Part 7 out of 7
"So--the hour has come," she thought bitterly, when she was left alone,
"he has appealed to the only one for whose sake he knows I would lay
down my very life" and out of this bitter reflection, the meaning of the
strange interview she had held with her guardian so shortly before
rushed upon her in an entirely new light. _Now_ she knew what Mr Rayne
meant by the "favor," which involved the sacrifice of personal feeling
and inclination. Yes, _now_ she recognized herself the dupe of the man
she had so proudly rejected still, in all the bitterness of her
reflection she had not felt one reproach against Henry Rayne suggest
itself within her. She knew him too well now, to suspect anything else
than that in some way he too was tangled in deceptive webs. If a promise
from her lips was spoken at his request, she knew that the motive within
his heart was nothing, if not her personal happiness, her future
welfare, or her gratification for the moment. Still, all that could not
cancel the obstinate fact now so bare before her, that in giving her
word to her guardian at the time it was sought, she had given the lie to
her own heart, and had signed the death warrant of her own most sanguine
hopes. Now she must leave her destiny to chance. She would keep her
promise--aye, to the very letter--if nothing happened before this
terrible to-morrow, she would lay her life at the feet of her
benefactor, to dispose of it as he deemed best. Guy Elersley was the man
she loved, the only being in the whole wide world that influenced her
life, but if it were her fate to be the victim of deception then with
the mightiest strength of a womans will will she would cast his image
out of her heart forever. She would live for the man she loathed, a life
of voluntary martyrdom. The struggle would benefit her in any case. If
it were too violent an exertion for her moral nature, it would, in its
pitiless mercy relieve her of her burden of life, and fold her weak
hands over her broken heart forever. If, on the contrary, her moral and
physical strength held bravely out to the painful end, the struggle
would cease after the crisis, and leave her unburdened, unfettered,
hardened, cynical, cold, selfish, but unsusceptible, and incapable of
ever being influenced again by any sentiment or passion, and this
terrible experience promised, in any case to visit her but once in her
While she thought, she remembered the little note Guy had written her
that morning, telling her to let him know when her next meeting with
Vivian Standish should take place. Instinctively she rose up, as if to
leave the room. What could it matter now to either her or Guy whether
they had ever loved each other or not? Was it not the only misery of her
life that her love had come between her and the will of her kind
guardian? Duty is such a sober piece of heroism when one's affections,
one's very heart-core are not its sacrifice. The conscientious can go
bravely forth to the stern call of duty, the obedient follow out
unhesitatingly its command, the virtuous seek it out to accomplish it,
but when apart from these moral qualities the heart stands out, a weak
victim of passion, that passion that clings to the things it loves, that
lives because they live, when a heart thus circumstanced is assailed on
both sides, when love and duty put forth their respective claims, who
sneers because the noblest, grandest heart gives itself up vith a groan
of wretched resignation to the fascination of its love? Men may talk,
pens may write, bards may sing of magnanimous deeds in the abstract. In
theory we are most of us saints, if we had been our neighbors, we would
never have had a fault, but being each one our own miserable,
unfortunate self, we must fling ourselves into the open arms of
temptation, at the same moment that contrition fills our heart for the
Of Honor Edgeworth the reader might expect wonderful moral courage. May
be, he too has faith in the fallacious doctrine of worldlings--that he
believes good souls have not their struggles. The world generally shrugs
its shoulders in the face of the virtuous, and declares that in the
hearts of the good there is no moral struggle equal to that which quakes
the breast of the evil-doer, but to assure itself of its terrible error,
it must play the part of the publican and learn to subdue its passions
under a mask.
Honor had determined upon doing the right thing, but she was not perfect
enough to stifle the burning sensations that were caused by such a
determination. She turned from where she stood and walked mechanically
towards the window. The ceaseless drip, drip of the rain on the frozen
ground had nothing in it to comfort her, it was pitch dark, and with a
shrug and a shiver, she turned wearily away with a long, sobbing sigh
and left the room. She crossed the hall into the library, which was
quite deserted, though the gas burned, and a bright fire cast shadows on
the ceiling and walls around. Throwing herself into an arm-chair before
Henry Rayne's handsome _ecritoire,_ she drew from a tiny drawer a
delicate sheet of note paper, upon which her trembling hand, traced
"My DEAR GUY--"
Then without waiting or thinking a moment, she hastily wrote on--
"I have just received the intelligence that I am to be interviewed
to-morrow morning by Mr Rayne and Vivian Standish. It may be
rather late to tell you now, but I did not hear of it until a
few moments ago. Mr Rayne never leaves his room before eleven,
when he sometimes comes down for lunch--that will probably be
the hour of the interview.
"I see no earthly use in sending you this information, except
that you have asked me to do so, and _you_ know best.
Ever your devoted
She folded it, and sealed it in a dainty little envelope, then thrusting
it into her pocket she went quietly into the kitchen and closed the
Mrs Potts, sitting artistically on the edge of a yellow-scoured kitchen
table, opened her small eyes in blank astonishment at the unexpected
visitor. She was surrounded by clippings and sheets of paper, which she
scolloped quite tastily to fit the broad shelves of her tidy dresser. As
soon, however, as Honor crossed the threshold of her _sanctum_, she
skipped down with an agility that would have done credit to a woman
twenty years her junior, and wiping the palms of her accommodating hands
emphatically in her blue-check apron, she advanced to receive Honor's
"Go upstairs like a good soul, Potts," said Honor, in a hushed voice,
"and walk very quietly, and tell Fitts I want him in the library."
