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Title: A Rich Man's Relatives (Vol. 3 of 3)
Author: Cleland, Robert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Rich Man's Relatives (Vol. 3 of 3)" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Web Archive (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)



Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/richmansrelative03clel
      (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

   2. Pages 86-87 are missing. They do not appear to be critical to
      the story.

   3. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                        A RICH MAN'S RELATIVES



                            PRESS NOTICES

                                  OF

                            "INCHBRACKEN,"

                        A NOVEL BY R. CLELAND

                              *   *   *

                 _Westminster Review, October_, 1883.

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

                    _Academy, 27th October_, 1883.

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

                                                 W. E. HENLEY.

                   _Athenæum, 17th November_, 1883.

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

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

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

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

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



                          *   *   *   *   *

                  Select Novels by Popular Authors.

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

                         By Florence Marryat.

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

                           By Annie Thomas.

       ALLERTON TOWERS.
       FRIENDS AND LOVERS.
       EYRE OF BLENDON.


                           By Mrs. Eiloart.

       THE DEAN'S WIFE.
       SOME OF OUR GIRLS.


                      By Lady Constance Howard.

       SWEETHEART AND WIFE.
       MOLLIE DARLING.


               By the Author of "Recommended to Mercy."

       BARBARA'S WARNING.


                      By Mrs. Alexander Fraser.

       A PROFESSIONAL BEAUTY.


                           By Harriett Jay.

       TWO MEN AND A MAID.



                                  A

                        RICH MAN'S RELATIVES.



                                  BY

                             R. CLELAND,

                       AUTHOR OF "INCHBRACKEN."



                         _IN THREE VOLUMES_.

                              VOL. III.



                               LONDON:

                        F. V. WHITE AND CO.,

                31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C.
                                1885.



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



                               CONTENTS

                              *   *   *

    CHAP.

       I.--Banks and Brays.

      II.--A Confidante.

     III.--Friends in Council.

      IV.--Moonlight and Shadow.

       V.--Murder.

      VI.--Nemesis.

     VII.--Rescue.

    VIII.--It was all Webb's Fault.

      IX.--Joe Proposes.

       X.--At Gorham.

      XI.--Planting Hyacinths.

     XII.--Randolph's Buckling.

    XIII. At Caughnawaga.

     XIV.--Thérèse's Revenge.

      XV.--The Selbys.

     XVI.--Betsey as Good Fairy.

    XVII.--At Last.

   XVIII.--The Broker Broke.



                       A RICH MAN'S RELATIVES.



                              CHAPTER I.

                           BANKS AND BRAYS.


Ralph's satisfaction at carrying through his man[oe]uvre with the
mining company's directors amounted almost to elation. The unexpected
appearance of opposition in that docile body had startled him at
first, but he had been able to ride it down in so summary and
highhanded a fashion that he doubted not but the spirit was quenched
for ever, and congratulated himself on its having appeared at a moment
when it could so easily and utterly be crushed and abolished. A
meeting of the bank directors next door was now due. Glancing at his
watch, he found that he was already fifteen minutes late, caught up
his portfolio of bank papers in haste, and passed by way of the
dressing-room into the bank, confident as an Alexander mounting his
war-horse, and riding forth to new victories.

A breath of chill air blew in his face as he entered the board-room
and met reserved and distant glances on every side. They had not
waited for his coming, and were already deep in business. His own
arm-chair, he observed--the arm-chair of pre-eminence at the end of
the table, heretofore sacred to his own use, was occupied by M.
Petitôt, the pork packer, vice-president of the bank, who, however,
had the grace to rise apologetically, and make way, observing that
they had feared Mr. Herkimer did not intend to be present, when Mr.
Jowler, the bark dealer, sprang to his feet, and moved that the
vice-president retain the chair for the present, M. Petipomme
seconding the motion.

Ralph bit his lip, and something like a scowl passed momentarily
across his face at the overt act of mutiny, which not so long before
he would have quelled with a crack of the whip, and brought the unruly
curs to heel with drooping neck and tail. But the moment was not
opportune for the exercise of authority; his brow grew clear again, if
somewhat pale, his features calm, if a trifle set, and expressionless,
and he sat down in a vacant chair at the lower end of the table.

The business, however, appeared to have come to a stop; no one spoke,
and each looked at his neighbour, while the vice-president moved
restlessly in his chair, and twiddled his watch chain with uneasy
fingers. He coughed, cleared his voice, lifted his eye-glass to his
eyes, and let it drop, but still he said nothing, while Ralph looked
inquiringly round the board. Several ledgers had been brought in from
the bank and lay upon the table, every one open at the page headed,
"Ralph Herkimer & Son;" and while he waited, a clerk entered with yet
another, containing some further variety of information which he laid
before the chairman, opening it and officiously pointing out the
desired record, then looking up as he turned to withdraw, his eyes
lighted on the president himself, when a guilty flush and a
deprecatory glance betrayed that the information he had been
presenting bore upon the same point as the rest.

"You appear, gentleman, to be looking into the working of my account,"
said Ralph, after a further period of silence; "Pray go on, don't mind
me! You will find it is a profitable account, perhaps the _most_
profitable in your books. Satisfy yourselves by all means. It is
your right. But permit me to say that the time and the manner are not
well chosen. There is something not altogether friendly, nor quite
above-board, in this way of gratifying your curiosity. Is it
honourable, gentleman, or manly, to watch till you get a man's back
turned before proceeding to overhaul his account?"

"Strong language, Mr. Herkimer," said several voices at once.

"Most unwarrantable," muttered Jowler.

"It is true, gentlemen, and not a bit stronger than the facts
warrant."

"Indeed, Mr. President," said Petitôt blandly--he was noted for a
courteous benignity which never failed, so long at least as there
remained a chance of the other side's ability to make him regret being
otherwise. After that--well, after those others became too weak for it
to matter, the world took little heed how he behaved, and he acted
accordingly, as pleased him best--brutally, the sufferers called it.
"Indeed, Mr. President, you take up the matter too seriously. The
accident of your absence when the question arose was a mere
coincidence. We are all, I assure you, well aware of the value of your
account."

"Should think so," muttered Jowler, pleased to find how quickly they
were drifting to the pith of the grievance. "It amounts to half or
two-thirds of the bank's capital already, and it promises to swallow
up the whole before long."

"Which would not suit you, Jowler," retorted Ralph, sneering
assiduously to conceal his wrath, and perhaps his dismay. "But it
might be well for the country and for the bank itself, that it should
not have any funds to dissipate in the bark business. I say
'dissipate' designedly, gentlemen. I know of four cargoes of cutch and
gambler now on the way for this port, with more to follow. Bark prices
must collapse, and the less we have to do with the article at present,
the better for us. It is well for the country, I consider, that
discouragement should arise to stop the reckless destruction of our
hemlock forests. If Jowler and his like are allowed their way, we
shall not have a hemlock left standing in ten years' time."

"And how much better off is the bank with its tons of plumbago, which
cannot be brought to market?" retorted Jowler angrily. "The plumbago
paper has been renewed three times already, and the amount increased
without the sanction of the board."

"Are we not drifting into a wrangle, gentlemen, and wasting time to no
good purpose?" said Mr. Seebright, of the _Journal_. "The bank
settlements are going against us week after week, and the specie
reserve is running down. What are we to do? That is the question."

"Circulation going down every day," added Petipomme, with an air of
wisdom.

"And pray, gentlemen, did you ever know it otherwise at this season?"
cried Ralph, eager to score any point an injudicious speaker might put
in his way. "Look into the government returns for last year, look into
them for any year, and you will find the circulation of the country
reaches its lowest points in August and February. It has several weeks
to go on diminishing yet, but it is larger than it was this time last
year. Wait till September, and you will see it go up and increase
steadily till it reaches its highest point in November. The thing is
as regular as the seasons, and no resolution this board can pass will
alter it."

"All very true, President," said Seebright; "but this drain of the
reserve must be stopped somehow. How do you propose to do it? We must
contract--realize. Where shall we begin to prune?"

Ralph was silent. He wanted to borrow more, and with the particulars
of the account actually on the table, it seemed best not to excite
ill-will by proposing to impose a reduction on any one else. Jowler
had taken up a share list to cover his chagrin under Ralph's attack;
he now laid it down with a loud "Hillo! St. Euphrase mining shares
down four per cent since yesterday! What's up, President? Things going
badly?"

"I walked down street with old Mr. Premium this morning," said
Petipomme--"parted from him not half-an-hour ago. He says there's
something up, he could not make out what, but some villager had been
to him, eager to sell out at once, and at any price. The man was very
close and would say nothing, but he was so eager that Premium grew
panicky and was going to unload."

"The bank has made you an advance, President, on some of that stock,"
cried Jowler. "Four per cent off the security at one drop! I call on
you to put up a fresh margin."

"I scarcely think you will consider that necessary, gentlemen, when I
tell you that, at the meeting held this morning, the directors have
agreed to declare a dividend of five per cent. It will be in all the
papers to-morrow. You will find the announcement on your table, Mr.
Seebright, when you get back to your office, and an advertisement for
to-morrow's issue."

"Five per cent?" said Petitôt, congratulating himself on not having
joined in the late attempted onslaught. "Is not that unexpected? I
have heard no word of it."

"It was only decided this morning, and we agreed to declare it at
once, so that _bonâ fide_ shareholders should reap the advantage
rather than mere speculators."

"And it is not known yet?" asked Petitôt eagerly. "But it _will_ be,
in an hour's time," he added, answering himself. "Gentlemen! I think
there is no other business before the board. I declare the meeting
adjourned to this day next week;" and, seizing his hat, Mr. Petitôt
was gone, and half-way across the street to his broker's before any of
his brethren could have interposed a word, which, however, none of
them seemed wishful to do. Such a rush for hats and general stampede
had never been seen before; the assistant cashier, who wrote the
minutes, found the room deserted, when he laid down his pen, by all
but the president, and the roll of bills, which should have been
shared among the several gentlemen, still before him--an unprecedented
circumstance.

"What is to be done with this, Mr. Herkimer?"

"You and I had better share it between us, Briggs," he chuckled. "What
would they say if we did? They have all skipped off to buy St.
Euphrase mining shares, and they will make so much money they will
never miss this--that is, not before the shares are bought.
Afterwards, when they have completed their operation, they will
recollect, and come asking for it. Put it in your desk for the
present, it will not be long till they relieve you of the charge."



                             CHAPTER II.

                            A CONFIDANTE.


The day came for the Misses Stanley's return to the country. Muriel's
classes were over, and the streets grown hot and dusty past endurance.
Life was a burden under the all-pervading glare shot from the vault
overhead, and the two miles breadth of glassy river, the acres on
acres of shining tin-roofs, and the heated face of limestone
pavements. The breeze felt withering like breath from a furnace,
hotter even than the air at rest, and cool was attainable only by
ingenious contrivance, and in twilight darkness.

"Ah!" said Considine; he had been lingering in town till now, and had
suddenly found out that it was time to take his yearly _villagiatura_
at St. Euphrase, his plans coinciding with those of his friends so
closely, that when the ladies reached the railway station he was
already on the platform to assist them about tickets and baggage as
well as to join them in the parlour car; which Miss Penelope
considered quite remarkable, but most fortunate and "very nice." "Ah!"
said Considine, raising a window as the train rolled into the country,
"what a different air to breathe! It smells and feels of the country
already."

"Yes," said Miss Matilda, "I feel myself absorbing new vitality from
the verdure as we pass along. Do the woods not look seductive after
the baking and withering we have suffered of late? One grudges even
the delay of railway speed. What will it not be this afternoon to
sit among the trees, with coolness rustling softly through the
foliage--just to sit and feel one's self alive--with every breath a
new deliciousness, and the sense of rest and freshness making one
happy and new down to the finger-tips. You will find it delightful at
Podevin's to-day, so close by the river. I can imagine you will get
into a boat immediately, and go out in the stream and drift, and smoke
your cigar, I dare say; you gentlemen seem always doing that, though
it must spoil the flavour of a day so exquisite as this, it seems to
me."

"As Podevin, whose house is full, has fitted me up the room over the
boat-house for my chamber, I imagine I shall have my share of any
coolness stirring; yet it would, I dare say, be pleasant to make a
beginning of the freshness at full strength by getting into a boat.
However, I shall not stay long, and if you will permit me, when the
afternoon heat grows moderate, I will walk up to your house and learn
if you and Miss Stanley are still alive--and my young friend Muriel
also, though indeed, the weather appears to suit her well enough."

And truly at that moment Muriel was in perfect comfort, sitting a
little apart with an escort of her own--her friend Gerald who had
deserted the cares of business for her sweet company. Not that he
found her difficult of access at other times, for they often met; but
there is a privacy in a public railway carriage when the rumbling of
the wheels drowns conversation for every ear other than the one
addressed, and a safety from intrusion and interruption while the
journey lasts, not easily to be found elsewhere.

Muriel sat in one corner of a sofa, with Gerald in the other,
listening to his purring, and purring softly back. It may have been
owing to the heat of the day, but their talk seemed less lively than
at other times, and their glances drooped shyly on the ground instead
of seeking and meeting each other's as they were wont. Gerald drew
closer as they talked, and by-and-by his hands secured one of hers,
and held it in possession. He would have slipped his hand behind her
waist, perhaps, if her position in the corner of the sofa had not been
beyond his reach; and as it was, she used some effort to liberate the
imprisoned hand, and regained it at last. Hushing and growing pale the
while in her fear of having become grouped with her companion into a
_tableau_ too interesting to escape notice. And then her eyes rose
shyly to his face, and shining with a light they had not held before,
and her lips parted tremulously to smile, and faltered out words which
were lost in the roar and hubbub of the rattling wheels, and Gerald
could not hear them; but the eyes which had looked in his a moment,
the rosy flushing and the tremulous smile, were proof the unheard
answer was not "no," and he was happy. When the train reached St.
Euphrase Muriel was "engaged," while still it wanted a week of her
sixteenth birthday.

It is not very remarkable, if, in view of his success, young Gerald
stepped on the platform with something of the victor in his mein--his
head thrown back, and his coat unbuttoned, flapping away from the
expanded chest, while his eyes looked forth on the world at large,
with the broad imperial gaze of a new-crowned conqueror, while Muriel
leaned on his arm perhaps a shade more clingingly than she was aware.
It struck Betsey Bunce, at least, who, according to her custom, was
awaiting the city train, to espy the new arrivals, and pick up any
fragments of news dropped by her acquaintance--it struck Betsey that
summer day, that Gerald was a far finer and handsomer fellow than
theretofore she had thought him. She bowed and waved her hand with
much _empressement_; she even stepped forward to welcome him to St.
Euphrase at that unusual hour; but Gerald did not see her. His head
was in the clouds, and he inhaling that upper ether where swim the
stars and the souls of the most blest, to whom the gods have granted
all their desire. He was dazzled by the brightness of his own
felicity--alas, that the felicity should be as fleeting as its power
to dazzle--and saw little of what passed around him. Only he felt, and
felt only the pressure of a slender hand resting on his arm. And so,
unwittingly, he strode past Betsey Bunce; and Muriel, too, being with
him, and somewhat overcome, looking down, and with her mind disturbed
with new and confusing thoughts, and feelings which, if not so
altogether new, were yet now first acknowledgedly to herself permitted
to harbour there.

And Betsey believed herself to have been slighted, and her wrath grew
hot against the young man, and her envy greener-eyed against the girl,
who continued to secure so many things which in justice should have
been hers; but having a "spirit," as she considered, she only tossed
her head, and walked forward through the arriving passengers in search
of other acquaintance.

It was the same train which carried home the directors of the mining
association after their board meeting. Podevin was the first to
alight. He appeared a happier man than when setting out in the
morning. With him was Belmore, who had sunk through the whole gamut
from confidence to despair, and whose barometer of feeling had again
risen to "tranquil." His golden hopes for the future, indeed, had
vanished, but he expected under Stinson's direction to sell out
without loss, and by aid of the village notary to make everything snug
in case of after litigation. Joe Webb alone looked troubled and
oppressed. The dangers to his investment, and of his position as
director, had now for the first time been disclosed to him, and he was
at a loss how to act; and yet to take professional advice seemed to
his scrupulous mind to be a breach of confidence towards his fellow
directors, while to act with them appeared dishonest to the
shareholders and the general public. It was useless to open his mind
to Belmore and Podevin; they were resolved to save themselves at
whatever cost to other people. He felt that he must not breathe a word
among his neighbours, and at home he was a lonely bachelor with only
his faithful pipe to soothe counsel and console him. It was with
something akin to gratitude, therefore, that he received the friendly
greeting of Betsey Bunce. Had his dog been near to lick his hand in
that hour of darkness he would have been thankful; how much more when
human sympathy and goodwill were offered him.

"You are back from town early to-day, Mr. Joe," cried Betsey, holding
out her hand with demonstrative cordiality. She had felt snubbed
before the eyes of all St. Euphrase by her "cousin Gerald," as she
called him when out of hearing, not having noticed her, and she owed
it to herself, she fancied, to show that she did not care, and had
plenty of other young men to speak to.

"Yes," said Joe with a sigh, clasping the proffered hand as a drowning
man lays hold on a straw. Anything is good to catch at when one is
sinking.

"And you look tired," she added with plaintive sympathy.

"Worried, any way. Those town folks, you know. Miss Betsey, ain't like
us here in the country."

"Ah! worried. I know the feeling so well; when one does not quite
know, perhaps, what it is one wants, and yet is quite sure that what
they would have is what we don't want. I know it, and town folks are
so selfish."

It is marvellous how some big broad-shouldered fellow, with a fist of
his own and the will to use it, who ruffles it among his peers and
holds unabated his manly front before odds, opposition, and
misfortune, will wilt and weaken into drivelling self-pity for a few
soft words, spoken, mayhap, in doubtful sincerity, by some
insignificant dot of a woman, and one for whom he feels no more than
friendship. Is it a survival of the habit in childhood of bringing his
pains and troubles to his mother's lap? Or is it that man needs woman
to complete his being?--drawing courage from her sympathy in his hour
of darkness, even as she needs the protection of his strength in hers?
It is a fact, at least, that the bands which knit him in his pride,
soften like wax before her, and bully Bottom lays his honest ass's
head contentedly upon any Titania's knee, smiling in fatuous content
as she twiddles his long ears between her dainty fingers.

"Town folks are very selfish," said Betsey again.

"If they were honest one would not mind that. We country folk do the
best we can for ourselves, and would have both hands under, too, every
time, if only we could get it."

"You are generous, Mr. Joe. I always said it of you."

"I try to be fair," he answered, looking pleased.

"And some people don't know what fairness means," rejoined Betsey,
with fervour, and a glance of appreciation into his face. She did not
know what she meant or was speaking about, but her companion did, and
approved her sentiments, which did just as well. She had begun the
conversation merely with a general desire to be pleasant, but now she
was growing interested in his evident depression, and curious to learn
its cause. He was not in love, that seemed certain--love always struck
our tender Betsey as the trouble most natural to a fine young man. He
would not be so ready, surely, to indulge his "dumps," for some other
girl in _her_ company; and if it were herself, there was no ground for
dumps at all; he might have her for the asking, she half suspected,
though she would not demean herself in her own eyes by considering the
point until the gentleman brought it properly under her notice.
Wherefore Miss Betsey went a fishing, and baiting her hook with a
gentle enthusiasm, she spoke again:

"There's nothing so rare, I think, as fairness. Only the manly men are
ever fair, and women never."

"I _want_ to do what's fair. Miss Betsey, and I guess I have managed
slick enough so far; but now it's a teaser to know which way to turn.
Is a man bound, think you, to harm himself to save his neighbours?"

"I guess not, Mr. Webb; leastways, you know well enough they wouldn't
harm themselves to benefit you--not by a good deal, and you know it."

"But what is a fellow to do? If I hold my tongue and let them walk
into a trap they will be sure to say it was me ensnared them--that I
being a director knew all about it."

"Director? Mr. Webb. Surely it's not your mining company you are
talking about?"

Joe looked confused. He had let his cat out of the bag without meaning
it. He had begun by thinking aloud, or rather by letting the oozing of
his thoughts escape into his talk. Then it had occurred to him that
while "naming no names," he might be able to draw a sort of sample
opinion in the abstract, and learn therefrom how his position must
appear in the eyes of others; and here he found himself on the brink
of a full disclosure, with an extremely compromising admission already
past recall, and confided to the doubtful secrecy of a woman--the most
talkative woman, perhaps, in the village.

"Oh, no. Miss Betsey, you are quite mistaken, I assure you," he
faltered forth, with the shame-faced effrontery of one unused to
deception, and who scarcely expects his falsehood to succeed.

"No, you don't, Mr. Joe Webb. You don't fool _me_ with your
assurances. I know quite well when a gentleman means what he says. You
may just as well trust me with the whole story. You _know_ you can
depend on my discretion."

"And you will promise not to say a word to any living soul? And you
will give me your hand on it? Honour bright?"

"My hand on it, Mr. Webb. Honour bright," and she looked her
winningest up into his face. "Who knew?" she thought, "here she was
giving a first solemn promise to handsome Joe Webb, and sharing a
secret with him, who knew but that she might make him another promise
yet?--and what the purport of that promise might be?"

"And I may really trust you?"

"Mr. Webb!"

"Well! It is something to have any kind of fellow bein' one may let
out one's breath to. I've 'most 'bust, these last few hours, for want
of a soul I could speak to; but now I feel relieved like, and think I
can bear up. But I'll be round and see you. Miss Betsey, and we'll
have a talk about it if ever I feel nigh busting again." In fact,
Betsey's glances had been too deeply laden with expression. She had
forgotten the advice of wise King Solomon, and the wary bird had
descried in time the net so flagrantly spread out within his view.

"Then it's nothing at present you've been so anxious to confide to me,
Mr. Webb?" cried Betsey just a little tartly. "I wondered at your
precautions, and, really, they frightened me; and I am very glad you
have changed your mind and are going to keep them to yourself. So you
give me back my promise and my 'honour bright?' I can breathe free
again----" "What you told me," she added after a pause, and with just
a suspicion of mischief twinkling under her eyelids, "about your
directorship and the company's going soon to smash, don't count, of
course, for that was before we said 'honour bright.'"

"How you do run on, Miss Betsey. Of course I hold you to your promise,
and it covers everything we have said since we met. If I do not tell
you a lot, it is only because there isn't a lot to tell. But really
you must not talk about the mining company, or there will be the
d---- to pay. Fact is, old Herkimer has not been acting on the
square."

"I can believe that," cried Betsey eagerly. Gerald's offence was too
recent to be forgotten or forgiven yet awhile.

"He made us declare a div-- at the meeting to-day, though he knows
there is nothing to divide, and that most all the metal in the mine
has been dug out already. He expects to get shut of his shares that
way without losing money, and he don't care what becomes of the
concern after that, and he is just using us directors as cats-paws to
save his chestnuts."

"Quite likely. They are deep scheming men, both father and son. Just
look at Gerald there, and the way he is going on with poor little
Muriel! See how the little fool is hanging to his arm."

"She's a fine little girl, Miss Muriel Stanley, and I can excuse
anything a fellow does to win her, if only he is good to her
afterwards. You think he's after the aunts' money I guess, Miss
Betsey? That _would_ be mean, but he can't help liking, the sweet
little thing herself all the same."

"Sweet little humbug! And she isn't a Stanley after all! and not the
Stanleys' niece. She's nobody's child, that I tell you, and nobody's
niece. She was found inside a paper parcel. And as for their money,
it's me and my uncle should get it by right, when they are done with
it, and they won't sleep easy in their graves if they leave it past us
that are their proper flesh and blood; and what's more, I mean to give
them a bit of my mind about it, and that right smartly. I'd after them
at once, but there's that old fool Considine holding the sunshade over
Matilda's head, and we'd best keep family matters at home. Just look
at the old thing! Faugh! It makes me sick to see a woman of her age,
that should be at home making her soul, philandering about the country
with an old dandy like that! Her sunshade lined with rose-coloured
silk and no less, to mend her old complexion--while young girls like
me must go without--and her curls like sausages flapping about
half-way down to her waist. Ha! There they go in at auntie's door to
get a drink of ice-water or something. I'll to them there. Good-bye,
Mr. Webb! You may depend on me, and trust me fully;" and she hastened
away with the "bit of her mind" she had spoken of already on her
tongue tip waiting to be launched.

The launching was scarcely a success, however, or so Joe Webb
inferred, when, having claimed his horse at the stable, he rode past
the rectory on his homeward way. The Misses Stanley were just then
leaving the house, looking flushed and indignant, the wife following
them to the door with deprecatory looks which changed into dismay as
they departed without a sign of leave-taking, and Betsey in the
background, too crushed and ashamed to be aware even that it was Joe
as he went by.

Whatever unpleasantness occurred passed harmlessly by Muriel. She was
walking with Gerald down by the river's bank--her very first walk with
an acknowledged lover, for hitherto they had kept up the boy and girl
traditions of their earlier friendship, and these now were discarded
for the first time as the petals fall from the blossom when their work
is done, and they can lend no more assistance to the forming fruit.
She missed the altercation, and her aunts took care that she should
not hear of it.



