Part 5 out of 7
be properly married at any other time, though you are as good a one to
tie the knot as any other.'
"The villain looked at me steadily. He was turning his old power of
fascination to account. What was the whole blighted life of this
unfortunate heiress to the ruin and disgrace that my failure would bring
down on myself, my mother and sisters. I did not hesitate, with this
thought uppermost in my mind.
"'I will do this thing,' I said determinedly, 'whatever it costs me.'
"He directed me accordingly to leave Montreal, the seat of my business,
in the morning and reach the little village in the townships, where his
other victim lived, before noon. We would meet there, he would drive me
out to the parsonage, _pro tem_, and give it a look of habitation before
bringing his bride there. We purchased a few dilapidated pieces of
furniture from neighboring farmers and laid our little plot
successfully. It surprised me to think of him as capable of doing such a
villainous thing, and looking so calm and collected all the time. He
smoked inveterately, and occasionally sang or whistled some careless
tune, as though his heart felt not a feather-weight of care or sin. In
the evening I was installed in the vacant house, with no living creature
near but the great black dog I had brought with me from home, and who
had always followed me for years, everywhere I went. However, I stowed
even him into a dark recess, that was guarded by a little rickety door
that fastened with a rusty lock. It was a black awful night, nature gave
vent to her just indignation in every way I sat there, feeling already
guilty and remorseful, until near nine o'clock. Then hearing the roll of
a distant carriage, I tried to busy myself around, and look as
domesticated as possible under the circumstances. I thought I should
give up and lose all at the sight of the pretty, innocent, trustful
child for whom he had planned this hideous deception. But I was as
pitiable a victim myself as she, and the thought of my impending ruin
drove every feeling of humanity out of my heart. We began the mock
ceremony, slowly and solemnly. We had just reached the most critical
part when a great flash of lightning leaped in at the broken window,
stunning both of us and prostrating the girl. The candle went black out,
leaving us in total darkness. When I recovered from the shock, the noise
and elemental din were such that I could distinguish nothing. I waited a
moment or two and then spoke. I received no answer. Half maddened, I got
up and struck a fresh light, and looked around me. The traitor, the
doubly-dyed villain had gone, he had taken the horse, and there was not
a trace of him left. He had secured the unfortunate girl's money through
the instrumentality of one who had violated every principle of honor and
justice, to save the name and social standing of those who were
dependent on him. I suppose I did not deserve to die then. I was given
days and nights of endless duration in which to live over and over
again, the agony and despair of that bitter experience. What was I to
do? I had not secured my money, but I had this additional misfortune on
my conscience: I had wrecked the life of a fair young girl, and had the
hitherto spotless page of my dealings with my fellow-creatures, stamped
with a foul indelible stain, that cried shame and retribution on my
whole generation. I fled--of course--when the hasty realization of my
misdeeds forced itself into my mind. I was frantic and desperate as I
tried to make my way through the thicket, and at last on arriving at the
village, I took the midnight train and travelled to a town in the State
of Maine. From this place I wrote to my creditors, confessing my
financial difficulties, and begging of them not to seek me out, nor take
any further interest in me, as I had resolved to begin my blighted life
over again, in a strange land among strange people. I tried O, Elersley!
God knows how hard, to earn honest bread, but I did not deserve success,
and so God refused to bless my labor. I left Maine, and came here to New
York, two years ago. I turned my hand to everything, but the bitter
sting of misfortune was at the bottom of all. I tried my pen, recently,
for my limbs seemed incompetent for any active service, but sitting here
in this little narrow room, through the long night, trying to invent
some gay little snatch of fiction out of the store of a mind so crushed
and oppressed, was too bitter a mockery to last very long. My fair
fashionable heroines looked at me in my dreams with eyes blood-shot and
revengeful, saying, 'This is what you have brought me to.' For I
suppose, Elersley, that girl never did a day's good since. Her fate has
been constantly preying on my mind. I have spent a life of wretched
expiation already in this world, God only knows what awaits me in the
next. I have studiously avoided the sex I have outraged by this deed,
feeling myself an outcast and a traitor in their presence. I have turned
my back on the few haunts of pleasure that were open to me, for the
sound of my own voice in gaiety, frightened and reproached me. As for
_him_ Elersley, though I have not seen him, nor heard of him, since, yet
I know he is revelling in the luxury of his ill-gotten wealth."
