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Title: A Rich Man's Relatives (Vol. 2 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. II.



                               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.--Finance.

      II.--Mary Selby meets her Daughter.

     III.--Considine.

      IV.--Betsey en Fete.

       V.--Randolph's Tribulations.

      VI.--A Benevolent Spider.

     VII.--In the Rue des Borgnes.

    VIII.--The Tie of Kindred.

      IX.--Tobogganing.

       X.--Annette.

      XI.--Bluff.

     XII.--A Board Meeting.



                       A RICH MAN'S RELATIVES.



                              CHAPTER I.

                               FINANCE.


The sunshine and the glow faded slowly out of the air, the world fell
into shadow, and the heavens changed their sunset glory for the blue
transparency of summer twilight. Evening spread wings of soothing calm
over the drowsy land, worn out, as a child might be, with its day-long
revel in the garish light. The air grew softened and refreshed with
falling dews which gathered unnoticed on the leaves and grass blades.
The winds were still, and only fire-flies, blinking among the herbage
or pursuing aimless flights across the deepening dimness, disturbed
the perfect rest.

Along the dusty road came sounds of wheels, the wheels of the Misses
Stanleys' home-going guests. The sound spread far and wide across the
humid air which sublimated it into something above the common daylight
noise, rasping and jarring against stones and gravel, into a rumbling
half musical with suggestive echoes reverberating through the
stillness.

Out of the gate they came, those vehicles, along the road, around the
corner where Bruneau's cottage stood, and down towards the village
shrouded in gathering obscurity, with the twinkle of a candle
scattered through it here and there in rivalry of the fire-flies in
the bushes nearer hand, but far less brilliant. The vehicles rumbled
and disappeared, and the echoes of their wheels died out as ripples
die on the surface of a stagnant pool; and the road was left alone to
night and silence.

But not for long. Two passengers on foot came forward by-and-by, their
footsteps audible in the sensitive quiet, while yet themselves were
scarce visible in the gloom, and the fumes of their cigars tainting
the sweetness of the clover-scented air. It was Considine and Jordan,
who had preferred to walk while the rest drove on, and were enjoying
their tobacco in the coolness on their leisurely way.

"Fine lad that ward of ours is growing up. Healthy, handsome, and well
conditioned, I should say by his looks. Likely to do credit to his
good fortune." It was Jordan who spoke.

"To whom do you allude, sir?" answered the other, with the prim
formality of print, and of his native land--a formality which
continued residence among Her Majesty's more easy-spoken subjects was
little likely to relax at his time of life. "I am not aware of any lad
to whom I stand in the relation of guardian to a ward."

"I mean Ralph Herkimer's boy, of course. No! You are right enough! He
is not our ward in the legal sense. We can have no voice in his
education. But, really, if we had, I do not think we could have
brought him up better."

"Ha! Ralph's boy? Yes. He seems what we would class as 'good
ordin_ai_ry,' down my way, in the Cotton States--a shade better than
'fair to middlin'.' He ain't just real peart, I should say, but then
he is not a poor man's son, so that is natural. It takes hard work,
and hard feed, and not too much of the feed either, to make a lad
truly peart. But he seems high-toned, and that's the main point with a
young man of his prospects. But I would expect no less from Mrs.
Herkimer's son. Ah, sir! She's Noo Hampshire, 'tis true, and I don't
hold with Noo Hampshire and its notions; but, sir, she is a
high-souled, clear-seeing, honourable and accomplished--lady."
Strange--is it not?--how every female American resents being called a
_woman!_ and no male American dare apply that most simple and
dignified title to the sex. Let us hope that eventually the coloured
lady who condescends to do the washing for white women--_she_ calls
them so--will succeed in disgusting them with the frippery
pretentiousness of the title she usurps, and educate them into
adopting the gracious style of their illustrious mother Eve.

"Oh, yes," answered Jordan, "Mrs. Ralph is an excellent person. My
wife thinks all the world of her, and I like her too; though, perhaps,
as you say, there is a little more New Hampshire than there need have
been. Yes! no doubt, young Gerald is most happy in having such a
mother. And then his father! Think of him! An extremely good fellow is
Ralph Herkimer. So wealthy! Such talent! _Must_ have it, you
know--though that kind of cleverness does not show much in society--to
make such a fortune. The practical talent which amasses a fortune
never _does_ shine in society, though we are ready enough to give it
every credit whenever it gives us the chance, which it never does but
when it invites us to dinner, and that, somehow, is not often.
However, Ralph is indisputably smart, as well as rich, and of course
high principled. How could he have made such a fortune otherwise? Our
young friend Gerald is most fortunate in his parents as well as in the
old uncle."

"Ah! Gerald. Yes. I am with you there. A high-toned, whole-souled
gentleman. I knew him well. Had much to do in assisting him to manage
his affairs after he came to Canady. Very handsome affairs they were.
And I feel proud at having arranged all to his satisfaction, and
realized the whole before our unfort'nate unpleasantness, and the
depreciation of values in the South."

"Yes, that was most fortunate. The old gentleman had time to make his
Canadian investments before his demise, and so saved you and me,
friend Considine"--this was an unwonted familiarity in Jordan's
reserved manner of speech, betraying a desire to grow intimate, which
implied something in his mind requiring a confidential mood for its
reception. "Saved you and me from a power of responsibility."

Considine puffed his cigar in silence. If this _rapprochement_ was
meant to lead up to something behind, let it do so, he would give it
no assistance. He knew of nothing connected with the Herkimer estate
requiring confidential talk just then, and his thoughts were disposed
to linger on other themes. The soothing air and the fragrance of his
weed brought pleasanter fancies to his mind than could spring from the
contemplation of a dead man's money. He had spent a pleasant
afternoon, in what, to an old bachelor of his retiring habits, was a
scene of unwonted gaiety. The low soft hum of women's voices, the
rustle of their silks, the garden scents, and a vague impression of
gentle sweetness and pretty behaviour, so different from the tone at
his hotel and the club smoking-room, where so many of his evenings
were spent, hung like a rosy mist over his memory; and he would fain
have let it hang, so unaccustomed was it, and so pleasant. There was
something, too, like the wave of falling tresses before his eyes, and
a sound of pleasant laughter, not loud or much prolonged, as he
recalled his talk with Mrs. Ralph, and another talk which followed, in
which Miss Matilda was a third at first, and by-and-by sole auditor
and interlocutor, which had lasted long and been extremely pleasant.

"Bless my soul!" said this sober elder to himself. "How deuced
agreeable I must have been! She really liked it--I could see
that--looked interested, no end, when I was explaining to her. And she
understood it all at once! Intelligent, very--cultured, too, and well
read--one knew that by the neat remark she made about Seringapatam.
And a _fine_ woman. What hair! Well-rounded bust, too, and what dainty
slippers. Neat ankle--that time it showed when she kicked the puppy
from under the tea-table. She looked as if she saw that I admired it
when she was drawing it back. She coloured, I think. But not a bit
offended--they never are, to see that a fellow appreciates their
'points.' How archly she smiled, too, at my little sally! What was it
again? But I made several, now I think of it, and she smiled at them
all--not sure, but she laughed. Yes, she did laugh once--laughed right
out. I believe she appreciates me! A woman of discernment. Not one to
be taken in by a sleek young puppy, fitted out by his tailor and his
barber, and nothing inside but his dinner. No, she appreciates a man
who knows something of life! Yes, I do believe she really did
appreciate me;" and he stroked his chin complacently, blowing his
smoke in a long thin tail of satisfaction into the night, and feeling
that the world with its cakes and ale was not all over for him yet, as
he pushed out his chest and stepped springily forward.

Jordan had received no answer to his last observation. He had more to
say, but was waiting for a lead, such as his last remark should have
called forth, but no lead came. He gnawed the end of his cigar
impatiently; the thread of his discourse was being cut. Worse, it was
being allowed to trail idly on the mind and be forgot; like a
purposeless gossamer, which no one troubles to catch hold on, and
which, though its length has been nicely calculated for the gulf it
was meant to span, will never be caught on the further shore, and the
ingenious spider who spun it must wait bridgeless and in vain, or else
he must begin his labour over again, and try anew. Inwardly fuming,
pishing and pshawing under his breath, and gnawing his cigar, the
smoke grew turbulent and lost its way among the passages and recesses
of his system. It got in his eyes, first, and made them smart, it got
into his nostrils and made him snort; finally it made a solid charge
backwards for his throat, like a trapped animal struggling to escape.
Then at last he threw the vexatious thing away, and stood in the
middle of the highway, coughing, gasping and holding his sides, while
his eyes ran water, and his companion wondered if anything ought to be
done. Considine's day-dream after dark was dissipated utterly, and by
the time the other had composed himself he was ready enough to attend
to whatever his companion might choose to say.

"Horrid cigar, that," Jordan was at last able to utter, as they
resumed their walk. "They _will_ always slip a few bad ones into each
box, however good. I wish the _con_founded tobacconist had had the
smoking of that one himself, and coughed his head off, it would have
served him right. But let me see--what was it we were talking about?
Hm--ha. Ah, yes! Old Herkimer's investments. Most judicious they were.
Oh, yes, very much so. Could not have done better--at the time, that
is. But times change. Circumstances have altered since '59. This is
'73, and no one can see fourteen years ahead."

"The stocks all stand higher to-day than they did then," observed
Considine. "Let me see"--and he began to count off on his finger
tips--"Banque d'Orval, that's one. A very large block of stock we hold
there. That has gone up mightily since the surrender. How it stood in
'59 I can't say."

"Oh, yes. It is higher than in '59, of course."

"The Proletarian Loan and Mortgage Co. Don't know a better
mark on the share list at present than that. Pike and Steel Money
Co.--good--Bank of Progress--would be glad to hold some of its stock
myself--Tuscarora Roads--Consolidated Drainage. And--and three or four
more which I do not recall at present. As for the Provincial
Debentures, and Railroad and Municipal Bonds, we went over them
together last time we cut the _coupons_--could not be better, and I
reckon our friend bought them all at a discount. The estate will
realize a handsome profit."

"Quite true, General!"--Jordan did not often lubricate his lips with
American titles of honour--"just what I observed. Our client could not
have acted with a sounder judgment when he made his investments. But
it is years since then, and the business world has had its
vicissitudes, like other institutions. Now--_entre nous_, and strictly
in confidence--are there no whispers afloat in financial circles? has
no--well, no breath--shall I call it? no tone of depreciation come to
your ears? No? You surprise me. But to be sure, it is not so very
unusual for signs and circumstances to leek out and become known in
our profession. Not to be _talked_ about, of course--that would
_never_ do. Betray the necessary confidence between lawyer and client?
Oh, no! Not for a moment! But we do get to know things _at times_,
while you men of the world are still in the dark, and going forward in
the blindest confidence. As to the Banque d'Orval, now. Has nothing
transpired to raise the--what shall I call it?--the shadow of a
misgiving?"

"Misgiving?--Banque d'Orval?--I believe it stands as strong as the
Bank of Commerce of Noo York! Certainly, nairy one! You cannot have
looked into its last statement. Reserve of specie, circulation,
discounts, all O.K. Never made a better showing since it was
chartered."

"I confess I never muddle myself with unnecessary figures. And as to
bank statements in general, the only reliable one of their affairs
ever issued is the one put out by the assignee when they go into
liquidation; and that comes too late to be of much use, except to sue
the old directors upon. No, I did not look into the statement. I have
always felt that that institution suffered an irreparable injury in
the death of Truepenny, the old president."

"The shares are higher now than ever they were in his time."

"No doubt. But what does that prove? Is there any limit to the
wrongheadedness and gullability of investors?--I know of none."

"But Pennywise is manager still. Think of his long experience in the
bank, and how many years he acted under Truepenny. Pennywise is the
most cautious and circumspect bank manager going."

"He is slow enough, if that is what you mean; and that slowness is the
foundation of his high repute. It has been worth a fortune to him. You
submit your proposal and he lets you talk, and when you have talked
yourself into a belief that he will never let so good a thing go past
him, he says 'hum,' and coughs--he has always a cough when he ought to
speak, and gains time by eating a lozenge. When that is over he clears
his voice with a long breath, and promises to submit the matter to his
board. Truepenny, now, was gruff, but he was quick, and he did not
waste time. He might cut you short in the middle of your story--he
always cut Pennywise short when he began to wheeze and ask more
questions--but it was because he knew what you were going to say, and
he gave you your answer. It was always the best answer for the bank's
interest, and generally it was the kindest for the customer. His
successor, Sacavent, is rarely to be seen in the bank parlour now, and
Pennywise does as he pleases, that is, makes people wait, till his
mind is satisfied, and their opportunity is past."

"But the bank's business has not fallen off. The profits are larger
than ever this year."

"On paper, at least. But we must wait to test the reality. It takes
time to weaken a made reputation. Sacavent, now! Do you think that was
a judicious choice?"

"One of our most distinguished merchants--Why, of course!--Rich,
popular, doing an immense business of his own. Who can understand the
wants of the business community better?"

"That is just it. I fear he understands the _wants_ of the business
community too well--knows them from personal experience. What would
you say, now, if I were to tell you that his fine house on the
mountain was mortgaged up to the gold weather cocks? and that the bank
has had to be content with a second mortgage, as collateral, which is
just worth the paper it is written on, for the first will cover
everything."

"Hm. That sounds serious. Is it really so?"

"I hear so, and more. They tell me his wife, who has her own
property--'_separée des biens_,' we call it in our law--has had to
give security for a large sum."

"Indeed? But after all it is a big institootion. If Sacavent were to
bleed it for all he is worth it would be only a pin-prick to the
Banque d'Orval."

"Perhaps; but who can be sure that he is the only blood-sucker on the
board? One cannot suppose the others would pass over his overdrafts if
they did not get something for themselves. Why, even Pennywise will
have to get something to keep him quiet. If it should turn out that
there is a whole nest of needy ones, who can tell how far the queer
transactions may extend? If anything should leak out--you see
something _is_ known, though not to the public--it would raise a
panic."

"The Banque d'Orval can stand a run. Look at the specie reserve! It
_must_ stand. The government must come to its rescue in case of need."

"No doubt. But think of the shares! If they fall back to par--and it
is not so many years since they were only a few per cents above--the
present value of an investment would be reduced one-half. And
everything else on the share list would be affected by the distrust it
would create. Many smaller institutions would go, and all would
suffer. It is a serious consideration. There is the Proletarian Loan,
now."

"That is sound at any rate. Mortgaged properties cannot be wiped out
like the '_rest_' in a bank ledger."

"But you must recollect the Proletarian receives deposits. They had
quite a flourish in their last statement over the increased amount,
and the smaller interest they have to pay on such moneys than on the
bonds they issue; which is all very well, but in case of a run by
their depositors, how are they to realize the long-time mortgages in
which their funds are tied up? They cannot look for much help from the
banks, who naturally would not be sorry to see a competitor for the
public savings in a tight place. Again, are you perfectly confident
that the affairs of the Proletarian would stand a close audit? I
confess I have a feeling myself which is not one of security,
notwithstanding the high quotations of the shares. It has always been
a mystery to me how old Weevil, the managing director, made his
fortune. When he went in there he appeared to have nothing but his
salary from the company of three thousand dollars. Now the man is
undeniably wealthy. Owns blocks of valuable city property, is director
in several companies where he must have a large interest, and lives in
a style which his salary could not keep up for a couple of months, far
less a year--houses for his sons, who, by-the-way, do nothing for
themselves, and English schools for his daughters, which a thousand
dollars a-piece do not begin to pay for. I would be the very last man
to say everything was not as it should be there, but at the same time
it is hard to understand."

"Hm! These are new lights to me, friend Jordan. I must take time to
comprehend them. Meanwhile what is your own opinion? And have you any
suggestion to make as to what we should do?"

"Candidly, then, General--and with all deference in discussing a
matter of finance with you, a member of the Stock Exchange, who make
the subject your profession--I believe that you financiers have
squally times before you. Confidence will be disturbed and quotations
will fall. The investments of our late highly valued friend stand now
at higher prices than ever before. The full value of the property is
vastly greater than when he purchased, and I hate to think of its
shrinking back to the sum, insignificant by comparison, which it
amounted to when it came under our care."

"But I do not see that we can help that, even if it should occur. It
has not occurred as yet. The investments were made by Gerald himself,
and if, in the fluctuations of the market, the property becomes less
valuable, we are not responsible."

"Not legally, even if morally. Still, we would like to do our best for
our worthy friend. For myself, I confess I am proud to be guardian of
so handsome a property; and, seeing we are not asked to work
gratuitously, it appears to me we should do our best for it."

"All very true; but suppose it should turn out that our investments do
not prove profitable--that, after we have sold, the old investments
improve--what then? The estate will have suffered a loss, and the heir
may hold us to account."

"My dear sir, present prices cannot rise any higher. Take my word for
it. How could they? Unless the rate of interest falls materially, how
could investors afford to pay higher prices? Consider that, and then
discount those circumstances, not generally known, which I have
mentioned to you--in confidence--and you cannot but agree with me.
Besides, our friend Ralph--he is your friend more than he is mine--is
a business man, prompt and off-hand. He knows. He is in big operations
every day; and he will not haggle over the odd cents like a _habitant_
farmer."

"But Ralph is not the heir. Gerald hated him, and would have thrown
his money into the St. Lawrence sooner than Ralph should get it."

"Quite so. It is Ralph's boy, a fine lad, too. But he will do just as
his father thinks best. Any young fellow would be like wax in the
hands of so keen a practitioner as friend Ralph."

"I think not. Mrs. Selby's child is the heir. She was to have had the
property herself if she had not married against her brother's wish."

"My dear sir, that child is dead. It must be. It is ten years since it
disappeared. In spite of every effort and inquiry, nothing has been
heard of it since the day it was lost. Ralph's boy is the heir in
default of Mrs. Selby's children. Failing the boy, Ralph would inherit
from his son."

"I have known so many instances in the South of the long-lost heir
turning up when he was least expected, that I never look on any one as
dead till I have seen the burial certificate. After a person has been
put underground, in the presence of witnesses, I feel that his claims
have been quieted, but not before. Twenty years from the date of Mrs.
Selby's marriage we will hand over the property to her child; failing
a child of hers we will pay it to Ralph's son; and, meanwhile, we need
not trouble our heads with questions of heirship."

"True; but we would not fulfil the duty our deceased friend expected
of us if we stood idly by while panics and fluctuations of the Stock
Market were eating away the value of the property. Man alive! our
allowances and commissions in selling out and re-investing would go a
long way to make up any loss which could be proved in a court to have
arisen from our error in judgment, even if our good intentions did not
weigh with the jury to absolve us. That is, supposing the heir should
be shabby enough to make such a claim. But the supposition is
preposterous. If you sell out that block of stock in the Banque
d'Orval and the Proletarian now, your brokerage will be quite a pretty
thing--makes a man wish himself a broker to think of it."

"And after the shares were sold, what would you do with the money?"

"Invest in first mortgages on good real property--never to more than
half or a third of the value. I can lay my hands on any quantity of
such security. It is safe beyond question; for, as you observed a
little while ago, the acres cannot run away and I will see to there
being the fullest powers of foreclosure and sale; so there can be no
possibility of loss."

"I do not understand your Canady laws about real property, and I would
be sure to get tripped up in some nicety about titles."

"But _I_ know, General. It is my business."

"Of course you do, and you would feel all safe. But what of me? One
man don't exactly like to shoulder a responsibility on the strength of
another man's knowledge--see? I would consult you myself, friend
Jordan, on my own affairs, and go by what you told me, but somehow
that seems different from going it blind in another man's business,
and making myself responsible for everything some one else may do."

"But, my dear sir, I am as ignorant of Stock Exchange matters as you
can possibly be of the law of real property. Suppose we were to divide
the proceeds of stocks sold into two parts; you to invest the one-half
in stocks and bonds, and I the other in mortgages, and each to furnish
the other with particulars of what he had done. You would make a very
pretty sum out of your share of the business, and I don't mean to say
that I would not do the same out of the other, only as it is the
borrower who pays the law costs, my profits would come mostly out of
the public, while yours would come out of the estate, so you cannot
but say I am well disposed towards you."

"But if we are to sell out the very strongest stocks on the list in
fear of a panic, it would be a foolish thing to buy into the weaker
ones at the same time."

"Buy American bonds then. You know all about them. So much of United
States bonds, as being strong, and so much in bonds of the better
individual States, which can be got at a discount now, and will be
about par by the time the heir is to receive them. Quite a pretty
transaction for you, I should think, general."

The "general" coughed and hummed, and cleared his voice as if about to
speak; but so many different words rushed to his lips at once--words
of doubt, words of inquiry, refusal and consent--that he could not
frame them into speech.

"Think over it, general," Jordan said as they shook hands at parting,
"and let me know as soon as you have made up your mind. Something
should be done at once."

Considine thought it would be mortifying if the estate left in his
charge should suffer diminution or loss simply on account of his own
want of enterprise. Of course there were chances both ways, but was it
not his business to make gain out of these chances? And had he not
secured for himself a snug little fortune by manipulating them for his
own advantage? And should he not risk something to save a friend, an
old and deceased friend, who would besides, pay brokerage on all he
did for him? Considine valued himself, and I doubt not, justly so, on
his "high tone;" but he was human, as we who contemplate his conduct
also are--and those brokerages _did_ range themselves in his mind
among the considerations for and against disturbing old Gerald's
investments, and eventually it was on the side with brokerages that
his decision fell; but we are not therefore justified in describing
Considine with his "tone" as a specious humbug. He meant well, as so
many of us do, only he was happy to combine his own advantage with
what he--therefore, perhaps--considered the advantage of his trust.



                             CHAPTER II.

                    MARY SELBY MEETS HER DAUGHTER.


Four years later, in a street in Montreal. It had snowed
uninterruptedly the day before, in fine dry particles, sifting
noiselessly through the air, and filling it with prickly points--not
the broad clammy flakes of an insular climate which loiter as they
fall, and feel damp and clay-like beneath the passer's feet; but
rather an attenuated sand or dust, dimming and pervading the day, and
heaping itself in drifts which overspread and bury while you watch,
yet cannot reckon how it is they grow. And then it is so dry in its
exceeding coldness that it will not wet, and springs and crackles
merrily under foot.

It was morning--not yet nine o'clock--and the snow shovellers were
only beginning here and there to relieve the encumbered footways, and
contribute another layer to the solidly-packed thicknesses of snow and
ice which winter had been building in the streets, a foot or two above
the neighbouring side walks. The snow had ceased to fall, and the
laden clouds which had brought it having burst and dissolved
themselves, the sky was a clear pale vault, filled with diffused and
dazzling brightness.

From a door there issued a young girl, trim and slight. She was
dressed in brown--brown close-fitting, warm and shaggy--muffled as to
ears and chin in a wisp of "cloud" of the same colour, out of which
there peered the daintiest little pink nose and a pair of eyes of
merry blue, shining as they looked out from under the edge of her
sealskin cap, with the gleeful twinkle of a squirrel's in the snugness
of his nest. I would have said they were like fawn's eyes, save that
it has a sentimental association which does not accord with Muriel
Stanley, now arrived at the age of fifteen--the border land between
child and woman--and fancy free. She stood on the doorsteps with a
roll of music under her arm, and her hands in the pockets of her
jacket. Muff she had none, it is in the way with active people who do
their five or six miles on snow-shoes of winter afternoons, and
"_toboggan_" down slopes in the moonlight.

The air was so chill it seemed to catch the breath on emerging from
the indoor warmth; but it was so transfused with brightness and
dancing sunshine that it sent the blood coursing quicker through the
veins, and prickled in the nostrils with an exhilarating joy, like the
sting of the air bubbles in effervescing wine.

The doorsteps were as yet unswept, and deep in snow, the shovellers
being still a good many doors off, and Muriel stood on the top looking
down and around ere she made the knee-deep plunge, when a voice
accosted her coming down the street.

"Miss Muriel! yet surely not, at this hour of the morning."

"Yes, it's me, Mr. Gerald," she said, turning round. "What would any
one stay indoors for on a jolly morning like this?"

"But you do not go out at this hour of the morning in general?"

"Neither do you; I know that much. We see the business people go
past--M. Petitôt and the Ferretings--about half-past eight, but you
gentlemen of the Stock Board never by any chance before half-past ten.
If I were a man, and lazy, I would be a stockbroker. No going back to
the office in the evening!"

"Ha, ha! you are severe this morning. Does that come of being out so
early?"

"That? Oh! I have to go for my music lesson this morning; if I am to
have one at all. Mr. Selby has fallen on the ice and sprained both his
ankle and his wrist. I have a note from him, written with his left
hand, asking me to come to his house, as he cannot come to me--written
with his left hand, actually; think of the trouble it must have cost
him!--so I could not refuse to go."

"Poor old Selby! I did not hear of that. He is my uncle, you know, or
at least he is married to my aunt. And Judy--Mrs. Bunce, I mean--is
there just now, with Betsey, to show her the gaieties of the city.
Nice house to see the gaieties from. They will consist of a _musicale_
at Counter Tenor's, the dry-goods man, and one or two select
performances of the Classical Quartette Club. Betsey's mind won't be
unsettled by the dissipation, I guess. She won't leave town thoroughly
dissatisfied with country life. Then again, what a pretty specimen of
musical culture poor Betsey must be for Selby to lead around. I can
imagine his being silently thankful for the sprain as an excuse to
stay at home. Just come in the nick of time. However, as my mother was
saying to me, though somehow it seems to have slipped out of my mind,
we must do what we can for Betsey. If she _is_ a rumpty-tumpty little
thing, with her hair always lying the wrong way, she can't help it,
and Uncle Bunce is not half bad--for a parson. I have it! I shall go
in with you now, if you don't mind, find them all at breakfast, like
an intimate and affectionate nephew--it will save more valuable time
in the afternoon--and offer to take Betsey to the Rink to-day at three
or four o'clock--that is, if you will promise to be there. But let me
see! Have I time? Ah, yes! Twenty minutes to spare before I am due at
Hammerstone's."

"Hammerstone's? Professor Hammerstone's? Is it a breakfast? Do you
attend scientific breakfasts?"

"No. But I study the sciences, though perhaps you would not think it.
You see we have so much to do with mineral lands, mines, metals, and
that sort of thing, that the governor thinks it is worth while for me
to try and find out what it all means. Those sharks, the experts,
impose on you so abominably if you do not know something of what they
are talking about. So I go to Hammerstone for an hour three mornings
in the week, if I get up in time; and really it is more interesting
than you would suppose. It is settled, then, that you will be on the
Rink this afternoon?"

"I scarcely think it. Mr. Considine is coming to drive us out this
afternoon."

"Considine! Phew--But gooseberries are not in season at this time of
year! He! he!"

"I do not understand. I said we were going for a sleigh ride."

"With Considine? Will it not be rather cold work sitting with your
back to the horses while the old chap makes--conversation--to the Miss
Stanleys?"

"Aunt Penelope is afraid to venture out these cold days."

"Just what I said about wholesome summer fruit. That old Considine
must be a sad bore, running out and in so much to one's house--like a
tame cat."

"Mr. Considine is very nice. I like him. He is so good-natured, and he
never says a word against people in their absence."

"One for me! But he _is_ a good fellow, and I fancy you are not the
only Miss Stanley who thinks so."

"How slippery it is! You turn off here, I think, to go to Professor
Hammerstone's, do you not? I hope you will not be late. Thanks for
carrying my music; I will take it now."

"But I mean to carry your music all the way, Miss Muriel. As I told
you, I am going to look in on my three aunts at breakfast, and ask
them for a cup of hot coffee. That will have a good effect on my aunt
Judy, who I fear suspects me of being not very steady. She is a great
promoter of coffee taverns. Tried to start one at St. Euphrase, I
believe, and had to drink all the coffee herself because the
_habitants_ would not buy it. She will say I am an improving character
if I ask for a cup of coffee."


When Muriel had finished her music lesson and was resuming her gloves
and cloud, she found herself caught from behind by a pair of short fat
arms in a sort of hug, accompanied by a little scream of enthusiasm.

"Muriel! And were you going away without ever asking to see me?"

Muriel turned in surprise. "Betsey Bunce! But I did not know you were
in town till an hour ago. You know you never wrote."

"Wrote! What is there to write about at St. Euphrase?--unless I were
to walk up to the farm and ask Bruneau about your cows and chickens.
But you knew an hour ago, you say, and yet you were going away without
asking for me. I call it real unkind."

