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Title: A Rich Man's Relatives (Vol. 1 of 3)
Author: Cleland, Robert
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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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
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   2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                        A RICH MAN'S RELATIVES



                            PRESS NOTICES

                                  OF

                            "INCHBRACKEN,"

                        A NOVEL BY R. CLELAND

                              *   *   *

                 _Westminster Review, October_, 1883.

"Inchbracken" is a clever sketch of Scottish life and manners at the
time of the "Disruption," or great secession from the Established
Church of Scotland, which resulted in the formation of the Free
Church. The scene of the story is a remote country parish in the north
of Scotland, within a few miles of the highland line. The main
interest centres in the young Free Church minister and his sister and
their relations, on the one hand, with the enthusiastic supporters of
the Disruption movement, mostly of the peasant or small tradesmen
class, with a sprinkling of the smaller landowners; and, on the other
hand, with the zealous supporters of the Established Church,
represented by the Drysdales of Inchbracken, the great family of the
neighbourhood. The story is well and simply told, with many a quiet
touch of humour, founded on no inconsiderable knowledge of human
nature.

                    _Academy, 27th October_, 1883.

There is a great deal of solid writing in "Inchbracken," and they who
read it will hardly do so in vain. It is a story of the Disruption;
and it sets forth, with much pains and not a little spirit, the
humours and scandals of one of the communities affected by the event.
The main incident of the story has nothing to do with the Disruption,
it is true; but its personages are those of the time, and the uses to
which they are put are such as the Disruption made possible. Roderick
Brown, the enthusiastic young Free Church minister, finds on the
sea-shore after wreck and storm, a poor little human waif which the
sea has spared. He takes the baby home, and does his best for it. One
of his parishioners has lost her character, however; and as Roderick,
at the instigation of his beadle, the real author of her ruin, is good
enough to give her money and help, it soon becomes evident to
Inchbracken that he is the villain, and that the baby of the wreck is
the fruit of an illicit amour. How it ends I shall not say. I shall do
no more than note that the story of the minister's trials and the
portraitures--of elders and gossips, hags and maids and village
notables--with which it is enriched are (especially if you are not
afraid of the broadest Scotch, written with the most uncompromising
regard for the national honour) amusing and natural in no mean degree.

                                                 W. E. HENLEY.

                   _Athenæum, 17th November_, 1883.

"Inchbracken" will be found amusing by those who are familiar with
Scotch country life. The period chosen, the "Disruption time," is an
epoch in the religious and social life of Scotland, marking a revival,
in an extremely modified and not altogether genuine form, of the
polemic Puritanism of the early Presbyterians, and so furnishing a
subject which lends itself better to literary treatment than most
sides of Scottish life in this prosaic century. The author has a good
descriptive gift, and makes the most of the picturesque side of the
early Free Church meetings at which declaimers against Erastian
patronage posed in the attitude of the Covenanters of old. The story
opens on a stormy night when Roderick Brown, the young Free Church
minister of Kilrundle, is summoned on a ten-mile expedition to attend
a dying woman, an expedition which involves him in all the troubles
which form the subject of the book. The patient has nothing on her
mind of an urgent character. "No, mem! na!" says the messenger.

"My granny's a godly auld wife, tho' maybe she's gye fraxious whiles,
an' money's the sair paikin' she's gi'en me; gin there was ocht to
confess she kens the road to the Throne better nor maist. But ye see
there's a maggit gotten intil her heid an' she says she bent to
testifee afore she gangs hence."

The example of Jenny Geddes has been too much for the poor old
woman:--

"Ay, an' I'm thinkin' it's that auld carline, Jenny Geddes, 'at's
raised a' the fash! My granny gaed to hear Mester Dowlas whan he
preached among the whins down by the shore, an' oh, but he was bonny!
An' a graand screed o' doctrine he gae us. For twa hale hours he
preached an expundet an' never drew breath for a' the wind was
skirlin', an' the renn whiles skelpin' like wild. An' I'm thinkin' my
granny's gotten her death o' ta'. But oh! an' he was grand on Jenny
Geddes! an' hoo she up wi' the creepie am' heved it a the Erastian's
heid. An' my granny was just fairly ta'en wi't a', an' she vooed she
beut to be a mither in Israel tae, an' whan she gaed hame she out wi'
the auld hugger 'at she keeps the bawbees in, aneath the hearthstane,
for to buy a creepie o' her ain,--she thocht a new ane wad be best for
the Lord's wark,--an' she coupet the chair whaur hung her grave
claes,' at she airs fonent the fire ilika Saturday at e'en, 'an out
there cam a lowe, an' scorched a hole i' the windin' sheet, an' noo,
puir body, we'll hae to hap her in her muckle tartan plaid. An'
aiblins she'll be a' the warmer e'y moulds for that. But, however, she
says the sheet was weel waur'd, for the guid cause. An' syne she took
til her bed, wi' a sair host, an' sma' winder, for there was a weet
daub whaur she had been sittin' amang the whins. An' noo the host's
settled on her that sair, she whiles canna draw her breath. Sae she
says she maun let the creepie birlin' slide, but she beut to testifee
afore some godly minister or she gangs hence. An' I'm fear'd, sir, ye
maun hurry, for she's real far through."

The excuse for this long extract must be its excellence as a specimen
of a long-winded statement, just such as a Scotch fisher boy would
make when once the ice was broken. Not less idiomatic is the interview
between Mrs. Boague, the shepherd's wife, and Mrs. Sangster "of
Auchlippie," the great lady of the congregation, when the latter has
had her painful experience of mountain climbing, till rescued by the
"lug and the horn" at the hands of her spiritual pastor. Other good
scenes are the meeting of the two old wives in mutches an the brae
side, and the final discomfiture of the hypocritical scamp Joseph
Smiley by his mother-in-law, Tibbie Tirpie, who rights her daughter's
wrongs and the minister's reputation by a capital _coup de main_. Of
more serious interest, though full of humour, are the trials the
excellent Roderick endures at the hands of his kirk session. Ebenezer
Prittie and Peter Malloch are types of many an elder minister and
ministers' wives have had to groan under, and the race is not extinct.
But all who are interested in such specimens of human nature should
refer to Mr. Cleland, who knows his countrymen as well as he can
describe his country.



                          *   *   *   *   *

                  Select Novels by Popular Authors.

                  _Crown 8vo, cloth, 3s. 6d. each_.

                         By Florence Marryat.

       MY SISTER THE ACTRESS.
       A BROKEN BLOSSOM.
       PHYLLIDA.
       THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL.
       FACING THE FOOTLIGHTS.

                           By Annie Thomas.

       ALLERTON TOWERS.
       FRIENDS AND LOVERS.
       EYRE OF BLENDON.


                           By Mrs. Eiloart.

       THE DEAN'S WIFE.
       SOME OF OUR GIRLS.


                      By Lady Constance Howard.

       SWEETHEART AND WIFE.
       MOLLIE DARLING.


               By the Author of "Recommended to Mercy."

       BARBARA'S WARNING.


                      By Mrs. Alexander Fraser.

       A PROFESSIONAL BEAUTY.


                           By Harriett Jay.

       TWO MEN AND A MAID.



                                  A

                        RICH MAN'S RELATIVES.



                                  BY

                             R. CLELAND,

                       AUTHOR OF "INCHBRACKEN."



                         _IN THREE VOLUMES_.

                               VOL. I.



                               LONDON:

                        F. V. WHITE AND CO.,

                31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C.

                                1885.



                              PRINTED BY
          KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS;
                 AND MIDDLE MILL KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.



                               CONTENTS

                              *   *   *

    CHAP.

       I.--How his Relations vexed the Rich Man.

      II.--Steadfast Mary.

     III.--Little Arcadia.

      IV.--"Ouff."

       V.--Fidèle.

      VI.--The Misses Stanley.

     VII.--The Desolate Mother.

    VIII.--Ralph.

      IX.--At St. Euphrase.

       X.--Ten Years Later.

      XI.--Mahomet and Kadijah.

     XII.--A Garden Tea.

    XIII.--On Account of Strawberries.



                       A RICH MAN'S RELATIVES.



                              CHAPTER I.

                HOW HIS RELATIONS VEXED THE RICH MAN.


One evening early in July, 1858, there might have been seen through
the railings of a villa in a suburban street of Montreal, if only the
thick shrubbery leaves would have permitted the view, a lady--Miss
Judith Herkimer, to wit--seated in a quiet corner of the verandah, and
partially concealed by the clusters of a wisteria trained to the
pillar against which she leaned. Miss Judith had entered on that
uninteresting middle time of life, when, though youth with its graces
is undeniably of the past, the grey hairs which may perchance intrude
among the brown, are not yet a crown of honour; the bloom and the
promise of life are over, but the pathetic dignity of retrospect, with
its suggestions of what has or what might have been, which make age
beautiful, are not yet arrived. It was the sear and dusty afternoon
stage of her pilgrimage and her spinsterhood, and there was a shade of
severity in her aspect, as though living had grown into something to
be struggled with and endured--the season for duty to a serious mind,
seeing that the time for enjoyment is manifestly gone by.

The flatness with which her hair was laid upon her temples, and then
drawn back tightly without wave or pad to the apex of her head, and
secured in the form of an onion, left no doubt as to the seriousness
of Miss Judith's mind, while the severe ungracefulness of her dress
argued an ascetic tendency of that aggressive kind which says,
"Brother, I would fast, therefore you shall go without your dinner"--a
person tiresome rather than bad, but with the long chin of that
obstinacy which can be so provoking when the understanding and
imagination are too narrow to perceive the true relation of things.

On the lawn before her stood a mulatto lad of about eighteen, dressed
in the white linen suit of a house servant, and with a long apron
suspended from his neck, as though he had been called from his
glass-washing in the pantry.

"You say, Miss Judith," he was saying, while he pulled the apron
through his fingers with a puzzled look, "dat I b'long to myself and
not to de cu'nel as owns me? Den w'y dis house as you owns not b'long
to me too?"

"Because property in our fellow-men is not recognized in this free
country, Cato. But you cannot be expected to understand these
intricate questions all at once. Patience and humility, Cato! Now for
your reading. Have you got your book? Ah! yes. Here is the place. What
does r a t read?"

"Cat! Miss Judy."

"Fie! Cato. _C a t_ is cat. That is _rat!_ Begins with an R. You see?"

"'Cep' de cat hab done gone eaten de rat. Den whaar will he be, Miss
Judy? All cat after dat! I reckon."

"Cato, you are foolish! Now, attend!"

"Cato," said another voice from the background, "go to your pantry and
assist Bridget with her tea-things," and Miss Herkimer stepped out on
the verandah from a window not far off. Miss Herkimer was a good many
years older than her sister, but she admitted the fact that she was
elderly, and did not seem to find it interfere with her comfort. Her
hair was white, and hung in curls over her temples, and the folds of
her black silk gown had a free and contented swing which refreshed the
eye after the pinched exactness of Miss Judith's costume.

"Gerald and his friend have moved into the smoking-room with their
cigars, and as the windows are open I was afraid your instructions
might be overheard; and then, Judith, there would be a commotion which
you would regret."

"We must think what is right, Susan, do it, and never mind the
consequences."

"It cannot be right to interfere between our brother Gerald and his
servant. If the customs in his country are different from ours, that
cannot be helped. He follows his own, and while he is our guest, it is
not for us to disturb."

"Think of the iniquity of slavery, Susan--that that young man should
be held in bondage, in this free Canada! It seems awful. Look at him,
and deny if you can that he is a man and a brother!"

"I have no objection whatever to admit his being a man and brother,
but I certainly should not like to have to call him _nephew!_ And that
is what it may come to if you provoke Gerald. You know how violent he
can be when he is roused, and if he thought we were tampering with his
negro, or attempting an abolitionist scheme, he is capable even
of--_adopting_ him, we will call it--and leaving him his whole
fortune."

"Do you think so? That would be most unprincipled conduct on his
part."

"I know he is quite capable of it; and besides, Judith, I think you
are unnecessarily scrupulous about that ugly word 'slavery.' It really
seems not so bad a thing after all, come to see it in action. Gerald,
now, is extremely kind to the boy--spoils him, indeed, with
indulgence, and makes him do very little work. How much better he is
off than Stephen's foot-boy, with a pony to mind and the garden to
weed when he is not splitting wood or acting butler in the house. It
is Stephen's boy who is the slave, to my thinking. Again, I heard
Gerald say he refused two thousand dollars for him from a barber in
New Orleans. He is quite a valuable boy, and you would tempt him to
leave his master!"

"Two thousand dollars for a black boy? Why! Stephen's white boy gets
only ten dollars a month and some clothes. Does it not seem
extravagant, now, to have so much money tied up in one negro?--and
sinful? How much good might be done with that money if the boy were
realized! One like Stephen's at ten dollars a month could do his
work--it seems to be only shaving his master, and after that to do
what he is bid--and the rest of the money might do such very great
good. Five hundred dollars might be given to African missions to
enlighten his pagan fellow-countrymen, and would carry the truth to so
many!--and still there would be money over to do much good."

"And how do you propose to realize a negro boy, sister, except by
selling him to another slave owner? And what about the man and
brother?"

"True, Susan! Quite true. I admit the force of your objection.
It is another illustration of the mystery our good rector dwelt
upon so touchingly last Sunday, that good and evil walk the earth
hand-in-hand. A solemn thought! But in this case it really seems to me
that the boy's bondage would be well compensated. He is a slave
already, you must remember--has no idea what liberty means--and five
hundred dollars would bring so many darkened savages within the
influence of gospel light. If the poor ignorant creature knew enough
to understand, I am sure he would rejoice to think that so slight a
change in his own circumstances would bring so vast a benefit to his
benighted brethren."

"And you'd still be fifteen hundred dollars to the good, Judith. Quite
an _operation_ in another man's niggers! Ha, ha! Godliness is
profitable! That's sound evangelical doctrine! Ha, ha, ha!"

These words rang forth in a discordant voice from a neighbouring
window, the Venetians of which were now pushed open.

The ladies gasped and turned round in dismay. As they had grown
earnest in their conversation their voices had been rising to the
pitch at which they could not but be heard without eaves-dropping, and
they had been overheard.

Within the window, which was open, stood the "Gerald" of whom they had
been discoursing--a tall square-framed man, but sadly wasted and
collapsed under prolonged attacks of malarial fever. He was between
fifty and sixty years of age, with features which had once been stern
and resolute, but now, under the stress of continued ill-health, had
grown querulous and peevish in their expression. He had gone to
Louisiana some thirty years before to push his fortune. From
French-speaking Lower Canada to French-understanding Louisiana seemed
less of an expatriation than to English New York or California, and
such Frenchness as he was able to bring--he was English-born after
all, and only Canadian by education--had prepossessed the Louisianians
in his favour. He had pushed his fortune--married the heiress of a
valuable plantation near Natchez, where he had resided ever since--and
amassed wealth. He had lost, however, his wife, his child, and
latterly his good-health; and at last had been compelled to return to
his friends in the North to give his shattered constitution a last
chance to shake off the creeping agues which were dragging him to the
grave. He had been a year already under his sisters' roof, greatly to
his own worriment; for between his fever fits and the prostration
which followed them, there would intervene hours of restless
irritability, when it seemed to him that his affairs were entangling
themselves into a knot of hopeless confusion, deprived as they were of
the master's eye which alone sees clearly.

"What do you think of that, major?" Gerald continued, turning to his
companion who was gnawing the end of a very large cigar--a tall sallow
man with a much waxed and pointed black moustache and goatee, and an
exuberant display of jewellery in his shirt front. "Who in Natchez
would expect to find me summering in a nest of blazing abolitionists?
Better say nothing when you get home, or I may have to settle with the
vigilance committee when I go back."

"I did not expect it, colonel," said the major, pulling down his
waistcoat and looking dignified. "Among fanatical Yankees I reckon on
hearing the institootions of my country vilified, and so I give sech
cattle a wide berth; but here, on British terri-tory, I expected some
liberality. Bless my soul! trying to corrupt your servant under your
very nose!"

The ladies had withdrawn in confusion under their brother's first
attack, or civility to his hostesses must have kept the major silent.
At the same time he felt outraged. To think that he, one of the most
"high-toned" men of his neighbourhood, and with the very soundest
Southern principles, should have been trapped into a den of
lowlived--it was always "lowlived"--abolitionism! His friend Herkimer
too, had always passed for a "high-toned gentleman" of sound
principles when in Natchez, and to find him the member of such a
family was inexpressibly shocking.

"Yes," said Herkimer, "it is bad--shows what fools women can be when
they don't know, and swallow all the rant that gets into print. After
that they think they know so much that they won't believe a word those
who could tell them can say. If my boy, Cato, now, had not been an
extra good nigger, these sisters of mine would have made him leave me
long ago. When his mother, Amanda, died, I promised her I would always
keep him about myself--and he does, I will say, understand my little
ways--or I never would have ventured to bring him to Canada; but the
fact is, the boy's fond of me, and won't leave me, say what they like.
Still it provokes a man to see his property being tampered with. Then,
too, my sister Judith feels it her dooty, she says, to speak to me
about the sinfulness of having property in human beings. I ask her to
prove that they _are_ human, but she just rolls her eyes and looks
solemn. She calls her talk 'a word in season,' but she chooses the
most unseasonable times to hold forth; generally when my chill is
coming on, and the long yawn creeping up my back that we all know,
when I don't feel man enough to say 'bo' to a goose. My wig! If I
could I'd say more than 'bo' to Judith. She holds on steady till I
begin to grow blue and my teeth chatter, then I pull the bell for Cato
to bring more blankets, and he--good lad--always sends her away, first
tiling. Susan bothers too--money, generally--but I'm free to allow she
has more gumption than Judith. Old maids both. That's a sort of
critter we don't have down Natchez way. There they marry. Reckon you
never saw any before, major? Pecoolier, ain't they?"

"The ladies are your sisters, colonel. Estimable, I doubt not; but
they do not understand our Southern institootions."

"Talking of understanding, major, do you see much of my nephew, Ralph?
When he went down to the plantation I gave him a letter to you, as
being my nearest neighbour, and a good friend. I told him he might
place implicit reliance on your opinion in any case of doubt which
might arise. The overseers are men whom I could trust to make a crop
if I was on the spot myself; but of course the young man had to learn,
and circumstances were sure to arise in which your advice would be
most val'able. Do you see him often?"

Major Considine--I omitted to mention his name earlier, and I may now
add by way of making amends for the neglect, that the "_major_" was a
prefix of courtesy conferred by his neighbours to describe his social
status and the extent of his possessions; Herkimer's colonelcy was of
the same kind, but the higher rank implied a larger holding in land
and negroes--Major Considine coughed dryly, drew himself up, and
looked sallower if possible than his wont, while his eyes sought the
ground.

"I have seen your nephew, sir," he said, "frequently. When he came
down first I invited him to come and see me, and treated him in all
respects as I would any other gentleman, your friend; but I am bound
to own that lately we have not met;" and he gave the waxed points of
his moustache a further twirl with something of an aggrieved air, as
if to intimate that while he had done _his_ part unimpeachably, he had
reason to complain of the way in which his advances had been met.

Herkimer frowned and threw away his cigar. "Fact is, major," he said,
"I have a letter from Taine. Taine has been my overseer for a good
many years, as you know, and I have found him a good man. He talks of
leaving my employment at the end of the year, and asks me to send him
a letter stating my satisfaction with him during the years he has been
overseeing for me. I can well do that, but I'd hate to lose him. Good
overseers are scarce. He complains that Ralph has discharged one of
the assistant overseers against his wish, that he interferes with the
field work, and has damaged ten of the hands to the extent of two or
three hundred dollars apiece, and the crop prospect is reduced by
forty or fifty bales. He says that his character for getting more
bales to the hand than any other overseer in the section is at stake,
and he has concluded, if I feel unable to return to the plantation,
that he will leave. What do you think of it?"

"Not at all surprised, sir; Taine is not to be blamed. Mr. Ralph
Herkimer came to me shortly after he had discharged that assistant you
mention, to ask my advice. It seems they had met accidentally
immediately after the discharge, in some saloon, and Mister Ralph
Herkimer being ignorant, it appears, that in our glorious land of
freedom all white men are equal, had put on some of his plantation
airs. He has those plantation airs mighty strong, having, as you say
yourself, knocked three or four thousand dollars off the value of your
field gangs, by nothing but whipping--clear unmerciful whipping, they
do say around Natchez. Waal, his tale was a good deal mixed, and I
don't pretend to know the rights, but it seems the discharged overseer
asked him to drink, to show he bore no spite. Mr. Ralph Herkimer
refused, said something about white trash, and flung the liquor in his
face. The overseer drew his pistol, and would have fired, but the
folks in the bar-room interfered to protect an unarmed man, and so Mr.
Ralph Herkimer rode safe home, and shortly after arriving there
received a hostile message. He rode over to see me with the letter in
his hand, and that is how I come to know the circumstance, colonel.
And let me add, sir, that though I fear no man living, I would not
have pained your feelin's by alluding to it, if you had not made it
necessary yourself, by bringing up the subject. The young man showed
me his letter of defiance, and I spoke to him, as an older man and a
gentleman, I hope, colonel, should speak to your nephew on such an
occasion. He said he was indignant at being addressed in that style by
a common fellow, and that where there was no equality there could be
no claim to satisfaction. I pointed out to him that under the
constitootion of our State all white men are equal, and that we, the
first families, were always scrupulously courteous to our poorer
neighbours, that being the only way to hold the community together. We
want their help often, I told him, as at election times, in case of
jury trials, when their goodwill goes farther to gain a verdict than
all the blathering of the lawyers; and in case of serious trouble with
the hands we can always depend on a white man, and it is well worth
our while to accord him such equality as he can understand. Our first
families, I told him, yield all that cheerfully, and find they can
still be exclusive enough. As he had gone so far, I assured him he
must fight, which after all would be a high compliment to the poor
devil, and would make him--your nephew--popular with the meaner sort,
which he would find profitable at an election, if by-and-by he were to
naturalize and go into politics. I offered to undertake the management
of the whole affair, and you are aware, colonel, I have some
experience. I even showed him my French case of spring triggers, and
my new patent Colt's revolvers, in case he had any preference as to
arms, the choice resting with him; and--would you believe it,
sir?--but really, really I dare not call up the blush of shame
on your honourable features. The--this young man--declined my offer
with thanks! He said it did not become him as a gentleman to go
cut-throating with common fellows. I suggested that it was often
nothing but a reverse of fortune which turned a gentleman into an
assistant overseer. Then he said that bloodshed on account of a
trifling misunderstanding was against his principles, when I replied
that he must have mistaken Mississippi for Pennsylvania, and warned
him that if he did not fight when it was put upon him, he would be
insulted every time he appeared outside his own plantation. Then he
asked me to use my good offices to accommodate things, but I explained
to him that I could only meet the class to which his adversary
belonged, either to fight them or to order them what they should do.
After that Mr. Ralph Herkimer grew sulky--I thought at one time he was
going to be offensive--but the pistol cases stood open on the table,
and the gentleman don't like firearms I think; anyhow, he simmered
down. I believe he ended by apologizing to the assistant overseer for
not drinking his liquor; but I do know, I have never spoken to Mr.
Ralph Herkimer since."

"I don't blame you, major," said Herkimer. "The young man is not what
my father's grandson ought to be. He won't do for Mississippi, that's
clear; and I ain't going to let Taine leave me on account of him. I
was wise to let him go down for the first year alone, leaving his wife
and child here till he knew how he liked it. He had better come home
again, for _I_ don't like it, whether he does or no. I had meant him
to succeed me down there, major; but the man who first pays off
overseers and then apologizes to them cannot do that. He is my only
brother Stephen's only son. It is disappointing. My two sisters, whom
you have seen, would not do for planteresses in Mississippi; but I
have another sister yet--young, major, and handsome--my half-sister;
just about the age of Ralph. She might be made my heiress, and if she
marries as I would wish, she shall! I need not conceal the truth from
myself, major. The doctors have as good as told me I shall never
return to Mississippi. You have not seen her yet, Considine, this
sister of mine, Mary. She is just about the age of Jeanne de Beaulieu
when I married her--poor Jeanne!--not unlike her, and quite as
handsome. Strange, would it not be, if Beaulieu went with an heiress
again? Here comes Cato to call us into the drawing-room for tea. We'll
go, Considine, if you have finished your cigar; and--who knows?--we
may see Mary."



                             CHAPTER II.

                           STEADFAST MARY.


It was late in November. The screen of foliage which hid the villa
from the road had grown thin, changing to all gay colours, and
dropping leaf by leaf. Old Gerald's health had not improved. The clear
autumnal airs had failed to invigorate his fever-worn system, or brace
it into vigour. They only chilled him, and forced him to keep his
room.

The light was fading out of a grey and lifeless afternoon--one of
those days when all things are possible, rain, frost, snow, or even a
revulsion into the sunshine of a last brief remnant of St. Martin's
summer, and yet nothing happens. Gerald sat by the window in his easy
chair, wrapped in a thick dressing-gown and buried under many rugs.
His letters lay at his elbow unread, and the _New Orleans Picayune_
was on his lap, but he was too listless to look into its contents. His
eyes were turned towards the road, and he watched with as much
impatience as his torpid faculties were capable of feeling.

"There she is at last!" he muttered after a while. "Glad! She is all
the company I have now, or can expect while I am kept indoors. Susan
and Judith don't count in that way, even if they tried to be
agreeable, which they don't. The one is for ever bothering about my
negroes and my soul, the other about my money. What have I done that
they should imagine they may puzzle their foolish heads over me and my
affairs, or wag their cackling tongues. I am sick, and want nursing,
so they take me for a child? Think of me, who consult no one, being
advised by _them!_ But never mind, here is little Mary. She is always
good company, and she never bothers."

"But who is the fellow walking with her? Big and strapping. Fair hair,
whiskers and moustache--not bad to look at, but seems most
unnecessarily eager in his attentions. Wonder who he is. Carrying her
music? Very proper; but he need not linger so long before letting go
her hand. Mary shouldn't let him--looks particular--the major would
not like that."

Presently Mary entered the room. She was flushed, or perhaps the air
had heightened her complexion and brightened her eyes, which shone
like stars; and there were smiles lingering about her lips, in wait,
as it were, to break forth again on the first pretext.

"Your walk has done you good," said Gerald. "Where have you been? I
have been wearying for you to come home; but now one sees you, it is
impossible to grudge your short constitutional, you are so brightened
up by it. I wish Considine was here to see you."

"I have been at choir-practising. I promised to take the solo in
Sunday's anthem, and have been trying it over. The booming of the
organ through the empty church rouses, one, I think. I generally feel
brighter after it, and that may account for my looking so cheerful as
you say."

"And who is the gentleman who carried home your music?"

"That is Mr. Selby, our organist. A splendid player. If you had not
been such an invalid, you would have known both his playing and
himself ere now."

"It would seem that you know him very well; and to see you walking
together one would have said that he knows you very well too. You
appear quite intimate, and yet I have never seen him here."

"No. Susan will not let him be invited to the house. She says his is
not a recognized profession. As if a successful musician were not
better than a bungling doctor or notary! It has something to do with
the _line_ which she says must be drawn--between wholesale and retail,
for instance--if Montreal is to have a Society. A ridiculous line, it
seems to me, which excludes many wealthy and accomplished people as
traders, while it lets in poor Stephen and his wife, with her
superfluous h's, because his little business in needles and pins is
wholesale, seeing that he never sells less than a thousand at a time."

"Mrs. Stephen is my sister-in-law, and may do with her h's what she
pleases. It is not her fault if she was born in the British
metropolis, and if Stephen is not in opulent circumstances, it is just
because it has so happened. I have known many high-toned families who
were but in a small way _pecooniarily_ speaking. I am surprised to
hear you run Stephen and his family down, though I confess I have been
disappointed myself in his son Ralph."

"I don't run them down; but why should they be so particular about
others? It was Mrs. Stephen who said to Susan that an organist wasn't
'genteel,'--Mrs. Stephen, who doesn't know one tune from another--and
so Mr. Selby has never been asked to the house. And then Judith chimed
in with her 'higher grounds.' She says that good music is a snare and
device of the High Church party, and that you got on very well without
it long ago in the old church at Stoke-upon-Severn. A funny church it
must have been."

"So it was, and I reckon you would not have liked it. The village
joiner and the bellows mender played the clarionet and the bassoon in
a little loft over the squire's pew, while the blacksmith's daughter
sang the hymns, and the schoolmaster as clerk said the responses out
loud before the people. But the world has changed since then. Yes! I
daresay an organist might do as well to invite as anybody else. But
what does it matter? What do you want with an organist? You have no
organ."

"I like to be able to invite my friends just as other people do. If
you knew him, Gerald, you would like him."

"I dare say. There are many people one would like if one knew them.
Yet if one does not, it seems of little consequence, there are so many
others. If you lived in Natchez, now, you would not see much of your
Canadian friends. You would make friends down there, and very
high-toned and elegant you would find them."

"Natchez, Gerald? What should I be doing there?"

"Doing? Living, of course; surrounded by every elegance that money and
the best society can secure. If I live and get well, it is my
intention to carry you back with me, and make you mistress of the
Beaulieu estate--de Bully they call it for short. In case I do not,
and I can see the doctor has not much hope of my recovery, I have
willed the place and all my property to you. Don't stare, Mary. It is
so. I feel it a duty to provide a good mistress for those helpless
creatures who are dependent on me, and you, I am satisfied, will be
that. I have tried Ralph, as you know, and have found him unfit to
take my place. You are the only other member of the family who could
go there. You will marry, and the plantation will prosper. Treat the
poor creatures kindly, Mary. But I know you will, and Considine is an
excellent manager. His place adjoins ours. You will have the finest
estate for miles on that part of the river."

