Part 1 out of 7
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OTTAWA'S PRESENT TENSE,
"An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told."
A. S. WOODBURN.
Entered according to Act of Parhament of Canada, in the year one
thousand eight hundred and eighty-two, by A S WOODBURN, in the Office of
the Minister of Agriculture and Statistics at Ottawa.
In these days of plenty, when books of every subject and nature have
become as commonly familiar to men as the blades of grass by the
roadside, it seems superfluous to say any word of introduction or
explanation on ushering a volume into the world of letters; but, lest
the question arise as regards the direct intention or motive of an
author, it is always safer that he make a plain statement of his object,
in the preface page of his work, thus making sure that he will be
rightly interpreted by his readers.
In the unpretending volume entitled "Honor Edgeworth," or "Ottawa's
Present Tense," the writer has not proposed to make any display of the
learning she has acquired by a few years' study, and she would therefore
seek to remove, in anticipation, any impression the reader may be
inclined to harbor, of her motives having been either selfish or
The world of art and science is already aglow with the dazzling beauty
of the genius of her many patrons,--the world of letters has in our day
a population as thick as the stars in the heavens, or the grains of sand
on the beach--and hence it is that rivalry is almost a _passe_ stimulant
in this sphere; the heroes and heroines of the pen aim at individual,
independent and not comparative, merit. In nine cases out of ten, the
author of a work, apart from the gratification it gives himself to
indulge his faculties, and whatever influence for better or worse his
opinions may have, in the political social or religious world, knows no
In "Honor Edgeworth" the sole and sincere motive of the authoress has
been to hold up to the mass the little picture of society, in one of its
most marked phases, that she has sketched, as she watched its freaks and
caprices from behind the scenes.
Ottawa, in this work, is taken merely as a representative of all other
fashionable cities, for the simple reason that it is better known to the
writer than any other city of social repute. Her object in publishing
the volume at all, if not clearly defined throughout the work, may be
discovered here: it is primarily, to attract the attention of those who,
if they wished, could exercise a beneficial influence over the sphere in
which they live, to the moral depravities that at present are allowed so
passively to float on the surface of the social tide. It would with the
same word appeal to the minds and hearts of those women who are
satisfied to remain slaves to the exactions of an unscrupulous society,
at the sacrifice of their most womanly impulses, and their noblest
energies; and would also remind some reckless sons of Ottawa, of how
miserably they are contributing towards the future prosperity of their
country, by adopting, as the only aim of their lives, the paltry
ambition of an unworthy self-indulgence.
The predominant feeling throughout the entire composition has been one
of pure philanthropy, as the authoress desires to benefit her
fellow-creatures, in as far as it lies in her very limited power. The
book has not been composed with any other ambition than the one
mentioned; it aspires to no position on the scroll as a literary work of
merit; it is going forth clad in its humble garment of deficiencies and
faults, to perform, if possible, the little mission appointed it. When
it falls into the hands of an impartial reader, it asks only the
reception and appreciation it merits, in proportion to that given by one
another to society's patrons,--in other words, it would ask to be dealt
with as generously as the world's sycophants deal with the faults and
foibles of their fashionable friends.
Any imaginative person, choosing to use his pen, knows full well that
the sensational department of letters, in our day, affords a freer and
fuller scope than has ever been tolerated before; it is therefore left
to the author's own choice to secure his favorites, numerously and
easily, if he but pay attention to give his work the exact tinge of the
"_couleur locale_" which predominates in the spot where his plot is
laid; but because the eye of the critic has become familiar with such
unworthy productions as these, it must scan with more eager justice any
pages which are a happy exception to this miserable reality; it must not
hesitate to discern whether the motive has been merely to arouse
emotional tendencies, by clothing life's dangerous forms in unreal
fascinations, or (where the author's hand, guided by his unsullied
heart, has taken up the quill as a mighty weapon) to preserve or defend
the morals of his country.
Let not the over-sinister reader censure the writer of "Honor Edgeworth"
because she has appeared to him to subject to a merciless criticism,
society in several of her moods; her object has not been to dwell upon
the good points of her subject, for she knows too well that they will
never be neglected; it is the drawbacks and the failings of the pampered
goddess, Society, that need to be borne in mind and carefully dealt
with, and unfortunately, in our day, her enamored victims voluntarily
blindfold themselves to her evil influence, and extravagantly magnify
the extent of her good.
Without another word of justification, therefore, does the authoress of
this little work, send out her simple, humble donation towards the
social refornation that is so sorely needed in our day.
Whether the seed be sown on fertile or on barren ground, time alone, the
unraveler of all hidden truths, will tell; coming years will break the
secret to the authoress as she would want to know it, in the meantime
she makes her most respectful curtsey to the world of readers, wishing
her humble effort a _bon voyage._
"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him, that nature might stand up
And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN"
It is night! Not the cold, wet, chilly night, that is settling down on
the forlorn-looking city outside; not the cheerless night, that makes
the news-boy gather his rags more closely about him, and stand under the
projecting doorway of some dilapidated, tenantless building, as he cries
"_Free Press_, only two cents:" not the awful night on which the gaunt
haggard children, who thrive on starvation, crouch shiveringly around
the last hissing fagot on the fire-place, with big, hungry eyes
wandering over the low ceiling and the mouldy walls, or resting
perchance on the wet, dirty panes, with their stuffings of tattered
clothing, or gazing in a wilder longing still, on the bare shelves and
the empty bread-box: Oh no! There are no such nights as these in
reality; such a scene never existed out of the imaginations of men;
there are no cries rending the very heavens this night for bread while
handfuls are being flung to pet poodles or terriers. There are no
benumbed limbs aching in the dingy corners of half-tumbled down houses,
no wrinkled, aged jaws chattering, no infants moaning at their mother's
breasts with cold, while many a pampered lady grows peevish and
irritated, if Dobbs forgets the jars of warm water for the end of her
cosy bed. Merciful God! and _this_ is to live! But no! _this_ is to
I said it was night, so it was, but the heavy curtains were drawn, the
gas was lighted, the grate-fire roared up the chimney, the lounge was
supplied with its cushions, the _fauteuil_ was drawn up to the
fender-stool, the decanter and glass stood on the silver salver and in
his velvet slippers and embroidered cap, Henry Rayne smoked the "pipe of
peace" before his cheerful fire. As we intrude upon him in his
sanctuary, he lays down his meerschaum, stretches his toasted limbs, and
extending his hand touches the little silver bell on the table beside
him; simultaneously, good old Mrs. Potts' slippers clap up the basement
stairs, and her head popping in at the door, betrays her face full of
broad smiles as she utters her well learned words of announcement.
"Is't annything ye'd be wantin sur?"
"Yes Potts," Rayne answers, still lying back among his crimson cushions,
"Go and ask Fitts if he called for the mail at my office to-day. He
knows what his duty is when I am not well enough to be stirring"
"Och, doan't fret Misther Rayne sur, shure he did bring the little
bundles, ivery wan o' them, an' it's meself jest knows whare to lay the
palm o' me hand on 'em this very minit 'idout troubln Mr. Fitts at all,
at all," and away she darted again on a clatter down the inlaid passage
to the letter box, and gathering up the contents, brought them back to
her master's sitting-room. She was eyeing them closely as she laid them
down beside him, exclaiming half audibly as she did so "Well now thin:
that I may niver die iv it isn't jest the quarest thing in life!"
"What is that, Potts?" Henry Rayne asked good naturedly. "Well, yer
honor," began his confiding old servant shyly, "I larned to do many's
the nate job in me day, but if gettin' th' inside o' these in, 'ithout
tearin' th' outsides don't bang all iver I larnt, my name's not Johanna
Potts," and as she spoke she looked curiously at the bundle of letters
before her. Potts' good sayings were never lost on her generous master,
and this was no exception; he leaned back on his chair and fairly shook
with laughter. "Why Potts:" he said at last, "You don't mean to say you
never saw envelopes before they were sealed, do you?"
"Faith it's not the only thing I've lived to this 'ithout seein" Potts
"Well, I must show you Potts," her master said kindly, and there and
then he took the trouble to explain to good ignorant Mrs. Potts how "th'
insides were got in 'ithout tearin' th' outsides," and greatly satisfied
with her new information, she clattered off down stairs, shaking her
head all the while, and repeating absently to herself "Well now, there's
nothin' can bate 'em, nothin' at all, at all."
As soon as Henry Rayne was alone again, he poked the now smouldering
fire into a bright blaze, drew his chair close to the table and began in
a business-like way to break the seals of his letters and packages and
as he sits in his cosy room, with the gas light falling on his pleasing
face, we will take the liberty to sketch his form and features in their
most natural state. They are those of a stout, well built, good humored
sort of man, of about fifty, with just enough of the "silver threads"
among his curly black locks to show that he had met with a little of the
tear and wear of life--just a few lines of sadness on his clean shaved
face, but for all that, looking the jolly, good sort of fellow that
everyone acknowledged him to be, with a tender heart and a ready hand
for the unfortunate, always honest and upright, yet thoroughly practical
and business-like in all his undertakings. Henry Rayne was descended
from a good old English family, whose name he bore proudly and
honorably, and many an interesting anecdote he was wont to tell at his
dinner table of the "Stephens," "Edwards," and "Henrys," of the bygone
generations of "Raynes."
With his private life was connected a sad little secret. He had been a
young man in his day, and the charms of the weaker sex had not fallen
vainly on his susceptible soul, oh dear no! Henry Rayne had loved once,
earnestly and well, and had offered his proud name and comfortable
fortune to the object of his devotion, but though he, to day, was the
same hale hearty Henry Rayne of the past, the young bud he had cherished
so fondly, lay withered in the churchyard far away in old England. Death
had come between them, and in the grief that followed, Rayne outlived
his susceptibilities, preferring to dwell fondly on the memory of the
old tie, than to reopen his heart to any new appeal. But a day came when
Henry Rayne had to incline his ear again to the winning voice of a
woman, when his forced indifference had to give place to the old warmth
and the old enthusiasm, when the withering heart revived and bloomed
afresh under the tender influence of a woman's smile, a woman's care and
a woman's sympathy. Of the causes of this happy revival we will have to
deal in the course of our narrative. Let us return to the scene by the
fireside where Henry Rayne sits opening his letters.
Three or four dry-as-dust laconic productions, of no earthly interest to
anyone but the unromantic writers, one formal note soliciting a generous
subscription to an hospital fund, two postal cards, one begging his
patronage towards the tailoring department of an up-town dry goods
store, and the other notifying him of a meeting of prominent citizens to
be held in the City Hall, a couple of newspapers and legal documents,
and there remained still two letters, less formidable looking, less
business-like than the rest.
As he tore open one of these he chuckled a low laugh to himself,
"It's Guy, the rascal, I suppose he has just been dunned for some little
account that requires immediate payment, it must be some mercenary cloud
that hangs over him." He was right, it was only another of these little
periodicals that Guy Elersley was accustomed to "drop" his uncle, mainly
to ask after his health and welfare, generally sliding in a P. S. which
explained the last difficulty in his balance account with the tailor or
boarding-house keeper; but Mr. Rayne made no objection, he never tired
of indulging this handsome nephew of his, for besides being of an
upright and affectionate disposition, his uncle loved him as the only
child of a favorite deceased sister, since whose death, which happened
when Guy was a mere child, Henry Rayne had been at once a kind,
indulgent uncle and a just solicitous father to the boy.
But this particular letter which Mr. Rayne now glanced over, had another
object besides the post-script and the uncle's health.