"It is only ten o'clock, you know--far too early an hour for calling."

"You are so particular! Just like an old woman--and a stiff
old-country woman, too--Miss Penelope all over."

"I hope so. Aunt Penelope is always right."

"Come in now, anyway, and take off your things. I am dying for
somebody to talk to, after sitting round the stove for three days with
three old women. What with Mr. Selby's bandages, and embrocations, and
Miss Susan's neuralgia, and Mrs. Selby's poor health, this house is
worse than a hospital. Auntie likes it first-rate; she enjoys giving
people physic, and says it was a Providence which brought her here at
this time; but I find it real lonesome. I have read through the only
two novels I can find, and I declare my back aches with sitting still
and doing nothing. Couldn't we go down town by-and-by and look at the
shops? Let me help you off with your jacket. Fur-lined, I do declare!
Cost twenty dollars, I dare say. Thirty was it? You're the lucky
girl! Never mind fixing up before the glass, you're all right--here's
a pin if you want one. Wherever did you pick up that cunning
neck-ribbon?--lady bugs and grasshoppers--I call it sweet. It would
just suit my geranium-coloured poplin! By-the-way, do you think that
will do for evening wear, if I am asked anywhere? It is made with a
tablier--looked scrumptious the night they gave charades at Madame
Podevin's boarding-house. Mdlle. Ciseau cut it out for me, and I run
it on the machine myself--fits like a glove. But your city fashions
are so different, one never can be sure. We will go upstairs and look
at it; but first you must come into the Snuggery and see the old
ladies."

The "Snuggery" was at the back of the house, a sort of family room in
which strangers were not received. It had been the chief apartment of
the old log homestead which preceded the existing dwelling. The logs
had been found so sound and the chamber so desirable that it had been
suffered to remain, and been incorporated with the "frame" building
erected in front, which it promised to survive, and last on in solid
stability when the lighter structure of posts and boards should have
fallen to pieces. It was cooler than the rest of the house in warm
weather, and warmer in cold; built of twelve inch logs carefully
jointed together, plastered on the outside, panelled and ceiled within
with red pine highly varnished, and floored with parquetry of
different native woods. It had a window on each of three sides,
flanked by heavy curtains. There was no fire-place, but in the centre
an old-fashioned box-stove, capable of holding billets from two to
three feet long, and whose great black smoke-pipe pierced the roof
like a pivot for the family life to revolve on.

A bear skin and rugs lay about the floor, sofas and tables stood by
the walls, and round the domestic altar, the blazing stove, were the
rocking-chairs of the three sisters, gently oscillating like pendulums
in a clockmaker's shop, and making the wooden chamber feel like the
cabin of a ship, heaving and swinging on a restless tide.

Muriel was greeted effusively by Mrs. Bunce, who looked more fidgety
and alert than ever in that reposeful place, and then she was
presented to the sisters. Miss Susan, swathed in quilted silk and webs
of knitting, a bundle rather than a person, and immersed in her own
misery far too deeply to feel or to excite interest in a stranger,
merely bowed and shuddered at the breath of cooler air which entered
from without; but to the other, Mrs. Selby, Muriel felt strongly
drawn, and pleased in a strange and restful way to feel the gentle
eyes of the sick and rather silent lady dwelling on her with wistful
kindness. She was tall and pale, and in the cross light of windows
admitting the dazzling reflections from the snow, and among the browns
and yellows of the wainscoting, there was a lambent whiteness which
associated itself in Muriel's mind with those "shining ones" she had
read of when a child in the "Pilgrim's Progress," and filled her with
pleasant reverence.

The lady scarcely spoke, spoke only the necessary words of welcome to
a stranger, and then withdrew from the hurry of Betsey's and Judith's
eager talk, sitting silently by and looking on the new comer with
gentle earnest eyes. In the focus of streaming daylight and backed by
russet shadows she sat and looked, wrapped in her white knitted shawl,
and with hair like frosted silver, features and hands delicate,
transparent, and colourless like wax, and eyes which had the weary
faded look which comes of sleepless nights and many tears. She found
it pleasant to sit and rest her eyes on Muriel, so elastic and freshly
bright, as she chatted with the others; she felt as when a breath of
spring comes rustling through the dead and wintry woods, through
sapless withered twigs and fallen leaves, whispering of good to come,
and sweet with springing grass and opening buds.

She scanned the girl's face and guessed her age, and then her thoughts
went back across the years, the weary sunless years which had come and
gone since her joys had withered, and she could not but think that had
her own lost daughter been spared, she would have been nearly of that
age now, and perhaps she would have been gay and bright and sweet as
this one was before her. Her eyes grew moist, but it was with a
softer, less harrowing regret than she had hitherto known, more
plaintive and almost soothing in its sadness. The girl looked so
innocent and free of care, with low sweet laughter coming from a heart
that had never known sorrow or unkindness. It did her good to watch,
and made her feel more patient in her long and weary grief.

For the others, they had their own affairs to make busy with, and it
was not every day they came to town. What interest, either, for them,
could there be in the emotional variations of their silent and always
sorrowful hostess? She had suffered--though it was fourteen years
since then--and of course they "felt" for her; but there is a limit to
sympathy as to all things human--if there were not, life would be
unbearable--and to see her after so many years still cherishing the
olden sorrow had grown tedious, if yet touching after a sort, and the
family had grown to disregard it as a settled melancholy or monomania,
to be pitied and passed over, like the deafness, old age, or palsy of
family friends. So Betsey and her aunt had settled themselves one on
either side of Muriel "for a good old talk," as Betsey said, and they
talked accordingly.

"I shall come round to-morrow morning to see your aunts," said Mrs.
Bunce, "and spend a long forenoon with them," and so on _ad
infinitum_.

A letter was brought in while the talk was in full swing.

"An invitation!" cried Judith. "Mrs. Jordan--requests the pleasure--a
juvenile party. Well--I declare!--Betsey, we forgot to bring your
pinafores--or should it have been a certificate of the date of your
birth? A very strange way to pay attention to their rector's wife and
niece! I thought Mrs. Jordan would have known better."

"Aunt Matilda and I are going," said Muriel in astonishment. "It was
very nice last time. More than a hundred, big and little. They had the
band, a splendid supper and lots of fun. Indeed, Aunt Penelope was
almost unwilling I should go this time; it was so late when we got
home."

"Very proper, my dear; I quite approve. Young people should keep early
hours; but, you know, Betsey is a little older than you are. Not
much," she added, as prudence pointed to the day, only a year or two
ahead, when it would suit Betsey, if still a young lady, to be no
older than Muriel--"still she is in long dresses, and it seems odd to
invite her the first time to a child's party."

"They are not all children. Tilly Martindale, for instance, is as old
as Betsey. So is Randolph Jordan himself and Gerald Herkimer."

"Will _they_ be there?" cried Betsey kindling into interest. "We'd
better go, auntie, there's no slight. I see the sort of thing it is;
there are a few little girls--_big_ little girls though, all the
same--to give it the name of juvenile and take off the stiffness. Just
like the candy pulling we had at Farmer Belmore's. You know Farmer
Belmore's, Muriel? He lives just across the river and down below the
island at St. Euphrase. His son's family from Michigan were with him
in the fall, and his wife and daughters are too _dévotes_ to meet
their neighbours, and are only waiting his death to go off to the
convent. However, the old man--and a good Protestant he is--was
determined the children should have a good time, so he gave--a candy
pulling and invited everybody for miles round--said it was for the
children. So we all went--drove across the river on the first ice of
the season--whether we knew Mrs. Belmore or no. And, Muriel, we had
just the most too-too time you can imagine. The daughters sat in the
back-room with one or two old French women, away from everybody, and
the eldest granddaughter received the guests. There was a fiddle, and,
oh, just a lovely time! Joe Webb and I pulled the whitest hank of
candy in the room, and we danced eight-hand reels and country dances,
till one of my shoes gave way and I had to sit out with Joe Webb. It
was something beyond, I tell you!"

"Tush, Betsey!" said her aunt. "You are in the city now and must not
go into raptures over rustic frolics, or people will think you know no
better. I shall ask the Miss Stanleys about this, when I see them
to-morrow. They will be able to tell me if we had better go, and how
you should dress."

"Dress! Haven't I my geranium poplin?"

"But this is _town_, my dear, which may make a difference; one never
knows. In _my_ young days, now, I always wore white muslin and a blue
sash! And you cannot think how many civil speeches I used to get"
added the old lady, bridling, with a spot of pink on either cheek and
a toss which set the treacle-coloured curls quivering. The war-horse
is never too old to prance and champ his bit at the sound of the
trumpet, though he may be so old that no one can remember his ever
having been in action.

"I do not remember ever seeing geranium poplin at a party," said
Muriel, looking to Betsey; but her eyes fell before the glance of
displeased superiority she met there.

"You have not seen my dress, or you would speak more guardedly.
Besides, you are not out yet, and cannot be expected to know what goes
on at fashionable gatherings."

"No," said Muriel, meekly, "I am only a little girl, I know that.
Still, at the juvenile parties I go to--Mrs. Jordan's, Mrs.
Herkimer's, and the rest--and at our parties at home, though _they_
are not balls by any means--quite small affairs--the people dress very
nicely--velvet, satin, lace, and so on--but I never saw a geranium
poplin."

"No! Poplin is only coming in! I know that from 'Godey's Magazine.' It
was just a mere chance Quiproquo of St. Euphrase having one dress
piece. I bought it, and you cannot think how rich it looks. Cut
square!--they are all cut square in the higher circles this year--with
elbow sleeves and a fall of rich lace at twenty-five cents a yard."

Muriel held her breath at the catalogue of rustic splendour. She would
have liked to say a word in mitigation of the fright she feared Betsey
was intending to make of herself, but dreaded to have her youth flung
in her face again. The young are so ashamed of their youth while they
have it; it is only after it has fled, that, like flowers drooping in
the midday heat, they sigh for the dried-up dews of morning which
erewhile weighed down their heads with mistaken shame.

There followed more talk of millinery, and then it was time for Muriel
to go, after effusive farewells and appointments for future meeting.
Mrs. Selby came forward last, when the more boisterous adieux were
over. She would have liked to take this young girl in her arms; she
felt so strongly drawn to her, and knew not why; but she restrained
herself, and only begged her to come often while Betsey remained, and
to be sure to come to the family room in passing, next time she came
for a music lesson. And Muriel, looking in the face of the whitened
lady, so venerable and sweet, not only promised--as in good nature she
could not avoid--but really intended to fulfil, promising herself
pleasure in doing it.



                             CHAPTER III.

                              CONSIDINE.


A great rise in the world had come to Cornelius Jordan, Q C. They seem
all to be Q.C.'s, my reader, those lawyers in Canada; or more than
half of them. The Queen is so remote a centre, that the beams of her
favour are very widely, if thinly, spread, and this especial title of
honour has come to be regarded as a polite and inexpensive attention
which new prime ministers make haste to bestow upon their friends. And
there are so many prime ministers, that at last it became a ground of
dispute, between the minor premiers of the several provinces, and the
premier-major at Ottawa, as to which should have the exclusive run of
the alphabet for decorative purposes. Mr. Jordan, I repeat, had risen
since we met him last at the Misses Stanley's garden tea. Then he was
a rising man in his profession, doing well, and in comfortable
circumstances; now, he was one risen--full head and shoulders above
his fellows, living in a house of the very largest size, and with
horses and servants to equal the most prosperous of his neighbours,
and reported to be wealthy; not with the startling but evanescent
opulence of the merchant prince, which to-day is, and to-morrow is
nowhere; but with the reality which attaches to professional wealth in
the popular mind, as money actually coined from a man's own brain--the
golden fees raked in from grateful clients--without risk, and
irrespective of rising and falling markets. His name was spoken with
that slight involuntary pause before and after which carries more
distinction than any title; it is a form of respect so undefined.
"What a man he must be!" his neighbours said, "to have made so much
money, and made it so quickly!" made it at his profession, too. Nobody
doubted that, for his name was never mixed up in other affairs.

It would have been hard guessing for a _quidnunc_ about the Court
House, had he attempted to trace how all that prosperity had been
built up out of the fairly good solicitor's and conveyancer's practice
carried on at his chambers, or from his not unusually frequent or
brilliant appearances in Court; though now that the fruits of success
were so evident, these were vastly on the increase. "Ah!" those
knowing ones would say, "he is not a brilliant speaker; but sound,
sir, sound! What a head for Law the man must have! What clearness of
understanding, to have realized such an income. What a style of living
he keeps up! How many thousands a year does it take? Quite the leading
counsel at our bar." And so clients multiplied, and the suitor whose
case failed in his hands felt surer it had had the best presentment
than he would have felt had it succeeded with any one else. "If Jordan
could not win the suit, pray who could?"

Jordan was liked, too, as well as respected. How could he fail of
that? At his dinners, given every week all through the winter, were
found the choicest bills of fare and the best people, and every one
else was invited to share the feast. It is manifest that one cannot
talk unkindly of a man while the flavour of his wine still hovers
about the palate--so long, that is, as there is prospect of another
invitation. When the last dinner has been eaten, and the last bottle
of wine drunk, then truth is apt to come up from the bottom of her
well--disturbed, no doubt, by the pumping, when the family is forced
to resume water as a beverage--and people's memories become
wonderfully refreshed. They recollect--the women, that is--that really
the man's wife was not a lady, that things were said at the time of
the marriage, and there has been such levity and extravagance since;
while the men shake their heads in cynical wisdom. They knew it from
the first, and wonder how it has gone on so long, and how a fellow
like that could have had the effrontery to entertain their high
mightinesses so profusely.

For the present, however, if there was any unacceptable truth at the
bottom of Jordan's well, she had the kindness to remain there, well
out of sight. The hospitalities proceeded in a genial round; every one
was proud to assist at them and spoke highly of the entertainer.

Considine was the only man who had a misgiving, and he kept his doubts
and surmises to himself, hoping he was in error. He was associated
with this man in many ways; and nothing is gained by letting slip an
insinuation against a friend, even if good feeling did not stamp the
act as abominable. His own conscience, too, was not at rest in the
matter, for the expansion appeared to him to date from very shortly
after the change they had adopted in managing the Herkimer Estate. He
reproached himself constantly for having consented to sell out the old
man's investments, and wondered how he could have been tempted by
those miserable brokerages to smirch the honest record of a lifetime.
No doubt there had been considerable gain on the new securities
purchased with the moiety of the funds which he administered; but what
of the other half? Jordan had displayed so implicit a confidence in
his judgment, such complete beautiful and gentlemanlike faith in his
probity, waiving explanations, motioning off statements with
expressions of unbounded reliance in his ability to do what was best,
while really "in the press of other matters he had no leisure for
unnecessary examinations into matters on which he could not advise,"
that Considine was completely silenced, and was left no opening to
claim reciprocal explanations as to how the moneys in Jordan's hands
had been applied.

He heard on 'Change now and then of Jordan granting short loans at
fancy rates, and of his "doing" paper which was far from being
"gilt-edged," and he thought of that other moiety of the Herkimer
fortune. Such operations are not the way in which trust moneys are
used for the benefit of the trust; but rather one in which, while
loss, if there be any, must needs fall on the trust, the extra profit
accrues to the trustee. And what other funds could Jordan have to
operate with? Considine knew of none but those which should have been
otherwise employed, and for which, he himself would be held
responsible if any misadventure were to befall them, and the sum was
so large that in case of a catastrophe his own poor little fortune
would go but a small way to make up the loss. He could contemplate
that with comparative patience--though certainly it would be hard,
after the labours and vicissitudes of a lifetime, to see the provision
for his declining years swept into a pit, and one not of his own
digging--but disgrace would accompany the ruin; that was the
intolerable thought.

To finish a life in which he had striven to keep his hands unsoiled
and his name without reproach as a defaulting trustee! How he had been
wont to scorn such, when they crossed his path! And to think that he
should end in being classed with them! Who would stop to inquire into
the merits? Had he ever himself stopped to sift the intricacies of a
defalcation, before declaring the defaulter to be a rogue? Had not the
money been confided to his care, and was he not responsible for it to
the heirs? Many a night when he lay awake in the darkness, with
nothing to break the stillness but the ticking of his watch at the
bed-head, the misgiving and the dread would waken in his mind, and
possess him with the restless misery of an aching tooth, which would
not be dulled or forgotten, toss and stretch himself as he might; and
he would vow in desperation to go down the first thing in the morning
and have it out with Jordan; and so, at last, he would fall into a
dose, as the grey twilight was stealing on the night.

In the morning his resolution would be with him still. All through
dressing and shaving he would feel determined "to have it out with
Jordan," and he would run over in his mind the points of his
unanswerable argument on which his co-trustee must needs be caught,
and compelled to the fullest explanation, clearing away another
expected sophism in the defence, with each scrape of the razor on his
chin. When he descended to breakfast, however, the morning papers, the
smoke of the coffee, the greetings of his fellow-boarders in the
hotel, would gradually lead him back to the tone of every-day life and
its amenities, and then his intentions would grow less stern. The
trenchant points in his argument would grow dim before his eyes, and
he would recollect how many things there might be to say on the other
side. Perhaps, too, he might have been misinformed as to something, or
he might be under some misapprehension--for who, after all, can tell
the true inwardness of his neighbour's affairs until death or
bankruptcy overtake him?--and how very uncomfortable his position
would then be! In what an ungenerous, nay, churlish light he would be
exhibiting himself before this most open-hearted and genial of all his
friends! Indeed the prospect was not pleasant; then why should he
force an interview and place himself in a false position? Was it not a
shame in one claiming to be "high-toned," a soldier and a Southern
gentleman of _ante bellum_ times, to harbour injurious suspicions of a
friend? "He must be bilious this morning--want of exercise. He would
ride off his megrims in a two hours' gallop."

And so the days would pass in struggles to drive away the doubts which
returned but the more persistently with darkness to spoil his sleep,
till at length, in dread of their nightly upbraidings, he would nerve
himself to the ungrateful task and stride down to Jordan's chambers,
frowningly constraining himself to anticipate the worst, if only to
keep his courage from oozing away, as it sometimes would, when he
reached the office door, leaving him to turn aside at the last moment
and retreat ignominiously into his club, there to solace his drooping
self-respect with brandy and soda. When, however, in sterner mood he
persevered, it was still not always that the much-engaged lawyer could
be seen. He was busy upon a case and could see no one; a client was
with him, and two more were waiting their turn for an audience, or he
was in court, and Considine--not altogether sorry at the respite--went
home in comparative relief. He had done what he could, at least, and
surely now the suspicions would leave him for a night or two and let
him sleep in peace.

Once or twice, by a lucky chance, he was able to catch the busy man at
a vacant moment intrenched behind black bags bursting with briefs,
volumes of consolidated statutes, and calf-bound authorities.

"Ha, Considine!" he would cry, in a tone almost too jolly for "the
profession" in business hours, "so glad to have been disengaged when
you called! See you so seldom. Sit down, old man, and tell me what I
can do for you. Don't hurry, I am at leisure now--that is to say, for
the next four minutes and a half," he would add, pulling out his
watch. "Am to see the judge in chambers just five minutes from now.
But take time, I can run down in thirty seconds, so you have good four
minutes and a half. So glad you dropped in when I was at leisure."

Then Considine would hesitate and grow confused. He had charged
batteries of artillery in his day, had "difficulties" on Mississippi
steamboats, which were afterwards arranged with six shooters, "each to
go on firing till one dropped," and he had never flinched from his
task or quailed before antagonist. But how call this man antagonist?
He seemed more ready to embrace than to fight. It was grievous to see
him so friendly, and made our warrior feel but a shabby fellow with
his inquiries and questions, which would sound so like insinuations,
and might wound the genial soul which bore him so much goodwill. Being
in for it, however, he must go on. It would never do for a
Mississippian to run away, even in honour's cause. He pulled from his
pocket a list of the bonds and debentures he held under their joint
trusteeship.

"I want you to examine this list of securities, which I keep in my box
at the Bank of Progress, and indorse your approval on the back, if you
do approve, and we can go over to the bank and compare the papers with
the memorandum any day you find convenient."

"Tush, man! It's all perfectly right, I am quite certain. I have every
confidence in you, General," declining to receive the paper.

"But I really wish you would look at it. I feel this irregular
responsibility unpleasant."

"Bosh! it's all regular enough among friends. You know Ralph Herkimer
this ever so long, and I should hope you know _me!_ Imagine either of
us getting ugly, and blaming you--whom the testator trusted so
entirely--for anything you may do. No, no! And really, you must
excuse me, but I cannot afford to muddle my head with unnecessary
figures--even to please you! I need, all my clearness for the delicate
questions which arise in my practice. I abominate figures at all
times, and never tackle them unnecessarily."

"But ought not I to affix some sort of approval to the mortgages you
have bought for the estate?"

Jordan lifted his eyes to the other's face, in gentle wonder, as a
good man might when wounded rather than offended by an unlooked for
aspersion on his honour; and Considine, confused and abashed, stopped
short, and then floundered on again:

"I mean it, of course, in no distrustfulness--for what should I
distrust?--but just so as fairly and fully to divide the
responsibility in case of the heirs desiring to call us to account."

"I really do not know," answered Jordan, matching his voice to the
look of mild disappointment without reproach which the other found it
so hard to bear up under; "I really don't know. I have not considered
the point. It did not occur to me that you would wish to enter into
the intricacies of titles in this country, which is a comparatively
old one, and the tenures bear no resemblance to those of Mississippi,
where I am told you go back only to General Jackson. Our system of
law, too, is very different, being derived from the French, and not
from the common law, as with you. No! It did not occur to me that you
could possibly wish to enter into these mysteries. Our period of
trusteeship, too, is drawing near its close. Three years, I should
suppose, would conclude it; though I cannot speak precisely without
reference to the will, and the date of Mrs. Selby's marriage. Will the
study of our Quebec land-system repay you, do you think? And our
friend Ralph is so entirely satisfied. Why should you bother?

"But we are not responsible to Ralph."

"No, not exactly. But it will be his boy Gerald, which is much the
same thing. The lad goes into partnership with his father shortly, so
their interests are identical; and it would surprise me to be told
that Master Gerald did or knew anything but what his father told him.
A nice boy. Wish my scapegrace was as manageable."

"I have never felt sure of that--of Ralph's boy being heir, I mean.
There has been no proof of the missing infant's death; and where there
is money the claimant seemingly never dies, but is always reappearing
when least expected. But if, as you anticipate, it is to be Ralph we
shall have to make up accounts with in the end, I am not confident
that we might not have trouble, if he saw an opening for complaint. I
have known him long, as you are aware, he is a fine man for
business--none better--and has made a handsome fortune, but I had
rather not be in his power."

"No fear of that! I fancy I know blaster Ralph, too," pulling out his
watch, "but there are few men of mark, especially in business, whom we
lawyers cannot lay a hand on, when necessary, to keep them quiet. His
bark would be worse than his bite in our case, for I think I know
where to light on a muzzle that will keep him quiet enough. Time's up,
I see. If you are bent on overhauling those papers of mine, why not
come up to dinner some evening? We could do it far more comfortably
with the help of a glass of sherry and a good cigar. What day will you
come? Friday? Or, let me see, what are you doing this evening? Come up
to-night. Half-past seven, sharp. Good-bye, for the present. So glad
you are coming."

And Considine would go as invited, and would find a number of other
guests assembled; and Jordan would be all geniality and pleasure at
having him; but never an allusion to business would escape his lips,
nor would they find themselves alone together, even for a moment, till
the evening was spent and it was time to go home. And so it fell that
Considine's anxieties, while seeming to himself to require but one
vigorous effort to end them, were never resolved, but hung about him
vague and undefined, like the beginning of a low fever which has not
as yet pronounced itself; causing restlessness and care, but bringing
also a habit of acceptance which enabled him to live his life in spite
of it, only with a diminished relish. His distrust wore in time out of
the acute into the chronic form; and it is remarkable, with time, how
much of anxiety a healthy man can work through, and apparently be none
the worse. Endurance brings a kind of strength to the mind like that
which persistence does to the body, when the arsenic eater, after
having consumed ounces of the deadly stuff, becomes able to swallow
with impunity more than would have killed him not so many months
before. The gouty and the rheumatic, too, how long they live!--live
and enjoy even, somewhat, through their sufferings.

And in some such fashion Considine lived on, in moderate comfort and
prosperity, with the shadow of possible ruin in the back-ground;
always felt, but not so strongly that he must disturb the daily
furniture of his life by an effort to exorcise the demon; which is a
state of things not so very different from what the rest of us endure.
We have our threatening shadows too, loss, disease, madness, not so
very far off, and always the dismal shade of Death himself looming up
behind and dwarfing all the others; yet, like the people before the
flood, we manage pretty well to comfort and amuse ourselves in the
present.

Considine solaced himself not unsuccessfully under his cares. He had
naturally much of the wise vegetable enjoyment of existence, and
things conducing thereto, eating, smoking and gentle exercise, which
is natural to the country bred more than to those brought up in
cities. He had 'Change through the day to gossip and lounge upon, and
his club in the evening. He had opportunities too of going into
society, even if he did not make the most of them, and very frequently
he would spend an hour in the Misses Stanley's drawing-room, sipping
tea and talking over the news. He had fallen into the way of spending
the hot months at St. Euphrase, just as those ladies spent the cold
ones in the city. Their migrations agreed pretty closely in time, and
both he and they, owing to years and circumstances, being somewhat out
of the swim of busy life, found it pleasant to sit together on the
banks, as it were, and watch the gambols and antics of those younger
and brisker, who disported themselves in mid-current.

The ladies had come to town the first winter solely for their niece's
education, but the following year they undoubtedly had their own
solacement quite as much in view as her improvement. The tranquillity
and repose of their rural life was if anything too complete, and after
having once broken it by wintering in the city, it would have felt
like returning to bed after lunch to have remained in the country all
the following year. There is a feeling of companionship to be derived
even from the faces of our fellows as they pass us in the street,
which is pleasant to such as have been leading secluded lives, and it
takes months for this mild excitement to lose its relish; but it will
grow tame eventually, and so, too, will the morning calls among ladies
of a certain age. Humanity being in two forms, which combine with and
supplement each other to constitute the perfect whole, a social circle
composed of one kind alone must needs be incomplete, tending to
limpness if it be feminine, to hardness if all of men.

The day for flirtation and matrimonial intentions may be over, but
still the habits and tastes formed in that brighter time survive, even
when incorrigible celibacy has caused society to pass by the offenders
as hopeless subjects. Fortune, by endowing a young lady with
competence, grants her the privilege to be unworldly or critical, so
that she lets her precious springtime pass unused. The privilege is by
no means an unalloyed boon as the years go by. She finds herself
inadmissible to the conclaves of matrons of her own age, where
husbands, doctors and children are discussed with freedom; yet her
god-daughters and nieces can scarcely be expected to accept her as a
compeer; she is a _demoiselle passée_, an outside hoverer on the
confines of social life, with the gay bachelors of earlier decades who
are still unwed, and whom society passes by as obdurate and hopelessly
unavailable for matrimonial use.

It is pitiful to see these disappointed "have-beens," with their
relish for youthful pleasures still unslaked, flitting in a
disregarded twilight, like Homer's ghosts, while the reviving blood of
the sacrificial bull is quaffed by other lips. Well for them, is it
not, if they can make up a little party among themselves, and by
keeping each other in countenance, contrive to ruffle it without
ridicule among the younger revellers?

And so, from mutual convenience and sympathy, Considine and the Misses
Stanley became fast comrades. In their drawing-room he could drink a
cup of tea with the ladies whenever he had a mind, and they were sure
of an escort for the evening when they so desired.



                             CHAPTER IV.

                           BETSEY EX FÊTE.