The sick man stopped a moment, and let the tired lids droop languidly
over the dark eyes, then opening them again, he looked full into Guy's
pale face. When he resumed his voice was nervous and weak.
"You have now the truthful story of my woe," he said, brokenly, "are you
still willing to help me?"
The question brought Elersley back from his wanderings.
"Do you tell me truthfully that this is the villany of the boy we
pampered so at school?"
"That is the story of Vivian Standish's cowardly conduct," said
Bencroft, in a tone of deep resentment.
"Good Heavens!" muttered Guy, "who can tell what more he has been able
to do? Give me your hand Bencroft. As you have been the dupe of a
blackguard who disguised his villany under the mask of friendship, I
will stand to you. Will you allow me to write down this confession over
your own signature, lest a nuncupative testimony be not sufficient to
condemn him. We will call in Mrs. Pratt to witness the signing of the
paper." Guy's suggestion was immediately followed out. The invalid
grasped the pen with wonderful strength, and signed his name in a firm
legible hand to the document. Mrs. Pratt, looking as dignified as the
occasion required, affixed her mark, and so did the widow Brady, who
just happened to "drop in." Guy rose and looked at his watch. It was
past eleven now, and he had still other duties to attend to before
keeping his word with Mrs. Belford.
"Are you going," the invalid asked impatiently, making an effort to rise
in his narrow bed. "Look here Elersley," he cried, "I want to thank you,
to praise you, if I could, but my poor voice is shattered and weak. If I
could only crawl on my knees before you in gratitude, how gladly I would
do it, but I will never leave this poor little home of mine alive; my
heart is broken and my spirit is worn out. Only tell me you will search
the world for the pretty French girl he called 'Fifine,' and tell her
the story of my life, my grief and remorse. Punish her deceiver as he
deserves and come to my lonely grave at the last and whisper to me that
retribution has come. Until then I cannot rest. Oh Guy! there is no
misery like the misery of a life whose dark shadows haunt it's victim
perpetually. Look at her!--there she is now--oh! so angry and sullen;
ugh!--she is cursing me--threatening me--tell her, for God's sake, Guy,
tell her to spare the sick, wasted man--see--she is coming nearer to
me--save me--save me--" and in wild shrieks and tossings, Nicholas
Bencroft plunged back again into the mad delirium of the fever.
"Love is a great transformer."
The reader must understand what it is to experience sensations such as
flitted through Guy Elersley's breast at this period of his life's
_denouement_. Any of us who have fallen in with the tide of the great
living world, know that the draughts of gall and the drops of nectar
reach our lips from the same chalice: our noblest love has often been
the parent of our most sinful hatred, and we have cursed in despairing
tones the very scenes, days, persons and associations that once
constituted the fondest memories of our hearts.
We have a great antithetical existence before us, but the beauty of
experience can only be seen by the backward glance, 'tis when we turn
our sad and tear-dimmed eyes to look over our bended shoulders at the
thorny way that bears the impress of our weary feet, that we can feel
what a grand and salutary prayer our lips might make by substituting the
murmur and the cry of pain by a holy accent which should be a "fiat."
The strain of mournful confidence that had passed between these reunited
friends brought its own bitterness to Guy Elersley's heart. How
unfortunate it was that on the eve of his departure from his former
home, Vivian Standish should have been the one of all others he had
trusted with his little message of love!
Guy passed over in silent, painful review, the details of his recent
career. How well he remembered the pain and disappointment that had
driven him away from Ottawa city.
