Part 3 out of 7
and I looked up into the cold silence of the stars, seeking in their
still, watchful expression, some stimulus, for I thought I must go mad,
or lie down to die on the earth's frozen bosom. I did not rashly censure
anyone for my misfortune, but that night the coldness and cruelty of
life, as it unravelled itself to me, blighted every womanly sentiment
within my heart. From that moment dates the cynicism that marked my
after life. My old self died out, and the flickering flame that started
afresh into existence, was no longer the quiet subdued one of older days
I had passed from a gay happy girl, into a hardened reckless woman, and
I have never regretted it.
"Cold, and miserable, and friendless, I went in search of a refuge, to
an old nurse of mine, who lived at a short distance from the spot to
which I had wandered. I reached the house and looked in the narrow
window. A greasy looking candle burned on the rough table, casting
flickering shadows around the low ceiling and walls, over the pewter
dishes and shining delf. It was a kind of comfort to my poor heart, when
I saw old Nanny herself, seated on a rocking chair before the fire. I
can never forget the expression of genuine horror that covered the old
creature's face, as she saw me at the door of her little cottage,
shivering in my ball dress.
"'Is it Miss Jean?' she said, with both hands up in consternation, 'sure
I declare its more like the ghost of our dead sweet mother comin' to me
this blessed night, as I just sat thinkin of her.'
"In silence I entered and crouched by Nanny's cheerful fire. Great
Heavens! as I review the agony and pain of those moments of my
existence, I wonder that I ever survived it. I did all that was left me
under the circumstances. I made a truthful declaration to Nanny and then
left it to her to do what she wished with me--but I weary you child,
with these details," Mde. d'Albert said, hesitating slightly. But Honor,
with the flush of excitement on her cheek, begged of her companion to
continue. Thus pressed, she proceeded "Whether it was Nanny's intention
to befriend me or not, I was thrust upon her, for a slow fever followed
the chills and shivering that had seized me, and for seven long weeks I
lay between life and death on Nanny's neat old bed. On the third morning
of the seventh week I regained consciousness, experiencing all that
vacant wonder at the strange surroundings of Nanny's little room. My
memory was struggling with the confusion and exhaustion, brought on by
my illness, but I did not care to think. I turned my head peevishly
away, and closed my eyes again. When next I opened them it was growing
dusk, large grey shadows were trooping out over the little room, leaving
but the outlines of Nanny's old-fashioned furniture, visible through
their mist. A small, broad clock was ticking out its monotonous notes
from the mantle-piece, and the crackling noise of the fire somewhat
relieved the great stillness.
"While I was thinking, Nanny's stooped figure cast a shadow across the
doorway, and came stealthily over to my bed. I can yet see the look of
relief and thanksgiving that came into her dear old face, when she saw
that I recognized her. She bent over me smiling, and I stretched out my
arms and clasped them around her neck. That night she sat at the foot of
my bed, and we talked matters over. Despite all her arguments and
entreaties to the contrary, I was determined to leave her as soon as my
health allowed me. In the course of our conversation, Nanny alluded to
the night of my separation from my father, to see how it would affect
me. As I never changed nor moved a muscle, she came nearer and knelt
before me. I knew by the strange look on her kind old face, that there
were words on her tongue's end, awaiting utterance.
"'What is it, Nanny?' I said, 'speak it out, there is nothing now that
can wound my heart--it is free to the worst treatment of fate. It is
like the deserted nest in the tall pine tree. The summer of its life is
over, now the wind may howl around it and the cold snowflakes fill it
up. The birds it once cherished have deserted it, and left it to its
"Poor Nanny's eyes were overflowing, as with a faltering voice she said,
"'O, my poor child, to think your mother's daughter should ever come to
this! But, there now, like a good girl, don't talk like that; it'll all
blow over some day, and ye'll go back to the old house where I nursed
you in my arms a tiny thing, and your mother before you, Now the big,
tall man is gone far away, the troubles will cease, please God, and all
will be right.'
"I looked sharply up 'What big tall man, Nanny?' I asked, and my heart
beat violently as I waited for an answer.
"'Oh, sure,' said she, rising up, 'ye were too weak to tell ye of it,
but wait a bit, an' I'll show ye now.'
"She went over to the old mantle-piece and pulled from behind a curious
looking box, a small envelope. Then, bringing the candle nearer my bed,
she handed me the letter and left the room.
"Its contents were only what helped me towards action. I had not
expected this, and yet it had not surprised me in the least. It informed
me that my hero had left for the continent; that owing to a series of
unfortunate events in his early life he had vowed solemnly never to
marry. The worst troubles that had ever befallen him had been on account
of a woman he had loved, and he had voluntarily cast the sex out of his
life for evermore. In that letter he bade me a strange and last
When Jean d'Alberg finished speaking her face wore an expression of half
indifference and half regret, as though the very last flicker of an old
smouldering flame had suddenly darted up, and then died out in the ashes
and the darkness. As the sound of the last echo of her voice ceased
vibrating in the silent room, she awoke from the revival of memory's
lethargy, and her face resumed all its wonted coldness and calmness. She
looked at Honor almost suspiciously, and said in a low breath,
"I cannot explain how I have been coaxed into this confiding mood with
you, child as you are."
She seemed to be awakening from a stupid dream, and she was tangled in a
strange mystery. Honor recognized the feeling as a very common one. It
is the doubt that often interrupts us in our confidences, lest the
depository of our secret be not a safe one. It is generally a proof of
the importance, greater or less, of what we confide.
Honor sat upright, and womanlike, took both Jean's hands in hers,
"Do not be uneasy; I know your heart. I have not a great experience such
as yours, but the experience of thought and emotion are not unknown to
me. You have been miserable, and even to-day it is not too late to
sympathize with you."
Jean d'Alberg laughed--a low, incredulous, skeptical laugh, that
"Do not talk of sympathy any more," she said, "such things are soap
bubbles, beautiful to look at from a little distance, but stretch your
hand out to grasp them, and what remains? No, no, Honor, give up that
foolish game. You see by my tale that I have gone through the fire. I
need scarcely tell you with what result. I rose from my bed of sickness
with a heart of flint and a will of iron. I worked honorably and
honestly to bring myself to this country, where there is true
encouragement for industry and perseverance, to this Canada, which is
the pride and glory of England, and whose arms are extended in an
admirable hospitality to the homeless exiles and fugitives of the world.
Here there is labor for all honest hands, and gratification for all
honest hearts, and God cannot but bless and cause to prosper, a country
so just, so encouraging and so kind.
"I was not long here when I first met Mr d'Alberg. He seemed taken with
me, but my heart felt not the slightest passing emotion towards him. In
the end he became satisfied to accept me as I was, and though I never
wore out my sleeves caressing him, still I made him a tolerably good
wife, until death wooed and won him from me, leaving me to live on the
plenty he had accumulated in a lifetime. I am now neither happy nor
miserable, I neither despair nor hope, I am waiting for time to do its
best or worst, I am prepared for either. Life or death offer me equal
fascinations, I seek nothing but what chance sends me, I have comforts,
and in my way I enjoy them, that is all I want. Let me give you now one
word of advice; live, act, and die, independently of every other person
and circumstance but yourself and your own immediate concerns, for the
mask of life is very deceptive, and we are not always strong enough to
bear the stroke when it falls."
A heavy sigh followed these last words and then all was over. The long,
intricate story of a lifetime, had been breathed out. The shadows of the
wintry evening were trooping noiselessly from the corners of the room,
and to the quiet observer there was nothing extraordinary to be read
from the surroundings. Honor looked serious, but this was nothing new
with her. Jean d'Alberg looked sadder than usual, though not with such a
bitter sadness as one finds in the face of an ordinary heroine, who
reviews the mockeries of her past for another woman. Were the verdict
just, it should call them both sensible women.
It seemed such an unnatural and inconsistent sound when the demure old
woman-servant appeared in the doorway and announced supper.
But these two women rose and went to the dining-room as mechanically as
though they had just been discussing the last "poke" bonnet or Mother
Hubbard mantle, in the most usual way imaginable. However, a new tie
bound them together now, and though no direct allusion, was afterwards
made by either party to the strange narrative, yet their sympathy so
strong, though new-born, manifested itself in the look and actions of
each, and they became what the world called "staunch friends."
"Would you had thought twice,
Ah! if you had but follow'd my advice."
We left Guy in Mr. Rayne's study, in sore trouble as to how he could
evade the task set him, and join his rioting friends in their proposed
amusement. He scratched his head and made countless agonizing grimaces;
he walked the room in long strides, until his patience had reached an
almost impossible limit. Then he thought better of it, and decided to
hold a calm, cool and collected council with himself. It was plain to
his one-sided judgment that he was called upon to act, and to act
immediately. But this was easier said than done. It is simple enough for
a fellow to strike splendid chords on the piano, merely by ear, or in a
moment of impromptu genius he may construct some wonderful little piece
of mechanism; Guy felt that he could achieve countless feats such as
these, but he'd be blessed if he could master a double-locked window, or
door, through any innate talent, on a dark night, when every one is just
asleep sound enough to start at the slightest noise. He had persuaded
himself, by means of such fallacies, as come unbidden to the susceptible
heart in the hour of temptation, that he must go out to-night by fair
means or foul. Once decided, he did not hesitate to act, every one had
retired, and surely he might steal out unobserved. The chances were he
could get back the same way, and there would be nothing more about his
little escapade. Noiselessly, stealthily, he collected the articles of
his street wear, and rolling them up in a bundle, laid them by the
window. Then nervously, and fearfully, he began the work of undoing the
fierce looking bolt over the window. Every one of those queer little
noises, the voices of the night, seemed to Guy the words of his uncle
reproaching him with his disobedience. Once as he was just about to
raise the lower part of the window, a coal gave away in the grate, and
the rattle that followed its fall made him quake with fear.
Finally all was silent as Guy held his breath in eager listening, and
making a desperate attempt he lifted the ponderous frame slowly and
secured it above. Directly under it was the roof of a small balcony that
shaded the side of the house. In the summer time it was covered with
green vines, which climbed to the very top, but now the stiff withered
leaves and dry branches, rustled and cracked in a horrible way as Guy
threw down first his bundle, and then proceeded to follow it himself
"the devils' children, have the devils' luck," it is said, and it
certainly often looks as if that luck was the luckiest of all.
Without scratch, or hindrance of any kind, Elersley reached the ground,
and as he buttoned up his overcoat, matters commenced to look
beautifully smooth and easy. He half-expected that the jolly dogs had
started on their trip without him, but he was sure of finding company in
a great many other places besides, if the first failed him. He was
emerging in all possible haste from the gate-way of his uncle's house
when he was accosted by the police-man on beat in that vicinity. Here
was a "fix." Guy was almost in despair, and it was only on producing
cards, and letters, and other substantial proofs of his identity that he
was left go. He made a quiet determination to have a good time after
such hardships as he had endured, and indeed his determination did not
fall too short of the mark. It would scarcely interest the readers to
follow Guy Elersley any farther than the gloomy street corner to-night;
though perhaps many of them may have often followed his prototype in
spirit to such haunts as midnight revellers frequent. Did we accompany
him we would have to tear away that opaque barrier, that many young
polished gentlemen, have built up before the eyes of their _day_
acquaintances; we would have to call forth tears of bitter bitter
anguish, from trusting sorrowing mothers, who are at this same moment
praying God on bended knees, to save their wild wayward boys. We would
pierce the hearts of many pure confiding girls, who are buried in dreams
of future happiness, and who would not dare suspect the awful truths
that are born of the midnight hours. There are, therefore, too many
innocent ones interested; too many mothers to wail; too many sisters to
bow their heads in shame; too many young loving hearts that would burst
were one to spell out the truth in legible characters. "They have eyes
and they see not," let us mercifully leave them in their blindness.