"I will, Miss," the old woman said respectfully, and as she stole up the
back stairway on her errand, Honor returned as softly to the library,
where she stood by the window awaiting Fitts.
In another moment, the door opened, and with his most respectful bow,
the man-servant entered the room. Honor's face was serious, and her gaze
searching as she asked:
"Fitts, will you do a little favor for me, without telling any one of
"I'm sorry, ye'd think it needful to ask me, Miss Honor, I'd rather,
ye'd kno right well, that I'm only too proud when you ordher me, let
alone, axm' me, as if I as your equals," and the poor fellow, looking
half sorry as he spoke, touched the girl's heart.
"Well, Fitts, I must first tell you a great secret, which I am sure you
will be glad to hear," Honor said a little gaily Fitts scratched his ear
and looked embarassed, "Mr. Elersley is back again in Ottawa."
"Och don't I hope, 'tis yerself is in airnist, Miss Honor," the old man
answered between smiles and tears, "is this really the truth?"
"Without a doubt, Fitts, and to prove it for yourself, I am going to
send you to him with this little note, he is staying at the 'Albion,' it
is not far, see him yourself, it will please you both; I do not like to
ask you to go out on such a dreadful night, but the message is
"It will be the powerful queer night, Miss Honor, when I'll not like to
go out on your little errands, and more particular when it's to see Mr.
Guy that I have loved since he was a lad."
"You are a good, devoted servant, Fitts," she answered, "go now, and
don't be long, for you may be wanted."
The man looked proudly at himself as he thrust her dainty note carefully
into his inside pocket, and without further ado left the room.
"But bitter hours come to all,
When even truths like these will pall,
Sick hearts for humbler comfort call,
The cry wrung from thy spirits' pain,
May echo on some far off plain,
And guide a wanderer home again."
Next morning, it was a bright and cheerful sun that streamed mat Honor's
window, the rain had all passed away, and the air was mild and
refreshing. Hastily dressing herself, Honor hurried to Mr. Rayne's door
to ascertain how he had passed the night, but as she reached it, she met
Aunt Jean coming out, with her forefinger on her lip, and whispering
"Sh--sh--" in such premature warning, that Honor looked bewildered as
she enquired the cause.
"He is sleeping nicely now, run off, we must not disturb him, it is such
a natural little sleep," Madame d'Alberg said in a low voice.
"Oh, is that it?" Honor exclaimed in great relief, as she turned
willingly away and followed Aunt Jean down the broad stairway.
They took their silent little breakfast together, and then as Jean rose,
to busy herself about the morning occupations, Honor bundled up a mass
of pale blue wool, which she was resolving into a cloud, and went off to
How long she sat there she could hardly say--every now and then she
discovered herself, with her hands resting idly on her work, and her
eyes gazing vacantly into the space before her; faces, figures, scenes,
were passing backward and forward, as she watched, sensations of every
kind racked her whole being--but it is not surprising at all, when one
considers her in her true light.
People, like her, who have a tendency to intensity in all things have it
most of all, in their loves, and hatreds, and no one can understand the
nature of her emotions, but those who are themselves intense lovers or
intense haters. He who has all his life, loved in a calm, cool,
collected sort of way, has never known the acme of moral endurance.
Maybe, the love that I allude to, is not felt more than once in a score
of years, by any individual of a community, now-a-days love has been
transformed as much as it was in other days, a transformer, men have
invaded that dark solemn forest of the soul, where certain passions
roamed in hungry fury, wild, and unfettered, these have been secured, in
our day, and have been tamed and domesticated; our children play with,
and fondle, these monsters, that were so dreaded in earlier centuries by
gray-haired mortals; let them beware, there is a hypocrisy in this,
since hypocrisy is coexistent with life in any of its phases, and some
day, the petted tiger or lion will not feel like play, his old nature
will seek to assert itself, and then woe to the victim of this terrible
A sudden stamping in the hall outside, brought Honor quickly back to
stern reality the footsteps vanished up the stairway, and she winced
uncomfortably as she told herself it was Vivian Standish. Resolving to
remain where she was until sent for, she re-applied herself vigorously
to her work and avoided further distraction, but what was her amazement
when, a few moments later, the door behind her opened, and Henry Rayne,
leaning on the arm of Vivian Standish, entered the room. A cry of
genuine surprise burst from her lips, as, scattering her mass of
wool-work on the floor, she rushed to her guardian's side with joyful
"Oh, I am so glad," she cried, "to see you downstairs this morning, how
much better you must feel?"
The feeble old man tried to smile cheerfully back as he said:
"I have made this effort for your sake, my dear, whether I go back up
those stairs again with a light or a heavy heart, depends on you."
A shadow flitted over her face, then looking in supreme disgust on the
man beside them, she answered,
"On _me_? Then you know very well that your heart will be as light as a
feather, going back."
"Get me a chair, Vivian, boy," said the feeble voice of the invalid,
turning toward Standish. He moved a step to do so, and had his hand on a
low cushioned _fauteuil_, when Honor rushed before him and laid her hand
on the other arm of the chair.
"How can you ask a stranger to serve you, when I am by," she asked, half
choked with sobs, of Henry Rayne, "What have I done to merit this?"
As she clutched the opposite side of the chair, her eyes and Vivian's
met, there was a flash of contempt and a look of defiant love, and then,
with all her woman's strength, she wrestled the chair from his strong
hold, and placed it behind her guardian. She refused to sit herself, the
folding-doors leading to the drawing-room were partially closed and she
stood against them, toying nervously with the massive handle near her.
When quiet was restored, Henry Rayne began to speak. He seemed to pass,
unnoticed, the confusion of a moment before, and said in the gentlest
accents, addressing the girl.