In spite of her pretence to make little of an invitation to a juvenile
party, the prospect of that gaiety took strong possession of Betsey
Bunce. Mr. Selby's lameness had prevented his taking her anywhere or
affording her opportunity to spread her plumage among strangers;
which, indeed, was all the satisfaction which could have accrued from
going out with him, she not being musical, and he very little else.
Betsey's dissipations, therefore, had been of so meagre a kind that
she might well set store by Mrs. Jordan's invitation; it would at
least, she told herself, be an opportunity to show people that she was
fit for better things. Her cousin Muriel had told her she might expect
to meet a hundred guests or more, and surely they would not all be
children, though poor Muriel was too young perhaps to know; but, at
least, both her Montreal _beaux_, as she choose to denominate Randolph
Jordan and Gerald Herkimer, would be there. So she made no doubt of
having a "good time." The image of Joe Webb rose before her mind's eye
as that idea occurred to her, and he seemed to her to look
reproachful. "Poor Joe!" she sighed to herself, glancing archly in her
glass; but Joe was fifteen miles away, and Betsey fancied herself a
heart-breaker. "A girl can't help these things," her thoughts ran on;
"and Joe has never said a word--though I can tell by the sinking of
his voice when he speaks to me, he would say plenty if I just gave him
encouragement. Poor Joe! he's too modest. The _beaux_ won't need
encouragement! I guess I shall rather have to make them stand off a
bit--at first, that is, they ain't going to think they are to have it
all their own way with an Upper Canadian, even if she _has_ moved down
to St. Euphrase. Nice fellows both; but such awful _dudes!_ When they
walk down the street of St. Euphrase in their cricketing suits, the
sidewalk don't seem broad enough to give them both room. And my! don't
the _habitants_ stare at them? I kind of like a _dude_, or I almost
think I could bring myself to like one," and as she glanced in the
glass again, she coloured half shyly before the intelligence in her
own eyes. "Their gloves and their boots do fit so splendid! Their
necks look tight like in the stiff collars, but their tongues wag
freely enough--too freely sometimes, at St. Euphrase. They're real
'sassy' sometimes. But at a large party, no doubt they'll know enough
to behave. No! Dudes ain't half bad. But these two hai'nt got the fine
manly shoulders and strong arms of Joe Webb."

"Ah, how big he is! And how safe a girl would be with him to take care
of her! To see him gather up the reins behind that young team of his
in one hand, when they grow fractious, and lash them with the other
till they simmer down like lambs! Poor Joe!" and she took another look
at her all conquering charms in the glass.

Her hair--how should she arrange it on the night of conquest? There
was searching of fashion magazines for something distinguished yet
chaste. Many startling novelties, with much expenditure of time and
hairpins, were attempted, with signal unsuccess; and it was only after
every florid device had been exhausted, that she had at last to
confess that a severe simplicity accorded best with her other charms;
or to speak plainly was the only hairdressing she could succeed in.

These labours led to a more critical scrutiny of her complexion than
she had ever made before. Hitherto she had accepted it like her other
perfections in contented faith; but now, on closer observation, was
there not just a suspicion of yellowness under the eyes--tan marks on
the neck--a freckle or two across the ridge of the nose? Violet
powder! that was what she needed, and forthwith she repaired to an
apothecary, who, I fear, supplied her with other embellishments at the
same time. It is certain, at least, that on the looked-for evening,
when, after keeping her aunt long waiting, she at length came
downstairs arrayed in all her glory, with shawl and hood carried in
her hand, that the assembled family might have the privilege of a
private view, before she set out on her career of conquest, Mr. and
Mrs. Selby being in the hall and a maidservant near to open the door
and catch a glimpse of the show, she appeared in one of those
startling complexions which are affected by equestrian ladies of the
circus, in which not the lily and the rose combine, but the chalk-ball
and rouge contrast their rawness.

Mrs. Selby's mild and weary eyes opened in amused amazement, and her
spouse coughed industriously behind his hand to stifle his laughter.
Mrs. Bunce lifted her "pinch-nose" to her eyes in dismay and
indignation.

"What is it? Who is it?" she asked, while Betsey simpered and tossed
her head. "That I should live to see a clergyman's niece make a----"

"Guy of herself with violet powder and druggist's red," volunteered
Mr. Selby. "It's a mistake, my dear Betsey, I assure you, attempting
to improve Nature's choicest effort, the cheek of a pretty girl. It's
like painting the lily--gilding refined gold."

Betsey turned wrathfully round, flushing scarlet here and there where
the powder lay less thickly. "But perhaps he meant well, too," she
thought. His concluding words implied a gratifying appreciation of her
everyday looks; so she let it pass, and the angry red subsided from
her forehead.

"Fie, Betsey!" continued the aunt. "There is scripture against such
sinful interference with the natural complexion. Think of the wicked
Hebrew queen."

"Who painted her face and was thrown out of the window," added Selby,
with some irreverence. Poor man, he was apt to grow jocose.

"But, auntie, the fashion magazine says brilliant complexions are all
the go, especially with simple _coiffures_; and I am sure mine is
simple enough--nothing but a bang, an Irish wisp, and--well, only
three or four pads. In Europe, it is said, they use rouge and
pearl-white quite freely. I have only put on a little powder."

"A _little_, my dear?" muttered Selby, half aside, "you look as if you
had come out of a flour barrel--with the white flakes sticking all
over you. It ought to be a fancy ball you were going to, and you to
represent a snowstorm. The dust is flying from you every time you turn
your head."

"Nonsense, George," said his wife. "You are vexing, and very
ridiculous. Why tease the girl? We have all made mistakes of that kind
in our day, Betsey, my dear. You should have seen Mr. Selby himself,
when he was a young man, and wanted to look his best. He could hardly
walk--he hobbled--from the tightness of his boots."

"You are mean, Mary, to go back to that. If I did, it was only when I
hoped to walk or dance with you."

"And you would have danced far better if your shoes had been a larger
size. But truly, Betsey, if you will try the effect of a wet sponge on
your face, you will find your own nice natural colour infinitely more
becoming."

"I am afraid it will make me awful pale. I'd hate to look pale
alongside Muriel, her colour brightens so when she gets animated. And
there's Tilly Martindale; perhaps she'll be there, and I guess _she's_
sure to have a colour, however she comes by it."

"_They_ are not in the Church," said Mrs. Bunce, grandly.

"Nor am I, auntie. It's a _party_ I'm going to." Public opinion,
however, so freely expressed, had its effect, and Betsey returned to
her room, to reappear more like her ordinary self, and accept with
little satisfaction the congratulations and praises which good-hearted
Mrs. Selby felt bound to shower upon her.

As the aunt and niece drew near their destination they felt their hack
suddenly slow off into a walk. There was a sleigh in front of them,
and when Betsey stood up, craning her short neck to reconnoitre, there
was another in front of that, and another, and another. Then there
were gates and an illuminated mansion beyond, up to which the line of
sleighs was streaming, slowly and intermittently, as each in
succession stopped to set down its load, and then vanished.

"I declare, auntie, we're in a procession! Ain't it cunning? and
quite grand. The company will all arrive together, and there's no
doubt they will make a grand entry, two and two with the music playing
a march--just like there was in Tullover's Circus, last year, at St.
Euphrase. Only we'll have to walk, on account of the stairs, and not
having horses. I always knew it was the stage and the pulpit gave the
law about speaking, but I didn't know before, it was the circus set
the fashion for other things. Ain't it well, now, that I was
there?--though you scarcely thought so at the time. You just keep as
near me as you can, and I'll tell you what to do--all I know. But, to
be sure, they'll be providin' us with _beaux_, and we'll have to go
wherever the gentlemen take us. Ah! When I remember the lady in the
yellow satin riding habit, with the knight in steel button armour and
the peacock plume! It was something beyond. I don't see why steel
button armour should not go quite as well with geranium poplin as
yellow satin. But knights, if there are any, won't wear their uniform
at a private party, I'm afraid. The Queen makes them keep it for
wearing at the palace, most likely; but it's mean of her, all the
same. However, black swallow-tails look real nice, with almost any
colour a girl can put on, and it's just the very thing to tone down my
geranium colour, and make it look moderate."

There was no place for Mrs. Bunce to slip in a word as her niece ran
on in a continuous monologue--soliloquy--rather, for she was merely
thinking aloud, and her thoughts had grown so engrossing that she
probably would not have heard, had she been spoken to. Presently the
sleigh came to a final halt, and it was their own turn to alight and
follow the stream of cloaked figures up the stairs. A counter-stream
of those who had disentangled themselves, like moths escaped from the
dusky chrysalids, and were rustling their airy glories into form,
passed them on the banister side, while the arrivals not yet perfected
in the cloak-room slunk upwards by the wall.

Betsey's breath seemed to forsake her in one little gasp of ecstasy.
She followed her aunt upwards mechanically. Her consciousness had
gathered itself into her eyes, and sat there all athirst, drinking in
impressions from the novel scene. The scent of flowers was everywhere,
and the sound of sackbut, psaltery, fiddle, and all that she could
dream of festive music. Through the open doors below, as she ascended,
appeared dancing figures, whirling and vanishing in endless
succession. Lamps and glitter seemed everywhere, and gowns of every
hue--a moving rainbow. She could only liken it to the description from
a New York pantomime in that morning's newspaper of the "Halls of
Dazzling Light." The hall-way, which she looked down on as she went
up, was filled with people in evening dress, circulating to and fro,
and a stream of people in festive array was passing her on the
stairs--velvets, satins, jewellery, lace and flowers, not to speak of
niceties in hair-dressing and general arrangement, which it had not
hitherto entered into her mind to conceive, but were still so
beautiful. She caught them all in the passage of her eye across that
serried stream as she went up a flight of stairs. She was a born
milliner, as the upper Canadiennie not very seldom is.

Mrs. Bunce and her niece had been almost the last of the guests to
arrive, and had been long detained in the cloak-room by those
finishing touches to their adornment over which it is by no means the
young or the beautiful who spend the longest time. In the present case
it was the treacle-coloured _chevelure_ of the aunt which had come
askew under the hoods and wrappings she had worn upon her head, and
her cap secured in its place by many a hairpin required to be removed
before the other invention could be adjusted. She lingered over minor
embellishments till the other occupants had left the room, when she
found some pretext to send away the attendant also. Then she sprang to
the door and locked it, and turning to Betsey with startling
vehemence, made her promise by all she held sacred never on any
pretext to reveal or divulge what she was presently to behold. Betsey
has kept her promise.

Whatever awful rite may have supervened has remained unknown. The maid
at the keyhole saw moving figures, but what they were doing she could
not tell, though the time allowed for observation was ample during
which she was kept outside. Eventually the door was unbarred, and Mrs.
Bunce came forth with the dignified self-possession of a well-dressed
woman, Betsey followed, looking pale and anxious, as the inquisitive
waiting-maid discerned, and with the far-off look in her eyes which
the books tell us is worn by those who have come through a new
experience.

They were so long of getting down stairs that Mrs. Jordan had left the
doorway, in which she had been standing to receive her guests, and was
now by a fireplace with some of her friends. It was necessary for Mrs.
Bunce to cross the room, at some risk to herself from passing
dancer's, in order to pay her respects. Betsey followed as well as she
was able, but she did not reach the presence of her hostess.

From beyond the radius of a dowager in truffle-coloured satin drifting
easily onwards in the same direction, in whose wake Betsey had found
it safe and easy to steer her course among the throng--from out of the
unknown region, which the bulk of truffle-coloured satin concealed,
there came a whirlwind of palest blue, with silver chains and bangles
tossing among curling hair, and smiles and dimples, revolving wildly
with the music, and with a shock and a little cry there came into her
arms--who but Muriel Stanley! The meeting was of the briefest. They
had scarcely time to ejaculate each other's names ere Muriel's
cavalier had his partner well in hand again, and they were gone,
Betsey looking after them with all her eyes. It was Randolph Jordan
who was dancing with Muriel, looking, as Betsey phrased it, "fit to
kill," in his evening suit. One of Betsey's _beaux!_ How engagingly
she looked at him, and after him, out of her boiled gooseberry
eyes--throwing glances of fascination which I fear fell short, or were
not understood--with a simper on her round fat cheeks, and lips parted
in smiles, displaying slab-like teeth.

"Whoever was that we cannoned off just now?" said Randolph, when his
partner stopped for breath, "Curious looking person to meet at a
party. Who is it? You seemed to know her."

"That was my cousin, Miss Bunce. You know her too--quite ready to know
her out at St. Euphrase you seem. In your own house I should have
thought you would know every one."

"There, now, I've put my foot in it. She's your cousin, she's all
right of course. Don't be vexed, Muriel. But what makes her wear that
horrid gown? I never saw anything like it."

Something stole into Muriel's eyes as she thought of the "geranium
poplin," and how very superior its wearer intended to be when she put
it on--"made with a _tablier_ and cut square"--but she checked the
impulse, and only said: "Poor Betsey must feel herself a stranger
here; I do not think she knows a soul but those she has met at St.
Euphrase. I think I shall sit down now. No! Not another turn, I feel
quite tired. Go and ask Betsey; you will do me a favour if you will,
and then introduce a few gentlemen to her. Help her to enjoy herself.
It must be dreadful to be so alone in a room full of people."

"You are hard on me, Muriel, to deprive me half my dance and then hand
me over to--to-- If she were quietly dressed, it would not be so bad.
She used to look quite passable at St. Euphrase in her cotton gowns;
but the sumptuous apparel is really too dreadful. Every one will
observe us. And see! I do declare she is ogling somebody up in
this part of the room. Just look. Did you ever see such facial
contortions? and what a mouthful of teeth! Like an amiable hyena, or
the show-window at a tombstone factory."

"I am fond of my cousin Betsey, Randolph. If you do not hurry away to
her she will lose this dance, and I shall be disappointed."

It was with tardy and reluctant steps that Randolph obeyed, but he had
not to go far to meet the engaging Betsey. That young lady, watching
her _beau_ from afar, saw Muriel led to a seat, and himself, after a
few words of conversation, turn in her direction; and with the
inspiration of conquering beauty, she divined that it was to her his
steps were tending. And yet the steps seemed lagging even after they
were disencumbered of the partner. They positively seemed to falter.
Ah! poor young man, the _beau_ was diffident--needed encouragement;
and he should have it. It seemed to her tender heart to be no time for
standing on punctilio. The young man suffered; and it was for her.
That was enough.

She turned her steps to meet him as he came--meet him half-way, I
might have said, had I been censorious--and as he came in view she
smiled, smiled like a brimming tea-cup filled with sugar and water;
and she spread her hands in welcome, spread them, that is, as to the
fingers, she did not move the wrists, for, notwithstanding the
certainty of beauty's intuitions, there is still the possibility that
one may be mistaken, as Betsey had been ere now--and she stood with
her eyes fixed on Randolph's countenance.

The look met him full in the face as he came before her, struck him as
the jets from the fire-engines may have struck the Parisian mob which
General La Moricière so cleverly dispersed without the help of steel
or gunpowder; and he would have run away, but he could not. Not only
was Betsey before him, but Muriel was somewhere behind, and both would
have seen his demoralization. Betsey's eyes were beaming on him with a
peculiar radiance. They swam, it seemed to him, in a shining
wateriness, and with a light in which the green rays and the yellow
blended as they do in an over-ripe gooseberry where the sun is
shining, looking luscious, and not too cool--inviting, to those whose
tastes that way incline.

The greetings between these two were not prolonged--the one had been
ordered to give a dance, the other was eager to encourage a _beau_.
There was a bow and a word or two. Miss Betsey's head lay back on her
short neck as the gentleman's arm slid around her waist. Then, as she
laid her little fat hand on his arm, her head rolled over to the other
shoulder, and she found herself in the ecstasies of the mazy dance.
She drew a long breath of delight, and leant just a trifle heavier on
the strong encircling arm, when--crash! sharps and flats. Another
chord--the music ceased, and--oh, bathos--she found herself standing
on the train of a lady's gown, who was regarding her with a scowl,
while she herself was pinned to the ground from behind in the same
way, and she could not but dread how the hoof-marks would look on her
geranium poplin.

It was Randolph's turn now to draw a breath of relief, and he looked
over his shoulder to where he had left his little friend--little, not
obviously in stature, but only because she still wore short frocks,
though counting for more to him than all the grown-up ladies in the
room. The feeling of holiday, however, was of short duration; he could
read disappointment on Muriel's features, and when he gazed towards
her as claiming thanks for what he had done at her behest, she looked
another way, ignoring the demand. It was little satisfaction he could
look for during the rest of the evening if Muriel were disobliged, and
her present demand was one of those disinterested ones which must be
fulfilled specifically and cannot be made up for, or "squared" by
attentiveness in other ways; therefore, as one who can not make a
better of it, he turned to Betsey, regretting that their dance had
been cut short prematurely, and begging that the next might be his.

Betsey was nothing loth. The _beau_ must be very far gone indeed, she
thought, and she could not but cast a backward and regretful glance of
her mind to Joe Webb, Gerald Herkimer, and several others, taking them
all pell-mell and quite "promiskis," as she pronounced the word.
However, she could only have one, she knew that; and she intended to
take whoever offered first, if he was eligible, and not run risks by
"fooling" after the rest. So much for being practical-minded and not
idiotically in love, except with one's own sweet self!

Randolph resigned himself to work out his dance conscientiously, but
without enthusiasm. Her waist was so far down that he would have to
stretch to get steering leverage upon this rather compact partner, and
as has happened before to many a tall youth with a stumpy fair one, he
had a presentiment that his arm would ache before the exercise was
concluded. In walking round the room, however, before the solemnity
commenced, he caught so pleasant a smile of thanks from Muriel over
his lady's head that he was consoled, and set himself manfully to
perform the task before him; the more so, perhaps, that Muriel was
sitting, and though he would not have owned to grudging her a
pleasure, it pleased him best when she danced with himself. He had
kept more than half his card free from engagements, that she might
have plenty of dances, and his mother was looking for an opportunity
to take him to task for the horrid way in which he was neglecting her
guests. He would have been less content could he have looked back and
seen the alacrity with which she rose a moment later when Gerald
Herkimer came forward to claim her. Of all the "fellows" in the room;
Gerald was the only one as to whose standing in Muriel's good graces
he had a misgiving.

The dance began, and Randolph found he had not under-estimated the
work before him. Betsey was positively festive, exuberant and
unconfined, on the very top rung of her gamut of feeling, as she
bounced and caracoled along. She could dance, of course--every
Canadian woman can dance--but she possessed a solid massiveness
peculiar to herself, and really remarkable in one of her size.
Randolph found there was little he could do but merely hold on. Strain
and adjust himself as he might, the centre of their joint equilibrium
would not be brought under his control. Betsey seemed totally
inelastic, and her ballast was in her heels. "Hefty" was the word a
Vermont cattle dealer had used to describe her action after a dance at
St. Euphrase. Deviously she pranced, a filly whom no rein ever
invented could be hoped to guide; and as the rapture of the music wore
into her soul, she threw herself back on poor Randolph's arm with an
_abandon_ and an entirety which made it feel strained and paralyzed
for long after.

"Oh, Mr. Jordan," she cried, when at last the poor fellow was
compelled to stop; "you seem fairly done up and out of breath. For me,
now, I feel fresher, I do declare, than when we started off."

"Small wonder," thought Randolph, "after making me all but carry you
completely round the room;" but he said nothing, merely looking at the
half-paralyzed hand and finger's of his strained arm, and wondering
how long it would be before he should be able to use them.

"You're a lovely dancer," the Syren resumed. "Reely, too--too--awfully
nice for anything. Something quite beyond! But to think of _your_
being tired! And here's me, a fragile girl, feelin', I declare, just
as good as new, or rather better! Now, if you would like to go on
again, I'm quite ready," and she drew herself up ready to relapse on
the manly support of Randolph's arm the moment it should come behind
her.

But it did not come. Randolph observed that it was very warm; "had
they not better walk to the other end of the room?--they might be able
to find ice there, or something to drink;" and he led her round the
outskirts of the dancers. The dancers were all intently engaged,
disporting themselves some more and some less deftly, but all as best
they could, and Betsey eyed them enviously, glancing reproachfully on
her _beau_.

And then there passed them a pair which drew the eyes of both, it
passed them so easily, so lightly, so swiftly, like a curl of blue
smoke across a wooded hillside, and it was flown, like the crotchets
and semi-quavers in a bygone bar of the tune--a waft upon the air,
they passed so lightly, passed like the music, leaving but the memory
of glancing smiles as the music leaves a sense of sweetness when it
has ceased.

"Was that not Muriel went by just now, and Gerald Herkimer?" asked
Betsey.

"I think so," said Randolph, with just a tone of sulky disgust in his
voice.

"I wonder at Penelope and Matilda bringing a child like that to a ball
like this. It's real bad for young children bringing them forward so
soon--just tempts people to think them old before their time; and if
Muriel takes after her aunts, she'll have plenty time for parties
before she marries, even if she came out three years late in place of
three years too soon. I doubt if she is fourteen yet."

"Oh, yes, she will be sixteen next July, she told me so herself."

"A great age. But still she shouldn't be here to-night at a grown-up
dance."

"This is a juvenile party. Miss Bunce."

"Muriel is the only juvenile I see, and she seems to be carrying on
just like one of the grown-ups--all but the frock. She has on a short
frock, I'll admit that, and I don't see another in the room but her
own."

"The juveniles are in the ball-room. Perhaps you have not been there
yet. Would you like to go? This is only the drawing-room with the
carpet up, for a few grown-up friends of my mother's--a mere side
show. Let us go and see the children. You will find Miss Matilda
Stanley there, and have an opportunity to give her your views about
Miss Muriel's nurture."

"Oh, pshaw!" cried Betsey, in deep disgust. It was really too
tantalizing to have secured a splendid partner for a round dance, to
have been checked in full career before the dance was a third part
over, to have been led away under the promise of ice cream and
something to drink; and if there was anything Betsey liked next best
to dancing, it was ice cream, with red wine after--not claret by any
means, but something sweet, warming and--if not exactly strong, it
would be so horrid to like anything strong--at least able to
communicate a sensation of strength or general betterment. To have all
these delights dangled before one's eyes, and then to be led away to
look at a parcel of children, who should have been in their beds hours
before, dancing the polka! Oh, no! Betsey felt she was being wronged.
If she were not to have her dance out, at least she should get the
bribe she had been promised. She would be so far true to herself as to
strike a blow for the ice cream. It was easily done. She observed to
Randolph that she felt a little faint, and really the rooms _were_
warm. He acquiesced at once. So long as it was not to dance, he would
do anything for her. And so they sat down snugly enough near a
refreshment table and tried to be comfortable.



                              CHAPTER V.

                       RANDOLPH'S TRIBULATIONS.


"Randolph!" hissed Cornelius Jordan in his son's ear, as they met in a
vacant doorway not long after. "You're a fool!--a pig-headed young
fool. There are plenty young duffers around to tend the children and
the wall-flowers, and yet you have done nothing else the whole
evening. Dancing three times running with a little girl, and then
towing round a curiosity, just as if you wanted to tell your mother's
guests that you didn't mind any of them, and would as soon dance with
a stitcher. What do you mean, sir?" and he shook the young man's arm
to rouse him.

The young man moved his eyes lazily round to the other's face and
said, "Yes, sir;" whereat the other stamped his foot.

"Well for me, father, is it not, that I'm too big to whip, or I'd
catch it now?"

"You'll catch worse than whipping if you don't mind. You'll ruin your
prospects for life! If I'd whipped you better when it was in my power,
you'd be more sensible now."

"Don't blame yourself, sir; you did your best in that way. I believe I
got more lickings than the five other boys on our street all put
together. You have nothing to reproach yourself with on that score.
You made me squirm, and perhaps it did good, relieving _your_ feelings
if it lacerated mine, but it's over now--forgotten and forgiven, I
suppose, as it has left no marks or effects behind it; for I fancy the
other fellows' fathers have more influence with them than we can
flatter ourselves you have with me."

"You can come to my study to-morrow morning when I am shaving if you
want me to hear the rest of your discourse upon the evil of harshness
in bringing up a supersensitive boy; though my own belief is that it
was your mother who spoiled you. Meanwhile, use your common sense for
once, if you have any; hear me out, and then do as I say.

"You think yourself talented, and for myself I should be pleased to
think so too, but you hate work, and will not drudge at the routine of
our profession, without which success cannot come. You think you have
a turn for politics, and could make your mark that way; and for
myself, I am bound to say I think you might become a good speaker with
practice; but success in politics wants either industry and
application at the beginning, qualities which you do not possess or
will not exercise, or else a connection with some influential
interest. This last you have not either, but with very moderate
assiduity any young man, who is also my son, may at this moment
acquire and retain it for life. Mlle. Rouget is of an age to
marry--just the right age for you. Her granduncle is archbishop, her
uncle a cabinet minister. She is an only child, and her father is
seignior of La Hache. I have been able to be useful to the old man,
and he will consider your pretensions favourably if you will only
declare yourself. In fact, I have in a manner declared on your
behalf, and a very moderate degree of attention on your part, in
confirmation, is all that is necessary. You see she is French, and
well reared--willing to let her parents bestow her hand where they see
fit. So you will not be compelled to such lavish demonstrations as I
have seen you make elsewhere, where nothing was to be got by it; only
of course, it will be good taste to discontinue the attentions in
other quarters while you are a pretender to mademoiselle's hand!

"Why, man! with the church and the government at your back there is
not a constituency in the country you may not aspire to represent; and
with experience and my advice--which is worth more, my son, than you
in your sapiency can very well make out--there is no position whatever
which you may not rise to. Now don't be pig-headed! I see the
obstinate look gathering; but do not let us have a public row for the
entertainment of our friends. Go and dance with Mdlle. Rouget, and be
civil to her; and take in her or her mother to supper. That will not
compromise you either way, and it will save me for the present from
the false position in which my zeal for your prospects, and your own
indifference to them, seem like to land me."

Jordan and his son were scarcely good friends, though both were
inclined to do their family duty. Like the positive poles of two
magnets, they never met without repelling each other. Jordan was
naturally diplomatic, with a pronounced turn for management, which
generally ended in his getting his own way, and therefore made him
disinclined to yield. In town he was liked for his pleasant ways, and
generally he was yielded to; but at home, his consort, whom the rest
of the world found charming, had, for him, what charming women so
often possess for the enlivenment of their nearest and dearest, and
without which, perhaps, they would soon cease to be charming at all, a
will of her own. She had an inconvenient turn for epigram, and with a
verb, or even with a laugh, could prick a bubble or a wind-bag in its
weakest place, bringing the poor high-flyer flapping to the ground;
and Jordan, doubtless, like other Benedicts, though moderate in his
flights abroad, would at times adventure to soar a little by his own
fireside. Amelia permitted no soaring there except her own--is not
home the woman's kingdom?--and perhaps it was thus that her boy
learned a disregard for paternal advice and reproof which could not
but irritate a man accustomed to guide and control in the outer world.
A boy! and his own. It would have been too humiliating to stoop to
management there, especially with mischief-loving Amelia looking on;
so he fell into a habit of commanding, and beating the boy when he
transgressed.

The stick, however, is a sceptre little suited to the nineteenth
century or the Western Continent. For the subjects of the Khedive it
is manifestly just the thing. The people understand it, and the more
vigorously it is applied the happier are the results--for the State at
least. But then His Highness is generous even to prodigality in
administering the State medicine, without stint or exception, and on
every occasion. It is _Thorough_ which succeeds in Government. James
II. was perfectly correct when he said that it was yielding which cost
King Charles his head. It _was_ yielding, yielding after having
attempted "thorough" without the strength or the daring to work it
out. When the bad rider, inexpert with spur, whip, and bridle, strokes
the steed's neck and says "poor fellow," softly and soothingly, depend
upon it the horse understands the situation as well as his so-called
master, and goes his own way. Conciliation, reparation--what you
will--to noisy discontent, is a mistake of the same kind; the rider
may borrow a handsome name for it from the doctrinaire, but he will
not persuade the steed that anything but weakness or fright has wrung
from him his pretty behaviour. So much we may gather from recent
British history.

But the teller of this story may well leave British history to run its
own course, and he craves pardon for his trespass. What he would
testify against, in his small way, is historical inconsistency and
hysterical interference, however well meant, with the sequence of
events. See how a ship has to tack and turn when the wind changes, if
she would continue her voyage; if the ship of state is merely to turn
her helm and scud before an altered wind of popular feeling, without
regard to whence she comes or whither she is bound, sooner or later
she will find herself among the breakers, and on a lee shore.

Jordan had attempted the _fortiter in re_ with his son, but not
consistently, and especially not persistently. Indeed, like many
another, he would have let the brat alone during his growing years,
merely sending him out of the room when he was noisy, or tossing him
silver in moments of paternal pride, for his thoughts were kept busy
on other things; but the whelp acquired a trick of ensconsing himself
behind his mother's gown and bidding defiance to the rightful lord of
the manor, and then the latent savage, which is said still to survive
in the most cultured, would break out, and nothing but blows and howls
would appease him. On these occasions it was the lad's mother who
brought fuel to inflame the father's wrath. It pleased her so much
that her boy should come to her for protection in his troubles, and
she was so pleasing a person herself--or the world said so, and she
had got to think it--with her vivacity, her brightness, and her
satiric smile, wherewith she could goad old Slow-coach to fury; and he
being man enough, at least, to respect his wife, the fury glanced
harmless past her and fell in stinging whacks on the poor little
adventurer behind her, who had raised the storm. Yet even at his
worst, Jordan could find nothing soul-satisfying in beating a small
boy, and after a clout or two he would desist, with no harm done
except to the young one's personal dignity and the resentment bred
therefrom, and that was an evil not to be measured by the severity of
the assault, but rather inversely. The lighter the correction the
heavier the resentment and offence.

