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Title: A Romance of Toronto - A Novel
Author: Savigny, Annie Gregg, 1901-
Language: English
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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.

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                          A ROMANCE OF TORONTO.

                           (FOUNDED ON FACT.)

                                A NOVEL.

                        BY MRS. ANNIE G. SAVIGNY

   _Author of "An Allegory on Gossip," "A Heart-Song of To-day," etc._


    TORONTO:
    WILLIAM BRIGGS, 78 & 80 KING STREET EAST.

    1888.

    Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year
    one thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight, by _Mrs. Annie Gregg
    Savigny_, at the Department of Agriculture.


     "I would like the Government to forbid the publication of all
     novels that did not end well."--DARWIN.

     "What would the world do without story-books."--DICKENS.


[Illustration: TORONTO UNIVERSITY, QUEEN'S PARK.]



NOTE.


_In the following pages are two plots, one of which was told me by an
actor therein; the other I have myself watched from its first page to
its last, being living facts in living lives of fair Toronto's
children._

_THE AUTHOR._



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I. Toronto a Fair Matron

CHAPTER II. Who is Who in a Medley

CHAPTER III. Instantaneous Photographs

CHAPTER IV. The Foot-ball of Circumstance

CHAPTER V. A Bona Dea

CHAPTER VI. Coffee and Chit-Chat

CHAPTER VII. Across the Sea to a Witch's Caldron

CHAPTER VIII. A Troubled Spirit

CHAPTER IX. Vultures Habited as Christian Pew-holders

CHAPTER X. A Lucifer Match

CHAPTER XI. Their "Rank is but the Guinea's Stamp"

CHAPTER XII. On the Rack

CHAPTER XIII. Lucifer's Votaries Rampant

CHAPTER XIV. Fencing Off Confidence

CHAPTER XV. The Tree of Knowledge

CHAPTER XVI. The Oath in the Tower of Toronto University

CHAPTER XVII. Birds of Prey

CHAPTER XVIII. The Islet-gemmed St. Lawrence

CHAPTER XIX. Eye-openers

CHAPTER XX. "Your Een Were Like a Spell"

CHAPTER XXI. A Happy New Year

CHAPTER XXII. "Better Lo'ed Ye Canna Be"

CHAPTER XXIII. The Three Links

CHAPTER XXIV. A Hand of Ice Lay on Her Heart

CHAPTER XXV. "Here Awa', There Awa'"

CHAPTER XXVI. Electric Tips Among the Roses

CHAPTER XXVII. A Serpent in Paradise

CHAPTER XXVIII. Squaring Accounts

CHAPTER XXIX. "Mair Sweet Than I Can Tell"



A ROMANCE OF TORONTO.



CHAPTER I.

TORONTO A FAIR MATRON.


Two gentlemen friends saunter arm in arm up and down the deck of the
palace steamer _Chicora_ as she enters our beautiful Lake Ontario from
the picturesque Niagara River, on a perfect day in delightful September,
when the blue canopy of the heavens seems so far away, one wonders that
the mirrored surface of the lake can reflect its color.

"Do you know, Buckingham, you puzzle me; you were evidently happier in
our little circle at the Hoffman House than in billiard, smoking, or
reading-rooms, and just now in the saloon you seemed so content with
Miss Crew, my wife and our boy, that I again wonder a man with these
tastes, and who has made his little pile, does not marry," said Mr.
Dale, in flute-like tones, distinctly English in accent. "I really
think, my dear fellow, you would be happier in big New York city with
some one in it to make a home for you."

"I am quite sure your words are kindly meant, Dale, but look at me," he
says tranquilly, "I am not dwarfed by care, being six feet in my
stockings, I have no worrying lines written on my forehead, and between
you and I, I am fifty; to be sure I am bald and grey, but that is New
York life, a bachelor life, then, has not served me ill; there is a
woman at Toronto I should like as my wife, but until I can give her the
few luxuries I now deem necessities, I shall remain as I am."

"I regret your decision, Buckingham, it is a rock many men split on,
this waiting for wealth and missing wifely companionship."

"Perhaps you are right; but I should not care to risk it," he says,
calmly.

"And you a speculator!" his friend said, smiling. At this they drifted
into business and some joint investments in Canadian mineral locations,
when Dale said:

"You must excuse me now, Buckingham, I promised my wife to go and read
her a letter descriptive of Toronto, as we, you know, have not been
there."

"Who is the writer, if I may know?"

"Our mutual friend at Toronto, Mrs. Gower."

"Oh, I am with you then," he said, with unusual eagerness, a fact noted
by his friend.

Entering the saloon, Mrs. Dale, a pretty little woman, fashionably
dressed, with Irish blue eyes and raven hair, said, lifting her head:

"Excuse my recumbent position, but I feel as if my head wasn't level, if
I try to sit up; ditto, Miss Crew."

"Where is Garfield, Ella?"

"Over there with those boys; now read away, hubby, it will do my head
good."

"Very well, let me see where the description commences (the personal
part I may pass). Here it is:

     "Toronto is a fair matron with many children, whom she has
     planted out on either side and north of her as far as her great
     arms can stretch. She lies north and south, while her lips
     speak loving words to her off-spring, and to her spouse, the
     County of York; when she rests she pillows her head on the
     pine-clad hills of sweet Rosedale, while her feet lave at
     pleasure in the blue waters of beautiful Lake Ontario.

     "Her favorite children are Parkdale, Rosedale, and Scarboro';
     Parkdale to her west, ambitious and clear-sighted, handsome and
     well-built, the sportive lake at his feet, in which his
     children revel at eve; her daughter, charming Rosedale, in
     society and quite the fashion even to the immense bouquet she
     carries at all seasons--now of autumn leaves, from the hand of
     Dame Nature; now of the floral beauties from her own gardens
     and conservatories, again, of beauteous ferns gathered in her
     own woods across her handsome bridges.

     "Scarboro', fair Toronto's favorite son, of whom she is justly
     proud, is a handsome young warrior, fearless as his own
     heights, robust as his own trees, which seem as one gazes down
     his deep ravine, like so many giants marching upwards as though
     panting to reach the blue pavilioned heavens where they would
     fain rest their heads.

     "From the time spring thaws the sceptre out of the frozen hand
     of winter, until again he is king, the breath of Scarboro' is
     redolent of the rose, honeysuckle and sweet-briar, with a rapid
     succession of the loveliest wild flowers in Canada beneath
     one's feet, a veritable carpet of sweet-scented blossoms has
     her son Scarboro'.

     "Fair Toronto is also herself richly robed and jewelled, her
     necklet being of picturesque villas, in Rosedale and on Bloor
     Street; under her corsage, covered with beauteous blossoms from
     her Horticultural Gardens, her Normal School grounds, etc., her
     heart throbs with pride as she thinks of her gems, the spires
     from her one hundred and twenty churches glistening in heaven's
     sunbeams; of her magnificent University of Toronto, with its
     great Norman tower, which cost her nearly $500,000; her
     handsome Trinity College, in third period pointed English
     style; her Knox College, her hotels, her opera houses, her
     stately banks; with her diamonds, of which she is vastly proud,
     and which are her great newspaper offices--the most valuable
     being those of first water, viz., her Church papers as
     finger-posts, with her _Sentinel_ as guard; her independent,
     cultured _Mail_; her mighty clear-Grit _Globe_; her brilliant,
     knowing _Grip_; her often-quoted _World_; her racy town-cry
     _News_; her social _Saturday Night_; her _Life_, her _Week_,
     her _Truth_, with her _Evening Telegram_, the whole set being
     so valued by fair Toronto, that she would as soon be minus her
     daily bread as her newspapers.

     "It would take too long to enumerate the many attractions fair
     Toronto offers--some of those within her walls having throats
     full of song, others in the 'Harmony Club,' others
     elocutionists, with orators and athletes; her Cyclorama of
     Sedan, her Zoo--to which only a trifle pays the piper--her
     interesting museums, her fine art galleries.

     "And again, one word of her pet river, her picturesque Humber,
     where lovers meet, poets dream, and fairies dwell; yes, as
     Imrie says:

     "'Glide we up the Humber river,
     Where the rushes sigh and quiver,
     Plight our love to each forever,
         Love that will not die.'

     "Such, dear Mr. and Mrs. Dale, is my lay of Toronto, which I
     hope you will like well enough to come and sojourn here awhile.
     You say, Mrs. Dale, that you have 'willed' to go to an hotel,
     if so, I shall say no more of my wish, for 'a woman's will dies
     hard on the field, or on the sward;' but when your will is
     carried out, should you sigh for home-life come to me--even
     then Holmnest will have open doors. You may be grave or gay,
     you may be _en déshabillé_ in mind and robing, or you may have
     your war-paint on for the watchful eye of Grundy, be it as you
     will it, you are ever welcome, only tell dear Diogenes not to
     come in his tub. I can give you both amusement enough in many
     subjects or objects at which to level your glass, for Toronto
     society is in many instances an amusing spectacle, a droll
     conglomeration.

     "Yours as always,
     "ELAINE GOWER."

"Well, Buckingham, what think you of fair Toronto?" asked Dale, as he
finished reading.

"I think that, though unusual, a Fair Matron has had ample justice from
a fair woman."

"I want to-morrow and Mrs. Gower right now," said Mrs. Dale, "as
Garfield says when he is promised a treat."

"Toronto must be a fine city, and covering a large area," said Miss
Crew.

"Mrs. Gower has a taste for metaphor; I never heard her in that style
before, that is to any extent," said Buckingham.

"I am intensely practical," said Dale; "but confess Toronto described in
metaphor sounds more musical, at all events, than in plain brick and
mortar style."

"Emerson says," said Buckingham, "men are ever lapsing into a beggarly
habit in which everything that is not cyphering is hustled out of sight,
and I think he is right."

"We cannot help it, it is the tendency of the age; but what have we
here, Buckingham? What's the excitement about?"

"Oh, we are only nearing Hanlon's Point; the ladies had better come
outside; every scene will be in gala dress. Miss Crew, can I assist
you?"

    "Where the blue hills of old Toronto shed
     Their evening shadows o'er Ontario's bed,"

said Dale, coming with the crowd to view the scene.

But since Moore so sang, the hills of the noble red man have
disappeared, save as a boundary to our fair city; the pale faces, in the
interests of progress and civilization, would have it so; and Bloor
Street, to the north, is now reached by a gradual ascent of one hundred
and fifty feet above the lake level. But now the stately and comfortable
palace steamer, _Chicora_, with a goodly number of souls on board, is
rounding Hanlon's Point, and entering our beautiful Bay, when the
illumined city, with the Industrial Exhibition of 1887 in full swing,
burst upon the view. The bands of music in and about the city, at the
Horticultural Gardens and on the fair grounds, with the hum of many
voices, fill the evening air with a glad song of joy.

"What a sparkling scene," cried Mrs. Dale; "see, Garfield, my boy, all
the boats lit from bow to stern."

"They look as pretty as you in your diamonds, mamma."

"It is quite a pretty sight, and the city also," said Miss Crew; "I had
no idea Canada could attempt anything to equal this."

"So much for England's instructions of her 'young ideas how to shoot,'
as to her colonies, Miss Crew," said Dale; "Come, confess that a few
squaws, bearing torches, with their lordly half smoking the calumet, was
the utmost you expected."

"Oh, Mr. Dale, please don't exaggerate our ignorance in this respect; I
am not quite so bad as a lady at home, who thought Toronto a chain of
mountains, and Ottawa an Indian chief."

"One of Fenimore Cooper's, I hope," laughed Buckingham, "who hunted
buffalo on the boundless prairie, instead of your lean gophers who hunt
rusty bacon from agents who, some say, use him to swindle the public and
line their own pockets. But listen; what a medley of sounds."

"And lights," cried Mrs. Dale; "it looks as if annexation was on, and
they were firing up some of our gold dollars as sky rockets."

"It's pretty good for Canada, mamma," said Garfield, patronisingly.

"You say Toronto is quite a business centre, Buckingham?"

"Oh, yes; quite so; it makes one think of commercial union. Do you
advocate it, Dale?"

"Well, as you know, Buckingham, I am not even yet sufficiently
Americanised to look upon it from other than a British standpoint, and
so do not advocate it, as it seems a slight to the Mother Country. What
is your idea of advantages derived by Canada were it _a fait accompli_?"

"She would gain larger markets; her natural resources would be
developed, especially her mineral, in which I am," he added, jokingly,
"looking out for the interest of that most important number _one_, while
also number two would benefit in home manufactures."

"You amuse me; I honestly believe number one is a universal lever; yet
still in a way we are each patriotic; but, again, you must see that
commercial union would be the forerunner of annexation."

"Yes, likely, though not for some time, but evolution will bring that
about in a natural sort of way, as a final settlement of all vexed
questions, whether," he added laughingly, "of humanity or--fish."

"Oh, I don't know that, but you have the fish at all events and mean to
keep them too; humanity may follow, but I should not like to see the
colonies hoist another flag. But here we are at last, at the portals of
the Queen City, and such a multitude of people makes one feel as if one
might be crowded out," he said, uneasily, as the _Chicora_ came in at
Yonge Street wharf.

"Don't bother your head about your rooms, Dale, you secured them by
telegram."

"I did, ten days ago, though."

"You never fear, they will be all right, the manager is a thorough
business man," he said quietly, gathering up the belongings of the
ladies.

"You are invaluable, Mr. Buckingham," said Mrs. Dale, "and are as
gallant as if you had as many wives as Blue Beard."

"Rather a scaly compliment, Buckingham," laughed his friend.

"She means well, but the fish are not far off," he answered, picking up
Garfield, and giving his arm to quiet Miss Crew.



CHAPTER II.

WHO IS WHO IN A MEDLEY.


"What a moving sea of faces!" exclaimed Miss Crew.

"Yes, quite a few, and look as if they required laundrying--bodies,
bones, and all."

"Here, Garfield, though you are 'very old' as you say, you had better
take my hand," said Miss Crew, nervously, as Mr. Buckingham set him down
on the wharf.

"Oh, no, he must go with his father," cried Mrs. Dale.


"Oh, I reckon a New York boy can elbow his way through that mean crowd."
And darting through the mass of people, causing the collapse of not a
few tournures, and with the aid of one of his mother's bonnet pins
giving many a woman cause to scream as she unconsciously cleared his
path by getting out of his way, he is on the outskirts of the crowd.

"Say, hackman, drive me off right smart to the Queen's!"

"Is it all square, young gent?"

"Yes; dimes sure as Vanderbilt money."

"Oh, I mean you are but a kid to go it alone."

"Chestnuts!"

And taking another hack, "Pooh, Bah!" quieting his scruples by pocketing
a double insult they are off.

"I feel sure Garfield is quite safe, Ella, and probably choosing a cab
for us; here, take my arm dear, and don't be nervous, Buckingham is
looking after Miss Crew."

But he is on ahead making inquiries.

"Yes, sir, the young gent is all right, if you take my hack we'll catch
him, I lost him by being too careful like."

"Your boy is all right, Mrs. Dale, if you jump in quick we'll overtake
him; allow me, Miss Crew."

"Thank heaven," said his mother fervently, "tell the man to go as quick
as he can through this crowd; there he is, the young scamp, waving to
us, there, on ahead, a pair of light greys."

"And here we are, and your boy of the period waiting to welcome us."

"Welcome to the Queen City," he said, pulling off his skull cap.

"You frightened your mother, my boy; see that you don't repeat this;
remember she is nervous."

"Glad I ain't a woman, they are all nerves and bustles; here, give us a
kiss, mamma, I only wanted to show you I aint a baby."

"There! there! that will do, my bonnet! my bangs! such a bustle as I've
been in about you, I wish you were in long clothes."

"Then I'd have to wear a bustle too!"

"Ella you look tired, we had best let them show us our rooms at once;
Buckingham, we shall have some dinner together, I hope."

"Yes, I shall meet you here, and go in with you."

"This is pleasant, rooms _en suite_, and you beside us, Miss Crew," said
Mrs. Dale.

And now, while they refresh themselves by bath and toilette, a word of
them: Mr. Dale, like his friend Buckingham, has reached fifty, is grey,
also wearing short side whiskers and moustache. He is a man of sterling
worth of character, honest as the day; a man whose word was never
doubted, who, having seen much of life, was apt to be a trifle cynical;
but withal, so generous that his criticisms on men and things are more
on the surface than even he imagines. A good friend, a kind husband to
the pretty, penniless girl, Ella Swift, whom he had married in New York
eleven years ago, and though unlike in character, there is so much love
between them that their wedded happiness flows on with never a rift in
the rill; and though she does not look into life and its many vexed
questions with his depth of thought, still, in other ways her brain is
quite as active--a kindly, social astronomer, she loves to unravel
mysteries in the lives about her, to set love affairs going to her
liking, she not caring to soar above the drawing-room, leaving Wall
Street, the Corn Exchange, and railway stocks to her astute husband, who
has inherited English gold, to which he is adding or losing in
speculations the American eagle. With some thought of changing their
residence to fair Toronto, they had a year ago given up house, and have
been residing at the Hoffman House, New York City; then engaging Miss
Crew, as governess to their only child of nine years. Mr. Dale had been
somewhat doubtful as to the advisability of giving the position to Miss
Crew, who merely answering their advertisement in the New York _Herald_,
stating nervously that she was without references, as the people she had
been with had gone West; but she was a fair, delicate, lady-like,
religious girl, interesting Mrs. Dale at once by her loneliness and
reticence; above all, Garfield took to her, and she gained an influence
for good over him at once; and by this time both Mr. and Mrs. Dale have
come to consider her as one of themselves, though having decided to
place their son at boarding-school until such time as they take up
house.

Mr. Buckingham is, as we know, an eligible bachelor, fine-looking, tall,
as we have heard, and a man of many dollars; a calmly quiet man (a trait
from his German mother), who has lost two fortunes, but who will not
play for high stakes again, as he does not care to begin over again at
fifty, with nearly all he craves in his grasp; two women jilted him when
fortune frowned, but taking it coolly, he merely told himself it was the
dollar they had cared for, not he. Passionately fond of music, a skilled
performer, the piano has been mistress and wife to him; if he marries he
will be a good husband, but if he does not, he will be almost as happy
in the best musical circle wherever his home may be.

Having dined, our friends gathered for a few moments' social chat before
retiring, when Mrs. Dale said, "I expect, Mr. Buckingham, you feel as
important as one of Barnum's show-men in your role, for you are aware
you and Mrs. Gower must trot us round to see the lions."

"Any man, Mrs. Dale, would feel important as your cicerone, and in
company with Mrs. Gower."

"How polite you are. Oh, Henry, I see by the _News_, "Fantasma" is on at
the Grand Opera House; even if it is late, let us go."

"Nonsense, dear, we have seen it often enough."

"If you are tired, very well; but I wanted to make a spectacle of myself
this time, and the ladies green with envy over my new heliotrope satin."

"Well, if that isn't self-abnegation," laughed Buckingham.

"Oh, you needn't sympathize, I only feel as the peacock when he spreads
his tail."

"How many churches did Mrs. Gower say there are here?" asked Miss Crew.

"One hundred and twenty; so you will have a choice of roads heavenward,
Miss Crew," answered Buckingham.

"Yes, there are a number of roads, and only one guide-book," she
answered, thoughtfully.

"Mrs. Gower will put you on the right track," he said quietly.

Here Mr. Dale returned, saying in pleased tones, "Well, Ella, I have
telephoned Mrs. Gower of our arrival, and she says she will call at 11
a.m., then do the Exhibition, where we are to remain until we see Pekin
bombarded."

"That is in the evening, and the best part of it this perfect weather;
may I come?" said Buckingham.

"Assuredly."

"Thanks, and au revoir."

"Good night."



CHAPTER III.

INSTANTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHS.


"Nothing is more deeply punished than the neglect of the affinities by
which alone society should be formed and the insane levity of choosing
our associates by other's eyes," read a lady, musingly, as Emerson's
essays fall from her knees to the soft carpet under her cushioned feet.

"Yes, nothing is more deeply punished," she half chanted in a musical
voice, while a grave, troubled look came to the dark eyes, and a quiver
of pain to the sensitive lips. "And well do you and I know it, Tyr,
though you are only a dog," she continued, as she patted a brown
retriever beside her. "Yes, you and I, Tyr, like only affinities; the
others seem to us mongrels, and to us don't seem good. I wonder if they
were so pronounced in the first week when the world was young; but fancy
is travelling without reason; they were all thorough-breds in the good
old days, and one does not read of anything like Emerson's words on
affinities, or a case similar to my own; but I am half asleep, Tyr;
watch by me, good old dog."

And leaning her head back against the soft green velvet cushioned back
of the rattan chair, Somnus is not wooed in vain; indeed, one might
imagine the god of slumber had wound a garland of poppies about her
brow, so does she sleep as an infant.

As she rests, a word of her. A Canadian; a native of Toronto, with
far-away English kin; above the medium height; dark, comely, and
slightly embonpoint; a woman of thirty, but with that troubled look at
present on her face looking older; generous, warm-hearted and
conscientious; with more than the average force of character; too
sensitive in days past; too impulsive, even yet, in this world of "they
daily mistake my words." Even at thirty, she has had years of trouble;
has been dragged in the dust under Fortune's wheel, that others might
ride aloft at her expense; earning her "dinner of herbs" that "Pooh Bah"
in the plural, may have the "stalled ox." But at last she rests, and
summer friends would again know her, who fled at her first out-at-elbow
gown; but experience is a good teacher, she will cherish only those who
have cherished her in her dark days. Society also now desires her
company in polite bids to its various webs, in shape of dinners and
lunches, with its other numerous distractions, knowing she is in
possession of a rather pretentious little home, and is in a position to
repay; for society is a debit and credit system.

"Once a widow always a widow" was not the motto of Mrs. Gower, and so
she would have again wed, again gone to God's altar; but the angel of
death forbade, using his scythe almost as the words of the church
pronounced them man and wife, and the bridal gown of the morning gave
place ere the sun had set to the black robes of a second widowhood.
Truly, "Sorrow there seemeth more of thee than we can bear and live;"
yet still we live, was her cry. The death of her friend, just at the
time manly counsel would have saved her little fortune from vultures,
habited as Christian pew-holders! was very hard, not to speak of that
intense loneliness, the death of husband, wife, or betrothed, brings
into one's life; one is as though struck mentally and physically blind,
not knowing where to turn or whose hand to take; for until such
relations are severed by death, one does not realize how one has leaned
on the one in the multitude.

"But," she would say, "one must harden oneself to the inevitable, to
Heaven's will, if one would keep one's reason;" and in time the sudden
death of the man she had so passionately loved, was as some terrible
dream. Not as she dreams away the moments now in her pretty restful
library, with its rattan furniture, cushioned and trimmed in olive-green
velvet; one side a library of her pet authors, with Davenport near;
walls painted in alternate green and cream panels; on the light ground
are lilies from nature, gathered from Ashbridge's Bay, and near the
Island; nestling in their bed of green leaves an English ivy trails
around the pretty Queen Anne mantel, with two tall palms, which bring
content to the canary as the perfume from the blossoms on the stand give
pleasure to the sleeping mistress of Holmnest.

Her own individuality is stamped upon its walls also, for on each
alternate dark green panel is some pretty bits of painting, bric-a-brac,
or motto; one reads, "Let ilka ane gang their ain gait," showing her
dislike to meddling in another's business; another reads, "The greatest
of these is charity;" and over a bust of Shakspeare are his own words,
"No profit goes where is no pleasure taken; in brief, sir, study what
you most affect."

But she dreams, and what a troubled expression. At this moment a coupé
drives up a north-west avenue of our city, stops at the gate of
Holmnest, when a gentleman, hurriedly springing out, saying, "come back
for me in about an hour-and-a-half, Somers," enters the picturesque
grounds, has reached the veranda and hall door on south side of pretty
Holmnest, rings, when a boy, in neat blue suit, answers.

"Is Mrs. Gower at home, Thomas?"

"Yes, sir; in the library."

"Very well, you need not announce me, I know the way;" and hastening his
steps he passes through a square hall, done in the warm tints now in
vogue, sunbeams coming softened through artistic panes of stained glass,
showing vases on brackets filled with flowers, which would delight "Bel
Thistlethwaite," with a few appropriate pictures, giving life to the
walls; the door of the library is ajar; he enters.

"Asleep!" he exclaims, softly; "with Emerson's thoughts for dreams and
Tyr as watch; but what a troubled expression," he thinks, seating
himself, evidently quite at home; a man, too, one would like to be at
home with, if there be any truth in physiognomy, a handsome man, five
feet eleven in height, dark hair and moustache, kindly blue eyes,
amiability stamped on his face; a man who, had events shaped themselves
that way, would have made an heroic self-sacrificing soldier of the
Cross.

He is scarcely seated when the occupant awakes with a start and a
terrified exclamation of "Oh!" at which the dog places his fore-paws on
her knees, with a whine of sympathy, as her friend, Mr. Cole, comes
forward with outstretched hand.

"When did you arrive; is it so late; you received my message to dine
with the Dales and Smyths with me this evening? but I am half dreaming
yet; of course you did, for you answered 'Yes.' Getting yourself in trim
for leap-year, I suppose," she said, smiling; "but how is it you are in
your office coat? I want you to look your very best, as you are to take
in a young lady, a Miss Crew, who comes with the Dales; she is a
super-excellent sort of girl."

"Has she money?" he says, laughingly.

"Oh, you need not pretend to be a fortune-hunter to me; I know you too
well for that; but remember, I prophesy you will lose your heart to her.
But, oh, Charlie, I have had such a horrible dream," and she presses one
hand to her forehead, at which the lace rufflings fall back from her
sleeve, showing a very good arm, her gown of ecru soft summer bunting,
becoming her style, "that dream will haunt me unless you let me tell it
you, Charlie."

"Oh, that's the use you put me to, is it? all right, fire away, I'll
interpret; it was only a mistake the baptizing me Charlie, when I have
to play the part of Joseph."

"Well, in the first part, oh Joseph, I had been reading this morning
what held my mind as to the ascent from Paris of the æronauts, Mallet
and Jovis; their courage, and Mother Shipton's prophecy impressed me
sufficiently as to dream, with the words of Emerson as to affinities
also in my mind, that a party of us--you, the Dales, Mrs. St. Clair,
Miss Hall, Mr. Buckingham, and myself, with a gentleman who was
masked--had been taking part in an entertainment in the Pavilion,
Horticultural Gardens, in aid of the Hospital for sick children; we gave
readings, vocal and instrumental music, and laughed inwardly and glowed
outwardly, as we everyone, regardless of merit, received repeated
recalls, when afterwards the recalcitrant balloon, which refused to
inflate, when we gazed in vain at the fair grounds, did ascend after our
performance, which fact emptied the Pavilion ere we had concluded our
last effort, everyone flying, as we do at Toronto, as though there was a
drop curtain with the words in flaming colors, 'The de'il take the
hind-most;' the building was empty as our last supreme effort frightened
the few dead-heads who had slunk in; we then laughingly made a rush to
the balloon ascension, and determined there and then to further
distinguish ourselves by becoming æronauts _pro tem_. What made it
ridiculously droll, Joseph, was the fact that the men in charge chanted
continuously Emerson's words that had impressed me ere I slept--'Nothing
is more deeply punished than the neglect of the affinities.' I was
nearest the basket, and wild with reckless spirit. As I remember, myself
stepped in; the owners seemed at variance who was to pose or rise," she
said, smilingly, "as my affinity, that is of yourself, Messrs. Dale,
Buckingham, or the man with the mask, when, finally, they signed to the
latter to enter; I was nothing loth, for his voice, a sweet tenor, had
charmed me; up we went, when to my horror your _béte noir_, Mr. Cobbe,
sprang from among the branches of a tall tree into the basket.

"'Too much ballast,' he cried, throwing out all the owners had provided
us with; we ascended rapidly--a feeling of faintness seizing me--up, up;
I feel the sensation now," she said with a tremor; "up, up, nearing the
feathery clouds, looking like down from the wings of angels. 'Too much
ballast,' he again cried, excitedly springing on the masked man, first
tearing off his mask, disclosing the essentially manly face of a
gentleman whom I frequently meet, but am not acquainted with, but in
whom I take an interest, because of his tender care of a little lady I
used to see with him; Mr. Cobbe springing on him with the words, 'too
much ballast; down with affinities!' hurled the poor fellow to earth, at
which I cried out as you heard; his fall was a something too awfully
real; one's nerves for the time suffer as severely as though all was
reality," she added in a pre-occupied tone, as though mind was burdened
with latent thought.

"But 'all's well that ends well;' Mr. Cobbe is in mid air, where I
fervently hope he will remain."

"But you forget the poor man who was hurled to the earth; I know his
face so well."

"And I know yours, Mrs. Gower, and you are safe and so am I; and as
Joseph, I interpret that you are to give your charming self to an
affinity, and don't fly too high."

"The first part of your speech is epicurean, in your second you play the
mentor," she said, laughingly; "but in your face I see you have
something to tell me; go now to the telephone and tell them to send you
your dress coat, for you have no time to go all the way to the Walker
House and be back by seven."

"No use; I cannot stay for dinner."

"Cannot stay! Why?"

"My father writes me he is going to sail for England at once, and wishes
me to meet him at London."

"Well, you ought not to look so grave over such a meditated trip,
Charlie, it will make a new man of you; and instead of betaking yourself
to the Preston baths, a sea voyage, I should say, will set you up,
making you forget the word rheumatism better than any sulphur bath in
all Canada."

"But," he said, in serio-comic tones, "what do you think of my being
forced into annexation?"

"Only that you use the word 'forced,' I should say I congratulate you."

"At the same time that you keep your own freedom, though," he said,
despondently; seeing her look of gravity, he continued, touching her
hand, "beg pardon, Elaine, I should not say that, knowing your past;
but," he said brightly, "I should like to see you wed an affinity."

"I am afraid such pleasant fate is not for me," she said, gravely.

"Do you believe in predestination, Mrs. Gower?" he says, abruptly.

"What next! from annexation to dogma. Tell me all about yourself, and it
is too lovely an Indian summer day to remain in the house, come to my
favorite seat in the garden."

"Where I shall give you an instantaneous photograph, from my father's
pen, of the girl I am predestined to change the name of."

"From your father's pen!"



CHAPTER IV.

THE FOOT-BALL OF CIRCUMSTANCE.


As they near a knoll under a clump of trees commanding a view of the
road, a gentleman sauntering up the street gazes, as many do, at
Holmnest with its pretty grounds.

"Look, quick, Charlie," said Mrs. Gower, in low and rapid tones,
apparently intent on spreading a rug on the rustic bench, "there he is,
I mean----"

"Well, I only see a very ordinary and thoroughly independent looking
man, seeming as though he feared nothing, not even you, and as if
Toronto was built for him."

At this Mrs. Gower, laughing merrily, says, "And not for the
Lieutenant-Governor, Mayor Howland, Archbishop Lynch, or the 'caller
herrin'-man.'"

As the soft laughter fell on the air, the stranger looked towards them,
and looked so intently, that involuntarily his hand is raised to his
head and his hat lifted.

"You say you have not met him, Mrs. Gower; you are a very prudent woman,
I must say, coming out here in your white gown, with ribbons the color
of a peach, creating a sensation; you had better wed an affinity since
you won't have me, and get a protector at once."

"That is the man I dreamed of whom the æronauts dubbed my affinity; it's
too bad we are not acquainted, instead of only getting instantaneous
photographs of each other."

"What a trial!" he said, ironically; "but still," he added, as with a
sudden remembrance, "I have, strange to say, had occasion to say, hang
the conventionalities, more than once, with reference to a fair-haired
girl with blue eyes, that seem, when I think of her, to follow me; no
later, too, than this morning at W. A. Murray's door, as you I have had
only instantaneous photographs of her; once before at a window in New
York city, also there in a suspension car; it is not that I have fallen
in love with her--not by a long chalk, but she seems to have been in my
life some time, that by a trick of memory I have lost; but I advise you,
Mrs. Gower, not to allow that man to bow to you again."

"Oh, he only lifted his hat in apology; but I wish you were not going
away, and that I could see this girl."

"I wish I hadn't to; but this is the way time flies whenever I come to
Holmnest; I am forgetting that I came to tell you I am just now the
foot-ball of circumstance, which compels me to cross seas to have a
halter put around my neck in wedding a girl whom I have never seen."

"Even if you have to, Charlie, you may love her at first sight, so don't
take it to heart; if it is so that she is no affinity, you will suffer
only as many others," she says gravely, "in having a taste of the
tantalus punishment, in losing what we would fain grasp; but tell me all
about it, as my dinner guests will be soon arriving, and I did so want
you for--myself, as well as for Miss Crew."

"That's the first sympathetic word you have said, 'for yourself,'" he
said, touching her hand, "but I am to be always for somebody else," he
said, a little sadly; "but I see you think I am never going to begin, so
here goes: My father, as you have heard me say, did not marry a second
time, not that he did not again fall a victim to the tender passion, but
that the miscreator, circumstance, putting in an oar, sent him out of
England, when his bride-elect that was to be, was coerced into marrying
her guardian (one Edward Villiers, of Bayswater, London,) by his
sister-in-law, a domestic tyrant, and his housekeeper; who, knowing to
rid himself of her presence he would probably wed a woman of as strong a
will as her own, when she, penniless, would be thrust out, told lies,
not white ones, of my father, that he had married in Canada,
intercepting his letters, and heaven knows what; at all events,
Lucifer's agent triumphed, for on my father going across the water to
claim her and scold her for her silence, he found her a wife with a baby
girl, when, to reduce a three-volume story to a line, they, in despair,
wept and raved, nearly heart broken, vowing that I and the little one
should wed and inherit all the yellow sovereigns; and so, Elaine, it
comes to pass in years of evolution this youngster has become of age,
and I am presented with her as my bride. I have always known of this
contract, but you know the kind of man I am, ever shoving the unpleasant
into a corner; for the bare idea of marrying a woman for money has
always been repugnant to me."

"I should say it has, for with you it has ever been 'more blessed to
give than to receive.'"

"I don't know that, but to hasten, breathing time is at last not given
me, I am summoned to England by those people and by my father's wish,
who sends me a copy of the will of the late Mrs. Villiers, a clause of
which I shall read to you; but what a bore I am to you."

"Nonsense; who have I poured my life puzzles into the ear of but your
own kind self--turn about is fair play, and besides, yours is a
sensational _life_ story, and so more interesting than thoughts from the
clever pens of Haggard or Mannville, Fenn, or our own Watson Griffin."

"Well, the will reads ... 'on my dearly loved daughter, my little
(Pearl) Margaret Villiers attaining her majority and becoming the wife
of the aforesaid Charles Babbington-Cole, son of my loved friend Hugh
Babbington-Cole, of Civil Service, Ottawa, Canada, my said daughter
_shall enter into possession_ of all my real and personal property, she
to be sole executrix, and to inherit all, (with, I hope, the advice of
Dr. Annesley, of London, and Hugh Babbington-Cole aforesaid,) and
subject to the following bequests: To my step-daughter, Margaret
Elizabeth Villiers, I leave my forgiveness for her unvarying unkindness
to myself with my copy of the Christian Martyrs. To my dear friend,
Sarah Kane, five hundred pounds sterling and my wearing apparel. To my
husband's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Stone, I will and bequeath my piano
and music for use in her mission work, with the hope that sweet notes of
music will make her less acid to the children of God's poor to whom she
brings the Gospel message of peace, etc., etc.'"

"So! your late mother-in-law made a point there, the self-righteous
woman weighted religion then as now. I have always predicted, because of
your open palm, that you would never be a rich man, Charlie; I little
thought the precious metal with a wife would pour into your lap at the
same time; if you only knew her and cared for her," she said, musingly,
when, noting his troubled look, she said brightly, picking a beautifully
tinted maple leaf from his shoulder, "See here, old man, take this
crimson-hued leaf as a good omen, and we will read from it that your
home-bound path, I mean back to Holmnest and Toronto, will be a path of
crimson roses; and now tell me, does the girl write you, and is it in a
stand and deliver manner? If so, I fear my verdict upon her will be
lacking in charity."

"No, my pater has letters from her which he does not forward; but here
is the last one from my father, in which he says: ... 'I have received
several letters from Broadlawns, Bayswater, England, and from Margaret
also, in which they tell me time's up, your bride elect is of age, and
naturally anxious to come into possession of her property. I need not go
over the whole matter again with you, my boy, but I do most earnestly
advise you to start at once, the daughter of my lost Margaret must be
good and true, even though Villiers was her father; she should be
pretty, also fair hair and sky-blue eyes (in woman's parlance). I saw
her when her poor mother made her will in 1872. Pearl was then about
five years old; she cannot fail to be attracted by yourself, if Dickson
does not flatter you, and I don't think so; your good looks are honestly
come by, so you needn't blush.

"'And now to business; enclosed you will find a cheque for five hundred
dollars, for you are like me more than in appearance, you don't save.
What an income you will have shortly, instead of bookkeeping on the
paltry salary of $800 per annum, you and Mrs. Cole, ahem! will roll
about King Street the envy of the town, with an income of £5,000
sterling per annum. While I shall have the pleasure of seeing some of
your mechanical ideas patented, and their models in the buildings here,
your nose and the grindstone will part company; how glad I am that you
have not fallen in love and married; and now I ask you, believing it to
be best, believing it to be for your happiness, to leave for the
seaboard on receipt of this; my chief has given me a three weeks' leave,
so shall run across, but to save time, as I have business at Quebec,
shall sail from there; meet me at Morley's, London, Trafalgar Square. If
my memory plays me no trick, I shall sail by the _Circassian_, Sept.
16th, you take the _City of Chicago_, one day later from New York.

"'And now, _pour le present_, farewell; you don't know how I have set my
heart on this matter, if I were ill, the knowledge that the little
daughter of my own love was your wife would cure me.

"'Social events are right down smart with us; in fact Ottawa is booming.
Rumor says our next tid-bit will be an elopement in high life; even the
soldiers can't keep the enemy from poaching; but we must be blind and
deaf 'till Grundy says now.'

"'The American consul is a very knight of labor at present, minus their
short hours, as quite a large number are leaving for, to them, the land
of promise, the United States, whether they fly from the taxes or the
cold, I have not interviewed them; by the way, you will be the better
for a warm heart beating against your own this winter. And now one word
of self, I shall be glad of the run across the water, for I feel
anything but smart. I wish we could have crossed together. Farewell, my
boy, till we meet at Morley's.

    "'Your affectionate father,
            "'HUGH B. COLE.

    "'C. B. COLE, ESQ.,
      "'500 Wellington St. Toronto, Ont.'"


"How strange it all seems, Charlie," she said dreamily. "I shall miss
you so much, I do hope she is amiable and lovable, you and she must come
to me until you get settled; poor fellow, you look stunned."

"I am paralyzed! it at last is so sudden, but why do you smile?"

"At a remark you made at the Smyth's, or I rather think it was when
escorting me home, that 'you deserved a good wife, for you had never
sinned, never told a lie.' So let us hope in your case virtue will have
a reward."

"See! I must go, your guests are arriving; how I wish you had no one
this evening, and I might dine with you alone."

"My wish too, on this your last visit, unfettered."

"That means you cannot bolster me up in this case, as you have more than
once heretofore; that I am in for it," he says, looking at her
sorrowfully.

"Yes, you are regularly hemmed in, and as I have been before now, so are
you at present the mere foot-ball of circumstances, but 'out of every
evil comes some good,' they say, and as your father says," she added
with forced gaiety, for she is sad at the thought of snapping of old
ties. "You will be the better of a warm heart beside your own in our
winter climate; and above all, remember the good omen of this maple
leaf; here, take it with you," she says, pinning it to his coat, the
suspicion of a tear in her eyes.

"Good bye, Elaine, if it must be so; pray that I may come out of it all
right, for I feel horribly depressed; and only you say I must go, would,
I believe, show the white feather; I wish I might kiss you good-bye;
there is that fellow, Cobbe, coming in, remember, that 'nothing is more
deeply punished than the neglect of the affinities.' God bless you;
farewell."

And leaving by a side gate and entering a passing hack, one of the
kindest-hearted sons of fair Toronto takes his first step to another
land; easily led, yielding to a degree, he is now led by the wish of a
dead woman, by the iron will of a living one, his father following their
beckoning hand also.



CHAPTER V.

A BONA DEA.


In animated converse with her guests during the half-hour ere dinner is
announced, the mistress of Holmnest makes a picture one's eyes dwell
on--the folds of her soft summer gown hang gracefully, while fitting her
figure like the glove of a Frenchwoman; fond of a new sensation--as is
the way of mortals--this of playing the hostess to a few chosen friends
in a home of her own once more, is pleasurable excitement; there is a
softness of expression, a tenderness in the dark eyes, engendered by the
fact of her sympathy having been acted upon by the leave-taking, on such
an errand too, of her friend Cole, which lends to her an additional
charm. The consciousness also that she is looking well, gives, as is
natural to most women, a pleasurable feeling in whatever is on the
_tapis_, with the knowledge also, that her little dinner will be
perfect, her guests harmonious--save one.

"So you think Toronto is rather a fair matron after all, Mrs. Dale, and
that your New York robes blend harmoniously with the other effects at
the Queens?"

"I reckon I do, Mrs. Gower; you did not say a word too much in her
praise; I remember saying to Henry before we started, my last season's
gowns would do."

"And you like Toronto also, Mr. Dale," continued his hostess.

"Yes, better than any other Canadian town I have visited; it is very
simply laid out, one couldn't lose oneself if one tried."

"It is laid out like a what do you call it, like a chess-board," said
Captain Tremaine, an Irishman.

"Yes, not unlike," continued Dale, "and as to quiet, one would think the
curfew rang; I noticed it particularly coming from the Reform Club the
other night."

"We all notice how quiet our streets are at night, and after your London
and New York City, we must seem to you as if we had taken a sedative,"
said Mrs. Gower, taking his arm to the dining-room; "but where is Miss
Crew, Mr. Dale?"

"She was too fatigued to come, she foolishly overtaxed her strength,
taking my boy to the Industrial Home, at Mimico, I think she said."

"That's correct, it's a pet scheme of Mayor Howland's, and a worthy one
too."

"Yes, so she said; they also visited your Normal School, and talked of
the Cyclorama of Sedan."

"Indeed! they have overtaxed the brain and memory, I fear; what does
Garfield say to it all?"

"Chatters like a magpie over the superior glories of New York, but is
honestly pleased after all."

"I expect your little son is English only in name."

"Yes, and in his love for a good dinner," he said, laughingly.