"Oh! This seems very strange to me."

"You will get used to it in time. But to tell you the truth, I did not
think the idea would be altogether new to you. I did not think
Considine would have been so backward. He must be hard hit to be so
diffident of his success in taking a girl's fancy. Has he said nothing
to you?"

"It would have been strange in Major Considine to have divulged your
testamentary intentions. You surely do not think he would speculate to
me about your chances of recovery, or what you would do with your
property. I should have stopped him at once if he had mooted the
subject, you may be sure."

"I did not suppose that he had divulged my intentions, but I think it
is about time that he had declared his own. After visiting here so
constantly all through the summer, and keeping you singing by the hour
to him downstairs in the drawing-room, he has surely made himself
understood. Still, I wonder he has not spoken. Not that I have a right
to complain, he has declared himself plainly enough to _me_, or you
may be sure I would have put a stop to his visits long ago. Still I
wonder at his backwardness. Where are you running to, Mary? Has he
said nothing?"

"I want to take off my things," said Mary, her face aflame with
blushes.

"Tell me before you go. What has he said? Tell me! There is his ring
at the front door. I must speak to him."

"I don't know. But better say nothing," cried Mary in evident
confusion, escaping from the room.

Gerald would have recalled her, but the major's heavy step was already
audible on the stairs. He could only throw himself back in his chair
with an impatient snort.

"Colonel!" said Considine, entering, "I come to make you my
_adieux_"--'adoos' is how he pronounced it, the Major was certainly
not French. "What orders for Taine at the plantation? Any commands for
any one down there? I shall be pleased to be your messenger. I see by
the Memphis paper there was a slight touch of frost the other night,
so the sickly season is over, and I can safely go home to look after
my affairs. They want looking into, I reckon, after five months'
absence. I have to thank you for the very pleasant summer I have put
in here."

"Do you mean it, major? Going right off? I have reckoned on your being
here till the New Year."

"The call to go home has come sudden, colonel, but I reckon I had best
obey it."

"And what about our plan to join the plantations?"

"I'm agreeable, colonel--anxious I should say; but if the lady ain't,
what can I do?"

"You don't know, major, till you try. I reckon a sister of mine ain't
just like a ripe persimmon, to drop in a man's mouth before he shakes
the tree."

"Shakes the tree, colonel? There ain't no man ever shook the tree
harder than I did. I shook in both my shoes for a mortal hour before I
could steady my voice--that shook too--enough to say what I wanted.
All the time I was trying, the lady was diverting herself with her
singing. French songs, and I-talian songs, full of all kind of rare
fandangoes, like a mocking bird in a cherry tree. I couldn't get a
word in endways for ever so long, and when I did, at last, she just
stopped and looked at me out of her eyes. And when I got through, she
said 'Oh! Mr. Considine, it's all a mistake. You have misunderstood,
and I don't understand. I am quite sure I cannot say what you desire,
so we will suppose that you have not asked me to, and that nothing has
been said at all, and we will agree never to recur to the subject.'
And then she asked me if I did not think the last movement in the song
she had been singing very effective, and the bravura passage at the
end powerfully written. By-and-by I got away. You may suppose she did
not play a great deal more music, and that I had got about enough for
that time. I ain't a widower, colonel, as you know; I never was
refused before, and I never backed out of an engagement, so you may
say that I have no experience in these matters; but it appears to me
that the young lady knows her own mind, and there is no use in my
speaking to her again."

"But she didn't know about the joining our plantations then. I had
only just done explaining that to her when you came in, and she ran
out, which shows that she ain't indifferent to the idea, as who in
their senses could be? The two will make a mighty pretty property, and
you and Mary will look well at the head of it, and raise a fine family
to come after you. She did not know she was heir to my property when
she took you down that time. Ha, ha, major! It makes me laugh to think
of it. You that so long have been boss of the range, and had only to
beckon to fetch any gal in all the country--you to come all the way to
Canada to be took down by a gal that didn't know she had a dollar to
her name!"

"Sir, the subject of your jests is not a pleasant one. Let us pass
on."

"I ask your pardon, major. No offence was intended; but if you will
speak to Mary now, I am willing to bet any money her answer will be
different. A man of experience should not mind every word a young
woman says, when it is about marrying. It is the one time in life she
is let have her head, and we must not blame her for taking it, just at
first. Trust me, she has thought better of it already. Try again."

"It would be useless, colonel."

"Don't give in, sir! If the gal and the plantation are to your liking,
that is."

"I think a mighty deal of the lady, sir; and would be fain to repeat
my offer, even if she were as much without fortune as she believed
herself to be last night; but I do not see my way to doing so after
what has passed between us, the more so that now my fortune--a mighty
neat one though it be--will count for less than before, seeing she
knows now how well you have provided for her."

"I believe that will influence her the other way. However, it is
reasonable you should want to halt and take breath before returning to
the attack. This is a disappointment to me, but I won't cry beat yet,
if you are still minded to persevere. Let me speak to her, and I will
write to you. Now the ice has been broken between you, you will be
able to take up the subject by letter." Considine shortly took his
leave, and Gerald awaited the return of Mary, who did not appear till
Cato had been sent to hammer on her chamber door and request her
presence.

"Is this true," said Gerald, when she at length entered the room,
"which I hear of you? Have you really gone and said 'No' to
Considine's proposal? Do you know that he owns a hundred and fifty
head of the likeliest niggers in all the Mississippi Valley, besides
land and sundries?--nigh on two hundred thousand dollars, and no
debts. What do you expect to be able to catch if Considine ain't good
enough for you?"

"I didn't say he was not good enough. He deserves a better wife than I
could make him, and I believe he will have no difficulty in finding
her."

"But it is in you he thinks he has found her, Mary! Don't be foolish,
you are not likely ever to get a better offer, or another half as
good. The man is steady and well off, a kind man and a perfect
gentleman. What more would you have?"

"I do not want more, Gerald! But then I do not want--him."

"What is your objection to him? Is it his appearance, or his temper,
or what? Is he not passably well-looking?"

"I would almost call him handsome."

"Does he not succeed in making himself sufficiently agreeable to you?
I can assure you, at any rate, that you have succeeded in being
agreeable to him. He says he would be fain to get you if you had not a
cent to your name. Can a man say more than that?"

"I do not know that he can."

"Then what is your fault to him?"

"I find no fault with him. On the contrary----"

"Then why won't you marry him?"

"Because I could not like him in that way."

"What can a girl like you know about the marrying way?"

"I know that I could not marry Mr. Considine."

"Why? Is there some one else?"

Mary's face flushed hotly and her eyes fell.

"Ha! Have I caught you? You are engaged already? Why did you never
tell? Surely you might have trusted your big brother. You never saw me
till the other day, it is true, but we have been fast friends for
twelve months now, have we not, Mary? Why did you never tell me?" And
he drew her towards him as he spoke, and kissed her on the forehead.
"Think I feel no interest in my future heir?"

"Because, Gerald, you do not know him. How could I tell you?"

"Tell me now, then, dear. Who is he?"

"You must find out," she answered with a watery smile and changing
colour. "Girls are not expected to say such things, because they
cannot."

"You say I do not know him? Have I seen him?"

"Yes."

"Do I know him by sight? Or have I seen him recently?"

"Yes, very recently indeed--as recently as could be."

"What? Then--you do not say? But it cannot be, Mary?"

There was a self-convicted look in Mary's face which pleaded guilty to
the unspoken indictment.

"Do you really mean--but no, you cannot mean your friend the
organist?"

Mary bowed her head in silence and looked expectantly in her brother's
face, till his rising colour and the gathering frown left no doubt as
to his reception of her tidings; then she removed her eyes with a
heavy sigh and let them fall on the carpet.

"You cannot mean it, Mary? You!--my father's daughter!--my sister!--to
engage yourself to marry a kind of fiddler!"

"He is _not_ a fiddler, in your sense, Gerald, although he can play
the violin, and indeed most other instruments. He is a cultured
person, and has his university degree--Bachelor of Music--while few of
those who try to look down on him have had the chance even to get
plucked for one, having never gone to college at all."

"He plays tunes at any rate in a church loft on Sundays for a living.
Is that a fit occupation for the man who would marry my sister?"

"Remember the great composers, Gerald. More than one of them was a
chapelmaster, which is just an organist."

"The great fiddlesticks! If you had seen them in their lifetime in
their frowzy little German houses and dirty linen, with their wives
cooking their dinner, such as it was, for there was little enough at
times to put in the pot, you would think less of their greatness. What
good is the greatness which is not found out till after you are dead?
A great fortune! That is the only greatness a sensible woman will
marry to."

"Shame, Gerald! You do not mean what you say. You have been married
yourself, and I know you loved and honoured your wife. Do you mean now
to say that your wife was a fool because she married you when you were
not rich? Or is it that she was mercenary and married you for your
money?"

"Tush! Mary. You never saw poor Jeanne, so you cannot speak about her.
The beautiful darling!" Gerald's voice grew husky here, and there was
some coughing before he could resume.

"No! She was not mercenary, and she was not a fool. She married me
when I was a poor man because we loved one another, and she did not
think about money. But if she had, it was not an unwise thing, as it
turned out, which she did in marrying me, for I managed her property
successfully, and more than doubled its value."

"Then why will you doubt that another woman--and she your own
sister--may love as well, or that the man she intrusts her future to,
may be as well able as you were to take care of it? Mr. Selby has a
great many pupils, and can very well maintain a wife."

"A wife, I dare say, but not my sister. It is true my property which I
intend you to have is far more than Jeanne had when she married me;
but I was able to take care of her and of what she had, and the
property throve in my hands. An organist is different. What could such
as he do with a gang of unruly niggers? It needs a clear business head
and a strong arm to make plantation property pay."

"He does not aspire to your property, Gerald. He does not know of it,
and with his feelings I am not sure that he would consent to become a
slave-owner."

"Not consent, eh? Never fear. His consent will not be asked, for mine
shall never be given to his owning my negroes. Slave-owning forsooth!
No. Let him manage his chest of whistles. I have no right and no wish
to dictate to you, though I would dearly like to see you marry
Considine; but at least I can make sure, and I will, that your
insidious organ-grinder shall never benefit a cent by my money, I
promise you that, and I shall alter my will accordingly."



                             CHAPTER III.

                           LITTLE ARCADIA.


Four years later, and summer once more. Again it is in a suburban
garden, not a very extensive one, but nicety kept; inclosed by tall
trees and dense shrubbery on every side, and disclosing nothing of
what may stand beyond, but here and there the corner of a chimney
intruding its morsel of red amongst the sunny green of the tree-tops,
and the golden cross on the neighbouring steeple soaring over all, and
shining down its benediction on the peace below.

The grass is as short, soft, and green as constant mowing and
sprinkling and warmth can make it. The flower-beds are masses of
brilliant colour, and in the centre stands the house, a tin-roofed
wooden cottage painted in the whitest white, relieved by vividly green
Venetians; a broad verandah round the whole, windows descending to the
floor, and above, small casements peering out through the shining tin,
each with its Venetian thrown open to admit the breeze which comes up
at the decline of day. The effect is cool, and home-like,
notwithstanding the keenness of the colours, and quite other than that
of the raw-toned packing-boxes in which so many an American is
condemned to pass the night, and from which he is in so great a hurry
to escape in the morning. It may be merely a peculiarity in the pitch
of a French Canadian roof, or it may be some spiritual association
which lingers about the work of these first settlers and oldest
inhabitants; but there is a personality, permanence, and history about
the newest and frailest of their structures which is wanting in the
buildings of their English speaking neighbours, even when they give
permanence to vulgar commonplace by embodying it in brick or stone.

The pillars of the verandah are garlanded with roses--pink, crimson,
white, and creamy yellow--blooming profusely, but, to judge from the
ruin of shed petals scattered on the ground, soon to cease. Already,
however, clematis--white, purple, blue--has begun to appear and will
be ready to catch up the song of the roses, though in a minor key, so
soon as their colour harmonies shall fade out. Butterflies are
fluttering in the scented air, and a humming bird flits here and there
where the flowers are thickest.

In a garden seat is Mary--no longer Herkimer, but Selby, now--and at
her feet is a child, something more than a year old, who rolls and
kicks upon the grass, crowing and babbling the while in a language
which only mothers understand. Mary looks no older than she did in her
brother's sick-room; fresher, perhaps, and fuller of harmonious life,
as well may happen where the desires were reasonable and are all
fulfilled. She is mistress of her own life, and of his in whom she
trusts, as well as of that other at her feet, in whom his and hers are
united and bloom anew; and as for the life, she would not wish it to
be other than it is, even if it were in her power to change it. She is
at work upon some small matter of muslin and lace which busies her
fingers, while it leaves her thoughts free to wander; and their
wanderings are among pleasant places, to judge by her smile and the
big full breath of utter content.

The winter which was coming on when we saw Gerald last proved more
than his enfeebled system could bear up against; he died before it was
out; and Mary, feeling that her duty at home was accomplished, and
seeing no good reason to sacrifice herself to the family prejudices,
took her fate in her own hands and married the man of her choice.

"And it has all turned out so beautifully," she was saying to herself
with a well-pleased sigh, when the click of the gate latch roused her
from her reverie. It was Selby with his roll of music. She rose to
meet him, and they made the round of their domain together, observing
what new buds had opened since yesterday, and telling each other the
events of the day.

"I heard a man down town say that your nephew Ralph is succeeding most
wonderfully since he dropped the law and turned broker."

"I am glad of that, George. Poor Ralph! It was hard upon him the way
Gerald seemed to take him up at first--sending him down to live upon
the property at Natchez, and letting him expect to inherit it--and
then to recall him and drop him so suddenly. He refused to see him
even, when he came home. Judith says it was Colonel Considine set him
against Ralph, to make him leave everything to me. But I do not think
that. I always found Colonel Considine 'very much of a gentleman,' to
use his own expression--a little high-backed and tiresome, no doubt,
but incapable of a shabbiness like that. What good would it have done
him my getting everything, considering how little we saw or cared for
each other?"

"Speak for yourself, Mary. I am not so sure that Considine's interest
in you was slight. From little things you have said I suspect--Nay,
never blush for that, dearest, though the crimson is infinitely
becoming--Having gained the prize I am not churl enough to resent
another's having wished for it. Indeed, knowing as I do now how much
he has missed, I could feel sorry for him, and I cannot but respect
his good taste. I really could not believe that he attempted to
undermine Ralph in his uncle's favour; a thing, by-the-way, which
Ralph, according to those who know him best, is well able to do for
himself; he has so many crooked little ways, and is proud of them, and
careless about concealment, because I suppose it does not strike him
that they can shock people, or are at all out of the way--obtuseness
of moral perception, I fancy, it might be called."

"And yet, George, he was the only one of the family who did not oppose
our marriage, and who has not given me up utterly, even since. Surely
that shows a good heart. I, at least, shall always think kindly of
Ralph for that, if for nothing else."

"My good innocent darling! Do you not see that that man[oe]uvre alone,
if there were nothing else, would stamp the man as selfish and a
schemer? Remember the terms of your brother's will. He names you as
his heiress, but he provides against contingencies which he fears may
arise. He does not leave the property to you, but to Jordan the
notary, and Considine, as trustees. In case you married Considine the
trust was at an end, and everything passed to you at once. If you did
not, all was to be sold and the money invested in Canada bank-stock
and other securities which he named. You were to have the interest
while you remained single or married with the approval of Mr. Jordan,
in accordance with written instructions left in his hands. If you
married contrary to these instructions, however, you were to receive
nothing. The interest and dividends were to be re-invested as they
fell due, and at the end of twenty years from your brother's death the
whole is to be divided among your children, share and share alike; and
in case you have none it is to go to Ralph's boy. Everything is tied
up with only an annuity of a thousand dollars each to his three
sisters and his brother. Now! Do you recognize the true inwardness of
Ralph's amiability?"

"And pray, sir," cried Mary, drawing back with eyes wide open, "How
come you to know all this? I would have bitten my tongue out sooner
than tell you. It seems so ungenerous in Gerald to have treated you
so."

"It shows the generosity of Gerald's sister, and that is all I care
for. But often, I will own it, my conscience has reproached me with
depriving you of your splendid inheritance; only, we are so happy
here; and if love can make up for money--if my love----"

"Hush, George! I have all I want--more, I think sometimes, than should
fall to one woman's share--and I wonder if it can last. But who told
you about the will?"

"Who but your sister Judith!"

"She? I did not think you knew her; and she spoke so unkindly when I
proposed to bring and introduce you. You surprise me."

"Ah! Miss Judy is a woman of surprises--a woman of energy who does not
stick at trifles; and she is a diplomatist. She would not let you
introduce me, that would have been yielding you a point; but she could
find me out for herself when she wished to speak to me. That was on
what she considered business, and did not oblige her to know me next
time we met. It would have forced _me_ to know _her_ afterwards, if
she had wished it; but that is nothing. Where would be the gain in
being a lady, if rules worked both ways? Miss Judy found me out, and
requested a few minutes' private conversation in the most gracious way
possible. She apologized profusely for the intrusion, with quite a
pretty warming of the complexion and an engaging little twitter behind
her glove tips. Ass that I was, I grew red like a lobster all over my
face, and my heart thumped against my ribs like a smithy hammer. I
imagined your family were relenting towards me--that piety and true
principle had overcome in the second Miss Herkimer her disapproval of
our attachment, and that she had come to tell me so. I could have
knelt down and kissed her hand, so overcome was I with grateful joy.
It was well I did not. The group would have been too ridiculous. Miss
Judy appealed to my feelings as a gentleman and a man of honour 'not
to ruin the prospects of her sweet young sister;' that was her phrase,
and she rendered it in a fine adagio manner, accompanied by a tremolo
of her crumpled pocket-handkerchief, which did her artistic instinct
the greatest credit, and really made the little petition seem both
reasonable and affecting. Judy would have succeeded on the stage,
Mary, I do believe, if they had put her in training early."

"George, you are profane. It sounds ribald to speak of serious people
in that way."

"Judy and the playhouse, eh? It _is_ a little incongruous, I admit;
but which has most right to resent the juxtaposition we need not stop
to inquire. Miss Judith told me you had come into a large fortune, and
your family were anxious about your matrimonial prospects, so many
swells were your friends, and you were so highly connected. There was
at least one general officer and a captain of dragoons, besides many
more; but whether they wanted to marry you, or were only your
grandfather's cousins, I did not quite catch. You see my feelings were
a little tumultuous, like those of the man stepping on board a
steamboat to meet his sweetheart, when he misses the plank and drops
into the water. I had a feeling of cold bath all over, and was cross,
I dare say; at least I did not respond to Miss Judy's condescensions
as she had expected. At once she changed her tone, drawing herself up
and looking severely superior. It was scarcely conceivable, she told
me with dignified coldness, that I could seriously have expected
anything more than a little notoriety would result from my appearing
in public conversing with her sister, but if I cherished any delusion
on the subject, it was for my good that she should speak plainly, and
as a Christian she saw it her duty to do so. It was out of the
question, she told me, that you should marry a man in my position, and
one who was not a gentleman. This to me, whose gentlemanly feelings
she had just been appealing to! It sent the blood tingling down to my
fingertips, and revived me after the _douche_ of what she had been
saying before. I told her these were matters I declined to discuss
with a lady whom I had not the honour of being acquainted with, and
that while I enjoyed the privilege of your friendship, none but
yourself should dictate to me the terms. Then she pulled out a paper
which she said was a copy of your brother Gerald's will, and another,
the private instructions he had left with Jordan. She insisted on
reading them both to me, word by word, and was especially emphatic in
her rendering of the instructions in which I am mentioned by name as a
person you were not to marry."

"I know, George; and I think it was cruel in Gerald to make such a
stipulation. However, it does not matter. I did not want the money,
and you do not grudge to earn money for us both; and what do we want
which we have not got?"

"True, my darling; and after all, your dividends which fell due before
you disobeyed your kinsman's commands by marrying me have bought us
this cosey little home, so you did not come to me a penniless bride
after all. Talking of these things, by-the-way, reminds me--Did you
observe Considine's name in the war news this morning? He is a general
now. Why, Mary, you might have been one of their great ladies down
there, if you had chosen!"

"But I did not choose; and I question if a general's lady down there
has much to congratulate herself on. Grant is in Memphis, I see, and
steadily working southwards. The negroes on the plantations are in a
ferment, and Mrs. Dunwiddie, the refugee who is staying with Mrs.
Brown, and called here to-day, says the boxes of silver spoons and
candlesticks the Yankee officers are sending home to their friends by
express are more than the Express Company's car will carry, and they
talk of requisitioning a gunboat to carry their loot North to
Cincinnati. I should not have liked to ride with my plate and
valuables in an ambulance in the rear of even a husband's column. But
is it not fortunate that Gerald's property was realized, and the money
received safely in Canada before these troubles began? You and I may
not be the richer for it, but think of Edith, the little elf; what a
sum it will be when she is old enough to receive it!"

"Over a million of dollars. Far too much for a girl to have. Let us
hope she may have brothers and sisters to share it with. But where, at
the same time, have you left this great heiress? I have not had a
chance yet to give her a kiss."

"I called Lisette to come for her when you came in. Ah! There she is,
among the raspberry bushes--ruining her white frock with berry juice,
I'll be bound, for it is Cato who is carrying her. See how she
clutches his curly wool while he picks fruit for her. Her tugging must
be quite sore, but he seems positively to enjoy it, he is so fond of
her."

"And well he may. Have you forgot Judith's and Ralph's attempt to
'_realize_' him when his master died?--to huddle him over to Buffalo
and sell him into slavery again. Miss Judith thought she could do so
much good with the money, and Ralph encouraged her, and undertook to
arrange the transaction on the American side, when he would quietly
have pocketed the money, I make no doubt. If you had not interfered
and explained things to the poor boy he certainly would have fallen
into their trap, and been disposed of for cash down. He is the only
decent nigger I ever saw, and the only one who could have been so
imposed on. Oh, yes! He would do anything for you or the child."

"Dinner will be on the table almost at once, George. Come in and get
ready."

"Ah, yes! Dinner and something cool, after the long broiling day.
By-and-by, when the candles are lit, and the moths and beetles come
droning in from the darkness to singe their wings in the flame, we
will have music and a little singing. Some of those dear old songs by
the masters we used to revel in long ago. Haydn and the rest. Such as
'Gra-a-aceful partner.'"

"Quite so, your highness. That I may have to respond 'Spouse adorèd,'
my most sovereign lord and master! Ha, ha, ha! What it is to be a lord
of creation! Meanwhile, there is the bell. Hurry to your room."



                             CHAPTER IV.

                               "OUFF."


The hour which saw Mary Selby thus lapping herself in her simple joys,
was the same which witnessed the brewing of the storm destined to
wreck and scatter them. A premonition must have been upon her
spirits--that impalpable tremor and exhilaration preceding a
catastrophe which whets the perceptions to intenser enjoyment before
the destroying assault, like advancing fire which illumines, expands,
and glorifies ere it leaps on its prey and turns it into smoke and
ashes. It is certain at least that her spirits overstepped the limit
of their tranquil wont. She turned over the piles of music with her
husband in search of something to sing, but the measured graces of the
older works were all too serious for her mood.

"Your masters are prosy, George," she cried; "I could not settle down
to sing them to-night. Let us have that new duet from the 'Grand
Duchesse.'"

"From Bach to Offenbach," he answered. "What a leap! You really are
exuberant to-night. What next?"

Five or six miles away, on the lake-like broadening of the river which
stretches upward from Lachine, a canoe was drifting under the lee of
the wooded islands, and in it sat Ralph Herkimer. Remaining in town
through the summer to watch the fluctuations of the gold-room--it was
during the American war--he betook himself each afternoon to Lachine,
to exchange the dust of streets for the breezy coolness of the water.
He had been fishing, and Paul, an Indian from the Indian village of
Caughnawaga near by, managed the canoe. His fishing had not prospered.
It seemed indifferent to him, indeed, whether he got "bites" or not,
but still from time to time he made a cast of the line, with his eyes
brooding on the water where the slackened current drifted lazily by,
with its rhythmic ripples flickering in the reddening light. The sun
went down behind heavy banks of cloud, and the grey twilight stole
silently up with that listening stillness which makes audible the
murmur of the stream, a sound unnoticed in the garish hurry of noon
when the world is vocal with a hundred noises, but heard at eve when
other things with life have sunk to sleep.

The canoe hung idly among the gathering shadows of the shore where the
waters were black and oily in the shelter of the wooded islands; but
Ralph took no heed of the twilight closing in. The coolness, the
drowsy movement, and the murmur soothed him, and his thoughts flowed
freely in their wonted channels. They were like the streams we read of
which run over golden sands, for they were all about money, shares,
stocks, margins, shorts, longs, bulling and bearing the market, with
sunny visions of a hundred per cent. glittering remotely, like islands
of the blest, and with banks of contingency drifting in between. Then
his memory wandered to the fortune he had missed, and which should
surely have been left to him, his father's only son, and the only male
shoot of the family tree. To think of so much money being deliberately
left past him!---tied up for twenty years to wait for heirs unborn at
the time of Gerald's death. He snorted and moved restlessly in his
seat as he thought of it, till the jerking of his limbs disturbed the
unstable equilibrium of the canoe, and he only composed and controlled
himself in time to avoid a ducking from the rolling over of the
lightly-poised craft. Paul raised his hand and caught the water with
his paddle at the same instant, relapsing into his impassive wont so
soon as the accident was averted.

"Too bad!" muttered Ralph, when the disturbance of his nerves had
subsided, and his thoughts fell back into their channel. "If the old
man would none of me personally, there was my boy, and he bears his
name and is a Herkimer--nearer to him, surely, than the music master's
brat; and she a girl, too, as it turns out!" Then his thoughts grew
deep again--sank into silence, as the rivers in a limestone country
disappear into the ground, and thread mysterious miles through caves
of night and blackness.

He whipped the waters with his line, letting it drift anon and
forgetting to draw it in even when an infatuated bass caught hold and
jerked and struggled till he got away again, and even the apathetic
Paul looked up surprised; but then, the ways of the pale faces are not
as those of the red man, so he merely grunted, and became quiescent
again as before.

"Too bad!" Ralph muttered again. "Only a life between my boy and a
million!--it will be nearer three millions by the end of the twenty
years--just one life between my Gerald and all that; and what a
life! Only a year old--incapable of knowing anything about it, or
taking any satisfaction out of it. A girl, too, at that. Child of an
organ-grinder. Nobody worth knowing will ever care to know her. Of
what use can a million of dollars be to such as she?" Here with a
groan and a snort the black waters of unwholesome thought sunk down
again out of sight, and out of ken of the thinker, if that were
possible, for--under the devil's guidance shall we call it?--one will
sometimes avert the eyes from the working and festering of his own
soul with a sense of conventional shame (hypocrisy is like the polar
frosts which strike a yard or two down into the ground), and still
with the back turned as it were to the evil thought, as a man must
continue to do within himself if he would retain his own good opinion,
there will be a furtive peering glance cast down and backward into the
deeper depths, awaiting till some deeper down conscience is overcome,
which is not the admitted self at all, yet the vanquishment of which
will be so good an excuse for dropping the moral barriers in the upper
stratum of admitted consciousness. To that wave of unstemmable
temptation, a cyclone as it were to which nature in her strength
succumbs, and the best of men may yield, lifting their heads again
after it, like palm trees when the tempest has passed over, and
saying, "A storm; a convulsion beyond human might to withstand; for
yielding to that, who can be blamed? Let us spread our draggled
plumage wide to dry. The gale is over, and we shall soon be as
honorable as before."

Not that Ralph could be called a hypocrite in the vulgar sense. For
why? He troubled himself little about morals of any kind, that not
being, as he said, his particular "fad." But there is a righteousness
which is not ecclesiastical. There are decencies of life for us all,
and a standard of right and wrong, which it is _base_ to contravene
even when we put on speculative airs and question the Church's
teachings. Right is always right, and wrong wrong, decency decent, and
baseness contemptible, even if there were no God in heaven, and no
account to render at the last day; and there are thoughts which a man
must turn his back on when they pass through his mind, if he would
continue to enjoy his own respect.

There is a way of seeing sidewise, however, when the eyes are
averted--a policy of reconciliation between doing and eschewing, when
deeds at once vile and profitable are under consideration--and I fear
me much this luckless Ralph Herkimer had found out the trick of it.

His thoughts, at all events, sank down deep into those sunless
channels where even he himself declined wittingly to follow them
though keeping watch. He whipped the water more briskly than before,
and stared intently at the end of his line; but somehow he did not
lose the thread of his reflections; he kept on thinking all the time
and even with more and more intentness, though still he made pretence
to himself of ignoring the whole of the deep-down discussion--till it
was finished, that is--then he succumbed, as who may not, under
sufficient temptation? It is a question of price or number. Ralph
yielded before the flashing glory of _millions of dollars!_ So Danæ
may have stretched her arms, erewhile so chaste and cold, to welcome
Jove when drest in that disguise he sought the mercenary maid. Was not
gold divine? And has it not continued ever since to be the same? Even
Miss Judy can appraise to a cent the good to be achieved with part in
saving souls, and still leave unexpressed the balance--the pride and
finery which what remains will bring the priests and priestesses of
Goody.

