vigorous conceit; she believed him so anxious to
make her a private farewell instead of a stereotyped adieu in public
that she thought he had walked out from St. Ignace on purpose.

"It is all settled and therefore hopeless!" she began.  "You cannot
interfere or change me now."

The priest repeated the words after her.  "Settled?  Hopeless?" he
uttered in a furtive manner as if anxious to escape.

"I mean my marriage," she went on gaily.  "It has been discovered that
I am no longer, if I was ever, a good Catholic, and there is
consequently no hitch, no difficulty!  I am supposed to be nothing at
all, so we shall be just married in the one church, his church, you
understand.  And now you may absolve me, your Reverence, if you choose,
for the last time."

"Mademoiselle," began the priest with a scared look at the bright face
above him, "it is of that I must speak.  Mademoiselle, this marriage,
your marriage, it--it will not take place.  It cannot take place."

The brilliant eyes hardened, the barred gate stood out upon her
forehead.

"You think because I am a Catholic----"

"No, Mademoiselle, it has nothing to do with that.  I came here to tell
you, I was sent--there is something you must be told, that you must
know--it is very difficult for me.  Oh!  Mademoiselle, I find it even
more difficult than I thought, I must have help, I must ask some one
else, I cannot--cannot."

His voice broke, stopped.  The other men, turning at last towards the
house, saw the priest's bowed head and Pauline's bright but angry face,
and Dr. Renaud at once came to Father Rielle's rescue.

"Mademoiselle," he began, but Pauline, leaving the door open, rushed
down the walk and met him at the gate.  Her hands were pressed upon her
bosom and her wild eyes sought his in alarm, for she knew now that
something had happened, that something was wrong, although the mental
picture of Crabbe lying dead or dying did not occur to her.  She
figured instead, some quibble, some legal matter, a money strait, a
delay, but the doctor, quietly taking one of her hands in his, spoke as
tenderly as was possible for a man of his bearing.

"Father Rielle is saddened, crushed.  He cannot tell you, for he feels
it too much.  I feel it, too, but I must be brave and put away these
feelings, this natural weakness.  My dear lady, my dear Mademoiselle,
your friend, your _fiancé_, the man you were about to marry, has met
with a very bad accident."

"A bad accident."

"Yes, a very serious one.  You must be prepared."

"He has been killed?  Then I know who did it--I know."

"An accident, an accident only, mademoiselle, I assure you.  But a very
serious one, as I have said."

"Very serious?  He--he--where is he?  Take me to him.  Oh!  I knew
something would happen, I am not surprised, I am not surprised.  But it
shall not prevent my seeing him, waiting on him.  It shall not prevent
our marriage."

The piteousness of her position softened the doctor's heart still
further; he kept hold of her hand and modulated his voice.

"I am afraid it may.  I am afraid you will have to prepare yourself for
a great shock.  Martin here--found him."

She did not yet understand.

"Martin, I say, was the one who found it."

The change of pronoun did not fully enlighten her.

"But he is alive!  Yes, of course he is alive, only badly hurt.  Then
we can be married at once wherever he is.  Any one can marry us--Father
Rielle will tell you that.  If we both wish, and we both believe in
God, that is sufficient.  Other things will not matter.  Any one, any
one can marry us.  Take me to him."

Dr. Renaud, relinquishing her hand, stepped to the side of the priest
and was followed by Martin.  Artémise, always curious and flighty, ran
out and overheard a word or two as the three men again conferred and
fled back to the house, shrieking as she went.

"Dead!  Dead!  Another death!  Within a week!  You see I can count!
You see I can count!  Dead, drowned, and all in a week!"

The truth was now borne in upon Pauline, and she turned to meet the
united gaze of the three men, reading confirmation of the awful news in
their averted and sobered eyes.  The shock told, her limbs shook, her
sight left her, her throat grew sore and dry, but she did not faint.

"I am so cold," she said in English.  And again in the same tongue.  "I
feel so cold.  Why is it?"

Dr. Renaud hastened to her, supporting her with his arm.

"You have guessed?" he said hurriedly.

"I heard.  Is it true?"

"Dear mademoiselle, I regret to say, quite true.  He was carried over
the Fall! there was no escape, no hope.  Come, let me take you back to
the house for a moment where you may sit down."  For she continued to
tremble so violently that presently she sank upon the low fence, still
pressing her hands over her heart.  "Come, mademoiselle, let me take
you into the house."

"Not that house!  Not that house!"

"Faith--I know of no other!  You cannot remain here."

"But I can go back, back to Poussette's."

"You must drive or be driven then.  You cannot walk."

