Part 2 out of 7
"I know that, my child, but we are not always as strong as our
inclinations--the spirit is one thing and the flesh another. Now, I want
to appoint you a mission--you are a good girl, and your pleasure is in
doing good. Supposing you would favor me by doing good at my request?"
Honor started a little, and looked enquiringly into his face.
"You know you have only to tell me your wish, dear Mr. Rayne. I wish I
could have anticipated it; but as that could not be, I pray you tell me
immediately. What can I do for you worth the asking?"
"I want you to promise me that you will begin right away to work your
influence over Guy." The color rose to her cheeks, and the smile faded
out of her eyes and mouth. "This, mind, is a profound secret, Guy has
neither father nor mother--he has no home, nor no real friends. I, like
the rest, have spoiled him but God has sent me you in time. I know that
my dead sister would rebuke me severely were she to see her boy, my
charge, so reckless and so dissipated. But I fancy it is not so much my
fault--my influence could never change him much.--I want you, for my
sake, to try yours. You have only to meet him often, and talk with him.
If he has eyes at all he must see in our practical life all the theories
he has heard preached to him so often. Show him in all the indirect ways
you can, how foolish and frivolous are the ways of society to-day. He is
a clever boy, and susceptible, and your trouble will not be lost. Come,
now, will you promise me only to try, for my sake?"
"How you exaggerate the capacity of a weak woman," she said a little
sadly, then, after a moment's pause, she continued--"It is no trifling
mission you appoint to me, Mr. Rayne; it is full of responsibilities.
But there!" and she clapped her little hand firmly into his, "That means
my strongest resolution--I will do my best You can ask no more."
"God bless you" the old man murmured slowly, squeezing the slender
fingers tenderly between both his hands, "I am sure you will never
No other word was spoken. Henry Rayne had left the room, and Honor stood
there alone--stood with folded hands and dreamy eyes--thinking. What a
strange request this had been! How was she going to fulfil her promise
without betraying the real impulse that had spurred her to make it? How
was she going to work her way into his confidence, and yet guard her
own? Oh, if this were a task for Mr. Rayne's sake only, how easily she
would convert it into a pleasure--but she had promised, that cancelled
all her misgivings. She would do it now, if it were in woman's power,
she would make it her duty, and with a resolute will and an anxious
heart, surely the accomplishment would not prove too hard--"Only--if I
had not seen my want supplied in him--if I had not recognized in him the
hero of my life's dream. Oh, Guy! What a joy it will be to me if I can
teach you to come to me, turning your back upon gaiety, and pleasure,
and temptation, to sit by my side, when the voice of a more powerful
tempter is stifling mine. What joy for me then!--but no, I am wrong!--it
is not my gratification I have been sent to seek; this is a mere duty.
If I had loathed you at this moment, my duty is still the same. Just
now, it is not _your_ sake nor _mine_--it is Henry Rayne's."
The door opened slowly and the croaky voice of the old male servant
broke upon her reverie.
"Beg pardon Miss, but dinner is served."
Heroically she stowed away her emotions, the old pleasant smile stole
back into its home, and with a beaming face and cheerful step she passed
into the dining-room.
"Oh the snow, the beautiful snow
Filling the sky and the earth below.'
"It will be a stormy night I think," Honor says, shrugging her pretty
shoulders behind the window-blind she is just lowering, "I wish I had
the stout brawny arms of a man to-night...."
"Around your waist?" says a voice from behind her, and, suiting the
action to the word, some one encircles her slender waist with "stout
"Guy! I have told you in plain English that I will not allow you to take
such freedom with me. _This_ time, I say, '_Je vous difends
sirieusementde mettre vos bras...._'"
"Oh! that's enough, by Jove, you'd drive a fellow crazy if he'd listen
to you long enough, with your recitals on maidenly propriety. Now,
there's Miss Bella Dash--many a season's belle--just chuckles with
delight when I get this broad cloth sleeve fairly around her blue satin
"Oh! I dare say! but society gives 'poetical licences' to her adopted
children, which outside of her pale would be simply atrocious. If Bella
Dash saw your coat sleeve around Betsy, the house-maid's basque, it
would mean another thing altogether, though Betsy's eyes are as fine as
Miss Bella's any day. Besides, you must have learned by now that the
'Bella Dash's' of Ottawa society to-day are _nothing_ to me. My sympathy
for _my_ sex goes out to the whole species and when I offer it to
individuals, I exclude the 'Miss Dash's' that make the '_tableaux
vivants_' of the modern drawing-room."
"By Jove! that is a fine speech Honor; now see here between you and me
(I might also add the only two sensible people in Ottawa) what do you
think would become of us young enthusiastic fellows if all the 'girls'
stood on their high-heeled dignity like you? Why of course the
monasteries and lunatic asylums would have more to do, and by and by,
the lunatic asylum would have it all; but destiny is not so cruel a
tyrant as you, so she makes your haughty kind the exception and not the
Honor laughed, a low curious laugh, and said "Then she is very kind to
_me_ to have made me realize soon enough how much too worthy I am to be
any man's pastime, a toy for him to play with until the paint is rubbed
off--then to be flung aside for something new. If that is all Bella Dash
and her prototypes, are worth in your estimation, it is no wonder they
are proud, and no wonder they hold their heads high enough to sniff the
air over the heads of girls, who, were you to use their names as you do
Miss Dash's, would level you to the ground."
"My most supreme stand-offish friend, I hope sincerely you won't preach
any of these theories around our gay little city. Why, the young ladies
here are just a jolly crowd, who don't transmogrify their whole faces
because a fellow likes to spoon now and then to kill time. By Jove!
you'd spoil the fun for the winter, and as soon as spring came the whole
male element of Ottawa City would 'make' for the fresh pastures of the
"That is a worthy declaration Mr. Elersly, I must say. I hope you are
aware that in speaking thus, you risk the good opinion of your
respectable sensible friends--if you have any--outside of this house. It
is cold so near the window, let me pass please. I prefer a seat by the
fire to this stupid argument here in the window recess."
The mischievous smile died out of Guy's handsome face, as he looked
earnestly into the beautiful eyes of the girl standing by him.
"Oh yes, of course" said he, with a sigh, "anything is stupid in _my_
company, although I come to you when I'm in good spirits for sympathy,
as well as when I'm 'blue' for consolation: you always find it dull and
stupid, and you don't hesitate to tell me either. If I bore you so
dreadfully, I'll be off."
Honor looked up suddenly; she stretched out her hand and laid it on his
shoulder; her voice was changed and earnest as she said. "Stay Guy, and
we'll talk it over in a friendly way. There are two seats by the grate,
and I will be very amiable--I promise you."
There was a moment of hesitation--temptation--both ways for Guy. At last
he looked up, saying: "I'm really sorry, Honor, but I made an engagement
for eight o'clock, and I've only ten minutes to walk over half a mile;
so we'll have to postpone our little '_veillee_.'"
She turned from him and looked into the fire "Very well," she answered
quietly, "the night is stormy, but I suppose you don't mind that."
"Not much," a fellow has to humour the weather for the weather won't
"But by Jove! its eight o'clock," said Guy, looking at his watch, "and
I'll be puckering my patrician brow to invent an excuse for this delay.
"Good night," Honor said in a low voice, extending her hand as Guy
approached the fire to light his cigar. Another moment, and the young
girl was alone with her thoughts.
We might stop here and wonder at the mysterious conventionality that is
influencing all our lives now-a-days. It is not a deception, and yet its
consequences are often the same. Here was a striking instance of its
existence. It might have been noticed from the beginning of the last
interview that Honor and Guy had grown somewhat more familiar with one
another. It was Mr. Rayne's doings, for had he not interfered, the same
cold mysterious distance would still have been between them; but there
was no sacrifice too great where he was concerned, and it was purely for
his sake the young people dispensed with the formality of their early
acquaintance. And yet, how superficial this familiarity was on both
sides! Just now, look at them--read their thoughts--see their hearts.
Guy closed the front door with a heavy bang and went out into the street
troubled. He was talking to himself: "Such a farce, by Jove! one would
think she was a little sister, by the way I try to speak, and if she
only knew how I struggle to suffocate the passion that rises within me,
when she looks up so earnestly out of her big dreaming eyes; it is sheer
folly and I'll go mad if it must continue--and yet--if uncle ever
suspected my love he would separate us then and there. But it is
dangerous dust I am flinging in his eyes by being free and easy with her
in this way. In a little while more I won't be able to trust myself, and
God help me then. Confound those Teazle girls, only for their invitation
I would have stayed with Honor to-night, but a fellow belongs to every
one in this city before himself, and I can't expect to escape"
"Alas! for the rarity
Of Christian charity
Under the sun."
By this time he was mounting the steps of his boarding-house, and he
flung the butt of his cigar violently at a gaunt spare cat that just
ventured its pinched countenance from under the verandah. As he turned
the latch-key, he was indulging in a strain of "In the gloaming, oh! my
darling" as though he were the happiest of living creatures.
For some moments after Guy left his uncle's house Honor sat motionless
reading the coals. She was troubled: Mr. Rayne expected her to be able
to entice his nephew away from these never ending parties of pleasure,
and she could not. If she did not care for him quite so much, her task
would indeed be easier, indifference spurs on so to a task that is mere
duty. How miserable she was, here, all alone, on his account, while he,
where was he spending these moments fraught with so much anxiety for
At this juncture Mr. Rayne bustled in and, somewhat surprised to find
his little girl alone, he took the seat Honor had placed for Guy, and
settled himself for a comfortable fireside chat.
"The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men:
A thousand hearts beat happily: and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage-bell."
Let us now contrast the two pictures which present themselves to the
imagination on this stormy winter evening. One is quiet, usual,
familiar; the other is noisy, glittering, but also familiar. One is the
drawing-room in Mr. Rayne's comfortable house, with the gaslight falling
gently over the silent room--it is not turned very high. Mr. Rayne is
dozing in an arm-chair. His hands are folded across his breast, and his
limbs are extended at full length--he is dreaming. Honor is seated at
the piano, stealing her slender fingers over the ivory keys. It is a
low, rippling strain--_Valse des Soupirs_--such as fairies might bring
from their magic touch. 'Tis the music of her own heart--the sound of
her sighs, and she plays on softly, heedlessly. She is lost in the
ecstacy of her own reverie.
We turn to the other side of the picture. Noisy strains of dance music,
merry peals of laughter, little snatches of society gossip, beaming
faces, silk and lace and flimsy loveliness, bouquets and gloves, trains,
handkerchiefs, fans and flirtation, all in a sweet confusion. This is
Ottawa at its best, as every one allows when the Misses Teazle throw
aside their family portals for their annual ball. Every one is there--
married and single, young and old, homely and pretty, rich and--(no! not
rich and poor), the rich only, the powerful only, the most influential
papas and the best-dressed mammas that Ottawa can afford, and the
"juveniles" get in on pa's and ma's qualifications. It is the first
private ball since the opening of Parliament, and every one feels very
fresh for pleasure. The Misses Teazle themselves look charming (what
hostesses ever did not in Ottawa?) and the rest vie with one another.