"If you _will_ whip a child," as I once heard an American lecturess
say--she was a superior person who knew all about it, and had left her
own seven lambs at home under the care of a hired help, while she went
out into the world with her evangel of nursery tactics--"If you _will_
whip a child, _be sure you really hurt it!_" There must be tingle
enough to overbear the indignation and resentment which the violence
you are doing to its person will naturally arouse; you must whip
enough to make it forget the outrage in the solid pain which it
suffers. It is only then that you need expect to super-impose your own
will upon that of the patient.

I suppose Jordan had never listened to the American lecturess, if he
had, he did not lay the homily to heart. At any rate, he struck, when
he might have managed quite as well without; and striking, he struck
only enough to arouse in his son feelings of deeper rebellion than
those which he undertook to quell; and thereafter a grudge and a
suspicion came between the old man and the young, which perhaps the
mother without any evil intent, but merely from loving to be first
with her own son, his councillor and his friend, did more to aggravate
than any one else.

Randolph went in search of Miss Rouget to secure his dance, but the
young lady's card was filled up. She had kept a vacancy for him some
time, but at length her mother sitting by, displeased at the young
man's neglect, had made her fill it up with some one else, and now
glanced at the offender with a somewhat stony reserve, which softened,
however, when he approached herself, and prayed the honour of leading
her to supper. On glancing round the company she could see no good
reason why her host had not come forward in person to perform the
office. "But then those English," as she told herself, "are so
ignorant of the _convenances_." Again, the young man might be diffident
in pursuit of his matrimonial aspirations, which was to his credit;
and also, she was getting very tired where she sat. Her English was
not fluent, and the French of the others was so indifferent, that few
dared use the little they had, whence she had not been entertained
with much conversation, and the smiling bows had grown monotonous.
Supper was the one recreation open to her, and as she looked, behold,
her husband was leading the way with his hostess. So after all there
was no ground of offence, and her features relaxed into their wonted
graciousness as she joined the procession. The younger people
continued to dance, and Randolph felt a little twinge of jealousy to
see Muriel again dancing with Gerald. He was able to whisper to her in
passing, however, which was something, begging her to linger and let
him take her to supper by-and-by. Madame ceased speaking just then, to
some one on her other side, and claimed his attention by an
observation, so that he failed to catch what Muriel said in reply.

Madame enjoyed her supper, as was fitting. She had earned it by hours
of conscientious _chaperonage_, which had declined even the
allurements of the neighbouring card-room. She was so fortunate too as
to be placed near a gentleman who spoke French well, and now
indemnified herself for the enforced silence under which she had been
yawning so wearily. In the comings and goings, the risings and
sittings down, of some going back to dance and others coming in to
sup, a little circle of her intimates gathered round madame, and
Randolph, no way averse, found himself merely a supernumerary on its
outskirts. It was his opportunity; he availed himself of it, and stole
back to look for Muriel among the dancers. He came upon her as she
rested at the end of a dance, with still that same too constant Gerald
in attendance.

"Now then, Miss Muriel," he cried; "if you are ready we will go at
once. The dowagers are leaving the supper-room, and after this dance
the musicians will take a rest, and there will be a crush of all the
dancers coming in at once. If you are ready we will go."

Muriel looked up.

"Thanks for the information. Miss Muriel is going presently. We will
get in ahead of those who are dancing now," said Gerald with a
suppressed smile.

Randolph drew himself up just a little, and strove to look dignified
while he ignored the last speaker. "Of course there is no need to
hurry if you prefer to rest; but it is so much cooler in the
supper-room; do you not think you will be better to come at once,
Muriel?"

"I was just rising to go with Gerald Herkimer when you spoke."

"But I spoke some time ago--when I passed you with Madame Rouget. You
were dancing at the time."

"That was my dance, Muriel," interjected Gerald; "you promised then to
let me take you to supper."

Randolph drew himself up to his tallest--he was two inches taller than
Gerald--and turned his flushed face with all the dignity he could
muster in it upon his offending friend. "I have only Miss Stanley to
deal with in this matter, and I prefer to settle it with herself."

"Bosh! man. What is the use of your putting on grand airs with me?
Haven't we gone to school together? It isn't a bit of good your trying
to play Don Fandango. If you like, we can go down to your back yard,
take off our coats, and have it out with lists in the old way; but the
people will be sure to laugh, and we shall look rather rumpled when we
get back here. We are getting old for that sort of thing, besides.
Don't you see you have made a mistake somehow, and the young lady is
engaged for supper to me?"

"I don't! and I won't! and I do----"

"Law, now! Mr. Jordan, ain't this just splendid? You are making up a
party for supper, I see, and I am a hungry party that will be most
pleased to join you;" and Randolph felt a fat arm slip through that
arm of his own which he had been offering so pressingly to Muriel.
There was a vision of geranium-coloured poplin flapping against him,
and when he looked round, behold, Miss Betsey had him in possession.
There was nothing for it but to submit and lead the way while the
other two followed; even though a smothered "haw, haw," which he could
hear behind him, filled his heart with fury, and made him long to face
about and brain the offender on the spot. The natural man is a savage
still, especially when his inclination to the fair is crossed;
culture, good-manners, and white kid gloves notwithstanding.

Betsey was exuberant. Thanks to Muriel's efforts, she had danced and
eaten ice with Randolph, and Gerald, and a good many more--danced
almost continuously, and quite energetically--having, in her own
words, "a real good time." And now she was a little hungry, but in
overflowing spirits, as she trotted beside her tall cavalier, with her
chin pressed into the dimpling redundancy of her short thick neck,
where every line and crease seemed to vie with the parted lips in
smiling content.

Randolph stalked gloomily by her side, realizing his helplessness, and
resenting the amused glances which met him as he proceeded. But what
could he do? He could only submit, and get through with the interlude
as quickly as possible. He was lucky enough to find a small table
vacant in a retired corner of the supper-room, where he placed himself
and his little companion, ignoring tugs and nods and pointings to more
conspicuous places, where the lights would have shone brighter on her
beauty and her revelry--which were just the things he wished to keep
out of sight. Betsey had the best of everything to eat, however, which
was compensatory, and her companion had at least the satisfaction of
sitting opposite Muriel. He had secured them for the rest of his own
table, and if he was unable to say much to her himself, it was
something to have prevented a _tête-à-tête_ with his rival.

Randolph's disturbed feelings were subsiding into sullen calm. He was
eating his supper. He had filled his companion's glass and his own;
and Betsey, smiling to pledge him, held her foaming goblet in her hand
awaiting his answering glance, when a sombre body--the back and
shoulders of a man's coat--interposed itself between them.

"Jordan! Here you are at last," it said. It was only a man's coat, so
far as Betsey could see, intruding most impertinently between herself
and her _beau_. "I have been looking for you everywhere. Now I have
found you. Madame Rouget has done supper, and is waiting for you to go
back to the dancing-room."

Betsey made a little gulp of indignation; but no one perceived
it, or seemed to heed her. Randolph rose like a truant returning to
school, led away by the man in the coat; and she, poor Betsey! was
left--lamenting? No--finishing her supper. She held her glass across
to Gerald for a little more champagne, and thereby tacitly placed
herself under his protection for the rest of the meal. There was much
natural adaptability to circumstances in Betsey, notwithstanding her
too evident lack of polish. Like the celebrated brook, she went
tranquilly forward, however "men might come, or men might go," in a
consistent following out of what seemed the attainably best for
herself. With opportunity and culture Betsey might have gone far.

Madame Rouget rose at Randolph's approach, and took his arm to leave
the room. She showed no displeasure or cognisance of his desertion,
but there was a distinct refrigeration of the graciousness with which
she had accepted his escort to the supper-table half-an-hour before.
In leaving the room they were stopped for an instant in front of
the little table which Randolph had risen from. Madame lifted her
eye-glass just where geranium-coloured poplin made the feature of the
view, and its wearer in much comfort held a wine-glass to her lips,
smiling across to Gerald Herkimer, a modernized suggestion of one of
Jourdain's carousing beauties, though with the flesh tints far less
delicately rendered. She dropped the eye-glass with a click, and a
French shrug, and that accompanying rise of the eyebrows so infinitely
more expressive of scorn and contempt than any word.

"I am _desolée_, to have take Mistaire Jordain from ze plaisirs of his
soopaire. But ze demoiselle aippears herself to console ver well. Wich
rassure me ver much."

Madame must certainly have been indignant when she used these words,
for, when quite herself, her English was grammatically correct enough
if the vocabulary was restricted and a word was sometimes used in a
wrong sense. It is a woman's right to take offence at the _formam
spretam_ by a suitor, and if the form despised be her daughter's
instead of her own, she can resent it with even better grace.

Not long after, Mr. Jordan senior came upon Mr. Rouget leaving the
card-room, and expressed a hope that he had been able to amuse
himself.

"I have not the good fortunes at cards this evening," that gentleman
replied; "I have won nothing; lost, rather, I fear."

"So sorry; come have a glass of wine, and perhaps the luck may turn."

"_N'importe_, I shall play no more to-night. The fortunes are
not _propices_. My _système_ does not conform to the play of
Mistaire--what you call?--Constantine."

"Considine. Probably not. He generally plays euchre. You were playing
whist. Liable to trump his partner's best card. I know his weakness.
Let me find you some one else."

"I thank you. No. It grows late. I go in search of madame. _M'sieur_
himself does not succeed well in the little plan he did me the honour
to propose--to ally our families. I observe M'sieur Randolphe
withholds the--what you say?--the _petits soins_ which aire of custom
when a gentleman pretends to the hand of a demoiselle. _N'importe_, I
accept the excuses of m'sieur without saying. One knows the authority
of father counts for nothing with you English; but the more should
have been an understanding before to approach me."

"My dear sir," Jordan began deprecatingly; but the other raised his
hand in dignified protest.

"Enough. I make no reproach--_N'importe_. My good brother, the
ministre, has views. We will forget."

"My dear Mr. Rouget--I beg!--I will even admit that you have ground of
offence, but pray take into account the waywardness of a head-strong
youth who resents being dictated to, and fancies he should decide his
own movements. Still, I must say for him, the boy really is steady,
and a good lad; and that, you will allow, is a qualification not
always to be met with among the eligible young men of the present day.
The mortgage upon La Hache would be a nice provision for the young
people, would save you from the possibility of instalments falling due
at inconvenient times, and I think--though perhaps I am too nearly
related to be an impartial judge--the lad has parts, and would not
discredit the Honourable the Minister of Drainage and Irrigation
either in politics or the public service. He has been bred to the law,
as perhaps you know, and passed his examinations with distinction."

M. Rouget bowed his head and allowed the look of displeasure to relax
upon his countenance. He was most willing to push forward the
matrimonial scheme, though naturally, as being the weaker party, it
behoved him to keep that fact to himself, and to be ready, at the
first sign of backwardness on the other side, to feign offended
dignity, that he might be able to withdraw from the fruitless
negotiation with the honours of war.

They were now leaving the supper-room together, and Considine
approached just as the Frenchman walked forward alone in search of his
ladies.

"At last," thought Considine, "I shall catch Jordan alone, and get
over that talk I have been so long wanting to have with him;" and he
pressed his breast pocket to make sure of the documents he had carried
about so long, in hopes of catching the busy man in a moment of
leisure. Jordan noticed the movement, and was defensively on the alert
at once.

"Considine, old fellow! Not dancing?"

"My dancing days are over. But I say, Jordan, I wish you would give me
just a few minutes quiet----"

"Over? What an idea! The springiest man of our set! Without the first
sign of either gout or rheumatism! And you would give up dancing, and
ticket yourself a fogy before your time? No! no! Couldn't think of it.
Yonder are a score of ladies, all your friends, sitting down after
supper, and waiting to be asked to dance. Every woman likes to be
danced with after supper, if only to show the world that men don't
look upon her as too old. Come along! Let me find you a partner,
though you know every one here."

"But I never valse."

"It is Lancers this time. I am going to dance myself. Mrs. Martindale.
A very old friend. Knew her before either of us were married. We
always have a dance when we meet. Come along!--Miss Stanley! Here is a
gentleman so desirous of dancing with you, and too modest to ask. Pray
take pity on him."

Miss Matilda looked up in a little surprise, but smiled on seeing
Considine.

"You are a sad wag, Mr. Jordan. It seems scarcely fair that we
grown-up people should crowd out the young ones. However, as Mr.
Considine is so kind----" and she rose, and taking his arm they joined
the dancers.

Age is not a question to be decided by almanacs or the comparison of
dates. How many generations of roses have bloomed and disappeared
since the aloe was sown, a hundred years ago, which now is only
opening its flower. The willow has fallen into battered decrepitude,
while the oak, its slow-growing contemporary hard by, has barely
reached his prime. Life should not be measured by the tale of years,
but by itself--by the measure of oil unburnt, which remains within the
lamp. There be some, who, making bonfire of their store--lighting the
candle at both ends in the gusty weather--have consumed it mostly ere
the seventh lustrum has run out, and go darkling thenceforth with
nothing but a smoky wick and a guttering remnant; and there are others
who have dwelt where the winds were still, and have shaded their lamps
and trimmed them, like prudent virgins, whose light grows clearer as
they pass along, and accompanies them with a tranquil radiance far
down into the valley where the shadows are, and the inevitable end. It
is the excitements and the cares which devour our strength, the
unsatisfied greeds which eat inward, the ill-regulated pleasures which
exhaust. Work never killed a man; or, if it did, he was a weakling, or
he had mistaken his trade.

"Only look!" cried Amelia Jordan, touching her neighbour, Martha
Herkimer, with her fan, "I think I may flatter myself that my juvenile
party is a success, when the contagious gaiety has caught even that
superannuated couple. I should feel flattered, but I confess I am not
fond of frisky grey beards. There is a time for everything, even for
sitting still and watching the young ones. I wonder at Considine; and
really Matilda might have had more sense than yield to his absurdity."

"Do you mean the gineral and Matildy Stanley? Well now, 'pears to me,
they're about the likeliest couple on the floor. If they're old it's
their own business, their bones will ache the worse and the sooner;
but as far as looks go, I will say there ain't man or boy of them all
looks as spry as the gineral. And, as for Matildy, she looks well. I
always liked Matildy, and I admire her."

"Oh, certainly, my dear, I quite agree with you. I am fond of
Matilda--good simple soul--I cannot think how she missed getting
married. So many worse, have established themselves well, since she
was young. But really you know it is just a little ridiculous, at her
time of life, to see her disporting herself. Why, there are her niece
and your own boy in the same set!"

"So are Mr. Jordan and Mrs. Martindale."

"Oh, yes, but that is nothing. Jordan must make himself useful in his
own house; and every one knows Louisa is a fool, who would like to be
thought gay, giddy, and dangerous. I would bet a box of gloves, now,
she thinks she is breaking my heart with jealousy. Just look how she
wriggles about, and how the chandelier so nearly over her head brings
out the crowsfeet and wrinkles round her eyes. I would not, for fifty
dollars, walk down the centre of the room when that thing is lighted,
if anybody were looking.

"You don't see no crowsfeet around Matildy's eyes, I guess. She's a
fine woman, is Matildy Stanley. I wonder where the man's eyes have
been that she should have stayed Matildy Stanley so long. See how she
walks! As upright as a broomstick, and as springy as a cane."

"Men like other things along with looks," said Amelia bridling.
"Though really Matilda looks quite nice--considering. One can scarcely
claim to be in one's first youth now-a-days, and we all came out the
same year, so our ages cannot be very far apart, Louisa Martindale,
Matilda, and I; and Louisa and I have grown up children."

"You don't say that Mrs. Martindale is one age with Matildy? She looks
nigh on twenty years older. _You're_ different," she added quickly, as
the gathering of a look on her friend's face, which did not betoken
satisfaction, became apparent.

"Perhaps Louisa does wear a little badly," she answered, in returning
good humour. "That light betrays everything. Louisa has so much
vivacity, and perhaps she is just the least bit in the world affected,
I believe it must be that has made her go off so. So much simpering
and smiling, when one doesn't feel so very pleased, and makes believe
a good deal, must naturally wear creases in the face. Do you not think
so? Matilda, on the other hand, as you know, is so calm and tranquil;
her face has not half the tear and wear of Louisa's, and therefore it
lasts ever so much better. But, somehow, Louisa, I should say, has got
more good out of her life. She has got more bad, too, I grant, for she
has been in the thick of everything; but I think I prefer that.
Matilda seemed never just to hit it off with the men. I do not
recollect her ever receiving any marked attentions, and she did not
betray any strong preferences to her. There are no little vignettes,
that I ever heard of, to illustrate her biography. You know what I
mean. _Passages_, people call them, which most of us like to bring out
of our memories and look at, when we feel low and a little
sentimental; just as we open the old box where our bridal wreath is
laid away, and wonder as we wrap the thing up again in its tissue
papers, if the gingerbread has really been worth all the gilding we
overlaid it with."

Martha sniffed. It did not become an honest married woman to talk that
way, she thought; but she said nothing, and the sniff proved enough to
modulate Amelia's tone down to the narrational key again.

"When the officers were quartered here, of course it made society
lively; and they paid a great deal of attention to us all,"--with just
a suspicion of bridling, as she said it, as though she had "vignettes"
of her own to remember, if it were worth while to count the scalps won
in such old-world encounters. "Matilda was in the thick of it all, and
got plenty of attention, but it never came to anything; and I am bound
to say she betrayed no anxiety that it should. Her father was an
Englishman, you see, and she has travelled; and she has money, and a
sister; so I suppose it comes natural to them to take things easily
and be comfortable in their own cool-blooded and retired sort of way.
Very nice women, I must admit, and always the same wherever you meet
them; but one cannot make free with them as we do amongst ourselves.
Really it is quite like long ago, to see Matilda dancing out there
with Considine. She is little changed. Fuller in the figure, perhaps,
but that is becoming as one gets up in life. Her hair is in the same
old way she always wore it--in streaming side curls. 'Books of
Beauty,' when I was a little girl, displayed ladies with hair-dressing
like that; but, except Matilda, I never saw a living woman wear it.
Though it becomes her."

"Splendid hair! So long and thick; and not one white thread in it.
Now, what colour was Mrs. Martindale's originally? It's dun-duckety
mud colour now, or what you please," and her eyes involuntarily rested
on Amelia's head-dress, eliciting an angry red spot upon either cheek,
which was answered by a flush of ashamed confusion on her own, at the
inadvertence, and brought the conversation to an abrupt conclusion.

The unconscious subject of her friend's criticism swam here and there
through the figures of her dance in sympathy with the music, borne up
and carried forward, like a well-trimmed yacht, upon the current of
sound. She had danced little, if at all, for years; but it came
naturally to her to dance. There was no heart-heaviness or carking
care, no malice, envy, or uncharitableness--the unadjustable ballast
which makes so many a hull roll heavily. Her health was good, as it
had always been, her nerves as well strung, and her ear as sensitive
to the spirit of sound. She looked well, and she knew it, with the
mature and realized beauty of a summer afternoon--a lady such as the
late King George admired. There was not the dewy promise of morning,
but neither were there evening's pensive shadows pointing backward in
regret--a handsome woman who had shed her girlhood, but showed no
other sign by which to count the years. It was pleasant to be brought
down off the shelf where matrons and old ladies sit and contemplate
the gambols of the young, and made her think of her first ball, and
how nice it had been, but without regret, for it was nice even now;
and there was her own little Muriel whom she had reared, almost grown
up, and marching before her just like another woman in the evolutions
of the dance. And really it was very nice to have a gentleman so
attentive, and all to one's self; like long ago, before her married
friends got their establishments, and put on their absurdly
patronizing airs, which were sometimes so provoking, though always so
ridiculous--"as if one could not have done everything _they_ succeeded
in doing if one had cared to try."

That reflection brought perhaps a trifle more colour in her face, and
made her shake out the ringlets just a little, till she looked at her
partner before her, carefully executing with conscientious precision a
gyration in her honour. She could not but smile as she gave him her
hand to turn round, and the man looked positively grateful as he
received it. Grateful, but was it for the smile or the hand? Yet
surely he gave the hand a little squeeze. The man must be growing
audacious. And yet he was so respectful. But Mr. Considine she knew
was always respectful, and really very nice.

Considine thought it very nice too--did not know, in fact, how long it
was since he had enjoyed anything so much. "Amazing fine woman," is
how some of his compeers would have expressed their feelings; but
Considine did not even pretend to be a _roué_, and he was not a fogy,
though quite old enough to have been one, if that had been a necessary
phase of existence to pass through. He felt happy with a respectful
enjoyment, such as he might have known thirty years earlier, in the
recognized season for such things, and he only regretted that it was
to end so soon. He wondered if he might venture to ask her to dance
again, and that smile we have mentioned, met him, and he thought he
would risk it; but alas, the programme had been arranged to suit the
younger talent, and this proved to be the last square dance. Then he
bethought him of the subscription assemblies, and wondered if Miss
Stanley attended them, and then the evolutions of the next figure
brought him back to the business in hand.

Muriel and her partner watched him carefully solemnizing the rite with
a good deal of amusement. Youth is so graspingly exclusive, and so
intolerant. It engrosses the present and claims the future for itself,
and accords as little place to its quite recent predecessors, the have
beens, as would be given to the ancient kings at Westminster, if they
should leave their vaults in the abbey and walk across the street to
the hall or the palace over the way.



                             CHAPTER VI.

                         A BENEVOLENT SPIDER.


M. Rouget de la Hache was hard up. He was a "swell," in a small way,
after the mild colonial fashion, with a seigniory whose ancient
privileges had been curtailed by advancing civilization; but
civilization had paid him a good round sum when it abolished his
rights over the persons and property of his humble neighbours--rights
which were becoming an anachronism, and always more difficult to
exercise. Being a swell, he did not work, but he was closely related
to many who did, and who exercised the most important functions in the
country, while they still looked up to him as in some sort their
chief; though, in reason, the deference should have been all the other
way. M. Rouget did not work, and therefore, not being a vegetable, it
was necessary that he should play. When circumstances, in mistaken
kindness, lay no burden on a man's shoulders, he fits one on
himself--_il faut s'amuser_--and one which often proves hard to carry.
There is a taskmaster, as the nursery saw tells us, still ready to
find occupation for idle hands, occupation in which they too often
burn their fingers.

Guns and dogs answer well enough at a time, so do trotting horses; but
by-and-by there must be other men's horses to trot with, and give the
interest of emulation. A man cannot continue to amuse himself on his
own land; and in colonial cities people are too busy making their
fortunes to be amusing company for an idle man. However, Saratoga, in
its season, was not far away, and there was New York beyond, which
lasts all the year round--more or less. Rouget had been used to be
"of the best" at home--a personage, in a small way, wherever he
appeared--and abroad it did not occur to him to abate his pretentions.
Measured by the golden foot-rule of New York, he would have found
himself on a far back bench, and even then his neighbours would have
been able to lay down a dollar for every dime which he could produce;
but the idea of applying such a standard did not occur to him. He
believed himself a notability, and looked among the foremost for his
peers. Was he not related to several of those old French governors who
traded beads for peltry in the wake of a Jesuit Missionary, chaffering
with the simple children of the wilderness beneath the forest shade,
ere ever a vulgar common-place Englishman had arrived to cut timber,
open a shop, or make money? And the foremost accepted him at his own
valuation, as something "_ro_mantic, and quite beyond." He was ready
to put down his stakes alongside theirs, and it would not be "manners"
to ask the size of the pile from whence the stakes were drawn.
Wherefore the American heart opened genially to receive him, just as
it opens to the Lord Toms and Sir Harrys who each year enter its
hospitable gates, and remain while their money lasts, or till they are
found out.

It is hard upon the pipkin who adventures to sail down stream with the
brazen bowls. There are eddies on the smoothest streams, and among the
eddies there will be bumping. Only the pipkins need mind that, it is
they alone who suffer. They inevitably get cracked in a collision,
while the brass goes bumping and ringing along for very sport. It can
come to no harm. Mr. Rouget got cracked--badly cracked--at last; but
the wonder is that it had not befallen him long before. His friends
did what they could for him--friends always do, when the subject is a
worthless one, while virtue gets leave to shift for itself in its
disasters, virtue being essentially prosaic, uninteresting and
unpicturesque--but even his friends ran dry at last, and he had to
mortgage his land. That occurred when Jordan began first to invest
moneys for the Herkimer estate, and it was he who had bought the
mortgage. It was a fairly profitable operation for Jordan, and had
been the beginning of a useful intimacy; but it seemed to him, ere
long, after the accruing advantages were well secured, that to sink so
large a sum in so long-winded a transaction had been a mistake, and he
might have done better in short loans, money on call, and general
usury. There was the idea, to be sure, of engrafting his son
effectually upon the dominant French interest by marriage, and if that
could be compassed, it might turn out that the money had been well
invested; but the boy was so head-strong and contrary, so like the
Irishman's pig, which insists on going the other way, in what way
soever he may be desired to go, that there was no certainty of working
out the scheme, however compliant they of the other side might be.

Jordan was sitting in his office one day, in the week following his
wife's party, examining his diary of bills coming due, considering
where renewals might be granted, and how much he might extort in
consideration of his forebearance, what sums would be paid him, and
how they were to be employed. Rouget, overbearing the clerk who kept
the sanctum door--it was an inner room, lined with tin boxes, but free
from the professional lumber which garnished that wherein he received
his clients, the spider-hole, in fact, where he sat to devour his
flies, and very private--appeared before him.

"Jordain! Your clerk ees not _respectueux_. I must complain. He tell
me you were gone out. Yen vid dis ear I hear you cough my ownself.
Everee body know Jordain's cough. Yet he _défend_ my entry."

Jordan laid down his pen testily, but composed himself at once. "M.
Rouget de la Hache, eh? The young man has orders to let no one in
here. He should have said I was engaged. Those were his orders."

"He deed say so; but I shust look heem in ze eye--so!--vit a grand
_sévérité_; and he fail of his word, and grow _confus_; and zen he
tell me you were gone out. And so--behold me."

"Sim should stick to his orders. The first lie is always the best and
safest. Not that this was a lie--he had his orders to say I was
engaged, and admit no one. _You_ would have been an exception, of
course, had I expected to see you. But how should I? Nevertheless,
most pleased to see you; though really I am very busy. Pray sit down.
How can I serve you?"

Rouget sat down, looking vacantly about him. To attempt to hurry him,
shook up his muddy wits, which needed all their accustomed rest to
clarify themselves in any measure.

It was a bare little room, all but its wall covering of shelves,
supporting tin boxes, which were all brown japanned alike, and
garnished with gold letters and numbers enough to give one headache.
There were three chairs, on one of which he was sitting, while Jordan
had another, and the third stood waiting--for whom? It disturbed him,
this foolish question, for it was impossible to answer it. The table
was covered with black leather, and there was a book open--a big fat
book--wonder what it was about?--and a bit of paper with names and
figures, which Jordan was noting down with a pencil. Wonder what he
meant by it? Had it anything to do with him, Jean Vincent de Paul
Rouget? But yet the pencil and slip of paper looked unimportant
enough, and so, with the bold assurance of ignorance Rouget concluded
that they could not possibly be of much consequence, and Jordan was
only making believe--a humbug, in fact, as all people _là bas_ mostly
were. It takes a transatlantic "swell," who has never seen one of the
acknowledged great ones of the earth, to fully realize the vast
inferiority of the "lower orders" to his own ineffable mightiness.