He had thought once that such a conflict of emotions would kill a
stronger man than he, but
"Nothing in the world beside,
Is stronger than the heart when tried."
To begin a new life on the wreck of an old one is a very hard and
painful task, and one that Guy Elersley, above every other living
creature, would never have attempted unless when influenced by so strong
and pushing and stimulating a power as the love of a good woman--this
alone, it was that worked reformation in Guy Elersley: from
contemplating her pure and noble soul, he had been seized with an
ambition to grow like her, her word and example sickened him of his old
pursuits until he wondered and wept over the sacrifice he had so
heedlessly made of his youth and character.
He left the scene of his temptations, and in close, quiet study in the
great, stirring city of New York, he slowly, but surely and steadily
rebuilt the wreck and ruin of his younger days. He had devoted himself
once before to the study of medicine, but had given it up in a moment of
foolish frivolity for an occupation far less worthy, but now he returned
to his volumes of science with a vow of perseverance on his lips and a
dogged determination in his heart.
He had been fortunate enough to form the acquaintance of Dr. Belford,
who, taking a fancy to the studious boy, offered to receive him under
his special charge and instruct him more fully in the profession he had
Guy attributed each new phase of luck that overtook him now to the same
unseen power which seemed to sway his life of late. Under Dr. Belford he
worked diligently and well and finished the career in medicine he had so
recklessly interrupted before for other pursuits.
Through all the trials and difficulties of his new life, Guy felt
himself sustained by a lingering hope that seemed to buoy him up against
every depression, and thus for many long months he toiled assiduously
under the influence of that shallow hope until each day seemed to prove
to him more clearly than another, that all the best endeavors of a
lifetime cannot restore a trust once broken, or a confidence once
Even this bitter realization he strove to gather into his resignation;
he had grown prematurely wise and learned, and had taught himself to
accept in submission the apparently unjust decree of destiny.
But sometimes when he came home tired and weary at nightfall and laid
his head, full of aching thoughts, on his pillow to rest, capricious
fate released him from his skeptic views of life; the hard lines faded
from around his handsome mouth, and a slow smile, as of old, crept back
there from its exile, for when he was tired or sad, a fair vision
invariably stood beside him and smoothed away the traces of care from
his face. He could feel the velvety touch of her dainty hands, and see
the beauty of her consoling smile whenever he closed his eyes in a weary
doze on the reality of his present life, but when he raised his lids the
spell broke suddenly, and New York and Ottawa were a hopeless distance
of cruel miles apart.
He had never once doubted that Vivian Standish would deliver his parting
message, and the only bitterness of his better life had been her
silence, cold and cruel, after that appeal his heart had made, before
leaving. But now the thought struck him all at once: may be she had
never received this little messenger of his devotion. Could any man so
base as Vivian Standish had proved himself to be, commit, by the merest
chance, an honest or a just action? He doubted it; at least he gave
himself the benefit of the new uncertainty, and resolved to work out
this intricate problem to its bitter end or die in the attempt.
* * * * *
"Because I love you," said the low sweet voice of Vivian Standish, as he
paced very slowly, with Honor Edgeworth, by his side, up and down
through the crowd that had assembled on Carder's Square, to enjoy the
excellent music of the Governor-General's Foot Guards' Band which was
filling the evening air with its dreamy strains.
These two, were like every other couple present, in a crowd and yet
isolated: the "band night" is one, so full of generous encouragement, to
the growing sentiment of our young city, that one is forced into an
appreciation of its benefits, whether one is inclined or not.
Long before the appointed hour for playing, animated couples form a
solemn procession, along the streets and grounds which surround our
dignified "Drill Shed," but it is just as the twilight begins to draw
itself into the corners of the far-off sky, and over the half distinct
gables, and chimney tops of the imposing buildings that rear up their
solemn spires, against the sky, that the suggestive strains of a "Blue
Alsatian," or "Loved and Lost" act, powerfully as a third agent of
affinity, in bringing the hitherto shy and reticent couples nearer than
ever, and in linking the obstinate little hands of a moment before,
firmly in that of the love-sick adorer.