                             CHAPTER III.

                         FRIENDS IN COUNCIL.


It was a fortnight later, it was August, and it was dusk. Having
dined, the men had stepped forth through open windows to smoke upon
their lawns, the ladies, not far off, snuffing the fragrance wafted
through the gloom, or, Canadian-wise, setting out on visitations to
their neighbours' precincts, or receiving uninvited raiders on their
own; the middle-aged to sit and fan and gossip lazily, the young to
sing or even dance, chasing the sultry oppression with active
exercise, as youth alone is privileged to do.

Jordan had dined, and his shadowy figure would show now and then sharp
against the sky, to be lost momentarily again on the dim background of
surrounding trees. Only the red spark of his cigar was always seen,
travelling back and forth fitfully across the dusky vagueness. Now it
would flash out bright and travel briskly, and then anon it would
dwindle and grow dim in rusty redness, creeping along or even
stationary for a while, starting again into brightness and hurried
movement--signs of pre-occupation, doubt, and suppressed excitement in
the smoker.

"Ho! Jordan." The hail came suddenly out of the dimness; the light of
another cigar drawing near gradually, like the drowsy flight of a
belated beetle, being the only sign that Jordan was no longer alone.
He started, pulling briskly at his cigar till it glowed and lighted up
not only his own features, but those of Ralph Herkimer, who now stood
before him.

"Herkimer! Most pleased to see you. Will you--will you come in?"

"No, I had rather join you here in your stroll and smoke, if you don't
mind," lighting a fresh cigar as he spoke.

"Well? And are you sorry now you took my advice?" he went on when the
process of lighting up was completed. "The difference between the rise
we brought about and the impending collapse which you foresaw--and
which would inevitably have taken place if your original block of the
stock and Rouget's, which I believe you now hold, had all been offered
at once. Must be a little fortune."

"Scarcely that, perhaps, but I admit it has turned out a very pretty
thing, and does you the very highest credit as a financial engineer.
But tell me, how long will this boom last?"

"Till the bubble is pricked, of course--provided the offerings at one
time are not more than can be easily absorbed. You can choke even a
hungry dog by stuffing too big pieces down his throat."

"Will the price go higher yet?"

"Naturally, if we restrict the supply."

"Fact is, I am holding, still. Never _could_ bring myself to sell on a
rising market. I should feel as if I paid every after advance out of
my own pocket. But I mean to begin to-morrow--moderately, that is."

"Right," said Ralph between two puffs. He had himself "unloaded" a
week before, and had little faith in the future; but it seemed
unnecessary to mention that.

"And there is no fear of the ugly rumours coming out again? If the men
are seen hanging idle about the tap-rooms, for example, will it not
excite inquiry?--from those blockheads with hammers, for instance, who
are prowling about the neighbourhood, and trying to get at our people
to treat and pump them?"

"The men speak mostly French, the prowlers English. There is safety in
that. The men are good Catholics, too; M. le Curé recommended many of
them, and they think the English want to tamper with their religion,
so they give them a wide berth."

"But how do you keep them busy? And how long can you keep it up?"

"I am getting all who are likely to be troublesome away to Montana,
engaging them for a mining concern, which, if it could be found, would
no doubt employ them. The men cannot get back from Montana before
Fall."

"Bright idea, that. But there are Podevin and the two others. They
will blab, I fear, as soon as they succeed in selling out."

"Podevin won't. You made sure of him at the board meeting, when you
told him that if it were known the directors would be indictable for
fraud. Or was it that fool Webb said it? Podevin and Belmore have sold
out, I know, but they are too frightened, both, to say a word. I have
seen them come out of the notary's more than once, and doubt not they
are conveying their property to their respective wives. I pity Belmore
if he does; his wife is Catholic and a devotee, she is sure to leave
it all to the church for the benefit of his heretical soul. The other
fellow is your--I mean our--real danger. He is as obstinate and as
stupid as a pig, and he thinks it would be _wrong_ to save himself, as
the rest are doing, while at the same time he bears us a grudge for
leading him into the scrape. He has been to me in town several times,
but I can make nothing of him, and I fear he is up to some virtuous
devilment or another. The fool has honour enough to fit out a
township, common cad though he be. Wish I had known sooner."

"Hm! Then I must make haste and get out of the sinking boat."

"Take care you do not founder the whole thing in your panic. Unload by
degrees--only so much each day, and, if possible, a little less than
is asked for. That will keep the price up, and the quotations of daily
transactions will preserve confidence."

"I owe you thanks, Ralph, for your suggestions. So far they have been
most valuable. I shall not soon forget how wisely you encouraged me to
hold on. I only wish I could reciprocate your favours; but that is not
to be hoped. You know all the ropes so much better than I do. Take the
will for the deed, old man! and if--by good fortune--if ever----"

"But you can, my dear Jordan, you really can--and I am glad to know
that your goodwill is equal to the test; though indeed it is nothing I
am asking after all--nothing to cost you anything."

"Name it," mumbled Jordan with a good deal less effusion than he had
been indulging in the minute before, though still as cordially as the
staccato shock to his nerves would allow. To say truth, he felt not
unlike the sportive mouse, which, in pure lightness of heart, has
nibbled through the thread whose yielding liberates the spring which
catches and holds as in a vice. What wonder that instinctively he
should wriggle to withdraw, the moment he felt himself being held,
even to a position of his own choosing? Bitten by his own teeth, he
would have felt less foolish--less like the stag entangled by his own
antlers in a thicket, to wait the coming of the hunter and his hounds.

Ralph noted the change in manner and tone; and the humour of it,
causing inward laughter, made the smoke he was inhaling lose its way,
and brought on a fit of coughing.

"I want you to pay up Gerald's fortune at once," he said at length.
"It wants not much more than a year, you know, to the time fixed. He
is of age, and he is my partner, so we shall both be responsible. I am
Gerald's next heir, too, so it can have no bad consequences for you,
besides being a great convenience to us."

The tumult in Jordan's circulation had had time to subside, and his
voice had grown even again. It was more mellifluously soothing now
than even its professional wont. "How I wish it had been something
else," he said; "something within the bounds of possibility. It
distresses me to--but----"

"Quite so, my friend. The usual way of the world. Anything that is not
wanted you would have felt it a privilege to do. Is it not so?--even
to pulling out your eyes, only you know I am not a cannibal and prefer
oysters; so they would be of no use."

"Really, my dear Ralph, you must not put it in that way, you know.
Indeed, you have no right to say so. Just think----"

"Oh, I know--quite so--by all means, if you wish it. I know better
than chop arguments with a lawyer. That would be worse than an
altercation with a woman. He is not satisfied, like her, with the
_last_ word, he must have the best of it as well. But the facts
remain."

"Is that not an admission, my friend, that you know your position will
not bear examination?"

"Look out for your own position, friend Jordan! I have a presentiment
it would not be impossible to knock that over like a house of cards on
the Stock Exchange to-morrow morning, however easily you might
overthrow me in argument to-night."

"I used the word 'position' to express your statement of the case, my
dear fellow; I meant nothing offensive."

"And what sort of statement would you make of your own case if I were
to dismiss all the miners to-morrow open the gates, and let the world
in to see?"

"Pray do be calm, Ralph, and don't grow excited, I had almost said
violent. You forget that I am only one of two. I can do nothing
alone."

"I know it; but you can persuade your brother trustee, I believe, as I
cannot. Besides, he will say, like you, that he is one of two; so I
make sure of you before approaching him. Now, what do you say?--My
Canadian interests are in a mess. I have washed my hands of those
mines--I can ruin you, observe, if I like, without hurting myself--I
am already deeply dipped in Pikes Peak and Montanas and I must throw
in all the rest I have to save what is there already. My interests are
across the lines now, and I mean to be there myself also. So you see I
can have no personal interest in sparing you, and I have no doubt that
Webb's fear of a criminal prosecution of the directors will come
true."

"I am not a director."

"It would be proved that you attended the meetings and influenced the
board in favour of every irregularity--and there are plenty of
irregularities, I can tell you. The others will insist, you may depend
upon it, on the pleasure of your company with them in the dock; and,
for myself, I don't see why they shouldn't. I imagine that weak chest
of yours will need at least six months to recuperate in Florida--but
there will not be time for you to save your fortune and get away if
you do not listen to reason----" "You force me to speak plainly," he
added, as Jordan stopped short in his walk and dropped heavily upon a
garden seat, deprived of strength to stand upright. His cigar had
dropped from between his teeth, and he sat a mere black shadow in the
dusk till Ralph, pulling his own smouldering spark, into brilliancy,
bent near and saw how sickly pale his visage had become.

"What say you, Jordan? How are we to arrange?"

"It will take time to realize and gather in. The accounts, extending
over eighteen years as they do, are voluminous and complicated; it
will take time to make them up. You see it is nearly two years yet
till the time for handing over the trust, so there has appeared to be
no hurry so far; but it will take months to get the thing into shape."

"I see. And you know that within a week or two I shall be across the
lines, and that it will be a couple of years at least before I shall
care to revisit Canada. Now, really, my friend, do you take me for the
sort of person it is worth while talking such slop to? Hand me the
securities as they are; I am surely as well able to negotiate them as
you can be."

"I could transfer you those mining shares, of course, if you wished
it. Yes! That will simplify matters; part of them, I mean, the second
part."

"Mining shares? Come now, that's a rum un. My uncle's estate don't
hold a dollar's worth of them. You forget the transfer books lie in my
office, and I could not have overlooked Considine's name either for
himself or as trustee. Our company is not in his line. He knows too
much and too little for that class of investment. But I see! and it is
what I might have suspected from your sudden rise in the world, only
that I did not think you could have got round Considine--I know _I_
could not. I admire your management, Jordan. I really do, you must
have finessed very cleverly to nobble old Cerberus like that! A good
slice of the money has passed through your hands, we may infer; and,
of course, as would happen with any one else--I don't blame you,
mind--it has got a little confused and mixed up, as it were, amongst
your own, which is natural; and I do not mind accommodating you as
far as may be. We will take, say, half of your holding--the first
half--and it to be sold before you disturb the rest. We will take it
at par, and give you credit for it. What else will you give us?"

"Par? Man alive! I bought Rouget's at a premium, and I have been
holding the whole ever so long, with the risk of its falling all
the time. You must take it at the market value, say a hundred and
seventy-six."

"Whose money is it? By your own admission? And do you not receive a
pension under the will for looking after it? If the price had gone
down, would you have made good the loss?"

"You have no right to insinuate that I would have done anything
improper. However, I will not yield to so outrageous a demand. No man
in his senses would; especially when you have no more business with it
than the parish priest, for two years to come."

"You will force me, however unwillingly, to make Gerald file a
petition to have your trusteeship overhauled; with the affidavit I can
make in support the court cannot possibly refuse."

"I shall have an information lodged against _you_ for swindling before
the petition can be heard. Who will mind your affidavit after that?"

"Good for you, old man. A stale mate! It does one good to play a match
against you, Jordan; it brightens one's wits. Well now, can we make a
truce? If I do my best to gain you time to realize, and promise to
keep Gerald quiet for the next two years, will you get me that money
out of Considine's hands? How much is it, by-the-way?"

"Half. We divided the property to avoid the endless consultations,
each agreeing to do his best with half, and trust the other."

"Well, get Considine to hand over, and you shall be left undisturbed."

"I don't believe he will do it."

"Will you try to persuade him?"

"Yes."

"Come, then, we will find him at Podevin's, and have it out before we
sleep."

"He is not there. I saw him walk past as I sat down to dinner; gone to
Miss Stanley's, I fancy, as usual."

"He will be back before long, now; let us go down and wait."

"Better wait here, there are always inquisitive loafers around there.
Come in and sit down, the moon is rising. He will not leave his
friends till it is high enough to light him home."



                             CHAPTER IV.

                        MOONLIGHT AND SHADOW.


Considine retired early to his chamber by the river-side. The moon was
up and emerging in lucent clearness from the bands of dimming haze
which joined the transparent heaven to the grosser earth. There was no
wind, only a stealing deliciousness on the sweet night air, lulled by
faint whispering among the aspen leaves hard by, and the lapping of
the waters round the boat-house. It was far too good a time to waste
in the unconsciousness of sleep: merely to exist and feel was tranquil
joy. He extinguished his lamp, threw off his coat, and lighting a
pipe, sat by the open window, and puffed and dreamed.

Swiftly the stream swept by beneath the casement, each swirling eddy
touched with a ring of moonlight, and wavy gleaming lines threading
the dusky current in its course, showing the volume and the swiftness
and the might--like time, like life, like fate. And yet it was not
gloomy. The flickering lustre brightened as the moon rose higher, and
Considine's eye rested meditatively upon the scene. The river, it
seemed to him, was not unlike the passing of his own existence, with
something cold and something solitary in it, issuing from one
obscurity, and hurrying onward to another--nothing but a passing, and
yet not all a cheerless one.

A gentle influence, it seemed to him, was shining just then on _his_
life also, one as pure and good as the beams upon the passing tide,
but like that, far off, and cool, and unapproachable. The swellings of
the current seemed to leap and glance up, longing and responsive, but
the Lady Moon smiled back still in the same cool gentle brightness,
coming never the nearer, however the waves might flicker and burn in
impotent desire and longing. Matilda, too, was very far away. The
sense of yearning to be near her had long been in his soul; it had
germinated and grown so gradually that he had not known its presence,
till at length in its spreading it grew into his thought, and he knew
that he desired.

Yet to disturb the pleasant present by a word seemed far too
hazardous--too like hurling a stone into the stream and breaking up
the radiance. Better, perhaps, be content to bear in silence the cool
reflection in his bosom, than, in leaping to catch the reality, lose
even the shadow. When the pulses sober down to the steady task of
living--when the turbulence, the cascades, and rainbows of the upper
reaches of life are past, and the even stream has entered on the level
country of middle age, love grows less confident and bold even in
those better natures which alone retain the capacity of loving.
Familiarity with disappointment makes man less willing to tempt his
fate, and he clings more eagerly to such good as the gods vouchsafe,
knowing its rarity and his own weakness to hold fast. "Better enjoy
the friendship," thought Considine, "than tamper with and disturb it
by futile endeavours to warm it into love;" and he drew a long breath;
and somehow the air seemed to have grown dim, though in truth it was
only a film of cloud stealing athwart the moon.

He rose and stretched himself, and yawned, and concluded that now it
was time to turn in, when a tap at the door of his chamber surprised
him.

"Who is there? Ha! Jordan? Glad to see you. And Herkimer! Let me light
the lamp. How fortunate I had not gone to bed. Oh, no apology! Should
have been sorry to miss you both. Smoking I see. So am I. Brandy and
water? Bless my soul, the ice has nearly all melted. Enough? Glad of
that--or here is soda if you prefer. Splendid night, is it not?" and
so on. His visitors' flow of talk seemed blocked in a strange way for
persons who had taken the trouble to visit him so late. He jerked out
his disjointed sentences in answer to nods and monosyllables, doing
his best to fulfil the rites of hospitality under difficulties.

Smoke, brightened by brandy and soda, however, had its perfect work at
last. It dispensed, for one thing, with talk for talking sake, till
its own soothing and clarifying influence had time to act; for is not
the cloud blown by a fellow-smoker companionable and sufficient
without a word? Then Jordan, clearing his voice with a preliminary
cough, began:

"You are surprised, Considine, to see us at this hour; but Herkimer
thought it our only chance of finding you alone. You popular bachelors
are so run after. Fact is, Herkimer says that it would be of advantage
to them to have young Gerald's fortune paid up at once, instead of
waiting for the short remainder of the twenty years to run out. After
talking it over, I am free to confess that much may be said in favour
of his view; and, indeed, he has quite brought me round, so I agreed
to come with him and assure you of my willingness to join you in
acceding. Young Gerald, you will remember, is of age now, and can
legally confirm his father's demand. They are partners in business,
and nearest of kin to each other, and can give us a full and complete
acquittance of our responsibilities, which, speaking for myself, I
shall be thankful to be rid of; for candidly I am not as young as I
have been, and I grow lazy, I suppose, as well as fat, and I find my
own concerns require all the attention I have to bestow. It has been a
long and an onerous trust, and I dare say that, like myself, you will
not be sorry to be rid of it."

"I need scarcely say," observed Ralph, "that Gerald sees the
importance to our affairs of winding up the trust at once, as strongly
as I do. He has no desire, though, that the trustees should be
deprived of their commission for management before the expiration of
the twenty years. On the contrary, he appreciates their services so
highly that it is his wish to make the allowance permanent, by
granting them a capital sum sufficient to represent at eight per cent
their emolument from the property."

When Jordan began to speak Considine had set down his pipe and lay
back in his chair, his left foot across his right knee, stroking it
with his hand, while he fixed his eyes upon the speaker. When Ralph
began, an incipient frown hovered about his eyebrows, the blood rose
hotly to his forehead as the speaker proceeded, and he sat bolt
upright, with fingers clenched and lips compressed, ere the conclusion
was reached; when he answered in a voice of suppressed indignation:

"I am humiliated, Mr. Herkimer, that you should have felt at liberty
to speak as you have done. Your words might be taken to imply an
insinuation against Jordan's probity and my own, for which I am
certain that neither I nor he have given occasion. Take back what you
have said, or I, for one, must decline to say a word upon the subject
of your demand."

"My dear general!" cried Ralph in amazement, not untouched with scorn
for the "canting old prig" who could pretend that the mode of earning
a dollar made any difference in its value. "You have completely
misunderstood me, I do assure you. No idea could have been farther
from my mind, or indeed from the mind of any one who knows as I do
your delicate sense of honour. I really must protest against your
entertaining so erroneous an impression; and it seems hard that I
should be prevented from expressing my boy's sense, and my own, of
your assiduous attention to our interests."

"That will be time enough after you know what we have done," answered
Considine dryly. "At present you know nothing, nor can, till the
accounts of the estate have been made up, and submitted to your
examination. However, as you agree to take back the promise of a
consideration for violating the trust reposed in us, no more need be
said."

"Violating the trust!" remonstrated Jordan. "And who, pray, my dear
Considine, uses unguarded language now?"

"Not I. Remember the terms of the will, if you please, Mr. Jordan."

"Technically, my dear sir, and verbally, I will not dispute your
accuracy; but more than that is due to the intentions of a testator,
from friends, and among friends."

"You think you know Gerald's intentions better than he did himself,
then? For my part, I have thought the will a model of clearness."

"Think of the circumstances, general--the present circumstances--and
all that has occurred since the will was made."

"Nothing has occurred for which the will did not provide."

"Excuse me, general. Gerald has come of age, he has gone into
business, he sees a use to which he can turn his inheritance. What
right have _we_ to balk him, and keep him out of his own?"

"I deny that it is his own, or can be, till the time appointed has
arrived."

"Literally speaking, of course, your position cannot be gainsaid; but
consider the circumstances, as I say. When the will was made, there
was every chance that quite another person would inherit. That person
would have received the money before reaching majority. It seems
therefore unfair, and contrary to the testator's wish, that Gerald
should have to wait."

"I don't see it. What if that other should appear and claim the
inheritance?"

"Is it likely?"

"It is possible. Again, Gerald may die within the next
year-and-a-half. We should be personally liable then to the heirs."

"His father is one of them, his three aunts are the others--all our
friends of long standing. From what you know of them, you can have no
misgiving as to our old friend Ralph's doing what is right by those
ladies. Had the testator been alive he could not but have been glad to
confide them to the care of so good a fellow as his nephew Ralph."

"That is just where I must beg to differ. I knew old Gerald most
intimately, and I have the best ground for being sure that he would
not."

"There it is, Considine! You have always had a kind of grudge against
me. You know you have," said Ralph.

"Not at all, sir. Search your memory, and I defy you to produce one
token of ill-will. Did I not prove myself a useful friend at Natchez?"

"Never mind Natchez," growled Ralph sulkily.

"Did we not do business together for years after the war?--business by
which _you_ profited as much as I did? Have I ever made use of an
unfriendly or disrespectful word in your presence?"

"You have thought and looked them; and you know it."

"Men are not held responsible for thoughts and looks. They cannot help
them. But let us close all this at once. It is contrary to the letter
of the will to do as you propose, gentlemen, and I will not take the
responsibility. I believe, too, it will be for the young man's own
interest that he should come into possession later, when his hands may
be less trammelled by business engagements."

It was useless to say more. The schemers speedily took their leave,
Ralph growling and muttering under his breath about pig-headed
ramrods, while Jordan reflected pensively what an impracticable old
Spartan he would have to reckon with, if ever his peculiar method of
trusteeship should come up for discussion. "Not a business man," he
muttered to himself. "Emphatically not!"

"If he were to die now, would not the whole be in your hands?" asked
Ralph.

"Undoubtedly. Why?"

"It just struck me, when we were up there, and he was holding forth by
the open window--and the river outside so swift and deep."

Jordan started.

"By G-- I could have pushed him out, and there would have been an end.
But you're chicken-hearted, Jordan. You could not be counted on to
keep quiet."

"I would rather not be present at such a transaction, certainly," and
Jordan felt a creeping run up his spine. What a desperate fellow the
man must be! He must speak him fair and keep out of his clutches.
Considine was impracticable, he thought again, and Ralph was violent.
If the two came in collision, what loss would it be to him? Either of
them might some day become troublesome. The thought shot through his
mind, and the sickly faintness, bred of suggested murder, tingled into
a glee of terrified exultation, which made him tremble, and the very
teeth rattle in his jaw.

"It would be all right? Would it not?" asked Ralph.

"Ye--ye--yes. But really, my dear friend, is it necessary to take me
into your confidence? Considine bathes in the river every morning,
by-the-way--you may count on my eagerness to forward your views--in
any--contingency--but----"

"Quite so, Jordan. I'm to play cat, am I, to your monkey, for the
chestnuts? Very well. I won't compromise you. You weren't born to be
hanged--a deal more likely to die a sneak-thief's death in a
penitentiary hospital! Bathes every morning, does he, in the river?
Good-night. Sound sleep and pleasant dreams."



                              CHAPTER V.

                               MURDER.


It was a summer morning, between six and seven. The last thread of
mist has melted in the warming air, air suffused with sunshine and
crisp with a lingering freshness from the night; the banks all dewy,
and the river asparkle in the slanting light.

Considine stepped into a skiff in the boat-house beneath his chamber,
and shot out into the stream to take his morning plunge. Then
lingeringly snuffing the sweet cool air and surveying the upward
moving banks as he drifted down, with fingers idling among the
intricacies of buttons, and talking aloud, he leisurely undressed
himself for his swim:

"Can that be the glitter of a gunbarrel in the sun? It is--reminds one
of the sharpshooters on the Rappahannock river during the war. What
can the fellow be skulking for, like that, among the bushes? He
remembers it's the close season for duck perhaps; but he might take
courage, and stand boldly forth this morning; there is not one on the
river to pop at, as far as I can see. I must give the Game Preserving
Association a hint when I go to town, though. Well! here goes.
One--two--three!" He dived into the river, and the bracing coolness
licked his languid limbs into a new feeling of firmness and strength.

Regaining the surface, and shaking his eyes clear of the dripping
hair, he turned to survey his sportsman, now standing full in view.

"Ralph Herkimer!--and taking aim!--last night--I understand. My
God!--if he aims straight--I'm done for."

The skiff had drifted on in front during his gambols, and he now
struck out with all his might to gain its side and interpose it
between himself and danger; but he never reached it. A flash and a
puff of smoke upon the shore, a crack, and a stinging sensation in the
shoulder, paralyzing the arm, and he went under water. Rising
presently, he struck out anew, straining every sinew to overtake the
boat, and almost reaching it, when he lifted the sound arm to lay
hold--lifted it too soon. It fell short, fell back on the water, and
he plunged headforemost to the bottom. His head may have struck upon a
sunken rock, or--or anything. He struggled, feeling himself drowning,
and then he grew drowsy, his consciousness grew vague and dreamlike,
and then there was an end. The current swept onward undisturbed, and
the empty boat drifted down stream towards the sedgy islands, where
the river took a turn, and was lost from view.

Ralph Herkimer stood upon the shore watching with an intentness which
left him deaf and impervious to every other impression. The rifle had
slipped from his shoulder, the butt rested on the ground, and a thread
of smoke still crept out from the barrel. His hand supported it
mechanically. His perceptions were out upon the river. The victim was
hit, he saw so much, and when he sank, Ralph drew a breath of infinite
relief between his tight-set teeth; but still he could not turn away
his eyes.

The head emerged above the tide again. What?--and he was wounded?--and
yet about to escape!--and it would be known that it was he--Ralph--who
had fired. He must not let him escape--and yet, to fire again? The
first shot, being unlooked for, would pass unnoticed; the next, all
ears along the river being now aroused, would surely be observed. He
clutched the rifle, with one barrel still to fire, and watched the
swimmer. How heavily he floundered through the water, yet with what
desperate force; and, really, he was gaining on the boat. If he
should reach it the deed would be out--everything known--and it would
then be too late to shoot. A boat with a corpse--an empty boat, with
blood-stains, would be enough to set the law and the detectives to
work. He lifted the gun, but his heart beat far too wildly to take
aim. His eyes were clouded, his hands shook; while out in the stream
the swimmer could be seen in frantic effort struggling along and
gaining on the boat.