Millions of dollars! That was the burden and refrain which repeated
itself over and over in Ralph's mind; and it ought by right to be his.
Was not he grandson of the father of this childless Gerald who had
made the money? The only grandson too, and the only person through
whom future generations of Herkimers could connect themselves with
this fortune? And Gerald to pass him over! Gerald who talked so much
about Shropshire, and all the rest of it, things of which he (Ralph)
knew nothing--old Uncle Gerald who would not hear, even, of Aunt
Mary's marrying a music master. That the old man's money should be
tied up for twenty years and then handed over to this very music
master's brats. Gerald could not have meant it; notwithstanding the
little unpleasantness which occurred when he (Ralph) returned from
Natchez, and Gerald refused to admit him to his presence. The bequest
must have been merely a threat which the imprudent old man had
supposed so terrible that nobody would brave it. If he could have
dreamed that Mary would defy him, and marry all the same, he would
have made a different disposition of his property altogether. What he
meant was to go on governing his relations after death as he had ruled
them while in life.

There seemed at the moment a pathos to this hard and worldly-minded
Ralph, swinging and oscillating silently in the fading light, with air
and tinted greyness all around, and only the heaving, quivering
reflections upon which he swung beneath; there seemed a pathos in it,
and he felt a sympathy with the vanished and disappointed maker
of the fortune, or rather with the straying misdirected wealth.
If he had lived, how different all would have been; and Ralph
looked out into the empty evening air, feeling as if he might
catch some shadowy glimpse of a disembodied presence, which
would look on him friendly-wise, and which he would have greeted--oh,
so reverently!--the revisiting shadow of a millionaire, come back
regretfully to make amends to an ill-used relative whom the glamour of
life and the flesh had led him to misjudge. Ralph felt he could meet
his uncle in a fitting spirit, friendly, forgiving, and open to any
suggestions the other state might have enlightened him to make; for
was he not doing his best to remedy the unfortunate and injudicious
dispositions of the will? Had he not already taken the best advice in
the province to remedy them, and been told that the will was good,
sure, fast, and without flaw--that it would stand, and there was no
remedy?

He peered far off into the shadows, and around on either hand. There
was nothing but a gradual failing in the light--neither sound nor
vision--only, over against him, let the canoe turn as it might, there
sat the Indian Paul, an image brown and still, with dull, quiescent
eyes, gazing into nowhere, ready at a moment to flash into fire and
life, but absent until wanted; plainer than the unseen vision in his
thoughts, yet less to be understood--a mute and dusky image of the
unknowable. The dark unwinking eyes gleamed with no thought or
intelligence; they looked out seemingly beyond, and burned, or rather
smouldered, like coals abstracted from the nether fire, awaiting the
gust of passion to rouse the slumbering blaze. Black like the mirrors
used by necromancers, they showed back, when he looked in them, his
own soul stripped of conventional trappings, looking out of them into
himself, and seeming to have gathered active evil in their dusky
depths--a wish to guide the dubious hand of Fate which deals the cards
promiscuously as though her eyes were bandaged, and influence the
falling of the aces and kings, just one place now and then to the
right or left. We would all like to do that, if we could--just a
little--and bring out more clearly as we think, the poetical justice
of Time; but it comes right in the end, of itself, without our help,
and "if it tarry," as the Prophet says, "wait for it;" it is for the
best.

Ralph is impatient, however; and it is not, besides, poetic justice
that he is thinking of. Nothing so abstract. It is money, good and
lawful coin of the realm, and it is himself and his children, he
thinks, who should have it. Gerald, too, he takes it, having attained
to that clearer insight which is gained beyond the grave, must wish it
likewise, and if the inheritance under that most pernicious will can
be turned aside, he feels that he will be fulfilling the present and
maturer wishes of the testator. The law may say otherwise; but what of
the law? There is a higher law! We have all heard of it, though
generally, let us hope, when the issue was unconnected with the
possession of dollars. Gerald must have heard of the higher law. Here
was a case involving money, and when one comes to money what is more
sacred? The forger "gets twenty years" for his crime against property;
the culpable homicide five. _His_ fault is only against life, and by
good fortune he may escape with a rebuke from the court.

Ralph had been meditating and considering, calmly, earnestly, and at
length, in a way he was not accustomed to consider, and out here amid
evening's impressive silence, where the brooding peace suggested
presences far enough removed at other times in the common hubbub of
life; and he felt--what? That he must not give in, or acquiesce in a
fiddler's children getting all that money!

"The higher fitness" was he to call it?--and old Gerald himself,
who must be near, he was sure, though he could not gain speech of
him--must disapprove the misapplication of so many dollars. But how to
remedy that ill-judged will? If Mary Herkimer, it said, should so far
forget herself as to marry the organist, then the money was to remain
accumulating in Jordan's hands for twenty years, and after that was to
be paid to her children, secured only against the organist by the
provision that in case they died unmarried it should come to the
children of Ralph. And Mary had a child. But the child might die. A
tremor passed through him at the idea. Or how would it be, he set
himself to consider, if the child were lost? Children do get lost
sometimes, and he raised himself in the canoe to shake off any
oppressiveness that might attach to the idea. Suppose the child were
lost--one may innocently suppose anything--suppose it could not be
found, and never _were_ found. What then? After a time it would be
unreasonable to keep the next in succession out of his property; and
this next--his blood tingled to think of it--was his own boy Gerald, a
quiet, gentle little boy, such as strangely sometimes is given to an
unscrupulous father, as if to try how far he will venture to use the
facile tool. If ever _his_ Gerald fell heir to property, Ralph made
sure of being able to dispose of it; it seemed to him that it would be
like money settled on his wife, which he could still use, though no
creditor could lay hands on--a cake quite different from that in the
children's proverb, which one can both eat and have at the same time.

But at present, to arrange for Mary's child getting--_lost_, seemed
the pressing question. There would be time enough to influence his
boy's plastic mind afterwards.

The infant's plastic mind need not be taken into account, the infant
being only a year old. There were no impressions inscribed on it so
far, and it would be some time yet before it acquired any. "Get it
away now," he told himself, "and it can do nothing for its own
restoration. In a week or two it will have forgotten its mother and
there will be no troublesome memories in after life tempting it to
suspect and try to unravel a mystery in its fate. Yet how, and through
whom, to manage it?" His eyes wandered questioningly over the extent
of waters, heaving with regulated swell, suggestive of life and
personality and thought; but never an answer came back to him out of
the sullen grey. His eye swept the horizon and the distant shore, and
at last it rested on the apathetic face of his companion; Still as a
mask, and showing not a sign of what might be behind, any more than
the swaying tide on which they hung betrayed the mysteries of the pool
beneath. The man's long straight hair, and the swarthy skin suggestive
of a life apart from civilization, could not but call up the wish that
the child could become of these. Wooden, hard, and cold, with his
bead-like eyes half closed, were the little one in hands like his it
would be as safe as if it were in another planet; thinking such
thoughts as it must, in Iroquois, understanding Canadian French, and
with only enough English to beg or trade with strangers. Paul he knew
as restless, and in some sort a vagabond, attending those who hired
him on fishing or hunting expeditions, at times joining the Governor
of Hudson's Bay as a canoe-man, on his journeys to Fort William, or
wandering on the Ottawa from one Indian settlement to another. If he
would only undertake to superintend the fortunes of this inconvenient
infant, it would become a waif indeed, and lost beyond restoration.

Ralph sighed with profound relief as the idea passed through his mind.
There had been another shadowy suggestion present there all the
afternoon, which he had been contemplating as it were with averted
eyes, shuddering to consider or reduce to shape, yet refusing to
dismiss it, harbouring it as one may an outlaw, whom it would be
confusion to acknowledge as a guest. If Paul would undertake the
business, the child might live out its life as a squaw among the
wigwams of the upper Ottawa, without troubling any one. Exposure to
the weather would bronze her to the hue of the other children of the
wilderness; and if not, there are few bands now-a-days in which there
are not half-breeds, proving that all men are of one blood, and that
time and circumstances alone are needed to blend the races into a
common stream. How infinitely more satisfactory this would be than any
fatal accident which could be devised! Yes! it must be done, and Ralph
looked up to his companion and in his most friendly tone said,--"Paul."

Instantly the bead-like eyes awoke and turned upon him, sharp and
interrogative. The propitiatory modulation had not escaped the
delicate ear, bred from infancy to catch and interpret the faintest
whisper of the forest--the rustle of a leaf disturbed by passing game,
or the stroke of a wing raising eddies in the stagnant air. Since Paul
had grown to be a man whiskey and dollars had become the game of his
eagerest pursuit, and the mood of the white man he served for the time
was the hunting ground where these were to be run down. That something
was wanted of him he knew by the extra friendliness of tone. What
Englishman having hired him would speak so softly if he did not want
something beyond the stipulated services, something of value, and
something which he wished to gain cheaply?

"Ouff," was his answer, dubiously interrogative, and altogether
non-committal as to whether he would be interested in what was to
follow.

"Have you got children?"

"No," with a slight head-shake.

"Would you not like to have one?"

"Papoose come plenty soon."

"Then you have a wife."

"Got squaw;" but still he looked out impassively over the water.

"Would she like to keep a child for me? do you think?--good pay, you
know."

"Pay-Ouff?" The words was clearly interrogative now, and the beady
eyes returned from their wandering, and settled on the speaker.

"A healthy child twelve months old--would make a lusty squaw. She can
make anything of it she likes. No questions will be asked, you know."

"Yours?"

"Not exactly. But I have an interest in the child."

"How much money?"

"Fifty dollars, as soon as she has done the job."

The beady eyes kindled into animation, and the lips grew moist, but
the Indian sat motionless as before, and waited in silence for what
was to come.

"She will have to _take_ the child, you know. It will not be hard for
her to get it at this time of year, when the nurse is out of doors
with it most of the time; on the steps, at the garden gate, or down
the street. She can easily take it away from the nurse, a little slip
of a French girl. A strong Indian woman could easily knock her down
and run away with the child under her blanket. Only she must not be
caught or the child brought back. You must send her to some
reservation far away--up West, say--the farther West the better. I
will pay as soon as she gets clear off. But you must not mix me up in
the thing, mind that! That is why I offer to pay so much for the job."

"Much for job? Ouff. Le Père Théophile--the judge court--prison long
time. Ouff!" and he shook his head slowly.

"You must send her where the curé's admonitions will not reach her.
Send her to Brantford, or up the Ottawa; you know better than I do
where. You can do a good deal with fifty dollars, you know, Paul."

"Ouff. And send 'way my squaw. Fidèle good squaw."

"Chut! Paul, you rascal! You have plenty more sweethearts you know;
and they do not marry you so tight as us white men."

Paul grunted. "The Père Théophile very strict. Make squaw confess
right up. Poor Fidèle go to prison--all found out. Paul sent to Isle
aux Noix--you too, then."

"Stuff, man! No fear of your letting yourself be caught. Send your
squaw away at once, before she has time to go near her priest."

"Police?"

"Not much fear of _them_, if you are half sharp. But, let me see. It
might not be a bad idea if she changed clothes with some other girl
before she started West. One squaw is so like another in white folks'
eyes. It might turn pursuit in a wrong direction while she is getting
away."

"Ouff," Paul grunted again, but nothing more. The two dusky shadows
swung silently on the dim bosom of the waters, whitening now beneath
the glimmer of the rising moon.

"See here, Paul," Ralph said at last; "I shall be better than my word
after all. Here are ten dollars in hand, for you. Come round to my
office as soon as the work is done and your squaw safely off, and I
will pay you your fifty dollars. Now land us. We shall take first
train to the city. We must not be seen together, so will take
different cars. Wait for me in the shadow of the cabstand, and I will
go up town with you and point out the house."

"Ouff," again was the only answer, but as Paul's long arm stretched
out to snatch the money, and under a deft stroke or two of the paddle
the canoe shot swiftly down stream to the landing, Ralph understood
that the bargain was struck.



                              CHAPTER V.

                               FIDÈLE.


It was a day or two later, in the early forenoon. The air was
stagnant, breathlessly awaiting the thunderstorm whose cumulus vapour
masses were already drifting up from the distant horizon; though as
yet the sun blazed in cloudless fervour overhead, and the world lay
panting in the intolerable heat. The very light was sultry, and Mary
Selby had drawn close the blinds, to shut it out where she lay on a
sofa trying to stir the thick stillness into motion with her fan; but
the air was heavy with heat and she felt too faint for the exertion.

She was dropping asleep when Lisette entered with a basket of May
apples. They looked so cool in their green pith-like husks that she
could not refrain from pulling one or two asunder to reach the blob of
fragrant pulp within, tasting and awakening from her langour, before
she asked where they had come from. The maid answered that a squaw
without was offering them for sale, and the mistress had then to rise
and go into an adjoining room to find her purse.

She took the basket in her lap and began to pull open the fruit,
separating the small eatable portions from the pod-like rind. "What a
feast for Edith!" she said, when she had done; and she called to
Lisette to bring the baby.

Lisette appeared looking hot and troubled. "She had not seen
Miss Edith," she said, since she brought the fruit to her
mistress--"supposed Cato must have got her. She had been looking for
the squaw to give her her money, but could not find her. She thought
at first she might be prowling round the house looking for something
to steal, but she had looked everywhere now, even in the wood shed and
coal cellar, but could not see a sign."

Mary rose to join in the search, running out with the maid to question
Cato. Cato was in the far-off corner of the garden, delving with a
will. The sultry fervour of the air, stifling to men of another race,
was like wine to him, recalling the torrid country of his birth, and
he tossed the spadefuls gleefully, perspiring and singing as he
worked. He had been there all the morning, and knew nothing of Edith
or the vanished squaw; but he threw down his spade at once and joined
the searchers. The cook came running from her kitchen to assist, and
the little band now quickening each other's alarm ran hither and
thither over the small domain, peering under every bush, pulling about
melon frames and empty boxes, dropping stones down the well, looking
under all the beds in the house and even up the chimney. By-and-by
they were out of breath and began to think. Then Lisette was sent for
a policeman, and Cato to fetch a cab to carry his mistress in search
of her husband, and to the police-station in case he could not be
found.

The policeman arrived first with grave importance and a note-book. He
questioned Lisette, but being an Irishman while she was French, he
soon lost himself amongst her voluble but not very lucid English,
emphasized with frequent "_mon Dieux_," and much gesticulation. She
was the only one who had seen the squaw, and the last to see the
child, but what of that? "Them furreigners were of no account, and
nobody could tell what they might be afther intending to mane:" so he
turned to the cook, a countrywoman of his own, and from her got ample
satisfaction. It is true she had seen nothing, and only knew what she
had heard Lisette say, but then she had thought a great deal since;
and the thoughts and the hearsay flowed in a mixed and copious, if not
too coherent stream, which Paddy could readily follow, it was so much
like the meanderings of his own mind. He opened his book and proceeded
to write it all down--how she had just finished washing up her morning
dishes, and the pan of water was in her hands to empty down the sink
at that very moment "whin who should come trapezin' into moy kitchen
but the gurrl, all brithless loike, an' hur hair flyin' ivery way at
wanst. An' thinks oi to meself, 'whativer's the matther wid the
omadhaun?' An' sorr if I was to take me boible oath this moment,
thim's the very worrds that passed through me moind whin I seed hur,
an' ye may safely write them down, for oi'll stand boy thim before all
the judges and juries in the land."

"Oi'll wroite thim down, mum, ye may depind; an' be me troth, it's
moighty remarkable them worrds are; an' they do ye credit, mum, though
it's me that says it," answered the policeman, relaxing the crooks in
his shoulder and elbow, and the frown on his brow, which were with him
the concomitants of penmanship. He had not in truth the pen of a ready
writer, and it was only by pushing his tongue into one cheek and
closing an eye, that he was able to construct the letters at all. That
was of little consequence, however; the notebook was solely for his
own private eye, or rather for the eye of the public, which could not
but respect a policeman who wrote everything down.

It impressed the cook immensely, and flattered her too, for never
before had she seen her words put down on paper, and she resolved in
her mind there should be a smoking hot morsel for this "supayrior"
man, whenever he came round to see her of a winter's afternoon. The
man perfectly understood. There were several kitchens on his beat
where he was wont to visit, and the cook before him smiled so
hospitably that he promised himself not to forget her.

Cato now arrived with the cab for his mistress, and the guardian of
the peace, hitherto engrossed with a more important person, turned to
the poor lady to favour her with a few words at parting.

"You're purfecly right, ma'am," he said, "to make ivery exurtion. An'
if ye call at the station, ye'll foind the jintlemen there both
poloite an' accommodatin'. An' ye may go wid an aisy mind, for well be
havin' your intherests under consideration all the same as if ye was
here. An' ye may rest assured that the sthrong arrum of the law will
be laid on the aivil doer sooner or later. An' as for the choild,
ma'am, oi'm bound to sthop ivery choild of a year old that's carried
through my bait; but ye must give me marks, ye see, or they would soon
be complainin' of me at head quarthers. Did the choild squint, now,
maybe, ma'am, the purty angel? An' it's moighty becomin' some says
that same is; an' kinvanient too, whin they gits older, an' can look
both ways at wanst. No? Well, no offince, ma'am. Or maybe there was
something crooked about wan of its legs, or an arrum, or who knows but
there might be something wrong wid its face. A hare lip, now, would be
a sure mark, and oi'd arrist the first wan I met. No? Well, no
offince, ma'am. Oi cuddn't arrest all the childer I moight meet, ye
see, an' bring thim here for you to oidintifee. How many teeth, thin,
moight your purty darlin' have, ma'am?--though it's misdoubtin' I am
if the law gives me power to open the childher's mouths an' look down
their throats. But we'll do our best, ye may depind on that. An' it's
wishin' ye a plisant dhroive, ma'am, an' thank ye keoindly," as Mary,
driven desperate by his gabble, pushed a dollar into his hand and
hurried to her cab.

In this way "the law's delays" left the coast clear for the escape of
the kidnapper. It was an hour or two before the police throughout the
city became aware that a squaw had run away with an infant, and by the
time they had begun to be on the alert, the thief had made good her
retreat. Wrapped in her bright blue blanket and broad-leafed straw
hat, she passed swiftly along, as might any of her fellows who hawk
their beadwork and like wares about the streets. A lump of fat, rubbed
in the juice of some narcotic herb, pushed into the little mouth had
stilled the child's cries and made it sleep as though in its nurse's
arms--evidence of the practical wisdom of the wilderness still
lingering among its erewhile people, as yet but partially elevated to
our higher plane of life. Our women may become doctors of divinity,
law, or physic; they can play the piano, or stand in the front rank of
culture; but can they handle a baby like the artless daughters of the
North-West, whose charges, packed in moss and fur, strapped upon a
board and suspended from a branch, sway gently in the breeze, watching
and growing silently, like the plants, for hours together, with never
a cry to disturb the resting sire or the laborious mother? In the
march of improvement some useful knowledge has been dropped by the
way, and there are regrettable losses to set off against the manifest
gains.

The thunder which had been threatening all the morning began to
rumble, the sky darkened, and soon the rain came down in torrents. The
ferry-boat between Lachine and Caughnawaga had whistled, and was
throwing loose from the wharf, when a squaw--it was Fidèle, Paul's
squaw, of course--rain-soaked and draggled, leaped on board. She
squatted on the deck beside the three or four others who were the only
passengers, cowering over the bundle under her blanket, but not
uncovering its face as did the mothers near her.

"She has stolen something," the purser observed to the mate, "and is
passing it off for a child. She don't behave to it as the others do.
If there is a constable on the pier, I'll give her in charge. But
there won't be in this heavy rain, and there would be a row if we
attempted to stop her. Best take no notice, I guess; 'taint no
business of ours."

On reaching the pier, Fidèle was the first to land and flit away
through the village. "I told you so," said the purser, looking wise.
"You just see if we don't hear more about that one. Blue blanket,
with a tear in one corner; straw hat--brim badly broken; face, like
they all have--broad and brown as a butternut; red cheeks--must be
young--and real spry on the pins. Guess I'd know her again--know the
clothes, any way. Injuns are as like one another as copper cents."

Fidèle reached a cabin in the outskirts, of square logs, whitewashed,
one window and a door, with a "lean-to" addition of boards in the
rear, where the cooking-stove stood in the warm weather. Entering, she
found her sister Thérèse awaiting her, who with very few words
proceeded to strip off her own brightly printed cotton gown. Fidèle
carried the child into the room behind, and returning, removed her
blanket and dripping headgear.

"Ouff," said Thérèse, undoing the gay handkerchief from her head and
picking up the hat in evident disgust. "No good."

There was a small silver cross hanging from her neck by a black
riband, to which Fidèle stretched out her hand expecting it to be
taken off likewise. But no. Thérèse drew back with a head-shake,
explaining that that belonged to the ladies of the Convent school,
adding, that it was bad enough to give up the smart frock and kerchief
in exchange for such a hat and a damp blanket. Fidèle reminded her of
the new ones she was to receive from Paul, after she had worn the
blanket for a week, and again snatched at the nuns' silver badge of
merit. Thérèse caught the hand and bit it. Fidèle screamed, and a
battle was imminent, when Paul's growl from the back room, threatening
violence, restored calm, and Thérèse sulkily took up the blanket and
drew it over her head. Presently, Paul looked out to bid her begone,
and Thérèse, through the open door, saw enough to silence
remonstrance, and send her trembling away.

Paul entered as Thérèse went out, and stood before his squaw. He spoke
in Iroquois, briefly, and in the conclusive tone which admits neither
of question nor reply. Another, Messieurs the Benedicts, of those
natural gifts dropped by the way in the march of improvement. The
squaw never "speaks back," but the "last word" belongs of right to
every self-respecting Christian woman, and she takes it. Ask the
ladies!

"To work at once," was the purport of Paul's orders, "then sweep up.
Put on your sister's gown, and that black blanket over all. Go out by
the back, into the bush. Hide in the old roothouse by the corner of
the clearing till sundown; then away, across the reservation. Take
care you are not seen. Travel all night, going west. Stay in the woods
to-morrow till dusk. Travel your quickest till you reach Ogdensburg.
Cross the river there, and go west to Brantford, taking your own time.
Go to your brother, and tell him to expect me next winter." And so
saying, he went out by the front of the house, locking the door behind
him.

Fidèle set her teeth and proceeded to obey. It was a repulsive sight
which she beheld on entering the inner room, and the work set her to
do was horrible. A board or two of the flooring had been pulled up,
and there was a sack filled with the earth brought up through the
opening. The hole was a foot or two deep, and it was shaped like a
grave. Paul must have been terribly in earnest to have it rightly
done, seeing he had dug it himself. There was a box--a soap-box
seemingly, from the village store--hammer and nails, a bundle of
withered grass, and the baby asleep lying on it. The sight of the baby
must have been too much for Paul, for part of an old buffalo robe had
been thrown over it. He had his design fixed and firm, but having also
a squaw why should he likewise discompose himself? Civilization had at
least eaten so far into his nature that to extinguish a helpless and
unresisting life was no longer delightful enough to compensate the
risk--and he had the squaw.

Fidèle sat down on the ground with the poor little thing in her lap.
How peacefully it slept! Was it angels whispering in those little ears
which made it smile in its sleep, as the ladies of the Convent had
said? Could viewless spirits be hovering around, seeing and noting all
that passed? Involuntarily she looked over her shoulder expecting
almost to behold a presence. Then she shook herself and snorted. Why
should she call up shadowy fears to make harder for herself the work
she had to do? If she failed to do it she knew full surely the terrors
would be all too real--bruises, wounds, possibly death by violence;
assuredly violence in any less degree.

The child lay sleeping on her lap, so fair and soft of skin, rounded
and dainty in every joint. She could not but recall the picture in the
church, of the Holy Mother with her ever Blessed Son, high up above
the altar, amid the star-like twinkling of the tapers and the cloudy
incense ascending before it in solemn fragrance, while holy nuns and
innocent choristers sang hymns of adoration; and all she had learned
to think of blessedness beyond the grave, attainable only by more than
common goodness, was that it would be like that. The little rings of
hair that framed the face were bright and shining like burnished gold,
a glory like the gilded halos about the heads in that sacred picture;
and the long eyelashes laid peacefully upon the reddening cheeks, like
clouds at daybreak, promising so enhanced a brightness at the
awakening. Fidèle laid her fingers on the little neck. How dark and
evil they looked upon its creamy whiteness! How could she ever grasp
it hard and cruelly, till the heaving bosom grew convulsed to bursting
at the interrupted breath, and the sweet face grew black and distorted
in fruitless gaspings? Her fingers lay more heavily as she thought,
and the slight pressure disturbed the sleeper. The plump round
shoulder and cheek were drawn together as if tickling were the subject
of her dreams; the lips parted in a smile, the eyes unclosed, and the
child awoke with a low and merry laugh. She looked so fearless and
trustful out of her blue eyes and crowed so gleefully, caressing with
her own tiny palms the dusky fingers so near her throat, and with such
fell intent, that surely a fiend must have abandoned the thought of
doing her harm. And Fidèle was no fiend at all. Ignorance and a narrow
horizon had left her sympathies to slumber, but, so far as she could
see or know, she was true and good. To serve her man had seemed the
chief if not the only end of her being, and she had done it blindly
hitherto; but it appeared to her now that to do this thing was more
than she ought, or could.

The little hands were stretched up now to her face and the lips
strained up to kiss her, and the clear blue light of the eyes
penetrated the blackness of her own with a cooling purifying influence
which made evil intent like a shadow slink away. She stooped and
pressed the little pink lips to her own, and to her forehead and to
her breast, and then with a big breath of resolution she got up and
set the little one down in a corner while she fulfilled in seeming the
orders she had received. She took the dried grass and laid it in the
box which she then closed and placed in the bottom of the little
grave. The grave she then filled up with earth from the sack, tramping
it down tightly, and making the top level with the adjacent soil, and
strewing what earth was left in the rain pools outside the house. She
then nailed down the flooring as before, and swept the house, making
it appear again as it had always been. No one could now suspect that
there was a grave beneath his feet, nor could Paul that that grave was
empty. Then concealing the child under her blanket she stole into the
bush as she had been instructed to do, an instance of how the
scrupulously obedient wife, even while obeying, may contrive to effect
the exact opposite of her instructions; and showing, perhaps, that the
equality and sympathy of the civilized home may secure a man the
fulfilment of his wishes no less, at least, than the despotism of the
barbarian plan.

In the twilight Fidèle left her place of concealment and stole away
under the dripping-trees. The storm was over, and as the light died
out of the heavens the stars came twinkling forth, awaiting the rising
moon. It was a long and toilsome tramp across the reservation, through
wet and tangled herbage, with many a slough and flooded brook, for she
had been bidden to avoid observation and dared not avail herself of
such paths and rude bridges as suffice the Indians on their own
domain. At length when night had fully come, and home-going stragglers
were no longer likely to be met, she reached a country road. The march
of the stars pointed her way and further she knew not, for she had
never been there before. She hurried along clasping her burden, which
grew heavier as she went, for she had been travelling for hours. It
was late and she had spent a long and a busy day, a day of hard work
and much excitement. The child grew heavier, and as her own strength
grew less, she clasped it the more tightly. Since she had saved the
little one's life, something of a mother's feeling for it had stolen
into her heart. It seemed dependent on her, and her very own; and were
not the tiny fingers even then spreading themselves against her breast
to gather warmth? The night seemed very long, and yet she feared to
stop and rest. A pursuer might be on her track even now to seize her
for child-stealing. And the child in her arms! She could not but be
taken and punished, and the child given back. And even when her
punishment was over, and she let out of jail, there would still be
Paul to reckon with. And what might _he_ not do? Her heart died within
her at the thought, her limbs grew feeble, and the child heavier than
lead. She staggered along looking behind her and before, but all was
still, no one to be seen. And now she was approaching a village. The
moonlight glittered on the tin belfry of the church, and there were
houses, low-browed _habitant_ houses, with deep projecting eaves and
great black shadows lurking under the stoops and porches. Not a soul
was stirring, but from those coverts of obscurity what or who might
not rush forth on her as she went by? The law in some mysterious way
might be lying in wait for her among the dusky shadows, or Paul
himself might be in hiding to watch her pass, and see that he was
obeyed. It would be bad for her if she were to meet him now, and bad
for the child as well. She stopped, faltering as she thought of it,
unable to go on. Ah! there stood one small house at a forking of the
road, where one branch ran uphill through well-fenced woods,
surrounding a mansion, doubtless, for the moonlight glistened on the
tin of the roof; and the other branch ran downward to the village and
the church, and there was a broad river beyond, with perhaps no
bridge, and she might have to wait for morning to be ferried across.
There might be a magistrate in the mansion, she would avoid that, and
down in the village the child might be seen. No! she dared not carry
it in either direction, but here in the corner of the ways stood the
little _habitant_ house, a good half-mile from both. Yet there was no
light visible in the window; the house might be uninhabited; not a dog
or pig was to be seen around. But then it was late. The voiceless
stars and the silent sailing moon were whitening the slumbering world
with dim and hazy dreams. Nothing was awake or moving but the vagrant
breeze which rustled drowsily among the poplar leaves; and--yes, that
decided her--the loose casement of the one window in the roof swaying
back and forth against the flapping curtains within. There must be
people in the house, people asleep, who would not awake till she had
time to escape. She stepped on the little porch, laid down her burden,
knocked, and fled into a neighbouring bank of shadow, where her dark
blanketed figure was swallowed up in the gloom and she could wait and
watch. Her moccasined feet made no sound, but the knock awoke a dog
within. The dog barked, and presently a head looked out of the open
casement. The baby, uncovered to the night air and laid on the hard
boards, began to cry, and the head--it was a woman's and a
mother's--recognized the voice of a _bébé_. The door was opened, the
woman came out and took up the child.

"Holy Madaleine!--it is a child! And whose? Another, when there are
already six, and the loaf so small, and the _sous_ so hard to come
by!"