"I write so soon after my last," he says, "to tell you that I met a
gentleman in the Windsor House the other night who interested me for a
full hour in an account of an old friend of yours, this fellow's name is
Orbury, it appears he was in Europe some years ago and was one of a
company of card players one evening in a hotel at Dublin, when, out of a
conversation of miscellaneous details, came a very jeering remark, made
by some one present, relative to some rascally act under discussion. 'It
is worthy' said the speaker 'of a man named Rayne, whom I blush to own
was once a school-fellow of mine.'--But the words were scarcely uttered
when some one beside the speaker brought the back of a sinewy hand a
little forcibly across his face, telling him at the same time to measure
the words he dealt out on an honorable man's name. Of course a scene
ensued, everybody present was of respectable standing and the thing
assumed a serious look. Not to interrupt the game, the two antagonists
left the room to settle their difference elsewhere, and everyone
wondered who the ardent defender of the man 'Rayne' could be.
"After a while the interesting unknown returned holding his handkerchief
to a wound in his temple which bled profusely, and having apologized to
those present for the interruption he had caused, he proceeded to inform
them that Henry Rayne stood in such a relation with him, as justified
him in silencing any man who took his name in jest; the little wound he
had just received, he thought was well earned, when he knew he had the
satisfaction of horse-whipping the meanest man in creation, 'for any
other offence, gentlemen' said the stranger 'I could not lay hands on
him, for "he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled" but to pronounce my
friend's name in a slanderous lie, I could not endure. Perhaps,' he
continued, 'it is like kicking a man when he's down, to tell you now,
gentlemen, that the fellow who had just maligned an honest man was once
thrashed within an inch of his life by this same Henry Rayne at college,
for a cowardly, disrespectful deed of his towards some lady friends of
ours. The hatred born of the moment that he lay in the dust of the
college yard, with the finger of scorn raised at him from every hand,
has never flickered in its steadiness. As you see, he thought to gratify
himself somewhat by abusing this gentleman when he saw no friend of the
absent one near, but he will likely look the next time before he speaks,
and now,' said he, taking his hat, 'once more I apologize and express my
regret at having been forced to disturb you, but I feel that you will
easily forgive me under the circumstances,' and dear uncle, what do you
think, but every man there shook him by the hand and stroked him on the
shoulder, speaking his praises loudly and all they knew of the
chivalrous stranger was that he was a transient guest at the house, who
was passing through Dublin on his way farther south, and that his name
was 'Edgeworth.' So is this not an exciting piece of news, dear uncle;
think while you are living placidly in America, your wrongs are being
enthusiastically righted in the old world."
Henry Rayne laid down the letter and looked steadily into the fire. What
a torrent memory had let loose upon him! he lived the old years all over
again, he saw the dear familiar scenes buried in the half-burned coals,
the smiling associations of the past. "Poor Bob" he said, "and I have
never seen him once in all these years, to think he should have stood by
me now as he did that day at college when I punished that rascal
Tremaine. How I wish I could find him out! good honest friend that he
is, can I ever repay him, I wonder, for this noble action done me?" Here
Rayne lost himself in a long reverie, he went over the days of his
boyhood again, and as he thought, a smile half sad stole over his face,
and in the end a tear was actually glistening in each eye. It was the
old old story over again, memory weeping over dead joys, experience
sighing for the happy long ago. The same influence was upon him now as
guided the pen of Blair when it wrote "How painful the remembrance of
joys departed never to return," and as inspired Byron when he sighed
"Ah, happy years! once more who would not be a boy?"
We may wonder how long Henry Rayne would have sat motionless in his
chair by the fireside, with his inclined head resting on his hand, while
he brooded over the years of his life and clasped anew in their old
warmth, hands that had long grown cold, either in the gloominess of
death, or for need of the responsive touch, from those that were
extended to them in far-off climes; but as the clock struck eleven Fitts
appeared in the doorway, breaking the spell by asking his master if he
"need replenish the grate before retiring?" "Yes--No," replied Mr.
Rayne, "you may go Fitts, I want nothing else to-night."
Drawing a long sigh, he gathered up the scattered letters and was about
to consign them to the flames but in turning to do so, he knocked his
arm violently against the back of his chair, dropping them all again at
his feet. Stooping to gather them, he noticed for the first time the
heavy letter with the foreign post-marks and large legible hand-writing
which, had it not been for this timely accident, would have been thrust
unconsciously into the fire, thus forcing our narrative to close here,
but instead he raised it hurriedly, throwing the rest back on the floor,
and scrutinized it with a searching, confused look, but the more he saw
it the more it puzzled him, he was evidently in the dark: finally he
tore it open and readjusting his gold spectacles, straightened out its
creases and began to read.
It was a very long time afterwards, when the paper dropped from the
cold, trembling hands of Henry Rayne; a sort of stupor had been creeping
slowly over him while he read; now he had finished the last word but he
did not move, the coals had fallen to ashes, the wind had risen and
howled around the house, the room had grown chilly and damp, the rain
lashed in huge drops against the panes, but Henry Rayne saw not, felt
not, heeded not, he was far far away by the side of an esteemed friend,
he was swearing a vow of eternal friendship, and was accepting gladly,
gratefully from his hands a precious charge, a weighty responsibility--
how could he hesitate? he was pouring out all the consolation and
sympathy of his ardent soul to the man he had loved as a boy, and he
never felt the chill that was stiffening all his joints, he never heeded
the ceaseless patter of the dreary rain. The clock had stopped and the
fire had gone out, and still he sat crouched in his chair, with the
strange letter lying listlessly between his fingers.
What a queer phase of life was dawning upon him! what a strange mission
was coming to him from over the seas! what freak had destiny taken to
send him his nephew's letter with its interesting detail, and this other
one, on the same night! Guy's letter brought back an old friend in the
freshness and vigor of his youth, with hand uplifted to defend _him_,
this other one revealed the same dear friend, but worn and wasted from
premature age, with the daring hand laid quietly on his breast, sleeping
the last long sleep--yes; this puzzling letter had been traced by the
feeble hand of Robert Edgeworth and had been forwarded to Henry Rayne at
his death. It contained an anxious, serious request. It asked of Henry
Rayne to open his heart and home, to the only child of an old friend, to
father an orphan girl for the sake of "old times," and the happy "long
ago." It would not have meant much for some others, but it seemed the
greatest of all responsibilities to Henry Rayne, who had become an utter
stranger to the female sex, and who had settled down in an old
bachelor's home for the rest of his life. He tried to think it all out,
but the fragile form of a young, beautiful girl, glided between him and
his thought, and he saw upon her face the sweet, sad smile, of a
parentless child pleading for protection. He was lost--he was dreaming;
he never stirred for hours, until the dawn streaked in between the drawn
curtains, giving the room an unnatural look, with its glare of gas-light
and the straggling rays of the misty morning's sun crossing one another,
until "Potts" stole down with her slippers under her arm, and in her
bewilderment at the sight of the gas-light, put her head in at the door.
When she saw her master's firm, set face and vacant eyes, and the
letters laying around the floor, her heart gave a bound, and she
Henry Rayne raised his head, rubbed his eyes, and tried to stretch his
limbs, now numb with the damp dullness of the night. Potts had run to
him and was asking the "matter," with dilated eyes and anxious voice.
"Don't be afraid, Potts," he said at last, "I have been reading a very
very strange letter, and I forgot the hours, I will go and lie down now;
don't make any fuss about it, and I'll tell you the important news after
Poor Potts went off to the kitchen shaking her head as usual, and
murmuring to herself all the while, such exclamations as "Well, well
now." "That's quare now." "Well to be sure." It was with her brain quite
in a whirl that she went about her morning duties, wondering very much
what could have come over her master, to make him forget to go to bed.
When Fitts came in at the back door, with an armful of wood, Mrs. Potts
could not conceal her gratification at having been the first to discover
the secret, and she rattled on (to herself, as it were) with her back
turned to Fitts, "Well shure 'tis the quarest thing in life--all through
the night, too; dear, oh dear! Such a life's enough to turn one gray in
"What have you there all to yourself now, dear Mrs. Potts," came from
Fitts as he flung the wood into the box, "come now, I heard you, what's
throublin', what's inside your purty border this time, your mind I
"Be off with you now mister Fitts; 'tis other people's minds that's
bothered, an' I'm only sorry for it: but y'ell know soon enough; the
master 'ill tell ye when he sees fit, and ye can be preparin' for it
"Well now, that's funny," says he. "How did _you_ come to know anything
since last night?" and there was a suspicion of jealousy in his voice,
"I left the master meself the last thing, last night, an' he's not up
this mornin' yet, so what are ye dhrivin' at?"
"I know what I know," said the irritating Potts, "and I'm sorry I can't
tell ye but its a saycret yet awhile; be patient."
"Who wants to know it anyway?" said Fitts, who was quite vexed now, "I'm
sure _I_ don't," and he went out with a slight intimation that he had
securely closed the door behind him.
At nine o'clock Henry Rayne came downstairs, looking tired and pale, and
instead of his usual hearty breakfast, he merely drank a cup of warm
coffee. He had just finished this, and was balancing his spoon on the
edge of his cup, as he cogitated upon the strange mission that had been
thrust upon him, when Potts came in to serve his "second cup," but
instead of this, he bade her summons Fitts, that he had something to
tell them both. When a few moments later Henry Rayne turned to confront
his servants, who stood expectant before him, his troubled face and
serious air made them start perceptibly; in an earnest tone he said,
"I have received an important letter from a friend of mine, who has died
since the writing thereof; he has entrusted me with the care of his only
child, and to comply with his dying request I must make immediate
preparations to leave home, for I have a long way to travel before I can
accomplish his desire; I therefore want you to understand that I may be
a very long or a very short while away from home, but I wish you both to
serve me as faithfully on this occasion as you have on all others. Don't
talk about my absence more than you can help; I can give all the
necessary explanation on my return." "Potts," he said, addressing the
solemn looking old woman separately, "you must renovate the house a
little, I think; those spare bedrooms must be well aired and touched up
somewhat, for we will need them henceforth. My little charge happens to
be a girl, and unless you can contribute towards making things to her
liking, I am lost. Spare no expense to make the house comfortable in
every respect, for the _protegee_ of mine is a lady, I know. And you,
Fitts," he continued, turning to the dignified male servant, "will, I am
sure, lend a hand towards the general improvement. See that the phaeton
and sleighs be in good order, and, in fact, I think you will each do
your duties well, without my enumerating them. You know I have full
confidence in both of you, and I think you will not abuse of it." The
two devoted attendants answered sincerely, each with a suspicion of
moisture in their eyes that answered Mr. Rayne more than anything else.
On the following afternoon Mr. Rayne left Ottawa, on his extended trip,
much to the surprise of his friends, and according to promise, his
servants displayed the greatest discretion possible. Within the week,
Mr. Fitts was delighted to receive news from his master, informing him
that in a few days he would sail for Liverpool.
The voyage across the majestic ocean, was a fair and enjoyable one, and
Mr. Rayne spent the days out on the deck of the splendid "Parisian,"
smoking and thinking, and wondering at the unusual turn things had taken
for him, since last he crossed that same Atlantic. He was anxious to
know how it would all end, and whether he would be able for this new
responsibility brought to him so suddenly. Heaven had not willed him the
experience of a wedded life, and so he resolved to devote himself to
this little charge as though she were his own flesh and blood; he would
teach her to give him a father's love, and if he could help it, she
would never know the want of a father's care.