"Well, from all we Canadians hear, there is every reason he should, an
English dinner is enough 'to tempt even ghosts to pass the Styx for more
substantial feasts,'" she said, gaily.

"Mrs. Gower is always up to the latest in remembering the tastes of her
guests," said Mrs. Dale to her left-hand neighbor, Mr. Buckingham, as
tiny crescents of melon preceded the soup.

"That she is," he said, complacently; "no man would sigh for his club
dinner, did our hostess cater for him."

"Goodness knows what Henry would do if our bank stopped payment, or our
Pittsburg foundries shut down; for I know no more about cooking than Jay
Gould's baby," she said, discussing a plate of delicious oyster soup.

"He, I expect, makes himself heard on the feeding bottle," said lively
Mrs. Smyth.

"But you are unusually candid as to your short-comings, Mrs. Dale,"
continued Buckingham, amusedly.

"Because I can afford to be; were I poor, I reckon I should pawn off my
mamma's tea-cakes on my young man as my own, as men in love believe
anything--they are as dull as Broadway without millinery."

"By the way, Mrs. Dale, talking of millinery, where are your bonnets
going to, they are three stories and a mansard at present?"

"Oh, only a cupola, Mr. Buckingham, on which birds will perch."

"How so; I was under the impression the bird hunt is a thing of the
past?"

"No, indeed! not while there are men in the field."

"How so; I do not follow you?"

"Stupid, you are born huntsmen, our bonnets are a perch for a decoy,
and," she added, looking at him archly, "our faces are under them."

Here there was merry laughter from Mrs. Gower and Captain Tremaine, the
former saying gaily,

"You would not accomplish it, the strength of will of one of the party
would keep the whole uppermost. I appeal to Mr. Smyth."

"I am with you, Mrs. Gower; Tremaine must go under, even though he is an
Irishman."

"Irish questions always do get muddled, eh, Smyth?" said Dale, jokingly,
seeing that Smyth, intent on dinner, had not heard the argument.

"That they do, Dale. Which is it, Mrs. Gower, the Coercion Bill or Home
Rule?"

"Neither," she said, laughingly, "we were on the 'Peace Party' (you
remember the meeting at the Gardens, on last Sunday); and I have been
suggesting that the Body Guard bury their pretty uniforms, and Captain
Tremaine raises the war-cry of, 'bury the Peace Party, chairman and all,
first.'"

"Oh, that's it! Tremaine knows the indomitable will of one of them would
cause more dust to be kicked up than one sees on a March day on Yonge
Street."

"Out-voted, Captain Tremaine, we weep 'salt tears' over your becoming
uniform; but seriously speaking, though a High Court of Arbitration
would be a grand spectacle, it will be only after years of evolution,
and when, as Mr. Blake, the chairman said, 'the voice of the private
soldier, instead of the general officer, is heard.'"

"If I should ever have the ill-fortune to be drafted," said Smyth,
laughingly, "I should fight to the death against my enrolment; an
hospital nurse, like the Quaker-love, would suit me better; such rations
as a man gets on the field."

"I know for a fact," said Dale; "that recruiting during the present year
in England, has been far below the average of the last few years."

"Indeed! I was not aware," said Buckingham.

"By the way, Smyth," said Tremaine, "have you seen, what do you call
him, 'Henry Thompson,' in his defence or answer to his critics?"

"I have, and he was able for them every time."

"Are you speaking of the journalist who went to jail in the interests of
the _Globe_?" asked Dale.

"Yes."

"His defence was capital, I thought," said Dale, "and I especially liked
the way he stands up for his craft. 'There is no class of men,' he says
bravely, 'in existence, animated by more humane motives than working
newspaper men.'"

"I also read his reply with pleasure," said Mrs. Gower, "and reading it,
thought what a clever and original fellow he must be."

"Talmage and Silcox have been lauding the power of the press to the
skies," said Smyth; "they made me wish I surveyed the earth from an
editor's chair, rather than from a tree I climbed to escape York mud."

"Have you heard how the Grand is going to cater to our dramatic taste
this coming season, Mr. Buckingham?" asked Mrs. Gower.

"Just a whisper, Mrs. Gower, as to Emma Juch, Langtry and Siddons."

"Yes; so far so good. Have you heard that the rail makes no special
rates for travelling companies?"

"I have; so you may expect that those who will pay the high toll, will
be those of the highest standard."

"Then I suppose (though it seems selfish) we should be content with the
rail rates as they are."

"You will enjoy the debates, Dale," said Smyth, "in the Local House
during the session; Meredith is just the man to lead our party."

"But I am not sure that it is our party, Smyth; I scarcely know how I
should vote here; if Meredith is right, why doesn't he prove to Ontario
that Mowat has held the reins too long?"

"So he will before next election," replied Smyth, with a satisfied air.

"Don't be too sure, Mr. Smyth, eloquent though he be," said his hostess;
"while that clever Demosthenes of his party, Hon. C. F. Frazer, says him
nay."

"Do you meditate a long stay, Buckingham, in this the white-washed city
of the Dominion?" asked Tremaine.

"Yes, off and on all winter; you know I intend to purchase some of your
mineral lands, since you allow them to lie undeveloped," he added,
jestingly.

"You see, Capt. Tremaine," said Mrs. Gower, merrily, "the American Eagle
done in silver is not as yet plenty with us."

"Don't despair, Tremaine, Commercial Union is looming up," said
Buckingham.

"Treason! treason!" laughed Tremaine, "for we know what it would
father."

"Hear, hear," cried Smyth.

"Oh, I don't know," laughed Mrs. Gower, "they say it is the Main-e idea
for settling; here's a pretty mess! here's a pretty mess--of fish!"

"We can wait," said Buckingham, quietly, "evolution will bring about the
Maine idea, with you also."

"Did you say you are going to Maine, Mr. Buckingham, we cannot do
without you now," said pretty Mrs. St. Clair, caressingly.

"Thank you, Mrs. St. Clair, I do not go; but even if so, you would, I
fear, miss me less than your latest fad in the pet quadruped."

"How severe you are, Mr. Buckingham. Are all New York men so, Mrs.
Dale?" She sighed, having a penchant for him.

"It's annexation, Mrs. St. Clair," said Mrs. Dale, mischievously.

"Annexation! is Mr. Buckingham going to be married?"

"I believe so." At this juncture Master Noah St. Clair, who had come
instead of his father, was interested in other than his plate, while his
mother said reproachfully:

"It _cannot_ be true, Mr. Buckingham."

"Mrs. Dale is disposed to be facetious, Mrs. St. Clair; you must not
swear by everything she says."

"That is an evasive answer, and I am dying to know; tell me, _dear_ Mrs.
Dale, what it means?"

"Which, annexation, or Mr. Buckingham?" said her tormentor.

"Oh, both, of course," she said, breathlessly.

"Both; well, when I come to take a good look at him, Mrs. St. Clair, he
looks important rather than severe, his reason is, he believes, the best
part of Canada pines for annexation; _comprenez vous_?"

"Oh, is that what you meant," she replied, with a relieved air, when,
catching her son's eye, she said, with assumed carelessness, "I do miss
my men friends so much when they marry."

"He is as cold as ice," whispered Mr. Cobbe, who, though a man of birth
and breeding, prides himself upon being a flirt; "he is an icicle, I
wonder you waste your warmth upon him."

"Nice man," she thought, "and only the second time I've met him; he must
be in love with me, too, poor fellow," and, in an undertone, she says,
"That's the way all you men speak of each other, but he is only so
before people."

"You had better throw him over, an Irish heart is warmer than an
American," he said, in his deep tones, into her ear.

"But the poor fellow would break his heart," she whispered, her cheeks
flushing; he, equally vain, continued:

"Not he, a successful speculation would console him; and I--and I would
console you."

"Are you always so susceptible?" she asked, turning her pretty enamelled
face around to be admired.

"No, indeed; but a man doesn't meet as pretty a woman as you every day,
as your mirror must tell you."

"How you gentlemen flatter," well aware that he is admiring her pretty
hand and delicate wrist, as she holds aloft a bunch of transparent
grapes.

"Not you," and for the moment he meant it; the particular she of the
hour feasting on the nectar her soul loves, never dreaming that the next
passable looking female in propinquity with him will be also steeped to
the lips in the same food, "not you," he said, with a fond look.

"Thank you," she said, prettily, and with the faith of her early teens,
"I must tell you a pretty compliment a gentleman paid me at the
'Kirmiss' last season, he said 'I was a madrigal in Dresden china.'"

"Too cold, too cold," he said, thickly, managing to press her fingers as
they rose from the table, ere she laid her hand on the arm of Mr. Smyth,
to whom she had been allotted, but who never spoiled his dinner by
giving beauty her natural food.

On Mr. Dale declining to linger, leading his hostess back to her pretty
drawing-room, she said in his ear:

"You have dubbed me queen of Holmnest, therefore must obey when I bid
you back to the dining-room for a smoke."



CHAPTER VI.

COFFEE AND CHIT-CHAT.


"What a lovely little home you have, Mrs. Gower," said her friend, Mrs.
Smyth, seating herself near her hostess, the pale blue plush of the
padded chair contrasting well with her fair hair, pink cheeks and pretty
grey eyes.

"That chair becomes you at all events, dear," said her hostess, seeing
that a maid deftly passed coffee bright as decanted wine, afterwards
small bouquets of beautiful pansies and clematis among her guests, from
huge glass and Japanese bowls.

"I could scarcely believe Will, when he wrote me of your good fortune,
you know, the children and I were at Muskoka."

"Yes, I knew you would be glad. I bought this pretty little place the
week you left, it seemed after years of waiting, my money (what is left
of it) all came right in a day; you do not know how glad I am to at last
see you in a home of my own--and in a chair pretty enough to become you,
dear," she added more brightly.

"Oh, you always make the most of small kindnesses shown you, we were
only too glad to have you."

"Be that as it may, I shall always remember the bright hours with
yourselves in the dark days of my life," she said, warmly.

"When did you see Charlie?" asked Mrs. Smyth, in an undertone, for there
are other ears.

"This afternoon."

"This afternoon!"

"Yes; and you will be surprised to learn he takes the rail for the
seaboard to-night."

"To-night! Why, and whither, it must be a sudden move, for he was up for
a smoke with Will the other night and said nothing of it; but," she
added, laughingly, "he prefers a lady confidant when it's Mrs. Gower.

"Don't you think, Lilian, that the opposite sex is usually chosen to
lend an ear?" she said, carelessly, to conceal a feeling of sadness at
the out-going of her friend; for she is aware that the old friendly
intercourse is broken, now that he has gone to his wedding.

"He has gone to be married; I suppose, he said something to us a long
time ago about it, but he told it in a clouded kind of way; I wish he
had confided in me, for Will would not care a fig, but every woman
doesn't draw such a prize as I. Perhaps when you get number two he will
not allow the opposite sex to confide; but talking of the green-eyed
monster, reminds me of two scandals on our street." As she now raised
her voice, the other ladies pricked up their ears. Mrs. Dale exclaiming:

"Scandals! sounds like Bertha Clay's novels. May poor Mrs. Tremaine and
self come in. We have been on sermons, servants, and the latest infants;
a scandal will be as refreshing as Mrs. Gower's coffee."

"I guarantee you an appreciative audience, Mrs. Smyth," laughed her
hostess, "curtain rises over 'another mud-hole for us to play in.'"

"What a case you are, Mrs. Gower, but I must cut them short, for I would
not for worlds Will and the other gentlemen come in while they are on."

"No fear of scandals in your home, Mrs. Smyth," said Mrs. Tremaine,
"with Will always first."

"That's so; well, to begin, before I went to Muskoka, a lady and
daughter came to reside near us. As they went to our church, Will said
call; I did. Since my return, I heard from Mr. Cobbe," here turning
suddenly to Mrs. St. Clair, to whom Mrs. Gower had overlooked
introducing her, said: "I beg pardon, I should not name names."
Continuing, "Mr. Cobbe told me the young lady had been married, and
divorced. Some young fellow, in a good position down East, hearing she
had some ready cash, wed and deserted her at close of honeymoon. Well,
the other evening she was married again! at the house quite privately,
and to whom do you think? to none other than, as the newspapers state,
Norman Ferguson MacIntyre!"

"To Norman MacIntyre! oh, what a pity," cried Mrs. Tremaine, in dismay,
"his mother and sisters are such pleasant people, and had very different
hopes for him; it is simply dreadful."

"But he can throw her overboard, I am sure," cried Mrs. Dale. "If he
only have his wits about him, the first marriage likely took place in
Canada, the divorce across the line, don't you see; she is the precious
prize of the gay deceiver, your friend is free."

"But, even if this be so, Mrs. Dale," said Mrs. Smyth, excitedly, "no
girl will care to marry poor Norman afterwards."

"I am willing to stake our Pittsburg foundry on his chances," said Mrs.
Dale, cooly.

"And I, Holmnest," echoed Mrs. Gower, "_poor_ Norman has but to stand in
the market-place."

"I think they have both lowered their social standing; don't you, Mrs.
Tremaine?" said Mrs. Smyth.

"I do, indeed."

"It altogether depends upon their bank account," said their hostess,
sententiously; "and now for your next, for your mouth is still full of
news, dear."

"Oh, yes; but my next is a _bona fide_ married couple."

"But are they according to the Church Prayer Book?" said Mrs. Dale, with
her innocent air.

"Oh, yes, certainly; and some say she is like a china doll, and the
husband, a great big, ugly, black-looking tyrant; but the gentlemen are
coming, and I must cut it short, and only say that a man handsome as
Lucifer."

"Before the fall, I suppose," said her hostess.

"Yes, yes, you naughty woman. Well, they say this handsome fellow is
there whenever the husband is out, and a pock-marked red-headed boy
(some say their son) is there to watch the pretty wife, and their name
is St. Clair." Sensation!

At this moment a pin is ran into the arm of the breathless narrator.

"Oh, mercy!" she cried, looking around discovering the boy Noah St.
Clair, whom every one had forgotten seated on a footstool behind her,
who said vengefully, indicating by a gesture Mrs. St. Clair and himself,
"That's _our_ name; it's _us_."

"Gracious, Mrs. Gower, what have I done? Pardon me, I was under the
impression that this lady's name was Cobbe. I don't know how I got
things muddled; I thought she was some relative of our Mr. Cobbe."

"Never mind, dear; I should have introduced you; don't apologize; there
are other St. Clairs in Toronto than my friends."

"I don't mind it in the least," purred the pretty doll; "some one is
always talking about me. Women are jealous of my complexion and all my
admirers; but I think my name is prettier than Cobbe."

"Yet 'tell my name again to me,' am always here at beauty's call," said
Mr. Cobbe, hearing his name on entering with the other gentlemen.

"You, as a Bona Dea, have been our toast, Mrs. Gower," said Buckingham,
quietly, as he sank into a chair near her own.

"And my inclinations, I hope," she said, laughingly, "with no saving
clause as to their being virtuous."

"I appeal to your memory of the 'Antiquary,' Mrs. Gower; could any man
living toast you as the Rev. Mr. Battergowl did Miss Grisel Monkbarns?"

"I don't know; perhaps some would desire to make a proviso."

"Then they would err; I should give a woman of your stamp any length of
line."

"Thank you; your confidence would not be misplaced, when in honor bound
I have ever felt as though I did not belong to myself."

"I should judge so; underlying your gaiety conscientiousness holds you
to an extent few would dream of; you have frequently sacrificed yourself
to a mistaken sense of duty. Am I not right?"

"Yes; I have been a slave to what I used to think the voice of
conscience, but which I am now sure was extreme sensitiveness, and a
sort of moral cowardice; but how strange you should read me so truly."

"Not at all, I am a phrenologist; if you will allow me the very great
privilege, I shall read your character to you in some quiet hour."

"With very great pleasure. And now will you do me another favor? Make my
piano sing and speak to us."

"Thank you; I should like to try your instrument. It is from Mason &
Risch, I see."

Having arranged a table at whist and euchre, Mrs. Gower seated herself
to enjoy the entrancing music, while looking over some photographs to
amuse the boy Noah St. Clair, but it was not to be, for the voice of Mr.
Cobbe said in her ear:

"This won't do; you _must_ come to the library with me; I have not had a
single word with you all evening, and am, as you are aware, an uninvited
guest."

"Why invite you, Philip? Alas! there is invariably discord with your
presence," she says sadly, in the lowest of tones, moving away from the
curious gaze of the boy.

"Sit here, Elaine, if you positively refuse to leave the room with me,"
he said excitedly, indicating a tête-à-tête sofa not within ear-shot of
her guests, managing to detain her until, the hours creeping on apace,
freighted with the music of soft laughter, and ravishing songs without
words by the skilled performer, Mr. Buckingham, when pretty Mrs. Dale's
sweet voice is heard, as she rises from the table, saying triumphantly:

"Win! of course we won. Why, Mr. Dale will tell you, Mr. Smyth, that in
our card circle at New York, mine is dubbed 'the winning hand.'"

"Indeed! no wonder at our good fortune. Congratulate us, Mrs. Gower; we
won three straight games, all by reason of the admirable forethought of
my partner," cried Smyth, exultantly.

"Forethought always comes in a head's length, Mr. Smyth. Now, if you
could only gain a pocket edition of the winning hand, your surveys would
yield you a gold mine," said his hostess, gaily.

"Instead of as now, a few promissory notes," laughed Smyth.

"The gentlemen have been envying you your monopoly of Mrs. Gower, Mr.
Cobbe," said lively Mrs. Smyth, in an undertone; "she is an awful flirt,
you had better take care of yourself," she added, mischievously.

"I mean to," he said savagely, and with latent meaning, adding, "she is
as fickle as her clime; I hope," he said, endeavoring to control
himself, "all you ladies are not so heartless."

"Oh, no; we are as constant as the sun, compared to her," she said, half
jokingly.

"Would you be so to me," he said thickly, and coming near her.

"Go away, Mr. Cobbe; don't look at me like that, you awful man," she
whispered, laughingly.

"When may I call, you are the right sort of woman," he continued,
persistently.

"Will says so, any way," she said, archly.

"Say to-morrow," he persisted.

"Will!" she cried, mischievously, "Mr. Cobbe's compliments, and desires
to know when he will find you in your sanctum, he wishes to smoke the
pipe of peace with you."

"Hang it," thought Cobbe, "she has no ambition beyond Will; give me the
Australian women after all."

"Almost any evening, Cobbe, I am always good for a smoke; but my wife
says I'd better retrench, the house of Smyth is increasing so rapidly;
good-night."

"May I see you home, Mrs. St. Clair?" asked Mr. Cobbe, fervidly.

"It would be too sweet--but oh!" and her arm above the elbow is rubbed,
for the boy Noah has pinched her severely, saying,

"I'll tell papa."

At this juncture Thomas appeared, saying, a coupé had arrived for Mrs.
St. Clair and Master Noah.

"I must see you to-morrow, Mrs. Gower, after office hours," said Cobbe,
adding, on meeting the sharp eye of Mrs. Dale, "I have something very
particular to tell you."

"Say the day after, Mr. Cobbe, please; I shall endeavor to restrain my
curiosity so long, even though I am a woman."

"No, no, I must see you to-morrow at five p.m.," he said, impulsively.

"The yeas have it this time, Mr. Cobbe. Mrs. Gower belongs to us for
to-morrow," said Mrs. Dale, drawing her wrap about her, over her
cream-silk robe, slashed with blue velvet, and laced amid innumerable
buttonholes, her innocent look only apparent while, in reality, she is
dissecting him, "our kind hostess does some of the lions with us
to-morrow afternoon; the evening, she spends with us at the Queen's."

"Yes, we have no end of a bill for to-morrow," said Mr. Dale; "the
Normal School, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, office of the _Mail_, and the
University of Toronto."

At this there was a transformation scene, the face of Mr. Cobbe changing
like a flash from inane sulkiness to jubilant triumph.

"To the University! then Mrs. Gower will tell you what a paradise we
enjoyed, when I alone was her companion there," he said, with
excitement; and having previously made his adieu, he departed, chuckling
inwardly at his parting shot, and thinking for once she is nonplussed.
"She is too high-spirited to sleep comfortably to-night, if so, she'll
dream of me in spite of herself."

"What a funny man!" exclaimed Mrs. Dale, "reminds me of a Jack on wires.
If I were in your place, Mrs. Gower, I'd hand him over to his mother to
bring up over again; till to-morrow, farewell."

"_Au revoir_, dear."

"Good night, Mrs. Gower," said Buckingham, with a firm hand-clasp; "your
evenings leave one nothing to wish for, save for their continuance."

"If your words have life, prove them by coming again; good night."



CHAPTER VII.

ACROSS THE SEA TO A WITCH'S CALDRON.


Broadlawns, on the outskirts of Bayswater, London, England, on the
evening Charles Babbington-Cole, from Toronto, Canada, is expected, is
all aglow with lights; its exterior a goodly spectacle with its many
windows. A long, low, rambling house, the front relieved by cornice and
architrave, and an immense portico from which white stone steps, wide
and worn by many feet, lead to the lawns and gardens, which are gay with
bright flowers, intersected with old-fashioned serpentine walks; one
would call it not inaptly a garden of roses, such were their number,
such their variety and beauty. Great masses of rhododendrons, with the
fragrant honeysuckle, sweet-briar, and lauristina lent perfume to the
air. Some fine oaks, with beech and graceful locusts, gave beauty to the
lawns; stone stables, with farm and carriage houses at the back, with
paved court-yard, and kitchen-garden luxuriant in growth, a very horn of
plenty.

"A lovely spot, an ideal home," said numerous passers-by to and from the
modern Babylon. Alas! that the interior should be a very _inferno_; in
the library are assembled the family, for a family talk.

Miss Villiers, to whom did we not give precedence, would trample on some
one to gain first place. Timothy Stone, her maternal uncle, and
Elizabeth Stone, his sister and Aunt to Miss Villiers; the latter by
sheer strength of will, since her babyhood, has ruled at Broadlawns,
even though, owing to disastrous speculation, the whole family were
penniless, save for the large fortune of her step-mother, Miss Villiers
lived for, moved and had her being for kingdom. Intensely selfish, and
totally devoid of feeling, an apt pupil of her aunt and uncle, she
regards all sentiment, romance or disinterested acts of kindness as
mawkish, unpractical foolishness.

A word of her looks. In height, five feet two, round shoulders slightly
high, thin spare figure, a brunette in coloring; stony eyes of piercing
blackness, always cold and searching as though planted closely in the
forehead to read one through, as to whether any of her dark secrets have
been discovered; a hook nose, thin, determined lips; hair black as the
wing of a raven; the back of her head covered with short, snake-like
curls, the front was drawn back in straight bands, thus giving
prominence to features already too unclassically so.

As far as a man can be said to resemble a woman, so did, in looks and
character, Timothy Stone his niece, save that his once coal-black hair
is now white; his fishy eyes sunken, though keen as a razor; in height,
five feet ten; of spare, alert figure, active as a prize racer, knowing
as the jockey who rides him.

Elizabeth Stone is an older counter-part of her niece, save that she
wears that fashionable mantle of to-day--the cloak of religion, in
which, unlike her brother, she is so comfortable as never to allow it to
fall from her angular shoulders.

The library, an old-fashioned, cold looking room, furnished in black
oak, everything being in spotless order, from books biblical and
secular, to Aunt Elizabeth's hands, folded just so on her stiff gown of
black silk, as to cause one to long for _déshabillé_ somewhere other
than in the principles of those present.

"The only one whom we have to fear is Sarah Kane, and you, Margaret,
_will_ keep her about the place in spite of all I can say," said her
uncle, in crabbed tones; "mark my words, you are housing a rod for your
own back by your abominable self-will."

"I am no fool; did I dismiss her I should convert her into a deadly
enemy at once; but, as I have before had occasion to remark, Uncle
Timothy, that, thanks to your tuition and blood, I am quite able to take
care of myself, and minus your interference."

"Don't squabble with her, Timothy, when the man Providence is sending
her as a husband may be in our midst at any moment; as you heard at the
hotel, he is now in the city."

"Oh bosh, Elizabeth, keep that tone under your church hymnal, as I do;
between ourselves it is slightly out of place," and he smiled
sarcastically.

"No, Timothy, in spite of the sinful example you set me, I shall keep my
lamp trimmed and burning; providence is very good to us in laying low of
fever, at Montreal, Hugh Babbington-Cole, thus giving him time to
repent, as also preventing his presence at the wedding of Margaret."

"At which you have been making mountains of mole hills," said her
brother, grimly. "Babbington-Cole could not possibly remember what
Margaret and Pearl looked like in eighteen-seventy."

"Your memory is as usual convenient, Timothy, relentless time would have
shown him the difference in years, of a girl just of age, and a woman of
thirty-nine."

"Enough, Aunt Elizabeth," interrupted her niece, pale with rage, "I
simply won't allow you to allude to the subject of ages; if I am to play
the role of twenty-one, the sooner I get into the part the better for us
all; we all serve our own ends in this game, self-interest is, and ever
has been, our strongest motive. For myself, I hate Pearl Villiers as I
hated my step-mother before her, and I shall not willingly leave
Broadlawns merely because we have no income to keep it up, when, by
personating my step-sister--fortunately of my own Christian, as well as
surname, thanks to the British habit of perpetuating family names--I
gain the wherewithal to either remain in this peaceful English home,"
she said, ironically, "or roam across seas with the husband or crank I
am about to wed--a crank! to revolve the wheels of fortune, while I
leave you both here like a pair of cooing doves. You, Aunt Elizabeth,
gain your revenge on Mr. Babbington-Cole for his preference for my
step-mother to yourself; oh, you needn't wince, my ears have been put to
their proper use. You, Uncle, were spurned by my angel step-mother, you,
pining not for her, but her yellow sovereigns, so...."

"You are a witch, Margaret; how the d----l did you find it out?"

"Timothy, Timothy, be good enough not to swear in my presence."

"Oh, I have gleaned the truth in various devious paths from Sarah Kane
in a weak mood, also letters, and I have not lost my sense of hearing;
as you have told me since I could lisp that my wits are sharper than
Rodgers' cutlery; yes, if Broadlawns went to its owner or the hammer,
you joined the Salvation Army, and my step-sister dangled the purse, I
feel it in my bones that I could now rival my tutors in living by my
wits," she said, cruelly.

"You are not devoid of common sense, Margaret; and as we may not have
another opportunity before your importunate suitor appears, I shall
refresh your memory by reading again a clause or two of your late
step-mother's will ... 'to my husband, Henry Villiers, I bequeath the
life use of one thousand pounds sterling per annum; at his death I will
and bequeath the whole of my real and personal property to my only
daughter (Pearl) Margaret Villiers ... on my little (Pearl) Margaret
Villiers attaining her majority, and becoming the wife of the aforesaid
Charles Babbington-Cole, son of my friend, Hugh Babbington-Cole, of the
Civil Service, Ottawa, Canada; my said daughter shall enter into
possession of all my real and personal property, with the advice of Dr.
Annesley, of London, England, or Hugh Babbington-Cole, Esquire,
aforesaid, my said daughter to inherit all, subject to the following
gifts. To Sarah Kane, five hundred pounds sterling and my wearing
apparel; my piano, harp and music, I will and bequeath to the
sister-in-law of my husband, Elizabeth Stone, for her mission-work, with
the hope that their sweet notes will make her less acid to my poor
little daughter, as also to the daughters of the poor to whom she brings
the Gospel message of peace. To my step-daughter, Margaret Villiers, I
leave my forgiveness for her persistent and unvarying unkindness to
myself, with my copy of the Christian Martyrs.'"

"Fool!" muttered her step-daughter, vengefully.

"Poor, carnal creature, we are now ordained to be almoners of the gold
she would have spent sinfully on her daughter; we are saving Pearl from
the perils of the rich, for easier is it for a camel to go through
the----"

"Enough of that cant, Aunt; please keep it bottled up, it don't go down
with us," interrupted her niece, hastily.

"The will is plain enough, considering that it was written by herself,
and witnessed by Dr. Annesley, and that sneak, Silas Jones; how much the
latter knows is hard to tell, I have pumped him indirectly without
avail; Annesley, being a busy London physician, will not bother himself
in the matter now that Villiers is dead; he has no more love for us than
we for him; our card is to expedite your union with speed and privacy;
you will most likely go to Canada, as I expect Charles (as we best
accustom ourselves to call him) will prefer such arrangement; I shall
pay you regularly----"

"Yes, you'd better not try any of your sharp tricks on me, Uncle; if the
cheque is not forwarded to the day, Trenton and Barlow will interview
you; my sword will also hang by a hair."

"How confoundedly smart we are," he answered, wrathfully.

"I have been brought up in a good school," she replied, sententiously.

"I am glad you are able to appreciate our many useful lessons to you,"
he said, sneeringly. "And now to business; three thousand pounds per
annum will be a large income for Canada; especially, as knowing your
generous nature, I feel sure it will be all spent on your own wants; had
you not better leave us three thousand, and pinch yourself," he said,
sarcastically, "on two thousand?"

"Not much! anything I don't spend on myself, as you observe, I shall
invest in, I think, C. P. R. stock, or even Grand Trunk, as it is
looking up, there being a rumor that next year it will form a connection
by way of Duluth, with the Manitoba boundary rail, thus placing itself
in competition with the C. P. R. You need not stare, I am making myself
conversant with the state of the Canadian money market."

"How wise we are. I can tell you that only a fool would invest in such
like, with that Red River Valley Railway bungle on. What I want to be
made aware of is, have you determined on taking no less than three
thousand per annum?"

"I have positively so determined. I don't think I look like a fool."

"I do--in a pink muslin, with as much ribbon hanging over your bustle as
would make a decent gown."

"You are neglecting your education, uncle, in your favorite game of gold
grab. I'd advise you to go to the city and take a few lessons from the
clerks at Swan & Edgar's; they will tell you that in society a bustle is
a _tournure_. As for my dress, my role is twenty-one, and I must bear
some resemblance to the sweet lines of the poet--of

    'Standing with reluctant feet,
    Where the brook and river meet.'"

"Dear, dear, what frivolity, and the suburban train is due; we should
unite in thanking Providence that this gold is in our hands; but
previously, Margaret, you should stipulate in writing that your uncle
may pay me the sum of one hundred pounds per annum for my good works.
There is Meg Smith, actually pining for her drunken husband, who says he
won't reform until he gets her again; but I have my foot down, and shall
keep them apart even if we have to pay her board; there is no use in my
telling them not to be 'unequally yoked with unbelievers,' and then give
in. I could cite dozens."

"Pray do not. It's my belief all you women care for is power to rule:
the wretches would be far better without your government. Heaven
preserve me from a woman with a mission," said her brother in disgusted
tones. "As to my promising to pay you any stipulated sum, you will
receive your allowance for wearing apparel, and anything you can crib
out of the housekeeping you will (all women take to that card
naturally); but remember, if I find myself on short rations there will
be the devil to pay."

"One word more, as the speakers say," said Miss Villiers, "ere we
dissolve this profitable (I use the word advisedly) meeting: what fable
shall we concoct as to the whereabouts of my angelic step-sister?"

"What an unpleasant way you have of putting things Margaret," said her
aunt.

"I prefer on occasion to call 'a spade a spade,' Aunt Elizabeth. Well,
uncle, shall it be as to her self-reliant spirit, and that she (being a
mistake which means anything) has fled to that broad and convenient
field, the United States of America?"

"Yes, that will pass; but I scarcely think he will inquire, as he has
never troubled himself about his betrothed or yourself until you hunted
him up."

"At your instigation; so disinterested in you, never thinking of the
feathers for your own nest."

"The suburban train is due!" exclaimed her aunt. "Do, Margaret, endeavor
to act like a Christian."

"Never fear, Aunt Elizabeth; I shall act my part as well as you do, with
self-interest as motive-power: our sex play without a prompter; and now
to the drawing-room to awe the ignorant Colonial by our British gold and
conventionalities."



CHAPTER VIII.

A TROUBLED SPIRIT.


With mingled feelings of disinclination and repulsion, also an undefined
sense of dread and reluctance, poor C. Babbington-Cole left the _City of
Chicago_ and, again on _terra firma_, made his way up from the seaboard
to London, where at Morley's Hotel he and his father had arranged to
meet. "Hang it," he thought moodily, "I feel like an infernal frog out of
Acheron, covered with the ooze and mud of melancholy. Jove, if I could
only chance upon the Will Smyths or Mrs. Gower, what a tonic they would
be; how they would enjoy this madding crowd with all the world abroad,
with no blue blood in the beef they eat either; judging from red cheeks
and stout ankles. What women! cotton batting would not be a safe
investment here; I hope the governor is waiting for me at Morley's, but
he must be, as he took the _Circassian_ from Quebec on the 16th. I'll
persuade him not to go out to Bayswater at all, but to abandon this debt
of honor, as in his sensitive nature he dubs his promise to a dead
woman, for I have no hankering after a martyr's crown. If I am coerced
(for I am made of very limp stuff) into this union and she is not a girl
I can care to spoon over, and must 'write me down as an ass' for selling
my liberty to, then adieu to wedded bliss--I shall again content myself
in a den by myself, and my craze for mechanism shall be my wife and my
few real friends my mistress. Jove! though, I must strain my eyes and
endeavor to see a glimmer of light in the black clouds; if she be a girl
after my own heart she will sympathize after a more practical manner
than did the 'twenty with Bunthorn,' in giving me the dollar to develop,
and obtain a patent for one or other of my inventions. Yes, I'll be a
soldier. I am nearing the battle-field; with the smell of powder in my
nostrils, I will gain strength. Cabby is reining in his steed, so this,
I suppose, is my hotel."

"Morley's, sir; and 'ere be a porter for your baggage, sir."

"All right," and springing from the four-wheeler he is interviewing the
clerk.

"Has Mr. Babbington-Cole, from Ottawa, Canada, arrived?"

"No, sir; are you Mr. C. Babbington-Cole?"

"Yes."

"Then here is a cablegram for you, sir."

It was from his father, and ran thus:

     "ST. LAWRENCE HALL,
          "MONTREAL, Sept. 20th.

     "To C. BABBINGTON-COLE, Esq.,
          "Morley's Hotel, London, England.

     "Your father has been very ill--typhoid fever; called me in; is
     improving; asks me to cablegram you to return by way of
     Montreal. Longs to see you and your wife, which will be a
     panacea for him.

     "JOHN PEAKE, M.D."

"My father ill! Oh that I could have foreseen all this," exclaimed Cole,
flinging himself into a chair in the privacy of the bedroom assigned
him. "To have to face my fate alone," he thought, "and yet I have been
aware for some time that this was hanging over me; but the truth is, I
thought the girl would never claim me, that they would arbitrate,
divide, have a grab game among themselves, anything other than rope me
in. Had I been gifted with Scotch second-sight, or even caution, I
should not be in this fix now; but I have been made of wax, and so
absorbed in my loved inventions, filling in an emotional half hour with
an occasional flirtation, with my nose to the grindstone the rest of my
time, that this possible 'game of barter,' in which some one says 'the
devil always has the best of it,' rarely occurred to me; but this will
never do in action, only shall I now find repose. I _must_ go out to
Bayswater, and I _must_ wed this girl, unless Heaven works a
miracle--no, unless I act the coward's part, cut and run, I am in for
it. If I could only moralize on the pantheon of ugly horrors half of our
marriages are, and that one might imagine most of them were perpetrated
in the dark, or on sight, as mine, then I might console myself by
thinking that I have as good a chance of happiness as most. My brain is
on fire; if I only had one friend in this vanity fair, wherein to me is
no merriment, the babel of sounds seeming to me the guns of the enemy
warning me to retreat; talk of _delirium tremens_, I have all the blue
devils rolled in one; a stimulant is what I want, to be able to face the
music."

And making his way to the bar, in a short time his spirits, with the aid
of John Barleycorn, arise; though he knows in the reaction they will be
below zero.

"And now for Bayswater and my shrinking young bride," he thought. "I
declare," he said, half aloud, with a forced laugh, "I can sympathize,
for the first time, with the fly who had a bid from the spider to walk
into his parlor. Is there a roaring farce on anywhere?" he asked the
bar-tender.

"Yes, sir; a reg'lar side-splitter at the Haymarket. You will 'ave time
to take in the matinee and dinner at Broadlawns, Bayswater, too, sir."

"How the deuce did you know I was due there?"

"Mr. Stone and Miss Villiers have called three times to look you up,
sir."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, sir; Mr. Stone, he came in, and Miss Villiers, she waited outside
in the trap."

The mere mention of the people from Broadlawns having come to hunt him
up, had such a depressing effect, that he abandoned all idea of
distraction at the play.

"There is not a particle of use of my trying to sit through the farce
with this thumping headache; have a hansom here for me in a couple of
hours, to convey me to Broadlawns; I shall walk out and get a glimpse of
the city."

"All right, thank you, sir."

"Some one hath it," he thought, entering Trafalgar Square, "that the
grand panacea, the matchless sanative which is an infallible cure for
the blues, is exercise, exercise, _exercise!_ so now for a trial; here
goes for five miles an hour."

On, and ever onwards, with, and yet apart from, the stream of busy life,
alone and lonely amidst the throngs not once staying his steps; winging
his flight in the vain effort to flee from self, drifting on the waves
of unrest, they engulfing him, his face white and worn as a ghost, his
blue eyes weary and with a hunted look, a neuralgic headache driving him
to the brink of madness; the panorama of wonderful sights on which,
under other circumstances, he would have feasted his eyes. Peers of the
realm, having gained notoriety in one way or another, passed unnoticed,
with lovely women, from professional beauties reclining in their own
carriages, whose toys were men's hearts, with the world as a stage, to
the avowed actress, whose bright eyes looked from a hired equipage, who
played for men's gold on the stage of the theatre; far-famed Regent
Street was traversed with less interest than he would have accorded to
Lombard Street, Toronto; for man loves freedom as a bird--there he was
free, now he feels his fetters.

"Take care, sir," said a policeman, kindly.

"Blockhead! it would serve him right to come to his senses under the
feet of my horse," said the only occupant of a low carriage, in the
voice of a shrew, as she drove on.

At this juncture Cole shook himself to rights, as it were.

"She was ugly enough to give a fellow a scare, after our pretty Canadian
women," he said to the policeman.

"Oh, she isn't no type of what we can show you, sir; she's but small,
but enough o' her sort, say I."

"Ditto; and now be good enough to hail a cab for me."

"Yes, sir; here you are, and thank you, sir."

"To Morley's hotel."

"All right, sir."

On reaching his destination he learned that Mr. Stone had driven in to
ascertain whether he had arrived, when, on hearing that he had, but was
out, had waited; when a lady, calling for him, had gone, leaving a note
for him, which on opening read thus:

     "DEAR BABBINGTON-COLE,--Am very pleased to hear of your safe
     arrival; have important business, so cannot wait; in fact
     arrangements for the immediate marriage of my niece to
     yourself; kindly come out at once, on your return.

    "Yours sincerely,
        "TIMOTHY STONE."

"The net is well laid," thought poor Cole; "they are bound to rope me
in; how strange it all seems; even my name sounds unfamiliar, having at
home, in dear old Toronto, dropped the Babbington; but I must adorn
myself for the altar." And once more he seeks retirement in his own
chamber. "Hang that evolution of a woman's corsets and curling tongs,
viz., the modern dude! such a choking and tightening a fellow's throat
and legs undergo; I wonder if my shrinking bride will expect me to kneel
to her. Ah! there goes for a rip; under the knee, though, as luck would
have it; not being quite educated up to a chamois pad and face powder,
my modest Pearl will have to be satisfied with candle and throat moulds.
I wonder if she will compliment me on my handsome black moustache, as my
women friends at home do; and now to fortify myself with dinner, or at
least oysters and a glass of stout. Hang it, how faint and dizzy I
feel."



CHAPTER IX.

VULTURES HABITED AS CHRISTIAN PEW-HOLDERS.


In due time his hansom enters the gates of Broadlawns; at the door he is
met by Mr. Stone.

"Welcome to England and Broadlawns," said the spider to the fly, his
ferret-like eyes scanning his victim eagerly, as if to read whether he
would give him trouble. "We have been expecting you for twenty-four
hours; the ladies have been most anxious. Simon, bring this gentleman's
baggage upstairs, to the east room; and put in an appearance soon,
Babbington-Cole, or the ladies will think you a myth."

"Thank you; as I dressed at Morley's, I shall be with you in a few
moments," responded Cole, in subdued accents, feeling that struggles
would be now of no avail, that he was well in their net; but the house
itself would have depressed him under any circumstances. It was solid,
massive, thick-set gloom; happiness and mirth were far away; the cold,
chill atmosphere of distrust, dislike, deceit and hypocrisy dwelt in its
dark corridors and gloomy apartments. The last gleam of "Home, sweet
home," had fled with the spirit of the second wife of its late master;
she, poor thing, was wont to say, "Broadlawns is like a lovely, smiling
face, with a black, lying heart; its exterior is bright with Nature's
beauteous flowers, its interior a very Hades."

Miss Villiers and Miss Stone rose to greet Mr. Cole on his entering the
gloomy, but handsomely furnished oak drawing-room; his first glance at
the former served to show him that the lady who had wished he might come
to his senses under the feet of her horse and Miss Villiers were one and
the same.

"Jove! that vixen," he thought; "but, thank Heaven, there are two
daughters; the other is my one, for my father says she is the prettiest
girl in all England, and this one, ugh, she makes one's flesh creep."

"My conscience, 'tis that dolt," thought his bride-elect, giving her
hand with her false smile. "We expected you to dinner, but cook has my
orders to get you up something, so come with me to the dining-room," she
added, insinuatingly.

"Don't trouble about me, Miss Villiers, I beg; I had a bit of dinner at
Morley's."

"Muff," thought Miss Villiers, spitefully, "not to have taken his chance
to become acquainted."

"Margaret is, as you are aware, Mr. Babbington-Cole, the Christian name
of my niece (and a beautiful name it is); she will be better pleased if
you drop all formality, and call her so, eh, Margaret."

"Yes, under the circumstances," she answered, with a meaning glance.

"Thank you; I have not seen your sister yet; is she quite well?" he
asked, timidly; for, with a forboding of evil, he unconsciously looked
to the sister as an escape.

"Margaret's fascinations fall flat," thought her uncle, with a malicious
chuckle.

"I don't take; he wants a milk and water miss, but no you don't, young
man; you are _my tool_," thought his bride-elect, setting her teeth.

"My poor step-sister is well--I hope, but we never name her; she is a--a
mistake; however, _she_ is not your one."