And now it seems to Ralph there is no choice. He _must_ fire again, or
the swimmer will gain the boat, and everything be known. Why should
his hand tremble now? When did he ever fail to knock a squirrel from
the tree? Has he not shot a bear in his time? Is not the danger of
letting this man escape worse than any mischief the bear could have
done him? and yet----

Ha! The swimmer rises in the water, throwing out his arm as though to
grasp the boat. It is beyond his reach. He falls forward in the tide
and disappears. A foot is seen above the water for an instant, and is
gone. The boat drifts onward all alone. The gun has not gone off, and
Ralph sinks on the bank, panting and weak in the revulsion of
excitement. His eyes follow the drifting boat and watch the even
glassy flowing in its wake, but the waters part not asunder any more.
No head emerges panting and struggling to disturb the mirrored lustre
reflected from the morning clouds. The thing is done.



                             CHAPTER VI.

                               NEMESIS.


Ralph Herkimer was late for breakfast. He had been out with his gun;
for Gerald, setting out to catch an early train for town, came
on him stepping from the shrubbery to gain the verandah and his own
dressing-room window--met him right in the face, to his own no small
surprise, and not, apparently, to the satisfaction of his parent.

"Ducks! Father? Ain't you three weeks ahead of time?"

"Sparrows! my son. We shall not have a black cherry left, for those
blasted English sparrows."

"And you took the rifle? That would have been putting a big blast with
a vengeance into one of their little persons. Head, claws, feathers,
would have been blown to the four winds. The rest would be nowhere."

"Humph," grunted Ralph in surly wise, entering his open window without
further parley.

"Old man must be out of sorts this morning," said the son, proceeding
on his way. "Never saw him so grumpy of a morning before. And to take
a rifle to the sparrows! He must have gone out half awake--taken it up
without noticing, and been ashamed at being seen--stolen back, no
doubt, before Solomon Sprout would arrive with his spade and barrow.
Solomon isn't an early bird by any means. I suppose no gardener is.
Has the whole day before him to potter about the place. Solomon would
have laughed at the rifle, and told us about blowing Sepoys away from
the cannon's mouth when he was soldiering in 'Indy.'"

Ralph was very late for breakfast. He had rung for his man, and sent
him for sherry and bitters, and then dismissed him, peremptorily
refusing to be shaved, or to be bothered in any way.

Nine o'clock. Mrs. Martha sat by her coffeepot, but her spouse did not
appear. She rang for Joseph, and inquired for his master, but he could
only say that he had rung for sherry and bitters, refused to be
shaved, and ordered him out of the room.

"He's out of sorts," soliloquized Mrs. Martha. "Smoked too many cigars
with Jordan last night, that's what's the matter! What fools the men
are! Making themselves sick with nasty tobacco, just for manners to
one another! I'm sure they don't really like it. I've known the time
when Ralph would sit the whole evening with me and Gerald--Gerald was
a baby then--and never a cigar. Just a few peaches before going to
bed, and a Boston cracker. Heigh-ho! I was young then, to be sure, and
better looking, but I don't suppose that signifies to Ralph. I am sure
I like _him_ as well, and think him as fine a man as ever I did; and
why would he not think the same of me? It's just that eternal
_business!_ The men are that dead set on it they think of nothing
else, and they make believe to like tobacco to be with one another,
and keep the women away, that they may talk business. The weary, weary
business! Whatever good has it done us? The richer we get, the harder
Ralph seems to work, and the less I see of him. But I'll keep him at
home to-day, anyhow. See if I don't."

With a cup of coffee and a piece of toast, she hastened to her
husband's room.

"Well, Ralph? Still up? I fancied you must have lain down again. Drink
your coffee. It will do you good. Dear me! How pale and limp you
look."

"Nonsense! I'm all right."

"Not you. You must not think of going to town to-day. We'll hang a
hammock on the shady side of the house and you can swing there. The
river view feels cool, and there always comes a breeze up from the
water. Joseph!"

"Bid him hang the hammock in the front of the house, Martha. It amuses
one to see who comes and goes. Yes; I shall stay at home with you
to-day. I don't feel up to much--yesterday's heat, I suppose. Bid him
hang the hammock up in front."

"There's no shade worth speaking of on that side till the afternoon.
You'll broil yourself with the glare off the flower beds. The west
verandah is the place at this hour, and there's the pleasant outlook
over the river."

"River be d----d. It makes me giddy to look at it this morning. My
head seems all aswim."

"Bilious--the brandy and cigars last night. You never _could_ stand
much of that, Ralph. It's not for you! Leave it to the dull fellows
who want brightening. You have too many nerves to agree with
stimulants in quantity."

"Don't preach, Martha, my good soul. My head is splitting. Open the
window wider, and close the blinds. Now leave me, please; I think I
could sleep. Send Joseph with the brandy and some soda-water and ice."

"A hair of the dog that bit you, eh? My poor old man. But I think you
would be better without it," and she laid her cool hand on his
forehead as he lay.

It was the touch that of all things soothed and softened him the most.
In the hurry of life and the scramble for its prizes he had long
outgrown the early transports of the honeymoon, real though they had
been at the time--as real as it was in his nature to experience. The
light of her eye had less power to kindle a response within him;
it shone more dimly, doubtless, than of old, and his receptive
organ--heart, call it?--had toughened with the years, and was too
occupied with greed to hold much else. Her bright and sensible talk,
grown familiar, had ceased to interest; but the touch of that cool,
soft, firm, and sympathetic hand upon his brow, had still the old
power to soothe and charm away pain and care. She was so true, and
strong, and faithful; and a healing virtue dwelt for him in her
touch--the one truly good and holy nature he had ever believed in. And
she believed so thoroughly in him--the only one, perhaps, who did, in
all the world--except their boy--and he had only learnt the faith from
_her_.

She believed in him, and she was good and true. His brow revelled in
the cool, soft, firm touch. He could have pressed it as a dog will rub
against his mistress's caressing palm, but that he was ashamed of the
one still lingering softness in his nature. Remembering the
chicaneries of his money-making career, how glad he was she did not
know them; and yet he felt a rogue in gaining this testimony of her
faith, more than in all the swervings from uprightness he had ever
been guilty of. And the morning's work. For the fraction of an instant
it had been less present with him in the luxury of that caress. What
would she think of that, if ever she came to know? He guessed the
horror she would feel, though, strictly speaking, he felt no horror in
himself. Would he ever come to feel any? he wondered. It was merely a
dull, stupid consciousness as yet that he was not as other men; that
they would none of him if they but knew; that he was separate from the
rest of his kind. And she? Her hand appeared to burn him at the
thought. He felt spattered and sticky with the dead man's blood, and
it was soiling her clean pure hand. If she knew it, she would renounce
him. Shrinkingly he turned his head beneath her touch, and the gentle
wife, pained at perceiving her caress grow irksome, stole silently
from the room.

"Alas! How they had been drifting apart through all the years!"
thought Martha. "The world had come between, a broadening wedge
pressing them ever more and more asunder. Ralph had never been unkind,
but how slowly, yet steadily, he had been growing not to care. He had
so many other things to think on." She, who sat at home with her
thoughts, and still cherished the old fancies of her girlhood, grew
hungry at the heart with the old hunger for a perfect love; and the
food had grown sparer and slighter while her mind and soul had been
waxing with the years--for a woman's heart need not wither with her
complexion--and now, when she sought sign of love, what got she? A
roll of bank bills--a handful of Dead Sea fruit--or costly trinkets
which had no value now that the eyes she would have pleased did not
care to look. Still, until now, he had submitted to her caress; she
had even pleased herself by fancying that he liked it, he had
submitted always so calmly. Now he had shrunk from her--turned away
his head. "Alas! she was growing old," she thought, "he had ceased to
care for her save as his housekeeper and Gerald's mother. How hard the
men were, and utterly selfish!" She wiped her eyes a little, and went
about her morning occupations. At least he should never know that she
had suffered this wound. He should never know that she had observed a
change. But never again should he have the opportunity to spurn. She
would give him his way.

Ralph spent his morning in a semi-invalid fashion strange to one of
his habits. "What was the matter with him?" he asked himself, "and
what was he afraid of?" To both queries he answered positively
"nothing." Yet the oppression on his spirits would not lift, and there
was a tremor or dismay at his heart which would not be calmed or
reassured. Why would not the man roll over and have done, and let
there be an end, as there was with the squirrel and the bear he
recollected?

Of moral sense Ralph may be said to have had as little as any one
living in the civilized state. He certainly had not enough to trouble
sleep or digestion, and might have been warranted impervious to
remorse. With little benevolence, and without imagination, he was
insensible to pain or misery beyond the circumference of his own
cherished hide, as had been shown by his pleasure in the torture and
ill-usage of his uncle's slaves. He had even prided himself on being
proof to such phantasies as limit other men in working out their will;
and if not brave, he had at least the judgment which reduces danger to
its true dimensions. He surveyed his position now, The probabilities
were in his favour. Who could have seen him? Who suspect him? It was
unlikely at that hour that any one had, seeing he had fired but once.
In his position nobody would suspect him, even if he had been seen and
were accused. He need only say he had seen a bird on the water, and,
having the gun in his hand, after frightening the sparrows from his
cherry trees hard by, he had let fly. Jordan could testify to his
spending the previous evening amicably with the deceased, and no one
could suggest a reason for the deed. Possibly, too, the body being in
mid-stream would be carried down. Once in the St. Laurence it was safe
to be carried over the Lachine Rapids, or rendered unrecognizable by
mere lapse of time. Danger, he told himself, there was none, and yet
the gloom upon his spirits would not lift. Not all the brandy and soda
he could swallow availed to cheer him.

There is a social atmosphere in which we live, a subtile sense of the
general sentiment of our fellows, which no obtuseness of the nerves,
no clearness of the understanding, can be wholly proof against. We
breathe it, and live in it, and are of it, exceptional endowment
counting for but little in opposition. The sanctity of human life, and
the solidarity of each member with the rest of the community as far as
mere existence goes, are sentiments so derived--foregone conclusions
which nobody disputes, and nobody finds it necessary to assert. They
go without saying, and are in the basis of our notions. And now, as a
murderer, Ralph felt himself in the position of a lurking wolf, liable
to be found out at any moment, and hooted from the company of men. He
was already of a different kind from his fellows--a man apart and
outside of human sympathy. If it were known, whom would he have to
depend on? Would not his closest intimates be ready to assist the
sheriff in bringing him to punishment? The loneliness weighed on him.
Brandy would not lighten it. The rush of that detestable river was in
his ears, and would not be expelled, nor the swift glassy sweeping of
the tide be obliterated from his view, use his eyes or close them as
he might.

"Let me take you for a drive, Martha," he called out at last. "A long
drive in the sun and wind, I think, will do me good."


That drive was not a happy experience for the unfortunate horse. Urged
to his utmost speed, over endless miles of dusty way, in the heat and
glare of an August afternoon, Ralph suffered him not to flag, though
his sides were wet with foam and his ears drooped with fatigue.
Heedless of all else, Ralph strove to escape or outstrip the dull
oppression that had fallen on his spirit, the dismay which, like a
shadow, stood by his shoulder and at his ear, whispering in the
rushing river's voice, and pointing him to the shimmer of waters
closing on the swimmer's head, turn his eyes whithersoever he might.
Martha sat pensively and silent by his side. In his miserable
pre-occupation he forgot her presence, and spoke to her not a word,
bent on urging the horse forward, in feverish merciless impatience.

"Ralph!" Martha cried at last in genuine alarm. She had known him in
feverish moods before, which violent motion and exertion had been able
to relieve, but she never before had seen him act and look as now. She
feared for his sanity, and kept silence while she could, trusting to
his out-wearing the fit; but in time it seemed to her that their lives
were in danger, they were liable to be thrown out at any moment, and
succour was miles away. "Ralph!" and she laid her hand on his sleeve.
"Where are you going? Where do you want to take us? You will break
down the horse and throw us out upon the road, if you do not mind.
Look at him!--he seems fit to drop."

Ralph started, and but for his wife the reins would have slipped from
his hand. He was like one awakened from a horrid dream, roused to what
is going on around him. He checked the horse, brought him to a walk,
and shortly stopped. The relief he experienced at the moment he was
disturbed was inexpressible, he could have laughed and babbled with
delight; but then, too quickly, he recollected. There was something to
conceal as well as to forget; he must guard his every word and
movement. By-and-by unheeded incidents might be re-called, and pieced
together into a web of circumstantial evidence from which it would be
impossible to escape. He must command himself.

"It's the heat, Martha, the heat. My head has been turning round all
day. Wonder if I can have had a slight sunstroke? It was well you
spoke; I must have been asleep--sleeping with my eyes open, and
driving like mad. Poor Catchfly! I've nearly killed him. What will
Gerald say to me for ruining his nag? Too bad! Really I did not know
what I was doing. You should have spoken an hour ago, Martha."

"How could I, Ralph? You have not spoken a word since we came out. I
did not know what might be the matter. It was only when Catchfly began
to look as if he must drop, and the road got stony, and I saw the
gravel pits by the wayside, that I began to fear for our necks and
spoke. Where are you going? Where are we?"

"I do not know where we are. As to where I am going, it can only be
_back again_, if we can find the way."

"We must 'light then, and give the poor beast an hour or two's rest,
at any rate. See how used up he is! It will be no wonder if he goes
lame; and see, he has lost a shoe!"

"We must get out of this sun-beaten road, at any rate, into the shade.
There is a grove by the road-side, a mile on the way back. See it? A
sugar-bush[1] it looks like from here. There must be a homestead not
far from it. We may hire a fresh horse there, perhaps, and let them
bring home Catchfly to-morrow."

In time the sugar-bush was reached, and by-and-by, the farmer's house.
The way seemed long, they traversed it so slowly, for Catchfly fell
lame as he began to cool; and they had to alight and lead him ere the
end.

In consideration of money paid, the farmer complied with their wishes.
Catchfly was liberated from the shafts, and another horse took his
place--a horse which had toiled all day in the turnip field, and at
his best was not remarkable for speed. They were condemned to sit up
helplessly behind, while this patient beast trudged wearily along the
road. The day waned into twilight, and Martha's patience died out with
the light.

"Say! Ralph, you can go home and have your dinner. I've had enough of
buggy-riding for one day. Let me out here, at Miss Stanley's gate,
she'll give me a cup of tea. After dinner you can send up Gerald to
bring me home."

"I don't feel hungry either," answered Ralph. "It will be dull without
you. I'll go in, too, and bring you home myself by-and-by."

The ladies were sitting in the dusk without candles. Penelope drowsed
over some knitting by the window, while Matilda and Muriel played old
duets from memory; the former seemingly without much interest or
attention, though she still kept on playing, notwithstanding Muriel's
frequent exclamations that she had gone astray. The window was
darkened for an instant, but the music still went on, hurrying just a
little, perhaps, to reach its close. It was only a lady who had come
and sat down by Penelope, speaking softly, as if unwilling to
interrupt. And then, through the other window there entered a man, the
dark outline of whose figure alone was seen against the dimly-lighted
garden, and the music ceased, for Matilda had risen.

"Mr. Considine--at last. And we have been looking for you since two
o'clock. The horses harnessed, lunch baskets packed, everything ready.
What an apology you have got to make us! I really do not think
Penelope can bring herself to forgive you, whatever you say."

Ralph gasped and started, stopped short, looked wildly behind him, and
catching hold of a chair to steady himself, dropped into it in a
momentary palsy of fright.

"Mr. Herkimer!" Matilda corrected herself, "What a ridiculous
mistake!" and she coloured, perhaps, but it was growing dark, and no
inquisitive eye was near. "You seem quite faint with the heat. Muriel,
get him some wine and water. And Martha! I did not observe you come
in. Mr. Herkimer seems quite poorly."

"He has been out of sorts all day. Biliousness and the heat combined.
No! You did not observe _me_. It was impossible to mistake _my_ shadow
for Considine's."

Ralph started and stamped his foot. That man's name again; and _he_
striving so strenuously to forget!

"Are you worse? Ralph," asked Martha, noticing his movement. "I
wonder, Matilda, you should mistake Ralph for Considine. They are both
men, that is all the resemblance I can see between them." And Martha
smiled.

"We expected Mr. Considine, that is all. We have been looking for him
since two o'clock. He has not come, and he has not sent. I never knew
him serve us so before. He is so very particular in general."

"I should think so. Depend upon it there is some good reason, or a
message has miscarried."

Ralph writhed. Why _would_ they speak of the man? It seemed as if they
could speak of no one else. And yet they did not know, and they must
not know. Nobody must know; and he must exert a vigorous control upon
himself. How was it that control should be needed at all? What
weakness was this that had fallen on him? He did not understand it.
About a man already dead--done with; non-existent; wiped like a cipher
from a slate--vanished and disappeared?



                             CHAPTER VII.

                               RESCUE.


The wooded islands which closed the river view from St. Euphrase, shut
out from sight the homestead of Farmer Belmore lower down the stream.
Only the unreclaimed outskirts of his land could be seen from the
village, repeating the shaggy bush of the islands upon the farther
shore, and carrying it backward and upward to the sky line. A dense
umbrageous bush it was, containing much choice timber, a resort of
game, and also, in the warm weather, of tramps, at times, and
specimens of the rougher dwellers in the city, who sought in its leafy
recesses temporary change of abode, to the loss of neighbouring
gardens and hen-roosts. The farmer, however, was safe while the
depredators dwelt upon his land, by tacit understanding; and therefore
he made a point of closing his eyes, and never was cognizant of their
presence.

At this moment a gang of gypsies[2] were encamped in Belmore's bush.
Their waggons, tents, and children had lain there for a week or two,
while the men scoured the surrounding country, selling horses, and
picking them up, the screws in honest trade, the others as might
happen: for strays were certainly not unfrequent about the time of
their visits, though none were ever traced into their hands, which is
not remarkable, as who would look for a Canadian colt in New York
State, or a New York one in Ohio or Kentucky?

These people, like other European products transported to America,
have thriven luxuriantly. They have ceased to be tinkers, though
fortune-telling is still practised by the women; their donkeys have
been exchanged for waggons and horses, and they traverse the settled
States from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Lawrence, following the warm
weather northward, as the red-birds and wild canaries do, and
returning South again when summer is over, in time to avoid the cold.
Their native love of wandering finds a wider range in their new
country, and they are comparatively wealthy, though still, as ever,
they live in the open air and apart from their fellow men.

The morning fires were alight in the gypsy camp near the river bank.
The meal was over, but the children and the dogs still brawled and
scrambled for the scraps. The women, and such young men as were not
away, had dispersed themselves along the woody banks to fish or bathe;
and old Jess, the mother of the gang, sat smoking her corn-cob pipe
upon a fallen pine which stretched far out, dabbing its humbled
plumage in the current, and raising murmurs for its downfall in the
lapping of the water among its boughs. Jess sat and smoked in the
pleasant morning air, so full of warmth and sunshine and gentle sound,
watching the smoke-rings vanish into air and thinking the passive
unconscious thoughts of physical well-being, the thoughts which want
no words because they call for no expression. The ox knows them,
ruminating in his meadow; and mankind, innocent of printed lore, and
under no stress to act or say, must know them too, in their harmonious
vagueness, bringing the luxury and refreshment of perfect sleep,
without the diminishment of sleep's unconsciousness.

The even movement of the glancing water called up in a day-dream the
images of bygone things--her childhood and youth in England, her
voyage across the sea, her husband and her sons; and then her
husband's death, as he was fording Licken River in a freshet, riding
an unruly horse. The current before her seemed to swell and darken and
grow turbid as she recalled the affrighted beast plunging and
floundering through the swirling flood, swerve suddenly aside, losing
his footing, and roll over, disappearing in a vortex, and by-and-by
emerge alone and struggle up the bank. It was a long time since it all
had happened; the very recollection had ceased to be present in her
daily life, with its cares and enjoyments so completely of the
present--the affairs of her numerous descendants and their hangers-on,
over whom she would fain retain authority as much as might be; and its
equivalent, the money, in her own hands.

This morning it felt different, the long ago seemed more actual than
the present as she sat and smoked, her grizzled hair hanging in wisps
upon her shoulders, and her sun-bonnet of yellow gingham pushed back
upon her head. A something in the water, surging up through the
surface and sinking again, leaving rings upon the current coming down,
caught her eye as she sat gazing up stream. It might only be a log,
but yet, how it carried back her thoughts to her old man hurried down
on that Licken freshet into the muddy Ohio, and rolling on and on for
hundreds of miles through the yellow oozy water, till the body stuck
fast in a clay-bank and was hid for ever. It might be a log; but no,
it was not, for now she saw white hair, which spread and shrank again,
as it sank and rose in the water. A horse, was it? or an ox, with a
hide worth stripping off to sell? but no--it was a man! She could see
it plainly now, as it drifted near, and she felt the thud as it struck
against the branches of her tree, branches which caught it and blocked
its forward course. A man! and still alive, perhaps, for there was a
redness as from oozing blood around. She threw her pipe away, and
shouting to those within hail, she leaped into the water and waded out
with the assistance of her tree. A youth had hurried to her aid, the
water did not reach above his chest, and their united efforts drew the
body ashore.

"A fine clean-limbed man," sighed Jess, comparing him with her own old
man, whom partial hap, alas, had carried away for ever. "A fine
strapping man, but never so spry as thy own grandfer. Will. _He was_
the man, but he's away; let's see to this coon. Hm----" a smothered
exclamation, and a suspicious glance at Will, to see if he had
observed her pull a diamond ring from the drowned man's finger; but
Will's attention was drawn to something else at the moment.

"He ain't come by's end fair, granny," he said; "see to the blood on's
back--running still, by gum! The man maybe ain't dead, granny."

Granny slipped the ring into her mouth for safety, till she should
find leisure and privacy to conceal it elsewhere, and then resumed her
interest in the drowned man.

"Runnin' sure, the blood is, Will. And shot he's been. I heard the
crack of a gun up stream the now, I reckon, but I gave no heed. Lay
down his head, lad, and lift his feet. Help shake the water out of
him, and roll him round. There was none by to roll thy poor grandfer
the day he fell in Licken River. Never fear to hurt him, lad! The man
can't feel, and more's the pity. Shake him well and roll him round,
keep down his head, and let the filthy water run off his stommick."
There was little of that same fluid ever privileged to enter Jess's
anatomy, or, indeed to come near her person, save in the inevitable
form of rain or a fordable stream.

It was a rough and uncouth process of resuscitation, in which the
others, as they gathered about, joined with energy, chafing the limbs,
rubbing, rolling, and kneading; but fortunately for himself Considine
was unconscious of the liberties which the gypsies were taking with
his person; a brown skinned black-eyed rabble, pawing, and pulling,
and fingering him all over, without diffidence or any respect.

The warm sun and the vigorous handling had their effect at last, a
sigh escaped from the inactive chest, and by-and-by another, and then
old Jess had him carried into the bush and laid on her own bed in one
of the waggons, where she practised such surgery as she knew in the
way of binding up his wound, poured a quantity of whisky down his
throat, and left him to sleep.

Just then some of the gypsies, who had come on the boat lying grounded
among the weedy shallows round the island, brought it ashore; and
Considine's towels and clothing were appropriated and divided among
the gang, who then pushed the boat back into the stream and let it
drift. When this was done, the camp sank back into rest and leisure.
The people wandered off into the bush, to spend the summer day as
liked them best, some to stretch themselves in the shadow, others to
bask in the sun, while the children picked berries or snared birds, a
happy and unsophisticated crew, till the lengthening shadows of
afternoon warned the women to prepare supper against the return of
their men.

The men returned earlier than was expected. A shrill whistle rang
through the bush as they appeared, which brought in the stragglers
from every direction to hover round the fire and snuff in expectancy
the savoury odours which issued from the bubbling pots.

Reuben, the chief man, led Jess aside, muttering to her a rambling
story of his troubles during the day, which she listened to with
impatience and disgust.

"As usual, Reuben, al'us getting in a row along of them strays you
pick up and let join us. Thou'lt have the hull country raised agin us
ere long, and we shan't know whar to go--us as were so well liked
every whar a while back."

"It was yourself let him wive with Sall, mother; and you've no call to
cast it up to me. A fine thing it would have been to let the pore
wench go off with her lad, all alone; and her the handiest gal to tell
a fortn' 'twixt here and Allegany. Needs must when the devil drives,
so we let the coon stay. And there's no harm in the lad as I kin see,
'cep' that he's kind o' soft like, and not peart. He's cl'ar off the
now, and he's makin' for the Lines, but, like's not, they'll be down
here the morrow to look for him, and there's a many thing's round this
camp as wuddn't be good for sheriff's men to see. We mun cl'ar out,
mother; cl'ar out the night."

"I have a half-drownded man in the waggon wi' me, lad--I pulled him
out o' th' water myself, for the love o' your old dad as is drownded
and gone this many a year--and what am I to do with 'n, think you?"

"Let him slide. Put him back whar you brought 'n from. I wants no
stranger wi 's this night."