The first duty of Henry Rayne, on landing at Liverpool, was to consult
the letter of his deceased friend, and write to the address given
therein, to inform the parties alluded to, of his arrival. Special
mention was made of one, "Anne Palmer," who was spoken of highly, as a
faithful and trustworthy woman, who had nursed the child from her
infancy. This gratified Henry Rayne immensely, for he resolved, at any
cost, to secure her, knowing how necessary her long and untiring
attendance must have made her to the girl's existence.
A reply to his kind letter reached Henry Rayne some days before he had
expected it, informing him that Honor Edgeworth and her maid had left on
the day following the receipt of his letter, and would shortly join him
at Liverpool. Such indeed was the case, for even as Henry Rayne read the
words over to himself, as fast as steam and water could carry her, Honor
Edgeworth was travelling away from her native home. She saw not, heeded
not, the passengers, the scenery, the bustle, and confusion that
surrounded her; she only leant her head on the shoulder of her old
nurse, and wept silent, bitter tears all the while. Poor Nanette strove
hard to console her in her woe, but the swelling never left the pretty
eyes, and the sighs never ceased escaping from the dainty lips during
the whole voyage.
"It is such a queer destiny, Nanette," she said repeatedly, "this man
may hate me. He was only a boy when papa knew him; perhaps he has grown
up a wicked man that will detest me, you know Nanette, people change a
great deal sometimes."
"Don't fret, my beauty," was all the disconsolate woman could say. "You
may be sure your father did not act in the dark, where his little girl
was concerned. He had great trouble in finding the gentleman's address
at all, so you may be sure he looked for other information at the same
"Yes, I suppose he did," Honor sighed, half resignedly. "What the end
will be, time will tell."
From London they telegraphed to Mr. Rayne, telling him of their safe
arrival thus far, and seized with an insuperable impatience to become
known to his little _protegee_, he answered them immediately, that he
would meet them in Manchester. The night was wet and dark and cheerless,
as Nanette and her pretty charge rolled into this large manufacturing
city of England. All the other passengers had hurried out, they alone
remained, careless whether they went or stayed, sadly and listlessly,
they proceeded to gather up their little belongings, dashing away as
they did so, scalding tears that welled into their eyes.
"Are you ready, love?" Nanette asked plaintively, turning towards Honor.
"Yes I am," the girl answered with a sigh, "ready for the battle of
life--come along, Nanette."
Just as she uttered the words, and before she had stepped from the
railway carriage, the guard, accompanied by a gentleman, thrust his head
in, and hurriedly announcing "Mr. Rayne, ladies," darted off again,
leaving them together. The long looked for moment had arrived: the first
meeting, upon which so many thoughts were spent by all three, was
already over. Honor Edgeworth raised her eyes to the gentleman
announced, and a smile of infinite relief broke over her face; Mr Rayne
raised his hat to the younger lady, and a mysterious smile of infinite
admiration stole over his face. He broke the silence by addressing
"I presume, madam," he began, "you are the person in charge of Miss
Edgeworth, the young lady recommended to my future care?" and before she
had time to answer, he had extended both hands to Honor.
"Yes, sir," said Nanette, a little nervously, "I give into your hands
all that I hold dearest in life;" and then, lowering her voice, she
continued, almost to herself, "I can go back again to my poor old home,
but the sunshine is gone out of it forever."
Henry Rayne looked quickly up at her: he was assisting Honor out, as she
"Is it possible that you are not coming to Canada with us?"' he asked in
a confounded tone.
"Ah, sir!" answered the poor creature, "I will go in heart, indeed, but
there was no provision made to send me all the way with the child."
"Oh this can never be," Henry Rayne interrupted, hurriedly, "I have
intended from the first, that you should not be left. Come, come, we
will manage everything smoothly by and by. Do not leave one another now,
unnecessarily, when you have been together all your lives." There was a
shout of delight from both, and clasped in each other's arms, never to
part again, they thanked God sincerely for His goodness to them, so far.
"The dear child, sir, I'd have died without her." Nanette sobbed through
the tears of joy.
"Of course you would," Henry Rayne answered, handing them into the
carriage that awaited them. He cast an admiring glance on "the child" in
question, as he sat himself opposite to her on the leather buttoned seat
of the hack. If "child" she must be, she would undoubtedly prove an
interesting one, for she was now, to all appearances, in her seventeenth
year, and showed promises of future development into a splendid woman.
For the first few moments Nanette never ceased her protestations of
gratitude, and when at last she finished them in a great sob behind her
handkerchief, Honor looked sweetly up in Mr. Rayne's face and said.
"Your first act, dear guardian, was one of unsolicited kindness. What
will after years bring, when we have learned to respect and love you,
and do you good turns as well? The future seems so bright, now that
Nanette is coming, for," she explained "you must know, Mr. Rayne, she is
the only mother I have ever known, and when dear papa lived he treated
Nanette just as he would a member of his own family."
"And I will never be the one to make the first difference," answered Mr.
Rayne. "My house is large; I am a crusty old bachelor, with no other tie
binding me to the world, except this new link that has just filled me
with a desire to live anew from this out. All I have is at your
disposal: you must make yourself perfectly at home with me. I don't know
much about winning the confidence and hearts of young girls now, but I
shall expect you to come to me with yours, because henceforth you are
going to be all my own."
"I do not wish to dispute it, Mr. Rayne," Honor answered sweetly, "but I
have a presentiment that you are going to spoil me."
"Oh I won't be _very_ cross with you, unless you steal my spectacles or
court my footman, or do anything like that," Henry Rayne answered
Thus, in the pleasantest manner possible, were the first hours of their
_rencontre_ spent. When their drive ended, they alighted before a
handsome hotel, ablaze with light, where a tempting supper awaited them.
Henry Rayne, fancying that it was the right thing to do to young girls
who had been travelling a great deal, told Honor she must retire
immediately. "We have our lives long to chat," he said, "so rest
yourselves well to night"
When they had reached their rooms, Honor turned with a bright smile on
her face, and said to Nanette,
"Don't you think he will be just lovely and kind, dear Nanette? He is a
"God bless him," answered Nanette, "he is a good man and has a good
heart, and we must never have him regret what he has done for us."
"Well, it is a great weight off my mind anyhow," said Honor, with a sigh
of relief, "I am full of hopes now for the future, and I know we cannot
help loving dear kind Mr. Rayne;" and over such enthusiastic words Honor
and Nanette fell into their deep calm sleep.
All this time Henry Rayne was smoking quietly in the parlor below, and
thinking of the lovely face that was going to shed its radiance
henceforth on his silent home. Already he longed for the morning to
come, that he might look on it again. In the course of his meditation, a
thought came to him, which had not suggested itself before, and it was
"If the world should choose to attach its own interpretation to this new
relationship, if a word was cast afloat which could scatter the germs of
a suspicion, what then? If those venomous tongues that keep the world
buzzing with scandal chose to attack _her_, how was he to prevent it?" A
cloud overshadowed his face, there was a momentary pang in his heart,
but he consoled himself that he had thought of it in time--he would defy
the world, his manner towards her would dare gossiping tongues, he was
nearly three times her age now, and had his life not been such as could
defy the babbling of the whole world?
But it was only the old tale, a woman's name is a tempting bit to
society, in one of its particular phases, though, of course, even
society in this, its calumniated epoch yet retains its discrimination,
its rules are not so arbitrary as its enemies declare them, and its
heart is _at times_ susceptible to the pleadings of misfortune for
mercy. Woman, alas! has her fallen sister on every rung of the social
ladder, though from general appearances one would be led to judge, that
wealth and position and fame, claim virtue as all their own, it seems,
that vice and error thrive only where poverty and ignorance and
destitution abide, is this so? Ye who know the secrets of a fashionable
world, ye, who have seen laid bare, the hearts full of secrets of
pampered ladies, and pretentious dames, say, are they so guileless, so
spotless, so blameless as society would have them? Is it only the poor
seamstress, or the working-girl that is human enough to err? Is it only
the breast which heaves under tatters and rags, that bears the impress
of the trembling hand that has struck the _"mea culpa"_ in its woe? O, I
doubt it, I for one deny it. True it is, painfully, shamefully true it
is, that the "nobodies" of the world who meet misfortune are mercilessly
forced to stand in the corridors of time, that those, who domineer in
virtue, may ostentatiously compassionate them, but will such a paltry
show of charity as this, blind the world, as it tries to do? Let us hope
not. Let the pampered daughter of wealth and social fame, who goes
astray, share the pitiless fate of the beggar who does likewise, or,
better still, let the beggar be shown such mercy, and justification and
pardon as is granted her sister in high life. In the sight of God crime
is the one color, why not so with men? If anything, vice repels far more
forcibly, when attired in its velvets and silks, than when it looks out
from scanty rags, which after all, may be turned more easily to sack
cloth. Who can doubt that there are hundreds of outcasts, living in
persistent wrong doing, on account of this lack of humanity, this total
abstinence of Christian charity, whose exercise could redeem just as
many as its scarcity ruins. Poor foolish souls! Why need they thirst for
mercy or sympathy that is human, know they not, that they are as
justified in spurning the world's great ones, as those great ones are in
spurning them. What can human mercy avail them, after all, is there not
a Good Shepherd, so eager, so ready, so anxious to grant forgiveness for
the asking? Why do ye not seek Him, ye whom a rigorous society has cast
out of its pale? be not content to live on as drudges and slaves to such
a heartless world when there is a harvest for you to gather so near, and
you have only to learn the words of Him who spoke truth and wisdom
themselves to encourage you onward, that "there is more joy in heaven
over the conversion of one sinner than at the perseverance of
"Ah poor child, with heart of woman
Solitary, quiet, grave;
Strong of will and firm of purpose
Self absorbed in silence brave"
A page or two, of the record of time, turned over unnoticed, will not be
missed out of the careers of our characters, it will include the days
that have elapsed since that night that Honor Edgeworth lay wide awake
on her pillow, playing with the shadowy visions of a possible future, as
they danced around her bed, since that night in Manchester, when Nanette
slept so contentedly and Henry Rayne smoked in moody silence by the
fire-place in the hotel parlor. When we become interested again, it is a
clear, bright day, blue and white threads of filmy loveliness flit along
the sky, a soft, gentle breeze is blowing, and over the restless waves
of the broad Atlantic the "Parisian" is skipping gracefully. She is
nearing the port, and many are the anxious, weary faces that turn
landward with a sigh upon their lips.
Among the others that are gathered here and there on her broad decks, on
this lovely glorious afternoon, we are compelled to notice the graceful,
slender form, of a young girl, who sits a little away from the others,
with her head leaning on her folded hands, and her sad eyes resting on
the troubled waters in a fixed, but vacant stare, she is thinking, it is
evident, and thinking deeply, there is not a muscle moving in her
handsome face, her lips are set, her chin is slightly raised, the loose
locks are blowing with the wind now and then from off her brow, but her
eyes ever seek the deepest depth of the green blue sea. She might be a
perfect statue, only for the gentle heaving of her breast, that rises
and falls in little sighs.
Every one has noticed her, but none would intrude upon her in this
reverie, that seems to be her normal state, her face has assumed that
expression of intense emotion that could fascinate the most unwilling
victim, and indeed they are very few who are not willing to pay a
tribute at that shrine, while she in her unconsciousness, is living the
long sunny hours, down in the bottomless sea, trying to penetrate it
with the eyes of her soul, trying to fathom the fathomless, to
understand the mysterious, and to shape into existence the uncreated,
these are the strange things that rivet the gaze of Honor Edgeworth on
the spray of the billows below. At last she starts up, as if in broken
slumber, and turns suddenly 'round.