Fidèle saw, and she may have heard; but she could not understand or
enter into the white woman's troubled feelings. _Sous_ scarce and
loaves small were just as she knew them, when she knew them at all,
which was not always. At least it was better, both for herself and the
child, that it should not be with _her_. She waited till the woman had
carried it indoors, and then, like a wandering shadow, she went her
way, westward, with the stars and moon. Her friends, her home, her
man, were all behind her, and she must not return to them. She must go
forward and westward to Upper Canada, a wanderer and alone, with
nothing but the stolid patience of her unawakened mind to bear her up.
But at least her hands were untainted with the stain of blood, and she
could look forward to the long dark winter nights and their howling
winds without fear. There would be no voices in them to make her
tremble, no cry of a murdered child--no image in the darkness of
gasping lips and eyes rolled back in the death-struggle. She could
sleep in peace and still ask God and His saints to shelter her.



                             CHAPTER VI.

                         THE MISSES STANLEY.


The Misses Stanley were sitting up far into the night. They had been
prostrated in the morning by the sultry oppression of the coming
storm. Later, when it burst, and the blackened sky grew ablaze
with lightning, and the very earth was trembling at the deafening
thunder-claps, they fled to the cellar, closing and bolting the door,
in that unreasoning panic which seizes even very sensible people when
the heavens begin to utter their terrible voices; and there they
gasped, and sighed, and panted, and listened, forgetting even the
headache which a while before had nailed their heads to the pillow.
"Ah!" they would whisper to each other, "did you hear that?--and
that?--One of the chimneys has surely been struck! Can that be the
rattle of the falling bricks? Is the roof coming down, do you think?
Are we safe here?" and they caught each other's hands and pressed them
tightly, and leaned against the door with all their might, to keep it
shut against the danger.

"Do you hear that hissing? Has the house taken fire? Do you smell
smoke?" It was only the first heavy downpour of the rain upon the
resounding tin roof. The steady continuance of the monotone assured
them of that in time, as the thunder grew intermittent and less loud.
Even the hissing of the rain grew faint after a while, and there came
a breath of cooler air down even into the locked-up cellar.

The terror was past, and they crept out of their hole again into the
light, like the mice and the spiders and other timid folk. The storm
was over and they were happy and safe. They had been able to eat no
breakfast; dinner had been standing on the table cooling and getting
spoiled while they were trembling in the cellar. So they had tea, and
partook of it with relish. The air was purified by the storm; it was
reviving to breathe it, and the world, seen through the open windows,
though wet, was brightened and refreshed by the rain, like a young
girl fresh from the luxury of a good cry.

It was sweet to be alive now, and drink in the scented air, so crisp
and fresh, yet without a suspicion of cold; and a while since life had
been a burden. The ladies sat and breathed, and sighed, and toyed with
existence, and spoke softly to one another, and were silent; and
evening wore on and night came, and still it was too pleasant to move.
Their lamp was lighted--a dim one, with no garish gleam to disturb
enjoyment within, or lure the flapping night-moths and beetles from
without--and feeling hungry they thought they would have supper, a
most unusual thing. It was but strawberries and cakes with lemonade
and cold tea, but for them it was a carouse; they sat picking and
sipping for very long, forgetful of time, and most other things, and
bathed by gentle stirrings of the soothing air, restful and in soft
shadow, while in the moonlit garden without, the white radiance was
reflected and broken into a hundred glittering sparkles from every
dripping leaf.

"I declare," said the younger sister, "midnight is decidedly the most
enjoyable part of the day, at this time of year."

"It is long past midnight, Matilda," her sister answered, "I am afraid
to look what hour of the morning it must be."

"Morning? To-morrow morning? This is to-morrow then! I like it;
and if we go to bed it will be to-day when we get up again. I prefer
to-morrow myself. Let's sit up all night, Tookey dear, and remain in
the future 'till daylight does appear,' and turns it into to-day
again. Commonplace affair that sun, compared to the moon, and
disagreeably hot at this season, besides. I envy the owls, and mice,
and bats, and things, coming out at night and sleeping all day. _I_
can't sleep in the daytime."

"The more need to go to bed at night. Come, Tilly!--or how shall we
get up in the morning? Late rising puts everything out of joint for
all day, and bothers the poor servants sadly."

"Bother the servants! By all means, say I. 'Never do to-morrow what
should be done to-day.' You know that is a proverb! And this is
to-morrow. It was you who said so; so let us sit still. I think I have
proved my case."

"Pshaw, Matilda! don't be childish. And the downstairs windows still
to shut up! Bring the light, dear. We'll make the round, and see that
all is fast."

It was a nightly procession in which these two ladies walked through
all the rooms on the ground floor. Miss Penelope the elder--called
Tookey for short by her sister--went first, trying the locked doors,
closing and bolting the windows, while Matilda with a candle held
aloft, kept close beside her. It fluttered her heart to go into an
empty room after dark, and it caught her breath to remain alone in the
drawing-room while her sister made the rounds, so she accompanied her
close, always within touching distance, and ready to scream should
occasion arise. Last of all they closed the drawing-room windows, and
barred the heavy inside shutters, provided with bells, so that no
housebreaker should be able to enter without ringing; and then with
their candlesticks in their hands, having extinguished the lamp, they
stood taking a last look, as it were, on the scene of their waking
existence, before wending upstairs to sleep and forgetfulness,
when----

Bang! The sound seemed deafening, coming as it did so unexpectedly, in
the night stillness, with all the world slumbering save themselves.
Again! Not so loud this time, it seemed, with the ear already
attentive. It was a knock at the hall door. And now the bell was rung,
a jangling peal resounding through the house, and under cover of the
uproar there was a crunching on the gravel as of hasty steps.

The sisters looked at one another with parted lips, and eyes that
sought help and counsel and assurance each in the other's. Matilda
assuredly had neither strength nor wisdom for their joint support, but
her need was so great and she looked with such fervent trustfulness at
her sister, that Penelope felt she must brace herself up and take
courage for both, though her heart was faint within her. She was the
object of a faith which supported by its helpless reliance, and
stimulated her to effort that it might not prove misplaced. So
strength ere now has been bred of double weakness, though in this case
it was put forth but falteringly at first.

There was a shuffling now and a whispering in the lobby. Penelope held
the door handle and listened. Matilda threw her weight against the
door, expecting it would be burst open; but it was not, and thus they
stood breathlessly awaiting some unspecified terror which did not
arrive, till doubt grew too painful, and Penelope in very desperation
flung wide the door. Three pale faces were disclosed blinking at the
gleam of the ladies' candles, and Matilda screamed. An answering
scream was raised by the three pale faces startled by the sudden flash
of light in the darkened passage, and already prepared to be
frightened by anything which might happen.

"How very foolish!" said Miss Penelope, who, having wrought herself up
to do battle of some kind, had her nerves better in hand. "Do you not
see it is the servants? Awakened by the noise, they have come
downstairs, and seeing light in here at such an hour, supposed it was
a thief. Now we must see who is at the front door."

"No, Penelope! I implore you, do not!"

"Oh, ma'am," said the cook, "if anything happens to _you_ what will
become of _us?_" and the other maids looked deprecating in concert,
while even Miss Matilda ejaculated, "What, indeed?"

"We cannot stand here all night! And we could not go to bed with
burglars perhaps waiting on the doorstep till we are asleep."

"Think, Penelope, if they should burst in when we unbar the door!"

"They had better not. Is there not my father's gun?" and so saying she
stepped on a chair to reach down that redoubtable weapon from where it
rested on two brass hooks, high up over the fireplace in the hall.
There it had rested ever since the decease of the late lamented Deputy
Assistant Commissary General--called General for short, or perhaps for
honour--the parent of the Misses Stanley.

"Oh, Tookey! don't!" cried Miss Matilda. "It might go off and hurt
some one," and the maids drew up their shoulders to their ears, and
looked apprehensive in chorus.

"Nonsense!" answered Miss Stanley severely. "Do you not see I am
pointing it to the ceiling?"

"One never knows, such strange things happen with guns. The barrels
burst, they say, or else they go off, and shoot the people they have
no business to touch, and let others escape who really ought to have
been hit. Remember how poor Major Hopkins' gun went off, nobody knew
how, and killed papa's spaniel, and let the duck fly away. I shall
never forget how cross poor papa was when he came home, and he never
asked Major Hopkins to come again." And Miss Matilda looked regretful,
as does the Historic Muse when she registers the might-have-beens.
"Pray point the muzzle up the chimney, dear; it is safer."

Penelope, with a disdainful shrug, moved to the door, raised her
firearm to her shoulder, and motioned the maids to undo the
fastenings and open. They obeyed, and as the door flew back there
entered a puff of wind which blew out the candles and made everybody
scream--everybody except Miss Stanley. She, like a hero, stood to her
gun, and pulled the trigger--she pulled it frequently, in fact, but as
the piece was not loaded, that made no difference. Indeed, it was much
better, her timid companions were saved the dreadful bang, while she
herself had the heroic feeling of having shot a gang of burglars; that
is, she would have shot them if her gun had been loaded, and they had
been there to be shot. But they were not, fortunately for themselves.
There was no one there at all. The band of affrighted females came
slowly to realize the fact, as their panic subsided, and they re-lit
the candles. "But who," they began to inquire, "could it be, who had
knocked so loudly and rung the bell?" As their tremors abated they
ventured out upon the verandah, which ran round the house, to
reconnoitre. There was no one there, and again they grew uneasy. The
visitant must have concealed himself in the shrubbery, and if so, he
must certainly be evil-disposed. Miss Stanley took up her gun again;
she had no misgiving about handling it now, and it looked as
formidable as ever, for of course the man in the shrubbery could not
know that it was unloaded, and she made sure he would not put its
being so to the test.

"Here is a large parcel, ma'am!" cried the parlour-maid, "shall I
bring it in? It is covered with old matting and tied with a
shoe-string."

"Take care, Rhoda!" said Matilda. "Let us look at it first. I have
heard of thieves tying themselves up in parcels in order to be taken
into the houses they intended to rob. Perhaps you had better fire your
gun into this, Penelope; I have known that to be done in a story with
the best effects."

Miss Penelope came to look. "I think we may take this one in, Tilly,
without fear. If it contains a man he cannot be very big. See! I can
lift the bundle myself. Bring it in, Rhoda; we will examine it in the
dining-room."

"It must be living, ma'am! I see it moving. Will it bite?" and she
took it up suspiciously and with precaution.

A cry, small and plaintive, was now heard.

"Do you hear that?" said Miss Matilda, "mewing--I think. Can anybody
have brought us a cat and kittens? A practical joke I suppose they
think it. Yet I like kittens,--soft little balls of fluff and fun,"
she went on, putting on her gloves at the same time, "but strange cats
may bite or scratch. Very impertinent, was it not, of the senders?
They mean, I suppose, that we are old maids. Well! If we are, at least
it is from choice, and I venture to say we are more comfortably
situated than the husband or wife of this impertinent."

"Tush! sister," said Penelope, glancing to the servants standing at
the lower end of the table and full of curiosity. "Have you a
penknife? Quick! No cat ever mewed like that."

And now indeed it was a lusty cry, distinctly human and articulating
mamma. The string was cut, the wrappings were kicked away by the
struggling contents of the parcel, and a good-sized, healthy infant,
well nourished, well clad, flushing red in the opening paroxysm of a
big cry on waking, was disclosed to view.

"A little child!" cried Miss Matilda in transports.

"What a frightful din!" said Miss Stanley, putting her fingers in her
ears. "To think that anything so small should make so much noise! What
ever shall we do with it?"

"Give it some milk, of course; bathe it, put it to bed. That is
what they always do with babies, I believe. Cook! get hot water at
once--and a large basin--and some milk--and--and--everything else that
is necessary. Quick! you others, and help her," she added, observing
the lingering steps of the maids, yawning now, and utterly disgusted
and wishing themselves back in bed, though a moment ago they had been
all wakefulness and interest.

It was curious to see how Matilda took the lead, now that her
sympathies were appealed to, while her practical sister, the mistress
and manager of the establishment, stood aside bewildered and confused.
She took the child in her arms and walked up and down, dandling it,
singing, and purring forth floods of baby talk, till the little one
stopped short in the middle of its lament to look at her, and
ascertain who this voluble person might be. Then, finding she could
make out nothing by her scrutiny, she prepared to resume with
augmented vigour, but Matilda would not have it. She sat down with the
doubter in her lap, bent over it, and made a bower for it with her
curls, crooning more volubly than ever, and tickling it with the
ringlet points, till the astonished infant grew confused, forgot that
it had intended to scream, and presently was smiling and crowing and
pulling the ringlets like bell-ropes.

Miss Matilda's ringlets were perhaps her most noticeable
feature--long, waving, twining masses of falling hair; giving her face
a pensive and romantic expression which has long ceased to be
fashionable, though it once was greatly admired, as was also the
poetry of Moore and Mrs. Hemans about the same time. In her youth, and
that was not so many years before, an officer in Montreal--it was
there the family lived then--had told her she looked like a muse, and
not long after he was ordered away to the Crimean war. Her own father
was ordered there too, but he said he owed a higher duty to his
motherless daughters than to leave them, and he thought he owed it to
his own ease not to let himself be sent ranging over Asia Minor,
Syria, and Egypt, in search of transport mules and donkeys, and so he
left the Service. He lingered in Montreal after the troops were
withdrawn; but soon that community of busy traders grew insupportable
in the absence of his fellow-loungers; he bought a farm near Saint
Euphrase, and there established himself, carrying his daughters with
him. He had already, as he told them, sacrificed his prospects of
advancement to their need of a protector, and now it was for them to
yield the social comforts of town life, bury themselves in the
country, and with grateful assiduity make his home as comfortable, and
his rheumatism as little intolerable as possible. After the fall of
Sebastopol the troops returned to Canada, and "General" Stanley was
able from time to time to relieve the monotony of his retirement with
the society of old friends; but the officer who had called Matilda a
muse never re-appeared, and no other gentleman since had said
anything half as nice. So Matilda cherished her ringlets and her
recollections--not very painful ones--and lived tranquilly on, with no
event to mark the flight of years, till the death of her father, which
took place some three or four years before the time I write of. After
that the sisters lived on as before, only more retiredly still. Miss
Penelope developed considerable business faculty in managing their
affairs, and overlooking Jean Bruneau, the factotum on the farm; and
dropped some of the feminine helplessnesses of her youth, though she
was still as much in terror of thunder, burglars, fire and snakes as
ever. Matilda having less need to exert her powers, continued the same
ringletted damsel she had always been. She busied herself with her
flowers and her birds, a little music not too difficult or new, a
little poetry and fiction, and a good deal of kindness when the need
for it was made plain to her. Her youth was passing or had passed into
middle life, but the current of her days had been so even that she had
not observed their flight. She had had no cares, and her heart slept
peacefully, for it had never been awakened. Captain Lorrimer may have
called her a muse, and Major Hopkins may have looked in her eyes, but
these things had never been carried to a disturbing length; just
enough to afford a little pensive self-consciousness, when she read of
deserted maids, or Love's young dream, and make her fancy that she
understood it all, and ejaculate that "it was so true." Then she would
look up and shake her curls with a quite comfortable sigh, and her
prosaic sister would watch her admiringly, and wonder where the men's
eyes could have been that she was still unmarried. Perhaps it was well
for her that she was so. Perhaps it would be well, at least it would
be comfortable, for many of us if our hearts would sleep through
life, and leave digestion to do its work in peace. How sweet and
enjoyable to lead untroubled lives, free from the ecstasies alike of
joy and woe, as do the flowers, as did this "muse"--this "grass of
Parnassus"--basking in summer suns and drinking dews, without ambition
or desire or strife.

But this is wandering. We left Miss Penelope desirous of getting to
bed; and Miss Matilda engrossed in her new plaything.

"I shall certainly keep it, Penelope! The very thing of all others I
should have liked best to have."

"Is not that rather an odd thing to say?"

"That I am charmed to have found a living doll?--I think it is quite
natural. _You_ are too sensible, of course, but for other people--for
me--it seems the most natural thing in the world. You know I always
doted on dolls, especially when they could wink their eyes. This one
can do that, and lots of other things besides. It will be delightful.
And to think how I have been mourning the loss of my lame canary these
last few days! You would not believe the tears I have shed every time
I have looked at the empty cage, and how lonely I have felt; and here,
in the middle of the night, just when we are going to bed, arrives
this little pet! Is it not opportune? If I had awakened in the night,
I might have thought of poor dicky, and then I should certainly have
cried. Now I shall take this sweet little image with me, and if I
awake, it will be to think how I can make up to it the loss of its
mother; though indeed the mother who could find it in her breast to
cast her off in this disgraceful way can be no loss."



                             CHAPTER VII.

                         THE DESOLATE MOTHER.


It was three months later. The Selbys' shrubbery had changed from the
vigorous greens of summer to russet, paling here into sulphur yellow,
there deepening to orange and crimson which outshone the less vivid
tints of the early chrysanthemums. The autumn flowers, nipped by early
frosts, lay black and ragged on their erewhile brilliant beds. The sun
was warm and the air sweet with the breath of leaves falling softly in
their brightness, one by one, peaceful, beautiful, fragrant, like the
ending of a well-spent life.

In the parlour the windows were open; and a fire burning in the grate
to temper the air in shady corners proclaimed the fall of the year.

Stretched on a sofa, thin and wan, with hair pushed back--hair which
three months before had been soft and glossy and of the loveliest
brown, now dry, rusty, grizzled, banded with locks of grey, and mixed
all through with threads of shining white--her fingers shrunk and
bloodless, clasping a baby's bells and coral, and her dim eyes wet
with silent tears, lay the desolate mother mourning for her child. She
had been very ill, and bodily weakness, unable to suffer more, was the
one consoler as yet to mitigate her grief, by benumbing the capacity
for pain. Her George had mingled tears with hers, tears drawn as much
by the sight of what she suffered as by its cause. He had tended and
watched her with more than a woman's tenderness, but after all he was
a man, with his day's work to perform whatever might befall, and the
doing it supported him by bringing distraction and thereby rest. True,
it jarred miserably on the overwrought nerves to keep up the routine
of music lessons, to watch the "fingering" of inattentive pupils and
have his senses pierced by their frequent discords; but it was easier
to find endurance for these physical ills than for the heartstrain he
had felt at home. The patience and fatigue of the outdoor toil brought
the calmness he needed so much in the presence of his stricken wife.

For her there was no break or respite to the rush of black and
miserable thought. If the child had died she could have borne it. It
would have been grief, but grief of the common kind, and for which
there is consolation in the pious certainties of another life. It
would have been agony to part with her treasure, but agony with a
hope. In time she would have learned to bear the bereavement with
sorrowful patience and resignation--to think of her blossom snatched
away, rather as one transplanted and someday to be recovered in
brighter bloom, growing in immortal gardens; just as she looked on the
other--brother of the lost one, born since her loss, and which had
never seen the light. Oh, if she could but have thought of the two as
with each other! But even the consolations of faith were denied her.
The child had vanished utterly, and she was left to wonder and surmise
whither it might have been carried. Surely if it had died there would
have been found some sign or vestige, and then her mother's heart
would have been at rest. She would have wept and there would have been
an end. She could have rested her thoughts on the armies of the Holy
Innocents, and in her dreams a cherub face would have come to her with
shining wings, whispering hope and consolation. But even this saddened
peace was not for her. She would not entertain the thought that her
baby was dead; it was away somewhere--where, oh where?--and perhaps it
needed her, and was crying for her, and she could not come to it; and
a restlessness seized her, a low dull fever of impotent longing, and
kept her pacing the chamber to and fro, till exhaustion numbed her
senses and she fell asleep. But oh, what sleep! It was more miserable
than waking. Fancy gave shape to her yearnings, and dreams revived
their wretchedness into more tangible shape. The baby's cry, as if in
pain, rang through them all, and sometimes she could see the arms
stretched out to her, but never the face. A shadow undefined came in
between, and bore her darling away into darkness. Sometimes her feet
would be heavy as lead, and scarcely could she drag herself after,
while the shadow fled out of sight, and the cries came to her
fitfully, and far away, borne on the wind. At other times she would be
able to pursue, but that brought little comfort. The shadow still fled
before her, and ah, by what dreary ways! Sometimes it would be dark,
and yet she could see them speeding on before; across a raging river,
where the waters tossed and tumbled about her, lifting her from her
feet, or overwhelming her in their depths; but still she hurried on
and clambered up the slippery rocks on the further shore, and up and
up where there was no foothold, and she felt herself falling through
depths and catching and clinging with her hands and drawing herself
upward and up and up among curling mists to dreary deserts far above
the clouds. And still the shadow sped on before, and she pursued
across the sandy wastes, where horrid reptiles hissed at her as she
went by, and clouds of dust arose and came between, obscuring and
impeding the way. And still she would pursue and seem to be
overtaking. The child's cry would become quite close, and she would
see the very dimples at the finger joints and the streaming hair, and
she would stretch her hand to lay it on the form, and her hand would
pass through it like a shadow and she would awake. It was all a dream,
her darling was gone from her and she was desolate.

On the day of the theft she had driven about the town in search of her
husband, sometimes hearing of him but never meeting; and then she had
gone to the police station herself, breathless with anxiety and haste,
and there they were so mechanical and full of formalities, and heard
her story with so aggravating an official calm that it wellnigh drove
her mad. The person she addressed on entering was sweltering on two
chairs, without coat or collar, and his boots pulled off. Before he
would listen to a lady he felt it due to himself to rectify his
appearance. The boots were tight and could not be quickly stepped
into; the coat was on a nail in another part of the office. Then the
book of complaints had to be found, and a pen, and so many flies had
drowned themselves in the ink that the stand must be refilled, and
Mary stood wringing her hands and swaying back and forth in agonized
impatience.

"Calm yourself, madame," he said, while he dipped in the ink his pen,
and then removed first a dead fly from the point, and next a hair. "I
shall now take down your complaints," and he bent over his book,
extending his left elbow and bending his head towards it, with the
eyes squinting across the page he was about to illustrate with his
caligraphy, while with an expert turn of the wrist he made a
preliminary flourish in waiting for this member of the public to begin
stating her grievance; "but stay one moment, madame; I believe I have
mislaid my glasses;" and he started up and laid his hand upon each of
his pockets in turn. "No! I believe I must have lef dem in ze ozer
desk beside ze journaux."

"Oh man! man!" cried Mary in desperation, "while you are putting off
time my baby is being carried further and further away; and we know
not where she may be or what they are doing to her!"

"Be tranquillisée madame! Ze occurrence--is of frequent--how you
say?--occurrence. Zere are tree--five!" and he held up his fingers to
show the number--"infants vich make disappearance all ze days, and zey
all turn zemselves up again before to-morrow. Ze leetle tings march in
ze streets voisines, and know not ze retour. Ze police arrest, and
bring here; and voilà!--l'enfant perdu ees on return to ze famille."
At this point the spectacles were discovered, and the speaker returned
to his book.

"My baby _could_ not run away. She cannot walk yet." Mary answered.
"My baby has been carried off, and you are wasting precious time in
talk."

"Ze publique ees so déraisonnable! And me. Behold me!"--and he spread
out all his fingers and shrugged his shoulders in philosophic and
forbearing remonstrance--"I attend madame's informations."

The "informations" were given, recorded and commented on, and the slow
machinery of justice set in motion at last, and the distracted mother
turned away to the grey nunnery where foundlings are received and
cared for. There she left a description of her child, and begged that
if any one resembling hers were presented, she might at once be
informed. Then she went home. What to her was the thunder storm and
lashing rain? A wilder tempest of doubt raged in her own aching heart.
Her husband had arrived before her, and in tears on his shoulder she
found the first momentary easement since her trouble began. The world
was so hard and callous, so busy, every one with his own affairs;
people accepted her desolation so calmly, told her not to fret, that
the child would soon be found. She could not have believed the
atrocious selfishness of mankind if she had not seen it. The street
children, playing after the rain, were as gleeful as ever, without a
thought of her distress; losing their balls across the fence and
coming over after them--breaking in on her very inclosure, sacred to
miserable anxiety, as if nothing were the matter. Her own servants
were no better, they were going on with their cooking and their
housework just as usual. There was the dinner bell! Who could think of
dinner on a day like this? And yet George--and she could not but own
that George had proper feeling, and was as anxious and distressed as a
_man_ well could be--even George seemed to have bodily appetite. He
was not cannibal enough to dine, but he did eat a slice of beef, and
drink a tumbler of wine and water. It seemed incomprehensible to her,
somehow, that even the round heavens should revolve as usual. But they
did. It was growing dark just the same as if nothing had befallen her
baby, and the long still night was before her. There were hours and
hours to wait before another day would arise, with its possibilities
of news or restoration, and how was she to spend them? She could not
sit still, far less lie down. She wondered about the house hour after
hour, and three several times her husband took a cab to the police
head-quarters in vain. There was no news.

The morrow brought no change; but weariness stilled the restlessness
of her misery. She could not eat or drink or sleep, or even wander to
and fro; she could but wait, seated in the porch and watching the gate
for coming news--for news which did not come. The chief of police
appeared, and questioned Lisette and went again. Another day, and
Lisette was sent for to see Indians taken upon suspicion, and in the
evening she returned having identified one. But still there was no
news of the child. The squaw arrested declared she knew nothing of it,
had not taken it, had not been in the city that day.

And now Mary's strength gave way. She fainted, and when revived it was
found that she was dangerously ill; and through long weeks her life
trembled on the verge of dissolution, flickering and waning till it
seemed scarce possible the spark should not go out. And then, too weak
to suffer, she began to mend, and in the vacuity of utter exhaustion,
her mind obtained that rest which no doubt saved her reason, sparing
her the weary waitings on for news which never came. In her illness a
son was born--was born and died--but only in her convalescence did she
become aware of her loss. That was a grief, but it was grief of the
more ordinary kind, and one to which the Church's consolations
effectively minister. The little one's earthly sojourn was
accomplished; it needed her care no longer, and the hopes of religion
were a soothing balm to mingle with her tears. But the other?--She was
so sure the little daughter needed her still. Sleeping or waking her
heart yearned to be with her, and often in the night when she awoke,
the baby voice would be ringing in her ears, calling her to come. That
was a dry aching feverish unassuageable grief, on which ordinary
consolation had no power. It might have killed her with its gnawing
carking care, but for the gentler sorrow of the other loss, which
vented itself naturally in tears, and the tears relieved the
over-burdened heart, easing it and strengthening it for the stronger
grief. Then, too, there was George to share her sorrow, and sorrows
are less crushing when they are not borne alone. And there were
friends who came to see her and strove to console. Utterly futile as
was all they could say, their presence and their sympathy were
grateful. It is so desolate after awhile to have to bear our
wretchedness all alone. An ear in which to pour our complaints, an eye
to look pitifully on our pain, soothes and strengthens, if it cannot
mitigate the anguish. And Mary had these. Her nephew Ralph Herkimer
and his wife were, as the servants said, most attentive; and the
sympathy of the wife at least was very genuine, while Ralph's was
equally well expressed. And after all, till men become able to read
each other's souls--a state of things which even the best of us would
not relish--it is the expression which is efficacious or otherwise,
not the prompting spirit. Consider it, oh ye of the hard shell, who
plume yourselves on your good hearts and sweet natures! How many a
cocoanut has been left to rot, because the eaters could not penetrate
the husk!

Mary's sisters, too, when they heard of her desolation, had relented;
and found they must forgive her having married against their wish.
Being human, even if peculiar, they could not but be sorry, only they
had said so many things in their heat that each felt awkward about
proposing to the other to relax the estrangement so far as to call on
the offender. Public opinion, however decided the matter. Mary's
distress was perfectly well known to every one, and when the ladies of
their acquaintance began to inquire for their sister and to express
sympathy, it was even more "awkward" to acknowledge the estrangement
than to bring it to an end.

Circumstances were kind to them in their attempt to make friends, and
let them down very gently. When they called the first time their
sister was far too ill to see any one, which spared them the
"awkwardness" of a meeting. They called every day afterwards, and so
had their bulletin ready for inquiring friends, and also had their own
feelings modulated gradually to a gentler frame. By-and-by they were
admitted to the sickroom. Mary was too feeble to talk; she welcomed
them with a faint smile, to which the only possible answer on their
part was a kiss, a kiss of reconciliation as well as sympathy, all the
more reconciling in that no words were possible on either side, for so
soon as it was given the nurse was ready to usher them out again
without parley.

On the late October day we have mentioned Mary lay with her thin
fingers twined about the baby's plaything, and tears stealing from her
eyes. As each movement of her chest stirred the little bells, their
ringing thrilled her senses like a pain.

It was the far-away cry of a departed joy, reminding her of its loss.
And yet she clasped the bauble but the tighter for each new sting it
inflicted on her heart; it brought the vanished past a little nearer,
and she almost coveted the pain as a relief from the leaden desolation
under which she lay. So, when a wound begins to heal, one will touch
and trifle with it, reviving the smart as an easement from the weary
numbness of the congested tissues. She was absorbed in her sorrowful
musings and did not note the entrance of her sisters, till, in their
sabled gowns, coming between her and the light, they bent over her.
Susan kissed her on the forehead, and Judith's tightened lips
delivered a peck upon her mouth. Then she opened her eyes with a wan
smile, and faintly bade them welcome, endeavouring to raise herself
the while.

"Keep still, Mary," said Susan. "Do not attempt to move. You will get
strong all the sooner for taking care now."

"I think," said Judith, observing the child's coral in her hands,
which she was at the moment slipping away among her coverings, "you
should put away those things. They can do no good, and can only revive
distressing thoughts."

Mary sighed, and asked if they had walked.

"Give it to me, Mary!" persisted Judith the energetic, "and let me put
it away and lock it up."

"Oh, no!" said Mary, clasping it with both hands to her breast, and
smiling sorrowfully. "It comforts me."

