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Title: Crowded Out! and Other Sketches
Author: Harrison, S. Frances (Susie Frances), 1859-1935
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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CROWDED OUT!

And Other Sketches,

By Seranus



The Story of Monsieur, Madame, and the Pea-Green Parrot. The Bishop of
Saskabasquia. "As it was in the Beginning." A Christmas Sketch. The
Idyl of the Island. The Story of Delle Josephine Boulanger. The Story of
Etienne Chezy d'Alencourt. "Descendez a l'ombre, ma jolie blonde." The
Prisoner Dubois. How the Mr. Foxleys Came, Stayed, and Never Went Away.
The Gilded Hammock.



PREFACE.


I present these "Sketches" in all proper fear and humility, to my
Canadian public, hoping that the phases of colonial life they endeavor
to portray will be recognized as not altogether unfamiliar. Some of them
are true, others have been written through the medium of Fancy, which
can find and inhabit as large a field in Canada as elsewhere; for, to my
mind, there is no country, no town, no village, as there is no nation,
no class of society, nor individual existence, that has not its own deep
and peculiar significance, its own unique and personal characteristics
that distinguish it from the rest of the world.

SERANUS.



Crowded Out.


I am nobody. I am living in a London lodging-house. My room is up three
pair of stairs. I have come to London to sell or to part with in some
manner an opera, a comedy, a volume of verse, songs, sketches, stories.
I compose as well as write. I am ambitious. For the sake of another,
one other, I am ambitious. For myself it does not matter. If nobody will
discover me I must discover myself. I must demand recognition, I must
wrest attention, they are my due. I look from my window over the smoky
roofs of London. What will it do for me, this great cold city? It shall
hear me, it shall pause for a moment, for a day, for a year. I will make
it to listen to me, to look at me. I have left a continent behind,
I have crossed a great water; I have incurred dangers, trials of all
kinds; I have grown pale and thin with labor and the midnight oil; I
have starved, and watched the dawn break starving; I have prayed on
my stubborn knees for death and I have prayed on my stubborn knees for
life--all that I might reach London, London that has killed so many of
my brothers, London the cold, London the blind, London the cruel! I am
here at last. I am here to be tested, to be proved, to be worn proudly,
as a favorite and costly jewel is worn, or to be flung aside scornfully
or dropped stealthily to--the devil! And I love it so this great London!
I am ready to swear no one ever loved it so before! The smokier it is,
the dirtier, the dingier, the better. The oftener it rains the better.
The more whimsical it is, the more fickle, the more credulous, the more
self-sufficient, the more self-existent, the better. Nothing that it
can do, nothing that it can be, can change my love for it, great cruel
London!

But to be cruel to _me_, to be fickle to _me_, to be deaf to _me_, to be
blind to _me_! Would I change then? I might. As yet it does not know
me. I pass through its streets, touching here a bit of old black wall,
picking there an ivy leaf, and it knows me not. It is holy ground to me.
It is the mistress whose hand alone I as yet dare to kiss. Some day
I shall possess the whole, and I shall walk with the firm and buoyant
tread of the accepted, delighted lover. Only to-day I am nobody. I
am crowded out. Yet there are moments when the mere joy of being in
England, of being in London, satisfies me. I have seen the sunbeam
strike the glory along the green. I know it is an English sky above
me, all change, all mutability. No steady cloudless sphere of blue but
ever-varying glories of white piled cloud against the gray. Listen to
this. I saw a primrose--the first I had ever seen--in the hedge. They
said "Pick it." But I did not. I, who had written there years ago,--


  I never pulled a primrose, I,
  But could I know that there may lie
  E'en now some small or hidden seed,
  Within, below, an English mead,
  Waiting for sun and rain to make
  A flower of it for my poor sake,
  I then could wait till winds should tell,
  For me there swayed or swung a bell,
  Or reared a banner, peered a star,
  Or curved a cup in woods afar.


I who had written that, I had found my first primrose and I could
not pluck it. I found it fair be sure. I find all England fair. The
shimmering mist and the tender rain, the red wallflower and the ivy
green, the singing birds and the shallow streams--all the country; the
blackened churches, the grass-grown churchyards, the hum of streets the
crowded omnibus, the gorgeous shops,--all the town. God! do I not love
it, my England? Yet not my England yet. Till she proclaim it herself,
I am not hers. I will make her mine. I will write as no man has ever
written about her, for very love of her. I look out to-night from
my narrow window and think how the moonlight falls on Tintern, on
Glastonbury, on Furness. How it falls on the primrose I would not pluck.
How it would like to fall on the tall blue-bells in the wood. I see the
lights of Oxford St. The omnibuses rattle by, the people are going to
see Irving, Wilson Barrett, Ellen Terry. What line, of mine, what bar,
what thought or phrase will turn the silence into song, the copper into
gold?--I come back from the window and sit at the square centre table.
It is rickety and uncomfortable, useless to write on. I kick it. I would
kick anything that came in my way to-night. I am savage. Outside, a
French piano is playing that infernal waltz. A fair subject for kicking
if you will. But, though I would I cannot. What a room! The fire-place
is filled with orange peel and brown paper, cigar stumps and matches.
One blind I pulled down this morning, the other is crooked. The lamp
glass is cracked, my work too. I dare not look at the wall paper nor
the pictures. The carpet I have kicked into holes. I can see it though
I can't feel it, it is so thin. My clothes are lying all about. The soot
of London begrimes every object in the room. I would buy a pot of musk
or a silken scarf if I dared, but how can I?

I must get my bread first and live for beauty after. Everything is
refused though, everything sent back or else dropped as it were into
some bottomless pit or gulf.

Here is my opera. This is my _magnum opus_, very dear, very clear,
very well preserved. For it is three years old. I scored it nearly
altogether, by _her_ side, Hortense, my dear love, my northern bird! You
could flush under my gaze, you could kindle at my touch, but you were
not for me, you were not for me!--My head droops down, I could go to
sleep. But I must not waste the time in sleep. I will write another
story. No; I had four returned to-day. Ah! Cruel London! To love you
so, only that I may be spurned and thrust aside, ignored, forgotten.
But to-morrow I will try again. I will take the opera to the theatres,
I will see the managers, I will even tell them about myself and about
Hortense--but it will be hard. They do not know me, they do not know
Hortense. They will laugh, they will say "You fool." And I shall be
helpless, I shall let them say it. They will never listen to me, though
I play my most beautiful phrase, for I am nobody. And Hortense, the
child with the royal air, Hortense, with her imperial brow and her hair
rolled over its cushion, Hortense, the _Châtelaine_ of _Beau Séjour_,
the delicate, haughty, pale and impassioned daughter of a noble house,
that Hortense, my Hortense, is nobody!

Who in this great London will believe in me, who will care to know
about Hortense or about _Beau Séjour_? If they ask me, I shall say--oh!
proudly--not in Normandy nor in Alsace, but far away across a great
water dwells such a maiden in such a _château_. There by the side of
a northern river, ever rippling, ever sparkling in Summer, hard, hard
frozen in winter, stretches a vast estate. I remember its impenetrable
pinewood, its deep ravine; I see the _château_, long and white and
straggling, with the red tiled towers and the tall French windows; I
see the terrace where the hound must still sleep; I see the square side
tower with the black iron shutters; I see the very window where Hortense
has set her light; I see the floating cribs on the river, I hear the
boatmen singing--


  Descendez â l'ombre,
  Ma Jolie blonde.


And now I am dreaming surely! This is London, not _Beau Séjour_, and
Hortense is far away, and it is that cursed fellow in the street I hear!
The morrow comes on quickly. If I were to draw up that crooked blind
now I should see the first streaks of daylight. Who pinned those other
curtains together? That was well done, for I don't want to see the
daylight; and it comes in, you know, Hortense, when you think it is
shut out. Somebody calls it _fingers_, and that is just what it is, long
fingers of dawn, always pale, always gray and white, stealing in and
around my pillow for me. Never pink, never rosy, mind that; always faint
and shadowy and gray.

It was all caste. Caste in London, caste in _Le Bos Canada_, all
the same. Because she was a _St. Hilaire_. Her full name--_Hortense
Angelique De Repentigny de St. Hilaire_--how it grates on me afresh with
its aristocratic plentitude. She is well-born, certainly; better born
than most of these girls I have seen here in London, driving, walking,
riding in the Parks. They wear their hair over cushions too. Freckled
skins, high cheek-bones, square foreheads, spreading eyebrows--they
shouldn't wear it so. It suits Hortense--with her pale patrician outline
and her dark pencilled eyebrows, and her little black ribbon and amulet
around her neck. _O, Marie, priey pour nous qui avous recours a vous_!
Once I walked out to _Beau Séjour_. She did not expect me and I crept
through the leafy ravine to the pinewood, then on to the steps, and so
up to the terrace. Through the French window I could see her seated at
the long table opposite Father Couture. She lives alone with the good
Père. She is the last one of the noble line, and he guards her well and
guards her money too.

"I do remember that it vill be all for ze Church," she has said to me.
And the priest has taught her all she knows, how to sew and embroider,
and cook and read, though he never lets her read anything but works on
religion. Religion, always religion! He has brought her up like a nun,
crushed the life out of her. Until I found her out, found my jewel
out. It is Tennyson who says that. But his "Maud" was freer to woo than
Hortense, freer to love and kiss and hold--my God! that night while I
watched them studying and bending over those cursed works on the
Martyrs and the Saints and the Mission houses--I saw him--him--that old
priest--take her in his arms and caress her, drink her breath, feast
on her eyes, her hair, her delicate skin, and I burst in like a young
madman and told Father Conture what I thought. Oh! I was mad! I should
have won her first. I should have worked quietly, cautiously, waiting,
waiting, biding my time. But I could never bide my time. And now she
hates me, Hortense hates me, though she so nearly learned to love me.
There where we used to listen to the magical river songs, we nearly
loved, did we not Hortense? But she was a _St. Hilaire_, and I--I was
nobody, and I had insulted _le bon Pere_. Yet if I can go back to her
rich, prosperous, independent--What if that happen? But I begin to fancy
it will never happen. My resolutions, where are they, what comes of
them? Nothing. I have tried everything except the opera. Everything else
has been rejected. For a week I have not gone to bed at all. I wait and
see those ghastly gray fingers smoothing my pillow. I am not wanted. I
am crowded out. My hands tremble and I cannot write. My eyes fail and I
cannot see. To the window!

       *       *       *       *       *

The lights of Oxford St. once more; the glare and the rattle without,
the fever and the ruin, the nerves and the heart within. Poor nerves,
poor heart; it is food you want and wine and rest, and I cannot give
them to you.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sing, Hortense, will you? Sit by my side, by our dear river St. Maurice,
the clear, the sparkling. See how the floating cribs sail by, each with
its gleaming lights! It is like Venice I suppose. Shall we see Venice
ever, Hortense, you and I? Sing now for me,


   Descendez à l'ombre,
   Ma Jolie blonde.


Only you are _petite brune_, there is nothing _blonde_ about you,
_mignonne_, my dear mademoiselle, I should say if I were with you of
course as I used to do. But surely I _am_ with you and those lights are
the floating cribs I see, and your voice it is that sings, and presently
the boatmen hear and they turn and move their hands and join in--Now all
together,


   Descendez à l'ombre,


       *       *       *       *       *

It was like you, Hortense, to come all this way. How did you manage it,
manage to cross that great water all alone? My poor girl did you grow
tired of _Le bon Père_ at last and of the Martyrs and the Saints and the
Jesuit Fathers? But you have got your amulet on still I hope. That is
right, for there is a chance--there is a chance of these things proving
blessings after all to good girls, and you were a good girl Hortense.
You will not mind my calling you Hortense, will you? When we are in _Le
Bas Canada_ again, in your own seignieury, it will be "Madamoiselle," I
promise you. You say it is a strange pillow, Hortense? Books, my girl,
and manuscripts; hard but not so hard as London stones and London
hearts. Do you know I think I am dying, or else going mad? And no one
will listen even if I cry out. There is too much to listen to already in
England. Think of all the growing green, Hortense, if you can, where you
are, so far away from it all. Where you are it is cold and the snow is
still on the ground and only the little bloodroot is up in the woods.
Here where I am Hortense, where I am going to die, it is warm and green
full of color--oh! Such color! Before I came here, to London you know
London that is going to do so much for me, for us both, I had one
day--one day in the country. There I saw--No! They will not let me
tell you, I knew they would try to prevent me, those long gray fingers
stealing in, stealing in! But I _will_ tell you. Listen, Hortense,
please. I saw the hawthorne, pink and white, the laburnum--yellow--not
fire-color, I shall correct the Laureate there, Hortense, when I am
better, when I--publish!--It is dreadful to be alone in London. Don't
come, Hortense. Stay where you are, even if it is cold and gray and
there is no color. Keep your amulet round your neck, dear!--I count my
pulse beats. It is a bad thing to do. It is broad daylight now and the
fingers have gone. I can write again perhaps.--The pen--The
paper--The ink--God. Hortense! There is no ink left! And my heart--My
heart--Hortense!!!


    Descendez à l'ombre,
    Ma Jolie blonde.



Monsieur, Madame and the Pea-Green Parrot



CHAPTER I.


I am an Englishman by birth. Having however lived for fourteen years out
in America or rather in Canada, I am only half an Englishman. All the
love for the dear old land which I am now revisiting is still there,
deep in my heart, but from so long a residence in another country
certain differences arise of character, habit and thought, not to be
easily shaken off. I was in the Civil Service in Canada and did very
well until I meddled with literature. Discovering that I had a faculty
for verse and story-telling, I was ambitious and at the same time
foolish enough to work so hard at my new pursuit that I was compelled to
"cut" the service, in other words to resign. Some other Englishman got
my post and I found myself, rather unexpectedly, it is true, free to
write to my heart's content.

I got off a number of things, poems, sketches, etc., but my great work
turned out to be a comedy. I slaved at this all day and amused myself
by rehearsing it in my lodgings all night. I incurred the odium of the
landlady by coaxing the maid of all work to learn a part and act it with
me. Finally I resolved to take a great step. I would go down to New York
and get my comedy produced. That was exactly five years ago and though
the comedy was _not_ produced, I am still sanguine that it yet may be,
and perhaps not in New York after all, but in a much more important
creative centre.

I was at the time of my visit to New York perfectly unacquainted with
the ways of a metropolis, and it was fortunate for me that I possessed
one friend there who if not exactly a friend _at court_ as we say, was
in truth a much more useful person to me, as, having once been young
and inexperienced himself, he knew the ropes well and handled them
thoroughly to his own satisfaction and with an eye to my comfort and
safety.

In the matter of cheap dives, for instance, he was invaluable. Left to
myself I either drifted to the most expensive place, for a
meal short perhaps of Delmonicos, or else to a shabby and
altogether-to-be-repudiated den, where the meat would be rags as well
as the pudding. But under his guidance we invariably turned up in some
clean, bright, cheap and wholesome "oysterbar" or coffee room round the
corner or up a lane, and were as happy as kings over our _lager beer_.

One day De Kock came to me (he is a grand-nephew or something, I
believe, of the great Frenchman) and said, with his knowing air,

"You will please put on your best coat, your tall hat and a pair of
gloves, for we are going to _dine_ to-night."

"Have we not dined once to-day!"

"Pish! Pshaw! You have had a soup, a mutton-chop, a triangle of pie, a
lager beer, but you have not dined. You are not starving, and yet you
have, from my present point of view, eaten nothing the whole of this
day. _Mon cher_, it is necessary that you should dine for once in your
life. _Allons_! We go to Giuseppe, Giuseppe Martinetti with the pale
wife and the pea-green parrot--_allons, allons_!" To Martinetti's
accordingly we went. I don't know what the dinner cost. It was dearer,
certainly, than it would have been in London, but it was quite as good.
We sat at a table formed for holding four at an open window, which,
filled with exotics, overlooked Union Square, lighted by hundreds of
incandescent lamps. The room contained about twenty of these small
tables, and was, I suppose, very much like other rooms of its kind to
_habitués_ of such places, but it was all new to me, and I stared and
wondered accordingly. The waiters seemed to be all foreigners, De Kock
addressing them in a mythical but magical language of his own. The
tables were all full, and the people at them were mostly foreigners as
well.

"The Leicester Square of New York," remarked De Kock, as he helped me to
the delicious Chiante wine out of a basket-covered bottle into a dainty
glass. The soup was excellent, I remember. So was the macaroni, served
in the best Italian method. I wondered to see De Kock manipulate it in
finished style, winding yards of it around his fork, and swallowing it
duly without any apparent effort. I cut mine at that time, although
I have learned better now. I recollect the asparagus, too: served by
itself on a great flat dish, and shining pale and green through the
clear golden sauce that was poured over it. I was just finishing my
first luscious, liquid stalk, and indulging in anticipations of my
second, when the highest, the shrillest, the most piercing, and most
unearthly voice I ever heard, shouted out--

"_And for goodness sake don't say I told you_!"

It was electrifying, at least to me. I dropped my half eaten asparagus
stalk and fork at the same time, and looked up to see my companion
quietly going on as before. One or two others had stopped eating too,
but the majority appeared quite unruffled. I concluded that it was the
parrot to which my friend had referred.

"The last comic song," said the imperturbable De Kock.

"But where is the beast!" I inquired. "It seemed to be over my head."

"Oh! Not so near as that. But take my advice and don't call it a beast,
although it is a nuisance undoubtedly. Besides, its master is not very
far away from your elbow."

"What of that?" said I, still injured, though in a lower tone.

"What of that? Ah! You shall see. Look now! This short, stout person
with the diamond pin and the expansive shirt front is Giuseppe. Ah, he
sees me! Good evening, Giuseppe!"

"Good evening, Monsieur, good evening, good evening! De friend not like
de _parrot_, eh?"

The man was smiling at me with his hands crossed behind him. An Italian
Jew I dubbed him immediately.

"On the contrary, he admires it very much," said De Kock.

Following their eyes presently I saw the cage hanging from the centre
of the room, and in it a parrot as nearly pea-green in hue as it is
possible for a parrot to be.

"Tell my friend her name, Giuseppe," said De Kock, beginning on some
more asparagus.

Giuseppe stood in his patronizing way--quite the _grand seigneur_--with
the light falling on his solitaire, making it so brilliant that it
fascinated and at the same time fatigued my eyes.

"The name of my parrot? Monsieur De Kock, he know that well. It is
Félicité--you catch--Fé-li-ci-té. It was the name of my wife."

Then his wife was dead. De Kock must have made a mistake.

"It is an unusual name for a bird, is not it?" said I.

"Monsieur is right. Not often--not often--you meet with a bird that
name. My first wife--my _first_ wife, gentlemen, she was English. _You_
are English--ah. Yes. So was she. The English are like this." Giuseppe
took a bottle out of the cruet-stand and set it on the table in front
of him. He went on, "When an Englishman an Englishwoman argue, they
say"--here he took the bottle up very slowly and gingerly and altered
his voice to a mincing and conventional tone--"Is it oil or is it
vinegare? Did you not say that it was vinegare? I thought that it was
oil Oh! Now I see that it is vinegare."

"Bravo!" exclaimed De Kock. "And so you did not get on with the
Englishwoman then I suppose, Giuseppe, and took Madame the next time?"
We were both laughing heartily at the man's mimicry when once again the
parrot shrieked. "But for goodness sake don't say I told you!" Giuseppe
walked off to speak to it and my friend and I were left alone.

"Was Félcité the name of his first or second wife!" I asked.

"Of his second, of course. Didn't you hear him say the first was
an Englishwoman? The second is a tall, rather good-looking pale
Frenchwoman. You may see her to-night, and on the other hand you may
not, she doesn't often appear in here. I wish she did, I am rather fond
of her myself, which is more than her husband is. It's pretty well known
that Mr. and Mrs. Joseph do _not_ get on comfortably. In fact, he hates
her, or rather ignores her, while she doats upon him and is tremendously
jealous of the parrot."

"What, that green thing?"

"Well, its a lovely parrot, you must know, and the moment it came into
his possession--he has had it about three years--he seemed to transfer
whatever affection he had for his wife to that creature, with a great
deal beside. Why, he hugs it, and kisses it, and mows over it--look at
him now!"

Sure, enough, there was Martinetti with the bird on his finger, kissing
it, and otherwise making a fool of himself. He finished by actually
putting it away inside his coat in a kind of breast pocket, I should
imagine.

"All this is good for business, perhaps," I said.

"What, the parrot and so on? Oh, yes I daresay, that has something to do
with it. Still they are a queer couple. I come here mostly on account of
this Chiante wine; you can't get it so good in many places in New York,
and besides I confess Monsieur and his wife interest me somewhat.
And the people one see here are immensely funny. That is your English
expression, isn't it? There are three actresses over there at that table
with _amis intimes_; they are 'restin' now, and can cut about and dine
out as much as they please. There is a French dressmaker who lives on
the floor above and is to be found here every day. She is superbly built
and is hopelessly ugly, isn't she? There is young Lord Gurgoyle, an
Englishman like yourself, you see--what the devil is he staring at like
that?"

From behind a _portière_ which fell across the end of the room came a
woman, tall, pale, and with a peculiar air of distinction about her.
Perhaps it was her very unusual pallor which so distinguished her for
there was nothing absolutely fine or handsome about the countenance. It
was a weak face I thought, with an ugly red mark over the upper lip, and
had she not been so very pale and so exceptionally well-dressed I should
not have looked at her twice. She wore a gown of black silk, dead-black,
lustrous, and fitting her slender figure to perfection. It was cut
square and low in the front and fell away in long folds upon the floor
at the back. What an apparition she made in the midst of this noisy
crowd, smoking, chatting, swearing, laughing! Especially so when I
noticed that as she walked very slowly down between the tables, her lips
were moving nervously and her hands clutching at her beautiful dress. As
for her eyes, they were everywhere in an instant.

"'Tis Félicité. You are fortunate," murmured De Kock. "And she is a
little worse than usual."

"What is it?" I demanded. "Drink?" "Hush-sh-sh! _Mon cher_, you are
stupid. It is jealousy, jealousy, my friend, with perhaps an occasional
over-dose of chloral. Chloral is the favorite prescription now-a-days,
you must remember that. But jealousy will do, jealousy will do. It will
accomplish a great deal, will jealousy; will destroy more, mark that! I
hope she will be quiet to-night for your sake."

"Is she violent?" I asked.

"Poor thing, yes. When she finds him now with that creature inside his
coat; she will wring her hands and denounce him and threaten to kill
it--I wonder she doesn't--then her husband will march her off behind
the curtain and he will make love to the parrot again." Precisely what
happened. The lady soon found her husband, raised her hands tragically
and broke out into excited French that was liberally sprinkled with
oaths both English and French. The mania was asserting itself, the
propensity overcoming her. It was a sad and at the same time an amusing
scene, for one could not help smiling at Giuseppe's fat unconcern as he
kept his wife off at arms' length, while all the time the parrot inside
his coat was shrieking in muffled tones "And for goodness sake don't say
I told you!"

Finally Madame succumbed and was taken behind the curtain in a
dishevelled and hysterical condition which increased De Kock's pity for
her. We paid the waiter--or rather De Kock did--and left, not seeing
Giuseppe again to speak to, though he came in and removed the parrot,
cage and all.

It was a lovely night outside, and I suggested sitting for a time in
Union Square. Finding an unoccupied bench, we each made ourselves happy
with a good cigar and watched the exquisite shadows of the trees above
as thrown by the electric light on the pavement.

"Wonderful effect!" remarked my friends. "How did you enjoy your dinner?
That was a dinner, eh, and no mistake; rather have had it without the
'episode'? Oh! I don't know; you literary fellows must come in for that
sort of thing as well as the rest of the world; I should think it would
just suit you. Put them--the three of them--Monsieur, Madame and the
Pea-Green Parrot--into a book, or better still, on the stage. There's
your title ready for you too."

I was just thinking of the same thing.

"They are undoubtedly originals, both of them--all three," said I, "but
as far as I have seen them, there is hardly enough to go upon."

"What do you mean by 'enough'?"

"I mean, for one thing, we do not understand the woman's mental and
moral condition sufficiently to make a study of her. You say it is
jealousy, and at the same time the use of chloral. That would have to be
understood more clearly. Then, one would like something to--"

"Go on," said my friend. "To--"

"Happen," said I, lighting a second cigar.

Just then a couple of boys ran across the square. One of them stumbled
over my feet, picked himself up quickly and ran on again. Two or three
people now came, all running. De Kock jumped up.

"Something is happening," he said, "and with a vengeance too I fancy.
Hark!"

The people now came fast and furious through the square, increasing in
numbers every moment, but through the bustle and hurry and clatter of
tongues, we could hear a woman's voice screaming in evident distress.
Mingled with it was another sound which may have mystified the general
crowd, but which De Kock and I could easily place.

"It is the parrot!" I exclaimed, as we started to run.

"You have your wish, _mon cher_, is it not so? But take it not so fast;
we will be there in time. _Ciel_! What a row!"

The steps leading up to the restaurant were thronged with people,
including two or three policemen. The dining-room was ablaze with light,
and still full of visitors, most of whom, however, were moving about in
a state of agitation. The upper windows were also lighted and wide open.
The screaming suddenly ceased, but not the parrot.

"For goodness sake don't say I told you!" It went on, louder than ever,
over and over again.

"Damn the bird!" exclaimed De Kock. "Policeman excuse me, but I am
rather at home here. Let me go up, will you?"

"It looks bad, sir. I'd better keep behind."

"Oh. It isn't murder or anything of that sort. I know them, pretty
couple, they are!"

The next moment we were in a kind of sitting room over the restaurant
proper. Madame Martinetti lay as if exhausted on a sofa while the highly
excited parrot sang and screamed and tore at its cage as if for life.
Giuseppe was nowhere visible. "Now then where's the other?" demanded the
policeman who had just entered behind us, "There's always two at
this business. Show him up, now." But Madame at first would deign no
explanation. Presently on the entry of policeman No. 2 she admitted
there had been a quarrel. Yes, she had quarrelled with her dear
Giuseppe, (the officers grinned) and had driven him away. Yes, he had
gone--gone forever, he had said so, never to come back, never, never!

"And leave this fine business to you, eh? No fear of that. I guess Mr.
Martinetti'll turn up all right in the morning, however, let us make
a search, Joe." But Giuseppe was not found; there were no traces of
a struggle, and the policemen having done all they could retired. My
friend and I, by what right I know not were the last to leave the room.
De Kock stood for some moments looking out of the window. I approached
the parrot who was still screaming.

"If throwing a cloth over your head would stop you, I'd do it, my
dear," said I. To my surprise, it ceased its noise directly, and became
perfectly quiet. Madame Martinetti looked around with a contemptuous
smile.

"You have the secret as well," said she. The bird turned to her and then
returned to me. I became quite interested in it. "Pretty Poll, pretty
bird; would you like a cracker?"

De Kock laughed softly at the window. "A cracker to such a bird as that!
Ask it another." I actually, though with a timid air, opened the door of
the cage and invited Polly to perch on my finger. She came, looking
at me intensely all the while. I petted her little, which she took
resignedly and with a faint show of wonder, then in answer to De Kock's
summons put her back in the cage.

"I have the honour to wish madame a _bonsoir_," said he, but the lady
was still sulky and vouchsafed no answer.

We were soon out in the street.

"Do you know," said De Kock slowly, lighting a cigar and looking up at
the house, "Do you know, I thought something had happened."

"And don't you now."

"I am not sure," answered my friend.



CHAPTER II.


We were pardonably curious to see the papers next morning. The affair
was dismissed in three lines, and although as De Kock swore, the case
was one for Gaboriau, it certainly was not our business to look into it
and in fact in a week's time I was back in Canada, and he up to his eyes
in commercial pursuits. The main point remained clear, however, that
Martinetti did _not_ come back, nor was he found, or traced or ever
heard of again. Somebody took the business out of hand, as they say,
and De Kock would occasionally write a P. S. to his letters like
this--"Dined at poor Martinetti's, Chiante as usual. Ever yours." Or
it would be--"Drank to the production of your last new comedy at
Martinetti's." Once he stated that shortly after that memorable night
Madame disappeared also, taking the parrot along. "I begin to think they
are a pair of deep ones and up to some big game" he wrote. For myself, I
never entirely forgot the circumstance, although it was but once vividly
recalled to my mind and that was in a theatre in Montreal. An American
company from one of the New York theatres was performing some farcical
comedy or other in which occurred the comic song, admirably sung and
acted by Miss Kate Castleton, "For goodness sake don't say I told you!"
The reminiscences forced upon me quite spoiled my enjoyment; I could
see that pale, nervous woman, hear her screams, and hear too the fearful
voice of the poor parrot. Where is it now, thought I? That same winter
I was much occupied in making studies of the different classes of people
among the French-Canadians. The latter turn up everywhere in Montreal,
and have a distinct "local color" about them which I was curious to
get and hope to preserve for use some future day. I went everywhere and
talked to everybody who might be of use to me; cabmen, porters, fruit
dealers and tobacconists. I found much to interest me in the various
Catholic institutions, and I was above all very fond of visiting the
large, ugly gray building with the air of a penitentiary about it called
the Grey Nunnery. Going through its corridors one day I took a wrong
turning and found I was among some at least quasi-private rooms. The
doors being open I saw that there were flowers, books, a warm rug on the
floor of one and a mirror on the wall of another. The third I ventured
to step inside of, for a really beautiful Madonna and child confronted
me at the door. The next moment I saw what I had not expected to see--a
parrot in a cage suspended from the window! I made quite sure that it
was not _the_ parrot before I went up to it. It was asleep and appeared
to be all over of a dull grey color, to match the Nuns, one might
have said. I stood for quite a little while regarding it. Suddenly it
stirred, shook itself, awoke and seeing me, immediately broke out into
frantic shrieks to the old refrain "And for goodness sake don't say I
told you."

So it was the parrot after all! Of that I felt sure, despite the changed
color, not only because of the same words being repeated--two birds
might easily learn the same song, but because of the bird's manner. For
I felt certain that the thing knew me, recognized me, as we say of human
beings or of dogs and horses. I felt an extraordinary sensation coming
over me and sat down for a moment. I seemed literally to be in the
presence of something incomprehensible as I watched the poor excited
bird beating about and singing in that way. The words of the song became
painfully and awfully significant--"for goodness sake don't say I told
you!" They were an appeal to my pity, to my sense of honor, to my power
of secrecy, for I felt convinced that the bird had seen something--in
fact that, to use De Kock's convenient if ambiguous phrase, _something
had happened_! Then to think of its recognizing me too, after so long an
interval! What an extraordinary thing to do! But I remembered, and hope
I shall never forget, how exceeding small do the mills of the gods
grind for poor humanity. I would have examined the creature at once
more closely had not two of the nuns appeared with pious hands lifted in
horror at the noise. They knew me slightly but affected displeasure at
the present moment.

"Who owns this bird?" said I. It was still screaming.

"The good Sister Félicité. It is her room."

"Can I see her?"

"Ah! _non_. She is ill, so very ill. She will not live long, _cette
pauvre soeur_!"

I reflected. "Will you give her this paper without fail when I have
written upon it what I wish?"

"_Mais oui, Monsieur_!"

In the presence of the two holy women standing with their hands devoutly
crossed, and of the parrot whom I silenced as well as I could, and in
truth I appeared to have some influence over the creature, I wrote
the following upon a leaf torn out of my scratch-book: "To the Soeur
Félicité. A gentleman who, if he has not made a great mistake, saw you
once when you were Mdme. Martinetti, asks you now if in what may be your
last moments, you have anything to tell, anything to declare, or anybody
to pardon. He would also ask--what _was done to the parrot_? He, with
his friend M. De Kock, were at your house in New York the night your
husband disappeared."

"Give her that," said I to the waiting sister, "and I will come to see
how she is to-morrow."

That night, however, she died, and when I reached the nunnery next
day it was only to be told that she had read my note and with infinite
difficulty written an answer to it.

"I am sorry I should have perhaps hastened her end," said I. "Before you
give it to me, will you permit me to see her?"

"_Mais oui, Monsieur_, if monsieur will come this way."

Until I gazed upon the dead I did not feel quite sure of the identity
of this pious Sister of Charity. But I only needed to look once upon the
ghastly pallor, the ugly lip mark and the long slender figure on the bed
before me to recognize her who had once been Mdme. Martinetti.

"And now for the paper," I said.

"It will be in the room that was hers, if monsieur will accompany." We
walked along several corridors till we reached the room in which hung
the parrot, I quite expected it to fly at me again and try to get rid
of its miserable secret But no! It sat on its stick, perfectly quiet and
rational.

"I cannot find dat paper, it is very strange!" muttered the good sister,
turning everything over and over. A light wind playing about the room
had perhaps blown it into some corner. I assisted her in the search.

"It surely was in an envelope?" I said to the innocent woman.

"Yes monsieur, yes, and with a seal, for I got the _cire_--you call it
_wax_--myself and held it for her, _la bonne soeur_."

"It is not always wise to leave such letters about," I put in as meekly
as I could "Where was it you saw it last?"

"On dees little table, monsieur."

Now, "dees little table" was between the two windows, and not far,
consequently from the parrot's cage. My eye travelled from the table to
the cage as a matter of necessity, and I saw that the bottom of it was
strewn with something white--like very, very tiny scraps of paper. "I
think you need not look any further," said I. "Polly, you either are
very clever, or else you are a lunatic and a fool. Which is it?"

But I never found out The parrot had got the letter by some means or
other and so effectually torn, bitten and made away with it that nothing
remained of it for identification except the wax, which it did not touch
and left absolutely whole. The secret which had been the parrot's all
along belonged to the parrot still, and after having devoured it in
that fashion it became satisfied, and never--at least, as far as I
am aware--reverted morbidly to the comic refrain which has but one
significance for me.

I took the bird and kept it. I have it now with me. It has been examined
hundreds of times; for a long time I was anxious to know the secret of
its changed color, but I have never deciphered it. It is healthy, in
good condition, sweet-tempered and very fond of me. It does not talk
much, but its talk is innocent and rational. No morbid symptoms have
ever appeared in it since I took it from the nunnery in Montreal.
Its plumage is soft and thick, and perfectly, entirely gray. My own
impression is that it was naturally a gray parrot and had at that time
of my sojourn in New York, either been dyed or painted that peculiar
pea-green which so distinguished it then. I wrote to De Kock before
leaving for England and told him something of the story. I have seen the
last of Madame; in all probability I shall see the last of the Pea-Green
Parrot, and I cannot help wondering when I enter a café or ride on
an omnibus whether I shall ever run across Giuseppe Martinetti in the
flesh, or whether the last of him was seen in truth, five years ago.



The Bishop of Saskabasquia.


I have not a story, properly speaking, to tell about him. He, my Bishop,
is quite unconscious that I am writing about him, and would, I daresay,
be quite astonished if he knew that I could find anything that relates
to him to write about. But I will tell you just how I came to do so. I
went to see the "Private Secretary" some months ago. I had never been a
great admirer of clergymen as a sex (vide Frenchman's classification),
and I thoroughly enjoyed the capital performance of so clever a play.
Here, thought I, is a genuine and perfectly fair, though doubtless
exaggerated, portrait of the young and helpless curate. I quite lived on
that play. I used to go about, like many another delighted playgoer,
I expect, quoting the better bits in it, and they are many, and often
laughing to himself at its admirable caricature. However, to go on
with what I am going to tell you, about two months after I had seen the
"Private Secretary," I had occasion to undertake a sea voyage. I had
to go out on business to Canada, and embarked one fine Thursday at
Liverpool. One of the first things you do on board an ocean steamer
is to find your allotted place at table, and the names, etc, of your
companions. I soon found mine, and discovered with a pang that I was six
seats from the Captain at the side, between a lady and her daughter
I had already met at the North-Western Hotel and did not like, and
opposite to the Bishop of Saskabasquia, his wife and sister and three
children. There was no help for it, I must endure the placid small talk,
the clerical platitudes, the intolerable intolerance born of a deathless
bigotry that would emanate from my _vis-a-vis_. What a fuss they made
over him, too! Only a Colonial Bishop after all, but when we were all
at the wharf, ready to get into the tender, we were kept waiting--we the
more insignificant portion of the passengers, mercantile and so on--till
"my lord" and his family, nine in number, were safely handed up, with
boys and bundles and baggage of every description.

The Bishop himself was a tall thin man, rather priestly in aspect and
careworn. Mrs. Saskabasquia as I called her all through the voyage and
the seven children--seven little Saskabasquians--and Miss Saskabasquia,
the aunt, were all merry enough it seemed though dressed in the most
unearthly costumes I had ever seen. Where they had been procured I could
not imagine, but they appeared to be made of different kinds of canvas,
flannel shirting, corduroy, knitted wool and blankets. Of course we all
mustered at the lunch table that first day, people always do, and affect
great brightness and hysterical intellectuality and large appetites. I
took my seat with a resigned air. There was not a single pretty girl on
board. There were plenty of children, but I did not care much for the
society of children. The lady and her daughter between whom I sat,
presumably to hand them the dishes, did not like me any better than
I liked them. They were Canadians, that was easy to discover by their
peculiarly flat pronunciation, a detestable accent I hold, the American
is preferable. They were connected with the Civil Service in some way
through "papa" who figured much in their conversation and I fancy the
mother rather disliked the idea of such close contact with a member of
the commercial world. So much for colonial snobbery. The lunch was good
however, excellent, and we did justice to it. The Bishop did not appear
nor any of his family until we had almost finished. Then he entered
with his wife and the two eldest boys. The only vacant seats were those
opposite me which they took. I wondered they had not placed him next
the Capt., but divined that the handsome brunette and the horsey
broker, Wyatt and his wife of Montreal, fabulously rich and popular, had
arranged some time before to sit next the Capt. My Bishop was perhaps
annoyed. But if so, he did not show it. He and his wife ate abundantly,
it was good to see them. I involuntarily smiled once when the Bishop
sent his plate back the second time for soup, and he caught me. To my
surprise, he laughed very heartily and said to me:

"I hope you do not think I am forgetting all the other good things to
come! I assure you we are very hungry, are we not, Mary?"