Two heavy hands have been laid on her slender shoulders, two eyes full
of glowing admiration are turned upon her, and Henry Rayne, in a low,
loving voice says in her ear:
"Come back to the deck of the 'Parisian' Honor for a little while, you
have been down with the 'whales and little fishes' long enough now."
Her eyes filled with tenderness as she looked up to the good face
bending over her.
"Oh Mr. Rayne, is it you?" she said "I was wondering where you were, is
Nanette sleeping yet?"
"Yes, my dear," he answered, drawing a seat near hers, "and I've been
amused by the little window there for fifteen minutes, wondering what
there was existing capable of making any one strike such a thoughtful
attitude as yours."
"Why, Mr. Rayne, all I could condense into my poor little brain at once,
is not worth attracting your grand attention. But, I love to think: I
have so many little ethereal friends that flock around me when I sit
down to think, they are all my ideals, you know." She continued,
clasping her hands enthusiastically, "In that little world of thought,
where I drift so often in the day, there is none of that coldness nor
selfishness that characterizes your material world. We are all equal,
and we love one another so much! I don't know when it fascinated me
first, but it seems so natural to me now to steal away there from the
din of active life. But how is it _you_ always catch me just when I've
forgotten that there is any reality at all?"
"Because, I suppose," laughed Mr. Rayne "you are always in that state of
blissful forgetfulness, and if you don't mind yourself you'll fall into
a chronic state of dreaming, and then be no more to us than a veritable
somnambulist, now, you wouldn't like that, would you?"
"Oh, there is no fear of that, I am not spiritual enough yet to abandon
stern reality altogether, but I fancy you will often tire of me before
you grow quite accustomed to my strange caprices?"
"Why my dear little Honor, is that the color you would have me paint
your future? surely not. If Destiny has raised my hand to blend the
colors in the fair scenery of your life, I will stain the canvas a
'_couleur de rose_,' and make it a lovely thing to contemplate, if I
possibly can, so do not ever sigh to-day for to-morrow, know beforehand
that it will be just as you will have it."
"Ah, ha! Mr. Rayne, who is waxing romantic now," the girl cried
playfully, "I'm so glad to have caught you once. But do you know, I
sometimes wonder, if all these days have not really been spent in my
fairy land, for things have happened as harmoniously as though life were
not a series of discords at its best, Nanette was not forced to leave
me, and you did not get bored at my eccentricities, and I liked you so
much right away, and our safe journey, and everything together."
"Well, I hope it will convince you my child," said Rayne earnestly,
"that life in its common-place acceptation is not so dreadful as you
have pronounced it--wait a while--a little practical experience will
serve to persuade you, that there are a few redeeming traits in the big,
nasty world after all, and will force you to give up these wild theories
of idealism that are strangely out of place in a young girl of our
"So many tell me that," said Honor distractedly, "but I can't know of
course, just yet, what difference all the complicated circumstances that
wind themselves around other girl's lives, will make in mine, if they
change me at all, they must make an entirely different person of me, and
if they are baffled, I will only be stronger and more obstinate than
ever in my own views. Either of these must be my destiny, as yet I know
no partiality towards either one, but I think it is because I feel so
safe in myself that I defy other influences to do their worst."
"Well, dear," said Mr. Rayne, rising, "You won't blame me for the
consequences, when you really want my opinion I'll give it to you, I'll
try to show you fairly and honestly both sides of the picture of life, I
would like to see you stand by its colossal works of art, you may
perhaps care to imitate the artists. All that is great and good within
my reach, you will see, and yet, I think it wise that you should turn
from the luxury of wealth and self-indulgence now and then, to look
unshrinkingly upon the squalid misery and wantonness that haunt the
greater half of the world. But, come, we will go inside, the air is
somewhat chilly, and if Nanette intends to wake at all, she must be
looking for us now."
Leaning on the arm of her guardian, Honor slowly walked towards the door
of the entrance, followed by many an admiring glance from the other
passengers. They found Nanette rubbing her tell-tale eyes, and avowing
that she had not "slept a wink" all day.
* * * * *
Under the roof of Henry Rayne's comfortable house everything has
undergone a change, there is a primness and a fitness about the rooms
that used not to be there, a cosy look peeps out from every turn and
corner of the well-furnished apartments. The pantry shelves are whole
rows of temptations. Very tame lions looking meekly out with their
"jelly" eyes, and rare birds perched in trembling dignity on some
pudding that has come "beautifully" out of the mould. In fact it seems
that good Mrs. Potts has converted her whole "receipt book" into shelves
of substantial and dainty representatives, but such fruitful
contemplations as these will surely rouse one to action, and appropriate
"action" in a well-filled pantry forebodes merciless slaughter for these
culinary imitations of animal life.
Upstairs appeals less dangerously to the material element. It is neat
and enticing everywhere. There is the sitting room where Mr. Rayne spent
his long, thoughtful night under the gaslight with Robert Edgeworth's
letter lying between his numbed fingers. The fire burns there cheerfully
now--there is no other light than that cast by the fitful flames which
leap and dwindle in shadows through the twilight that lingers still,
huge fanciful phantoms skipping over the walls and the ceiling and
floor, a little flickering subdued light that trembles on the great arm
chairs. "Flo" is curled up, with both ends saluting one another, on the
velvet rug before the fender, and at a civil distance away is a purring
bundle of gray and white pussy, with her paws doubled in and her eyes
blinking at the half-burned coals. There is a bird cage in each window,
and an odd little lullaby chirp or the grating of the little iron swings
is the only sound besides the loosening and falling of the embers every
now and then.
Opposite to this is the large drawing room with its deep bay window, its
rich carpet and massive furnishings. Not the stiff formal looking parlor
of a lone bachelor, but the comfortable, tastily arranged room of a man
who had confided such things to the better judgment and defter hands of
a woman. There are fine statues and splendid paintings, and
_bric-a-brac_ enough to deceive anyone into believing it to be the home
of a bevy of girls. There is a grand piano in the end of the room, and a
violin in its case in the corner--this latter had been the faithful
companion of Henry Rayne through many years of his life, and held as
conspicuous a place in his drawing room as it did in his esteem.
Upstairs again, we find the strangest little room of all. A girl's
bedroom, richly, handsomely furnished, a heavy carpet of dark colored
pattern covers the floor, a massive walnut set is also there, a cosy
lounge is crossways in the corner, near the bay window, which is a
perfect little conservatory of blooming flowers. A handsome pair of
brackets adorn the tinted walls, holding on one side a fine statue of
the "Blessed Virgin and Child," and on the other that of a "Guardian
Angel." Hanging opposite the bed is an oil painting of "Mater Dolorosa,"
besides sundry little chromos and photographs that destroy the monotony
of bare walls. There is nothing left to wish for--beauty, utility,
grandeur have been harmoniously blended here, and this is the nook that
Henry Rayne offers Honor Edgeworth, one worthy of a princess, indeed.
Mrs. Potts had promised herself that nothing should be left undone on
the arrival of the travellers, and very well she kept her word too. When
the violent ring of the bell that announced their coming echoed through
the house, Mrs. Potts had only to roll down the sleeves of her best
wincey and button them at her wrists. The clattering slippers had been
superannuated, and a neat pair of prunella gaiters showed their patent
toes from under the hem of her cleanest gown. A broad grin of
unmistakeable joy lights up the old creature's face as she hastens to
welcome her master, and this changes to a solemn look of profound
admiration as Henry Rayne presents her to Honor Edgeworth, and asks her
to show the young lady to her room.
"You must make yourself at home, Honor, for the present, with things as
they are. After a while we can make things more comfortable, may be, but
this is my little home as it was intended for the last days of an old
bachelor, to be spent all by himself," and as he spoke, Henry laughed
out right, and beckoned her to follow Mrs. Potts.
When Honor stood upon the rich red rug at the threshold of her door, she
uttered a low exclamation of wonder.
"This can't be for me, Mrs. Potts" she said, folding her hands and
looking in dismay around her.
"Indeed it is, miss, and not a bit too good is it aither, for yer jewel
ov a face to smile on. Och, shure it'll be doin' me old eyes good from
this out to be lookin' at yer purty face. But come now, miss, you must
be bate out entirely wid the joultin 'o the cars. Let me onfasten them
things for ye."
Mrs. Potts was quite at home with the "dear young lady" all at once. As
she helped to undo the girl's wrappings she grew less shy and reserved,
and prattled on, "Shure it'll be the life o' the master altogether, to
have ye around the big house that was allays so lonesome like for the
wont ov a lady like yerself is, to cheer it up."
"I hope I may do that," said Honor earnestly, "for Mr. Rayne deserves
all the comfort it is in our power to give him."
"Oh, troth! yer right there, missy, an' its only half what he desarves
the whole of us together could give him, but shure, if we give him all
we're able, an' our good intinshions along wid that, he won't be the man
to grumble at that same."
Honor began to understand the character of this old servant immediately.
She recognized all those traits that invariably betray the Irish
nationality. Such whole-souled creatures are of too universal a type
ever to be mistaken.
"Well, then, ye'r ready now, miss, are you?" Mrs. Potts queried when all
was over. "Well, if ye like, ye can go an' wait for the ould lady, for
she's not fixed up yet, an' I'll jist run and throw an eye over the
table, ye know, I'm Jack of all thrades for a while."
"Go, my good woman, by all means," Honor answered, "we will be down
directly; don't wait for us."
Potts, who rather suspected an odor of over-done victuals, bounded down
to the kitchen, leaving Honor in Nanette's care. Nanette's room was next
to Honor's, and had been used as a sort of spare room up to the present
time. It was now intensely comfortable and neat, without anything costly
or expensive which could make poor Nanette feel out of her element.
"Is Mr. Rayne not the very impersonation of goodness itself, Nanny
dear?" said Honor. She was standing with her back to the door, watching
her old nurse undoing their valises, when she uttered this exclamation.
"Come now, Honor, spare a fellow when he's right behind you," said the
good-natured voice of the person thus eulogized. Honor started around,
looking very pretty in her confusion.
"I thought 'listeners never heard well of themselves,'" said she in a
pout, "but this time it seems to be reversed."
"And you won't take it back for all that," said he, "the oldest of us
likes a little praise now and then, you may as well let me keep it."
"Oh yes indeed, Mr. Rayne, you may have that little bit, for you know
how good you are and how kind to me."
"Well, that will do after tea, but just now we will give our attention
to something more substantial; come Honor--come Nanette."
"Don't wait for me sir," the old nurse answered respectfully, "I'll find
Mrs. Potts in the kitchen and we'll sip our tea together there."
Henry Rayne looked quickly at Honor and detected the slightest shadow of
a disappointment flitting across her face, this decided him.
"It is my intention that you and Potts will not be quite such good
friends," he said, "I am sure that Honor would rather you made the tea
at our table."
"Don't appeal to me," Honor answered as she met his enquiring glance,
"it is superfluous, you always anticipate my wishes. I've never drunk
another cup but the tea Nanette made."
"Nor shall you, so long as we are spared a happy trinity," cried Henry
Rayne, "so let's be off, I cry--to tea--to tea--to tea."
The Autumn clouds are flying,
Homeless over me,
The homeless birds are crying,
In the naked tree.