And yet it was easier to make the grand entrance he had achieved, and
even to seat himself with dignity, than to plunge at once _in medias
res_. He shuddered a little, like a bather on the brink, and looked
round the room again, but it was so bare it would not suggest
anything; and he wanted an idea--some neutral subject of talk which
could be steered and edged about, whither he would; like a boat to
waft him round the cliffs on the opposing shore, to some unguarded
inlet with sloping banks, where he could land in good order and deploy
at will toward the point he sought to gain. But this fellow was so
abrupt. The _brusquerie_ was not in good taste, and at another time he
would have let him see it; but now----

"How can I serve you?" said the spider again. He knew the value of
directness and dispatch. A fly must be well inmeshed in the web to be
there present. It is mercy to the poor things to come to the point
with a bound, and bleed or devour. To prolong the preliminaries is but
adding gratuitous pain. The victim will but flutter the more wildly,
and what usurer would make rich if he heeded the remonstrance of
impotence? In prolonged palaver, too, and the frantic flutterings, may
not the captive burst a gossamer bond, and be free? The bonds are all
gossamer, at first, like the rainbow-coloured rays of a sea anemone,
but they thicken and grow tense when the prey gets among them, and do
it so quietly that he is partly swallowed before he realizes his
danger, and then his struggles are apt to be in vain. Still, there are
chances, and vigour and dispatch are best.

"How can I serve you?" and Jordan glanced into the book before him,
and then made a cross with his pencil at a name and some failures on
the list he seemed to be making out. It was manifest that he guessed
already what was going to be said. It was mortifying, and still it was
a relief to see that preliminaries were unnecessary and the subject
already opened.

"I find I cannot meet all the interest due the day after to-morrow."

A mere bow of the head from the spider. Not a motion of an eyebrow,
even, in token of surprise. This composure hurt M. Rouget much. Was he
not an important person, and looked upon as rich? And was it not the
duty of ordinary people to expect him to pay up? He felt almost
insulted that anybody should thus take his inability as a matter of
course. He coloured, and looked an interrogation.

"Yes?" said Jordan.

"I vill give a cheque for two tousand dollars. You must hold over the
rest for the present."

"Make it three, and I will take your note for the rest at thirty
days--Sim!" touching the hand-bell at his elbow.

"That vill not do! I shall not be able to pay so soon," said Rouget
more disturbed. What did the man mean by calling in his clerk so
quickly to increase his embarrassment?

"Never mind, Sim! a mistake," and the door closed again.

"Tirty days would be no use. You mus give me time. I have had looses,
and want time to retrieve myself."

"But how? Mr. Rouget. You will say I have no right to ask such a
question, perhaps, and I dare say I appear discourteous; but in
business it is essential to understand the case clearly, and our
transactions are for such large sums that you must excuse seeming
intrusiveness. Will sixty days suit you?"

"No. I want time! and freedom from all anxieties. I have a _système_
wich is infallible in the end, and must make me rich, but it demands
time, watchfulness, and money."

"Phew!"--Jordan whistled slowly, lying back in his chair and burying
his hands in his pockets. "That is--Well, we will not wrangle over
spilt milk, and I do not question your right to do as you choose with
your own money; but it seems to me, when you granted those large
mortgages, you made use of that same expression--referred to
something, something or other under the name of a system."

"And what then?" said Rouget flushing. A little indignation would help
him, conversationally at least, he began to think. Not being in trade,
he was unfamiliar with the liberties which money will empower a lender
to take with the man who would borrow, or worse, who would be excused
when the time comes round for repayment.

"Oh! nothing. Only if it has cost $150,000 already before the system
begins to work favourably, it may take as much more yet, and where is
the money to come from?"

"It vill not! It _cannot_ take so much. It mus' be propice ver soon. I
have confidence. I have considered. There is certainty!"

"And the first of the three repayments of $50,000 comes due in six
months."

"I know it, and I want you to add dese few tousands to the new
mortgage you will draw--wid interests and commissions, all to be sure,
widout question;" and the poor man rallied his waning pomposity to
make one little shrug in naming the gains and perquisites of the
_roturier_; before whom, his heart misgave him, he might yet have to
quake.

"But, my dear sir, the operation is not a profitable one, and I did
not contemplate renewing the mortgage. I can do much better with the
money on the street."

"_Mon Dieu!_ Jourdain. What do I hear? Increase ze interests if so
mus' be--and ze security is good. Ze ministre, _mon frère_, say zey
are firs class, and zat I pay _trop_--too much."

"Quite so, Mr. Rouget, that is just where it is. I have my feelings
and my reputation like another man. Why should I place myself in such
a position that the Minister of Drainage and Irrigation should look on
me as a usurer? I can command better terms for my money on the street,
with nothing said, than I could charge you on your mortgage even with
the loss of reputation involved in that word usurer."

"My dear sair! But ze mortgages were to be for fortune to M.
Randolphe, in heemself marrying to Adeline, who would have the
_survivance_ of La Hashe for _dot_."

"But if receiving interest on the mortgages is to be contingent on the
success of a 'system'--and of course a son-in-law must grant
indulgence if his wife's father gets behind--the young people might
not have much to live on. In any case, there are still the other
instalments--a very fair provision--if the young lady should
condescend, and the young man can be brought to the point--which, with
the unruly youth of the present day, is, I confess, doubtful; and the
more difficult to accomplish, the less ground of dissatisfaction there
may be, beyond mere aversion to be dictated to. Business arrangements
cannot be left open, in waiting, to accommodate the whims of boys and
girls."

"Would you buy La Hache? How much would you give?"

"Are you in earnest? Do you propose to hand it over in settlement of
the mortgages?"

"How much more would you give--'to boot,' as you say in buying a
horse."

"I didn't contemplate buying. It would not suit me to have so large a
sum tied up in unremunerative acres. If I were to buy, it could only
be that I might sell again, and that involves delays, expenses,
uncertainties, loss of interest. No! Mr. Rouget, it is not to be
thought of. If there is a default in payment all the mortgages fall
due at once, and in our small market the sum involved in the
foreclosure is as large as any buyer would be likely to bid on one
property."

"But, my friend! Ze securities aire ample. You had it valued four
years ago."

"Certainly. It seemed safe for the money at that time. But you were
then supposed to be well off, independently of the property; today you
have explained that you are so no longer, and cannot even attend to
the regular interest."

"Lend me anoder fifty tousand on de property."

"Not to be thought of."

"Tirty----"

"Could not do it."

"Tventy----"

"Sorry it cannot be."

"Ze lands aire rich."

"Realize them, then, Mr. Rouget. I will promise to place no
unnecessary impediments in your way."

"Zere is vealth in ze ground itself. Richesses of minerals. See!
Behold," and he drew from under his fur gloves, cap, and muffler,
which he had thrown upon the table in a heap on entering, a small box
which he proceeded to open, and displaying a number of mineralogical
specimens, handed across to the other. There was a green incrustation
on the stones where they had been long exposed to the weather, but the
new faces made by recent hammer-fracture, shone red and metallic like
a beetle's back.

"Ah," said Jordan. "Really very nice. I am no judge of such things,
but to my ignorant eye some of these must be nearly pure copper. Were
they found at La Hache, and does the deposit appear extensive?"

"Dey were in de swamp, a mile back from the river, last fall. We were
shooting, I, that is, and a young _savant_ of my friend's, who studies
wit Professor Hammerstone. The professor has examined, himself, since
den, and he finds the indications ver rich and abundant. He says zere
is a fortune there beyond compute. Now! What say you? You know the
Professor Hammerstone is of great reputation. Wat you say now?"

"Say? For one thing, Mr. Rouget, I congratulate you, and I would say
that your prospects look infinitely more hopeful from this point of
view than in connection with your 'system,' which--you must forgive my
saying it--was leading you to destruction. In heaven's name let the
'system' slide, and apply yourself to develop your property."

"But ze money? my friend. You cannot develop wid notting. Lend me
money, and I vill give my vor d'honneur"--and he patted his palms
outstretched on the bosom of his greatcoat--"to abandon de système."

"Mining matters are outside of my field; I do not understand them. You
should call on some of our leading capitalists and speculators with
your specimens. They will look into the affair, and if there is
anything in it, will make you a proposal. On one point only let me
offer a word of advice. Do not insist upon too much money down to
begin with. You cannot expect them to subscribe a capital merely to
hand it over to you. Show your willingness to take the bulk of your
price in shares and you will get something very handsome indeed. So
soon as the stock is all taken up, the shares become saleable, rising
and falling in sympathy with public talk, long before any of the ore
has been got to market, and you may be able to sell out at good prices
very soon, if the scheme happens to strike the general fancy. For
myself, as I have said, mining is not in my line, but I will do what I
can not to embarrass you. I will take your note at ninety days for
that unpaid interest, and as for the mortgage due next summer, we will
talk of it when the time comes, and, meanwhile, we shall have time to
see how the mining enterprise will prosper--Sim!"

Sim appeared, received orders to draw a promissory note for Mr.
Rouget to sign, and withdrew, followed by that gentleman seemingly let
down from the self-satisfied attitude of feeling in which he had
entered--meeker, much meeker, but yet more hopeful for his own future
than he would have felt, perhaps, if his demands had been complied
with.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                       IN THE RUE DES BORGNES.


The Banque Sangsue Prêtense occupied the chief part of its own
cut-sandstone building on the Rue des Borgnes, the remainder,
conspicuous in brass and plate glass, being the offices of Ralph
Herkimer and Son, general operators, who were "in" railways, in
minerals, in finance, in whatever promised to turn an honest penny. A
smart man was that Ralph Herkimer, his neighbours said, who tried
everything, and made everything pay. Always early in the field, and
getting the cream of the speculation, while other men were pondering
its prospects, and then putting off on them the closely skimmed milk
which must always be got rid of--the shells, which the oyster-eater
must make somebody carry away if he would not be smothered in the
ruins of his former banquets.

The bank was an enterprise originated by Ralph himself--evolved by him
when his ambition had found the local share list too narrow a field.
Why should he labour, he thought, to pull strings, and not always
efficient ones, to make established stocks jump up and down as he
desired, when he was now strong enough to build an automaton of his
own, which should obey his wishes without fail, and without outside
interference? His friends wondered at his choice of a name so little
calculated to invite business; but he was of opinion that that was of
little moment. Wherever there is money to lend, the borrowers will
scent it out, as flies discover a honey-pot, by instinct. It was small
investors whom he wished to attract, those who, having little money,
are eager to get much interest. In the general increase of wealth, and
the fall in rates of interest, these worthy people find their expenses
increasing while their incomes are falling off, and the image of a
lending bloodsucker, while unattractive to the borrower, who
nevertheless submits to the lancet, is pleasing rather than otherwise
to those who would share the spoils.

Ralph was president and manager of the institution, "filling two
offices for one salary," as he sometimes said, "in his desire that the
bank should do well;" and benefiting largely in many ways, as he did
_not_ say, by the unsupervised control which thus fell into his hands.
The bank parlour and his own private office were only divided by a
wall, and they were connected by a very private door between the
dressing rooms pertaining to the two apartments, so that the clerks
and the business of both establishments were at all times under the
master's eye, the master was virtually in both places at the same
time, and he could at any time be in the other if an undesirable
visitor was to be evaded.

Ralph was in his office. He had been presiding at a meeting of the St.
Laurence, Gattineau and Hudson's Bay Railway, consisting of himself
and a couple of others, at which they had granted a contract to
construct another fifty miles running north. They had also arranged to
hold a demonstration on the occasion, with speeches and champagne, to
be followed on the morrow by placing a quantity of the stock on the
market. As soon as he was left alone he took from a drawer some
specimens of plumbago brought from lands of his which the road he had
been assisting to place under construction would open up. Lumps of
lustrous purple blackness, like a raven's plumage, which he lingered
admiringly, muttering to himself, "They will bring value soon now, but
we must wait till the road is nearly built. If they were brought out
now they would be half forgot before we could take people up to look
at them. Revivals generally fall flat, people just remember enough of
what they heard before to make it harder to interest them with it
again. We must wait till just before the road is going to open, and
then spring tracts A and B upon the public. Rich deposit, rare
mineral, joint stock company, limited liability, unlimited profit, and
so forth. When these are disposed of, and the company is just going to
work upon them, tracts C and D can be discovered to be as rich as the
others, and offered likewise. That will be enough to attempt for some
years. By the time C and D are in working order, the owners of A and B
will be doing something foolish, and having discouragement, and then
it will be no use to offer E and F for ever so long. Yet it would not
improve prospects to offer all at once, it would only bring down the
value and send other people prospecting. We can then fall back on the
phosphate beds," and he glanced at some other specimens in his drawer.
"By that time the second fifty miles of rail will be built, and we
will be able to issue debentures. Our stockholders will have had no
dividends, so they will be sure to take the bonds and new preference
shares to get something out of the old enterprise--no operation so
popular as throwing good money after bad--and then, to secure traffic
for the far-away end of the line, they will buy my phosphate beds, and
work them. That will answer well enough. I shall have unloaded the
last of my railway shares ere then. I wonder why the contractors
agreed to take so much stock in payment? They must have more faith in
our enterprise than I have, or can they have got hold of tracts G, K,
L, and Q? But they have never named plumbago once. Can that be
slyness? In any case they want watching. I'll keep my eyes peeled."

A card was brought in by a clerk with a timid--"Would like to see you,
sir."

"I told you, Stinson, to say I was engaged, whoever called."

"The gentleman was so positive you would see him, I was afraid he
might have reason for what he said."

"Who is it?--Rouget--Hm--Who wants to be bothered with Rouget in
business hours? Say I shall be pleased to see him at half-past three.
I am occupied till then. Let no one in, now, but Mattock the builder,
and Calcimine the architect, and bring over that roll of plans, and
the maps marked 'proposed St. Hypolite suburb,' and spread them out
upon the table. Ha! Bank bell? What do they want in there? Who can it
be? Bid those men wait, Stinson, if they arrive before I get back from
the bank. Tell them you expect me every moment. At the same time, if
any cheques have to be signed, send them into the bank; I do not know
how long I may be detained. Any one in the outer office besides
Rouget? You go first; send him away and then tell me. I like going
into the bank by the front door."

"The Bishop of Anticosti is waiting, and two sisters of charity with a
subscription list, waiting till you are disengaged."

"They can wait, then. I shall go the other way," and so saying he
disappeared by way of the dressing-room.

It was half-past four instead of half-past three when Rouget was at
last admitted to the presence. His consequence was a good deal ruffled
at being kept waiting, and he gave Stinson to understand that he did
not like it; whereupon the clerk suggested that he should call another
day, and was altogether so callous and unimpressed, that, after
failing to get him to carry in another card with messages scrawled
across, Mr. Rouget desisted, submitted, and sat down in a chair like
any humble person awaiting an audience.

"Ha! Mr. Rouget!" was his reception when at last the moment of
admission arrived. "So sorry that you should have had to wait; but
business--you know. How do things go on at St. Euphrase? I have been
meaning to drive over there, some day, now the ice and the sleighing
are so good; but have been so busy."

"We have been making discoveries at St. Euphrase, Misterre
Herkimaire--discoveries of mines and metals. Wat do you tink of dat,
for instance, Misterre Herkimaire?" and he laid some lumps of nearly
pure copper, each about the size of an egg, and a piece of rock, green
with exposure to the weather, and veined with metallic bands upon the
table. The window, as it happened, faced the west, catching the last
of the daylight from the radiant sky. A gleam, grown ruddy, and
struggling with the gathering shadows, seemed drawn to the polished
faces of the ore, and made them shine with enhancing lustre.

"What?" cried Ralph, thrown off his guard at the unexpected sight,
which made him forget the cool and critical attitude of a business
mind. "Copper! Virgin copper, or I'm a Dutchman! Specimens sent in by
his explorers to the Minister of Irrigation? Kind of you to bring them
to me, Mr. Rouget, and give me a chance to bid for the lands. Many
thanks. I have been turning my attention to minerals lately, I doubt
not but with the minister's goodwill we may arrange something to our
mutual advantage--yours and mine. Where do they come from? Up the
Ottawa? Or, perhaps the Gattineau? Yes! that must be it, the
Gattineau. I am interested in Gattineau lands already, and we have
indications of copper; but I am free to confess I did not dream of
anything so fine as this. If the government wants a company formed to
develop minerals on the Gattineau, I'm their man. It will help us to
build our railway at once. I did not calculate on extending so far out
for a year or two, but the mines will require an outlet, and they will
bring the road into notice, and enable us to make an increased issue
of stock. The government will have to increase our land-grant,
however."

Rouget stood regarding the "promoter" with a smile. How he did run on,
to be sure!

"W'ere you say dey come from?"

"The Gattineau, I have no doubt. I never saw a Lake Superior specimen
half as rich."

"Eet ees not Lake Superior, you aire right. W'at you say eef I tell
you it come from sout' of de Saint Laurence?"

"It will be a fortune for the owner if it does. Freight and expenses
there will be so light in comparison with Fond du Lae."

"Dese specimens aire from La Hache."

"You don't----"

"Fact. Here is Professor Hammerstone's report."

"Hammerstone? I see him constantly, but he has never mentioned it. He
spent a week with me at St. Euphrase last summer. My son Gerald reads
with him several times a week, but he has heard nothing of this or he
would have told me."

"Hammerstone was employed by me--a private survey--confidential
affair."

"Ah?" said Ralph, looking at his friend the personage and man of
pleasure with newborn respect. Who could have supposed it? A man he
had always looked on as a fool--spending his days in losing money on
race-courses, his nights in poker!--to think that such a one should
have taken up with science, economies, and the intelligent development
of his property!

"You see it arrived to me all unexpected to make the discovery. The
young Richaud, of the Crown Lands Department, is of the relatives of
madame the most intimate. He made a _séjour_ wid us the last
Septembre, and one day we go for the _chasse aux oiseaux_, and we stop
to repose ourselves in the svamp by the river not far from Saint
Euphrase--the svamp is dried up as you may know in Septembre--and
Richaud, he cry out, and he say, 'M. Rouget,' he say, 'how you aire
_riche!_--more _riche_ as the dreams of avarice.' 'Behold!' he cry,
and frappe wid a large stone ze rock laid bare by the uprooting of a
fallen tree, w'ere I myself had seated. And truly the fragment broken
off did shine wid a lustre as of the metals. Richaud has information
of such tings in the department, and he advised me to consult the
Professeur Hammerstone, w'ich, by-and-by, w'en the frosts have
wizzered the herbage, I do, and you behold his report rendered."

Ralph took the report and read it through, while recovering at the
same time his self-possession. It was an injudicious display of
eagerness which he had been betrayed into, and he felt heartily
ashamed as well as sorry that his nerves should have relaxed from that
critical calm which becomes a proposing buyer while the bargain is
incomplete. How many thousands, he wondered, would his lack of
circumspection cost him? Yet who could have associated the ass Rouget
with anything to sell? It was most provoking.

He sniffed a depreciating sniff as he read through the report, raised
his eyebrows and pursed his lips; and in concluding read aloud the
saving clause in which the worthy scientist guarded his reputation for
infallibility by reminding his readers of the impossibility of
ascertaining the depth to which the outcropping lodes extended, by
mere surface observations, and without sinking an experimental shaft,
and the chances of faults, breaks, and interruptions in the vein at
any depth below that to which his examination had extended.

"You want to sell this, then, Mr. Rouget? this parcel of, say a
thousand acres, with its metalliferous indications? What value do you
put upon it?"

Had Rouget come there the day before, ere he had had speech with
Jordan, or had slept and dreamed upon the encouraging visions which
that conversation had bred, and which had been expanding themselves
ever since, as is the way with visions, there is no doubt he would
have jumped at once, named a sum, and been thankful to take half of
it; but he had spent the night in building castles, and storing them
with the uncounted riches which other men were to dig out of his land
and pay over to him, and the idea of a fixed sum even if far larger
than he had yet named, was now cold and unattractive.

"I vish not to compromise my interests in zis land. I vill not sell."

"Then what do you come to me for?"

"I vish to inaugurate a company to develop ze mines."

"But the mines, if there are any, are yours, Mr. Rouget. It is for the
proprietor to develop his property."

"I have hoped since three months to do so. Money is ze difficulty; I
need money."

"Then sell! Those who have the money are likely to give a good price.
It will be pure gain to you, for this thousand acres, I dare assert,
has never yielded you one cent. Sell to wealthy men who can afford to
develop the property, it will bring in population, perhaps originate a
town, and in any case create a new market for your tenants, and
increase the value of all your lands."

"If it vould be good for dose vealthy men to buy, it vill be my affair
not to sell. I shall keep my interests in ze mines."

"How much good will they do you if you have no capital to work them?"

"I have come to you to get ze capital."

"And how would you purpose to pay for the accommodation?"

"Your bank lends, does it not? I would borrow!"

"What security?"

"My own. Is that not enough? And now there will be dis mine also."

"You would mortgage it then to get an advance? Can you give a first
mortgage?--No?--mortgaged already, eh? Then sell, Mr. Rouget. Sell to
a company. If your ideas are reasonable I may be able to help you; but
a large outlay will be required to start the enterprise, and getting
up a company is an expensive process. However, I think I am safe in
saying you can sell your unproductive swamp for the price of the best
agricultural land in the province, or double what any cleared land
round St. Euphrase would bring. Yes! I will even risk giving you fifty
dollars the _arpent_ myself, and take all the risk and expense, while
you will have the prospective advantage when population comes
streaming in to work the mines."

"You are kind, Mr. Herkimaire. I thank you. But either you are not
serious, or you believe me more fool than is the case. Messieurs
Pyrites and Sulphuret may be willing to put me in the way to develop
my property. I am told they do large business in metals. I shall wish
you a good evening, Mr. Herkimaire."

"No, no! Mr. Rouget. Stop a moment! Just tell me plainly what it is
you want, and I shall be pleased to promote your views if I can. I
have asked you how much you would take for your property, or what you
wish to do with it. You have made no answer. I then made you an offer
for the land, which of course you were quite at liberty to refuse; but
surely your refusing to take my price does not necessitate your taking
offence, especially seeing that you have not yet said what value you
put on the property yourself--and I am sure there is no arrangement
which Pyrites and Sulphuret would make with you which I am not quite
as able to carry out. Since you have been good enough to give me the
first chance, pray do not go before we have had time to understand
each other. What is your own idea in the matter?"

"Mr. Jordain, he say----"

"Jordan is in it, then, is he?" muttered Ralph. "Worse luck."

"He says I should place myself in the hands of some capitalist, who
would form a company, paying me some in money and the rest in stock.
Is not that the fashion to speak of in the language of commerce."

"Quite so, Mr. Rouget. That is the usual way of fixing things. And
your figures?"

And here there arose much altercation and argument, as was inevitable
where each wanted to get as much and give as little as possible. The
dialogue need not be recorded. Its like can be heard in any market
place, between hucksters and old women, chaffering and wrangling over
a copper cent as if their lives depended on having it, though the one
must sell and the other will buy, in any wise, and they both know it.

It was settled at last. Ralph was to arrange and bring out the
company, with all perquisites thereto accruing, Rouget got a fifth
part of the stock as his price, and a few thousand dollars, wherewith
he hurried to New York in a fever of restlessness until he should have
dropped them all into the same abyss which had swallowed so much
already, in obedience to the infallible _système_. Jordan being first
mortgagee, with power to become troublesome, was made solicitor of the
concern, with a handsome block of stock allotted, the calls on which,
it was understood, were not to be pressed. Ralph, as promoter, kept
still, acquiesced, and said not much while the other two preferred
their extravagant demands. It was he who was to issue the stock and
handle the funds, and as the venture progressed he was sure of
abundant profit. Meanwhile, it was best that his mates should have
their way, be kept sanguine and in good humour, if only that they
might innoculate the public mind with their brilliant anticipations.

The prospectus was a work of art, and it was fortified by certificates
from the greatest authorities. True, these authorities had not seen
the metalliferous deposits--indeed no one could see them just then,
buried as they were under drifts of frozen snow--but they were allowed
to see Hammerstone's survey, and Hammerstone was a man of knowledge
and character, whom even the most distinguished felt safe in
endorsing, if the fee were sufficient. As the mind of practical
science puts it--practical science is the science of making as much
money out of as little knowledge as possible--to express another man's
observations in finer and more taking language, is surely the highest
compliment one can pay him, and the most emphatic manner of granting
him our valuable indorsation. Hammerstone was immensely gratified to
read in the prospectus the opinions of Professor Sesquioxide, of
Boston, and other luminaries, his bigger brothers among the sons of
knowledge, so minutely confirmatory of his own; but he wondered much
as to when they had been called in, and he felt a little hurt that
they should have been so near to him and Montreal without visiting
him.

The public mind was judiciously educated up to the receptive point by
a series of graduated rumours and paragraphs of ascending interest.
One may come to believe anything if it seems in sequence with what
went before; therefore, when an assertion seems corroborated by others
already accepted, and which yet appear to be in no way connected with
it, the natural man accepts it at once. The newspapers swarmed with
clippings from the latest mining sensations in Colorado, and following
them would appear rumours of important mineralogical discoveries
"nearer home." By-and-by there were descriptions of California
bonanzas, followed by more rumours of vast metallic wealth at the very
doors. Then an imaginative reporter received confidential information
which he was not at liberty to divulge, but which he felt it a duty to
his beloved public to hint at in various picturesque ways. He
described gigantic masses of virgin copper quarried from their beds
with pre-historic wedges which still lay beside them in witness, and
discussed the civilization of the ancient Mound-builders in the
popular archæological manner, still ringing the changes on the wealth
of copper so near at hand. Finally, when people's minds were ready to
believe, the prospectus of the Mining Association of St. Euphrase
appeared.

After the association's subscription lists had remained open only a
few days they were suddenly closed, and it was announced that the
capital was all subscribed. Then all the dilatory who had contemplated
investing in a general sort of way, but had not done it, grew eager to
hold shares, which they hurried to buy at a premium. It was afterwards
said that in every instance it was Ralph Herkimer who was the seller,
and that he only subscribed for the shares which he sold, after he had
touched the premiums. But people are uncharitable, and if a man ever
ceases to be rich, they are sure to recollect naughty things which
they say he did in his time of prosperity.

Before the snow was gone, material and machinery had been collected on
the ground, and there was a rise in the price of the stock.

When the snow went, operations began, and the stock rose higher, with
inquiries for it from distant places, which sent the price bounding
still higher and higher still.



                            CHAPTER VIII.

                         THE TIE OF KINDRED.


In those days--the days of Judith's visit--George Selby and his wife
were always punctual in coming down to breakfast. It was their hour
for undisturbed conversation and intercourse. The guests, unaccustomed
to city gaiety and late hours, were still in their soundest sleep,
when the clang of the breakfast bell would wake them to the knowledge
that another day had begun, and they must drag themselves from between
the blankets. As for Susan, owing to neuralgia or laziness, she always
breakfasted in bed.

"Mary!" cried George eagerly, when they met one morning, about a week
after Betsey's first ball. "It is needless to ask you if you have
slept well. You look refreshed and revived as I have not seen you look
for years and years. I have noticed a change for the better going on
for these last two weeks, and this morning it almost seems as if the
Mary of long ago were coming back again. The clouds are lifting,
dearest, I do believe, and we shall know peace and quiet happiness yet
again. It is wearing on to afternoon with us both now, and ours has
been a sad, black, rainy day; but at least we have been together
through it all, and that has been more than sunshine. And now if the
rain but cease and the clouds break up, we may be blessed with a
peaceful sunset and the serene twilight of old age, with the clear,
pure brightness far off behind the hills waiting for us till we enter
the eternal day."

George was a worthy, gentle soul, with yearnings true, if not
powerful, towards the spiritual and poetic. Who, condemned to hammer
scales into stupid little girls without ear or fingers, through all
the years, could be expected to carry more of the golden but
unpractical gift into hum-drum middle life?

Mary laid her hand upon his shoulder, leant her head upon his cheek,
and her eyes grew moist. They were grey-haired people both, those two,
but people do not cease to be foolish, my dear young friends--if it
_is_ foolish, which I deny--when they cease to be young and handsome;
that is, if they have not ceased to be good. Goodness is the salt, the
preserver, the eternal spring, which can keep a heart from ever
growing old. Egotism in youth, when all is fair, may shine and glitter
like a dainty varnish, but it dulls and hardens and cracks as the
years go on, and becomes but the sorriest item in the general break-up
and decay, when that sets in. Love only is immortal, a giver of life
to the failing forces, like the olive tree in the prophet's vision,
which supplied in continuous flow the oil to furnish the perpetual
lamp.

Mary leaned up against her husband in a mute caress, and then drawing
a long breath, sat down at the table to pour out his coffee. She was
not accustomed to put her feelings into words. She had suffered far
too long and too terribly for that. Had she been a woman of emotional
utterance, she must have exhausted her sorrow or her life, whichever
of the two were the weaker, long ago; but voice was wanting. She had
held her peace, had borne and lived and suffered, till those about her
had trembled for her reason; trembled, and yet in pity, at times, had
almost hoped for her the fearful anodyne of madness; but she was
strong of body as well as mind, she agonized in silence and lived on.