"We cud not leave him here for the sheriff to find. They'd say we did
for him. He has a gunshot in's body as it is, and I hain't a rag to
cover him wi' when we leave him. You'd not be for givin' him your own
coat, I reckon, and I know of nowt else, for I need my blanket to keep
my own old bones warm o' nights. The lads have his pants, and boots,
and things among them, the gals have the shirt and the towels, and I
have the gold ticker for yourself, Reuben, and you wouldn't be for
hanging it round's neck, I reckon, to show we didn't rob him, if we
tote him to Belmore's place afore we start."

Reuben took the watch, opened it, held it to his ear, bit the chain
with his teeth, tested it in such ways as occurred to him, and
finally, satisfied of its value, slipped it into his pocket.

"We'll have to take him, I s'pose. Keep him quiet, and keep the duds
away from him. He'll be bound to stay then, cuddn't make off ye know
wi' nothin' but's own pelt on's back. He'll kin pay for's liberty and
new duds afore long. And willin' too. But you'll have to keep dark."

There was no light in the gypsy camp that night. The fires had
smouldered out, and the shadows of the trees excluded every glance of
the moonlight. There was no sound either; no yelp of cur or cry of
wakeful infant; only the hooting of a solitary owl overhead, blinking
at the moon through the leaves, or the rustle of a fox stealing away
through the underbush, making off with a half-picked bone. A mile away
a creaking of wheels labouring through deep encumbered ruts, and the
cracking of branches might have been heard in the stillness, while
dusky figures shone momentarily in the moonlight as they passed from
one obscurity of shadow to the next.

Ere morning the gang was encamped again in another quiet corner,
twenty miles distant from Belmore's bush, and next day they resumed
their retreat to the Vermont Line, journeying calmly through a
neighbourhood which knew nothing of the misdoings of Sall's husband.

Old Jess rode in the waggon with her charge, nursing and caring for
him with much skill, but unable to extract the bullet from his wound.
That was now growing fevered and inflamed, the jolting must have
caused him pain, and might have elicited a groan liable to be
overheard at an inconvenient moment; but she contrived to keep him in
a drowse with strange drinks of her own devising, which she
administered to him, and it was a whole day from the time of his
rescue before he was able to take note of his situation. Even then his
head was dizzy, his shoulder ached; his body was so wretched, and his
mind so confused, that he was glad to turn round and court sleep and
unconsciousness again.



                            CHAPTER VIII.

                       IT WAS ALL WEBB'S FAULT.


It was a day or two before Ralph's nerves recovered their tone. It
mortified him to discover that such things formed part of his internal
economy, for he had supposed himself to resemble the strong and
successful men of history and finance, who march straight forward to
their purpose, looking neither behind nor to either side, careless
alike of the downtrodden and the overthrown who mark their onward
path, conquering and to conquer. It was a day or two before he calmed
down, or, as his wife expressed it, "got over that little turn, which,
now it was over, she was free to confess, had made her feel real
anxious." The cares of business had been too much, she thought, and
she was sure he wanted a change. "Why would he not take her for a few
weeks to the sea; or to the White Mountains she was so fond of? Why
keep a dog and be always barking himself? Had he not made Gerald a
partner? Then why not leave him in charge of the business? She was
sure her boy, with his inherited smartness and fine education, could
manage very well for a week or two; and at the worst there was always
the telegraph, and he could recall his father if he found the
responsibility too much for him. Is he not a fine young man, Ralph?
Own up for once, though he is your own son."

"Yes, my dear, certainly!--Very fine indeed, and very nice--and a good
lad to boot; but he knows no more of my business than you do, and I do
not wish that he ever should."

Martha sighed. She had her misgivings that there were depths and
recesses in her husband's thoughts and his affairs, which she had
never sounded or peered into, and which might yield up skeletons and
unwelcome truths to an over-inquisitive search. She had never
attempted to know more than was disclosed, therein manifesting her
wisdom. "Why should she, indeed?" as she asked herself. Ralph had
always been kind; once upon a time, at least, he had been more, he had
been really fond of her; and, for herself, she knew that she still
loved him very dearly, and therefore it was wisdom to keep disturbing
considerations out of sight. It is so always. There is much in life to
make the moral perceptions jar. Good and evil are linked in such close
relations--concurrent streams which occupy one channel amicably, and
with mutual convenience, but without mingling--the wheat and tares
growing up together, and both contributing to the luxuriance of the
scene, however the strictly moral eye may disapprove. Still, Martha
had her misgivings; or rather, if she would have heeded them, her
intuitions. They started from the most trivial grounds, an inadvertent
phrase, a laugh, or even a shrug of scorn, at something good or noble,
which betrayed that there were things, and not so far either from the
gates of speech, which, if they came forth, would raise a barrier
between them which could never be pulled down; and so, as the guardian
of her own happiness and peace, she resolutely turned her observation
the other way, rather than see what it would cost her far too dear to
know, as leading to an alienation worse than widowhood; for there
could be mingled with it no tender regret, no hope, or even wish for
reunion.

"Then is Gerald to have no holidays this year?" said Martha, by way of
resuming the talk. "If you will not go away yourself you may surely
send _him_."

"I don't think he wants to travel farther

---------------------------------------------

[Pages 86-87 missing.]

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was finished. No, sir-ree! Not if I know it."

"But, my dear fellow, I really do not know whom you are talking about.
I assure you. I have not seen or heard of him since the other evening
when we called on him together."

"Who _has_ seen him since then, I should like to know? But it is clear
you know well enough what I'm driving at. Now, tell me, for we have
little time to act in, have you taken any steps towards getting hold
of his papers yet?"

"What steps would you wish me to take? or rather, what steps would be
possible? Podevin--his host, remember, and the man has no one
belonging to him, or more nearly interested in him, in this
country--thinks he must have gone to New York by the early train the
other morning; that he went straight from his room to the station
without going into the hotel. You see the train stops for breakfast at
that small station, fifty miles down the line. So he is no way
disturbed at his guest's absence, who has taken his room for the
season, and goes and comes as he likes."

"But the man is drowned! I saw him sink with my own eyes."

"If you will report that to the authorities, it will both simplify and
hasten matters. Only the first question which they will ask is sure to
be why you waited so many days before saying a word. The heat, no
doubt, may be made to account for a good deal, but you had better have
medical advice before committing yourself."

"But there is the boat. He undressed in the boat. That will tell the
whole story. One of Podevin's boats, too."

"Ha! Yes; I think I remember, now you mention it, Randolph's telling
us at dinner, yesterday, that Podevin's boat-house had been broken
open and a boat carried off--yes, and the boat was picked up far down
the river, and brought back all safe. And the old man has been
fretting himself to make out which of his servants could have given
it, for he is sure the boat-house has been opened from the inside. Not
a word about clothes, though, and you see there is no anxiety whatever
about his disappearance. We must wait. The body may be found."

"But I am going off--off to the White Mountains with my wife, for the
rest of the warm weather, and there is no saying when I shall get
back."

"No; I suppose not."

"And I want to take those securities, or whatever they are--you don't
seem to know yourself? a pretty trustee!--along with me. Can I depend
on you to send them after me?"

"_You_ should know. Would you do it yourself?" and Jordan, braced into
self-assertion by the overbearing tone of the other, looked defiantly
in his face. "In a year and ten months from now your son will have a
right to dictate, if, as Considine phrased it the other evening, he
shall then prove to be the heir. In the meantime, I am accountable
only to my fellow-trustee, and if he does not call me to account I
know of no one else in the position to do so. At the same time, your
assistance in unloading my copper shares might be of vast benefit to
me, and I am willing to pay for that, and pay handsomely, though it is
idle to discuss at present what I may see my way to doing if ever I
become sole trustee."

Ralph turned away with a shrug to buy his morning newspaper. "Brag is
a good dog, but Hold-fast is a better," was all he said to himself as
he seated himself in the railway carriage, and began to look over the
news. It was a truism he had long been familiar with, but one which
came pleasanter when he happened to own Hold-fast, instead of poor
Brag. However, one must fight the dog he happens to have, there are
chances, always, only one need not lament when what might have been
expected comes to pass. It did seem to him, however, that he had very
needlessly befouled himself with crime; he was going to make nothing
out of it, that was pretty clear, and, as he cynically expressed it,
the devil was picking him up a bargain, dirt cheap. His hide,
however--his moral hide, that is--was tough and callous, and he
congratulated himself on the circumstance. So long as the "untoward
incident" was not known, it should not interfere with his appetite or
his spirits. Already he had become accustomed to that ugly word
"murderer" in his mind; it was bearable he found, so long as it
carried no external mark; though he regretted it, undoubtedly, now
that it had turned out so utterly useless. As there was every prospect
of its never being known, he would survive it well enough, he felt;
but he would take precious good care next time that there should be no
mistake about the _quid pro quo_, before again running the risk of so
many ugly possibilities.

He reached town busied with these reflections, and hurried to his
office, where he soon was deep in the correspondence of the days he
had been absent, with Stinson behind his chair contributing condensed
verbal information by way of commentary as he went along.

"Yes, Stinson, you'll do," he said, when he had laid down the last
letter. "You've been a good clerk, and an apt pupil. You have
feathered your nest nicely, I make no doubt, and when the house goes
up, as it must, in three weeks at the outside--I think I can keep it
standing till then--you will be in a good position, no one better, to
start for yourself; and, with what I have taught you, to make your
fortune right off. You will be able to start at once, I say, but if
you take the advice of an old friend--who has not been a bad friend to
you either, though I say it--you will wait on here and wind up the
business. The creditors will be only too glad to have you. In fact,
there is no one else who ever will unravel things. You will, and can,
make your own terms with them, I doubt not; and the only favour I have
to ask of you is that you will do what you can to let that boy Gerald
down easy, and get him his discharge as soon as possible. It is well
for him now, that he should have been so unfit for business--financial
business, I mean, or rather, perhaps, our special application
of the science of finance. He would have done well in some steady,
old-fashioned, respectable concern, I make no doubt, for he is not a
fool; but he wants enterprise, vim, go, and he has too many scruples
for a rising man. His mother, good woman, has spoiled his prospects
for life in this walk; but, as he will probably be independent,
perhaps it is best so. There's nothing like high-souled honour to keep
a man's head up in the world--when he can afford it, that is--I never
could, not till after my road was chosen, at least, when it would have
been too late; so broad views in economics and morals were the only
ones for me, and I fancy some of my admirers will find them to have
been even broader than they thought, after I have cleared out, and
they find their money scattered past picking up again. But this is
digression, Stinson; never mind _me_, only keep the boy's name clean.
It would break his spirit and kill his mother--the truest woman
alive--if any reproach fell on him. Fling everything on me, I shall
have so much to carry that a trifle more or less will make no matter.
And, after all, when Pikes Peak and Montana comes up to par, I shall
be back again with a pocketful of money big enough to make them all
keep quiet. If anybody strong enough to carry on a lawsuit for years
has a colourable claim, I can settle with him out of court; and as for
the small fry, I shall snap my fingers at them, and they will think me
a finer fellow than ever for being able to over-ride them. They're
like dogs, they reverence the man who can hide them soundly. But I
talk discursively this morning. Eh, Stinson? I hope you will
impress upon the lad, what, indeed, is the fact, and what the books
of the firm show conclusively, and that is, that the _firm_ is
solvent--almost, that is; ninety-eight cents to the dollar they show,
and there would be a surplus, if the firm's funds had not been
diverted to my private operations, with which he has no concern, and
which it would be casting a reflection on me for him now to touch.
There is the Bank, the Copper Company, and the St. Lawrence and
Hudson's Bay, in which he has absolutely no interest whatever. If the
creditors of these come to him with representations, and claims of
honour--I know how they will put it--asking him to promise a payment
out of my uncle's fortune when he gets it, tell him from me, that I
expect him as a good son to close his ears to every slanderous story,
and to have nothing to do with those who tell it, and never to admit
the possibility of such claims having a foundation, by attempting to
settle them. It will not surprise me much if that inheritance of his
turns out to be no great thing after all. It has not been in the most
judicious keeping, and----But see, who is that at the door. Tell him,
whoever he is, I am engaged, and can't see him. There are several
drawers full of papers in the safe--the accumulation of years--I shall
need your memory to help me, perhaps. We will tackle them to-day in
case of accidents."

"Engaged most particularly," cried Stinson, unbolting the door and
holding it ajar. "Can see nobody, Mr. Jordan. Indeed, sir--you cannot
come in--no, indeed!"

"Stand back, you fool. Don't I tell you I must?" and Jordan, looking
red and white in patches, hot and cold at once, his hat on his head
askew, and his waistcoat torn open, struggled in, pushing Stinson
aside, closing the door again, and locking it himself.

"See here! Herkimer. Have _you_ been served with this?--I have got one
as solicitor, but you as president should be served also, and so
should each individual director, I hold, and I mean to push the point
as to their being served individually; but there can be no question
about the necessity of serving the president."

"What is it? Let me see. Hm! Webb v. St. Euphrase Mining Association.
Motion to show cause--pay dividend. Don't know, I'm sure. It may be
in the outer office. Have been busy this morning--let nobody in but
you--and that was only because Stinson failed to keep you out. Ask in
the office as you go out, they will tell you--if you think it of
consequence."

"Consequence? If they have not served you I can certainly get the
hearing postponed, and secure time to unload."

"Time to unload? Who wants to unload? _I_ don't. I unloaded long ago."

"But _I_ do."

"And pray, Mr. Jordan, what of that? _You_ are not a director of this
company--only the solicitor, its paid professional adviser. Send in
your bill, it will be filed with the rest of the claims, and rank as
the law prescribes when we go into liquidation."

"Good God! Ralph. It will ruin me!" Jordan had grown all white now,
and beads of moisture were standing on his forehead. "We _must_ stave
off this argument in court. The shares will be unsaleable at a cent in
the dollar. As it is, my brokers have been able to get off none for
three days back--some inkling of this, no doubt. But if I can stave
off the argument in court for a fortnight, there will be time for us
to circulate encouraging rumours."

"_Us?_ What have I to do with it? I will have no hand in circulating
false reports. Understand that clearly, Mr. Jordan. I wonder what I
can have done"--turning to Stinson, who stood by the door enjoying the
comedy--"to give any one the right to approach me with such a
proposal," and he blew his nose loudly, grinning the while under cover
of his pocket-handkerchief.

"Do you want to ruin me, Herkimer? I have all the shares I ever took
up still on my hands, not only those I subscribed for, but all
Rouget's, and I was to have given him up his mortgage in payment of
them; but I had already realized that, and bought more of your
infernal shares with the money; and now, the fat's in the fire! If I
can't unload I am a ruined and a dishonoured man. Everything I have
will go, and then the Law Society will come down on me for
irregularities, when I have lost the ability to square the benchers,
and I shall be disbarred. Ralph!" and he clasped his hands, "I shall
be ruined if you do not help me at this pinch. You must!"

"I don't seem to see it. I fear it is impossible. Unfortunate, of
course; but just what happens constantly, when a man leaves the groove
of his own profession, and ventures into fields of enterprise he does
not understand, and has no experience in. You lawyers are so very
superior to the rest of us. You go into court and talk so glibly of
our affairs, and so much more knowingly than we can do ourselves, that
by-and-by you persuade yourselves that you really understand them.
Then you try a hand at them yourselves, and then you cut your fingers.
It is droll, my dear fellow. Forgive my saying so, but as a man of the
world you must see it yourself; and if only it had been some one else
you would have appreciated the humour of the situation thoroughly."

"Keep your jesting, Mr. Herkimer, for a more seemly opportunity,"
cried Jordan, rallying into something like manhood under the sting of
the other's gibes. "It will prove no very amusing jest for yourself if
I am ruined. Your son's inheritance is involved with my fortune, and
both must sink or swim together. Remember that! I have something in
_my_ power, too, so beware!"

"I know. You seem to have forgotten our conversation this morning very
quickly. You then defined your position with a frankness which left
nothing more to say. You made it perfectly clear that you would never
leave hold on my uncle's fortune till we compelled you, and we cannot
do that at present. If you saved your money at the present pinch, you
would lose it again next opportunity; or, at least, you would make
sure that we should not get at it. No! Mr. Jordan. I shall put in no
rejoinder, or whatever may be the proper name for it. Mr. Webb may
have his order, and welcome, for any obstruction from me. In fact, as
I am taking my wife on a tour through the White Mountains, it would be
inconvenient for me to be detained watching a lawsuit. If I might
suggest, change of scene will be beneficial to your own health, as a
relief from the worries of share-jobbing. Meanwhile, let me wish you
good-bye. No saying how long it may be before we meet again. Stinson!
Let's get on with those papers. I think I may be able to get away to
the White Mountains to-morrow."


The very next morning Martha, escorted by Ralph, set out on a journey
of pleasure through the White Mountains; and a day or two later,
Amelia Jordan, tantalized out of patience by her husband's continued
procrastination as to their summer holiday, went off to Long Branch
alone, and it was not many days later that Jordan himself did not
appear at his office, though where he had gone nobody knew. Some said
he had followed his wife to the fashionable seaside resort, others,
that he had joined Herkimer in his travels. The latter view became the
popular one; it kept the two names conjoined, which seemed best, they
came up together so often now in the talk on 'Change; for the great
house in the Rue des Borgnes--Ralph Herkimer & Son--had come down, and
great was the fall of it, the Banque Sangsue Prêteuse was involved in
the ruin, so was the Mining Association of St. Euphrase, and so were
other important concerns. They had all tumbled together in one
confusion of ruin which set the ears of the public ringing, and filled
their eyes with so much dust that they could see nothing clearly; but
Jordan having been heard to anathematize "that fellow Webb," it was
universally held during the worst days of the excitement that he had
originated or precipitated the calamity for his own base ends. In
truth, Webb was one of the severest sufferers, his fellow-directors
having taken the hint to save themselves in time, and even to make
money out of it; while he, good man, found all his savings and all his
ready money evaporated in smoke or converted into scrip fit for
nothing but pipe-lights, with impending possibilities of litigation,
should any victimized shareholder be tempted to throw good money after
bad and relieve his indignation with a lawsuit. But then he had the
high moral satisfaction of having vindicated his superior probity in
his own eyes--the world's, I fear, were so busy with its own affairs
that they took no heed. He lay down at night with an easy conscience
and a light pocket, if sometimes a heavy heart, for it must be
confessed that his neighbours' non-appreciation of his virtuous
conduct was afflicting. But he was young still, and strong, and
sanguine, and his farm and stock were fairly good. He would make money
yet, he vowed, if only Providence would spare him in the land of the
living; and that--money-making, I mean--is, as all the world knows,
the whole duty of man.

Webb realized, however, that he must now have a woman in his
household, to help him to make it quickly; not a hireling, as
heretofore, in his days of bachelorhood and prosperity, to be courted
and considered at every turn, lest she should go off and leave him,
but a lawful wife; tied to his homestead by the institutions of God
and man, to churn his butter, fatten his poultry, and look after his
comfort; and do it, too, for life, without other wage than her keep,
and the dignity of being a married woman.

He had had dreams, like other young men, of a being with golden hair
and wonderful eyes, a human bird of paradise, for whom he was to build
a delightful bower, and live happy with her in it for ever after; but
the day for fantastic dreaming was gone by; birds of paradise are
expensive, and he had no money. He must content himself with less,
with a serviceable work-a-day barn-door fowl, content to roost
anywhere, and for whom a nest of wholesome straw would be as meet as a
gilded aviary for the other--and such a one rose before his mind's eye
in the person of Betsey Bunce. "A homely girl," as he told himself,
"but active and handy, able to bake and mend, and willing to do
it"--for _him_ at least, he flattered himself. She was "awful homely,"
he confessed as he mused; "and a fool about her clothes, but if he
looked after the spendings, as he 'allowed' to do, he would have her
dressed sensibly enough, he flattered himself, so soon as her wedding
finery wore out."

He did not feel as if he could ever come to be foolishly fond of her,
but he thought he had descried tokens that she was not indisposed to
attach herself to _him_. So there would be a certain _modicum_ of love
to furnish out their board, and if it was not he who provided it, at
least he would be its object, which was the next best thing, and as
much, perhaps, as a man could look for, after losing his money.
Wherefore he made up his mind, and the very next Sunday after church
he put his resolve in practice.



                             CHAPTER IX.

                            JOE PROPOSES.


Betsey was one of the last to come out of church on a Sunday morning
now. She hung behind while her aunt lingered to exchange the news with
her neighbours. Since the day when she had hastened to give the Misses
Stanley "a bit of her mind," relative to Muriel's parentage and
rearing, a something more than coldness had sprung up. Miss Matilda's
words on that occasion had been few, but scorching, and the look of
withering disgust, which accompanied them, had been more than even her
obtuse conceit and forwardness could bear up against. She had not
dared to face the ladies since, and, they being in the heart of the
group of lingerers, Betsey felt constrained to remain outside the
circle, a sort of martyr to the truth, ruminatmg in silence on the
consequences of proclaiming it, at least when the proclamation is
ill-timed or ill-natured.

The circle melted away in time, beginning with Muriel and Gerald
Herkimer--who, in his bankruptcy and the absence of his family,
partook of many dinners and a great deal of delightful sympathy at the
ladies' residence--and ending with Penelope and Matilda, the latter of
whom, though she exhibited fitful outbursts of vivacity, appeared
depressed, and far from in good form. It was observed by those who saw
them drive from the church door that, instead of taking the reins
herself, she let the servant drive, quite contrary to her usual
custom; but then Mr. Considine had been in the habit of returning with
the ladies from church, and his presence at Matilda's elbow may have
been necessary to give her confidence.

Betsey reached the open air at last, feeling unusually meek and
chastened under the lack of notice she had been experiencing; and in
the revulsion of feeling which ensued when Mr. Joe Webb stepped
forward, and, after ceremoniously inquiring for her health, asked if
she would not favour him with her company for a buggy-ride down the
road, while her dinner was "_dishing up_" at home, it is not
remarkable if she "enthused a little," to cull a flower of speech from
the English column of the _Journal de St. Euphrase_.

"Oh! Thank you, Squire! that will be nice"--I fear _bully_ was the
word she used, this sweet Western flower, but it means much the same
thing, only a little more so.

"Then come along! In with you! And we'll be stepping," which was
perhaps a more free-and-easy mode of address than Mr. Joe's wont, for
he prided himself on his fine manners with the ladies; but he was
trying to get up his courage by a little premature audacity for what
was to follow.

Proposing matrimony in cold blood--did you ever try it, my reader?--is
a serious matter, or so Joe Webb thought. His mind had been made up
on the point, the night before; in the morning he saw no reason to
change it, but he observed that the sky looked heavy. If it had drawn
to rain he would not have been sorry, for he could, without loss of
self-respect, have remained at home, and postponed his undertaking.
The weather kept up however, and he went to church; but very few, I
fear, were the prayers he joined in.

What he was intending to do would keep continually rising before his
mind; not as it had done overnight in the comfortable after-phases,
when My Lord Benedict should have entered on his domestic felicity,
with slippers toasting inside the fender against his return from the
field, pipes filled, and tobacco fetched, without his needing to
leave the lounge where he reposed, but in the onerous stage of how to
do it. What should he say? and how would she take it? Should he take
her hand before beginning? It would be establishing a sort of hold
upon her attention. But if she objected to that by an unauthorized
individual?--yet the very objection would give the opening to explain,
which he desired. Only--how about getting hold of the hand? It might
be holding up her parasol. To snatch at it would bring down the
article with a flap, which would frighten the horse! Weil, he did not
mind that. He could quiet _him_ well enough with a cut of the whip.
But how about the lady? How to quiet _her?_ The whip would not do
there, yet a while; though later, he had been credibly informed that
Blackstone authorizes such doings on the part of husbands, provided
the stick be no thicker than their thumbs. But the lady might refuse
to be reassured; she might insist on being let down, or worse, she
might actually say. No. No! The word whistled through his mind like a
gust of icy wind, it was so new and so unexpected an idea. He must
feel tremulous, no doubt, till he should be answered "yes," but he
could not bring himself to contemplate the opposite. It would be so
utter a quencher to--well, if not to love for _her_, which was an
eventuality he could contemplate with some tranquillity, at least to
his self-love, which was too near his heart to be thought of without
dismay. He would be, like a railway guard standing on the roof of a
carriage, and sweeping through space at forty miles an hour, when
unexpectedly there comes a bridge which he has not looked for, or
bowed his head to in time, it catches him between the eyes with a blow
irresistible and swift, which snuffs him out of existence, and casts
him away, and leaves him a lifeless wreck upon the track.

Altogether Joe had not a happy or an edifying service of it that day
in church. A man's own fancies can fret and worry him worse than the
words of others, they hit all the raw places so much more surely. He
hastened from the sacred fane with the very earliest to go, and stood
and watched and waited till Betsey should appear among the other
dispersing worshippers, she was long of appearing, and by-and-by he
began to think, with a very distinct sense of relief, that she was not
there and he must defer the task he had set himself to another day,
when, behold! the very last to come out, she appeared; and, seizing
himself by the collar, as it were, he marched himself into her
presence, and solicited the honour of a drive. Betsey was gracious and
compliant, and did not take long to mount into the buggy; he sprang in
after, and away they went.