Mrs. Saskabasquia laughed in her turn, and I began to perceive what a
very pretty girl she must have been once, and her accent was the purest,
most beautiful English. We seemed to warm up generally around the table
as we watched the Bishop eat. The boys behaved beautifully and enjoyed
their meal as well. Presently we heard a baby crying. It was evidently
the youngest of the seven young Saskabasquians. The Bishop stopped
directly.

"Go on, go on with your dinner, my dear; I'll see to him, its only
James. Dropped his rattle and put his finger in his eye, I expect."

He jumped up and went, I suppose, to the stateroom. Mrs. Saskabasquia
laughed softly, and when she spoke she rather addressed herself to me.

"My husband is very good, you know. And James is such a little monkey,
and so much better with him than with anyone else, so I just let him go,
but it does certainly look very selfish, doesn't it?"

"Not at all," I responded gallantly. "I am sure you need the rest quite
as much as he does, particularly if the ba--if the little boy is very
young and you--that is--" I was not very clear as to what I was going to
say, but she took it up for me.

"Oh, James is the baby. He is just six months' old, you know."

"That is very young to travel," said I. I began to enjoy the charming
confidences of Mrs. Saskabasquia, in spite of myself.

"Oh, he was only _three_ months old when we left for England, quite a
young traveller as you say. But he is very good, and I have so many to
help me."

Here the Bishop returned and sat down once more to his lunch. We had
some further conversation, in which I learned that he and his wife had
gone out to the North-West just twelve years ago for the first time.
All their children had been born there, and they were returning to work
again after a brief summer holiday in England. They told me all this
with the most delightful frankness, and I began to be grateful for my
place at table, as without free and congenial society at meal-time,
life on board an ocean steamer narrows down to something vastly
uncomfortable. It was a bright and beautiful afternoon on deck, and I
soon found myself walking energetically up and down with the Bishop.
I commenced by asking him some questions as to his work, place of
residence and so on, and once started he talked for a long time about
his northern home in the wilds of Canada.

"My wife and I had been only married two months when we went out," said
he, with a smile at the remembrance. "We did not know what we were going
to."

"Would you have gone had you known?" I enquired as we paused in our walk
to take in a view of the Mersey we were leaving behind.

"Yes, I think so. Yes, I am quite sure we would. I was an Oxford man,
country-bred; my father is still alive, and has a small living in Essex.
I was imbued with the idea of doing something in the colonies long after
I was comfortably settled in an English living myself, but I had always
fancied it would be Africa. However, just at the time of our marriage I
was offered this bishopric in Canada, and my wife was so anxious to go
that I easily fell in with the plan."

"Anxious to go out there?" I said in much surprise.

"Ah! You don't know what a missionary in herself my wife is! Then, of
course, young people never think of the coming events--children and all
that you know. We found ourselves one morning at three o'clock, having
gone as far as there was any train to take us, waiting in a barn that
served as a station for the buckboard to take us on further to our
destination. Have you been in Canada yourself? No? Then you have
not seen a buckboard. It consists of two planks laid side by side,
lengthwise, over four antiquated wheels--usually the remains of a once
useful wagon. Upon this you sit as well as you can, and get driven and
jolted and bumped about to the appointed goal. I remember that morning
so well," continued the Bishop. "It was very cold, being late in
November, and at that hour one feels it so much more--3 a.m., you
know. There was one man in charge of the barn; we called him the
station-master, though the title sat awkwardly enough upon him. He was a
surly fellow. I never met such another. Usually the people out there are
agreeable, if slow and stupid."

"Slow, are they?" said I in surprise.

"Oh, frightfully slow. A Canadian laborer is the slowest person in
existence, I really believe. However, this man would not give us any
information, except to barely tell us that this buckboard was coming for
us shortly. It was pitch dark of course and the barn was lighted by one
oil lamp and warmed by a coal stove. The lamp would not burn well, so my
wife unstrapped her travelling bag and with a pair of tiny curved
nail scissors did her best, with the wick, the man remaining perfectly
unmoveable and taciturn all the while. At four o'clock our conveyance
arrived, and would you believe it--both the driver and the station
master allowed me to lift my own luggage into it as well as I could?
What it would not take I told the man in charge I would send for as soon
as possible. There was no sleighing yet, and that drive was the most
excruciating thing I ever endured over corduroy roads through wild and
dark forests, along interminable country roads of yellow clay mixed with
mud till finally we reached the house of the chief member of society in
my district where we were to stay until our own house was ready."

"How long did that take you?" I was quite interested. This was unlike
the other clergymen's conversation I remembered.

"O, a matter of eight hours or so. We had the eggs and bacon--the _piece
de resistance_ in every Canadian farmhouse--at about half-past 12, for
which we were thankful and--hungry. But now you must excuse me for here
come two of the boys. Now, then, Alick, where's your mother? Isn't she
coming on deck with James? Run and fetch her and you, George, get one
of the chairs ready for her. And get the rugs at the same time Alick, do
you hear?"

I excused myself in turn and watched the family preparations with much
amusement. Mrs. Saskabasquia came up from her state room with a baby in
her arms, and a big fellow he was, followed by the other six and their
aunt. The Bishop placed chairs for the two ladies and walked up and down
the deck I should think the entire afternoon, first with two children
and then with two more and finally with the baby in his arms. This was a
funny sight but still not one to be ridiculed, far from it. Well, every
day showed my new friend in an improved light. Who was it took all the
children, not only his own but actually the entire troop on board up to
the bow and down to the stern in a laughing crowd to see this or that or
the other? Now a shoal of porpoises, now a distant sail or an iceberg,
now the beautiful phosphorescence or the red light of a passing
ship--the Bishop. Who divined the innate cliquism of life on board ship
and cunningly got together in intercourse the very people who wanted
to know each other, and even brought into good temper those unfortunate
souls who thought only of their own dignity and station in life? The
Bishop. Who organized the Grand Concert and Readings in the saloon,
writing the programmes himself, pinning them on the doors, discovering
the clever and encouraging the timid and reading from the "Cricket on
the Hearth," and the "Wreck of the Grosvenor," as I had never imagined
a divine could read? The Bishop again. Who might be seen in the mid-day
hours when the cabin passengers were asleep, quietly and without
ostentation reading or talking to the steerage, ay, and Mrs.
Saskabosquia too with her baby on her arm, going about amongst those
poor tired folk, many of them with their own babies, not too well
fed and not too well washed nor clothed? Still the Bishop, always the
Bishop. They appeared as if they could not rest without helping on
somebody or something, and yet there was in Mrs. Saskabasquia at least,
a delightful sense of calm which affected all who came near her. I used
often to sit down by her, she with the inevitable baby on her lap and
two or three of the others at her feet on rugs, and she would talk most
frankly and unaffectedly of their strange life in Canada. I learnt that
she was the daughter of a clergyman in Essex, and had, of course,
been brought up in a refined and charming country home like an English
gentlewoman. What she had had to do in the new world seemed like a
dream.

"What servants do I keep?" she said one day in answer to a question of
mine "Why, sometimes I am without any. Then Kathleen and I do the best
we can and the children they do the same and my husband takes what we
give him! Indeed, my house is a sort of dispensary you know. The most
extraordinary people come to me for the most extraordinary things.
Now for a bottle of medicine, now for some cast off clothing, now for
writing paper and old newspapers or a few tacks. So we have many wants
to relieve besides our own and really, that is good for us you know. One
Xmas dinner was an amusing one. Roast beef was out of the question, we
couldn't get any, and the old woman who usually brought us a turkey came
eight miles in the snow to bitterly lament the failure of her turkey
crop. The one she had intended for me had been killed and trussed and
then the rats which abound out there, got at it in the night and left
not a bone of it! So I got the poor old thing a warm cup of tea and
gave her some thick socks and sent her away relieved, resolved to spread
myself on the pudding. Do you remember Kathleen!"

And Miss Saskabasquia did and smiled at the remembrance.

"What was it like?"

"The pudding? Oh! It was the funniest pudding! George--no--Ethel, was
the baby then and very troublesome. Yes, you were my dear and cutting
teeth. I was far from strong and in the act of stirring the pudding was
taken quite ill and had to give it up. Kathleen was naturally forced to
attend to me and the three children, and only for Henry, we should have
had no Xmas dinner at all! He went to work with a will, stirred it well,
put it into the cloth and was just I believe dropping it into the water
when the string broke and the poor pudding tumbled into the water! Of
course it was useless, and my husband scarcely knew what to do with
himself. Fancy what he did do, though! He went to work and made another
out of what he could find without telling us. He'll tell you about it if
you ask him, how puzzled he was at first. There was some suet over,
only not minced, you know. So he took that just as it was in a lump and
buried it in bread-crumbs, luckily we had plenty of bread. Then he broke
in the eggs, but when he came to look for the fruit, that was all in
the pot of hot water, not a raisin left. He just ladled them out and put
them in the second time. I think that was delicious of him don't you?
But he forgot the flour and there was so little sugar seemingly in the
bag (he didn't know where my Xmas stores were kept) that he took fright
and wouldn't use it but broke up some maple sugar instead, then tied
it up and got it safely launched the second time. And it was not at all
bad, though _very_ shapeless and unlike a trim plum pudding, with the
holly at the top."

And many another tale did she tell me of "Henry's" ceaseless activity,
and courage and patience. He had learnt three Indian dialects, the
_patois_ of the _habitant_, and the Gaelic of two Scotch settlements,
in order to converse freely with his people and understand their wants
properly. He could doctor the body as well as the soul, set a fractured
limb, bind a wound, apply ice for sunstroke and snow for chilblains. He
could harness a horse and milk a cow; paddle a canoe and shoot and fish
like an Indian, cook and garden and hew and build--indeed there seemed
nothing he could not do and had not done, and all this along with the
care of his office, as much a missionary one as any could be. Peril of
shipwreck and peril of fire, peril of frost and peril of heat, peril
of sickness, pain and death, peril of men, ignorant and wicked, of wild
beasts and wilder storms--all these he had braved with his wife and
little ones for the sake of his convictions added to a genuine love of
his fellow-man. I began to consider, and rightly I think, the unknown,
obscure Bishop of Saskabasquia one of the most interesting men of the
day.

Our journey, however, could not always last. Our pleasant chats, our
lively table-talk, Mrs. Saskabasquia's pretty womanly confidences and
her husband's deep-voiced readings from Dickens which he told me were
of the utmost moral value to his people, all came to an end. We all felt
sorry to part, yet greatly relieved at seeing the mighty cliff of Quebec
draw nearer and nearer with each succeeding hour. I had been quite ill
for the last two days like nearly all the other passengers. Coming
up the Gulf of St. Lawrence that is sometimes the case, and we were
a miserable party that Friday, hardly anyone on deck except the
irrepressible Bishop and his family and myself. I was wretched, sick and
cold and trembling in every limb, undoubted _mal de mer_ had fastened
upon me. We were standing close by the railing of the promenade deck
when a something swept by on the water. "Child overboard!" I sang out
as loudly as I could. Instantly the steerage was in a state of
commotion--the child was missed. There didn't appear to be a sailor
on the spot. The Bishop looked at me, and I looked at the Bishop. Like
lightning he tore off his coat. I put my hand on his arm.

"Dear sir, you will not do such a thing!"

"What is it, Henry?" cried his wife. "Somebody must."

"I wish to God I could, sir!" In another moment he was over.

How he ever recovered from that awful plunge I don't know, but a
boat was immediately lowered for him and the child--he had it safe,
miraculously enough. How I cursed my weakness which prevented my going
in his place. But when I saw the two lives saved I was glad I had not
gone, for in my weak state I could not even have saved the child.

I am invited to a Christmas dinner, _whenever I like_, with the Bishop
of Saskabasquia, whom I count as perhaps the finest specimen of healthy
Christian manhood I have ever met, and although I can still laugh at
the fun of "The Private Secretary" I can say that even among her
clergy England can boast of heroes in these latter days as noble and
disinterested as in years gone by.



"As it was in the Beginning."

A CHRISTMAS SKETCH.



CHAPTER I.


It is Christmas day in the morning. There is no doubt about it. The
shine of the sun, the frost on the trees, the voice of the birds, and
the unusual crow, and cackle and clatter and confusion outside the house
can leave no doubts upon the subject, to say nothing of the inside of
the house. Here it is Christmas day and no mistake. On what other day
is the larder so full?--Full is not expressive enough; crammed, rammed,
jammed full is more like the actual condition of things, so tightly
wedged are pheasants and partridges, grouse and quail, great roasts of
beef and haunches of venison, pork and pasty, mutton and fowl. On what
other day is the still-room so alluring, where cordials are at their
liveliest of brown and amber, and the white fingers of the lady of
the house gleam in and out of the piling of herbs and the stirring
of compounds--both innocent and inebriating? On what other day is the
kitchen so important? Why, the cook is actually thinner than she was the
yesterday! Christmas day in the morning is taking it out of her. "No
men cooks about me", growls Sir Humphrey Desart, "we'll keep Sarah."
So Sarah is kept, and though she be fat, aye, and getting on to three
score, yet her strength faileth not, as you may observe. Somewhat of a
martinet, yet kindly withal and leading the hubbub in the kitchen with
all the gusto of twenty years ago. My lady will descend presently to see
if all goes on properly, and Sarah must lose no time. Heavens, how
many eggs is she going to break? What are they all for? Will not the
resources of the farmyard fail her? This, then, explains all the crow
and cackle outside. Now what is she at? Lemons this time, and anon
giving a fine stimulus with her master-hand to the lumpy yellow contents
of a smooth yellow bowl. Ah! No lumps now; one turn and all resolved
into a perfect cadence. Anyone is an artist and a great one who can so
resolve a discordant measure. And now she is busy with the brandy!
Ah! Sarah, will no temptation accrue from the pouring of the warming
draught? "Out upon thee!" says Sarah. "Am I not already as warm over my
work as I want to be, and shall I not have my good glass of beer at my
dinner? Leave the quality upstairs their brandy," says Sarah, "and let
me get to my work."

Well, and the upshot of all this is, that, despite all one may affirm to
the contrary, the one grand essential, the peculiar and individualizing
attribute of Christmas is--the dinner. The parson may think of his
preaching (and if he ever does so, surely most of all on this day) and
the virtuous may think of the poor; the old may remember the young, and
the young be pardoned for only remembering each other, but the chief
thought, the most blissful remembrance is still--The Dinner.

If the parson preach a little better sermon than usual, it is because
his nine children have not been forgotten by Lady Bountiful, and are
actually going to have--A Dinner.

My Lady Bountiful in her turn may go to church, and appear devoutly
removed from the _mundus edibilis_, yet if you could look into her
reflections, you would perceive that she has but one thought--The
Dinner. Do you suppose, much as the youths from Oxford and their friend
the captain, from London, are devoted to mamma and her daughters, they
are not at the same time being eaten up, as it were, devoured, by the
intense wish for the hour to come when they may partake of--That Dinner!

Sir Humphrey has asked a particularly large party down this Christmas,
and seems to have forgotten nobody he ever knew. Not a poor relation but
has been remembered, and things are on a grander scale than usual. The
candles build famously, set in the chimney candelabra; the logs are
all of the biggest, and as for the Yule himself, he is a veritable
Brobdignag; the staircases drop flowers, and holly and mistletoe hang
all about. Everything shines, and gleams, and glows. There is to be
a boar's head, with, no lack of mustard and minstrelsy, and nothing
eatable or drinkable that pertains to Christmas will be wanting. Carols,
and waits, and contended tenants; merry chimes and clinking glasses;
twanging fiddles and the rush down the middle--nothing is spared and
nobody is forgotten. So the hour draws on, the guests pull through the
dreary day (for as I have said before, everything on Christmas day gives
place to the dinner), and at last the dinner becomes an absolute fact,
something to be apprehended, sat down to, and finally eaten. It _is_
eaten, and everyone has come into the long hall, at one end of which the
Yule burns. There is merry talk, and it is easier now for the captain
to devote himself to the girls, having left the dinner behind; there is
talk, too, of a little wonder at the gorgeousness of the dinner, for Sir
Humphrey has not been so gay for years, yes, just twenty years, when it
is evident that Sir Humphrey is going to make a speech. He stands alone
in front of the fire, and this is what he says. If you want to know
what he looks like, you may think of an old man who is a gentleman,
white-haired, noble and resolute, but with a sense of broken fortunes
and deferred hopes upon him.

"I have been young and now am old," says Sir Humphrey, "and I have never
yet seen the house, known the family, or penetrated the life where
there did not exist some trouble or some secret. Therefore, if I refer
to-night to the skeleton in my own house," he continues, with a slight
shudder, "I only do what perhaps each individual before me might also
do were there the like necessity. The necessity of such reference, in my
own case, does not make it less hard for me." Here, Sir Humphrey pauses.
When he speaks again he is something straighter and firmer than before.
"But as at this season the Church and our good friend the parson would
teach us all to remember each other and to help those we can help, I am
about to speak. You have heard, all of you, how twenty years ago I sent
my two eldest sons out of the house. You have heard, all of you, that
they were foolish, and that I was hard, something about a girl and cut
off with a shilling, I suppose. Well, to-night you shall hear the true
story. I do not think even Lady Desart knows it. She was not their
mother, but, as you know, my adored and adoring second wife. I do not
know if many of you remember my boys. I can see Humphrey now--a man does
not easily forget his first-born, and Hugh was no less dear. My dear
friends, if I drove the lads from my house twenty years ago to-night, I
did it in obedience to the rules of my own conscience and with regard to
the laws of nature, which I should have put before my conscience, as
I have far greater respect for them. I did it, as we so often futilely
say, for the best. But how often, oh, my dear friends, how often since I
have thought that I may have made a terrible mistake."

"They were, Hugh and Humphrey, both madly in love with the same girl.
She was no pauper, as you may have been led to believe, but the Lady
Barbara Hastings. Her name is familiar to you. She was beautiful and
talented, never married, and you may remember that about a month ago
she died at the house of friends in London. I knew her, fortunately or
unfortunately, however, moving in society as the adopted daughter of a
refined gentlewoman, to be the child of a lunatic mother and a father
who drank his life away in a Continental retreat. Knowing this I would
not for a moment consent even to the thought of either of my sons
marrying her, although I knew her to be all that was gracious in
womankind. I could not tell them the reason: the secret was hers, poor
girl, and I did not betray it. I said 'No,' and each knew what that
meant. So we separated, but the worst of it was, my friends, that each
lad thought I had refused my consent to save the other the pain of
seeing his brother happy; so that greater than their anger with me was
their jealousy of one another. With murder in their hearts they fled
to America, I believe, pursuing in self-torture that phantom of revenge
which we have all seen sometime or another, and whose hot breath we must
have felt."

Sir Humphrey pauses oftener now.

"I tell you all this because I want you to see how possible it may be
for a man to think he is doing the very best, the only right thing, and
then for perhaps an infinitely worse one to crop up. I read not long ago
in a wild Western paper a story of two Englishmen who fought a lonely
duel on some slope of those great mountains out there, and I think I
have not slept since I read it. To have exiled my boys only that they
might kill one another in foreign lands and sleep so far away from our
English ground!"

Sir Humphrey's voice is failing now and his eyes grow moist A man, you
see, does not easily forget his first-born.

"I tell you all this," he continues, "that it may help you to be kind
and to think twice. I only thought once, and perhaps the worst may have
come of it. Then I tell it to you, too, because I am an old man now, and
my voice is not as strong as it was, and I can't get out to church as
regularly as I used to do, and I want you all to help me to remember
these absent ones and with them any of your own. There is virtue in the
holding up of many hands and the lifting up of many hearts. Whether I
see them again or not, that does not matter; but for the assurance that
they have not harmed each other, let us pray Almighty God this night."

Ah! Sir Humphrey, there are those who would give their life for yours,
but they cannot bring you that assurance to-night. Can you wait?

"I can wait," says Sir Humphrey.



CHAPTER II.


It is Christmas day in the morning. At least, so Almanack says, and
Almanack ought to know, though he is given in those days to such ornate
and emblazoned titivation of himself outwardly, putting himself in
the hands of fair Mistress Kate Greenaway at the head of a mischievous
throng, that he causes one to seriously consider whether his old head
be turned or no. A scholar and statistician buried in heaps of flowers,
with a rope of daisies round his neck, and a belt of primroses round
his waist; a sunflower in his buttonhole, and a singing bird upon his
shoulder; and, worst of all, the picture of a pink-frocked, pink-faced
girl next his heart--can he be relied upon? But he persists in his
claim to be listened to, and we must take his word for it that this is
Christmas day in the morning, although it just looks like any other day.
On any other day the sun is just as bright, and the air just as keen. On
other days the snow is just as white, just as deep--two feet where the
constant tramping has levelled its crystalline beauty, ten, twelve,
fifteen there where a great soft cloud of drift reaches halfway up the
side of a small wooden house. On other days there is just as much blue
in the sky, in the smoke, in the shadows of the pines, and the shadows
of the icicles. On other days the house looks just as neat, just as
silent, just as poor. The clearing is small, the house is small, a
small terrier suns himself on a pile of wood, and the only large object
apparently in existence is the tall, broad-shouldered, well-proportioned
man who presently emerges from the wooden house. His ear has just caught
the sound of a bell. It is not a bad bell for Muskoka, and it has a
most curious effect on this white, cold silent world of snow and blue
shadows. The owner of the house, who is also the builder of it, stands
a few moments listening. There is only the twitter of the snowbirds to
listen to, then the bell; more snowbirds, and then the bell again.

"It has quite a churchy sound," he remarks; "I never noticed how churchy
before, but it reminds me of some other bell. Ten years I have read
for them here, and I never noticed it before." More twitter from the
snowbirds and the bell again. Time for church, although the functions
of the lay-reader will be this day laid aside, giving place to the more
exacting ones of the _rector chori_. This being Christmas day in the
morning, it devolves upon one clergyman to preach in four different
places, if not literally at once, at least on the same day.

"It isn't possible," thinks the tall man swinging along at a tremendous
pace, "that this bell--there it is again, confound it; yet no, not
confound it--can resemble that other bell I used to know. No, quite
impossible. Is it likely that anything here," and the thinker spreads
both long arms out to take in the entire landscape, "can resemble or
remotely suggest the Old Country, or, as people call it, home? Home?
Why this is home. That four-roomed and convenient, if not commodious,
mansion I have just quitted is my home. Talking of commodiousness, it's
quite large enough, too. I have no wife, no children, no partner, not
even a sleeping one, no one ever comes to see me. So I do not need a
drawing-room, a nursery, a guest chamber, or a smoking-room. I have no
books, therefore I need no library; I indulge in no chemical pursuits,
therefore I need no laboratory; my music-room is the forest in summer
and the chimney in winter, while my studio, according to the latest
aesthetic fad--I think that is the word--opens off the music-room.

"Now, if you take away art, science, literature, and society from
the daily life of a man, what do you leave? Simply the three radical
necessities of sleeping, eating, working. My work I do mostly in the
open air, so that, practically, I need but two rooms, one to cook in and
the other to sleep in. I have always felt convinced that to be happy I
only require two rooms, except on extra cold nights, when I find that
one suffices. That is when Tim and I lie near the kitchen fire to keep
warm. Home! Why of course it is home. Didn't I build the house myself?
What association is dearer than that? To come into a pile of half-ruined
towers, all gables and gargoyles, built somewhere about the fourteenth
century, and added to by every fool who liked, without the slightest
pretence to knowledge of architecture and civilization may be very
gratifying, but, strange as it may seem, I prefer the work of my
own hands. I am quite a Canadian, of course, though I once was an
Englishman. I array myself in strange raiment, thick and woollen, of
many colours; my linen is coarse and sometimes superseded by flannel;
I wear a cast-off fur cap on my head and moccasins on my feet. I have
grown a beard and a fierce moustache. I have made no money and won no
friends except the simple settlers around me here. And I shall grow old
and grey in your service, my Muskoka. I shall be forty-one on my next
birthday. Then will come fifty-one, another ten years and sixty-one.
All to be lived here? Yes, I have sworn it. Not Arcady, not Utopia,
only Muskoka, but very dear to me. There is the forest primeval! I
know everything in it from the Indian pipe--clammy white thing, but how
pretty!--to that great birch there with the bark peeling off in pieces a
yard wide. There is the lovely Shadow river. Masses of cardinal flowers
grow there in the summer, and when I take my boat up its dark waters I
feel that no human being has felt its beauty so before. I think, for a
small river it is the loveliest in the world. And as to my larder now,
why I am going to make my Christmas dinner off a piece or pork and ask
for nothing better! I shall have a glorious appetite, which is the main
point. The bell again!"

Yes, and the snow birds, too, flying round the porch of the little
church. It is a very small and plain edifice and not over warm, and
the officiating clergyman, who has just driven eighteen miles with
the prospect of eighteen back after service, hurries the proceedings
somewhat. There is a harmonium played by the tall man, and there is
a choir consisting of himself and a small boy. In place of the usual
Anglican hymns two carols are sung by the choir, which have the
quaintest effect in such a place, and which appear to interest and even
excite one of the congregation. This is a man of middle age, most richly
dressed with a certain foreign air about him and evidently in a very
delicate state of health. He is accompanied by a lady whose dress is
also a marvel of beauty and costliness though hardly of fitness. The
broad bands of gold which adorn her wrists and neck would alone procure
for her the entire attention of the congregation were she seated in
a more conspicuous place. As it is they are seated near the stove for
increased comfort. "Good King Wenceslas" sings the choir, the small boy
finding the long word very trying, and coming utterly to grief in the
last two verses, for his companion appears to have lost his place.
With the last verse of the carol comes the close of the service, the
straggling congregation disperse and the jolly clergyman drives off
again. Then an important thing happens, and happens very quietly.
So quietly that the richly dressed lady who is a bright, shallow and
unsentimental Californian does not mind it at all. "Humphrey!" says the
tall man, "Hugh!" says the other, and all is said. There is not much
sentiment in the meeting, how can there be? Their ways have gone too far
apart. The years--nearly twenty, since they parted in Los Angeles--have
brought gold and kith and kin to the one, with an enfeebled constitution
and an uncertain temper. To the other, they have brought the glory of
health for his manhood's crown, content and peace unutterable. To
learn to subdue the ground is to learn one great lesson. So the strange
meeting is soon over. The Christmas spell may not always last and the
brothers separate once more.

       *       *       *       *       *



FINIS.


The bright little lady who is taking her husband for a winter's Canadian
tour gets restive in this silent snowy world. But before they part a
letter is written to a white-haired old gentleman' in England, who has
only a month to wait.

"Whether I see them again or not does not matter," says Sir Humphrey,
"but for the assurance that they have not harmed each other, I thank
Almighty God this night!"



THE IDYL OF THE ISLAND.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here lies mid-way between parallels 48 and 49 of latitude, and degrees
89 and 90 of longitude, in the northern hemisphere of the New
World, serenely anchored on an ever-rippling and excited surface, an
exquisitely lovely island. No tropical wonder of palm-treed stateliness,
or hot tangle of gaudy bird and glowing creeper, can compare with it;
no other northern isle, cool and green and refreshing to the eye
like itself, can surpass it. It is not a large island. It is about
half-a-mile long and quarter of a mile broad It is an irregular oval in
shape, and has two distinct and different sides. On the west side its
grey limestone rises to the height of twenty feet straight out of
the water. On the east side there occurs a gradual shelving of a
sumac-fringed shore, that mingles finally with the ever-rippling water.
For the waters in this northern country are never still. They are
perpetually bubbling up and boiling over; seething and fuming and
frothing and foaming and yet remaining so cool and clear that a quick
fancy would discover thousands of banished fountains under that agitated
and impatient surface. Both ends of the island are as much alike as its
sides are dissimilar. They taper off almost to a distinct bladepoint of
rock, in which a mere doll's flagstaff of a pine-tree grows; then
comes a small detached rock, with a small evergreen on it, then a still
smaller rock, with a tuft of grass, then a line of partially submerged
stones, and so out to the deep yet ever-bubbling water. This island
might seem, just the size for two, and there were two on it on a certain
July morning at five o'clock. One of these was a lady who lay at full
length and fast asleep upon a most unique couch. These northern islands
are in many places completely covered with a variety of yellowish-green
moss, varying from a couple of inches to a foot and a half in thickness;
and yielding to the pressure of the foot or the body as comfortably as a
feather bed, if not more so, being elastic in nature. A large square of
this had been cut up from some other part of the island and placed on
the already moss-grown and cushioned ground, serving as a mattress,
while two smaller pieces served as pillows. A sumac tree at the head
of the improvised couch gave the necessary shade to the face of the
sleeper, while a wild grapevine, after having run over and encircled
with its moist green every stone and stem on the island, fulfilled its
longing at length in a tumultuous possession of the sumac, making a
massive yet aerial patched green curtain or canopy to the fantastic bed,
and ending seemingly in two tiny transparent spirals curling up to the
sky.

If there were a fault in the structure it was that it was too clever,
too well thought out, too rectangular, too much in fact like a bed. But
it told certainly of a skillful pair of hands and of a beautiful
mind and the union of art with nature perfectly suited the
charms--contradictory yet consistent--of the occupant. For being
anything but a beautiful woman she was still far from a plain one, which
though no original mode of putting it does convey the actual impression
she made upon a gentleman in a small boat who rowing past this island
at the hour of five o'clock in the morning was so much struck with this
curious sight, quite visible from the water below, that he was rude
enough to stand up that he might see better. The lady was dressed in
some dark blue stuff that evidently covered her all over and fitted
tightly where it could be seen. A small linen collar, worn all night and
therefore shorn of its usual freshness was round her neck, and she was
tucked up from the waist under a Scotch woollen rug. Her hair, of a
peculiar red-brown, was allowed to hang about her and was lovely; her
mouth sad; her nose, rather too prominent; her complexion natural
and healthy, but marred by freckles and moles, not many of either but
undeniably scattered over the countenance. All told but her eyes which,
if they proved to match with her hair, would atone for these other
shortcomings. The gentleman sat down again and reflected.

"How still it is!" he said under his breath. "Absolutely not a thing
stirring. This is the time when the fish bite. I ought to be fishing I
suppose. Going to be warm by-and-bye."

It was indeed almost absolutely silent. The sun climbed higher but the
lady slept on, and the gentleman gazed as if fascinated. The only sound
that broke the beautiful early morning silence was the occasional weird
laugh of the loon. It came twice and then a third time. The sleeper
stirred.

"If that thing out there cries again she will wake," said the gentleman
to himself. "I must be off before that happens. But I _should_ like to
see her eyes. What a pretty picture it is!" Once more the loon gave its
maniacal laugh and the lady started, sat bolt upright and wide awake.
Her admirer had not time to retreat but he took his oars up and
confronted her manfully. It was an awkward moment. He apologized. The
lady listened very politely. Then she smiled.

"Most of the islands in this lake are owned by private people," she
said, "who use them during the summer months for the purpose of camping
out upon them. I should advise you, if you row about much here, to
keep to the open water, unless you wish to be seriously handled by the
fathers and mothers of families."

"Thank you very much," returned the gentleman, standing up in his boat,
"I assure you I intended no rudeness, but I have never seen so charming
a summer couch before, and I was really fascinated by the--ah,--the
picture you made. May I ask what you mean by 'camping out'? Is it always
done in this fashion?"

The lady stared "Have _you_ never camped out?"

"Never in my life," said the gentleman. "I am an Englishman, staying at
the hotel near the point for a day or two. I came out to see something
of the country."

"Then you should at least have camped out for a week or so. That is
a genuine Canadian experience," said the lady with a frankness which
completely restored the equanimity of the Englishman.

"But how do you live?" he went on in a puzzled manner that caused
the lady with the red-brown hair, still all hanging about her, much
amusement.

"O, capitally! Upon fish and eggs, and gooseberry tarts, and home-made
bread and French coffee. Just what you would get in town, and much
better than you get at the hotel."

"O, that would be easy!" the gentleman groaned. "I eat my meals in a
pitch-dark room, in deadly fear and horror of the regiments of flies
that swarm in and settle on everything the minute one raises the green
paper blinds."

The lady nodded. "I know. We tried it for two or three seasons, but we
could not endure it; the whole thing, whitewash and all, is so trying,
isn't it? So we bought this lovely island and bring our tent here and
live _so_ comfortably." The gentleman did not reply at once. He was
thinking that it was his place to say "Good morning," and go, although
he would much have liked to remain a little longer. He hazarded the
remark:

"Now, for instance, what are you going to breakfast on presently?"

The lady laughed lightly and shook her red brown hair.

"First of all I have to make a fire."

"Oh!"

"But that is not so very difficult"

"How do you do it?"

"Would you like to know?"

"Very much indeed. I should like to see, if I may."

The lady reflected a moment. "I suppose you may, but if you do, you
ought to help me, don't you think?" The gentleman much amused and
greatly interested.

"Ah but you see, it is you I want to see make it. I am very useless you
know at that sort of thing, still, if you will allow me, I will try my
best. Am I to come ashore?"

"Certainly, if you are to be of any use."

The lady jumped lightly off the pretty couch of moss and wound her
plentiful hair round her head with one turn of her arm. Her dress was
creased but well-fitting, her figure not plump enough for beauty but
decidedly youthful. She watched her new friend moor his boat and ascend
with one or two strides of his long legs up the side of the cliff that
was not so steep. He took off his hat.

"I am at your service," he said with a profound bow. The lady made him
another, during which all her long hair fell about her again, at which
they both laughed.

"What do we do first?" said he.

"O we find a lot of sticks and pieces of bark, mostly birch bark, and
anything else that will burn--you may have to fell a tree while you are
about it--and I'll show you how to place them properly between two walls
of stones, put a match to them and there is our fire. Will you come with
me?"

He assented of course, and they were soon busy in the interior of
the little wood that grew up towards the centre of the island. I must
digress here to say that the gentleman's name was Amherst. He was known
to the world in latter life as Admiral Amherst, and he was a great
friend of mine. When he related this story to me, he was very particular
in describing the island as I have done--indeed he carried a little
chart about with him of it which he had made from memory, and he told
me besides that he never forgot the peculiar beauty of that same little
tract of wood. The early hour, the delicious morning air, the great
moss-grown and brown decaying tree trunks, the white, clammy, ghostly,
flower or fungus of the Indian Pipe at his feet, the masses of ferns,
the elastic ground he trod upon, and the singular circumstance that he
was alone in this exquisite spot with a woman he had never seen until
five minutes previously, all combined to make an ineffaceable impression
upon his mind. The lady showed herself proficient in the art of building
a fire and attended by Amherst soon had a fine flame rising up from
between the fortifications evidently piled by stronger hands than her
own.

"What do we do now?" asked Amherst "I should suggest--a kettle."

"Of course, that is the next step. If I give it to you, you might run
and fill it, eh?'

"Delighted!" and away went Amherst. When he returned the lady was not to
be seen. The place was shorn of its beauty, but he waited discreetly and
patiently, putting the kettle on to boil in the meanwhile.

"It's very singular," said he, "how I come to be here. I wonder who
are with her in her party; no one else appears to be up or about. That
striped red and white thing is the tent, I see, over there. Ah! That's
where she has gone, and now she beckons me! Oh! I'll go, but I don't
want to meet the rest of them!"

But when he reached the tent, it was quite empty, save for rugs and
wraps, boxes, etc., and the lady was laughingly holding out a loaf of
bread in one hand and a paper package in the other.

"You will stay and breakfast with me?"

"What will you give me?" said Amherst, smiling.

"I can only give you eggs, boiled in the kettle, coffee and bread and
butter. The fish haven't come in yet."

"What can be nicer than eggs--especially when boiled in the kettle, that
is, if you make the coffee first."

"Certainly I do."

"And it is really French coffee?"

"Really. Café des Gourmets, you know; we--I always use it--do not like
any other."

Amherst was fast falling in love. He told me that at this point his
mind was quite made up that if it were possible he would remain in the
neighborhood a few days at least, in order to see more of this charming
girl. She seemed to him to be about twenty-six or seven, and so frank,
simple and graceful, one could not have resisted liking her. Her
hair and eyes were identical in colour and both were beautiful; her
expression was arch and some of her gestures almost childish, but a
certain dignity appeared at times and sat well upon her. Her hands were
destitute of any rings as Amherst soon discovered, and were fine and
small though brown. While she made the coffee, Amherst threw himself
down on the wonderful moss, the like of which he had never seen before
and looked out over the water. An unmistakeable constraint had taken the
place of the unaffected hilarity of the first ten minutes. A reaction
had set in. Amherst could of course only answer to me in telling this
for himself, but he divined at the time a change in his companion's
manner as well.

"I hope you like your eggs," she said presently.

"They are very nice, indeed, thank you," rejoined Amherst.

"And I have made your coffee as you like it?"

"Perfectly, thank you. But you--you are not eating anything! Why is
that?"

As he asked the question he turned quickly around, in order to rise that
he might help her with the ponderous kettle that she was about lifting
off the camp-fire, when a long strand of her hair again escaping from
its coil blew directly across his face. Amherst uttered a radiant "Oh!",
and taking it to his lips forgot himself so far as to press kiss after
kiss upon it. The lady stood as if transfixed and did not move, even
when Amherst actually swept all her hair down over one arm and turning
her face to his, pressed one long long kiss on her forehead.

The moment he had done this his senses returned and he stepped back
in indignation with himself. But his companion was still apparently
transfixed. Amherst looked at her in dismay. She did not seem to see him
and had grown very pale. He touched her gently on the arm but she did
not show that she felt the touch. He retreated a few paces and stood
by himself, overcome with shame and contrition. What had he done? How
should he ever atone for such an unwarrantable action? Had it been the
outcome of any ordinary flirtation, he would have felt no such scruples,
but the encounter, though short, had been one of singular idyllic charm
until he had by his own rash act spoilt it. A few minutes passed thus in
self contemplation appeared like an eternity. He must speak.