We are somewhat confused on our entrance into the brilliant room, but
some glaring objects attract our attention, thereby kindly taking that
look of vacant bewilderment out of our eyes. We have often wondered what
the scene was like inside those closed shutters, and here we are now,
transported all at once to the very midst of the interesting
There is a group near the door that we readily take in, in our first
sweeping glance round the room. Mrs. Mountainhead, a lady prodigiously
inclined to embonpoint, looking exceedingly warm and uncomfortable, is
the central figure. Her two daughters and their attendant cavaliers are
also there. But it is plain to see that Mrs. Mountainhead does not enjoy
the ball. She stands in holy awe of her aristocratic daughters, who are
just "fresh" from a very modern boarding-school. Every word she utters
has an accompanying look thrown either to the short-sighted full-
complexioned eldest daughter or to the slim, unprepossessing younger
one, seeking approval from their responsive glances. And, after all,
poor Mamma Mountainhead, in her ruby velvet and Chantilly lace, has, by
far, more brains of her own--if she could get a license to use them--
than either of her daughters have ever admitted within the limits of
their well-frizzed heads. But who is the apparently devoted admirer of
Miss Gerty Mountainhead, who is leaning over her chair from behind, with
the top of his aquiline nose in ridiculous proximity to her very red
face? Who but Mr. Guy Elersley? There he is, whispering all kinds of
nothings into the blushing, susceptible ear of dear Miss Gerty, never
heeding the thought of the lonely girl at the piano in the quiet home of
Then there is a silvery laugh, and you hear the words--"Well, between
the Racquet court and the skating rink, and calls, and going out, what
do you think I could ever do? Why, the day is not half long enough as it
"Surely not, Miss Dash," a deep voice makes answer in a tone of quiet
amusement, "you must be dreadfully worried in trying to make things
harmonize. You are so tired at night that half the morning must go for
repose, and then--"
Here the speakers moved on and it was seen that Bella Dash was happy on
the arm of a wealthy bachelor who was fast becoming interesting to all
female friends, mamas and daughters. It is easy to see at a glance that
every one is fooling every one else, and the male element in the room is
absorbing all the real fun.
With the exception of a few newly-appointed civil servants who have
"made their calls" and run an account at the tailors, the other
gentlemen are mostly well-versed in the drawing-room slang and will
certainly not bore their fair partners by discussing anything outside of
Rideau Hall, or the other fashionable and interesting haunts of gay
winter festivities. These gallant knights are easily distinguished
looking around the ball room with half-closed eyes (they are mostly
short-sighted), or parading their audible element through the room with
such a lazy drawl--beautifully substituting the _r's_ with a perfectly
Among these indispensables, were Jack Fairmay, Willie Airey and a great
many more of our "Sparks Street" elegants. How much better they look on
a freezing afternoon with their noses blue and their fur caps pulled
comfortably down over their ears, than in the painfully proper looking
long-tailed broad cloth and white kids, exactions of society's absolute
All the blondes and brunettes of Centre Town and Upper Town and Sandy
Hill, all the "tony" Post Office clerks, all the young, flourishing,
embryo and genuine lawyers, doctors, engineers, rich lumber merchants,
and civil servants, _ad infinitum_ were there.
What a gay picture! What an interesting sight! Who would not love Ottawa
for its self-made gouty papas and its fat, airy, comfortable mamas?
Think of the wonderful influence of these thoroughly Christian women on
the sphere in which they shine. Even in this one gathering can we not
realize how the improvements and customs of the day cast their benign
influence over a mighty world, through the rising generation. Those dear
pretty pink and white dimpled darlings done up in "illusion" and silks,
how happy it makes one feel only to look at them! This must be the
nature of the remarks, Guy and another male friend exchange in the bay
window. Let us draw nearer.
"You're wrong, Bob my dear," Guy is saying, "I agree with you they do
look like fish-hooks strung in a row, but I heard Miss Nellie Teazle
tell Mrs. John Prim, that that was the 'Montagu' style; so excuse me for
"Oh! don't mention it, the name almost redeems the folly of the thing.
By the way Elersley, you have been 'going it' in rather a pronounced way
with Miss Mountainhead to-night. Is it too soon to be the first to
"Oh Lord!" Guy smothers the exclamation under his heavy moustache. "You
might try the names of all the dear ones in succession on me. They're
just immensely jolly, you know, but I never heard of a young Ottawaite
in his sane sober senses, go choose his future wife in a ballroom."
Just here, Miss Dash comes up and throws a coquettish look at Guy
through the opening in the curtains. He nods a temporary good-bye to his
companion and goes off to claim the next waltz which Miss Dash has
promised him, and, oh Guy! naughty boy! if he is not saying over the
identical pretty nothings to Miss Bella, that are yet filling the heart
of Miss Mountainhead. with a delicious souvenir of him.
In another corner of the room Bob Apley is "spooning" most suggestively
with the same Miss MacArgent whose "fish-hooks" he has just been
ridiculing so mercilessly. This of course is pardonable according to the
world's wise indulgent maxims, especially when we consider that Miss
MacArgent's father's income, daily, is almost identical with the amount
of dollars and cents that find their way to the pockets of the
impecunious Bob in a whole year.
Besides Emily is rather a good-looking specimen of the "foreign" belles
that winter in Ottawa, and some one even said last winter that one of
the Governor-General's Aides-de Camp and she--oh! we all know how the
green-eyed monster tortured the hearts of the poor belles of countless
seasons, when they saw their indisputable rights usurped by a
comparative stranger. The two Misses Begg, for instance, who have been
twenty-five and twenty-six respectively for the last eight years,
waiting for the turn in their lives, that will never come, have cause
for bitter complaint. The same faces are here that are ever on
exhibition as the champion tennis player, the champion skater, another
an unrivalled waltzer, and some more distinguished vocalists and
instrumental performers. These grow wearisome once the novelty wears
off. There is nothing in them besides the foam that blows away after a
little and leaves no trace of its once august presence.
We will make our adieus gladly to the affected civil servants, the young
embryo professionals, the rich independent bachelors, the corpulent
papas and mamas, the famous tennis, skating, singing, dancing and
playing heroines, and go joyfully back to the snug little parlor of
Henry Rayne, where sits the only one sensible girl we have seen
She has ceased playing, and is now sitting by a low table with her
lovely head bent earnestly over a lap full of wool-work. The little
clock goes ticking on through the noiseless moments that come and go and
still her busy fingers ply hurriedly through the stitches. At last it is
ten o'clock and instinctively she rises, puts away her wools and needle,
and goes over to the chair which yet supports the sleeping figure of
"Good night, Grandpapa," she says softly in his ear.
He hears the low sweet whisper. Her voice would penetrate the depth of
death itself for him, he fancies. She said "Grandpapa." She only calls
him that when she is sad, whenever a sense of bitter loneliness fills
her heart, making her miss a kind mother and her dear handsome father
He opens his eyes instantly and raises his hand to draw the pretty bowed
head closer still to his.
"Good-night, my dear little child. How stupid of me to have dozed here
all night leaving you by yourself."
"Don't fret, Grandpa dear, I love your company, and all that, but
remember I am never less alone than when alone, and an evening by myself
is never lost to me."
"No, my pretty one, but you must grow tired some day thinking so
incessantly, I must try and distract you; it is dreadful of me to keep
you housed up, so secluded, when there is so much for your youth and
beauty to enjoy outside. May be I'm responsible for many a sigh you've
heaved lately, but it never struck me you see, my pretty darling, that
our sentiments and sympathies run so widely apart, it is not very
surprising if an old prosy bachelor should forget to ferret out the
pleasures of youth, to bestow them on a fair young beautiful thing like
"Oh-ho, now dear old Grandpa, you have been sleeping and dreaming of
somebody you are mistaking for me. Don't fret for not spoiling me more
than you do. I am pampered enough dear knows. Good-night, I am sleepy
too, and I think a night's rest would not be detrimental to either of
us, eh grandfather?" and kissing him tenderly on both cheeks, she
skipped out through the open doorway and ran up to her own little room.
Grace was in all her steps
Heaven in her eye
In every gesture, dignity and love.
There was no nonsense about Honor Edgeworth. Anyone should like her.
There may have been traits in her character that would elicit no
sympathy from some, but they either forget the extraordinary
circumstances that influenced her young life, or else they are
prejudiced against such individuals as she, whose eyes are widely opened
to all the existing follies and extravagances of her species.
Honor would have grown up and bloomed to ornament a far fairer land than
Canada, her too enthusiastic nature would have been infinitely better
developed in another world, but it is useless to sit down and mourn over
the "might have beens" that are always such a loss to us, because we see
them, devoid of all the disadvantages realization brings to bear on our
own sad experience.
Honor was not even one of those exceptionable women created, not out of
the slime of the earth, but conceived in the romantic mind of some
extravagant novelist, and brought into the world by his magic pen. No
indeed, she had certainly a beautiful face, almost a faultless face, but
how many have cursed the day when first they knew their own beauty! How
many look back over pages and pages of awful crimes and shameful deeds,
and the index page, the starting point, is their beautiful face. So do
not be too hasty in envying the physical perfection or loveliness of
others. Rejoice that you have it not; the want of it must be your
salvation. Know well that if it is not yours, it is because the
possession and consciousness thereof would lead you to evil, and it is
one of those things for which God has his own wise ends.
Perhaps if Honor had mixed with the feminine world more intimately she
would not be the standard of maidenly modesty and reserve that she was
in her nineteenth year; but in her there was an utter absence of that
self-sufficiency and loudness that is painfully prominent now-a-days in
the very city we inhabit. And yet in all her meekness and mildness if
you by look or word injured the extreme sense of delicacy that was the
under current of all her movements, then--she reared her aristocratic
chin high in the air and looked down upon you in such scorn and anger,
as wounded innocence alone can assume. One curl of that splendid lip,
one flash from that cold grey eye and you did not take long to feel how
basely you had lowered yourself, and that a pardon craved on your knees
could scarce half atone for the offence.
What a loss to the social world that women of her stamp are not more
plentiful! What on earth else can redress social evils if not the
redeeming influence of good Christian determined women? Why should they
not hold the key to the good impulses, the moral treasures of mankind as
well as they wind themselves into the evil nature by enticing the
susceptible, dealing out gratification to the willing, and dragging
souls blindfolded into an irremediable eternity?
Physiognomists tell us, if we can not observe it for ourselves, that
there exists not only that universal difference among things, which
makes genus, species, classes, etc., but that even among individuals
there is no perfect resemblance found. There are the general prominent
traits that serve to classify them, but perhaps there is more difference
among the individuals of a species, when examined minutely, than there
would be between individuals of a different genus.
This is so true of the human species, which is difficult to judge
individually on account of the incessant mysterious hidden workings of
that ever active faculty of the soul, which manifests itself so
differently to other eyes through actions and words of greater or less
This is a digression, but, it came from contemplating the singular
beauty of one woman's soul, among the tarnished multitude of victims to
that social levity and those superficial virtues that society honors,
and with which our modern fashionable women persuade themselves they are
doing marvels in the world of good.
If I make a paragon of Honor Edgeworth, it is because I can defy any
broad-minded, unprejudiced critic to find a single grievous fault in her
Besides the ordinary cultivation of her mind in all its faculties, Honor
had another and a nobler ambition. She had acquired all the requisite
knowledge to fit her for any station in life, from that of a nursery
governess to that of the highest lady in the land. Her learning was not
a smattering of this and that--a few words of German, a great deal too
many of her own tongue, a well-studied enthusiasm for Tennyson and
Longfellow, and may be now and then a word for the "Lake" school poets.