It was a very pleasant, little _tableau_ that followed, those three
happy souls, gathered around a well-spread table laughing and chatting
merrily. Honor no longer felt any timidity or reserve before Mr. Rayne,
his advanced years commanded a confidence and trust that she would have
otherwise perhaps been slow to give, and the unlimited generosity he
betrayed in even anticipating her every wish, gave her no opportunity to
feel that she was under the patronage of a perfect stranger. He had
shown himself as a kind, indulgent father from the first, and was as
solicitous about her as though she had been his very own, or that he had
been accustomed to administer to the wants and wishes of a young
unripened girl all his life. But this is no mystery to the interpreter
of the human heart. Henry Rayne could hardly act otherwise to any lone
helpless creature without sacrificing the impulses of his own generous,
noble soul, and trampling upon the desire that continually influenced
him towards being the direct cause of happiness and comfort to others.
Taking away any supernatural motive that might lead him to such generous
action, yet leaves the deed a worthy one, and the heart a Christian one,
for, to gratify others was to gratify himself, and this alone is
characteristic of a great soul. As the orphan child of a friend of his
youth, I doubt not that Henry Rayne would protect her at his life's
peril. We all know what a firm knot it is that binds the sympathetic
souls of rollicking college "chums" which, tied once, is tied forever.
It has always been so; it is one of those strictly conservative
principles that grows with mankind in every generation, and is yet never
found extravagant, if not because of the noble character of the
sentiment itself, at least because our forefathers never condemned it,
and the world generally continues to favor such an alliance. Such was
the nature of the staunch friendship that existed between Henry Rayne
and Bob Edgeworth, a friendship that had only strengthened itself by
pledges and vows, as the youths shook hands in a fond farewell over the
threshold of their college home.
From the day on which Honor Edgeworth settled in her new home, life
began to assume its most indulgent phase. Everything around her met her
eye for the first time, no sorrowful associations hung in misty veils
over anything that entered into the charms of her new life. Nanette was
the only breathing, living testimony of the years that had gone, and the
home of her childhood that she had left forever. A few old books of
literature and of music, a few little trifling souvenirs from her dead
mother's jewel box, an inlaid mahogony writing-desk and a miniature
likeness of her proud handsome father, were all the visible reminders
she now held of the fair, sunny home, under the far foreign skies.
Mr Rayne resumed his duties immediately on his return, and lost no time
in propagating among his most intimate and influential friends, the
story of the odd legacy left him by a "distant relation." At first Mr.
Rayne feared greatly that Honor would find the days long and tedious,
while he was absent and unable to ferret out distraction for her, but he
grew resigned very soon when she assured him how much more to her taste
it was to have the quiet hours of the day to herself, and "in fact," she
said, "as the occasion presented itself, she would beg of Mr. Rayne not
to expect her to share in any amusement, at least for some time, for
besides the mourning she wore for her father, her knowledge of the
country and its customs was not yet sufficient to satisfy her with
herself," and putting it to him as a request, she knew it would be
acceded to on the spot.
The light of the summer days had begun to wane. The leaves had begun to
turn. Out door pleasures were being forsaken for the seat by the
fireside The world looked as if 'twere waiting. The autumn months had a
particular effect on Honor Edgeworth, she would stand at the window, and
look sadly through the panes at the red and yellow leaves falling
softly, noiselessly down to the cold wet ground, and a shiver would pass
through her as she realized even in this the mortality that hangs like
an unseen pall over all things below. Just a moment ago, a pretty golden
leaf danced on the bough, but the cold wind, surrounding it, bore it
away on its fated pinions down into the cold stiff gutter, where it was
either trampled heedlessly down by the reckless passer-by, or wafted
farther away out of sight, left to wither and die by the roadside. But,
perhaps not, either, maybe the slender, delicate hand of an admirer of
nature stooped to gather the fallen leaf, to wipe the dust from its
golden front, and lay it tenderly by as a souvenir of the dead year, to
lie among the gathered blossoms of some dear one's grave, with bitter
tears of sad remembrance and grief to bathe it, as its evening dew. And
is not this life! How many golden leaves are hurled into the mire of
sin, and upon how much marvellous beauty the heavy foot of worldly scorn
is stamped forever! How many pretty little amber leaves drift on through
the cold wide world, until their beauty is spent, and until wrecked and
faded they lay themselves down by the withered blades to die. But oh!
there are again those stainless leaves that glide into the fingers of
the Great Gatherer of Beauty, to find in His compassion and His mercy a
refuge from the coldest blasts. The pity is that these last are, like
the leaves of the Autumn trees, the scarcest in number; or, after all is
the happy life of one summer month, price enough for a "forever" of
withered beauty and faded grace?
Poor Honor turned away with a heavy sigh; she could not learn a cheerful
lesson from nature's gigantic book, she had stood by the window for
nearly an hour in silent communion with the dumb eloquent world: there
was a strange empty feeling in her heart, that she longed to stifle,
somehow her reverie had made her feel a little lonesome, for whom she
knew not. She was now tasting a little of Life's bitter sweet, and like
every other girl of eighteen, was madly wishing for the _denouement_ to
come. Poor foolish eighteen! Why will you extract from Destiny the pain
that will be yours soon enough: not contented to be free, unfettered,
and all your own? You want a sad change, you make an unwise bargain. Do
not envy the future its darkness, nor the "to be" its mystery, it is
painful enough that in time your poor weary eyes must weep salt bitter
tears as they view the unravelling of each. The love that you long for
to-day is coming to you, slowly but surely, out of the iron heart of
Destiny, but beware! Were it not for Love there would be no hatred, were
it not for Fidelity there would be no deception, were it not for
Happiness there would be no misery. "'Tis Heaven to love," as love-sick
poets have sung. But 'tis Hell to love as well, as love duped wretches
Turning from the window, Honor Edgeworth sighed as deep a sigh as if a
pain had dwelt within her heart--she was telling herself that she must
wait and hope, hope and realize, and so when it did not come to-day, she
only sighed again as she laid her weary head upon its pillow, and
whispered "To-morrow." When she turned towards the firelight to shut out
the cheerless vision of the dreary world from her tired eyes, she
started to notice how quickly the shadows had crept over the room. She
could see them chasing one another by the quivering light of the grate,
and as the silent voices of the gloaming whispered to her heart, her
eyes lit up with an unusual brightness and her lips broke apart in a
slow dreamy smile. It was nearly six by the marble clock on the mantel,
Mr. Rayne would be home in another little while, and with this thought
she turned languidly to the _etagere_ in the corner, in her search for
distraction, and drew from a shelf a small volume which attracted her
eye. She then poked a large black coal until it sent a bright lurid
flame up the chimney, and filled the room with a cheerful light: slowly,
almost tastelessly, she proceeded to turn the pages over, scanning here
and there a line or two; at length, smiling, she said to herself, "I
used to know these verses long ago. I wonder if I have forgotten them."
She stood up as she spoke, and glancing at the first word, folded her
hands behind her back still holding the volume, with one finger inserted
on this particular part. She leaned one shoulder gently against the
mantel-corner and looked into the fire. Why did she not look towards the
window? A moment before, the garden gate had closed noiselessly behind
the tall, well-built figure of a man, who before entering the house, had
turned to look aimlessly in at the large square window from which was
reflected the warm light of the grate. But how soon his eyes became
riveted to the spot standing in front of the fire was the fairest
creature he had ever looked on before, the fitful flames were casting
their light upon her handsome face, her eyes looked almost wild to-night
in their sadness, and her cheeks had an unusual glow. Standing with her
hands behind her back, she showed to advantage the perfect _contour_ of
her figure, and while he feasted his eyes on her physical loveliness he
caught a little word in a sweet sad voice, that recalled lines he was
fond of repeating himself; he strained every nerve to catch the tones
within. Knowing the verses himself enabled him to understand her readily
as she quoted--
"I have said my life is a beautiful thing,"
"I will crown me with its flowers;
I will sing of its glory all day long,
For my harp is young and sweet and strong,
And the passionate power within my song
Shall thrill all the golden hours;
And over the sand and over the stone
Forever and ever the waves rolled on."
She paused a moment, and puckering her brow slightly as if in an effort
to remember, she continued,
"For under the sky there is not for me,
A kindred soul or sympathy,
Must I stand alone in Life's busy crowd
A living heart in a death-like shroud,
And the voice of my wailing o'er sand and stone,
Must it die on the waves as they e'er roll on."
"That verse is her own," said the still watcher at the window.
The girl's voice faded to a sigh, she drew her hands apart and opened
the book again, the face outside pressed more eagerly still against the
"Why!" she suddenly exclaimed, "the words are all marked in pencil!
underlined, just where I have been accustomed to emphasize them, does
Mr. Rayne?--Oh impossible.--Whose can it be?" She turned impatiently to
the fly-leaf and there in a clear masculine hand she saw, "G. E. from
the only true friend and bitter enemy he has in the world--himself."
The book fell from her fingers. She looked earnestly into the fire, and
a sad expression stole over her face.
"G. E.! Who was G. E.? Who was it that seemed to sympathise with her
already? Who else in the world considered one's self a friend and an
enemy, except herself?" She was beginning to long for him, to feel a
loneliness for this kindred soul, as if he had come into her life and
then had gone suddenly out of it again, leaving her in a melancholy
despair. And as she sat there, lost in a long, tangled reverie, the
eager face vanished from the window, for another figure strode up the
little avenue, and quietly opening the door, passed in. Then the tall
young stranger emerged from his hiding place, and noiselessly went out
through the rustic gateway, trampling beneath his feet, the fallen
leaves, over whose inevitable fate, Honor had spent so many sighs; but
his heart was beating quickly, and his face was aglow with a new-lit
flame. A strange transformation had apparently settled over all his
surroundings. The moon was mounting over the house-tops and shedding a
pale, soft light on his way. The world looked fairer and brighter far,
than it did a little while ago. The tall trees swaying their naked
boughs on the chill night air of mid-autumn, only gave out a responsive
sigh to the new longing within his breast, and the crisp rustling of the
withered leaves only chimed in harmoniously with the echo of the love
lay that was lingering on the chords of his heart; and where the moon in
her silent loveliness cast shadows here and there on his way, he saw a
vision of the loveliest face that ever haunted a mortal; and wherever
quietude reigned profound, he heard the echo of the grave sweet voice
"Must I stand alone in life's busy crowd,
A living heart in a death-like shroud?"
And then his heart burst out its passionate "No." He had not recognized
those responsive emotions in that lovely girl to forget them so soon
again, he had been searching for them too long not to prize them now. He
had thought he was anchoring at despair, and now that a star broke
through the clouded heavens, beckoning him on, was he mad to scorn the
hope that lay within his grasp? No, indeed, and that very night, under
the immediate impulse of his new-born emotions, Guy Elersley made up his
We cannot be surprised at this sudden change in Guy, although it was the
most unexpected and unlooked for circumstance that could possibly have
come to him. Falling in and out of love is almost so certain a portion
of our destiny, that we should never be surprised by it. We know of love
as we do of death, that it is to come some day, if not now, by and by.
We wait for it without expecting it, we recognize the symptoms that
foretell its approach, but of its real bearing on our future lives, we
can tell nothing. Time alone, as it unravels the strange mysteries,
shows us in what way our love can prove a blessing or a curse. If we
were so constituted, in general, as to make up our minds coolly and
calculatingly, to fall in love sensibly, but no, with most of us, a
look, a word, a pressure of the hand, a sigh, a flower or some such
trifling thing, has sufficed to plunge us hoplessly into the delirium of
"love." Dreamy eyes that fascinate us, pretty words that gratify us,
little signs of preference, have been the prices of human hearts from
time immemorial. The pity is, that love so often dies of its own excess,
making the dreamy eyes fiery with anger and hatred, turning the pretty
words into violent reproaches, and substituting the deeds of preference
by coldness and neglect. 'Tis better to have hated all our lives, than
to learn the lesson from a blighted love. Life is never bitter, but for
those whose misplaced love has caused their faith in men to wither,
filling their hearts with that hopelessness of regret, by which misery
is recognised in any of its disguises. But these are inconsistent
reflections, when proceeding from such suggestive sources as "first
love," "moonlight quietude," etc. Let us draw a veil across them for the
present. If there must be bitter drops in the deep chalice, let us not
spoil the taste of the sweeter ones, by anticipating the loathsomeness
of the rest. In another sense we may cry "let us live to-day, for
to-morrow we die."