It was true.  Pauline's breath was now very short, her articulation
difficult, her throat contracted and relaxed by turns.

"It is true!" she gasped.  "I cannot walk.  I cannot even stand up.
Oh, Dr. Renaud, this is more than weakness or fright.  I am very sick,
Doctor.  Why cannot I stand up?"

Renaud tore off his coat, the priest and Martin did the same.  Folding
all three beside the fence where the snow was still thick and dry they
laid Miss Clairville down and watched her.  Martin fetched brandy while
the entire Archambault family flocked out to see the sight, and stood
gaping and chattering until rebuked by Father Rielle.  The doctor knelt
a long time at her side.  Knowing her so well, he was secretly
astonished at the weakness she had shown and he dealt with her most
kindly.  Tragedy had at last touched her too deeply; a latent tendency
of the heart to abnormal action had suddenly developed under pressure
of emotion and strain of shock, and he foresaw what she and the others
did not--a long and tedious illness with periods of alarming collapse
and weakness.  For herself, so ill was she for the first time in her
active life, she thought more about her own condition than of her loss;
she imagined herself dying and following her lover on the same day to
the grave.  The image of Ringfield too was absent from her thoughts,
which were now chiefly concentrated on her symptoms and sufferings.

"Am I not very ill?" she asked presently, after a little of the brandy
had somewhat stilled the dreadful beating of her heart, the dreadful
booming in her ears.

"Yes, mademoiselle.  But you will recover."

"I have never been sick before."

"You are sure of that?  Never had any nervous sensations, no tremors,
no palpitations?"

"Ah, those!  Yes, frequently, but I never thought much about them.
They were part of my life, my emotional life, and natural to me.  Shall
I die?"

"I think not, mademoiselle.  I believe not, but you may be ill for a
while."

"Ill!  For how long?"

"That I cannot tell you.  You must have care and quiet, absolute quiet."

Pauline said no more.  The distress of heart and nerves came on again;
she moaned, being exceedingly troubled in spirit and her pallor was
great.

"It is clear you must not remain out in the road any longer,
mademoiselle.  You must be put to bed and have warmth and rest and some
kind woman to look after you.  Ah!  How we would welcome our good Mme.
Poussette now, but she has flown, she has flown.  So it will be Mme.
Archambault perhaps, who knows all about sickness; has she not reared
thirteen of her own, or fourteen, I forget which?  Come, mademoiselle,
we will lift you carefully.  The door is open, the manor is hospitable
and warm, its kitchen and larder well stocked, its cellars overflowing.
Faith--you might do worse, and at Poussette's who would be there to
nurse you?"

Pauline was too spent to utter the defiant objections that in health
she would have hurled at the speaker.  Tragedy indeed had touched her
for once too deeply, and she submitted to be helped back into her old
home, the house made hateful by a thousand painful associations of an
unhappy youth, without uttering a single remonstrance.  Some of her
native courage knocked timidly at her frightened heart, clamouring to
be reassured of days to come, of duties to be taken up, of life to be
lived, for over and above her sense of cruel frustration and
bereavement she dreaded death, not caring to die.  The closing of the
episode in which the guide figured so prominently appalled and
stupefied her, yet her inherent vitality sprang up, already trying to
assert itself.

"What a position is mine!" she thought, when a slight return of
strength enabled her, leaning on the doctor's arm, to reach the room so
long occupied by her brother.  But her lips said nothing.  There was no
other place to put her; the salon did not contain a sofa, she could not
be lodged with Artémise or Angeel, and meanwhile her weakness increased
till she asked herself to be put to bed.  Maman Archambault was sent
for and in a few moments Pauline was lying on the lumpy tattered
mattress which had served Henry Clairville for his last couch.

The course of tragic accident had brought her to this, and could she
have foreseen the long, long weary time, first of illness, then of
convalescence, and finally a physical change so marked as to unfit her
for all but a narrow domestic life, it is likely that with her fierce
and impatient temper she might have been tempted to end her existence.
As one for whom the quest of happiness was ended as far as a prosperous
marriage and removal from St. Ignace were involved, she now depended on
herself again, and bitterly as she might mourn and lament the
disappointment and chagrin which in a moment had permanently saddened
her future, her grief and mortification would have been bitterer still
could she have foreseen the long nights of half-delirious insomnia, the
days of utter apathy and uselessness which stretched blankly before her.

Later that night, when she had tried to compose herself to sleep but
without success, she called Maman Archambault into the room.

"Give me a light--for the love of God, a light!" she wailed, sitting up
with all her dark hair pouring over the bed.  "How dare you leave me
without a light and I so ill!"