She poured out her husband's coffee, and, handing it, met his eyes
still fastened on her face in earnest, happy love. "Yes," she said,
replying to his still unanswered observation, "I have had a long
delicious sleep, without a dream, or only one short sweet fancy before
I woke, as if our baby were lying in my arms, as she lay that very
last morning before we lost her. Oh, George! The delightfulness of the
sound oblivious sleep I have enjoyed of late! No one can conceive it
who has not gone through all these weary years. I had forgotten what
refreshing sleep was like. It was dreadful to me to lie down at night
and give myself up to cruel horrible dreams. You know how constantly I
have wakened with a cry--always the same bad dream, yet always with a
cruel difference in the horrors. Always the child in danger or in
pain, destruction in every fearful shape impending, and I unable to
reach, incapable of protecting her. I have always felt that she was
alive and needed my care, and how I have yearned and prayed to get to
her, God only knows. And now, George, it seems to me that God must
have heard, and taken pity on me. It is well with her now. I seem to
feel it. She is with God I do believe, and perhaps He lets her spirit
come down and comfort me. At least I am very sure now that she is
happy, and I feel resigned as a Christian woman should, in a way I
have never been able to feel before."

"The company of your sister Judith has done you good, Mary. I have
been wrong, and judged her harshly, I am afraid. She is a good woman I
believe now, for all her queerness, and I should have thought of
having her to stay with you long ere now. A fellow is so unthinkingly
selfish, and I suppose I judged of your feelings by my own. You are my
all, you see, and I fear I grudge sharing you with others. But it was
selfish in me to forget that you and she are sisters, and must have
many feelings in common. In any case I owe her a debt now, and I shall
never think a thought against her again as long as I live."

"You have no occasion to blame yourself, George. I do not imagine it
is owing to her visit that I feel so calmed; though certainly I am
happy to have her. We never had much sympathy, she and I. The
difference in our age and disposition was too great. I was always
fonder of Susan. No! It is not that. Her coming brought me no
consolation, I am sure. I do not think I ever passed more miserable
nights than those two first after her coming. But then there came a
change, a peace and consolation which I cannot describe or explain,
and I do not understand. It is just a blind unreasoned certainty that
all is well, and I want no more. The Good God has heard me at last,
and taken pity on a miserable mother. He has taken my darling to
Himself, I surely believe, and she is safe at last in the Everlasting
Arms. Oh George, I have been wicked to repine, and distress you as I
have done, with my ignorant complainings. She is safer far, I
recognize it now, than she could have been had she been left in such
care as mine. No! It is the Great Consoler who has pitied me and sent
me comfort; such distraction as poor Judith could have brought would
have been of little avail. That little girl, Betsey's cousin, seems to
bring a far more soothing influence with her than Judith or Susan, or
any one I ever met, but you. There seems a peacefulness in the air
when she is by, that rests my weary, hungry heart. It does me good to
sit and look when she comes in, and to hear her talk. She is a darling
little girl, and I could feel it in my heart to envy the people she
belongs to. She is an orphan, poor thing, they tell me. She must be
very near the age our Edith would have been if she had been spared to
us," and the poor lady wiped her eyes and sighed.

"You mean Muriel Stanley. Yes, she is a dear little girl, or at least
she was till very lately; but she is opening out into young womanhood
now, as they all do, the pretty buds that I am so fond of. I see the
dawning woman more clearly every week, and I shall soon be losing her.
She is so pretty, you see, and those wretched boys see it, too, and
tell her it. Why is there not a Herod in Montreal to kill off the
sprouting striplings? They spoil all my little maids for me, just as I
get fond of them, when they are at their freshest and sweetest; turn
their pretty heads with nonsense and make them think themselves
grown up; and then good-bye to the poor music-master. Your young
nephew--Ralph's son--has something to answer for in this case, the
rogue. I have noticed him lurking round our gate more than once, and
have kept her an extra fifteen minutes out of pure malice. There is
always some one, and they make one feel so old."

Mary smiled, as her husband meant she should, and then the door
opened, and Judith and her niece appeared together. The scenes was
changed into one of bustle and small talk, fumigated with the smoke of
coffee and hot broiled fish.

"You were late of getting home last night," said George. "I was so
blind sleepy that I could scarcely see you when I let you in. But pray
don't apologize. I am glad of it. One wants to see one's country
friends entertained when they come to town, and, what with my sprains,
I feel conscience-stricken at having been able to do nothing to amuse
you myself. I hope you spent a pleasant evening?"

"Oh, yes, Martha always does that kind of thing well. She's a good
hostess."

"And, Miss Betsey? Were you much admired?"

Betsey gave her head a little toss with a Venus Victrix glance--_à la_
Bunce, that is. The marble goddess in the Louvre looks straight out of
level eyes, too proud for petty wiles; but Betsy's glance came from
the corners. She was arch, you see, or thought so, and the certainty
of conquest was all that she had in common with her divine prototype.

"I wore a nice new dress, Mr. Selby, a present from Aunt
Martha--cousin, I suppose I should call her, seeing she is auntie's
niece; but she is too old to be a cousin to _me_. I think I shall call
her simply Martha, I am sure she will not mind. She would like it, I
do believe, only----" and Betsey began to change colour.

"Only?" said George, who had been looking her in the face, with
a laugh. "Only it would be awkward to be heard calling one's
mother-in-law by her Christian name, and it is not easy to get out of
a habit of speaking--is that it?"

Betsey grew crimson and bent over her plate.

"George! You are too bad altogether," said Mary.

"Mr. Selby, you are a dreadful quiz," said Betsey, not at all
displeased. "But about my dress. I was quite disappointed to find you
were not at hand as we went out, I wanted you to admire it.
Beautifully made. It must have cost a lot of money. Black _tulle_,
with any quantity of Marshal Niell roses, and just a morsel of scarlet
salvia here and there to light it up. The salvia was my own idea, and
an immense improvement. The dressmaker said all she could against it,
and a deal about severe simplicity; but I hate simpletons of all
kinds, and I fear my taste is not severe at all. However, it was I who
was to wear the gown, so I had my way. I would not have chosen black
myself, but M----" (with a returning flush) "Mrs. Herkimer said black,
so what could I do? I am fond of warm colouring myself, and a good
deal of it. That is why I got my geranium poplin; but one wants a
change, and the _tulle_ is that. Only it is so quiet, nobody would
guess how expensive it is."

"I would pin a card with the price on behind. People who wear
ready-made clothing have been known to appear in public so decorated,
when the shopman forgot to remove his ticket. It attracts a good deal
of attention. All for $15 say, or your choice for $20."

"It cost a great deal more than that, Mr. Selby," answered Betsey,
with just a touch of crossness in the tone, as she began to recognize
that she was being chaffed. "Shows how little _you_ know about ladies'
wear," she added, as Selby rose to go into another room and give her
music lesson to Muriel Stanley, who could be heard arriving.

The ladies gathered round the fire and proceeded to talk over the
events of the party. Betsey sat in the middle in front of the blaze,
and as opportunity offered, strove to enlighten the inexperience of
her elders in matters of "style" and good behaviour, with items drawn
chiefly from her recollections of "Godey's Magazine," which were
copious, and sometimes startling, and illustrated by reminiscences of
festivity at St. Euphrase, in which a certain Mr. Joe Webb appeared to
have borne a prominent part. She was still in full career when Selby
returned, introducing Muriel Stanley, whom for his wife's sake he had
persuaded to come and shake hands with her cousin at that early hour.
Mary was leaning back in her chair, and had armed herself with
patience to endure the torrent of Betsey's talk, which needed only an
occasional exclamation of dissent, easily overborne, from Judith, to
keep it running in the full turbulence of its muddy flow. No word of
hers was needed, and her thoughts had drifted away into their
accustomed channels. Her husband noted the flush of pleasure and the
kindling of her eye at sight of the stranger, who also seemed drawn to
the invalid, and who, in the rearranging of the party, dropped into a
low seat by her side. Unconsciously, as it seemed, Mary's hand was
laid on the girl's shoulder, and then, as recollecting itself, drew
back, to steal again involuntarily towards her, and touch her hair.

Muriel, too, unwittingly seemed to lean towards the other, and accept
contentedly the unconscious caress; and George, regarding them, could
not but wonder how the girl seemed drawn to his wife, so nearly a
stranger to her, even in the presence of the others whom she saw so
constantly in the country. It showed the tenderness of a womanly
heart, he thought, and its overflowing sympathy, thus silently to go
out to the stricken invalid, and he loved and admired his favourite
pupil more than he had ever done before.

The loquacious Betsey had other things to think of, things to speak
about, and to speak about a great deal. The subject of the party was
taken up again from the beginning, to be gone all over once more,
while Judith held her hands out to the blaze to shield her eyes, and
Mary sat mutely happy, she knew not why, gently stroking the hair
plait with her finger.

"You were not at Mrs. Herkimer's party last night, Muriel? and I did
not see your aunts."

"No, they were not there. Aunt Matilda rarely goes to a dance, except
a juvenile one, when I am invited. I am not out yet, you know."

"To be sure not, Muriel; I know it. Time enough, my dear," said this
experienced woman of the world. "Your time will come quite soon
enough, and I hope you will enjoy it. Ah!----" and she heaved an
ecstatic sigh, "It was a lovely party. So many gentlemen! And such a
floor! I put in a heavenly time, Muriel. I wish you could have seen
it. I wish you could have seen me in my new ball-dress--a present, you
know--from auntie's niece--by Mme. Jupon! no less--just too elegant
for anything. Quite subdued, you know--black _tulle_--much draped.
Too subdued, if anything, for my taste--you know I like things
cheerful--but awfully sweet. Garnitures of roses--large Marshal Niell
roses--dollars and dollars' worth of them--frightfully expensive--and
real chaste. I saw the people asking each other who that
elegantly-dressed person could be, and my card was filled up just like
winking. There was, let me see, there was Mr.---- But what of that?
You are not out yet. You could not be expected to know any of them.
But it was lovely. Oh, how some of those dear men do valse!"

"Betsey!" said Judith reprovingly, "how you do run on. It is scarcely
feminine."

Betsey looked not well pleased, and a retort was rising to her lips,
when she caught sight of Selby watching her, and the twinkle of
"impertinent" amusement, as she thought it, in his eye was too much.
It scattered her forces and snapped the thread of her discourse.

"There is a tobogganing party to-night, Betsey" said Muriel, now that
there came a lull; "that is, there is always one these moonlight
nights; but we are going to-night. Would you care to come? Aunt
Penelope will be so pleased if you and Betsey will dine with us, Mrs.
Bunce, and she can go in our party. Aunt Matilda is going. You will
meet all your St. Euphrase friends, Betsey. Mdlle. Rouget will be
there, I understand."

"I scarcely know the girl, and she don't want to know me, so that is
no inducement. However, we'll go, auntie? I think we had better go.
It's home to St. Euphrase tomorrow, you know, with lots of time for
sedateness and parish duties. Let's enjoy ourselves all we can while
we're here."

And so it was agreed.



                             CHAPTER IX.

                             TOBOGGANING.


The moon was at the full, and she hung, still tending upwards, high in
the transparent vault where all the host of heaven were burning and
blinking like tapers in a fitful wind, so brilliant was their
scintillating lustre seen through that clear dry atmosphere where the
moonlight shows the red and the green of brick wall and painted
verandah, colours which are but modulated greys where insular
moistness thickens and dims the air. It was bright as day over the
snow-covered landscape, with even a trace of the yellowness of
sunshine in the light, but with an uncertainty in distances, and a
liquid idealizing of objects and their shadows, sublimating reality
out of commonplace, and lifting it into the likeness of what is seen
in dreams.

The thermometer stood at zero, but the air was still, for all the
fantastic flicker of the stars overhead; and it was so dry with the
frost, which had precipitated all moisture, that it did not feel cold
on emerging from heated houses. It was bright and exhilarating to
breathe--like something to drink--and sent the blood dancing more
briskly than before down to the tips of the thickly-gloved fingers
Sounds of laughter and frolic were about, every one who was young and
strong was abroad in the intoxicating lustre, arrayed in blanket-coat
and moccasins, with _toque_ and sash of blue or scarlet.

It was a steep snow-covered bank in the suburbs, with a long meadow
spreading out below. Steps and footpaths were worn up the face on
either hand, and in the middle was the slide polished into glass, down
which the toboggans, pushed past the brink of the descent, a girl or
even two seated in front with a man behind to steer, shot with the
celerity of an arrow from above, slackening in speed when the steepest
of the declivity was past, and travelling far out across the level
meadow on the spending impulse they had gathered on their way. With
steering and good luck the crew reach a standstill as they started,
the damsel gets up, the swain draws his vehicle by the cord, and both
mount again to the summit, once more to precipitate themselves down
the slope, and if there be no miscarriage, resulting in shipwreck,
with toboggan overturned or broken, and crew shot out promiscuously
with ugly cuts and bruises, to repeat the experience a score of times,
till at length the weary limbs shall refuse to scale the slippery
height again.

"Miss Stanley," said Randolph Jordan, addressing Miss Matilda, "won't
you trust yourself to me. I promise to steer carefully, and I can say
what every one cannot, that I have never spilled my cargo yet."

"Thanks, Mr. Randolph, I do not mistrust you in the least; but
really--it is so long since I got upon a toboggan--that I--I shall
just stay here with Mr. Considine, now I have got to the top of the
hill, and watch you young people like a sedate chaperon. But here is
my cousin, Betsey Bunce; I am sure she will be delighted. They do not
toboggan at St. Euphrase, and I am sure she never saw one in Upper
Canada. Oh!"--with a little scream--"It really is quite frightful to
see them start. And that is Muriel, I declare, and Gerald Herkimer. He
will break the child's neck, I do believe; he is so heedless. I wish
we were home again."

"Oh, law!" cried Betsey; "are you sure it is quite safe? I used to
coast with my hand-sled, like the rest of the kids, when I was little,
but it kind of frightens one to see the go-off. Are you quite sure you
can protect my bones, Mr. Jordan?"--looking clingingly in his face in
search of encouragement--"I feel awful frightened."

"Well, perhaps you are right," said Randolph, impervious to the cling;
"it is a good plan to watch the others for a while first, it gives one
confidence," and he was gone. He had paid his duty invitation to the
head of the party, and, not having bargained for Betsey as a
substitute, availed himself at once of the simulated dread which was
intended merely to make him urgent and assiduous. Betsey felt foolish,
and turned round to Matilda, but she, supposing she had provided for
her charge, had taken Considine's arm and strolled away. Betsey was
pretty well able to do for herself, however, and ere long she descried
a bachelor, unprovided with a maid, and whom she had danced with the
evening before; he, on her recognizing him, was not averse to taking
her on his conveyance _faute de mieux_, it being "kind o' lonesome,"
as he told himself, to ride alone, "when every other fellow was
provided with his bit of muslin."

Randolph was at Miss Rouget's side in a moment, tendering his
respectful services, which she at once accepted with the grave bow of
a maiden obedient to her parents, who feels gratified in her
conscience with the sense of a duty fulfilled, in doing what she knows
they would approve--the superior satisfaction of a well-regulated
mind, higher, because a moral pleasure, than the indulgence of mere
personal preference, but by no means so gratifying to the gentleman,
if he only knew it, which, fortunately, he seldom does. Randolph's
feelings, too, might perhaps be considered as of that same higher
moral sort, which dispenses with good honest attachment of the natural
kind; more exactly to be described as indifference touched with filial
piety and flavoured with a pinch of self-interest.

Old Jordan had been immensely impressed by the mining discoveries at
La Hache, and although it was a damper to recognize in the desired
father-in-law of his son a rapid and an unsuccessful gambler, still,
the man's interest in the mine could be saved, he thought, by settling
it upon his daughter as _dot_, if the old man were permitted to enjoy
the usufruct during his life; besides, was there not a certain
institution where troublesome old gentlemen had been locked up ere
then, at the instance of wives or heirs? and was not monsieur the
seignior eccentric enough for any purpose, with skilful counsel to lay
it properly before a jury? Randolph was the impediment himself; he was
like a badly-ridden colt, whom the horseman, armed with whip and spur,
which he has not the judgment to use, vexes into rebellion which he
cannot overbear.

It was humiliating, but his sight was clear enough to see that Amelia,
in opposition to whom all his dealings with his son hitherto had been
taken, must now be called in to use the very influence which had
hitherto made the lad so unruly, and render him tractable for once.
Amelia, for a wonder, lent a favourable ear. She recognized it as a
tribute, and an admission, in arranging the most important
circumstance in her son's life, that the arrogant block-head, who had
attempted to lord it with so high a hand over herself and the boy, had
come to see his impotence at last. The sense of victory soothed her,
and made her gentle, as a filly has been known to become under
coaxings with lump sugar and carrots, when rougher means had failed.
She agreed to take the youth in hand, and she moulded him without his
knowledge, as she had done all his life before, like wax between her
fingers.

He had as yet--whatever later years might bring him--no very
pronounced faculty of love for other than himself; his attachment to
herself, as she saw full well, being due chiefly to what she could do
for him and give him in the way of flattery, sympathy, and help to
assist himself, and so forth. She saw it without much pain, though she
was his mother, for she was a practical-minded person who indulged in
the affections but sparingly as being too luscious and apt to pall;
"it was just," she thought, "the way of the coarser sex--brutal,
selfish, stupid--overbearing in the rude strength of their muscle, the
delicate nerve-power of the women." "But brain-fibre was more than a
match in the long run for such fibre as theirs," she told herself; and
after all the boy was her own, to be proud of among other women, and
to make do in the long run, as she only could make him, by delicately
pulling the strings she wot of in his being, pretty much as she would.

She was aware, of course, of his kindness for Muriel, but she divined
that its roots did not go deep, and when she now took him in hand to
direct his attachments, his own description confessed the truth when
he spoke of her as "a jolly little girl, and awfully pretty, whom the
fellows were crazy after, and he meant to take the cake from them
all."

"I am not so sure that you can, my boy; having been a girl myself I am
likely to guess nearer the truth than you can; girls are such goosy
little things, and I should say your friend Gerald has the best chance
there."

"Gerald!" said the young man, drawing himself up to the full of that
one-inch advantage he had over his friend; but then he remembered how
Gerald had taken her in to supper the evening or two before, and he
felt a doubt; but it only made him angry and more obstinate to win the
prize.

"I think, Randolph," his mother went on, reading his thoughts, "your
cake, as you call her, you gluttonous boy, is hardly worth the eating;
leave it for your friends, and make them welcome. Muriel Stanley is no
match for you, and no great catch for anybody. She will get her aunt's
money, I suppose--a comfortable little sum--when they die, which is
not likely to happen for twenty years; but she has no connections
whatever, and a good connection is so very advantageous for a young
man. You will realize that more and more as you get on."

"But she is awfully pretty, the prettiest little thing in Montreal,
and the nicest."

"I grant you that, if you think so; but she is only fifteen, and her
aunts will not let her marry for five years yet. She will be stout at
twenty; that kind of girl whose figure forms so early, always gets
stout, and you will think her a little coarse--men of taste always
think that of plump girls, I have observed--but you will sacrifice
yourself all the same, like a man of honour, if you are already
engaged. That will not be the worst, however; five years more and she
will be positively fat! Imagine yourself with a wife like that! You
will be about thirty then, just in your prime, with your nice slim
figure merely improved from what it is now, the shoulders a little
broader, of course, which will be no disadvantage, and your moustache
a trifle heavier, but otherwise scarcely changed--in fact, at your
very best. How will you like then walking down St. James's Street on
the circumference of a copious wife?--a sprig of lavender tied to a
marigold! Does the picture attract you?"

When you drive together or have stalls at the theatre, imagine
yourself protruding from among your spouse's cloaks and flounces. The
buggy could be built of extra size, to be sure, but all the stall
chairs are alike. It is a subject for your own consideration
exclusively. Personally, I am fond of Muriel. She is a nice little
thing, and I should welcome her as a daughter; but it is not I who
should have to appear in public with her for the remainder of my days;
and if a man means to go into society, he is wise to choose a wife who
will group well with him.

"Now, there are our neighbours at St. Euphrase. Think of an only
daughter!--heiress to a seigniory, and connected with all the best
people in the province. You will say she has not a good complexion;
but how short a time complexion lasts in this climate! and those who
have had one, and lost it, always look haggard and older than those
who never had any. A man married to an old-looking woman, whether fat
or lean, always strikes me as a melancholy spectacle--like a sapling
sprouting from a crumbling wall, as the poet says--and the world is
seldom respectful. It is apt to look on him as the man who broke the
commandments and married his grandmama, because nobody of his own age
would have him. There is no fear of that with Adèline Rouget; she will
improve every year she lives. She is distinguished looking now, though
she is not pretty. Every year she will improve, that is the advantage
of having plenty of bone. She will look stately in middle life, and be
beautiful--the rarest kind of beauty--in old age. Look forward always,
my boy, when you think about marrying, it is an experiment which
generally can be tried but once, so bought experience can do you no
good."

Mother and son had a long conversation, in which she plied him with so
many flatteries, that finally of his own free choice he promised to
"go in" for Miss Rouget, yet at the same time felt himself magnanimous
and dutiful in yielding his own wish to the gratification of his
parent; and she encouraged the delusion as likely to hold him to her
point. Self-denial is a heroic sort of virtue, and rather above the
purchase of most folks; therefore, to be self-denying, and so,
admirable to his seldom gratified moral sense, while still pleasing
himself, was exaltedly delightful. If a man is not a hero, it pleases
him the more to see himself in a heroic light. It is new, and it may
not occur again, therefore he will do his best to retain the gallant
attitude in which he finds himself; and Randolph set himself to _live
up to his ideal_.

It was in ceremonious and most well-behaved fashion that the young
lady placed herself on the toboggan, and permitted her cavalier to
wrap the outflowing draperies more compactly about her in gracious
quietude. The gentleman gave the equipage a push beyond the brink,
jumped in behind with a parting kick against the shore, and they were
away; swiftly, and with ever-accelerating speed as the hill grew
steeper--"shooting Niagara." The _bienséances_ of the convent, with
their modest tranquillity, are scarcely maintainable in a toboggan
shooting down a glassy incline of fifty degrees or more, at the rate
of miles in a minute, with the certainty that dislodgment from the
quarter-inch board one is seated on may hurl one anywhere, bruised or
maimed, but assuredly ridiculous.

Adèline caught her breath with a gasp as she found they were off, and,
as the pace quickened down hill, she clenched her teeth tightly and
closed her eyes; and then there came a jolt as they sped across some
swelling in the ice, and she felt herself thrown backwards, and gave a
little scream; and Randolph was there behind to support her, with a
laugh, as she bumped against his chest, a laugh she could not but join
in, though a little hysterically, perhaps, at first. And then the pace
began to slacken as they reached the level of the meadow below, and
still it slackened, and finally they stopped, and stood up, and shook
themselves from adhering snow, and found, the experience was over,
that they were both safe, and that it had been a little thrilling, but
"_awfully jolly_." The ice was broken between the two young people
forthwith, and the Lady Superior with her nuns, who had taken such
pains in the formation of Adèline's character and manners, would
scarcely have recognized her, or been able to distinguish her from one
of those dreadful, fast, heretical English girls, they had been wont
to hold up to her and her companions as models to avoid, as she caught
Randolph's arm to climb to the top of the bank again, and vowed it had
been delightful.

Conventional mannerisms are like mud in a slough, when the animal
which has floundered through gets out into the sunshine, it dries and
peels off and falls away very quickly. These two were average young
people who had been comfortably reared, with warm clothes and
nourishing victuals imagination, sentiment, "yearnings" of any kind
had been omitted from their composition, but they were unconscious of
the deficiency, so were perfectly content. They were both healthy and
strong, and the physical surroundings of the moment were exhilarating
in the highest degree--bright clear air and exciting exercise. The
quickening of their pulses, caused by their romp upon the snow, was as
high a delight as either was capable of knowing, and they clung closer
together each time they re-climbed the steep to shoot again from the
summit, and laughed more joyously with each succeeding jolt, and
persuaded themselves even, perhaps, that they were really falling in
love--it is a delusion which often has no more substantial foundation.

And Muriel, too, was careering merrily down the slope, with Gerald for
steersman. It was a sport in which they frequently indulged, and many
a chilly promenade upon the frozen snow, on the top of the hill, had
it cost Aunt Matilda that winter, though she never dropped a complaint
which might check or damp her darling's pleasure. Perhaps, too, she
may have found the _chaperonage_ not altogether an infliction in every
aspect. By some happy concurrence of circumstances Considine was
always of the party. He might have dropped in to visit the ladies
before the hour for setting out, or else he would accompany young
Gerald when he called to persuade them to go; assuredly he was always
there, and freighted with rugs of the thickest and warmest. When the
ground was reached, he was curious in his selection of the snuggest
nooks and corners sheltered from the wind to rest in; and when his
rugs were heaped on the sealskins she already wore, Miss Matilda found
she was not one bit cold in the world, and Considine in attendance,
who on these occasions was invited to smoke, was perfectly happy, and
blessed the inventor of the toboggan.

Muriel and Gerald were experienced voyagers who slid down and
clambered up again in calm familiarity with what they were about,
without transports of timidity or delight, but in thorough enjoyment.
Muriel sat motionless like a part of the outfit, and Gerald was able
to steer their way intricately and securely between others more
laggard or awkward who got in the way and would have brought grief to
a less skilful pilot. And then it was so pleasant to be together,
though neither said so, they were so used to it--had been used to it
for three or four winters now--and it had grown on them so quietly
that they said and perhaps thought nothing about it. There were no
speeches; there was no opportunity for them, for there had been no
breaks in their intimacy. A boy and girl companionship at first, it
had strengthened and progressed with themselves, till, while it was
possible neither might have confessed an attachment to the other, it
was certain they could never, now, attach themselves to any one else.
They were comrades, at least in their winter exercises, but without
the rough familiarity which sometimes arises in that relation.
Muriel's virginal rearing by those worthy gentlewomen, her aunts, had
made that impossible on her side; and Gerald had been his mother
Martha's "vineyard," tended and weeded and cared for assiduously as to
his moral nature, brought up in manliness to scorn evil and reverence
women, as only that quaint daughter of the solitary places in "Noo
Hampshire" could have done.

The moon hung in the highest heaven, the snow near by was aglitter in
its sheen, the distance was dim with hazy brightness, and many
tobogganers had come in from around to join the sport. The place was
not inclosed, it was a bare hill-face at other times, and somewhat out
of the way; but it suited, and when once a few had used it into shape,
all the tobogganing world was glad to avail itself of it. Its
out-of-the-way-ness alone preserved it to the use of its quieter
frequenters from the gamins and "roughs" of the more densely-peopled
streets; but this night was so gloriously still and bright and
exhilarating that those who had tasted its brightness could not tear
themselves away, and as the shop-lights were extinguished they
wandered farther afield instead of creeping under dusky shelter and
going to sleep. The snow was dotted with groups of a dozen or a score,
streaming out from the town and coming to the snow slide. All were on
foot, a few on snow shoes, and many dragging hand-sleds behind
them--those devices of the enemy which make the winter street of
America so dangerous for an elderly gentleman. He will look around for
a policeman to stop urchins coasting in mid-highway, at the hazard of
their skulls, from passing horse-kicks; he will not find one, but with
a roar and a sweep another coaster will rush down the pavement,
bruising his shins, over-turning him, and passing on its career of
devastation before he can gather himself up to box the audacious ears
of the offenders.

"What a crowd of people are gathering down here at the end of the
track," observed Muriel, as she stepped off the toboggan at the
journey's end to re-climb the hill.

"Yes," said Gerald, "a great many. I do not mind their standing down
here, they seem peaceable. They are only looking on, and soon they
will find it cold, and go away. But look at the crowd up there at the
top! They seem a more unruly crew. I fear there will be a row. Ah!" he
added, "there it is! Our pleasure is over for to-night. There is a
rowdy with a hand-sled, starting down the course. Hsh! what a
pace--and another--and a third. The third has upset, however, and
rolled down the hill. I could almost wish he would get in front of
number four. It would certainly hurt him, and spill number four as
well, and both deserve it. It will not be safe to launch a toboggan
now. The iron shod runners of the sleds travel as fast again as a flat
toboggan board. We shall get run into and smashed. I fear we must
knock off for to-night. I am awfully sorry, but really it is not safe,
with a parcel of roughs in possession of the slide."