"But is she not here?" said Cole, nervously, now really frightened,
"does she not reside with you? My poor father said--" here he utterly
broke down. Accustomed ever to lean on some one, of a clinging, trusting
nature, with a strong spice of feminine gentleness, which caused him to
turn to some woman friend for advice or moral support, so that here, in
the hour of his greatest need, he feels doubly alone, as he gazes around
at the three hard, cruel faces, each with a set purpose and false smile
perceptibly engraven, he is in despair. Miss Villiers especially; will
he ever cease to be haunted by her as she sits in a high Elizabethan
chair, an ebony easel exactly on a line with her face, and partly behind
her, on which is a frightful head of Medusa, the reptiles for hair
looking to him, in his highly nervous state, like the tight, crisp curls
and braids covering the head of his bride-elect, and the lines from
Pitt's "Virgil" recurred to his memory:

    "Such fiends to scourge mankind, so fierce, so fell,
    Heaven never summoned from the depths of hell."

Mr. Stone broke the momentary silence by saying, in matter-of-fact
tones:

"It is natural, I suppose, to a man of your seemingly nervous
temperament, to be a little upset at not meeting your father; but, in my
opinion, life is too short for sentiment, especially when wasted as in
this case, for your father, according to cablegram sent us, is
improving, and is, I dare swear, kicking his heels about St. Lawrence
Hall, Montreal, waiting impatiently for your return."

"Yes, Uncle Timothy, yours is the practical view of it; sentiment is, or
should be, a monopoly of the poets; self-interest, with pounds,
shillings and pence, are good enough for us."

"Margaret means to convey, Mr. Charles, that you should be thankful to
Providence that you have been spared to come to us; to a land, also,
flowing with milk and honey, ready to your hand and purse," said her
aunt, sanctimoniously adding, "How is religious life in Toronto?"

"Religious life?" he said, half dazed, wholly absorbed in the thought
that he was to be held in bondage by that stony-eyed woman with
snake-like hair--his Medusa.

"Alas, I fear you are dead in sin, Mr. Charles. You do not even know the
meaning of my words. I have heard that New York is the most wicked city
in America, and you, I fear, frequently go there to participate in the
pleasures of sin. I dread to allow my niece to go out, even as your
wife; it was only the other day I read, copied from one of your
newspapers, that at Tahlequah, which I suppose is near you, that a
Chickasaw Indian was arrested by a deputy United States marshal with
three assistants; the company camped on the prairie, with the exception
of the marshal, who, riding on, reached his goal; waited there until
weary, he rode back, and what did he find? The entire posse with heads
cut off, and the Indian fled. America must be a very Sodom and Gomorrah.
But I see you are not listening to me, Mr. Charles. We have a saintly
young man here, the Rev. Claude Parks, whom I must ask to influence you
to a better frame of mind, with an intense gratitude to Providence for
the favors about to be showered upon you."

Thus did Miss Stone give vent to her feelings to unlistening ears. Fond
of hearing her own voice, it mattered little to her that she received no
replies but to be told impatiently that "he was ill," and to be
compelled to waste the eloquence she seduced herself into believing she
possessed, upon a man with now his hands pressed upon his feverish brow,
now his eyes fixed on vacancy, now upon the entrance as though he would
fain flee, incensed her almost to rage; during the absence of Mr. Stone
and his niece she had determined to improve the occasion, and so read
him no end of lectures. The two absent ones, after a few minutes'
whispered conversation in the library, had crossed the lawn to a neat
cottage where the clergyman in charge of the Bayswater Mission existed
on one hundred and fifty pounds per annum. As they stepped through the
flower beds, which the moon rising in unclouded splendor lit with her
soft white light, Miss Villiers in cold, hard tones, said:

"Yes, you are right; he showed his hand, and of how much he loved me at
first sight, as he asked in that scared way for my sweet sister, but
bah! such maudlin folly in our wasting our precious moments over _his_
feelings in the matter; they are of no more consequence than are the
blades of grass we crush beneath our feet in reaching our goal; let him
laugh who wins, even though the goal be reached by a foul."

"Yes, the sooner we hold the lines the better; he has not spirit enough
to be a runaway horse."

"Let him but try, there is the curb bit and halter."

"Oh, you need not tell me, Margaret, that you will have him well in
hand. Yes, and before that paradise of fools, the honeymoon, is over,"
laughed her uncle sardonically.

"Yes, the grey mare will be the best horse this time; but what a
blessing his father is laid low; it would have been all up, when he saw
how cut up our precious Charles is. I did hope, had they come over
together, they might have been shrewd as their Yankee neighbors, and
gone in with us. Now, if his father should die, we have nothing to fear;
if he lives, we must exercise our wits, that is all. And, now, as to
your little fiction as to the telegram summoning you away at daybreak,
where will you stay?"

"Oh, anywhere, in some quiet cheap boarding-house in East End, London;
perhaps Tom Lang's."

"I suppose it's soft of me, uncle; but I may not have a quiet word with
you again. You must mind, I mean what I say. You must pay aunt one
hundred pounds per annum for her own requirements and beloved mission
work, though what she gives would not buy salt to their porridge, unless
to that of her pet parson himself."

"When you know this, Margaret, why make such an ass of yourself as to
give it her; for, in my opinion, she is hoarding."

"It is in the blood; but you are a monopolist," she said sententiously
as, merely tapping on the door of the cottage, they entered _sans
ceremonie_, meeting the Rev. Claude Parks in the hall, who, shaking
hands with both, said: "I had some calls this evening, but expecting you
in, postponed them. At what hour to-morrow am I to tie the knot?" he
asked smilingly.

"Never put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day, Mr. Parks; you
may take that for your text next Sunday," said Miss Villiers decidedly.

"Nothing like it, Parks," said her uncle in oily tones, rubbing his
hands.

"I shall give you another," said the curate rejoicing in his coming fee.
"'If, when done, 'twere well, 'twere well 'twere done quickly.' Do you
desire me to return with you?"

"Yes," said Miss Villiers, "and at once, if we are to act on our joint
quotations, for it is only two hours until midnight; come, get your
robes of office, and let us be off."

Thus it was that the ways and means did duty, the curate standing much
in awe of Miss Villiers, as well as of Miss Stone; some saying the
latter was his curate, others facetiously protesting that he was hers.
And so she considered him not as the ambassador of Christ, but as a paid
servant of her own, for so does too often the Anglican Church pay its
clergy only sufficient for a dinner of herbs; knowing that man, be he
priest or sinner, being a dining animal, has, at a weak moment, a
craving for the "stalled ox," and if his appetite be too strong for him,
sells himself, like Esau, for a "mess of pottage."

But now to return to Miss Villiers and her uncle, with the Rev. Claude
Parks, as they make their entrée to Broadlawns and its oak
drawing-rooms.



CHAPTER X.

A LUCIFER MATCH.


"Rev. Mr. Parks, Mr. Babbington-Cole, of whom you have heard us speak,
from Canada," said Miss Villiers; and Bengough's modern curate of the
conventional type flashed across the memory of poor Cole. He was a meek
young man, though a true Christian, who spoke in a monotone, his hair
parted, to a hair, in line with the bridge of his nose, and wearing his
hands meekly folded.

After their going round and round the barometer, English and Canadian,
Miss Stone said, primly:

"It matters little whether the poor carnal bodies suffer from the cold.
I fear, out there, souls are cold unto death, starving for spiritual
life and heat. I have been telling Mr. Babbington-Cole, and I feel sure
you will coincide with me, Mr. Parks, that with so many infidels and
wild Indians in his land, they should have their lamps trimmed and
burning."

"You are always orthodox, Miss Stone," chanted Mr. Parks, meekly. "You
look ill, Mr. Babbington-Cole; was the sea too much for you?"

"Yes, and now my head is in a whirl. I feel as if I am in for brain
fever. Would to God I had remained in Canada," he answered feverishly.

"Tut, tut; a night's rest will set you up," said Stone hastily. "You
Canadians are pale in any case, looking as though you feed on gruel."

"Cablegram, sir," said Simon, tapping at the door.

"It's for you, Babbington-Cole," said Stone, handing it.

"From my father's medical man," said Cole nervously, as, on reading it,
he returned it to the envelope, and was about pocketing it, when Miss
Villiers said, putting out her hand:

"I presume we may see it."

Cole, though with visible reluctance, handed it to her, when she read as
follows:

     "ST. LAWRENCE HALL,
            "MONTREAL, 25th Sept.

     "To C. BABBINGTON-COLE, Esq.

     "Typhoid fever left; but taken cold, sore throat; looking most
     anxiously for the return of yourself and Mrs. Cole. _Pray don't
     delay._


    "JOHN PEAKE, M.D."

"Too bad, too bad; but you may yet find your father quite well," said
Stone, with assumed feeling.

"'In the midst of life we are in death,'" said Miss Stone. "I trust your
father has not been a careless liver, Mr. Charles; as a young man, I
remember he was much given to the things of the world."

"My father is no smooth-tongued hypocrite, but has a truer sense of
religion than many representative men and women in our church of
to-day," said Cole, warmly; while thinking, but for his mistaken sense
of honor, I would not now be in this abominable fix.

"You will, I am sure, be anxious to return at once, Mr.
Babbington-Cole," said Mr. Parks, in measured tones. "And as the first
step towards it, as it grows late, if you will arrange yourselves, I
will proceed at once with the service."

"To-night!" exclaimed the victim.

"I think it best, Babbington-Cole," said Stone, firmly, "for you are not
the only one who has received a telegraphic message this evening; mine
summons me away at daybreak for the Isle of Wight, on urgent business;
and as you have crossed the pond to marry my niece, what do you gain by
postponement?"

"By delay," said Miss Villiers, fixing her stony eyes on him, as she
motioned him to stand beside her, "by delay we may miss seeing your
father alive."

"True," said Cole, "and I must find him alive to explain all this," he
added, with feverish haste. And while the service was said in monotone
by the clergyman, so intent was he in performing hidden rites of
vengeance upon his bride for the pantheon of hideous idols she was
making him walk through life in, that he was deaf to the words:

"Wilt thou take this woman to be thy wedded wife?"

And the first caress he received from his bride was a pinch, sharp and
telling; he said, excitedly:

"Take it all for granted, Mr. Parks, I am really too ill to take part."

At the words, "I pronounce that they be man and wife together," etc.,
muffled footsteps and the noise of panting breath is distinctly heard,
and a pale woman, who had evidently come from a distance, with flying
feet entered; the clergyman only seeing her, the others having their
backs to the entrance; but she nears, staying her feet to listen as she
hears the words which add another couple to the long line of loveless
unions, her hurried breathing falls on the ears of those present. All
turn round. Miss Villiers eyes her menacingly, while Miss Stone and her
brother simultaneously point to the door, as she interrupting Mr. Parks'
congratulations, says in heart-rending tones of despair:

"Yes, I will go, for I am too late, too late, alas! for my poor young
mistress and my oath to protect her." And she vanished noiselessly.

The fetters securely fastened, Mrs. Babbington-Cole said, wrathfully:

"A lunatic asylum is the only fit home for Sarah Kane." Turning to her
new-made husband, she says explanatorily, "an old servant, and a crank.
Uncle Timothy, you had better see her caged up somewhere, or pay her
off, and dismiss her."

"Yes, I must; we can't have a madwoman going about like this."

"Alas! how ungrateful of Sarah," sighed Miss Stone. "I fear the seed we
have sown fell on stony ground, Mr. Parks."

"I fear so, indeed," echoed Mr. Parks, as he departed, his heart
gladdened on thinking of the good British gold in his pocket; and from
Mr. Stone, mean though he was, it was worth paying a sovereign to become
the possessor of a yearly income of two thousand pounds. The poor
bridegroom thought not of the parson's fee, which, had he wedded a woman
of his own choice, he would have paid with an overflowing heart, he,
poor fellow, being as generous as morning sunbeams on a beauteous June
day.

The ceremony over! the fraud consummated! the bird snared! the man
fettered! all joy in living, all hope in his heart crushed by a woman.
Cole since hearing the solemn words of the agitated woman, felt as he
threw himself into a chair, burying his head in his hands, as he leaned
forward elbows on knees, as though did some one put a knife to his heart
he would be grateful; he felt feverish and his brain throbbed as it had
never throbbed before. Starting to his feet, he said brokenly, "It is
now my turn to dictate; you will excuse me, I _must_ have time to think,
_and in solitude;_ I go to my own apartment."

"You had better have some supper with us first to celebrate the event,"
said his bride, jocosely, for she feels triumphant.

"No, I thank you, food would choke me, and I am in no mood for revelry."

"You had better, Babbington-Cole," said Stone (who never offered a meal
that he had to pay for), "you had better; an empty stomach is a cold
bed-fellow."

But he was gone. Six ears sharp as needles listened to the sound of his
retreating footfalls, slow and heavy, in ascending the stairs; they
heard him go in and lock his door.

"A loving bridegroom," said Stone, malevolently. "You have evidently
made an impression, Margaret."

"As you did on my sainted step-mother, when she spurned your offer
beneath her feet, history repeats itself, most affectionate of uncles."

"'The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity,'" said Miss Stone,
reprovingly; "let us show a Christian spirit, and prove we are thankful
everything is settled; we have worked hard for it, and have a right to
partake of the feast prepared for the wedding party."

"Had you not better call your recalcitrant spouse, Margaret," said her
uncle, as they repaired to the dining-room and seated themselves;
"perhaps you do not know that the way to a man's heart is through his
stomach."

"No, I shall not disturb his peaceful slumbers; by leaving him to
himself he will the sooner come to his milk. For a beggarly eight
hundred-dollar clerk--Colonial at that--he does not show gratitude as he
should for a three thousand pound per annum wife.".

"I agree with you, Margaret, but I doubt not you will bring him to a
more Christian frame of mind," said Miss Stone, dwelling on each
mouthful of veal-and-ham pie with the relish of an epicure.

"Alone once more, thank God!" said Cole to himself in despairing tones,
throwing himself on to a sofa of stiff, cold horse-hair; "and now to
collect my unwelcome thoughts," he sighed wearily, now walking
restlessly to and fro, now flinging himself down, lying perfectly still.

Some one says that "locality is like a dyer's vat." This room assigned
to Cole would in itself have lent a gloomy, funereal aspect to one's
tone of mind, from the cumbrous bedstead of dark mahogany to the darkest
of hangings and carpet, every article as cold and polished as the black
hair-cloth furniture. No pretty feminine knick-knacks, no bright
pictures, nothing to relieve the eye.

"Alone," he groaned, "yes, but for how long? She will, I expect, think
she has the right to come here; had she forced her hateful presence upon
me to-night I feel that reason would have fled. What could my father
have been about to sell me like this? But there has been some devil's
work. He has been deceived, and I have been completely hemmed in by the
moves of the miscreator circumstance, the cablegram of his physician to
them and to myself to-night. She a modern Medusa, to be a panacea for
him or any one! Poor father, how you have been duped. That they are all
playing some devil's game is clear even to my throbbing brain, no wonder
that ever since I set foot on England's shore I have had a terrible
presentiment of evil hanging over me, and now the very worst has come to
pass: they have roped me in. I have given her, that awful woman, my
name! God save me from madness! Hist! what sound was that? They come!
and yet the hideous midnight revelry is still on below; but they come, a
tap! Jove's thunderbolt, or Vulcan's hammer would be of no avail. I
shall feign sleep."



CHAPTER XI.

THEIR "RANK IS BUT THE GUINEA'S STAMP."


"And what does our Diogenes find to say?" said Mrs. Gower, gaily, as on
the night of the 9th November she gathered a few friends to supper,
after an evening at the Grand Opera House. "Come, Mr. Dale, like a good
man, confess that Mrs. Langtry is worth letting your tub go to staves
for."

"Well, on the whole, yes. I think she has improved."

"Improved! but I suppose one must be content with even such admission
from you."

"But, my dear lady, when a man has seen the best that London, Paris, and
New York can put on their theatre boards, what you in Canada offer is
merely _pour passez le temp_."

"Yes, I suppose one grows to feel like that; but I am glad I have yet a
few sights to see, if, by seeing everything, one loses one's zest for
anything."

"But you surely do not admire her choice of plays?"

"No; but I do really deem her a born actress, as clever as she is
charming."

"One could easily see, Mrs. Gower, that you got the worth of your ticket
in emotional feeling," said Mr. Smyth, laughingly, "for you visibly
trembled when 'ex-Captain Fortinbras' made his triumphant _exposé_."

"Malevolent wretch! a thrill of horror did run through me, as well as of
pity for his unfortunate victim."

"My feelings are not so easily acted upon," said Mrs. Dale. "I was very
coolly watching to see if she could disentangle herself from the
villain's clutches, and her arms from her odious lace sleeves."

"The latter absorbed me," said lively Mrs. Smyth; "if I had such arms I
should never cover them, not even in mid-winter; you ought to pay more
for your ticket than we do, Elaine, you get more--more feelings--than we
do."

"Yes, I must trouble you for some more oysters, Mr. Dale; 'nerve tissue
is expensive,'" she laughingly answered.

"Her gowns, her robings, were in perfect taste," said Buckingham.

"Yes, Oscar Wilde would have breathed a sigh of satisfaction," said Mrs.
Gower.

"Speaking of our color-blending pet," said Mrs. Dale, "he wishes his
baby was a girl; he says girls drape so much better."

"Just fancy a thing like that living in our stirring times, and calling
itself a man," said Dale, contemptuously; "picture him beside the two
liberated Chicago Anarchists."

"Poor fellow! he would feel badly had the Communists the control of his
wardrobe," said Mrs. Gower.

"His would be a capital garb for a surveyor," said Mrs. Smyth; "I wish
Will would adopt it."

"Then would surveyors be on the increase when his measure would be
taken," laughed Mrs. Gower.

"Lilian has vivid recollections of my last home-coming, when I was a
mass of sticky York mud to my knees," said Smyth.

"I remember, Dale, you were disgusted at the Emma-Juch concert by reason
of large hats and small chatter," said Buckingham. "What did you think
of the manner of the audience to-night?"

"I think that, on the whole, when one considers the antecedents of the
moneyed people of Toronto, that they behaved themselves better, showed
more consideration for the feelings of others, in fact, ignored their
fine feathers--remembering that they were not the only occupants of the
theatre--better than at any other gathering of 'beauty and fashion' (in
newspaper parlance), that I have made one at."

"Yes; so I thought," said Buckingham; "and at the theatre, one escapes
the worrying nuisance of recalls, as felt at Toronto."

"I wish some star in the concert world would have the courage to insert
after her name, no encore," said Mrs. Gower, "for though we do recall,
it is astonishing how _ennuyeux_ the best numbers are in repetition."

"Will did an awfully daring thing at the Carreno-Juch concert," said
Mrs. Smyth, eagerly; "we had seats immediately behind the Cawsons; and
you know, Elaine, what a rude, boisterous----"

"My dear," said her friend, in mock reproof; "they are in society! have,
of course, the dollar, and, perforce, are fashionable! what in poor
people we should designate as rude and underbred, we must call in the
Cawsons, and that ilk, 'quite the thing, you know;' but proceed, _ma
chere_."

"Well, Will fidgetted, and they chattered across each other in audible
remarks, on acquaintances in the audience, on a luncheon they were to
give, as to the war-paint of a lady friend who had been presented to
Queen Victoria, when I, the meanest of her subjects (I use the words
figuratively, as Burdette says), pitied royalty; but the climax was
reached when in Raff's 'Ever of Thee,' a particular favorite of Will's,
the 'unruly member' was heard with renewed vigor, when this husband of
mine rose in his might, and to his feet, saying audibly, 'Come, let us
try if the low price seats hold better-bred people.'"

"Bravo! bravo!" cried Buckingham.

"Very well put," said Dale; "short a time as I have been in Toronto, I
have observed that for culture and refinement one must look to the
people who live on modest incomes, or salaries; middle class is a phrase
I find no use for. In this country there are the 'vulgar rich,' whose
'rank is but the guinea's stamp,' and well-bred poor; there are
impoverished gentry, with an innate refinement showing in their too
often struggling descendants; there are the moneyed people, lacking what
filthy lucre cannot buy, namely, good breeding, and who never weary in
parading their jewels, furniture and fine clothes."

"Very true," said Mrs. Gower; "I have frequently thought at some of our
large social gatherings, that it is a pity one's blood cannot be
analyzed instead of one's gown."

"What a resurrection there would be," said Buckingham; "not a few would
long to pocket their own heads."

"A sympathetic artiste must feel any want of oneness in her audience,"
said Mrs. Dale; "I should throw my roll of music at them and retire."

"At which, dear, they would only give their unwearied cry of 'encore,'"
said her hostess; "it is very evident we are all at one in a very
decided distaste for mongrels; but, Mr. Buckingham, during your run on
the Kingston and Pembroke rail you missed hearing the Rev. Jackson
Wray."

"Yes; did he please you?"

"Extremely; both in his sermonizing and in his lecture on George
Whitefield; he is eloquent, and his imagery and figurative language
charmed me."

"Indeed; in that case I regret to have missed him. Did you hear him,
Dale?"

"Yes, and though I regret the not being at one with Mrs. Gower in all
things," he said, smilingly, "must say he pleased me not."

"Pleased you not!" echoed his hostess; "then I abandon you to your tub;
the scholarly, the literary world, would be a desert did your sweeping
criticisms prevail."

"But how so, Dale? one would almost make sure of finding in him a rather
superior excellence, knowing that he holds a pulpit in such a city as
your London."

"Granted, Buckingham; but not only at London, but over the whole
Christianized world, mistakes are to be found in the pulpit."

"Oh, no, Dale, I cannot go with you; 'tis in the pew that mistakes
exist."

"I go with you there, Buckingham," he replied, wilfully misunderstanding
him; "the pew system is selling out the Gospel by the square foot," at
which his friend laughed.

"Mr. Dale," asked Mrs. Gower, "do you never allow the critic within you
to go to sleep, allow your really generous nature full play, and give
yourself up to enjoyment?"

"I do; for instance, now, here is a real enjoyment; but, pray, do not
dub me a critic."

"I fear I must in some of your moods; but see, the mere word, or the
silvery chimes of midnight, are lending wings to your wife, and Mrs.
Smyth: they are deserting us. Are you examining the heavens, dear?" she
says, following Mrs. Dale to a window.

"Look quick, Mrs. Gower, he won't see you if you peer through the slats;
and how awful! in among the bushes, out in that torrent of rain, there
is a----"

"Don't alarm Mrs. Gower," said Buckingham, quietly, who had neared them
unnoticed; "if there is anyone loitering about, let me open the shutters
and window, and step out."

"Good night, Mrs. Gower," called Smyth, from the hall; "our carriage
stops the way, and if I don't make a move, Lil never will," he says,
meeting her.

"Mr. Dale is too fascinating," laughed his wife. "Good night, Elaine;
Will thinks he hears baby crying, or he would not stir."


"Nice little baby, don't get in a fury 'cause mamma's gone to a play at
the theatre," sang Smyth, jokingly.

"Did you _really_ see anyone, Mrs. Dale?" had asked Buckingham, in a
grave whisper.

"I really did; the--but hush, she returns."

"You look pale, Mrs. Gower," he said, kindly, "put me up anywhere to
mount guard over you for to-night."

"Oh, no, I thank you, not for worlds," she said, nervously; but
recovering herself, added, "you know I have Thomas, and Mrs. Dale may
only have seen a shadow, like a cloud which will pass."

"Clouds sometimes precede a storm."

"But not always," she says, with a sudden resolve, "for if Mrs. Dale
will stay with me all night, she will be its silver lining."

"Indeed, I shall with pleasure," she said, eagerly, adding, in mock
condescension, "Good night, Mr. Dale."

"What do you mean, Ella; our cab is here?"

"I am going to stay with Mrs. Gower, Henry, so good night, dear; an
extra blanket and night-cap must be my substitute," she said, as he
kissed her good night.

"Good night, Mr. Dale; you are keeping up your character for
generosity," said Mrs. Gower.

"Come along, Dale," said Buckingham, glad of the arrangement; "I shall
be with you as far as the Rossin House."

"Oh, Henry," called his wife, as he was entering the cab, "don't forget
the schools are on for to-morrow; Mrs. Gower says to come up at one, to
luncheon; don't forget Garfield and Miss Crew; and tell Miss Crew to
send me first thing, by electric despatch, 82 Yonge Street, my plum
walking dress, and bonnet to match, and----"

"No more, dear, please; you should have given it to me in manuscript
form, I fear I shall not remember it."

"Poor Capt. Cuttle, when found make a note on," said Mrs. Gower,
jokingly, but rather nervously, peering out, in and among the dark
bushes.

"I'll coach him," laughed Buckingham.

"Etc., etc., etc.," called out Mrs. Dale, as the hack rolls away.

As the friends turn from the door, Mrs. Gower herself seeing to the
fastenings and putting the chain on, Thomas said:

"Beg pardon, ma'am, but can you step this way, please?"

"But, Thomas," she said, trying in vain to battle with her fate.

"Yes ma'am, I know it's a shame to be a pestering of you at this hour,
but it's----"

"Very well, Thomas, I shall attend to it; excuse me, dear Mrs. Dale, for
a few moments, and then we must really go to bed."

"That's all right; I know what the calls upon a housekeeper are."

Quick as a flash, on the exit of her hostess, the portière hangings are
drawn, the gas at one end turned out, the window flown to.

"Yes, my lady crouches there still, and--yes, that is he on the kitchen
steps; the light from the window points you out to me, my dear
cupid--done up by a west-end tailor; the door opens, which shows me my
kind hostess; and now for the woman--for ferret out this mystery I
shall--for in some way, unknown to me, this gentleman and follower are
worrying the life out of my friend."

With a waterproof on, noiselessly she opens the window and shutters; a
step and the veranda is reached; with beckoning hand she endeavors to
attract the attention of the woman, but without success, as she is
wholly absorbed in watching the door by which the man entered. Afraid of
attracting attention by calling out, she twists a couple of buttons off
her waterproof, throwing them on to the gravel walk; her object is
gained and defeated simultaneously, for the woman, taking fright, makes
for the gate, at which Tyr, who had made his exit on the man making his
_entrée_, swift as a deer, ran barking after her; but she is safe
outside the gate, at which Mrs. Dale quiets Tyr, who has come up to her,
rubbing his cold nose to her still colder hands. And now to make another
attempt. In a few moments the gate is reached; yes, the woman is
standing under the shade of a tree on the boulevard, the lamplight
falling full upon Mrs. Dale.

"Down, Tyr, be quiet; down, I say. Come here, young woman; don't fear, I
only wish to speak to you."

"I won't go there; let me alone, for I warn you, I am a desperate
woman," she growled, in threatening tones, Tyr making a dash to be at
her.

"Come here, Tyr, it's all right. But what is your trouble? If you will
only trust me, I feel sure I can help you," she says, breathlessly, for
she does not wish her friend to miss her.

"_You help me!_ go away with your smooth serpent tongue; away to that
other hussy, in her silks and jewels, robbing an honest woman of
her----"

But her sentence was never finished, for the man is coming; and quick as
a deer she is out of sight.

Mrs. Dale is quietly seated by the cheerful grate, apparently absorbed
in "Cleveland's winning card," as given in _Judge_, when her hostess
returns, looking sad and troubled.

"I don't know how it is I feel so nervous to-night, dear," she said,
seeing to the window fastenings; "I am so glad you are with me, but you
will find me very doleful."

"Not a bit of it, Mrs. Gower; I am no relation to an acquaintance of
mine, who is not content unless one is making a buffoon of oneself for
her especial delectation."

"I fear she would cut my acquaintance in my present mood. I am going to
ask you a favor, dear; it is to call me Elaine; I shall feel less alone
in this big world, and can talk to you more freely, hearing my Christian
name. I dare say it is a childish fancy for a woman of my age, but----"

"But me--no buts. Elaine, we are true friends, and you have some secret
trouble which I ought to share, else, what use is my friendship to you;
you will tell it me, dear?" and the pretty Irish eyes look up into the
dark ones bending over her with a questioning look.

"Tell me first, dear, did you recognize anyone in the garden to-night?"

"I did, Elaine."

At this, covering her face with her coldly nervous hands, she said,
brokenly:

"God help me, I am driven by the winds, and tossed; I must sleep on it
to-night, and if I feel strong enough, tell you all to-morrow."

"That's right, and to insure your being brave enough, you must take the
best tonic, sleep; so let us mount," she said affectionately, rising and
taking her friend's arm.

"Very well, dear; and the dropping rain shall be my lullaby in wooing
the god of slumber."



CHAPTER XII.

ON THE RACK.


It was no heated fancy of a half-delirious brain of our poor friend,
Cole, that he had heard a tap on the gloomy door of the east chamber, at
Broadlawns, on the night he was snared by the huntress; held by the
fetters of a loveless union with Margaret Villiers; but he paid no heed
to the stealthy tap, repeated whenever the revelry below was loudest;
but as silent as the grave, he almost holds his breath as he watches the
door, a look of agony in his tired eyes, which throb as does his head in
neuralgic torture; but now, his strange midnight visitor, as if driven
to desperation by his silence, says through the keyhole:

"For heaven's sake, let me in!"

But no response; he will trust no one under the roof of this hateful
place, to which he has been trapped, in which he has lost his freedom,
in which the terrible conviction has seized him that he is going to be
laid low by the fell hand of sickness. What is that? Yes, he sees a slip
of paper passed under the door; his midnight visitor is evidently bent
on obtaining an interview; pale as a ghost, and trembling in every limb,
he creeps noiselessly to the door, picks up the paper, and reads the
following words:

"I am the woman who came in _too late_ to stop your marriage; _your own
friends_, who are far away, would tell you to see me. For God's sake,
let me do what I can for you, even _now_."

But for her wording, as to his "friends far away," he would have paid no
heed; he remembers now, in a dazed sort of way, amidst the medley he has
been in ever since his arrival, that there was some woman who appeared,
was maligned, and vanished, all in a few seconds. Yes, if he could only
feel sure the oak door only separated him from one not in league with
his enemies, as he now feels them to be, the lock would be immediately
turned; but, should it be a fraud whereby to obtain admittance for the
terrible woman he has wedded, and whom he loathes and fears at the same
time; and so, with his cold, nervous hand upon the lock, he hesitates,
when she again appeals a last time through the keyhole.

"I must go, and leave you to your misery, if you will not open the door;
they are preparing to come up stairs."

At this, the dread of loneliness, the craving for sympathy, with the
sinking feeling of sickness coming over him, the natural instinct of
self-preservation impelling him to risk something in endeavoring to
secure one friend to be about him if he cannot shake off this feeling of
intense lassitude, low spirits, head and brain on fire, and throbbing as
with ten thousand pulses, cause him with a sudden fear lest she should
go, to turn the key, when noiselessly, a pale woman with an intensely
sad expression in her whole countenance, and prematurely grey, enters.

"Poor fellow! and a kindly, handsome face, too; what a sacrifice! God
knows how willingly I would have saved you; but their moves were hidden
from me," she said piteously, in a low whisper, gazing into his face
tearfully, while taking his hands in her own.

In the reaction he flung her off, saying, brokenly,

"Why were you not in time? What trust have you broken so, blighting my
very existence? Out upon you, woman, you may go and leave me to
despair."

"No, no, I must stay; I _will_ stay; you are ill, but will be more calm;
though with _her_! God help you, you will never find peace, never be at
rest."

And throwing her apron over her face, she, too, sank on to the sofa
where he was; but he is, after a few moments, quiet again, and drawing
the covering from her face, which she has used as if to shut out the
view where all, all is misery to the last degree, she turns to look at
him; both hands white, cold and trembling, cover his face, through his
fingers drop scalding tears, silent tears of woe.

"Do not give way so, sir. Poor fellow, you are indeed to be pitied, away
from your home, away from your own land. They sent me off to London on
messages--to get me out of the way--for some things for Miss Villiers,
as then was."

"Don't remind me. God help me. Swear, woman, swear!" he said excitedly,
"to stay by me to get me well; quick, for my inner consciousness tells
me I shall be, nay am, ill; elucidate this mystery, is it money they
want, how can I escape? swear, swear to stay by me in this place,
smelling of brimstone. Swear!" he continued, forgetting time and place,
as he raised his voice, only remembering his wretchedness.

"For heaven's sake try to calm yourself; they have heard you, they come;
not a sound; they will turn me out, and you will have only them. I
conjure you, curb yourself; not a sound." And taking both his hands to
her knee, with motherly tenderness, seeks by gently stroking or holding
them in hers to soothe him to even momentary calm.

"I say, Cole, are you sleeping?" said the voice of Stone, turning the
handle. "You should have been down with us; we have been feeding like
fighting cocks."

"I am sure I heard him talking," said Margaret. "Mean fellow he is;
feigning sleep."

"Good night, Cole, or rather, morning; pleasant dreams," said Stone,
malevolently.

"Look, uncle, at aunt rolling into her bed-chamber; veal pie and stout
will be her nightmare. Good night, spouse," she said, through the
keyhole.

At this, Sarah Kane had great difficulty in quieting him. "I kiss my
hand to you"--for she is hilarious; a glass of beer, a change of name,
three thousand per annum secured, have been a powerful stimulant.

"It's my belief he heard every word we said, but wouldn't give in," said
her uncle, as they went along the hall.

"Of course, he did, the mean pup; but never fear, I'll make him knuckle
under."

"That you will," he said, chuckling.

When all is again quiet at Broadlawns, Charlie Cole and Sarah Kane again
breathe more freely.

"Tell now, _now_," he says feverishly, "how I am to get away from here
and without, remember, that woman? You will have to stay by me, for I am
too ill, God help me, to act alone."

"First, you must undress and get into bed; my, but you are weak!"

"I am; please take this key and unlock my trunk; I am not equal to any
exertion."

"Were you ill crossing the ocean, sir?"

"I was, but nothing like this; the medical attendant on board said I
must have some mental worry which preyed even then upon my bodily
health."

"Your name, Charles Cole, how well I remember it," she said, reading it
on his linen. "My poor dead mistress and friend trusted me--God help me
if I have seemed unfaithful to my trust. Perhaps I should have found out
and followed my young mistress, but Silas and I thought I had best watch
her interests here. God pity me," she said tearfully, falling upon her
knees. "Good Lord, watch over her, lead my steps to her, for I have
failed in preventing their black deeds here; so I shall go to America to
try and find you, poor, dear, wronged Miss Pearl."

Here Cole, with a groan of weakness and dizziness, falls half undressed
upon the bed, at which Sarah Kane flies to him, takes off his boots,
assisting him to get under the clothes.

"Poor, poor feet, like ice," she says pityingly; "I must do something
for him. Heaven help him among such a horde of cruel hearts; I must at
any risk go down and get a foot warmer. Poor fellow, so gentle and
amiable-like, he deserved a better fate, and should have a physician at
once; but the mind, the poor sick mind, as well as body, how will that
be calmed? There, there, don't mind anything; try to sleep. I am going
down stairs to get a foot-warmer for you."

"No, no," he said nervously, "you must not leave me."

"I have listened in the hall, and they are all snoring, sleeping heavily
after the late supper. I must, indeed, sir, see to the warming of your
feet; it will only take me five minutes; please consent, for your own
sake."

"Well, go; and I will lock the door after you, lest the wretches come
in," and attempting to sit up he feels too weak, falling backwards with
a heavy sigh.

Sarah Kane, now really alarmed, slips off her shoes, silently unfastens
the door, making a speedy exit; passing the doors of the sleepers
without detection, not so though on entering the servants' wing--the
cook and man-servant seeming both restless, she hesitates, then on with
flying feet accomplishes her object, bringing also mustard; up again
this time, not risking the back stairs and the servants, the front
stairs, which, being thickly padded, cover her footfalls.

Back again, she finds him staring fixedly at the door in terror, lest
any but herself should appear. She now applies the foot-warmer, also
putting mustard plasters to the nape of the neck and pit of the stomach.

"You look tired," he said languidly, "but I cannot say go and rest, I am
not brave enough."

"I am accustomed to do without sleep. I nurse many sick. Since my poor
mistress died, and they sent sweet Miss Pearl out to the States, I have
no regular duties here, but thought it wise, as they did not bid me go,
to stay on and watch them. They often quarrel over my being here, Mr.
Stone wanting to drive me out, Miss--I mean--but no, never mind--there,
there," stroking his hands, "the aunt and niece thinking, and true, that
I know too much. It's a fact, sir, but I have not known how to check
them for all. God help me, but when I see you well and away from this
home of the Pharisee--this place with a heart of stone and a tongue of
oil, or evil, as it suits--I must see what is best, even so late."

And so the poor, half-distracted thing talked on and on, often in a
disconnected sort of way, but her tones were soothing.

"Go on," he said, opening his eyes; "what trust have you broken," he
repeated, "bringing me to this?" Here he grew excited, but, evidently
too weak to talk, said languidly, putting her hand to his brow:

"Feel that, their work," he said feverishly, "and in part yours, as you
have not exposed them; why have you not?"

"What would the world heed had I, _in their employ_, lifted up my voice
against them? they are all Pharisees, all strict church-goers, and would
turn the wrath against myself, for I do not make loud prayers, their
hypocrisy driving me to my closet, instead of to the be-seen-of-men sort
of religion; no, no one would have believed me, though I think now of
one who would, and he is Dr. Annesley, of the city. I have erred in
judgment, but never thought they would marry you to Miss Villiers; nay,
look at it calmly, if you can, sir, and get well sooner. My father was
an attorney, but rogues fleeced him, and I was penniless; my late
mistress took me here, and I was her friend and confidant, for they were
cruel to her and her child. Silas Jones and I knew of Miss Pearl and
yourself, and Silas said----"



CHAPTER XIII.

LUCIFER'S VOTARIES RAMPANT.


"Yes, Silas Jones shall hear of how we found his precious Sarah Kane
alone in a man's bedroom," sneered the coldly cruel voice of Mrs. Cole,
entering, and not making a seductive picture in bright green dressing
gown, with large purple flowers, her hooked nose as red as her high
cheek bones, her awful eyes fixed, staring and stony, her uncle and aunt
following.

"Oh dear, oh dear! Heaven help us! I forgot to lock the door when I
brought the poor fellow the foot-warmer," thought Sarah Kane,
distractedly.

"I thought I heard a jabbering going on before you called me, Margaret,"
said her uncle, savagely.

"How dare you bring disrepute on a virtuous home by coming to a man's
bedroom at night, and alone, Sarah Kane?" asked Miss Stone, quivering
with rage at being disturbed after her late supper.

"Sarah Kane, go and pack up, and see that you develop no light-finger
tricks; you leave Broadlawns at daybreak," hissed Margaret, between her
teeth.

"Please let me stay, ma'am, until Mr. Cole recovers; indeed, indeed he
is very, very ill."

"That is _my_ affair--go!" and she points to the now open door.

"She has been kind to me, she must stay; I am too ill for her to leave
me; if she goes she must take me," said Cole, sitting upright, his pulse
rapidly rising.

"We don't harbor women of her stamp," said Margaret, beside herself with
rage at her having gained the ear of Cole; she would willingly have torn
her limb from limb.

"Get out of here, and at _once_, Sarah Kane, unless you would have me
use violence," said Stone, savagely; for from the words of Cole he sees
she has made a favorable impression.

"I implore you not to go and leave me here," said the sick man,
excitedly; "my brain is on fire. I am weak and ill; oh! by everything
you hold sacred, stay by me and nurse me; if not, I go too, if I have to
crawl to the door;" and he attempted to rise.

"This is nonsense, Cole; she must go; I have wanted to turn her adrift
before this. We shall procure you a medical attendant at once; though, I
think, did you take a berth in a steamer immediately for America, it
would be best, and set you up all right, especially with Margaret as
nurse. Sarah Kane, what are you waiting for?"

"For the impetus of someone's foot, I presume," sneered Margaret.

Sarah Kane, with a pitiful look at Cole, her lip quivering and whole
frame trembling, prepared to leave the room, saying, as she smoothed his
pillows:

"Try and keep calm, sir, you will get well all the quicker, and I shall
go and tell Silas Jones, and see if he can help you."

At a sign from Margaret, her uncle followed her from the room, when she
said, hurriedly:

"I am going to give the wretch permission to remain until morning, to
prevent an interview with Silas Jones; after breakfast, you say you will
drive her in to Mrs. Mansfield's. We have never let her know she wants
her, but now she will be capital bait; Sarah Kane will bite, and so be
hooked, when you can lodge her for safe keeping at Tom Lang's, who, if
needs be, may give her the luxury of a straight-jacket."

"I feel inclined to say No, and kick her out at once; otherwise, yours
is a good plan."

"It is the only gag to fit the case; but out of that room _she shall
go_. She may go and pack up. I'll show them who is mistress."

"Yes, do; besotted fool, that Cole is, to have turned us against him.
You don't think that viper will go to Silas Jones at daybreak, do you?"

"No; his shop won't be open until seven. By that time cook can have an
early breakfast for you, and you will then at once drive off to London,
and if Silas Jones comes prowling around here after her, leave him to
me, that's all," she said, cruelly, returning to the sick room.

"Go to your room at once, Sarah Kane, pack up your things, and be ready
to leave this house at seven sharp; go," she said, stamping her foot.
"Don't pollute us by your presence any longer."

"I pray of you to let me stay and nurse him; I will do just what you
wish, spare you from fatigue, be no trouble, only let me stay," she
cried, imploringly.

Margaret turned her stony gaze upon her. "Put her out, Uncle Timothy, or
I shall."

"Get out, woman," he said, taking her by the shoulder, Miss Stone
shoving her, and saying:

"Be thankful, hussy, you are getting off so well."

"At your peril send her forth; it will be the worse for you all when I
recover, if you do," said Cole, with the utmost excitement.

"Keep cool, Cole; you don't know what a viper we have harbored. I am
only going to take her to a Mrs. Mansfield's, and, if she can speak so
much truth, she will tell you she is a friend of hers," said Stone,
vengefully.

"You are heaping coals of fire on the viper's head by taking her there,
Timothy," said Miss Stone, wonderingly.

"Is this person a friend of yours, Sarah?" asked Cole, forlornly
pressing both hands to his throbbing temples. "How cruel they are to
send you from me. Do you know of a good physician, Sarah?"

"Oh, yes, sir; Dr. Annesley, of London; he----"

"Hold your prate, Sarah Kane, and mind your own business," cried
Margaret, trembling with rage. "Get out of here," and with a smart push
she is outside and the key turned.

For a few moments Sarah Kane stood irresolute, when the clock struck
three.