"If you would allow me--"

But the lady put out her left hand in deprecation as it were and he
got no further. The silence was unendurable. Amherst took a step or two
forward and perceived great tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Oh!" he began desperately, "won't you allow me to say a word to tell
you how very, very sorry I am, how grieved I am and always shall be?
I never--I give you my word of honor--I never do those sort of things,
have never done such a thing before! But I can't tell what it was, the
place is so beautiful, and when all that lovely hair came sweeping past
my face, I could not help doing as I did, it was so electrical! Any man
would have done the same. I know that sounds like a miserable, cowardly
excuse, but it is true, perfectly true." The lady seemed to struggle to
appear calm and with a great effort she turned her face towards Amherst.

"I know one man," she said, in a voice choked with sobs, "who would not
have done it?"

Amherst started. "I am sorrier than ever, believe me. I might have known
you were engaged, or had a lover--one so Charming"--

"It is not that," said the lady. "I am married." She was still
struggling with her emotion.

Amherst recoiled. He was torn with conflicting thoughts. What if he had
been seen giving that involuntary salute? He might have ruined her peace
for ever. Who would believe in the truth of any possible explanation?

"I will leave you at once;" he said stiffly, "there is nothing more to
be said."

"Oh! You will reproach me now!" said his companion, wiping her eyes as
the tears came afresh.

"I will try not to;" said Amherst, "but you could so easily have told
me; I do not think it was--quite--fair." Yet he could not be altogether
angry with the partner of his thoughtlessness, nor could he be entirely
cold. Her beautiful eyes, her despairing attitude would haunt him he
knew for many a day. She had ceased weeping and stood quietly awaiting
his departure. Amherst felt all the force of a strong and novel passion
sweep along his frame as he looked at her. Was she happy, was she a
loved and loving wife? Somehow the conviction forced itself upon him
that she was not. Yet he could not ask her, it must remain her secret.

Amherst looked at his watch. It aroused her.

"What is the time?" she said lifting her head for the first time since
he had kissed her.

"Ten minutes past six," Amherst replied.

"You must go," she said, with an effort at self-control. "I shall have
much to do presently."

He cast one look about and approached her.

"Will you forgive me"--he began in a tone of repression, then with
another mighty and involuntary movement he caught her hands and pressed
them to his breast. "My God," he exclaimed, "how I should have loved
you!"

A moment after he flung her hands away and strode down the cliff,
unfastened his boat and rowed away in the direction of the hotel as
fast as he could. Rounding a sharp rock that hid what lay beyond it, he
nearly succeeded in overturning another boat like his own, in which sat
a gentleman of middle age, stout and pleasant and mild of countenance.
The bottom of the boat was full of fish. Amherst made an incoherent
apology, to which the gentleman answered with a good-natured laugh,
insisting that the fault was his own. He would have liked to enter into
conversation with Amherst, but my friend was only anxious to escape from
the place altogether and forget his recent adventure in the hurry of
departure from the hotel. Three days after he embarked at Quebec for
England, and never revisited Canada. But he never married and never
forgot the woman whom he always asserted he might have truly and
passionately loved. He was about twenty-eight when that happened and
perfectly heart-whole. Why--I used to say to him, why did you not learn
her name and that of her husband? Perhaps she is a widow now, perhaps
you made as great an impression upon her mind and affections as she did
upon yours.

But my friend Admiral Amherst, as the world knew him, was a strange,
irrational creature in many ways, and none of these ideas would he ever
entertain. That the comfortable gentleman in the boat was her husband he
never doubted; more it was impossible to divine. But the cool northern
isle, with its dark fringe of pines; its wonderful moss, its
fragrant and dewy ferns, its graceful sumacs, just putting on their
scarlet-lipped leaves, the morning stillness broken only by the
faint unearthly cry of the melancholy loon, the spar-dyked cliffs of
limestone, and the fantastic couch, with its too lovely occupant, never
faded from his memory and remained to the last as realities which indeed
they have become likewise to me, through the intensity with which they
were described to me.



The Story of Delle Josephine Boulanger



CHAPTER I.


Delle Josephine Boulanger, Miss Josephine Baker, Miss Josephine Baker,
Delle Josephine Boulanger. What a difference it makes, the language!
What a transformation! I thought this to myself as I stood on the
opposite side of the street looking at the sign. To be sure, it, was
only printed in French and sad little letters they were that composed
the name, but my mind quickly translated them into the more prosaic
English as I stood and gazed. Delle Josephine was a milliner and I had
been recommended to try and get a little room "_sous les toits_" that
she sometimes had to let, during my stay in the dismal Canadian village
with the grand and inappropriate name of _Bonheur du Roi_. Bonneroi, or
Bonneroy, it was usually called. Such a dismal place it seemed to be;
one long street of whitewashed or dirty wooden houses, two raw red brick
"stores," and the inevitable Roman Catholic Church, Convent and offices,
still and orderly and gray, with the quiet priests walking about and
the occasional sound of the unmistakeable convent bell. I arrived on a
sleety winter's day early in December. Everything was gray, or colorless
or white; the people's faces were pinched and pale, the sky was a leaden
gray in hue, and I thought as I stood opposite to my future abode under
Delle Josephine's roof that the only bit of "local color" so far was to
be found in her window. I could distinctly see from where I stood the
most extraordinary _hat_ I had ever seen. I immediately crossed the road
to examine it. It was a triumph in lobster-color. In shape like a very
large Gainsborough, it was made of shirred scarlet satin with large bows
of satin ribbon of the same intense color and adorned with a bird of
paradise. I can see it now and can recall the images it suggested to my
mind at the time. These were of cardinals and kings, of sealing-wax and
wafers, of tropic noons and tangled marshes, of hell and judgment and
the conventional Zamiel. It looked fit to be worn by a Mrs. Zamiel, if
there be such a person. I looked so long and earnestly that I evidently
attracted the notice of the mistress of the shop, for I saw a hand push
back the faded red curtain that veiled the interior and a queer little
visage appeared regarding me with something I thought of distrust. Did
I look as if I might break the glass and run off with the hat? Perhaps I
did, so I entered the shop immediately and said in a reasoning tone,

"I am looking for rooms in the village, Mademoiselle, and hear you have
one to let. Can I see it now, if not too much trouble?"

"You come from Morréall?"

This I learnt was meant for Montreal.

"Yes," I returned.

"You are by yourself, Monsieur, you are sure? No ladees, eh?"

"O dear! No" said I laughing. "I am making some studies--sketches--in
this locality and am entirely alone. Do you find ladies a trouble?"

"Oh, perhaps not always. But there was one Mees I had. I did not like
her, and so I said--we will have no more Mees, but again and always
Messieurs." She was frank enough but not unpleasant in her manner. A
little bit of a woman, thin and shrivelled, with one shoulder slightly
higher than the other, black beads for eyes, and the ugliest mouthful
of teeth that I had ever seen on any one. Had it not been that her
expression was honest and good natured and her manner bright and
intelligent, I should have recoiled before the yellow tusks of
eye-teeth, and the blackened stumps and shrunken gums revealed to me
every time she spoke. She wore a print dress made neatly enough which
was very clean, and a black crape ruff round her sallow neck. The shop
was small but clean and at the back I saw, a kind of little sitting
room. Into this I went while she ran up-stairs to prepare the room for
my inspection. The carpet was the usual horribly ingenious affair of red
squares inside green octagons, and green squares inside red octagons,
varied by lengthwise stripes of bright purple. The walls were plain
white, covered with many prints in vivid colors of the Crucifixion, the
Annunciation and the Holy Family; also three pictures of three wonderful
white kittens which adorn so many nurseries and kitchens. There were
no ornaments, but there was a large looking glass framed in walnut, and
over it a dismal wreath of roses and their leaves done in human
gray hair. The glass was opposite the door and I saw Delle Josephine
descending to meet me just as I was turning away from this suggestive
"in memoriam." A crooked little stairway brought me to a small landing,
and three more steps to my room. I may call it that, for I took it on
the spot It was large enough for my wants and seemed clean and when
the paper blinds, yellow, with a black landscape on them, were raised,
rather cheerful. We were opposite the chief "_epicerie_," the only
_"marchandise sèches_" and a blacksmith, whose jolly red fire I could
sometimes catch a glimpse of.

Now, this is a really a true story of French Canadian life, or rather
let me say, a true story of one of my own French Canadian experiences,
and so I must confess that once installed in my little room _chez_ Delle
Josephine Boulanger, nothing whatever of any interest took place until
I had been there quite a week. I lived most regularly and monotonously;
rising at eight I partook of coffee made by my landlady, accompanied by
tinned fruit for which I formed a great taste. Then I went out, getting
my mid-day meal where I could, eggs and bacon at a farmhouse, or tough
steak at the hotel, and sometimes not getting anything at all until I
returned ravenously hungry to my lodging. On these occasions the little
Frenchwoman showed herself equal to the extent of cooking a chicken or
liver and bacon very creditably and then I would write and read in my
own room till eleven. I must not forget to say that I never failed to
look at the wonderful scarlet hat in the window every time I went out
or came in. Purchasers for it would be rare I thought; I half formed the
idea of buying it myself when I went away as a "Souvenir."

One day I came home very tired. After walking about, vainly waiting for
a terrific snowstorm to pass over that I might go on with my work--the
frozen fall of Montmorenci, framed in the dark pines and somber rocks
that made such a back ground for its glittering thread of ice, I gave
it up, chilled in every limb, and began to consider whether I was not
a fool for pains. Although I started quite early in the afternoon on
my homeward walk, the snow, piled in great masses everywhere along the
route, impeded my progress to such an extent that it was nearly seven
o'clock and pitch-dark when I got into the village. Bonneroy was very
quiet. Shutters were up to every shop, nobody was out except a dog or
two and the snow kept falling, falling, still in as persistent a fashion
as if it had not been doing the same thing for six hours already. I
found the shop shut up and the door locked. I looked everywhere for a
bell or knocker of some description. There was neither, so I began to
thump as hard as I could with my feet against the door. In a minute or
two I heard Delle Josephine coming. Perhaps I had alarmed the poor soul.
She did look troubled on opening the door and admitted me hurriedly,
even suspiciously, I thought. The door of the little sitting-room was
closed, so fancying that perhaps she had a visitor I refrained from much
talking and asking her to cook me some eggs presently and bring them up,
I went to my room.

These cold days I had to keep a fire in the small open "Franklin" stove
going almost constantly. She had not forgotten to supply it with
coals during my absence, and lighting my two lamps I was soon fairly
comfortable. How it did snow! Lifting the blind I could actually look
down on an ever-increasing drift below my window and dimly wonder if
I should get out at all on the morrow. If not, I proposed to return to
Montreal at once. I should gain nothing by being confined in the house
at Bonneroy. Delle Josephine appeared with eggs and tea--green tea, alas
for that village shortcoming--there was no black tea to be found in it,
and I looked narrowly at her as she set it down, wondering if anything
was amiss with her. But she seemed all right again and I conjectured
that I had simply interrupted a _tête-a-tête_ with some visitor in the
sitting-room at the time of my return. When I had finished my tea I sat
back and watched my fire. Those little open "Franklin" stoves are almost
equal to a fireplace; they show a great deal of fire and you can
fancy your flame on an English hearth very easily--if you have any
imagination. As I sat there, it suddenly came home to me what a curious
life this was for me; living quite alone over a tiny village shop in _Le
Bos Canada_, with a queer little spinster like Delle Josephine. Snowed
up, with her too! To-morrow I would certainly have to go and shovel that
snow away from the front door and take down the shutters and discover
again to the world the contents of the one window, particularly that
frightful hat! I would--here I started it must be confessed almost out
of my seat, as turning my head suddenly I saw on a chair behind the door
the identical hat I was thinking about! I sat up and looked at it. It
must have been there all the time I was eating my tea. I still sat and
looked. I felt vaguely uncomfortable for a moment, then my common sense
asserted itself and told me that Delle Josephine must have been altering
it or something of that kind and had forgotten to take it away. I
wondered if she sat in my room when I was away. I had rather she did
not. Just as I was about to rise and look at it more closely, a tap came
at my door. I rose and admitted Delle Josephine. She took the tea-things
away in her usual placid manner, but came back the next moment as if
she had forgotten something, clearly the hat. With a slight deprecatory
laugh she removed it and went hurriedly down the stair. Whatever had she
been doing with it, I thought, and settled with a sigh of satisfaction
once more to my work, now that the nightmare in red, a kind of mute
scarlet "Raven," was gone from my room. How very quiet it was. Not a
single sleigh passed, no sounds came from the houses opposite or from
next door, the whole world seemed smothered in the soft thick pillows
of snow quietly gathering upon it. After a while, however, I could
distinctly hear the sound of voices downstairs. Delle Josephine had a
visitor, undoubtedly. Was it a man or a woman? Not a large company I
gathered; it seemed like one person besides herself. I opened my door,
it sounded so comfortably in my lonely bachelor ear to catch in that
strange little house anything so cheerful as the murmur of voices. My
curiosity once aroused, did not stop here. I went outside the door, not
exactly to listen, but as one does sometimes in a lazy yet inquisitive
mood, when anything is going on at all unusual. This was an unusual
occurrence. If Delle Josephine had visitors often, I was not aware of
it. Never before had I noticed the slightest sound proceed from her
sitting-room after dusk. So I waited a bit listening. Yes there was
talking going on, but in French. As I did not understand her _patois_
very clearly, I thought there would be no harm in overhearing, and
further I thought I should like to have a peep at her and her companion.
I could see that the door was partly open. Taking off my slippers, I
ran softly down and found it wide enough open to admit of my seeing the
entire room and occupants in the looking-glass, that being opposite.
It was quite dark in the little hall and I should be unobserved. So I
crept--most rudely I am willing to say--into the furthest shadow of this
hall and looked straight before me.

I saw none but Delle Josephine herself. But she was a sight for
the gods. Seated on a kind of ottoman, directly in front of the
looking-glass, she was holding an animated conversation with _herself_,
wearing a large white antimacassar--one of those crocheted things all in
wheels--pinned under her chin and falling away at the back like a cloak,
and upon her head--the wonderful scarlet hat! I was amazed, startled,
dismayed. To see that shrivelled little old woman so travestying her
hideous charms, smiling at and bowing to herself, her yellow skin
forming a frightful contrast to the intense red of her immense hat
and her bright black eyes, was a pitiful and unique spectacle. I had
intended but to take a peep at the supposed visitor and then go back to
my room, but the present sight was one which fascinated me to such an
extent that I could only look and wonder. She spoke softly to herself in
French, appearing to be carrying on a conversation with her image in the
glass. The feathers of the bird of paradise swept her shoulder--the one
that was higher than the other--and mingled with the wheels of the white
antimacassar. I looked as long as I dared and then, fearing from her
movements that the strange scene would soon be over I went softly up
again to my room. But I thought about it all evening, all night in fact.
The natural inquiry was--was the poor girl a maniac? Even if only a
harmless one, it would be well to know. As I sat down again by my fire
I considered the matter in every light. It was a queer prospect. Outside
the snow still fell. Inside, the fire languished and the time wore on
till at half-past ten I really was compelled to call on my landlady for
more coal. I could hear the muttered French still going on, but I did
not know where the coal was and could not fetch it myself. I must break
in upon her rhapsodizing.

"Delle Boulanger!" I called from my open door. "Delle Boulanger!"

The talking stopped. In a few moments Delle Josephine appeared, calm and
smiling, _minus_ the hat and the antimacassar. "Coming, _monsieur_"

"I shall want some more coal," said I, "It is getting colder, I think,
every minute!"

"_Mais oui, monsieur; il fait fret, il fait bien fret ce soir_, and
de snow--oh! It is _comme_--de old winter years ago, dat I remember,
_monsieur_, but not you. _Eh! bien_, the coal!"

I discovered nothing morbid about her manner; she was amiable and
respectful as usual, if a little more garrulous. The French will talk at
all times about anything, but our conversation always came to a sudden
stop the moment one of us relapsed into the mother tongue. As long as
a sort of common maccaronic was kept to we managed to understand one
another. After I made up my fire I sat up till long past twelve. I heard
no more talking downstairs but I could fancy her still arrayed in those
festive yet ghastly things, seated opposite her own reflection, intent
as a mummy and not unlike one restored in modern costume. Pulling
the blind aside before going to bed, I could see with awe the arching
snowdrifts outside my window. If it went on snowing, I should not be
able to open it on the morrow.



CHAPTER II


My prediction was verified in the morning. The snow had ceased falling,
but lay piled up against the lower half of my window. On the level there
appeared to be about three feet, while the drifts showed from six to
twenty feet I had never seen anything like it, and was for sometime lost
in admiration. Across the road the children of the _epider_ and the good
man himself were already busy trying to shovel some of it away from the
door. It seemed at first sight a hopeless task and I, looking down at
Delle Josephine's door, wondered how on earth we were ever to get out of
it when not a particle of it was to be seen. Not all that day did I get
out of the house, and but for the absorbing interest I suddenly found
centred in Delle Josephine I would have chafed terribly at being so shut
up. Trains, were blockaded of course, it was the great fall of '81, and
interrupted travel for half of a week. All that day I waited so to speak
for the evening. Snow-boys there were many; customers none. The
little Frenchwoman brought me some dinner at one o'clock, pork, tinned
tomatoes, and a cup of coffee. About five o'clock I strolled down into
the shop, it was lighted very meagrely with three oil lamps. Delle
Josephine was seated on a high chair behind the one counter at work on
some ribbon--white ribbon. She was quilling it, and looked up with some
astonishment as I walked up to her.

"Do you object to a visitor Miss Josephine?" said I with the most
amiable manner I could muster. Poor soul! I should have thought she
would have welcomed one.

"_Mais non Monsieur_ but I speak so little English."

"And I so little French. But we can manage to understand each other a
little, I think. What do you say to the weather? When shall I be able to
go out?"

Delle Josephine laughed. She went on quilling the ribbon that looked so
white against her yellow hands.

"O _Monsieur_ could go out dis day if he like, but de snow ver bad, very
thick."

"Do you ever go out, Miss Josephine?"

"_Non Monsieur_. I have not been out for what you call a valk--it will
be five years that I have not been."

"But you go to church, I suppose?"

"_Mais oui Monsieur_, but that is so near. And the good _Père Le
Jeune_--he come to see me. He is all the frien Delle Josephine has, ah!
_oui Monsieur_."

"Ah! Bonneroi isn't much of a place, is it? Have you ever been to Quebec
or Montreal?"

"Ah! _Quebec--oui_, I live there once, many years ago. I was taken when
I was ver young by _Madame de la Corne de la Colombière pour une bonne;
vous comprenez_?"

"Oh! _bonne_, yes, we use that word too. It means a nursemaid, eh! Were
there children in the family?"

Delle Josephine dropped her ribbon and threw up her hands.

"_Mon Dieu! les enfants! Mais oui, Monsieur_, they were nine children!
There was _Maamselle Louise_ and _Maamselle Angelique_ with the tempaire
of the _diable_ himself _oui Monsieur_, and François and Réné and
_l'petite Catherine_, and the rest I forget _Monsieur_. And dey live in
a fine _château_, with horse and carridge and everything as it would be
if they were in their own France. _Monsieur_ has been in France?"

Only in Paris, I told her; a spasmodic run across the Channel--Paris in
eight hours. Two days there then return--

"That does not give one much idea of France."

"_Nou, non, Monsieur_. But there is no countree like France dey say dat
familee--and that is true, eh, _Monsieur_?"

"I am afraid I cannot agree with you, Delle Josephine," said I. "To
me there is no country like England, but that may be because I am an
Englishman. Tell me how long did you live in Quebec with this family?"

"I was there ten year _Monsieur_. Then one day, I had a great
accidence--oh! a ver sad ting, ver sad!" The Frenchwoman laid down
the ribbon and went on. "A ver sad ting happen to me and the _bébé
Catherine_. We were out _l'ptite_ and me, for a valk, and we come to a
part of the town ver slant, ver hilly. _L'ptite Catherine_ was in her
carridge and I let go, and she go all down, _Monsieur_, and I too
over the hill--the cleef, you call it--but the _bébé_ was killed and I
_Monsieur_, I was alive, but like this!" showing her shoulder. "And what
did they do?"

"At the _château_? Ah, _figure-toi, monsieur_, the agony of dat _pauvre
dame_! I was sent away, she would not see me, and I left _Quêbec_ at
once. I was no more _bonne_, monsieur; Delle Josephine was enough dat.
I could make de hats and de bonnets for de ladees, so I come away out
to Bonneroi, and I haf made de hats and de bonnets for the ladees of
Bonneroi for twenty year."

"Is it possible?" I said, much touched by the little story. "And the
ladies of Bonneroi, are they hard to please?"

Delle Josephine, who had spoken with the customary vim and gesture of
the French while--telling her tale, resumed her quilling and said, with
a shrug of one shoulder,

"They do not know much, and dat is true." I laughed at the ironical
tone.

"And you--you provide the _modes_?"

"I haf been to Quêbec" she said quietly.

"Twenty years ago," I thought, but had too much respect for the queer
little soul to say it aloud.

"I see amongst other things," I went on, "a most--remarkable--a very
pretty, I should say--hat in your window. The red one, you know, with
the bird of paradise."

Delle Josephine looked up quickly. "Dat is not for sale, _monsieur_."

"No? Why, I had some idea of perhaps purchasing it for a friend of mine.
Did you make that hat yourself?"

She nodded with a sort of conscious pride. Yet it was not for sale! I
wondered why. The strange scene of the foregoing evening came into my
mind, and I began to understand this singular--case of monomania. It
must be that having lived so many years in almost solitary confinement,
one might say, her mind had slightly given away, and she found her
only excitement and relaxation in posing before the glass in that
extraordinary manner. I hardly knew whether it would be an act of
kindness to remove the hat; she talked quite rationally and cheerfully,
and remembering the innate vanity of the French as a nation, I
concluded to let the matter rest That night I heard no talking in the
sitting-room. I slept profoundly, and woke up later than usual We were
not dug out yet, though two snow-boys with their shovels were doing
their best to unearth us. I waited some time for Delle Josephine to
appear with the tray; but she too was late, evidently, for at ten
o'clock she had not come. I dressed and went down stairs. As I passed
the sitting-room I saw her tricked out as before in the hat and the
antimacassar seated on the ottoman in front of the looking-glass.
Heavens, she looked more frightful than ever! I made up my mind to speak
to her at, once, and see if I could not stop such hideous mummery. But
when I advanced I perceived that indeed I had come too late. The figure
on the ottoman was rigid in death. How it ever held itself up at all
I could never think, for I gave a loud cry, and rushing from the room
knocked against the open door and fell down senseless.

Outside, I suppose, the snow-boys shovelled away as hard as ever. When I
came to myself I did not need to look around; I knew in a flash where
I was, and remembered what had happened. I ran to the shop door and
hammered with all my might.

"Let me out!" I cried. "Open the door! open the door! for Heaven's
sake!" Then I ran upstairs, and did the same at my window. It seemed
years upon years of time till they were enabled to open the door and let
me out. I rushed out bareheaded, forgetful of the intense cold, thinking
first of all of the priest _Père Le Jeune_, so strong is habit, so
potent are traditions. I knew where he lived, up the first turning in a
small red brick house next the church of St. Jean Baptiste. I told him
the facts of the case as well as I could and he came back at once with
me. There was nothing to be done. Visitation of God or whatever the
cause of death Delle Josephine Boulanger was dead. The priest lifted his
hands in horror when he saw the ghostly hat. I asked him what he knew
about her, but he seemed ignorant of everything concerning the poor
thing, except the _aves_ she repeated and the number of times she came
to confession. But when we came to look over her personal effects in the
drawers and boxes of the shop, there could be no doubt but that she had
been thoroughly though harmlessly insane. We found I should think about
one hundred and fifty boxes: from tiny little ones of pasteboard to
large square ones of deal, full of rows and rows of white quilled
ribbon, similar to the piece I had seen her working at on that last
night of her life on earth. Some of the ribbon was yellow with age,
others fresher looking, but in each box was a folded bit of paper with
these words written inside,

  _Pour l'ptite Catherine_.

"What money there was, _Père Le Jeune_ must have appropriated for I saw
nothing of any. After the dismal funeral, to which I went, I gathered my
effects together and went to the hotel. The first day I could proceed, I
returned to Montreal and have not visited Bonneroi since. The family
of _de la Corne de La Colombière_ still reside somewhere near Quebec, I
believe. The _château_ is called by the charming name of Port Joli, and
perhaps some day I may feel called upon to tell them of the strange fate
which befell their poor Josephine. Whether the melancholy accident which
partly bereft her of her reason was the result of carelessness I cannot
say but I shall be able, I think, to prove to them that she never forgot
the circumstance, and was to the day of her death occupied in making
ready for the little coffin and shroud of her '_p'tite Catherine_.' My
sketch of the frost bound Montmorenci was never finished, and indeed
my winter sketching fell through altogether after that unhappy visit
to Bonneroy. I was for weeks haunted by that terrible sight, half
ludicrous, half awful, and I have, now that I am married, a strong
dislike to scarlet in the gowns or head-gear of my wife and daughter."



The Story of Etienne Chezy D'Alencourt



CHAPTER I.


As my friends know, I was born an Englishman, spending the first
twenty-four years of my life in England. On my twenty-fifth birthday I
set foot on the shore of the great North American Continent, destined
for a time to be my home. Two days afterwards I entered the office set
apart for me in the handsome Government Buildings at Ottawa, and began
my duties. A transfer had recently been effected between the Home
and Canadian Civil Service, and I had been chosen to fill the vacant
colonial post. Having no ties or obligations of any kind I had nothing
to lose by the transaction except the pleasure and advantage of living
in England, which, however, had ceased for one or two reasons to be dear
to me.

I did not, however, remain very long in the Service. I found it pleasant
work but monotonous, and receiving shortly after I went out a legacy
bequeathed by a widowed aunt I had almost forgotten, determined to leave
it and devote myself to study and travel. Like many Englishmen, I had
taken no trouble to ascertain the real points of interest about me. I
had been content with mastering and getting through my work, and with
mingling out of hours with the small but thoroughly charming set I had
found ready to welcome me on my arrival as the "new Englishman." On the
whole, I was popular, though one great flaw--_i.e._--lack of high birth
and desirable home connections, weighed to an alarming extent with the
dowagers of the Capital.

I had, on leaving the Service, made up my mind to study the people of
the Dominion. The English Canadians were easily disposed of in this
way; most of them were Scotch, and the rest appeared to be Irish. I
then began on the Indian population. But this was not so easy. It seemed
impossible to find even a single Indian without going some distance.

At last I unearthed one descendant of the Red man who kept a small
tavern in the lower part of the town; a dirty frame tenement almost
entirely hidden by an immense sign hanging outside, having the figure,
heroic size of an Iroquois in full evening dress, feathers, bare legs
and tomahawk.

This place was known as "Tommy's." But Tommy himself was only half
an Indian, and swore such bad swears in excellent English, that I was
forced to leave after a minute's inspection.

Then I began on the French-Canadians. There were plenty of them. In the
Buildings, on the streets, in the markets, in shops, they were all
over. Some of the most charming people I know were French-Canadians.
My landlady and her husband, quiet, sober devout people, were
French-Canadians.

What I wanted to find, though, was a genuine unadulterated
French-Canadian of the class known as the _habitans_. I could recollect
many dark-eyed, fierce-mustached men whom I had seen since my residence
in Canada, and whom I conjectured must have been _habitans_. Up the
Gatineau and down the St. Lawrence, it would be easy to find whom I
wanted, but I preferred to wait on in town. I had many a disappointment.
One day it would be a cabman, another day a clerk. Though they all
_looked_ French, they invariably turned out to be English or Scotch. My
notions of hair and skin and eyes were being all turned upside down;
my favorite predispositions annulled, my convictions changed to
fallacies--in short I was thoroughly bewildered. I could not find my
_habitant_. At the same time, when I did find him, he would have to know
how to speak some English, for I could only speak very little French.
I read it well of course, wrote it quite easily, but on essaying
conversation was always seized with that instinctive horror of making a
fool of myself, which besets most Englishmen when they would attempt a
foreign language. Besides, the _patois_ these people spoke was vastly
different from ordinary French, as taught in schools and colleges, and
what it might be like I had not in those days the faintest idea, not
having read Rabelais.

The worst _désillusionnement_ I suffered I will recount. One day I
noticed an elderly man clad in corduroy trousers, shabby brown velveteen
coat, conical straw hat and dirty blue shirt, lounging about a wharf I
sometimes frequented where, at one time, would lay from thirty to fifty
barges laden with lumber. Bargetown it might have been called; it was
a veritable floating colony of French and Swede, Irish and Scotch,
jabbering and smoking by day and lying quietly at night under the stars,
save for the occasional jig and scrape of the fiddle of some active
Milesian. Here, had I fully known it, was my chance for observation,
but I was ignorant at that time of the ways of these people and did not
venture among them. But the man in the velvet coat interested me. He
gesticulated the whole time most violently, waved his arms about and
made great use of his pipe, which he used to point with. I could not
hear what he was saying for his back was turned to me and the wind
carried all he said to the bargemen, as he wished it to do I suppose.

How splendidly that coat becomes him, thought I. The descendant of some
fine old French settler, how superbly he carries himself!

The conical becomes on him a cocked hat and in place of ragged fringe
and buttons hanging by a single string, I see the buckles and bows, the
sword and cane of a by-gone age!

I made up my mind to address him, when to my disgust he got into one of
the barges, which moved off slowly, transporting him, as I supposed, to
his northern home.

The next morning the bell of my front door attracted my attention by
ringing three or four times. Evidently my landlady was out. I sauntered
to the door and found my _habitant_ of the velveteen coat and duty blue
shirt!

Gracious heaven! I was overcome! By what occult power had he been driven
here to deliver himself into my hands? Before I could speak, he said:

"Av ye plaze, sorr, will yez be having any carrpets to bate? I'm taking
orders against the sphring claning, sorr."

"Oh! are you?" said I. I began to feel very sorry for myself, very
sorry, indeed, at this supreme instant. "Do you live near here?" I
further inquired.

"Shure and I do, sorr. Jist beyant yez. I pass yez every day in the
week. Me number's 415"--He was about handing me a greasy bit of paper,
when I slammed the door in his face and retired to my own room to
meditate on the strange accent and peculiar calling of this descendant
of the "fine old French settler."

My next choice, however, proved a fortunate one. I got into a street-car
one evening late in the month of March. It was the winter street-car, a
great dark caravan, with a long narrow bench down either side and a mass
of hay all along the middle, with a melancholy lamp at the conductor's
end. Although fairly light outside, it was quite dark inside the
caravan, so the conductor set about lighting the lamp. This is the way
he did it. Opening the door he put his head in, looked all around, shut
the door and stopped his horses. Then he opened the door again and put
his head in again, keeping the door open this time that we might inhale
the fresh March night air. I say we, because when I grew accustomed to
the dark, I saw there was another occupant of the car, a man seated on
the opposite seat a little way down. The conductor felt under the seat
for something which I suppose was the can which, taken presently by him
to the corner grocery before which we had stopped, came back replenished
with coal oil. After he had filled the lamp, he lit in succession three
matches, persistently holding them up so that they all went out one
after the other. He felt in his pockets but he had no more. Then he
asked me. I had none. Then he asked the other man. The other man laughed
and replied in French. I did not understand what he said but saw him
supply the conductor with a couple of matches. When the lamp was finally
lighted I looked more closely at him. He was a working man from his
attire: colored shirt, coat of a curious bronze colour much affected by
the Canadian labourer, old fur cap with ears, and moccasins. At his feet
stood a small tin pail with a cover. His face was pale and singularly
well-cut. His hair was black and very smooth and shiny; a very slight
moustache gave character to an otherwise effeminate countenance and his
eyes were blue, very light blue indeed and mild in their expression. We
smiled involuntarily as the conductor departed. The man was the first to
speak:

"De conductor not smoke, surely," he said, showing me his pipe in one
hand. "I always have the matches."

"So do I, as a general thing,". I rejoined. "One never knows when a
match may be wanted in this country." I spoke rather surlily, for I
had been getting dreadfully chilled while the conductor was opening and
shutting the door. The man bent forward eagerly, though without a trace
of rudeness in his manner.

"You do not live here, eh?"

"Oh! yes, I do now, but I was thinking of England when I spoke."

"That is far away from here, surely."

"Ah! yes," I sighed. So did the man opposite me. We were silent then for
a few moments when he spoke again.

"There is a countree I should like to see and dat is France. I hear,
sir, I hear my mother talk of dat countree, and I tink--I should like to
go there. But that is far away from here, too far away, sure."

My heart leapt up. Here, if ever, must be the man I was in search of.

"You are a French-Canadian, I suppose?"

"Yes, Sir, I am dat."

"And where do you live?" said I.

"I work in de mill; de largess mill in the Chaudière. You know dat great
water, the fall under the bridge, dat we call the Chaudière."

"I know it well," said I, "but I have never gone properly over any of
the mills. I should like to go some day very much. Should I see you
anywhere if I went down?"

He stared, but gave me the name of his mill. It belonged to one of the
wealthiest lumber kings of the district. I resolved to go down the next
day.

"What is your name," I asked. The man hesitated a minute before he
replied,

"Netty."

"Netty!" I repeated "What a curious name! You have another name, I
expect. That must only be a nickname."

"_Mais oui Monsieur_. My name is much longaire than dat. My whole name
is Etienne Guy Chèzy D'Alencourt, but no man call me dat, specially in
de mill. 'Netty'--dey all know 'Netty.'"

It was a long name, truly, and a high-sounding one,--but I preferred
thinking of him by it than by the meaningless soubriquet of "Netty." At
the next corner he got out, touching his cap to me quite politely as he
passed.

I was in high spirits that evening, for I believed I had found my
_habitant_. I went down to the Chaudière the following day, and got
permission to go over Mr. ----'s mill I found it very interesting, but
my mind was not sufficiently centered on planks and logs and booms
to adequately appreciate them. I wanted "Netty." After I had made the
complete round of the mill I came upon him hard at work in his place
turning off planks in unfailing order as they whizzed along. The noise
was deafening, of bolts and bars, and saws and chains, with the roar of
the great cascade outside. He saw me and recognized me on my approach,
but he could not speak for some time. It was most monotonous work,
I thought. No conversation allowed, not even possible; the truly
demoniacal noise, yet just outside on the other side of a small window,
the open country, the mighty waters of the ever-boiling "Kettle," or
Chauldron, and the steep spray-washed cliff. Standing on my toes I
could, looking out of Netty's small window, discover all this. The
ice was still in the river, half the fall itself was frozen stiff, and
reared in gabled arches to the sky. I watched the two scenes alternately
until at 6 o'clock the wheels ran down, the belts slackened and the men
knocked off.

Netty walked out with me at my request, and learning that he had to
return in an hour I proposed we should have a meal together somewhere
and a talk at the same time. He must have been greatly astonished at
a complete stranger in another walk of life fastening upon him in this
manner, but he gave no hint of either surprise or fear, and maintained
the same mild demeanour I had noticed in him the day before.

It was darkening rapidly and I did not know where to go for a meal.
Netty told me he ought to go to St. Patrick St. I knew the locality and
did not think it necessary to go all that way, "unless anybody will be
waiting for you, expecting you."

"Oh! not dat I live in a boarding house, my mother--she in the countree,
far from here."

"Then, 'I said,' you can go where you like. Do you know any place near
here where we can get a cup of tea and some eggs? What will do for you,
I daresay, and I hardly want as much."

But he knew of no reliable place and after walking about for a quarter
of an hour we finally went to the refreshment room at the station and
ordered beer and tea and sandwiches.

"I daresay you wonder at my bringing you out here with me. You'd get a
better meal perhaps at your boarding-house. But do you know I've taken
a fancy to you and, I want to see a little more of you and learn how you
live, if you will kindly tell me. I am interested in your people, the
French-Canadians."

This sounds very clumsily put and so it did then, but I was obliged to
explain my actions in some way and what is better than the truth? Lies,
I have no doubt to some people, but I was compelled to be truthful
to this man who carried a gentle and open countenance with him. No
gentleman could have answered me more politely than he did now.

"Sir I am astonish--_oui un peu_, but if there is anyting I can tell
you, anyting I can show you I shall be ver glad. The mill--how do you
find dat, Sir?

"I like to watch you work very much, but the noise"--

Netty laughed, showing his radiant white teeth.

"_Mais oui_, de noise is bad, but one soon custom to dat. I am in
de mill for four year. I come from up in de north--from the Grand
Calumet--do you know there, Sir?"

"That is an island is it not? Yes, I know where it is, near Allumette,
but I have never been so far up on the Ottawa. And the Gatineau, that is
a river, is it not? What pretty names these French ones are! Gatineau!"
I repeated thinking. "That comes, I fancy having heard somewhere, from
Demoiselle Marie Josephe Gatineau Duplessis, wife of one of the first
French settlers. By the way your name is a curious one. Say it again."

Netty very gravely repeated, "Etienne Guy Chézy D'Alencourt."

"Was your father a native Canadian?"

"_Oui Monsieur_."

"The name seems familiar to me," I remarked. "I daresay if you cared
to look the matter up, you might find that your great grandfather was
something or other under the Intendant Bigot or Vaudreuil, or earlier
still under Maisonneuve the gallant founder of Montreal. Ah! how
everybody seems to have forgotten those old days. Even in Canada, you
see, there is something to look back upon."

My companion seemed rather puzzled as I talked in this strain. Very
probably it was over his head. I found he could neither read nor write,
had been reared in the pine-clad and icy fastnesses of Grand Calumet
Island all alone by his mother--an old dame now about seventy. He
himself was about thirty he judged, though he was far from sure. He was
a good Catholic in intention, though very ignorant of all ritual. From
his youth he had been employed on the rafts and lumber-slides of the
Ottawa river until his four years' session at the mill, where he had
picked up the English he knew. He had made no friends he told me. The
more I conversed with him the more I was impressed with his simple and
polite manners, his innate good breeding, and his faith and confidence
in the importance of daily toil and all honest labour. He smoked a
little, drank a little, but never lost his head became obtrusively
familiar, noisy or inquisitive. I felt ashamed to think how deliberately
I had sought him out, to pry into the secrets and facts of his daily
life, but solaced myself into the assurance that it could not at least
bode him harm and it might possibly do him some service.