"Don't say so," said Muriel. They were climbing the bank, she leaned
on his arm, and she pressed on it just a shade heavier as she said it.

"No doubt," he answered; "they must soon give it up. The ground is too
steep for runners. See how they shoot, and how far they are carried
beyond where we stopped. And there is a ditch there too. The least
thing will upset them coming down at such a bat, and somebody will get
hurt. They will all get hurt in time, but we shall have too long to
wait for it, I fear."

"Don't you think we might have just one or two more? The evening is
only beginning, and it is so lovely. I do not feel one bit afraid, you
steer so beautifully."

And what could Gerald do but yield when so appealed to, and so
flattered?

They made another descent in safety, and then another, in which Gerald
performed prodigies of steering which elicited the lively applause of
the onlookers, and filled himself and his companion with confidence
and pride. For now the sled-riding invaders were in possession of the
field, the tobogganers having withdrawn, all save Gerald, who, in the
new position of affairs, appeared as the intruder, and whom the
majority in possession now set themselves deliberately to molest and
chase from the ground; shooting down after him, and endeavouring to
run into him from different sides, when he would suddenly veer out of
his course and leave the chasers to run into each other, with bruises
and scatterings, and derision from the onlookers.

Each descent they made Gerald begged might be their last, but Muriel
more eagerly pleaded they might have yet another. It was so splendid,
she thought, to see the rowdies, balked in their malice, run
thundering into each other, while Gerald received rounds of applause.
What taskmaster ever drove so hard as does the female partizan, who
desires nothing for herself but merely the glory of her champion?

They made the descent again. It was to be really the last time. "Just
this once more;" but it proved the once too often. They started
immediately behind a sled which shot down like lightning, and insured
a clear course at the going off; but presently one slid by on their
right, and they had to swerve to avoid it, and then there passed one
on their left which almost grazed them. They had scarcely escaped when
another came thundering down behind them. Gerald veered aside as well
as he could, but still as it came on it was only by flinging himself
against the foremost passenger that he avoided being run over, and it
cost him his balance. In the instant, while he was still in poise, he
was able to lay a goodly stroke with his guiding stick across the head
of the steersman of the buccaneer, and then he fell out of his seat
and rolled down the steep. The sled had turned cross-wise to the
incline, and rolled over with the three who were its crew; and Muriel
startled, alarmed, and with the toboggan turned aslant, fell out
likewise, and slid downward with the toboggan atop.

Gerald reached the bottom pell-mell among the brawling, kicking, and
swearing cargo of the sled, who set on him in concert ere yet he had
well reached his feet, when Muriel's falling amidst them, covered by
the over-turned toboggan, dispersed the combatants for an instant, and
gave Gerald time to recover his guard. Then with a howl the three
rushed upon the one, or rather on the two, for they knocked down
Muriel, half risen, and trampled the toboggan to pieces in rushing
over her. Gerald was ready with one from the shoulder, delivered
squarely in the jaw, to knock down the first, but the other two sprang
on him together, and he would have fared ill if one from the crowd had
not leaped into the fray with blazing eye, clenched fist, and gnashing
teeth, and a growl of _sssacrrré_ and _chien_, as he felled one
ruffian with a blow under the ear and attacked the other. The first
was now up again, assaulting Gerald with foot and fist, and calling
his fellows in the crowd to come and help him, when the ministers of
the law appeared in the persons of two burly constables, who caught
Gerald and his succourer by the collar, and stood over the last felled
of the assailants while the other two ran away.

It was a "brache of the pace," they declared, and all must come to the
station, stretching out a hand to seize Muriel by the muffler--an act
which nearly upset Gerald's composure, and brought him into collision
with the police; but fortunately at that moment Considine intervened.

He had been spending an enchanted hour near the top of the hill with
Miss Matilda, swathed in rugs--all but her head--looking down upon the
sports, and chatting pleasantly while he buzzed round her, near enough
to hear and answer, but far enough off to let the fumes of his cigar
travel elsewhere. Something said in the crowd hard by had drawn their
attention to the slide. "Is not that Muriel?" Matilda had exclaimed,
jumping to her feet; and then the collision had come, and the upset,
and they both hurried down the bank to arrive on the scene at the same
moment as the police.

"You need not take the young lady into custody, my man," said
Considine, assuming his grand military manner--learned in "the
war"--so effective with policemen, who, like other disciplined beings,
seem to love being spoken down to. "Here is my card, and I write the
lady's address on the back. She will appear before the magistrate
whenever he desires."

"Roight, yur haunur!" said the man, coming to "attention," and
saluting.

"And this gentleman will give you his card, too, and promise to appear
when wanted," a suggestion which was also complied with, and Gerald
was liberated from custody.

"And this young fellow, who has behaved like a man, can I do nothing
for him?"

"This is Pierre Bruneau," cried Matilda, "our farmer's son at St.
Euphrase. So good of you, Pierre, to come to Miss Muriel's rescue. I
did not know you were in Montreal."

Pierre pulled off his _toque_ and made a shame-faced bow, smiling
gratification all over his countenance to find his service
appreciated.

"The Frinchman must com wid us, sorr. He kin hilp to dhraw the sled
wid the chap he knocked down--an' roight nately he did that same--for
a Frinchman. We'll thrate him well, sorr, but we'll have to lock him
up. Ye kin spake a worrd to his haunor to-morrow maurnin', sorr."

Pierre started, and looked piteously to Miss Matilda, and then his
manly heart gave way--he was not very old--he stuffed his fists into
his eyes and wept sore. To prison! To be locked up! It was dreadful,
and it was shame; and yet, even then, if it had had to be done over
again, he would have done it just the same. It was for Muriel he had
fought, and for her sake he was content to suffer.



                              CHAPTER X.

                               ANNETTE.


"Poor Pierre!" was the natural burden of the conversation round the
Misses Stanley's supper table that night.

"Did not think it was in him," said Considine. "A quiet, fat,
soft-eyed, soft-spoken boy--just like some of my mulatto
table-niggers at home, in the old time. Never struck me there was man
in him at all."

"He struck out splendidly," cried Gerald. "Straight from the
shoulder--just one almighty drive, and the rowdy fell in his
tracks--felled like an ox--without a struggle. Hope, for Pierre's
sake, he has not killed him. He had not moved up to the time we left
the ground. There could not have been a prettier stroke. We must not
let him get into trouble about it. It would have gone roughly with me
if he had not run in just then. One on either side, and I dared not
hit out at the one, for laying myself open to the other."

"You did very well, Gerald. Your own man was not at all badly floored,
though he recovered more quickly than the other. 'Pon honour, I felt
my old blood warming at sight of the fray. I should have been at your
side in another instant, when I saw that ruffian get on his feet
again, with musket clubbed--walking stick, I should say--a rather
ridiculous object, I fear; but the old war-horse, you know"--and he
turned to Matilda as if he had made a happy quotation from the poets,
and she responded with an approving smile as in duty bound--"pricks up
his ears at the noise of battle. However, the policeman appeared, and
saved me from making a show of myself. That is one of the troubles of
getting old. A man is more likely to get laughed at for showing his
mettle than admired."

"Nobody would have laughed, Mr. Considine," said Matilda. "It was kind
of you to mean it. But about Pierre. I can think of nothing but poor
Pierre being taken up for trying to protect Muriel from a gang of
ruffians. How came he to be there? He might have dropped from the
clouds, I was so surprised."

"There were some beef cattle at the farm," said Miss Penelope. "Pierre
drove them into town. He was here in the afternoon. I gave him money
to stay in town overnight and go home by the cars to-morrow. So that
is explained."

"Mr. Considine, may we commission you to engage the very best advice
for Pierre?" said Matilda. "Being our servant we should feel bound to
help him out of a difficulty in any case; but when he was assisting to
protect Muriel, we must do more still. Spare no expense. See Mr.
Jordan, or whomever you think the best. We would have sent word to Mr.
Jordan by Randolph to act for us, but Randolph has not come back here.
He will have walked home with Miss Rouget, I dare say. They seemed to
enjoy each other's company immensely, which rather surprised me.
Adèline is a nice girl, but rather inanimate, and Randolph is a lazy
fellow, who prefers to sit still and let a lady amuse him. So they
struck me, when they went off together, as being not a well-assorted
pair, and yet they seemed to hit it off together uncommonly well. In
fact, I have quite come to the conclusion that in such cases one never
knows."

"Jean Bruneau will be anxious about his boy if he does not get home by
to-morrow evening," said Penelope; "but how to send him word? I need
not write, for he never goes to the post-office, and a letter to him
would lie there till the postmaster happened to see him in the
village. Telegraphing is the same; the message might lie a week at the
post-office."

"We are going home to-morrow, Betsey and I," said Mrs. Bunce. "Can we
assist you, Miss Stanley?"

"Indeed you can, Mrs. Bunce; if it is not too much trouble. If you
would walk out to Bruneau's cottage and explain to them the detention
of their boy. Tell them how well he has behaved, how indebted we feel
to him, and how willingly we will go to every expense to send him home
as soon as possible. You will indeed do us a favour. We will write you
to-morrow, after Mr. Considine has spoken to the magistrate, so as to
give the very latest news."


The Rev. Dionysius had eaten his morning rasher, and was consuming his
second plateful of buckwheat cakes and maple syrup--there is nothing
like a copious breakfast for enabling one to resist the cold--and was
basking in his regained domesticity. He had been dwelling alone for
three or four weeks, and though at first he had plunged with
enthusiasm into his books, secure of freedom from interruption, he
soon found the unbroken stillness grow oppressive. He wanted to speak,
but there was no one to listen. He had felt himself, like the
psalmist's solitary sparrow on the housetop, desolate and forlorn, and
now he enjoyed even his wife's wordy narrations with a zest which
surprised himself as much as it gratified her.

She was pouring forth a continuous stream of ecclesiastical tittle
tattle, about curates, choirs, congregations and preferments, which
would have been idle talk and a sinful waste of time in her serious
eyes if it had related to politics or the public offices, but seeing
it was not the State which it remotely touched on, but the Church, she
believed it both important and improving; for with her, Church, like
charity, covered anything, and transmuted even back-biting into
holiness.

Dionysius listened and ate his cakes. Human speech of any sort was
much, after three whole weeks of silence, broken only by the heavy
foot of his domestic, or the clatter of delf-breaking in the kitchen.
Judith, again, was a good woman, he knew, and it was his duty to bear
with her infirmities--and bear up under them, too, at times, which was
a heavier task. Perhaps she was not in all respects as much to be
admired and respected as he had persuaded himself when he married her,
but at least he knew that she admired and respected _him_, which was
much more important, and very soothing.

Miss Betsey had breakfasted, and being in haste to divulge her
experiences of travel, gaiety, and _beaux_, had walked along the
village street to the post-office in hopes of meeting a gossip. She
now returned with the family letters.

"Here you are, uncle! Four letters for you, and one of them
registered--that means money. And here is one for you, auntie;
everybody is in luck but me."

"Did you expect a letter, my dear?"

"Well--yes, I kind of thought I should have heard;" and her colour
deepened. Two nights before she had striven so hard to impress her
address on the memory of her cavalier of the tobogganing. They had
parted such good friends--on her side at least--that she had been
promising herself a letter from him all the day before. It would come,
however, sooner or later, she told herself, and thereby found strength
to possess her soul in patience.

"My letter is from Penelope Stanley," said Mrs. Bunce. "Dionysius, can
you drive me out to the Miss Stanley's place, in the cutter[1] to-day?
She asked me to deliver a message to their man, and he should get it
to-day."

"I was not going in that direction to-day, but it does not matter. I
will take you; but you must arrange either to stay a few minutes only,
or else to wait a few hours, as I have an appointment elsewhere."

"Here is Bruneau's wife coming down the hill, auntie; carrying a fat
goose and a pair of ducks. Be sure you make a trade with her for the
ducks; I believe in roast duck."

"A _brace_ of ducks, my dear,"

"A pair of ducks, uncle. They're farmyard ducks. Think I went to
Ellora Female College for nothing?"

"Call her in, Betsey, and let us take your erudition for granted."

"She won't come, auntie. Remember we're heretics. She wouldn't let
herself be seen coming into a Protestant parson's house."

"Oh, yes, she will, if you ask her the price of her ducks. Money can
do anything."

Annette Bruneau was called in as she passed; and came, looking
distrustfully to light and left. The parson beat a retreat, which
augmented her confidence somewhat, but still she seemed not much at
her ease. A question as to the price of ducks, however, reassured her.
Ducks were food for Christians, and it was the souls of men and the
flesh of little children on which the nameless person she dreaded to
see was believed to subsist. What price for the ducks? Oh, yes, she
was herself at once, and did a very fair stroke of business, too,
extracting some twelve or twenty cents more from the misbelievers than
she would have had the assurance to ask from the storekeeper for whom
they had been destined.

"I have a letter from Miss Stanley this morning," said Mrs. Bunce.

"_Ah oui, madame?_ I hope she goes well."

"She is so pleased with your boy Pierre. Feels really indebted to him,
and says he has behaved so well."

"But yes, madame? And is it upon the affairs of Mees Stanlee zat he is
not of the return?"

"He was taken up by the police. He behaved--oh! remarkably well. Miss
Stanley feels under the greatest obligations to him, and will do her
very utmost to have him well defended and brought off."

"Police, madame? My Pierre _chez_ ze police!--_à la prison?_ But vy?
Is it as he have _cassé la tête de personne?_ Ah! _le pauvre garcon_,"
and she wiped her eyes.

"I feel deeply indebted to him myself--under the very greatest
obligations--which will console you, I hope. Mr. Bunce has many
friends in town, and I shall make him use his influence with them; so
calm yourself, my poor woman. I owe it to your boy and also to myself
to console you. Take comfort. Your son has behaved extremely well.
Indeed, he has shown himself a fine manly youth; you may be proud of
him, you may indeed, Mrs. Bruneau; and who knows but his arrest--the
man he knocked down was still unconscious when Miss Stanley wrote. The
inquiry was adjourned yesterday in case it should involve a charge of
manslaughter. He must have struck a fearful blow!"

"Manslaughter? Meurtre, _assassinat?_ In_croyable!_--_My_ Pierre?" The
tears ran down her quivering face, and she clasped her hands. "But
perhaps I do not _comprend_, ze English is _dificille_. Say it again."

"Be comforted, my poor woman?" and Judith wiped her own eyes--she was
sympathetic and even kind, after a sort, notwithstanding her
absurdity. "We must submit, you know, to the dispensations of
Providence; and who knows but, after all, your son's confinement may
prove a precious blessing in disguise. He may have opportunities of
coming in contact with the truth there. The jail chaplain is an
admirable man, and I am sure will do his utmost to bring him to an
appreciation of doctrinal truth, especially if Mr. Bunce were to write
to him, as I shall see that he does. With a blessing that might induce
the sweetest uses of adversity, as the hymn says--though, to be sure,
you cannot be expected to understand that just yet--and when I come to
think of it, the lad will be confined in the police cells at present,
not the jail. However, I shall always feel bound to say a good word
for your son, after his manly assistance to my nephew; and Gerald's
father--Mr. Herkimer, you know--is bound to exert himself, and he has
a great deal of influence. No; there can nothing happen to your son
worse than a short detention. Keep up your heart, my friend," and she
patted her gingerly on the shoulder.

"But I do not _comprend_, madame; you say Mistaire Herkimaire and M.
Gerald--I know him--vat say you of dem?"

"Why, you know--but, to be sure, you don't know, I have not had time
to tell you anything yet. These interruptions make it so difficult for
me to tell my story. You must know that two nights ago Mr. Gerald, my
nephew, was attacked by a number of ruffians, and your son came
gallantly to his assistance, and helped him to beat them off."

"Ah! mon brave. Ze good Pierre!"

"And one of the roughs seems to have been hurt; he was taken to the
hospital, and is still unconscious. The police interfered, and I
suppose it was necessary to make arrests. The roughs made their
escape; it was proper to take some one into custody, so they took your
son to found a prosecution upon, as I am told the proceedings they
mean to institute are called. They will found their prosecution, and
then the truth will be found out--you see? Ingenious, is it not? and I
have no hesitation in saying your son will he honourably acquitted;
acquitted and, perhaps, even complimented by the bench. Think of that.
What an honour!"

"Ze bench? I do not know him. He vill not know my poor Pierre. But M.
Gerald? Is he also arrest?"

"He gave his card, and he promised to appear."

"All! and my poor Pierre have not ze carte. But he give ze promesse,
and he keep it."

"It could not be taken, unfortunately. You see the others had run
away, and the law must be vindicated. What else are the police for?"

"Ah!--_La loi!_ She take ze poor vich have not ze carte, ze riches
_echappent_. It is not but ze good God who have pity on ze poor," and
she sat down rocking herself in hopeless woe.

"You must bear up, my good woman. There is really no ground for
despondency. Miss Stanley has engaged the very best lawyers in
Montreal to see that the young man is brought safely through his
difficulty. She feels most grateful to him."

"Mees Stanley is ver good. I have say so always. But it was to M.
Gerald Pierre bring ze _secours_. Does he notting? Go all his money to
buy _la carte?_"--with a shrug which rather outraged Mrs. Bunce, who
claimed much deference from the lower orders.

"My nephew will see your son comes to no harm," she said. Just a
little loftily. "Set your mind at rest as to that; but Miss Stanley
insists on bearing all the expense. She looks on your son as having
got into difficulty through defending her niece; and indeed the young
man himself, as he was being led away, said he would have done far
more than that for the sake of Miss Muriel. We talked about him all
through supper, when they got home--I did not go to the tobogganing
myself--and we all said it was so nice of him. Depend on it, he will
be no loser in the end----"

"For Mees Muriel? Always Mees Muriel! My Pierre shut up for _her!_
Sainte Vierge! Have pity on a wife and mother _malheureuse!_--ah!--And
was it me who brought her there! _Serpenteau! Que tu m'as broui les
yeux par ta vue! Que tu as niaisé le c[oe]ur de ton frère légitime!_"

"Speak English, my good woman. What is it you say? You seem to have
some ground of complaint against Miss Stanley's niece."

"She is not niece of Mees Stanley. She is _enfante trouvée_."

"What sort of an infant? But why do you say she is not Miss Stanley's
niece? She is the daughter of Miss Stanley's brother. Surely a lady
like Miss Stanley must know who are members of her own family. Why!
Mr. Bunce is her first cousin."

"_Vous vous trompez, madame. Vous vous l'imaginez la niece_----"

"Speak English, please."

"You imagine yourself the niece----"

"I do nothing of the kind. Betsey! I think this poor soul is losing
her wits with grief for her boy. What shall we do?--Call your uncle."

"Not a bit of it, auntie. She is as peart as you or I; but she knows
something about Muriel, and we'd better hear it. Designing little
monkey! It is just scandalous the way that girl goes on with Gerald
and all the young fellows who will mind her. I have long suspected
there was something, and Uncle Dionysius always said he never knew
that the Stanleys had had a brother at all, till he was shown this
daughter."

"Surely that was sufficient."

"I don't know. Let's hear her, any way," and she drew her chair
forward, smirking and nodding her head by way of introduction to the
French woman.

"_Vous avez raison, Mademoiselle_."

"I told you so, auntie. She says I have reason. That means sense, of
course, and I believe her; though some people"--and she sighed--"don't
seem to see it. She is evidently a person of penetration and sagacity,
this--a superior person. We'd better hear what she has to say. Wee,
wee, ma bong fam," turning to the stranger; "but speak English. Parley
Onglay, you know, we haven't much French here."

Annette knitted her dark brows and coughed determinedly; and then she
stopped, and as another thought seemed to strike her, the frown
cleared itself away before the propitiatory smile which she turned
on her interviewers, as the night police cast the gleam of their
bull's-eye on those who accost them.

"Since madame and mademoiselle are of ze parents of Mees Stanley, it
is of their right, it is able to be of their advantage to know."

"Parents? Betsey. Penelope must be every day as old as I am. I told
you the poor creature's wits were unsettled."

"Tush! auntie. Be quiet. Wee, wee; but speak English, Mrs. Bruneau. To
be sure we wish to hear something to our advantage. Go on."

"But madame and mademoiselle must promesse not never to say zat the
_connaissance_ have come from me. My man vould lose his _emploi chez_
Mees Stanley for sure."

"We'll promise you," cried Betsey, in eager curiosity. "Go ahead."

"_Cela étant_----"

"No French now, please. Take your time, but put it all into English."

Annette settled herself in her chair, clasping her hands in her lap
with a long breath; while her eyes rolled abstractedly in her head in
search, no doubt, of the English words to convey her meaning. "Madame
is _mariée_ as me. She will know _la jalousie_, which carries ze good
vife for _son époux_."

"Auntie!" cried Betsey in uncontrollable hilarity. "Were you ever so
jealous of Uncle Dionysius that you had to carry him about with you?
It would be more likely to be the other way. It is you, I should say,
would want watching. He! he!"

"Betsey," said Aunt Judy austerely, for in truth her sense of
propriety was outraged, "you surprise me. No! Mrs. Bruneau, I am not
jealous. I have no occasion."

"Madame ees _heureuse_; but me--_l'épouse_ who loves as me, vill have
_des doutes_ from time in time. Zere arrive von night--it was a hot
night of summer, ven ze vindow ver leff open, and I do not sleep well,
and zen sound _au dessous de la fenêtre_--"

"Say window, and go on."

"I hear ze cry of a _bébé_, I raise myself and go down, and behold! on
ze stoop it were laid. And _la jalousie_ she demand of me '_pour-quoi_
at ze door of my Jean Bruneau?' And I _réponds qu'oui_, it is too
evident. And I say in myself that no! It shall not be that the
_enfante d'autrui_ shall eat the _croûte_ of _mes enfants_; and for
Jean Bruneau, he shall of it never know. And then I carry to the
_porte_ of Mees Stanley, and I sound, and hide myself till I shall see
it carried in ze house. And now, behold, the reward of my
_bienfaisance!_ Pierre, _à la prison!_ And he has loffe her since long
time. _Peut-être sa s[oe]ur!_ Oh! My boy so innocent, in sin so
mortal, and not to know! But how to hinder?"

"And the child is no relation to them at all? Well--I call it
_ou_dacious. Auntie, did you ever hear anything like it? A brat like
Muriel, not a drop's blood to them in the world, to be pampered up
there in sealskin and velvet, while I, their own cousin, am glad to
dress myself in a suit of homespun."

"Yes, my dear, it seems wrong. I wonder at a correct person like
Penelope Stanley compromising herself in a thing so contrary to all
rule. But then, Matilda is flighty; I always thought her flighty.
Beware of flightiness, Betsey, and yielding to the momentary impulses
of an ill-regulated mind. It never answers. In the touching language
of--of--the Psalmist, I suppose--and be sure your impulses will find
you out! No, that isn't just it, but it might be; that is the
intention of it. But, Mrs. Bruneau, I feel for you"--she rose as she
said so, to intimate that the interview was ended--"I feel for you
deeply. Be sure of my kindest consideration. When we hear further
about your son, we will let you know, and all my influence I promise
you to exert on his behalf. Good morning. You may rely on our not
making an improper use of what you have told us."

"Madame have give her promesse to be silent. I confide;" and she
curtsied herself out, with a confidence which was fast wearing into a
misgiving that she would have done more wisely to hold her tongue. A
secret shared with two others, who have no interest in maintaining it,
has ceased almost to be a secret at all.



                             CHAPTER XI.

                                BLUFF.


The mines brought a rush of trade to St. Euphrase. The drowsy little
place, of late years, under the patronage of the railway, had been
growing into a sort of sequestered rustic suburb, or at least a rural
outlet for dust-stifled townspeople during the dog days, where such as
could buy a house might pick their own strawberries, or cut their
melon with the dew still on it, for breakfast. It was now breaking
into the "live-village" stage of growth, raising its own dust in most
respectable clouds, exhaling its own smoke--the villagers had burnt
only wood in their golden age, and their atmosphere had been
pure--with brawling navvies at the lane corners to disturb the night,
and the glare of illuminated saloons, now for the first time able to
outface the disapproval of M. le Curé, who hitherto had been able to
fend off such dangerous allurements from his simple flock.

As spring advanced things progressed with a rush, and everybody in the
district expected to make his fortune forthwith. The cautious
_habitants_, who would not risk their savings in a bank (remembering
how once upon a time a bank had broke, and a grandfather had lost some
dollars), but hid them away in crannies below the roof or underneath
the oven, took courage now, and bought shares. Were not the mines
there? visible to the naked eye. Did not Baptiste and Jean earn wages
there? paid regularly every Saturday night. The whistle of their steam
engine could be heard for miles around, and clouds of smoke drifted
across the country, dropping flakes of soot on the linen hung out to
dry. It was very real, this--definite and tangible. Had it not raised
even the price of hay, which now could be sold at home, for the mine
teams, at more than could be got for it in Montreal?

The rustics crowded into town to buy shares, and the price rose higher
and higher, till they became so valuable that no one would sell.
Still, however, shares were to be got, with exertion, and at a good
price, at the offices of the company, which were also those of the
Messrs. Herkimer, whose senior partner was president of the company.

The board of directors was so composed as to conciliate the local
interests of St. Euphrase--M. Podevin the hotelkeeper, Joseph Webb,
Esquire--Esquire meaning J.P.--Farmer Belmore, and Stinson, Ralph's
favourite clerk. These met periodically to accept five dollars apiece
for their attendance, sanction such proposals as their president might
make, and sign the minutes. None of them had an opinion upon the
matters to be considered, and even if they had had one, they would
have felt it to be indelicate to question the decisions of the city
magnate who was making their fortunes; but that mattered little; it
was pleasant to sit upon a board, and be paid for sitting, especially
when their decision upon the points on which they came to be consulted
was already framed, to save them the trouble of consideration, and
required only a mute assent. They found their consequence vastly
augmented among their neighbours, who all prayed them for advice and
private information; which, not having, they found it difficult to
give, and had to fall back on their habit, learned at the "board," of
looking as wise and saying as little as possible.

It was delightful, for the time being, thus to play at Lord Burleigh,
and be thought only the wiser the more they held their tongues; but
they little imagined the responsibility they were building up for
themselves, when issues of stock unregistered in the company's books,
funds not accounted for, and other irregularities had to be explained
to infuriated shareholders. The storm was yet in the future, for the
present the heavens were shining.

That year both Herkimer and Jordan removed their families to St.
Euphrase quite early in the spring, instead of waiting for the
summer heats. It was a demonstration of the importance they attached
to the mining operations, and their desire to be on the spot.
Directly, it was whispered among their acquaintance that fresh
discoveries were being made, and cultured persons, who combined
science with money-making, hastened to bespeak a summer residence in
the favoured village, whence they might scour the neighbourhood on
holidays, hammer in hand, rummaging for minerals, and picking up
information about the remarkable find already made at La Hache. Every
house, and even every shanty, to be let, was secured for the hot
months, and some impatient prospectors, unwilling to wait so long,
arrived at once, and established themselves with the Père Podevin,
whose house had never been so full before, and who, feeling that his
fortune was as good as made, began to prepare his family to adorn the
great position they were about to fill, withdrew his eldest daughter
from the kitchen, where she had been wont to assist, and sent her off
to the celebrated convent of St. Cecilia, at Quebec, that she might
learn to play the piano, and be turned into a lady.

The influx of city men had scarcely become apparent--it was the middle
of May now--when a new phenomenon met the explorer's eye. A board
fence was of a sudden run up around the property of the mining
company, and watchers were stationed at intervals to see that no
inquisitive stranger should scale the barrier. Excitement among the
speculators grew intense. It was immediately inferred that silver, or
perhaps even gold, had been found, else why this jealousy? and the
crowds who came from town to scour the adjacent lands were so great
that the Père Podevin had to use his stable and poultry house as
sleeping quarters, and sold permission to two gentlemen to sleep on
the floor under his billiard table on the same terms as he had been
wont to charge for an entire chamber.

There was constant hurry in the offices in the Rue des Borgnes, by
gaslight as well as by day. The jaded clerks seemed always at work,
save when they crept home at night to sum up the endless figure
columns over again in their sleep, and hurry back to business next
morning. The president seemed as hardly driven as his servants. The
street--where hitherto he had been a prominent figure, notebook in
hand, making bargains, picking up information, and distributing it in
passing, because it could be done so much more quickly than on
'Change, where some contrive to make a little business go so far in
the way of talk and time-killing--the street knew him no more, and he
was beset by people all day long, in his office, on every imaginable
errand.