"Honor, we have come here this morning for the purpose of deciding a
question which, of late, has received very serious consideration from
your friend here, and myself. I am now growing old and feeble, and have
all the indications of an early decay in my constitution. Since the
first moment that you were given me as a responsibility and a grave
charge, my mind has been in a constant worry, lest, in the smallest
degree, I would not render you your due as your own father would have
done. In all matters, I have tried, as well as I knew how, to place
myself in that very relationship to you, and if I have not succeeded I
could never know from you, for you have always been a kind, grateful,
considerate daughter. What I am about to discuss now, is the very last
thing, relative to you, that will abide by my decision. I have, since my
recent illness, considered everything that could assist me in securing
your welfare, before I go, and as well as my eager, though maybe, not
overwise judgment can direct me, I think I have adopted the best plan of
all, it needs only your sanction to complete it and set my mind at rest.
I will not remind you of your promise to me, because, on second thought,
I have learned that to ask you to sacrifice your own heart for my sake,
would be enough to taunt me in the other world, so I will merely appeal,
showing you that with what discretion some sixty odd years of tough
experience have given me, I presume I can direct you now."
The girl, standing motionless by the doorway, looked her guardian fully
in the face; she struggled for a moment, a secret, hidden struggle, and
then answered calmly: "My dear Mr Rayne, do you not know, that such an
appeal as this, is unnecessary? If you have something to command of me,
state it plainly, clearly, I will understand it better. You have, it is
true, guided me with faultless judgment and discretion, you have been
kind, and solicitous and careful from the first moment we lived
together. What is it you now ask in return? What do I owe you for such
There was a faint ring of reproach in the words, as she uttered
them--something which sounded as if she had said "yes, 'tis true you
have done all this for me, but was your motive no worthier than to trust
to these influences, for a power over me in the future?"
A trifle sadder in his accent, Henry Rayne answered, "Do not put it like
that Honor you pain me. It is not a debt--no, no! you have generously
paid me, and overpaid the attention I lavished on you, but now, what I
want to complete my earthly happiness is this." He beckoned to Vivian,
and taking a hand of each, was about to join them, when Honor drew hers
suddenly away, and turned pale with agitation.
"I understand," she said huskily, "you wish me to marry _that_" pointing
in Vivian's face. "Well, as there is nothing which I could refuse you, I
must not refuse you this. It is well you have not asked me to love him,
or to respect him, for that is beyond me, but if he wishes to secure me,
after what he has learned from my own lips, he deserves that I should
wed him, and the consequences of such a harmonious union."
Vivian never moved a muscle; he sat silently, quietly listening to it
all. Henry Rayne interrupted gently.
"You are excited, Honor, and hence it is you speak thus, you will think
better of it later. Do you promise me, then, to accept Vivian Standish
as your husband, showing your faith in my discretion, and proving
yourself dutiful to the end?"
There was a pause of a second, the word was on the girl's lips; one
other moment and her destiny was sealed: but suddenly a cry of
"Villain!" broke through the doorway, and simultaneously, Guy Elersley
appeared on the scene.
"Villain!" he cried, collaring Vivian Standish, "how can you stand there
and hear this girl give up her name and her honor, into such vile
keeping. You are a coward and a blackguard, and I will prove it."
Vivian Standish grasping the back of a chair, stared in furious
amazement. Honor, with delighted surprise on her face, now stood
defiantly up and looked proudly on, and Henry Rayne rubbed his misty
eyes wonderingly, and peered into the face of the new-comer. An
exclamation of great joy burst from Honor's lips.
"Guy!" she cried, "you are just in time."
"Guy!" repeated the old man, "did someone say Guy? Quick, tell me where
is Guy? Guy! Guy!" and with the words the feeble head drooped upon his
throbbing bosom, the eyelids closed wearily, he raised his wasted hands
to his aching temples, and with a long, heavy sigh, fell backwards.
Everything else was forgotten, for the ten minutes it took to revive Mr.
Rayne. Honor, trembling with fright, supported his head on her bosom,
and spoke appealingly to him. After a little his eyelids quivered and
opened, he breathed again and sat up.
"Are you better?" Honor asked, bending over him in great eagerness.
"Yes, my dear," he answered kindly, "I am all right now, but where is
"Here I am," Guy said, advancing a step, "I hope you will pardon the
manner in which I have entered your house, after years of absence, but I
have come, and only just in time to vindicate the wrongs of poor, duped
victims, and to rescue innocence from the foul grasp of corruption."
"What do you mean, Guy?" his uncle asked in curious consternation.
"I mean to tell my pain and my regret at knowing that while you have
forbidden the shelter and comforts of your home to those of your own
blood, who have committed deeds of harmless rashness, you have been
welcoming and fostering with lavish generosity under your roof a vile
man--a wolf in sheep's clothing!"
"May I, as seeming somewhat concerned, ask who this is?" Vivian
interrupted in the blandest tones, laying his arm on Guy's shoulder.
"'Tis yourself" Guy cried, shaking him violently off, "you coward!
"Guy, you mystify me," Henry Rayne said in strange wonder, "pray
explain. Whatever can you mean by such queer conduct?"
"'Tis a painful task, uncle, but I must do it. This man, in whom you
have placed your trust, has foully wronged you. He thrust himself upon
you with his deceiving manners, and you were content to take him thus.
You never questioned him about the past, nor did he care to inform you
of his swindling career."
Honor trembled and turned pale. Vivian's eyes flashed fire, and he
ground his teeth, while Henry Rayne only gazed in a stupid sort of
wonder, while Guy enumerated these dreadful things.