"But the doctor said----"

"What do I care what he said!  In this room, in the dark, are all sorts
of creatures, I hear them!  Henry is here, or his ghost, and the
Poussette woman is here, singing her silly songs, and rats are here,
and cats, and worse things, moving and crawling all over me, in the
walls, everywhere!"

The old woman set the lamp on the table.  She was very angry.

"It is not so, mademoiselle.  The room was cleaned.  Maybe a ghost,
_n'sais pas_.  Maybe a cat or two.  Yes, there's the white one now
under your bed and her kittens!  I'll drive them out."

Miss Clairville sank back and watched.  So had her brother lain.  So
had the cats lain under the bed during his sickness.  Maman Archambault
went out to her _paillasse_ in the hall, the night wore on, but without
sleep for Pauline, and towards morning so intense were her sufferings
that a messenger was sent for Dr. Renaud, who came as requested and was
destined to come again and again for many a weary month.



CHAPTER XXX

THE QUEST OF HAPPINESS

  "Ye wish for act and circumstance, that make
  The individual known and understood;
  And such as my best judgment could select
  From what the place afforded, have been given."


The consistency of character or rather the defect of that virtue which
had perhaps caused the aberration under which Ringfield had very nearly
committed a crime without being, as we say, a depraved or vicious
member of society, helped after the melancholy dénoûment of Crabbe's
sudden death to determine a line of conduct for the future.  His mind,
restored to its natural bent, the study of the soul of man and its
relation to the spiritual world, no longer dwelt on Miss Clairville nor
on any other worldly matter, and therefore his next and as it proved
final move was not so peculiar as seemed at first sight; he chose to
enter a religious house and end his days there, as in the heat of
remorseful and involuntary confession he had told Father Rielle.  There
was no chance for this last act of abnegation in his own community,
hence the attention he now began to give to the personality and
conversation of the priest, and hence the ultimate triumph of the
Catholic Church.  He still loved his own Church, but what was there for
him within her narrow boundaries in the future?  That Church said: "You
must be good even if you are narrow, you must practise holiness, you
must stand daily in the fierce light of secular criticism, and you know
you shall be found wanting," and at the voice he quailed, feeling his
weakness.  Then it was that Rome claimed him, showing him her unique
position among the Churches.  Never allowing or fostering modern doubt,
immune against innovation, with myriad and labyrinthine channels of
work for the different temperaments that entered within her gates, she
presented at that time the spectacle of the only Church not divided
against herself, and Ringfield suddenly yearned towards the cloister,
the cross, the strange, hooded, cloaked men, the pale and grave, or
red-cheeked merry nuns, the rich symbolism of even the simplest
service, and he longed to hurl himself from the outside world to that
beckoning world of monks and monastic quiet.  As a Methodist, there was
then no possible opening of the kind he wished for, whatever there may
be at a later day, when hardly any religious body keeps itself to
itself but is daily invaded by efforts and struggles, apings after
something coveted and difficult of attainment, and when the term
evangelical is a word signifying the loosening of all proper bonds and
the admission of dangerous degrees and shades of doubtful moral
unsteadfastness.

He felt an inward shame, a daily humiliation, when he considered his
position; he had disgraced his own Church--would any other Church then
receive him?  Finally he sought the priest.

"If I am proved unworthy of the ministrations of the Church I was born
and brought up in, am I not unworthy of yours?  What is to become of
me, for a God and a Church and a hiding-place I must have?"

And Father Rielle answered quietly:--

"There is no difficulty, my son.  The sin, if sin it was, is past, and
even if it were not, if it still lingered in you, we would take you in
and help and restore you.  We refuse no man, no woman; we do not
question, we do not talk, we make no guesses, we are not curious.  We
will take you as we have taken, as our Church has taken, thousands of
others--for the present and for the future--caring nothing for the
past.  We recognize that all men are not alike.  Some will still
preach, and you were one of these, but you will soon be content to
preach no longer; for such as you it is but a weariness of the flesh, a
disturber, a tempter.  Others will still do parish work, like myself;
regular work among the people that does not show, more or less
successful, more or less uneventful.  Others will pass in behind the
high walls of a monastery and lead the ordered life prescribed for
them; you are to be one of these and I foresee you gaining in
self-restraint, calm, and growing in spiritual insight as you
voluntarily forsake all worldly ties and sympathies and disappear from
men for ever."

Ringfield moved uneasily.  It seemed as if the priest took things too
much for granted.

"How can I tell?" he faltered.  "It attracts me, it moves before me
night and day; the quiet hours told off by bells--are they not?"

"Yes, my brother."

"The cowled men working in the garden, at graves, I have heard.  Is it
not so?"

"Yes, yes, and at other things," said the priest indulgently.