Who has not met in their long or short run of experience with the modern
graduate who "perfectly idolized" Tennyson or Byron, who "raved" about
Shelley's poetical mysticism, or who was "fairly enchanted" with
Goethe's deep romanticism. In some of her peculiar phases she even
reckons as items of her illimitable knowledge selections from her
"favorites" among the French romantics, or the realistic school may be
more to her taste. She rolls up her eyes for Mozart and Beethoven and
Gottschalk, but her heart thumps for Offenbach, Lamothe or Strauss. To
make herself "interesting" in society she has "burned the midnight oil"
over "David Copperfield," "Dombey and Son," "Jane Eyre," "East Lynne,"
"Endymion" and other popular volumes as they gain fame. She can sing
snatches from all the finest operas, in Italian, German or French. She
can dance the Boston and Rush Polka with unrivalled grace, she can flirt
and affect the most becoming airs, she never misses a _matinee_ or
evening performance at the Grand Opera House; she can do the
"grape-vine" exquisitely on her silver-plated skates, and can toss the
tennis ball with wonderful dexterity.
All this relates to the effects of the superficial cultivation that our
women are getting in this century. A mind polished so that the "rough"
cannot manifest itself, a little veneering of knowledge and showy
accomplishments, but a heart, alas!--ignored and neglected; the source
of all womanly perfection blocked up and destroyed--that is the
sacrifice that will alone appease the world in its most sensual phase of
to-day, the sacrifice complete and universal of women's hearts. Ah! how
soon they nourish the briers and thistles of cold indifference and
unchristian feeling. In opposition to this sad spectacle I come back to
Honor Edgeworth by her bedside, on her knees, at her evening prayer.
Here is a woman who has moulded her heart according to the law of
Christ. "Be ye perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Here is a
woman who is learned, wise and simple, gay, light-hearted and pious,
confiding and discreet, one who can redeem the loss of many because
temptation assailed her and left her the victor.
Long after Honor lay sleeping peacefully, her pink cheeks buried in the
soft pillows, Mr. Rayne sat thinking in the armchair below. It was
growing painfully evident to him that his darling _protegee_ was now
budding into all the fullness and maturity of womanhood, and had she
been his own daughter he would have introduced her formally into society
by now. This was what troubled him. He did not relish the idea of
sending this fair delicate morsel out among the chills and dangers of a
cold world. And yet, if influenced by this good intention, he deprived
her of the seeming advantages that active life in society affords, and
if in later years she would reproach him as the cause of some misfortune
or other, what would these probably groundless fears avail him in his
defence? She was old enough to know danger, and she had spoken to him
already of the world as though her experience of it was great and
sufficient. Perhaps all she needed for a final confirmation of her
opinions of the degradation of that same world was a trial of it. And
should he wrong her by depriving her of it through a false motive?
Whatever way he turned the argument it looked like a dilemma. He should
either send her "out" or not. If he pursued the former course, the
advantages were six, the disadvantages half-a-dozen. If the latter, the
advantages were twelve, the disadvantages a dozen, so that he found
himself almost unequal to the solution of the problem.
Bye-and-bye however, he resolved to come to some conclusion, and thus by
getting angry with himself, he narrowed the two inclinations into one,
and that assumed the shape of a final decision to give her the same
chances as Ottawa's other comfortable daughters.
Once his resolution was made, matters grew easy. He would write to a
widowed cousin who was living a seceded life in Western Ontario,
inducing her to share his home, and the responsibility that weighed upon
him of giving his adopted child her due.
This lady had mourned her departed husband in solitary seclusion for
nigh eight years, and it struck Mr. Rayne on this eventful evening that
may be she would find pleasure in a change.
Thus was Honor's destiny slowly deciding itself in the troubled mind of
her benefactor while she lay blissfully unconcious, fast asleep among a
heap of downy pillows, with one fair hand thrown carelessly over her
head and a little stray curl or two nestling on her warm flushed brow.
Satisfied with his final judgment, Mr. Rayne called for a light and
escorted himself to the downy arms of his comfortable bed, and when we
next take a peep--for of course we've not intruded for the few moments
he was saying his prayers--he is snoring the snore of the truly heavy
sleeper, and his big good-natured face scarcely discernible among
night-cap, pillows and sheets, easily convinces one of the indisputable
quiescence of the mind's consciousness in slumber.
Is it not almost equivalent to the acomplishment of the deed itself when
we have fallen asleep the night before with the resolution of performing
it on the morrow? Is not the wrong almost redressed when we have
promised our selves to right it at any cost on the morrow? Is not the
thought itself equal to the vow if we know that with the morning's sun
we shall rise to make it in reality? One feels all the satisfaction of a
deed accomplished in anticipation, and God be thanked for this, for how
many weary souls must have made their last night on earth endurable, by
the peace of mind that such resolutions infallibly bring.
This explains the comfort and utter heedlessness of Mr Rayne's slumber
after such a miserable time as he passed arguing against himself in his
drawing-room. He had vowed that he would broach the tender subject to
Honor the very next day, and thus free himself from any more hours of
"They say the maxim is not new,
That good and evil mixed must be
In every thing this world can show."
The next morning dawned a calm, mild day. The snow was knee-deep on the
ground and covered the housetops with a thick soft mantle. On how many
utterly different scenes the stray sunbeams rested that winter morning.
Nearly all the heroines of Miss Teazle's ball were sunk in heavy, tired
slumber, in rooms strewn with laces and flowers and other fragments of
last night's dissipation. The poor over-exerted mammas are neither able
to rise nor to sleep, and their pitiably puckered brows and sour looking
faces would excite the sympathy of the most cynical misanthrope.
And yet, perhaps if not reminded, some readers would be tasteless enough
to overlook the noble sacrifice these mothers were making of the comfort
of their lives in order to "chaperone" their stylish daughters to all
the haunts of pleasure. These poor fashionable women must indeed drain
life's cup of bitterness to the dregs, if we can judge from the worldly
Who rigs herself in satins light,
And goes to parties every night,
To chaperone her daughters bright?
Who eats late suppers to her grief,
Of jellied turkeys and roast beef,
And finds no dyspeptic relief
Who tries to talk with pompous air,
And saturates with dye her hair,
To gratify her daughters fair?
Who snubs our neighbor Mrs. Bell,
In poorer days we knew so well,
And tales of woe did often tell?
Who calls at Ridleau and all round,
Where rank and titles do abound,
And boasts of cousins newly found?
Who fears to bow to poorer kin,
For fear her daughters will begin
To growl and scold as though 'twere sin!
I give the intelligent reader ten minutes to pause and moralize after
I anticipate the look of stupid wonder that must necessarily envelope
the face. If there is so much in individual influence in the lower
circle, what can one expect from the multitude that must submit to a
thousand other decrees coming imperatively from the infallible (?) lips
of society herself? How can we do otherwise than substitute for truth
and simplicity, deception and affectation? What else can we do but fail
to recognise one another in the characters we are forced to assume? Is
it surprising that good and wise men from their corners of seclusion
call the world degenerate, and wonder at the persistent wrong-doing of
those who are the work of such merciful hands? Strange to say, most of
us know, or pretend to know, that life is all deception; that the world
itself, and those who belong to it are essentially, almost necessarily,
selfish; that the goodness and charity which circulate at rare intervals
are only the superfluidities of comfort, proceeding from no generous
impulse whatever. It is not dealt out at the sacrifice of a crust of
bread. It is given so that it may not be left.
Oh, the weakness of humanity after nineteen centuries of fortification!
Oh, the despicable degradation of a race conceived in an Eternal Mind,
created by an Infinite Hand, redeemed by the voluntary sacrifice of a
God, and sanctified by the Spirit that pervades the universe!
Knowing this, realizing this, as most of us do, why do we not make a
move towards independence? Not the independence of the State, that
gratifies the paltry ambition of thousands, not that social independence
whose meaning has of late been so shamefully misapplied, not even the
individual independence that satisfies many. These are but names. I mean
that independence that leaves one unfettered by one's self, that makes
one victor over one's own evil tendencies and impulses--for man has no
enemy so cunning as himself. If he cannot conquer his own inclinations
to error, how is he going to subdue them in others?
If we are slaves, mentally and morally to our sensual selves--if we
raise the material element above the spiritual within us, we then lose
the right of opinion on good or evil, for a man that is passion's slave
is the mouth-piece of evil, and an active agent of the enemy of mankind!
If we open our volumes of literature, every page bears a reflection of
some kind on these things.
For instance, see what a great writer says, speaking of the deception in
"I am weary
Of the bewildering masquerade of life--
Where strangers walk as friends and friends as strangers,
Where whispers overhead betray false hearts;
And through the mazes of the crowd we chase
Some form of loveliness that smiles and beckons.
And cheats us with fair words, to leave us
A mockery and a jest, maddened, confused--
Not knowing friend from foe."
Every one who chooses to think at all has a thought in common on the
question. In a biography of George Eliot, Hutton speaks of the manners
of good society as "a kind of social costume or disguise which is in
fact much more effective in concealing how much of depth ordinary
characters have, and in restraining the expression of universal human
instincts and feelings, than in hiding individualities the
distinguishing inclinations, talents, bias and tastes of those who
assume them. After all, what we care chiefly to know of men and women is
not so much their special bias or tastes as the general depths and mass
of the human nature that is in them--the breadth and power of their
life, its comprehensiveness of grasp, its tenacity of instinct, its
capacity for love and its need for trust."
I fear we will never find this among the leading men and women of our
day. Great minds, like George Eliot's, when they wish to spend their
genius in written books, will leave the lighted hall where refinement
and _bon-ton_ hold their nightly revels, and will descend to the huts of
laborers and mechanics that form one distinct phase of English life.
Like Charlotte Bronte, and some others, she seeks substance for her work
in a true, open character, and that is rarely found among the educated
classes, who learn from books to unlearn the lessons of nature.
We will now leave the "lollipop" darlings of material nature and pass on
out of their dishevelled untidy rooms, leaving their painted faces and
powdered heads to spin out the late morning among the blankets,--and
seek gratification elsewhere. It is breakfast-time in Henry Rayne's
house and the curling steam rises in graceful clouds from the hot tasty
dishes that Mrs. Potts concocts with so much art. Honor, Nanette and Mr.
Rayne are as usual the only participants of the wholesome things. Honor
has just come in, fresh and rosy, all smiles as she steps up to Mr.
Rayne's chair with a cheery good-morning. Then kneeling beside her
guardian, and looking into his kindly face, she says shyly:
"I have something to tell you all, a surprise, and don't begin breakfast
before you know it. If I were not a little orphan this morning, I would
let it pass likely, but having only you and Nanette I must tell you,
that you may not spare your kind wishes for me. To-day is my twentieth
Mr. Rayne rose instantly to his feet and his eyes looked suspiciously
moist as he kissed her tenderly on the brow. Then Honor turned to
Nanette, but the poor woman was weeping mournfully in her blue
"I'll never forgive myself," she was saying, "to have forgotten your
birthday above everything else, and your dear kind father when he gave
you to me, a tiny thing in my arms, said, 'she will be a year the 24th
February, don't ever forget the day,' and there it slipped from me this
time and I never thought of it."
Honor flung her arms round the old creature's neck and drowned her
reproaches in a volley of kisses.
"Don't mind that Nanny dear, say you wish me a good Christian life for
the next year and you will have done your duty."
"God grant it you, my pretty child."