"He was not content," Guy continued, "to shake off that past, reeking
with loathsome and dishonorable crimes, but he brought his knavery
within these respectable walls--he dared to pay his attentions to your
ward, and speak words of forbidden love into her ears, while the crime
of having enticed as young and respectable a girl from her comfortable
home, to swindle her out of thousands of dollars, which she owned, yet
lay unexpiated on the black chapter of his heart."
Guy scarcely pronounced the words when Vivian Standish sprang in mad
fury towards him, crying--
"Liar! slanderer!--your words are false!"
"Pardon me, sir," Guy said, in mock courtesy, "for contradicting you,
but" (going towards the door) "if you will allow me, I will prove my
All eyes followed him, and to their blank amazement, there stepped into
the library from the room outside, a beautiful and sad looking young
girl, plainly but neatly clad, and who was followed by two professional
looking men, who stood on either side of her.
Vivian Standish gave one quick, searching glance at the features of the
young girl, and Honor saw in a moment how every tinge of color died out
of his face, a grey, unearthly shadow crept over it, and his features
assumed a set expression of misery which almost excited her to pity.
"Do you recognize this _gentleman_, mademoiselle?" Guy said, addressing
the girl, and pointing in mock civility to Vivian.
"Oh! yes, sir--I do indeed," she answered in a sweet, melancholy voice,
"it is Bijou--see! he recognizes me!"
All eyes were turned on Vivian Standish. He trembled violently. He
looked up once, while they all stared him so suspiciously, and that look
was directed towards Honor; he saw her clear grey eyes buried in his
tell-tale face. He leaned against the tall back of a chair unsteadily,
hesitated a moment, and then addressing Henry Rayne, said, in a husky
and trembling voice,
"It would not avail me much to try my defence under these crushing
circumstances, Mr Rayne, but at least I can have my say as well as the
others. I admit that in years gone by, I was guilty of many things of
which you did not suspect me, but a man is not supposed to disgrace
himself for his whole life because he has at one time committed
extravagant follies. I thought I had buried my past forever, or I should
never have taken advantage of your hospitality as I have. Guilty as I
was, I could not help being influenced by the fascination that bound me
to your home--the resistless attractions of that girl," pointing to
Honor. "I leave it now, disgraced, condemned, but at least, you, who are
all so blameless, can consent not to crush me entirely. In administering
justice, be a little kind, my misery is bitter enough--God knows!"
Then Fifine de Maistre stepped forward and laid her hand on the shoulder
of the wretched man.
"Vivian Standish," she said, "you have wronged me, inasmuch as a man can
wrong a woman; you have driven my good father to any early grave, and
blighted every hope I had for the future, and though my heart lies
shrivelled and dead where _you_ have left it, _I_ forgive you!"
At these words, the look of hard contempt in every eye, melted into one
of glowing admiration; tears stood in Honor's eyes, though she had worn
such a merciless expression before, and Vivian Standish as he raised his
face from his trembling hands, looked calmer and more resigned, he
turned his eyes on the slight figure standing beside him, and said in a
nervous voice of emotion,
"May God bless you, Fifine, you can never regret these words."
Henry Rayne's feeble voice was the next to be heard.
"This strange, painful news," he said, "is a greater shock to me than
anything else in the world that I could hear of. I have received you
Standish, and treated you as an intimate friend of my family, and had
you in return, confined your deceptions to myself, I might yet have
forgiven you; but knowingly, to extend your treachery to that innocent
and unsuspecting girl, aware, as you were that she was all in all to me,
is a base ingratitude that living or dying, _I_ will never forgive. What
would she have become? blighted in hopes, ruined in prospects for life,
and by my urgent request too, that, she would have been very soon, but
for--you," he said, turning towards Guy, "you, my boy, have saved my
heart from breaking, though I did not deserve it from you. I suppose it
is too late to seek your forgiveness now after I have judged you so
hastily, and punished you so severely, but God knows, I have repented of
it many a time since."
His voice broke down, into a weak sob, and he bowed his head.
"You think too harshly of me, uncle dear," Guy said, advancing, "for I
have long ago forgotten the past; the day I left your house I took my
first step to good fortune, and I have never regretted your severity
since, though it pained me much at the time. It has all blown happily
over now, however, and I have tried in a measure to atone for the folly
of my past, let us learn a lesson for the future from the
misunderstanding, but in every other respect let us forget that it has
"Bless you, my noble boy," were the words his uncle answered, "you are a
treasure, and I am proud to own you."
Meantime, the other two gentlemen, stood watching the strange
proceeding, until Guy, remembering them, said--addressing all present--
"These gentlemen will explain their own presence."
Whereupon, one of them, the most respectable of the two, stated in
brief, business like terms, that "he had been the family lawyer of the
Bencroft's for many years, and that previous to his recent demise,
Nicholas Bencroft had laid information with him, against one Vivian
Standish, for swindling him out of a considerable sum of money, and that
he had come there to see the man identified by the one who knew him
best--it being unnecessary now, to tell him, he concluded, that the
punishment of his crime awaited him," he then drew back to make clear
the way for his companion, who, as he advanced said,
"And I sir, am the person engaged by the father of this young lady,
previous to his death, to hunt up the mystery of his daughters'
disappearance. The whole catalogue of her wrongs and misfortunes being
attributed to you, you are my prisoner, until your trial has taken
"May God help me!" came in heart-rending tones from the bowed face of
the accused man. "It has all come down upon me together," he moaned,
raising his trembling hands to his throbbing temples, then with one
pitiful, appealing, contrite look he scanned the faces of all those
present, and gave himself voluntarily up, a guilty man, a culprit. He
was escorted out of the house where he had shone as a star in the days
of his freedom, out of the spot which held all that his poor miserable
heart could care for now. Vivian Standish, the bright comet of Ottawa's
gay season, seated in a corner of that covered sleigh, on that bright
morning, was a hopeless, ruined man, outcast, dejected, wretched.