Think of all that Guy had encountered to gratify the paltry ambition
born of a moment s passionate desire; a soul so young, almost fresh from
the hands of the Creator, and yet to be so covered with iniquities! How
soon he had learned to jest and laugh at good, and to make his religion
the worship of the senses. Saying with Byron,
"Man being reasonable, must get drunk,
The best of lift is but intoxication,"
and striving to find in the wine-cup, the satisfaction that our inner
nature craves, trying to feed a soul, hungry for the beauties and
perfections of the invisible world, with the poisonous food of
sensuality. Let us say to it with Shakspeare,
"O thou invisible spirit of wine,
If thou hast no name to be known by
Let us call thee 'devil.'"
And lest these words betray any of the personal indignation that
suggests itself at the moment the reflections upon such lives are
indulged in, the voice of this same great poet ran be heard again
telling in his emphatic terms,
"I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres,
The knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine."
But we have only to look around us intelligently to find the secret out
ourselves. Society is at the acme of sensuality; it has reached the
strangest antithetical condition. It is degraded in its excessive
refinement; it is coarse and repulsive in its cultivation, it is
ignorant in its enlightenment. Necessarily all this is the effect of a
cause, but such a pitiful cause! The total wreck of man's best element.
The once individual corruption has spread its fearful contagion until it
has become universal; falsehood is disguised in truth, vice in virtue,
and fraud and diplomacy in honesty. If women are expected to live in
blissful ignorance of this movement, that expectation is a crowning
audacity, for woman's life is destined to be one of action, and she will
not sacrifice her noble mission through purely human motives. She means
to save her brother, her lover, her husband, her son, even if the effort
includes the forfeiture of her title of woman in the eyes of society.
Thus it is, we have been persuaded into an unpremeditated leniency
towards the sterner sex, blotting out the pictures of their vicious
lives, not indeed to spare them in the very least, but only to save the
blush, the sigh, the tear of many a woman whose heart is nigh enough to
breaking without a stronger hand striking the last blow in the cruel
work of laying bare the awful, the contemptible reality which fills
their lives with bitterness and heart-burnings.
We will, then, caution and advise without explaining, and call on our
co-laborers to make a grand effort towards reformation, telling them
that from the heart of the great cities there rises a wail of sorrow and
desolation, that must fall on their ears like a cry of distress from the
poor suffering stricken ones, that they must rise bravely,
spontaneously, and joining hands they must come nobly to the rescue. It
is their lawful, binding duty to reclaim. We must save from the wreck at
least those "little ones" that are growing up around us, "for of such is
the Kingdom of Heaven." Why need they ever know the experience that is
drunk in the wine cup? Why must they, too, walk in the well-printed
footsteps of vice that their elders are treading before them? They must
not; they shall not; they dare not! if they have noble women to direct
them, to inspire them with great and holy and generous thoughts, to draw
them round the family fireside, to gratify their eager hearts with
innocent amusements that elevate the mind and bring the soul nearer to
God. Where are the mothers now, who, like Blanche of Castile, can say to
their sons, "My child, I would rather see thee dead at my feet than that
thou shouldst offend God mortally." Alas! if in our city alone, mothers
were to re-echo that wish and have it granted, many a strong youth would
be laid in his coffin before night!
Mothers and sisters will ask, "What can one woman do by herself?" What
good? If every mother sends a St. Louis to eternity before her, is not
that a magnificent influence on society, and who denies it? Be not
discouraged then--withdraw the misplaced sympathies that have been
enlisted by thrilling manuscripts or exciting anecdotes in the cause of
missions and religious undertakings abroad. At home, within your own
most intimate circle you have a mighty field for your labors. Hearts to
which you are closely attached are sadly in need of your attention, and
while you are so solicitous in providing for corporal necessities and
comforts, forget not the poverty, the destitution of the moral nature.
Wrap the robe of innocence and repentance round the heart that is naked
and susceptible to all the influences of foul weather. Go bravely forth
in the bark of divine charity and save the soul that is tossing
helplessly on an angry sea, without food or support or safety, plunging
into irremediable debauchery, as Guy Elersley is to-night.
"Praising what is lost
Makes the remembrance dear."
The cold, cloudy night was just at us period of transition when the
misty grey of a foggy morning was slowly extending over the quiet city.
A light fall of snow covered the rough fences and the bare branches, and
a chilly, freezing atmosphere weighed heavily down upon the earth. There
was scarcely a sound to be heard. Now and then the still measured tread
of a solitary policeman, or the pitiful chirp of some homeless sparrow
under the eaves of a neighboring house broke the monotonous silence of
the early dawn. But suddenly another sound burst out upon the great
stillness, it was the clock from the Parliament Tower striking the hour
of three. The last vibrations had scarcely died out when the figures of
two men, arm-in-arm, came round the corner. There is a well-known little
_on dit_ which says "when two men walk arm-in-arm it is more than
probable that one is sober," but it was the exception and not the rule
that applied this morning. Both were seemingly under the same influence
and to the same degree. Though the sight had its revolting side, still
one was also inclined to laugh at the ridiculous appearance they
presented. One was short, but had all the disadvantages of his failing
compensated in his breadth. The other was, as I have often described him
before--tall and slim, our brave Guy Elersley. His features were barely
visible, owing to the manner in which he wore his hat, which would
willingly repose on his shoulders only for an occasional jerk upwards
from the owner. His affectionate friend with the pronounced tendency to
_embonpoint_, tried to persuade himself that his head was really
covered, although Guy's hat, to do its most generous, could never shield
more than the extreme top of his hair. Snatches of their conversation
only reassure the looker-on of the absurdity of the situation. The
good-natured looking companion, whose name was Morrison Jones, said in
the most usual tone in the world--
"I think we're getting home kind of late, Guy," at which Guy laughed
unreasonably long, and then added,
"Ye-s, he'l (l-ate) me up, by Jove!" and then Jones clapped Guy, saying,
"Here now! no more of this," and both went off into a ridiculous duet of
laughter, that sounded harshly on the stilly air of the peaceful night.
Arrived at the gate of Mr. Rayne's house both young men stood, and
Morrison Jones who seemed a little bit the wiser of the two addressed
Guy in fatherly terms.
"Here now, Elersley, this is twice I've seen you home to night and I
won't do it any more. It's time for honest people to be in bed, and I
think I'll go to mine."
"Mine-(d) you do," said Guy slamming the gate after him, forgetting his
usual precautions in the unseemly mirth caused by his vulgar attempt at
wit. Thus unceremoniously he left his friend to wander back alone
through the dismal street.
Guy was just in that delightful state when a fellow is at peace with all
the world, when he feels ready to share his last shilling with his
brother, and thus in perfect good humor, he was making a drunken attempt
to render the "Tar's Farewell." He wandered on blissfully until he
reached the balcony beneath the library window. Here he paused and
looked up, but to his dismay found that the window had been closed since
his departure. The muddled state of his brain prevented him from
suspecting that he had been discovered. He only knew that he felt the
cold chills of the dawn all through his frame and he could not help
longing for the pillows and warm blankets above. He walked around to the
back of the house and there began to deliberate. "First--second--yes
third" was his window, but he must do it noiselessly for there was
danger in the attempt. By degrees he mounted as far as the window sill
in tolerable good humor, singing "Pull away my boys," and then making
another firm clutch on to some other projection he would squeeze out in
a constrained voice, "Pull away." Finally the window was tried and
yielded--happy lot. He resumed his song mixing it up with "Nancy Lee,"
"And every day," here the window went up another little bit, for it was
very stiff, "when I'm away," and he rested it on his shoulder, "she'll,"
here his uncertain balance gave way, and as--"pray for me" escaped his
lips in frightened tones, he stumbled head foremost into the room.
He remained there motionless for a few minutes, wondering what he was
doing all in a heap on the floor, but suddenly the whole appalling
nature of his misfortune burst upon him in its most dreadful aspect
There before him, standing erect with a lamp in his hand, was Mr. Rayne,
viewing him with all the withering contempt of a cold stern man. Dazzled
at first by the light he started up from his recumbent position, and as
he did so, the reflection of his frightful appearance greeted him from
the mirror opposite.
It would not do to spoil by an attempt at description the conflict of
emotions that rent his breast at that moment. It is far better imagined.
He, there on the floor, after failing miserably in an attempt to steal
in, when he had promised his uncle not to go out, his uncle standing
now, petrified, before him, having caught him in the disgraceful act of
stealing an entry. Mr. Rayne looked down upon him with all the bitter
contempt an honorable man can show to dishonesty; he spoke but a few
words in a harsh grating tone--
"I see you have contrived to preserve your bones unbroken in this
attempt, although you have shattered your word and my future trust in
you beyond reparation."
Then he closed the door and went back to his own room, his face still
wearing that painfully serious expression it had scarcely ever worn
Guy began the disagreeable act of gathering himself up as soon as the
unpleasant novelty of his uncle's apparition had died away, and as each
succeeding moment forced on him, with his returning consciousness, the
awful reality of his condition, he began to feel that unenviable
sensation of distraction, which is almost akin to despair. He tried to
shape things so as they might form some excuse, but it was miserably
vain. Matters were decidedly against him. He had told his uncle that he
would not go out, and the next thing, he is found stumbling in a back
window at three o'clock in the morning. As Guy reviewed the situation
over and over in his perplexed thought, he found how mistaken he had
been indeed, thus to fool with the man on whom he depended for his
future welfare. A hearty, though half selfish regret, seized him, and
the broad day broke into the room before he closed his eyes in sleep.
At eight o'clock he woke with a start from very unpleasant dreams, just
to face more terrible and more unpleasant things in reality. Guy showed
more moral courage on this occasion than he had ever before shown in his
life. He rose with a fixed determination as to his plan of action. He
dressed with his usual care, and was downstairs before his uncle.
Sitting by the fire in the dining-room, he took up the morning _Citizen_
and began to read. Suddenly the door opened and the room seemed to fill
with the chilly presence of Mr. Rayne. Guy never moved, yet he felt that
the cold piercing glance of his angry relative was upon him. At last,
unable to bear it any longer, he flung the unread paper from him and
confronted his uncle. The latter looked fully ten years older, so
serious and stern an expression did his face wear on this gloomy
morning. Guy began to feel sorrier than ever, but the old man merely
raised his hand, and pointing to the doer, said--
"Go, sir, it was not worth your while to spurn me thus, at this period
of my years; but you knew that my principle is 'an eye for an eye and a
tooth for a tooth,' and so, sir, I give you your reward. Go from my
house, for I withdraw all relationship between us; and remember, I will
never forgive this insult to my authority, from one on whom I had
lavished all my heart's affections."