"Amen," answered Mr. Rayne's deep voice as he left the room.
Honor looked up surprised, but in a few moments her guardian returned
with a morocco jewel case in his hands. He placed it in hers, saying,
"My you live to wear it out in goodness and virtue, and may God spare
you from the snares of this wicked world."
With trembling fingers Honor opened the little box which revealed to
view a spangling collection of diamonds. It was an oval locket,
profusely set with diamonds with her initials turned artfully on the
surface. Inside were the miniature pictures of her father and mother.
She laid down the costly gift and went over to her benefactor with
tear-dimmed eyes. She put both her slender arms around his neck and
pressed one long fervent kiss upon the old man's brow.
"Are you determined, dear Mr. Rayne, to put me under an everlasting
obligation to you? Are you not satisfied with bestowing those tokens
that I might in time repay by constant love and care, without forcing
such a splendid gift as this on me? Really your kindness begins to make
me uncomfortable, for it is amounting to a debt I can never repay. And
where did you get these dear, dear pictures, and how did you have it
ready and all for my birthday?"
"Well, my dear, say we sit down and I'll answer all your questions to
the music of knives and forks. I have had a miniature likeness of your
father in my possession for many years, and it had often struck me, if I
could but procure one of your mother's too, how it would please me to
have them set together in a locket for you. The other day I was taken
nicely out of my dilemma by finding an old-fashioned locket of yours by
the fire in the library. I borrowed it for the short space of a few days
until I had copies taken from it, and then Nanette kindly slipped it
back into your jewel-case for me. I then ordered the little receptacle
that you have admired so much and I only received the whole last night.
Strangely enough too, that it should have come just in time. I would
have given it to you immediately anyway, because of something I am going
to discuss with you in the library after breakfast."
Honor was still looking intently down at the open case beside her plate
when he finished the last sentence, but she looked up suddenly as he
ceased, with a glance of eager inquiry in her eyes.
"It may startle you, Honor, or may not, but we'll see to that."
A little more rattling of plates and cutlery, a few more clouds of steam
from the rich coffee, a series of disconnected gay sentences and
ejaculations and the meal was over. The grave tones of Mr. Rayne's voice
filled the room in a prayer of thanksgiving, and with the last echo of
the "Amen," Honor and her guardian came out from the dining-room into
the library arm in arm.
"Her life, I said
Will be a volume wherein I have read
But the first chapters, and no longer see
To read the rest of the dear history."
Honor had just taken up her crocheting and was plying her needle busily
when Mr Rayne drew his heavy leathern chair opposite to the fire and
"Well, my dear little girl, here you are a young woman all at once on my
hands, and to me you are yet the childish little thing you were three
years ago in the railway carriage at the Manchester Depot. But the world
won't see things to suit a short-sighted old bachelor like me, and
according to that omnipotent, omniscient world, it is now my duty to
introduce you into society, to bring you 'out' into Ottawa life, that
you may make a display of all the accomplishments which fortune has
bestowed upon you. I will introduce you to a world that will not
hesitate in appreciating all the physical, mental, and moral beauty, you
may choose to display in it. My duty will then be completed for another
while. Now what is your opinion on it? You will have Mrs. D'Alberg, my
widowed cousin from Guelph, to chaperone you, you have 'carte blanche'
as regards toilet expenditure, and my house is open and at your service
All along a smile of slow astonishment had been creeping over Honor's
beautiful face, but instead of any showy enthusiasm either way, as Mr.
Rayne had certainly expected, she straightened out the rosette of lace
work on her knee and clapped it with her little palm. Then drawing a
long breath she said:
"So! it has come to this. Well, my dear Mr. Rayne, if my position in
your house exacts an _entree_ into society, I most willingly go forth to
it, though had you never spoken of it, it had never entered my mind. I
am prejudiced, it is true, against society, but I defy its influence
over me. Every woman owes her mite to the social world, and consequently
I owe mine, so as soon as you wish it Mr. Rayne, I am yours to command."
She had scarcely finished the words when the door was flung open and the
words and air of "I'll live for love or die" filled the room. He was
just continuing "I'll live for lo--"
"O pardon, a hundred thousand times, Miss Edgeworth and uncle, I didn't
really think the room was inhabited at such an early hour in the
morning, but the fact that it is, only enchants me all the more, I
"Well, well, Guy, you are a 'case.' How are you this morning? Have you
"Well, uncle, I thank you; and to your second kind query, I respectfully
beg to inform you that I helped to clear away Mrs. Best's table this
morning very perceptibly. Not that I had any particular relish for her
compositions--which were yesterday's lunch and last night's dinner done
over _a la Francay_--Rooshan-hash-up! but then a fellow by natural
instinct owes himself the indispensable duty of eating his breakfast,
and as a slave to duty, I, this morning, about an hour ago, ate my
"Well, for goodness sake! as a duty to your fellow-creatures talk sense.
Here, sit down," Mr. Rayne continued, rising himself, "I must excuse
myself for half-an-hour. I've not had a look at the _Citizen_ yet, and I
must be off soon to official duties."
Guy Elersley was well satisfied to be a substitute in Mr. Rayne's vacant
chair. He had not laid himself out for such good luck when he turned
into his uncle's on this eventful morning, so his appreciation was
consequently all the more vivid.
"You're bright and early, Honor, for a young lady on a winter morning,"
he said, as he drew his chair towards the fire.
"Not unusually so for Honor Edgeworth--and that means a young lady,
"That's right; snub a fellow right and left when he forgets to isolate
you from the whole living, breathing creation. Then you are not bright
and early--will that do?"
"My dear Mr. Elersley," said Honor, in a provokingly placid way, "don't
exert yourself so violently in contradicting your own free, unextracted
observations. You can amuse me in a dozen other different ways as well."
"Oh, bother! Come now, Honor, leave off that ice water business, and
give a fellow a word of welcome after being out in the cold. Put away
that bundle of thread you're fooling with there this half-hour. You have
not taken your eyes from off it yet, nor spoken a decent word since I
"Oh, dear!" said Honor, drawing a feigned sigh, "I suppose when a
child's spoiled it's spoiled, that's all, and you must humor it." "Now,"
folding up her work, "what have you to say worth the trouble you've
"Oh nothing I could tell you would be that in your opinion. I was at a
big 'shine' last night at Miss Teazle's, and feasted my eyes on all
Ottawa has to show in the way of female loveliness."
"And you have come to spend the gush of your emotions consequent to such
a feast on me, have you?"
"No, Honor, I have not. I did see deuced pretty girls, but the emotion,
as you call it, vanished as I handed the last fair bundle of shawls into
her carriage. While the light burns, you know, the moth hangs around it,
but when the flame goes out, spent in a weary flicker, after 'braving
it' for a whole night, the moth goes to roost, when he has not been
singed, or otherwise personally damaged without insurance. Well, what
are you thinking of now? when you cross your arms, bury your gaze in the
fire and strike your slipper with such measured beat on the fender, I
know you're not paying much attention to what I am saying."
She drew a long breath as though no answer were required, and then in a
quiet, low tone she said,
"Guy, do not talk in that light way of any woman. I know what you men
have long accustomed yourselves to believe--that woman was made
purposely for your pleasure; 'Man for God only, _she_ for God in
him,'--but, all the same that does not exact the ratification of Heaven.
If my sisters of Ottawa society, with whom you one moment amuse
yourself, and the next amuse your listeners with a recital of their
follies, are weak enough to seek to gratify you and your kind, 'tis not
that such a weakness is a natural inheritance, for every woman who
realizes her true worth, knows what a grand mission is before her, and
consequently crushes such an absurd theory as fashionable women are
brought up to believe from their infancy. Perhaps I am too sensitive on
this point, if such a thing could be, but it is the awful wrong which is
being done to our sex that fires my indignation thus. And then there are
those poor deluded 'ornamental women' who sanction that outrage on their
own dignity by sitting with folded hands, taking in all the nonsense
which is dealt out to them when they should gather up their skirts and
shrink away from you as their inveterate enemies. False faces lead them
astray, but there are others who see behind them."
"Yes, by Jove! And you are one who can see through the hair of a
fellow's head. Well, Honor, it's plain to see, that you and I cannot
agree. There's an involuntary performance of 'rhyme' for you, excuse me
for so doing, but I could not withhold it. I said that we don't agree,
and it is true. You are quite too tremendously proper for me, and I am
just too 'galoptiously' awful for you. So begin to maul that wool over
again, and I'll go to my respectable office in the respectable Eastern
Block, and there I am sure of finding half-a-dozen eager friends with
their pens behind their ears wheeled around on their office stools,
quite ready to hear all the 'news' that you reject with such dignity."
"Then go. Sow your seed in fertile ground; but if you speak so lightly
of any woman in presence of an office full of men, as you do to me, I
cry,--shame on you and your listeners."
She had taken the soft bundle of crochet work in her lap again, and as
she bent her indignant face over its intricate stitches, Guy could not
help acknowledging to himself, that this was the fairest vision man had
ever beheld. How was it that her name never crossed his lips in fun? He
would have torn the tongue from its roots before uttering hers in jest.
He stood at the door, with the knob in his hand, trying to extract one
word of earnest friendship from her, but the serious frown never relaxed
itself on her brow, and her mouth was set and stern. He could not stand
this. He thought if it was only any other girl--any of Miss Teazle's
heroines, he could pooh-pooh it so easily, but Honor was not one of them
at all--his heart told him that. He left his place at the door and was
at her side instantly. She looked quietly up and said nothing. He felt
as though the words would not come, and the wee small voice said
"another time," so he merely reassumed his old way, and said:
"Good morning, Honor. Don't send a fellow off in the blues. Come now,
smile just the least little bit and speed me away with a charitable
word." Then the sweet red lips parted, and looking up from her work, she
"I absolve you, Guy. Good morning."
"Well, I'll make hay while the sun shines, and be off, for if I delay a
minute I shall have a dozen more pardons to ask. By, bye!"
He closed the door and was gone, but though his hurried steps brought
him further and further away from the form he loved, yet his thoughts
were of her, his heart beat for her, and his memory dwelt upon each
little word she had spoken.
Honor sat as most of us do very often in our lives, with the same smile
on her face which had absolved Guy at parting. If we meet a friend and
are pleased, the smile of recognition lingers on our faces long after he
has passed. If we have heard a pleasant word, the gratification is
evident on our countenances, long after the words have died; and the
same with unpleasant or sorrowful things. I suppose our memory is
necessarily a slow faculty, and only revives the expression of our
emotion just as that caused by the first experience is dying away. Any
one could tell by Honor's face, that she was thinking of pleasant
things. Thence we may know it was no 'clairvoyant' tendency on the part
of Mr. Rayne, that on entering the room the ne moment, he exclaimed:
"So you're spinning your threads in the sunlight, my pet, are you?"
Honor started--"Sunlight? Yes, I think the sun will be up presently."
"Oh, you distracted child! I am talking of the sunlight of your
thoughts." Here both joined in a hearty laugh, and Mr. Rayne having
thrown aside the well dissected _Citizen_, re-deposited himself in the
arm-chair by Honor's side. He came too to make hay while the sun shone,
and the smile on Honor's face indicated that much.