"We talked with open heart and tongue,
Affectionate and true,
A pair of friends though I was young"
The morning following Guy's visit to his uncle's window panes, as Henry
Rayne was sipping his rich brown chocolate, with Honor and Nanette, at
breakfast, Fitts brought in a note and laid it before his master. The
usual broad smile came over Rayne's face, as he recognized his nephew's
"So he's in town," he soliloquized, as he opened the folds of the crisp
paper and read:
I came to town last evening, and wish to see you when you
will be quite alone.
"There's an ansur wanted, sur," Fitts said timidly.
"Oh, say this afternoon at five, Fitts, that will do."
Evidently, it was not Mr. Rayne's intention to mention the existence of
his nephew yet, to his new comers, for he quietly slipped the little
note into his pocket and said no more of it. The day wore on, and at
five o'clock Fitts brought around the "ponies" to take "Miss Honor" for
a drive. They had scarcely gone a block away, before Guy Elersley opened
the gate leading up to his uncle's house, and admitted himself. He went
into the sitting-room, but it was empty, that is, his uncle was not
there, or any other living intruder; but there arose between him and the
gloomy coals, the same sweet face and graceful figure that had kept a
ceaseless vigil over his slumber last night. The same sad voice filled
the room with its wailing echo, and as he listened again to its
appealing pathos, he strode idly towards the little _etagere_ and took
up his little volume from which he had seen her read. A strong impulse
rose within him. He imagined himself under the same spell as the
romantic hero of "Led Astray," and taking out his pencil, he traced at
the bottom of the page, under the words she had recited, this little
"There is another life I long to meet,
Without which life _my_ life is incomplete.
Oh sweeter self! like me, thou art astray,
Trying with all thy heart to find the way
To mine. Straying, like mine, to find the breast,
On which alone can weary heart find rest."
He had scarcely closed and replaced the book, when the door opened and
his uncle bustled in.
"Hallo, Guy! dear old boy, welcome! welcome!" and Henry Rayne extended
both hands to his nephew as he spoke. "And so here you are in Ottawa,
eh? What's the trouble now?" and before seating himself to chat, Henry
Rayne poked the fire into a roaring blaze.
"No trouble this time, uncle, at least no 'yellow envelopes' trouble,
but I've been promised an appointment in the Civil Service, and I've
come to you for the 'slap on the back' that makes a fellow stiff when
he's in there. Now you know it's all right for a petty clerk in those
solemn Parliament Buildings, when he has an uncle that is precious to
the government, for the thousands he owns and that he can scarce count.
This is why I ask you to come forward, for your assistance is all I
want, to make a neat little job of the whole thing. Just snap _your_
fingers over my head, and none will dare oppose me. It is not the career
I had planned, you know, uncle, but 'half a loaf is better than a whole
loafer,' and that is what I threatened to be, if I remained a student in
Montreal any longer. The boys are too jolly there in proportion to their
means, and I pride myself I escaped in time. I'd just as soon live on
the bounty of the people for a while, and eat my lunch perched on an
office stool, with plenty of good ice water at hand, and a chance of a
cosy 'smoke' now and then, if I don't burn out my pockets hiding the
pipe when the dignified 'Boss' approaches."
"Well, well, well, Guy, you are a reckless boy, you know I could have
secured you a position in the Civil Service long ago, but you aimed
still higher and--missed the mark. I thought you had chosen a profession
exacting too much labor for a lover of self-indulgence such as you are;
however, I suppose you don't want me to say a single word of rebuke now,
and I have grown so accustomed to spoiling you, that I must only give
in. You can make yourself easy as far as I am concerned, I will make
matters all right."
"You're the best old uncle that ever had a sister married to the father
of a fellow like me," Guy said, shaking the hand of his benefactor
warmly, "and by and by, when I'm a clever cabinet minister, I'll show
you what gratitude is."
"I am afraid such a 'by and by' as that is as far in the past as it is
in the future," Henry Rayne said, laughing.
"Oh well, if I am not clever enough to be a solemn minister, they'll
make a Lieutenant-Governor of me, or a Judge, Lieutenant-Governor
Elersley! By Jove the name was intended to be worn with a title!"
"Well, when you're done all these nonsensical licenses, you are giving
your common sense, I will tell you something nice," Mr. Rayne
interrupted, as Guy rattled off his idle chat. In a moment Guy's limbs
that had been lying carelessly around in the vicinity of his chair, were
jerked into a respectable sitting posture, as leaning his face eagerly
towards his uncle he asked:
"Something to tell me? Now that is a surprise; I generally do all the
talking when I come here."
"Well," Henry Rayne began slowly, and with a look of unusual merriment
twinkling in his eyes, "It has taken a long time you see for this
surprise to come, but it was worth the trouble of waiting. May be you
think that at fifty years all the romance has died out of a man's life,
but I am going to show you that such is not the case." (Great Heavens!
Guy thought, has the dear old man fallen in love?) "A new life has begun
of late for me; henceforth, my love, that has been all yours, must be
divided I have assumed a series of new and trying duties--"
"Pardon me, uncle; but you don't mean--you can't possibly be insinuating
that you have--have--have done such a desperate thing as to--"
"I have indeed, Guy. I suppose you thought I had no soft corner left in
my heart that would be a ready victim to a woman's wiles? but I had, you
see." There was a mischevious twinkle in the old man's eye as he spoke.
This joke on his clever nephew amused him immensely, while poor Guy was
feeling the tight clutch of despair upon his heart Of all the horrors
conceivable, Guy had never dreamt of such a thing as his uncle's
marriage, and now it was quite evident that his words implied this
terrible catastrophe. He saw the long cherished project of his insured
welfare passing away so noiselessly from him, dropping through a wedding
ring into the clutching fingers of a new-born heir. And when it struck
him that the beautiful vision he had feasted his eyes upon last evening
was, undoubtedly, the fair destroyer of his every hope, a conflict of
violent feelings began to gnaw at his poor heart, making a genuine
picture of woeful misery out of the laughing face of a moment before,
but he battled against his moral foes, at least--he must not show his
uncle that any selfishness of his could mar the sincerity of his
"I suppose I am justified in congratulating you?" Guy said in a tone
something like that in which one says "'Tis nothing," when three hundred
pounds of fashionable humanity apologises for having left its foot print
on our toes.
"I know that you do congratulate me warmly," Guy's uncle said,
emphatically, "and indeed it is as much for your sake, nearly, as for my
own that I rejoice, the benefit will be divided between us." Guy didn't
see how--unless his uncle fell into the ordinary routine of wedded life,
and grew regretful by degrees--he could share those sentiments very
plentifully, but his better nature still revolted against such
selfishness, and obeying a generous impulse, he stood up and shook his
uncle warmly by the hand.
"I am glad indeed, uncle," he said sincerely, "that at last your earthly
happiness is complete. It was poor gratification to you, to trust to me
for an ample return for all your unmerited kindness. You deserved some
one more faithful and more demonstrative than I. This new tie you have
formed will, of course, exclude me from a great portion if not from all
of your heart, but, at least, I can still continue to appreciate and
love you as though there had been no change. After all, it is the most
natural thing in the world for a man to marry."
"Who's married?" Henry Rayne exclaimed in astonishment.
"Why, yourself, to be sure," Guy answered, "I was alluding to you."
Henry Rayne threw back his curly head and laughed heartily and loud; Guy
looked on in open-mouthed astonishment, suspecting a temporary
aberration of mind in his uncle.
"Oh! that is a splendid one," Mr. Rayne cried slapping his knees
violently, and blinking away the tears that were gathering in his eyes
from excessive laughter. "You had just better circulate such a piece of
slander about me, and see how it would be received, why, the dogs on the
road would laugh at your simple credulity." Then assuming a becoming air
of mock gravity the old man continued, "This is terrible, Guy, that you
should openly accuse me of such a serious piece of forgetfulness is, I
fear, more than I can readily forgive--I dare say I do a great many
surprising things now and then--but to get married--Oh no, Guy, you
wrong me--wrong me terribly."
Guy had to laugh at this, though still lost in the mystery.
"Perhaps now that you have laughed quite enough at rue, you will kindly
explain all," he said in an anxious tone.
"Well, the truth is, Guy," his uncle began in earnest, "there is a woman
at the bottom of it, of course, and though I have pledged myself at the
altar of friendship to love and protect her, there is no such thing as
'till death do us part' in the transaction. I have been left the odd
legacy of an only daughter by an old school-friend of mine," Guy blushed
inwardly, and felt guilty, "she is a dear, lovely little creature, and
will, I am sure, make my home a different one altogether, from what
solitary bachelordom has brought it to. I hope you will agree, both of
you, I know you will like her just as soon as you see her, you have no
idea how lovely she is." (Oh fie! Elersley! how innocent you look).
"Well, really uncle, you are a little more demonstrative over female
superiority than I would expect," Guy said lazily, as if he had made up
his mind that he would not be so enthusiastic.
"Because she deserves it," Mr. Rayne said, earnestly. "Don't think, my
boy," he continued, "that I am a perfect old ogre with regard to women,
for I am not, I have travelled over and seen more of the world than you,
and I know the difference, vast and mysterious as it is, that lies
between woman and _woman_. The word, has, of all words, two meanings,
the most antithetical and contradictory, one is the limit of the
Beautiful, the other the limit of the Repulsive; one is synonymous with
purity, truth and excellence, and the other with vice and diplomacy. The
world is often imposed upon when the latter counterfeits the former. Men
are dazzled by the glitter and gaudy show of the pretended, and pass by,
unnoticed, the less flashy attractions of the real, but I pride myself
that I have never been deceived in this way. The girl that I have
brought to my home is as genuine a sample of noble, good, pure and
honorable women, as could exist, if you had known her father I would
tell you, she is Bob Edgeworth's child and you could not then doubt the
truth of all I say."
"Edgeworth?" Guy queried, "It seems to me I have heard that name
"It was you who revived all my precious memories of him," Henry Rayne
said thoughtfully. "That letter you wrote me before leaving Montreal,
telling me of an interview you had with a traveller who had seen
Edgeworth defend me so bravely and gallantly abroad, was the first I had
heard of my dear old friend for many many years."
"Oh yes, I remember now!" Guy exclaimed, "but how in the world did he
trace you up after all these years?"