A flush rose to the young man's forehead, and he burned to say something
in self-justification, but his uncle's wrath was great and so he merely
answered in a quiet tone,
"As you say, uncle," then before he left the room he turned again,
adding, "you have been young yourself, uncle, and you may regret this
precipitation when the memory of your own follies comes back to you. As
I have been the wrong-doer, I accept your sentence, which all the same
cannot cancel in me the remembrance of your many kindnesses." And thus,
without a word of farewell from either, these two parted, that a little
while before had been all the world to one another.
"O absence! what a torment wouldst thou prove,
Wer't not that thy sour leisure gives sweet leave
To entertain the time with thoughts of love."
"And so you think of going back to Ottawa so soon? Well, I suppose the
magnet is hidden somewhere, that draws you towards it," and Jean
d'Alberg laughed playfully as she turned to address her words to Honor,
who was yet buried in the snowy linen of her comfortable bed.
Honor clasped her hands over her head and smiled a little sadly, saying:
"Yes, I like Ottawa--more than I thought I did, and if it is just the
same to you I think we need make no longer delay here."
"My dear child," Mrs. d'Alberg said as she brushed a long switch of
auburn hair very briskly, "I thought I explained to you sufficiently
that all things are perfectly alike to me. I will certainly go as soon
as you wish, so don't wait for my decision."
"I suppose you will think me capricious and hard to please dear Jean,
but somehow I feel a little lonely for Ottawa."
Jean smiled meaningly as she answered "Well I suppose it is a case of
reciprocity at its best and what you miss most must be what misses you
most, therefore it becomes your duty as well as your pleasure to restore
matters to their former equilibrium without further delay."
This was most pleasant encouragement for Honor who could scarcely
reconcile herself to pass another single day away, once she had secured
the consent of her hostess. And so for the remainder of the week these
two good friends made all necessary preparations for their proposed
journey on next Monday morning.
* * * * *
It was not with the slightest inclination to regret that Honor watched
the scenes, familiar since the last few weeks, fade rapidly now from
their view, and yet as each station brought them closer still to Ottawa,
she began to fear that sharp eyes like Madame d'Alberg's would guess the
real reason of such a premature return. However, it was better thus than
that she should be solicitous about Guy, for she knew of what he was
capable when the reins of safe guidance were not drawn in by a sure and
steady hand. She understood so easily the nature of the temptations that
assailed him. She cannot be described better than in the words of the
poet Lowell, who says
"She was a woman; one in whom
The spring-time of her childish years
Hath never lost its fresh perfume
Tho' knowing well that life hath room
For many blights and many tears."
The two lady travellers spoke little during the journey. Each was sunk
in an interesting reverie, cogitating and moralising according to their
capacities, and the circumstances so entirely different that caused
their thoughts to take the courses they did.
Is it not a gift from God that we are in ourselves a multitude of
beings, able to gather ourselves in from the eyes of the world and mix
with a whole host of ideal characters of our imagination. Perhaps it
sounds a selfish thing when spoken, but the writer speaks from personal
experience, having spent many happy hours in self-communion, tasting the
full sweetness thereof.
It was a great relief to Honor when she recognized Fitts at the depot
awaiting their arrival with Mr. Rayne's own comfortable sleigh. After
all, even in the little events of a life-time, we can learn how prone we
are to cling to old familiar things, that fill our memories with fondest
associations and nestle the closest to our heart's core, and we say with
Walter Scott: "The eye may wish a change, but the heart never."
Honor strove hard to conceal her emotion, almost as much from her own
self as from those around her. Here was one of those little deceptions,
which make up the human life. How can we complain if we are led astray
by others when we are so ready to lead ourselves astray?
The meeting between Honor and Mr. Rayne was such as amused Jean d'Alberg
considerably. It was "no wonder," she said, "that some people had to
give up all their sentiment when there was so much wasted by others." As
for herself, she was quite content to thrust three of her gloved fingers
into her male cousin's broad palm, greeting him with the coolest "How
d'ye do," after a separation of years.
Honor looked the perfect embodiment of happiness, but though her face
beamed with smiles and her voice laughed out its gayest accents, she was
not nearly so free from pain as one might be led to think. She had
expected to find another form among those who had welcomed her back, her
eyes hungered for a smile she could not see, and her poor heart thirsted
for a word from that voice she could not hear. Only to nestle her hand
lovingly within his, only to look up into his big dreamy eyes, only to
hear him say, even in his old jesting way, "How we've missed you," and
the dull, sick feeling of disappointment that now filled her heart would
melt quickly away. Maybe he was hiding in some convenient spot waiting
to be missed. But why did not some one speak of him? She dared not trust
herself to pronounce his name, and so she went up to her room without
having solved the mystery of his non-appearance.
The reader who has not had the experience, can, without being too
imaginative, readily understand the sentiment that so completely
controlled Honor Edgeworth. All the bright, happy illusions in which she
had basked of late had rested on the doubtful, yet hopeful hypothesis
that Guy loved her. How many times she argued against herself, striving
to find occasions on which he had shown any indifference towards her,
but in the end, a sweet smile em eloped her face, and the pleasantest
conviction of a young life seemed to thrust itself upon her. She was
forced to tell herself that his eyes never turned from her, until they
had looked into hers with that deep penetrative glance that makes us
feel that a soul is looking into another soul. His hand had never been
drawn away from hers until she had detected that slight, almost
unwilling pressure that has only one meaning. When the tongue will not
be the outlet of our thought, may we not have recourse to those
inarticulate words that await utterance in the eye's fond depths, and in
the hand's warm pressure?
So Honor asked herself from day to day, and she read her little story in
"We spoke not of our love,
But in our mutual silence it was felt
In its intense, absorbing happiness."
And after all those days when she had been building up her fairy castle,
there came the crisis of to-day, which shook the faith on which her
edifice was built, and laid it in shattered ruins at her feet. Yet, with
this new-born grief at her heart she must go down among those who cared
not, to laugh and be merry, although her voice in her own ears sounded
like a long lonely sigh.
She left her room half-an-hour afterwards to repair to the drawing-room,
but even as she walked along the corridors, now half shrouded in the
shadows of evening, she expected to be surprised at every turning by the
sudden appearance of Guy. She felt lonelier now though back among the
scenes for which she had longed with a mighty longing, when hundreds of
railroad miles had separated her from them. And then she grew impatient
with herself for giving in to appearances. She who had prided herself so
much on her courage to give up so easily now. Stirred by this new
reflection, she ran lightly down the broad oaken stairway and entered
the drawing-room, her face suffused with smiles.
"It is one thing to be tempted,
Another thing to fall."
The clock of the Parliament Tower was pealing out the last stroke of
four, and almost simultaneously there emerged from all three Buildings,
young men, old men and middle-aged men, all looking as weary and
hard-worked as civil servants ought to look.
They did not turn back once to gaze on the spot where the long, dreary
hours had been spent, outside that office door life assumed another and
an entirely different phase for the government clerk. Even the memory of
the lawyer's clerks and "duns" from various parts of the city were left
buried within these sacred precints until the next day, and one and all
with a light step wended their way down the Square towards Sparks
Among the crowd might be noticed a group of young men that are loitering
down the broad steps of the Eastern Block, most of them carry light
canes and all of them are smoking good cigars. As I have said they are
young men every one of them, and they are fast young men every one of
them, and they are likewise inconveniently short of money are these
good-looking fast young men. In fact they are a great many things that
are too numerous and too uninteresting to mention.
But to Miss Dash and her friend Miss McArgent, who are walking up
Wellington street at this moment, they are the most important group of
individuals in the whole human menagerie.
Emily McArgent wants to pretend she does not see them, but Miss Dash
would not willingly sacrifice all those bows for worlds, and so she
gives her plush bonnet a graceful toss upwards and brings it back to its
place as her face becomes wreathed with smiles.
"I had to bow, Emily," Bella Dash says, persuasively, "for they saw us,
but if I meet Walter Burnett alone I'll cut him sure. The idea of asking
me for the fourth dance last night, and then spooning it off with that
made-up thing that's stopping at the Bramwell's!"
"You mean Miss Elliott," says Emily a little spitefully, "why I find her
rather a pretty girl, and it certainly looks as if Mr Burnett meant to
deposit all his wealth at her feet."
"Well, I'm sure," rejoined Miss Bella, in genuine indignation, "she'll
soon find out whether he's in earnest or not. It isn't the first nor the
fiftieth time that Walter Burnett has made girls believe he was in love
with them, but anyway," continued Bella, in supreme disgust, "it is just
killing, the way the fellows act in Ottawa, they must always fall in
love with strange girls that visit here, and when the scrape up enough
pluck and money to venture on a proposal they go right off to Montreal
or Toronto or somewhere, just as if there were not good enough for them
"Well, my dear, you can't force a man's taste," Emily says in a
satisfied tone, and no wonder that it affects her so little, because
there are proposals on all sides of a girl who has money, is
good-looking, and the daughter of an Hon. gentlemen besides.
Miss Dash is beginning to grow a little cynical. She has walked Sparks
Street for the last eight or ten years, not missed a ball or party, or
other entertainment during that period, that could bring her under
public notice. She has played Lawn Tennis times and again, and has even
won a Governor-General's prize, she has gone on expeditions of pleasure
with Canada's most distinguished aristocrats and somehow, she is still
in "maiden meditation, fancy free."
Occasionally her indignation rises to the surface, and at such times she
reveals her sentiments rather recklessly. She is in this complaining
mood to-day, but she half suspects that Miss McArgent, is inwardly
enjoying her discomfiture, and so quickly changes the subject.
"I wonder what has become of Guy Elersley; Emily. do you know?" she asks
in a puzzled tone. "He was not at any of the parties these three weeks.
Perhaps he is ill or out of town."
"Couldn't tell you," Emily answers, "but they say he is particularly
interested in that young girl that lives at his uncle's. I daresay she
knows something about his non-appearance among other young ladies. They
say she is exceedingly pretty, Bella have you seen her?"
"Yes, I saw her face in church under the ugliest bonnet you ever saw,
and I met her on the Richmond Road the other day, driving Mr Rayne's
ponies. She looked reserved, but perhaps she is a nice girl. Hardly the
kind that Guy Elersley would like though, he's such a flirt, he flirted
with me once till mamma thought--"
"How d'ye do," here the talkative young lady interrupted herself to
smile on Bob Apley and Jack Fairmay who were sauntering past them, and
for awhile the subject of her interesting flirtation fell through.
They had walked on as far as the Montreal Bank during this conversation,
and here they met Willie Airey who was talking to a handsome young
stranger in military uniform.
The two ladies bowed and passed on.
"Did you see the new arrival," asked Miss Dash, looking questioningly at
her friend, "who is he, I wonder?"
"He looks like some of the Military College fellows," said Emily
McArgent, a little more composedly, "I wish Willie Airey would bring him
"Let's pass them again," Bella suggested, "and perhaps he will."
Both young ladies deliberately stood, looked for a minute into the
nearest shop window, and then retraced their steps to pass the handsome
stranger again. As soon as they were within view, Bella cast such
admiring eyes on the face that had attracted her so, that the owner of
it, drawing his well scented cigar from his lips, asked his friend.
"I say, Airey, who are those young ladies just passed?"