"You see, that fellow Guy interrupted us just in the beginning of our
discourse--but perhaps it was just as well, for something has since
happened that throws a new light on the subject. With this morning's
mail came a document from Turin to me, from your father's bankers,
Honor. It seems from the copy of an original letter written by your
father, that he wished to test my friendship by holding me responsible
for his daughter's welfare and comfort, and he therefore apparently
represented you to me as entirely dependent on my bounty. Even as such,
it was an immense gratification to me to take you, and at the risk of
all I own nou I could not let you go, but it seems your diplomatic
father--and my best friend--had arranged it so, that if, after a short
period, I had performed the duties of a true friend towards you,
supplying you with the necessary comforts and wants out of my own
pocket, that on your birthday at the end of that time, which is to-day,
this document should be forarded to me. The surprising and intensely
gratifying news concerns only you, it makes not the slightest matter to
me," and so speaking, he handed her the least formidable looking letter
of a pile of correspondence. She read it with dilated eyes and confused
look generally, and laid it down only with this difference actually to
her, that she had in her own realization, in one short moment been
suddenly transformed from Mr. Rayne's dependent waif into a richly
endowed heiress, independent and free. A small change indeed for Honor
Edgeworth. It had not power to chisel in finer style the features of her
handsome face, nor the power to direct into her heart a purer, holier or
more worthy sense of duty than already reigned there. No, it could make
her no better. Hers was not a nature susceptible to the ready influences
of evil, and so she experienced none of that material delight which
generally is the result of such a change for the world's ordinary ones.
The only gratification it afforded her was, that now she could repay Mr.
Rayne for his untiring kindness, she could deck Nanette in "decent"
attire, and give such little alms as she longed to distribute with Mr.
Rayne's money. She folded the letter carefully back into its primitive
creases and handed it to Mr. Rayne, saying,
"I thought I should have had to repay your unlimited kindness to me by
love, sincerity and gratitude alone; and though this would have been an
easy debt to liquidate, so far as my sentiments went, yet, it seems
Providence has not tired of heaping favors upon my head, and I can add
to my other offering this new found treasure. But I think, Mr Rayne, had
this gold mine never opened beneath our feet, we would still be the same
to one another, I know"--and as she spoke she rose and threw herself
into the old man's arms--"you, who have been both parents to me when I
was alone and penniless, who surrounded me with comforts and luxuries,
cannot now be cold to me because I no longer need to be dependent. You
have made your home and your kind watchfulness a necessity to me, now
will you not let us be the same as ever with one another? I do not want
to be a rich heiress if I must thereby cease to be 'your own Honor,' and
'your own favorite.'"
The old man's eyes were wet with tears. He pressed the girlish figure
close to him and kissed the fair, flushed cheek.
"We will speak no more of it, darling," he said, "let it be as though
nothing had happened, only you must no longer hesitate to accept the
many little favors that, up to this, you persistently refused--
henceforth _I_ am _yours_ to command when you want something. But, about
your _debut_ child, I want you to consult some one else on that matter,
for you must be as fine to look at as all the rest. You can be ready as
soon as you please, for Mrs D'Alberg will be here shortly, I requested
an immediate answer."
Honor looked thoughtfully into the fire. "This is all so strange," she
said, "but Destiny is Destiny, I suppose, and Fate is Fate."
"A sadder and a wiser man
He rose the morrow--morn."
"Well, I did not think this at the very worst," Mr. Rayne said over a
newly received letter to Honor. "Here's the long expected news from
Guelph, and my cousin says she would find it so convenient for you to go
up, just for a week and she would come back with you. There are so many
things for her to settle, and besides you would see a little bit of life
in the meantime. Now, how in the world are we going to live without
sunshine or daylight for a week, eh?"
"Oh, Mr. Rayne, you spoil me! But, does Mrs. D'Alberg really want me to
go to her? If it is not very far away, and you have no particular
objection, I think I'd rather like to go."
"Of course you would," echoed the generous words of Henry Rayne, "and
why would'nt you? I am too selfish to live. It will make a nice little
trip and you'll feel all the more refreshed when you get back. But,
think of how soon you must go--to-morrow morning at the latest, I tell
you. So, now be active, my dear. Run and tell Nanette to get your things
ready, and I'll drop a note to Guy to come and make himself useful."
Honor bounded off under the influence of the first experience of a new
anticipation--that of shifting the scenes, for no matter how short an
act. She was going among new faces for a little while. What a break in
the monotony of her present quiet life.
When the hastily written note reached Guy's boarding-house, he was
absent. It was as a rule rather hard to find Guy when he was wanting;
but, I doubt if he ever regretted his absence more than be did on this
particular night. I would not care to shock my innocent readers
unnecessarily by telling the hours that brought Guy Elersley to his room
that night, nor the circumstances that caused him to dream such
frightful things through his broken slumber. Some of them either from
having been there before or from close observation could suspect one of
Guy's worst failings at the sight of his dim sleepy eyes, his straggling
cravat and half-buttoned coat, as well as by the thick utterances he
hummed to himself, intended no doubt for the familiar strains of his
favorite "Warrior Bold" or "In the Gloaming," but, nevertheless
differing from them as much as they resembled them.
Oh, Guy! who, among your high-toned lady friends on Sparks Street
to-morrow will recognize in you the fast midnight rambler, that the pale
winter moon and the cold silent stars see in you to-night? You, the
brilliant one of Ottawa's best drawing-rooms, ejaculating all the hard
words you know, because you can't open the door with a lead pencil, nor
find the handle on the wrong side. How well you have learned the art of
veneering your character! Is it then such a breach of Christian charity
to discuss on open pages, Guy Elersley by daylight, and Guy Elersley by
lamplight? Any one given to moralizing, may surely ask the ladies of
Ottawa, if they have ever stopped to think those simple things over. If
all their acknowledged purity, dignity and womanly attraction were worth
no more than to lay them within the ready grasp of the sons of this
century of materialism! Do they never realize how infinitely superior
they are to the men of their own days, and do they ever treat them with
the contempt and indifference that are at best their due? If such were
indeed the case, woman would be more independent in her social standing
than she is to-day, but, I blush to say it--there are those among
Ottawa's fair ones, who are flattered by the attentions and compliments
of such as live these two lives of daylight and lamp-light;--flattered
that an arm should encircle their waists in the dance, which is unworthy
of cleaning the shoes they wear, or sweeping the ground they
tread,--flattered by the attentions and flighty words falling from lips
across whose threshold comes the foul breath of sin and dissipation.
Such is the dignity of the youth of our century; such is the brazen
insolence which causes them to establish themselves as the social equals
of well bred women.
Oh, for the long sought day of woman's emancipation, when she will be
free, in her own right, to scorn from the pedestal of her superiority,
the audacity of the man who shows himself by daylight to the world to be
that high society exacts from him, but whose superficial virtues set
with the evening sun, leaving in their temporary dwelling place, the
craving of material nature to be gratified. Such are the heroes of our
popular novels, such are the heroes of our actual society, such are our
male relatives, and yet women seem to be satisfied that things should
remain thus. If every woman would determine within herself to accomplish
the whole or part of the grand mission that is at the mercy of her own
hands, how soon would we have cause to rejoice and thank Providence for
the great reformation in morals which must be a necessary consequence of
such a determination?
Perhaps it is wandering too far away from a simple recital, and giving
more than its real depth to the tenor of our Ottawa society, to indulge
in this strain. If it be just as pleasant, we will return to Guy who has
gained admission by this time. He goes over to the table that stands
opposite his bedroom door. He has left matches and lamp convenient, and
proceeds to light them. The first thing which attracted his stupid
glance was the note in his uncle's handwriting, lying conspicuously on
the white linen cover. But this was, after Guy's nightly carousing--the
most usual thing in the world, and with a word that signified how
secondary his uncle's note was, beside the attempt to reach the bed, he
pushed it carelessly aside and proceeded to get himself out of his
clothes as well as his nervous limbs permitted him. We may be a "little
hard" on Guy's species _selon_ the current ideas of justice. We know
that many are addressed through Guy Elersley, and this indirect way is
adopted of telling them how far below the mark of feminine appreciation
they fall in attempting to throw dust in our eyes. As if every
circumstance of the times was not calculated to impress more firmly upon
us how unworthy the world is becoming of us. We may hold out our hands
one to another, for there is none else worthy to give the responsive
grasp. Young men of the nineteenth century, be assured that because you
are tolerated in society, and because ladies deign to blend their lives
in a measure with yours, it does not follow that they approve of the
masques you are wearing, and which deceive yourselves far more than they
do others. On the contrary, it foretells the advent of the day of our
freedom, for, in the performance of our respective social duties towards
you, we make the last acts of humiliation to complete the sacrifice
before the reward is given us. Of course, if we met Guy Elersley
to-morrow morning, the fetters of society would force us to feign an
utter ignorance of such a mode of living among our gentlemen friends. We
must take it for granted that from sunset till sunrise, Guy was not
"sleeping the sleep of the Bacchanal," and we need not fear that _he_
will betray himself.
With aching head and parched lips, Guy Elersley opened his eyes on the
tell-tale surroundings of his room the morning after "the night before."
With the first break of sleep in the quivering of his lashes memory was
at work. So long as she remains a faithful servant at all, her mission
is waylaying us early and late. From the confused state of things around
him, Guy gathered that he must have reached his resting place under
difficulties, his feet reposed luxuriantly on the downy pillows, while
his poor head was resting on the spare end of Mrs Best's second worst
mattress. That his vest lay in an unpretending heap on the floor, from
which his watch had rolled resignedly into an old slipper, did not
disconcert him so much as his having left his new gaiters where the
household puppy conveniently got at them destroying any possibility of a
future reunion of their parts.
If a man ever wishes to repent of his yesterdays, let him contemplate
them all over during his waking hours in the morning. Then, indeed, is
his time. He becomes ashamed before the monotonous rose-bushes that
speck the wall, and as his wandering orbs scan the picture-nails and the
cobwebs in search of distraction, he will realize the necessity of
amendment more fully than the eloquence of a multitude could paint it.
It was the weariness of this new realization that caused Guy to stretch
out his hand for his uncle's neglected note of last night, seeking as he
thought, something therein that need not remind a fellow of what he knew
"deuced" well already. As his glance fell on the page, his brow
contracted into a slow puzzled look, and as he finished the last word he
started up. It was now after nine o'clock and Honor was far on her
journey. The note was dated 5 p.m. He would have received it time enough
if he had not squandered away his hours from his room, but now she was
gone and there was no excuse he could offer to satisfy himself.
It is necessary that we should part from some friends to know how much
we love them, and this necessity visited Guy in its most cruel phase.