"Very wrong! Foolishly injudicious in Mr. Selby to allow it," and Miss
Judith stood up with a jerk, as though she would take the obnoxious
article by force. "Susan----"

"Judith! Better let alone," her sister interrupted, attempting to draw
her back to her chair.

Judith flushed hotly. Like other zealous reformers of their
neighbours, she was irritably intolerant of advice to herself;
because, of course, she must be right--she always was. So are the
others. She turned upon her sister with a frown, and there might have
been words; but at that moment the click of the gate-latch sounded.
The gate opened, and a clergyman appeared--a young clergyman. Judith
admired clergymen, and we all admire youth, at least all who have lost
their own.

By the time the Reverend Dionysius Bunce entered the room. Miss
Judith's angry flush had cooled down, and her tightened lips had
relaxed into a smile of virgin sweetness. She had a taste for
clergymen, just as some other ladies have a taste for horses, and
some for cats. People talk of "pigeon-fanciers." Miss Judith was a
parson-fancier, that is, she fancied the parsons but she could not
keep them, as the pigeon-fanciers keep _their_ pets; they always flew
away to fresher fields. Mr. Bunce was curate of St. Wittikind's, the
church where Selby was organist and choirmaster. It was a place of
worship which Miss Judith's pietistical scruples would not allow her
to attend. The people there were given to singing harmoniously words
which she held should be said discordantly, and to other practices
equally to be regretted. St. Wittikind's, in fact, was "high," and she
never mentioned it without drawing a long breath, and shaking her head
sadly. Still, if her mind was controversial it was also feminine, and
the curate's trim, ecclesiastical uniform attracted her much. The
linen was so white, so tight, and so starchy, while that of the
married curate of her own St. Silas' was yellow, limp, and even
slovenly, like the services in which he assisted. No doubt it was
right, from her standpoint, that the service should be bald and
unattractive, and she had very decided views about vestments _in_
church, but in vesture _out_ of church, she had a woman's preference
for neatness, and if she could win this young man from his
unevangelical vagaries, would it not be like plucking a brand from the
burning? She had long known him by sight, as indeed, she knew all the
clergy, but hitherto he had been one of the black sheep in her eyes.
Now, when she met him in a room, he was so neat and seemed so young
and inexperienced, that her heart yearned towards him with a mother's
interest--no! not a mother's interest precisely, but an interest of
the adaptable kind, which may change into any other sort as occasion
dictates.

In Miss Susan's eyes the curate appeared uninteresting enough. She
thought him stubby, commonplace, and scarcely a gentleman, save that
to a good churchwoman like herself, his orders, like the Queen's
commission in the army, made his position unassailable. But then, Miss
Susan had no enthusiasm, and was disposed to let the brands burn, each
in its own fashion. She would have liked to go now, when she saw the
clergyman sit down beside Mary's sofa, and pull out his book, and had
risen with that intention, when Judith, clasping her black gloves and
smiling with grave sweetness, as one may smile at a christening, asked
if it was absolutely needful that they should go away. "For herself,"
she said, "there was no portion of our beautiful liturgy in which she
so much delighted as in those sweet and improving passages which occur
in the 'visitation of the sick,' and if Mr. Bunce did not object, she
would feel it a privilege to be permitted to remain."

Poor Mr. Bunce could only acquiesce, and go on with his function,
resigning the hope of whatever satisfaction he might otherwise have
found in its performance, and a good deal disturbed by Miss Judith's
sighs of extreme interest in one place, and the fervency of her
responses in another. Susan, too, perforce sat down again, wondering
internally at the queerness of her sister's taste. For herself, she
felt perfectly well, and it only depressed her to listen to the
curate's words. She looked out of the window where the sun was
shining, and could not but think that it would have been far more
cheerful to be walking down the street.

Having finished, Mr. Bunce would have liked to remain a little for a
quiet chat with Mrs. Selby; but Miss Judith sat still and seemed bent
on taking on herself the entire duty of conversing with him. It might
be well intended, he thought, to save her sister fatigue, but it was
not very interesting, so he quickly rose to leave. Judith did so at
the same time, and when he reached the gate, the reverend man
discovered that fate had condemned him to accompany the two ladies
along more than a mile of suburban street, where he saw no hope of
breaking away.



                            CHAPTER VIII.

                                RALPH.


It was with a sweet and respectful smile that Judith looked at the
curate, and left him to make the first observation. She would have
liked to look up to him; that being her natural mental attitude to men
of his cloth; but physically the thing was impracticable. She was not
notably a tall woman, but he was distinctly a short man; and though
too bulky to be called little, his figure justified Susan's mental
definition of him as "stumpy." He was her junior too, and his
countenance was not impressive. It was blond as regarded hair and
eyes, indefinite in feature, pasty in complexion; still, it was neatly
kept, and relieved from vacuity by that undoubting self-complacency
which comes to those privileged to reprove and exhort unchallenged,
for twenty minutes at a stretch.

Mr. Bunce waited, coughed, observed on the fineness of the weather,
and was silent. Miss Susan agreed with him in her mind, but having
nothing to say on the subject, said nothing, and it was left for
Judith to fan the verbal spark, and nurse it into a conversation. She
opened in dulcet tones, and with a respectful effusiveness, like the
carved nymphs round an old fountain, catching the wasting driblets in
their marble shells. She agreed that the weather was indeed extremely
pleasant, and counted up how many other fine days there had been that
week and the week before. But there had been a shower the week before
that, just when the people were leaving the missionary meeting, where
the good Bishop of Rara Tonga spoke so sweetly. Had Mr. Bunce been
there? No? Ah! then, he had indeed missed a treat. It had been most
instructive. The bishop told about a deacon who remembered having
eaten part of his grandmother, and about the octopus coming out of the
sea, to eat breadfruit on shore on moonlight nights,--perhaps it was
not breadfruit, by the way, it may have been something else; and
perhaps it was not an octopus; but at any rate it was some dreadful
creature, and it did something very curious, and it was all most
interesting; "and indeed, Mr. Bunce, you missed a treat."

Mr. Bunce said he found his parochial duty too heavy and too
engrossing to admit of desultory meeting-going.

"But the heathen! Mr. Bunce, if you take no interest in the octopus."

"We have heathens in Montreal, Miss Herkimer, as ignorant of good as
any South Sea Islander. They want to be taught, and some even to be
fed, for work is scarce this year, and winter coming on."

"Ah, yes!" answered Miss Judith, "it is sad to think of, and," she
added--with a twinge of conscience for what she was about, to say, for
she was of St. Silas, and set no great store by the church activities
of St. Wittikind, but then good manners and Christian charity require
one to stretch a point verbally sometimes--"You are doing much good in
St. Wittikind's, I understand. We in St. Silas are doing what we can
too. We distribute fifty thousand gospel leaflets every month, and
with--well, they must have the best results. So many benighted
Romanists have no other opportunity to get a glimpse of the truth; and
you know, Mr. Bunce, the truth _must_ prevail."

"No doubt. Miss Herkimer, it will, someday. In St. Wittikind's parish,
however, we find so many in physical want, and so many with no
religion at all, that our hands are full, and we do not attempt
controversy."

Miss Judith sighed softly, so as not to be observed. These were not
the views in vogue at St. Silas, and of course they were wrong; but
with her "yearning" towards this curate, who seemed meet for better
things, if he could be won, it seemed her duty to be winning. So she
suppressed her inclination to say something "sound," merely observing
that all souls were alike precious, and then added that she had heard
much of the zealous beneficence exercised at St. Wittikind's, and
"would he explain about those sisterhoods, of which people talked so
much."

This, to use an Americanism, "fetched" the curate--fetched him round,
as it were, to his own shopdoor, the pulpit, into which he at once
stepped, and held forth fluently and minutely, and at very great
length, while Judith listened with interest. Not so Susan, who found
the prelection both tedious and unnecessary. She paid what she thought
she could afford to the different charities recommended by her church,
whose business she considered it to see that its member's money was
well applied; and having paid, she took a receipt in full from her
conscience, and did not wish to hear any more about giving till
that day twelvemonths, when, if convenient, she would renew the
contribution. Every one, she said, had her own preference in
fancy-work and amusements; hers was Berlin wool--as indeed her
drawing-room showed, where every chair and ottoman was bedecked with
representations of impossible herbage in the crudest of colour and
design. Judith's fad was handing tracts to ragged French and Irish
men, an equally harmless exercise, though with less result to show,
seeing the recipients hardly waited till her back was turned before
lighting their pipes with them.

Susan's eyes strayed from one passer-by to the next, in search of
something to interest her more than the clerical monologue proceeding
at her side, and by-and-by she espied a gentleman being driven in the
direction from which she had come. An idea struck her; she hailed the
cab, which stopped before her, and the gentleman within looked out
inquiringly.

"Oh! Mr. Jordan," she said, "forgive my stopping you; but this was the
day that wretched woman who stole our little niece was to be tried,
and I know you have charge of Mr. Selby's interests in the matter. Is
the case decided? What have they done with her? Has she confessed?"

"She has been acquitted, ma'am. I am just now on my way to Mrs.
Selby's, who will no doubt be impatient to hear the result; though,
for myself, I have suspected for some time there was a mistake in
arresting her."

"Acquitted? But the nurse-girl swore positively--did she not?--that
that was the squaw who was at the house! And the ferry-boatmen
corroborated what she said."

"Yes. The man swore that a squaw with a bundle, which he suspected
might be a baby, crossed in the steamboat that afternoon, and he was
inclined to swear to the identity of the blanket the prisoner wore, on
account of its being torn at one corner. The girl Lisette was very
positive about both the blanket and the wearer, and I fear her being
so will materially prejudice any further attempts we may make, for the
priest swore to the squaw's having been in Caughnawaga all day, and he
produced the school roll of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart to show
that she had not only been there, but had taken the medal of honour
that day."

"Ah!" ejaculated Judith with emphasis, "what a system is Popery! So
insidious! So soul-destroying!--capable of any subterfuge. I wonder
you don't take out a warrant and have that convent searched."

Mr. Bunce opened his eyes, startled and shocked that one so much
interested in works of beneficence should have so little charity.

Mr. Jordan, who knew the lady better, sniffed impatiently but not
loud, as recognizing the ebullition to be constitutional and unworthy
of notice. "The worst of it is," he said, "the girl has sworn so
positively that it will weaken the value of her testimony when we
bring her up by-and-by to identify the real offender, if found. And we
have no other witness to produce. In my professional experience I have
always found that too much zeal is dangerous--far worse than too
little! How do _you_ find it, Mr. Bunce in _your_ profession? Zeal
without knowledge, eh?" and he glanced with a sly smile from Miss
Judy's face to the curate's.

The curate looked blankly before him. He was too slightly acquainted
with the ladies to feel warranted in poking fun at their
eccentricities; and he was too much of a cleric to welcome a layman's
jest on subjects pertaining to his cloth. It was well, he thought,
that the lady should have a zeal, whether wise or the reverse. The
trouble he had found had oftener been to kindle a zeal than to direct
it, and he doubted not but with judicious guidance this ardent lady
might be brought right--that is, to take views like his own of most
things.

The pause resulting from Mr. Jordan's wit and the curate's
unresponsiveness was broken by Miss Susan, who was growing restless.
Though no longer young, she retained some of the characteristics of
her departed youth, and had what, to misquote the high-heeled
dignitaries of literature, might be called "the modern spirit."
Had she been thirty years younger than the family bible showed
her to be she would assuredly have said that all men of the
professions--especially successful ones--were prigs, and most of them
bores into the bargain; and, as it was, she thought it. Foolish old
woman! Her weakness, in days of old had been for the red coats, and
though none of them had ever proposed, she was still loyal to her
ancient ideal. Her roving eye descried her nephew Ralph on the other
side of the way, and just as the pause incident to the curate's
silence became notable, she called aloud, "Ralph!" and waved her
parasol.

Ralph obeyed the signal, and joined the party on the curbstone, around
the cab door.

"Ah, Ralph!" cried Mr. Jordan. "Going to call on your aunt, I
daresay, and tell her the trial is over and that it is proved now we
have been on a wrong scent these last three months, and must begin all
over again from the beginning. Here, get in; we may as well go
together--or, better still, I will yield you up the cab. You can
explain it all, just as well as I could; it seems like a fresh
disappointment to the poor lady, and the news will come better from a
relative." Then, looking at his watch, "I have a meeting due in ten
minutes from now; I shall still be in time; so good-bye! and thanks."

"No--you--don't! Mr. Jordan," responded Ralph. "I will not deny that I
intended to call at Selby's; but, since _you_ are so far on your way,
just complete the trip. Take all the credit yourself and charge it in
your bill. I can't do that, you know, being only a broker."

Jordan looked disgusted, re-seated himself in his cab and drove away.
Susan repeated her expressions of regret at what she still looked on
as a miscarriage of justice; but Ralph replied:

"Not at all! No one who was present at the trial could have looked for
any other conclusion. We must just try again; but--now that old Jordan
is out of hearing, one may venture to say it--the whole case has been
mismanaged. Why did they not offer a reward at the first? Now, I fear,
it will be too late! The little circumstances which detectives are
able to piece together to so good a purpose are soon forgotten, and so
the clue is lost."

"Poor Mary!" said Susan, "my heart bleeds for her. It may turn out for
the best, perhaps, and remedy the iniquity of Gerald's preposterous
will, by keeping the money in his own family, but it is very sad. She
seems crushed. If her boy had been spared to her--but to lose them
both! It is turning her hair grey. She who used to be the flower of
our family!"

Judith's lips tightened at "flower of the family." Herself was that
interesting blossom she thought, but that was not what she said. On
the contrary she expressed herself with evangelical superiority to
such trifles.

"_I_ regard it as a dispensation, to wean her from earthly joys. It is
in love that, when we make ourselves idols, they are taken away.
Perhaps, too, it may be a judgment on her for marrying in defiance of
those who were older and wiser than herself. There are warnings in all
these mysterious happenings, and food for thought;" and she rolled her
eyes Sibyl-wise over Ralph to the curate.

There was an irreverent gleam in Ralph's eyes, and he turned to watch
a passing dray till his inclination to laugh went off. The curate was
regarding her with a puzzled expression. He was a well-meaning young
man, who wished both to be and to do good; but who, not being any
wiser than his neighbours, notwithstanding the higher ground on which,
in right of his orders, he believed himself to stand, was often in
doubt both as to what he ought to feel and to say. He was very sure it
would never have occurred to himself to use the language he had
listened to, and he began to wonder if he had stumbled on some
advancedly serious person, whose acquaintance would be improving,
or--or something else. There seemed a fine devotional tone in her
opening words, especially enunciated as they were, with a full and
rounded unction. They were not very novel, perhaps; he seemed to have
heard the like before, and more than once; but then, what that is true
is also new?--as was said, or something not unlike it in sound, by a
late prime minister. Her next proposition rather startled him,
carrying him back to his college days, and reminding him of the
stealing of Jove's thunderbolts; but there was a third-like the third
course beloved by another prime minister, reconciling contradictions
and committing to nothing--"mysterious happenings, food for thought."
That was it! He would think it over; and there was balm in this,
for had she not been listening to him, as they came along, as to
another Gamaliel, while he described the charitable schemes of St.
Wittikind's? and would it not be painful to think otherwise than well
of so responsive a lady?

Confused by all these thoughts the curate did not speak; and Susan,
thinking it high time to break up the meeting, reminded Judith that
their dressmaker lived hard by, and now would be a good opportunity to
order their winter gowns. Judith said goodbye regretfully and made the
curate promise to come very soon and tell her more about St.
Wittikind's, and the two gentlemen walked townwards together.

"You seem to know my aunt well," said Ralph. "I am agreeably
surprised. I fancied she was too grimly Low Church to speak to any
clergyman not of St. Silas or St. Zebedee. I hope your acquaintance
will broaden her views, which are rather extreme, and something of a
nuisance in the family. However, Aunt Judy means well. We all allow
that. The trouble is that she will never allow that we mean well, when
we go counter to her advice; and then she treats us to a word in
season, which is apt to be very highly seasoned with brimstone and
what not."

There was a tone of levity and indifference to his cloth in this talk
which jarred on Mr. Bunce. It was evident that Ralph looked on him as
just like a secular person, or perhaps as less shrewd, and this was
not as he liked. His associations were mostly with the docile of the
other sex, and the more reverential of his own, and the company of
this robust worldling was so unpleasantly bracing that they soon
parted, and Ralph was alone when he reached his office.

"A man waiting to see you, sir."

"What sort of man?"

"An Indian. The same I think who came for your guns last year, when
you went camping out."

"Tell him I've gone out."

"He saw you come in through the glass door."

"Say I'm engaged."

"He says he will wait till you are at leisure."

"Bid him come in, then," and presently Paul stood before his employer,
looking in his eyes but saying nothing.

"Well, Paul?" said Ralph, without looking up from the letter he
appeared to be writing, "deer have been seen near the Lake of Two
Mountains, eh? Too busy! Shall not be able to leave town this Fall.
Hard on a man--is it not? Wish I was an Indian and could do as I
pleased."

"Ouff," grunted Paul, with an impatient glance, and that slight twitch
of the eyebrows equivalent to a Frenchman's shrug, which says so
plainly "Why all these idle words?" Then, producing a paper from his
bosom he handed it to Ralph.

"Ze notaire gave dis! Want pay--for Thérèse--Judge court defend."

"Ah!" said Ralph, taking the paper and glancing over it. "Your bill of
costs. Defending that squaw--eh? You want me to look it over?--Oh yes!
quite right. O.K![1] all correct! Pay it at once, Paul, and finish the
business."

"Ze dollars?" answered Paul. "You give! I pay."

"It's all right, Paul! The account, I mean. But you must pay your own
bills, you know--defend your own family. She's your squaw, not mine."

Paul shot a fiery glance from under his gathered brows. "Zis my squaw
sister! Done for you!--O.K? Squaw get dollars for fetch back papoose.
Easy fetch back."

"What do you mean, Paul? What will be so easy for you to fetch back?"
said Ralph wheeling round in his chair.

"Fetch papoose. Got no dollars for pay notaire."

"Man alive! Did I not pay you as I promised?"

"Fifty dollars! O.K! Squaw take papoose for pay. Notaire want
sixty-five. Squaw bring back papoose. Get two hundred dollars. Pay
notaire. O.K.!"

"Come now, Paul!" cried Ralph, not over well pleased, yet with a
business man's pleasure in a bit of smartness, even when it told
against himself. "You've euchred me, I allow it. But don't draw the
string too tight in case it breaks. What do you want?"

"Two hundred dollars," said Paul.

"But the bill of costs is only sixty-five."

"How long live squaw and papoose on hundred dollars?"

"You leave thirty-five out of the reckoning. However, we will suppose
that goes to you for your smartness. Well! I'm busy, Paul, I'll give
you your two hundred dollars at once to get you away. Not, mind you,
that I couldn't fight you off, if I cared to; but I have other things
to think of."

"And for Fidèle and the papoose?"

"That must suffice them for the present. When it is all spent--we will
see--" and so Ralph got rid of his importunate visitor for the
present, though not without misgiving.



                             CHAPTER IX.

                          AT SAINT EUPHRASE.


Saint Euphrase is a village of the usual Lower Canada type, with its
big high-shouldered stone church, made stately in front by square
towers capped with tin belfries, on which the light twinkles as the
bell tinkles to call the people to mass. The village, like a brood of
chickens, nestles around, a cluster of little low-browed wooden
houses, with pillared porches and verandahs, the poorer ones roofed
with weather-stained shingles, the prosperous with red plates or tin;
pierced here and there with little casements, shining yellow in the
afternoon sun, like inquisitive eyes prying into their neighbours'
enclosures. A few tall poplars--sign of a French-speaking
settlement--rise here and there above the roofs, and around are fields
divided by picturesquely ill-kept fences, in whose corners the wild
plum or the slippery elm entwined with brambles form belts of growth
which might be hedges, grateful to the eye after the trim bald farming
of the West. A broad river runs by at about a stone-cast's distance,
but the place used to be too small to have traffic by water; and save
to the boatman who got his living by ferrying people across the river,
was but a desert barrier to the villagers, cutting them off from the
West, whither Transatlantic prosperity ever tends--lonely waters down
which a few rafts of timber passed in the Spring, and peopled only by
the duck and teal frequenting the reedy shores of an island down
stream, a bank raised by opposing currents and gathered out of the
flood by a thicket of ash and willow. The fields sloping upwards on
the other three sides, end in bush, which would cover the general
level of the country but for the farms, with their houses set by the
roadsides and their narrow strips of land running for a mile or more
back into the distance. Of late a good many country houses have been
built by Montrealers desiring something less suburban than their own
island affords. There is a railway, and a few modern shops; and
gaily-dressed townspeople may be seen driving fast horses or playing
lawn tennis in the cool of the afternoon; but these are recent
innovations on the old time when M. le Curé in his long skirts walked
down the street alone among the bowing _habitants_, smiling as he went
and bestowing his blessing.

"General" Stanley was the earliest outsider to build himself a home in
the sequestered neighbourhood, and not many as yet had followed his
example, at the time we speak of. If it had been dull in his lifetime,
his daughters found it doubly so after his death, and but for the
horrors of moving they would have migrated back to the city. As we
grow older it becomes ever more painful to root up formed habits,
while new ones are less and less able to take their place; and Miss
Stanley, at least, acknowledged that she had reached the age when
change grows irksome. Therefore, while they amused themselves by
talking of removal, and each Spring promised themselves the comforts
of town life for the succeeding Winter, the years slid by and they
found themselves still where they were. The years too made havoc among
their circle of friends, and made the city seem a less desirable
residence, just as the week works changes in our gardens, scarce
noticeable from day to day, but so complete before the month is out.
People die and marry and move away, and the ladies' shopping
expeditions to Montreal grew briefer and less frequent as time went
on, till from lasting over weeks and ending in tender partings from
regretful friends, they dwindled into excursions accomplished between
a morning and an afternoon. Soon, too, there came into the
neighbourhood a sprinkling of English-speaking settlers, which,
productive in the end of life and spirit, was like yeast turbid and
disturbing at first, when dropped into that sweet but stagnant
reservoir of old-world manners; and soon there was on the outskirts of
the village a Protestant mission, a meek little clap-boarded
structure, without spire or bell, but sufficient for the needs of its
few worshippers, and enough to rouse the watchfulnesss of the curé and
the jealous wrath of his flock. However, the parson proved to be a
peace-loving man, and the zeal which at first threatened to become
flagrant, simmered down for want of provocation, into armed
neutrality, if not into more neighbourly feelings. These changes
brought the ladies at least the feeling of a less complete isolation
than they had experienced at first, and eventually, as the grade of
new-comers improved, a little society; while the earlier polemical
excitement passed them by, they being persons content to say their own
prayers in their own fashion, and to leave their neighbours to do
likewise.


"Oh, Tookey!" said Miss Matilda, when the sisters met at breakfast on
the morning after the arrival of the baby, "the little darling is
simply delightful! When I took her upstairs Smithers most obligingly
offered to keep her through the night; but it looked so pretty lying
fast asleep in my bed with nothing on but a large pocket handkerchief,
that I really had not the heart to disturb it. We bathed it, you
know, and you cannot think what a dear, soft, plump little morsel it
looked in its bath; and it crowed--positively crowed and smiled to me
myself, for I do not think it minded Smithers much, though it was she
who did the bathing. I daresay her hands felt rough, you know, on
its tender little skin. We laid it in my bed and covered it with a
pocket-handkerchief--dear little morsel--while I went to look for
something small enough to dress it in. I thought of the clothes for my
immense wax doll I was so proud of once, and kept so long after I grew
up; but alas! I gave that to my godchild, and apparently every rag of
its wardrobe; I thought I might find a little shirt or a wrapper--I am
certain they would have been quite large enough for this one--but
Tilly Martindale seems to have got them every one. Is it not a pity?
But, as I was saying, we laid baby in the bed while I was looking for
the things, and she just dropped asleep the moment Smithers laid her
down. So I just sent Smithers off to bed, and lay down beside the dear
little duck, and it has nestled in my arms all night, as soft as a
ball of silk; and oh, Tookey! I don't think I ever slept as pleasantly
before; and in the morning it woke me by stroking my cheeks with its
soft little hands. Did you notice its hands? I never saw anything so
lovely, with a crease round the wrist, a dimple at each knuckle, and
pink little finger-tips like rosebuds."

"But what are we to do with the infant?" asked the practical Penelope.

"Do? The first thing to do is to give it some bread and milk! But I
daresay Smither's has done that already. I should have liked to do it
myself but was afraid to try. I remember so well how I hurt my
kitten's mouth, trying to feed it with a teaspoon, and I would'nt make
this little beauty cry for all the world. But I know what I will do. I
have some cambric for pocket-handkerchiefs upstairs, I shall make
it a chemise! Smithers will know how big to make it, or rather how
little--the dear wee love!"

"Matilda, dearest, let us be sensible. The child must have a _parent_,
and if _we_ can become attached to it so warmly in a few hours what
must the feelings of that parent be to be deprived of her? Ought we
not to endeavour to return the child?"

"If the parents valued it so highly why did they leave it here,
without asking leave or saying a word? No! They forsook it! I shall
always say so. Besides, how can we give it back, even if we would try?
How find the discreditable parents? And if we could, what a life we
might be giving up the little lamb to!"

"It does not seem right, our keeping it."

"And whom, pray, would you give it up to? Would you give it to the
village priest?--to be carried to some convent and brought up for a
nun?--fasting, and scrubbing all her life long for the sisterhood?
Just look at the tiny hands, like little flowers, and the plump little
person. Work and fasting, indeed! Not if _I_ can help it."

"But there is the parson. Naturally we would give it in charge to our
own church."

"And how much better would that be? What could an old bachelor do, but
make his housekeeper wrap it in a shawl, and carry it to the
Protestant Orphan Home? A very good place you know--I have been
through it--quite proper for children such as it is meant for--rough
little squalling things, quite tough and hardy. They are cared for,
and taught and brought up to service. A most useful institution and I
shall double my subscription, but it would be no home for _our_ little
fairy. Why, it is a blossom! It would wither away in that rough place
within a week. And better so, than the desecration of rearing it
there! No, no! I shall keep it for my own, if it is not claimed. Of
course if we knew its parents, and they were proper people, it would
be wrong not to let them know; but even then I would pay them money to
let me adopt it. And if they wanted to keep the child, why did they
bring it here? It seems nonsense to think about the parents at all."

"I do not like the idea of keeping a stray baby whom nobody knows
anything about, Tilly! We should ask advice, at any rate. I think I
had better go over to Montreal and ask Mr. Jordan what we should do."

"And have yourself laughed at for a fussy old maid, saddled with a
baby! You will make us a laughing stock to all our friends. Just think
how ridiculous it sounds! Besides, what can he advise? I know quite
well what he will say, and can save you your consultation fee. He will
ask you to 'be seated' in his clients' chair--_I_ know, for I visited
him several times about my steamboat shares, and it was always the
same performance--then he lies back in his own chair and takes his
foot upon his knee. After that he takes off his spectacles, wipes them
with his handkerchief and puts them on again, rests his elbows on the
chair arms, clears his voice and begins, ticking off the items of
advice with the fingers of one hand upon those of the other. He makes
it very clear, and it sounds most wise; but when you go away and think
it over, you will find he has told you just what you might have told
yourself, if you had only thought calmly and sensibly about it. There
is no witchcraft in Mr. Jordan's advice. Perhaps that is why people
say he is a sound lawyer. Remember, too, he is apt to divulge the
secrets of her dear friends to his wife. She spoke to _me_ about my
steamboat shares, I remember; and congratulated me upon selling at the
right time. You know how dearly she loves a good story, and if your
dilemma should strike her in an absurd light, she will soon have it
known all over the town. Our dear Amelia has a very long tongue."

"I only want to do what is right," said Penelope, a little dismayed at
the suggestion, "right to ourselves, and right to this baby. I feel
for the little waif, Tilly, though I do not become rapturous like
you."

"As to the baby, then, just think. It seems unlikely that it would
have been laid on our verandah if its friends had wanted to keep it at
home. Even if we could return it to them we could not make them keep
it, or use it kindly; and there seem to be only three other ways of
disposing of it--the Protestant Orphans' Home, the Grey Nunnery, or to
adopt it ourselves. Now, suppose we were to do the last--I do not
propose it, mind; but, after there seems no more likelihood of its
being claimed, if we should--would it be nice to have our _protegée_
spoken of as a foundling, and nobody's child? Would it not tell
against her when she grew up, and we took her into society with us, as
of course we should if we reared her ourselves?"

"But, my dear, the child has not been twelve hours in the house yet,
and to hear you, one would say you are already dreaming of bringing it
up! I have known you all your life, Tilly, and I never heard you
discuss at such length before; but what you say seems reasonable
enough. It would _not_ be nice to have Amelia making fun of our
perplexities, and yet there is no one else we can go to, whose advice
we could trust in like Mr. Jordan's. For yourself, now, what do you
think we should do?"

"I think we should do nothing! Nobody can blame us for doing that. It
is no affair of ours, and if only we are kind to the little one till a
claimant appears, or till we see more plainly what we should do, we
can get nothing but praise and thanks for our charity."

To do nothing is always an inviting course, in times of perplexity,
especially when it is the interest of another rather than our own
which is most deeply involved; we cannot then be blamed for doing the
wrong thing, even if we have failed to do the right one. Time, too,
has a way of winding up affairs left open, which is often more
satisfactory than the half-wise efforts of meddlesome mortals. Miss
Stanley accepted the invitation to inaction and let things take their
course.