The pace was good; Joe kept fast cattle, and knew how to drive them;
but the conversation flagged. How can a man with a purpose--so deadly
to himself, at least--be at his ease, and alive to the trifles which
lead up to untrammelled talk? How can he be otherwise than distraught?
There is a purpose at his breast hanging heavy as lead, and he feels,
poor creature, as though cold water were running down his neck. "Had
it been a dance," he thought, "to which he was leading the girl out,
it would have been different." The music and the rhythm and the motion
of a waltz bring on a gentle enthusiasm, and the sense of support and
protection conduce to the tenderness which a man should feel at such a
moment; but this was only a buggy-ride; the two were perched up
together behind a horse in heat and dust, and for the life of him he
could not make up his mind what he ought to say. He had heard of
fellows proposing in a buggy, but now when he tried it, it was not the
place it was cracked up to be; and he sat in perturbed silence.

Betsey was at her ease, however; she suspected nothing, and she was
elated at being borne off in a cloud of dust before the eyes of the
women who had slighted and ignored her five minutes before. Some
people it seemed--men people, too--thought her worthy of notice. She
felt exultant, and she prattled. She wriggled, too, just a very
little, which is scarcely dignified, perhaps, but comes natural to
some people in moments of exuberance. She talked of the weather till
some other subject should arise, like the rest of us who are born to
speak English, but he answered nothing; and then she asked him if a
shower would not do good to his turnips.

He answered "yes," to that, which is not an easy rejoinder to build
the next observation upon; but then he was busy with his horse at the
moment, for he hit him a cross cut with the whip, and twitched his
nose and eyebrows impatiently. And then there was a lull, and silence
disturbed only by the steady pounding of the horse's feet, and the
rasping of a wheel against an occasional stone.

"We were so sorry to hear," Betsey said at last, after the silence had
lasted some time, and was beginning to grow oppressive; "so very sorry
to hear that you have lost money by those Herkimers. Do you remember,
I told you the very last time we met what I thought of them, and that
it was not much? But that warning came too late to benefit you, I
suppose. Is it not absurd the way that young Gerald goes fooling
around Muriel up the way? It is just what might be expected from a
girl like her, who don't belong to anybody, for all her airs; but I
confess I am sorry to see his infatuation, though perhaps it only
serves the Herkimers right--the stuck-up lot. I always saw through
them--insincere, and all show; though of course I would not have said
it, on account of their relationship to Aunt Judy; but now, really, it
seems downright wrong to hold one's tongue, and looks like
countenancing their on-goins," and Betsey stopped to take breath.

Joe availed himself of the stoppage to take up his parable. "Yes, Miss
Betsey," he said, "it is quite true. I have lost the savings of ten
years, and all the ready money my father left. Quite true."

"Ah!" sighed Betsey very softly.

"But I'm to the fore still; and you just wait and see if I don't make
some more--and more than I have been _euchred_ out of."

"I like to hear a man speak like that! It sounds so strong and
capable."

"Do you think you could like the man himself. Miss Betsey? Mind you,
it ain't all talking with me! It's going to be real, hard, downright
doing--livin' off what my own farm raises, and wearin' homespun off
the backs of my own sheep, like a _habitant_; freezing on to every
copper cent I can scrape, and laying it all by. It will be a hard and
a dull life for the first year or two; but it's a good farm, and
well-stocked, and in three or four years' time, when I have bought a
new reaper, and a few such tricks, and brought in another hundred
acres of useless bush, with my own hard work and the hired boys, I
believe things will be on the road to grow better than ever; for,
though maybe you would not think it, I have thrown away a deal of
money on nonsense in my time. But that's over now. What do you think
of it yourself. Miss Betsey?"

Betsey turned and looked at him with opening eyes, and met a steadfast
gaze more bewildering still, which made her drop them again, and look
away. "Think? I think it sounds brave in you to speak like that. A man
should never lose heart!"

"But it's yourself, I mean. Would you like it yourself?"

"If I were a man, that's how I'd like to be. I'd love to play the man
so."

"But it ain't the _man_ you'd be expected to play. Miss Betsey. It
would be the _wife_."

Betsey coloured and looked a little hurt. "It's too serious a subject
to play with, Mr. Webb."

"But it ain't play. It's good, downright, honest earnest I mean."

"I don't understand you."

"Could you bring yourself to marry a fellow who has lost his money,
and is hard up?"

"I don't know, Mr. Webb," she laughed uncomfortably, and a little
inclined to take offence at such a catechism being pressed on her,
while she sat helpless in the hurrying "trap." "It would depend
altogether on who the 'fellow' was."

"It's me! Miss Betsey. Will you take me? I'm no great match for any
girl now, I know that; but _will_ you take me?"

"I don't like foolin' on such subjects, Mr. Webb; and it wasn't
gentleman-like of you to bring me away in your buggy to talk like
this." Her face was scarlet, as she said it, and looked in his; but
there was no bantering smile there,--and a catch came in her throat,
which sent the blood throbbing down to her finger-tips, as the idea
crossed her mind that the man was in earnest. In that case, however,
he would speak again, so she said no more.

"But this ain't foolin'. Miss Betsey, and I don't know what right you
have to accuse me of sich. Did any one ever know me, man or boy, to
tell a lie? I ask you plainly, Betsey Bunce, will you marry me?"

"Oh, laws! Joe Webb--I never--let me out here! I never--oh! you've
took me all of a heap. Stop the buggy."

Joe drew rein, and stopped the equipage in the middle of the road,
just where the shadow of a tall poplar by the wayside would shelter
them from the sun; and there he sat, looking hot about the temples,
and trying to settle his eyes on the tips of his horse's ears, because
these could not return the look, while he dared not turn elsewhere for
fear a mocking glance should meet him and complete his discomfiture,
as he sat there awaiting his answer, feeling like a fool who has
surrendered his shoulders to the smiters--a trapped animal awaiting
the arrival of the hunters--the man who has put it in a girl's power
to say she refused him. It was a moment of dread and suspense for Joe.

Betsey fanned herself vehemently--what a privilege a fan must be,
sometimes. Since their stoppage she had become less eager to alight.
She made no move, sat perfectly still, and let the perturbation of her
spirits expend itself in fanning. She was coming to herself again.
And, oh! so pleasantly. "What a _puss_ she had been! And that--most
wonderful of all--without suspecting it herself. And there he was on
his knees before her! or what was just the same thing, perched at her
elbow in infinite discomfort, looking all the colours of the rainbow
in his misery." "And should she have him? that was the point. If
she had snared him without knowing it, might there not be others
sighing in secret?" She glanced at him over her fan--that precious
fan!--glanced over it as the timid fawn does over a park paling, and
then is off to hide its head in a bush when the keeper comes in sight.
"And how handsome he was! and how foolish he looked, poor fellow,
getting himself into a state about poor she! It was delightful. And he
so broad-shouldered and manly! She could not find it in her heart to
cause him pain--especially when he had made herself so--happy. And
those old maids she had parted from at church, how she pitied them!
How she should continue to pity them all the rest of her life--her
married life!" She peeped over the fan again, and there was poor Joe
fidgeting worse than ever--for all the world, like a bull at a
bull-baiting--tied to the stake, unable to get away, amid fears and
fancies at his own absurd position, like the yelping curs, which
plague the noble brute. Then she glanced along the road. A cloud of
dust was approaching, a waggon within it, for already she could hear
the rattle of wheels and the clank of harness. Already Joe was rousing
himself and gathering up his reins for a start. Time was up. If she
let this opportunity pass, and allowed matters to fall back into
everyday life, how would she ever bring them up again to this point?
It was provoking, the dalliance was so pleasant, but she could not
risk a slip; so, shutting her eyes, and shutting up her fan, she took
the leap--and just in time, for the buggy was already in motion.

She said it very softly. What she said Joe could not hear for the
noise of the wheels, very likely she did not know precisely herself
what it was; but they both took it to mean consent, and Joe, so soon
as that lumbering waggon was fairly past, stooped down and sealed it
on her lips, as in duty bound.

Then there was a silence of some duration, though both were too busy
with their own thoughts to notice it; till at length Joe remembered
that the purpose of their expedition was fulfilled, and asked his
companion if she did not think they had better return. Betsey was
ready to think whatever her Joe thought, leaning up with an
undesirable closeness that warm day, and softly fanning their joint
countenances with a fond and lingering motion of her fan. In time she
heaved a sigh, deep and full of overflowing enjoyment, and then she
spoke.

"Do you know, Joe dear, you have given me a great surprise to-day?"

Joe's tight-strained feelings had run themselves down now. He
felt--"tired in his inside," I fear, would have been his inelegant
expression, and longed for a glass of beer. He felt incapable of
conversation, and even a little grumpy, perhaps. Such strange and
inconsistent creatures are the men.

Betsey's over-wroughtness was quite of another kind. Her nervous
excitement, once fairly past the turn of the tide, was inclined, as
Hamlet would have had his solid flesh incline, to "melt and dissolve
itself into a dew"--of verbiage and watery talk. It was of a
soliloquizing tendency, too, which, though prone to questionings,
passed on from one to the next, indifferent to non-reply.

"This has been all a great surprise; I never thought that you really
cared for me. Was it not strange?" and she looked up in his face grown
stolid, and beginning to show unmistakable signs of crossness, and
fanned him fondly, smiling into dimples, like the rapturous maidens in
"Patience," when they enthral their poet with garlands.

"I thought it would have been the pretty Miss Savergne, you were so
attentive to----"

"She would not marry a poor man, and a poor man, could not afford to
marry _her_," and then Joe stopped. He would have liked to kick
himself for an unmannerly brute; for alas! the soft impeachment was
all too true. He coughed and spluttered. Fortunately, Betsey was too
full of her own pleasant reflections to heed anything, but he felt he
must get away and calm down, or something worse might escape him which
would not pass unnoticed, so he pulled up by the road-side just on the
outskirts of the village.

"Would you mind if I set you down here, Betsey? It is getting late.
The calves should have been watered an hour ago, and Baptiste and
Laurent are both away."

"To be sure, Joe! A farmer's wife must take an interest in the calves,
and I mean to do my duty," and she sprang gaily out, and stood looking
after the man and outfit as they trotted off, with a sense of
proprietorship which was new and very pleasant.


The rector and his wife delayed their dinner half-an-hour, and then
sat down, wondering what had become of Betsey. They had nearly
finished when she whirled in, a tumultuous arrangement of white muslin
and enthusiasm.

"Oh, auntie! Oh, Uncle Dionysius!" She involved first one and then the
other in her manifold frills and puffings by way of embrace.
"Congratulate me!--do!--Just think!"

"Sit down, Betsey, and calm yourself," remonstrated the rector, "and
then, perhaps, it may be possible to think. Meanwhile you take our
breath away. Have you had your dinner?"

"Well, no. But I don't care--or rather, I dare say I _will_ take just
a morsel. What have you been having? Chickens? Well, I will take just
a bone, and a good plateful of salad, and the rest of that melon.
That's all I want. Such news! Only guess! But you would never think.
Fact is, the squire--Squire Webb--has--what do you think?"

"Why!" cried Aunt Judy, "I saw you go for a drive with
him?--Oh!--Indeed."



                              CHAPTER X.

                              AT GORHAM.


Mrs. Martha Herkimer, with her husband, travelling at their leisure in
"Noo Hampshire," the country of her girlhood, was a happy woman. He
was constantly with her, had few letters to write, and no men to talk
business with. He seemed to have laid business aside, would read his
newspaper beside her of a morning, and drive with her in the
afternoon, to admire the scenery--"objects of interest," the American
says, meaning everything the residents plume themselves upon, from the
Falls of Niagara, should they possess them, to the new school-house at
the Five-mile Cross Roads.

It felt like a renewal of the honeymoon, or those delightful "latter
rains," spoken of in scripture, when the thirsty earth, long parched
and chapped with drought, drinks in once more the life-restoring
moisture, and clothes itself anew with grass and verdure. He told her
one day that his house had suspended payment and he was bankrupt, but
as they were travelling with every comfort, and there seemed no lack
of money, she accepted it as one of the inscrutable phenomena of the
commercial world, which she had long given up attempting to
understand. Her Ralph, she told herself, could have done nothing
wrong. He was fonder of money, and harder and keener about acquiring
it, she feared, than was perhaps, perfectly right. Her father had been
a preacher of the old Puritan school, ministering to villagers in a
sequestered valley, and warning them against worldliness and the race
for wealth, the world of wealth being an unknown country there about.
If Ralph had lost some of his gatherings now, it might be for his
greater good perhaps in other ways. She saw many around her who had
failed, and yet lived comfortably and respected afterwards, and she
would not be sorry if such were to be the fate of her own good man. It
would wean him from the hurry and worry of business, and let him stay
more at home than theretofore, to his own good, very probably, and
assuredly to her greater happiness.

They travelled about, by road and rail, from one summer hotel to
another--there are many of them in the White Mountains--climbing
mountains, sailing on ponds, and honeymooning it delightfully all day
long, and now they were arriving at Gorham by the evening train,
meaning to ascend Mount Washington, already distinguished by his
snow-tipped summit, on the morrow. It was a purple evening, with the
eastward slopes of the valley reddening in the afterglow, while cool
blue shadows stole out of hollows to the westward, forerunners of the
twilight. The people on the platform stood in bright relief as the
train drew up at the station, and Martha's eye took them all in as she
alighted.

"What?" she cried, "General Considine! _you_ here?" She felt a bump
between her shoulders from the wallet of Ralph close behind her, as
though he stumbled. "Ralph!" and she turned round, but Ralph was
gone--gone back for something left behind no doubt. "General," and she
ran up to him and took his hand, while Considine looked disturbed, and
said nothing.

"What have you been about, general? Nobody has seen you, nobody knew
you were away; and one of your friends--you know who--is far from
pleased, I can tell you. But say!--your arm in a sling? Oh, general,
you have not been fighting, at _your_ time of day, I do hope. When I
was a girl we always said a Southern man must have been fighting if he
was tied up any way. What have you been doing? A hunting accident?"

"Madam," Considine began, clearing his throat, and looking tall and
sternly in the good woman's face, who was regarding him with such
friendly eyes. He coughed again, his face softened, and showed signs
of discomposure. How could he speak as he felt to this good soul about
her own husband, and tell her he was a murderer? He would have liked
to get away from her without saying anything; but she had mentioned "a
friend," the friend to whom he was at that moment hastening back to
apologize for, or at least to explain, his absence. He would like to
know beforehand what the friend was saying, and for that, self-control
and reticence, combined if necessary with invention, were needed. He
coughed again. Martha's last words, "hunting accident," still hanging
on his ear, came to his tongue-tip of itself.

"Yes. Hunting accident--gun accident, that is. Thought I was killed.
Insensible. A gang of tramps found me, and robbed me--they wore my own
clothes before my eyes, the rascals--and saved my life. And now that
they have cashed the cheque they made me give them in payment of the
treatment, they have discharged me cured. But what do the Miss
Stanleys say?"

"Matildy was mighty huffy at first. 'You should have called to
explain, or sent a note to apologize,' she said. But when you went on
doing neither, she grew down hearted like,--took it to heart serious,
I do believe, though she has never owned up as much to anybody. But,
if once she makes sure you are in the land of the livin', see if you
don't catch it, that's all. I guess I shouldn't like to be you, when
you call to explain, unless you can make the narrative real thrillin'.
But how was it, general? You must come up to the hotel with us and see
Ralph--I don't see where that man's run to--and tell us all about them
tramps. Do, now, general, like a dear."

"Impossible, Mrs. Herkimer. I go to Montreal by this very train.
Good-bye."



                             CHAPTER XI.

                         PLANTING HYACINTHS.


Desdemona listening to the Moor is a parallel not now used for the
first time. The "cultured" reader has met it before. But where to find
a better? Matilda sat and listened with open-eyed attention while
Considine told his story.

She had received him with some slight display of coolness, when he
first appeared, but without question and comment. If the men cared no
more than to forget their little plan of a lunch in the woods, of what
consequence could it possibly be to them? They would know better than
trouble him with their little female festivities again, that was all;
and if he had been indifferent or rude, at least they knew better than
make themselves absurd by showing offence. It was "good morning, Mr.
Considine," when he appeared. "So sorry Penelope has gone out.
However, she is only down at the farm, talking to Bruneau. She will be
back presently." Considine had to say everything for himself, without
the assistance which even pretending to call him to account would have
given; while all the time he recognized how deeply he must have
offended by the severity with which he was chilled and sat upon, as
Miss Matilda went on most industriously with her embroidery.

"I failed to turn up at your pic-nic, Miss Matilda."

"Oh! It was no consequence. I dare say you would have found it dull if
you had come. As it was, the day was so sultry we felt sure it would
thunder, and did not go."

"But I really wished to go, Miss Matilda. I was most desirous---"

Matilda lifted her face to smile a sweet incredulous smile on the
visitor, and then went on with her work.

"But it is so, Miss Matilda. I beg you will believe me. And do you
suppose I would not have sent you word if it had been possible?"

"We were surprised at that, now I remember. But it was not a party. It
was nothing. Pray do not mention it!"

"But I must, Miss Matilda. It was most important to me!"

Miss Matilda laid her work in her lap and looked up.

"I went to bed, Miss Matilda, intending to join your expedition. I got
up next morning, still intending it, at six o'clock. You were not to
start till eleven. I bathe every morning in the river. I went out in a
boat, as usual--one of Podevin's boats. I plunged in and swam--just as
I always do--when a rascal--I will not name him--took aim at me from
the shore, and shot me in the shoulder. You see my arm is in a sling."

"Oh!" cried Matilda, half rising and dropping the work; "I did not
notice your poor arm, Mr. Considine. Indeed I did not. Shot you in the
arm? Did it hurt much? Shot--You? Pray tell me about it. Who was the
person?"

"A person we both know. But you must not mention his name. Not that he
deserves any consideration from honest folks, but for his wife's sake,
who is a good woman, and would be horrified if she knew. It was Ralph
Herkimer."

"Ralph Herkimer! But why?"

"He called on me with Jordan the night before, asking me to give up
his uncle's money, which I hold in trust. You may have heard of the
uncle's curious will, which tied up the money out of Ralph's reach.
Ah! he knew the rascal. I could not give up the money. It would have
been a breach of trust. And so, the very next morning, he fires at me
while I am swimming in the river. Fired and struck me. I tried to
regain the boat, but I could not. I was crippled of an arm, and I
sank, and know no more."

"Mr. Considine!" and Matilda rose and came to the sofa where he sat,
her cheek blanched, and betraying an interest which made him feel glad
that he had suffered, to call it forth.

"And--well, Mr. Considine, what then?"

"The next thing I knew, I was barely conscious; but I was on dry land,
feeling sick and stupid, and more dead than alive. A whole crowd of
people were about me, shaking me, punching me, pulling me, bumping me,
while I only wished they would let me alone, and let me die; for
already I had gone through all the horrors of drowning, and this
seemed like an after-death. And then I found myself among blankets,
and some one--a witch she looked like--was forcing whisky down my
throat, and fingering my wounded shoulder. I was drowsy and miserable,
and, thinking I was already dead, I wondered if all this was for my
sins. And then I slept, I suppose, for when I woke next it was dark or
nearly so; and there was a jolting and rumbling which set my poor
shoulder aching miserably; and I tried to sit up, but some one pushed
me down again and bade me keep still. When I looked, the witch was
perched upon my pillow, with the moonlight slanting through her grisly
hair, and a long skinny arm pressing me down. She forced more whisky
into my mouth, and then I slept."

"Oh! Mr. Considine. What an experience!"

"I woke again, and it was daylight, and the old hag seated on my
pillow had fallen asleep. I sat up slowly and with difficulty, for I
was stiff and sore. I was in a waggon under a tree. I tried to rise,
but could find nothing save my blanket to dress in. The hag opened her
eyes and looked at me, and grinned, and asked me what I wanted to do.
I said,' to go home,' and then she laughed out, pointing to me, and
reminding me I had no clothing; and at the sound of her voice there
gathered round a whole crowd of swarthy vagabonds, grinning at me, and
jeering, and when I looked at them, one rascal was wearing my coat,
and another kicked up his heels and showed me my boots. A pimpled baby
was rolled up in my nice clean shirt, and the captain of the gang
pulling my watch out of his pocket, told me it was only five o'clock,
and a heap too early for 'a swell cove' to think of rising. I was
their prisoner, in short, though I must confess the old woman attended
to my wounded shoulder very kindly; bathing it with cool water several
times a day, and bandaging it as well as one of our surgeons could
have done during the war. They kept me several days with them, in
their journeyings and campings, travelling by all kinds of bye-ways
and unfrequented places, and keeping me concealed whenever strangers
came about the camp. They crossed the Lines, by-and-bye, and travelled
into the States. I knew that by the nasal Yankee twang of the
strangers' voices, though great care was taken that I should not get
speech of them--and then, one day, the captain, the fellow, at least,
who wore my watch, told me he thought I was strong enough to travel
now, and if I would give them some money to buy me clothes, and pay
for the care they had taken of me, I might go my ways. I was so
helplessly in their power, that we did not haggle long about the
price, though it was a pretty steep one. I wrote them a cheque, which
they carried to a neighbouring bank, and so soon as my bankers had
honoured it I was set at liberty. I put in a bad time, Miss Matilda, I
promise you; but, if you will believe me, what vexed me most of all
was to think how I had kept you waiting, and never been able to send a
word of excuse. When I was drowning in the river, it was my very last
thought, I remember, and when I came to myself it was my first."

"Oh! Mr. Considine. How very nice of you to say so. But don't! It is
really too dreadful. It is horrible. I never did hear anything so
frightful. And you say that Ralph Herkimer did this abominable deed?
Are you sure you are not mistaken? Or it may have been an accident."

"Not a bit of it. I saw him as plain as I see you, and it was no
accident. I saw him shoulder his gun to fire again, while I was
struggling in the water, in case I had succeeded in gaining my boat."

"You will have him taken up, Mr. Considine? It seems wrong--and
dangerous to leave such a person at large."

"I would if it were not for his wife. But you know how she would
suffer. She never would be able to show face again. No! For her sake I
mean to let the thing pass; and you must promise me, Miss Matilda, you
will never mention it."

"How noble of you! Mr. Considine. I shall never be able to look at the
ruffian again. And his son is here constantly. But we must put a stop
to that. It will vex poor Muriel, I fear, but she will see the reason
of the thing. You will allow me to explain to Muriel? There they go;
passed the window this very minute. The assassin!"

"Nay! Miss Matilda. Let me intercede for the lad. There is no harm in
my young friend Gerald. A fine manly youngster--his mother's son,
every inch of him. No, no, my little Muriel--forgive the freedom--must
know least of all. Young love! Miss Matilda. It is a charming sight to
see. So full, and so trusting--so all-in-all, and yet so delicate and
dainty. So fleeting, sometimes. Always so fragile and so irreparable
if it gets a bruise. So hopeless to try and bring back its early
lustre if once it grows dim. So--but--I'm a maundering old fogey, I
suppose. Forgive an old bachelor's drivel, Miss Matilda."

"There's nothing to forgive, Mr. Considine. I sympa--I agree
with--it's all so true! There's nothing like youth in all the world,
and--love--but, there now! These are things which middle-aged people
have no business with----"

"But surely, Miss Matilda. We--they--the middle-aged--have business
with that? If our hearts have remained unwithered by the world--if
there should still be a germ of life at the core, though hidden by the
rind which time brings for a protection, like the scales on a hyacinth
root in a gardener's drawer, do you not think it allowable and even
fitting, that when warmth gets at them, and moisture, they may sprout
forth worthily, even if out of season, each after its kind? Do you
suppose a sound heart can ever grow incapable of love. Miss Matilda?
Will love ever die?"

"Ah!" and Matilda looked upward. "My own feeling. So true! So
comforting! Love never dies. The poets say so. Beyond the grave are we
not assured that still and for ever we shall love? But yet--but yet--I
fear sometimes that it shows a grovellingness in myself, that I do not
cherish the thought more eagerly--as we grow older should our
affections not take a higher flight? I long so for more warmth, and
regret my coldness and frivolity; but I feel going to church so little
helpful."

"You are lonely. Miss Matilda. Aspiring after unseen goodness is a
high and abstract flight. It needs companionship. I, too, know what
it means. But a man in the world is little able to withdraw his
thoughts from worldliness, and I am alone. With help--a good woman's
help--Matilda! May I say it? as I have long felt it?--with yours----"

He took her hand and held it, looking in her face.

She did not seem to hear him at first, her eyes were far away. And
then she grew to feel the intentness of his gaze, and drew away her
hands to hold before her face, where a blush was rising; for the look
spoke more of a human than immortal love, and it confused her.

"We will be friends," she said.

"But friendship will not be enough for me, Matilda. You must be my
wife."

Matilda was white now. She leaned back in the sofa, and her head fell
forward. It seemed to Considine that she would faint, and he had risen
to ring, when she recovered self-control, and looked up in his face.