Poor fellow!--After all, he was so much the victim of circumstances. The
consciousness of his own weakness only made him weaker, and his
knowledge of the infidelity and inconsistency in his character only
caused him to resist, as useless, impulses towards stability and
firmness. Now he regretted with his whole soul that he had not come home
like any christian, at a proper bed-time, then he would have learned the
news soon enough to have bade her good-bye. Even if he had read it when
he saw it for the first time, the news it bore would have dispelled the
mist that other influences had gathered around his senses. What could he
do now? He must make the best of a very bad case and go immediately to
his uncle's house where he expected to hear some tidings of the girl he
If any man ever looked thoroughly disgusted with himself in his life,
Guy Elersley surely did, on this eventful morning, as he sauntered along
from his boarding-house to Mr. Rayne's. His sentiments were most likely
those that form an item of the very smallest experience, when its victim
is forced to realize that he has made a very unwilling sacrifice
voluntarily; that he himself is the remote, proximate, direct and
indirect cause of his own misfortune. Still, this was the only room for
hope left in Guy. So long as a man condemns himself before his own
tribunal, making of his inner self the truthful witness and impartial
judge, those interested in his spiritual welfare may know that there is
yet a lingering susceptibility, to a better influence than that which
caused him to do wrong. That such a susceptibility does yet flicker in
the hearts of Ottawa's young sons, I have reason to hope; for there is
an impulse in some of us that leads us into the minds and souls of one
another, there to deposit a judgment or a sympathy, or whatever our
nature suggests at sight of our neighbor's failings. In obeying such an
impulse one can easily peer through the conventional veil which screens
such phases of human character under the meaningless appellations of
"Blues," or "Indisposition." They are truly the visible effect of a
secret hidden cause, which is sometimes brought to the surface by the
magnetic power of one who has studied human faces and characters. So,
_en passant_, it may be as well to kindly suggest to such "blue" friends
that it were often better to lay bare the veritable cause of such a
gloomy feeling, for those before whom they wear the veil are surely
persons whose opinion they esteem or whose judgment they fear, and if so
they are not so easily blinded as one would think, their deception only
serves to render them still more odious. Yet there is no blame to Guy
for having gone on his way this morning in such a mood. When he met Miss
Dash at the first crossing it was the most natural thing in the world
for him to say, "this 'dyspeptic' feeling causes it all," when she
stared in open-eyed wonder at his worn out face and variegated eyes. It
was breakfast-time when he closed his uncle's door after him, and he was
sure to obtain _tete-a-tete_ alone with the old man, now that Honor was
gone, but he did not think the picture would have changed, into such a
sad one as presented itself to his eyes when he opened the door of the
breakfast-room. Mr. Rayne was sitting moodily in his chair, staring
vacantly at his untasted meal, with his hands folded listlessly before
him. At the sound of a voice he smiled and started, but on seeing the
intruder the brightness died out again, and he only said, "Good-morning,
my boy," in a very quiet tone.
"So you are all alone once more, uncle," said Guy, trying to make the
best attempt he could under the circumstances, "Honor's flight was
rather sudden, wasn't it?"
"Too sudden to secure your services when they were needed, I think."
"Well, yes, uncle, I was not in when your note came, and only saw it
this morning for the first time, when it was too late to do anything,
but I am really sorry. Will she not be back in a day or two?"
"I hope so. I hope so," Mr. Rayne answered, more to himself than to Guy.
"I had grown quite accustomed to the darling."
"Yes, so had I," said Guy, under his moustache, "but" (aloud) "the
little trip will make quite a change for her, and the time won't be long
until her return."
A few more very laconic remarks followed, and then Guy began to think it
was rather stupid, and in consequence made a move towards the door. This
made matters a little brighter, for Mr. Rayne became more animated, and
turning his chair towards the receding figure of his nephew, said,
"Hold on a minute, Guy, I want you before you go," and to lessen the
moments of waiting, he raised his cup and drank it at one long draught,
then he rose and led Guy into the cosy library opposite.
Whenever Mr. Rayne was about to impose any new duty on his nephew, he
assumed a stern air that showed a tendency towards the imperative,
rather than the interrogative. He had never said, "Guy, will you do this
or that," it was always, "Guy, I wish you to do this--you must do such a
thing for me," and accustomed to the like from his early youth, Guy
never sought to hesitate, or dispute his uncle's will in anything.
Whenever Mr. Rayne pushed his glasses up on his forehead and began by
saying, "I am getting old and work is no longer light," Guy recognised
the _avant-coureur_ of some new duty devolving upon him, and this was a
phase of this morning's experience.
"I wish copies made of all these documents, Guy," said his uncle in a
business tone, while one hand rested on a prosy looking heap of legal
forms, "and as it is serious work I cannot leave it out of my
possession, so you must come in during your spare hours, now that Honor
is away, and help me to write them over; it will keep us both busy
during her absence, and leave us free on her return. I will expect you
this evening before tea, and to make matters more convenient for all
hands, I wish you to remain here until Honor's return. You may occupy
the spare room, and time will not be quite so dull as otherwise."
"Very well, uncle," said Guy; but oh! what a hornble misery crept into
his heart at the mention of such a thing. Visions of all the most
outrageous difficulties possible, in the career of a fast young man,
rose before his mind, and the consciousness of his lack of courage
caused a shudder to pass through his frame. It must have been apparent,
that Mr. Rayne entertained suspicions of this "boy," and resolved to
stand between him and immediate danger if he could. This might have been
Guy's salvation, if his eyes had not been blinded by the delusive
flattery of the world to which he belonged. He only bowed under it as
the most weighty of his crosses, and trusted to that fate that often
shields the wrong-doer from observation, to turn the tables in his
It was painfully evident to Guy this morning, that his uncle was in very
stern humor, and that nothing but square dealing on his own part could
sustain even the trembling balance that existed between them. One word,
one little wrong deed now, and Guy fancied the fertile looking future
realizing itself to him in that awful destitution which haunts the
average civil servant, who has no pillar of pedigree to sustain him. It
was the hardest policy of his life, to gather all his visible deeds
under the approval of his good uncle, and yet he tried to bear these
things patiently as one might a kick from the King. He saw a fair vision
among the "to be's," if he behaved himself, and is not such an aim as
that, the only one in the sunset of the nineteenth century?
Feeling "all over," as he thought, he left his uncle's house that
morning filled with a firmer conviction than ever, that he was one of
the world's unfortunates. Try as hard as we will, it is tough work
living up to other people's principles, for now and then the most clever
of us fail to interpret them aright and accordingly commit a fault.
It seemed rather cruel to poor Guy, as he sauntered along towards his
office, that the plans he had so easily made for the next fortnight's
distraction, should be frustrated thus in a moment. It is so "deuced"
hard for a conceited sensitive fellow to bear the taunts of his more
free and independent companions, when he is forced to decline their
invitation to "come along." It is not natural that a man, able to stand
his ground against evil counsellors, showing himself morally superior to
them, should then fear their insolent remarks, or their unchristian
judgment. We know it, each one for himself, that when we jibe or
ridicule a good impulse in another, it is evidence of our weakness and
incapacity to experience the same feeling ourselves, and it is the
momentary hatred of envy that suggests a taunt or a mocking word on the
firm resolution of our companion. But unless the conscience of youth be
not obliterated now while it is so weak, the world fears there can be no
other such chance again, and what else can hush its "wee small voice,"
like the ring of sarcasm or the jeering of brave cowards?
Guy's was one of those pliable souls that bent under every influence
alike. How then, could he endure the scorn of "the boys" when he must
tell them that his spare moments were already occupied? He began to miss
Honor already, because one word from her would have spurred him on to
duty; but, like his fate, she must be away when he needed her most. What
must she have thought of his absence at the hour of her departure? She
would, no doubt, accept it as an indisputable proof of his indifference
to her, and this scalded his sensitive nature more than anything.
Accompanied by these refreshing cogitations, Guy reached his comfortable
office, but oh "how painfully plain an index to his troubled soul was
his worried face." All day he stumbled over office stools, spilt ink,
made countless mistakes in his calculations, and, as a consequence,
smashed pens and used unsparingly all those little monosyllables that
seem to grow spontaneously on the tongue's end of an enraged man. His
difficulties were beginning in earnest; he had consented to join a party
of merry-makers to drive to Aylmer that night, and he could see no
possible outlet through which he might escape. He had thought of seeing
some of the "fellows" at four o'clock, and of telling them in some
off-hand way of his change of determination; but even this little
gratification was denied him, for emerging from his office door, the
first one he came across was Mr. Rayne. There was that hopeless
resignation, which dire necessity forces, in the very tone of Guy's
voice as he addressed his uncle, but now, whether he would or not he
must yield. Every circumstance showed him plainly how fettered he really
was, although his spirit yearned to belong in gain as well as m name, to
that band of "Acephah" that walked the streets of Ottawa, free men under
their unpaid-for ulsters and seal caps. No wonder the conversation
between Guy and his uncle consisted of a series of laconic
monosyllables. The one was drinking the bitter dregs of life's awful
difficulties; the other absent-minded and sad, thinking of the dear
absent one who held within her hands the happiness of his life.
Who would have interpreted these things on this bright sunny afternoon
as Mr. Rayne and his nephew walked side by side along Sparks Street,
through the gay, bustling crowd of pedestrians and sleighs? The young
ladies went home and told one another that they had met Guy Elersley,
and that he looked "just splendid," whilst all the time his brain was on
fire from trying to solve his dilemma.
They were reaching Mr. Rayne's house, and Guy, accumulating all the
moral courage of his soul, resolved to do the worst. He would go
willingly to work and try to find a pleasure in honest labor for Honor's
sake. He was realizing, in spite of himself, the truth that had dawned
on "Adam Bede," that "all passion becomes strength when it has an outlet
from the narrow limits of our personal lot, in the labor of our right
arm, the cunning of our right hand, or the still creative activity of
our thought." Had he only but had the whisper of encouragement from any
one he esteemed while in this vacillating mood, that would indeed have
been a turning point in his career, but it seemed that a good impulse
for Guy Elersley vaticinated infallibly an evil action. The fact that he
had tried to vanquish himself by going willingly and deliberately to
work, only waylaid him with numberless enticing temptations, alluring
him on to the forbidden pleasures upon which he had turned his back.
What is there so resistless and so fatally fascinating in those pastimes
which are indulged in after nightfall by our young men? Is it the
staunch proof that it seems to be, of the entire annihilation of
conscience? Is it so certainly the spiritual death that it seems to
be?--and if so, what sad, sad wreck! Is there no one whose influence can
lead those stray sheep back to the fold? No mother, no sister, no lady
love to plead as a woman's eloquence alone can plead, in behalf of that
fair young soul exposed to every danger? Is there no volume among that
superb collection of books open to all Ottawaites, that would not
satisfy you, young foolish souls, by your midnight coals, burning your
midnight oils, if you must needs burn both? What advantage is there in
facing every peril of the material and spiritual darkness, that you must
make a daily habit thereof? Is not this the case, that you never entered
upon such a course of life alone? Some one was there who beckoned you on
his way. Some one pooh-poohed your scruples, and smoothed down with
false words the obstacles that your conscience raised. You never left
your father's house alone to squander the hours of midnight's sacred
silence in wrong doing Then I hope you will never forget the debt of
gratitude you must owe to such a counsellor and friend.
"The tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive."
At first you were a little unfortunate, may be. If you could not reach
home without elbowing some one's pane of glass, or getting into a scrape
of a more or less serious nature, you were helped out of all trouble by
those steadfast allies who contributed gladly towards making your
deception a masterpiece of its kind.
After such reflections one is inclined to pity rather than condemn the
weakness to which Guy Elersley resigned himself such a voluntary victim.
When he entered the library in his uncle's house, he began to be
comforted by his luxurious surroundings, the same bright fire burned
that Honor loved to see and the easy chairs and soft rich carpet
suggested satisfaction to the most discontented. A few minutes of fussy
preparations and the gloomy twain were immersed in dry business. Apart
from the monotonous scratching of their hurried pens there was but an
occassional short remark uttered until the welcome sound of the tea-bell
broke the spell of sullenness that had fallen on both.