That day was a royal one for Miss Matilda. Instead of loitering
between her flowers and her sofa, fanning herself and dropping asleep,
a new interest had come into her life; and such a pretty one! It crept
and rolled and tumbled about on the matting at her feet; while she sat
at her worktable in the bay window with scissors and cambric, sewing
strange garments, and pricking her fingers a good deal, for the needle
was an unfamiliar implement in her hands; but she went bravely on with
unflagging industry, stopping only to get fresh bread and milk, when
she imagined the little one must be hungry, or to find a pillow when
it wanted to sleep.

The newspapers came in the afternoon as usual, but she had no leisure
to waste on them; the plaything at her feet was far too engrossing.
Even Penelope only glanced over the column of "Born," "Died" and
"Married"--there is no "Divorced" in a Canadian paper, as in American
ones--in search of any known name, and then sat down to wonder at
Matilda's new-born energy and admire the baby.

These ladies were not very thorough-going newspaper readers, although
they lived in the country and saw few visitors. The two city
newspapers they received each day were always torn open, the marriages
and deaths glanced at, and sometimes the fashions, if it was their
time for getting new bonnets; but politics bewildered them, and the
local gossip had ceased to be interesting, it was so long since they
had lived in town. Their bookseller sent them magazines and boxes of
books, their home was comfortable, and life moved on smoothly, like a
door on well-oiled hinges. They forgot to crave for outside interests
and excitements, and the energies which in town life might have found
scope in arranging or disarranging their neighbours' concerns, took
gentler exercise over roses, geraniums, chickens, bees, or a rheumatic
habitant, especially if he spoke prettily and was respectful.

It was only as might be expected, then, that nothing in the newspapers
relating to their little waif ever met their eyes. The parson--their
only visiting neighbour at that time--was away for his summer
vacation; the friends who sometimes came to them from Montreal were at
the seaside, so there was no one to talk with, and they heard nothing;
which indeed was as they liked it best. All through the remainder
of that Summer and Golden Fall, these two women, not very young,
revelled in a new-found joy--the sudden awakening within them of the
holy instinct of motherhood--the double living, living in another
life besides their own, the joyous wondering progressive life of
childhood--re-entering anew a world still dew-bright in the morning
freshness which it loses as life wears on; and their hearts grew purer
and their thoughts simpler, in this unlooked for return to the Eden of
long ago.

Before two months had passed they had come to recognize their little
visitor as a member of the household and one of the family--"of our
own family, sister," Matilda said one day. "Let us make her a Stanley
and call her our niece--Muriel Stanley. What do you say?"

"But how can we, with neither brother nor sister, call her that?" said
Penelope the business-minded and literal. "Think of the stories we
should have to make up; and if anybody asked questions we should have
to make some more, and there would be discrepancies, and the most
dreadful things might be said."

"And pray," cried Matilda the impetuous, "who will presume to ask
questions when we look them in the eye and calmly state the--the fact
that she is our brother's child, and he is dead? Some people are not
very polite, but I never met any one who would dare to disbelieve a
lady to her face; and if we give no particulars and change the subject
at once, there will be no opportunity to ask questions, If we call it
a niece there will be no more to say, and as soon as it is generally
known it will interest nobody. They are all too full of their own
affairs."

"But, Tilly, we never had a brother."

"But, Tookey dear, who knows that? Papa married in this country, and
you were born here, but you know he was sent to Bermuda soon after,
and we remained there till you and I were grown. Nobody in Montreal
knows even that mamma was Canadian. Nobody asks anything about the
connections of the military or commissariat. There they are. The
Service is a voucher for their respectability. It is taken for granted
that they are English with no relations in this country, so nobody
troubles to inquire."

"But our mother's relations, Tilly, in Upper Canada; what are we to
say to _them?_"

"We have been thirteen years in Canada without meeting them. Mamma had
only a sister--Aunt Bunce--who died before we left Bermuda; if her
family live in Upper Canada still, they cannot know much about us. It
is so long since poor mamma died--before Aunt Bunce, even--so very
long that I do not care to count the years; it makes me feel so old."

"Don't talk of being old, child! You have not aged one bit. Think of
me! But why need we bother with telling fibs about the child? Fibs
always end in bother; I have been taught that all my life."

"Do you want us to be laughed at? Are you willing to confess yourself
an old maid--a Protestant grey nun--adopting babies left on your
doorstep? I am not, if you are; though I suppose I _am_ older to-day
than I was five years ago," and she shook out her ringlets with a
defiant toss. "Just let it become generally known that we keep an
upper-class foundling asylum, and we shall soon get plenty of pupils!
They will bring them from Vermont, I daresay, or up from Quebec."

"Tush! Tilly."

"It is true. Only how should we dispose of them after they were
brought up? Other institutions train them for service; now I do not
think we could do that, so what would become of them? And what will
become of our own little pet if we let her be looked on as a stray,
and different from other children? Think of the slights she will be
exposed to; and the unkind remarks, especially as she is sure to be
pretty. It would be cruelty to bring her up with ourselves, and yet
deprive her of the chance of marrying. Think of her struggles as a
lonely woman to support herself after we are gone. Our gentle nurture
would prove a curse to her and not a blessing."

"But we could not let a gentleman marry a nameless girl under a false
impression."

"Certainly not. We would explain all to any gentleman who had a right
to know; and if he _was_ a gentleman, I do not think it would prevent
the marriage; but that is quite different from proclaiming a poor
girl's misfortune."

"Think the matter over, Penelope, and I am sure you will come to see
it as I do. Meanwhile there is no hurry. We need not converse to
visitors about our _protégée_, she is too little yet to be shown to
company, and as the weather is growing cold, I propose we arrange that
room at the top of the house as a nursery, and establish her there
with Smithers. She will be out of the way both of draughts and idle
curiosity."



                              CHAPTER X.

                           TEN YEARS LATER.


Ten years later. What a startlingly abrupt transition for the onlooker
from the "then" to the "now!" And yet how intimately the two are
connected, and how utterly the one is dependent on the other! Two
cities on the same broad river, the upper spreading along the stream,
set in a fruitful plain, the key to fertile regions farther up,
gathering the produce and shipping it down the current; the other
perched upon cliffs and overhanging shores, and twice each day lapped
by the turning tide from the distant sea whither everything is
tending. Yet to the voyager the transition is gradual enough, and
smooth, and natural. But for the retreating objects along the shore he
would not recognize that he was moving, save when descending a rapid,
or running on a sandbank--the events, marriages, deaths, failures, and
successes of his onward way. It is the same river still, in part the
very drops of water which tumbled over Niagara long ago, passed
through Ontario, and down the rapids to Montreal, and onward through
the broads and the deeps till it meets tide-water at Quebec, and still
with all the gathered tributes it hurries on, a river still for scores
and scores of miles between ever widening banks, on to the misty
everlasting sea, where the voyager disappears for ever from the view.

Not that my friends have moved their dwelling-place down stream to
Quebec, but there is a sadness in the thought of the slowly passing
years which makes one moralize and grow metaphoric before he is aware.
No, the people of this history are still geographically where they
were, standing on their own ground, while the big tumultuous river
rushes by--but the figure which their permanence suggests is even a
sadder one, that of the fabled maidens drawing water in their sieves,
water which will not be drawn or held, but keeps oozing through and
slipping away, just as the stream runs by and will not wait; for life
is but a sorry comedy with its stayless passing. Yet which of us would
stop it if we could, even at its best? It always seems as if a sweeter
drop were somewhere up the stream, and even if the present could be
held, we would let it pass to taste the fancied sweeter yet to come.

In ten years the American war had ended and specie payments were
resumed. In ten years Ralph Herkimer had made a fortune and a
"position"--the terms are interchangeable in the moneyed world, and
elsewhere too. No one was better liked or more respected as a good
fellow, a clear-headed business man, and a high-souled altogether
superior person. Even General Considine--who had been taken prisoner
during the war, exchanged, "paroled," withdrawn from the game like the
slaughtered pawn from a chess board--had quite forgotten having
grandly dropped his acquaintance in Natchez and the reasons for so
doing; and, on taking up his abode in Montreal, was very pleased to
renew intimacy with his young friend of _ante bellum_ times. Ralph was
happy to respond. If there ever had been an imputation on his courage,
it seemed well to support the only one who could remember, in
forgetting it; though really, as he told himself, there was nothing to
be ashamed of. He had merely shown disapproval of a bloodthirsty and
barbarous custom in a state of society already passed away; and no one
who was anybody would have the bad taste to be amused at anecdotes
told at the expense of a man so well off as himself, and who
entertained so liberally. Still, since it is wiser to humour fools
than to fight them, he would be civil to this broken-down fireater,
heap coals of fire on his head like a good Christian, and make him
thoroughly ashamed of his rudeness in former years.

Considine, too, was no very cumbrous _protégé_. He was better supplied
with money than many of his compatriots at that time, having inherited
some property in New York, which the same events which had ruined his
estate in the South had rendered four times as valuable as before, in
the paper money of the period. His deportment exhibited a fair share
of the manly pathos becoming a fallen hero, and made him an
interesting guest to the dwellers in a city at peace. It is true he
wore red studs in his shirt front, as his way of mounting his
country's colours--red and white--and would defiantly puff out his
chest so decorated whenever a Yankee uniform came in sight. But
something must be permitted to the bruised susceptibilities of the
warrior overcome, and at least he did not travesty the conspiracies of
exiled Poles and old time Jacobites by joining in absurd schemes to
capture towns on the lakes, or infect the capital with yellow fever;
in which crack-brained escapades the excitement for the plotters lay
not so much in their design, as in communicating it to one another
with infinite stage mystery of whisperings, signs, passwords, and
secret information. In those days a party of refugees on one of the
St. Lawrence steamboats would make the voyage as interesting to their
fellow-passengers as a pantomime, with their dark glances, stealings
aside, mysterious beckonings to each other, and hasty whispers,
followed by backward glances in search of spies. There may have been
real plots, but they were carried on by practical persons who showed
no sign, and it was rumour of these which impressed the rest, and
filled them with emulation. They imagined they were being watched and
reported on at Washington, though what interest their vagaries could
have for Mr. Lincoln's government it is hard to imagine. Much,
however, should be excused to people deprived by war of their fortunes
and their homes, often with but slender means of support, and no
occupation, driven to spend eight hours of their day in euchre
playing, and the other eight in unending discussions of the war news.
To such, conspiracy must have seemed the most delightful of pastimes,
even if barren of practical results.

When Considine approached Ralph with a most respectable sheaf of
"greenbacks" under his arm, and appealed to him as an old friend for
advice as to their conversion into specie, and their subsequent
employment, Ralph was genial, and by-and-by showed him the way to the
gold-room, where good Canadians, following the lead of New York, sold
each other stacks of foreign currency which the sellers could not
deliver and the buyers had no wish to receive. The telegraph clerk
hung up the quotations from New York at certain hours, the "operators"
took note and paid their losses--no! "held settlements" is the proper
expression, for this was _business_. Respectable gentlemen, church
members, and heads of families, brushed their hats each morning and
walked down to their offices, gloved and caned, the very pink of
respectability, and from thence went on "'Change," where the money
would change hands with astounding celerity--all in the way of
"business."

"_Faites votre jeu, Messieurs! Le jeu est fait_"? Not at all! This was
in Montreal not at Monte Carlo. Strictly "business," and thoroughly
respectable. True, many men lost, but some won. And what would you
have? How could it be otherwise? There are but a certain number of
gold pieces in the world; and, if, after an "operation," my bag
contains more, it is certain that my neighbour's must hold less.
Currency, bullion, stocks, shares, grain, cotton, what are any of them
but the tokens to win and lose money upon? But the thing is done "upon
'Change," and 'Change, like church, is a good word, and everything
belonging to it is respectable. If it were round a green-cloth table
now, how different it would be! though the outcome might be the same.
Respectability cannot tolerate the green cloth. And yet, to an
all-seeing eye, there may be less amiss when a man's money falls upon
the _black_ and the _red_. At least the play at Monte Carlo is "on the
square;" there are no misquotations or false telegrams, bogus
prospectuses, lying reports, collusive understandings, and traps for
the unwary, such as have been heard of at times in the places of
better repute.

Ralph Herkimer made a great deal of money; Considine made some; and
by-and-by, as American finance returned to a normal position, other
fields of enterprise were needed as the possibilities of gambling in
gold and greenbacks grew less; and then Considine's American
connections became a valuable introduction for Ralph to several "good
things." There were estates whose owners, stripped of all their other
property, and still encumbered by their debts, could not wring a
subsistence from the devastated acres, and were willing to part with
them for a trifle; but no one would buy--no one at hand, that is, who
had opportunity to know about the war-ravaged fields and the
intractable labourers. But at a distance, in a land of peace, where a
good title and a veracious statement of the acreage and the yielding
capacity were the data--where, in fact, a pencil and a piece of paper
were the means for judging the promise of the venture--how different
it all was. Here was a country where snows and frosts were scarcely
known, or, so it was said, where the cattle could range without
shelter all through the year, where the gardens were planted with figs
and pomegranates, and pigs fattened in the orchards on peaches too
plentiful to repay the gathering. There were minerals too, every
variety of riches, gold, coal, copper, hidden in the ground, and only
awaiting the capital and skill to dig them up; and forests of pine,
now vastly enhanced in value by the Chicago fire, waiting to be cut
down and converted into lumber if only foreign enterprise would
undertake the task. What could be better calculated to stir the
imagination of people accustomed to contend for three long months of
the year with the fiercest severities of winter, and to wring fixed
and moderate profits by patient industry from a soil which still was
five or ten times the price of these fields of endless summer? The
fevers, malaria, bad water, and general backwardness did not show on
the map, and a dense silence kept them from the knowledge of
investors.

Ralph and his friend being well-to-do, their statements and
recommendations were implicitly accepted; and, indeed, the statements
in themselves were not untruthful; it was in the counter-balancing
facts, which were left unstated, that those who afterwards considered
themselves their dupes, found the limitation and disillusion of their
hopes, which teach men in the end that Fortune is as likely to find
them out while labouring at home, as to be found by them without
exertion and experience, in distant places. But that was the buyers'
concern--knowledge which came to them later and by degrees, Ralph and
his friend had completed their share of the transaction and pocketed
their commission when the sale was made; what followed had for them no
interest.

They made many such sales, pocketing large commissions--the larger,
indeed, the worse the property they disposed of--vast tracts in some
cases, containing untold wealth in minerals and forests, where the
buyers sunk fortunes in endeavouring to bring the riches within reach;
and at length, having exhausted their resources, had to subside into
the ranks of the ruined people around them, and wait patiently for a
generation, till the march of time should bring within reach of their
children the sums they had placed out of reach for themselves. There
were smaller farms, too, where sturdy yeomen with their blooming
children went to make rich more quickly; but somehow few appeared to
thrive in those distant migrations. Their livestock was apt to die;
too little rain, or too much, would destroy their crops, and their own
health would fail; and in a year or two they would find their way back
to Canada, with an enlarged experience but a shrunken purse; while of
the children, some would be left behind in the foreign churchyard, and
the rest, yellow and gaunt, bore small resemblance to the bright-eyed
youngsters they had been before.

In a few years the trade in southern homesteads died out, Canadian
enterprise laid down her telescope and interested herself with things
nearer home. Science, ransacking her own soil, had come on hid
treasure of many kinds, gold, copper, iron, phosphates, and plumbago,
and showed where, instead of sending her savings abroad, she might
sink them at home--her own savings and those of many a sanguine
stranger. On every side Ralph saw opportunities of money-making, and
he was ready to use them; but now his operations, he found, must be on
another footing than before. Hitherto he had been a financier; now,
his neighbours recognized him as a capitalist. The change of standing
was gratifying, but it had its dangers and its drawbacks.

Finance has been described as the art of transferring money from one
pocket to another--in a Stock Exchange sense, be it understood, not an
Old Bailey one--and the financiers are the artists who perform the
feat. Money is a volatile and also an adhesive substance--matter in a
state of unstable equilibrium, which must not be disturbed or changes
will ensue--wherefore, in the process of transferring, some of it is
certain to be spilled, and that the artist may pick up if he can; it
is his perquisite. A good deal too is apt to stick to the artist's
fingers--perquisites again--and hence the profit of handling other
people's money. If it were one's own already, whence would come the
profit? A man can scarcely gain by paying perquisites to himself;
though, to be sure, he may obviate the necessity of paying them to any
one else. But there cannot be a doubt that the financier escapes much
embarrassment when he is not a capitalist. See, for example, with what
calm unflinching pluck a "general manager" can carry on war with a
rival railway! The next half-yearly dividend may be sacrificed in the
contest, but he does not falter, he goes bravely on. _He_ is not a
shareholder; it makes no matter to _him_. To seek a parallel in the
political world capitalists and financiers stand to one another as
kings to their ministers. When things go well the minister does the
work, the king has the profit and glory; but when they miscarry,
though the minister did the mischief, it is the king who loses his
crown; the minister merely withdraws into privacy, and lives
comfortably in retirement on the emoluments of former office. Yet who,
if he could, would not be a king, to be trembled before and
worshipped? and after all, the successful revolutions are not
numerous.

Ralph recognized the new danger in his path, and regretted a little,
at times, when he found he must let a profitable opportunity go by,
merely because it was one which only an impecunious promoter durst
undertake; but he had his compensations. Like the man who becomes a
king, he got well grovelled to, and he liked it. He could _influence_,
too, if the after responsibilities of "promoting" were too onerous to
be undertaken. The use by other men of his name, unauthorizedly, as a
heavy holder of their stocks, was worth money; and, as long as he
"unloaded" in time, perfectly safe. He did not now flutter about
'Change, scattering reports and picking up news; he sat in his office,
and was waited on by those who sought his countenance in their schemes
and wished to learn its price.

Only one disappointment as yet had befallen him. He wished to become
president of a leading bank, and he knew so many of the directors that
he made sure of gaining his point. Unfortunately the directors knew
him as well, and deemed it advisable to choose some one else; but then
of course it was the general body of shareholders who must bear the
blame. The ballot leaves so many things in doubt, and covers up so
much about which there can be no doubt at all. His friends, the
directors, called on him immediately the election was over--the
traitors being probably the first to hurry in--and expressed the most
cordial regret and condolence; and Ralph was too wise not to accept
the profuse explanations with gracious condescension. Their hastening
to explain was a tribute, at any rate, to his weight, and showed that
they feared him; and as one after another he smiled them out, he
promised himself to let them feel yet that their fears had not been
groundless. He was not, therefore, in his most debonair mood, when, on
being informed by a new clerk that a rough-looking man had been
waiting some time, he permitted him to be introduced.

"Paul?"

"----day, sir."

"It seems only the other day since you were here last."

"Six months."

"How many six months do you make in a year?

"Two."

"Hm--I am not so sure of that. Seems to me you have managed to pack
three into this last year. However--Here, Stinson!" he called to the
clerk appointed to wait without and attend his private behests, while
he scribbled a cheque. "Ask the cashier to cash that. Quick!" he added
as he raised his eyes and saw the stolid figure of his visitor
standing before him, a statue in copper-coloured flesh, motionless and
unregarding, unimpressed by his grandeur or the trembling
assiduousness of his clerk; an embodiment of still impassible waiting,
like the image carved on the granite door-post of an Egyptian temple.
Paul did not even glance about him, he simply stood, and with
unwinking eye gazed into space, inscrutible and indifferent to all
around.

Ralph threw himself back in his chair, fidgetted impatiently, and
coughed and snorted. So impressive is that which cannot be gauged or
looked into, even if it contain nothing. This was the instrument, too,
and the reminder of a crime, who stood before him; a crime of so long
ago, and which yet, so long as the Indian lives may come to light--may
even be remedied, and leave him unprofited by the deed, as well as
disgraced by its discovery. With wonder he asked himself how he could
have ventured to do what he had done, the chances of failure being
so many, the consequences of detection so ruinous, that to think of
them even now sent a cold thrill through him. Since it was done,
however--and he felt no remorse at the deed--he was content enough to
enjoy the fruits, although his successes since had made him in a
measure independent of them; still his uncle's millions when they
came--came to his boy that is, but he ere then would be his
partner--would, added to his own, gain him a position above rivalry;
and even now in expectancy they enhanced his importance.

Stinson returned with the proceeds of the cheque, and Ralph counted
over two hundred dollars to hand to Paul. His fingers lingered
lovingly over the bits of paper, touching each dollar with a dainty
caress as though he loved it and was sad to part.

It is strange how a rich man hates to part with money, while the poor
are free and even lavish so far as their little "pile" will go; but
perhaps we only invert the statement of what is a truism, that they
who dislike to part with their money keep it and grow rich, while they
who spend it lavishly grow poor. At any rate, Ralph lingered while he
counted the two hundred dollars, and the thought occurred to him "how
many times more would this have to be done?" Eight years still before
Gerald's money became payable! Sixteen more half-yearly payments of
two hundred dollars each! Thirty-two hundred dollars in all, besides
interest! It seemed monstrous. Could nothing be done? Could he not be
made to take a round sum down, and be bound to keep silence for ever?
No! That had been tried already, and so soon as the money was spent he
came back for more, saying he must live, and if Ralph would not pay,
assuredly the bereaved parents would. And so it had come about that
Paul was grown an annuitant, and came to claim his little income every
six months.

"Here you are, Paul," growled Ralph, handing over the money with a
sigh; and Paul with a gleam in his eye laid hands upon the roll of
bills which vanished from view forthwith.

"Say, Paul," speaking in a more insinuating voice, "would it not suit
you better to get a good big lump of money once for all, than to be
coming here so often drawing it by dribs and drabs? If I were to give
you a thousand dollars now, all at once, see how many things you could
do with it! You could open a tavern up the Ottawa and make your
fortune right away, and you would save all the money you spend for
drink besides."

"Ah!" said Paul, his face lighting up at the inviting picture, and
bending forward with extended palm to receive the largess at once.

"I con-sent!"

"Consent to what?"

"Take ze money."

"Of course you will, my fine fellow; I know that. And after you have
got rid of it all you will come back to me for more."

"Promise to come no more."

"Of course you do! But you will come all the same. The promise don't
count after the money is spent. I have not forgot last time."

Paul smiled like a man who receives a compliment. Veracity was not his
point of honour. Rather, it was smartness; and to have "done" this
rich and masterful white man seemed an achievement to be proud of. He
stroked his beardless cheeks with a simper of gratified vanity, and
fairly laughed at last, so tickled was he by the recollection of his
cleverness.

"No! my fine fellow, you don't come it over me again like that!--no
use supposing it. But I'll tell you what I _will_ do, for I like you,
you see, Paul; though I know you're a rascal. I have been thinking
that if that child were to die it would be bad for you. You could not
try it on with me any more by threatening to carry the kid home to its
people, and so your pension would come to an end, and you'd have to go
to work. How would you like that, Paul, you idle dog, after all these
years? So I have been thinking that if that were to happen--the kid's
death, you know--and you could bring me some proof, I would give you a
lump sum and have done with you."

"If the papoose die?"

"Yes."

"You give thousand dollars?--dollars down?"

"Down on the nail, if you bring proof."

"How make sure?"

"You will tell me how it all happened, and I shall know how to verify
the fact."

"No, no! Make _me_ sure. Thousand dollars."

"Ha! I see. You want some assurance that I will pay what I say? Don't
see what more assurance I can give than to say so, or what more you
should want. Have I not kept my word with you before?"

"Ouff"--and Paul plunged into thought where he stood, while Ralph,
impatient to be rid of him, collected his papers and locked them in
his desk, rose, and took his hat and gloves, as if about to go home.

This brought Paul's reflections to a point. He turned to Ralph with a
grin and a grunt, and held out his hand.

"Thousand dollars!" he said with another grunt; and when Ralph,
supposing it a fashion of leave-taking, laid some of his fingers
rather gingerly on the extended palm, he caught and shook them
eagerly, saying:

"Pay down! Pay down! Papoose dead."

Ralph drew back.

"Dead! When? Where? Tell me all about it."

"Dead at Caughnawaga."

"How long ago?"

"Ten year--Day 'twas took. Come, see, if you will. _Au-dessous du
plancher_ at my _cabane_--Thousand dollars!" and he held out his hand
again.

"Ten years ago! And you have been drawing money from me for that
child's support all this time? And never told!"

Paul looked gratified, and drew himself up like modest genius when at
length its merit is brought to light. Then he chuckled and moved his
fingers as if to poke Ralph in the ribs. The idea of Ralph's having
been so completely fooled was too delicious.

"But how could it have happened? You cannot mean that you--murdered
the child?"

"Ouff," grunted Paul, from whose face the grin was fading. His sly
escapade appeared not to be appreciated as it deserved. He placed his
fingers on his throat now, and let his tongue protrude, to describe
the process of strangulation.

Ralph drew back in horror. It is one thing to entertain the idea of a
crime hypothetically, and even to incite to the deed. The mind busies
itself in contemplating the results, and the act appears but a
circumstance, a necessary one perhaps, but one on which it is
unnecessary to dwell. It is another thing to confront the deed after
it has been done, and can no longer be overlooked, when it has become
a realized infamy, withering and dwindling the profits and results
into worthless Dead Sea fruit. The bloodhound will pursue its prey for
days together, eager to pull him down and bury its fangs in his flesh,
but if in the heat of the chase it should encounter blood, there is an
end, the scent is lost, the hunt ended. And so was Ralph staggered at
what he heard. This child's life had stood in his way, and he had
striven to set it aside. But to think that it had been murdered, and
that his was the finger which touched the spring and set the murderous
machine in motion! No! He _would_ not think it. It was horrible. The
instrument, the over-zealous instrument which had done too much, must
shoulder the responsibility of his own deed; and, for himself, he
would no longer compromise his respectability by having dealings with
such a ruffian, now that it had become quite safe to break with him.
The blood of the little innocent seemed crying out of the ground for
vengeance, and at least he would wash his hands of the murderer, and
not a cent of blood-money should the homicide receive from him. A
virtuous glow diffused itself through Ralph's pulses as these thoughts
passed through his mind in a space far shorter than it takes to write
or read them; indeed there had been little more than the ordinary
conversational pause between Paul's last grunt of assent and
pantomimic signs, and Ralph's reply as he now looked him squarely in
the face with a frown of the severest virtue, and a demeanour of
dignified rebuke which an ignorant onlooker might have hoped would not
be lost on the poor untaught son of the wilderness.

"And you have been drawing money from me for that child's support all
these years!" He grew indignant as he thought how he had been imposed
upon; and Paul, quenched the moment before, and astonished at his
demeanour, began to pluck up heart again, and the dawn of a smile at
his own cleverness began to re-appear on his wooden visage; but it
faded again as Ralph proceeded:

"Do you know that what you have been accusing yourself of is a hanging
offence? A cruel, cowardly murder of a helpless infant? But I will not
be made accessory after the fact! I am done with you, Paul!--Go!--Do
you hear me? Git!"

Paul looked in his face amazed. What had he meant then when he
promised him money to bring news of the child's death? He was about to
speak, but Ralph stopped him before, in his stupefaction, he could
find words.

"Go! I say. And never let me see you again. Or----! You can guess
yourself what will happen."

Confused, crestfallen and crushed, Paul withdrew. A new view of the
inscrutable ways of the great white man had been given him. He could
only draw a great breath in his helplessness and go his way. The white
folks were too much for him, that was the one idea which penetrated
his darkened mind. They would make use of him when they wanted him,
and then cast him aside; but for the future he promised himself to
keep out of their way.

Ralph coughed and drew on his gloves, not ill-pleased, at the last, at
the turn which affairs had taken, and hurried off to catch the
afternoon train for St. Euphrase, where his family were spending the
summer at a smart new villa which he had built a year or two before.



                             CHAPTER XI.

                         MAHOMET AND KADIJAH.


Ralph Herkimer reached the station as the train was about to start. M.
Rouget was in the act of assisting his wife and daughter into the
parlour car, and Ralph sprang in after him just as the train moved
from the platform. M. Rouget owned the seigniory of La Hache, on the
outskirts of St. Euphrase, an outlying fragment of which Ralph had
purchased and built upon, hoping that with the other products of the
soil there would spring up an intimacy with the Rouget family,
and thereby an entrance to that French circle which so few
English-speaking Canadians ever penetrate. Not that that circle is
more wealthy, or of necessity more cultured than others on the great
American continent; but language, religion, and customs make it less
accessible and more exclusive, and therefore, like other things
difficult, both desirable and distinguished. A certain prescriptive
precedence, too, naturally attaches to the first comers everywhere, if
only they are strong enough to enforce it; and it must be remembered
that these Lower Canada seigniors represent the earliest settlers, and
as a body are the only approach to a landed aristocracy in North
America. North America, it is true, is the chosen home of democracy
and equality; but democratic equality--what is it? Does it not mean,
my brother, that you are on no pretext whatever to claim any sort of
betterness over _me_, while _I_, if I can secure distinction or
superiority am to be protected in the enjoyment of my acquisition; for
is it not a free and a law-abiding country that we live in? Witness
the army of the decorated in democratic France! or the shoals of
colonels, generals, and judges in the United States. Such is
democracy. _You_ must have nothing which I have not, but _I_ may take
whatever I can lay my hands on; and you, sir, are to bow down to me
for having it. It is the autocrat's crown cut up in slices, and placed
on the head of every one self-asserting enough to wear his fraction.