"Yes, that will be best," she thought, "but I have no time to lose,"
and, quickly flying to her own apartment, she hurriedly packs up, but
not the handsome wardrobe willed her by her late mistress, of which she
knows not, but simply her own modest apparel; this she places in two
trunks, weeping silently the while for the evil come upon the poor sick
man in yonder east chamber, for her own forced desertion of him into the
cruel hands of the inmates at Broadlawns, for her own undefined plans to
find her young mistress, and endeavor to reinstate her in the fortune
willed her, which she is in doubt now that the law will give her, as she
has not married Charles B. Cole. She weeps on, as she thinks of the
fearful fraud that has been committed; for here is Mr. Cole married!
actually married to Miss Villiers, in Sarah Kane's estimation, the most
wicked woman that lives, when he had been the intended husband of her
sweet, gentle Miss Pearl.

"Woe, woe, that I did not go to Dr. Annesley, and tell him of the
prolonged absence of Miss Pearl, instead of watching here, or to a
lawyer; but I dreaded their fees, as they have paid me no salary for
five years, nor can I claim it, as they told me if I staid I should get
nothing. I have erred in judgment. God help me and that poor sick man.
Yes, I must slip away and tell Silas. It is fortunate Mary is with him
still, or they (if by some mischance they miss me) might again make
occasion to malign me as to going to see a man; how easily those
smooth-tongued hypocrites can take away one's character, and they doing
the real harm all the while. My grey ulster and hat will not be too
heavy; it is quite a cool morning, and being up all night, and
supperless to bed, makes me feel chilly. How surprised Silas and his
sister will be. I know he will want me to marry him at once, but I feel
too old and grey; but, as he says, so I have told him for years; and he
has waited and waited until the clouds at Broadlawns would lighten, and
now they are blacker than ever. Kind Silas, good and true Silas, what
will you say to this terrible marriage of poor Mr. Cole to awful Miss
Villiers?"

And now her expeditious fingers having set her house in order, her grey
hair rolled back from her brow, her small, regular features, sensitive
mouth, and good blue eyes looking wan and anxious, locking her door, she
slips down the back stairs, and out into the chill dulness of an October
morning. In fifteen minutes she knocks at the house of Silas Jones, the
front room of which he calls his shop, selling in a quiet way stationery
and current literature. The city clocks are ringing the last quarter
before four, and Mary is the first to hear the unusual sound on the
knocker at that early hour. Waiting to hear it repeated, she lifts the
window, when, at Sarah Kane's voice calling Silas, they both hasten down
to open the door.

"Dear me, Sarah; what's up?" said Mary, kissing her. "What a scare you
gave me!"

"You have been up all night, Sarah," said Silas Jones, reproachfully,
leading her in, as he again locked the door. "However, as this is the
earliest kiss I have ever had, I shall not scold you too much; but whom
have you been looking nearer your own grave for this time, Sarah? You
have been nursing again, I suppose, and are returning to Broadlawns?"

"How you chatter, Silas, dear; Sarah can't get in a word edgeways," said
Mary, kindly, but curiously.

"I was only giving our Sarah time to catch her breath, she has been
running and is cold," he said, rubbing her hands. "Make her a hot drink
over the spirit-lamp, Mary, please."

"The very thing, Silas, dear; what a good man you will make our Sarah;
here, drink this, Sarah, and promise to marry Silas this day week (my
wedding-day too, Sarah), for indeed, you want someone to make you stay
in your bed o' nights."

"Yes, Sarah, dear, Mary is right; for it's my belief the wretches at
Broadlawns wish to see you in your grave, seeing as you know too much."

"Oh, Silas, that young man, Mr. Cole, came; and they have married him to
Miss Villiers, instead of our sweet Miss Pearl," blurted out Sarah, in
trembling tones.

"You don't say, Sarah; what a fearful piece of wickedness," cried Mary,
with distended eyes.

"I am not surprised at any villainy on their part," said Silas, with
knitted brows. "Let me see, the will reads, on Miss Pearl coming of age
and marrying young Mr. Cole, she inherits all (so Dr. Annesley told me,
and, by the way, he sent me word he wants to see me); well they have got
rid, the de'il knows how, of Miss Pearl, and this ugly vixen marries the
man to inherit; bad business, their having similar Christian names; so
it's from there you come, and not from sick nursing? Tell us all, dear."

"Well, Silas, that's just what I ran here for, for they've as good as
turned me out, at least, I am to go at daybreak, and----"

"Did they dare to turn you out, you a lady born, though their
drudge--faithful in nursing, faithful in your housekeeping. Shielding
them, when you could have put the blood-hounds of the law on their
track, hoping things would right themselves in this very marriage; but
to Miss Pearl--turn you out, after wasting your youth and mine in a
martyr's life, to see that right was eventually done to the innocent
daughter of your dead friend, growing literally grey in this
self-imposed duty, while we both lived lonely lives apart, when they
should be in a felon's dock for breach of trust; never mind, it is my
turn now, they shall be exposed, and compelled to disgorge; Miss Pearl
must be found, Mrs. Mansfield may know something."

"Mrs. Mansfield, yes, Silas, that is where Mr. Stone is going to drive
me at seven sharp this a.m., and, oh dear, it is near six; I must hasten
back, else they may make me black in Bayswater, for they have called me
a hussy to-night, Silas, because I went to poor Mr. Cole's bedroom, who
is very ill, and he was sorry when they turned me out, Silas, for he
knows he has fallen into their net, and he is ill in mind and body; God
help him. He is kindly and handsome, is yielding and pliable, and so an
easy prey; he was to have met his father, he tells me. Ah, he would have
saved him, but he is ill, he learned on his arrival, and away off across
the sea at Montreal; but I had to come and tell you, Silas, for I missed
you last evening, when they sent me to the city, so I should be out of
the way, and alas! I came back too late to save him," she said,
tearfully.

"Don't go near them again, Sarah," said Mary, sympathetically.

"Yes, Sarah, that's it; stay with us, and we will pet and nurse you, and
you will be my wife."

"No dears, I could not remain inactive so near poor Mr. Cole; he hates
them as his enemies, it is best for me to go to Mrs. Mansfield, I shall
be near Dr. Annesley, and must see what can be done; you will come and
see me at Mrs. Mansfield's, so good-bye, now, dears."

"I shall come to the city to-morrow, Sarah, so look out for me, dear,"
he said, buttoning her ulster.

"You shouldn't be parting us at all, Sarah," said Mary, tearfully.

"But only for a few days, Mary."

"You must marry me this day week, Sarah, dear, for somehow I feel as if
evil will come to you parted from me; promise, it will bridge the time,"
he said, following her out into the grey morning light.

"I promise." And there and then, in the dim gaze of the earliest bees in
life's hive, she is pressed to his loyal heart.



CHAPTER XIV.

FENCING OFF CONFIDENCE.


The knowledge that, with the morning, her friend would look for a
confidence as regarded the intrusion by a man into the grounds of
Holmnest on the evening previous, unless, indeed, by fencing she could
ward off such confidence, caused Mrs. Gower to pass an almost sleepless
night; and so, with the natural desire to put off the evil day, she
arose later than usual, lingering over bath and toilette. But now in
warm morning robe of a pretty, red woollen material, with ecru lace
rufflings, she is worth a second look; though her thoughts are sad, for
under the dark hair on her brow, her eyes wear a wistful expression, and
on her sensitive lips is almost a quiver of pain, as she stands at her
window, looking mechanically on the familiar scene.

"He always looks up," she thought, as a gentleman passed, "and must now
either reside in the neighborhood, or take it in in his morning outing.
How a lonely woman notices any seeming interest taken in herself. I have
not seen much of him since poor Charlie Cole went away, and strange; but
I miss his face if I don't see him for some days. I remember telling
Charlie of a dream I had of this very man, and his _béte noir_, Philip
Cobbe. That reminds me again of my promised confidence to Mrs. Dale, it
was weak in me to make any such promise--I, who have never had a
confidant, even when a girl. I have met some who would have been staunch
and true enough, I feel sure, but I never thought heart secrets were
altogether one's own; and as to this chatter over men's kind or loving
attentions to one, is just about the meanest thing a woman or girl can
be guilty of. It is sufficient to deter men from being commonly civil. I
have known women prate and boast by name of those who have paid them the
highest compliment a man can, that is of asking them to be their wife;
yes, I positively shrink from meeting my kind, little friend, Ella Dale,
she has a positive craving for knowledge," she thought, with a half
smile; "and had she been Eve she would have cut short the eloquence of
the serpent's tongue, and have succumbed, merely out of curiosity. And
yet she is a dear little woman, craving to be 'trusted all, or not at
all,' and meaning good to me; and perhaps I should be less lonely did I
empty my griefs into the lap of another's mind; but again, in confiding
in a married woman one confides in her husband also. It is natural, but,
at the same time, not altogether pleasant; but at that peremptory ring I
must give up dreaming here, or my 'Madonna of the Tubs' will be giving
me notice."

"Good morning, dear. Pardon my not having been down to welcome you," she
said, warmly, finding her friend and the morning papers ensconced in a
rocker by the grate, Tyr stretched on the rug.

"I have just come down, Elaine, and have had my mirrored reflection as
company, and don't I look comical, encased in this dressing gown you
lent me? Won't I have to eat a substantial breakfast to fill it out?"

"All right, dear, if my seraph of the frying pan condescended to fill my
orders, we have bloaters on the menu."

"I am ready for them, Elaine, and feel bloated already," she said, as
they seated themselves at table.

"I wonder what kind of a day we shall have for your review of the city
schools? Old Sol does not seem to have made up his mind whether to laugh
or weep," said Mrs. Gower, as she touched the bell to remove the fruit.

"I hope he will be good enough to weep over some other city, for I am
sure Henry will not bring my waterproof."

"But Miss Crew will, she seems so really thoughtful. What do you intend
doing with her when you place Garfield at school?"

"That's just what I am in a quandary about. I like her, for she puzzles
me."

"What a droll little creature you are, Ella; you have a perfect craze
for working out problems, even to a woman," she said, laughingly.

"Now you mustn't think, Elaine, that my interest in you has the remotest
connection with the mystery at Holmnest," she said, opening her blue
eyes in apparent innocence, but in reality her words being a reminder to
her hostess.

"The mystery at Holmnest? What a tragic sound you give it, it makes
one's flesh creep, but I have not forgotten how large-hearted you are,
dear, when you do not forget, 'Share ye one another's burdens.'"

"Yes, you must tell me all, Elaine, and I feel sure that with, or
without the advice of Henry, your trouble will either vanish or lighten
by your sharing it with me."

"Yes, perhaps so," she said gravely; "but we must not spoil our
breakfast, and the play of knife and fork. My little tragedy must be the
afterpiece this time."

"As you will, Elaine, but don't bear it too long alone. Tragedy is
heavy. How cozy and home-like breakfasting with you is after hotel
life."

"I am glad you think so, Ella."

"Your dark leather chairs and handsome sideboard look well against the
brown paper on the walls, and oh, you won't mind telling me who hung
your drapings, _portière_ hangings, and all that, they are in such good
taste."

"Murray did them for me; it was a case of two heads being better than
one, where I was at fault he set me right."

"Your home is small, but all so home-like, except for one great want, a
man to hang his hat up in the hall as your husband, and a child to call
you mother."

"Quite a tempting picture, Ella," she answered, a little sadly, "but
'_l'homme propose Dieu dispose_."

"Take the man, when he proposes, Elaine; I cannot bear to see you
alone."

"That is my advice to my friends also, Ella; but, speaking of living
alone, will you and Miss Crew come to me when you place Garfield at
school, and during the absence of Mr. Dale north-east with Mr.
Buckingham; say you will, it won't be for long."

"It's the thing above all others that will please me, Elaine. Excuse my
Irish blood, but I must give vent to my feelings by giving you a hug,"
she said, merrily, as they rose from table.

"Angels and ministers of grace defend us, Elaine, here's a lady visitor;
and now that her umbrella is down, I see Mrs. Smyth. But, fond as I am
of her, I wish her back to her home, for I wanted the morning alone with
you."

"You are both looking charming, it's a pity I am not a gentleman caller,
but what lazy people you are," said lively Mrs. Smyth.

"Now that I have emerged from the under side of Fortune's wheel, I do
believe I am growing epicurean," said Mrs. Gower, gaily.

"Don't I look too sweet for anything, Mrs. Smyth?" said Mrs. Dale,
promenading up and down the room; "haven't I grown stout?"

"But you are all uneven," laughed Mrs. Smyth.

"Now, that is cruel, Mrs. Smyth; 'tis 'love's labor lost,' after having
utilized all the mats, towels and pillow-shams in my bedroom as
stuffing, to be simply told I am uneven."

"Stuffing never goes down with me, Mrs. Dale," laughed Mrs. Smyth.

"It's a good thing for us you are not a man," said Mrs. Dale, demurely.

"Women all angles would cry 'hear, hear!'" laughed Mrs. Gower.

"But you don't ask me what brought me in this morning."

"No, I am too glad to have you; but is it a call of a mouth full of
news?"

"Yes, which I shall stuff you with 'as pigeons do their young.'"

"Me, too!" piped Mrs. Dale.

"Mr. King is in town, Mrs. Gower; there, I thought I should electrify
you, but you don't seem to care."

"I do, for we shall now have news of the Coles."

"And is that all you will welcome him all the way from Ottawa for?"

"That is all, Lilian; these little flirtations, _pour passez le temp_,
soon burn themselves out."

"What a funny woman you are, Elaine; sometimes I can't make you out at
all."

"Don't try to, dear, when I puzzle you; life is too short for
problem-solving, though our little friend here doesn't think so. But did
Mr. King name the Coles?"

"He did."

"Thank you, Thomas," said Mrs. Gower, receiving her letters, which had
been put in the letter-box by the letter-carrier.

"One moment, you will excuse me, dears, while I run my letters over."
One marked "Immediate," she read to herself as follows:

     "THE QUEEN'S, Wed. Eve., Nov. 9th.

     "MY DEAR MRS. GOWER,--It is with extreme pleasure I again find
     myself in the same city with yourself, and am anticipating with
     intense eagerness an interview. I go west to-morrow p.m., so
     shall go up to Holmnest in the morning.

     "As ever, yours devotedly,
          "CYRIL KING.

     "MRS. GOWER,
          "Holmnest, West Toronto."

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! he may be here any moment, and I am in a quandary
as to what I shall do with him. This little settling up of one's
_affaires de coeur_ is distasteful, but I have not been a bit to blame
here," she thought, quietly tearing up the note, and making a holocaust
of it.

"Oh, I can assure you, Mrs. Dale, she had scarcely any waist covering at
all," said Mrs. Smyth, in disgust, "she looked simply dreadful."

"Who is the woman this time, dear?" asked Mrs. Gower, amusedly, as she
fastened some camellias to her gown; "what fair one are you throwing mud
at now, Lilian?"

"Oh, that Mrs. St. Clair. Miss Hall walked down with me as far as
College Street this morning, and she says, or rather mouthed, for she is
too full of affectation to speak plain, but managed to convey that Mrs.
St. Clair's dress began too late during the Langtry season. Her dress
was _couleur de rose_ (what there was of it), no sleeves, well there was
an invisible band, Miss Hall said (I wondered at her, the way she
talked, as she is so thick there). Now, what do you think of Mrs. St.
Clair, Elaine?"

"I think that she would be the cynosure of all eyes--men's, for she is
very fair to look upon."

"But, Elaine, she is enamelled! Miss Hall's description reminded me of
how an American paper describes such--as if they in their opera boxes
sat in a bath tub."

"Oh, that's hard," said Mrs. Dale; "who was she with, and was the boy
Noah ready with his pinchers?"

"No, it was that horrid boy's night off, I suppose, for his father was
on duty; the little wretch nearly gave me cancer; the two Wilber girls
and our Mr. Buckingham were the party; oh, Elaine, it's most absurd, but
Mr. Buckingham is the 'foreign count' gossip said Mr. St. Clair is
jealous of."

"I am not surprised; all Grundy's scandal brews are a froth of lies,
Lilian."

"But it _is_ true that Mrs. St. Clair flirts and enamels."

"If so, she is very pretty, and has a husband with an eagle eye--and,"
she added gaily, "a son with claws that even you speak feelingly of."

"Well, good-bye, it is getting near our dinner hour, I must off; and, as
I live, here is the King from Ottawa; you are here opportunely to play
gooseberry, Mrs. Dale; oh, I must tell you, you know, how quiet Mrs.
Tremaine is. Well, she went back in the dark last Sunday evening for her
dolman, it was so cold, but when she hung it over the front of the pew
it proved to be the Captain's trousers!"

"How do you do, dear Mrs. Gower?" he said with _empressement_, his
strikingly handsome face aglow with pleasure.

"'Mrs. Dale, my friend, Mr. King,' from the tower-crowned city, dear."

"And you come to a spire-crowned one, at which, Mr. King, don't become
unduly elevated."

"I am in the heights," he said, with a swift glance at Mrs. Gower.

"Then beware of the attraction of gravitation," laughed his hostess,
thinking, "I shall have to do a little fencing, I can see by his face."

"Excuse me, Elaine, I see my family are arriving."

"Quite a cavalcade, Mr. King," she said, gaily.

"And mercy me, that young monkey is on horseback, while the driver is
giving his attention to bell ringing; I must fly. May I bring them
upstairs, Elaine?"

"Certainly, dear; and as your colony will want you all to themselves,
send Miss Crew to the drawing-room; she will be happy with the piano."

"How handsome he is; I wonder if he thought me uneven," mused Mrs. Dale,
as she left the library.

"Thank heaven, they are all despatched," he said, fervently, leaning
over the back of her chair; "look around at me, dear, and tell me I am
welcome."

"You are;" and turning her face, her cheek was brushed by his whiskers;
"but I am going to be very proper, and tell you to take that very
comfortable chair, at the other side of the room."

"Why, what have I done; don't send me away, when my heart is bursting to
take you in my arms."

"With your temperament, how full, metaphorically speaking, your arms
must be."

"No, no; you only, with your warm eyes and handsome mouth."

"Come, come; no more of this, Mr. King."

"Since when have you dropped Cyril; I cannot bear my surname from your
lips."

"'Tis safer so; and you _know_ I have tried to act up to this, since
knowing you have a wife."

"Yes, yes, you have; but you magnetized me from the first, and had it
not been for that meddling fellow, Dubois, telling you, I believe,
dearest, you would have learned to love me, wholly, and alone."

"Thank heaven he did tell me, and in time."

"I think there has been every excuse for me, dearest; you are aware of
the circumstances of my marriage; then, after fifteen years of _such_
wedded bliss, I find you, my heart's mate. I often think how tame life
is before the meeting with the one that is to fill one's being with
rapturous content; well, if they come to one while one has one's
freedom, if not, what miserable loneliness; what an array of jealous
fears. Do not turn me out of some corner in your heart, Elaine," he
pleaded, "just because the Church and the law come between us; it is no
fault of mine that I have met you too late to offer you my name;
therefore, pity my misfortune, be kind to me; give me a corner in your
affections; you will, won't you, darling," he pleaded, earnestly, his
winsome voice coming on the air like sweet notes of song to the
accompaniment of 'Il Trovatore,' exquisitely rendered, by Miss Crew,
across the hall.

"You must never again talk to me in this strain, Cyril," she says,
putting her feelings aside, for she pities him intensely; "it is harmful
for both of us; be a man, be brave. I, too, have trials; help me to bear
them by seeing you at the post of duty; let us forget that we have
hearts; let us harden ourselves by looking at life teeming with ill
everywhere.

"Let us, from this moment, begin over again, and talk as though the room
was full of a gaping crowd; let us talk of anything but ourselves. Of
Chamberlain and the fisheries; of who will run for mayor; of how that
hot pickle, the French cabinet, will be formed; of whether Bishop Cleary
wishes he had been tongue-tied before his imagination went without bit
or curb on our girls; _anything_ but _ourselves_, Cyril, for pity sake."

"No, it will not do, dear; we can never be as common acquaintances,
though you charm me in any mood."

"Very well; if that be so, you must go. Those songs, without words, by
Miss Crew, with the scent of flowers, have been enough to intoxicate
one; but you _know_ that since the knowledge came to me of your having a
wife, that I have told you, repeatedly, our acquaintance must end unless
you always remember, in our intercourse, the fact of your being bound to
another. If you care to meet Mr. and Mrs. Dale, and a young lady friend,
stay to luncheon, if you will not more than look at me as a friend--for
I will be that."

"I cannot face strangers now, and shall go, but shall write you from the
west; and pray let me have a line in answer, saying you will see me on
my return?" he said, beseechingly, his handsome face clouded.

"I see I must tell you something I had not intended," she said,
nervously, "they are coming downstairs to luncheon; I have promised,
nay, am under oath," she said, gravely, "to marry a man who would make
trouble, did he hear your words."

"For heaven's sake, Elaine, don't be mad! you would be wretched, chained
to a man like that; for the light has all left your dear face, even when
you name him."

"Beg pardon, luncheon is served, ma'am," said Thomas.

"I must hasten to the dining-room, and I fear I don't look very calm.
Good-bye; remember and be brave; others there are who have no more a bed
of roses than yourself."

"God bless you, good-bye; and I implore you, say _No_ to him. I speak,
as you know, from experience," he whispers, with a tight hand-clasp.



CHAPTER XV.

THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE.


"Your visitor is a strikingly handsome man, Mrs. Gower," said Mr. Dale,
coming from the window to the table; "we shall be losing you one of
these days as--Mrs. Gower," he continued, noticing by her pallor and the
light in her eyes that she had been feeling intensely.

"He is wondrously so; and as well, what is more perilous to the hearts
of our sex, he possesses a rare fascination of manner."

"I have been telling Henry not to jump at conclusions, for, perhaps Mr.
King is married," said Mrs. Dale, curiously.

"He is, dear; but your husband is not one of those absurd beings who
imagine all one's men friends to be possible suitors."

"Far from it, Mrs. Gower: I am a believer in men and women friendships,
and if, in the numerous mistakes society makes, she would obliterate her
opposition to such friendships, she would have fewer matrimonial
blunders to chronicle."

"That is very true, Mr. Dale; I have frequently found it both
mortifying, distressing and annoying to the last degree, at little
social gatherings at Toronto, to find myself openly accused of
flirtation, because some man friend and I dared to enjoy a _tête-à-tête_
chat on some mutual topic of interest."

"But some women do flirt when they get a man in a corner, whether he is
married or no," said Mrs. Dale.

"Yes; but because some do, we should not all drift as we are, into no
conversation between the sexes," said Mrs. Gower.

"No, certainly not," said Dale; "Emerson says, 'I prize the mechanics of
conversation, 'tis pulley, lever and screw;' and it is especially
delightful between men and women--when it occurs."

"Yes, as you say--when it occurs--Mr. Dale; but why is it, that the more
solid tone of conversation of men is so seldom blended with the, at
times more refined, even if it be more frivolous, chit-chat of my sex?
Simply because of our dread of gossip?"


"Then there is something 'rotten in the state of Denmark,'" said Mrs.
Dale.

"There is, dear," said Mrs. Gower, gravely, rising from the table.

"Mr. Smyth is in the library, ma'am," said Thomas.

"Oh, ask him if he has lunched, Thomas."

"He has, ma'am."

"I am vulgar enough to have dined, Mrs. Gower," said Smyth, meeting them
at the door of the library.

"As you please," she said, gaily, giving her hand; "'let ilka ane gang
their ain gait.'"

"Your son is acting on that motto, Mrs. Dale," he said, looking from the
window. "Don't stir, he is in the back way; and has evidently been
wrestling with our York mud."

At this juncture Garfield appeared, breathless; and his pretty Norfolk
jacket and knickerbockers all be-spattered.

"How did you come to grief, my son?" asked his father.

"Well, papa; first, I knocked down a sparrow with my catapult; it died
game, falling on a foreign bird perched on a lady's steeple bonnet.
Well, she was mad, phew! called me names for killing birds. I told her
not to try to be funny, when she had stuffed ones on her head-dress.
Next, I saw a man down street putting a mouth on his poor horse; man!
how he sawed, tore the bit nearly through his head; well, I just let
another lead fly, knocking his Christy stiff into the mud; then, he out
of his butcher waggon and after me. I remembered some dimes in my
pocket, got 'em, threw 'em behind--he bit, and I took my chance and
distanced him," he said, panting for breath.

"That was sport," said Smyth, laughingly; "but I have had to shut down
on my boy's hunting, we swell our city treasury by fining such
fire-arms."

"Go to the kitchen, you poor little man," said Mrs. Gower; "and ask
Thomas to brush you; he will get you some lunch, there is mud even in
your curls; here, let me kiss you."

"Yes, you may," he said, condescendingly.

"Come along, son; mother will go with you."

"You don't ask what brought me in at this hour, Mrs. Gower," said Smyth.

"No, I have scarcely welcomed you, as yet."

"Well, I must out with it, even if it shortens my stay; for I have only
a few moments. On my way up to dinner, I literally ran against King, he
was in a brown study, and I in a hurry. 'Hello!' I cried, at which he
stopped, and quite abruptly (so unlike him), said, 'Tell Mrs. Gower I
have heard from Mr. Cole, senr., who has been ill at Montreal. His
physician, Dr. Peake, ordered him to Florida, positively forbidding him
to pass the cold season at Ottawa. He is extremely anxious about
Charlie, who has not written him. A newspaper, with the announcement of
his marriage, being the only communication from Bayswater direct;' and
here it is, he gave it me for you. From some outside source he has heard
that Charlie is ill, and wishes any of us to let him know immediately at
his hotel, Jacksonville, if we have, or receive any news. He admits to
King, that with the exception of the girl herself, the remaining members
of the family Charlie has married into are a bad lot."

"Poor Charlie, he dreaded this marriage," she said, regretfully; "but
seemed to be hemmed in by circumstances--a betrothal. Then she had five
thousand pounds per annum, and his father wished him to carry it out;
and Charlie is so yielding, altogether. When he told me about it, at the
very last, I too advised him to go and carry out the arrangement. You
see, as we know he was heart whole, and his salary was small, and he
seemed born only to work the will of others, that it seemed a half
natural sort of thing for him to drift into; still, if he is ill, and
the family are horrid, and he over there alone, I feel sorry he went at
all, poor fellow."

"A miserable marriage would break Charlie Cole up completely," said
Smyth.

"Have you no mutual friend at London," said Dale, kindly, "to whom you
could apply, and who might give you the facts of the case. Perhaps I can
assist you. You told me before, Mrs. Gower, that it is to Bayswater
suburb, your friend went; I knew a very prominent physician residing
there, to whom I shall write, if you wish; a medical man is very often
the very best medium in such cases."

"Oh, if you would, Mr. Dale; it would be a perfect relief to all of us,"
said Mrs. Gower.

"Here is the marriage insertion," said Smyth, reading: "'At Broadlawns,
Bayswater, London, England, on September 28th, 1887, by the Rev. Claude
Parks, Charles Babbington-Cole, Esq., of Toronto, Dominion of Canada, to
Margaret, daughter of the late----"

"What's that! Miss Crew has fainted, poor girl," cried Mrs. Gower, "and
hurt herself, I fear; there is water in the dining-room."

"I'll get it," cried Smyth.

Mrs. Dale, returning, said, "I wonder what caused it; she is delicate, I
know, but I never knew her to faint before. My vinaigrette is on my
dressing-table; would you get it, Henry, like a dear?"

"Thank you, Mr. Dale, she revives."

"Then I shall go, Mrs. Gower; and here, I shall leave the English
newspaper with you; Lil wants you all to come over this evening, then we
can talk over some plan--Mr. Dale's is a good one--to elicit information
as to Charlie's position; Miss Crew is to come, too. Good-bye till
evening."

"You had better go upstairs and lie down, Miss Crew; you look very
white, and I fear you have hurt your head, poor girl," said Mrs. Gower,
kindly.

"I did give it a knock, but you are all too kind; if it won't make any
difference, I shall lie here for a few minutes."

"Very well, dear; and a glass of wine will be good for you."

"Oh, she never touches it, Elaine, she is rabid blue ribbon," said Mrs.
Dale.

"And a very good color to wear, but when one is ill," said Mrs. Gower.

"Never mind the wine, Mrs. Gower, my head aches very badly, but all I
want is to rest it a little; but shall feel very uncomfortable, though,
if I delay your out-going; do go now."

"Yes, I suppose we must."

"Garfield, you stay with Miss Crew, darling, while Mrs. Gower dresses,
and I put on my wraps."

"All O. K., mamma." After a few moments spent with 'The Pansy,' he comes
over to the sofa.

"Miss Crew, Miss Crew; wake up."

"I was not sleeping, dear."

"But your brows were knit like this; and you looked so white. What did
you faint for? I wanted you to come with us."

"Oh, never mind, don't talk about me; I want you to give me your
catapult."

"Yes, I reckon I will, as young Smyth had to give his up; but I should
like it if I get mad at a man for ill-treating his horse."

"But a better plan would be to read the name of the owner on the
vehicle, and report him."

"Oh, that's too slow; when a fellow gets mad, he wants to let a lead fly
right then," making a movement as if he was firing.

"Oh, but that is not the best way, my boy; the wise men of old waited
until they were out of their temper."

"We don't; we just go, bang! but it was pretty good of them, I reckon.
What did they say right at first, though?"

"They said, when the evildoer was brought before them, having done them
a great wrong, 'By the gods, were I _not_ in wrath with thee, I would
have thee slain.'"

"Well, I guess that was noble of them; I reckon my catapult must go," he
said, fondling it, "and here goes," he said, putting it into the fire;
"but as I don't want to hear it hissing me, I'll put a finger in each
ear."

Here Mrs. Gower, with Mr. and Mrs. Dale, entered, robed for the outer
world, looking comely and comfortable. Mrs. Gower in blue, broken plaid
skirt, with plain over-skirt, and waist of same color, bonnet to suit,
tight mantle, with fox boa and muff. Mrs. Dale in plum color, with seal
mantle; both women with the hue of health on cheek and lips, and with
bright eyes.

"Come, Garfield, my son, into your overcoat with the speed of a New York
despatch," said his mother.

"It seems too bad to leave you, Miss Crew," said Mrs. Gower,
sympathetically; "are you sure I can do nothing for you before we
start?"

"Quite sure, thank you; my head aches a little, but I have some Dorcas
work here, which will make me forget I have a head, I hope."

"Then you will be rewarded; _au revoir_, dear."

"And now for the tree of knowledge," said Mrs. Dale.

After visiting the Wellesley and other city schools, the Church School
for boys, the Collegiate Institute, Jarvis Street, and the Upper Canada
College, they decided to place him at the latter, principally on account
of the boarding school; they being, at present, unsettled as to their
future plans.

"Your city schools are admirable, and were we actual residents,
housekeeping, I should ask nothing better for my boy. Some of your
finest public men, I am told, Mrs. Gower, have sat at those desks."

"Yes, so I have always heard; but I think, in Garfield's case, you have
acted wisely. A boy coming from school to hotel life, has every
incentive not to study."

"Yes, that's just it. At the U. C. College, the example will be there in
the other boys at their books, and I consider it a great boon to be able
to place him under such management. The masters are talented gentlemen;
and if a boy does not make something of himself under such guidance,
mentally, morally and physically, then he must be made of very poor
stuff, indeed."

"Garfield, dear," said his mother, "you will have to be as starched as a
Swiss laundry, minding your p's and q's, like an Englishman."

"Oh, yes, I know; but they are the stuff, mamma. You see they give a
fellow cricket, and drill, as well as book knowledge."

"Yes, they are wise; you will study all the better. See that you make a
man of yourself while there," said his father.

"I shall never forget my goal, papa."

"And what is that?"

"To be President Dale, of the United States of America; and I reckon,
when I run, my opponents won't have any dirty stories to rake up about
me, for I'm going to begin right now."

"But they frequently coin falsehoods. What would you do in that case?"

"Put mamma on their trail; have 'em up, and make 'em swallow or prove
them."

"All right, my ten-year-old; mother will be your right hand man," she
said, endearingly.

"I expect the lies men have to face in the arena of public life are
their worst foes," said Mrs. Gower. "Beecher said, 'If the lies told
about public men could be materialized, they would roof in and cover
over the whole earth.'"

"He spoke feelingly," said Mr. Dale; "Dames Rumor and Grundy, with the
newspapers, had him in a tight place."

"Shall we go on further, Henry, and purchase the mattress, etc., for
Garfield?"

"No, I think not, Ella; I have to meet Dickson, from New York, at the
Walker House, at six; can't you come in the morning, dear?"

"Oh, yes."

"Do you dine with your friend, Mr. Dale?"

"Yes; so we arranged."

"Then you come back with me, Ella, and this wee man, of course?"

"Yes, if we don't weary you."

"You know better, dear. Oh, Mr. Dale, will you kindly go into Mr.
Smyth's office, and say we find it impossible to go over this evening,
but will to-morrow--_sans ceremonie_, if agreeable."

"Consider your commission executed, dear Mrs. Gower. I shall drive up
for you, Ella, this evening some time; _au revoir_," and, lifting his
hat, he is gone.

After a delightful walk through the busy streets, from the Upper Canada
College, by way of King Street West, thence north to Holmnest, they find
Miss Crew a little quieter, perhaps, but apparently quite recovered from
her recent swoon. Putting aside her Dorcas work, the three ladies sit in
the firelight and gloaming, to chat until dinner hour.

"I regret you were not with us, Miss Crew; the schools would have
interested you," said Mrs. Dale.

"Yes, I am sorry, too; for ever since our arrival I have heard so much
in praise of the city schools, especially."

"Their praise is ever in our mouth," said Mrs. Gower; "but my views on
the subject are somewhat contradictory. Though going with the progress
of the age, I don't feel quite sure that this mixing up of the children
of the rich and poor is to the ultimate good of either."

"Oh, I think it's better, Elaine, to bundle them all in together."

"I don't know, Ella; the Industrial School system recommends itself very
much to me for the poorer classes, among whom, if there is any
originality, it will out."

After dinner, to which Mr. Cobbe, coming in as it was announced, made
one at, Miss Crew, not feeling quite herself, begging to be excused,
retired to her room, and Garfield into the arms of Morpheus on the
lounge; when, during a temporary absence of Mrs. Dale, Mr. Cobbe said,
quickly, while laying a hand on either shoulder of his hostess:

"What do you have that woman here all the time for? If she is going to
spend the evening, I shall go."

"Were I Mrs. Ruggles, of Pickwick fame, I should object to my friend
being called a woman," she said, half jokingly; "as it is, I----"

At this moment some pebbles were thrown against the window, cracking the
glass. Mrs. Dale, now returning, said:

"What! is it the window fired at? Things are coming to a pretty pass,"
she said, with latent meaning; "We should have closed the shutters;
don't, Elaine, I shall do it."

"I had better go out and frighten away the tramps," said Cobbe, his face
flushing with angry impatience.

"Yes, Philip; if you will be so kind."

"You are a gentlemanly man, and a good looking one, Mr. Cobbe; but I
don't love you," said Mrs. Dale, emphatically, shaking her clenched fist
after his retreating form.

Mrs. Gower could not but smile at her little friend's vehemence, as she
played with the bracelets on her shapely arms, her head bent in thought.

"Thomas is a good servant, Elaine; he has just fastened the hall door on
the heels of Monsieur Cobbe; and now, _ma chere_, this is the time and
place for confidence," she said, earnestly, while laying her jewelled
fingers on her friend's brown locks.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE OATH IN THE TOWER OF TORONTO UNIVERSITY.


"Yes, dear, draw over your rocker, he will not return, and since you are
willing, I shall pour my griefs into the lap of your mind; seeking, as
you say, to lessen the dead weight on my own.

"Just about this time last year, not so late though, for the trees were
lovely in tints of deep orange and crimson, with the brown of the oak.
Our beautiful suburbs, with the Queen's Park, looking like huge bouquets
in the hands of Dame Nature; you know my passion for scenery, Ella. One
day--a bright and glorious day, it had been--the blue sky, almost out of
sight, it was so uplifted; a day sufficient to raise one's spirits as by
some powerful stimulant, I was returning from town to my modest quarters
(not here you know, dear), about four p.m., through the park; when, Mr.
Cobbe overtaking me, suggested our going up into the tower of the
Toronto University to enjoy the view. I consented, knowing that the
slanting beams of the sinking sun would kiss good-night to the
tree-tops, lighting them with additional loveliness. We entered the
grandly beautiful building, the janitor, unlocking the door to the
tower, reminding us of the rule, "keys turned at five." Up, and ever
upwards, the spiral stairway, making one dizzy in the ascent; at length,
the top is reached; and, oh! the view, Ella, was more than beautiful. My
eyes only rested with a passing glance at the handsome villas skirting
the park, ever returning to dwell on the superb mass of color in the
trees; the sun seeming to linger lovingly while photographing their
shadows upon the grass.

"I sat silent, or nearly so, for some time, when somehow the very air
seemed full of such quiet, solemn grandeur, that thought becoming
active, travelled in and about by-gone scenes and faces, bringing tears
to my eyes, as a strange fit of loneliness came upon me.

"I was just in the mood to say yes, to a proposal to link my life with
another, when Philip Cobbe pleaded his suit, saying, 'In a home together
we would be companions each for the other; that we would be happier in a
little home together than in the cold formality of a boarding-house;
that in our short acquaintance, we knew each other as well as people who
had a life-long knowledge of each other; that we were each too
warm-hearted to be content alone; that the long, dark autumn was coming
on, in which we would be all in all to each other; that his love for me
filled his heart.'

"Then, Ella, he was really eloquent in his description of a little home
together--a picture particularly inviting to me in my loneliness and in
my despondent mood.

"I had been, as you know, under fortune's wheel, season after season, in
the ice-bound winter, in the scorching sun of summer; sometimes in doubt
in which I suffered most. With a purse as 'trash,' society turned a cold
shoulder to me. Summer friends did not see me; my real friends at a
distance--yourselves among the foremost--could not prevail upon me to
visit them, as I knew the only sin society refuses to pardon is an
out-at-elbows gown; and I was too proud to accept gifts I could not
repay.

"Yet, still I hesitated in accepting Philip's offer, which seemed
tempting in its home view; but would it be wise for me to marry him,
simply because my life was a lonely one? I was in the act of telling
him, 'I would sleep on it, and give him his answer, to-morrow,' when
saying so, we were startled by the city clocks and bells striking,
ringing and chiming six o'clock! Ella, Ella, my heart with fright seemed
to stop beating; even yet a nervous tremor runs through me when I recall
that moment; it was too true, on Philip consulting his watch, really, in
the gloaming; for the sun was then sinking to rest at about five-thirty.

"'Great Heavens!' I cried; 'the tower door will be locked!' At this, can
you credit it, Ella; the face of my companion grew exultant, as he
cried:

"'Then we shall be here together until morning, and you will have to
marry me!'

"At this, Ella, a shudder of repulsion ran through me; all my liking for
him seemed at once to leave my heart, fear taking its place. 'What shall
we do?' I cried; 'there are no passers-by; God help me, for truly, "vain
is the help of man." Think of something, do something, Mr. Cobbe--go to
the foot of the stairs--hammer on the door--anything--get me out some
way,' I said, almost in a frenzy. 'There is no one in the building,' he
said. 'I would be no more heard than you hear your dog Tyr whining for
your return. You will have to stay. We will be married, which some women
would not grieve at. Come, come, cheer up; we will be married quietly in
the morning; say yes, with a kiss.'

"'Go away,' I said; 'you must have matches, I have hit upon a plan. I am
going to tie my bonnet to the end of your cane, and set fire to it. Some
one will see it, and tell the janitor or steward, and we shall be
liberated; here, quick, the matches!'

"'I have not one about me,' he said; and which I now feel sure was a
falsehood. 'Oh try, try; search every pocket; if you will only free us I
will promise anything, only get us out of here,' I said, half beside
myself.

"'You will promise anything,' he said, excitedly; 'then, down on your
knees, and swear by all you hold sacred, to become my wife.'

"'Oh, that is too awful an oath, ask me anything but that,' for I was
sure now I could not love him.

"'No, no; swear, or you stay here all night.' 'Half my money, when I get
it, instead, for pity's sake,' I said, distractedly.

"'Nonsense! I swear to liberate us from the tower and building, if you
swear as I have dictated; if not, take the consequences.' Again, he
pleaded his suit, winding up by asking me 'How I thought I would look
facing a crowd in the morning, emerging from such a midnight
resting-place, and in his company; of how the students would have food
for jokes, for the remainder of the term; of how the newspapers would
get hold of it,' etc.

"Driven to desperation, I knelt and swore by all I held sacred, to
become his wife--unless he himself set me free--the latter clause he
allowed, laughing at the idea; he then held me to his heart, telling me
I would have a good husband in him, and never have cause to repent of my
oath; tying my bonnet on, for I trembled so, my hands were useless; how
I got down the steps on steps I don't know; he must have carried me; for
what with the strain on my nerves from the whole scene, added to the
spiral stairway, I felt dizzy and faint; but we reached the bottom, and
my astonishment and indignation is easier imagined than described, on
seeing him coolly turn the handle and open the door! The bells we had
heard were fire-bells. The janitor, true to his trust, had locked the
great door and gone to a lecture-room for a moment, intending after to
mount for us.

"Philip seemed uplifted to a state of insane exultation at the success
of his plan; for, on my upbraiding him on such base means to attain his
ends, he laughed, as he said, 'All is fair in love or war,' as turning
the key in the oak door of the main entrance we were out in the free
air. Free! yes, but with my freedom gone. I looked at him with a sort of
curiosity, as merely shutting the door, though I suggested burglars; he
for answer, taking me in his arms, saying thickly, to the accompaniment
of the key turning, 'Make the best of me, love, it was only by stratagem
I could win you; I am lonely, so are you; I will make you happy, so help
me God!' and so it is, Ella, you find me engaged to wed Philip Cobbe.

"But, as you must see, there must be other reasons than my
disinclination to have prevented our union, for, you see, he still
haunts me, though not loving me so faithfully, perhaps," she said,
gravely.

"Of course I see it, you poor dear," she said, coming nearer, and
kissing her friend, "and you must _never_ marry that man. What a romance
of the tower it was; I have been fascinated listening to your recital. I
now see what he meant by his--as he thought--strange manner, on Henry
naming that we were going to the University with you. But, _mark my
words_, there will be a tragedy if you wed this man; I know something."