When we returned to the mill, I was astonished at the weirdness of the
scene. The entire premises were flooded with the electric light and the
men were working away, and the saws, belts and bars all in motion as if
it were the middle of the day. What a pandemonium of sound and colour
and motion it was! The strong resinous odor of the pine-wood mingled
with the fresh air blown in from the river, and I inhaled both eagerly.

It was almost powerful enough to affect the head, and I fancied I caught
myself reeling a little as I walked out on to the bridge, swaying just
the least bit as the torrent of angry water swept under it I had said
"_Bonsoir_" to my friend the Frenchman and was free to go home. But I
lingered long on the heaving bridge, though it was cold and starless,
and I got quite wet with the dashed-up spray.

Up the river gleamed the icy masses of the frozen fall, beyond that the
northern country of the northern waters stretched away up to the North
Pole with little, if any, human interruption.

Down the river on the three superb cliffs, rising high out of the water,
sparkled the many lights in the Gothic windows of the buildings. On
either side were the illuminated mills with their rushing logs and
their myriad busy hands piling, smoothing and sawing the monsters of the
forest helpless under the fetters of leather and steel.



CHAPTER II.


For the events which followed, I hold myself alone and altogether
responsible. Nearly every evening I spent at the Chaudière, either
watching my new friend at his work or lounging on the bridge, and always
finishing the day by walking home with him to his boarding house. Thus
I got to know him very well, and I soon discovered one thing that he
was far from strong. Even a life-long residence among the purifying and
strengthening airs of the keen fresh North had not protected him from
the insidious ravages of that dread complaint--consumption. I fancied
the hereditary taint must be on his father's side, for he always alluded
to his mother as being exceptionally healthy. On Sundays I accompanied
him to Church in the morning at the Basilica; in the afternoons we used
to walk all over the town in various directions. Of course, on all
these excursions, I did most of the talking. He was a good listener, and
readily improved in understanding and appreciation. Noticing that he
was particularly fond of any story connected with the life of the early
French in Canada, I read up all the works I could find on the subject,
going often to the Parliamentary Library for that purpose, and retailing
the more interesting and intelligible facts to him afterwards. Crusoe
did not watch over and educate Friday any more carefully than I my mild
and gentlemanly "Shantyman" in his blue shirt and canvas trowsers.

I grew at last, after three months' intimacy with him, quite to love
him, and I am sure my affection was reciprocated for he ever welcomed
me with a strong, clinging pressure of my hand and a smile which was a
brighter one than that which his face had worn when I met him first. A
strange friendship, but one which I felt to be so absorbing that I could
not have endured other friends. April passed, and May, and with the hot
weather Etienne, whose health gave way all at once, would have to return
for a short visit to the old mother all by herself on the island of
Grand Calumet.

I feared to let him go, he looked more delicate in my eyes every day,
but I knew it would be good for him in many ways. So a day came that saw
my friend D'Alencourt go back to his northern home. He would not ask me
to go and visit him, he had too much natural pride for that, but I made
up my mind to find him out, for all that. As may be supposed I was like
the traditional fish out of the traditional water for some time after
his departure.

I read and amused myself in any way that offered, but cared not to
experiment on any more French-Canadians.

In my reading I read for two, and made notes of anything I thought would
interest Etienne. One day I came across the same name as his own, borne
by a certain young soldier, a sprig of the French _noblesse_ who had
followed in the train of Bigot, the dissolute and rapacious Governor
of New France. I meditated long over this. The name was identical--Guy
Chézy D'Alencourt. In the case of my friend the mill-hand there was
simply the addition of Etienne, the first Christian name. Could he
possibly be the descendant of this daring and gallant officer, of whose
marriage and subsequent settling in Canada I could find no mention?
The thing seemed unlikely, yet perfectly possible. I had predicted it
myself. As if to fasten my thoughts even more securely on the absent
Etienne that very day arrived a letter from Grand Calumet. It was
addressed to me in a laboured but most distinct hand. I thought that
Etienne had commissioned the priest doubtless to write for him or some
other friend, but when I opened it I found to my great surprise that it
was from Etienne himself and in his own handwriting, the result he told
me of work at home in his Lower Town boarding-house.

I dropped the letter. He had taught himself to, write! This was the
first fruit of my intimacy with him, and I hardly knew whether I was
pleased or not. But I clearly saw that this night-work added to the
arduous toil and late hours imposed upon him by his place in the mill
had probably been the cause of undermining his bodily strength. The
letter itself ran:

  "Dear Sir,--The frend of Etienne D'Alenconrt, he can write you--he
  can send you a _lettre_ from the Grand Calumet, his island that
  is  green, Monsieur, and full of sweet berries. If you would come,
  Mossier, you would find Etienne and his mother reddy to do all they
  can. Still, Monsieur shall in this please alway himself, the friend
  and benefactor of Etienne Chézy D'Alencourt."


  GRAND CALUMET ISLAND.

  "It was at night, when Monsieur had gone home, that I learnt myself
  to write and thank him for all teaching from the books beside."

    "E."

Of course, I would accept the invitation. I decided to go in a week's
time and wrote to that effect. I wished to reprimand him for having
overtaxed his strength as I was sure he had done in sitting up teaching
himself how to write, but respect for the dear fellow's perseverance and
ability restrained me.

Only when I got him again, I said to myself, I would stop that. I took
with me a gun, fishing rods and tackle, a mosquito net, plenty of cigars
and a hamper of tinned meats, tea, coffee and biscuits.

My journey was nearly altogether by water and I enjoyed every inch of
the beautiful river. After I reached the landing stage, a place called
Lichfield, I had to wait an hour before proceeding in the direction
which I had found out it would be necessary to follow in order to find
Etienne and his mother.

I shall never forget the delight of that one hour passed in rambling
through the lonely green wood that covered the island down to the shore.
The ferns were young and freshly unfurled, the moss was everywhere,
green and close and soft like velvet and star-clustering, gray and
yellow. The surviving flowers were the large white blossoms of the
woodland lily, and the incoming _Linnæa_ began to show the faint pink of
its twin bells, afterwards to be so sweet and fragrant.

I thought of that passage in the letter which told of "the island that
was green and full of sweet berries." Not a bad description for a person
whom the world must perforce term an illiterate man.

When my conveyance arrived, it proved to be a stage of antiquated type
and I suffered horribly during the journey of three hours. At the end
of that time, I was set down with my luggage at the gate of a small log
hut, with a little garden in front, bordered with beautiful pink and
green stones, the like of which I had never seen before. A snake fence
ran in front of this and on two sides, at the back was a thick wood.

Etienne was ready for me at which I rejoiced, fearing to make myself
known to the dame his mother.

Once more I felt that honest and affectionate hand grasp, once more I
met those clear and steady blue eyes, and I noted the flush of pride
which overspread his face when I told him that I had received his letter
and marvelled at it.

"Mossieu know so much and Etienne so ver little." But when the flush had
died away, I was pained exceedingly to see the pallor of his cheeks and
the prominence of his high cheekbones. His walk was unsteady too, he
put his feet down, I noticed, as if they were light instead of solid
supports for his body, a sure sign of great physical weakness. My worst
fears were realized when I saw on the deal table in the front room,
furnished with home-made rugs drawn from woolen rags dyed all colors and
some plain deal furniture stained brown, a little pile of books. There
were two copy-books, two dictionaries, a small "Histoire de Canada" and
some illustrated magazines. I saw that he could read, too, pretty well,
for he presently drew my attention to a very old book indeed, that lay
on a shelf, a little Roman Catholic missal with tarnished gold clasps
and scarlet edges.

"Dat was belong to my fader," he said, "for many a year; and it was from
his fader he get it."

I looked at it eagerly all over. The fly-leaf bore no inscription, but
up in one corner, in faded red ink, was something that looked like a
monogram with a device underneath. I would have examined it at once but
that Etienne was anxious to read me a little of the Latin which he had
picked out with infinite patience, I should think. I promised to help
him a little occasionally, but told him that he was not looking well and
had better be content with ignorance in this lovely summer weather.

"When the winter comes and you are back at the mill, you can study as
much as you like."

The old dame was sallow and sunken from a life of incessant hard work.
The climate itself, so changeable as well as inclement in these northern
wilds, is enough to pinch the face and freeze the blood, although at the
time of my visit it was hot, intensely hot for so early in the
summer. Moreover, the old dame was not given to talking. So taciturn a
Frenchwoman I never met elsewhere. They are usually characterized by a
vivacious loquacity which is the seal of their nationality. But this one
was silent in the extreme and had, as her son told me, never once held
a conversation with him on any subject whatever. Of his father he knew
literally only this fact--that he had been a "shantyman" in his time
too, and was killed by a strained rope striking him across the middle.
Etienne did not remember him. The time sped on. They made me as
comfortable as they could in the front or "best" room, but, when I
thought it would not offend them, I slept outside--"_couchant à la belle
etoile_" as Rousseau has it--and beautiful nights those were I spent
in this manner. We had plenty of fruit--wild strawberries and
raspberries--pork and beans and potatoes forming the staple articles of
diet. There was no cow, no horse, no dog belonging to the house. Fish
we could get ourselves in plenty, and eggs made their appearance in
a farmer's wagon about twice a week. Etienne and I spent entire days
out-of-doors, shooting, fishing, walking, reading. I tried to take his
mind off his books, but it was of no use. He had got so attached to
his studies and new pursuits in life that one day he startled me by
asserting that he did not intend to go back to the mill in future. I
remonstrated gently with him, reminding him that as yet his education
was very incomplete, that few situations of the kind he probably aspired
to would be open to him for some time to come, and that in the meantime
he must suffer from want of money, and thus be the cause of seeing his
mother suffer as well. But he startled me further in reply by stating
that he knew himself to be slowly dying of consumption and that he
would shortly be of little use to anyone. His wish was to leave Canada
altogether and die in--France! France, the country of his dreams, the
goal of his dying ambition, the land of the golden _fleur de lis_,
of the chivalrous soldiers, the holy women and the pious fathers who
colonized the land of his birth!

I remonstrated with him as I have said. I expostulated in every key; I
took his mother into my confidence as well as I could since she knew not
a word of English; I laughed at him, I wept over him, I endeavoured by
every argument in my power to make him change my mind, but--

I failed. Then when I understood how firmly his mind was set upon this
extraordinary idea, I made up my mind to accompany him, in fact, not to
leave him at all until he either grew wiser and stronger, or else died
the death he predicted for himself. I found that the old dame had quite
a store of money saved by her little by little every year from Etienne's
earnings, and from what she made by selling the rugs I mentioned. These
sold for a dollar and upwards according to the size. Putting some of my
own to this fund of hers, I calculated she had enough to go upon for at
least a year. Wants are few in that district. Then I turned my attention
to Etienne. He was growing worse; he would lie for hours reading or
attempting to read with great beads of perspiration mounting on his
brow. The heat was excessive and proved very bad for him. I judged he
would be better in town and after I had been on the island for about two
months, I begged him to return with me. I promised him that once there,
I would not leave him for a day, and would even consider the possibility
of taking him across the ocean. He still maintained his calm and perfect
manners and insisted upon paying his fare down the river which I let him
do, knowing that soon his stock of money would be exhausted and he would
then be at my mercy. No sign of cupidity was apparent in his demeanor,
yet I wondered how he ever thought to reach France unless I paid his
way. Like all consumptives, he had a trick of rallying now and then and
appearing better than he really was. This occurred on our arrival in
town. He took long walks with me again daily and seemed so much stronger
that I again dared to suggest the propriety of his returning to the
mill, but to no purpose. He drooped at the very thought, and I perceived
that his apparent recovery was but a delusion, I soon saw he was weaker
than ever. But whenever he was at all able, he persisted in reading what
he could understand and really his progress was a marvel to me. So it
came about that one evening, towards the close of September where we had
sometimes to light the lamp as early as half-past six, I returned to my
rooms about that hour of the day (we shared rooms together, so fond
had I grown of him, and I trust, he of me) to find him poring over the
little Catholic Missal.

"In this light? This will never do. And you could not light the lamp
yourself, my poor Etienne!"

When it was lighted, I saw indeed from his weak and excited appearance
that he was unable to do anything for himself. Lying on my sofa, he had
in one hand the scarlet-edged missal, and in the other the book I have
referred to, which contained a short sketch of Guy Chézy D'Alencourt the
handsome and reckless lieutenant of _La Nouvelle France_.

He could hardly speak but through his gasping I could gather that he
wished me to examine the words in the corner of fly-leaf I had once
noticed before and believed to be a monogram. I quieted him a little,
then bringing the lamp-light to bear upon the faded ink, I was able
to decipher the device, which comprised a crown, three _fleurs-de-lis_
under, and a lamb bearing a banner, with the letters I.H.S. upon it.

"The arms of Rouen!" I exclaimed "and above them, some initials, yes, a
monogram!"

My companion sat up in his excitement.

"Ah! dat is what I cannot make quite out! Tree letter--_oui, vite, cher
mosdieu, vite_!"

I had to look very closely indeed to decipher these, but with the aid of
a small lens I found them to be "G. C. D'A."

There could be little doubt but that Etienne was the lineal descendant
of Guy Chézy D'Alencourt, native of Rouen, who came to Canada in the
same year as Bigot. I told him so and wondered what his thoughts could
be, for clasping my hands with as much force as he possessed--and that
is at times a wonderful force in the clasp of the dying--he said with a
great effort:

"If dat is so, _mossieu_, if dat is so, I have _O le bon Dieu_--I
have--_mossieu_, I have--O if dat is true"--

He fell back and I caught no more. The excitement proved too much for my
poor friend. When I spoke to him, he was unconscious and he never fully
recovered his senses. Alas! he lay in a few weeks, beneath the sod of
Grand Calumet Island, and France is ignorant of the fact that a true
aristocrat and simple-hearted gentleman existed in the humble person
of my friend the _habitant_, Etienne Guy Chézy D'Alencourt, _alias_
"Netty."



Descendez a L'Ombre, ma Jolie Blonde.


The Honourable Bovyne Vaxine Vyrus refused to be vaccinated. Stoutly,
firmly and persistently refused to be vaccinated. Not even the
temptation of exposing to the admiring gaze of a medical man the superb
muscles and colossal proportions of an arm which had beaten Grace and
thrashed (literally) Villiers of the Guards, weighed with him.

"It's deuced cool!" he said, to his cousin Clarges, of Clarges St.
Mayfair, a fair, slight fellow, with a tiny yellow moustache. "Haven't
I been six times to India, and twice to Africa; that filthy Algiers, you
remember, and Turkey, and New Orleans, and Lisbon, and Naples? and
now, when I was done only eight years ago at home, here I am to be done
again, where, I am sure, it all looks clean enough and healthy! It makes
me ill, and I _won't_ be done; laid up for a week and lose all the fun I
came for!"

"Bovey, though you _are_ the strongest fellow in England, you're no less
a coward!"

Young Clarges looked up as he spoke, seriously: "_I_ shall be done!"

"You? Well, so I should expect from a baby like you, Arthur! You will
never grow up, never learn to think for yourself! Now let me alone on
the subject, and let us look up this country place we were told about!"
But Clarges was not easily silenced.

"Think of Lady Violet, Bovey! If anything were to happen to you out
here, and the children, Bovey,--Rex and Florence, you know!"

"Oh! cut it, now, Arthur; I tell you it's of no use!"

Young Clarges looked out across the river, and bit the tiny yellow
moustache. "Then I won't be done, either!" said he to himself. "It's
borne in upon me that one of us has got to get this accursed thing, and
if I can prevent it, it shan't be Bovey!" What a strange scene it was
beneath, around, above and opposite them! Beneath flowed the river,
solid with sawdust, the yellow accumulation of which sent up a strong
resinous smell that almost made them giddy; to the left the tumultuous
foam of the Chaudière cast a delicate veil of spray over the sharp
outlines of the bridge traced against a yellow sky; to the right, the
water stretched away in a dull gray expanse, bordered by grim pines and
flat sterile country. Around them the three mighty cliffs on which
the Capital is built, above them the cold gray of an autumnal sky, and
opposite them the long undulations of purplish brown hills that break
the monotony of the view, and beyond which stretch away to an untrodden
north the wastes and forests of an uncleared continent.

"Are we looking due north, now, Arthur, do you know?"

"I suppose so," returned Clarges. He was astride a cannon and still
biting the tiny moustache. "Yes, by the direction of the sunset we must
be, I suppose. I say, if we are, you know, I should like to be able to
tell between what two trees--it would have to be between two of those
trees there--we should have to walk to get to the North Pole."

The Hon. Bovyne looked around suddenly and laughed. He was fishing
apparently in his pockets for a paper or something of the kind, as he
had a number of letters in his hand, looking them over.

"What two trees? Where? Arthur, you _are_ a donkey. What are you talking
about?"

"I say," returned Clarges, "that it is perfectly true that as we sit
here, facing due north, all we have to do is to walk straight over this
river--"

"On the sawdust?"

"Certainly, over those hills and between two of those trees in order
to get to the North Pole. Curious, isn't it? If you look awfully close,
real hard, you know, you can almost count their branches as they stand
up against the sky. Like little feathers--huff-f-f-f--one could almost
blow them away!"

The Honorable Bovyne laughed again. Clarges was a mystery to him, as
to many others. Half-witted he sometimes called him, though on other
occasions he stood in awe of his bright, candid, fearless nature, and
his truthful and reckless tongue.

"I say," went on Clarges excitedly, shading his eyes with his hand.
"There are two trees out there in a straight line from this very cannon
that--that I should know again, Bovey! Do look where I point now like a
good fellow. Don't you see there, following the chimney of that big red
place, factory or other, right in a line with that at the very top of
the hill at its highest point, two trees that stand a little apart from
the others and have such funny branches--Oh! you must be able to see
them by those queer branches! One crooks out on one side just as the
other does on the other tree. That isn't very lucid, but you see what I
mean can't you? They make a sort of--of--lyre shape."

The Hon. Bovyne shaded his eyes with his hand and looked out over the
river and distant hills. "I see a line of trees, feathery trees, you
aptly call them my dear Arthur, but I can't make out your particular
two. How is it possible, at such a distance, to see anything like a
_lyre_ of all things? Come along, I've found the address I wanted. It
reads most peculiarly. It seems there are still a great number of French
people around here, in fact, all over this Province which they sometimes
call Lower Canada. Do you remember much of your French?" I spoke a lot
in Algiers of course but I fancy it isn't much like this jargon. Our
destination is or appears to be, _c/o Veuve Peter Ross, Les Chats_,
pronounced _Lachatte_, so Simpson told me.

"Who told you about the place?" enquired young Clarges getting off the
cannon? "Simpson? What sort of a fellow is he?"

"Who? Simpson?" said his cousin in turn. "Um--not bad. Been out here too
long, though. Awfully quiet, goes in for steady work and takes hardly
any exercise. I wonder why it is the fellows here don't walk more! New
country and all that; I should have thought they would all go in for
country walks and shooting and sports of all kinds. They don't, you
know, from some reason or other. It can't be the fault of the country."

"You forget the roads, Bovey, and the fences, and the interminable
distances and the immense rivers, and the long winter. I say, it looks
like snow to-night, doesn't it?"

"What do you know about snow!" rejoined the Hon. Bovyne. "Let us get
on, there's a good fellow--confound you! don't stare at those imaginary
trees any longer, but come along."

Certainly young Clarges was possessed with the queerest fancy about
those trees. "I say, Bovey, they were funny, though, to strike me like
that, out of all the others! I am sure I should know them again. Perhaps
some day we'll take a fly and go out there--I wonder if there's an inn?
Does what's her name, your old Scotch lady, keep an inn, or is it a farm
we're going to?"

"Scotch? Why do you say Scotch? She's French, I tell you. Simpson says
she can't speak a word of English."

"But 'Peter Ross' is Scotch, isn't it? At least you can't make it
French, however you twist it."

"I'm not anxious to twist it. Don't you see, Arthur, she is evidently
a Frenchwoman who married a man called Peter Ross; she is the _veuve_,
widow, you know! of the lamented Scotchman. Now do you understand? But
it _is_ peculiar."

"Very," said Clarges. "When do we start?"

"There's a train to-morrow morning at eight o'clock, but I thought we
had better hire a trap, and a man to bring the trap back, and put all
our things, tents and so on, into it, and go out comfortably so as to
see the country."

"All right!" said Clarges. "By Jove, what a splendid night it's going
to be, stars out already, Bovey! Don't you hope it'll be like this
tomorrow? Shall we camp out the first night and think of--of--Lady
Violet by our camp fire, and Rex and Florence--how they'd like to see
us, wouldn't they? And they can't, you know, they're three thousand
miles away, trying to make out each other's faces in the November fog,
eh! Bovey? I say, what shall we get to eat out there, at Lachatte, you
know, the country always makes me desperately hungry."

"Oh! we shall do well enough. Simpson says she is a capital old woman,
lives entirely alone; will cook for us, wait on us, make us pancakes,
I expect, and give us plenty of that stuff we had this morning at the
hotel."

"Sweet stuff?" asked Clarges. "_I_ know. Syrup, maple syrup, that'll
do."

Simpson, the authority, thrice quoted by the elder of the two
Englishmen, appeared at dinner with them that evening. He was a
hard-working, stodgy son of person who had come out to the Canadian
Civil Service fifteen years, ago, lived much by himself until he took a
wife out of a Canadian village, a phlegmatic, stolid, unimaginative
sort of a girl, who was nevertheless a good wife and an excellent
housekeeper. Simpson sniffed at the dinner. It wasn't as good as his
own. He felt ill at ease in the presence of the two men, whose airy
talk and loud laughter struck him with a keen sense of its novelty. They
joked about everything. Clarges particularly was in high feather. The
wine, which came partly from the hotel and partly from the Hon. Bovyne's
hamper, flowed often and freely, and Simpson, who was a very moderate
fellow, wondered at the quantity his friends seemed to be able to
imbibe. "Without showing any traces of it, either," he said to himself.
"All this vivacity is natural; I remember the type; in fact, I was
something like it myself ten or twelve years ago."

After dinner, Clarges rushed up stairs and down again with a small
silk plush packet of photographs tied with ribbons. The men were in the
smoking room.

"I say, I want Simpson to see Lady Violet, Bovey."

"All right, and the children too? You sentimental ass, Arthur!" Clarges
laughed. It was a funny laugh, a kind of inane ripple that nevertheless
tickled everybody who heard it. "But it's too smoky here. Come up stairs
to the drawing room. There's a jolly big drawing room with a piano, and
we can say what we want to, everyone stares here so!"

"I should think they would," said Simpson quietly. "Why do you get
yourself up like that, simply because you're in Canada? A knitted
waistcoat, three sizes too large for you--"

"That's to admit of heavy underclothing," said Clarges, not in the least
perturbed. "Knickerbockers," continued Simpson, "that are certainly one
size too small; a cap that looks like a hangman's, and a coat that must
have come off Praed St."

The Hon. Bovyne laughed long and loud. "Oh, Arthur, Arthur!" he said.
But young Clarges did not mind in the least. Indeed, had he but known
it, and be it remembered to his merit that he did not know it, he made
a fair and manly picture as he stood under the light of the chandelier.
His slim, well-knit figure was more prepossessing than the herculean
proportions of his cousin, "the strongest man in England;" his crisp
fair hair brushed boyishly up on one side and his well-trimmed moustache
of silky yellow, his keen gray eyes and delicate features, all went far
in point of attractiveness, especially when added to these mere physical
details, rang the infectious laugh, clear, hearty and youthful, and
spoke the natural, honest, unrestrained tongue.

In the drawing room Clarges established himself on a sofa between the
other two. "Now, Simpson," he said, "you must excuse me calling you
Simpson so freely, by the way, but you know, Bovey always calls you
Simpson--you don't mind, do you? You bang away at my clothing all you
like, and in return I'll call you Simpson. Now I'm going to show
you Lady Violet. You know who she is, she is Bovey's wife, _and_ the
loveliest woman in England. Loveliest woman in England, look at that!"
Clarges held up very carefully, out at arm's length, a very fine
photograph of an undeniably beautiful woman. "Bovey's wife." he
ejaculated again. "You never saw her, so you don't know what beauty
is, do you? But here's the next best thing, her photograph, and such a
photograph! Now, you be good, as we say to the children, and I'll show
you that again after all the others." Next he showed him in a sort of
ecstasy, Bovey's children.

"Rex and Florence," he said, in an awe-struck tone. Bovey laughed, so
did Simpson. So would anybody have done.

"What are you laughing at," said young Clarges, solemnly. "Oh, at me!
that's all right, everybody laughs at me. I knew it couldn't be the
children. Now here's another lovely girl," and then there was another
and still another, and then a group in hunting attire just after
the breakfast; then pretty interiors with dainty rooms and women
and children and dogs, a capital likeness of Fred Burnaby, Vyrus'
fellow-officer, autographs of Gordon and Wolseley, a garden party at
Clarges Mount, a water-party at Richmond, photograph's and sketches
taken in Algiers, Cairo, Damascus, Bombay and Edinburgh. Simpson sat
through all this slightly bored and confused. What had he to do with
this kind of life? Once he had had some gleams of it, it is true,
but that was years ago, before his modest little establishment was in
existence, presided over by the plain, but virtuous Matilda of his later
days.

"Well, now," said he, preparing to take his leave, "is there anything
further you want to know about your plans, for I suppose I shall
scarcely see you again before you leave if you get off tomorrow morning
as you intend. One thing--of course you've been vaccinated?"

The Hon. Bovyne muttered, "bah!" Clarges began putting the photographs
away, all but Lady Violet.

"Then you haven't been done, eh?" said Simpson, interrogatively. "I
would if I were you. You can't tell where you're going or whom you'll
meet. Why, you can 'do' yourself if you object to a medical man fussing
around."

"Can you?" said Clarges.

"I don't object," said Bovey, loftily; "but I must say I think it is
making a ridiculous and most unnecessary fuss about the matter. Why,
there are half a dozen diseases as virulent as the small-pox stalking
about in every large town, and we don't take those! Why should we take
the small-pox when we don't take the cholera, or the--the--"

"Yes," observed Simpson, in his quiet manner, "I thought you would stick
for want of details. The fact is, that you can inoculate for small-pox,
and you can't as yet, for cholera or leprosy, and so wise people accept
the fact, the revelation if you will, and get vaccinated. However, as
far as your immediate surroundings go, you're safe enough. Old Mrs. Ross
will do all she can for you, and it isn't far, only twenty two miles
from town after all. You'll be walking in in a day or two for another
tent or a barrel of whiskey. Nothing like whiskey, Canadian whiskey, out
in camp on cold nights." Simpson got up.

"I wonder," said he, suddenly, "how you escaped being done on the train.
You came up from Quebec _via_ St. Martin's Junction, didn't you?"

"Oh! your importunate Inspector did make an effort on my behalf, but I
was firm. Nearly had a lodging in the Police Station though, but I told
him who we were and swore to having marks the size of flat-irons on both
arms, so he let me go."

"And you," said Simpson, turning to Clarges. "Me! oh! I shall be done.
I say, couldn't I walk out with you now and see a doctor about it? I
believe I will, Bovey, if you can spare me. For look you, Simpson, I am
the plaything of his leisure hours, a kind of Yorick, you know, and he
might be dull."

The Hon. Bovyne looked grave for a second, "I believe I _should_ be dull
without you, dear boy, though you are a crank. Let me see, how old are
you, Arthur?"

"Twenty-two," answered Clarges. "Good heaven!" exclaimed the Hon.
Bovine, "and I am getting perilously near to forty. We'll change the
subject. I'm very sleepy. Don't expect to find me up when you come
in, Arthur; to-morrow night, remember, we may be sleeping on the cold
ground, I shall get all the rest I can to-night." Clarges and the other
man took their leave.

"Once more, Bovey," said the former, "won't you be done? Simpson, make
him! See here, look once more at Lady Violet, speak with _her_ lips,
look with _her_ eyes--the loveliest woman in England!"

"Go and get 'done,' as you call it, for heaven's sake, and let me
alone!" was all he got in reply.

But Clarges did not get done. He had an idea and this was his idea: To
walk to some doctor recommended by Simpson and procure an instrument
suitable for the purpose, and the necessary material, and to vaccinate
his cousin himself. The first part was easy enough. Simpson vaguely
wondering at his light-hearted talk, left him at a doctor's surgery
door, and Clarges, who could always get what he wanted from anybody in
any part of the world, soon persuaded the doctor to give him a "point"
and all necessary instructions.

"A small lancet is really a better thing," said that gentleman, "but you
will manage all right, I daresay. We must really take every precaution
we can. Good evening."

All this was easy; now arose the difficulty, how best to tackle Bovey.

"He's such a giant of a fellow," thought Clarges. "But if he is only
asleep as he hinted he would be, there'll not be much difficulty.
What will he do when he finds it out in the morning, supposing I am
successful in operating upon him to-night? What a suggestive word! I am
quite the surgeon. But I'll do it--Arthur Clarges, see that you _do_ do
it, by all you hold dear and sacred in old England!"

On his return, however, to the hotel, he found that his cousin was
clearly wide-awake again.

"Hang it all!" he said to himself, "why isn't he asleep?" But the Hon.
Bovyne was not in the least sleepy. He rallied Arthur on his poor
arm but fortunately did not ask to look at it. He ordered up a sherry
cobbler apiece and brought out some of his rarest weeds. "I say, what do
you think of Simpson, Bovey?" said Clarges, suddenly.

"Think? why, that there's nothing in him to think about."

"Did you know he was married?"

"No; is he?" Bovey was always laconic.

"Yes, and he has four children. Just think, four! Two boys and two
girls."

"How interesting!" The two men smoked silently for a few minutes, then
Clarges said, "It must be a beautiful thing to be married, you know."

"Well, I _ought_ to know," returned his cousin.

Clarges put his cigar down and went on. "To have somebody that belongs
to you, and to know that you belong to somebody; that's marriage, and I
think it must be very beautiful. Of course, you belong to other people
too, just the same, and they belong to you, but not so much, not in the
same way. You don't go to church all in a tremble with your father and
your mother, or your sister or your brother. You don't wear a ring--a
beautiful, great broad band of gold, you know, always shining there
on your finger--or you don't put one on for anybody else save just the
person that belongs to you in that way, in the way of marriage, you
know. And to be able to think wherever you are, 'Well, there is that
person, anyway, thinking of me, waiting for me; the whole world doesn't
matter if that person is really there, anywhere, thinking of me, waiting
for me.' Now, you know, _I'll_ never feel that, never, in this world.
What good is there in me? I may be Arthur Clarges, of Clarges, of
course, but without money, that means nothing. I say, Bovey, it's rather
ghastly, but it's perfectly true. I haven't a single soul in the world
but you and Lady Violet to think of me at all, or for me to think of."

"I don't suppose you have," said the Hon. Bovyne, thoughtfully. "You are
a lone beggar, Arthur, but a cheery one nevertheless."

"So you see," Clarges went on, "If in accompanying you around the world
in search of new pleasures and exciting experiences, anything happens to
me, you know, Arthur Clarges, of Clarges, nobody need mind. There isn't
anybody to mind."

"All this because Simpson has got four children! Well, I hope you'll
get married yet, Arthur, you queer fish, and have six, two more than
Simpson. I know what you are driving at, however. You think me a selfish
brute. You can't understand how I can leave Lady Vi., and the two kids,
and go off annually on tours of exploration and so forth. I tell you,
I am the better for it, and she is the better for it, and nobody is any
the worst for it, unless it be yourself. Men who have knocked about as
I have done, will continue to knock about as long as they live. In the
army, out of the army, all the same. Lady Vi. understands me, and I her,
and you forget, Arthur, that you are very--young."

"Then may I never get any older," said Charles, almost rudely.

Not long afterwards his cousin, slightly heavy with wine, went to bed.
Clarges, abnormally wakeful, tried to read _Bell's Life_ which lay
before him and waited until Bovey was fast asleep. They occupied the
same room, a large double-bedded one, which opened into a bathroom and
parlour _en suite_. When he was perfectly certain that his cousin was
sound asleep, so sound that "a good yelp from the county pack, and a
stirring chorus of 'John Peel' by forty in pink could not wake him,"
thought Clarges, the latter undertook his delicate task and accomplished
it. He did it quickly and skilfully with a tiny lancet he found in his
cousin's well-appointed travelling bag. Bovey never stirred. Clarges
next undertook to "do" himself. Then a strange thing happened. He
had gone to the glass and bared his left arm when a sudden faintness
overcame him. He tried to shake it off and sat down. Presently it left
him and he felt quite as usual. Then he made a second attempt. The same
thing occurred again. This time it was worse, and sight and strength
failing, he sank on his own bed, fainting. By a tremendous effort he
prevented entire unconsciousness from taking place and lay there half
dressed and tremulous.

"Well, I _am a fool_! I can't help it. I can't try any more to-night,
for I am as weak and sleepy--if I can get up and undress it's as much
as I am capable of. But Bovey's all right. There's Lady Violet"--turning
his eyes to the photograph he had stuck in the looking glass
frame--"she'd thank me if she knew." Sweet Lady Vi--so good to all
around her--so good to me--dear Lady Vi, the loveliest woman in England!

When Clarges awoke he was chilled and dazed, couldn't remember where
he was and what he had done. When he did recollect, he rose quietly,
extinguished the gas and made the room as dark as possible, in hopes
that Bovey might outsleep himself in the morning. Then he went to bed
properly, putting as a final precaution, his watch an hour in advance.
It thus happened that by Clarges' watch it was a quarter past ten when
he awoke. He rose first and bullied his cousin to that extent that the
latter tumbled out of bed and flung on his clothes without indulging in
his usual bath. At eleven the trap was due and Bovey was all on fire,
bundled his things around recklessly and swore a little at Clarges for
keeping him up the night before. Clarges was nervous, but up to the
present time was master of the situation. At breakfast, Bovey discovered
the mistake, but attributed it to Clarges' carelessness in such matters
aggravated by a probable bad arm.

"Why I took your watch for an authority instead of my own, I don't
know," said he. "But last night I thought you were the clearer of the
two, in fact, I don't recollect winding mine at all, and it seems now
that _you_ were the delinquent."

"Yes, I must have been," said Clarges, self-reproachfully.

At eleven the trap came, and by noon they were half-way to their
destination. The road winding higher and higher as it followed the
magnificent curves of the Gatineau was very beautiful, and revealed at
each turn a superb panorama of water, and wood and sky. For a long time
the Buildings were visible, towering over trees and valleys. Once the
sun came out and lit up the cold, gray scene.

"Pull up, Johnny," said the Hon. Bovyne, "I want to see this. Why, its
immense, this is! Arthur, how's your arm?"

But Clarges was evidently struck with something. "I say, over there,
is where we were yesterday, Bovey, I can imagine I see the very spot,
cannon and all."

"Just as then you imagined you saw a couple of trees here, eh? Now go
along, Johnny, and sit down, Arthur. It doesn't agree with you to be
vaccinated. I'm afraid you're too imaginative already my boy. By the
way, how _is_ your arm?"

"Its a novel situation," thought Clarges. "_He's_ the one, not me. Its
_his_ arm, not mine. But my turn will come to-night; pretty soon he'll
find it out for himself."

Arrived at the house of _Veuve_ Peter Ross, they found it clean and
inviting; warmed by a wood stove and carpeted with home-made rugs. The
old woman took a great interest in their arrival and belongings and
jabbered away incessantly, in French. Did they but request her to
"cherchez un autre blankette!" or fry an additional egg, up went her
hands, her eyes and her shoulders, and such a tirade of excited French
was visited upon them that they soon forebore asking her for anything
but went about helping themselves. At first they thought she was
angry when these outbreaks took place, but Bovey, who could partially
understand her, gathered that she was far from offended, but given over
to the national habit of delivering eloquent and theatrical monologues
on the slightest provocation. She had no lodgers at the present moment;
a Frenchman had left the day before, and the prospect was in every way
favorable, to the comfort of the two friends.

When the dusk fell, Bovey made a camp-fire.

"It's what we came for," he said, "and we can't begin too early or have
enough of it, and I feel chilly, queer, quite unlike myself to-night.
It's a depressing country just about here."

"It is," said Clarges, anxious to keep his friend a little longer in the
dark. "We'll be all right when it's really night, you know, and the fire
blazes up. What a jolly tent and what glorious blankets? We ought to
go to bed early, for it was awfully late the last night There! now its
getting better. Hoop-la! more sticks Bovey! Throw them on, make it blaze
up. Here we are in the primeval forest at last, Bovey, pines and moss,
and shadows and sounds--What's that now? Is that on the river?"

For suddenly they heard the most wonderful strain coming from that
direction. The river was about three or four hundred yards away across
the road, in front of them, and upon a raft slowly passing by were a
couple of _habitans_ singing. What strain was this, so weird, so solemn,
so earnest, yet so pathetic, so sweet, so melodious!


  "Descendez à l'ombre
  Ma jolie blonde."


Those were the words they caught, no more, but the tune eluded them.

"It's the queerest tune I ever heard!" ejaculated Clarges. He had a
smattering of music, and not a bad ear.

"Can't get it for the life of me. It's like--I tell you what it's
like Bovey, its got the same--you know--the same intervals--that's the
word--that the priests chant in! And then, just when you're thinking it
has, off it goes into something like opera bouffe or those French rounds
our nurse used to sing. But isn't it pretty? I say--where's Lady Violet
now, Bovey, eh? Don't you wish she could see us, see you there, quite
the pioneer, looking like Queen Elizabeth's giant porter in this queer
light? and how she would catch up that tune and bring it out on the
piano, and make ever so much more of it with her clever fingers, first
like a battle-cry, men marching and marching you know, and then put in a
wonderful chord that would make us all creep and sigh as she would glide
into the loveliest nocturne, you know--I say, what a nocturne we're
having, eh! Do you think it's any livelier now?"