"The prayers, said kneeling on the cold floors, the precision and
solemnity of it all, the absence of all distractions.  Oh, there surely
I shall find rest unto my soul;--only if I joined, and found I could
not stay, if the world again called me!"

Father Rielle closed his eyes and yawned with an indescribable air of
mastery and insolence.

"There would always be your oath, my son.  Do not forget that."

"My oath!  An oath!"

"Certainly.  There will be preparation necessary for many days before
you can enter.  But once a member, a sworn member of that community (I
am thinking of our brothers at Oka), you have done with the world.  You
know the world no longer.  It cannot call you."

"But if it did----"

"I say it cannot."

"But I might burst my bonds and seek it!"

"You might, but I do not think you will.  Our Church can be loving and
restful and harmonious and beautiful (thus the jargon of the heretic)
but it can also be masterful and tyrannical and terrible, even cruel,
so they say, although I do not go that far myself.  And the call of it,
the memory of it, the significance of it, the power and majesty and
awfulness of it will draw you back.  Oh!  Have no fear, monsieur!  If I
may charge myself with your conversion I will stake a great deal, a
very great deal indeed, on the chances of your absolute and final
surrender, with even temporary reversion an impossibility.  You will
decide quickly then, monsieur, although we do not ask for haste.  We
can wait."

And with emphasis in his thrilling voice the priest murmured again:
"The Church of Rome can always wait."

This statement and the other predictions concerning Ringfield were
verified in course of time, for without seeing Pauline again he made
instant preparation for the solemn and extraordinary step which closed
his career in the world as we know it.  Poor Pauline!  The promise
given to Henry Clairville on his death-bed was kept, it is needless to
say, but only half kept, as she did not admit the child to her
confidence, nor show it affection, and only kept at all because she
could not help herself.  Very gradually her strength returned after
nearly two years of invalidism, and then the streaks of grey in her
hair, her altered figure and expression, told part of her story to
those who thought they knew all.  Who at St. Ignace could enter into
her feelings or offer her consolation?

"No one could be sorrier than I am for doing the young lady an
injustice," was the loudly expressed opinion of Enderby.  "Not but what
there was grounds.  There is, they tell me, often a more striking
likeness between cousins, aunts, and such, than between mother and
daughter and father and son.  What I done any one might have done, and
what I said I've long ago took back."

These remarks were made with characteristic magnanimity at the annual
Hawthorne festival, a couple of years after the picnic tea at which
Ringfield had assisted; held this year on 20th October, a warm sun
flooded the valley, the women wore their lightest dresses, and Mrs.
Abercorn was particularly gay in a flowered muslin, dating from the
time of William the Fourth, with _honi soit qui mal y pense_ on a blue
ribbon worked into the design of the material; a garden hat was tied
under her chin and a fur cape lay over her shoulders.  No one was
present from St. Ignace, but a good deal of talk might have been heard
which signified that Miss Clairville was still the interesting central
figure of the neighbourhood.

"She spends very little time, they tell me, with the child yonder,
although it is her brother's own.  The child sits in one room and her
aunt in another; one draws pictures of every mortal thing, and some
things not mortal, and the other looks out of window and rarely speaks.
'Tis a sad sight, they say, that members of one family are thus as far
removed in feeling and ways of talking as--as----" the speaker paused
in perplexity, vainly searching for a suitable and sufficiently strong
simile.

"What can ye expect, ma'am?" said Enderby loftily, with his habitual
consideration for the aristocracy.  "Miss Clairville has been cruelly
treated.  Her brother to marry, to marry, look you, ma'am, with one of
a menial family--'twas hard on one by nature so genteel, and the manner
of her long sickness was not to be wondered at; had she only gone
through the form of marriage with the one her heart was interested in
and then lost him the next moment; I think I may say, without fear of
exaggeration, she would then have had something to live for; she could
have claimed his money.  But no marriage, no man, no money--and in
place of it all, sickness and poverty and the care of the unwelcome
child--why, I've never known a harder thing!"

Crabbe's expectations had often been referred to among the villagers
and had grown to astonishing dimensions in the minds of the simple, but
the idea of Miss Clairville's share in them was new and afforded plenty
of material for conjecture.

"Though what a lone thing like her would have done with all that money,
I cannot think!" said Mrs. Enderby, who in company with Mrs. Abercorn
had always harboured a suspicious and jealous dislike of the handsome
and dashing Pauline.