"Those two, right here," said Airey, following his friend's glance, "are
Miss McArgent and Miss Dash."
"Aw they pretty girls?" pursued Vivian Standish, replacing his Havana in
his handsome mouth.
"Well," Airey answered, laughing, "_entre nous_, you know, Standish,
when girls are well off and help to keep up the whole sport of the
season, it is no harm to swear they are lovely, when you're sure they'll
hear it again."
"Oh, of course not! That's a serious duty sometimes. And are those two
of your hospitable entertainers?"
"Yes, by Jove they don't let the fun run down. They are jolly to kill
time with, but upon my word, I find the greater number of girls in
society here are very insipid. If you can't talk nonsense to them, they
can't talk anything else to you. And though we fellows knock a good deal
of fun out of their parties, etc., still, we've earned it by the time
we've talked over all the little gossip of the day with them, flirted a
little, escorted them to some opera or other, and minded ourselves to
say nothing but what was most flattering, when speaking of them."
"Well I should think you had," answered his friend, with a low laugh,
"you can get something more than that, with less trouble, elsewhere."
"Yes, but half a loaf is better than none," rejoined Airey, "and these
young ladies are not so bad when one is in the humor to be amused."
Just as he finished speaking, he noticed a familiar form walking
steadily on in front. He clapped his hand heavily down on the shoulder
of him he recognized, and shouted.
"Hallo, Elersley," in genuine surprise.
Guy started and looked around. Poor fellow! Already the traits of
sadness were visible in his handsome face. He only parted his lips
slightly as he turned to greet his friend.
"What, in the name of all that's nice, have you been doing with
yourself, Guy? We've missed you awfully."
"I dare say, I have been a little quiet lately," Guy answered. "I am
busy at present, but I don't think I need complain of it. I am feeling
better than if I were living more on the streets."
Vivian Standish laughed the laziest sort of drawl.
"Now Elersley, don't take to moralizing--you were never made for it,
your face would get so deuced eloquent looking, that the rest of us
would lose all our present chances."
But Guy neither smiled nor spoke, and this set his friends wondering.
On reaching the corner, Will Airey took an arm of each of his
companions, and said:
"Come along boys to see the tumblers. Come Elersley."
"Thank you, no," said Guy, releasing his arm, "I am very busy and must
get back to my room. _Au plaisir!_ Good afternoon!" and he was gone.
Willie Airey looked after him and then at Vivian Standish, and gave a
long, low whistle.
"There's something up there, by Jove," he said, tossing his head in the
direction Guy had taken. "If Elersley has started a reform, it is time
for the retail dealers in 'gratifications' to close up, for it is a sure
sign we must all follow him."
Vivian Standish looked thoughtful for a moment, saying, as he drew a
long breath, "I wish to Heaven we could, for upon my word I'm sick of my
own life. Anything would be better than the existence we fellows try to
drag out. I think we are all fools who do not do as Elersley has done
to-night, and I for another refuse the treat with thanks."
So instead of repairing to the familiar marble counter inside a familiar
glass door, these two spoilt darlings of sensuality joined Miss Bella
Dash and her friend, and escorted them home, much to the intense
gratification of the first-named young lady.
Without complimenting himself at all on the moral victory he had
achieved, Guy Elersley walked along, sunk in deep reflection. His long
strides brought him over many crossings and round many corners, till at
length he stopped before a demure, respectable looking hall door.
Thrusting a key into the lock, he opened it and stepped into the hall,
from which place he admitted himself into a small and silent apartment.
Guy's room presented a strange spectacle. Suits of clothes, shirt boxes,
silk handkerchiefs, slippers, boots, ties, books, cigars and a host of
other male appendages, were lying around on the bed, and chairs, and
floor, in fact, every available resting place had been taken advantage
of. In the midst of this confusion stood a large Saratoga, wide open.
Guy was evidently "packing up" this time, not because he had been
"dunned" for half-a-year's board, though that would have been no new
item in his well-patched-up experience. He was going away, and I doubt
if ever a man felt half so sorry for being "naughty" as Guy Elersley
felt on this particular evening.
One by one he folded away all his possessions into the depths of his
trunk, and when at last the chaotic mass of belongings had crept into a
tidy space, he looked around--that last surveying glance one gives to
see that nothing has been left out. Nothing had been left out, so he
took down his overcoat, that was hanging on a peg behind the door, and
he began to turn out the pockets.
As he did so the most melancholy of smiles crept over his sad face, and
drawing out his hand, his eyes fell on a small, narrow band of chestnut
hair, fastened with a gold clasp, on which were engraved in large
characters the initials, "H. E."
A struggle ensued. The memories he had buried forever, as he thought,
surged upon him now in all their force, and almost overwhelmed him. He
took the little bracelet in both his hands and looked at it tenderly,
longingly. He had not thought it possible that any woman could ever have
filled his heart with so much bitterness--the bitterness of remorse and
repentance. He who had flirted and fooled with almost every girl he had
met, now felt what it was to have met with one who was the embodiment of
goodness and purity and truth. Her sweet face haunted him through all
his misery. He knew she would be wondering about him, they had been such
good _friends_. After all, must he go away? Perhaps never to see her
again, without knowing whether she would miss him or not. Oh! at least,
pain and sorrow and suffering are not so crushing when one is loved. It
is something when the head is weary with its thoughts of anguish to
pillow it on the sympathizing bosom of one who loves us; it is in the
deep, imploring gaze of the eyes that watch us with a tender solicitude,
that one learns an easy lesson of resignation, it is in the warm
pressure of the hand whose power it is to make our pulses throb, that
one gathers the courage for action in the moment of distress, and the
who have never been loved are they who suffer indeed.
Guy felt that he loved Honor Edgeworth in a way which involved his own
future happiness, and yet how could he ascertain whether he might hope
or not? Reader, do you know that it is a dreadful thing to love in
silence and in doubt? The victim of such a cruel fate wonders at the
mysterious Providence which dooms him to spend his most violent emotions
in a fruitless combat with himself, gaining no returns for the
lavishness of his soul's affection, for if God is love, love is surely
Still holding the precious little bracelet in his trembling hands, Guy
stood thinking and wondering. We are too prone, in our cool and
passionless moments, to judge harshly of the deeds that are done under
the influence of strong emotion, and for this reason many would condemn
Guy for his weakness on this occasion, for as he stood, the large,
round, tears rose to his eyes, and he tasted for the first time, the
over-flowing bitterness of a heart that is tried. At last he seemed to
have learned from this little talisman the proper thing to do, for going
over to the table that stood by the window, he sat down, and drawing a
sheet of paper to him, took his pen between his nervous fingers, and
began to write.
"Honor darling, there are a few little words waiting to be said that you
must be good enough to hear. If I spoke them, they would sound like
choking sobs, as I write them, know that they are written with tears.
Honor, you cannot but feel what it is that I am longing to say. You who
understand the human heart so well, will not exact that I should break
the iron bonds of a cruel discretion, to let you know that which is
often best understood unsaid. By my own folly, I have placed the barrier
of distance between us. I go from this place in a few hours more--where?
God knows. And for what? He likewise alone can tell. But there is a
determination in my heart that was never there before--a stimulant
causing it to beat in heavy throbs, and each throb echoes your name.
Maybe you call mine a worthless love, I cannot tell, I wish I could.
There is one little word, my guardian angel, that will fill me with
courage if your lips will but pronounce it. It is "Hope." Remember in
any case, that whatever I shall do of right or good will be on account
of your redeeming influence, and that the day on which I first met you
is in my memory, the day of my salvation. If you have any little word of
encouragement for me, my friend, the bearer of this message, will kindly
have it sent me. You have taught me to hope once, Honor, do not crush
the passion you have awakened, for though it be vainly--wildly--madly, I
do hope now. I hope and wait.
Anxiously and lovingly yours,
It was done. Only a few scratches of his pen to interpret the misery of
his soul, but how stiff it sounded! He has scarcely been able to
restrain the gusts of emotions that lay in ready words on the threshold
of his lips. But first he must know whether it was all despair for him
in the doubtful future before pouring out all the fullness of his heart.
He had scarcely finished the last stroke of his letter when a tap was
heard at the door, followed by the appearance of a familiar face, the
owner of which entered the room and approached Guy without waiting for
"Hallo! Elersley, what in the name of all that's wonderful are you at
Guy looked suddenly up, but he could not hide the worn and pained
expression that covered his face. His voice assumed a cheerfulness, he
was far from feeling as he bade his friend be seated.
"The room is in a queer state," he said, "but you wont mind that."
"Well I mind it a good deal, if it means what it looks like--are you
"Yes," answered Guy in a steady tone, "I am leaving Ottawa to-morrow,
it's a cursed hole for a fellow to live in, and I'm sorry I did not find
it out before."
"Well, upon my word," said Standish, throwing one leg over the end of
Guy's trunk, "you _are_ a queer fellow. What's going wrong that you are
so blue about matters? I thought you were an enviable sort of fellow,
with a snug little prospect before you, and here you are, as down in the
mouth as if you hadn't a hope in the world. What's up old boy?"
Guy turned his back to the window, and leaned against the writing table
with both hands.
"Oh! things have gone a little roughly that's all, and I prefer new
pastures when there are troubles in the old ones. I have been a little
foolish, I suppose, and now I am reaping my reward."
His face grew pitiably serious as he turned to Vivian saying:
"There's only one little matter I am leaving unsettled, Standish, and
will you manage it for me? I cannot do it myself."
"By all means Elersley. Who is he? The tailor or--"
"Oh nonsense!" interrupted Guy impatiently, "it is nothing of that kind.
I have a note here to be carefully delivered, and I would ask you to see
to it for me."
"A young lady eh?" Standish replied good-humoredly, as he took the
offered letter. "I thought there was surely a woman at the bottom of it.
Egad!" he continued under his moustache, "we owe them a long debt of
revenge, as the cause of all our grievous and petty wrongs. However,"
this more cheerfully, "you can trust this to me. But talking business,
Guy are you actually going away?"
"And why need it surprise you so," asked Guy, peevishly, "what are the
railroads for, if not to take us miles away from the scenes we love or
hate? I certainly am going, and I have never realized until this moment
what I owe to the kind friends I have met during my sojourn here. If I
have solved the bitter mysteries of hidden sinful life, I owe a word of
gratitude to some worthy companions."
Here the memory of all he had lost through his own recklessness, rushed
upon him and before his emotion subsided, he had cursed in bitter terms
the false deceitful friends, who had lured him from his innocence into
vice and depravity.
"With goddess-like demeanour forth she went
Not unattended, for on her as queen,
A pomp of winning graces waited still.
And from about her shot darts of desire
Into all eyes to wish her still in sight."
"Are the ladies at home?"
"Yes. Will you come inside?" said Fitts, with his politest bow, as he
extended an exquisite little card receiver towards his visitors.
Then came a few moments of great bustle and confusion, and an
accumulation of seal-skins and brocaded silks was ushered into the
drawing-room of Mr. Rayne's house.