"My boy," said the Hon. Bovyne, solemnly, "You are right, it is a
nocturne and a wonderful one. I'm not given to expressing myself
poetically as you know, so I shall content myself with saying that
its immense, and now will you pass the whiskey? I certainly feel shaky
to-night, but I shall sleep out here all the same. What are you going to
do?"

"I prefer to try the house, I think," answered Clarges, and so he did.
When he was going to bed, heartily grateful that his cousin was as yet
ignorant of his interference, he looked long and earnestly from his one
window in the roof at the scene outside before he attempted again the
process of self-vaccination. He could see the mighty flames of Bovey's
camp-fire, a first-class fire, well planned and well plied. He could see
the pale outline of the tent and the dark figure of his cousin wrapped
in rugs and blankets by the side of the fire. He could see the tall
pines and the little firs, the glistening line of river and the circles
of gleaming white stones that marked the garden beds in front. The
first snow of the year was just beginning to fall in tiny flakelets that
melted as soon as they touched the ground.

"When they're all covered with snow, it must be pretty," thought
Clarges. "Like all the Christmas trees in the world put together! The
winter is beginning, the long cold, constant Canadian winter we have
heard so much about. Good-bye, dear Lady Violet, good-bye, dear old
England!" Clarges sat on the side of the bed with his arm ready. But
the faintness came again, this time with a sickening thrill of frightful
pain and apprehension, and he rolled over in a deathly swoon with his
own words ringing in his ears.

When the morning broke, it broke in bright sunshine and with an inch or
so of snow on the ground. The Hon. Bovyne, though feeling unaccountably
ill and irritable, was delighted.

"Still I fear we are too late in the season for much camping," he said,
"I must see Arthur about it."

He waited till ten, eleven, half-past eleven. No Arthur, not even the
old woman about. He wondered very much. He approached the house,
and finding nobody coming at his knock, opened the door and went in.
Something wrong. He knew that at once. The air was stifling, horrible,
with an unknown quantity in it, it seemed to him. He threw open
the front room door. _Veuve_ Peter Ross was in her bed, ill, and of
small-pox. He could tell her that, for certain. He rushed up-stairs and
found Clarges on his bed, raving, delirious.

What was it he heard?

"Bovey's all right! Bovey's all right?" This was all, repeated over and
over.

The Hon. Bovyne was neither a fool nor a coward. He tore off his coat
and looked at his arm, then he dragged his cousin out of the room, down
the stairs and out of the fatal house. Propping him up against a sturdy
pine and covering him with all available warm clothing, he sped like
wind to the nearest house. But neither the swift, keen self-reproaches
of Bovey, nor the skill of the best physician to be found in the town,
nor the pure, fresh pine-scented air, nor the yearning perchance of
a dead yet present mother could prevail. The young life went out in
delirium and in agony, but "thank God," thought Bovey, "in complete
unconsciousness."

When he set about removing his tent and other camping apparatus some
time later, he was suddenly struck with the appearance of the tree
against which poor Clarges had been propped. He looked again and
again. "I must be dreaming," said the Hon. Bovyne. "That tree--oh!
its impossible--nevertheless, that tree has its counterpart in the one
opposite it, and both have extraordinary branches! They bend upward,
making a kind of--of--what was it Arthur saw in those imaginary trees of
his only--_yesterday_--my God--it is true--a kind of lyre shape! There
it is, and the more I look at it the clearer it grows, and to think he
has _died_ there--!! And beneath there he is buried, and the raftsmen
will pass within a few hundred yards of him where he lies, and will sing
the same strain that so fascinated him, but he will not hear it, and
learn it and bring it back for Lady Violet, the loveliest woman in
England! For he has gone down into the eternal shadow that no man ever
penetrates."



The Prisoner Dubois.


Miss Cecilia Maxwell was the only child of Sir Robert Maxwell, K. C.
M. G., member of the Cabinet, chief orator of the Liberal party, and
understudy for the part of Premier, who, although a Scotchman by birth,
was a typical Canadian--free, unaffected, honest and sincere. His bushy
iron-gray hair, his keen gray eyes, his healthy florid color, and the
well-trimmed black moustache, which gave his face an unusually youthful
appearance for a man of his age, went with a fine stalwart physique and
a general bodily conformation apparently in keeping with the ideas of
early rising, cold ablutions and breakfasts of oatmeal porridge that the
ingenuous mind is apt to associate with Scotch descent and bringing-up.
His daughter was a very beautiful girl. Born in the shadow of the pines,
she had been educated successively in Edinburgh, Brussels and Munich,
had been presented at Court, been through two London seasons, spent half
of one winter in South America, another in Bermuda, had been ogled by
lords, worshipped by artists, and loved by everybody.

Once more in Canada, she took her place in the limited yet exacting
political circles of the Capital, of Toronto, and of distant Winnipeg.
Life was full of duties, and she shirked none, though on days when they
were put away earlier than usual she would fall to musing of the country
place down the river she had not seen for years, with the beautiful
woods, and the simple, contented French, and the evenings on the water.

"That great, lonely river," she thought on one occasion, looking idly
out of her window. "What other river in the world is like it?--and the
tiny French villages with the red roofs and doors, and the sparkling
spires and the queer people. Delle Lisbeth, and _veuve_ Macleod, and
Pierre--poor Pierre. I have never forgotten Pierre, with his solemn eyes
and beautiful brown hair. And how he knew the flowers in the wood, and
what were those songs he used to sing?" And Cecilia sang a couple of
verses of:

  "Un Canadian errant,
  Banni de ses foyers."

When Sir Robert entered later he found her listless and preoccupied.
"You mustn't look like that to-night," he said. "Don't forget that this
is your first important dinner-party: three French members and their
wives, and La Colombière, the new Minister of Finance, to whom you must
be as charming as possible. This North-West business is quickening as
fast as it can. The Métis are really up, there's no doubt about it."

"In rebellion?" asked Cecilia breathlessly. There was an added interest
in life directly to the imaginative girl.

"Ay," said her father, "there's a rascal at the bottom of it we've been
after for a long time; but now, run away and look bright at dinner, like
a good girl."

The small clique of Frenchmen and their wives could not but have been
charmed with their reception that evening. The dinner was good, and not
too heavy nor long, the wines excellent (for Sir Robert did not as yet
favor the "Scott" Act), and the suavity of his manner combined with the
appearance and grace of his daughter, in a delicate dress of primrose
and brown, with amber in her beautiful golden plaits and round her
whitest neck, left nothing to be desired. And yet on that very first
night in her capacity as hostess, Cecilia found she had to learn to play
a part, the part of woman, which all women who have just left off being
girls find so hard to play at first. For naturally the report of the
Métis revolt had spread. Sir Robert did a brave thing. He referred to it
directly they were seated, and then everybody felt at ease. Now it could
be talked about if anybody chose--and Cecilia did so choose.

"Who is this young Frenchman," she asked of La Colombière, "that is
identified with this new rising? I have been away, and am ignorant of it
all."

"His name is Dubois--Pierre Dubois," returned La Colombière with
a gleaming smile. "He calls himself the representative of the
French-Canadian party. Bah! such men!" But Cecilia's heart had given a
mighty leap and then stopped, she almost thought, for ever.

"Pierre--Pierre Dubois?" she reiterated in her surprise. Her fan of
yellow feathers dropped from her lap, and her face showed extraordinary
interest for a moment.

"You know him M'lle.?" said La Colombière, returning her the fan. For
an instant she was the centre of attention. Then with a flutter of
the yellow feathers that subjugated the four impressionable Frenchmen
completely, she resumed her usual manner.

"I know the name, certainly. There was somebody of that name living at
Port Joli where we go in the Summer you know."

"Oh!" said Laflamme carelessly, a little man with a bald head and a
diplomatist's white moustache, "Dubois is not a new offender. He has
been recognized as an agitator for three or four years. He has the
eyes of the ox and the wavy hair of the sculptor. He is to be
admired--_vraiment_--and has the gift of speech."

When the dinner was over Cecilia played for them in the drawing-room.
Somehow or other, she wandered into the tender yet buoyant melody of the
_chanson_ she had hummed earlier in the day.

  "Un Canadien errant,
  Banni de ses foyers."

"Hum-hum," trolled little Laflamme. "So you know our songs? _Ca va
bien_!"

"That was taught me" said Cecilia, "once down the river at Port Joli."
But she did not say who had taught her. Later on when the guests were
gone and Sir Robert was preparing to go back to the office, his daughter
said very quietly.

"Papa do you remember that young man at Port Joli who was staying with
the curé for his health, the one who was so kind and showed me so
many things, the woods, you know and the water, and who talked so
beautifully?"

"I remember the one you mean, I think, but not his name. Why, dear
child?"

"His name was Dubois," returned Cecilia. "Pierre Dubois!"

"Dubois? Are you sure? That is very singular" said her father. "And he
talked beautifully you say? It must be _this_ one."

"That is what I think" said Cecilia, seeing her father to the door.

Then ensued a period of hard work for Cecilia. She read the papers
assiduously, going up every day to the Parliamentary reading-rooms for
that purpose that she might lose no aspect of the affair. She followed
every detail of the rebellion, even possessing herself of many of her
father's papers bearing on the matter. Those details are well known; how
the whisper ran through our peaceful land, breathing of war and battle
and blood-shed; how our gallant men marched to the front in as superb a
faith and as perfect a manhood as ever troops have shown in this country
or the Old; how some fell by the way, and how others were reserved to be
clasped again to the bosoms of wife and mother and how some met with
the finest fate of all, or at least the most fitting fate for a true
soldier--death on the battle-field. For a month the country was in
a delirium. Then joy-bells rang, and bonfires blazed, and hands were
struck in other hands for very delight that the cause of all the
mischief, the rebel chief, the traitor Dubois was taken. Cecilia alone
sat in her room in horror.

"What will they do with the prisoner Dubois?" she said with a vehemence
that dismayed Sir Robert.

"The prisoner Dubois? Why, they will hang him of course. He has caused
too much blood to be shed not to have to give some of his own." Cecilia
writhed as if in extreme pain. Her beauty, her grace, her youth all
seemed to leave her in a moment, and she stood faded and old before her
father.

"Oh, they will not do that! Imprison him or send him away--anything,
anything save that! See, they do not know him--poor Pierre, so kind, so
good--they do not know him as I knew him. Father, he could not hurt a
thing--he would step aside from the smallest living thing in the path
when we walked together that summer, and he helped everybody that wanted
help, there was nothing he could not do. And he loves his country--at
least he did so then. There is that song, _'O mon cher Canada_,' he used
to sing, and he told me of the future of his country, and how he had
prayed to be allowed to aid it and push it forward. And he does not hate
the English, only how can he help loving the French more when he is one
of them, and has good French blood in his veins--better than many of the
so-called English! And he was born to be a leader and to bring men away
from their home into battle and make war for them, and where in that
does he differ from other heroes we are taught to love and admire? If
you had ever heard him talk, and had seen the people all gathered round
him when he spoke of all these things--as for his church and the Virgin,
and the priests, it would be well if you and all of us thought as much
about our religion, and loved and revered it as he did his!"

Cecilia broke down into incoherent sobs. Sir Robert sat aghast at this
startling confession. No need to tell him that it was prompted by love.

"But what if he be insane, my dear?" he asked very quietly.

"Then it is still bad--it is worse," said Cecilia. "Will hanging an
insane man bring back the others that are slain? Will it make foul fair
and clean still cleaner? Will it bring peace and friendliness, and right
feeling, or will it bring a fiercer fire and a sharper sword than our
country has yet seen--a hand-to-hand fight between rival races, a civil
war based on national distinction!"

"What would you do?" said her father, walking up and down the room.
"What can I or anybody do? It is common law and common justice; if he be
found guilty he must swing for it. Personal intercession--"

"Might save him!" said the girl.

"Must not be thought of!" said her father.

"You mean, _you_ may not think of it. But others may--_I_ may. I am a
woman, free and untrammelled by either party or personal considerations
of any kind. Father, let _me_ try!"

"Cecilia, it is madness to take such a thing upon yourself. How is it
possible? What are your plans?"

"I do not know. I have not thought. All is in a haze through which I see
that vision of the hangman and the rope Father, let me try!"

Sir Robert thought for a moment, then he said: "Very well, my dear, you
shall try, on one condition; that first of all you have an interview
with Dubois himself. In fact, for your purpose it is absolutely
necessary that you should see him, in order to identify him with the
other Dubois you used to know. After that interview, if you still
persist in your course, I promise--rash as it certainly seems--to help
you. Now hold yourself in readiness to start for the North-West at a
moment's notice. I have private information that tells me Dubois will be
hung and any intervention on your part or that of anybody else must be
set on foot immediately, do you see?"

A few days afterwards Cecilia, unveiled, and dressed in an
irreproachable walking costume of gray, was taken to the gloomy prison
outside the little northern town of ----, where the prisoner Dubois was
confined. There was a bit of tricolor in her hat and her cheeks were
very pale--As the beautiful daughter of Sir Robert Maxwell her way was
sufficiently paved with politeness as she presented her private order
to see the prisoner. Her heart was beating tumultuously and the
blood surged round her temples. The turnkey showed her into a small
whitewashed room, opposite the cell in which Dubois spent his time and
informed her that in compliance with strict orders he would have to be
present during the interview, to which Cecilia bent her head in assent;
she could not have spoken just then. "It is a strange thing that I am
doing," she thought, "but I shall see Pierre--poor Pierre." Approaching
footsteps were soon heard and the prisoner Dubois entered, escorted by
two warders. He started when he saw his visitor, and--stared.

"Mademoiselle,--" he said, evidently trying to recall her name and
failing.

"Cecile," she said, eagerly, "Ma'amselle Cecile you always called
me, and I liked it so much better than Cecilia. I think I like it
still--Pierre--I--."

The prisoner Dubois frowned.

"If Mdme. Dubois had ears through these walls, you had not called me
'Pierre.' But--" laying his hand on his heart and bowing low, "Pierre
himself is flattered--_oui, mademoiselle_--by your attention--_oui,
vraiment_--and he is rejoiced to know that his image is still cherished
in that heart so fair, so _Anglaise_, so pure, so good. _Belle-enfant,
Je n'ai pas oublié nos amours_!"

The three men in the room suppressed a smile. Dubois stood with his head
thrown back, his arms folded and his soft dark eyes fixed on Cecilia.
She was still standing, indeed there was no chair in the room, and her
eyes were fixed on him as his upon herself. It was Pierre, and yet not
her Pierre. Rather an exaggerated growth--of the man she had once known.
The same soft brown hair, only thicker and rougher, one drooping wave
looking tangled and unkempt--the dreamy eyes with the latent sneer
in them dreamier than ever and yet the sneer more visible, the
thin sensitive nose thinner, the satisfied mouth more satisfied and
conscious, the weak chin fatally weaker. And he was married, too! Mdme.
Dubois--that must be his wife! How strange it was! Cecilia's brain was
in a frightful state of doubt and fever and hesitation. It was necessary
for her to explain her presence there, however, for she could not but
resent the opening speech of the prisoner Dubois. She was growing very
tired of standing, moreover, but she would have died rather than have
demanded a chair. At length the turnkey observed her fatigue and sent
one of the warders for a chair.

"Fetch two," interposed Dubois, with a flourish of his hand. "I myself
shall sit down." When the man returned, bringing only one chair on the
plea that he could not find another, Cecilia, whose nerve was returning,
offered it to Dubois. He accepted it calmly and sat down upon it,
waiting to hear what she had to say. At this signal instance of arch
selfishness Cecilia felt her heart tighten and her temples grow cold as
if fillets of fire had been exchanged for ribbons of snow.

"Sir," she began, "I am sorry to find you here." Dubois smiled the smile
of a great man who listens with condescension to what an inferior has
to say. "I am glad you have not forgotten me, because all the time I
was away, and it has been a long time, I never--it is quite true--forgot
you--I mean (for Dubois smiled again) I never forgot that summer you
spent near us at Port Joli, and the things you talked about, about your
future. When I came home I found you had gone so much further than I
know you ever intended to, and have been the cause of so much trouble,
and the death of brave men, and I was very sorry." Cecilia leant on the
bare table before her, and felt that every moment as it passed brought
with it a cooling of the once passionate feeling she had entertained for
the Dubois of her childhood. But if the lover were gone, there remained
the man, husband and father, maybe the leader, the orator, the martyr,
the dear human being.

"So I thought that if it were possible at all, some step should be
taken to--to prevent the law from taking its course--its final course
perhaps." Cecilia felt her throat tighten as she spoke. "You have plenty
of friends--you must have--all the French will help and many, many
English, for it is no cause to die for, it is no cause at all! There
should never have been bloodshed on either side!"

Dubois uncrossed his long legs at last and said in his loftiest tone:

"_Chère enfant_, the French will not let me die. I--I myself--Pierre
Dubois--allowed to hang by the neck until I am dead! That will never
happen. _Voyez-vous donc chérie_, I am their King, their prophet, their
anointed, their fat priests acknowledge me, their women adore me!"

Cecilia shrunk together as she listened. She had sought and she had not
found, she had expected and it had been denied her. At this moment, the
turnkey signified that time was up. She felt her heart burning in an
agony of undefined grief and disappointment in which was also mingled
the relief of resignation. The prisoner Dubois bowed low with his hand
on his heart and then pressing her own hand lingeringly, gave her a
tenderly insinuating glance. As she turned away she heard him exchange
a laugh and a jest with one of the wardens, and her cheeks flamed with
indignant anger. "Were he a good or suffering man as I dreamed he was, I
would have bent low and kissed his hand; as it was, I am sorry I let him
take mine."

She was calm when she reached her carriage in which sat her father
waiting. He divined at once that his plan had been successful. "You look
tired, my dear," was all he said.

"Yes, I have been standing for some time," Cecilia returned in a
peculiar voice.

"Could they not find you a chair in the establishment?"

"They found one," she said grimly, "and that was appropriated by the
prisoner Dubois."

"The prisoner Dubois!" thought Sir Robert. "It is well. We shall hear no
more of Pierre."

Two days before Christmas the prisoner Dubois underwent the extreme
penalty of the law. Cecilia sat in her room all that day. She never
quite made up her mind as to whether Pierre had been a lunatic or
a fanatic, a martyr or a fiend, an inspired criminal or a perverted
enthusiast. Perhaps he was a mixture of all.



How the Mr. Foxleys Came, Stayed and Never Went Away.



CHAPTER I.


There flows in Western Canada, by which I mean a region east of the
Saskatchewan and west of the Thousand Islands, a singular and beautiful
stream. It is beautiful because it is narrow, undulating and shallow,
because it has graceful curves and rounded bends, because its banks are
willow-clad and its bed boulder-strewn, because it flows along between
happy farms and neat white villages, because at one spot, it boasts
a picturesque and ruined mill and a moss-covered bridge and
because--chiefly because--it is above all things--placid. The mind
familiar with our Canadian streams will easily understand then, that
if these be its attributes of beauty, they also attest to its claim
of singularity. For the Canadian river is seldom placid, but oftener
seething and steaming and foaming; or else deep and dark and dangerous
with many a mighty gorge and tumbling cascade, wide and lonely and
monotonous for the most part; pine hung down to the very edge, black
and lowering, or displaying waving wisps of dry gray foliage that only
resembles human hair. What a contrast, then, does this cherished river
I speak of, afford! No local Laureate has as yet written it up, though
picnic parties used to gather themselves together on its banks and in
its well-wooded shades, defiling everything they touched from bark to
beach, leaving bits of bread here, dead pie there, buttering the leaves,
peppering the grass, salting the stones, and scattering greasy crumpled
paper--PAPER--PAPER--everywhere. That is what picnic parties do all over
the world, and with such gusto all of them, even the Sunday-schools,
Dorcases, W. C. T. U's. and all the rest of them, that I really think it
must be intended as a serious part of the Picnicker's Ritual and forms
very likely a peace-offering or sacrifice of propitiation towards some
unknown God. I don't think the Druids left paper about underneath their
oaks. But presumably they left worse. Well, if as yet, this river I love
so well has not been immortalized in fiction, travels or verse, it has
however attracted the attention of several gifted members of the Royal
Academy--Royal Canadian of course, who have from time to time
invaded its peaceful shores and stuffing themselves into adjacent
if inconvenient farmhouses, sketched it in water and oil, in the
common-place pencil, and the more ambitious charcoal. The results are
charming and you may see them any day in the studios of our foremost
artists or in the picture dealers' windows or haply on the terra-cotta
tinted walls of our esteemed collectors, the retired grocers of
Montreal, or the aesthetic lawyers of a more western and more ambitious
city. Still though the sketches are charming both in conception and
execution, I, were I a Canadian artist, eager to secure Canadian
subjects for my pencil, would hardly choose this particular river as one
likely to give the most correct idea of Canadian scenery. No, I would
chose the St. Maurice or the Richelieu, the Lièvre or the Saguenay, the
Ottawa or portions of the St. Lawrence, with the grim Azoic rocks, the
turbulent rapids and the somber pines. What a superb river system it is!
Tell them off on your fingers and you'll have to go on borrowing from
them afterwards and then all over again. Think of all those rivers that
cluster in the French Canada and feed the mighty Gulf of St. Lawrence.
There are the Ottawa, the Gatineau, the Rideau, the Richelieu, the
Lièvre, the Matanne, the Metapedia, the Métis, the Saguenay. Those are
the ones we know. Then look at the Peribonka, the Maniconagan, all the
Ste. Anne's, all the Rouge or Red rivers, the Du Moine, the Coalonge,
the Vermilion, the St. Francis. Then, look at that cluster of great
Saxon named streams, the Churchill, the Nelson, the Severn, the English,
the Albany! Lastly, glance at the magnificent Saskatchewan with the
historic streams of Battle and Qu'Appelle Rivers! And now I have omitted
the Athabasca, the Peace, the Moose and the Assiniboine! There is no end
to them; they defy enumeration while they invite it.

Now, most of these Canadian rivers are Azoic in character; hence their
grim and formidable beauty. But my river has nothing the least Azoic
about it. It belongs to a more recent, a more comfortable, more placid,
more satisfying a formation. It is as idyllic a stream as any English
one that Tennyson noted in a contemplative ramble to work up later into
the "Brook."

Crossing the moss-grown bridge I have alluded to, a gradual ascent
presents itself on the opposite side, of firm white road well
macadamized and leading through small neat low houses, each with a
little garden in front, to a church with a needle-like spire on the
top of the hill, and the parson's house adjoining. On a June day,
for example, it made a pleasant picture. Pastoral and prosperous the
landscape, contented the people on foot, in the fields, at the windows,
and most delightful of all--a certain Old World haze hanging over it.

This is what struck the Mr. Foxleys, driving out slowly from the town
one Saturday afternoon. George, the elder, pale with dark hair, lay back
in the phaeton with folded arms. Joseph, the younger, fair-haired
and freckled, sat up, driving. They had hardly exchanged a word since
entering the phaeton. For eight miles they had proceeded in almost
perfect silence. This did not mean that they were out of sorts, or not
on pleasant terms with one another. On the contrary, it proved that they
were the very best of friends, and never bored each other. I may as well
say at once that they were Englishmen, which was easy to gather from
their picturesque and unusual attire of neat gray small-clothes meeting
gray stockings at the knee, low white shoes, a striped blue and white
flannel shirt and canoe-shaped hats of gray, each bearing a snow-white
"puggree" with blue and gold fringed ends. Such was the outward adorning
of the Mr. Foxleys. Behind the phaeton ran a pretty brown retriever
answering to the name of "Bess," and laid across the floor of the little
carriage were a couple of walking canes, a couple of fishing rods and
a gun case strapped together, while under the seat was a medium-sized
portmanteau, and a peculiar long box with a leather handle. The eight
miles having been traversed by them in silence, George, the elder, broke
it by remarking, as they slackened their pace, before advancing over the
bridge, "This is better."

"Very much so. Rather. I should think so," answered Joseph, the younger,
who had a slightly more lively manner than his brother, and very
laughing eyes. "It looks a little more like the--the Old Country."

The elder brother made no reply. A kind of weary smile flitted across
his face instead.

"It's a little bit after--Devonshire, don't you think?" went on Joseph,
surveying the green meadows, the neat painted fences, the sleeping cows,
the rising uplands in the distance leaning lovingly next the sky,
the bridge, the distant church, and the placid narrow river with the
overhanging willows and the stony amber floor.

"A long way after," said George, without unfolding his arms or looking
around him at all. He was gazing straight before him.

"But you don't half see the beauty of it," said the younger brother,
stopping the horse and standing up in the phaeton, "especially after
that horrid eight miles of half-cleared ugly-stumpy stubble! This is
really beautiful, such soft lines you know and little corners--oh!
quite English!" Some of his enthusiasm reached the quieter brother, who
apparently roused himself and looked around as directed. A faint pink
came into his pale cheeks, a new gleam into the weary eyes, "Well, it is
_better_, as I said before--you'll remember, I noticed it first--but not
English."

"Well, not English altogether of course, I know," said Joseph gathering
up his reins, "but its a jolly spot enough whatever it is, and--I say,
look at that now, that oak, on the other side of the road, in front of
that little cottage, we'll be up with it now in a minute."

"By Jove, what a splendid tree!" Now I do not in the least wonder at the
Mr. Foxleys stopping opposite this mighty oak to admire it, because I
myself am quite familiar with it and have seen it scores of times, and
must agree with them in pronouncing it one of the finest trees I have
ever seen anywhere. Of course it has no story attached to it that the
world knows, at least it never talked that I am aware of, never hid or
screened anybody of importance--or anything of that sort--so naturally
it has little or no interest about it. And yet, for that very reason,
it is so much easier to think of it as a tree, to consider it and admire
it, and learn to love and understand it just as a tree. So the Mr.
Foxleys thought, as they gazed at its monstrous trunk, its glorious
branches of deep, dark glossy green with here and there an upstart arm
of glowing bronze or a smaller shoot of younger yellow.

"It might have grown in the _Manor Park_!" said the younger brother
airily with a keen sense of pleasure in the suggestion.

"It might have grown in the _Manor Park_, as you say", rejoined the
elder brother gravely.

Then they went on again, slowly up the hill, that they might the better
examine the church, the parsonage and the road beyond. What they wanted
now was an Inn. Presently they espied one, just on the other side of a
tiny bridge spanning a tinier brook. It was no upstart brick building of
flaring red with blind white windows and a door flush with the street,
a dirty stable at one side and a ragged kitchen garden at the other. But
low and white and irregular with a verandah running along in front, it
had red curtains that would draw over the lower halves of the windows
and hints of chintz at the upper portions; the door was open and
revealed a tall clock in the hall, a stand of flowers, and a cat asleep
in a large round chair; at one side a flight of steps led down to the
kitchen door at which a buxom maid in bare arms stood in a pink gown and
a pinker face, and at the other side was the boarded square that held
the pump--the village pump--around which were gathered five or six
bare-footed children, the hostler of the Inn, the village butcher,
tailor, and cobbler. A sign swung out from the verandah.

"The Ipswich Inn, by M. Cox," said the younger Mr. Foxley. Then he
looked at his brother. His brother looked at him. They understood one
another at once, and Joseph pulled up in good style at the door. The
hostler, dressed in old corduroy and with a fiddle under his arm, sprang
forward to assist them. He dropped his H's. "Delightful," cried Mr.
Joseph. So did the landlady, a cheery person of about fifty in a silk
apron. The brothers were so content that they remained all night, "to
look at the place."

Next morning, endless surprises awaited and greeted them. They found
that the large room in front was a kind of drawing-room, in which
rose-leaves, china-bowls, old engravings, a shining mahogany book-case,
and a yellow-keyed piano atoned for the shortcomings of funeral
horsehair and home-made carpets. They thought it on the whole a charming
room, only to be eclipsed by the kitchen. For the kitchen, which was
underneath the ground floor and nearly the entire size of the house, was
therefore very spacious and comfortable, possessing three large
pantries and an out-house or summer kitchen; besides, moreover, it was
dark-raftered, ham-hung, with willow-pattern slates in a neat dresser,
and peacock feathers over the high mantel; with, in one corner--the
darkest--a covered well, into which I used to see myself the beautiful
golden pats of butter lowered twice a week in summer time. One window,
a small one, curtained with chintz and muslin drawn on a string, looked
out on a small terraced garden at the back leading to an orchard; the
other window, large and long, with twelve small panes and no curtains at
all, adjoined the door opening on the court or yard at the side of the
house. This yard was paved irregularly with grey stone slabs, between
which the grass had wedged itself, with an occasional root of the
persistent and omnipresent dandelion; it contained a cistern, a table
with flower-pots, a parrot in one cage, a monkey in another, garden
implements, rods, buckets, tins and tubs! A pleasant untidiness
prevailed in the midst of irreproachably clean and correct surroundings,
and the Mr. Foxleys having finished their breakfast up-stairs in the
public dining-room--a bare, almost ugly apartment, devoid of anything
in furniture or appointments to make it homelike, except a box of
mignonette set in the side-window, looked longingly out at the little
paved court-yard beneath. They had had the most delicious rasher of
ham, eggs _sans peur et sans reproche_, some new and mysterious kind of
breakfast cake, split and buttered while hot, and light and white inside
as it was golden and glazed outside, and three glasses of fresh milk
each! They had been waited on by the buxom girl in a blue gown this
time, against which her arms looked pinker than ever, and during the
meal the landlady of the inn had looked in, with her hands too floury
and her mind too full of coming loaves to do more than inquire generally
as to their comfort. Looking over the mignonette, Mr. Joseph Foxley
espied her presently talking to the parrot and tending the monkey. This
was more than the frivolous Mr. Joseph could stand. He took his brother
and made a tour of the house accordingly, discovering in turn as I
have said the drawing-room, the kitchen, the court-yard, the garden and
orchard and lastly the bar! _That_ proved the most comfortable, most
enticing room of all. More red curtains, at the windows and over one
door, an old-fashioned hearth paved with red brick and bearing even
in June a couple of enormous logs against the possible cold of a
rainy evening, two cases of stuffed birds, a buffalo's head over the
fireplace, colored prints of Love Lies Bleeding, Stocks and Bachelor's
Buttons, and over all, that odour of hot lemons and water, with
something spirituous beyond, that completely won the refractory heart
of the elder Mr. Foxley and caused him to drop down in a chair by the
hearth with an incoherent expression of wonder and relief that did not
escape his brother.

"How long shall we say, George," he asked. "She will want to know,
because there are other men who come out here from town occasionally it
seems, and of course it's only fair to let her know about the room.

"What shall I say?" Mr. George Foxley crossed his long legs in evident
comfort and took in the entire room in a smiling gaze before he
answered. Outside it was beautifully quiet, in front of the house. From
the back there came the faintest sounds of crow and cackle and farm-yard
stir just audible, from the kitchen rose cheerful laughter, and merry
voices, the smell of baking, and a fainter odor of herbs. Milly, the
girl, in the blue gown, passed with a milk pail in either hand. She
looked in shyly. Mr. Joseph waved his hand gallantly then laughed. Then
Mr. George said, very slowly.

"Say? Oh, say that we will take the room--the one we have now, you
know--for the rest of the Summer."

"That is, you will take it, and remain here, while I knock about in town
and come out on Saturdays or whenever I can," said Joseph.

"Exactly," said his brother.

That afternoon Mr. Joseph returned to town in the neat hired phaeton
leaving his brother in full possession of the charming and comfortable
Inn. In a couple of days he came back, this time in the stage that
passed through Ipswich three times a week, and bringing with him a
couple of English trunks and a stout portmanteau. Thus the Mr. Foxleys
entered upon life in earnest in this dear placid little village, not far
from the river described in the beginning of my story.



CHAPTER II.


The Mr. Foxleys, after a week's sojourn or so at the Ipswich Inn, made a
mutual discovery. This was, that not only were the landlady of the Inn,
her son and the ostler all of English origin and descent, but that the
entire village appeared to be populated by people of English extraction.
The butcher was a Englishman, the blacksmith was a Cockney answering to
the name of 'Enry Ide, the cobbler was from South Devon somewhere,
and the parson was an undergraduate of Oxford. The farmers were mostly
Scotch, and the village store-keeper was David Macpherson. The driver
of the stage was an Irishman, and the sexton of the pretty church on
the hill was an odd product of that odd corner of the world known as
the Isle of Man. Certainly the two brothers found and made themselves at
home. Milly perhaps was the only native Canadian that came in their way.
It was a thoroughly British settlement, and it is a noteworthy fact
that the only well-to-do man in the place was an American. It was he
who lived in the square, red brick house with white blinds always pulled
down, even in soft welcome spring days, and with plaster casts of lions
and deer couchant on futile little wooden pedestals in the garden. It
was he who owned the new and prosperous mill which had superseded the
worn-out one lower down the stream, the old mill that the artists loved,
and that reminded the Mr. Foxley's of home. It was he who owned the only
family carriage in the neighborhood, other people had "buggies." It was
his daughter who had been sent to New York for her education--who now
appeared in church on Sundays, in muslin costumes garnished with a
greater number of yards of ribbons in myriads of bows and ends than the
village store had ever possessed at one time in its life. It was he who
once or twice a year walked as far as the Inn and sitting down stiffly
in the stiff dining room would hold a short conversation with the
landlady on village matters and subjects in general. On these occasions
the good woman was secretly amused and not a little bored. She knew
gentlemen when she saw them and he was not one--that is, he was not one
according to her knowledge of types. The aristocracy of money was as
yet a phase unknown to her simple English mind accustomed to move in
traditional and accepted groves. So not much interchange of civilities
took place between the mill and the Inn. Not for Mr. Simon P. Rattray
did the oleanders blossom in the big green tubs and the wall-flowers and
mignonette in the windows. Not for him did the Jessamine climb and the
one hawthorn tree at the back gate leading to the orchard yield its
sweet white May, not for him did the tall clock strike and the parrot
talk. Talk!! Why, the only time the creature was ever known to be quiet
was when Mr. Simon P. Rattray made his portentous visits twice or three
times a year. And as for the hidden sweetness of the drawing-room or
the comforts of the kitchen or the fascinations of the bar, Mr. Simon P.
Rattray knew nothing whatever about them. He was a total abstainer you
see, and the blue ribbon appeared in his buttonhole on certain important
ceremonial days and even on Sundays, and he was known to be interested
in the fortunes of a cold, dismal little place built of plaster and
presided over by a male Methodist just outside the village limits, known
as a "Temperance Hotel." It will be easily gathered that the advent
of the Mr. Foxleys did not affect the fortunes of such a person as
Mr. Simon P. Rattray, nor was their subsequent career as residents
in Ipswich affected in any way by his existence, prejudices or
peculiarities. But to the remaining portions of the village, their
arrival proved full of interest The landlady took them to her heart at
once. They were _gentlemen_, she said, and that was enough for her. Her
son, a heavy lout, unlike his mother, accepted them as he did everything
and everybody by remaining outwardly profoundly unconscious of their
existence; the hostler adored them, especially Mr. Joseph; when the
latter was there, which he was every Saturday till Monday, he would
stroll over the stable with Squires--that was the hostler's name--joking
incessantly, and treating the latter to an occasional cigar. Urbane
Mr. Joseph would joke with anybody, Mr. George was more severe and had
according to the landlady, the most perfect and distinguished manners.

"What they call _hawtoor_ in the Family Herald," she told Milly, "only
I never see it gone too far with." Milly of course was in love with them
both.

In time, the entire village succumbed to the charms of the Mr. Foxleys.
The parson called, accompanied by his eldest daughter who was the
organist of the choir and chief promoter of the Sunday-school. They
found the objects of their social consideration seated outside the
kitchen in the little paved yard that had rapidly grown dear. When the
brothers appeared upstairs in the drawing-room into which rose-scented
and chintz-hung apartment the reverend Mr. and Miss had been shown in
appreciation of their station, Mr. Joseph had tuned his laughing eye to
a decorum as new as it was unnatural. It was a hot day in August and Mr.
George was so excessively languid and long and speechless that but for
his brother conversation would have been an impossibility. But he and
the parson soon discovered mutual friends at home, a cousin in the
Engineers, and a friendly coach at the University.

"Charles James Foxley? Oh! I knew him well, very well" said the Rev. Mr.
Higgs, referring to the latter. "It is a somewhat--ah--unusual name.
The only other time I remember meeting with the name was once--let me
see--it was a meet, I think, at Foxley Manor, in Derbyshire it was, and
a very beautiful place."

"In Nottinghamshire," said Mr. Joseph smiling. "Yes, that is--or
was--our home. My father still resides there."

"Indeed?" said Mr. ----. "Is it possible! And you have come out here?
Really, it is most interesting, most fortunate that you should
have chosen our little village, should have pitched your tent so to
speak--ah! quite so."

"My brother likes the country," said Mr. Joseph.

"Ah! yes, quite so. And there is much to see in this new country, in
Canada, much to see. You will remain some time?"

"We will remain as long as it suits my brother," said Mr. Joseph. "At
present, we can hardly tell."

"Quite so, quite so. I hope--I am sure my daughter concurs in the hope,
that we shall see you in church as often as you can come and also--ah!
at the Rectory. Such society as we can give you here you may be assured
we will endeavor to give with all our--ah! heart to the best of our
ability."

"Thanks very much" returned Mr. Joseph. "I am sure my brother and I will
be exceedingly glad to go and see you at the Rectory. About church I
will say that we never go very regularly anywhere, but when it isn't too
hot, too hot, you know, or too cold, or anything of that sort, I am sure
we'll try to turn up there as well."

The rector, smiled indulgently. No call to be hard on the Mr. Foxleys,
of Foxley Manor. Miss Maria left the Inn smitten for the fiftieth time.

"I knew I should marry an Englishman," she exclaimed ecstatically up the
road with her father.

"The dark one, oh! the dark one!"

"They are somewhat peculiar young men I fancy, Maria. Of course Mrs.
Cox is a very careful and a very good woman and--ah! her place is a very
respectable and comfortable one, and the order of travellers one meets,
that is, one would meet if one went there, is quite proper indeed,
but still, I thought, mind I do not say anything, I do not express any
opinion Maria, I simply say, I _thought_, that they would have smoked
for instance in the dinning-room or the bar, or on the verandah
instead of in that very conspicuous manner just outside the kitchen
door." But this was the first and last stricture that the rector made
as to the conduct of the Mr. Foxleys, for by appearing in church two
Sundays after his call and spending an evening on the vine-covered
verandah of the pretty Rectory, they were speedily entered in the very
best books kept by that worthy if slightly common-place gentleman and
his gushing daughter.