A tremor ran through Mrs. Gower; she clasped her hands nervously, her
lips quivered, and her dark eyes dilated, as she said, leaning towards
her friend,

"You mean about a woman!"

Here Garfield awoke at the entrance of his father, whose ring his mother
and Mrs. Gower had not heard. Miss Crew, entering, hat and mantle on,
and carrying the outdoor wraps of Mrs. Dale.

"Why, you both look startled!" said Mr. Dale; "have you been enjoying a
spiritual seance?"

"No, Henry, but you had better avoid me, for I have been tasting of the
tree of knowledge."

"We have had dogma, also, Mr. Dale; and your wife does not believe that
the end justifies the means," said Mrs. Gower, as Thomas brought in a
tray with delicious coffee and sandwiches.

"I hope such doctrine won't be forced down our throats some day, Mrs.
Gower. Roman Catholicism seems to be coming upon you, wave by wave, and
you in Ontario don't even seem to dream of a breakwater."

And so he talked on of city news, of the immense circulation of the
newspapers, of the power of the press, etc., seeing there had been grave
talk, and giving each time to bury gravity in heart's casket.

"Good night, little man; and so you get your feet on life's first rung,
at Upper Canada College, on Monday morning."

"Yes, Mrs. Gower, and I mean to show them what a New York boy can do."

"That's right; defy circumstance and fate, and mount."

"Good night, and good-bye, dear Mrs. Gower, for I leave, as you are
aware, for a run north-east, to look at some mines with our friend
Buckingham."

"Yes, so I hear; what birds of passage you men are; but you don't leave
until Monday, when your good little wife and Miss Crew come to me during
your absence."

"I really don't know what Ella would do without Holmnest and--you."

"Take care of yourself, Elaine," said Mrs. Dale, with a meaning pressure
of the hand.

"What for?" she said, rather sadly.

"Oh, for somebody!"



CHAPTER XVII.

BIRDS OF PREY.


In the neat little parlor, with flowering plants in the window, its
walls adorned with old-time Scripture prints and modern play-bills in
droll blending, back of the shop-room for stationery, at Bayswater, on
an evening late in October, sits Silas Jones, listless, and, with idle
hands, apparently staring into vacancy, in reality wandering in busy
thought into dim prison-houses and private asylums at London, in search
of Sarah Kane, who, on his calling to see at Mrs. Mansfield's some weeks
ago, as arranged, was informed by a housekeeper in charge that her
mistress had gone south for the winter, and had told Mr. Stone some
months ago she would like Sarah Kane to go with her as companion. When
he sent her word she refused the offer, and that as to Mr. Stone
bringing her, neither of them had been near the place.

On this, Silas Jones had racked his brain to discover her, advertising
time and again; sure of foul play. One day he thought of seeing what the
detectives could do, another of consulting a lawyer; he had, though
knowing it would be useless, gone to Broadlawns, and interviewed Mr.
Stone, who had answered carelessly:

"I never even try to keep track of servants we discharge. Why of Sarah
Kane, who was a viper on our hands?"

"As to that, Mr. Stone, I shall not allow you to blacken the best woman
in God's world. She went with you to London; where is she now?"

"I tell you again I don't know, even whether she be alive or dead, and
if you come about Broadlawns again, I shall have you up for trespass. An
Englishman's house is his castle, sir."

"Oh, Silas Jones, Silas Jones, she has grown tired of you," said Mrs.
Cole, vengefully. "We found her in Mr. Cole's bedroom at midnight. What
can an old man like you expect?"

"I don't mind your wicked words, they can't hurt Sarah; it's your deeds;
and I implore you, if you have any of the woman nature in you, tell me
where I can find her."

"And I answer, as Mr. Stone did, I never bother myself as to the
whereabouts of discharged servants, so consider yourself dismissed," she
said, calling Simon.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Open the door for Silas Jones, bookseller, Bayswater." And so had he
been answered in harsh, unfeeling tones, as almost broken-hearted he had
wended his lonely way mechanically back to the little parlor.

It is well he has sold out his business to the young man Mary has
married, for he cannot give his mind to anything other than the loss of
the one woman, in his simple loyalty, he has ever loved, and of how
again to find her.

"Silas," said his sister, "I just now asked Dr. MacNeil, as he came up
the street, how poor Mr. Cole is, and he says he is in for a bad attack
of that nasty rheumatic fever; just think, brother, of him only out of
brain fever and into this; it's out and out too bad."

"Does he ask for Sarah, still?"

"Yes; doctor says it's most pitiful to hear him; and he (doctor) says,
but it's 'cause he doesn't know the truth, that, of course, they are not
to be blamed for the not bringing her, since she be so bad."

"Sister, I can't stand this suspense and trouble any longer; it's
killing me. If it costs me every penny I have in the world, I _must_
find my Sarah. I shall go into the city to-morrow, and put the
detectives to work."

At this juncture the shop door was hurriedly thrown open, when Sarah
Kane, cold, pale, and trembling, followed by the driver of a hansom,
came in quickly into their midst.

"Now, Missis, you'll be as good as your word, I 'ope, and gim me my
fare."

But she is in the close embrace of Silas, while Mary pays, dismisses
him, and locks the front door, her husband being in the great city.

"Silas, it's my belief you are demented; let our Sarah go. I want to
hear where the old de'il took her to, and how she comes in like this,
with no bonnet or shawl, and her hair blown about like that. There,
that's more like it," she said, kissing Sarah, as Silas, not speaking a
word, only keeping his gaze fixed on Sarah's face, leads her to a chair,
when, dropping on his knees, says earnestly,

"Thank God; thank God."

Now seating himself beside her, and holding her hand in his, Sarah says,
her lips quivering:

"Yes, God be thanked, I am at home, home! Oh dears, you will never know
the sweetness of home as I do, after the awful life I have had since I
last saw your dear faces; and only that I ran away, leastwise, bribed
the boy with my watch and chain--"

"You did!" cried Mary, in astonishment.

"Freedom is sweeter than jewels, Mary dear; but I must begin at the
beginning. Yes, Silas, the tea has warmed me; I must tell you all now.
You know how suspicious the people at Broadlawns are? Well, you can
imagine the scene I went through when, running back from you that early
morn, I found them waiting for me; they had got into my room with
another key; they called me all the foul names in the spelling-books in
England, I do believe. My heart, but it was fearful; and poor Mr. Cole
calling me, and they not letting me near him; but I can't go on till I
hear of him. How is he, and was it brain fever?"

"Yes, Sarah," said Mary, hurriedly, "and he could not bear Mrs. Cole
near him; raving more even when out of his head, if she was in the
room."

"Poor, poor young gentleman, and how is he now?"

"Well, he's just out, like, of brain fever, and into rheumatism."

"Dear, dear!" she said, in troubled tones; "Silas, I feel, dear, that I
must endeavor to bring some speck of comfort into his life, for I blame
myself now for not long ago going and talking it over with Dr. Annesley;
will you come up to the city with me, to-morrow, and try to see him?"

"Anywhere, so I am with you; for I do believe, Sarah, I shall never be
brave enough to lose sight Of your dear face again," he said, tenderly,
still holding her hand.

"And, now, go on Sarah, and tell us where that old sneak thief took you
to," said Mary, curiously.

"Yes, I must. Mr. Stone bid me only take my Gladstone bag, for he was
not going to spoil the phæton with my trunks. So, merely putting in a
few necessary articles, thinking, as you remember, to be back in a day
or two; well, we drove into town; but not in the direction, as I
remembered, of Mrs. Mansfield's; we went a long, long way east; and when
I wondered, he answered, shortly, that he had business that required
immediate attention, first; well, on we drove into streets and
localities unknown to me. At last, after a two hours' drive, we stopped
at the end house in a terrace; it was a gloomy street, though some of
the houses were well-looking enough. In one of the windows of the house
at which we stopped, was a card, 'Lodgings for single gentlemen;' but
that was a blind, Silas, to cover the real state of affairs."

On Mr. Stone knocking, a bolt and chain were drawn and unfastened, and a
big, strong, coarse-looking boy, large mouthed, and with cross eyes,
opened the door.

"'Is your master in?' inquired Mr. Stone. 'Yes, sir.' 'Come in, Sarah
Kane,' said the wicked master of Broadlawns. 'I have a good deal to say
here, and you may as well come in doors, after your early morning walk'
(that was here, you know, Silas) 'and your visit to a gentleman's
bedroom last night.' It might have been Mrs. Cole; he spoke in such
cold, hard tones.

"We were shown into the front room first flat; the room with the notice
in the window; it was extremely dirty and untidy; with a single bed in
one corner; and what furniture there was looked like odds and ends
picked up at sales; three chairs, one of brown leather, the others faded
red and blue rep. On a table were pipes, tobacco, burnt matches, ale
mugs, and cards, with copies of _Bell's Life_, in different stages of
dirtiness; the room was littered with a man's clothing, and altogether
unsavory. I was reluctant to enter, and stood on the door-mat.

"'Just go in ma'am; here's the master,' said the boy grinning.

"If the room was unsavory, the man was. Oh, Mary, if you saw him," she
said, shudderingly; "he looked like a bully or prize fighter; a
heavily-built man, short of stature, with bull-dog head and face; he
wore no coat, and his shirt was unclean."

"Well, Lang, how are you getting along?"

"Do you mean as to funds, Mr. Stone; are you going to say the word,
'forego the back rents, take that lump sum for the house, and cry quits,
that's the question?'" he said, with a wink. "Come in, Missis; I'm quite
a dude, you see; but ladies don't mind that."

"I prefer to wait for Mr. Stone, out in the phæton," I said, with latent
disgust.

"Here they exchanged what I now know was a meaning glance, Mr. Stone
saying, 'Sarah Kane is a most particular young woman, as you shall hear,
Lang; come this way, Sarah.'

"I protested that I preferred waiting outside, to no purpose. 'This way,
Sarah Kane,' 'Yes, this way, Missis,' they said, one going before and
one behind me up a stairway, covered with a common carpet, but thickly
padded; there were five doors opening into a square hall; all doors
shut. Turning the handle of one, Mr. Stone said, smiling grimly,
'Another lodger.' 'Yes; he's out airing; you bet, they keep me busy,' he
answered, with another of his odious winks, saying, 'Here, Missis, just
step in 'ere while the Squire and me square accounts;' this time he
winked at me; and I began to think it a mechanical way he had of winding
up a remark."

"Nasty beast," said Mary.

"I was no sooner in, than the key was turned, and I knew myself a
prisoner; I called, hammered on the door, did every conceivable thing to
make a noise; finally I sat down on the one greasy chair of green rep,
and cried as if my heart would break. I thought of you, Silas, and you
too, Mary, of poor Mr. Cole; and hope vanished, knowing by whom I had
been trapped. From time to time I could hear a murmur of voices; then
Mr. Stone's unmusical laugh; and the unfastening and fastening of the
door. Then I gave myself up to despair; I could make no sign to the
outside busy London world, for my small room was only lit from the hall
by a curious window, up near the ceiling. A single bed, wash-stand, and
tiny looking glass, hanging to the wall, too small and cracked to be of
any use; every article being stale and dirty. Mr. Lang brought me a cup
of tea, and some bread and cheese, telling me to make myself at home;
and 'that even though I was in a single gentleman's house, no matter,'
with another odious wink; 'that Mr. Stone had told him I would not be
sorry there were no ladies,' etc.; but to make a long story short, Silas
and Mary, the people at Broadlawns imprisoned me to get me out of the
way, so I should not speak of this fraud of a marriage."

"That's it, my poor Sarah."

"Days passed into weeks; and had it not been for my pocket Bible, the
Pickwick papers, and a long strip of muslin embroidery and housewife I
had put in my bag, I don't know what would have become of me; I tried to
keep calm, if only to devise a scheme of escape. One day was much the
same as another, Mr. Lang trying in many ways to get private information
of Broadlawns, telling me, to raise my wrath, that Mr. Stone had told
him I was demented, and nothing I said was reliable; but I could not
trust such a man, so left him no wiser. Every day, for fifteen minutes,
I was compelled to go up two flights of stairs to a room with an open
skylight, and where I was made, willingly though, to walk up and down;
sometimes Lang, sometimes another man, whom I loathed even worse, or the
cross-eyed boy, accompanying me as jailer; this they called a pleasure
airing. Yesterday, growing desperate, I offered my watch and chain to
the cross-eyed boy, to liberate me. He listened, eyeing them greedily,
saying to my delight,

"'Well, I'll try, Missis; for I'm a bit tired of airing of you and the
three men, and a doing of other chores.' 'Are there three other
prisoners beside myself,' I cried. 'Oh, no, ma'am; they be just a
lodging 'ere on the quiet, loike you be.' 'You will free me, then, and
gain my watch and chain; see how pretty it is, and pure gold.' 'Yes, the
first chance I gets; but ye're not lying; ye'll give it all square?'

"But to hasten, for I feel tired and weak, though oh! so much better in
mind; the middle man gave me my airing to-day, to whom I never spoke,
though he laughed and jeered at me continually. I worried myself by
thinking that, perhaps, the boy was only a spy, when this evening, after
Mr. Lang had brought me my tea, and I was again locked in, to my joy, in
a few minutes, the key turned, and the boy said, hurriedly, 'Come along,
Missis; don't wait to take nothing; master's out, and Bill's run to the
gin-palace, telling of me to keep guard.' Even as he spoke, we were
downstairs, the bolt and chain undone, and, thank God, with the free air
of heaven about us. 'Give us your 'and, Missis, ye're goin' the wrong
way;' and on we sped with flying feet. 'Good-bye, Missis; now for the
timer. It's a dandy,' he said, pocketing it; 'there's a 'ansum; you'd
better take it, you are out of breath;' and with a shrill whistle, the
man stopped; when the boy flew, and I took the hansom; and here I am
home at last, thank God."

"What wretches!" cried Mary.

"You leave me no more, Sarah; you are evermore _my_ care; go to bed now,
dear, and rest, for we will go up to London to-morrow, to ask Dr.
Annesley's advice. I shall go now to Broadlawns for your trunks; good
night. Oh, how light my heart is now I have found you again, Sarah," he
said, tenderly kissing her.

"We will be an old couple, Silas, dear," she said, quietly; "do you
know, to-morrow will be our joint birthday; this is the eve of All
Saints."

"Yes; and we shall be married to-morrow, when we are in the city; age
doesn't count; our hearts are young, Sarah."

"Yes, Silas; I feel so happy I could sing,

    "'Now we maun totter doon, John;
        But hand in hand we'll go;
    And we'll sleep thegither at the foot,
        John Anderson, my jo.'"

"Our lives have been ever hand in hand, Sarah, for we exchanged hearts
long, long ago; but here is George; I shall go now with an easy mind,
for he will guard you safely; good night."

"I have only time, to-night, to wish you joy, George, for I require
rest," she said, going upstairs.

"Well, this is good," he said, rubbing his hands; "but, good night,
sister, that is to be; my little wife here has her mouth open to give me
your story."

When Silas Jones, with the light waggon, drove up the carriage drive to
Broadlawns, the family were at supper; so Simon, glad of the chance, got
the trunks down and into the waggon, without words; but as Silas Jones
was thanking him for his assistance; telling him of Sarah Kane's escape,
and inquiring for Mr. Cole, Mr. Stone, leaving the dining-room,
encountered him, when he said,

"I am taking Sarah Kane's trunks away, Mr. Stone."

"And who has authorized you to do anything in the matter?" he inquired,
haughtily.

"My future wife, Sarah Kane."

For once, he was nonplussed; when Miss Stone, passing through the hall,
said, stiffly:

"I am sorry I cannot congratulate you, Mr. Jones, on winning a Christian
woman."

"What can it mean," thought Mrs. Cole; "she is in tight keeping; safe
enough." As a feeler, she says,

"You must have the faith of Abraham to trust her still; someone said she
is living with a bachelor at London."

"Mrs. Cole, let me tell you there is such a thing as British justice,
which we mean to have, when you shall eat your words in a court of law,"
he said, indignantly turning on his heel, and out into the night.

Simon, at his post in the sick room, told the good news of Sarah Kane's
escape.

Turning suddenly, in his eagerness to face Simon, and hear more, the
sufferer groaned in rheumatic pain.

"Can you not manage to bring her to see me, when _they_ are _all_ out;
the once you did bring Mr. Jones, he said, when he found Sarah, they
would go out to New York or Canada; I particularly wish to see them.
Jove! the pain; the liniment, Simon; rub me, please, and close the door;
if I could only escape, like Sarah; you will do what you can, I beg of
you, to bring them to see me?"

"I will, sir, if I loses my situation by it."

Below stairs the birds of prey held council with closed doors.

"What the devil did that man Jones mean by daring to throw threats in
our faces, Margaret?" said Stone, with seeming bravado, though, in
reality, in dismay.

"Impudent bluster, perhaps, but I shall put my ears to their proper
use," and slipping off her shoes, she crept noiselessly up to the door
of the gloomy east chamber, which had been closed so they could talk
privately, thus playing into the ear of the enemy.

"Well," said her uncle grimly, as she returned. "Well?" she answered, in
the same tones, her eagle nose more prominent, her awful eyes more stony
than ever. "She has escaped! and is even now at the bookseller's."

"The devil!"

"You may well say so. Thomas Lang has sold you. Simon does not know
particulars, for our friend Cole was earnest in inquiries."

"Is it too late to go into the city now?" he said nervously.

"Yes, and you are too cowardly to face 'ills you know not of' alone. Let
me see; the lower class are awed by pomp and show. We will drive into
Windsor Terrace in the morning in the carriage and pair. If Lang has
sold you, you must buy him, by letting him have the house at his own
figure. Again, should she have escaped without his connivance, be
prepared by selling everything you can. You, as guardian to my sweet
step-sister, have unlimited powers until our pet is of age, which
interesting event, they don't seem to know, has taken place. Rake in all
the gold you can, uncle, as the United States looks inviting at present;
to-morrow will be a busy day, Aunt Elizabeth, so you might tell cook to
have breakfast an hour earlier. Good night."

As she left the room, her uncle said:

"She is every inch a Stone, Elizabeth, and not a bit like her
chicken-hearted father."

"That's true, Timothy, but she grows plainer every day, and looks nearly
as old as I do."

"Yes, she is no Hebe; but had the blooming goddess been possessed of her
wits, she would have blind-folded Jupiter."



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE ISLET-GEMMED ST. LAWRENCE.


On a morning late in December Mrs. Gower sat alone in her pretty restful
library, with its olive-green velvet cushions and hangings, its
water-lilies, like the beauties in our bay, with their green stalks and
leaves painted on the panelled walls, its English ivy trained up and
around the Queen Anne mantel, with graceful palms standing on either
side of the floral blossoms on the stand. The occupant looks well in a
close-fitting gown of navy blue flannel, embroidered in rose silk; there
is a half-smile on the lips, and the dreaminess of some tender thought
in the dark eyes, as she idly opens and closes a black lace fan, with a
spray of honeysuckle painted thereon. A gentleman's card lay beside her
work-basket on the table.

"So Alexander Blair is his name," she thought; "how very, very long,"
with a sigh, "it has taken to come to me--his name, of course, I mean."
She thought, with a smile, putting the card to her lips, "how foolish of
me, but I have always had that way. I remember travelling to Port Elgin,
from Toronto, and on my arrival, my trunk, containing my dearest
treasures, was not forthcoming. I was wild with grief, when, after
enriching the telegraph offices, at the expense of my purse, in three
days it was again in my possession; and what did I do, why kissed and
fondled both trunk and key. Elaine Gower, you are a foolish,
impressionable woman. And so I dropped my fan at the Grand, last night.
His card says, 'With compliments, dropped at the theatre.' He scarcely
seemed a stranger seated beside me at 'Erminie,' and I feel sure he felt
likewise. How handsome he is, or rather how essentially manly, with the
look of strength in his broad shoulders, and of honesty of purpose in
his fearless, blue eyes. He is iron-grey, and slightly bald, I noticed,
when he stooped to pick up my handkerchief, but his beard and moustache
are brown. He is decidedly dark; I wonder if Highland Scotch; for dark,
and true, and tender are the North. His name suits him. I like them both
for old association's sake, one being the maiden name of one whose
memory is sacred, the other, the Christian name of my loved dead. I
wonder what poor Charlie Cole would think of my having made his
acquaintance in this romantic fashion. I remember, he also had had
instantaneous photographs, as we laughingly called them, of a young lady
who had interested him."

At this moment Miss Crew, entering, in walking costume, said:

"I met the letter-carrier as I came in, Mrs. Gower, and here is your
share."

"Thank you. You look better for your walk; but did you walk?"

"Only from the Spadina Avenue car terminus, but I had some little
walking in my district, but the College Street Mission is worth
fatiguing oneself for. Oh, Mrs. Gower, have you heard how Mayor Howland
purposes raising building funds for the cottage in connection with the
Industrial Home at Mimico?"

"Yes, I read it in some newspaper, the Globe of yesterday, I think."

"Won't it be something to be proud of, if the children carry it out."

"Yes, and I believe they will; children are very much in earnest, when
the heart is touched; and now for our correspondence; take off your hat
and mantle here by the grate, though Gurney's furnace does keep us very
comfortable all over the house."

"Pardon my interrupting you, Mrs. Gower; but I am reading a letter from
Mrs. Dale, in which she says, to be sure and remind you to write her
some description of your yachting on the St. Lawrence; those English
friends of theirs would so much like to get some idea of the life, as
they purpose purchasing an island."

"Yes, I must do so; but I fear any poor words of mine, will fail in
doing justice to its many delights;" and on finishing reading her
letters, seating herself at her _escretoire_, she wrote as follows:

     "The Islet-Gemmed St. Lawrence.

     "DEAR MR. AND MRS. DALE,--It has never been my lot to read
     anything descriptive of river-life, on our loveliest of
     streams, that I have considered did justice to its varied
     charms; so you may imagine how powerless I feel, in the task
     you have assigned me; but when I tell you that that martyr to
     _ennui_, Jack Halton, this summer owned to myself that he had,
     at last, found something worth living for, you will therefore
     not be surprised that I, loving nature as I do, should have
     gone into raptures.

     "In the first place, our steam-yacht, the _Ino_, was the
     trimmest little craft, the daintiest little beauty on the
     river; and we had the perfection of host and hostess, each in
     their respective niche, leaving nothing to be desired. I told
     them they must have had 'Aladdin's lamp' stowed away somewhere;
     for we had but to clap our hands, and our will was done.

     "Day after day, never tiring, ever with renewed zest we boarded
     the _Ino_, to dream away the hours in the most ravishing bits
     of scenery my eyes ever beheld. With hampers full of dainties
     and substantials, we wandered in and about the islands;
     sometimes meeting other idlers like ourselves, and pic-nicking
     at some chosen spot; sometimes the guests at one or other of
     our acquaintances having summer homes in this our Canadian
     fairyland. Truly, if all the year were June, the world in woods
     would roam; for our gay little _Ino_ was a spirit of the
     waters, and though we had no spiritualists on board, still we
     had table rappings on some good story by our witty host;
     neither were we so spiritual as to despise the material, which
     we proved as we sat to dinner; and such dinners, Ambrosia! Yea,
     and for our goddesses; though with sunburnt faces we women did
     not much resemble the latter, our men looking handsomer the
     browner they grew; but as for dinner, we had from dishes to
     tickle the palate of our club epicures to--hodge-podge, which
     we relished.

     "Yes, from morn till eve, and often late, late, in the white
     moonlight, we lived an ideal life on our pet yacht, the _Ino_.

     "One will sometimes say, in meteing out great praise to some
     favored spot, that one would live and die there; but here, who
     talks of dying? One would fain live forever; for, every moment
     one lives, one breathes a new life; for on the luxuriously
     appointed _Ino_, we gazed out from curtained windows, or from
     under a canopied arch, while we reclined on softest of
     cushioned seats, and literally drank in the 'Elixir of Life.'
     The air of the pine groves as we passed, the air of the grandly
     dark and dashing river, full of ozone, is the air to inflate
     one's lungs with, and carry back with one to our crowded
     cities, which seemed so far away in that land of beauty.

     "Some delightful evenings, we would tread a measure on the
     green sward, to music of flute and violin; for, had one or more
     of our group not been innate musicians, the scene was enough to
     inspire one, and so, in songs, merry laughter or sentiment, our
     days passed as a dream.

     "For we stem the shining river,
     The river of the isles,
     On our fairy yacht, the _Ino_,
     With our love beside our side.

     For I there met a sorcerer, who robbed me of my heart, and
     whose spells I could not break until I fled from this scene of
     enchantment. And again we board our trim yacht, and what varied
     scenes of beauty met the eye, whenever and wherever we gazed.
     Such lights, such shadows, such artist bits, such trees, such
     rocks, such everything! Surely we were in fairyland, and not in
     plain, practical Canada.

     "On some of the islands are ideal summer homes; now we came
     upon a fairy-like structure, in Italian villa style; now, upon
     a palatial mansion; now, upon a camp all alive, and signalling
     _Ino_ the fair.

     "The only specks in my sun were, that the American islands were
     made more beautiful by their owners than our own; and that
     uneuphonious names had been given to some of these charming
     islets. Fancy one 'Pitch Pine Point'--I failed to see the point
     of christening it so.

     "The rocks take most fantastic shapes in the shadowed
     moonlight. By and under the rock-bound shore, I used to fancy I
     saw nymphs dancing on the rippling waters, which was to them
     music; and, dreaming on, as we lazily stemmed the tide, it all
     came to me, that in days of yore, the youths from the shore,
     coming to row and sport in the waves at eve, saw the
     water-sprites, and fell in love; when the sea-gods, for
     revenge, fell upon them, transforming them into some of the
     most fantastic-shaped rocks we see; and, the sea-nymphs,
     pitying the sons of men for their fatal love, prayed the gods
     to transform themselves into trees, to grow into the clefts of
     the rocks; and so protect their would-be lovers from old Sol's
     fiery beams, and their wish was granted.

     "But we invariably turned ere a bend in the river robbed it
     from our sight, to take a last loving glance at the beauteous
     Isle Manhattan, where we had been most hospitably entertained
     by its charming American inmates. It is beautifully wooded, and
     an elegant mansion thereon, with one of the most hospitable of
     verandas, stretching long and wide, with many American rockers
     and pillowed rattan sofas, on which we have reclined or sat
     while partaking of iced claret and, for those who liked it,
     champagne _carte blanche_, and where we had one of the most
     perfect views from the commanding tower of the villa.

     "A view that wants a Lett, an Imrie, or an Awde to sing of, a
     Longfellow to immortalize--my pen is lifeless in describing its
     beauty; a beauty that would ravish the soul of a poet, and send
     an artist wild; a view which brought to my mind the remark of a
     dear old Scotchman, whom a party of tourists came upon, lost in
     admiration of the Falls of Niagara. On one of the party asking
     him what he thought of the Falls, he said, 'Eh, man, I just
     feel like takin' aff my bonnet til't.'

     "In the far-stretching scene of loveliness here, in the heart
     of the Islands, one should go to the Tower, at Manhattan alone,
     leaving the merry, madding crowd on board the yacht, or on the
     veranda; one should go alone, or in dual solitude, where a
     clasp of the hand, or a look, is sympathy enough; for one
     should carry with one one's fill of such a scene of perfect
     beauty, to brighten darker days and drearier times."



CHAPTER XIX.

EYE-OPENERS.


On the morning of All Saints' Day, and while numerous bells, in tuneful
voices, reminded London of souls departed, and souls to be saved, Silas
Jones and his twin spirit, Sarah Kane, having arrayed themselves in best
bib and tucker, had taken the underground rail from Bayswater, and with
the multitude were trying not to lose one another in the London fog--a
regular pea-souper, in which the coat-pocket of Silas had been picked of
pipe, tobacco and handkerchief.


"Mercy me, Silas, look well that they don't steal the license."

"You are right, Sarah; which the thieves would not ask for leave or
license to take; 'tis a big world our London; and it's my belief the
thieves' quarter is the biggest half."

"We should have made sure of the license, Silas, by being married at
first."

"That we should, dear; but you have always let a fancied duty come
between us. And now for Piccadilly and Dr. Annesley, in this fog."

"Hello, Missis; a feller can't see in this 'ere yeller fog; 'ere, get
into my barrow; it's clean, and I'll run yer through," said a boy's
voice, running against them; and which Sarah Kane recognized as that of
her liberator, the cross-eyed boy.

His offer was hurriedly declined by Silas, who dreaded Sarah taking her
hand from his arm. On ascertaining from the boy that he had hired to
peddle fruit for a huckster and that he had pawned the watch and chain
they offered to redeem them, and give him a sovereign and-a-half for
them; which offer he joyfully accepted; they also, giving him their
address, told him, if at any time he wanted advice or assistance, to
come.

A policeman now directed them to the residence of Dr. Annesley--a
genial, kindly old gentleman, who was at home, and pleased to see them.
On their relating the doings at Broadlawns, he was both astonished and
indignant, disgusted and outrageous.

"As to any sharp tricks in money matters, I am not surprised," he said,
impatiently; "but that they should have dared to perpetrate such an
outrage as the marriage of Mr. C. Babbington-Cole, to that intensely
disagreeable, ugly, cruel, Miss Villiers, is monstrous, monstrous!"

"You may well say so, sir," said Sarah Kane, sadly.

"How is it you had no suspicions, Mistress Kane, and you under the same
roof?"

"I only overheard a word now and again, as to a marriage; but I never
suspected this horror; I supposed it meant Miss Pearl, and that they
were going to bring her back, when of age."

"Nothing can be done for Babbington-Cole; he is tied for life; but how
he could ever have fallen into their net, is more than I can imagine,"
he said, in disgusted tones.

"You know, I told you they took him by surprise, sir; and his father lay
ill; and cablegrams came telling him to wed Margaret Villiers, and
hasten with her to his bedside; and he was just demented-like, between
it all, and brain fever coming on."

"Well, well, it is a bad, very bad business. I confess to the having
been so disgusted, on Villiers making Stone guardian to Miss Pearl,
until she attained her majority, that I, metaphorically speaking, washed
my hands of the whole affair; especially on Miss Pearl herself telling
Brookes & Davidson, her mother's lawyers, that she agreed to it; this
she said, on their telling her that, as her father had had softening of
the brain at the time, nothing he said was worth considering."

"Depend upon it, doctor, Mr. Stone had used coercion to induce Miss
Pearl to agree," said Silas Jones.

"Yes, I see, he must have," he answered, thoughtfully.

"And you don't know anything of poor Miss Pearl's whereabouts, do you,
sir?" asked Sarah Kane, anxiously.

"Yes, I can give you a clue, for I love her for her own and her mother's
sake; and as time went on, and I heard or saw nothing of her, I wrote T.
L. Brookes, the senior partner, for I have had nothing to do with the
hypocrites at Broadlawns, since Villiers' death; and he sent me an
address at New York. Here it is, 'Mrs. Kent, The Maples, Murray Hill;'
but, it is only a clue, for I have written, and have not, as yet,
received a reply."

"Oh, please copy it for me, sir, for Silas and I are going to be
married, and go out and find her. I promised her mother to look after
her; and I have not heard from Miss Pearl; but she has written, for she
said she would; but they have read and destroyed them, the same as they
did to some that came for Mr. Cole just before and after he arrived."

"Horrible! horrible! How is he now; you just come from there, I
presume?"

On Sarah Kane relating her late enforced retirement under Tom Lang's
roof, and her escape therefrom, he opened his eyes in astonishment,
saying, indignantly:

"The rascal! and you know nothing of the locality?"

"Nothing whatever, sir."

"Even if she did, Dr. Annesley, Stone would coin some plausible reason
for placing her there."

"Yes, yes, Jones; he is as cunning as the arch-fiend; people would
believe him, too, as he is a good churchman."

"But, you know, Silas; he has his falsehood ready. Sir, he told my
jailer that I was demented, and--worse."

"Ah, his plots have no flaw; poor creature, after the kindness and
respect Mrs. Villiers showed you, and which you deserved; too bad, too
bad."

"The poison of their lying tongues has already done Sarah harm in
Bayswater, Doctor. People pass her without a nod; they at Broadlawns say
they found her in the bedroom of a gentleman guest at midnight, and that
she stole out of the house at three in the morning to meet another."

"Shocking! you can have them up for defamation," he said, sternly.

"But, sir, I must tell you, it was to poor Mr. Cole's bedroom I went,
and he with brain-fever coming on, to do what I could to comfort the
unfortunate gentleman; and it was to Silas and his sister I went at
night to tell them of the awful marriage; that I was turned out, and
going to Mrs. Mansfield's, which I was foolish enough to believe," she
said, with tears.

"Well, well, Mistress Kane, there, there, don't recall it; go off to a
clergyman's and marry this good man; and here are five pounds to buy
some trifle in Cheapside, to remember the day by. And now, let me see,
there was something I wished to see Jones about," he said, kindly,
rubbing his forehead. "Yes, I have it; did they give you all the wearing
apparel of the late Mrs. Villiers, Mistress Kane?"

"Oh, no, sir! I would not expect such beautiful things. I thought Miss
Pearl should have them, whenever I see Miss Stone wearing the lovely
furs and satins."

"Did you ever receive five hundred pounds sterling, Mistress Kane, left
you, by the will of the late Mrs. Villiers?" he asked, slowly, and with
emphasis.

"Sir, you take my breath away. Silas, tell him, no, sir. I! I! receive
such a sum. No, nor one penny since Mrs. Villiers' death; but that, I
cannot claim, for I have staid on willingly, to watch dear Miss Pearl's
interests, and this is the end. Come Silas, let us go now to the parson;
it will be our first step out of Old England, to find Miss Pearl," she
said, nervously, her tears flowing apace, partly with the troubled
excitement of the words of Dr. Annesley, partly at the having, at last,
a clue to the whereabouts of Pearl Villiers. Not so, Silas, who loved
her too well to allow the words of Dr. Annesley to pass unnoticed.

"Do you really mean that the late Mrs. Villiers left Sarah a legacy,
Doctor?" he said, in some excitement.

"I do; and infer from your united words that that rascal has pocketed
it; I must see to it," and going to the telephone, ringing up Brookes &
Davidson, ascertaining that they were both at their offices, said:

"Hello! Have been interviewed _re_ Villiers' estate, am now sending the
persons to you; they are quite reliable; shall see you to-morrow."

"All right, send them on."

"This is all I can do for you at present," he said; "and I advise you to
make oath as to your not having received the legacy; it will save time.

"I am selfish enough to be glad you are going out to New York; something
tells me you will trace Miss Pearl; and I can assure you both, you have
my fullest sympathy in your dealings with Stone; I can scarcely restrain
myself from taking the law into my own hands, going out, and charging
them with their villainy."

"Thank God for your friendship, Doctor," said Silas Jones fervently, as
he smoothed Sarah's bonnet-strings, and gave her her satchel.

"Good-bye, sir, and heaven bless you for your kindnesses," said Sarah
Kane, with feeling.

"O, pshaw; my only regret is that you have only found me out to say
farewell; but you must both come back, and bring Miss Pearl, to see an
old man."

On reaching the offices of the law-firm, Sarah Kane made oath as to the
not having received either money or wearing apparel.

W. Davidson, Q. C., saying:

"My eyes are being opened every day by the revelations of my clients;
but what you say confirms my suspicion, that the schemes of some
_certain_ people are such cunningly devised fables, as to make it next
to impossible for all the law courts in the kingdom to convict them."

On leaving Temple Bar, they dined comfortably at a restaurant, talking
faster than they ate. Afterwards, by the words of a clergyman, they were
at last made one, at which, with hearts full of thankfulness and quiet
content, they took a Bayswater omnibus.

Again in the little back parlor, where Mary had a table groaning under
its good things, with a bright fire to welcome them, to which they had
scarcely done justice, and beginning to relate their adventures in the
city, when Simon, the man from Broadlawns, entered, saying, hurriedly:

"I gave my word to the young gent up to the house that I'd fetch you
folks up to see him when they, over there, were out; so, come along,
please, if you be in a mind to give the poor gentleman his way."

"Yes, indeed, we will, Simon," said Sarah Kane, readily tying on her
bonnet. "Come, Silas, dear."

He rose, somewhat reluctantly, for the neat little parlor is doubly home
to him now, with the sweet, gentle face of Sarah looking at him with the
loving eyes of a wife.

"But are you sure, Simon, that they are all out, and for the evening,
for I cannot answer for myself if I come across them?"

"Sure as the Bank of England, Mr. Jones, they be at the parson's. He's a
showing of them off to a big missionary from foreign parts as his best
angels."

"The Rev. Mr. Parks is so good," said Sarah, "that I always regret that
his eyes are closed to the color of his angels."

"The trouble be, Mistress Kane, that they blindfold more nor parson,"
said Simon, as they hurriedly made their exit.

"Mistress Kane no longer, Simon, for I am glad to tell you we were
married in the city to-day."

"Lawk-a-day! you don't tell me; but I am mighty glad to hear it. You
will have a man of your own now, to take your name out of the gossips'
mouth."

On arriving at Broadlawns, they went at once to the gloomy east chamber,
when Sarah could scarcely repress an exclamation of intense pity at the
change for the worse in the appearance of the long-suffering inmate. He
was wasted to a shadow, and his brown locks had been shaved during brain
fever, his kindly blue eyes looked black in the transparent paleness of
his face, as did his whiskers and moustache, but in which many grey
hairs had come. Holding out a thin, white hand, he welcomed Sarah
warmly, saying:

"Oh, it _is_ good to see your face again. I expect I look like a
galvanized corpse, Sarah. What with the horror of my forced union with
Medusa (a pet name I have for Mrs. Cole), and then brain fever, which, I
don't wonder, caught me, and which, having that woman about me,
aggravated. You banished, and maligned, at which I stuffed the
bedclothes into my ears, and now my old enemy, inflammatory rheumatism,
I have had a pretty tough time of it."

"Yes, indeed, you have, poor fellow," said Sarah, restraining her tears,
and scarcely able to look at the wreck before her; "but you are on the
mend now, and we must trust in God to bring you around soon. It has been
a heartbreak to me, Mr. Cole, that I was not allowed to nurse you."

"Only another piece of their cruelty, Sarah. But tell me about yourself.
Where did that old sinner incarcerate you? tell me everything," he said,
with feeble eagerness, for sometimes the pain was intense, causing him
to set his teeth, or catch his breath.

But Silas Jones, seeing how much she was affected, and wishing to give
her time to recover, himself gave the sick man a vivid picture of her
imprisonment and release.

"Jove! what a wretch--I mean Stone; for the man Lang was simply his
tool. Gad! I shall exercise a treble amount of will-power to get well,
and out of their clutches, and back to dear old Toronto. 'Out of every
evil comes some good,' they say; though, in my case, not much; in
Sarah's, yes, for you have given me a tonic, Jones. From this moment I
am determined to recover."

"That's right; be brave, sir, and you'll pull through right smart," said
Silas Jones; for Sarah is swallowing a lump in her throat.

"Yes, bear up, Mr. Cole," she said, trying to smile, as she seated
herself on the bedside, taking his poor, worn hands into her own, warm
with vitality. "But Silas has not given you a bit of good news--that the
happiest part of our lives is to come, for from to-day, we pass them
together!"

"Yes," said Silas, coming beside her, laying his hands on her shoulders;
"yes, I have nothing more to wish for, with Sarah beside me. I cannot
remember the time, sir, that I did not want Sarah."

Two tears rolled down the sick man's cheeks, as he thought of his own
wretched fate; but, by a visible effort, controlling self, he said,
simply:

"I am glad you are together, and happy. Yours is a blessed union. God
help me to health and strength, that I can free myself of _her_
presence," he cried imploringly. "Sarah, I have a fancy--it may be a
dying one, heaven knows--it is to see a likeness of Pearl Villiers, the
girl I was, by right, to have married."

"Here she is, poor dear," she said with alacrity, unfastening a locket
suspended to her chain.

"How strange! how like her! only older, and more careworn. Sarah, I have
seen a face like this three or four times on the other side of the
water; the face, too, strange to say, haunted me; a nice, good face,
rather than pretty; but if the careworn, troubled look was gone it would
have been pretty. Yes, the same features; small, pale, and regular."

"And with fair hair and slight figure?" cried Sarah, clasping her hands.

"Yes," but with the restlessness of the invalid he changed the subject,
saying:

"You and your husband are going to America, you say. I am going, too;
_when_ I get well. You might meet me there, if you can't wait for me,"
he said, wearily; "and, yes, there is something else I must hasten to
say before those people return. I have received no letters since my
arrival, only a few newspapers; here they are. I love them because they
come from dear Toronto," he said, in nervous haste, taking from beneath
his pillow a copy of the _Mail_, two of _Grip_, with a _Globe_.

"Letters were here to meet you, sir?"

"Then the sneaks have read and kept them," he cried, angrily.

"Perhaps I should not have told you, sir; but I don't like you to think
your friends have forgotten you."

"You do me no harm, Sarah, by your eye-openers. Wrath is a good tonic;
tell me if you know what postmark was on them."

"Here are some envelopes I picked up from the grate the morning they
sent me away."

"Yes, they said their letters would be here to meet me. This is quite
plain, from Will Smith; this I can scarcely decipher; but it's--yes,
it's Mrs. Gower's writing; and this from a namesake of yours, Mr. Jones.
Ah, it's good to see even these scraps. I could preach sermons on the
wickedness of my jailers," he said, weakly, "but now, at once, before
they come back, take my address here, on----"

"How dare you enter my roof! it is more than flesh and blood can stand,"
said Mrs. Cole, entering stealthily, her face in a flame with rage--a
virago, from the crown of her head to the sole of her foot, and arrayed,
with her usual contempt for harmonious coloring, in pea-green satin, jet
trimmings, with crimson bows.

"Calm yourself, Mrs. Cole; we are in the presence of a sick man," said
Silas, with intense pity for the invalid, and endeavoring to curb his
own tongue.

"Don't dare to address me, but get out of my house immediately; there,
follow your bonnet, Sarah Kane," she said, furiously, pitching her
bonnet and satchel into the hall, on which some change rolling
therefrom, she was the richer by a half a sovereign, which, stealthily
picking up, with an inward chuckle, she slipped into her boot.

"What's all the racket about upstairs? Wait a few moments, Lang," said
Stone, who, on returning, ascertained he had been waiting for him in the
kitchen for a full hour, they having missed each other in the morning.

Sarah Jones, in nervous haste to be gone, picked up her bonnet and
satchel, taking the hand of Mr. Cole in good night.

"Remember! and here is my address," he whispered nervously.

But the woman he has married is too sharp for them; for, on Sarah
turning from the bedside, she snatched the paper, tearing it into
fragments.