Fifine de Maistre, in her sad voice, spoke a touching farewell to Honor
and Guy and Henry Rayne. The holy resignation of her words, and the
Christian spirit in which she forgave her wrongs, had strangely edified
her hearers. Mr. Rayne and Honor pressed her very hard to remain and
share their hospitality longer, but this she gently declined to do, and
with affectionate, grateful thanks to all, and to Guy in particular, she
left the house in company with the serious looking elderly lady, who
awaited her, the last but one of the interesting personages who had
appeared in the closing scene of the strange drama of "a culprits life."
When quiet was restored, and the din of accusing voices had ceased,
Henry Rayne looked proudly up at the manly young fellow who stood before
him, and said,
"Guy, I can never thank God sufficiently for having sent you so
fortunately, in time to interrupt the course of the terrible destiny
that I was forcing on to my poor little girl. A little longer would have
made all the difference of a lifetime--a young life shattered and
crushed in its bloom, and some day _she_ would be justified in cursing
my memory and my name, after I had tried, in blind love, to secure her
unalloyed happiness. I cannot live to return you, in deeds of active
merit, compensation for the good you have done me--that I know and
regret, but in some way I must find a means of acknowledging all I owe
you, my dear boy." Here he hesitated a little, and looking from one to
the other of the young people standing before him, resumed.
"I suppose I am more unworthy than ever, to express a wish or a hope
now, but let me tell you, before I die, of the wild wish that animated
my heart to the very end, the gratification of which, would be the
summit of my earthly expectations."
"What is it?" and "speak it!" broke, simultaneously, from the young
"'Tis this," he said, stretching out his feeble hands, and taking one of
each in their nervous clasp, "'tis to join together both those little
hands, by these, my old, trembling ones, that would so unconsciously
have wronged them to knit them together in one holy link, that I might
fasten, with the last remnant of my lifes strength--that is the old
man's ambition now, the ambition of long ago, re-awakened and revived,
the plan conceived before the clouds of dissension gathered over our
happy home the plan re-conceived when the dark clouds have melted away
into obscurity, and threaten us no more."
The hands thus joined, this time lay willingly clasped together. Honor
did not seek to snatch hers from the light, warm grasp that held it a
prisoner, while Guy gathered in the little trembling fingers into his
strong palm, as the miser does the yellow gold he has long coveted. The
lovers looked meaningly at one another and then Guy, whose eyes were
brimful of unspoken emotion answered his uncle saying,
"You had said you could not live to compensate me for what I have just
done. Now, let me tell you that twere worth a whole life-time of wrongs
and misfortunes to me, if compensation meant _this_" and with these
words he brought his other hand over the willing little captive he
already held in one. "It has been the dream of my life too, uncle," he
continued, "it has been the only hope that encouraged me through weary
scenes of strife and disappointment, and if I can receive it from your
own hand, and with your blessing, my cup of bliss vill indeed be filled
"And you, little one?" Henry Rayne faltered, looking up at Honor through
his tearful eyes.
"I?" the girl answered with blushing, averted face, "It is the most I
had over hoped for. Therein my happiness also dwells."
The old man bowed his head for an instant, and then raised his eyes and
scanned the face of his _protegee_ curiously.
"Do you mean to tell me," he asked in profound astonishment, "that you
have loved Guy Elersley through all these years?"
"That I have," she answered firmly.
"But--" began he.
"I know what you would say," she interrupted quietly. "That a moment ago
I was ready to sacrifice my love, to belie my heart, to crush my fondest
hope--and that is true, indeed. I was a friendless, helpless, orphan
child when you took me under your care, and watched me, and guided me,
and gave me every comfort your happy home afforded, in everything you
have proved yourself the most devoted friend in the world and knowing
this, feeling, realizing this, as I did, could I on the mere account of
natural prejudice, deny you the favor you asked of me so humbly? What
was my love, my ambition, my hope, to my duty towards you, the
representative of my dead father? Nothing at all. I did it miserably,
badly, I know. I clung to my heart's inclination with the very last
breath of freedom I drew, and then when I had trampled it, though so
cowardly, I felt that I had done my very best to repay you your
devotedness and kindness. If destiny has pleased to show us that she was
only trying us, we at least have given proof to one another of our
confidence and love--but I earnestly hope that never again will destiny
play the same game with our hearts."
A low sob broke from the old man's lips. As she finished, he drew her
gently towards him, and in a voice that shook with pain and emotion, he
"Oh, Honor! my dear little one. How could you have tortured your poor
noble little heart like this? What terrible things I must have made you
do unthinkingly? and I dreaming all the while it was my boundless love
alone that influenced me. But believe me, child these feeble, wrinkled
hands would burn heroically over the slowest fire before they could be
raised in voluntary tyranny over you. I would rather far that these dim
eyes became stone blind to the light of heaven than that they should
cast one glance of undue reproach upon you. Aye, and my very heart would
break within me rather than it should foster one sentiment that was not
love for you, and yet, feeling thus, I was driving you to ruin and
wreck. Instinct taught you the terrible truth, and you would blight your
life rather than not suit the whims of a thoughtless old man. How can I
ever look you in the face again? Oh! my dearest child, this indeed is
too much--too much--too much" and sobbing violently, the bowed head,
with its snow-white locks, fell on the shoulder of the tearful girl
kneeling beside the old man's chair. In her gentlest, most childish and
winning way, Honor, brightening up her countenance, said to her
"Well, if you are really sorry, as you pretend, it is not a very good
proof that you love me as much as you say."