"That was easy enough, I am happy to say. I am pretty well known now,
and Edgeworth took the most direct way to me, by applying to our family
solicitors at home, but I blame him for not having sought me while he
had his health and strength--he is dead now, poor fellow, and all he had
prized in this world he has left to me. When I wrote you, that important
business called me to Europe, I was starting to execute the first part
of my friend's dying request. I did not talk about it much beforehand,
but now that we are safely back, the whole world is free to know that I
am in charge of the sweetest girl under the sun, let who can, deny it,
if you are as anxious to meet her as I was, stay and drink tea with us
this evening--they are out driving now, but they wont be much longer--do
"Not this evening," Guy said hastily, as he rose, "I am not prepared,
uncle, besides, she is strange yet, and it is as well not to thrust too
many new faces on her at once, you can mention my name to her if you
will, she will feel more at home when we meet." There was a pause of a
moment, and then Guy, as he appropriated a cigar from a china stand that
tempted him close by, resumed, "this certainly is a strange, unlooked-
for incident in your hum-drum life, but it is also a very fortunate one,
since she is such a comfort to you and such an acquisition to your
home--I fancy, from your description she could scarcely be otherwise. I
hope we will all be an agreeable and sociable family yet, and now, if I
don't want to be caught, I had better be off at once," saying which,
Henry Rayne's handsome nephew shook himself out of comfort's wrinkles,
lighted his cheroot, put on his becoming hat, bade his uncle a temporary
"good bye," and departed.
I would undertake too common-place a theme, were I to try and interpret
the feelings that struggled for ascendancy in the breast of Guy
Elersley. How many pens have been stowed away rusty and old from having
told no other tale than that of new-born love? How many gray-haired
bards have tuned their lay to the sighs from the human breast under the
"first loves" influence? How many eyes, even among those that rest upon
this very page, have wept the overflowing of their hearts away, at the
moment that love's first whispers stole into their souls? How many tired
and weary hands are folded on the laps of those who are sitting in the
twilight of their years dreaming all over again in bitter joy their
"Loves young dream?" Ah! they are many indeed! and so it is superfluous
almost to tell the world what it is to love for the first time. That
trembling existence that is balancing on Hope and Despair, is an
experience so well learned that no one thinks of telling it. It is a
strange part of destiny, that even those who have never heard what it is
to love, are not surprised when called to teach it to themselves.
Instinctively, we hide our emotion, we steady our hand, we check our
words. There is the pity; there are grand unspoken thoughts, burning in
the souls of many to-day, that may never reach the threshold of the
lips. Men are gliding through the world disinterestedly, day by day, and
they know not, often care not to know, that there are devoted hearts
existing on their memories alone. There are pretty blue eyes weeping
over the "garden gate" where "some one" is "waiting" and "wishing in
vain." Let them weep. There are miseries in life, that can be learned
only by many repetitions. If they don't break the heart at first they
perseveringly "try again."
If my belief be not a popular one, I hardly like to be the first to
preach it, but it seems to me that few can study society as it is
to-day, without concluding very disagreable things; one of these is the
deplorable fact that, in our day, the purest selfishness seems to have
established itself as the source and promoter of, not only the
indifferent, but the apparently best impulses of the human heart. It is
a pity indeed, that our analysing tendency has been so strengthened by
cultivation, for most often, by prying into the very remotest origin and
causes of things we learn a lesson that for ourselves or the world would
have been infinitely better unlearned. Hence it is trait in our own day
we are not satisfied that certain lavish displays of generosity pass for
Christian charity, simply, and without more ado. We will not look upon
the givers, with an admiring eye, and spend our enthusiasm, on a
religion which teaches the love of our neighbor so effectively, oh no!
we must "open the drum to find where the noise is kept," and how,
unfortunately, often, do we find, that practical virtues, or at least,
what are so called by the world, have nothing more solid at base than
the hollow drum. It sounds deplorable, to say that nineteenth century
charity is a Dead Sea apple, even the guilty ones will not like to hear
that they have subscribed to this fund, or built that asylum, through
policy, or as an advertisement, or for the less harmful but still
unworthy reason that they like to give something, when there is plenty
around them. Nevertheless, is it not true that in all countries, in our
own little city, there are men, who drive the starving beggar from their
doors, and who yet head a public charity list handsomely. There are
people, who, under their parson's eye, wear down-cast look and thump
their breasts, but, who behind his back, would much sooner thump any one
else's breast, or cast down any other person's eyes. There are members
of high society, who feel it their duty to set good example for their
social inferiors, and so they feast and dance and gratify themselves all
through the hours of the night, and then in half spoiled frizzes and
sleepy looks repair to church in the early morning. This may all be
right enough, but if so, there is more than one version of right and
wrong, and that is impossible. This omnipotent selfishness has even
crept into our loves. Men kiss the dainty finger tips of their
lady-loves, to-day, with a passionate fondness that is proportionate to
the bulk of lucre that dainty hand can hold. The words "be mine" so
sweetly answered by fair trusting damsels, are addressed to them,
because estates and dowries cannot speak of themselves, and must
consequently be wooed and won by proxy. The divine institution as
marriage was wont to be considered, is better understood in our day as a
"linking transaction", a "speculation in the matrimonial market," or for
the man alone, he is either "spliced" or "fleeced."
At least our century has succeeded in one thing: it is the grandest
parody on all that is lofty, or elevated or holy, it is an unparalleled
burlesque on any exalted sentiment or practical good. Every ennobling
tendency, every redeeming trait is cunningly caricatured, and so
cleverly ridiculed that is impossible to respect them afterwards. It is
hard to tell what another era may bring forth of good, but it is certain
that ours has killed, to the very possibility of a future regeneration,
every germ and atom of solid morality, that sustained it. Perhaps that
is what was wanted, the end may be achieved now. It has been clearly and
undeniably proved to the world, that there is no longer any God, there
is no eternity, no atonement, no recompense. We are left to wonder whose
business it was to call some of us into this miserable existence, to
take us out of it again before we have culled any real happiness, and
send us back to--Well, we are not allowed to say where, because there is
some inconsistency mixed up with it, but we are sure to go there at all
This may seem a most exaggerated deviation from the smooth course of the
narrative, but in reality it is not so. The little reflections made may
serve to remind the reader, that those great universal movements,
social, political and religious, floating as they are at random in the
atmosphere, cannot fail, when breathed by our youth to develop into
substance with their growth, and to manifest their poisonous influences
later, in the lives of their wretched victims. After pondering over such
reminders for a moment or more, there will be no call for surprise, when
our young men are pictured in their true colors. The mind need not
hesitate to enquire, when it views youth and manhood, beautiful and
_blase_, attractive and cynical, credulous to simplicity in many things,
and infidels in the one great act of faith that alone merits anything.
From the taint of this evil, and all its sorrowful consequences I am
tempted to exempt Guy Elersley, so handsome, so young, so winning; but I
cannot give the lie to obstinate reality. Of course, Guy Elersley was
not a bad man, he was exactly what most young men of to-day are--what
you, my reader, know them to be, what all the world, but themselves,
know them to be. Guy thought he "wasn't such a bad sort of fellow at
all," and yet in every movement of his, one could detect him--the victim
of the age. He had never professed any direct code of belief. He would
have been very much offended if any one called him an "atheist." He knew
there was some reason why a fellow should go to church now and then, and
not be everlastingly doing mischief. He confided to himself in strict
secret that "to die" was about the very last thing he'd like to do; but,
somehow, such serious considerations as these never lingered long, a
good cigar or "half-a-glass" easily sufficing to turn the current of his
thought into a more pleasant course. He had all the "might-have-beens"
in the collection of qualities that he possessed, to make any one sorry,
but as fast as a new trait developed itself in him, he put it to the
worst possible advantage, and made those who took an interest in him
intensely sorry for his grave mistakes.
He had early fallen in with the tide, and learned to love _himself_
before and above all else.
One hardly likes to say that this new born enthusiasm of his was a
selfish gratification, and yet in its radical sense it was thoroughly
so. He delighted in it because of the benefit it brought himself. He had
long felt a void within his heart, a want or craving for something,
something indefinite, intangible certainly--something that no sensual
indulgence could appease, that no light pleasure could distract, and now
all at once it seemed to him that long-felt vacuum was filling up. A
something, just as ethereal as his craving had been, was creeping into
his heart. It felt like the liquid music of a low, serious voice, or it
may have been a passion, such as he had seen in the depths of two large,
sad, gray eyes, or it might have been the soft soothing influence of a
sweet, dreamy smile. It was just as abstract as any of these, and yet
just as fascinating and just as exquisite. This was Love for him, a
beautiful but a dreadful thing! feeding his hungry soul and quenching
his heart's awful thirst, yet swaying him with a merciless tyranny, for
love caresses with one hand and smites with the other. If it can be the
exponent of certain delicate phases in our spiritual nature, it can
also, alas! almost smother the good it does by the pain it so cruelly
inflicts. It has a double mission, for in the cry of joy that escapes
the lips under its influence there is an echo of pain and despair, and
hence it is that love is so violent a passion. If it were a pleasure
only to love, we could never prize the object of our wild affection as
when it has cost us sighs and tears, and anxiety untold.
It was thus Guy Elersley ruminated as he sauntered through the streets
this sear October day, whistling silently to himself, and knocking the
clotted leaves recklessly from side to side with his slender cane. He
was persuading himself that at last his destiny was beginning to
accomplish itself. She would surely see the lines he had traced for her
eye in the book he had been reading, and if she were what he supposed
her to be, they would be an eloquent appeal in his behalf--but. Here the
misery came in--
"Love was never yet without
The pang, the agony, the doubt."
What if she never reciprocated?--if there did not linger in her breast a
single responsive sigh? But he dared not ask. What then? Not until hope
had quite faded away and left the bare, truthful reality to confront him
"And then I met with one who was my fate, he saw
me and I knew
'Twas Love, like swift lightning darted through
My spirit 'ere I thought, my heart was won--
Spell-bound to his, forever and forever!"
In this interesting meanwhile, life was unfolding its strange mysteries
just as unexpectedly to Honor Edgeworth as to Guy Elersley. After she
had returned from her pleasant drive, a half hour after Guy's departure
from his uncle's house, dinner was announced, immediately after which
Mr. Rayne had to excuse himself, having had an engagement "up town."
Honor, left to her own resources for distractions, repaired, as usual,
to the sitting room, and seated herself on the floor before the grate.
Her eyes assumed their old hazy look, she clasped her hands over her
knees and looked vacantly into the fire. What a strange girl this was!
So dreamy, so pensive. She was reasoning with herself now as she often
did, trying to feel thankful for all the good things with which her life
was blest, but though she acknowledged to herself that youth and health,
and comfort and kind friends were grand gifts of Providence, she could
not stifle the dissatisfaction that filled her as she yearned for
"something else." She could not say what it was, only she knew that she
yearned for a gratification that is not found in any of those things
that she enjoyed so profusely.
Oh, that "something else!" Why do we not stop and gather it by the
roadside we are passing now? We will not find it farther on. That which
is enticing us onward is only the illusionary flicker of a will
o'-the-wisp! We will stretch out our hands too late--when we have been
caught in its fatal snares, and then in the darkness and misery that
will surround us, we will feel how foolish we have been, and our cries
of despair and distress will be echoed back to our own ears in sounds of
mockery and scorn. Let us not build upon that "something else" that is
always buried in the to-morrows, for we are losing the present and
risking the future thereby.