It was reception day for Aunt Jean and Honor, and both were looking
remarkably well in their most becoming costumes, amid their rich
Aunt Jean advanced slightly to meet two ladies as they entered the room,
and "How d'ye do?" passed from one to another, as they deposited their
expensive habiliments and precious humanity into comfortable
"_fauteuits_." Then, while Mrs. d'Alberg tried to sustain a conversation
with the elder and more substantial of the two, the younger lady, though
not exceedingly childish, drew herself towards Honor, and addressed her
Here were people who were actual exclamation points in the social
grammar. Their imposing appearance forced one to hold one's breath, and
yet Dame Rumor, who deals in wholesale whispering at Ottawa, told one,
with her hand to her mouth, that not so many years ago, Mr. Atkinson
Reid was solving the mysteries of existence, inside a scarlet shirt,
antique trousers, high boots and a conical straw hat. Only lately,
comparatively speaking, had he discarded the one-storey frame house, in
a decidedly un-aristrocratic and objectionable neighborhood, where,
nevertheless, fortune was first pleased to smile benignly on his efforts
to keep the old leathern purse well filled, and where his now precious,
airy, nervous, affected daughters first saw their porridge and potatoes.
Things went well in the unpretentious little abode, and by and by Johnny
Reid was able to indulge in sundry luxuries of life, that naturally
belonged to a more advanced stage of civilization than is assumed in the
hut of the ordinary shanty-man or wood-cutter. Years were stealing on,
and Ottawa was growing up into a respectable size, and at last one day
Johnny Reid made up his mind to abandon his rough work, since his
accumulated wealth now allowed him to employ substitutes. With these
glittering coins, that represented so many strokes of a heavy axe from a
strong arm, and so many drops of sweat from an overheated brow, he would
go into the heart of the city and buy finery and style and
accomplishments for Maria, and Nellie, and Sarah, and the old woman
herself as well, and life would bear fruit at last to him, after all his
hard toil and bitter experience.
And this is the origin of one of Ottawa's stateliest mansions of to-day,
of some of society's most dashing heroines, of John Peter's fine livery
and cosy seat behind the best team of gilt-harnessed horses that trot
the streets of the Capital, of the best and most sumptuous
entertainments that are given in our hospitable City, and of the honest
old gentleman himself who from this period must be recognized as John
Atkinson Reid Esq., with a decade of distinguished antecedents that
every one knows without even hearing their names.
Poor Mrs. Reid dreaded the new responsibilities with which her sudden
acquirement of means threatened her, but her daughters fresh from the
most fashionable of Canadian educational establishments, undertook to
supply for maternal deficiencies by checking their untutored mother, the
very many times they deem it necessary, thus making the last epoch of
this ill-fated lady's life, a grand piece of misery and terror.
Just now Miss Sadie Reid is fidgeting nervously with a gold and pearl
card case held within her primrose kids, that are peeping through the
outlets of her brocaded Mother Hubbard dolman. She feels a little ill at
ease beside Miss Edgeworth, who is so self-possessed and unapproachable
to the stylish Miss Reid. The conversation is the same immortal
collection of exclamations and enquiries that one hears everywhere in
fashionable circles in Ottawa.
Miss Reid remarks in an almost flattering tone: "Why you don't look at
all tired, Miss Edgeworth, after the MacArgent's ball."
"I do not tire myself ever when I can help it," Honor says, "and this
occasion came under my rule. I left early and rested well."
"Did you really?" is the reply. "Well, you see, I couldn't have done
that. I was engaged for every single dance and it would have been
'dreadfully atrocious' if I left before the end. We dined at Government
House last night again and to-night there is an 'at Home' at the
Bellemare's, but I suppose I will meet you there. Really it is
'dreadfully distressing' for one to be obliged to go out so much. I am
sure you are to be envied, Miss Edgeworth, to be able to keep so quiet."
"I wonder that you realize how fortunate I am," said Honor calmly, "I
thought our spheres lay so widely apart that you considered my lot as
unfortunate as I do yours."
"Oh! dear no'" said Miss Saidie, "It is 'positively agonizing' to live
as we do in such constant demand; I suppose you will feel it soon
though, now you've come out. You have no idea of what is before you."
"Excuse me, Miss Reid," interrupted Honor, "but I think I have a very
fair one. I have learned already that when a girl creeps into her first
ball-dress she is like a cabinet minister getting into power, she has a
great many troubles worse than trains to drag after her."
Miss Reid found this remark exceedingly funny, and laughed rather
immoderately, Honor thought; but just then Nanette came in with the
dainty cups of tea, and so created a slight diversion in the
As Miss Reid has told the reader Honor Edgeworth had really "come out,"
with Madame d'Alberg and Mr. Rayne as _chaperones_, and had made a great
sensation. She was the same calm, beautiful, composed girl as ever,
though a remarkable unseen change had come over her. If anything, it had
only given more dignity and grace to her bearing, more music and pathos
to her voice, and a more sympathetic and attractive expression to her
face. Jean d'Alberg had not failed to notice it, and with her usual keen
instinct had readily divined the cause, but she never spoke of it. She
grew kinder, if possible, to the silent girl, and was satisfied for the
present to hope for better things.
This bright afternoon, Honor felt more cynical than usual, and the
conversation with her frivolous guests did not at all tend to improve
The Reids had just left the door, tucked into their comfortable
conveyance, when two gentlemen were announced. Honor recognized them as
some of those whom she had met since her _entree_ into society, but she
neither knew of, nor cared for the admiration that was so freely
bestowed on her by them.
When they were seated, Honor found that Mr. Standish was nearest her,
and therefore she addressed herself to him. He could be the most
nonsensical soul in the world when he felt like it or he could talk the
dryest common sense that ever found its way into the wisest of heads,
and thus he made his society pleasant to feather-brains, and _savants_
He was well up in almost every accomplishment. According to the girls,
he could dance--oh his dancing was heavenly, his singing was equally
good, and as for flirting, why he could kill a dozen female hearts with
one of those pleading, dreamy, distracted looks, that he sometimes made
use of among his lady friends. He knew all the genus and species of
small-talk, and when it came to compliments and pretty little nothings,
he was without a rival. He could take his turn at tennis and come off
favorably. He could ride splendidly and skate admirably, in fact, he had
made merciless havoc with the girls' hearts, with all his
accomplishments and attractions, and such a fever of envy and jealousy
and eager gossip as he created among his fair friends was something so
"desperately horrid" (as they would put it) that one could almost hate
him for it, and to tell the truth, many of his rivals, who were quite in
the shade beside him, did hate him most cordially.
This manner and bearing of his, he looked upon as a _passe-partout_, and
there was certainly one item in his character that outshadowed all the
rest, namely his conceit, or self-sufficiency which was constantly
asserting itself in his every look and action.
Vivian Standish was a thorough man of the world--I use the word in its
most literal acceptation. He was one of those cool, keen, calculating,
diplomatic men, who never lose their presence of mind, who never
hesitate, and yet are never precipitate, who always say the right thing
in the right time, and to the right people. No one knew anything of his
antecedents, but somehow, he carried an acceptable sort of reputation on
Guy Elersley had done many foolish things, but foremost among them all
was, his having made a friend of a man who was as obscure and
incomprehensible to him as the most profound ethical mystery.
They got on very well together, however. Guy found Vivian all that one
fellow expects another to be, consequently they soon became fast
"chums." Now this is no light word at least in Ottawa. If you give a
fellow to understand that you are his friend, it means, "thro' fire and
water," if anything ever meant it. Ottawa is one of the most unfortunate
places in the world for some people to live in. It is pregnant with
snares and scrapes for budding manhood, and there is redemption in
nothing, if not in the steady arm or well filled pocket of a friend.
According to these notions, Guy and Vivian had played saviour to one
another on sundry occasions. The last confidence reposed was the note
that Guy had given Standish to deliver in, "Honor Edgeworth's own
hands," before his departure on that eventful night when we left the two
friends chatting over Guy's new troubles and plans for the future.
Vivian Standish had drawn in the comfort of his cigar in rather anxious
breaths, as he walked back alone in the starlight after leaving his
friend. He detested things that puzzled and crossed him, and nothing
under the sun could have puzzled him more than the sudden change that
had come over Guy Elersley. He had been such a happy, careless, daring
sort of fellow all his life; and now, all at once, a gloom of skepticism
seemed to settle down on him, extinguishing the light of hope and energy
which had previously marked his character. This, Standish concluded, was
no meaningless nor ordinary effect, there must be a cause for this
newer, more thoughtful mood. Had he forfeited his claim to the long-
expected legacy of Henry Rayne's wealth? Had Honor Edgworth any thing to
do with it? Perhaps he never answered these questions even to himself on
this silent night. He walked on quietly till he came to a streetlamp,
whose yellow radiance threw fitful gleams around the lonely street. Here
he stopped and deliberately unbuttoning his overcoat, took out the note
that Guy had confided to his care, tore it open and coolly read, word
for word, the passionate declaration held therein. He laughed a low
little chuckle, with his cigar between his teeth, and muttered to
himself, "not so bad by Jove, not a bad game at all." Then without a
trace of shame or compunction on his face, he calmly tore the precious
paper into little pieces which he carefully placed in his vest pocket.
Then he buttoned up his coat, and putting both hands in his pockets he
walked steadily on, still scenting the air with his expensive cigar, and
wearing all the while such a look of lazy amusement as betrayed nothing
whatever of what might be going on inside of those handsome features.
Vivian Standish was a man of impulse and inspiration; but, strange to
say, his impulse or inspiration invariably moved him the right way. I
use right, as meaning personal advantages or victory for himself. His
latest "inspiration" led him to reflect on the possible and very
gratifying advantages he might secure for himself by marrying well. "But
then," thought he, "girls are such diabolical ninnies that everything
which does not come under the shadow of some big church or fat parson is
vicious in their eyes." In spite of this conviction, he had weighed his
chances and possessions against every possible drawback, and, with his
usual conceit, he fancied the road was beautifully clear.
Here we have him then with the self-appointed mission of choosing a
wife. No man had ever held within his soul such volumes of deep
sentiment as he could call into his eyes when the occasion required it,
and no knight of the age of chivalry ever wooed a fair lady with such
winning words and courteous deeds as Vivian Standish could bring to his
aid, when he so wished it.
This is an age replete with valuable opportunities for cunning people,
and they are the losers who cannot take advantage of the world's
susceptibility and weakness, by turning its folly to their own personal
advantage and especial benefit.
Vivian Standish had not a genius for everything alike. He never in the
world could have created himself an apostle of aestheticism, though he
found out later that there was more money than exalted enthusiasm in the
business He never could have bothered about a flying machine, or spent
his time discovering hair renewers or cures for rheumatism, but he could
speculate with the wealth that nature and a little art had given him, in
the gold mines of the comfortable houses that were open to him. With a
little tinge of communism and a great deal of egotism in his nature he
concluded that he had as good a right to the gold and silver of those
gouty fathers and mothers as they had, and he was going to prove it too.