After a short but comparatively lively intermission they returned to
their papers and re-attacked them diligently. Poor Guy's heart was
beginning to thump. It would soon be eight o'clock, and it seemed to him
in spite of all good arguments to the contrary that "a promise was a
promise," and that by staying in to-night he was breaking one almost
unnecessarily. The minute hand on the electro-plated clock was fast
wending its way towards the half hour after seven, and as his eyes
followed its quick movement he felt a hurried palpitation accompany
every second on its flight to eternity.
Suddenly Mr. Rayne laid down his pen and rested his bald head in his
hands. Guy looked up surprised, and as he did so, his uncle rose from
his seat saying. "I have another attack of neuralgia to-night, Guy, and
cannot continue this work as I expected. Try, however, to finish these
single copies for me to-night. I must retire; I am really unable to
endure these pains any longer without rest."
"Indeed uncle, I am very sorry for that," Guy said, but I fear that
though it was "_malgre lui_," still there lurked the faintest sense of
intense gratification in his heart on hearing these words. "You
certainly will be better in bed uncle, will I help you upstairs."
"Thank you, I'm not so weak as that. Remain here and finish those for
me, they will be needed to-morrow and must be ready."
With these words he turned to leave the room, but just as though through
inspiration, he stood with the half-open door behind him and said in a
stern imperative tone,--
"Guy, mind you do not go out this evening; when you are tired writing
you will find plenty of distraction indoors, do you hear?"
"I do, sir," Guy answered coldly, and then the old man closed the door
and went up-stairs leaving his distracted nephew in the wildest of
For a sweet voice had whispered hope to me.
Had through my darkness shed a kindly ray:
It said "The past is fixed immutably,
Yet there is comfort in the coming day."
It was a cold stormy blustering day. The fierce north wind was moaning
and wailing in piteous shrieks around the corners, and through the bare
swaying branches of the tall elms. It was a dreary scene to look upon
from a car window, and yet it was rather a cheerful face that peered
through the tiny panes into the stormy surroundings outside. Honor was
thinking deeply, a medley of sad and pleasant things, and she smiled and
grew pensive alternately. She had thought of Guy, and of how pleasant it
would be after all to have him there beside her, but she did not trust
herself far into the subject. The doubtful halo that encircled all Guy's
latest actions towards her was not the sweetest of memories, and yet
this lovely girl would not whisper even to her own most secret soul, the
words, "I love him." It was so girl-like for her to cherish that secret,
and yet not acknowledge it to herself as a secret. She loved to rehearse
to herself in silence every look and word and action of Guy's. She
pondered wearily over the _ennui_ of the hours, when he was not by her,
and she longed so much to question herself about the sudden blushes and
heart-beatings, when she recognized his step in the hall, or heard his
deep voice greet her at the door. She knew that his little book with the
scribbled verse from "Led Astray" was very often in her hands when he
was not there, and yet when the "little voice" asked "Is it love?" She
hid her face in her hands and said, "Oh no."
All these things she reviewed at leisure on this cold wintry morning, as
she was being borne swiftly on to her destination. She could scarcely
get accustomed to the idea that she was the same Honor Edgeworth, that
had come a short time ago, alone and friendless to Mr. Rayne's house.
And as she sped on leaving each dancing drifting snow-flake far behind,
she became tangled up again in the web of fanciful reflections that had
so often led her far far away into those transcendental regions of
thought where Venus, and Cupid, and Calliope, and other sister muses
bask in filmy clouds of golden maze. Here she realized among her ideal
heroes and heroines, life as she wished it to be. Perhaps this was why
her inclinations were just a little skeptical when she viewed life in
its matter-of-fact phases.
Honor was started from her reverie by a loud long shriek from the
engine, and seeing the other passengers gather up their fragments of
baggage she followed suit. A few moments more and they were ushered into
the depot at Guelph. All the usual bustle, talk and confusion
characteristic of railway stations were noticeable here. Omnibus drivers
shouted in _crescendo_ the names of their respective hotels. Poor Honor
scarcely knew what to do. Cries of "Royal Hotel," "Windsor House,"
"Sleigh Miss," deafened her ears on all sides, but great was her relief
when a prim middle-aged lady accompanied by a half bashful youth stepped
up to her smilingly and said:
"My dear I think you are my guest. Miss Edgeworth?"
"That is my name," Honor said, and then the prim lady handed Honor a
card inscribed "Mde. Jean d'Alberg."
They became friends immediately and no wonder under the circumstances.
Circumstances have so much to do with the turn and tide of our busy
lives. We can make a friend of the most hideous creature in an hour of
Honor was just thinking she might have fared so much worse than come
across a lady such as Madame d'Alberg proved to be. To look at her one
could read the evidences of worldliness in her face. This woman had
graced many a drawing-room as Senator d'Alberg's wife, and when the
session time called her to the capital many a fair-haired damsel of
eighteen summers had envied the fine face and faultless figure, that had
captivated even the fastidious nature of the dignified Senator.
To-day, although somewhat older, the ordinary critic and observer could
still detect no flaw of age or tendency to fade in the sparkling black
eyes and fair delicate complexion. As Honor saw almost at a first
glance, this woman's theory of life began and ended in "self." Not so
much as to exclude any impulse towards sympathy or generosity. By no
means--if there remained anything, after one had satisfied one's own
wants, then let that surplus go to the less fortunate, according to the
owners impulse whether limited or great.
In matters less material Madame d'Alberg took as director the great
authority of Shakspeare, and none can tell how many countless times she
justified herself by repeating in the most suasory tone this little
extract from Hamlet:
"This above all to thine own self be true
And it must follow as the night the day
Thou cans't not then be false to any man."
This was an end worth attaining surely, and so easily won as by being
fair with one's self.
Honor and her new friend chatted gaily all the way. The awkward youth
had received instructions about the baggage. Thus freed from all
inconvenience and responsibility, these two became as conversant and as
communicative as if they had known each other for years.
Let it not shock the scrupulous reader to know that, in point of fact,
Madame d'Alberg did not really care a straw for either Henry Rayne or
his beautiful _protegee_, only insomuch as their existence was conducive
to her own personal welfare. It was no effort whatever for her, to love
in that subdued sort of way in which we are expected by the Church to
"love our neighbor as ourselves." To be amiable and agreeable to all was
by far more convenient to her than to play the _role_ of a grumbler, and
so long as she could count on her smiles being worth their
representatives in substance to her, her countenance was fairly suffused
therewith and her purse or her mouth open for the proceeds. Such women
generally live easily--die easily enough too, and scarcely ever leave a
memory of any sort behind them.
The first points of criticism that suggested themselves to this
world-bred woman on seeing Honor were such as never entered the head of
any other acquaintance the girl made before or after Madame d'Alberg's.
This lady, physiognomist from tact and experience, sought to learn from
the expression and features of Honor's countenance, whether their hidden
depths held any of that diplomacy and finesse that are the inevitable
characteristics of society's most brilliant graduates. Not that it would
have mattered one iota to this indifferent creature, for she never
interested herself particularly in anyone, but if certain latent
tendencies in this girl could actually be brought to the surface so as
to sympathize with her own, would it not be as well for them to join
hands and share the spoils? As yet, however, she thought there was no
telling, she must wait and see.
The drive from the depot was short, and to Honor's great delight the
merry sleigh-bells stopped jingling as they drew up to the neatest and
cosiest looking cottage imaginable. The first greeting on entering was
the sight of a roaring fire and the next the intensely gratifying
welcome of cups steaming at the end of a neat but well-spread table.
Honor's own room reminded her somewhat of the one in Ottawa, except that
the idea of exquisite comfort was more pronounced in everything here. In
this respect Honor found Madame d'Alberg different from that other class
of society women whose ideas of self-gratification are far subservient
to the requisites of _bon-ton_ and fashion, and who endure heroically
the discomfort of the latest absurdities in articles of toilet and
This was the only point in which Jean d'Alberg did not acknowledge the
tyrannical yoke of society. Anything that tended to exclude the supreme
ease and comfort of her home was discarded by her, and no one ever dared
to find any fault therein.
After a hearty luncheon by the grate fire, Honor and Madame d'Alberg
drew up their chairs closer to the fender and began to talk familiarly.
The wind still whistled and shrieked around the street corners; little
blinding atoms of snow drifted violently in the air, and it made one
freeze just to watch the muffled pedestrians as they sped along with
their heads bowed against the sleet and wind, holding their half-frozen
ears, stamping their feet or pinching the ends of their blue noses.
"The day is too stormy for outdoor amusements, my dear," said Jean
d'Alberg, as she poked the fire, "so I must try to distract you as much
as possible in the house."
"That will be an easy matter if you like," said Honor, "do but leave me
lost in these spacious cushions, before that cheerful fire, and I can
prophesy the treat that is in store for me."
Mde. d'Alberg smiled slowly. She turned and took from a small wicker
basket near her a bundle of misty looking thread and lace, and with her
needle in one hand and the end of her thread between her teeth, she
"Whether you know it or not, my dear, you have given me a big peep into
your character by that much of an assertion."
Honor looked suddenly up. She was beginning to feel a little nervous
with this cool, calculating, all-seeing woman. But not to show what she
felt, she sank back imperceptibly among the cushions, and answered, with
an effort at in difference,
"I hope I betray my good symptoms first, at least to strangers who are
inclined to judge from appearances."
The elder lady looked interested. Her face wore a half-pleasing,
half-teasing expression, but like Honor she was seeking to veneer the
real truth under assumed veils at the same time that she was dying to
draw out the latent phases of her companion's nature.
"The word 'good,'" she said, stitching rapidly, "is such a mysterious
one, and has in these days of general improvement, secured for itself a
relative meaning which benefits as many as it injures, and particularly,
as regards one's personal virtues or defects, which are many or few
according to the disposition of the speaker towards the one spoken of.
Nevertheless I must tell you that your tendency to dreaminess, and your
exalted ideas of sentiment, are what mostly constitute the modern young
lady. Take those elements out of human life, and one-third of our
fiction volumes crumble on the shelf. Society limps into retirement, for
her most prominent limbs have been amputated. The curtain must drop for
good on the stage, for there is no other part for actors to play in the
nineteenth century. Our streets would be almost desolate, except for
fussy businessmen and market women, and those dear few privileged ones,
who have the priceless reputation of being _sans coeur_."
Honor grew deeply interested. She had not expected to find such a woman
as this. Mr. Rayne had spoken of her as one does of any superannuated
person or thing that is always on hand if wanted. It was such a long
time since she had indulged in any such abstract conversations, that it
was with renewed delight she hailed her turn to speak.
"I think it only fair," said she, looking straight into the fire, "that
I should take my turn at interpreting you."
"By all means, my dear; what have you found worth finding?"
"Well, I think," said Honor, speaking slowly and emphatically, "that
fifteen or twenty years ago you could not have spoken those words, for I
recognize, as far as a limited observation and a small experience allow
me, the ruin of a heart full of sentiment, under the new structure that
you present to the world to-day, and I also think that at that time you
must have felt a superfluity of emotion. Your craving was for trust, for
confidence and love, and the cynicism of your words now means something
like sour grapes. Don't be offended, dear Madame d'Alberg, the thoughts
suggest themselves. If you do not despise sentiment and romance, because
they did not yield you what you sought from them, then I throw up my
perception as faulty, and my judgment as something worse."
She had not moved her eyes from their fixed gaze on the coals, but as no
answer came from her companion, she looked across in expectation. The
work lay still in her lap, but her face had grown dreamy and sad. The
sudden silence woke her, and she turned to meet Honor's steadfast gaze.