At this the bowed head was raised, and a glance of hopeful enquiry cast
on the girl's face.
"Well, it is this way," Honor continued, answering it: "you see, if
Vivian Standish had never been encouraged by you, he would never have
come here at all, and Guy would never have been alarmed about us, and
would not have come back at all, and then, of course, we would never
have all been reunited. I would be a gloomy, grumbling old maid, that
could never be happy, and life would have been painfully glum for the
future, whereas,"--and here the old, care-worn face smiled, as it
watched the good, kind features of the girl--"you brought everything to
a beautiful crisis, by pretending to force another man on me, for I
really don't believe now, you meant me to marry him at all," she said,
laughing outright, and kissing away the remnants of the old man's grief
from his sorrowful face.
"You are an angel of consolation, besides everything else," was all that
Mr. Rayne could answer to her pretty speech, but he clasped again the
hands of the two young people he loved, and in an earnest, pious tone,
"I give you, one to another: may you live to gladden and comfort one
another's hearts, through a long, prosperous and holy life; and
remember, that each time you dwell upon the memory of the old man, who
was foolish, only in his wild love for you both, that he has begged of
God on this day, to sanction this humble blessing by one from on high,
and that the desire for your future welfares, was the very last desire
he had satisfied in this life and now, my children, I will leave you, I
am tired and worn out, and would like to rest. Will you each lend me an
arm, as though no estrangement had ever come between us? Come! forgive
the old man. Come, Honor! come, Guy! 'tis the last time I will ask you
to assist me up these stairs."
"Do not say such ugly, ominous words, dear Mr Rayne," Honor pleaded,
sliding her arm in a fond way into his, and with Guy on the other side
of him, the old man, smiling happily, was assisted back to his pillows,
whence, it may as well be said, he never rose again.
The excitement of Vivian Standish's capture and arrest, with the
unexpected circumstances of Guy's return, and Honor's great sacrifice,
had only served to hasten the slow progress of a fatal illness. For days
after, he weakened gradually, but hopelessly, yet filled with such a
holy resignation and peaceful endurance, as could not help softening the
terrible grief that would have been resistless, had he suffered without
fortitude or hope.
Man's uncertain life.
So like a ram-drop, hanging on the bough.
Amongst ten thousand of its sparkling kindred,
The remnants of some passing thunder shower,
Which have their moments dropping one by one,
And which shall soonest lose its perilous hold,
We cannot guess.
The tired, spent moments of the old year's midnight, were crawling into
eternity, the fierce December wind was sighing out its wearied farewell
over the frozen streets; the thick white frosts were gathering on the
window panes, in crystal shrubs and icy forests; December was howling,
in a spectral voice, the ominous cry of the "Banshee," in anticipation
of the old year's death. It was well nigh the hour of another day's
dawn, but in the house of Henry Rayne everyone was astir. In the old,
familiar home, where we have intruded so often upon happy inmates in
their joy, we now steal an entrance, to witness the gloom, the
stillness, the oppressive silence of an awful grief. There is a wasted
hand lying over the neat counterpane: it is clammy and feeble, there is
a feverish brow, tossing on a downy pillow, parched lips, dim eyes,
shadowy features, are now what we recognise, instead of the good-
natured, smiling face of Henry Rayne, there is labored breathing,
causing the weak breast to heave and fall in heavy sobs, there is the
sound of stifled weeping and half muttered prayers from those who kneel
around his bed. Honor is kneeling at the head, with blanched face,
clutching her clasped hands nervously, while her pale lips repeat a
supplication for him who is dying before her. Guy, on the opposite side,
stands peering eagerly into the face of the doomed one he loves,
watching and waiting for the last terrible change that will ever come.
Jean d'Alberg, kneeling at the foot, with her face buried in her hands,
is stifling the tears and sobs that burst from her weary eyes and
breast, and at a little distance away, the two faithful servants are
weeping and praying over the last of him, whom they had learned to
cherish and idolize.
Suddenly the dim eyes grow somewhat bright, a sweet smile hovers around
the mouth of the dying man, he makes a feeble effort to take the hand of
his little girl in his. Honor sees it, and quietly lays her cold hand in
his, she is conscious of a weak pressure, which almost breaks the bounds
of her heroic endurance. Then the dying glance is turned on Guy, and the
same effort repeated, he too lays his trembling hand in that of the
dying man, beside Honor's, with its last feeble effort they feel the
hand of the man they had each loved as a parent attempt to link theirs
together, when that is done he tries to move his lips, bending low over
him. Honor can catch the words, "Love--one--another," and then the voice
fails, after that, she hears stray, broken syllables, "happy," "memory,"
and "at last."
Guy, taking Honor's hands in both his, across the death-bed, pledges his
love for life in a tone so clear and loud that the dying man can hear
it, for he smiles, and looks at each, and with the half-stifled words of
his blessing, he closes his weary, languid eyes, and his spirit passes
* * * * *
All the toil and worry of life have perished with that last long sigh,
no more work awaits those weary hands, so Honor crosses them
reverentially on the still breast. His dying smile lingered on his dear
kind face, even in death, and people as they came and went wiped away a
tear and said, "it was easily seen the old man had died with an
unburdened conscience." Every one regretted the demise of such an
estimable man, the daily papers came out next morning and evening with
lengthy obituaries and tributes to the memory of one who was known to be
such a valued citizen. The funeral was one of, if not the longest, that
was ever seen in the streets of Ottawa, and every man who joined the
solemn procession was a genuine mourner for the kind-hearted deceased.