With this insight into his character, which is rather a long parenthesis
than a direct deviation from my story, we can see Vivian Standish in his
true colors, and we can, therefore, easily guess the object of his visit
to Mr. Rayne's house on this particular afternoon. No ordinary observer
could have detected any other than a purely conventional motive in this
He had met Miss Edgeworth, and had solicited the favor from her of
allowing him to call at her residence. Every other young fellow had done
nearly the same thing, and he himself had acted in the same manner
towards many other young ladies. But we, who are permitted to look
behind the screens while this little drama is going on, can say more
about his true motives. His clever way of reasoning had led Vivian
Standish to believe that Guy Elersley had forfeited every right to his
uncle's wealth, and without knowing anything of Honor's own fortune, he
concluded that it was worth a fellow's while to secure her, as the most
indirect, but about the most truly lawful way of getting the "old
It was this determination that had caused him to cast the fractions of
Guy's love letter into the fire when he reached his room on that
eventful night. He excused himself very easily on the plea that there
was no earthly use in encouraging this love affair, when there were
neither hard cash nor good prospects to wind it up with. Elersley had
had his chance and missed it. Now, why wouldn't some less fortunate dog
take his rejected luck and put it to better account? There is no verdict
so prompt as the one a man pronounces over a case of "my own good or
another fellow's." And Vivian Standish made up his mind, in plain
English, to I do "square business."
"Square business" to him meant something very delightful to the average
society girl. Courteous manners, marked attentions, openly expressed
admiration, and slavery almost if she proved exacting. But Standish had
an idea, and not a too comfortable one about the character of the girl
he had to deal with. And so this afternoon, he presented himself before
her with all the charm of a studied negligence which attracts in spite
of one's self. He was very careful about all that passed, as yet he was
only groping in the dark. If he once knew whether she loved Guy or not,
his game would be an easy one, and this was the first problem he set
himself to solve. He spoke to her of a great many things before he
ventured on the subject that interested him most. When he did finally
broach it, he merely asked in a simple sort of way:
"Have you heard any news of--a--our mutual friend, Mr. Elersley?"
The die was cast. He had only this instrument with which to apply his
skill, and had he used it well or not? The sound of this name was the
"Open Sesame" to Honor's heartful of secrets, and Standish scanned her
face with a look of penetrating inquiry as he pronounced it. But men are
fools. Honor Edgeworth was a woman and a woman's face is not an index to
woman's soul. Truly her slender fingers clutched each other nervously
until the golden circlets around them nigh entered the tender flesh. But
who felt that besides herself? It is a woman's own fault if she is not
appreciated to-day, for men will never know from her lips of the hundred
moral victories she achieves daily. Even those ordinary common-place
females who make the dresses and trim the hats of the creatures our men
adore, even these do their inner selves more violence in one short day
than a man endures for a life time. Give me a man for courage, if you
will, for power of action, if you will, but give me a woman with a heart
for an unrivalled endurance and fortitude.
Vivian Standish cool, keen, deliberating, could read nothing in his
companion's face, and thus baffled, he began inwardly to wonder what
would be his next course.
Honor looked at him in the most provokingly composed way and said dryly:
"You may give the word 'friend' a rather extensive meaning for aught I
know. Things have grown into such an exaggerated state, now-a-days, that
a commonly sensible person is lost towards understanding them."
"Which may infer that I am not on intimate terms with my common sense,"
he thought, and aloud:
"I will retract the word if you please, and consider you and Mr.
Elersley as strangers."
Strangers! that was true, deep down in her heart, but with her lips she
"By no means, Guy Elersley and I have ceased to be strangers from the
first moment we met. But this can not interest you. Let us talk of
something else. Do you enjoy the last of the season here?"
"Very much indeed," he replied, but without the slightest warmth, as he
was inwardly wondering at this girl's conduct, so different from the
others. At this stage of his critical distraction, his friend rose and
shook hands with Madame d'Alberg, then advanced to make his adieux to
Honor. This necessitated Vivian's doing so likewise, and if ever Vivian
Standish's hand clasped another's emphatically, it did on this occasion.
He just gathered the soft white fingers of this strange haughty girl
within his own, and held them for an instant in that trusting longing
way that had done him good service many a time before, then he laid them
quietly away, with a look of eloquent pleading in his eyes and a simple
"Good-bye" on his handsome lips.
It was six o'clock at last. The gas was lit, the curtains drawn, and the
familiar and just now welcome sound of dishes was coming from the
dining-room across the hall. Mr. Rayne was expected every minute, and
Mrs. d'Alberg and Honor were loitering the moments of waiting around the
"Well, aunt Jean," said Honor, lazily placing her hand on the back of
the arm-chair in which the lady addressed was seated, (she had chosen to
call her "aunt" since she was to appear in society as her charge), "what
do you propose doing to-night? Do you care at all to go to the
"Oh, I don't know," Mrs. d'Alberg replied, "one place is as attractive
as another for me. You will see plenty of people and nonsense, and you
may as well be wearied all at once with these things as to foster the
spirit by degrees. You will meet Miss Mountainhead or Miss Dash, or Miss
Reid some of these days, and if you can't talk about this one's
'kettledrum' and that one's 'at home' you will be bored to death by
hearing their version of it, so you might as well do one thing as the
other. You'll see that Mr. Standish too, by-the-way! Do you know, I like
him, Honor, it is a stamp you seldom see."
"Really, aunt Jean," Honor was smiling, "this looks suspicious. You
should be blind to your favorite stamps by now. But about this other
thing, since we've accepted we had better go, as you say, boring one's
self to death, or being bored by other people is much the same thing, so
we may as well resign ourselves and make the best of it."
* * * * *
Vivian Standish was puzzled more than ever when he left Mr. Rayne's
house. He had counted on meeting an ordinary society girl, but had been
greatly, though not at all unpleasantly disappointed.
He did not dislike Honor Edgeworth in any way. He felt rather attracted
towards her than otherwise, but he felt uneasy about the little plans he
had cherished and encouraged for so long.
An hour or so after leaving her, he was in his own room, comfortably
installed in an easy chair drawn up to the window, with his velvet
slippers resting on the sill and the graceful clouds of smoke curling
upwards from his handsome mouth and surrounding his languid form. There
is not very much to look at from the window of a Bank street boarding
house, and yet a passer-by at this moment would have thought this
elegant young man was deeply interested either in the dilapidated
representations of "Hazel Kirke" that adorned a straggling fence
opposite, or in the music (?) which a classic looking organ-grinder was
trying to eke out of his instrument to the time of the "Marseillaise,"
to the great delight of the customary crowd of youngsters who surrounded
But Vivian Standish rarely wasted his faculties on such matter-of-fact
things, while there were other projects of a more personal advantage
awaiting his consideration. He was wishing heartily at that moment that
some girls had not one-quarter of the brains that nature had
improvidently endowed them with, but this being a hopeless hope, he
occupied himself in trying to discover the best way in which to deal
with a person so gifted.
A fellow in a boarding-house is a most unfortunate creature, being never
quite free from the intrusion of a host of friends. Vivian felt this
unpleasant truth in all its intensity. His interesting cogitation was
cut short in a little while by the entrance of a bevy of comrades, and
he had to come down and stand at the front door, to flirt and "carry on"
with the girls that passed, and otherwise contribute towards the
amusement of the crowd.
"Come now; what masks, what dances shall we have
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between our after-supper and bed-time."
Perhaps it was owing to Honor's apparent indifference that Henry Rayne
refrained from giving a full account of Guy Elersley's disappearance
from among them. He had insinuated something about the misunderstanding
that had arisen between his nephew and himself, but the subject was a
painful one, and unless pressed for further information, he preferred to
remain silent altogether about it.
Honor had taken counsel with herself and had acted very wisely in
consequence. She assured herself that it was presumption to suppose that
Guy loved her. She had no direct proof of such a sentiment existing.
Their whole period of acquaintance and companionship had been tinged
with romance, but it would have been the same, had she been any one
else. It was almost the certain fate of two young people thrown together
as they had been to "fall in love." Yet he had given her no definable
cause to count on him as an admirer or lover. He had not even gone to
the depot on the morning of her departure, or shown himself in any
marked way, concerned about her; so she resolved to quietly stow away
the items of her past that wound themselves around his name or memory,
and to begin another life strengthened by this new experience. There is
something of a Spartan endurance in a heroic woman. She can carry inside
the fairest face, the battered wreck of the fondest heart, and even if
we must call this deception, surely it is a virtue. She adopts her sad
misfortune as a responsibility akin to duty, and it is a gratification
and a solace to herself to know that she suffers alone and in silence.
Honor did not allow this strange turn of things to influence her life
visibly. She had learned a new chapter of that mysterious volume that
destiny holds open to all men, but it did not seem new to her. She was
one of those people who, from acute observation on those who have
gathered the fruit of a long experience, or from a study of those
authors whom we know as direct interpreters of the human heart, had
acquired that inner knowledge and experience of things which, in its
moral effect on the system, is equivalent to the actual tasting of the
same phases of life. She had prepared herself to meet trials and
disappointments in the very heart of her comforts. What other fruit can
be born of a selfish, scheming world? But she thought she had discovered
a sympathetic bond between her own and this other young soul. Guy did
not seem to her as the rest of his kind. At times, when his better
nature was aroused, he gave expression to the noblest and most exalted
feeling. He had the one failing, however, of being easily led--and there
are so many persons to lead astray in Ottawa city, and so many places to
lead to, that it takes a very strong arm or a very eloquent voice or a
very subtle influence to counteract the effect of evil company on one we
love. Honor could not encourage thoughts of distrust towards Guy. The
memory of their happy friendship always stood between her and her
censure of him, but still she could not cancel the thoughts of all he
might have done and did not do. No word, no sign, no message to assure
her that he had clung to her memory as a bright spot in his misfortune;
and she would lay back in her bed at night, thinking, wondering and
puzzling herself about the strange, mysterious things that could
transpire while this big, revolving machine of ours turned once around.
There was a kind of subdued excitement in the upper front rooms of Henry
Rayne's house to-night. It had been decided to go to the Bellemare's,
and all this extra confusion was only about the toilets. Nanette was
showering ejaculations of the profoundest admiration on Honor, who,
robed in black satin, stood before a tall mirror adjusting her skirt.
It was almost provoking to see the cool, calm way in which she went
through the different stages of "dressing." Her brocaded satin fitted
exquisitely to her slender waist, and ended over her shoulders in a
sqnare cut, whose gatherings of such Spanish lace lay in dazzling
contrast to her snowy neck and arms.
A pair of diamond screws were fastened in her ears, but apart from these
she wore no other jewel. Before leaving her room, however, she plucked
the bursting bud of a white rose that grew in a dainty pot on the window
sill, and with a spray of its leaves fastened it at her breast. She was
ready before aunt Jean or Mr. Rayne, so she stole down to the dimly-
lighted drawing-room to while away the waiting moments in playing
dreamy chords and half-remembered snatches of pensive airs.
Aunt Jean was a most fastidious woman, and dressed according to certain
rules and regulations, any aberration from which was a gross mistake not
to be tolerated. Henry Rayne, for an old man, was also uncommonly
exacting. He spoiled, on an average, a dozen white ties nightly when he
decided on going out, and it was a task to insert his shirt studs in a
way that would satisfy him. When Honor had time to arrange things in the
afternoon, all went smoothly enough; but for him to dress on a short
notice meant a good deal of trouble to his household.