The thin compressed lips parted slightly in a nervous motion, and Honor
thought she could see a struggle for ascendancy in the workings of the
usually calm face. Suddenly, a tear dropped from each downcast lid, and
then the die was cast. Jean d'Alberg drew her chair closer to the young
girl, and clasped her hands over her pile of work; then, looking
straight at the fire, she began--
"Whatever power has inspired you, you have touched a spring over which
the cobwebs of wilful neglect have lain during twenty years. It must be
because you are so good and pure, that the truth, such as I am striving
to hide, is so plain to you. You have uttered the secret of my life in
the simple words you spoke. Twenty years ago, I was a young and
beautiful girl, with a heart as full of susceptibilities and a mind as
full of ambition as any one of you to-day. My face was beautiful, and I
knew it; my figure was faultless, I knew that too. But vanity never
entered into my heart for a moment. I had a dream that kept such
trifling thoughts away. I wanted to endear myself to some one. I wanted
to make some one so utterly dependent on me, that a separation should be
almost death to him. Where I got this crazy longing I could not tell
exactly, but it seized me like a mania. I felt that such must be my
fate, or a lifelong of misery instead. While I was in the heat of this
emotion my father told me to prepare myself, that I was to appear with
him at the grand military ball of the season. This was the great event
of the year in our town, for a detachment of British troops always
stayed over for the occasion. The girls of the old country, at that
time, were different from what they are now on this continent. Most of
us had, as a rule, those conservative fathers, whose ideas of maidenly
propriety had been handed down to them from unknown ages, and from
constant preaching on the subject, I, like most others, grew into their
way of thinking, but I did not, all the same, ever censure an impulsive
girl who, by gratifying her own caprice, violated these stern views of
It was getting dark in the little sitting room. At this point of her
story Jean d'Alberg rose, and going over towards the window that faced
the west she rolled up the blind to let in the last wintry rays of the
setting sun. Then, coming back, she rang for the maid to bring more
coals, for the fire was dying out.
"Alas, how easily things go wrong,
A sigh too much or a kiss too long,
And there comes a mist and a blinding rain,
And life is never the same again."
When all was comfortably arranged once more, Jean d'Alberg resumed her
seat and her story:
"The eventful night of the ball came at last, and I know not what
nervous presentiment caused me to fasten my palest crush roses in my
hair, and to take from their old resting place the diamonds set in heavy
gold, that my maternal grandmother had worn ages before. I knew full
well, as I leaned on the arm of my tall, dignified father that night,
that he recognized in me more strongly than ever, the likeness to his
dead wife, my mother. The only feeling of pride that visited me was when
I knew that my father was proud of me as his daughter and his dead
wife's living image. My father was an officer in the --th regiment and,
as a matter of course, I was to be treated with more than ordinary
courtesy. When we entered the ballroom at the lower end I could hear
suppressed whispers on all sides. It was my first appearance in any
public place, and even if I had not been there, all eyes would have been
riveted on my handsome father, who looked the embodiment of manliness
and nobility in his regimentals. Perhaps it was the haughty tone of his
voice, when he introduced his 'daughter' to the hostess of the evening,
that caused them to look upon me with no little wonder. Any way I became
painfully conscious that we were isolated, as it were, from all the
others, and the blush of confusion and excitement that suffused my face,
was, as they told me afterwards, my finest feature. I had scarcely
finished paying my respects to the hostess, when my father was
surrounded by friends who greeted him earnestly, yet distantly. To each
of these I was presented in turn, and agreed to dance once with each of
"But I had not yet ceased to feel that nervous presentiment that had
haunted me all the evening. Suddenly, the low, sweet strains of a waltz
vibrated through the room, and gay, laughing couples wheeled off into
its dizzy maze. Among my many partners, none had secured the first waltz
and I was beginning to congratulate myself that I could take a good view
of everything and everybody before commencing my first dance. While I
was scanning the room--'
Here a large coal fell into the ashes causing both ladies to start.
Madame d'Alberg poked the glowing embers into a cheerful blaze, and
moved closer to the work-table, and as her fingers traced imaginary
patterns on its surface, she resumed her story in the same sad
"I said I raised my eyes to scan the room, but as I did so the blush
faded quickly out of my face, and a cold shiver crept through me. I felt
for the first time the sensation which all persons experience at some
interval in their lives. It was the same as when we know without
looking, that someone is watching our movements, the same that causes us
to _feel_ the approach of someone, though we may have been persuaded
that such a one was far away. I felt that I was being stared at, and
following a sudden impulse, I looked towards the shaded recess of a
large window, and there I saw the tall figure of a man dressed in
uniform, with medals and stars upon his breast; his eyes, the largest,
deepest, and most passionate blue I have ever seen, were riveted upon
me. As soon as he perceived that I was conscious of his attention he
left the recess, and though my eyes did not follow him, I felt that his
every step brought him closer to where we stood. At last my heart seemed
to give one great leap, for I heard him address my father in a low sad
voice full of meaning and pathos. The next instant I was bowing at the
sound of both our names, to the handsome stranger. The first glances we
exchanged must have told a tale, for I read in the limitless depths of
his sad blue eyes, all that mysterious, silent pain that entreats and
commands a woman's sympathy; he in his turn must have seen in mine the
ready response to the calm pleading of his own.
"I cannot remember the first words that passed between us. It was the
mute language of soul speaking unto soul that had charmed me, and the
next thing I realized was, that we had glided in with the laughing
throng of merry dancers, among them, but not of them.
"Our steps suited exactly, and as fate would have it, the music was the
dreamiest and most suggestive I had ever heard. We never spoke a word,
but he must have felt my heart throbbing against his breast, like a
captive bird, struggling for its freedom. For once, when all was
excitement and pleasure, he pressed my hand ever so little, and I felt
his warm breath very near my flushed cheek. All the emotion that had
ever rested latent within me, struggled through the fetters that moment,
and I felt that now I loved, madly and hopelessly, and that as it had
all been born of a second, so might one other second break my heart.
"While such reflections chased one another through my confused brain, my
partner led me mechanically into the long narrow conservatory to the
left. Outlines of rich and delicately fragrant plants were visible in
the soft hazy light that pervaded the spot, and we were near enough to
the ball room to hear the subdued strains of orchestra music that yet
filled the air. I dared not trust myself to silence, so I said, trying
to assume the most indifferent tone.
"'How pleasant it is in here!'
"I'll never forget the distracted far-away look in his eyes as he
answered in that dangerously, low, sweet voice.
"'Pleasant? Yes, when the heart is young and untried, all that is
beautiful touches it with pleasure, but the heart that is withered and
dead, gets its sweetest pain from the very same source.'
"To say I did not understand him would not be quite true. We English
girls, who have lived with stern fathers, and with no mother for the
best part of our lives, seem to learn by intuition, the saddest phases
of a life's experience. We personify the heroes of our old books, until
the worst of written fates, become as natural to us as though such had
been items of our own existence. And so I knew immediately, that this
man's life had been blighted bitterly. Some awful storm cloud had shaded
the sunniest portion of his life, and the memory of that affliction
would cast an immortal gloom over the rest.
"After he had uttered those strange words he looked calmly into my face.
What could I do? I had too often persuaded myself that a woman is the
weakest of all things, under the influence of a first love I could
summon no moral courage now to my assistance, and, childlike, I thought
this great, sad looking man would never betray to another how
efficaciously he had worked his influence over me. Yielding to these
resistless impulses, I drew a little closer to his stalwart form, and
then he took my hand in both of his, and I could not help showing what
all the passion of a lifetime was, when concentrated into one awful
moment of existence. I only looked up into those full dreamy eyes, and
said, 'Why are you so sad?'
"There must have been in those few words, eloquence enough to teach even
his heart the truth, for he rose, and stooping over me, he said in a
voice that sounded like a sigh, 'I am sad for the same reason that you
will cause others to be some day, if not more careful and land. Do not
sadden and ruin as worthy a heart as mine.' Then before I realized my
position, there was but the memory in my heart of his lips having
touched mine, followed by the feeling of secret dread and horror, that
sprung from the awe in which I stood, of my father. I woke suddenly from
the listless apathy that came over me. I looked up with all the emotion
of fear, excitement and love visible in my face, looked to find the pale
angry countenance of my father before me, with all the insulted dignity
and slighted authority he felt, pictured therein.
"He did not say much just then. He trusted to the power of his look to
wither the heart within me. He told me sternly, to procure my wraps,
that I must leave immediately, we could pass out unnoticed by the side
door. In a few moments we were in our carriage, rolling in solemn
silence along the road that led to our homestead. My father spoke not a
word, and I could not imagine any fate ill enough to befall me, before
his wrath would subside. I planned no excuses; I promised myself not to
vacillate in any way when accused, I knew that neither attempt would
blind my rigid parent for an instant. When we reached our home, my
father with all his usual courtesy, helped me to dismount, and gathering
my superfluous wraps himself, he gave me his arm and led me into the
house. But all this only foreboded the determination, changeless and
cruel, that comes from the cold deliberate anger of a just, stern man.
When I reached my room, I heard the bell rung for Donnelly, our old
housekeeper, and then my heart quaked in earnest with its fearful
presentiment. I could not stand it any longer, so I stole down stairs,
dressed as I was in my white brocaded ball-dress, and hid myself behind
the folding-doors that stood half open between the drawing-room, which
was in darkness, and my father's study, where a single gas-jet was
lighting. I had scarcely gathered in my skirts in breathless terror,
when I heard the cold, sonorous voice of my father speaking in low grave
tones. Our faithful old housekeeper standing by him, looked scared and
white. I strained my ears to overhear the conversation, but failed to do
so. Only as the old servant passed out I heard her say, 'It is not for
me to dictate sir, but I hope you'll think better of this before it is
too late--for her dead mother's sake.'
"I was mortified beyond expression. A servant was pleading for me,
before my own father, and he refusing to listen! No wonder I felt the
blood rushing hotly to my face. No wonder that I was too proud to wait
quietly there for him to punish me at will. He had been severe and
exacting all his life, but there was a limit to his authority. The very
worst possible anticipations crowded into my brain, when I saw the tears
falling unrestrained from poor Donnelly's eyes, as she turned to leave
the man with whom all remonstrance was vain. I stole out from my
hiding-place again, and on reaching the hall I saw the bundle of shawls
my father had carried in for me. A sudden impulse inspired me, I wrapped
myself in their woollen folds as best I could, I turned the great bolts
of the front door noiselessly, and went out into the cold, chilly
starlight, without a friend or a home, shivering, and not having where
to lay my head."
Here she paused, and the intense malice and scorn that sparkled in her
fine black eyes almost frightened Honor Edgeworth. When she resumed her
story, her tone was more calm and subdued.
"I walked on," she continued, "until my feet and hands were numb with
cold. The north-east wind pierced its bitterness through my bared
breast; I pulled the shawl tighter around me, clutching as I did so, a
circlet of diamonds, that would have purchased all the comforts in the
land for me, and yet I was alone and freezing. He was comfortable and
warm, whose cruelty had driven me into the street, and yet I was his own
flesh and blood. He could listen to the wailing of the winter wind, and
know that it was the pitiful cry of his child--his daughter, and yet
remain unmoved. It was then I missed the tender solicitude of a mother,
Back to Full Books