Poor Honor, after thinking until her head sank wearily upon her
shoulder, sighed and rose up, pacing the room with her hands behind her
back. As she passed by the little _etagere_ she smiled curiously, and
stretching out her hand drew towards her Guy's book of poetic
selections. As she slid the pages through her delicate fingers, she
"I have said that my life is a terrible thing,
All ruined and-"
She stopped suddenly, for her eyes had fallen on the pencil marks traced
under these little verses she was accustomed to recite--her heart gave a
"Oh, sweeter self, like me art thou astray"
She quoted the words in bewilderment. What did it mean? There was no one
in the house to write such meaning words there! That pretty, legible
penmanship did not correspond with anyone's she had ever known--except--
where was it she had noticed something just the same? Suddenly she
remembered. On the fly-leaf of the book were words traced in the same
hand. She turned over the leaves and compared them. There was no
doubting their identity. It was, then, G. E. who had written this
passionate little quotation. "G. E. How strange" she muttered. Was it
her "fairy prince" had come to visit her while she was away? She could
not fathom it--some hidden meaning lay stowed away under those pretty
words. "They were not there when last I had the book, of that I am
sure," Honor said meditatively. "Some one has been in here since, and
that 'some one' sympathises with me, that 'some one,' I feel, is my
long-sought ideal. Has destiny changed its frown into a smile at last
for this lone, eccentric girl, I wonder?" She dropped her hands
negligently, still clasping the mysterious volume, and looked wistfully
into the space before her. She was undergoing the change that comes over
each of us as soon as we yield our hearts to the strange influence that
fascinates them. We have been told that "Love is a great transformer,"
and if we had never heard it we would have found it out for ourselves.
Honor Edgeworth, sitting alone in the cosy enclosures of a cushioned
_fauteuil_, thought out the queer circumstance that had visited her
to-night; never noticing how fast time flitted by, never heeding the
stillness of advancing night, until Mr. Rayne's late arrival roused her
from her reverie, and brought her suddenly back from the sunlight of her
dreams to the grim darkness of the reality. Kissing him a sleepy good-
night, Honor left the room, henceforth haunted by the spirits of her
earliest conceptions of love, and went silently, almost gloomily, up to
her own handsome little room, bringing to her friendly pillow all the
hazardous hopes and fears, and interesting experiences of a love unborn
but well conceived.
In the gray of the following morning, the angels of slumber on their
upward flight must have borne one another an interesting message, for
Honor's guardian spirit had noted the happy smile creeping over her
face, as in her dreams she saw the noble hero of her waking reverie--and
Guy, as he tossed restlessly on his pillow, betrayed to his "silent
watcher" a heart overflowing with a new-born love for a creature to whom
he had yet spoken no word. And how those angels must have smiled,
knowing, as they did, that 'ere another day had passed those two would
have met, to recognize in one another the destiny of each!
"It will soon be four o'clock," Honor said to herself on the afternoon
of this same day, looking, as she spoke, towards the delicately tinted
window-sill. She had whiled away so many afternoons in this little
_boudoir_, or family sitting room, that she could tell by the progress
of the sun on the broad sill when to expect Mr. Rayne home from his
office. "He will be here in half-an-hour," she soliloquized, then
looking aimlessly around for distraction, Honor spied a half-knitted
stocking and a ponderous looking pair of gold-mounted spectacles lying
carefully on a side table. Smiling mischievously, she adjusted the
glasses, very low down on her nose, for of course she can see much
better _over_ than through them, and unwinding a yard or two of the
wool, tucked the ball professionally under her arm, and began slowly to
penetrate the intricate mysteries of "narrowing the gore." She had just
seated herself in the great rocking chair, when a very familiar sort of
tap at the door caused her to look up. She thought to make a joke for
Fitts, and feigned "Nanette" accordingly--she dropped her head on her
shoulder, slowly moving her needles all the while--and with closed lids,
and mouth half-way open, she considered the _tableau_ perfect. The knock
was not repeated, but she knew that the door had been opened. For a few
seconds longer she remained in her interesting attitude, and then
considering that Fitts was rather slow to appreciate a joke, she opened
her eyes, and was about to close her mouth, but the exclamation of
surprise that rose to her lips, kept it wide open for a second or two
longer. The blankest of blank stupid wonder looked out from her eyes
over the old-fashioned, gold-rimmed spectacles.
"I hope you won't think I am intruding," said the person at the door,
"but being quite at home in the house, and having received no answer
when I announced myself, I thought I might admit myself here as usual."
Honor detected an effort in the speaker's voice to refrain from laughing
outright, and did not feel too comfortable at the success of her joke.
"Did you--did you wish to see Mr. Rayne?" she stammered, dragging the
unsightly spectacles off her nose, and throwing them back on the table.
"I certainly expected he was here," the stranger answered mischievously,
"but I had mistaken you for him on coming suddenly in."
Honor felt mortified, while her companion evidently was very much
amused. She looked at him suddenly, her pretty face suffused with
blushes, but on raising her eyes they met his in a quick glance--the
large, passionate gray and the deep, dreamy blue penetrated each other's
depths in an instant--only during one short breath, and then Honor's
fell. She had been about to speak, but the mischief in his look reminded
her of the absurdity of this _recontre_, and she could only turn aside,
and show him by her shaking shoulders that she was forced to laugh.
At last the situation became too ridiculous, and Honor, between
smothered fits of laughter, said,
"If you have made any appointment with Mr. Rayne, he will not detain
you, I know. Be seated; I will enquire if he has yet arrived"
"Do not trouble yourself," her companion answered. "My uncle, Mr. Rayne
makes no ceremony for me, I assure I you. I must only await his
pleasure. But lest I have disturbed you--"
"Not at all," Honor interrupted, "I was only amusing myself."
"We may as well not be strangers," Guy said, courteously advancing
towards Honor, "for we are likely to meet very often henceforward. I am
Mr. Rayne's nephew, his sister's son, and I was the only toy in the big
nursery of his heart until Miss Edgeworth appeared, which young lady I
think I have at present the honor to address."
Honor bowed, and, extending her hand, said in her sweetest voice--
"For Mr. Rayne's sake we must certainly be friends,"--then feeling a
little more at home with her visitor, she continued, "As no one comes in
here unannounced, I ventured to attempt a little disguise this
afternoon. I mistook your knock for some one's of the household, and had
just struck the last attitude of my assumed character when you caught
me--I hope the effect on your nerves was nothing serious," and as she
spoke this in her bewitching confusion Guy felt like taking her up in
his arms, little bundle of blushes and smiles as she looked, and
devouring her, but before he had time for word or action, the door
opened again, and this time Henry Rayne bustled in, glaring in
bewilderment upon them--
"Why! You two young rascals, how did you come together? Here you've
cheated me out of anticipated pleasure by finding one another out behind
my back--this is too bad!" and Mr. Rayne as he spoke looked suspiciously
at each of them.
"Oh, Mr. Rayne," and "Really, uncle," broke simultaneously from their
lips, and then Guy, advancing, explained the interesting circumstances
of their premature introduction.
"Well, it's just as well," Henry Rayne said, laughing, "we are all to be
the one family henceforth, and the sooner it began the better--sit down
Honor--sit down my boy," continued he, drawing chairs towards the fire,
"come Guy, tell us the news, you have nothing else to do but gather it."
It was all over and done, those hands that had been groping in the
darkness for so long, had met at length in one another's clasp. True it
was, that no word had yet betrayed the feeling of either heart, no
action, no sign had been made, and yet each knew full well that they had
met at a threshold which they were both destined to cross, hand in hand.
It was not presumption on either side, but each felt so truly that it
would be easy now to love, that they had met. It seemed as though one
had sought the other for a long tune, and that now they had met never,
never to part.
It will avail us nothing to dwell upon the details that made up the
happy days of Honor Edgeworth's life after her meeting with Guy
Elersley. To those who know what it is to breathe, live, and act under
the soothing influence of a first love, the page would be a superfluous
one, and to those for whom such a blessed phase of life is yet among the
things to be, mine must not be the pen that will spoil the luxury
thereof by anticipating its joy--and again, to the wrinkled brows and
aching hearts for which such a thing lies among the "might have beens,"
oh, I will not surely speak--I see their blinding tears--I hear a long,
mournful sigh--somebody's fate is cursed, somebody's hope is trampled,
somebody's heart is withered and dead! There remain only those who live
their love-days in a holy remembrance, those who, in going backward
through time go
"--hand in hand
With spirits from the shadowland,"
and to those I whisper the words of our poet, and say--
"'Tis better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all."
All I will say is, that the sun which set upon the world on the day
when, for the first time, Guy and Honor linked hands, never, since nor
before, went down upon any two creatures who were more thoroughly
satisfied with themselves than were these two.
When Guy left Mr. Rayne's house, the evening was far spent--and such an
evening! If an exclamation point cannot imply its happiness it must
remain a mystery. Long after he had bade his earnest "good-night," Honor
and her guardian sat together over the dying coals and chatted
pleasantly. It was their custom to hold this nightly gossip no matter at
how late an hour their visitors left them.
"And so that is my brave nephew for you," Henry Rayne said, as Honor
stood up and placed her chair against the wall, "How do you like him?"
Like him? If he could have seen her averted face--her eyes--her mouth!
"Don't you ask an opinion a little soon?" she replied, so carelessly,
that the shrewdest observer would be baffled.
"Well, I don't mean to ask you if you're crazy about him, or anything
like that," Mr. Rayne said, half-laughing, "but do you take to him, do
you think you will be _friends_? That's what I'd like to know."
"Oh," she exclaimed, disguising her excitement in a smile of surprise,
"I do not doubt that, at least so far as _I_ am concerned, I have been
friends with more--with less--I mean with more--no, with _less_
"Gracious! it seems to have puzzled you if you have," Henry Rayne said,
mischievously, as he saw her color and grow impatient with herself, "you
seem at a loss to know on what equality you would put poor Guy's
"Now, you needn't teaze, just because I'm dreadfully sleepy and can't
talk right; I won't say another word, only--Good-night," and kissing him
brusquely on the cheek, she skipped out of the room.
But the subject had not dropped through with these remarks.
The following day as Honor sat in the library alone, Mr. Rayne bustled
in, and sat down beside her, as he said, to read her some interesting
item from the morning _Citizen_, but instead of leaving her again, Honor
saw that he was lingering in the room purposely. (I wonder if anyone
ever yet loitered around a place pretendingly to no purpose without
immediately betraying that he was full of purpose.) After Henry Rayne
had looked at the titles of several books, and gazed vacantly at the
paintings that decorated the walls, and raised the cover of a massive
ink-stand just to drop it again, he made a bold stroke and began his
subject as though it had only entered his head at that very moment.
"Honor," he said somewhat timidly, "I was going to ask you to do
something, last night, but you left me so suddenly that I had to put it
"Oh, I am so sorry," Honor answered, raising her lace frame to her
mouth, not to hide her face, but only to bite off an obstinate knot of
thread that provoked her. "Is it too late, now?" she queried anxiously,
looking at him.
"Oh, no; it's not too late. It's about Guy."
"Why, what can _I_ have to do with Guy?"
"Well, I just want you to promise me you will do all you are able. If
you do that, I can almost promise you I will never ask you to do me a
The puzzled, asking look in her gray eyes deepened, a curious smile
stole round her lips.
"I need not tell you how strange this is to me," she said slowly, "you
must know that you proposed an enigma which I cannot solve."
"Come here, Honor," Mr. Rayne said seriously. She laid down her work and
went towards him. He was sitting in a velvet arm-chair, and she knelt
beside him, with her white, delicate hands clasped on the ruby
upholstering. He put one arm gently around her, and as he smoothed her
wavy hair with one hand, he asked her earnestly,
"Honor, you know how much good is done in the world by mere contact, do
"Of course I do, Mr. Rayne; good and evil alike have been kept
circulating from the beginning by individuals."
"That is so. Well, now, don't you think it is a pity when there is a
very susceptible person, one who would be good if he was led, or who
would be wicked if he was led--don't you think it a pity, I ask, that
such a person as that should go to ruin because there is no good
influence open to him in his life?"
"Undoubtedly," the girl answered seriously. "But Mr. Rayne, no one need
be wicked if he wishes to be good, evil is not forced on us you know."
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