The next persons of distinction in the village were the Miss Dexters,
who lived with their father, at one time a prominent medical man, in
the little cottage graced by the presence of the mighty oak which had so
charmed the strangers when they first beheld it. Their father was
old, very old indeed, and slightly shaken in his mind. He was also an
Englishman and the daughters, not daring to enter upon life in town
with their small income and a helpless old man on their hands into the
bargain had retired to the country some ten years before the advent
of the Mr. Foxleys. Charlotte the elder was now forty and Ellen over
thirty-five. Neither of them had ever been beautiful and now they
were, more or less pinched and worn in their aspect, but they were
gentlewomen, neat and sweet spoken, and capable of offering small
evening entertainments of cribbage and hot weak tea with bread and
butter with a gracious and well bred air that marked them off as people
who had seen "better times." God help such all over the world and thank
Him too for the colonies, where such people can retreat without being
said to hide, and live down their misfortunes or their follies or their
weaknesses, and be of some use to others after a while! It would be hard
to say why the Mr. Foxleys went as often as they did, especially Mr.
Joseph--to the Miss Dexters for tea. Perhaps the oak had much to do with
it.

It had something I am sure, for indeed, it was the most beautiful tree
for miles around and it was worth a good deal to sit under its cool
shade in the Summer afternoons or to look up into its dark vault in the
slowly dusking twilights. I can't defend Mr. Joseph further than this.
For between cribbage and choir practice, Sunday rambles in the woods and
rows on the river, the lending of books and the singing of songs, the
handing of bread and butter and the drinking of tea, Mr. Joseph had
caused both the Miss Dexters to fall hopelessly and indeed fatally in
love with him. When the Xmas holidays came, Joseph, who had a clerkship
in town, spent his vacation naturally at the Inn with his brother, and
then ensued a period of very mixed delight for the Miss Dexters.

For the callous Joseph made as violent love to the unresisting Miss
Higgs over the Xmas tree and carols as she herself would have chosen to
make to Mr. George had she been given the chance.

As for Mr. George, he was just as languid and silent as ever. He hardly
ever went into the town at all, but preferred to remain on quietly at
the inn, fishing, shooting and taking long walks in the summer days when
it was fine, and when it rained, lounging in Mrs. Cox's kitchen. Here he
always had his meals, for the kind friend he had found in his landlady
gratified every whim, and any fancy he chose to profess, and cooked
for him, washed for him and waited on him with unceasing and in fact
ever-increasing devotion. Mr. Foxley's shirts and Mr. Foxley's socks,
Mr. Foxley's white coats and Mr. Foxley's jane boots, his dog, his gun,
and his effects generally were all sacred, all in irreproachable order,
all objects of the greatest value and interest to Mrs. Cox and her
niece. You see there were no children in this comfortable _ménage_
and really, when the baking and the washing and the preserving and
the churning were all done with early in the day or in the week there
remained a good deal of time on Mrs. Cox's hands, which in her earnest
womanly heart she felt she must fill up in some way. So it came that
all this time and energy and devotion were after a while centred on Mr.
George Foxley, late of Foxley Manor, Notts. As for Mr. Joseph, the good
woman oftener told him to "go along!" than anything else, for though
she liked him, his love of mischief and several practical jokes he had
played her which she termed "his ways," had rendered her cautious and a
little distrustful of him. Such an existence proved very charming to
all parties concerned, excepting perhaps the Miss Dexters, and their
companion in misery, at the rectory. For the worst of it was, Xmas
passed and Easter came, and another spring dawned for the pretty little
village of Ipswich and found the Mr. Foxleys still there. They never
spoke of going away and nobody hinted it to them. The impression,
natural in the extreme, that they were a couple of wealthy young
Englishmen going about for pleasure, who just happening to come to
Ipswich and being taken with it had stayed a little longer than they
intended, was fast giving way to another. For it was a well-known fact
that the Mr. Foxleys did not spend too much money either on themselves
or on other people. They paid their way and that was all one could say
about them. Squires was not included in this arrangement, however, but
was forced to remain content with cigars, cast-off studs and a present
at Christmas-time of a collie pup. I grieve to think of those poor Miss
Dexters--foolish souls--going without butter on their bread and sugar
in their tea that they might have both to offer Mr. Joseph when he might
come in airily for a cup, and making their already too thin gowns last
another winter, that they might spend a little money on a smoking cap
for the same gentleman and a pair of knitted wristlets for his brother.
All these tokens of friendship and attachment the brothers accepted
in the most charming and unconcerned way and never troubled themselves
about returning the compliment as we say. It was quite true that they
had not much money, but a little management of what they did possess
would have left a small sum over each year, which might have been
expended on say a pair of fur-lined gloves for Charlotte or a canary
for Ellen, who was fond of pets and used to keep Bess with her for days,
feeding the unconscious animal for its master's sake better than she
was fed herself. And all this time Mr. Joseph never proposed and never
hinted at his prospects or affairs in any way whatever!

The second summer of his stay saw old Mr. Dexter die. After his death
Ellen drooped visibly. General disgust at life, insufficient food and
sleep, and a hopeless passion for Mr. Joseph sapped a naturally weak
constitution, and her sister soon realized another bitter shock when she
helped Ellen to her bed one sultry September night from which she never
rose again. The windows of the little cottage were open, and the unhappy
girl could see the giant oak outside their door. How often she had sat
there with her cruel friend, her hand on his shoulder, and her eyes
fixed on his sharp, clear-cut features and laughing eyes! He had seemed
so gentle, so earnest, so winning--had talked so cleverly, so hopefully,
so gleefully. He had been the sunshine of her life, and alas!--of
Charlotte's too! Each knew the other's secret, but by intuitive sympathy
they had never alluded to it. They referred to him only as "Mr. Joseph,"
and on her death-bed Ellen sent her "kindest wishes to Mr. Joseph." She
lingered till near the Christmas season, and then one day a small packet
per English mail arrived. They occasionally heard from friends in
the Old Country, and this special parcel contained a couple of silk
handkerchiefs and a sprig of holly. Charlotte took them up to her in the
evening, spreading them out on the bed. Ellen sat up, eagerly pressing
the holly to her lips. Alas! what were the recollections it brought that
the poor, weak frame and the poor, tired spirit could not brook them?
Perhaps--not perhaps--O most certainly, most truly of home and of
England; of the mother so long vanished, dimly remembered, almost
forgotten; of winding green lanes and of ivied walls, of little solemn
churchyards--in none of which she would never lie; of peeps of blue sea
from the middle of a wood; of a primrose at the foot of a tree; of the
crowded coach and the sounding horn; and lastly of the recreant one whom
she could not even call her lover, but who had made her love him so that
her very life was eaten away by sickness of fear, of apprehension, of
despair!

With the holly pressed to her lips, Ellen Dexter passed out of this
world into another.

Did Mr. Joseph Foxley care? Who knows? I should know if anybody ever
did, but I do not hold Mr. Joseph so very much to blame after all. For
a man is often innocent of love-making at the very moment a woman is
fancying herself violently in love with him, and fancying, moreover,
that he is in love with her. Can anything be more fatal, more
pernicious, more terrible? And yet I believe there is nothing more
common. There are some men who press more tenderly than the requirements
of ordinary social intercourse call for or allow, the hand of every
woman they meet They are not necessarily flirts. Perhaps they never go
farther than that clinging hand-pressure. It is a relic of the customs
of the days of chivalry--a little more and this man will kiss the
hand. Let the lady be beautiful, gracious, the hour dusk, or close on
midnight, the room a pretty one, and the environment pleasing, he will
bend over the hand, and if he does not kiss it he will retain it just
long enough to make her wish he had kissed it. If she is a woman of the
world she will laugh as she returns the pressure, making it purposely as
thrilling as she can--then she will forget it completely the next moment
as she dispenses five o'clock tea or late coffee and cake to her husband
or brother. But if she be not a woman of the world, then God help her
on her tear-wet pillow, or before her slowly-dying fire as she thinks
of that hand-pressure. It is enough to last her all her life, she
thinks--and yet, should it not come again? But--_should_ it come again!
And the pillow is wet with fresh tears, or the brow is prematurely
wrinkled watching the decaying embers, while the man--let us do him
justice--is as blindly unconscious--unconscious! Why, at that very
moment he is making love--what _he_ calls making love--to the woman of
his choice, his wife, his mistress, or his _fiancée_! These are the
men who do the most mischief in the world. Your brute, your beast, your
groveller in ditches, is not nearly so dangerous. Women recoil from him.
They understand him. But the man who presses their hand awakes them,
rouses their susceptibility, causes the tender trouble to steal over
them that so often ends in grief, or despair, or death! And this is
because neither sex is as yet properly trained in the vital duty of
responsibility, by which I mean that faculty of self-repression which
will cause a woman to try and understand what a man means when he
presses her hand, and cause the man to try and understand what a woman
feels when he does so. As for poor Ellen Dexter, it is dear that she was
not a woman of the world; but her sister Charlotte and Miss Maria at
the Rectory, if not precisely women of the world, were yet made of
much sterner stuff than she had been, and consequently, after much
reflection, decided that they were not going to be made fools of, in
village parlance. Miss Maria had, of course, long ago given up Mr.
George Foxley altogether.

"He is not human," she said to her father, "and I don't believe he _is_
one of the Foxleys of Foxley Manor at all."

"There can be no doubt about that, my dear," answered the actor.
"Difficulties I should say--ah--difficulties have brought these young
men out here, but we must do our duty by them, we must do our duty.
Their father is a fine old gentleman, and well off, and a stanch Tory,
my dear. Patience, my dear Maria. The photographs are quite correct and
the seals bear quite the proper crest--ah--quite so."

So Miss Maria transferred her affections to Mr. Joseph. The second
Christmas passed away, and a third spring dawned for Ipswich. The Inn
was just as comfortable as ever and so were apparently the two Mr.
Foxleys but for one fact and that was, Mr. George's health was not as
good as it had been. Always delicate, he had gradually failed, growing
more and more languid, more and more whimsical in spite of his
comfortable abode and the diligent care of his landlady. Poor Milly! How
she worked for him too, between hours, after hours, before hours! When
the attacks of pleurisy, painful in the extreme, from which he suffered,
came on either in the night or during the day, Milly was always near
with her strong young arms, not quite so pink as they used to be, and
her quick young eyes, a shade more subtle than they used to be, ready to
apprehend and quiet the pain before it came. How Miss Maria at the
Rectory and Charlotte Dexter in her lonely cottage would have envied her
had they known, but though there were gossips in plenty in the village,
nothing that occurred in the rose-scented drawing-room ever went out
into that tattling little Ipswichian world.

"Are your young gentlemen with you yet, Mrs. Cox? And one of 'em not
over strong? Deary me! that makes it hard for you and the young gal But
you be standing it remarkable well. And gentlemen born you say! They
do say that the other one wi' the specked skin be making fools of Miss
Maria up at the Rectory and old Miss Dexter at the cottage. Well! well!
Poor Miss Ellen was gone afore we knew it like, poor soul, that was so
kind!"

Much of this cunning volubility sprung upon Mrs. Cox in pumping fashion
failed to extort from her anything but good-humoured smiles and laughs.
If I have not taken the trouble to describe this beloved Mrs. Cox to you
before this, it is because I fear you will say the picture is Unreal, no
such landlady, no such woman could exist out of England But why not? My
story, remember, deals with people and things as they were twenty years
ago. Twenty years ago there were such Inns, though few at number, to be
found in Western Canada--ay--and as English as any that a certain Mrs.
Lupin presided over in fascinating fiction, and much more English than
many Inns of the present day in England. Twenty years ago there was
such a landlady, rosy and plump and cheerful, wearing a flowered gown,
a black silk apron and a cap with a purple pansy in it and broad and
comfortable lappets, who, when her work was done, would sit in her
small private room opposite the bar also hung with red curtains,
making patchwork quilts or playing a demure rubber with the Scotch
store-keeper, or Irish stage driver, or an occasional gentleman from
town. Such was Mrs. Cox, widow of Captain Cox, able seaman, but bad lot,
who died when they had been five years in Canada, leaving her with her
one child. The public business had attracted her after her loss and she
accordingly went into it on the advice of her numerous friends. People
who despise her calling need not listen to me if I allude to--for I have
not time to recount--all her kindness, her cheerfulness, her powers of
dispensing comfort, and warmth, and happiness, and promoting the direct
and indirect welfare of everyone who came in her path. By what strange
coincidence the brothers Foxley had been led to her glowing fireside
and her motherly arms brimming over with zeal and kindness for the whole
human race, does not matter. It is sufficient that they found her
and found with her a sense of comparative peace and security which
compensated for the one big slice of trouble Fortune had treated them to
before their departure from England. For them did the wall flowers bloom
and the mignonette at the window, for them did the oleander blossom
and the old clock strike, for them did the jessamine climb and the one
hawthorn tree yield its annual soft white drift of snow, and yet who
shall say that they were altogether unworthy, even, if with that picture
of poor Ellen Dexter in my mind, I have to say that they did not deserve
it?



CHAPTER III.


If Mr. Joseph Foxley had but known the sentiments animating the couple
of maiden breasts that awaited his Saturday visits in Ipswich, he would
have been genuinely surprised. The truth is Mr. Joseph was rather
what is termed a general lover. He liked the sex in its entirety.
Collectively he loved all women and belonged to that hand-pressing
section of humanity which I have alluded to as mischievous. Were there
not at least five young ladies in town, at whose houses he visited, and
who were more or less interested in the young Englishman as he in them?
Did Miss Charlotte dream of them or Miss Maria at the rectory? If so,
they never dared to ask Mr. Joseph to give any account of his doings
in town, although they managed to glean what he did with himself in the
village. He respected Charlotte Dexter enough to intend at some future
day to tell her a little more about himself and his brother than he had
yet done; as for Miss Maria, she only bored him and fed his contempt.

"When a rather elderly old girl giggles after everything she says,
conversation is difficult and sympathy out of the question," he had said
to his brother! When Mr. Joseph had known these young ladies for four
years, Miss Maria took her revenge in _her_ way, that was by marrying
the younger brother of Mr. Simon P. Rattray, partner in the mill and the
red brick house by the river. The vision of becoming the cherished wife
of an English aristocrat and going home to reside in a manor house built
in the sixteenth century, with occasional visits to London and glimpses
of the Royal Family had gradually faded, and she accepted the less
rose-coloured lot that Mr. Lyman B. Rattray offered her, sitting in her
father's study, with his hair very much brushed up on one side and very
much flattened down on the other, a white tie and light-yellow duster
adorning his spare person.

Such was the American of those days--twenty years ago--there are none
such now I allow.

Miss Maria, who was considered "very English," shuddered as she regarded
him. It so fell out that it being Saturday, Mr. Joseph was just then
passing--"kind of happening along" Mr. Rattray would have said--_en
route_ to the Inn and his brother, on foot in spite of the dusty road
and the hot August sun, clad in trim tight knickerbockers and carrying
an immense bunch of red field lilies, a gun, and a leather satchel over
his shoulder. Slight and straight and cool, he looked the picture of a
contented cheerful energetic young English man. Along the road he came
whistling an old country tune. Miss Maria who had sighted him afar off,
begged her visitor's pardon and went to the window to arrange the blind.
How her heart warmed to that cruel Mr. Joseph, how she loved him
then just for that last moment! Her heart--that foolish old maid's
heart--beat quickly, beat thickly, she remembered to have read something
somewhere about people who could will other people to look at them, to
speak to them, to even think of them, to move across a room at their
pleasure. If she could but do that! She did try, with her fingers
clenched on the blind, and her eyes fixed on Mr. Joseph, she did wish
with all her might that he would turn his head and see her at the
window and wave his hand gallantly as he had done on one or two previous
occasions. Then she would beckon and he would run across and entering
the room disconcert this odious Mr. Lyman B. Rattray and put an end to
his stony wooing. But alas! for Miss Maria and her mesmeric powers! The
harder she tried, the less she succeeded. On came Mr. Joseph, supremely
unconscious of the injured heart beating behind the windowpane. At one
moment it seemed as if he were about to turn and look in her direction.
A very brilliant wild yellow canary crossed over his head and lit on a
small shrub just inside the garden paling. Had it remained there, would
Miss Maria have ever become the wife of Mr. Lyman B. Rattray? No one
knows, for the canary flew away again to the other side of the road and
Mr. Joseph's eyes followed it In a moment he was past, and the chance
was gone for ever. Miss Maria left her window and sat down opposite her
visitor. There was nothing to keep her now, nothing to give her courage
and hope for the future, new fire for her faded eyes, new strength for
her jaded limbs. Yet she was only thirty-four. How strange it is that
some unmarried women are old at that age, even while living in luxury
and surrounded by every care and all affection, while many a married
woman, though beset with trials and weaknesses and perhaps a brood of
restless little ones to pull her gown and get in the way of her busy
feet, retains her figure and her step, her smile and her complexion, her
temper and her nerves!

It but remained for Charlotte Dexter to take her revenge in her way.
Going very seldom out of her house, and never visiting at the Inn she
was really very ignorant of the doings of either Mr. George or Mr.
Joseph Foxley. Towards the one she had never been greatly drawn, for the
other she felt all the passion that only a supremely lonely woman can
feel in middle age for a man younger than herself who charms her as
a child, while he captivates her as a lover. Of Mrs. Cox and Milly
moreover, she hardly ever thought, and in fact had not seen the latter
for a long time. If she had it is not likely she would even have
recognized in the tall pale shapely young woman with braids of dark hair
and white linen cuffs fastened--must I tell it? with a pair of antique
monogram studs, the plump little handmaiden of four years back. As it
was, she only waited on day after day, to hear Mr. Joseph speak. Instead
of Mr. Joseph however appeared another and less welcome confidante. This
was the most malignant gossip in the village, Mrs. Woods, the wife of
the butcher, a tall red faced woman with high cheek-bones on which the
color seemed to have been badly smirched, watery eyes and a couple of
protruding yellow teeth. She looked more like a butcher than the butcher
himself who was a mild little man with soft silky fair hair and small
nervous fluttering hands. Yet he managed to summon sufficient character
to go on a tremendous burst--I know of no other word, every third or
fourth month and disappear for a week When these periodical eclipses
took place, his wife would come flying into the Inn with her bonnet
hanging round her neck and a large green and red plaid shawl streaming
out behind her.

"Where's Woods?" She would say. "Where's Woods? Give me Woods! Give 'im
up, I tell you; give 'im up now!"

But Woods was never found inside Mrs. Cox's neat dwelling, nor indeed
anywhere, although it had been whispered on, one occasion that he had
been seen in the back room of the little "Temperance Hotel" with the
male Methodist in attendance. This, of course, was clearly impossible.

It was this Mrs. Woods then that stopped at Dexter's Oak one Friday
morning with her donkey-cart and a small piece of the neck of mutton
in it. She was not an entirely bad woman, though a downright cunning
virago, and perhaps some inkling of the nature of the blow that was
about to fall on Miss Dexter's head caused her to come prepared by an
acceptable present to somewhat mitigate its appalling approach.

"I be at the Inn bright and early this morning Miss," she began, "and
brought 'em their bit of fresh meat. And I'm bringin' you a bit as was
over, and it is'nt a bad piece for a stew, if you like a stew, Miss,
with an onion or two."

"Thank you very much, Mrs. Woods," said Charlotte, who had come out to
the front door and now stood on the lower step, looking over the cart.
"I'm afraid I can't settle with you just at present," she said further,
with some effort, "you can call some other time when you are passing.
Will that do? and is it weighed?"

"It is, miss, and I'll not say a word about the payin'! Six pound and a
'alf, and Woods gone agen--I weighed it myself."

"Oh! I am sorry to hear that," said Charlotte. "Your husband gives you a
great deal of trouble. I am very sorry, and he is not at the inn?"

If Charlotte was guilty at that moment of purposely leading the
conversation up to this always for her most enthralling, most engrossing
subject, she soon enough received her punishment. On she went to her own
destruction.

"At the inn!" repeated the butcher's wife, with ineffable scorn on her
cruel mouth. She wiped her watery eyes and settled the refractory bonnet
before going on.

"No miss, he's not at the inn, and if he was sober, he wouldn't be at
the inn, and you'll never see him, nor me, nor 'Ide yonder, nor anyone
on us at all no more at the inn. For the inn's changed 'ands, miss.
There's an end of Mrs. Cox, who was a mother to many, if not to Woods.
There's an end to good old times and dancin' and singin', and honest
Robert, though he was a cross 'un--there's an end to it all now, miss,
for the inn's changed 'ands, and I'm the first in the village as knows
it."

"Good gracious. Is it possible?" said Charlotte, genuinely surprised.
"Who can have succeeded Mrs. Cox and why? I thought she was so popular
and making so much money, and what--what will become of the Mr.
Foxleys?"

Mrs. Woods gave a triumphant grin. "It's them, theirselves, miss; it's
them that 'as it now. And the younger one will be marrying Milly in a
little while and settling down comfortable in the inn. It's gentlefolks
and aristocrats we'll have now at the inn, miss, and 'ard workin' people
like me and Woods may trudge all day and freeze all night, and never a
pot of beer or a warm at the kitchen fire and meat paid regular for year
in, year out!"

Charlotte stood aghast. The woman's injured volubility rushed past her
as a scene outside a railway car rushes past us, leaving only one idea,
one word caught at, as from the window through which we apprehend the
landscape, one scene or portion of a scene enchains the eye and lingers
in the mind though other scenes fly past in varied succession.

"Marry?" she repeated. "Marry! Milly, did you say? That is the girl,
isn't it, Mrs. Cox's niece? Which--"

"Ay," said the woman, "that's Milly, the 'ired girl; she's no I more
than that, if she be her aunt's niece. And 'ard work for one's niece.
Me and Woods, if we'd 'ad one, would have done better for her nor that,
makin' her work like a slave or a dummy. Cows, and pigs, and poultry,
and dish-washing, and scrubbing, and lamps, and starched fronts, and
fine gentlemen--but she's well paid, she's well paid. She's to marry one
of the fine gentlemen, Mr. Joseph it is, and they're to live on at the
Inn with Milly as mistress, and her fine husband behind the bar, very
like. Well, good-mornin', Miss Dexter; I wish you joy of the mutton. Me
and Woods often says--we'll take this or that little Dexter's Oak, but
it's most times forgot, for Woods is 'alf crazed, Miss Dexter, and I've
got to do the whole. Good-mornin'."

Having adjusted her bonnet and the donkey-cart to her satisfaction, Mrs.
Woods drove off rather disappointed on the whole at Miss Dexter's calm
demeanour. Astonishment, perplexity, doubt, contempt and disgust she had
undoubtedly shown, but not a single sigh of weakness. Charlotte Dexter
was not the woman to swoon or lament or even turn pale as her sister
Ellen would have done. But when she came into her house and sat down in
her lonely parlour, she enacted a scene which would have petrified with
astonishment any inhabitant of the prosy little village in which she had
dwelt so long and indeed many other people as well, for when you and I,
dear reader, go to see one of these emotional plays in which the
French actress writhes on the sofa; grovels on the floor, rolls up her
handkerchief into a ball or tears it into strips, prays, weeps, curses,
censures, implores, looks at herself in the glass until she is on the
point of going mad, and strides about the stage as no woman in real
life has ever been seen to stride, ending by throwing herself across an
arm-chair as rigid as marble thereby assuring the audience that she
is in a "dead faint"--I say, that when we see all this performed by a
travelling "star," and her truly eclectic Company, comprising a Diva, a
Duenna, a Diner-out and a Devil, we are apt to look around at the placid
Canadian or the matter-of-fact American audience and wonder if they
understand the drift of the thing at all, the situations, the allusions,
even in the slightest degree, forgetting that perhaps the most placid,
most commonplace person in the theatre has gone through some crisis,
some tragedy as thrilling, as subtle and as terrible as the scene
we have just witnessed. "Not out of Paris," we say, "can such things
happen?" Do we know what we are saying? Is it only in Paris that hearts
are won and tossed aside this night--as in the play? Is it only in Paris
that honor is forgotten and promises are broken this night--as in the
play? Is it only in Paris that money allures and rank dazzles, and a
dark eye or a light step entrances, this night--as in the play? Is it
only in Paris that nature is human and that humanity is vile, or weak,
or pure, or firm, as this night in the play? Oh! in that obscure little
Canadian village, a lonely old maid locked her door that morning and
pulled down her blind that the daylight might not come in and see
her misery, might not mock even more malignantly than the ignorant,
impertinent and hard-hearted woman who had dealt her this blow. Like
most women in such a crisis, she lost the habit of thought. Reason
entirely deserted her, and she never dreamed but that it was true. For
when a women has to own to herself that she holds no dominion over a
man, that it is only too perfectly clear that the impulse of loving is
all on her side and that she has neither anything to expect nor anything
to fear from him, since indifference is the keynote of his attitude
to her, she will all the more readily believe that he loves elsewhere,
worthily or unworthily the same to her. A woman is not a noble object in
such a situation. All trusting feminine instincts, all sweet emotions of
hope, all sentiment, all passion even, retreat and fall away from her,
leaving either a cold, bitter, heartless petrifaction, in a woman's
clinging robe, or the Fury that is the twin sister of every little
red-lipped, clear-eyed girl born into the world. She never dreamed
but that this story was true. In fact so entirely had her woman's wit
deserted her, she said to herself of _course_ it was true. Her brain
could work sufficiently to conjure up hints, phrases, words, looks,
events, accidents that all bore testimony to the truth of the
extraordinary tale. For it was extraordinary. Miss Dexter herself was
the great grand-daughter of an Admiral, and the grand-daughter of a
judge, and as such, respected all these accidents of birth which we
are supposed to ignore or at least not expected to recognize in a new
country. That such men as the Mr. Foxleys could make themselves as
completely at home in the Inn as rumor had frequently asserted, and with
truth, seemed at all times monstrous to her. She had lived so long out
of England, over thirty years now, that she had forgotten the sweet
relations that prevailed there between the aristocracy or landed gentry
and their inferiors. The Mr. Foxleys were simply doing in Canada what
they would have done had they been still in England, only they were
assisted in so doing by the unusually English surroundings in which they
found themselves. Miss Dexter looked around her in the yellow inclosed
light. There was a sampler in a frame, worked by herself when a little
child, another exactly similar, worked by Ellen, a couple of fine old
family portraits in heavy gilt frames, half a dozen ivory miniatures
scattered about on the walls, some good carvings in ivory, a rare old
Indian shawl festooned over the wooden mantle-board, a couple of skins
on the floor, a corner piece of furniture known as a "whatnot" crowded
with bits of egg-shell china, birds' eggs and nests, a few good
specimens of spar and coral and a profusion of plants everywhere. It was
all neat, respectable, even dignified, superior. There was no such other
room in the village. In the village? There were not many at that time
even in the town. Sooner than part with the eggshell china or the Indian
shawl the Miss Dexters had suffered the pains of poverty and hunger;
these cherished reminders of an absent father and an artistic youth
could never be lost or borne away by the hands of a stranger. And how
glad those foolish Miss Dexters had been to possess such beautiful and
interesting objects when it pleased Mr. George Foxley to drink tea out
of the cups on summer afternoons on the verandah of the little cottage
looking up into the splendid vault of the mighty oak, or when Mr. Joseph
would wind the Indian shawl round his silly head in the winter evenings
when the draughts of cold air would rush in through the thin walls.
These and other memories crowded into Charlotte Dexter's brain as
she looked around her room, crowded thick and fast, crowded fast and
furious, surged, broke, leaving an empty moment of perfect blankness,
then crowded again thicker, faster, surged and seethed and then broke
again, leaving in the void of perfect blankness this time a fixed idea,
a resolve, a determination, seen in the dark like a luminous point of
phosphorus.

That afternoon as Farmer Wise was driving slowly along the road, the
main road leading through Ipswich to the town, he was accosted by Miss
Dexter from her verandah. She had her jacket on and held her bonnet in
her hand.

"Can you give me a seat as far as the Albion?" said she. "I would have
sent a message to you yesterday if I had known I was going. But if it
will not trouble you--"

"Oh! no trouble no trouble at all, Miss Dexter," replied Farmer Wise.
"I'm sorry I've only the waggon to offer ye. But I'm takin' in apples as
you see, nine barrel of 'em, and only a waggon will do for them."

"Certainly, certainly," said Miss Dexter, hurriedly trying on her
bonnet. "Can you wait a moment? I won't be longer, Mr. Wise, it is just
to lock the back door."

The farmer nodded and drew up under the shade of Dexter's oak. It was
a beautiful afternoon late in November, characterized by the clear
cold air, the blue and gold of the sky, and the russet coloring of the
foliage that mark the close of the Autumnal season. He looked in at
Miss Dexter's little garden, admirably neat and well-trimmed; dahlias,
hollyhocks, sweet William and asters, though done with blossoms, still
bore their green leaves unsmitten by the frost. The windows appeared
full of flowers too, but the blinds were skimp and faded and drawn down
behind them. He started when he noticed this, for he knew the outer
aspect of the house well, and had never seen such a thing before, except
in case of sickness or death. The honest farmer thought and thought
until Miss Dexter reappeared and assisted by him, got up in her place
beside him. Even after that he went on thinking, and I must here tell
you that it was not the first time Farmer Wise's thoughts had dwelt so
persistently upon his companion and her house and personal history.
For twelve years he had nursed a kind of mild distant passion for Miss
Dexter at the Oak, unguessed at by her and his family, and only half
understood by himself. He could not have said he was in love with her.
He had been in love once when he married his first wife, who bore him
a triad of splendid sons, one "keeping store" in the Western States and
the other two at home on the farm, all three great giants of fellows,
handsome in the fields or at barn-doors or in market-waggons, but plain
on Sundays in black coats or at evening dances in the big ball-room
at the Inn, when they would shuffle noisily through cotillons or labor
clumsily through a Highland Schottische.

For himself, Farmer Wise was an honest, sincere, good-hearted man, a
maker of money and a spender thereof--witness the fine red ploughs,
the painted barns, the handsome team, Kentucky bred, and the inner
decorations of his house, situated about five miles out of Ipswich, on
the main-road. After Mr. Simon P. Rattray, he was the representative man
of the district, although he did not come so closely into contact with
the villagers. This _penchant_ for the elder Miss Dexter had been a
gradual, a slow but very sure and steady thing. Her father's death had
increased it, so had that of Ellen her sister, and the farmer lived too
far away to know as much as other people knew about the advent of the
Mr. Foxleys. Had there been a sister or a daughter, or a wife or a
mother, or an aunt or a cousin about the farm, he would have known very
quickly. As it was, the girl who did the housework on the farm was as
ignorant of gossip, its existence and the laws which govern its nature,
as any male farm hand could be. When Farmer Wise put up his horses
at the Inn three or four times a year, and sat down in the cheerful
bar-room to drink a glass of whisky with his feet to the fire if it were
winter, or a taller glass of Belfast ginger ale if it were summer, did
he never notice Mrs. Cox? Mrs. Cox, well-to-do and popular herself,
fresh, blooming and hearty, a young woman yet, and just the woman one
would say, for him, and above all, the woman who thought most of him
and ran to change her cap--the black one with the knot of rusty widow's
crape--for the smart new one that held the velvet pansy when she saw the
team coming. There's where he should have chosen the second time, there
was the woman he should have noticed instead of poor, proud, foolish
Charlotte Dexter, whom he half feared as a "lady born," and who held
in her heart, had he only knew it, the image of Mr. Joseph Foxley. The
farmer got on with the English gentlemen at the Inn whenever he saw them
"first-rate," and it was of them he began most unsuspiciously to talk
when he and Miss Dexter had crossed the bridge, ascended the hill on
the other side of the river, and the team were settling to their work
as they entered upon the dreary eight miles called the Plains which lay
between them and the city. The farmer was consciously happy as he moved
his ponderous body slightly nearer to his companion and tucked her in
with his great hands, a single touch of one of them hurting her thin
frame as if they were made of iron or stiff rope. He thought he was
gentle too--poor man--but long years of manual labor had changed the
natural soft flesh to the consistency of leather, in which immense
muscles and joints seemingly of marble had been imbedded.

Besides, there was the delicate touch of another hand, as fine, as soft
as a woman's and yet almost as strong as the farmer's, in her mind,
a hand whiter than her own, though somewhat freckled, a hand that had
taper fingers and well-kept nails, a hand that bore an antique seal ring
and a fine pearl, a hand alas that had often retained her own in its
warm clinging pressure, and once--only once, and that was three years
ago--clasped her unresisting waist for a moment in the dark under the
Oak while her sister fumbled at the gate. And just as she cherished
these memories of Mr. Joseph, so did the widowed farmer retain the few
occasions in his mind on which he had met Miss Dexter, spoken with her,
given her a "lift" into town or up the road to the village store, for
this was not the first use she had made of his gallant good nature and
the Kentucky team.

He looked down at her now as they drove along in silence and noticed her
thin black gown, her short jacket, her bit of black veil drawn over her
bonnet, and her dingy travelling-bag with its tarnished clasp, and he
heaved a sigh.

Charlotte was a "sizeable woman" thought Farmer Wise "and wants a good
live garment sometimes, to bring her figure out and make more of it and
do justice to it. A shawl now! How much would a good shawl be? I miss
a woman round the place; I wouldn't know what to ask for. I might ha'
stopped nigh the Inn and asked Mrs. Cox." Ay, you might Farmer Wise, and
have done another mischievous thing, upsetting Mrs. Cox for a week as
she waited for a parcel from town and breaking her heart altogether as
day after day followed and no parcel arrived.

"I ha' never seen the ekil of those Mr. Foxleys yonder," began the
honest farmer as something to start a conversation with. "I ha' never
seen their ekil."

"Oh!" said Miss Dexter. "Yes? In what way?"

"So gentle and so funny as they be. Gentlemen both of them with delicate
hands and fine clothes--"

"Yes, yes," murmured Miss Dexter under her breath, clutching at her bag
and closing her eyes.

"And not above anybody or anything going. I see the pale one this day,
and pale he is and weak they say, enough to be walked about on the
girl's shoulder--I see him to-day as I passed the Inn, he was on a long
chair out in the bit of paved yard, you know Miss Dexter, and when he
saw me he raises his head and says 'Farmer Wise, is that you?'" May be
you don't remember just how he speaks. He speaks better now nor when he
came, and his brother too. At first It was all in a jumble like one word
run into the other and hard to understand at least for us country folks.
But now 'tis a bit clearer, more as you speak, begging your pardon,
Miss Dexter, for noticing that or anything else that concerns you, Miss
Dexter. And I says, stopping these fellows a bit. "Yes it's me. I'm on
my way to town with nine barrels of apples."

"How many?" he calls out again.

"Nine," I replies.

"Let's taste one," he says.

"A barrel?" I says, and Milly, the girl, she come oat by the door, with
another quilt to put over him, laughing, and showing her teeth, rare
ones too, they be and says she. "Throw us down one, Farmer Wise," and I
did, for I had a couple in my pocket, and here's the tother, "now Miss
Dexter, if you see your way to eatin' it now in the waggon alongside of
me, or will you wait till we get to the Albion?" Charlotte Dexter put
her hand out mechanically and took the apple, a large red one, from
the farmer who again managed to hurt her as his great wrist touched her
fingers for an instant. He blushed perceptibly and moved a little nearer
still. And how unconscious Charlotte Dexter was of his mere presence,
let alone tender thoughts, except when he hurt her!

"I have heard this morning, that is I believe everyone has known for
some time, though it is only spoken about generally today, for the
first time, that Mrs. Cox is giving up the Inn. Her niece, the girl
you mention, is going to be married--indeed, it is one of those
gentlemen--the Mr. Foxleys--whom she is to marry, and they will take the
Inn out of Mrs. Cox's hands."

The farmer was as surprised as she had been.

"Well," he ejaculated "didn't I say I'd never seen their ekil? Milly's
going to marry one of the Mr. Foxleys? Which--"

"It is Mr. Joseph," returned Miss Dexter, staring down at the apple in
her lap. "The youngest one, you know. He is a very merry young gentleman
and always has something to say. I daresay it will be a very comfortable
arrangement."

"But it's a great thing for Milly," said her companion, "it'll be a
great thing for her. She'll live in the tone, no doubt and may be cross
the ocean to see his home and his parents--it'll be a great thing for
Milly. A gentleman born! Ay, ay; ay, ay!"

"No, no," said Miss Dexter, irritably. "Don't I tell you, Farmer Wise,
that they will live on at the Inn? These young gentlemen like comfort,
like being waited upon. They do this in order to insure--in order
to--oh! it is difficult to explain my meaning, but you must see, Farmer
Wise, that it is not a proper marriage at all, it is a very sad thing
for the girl, I should consider, and some one--some friend should tell
her so. She can never be a lady, and what kind of life will it be for
him, a gentleman born, as you say, when he could have chosen too,
where he liked. My great grandfather, Mr. Wise, was an Admiral, and
my grandfather was a Judge. My father was a member of a respected
profession, although not brought up to it in early life, and _none_
of my relations, or ancestors _ever_ married out of their own proper
circle, except my poor father. He made a most perverse and foolish
marriage, Farmer Wise, which though only lasting a few years, brought
sorrow and trouble and poverty and oppression to his family."

"Ay, ay," said the farmer, softly. He was thinking still about those
down-drawn blinds.

"Ay, ay. You're right in the main, Miss Dexter--yes, you're right in the
main. Now, I thought I'd ask ye--I said to myself this morning, when I
see Miss Dexter the next time, her as is a lady, and no mistake, I'll
ask her--what would you say, or what your sister have said if someone
here right in this village, that is, there in Ipswich, I mean of course,
someone who wanted to just be kind and lend an 'elpin 'and, had asked
ye--or her--say her--had asked her anytime to marry him, startin'
fair, startin' fair, with a year to think on it. And a comfortable 'ome
awaitin' 'er with two 'ired girls to do the work and plenty of hands
on the farm and the best of cheese and butter and the Harmonium in the
parlor and drives to and fro' the Church and behind it all a--solid
man--a solid man--what do ye think she'd 'uv said?"