Ralph had made money--secured a substantial hunch of the bread of
subsistence, and now he was minded to butter it with all the social
distinctions and advantages he could attain to. M. Rouget passed up
the car before him, preceded by madame and the demoiselle, his
daughter. These ladies had not called upon Ralph's wife on her coming
to reside in the neighbourhood; but then Martha, as he told himself,
though a worthy creature, and one who had made him an excellent wife
in his day of small things, was scarcely equal to the promotion which
had overtaken her. She was undeniably diffident and undistinguished;
perhaps even dowdy, he added with a sigh, as the fresh crisp dresses
of the French ladies, befringed, bebugled, and "relieved" with
streamers of lace and ribbon, swam on in front of him. He would claim
his neighbour's acquaintance, he thought, who doubtless would
introduce him to his family; and then he doubted not he should make
himself so pleasant that the ladies would re-consider their previous
reserve and call on Martha forthwith. Already he saw himself at La
Hache, invited to meet Monseigneur the Archbishop and the Honourable
the Minister of Drainage and Irrigation, whom after that, if he were
but civil, he should feel bound to support at future elections, though
hitherto he had voted _rouge_.

So quick is thought, all this and more had flashed through his mind,
illustrated with _vignettes_ of gracious smiling ladies and
gesticulating Frenchmen--the prismatic glintings of a snob's beatific
vision--and he had not yet reached the middle of the car. M. Rouget
was walking on before. Another step and he would overtake him. Already
his hand was raised to touch the seignior's arm, when, hsh!--the prod
of a parasol point dexterously planted in the small of his back made
him start, exclaim, stop, and turn round.

In the corner of a sofa he had passed, a wizened little woman,
somewhat dusty and tumbled was smiling, to him from under the frizzes
of her false front, wide-mouthedly smiling, till every gold pin in her
best set of teeth shone in the slanting sunbeams of the afternoon. She
held out a clawlike hand in a cotton glove, by way of welcome, making
room on the sofa beside her, and dropping the parasol point, as the
wild Indian lays down his tomahawk in sign of amity.

"Judy!" said Ralph in some disgust; but while he spoke he saw the
Rouget party seat themselves with some friends, and recognized that
the opportunity for his little _coup_ was past, so he recovered
himself and dropped into the place so effusively offered.

"And how come _you_ to be here, ma'am? The general car does not seem
over-crowded. If the treasurer of the diocesan fund were to see you
travelling in parlour cars, he would doubt the need of that
augmentation we have been petitioning for."

"It would be just like him if he did. He is mean enough for anything
in the way of prying into the private affairs of the rural clergy. I
wonder how he would like it himself? Still, there _are_ a few whose
goings on he might inquire into more closely. But he has favourites. I
wish Synod would make a change."

"But they will say _you_ are a favourite if you travel in this
regardlessly extravagant way."

"Let them, if they dare! But there is no fear of that. They cannot but
know that on the five hundred dollars of stipend they allow Mr. Bunce,
a clergyman's family cannot travel at all, except on foot; and even
that takes more shoe leather than they can afford. They understand
perfectly well, that, but for my little income, Mr. Bunce could not
have afforded to accept the parish of St. Euphrase at all--a fact
which is no credit to our church. And I think, Ralph, it would have
been more respectful to Mr. Bunce, and kinder to me, if you had not
alluded to our pecuniary circumstances. We cannot all be brokers, you
must remember."

"Beg pardon, Judy. No offence. And you remind me that I have not yet
inquired after the health of my respected uncle," he added with an
impertinent laugh. "I hope he is well."

Ralph's acquisition of an uncle on his Aunt Judith's marriage was
rather an ancient ground of amusement by this time, for the marriage
had taken place years before; but the idea of his maiden aunt created
a wife, and the cleric, his junior, transformed into his uncle, was a
perennial joke, from which time and familiarity could not rub the
point. His other uncle, Gerald, had been one to make a nephew quail;
and that this mild, shaven, unwealthy, and, so far, youthful parson
should have stepped into the redoubtable title, was inexhaustibly
droll. It is notable how long the same quip and jest will serve to
tickle the busy man engrossed in material interests; but in this case
there was the excuse that the Bunces really were an oddly-assorted
pair. A stranger could not but have inquired how they had come to
marry each other--she, so mature, he, with his drab-coloured hair and
round smooth cheeks. "Cherubical," his bride had called the cheeks to
her bridesmaid in a moment of enthusiasm and confidence; but they were
too loose and pasty to deserve the title, or if not, the cherub must
have been out of health--cloyed with ambrosia perhaps, or too much
nectar, in the Elysian Fields.

Judith herself had rejuvenated, or brightened, perhaps, since we saw
her first, with hair and clothing severely plain, and a look of
reproving superiority to all things pleasant. She was an old young
woman in those days, and now she was a young old one. Then, leanness
and the tight-drawn skin prevented the crows' feet round the eyes from
being strongly marked, and the low-toned colouring harmonized in its
way with the grizzling of the hair; now, with some gain of adipose
tissue, and the relaxed tension incident to a mind relieved from the
imaginary reproach of spinsterhood, the lines and creases showed quite
clearly, like ripple marks on the sand left by the ebbing waves of
time. The hair, too, with its faded browns sympathizing with the
greyness of the flesh tints was changed; for now the lady shone in a
new capillary outfit, and seemingly, when buying it, she had chosen to
revert to the livelier colouring of her youth. The "front," "bang,"
"fringe," or whatever she may have called it, was of a cheerful
gingerbread hue, which quenched any lingering lustre of the eye, or
aspiration toward pinkness in the cheek, and gave her somewhat the
look of a mummy, which, after ages wasted in darkness, comes forth
again to taste the happiness of life, and the warmth of the upper
world.

The love tale of these two had no doubt been as thrilling an idyl to
themselves as that of any pair of nightingales in all Arcadia, but it
appeared rather a drab-coloured romance, or, better, no romance at
all, to their friends, who opened their eyes in blank amaze when the
project of marriage was announced, and vowed the strangely-assorted
couple had lost their wits. Judith, the severely Protestant virgin of
St. Silas, to the High Church--the very high--curate of St.
Wittikind's! It seemed incredible. It was true that for some time she
had visited a good deal among the poor of St. Wittikind's parish,
frequented its schools, guilds and sisterhoods, where things were
conducted not precisely as the good people of St. Silas thought best;
but still that was "Church work," and as she continued to distribute
tracts as copiously as ever in the Catholic neighbourhood selected by
the St. Silas' ladies as their experimental farm of controversy, they
had agreed to regard the vagary as only showing great breadth of view,
and a largely comprehensive charity, which they hoped would lead to
reciprocity, and bring some darkling wanderer from the other pen to
their own better-lighted fold.

The reality of the case was far otherwise. Miss Judith had a leisure
and energy ravenous of occupation, and which would not be filled up,
and appeased with fancy-work, and dispensing printed leaves to French
people who could not understand what she said. These are pleasing
occupations, but they grow monotonous after a time. She had tried
improving her mind, too, a good work, but it postulates a mind capable
of being improved by printed matter, and the minds of many who have
done the world's work, and done it well, have not been of that kind.
Miss Judith's mind was practical rather than contemplative, and her
studies did not go great lengths, while nature had blessed her with a
sustaining self-content. When her book wearied her she laid it down
and sought some other occupation--somebody else to improve, when her
own mind had had enough of it. Her sister Susan declined her offices,
knowing the teacher too well to set much store by the lessons, and
therefore she had to carry her instructions farther afield.

Such is the sad lot of spinsterhood in modern life, when woman misses
her natural vocation of house-mother, and fortune exempts her from the
need to earn her living. The instincts and traits which society for
its own entertainment encouraged and cultivated in youth lose their
power to please when bloom and sprightliness have vanished. Then the
love of applause and excitement so attractive in the youthful beauty
turn like famished hounds on their forsaken mistress, and rend her own
heart when she can furnish them no other game. She has been taught to
think highly of herself, and to claim much, and she may have learned
the world and its lessons well, but the world has grown weary of her,
and goes its way in search of a fresher plaything. There is tragedy in
this of the unspoken kind, but it is so common, and it drags its
course so slowly--for people do not easily die of spinsterhood--that
we fail to note the restless gnawing of hearts and brains condemned to
inaction, and only laugh at the _bizarrerie_, when, growing
intolerable, it breaks out into lady-doctors of divinity, law, or
physic.

When Judith made the acquaintance of the Rev, Dionysius Bunce, it was
with something of the trepidation with which an explorer clambers up
the side of an unknown volcano. "Could he be a Jesuit in disguise, as
some people said?" she wondered, "or was he a well-meaning but
uninstructed person who had lost his way, and now unwittingly was
travelling the broad and flowery road, whose course is ever downward,
and which leads, we all know whither?" What an achievement it would be
could she lead back the wanderer, if indeed he were astray! Or if he
were, as she had been taught to think, a wolf in sheep's clothing,
what a privilege to unmask him and save true Protestantism from his
insidious wiles!

But there was a single-minded earnestness in this young man which
interested her from the first, and soon assured her he was no Jesuit;
and he was so strangely willing to listen, to discuss, and even to
admit that there might be much in her view of a question. This was new
to Judith, whose guides hitherto, knowing all about everything, had
tolerated no differences of opinion, and had shown her the path of
orthodoxy laid down with square and compass from which no one must
venture to diverge under pain of running up against some text of
Scripture, set like a curbstone by the wayside, to the peril of unwary
wheels meandering off the track. Dionysius was self-denying in his
charity, too. He would give his dinner to the poor any day, instead of
dining first and bestowing the leavings, as is more usual; and
self-denial is a virtue which enthusiastic women delight in.
Enthusiasm is catching, and when it has caught, it makes scattered
units run together and cohere like drops of quicksilver. Judith had
caught it from him as had the members of his guilds; and they worked
away with a happy feeling of earnestness which made things very
pleasant, and over-rode all misgivings as to whether the dance were
worth the candle, or at least as to the usefulness or wisdom of what
they were about.

Judith was drawn by the fervour of St. Wittikind's curate into
visiting his poor, and even decorating his sanctuary--a Low Church
lady actually embroidering crosses and polemical symbols!--and yet in
her new frame of mind it did not occur to her she had at first
discussed with disapproval the use of papistical emblems. He had
treated her view with every respect while differing from it, and then
had talked round the point to the other side, and shown the amiable
and pious feeling in which such things may be done when looked at the
other way, till Judith, won by his toleration, could not but be
tolerant too, and actually joined in the work.

It must have been this mixture of docility and independence which won
on Dionysius, and recalled the sacred feelings with which in his
boyhood he had regarded a venerable aunt and a saintly mother both
deceased. He was a young man of a pre-eminently earnest cast of mind,
which turned churchwards. He greatly admired and fain would have
copied the saints and heroes of early times. Had the Church of Canada
kept a wilderness for retiring into, like the Thebæid of antiquity, he
would have turned hermit; or had there been some real genuine pagans
within its confines he would have been a missionary; but the Indian of
the North-West, part horse-thief, part fur-trader, and altogether
indifferent, offers no opening to aspirants to the rank of martyr or
confessor; so he was forced to do like the rest, and stay at home.

He did what he could in St. Wittikind's, but it was discouraging work.
The men there were mostly wealthy, and all engrossed in business. They
could not be induced to attend either daily matins or evensong, and
though scrupulously polite when he approached them, were sure to have
an important appointment somewhere, and forced to hurry away. The
young ladies of course were ready, nay charmed, to attend matins or
anything else, provided the hour was reasonable and there had been no
ball overnight. Evensong he found unpopular with them, as interfering
with "home duties," to wit afternoon tea; but they were eager for
"Church work," at least in the shape of elaborate embroideries in gold
thread and ecclesiastical patterns. If Dionysius would have interested
himself in croquet or lawn tennis, or if he would have nourished a
taste for music of a form less severe than Gregorians, he would have
come to have influence; but the young man at that stage of his growth
was too single-minded to have any mistress but Religion; and Mrs.
Silvertongue, his rector's worldly-minded wife, was heard to compare
him to a shaggy young Baptist broke loose from the desert, when Judith
rushed to the rescue by declaring that he seemed to be a very sound
Churchman indeed, and everybody laughed at both the ladies.

As years went on, the intimacy grew closer. Judith found it delightful
to be busy and of importance--to be authorized to interfere with
people too poor to dare resent it; telling them what they must do,
scolding and physicking them as seemed best, and really being kind,
though in a provoking way; consulting with a clergyman, talking and
being listened to by a gentleman with interest and respect. It was so
very long ago since any gentleman had shown interest in her
conversation, or anything but weariness, and now this ordained pastor
sometimes even consulted her. It made her feel that she was not yet
all of the past, that there was something to live for still, and
afforded some of the old time satisfaction in being minded by one of
the stronger sex, mixed at once with the reverence she owed a
spiritual guide, and motherly interest in one so much her junior.

Dionysius, too, grew attached, though not precisely in the same way as
if she had been twenty years younger. He was so good a young man, and
so shy, that he failed, perhaps, to fill all the social uses of a
curate, and grew somewhat out of intimacy with the younger ladies of
his cure, who, though they saw him daily at matins, had learned not to
look for his presence at garden parties and afternoon teas. Judith
listened to him with so ardent an interest that he forgot his
diffidence and reserve in conversing with her, and grew even eloquent
at times, as he knew by the admiring reverence in her face; and then,
in the gratification of appreciated merit, he would forget the
disparity in their ages, and hail her as a sister spirit travelling
the same heavenward road with himself. And so they continued to fare
on together in amity and trust, the brother uttering words of wisdom,
the sister accepting them humbly, and ignorant that they were leading
her far from the truth according to St. Silas, where with her sister
on Sundays she still went to church; for Judith's theological mind was
of the emotional not the argumentative sort; though she loved to use
the party catch-words, and believed she set great store by them, they
conveyed to her no clearly defined ideas. Warmth was what she longed
for, and friendship, and these she drew most readily from the curate
of St. Wittikind.

The intimacy between the two might have gone on for ever unchanged,
but at length Dionysius fell ill, and then the crisis in their
friendship and their lives arrived. Judith called regularly at her
friend's lodging to inquire for his health. By-and-by she had messages
to carry him from his poor, she sat down by his bedside and conversed,
and he declared himself so much refreshed by her visit that it would
have been inhuman if she had not called again. She did call again, and
again; and by-and-by she fell into the way of bringing jellies and
little dainties to tempt the sick man's appetite. One day as he was
dining on a warm and greasy broth, misnamed beef tea, he laid it down
scarce tasted on her entrance, and with manifest disrelish pushed it
away. Judith peered and sniffed at the ungrateful preparation, and
pressed him to try her jelly instead. "I know how beef-tea should be
made, and I shall bring your landlady a supply, and then she will only
have to warm a little from time to time as you want it."

The next day Judith arrived, carrying upstairs with difficulty a large
stone jar in a basket. In the study, which was also the ante-chamber
to the sick-room, she encountered the landlady coming out. Mrs.
McQuirter looked her full in the face, flushing indignantly and eyeing
with a sniff and a toss of the head the jar which Judith was lifting
with difficulty to the table.

"Good morning, Mrs. McQuirter," said Judith in her most conciliatory
manner.

"Morning, miss," replied the other with a side-long glance which was
far from friendly.

"How do you think Mr. Bunce is to-day, Mrs. McQuirter?"

"Guess you're going in, miss, and will see for yourself; so there's no
good me telling you. You'd be sure to think you knew a deal better,"
and she sailed towards the door in her grandest style; then turning as
if an idea had struck her, and as if fearing that she had not already
been sufficiently provoking, she added:

"Say, miss! Is that sleigh as brought you and your basket still at the
door? We've a deal of old crockery here as don't belong to us, and
we'd be right glad to be rid on. Odd bowls, and plates, and chipped
jelly glasses as don't match our sets, and make me feel kind o' mean
when neighbours come in at dish-washing time with their 'Laws, Mrs.
McQuirter, now! and where in goodness did you ever pick up all them
cracked dishes?' If you're agreeable, I will just get 'em all together
and send them back by the carman before they get broke, for it 'ud
cost more than the valy of all the messes they brought here to replace
'em with new."

Judith felt indignant, and coloured deeply, but as to reply in kind
would have been to raise a dragon in the path to her friend's bedside,
she restrained herself, and merely answered: "By all means, Mrs.
McQuirter. Kindly help me to lift this jar out of the basket, and then
you can take it."

"And what may you be bringing here in your large crock, miss?" asked
the landlady contemptuously. It seemed so impossible to irritate this
old maid into the scolding match she thirsted for, that she was
growing to despise as well as detest her.

"This is some beef-tea--a most excellent form in which to give
nourishment to invalids like Mr. Bunce."

"Beef-tea, indeed! It's more like half-melted glue to look at. Ugh!"

"Quite natural in you to say so, Mrs. McQuirter. So few people know
what beef-tea really should be like. It is the strength of the stock,
which has jellied in cooling, that gives it the appearance you allude
to. If you will just warm a cupful in a saucepan as it is wanted,
without letting it boil, you will find it delicious. Try a little of
it yourself, I know you will like it."

"Not me! And do you know, miss, how many large knuckles of beef I have
boiled into tea in the last ten days? And scarce a drop has he let
pass his lips! All clean gone to waste. I don't hold with beef-tea for
Mr. Bunce no ways. He seems to hate it like pizen."

"I am not surprised at his having refused the decoction I saw sent up
to him yesterday," said Judith with a relish. It seemed that
notwithstanding her forbearance she was to have an innings, and she
meant to use it in truly Christian fashion; not to exult openly, but
to rub any blistering truth which came to hand well into the bone. "In
making beef-tea all fat is carefully removed, and the meat is then
placed in a jar with salt and cold water, near the fire, where it must
stand for hours without boiling or even simmering. Now, really, Mrs.
McQuirter," and she dipped a teaspoon in the jar, "just taste how good
it is! If you will warm a cup or so of it two or three times a day I
am confident you will have no difficulty in getting Mr. Bunce to drink
it."

"I think I see me trying it, miss! And it shows your assurance to be
evening me to the like. You are but a young lady yet, so to say,
though you were born ten years before myself, I guess, as am the
mother of six--leastways you are but an old maid, when all is said,
and to take upon you to tell me how to make beef-tea! Me, as am the
mother of six, and has buried a good husband. And many a bowl of my
beef-tea the poor man drank, and him lying on the very feather bed
where the parson lies now."

"And he died, Mrs. McQuirter? I am not surprised," said Miss Judith,
thinking more of her argument and less of conciliation as the talk
went on. "I observed the mixture yesterday when Mr. Bunce was unable
to swallow it--a mere mixture of grease and warm water. Do you not
know that at boiling point albumen coagulates, and becomes insoluble,
like the white of a hard-boiled egg? You would not expect the water
you boil eggs in to be very nourishing? Your beef-tea is just like
that, and if your late husband's dietary contained no more nourishing
items, I cannot wonder that he did not survive."

"You owdacious old maid, you! How daar you? To insinniwate that me as
has fairly slaved for my man and his children had a hand to his taking
off. But I'll have the law of you, I will! and I take Mr. Bunce in
there as must have heard ye, if he's awake yet, to witness that you
said it. Me, the mother of six, to be insulted and put upon by an old
thing as never was able to get married at all! And it shows the men's
good sense, that same. And here you come with your broths and your
messes after my poor young gentleman, as is laid on the broad of his
back, and too sick to run away from you like the rest. And it's a
disgrace to your sect, you are, miss! for all your silk, and your
sealskin, and me but a poor lone widdy with a quiet lodger--to be
coming here at all hours acourting a gentleman as don't want you--you
that are old enough to be his grandmother and should be at home making
your soul, for your change as must come before long, 'stead of running
that shameless after the men to make them marry you."

"Oh!" was all that Judith could utter, throwing up her black gloved
hands to the ceiling and then dropping in a heap on a stool in the
corner and burying her face in her handkerchief. The wordy hurricane
had fallen on the flower--an elderflower--and beaten it down and
crushed it; and there she cowered in her confusion, convulsed with
sobs, while the hurricane whistled but the more wildly in its triumph,
and would fain have scattered and dispersed the ruin it had already
made.

"And well may you hide your face after sich ongoings! and it don't
become one as sets up for quality to have done the like; to be coming
here a worritting of a poor young gentleman to marry her, as it's
quite oncertain if he will see the light of next week! Or is it that
you think you will make the people say he has treated you bad if he
don't, after you coming here so often? But the people knows better,
miss! and they say you're too old for him; and that you've been
worritting around him that long, it's a fair amazement between his
patience and your perseverance whatever comes of it. The very rector
of the parish takes notice on it, and the rector's lady says its
shameless the way you go on to make him marry you!"

"Silence, Mrs. McQuirter! with your bad and cruel tongue."

Mrs. McQuirter turned and stood aghast. The door of the sleeping-room
had opened without noise, and framed in the opening stood Dionysius,
like the picture of his canonized namesake stepped out of some Gothic
window. One arm was thrust into the sleeve of a purple dressing-gown
which was wrapped about him, leaving exposed his chest and other arm
clothed in their snowwhite sleeping gear. Excitement caused by the
altercation he must have overheard, and the exertion of rising had
brought a feverish flush to his cheeks, burning into hectic spots amid
the pallor of illness, and there was a lustre in his eye, which could
the world have seen, it would have reconsidered its judgment of his
appearance as ordinary and commonplace.

"How dare you address my kind visitor--my friend--in the wicked words
I have heard you use?"

Mrs. McQuirter was taken aback; but being now, to use her own phrase,
"in for it," as having sinned beyond forgiveness, and sure to lose her
lodger, it seemed best to retreat in good order, and show neither fear
nor remorse.

"What a lone widdy like me says, Mr. Bunce, ain't of no 'count to a
gentleman like you, sir, and I have always done my very best to make
you comfortable, so my mind's easy. It's what the rector's lady says,
and the quality in your church, and if you like to have them speaking
that way of you and that--that female there, as is ashamed to look an
honest woman in the face, 'taint no affairs of mine."

Judith felt as if she would gladly die, and sank from the stool to the
carpet in a collapsed heap. If the ground would have opened and
swallowed her, how thankful she would have been; but it did not, and
she could but bury her face deeper in her lap.

"The lady you have presumed to scandalize so shamefully," the curate
resumed, "has called here at my earnest request. If I could induce her
to come more frequently she would be even more welcome; and in case
you should still have any doubts, let me tell you plainly that if this
lady would condescend to accept me, there is no one I would so gladly
make my wife. Now! I have said all that can possibly interest you.
Leave the room instantly, and close the door."

The door closed behind Mrs. McQuirter and the two were left together.
Judith's confusion was too great to permit her to lift her head, but
there was a tremor of expectancy in the heap of silk and sealskin into
which she had collapsed, which made itself felt in the surrounding
air. She had ceased to sob, and became all ear. Even the silk of her
gown, though she was crouched so close that to draw breath without a
movement seemed impossible, forbore to rustle.

Dionysius stood still in his white and purple like a Gothic saint, but
less erect now that the impulse of battle had spent itself. He stood a
committed man, yet a man who has not yet spoken, shivering on the
brink of the proposal which he has bound himself to make. You remember
the feeling, my married friend, when the words grew too unwieldy to
articulate, and there was a pause. The leading up to the grand climax
had been achieved, the lady and the universe were waiting, the very
next word must be the word of fate, and you were not dreaming of
drawing back, but still it lingered; and oh! the effort it took to
launch that ill-formed sentence! Dionysius stood, and his strength was
waning. Before him there was the prostrate heap of clothing which
waited but made no sign, and the air around was still and listening.
The very fire forgot to blaze and crackle, and looked at him silently
in red unblinking expectation. Only the clock on the mantelpiece went
on unmoved, counting the fleeting seconds as they sped with
dispassionate calmness. They were slipping away, and so too was his
strength, and yet he had not spoken.

"Judith," he said at last with a great effort; but when he had so far
found his voice the words came easier.

"Judith, my fr----Judith!" and he went and laid a tremulous hand upon
her shoulder. "You have heard the words I spoke to Mrs. McQuirter.
Will you forgive me that I should thus have declared myself in the
presence of a stranger before having spoken to yourself. Believe me,
dear, it was from no disrespect, no lack of appreciation; but you know
how we have been with each other. Our close fellowship in the higher
life may have made us forgetful of mere earthly relations, but we must
remedy that now. This foolish woman, with her idle tongue, has spoken
words of more wisdom than she knew, and if we are to be companions on
the heavenward way, is it not well that our earthly paths should be
united?"

A thrill ran all through Judith's frame. He felt her tremble beneath
his hand, but still she did not lift her head.

"Judith, my own dear, you must marry me! It is necessary for your good
name. If that is not enough to move you, it is necessary for mine. I
will not have them say that I could trifle with a woman's regard.
Though what care we, either you or I, for people's idle talk? Have we
not been walking hand-in-hand, each helping and supporting the other
to live aright? And has not our companionship been for good to both?
Let us marry, Judith! and silence babbling tongues. It will be best
so. Look up, my friend, and answer. And yet, Judith, I must own it, I
am poor. I have nothing but the stipend of my curacy; and when the
poor, my brothers, have had their share, and my yearly bills are paid,
there is nothing over. Not a cent. It will explain to you how I never
came to think of marriage before."

Then Judith raised her face suffused with blushes, and lighted with a
happy eager look which had not been seen there before in twenty years;
and under the transfiguring influence of an unexpected joy, she looked
for the moment almost beautiful. So, when the fogs and rain of autumn
have spent their strength, and the frosts of winter still linger in
their coming, there fall halcyon days, when nature, not yet stripped
bare of flower and foliage, blooms out again in her Indian summer. The
trees are hung with wreaths of gold-bright leaves, or garlanded with
crimson, the sod renewed by rains after the summer scorchings, is
green with a greenness unseen at other times; the garden is still
cheered by marigolds and asters, larkspur and phlox, and the sky and
the waters have a sunny blueness, shining but the brighter for the
smoky grey which conceals the distance--the distance which harbours
winter, tempest, rain, too soon to be let loose.

A tear was quivering on Judith's eyelash. A happy sob gave a tremor to
her voice when she tried to speak.

"Dionysius. And do you mean it? Marry--marry me! But it is only your
gentlemanly feeling which will not have me talked about. I dare not
take you at your word, however--however much--I might----" and her
colour deepened, and the drops rained down, and again she hid her
face.

"Indeed, it is not so, Judith. You may indeed believe me--if only you
will have it so. And we have been so much to each other--and now we
must be nothing any more, unless you will consent to marry."

Judith moved as if trying to gain her feet, and Dionysius took her
hand to lend assistance, and so it came about that they stood with
their arms entwined. Judith's head dropped on the curate's shoulder,
and felt as if it would gladly linger there for ever. And he, the lady
clinging and half-supported in his arms, had a vague sense of heroic
worth and power as man; standing thus before the universe, lord of
another life besides his own; and many other feelings, surging and
confused, which would not lend themselves to words. And little more
was said, though much was understood and agreed between them; and
by-and-by the striking of the clock recalled them to common life, and
both sat down. Then Dionysius, exhausted with excitement, grew faint
and returned to his room.

Judith lingered till she was assured that the faintness was wearing
off, and then she stole softly downstairs on her way home. Softly as
she stepped, however, she was overheard, and ere she could reach the
door, Mrs. McQuirter stood before her blocking the way; but it was
Mrs. McQuirter in a different part from the one she had played so
lately. Then, she was the dragon landlady ready to devour an intrusive
and defenceless spinster, now she was the lone widow, the mother of
six. One little toddler held on to her gown, she led another by the
hand, while her other hand held a napkin saturated with the moisture
which ran from her streaming eyes and bedewed her face.

"Oh, miss!" she cried with a sob, and the little ones piped a small
chorus of sympathy, "I was wishful to speak to you as you went out, to
make it up with you for what I said upstairs. And I'm free to confess,
miss, it was not my place to speak the way I did. But I'm hot by
nature, miss, and when once I begin, my tongue runs clean away from
me. But I bear no malice, miss, as John McQuirter often said. 'She
bears no malice,' he'd say, and them's his very words."

"It is of no consequence, Mrs. McQuirter; I'm willing to overlook,"
and Judith endeavoured to slide past in the narrow hallway, but the
little ones, with faces damp and sticky, and threatening damage to any
article of apparel which might rub against them in passing, blocked
the way.

"And it's good of you to say so much, miss; and it does credit to Mr.
Bunce's choice. And oh, Miss! you'll remember, will you not? I'm a
lone widdy, and the mother of six! And it's hoping you'll have a fine
family of your own some day," which made Judith blush. "And you won't
be for allowing Mr. Bunce to change his lodging, and all along of a
few thoughtless words, as I'm truly sorry for the saying on. You won't
now? Will'e, miss? Like a dear."

"I have told you, already, Mrs. McQuirter, I shall overlook the
offence. Mr. Bunce is too ill to think of moving. He feels quite faint
after the disturbance you caused him, and he needs nourishment. You
had better warm him a cupful of that beef-tea I brought. Warm it in a
saucepan, but don't let it boil; and send up a few sippets of dry
toast along with it. The sooner you can let him have it the better."
And having prescribed this penance to the spirit-broken mother of six,
she got away.

It was near the end of Lent before the secret of the engagement was
divulged, though the wedding was to be immediately after Easter; but
then a storm of ridicule arose which could not but offend those most
interested. Judith's own family were as provokingly sarcastic as any
one in the churches of St. Silas or St. Wittikind, and that is saying
much. It became clear to the young couple that they must leave the
city; so Dionysius resigned his curacy and accepted the small
missionary parish of St. Euphrase. The emoluments there were less than
he had enjoyed in the city, but his wife was possessed of a modest
competency, on which in that sequestered place, they contrived to live
in comfort and respect.

If the taste in which Judith had endeavoured to rejuvenate her
appearance was doubtful, the acquisition of a spouse had still had the
best influence in softening and sweetening her nature, and her
gratitude and devotion to the man who had looked on her in her
loneliness were pleasant to see. For him, it was only after marriage
and the worship which it brought him at his own fireside, that it
began to dawn on Mr. Bunce what a very superior man he must surely be,
and he felt beholden to his helpmate for making the discovery. So
Mahomet no doubt, felt to the elderly Kadijah, his first wife, the
earliest of his converts, and the first to recognize him as a prophet.
In after years he married women younger and more beautiful, but none
ever held a place so high in his affection as the wealthy widow who
had married him in his poverty and youth.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                            A GARDEN TEA.