People stared and wondered at seeing Guy returned, but they were also
very glad, for he was a universal favorite with those who had known him
Through all her bitter grief Honor had shed no tear, though every tinge
of color had faded out of her face, and her eyes grew wild and vacant in
their gaze. When the bustle, and excitement had all subsided,
immediately after the death of Mr. Rayne, Honor had stolen into the room
where he lay, in the depths of a handsome coffin, sleeping his eternal
sleep, and throwing herself on her knees beside him, she bowed down her
head until her own fair, warm cheek rested against the icy cold face of
the dead man she loved, here she neither wept nor moaned, but in silent,
tearless anguish mourned over her departed friend. She gently chafed the
stiff, cold hands with hers, and smoothed back the silver hair from his
marble brow, there was a load of crushing weight and pain and care down
deep in her poor heart, but still no tear would come to her burning
eyes. By and bye, when she had spent nearly an hour beside the lifeless
figure she loved so fondly, Guy missed her, and suspecting her
whereabouts, came stealthily to the door of the room where their dead
relative lay, it was closed, but yielded to his gentle pressure, and
opened noiselessly,--sure enough, there she was, still lying beside the
dead smiling face, but now she was speaking, in a low, murmuring tone,
such heart-rending words as brought the tears to Guy's own eyes while he
"Lonely?" she was saying, in a long sigh, "Oh, yes, poor Honor will
often be very lonely for her dear friend and parent, she will look for
him in all the dear, familiar nooks where once she loved to see him, but
she will always be disappointed, he will never, never see her nor speak
to her again. Oh, I might have known," she rambled on, "that this was
too much happiness for me--but dear, dear Mr Rayne, open your beautiful
eyes and look at me. Just once again, in the old way--we are alone now,
will you not say a little word to poor Honor?--See how I kiss you right
on your dear lips, like of old, but your lips are so cold, I do not
believe you feel or care for my kiss--"
Guy could stand this no longer, he feared the girl's mind would become
demented if allowed to continue in such a strain; he stole over, and
putting his arms gently around her, he drew her away from the figure of
the dead man--
"Honor," he whispered, "you must come away now, this will harm you--you
look so tired and ill already, you must take great care of yourself
darling,--for my sake, do." Very mechanically she obeyed, and turned
away. Guy felt as if in this mutual sorrow, they had been drawn closer
together than any other tie could bring them; he raised the pallid,
serious face, and kissed it tenderly, saying--
"You must bear up, my darling, for you know what a great grief it would
be to him, to know that you suffered so."
"Trust me, Guy," she answered softly, "I will brave it--but then you
know, he was my father, and I loved him."
"Yes, that is all true, my love, but you must remember he is better off,
and he has left his blessing with us, for all our lives."
"And we will merit it, Guy, will we not, he was so good, so kind, so
"That we will, Honor, I swear it, I will never forget the pledge I spoke
into his dying ears."
"Nor I," she answered, in a whisper.
They left the room together, and Honor stole away to her own quarters;
she saw no more of her dear guardian after that, until the funeral day,
when she pressed the last long kiss of eternal farewell on his cold,
unfeeling lips, that was the scene which racked her poor tried heart
with all the sharpest pangs that grief doth know she fancied, at that
moment her endurance must yield, and her heart break, but she remembered
dimly having been carried away to another room, and when she saw and
felt again, all was over.
* * * * *
Two days after the interment of Henry Rayne, Guy and Honor sat chatting
quietly together in the little sitting-room from whose window, Guy had
caught the first glimpses of Honor, on that autumn evening long ago. In
a close-fitting dress of heavy black, Honor looked more imposing and
dignified than ever: her face was very pale, and there were deep, dark
lines under her sad eyes. Guy too was serious, though handsome and
careful as ever; their grief it is true, had thrown a heavy pall over
the happiness of their new love, but still, each, felt, that it had
served only to draw them still closer together, they were now all in all
to one another.
"You are looking pale, and ill, my darling," Guy said, rising and
throwing himself on the handsome fender-stool at her feet, "I hope you
are going to try and regain your former health and spirits very soon."
"Oh, yes indeed, I intend to, Guy," she answered sweetly, "I can do that
easily, for your sake."
"Don't forget that you are exclusively mine, now," he said looking
straight up into her clear, gray eyes, "and very soon, I want to let
every one know it too." Honor smiled sadly.
"Foolish boy," she said, half in soliloquy, "you will have enough of me
all your life, take your time now," while she spoke thus, she was
burying her gaze in a beautiful little ring, which she twisted
thoughtfully around her finger, without lifting her eyes, she said in
such a serious tone.
"Guy--I hope you have not forgotten, to balance well in your mind, all
the consequences and penalties of the step you are in such a hurry to
take--remember that all is not so smooth and tempting as one sees it
through the illusionary eyes of a first love. After all, we women, are
only human and as likely to err as any one else; let us not then deceive
ourselves, that sometimes in our lives, little thorns will not cross our
path, and little storm-clouds obscure our bright, warm sun--if you have
not prepared yourself for this, it is not now too late--better give in
at the brink of a precipice than risk a fall--"
"Honor--your words are strange--maybe true, but not appropriate here, it
was your voice, your example, that recalled me from the downward path of
recklessness I was pursuing when I met you, I was haunted by your look,
and your words always stood between me and evil, at last I fled, I ran
away from temptation, I sought a new field of action, I worked in it,
ever in the presence of your dear face, looking into your deep eyes,
listening to your sweet voice, success awaited me, I rose, higher and
higher; prosperity lavished her favors on me, I worked hard to redeem
the name I had tarnished, and thanks to you, my noble darling, I have
"You exaggerate a woman's influence, Guy, I admit that there are women
who are grand enough for this, but they are very rare; woman, it is
true, has much in her power, a great deal in her ambition, but to
accomplish all that you say, one needs a loftier stimulant, a worthier
motive, than a woman's love."