Was ever man more in earnest, now that it had suddenly broken from him
after all these years, than honest Farmer Wise? The team jogged on, but
the reins were lying loosely in their owner's hands.

"I thought I'd ask ye," he repeated looking away from his companion. "I
thought I'd ask ye."

Miss Dexter had hardly gathered the import of his speech. She looked up
startled.

"My sister?" she said with increased irritability. "Ask my sister?
What do you mean? I never knew that anybody here, in the village, had
proposed to her, or dared--dared to think of her at all as a possible
mate--wife, whatever it is you mean. Surely you don't mean yourself,
Farmer Wise! It would never enter your head, I am sure, to propose to my
sister!"

"No it never did," said the farmer quietly.

"Then it is someone else? Really, you must tell me, if you know anything
about it, Farmer Wise. But I think you are making some mistake, it is
quite impossible that anyone in the village--any native of the village,
or indeed any native of this country should so far forget himself as to
propose to my sister."

"Of course," said the farmer as quietly, "it is quite impossible. No one
'ud 'av done it. No one did do it, that I know on. But I thought I'd ask
ye. And about yourself, too? There'd be no gettin' ye to forget all--all
that has been and to take up with things as they be, to be makin' a new
start, startin' fair, as I said, startin' fair, both parties agreed to
think a year on it, and one party to save up and buy nothin' till the
year 'd be out and then the other party to give the word for both to
take 'ands and make the start together! For what's past is past, and
what's done is done, and ye can't make this out the old country any more
nor ye can bring back those that are gone, which they wouldn't be, I
'low to say, if they'd stayed behind in it. This" said the farmer, in
a louder firmer voice, indicating with his whip the dreary pine forests
that bordered the road on either side, "isn't the old country. I come
from it myself, and I know it taint. Them rustlin' leaves ain't the old
country, heaps of brown and yella up to your knees after a while, nor
yet this road, nor that sky, nor this waggon, nor them apples, nor them
horses. Nor me myself. I'm no longer old country. I'm fond of it--sho!
I'm fonder of it now than I was forty years ago, when I come away from
it, I'm fonder of it every year that goes by. But it's the New Country
that's made me, that's give me all I have and more than all I want, and
accordin' I'm grateful to it, and wouldn't turn my back on it. No Miss
Dexter I wouldn't, and so I says, to all as come out to it, it's better
to try and forget the past, or at least as much of it as 'll bear
forgetting in order to let you live, and to take up with things as they
be, and not lookin' always to things as they were, and to make the
best of what the New World has to offer to ye And I don't think that in
England--God bless her--to-day, you 'll find a finer team, nor redder
apples, nor an easier going waggon, nor even a prettier sky, than that
there yella light breakin' all over the landscup like!"

There was perfect silence after that. It had suddenly dawned upon
Charlotte Dexter with accession of disgust and embittered hostility that
the farmer's words related to himself. What new and hateful complication
was this to be reminded by such an ill-timed declaration of the ironical
in her life which had always been near enough to her apprehensions!
Anything and everything but what she wanted, she could have. It had
always been so. A dark frown gathered on her forehead, she clutched her
bag and drew herself away from the side of the honest farmer.

"I do not know what you are talking about," she cried. "Such words can
have nothing to do with me. I could not disgrace myself and my father's
family by allying myself with anybody out here, least of all, one of the
working classes, or a farmer. You are very inconsiderate, Farmer Wise,
and I must ask you to distinctly understand that even conversation on
such a subject is quite out of the question. I cannot even discuss
it with you or with anyone in your position. I have told you what my
connections are; what my family is, you have now, I hope, some correct
idea, and you will see how utterly impossible it is that I should, even
to better my circumstances which I admit are somewhat precarious, make
such a _mésalliance_--such a mistake, I mean, as you refer to.

"Well," said the farmer very quietly this time. "You're right in the
main, Miss Dexter, you're right in the main. But I thought I'd ask ye, I
thought I'd ask ye. Far from harm bein' done, there's only good, there's
only good, for now you understand me and I understand _you_ and thank ye
for your confidences and there's an end on it."

So begun, so ended the honest man's wooing. Did he suffer disappointment
as Miss Dexter's contemptuous eye and her irritated tone showed him--ah!
how plainly--she was forever out of his reach? Was an idol broken, a
dream dissolved, a blossom nipped, or hope murdered, just as much, in
the case of this comfortable placid unimaginative elderly farmer as in
the case of younger, warmer, more impetuous, more idealistic men? If
so, Farmer Wise was as self-contained as the best actor among them and
handed Miss Dexter out at the Albion with as gallant, though cautious
politeness and sat as far away from her at the hotel tea table and met
her in the hall afterwards with as severe an air, as if the situation
were perfectly pleasant and completely ordinary. He asked her when she
would be going back, and learnt that she would pass the night at the
Albion, returning to the village by the Saturday's stage.

"Then shall I take a seat for ye?" asked the willing farmer.

"No" said Miss Dexter, who appeared to be in a great hurry, "I can
arrange in the morning, thank you."

"In any case, ye're sure ye won't want a 'lift' again, Miss Dexter,"
said the farmer respectfully, though there might have been the least
tinge of irony in the tone. "I'm not goin' back myself till to morrow."

"No, thank you," returned Miss Dexter for the last time.

The Albion was a small hotel or tavern situated just on the outskirts of
the town, which did a flourishing business with the country people. Two
roads, the Ipswich and the Richmond, formed a sort of junction before
its door, one leading into the fine agricultural district or valley
of Richmond, Guernsey and Trenton, and the other following, the dreary
Plains through Ipswich to Orangetown, a thriving little community of
mills and saws and booms and planks picturesquely situated on the Upper
Orange River.

There was always a knot of farmers round the Albion, all of them English
or Scotch or native Canadians born of British parents. A French-Canadian
would have been hoisted on a table and examined minutely all over, hair,
eye, skin and costume, had one been present. But though the men were
respectable and decent and hard-working and most of them earned a good
income and few of them drank or gambled it away, they were noisy, smoky,
staring fellows for companions and Miss Dexter, having walked some
distance to a shop, made a purchase, and returned to the parlor of the
hotel while it was yet light, uncertain what to do with herself or
where to go to escape the bustle and clatter of tongues. Farmer Wise
was smoking in the bar, she had seen him as she passed in, and the mere
sight of him, with his head up against the counter, and his legs out
on a chair made her shudder. She sat in the parlor listening to the
intolerable noise, heavy delf and cutlery being momentarily banged down
on tables and chairs, an occasional broken plate and whirling pewter mug
or kitchen spoon reaching her ear with more than usual reverberation.
Then would come a volley of laughter, oaths, and bets on next week's
races from the bar, then more breaking of china from the scullery, the
stamping of horses in the stable, then the bar door would be closed and
comparative silence ensue. In one of these intervals, the girl who had
waited at the tea-table appeared in the parlor and inquired of Miss
Dexter if she would like a fire put in the wood stove that stood on a
square of zinc in the middle of the room. It came as a relief from
the nervous broodings that were settling down on her mind occupied in
introspection neither healthy nor cheerful, and she eagerly assented.

When the fire burned up, she opened the door that she might see the
blaze and spread out her thin hands to it and put her cold feet to its
warmth. Then for the first time she unclasped her bag and taking out her
purchase, looked at it. The shop she had gone into was a druggist's, and
her purchase had been a small bottle of a bluish fluid that she now held
up to the light and looked at long and steadily but with no change in
her countenance. The bar-door opened with a creak and closed with a
bang. She started and replaced the bottle in the bag and put the bag
over her arm as before. For a long time she sat before the fire warming
first one foot, then the other and never looking away from the blaze.
When half-past ten came, so did the girl with a lamp and two damp towels
for Miss Dexter who took them without opening her mouth much to the
astonishment of the girl, who though taciturn herself was well used to
speech and "language" from all she came in contact with, and who was
also struck with the fact that the strange lady had never removed her
bonnet or jacket "since she come in the house."

She would have had additional ground for surprise had she known that the
strange lady did not remove them even upon reaching her own room, but
lowering the lamp, lay down fully dressed upon the bed still clasping
her small travelling bag in her hands, and slept until seven o'clock
in the morning. She then rose and hastily straightening her attire,
descended to the dining-room, partook of ham and eggs. Upon the close
of this meal, she went up again to the parlor and sat slightly back from
the window that overlooked the main road until twelve o'clock, when she
partook of the dinner served to the travellers at the Albion, including
Farmer Wise who had sold his apples and soon after dinner hitched up
ready to go homewards. After dinner she went up as before to the parlor
and sat there again. Two o'clock came, half past two, three o'clock, and
Miss Dexter began to look along the road in the direction of the town.
Half-past three found her, still looking along the road. Four o'clock
came, half-past four, then five. She grew visibly uneasy, walked to and
fro in the little parlor, sat down again. Half-past five, the clatter
in the kitchen which had been silent for a little while renewed itself.
Six!! The men stumped into their tea, and the girl ascending asked Miss
Dexter if she was coming down to hers.

"No," said Miss Dexter, "I expect to have a late tea at home, thank you.
And I am just going in a moment or two."

Ten minutes past six. The late November afternoon had almost entirely
faded, it would soon be dark. A quarter past six and Miss Dexter,
looking continuously out of her window perceived the figure she had
waited for so long at length approaching. Gay, Mr. Joseph, you
have thrown off the fetters of town and work and dull care and
responsibility, and here you are free and untrammelled as the air,
good humored, cheerful, humming your Old Country tunes as usual, brisk,
_débonnair_, untouched by thought of present trouble or evil, unthinking
and unsuspecting! Gay Mr. Joseph, urbane Mr. Joseph, what have you got
in your hand this time? Last time it was a bunch of the red field lily.
Now it is, or it looks like--yes, it is--a genuine florist's bouquet.
Something to open the eyes of the Ipswich villagers. A gorgeous wired
platoon of roses, and smilax tuberose and mignonette--Mr. Joseph, Mr.
Joseph, what does this mean, who is this for? On he came, brisker, more
_débonnair_, more smiling than Miss Dexter had ever seen him in her
life. Her breath came fast as he neared the window. Exchanging a word
with the hostler and a couple of laboring men who stood almost in the
centre of the road Mr. Joseph passed on, looking down with a smile at
the bouquet in his hand. Miss Dexter then arose and quietly settling her
bonnet at a glass walked out of the hotel having paid her small bill at
dinner-time.

She walked steadily on in the direction of Ipswich in the wake of Mr.
Joseph who did not appear to be walking as fast as usual himself. So by
straining every nerve as we say--in reality, walking as she had never
attempted to and dreamt of walking in her life--she slowly but surely
gained upon the unconscious Mr. Joseph. They were about in the middle of
the plains, that dreary bit of road bordered by pine forests on either
side when Miss Dexter found she could distinguish the _clink, clink_ or
jingle of his watch-chain, a thing of steel links which she knew well by
sight as well as by sound as it struck against the buttons of his coat.
Slowly Miss Dexter gained on him, until it was necessary either to
accost him or pass him. Which did she mean to do? Dark as it was rapidly
growing, Mr. Joseph, in half turning his head to observe something in
the trees or sky, became conscious of a figure close behind him. The
path was narrow, for he had left the middle of the road since passing
the Albion, and he stepped aside with his usual ready politeness to
allow the lady room to go on before him. But in a moment he recognized
Miss Dexter. She waited for him to speak.

"I--really, why--is it possible it is you, my dear Miss Dexter? I never
knew you took such lonely walks so far from home. You don't mean to say
you've walked out from town?"

For an answer, Miss Dexter, who had previously unclasped her bag and
taken out the bottle, lifted her right hand and threw the contents over
Mr. Joseph.

"In the name of God!" shrieked the unfortunate man, warding off as he
imagined a second attack. But Miss Dexter had done her work and stood
rigid, unmovable, stony as marble, the bag fallen at her feet, her hands
fallen straight down at her sides. Mr. Joseph had sunk upon the ground
moaning and writhing, but through all the torture of the terrible pain
he was suffering, he thought of nothing but the inconceivable brutality
of the act itself. Why had she done it?

"I suppose it is vitriol," he gasped. "Was it an accident--or--did
you--mean--to--do it? How have--I--injured--you? Oh--say--say--"

He could get no further for a few moments in the appalling consciousness
of that living fire which had burnt into his poor eyes and played round
his poor temples. Otherwise he was not injured, for Miss Dexter's aim
had been a faulty one and nearly all the contents of the bottle had in
reality descended on the ground.

"Say--say" he went on. "Which it is? My--dear--Miss Dexter--I
am--sorrier for you--than--for--myself, and cannot imagine--oh! Good
God, I shall be blind, blind--ah!!--"

Charlotte Dexter still stood in the rapidly darkening air, a stem,
rigid, immovable figure. It was too soon for remorse. That would come in
good time. But a certain pity stole over her as she gazed at the huddled
mass on the ground before her, which a short time ago, had been the gay,
laughing, upright Mr. Joseph.

"Are you suffering very much?" She said at length in her ordinary voice.

"Good God! How--how--can you ask? Again--tell me--was it--an accident?"

"No," she replied still in her most ordinary voice. "No. It was no
accident. It _is_ vitriol, and I _did_ mean to throw it."

"It is horrible," groaned Mr. Joseph, still in agony on the ground where
he had sunk at first. "And you will not--fiend that you appear now
to be--though Heaven knows--I thought you sweet and womanly enough
once--you will not--tell me why! It is infamous!"

"Yes, it _is_ infamous," returned Charlotte Dexter. "It _is_ horrible,
and I am a fiend. I am not a woman any longer. I once was, as you say,
sweet and womanly enough for--for what? Joseph Foxley. For you to come
to any house and my sister's house, and blast _her_ life and strike
_her_ down as you thought you would strike me, for this and that and for
much more, but not enough for truth and honesty and an offer of marriage
in fair form, not enough for common respect and decent friendship."

"My dear lady," said Mr. Joseph with great difficulty, "there was no one
I--"

"And all that time, when I thought you at least free, at least your own
master, at least unbiased and unbound, for unlike a gentleman you never
hinted to me of these--other ties--you were engaged to this miserable
girl, this common drudge, the scullery-maid of a country inn. You, you,
you!"

"My dear lady," said Mr. Joseph again with greater difficulty than
before, "I--upon my word--I have--I--"

Charlotte Dexter, suddenly regaining the use of her limbs, bent down
quickly and peered into the poor sightless face. Mr. Joseph had fainted.
She owned no fear yet however, though it was now quite dark, and five
miles lay between them and her own door. Pity was just giving away to
remorse. What if she had killed him? She bent down again but found
that there was no fear of that and even consciousness appeared to be
returning. At this moment the sound of wheels struck her ear. Nearer
and nearer it came and she soon descried a waggon coming along the road
sharply in which sat one man. The rest of the waggon was empty and as it
was proceeding in the direction of the village, into that, she made up
her mind, should Mr. Joseph be put. As it drew near, she stepped out of
the dark shade of the pines and bade the man stop.

"Whose there!" said he, "What's here? What's the matter? Why, if it
ain't Miss Dexter!"

"Yes," said she, stooping to assist her unfortunate companion. "How do
you do, Farmer Wise! I--do you know Mr. Foxley--Mr. Joseph Foxley--is
here--can you just see him--if you have a lantern, or, will you help me
to get him into the waggon?"

Farmer Wise forgot Miss Dexter and her family pride in an instant,
though at first sight the feeling of injury had somewhat revived, and
he made haste to come to her relief. He found Mr. Joseph just coming to
himself.

"Why, why, what's the matter?" said the Farmer. "It minds me of old
times, this, when highway-men and tramps were a-infestin' the road and
a-lyin' in wait for honest travellers--in the Old Country of course,
Miss Dexter, not here, not here. Yet somethin's been at work here, eh!
Mr. Joseph, or else I'm much mistaken. Here, lend an 'and, Miss Dexter;
now, sir, can you see me?"

"Not very well," gasped poor Mr. Joseph. "It's dark, I know," said the
farmer, "and I hadn't begun carrying my lantern yet. Never mind Here,
now, place your foot there--are ye hurt anywhere that I may touch
ye--tell me where I hurt ye, if I do--now then, the other foot--

"There, now it's done! Miss Dexter, ma'am there's an old blanket at the
back there, lie him on that. Put his head down and let him look straight
up at them stars and he'll soon get himself, I warrant. If I knew where
ye were hurt, perhaps I could bind ye up. There's no wound," anxiously.

"No," said Mr. Joseph. "Thank you, Farmer Wise. I am--much--better--really.
I was unconscious!"

"Ay," said the farmer, "A little, and can you stand the joltin' now, are
ye sure? For if ye are, we'll drive on."

"Stay a moment," said Mr. Joseph. "I had some flowers--a bouquet--in my
hands when I--fell. I can't see--very well--in this light--look for me,
will you!"

"I do spy somethin' white on yonder ground where you was when I came up.
Maybe it's a pocket-handkerchief, may be it's the flowers you dropped."

The former sprang down and returned with two articles one of which--the
bouquet he gave to Mr. Joseph, the other, a small bottle--he put in his
own pocket The bouquet was as fresh and untumbled as when it emerged
from the careful florist who had prepared it. Not a single drop of the
fiery liquid had fallen upon it nor scorched its fragrant beauty and it
presently lay upon the face of the suffering man, healing with its cool
moist sweet leaves and petals his poor scarred skin.

"I won't ask him," thought the farmer, "I won't ask him. But what are
they doin' here together? Well, I won't ask that neither. And why did
not she came out by the stage as she said? I won't ask that neither.
There's three things I needn't go for to enquire into. But a little
general conversation in a nice kind of way, neither spyin' nor lyin' may
do him good and not be altogether despised by the--the other party." He
looked back and could dimly see Mr. Joseph sitting up on the blanket. He
had removed his hat, and his hands were pressed to his head. Charlotte
Dexter was in the furthest corner of the waggon, a dark, stern, ominous
figure.

"Strange that you and me _are_ goin' home together, Miss Dexter, after
all," said the farmer.

"Miss Dexter drove in to the Albion alongside of me yesterday, sir,
and I ask her if so be she need a second lift back to-day, and she said
'no.'"

"Ah!" said Mr. Joseph. "Yesterday, did you say? I was--to have--come
out--yesterday--in answer to my brother's note--but I could not
manage--it. I wish," with a grim attempt at the old humor--"I had, 'pon
my soul I do."

"Your brother is well, I hope, sir?" said the farmer. "Don't talk too
much, I beg of ye, Mr. Joseph. To see ye with yer hands like that!"

"It is--better--easier--that way," returned Mr. Joseph. "My brother
is well for him, thank you. You know, he is--not strong
he--is--never--perfectly well."

"D--" said the farmer to himself. "Of course, of course, I know. I see
him yesterday morning, pale like and weak, but smiling and lookin' happy
enough too, I tell ye."

"Ah, yes" said Mr. Joseph, again lying down and pressing the flowers to
his hot lips. "I--these flowers--are for him and--her."

"Her!" said the farmer.

"Milly, you know. Ah--perhaps you haven't heard. My brother is going
to--marry Milly, Mrs. Cox's niece, you know."

An absolutely death-like stillness prevailed in the waggon. The Kentucky
team jogged on. The stars shone down on poor Mr. Joseph turning up his
sightless orbs to their beauty and majesty, and on the passion of grief
and remorse that now surged in Miss Dexter's suffering breast.

"It may be vanity," thought Farmer Wise as the bridge and the river
and Dexter's Oak came in sight one after the other, "it may be vanity,
though I'm too old a man to be much given to that, but I can't help
thinkin' I'm a wiser man than I was yesterday by a good lot. I don't
half know what's happened, but somethin's goin' on, whether it's
understandable or not to me and the likes of me, I don't know as yet,
and I don't think I'll try to find out. If ifs bad it'll come out fast
enough, and if it's good, leavin' it alone maybe will make it a little
better. But here we are," he continued aloud, "at Dexter's Oak. What's
to be done, Miss Dexter, now, and with you, Mr. Joseph? Of course, I'll
take you straight to the Inn--as for Miss Dexter--"

"I will get out at once," said the unhappy woman. "You are sure you can
take him to the Inn all right and--and--lift--that is--without--"

"Oh, I guess so," said the farmer, grimly relapsing into an Americanism
that was just beginning to leaven the whole country. "I guess I'll
take care on him, and as for gettin' him out at the Inn, there's plenty
there. Good-night Miss Dexter, take care there!--now you're all right"

Charlotte Dexter, with a long look at the prostrate form of Mr. Joseph,
leapt from the waggon and sped through the gate up to her desolate
dwelling.

"Ah!" sighed the farmer to himself, one great long sigh that stirred his
hardy frame to its centre. He never sighed like that again either for
Charlotte Dexter or any other woman.

The next mile they traversed in silence broken only by occasional moans
from Mr. Joseph which moved the old farmer to wonder and dismay that
almost unnerved him.

Presently Mr. Joseph murmured some word the farmer did not catch all at
once.

"Is he out of his mind on top of it all!" he said to himself, and
listened.

"Farmer Wise," said the same low voice, "are we near the Inn?"

"Just there, Mr. Joseph."

"On the little bridge yet?"

"Just come on it, Mr. Joseph."

"Ah! Can you--stop your horses?"

"Certainly. There! Now what is it?" Mr. Joseph sat up.

"I am in your waggon--the market waggon, Farmer Wise, I think?"

"Yes, Mr. Joseph. You can't tell where we are, I see, being so much
shook."

"No. That's not it," said Mr. Joseph. "I--are you on the seat--the front
seat, Farmer Wise?"

"Yes, Mr. Joseph. You can't make me out by this queer light, and I don't
wonder. The stars is beautiful, but they don't make up for havin' no
moon."

"No. That's not it either, Farmer Wise. Did you say the stars were
shining? Orion, I suppose, and the Bull and the rest of them! Can't
you--try--like a dear old fellow--can't you--tell what's the matter with
me? You say you are sitting on the front seat, and I--have no doubt but
that you are, but your voice sounds so much further away--so very much
further away than that--and when one--can't--see you, Farmer Wise,--"

A frightful pause.

"Can't see me, can't see me! Mr. Joseph, Mr. Joseph! Not blind--God
forgive me for sayin' the word out to ye like that! But I thought it, I
thought it, and so, out it come! But it is'nt that! Ye'll forgive me for
sayin' the word out to ye like that! It isn't that!"

"I'm afraid it is, Farmer Wise. It can be--nothing--else.'

"If, as you say, the stars are shining and to be sure they generally are
about--this time--of night, and if, as you say, you are sitting directly
opposite me on the front seat of your waggon, and I have no reason
to doubt it, if this is so, and I--can see neither--these stars
shining--nor you--yourself--dear old fellow--on the seat before me--it
can be, I fear--nothing else."

"And how--"

"Ah! I can't--quite remember. Some time, perhaps, I'll tell you
how--shall I go to my brother or--how can I?"

"Mr. Joseph," entreated the farmer, seizing one of those delicate hands
and patting it as if it had been his own. "Will you come with me? I'll
make you comfortable, and have ye seen to and we'll find out about it
and what can be done, and that'll save your brother, look, and he not
strong! Come, Mr. Joseph! Lie down there as you was, just as ye was--God
forgive me for tellin' you to look up at them stars--and I'll speak a
word for you at the Inn, as we're passing. Won't that do, nor be better
than goin' in like that? Not knowin' either just what is the matter.
Come, Mr. Joseph! I'll drive straight home after that and make ye
comfortable for the night, and there'll be no--womankind, or, or anyone
to disturb ye, just me and the two boys--come, Mr. Joseph!"

"I am willing enough to go, old fellow," answered Mr. Joseph with a
groan. "Willing enough to go anywhere, but where my brother--my poor
brother--is. Yes, it will be best. Drive on."

The warm cheery Inn soon appeared in view. The firelight from the
bar and the lamp-light from the other rooms beamed out from the
red-curtained windows. The scrape of a fiddle came from the kitchen.
"Squires," murmured Mr. Joseph, feebly. "He's always at it." The farmer
pulled up the team at the pump corner one instant and looking around
descried not a soul in view. He got down and went to the side door
leading to the bar and opening it put his head in. Mrs. Cox herself was
dispensing early gin and water to three or four indolent but talkative
gentlemen before the fire. But she was not so busy as not to perceive
the farmer. Had she already had that cap on in which bloomed the violet
velvet pansy, Mr. Joseph's whereabouts might have been discovered, for
invariably on those occasions she accompanied the farmer not only to the
door but even to the very feet of the horses as he straightened up one
thing or loosened another and would often joke about the empty waggon or
the purchases made in the town which might happen to fill it.

But Farmer Wise left her no time even to adjust her head-dress, far from
changing it.

"Good evening, ma'am," said he, with his head in the door. "No. Don't
trouble about Squires. He's hard at work, I can hear, and besides, I
don't want him. I'm late, and the boys will wait for their supper. I
just have to tell ye that I see Mr. Foxley in town, Mr. Joseph Foxley,
and he says how he can't come out till--say--Monday. He was stuck full
of work--he was indeed--and said positive--he couldn't come. But he
give me this for his brother and for--her," producing the bouquet, which
caused a thrill of amazement and awe to pervade the loungers in the bar.
"For his brother and for--her," said the farmer, taking a long stride
across the little room and giving it to Mrs. Cox. "I congratulate you,
ma'am, I do indeed."

Before she could well answer, he had shut the door and mounting the
waggon drove away as quickly as he could. He was too full of thoughts
and plans concerning Mr. Joseph to notice that quick as he was, Mrs.
Cox, not waiting this time to change her cap, had come out to the door
and with her hand shading her eyes, was looking wistfully after the
departing team.



CHAPTER IV.


It was as Mr. Joseph had said. His brother, George Albert Dacre Foxley,
of Foxley Manor, Notts, was indeed contemplating marriage with Milly,
niece of Mrs. Cox, landlady of the Ipswich Inn. If it seem strange,
remember that he had passed the meridian of his years, health was gone,
life rapidly passing away and it was impossible now for him to make any
new departure in his life or habits. He had become firmly attached
to Mrs. Cox's comfortable _ménage_ and wanted nothing more. Never in
England, even while in the enjoyment of fairly good health and luxurious
surroundings had he ever felt so completely at rest, satisfied with
himself and his small immediate world, every want cared for, every wish
guessed at, and the best of company to his idea--company that called
for nothing but pure naturalness. He could smoke for hours in Mrs. Cox's
kitchen, or in her neat yard or even in the chintz-hung drawing-room
and no one would interrupt him with dissertations on politics, art or
literature. Like all Englishmen of the quiet country-loving stamp, he
cared little about politics except when some general crisis assented
itself, and knew less about art or literature. He thought Wilkie and
Landseer about the summit of the one and Byron the chief modern pillar
of the other. Twenty years ago, Tennyson had not made a very deep
impression on a mind of his calibre. Yet this handsome, quiet, delicate
gentleman when he did choose to talk had such an audience as is not
given to many men, for Mrs. Cox would leave her work (if she dared) and
Milly would listen with her young eyes fastened in a kind of ecstasy
on the dark ones turned to hers, and Squires would come along with his
hands in his trousers pockets and his fiddle under his arm, and Bess
would put her paws upon her master's knees and devour him with her own
dark eyes--a quintette of friends unsurpassed in the world for loyal
attachment and generous devotion. What if what he had to tell was but
some simple story of hunting England, or some bald description of London
life seen under the surveillance of a tutor fifteen or twenty years
previous to the time of narration--he was their oracle, prophet, God,
what you will, and they were his dearest, yes, his very dearest friends.
When Mr. Joseph appeared as one of this happy circle, it became more
boisterous of course though not necessarily any happier, for it
was already as happy as it could be. But the news from town and the
occasional English mail, flowers and a cheap new novel--these were some
of the simple delights that Mr. Joseph used to bring with him. During
the first couple of years, both the brothers would saunter out to the
Miss Dexters' or to the Rectory, Mr. Joseph in particular, never failing
to appear on Saturday nights at choir-practice and Sunday evening
service--but Mr. George gradually discontinued his visits as I have
hinted and towards the fourth year of his stay hardly ever went beyond
the Inn. For at the back the small terraced garden met the orchard, and
the orchard sloping down met a small pebbly brook, and the brook flowing
along in sweet rippling fashion met the most charming of wheat covered
golden meadows in which it was pleasant and good to stroll and which
moreover all belonged to that matchless paragon among landladies, Mrs.
Cox. In those days people grew their own kitchen stuff, and their own
fruit and their own grain, fed their own live stock, made their own
butter and cheese, cured their own hams, laid their own eggs, even
brewed their own beer. Now, everything is different, and let no
confiding Englishman, allured by my tempting picture come out to Canada
today in search of such a Utopia for he will not find it. Moreover all
this pleasant prospect of wood and stream and meadow and orchard lay
well _behind_ the Inn, let it be understood, and it was perfectly
possible for Mr. George Foxley to have all the air, walking and
exploration he desired and even a little shooting and fishing if he
wanted them without, as I have said, going beyond it. When he grew
really weak, he was obliged to give up both the latter occupations of
course, but he still walked or strolled a great deal, generally with
Milly by his side. She would leave anything she was at when he called
her and opening the little gate by the one hawthorn tree leading into
the orchard, see him safe down the slope to the side of the little brook
where she would give him her arm, and thus their walk would commence in
earnest. Four years had brought a great change in Milly. New ideas, new
habits, association with such thorough and high-bred gentleman and
the natural desire to improve and grow worthy of such dearly esteemed
company, had altered her completely. Where before she had been pink,
now she was pale; thin, where she had been plump; her features actually
aquiline from the girlish snub of the rounded contour four years back,
her hair, three shades darker, her dress, almost that of a lady. The
most perfect sympathy appeared to exist, and really did, between these
two strangely met natures.

One day, they had sat down at the side of the brook as a couple of
children would have done to cast in sticks and leaves and watch them
float by. Sometimes these would get caught in the numberless little
eddies that such a stream possesses and be whirled round and round until
it was necessary to dislodge them and send them on their way after the
others. One fine yellow leaf on this November day attracted Mr. Foxley's
attention particularly, for it was obstinate in returning again and
again to a cosy little bay formed by a couple of large stones. Often
as he poked it out, back it came into the bay and anchored itself
contentedly on the calm water.

Milly laughed.

"He has found a haven," said Mr. George. "Yes, without doubt he has
found his haven. What do you think, Milly?"

"I think so, sir."

"Don't call me sir, child. What makes you do so?"

"There is nothing else I can call you, is there,--sir."

"Ah!" said Mr. Foxley. He lay back at full length on the grass and put
his hands over his eyes. The river rippled on and Milly watched him
anxiously. "Is the leaf there still, Milly?"

"Yes, sir."

"Now!" said Mr. Foxley in a warning tone. "I tell you I won't have it."

"No, sir--I beg your pardon, Mr. George."

"Nor that either," said Mr. Foxley, slowly rising into a sitting posture
again. He had another poke at the yellow leaf. "Call me Dacre, my child,
will you?" Milly no longer watched him with those loving, anxious, eyes.
She was trembling from head to foot and had she spoken, she must have
wept. Mr. Foxley's voice was of itself enough to make any woman weep, it
was so soft, so tender, so subdued and indrawn. Once more he said, "Call
me Dacre, my child!" That pleading voice, so low, so musical, and that
it should plead to her? They were so close together that he could
feel her tremble. Weak as he was, he was the stronger of the two for
a moment, and turning slightly towards her met her rapturous eyes, and
heard her call him the name he wanted to hear. The same instant they
kissed, a long thrilling dark-enfolding kiss that was the first Milly
had ever known from a man and might have been, for its purity and
restraint, the first also that he had ever given to a woman.

"Have I found my haven too, like the wise leaf of autumn? Have I! Tell
me, my child, my darling!"

"O sir, dearest sir--I mean, dear Dacre, it is I who have found mine. If
indeed you care for me, sir!"

Mr. Foxley laid his head just on her shoulder, then let it slide into
her lap, taking her trembling hands and putting them over his eyes.

"I do more than care for you, my child. I love you. Stoop and kiss me.
There. Don't take your head away again like that. Leave it. Your face
against mine. Your lips on mine. Is it a haven, child? Truly, yes or
no?"

"Dear Dacre!"

"Well!"

"You know it is. And I have always wanted so much to--to--care for you,
but I did not dare."

"Dare! There is no dare about it my child. If you will give me your
young life--how old are you now, love?"

"Nineteen," whispered Milly into his ear.

"Only nineteen, and such a tall girl, with such long hair--if you will
give it to me and be happy in giving it, child, that must be thought of,
there is no one else--"

"You know there is not, sir."

"Then I will do all I can to deserve it. And nobody must call you Milly
any more. You are Mildred now. Miss Mildred if you like and soon, very
soon, to bear another name, mine. It is a good one, child."

"I am sure of it, dear Dacre, and too good--far too good--for me."

"Do you know how old I am, my child?"

"I heard your brother say."

"And did he dare? What did he say it was, my age?"

"He said--you were forty-one."

"Then he was out. It is more than that I am exactly forty-three; I say
exactly, for, Milly, this is my birthday, and--I cannot hope--neither of
as must dare to hope, child--that I shall see many more. You will marry
me whenever I say, my love?"

The girl bent over him in a passion of weeping.

"There is nothing I would not do for you, dear sir--"

"Except call me by my dearly-beloved third name!"

It began to turn cold as they sat by the stream and Milly or Mildred as
she is henceforth to be called, drying her eyes, fell into a fever over
her lover and besought him to return to the house.

Standing face to face, he put her arms around his neck.

"Before we go, dear child, you are sure you love me?"

"O do not ask me again, dear Dacre!"

"That is right. And you know how old I am?"

Another assent.

"And that you are to marry me whenever I say?"

"If I can."

"Of course you can. And that you are to give me all the love you
possibly have to give and more and more. I shall be exacting!"

"Dear Dacre!"

"Very well. Remember all those clauses, and now take me back to the
house. And some day, my child, I will tell you all my life and what it
was--or rather who it was--that sent me out of England, dear England--"

"Ah! you love it still," murmured Mildred, looking at the ground.

"I shall always love it _now_, since I have found my happiness in
Canada, but once I hated it, Milly, yes, I hated it!"

So was accomplished the wooing of Mr. George Foxley. He was earnestly
and sincerely in love. The girl had grown up under his eye as it
were and was in fact almost a part of himself already. Marriage would
complete the refining and gilding process. The tones of her voice,
her accent, her pronunciation, her habits of sitting, of standing, of
walking were all more or less unconsciously imitated from him, she had
modelled herself upon him, she was indeed his "child" as he loved to
call her. For a month these two people enjoyed as pure and perfect and
isolated an happiness as can be experienced on earth. Then it became
necessary to inform Mr. Joseph and worthy Mrs. Cox. As if Mr. Joseph and
Mrs. Cox didn't know! There are two things that nothing can hide in
this life. One is, the light in the eyes of a girl who has found herself
loved by the man she adores, and the other is, the unutterable content
in the mien of that man himself. And there is no phase of passion
sweeter, nor purer, nor warmer, nor more satisfying, than that which is
the result of a young girl's affection for a man many years older than
herself.

As for the telling, Mr. George, though he could talk fast enough and
fluently enough to Mildred, hated much talk or fuss about anything and
so made everything the easier by informing his brother, Mr. Joseph, by
note. A few lines sufficed as preparation for the news and he ended
by requesting him to purchase some small and inexpensive gift as from
himself in appreciation of the occasion. Mr. Joseph with characteristic
good taste and delicate feeling, concluded that flowers, though
perishable, were the most appropriate purchase he could light upon, and
consequently walked out from town a certain Saturday afternoon late in
November with a monster affair in smilax and roses in his hand. When
it was placed, though not by himself, in Mildred's hands she felt a
disappointment she could not altogether conceal.

"Never mind," said Mr. George at full length on a sofa with Milly beside
him on a chair. He did indeed prove a most exacting lover. For a long
time her share of daily work in the Inn and out of it, had been growing
less and less, until now she hardly did anything at all besides wait on
her master, lover and friend, prepare what he eat, read to him, and
sit by him for hours, never leaving him in the evenings till long after
twelve and then it was understood that in case of night attacks of the
dreadful pleurisy and asthma combined that were slowing killing him, she
would always be at hand to come at the sound of his bell--or indeed his
voice, for Milly, sleeping in the room opposite his own, always left
both doors open and would lie fully dressed on her bed night after
night, listening in the dark, with wide open eyes and strained ears, for
the slightest cough or sigh that came from that worshipped one across
the narrow hall.

"Never mind," said he on that Saturday night "My brother _is_ busy just
now. Don't you remember, he found it difficult to come out last week.
It's an awful grind for Joseph, poor Joseph! But he enjoys life, I
think; at the present moment I expect he is flirting audaciously in town
with some charming girl. Or some fearfully plain one. You never know who
next, with my brother. He'll turn up on Monday."

And Mr. Joseph did turn up on Monday. Farmer Wise had fetched some
doctor from Orangetown on Sunday, who after examining his injury,
pronounced it incurable. Mr. Joseph was as stoical as Englishmen are
generally expected to be and saw that it was absolutely imperative to
tell his brother.

"I brought it on myself" he said to the farmer, "At least I try to
believe I did. By Jove! to think--to think of some men! Well, I _must_
tell my brother."

When he did tell him late on Monday night, having been driven over by
Farmer Wise himself, with his poor eyes bandaged and the sturdy farmer's
hand to guide him into the little back parlor where Mr. George and
Mildred sat alone, for Mrs. Cox had been ordered out by that exacting
gentleman as early as eight o'clock. Nothing but the presence of Mildred
herself and the love divine and human that filled Mr. George's breast to
overflowing could have saved him from succumbing to the painful shock.

"Well, I should think you are cured now, my poor Joseph!" said his
brother presently.