Every one goes to hear the band, big and little, men and women, young,
and old, though, what old people, and little brothers or sisters want
there, is more than half the "grown up" sons and daughters can tell.
It is all well enough to coax your uninteresting little brother of
fifteen, with a double supply of sponge cake at tea, if you have no one
else in view to escort you to the "band," but why in the name of all
that is provoking, does he not know, that his duty is done, when he is
supplanted by some one's bigger brother, who has a moustache and smokes
Honor Edgeworth had no unsophisticated youthful kin, to try their
clinging propensities on her, her "aunt Jean" brought her everywhere,
and everywhere they went, they found Vivian Standish. It gratified the
old lady immensely to see how Honor "took" among her friends, it
gratified her, in proportion, as it stung, a great many mature young
ladies, who rather disliked, in any emphatic way, to see a new source of
attraction deposited in their midst.
Ottawa has come to a deplorable state of depression, with regard to
"matrimonial transactions;" it is now of vital importance to young
ladies, who have an ambition to distinguish themselves at the altar of
Hymen, that they take "masculine tastes," as the axis around which is to
revolve, in graceful motion, the actions of their daily lives; but for
this no one need think of censuring Ottawa's noble women, their conduct
is not so servile or dependent as the unfair critic would like to paint
it. We must not forget, the truth of the little by-word, that
"circumstances alter cases," what is perfectly justifiable in Ottawa
would be "abominably atrocious" in many other Canadian cities.
Every one knows, that in the capital of our splendid Dominion, there is
the finest collection of young men, that creation can afford--they are
numerous, handsome, wealthy, sensible, specimens of what youth should
be, (in their own opinion), and with the knowledge of all their
qualities combined, these precious creatures, are just conceited enough,
to make sure, that there will always be, at least one for each in the
whole city, who will appreciate such a display of accomplishments and
qualities, as they monopolize.
One can easily understand therefore, how flattered a girl must feel,
even, though she is the daughter of a wealthy father, and enjoys a
comfortable home, when one of these distinguished beings comes to invade
her heart, with his abundance of personal charms and scarcity of
personal wealth; some girls never survive it; they die of ecstatic
emotion in a week, and are consigned to a premature grave; others
outlive it into the practical phases of wedded life, to the intense
mortification of their husbands.
We will now return to the groups of unfettered maidens, from Upper Town,
Centre Town, Sandy Hill and Lower Town, that are enlivening the band
scene to-night, many have given Honor Edgeworth, a pardonable word of
very reserved criticism, of course they know her numerous advantages,
men spoke of them right to their faces, but that never made them feel
badly; who ever met a girl yet who felt the least put out, if one rival
of hers, had a dozen admirers or more to her none?
But Honor was most undeserving of all the attention she received, for
she neither appreciated the gallant endeavors of her male admirers to
make themselves agreeable to her, nor cared an iota for the jealousies
or slighting remarks that passed the lips of her girl contemporaries.
It was Jean d'Alberg who saw it all, and feasted maliciously on the
"sour grapes" looks and words of Honor's less fortunate acquaintances.
Honor had hoped that Vivian Standish would not join them that evening,
for she amused herself as well with a great many others, and even found
him uninteresting at times, but Aunt Jean would not support her at all
here. She had assured herself long ago that Vivian and Honor were well
made and mated, and that nothing could be more harmonious than their
union. With this idea uppermost, she did everything in her power (which
was a great deal) to throw them together, and she had not made any
mistake, as far as her calculations of the man's character went--she was
perfectly right in imagining that he was one who knew thoroughly how to
"improve an opportunity."
Honor had to acknowledge that in no way did Vivian Standish offend or
displease her, but still his manner fatigued and worried her--everyone
else admired and appreciated him more than she did, and yet he
faithfully and persistently thrust himself upon her, always polished,
amiable and pleasant, but still, painfully eccentric in some way she
could not fully define nor analyze.