Being a lady of an earlier generation, when fainting was occasionally
practised as a climax to emotion, and brides sometimes wept at the
altar on bidding _adieu_ to the associations of their youth, allowance
must be made for Matilda by young women of the modern and robuster
school, who can ratify an engagement for life with the same outward
composure as one for the next valse. The modes of emotional expression
and disguise are as much a question of date as the fashions in
hair-dressing. Matilda was no more a lackadaisical fool than you are,
my good madam; nor are you, I do believe, one whit more hard or
heartless than she, whom I take to have been a good and affectionate
woman.

Penelope came in from the farm not long after, and there was much to
tell her. Considine was persuaded to remain for dinner, and went away
in the evening a happy man.

The hyacinths were getting their chance at last, and he promised
himself that with care and shelter they would sprout yet, and bloom in
the autumn, as fragrantly and gay as with other fortune they might
have done in spring.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                         RANDOLPH'S BUCKLING.


There was a lacrosse match at Montreal that September, the Indians
of Brautford against the Indians of Caughnawaga, at which that section
of the community interested in sport, and now returned from the
regattas of the coast, mustered strong. The Lacrosse Club, the
getters-up of the exhibition, were there in a body, the school boys
were all there, and the betting men, as well as those who are willing
to go anywhere on a fine day on any pretext, and the ladies, who like
to see what is the excitement which draws the latter class--the
butterfly class--together.

"See how the Caughnawagas have got the ball, and are carrying it on,
and on. There--there! They will win. Almost at the goal. But, ah! That
little fellow! He seems only a boy. How he breaks through them--See!
He has got it away--caught it on his lacrosse--throws it back over his
shoulder--away back past them all. Not a Caughnawaga near it. And now
Brautford has got it. They strike it again and again. Won! By Jove!
Brautford has won. Who would have thought it?"

It was Randolph Jordan who spoke, springing on his chair and waving
his hat in the general tumult of applause, and the cheering for
"Little Brautford," who now rejoined his comrades amidst the loud
plaudits in which they all shared, but which were especially for him
who had earned the victory. They had won the first game.

Randolph occupied a chair in front of the grand stand, and beside him
sat Adéline Rouget, dressed in cardinal red and white, tolerably
conspicuous, and not objecting to be looked at; but still better
pleased with the evident admiration in Randolph's eyes, and the
devoted attention he was paying her, than with anything else. They
were old friends, those two, now. Their friendship dated from the
night of their first tobogganing together, when Randolph had
discovered to his surprise that mademoiselle was "really a jolly girl,
and with no nonsense in her." They had many another tobogganing after
that first, and many a jolly waltz, and found that they suited each
other to a nicety. Both were fairly good looking, and always well got
up, and each felt the presence of the other was a credit and setoff to
one's self in the eyes of the world to which both belonged. It is a
strong point in a friendship when one is sure that it looks well. A
friend of the other sex, with whom one groups badly, may be a
delightful companion at home or in the country; but what pleasure can
there be in being seen in society dancing with a guy? A certain share
of the ridicule will fall on one's self. It must always show one at a
disadvantage, and if it is a dance, how can even the finest figure and
get-up look well, if awkwardly held or turned round, or rumpled as to
flounces, and so forth?--or hung upon, or stood away from, as if
people were marionettes?

These two young people realized that they looked well together. Their
friends had told them so frequently; therefore it was indubitable,
even if they had not known it themselves. Their relations had also
told them that they should marry, and as each found the other
extremely "jolly" and companionable, and saw in a joint establishment
an indefinite prolongation of the gaieties of the past six months,
they were nothing loth. People said they were engaged, and they
supposed so themselves; in fact, they must have been, for in their
conversations that was taken for granted. They were not of a "spoony"
disposition, as they said themselves, however, and found many other
things to talk about more interesting than an analysis of their
affections; and nothing but opposition applied to their head-strong
tempers could have fanned their easy-going preference into an
appearance of genuine strength. That stimulus was now afforded by the
lady's papa, in a way both sudden and unexpected.

Randolph had resumed his seat beside his companion, and plied the fan
for her, while she managed the parasol, so as to make a small tent,
from under which they could scan their neighbours while greatly
sheltered themselves. There was a tap on Randolph's shoulder,
accompanied by "Pairmit me, sair."

Randolph looked round. "Mr. Rouget! Good morning, sir. I did not think
we should have had the happiness to see you here--believed you were in
New York. When did you arrive in Montreal?" His hand was held out
while he spoke, expectant of being shaken, but it remained untouched.
This might have been an oversight, though Mr. Rouget was scrupulously
particular in such matters, as a rule; but on the present occasion he
seemed resolved there should be no mistake. The extended hand not
having been withdrawn when the speaker ceased, he drew himself up to
the top notch of his stature--it was French stature, and not
excessive--placing his hands behind his back with a look of lowering
majesty and indignation, which made him as overhanging and colossal,
if also as stagy, as was possible.

"Sair! Pairmit me to pass you."

Randolph drew half a step aside, and backward; it was all he could do,
owing to his companion's close proximity.

"I vish to speak to mademoiselle, my daughtaire."

"Adéline is here, sir;" showing with his left hand how the parent
might place himself on her other side.

"Mademoiselle Rouget vill dispense vit your presence, sair," with
severe dignity; and he stepped, not as ushered by Randolph's left
hand, but in the direction of his right, the consequence being that
his foot caught between the legs of Randolph's chair, and he found
himself prostrated on the turf.

"_Mon Dieu!_" cried Adéline, rising and taking refuge with one of her
friends, a few chairs off, under the impression that a brawl in public
was imminent, and screening herself from all share in it with her
parasol, while she continued to watch the scene through the fringes.

"_Sac-r-r-ré_," growled the father, passing from dignity into fury.
Dignity cannot possibly survive a trip up with a chair leg, and there
is no refuge from the ridicule of the thing but in anger.

"You vould dare knock me down? _Coquin!_" as he regained his feet,
grasping his cane, and gnawing his white moustache between his teeth.

"Pardon me, Mr. Rouget," said Professor Hammerstone, coming forward
and dusting a blade of grass with his handkerchief from the angry
gentleman's sleeve. "I hope you have not hurt yourself. I was standing
by, and you must forgive my saying that our young friend here is
really not to blame for this little accident. It is all the fault of
those foolish chairs. I have bruised my own shins with them. The club
would have done better to provide benches. Jordan is as innocent of
the _contretemps_ as I am."

Rouget bowed--what else could he do?--and thanked Professor
Hammerstone, who at least had done him the kindness of giving him a
cue to modulate back naturally into the ordinary manner of civilized
men; but he scowled at Randolph, who, in the bewilderment caused by
Rouget's unexpected address--they had parted last as any expectant
father and son-in-law might, three weeks before--had nearly laughed at
his sudden downfall.

"I vill rekvest you to valk aside vit me one instant, sair. Dis vay."

Randolph followed, and presently they were out of the crowd, pacing
the grass in silence. Rouget cleared his throat, pushed out his chest,
and strove to be grand once more.

"It surprises me, Mistaire Jordan, to observe you in ze society of
Mademoiselle Rouget. I demand zat you do not intrude yourself again."

"Not speak to my promised wife, Mr. Rouget? I do not understand."

"Understand zen, sair, zat mademoiselle is no more promessed to you.
You mus be fol to expect it. Ze son of your fazer mus know so much. He
has vat you call 'chiselled' and 'gouged' me of my money, and my
shares, and land. He has----"

"Mr. Rouget! Is it the part of a gentleman to speak of my father in
such terms to me? I did not think you would have done it. I know
nothing of business transactions between you and my father. I presume
both are men of the world. It would be impertinent in me to inquire
into your affairs. But you yourself have sanctioned my pretensions to
Adéline's hand, and our engagement."

"Have ze bounty to speake of Mademoiselle Rouget by her proper
title--Mademoiselle Rouget de La Hache-young sair! Ze promesse or
contract is now forfeit, as you should know, by ze _chicane_ of--of
_monsieur voire père_," with a shrug and a low bow. "I mus rekvest you
vill not again intrude yourself on ze presence of mademoiselle my
daughtaire, who is on ze point to make a retraite at ze Convent of ze
Sacred Heart, and von day may have ze blessedness to become
_réligieuse_. Mademoiselle Rouget vill not be at home to you in
future." And thereupon the little gentleman executed his very finest
bow, exhibiting both rows of his perfectly-fitting false teeth from
ear to ear, and turned away. He was surprised, a minute later, on
turning his head, to observe that Randolph, at a yard or two of
distance, was pursuing the same course as himself towards where his
daughter was sitting.

"Mistaire Jordan! I protest! Have I not defended you from coming in
presence of my daughtaire? Vould you draw _esclandre_ on mademoiselle
before _tout le monde?_"

"I must return Mademoiselle Rouget's fan, sir."

Rouget held forth his hand ready to become the bearer; but,
disregarding the motion, Randolph only quickened his pace, Rouget
following as quickly as he dared without appearing to run a race.

Randolph arrived first, and presented the fan, saying, "I shall pass
your garden gate ten minutes before seven," and withdrew in time to
make way for Rouget, who presented his arm with a ceremonious bow, and
led his daughter from the ground.

Their walk homeward could not have been a happy one. When Randolph met
Adéline, at ten minutes before seven, her face was flushed and her
eyes swollen.

"Adéline! have you consented to be made a nun, then?"

"Not if I know it! Not if my Randolphe ees true."

"Are you game to run away, Adéline? It would be a sin to cut off all
that splendid hair. My mother is at Long Branch. Shall we go to her? I
have money enough to take us down."

"Long Branch! It vould be divine! my Randolphe. Ze saison ees not yet
there passed. I vill go. But--for ze toilettes? And so many are
demanded zere. But yes! I do see ze vay. I vill send ze robes to
_cette chère_ Mlle. Petitôt, and she vill forvard by express."

"The very thing! I hate the bother of women's trunks. Besides, we
could not get them out of the house. You can stroll in to Mlle.
Petitôt after dinner and explain. She will do anything to oblige a
friend. And then your maid can bundle the things over the wall, from
the one garden to the other, and Mlle. Petitôt will do the rest. Our
train leaves at half-past eleven to-night. I shall be at the corner
with a cab at eleven sharp. Be sure and bring as little baggage as you
can; nothing but what I can carry on the run from here to the corner,
for you know we might be chased, and then it would be convent, sure--a
hand-bag is the best thing."

"There is the dinner bell. _Au revoir_. I shall be ready at eleven."


Amelia Jordan was surprised rather than pleased, three days after,
when the cards of her "children" were brought up to her with her
morning tea. They had arrived late overnight, she was told, too late
to disturb her, and they hoped to see her at breakfast about ten.

"Oh, you imprudent children!" she cried an hour later, meeting them in
a broad verandah overlooking the sea. "You impetuous, inconsiderate,
absurd pair of children. And to come to Long Branch, of all places. Do
you know how much a day it costs to live here? And what about gowns,
Adéline? You can scarcely come down to breakfast, even once, in that
travelling suit, and assuredly you must not be seen in it again after
half-past eleven."

"We came to you, mother, because we had no one else," said Randolph.
"Adéline has run away, without a single thing, unless Mlle. Petitôt
should send her some clothes, and that depends on the maid's being
able to throw them over the garden wall."

"You pair of babies! Adéline, the very wisest thing that you can do is
to go right back home again."

"They'd stick her into a convent, mother. Her father told me himself
he meant to. Besides, she's _your_ daughter now as much as his. We
stopped over in New York yesterday and got married."

"Good gracious! I never heard anything so preposterous. And how do you
propose to live?"

"We mean to live with _you_, mother, to comfort your failing years
like dutiful children?"

"Well, now, that really is kind of you, I must say. The sooner I get
back to my quiet little house at St. Euphrase, then, the better. I
cannot afford to support a family of three at Long Branch. It costs a
great deal too much for the mere living, not to speak of the dressing.
Again, at St. Euphrase, I can make you young people work for your
board, as, of course, being honest, you would like. Randolph shall dig
the garden and Adéline shall milk the cows. That will save me two
servants' wages."

"_Mais, madame_," whimpered Adéline, "Randolphe has me promessed to
come to Long Branch for to see ze gaieties."

"My child, you have no clothes to appear in. You will have to look at
the gaieties from your bedroom window, and even your meals will have
to be brought you. Are you aware that three new gowns every day is the
smallest number in which any self-respecting woman can appear at Long
Branch? You need not smile, it is no laughing matter. You will
compromise me hopelessly if you come downstairs, and, I may add,
that any things Mlle. Petitôt may send you will not help you here.
Tailor-made gowns are _de rigueur_, and above all, they must be
indubitably new, and worn for the very first time. I would recommend a
bilious attack, my dear; keep your room. And, after all, a fictitious
attack of bile is better than the real thing. I will arrange for our
going back to Canada, and with that view, perhaps, I had better begin
by writing your mother. She will be anxious to know what has become of
you, and I dare say I shall be able to make your peace now, more
easily than later."

"Ah! _Chère madame_, do not write. Zey vill send me to ze _couvent_. I
know so vell. And never to come out again. And zere I shall be made
make ze _grande rétraite_ for always for marrying me vidout consent.
And it will be so _triste_, have _pitié, ma mere_."

"My dear child, you may trust me. I have no intention of giving you
up, all the archbishops in Lower Canada shall not deprive my boy of
his wife. Now, be sensible, for once! Go back to your room, and I will
do my best for you."

And poor Adéline, like a naughty child, went upstairs to her room.

That day Amelia had a long letter to write. She liked letter-writing,
for she imagined she had a talent for affairs, and this is what she
wrote:


                                                "Long Branch.

"My Dear Madame Rouget,

"I have been so startled this morning by the totally undreamt of
appearance of your daughter in company with my boy Randolph. They
informed me that they stopped over at New York and were married, and
have now come on here to favour me with a visit during their
honeymoon. I am powerless, therefore, to separate them, as otherwise I
would. I hasten to inform you of this, judging from my own feelings
that you will be thankful to learn that your daughter, on her
disappearance, has fallen into good hands. At the same time, permit me
to assure you, dear Madame Rouget, that this--I scarcely know how to
express my feelings on the subject--this elopement is none of my
devising. I neither instigated, assisted, nor approve it. The children
are of different faiths, and I fear poor Adéline has no fortune, and
no prospect of ever having any. She has come here claiming my maternal
care, and, actually, she has not a gown fit to appear at breakfast in.
I have recommended her to keep her room, and, if you are the
reasonable person I have believed you, I shall see that she stays
there till she has received her mother's forgiveness for this very
foolish step. Indeed, it is superabundantly foolish, and you may
assure M. Rouget, from me, that I deplore it far more than he possibly
can. To think that my cherished son should have married a French
woman, and without _dot_. It is mortifying. When there are differences
of religion there ought to be compensation. M. Rouget will reply that
it is owing to Randolph's father that his daughter is not suitably
dowered. Perhaps so; I shall not express an opinion; but, for myself,
I feel untrammelled by such a consideration. When I was married
myself, my dearest father saw that I did not go to my husband
penniless. He availed himself of our admirable Lower Canada law, and I
was _séparée des biens_. I have my own income, which no one can touch,
and my own house at St. Euphrase, bought with my own money. If La
Hache--what is left of it--were settled on your daughter in the same
way, it might prove a blessing some day.

"And this brings me to my purpose in writing you. Dear Madame Rouget,
had we not better make a virtue of necessity and accept an
accomplished fact? It would be better, surely, to have our children
properly married in a church than merely for them to have been buckled
together by a Yankee magistrate. My boy insists that M. Rouget shall
assure him on this point before he returns to Canada. His wife, as he
calls her, being under legal age, if any difficulty is made, he
threatens to continue living in this country, which I am sure you
would regret as much as I shall. As to their plans, the young people
can live with me till some employment is found for Randolph. The
Minister of Drainage and Irrigation should be able to find him
something.

"As to their religion, they have already settled that question for
themselves, having adopted civil marriage. Had Randolph's suit
progressed, as was at one time contemplated, it is probable that, as
he is no bigot, he might have acquiesced in any wishes of his
_fiancée_ or her family; but now they have forbidden the match, and
yet it has taken place. I will not consent to any disrespect being now
shown to our venerable Church of England, and, indeed, I have never
been able to understand how one section of the Catholic Church can
claim superiority over another. No doubt when the present difficulty
shall have been arranged, the young couple, who appear devotedly
attached to each other, will grow into each other's views, and both be
of the same communion. Meanwhile, I am aware that in your church there
are difficulties connected with mixed marriages; but his grace the
archbishop, as I have been informed, holds discretionary power to
grant a dispensation for sufficient reason. I am confident his grace
will see such reasons in the present case, as otherwise our hapless
children will be condemned to remain in this most undevout republic,
and may become the prey of no one knows what pernicious sect.

"Assuring you of my entire sympathy, and begging that you will not
defer your reply, for in truth the hotel bills at Lone Branch for a
party of three are enough to make one shudder, believe me,

             "Dear Madame Rouget,

                 "Yours in parallel tribulation,

                              "Amelia Jordan."


"Now!" cried the lady, throwing down her pen; "I defy them to pretend
that _we_ wanted their alliance!" Then she read the letter over,
frowning at it critically the while.

"It is an impertinent letter--or insolent, rather; but what is one to
do? If one shows a tittle of respect they take it as their due, and
become so hoity-toity one can do nothing with them."

The letter duly reached its destination, and was fumed and growled
over by magnates both of Church and State. Nothing could be done,
however, and, therefore, like prudent people, they yielded--yielded,
too, with a very tolerable grace; and Amelia returned to St. Euphrase
triumphant, leading her children in her suite, and with a vastly
heightened opinion of her own cleverness.



                            CHAPTER XIII.

                           AT CAUGHNAWAGA.


The lacrosse match proceeded all the same, though M. Rouget had
withdrawn the patronage of his presence. The interest felt in the
second game was greater than that in the first. Every one with money
to stake was on the _qui vive_; the chances were considered even now,
whereas in the first innings, every one believed in Caughnawaga, and
odds had to be given to tempt the few down-hearted Upper Canadians to
back Brautford. The second game ended like the first, to the general
surprise, and again Brautford's success was largely due to the clever
stripling, who, bounding about the field as nimbly as the ball itself,
was always where he was most wanted, and calmly did the best thing to
do at the time. "Who is the little one?" was asked on every hand; but
no one was ready with an answer other than the obvious one, "Injun,
like the rest," till a squaw--one of the many who circulated among the
crowd, brown as horse chestnuts, with little beads of eyes and broad
flat faces, arrayed in moccasins and blankets, yellow, red, and blue,
selling bark and bead work--vouchsafed the laconic information, "name
Paul."

The third game was longer and more obstinately contested than either
of its predecessors. Caughnawaga braced itself for a supreme effort,
under the reproaches of its backers and the taunts of the very squaws.
The best of five were to take the stakes. If Brautford won this third,
the match was over, and Caughnawaga "knocked into a cocked hat." The
players fought their most strenuous on either side, with tight set
teeth and wicked-looking eyes, which boded ill for joint or limb which
should happen within the swing of a lacrosse. Caughnawaga was
desperate, following up its capture of the ball with a compact rush,
and interposing their wiry bodies recklessly between it and the
uplifted sticks of the other side. Rushing and scuffling, they had
carried it nearly to their goal, another lick, and the game were won;
when, in front, there leaped the redoubtable Paul, scooped it up on
his netting, and threw it back over their heads.

It was done in a moment, while yet the rush and impetus were
unstemmed; an instant later and he was stumbled upon and run down by
his eager opponents, trampled on and stunned, before they could stay
themselves in their rush. They tripped over him and fell in a heap,
while the Brautford men caught the ball in the undefended middle and
had little opposition in carrying it to the other goal.

"Brautford! Hurrah for Brautford!" The Caughnawaga's heard the shout
while they were still disentangling and picking themselves up, a
defeated band. They picked themselves up and slunk away like cats,
that, raiding a dairy, are suddenly drenched and discomfited by an
ambushed milker. Only Paul was left on the ground, stunned and unable
to rise.

His comrades were the first to miss him; and they, perhaps, were
reminded of him by their backers in the crowd, for triumph is a
self-engrossing passion, and glory so sweet a sugar-stick, that, while
sucking it, we are not too likely to go in search of the comrade to
whom the most of it is due.

"Where is the young 'un?" was questioned in the crowd. "Where is
Paul?" and the crowd turned to the now deserted portion of the field
where he had last been seen. He was there still. A squaw in a red
blanket was beside him; she had raised his head and was chafing his
temples. Another squaw--a young one, this--was seen fetching water to
pour on him. But now the crowd was interested, they had gathered round
him, and soon carried him into the refreshment tent, where whisky, the
sporting man's nostrum, was used to restore him.

The notable Indians on the ground, the elders who did not join in
youthful sports, had gathered to look at the youth who had done so
well, and who might yet, for anything they could know, come forth one
day, a champion of their race. For who can tell what fancies may be
cherished by the red man? The white does not sympathize with them, and
therefore he puts them away, behind his impenetrable stolidity of
bearing, which might conceal so much, but more frequently and with
equal success hides nothing at all. They were once possessors of the
land, in so far, at least, as being there, for they shared it with the
beasts. Traditions of the physical prowess of their fathers are handed
down among them, and who can tell but, in their dreams, they may look
forward to a hero like those of old to arise and vindicate their place
among the whites.

Our old friend, Paul, of long ago, was a leading figure among these
elders, and one of evident consideration. A tall man, grown fleshy
from ease and lack of exercise, the violent exercises of his youth,
with his straight black hair threaded plentifully with white--a
"respectable" Indian, one seemingly well to do. The token of his
respectability was likewise that which deprived him of every vestige
of dignity or grace, to wit, a suit of rusty black clothes. It is the
queer tribute of respect which men of other races pay to our European
civilization. They cast away their native braveries and
picturesqueness of apparel, and accept the clothing of the white man
taken at its baldest and worst. An Indian, a Japanese, or a negro,
goes into full dress by putting on a chimney-pot hat and black
raiment, resembling that worn by undertakers' mutes, never
well-fitting, never well cared for, and harmonizing vilely with his
dusky skin, while his own natural instincts can arrange combinations
so suitable and becoming.

Paul stepped forward to where the lad lay, and surveyed the shapely
limbs. He was conscious now, but still dull and stupid, and not averse
to being a centre of interest. Paul laid his hand on his brow, and
felt his chest, and thought he was as fine a man of his years as he
ever beheld. The squaw in the red blanket looked up at him, while she
continued to chafe the boy's hands, and seemed greatly moved; but it
would have been unworthy of a "respectable" Indian of Paul's standing,
to take notice of a squaw on a public occasion like the present. He
moved away, and out of the throng in time, preparing to smoke a pipe
in quiet. The squaw in the red blanket followed him, and when she had
got him well out of notice, that his lordly superiority might not be
ruffled by the familiarity in public, she laid her hand on his arm,
and said, "Paul."

Paul turned his sleepy eyes that way, but it was only a squaw, a
strange squaw. He had nothing to say.

"Your son!" said the squaw, touching his arm again. He stopped at
that, and she pointed over her shoulder with her thumb to the crowd
they had come from.

"Mine?"

"Yours, Paul."

"Who are you?"

"His mother--Fidèle--Your squaw."

"My son? Where born?"

"Brautford. You bade me go to Brautford."

"Ouff." It would have been undignified for a man like Paul to say
more. It meant all he had to say, too, very likely. For, doubtless,
language which is never uttered ceases to be given birth to in the
mind. He turned, however, with Fidèle, and both walked back to the
tent.

The lad was better now. Refreshment was going on, the people seeing
him able to dispense with their care, had turned their attention to
sustaining themselves. He got up and joined his mother coming in, and
they went out again to a quiet place, followed by Paul, that his
parental feelings might be gratified with an interview, without
compromising his dignity by an exhibition before the world.

It seemed an unnecessary precaution. Paul's feelings, if he had any,
were under far too good control to lead him into impropriety. He sat
down with them on a deserted bench, however, questioned them both, and
finally accepted his son and his long absent spouse to his heart; that
is to say, he bade them follow him to Lachine, and then conducted them
across the river, and to his home in Caughnawaga.

Thérèse had ruled there as mistress from the day Fidèle had gone away.
That was so long ago now, that it had never occurred to her that her
sister would return, and the Père Théophile, a wise ruler, who, while
his flock did their duty according to what he considered their lights,
and were duly submissive, did not unnecessarily fret them with
abstract questions of affinity, ignored any irregularity, collected
the church dues from them, and christened the children. There were but
two of these, and girls both, to the intense disappointment and
mortification of Paul. Imagine his satisfaction, then, to find himself
in possession of a well-grown son of fifteen years--well-grown, and
such a player at lacrosse. Was it not he alone, and not the Brautford
band in general, who had beaten the Caughnawagas? And now he would be
of the Caughnawagas himself, and Paul would make much money, in bets
and otherwise, out of his son's fine play.

He received, then, his new-found family into his home and established
them there with honour. Young Paul, with the privileges of a "buck,"
lolled about the place, eating, sleeping, smoking all day long, like
his father. Fidèle sat by the hearth in her blanket and smoked her
pipe, while the household drudgery, now doubled by the addition to the
household, trebled by the presence of a squaw claiming to be first
wife, criticizing, ordering, and doing no work, fell on Thérèse and
her girls--to cut and carry wood, draw water, dig potatoes, cook, and
share the leavings, after the more considered members had eaten their
fill. It was hard lines.