"Ah! 'tis not you who have tasted the experience," he answered, "'tis I,
and now, I answer safely, when asked by a less fortunate man, the secret
of my success, 'Go, seek the society of high-minded, noble women, you
will learn your duty, from their lips, as none others can teach it,' and
believe me, Honor, this I know to have been the rescue of many, and you
are the indirect source of all this good. If then, I have learned so
much as a stranger to you, is it likely I can ever regret the fortunate
step that will bring me under the immediate guidance of your hand and
heart? Ah no! Honor, I will never again know what regret is."
"So be it," she answered seriously, looking into the fire, "but why I
spoke, is, because so many, in fact nearly every one, enters the
marriage vocation now-a-days, as though twere a trifling risk, as though
to a woman it were not fraught with the sublimest responsibilities it is
possible for the noblest woman to assume, as though it were indeed,
nothing more, than the gratification of having secured a husband, the
fuss of an elaborate trousseau or the _eclat_ of a wedding ceremony. Why
are our cities so plentiful of sin and shame, and wrecked youth, if not,
because of women who never considered the serious importance of their
vocation as mothers, who were unworthy their title of wives, who tired
of their self-assumed duties. If any of these destinies awaited me, Guy,
I would rather die to-night, than risk them--the thought makes me
"You, Honor?" he said, viewing her with very evident admiration, "such a
destiny as that for _you,_ you are jesting, for since you can save, and
reclaim others, you know, you are above every taint of evil yourself."
"You still persist in your obstinate view, eh?" she said, smiling.
"Well, remember, I warned you in time. I hope there will never be cause
for regret in the future."
It was growing late as they sat there talking quietly. The sun-streaks
vanished from the window sill; the dark, grey shadows of twilight began
to steal around them, but they scarcely heeded the change. They loved
one another now with that pure and ardent love which finds all
satisfaction, and all comfort in it's own existence. They had not shown
their attachment in wild enthusiasm or showy demonstration, but it is
not the largest flames that burn the most intensely. The love that lies
quietly, unspoken in the heart, the love that endures in silence, that
strengthens in solitude, that thrives in hope, is the truest and
holiest, and most exalted love of which the human heart is susceptible.
Such love never dies. As it has lived, so there comes a time, sooner or
later, when the heart's dream may safely float on the surface of the
deep, honest eyes, and the heart's desire flow in fitting terms over the
unsullied lips. Such a love invariably brings its own reward.
The darkness had nearly spread its thickness from ceiling to floor, when
Jean d'Alberg put her head in at the sitting room door, and exclaimed,
"Well, upon my word; such 'two spoons' I never did see in all my life!"
Both young people looked up and smiled.
"If you'll please to substitute two spoons for _tea_-spoons you may come
to the dining-room now, for tea is quite ready," she said, disappearing
out the doorway again. Hand-in-hand Guy and Honor rose, and went out to
patronize Aunt Jean's comfortable table.
Three months after this, on a wild March morning, Guy Elersley and Honor
Edgeworth became man and wife. It was a very quiet little wedding in the
early, early morning, without any guests or spectators save the priest,
who tied the marriage knot, Dr. and Mrs. Belford, of New York, Madame
d'Alberg and Anne Palmer, or "Nanette."
There was a tempting breakfast for the littie party after the ceremony,
to prepare which, good Mrs. Potts had put the very best of her abilities
to the test, and before noon of the same day, Honor and her husband,
with Nanette and Aunt Jean, were rolling along to their new home.
Mrs. Potts and the faithful Fitts followed later in the season with the
furniture and belongings, and all were established in a home full of
pleasant distractions and promising happiness but under the same old
management as ever, and bound by the same old ties of long ago.
Ottawa began to miss Henry Rayne and his household, and many a word of
kind remembrance was uttered as a friendly tribute to their memory.
The wonderful story of Vivian Standish's disgrace never found its way in
detail into the gossipping circles of the capital, although there were a
few who shook their heads and winked their eyes and affected to know all
Josephine de Maistre had gone back to the peace and comfort of her
seclusion, after the critical interview, and no one of Mr. Raynes
household had betrayed the secret. There were only a few little
unavoidable words afloat, by which the curious public of Ottawa could
surmise why Honor Edgeworth had so coldly rejected her handsome suitor
at the last moment, and why Guy Elersley had come back in the nick of
time, to be reinstated in his uncle's favor.
Honor was the recipient of many dainty notes of well-worded
congratulations, and the sweetest sounding--like Miss Dash's and Miss
Reid's--were those whose writers envied with a great bitterness the luck
of Henry Rayne's _protegee_.
I need not follow the course of events farther than this, although
strongly tempted to tell of certain stylish weddings that followed this
one in busy succession. My pen would be kinder, if it might, than
merciless. Fate to my other heroines, who are threatened to remain
"fancy free" for a deplorable number of years to come, and after
The married life of Honor Edgeworth could not but be consistent with her
single life. In peace, happiness and prosperity, and in the enjoyment of
health, wealth and mutual devotedness, we leave our worthy hero and his
May our destinies,--as they unroll themselves from the scroll of time,
be as promising, as salutary, and as well deserved as theirs.