Hitherto he had been so cool, and so quick, and so strong--a very
steam engine for doing business--so confident and so clear, perceiving
all the bearings of a question at once--deciding on his course and
completing an agreement in a few incisive sentences, while another man
would still be figuring up with pencil and paper the preliminary
calculations. Now there were signs of fatigue in the robust figure, a
stoop of the shoulders, a flush about the temples. His temper, too--in
time past he had had no temper, or at least it had been impossible to
ruffle it, except where anger was made to serve a business end--his
temper had grown irritable, as the luckless clerks too frequently
found out, and he suffered from sensations of faintness which led to
his withdrawing momentarily into his dressing-room, where there now
stood a decanter of sherry, a thing which theretofore he would have
scorned to permit on his premises. His habit till then had been to
drink a couple of glasses of sherry at the club by way of luncheon,
but the idea of keeping a "pick-me-up" at his elbow, to be referred to
at uncertain intervals, had never occurred to him, because, till then,
he had found his own strength sufficient for the day's work.

That may have been because things had gone well always, and there is
no tonic in the pharmacop[oe]ia like a habit of succeeding; but now
there were so many things, mines of copper, plumbago, phosphate, a
railway, a suburb, and a bank, besides--besides everything else; for
Ralph's greed grew with his success, the more he secured the more he
still desired, and he could not see an opportunity go by without
wishing to have a fling at it. A few months before, when money was
flowing in for copper shares, there had seemed to be an opportunity in
railways on New York market, and Ralph went in. It fretted him to see
money lie idle when work could be found for it. He went in, but the
unforeseen had happened, as it always will some time, and h found he
could not come out again without loss, such as was not to be thought
of, and therefore he must go in deeper still.

His own railway, too, the St. Lawrence, Gattineau, and Hudson's Bay
had been suffering a check in the shape of a swamp it had to cross, in
which it went on burying itself as fast as it could be built above the
morass. A contractor had already failed. No other would undertake the
work. The company was compelled to do it itself, under pain of being
cut in two, with sections built to the south and north, and this gap
in the middle, which made both ends useless. Ralph was largely
interested in the road, which indeed he had both projected and
promoted, to connect his plumbago mines and his phosphate lands with
"the front," _i.e_., with civilization and a market.

The plumbago mines were at work, gangs of men digging into the ground
and dragging out riches which were barrelled up to await transport;
but, until that swamp could be bridged over, of no more present value
to the owners than so many tons of gravel. The workmen could not eat
it, and would not accept it in payment of their wages; and to haul it
to market over distances of corduroy road was to end by disposing of
it for something less than it had cost to bring it there.

The public were aware of the trouble, and the shares would not sell.
The bank, of course, could be brought to the rescue up to a certain
point, but that, he began to realize, was nearly reached. There were
signs of failing confidence at the board meetings, whisperings, and
averted glances betokening incipient opposition, though mistrustful as
yet of strength to declare itself, which in time past, when he could
defy it, he would easily have browbeaten into submission; but now he
dared not attempt to browbeat, the consequences of unsuccess would
have been too serious. He tried to conciliate and persuade, where he
had been wont to command, and when the master tries to conciliate the
pupil, it is a sign the whip has gone from him, and the subject
divines that he has a master no longer than he cares to accept one.

Again, the success of St. Hypolite Suburb was hanging fire. The suburb
had been a tract of waste ground some years before, when Ralph picked
it up on easy terms, as being unfit for agriculture and useless for
anything else, and his scheme was to build on it a new and improved
quarter of the town. He had sunk great sums in draining, levelling,
and filling up. He had laid out a park, with a fountain, overlooked by
semi-detached villas, and approached by residence streets of a
superior kind. A few houses had become tenanted the year before, and a
great sale of houses in June of the current year had been written up
in a series of ingenious paragraphs in the local newspapers; when, on
the arrival of warm weather, a visitation of ague and typhoid fever
fell upon the pioneer settlers in the district, and frightened the
public out of all the interest which it had cost so much money and
pains to instil into its mind. The sale came off as advertised, but
the half-dozen dwellings first offered--"replete with every modern
improvement and convenience"--fetching barely enough to pay the
advances of the Proletarian Loan and Mortgage Company, the rest were
withdrawn for the present.

In a house of cards, though one card may be in doubtful equilibrium,
if those other cards it leans against are moderately steady, it may
stand. Nay, it may even contribute a measure of support to its
supporters; but if all are shakey at the same time, it is a task of
infinite dexterity to balance the several weaknesses each upon each.
Even then the balance is but temporary; a flutter in the surrounding
air will disturb the equipoise, and, when that befalls, the structure
holding together only by weaknesses which balance each other will
tumble to the ground a heap of ruin. And this was the fate Ralph saw
impending. He was in so many ventures, and up to his full strength in
each. If only one of them had weakened he could have propped it with
the others in such wise as he had done before, but when everything
grew shakey at the same time, it seemed as if the pillars of the
universe itself were giving way; and worse, he felt the giving way
within himself, a nodding to that frightful fall which was
approaching, a yielding such as he had never known before. Hitherto
each difficulty had called out latent strength to overcome it, but now
there seemed a torpor in himself which would not be thrown off. His
mind would, not, as hitherto, answer to his call with new expedients
to circumvent each new check; he felt benumbed, and sought to that
decanter--in his dressing-room for the strength, ingenuity, and
courage he had theretofore found within himself.

It was a morning in the beginning of July--Ralph had remained in town
overnight, not so much for the sake of doing anything as merely to be
beside his business. In time past, when his affairs flourished, he had
rather prided himself on the determination with which he could dismiss
"shop" from his mind at five minutes past four, when he walked out of
his office, and his promptitude in resuming it, exactly where he had
left off, at a quarter before ten next morning. But now, when it
would have been a relief to his jaded mind to lay cares by for a time,
they clung to him all the while, disturbing sleep, even, with confused
and harassing visions. To be away from business aggravated his
anxiety--filled him with doubts as to what might occur in his absence,
and he found his mind easier in the office than anywhere else. Even so
the mother of a sick child will sit by the bed for hours, though the
child be in sleep the most undisturbed, and she can do nothing more.
There is assurance in being present, if she were away she would
imagine things were happening, and be miserable.

After the hot night in town, with its unrefreshing sleep, and the
untasted breakfast which followed, Ralph sat in his office listless
and limp, with nothing to brace him but that hateful sherry in the
dressing-room. It was ten o'clock. The train from St. Euphrase must
have arrived, but his son had not yet appeared, when Jordan hurried
in, closing the door behind him, and fastening it.

"You were not on the train this morning, Herkimer. Were you trying to
give a man the slip?--and unload before any one else knew?"

"Unload? Slip? I remained in town last night. What do you mean? Is
anything wrong?"

"Podevin tells me he heard some of the men, who were drinking in his
bar, talking. They were telling each other that our lode was no true
vein, that every bit of metal would be out in three months' time, and
they would all be thrown idle. They were the only people in the place
at the time; Podevin took them in hand, and made them promise to hold
their tongues; but it's all coming out, can only be a question of a
day or two. He came to me in a d--l of a funk--says he will be ruined,
as everything he has is in it. To tell you the truth, I shall be hard
hit myself--have never sold a share, and I have been buying. I do
think you might have given me a hint."

"My dear sir, I am a heavier holder than you and Podevin both put
together. The price has been going up so steadily I did not care to
sell; it might have injured the property for the rest of you; and this
is the first I have heard of a threatening collapse. We must sell at
once, that is all."

"Too late, I fear, though I am now on my way to my broker. You will be
selling, too? Wish I had known enough to hold my tongue till after I
had unloaded," he added with a nervous pretence of hilarity. "Well!
I'm off."

"Don't be a fool, Jordan. Of course I don't blame you for wishing to
save yourself, I do the same; but perhaps it is just as well you came
in and told me first. I mean those shares to go higher yet before I
sell. I have all along known there was a possibility of what you tell
me coming to pass, though I had hoped to get shut of the thing before
it took place, and I would have preferred to slip out quietly. There
will be a row, now, perhaps; but what of that? If it must be, we can
weather it, so long as we save our money. It was to provide against
such a contingency that I had that fence built round the operations,
to keep prying fools on the outside; and you know how well that has
answered. I see by the _Journal_ they have been finding indications of
silver; if we inclose another hundred acres it will be taken to
indicate gold and diamonds. But no, that would be too slow, and some
one would blab in the meantime. I must telegraph the superintendent to
work over-time, and contrive that the men do not go into the village.
I shall telegraph to the directors, too, and hold a board meeting. It
is handy having men so easily within call, and yet so innocent of
business. You had better be present as solicitor, and convince
yourself that we are not stealing a march. _And then_----"

"You wish me, then, not to offer my stock to-day?" said Jordan
dubiously. The saw tells us there is honour among thieves, and
perhaps there sometimes is, but there is seldom confidence among the
over-sharp.

"As to that," cried Ralph scornfully, "you can please yourself. Go to
your brokers, by all means, if you think well. Or, if you would like
to save brokerage, you can just speak to Stinson as you go out. Tell
him what you want to sell, and I shall buy at yesterday's quotation;"
and he lay back in his chair with a cheerful smile, and twiddled his
gold chain exactly like the prosperous millionaire his neighbours
thought him.

Jordan looked and hesitated, and bit his nails, and then his brow
cleared, and he drew a long sigh of supreme relief. "Well!" he said,
smiling effusively, "you know more about it than I do. I'll trust your
advice, and hold on till to-morrow."

"I gave you no advice whatever, sir. Please to remember that;" and he
sat up in his chair with a suggestion of dignified offence on his
features which made Jordan feel contrite and ashamed, and thoroughly
satisfied that he had better not disturb his shares for the next
twenty-four hours at any rate. "You can tell Stinson about your shares
if you have a mind to; but whatever you do, I must beg that you will
not only not circulate, but that you will put down any foolish report
such as that you have just mentioned."

"You may depend on me for that, old fellow," cried Jordan, nodding
adieu, and walking out with a sense of disburdenment from the cares he
had been carrying, which made his middle-aged gait positively elastic.

Ralph rose, and watched through a convenient chink his retreating
figure off the premises, and then he drew a breath, and stretched
himself with a sardonic twitch of the eyebrows. "There's nothing like
bluff after all! Yet where should I have been if he had concluded to
take my offer? A fine rumpus those white-livered directors next door
would have raised over the cheque. However, _that's_ weathered. Now
for the mines," and he sat down and wrote his telegrams. He felt
better and stronger than he had done for weeks. There was something to
do now, action, work, combat with circumstances. He was a man once
more with a fund of strength within, which needed only to be drawn on
to come forth. The sherry decanter diffused its topaz radiance in vain
all that day, for never once came Ralph within sight of the seductive
lustre. He had something to do and think of, and in doing he found the
best tonic for his system. It is waiting and looking forward to
uncertain evil, distant as yet, and impossible to be struggled with,
which racks the nerves to pieces with its strain, and drives the
victim to artificial supports, which they from whose coarser
construction a nervous system seems to have been omitted, and who
cannot comprehend such needs, brand as intemperance and dissipation.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                           A BOARD MEETING.


It was not yet eight o'clock on a summer morning at the little railway
station of St. Euphrase. The sweetness from the dew on the ripening
hay fields still hung on the drowsy breezes which came laggingly
athwart the dusty platform, growing fainter each moment in the waxing
heat.

Farmer Belmore was the earliest intending passenger to appear on the
platform. The ticket office was not yet open, and he flopped about
impatiently in his clean linen coat, mopping his brow with a vast
handkerchief drawn from the crown of his broad-leafed Panama hat. His
grand-daughter had arranged a poppy and a branch of southern-wood in
his button-hole by way of embellishment, his cravat was of the
fiercest blue, fastened with a gold horse-shoe of the largest size. He
felt himself, as director in a great company, to be a man of mark,
appropriately and becomingly arrayed on the present occasion, and it
disappointed him that none of the general public should be there to
see him.

Joe Webb appeared ere long; compact, well knit, athletic; an example
of the very satisfactory result to be looked for by-and-by, when the
Teutonic and Gallic stocks shall have joined and blended to form the
specialized type of a new nationality; swarthy and black-eyed, with
the nose short, but prominent and aquiline, marking affinity to the
high-spirited and vivacious French, while the level eyebrows and
forward balancing of the head showed equal kinship with the reflective
Saxon.

"Ha!" cried both men simultaneously. "For town? Board meeting?"
Simultaneously, too, they answered, as if there could be any doubt.
"Yes. Thought I might as well go this morning as another, and be
present at the meeting. And draw my five dollars," added Belmore.
"This special meeting will be just so much pure gain, if we do
not do too much business, as I hope we shall not, and make the next
regular meeting unnecessary. But to be sure the monthly meetings are
obliged to be held, according to the bye-laws, or the charter, or
something--so Mr. Stinson tells me--therefore, this is quite an extry
five dollars to the good, and better than a poke in the eye with a
burnt stick. You think so, too, squire, I guess."

The distant whistle of the approaching train was now heard, and the
opening of the ticket office with a bang. There were only three or
four other intending passengers, and all had soon bought their
tickets, and stood awaiting the train.

"What can have come to old Podevin?" said Webb. "If he waits for the
train at 9.30 he may miss the meeting altogether, and his fee. He will
have been watching to see the president go by before starting himself
for the station, and the president stayed in Montreal last night. I
happen to know that. Podevin will miss his train."

"So much the better for us. There will be the more for you and me. I'd
love to finger a dollar that should have been coming to Podevin more'n
fifty of my own. He's that near, it's like drawing teeth to get a
_sou_ out of him. He hain't paid me yet for the cord-wood that kept
him warm last winter, and now he wants me to take out the price in
white Yankee beans. 'No, sir,' says I; but I let him show me the
truck, and, squire, if you'll believe me, the weevils were that thick,
you could see them quarrelling together who was to get the next sound
bean, and they were that big you could see them looking out of their
holes at the buyer, and warning him like, against the trade."

The brother directors, however, were mistaken in supposing Podevin was
minded to forego or endanger the emoluments of his directorship. He
was in waiting, though they did not see him, behind a convenient
cattle-car on the siding, anxious only to avoid speech with them till
all were in presence of the president, that his own misgivings might
be resolved without prejudice; for he dreaded that his _confrères_
might elicit something from him before he had learned the right way to
view or state it himself, and so his undigested words might get abroad
and do him harm. Wherefore he waited till he saw the couple step on
the train, and then clambered quietly into the carriage behind,
avoiding the platform and the ticket office, and paying his fare to
the conductor on the train, who charged him ten cents extra, wringing
his heart with the thought that two per cent of his director's fee was
thereby lost to himself and his heirs for ever.

The board of directors of the Mining Association of St. Euphrase
assembled at the appointed place and time. The president was in the
chair, and Jordan, the company's solicitor, sat by his side. Podevin
sat beside Stinson, whispering anxiously, and striving to draw support
and encouragement from the involuntary exclamations of the man he was
alarming with his tales and forebodings, while Belmore and Webb
awaited the opening of the proceedings in the placid tranquillity of
perfect ignorance. Nothing disturbing had as yet come into their
knowledge, or even their dreams, and they sat by the leather-covered
table contemplating the minute book and the inkstand, and wondering
how long it would be before they should sign their names, draw their
fee, and take their departure.

The president tapped the table with his ruler. Stinson read the
minutes of the previous meeting, and the board was in session and
ready to proceed to business. The president stated that he had been
made the recipient of singular information affecting the value and
prospects of their property only the day before, and he had lost no
time in calling them together, that the matter might be inquired into.
"And our worthy solicitor, Mr. Jordan, will now kindly repeat to the
board the statements he has already made to me in private."

"I know nothing, gentlemen," said Jordan, "but what was mentioned to
me by one of your own number, here present. He is now, I doubt not,
ready to repeat his statements at length for your united
consideration. I allude to my respected friend, Mr. Podevin."

The Père Podevin coughed behind his hand, looking disgust from under
his eyelids for a solicitor who could thus betray a confidential
conversation. "Was the man a fool or a rogue?" he asked himself. If he
had not actually paid him a fee on addressing him, had he not given
information worth thousands, if properly used?--given it freely for
the sake of consulting him--and Jordan had promised advice in the
morning--the morning now come--and here, instead of a friendly hint
how he might save himself, the treacherous adviser, having already had
twenty-four hours' exclusive use of the news, was calling on him to
divulge everything before the whole board, giving an equal start to
the others with himself in the race to save something, or rather
letting himself be ruined with the rest. However, all eyes were on him
now, and there was no escape.

"It was on yesterday," he said, "zat I hear of ze men to say, ver
_secrètement_ to ze ozers, as they have dig out all ze _cuivre_ of ze
mine. I £five zose men to drink in retirement from ze rest, and I ask,
and zey confirm zat of ze _cuivre_ is no more. _Mon Dieu!_ Misterre
Herkimair--to tink of ze moneys to nourish my _vieillesse_, and ze
_dots_ of my daughtairs _innocentes!_ All sunk in ze mines----"

"Well?" asked Ralph a little testily; "and pray who did it? Who sunk
your money? You are of lawful age, Mr. Podevin, and believed to be of
sound mind. You are privileged to act for yourself, and you must bear
the consequences of your own acts. If your shares had risen to double
the price you paid for them, you would have taken the profit as the
reward of your own smartness; if it turns out the other way, why
should you come grumbling to me? _I_ did not make you risk your money
or throw it away."

"You say, Misterre Herkimair, zere were fortunes in ze rocks of La
Hache svamp, and I believe ze _riche_ Misterre Herkimair, and I give
ze little _bourse_ made up _sou_ by _sou_ in all zese year vit so much
of care----"

"Yes, and thought to make your fortune, Mr. Podevin? and now you think
you are going to lose it--the chance every man is liable to who
speculates or plays poker. You throw a sprat expecting to catch a
herring, and at times the herring is _not_ caught, and the sprat is
thrown away. You must accept the chances of the game, or else you
should not play. Look at me! Think of the thousands I stand to lose if
our enterprise miscarries! What are your few hundreds compared to
that? Yet I make no lament."

"M'sieur ees so _riche_ and _distingué!_ He vill not see a poor man
lose ze sparings of his life," and he bowed cringingly to the chair.

Farmer Belmore vied with him in a gaze of pathetic sweetness and
tremulous hungry adoration before the great man who had brought his
savings into jeopardy and who yet, if any one could, could bring them
safely out. The disclosure made by Podevin had been as unexpected by
him as it was sudden. He had fancied himself growing rich, and now to
be told that he was stripped of his savings! He would have been
furious had he dared--talked of fraud, trickery, and the law; but when
he saw Podevin prostrate himself in spirit before the chair, and cry
for succour from the hand which had inaugurated the ill, he controlled
himself and lay back in his chair, constraining his lips into
sugar-coated smiles which the doubtful and hungry gleaning of his eyes
deprived of any seductiveness they might otherwise have carried.

"This is simply, gentlemen," said the president, coughing and
raising his voice, "one of those circumstances to which every
enterprise--especially every enterprise dealing with minerals--is
liable. As business men you calculated the risks and counted the cost
before you embarked your money. The likelihood of profit appeared
sufficient to us all to warrant our running the risk."

"M'sieur did not mention risks ven he so kindly undertook to improve
my fortunes. I confide my case to ze generous _souvenirs_ of m'sieur.
He vill not permit to suffer ze man who place _confiance_ and dollars
in his _recommande_."

Ralph snorted. "Let us talk business, gentlemen," he cried. "We are
not here to scold like old women, or to lament like children. You are
men of understanding, who would not have dropped your money but where
you saw good promise of a large return. Whether you gain or lose,
therefore, you have only yourselves to thank. You know as well as I do
that where money is to be made it is also to be lost. If it were not
so, all the world would crowd in to make its fortune every time, and
there would be nothing for anybody. Therefore, I object to expressions
such as have fallen from my friend, Podevin. He regrets them already
himself, I am sure, now I mention it, and he brings his clear good
sense to bear on the point. Gentlemen! we went in to win. Of course we
did! It goes without saying. But, if we have to lose, let us behave
like men of business and common sense; let us not cry over spilt milk,
but let us make the best of it. And first, let us look the matter in
the face. What is it that has happened to us?----"

"Ze _cuivre_ is not zere!" cried Podevin, eager to rally his
self-respect and preen the rumpled plumage on which Ralph had sat down
so unceremoniously. If his plea for help and relief must be set aside,
at least a partial satisfaction might be taken out in scolding, and
there seemed an opening here.

"To put it shortly, gentlemen," said Ralph with a shrug, "that would
appear to be about the state of the case just at this moment; but I
would recommend you not to say it that way out of doors, unless you
want to write off every cent you have invested in the undertaking as
dead loss. That would not be all either, gentlemen. You, the
directors, conjointly and severally, would be liable to suit by each
individual stockholder for misrepresenting the value of the property.
Is that not so, Jordan?"

"Clearly, they might claim to have their subscribed stock made good.
Whether they would secure a verdict, would depend a good deal, of
course, on the management of the case on both sides. But that is not
all. It is possible that a criminal information might be laid for
obtaining money under false pretences, and when commercial
miscarriages are fresh in the public mind, there is a proneness in
juries to find against the defendants. It is really a serious
consideration--a penetentiary offence."

"_Mon Dieu!_" gasped Podevin with folded hands, gazing at the ceiling
with eyes whose watery sorrow threatened momentarily to overflow.
Belmore pulled the posy from his button-hole and flung it on the
ground, its festive hue and fragrance irritated his senses in the
gloom which had fallen on him. If he could but have cast his
speculation from him as easily, or hurled the man before him, who had
led him into it, to the ground in like fashion, how good it would have
been!

"But, gentlemen," cried Ralph, pleased at the impression which his
words had made, "things have not come to that pass yet, nor will they,
if I can help it. There is always life for a living man; that is, if
he is willing and able to use it sensibly for his own preservation.
What is this which has fallen on us after all? It may prove to be
nothing but a fault in the lode. Such things occur frequently, and the
recovered vein, when it is found again deeper down, is generally
richer than it was before. It is true that what we have been working
on may prove to be mere pockets of the metal, unconnected with other
deposits, but we cannot say for certain until we have carefully
examined, and that will require time. Meanwhile, idle tales may get
abroad, which would shake public confidence, injure and discredit the
property, and destroy the value of the stock. We must forestall
mischievous rumours, gentlemen, and I now propose--Stinson! enter on
the minutes, 'proposed and carried _nem. con_. that this board now
declare a dividend of one dollar per share.'"

"That will be five per cent on the paid-up capital?" said Joe Webb.
"All the earnings, so far, have gone in working expenses. It seems a
big dividend to declare out of nothing."

"--sh!" muttered Belmore, pulling his sleeve. "--sh, man! It will be
so much saved out of all that has gone to the dogs."

"But, Mr. President," Webb continued, "where is the money to come from
to pay the dividend?"

"Never fear for that, squire. Declare your dividend, and up go your
shares. We have still stock which has not been issued yet. We can sell
it then at the advanced price, and shall be in plenty of funds to pay
anything."

"But is that right? Mr. Herkimer. Is it honest?"

"Right? Honest? Sir! What do you mean? Your words require
explanation," and Ralph pushed out his chest, making the diamond studs
flash scornful fire on the farmer's inexpensive raiment, while his
brow gloomed and his cheeks grew purple like an angry gobbler.

"Mr. Webb is more familiar with the procedure at quarter sessions, and
the operations of agriculture, I suspect, than with the practice of
the financial world," observed Jordan soothingly. He loved to lift his
placid head, like Neptune, above the troubled waves, and still a
rising storm. He used his smoothest, oil-pouring tones, enjoying them
himself, and calming those who heard him. "I feel confident he had no
intention of reflecting on our worthy president, who, on my thus
explaining--with Mr. Webb's manifest concurrence--will refrain from
viewing as unfriendly any unadvised expression he may have used. And,
my dear Mr. Webb, you will permit me to say that the impulse which
unadvisedly prompted still does you infinite honour. It would be well
for our commercial community if the noble sentiments which flourish in
the rural districts were to obtain in the busy marts of trade. In the
present instance, however, my young friend will perhaps permit me to
say that his scruples appear to be--well, to be just, a little
over-strained. As Mr. Webb states the case, it may indeed be said that
there is a seeming impropriety in the time chosen for declaring this
dividend."

"It is not the time, it is the dividend I object to. It has not been
earned, and it is to be paid out of the subscriptions of the new
shareholders."

"My good man," cried Ralph, "can you make a better of it? You would
not throw up the sponge--stop the workings--before it has been proved
whether it is not merely a temporary check we are suffering. You do
not want to lose all the money you have put in, and perhaps be sued by
disappointed shareholders besides, till you are stripped bare of every
cent you have in the world?"

"I do not want to take the money of misled subscribers, and divide it
among ourselves on pretence of a dividend which we have not earned."

"That is a question of book-keeping, sir, allow me to tell you.
Certain debit entries are merely deferred, to be charged later on,
leaving a present surplus. It is easily done. Besides, you must admit
that we--that the present shareholders--actually _have_ earned the
premiums at which the stock stands, or may stand hereafter. That is a
profit which the company and the older proprietors have fairly earned
by holding the stock in time past, before it grew popular, and the
price rose. Trust the management, Mr. Webb. The rest of us are more
deeply interested even than you are in things going right."

"I don't like it. It does not seem to be the honest thing to do."

"Mr. Webb, Mr. Webb, you are letting yourself grow warm again, are you
not?" said Jordan. "What other method would you propose? This one will
give time for examining the property and striking the vein again, and,
if we cannot do that, we shall have time to sell out and wash our
hands of the whole operation without loss, or even at a small profit."

"But how, as honest men, could we sell property, knowing it to be
worthless, at the same price as if it were of real value?"

"_Caveat emptor_, my dear sir, to quote a legal maxim. The buyers are
business men, well able to take care of themselves, and they will do
it, you may rest assured. They will satisfy themselves that they are
not paying too dear. Your scruples are honourable, no doubt, but do
you not think they must be over-strained, seeing they run counter to
the general practice? I can assure you it is nothing unusual which has
been proposed--nothing but what has frequently taken place in most
respectably managed concerns. There was the Porpoise and Dolphin Oil
Company, Limited, for instance--since gone into liquidation, but that
is neither here nor there--its management was in the hands of a body
of directors, than whom no gentlemen in the community stand higher,
among others the Rev. Mr. Demas, of Little Bethel, in the Rue des
Borgnes--you will have heard him preach, no doubt--a most evangelical
man, and surely you will not take upon you to find fault with
proceedings such as _he_ has sanctioned by participating in."

"I really could not bring myself to declare a dividend, that is, as I
understand it, to profess that we have earned money when I know for a
fact that we have not earned it at all."

"Tush, man!" whispered Belmore; "sit down. Let's get through, sign the
minutes, and draw our pay. I have coal oil to buy, and nails, and I
shall miss my train if you do not sit down and let us finish up."

"Proposed," cried Ralph, "that the board declare a dividend of one
dollar per share, payable on the first of next month. Gentlemen in
favour of the motion will hold up their hands. Carried! _nem. con_."

"Gentlemen!" began Webb, in a faltering voice, which was overborne and
drowned in the rush and stream of the president's words, which grew
loud and rapid at this point, and who went on as though unconscious of
interruption. "Any other business to bring forward, Stinson? No? Then
this meeting stands adjourned to the second Monday of next month. Sign
the minutes, gentlemen, and draw your honorarium."

Webb requested Stinson to record his dissent from the vote in the
minutes, but was informed that the meeting was closed, and nothing
could be added to its proceedings. He then demurred to signing, but
Belmore, heated up to the point of speaking out in meeting for once,
declared that he must, or he should not have his dollars--that himself
and Podevin earned them by signing their names, and Webb must do
likewise.

"The dollars may slide!" cried Joe, growing indignant, and tossing on
his hat.

"But, Mr. Webb," said Stinson, speaking most respectfully, "will you
sign the minutes to show that I have done my duty, and they are
correct. You have been present, and the law says so;" and poor Joe
Webb, unable to bear up against a city man's polite address, though he
would have maintained his point against all the blustering farmers in
his township, yielded, and placed himself under the same moral
condemnation with the rest, as sanctioning for stock-jobbing purposes
a fraudulent dividend to be paid out of capital.



                              FOOTNOTE:

[Footnote 1: A one-seated sleigh, intended to carry two persons.]



                           END OF VOL. II.



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





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