* * * * *
The brilliant light of a dozen chandeliers is flooding the ball-room at
Elmhurst. The walls of the spacious apartment are decked with festive
decorations. The air is heavy with rich perfumes, soft, sweet strains of
dance music float through the crowded rooms, and women, the fairest,
richest and noblest are gliding by on the arms of their interested
partners. Every face is smiling, some are perfectly happy, some are
perfectly wretched, some are perfectly indifferent--but all are smiling,
all look pleased. Even Miss Dash and a few other friends, who look
suspiciously like wall-flowers, smile broadly at the least amusing
remark, just as though they were not being consumed with jealousy and
disappointment. They talk eagerly and gladly to deaf old members of
Parliament and stuffy bachelors, whom they hate more intensely than ever
after the evening is over. Fans are waving in every direction, the
great, broad, heavy "coolers" of the fat mammas, who are just dying from
heat and exhaustion; and the pretty, feathery, spangled things, behind
which is whispered many a coquettish word by the pretty lips of gay
young girls; and the poor, ill-used one's of the wall-flowers, that are
either being bitten viciously at the safest end, or that fly impatiently
through the air, cooling the puckered brows of disappointed belles.
Everyone is there who is "anything." The Bellemares are very well known
in Ottawa. Strangers point to their splendid mansion, situate a little
way outside the city limits, and ask, "Who can live there?" And the
resident of Ottawa tells all he knows. Mr Joseph Bellemare, one of our
great lumber merchants, is the proprietor of that grand residence. He
has plenty of money and comfort, a small family--a marriageable daughter
and two sons--who help to diminish very considerably the family
treasure. The house is finely adapted for large entertainments, having
immense rooms for reception, and dancing and refreshments. Then there
was the handsome library, the conservatory and billiard room, all with
little _tete-a-tete_ nooks and corners in which spoony lovers might take
refuge for hours, without being noticed.
There were lawns and groves, and boats and fishing for the delightful
summer-time. In fact, nature and art had both contributed largely
towards rendering this superb dwelling-place one of the finest, and most
attractive in the whole country around.
Nature however, with characteristic inconsistency, had never intended
Miss Louise Bellemare, for a beauty. But nature proposes, and art
There are those among that crowd of beauty and _eclat_ to-night, who
would not attempt to dispute the omnipotence of Belladonna, or
_blanc-de-perle_, or any other item of the homely girl's toilet
repertoire, for it would have gladdened the eyes of the inventors of
these cosmetics, if they could have beheld for an instant the charming
effect produced, by the skilful use of their Helps to Beauty.
It is now quite on the late side of nine o'clock, and the night's sport
has fairly begun. Young men, pencils in hands are standing before their
favorite acquaintances, soliciting the favor of "at least one 'dance,'
for me, you know." The first waltz is in full progress. The inviting
strains of the "Loved and Lost," are floating through the air, and the
room is alive with the "poetry of motion." Just at this moment Honor
Edgeworth passes from the Reception Room, across the Hall, leaning on
Mr. Rayne's arm, and into the Ball-room. No one makes any pronounced
interruption to their occupation as she enters, but somehow the buzz
seems to abate considerably, and the voices seem to dwindle into a
There are different reasons for this proceeding. The girls' reason is a
natural one. She is new in society, very attractive, and her presence
thrusts itself on them as a warning. They don't see what she wants among
Ottawa _coteries_, born and bred, no one knows where. But the men's
reason is also a very natural one. They are a little tired of
continually meeting the same fair faces wherever they go. A woman is to
them like a good thing that won't wear out. They do not wish to give up
either altogether, but they weary at the sight of them, and so long as
they can substitute them for any other--whether inferior in merit, or
not so provokingly durable, they are happy, with the knowledge of
course, that the other is always on hand when they require it. This
flattering opinion that fashionable men entertain of most fashionable
women is what is richly deserved by them, for women who flatter and
spoil men as they are flattered, and spoiled in Ottawa, can expect
nothing else. A suit of clothes of respectable tweed, or broadcloth, is
the object of more spare enthusiasm than a whole collection of moral
qualities in a rival woman.
This explains why the male element of Ottawa society is extremely
gratified to hail such an interesting acquisition to their circle as
Honor Edgeworth. The other girls are "dreadfully disgusted" to note the
sensation she creates, and instead of looking at her openly, they
pretend to be a million times better occupied while they are peeping at
her behind each others' backs, and over each others' heads. There is
something to look at after all. Honor is surrounded immediately and
those who have not met her before, flock around the hostess, and Mr.
Rayne, in the hope of obtaining an introduction. But Honor displays no
more sign of gratification at this lavish display of admiration, than if
it had been an every day occurrence of her life. She gives each anxious
solicitor a dance without any of the condescending airs of other ladies,
and her programme is almost full when some one brushes through the crowd
and addresses her hastily.
"Miss Edgeworth, not too late am I?"
She looks up and sees Vivian Standish before her, as handsome a picture
as ever riveted any one's gaze. She smiles a bewitching smile of assumed
"What am I to do," she asks in perplexity, "I have only one dance to
divide between two of you," and she turns to another importunate
claimant, a diminutive man, very well inclined to _embonpoint_ who wears
red whiskers and spectacles, "I think you were first Mr Vernon" she
says, smiling graciously, as she confronts his homely face.
Vivian's face was clouding perceptibly when some one laid his hand on
Vernon's arm, and drew him aside, apparently not noticing that he was
engaged, Vivian had a friend around that time.
"Mr. Vernon does not evidently appreciate my partiality for him," Honor
says laughingly, looking straight into Vivian's eyes.
"And yet you would throw away on him, the favors I crave to obtain."
He said this half reproachfully, half eagerly. She placed her dainty
little programme in his hand, and smiled when he returned it, to find he
had written, "Lucky Vivian S." opposite the promised waltz.
I wonder if any realization in life thrusts itself so forcibly upon us,
as that of the flight of time. Our dearest and most precious moments do
not dare to linger with us an added instant, but hasten on with
ceaseless flow to lose themselves in eternity's gulf. Only the hours of
sorrow seem to halt in their flight. The clock never ticks so slow and
measured a stroke as during the night of waiting, or watching. Then the
rules of time become reversed, and in a lonely vigil one counts by
heart-throbs, sixty hours in every slow, slow minute. The very moments,
laden with gaiety and pleasure, that are dropping so quickly into the
lap of the forever from out the Bellemare's lighted halls, are surely
dragging painfully and slowly, for the weary watcher of death-beds, for
the poor and shivering, for the deserted wife, for the orphan child, for
the chained prisoner. This is the mystery of life, this is the
many-sided picture of existence, and yet, this strange world is a
masterpiece of a just and merciful Creator.
If all the year were playing holiday,
To sport would he as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come they wish'd-for come.
From the moment the Canadian Pacific R'y train leaves Ottawa in the
early morning, the interested traveller can easily feast his eyes on the
modest little villages and rival towns, a whole succession of which
greet him from the capital to Montreal and thence to Quebec city. These
juvenile country towns at once thrust the idea of repose upon the city
folks who may chance to visit them. The best of these boast of, at most,
a dozen wealthy, respectable residents, a village street of antagonistic
merchants, a post office, an established inn, a mayor, a doctor, the
minister, and the priest, bad roads and spare sidewalks. One would never
suspect any of these villages to be guilty of any romance whatever,
everybody seems to have attained the summit of human ambition, and life
flows on in an uninterrupted serenity that is fatal to the nervous
system of our enterprising city geniuses. Yet, there have been wonderful
things done among these rural scenes. There are volumes whose title
pages unfold nothing of the mysterious tales that are hidden and bound
up within them.
We must cross the broad green fields and enter the old-fashioned houses,
we must repair to the white-washed church on Sunday and kneel in the
high-backed pews, we must talk over our tumblers to the fat proprietor
of the solitary hotel, if we want to gather the interesting details that
characterize the village. They are the same "yesterday, and to-day and
forever." Nothing new happens, and the old traditions never grow stale.
Between the cities of Montreal and Quebec, on the south shore of the
River St. Lawrence, among what are familiarly known as the "townships,"
sleeps a little French village of the stamp I have just described. Rows
of white-washed houses of the same pattern are to be seen here and there
in the only street it boasts of, and scattered through the broad open
fields are other residences of more or less importance. All the long
summer days the sun glares down so hotly upon the dried straggling
fences and the dusty village road, that scarcely a living creature
animates the scene. The residents close their doors, and leave down the
folds of green paper that deck each small window of their houses, and
abandon the world to sundry pedestrians, who are forced by cruel
necessity into the scorched street an occasional bare-footed urchin on
his way to the grocery shop with a deformed pitcher to be filled with
molasses, or a spare woman or two gabbling at the counters or doors of
the miserable shops that follow one another in dingy succession through
the street. But one is not to judge the place from this cheerless
picture, by no means, for, apart from the neighborhood I have described,
this is one of the prettiest villages in the Townships. It loses its
charms only on the spot where man has interfered with Nature's plans, in
trying to provide accommodations for the settlers. The trees have been
cut down, and the fresh, green forest converted into a dry, dusty
street, cheered all through the hot afternoon by the dreary chirp of a
grasshopper, or the buzz of countless millions of healthy flies that
swarm around the very doors and surroundings of provision depots.
Outside of this, in any direction one chooses to go, the scenery is
attractive and beautiful; the trees are tall and thick and abundant,
meeting overhead, and enclosing cool, shady avenues, which seem to wind
in an endless stretch through the forest shades. Birds twitter and carol
sweetly as they flit unseen from twig to twig of the tall waving elms,
and one would be apt to forget the existence of human beings, were it
not for an occasional interruption of this peaceful monotony, in the way
of a cozy cottage, whose gables peep through the foliage, the lowing of
cattle, or the sweet, clear song of some village maid, as she saunters
through the broad rich fields, with her pail held towards the impatient
cows, and her large plaited straw bonnet thrown recklessly on the back
of her head, or being twisted by its safe strings on the fingers of the
idle hand. Amidst such enchanting scenery one forgets the dusty village,
one loses the hum and buzz in the comforting notes that Nature warbles
to herself. Everything is so cool and refreshing and quiet. The weariest
heart sighs from actual relief when transported to a paradise like
this--and no wonder.
Many, many miles from the village, by the "Elm Road," is one of the
prettiest and most delightful and loneliest spots that nestle on the
bosom of the earth. An almost oppressive silence reigns in the woods,
and nothing seems to stir visibly. You can hear the wind playing its
softest melody through the tops of the great trees, but the leaves
farther down only sway noiselessly in a graceful silence. It might be
too lonely, only for the variety and perfection that Nature displays at
every step and turn ferns and mosses, and little woodland flowers which
never bud outside the shady forest, greet one at every instant, and a
feeling so peaceful and composed steals over the soul that the place
becomes hallowed to those who have yielded to its powerful influence.
All at once, one can perceive traces of habitation, a neat enclosure of
rustic boughs borders the avenue, and the grass on either side is even
and trim, then comes a large rustic gate leading into a gravel walk,
having here and there, under some shady oak, a garden chair or lounge,
and a little table all of the same picturesque rustic wood, then comes a
gorgeous _parterre_ of flowers, which load the air with their rich and
heavy perfumes, and directly behind this is a low broad stone dwelling
that one might have expected to turn upon from the very first. Great
thick vines of Virginia creepers climb the sides and front of the house.