The village was speedily aware of the accession to its inhabitants.
That same evening the crest-fallen lacrosse players were told that old
Paul had recognized young Paul as his son, and brought him away from
the Brautford band to themselves; and all the bucks in the Reservation
came to welcome the certain winner of games, and congratulate his
father. The middle-aged squaws recollected Fidèle, and came to praise
her son, squatting round the hearth in their blankets with lighted
pipes, while poor Thérèse, deposed from her motherhood of the house,
stole out to the garden-patch to dig and bewail her fate.

It cannot be supposed that the relations of the two squaws could be
cordial when they found themselves alone together. Their being sisters
made it none the less intolerable to be, or to have been, supplanted.
Thérèse felt injured now, and Fidèle remembered the wrongs and the
jealousy of fifteen years. It was not many days before they came to
blows, scolding, screaming, scratching, and pulling handfuls of each
other's hair, till a crowd of squaws had gathered from the surrounding
cabins; when Paul, the lord and master, appeared upon the scene, and,
in the grand heroic manner of the wilderness and its uncontaminated
sons, took down his cudgel from the wall, and belabouring them both
with soundness and impartiality, commanded them to desist. Was it not
shocking, dear lady? Yet, it was only one of those shocking things
which have been going on from the foundation of the world--which are
going on still, in Egypt, Russia, and elsewhere. The strong use a
stick to the weak, and order, of a sort, is maintained. We know
better, and have changed all that, and we go on improving, though it
may still be a question how it is going to answer in the end. It is
the weakest and the shrillest voiced, with us, who rule. The burly and
the peaceable stop their ears, and yield to escape the din. By-and-bye
we shall have all the ignorant to make our laws and instruct us. Shall
we be better off, I wonder? When every one is master, who will serve?
When all become commissioned officers, who will be left to fill the
ranks?

There was worse yet in store for Thérèse, however. Fidèle must needs
go to mass in that well-watched community. In Brant she could please
herself, but in Caughnawaga there were ladies of the convent to be
pleased, who were so bountiful. Fidèle's re-appearance came thus
officially before the Père Théophile. Scandal must be prevented, Paul
could not be permitted the luxury of two wives at once, however
capable he might be of keeping them both in order. More, it was the
newcomer, in this case, who was the lawful wife. Thérèse must go, and
he laid his injunction on Paul accordingly. Paul was submissive; one
squaw was enough to mind his comfort, and it mattered not which,
though, if anything, the boy's mother would suit the best. He obeyed
with promptitude, and after administering a parting beating, he turned
the three forlorn ones out of doors.

When a turkey comes to grief, through sickness or accident, the rest
of the flock are apt to set upon it and peck it to death. It is a
Spartan regimen, and encourages the others to keep well. The spirit
prevailing in Caughnawaga was in so much Spartan or turkey-ish--it is
a spirit not unknown at times in more cultured circles. Nobody dreamed
of coming forward out of natural kindness; and, as a matter of duty,
there was too much of the improper in the whole story, for any one
brazenly to claim praise from the ladies of the convent for sheltering
homeless ones such as these. It seemed irreverent, even, to suppose it
could be a Christian duty to succour them.

The outcasts walked down the village street, hiding their faces in
their blankets, bruised and ashamed. No one spoke to them or pitied
them. The squaws, their daily companions, sitting at their doors,
sewing, smoking, idling, looked steadily at them as they went by; some
with a wooden stolidity which showed no sign of recognition, some with
a spiteful and vindictive leer. Thérèse had been better off than many
of them, but who would change places with her now?

The dusk was falling, and the nights were growing chilly now; there
might be frost before morning. The gleam of firelight, the twinkle of
lamps, shone through cabin windows and from open doors, but no one
bade them enter. There was heavy dew in the air, the herbage was
soaked with moisture, and therefore they would not turn aside into the
bush, to drench themselves among the dripping leaves, and be chilled
to the bone with hoar frost, perchance, ere morning. They went forward
to the river-side, and out upon the pier, where the water swept
smoothly by, murmuring monotonously in a sombre passionless sough,
black as their own desolate misery, still and undemonstrative as
themselves.

They huddled themselves together under the lee of some bales and
boxes, their chins upon their knees within their blankets, and there
they crouched and shivered, all through the livelong night, sleeping
at times or drowsing, but always motionless, with the sound of the
mighty river in their ears, promising nothing, regretting nothing, yet
consoling in its changeless continuance--a life, and one in harmony
with their own, a seeming sympathy, when all the world beside had cast
them off.



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                          THÉRÈSE'S REVENGE.


The daylight had returned, but the sun was not yet up, and the air was
cold, when a heavy hand was laid upon the sleeping squaws, and shook
them roughly.

"What are yez doin' here? Stailin' is it ye're afther, eh?"

"Sleep here all night," was Thérèse's answer, as she slowly regained
her feet. She was stiff with cold. "No home to go to--come here."

"A shindy at home was it? Turned out of doors is it ye are? Sarves ye
right, maybe. But it's a could sleepin' place, _al_ the same, and wan
niver knows. The gates won't be opened these two hours, but ye can
come in this way. Here's an empty luggige room, where yez cuddn't do
no harm ef ye wanted."

He ushered them in, closed the door behind them, and turned the key
with a knowing wink.

"Oi'm clair of yez now, me beauties. The pollisman can do as he thinks
best when he comes on at sivin o'clock. Oi've catched them if they're
wanted, an' that's as much as they kin expect from a night watchman."

The police sergeant arrived at his appointed time. The squaws had
accepted their confinement with a contented mind, and were asleep.
Under the shelter of a roof and on a wooden floor, they could stretch
themselves at length, which was grateful after the cramped position of
the night.

Their apathetic indifference convinced the man of authority that their
tale was true; they had come on the pier while the gates were open the
evening before, and fallen asleep. It was wrong, as he assured them,
and he could take them up for it; but to what good end? he asked
himself. He was a _virtuoso_ in malefactors, and did not care to
encumber himself with a capture out of which so little credit with his
superiors could be got, as three squawks sleeping on a pier.

"Look out, now!" he said, shaking his finger at them. "I let
you off this time, but if"--another shake of his finger--"but if
ever--I--catch-you here again--you may look out for squalls."

Thérèse had lifted her head in dull indifference; but at the sound of
his voice her face changed. She looked at him. It was now long ago
since she had heard that voice before--when she was quite a girl, the
speaker quite a young man--but the occasion was a momentous one. It
was when she had been arrested by mistake instead of Fidèle. If only
it had been Fidèle indeed; and if Fidèle had been punished then as she
deserved, she would not have come back again, like the hungry ghosts
of the long forgotten dead, to push the living from their stools and
bring them to ruin.

There kindled a red coal down deep at the bottom of Thérèse's eyes
and made them glow and burn, and the surging blood rose to her
weather-beaten cheek and reddened it behind the scarce transparent;
skin the lips parted, and the white teeth glistened, and for the
moment Thérèse in her fury looked handsomer, if in an evil way, than
she had ever done in her youth. It was no apathetic face now, carven
in walnut wood, but rather the features of a snake-haired fury, as one
may see them at times in the caverns of a red-coal fire.

She laid her hand upon the sergeant as he was turning to go, after
having discharged his prisoners.

"I know you," she said, as he turned in surprise. "Remember me?"

"You? Where have I seen you? When was it?"

"Long ago--_enfante perdue_--Remember now?"

"What? You the woman that stole the child, and the nuns got off? Yes,
I remember you. You should be at the _Isle aux Noix_ now, I do
believe. Look out, as I said a little ago, or you'll go there yet,
some day. Don't you be expecting the ladies will do as much for you
next time."

"_Enfante encore perdue?_"

"To be sure. Do you know where it is?"

"_Morte_," grunted Thérèse, with a wicked flash of her eye--"ze
bones."

"Murder? Do you say it was murdered? Did you see it done? Did you do
it yourself?"

"No. Fidèle and Paul."

"Will you swear out an information. There is a reward still out. It
has not been withdrawn that ever I heard. If I get you that reward, is
it a bargain that I am to draw it for you and keep half? Is it a
bargain?"

"Bargain."

"And you will swear an information?"

"Vill swear."

"Where shall I find you?--to-morrow morning, say?"

Thérèse shook her head despondingly, and looked at her children.
"Hungry."

"Who's your buck?"

"Paul was."

"I know Paul. Has he turned you off?"

"Got Fidèle."

"Aha! That's it, is it? And you know where those bones are? Sure?"

"Svear."

"Then you'll get even with them yet, my beauty. And, stay, here's a
dollar for you. You say you're hungry, and Paul has turned you out of
doors. Be on the Lachine side of the ferry this evening. I may have to
lock you up, but you'll be well used."

That evening, at sunset, the police landed Paul and Fidèle, both
handcuffed, on the Lachine wharf, where Thérèse joined the party of
her own accord, and they all proceeded by train to Montreal. Thérèse
could not refrain from uttering one cluck of triumph as she passed her
late master and looked at his bonds, while he shot her a look of fury
and strained at his handcuffs in a way which showed it was well that
they were strong; and then all the party subsided into the stony
stillness of their ordinary demeanour.

There was nothing very striking in the first examination which
followed. Thérèse recollected having seen a small grave dug in the
back kitchen, and an empty box laid beside it. Then Fidèle had come in
and exchanged clothes with her, and then she (Thérèse) went away.
Neither Fidèle nor the baby had been seen afterwards. She herself had
been taken up and accused of stealing the child, but it had been shown
that she had not left Caughnawaga on the day of the kidnapping, and
she had been acquitted. After that Paul had taken her as his squaw,
and they had lived together ever since. A fortnight ago Fidèle had
returned, and since then she had suffered much ill-usage, and finally
been turned out of doors.

The evidence seemed sufficient, but in court it would need as
corroboration the finding of the bones; therefore, there was a remand,
and two days later the prisoners were brought before the magistrate
again. The persons sent to dig under the floor had found a box, which
was produced, and a thrill of hushed excitement ran through the court
room; the male prisoner, even, threw aside his sullen stolidity,
turned to the constable in charge, and spoke a few words. The
constable conveyed the message to the Crown attorney, who addressed
the magistrate, and he forthwith appointed counsel for the defence,
leaning back in his chair, and allowing the young _avocat_ a few
minutes to converse with his client. The lawyer listened to Paul,
shook his head, raised his hand in remonstrance, and spoke soothingly;
but the red man's anger, having once found voice, grew fiercer and
more determined every moment. He shook out his long straight hair as a
furious animal will toss his mane, and gnashed his teeth, while his
usually dull eyes blazed like living coals. He put aside the arguments
and remonstrances of his adviser with a gesture of impatience, and,
looking to the magistrate, rose to his feet. The advocate, seeing that
his client was impracticable, preferred to take the work upon himself,
and addressed the bench.

He told "that, in spite of all which he could say, the prisoner--the
male one--while disclaiming art and part in the crime of murder, was
resolved to claim from the court that he should not stand his trial
alone, or in company only with the ignorant squaw who sat at his side.
Whatever had taken place--and here, in tribute to his own professional
credit, he must be permitted to say that it was sorely against his
wish and advice that he was now driven to admit that anything _had_
taken place, and he would have defied the learned counsel opposite to
prove that there had, and more, to bring it home to these much-injured
Indians--it was but right that the instigator should be brought to
stand his trial by the side of his instruments, and he claimed of the
court to permit the prisoner Paul to swear an information against
Ralph Herkimer, financier, broker, banker,"--"and bankrupt," some one
muttered--"for conspiring with and suborning, and inciting by promise
of gain, the prisoner Paul to steal, kidnap, abduct, and make away
with the infant daughter of George Selby, professor of music, in the
city of Montreal." He told "how the said Herkimer had continued to pay
an annual stipend or pension to the said Paul during many years, till,
on pressing the said Paul to make away with the said child, Paul had
declared that he could not, and the said stipend or pension had ceased
to be paid from that day forward."

It was with enhanced interest that, when this had been settled, and a
warrant ordered to issue for Herkimer's apprehension, the box was
placed on the table, and the lid ordered to be removed.

His worship, the magistrate, arranged his spectacles on his nose, the
county attorney compressed his lips to steady his nerves, lest the
sight of horror to be disclosed should disturb his delicate
sensibilities; and, then, as the lid came away, there appeared--what
might once have been a lock of hay! Time and mildew had done much to
destroy it, the shaking it had undergone since it was disturbed had
contributed yet more towards returning it to its primal condition of
dust; but hay it was, most surely, though even as they looked it
seemed crumbling away under the light and the freer air. The finders
had identified the box. It was manifestly the one referred to by the
chief witness. But where were the bones? Where any evidence of murder?
Not a morsel was there of bone, or even a lock of hair.

The magistrate shrugged his shoulders. He was a disinterested party,
and could appreciate without alloy of personal feeling the humour of
his court holding inquest upon an empty box. The Crown prosecutor bit
his lip, infinitely disconcerted, and the sergeant of police looked
foolish. There was still the charge of kidnapping, however, that was
sworn to by the chief witness, whose evidence, after all, was
confirmed by the box. It was a grave, a box, and a live baby which she
had seen, and she had not said that she saw the murder. The male
prisoner's own statement and confession, after being warned, was also
in evidence against him. His counsel turned and looked at him, as much
as to say, "I told you so; but you _would_ speak out, notwithstanding
my advice. Now, take the consequence."

Paul was more surprised than anybody at the discovery of emptiness
within the box. His jaw actually dropped in amazement, notwithstanding
the natural rigidity of his facial muscles. He might have got off, it
almost seemed; but then there would have been no information laid
against Herkimer, and ever since the day he had been dismissed with
contumely from his office before all those sniggering clerks, his
fingers had been itching to be at the man's throat, and only prudence
had restrained them. Fidèle's face remained unchanged, for, naturally,
she was not surprised; but there came a twinkle of childish humour
into her face to see how all those arrogant whites had been fooled by
a poor squaw.

Thérèse was disappointed, but not more than her experiences as a squaw
had long taught her to bear. The down-trodden are not much crushed
when an expectation gives way. Her foes, it was true, were not to be
tried for their lives, but they were still to be locked up, and
punished in some sort later on, while she herself, an indispensable
witness, would be well cared for till all was settled.



                             CHAPTER XV.

                             THE SELBYS.


George Selby was notified at once, of course, that the inquiry into
his child's disappearance had suddenly and unexpectedly revived
itself, after so many years, with the prospect of solving the mystery,
if not of restoring the lost one.

It was an old wound now, that sudden evanishment of the sweetest
blossom which had shone upon their lives. His wife and he, each in
pity to the other, seldom spoke of it, and therefore there appeared a
skinning over or partial healing to have come; but it still bled
inwardly, saddening, and oppressing with unspoken grief. In the
fifteen years of their bereavement his wife had been brought down from
youth and strength and beauty to premature old age. Within the last
twelvemonths a change had come. As she had told him, peace and
resignation had come to her, the sad peace of the mourners who resign
their loved ones, believing it is well with them, though knowing they
shall no more meet on earth; and her health had greatly improved.
"Why, then," thought George, "should he disturb her?--revive the
deadened misery and cause relapse? There would be doubt and anxiety
while the inquiry was in progress, and, alas! there was little that
could be called hope to look for at the conclusion." Therefore he said
nothing to Mary, but he did not fail to present himself at the
examination before the magistrate. It was a horrid idea that their
innocent darling should have been murdered by Indians, though it was
relieved by the consolatory thought that in all those years of
mourning to the parents the child's troubles had long been of the
past; and he said nothing when he went home after the first day's
inquiry.

The next day of examination was one of the most painful George Selby
had ever known. He shrank into an unnoticed corner when the box was
brought into the court-room--shrank from it, but could not tear away
his eyes. And then he listened to Paul's accusation of his Mary's
nephew, and for the first time he divined the motive of the seemingly
wanton and inexplicable crime. Oh! how deeply in his heart he cursed
the detestable money of that domineering old man, who, not satisfied
with having his way in life, must needs strive to impose it after
death, working misery and soul destruction upon his nearest kin. He
shivered and clasped his hands before his eyes when the lid was to be
lifted from the box. He heard the drawing of the nails, the creak and
giving way of each one in its turn, and then there was a stillness;
but after that there came no sigh of horror, the air thrilled with a
movement of disappointment, felt rather than to be heard, and he came
forward and peered into the faces of the crowd. The one additional
horror was to be spared him of being called on to recognize his
child's remains in the presence of curious strangers.

He peered intently at the prisoners, one of whom had virtually
confessed but a moment before. He noted Paul's amazement and
confusion. He noted that the squaw by his side remained calm, save
that there stole a look of mockery into her face, as she surveyed the
court, and he felt sure that that woman was not a murderess. It was
his heart which was on the strain, and enabled him to see and read the
reality untrammelled by judgment's frequent errors, wrong deductions,
and misinterpretations. He could discern that of which the
professional experience of officials took no note, for the heart is
clearer sighted than the head.

With them there was a juridical problem to be solved by pure reason,
an indictment to be made, presentable before a judge and jury--a
proposition that the prisoners at the bar were guilty of a specific
offence, with evidence in proof. "Where is my child?" was the ruling
thought which filled George Selby's mind. The squaw at the bar was the
stealer. So much was proved by the witness under oath, and by the
implied admission of her fellow prisoner. But she had not murdered the
child, though perhaps it had been intended that she should; so much
could be drawn from her tranquillity and the confusion of her
companion. He felt that he must question that squaw forthwith, and
after the prisoners had been formally committed to stand their trial,
he obtained speech of her through the assistance of the police
sergeant, who took care to elicit an assurance that the reward,
advertised fifteen years before in a placard of which he produced a
copy, would still be paid when the baby's fate was discovered.


"Mary," George said to his wife that evening when they met. "I have
news."

"News, George? News of what?"

"The news we have been waiting for all these years. The squaw is found
at last--the right one. She is sister of the one who was taken up at
the time. The two changed clothes. That accounts for the confusion at
the trial. Those who identified her recognized the clothes. Those who
swore to her being in Caughnawaga that day spoke truth, too."

"Oh, George!" with a weary sigh; "Is it all to be gone through again?
The misery and the pain? Yet now I feel so sure my precious one is at
peace, in the arms of God, that I think I can bear it. It is well the
discovery, whatever it may be, did not come earlier to embitter our
grief."

"And yet, my dearest, already something which will shock you has come
to light--the instigator of the wrong is named. His accomplice accuses
him. That wretched fortune of your most misguided brother has been at
the root of all our trouble. That men who find themselves so little
wise in directing their own courses, should strive to perpetuate their
folly, by imposing their will on others after they are dead!"

"You mean that it was Ralph? I have often suspected that; but it
seemed so merciless and inhuman a thing to do, that I have blushed for
shame at my suspicions, even when alone, and cast the thought behind
me. Poor wretch! Look at him now!--shamed and dishonoured--run away to
the States--afraid to show his face in Canada! Martha and the boy are
to be pitied in belonging to him, for they are good; but they do not
know him, and no one will be ruffian enough to enlighten them. Martha
is back at St. Euphrase again. Susan had a letter from her to-day. The
house there is settled on her, it seems, and she wants to give it up
to the creditors, but Ralph says she must not, and that before long he
will be on his feet again, and pay everybody."

"I fear Ralph meant worse than merely to set the child aside, and it
is no thanks to his intentions if he has not innocent blood on his
hands."

"Hush! George. It is right you should tell me the facts, but do not
draw inferences. Judge not."

"My dear, I judge no one; but I have seen the squaw. She tells me she
was ordered to make away--to bury. The very box, which was to have
been used, was produced in court--produced as it had been dug out from
under the kitchen floor, and you may fancy how my heart died within me
at the sight; but when the box was opened, it was found to be empty,
and the squaw has told me that when she came to look at our angel, she
found it was impossible to obey the inhuman command. She buried the
empty box and carried the child away. She speaks of a road with trees,
and a valley with a broad river, and says that she laid the baby upon
the stoop of a house before going down the hill. She says she
recollects the house perfectly. A police sergeant, who seems to have
charge of the case, says he believes it must be near St. Euphrase, and
the sheriff has allowed me to take him and his prisoner there
to-morrow. I have ordered a carriage, and we will endeavour to take
her over the old ground."

"Something will come of it, George, I feel sure. Take me with you,
dearest; it will be maddening to live through the interminable hours
between now and your return. Let me come with you."

"There will not be room, dear. A squaw out of jail would not be
pleasant company in a carriage. They are not over tidy, remember. For
myself, I shall sit with the driver."

"Then I shall take the early train to St. Euphrase, and go to
Judith's. Be sure you come to me as early as ever you can, I shall be
faint with impatience."



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                        BETSEY AS GOOD FAIRY.


When Mary Selby and her sister Susan arrived at the Rectory of St.
Euphrase, next morning, the family mind was already excited by other
news; so much so, that, notwithstanding this was the first visit
Judith's sisters had ever paid, and it was unexpected, they were
received precisely as if they had dropped in from the next street, and
their coming were an every-day occurrence. The family capacity for
surprise had been forestalled.

"Only think!" cried Betsey, the irrepressible; "young Jordan has been
here--Randolph, you know. _I_ know him quite well; was at a party at
their house, when I stayed with you last winter--knew him a little,
before then, but not much. Well, he tells Uncle Dionysius here--that's
not here, exactly, but in the study--that he ran away with Miss
Rouget, the seignior's daughter. Stuck-up looking thing she is. No
complexion to speak of; a snub nose. Yes, indeed, Aunt Judy, it is a
snub. _Nez retroussé_, is it? That's because she's Miss Rouget de La
Hache, and a kind of a somebody; though folks do say they've lost
their money all the same--like better folks who make less moan. But,
anyhow, Randolph ran away with her--fixed a fire-escape on to her
bedroom window, and down she came, bag and baggage, in the dead of the
night; and everybody in the house fast asleep. They went to New York,
and were married before a squire, and now they have come home, and are
staying with Mrs. Jordan, at The Willows. And they are going to be
married all over again, from the beginning--twice over again, I should
say, for he has just been speaking to Uncle Dionysius, and now he has
gone to the Roman Catholic priest, with a letter from an archbishop,
and no less, bidding him raise no difficulties, but just do it. Think
of that! Is it not impressive? The same two people to be three times
married, and always to one another! I suppose there will be no getting
out of that, anyhow, as long as they live. If even they were to go to
Chicago, I suppose it would take three divorce suits to separate them.
They can only dissolve one marriage at a time, so I have heard. What
do _you_ think. Miss Susan?"

"I never was married, my dear. I have suffered too much from neuralgia
for some years back to be able to think of marrying, or anything
else."

"Well! That's not me, now. If I was to have neuralgy, I'd want a man
to take care of me, all the more, 'pears to me. I'm 'takin' steps,'
as uncle there says, to get the man right off; and then the neuralgy
may come if it wants to, I can't help it."

Both visitors' eyes were fixed on the speaker. The recollections of
their own youth furnished no such amazing expression of maidenly
opinion. Betsey coloured a little, coughed, and began once more, while
her uncle and aunt, taught by experience, sat silent, waiting till she
should talk herself out of breath.

"The fact is, Mrs. Selby, I'm to be married immediately; as soon, that
is, as I can get ready, and that depends mostly on Mademoiselle
Ciseau. She'll have to make my gown, and she says she's over head and
ears in orders, between so many deaths and all the marriages; for you
know Matildy Stanley's going to marry--more proper if she'd be making
her soul, at her time of life, than thinking of sich--and that chit
Muriel--set her up--she's to be married the same day as her aunt,
though they ain't no kin at all, nohow, to one another, and Matildy
knows it. I call it going before their Maker with a lie in their right
hand--goin' to church to be married, and tellin' such a story."

"But who are the bridegrooms, Betsey?"

"Me? I'm going to marry Mr. Joe Webb--Squire Webb, I should say, it
sounds more respectful--justice of the peace, and the handsomest
fellow round here about. But never mind the men, just for one minute.
Everybody knows there must be a man to make a wedding, and any kind
does quite well; but think of a poor girl married without a gown, or
the wrong kind of one. How people would talk! You bein' from the city,
will be able to give me an idea. Here are a lot of _swatches_ the
storekeeper got me from Montreal, and every one has the price marked
on to it. White satin? Oh, yes, it's pretty and stylish; but I see by
'Godey's Magazine' the upper crust ain't as partial to marryin' in
white as they used to be; and white satin would not be much use
afterwards for apple-paring bees, and sich; that's the form our gaiety
takes mostly in the country round here. Yellow? Well, I did read not
long ago about a _recherché_ nuptials, somewhere, and the bride was
dressed to represent a sunflower--poetical fancy, wasn't it? Yes,
yellow's a good colour--easily seen--but it soils just as bad as
white, or worse, for one can say _écru_ for dirty white, but what can
be said for soiled yellow? Just nothing, for everybody sees it's gone
dirty.

"Brown? and navy blue? I guess one of these would be the best. You
like the blue, eh? Well, now, that's strange, for to me the brown
looks a deal the best. I could be married in my travelling dress, with
a bonnet trimmed with white roses and peacock's feathers--I seem to
see it in my mind's eye. Sweet and rather distinguished--but it would
be better with the brown, would it not, than with the blue? Now, do
really give me your candid opinion, Mrs. Selby; you have everything
about you at home in such good taste."