"Good night, Mr. Cole. I am truly sorry for you; you are too good for
the inmates of this house."

"Again you dare to trespass," said Stone, meeting them on the stairs,
turning and following them down.

"I warned you before that I should make you pay for this. I am master
here, and I tell you I shall kick you out if you ever show your ugly
faces here again," he said, choking with passion.

"Good evening, Mistress Kane," winked Lang, as they passed him. "It was
not square of you to skip off from me without paying your board. I'm
dead broke, so you or your follower better pay up now; it's only five
sovereigns, and save law expenses."

"You are unwise, Mr. Lang, to add insult to injury," she said, quietly,
as she went out into a serener night.

"Provide yourselves with plasters, and we shall provide ourselves with
copper toes, the next time you trespass," shouted Mrs. Cole, over the
banisters.

"We shall only trouble you once more," said Silas Jones, curbing
himself, "when Mrs. Jones will give you her signature in exchange for
five hundred pounds, with interest on same, left her by the will of the
late Mrs. Villiers."



CHAPTER XX.

"YOUR EEN WERE LIKE A SPELL."


The silver chimes of the mantel clock rang four p.m., as Mrs. Gower
descended from her sewing-room on the last day of the old year. She
looked well in a gown of soft, grey silk, hanging in full, straight
folds, unrelieved by ornament, save a few sprays of sweet heliotrope at
her collar-fastening.

She stood at the library door, unseen by Miss Crew the only occupant,
who made a pretty picture, the last beams of the setting sun coming in
through a west window, lighting up her fair hair and pretty brown gown,
the firelight lending color to her pale cheeks; a cabinet photo is in
her hand, at which she is gazing so earnestly, and with such a troubled
expression, that she has not heard Mrs. Gower, though singing softly, as
she descended the stairs,

    "Your een were like a spell, Jeanie;
      Mair sweet than I can tell, lassie,
    That ilka day bewitched me sae
      I couldna help mysel', lassie."

"Who are you trying to read, Miss Crew?"

"Your friend, Mr. Babbington-Cole, Mrs. Gower," she said, with a start,
placing the photo back in its frame.

"And has it told you its name was Babbington-Cole, _ma chere_; we only
give the latter?"

"Yes; but you know his name is Babbington-Cole, Mrs. Gower," she
answered, evading the question.

"We do. Do you like his face?"

"Yes, very much; he looks so kind and sweet-tempered."

"Poor Charlie Cole, he is all of that; excessively amiable people so
often wed the reverse. I do hope it is not so in his case." "It is a
dreadful fate," said the girl, absently. "But we must hope for the best,
Miss Crew; but his long silence makes me fanciful; however, if we don't
receive news direct very soon--as I have had some queer dreams of him
lately--I shall write the clergyman at Bayswater."

"The reverend--I mean, how will you address it; just to the clergyman,
or how?" she said, intent upon her work.

"Yes, that's very true, I don't know his name. Oh, I have it; Mr. Smyth
left the paper with the marriage insertion; I do hope it has not been
destroyed;" and going to the rack, to look over its contents, Miss Crew,
excusing herself, left the room to get into her wraps, as she was due to
tea at the Tremaine's. Mrs. Gower, looking in vain for the English
newspaper, seated herself comfortably to read the report of the Board of
Trade dinner to the Honorable Joseph Chamberlain.

Miss Crew entered, robed for the winter streets. "Good-bye, Mrs. Gower;
I shall not be late."

"_Au revoir_; give Mrs. Tremaine my love; and say, as the Dales may
return from New York this evening, I found it impossible to leave; and
be sure and wear your over-shoes: our streets are in their usual winter
break-neck condition. I do hope the new Council will enforce the
by-law."

"I hope so, too; I had an awful fall the other day; the city treasury
would be overflowing did they collect the fines," she said, going out;
when, at the hall door, she returned, saying hurriedly, "Oh, here is the
English newspaper you were looking for, Mrs. Gower; it was upstairs."

"Thank you, good-bye."

Having made a note of the clergyman's name at Bayswater, and become
conversant with the news in the city papers, she gave herself up, in the
gloaming, to quiet thought.

"Yes, I like him very much, there is a manly, straightforwardness in his
words; a steadfastness of purpose in his honest blue eyes; a firmness in
the lines of the mouth, with a kindliness of manner; all stamping him as
a man whose friendship would be true, whose love faithful; how strange,
that at last I should meet him at the house of a mutual friend. Mr. St.
Clair tells me he has known him for years, and the Tremaines since
summer; had any one told me two weeks ago, that I should sing 'Hunting
Tower' with him in ten days, at the St. Clairs', I should have thought
them romancing. He has a sweet tenor voice, he asked me if he might
call; how pleasant it would be if he were here now. I used to wonder and
wonder, in meeting him so frequently at lectures, concerts, or in the
cars, and walking about, what his name was. Now, Alexander Blair has
come to me; and his tenderness to the little veiled lady, who was, I
suppose, consumptive, by the slow way they walked. I wonder where she
is, I never see her now: his care for her touched my heart.

"I am so glad he has come into my life: I feel lonely at times; and he
is so companionable, I know. What dependent creatures we are, after
all--houses and lands, robes _a la mode_, even, don't suffice.
Intercourse we must have.

"But," and a shudder ran through her, "what a desolate fate mine will be
if Philip Cobbe will persist in keeping me to my oath. We have not much
in common: he is kind, but neither firm nor steadfast, and now this
woman comes between us; and what would she not do were I his wife? As it
is, I live in daily dread of her doing something desperate. It was
enough to terrify any woman similarly situated, the way in which she
acted that Sunday evening, coming from church; and again, that night at
the Rogers' meeting in the Pavilion. A ring! Can it be the Dales? No, it
is Philip; I wonder what mood he is in."

"Alone! for a wonder," he said, warmly. "Leave the gas alone, Thomas,
the firelight is sufficient." "And thinking of me, and wishing for me,"
he said, as the servant left the room. "Yes, I can tell by your eyes."

"There Philip, that will do, I am actually afraid to have you in my
house. Remember that woman last night! if looks could kill, then would I
have been slain," she said, tremblingly.

"She can't harm you, and I'll put a stop to her tricks. You see, Elaine,
she is so infatuated with me, she can't keep away," he said, personal
vanity uppermost.

"But, that's just what I want you to see, Philip; it would be running
too great a risk to marry you."

"'Pon honor, love, I don't know how to shake her off."

"You did not seem to exert yourself last night. When I looked over my
shoulder to speak to you in the crowd, coming out, she had her hand on
your arm; and you were bending down listening to her."

"I know; and when you looked, she clutched her hold of my arm all the
tighter," he said, with the eagerness of a child.

"What did she say?"

"She said, you _shan't_ go home with her to-night."

"Exactly the same words she used that Sunday evening. Words and an act
that will ever be stamped on my memory. That act came between my heart
and yours, Philip, for all time," she said, sadly thinking of his
foolish flightiness in allowing anything of the kind to break up their
friendship, if no more. "You must see, Philip, that you should set me
free."

"No, no; don't talk like that; you should want me all the more when you
witness her infatuation," he said, with his juvenile air, attempting to
kiss her.

"No, Philip; I cannot let you come near me with the occurrence of last
evening so fresh in my memory."

"Oh, nonsense; when I am your husband you will be just as infatuated
about me as she is."

"Do you know, Philip, you are as vain as a girl."

"Well, yes; I suppose I am vain; but so would any man be who was as
successful with the fair sex as I am," he said, drawing himself up to
his full height of five feet nine, a look of pleasure in his large
bright eyes.

"I can assure you, Philip, I felt anything but vain at the Pavilion, or
coming out of church, with the spiteful eyes of that tall,
common-looking, over-dressed Mrs. Snob full upon me, as social
astronomer; she took in the situation at once."

"A fig for what such like see or think; I thought you were above valuing
the opinion of our wealthy plebeians."

"But we were so conspicuously placed; I shrink from giving such women
food for gossip."

"Hang them all; our east-ender, Mrs. Snob, Ragsel, and the whole tribe,
or anyone that bothers you, Elaine."

"But, Philip, do be rational; release me from my oath; give me my
freedom; we will never be happy married, or with our engagement still
on; for she will grow bolder, and more persistent with each advance; do,
for pity's sake, free me."

"No, no; you ask too much," he said, angrily, thinking of these
comfortable quarters of which he should be master, and of the woman
beside him also.

"But see how you left me for her last night; you _must_ be fond of her."

"I am _not_, so help me God; but I could not shake her off without
making a scene."

"But just fancy, Philip; if we were married she would prowl about the
place even more than she does at present."

"It is all your own fault, Elaine, that she gives you those scares in
the evening; for she only comes when she knows I am about; if you lived
more to yourself, and did not have all these women about you, I would
come in the afternoon, like to-day; and she would be none the wiser, for
she is at work in the day and can't come."

"It is a fearful life for me."

"Be reasonable, Elaine: any man as fascinating to your sex as I am must,
of necessity, have women breaking their necks for them."

"How you amuse me," she said, smiling ironically, comparing him with
someone else.

"I don't see why; you know I speak truth," he said, innocently; "let me
come in the afternoon; don't have any one else; then, pet, she will not
see me watching to see you when your guests are gone at night; and so
you will not be troubled with her."

"But just think what a proposition you are making; she is to control our
actions."

"Yes; but only for a time, pet; she will, perhaps, tire of pursuing me;
if she had me, and you were out in the cold, I feel sure she would agree
to my proposition."

"You certainly have a most amusing way of putting things."

"I know I have; it's my large, kind heart and wish to please; and when
we are married I will both charm and amuse you."

"No, no; it will not be safe for me to marry you; for how about this
other woman; would you charm and amuse her also?"

"Just as I was in the humor; if she angered me, I would not think twice
of setting Tyr on her."

"Dinner is served, ma'am."

On repairing to the dining-room; and having done ample justice to a
substantial dinner, prepared with a view to the possible advent of the
Dales; and when the oyster soup, roast beef, with delicious vegetables,
had been removed, dessert on, and Thomas dismissed, Mr. Cobbe said, in
pleased tones:

"I must congratulate you on your cook, Elaine."

"Then you congratulate myself, Philip; for my seraph of the frying-pan
knows next to nothing of the art; I devote two hours of each day to my
culinary department."

"For which you have the thanks of your guests, and for which Bridget
will make you pay."

"Yes; I know; but they all do it; when they feel their wings, they
demand higher wages, or fly.


"When will you marry me, Elaine?" he said, lightly, as they entered the
drawing-room.

"_After all I have said, you still ask this_," she said, freeing
herself, and at her wits' end to know what to do with him, remembering
her oath; but this woman, and what revenge she may take, terrifies her.
Mr. Cobbe lights the gas; but the inside shutters must be shut; and as
she closes them, he assists her, standing so near that his cheek touches
hers.

"Don't speak to me like that, Elaine; we love each other; and hang her
for coming between us; come here, pet, and sit beside me; it is a treat
to have you all to myself."

"No; I am in no humor for a _tête-à-tête_; and the Dales may arrive at
any moment."

"Hang them; can't they go to a hotel; I dislike them; and surely you had
enough of them, and that doleful Miss Crew, while Dale went north."

"Tastes differ, Philip; I have a sincere friendship for them; as to
their coming now, most of my little friends' wardrobe is----"

Here a sharp ring at the hall door startled them.

"What! a ring; that woman will be the death of me; I tremble now, once
evening comes, at every peal of that bell."

"Beg pardon, sir; a person--a--a lady, says she is waiting to speak to
you, sir."

"Go, Philip, quick, for heaven's sake; this is dreadful," she said, in a
gasp, holding her hand to her side.

"Mr. Blair," said Thomas; and the old gold _portière_ hangings are again
closed, and they are alone.

"Forget I am with you; don't try to speak yet," he said, kindly leading
her to a seat; "you will breathe naturally in a few minutes, you have
been startled; but it is all quiet now; your servant carefully fastened
the door; lean your head back to this cushion; there is something, after
all, in material comforts. Ah, now your color comes, and your
eyes--well," he said, smiling, yet with a grave tenderness, "your eyes
have lost their startled look, and may again weave their spells." For
she had now opened her eyes, keeping them closed so she could better
listen to his voice as he talked on, giving her time to recover that
self which in alarm had fled.

But with her nerves more quiet comes a thought which she must set at
rest. So intent on her question is she, that self-consciousness is
altogether absent, as, looking into his face, she says,

"You must be a married man; you are so good a nurse, knowing exactly
what is best for one; are you?"

"No; I was," he said, indicating, by a gesture, a mourning ring on the
third finger of his left hand.

"Forgive me; I should not have asked you so abruptly."

"I don't mind you, you don't seem a stranger; and my poor wife was an
invalid, so that her death, thirteen months ago, was not unexpected."

"No; under those circumstances, you would be more or less prepared."

"Tell me, did you deem me impertinent to turn my eyes to your face when
we have so frequently met, before our introduction?"

"No; else I should have to share in your blame; for I should not have
seen you had I not been guilty of like fault," she said, drooping her
eyes.

"Believe me, I couldna help mysel', lassie, no more than I now can help
myself coming to your house, and feeling so at home with you, as though
I had known you for years, instead of for days. Do you feel a little as
I do," he said, in his eager earnestness, turning his blue eyes full on
her face.

"I do; you will never be a stranger to me," she said, simply.

"Thank you; do you know that evening coming from the Grand, after
'Erminie;' I was in the seventh heaven after having been so near you."

"'So near, and yet so far,'" she said, smiling; "for the frowning
battlements of the conventionalities were still between us."

"Yes; but I dreamed that your pretty lace fan would waft them away,
being a woman (though, by your eyes, I feel sure a warm-hearted one);
still, you cannot know how my heart leaped when I saw that you had
forgotten your fan; my first impulse led me to follow you with it, but
Scotch second-sight suggested the means I adopted, to tell you my name.
How did you like it?"

"Very much, indeed," she said, smiling, as looking into his face half
shyly, remembering how she had pressed his card to her lips; "I love
both your names, for reasons I may tell you another time. Are you
Highland Scotch?"

"Yes; and from fair Dunkeld."

"Indeed! you must be proud of your birthplace; the scenery must be
beautiful, were it only in among your groves of trees. I love the giants
of the forest so, that I wonder in the Pagan world they have not been as
gods; now we sing,

    "'Ye groves that wave in Spring,
      And glorious forests sing,
                      Alleluia.'"

"You have a passion for trees, I see, and would surely like Dunkeld;
30,000,000 alone are said to have been planted by a Duke of Athol; we
father on to the scenery a spice of romance running through us."

"Don't try to excuse it by fathering it on to other than your own
nature; our age is too practical; but Emerson expresses my thoughts
exactly when he says 'everything but cyphering is hustled out of sight;
man asks for a novel, that is, asks leave for a few hours to be a poet.'
But, perhaps, you don't agree with me?"

"I do, or I should have a larger account at my bankers; I fear I am not
a canny Scotchman, for I have spent a good deal in giving my poor wife
and self a glimpse of the poetry of other lands."

"That was right, and kind. Do you know I think the world would be a
better place to live in if, after one had made a sufficiency, one was
compelled to give place to others, and if no credit was given in any
case."

"That, without doubt, would settle a good deal, and do away with
communism," he said, laughingly; "for there would be no large fortunes
to grab. As to no credit, I fear, until we reach Elysian fields, we
shall have failures, duns, and other fruits of the credit system," he
said, gravely.

"Do you intend remaining in Toronto?" she said, intent upon her
embroidery.

"That depends," he said, trying to read her; "don't go away; that old
gold chair, with its crimson arms, becomes you (in woman's parlance),
and brings out your warm tints."

"I should think you would admire a woman like pretty Mrs. St. Clair, as
you yourself are dark."

"Yes; she is a pretty little thing; a triumph of art though; but, if you
will allow me to say so, I admire your style; usually there is more
force of character in dark women rather than in fair."

"Yes; do you think so?"

"I do; now, for instance, there is St. Clair, miserable at the aimless
existence of his wife: she is either in hysterics or in--cosmetics."

"We hear he is insanely jealous of her."

"Rumor, as you know, dear Mrs. Grower, says more than her prayers. He
tells me he is not jealous; for he does not believe any man would be
silly enough to give him cause; but that by he or his son going about
with her, her quest for admiration is held in check."

"Oh, I see; that is the reason they attend her so closely; what a pity
we are so foolish as to throw away life happiness, and the passing of
our time in rest and quietness for the evanescent soap bubbles of a
passing hour; but it is growing late; come and see my palms in my pet
room, the library, before you go."

"Thank you;" the mere words were naught, but he looked so quietly happy,
as he drew the hangings for their exit, that the color came to her
cheeks as she remembered her oath, to as quickly fade on the clock
striking ten, and the hall bell ringing simultaneously, as a man outside
stamped the snow off his boots, impatiently saying, hurriedly, the
startled look again in her face:

"Ten o'clock; I fear I must postpone your visit to the library."

"Is there any trouble I can shield you from? if so, you have only to
command me," he said, quickly, taking her hand in good night. "No, no,
not now," she said, with a troubled look.

"Think, and tell me on New Year's Day," he said, buttoning his overcoat.

"I shook her off, Elaine," he said, impulsively, not seeing Mr. Blair,
who was rather back of the door. "Oh, I beg pardon," he continued,
sulkily. "I thought you were alone, and watching for my return."

"It is so late," she said, as Mr Blair made his exit.

"Nonsense, who was the man; I don't think it's right of you to have
gentleman visitors," he said, in aggrieved tones.

"Now, Philip, does not that sound rather absurd? and, as I have before
told you, I wish you would not come here at such a late hour; I don't
like it," she said, gravely, as they went into the dining-room, where
the usual little supper stood on a tray.

"But we are engaged, it's you who are absurd," he said, pettishly; "but
don't let us bother about it, my frosty walk has been quite an
appetizer. Did you find it long, pet, while I was away? but I forget,
you had that man here. A ring! bother."

"It is Miss Crew, who is, you know, visiting me. Excuse me a moment, I
hear Captain Tremaine's voice."

"Hang all her visitors," he muttered.

"I am glad to see you back, dear; come into the dining-room, both of
you."


"Thanks, I believe if you only had potato and point, you would offer
some one the potato."

"If so, they should thank you; for, from admiration of your hospitality,
to imitation, was but one step."

"Blarney, blarney, you might only say that to the Chinese. These oysters
are very fine, nothing like eating them off the shell."

"Just my taste; these were sent me by a friend."

"I never saw a man look more at home, than you, Cobbe; if all bachelors
looked as contentedly jolly, we would not pity you so."

"No pity for me, Tremaine, thanks. I have given many of you cause for
envy."

"He is not at all vain, Captain Tremaine," said Mrs. Gower, amusedly.

"Not for him," said Tremaine, jokingly.

"What is to be our color for 1888?"

"Orange or blue, Mrs. Gower; half the men I have met to-day say one,
half the other; opinions are divided."

"Had the other man been a green Reformer, though, I would have bet on
him," said Mr. Cobbe, buttoning on his overcoat.

"There is something in that," she said; "for some would say he would
have the Ontario Government at his back."

"So he would, and good backers they would be, too. Good-night, Elaine;
shall I see you at St. John's Church, to-morrow?" he said, in an
undertone.

"Don't ask me, after my last experience; I am going all the way to Holy
Trinity Church, with Miss Crew; but shall be at home Monday, excepting
while at the polls."

"All right, _au revoir_."

On his exit, Tremaine said, laughingly,

"Good night. If the candidates were as sure of their election as our
friend Cobbe is of his, they would sleep till Tuesday without a narcotic
or a charm from the good fairies."



CHAPTER XXI.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR.


"A Happy New Year! A Happy New Year!" is on every tongue, and how
exhilarating is the cry uttered by thousands. From the weakly voice of
our aged loved ones, to the bird-like notes of the wee children,
mingling with the merry sleigh-bells, do our politicians take up the
refrain; and our manly men, and ambitious women, sing out in various
chords, as they swarm to the polls, "A Happy New Year! A Happy New
Year!"

And Old Boreas takes up the refrain, and blows till his cheeks crack,
down Yonge street, from his northern realm. Yea, forty miles distant,
does he send his cold breath. A Happy New Year! A Happy New Year.

And our young men and maidens, our girls and our boys, laugh till the
air rings. Hurrah for the north wind, we'll go to the Granite and have a
good skate.

And one gathers from the merry medley that our King Coal, and the
_Sentinel_, are this year's favorites; but those who have put money up,
and those who have not, must even wait with bated breath till midnight,
or till dawn; and in dreamland, see their pet schemes forwarded, their
own man in the Mayor's chair.

It was a busy day at Holmnest, a bee-hive with no drones, by eleven a.m.
Mrs. Gower has polled her vote; afterwards, with Miss Crew, drove
through snow-mantled Rosedale, down villa-lined Jarvis street, through
those stores of wealth, Yonge and King streets, along the margin of the
silver lake, ere turning the horses' heads to the north-west and
Holmnest; visiting, also, some of the poorer streets, in which quarters
Miss Crew has found God's poor, many cases having touched her heart, she
now leaves little parcels of good things to gladden these homes.

"You will become bankrupt, Miss Crew," said Mrs. Gower, as they are
driven home.

"I am almost so, now; and if it will not bother you, I should like to
tell you of a plan I have in view."

"Bother me? I should say not. You should know I take too much interest
in you for that." "Thank you; some connections, until recently, have
remitted to me a sum amply sufficient for my needs; I know not why," she
said, in troubled tones, "they have discontinued it; but they have, and
it remains for me to face the difficulty, now that Garfield has outgrown
my tuition, I cannot remain dependent on the Dale's kindness; and of Mr.
Dale's generous, good treatment of me, a stranger, I cannot say too
much; but I must exert myself to get a new situation," she said,
nervously. "And will you, dear Mrs. Gower, do what you can in advising
me; I have been looking in the newspapers, but have seen nothing
suitable."

"Excuse me, Miss Crew, but are you entitled by law to receive this
remittance you speak of? if so, you should not quietly relinquish it,
but should consult a lawyer. We, at Toronto, are blessed with several
honest, as well as clever, law firms. I will accompany you readily, or
do anything I can for you."

"You are very kind, but I shrink from lawyers, they ask so many
questions," she said, timidly.

"You must not mind that, dear; if you were ill, what would you do, send
for a medical man? and the more questions he asked, the better he would
understand your case."

"I wish I was braver; but I am only a girl, and have had much trouble,
which has made me very nervous and timid."

For one so extremely reticent, this was quite a confidence.

"Yes, it would have that effect on one of your temperament; but with me,
my troubles have made me more self-reliant; finding few to trust, I have
leaned on myself."

"Yes, you seem to me very brave; but don't you think I should advertise
for a situation at once?"

"No, decidedly not. You should ask Mr. Dale to advise, and I shall be
very pleased to have you with me all winter."

"How very kind you are, Mrs. Gower," and the tears came to her eyes,
"but I should be more satisfied, adding to my purse."

"Very well, dear; I commend your decision, but remember the bedroom you
occupy is Miss Crew's own, and your little home-nest will be ever ready
for you; but do not forget my advice, which is to confide in Mr. Dale,
fully and entirely; he can, and will, give you the very best advice."

"Oh, I don't see how I can. If you only knew; but how selfish I am,
spoiling your drive, and on New Year's Day, too."

Here a small sleigh, in which were seated a comfortable-looking couple;
the man a mass of grey tints--complexion, hair, whiskers, overcoat, and
fur cap--looking like a man who had led a sedentary life; the woman,
fresh of color, partly bent by the breath of old Boreas, both looking
quietly happy, but so intent on turning their heads, as if on a pivot,
first on this side, now on that, as they drove down handsome Saint
George street, as to be oblivious of the approach of the sleigh in which
were seated Mrs. Gower and Miss Crew.

"Look out, there," shouted the driver. At this, the man, giving his
whole attention to his horse, turned him out of the way just in time to
save a collision; the woman, as they passed, looking at the occupants.
She gave a great cry to stop them, but the driver had given his horses
the whip, and on they dashed. Miss Crew had leaned forward, pale as
death, her lips blue and parted, she tried to frame the word, "Stop,"
but failed. Mrs. Gower, in sympathy, defining her meaning, cried:

"Stop, driver, please."

On his doing so:

"Is the sleigh we just passed out of sight?"

"No, ma'am; the gentleman has turned, and is a following of us. Would
you, ladies, like a New Year's race? if so, I'm your man," he said,
grinning.

But Miss Crew, white as the snow, and looking whiter by contrast with
the pretty red hat, has leaped out of the cutter.

"My dog-skin coat is very warm, Mrs. Gower; don't wait; I must speak to
them," she said, in the greatest excitement, her eyes glistening, her
color coming and going.

"But you will take cold, dear; get in beside me again until they come
up."

"No, no, I beg; I wish to meet them _alone_," she whispered.

"On one condition; are they friends?"

"Yes; oh, yes, she is one of my best."

Mrs. Gower, seeing them almost close, wishing her an affectionate
good-bye, bade the man drive on, and, as was natural, fell into a
reverie over the strange occurrence happening to a girl of Miss Crew's
remarkably reticent character. She seemed pleased, but so intensely
excited, one could scarcely tell her real feelings. She thought, "But I
sincerely hope it will be a bright incident for her to begin 1888 with;
for a more truly pious, gentle, amiable girl I have never met."

On the driver drawing in his horses, to allow a gentlemanly-looking man
to pass, who was crossing Bloor West, at the head of St. George street,
Mrs. Gower waking from her reverie, sees Mr. Buckingham.

"The compliments of the season, Mrs. Gower," he said, lifting his hat.

"The same to you. Whither bound?"

"To Holmnest."

"Then you had better come into the sleigh; 'there's room enough for
twa.'"

"Thanks; with pleasure."

"Driver, you see the young lady ahead of us. I expect she is coming to
my place. Just pick her up, please."

"All right, ma'am."

"I suppose you will think our sleighing a make-believe, after Lindsay,
and locality."

"You will be surprised to hear I now come from New York. Dale
telegraphed me to meet some railway men, so I have been there ever
since."

"But won't your interests north-east suffer by your absence?"

"Oh, not materially, I hope; still I am anxious to be on the spot. There
is a splendid mine out that way I should like to get hold of."

"Iron, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes; it is, you know, to be the great industry of the future."

"But you only mean if we get Commercial Union?"

"Yes, as far as Canada is concerned."

"What is the name of this special mine you covet? I have heard Mr. Dale
speak of several; this may be one."

"It is the Snowden, in Victoria county; the ore is a fine grained
magnetite; the mine is favorably situated, having a railway running into
it."

"Indeed! all very favorable; do you think you will succeed in becoming a
purchaser?"

"Of that, I regret to say, I am somewhat doubtful, as I am told there
are several obstructionists connected with it; but I am not going to
worry about it," he said, quietly; "if I don't get it, there are
others."

"What an easy temperament you have," she said, looking into his quiet
unmoved countenance.

"My dear Mrs. Gower, I hold that a man should have himself under such
perfect control as to be able to look at himself, in a manner of
speaking, with other eyes; sit in judgment upon himself; dissect his
motives, reward or punish. I look upon one who lets loose the reins of
reason, giving blind passion or impulse full swing, as only an animal of
the swine family, whatever his name may be," he said, smiling.

"What must he think of me," she thought; I am as impulsive as a Celt.
"What a superior race of beings man would be were his convictions your
convictions."

"I think he would be happier, for he would not give way to excitement,
which is, in my opinion, a sort of insanity; and also in its reaction,
which is melancholy."

"That reaction, after excitement, is one of the strongest blue ribbon
arguments; we had a 'chalk talk' thereon at the Pavilion on last Sunday
afternoon; what do you think of the Prohibition movement?"

"I go with it, to the letter, for the mass of humanity cannot, or will
not, control themselves; how do you go?"

"I believe in temperance in all things. Professor Blackie says, 'We have
too much of everything in our day; too much eating, too much drinking,
too much preaching, etc;' and I am so far at one with him, that I
believe in temperance, and coffee, even on New Year's Day," she added,
smiling. "Stop, driver, please."

"Come, get in, Miss O'Sullivan, and a Happy New Year to you, dear; this
is my friend, Mr. Buckingham."

"I was on my way to your place, Mrs. Gower, to ask Miss Crew to come and
spend the day."

"She is out with some friends; but you must lunch with me, and wait for
her."

"Whose is that large, hospitable house, Mrs. Gower, at the head of St.
George Street?" asked Miss O'Sullivan.

"A Colonel Sweeney's, dear, who, I was going to say, has a heart as
large as his house, he is so kindly hospitable."

Here they overtook Mr. Blair, whose handsome face lit with pleasure, as
he lifted his hat; and, somehow, Mrs. Gower was glad of the advent of
the young lady, though, before seeing him, she had not minded her
_tête-à-tête_ with Mr. Buckingham, with whom she likes to talk.

In a few minutes Holmnest is reached, when Mrs. Gower, telling Mr.
Buckingham to make himself at home, he must stay for luncheon, and until
it is time to take the Midland rail, went upstairs to make her toilette
for the day.

Mr. Buckingham looks and feels at home ensconced in a deep, softly
padded chair, near the blazing grate, in the restful library; he is soon
lost in the _Iron Age_.

On Miss O'Sullivan, a sweet-faced, blue-eyed girl, entering, looking
bright as the morning in her pretty red woollen frock, the occupant,
with the innate courtesy of his countrymen, laying aside his newspaper,
adapted himself to her girlish chit-chat in a manner that charmed her,
until the entrance of Mrs. Gower, in a very becoming gown of brown silk,
with old gold plush trimming, ecru lace chemisette, and elbow
sleeves--for she dressed for all day, and any friends who may come to
wish her a glad New Year; she first goes to the kitchen to see that the
machinery is actively in motion, as she had set it before going to the
polls; one servant maid, with the boy, Thomas, being sufficient for the
requirements of her cosy little home.

"Well, you both do look comfortable," she said, entering the library.

"Yes; I think we do," said Miss O'Sullivan.

"We only want you to want nothing more," he said, in pleased tones,
placing a rattan chair, with its dark green velvet cushioned back and
seat, and turning the fire screen to protect her face.

"Not yet, thanks; my poor palms have had no water to-day. How do you
think my plants are looking, Mr. Buckingham?"

"Very fine; but if you kept them more moist they would do still better;
but most amateur gardeners make a like mistake," he said, cutting some
bits of scarlet geranium; "this bit of color will make your costume
perfect."

"The costume! but what about the woman?"

"Oh, the woman knows right well," he said, leading her to the mirror.

"Give me the good taste of an American gentleman, in preference to a
mirror, which is frequently untrue."

"Luncheon is served, ma'am."



CHAPTER XXII.

"BETTER LO'ED YE CANNA BE."


After a substantial luncheon, to which they bring good appetites, given
by their exhilarating outing in the frosty air, they cross the hall to
the drawing-room, when Thomas opened the door to Miss Crew and Mr.
Cobbe.

"Ah, here is our truant," said Mrs. Gower.

"Me!" laughed Cobbe, wishing her the compliments of the season.

Mr. Buckingham thought he detected a slight cloud of dissatisfaction
pass over her face, even as she welcomed him.

"I have made fifteen calls already; the fair sex like to be remembered,
Buckingham."

"Man is too selfish to forget what he could not do without, Cobbe."

"Give me an American for a due appreciation of our sex," said Mrs.
Gower, gaily.

"No, no; you are wrong. _You_ ought to know an Irishman to be the most
gallant man that lives," Mr. Cobbe said, sulkily.

"Well, yes, perhaps you are the most gallant," she said, thoughtfully,
"but in the bearing of an American man towards my sex there is a
something more--there is a gentle courtesy, a deference, a grave
tenderness."

"Tut, tut," said Mr. Cobbe, turning over the leaves of an album
impatiently.

"I fear you flatter us," said Buckingham.

"No, I think not; simply because your great Republic is so highly
civilized and progressive, the outcome of which is our enthronement with
you; while, in other countries, we are still midway between our
footstool of the dark ages and our throne with you."

Here Mr. St. Clair, Captain Tremaine, and a young barrister, a Mr.
McCullogh, made their _entrée_.

"Your drawing-room is looking very pretty, Mrs. Gower," said Tremaine;
"the holly and mistletoe brings me home again."

"Yes, it looks so well against the blue and tan panels, that I am
tempted to let it stay."

"Where did you get it; it is very fine and healthy?" asked St. Clair,
admiringly.

"Well, thereby hangs a tale; it is a Christmas gift from Santa Claus.
All I know about it is, it came (Thomas thinks) from Slight's."

"It was no slight to you, Elaine," said Cobbe, jokingly.

On the mention, before so many, of her Christian name she made an
expressive _moue_ at Tremaine, unseen by the others, whose attention was
momentarily given to several booklets and cards which lay on a pretty
gilt stand, and while Miss O'Sullivan and McCullogh turned the pages of
"Erminie" for Miss Crew at the piano.

"Wait until Monday, Buckingham. I take the Midland then, in your
direction," said St. Clair.

"Impossible, St. Clair. I should have been as far as Lindsay yesterday."

On the clock striking three, St. Clair started to his feet, buttoning
his coat.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Gower. 'Time and tide,' you know."

"Oh, yes; but Time is not such a churl as to bid you away before I have
had even a look at you."

"But we men come to look at you, to-day, and, as usual, gratify
ourselves. _Au revoir_. I promised Noah to be back at three, to let him
off for a skate."

"'What's in a name?'" said Tremaine. "I wonder what relation he of the
Ark was to that boy."

"But fancy! I heard a clergyman in this city baptize an unoffending
infant Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego."

"Did he throw in the 'and'?" laughed Tremaine.

"Oh, no. Did I give it?"

"Yes. Well, I just call my boy plain Paddy."

"Do you throw in the 'plain'?"

"Oh, come, now; you ladies are having the best of it all through
to-day," he said, making his adieux.

"At the polls too?" she said gaily.

Several callers now came in in rapid succession, Mr. Cobbe rising as the
last made their exit.

"Think of me, Elaine. I shall come in and cheer you up when I get
through," he said, in a loud whisper, as she was having a last quiet
word with Buckingham.

Here Mr. Blair entered, and both men thought they saw a something in her
smile that had not been given them.

"Good-bye has come again, Mrs. Gower," said Buckingham. "One must always
regret leaving Holmnest; but I have only time to catch my train."

"Good-bye, and may all your wishes be granted."

Miss O'Sullivan, saying she must really go, took Miss Crew (who had a
new light in her face), Mr. McCullogh accompanying them.


"I am fortunate," said Mr. Blair, as the _portière_ hangings closed
after them; Mrs. Gower smiled.

"Rest, after running about; though I think the fashion of New Year's
calls is fast dying out."

"It is, undoubtedly; this is my third and last. You are looking well
after your frosty drive," he said, seating himself at the gilt stand
beside her.

"Don't you think my friends have good taste?" she said, directing his
attention to the cards and booklets; "this white ivory card is pretty,
with its golden edge, white roses, and snowdrops, and gold bells, as
they ring,

    "May every Christmas chime awaken in your heart
    Each bliss of by-gone years in which your life had part."

"Yes," he said, thoughtfully, "if one could only drink a good bumper of
the waters of Lethe, and forget the pain, remembering only the bliss."

"But 'tis the memory of the bliss that brings the pain; at least I have
found it so," she said gravely.

"Yes, you are right; I have not thought of putting it to myself in that
way; but I must not give you a sad train of thought. Ah, this is
original," he said, picking up a large card, on which was painted a
bunch of scarlet poppies, with the lines:

    "O! sleep; O! gentle sleep, how have I frighted thee,
    That thou no more will weigh my eyelids down,
    And steep my senses in forgetfulness?"

"All the way from Ottawa; he evidently sees your eyes, which keep his
open," he said, trying to read her.

"You are fanciful, Mr. Blair;" but her color deepens under his gaze;
"but, be it as you say, he should close his eyes, possess his soul with
honor, and clasp the hand of duty."

"You give him a hard task, still I would lay any wager on your
kindliness of heart, on your strong sense of honor. I don't think you
would fool with a man's affections," he said, earnestly.

In spite of herself she trembles, for she feels that he is more to her
than any living man; and as he sits, his elbows on the table, his
fingers ran through his iron-grey hair, looking at her, her eyes droop,
her hands nervously play with the cards, her sensitive lips showing her
emotion, as she thinks of Mr. St. Clair's words to her the evening of
their introduction, of the nobility of this man's character, of his
devotion to his late wife, of his clean record among men as to his truth
and honor in all business transactions; and now she knows, intuitively,
in fact, did at their first meeting, that his heart is seeking hers.

"I am right, you would not play with a man's affections; you have had
sorrow yourself; tell me."

In spite of herself, a tear glistened in her eyes as she looked into his
face, as she thought of her oath.

"No; do I look so faulty, frivolous and foolishly wicked?"

"No, you have a sweet, kind, womanly face," he said, smiling gravely;
"and were I to tell you of my lonely life, and how I long for just such
a womanly presence, just such companionship to gladden a home, to make
my broken life complete, with a sweet sense of peace and rest, would you
send me from you desolate?" and his voice thrilled with intense feeling.

"If so, and that my act left me also desolate, would you not forgive
me?" she said, brokenly.

"I would forgive you, yes; for I could not live with enmity in my heart
towards you; but, why do you speak so?" he said, earnestly, her words
giving him the key to her heart, as he came over beside her, and with an
arm around her, drew her head to his chest. "Don't resist me; you know I
love you, and you will be my ain bonnie wife." He felt her tremble,
though she yielded to him. "Better lo'ed ye canna be," and stooping, he
kissed her on the lips: "those lips, a thread of scarlet," and he looked
at her tenderly.

At this her color deepened, and, with a sigh, she said, her voice
trembling with emotion: "Release me, dear, it can never be; I am
promised to another. Go now, and leave me to my fate," she said,
tearfully.

"Never! You _shall_ be my wife, and that before the next moon wanes.
Whoever this man is, he has not won your heart. Yes, _my_ heart twin,
_my_ own companion every day for our journey through life, _my_ Elaine,
not his;" and, again and again, for a few blissful moments that she is
strained to his heart, do his kisses come to her lips. "Look up, dear
wife, and tell me by one look that I am in your heart. Yes, love, your
eyes tell me that our lives will be again worth living, again complete.
No, I will not let you go; and I just want to see this man who thinks he
will rob me of you."

At this juncture the hall-bell rings, just as the clock was striking
seven, the hour Mrs. Gower had ordered dinner; and, as quick as her
hastened heart-beats would allow, donning society's mask, she is playing
Chopin's music, while Mr. Blair is intent on "The Miniature Golden
Floral Series;" when Mr. Cobbe enters, evidently by his manner having
done more than "look upon the wine when it is red."

"Well, Elaine, don't scold me, I could not come back any sooner," he
said, with a jovial air; "but, hang it, I never see you alone these
days."

"Can it be possible, she has promised herself to this swaggering fool!"
thought Blair.

"What's the matter, Elaine?" he continued, leaning on the piano, and
looking into her face, "you have a tragedy face."

"Sometimes I seem to be taking part in one," she said, gravely; hoping
he would remember the woman.

"Oh, I see; you have been playing 'Faust;' if you want something
devilish, try French opera; German is horns and hoof, and no fun."

Seeing his mood, she abandoned all hope of fixing his attention on any
quieting thought, glancing at Mr. Blair for sympathy; one look told her
his opinion of her friend. "How he must despise me," she thought,
introducing them. "And now, you must both dine with a lone woman."

"It will give me great pleasure to begin the year so," said Mr. Blair,
with the determined air of a man who could and would hold his ground, as
he put her hand through his arm, whispering, "Courage!"

"You look very much like a lone woman, I must say," said Cobbe, sulkily.
"I told you before, Elaine, that I don't think it's right of you," he
said, recklessly.

As they crossed the hall to dine, the geraniums dropped from her gown.

"Oh, my poor flowers," Mr. Blair picking them up. Mr. Cobbe said,
jealously, "Poor flowers, indeed; I should just like to know who gave
them you."

Fearing he would think it had been Mr. Blair, and not feeling equal to a
scene, she said, hurriedly:

"A friend who has left town; but you are too sensible to allow such a
trifle to spoil your dinner."

From the moment of their passing through the _portière_ hangings into
the hall, Blair had seen the face of a woman peering through the
vestibule door, Thomas having neglected fastening the outer door on
letting in Mr. Cobbe. On entering the dining-room, Mrs. Gower, in
looking over her shoulder in making the above remark, saw the face. Not
so Cobbe, who was wholly absorbed in rage at the present state of
affairs.

Mr. Blair felt his companion tremble as she said to herself, "That
woman!" At that, pressing her closely to his side, he again whispered,
"Courage!"

"Thomas, go quickly to the vestibule door."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Why, what's the matter now, Elaine; do you expect another gentleman?"

"Go and see." "No, no; if he comes I'll see him soon enough, and the
soup smells too tempting."

Thomas returned and waited, when Mrs. Gower said, nervously, "Are both
doors securely fastened, Thomas?"

"They are, ma'am."

"Queer time for a visitor to call, just at dinner hour," said Cobbe, in
aggrieved tones.

This was more than Thomas could stand, who had more than once confided
to the kitchen his opinion of Mr. Cobbe for doing likewise, so he said,
respectfully:

"Beg pardon, sir; but it was _that_ lady for you, sir."

"Hang it! you told her I wasn't here, I hope."

"No, sir; I said you was at dinner, and I couldn't disturb you, sir; so
she said she would wait outside."

"It's very cold for her," faltered Mrs. Gower.

Here the merry sleigh-bells jingled and stopped at the gate; voices are
nearing; and now the hall-bell again rings, when Mr. and Mrs. Dale are
heard in the hall stamping the snow off their boots, and divesting
themselves of their wraps.

"Thomas, get plates, etc."

They enter looking as if Jack Frost has given them a chilly embrace, for
they have had a cold drive from town.

"Welcome! this is a glad surprise, though I half expected you yesterday.
Mrs. Dale, allow me to introduce Mr. Blair; Mr. Dale, Mr. Blair; and now
be seated; I am so glad to have you back again, Ella; I have missed you
much."

"Thank you, Elaine; we both wished you were with us; Henry's English
friends, the Elliotts, are delightful, and were charmed with your
description of river life on the St. Lawrence."

"They will think I have scarcely done it justice, on their revelling in
it themselves."

"We have Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, at New York,
this winter, Mrs. Gower," said Dale, in gratified tones.

"What a treat it would be to meet them; they will give new life to the
women's literary circles."