Green and yellow canaries in cages hanging from the verandah, send the
octaves of their warblings far back into the woods. It is as fair a
picture as ever an artist longed to produce on canvas, one of those
dwelling-places which seem to us suggestive of and consistent with
nothing else but exquisite peace, comfort and happiness, and though we
have no reason for imagining it to be a depository of perfect
contentment, we yet repel any idea that might suggest itself to us of
empty cupboards inside those walls, of a scolding wife in those cozy
rooms, or of washing days in that picturesque little kitchen.
The mind naturally harbors only ideas of that lazy sort of comfort that
of necessity comes from such surroundings as these. This is "Sleepy
Cottage," of which all the villagers spoke in enthusiastic terms, and
indeed, it must be said, "Sleepy Cottage" would have done credit to
towns and cities of more popular fame than the humble little village of
the Eastern Townships. Were it anywhere else it could open its beautiful
gates to an appreciative public, while here it slept quietly away almost
without interruption. At present its only occupants were an aged
gentleman and a girl of about nineteen summers, a maid servant and the
old gardener, "Carlo," the Maltese cat, and the birds.
The story, as well as it is known, was that Monsieur and Madame de
Maistre had come from old France fifteen years ago and settled at
"Sleepy Cottage", that Josephine, their little four-year-old daughter,
had been kept in almost total seclusion all her life under the tuition
of a French governess whom they got no one knew where, and that the
first glance the villagers had of her was at the funeral of Madame de
Maistre, which took place when Josephine was in her sixteenth year. Her
extraordinary beauty and dignity had so impressed the simple villagers
at that time that they never forgot it, and though they had seen her but
very seldom in the three subsequent years, the memory of her sweet face
never left them yet.
One cool summer evening, a number of the old male residents of the
village had gathered around the broad steps of the "Traveller's Inn,"
and were disposing of themselves on the inverted soap boxes and low
wooden stools that adorned the front of the public door, as best they
could, one or two paring, with studied attention, ends of thick sticks,
with which they had provided themselves before sitting down, others
resting their elbows on their knees, and holding the capacious bowls of
their black stumpy pipes in their big brawny hands, others again drawing
figures in the light dust that covered the space between the impromptu
seats and the sidewalk, and all chatting in a friendly sort of way,
alike on the latest and the oldest items of interest. Just now, they
were discussing the mystery of the young girl's seclusion at Sleepy
Cottage when they were suddenly interrupted by a crowd of five young
fellows who had crossed, unperceived, the fields leading from the depot,
and now sought admission to the "Traveller's Inn."
The men near the door, as they rose in silence to make the passage free,
looked at each other in mute wonder, and threw enquiring glances after
the figures of the strangers as they crossed the threshold of the inn.
They were five tall, well built, good looking young men, with all the
traits of city life about them. Had a whole army of soldiers invaded the
"Traveller's Inn" at this moment it could scarcely surprise the
spectators more than did the appearance of these young fellows.
They enquired of the thunderstruck proprietor whether he had rooms to
accommodate them for a few days, and he had just nerve enough to tell
them that if they could manage with three rooms, that many were at their
Appearing quite satisfied with this arrangement, they had supper
It was not in immediate readiness, so while the life was being hurried
out of the maid in the kitchen, the new-comers went outside and fell in
with the crowd at the door step.
One of the new arrivals, the most striking looking of all, and with whom
we will have to deal more particularly afterwards, addressed the
reserved sages on behalf of all the rest.
"I suppose we surprised you this evening," said he, laughing, and
throwing one leg over a vacant soap box, just as any of the natives
would have done, "but our being here surprises ourselves as much as it
does you. We come from the McGill College in Montreal, and we are going
far into the depths of your forest here to look for a few week's sport."
The group of listeners appeared a little more reconciled to the
intrusion by this explanation of it, and after a few moments of awkward
silence, old Joe Bentley, who was near the speaker, said:
"Welcome, gentlemen! Ye're welcome to the village, and good sport ye can
promise yerselves if ye'll go the right way about it."
"Then we must hope," put in a second of the students, "that some of you
who know will not be above giving us a word of advice."
"The Lord forbid," ejaculated old Bentley in a most serious tone. "And
the very best spot in the country is the spot we were talkin' of as ye
came along. It's out by the 'Sleepy Cottage.' If ye can get that strange
Frenchman to leave you through his grounds, ye never had such shooton'
an' fishin as there is a couple of miles up on the other side of them."
"Who is the strange Frenchman?" asked the first speaker, as he felt in
his vest pocket for a match to light his cigar.
"He'm. Give us an easier one than that to answer," said Martin Doyle, a
crude, suspecting farmer, who smoked sullenly on the end of a bench.
"How is dacent people, who lived here all their lives, to know who them
invaders is that comes in on people with their quare notions and ways,
never showing the daylight to the child God gave 'em till she's a fine
young woman on their hands, and never spakin' a word to other folk, as
if honest men wasn't their betters any day."
The new-comers smiled from one to another. It is so consistent with the
character of these country people to guard against and suspect, rather
than trust unknown people who come among them wrapped in a mystery of
"This is strange," said another student in a tone calculated to elicit
all the information about the "invader," that the rustics were willing
"Well," said Joe Bentley, in a more christian-like tone, "people has no
business talkin' only of what they know, but we all know that some
fourteen or fifteeen years ago, this man that lives in Sleepy Cottage
now, kem here with his wife and baby, and took up living in the country.
Off and on since that day we've seen the old man himself around the
village, but Madame kept close enough from that day till the day of her
death which happened about three years ago, when she was buried in the
graveyard over, and that was when we first saw the girl ever since the
day they brought her a tiny thing in their arms from off the cars. Dan
Sloan, and some more of the fellows that goes shooting and fishin'
through the grounds, says they saw her a little girl growing up, with a
pinched-nosed, starved looking mamselle for a governess, hawking her
around them grounds an snatchin' her off if they came within a mile of
Here the farmer removed his pipe and gave a long whiff of smoke, then
replacing it in his mouth, he continued "We were all jest talkin' of him
as ye came along, an' if ye wan't sport ye'll have to ask the old
fellow, to let ye through his grounds, and then mebbe ye'll know more
about him than we do ourselves."
The young city fellows did not at all dislike the idea of the adventure
that was in store for them. They were summoned to supper shortly after
old Joe Bentley had finished his narrative, and resolving to enlist the
good wishes of the villagers at any cost they deposited a round sum of
money on the battered counter of the humble "bar," to "treat the crowd,"
they said as they passed under the low doorway into the dining-room.
It was rather a noisy meal, and Sarah's best attempt at ham and eggs,
vanished in the most practical appreciation, that five young college
students can show when hungry. They discussed the recent topic of Sleepy
Cottage over their cold apple pie and strawberries and cream, and they
all decided that it was the most romantic thing in the world, that they
should be just brought to the gates of the prison wherein pined a maiden
fair, through the cruelty of an unmerciful father. They manufactured
quite a novel out of the details, and laid themselves out with a will to
unravel the plot, or die in the attempt.
"I'd bet my bottom dollar," said one student, as he drained his glass of
lager beer, "that ye Prince of Hearts," will be the one to see this,
"Lady fair," the first.
"We don't dispute it," joined in the rest, "he's the devil for working
his way into the favor of women."
Here they all looked at him who had addressed the villagers first, and
accused him of outdoing their grandest attempts in the siege of hearts.
They called him "_Bijou_" and whether it was his name or not, he
appeared quite satisfied with it. He seemed to be a little superior to
the rest, judging by the deference and courtesy they showed him above
what existed among themselves, and he, amiable and pleasant always,
laughed good-naturedly at their words of praise, and little insinuations
of assumed jealousy. They had come down to this quiet village on a
"jamboree," and we all know more or less what students mean by that. It
would be both unnecessary and uninteresting however to give an account
in detail of these young fellows' adventures during their sojourn in the
country; that part alone which affects the rest of our story, is the one
we will dwell upon.
"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
It was a hot, sultry afternoon, and even in the woods of Sleepy Cottage
the breezes that ruffled the thick foliage were not so refreshing as
usual. The door of the house was open, and on two large easy chairs on
the vine-covered verandah were seated Alphonse de Maistre and his pretty
The old man wore large green glasses over his eyes, and his hands were
folded as he sat quietly there, listening to the birds and inhaling the
fragrance of the rich flowers which adorned the pretty garden.
Josephine lay with her head resting on the cushioned back of her chair,
her fingers inserted between the pages of a volume she had just been
reading. Both were silent for a considerable time. At length the old man
"_Es-tu la Fifine, tu ne parles pas?_"
"I am here in body," answered the girl in French, "but not in mind, not
"Always the same," the old man replied, with a tinge of sadness in his
tone. "I thought you would learn wisdom before this, but you do not.
What do you want that I have not given you, except company?"
"And what is all you have given me, beside that? I want what the beggars
in my books have--liberty. You are not young, you are no longer sanguine
and hopeful, while my poor heart is bursting with the fullness you will
not let me spend. A living death like mine's a cruelty, a tyranny that
God and man must condemn."
"Must I tell you again," asked her father passionately, "that you are
differently situated from other girls? Do you not know that at your
birth a woman who had been your mother's enemy cursed you and wished you
trouble, and shame, and anxiety, and that I in my boundless love for
you, will protect you in spite of fate, from such a destiny. The fear of
such a thing being realized has sent your mother to a premature grave.
You are now entering upon the age that is capable of framing your whole
life, and why not reconcile yourself to the belief, that the world,
which is dazzling you with its gaudy show, is false and delusive. It is
a tinsel glitter, Josephine, the wreck of the innocent and good, turn
your back on it for my sake if not for your precious own."
There was a pathos in the old man's voice that would have moved any
young heart but the rebellious one of the girl he addressed. There was a
feeling nigh to despair in his words when he spoke to her of herself.
The real case was, that she was betrothed already to a man of whom she
knew nothing whatever. It was a contract as any other, and though every
discretion was used before forming it, yet Josephine would not become
reconciled to the idea.
This man, chosen by her father, was a distant relative of her own, and
had been reserved for her in order that certain possessions might remain
in the family. She had grown up with this idea, but it was extremely
repulsive to her. She detested and despised in anticipation this man,
whom she had been taught to think of as her future husband, and over and
over she bemoaned the tyranny and cruelty of those who had kept her a
prisoner all her young life.
There are in France, women who betray supernatural power in foreseeing
the future as well as in performing sundry inexplicable feats. They are
looked upon as magicians and are invariably associated with the
influence of the evil one. It had been the fate of Alphonse de Maistre's
wife to incur the inveterate displeasure of one of these persons, and on
the day on which her first and only child was born, Dame Feu-Rouge,
obtaining admission in disguise to the bed-side of Madame de Maistre,
pronounced a fearful malediction on the sleeping form of the infant
Josephine, to be realized in later years, when, to use her own words,
"she would have grown up in beauty, like a fair, ripened fruit that is
rotten at the core."
This cast a heavy gloom over the household of the de Maistres, and
though not an over susceptible, nor superstitious family, they could not
shake off the presentiment, that hung like a pall over their lives. They
decided to leave France, and to seek out seclusion in the backwoods of
the new world, where the preservation of their child would be to them,
an easy matter. It was before they left their native country, that the
marriage contract was signed between Josephine de Maistre and Horace
Lefevre, the children being then four and six years of age,