"Cannot think!" echoed her husband.  "Why, them's the ones to know what
to do with any power of money coming to them.  I'll warrant she has had
plans enough, to keep the old place up, maybe, to dress herself and
travel to foreign lands and never act no more.  That would all take
money, bless ye!  Before I settled here, as some of ye know, I kept
butcher shop in Blandville, a bigger place far, than this, all English
and all so pleasant too, so--so equalizing like, that when parties did
run into debt (and some were pretty deep in my books) you could almost
forgive it to them, they were so plausible and polite about it.  Eighty
dollars a month was what one family took out in the best meats
procurable and 'ow could you refuse it, knowing they were not going to
run away owing it!  'Some day, Mr. Enderby,' they would say, 'you shall
have it.  You shall 'ave it, sir, some day.'"

"And did you ever get it?" said a thin woman, the Hawthorne milliner,
edging to the front of the group in some anxiety.  "Did you?"

"I did, ma'am.  They owned considerable property round about there, and
when they wanted anything they would sell off a little, piece by piece.
Just as they needed things they sold it, and by and by they came to me
and my little account was paid off--honourable."

"All at once?" said the anxious woman, and Enderby nodded.

"What a state of things though!" remarked his wife.  "I remember it
quite distinctly.  When they wanted to give a party they would sell off
a piece of land, or when they needed a new carpet.  'Twould make me so
nervous like."

"So it would me," said the milliner, "so it would me."

"Because you were not born to it.  It's what you must expect from the
gentry."

"Gentry?  There's not many around here, but I recognize them when I
meet them and the lady at the Manor House is one of them and I'm sorry
for her, ma'am, in her disappointment and sickness."

"Who is that you are sorry for, Enderby?" said Mrs. Abercorn shrilly,
having caught some of his remarks.  "And how do you come to be talking
about gentry of all things!  My good man, if you are alluding to Miss
Clairville, let me tell you she got just what she deserved."

And directly a chorus arose, chiefly from the feminine voices present:
"Just what she deserved.  She got just what she deserved."

The state of affairs at Clairville was much as described; Pauline,
during her long, dreary convalescence, gave no sign of temper or of
suffering, but had apparently changed to a listless, weak, silent
creature, occupied almost altogether with her own thoughts, by turns
ignoring and passively tolerating her sister-in-law and the child.  The
latter grew brighter and stronger every day, and Dr. Renaud was of the
opinion that she would live to womanhood and become physically fit in
many ways, although retaining her deformity, and even achieve some
professional success, as her talent for the pencil was of unusual
order.  Sadie Cordova and her children were firmly established at
Poussette's, and this chronicle would be incomplete without a glance at
the future of the good-hearted couple.  Poussette, who had never meant
any harm either in the case of Miss Clairville or Miss Cordova,
appeared to be considerably impressed by the events of a certain
winter, and after the arrival of Maisie and Jack treated them as his
own and gave up the idea of a divorce.  The pranks and escapades of two
irresponsible, spoilt and active children kept him on the look-out a
good deal of his time, and before very long he had decided that
children after all were occasionally in the way, and like other good
things on this earth, best had in moderation.  Still, he never failed
to treat them with all kindness, and towards their mother he remained
to the last, upon hearing her story of two cruel husbands, one of whom
might claim her any day, the very pattern of chivalrous honour.  Who
shall pronounce the final word as to happiness--the quest of it, the
failure to find it, the rapture with which it sometimes announces
itself attained!  This is no morbid tale, after all, although we may
have lingered at times over scenes neither pleasant nor cheerful, for
behold!--Mme. Poussette is happy, in her hospital: Dr. Renaud is happy
among his patients; Angeel is deliriously happy, with her crayons and
paper; all the Archambaults are happy; Maisie and Jack, Poussette and
Miss Cordova are all happy, happy in their rude health, with plenty of
good food, fun and excitement; even Father Rielle is happy, in his
work, having conquered his passion for Miss Clairville, and perhaps
when a few years have flown and her health is restored the dweller
against her will in the gloomy house of her fathers will emerge from
her torpor and engage in some active work that will afford her restless
spirit a measure of happiness.  Often she cries in the dead of night:--

"Have I deserved this?  Have I done wrong that I am punished like
this?" and she answers herself, saying: "Yes, I did wrong, although not
so wrong as others, and therefore am I punished."  No other answer ever
occurs to her, and all she knows is that she must work out her fate as
best she can and try and be kinder to the child.

And Ringfield--is he happy, behind his high wall, listening for the
solemn bell, kneeling on the cold floor, sleeping on the hard bed,
working in the quiet garden?  No one knows, for where he entered we do
not enter, and if we did we should not be able to distinguish him from
his brother monks, all clad alike, all silent, all concentrated on the
duty of the moment.

The Church of Rome has him and she will keep him--we may be sure of
that.  _Ainsi soit-il_.





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