"Oh, where is Miss Crew?" asked Mrs. Dale.

"Out spending the day at the O'Sullivans."

"I am glad of that," said Dale, kindly. "Miss O'Sullivan has the
brightness our little friend lacks, and will, perhaps, win her
confidence, which we have been unable to do."

"That is very true," said Mrs. Gower, who now related the incident of
the morning, regarding the couple they had met while out sleigh-driving;
at which Mrs. Dale was all eyes and ears, her pretty little face aglow
with excitement.

"How strange! and she persisted in seeing them alone! did she seem
glad?"

"Oh, yes; for such a quiet, self-contained little creature, very much
so."

"And did she tell you nothing on her return?"

"No; she had no opportunity; we had callers, and Miss O'Sullivan was
here; but she looked happier, poor, lonely, wee lassie."

"She is likely to remain lonely, too," said Cobbe; "a man does not want
to marry a girl as stiff as his beaver, and as prim as its band."

"Poor girl; one cannot expect her to show that careless joy in living
our girls show, who have happy homes and ties of kin."

"In my opinion," said Dale, "the women and girls who take life easiest,
and seem to feel that the good things of life are their heritage, are
the American women."

"I don't go with you, Dale," said Mr. Cobbe; "I'll back up some of our
own women against them for monopoly of that sort."

"I am at one with you, Mr. Dale," said Mrs. Gower, "for this reason:
from the time an American woman can lisp, she is taught the cardinal
ideas of the country, viz., liberty and equality."

"From your standpoint, Mrs. Gower, your sex should be all Republicans,"
said Mr. Dale. "What countryman are you, Mr. Blair?"

"A pure and unadulterated Scotchman; and I hope you like the land o'
bagpipes, heather and oatcakes sufficiently as to like me none the
less."

"No; for was I not English, I would be Scotch."


"And I," said Mrs. Dale, "would have liked you better were you
Irish-American."

"You are candid, at all events," he said, smiling.

"You had better live as near perfection as possible, by remaining in
Canada, Mr. Blair," said his hostess, rising from the table. "Come,
Ella, we shall leave them to their cigarettes and the subjects nearest
their hearts."

"You are one of the most thoughtful women I have ever met," said Dale,
drawing the hangings for their exit; "but our smoke will be but a
passing cloud; we shall soon sun ourselves in your presence."

"Listen to him," said his wife, merrily; "don't I bring him up well."

As the two friends sipped their coffee from dainty Japanese china, the
red silk gown of Mrs. Dale contrasting prettily with the brown and old
gold in the dress of her friend, they made a sweet, home-like picture,
in this tasteful little drawing-room, with its gaily painted walls,
hangings in artistic blending, its softly padded furniture, not
extravagant--for Mrs. Gower's income is but $600 per annum--now that
house and furniture are paid for, but Roger's bill was very reasonable,
for all is in good taste; and with two or three good pictures, a
handsome bronze or two, with a few bits of choice bric-a-brac, all the
latter gifts from friends; with the glowing grate, the colored lights,
the holly and mistletoe, all make an attractive scene.

"And now about yourself, Elaine; I hoped on my return to have found your
mercurial friend out in the cold."

"No, Ella; I can do nothing with him," she said, gravely.

"Can't he get it into his head that no woman would marry a man with
another woman dangling after him. I have no patience with him. Does she
haunt your place still?"

"Yes; she is certainly most constant. Did I tell you of a fright she
gave me at two public meetings?"

"No; you wrote me that you must do so on my return."

"Just fancy coming from the Rodgers' mass meeting, before the mayoralty
election. I went with Philip, and she must have followed us, for she
managed to get near us, and in the crush making our exit, took hold of
his arm, and _would not let him see me home_; picture me in that crowd,
having to fight my way through, and alone! I think I shall never forget
that night; fortunately the cars were running; so taking the Carlton,
College and Spadina Avenue car, I managed to reach home. Ella, it was
awful, the lonely home-coming," she said tearfully; "the cowardly (I
suppose it was) fear of meeting acquaintances; but the feeling that I
was engaged, nay, under oath to marry a man who could allow this, was
worse than had I met dozens of acquaintances; the late hour; then after
I had left the Spadina Avenue terminus, the lonely walk up here--all
together made me so nervous I was not myself for a day or two."

"I should say you would be; it was dreadful; and as you say, dear, the
feeling that you were engaged to such," she said, contemptuously, "added
bitterness to the act; oath or no oath, he must release you."

"He won't."

"He _shall;_ and I am determined to stay with you until I can interview
that woman. What a horrid man he is, any way."

Here the gentlemen entered, and a truce to confidentials.

"Has my little wife told you, Mrs. Gower, that I have tickets for
'Faust,' and we hope you will care to accompany us?"

"No; she had not told me, though we were speaking tragedy."

"Well, yours was the prologue; now for 'Faust;' you will come?"

"Yes, with pleasure," she said, feeling that her _tête-à-tête_ with Mr.
Blair is over, for Mr. Cobbe would remain; feeling also that such
_tête-à-tête_ was too full of quiet content for her to indulge in,
engaged as she is to another.

Mr. Blair very reluctantly rises to depart, seeing that the evening he
has promised himself, in dual solitude with the woman he determines
shall be his wife, is broken in upon.

"Good-night, Mrs. Gower; the walk to town will seem doubly cold by
contrast with the warmth of your hospitalities," he said, holding her
hand, a look of regret in his blue eyes.

"Button up well, then, to ensure my being remembered for so long," she
said, quietly.

"Good-night, Elaine; expect me to-morrow, at five p.m.," said Mr. Cobbe,
with an important air.

Outside, to Mr. Blair, he said, "Fine woman, Mrs. Gower; I am in luck,
but she has too much freedom," he said, pointedly.

"How do you mean?" asked Blair, by an effort controlling himself to
speak quietly.

"Oh, too many gentlemen coming and going; I must arrange for our
marriage at once."

"You are honored by a promise from her to marry you, then?"

"Yes; but by more than a promise; by an oath," he said, flightily; "and
she is not the only woman who is infatuated with me," he added,
chuckling at his companion's discomfiture.

"You are fortunate," said the canny Scotchman, hating him for his words;
but aware that there is some mystery in the case, knowing Mrs. Gower to
shrink from fulfilling her engagement; having recognized the face of the
woman at the vestibule as the woman he has seen prowling about Holmnest
at night-fall, he affects a friendly air to draw his companion out,
trusting that his intense vanity will lead him to commit himself
insomuch as to give him a hold upon him, which he will use as a means of
freeing Mrs. Gower.

Hearing steps behind them, he looks, and lo! the light of the street
lamp shows the face of the woman of the vestibule.

"By George, you are a lucky fellow; here is this poor little woman at
your heels; you are too gallant to allow her to walk alone; step back
and introduce me," he said, with the vague hope that he might in this
way find the hold she has on Cobbe; but _l'homme propose, Dieu dispose_,
for he said importantly:

"So she is; between you and I, the more faithless I am, the tighter she
hugs;" and, turning on his heel, the woman with him, they go at a run
down Major Street, leaving Blair, in blank dismay, standing in the cold
of the snow-mantled night.

After seeing talented Modjeska at the Grand, in "Faust," Mrs. Gower,
having wished her friends a warm good-night, as she sleeps, dreams of a
manly, handsome face bending over her, while the light in his eyes give
point to his words of "Better lo'ed ye canna be."



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE THREE LINKS.


On a cold afternoon, in January's third week, when fair Toronto's
children wore the colors of Old Boreas; when the spirits of the air
floated on the frozen breaths of humanity, and when imagination held
that the giant cyclone of the North-west had hurled into our midst a bit
of the North Pole, on such a day Holmnest is a snug spot; not one of
those mansions with a small coal account that some of our moneyed
citizens exist in in cold grandeur during winter's reign; but small,
warm and home-like. So thought Mrs. Dale, who is again spending a few
days with her friend, and who is now seated with Mr. Blair beside the
glowing grate in the drawing-room; he cannot keep away, and having
confided his hopes and fears to her, they have become warm friends.

Mrs. Gower and Miss Crew are down town shopping, the latter having
abandoned her intention to seek employment other than her voluntary
deeds of good as a city missioner, she having received a bill of
exchange from the mother country on the Bank of British North America;
whether from this cause or from the fact of her constant visits to the
quietly happy-looking couple she had met on New Year's Day, her friends
can only guess; but she is certainly looking happier, though still
reticent as to her private history, merely telling Mrs. Gower, to whom
she has become much attached, that before long she will ask their
advice, and tell them all.

Mr. Cobbe has just called, but had not gone in, ascertaining from Thomas
that his mistress was not at home, but that Mrs. Dale and Mr. Blair were
in the drawing-room--he volunteering the latter information, instinct
telling him it would not be agreeable; for the kitchen did not approve
of him as the coming master at Holmnest, saying one to the other,
"Pretty fly he is, to think of dividing up of the likes of he between
our missis and that bold hussy as follows him."

At this moment, in the drawing-room, Mrs. Dale, as she alternately pats
Tyr's head, or, with deft fingers, embroiders a cushion, says, with a
curl on her scarlet lips, her Irish eyes flashing:

"I am glad Elaine was out. You see, he knew enough not to come in and be
entertained by us."

"Yes, he knows enough for that," he said, mechanically, waking from a
reverie. "I wish to heaven we could interview the woman. I am convinced
we would elicit information sufficient to absolve our dear friend from
her oath. I am driven to my wit's end, I am in such misery. I can assure
you, Mrs. Dale, this matter has taken such hold of me that I neither
eat, drink, sleep, nor even think naturally."

And the ring of truth is in his words, as he starts up, and paces up and
down the room like a caged lion, eager for action, yet compelled to
inactivity. Papers and magazines strew the carpet where he had been
seated, on which he had in vain tried to fix his thought. Now he again
flings himself into his chair, she sees his brows knit, his eyes small
with the intentness of inward musing; his manly, independent bearing is
crushed, his firm, determined mouth is still set with a fixed purpose,
but his face has lost its glow of happiness.

He haunts Holmnest some hours of each day, his eyes following her every
movement as she goes about her home duties, or sits quietly reading, or
holding book or newspaper, under pretence of doing so, giving herself a
few moments' silent thought, ever and anon lifting her eyes to his face,
as quickly to withdraw them, lest sympathy lead her to betray a grief
akin to his. One day he asked her how it was she had come in the first
place to allow Mr. Cobbe the privilege of friendly intercourse, when she
told him all. Of the deaths of loved ones, of her long and tedious law
suits, of her losses through the wrong-doings of others, of the flight
of summer friends, of her difficulty in earning a sufficiency to eke out
her small income, and of Philip Cobbe being introduced; when his jovial,
free-from-care nature diverting her attention from her many cares, she
and he gradually drifted into a very friendly acquaintance, which
resulted in their walk through the Queen's Park. Of her oath she had
already told him on the 3rd of January, on his relating to her the
boastful words of Mr. Cobbe on the evening previous. At which he had
been driven nearly desperate, as also on her resolve that, in honor
bound, she must be true to her oath.

She had never allowed him to kiss her since those few blissful moments
that lived in the memory of each, in which he had asked her to become
his wife on Monday, the 2nd of January, and when he had read her heart.

"It's a miserable fix for Elaine," said Mrs. Dale, picking out a few
false stitches she had made in giving her attention to him as he paced
the floor in his agony of mind. "She cares for you, but will remain true
to her oath; she will go on in this wretched way, Mr. Cobbe coming and
going, boasting of his engagement, to keep rivals at bay, and that woman
haunting the place until a tragedy ends the whole farce. Elaine will
postpone and postpone her union with that man until she dies
broken-hearted, poor thing. She has had no end of trouble in the past,
and now this must all crop up. Nasty Cobbe; I _hate_ you," she said,
emphatically.

"So do I," he said, moodily; "but what availeth it? We, with our strong
natures, are as wax in the hands of this vain, foolish, empty-headed
fellow; he has the whip-hand of us. I never felt small, impotent,
powerless in my life until now. You don't know what mad thoughts come to
me sometimes, when I see her going about in her sweet womanliness with a
pretence of gaiety lest I feel for her, making this truly home, sweet
home; now going to her kitchen, now sewing quietly; again singing,
though in unsteady tones, the songs of my own land."

"Perhaps it would be better for you; easier, I mean, if you kept away
from her."

"Kept away! that's what she tells me. No; come I must. I am not fit to
attend to business, to face the busy hive of men down town. I have not
as yet rented an office, or put out my shingle as broker and estate
agent, so the world which knows me not does not miss me. Did I not come,
I should be tortured by the thought that Cobbe had persuaded her to
marry him, and that with the false hope of making me forget her, and the
woman to give up her game as lost, she would consent. No; I shall come
in the seemingly aimless way; but not aimless, for I am her bodyguard.
Already my being here, and holding my ground, has more than once
prevented a _tête-à-tête_, and saved her from (I make no doubt) his
hateful caresses. He hates me, and would revenge himself upon me if he
could; and, insomuch as he can, he does do so--by using her Christian
name, leaning familiarly over her shoulder as she reads or sews,
following her even to the kitchen. Once he dared to kiss her good-bye,
but I don't think he will try that again; for, on his looking at me
maliciously, to note my jealousy, I gave him one look, at which he made
a hasty exit."

"So far so good, Mr. Blair; but you and myself are really doing nothing
to free Elaine. We _must_ get a hold of the woman; she is not very well
clad; is, I dare say, poor; I shall try if the dollar will grease the
wheels of her tongue. Now, how shall we manage it? This evening I shall
express a wish to telegraph Henry. You must offer to accompany me; this
will allow of time to work on Mr. Cobbe's Mary Ann. We shall walk up and
down on the other side of the street (thus putting ourselves in Grundy's
mouth) until she appears, when, pouncing upon her, we will _make_ her
tell her relations to Cobbe. You understand?"

"Yes, but he will be here alone with Elaine."

"Just like a man: as jealous as a rooster in a barnyard. Miss Crew will
be here, and chance callers."

"Very well; it shall be as you say, though I mortally hate not being
present when he is here; but here she comes, her cheeks like roses, and
eyes bright from the frosty air," he said, brightening.

"Oh, you pair of fire-worshippers!" she exclaimed, giving her hand to
Mr. Blair. "I have had a glorious walk from Yonge, through Bloor west,
and up here. We took the Yonge up-cars, when Miss O'Sullivan, who was
one of us, carried off Miss Crew till to-morrow."

"I suppose King Street wore its usual afternoon dress of dudes and
sealskin sacques," he said, drawing her wrap from her shoulders.

"I suppose so; but we only went as far as Roche's. What a world of a
place it is. Mrs. Francis says, 'One can buy everything but butcher's
meat there,' and she is about right. The up-cars were, as usual,
over-crowded; we were to blame for taking one, I suppose, as so many
poor fatigued-looking men were obliged to stand. However, we were sorry
for them in a practical way, for we only occupied one seat by turns; the
company should run extra cars about six, or label them, 'For men only.'"

"On the other side," said Mrs. Dale, "men say it's a poor rule that
won't work both ways, so, as we advocate equal rights, they, as a rule,
don't yield their seats."

"Is that so?" said Blair. "I wonder at that, for Mrs. Gower tells me
there is a shrine to woman in every house."

"Oh, never mind her, she is our champion, fights and wins our battles. I
used to hope she would marry among us, and strut under our big bird; but
alas, she sees more beauty in a common Scotch thistle," she says,
teasingly.

Blair smiled, gravely, saying with his eyes on Mrs. Gower, in her
pretty, dark blue gown, with broken plaid over-skirt,

"I fear not; to the shamrock she plights her troth."

At this the color rushes to the roots of her hair, to as quickly recede,
leaving her like marble, and, gathering up her wraps, saying, in
unsteady tones,

"Excuse me a moment, I must see what the kitchen is about: it is near
dinner time."

Blair, drawing the hangings, said, wistfully following her into the
hall:

"Forgive me, dear."

"I must, when you look so sorry; but, that compulsory oath is killing
me, Alec; driving me into heart disease," she said, tremblingly.

"My darling! is it possible? but I can see it. Your heart is fairly
jumping, your hands cold, your nails blue; come in here for a few
minutes' quiet," he said, sorrowfully, leading her into the library,
taking her wraps from her, seating himself quietly beside her, simply
taking her hands, while whispering soothing words. His own heart
breaking the while, that he may not take her in his arms; but with her
breath coming in gasps, the excitement would have killed her, even did
she permit any demonstration of feeling from him, which indeed, she had
unconditionally forbidden.


On the dinner-bell ringing, she said, in low tones:

"You are nice, and good, and kind to have talked to me so quietly until
I recovered the use of my tongue. You see, dear, I can give it a rest
sometimes; now come for Ella, to our dish of roast beef and Yorkshire
pudding. Don't look so grave, Alec; 'Richard is himself again.' I wish
you would go away for a time, leave the city; as you have not commenced
business actively, really got into harness, you could easily do so; it
would be easier for me, I think, if I did not see you," she said, almost
breaking down.

"I cannot," he said, looking into her face gravely; "and it would not
help you; all I can manage, is to keep to the conditions you made: that
in coming I must not speak of my love for you; and you must own, dear,
that I fulfil those conditions; holding myself continually in check,
curbing my feelings, never outwardly letting loose the reins of passion,
even when I see that man hanging about you."

"Yes, you are very good; but still, I--oh, I don't know what to say or
do," she said, in anguish, covering her face with her hands; then, by a
violent effort controlling herself, took her place at table.

During dinner, she was pale and flushed, talkative and silent, by turns;
her companion keeping the ball moving to give her a rest.

Oh their returning to the drawing-room, Mrs. Dale gave them some music,
thus giving each time for quiet thought. The sweet sounds suddenly
ceasing, she wheels round on the piano-stool, saying, energetically,

"I feel restless this evening, active exercise will cure me; a brisk
walk down street, or even the toboggan-slide."

But Mr. Blair does not take her up, and sits with averted eyes, not
thinking Mrs. Gower well enough to be left with Mr. Cobbe.

"Well, Ella, Mr. Blair is too gallant not to accompany you. You will
both go; when I tell you that I wish to see Philip _alone_, I am going
to again appeal to him."

"I am afraid it will be too much for you, Elaine, perhaps," she said,
hesitatingly, for she does not like to give up her plan; "perhaps Mr.
Blair ought to stay, he need not be in the very same room with you."

"Yes, that is a good idea; I shall go to the library," he said, in
relieved tones.

"No, dears, you will both do as I wish. With the knowledge that I am
alone, I shall doubly nerve myself to the task."

For she dreads that Mr. Cobbe's excitable temper will give way, causing
a scene.

"Well, if you are going to talk to him, Elaine, tell him everything; and
that Mr. Blair and I say he is breaking your heart."

"I fear, Ella, your united opinions would have little weight with him,"
she said, with the ghost of a smile; "but I shall tell him _all_, never
fear," she said, earnestly feeling that Mr. Blair was, as usual,
following her every word. "Never fear, I shall be a good pleader, for I
have my life's happiness at stake; away with you at once, and don't come
back with broken bones from the slide."



CHAPTER XXIV.

A HAND OF ICE LAY ON HER HEART.


It is a cold, frosty night, the moon and clouds seeming to have a game
of hide-and-go-seek across the sky, when Mrs. Dale is already enveloped
in her warm dark blue blanket suit and Tam-o-Shanter, with Mr. Blair, in
heavy brown overcoat and Christy hat, not having been in our land long
enough for his blood to have lost its warmth and to feel the need of
furs.

Before they start Mr. Cobbe rings the bell, and is admitted to the
library, Mr. Blair turning out the gas in the drawing-room, and Thomas
receiving orders that "no one is at home."

"Suppose she should not come this evening," said Mrs. Dale, as she and
her companion returned from a brisk walk to a post box, and neared
Holmnest. "You know, she misses his trail; at all events, does not watch
for him here every evening."

"Hush! she is in the shade of that pile of lumber and bricks in front of
the house that is being built next to Holmnest," he whispered,
hurriedly.

"So she is; that is lucky; and now to follow our plan. We shall not see
her for some minutes, but endeavor to interest her by our talk about
that scallawag and poor Elaine."

"I don't think, on second thought, that that would be our best plan; we
had better go up to her and demand to know her relations to him," he
said, quickly, in an undertone.

"No, no; I know best."

As they neared, the tall, slight figure, clad in a brown ulster and
small round hat, disappeared to the other side of the lumber, almost out
of sight, but well within ear-shot.

"Stand here a minute, Mr. Blair; before we go in I want to tell you what
I fear will be the result of Mr. Cobbe's determination to marry Mrs.
Gower against her will," she said, in clear tones. On this they could
hear that the woman took a step nearer in the deep snow on the
boulevard, that had drifted in the recent storm to the lumber. "You must
see yourself," she continued, "that the compulsory oath he compelled her
to take is killing her; and none know better than you do yourself that
her love is not his; almost all friendly feeling even she had for him
prior to that oath, has fled; yet still he will keep her to it; and she
will marry him some day, in a fit of desperation to get rid of him, and
to show you that you are free to marry some more fortunate woman. It's
my belief he is a mere fortune-hunter, and cares no more for her than we
Americans care for you, in annexation; we only care for the loaves and
fishes (especially the latter). I simply hate to go in to the house; it
makes me double my fists to see him making love to her." The last words
she said to rouse the woman's wrath; she knows her sex well, for,
ploughing through the snow a few steps, she faces them.

Mrs. Dale gives a little scream. Mr. Blair, turning quickly, says, in
decided tones,

"Oh! you are here again; well, I am not sorry, for I had determined to
put a detective on your track to-morrow, and am glad to have an
opportunity of warning you first."

"Any woman would do no more nor I do, just standing here when I please,"
she said, doggedly, her teeth chattering, partly from nervousness,
partly from cold.

"Poor thing; you are half frozen," said Mrs. Dale, to show she was not
unfriendly.

"We shall not detain you long, young woman," said Mr. Blair, quickly, as
he thinks of the woman he loves worried by the man he hates; "all we
want to know is your name and address, and what hold you have on Mr.
Cobbe; for a woman of your respectable appearance would not follow a man
about unless she had some hold on him--some real right to watch his
movements. You have overheard this lady and myself talking over this
matter, and I can assure you it would add materially to our peace of
mind could we compel Mr. Cobbe to do right by you; come now, no delay,
no beating about the bush; tell the truth and shame the devil; out with
it."

"Gentlemen lie quicker than a working girl, like myself," she said,
suspiciously. "I have heard what this lady said, but how do I know that
it's all square? Phil. said if you caught me hanging around after him,
you'd get me took up, and here is a peeler coming; I see what you're
after."

And she tries to run, but Mr. Blair holds her firmly until the policeman
passes.

"I tell you I mean you no harm; but you _must_ tell your connection with
Mr. Cobbe, _and at once_."

"Give me till to-morrow night, sir, for the love of heaven, and I will
try again if Phil. will give your lady up, that I have wished to kill
for coming between us; aye, and would have fired Holmnest on her some
night, but for this lady's words that she don't want my man. My name is
Beatrice Hill, and I live at 910, Seaton Street; I will tell you the
rest to-morrow night, if he will not give her up," she said, bursting
into tears.

Mr. Blair made a note of the address, Mrs. Dale saying kindly, "You had
better come around to the kitchen and get thawed; you are----" when,
turning suddenly to Mr. Blair, who has his back to a couple coming down
the street, she says, quickly,

"Here are the Smyths; stand where you are; and you too, Beatrice Hill."

"Hello!" cried Smyth, coming upon them suddenly (that is Toronto's
pass-word). "How do you do, Mrs. Dale; how do, Blair?"

"How happy would I be with either," said his lively wife, aside to Mr.
Blair; "oh, I beg pardon," she continued, seeing the other is not one of
them. "How is Mrs. Gower?"

"She is not very well this evening, and is, I hope resting. How is it
your little son is out when he ought to be under the bedclothes? That's
one thing I am glad my boy is at boarding-school for."

"Oh, this young man has been to a party at the Halls, and we had to trot
up for him. Give Elaine my love, and tell her one look at handsome
Doctor Mills, on our street, will cure her; he cured my baby. So, come
around to-morrow, all of you. Oh, Will, we had better go in to Holmnest
for a minute. I want to tell Elaine you have heard from Charlie."

"Oh, no; go in to-morrow. This little chap is nearly asleep."

"All right. Mrs. Dale, please tell Mrs. Gower that Charlie Cole is at
New York, and she may expect to see them any day. Good night."

"Good night."

"Come, Mrs. Dale, we had better go in at once; you must be very cold."

"Yes, I am. You had better come round and get thawed out in the kitchen,
Beatrice Hill, I will bring you."

"No, thanks; I am used to it. I'll just walk up and down, to keep from
freezing."

"Perhaps you had better not try to see him to-night, it is so cold."

"Not try to see him!" she exclaimed. "I see him too seldom, and love him
too much for that," she said, pathetically, "and I must see if he will
promise me to come no more where neither of us is wanted."

"Remember! you are to be here to-morrow night to tell us your hold on
him, unless he gives Mrs. Gower up," he said, firmly.


"I will, sir; thank you both," she said tearfully, as, turning towards
the gate of Holmnest, they each slip a five dollar bill into her hand.

"Poor thing, I think she is hard up," said Mrs. Dale, as they ring the
bell; "see her examining the bills by the lamp."

"Yes, so she is, to see if they are 'Central'; had she not been sold by
my _béte noir_, I should say she was a canny Scotchwoman."

On Thomas opening the door, they see Mr. Cobbe draw close the _portière_
hangings of the library, as if to say, no admittance.

"Have you a match, Thomas?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Then light one jet in the drawing-room, please."

Here they sit quietly talking for half an hour, during which, at times,
Mr. Cobbe talked loud and excitedly, while sometimes Mrs. Gower's voice
came to them in pleading, or quieting tones.

At last he goes into the dining-room, asks Thomas for some sherry,
drinks two glasses; is again in the hall, his over-shoes, coat, and fur
cap on, in his excitement picking up Mr. Blair's gloves, which, when in
the street, finding his mistake, he dashes into the road.

Angry and troubled by Mrs. Gower's words, he is kinder to Beatrice Hill
than he has been for some time.

"You here again, Betty. _You_ are infatuated with me, anyway."

"Indeed, I am, sweetheart, but my love doesn't content you. You bet, I'd
sooner have a black look from you than a kiss from any man living. The
saints forgive me, when I think of the holy Father and cardinals, and
how I worship you, Phil."

"Yes, you are wild about me, I know, Betty, but we men are different to
you, you know; we have so many adorers, we can't go mooning forever
around one woman."

"And you are not angry with me to-night, Phil, for coming again to get a
sight of your dear face?"

"No, I am not angry with you to-night; but you must not come again; they
don't like it," he said, importantly.

"If I don't see you, I may as well die," she says despondently. "I love
you better than any of them ladies do," she says, feeling her way.

"Hang her, she is as fickle as her clime," he says, half aloud, thinking
of Mrs. Gower.

His companion made no response, knowing who he meant, but her heart is
lighter at his words.

"Hang it, Bet, it's a freezer; if you have any money about you, I'll
hail this sleigh if it's empty."

"Yes, sweetheart, here it is," giving him one of the fives.

In a minute they are under the buffalo robe, when, according to promise,
she coaxes, entreats, and implores him to give Mrs. Gower up, but he
angrily refuses to listen to anything on the subject; entertaining her,
instead, with recitals of all the girls on King street who, he is sure,
are dying for an introduction to him, and of several women of his
acquaintance being infatuated about him, his companion assenting to all
he said; getting out at his own quarters, paying the driver to 910
Seaton street, pocketing the change. Beatrice Hill alone, thinks out her
plan for the following evening with tears, which she brushes away with
bare hands, having given her mits to her fickle swain to keep his hands
from the frost.

"Yes, I must tell them all," she thought, weeping silently, "else Phil
will make her marry him. Father Nolan would tell me to do so, to save
him from guilt. He will turn to his faithful Betty again when he sees
how they sit on him, when they know all."

As the hall door had closed on Mr. Cobbe making his exit, Mr. Blair
said, turning out the gas:

"Let us go to her."

Mrs. Gower meets them in the hall, looking pale and agitated, her eyes
larger and darker in her pale face, her sensitive mouth quivering.

"I was just coming for you," she said, and on her eyes meeting Mr.
Blair's, in answer to his loving, steadfast gaze, hers told him that her
appeal has been in vain.

"He would not free you?" he said, compassionately.

"No."

"Well, then, he must be compelled to," said Mrs. Dale, energetically;
"we are not going to stand by with folded hands, and see the remainder
of your life made wretched by a weak, vain, frivolous thing like that.
You have had trouble enough in the past, heaven knows."

"Yes, we must act; we must endeavor to interview the woman," he said
sympathetically, preparing her for what might occur.

"I fear your kind efforts in my behalf will prove useless, Alec. You
would only ascertain that she is some poor creature whose heart he has
gained, but who is not bound to him in any way. She is faithful, where
he is false," she says, gravely, "and is breaking her heart for him--a
way we have--that is all. No, 'Blessed are they who expect nothing,' I
must keep well in my mind for the future. I scarcely deserve this from
Fate, for I have been pretty brave hitherto through troubles, that at
the time were sufficient to crush all hope, leaving not the faintest
gleam; but I struggled through the clouds in my sky, which, finally
parting, I saw the sunbeams once more. My plan now is, to close up this
my home, sweet home, or ask you, Ella, or Mr. Cole, to take it off my
hands for a year. It would please me best to know some one I care for
was among my little treasured belongings."

"Mr. Cole, Charlie's father is at the Tremont Hotel, Jacksonville,
Florida. My plan is to ask Miss Crew (as you don't require her services,
and her mind is easier as to money matters), to accompany me for the
remainder of the winter to the same place as my friend Charlie's father;
he is a most worthy man and a gentleman. At the close of winter we would
cross to the British Isles. To myself, a Canadian, it would be a
complete distraction, as I have never been across; and I pray fervently,
will take me out of self," she said sadly. "We would visit London and
some pretty rural spots, the Devonshire lanes, perhaps; and then the
Emerald Isle, thence to bonnie Scotia's shores; taking, perhaps, more
than a peep at fair Dunkeld," she says, trying to smile in the grave
face of Mr. Blair. "I have foreseen the result of my appeal to Philip,
and so have been laying my plans for some days."

As she spoke, trying vainly to hide her emotion, more than one tear had
been stealthily brushed away by her sympathetic little friend, who,
seeing that Mr. Blair is suffering intensely, from suppressed feeling,
says bravely, though rather doubtful at heart:

"Mark my words, Elaine, that woman will free you; say good night to us,
Mr. Blair, I am medical attendant _pro tem._, and Elaine must take a
sedative, and room with me to-night."

"You are right, Mrs. Dale; be brave, Elaine," he says, holding her hand
in his firm grasp, "to-morrow your clouds must again pass. I shall come
in after luncheon."



CHAPTER XXV.

"HERE AWA', THERE AWA'."


The following is an ideal Canadian winter day; the sky, a far-off canopy
of brightest blue, with no clouds to obscure the sunbeams, which pour
down on fair Toronto, melting the icicles when his smiles are warmest,
and gladdening the hearts of the million. There is just enough of frost
in the air to make a walk to town pleasant, cheering and exhilarating,
so that Mrs. Dale is glad when Mrs. Gower proposes their going. The
whole city seems to have turned out, and the streets are alive with the
busy hum of life, and the tinkling music of the merry sleigh-bells.

Mrs. Gower, who had slept little, arose with the determination to appear
reconciled to her fate, not wishing to add to the sorrow of Mr. Blair
and Mrs. Dale, on her account; feeling that there will be time enough to
give way, when "large lengths of miles" divide them. She cannot bear to
dwell upon the separation, she has decided, is for the best, and dreads
to think of her heart loneliness, with Mr. Blair gone out of her life,
and the sympathy of Mrs. Dale, not beside her. How she will miss her
quiet talks with him, his manly advice and interest in all her acts, the
oneness of their views on many questions of the day--religious, social,
and in part political. The Tremaines and Smyths also; with her many
favorite walks and resorts, the public library, and other places of
interest. Yes, to leave them all and her snug Holmnest, is hard; but to
go on in the way events have shaped themselves--Mr. Cobbe, a privileged
visitor, as her future husband; the woman haunting her home; her misery,
seeing daily the grief telling on Mr. Blair would be harder still; so,
nerving herself for the parting, she determines on making her
preparations at once.

No one meeting the friends, as they walk into town, would imagine that
the dusky shadow of sorrow sits in each heart; the pretty little face of
Mrs. Dale being set off by a bonnet, with pink feathers, her seal coat
and muff making her warm and comfortable. Mrs. Gower, in a heavy dark
blue gown, short dolman boa and muff of the bear; a pretty little bonnet
blending with her gown, the glow of heat from exercise lending color to
her cheeks. Down busy Yonge street to Eaton's; Trowern's, with Mrs.
Dale's watch; thence to gay King Street, to Murray's, Nordheimer's, the
Public Library, back again West, and to Coleman's for a cup of coffee,
are all done; at the latter place they run across Mrs. St. Clair with
Miss Hall.

"Oh, you two dear pets, I am so awfully glad to have met you," says
pretty Mrs. St. Clair, effusively; "I want to know when you can talk
over a programme with me--tableaux, readings, etc., in aid of the debt
on our church. Say when?"

"I really cannot, Mrs. St. Clair," said Mrs. Gower; "just at present I
am very busy, and am daily expecting a small house party."

"Dear, dear! that is too bad; what shall I do; you are so smart, and
would know just what would take. You will talk it over with me, Mrs.
Dale," she said, beseechingly.

"No, thank you; on principle, I object."

"How funny! might I ask why?"

"Certainly. I think offerings to such an object as a church debt should
be voluntary."

"But, Mrs. Dale, people expect a little treat for their money."

"They have, or we have, the church service, and the ministrations of the
clergyman."

"That's just the way Mr. St. Clair damps my ardor," she says, poutingly;
"I do so want to pose as Mary Stuart. Mr. Cobbe says I'd look too sweet
for anything; you won't be jealous, Mrs. Gower."

"Oh, fearfully so; but joking apart; how do you think he would pose as
Bunthorn?"

"I see you are laughing at him, Mrs. Gower?"

"Not at all; the twenty forlorn ones would keep him in good humor, and
the bee in his crown would be a safety valve for his restlessness."

"No, no; I would not like that, and I wonder you, above all, would
propose it; for the whole twenty would fall in love with him, he is so
fascinating; don't you think so, Miss Hall?"

"Yes; but it would be good fun; you cawn't do bettah, Mrs. St. Clair."

"It has my vote, too," said Mrs. Dale, as she and her friend wish them
good morning.

"What a well-matched couple Mrs. St. Clair and Philip would have made,"
says Mrs. Gower, as they go east to Yonge street.

"Yes, I have thought that before to-day, Elaine; it's a pity to spoil
two houses with them."

Here they come across Mrs. Smyth waiting for a Spadina Avenue car.

"Oh, Mrs. Gower, who do you think I have just seen?"

"Perhaps our mutual friend Charlie Cole," she answered, smiling.

"Well, you are smart, to guess exactly; have you seen them? Isn't she
frightfully ugly?" she says, in one breath.

"No, I have not seen them. What a pity she is not pretty. I received a
letter from Charlie, saying to expect them."

"Oh, you sly thing; why didn't you let us know? Oh, how ugly she is! May
we come round this evening? Here is my car."

"Certainly. We have been to your husband's office to invite you."

"Thanks. O!" she cried, stepping on to the car. "Will gave me a new
piano yesterday."

"Whose make?"

"Ruse's, Temple of Music, over there."

"I congratulate you." As they walked on she continued, absently, "What a
pity she is plain looking."

"Who; not Mrs. Smyth?"

"Oh, no, Ella; her animation will always make her pretty. I was thinking
of Charlie Cole's wife. I wonder where she saw them?"

"Oh, somewhere in town, I suppose. So you expected them to-day."

"Yes, and I would have told you, but I want their advent to be a
surprise for Miss Crew, whom I have frequently found secretly studying
Charlie Cole's photo. She is so guardedly reticent, that I am curious to
see if suddenly confronting him will cause her to show any interest in
the original of the photo."

"But you should make sure of her, Elaine. She may remain at the
O'Sullivans; and as I own to taking an interest in human bric-a-brac, I
hope you will call for her."

"I fancy she will return for certain, as she tells me the couple we met
on New Year's Day are coming to Holmnest this afternoon; the woman,
quite a lady-like looking person, is to alter her black silk; but we
shall call on our way home for her."

"Yes, that will be best, and here is our car; but it is too crowded. As
members of the Humane Society we had better wait for the next."

As they wait in front of the Dominion Bank, Mr. Cobbe joins them.

"Good morning, ladies; won't you turn west, and have a promenade,
Elaine?"

"No, thank you. Time has gone too fast for us already."

"O, pshaw! I want to speak to you. When do you return to New York, Mrs.
Dale?" he says pointedly; disliking her, and feeling freer at Holmnest
in her absence.

"I have not the remotest idea, Mr. Cobbe, indeed," she added, in return
for his; "we may take dear little Holmnest off Mrs. Gower's hands if she
carries out her present intention to leave Canada for a time."

"Leave Canada!" he exclaims, flushing.

"Please, stop the car, Philip, quick."

"What does it mean, Elaine?" he whispers, seeing them on board; but the
bell rings, and off they go. Two yards distant, and he calls out, "I
shall be up after office hours."

"Talk of cruelty to animals. I gave him a blow, but he richly deserves
it. But I do believe, Elaine, you are sorry for him," she says in
amazement, and under cover of the noise of travel.

"I am. He is his worst enemy. Yes, I am sorry for his weak, vain nature.
A man without stability of character, in our stirring times, is of no
more account than are the soap-bubbles blown by a little child."

Getting out of the car at Webb's, to leave an order, they there meet
Miss O'Sullivan, who, with her own bright smile, comes forward quickly
to shake hands.

"Oh, Mrs. Gower, I am so glad to see you. I have something to tell you.
Miss Crew left our place for Holmnest at ten this a.m., and I have her
promise to tell Mr. Dale her history, and ask his advice."

"I am glad of that, dear."

"Oh, so am I, she is such a darling; but I was not satisfied to have her
without some good gentleman friend to advise her."

"Has she confided in yourself?"

"Yes, Mrs. Dale; but not until last night."

"Was it sensational enough to keep you awake, or, as I suppose, of no
more interest than 'little Johnny Horner sitting in the corner eating
his Christmas pie?'"

"You see, dear, Mrs. Dale is disgusted with Mother Goose for not telling
us of his bilious attack," laughed Mrs. Gower. "Good bye, dear, here is
our car, College and Spadina Avenue."

"You will not be disappointed in Miss Crew's story, Mrs. Dale. The
bilious part is not omitted; poor dear, I am so sorry for her."

On reaching Holmnest they find Mr. Dale, who has returned from the
North-West, and Miss Crew, in the library.

Mrs. Gower, not pretending to notice that the latter has been in tears,
and to give her an excuse to make her exit, asks her to carry her wraps
upstairs for her; and then to go and give them some music during the few
minutes before luncheon.

"Mrs. Gower is taking better care of you, little wife, than you are of
her, now that the roses from the frosty air are fading. I notice she is
paler and thinner."

"Don't blame me, Henry," she answered, stroking his whiskers; "blame Mr.
Cobbe. I declare to you both, I never name him without doubling my
fists."

"My impression has always been, dear Mrs. Gower, that he will be no
companion for you in the hand-in-hand journey through life."

"Yes; but you are not cognizant of certain facts which has led to our
being in our present relation towards each other," she says, gravely;
"and of which we must tell you, perhaps to-morrow. We have enough on for
to-day, and there is the luncheon bell, come."

"Oh, Henry, do you know that the Coles are expected here to-day, and
have you told Miss Crew? because, don't," she whispered hurriedly.

"No; I thought it as well not to," he said, in constrained tones,
adding, "she has been telling me her sad story, poor girl; which you and
Mrs. Gower will know shortly, little woman."



CHAPTER XXVI.

ELECTRIC TIPS AMONG THE ROSES.


During luncheon, Mrs. Gower, seeing that her companions seem too full of
busy thought to be talkative, exerts herself keeping up a constant flow
of little nothings, requiring no replies; her spirits became less
depressed by the effort to keep sorrow at bay, her pleasant walk to town
has really been a tonic to her. And now the knowledge that the Coles may
come in at any moment; that a handsome face, so full of power and
sympathy with herself, will be here also; with the meeting by the Smyths
and herself of the wife of their old friend Charlie Cole; all this is a
powerful stimulant to her, as well as the little surprise and excitement
for the quiet, fair-haired girl, with tear-stained cheeks, on her left.

"Would you like a trip down to Florida with me, Miss Crew. Orange groves
and outdoor blossoms would be as a glimpse of Paradise, with one's eyes
full of snow flakes."

"Yes; I should like to go anywhere with you, Mrs. Gower; that is," she
adds, glancing, timidly, at Mr. Dale, already now he knows her history,
turning to him as a child to a parent; "that is, if it would be best for
me."

"Do you really contemplate this trip; if so, and you do not leave for a
few days, I think it would be the very thing for Miss--, for this little
lady," he says; thinking she is merely running away to escape the
remainder of the winter.

"I do really intend going," she said, slowly, and with an unconscious
sigh.

He looks at her earnestly, thinking there is some latent reason, when
his wife, making a _moue_ at him, accompanied by an almost imperceptible
shake of the head, when, Mrs. Gower, changing the subject, says: "Did
you see how Professor Herkomer has been lauding the Americans, Mr.
Dale?"

"I did; but I only agree with him in part."

"Not so with me; I am at one with him, to the echo; but I should tell
you I have only seen extracts from his expressed views, in which he
says, 'he was impressed by their keen, nervous temperament, keen
intelligence and ambition to excel;' and when he says America will
become a leader of art in the nations as of nearly everything else."

"I don't go with him that length," he said, shaking his head; "give me
the Old World for art in the present, as well as in the future."

"In the present, I agree with you, I think; but their very ambition to
excel, their-go-ahead-ness, to coin a word, will, I feel convinced, gain
them first place in the future."

"That's right, Elaine; give it him, he is too conservative, this dear
old hubby of mine; the stars and stripes float over the smartest people
on earth."

At this a general laugh makes them all feel less blue, Mrs. Gower
saying, as they leave the dining-room:

"Well, let us see which of us, England, United States or Canada, will be
the smartest in taking a few minutes' rest, and getting into a dinner
gown." Wending her way to the kitchen, she meets Miss Crew, bringing
water and seeds for the birds.