Betsey got out of breath at last, and rose to take away her
_swatches_, and there was an opening for the visitors to explain the
cause of their unlooked for advent. Both Judith and her husband were
kind and sympathizing, and both were shocked beyond measure at the
part which Ralph had played in the transaction. For Martha's sake,
however, and for the credit of the family, the subject was dropped
when Betsey returned to the room, she being a known blab of the most
flagrant kind.

Mary succeeded in restraining her impatience for tidings of her
husband's success within bounds, for several hours; but after the one
o'clock dinner it grew stronger than her will, and would not be
controlled.

"By which way are they most likely to reach the village, Judith? I
feel myself fretting into a fever as I sit. I must be up and doing, or
I shall lose my senses. Betsey, my dear, will you not come out with
me? We will walk in the direction we are most likely to meet them. It
will bring me the news a minute or two sooner, and it soothes me to
feel I am doing. You will tell me about your own plans, too, dear. It
is good for me to listen to other people's concerns, if only to
distract me from my own."

Betsey was nothing loth. She was good-natured, at least, if not
endowed with all the other virtues. They walked through the village,
and up the turnpike road coming from the east. Mary, notwithstanding
her weakness, was so urged forward by impatience that Betsey, scarce
able to keep up with her, was soon out of breath, and quite unable to
make the interesting confidences she had intended.

"Is not that a carriage coming this way? I see two men on the
driving-box, and one of them is George. Oh! the time is come. Lend me
your arm, Betsey, dear, to steady me. I am getting faint. If this is
another disappointment, how shall I bear it?"

The carriage drew near. One look in George's face told all.
Hopelessness had settled on it; he looked utterly cast down. He
alighted as his wife drew near, and the afflicted ones embraced in
silent wretchedness, as they had done many a time before. The story of
the expedition did not take long to tell.

The squaw was able to point out the way she had taken all across the
Reservation, with circumstantial details, which made it impossible to
doubt the accuracy of her recollection, and argued a hopeful
termination to their search. On gaining the public road they entered
the carriage, and still the squaw went on recognizing salient objects
on either hand, and finally, at a forking of the road, where there
stood a house, she cried out, that there was the place. It
corresponded perfectly to her previous descriptions. They alighted,
and the sergeant knocked at the door. A woman opened it, and when
asked by the officer how long she had lived there, answered, after
many repetitions of the question and much explanation, and disavowing
that she understood English, twenty years. "Then you will remember,"
the policeman said, "if one summer night, many years ago, you found an
infant lying at your door?" She answered that babies were never left
there. She was a respectable woman, who had brought up a family of her
own, and that the proper place to leave outcast children was a
convent, or the priest's house.

Her hearing appeared so bad, her knowledge of English so slight, she
seemed so cross, so deaf, and so stupid, that they could draw nothing
from her but the disavowal of any knowledge of a child having been
left there, which, however, was what they chiefly wanted to know, and
they came away disappointed. The priest of the village might be able
to make some inquiries, and they were now on their way to find him;
but there was little to be expected after so many years.

"Where was this house with the woman?" asked Betsey, with awakened
interest. "Not the first house we shall come to going up the hill?"

"Yes," said Selby, "that is the place."

"Well, then--but surely it cannot be!--that is the house Bruneau lives
in--the Stanleys' man. His wife confessed to me and Aunt Judy, only
last winter, that she found a baby at her door one summer night, many
years ago, and carried it up to the door of the big house, where my
cousins took it in and adopted it. But, from the way she spoke of
Muriel's parentage, it can be no relation of yours, dear Mrs. Selby.
She said it was--but I can't say what she said."

"If you please, miss," cried the sergeant, who had been listening,
"will you be so kind as to walk back with us. As you know the woman,
she will speak different to you from what she did to us. I feel noways
sure that she was not lying when I questioned her, now you put the
notion in my head."

Again there came knocking to Annette's door. Again she opened it, and
looked as if she fain would have run away at sight of the policeman
before her.

"Annette," said Betsey, "did you not tell me that you carried that
baby you found on your stoop up to Miss Stanley's door and left it?"

"I know it," answered Annette, and covering her face with her apron,
fled back into the interior of her house. They could hear her mount
the little stair, and bang to a door, but they saw her no more. In
truth, from the time she had unburdened her feelings to the rector's
lady, a new misgiving oppressed her mind. Could English women be
trusted to keep a promise, and they heretics? What would the Miss
Stanleys say, first of her conduct towards themselves in foisting that
particular child on them, and next in divulging the story, to the
discredit of their adopted niece? And now the story was out, and there
was a minister of the law come to take her.



                            CHAPTER XVII.

                               AT LAST.


Miss Stanley sat in the dining-room making up her accounts. She sat at
a table by the window, with her bills and account books spread in
order before her, and her pen in her hand, waiting to begin--waiting
till the wandering thoughts would come back from their wool-gathering,
and settle down to work. Once and again she advanced so far as to dip
her pen in the ink, but the figures did not come, the page before her
continued white, the ink dried up in her pen. With her elbow on the
table, her cheek upon her hand, she went on thinking--thinking about
her household, though not about her accounts. She had been head of the
family so long, had steered and directed it so many years, and they
had been so happy together; and now, it made her head whirl to think
of the changes that were coming to pass. In the drawing-room, at that
moment, was Muriel with her Gerald--a pair of children, and as
unthinkingly happy. Their clear laughter penetrated through closed
doors, and she heard it where she sat. Matilda was in the morning-room
with Considine, as utterly content, if less obstreperously merry than
her niece. And Penelope sat alone.

The moisture gathered in her eyes as she thought, but promptly was
brushed away as a disloyalty, for if "dear Tilly" had come to love
another more, she was very sure she continued to love her aging sister
none the less. And yet it did seem hard to see that other come in
between. Since her sister had been a very little girl, she had been to
her a mother, watching over and caring for her till they grew to be
companions and friends. They had been all the world to one another,
and while, with a mother's inconsistency, she had wondered at the
blindness of the men, who did not come and marry her sister, she knew
that if they had, she would have hated them for their success. And
now, after all danger seemed over, when they had settled down to grow
old together, when even their adopted daughter was old enough to marry
the man, the devastating man, had come--broken in, to disturb the
repose of their virginal paradise in the hour of coming twilight, and
end the pensive sweetness of their lives.

Yet, and the thought constrained her to admit that it was far from
being the worst thing possible which had befallen, she had extorted
from her intending brother that he should not take her sister quite
away. He was to live with her, and she with them. The house at St.
Euphrase was to be hers--Penelope's--and they were to be her inmates.
Considine would take a house in town, where she should live with them;
and all three parties to the arrangement had professed they saw no
reason why they should not always live together. "Yet, why would those
two marry at all?" she thought; "surely the season when birds select
their mates was past for them. From the things which Considine spoke
of as remembering he must be positively old; and Tilly, her precious
Tilly"--a new-born candour forced her to admit it now, though she had
not thought of it before--"was no longer young. Why could they not
live on as friends, as they had been doing? when Considine's company
had really added flavour to their spinster lives. What would people
say?" Penelope imagined, like the rest of us, that "people" care. It
is a fancy which sticks most pertinaciously, despite its lack of
reason. Why will we not judge "people" by ourselves? And is it not
true that long before our neighbours have grown accustomed to their
affairs themselves they have become a twice-told tale to us? We shrug
our shoulders and pass on, seeking a new diversion somewhere else.
Whatever we may do which pleases ourselves, "people" will cease to
trouble their heads about it long before the nine days are over.

The fear of this notoriety, however, was a tonic thought to Penelope.
Instinctively she bridled to think that any should presume to
criticise a transaction in _her_ family, and at once she ranged
herself in spirit on her sister's side, and began to defend her. "'A
man,'" she thought, "'is no older than he feels.' What eminent person
is it who has written that? It is certainly true of Considine. See how
erect he carries himself! How cheerful he is! and strong. His hair is
white, but as thick as ever. He rides, and swims, and walks, like an
active man of forty. And 'a woman is as young as she looks.' That is
true of our Tilly. How well she wears! Who would fancy she was one age
with Louisa Martindale? And yet I believe she is. What impertinence it
will be if any one presumes to say a word!"

After that turn to her reflections, Penelope felt positively
refreshed, and able to pull herself together. The pen was dipped in
the ink once more, the bills taken up one by one, and the column of
figures extended itself steadily down the page. But her industry was
interrupted ere long. The parlour-maid appeared in some confusion.
What was she to do? She had standing orders not do disturb her
mistress when closeted in the dining-room, and she had been told an
hour ago to show no one into the drawing-room or the parlour, and
there were a lady and a gentleman and a policeman, and some more,
asking to see Miss Stanley.

"Show them in here," Penelope said, wondering what was the matter. The
mention of a policeman troubled her. Had it anything to do with the
Herkimer bankruptcy?--Gerald being then in the house. The newspapers
had been full of his father's doings of late, and they had had much
trouble to keep them from Muriel's eyes. "Poor child," she ejaculated,
"I hope it is nothing to distress her," and then the visitors walked
in. Mrs. Selby and her husband--she had called on Mrs. Selby, and was
glad to find in one of the visitors a person whom she knew--a
policeman leading in a squaw, and Betsey Bunce--the "atrocity," as she
called her in her mind. "How dared she enter there, after the passage
which had taken place between them at the rectory as to Muriel's
parentage?" Yet it was Betsey who came to the front now, seeing Selby
look confused, and in doubt how to begin. "I can see by your face,"
said Betsey, "you ain't half well pleased, Cousin Penelope, to see me
here, after me speaking my mind about what Aunt Judy and me fished out
of your woman Annette. But it's that very same story has brought us
all here to-day, and a good thing it was that I got hold of it, or
goodness knows what would have come to these poor Selbys. You know
from the papers all about their losing their little girl long ago. You
know, too, that the squaw was taken up last week who ran away with
her. Look at her! There she stands, beside the policeman, and not a
bit ashamed of herself, as far as I can see. Could you believe that so
much artfulness-you've read about it in the papers (the changing
clothes and burying boxes, and running away, is what I allude to)--and
so much wickedness--wringing two loving hearts (I'm sure that's the
kind Mr. and Mrs. Selby have got, for I stayed with them last winter
and found them real kind). Look at her, Miss Penelope, and say if you
could have believed that so much artfulness, and wickedness, and
brazen effrontery--she don't blink an eye even--could be tied up in
one blanket."

"Yes, Betsey," said Penelope, opening her eyes, and looking partly
offended and partly confused; "and what after that? Mr. and Mrs. Selby
and the rest scarcely allowed you to bring them up here, merely to
afford you the pleasure of playing showman!"

"You interrupted me, Miss Penelope, or rather I got carried away with
having so much to tell all at once; and then I stuck fast. However, as
I was saying, that's the squaw! The Selbys are the parents, and you've
got the baby in this house! You needn't look at me, cousin, as if I
was crazy, for I ain't. It's Muriel--your Muriel--that I mean. Ask
Annette Bruneau--by rights she should have been here, too, to make the
thing complete, and to speak for herself; but, as I have spoken for
all the rest, I may say for her that she would not let herself be
brought. She ran upstairs and locked herself into her room, so we had
to come along without her. Why don't you send for Muriel to see her
mother. Miss Penelope? and Matildy should be here, too. She spoke very
harsh to me the last time we met; but she was mad, then, so I bear no
grudge. She'll be better friends now. And she _should_ be here, too,
to see the meeting of the long-lost child and her parents. It'll be
real touching, and she deserves to see it, for she has been like a
mother to Muriel--I'll allow that, for all that she said to me some
weeks back."

Penelope fetched Muriel and Matilda, and the explanations were long
and confused, mingled with embraces and many tears. Even Considine
blew his nose, and the policeman passed his sleeve across his eyes;
only the squaw looked on unmoved. "If all these whites were happy, as
they said they were, why did they shed tears?"

The rush of words grew slower and more fitful after a while. Emotion
is exhausting, whether it be grief or joy. Mary Selby sat with her
arms round her daughter's waist, and her face buried in her bosom,
while Matilda, half-jealous, and feeling half-bereaved, held the
girl's hand.

Betsey stood up and surveyed the scene. It seemed her own handiwork,
for had she not brought these people together? The emotional silence,
when every one was filled with the same idea, made her think of the
closing tableau in a pantomime, and to feel herself the beneficent
spirit who had brought about the happy _dénouement_. She could not
refrain from holding out her parasol over so many bowed heads. It
seemed to her to have become a magic wand, tipped with a sparkling
star. She could fancy, too, that her gown had transformed itself into
tinsel and transparent draperies, and that she was being slowly
carried up through the ceiling to the sound of plaintive music.

Much could have been done with Betsey, I verily believe, if she had
been caught early and submitted to culture. But "Tollover's Circus"
had been her only introduction to the world of plastic imagination,
scenic, or pictorial art; saving always "Godey's Magazine of the
Fashions," which instructed her in a variety of knowledge she would
have been better without, the knowledge, not very accurately stated,
of how women with ten times her fortune, if she should ever come to
have any, wear their clothes.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                          THE BROKER BROKE.


Ralph Herkimer sat in his New York hotel looking glum. The turn he had
been expecting in Pikes Peak and Montana had come; the stock had been
brought into notice at last, but it would have been better for him if
it had remained unquoted on the share list, as it had been for weeks
back. The turn was one for the worse. The shares had gone begging on
Wall Street. Nobody would buy. He sat with his hands in his pockets,
his chair tilted back, and his hat drawn over his eyes, pulling
furiously at a huge cigar, and involving himself in smoke. It was a
serious position of his affairs, and there was nothing he could do in
the circumstances but wait--wait till he was ruined outright, which at
the moment seemed likely enough, or be patient through months, if not
years, till improvement came. Of the two alternatives, the former
seemed at that moment the preferable, in so far as that it would be
soonest over.

The Canada mail was in; his letters were brought him--an unpleasant
bundle always now. "They can wait. There is no hurry." He pushes them
aside. But, stay! There is one from his wife. "Martha," he says, and
breaks the seal.

He was intensely sorry for himself that afternoon. The world was so
hard. Nobody seemed a bit interested to know that he was on the verge
of being ruined; in fact, it inclined them rather to get out of his
way. "Ill-luck," one would have said, to see them, "must be
infectious." His friends on Wall Street seemed busy that day whenever
he wanted to discuss with them, and some had even been rather short,
as to a manifest bore. If he would, he might have recollected that
such are the manners and customs among money-makers, when a
money-loser comes along. He had practised them himself; but that was
when other people were the losers; now it was he, and that made all
the difference.

But Martha was fond of him, and he turned to her letter for comfort
and sympathy in his deep self-pity. He was fond of Martha, as fond, at
least, as a busy man with his head full of other things can afford to
be of anybody; but that Martha was fond of _him_ in he never doubted,
and that was the aspect of their connection, which was comfortable to
dwell on at that moment. He lit a fresh cigar, and opened his letter.

It was a long letter, and began by answering all the questions which
he had asked, and then it went on:

"Gerald and Muriel talk about their marriage continually, as is to be
expected, poor children. I have been trying to stave it off till you
shall have arranged your affairs, and are able to play the part you
would wish on the occasion; but I am only Gerald's mother, and it is
Muriel who has the right to say when. Besides, Gerald will not allow
me to put in a word which would sound like wishing delay, and Muriel
seems to think that if Gerald is there, it does not matter much about
his father. I cannot altogether blame the girl; it would have been my
own thought twenty-five years ago, and, to be sure, I like to see my
boy valued as he deserves.

"But it is Matilda who is hurrying things forward in this railway
fashion. No doubt she has the best right to arrange Muriel's affairs,
she has been a mother to her; but the fact is, it is going to be a
double wedding. Matilda herself and Muriel are to be married the same
day; Considine has plucked up heart at last, proposed, and been
accepted. He should have done it long ago, as I tell him. And now that
the game is in Matilda's hands, she is more eager than the little girl
of sixteen. She has had longer to wait, you will say, and that there
are no fools like old fools. I know the way you men like to talk,
pretending to be hard, and you as soft as the women--you, Ralph, at
least, only your head is so full of business you do not give yourself
leisure to think.

"And, oh! Ralph, dear, I do wish you would come back to Canada and
silence the scurrilous reports that are in circulation. Only show
face, and the cowards and liars who invent stories about an absent man
will be silenced; for well I know there is not a syllable of truth in
the whole _farrago_. The city papers are detestable just now; and
really, Ralph, you ought, for your son's and your wife's sake, as much
as your own, to write your solicitors at once, and get them heavily
fined for their abominable calumnies. Indifferent as you are to such
things, you really cannot let that story pass which appeared in the
papers the other day. It is getting copied into every paper in the
Dominion, Gerald says, and he feels so sore about it; he won't show
face in Montreal, he says, till it is set right. I mean, of course,
the vile libel of that low Indian, Paul, which his counsel repeated to
the magistrate, accusing you of having conspired to carry off and make
away with your own first cousin--Mary Selby's child. I wish, dear
Ralph, you would come back and face them out, the foul-tongued
ruffians. That would shame them out of countenance and stop their
mouths. The papers say there is a writ out against you. Come back,
Ralph, give yourself up, and hurry on the trial. The sooner the truth
is known the better. For all my confidence in you, I feel it painful
to have the people's eyes fixed on me when I walk up the village to go
to church, as if I were an evildoer. Think of it, Ralph, and come.

"But I am forgetting to tell you the great news. Your daughter-in-law
to be, who do you think she is? A niece of the Stanleys, you will say.
Never more mistaken in your life. She is no kin to them at all--not a
drop of blood. She is your Aunt Selby's long-lost daughter. Think of
that! The Indian, Paul, believed his squaw had killed her, but it
seems she carried her into the country and left her at Bruneau's door,
and Bruneau's wife, thinking she had enough of his children already on
her hands, carried it up, and left it on the Stanleys' doorstep.
Everybody supposed Muriel was their niece, though latterly the Bunces
have been rather free with their innuendos. And now the girl turns out
to be a great heiress. Strangest of all, it is what we have been
calling Gerald's fortune, which she is heir to, and Gerald, the lucky
boy, will get back by marriage the very fortune he loses by law.
Nobody can say either that he marries Muriel for her money; but to
tell the truth, they seem a pair of children in everything that
relates to that."

Ralph smoked his cigar through to the end, smoked it till the butt
dropped of itself upon his letter, charring the paper before it went
out. He continued to sit, rigid in every limb, with his features
drawn, and grey, and set; breathing heavily, but never moving. His
life seemed living itself over again before his eyes, the prizes he
had striven for, the means by which he had tried to win them, the
vicissitudes of his career, and the end which he had reached. "Fool,"
was the only word he uttered, and it escaped him in a tone of mingled
misery and wonder; misery, that it was himself; wonder, that he should
have done it; for now his consciousness seemed divided in two, one
half judging and wondering and scorning, the other, crushed into
little save memory, and a sense of being undone, and having become a
burden longing to be shaken off.

It was no awakening of conscience, such as moralists describe. He had
never troubled himself with questions of right and wrong, true and
false, honour and baseness. Success was the honour to which he had
aspired, failure the one inexpiable baseness. A faculty unused in
well-nigh half a century will scarcely leap into action and
controlling predominance over powers and habits strengthened by
constant use, all of a sudden. It was by his own poor standard that he
stood condemned at last. He had so utterly and unnecessarily failed.
What opportunities he had had! and how utterly they had been wasted in
his hands.

He had been over-smart all through. In striving to make doubly sure,
and assisting the forces that were making for his prosperity, he had
defeated them. In attempting to shoulder up his fortunes he had pushed
them over. And all was over now. What could he do henceforth? Even
Martha, poor woman, would turn from him when she came to know. It was
infinitely sad; it was beyond remedy, too altogether out of joint,
ever to be set right. And then, he was so weary of it all, he had no
heart even to try. Sleep, long and unbroken, sleep without dreams,
sleep without a waking, that was all he yearned for, the one last good
the universe held for him.

It was dusk now; the gas was alight all over the hotel, and in the
streets. He staggered to his feet, and slowly went downstairs. A
druggist's shop was near, and there he asked for essence of bitter
almonds. The druggist observed to him that it was "dangerous in
quantity," and must be used with care. "I'll take good care," Ralph
answered, as he went out. They were the last words he was ever heard
to utter.


They telegraphed to Gerald from New York next day. His father was
dead. It is heart disease, to which sudden deaths are attributed
now-a-days. It saves many a pang to the loving hearts of survivors. It
saved poor Martha an accession to her grief, and even the world began
to talk pityingly of one who had seemed so rich so short a time
before. For really the world is not a very bad one. With time and
leisure it likes to do a good-natured thing, and does it, if it
remembers in time. And then it has a most valuable code of
proprieties. It holds it wanton and brutal to speak evil of the dead.
And so it came to be in bad taste to mention the Herkimer story at
all. The poor man was dead--gone to his own place. What more was there
to say?

Even the Indians profited. Their trial came on, but no one took much
interest in it. The young lady had come to no harm; she was even to
marry the son of the man whose name had been dragged into the
transaction. They pleaded guilty, and profited largely by the leniency
of the court.

The weddings were unavoidably postponed. It was Matilda herself who
proposed that they should wait six months, out of respect for Martha.
Her extravagant haste and eagerness had been for Muriel's behoof. She
feared that the past might get more fully canvassed, and arrange
itself into some kind of barrier, which, though Muriel might ignore,
Gerald might feel ashamed to overpass.

Jordan's career did not close itself so abruptly as his friend's had
done, and there were times when he envied Ralph the speedy conclusion
of his troubles. His affairs proved to be like an old woman's
knitting; when once a stitch of it is dropped, nobody can tell how
great may be the devastation. Jordan's fortune had crumbled to pieces;
he was a discredited man, and worse, a pensioner on his wife's bounty;
and that last, all who knew the charming Amelia--and all who knew her,
voted her charming--agreed was no enviable position. About a year
after Randolph was married, and settled in a government office at
Ottawa, the Minister of Drainage and Irrigation exerted his influence,
and got the old man--he is really old now, seventy is the next decade
he will touch, and that before long--made stipendiary magistrate at
Anticosti, where among the sleet storms of the gulf of St. Lawrence he
dispenses justice to litigious fishermen. Amelia did not accompany
him. Why should she? To be an ornament of society in Montreal or
Ottawa is the role nature intended her to fill, and she works the part
industriously. An old _habitante_ woman makes Jordan an infinitely
more efficient housekeeper in the far East, where comforts are few,
and there is no society, and she writes him every week the most
delightful letter, with all the chit-chat and scandal about his old
friends carefully chronicled. This affords him nearly as much
amusement to read as it gave her to write, and is far more
persistently pleasant than he finds the writer, when he spends his
annual holiday with her at St. Euphrase.


Gerald and Muriel are an old married couple now. Their boy is just the
age of his mother when she was stolen away. He would spend all his
time, if he had his way, with his grandmother Selby, who adores him,
and often calls him Edith in forgetfulness. There is a drawer upstairs
in her room, where there are little shoes, red, white and blue, and
sashes of gay colours, and little lace frocks. They are all nicely
washed and ironed now--the frocks, that is--and the little fellow puts
them on for a lark, at times, though he is getting too big for most of
them now. But there was a time when no one was permitted to touch or
see those things, and when the tears of ten years and more dropping on
the muslin and the lace had rumpled them and blotted them into a faded
yellow. They are precious still--his mother wore them when she was his
age--but the urchin himself is more precious yet by far. It amuses him
to try them on, and, therefore, they have been newly done up for his
lordship's greater gratification.

Muriel's fortune turned out less than it might have been. The portion
in Jordan's hands having disappeared, Considine offered to make good
the deficiency to the last cent he possessed as far as it would have
gone. But the moiety he had manipulated himself had prospered, and
made a very pretty fortune as it was; and for the rest--no one doubts
that some day Muriel will fall heir to all that he, his wife, and her
sister possess.

The man with the two wives, is how his acquaintance speak of
Considine, for the three go everywhere together. He is as attentive to
Penelope as to his wife, and she is far more adoring than her sister,
who, being married, has her rights, to criticise, to have little
tempers--though, indeed, Matilda's are of the smallest--and so forth.

And now there seems no more to say. Betsey Bunce is in her right place
as mistress of a farm. Her poultry lay larger eggs, and her cows give
more butter than those of any one else. She is busy and cheery all day
long, and neither man nor maid dare ever be idle on the premises. She
has proved a fortune to her husband, if she brought him none, and he
owns now that the bad luck which first made him think of Betsey was
the luckiest circumstance of his life. She is bound to make a rich man
of him, and a legislator at Ottawa, some day soon.



                               FOOTNOTE

[Footnote 1: Sugar-bush. A grove of maple trees. The farmers tap the
juice in spring, and boil it into sugar. In Lower Canada and New
Hampshire, scarcely any other sugar is consumed in the country
places.]

[Footnote 2: Jennie Jeffers, queen of the gypsies in the United
States, died in Greenfield, Tennessee, March 10, 1884, and was buried
at Dayton, Ohio, April 16. Fifteen hundred gipsies from all parts of
the country were present.--_American Paper_.]



                               THE END.



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





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