It was on the same afternoon as that referred to, previous to the long
digression in the last chapter, but perhaps a trifle earlier, though
the torrid glare of mid-day had passed, and the cool shadows below the
trees had begun to creep eastward on the shaven lawn. The air was full
of warmth and sunshine, with just stir enough to move the aspen leaves
upon the tree, and scatter more faint and widely the scent of roses
beyond the alleys, where it hung in drowsy sweetness, mingling with
the droning of bees and inviting to mid-day sleep, that crowning
deliciousness of summer weather.

The Misses Stanley were in their grounds, and they had friends. They
were in their grounds, that is to say in a shady corner of the lawn by
the house, where three or four grand hemlocks, survivors of the
forest, spread out umbrageous arms over a glimmering arcade of gloom,
where never sunbeam stole, and the shady air was fresh with the
fragrant breath of resins drawn from the upper branches by the sun.
There, lounging on cane chairs and garden seats, they plied their
fans calmly, and chatted, but not too much or loud, in sociable
repose. It was early in July, when everything is green and fresh and
vigorous--bud, bloom, and spray instinct with brimming life, and not a
yellowing leaf to tell of memories or regret, all hope and promise and
delight in the flowery present and the fruitful days to come. Great
butterflies were tumbling in the brightness, and there was a low
continuous murmur in the grass from the thousand living things too
small to be separately or distinctly heard; and ever and anon from
around the banks of shrubs would come the gurgling laughter of
youthful voices, so lightsome in its freedom from care and adult
emotion.

There were six of them, those youthful ones, whose merry voices
disturbed the slumbrous heat, walking or running, heedless alike of
shade and sunshine, their hands full of roses. Muriel was one of them,
the ladies' niece, and Tilly Martindale, Miss Matilda's goddaughter,
and Betsey Bunce, a niece of the rector, and so a sort of cousin to
the family. There was Gerald Herkimer, Ralph's only child, whose
mother Martha was sitting with the ladies in the shade, and Randolph
Jordan, the son of Matilda's friend Amelia who was sitting by her at
that moment. And, last, there was Pierre Bruneau, a black-eyed
_habitant_ boy, the son of Jean, who managed the farm. He had been
working in the garden, and seeing Muriel, had found some small service
to render her, and had lingered near, unconscious of the sidelong
glances of her companions. She had given him her flowers to carry and
bade him bring them to the house, and he, intoxicated with their
fragrance, or rather, perhaps, at being permitted to carry them for
his mistress when the young gentlemen were by, joined gaily in the
general laughter, and even ventured to put in a jest in his queer
French-English, to the amusement and placation of the not over-well
pleased company.

They were all between fifteen and seventeen years old, all except
Muriel. Muriel was eleven, and all the promise of her babyhood, which
had dropped so unexpectedly into the ladies' arms, had been more than
fulfilled. The roses and the butterflies were pale dim things beside
her, as she skipped among the rest, her long hair shining like threads
of gold where it caught the light, and melting into a warm shadow
beneath the leaf of her spreading garden-hat, from beneath whose brim
there shone a pair of eyes luminous in their glee and innocency,
penetrating without sharpness and soft without being dull; lips short,
red, and parted, displaying teeth small, regular, well apart, like a
string of evenly-assorted pearls.

The fête was hers--her birthday it was called--and in reality it was
the anniversary of her appearance in her present life, on the night
after the thunderstorm, when the ladies had found her on their
doorsteps. Penelope, prudent and timid, would rather have left the day
unmarked, in case talk should arise; but Matilda, emboldened by
success in her plan of adoption, insisted that fears were now idle,
"that their darling must keep her birthday like other children, and
that it would be unthankful to the good Providence who had sent the
little one to brighten their humdrum lives, if they kept the feast on
any other day." Besides, what was there to fear? Every servant in the
house had been changed over and over in the ten years which had
intervened since then; even Smithers the nurse, who had stayed the
longest, was gone these three years, and she had not only been paid to
hold her tongue, but was too fond of the child to let slip a word
which could injure her. Only Bruneau and his family remained about the
place, and they were such quiet and respectful _habitants_ they would
not babble; and even if they would, who could understand them? The
servants did not understand French, and Jean's and his wife's English
was so awkward and hard to come, they never spoke to any of them if it
could be avoided. There was the boy Pierre, to be sure, "But remember,
sister, how respectful he has always been, even when, years ago, we
used to send for him to come and play with Muriel; and now that he has
grown big and able to work, he seems to pay far more attention to the
orders she gives him than to any of ours." So Penelope shrugged her
shoulders with a sigh, as she always did in the end when Matilda was
"positive," and yielded the point.

"What a pretty, graceful child Muriel is," said Mrs. Martindale,
Tilly's mother, a widow. They had come from Montreal for the fête.

"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Jordan, "she will make a sensation in
Montreal when you bring her out, Matilda; but that is some years in
the future yet. The other girls had better make haste and arrange
themselves before she appears," and she glanced at Mrs. Martindale,
which was gratuitously unkind, seeing that Tilly, being only fifteen,
would not appear in the world for two winters to come, and she
promised to be a remarkably fine girl, and in quite a different style.
But then her boy Randolph had been essaying to pipe his first small
note for ladies' ears in those of the damsel, and she, though not yet
out, was grown woman enough to desiderate whiskers or a moustache in
an admirer, and to scorn with youth's uncompromising freedom the
advances of a callow swain of her own tender years. Ten years later,
how different her views will be! But so, in ten years' time, will his
be too--and the gentleman will have the pull then, as much as the lady
has it now. Wherefore, my dear Mrs. Amelia, you might very well have
forborne to resent the seeming slight upon your boy! But women are
such partisans, especially the good ones; and she who is not, even if
she be half a philosopher, is but half a woman--and not the best half
either.

And now the creaking of the entrance gate was heard, and the crunching
of wheels on the gravel; and presently from among the clumps of
shrubbery which screened them from the road there issued a _calèche_,
the French Canadian substitute for an American buggy, high set and
hung on leather straps instead of springs; and in it swung the rector
and his spouse, trundling along to the front of the house.

Mrs. Jordan lifted her _pince-nez_ to her eyes. "Ha! a calash! Mr.
Bunce, of course. Nobody else would get into such a thing."

"Do you know, I like them, and they are very much used down at
Quebec," observed Mrs. Martindale, rendered generally contradictious
by the tone of the other's recent remarks.

"They make me seasick. I feel as if I were in a cradle."

"Was that the effect your cradle had, Amelia dear? You have certainly
an uncommon memory to recollect so well; for surely you were in the
advanced class at Mrs. Jones' when I was learning my letters."

"Quite true, Louisa," said the other, biting her lip; "but you know
you were a backward child. Great talent is often slow in showing
itself, you know. What a droll pair those two make, swinging up there
in company--as contented as Darby and Joan carrying their eggs to
market. Ah, now they are out of sight--gone round to the front door. I
am told that on their wedding tour they were mistaken for mother and
son--and, strange to say, the error did not put them out in the
least."

"I think it nice, myself," said Penelope, "to see people so content to
be happy in their own way, and so indifferent to the world's idle
talk. It is idle talk, Amelia. When two people find each other's
company desirable, are they not foolish to give it up for fear that
somebody else will laugh? How much would that somebody else do to make
either of them happy? And how little he _could_ do. Perhaps you do not
know, Amelia, that Mr. Bunce is our cousin, and therefore we feel
bound to like him. At the same time he is your rector, of course,
while you are living at St. Euphrase, and I admit your right to
criticise him."

And here the clerical pair coming through a window from the
drawing-room descried the party in the shade and joined them, which
changed the conversation; at the same time the crunching gravel gave
notice of other arrivals. First, a waggonette carrying Jordan,
Considine and Ralph; and before these had time to alight and join the
rest, a rockaway, with the family from La Hache. Mrs. Martha Herkimer,
who had been enjoying the heat and the coolness and the buzz of talk
in a large lounging chair, with her fan drooping listlessly in her
hand, and her pose indicating enjoyment of the quiescent if not
somnolent kind, roused herself, shook out her skirts, and sat down
again bolt upright, ready to become acquainted with the French people
her husband so wished to know, as soon as possible.

Madame Rouget led by her lord, hat in hand, and followed by her
daughter, all smiles and sweetness, fluttered through the window to
the grass, where her hostesses met her and exchanged salutations eked
out with gesture, in which gloves a little brighter and eyebrows a
trifle more arched than the Anglo-Saxon pattern bore an important
part. Madame's English was not fluent; the Misses Stanley, with the
backwardness of their nation, did not venture to use French, and there
was some obscurity and delay in the opening phrases, during which M.
Rouget stood benevolently by, still uncovered and regardless of sun
and sunstroke. In time they reached the grateful shade of the
hemlocks, where the newcomers inhaled the perfumed coolness with
infinite relish, after the glare and dust of their recent drive; and
then there came presentations of the lately come neighbours, with
profuse explanations from Madame, "that her English so _difficile_ had
made her delay, till she was so _comblée_ of confusions, that---- Ah,
well! she prayed the ladies to excuse;" and she smiled very
graciously, and pressed the hands of Amelia and Martha, lisping hopes
to be better acquainted; meaning, no doubt, as with Penelope and her
sister, the exchange of half-yearly visits, which, in view of
differences of church as well as language, was as much as could be
expected. That church counted for a great deal became evident when
"Mrs. Bunce, the wife of my cousin the rector," was next presented.
The smile died out of Madame's face, and the _empressement_ faded from
her manner as she bowed more deeply than before with eyes fastened on
the ground. "The _bêtise_," as she said to her daughter afterwards,
"of those English! To introduce the wife of one of their married
priests to me, the niece of My Lord the Archbishop!"

"But he is of their family, we must recollect, my mother," replied
this judicious young person. "And perhaps they do not know of my great
uncle the Archbishop. At least the ladies intended to be kind, and
Monsieur Gerald Herkimaire, and Monsieur Randolphe are both _trés
comme il faut?_" On which Madame patted the precocious utterer of so
much wisdom--she was not yet sixteen--with her fan, and laughed
heartily. But this did not occur till the following morning.

Penelope was not slow to perceive that the last presentation had not
been a success, and came promptly to the rescue, by asking Mrs. Bunce
a question, while Matilda drew off the attention of the others by
asking Mademoiselle if she would not join the young people, and
leading her away, while the mother and the rest fell into conversation
with the gentlemen.

The young ones by this time had sent Pierre to the house with their
flowers, and were lingering on Muriel's croquet ground until Miss
Martindale should persuade herself that she was not too grown up to
play, a conclusion which she speedily arrived at on the appearance of
the new comer, who was quite as advanced as herself and seemed eager
to begin.

"How your niece is most _gracieuse_, and so prettee!" said the
Frenchwoman to Matilda when she rejoined the elders.

"Yes, indeed!" said Mrs. Martindale, "she is one of the very nicest
little girls I know; and so clever. You should hear her play. It is
more like a grown person's performance than a child's. And to think
she should never have had any governess but dear Matilda here! I call
it quite remarkable."

"Ah!" said Madame sympathetically. It is always a safe observation to
make, especially in reply to what has not been very clearly
understood, and the inflection of the voice can make it stand for so
many things, that if it is only uncertain it will mean whatever the
hearer likes best.

"It is a loss to society that women like you should be independent,
Matilda," said Amelia. "What a governess you would have made! You need
not shrug; it is a compliment, and one which very few people can
claim. If you knew the troubles of governess-ridden mothers, you would
understand me; so few are worth much, and those few keep one in
constant dread of their growing dissatisfied and leaving, till the
mother's life becomes a burden. I am so glad my family consists only
of a boy, and it is Jordan's business to think what is to become of
him," glancing at the croquet players.

"That young gentleman," said Madame, following the direction of the
other's eyes. "_Distingué!_ What joy to have one so fine son!"

Mrs. Jordan smiled her gratification and could not help glancing
across at Mrs. Martindale, whose daughter's depreciation of the
paragon must have ruffled her maternal plumage not a little.

"Yes," she said, "he is a dear boy--so manly and yet so affectionate,"
and her eyes drooped, and her voice fell, as it will when one talks of
something near the heart; and there were signs--woman of the world
though she was--of her maundering on upon the same sweet theme, if
only there were an attentive silence.

But this Mrs. Martha's patience could not yield. She saw nothing so
remarkable in the Jordan boy "for that affected French woman to make a
fuss about. If it had been her Gerald now, there might have been some
sense in it--with his delicate fair skin like a girl's, and his sturdy
broad shoulders. It was true young Jordan had the advantage in height;
but what matters half an inch? And as to the manliness----" And again
she seemed to be standing in an upper window of her town house,
securely hid behind a curtain, looking down on the two boys in a
tussle. How her boy tumbled the other over, let him get up and knocked
him down again, and pummelled him till he had had enough. And she? Had
she been a right-minded person--taken in the abstract--of course she
would have interfered; but being only a woman and a mother, and seeing
it was her side which played the winning game, she merely stood and
looked on. Lady lecturers and authors often tell us of the higher
moral plane from which the gentle sex surveys the world's affairs, but
for honest old-world delight in sheer physical force and muscular
prowess, can a woman be equalled? It must be a survival from the days
of savagery and marriage by capture. The learned professor's wife may
expect to be led out to dinner before plain mistress, but as likely as
not she is innocent of even a smattering of the "ology" on which her
husband's reputation is built; but she whom good fortune has wed to a
Victoria Cross knows every detail of his achievements and believes
herself married to a demigod.

But this is digression. It seemed to Martha that Amelia was about to
moralize aloud upon her boy, and having a kindness for her and being
unwilling that she should make herself absurd, she broke the momentary
silence with

"And really. Miss Matildy now"--Martha was a lady 'Noo
Hampshire'--"doo tell! Have you taught the child her letters and
pothooks and some of the multiplication table all by yourself; and you
not married? Well, now, I call it real smart--you might almost do for
a school marm. That you might, with just taking pains--at least, if
you, had begun earlier."

Ralph was standing within earshot, and it is not unlikely that he
wished his wife had not spoken. She was a good soul, he well knew. She
had been a beauty, and once there had seemed a quaint charm in the
direct and high-pitched utterances which stole from between those
coral lips. But that was years ago. The lips were withered now; it was
on account of her poor health they had come to live at St. Euphrase,
and only the unusual and impolite utterances remained to wound the
sensibilities of polished ears--now, too, when he had become rich, and
he could buy her whatever she wanted, and would have bought her some
conventional refinement as gladly as her diamonds from Tiffany's. It
was Matilda, however, who replied in support of her own achievements.

"Letters and pothooks, my dear Mrs. Herkimer? Muriel can read the
newspapers and even 'Paradise Lost' perfectly well. She reads me to
sleep every Sunday afternoon with 'Paradise Lost' or Young's 'Night
Thoughts.' I think poetry is improving for the child, you know, and I
enjoy it myself. It soothes me. And, by-the-way, it was she who wrote
asking you to come here to-day."

"Well now! You don't----" ejaculated Martha; but Matilda, though
mollified, ran on: "Indeed, I believe I have gained quite as much as
Muriel by her lessons. One must know a thing in order to teach it. I
found my own education had grown sadly rusty, and needed brushing up.
I had no idea there was so much interesting information to be got from
'Mangnall's Questions' and 'The Child's History of England' till I
went over them with Muriel. As to music, I used to play, but was
getting out of practice; she has revived my interest in it, and now we
both play and sing together--in a mild way, my dear Amelia; pray do
not look apprehensive, I am not meditating an exhibition. But I was
going to say, I think Muriel needs better teaching than mine, now; so
we propose going to Montreal for the winter. I cannot teach languages,
and her voice seems worth cultivating."

"Take her to Selby, Miss Matildy," cried the worthy Martha, little
dreaming how her husband and his aunt wished her a lockjaw. "He is
married to a sister of Judy's there--plays the organ at St.
Wittikind's--does it beautiful, my dear, but you will have heard
him--and if there is any sing in the child it is he will bring it out.
He'd make the kettle sing."

"We can all do that," said Judith disgusted. "Put another stick in the
stove, that's all it wants. And this is little Muriel's birthday. Miss
Matilda? How old is she today? Twelve? Ah--Pretty child, but not very
tall. But that is in the family, I suppose. Dionysius is almost short,
and Betsey there is really stumpy. But I do not see much resemblance
in her to Betsey."

"Neither do I."

"But one would expect to see a family-likeness."

"Between second cousins? I do not see the necessity."

"Blood always tells, you know. Yet she is not even like
Dionysius----no trace of his square intellectual forehead, or
anything."

"Your niece and her uncle are Bunces, perhaps, and Muriel a Stanley."

"But she is not like you either."

"I confess I never was clever about seeing likenesses, but I am sure I
could not be fonder of the child if she were ever so like me.
Penelope, do you not think we might have tea, now?"

Considine had heard Martha's mention of Selby. It was the first time
in years that he had heard the name. It awoke recollections which had
long been asleep. Jordan, his co-trustee in the Herkimer fortune had
no doubt told him the family story on his return to Montreal, but at
that time his mind was full of his own cares, and since then the mere
periodical investment of dividends had not called for a recurrence to
the subject. Though, doubtless, he remembered his old attachment, and
would still have felt a kindness for its object had his thoughts
wandered that way, the preoccupations of business led them in other
directions; the tender passages were relegated to the same limbo as
the memories of childhood, and his _ante bellum_ possessions wiped out
of existence by the event of war. Love-dreams, longings, the yearnings
of what we call our "hearts," are luxuries of the well-to-do, living
at their ease. When the wolf comes to the door, and the means of
subsistence are in doubt or danger, Cupid, the ethereal sprite,
feeding daintily on sighs and idle fancies, wings himself way; and in
the turmoil of hard material facts, he is not missed. It is best so.
The heart wounds, forgotten, skin over and heal, where head and arms
are in danger from the blows of fortune; and so the undivided energies
are free for the combat. But now, his personal affairs having arranged
themselves in an easy well-to-do routine which gave no anxiety, his
mind was open to other interests, and of these there were not enough
to engage it. He often felt dull and lonely. He would now and then
accompany Ralph to St. Euphrase, remaining over night and returning to
town in the morning, thereby killing a long afternoon, as on the
present occasion; but this could be only an occasional palliation. The
"planting" years of his youth, as he called them, and the fighting
years which followed, had not been the apprenticeship to make him take
an undivided interest in business for its own sake after he had
secured income sufficient for his needs. He had outlived his relish
for the society of young men--young men of business, at least--the
middle-aged had withdrawn into domestic life, and he found himself a
good deal alone.

The mention of Selby's name stirred old associations which time and
adventure had long deprived of bitterness; and now he looked back with
only a plaintive yearning to the happiness which might have been, if
he had had his way, and pitied himself in his solitary estate. If he
had married, what wealth of love was his to have bestowed! And how he
could have enjoyed being cosseted and purred to by a wife of his own,
instead of depending on hirelings whose servile smile betrayed the
hollowness of their attentions. The smoking-room at his club, and his
own rooms at the hotel rose before his eye in their dull solid
unsatisfying comfort, and he could not but compare them with the
clean, unsmoky freshness and brightness of the woman's world around
him, and confess the two as different and apart as the close warm
stuffiness of a winter sick-room, from the clear keen day out of doors
in early spring.

"What ails you, gineral? You look that glum you might have been
hearing of your brother's death," said Martha, making room for him on
the garden seat where she sat.

"I am well, madam. I heard you allude just now to a Mr. Selby as
having married the sister of Mrs. Bunce. Are you acquainted with the
lady?"

"To be sure I am. She is Ralph's aunt. A dear good soul as ever lived,
but real sorrowful-like and sickly now--she that used to be as peart
and blooming as the flowers in May. It's heart-breaking to see her.
She has never got over the loss of her child ten years ago, and it has
fairly broke her up. Her hair is white like a woman of sixty. She
might be older than Judy, there; and yet she is just one age with
Ralph--not forty yet."

"I recollect her very distinctly in her brother Gerald's lifetime--a
beautiful young lady. That was before the war; the first time I was in
Canada."

"Were you in Canady then? But to be sure you were! You were Gerald's
friend, and are a trustee of his property. Ah, yes! I recollect. And
you were----"

But she did not say any more; only she looked in his face with a new
interest, and what would have been a kind and sympathizing smile if
good manners had not restrained the manifestation. Nothing awakens the
interest of a good woman so warmly as a story of true enduring love.
If the love have been unrequited, its constancy seems but the more
rarely and touchingly beautiful. It is something to be dealt with
delicately, and spoken to in low, soft, ambiguous words that may
soothe but will not flutter the tender thing. It was such love that
Martha dreamed of in her youth, and humbly hoped for; and when Ralph,
young, eager and impetuous, found her in the New England homestead,
she dreamed the divine influence had descended to stir the hushed and
waiting waters of her life. She cheerfully left home and kindred to
dwell with the man who loved her, and she had been his true and
devoted wife. Yet often when she recalled the enthusiasm of that early
time it seemed to her that the love-feast had been but a Barmecide's
banquet after all, or like the husks with which another adventurer had
to stay his hunger when he left the shelter of the paternal home. She
lavished the wealth of her own affection, but the return had seemed
but slender and humdrum to her high-wrought expectations. The young
couple went to housekeeping, which is something quite different from
the life of the hummingbirds among the flowers: Love's dainty fare of
sighs and kisses gave place to the grosser nourishment of bread and
beef. The bread had to be earned, the house had to be kept, and very
soon the pair of Arcadians found themselves toilers like the rest of
the world. He toiled with a will, nay with a relish; it was what he
was better fitted for than the fantastic joys of feeling; and she did
her part at least without repining. It was what she had promised, and
she did it loyally, if wearily at times, in the colourless greyness of
daily life, when she recalled the rosy dawn of maiden love, with the
heavens above all shining and the world sparkling with dew. So Eve,
mayhap, looked back on Paradise when she was sent forth with her lord
into common life, and doubtless she would sigh at times to remember
it, even with her boys growing up around her. And so with Martha in
her prosperity, to fancy Considine cherishing the ashes of a blighted
love, stirred feelings not dead, but long since grown to be a mere
luxurious pain--a poignancy of plaintive delight.

"Yes," said Considine, after allowing time for the completion of
Martha's interrupted sentence, "yes, I believe it was to Miss Mary's
adherence to her own choice in the matter of a husband that I owe my
association with Jordan as trustee under that eccentric will. People
cannot control their likings, I suppose, and I do think the young lady
was hardly dealt with. I hope the marriage she was so set on has
turned out well. Is she in good circumstances?"

"They are very comfortable; but not rich, of course. People do not
make fortunes in Selby's profession; but when a woman throws away one
fortune she has no right to expect another. However they'd have done
well enough if it had not been for losing the child. That has fairly
broke them up. They live retired, and don't care to see anybody. Mary
keeps her room half the time, and if it was not for Susan, who lives
with them since Judy married, I don't know what they would do. But it
gives me the dumps to think of them. Is this not a nice place,
gineral? And how do you like the ladies? Seems to me Miss Matildy is
just too altogether awful nice for anything."

And so she ran on, good soul. She was bent on withdrawing Considine
from what she considered his "just too beautiful" contemplation of an
ancient grief, and resolved to find him a suitable consoler. The
consoler, indeed, was already fixed upon in her own mind, and ere she
went home that afternoon, she had already begun to depict the
interesting bachelor in colours which, but for the incipient baldness
above his temples, the shaggy moustache, and the absence of wings,
might have stood for the Cupid on an old-fashioned valentine.

Her auditor was quite interested, in a pleasant heart-whole way, and
much as she might have been over a new variety of Brahmah or other
fowl; for besides her lively sensibility, Matilda had a considerable
fund of sober sense, though she was scarcely herself aware of it.
Nevertheless, it _was_ interesting to hear of the vanquished hero.
Martha dwelt much on his warlike exploits, and his cherishing
through years and battles the memory of his old attachment. Captain
Lorrimer--who knew?--might have done the same, and Matilda still
thought kindly of him, though she had never read his name in any list
of killed or wounded, and she had seen or heard nothing of him since
he marched his men on board the steamer to the strains of "The girl I
left behind me," amid the waving handkerchiefs of the ladies on the
wharf; and henceforth Matilda felt very friendly and exerted herself
to be pleasant whenever she found herself in Considine's company.



                            CHAPTER XIII.

                     ON ACCOUNT OF STRAWBERRIES.


The tea-table was set on the lawn where the lengthening shadows
inscribed themselves map-wise in islands and peninsulas of coolness;
and within the opened windows on the verandah were other refreshments,
whither the gentlemen were invited to bend their steps, while the
ladies with their ices remained out of doors. Muriel looking up, saw
Pierre disappearing among the bushes along the approach.

"Auntie," she whispered to Matilda, "give me a big heaped-up plate of
strawberries and ice-cream for poor Pierre. See, there he goes away
home, all by himself. How lonely he must feel! and hot, and thirsty,
to see us all sitting out here eating nice things. Quick! Tilly, dear,
or he will be through the gate, and at his own door before I can catch
him; and then I may meet Annette, who is never nice to me. I don't
like Annette."

The plate was speedily filled and heaped up, and away she ran.

To Pierre, trudging along the gravel in his heavy boots, the light
footsteps in pursuit were inaudible; and it was not till passing the
gate, he stopped to close it behind him, that he heard his name
called, and looking up, saw Muriel running towards him. Of course he
stopped, and of course, too, being French, and a civil lad, he pulled
off his cap and waited. An English lad would probably have turned back
to meet the young mistress; but Pierre was apt to grow confused when
Muriel appeared suddenly, she was so airy and different from his own
heavy lumbering self. So there he stood, stock still like Jack
stepping off his bean-stalk, when the fairy tripping down the meadow
from the giant's castle, accosted him.

"Here, Pierre, I have brought you these. I wish I had seen you to give
them sooner. You could have eaten them in the garden then, which would
have been nicer."

"Oh! mademoiselle ees too kind," mumbled Pierre, reddening to the
roots of his hair and looking sheepishly grateful. "Too moosh of
trouble to give mademoiselle," and the burning black eyes looked out
from under their lashes as if they would have spoken things forbidden
to the stammering tongue. But there came a shrill call up the road
just then, "Pier-r-re!" which quenched their lustre in a moment, and
brought a faint frown of impatience even to Muriel's sunny brow.

"Your mother is calling you, Pierre. Good night. _Bon appétit_.

"Ah! _coquin!_ What is it thou dost there?" was the greeting which met
him as he drew near, from his mother standing in the road before the
door. "_Cochon! Bête!_ And thou lingerest at the gate with the
_donzelle_, forsooth. Thou!--Deny it not! Undutiful! And I have beaten
thee for it when thou wert small, till my poor heart ached more than
the bruises on thy little skin. And still thou wilt persist. I pray
the heavenly queen upon my knees, and all the saints, to let thee die
sooner than come to love her. 'Twere mortal sin."

"My mother? Calm yourself It was only that the demoiselle ran after me
to give this plate of fruit. Will you not taste it?"

"Taste gift of hers? _Enfante fausse!_" and she pushed aside the
offered strawberries which rolled plentifully from the plate and were
scattered on the ground.

"Ah, no, my mother! Not false! The youngest angel in heaven is not
more true and good than Mademoiselle Muriel. But you will not think
so--I remind me often how you beat me for her sake. Beat me again, my
mother, if so it please you; but she is good and very beautiful."

"_Sacr-ré!_" she ground out from between her clenched teeth, with
flashing eyes glancing up and down the road; and then she started with
a sob of afright, and a tremor ran through her frame as she composed
herself to speak quite calmly. "I see thy father coming home. He must
not know of what we have spoken, if thou would'st have thy mother's
blessing when I die. Pick up thy berries. It was a heedless gesture of
my arm which upset them. Thou can'st say so much." And she went
indoors, leaving Pierre in bewilderment to gather the fruit.

That his mother, so gentle and fond, so sober, industrious and
sensible, should break out like one beside herself, if their ladies'
niece were but named, was unaccountable. A mystery, and one he dared
not even try to solve. She had threatened to curse him if he did but
inquire. And yet it was only before himself that she betrayed her
feeling. In his father's presence she showed no sign, but would
discuss the niece of their mistresses with him with the same composure
as their horses, sheep or cattle. And yet mademoiseile was so sweet!
And as he thought of her the bewilderment vanished in his mind like
mist before the morning sun, and he forgot even to pick up his
strawberries scattered around, while he knelt on the threshold.

"Heh, Pierre! On thy knees before sundown? Will the rosary not keep
till bedtime?" said Jean, the father, stepping past him into the
house.

"I am picking up some strawberries I let fall just now. Mademoiselle
Muriel brought me them as I went home."

"She is an angel of considerateness and kindness--never forgets the
poor for the sake of the rich--just like monsieur the general, her
grandfather, if so please the ladies, and the demoiselles his
daughters. A family most generous, even if they are not French and
good Catholics;" and he crammed half-a-dozen large strawberries into
his mouth at once, and gave them a crunch as though to drink the
family's health in a bumper of strawberry wine.

Annette looked up from the baby she was nursing, and there was a gleam
of red and smothered fire lurking in her eye, and she set her teeth
tight to hold back the struggling wish that the girl's gift might
choke him; while sire and son seated themselves on the door-sill to
consume the collation, the elder, at least, utterly unconscious that
aught was amiss.



                              FOOTNOTE:

[Footnote 1: All right. First used by an auditor of accounts in
Kentucky, who it was believed meant the letters to stand for Oll Kreck
(all correct).]



                            END OF VOL I.





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