"Of what, in heaven's name?" said poor Mr. Joseph. "By Jove to think--to
think of some men, George! What had I done, what had I done?"

"I do think of them," said Mr. Foxley gravely. "I do think of them.
And but for my happiness here," touching Mildred's dress reverently,
"I could wish--" wistfully, "That we had never come here--'twas I who
brought you my poor Joseph, 'twas I, 'twas I."

"Oh! that's rubbish!" pronounced Mr. Joseph energetically. "The main
point is now, how am I to get my living. God! I am perfectly useless!
They won't take me back in town there."

"Dear Mr. Joseph," said Mildred, with her eyes shining on the brother of
her lover. "You will live with us of course, with--Dacre, Dacre and me,
and my aunt. We all love you--see," and Milly rose, first pressing Mr.
George's fingers as they touched her dress in passing and giving him a
look which was meant to keep him in order for a few moments, "no one can
nurse you as well as I can--ask Dacre--let me take off that bandage and
put it on again more comfortably for you! Will you, dear Mr. Joseph?"
Mr. Joseph groaned and hid his face against Milly's heaving breast.

"She is to be your angel as well as mine, perhaps," murmured his
brother.

"I have always been so active," groaned poor Mr. Joseph, "What is to
become of me? To live here with you would have been beautiful, but
now--the simple thought of existence at all anywhere is unbearable! And
the money--good God, George, how can I Help giving way!"

Some few other such scenes had naturally to be gone through before any
course could be suggested to Mr. Joseph. Mrs. Cox had been taken into
confidence, and Farmer Wise made to understand that nothing must be said
about the unhappy affair. Mr. Joseph wrote into town explaining in some
way his resignation of the rather important clerkship he had but just
begun to fill creditably, and sending for all his belongings took to
Mrs. Cox's remaining little room under the roof in the character of an
invalid. The secret was admirably kept, even by the doctor who had been
written to and who had seen a similar case some years ago.

"A jealous devil, I suppose," said he, when he read Mr. George Foxley's
note.

"Well, he might have come off worse. But I should like to know who the
country lass was that he'd been sparkin', and who revenged herself like
that."

A few weeks afterwards Mildred was married to George Albert Dacre
Foxley, of Foxley Manor, Notts, by the Rev. Mr. Higgs in the village
church. Her lover looked wonderfully well and strong on the occasion
and was so happy that he was actually mischievously inclined during the
ceremony, nearly causing his bride to laugh out audibly. Handsome and
distinguished and aristocratic a gentleman as he looked, Mildred was not
unworthy of him, as a straighter, firmer, more composed and more smiling
a bride never entered a church. The girl was too happy to know what
nervousness meant nor self-consciousness. She sat with her lover after
he was dressed and had lain down a few moments to rest, until it
was time to start in the carriage which Mr. Rattray had in the most
unexpected manner offered them and which Mr. George accepted with the
easy languid grace that characterized his acceptance of most things in
this world excepting Milly. He had plenty of force and passion and to
spare concerning _that_ gift. Stipulating that "Squires" must sit on
the box seat, he and Milly and Mrs. Cox, an ideal little wedding party,
drove off in actually high glee, laughing and chatting and joking
immoderately to the amazement of the villagers, prominent among whom
were Mrs. Woods and "Woods" himself, rescued in a dazed condition from
the back premises of the "Temperance Hotel" according to popular local
tradition, and Mrs. Lyman, B. Rattray, _née_ Maria Higgs. Mr. Joseph
alas! could not be present.

In the year that followed this remarkable marriage, the relative
positions of the Mr. Foxleys underwent a great change. So much love and
so much care lightened the elder brother's existence so materially,
that his health actually improved, and by the end of the sixth month
of marriage he was able to shoot and fish once more, and walk with his
adoring wife without the help of her strong arm and shoulder. Indeed it
was she who about this time began to need his assistance during those
long strolls by the side of the brook or through the tall grain
grown meadows--a matter which astonished them both to the extent of
stupefaction. Mr. George took his trouble to Mrs. Cox.

"I don't know what you expected, Mr. George, I don't indeed," said she,
secretly amused at his simplicity. "You went and got married, as was
only natural, and now you are frightened at the results, as is only
natural."

"But, my dear lady," expostulated the perplexed gentleman, "it involves
so many things, all manner of complications. For instance, money. I
shall have--I really believe, my dear good Mrs. Cox--I shall have to
make some money."

"You!" ejaculated Mrs. Cox.

"I know. It appears hopeless. I never turned a penny, honest or
otherwise in my life. Joseph you see--ah! poor Joseph!"

Poor Joseph indeed, darkness for light, solitude for society, enforced
idleness for long-continued habits of activity, who could enjoy life
under these circumstances--and careful of him as Mildred was, and
sympathetic as his brother was, these two were too intensely absorbed
in each other to give him all the amusement and attention he craved.
He grew thin and weak and slightly perverse and seemed to care more for
Mrs. Cox's company than for his brother's. And yet there was nothing
wrong with him except his terrible affliction. Mrs. Cox was sure he
had something on his mind, and one day she ventured to tell him so. He
flushed all over his pale freckled skin, and feeling for her motherly
hands took them in his own.

"There is," he said. "I wonder no one has ever guessed it. Miss Dexter,
where is she? Does anyone ever see her?"

"My poor boy, my dear Mr. Joseph," cried Mrs. Cox. "You did not really
care for her, did you? Surely! You did not care for her!"

"No," said he decidedly. "No, I did not care for her--I didn't, never
could have cared for her as George cares for Mildred, say--but she was
a lady and kind to me, and I liked to go there, and the fact is--I miss
her--and I am so sorry for her! and yet, you know, I am half frightened
of her too and afraid to go out, thinking she may meet me and I wouldn't
see her coming, you know! Yet she wouldn't do it again, I think!"

"Heaven save us, no, Mr. Joseph! And you so forgiving! Mercy me, and
people say men make all the trouble!"

"It's half-and-half, Mrs. Cox, dear old soul," muttered Mr. Joseph,
leaning back on his cushions. "I suppose we were both to blame. I can't,
for the life of me, fall to talking of it as a judgment, for before
heaven, I had done nothing. Yet I forgot how lonely she was and how
proud, and I forgot too, that Ellen--that Ellen--"

"Ay, Mr. Joseph. It was Ellen too. Poor Ellen, that passed away out of
it all!"

"And she--Miss Dexter--is still here, still living by herself in the
cottage by the oak! I remember so well, Mrs. Cox, the first time my
brother and I ever saw that oak!"

"I daresay, Mr. Joseph, I daresay. Yes, she is still there, living in
her cottage unloved and unheeded, Mr. Joseph. And may she ever continue
so!"

"Oh! don't say that, dear old soul! Don't say that! Do you know, I
should like to see her--I mean--meet her once again!"

Mrs. Cox was certain he was not in "his right head" as she said to
herself.

"See her again! Meet her, talk to her! The woman who served ye like
this! what can you be thinking of? Let me call your brother. There he is
coming along the road, brown and bonny, with his wife on his arm, bless
them both?"

"Did you say he was brown, Mrs. Cox? My brother brown! What a change! He
looks so well then, dear old soul!"

"If you could but see him, Mr. Joseph, you would see how well."

"Well and brown! And Mildred, she is pale, I suppose, and with her
eyes turned up to his and her lips brushing his shoulder every now and
then--O I can see them--I suppose they go on a worse than ever."

"Indeed and they do, Mr. Joseph. After, breakfast this morning I sent
them up into the drawing-room to be out of the way of the drover's
meeting to be held in the bar, and when I went up to ask them about the
lunch they would take with them on the river this afternoon I heard no
sound like and just whispered at the door a bit if I might come in. When
I went in, there was your brother standing behind her in a chair, with
all her hair down, and a brush in his hand and his wife fast asleep!
He looked frightened for a minute when he saw me and I besought him to
bring her to, thinking he'd mesmerized her. He'd been brushing it and
playing with it and the morning over warm--she had fallen asleep. And
I left them, Mr. Joseph, I left them, for they love each other so. And
when I think of the honor he has done my girl, and how particular he is
that she shall be called Mrs. Foxley--it--"

"Well, well, Mrs. Cox, ours is a good name, and I do not think my
brother would have ever allowed any but a good girl to bear it. And if
a girl is lovely and gentle and pure-minded, and innocent, and neat, and
clean, and refined as your niece was, it matters not about her birth.
Birth! O my dear old soul, I am sick of the word! Miss Dexter now, is a
lady, you know."

"Ay."

"And I must see her again," enforced Mr. Joseph, brought back to his one
idea. "I must see her again."

Mrs. Cox communicated this intelligence to her niece, Mrs. Foxley.

"I think I can understand why," said she, lying back in her husband's
arms one hot summer night under the trees at the back of the blouse. "It
seems a hard wish to understand and a harder one to comply with, but it
may have to be done. Dacre--"

"What my darling!"

"When are you going to tell me about your life in England
and--and--about the woman who sent you out of it?"

"The woman! I never told you about a woman, child!"

"No. But I guessed. It is sure to have been a woman, Dacre."

"Well, I don't mind when I tell you. Nothing of all that time is
anything to me now. Shall I tell you now?"

"If you please, dearest Dacre. For I must be close to you when I listen
to that, and must not have you see me, for I know I shall cry."

"Dearest child! Well then, it shall be now, for you could scarcely be
closer to me than you are now? And if you cry, as you must try not to
do, you shall be allowed to cry here upon my breast and I will not look.
I can hardly see you as it is, it is so dark. Let me think, how I shall
begin. You know Joseph--our poor Joseph--is my only brother and I never
had any sisters. My father--you know this too--is an English country
gentleman living in one of the most beautiful seats in England. If I
were to describe the old place to you, you would want to go, and I
could not spare you, so I will only say--well, you have seen those
photographs?"

"Yes, dearest Dacre."

"They only give you a faint idea of what it is. It is Tudor you know--do
you know what Tudor is, Mrs. Foxley--and all red brick, weathered all
colors, and terraced, with lots of little windows and some big ones with
stained glass in them, and urns on the terrace, and a rookery, and an
old avenue of poplars, haunted too, and so on, and so on--there's no end
to it, Mildred! Yes, it's a fine old place, without doubt Well, that
is where I was born. I don't remember my mother. I wish I did. She died
when Joseph was born, he is just four years younger than I am. Our youth
was passed there--at the Manor, of course, and we had the usual small
college education not extending to a university career that gentleman's
sons have in England, you know. I didn't make many friends at school,
and where we lived, there was no one to visit, and we had very few
relations. It is quite unusual I believe for two boys to grow up as we
did, in comparative isolation. My father was a kind of Dombey--you know
Dombey, Mildred--wrapped up in his old place and the associations of
his youth and in his family pride. The Foxleys are better born I believe
than half of the aristocracy; we go back to the Conquest on my father's
side--a thing which he never permits himself to forget for an instant.
Well, Milly, it was a dull life for two lively, affectionate lads like
Joseph and me, wasn't it, and had it not been for all this, child,
nature, you know, and the trees and the streams and the out-door sports
I love so well, I could never have got on at all. Then when I was
nineteen--just your age, love--came a change. I, being the elder and
heir to the estate was sent off to town--I mean, London, my dear--and
the Continent, with a tutor. Joseph--well, I believe I have never fully
understood what became of Joseph during the four years I was away, but
I suppose he amused himself. He has a knack of doing that I never had,
except when I am in the country. Well, this tutor wasn't a bad sort of
a fellow and at first we got on splendidly, living in town in chambers,
going to the plays and the opera, and dining all over, just wherever
I liked or he knew, and excursions oat of London, you know--oh! jolly
enough for a little while! Then we went across to Paris--"

"Yes, dearest Dacre?"

Mr. Foxley stopped a moment to lift his wife's face closer to his own.
He kissed it--a long long kiss that entranced them both to the degree of
forgetting the story.

"If you would rather not go on--" said Mildred.

"Oh! I must now. Well, we did Paris, and then the other capitals and
Nice--Nice was just then coming into vogue, and ran down into Italy--I
remember I liked Genoa so much--and then we came back to Paris, for
Harfleur--that was the tutor's name, and it doesn't sound like a real
one, does it--preferred Paris to any other European town and of course
so did I. About this time, his true character began to show itself. He
went out frequently without me, smoked quite freely, would order in
wine and get me to drink with him, and was very much given to calling
me fresh, green, and all that you know. I began to think he was right. I
was past twenty-one, and I had never even had a glimpse into the
inside of life. Women, now and all that kind of thing--I was positively
ignorant of--but to be sure, one quickly learns in Paris."

For one night, Harfleur asked me in his usual sneering tone how I was
going to spend my evening.

"I am going out to a charming _soirée_ at the house of Madame de
L'Estarre, the most charming woman in Paris," said he.

"'Then I shall accompany you,' I said, fired by his insulting tone. And
I went, Mildred. I suppose I was good-looking, eh, my child--and had
sufficient air of distinction about me to impress Madame de L'Estarre,
for she left the crowd of waxed and perfumed Frenchmen and devoted
herself entirely to me. Although she was--beautiful--she was not tall,
and I, standing at her side all that evening, never took my eyes off her
dazzling face and her white uncovered bosom. In a week, my child, I had
learnt to know and love every feature in that dazzling face and began
to dream of the day when I should be allowed to kiss that bosom. Yes, I
certainly loved her."

"I am sure you loved her, Dacre my darling. And how could she help
loving you, dear, in return?"

"Oh that is another thing entirely, quite another thing. After that
night, Harfleur showed me more respect than he had done for some time
previously and we began to hit it off again better. I went to her
_hotel_--her house you know, every day. At first she would always
receive me alone, sending anybody away who happened to be there and
refusing to admit anybody who came while we were together.--It is
difficult, even to my wife, to explain what kind of a woman she was. All
that first time, when we would be alone, she would--make love, I suppose
it must be called--with her eyes and her hands, and her very skirts
and her fan, and the cushion, and the footstool. The room was always
beautiful and always dim, and she would greet me with outstretched hands
and a shy smile, making room for me beside her on the sofa--she always
sat on a sofa. We would talk of nothing at all perhaps but look into
each other's eyes, until the force of her look would draw me close,
close to her till we were almost in one another's arms, and I could feel
her breath coming faster every moment when just as I imagined she would
sink upon my shoulder--she would draw herself up with a laugh and push
me away, declaring somebody was coming. Then, if nobody came, she would
go through the same farce again. This would happen perhaps two or three
times a day. In the evening, I was again at her side, night after night
regarding her with a devotion that amazed even my friend Harfleur.

"She treats you like a dog. It will kill you yet, George. Come away."
But of course I would not go. I accompanied her to the theatre, to the
Bois, to the shops, to church--yes, even to church, Mildred, think of
that--and she was very careful and circumspect and all that. I even
believe as far as direct actions go, she may have been a virtuous woman,
for she certainly, had no other lover when I knew her. She was a widow,
enormously rich and nothing to do. Therefore, I suppose she went in for
the torturing business as a profession. Her Frenchmen did not mind; that
was the secret of her charm with them--so clever, they called her, but
it nearly killed me, her cleverness. I grew pale and worn--sleep--I
never slept. All my life I had lived without natural affection, and
now I was pouring forth upon this woman the love I might have rendered
friends, sister, brother, mother, as well as the passion of a young man.
I say to you now, Mildred, my wife, that the woman who tramples on the
passion of a young man is as bad as the man who slays the innocence of a
young girl. And that's what she did. Finally, when this had lasted for a
year and a half, and Harfleur had gone back to England, one day, when I
was perfectly desperate and could have killed her, Milly, as she lay at
full length on her damned sofa--pardon, my dear, no, don't kiss my hand,
child, don't--dressed in some rose-colored stuff all trailing about
her and her hands clasped under her head, I fell by her on my knees and
besought her to tell me what she meant and if she ever could care for
me. I give you my word, my dear, and with my hand over your innocent
heart, you know I dare not lie--in all that year and a half I had not
even touched her lips. You cannot, happily imagine the torture of such a
position.

Well, that day, she bent over to me on her side and said "What do you
want, is it to kiss me? Chut! wait for that till we are married."

"Do you mean to marry me?" I gasped out. "She said 'yes,' Mildred, and
brushed my cheek with her lips. What do you think I did then, Mildred?"

"How can I tell, dearest Dacre!"

"I fainted, dearest. Think of it. But I believed her, you see, and the
revulsion was too great. In a moment or two I came to myself with
the sounds of laughter in my ears. I was on her sofa--that damned
sofa--pardon again, my dear--and she was standing with three of her
cursed Frenchmen around her all laughing fit to kill themselves. I
saw through it all in a moment. They had been on the other side of the
curtains. I went straight up to her and said 'Did you say that you were
ready to become my wife?' She only laughed and the men too with her.
Then I struck her--on her white breast, Milly--and struck the three
Frenchmen on the face one after the other. They were so astonished that
not one of them moved, and I parted the curtains, and left the house."

"Did you never see her again?"

"Never. I left Paris considerably wiser than I had entered it and
avoided society generally. I had one year's life in London, and was
considered no end of a catch by the mammas, I believe, but you can
imagine I did not easily fall a victim. No. That is all my story, my
dear, all at least that has been unguessed at by you. My health was very
bad at home and beyond my love of sport I cared for nothing. I grew to
hate my life in England, even England, though she had done me no harm.
Finally, I quarrelled with my father who married again, a woman we both
disliked, Joseph and I, and so we turned our backs on the Old World and
came out to Canada and to--you."

Mildred still lay, crying softly, in her husband's arms. "I had
sometimes dreamt," continued Mr. Foxley, "of meeting some young girl who
could love me and on whose innocence and sweetness I could rest and whom
besides I should really love. It did not dawn upon me when I first saw
you, that _you_ were the one I wanted, for we must confess, dear, that
you were very plump and rather pink and spoke--"

"Why, Dacre, how can you? I was only fifteen! Cruel!"

"Yes, I know. And how you changed! Now, you are so different that it is
not the same Mildred at all. Such is the power of a true love, my child,
and we must always be happy,--ours is one of those marriages."

Theirs was indeed one of those marriages. Mr. Foxley took to farming and
enriched his purse as well as his health. Mr. Joseph had an interview
with Miss Dexter the nature of which I am not going to reveal, but which
resulted in a placid intimacy between the two to the surprise of all
save Milly who always said that "she thought she knew why." Miss Dexter
frequently accompanied blind Mr. Joseph on his lonely walks or would
sit with him when the others were out, as none but he cared to meet her.
Towards his death which occurred in about four years time, she was with
him constantly, and died herself in a fortnight after, having left in
her will, all her maiden belongings to her "good friend, Farmer
Wise." The farmer was not much moved when informed of this fact, so
incomprehensible to the rest of the village. He had always kept the
little bottle with its cruel label, and had always feared and avoided
poor, proud, foolish, wicked Charlotte Dexter since that Saturday night.

As for Mr. George and his wife, I see a vision of a successful and happy
husband and father in the prime of early old age (which means, that at
fifty-three one is not old with a young wife and three sweet children)
and of Mildred, who is always a little pale, has her eyes constantly
turned up to her husband's with her lips brushing her shoulder every now
and then.

Still?

Ay, still and forever. And so ends my sketch of how the Mr. Foxleys
came, stayed and never went away.



The Gilded Hammock.


Who does not know the beautiful Miss De Grammont? Isabel De Grammont,
who lives by herself and is sole mistress of the brown-stone mansion in
Fifth Avenue, the old family estate on the Hudson, the villa at Cannes,
the first floor of a magnificently decayed palace at Naples, who has
been everywhere, seen everything and--cared for nobody?

She reclines now in her latest craze--a hammock made of pure gold wire,
fine and strong and dazzling as the late October sun shines upon it
stretched from corner to corner of her regally-furnished drawing-room.
Two gilded tripods securely fastened to the floor hold the ends of the
hammock in which she lies. The rage for yellow holds her as it holds
everyone who loves beauty and light and sunshine. Cushions of yellow
damask support her head, and a yellow tiger-skin is under her feet.
The windows are entirely hidden with thick amber draperies, and her own
attire is a clinging gown of some soft silk of a deep creamy tint that
as she sways to and fro in the hammock is slightly lifted, displaying
a petticoat of darker tint, and Russian slippers of bronzed kid. Amber,
large clear and priceless, gleams in its soft waxy glow in her hair, on
her neck, round her waist, where it clasps a belt of thick gold cloth
and makes a chain for a fan of yellow feathers.

Because you see, although it is autumn, it is very warm all through Miss
De Grammont's mansion, as she insists on fires, huge bonfires, you may
call them, of wood and peat in every room and on every hearth. Out of
the fires grew the desire for the hammock.

"Why," says Miss De Grammont, with a faint yawn, "why must I only lie in
a hammock in the Summer, and then, where nobody can see me? I will have
a hammock made for the winter, to lie in and watch my fires by."

And so she did, for money is law and beauty creates duty, and one day,
when the fashionable stream, the professional cliques and the artistic
hangers-on called upon her "from three to six," they were confronted
by the vision of an exquisitely beautiful woman dressed in faint yellow
with great bunches of primroses in brass bowls from Morocco on a table
by her side, who received them in a "gilded hammock," with her feet on
a tiger-skin, and her chestnut hair catching a brighter tinge from the
flames of her roaring fire, and the sunlight as it came in through the
amber medium of the silken-draped windows.

The tea was Russian, like the slippers, and the butler who presented
it was a mysterious foreigner who spoke five languages. The guests all
wondered, as people always did, at De Grammont. Nobody knew quite what
she had done with herself since she had been left an orphan at the age
of nineteen. She suddenly shot up into a woman, beautiful, with that
patrician and clear-cut loveliness with yet a touch of the _bohémienne_
about it which only _les belles Américaines_ know. Then she took unto
herself a maid, two dogs, and three Saratoga trunks and went over to
Europe wandering about everywhere. At Cannes, she met and subjugated
the heir to the crown; of this friendship the tiger-skin remained as a
_souvenir_. The heir to the crown was not generous. Next came various
members of embassies, all proud, all poor, and all frantically in love.
She laid all manner of traps for her lovers and discovered in nearly
every case that these men were after her money. A certain Russian Grand
Duke, from whom had come some superb amber ornaments--he being a man of
more wealth than the others--never forgave her the insult she offered
him. He sent her these ornaments from the same shop in Paris that
he ordered--at the same time--a diamond star for a well-known ballet
dancer, and the two purchases were charged to his account. Through some
stupidity, the star came to her. She ordered her horses and drove the
same day to the jewelers, who was most humble and anxious to retrieve
his error. He showed her the amber. She examined it carefully. "It is
genuine, and very fine," she said gravely. "I have lived in Russia and I
know. I am very fond of amber. I will buy this myself from you, and you
may inform His Highness of the fact."

The delighted shop-keeper did not ask her very much more than its
genuine value and next day all Paris knew of the transaction and flocked
to the Opera to see her in the ornaments which had cost the Russian
Duke his friendship for the bearer. But though eccentric, impulsive and
domineering, no whisper had ever attached itself to her name. On her
return to her native New York, was she not welcomed, fêted, honored,
besieged with invitations everywhere? People felt she was different from
the girl who went away. _She_ had been undecided, emotional, a trifle
vain, self-conscious, guilty of moods--no small offence in society; this
glorious creature was a queen, a goddess, always calm, always serene,
always a trifle bored, always superbly the same. Her house she
re-furnished altogether. The three Saratoga trunks were now represented
by nine or ten English ones, dress baskets, large packing cases, and one
mysterious long box which when opened contained several panels of old
Florentine carved wood-work which interested all New York immensely.
Pictures and tapestries, armor and screens, and a gate of mediæval
wrought iron were all among her art treasures. The foreign butler was
her _chargé d'affaires_, and managed everything most wisely and
even economically. He engaged a few servants in New York, her maid,
housekeeper and the two housemaids she had brought out with her. Her
house was the perfect abode of the most faultless æstheticism. It was
perfection in every detail and in the _ensemble_ which greeted the eye,
the ear, every sense, and all mental endowments, from the vestibule in
marble and rugs to the inner boudoir and sanctum of the mistress of the
house, hung with pale rose and straw-color in mingled folds of stamped
Indian silks, priceless in color and quality. Two Persian cats adorned
the lounge and one of her great dogs--a superb mastiff--occupied the rug
before the door night and day, almost without rest.

Such were the general surroundings of Isabel de Grammont. Art and
letters, music and general culture were inseparable from the daily life
of such a woman as well as immediate beautiful presences, so that into
this faultless house came everything new that the world offered in
books, magazines, songs and new editions. Thanks to European travel,
there was no language she could not read, no modern work she had not
studied. Also came to her receptions the literary lions of New York.
Aspiring journalists, retiring editors, playrights and composers, a
few actors and crowds of would-be poets flocked to the exquisite
drawing-rooms hung with yellow, wherein the owner of so much
magnificence lounged in her golden hammock. Sonnets were written of
her descriptive of orioles flying in the golden west, and newspaper
paragraphs indited weekly in her praise referred to her as the
"Semiramus of a new and adoring society world." Baskets of flowers, tubs
of flowers, barrels of flowers were sent weekly to her address, and
she was solicited--on charitable, fashionable, religious, communistic,
orthodox and socialistic grounds as lady patroness of this or member of
that and subscriber to the other. In short, she was a success, and as
nothing succeeds like success, we may take it that as the months rolled
on, and the great house still maintained its superb hospitality and Miss
De Grammont still appeared in her sumptuous carriage either smothered
in furs or laces according to the seasons, she still maintained in
like manner her position in society and her right to the homage and
admiration of all classes.

But this was not the case. Even a worm will turn and public opinion is
very often a little vernacular, let us say. And it happened, that public
opinion in the case of Miss De Grammont, began to turn, to raise itself
up in fact and look a little about it and beyond it as we have all seen
worms do--both in cheeses and out of them--when the fact that she lay
most of the time in a gilded hammock swung in front of her drawing-room
fire was announced from the pulpits of society journals. It may have
been that her friends were devoid of imagination, that they were cold,
prudish, satirical, unpoetical, unaesthetic, anything we like to call
them, that will explain their action in the matter, for they clearly,
one and all, disliked the notion of the hammock. One spoke of it
disparagingly to another, who took it up and abused it to a third,
who described it to a friend who "wrote for the papers." This gifted
gentleman who lodged with a lady of the same temper and edited a fashion
journal, concocted with her help a description of the thing which soon
found its way into his paper and was then copied into hers. The public
grew uneasy. It would swallow any story it was told about the Heir
Apparent, for instance and a Russian Grand Duke--is it not the sublime
prerogative of American women to dally with such small game as those
gentlemen--but it kicked against the probability of such an actual fact
as the hammock already described which seemed too ridiculous a whim
to possess any real existence. However, the tongues of the fashionable
callers, the professional cliques and the artistic hangers-on coincided
in the affair to that extent that soon the existence of the gilded
hammock was established and from that time Miss De Grammonts' popularity
was on the wane. Dowagers looked askance and matrons posed in a
patronizing manner, the flippant correspondents of society journals and
the compilers of sonnets in which that very hammock had been eulogized
and metaphored to distraction now waited upon her, if at all in an
entirely different manner. Strange how all classes began to recall the
many peculiar or unaccountable things she had done, the extraordinary
costumes she had worn, the fact that she lived alone, and the other fact
that she made so few friends. From aspersions cast on her house, her
equipage, her dresses, there came to be made strictures on her private
character, her love affairs, her friends and career in Europe, her
_ménage_ at present in New York and the members thereof. Finally public
opinion finding that all this made very little impression outwardly,
upon the regal disdain of Miss De Grammont in her carriage or in her
Opera-stall, however she might writhe and chafe when safely ensconced
within that rose and straw-colored boudoir, made up its mind that the
secret of the whole three volume novel, the key to the entire mystery
lay with the--butler.

That black-moustached functionary, they whispered, had his mistress in
his power. He had been a courier, and she had fallen in love with him
abroad. Or he had been a well-known conjurer and coerced her through
means little less than infernal to run away with him. He was a
mesmerist, so they said, and could send her into trances at will. Then
he had been the famous Man Milliner of Vienna, whose disappearance one
fine day with the entire trousseau of an Austrian Grand Duchess had been
a nine days' wonder. These dresses she wore, strange mixtures never seen
on earth before of violet and blue, pink and pea-green, rose and lemon,
were the identical ones prepared for the Grand Duchess. Finally, he was
an Italian Prince rescued from a novel of "Ouida's," whom she had found
living in exile, having to suffer punishment for some fiendish crime
perpetrated in the days of his youth.

When the stories had reached this point, Miss De Grammont, to whom they
were conveyed through papers, notes from "confidential friends," her
maid and others, wrote a letter one day directed to the:

  REV. LUKE FIELDING,
  Pastor, Congregational Church,
  Phippsville, Vermont.

A week or ten days after, Miss De Grammont, seated--not, in the gilded
hammock though it still swung gracefully before the glowing fire--but in
the cushions which graced her window looking on the front of the house,
saw a gentleman arrive in a cab. She rose hastily and opened the door
of the room herself for her visitor. This was the Rev. Luke Fielding,
a gentleman of the severest Puritanical cut and a true New Englander
to boot. With his hat in his hand he advanced with an expression on his
face of the deepest amazement and dismay which increased momentarily as
he saw not only the gorgeous coloring and appointments of the room
but the fair figure of its occupant. To be sure, she had with infinite
difficulty selected the plainest dress she could find in her wardrobe to
receive him in, a gown of dark green velvet made very simply, and high
to the throat. But alas! there was no disguising the priceless lace at
her wrists, or the gems that glittered on her firm white hands.

"My dear cousin!" said the lady, giving him both her hands.

"My dear cousin Isabel," returned the minister, laying his hat down on
a plush-covered chair on which it looked curiously out of place, and
taking her hands in his.

"My dear cousin Isabel, after so many years!"

"It is only eight years, cousin," returned the lady.

"True," replied the minister gravely. "Yet to one like myself that seems
a long time. You sent for me, cousin." His gaze wandered round the room
and then fastened once more upon Miss De Grammont.

"Yes," she said faintly. "I could not tell you all in my letter. I
wanted--I want still--somebody's help."

"And it is very natural you should apply for mine, cousin, I will do
anything I can. I have"--the minister grew sensibly more severe, more
grave--"I have this day, on the train, seen a paper--a new kind of paper
to me, I confess,--a _Society Journal_ it calls itself, in which a name
is mentioned. Is your--trouble--connected with that?"

Miss De Grammont blushed deeply. "Yes. That is my name. I would not have
troubled you--but I must ask your advice, for you are the only one of
the family, of my mother's family--" Her voice broke.

"Yes, cousin, you are right."

The minister rose and stood up before her, a stern though not
unsympathetic figure in his stiff black coat and iron gray hair. "I know
what you are going to ask me to do. You will ask me to see these people,
these editors, reviewers, whatever they are, to talk to them, to impress
upon them what you are and who you are, and who your mother was, and
what is the end of the base man who imagines lies and the end of all the
workers of iniquity. You will ask me to tell them that it is all false,
all abominable intrigue and treachery and I shall demand in your name
and in my own as your only near relative and a minister of the Gospel,
an apology. It is but jealousy, cousin. Forgive me, but you are too
beautiful and too young to live alone in such a house, in such a manner.
You must marry. Or else you must give up such a life. It maketh enemies
within your gates and behold! there shall be no man to say a good thing
of thee!"

The minister had lifted up his voice as if he had been in the pulpit and
for one instant laid his hand on his cousin's hair. Then he went back to
his seat.

Miss De Grammont was profoundly moved. Great tears coursed down her
cheeks and until they had stopped she could not trust herself to speak.

"The paper!" she said dismally. "You have seen a paper, you say,
with--my--my name in it! There is nothing new in that. I have been in
the papers for months past. I am never out of them. And this one says--"

The minister drew it out of his pocket.

"That with you, in this house lives, in the character of a butler,
an exiled Italian Prince who committed grave personal and political
offences many years ago and was sent to prison. That you are married to
him. My dear cousin, it is monstrous!"

Miss De Grammont took out her handkerchief already wet through with her
tears and pressed it to her eyes.

"It is not monstrous," she said, "but it is most extraordinary. He _is_
an Italian Prince, and I _am_ married to him."

To use a hackneyed phrase, the room swam around Mr. Fielding for an
instant When he recovered he could only sit and gaze at the beautiful
woman before him. The details of village life, in Vermont had not
educated him up to exigencies of this sort. A fearful chasm seemed to
have opened under his feet, and he began to comprehend dimly that there
were other lives than his own and that of his estimable but commonplace
wife being daily lived out in this world.

"Yes," said Miss De Grammont, a little more bravely now that the worst
shock was over. "That is quite true. And the extraordinary part of it is
that they can only have guessed at it; evolved it, as it were from the
depths of their inner consciousness, they can't possible have discovered
it. It isn't known anywhere, save perhaps to one or two in Italy."

"In Italy," murmured the Rev. Mr. Fielding. "You met him in Italy? And
why keep it secret? My dear cousin, you have made a great mistake. And
all this sad and singular story is true?"

"Very nearly true. All but the offences. They never happened."

"Your husband is not a political character then?"

"Oh! not in the least. He knows nothing of politics. My José! he
couldn't hurt anything, moreover!"

"José is a Spanish name, surely," said Mr. Fielding.

"His mother was a Castilian, fair and proud as only a Castilian can
be. She named him José--But he has other names, three, all
Italian--Antonio--"

"I see," said the minister dryly. "I am sorry that I cannot give you all
the sympathy in this matter that you may desire, but you have entered on
a course of action which is perplexing at least, to say no more. I feel,
my dear cousin, that as a--married woman--your confidences are--ill
placed and I must ask you to withdraw them. You must settle this matter
with your--ahem--husband." Mr. Fielding took up his hat and in another
moment would have been gone forever, but that turning at the door he saw
such intense supplication in his cousin's eyes that his orthodox heart
melted.

"Forgive me cousin," he said coming back. "There may be still a way
out of it. Will you tell me all?" Miss De Grammont then related her
different heart episodes abroad, entanglements, half-engagements,
desperate flirtations and all the rest of it to this sober, black-coated
gentleman. Such a revelation poured forth in truly feminine style
nearly drove him away the second time, but true to his word, he remained
nevertheless, sitting bolt upright in a padded chair only meant for
lounging. Finally, she told him of her snares to catch lovers and how
one day she was caught herself by the dark-browed, eloquent Prince
Corunna.

She fell in love herself for the first time in her life, and he with
her, so he declared. But he was miserably poor and with the pride of a
Castilian would not woo her because of her money. She hated it, yet she
could not live without it.

The minister smiled pityingly.

However she made him marry her, and then proposed as a test, in which
he joyfully acquiesced, that he should make himself of use to her, be
in fact, her major-domo, steward, butler, amanuensis, anything and
everything.

"It is most unprecedented," sighed the minister. "That a man with
Castilian blood in his veins--"

Miss De Grammont interrupted him. "He was happier so, dear cousin. But
I--I grew most unhappy. And since I have been here, I have been very
unhappy still. We are both in a false position and now--thanks to that
unlucky hammock--our secret has become common property."

"The hammock!" said Mr. Fielding. "What has that got to do with it? It
is a pretty idea."

"So I think," said Miss De Grammont, delighted beyond measure. Then
she told him about the paragraphs, large and small, the confidential
friends, the small beginnings that had lead insensibly up to the
culminating point--that of scandal.

"I am being dropped gradually," she said.

"Of course you are," said the minister. "Of course you are. Soon you
will be--forgive me--a dead letter. There is only one thing to be done
and that I can do at once. A letter must be written to this paper,
stating calmly in as few words as possible that this paragraph is true,
that you _are_ married to Prince--ah--Corunna, that he _is_ a political
offender and for that reason the marriage _was_ kept secret, but that
now of course as informers must already have given the secret away, you
are obliged to endorse it yourself."

"But José is not a political offender! Never did anything wrong in his
life!"

"Of course not," said the minister. "Some of us others, even clergymen,
are not so fortunate. Now that must be included, else there is no good
reason for having kept your marriage secret. Other explanations will not
be taken. Besides this will entitle you to sympathy at once. Will you
write the letter and I can leave it at the office for you? There is time
for me to do that before my train starts."

Miss De Grammont wrote her letter as dictated by her cousin. He put it
in his pocket and rose to go.

"Will you not stay and see my husband?" she said timidly.

"Thank you, no." returned Mr. Fielding. "I haven't met many foreigners.
I don't think, perhaps, we should get on. Down in Phippsville--well, my
circle is so different from yours, Isabel. It is the fashion I hear to
live abroad now, and desert America--at least to depreciate it, and
not to care about its opinion--but that hasn't spread yet to our little
village. It seems as if it might have been better for instance, had you
stayed in Europe. You see, having married an Italian, all this trouble
would have been avoided--I mean--it could have gone on over there--but
now--well, riches are a snare, my dear cousin, as you have by this time
found. Good-bye, dear cousin, and God be with you."

When a letter addressed to the editor of the Society Journal appeared
the next day signed Isabel Corunna (née De Grammont) with its paralysing
statement in a few concise words, New York was startled to its
foundation. Public opinion which for a week had been at the culminating
point of distrust, malevolence and resentment, turned the corner in a
moment and for the moment believed implicitly in the faith of the lady
it had abandoned. The greatest sympathy was shown Madame La Princesse
Corunna, or Princess Corunna, or Miss De Grammont that was, or whatever
her friends chose to call her. The butler disappeared for ever and the
Prince came in. It was a transformation scene equal to Beauty and the
Beast. Dark-browed and eloquent as ever, the Prince was a social success
whenever he chose to be, but as time went on, he and his wife became
more and more absorbed in each other and the world saw little of either
of them. For a time he posed as a political offender which gave his wife
no end of amusement. They were so far reinstated into public favor that
the hammock--source of mingled joy and woe--was again considered as
a thing of beauty and a thing to be imitated. There are a dozen such
hammocks now in New York City.

But there are still a few ill-natured people, dowagers, matrons, an old
love or two, and a handful of shrivelled spinsters who declare that the
Prince is no Prince at all, but a Pastrycook.





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