"Thank you, dear; that saves my time; when you have done that, run away
up to your room, and put on your pretty heliotrope frock; the Smyths may
dine with us."

"Very well, I shall; and oh, Mrs. Gower, may I tell Thomas when my
friends come (you know I told you I am going to have my black silk
altered), he is to show them into the dining-room; though, perhaps, they
would not be called gentlefolk, still, they are not servants, and they
are so good."

"The highest recommendation you can give them, dear; I shall tell Thomas
myself."

Closeted in their bedroom, seated side by side, upon a lounge, Mrs. Dale
tells her husband of Mrs. Gower's troubles, and the stratagem by which
Mr. Cobbe has obtained her oath to marry him; of the woman who haunts
Holmnest; of how for long months Mrs. Gower has been imploring him to
release her from her compulsory promise. Also of Mr. Blair's love for
Elaine; and of how he has surprised her into a confessing of her own for
him; but of how in no way has she allowed him any demonstration of that
love since those few moments on New Year's Day. Of her own and Mr.
Blair's plan to induce the woman to speak.

"You astonish me, Ella!" he exclaimed; "but I agree with her; she cannot
break her oath, _she belongs to him_; does she know of your plan to
interview the woman?"

"Yes; but thinks we shall elicit no item of importance; but, Henry,
dear, say nothing to her of our plan for this evening; I only tell you,
so that should you miss Mr. Blair and myself, you will not remark on
it."

"I see. How do you like this Mr. Blair; you know, I have only met him
once?"

"I like him very much; you should hear that reticent Mr. St. Clair
praise him. He is though, really, a manly, generous, straight-forward,
determined fellow; just the reverse of Mr. Cobbe."

"Yes; well I hope it will come out all right for poor Mrs. Gower, though
I had hoped that she and Buckingham would have made a match," he said
musingly.

"So have I; but he has been too deliberate, a trait his German mother is
to blame for; and he may have imagined there has been something between
her and Mr. Cobbe. Now, hubby, I am just dying to know if Miss Crew has
confided in you, and if there is anything worth a snap in her story."

"I cannot tell you just yet, dear; and, besides, we have not time; it is
three-thirty, time for my little wife to dress."

On descending at four p.m., to her cheerful drawing-room, Mrs. Gower has
so far conquered her feelings as to cause a casual observer to say, she
is quite happy, and at ease; for her dark red gown is becoming, and she
has compelled her mind to dwell only on the pleasurable excitement of a
re-union with her old friend, Mr. Cole; wondering also what he will
think of her new friend, Mr. Blair. The air, redolent of hyacinths and
roses, tells her he is in the drawing-room; and the color deepens in her
cheeks as her heart throbs faster.

He comes to meet her, from a table, piled with blossoms, which he is
placing in Japanese and glass bowls.

"You will become bankrupt, Alec."

"Not while there are blossoms in the market, and you to accept them; I
am a canny Scotchman, you know; you should always wear this gown," he
says, quietly, pinning some roses near her chin.

"You said so of my old gold dress, you fickle man;" and, as she speaks,
her eyes rest for a moment on his.

With a sigh, he returns to his task.

"Don't, Alec, it breaks my heart to hear you sigh like that, and I am
trying so hard to keep up."

"I sigh that I am forbidden to take you in my arms," he said, gravely,
as their fingers meet in arranging the flowers.

"But, you know, I am acting for the best."

"Do you allow him?" he said, with a steadfast look.

"Never, when I can prevent it."

"These flowers remind me of an incident I have often thought to tell
you, Elaine. Do you remember one time, about a year and a half ago,
going to make a call upon some people who were transient guests at the
Walker House? they had left town; and while you waited, while this fact
was being ascertained, a wee lady, an invalid, was carried in by an
attendant, and placed on a sofa; she was emaciated and fair
complexioned. On your leaving the parlor you asked her to accept a
bouquet you carried; it was composed almost entirely of roses.
Passionately fond of flowers, she was very pleased, telling you so; do
you remember? but your face tells me you do. That poor little lady was
she whom you had frequently met in the street with me, before she became
too weak to walk; that was my poor little wife."

"And I met you as I was entering the hotel," she said, softly.

"Yes; I was going to Brown's livery stables for a cab; I generally went
myself, instead of using the telephone, as Jessie thought I got an
easier one."


"Poor little creature; I did not recognize her, because meeting her with
you, she had always been veiled. I remember how pleased she was with the
flowers; my kind friend, Mrs. Tremaine, had given them to me to brighten
my room; I could not afford such luxuries then," she said, sadly. "Your
wee wife had a sweet little face, and I frequently thought of her again.
Meeting the manager, Mr. Wright, one day, I asked him about her, when he
said 'she and her husband had left town.' It was all very sad for you,
Alec."

"It was, she told me, a winsome lady, bonnie, and so strong-looking, had
given them to her, and from her description, I knew it must be you. I
endeavored, even then, to ascertain your name, but failed," he said,
gravely, holding her hands among the roses for a moment in his own; when
Miss Crew entered, with her work-basket, followed by the Dales, Mr. Dale
carrying some open letters, with newspapers, which he placed carefully
on a table beside him, as he shook hands with Mr. Blair.

"Talk about the sunny south," cried Mrs. Dale; "one sighs for nothing in
this atmosphere; what with the sun streaming in all day from south and
west, the perfume of flowers, the Christmas decorations not yet down,
the glowing grate, even with the snow outside, we are pretty snug."

"I am glad you feel so, dear; I suppose with my small income, I am
recklessly extravagant in not shutting out the sunbeams; but my
furniture must fade, rather than that my flowers, birds and self, live
in gloom."

"I think you said real estate is your business, Mr. Blair; have you
opened an office yet?" inquired Mr. Dale.

"Broker and real estate is what I have been engaged in; but I have not
as yet rented an office; there will be some good rooms over the Bank of
Commerce, when completed; but that is a long look."

"Three years! a life-time, from a business standpoint; at least, as we
look at things on the other side," said Dale.

"I wonder what the Central Bank will be converted into; it, I should
say, is a good location, if the public wouldn't fight shy of a man
hanging out his shingle from such walls," said Blair.

"The owners should give it a man rent free for a term of years, who
would paint it white," said Mrs. Gower, half in joke.

"They have it black enough now," said Dale; "its career is a disgrace to
the city."

"It is indeed," said Mrs. Gower; "and one of the worst features of the
case is, that we have lost confidence; men are daily asking, who is to
be trusted?"

"Here is the _North-Ender_, taking up the refrain; it says," said Mr.
Blair, reading, "'other bank failures have been bad enough, but in
sheer, utter, unadulterated baseness, this excelleth them all;' and
here, in another newspaper, they say, 'whole families are beggared by
it, having nothing to buy bread.'"

"How terrible!" cried Miss Crew, clasping her hands; "if I only had
money," and she glanced timidly at Mr. Dale, "how much I should like to
assist them."

Here Mrs. Smyth enters, full of excitement.

"Oh, I am here before them; I am so glad," she said, untying her bonnet.

"Allow me to take your things upstairs for you, Mrs. Smyth."

"Oh, thank you, Miss Crew; but it's too much trouble for you."

"Not at all."

"How lovely your flowers are, Elaine; you cause me to break the tenth
commandment."

"Cease, then, and help yourself; as you love them."

"Thanks; oh, I just met Emily Tudor and her mother, on Huron street, on
my way up; and what do you think; they have lost every cent by the
Central. Emily and Mary have left school, and are looking for
situations; the mother seemed just heart broken."

"How dreadful!" cried Mrs. Gower, "they are such a worthy, honorable
family, and the delinquents! are rolling away in parlor cars to luxury
in fairer climes."

Here Miss Crew returns, and Mrs. Gower, asking her to give them some
music, in the midst of Leybach's "Fifth Nocturne," the Coles drive up,
ring, are admitted, and announced by Thomas.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A SERPENT IN PARADISE.


Had a bombshell exploded in their midst there could not have been more
pity, astonishment, and dismay, than was felt by the group of friends in
the pretty little drawing-room, at the sad change in poor Charlie Cole,
and the shock experienced at their first sight of the extremely plain
woman beside him with the stony eyes and termagant written on her brow.
But horror-struck as they are, all wear society's mark, excepting the
fair-haired girl, who still sits transfixed to the piano stool; in the
introductions her back is turned, though she had had one glimpse on
their _entrée_, she having wheeled around for one instant; but now it is
her turn, and Mrs. Gower, stepping towards her, laying her hand kindly
on her shoulder, says, "Turn round, dear." Turning her small, clear-cut
features, white as a statue, standing up, but not lifting her eyelids,
she acknowledges the introduction in conventional form.

The face of Mrs. Cole, a dull red, with a redder spot marking the high
cheek bones, took a momentary grey hue, while Charlie Cole, with a
violent start, and a half-formed "oh!" dropped his heavy cane, for
rheumatism still troubling him, he was obliged to use it as a support;
Miss Crew made an involuntary step to reach it, but Mr. Blair is before
her. On raising her head, her eyes meet the stony gaze of Mrs. Cole, at
which, in spite of a visible effort to control herself, she trembles
almost to falling.

"The piano stool is uncomfortable; take this chair," said Mr. Dale,
kindly placing one beside his own, and giving her her work-basket. Oh,
how grateful she is to him, as she bends over her wools and flosses.

"Allow me to take your wraps, Mrs. Cole, or will you come upstairs at
once?"

"Never mind me, Mrs. Gower, I shall just unbutton my mantle."

"But you are going to stay with me, so may as well make yourself
comfortable at once."

"Oh, I don't know, Mrs. Gower, Mr. Babbington-Cole requires such an
amount of attendance, that, on second thought, it is best we should
return to the hotel," she said, doggedly.

"But, Margaret, you told them at the Palmer House you----"

"It does not signify what I told them; that is past; perhaps your
hearing has become impaired. I said, on _second_ thought," now
thinking--goodness, how they stare; think I am not spooney, I suppose;
says, "You see, Mrs. Gower, I have to think for us both. A man's mind is
not good for much after a long illness.'"

"My poor friend, you do look as if you had had a hard time of it," said
Mrs. Gower, with latent meaning; "but you must know it would be a real
pleasure to have you stay with me, and Mrs. Cole also. Do take off your
muffler, Charlie, the room is warm. Excuse me calling your husband by
his Christian name, Mrs. Cole, but it is a habit I must break myself off
now."

"Yes, I suppose so, now he is a married man," she said, showing her
teeth; "but he'd better keep muffled up."

"How did you stand the voyage, Mr. Cole?" inquired Dale.

"Very badly. You see I am pretty well battered out, and could not get
about much. A stick is a shaky leg in mid-ocean."

"You are right. Did your uncle and aunt come out with you, Mrs. Cole?"
continued Dale.

"What the mischief does that grey-haired, weasel-eyed man know, I
wonder," she thought, saying, briefly, "Yes."

"Poor Charlie, you had nurses enough," said Mrs. Smyth; who felt so
badly at seeing her old favorite so carelessly dressed, his last
season's overcoat, and a purple and white muffler; looking feeble,
emaciated, and unhappy, and with such a wife, that she is almost silent,
and nearly in tears.

"Are you acquainted with Mr. and Miss Stone, Mr. Dale?" asked Mr. Cole,
wiping the perspiration from his brow.

"No, not personally, but by reputation," he says, pointedly. "A friend
of this little lady here," indicating Miss Crew, "who is also a friend
of my own at London, has written me the particulars of your marriage."

"Indeed!" said the invalid, brightening, feeling braced up by being at
last with friends; not so the woman he has married, who mentally wishes
herself back at New York, in the congenial companionship of her uncle
and aunt. She hates this pretty, modern drawing-room, with its comely
women becomingly attired, its bright flowers, its home-like air.

Here Thomas enters, telling Miss Crew some friends wish to see her, at
which she leaves the room for five minutes, with Mr. Dale.

"Do you purpose settling at Toronto, Mrs. Cole?" asks Mr. Blair,
unconsciously referring to her as the best horse.

"I had some thoughts of doing so; but since seeing it, I rather think
not."

While Mr. Blair momentarily occupies her attention, Mrs. Gower, with
Mrs. Smyth, one on each side of their old friend, pet and sympathize
with him more by looks than words.

On Miss Crew and Mr. Dale returning, the face of the latter wearing a
set, stern look, he said, on seeing Mrs. Cole, arising to depart:

"Mrs. Cole, might I ask what has caused you to change your mind about
staying with Mrs. Gower? You entered with the intention of making her a
visit, and one can see at a glance that the being here would be a
panacea to your unfortunate husband; I again ask, why you have changed
your mind?"

During his words her face was a study, in its various stages of wrath,
culminating in the hissing of the following words:

"If yours are Canadian manners, I cannot congratulate you, Mr. Dale. My
reason for changing my mind is _my_ reason, not yours."

"Your words and actions, Mrs. Cole, force me to act at once."

"Come," she said, with a sneer at the speaker, now turning to her
husband, "Come, Charles, I regret to interrupt these ladies in their
attentions, but you must button up your top-coat."

"I wish you'd stay even for dinner," he says, nervously.

"No, the night air is bad for you, come at once;" and she fixes him with
her stony eyes.

"Sit down again, Mrs. Cole;" said Mr. Dale, firmly; and to the renewed
astonishment of all, "I have something to say to you."

"No, I take no interest in the sayings of an ill-bred man. Good-evening,
Mrs. Gower."

"This won't do, Mrs. Cole; I regret your line of action, as it forces a
disagreeable duty upon me in my friend's drawing-room, and not in a
court of law, as I had intended. My friend Dr. Annesley, of London"--at
this, she set her teeth in a determined way--"Dr. Annesley has written
me the sad history of this little lady."

"You are a very rude man to detain me, while you prate of a perfect
stranger," she says, her face blazing, and making a move to the hall,
"Come, Charles."

Mr. Cole, instead of nearing her, hobbles across the room, seating
himself beside Mr. Blair, whose face with its look of power, draws him
unconsciously.

"In as few words as possible, Mrs. Cole, I affirm on oath, and from
indisputable evidence, both from Messrs. Brookes & Davidson, barristers,
London, England, and from parties now in this house, that you, with your
uncle and aunt, Mr. and Miss Stone, late of Broadlawns, Bayswater,
London, England, have," he said, sternly, consulting some English
letters, "appropriated the income from the estate of your late
step-mother, for the last ten years, to your own uses, merely sending a
sum to pay expenses at school to your step-sister, who, to further your
base ends, you had banished from her native land; which allowance, even,
you cruelly stopped some three years ago; since which time she has been
compelled to earn her own living. Not compelled, had she had the nerve
to push her claims and assert her rights; but being a nervous, timid
girl, the outcome of cruel treatment by you and yours, during her
childhood, she, in fear of other evil deeds from you all, dropped her
surname, and assumed the maiden name of her mother; and this poor girl,
who by law and the will of her dead mother, the heiress of five thousand
pounds sterling, per annum, was for two years, a mere drudge, as nursery
governess, at New York City." Sensation! "By a wicked fraud, you also
are married to the man to whom as a child she was betrothed; but I pass
this over in consideration of the feelings of your unfortunate dupe, and
of a lady now here also. To return to the servitude of the girl, your
step-sister, whom you robbed of her birthright. A year ago, on my wife
advertising, in the columns of the New York _Herald_, for a governess
for our little son, the girl you have wronged, answering our
advertisement, was accepted; and since that time has been an honored
member of our little circle."

Mrs. Cole, who has only remained in hopes he would show his hand as to
what steps the prosecution will take, now in uncontrolled rage bursts
forth:

"Mrs. Gower, I ask you, as my hostess, to order a servant get me a
hansom, at once; I never was so insulted in my life before!" her reason
for asking for a cab being, she sees now she will go away alone, and the
driver will know the streets.

"My friend, Mr. Dale, does not mean his words as insults, Mrs. Cole; and
I fear, I must ask you to remain until he has finished. However, my
servant shall immediately telephone for a hack;" and giving the order,
it was quickly flashed to Hubbard's.

Mr. Dale, now taking the trembling hand of Miss Crew, led her forward,
saying deliberately:

"This, my friends, is the heiress of whom I have been speaking; who has
been so basely defrauded of her fortune. This is Pearl, baptized by the
family name of Margaret (her mother's name), her father was the late
Edward Villiers, and she is step-sister to Mrs. Cole."

To describe the sensation his words caused, would be impossible, no one
attempting to hide their horror at the wicked conduct of Mrs. Cole and
her relations; or their joy at their quiet little friend's good fortune.

"It is a put-up job, a black lie from beginning to end," shouted Mrs.
Cole, driven to frenzy at her defeat; and before the friends of the man
whom she has married, and whom she has despised for falling into the
net; "my half-sister behaved so badly, we sent her to your pious city of
New York, where she would find kindred spirits," she sneered; "and she
was drowned three years ago in the Niagara River."

Mr. Dale had left the room during the congratulations of Pearl Villiers,
as we must now call her; and now returns with the quiet-looking couple
Mrs.

Gower had seen on New Year's Day; and who proved to be none other than
our old friends, Silas Jones and his loved wife Sarah, who made oath to
the truth of Mr. Dale's statements.

Insane at her defeat, at her loss of power, for which she had lived, for
which she had sold her soul to Mephistopheles. In a rage at her
humiliation before Silas Jones and his wife, whom she has hitherto
walked over, whom she feels will rejoice with her victim over her
discomfiture; and whom she feels will sing the _Te Deum Laudamus_ over
his freedom, which she knows he will grasp at as eagerly as the timely
rope by the drowning man; and so, hissing forth many words of fierce
invective and malicious threats, she takes the hack from Holmnest.

Mr. Dale's first expressive act on returning from escorting this amiable
creature to the cab is to shake hands with Mr. Cole; then, crossing the
room to Pearl Villiers, to congratulate her, he ascertains she has
fainted.

"No wonder, poor girl," said Mrs. Gower, coming to her relief; "I
expect, this is not the first time her terrible step-sister has caused
her to find relief in unconsciousness."

"Do you remember, Elaine, she fainted once before, on Mr. Smyth
announcing the marriage of Margaret Villiers with your poor friend
here?"

"I do, distinctly."

"I wonder," continued Mrs. Dale, "was she aware of her mother's wish
that she should marry Mr. Cole?"

"Yes, Miss Pearl knew it right well, poor, long-suffering darling," says
Sarah Jones, who is supporting her, while whispering soothing words of
comfort. She now recovers, and is able to sit up, smiling at the sight
which meets her eye, of Mr. Cole shaking Silas Jones by the hand, as if
it was to be perpetual motion. Then, hobbling to the mirror, tears off
his unbecoming muffler, throwing it at Tyr; saying, half wild with joy
at his deliverance:

"Away with her fetters; I shall begin to look like a Christian again; if
I had a razor now, it would not be used on the jugular vein, but on my
beard; but Mrs. Smyth, Mrs. Gower, see how grey I am, Jove!" and he gave
a glance at the fair-haired girl, who withdrew her eyes, while both
color. "Medusa was my pet name for her; oh, it was a den of villainy,
eh, Sarah," he said, excitedly.

"It caps anything I have ever heard," said Dale, seeing how weak Cole
looks, and making him take an easy chair.

"Dinner is served, ma'am."

After dining, Mr. and Mrs. Jones sitting down with them at the pressing
invitation of Mrs. Gower, Mr. Dale read all the communications he had
received relating to the fraud practised by Miss Villiers, and the
Stones antagonistic to the interests of Pearl Villiers; Brookes &
Davidson undertaking to prosecute in the interests of the latter, should
she so decide. Before leaving England, some weeks previous, they had
robbed and plundered the estate to such an extent as to reduce the
actual income from five thousand pounds sterling per annum to three
thousand.

These facts had been ascertained by Messrs. Brookes & Davidson, who
said, as the delinquents had sheltered themselves beneath the stars and
stripes, they were safe personally; but some of the properties could be
wrested from parties to whom fraudulent sales had been made by Mrs.
Cole. Her plea would of course be that she, Margaret Villiers, had wed
Charles Babbington-Cole; but that had no weight, for a clause in the
will would make such plea not worth a row of pins; they, the lawyers,
only wishing they were in England, when they would indict them for
fraud.

"You will prosecute the wretches, Pearl; for we are going to make you
feel at home, and call you so," said Mrs. Dale, eagerly.

But the girl, saying in a low voice, though heard by all, that she will
not go to law; that three thousand per annum is ample for her; that in
most cases, perhaps, the lessees were not cognizant of the fraudulent
sale, and so would be punished, while the guilty people were the
gainers.

"They have a nice little nest egg," said Mr. Blair, indignantly; "so
does the green bay tree flourish."

"Yes," said Mr. Dale; "and will likely pose as saints on the other side.
Only that our little friend here would suffer much during a complicated
law-suit, and that the enemy are hard to reach, I would advise her not
to turn the other cheek, as she is doing but to fight; however," he
says, smilingly, "for Canada, Miss Pearl, you are quite a little
heiress."

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Silas Jones, as he and his happy wife bid
them all good-night, "Sarah and I don't know how to thank you for your
kindness to our Miss Pearl."

"Yes; may the blessings of heaven rest upon you for it," said Sarah,
tearfully and reverently, as the girl kissed her, lovingly.

"Amen," said Silas; "and I would add that this poor gentleman has gone
through a fiery furnace of affliction in his forced union with that
vixen of the iron will and heart of stone; but she will trouble you no
more, sir, it was only your name she wanted; it meant gold."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

SQUARING ACCOUNTS.


On the evening of the day on which the Coles' had arrived, and Miss Crew
had come out in her true colors as Pearl Villiers, the heiress, in which
her step-sister, Mrs. Cole, was branded with the name and character she
has earned as devotee of the father of lies; there was so much to say,
and so many to say it; so many hand clasps for the poor victim, Charlie
Cole, on the incoming for his wife of Will Smyth, the Tremaines the A.
Jones, and others, that the slipping out of Mrs. Dale and Mr. Blair, to
meet the girl, Beatrice Hill, is unnoticed.

After waiting in the shadow of the house, building on the next lot, for
a considerable time, and evening is fast waning into night, Mr. Cobbe
appears in the distance, coming at a brisk pace; nears, opens the gate,
is up the walk, rings, and is admitted.

"Now she will come, I fervently hope," said Mrs. Dale, impatiently;
"horrid pair they are, interfering with our hearing the circus indoors.
If our friend, Mr. Cobbe was mated to that hideous scold, Mrs. Cole, I
reckon he would not get too much line. But she would never have trapped
him, he knows too much; unless, indeed, she had settled half the plunder
on him to close his mouth with the bon-bons that his soul loveth."

"Your words, Mrs. Dale, give me an idea; I wonder if he would pose as
'Pooh Bah,' and pocket an insult, in the shape of a bribe, to give our
dear friend her freedom."

"Yes; I do believe he would," she answers, eagerly; "I wonder we have
not thought of that before."

"But how can we work it; I cannot appear, though my bank notes are at
his service; I wonder if your very philanthropic husband would undertake
the delicate mission?"

"Indeed, he would; he just loves making rough places smooth for people."

"It is very good of him," he said, gratefully. "I fear this girl, Hill,
is as slippery as Cobbe himself; you had better return to the house, and
I shall go to her address, Seaton street; and if I do not find her,
shall see if I can elicit any item of importance from others in the
house."

"But you will wish to come in and tell Elaine good-night first; you will
not sleep otherwise," she said, teasingly.

"You are right; but I must practise self-denial; indeed, it is my life
just now, and endeavor to earn a blissful reward by gaining her release
from Mr. Cobbe. Did you ever see such a contrast in faces and expression
as that vixen, Cole's wife, presented, compared to our dear Elaine?"

"No; unless it was myself, which of course you did not see," she said,
saucily; "but I like you all the better for it. I hate your men who are
all things to all women; go now, and success attend you. Good-night."

Walking rapidly, winged love buoying him up, he soon reaches the Spadina
Avenue terminus, when, fortune smiling, he has not to wait the twenty
minutes for the car, for the driver is in the act of turning the horses'
heads south. Entering, wrapt in thought, he does not notice the numbers
on this broad highway who make their ingress or egress. Pretty girls,
peeping from cloud-like fascinators, attended by their chosen valentine,
or by chaperon, evidently, by their gay trappings, bent on scoring a
last dance before Lent, for this is St. Valentine's Day, and to-morrow
will be Ash Wednesday, and so good-bye for a season to the pleasures of
Terpsichore. No, he is observant of nothing, excepting the many
stoppages, at which he is impatient. Even electric lighted King street
is passed through unnoticed; men thinking, on seeing his bent head and
knit brows, poor fellow, probably bit by the "Central." Girls
whispering, "He has missed the ring in his Shrove Tuesday pancakes this
evening, getting only the button. What a pity, for he would be handsome
if he would only see us."

At the crossing of his turn north, the driver calling Sherbourne street,
he changes cars, and in due course leaves them, to walk up Seaton
street. Reaching his number, he rings the bell of a small rough-cast
house. A man in his shirt sleeves, and with the smell of fresh pine
about him, opens the door.

"Does a young woman, named Hill, live here?"

"Yes, sir; just step in, please," and ushering him into a sitting-room,
at one end there being a new pine table nearly finished, tools and
shavings about. A woman, who is nursing a baby, says: "Take this chair,
sir; but I'm a'most feared Beatrice has too bad a head to see you."

"Tell her, please, that I must see her, if she is able to sit up at
all," he says, decidedly.

"Very well, sir," and going to another room on same flat, he could hear
half-angry words and sobs.

The woman returning, eyeing him suspiciously, said:

"No, sir; she says as how she'll see you to-morrow."

"That won't do. I _must_ have the information she has promised,
otherwise the detectives will do the work for me at once," he said
sternly.

"Detectives! oh!" she cries, quickly, in changed tones, leaving the
room; when there is more parleying on the part of the woman. She now
returns, saying:

"Please, step this way, sir."

Going into the girl's room, who is evidently a vest-maker, by the pile
of said articles on a table, another on the sewing-machine. She gives a
sulky nod, pointing him to a chair. She has a seedy gown on, untidy
hair, and no collar, looking as if she cared for naught. There is an
attempt at decoration on the flowered wall-paper, in shape of business
cards pinned thereon, with the inevitable bow of ribbon; three cane
chairs, a trunk, a bright rag carpet, two tables, and a small lounge,
furnish the room. Conspicuous among the photos lying on a table, and the
only one enthroned in a scarlet plush frame, is a smiling photograph of
Mr. Cobbe.

Determined on showing nothing like feeling, in her half hysterical
state, he says, briefly:

"Well, what have you to tell me, as you failed in keeping your
appointment? I have come to hear."

"And suppose I go back on my word, and don't tell you?" she said,
doggedly.

"Then you shall be made to speak," he says, with a brave front; though
his heart is heavy at her words.

"Oh, I know what fine gentlemen's boasts add up to," she says, crossly
and defiantly, dashing away her tears; "to just nothing."

"You shall be put in the lock-up if you are caught prowling about any
one's residence after this."

"And what would you gain by that?" she says, cunningly.

While Blair, sighing for woman's tact, wishes Mrs. Dale was with him,
when a sudden thought occurs to him; rising, as if to go, he says, with
assumed carelessness:

"Very well; if you won't help yourself and me, by making a clean breast
of it, things will have to take their own course, and that man,"
indicating by a gesture the photograph of Mr. Cobbe, "and that man will
be lost to you, as the husband of a certain lady in the north-west end."

At this she is humble enough, her tears bursting afresh.

"Oh, no, no; I am just crazy to-night, that my Phil is with her; and I
have been crying my eyes out, because I daren't go up, because of you
coming out to make me tell on him; oh, oh, oh."

"But can't you see, girl, that this is the only way you will keep him to
yourself, by telling what hold you have on him. If you don't, as sure as
you are alive, he will marry yonder lady, and spurn you like a worm
under his heel," he said, with angry impatience.

"Oh, never; oh, oh, oh, me! I suppose I had best tell, then." And going
to the trunk, taking out a small box, which she unlocks with a key,
suspended by a ribbon around her neck, she takes therefrom a few lines
written on half a sheet of paper, handing it to him. It read:

     "SIMCOE ST., March 16.

     "DEAREST LOVE,--Be _sure_ and be on time at the Union Depot.
     It's all nonsense your asking me to marry you before we start.
     It's not common sense of you. The other women who want me would
     tear your pretty eyes out. No, Betty, my petty. I will marry
     you when we get to Buffalo; not before; so do not make me
     angry, when you ought to be the happiest woman in Toronto at
     going away with your own

     "PHILIP."

"Did he marry you?" asked Blair, placing the paper carefully in his
pocket-book.

Coloring, as she hangs her head, she does not notice his act.

"What's that to you?" she said, doggedly.

"It's everything; speak, or take the consequences."

"He didn't, then; but he's not free to marry that hussy, since I have
his writ promise, where is my paper? Give it me."

"Softly, softly, young woman; I want him to do right by you."

"But you'll only rouse the devil in him, sir; and he'll see me no more,"
she says, wringing her hands.

"Listen to reason, girl, I will borrow this paper, and on my honor; but
pshaw, you won't credit me with so scarce a commodity," he says, half
aside. "Lend me the letter until this time to-morrow, and here is ten
dollars; when I return it you shall have ten more."

"Not much; you bet, it shan't leave my eye-sight for any money."

But after a weary talk she unwillingly consents; when he leaves the
house.

During the next three days and nights Mr. Blair was half beside himself
with anxieties, doubts and fears; for Mr. Dale, even with the letter to
Beatrice Hill in his hand, could do nothing with Mr. Cobbe. As mulish as
the girl Hill, he refused to release Mrs. Gower from her oath; finally,
in fiery wrath declaring there would be a heavy breach of promise case,
did she break faith.

The result was, that with the Dales, Pearl Villiers and Mr. Cole, at
Holmnest, a busy week was spent.

Mrs. Gower telling Mr. Cobbe, since he would have it so, she would wed
him sometime or other, parting with him at the foot of the altar,
henceforth to meet as strangers; that but for his own acts, they would
have been friends; but she could never forget all she had already
suffered in nervous fear of the girl Hill.

And so, as rapidly as possible she prepares, as before arranged, to
leave Holmnest for some months. Charlie Cole was to join his father at
Jacksonville, Florida, the following day; Pearl Villiers and herself
following. The house to be left in care of the kitchen, the Dales making
it their home when in the city; but in a day or two, they would be most
likely summoned to New York on peremptory business for a few days.

Mrs. Dale and Mrs. Gower were amused in a sad sort of way, for their
thoughts were gravely set, on the attitude taken by Mr. Cobbe. Still, it
was a sort of distraction to note the manner of each toward the other;
of Pearl Villiers and Charlie Cole, the latter demanding, and the former
seeming to think it her duty to wait on him, humor him, go out for
little sunlit walks on the veranda with him, play his favorite music,
and endeavor to make up to him for her step-sister's wicked act, in
coming between them.

"It's a rather dangerous game though, Elaine; they will trade hearts
unconsciously."

"Yes, I have feared that, Ella; God spare her from that misery," she
says, gravely, with hands pressed to her own aching heart.

"Pearl," said Charlie Cole, as throwing away his cane, he leans lightly
on her arm, as they pace up and down the sun-warm veranda, half an hour
before the hack arrives to convey him to the Union Depot, "Tell me,
Pearl, dear; but for my wretched union with your wicked step-sister,
would you have married me willingly, mark me, willingly?" he says,
probing her.

"I would," she says, truthfully, blushing vividly; "but I don't think
it's quite right to talk of it now, Charlie, is it? only, if we had
known long ago when we have met as strangers, Margaret might have been
spared this sin."

"How your eyes seemed to follow me, Pearl. Our friend, Mrs. Gower, and
myself have been the foot-ball of circumstances, she used to have
instantaneous photographs of Blair, and is doomed to Cobbe; same fate as
mine."

"My heart is full of pity for you both, dear; but try and think of it as
God's will, and it will come easier."

"I know all that; but it's confoundedly hard that those vultures should
have it all their own way."



CHAPTER XXIX.

"MAIR SWEET THAN I CAN TELL."


On an evening at the close of February, when the mercury has risen so
high that all nature is in a melting mood; the snowy mantle of winter
disappearing fast on the warm bosom of dear old mother earth, while
Holmnest is a very bower of love, a very haven of peace. Upstairs,
downstairs, and in my lady's chamber, everything is warm, home-like,
sweet and fresh; with dreamy, turned down lights, showing the dainty
sleeping apartment of its mistress, with its blue and white prevailing
tints, its lace bed-spread and pillow shams; its pretty feminine
adornments, with three or four pictures, and a vase of fresh flowers
giving life to its repose. But we notice in the dim and shadowy light, a
something unusual, a something different, a new element in this, the
bed-chamber of Elaine Gower; a something that makes the heart throb
faster, and a look of wonder, with a smile of content come to the face,
a something which gives a tone of strength, of completeness to this
bower of rest; it is, that here and there, one can dimly see a man's
belongings, and one remembers to have read, "it is not good for man to
be alone."

But; and we start with fear, for the inanimate cannot speak and tell us
if Mr. Cobbe has had his way, and those manly belongings are his; if so,
if so, alas!

But the kitchen says, no, as with a broad grin of content it sits over
the _debris_ of a late dinner; when, at the tinkle, tinkle of the
library bell, Thomas is away like a flash; we follow, peep in and see
Mr. Blair, reclining on a lounge, holding between his fingers a
cigarette; he forgets to smoke, a look of ineffable content and
happiness on his manly face. He has rolled the sofa over beside the
Davenport, at which sits his twin-spirit, the mistress of Holmnest, who
is within easy reach of his hand, as she sits writing. She wears a gown
_couleur de rose_, and is looking very lovable, her face transfigured
with quiet happiness. As Thomas appears, she says, in her sweet tones:

"No one is aware of our return, Thomas, so we don't expect visitors; but
in any case, we are not at home."

"Very well, ma'am."

"My bride of a week; my ain wife, my other self," he says, his heart in
his eyes, "bend down your sweet face and kiss me." Holding her in a
close embrace, he says, "and so you are not sorry that a great, rough
man like myself has crept into your bonnie Holmnest, and stolen your
heart?"

"Nay, not stolen, dearest; mine has been a willing surrender; and you
must not call yourself names in my hearing. Mine has been a very lonely
life, especially of late years; and you don't know how humble I feel at
this great happiness coming to me, or my restful content in leaning on
this strong arm."

"There is one thing to be said for me, my own wife, and that is, that no
other woman has a real or fancied right to lean on me. I have never been
a flirting man, for which I may thank my father and mother, who aye were
leal and true. What a picture they were in fair Dunkeld, going down
life's hill together; he only living after her to close her eyes. How I
wish they could have seen you, my other better self."

"Yes; it would have given me great joy to have met them; your words of
them remind me, Alec, of a dear old couple who reside in our sweet
Rosedale. A day in their home is a living idyl; to see his tender care
of her crossing the bridge into Bloor street, is a life lesson; I used
to liken you and your wee lost wife to them, dear. I must tell you of an
incident that attracted me to Mr. Smyth more than years of acquaintance.
Prior to an illness of his wife, she had a photo taken at Gagen and
Fraser's. On her recovery we were comparing it with a previous one, when
he said, 'I like one I have better than either of them.' His wife,
looking amazed, said, 'What one, Will?' while I said, 'Show it to us.'
He answered, 'This one,' encircling her in his arms."

"Only what he should have done, darling. Each for the other, shall be
our motto; but must you write Mrs. Dale to-night?"

"Yes, dear; just fancy how eager she must be to hear, as they were
called away so suddenly, and they are such faithful friends. Shall I
hand you the evening papers to look at while I write, dearest?"

"No, thanks; I shall look at my wife's face instead."

     "HOLMNEST, TORONTO,
          "Feb. 28th, 1888.

     "MY DEAR ELLA,

     "We only returned home to-day; but as we, with Pearl, leave for
     Jacksonville on to-morrow, I must do myself the pleasure of a
     one-sided written chat with you to-night. My pre-arranged plan
     is to be carried out; but with what a light heart do I carry it
     out as Elaine Blair--is it not a pretty name. But lest you
     think me insane at my age, I shall not go into raptures over my
     name, or my loving life companion, who has given it me.

     "I have so much to say, that I am in a quandary what to begin
     with.

     "The day after you left we went down quietly to the early
     morning Lenten service, and at its close were married by my
     good pastor, leaving the same day for Niagara. You remember I
     used to say in jest, that to make a marriage legal, we
     Torontonians must go thither! so Alec and I are fast bound;
     thank God for His goodness. How little I dreamed of this two
     weeks ago. Your good husband has worked a miracle in obtaining
     my release from Philip; I cannot but think I have been bought
     out of that regiment; what different colors I am under now;
     poor Philip. His letter to me, in freeing me, is so truly
     characteristic of the man, that I shall amuse you with a line
     or two:

     '"...in releasing you from your oath to be my wife, I repeat
     that you will long for me once and forever! I am sorry for you,
     Elaine, for I am the only man to make you happy. If you marry
     that cowardly fellow who has run me out, take my advice, and
     have the knot tied loosely in the States, for I prophesy you
     will want a divorce before a year has elapsed; and then, as I
     bear you no malice, you have only got into bad hands; send for
     me, even then, and I shall give up every other woman admirer
     for you....' Is it not typical of Philip? Poor fellow; he
     little dreams of my restful content at the steadfast, manly
     heart I have won. He came in the afternoon of the day you left;
     though, you are aware, your husband had handed me his letter
     releasing me the evening previous; but he came to try and
     persuade me to destroy it, waxing eloquent over _my folly_, and
     his regret for me and himself. Pretty Mrs. St. Clair calling
     while he was here, they left together. I again thought how well
     matched they would have been; she amused me--but I must tell
     you.

     "You remember, we read in a city newspaper that a man suggested
     as a rabbit exterminator, fashion should decree that the ears
     of the aforesaid animal should be used in some manner of
     feminine adornment; but Mrs. St. Clair solved the problem of
     extermination; and if she and other leaders of fashion push it,
     the rabbit is a doomed creature.

     "While the attention of Philip was momentarily given to Mrs.
     Tremaine and Miss Hall, she purred.

     "'Oh, Mrs. Gower, I do want a rabbit's paw more than anything
     else in the world.'

     "'A rabbit's paw! what for?'

     "'To put my rouge on with, it's just the cutest thing out, for
     that. Do you paint, Mrs. Gower?'

     "I fancy I see your lip curl, and Alec asks me what I am
     smiling at. I tell him above, on the rabbit; and that my smile
     is the reflection of the laugh in your Irish eyes. He says I
     don't punctuate often enough to let him kiss me. Give me credit
     for a little sanity yet, Ella, for I know how foolish this
     sounds; but our great happiness is so dazzling after our dark
     days of despair, that I dare say we are a little daft.

     "And now, for a startling bit of news that I have been trying
     to keep for the last--but it won't wait--a telegram arrived
     here yesterday for Charlie Cole, from Grand Central Hotel, New
     York City, from Mr. Stone, running thus:

     "'C. BABBINGTON-COLE, Esq.,

     "'Your wife, Mrs. Cole, died suddenly of malignant
     sore throat, on the twenty-fifth, and was buried same
     evening.

     "'TIMOTHY STONE.'

     "The first thing on our arrival this a.m., Alec wired the
     information to the Tremont Hotel, Jacksonville, to Charlie. And
     so death has stepped in, freeing him from an unhappy union,
     Pearl is not as yet aware of this; but we shall tell her on her
     coming over from the O'Sullivan's to-morrow. When we reach
     Jacksonville, she can procure the usual black robes.

     "It appears that Mr. Stone has actually rented an office here,
     in which he will carry on the real estate business. We are
     informed that he and his late niece lived here some time ago,
     for a few years. A gentleman from the Grand Central, tells Mr.
     Smyth that Mr. Stone boasts of his large and influential
     connection here. And so, though some of our smart Central Bank
     men have skipped the line, we gain one that caps them all, in
     Timothy Stone.

     "And now, to a brighter theme, our firm of Dale, Buckingham &
     Blair, with my ain dearie as manager of our Toronto branch.
     Graham & Graham tell Alec the agreement is drawn. Will do
     business on the square in mineral lands, and should get a bonus
     from the city, for no one heretofore has known where to place
     or purchase properties of this kind. And so we had better set
     our chant to music, and sing to 'dream-faces'--

     Oxides of Iron      66.28
     Silica              21.20
     Alumina              3.70
     Lime                 5.04
     Magnesia             2.19

     "Were you not glad to hear that Silas Jones is to be in charge
     of the office while we are away, and head clerk afterwards? I
     tell you, Ella, dear, when I think of winging our flight south
     together, thence to the Old World, in which fair Dunkeld stands
     out the brightest spot, I am half wild with joy. Barlow
     Cumberland, I am sure, thought me more than a little off when
     we were in buying our tickets.

     "I verily believe I am growing egotistical; in all this letter,
     who has been foremost--self?

     "Madame de Sevigne was right: 'One loves to talk of one's self
     so much, that one never tires of _tête-à-tête_ with a lover for
     years. This is the reason a devotee likes to be with her
     confessor; it is for the pleasure of talking of one's
     self--even though talking evil.'

     "But should we meet at New York on our way south, I shall talk
     of nothing but your own dear selves, and Pearl will bring you
     news of Garfield; whom, I feel sure, she has seen every day during
     your absence.

     "Thomas and Begonia (in days of yore, Bridget) will have
     everything snug for you any day you come. All our world seems
     so in couples linked, that though he is but sixteen, and she
     forty, I shall not be surprised to find them buckled, too.

     "Times are changed, dear. I never even think of chains, bolts,
     or shutters. No more nervous evenings; no more starts at the
     bell; no more heart-aches; but arms leal and true to shield me,
     a heart fond and loving, all my own. Ella, Ella, with my faulty
     nature, I ask myself, am I deserving of this great happiness?

     "My dear husband is bending over me; but lest you deem him a
     flatterer, I must not tell you his words he bids me tell you;
     but no, he must say it himself. But he has taken away the ink
     bottle, lest I burn the midnight oil. One says of Aspasia,
     writing in ancient days of her Pericles, that 'happy is the man
     who comes last, and alone, into the warm and secret foldings of
     a letter.' And so the name of my dear husband, Alec Blair,
     comes here, Ella, dear, and I say good-night to you as he holds
     me in his arms, his eyes, with love's steadfast gaze, resting
     on my face.

     "From your happy friend,
                      "Elaine,
           "Who is affectionately and
                   "abundantly yours.

     "To Mrs. Dale, c/o Henry Dale, Esq.,
        "Hoffman House, New York City."





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