To-night, as usual, just as an old friend had coaxed Jean d'Alberg into
a lively conversation, Vivian Standish came quietly through the crowd,
scenting the air with his fine cigar, which he smoked with a sleepy sort
of relish, and stood beside Honor.
She knew perfectly well he was beside her, she felt him before he
advanced at all, but when she turned suddenly to look at him, her face
wore as blank an expression of astonishment as if he had been a ghost.
"You?" she exclaimed; "how is it that we seem to be travelling
invariably towards the same point?" she asked then, in the strangest
tone possible--but he was equal to her. He removed his cigar from
between his handsome lips, and with a lazy sort of determination in his
action and words, he slid his arm into hers, and bending down close to
her ear, asked--
"Do you really ask me why I am constantly travelling to the spot where
"That is something like what I did ask, if I remember well," the girl
answered with provoking indifference.
"Then it is--because--I love you!" he whispered, almost huskily.
The band continued to fill the balmy air with its sweet, suggestive
strains. Sounds of laughter and mirth reached them from all sides;
Vivian was less of his well-controlled self than ever to-night, but
Honor was just as cold and indifferent as if the handsomest and most
popular young man in Ottawa had slighted her instead of avowing his
unsought love for her.
"Do you hear?" he asked, on seeing her remain persistently indifferent.
"I am not at all hard of hearing, Mr Standish, I assure you," was the
"And is that all the word you have to say in return?" he asked in a tone
of wretched surprise.
"You are toying with very serious words," she answered earnestly, "and
this is neither time nor place for it. Let us speak of something else."
"May I continue smoking?" he then asked, as coolly as if they had been
his first words to her. "If you object, Honor, don't mind saying so. May
I at least call you Honor?"
"You overpower me and yourself with such a multitude of questions," the
girl answered languidly, "but since you ask me permissions which I grant
a great many others, I will not refuse you.."
"Thank you," he said almost sarcastically, "when we are hungry we take
the crust that is flung to us, though the dainty morsel served on a
crystal plate satisfies us best. What _is_ the matter to-night, Honor,
you seem worried and peevish?"
The sudden change of tone, from the moralizing to that of anxious
enquiry, amused Honor.
"I generally seem in that way until I have been in your company for a
while," she answered with such a careless, meaningless tone, that he
pronounced her a hopeless little _sans coeur_ with a sigh, and dropped
Vivian Standish was plainly courting Mr. Rayne's _protegee_, and a great
deal had to be said in consequence. With his carefully learned manners,
Standish had worked a successful conspiracy against retribution. He had
coolly stowed away any disagreeable souvenirs of his past life, and
troubled no more about them. He veneered his whole character with such
an engaging mansuetude as served to deceive the most penetrative of
those he met, and not even the most suspicious of his Ottawa
acquaintances had ever insinuated that a surface so calm and unruffled
as his could ever cover a phase of character which could be nocent or
even objectionable in the least degree. Some disliked him for reasons
they could not define, and had in consequence to refrain from expressing
their antipathy. Many were jealous of him, and the majority admired him
He was one of those "clever" men who had taken the trouble to analyze
and solve the intricate though simple problem of existence, and to adapt
this precious knowledge wisely and carefully to his own especial selfish
It takes a rogue to understand a rogue, and the reason of Vivian
Standish's complete success in playing off his counterfeit manners, was
because he had chosen to display them within a circle where shrewd or
suspecting observation never found its way. He saw clearly what a field
lay open to him in the drawing-room, and the delightful company of
Ottawa's _elite_. All he had to do was to introduce himself to this
"tony" little city fashionably dressed, and with that self-sufficient
reserve that characterizes the "high toned." He registered at the
"Russell," and walked Sparks street every afternoon with a haughty step,
looking as conceited and interesting as possible. He drank in the local
chat with eyes and ears open, before making any uncertain move; then he
sought the acquaintance of the fashionable young men of the city--they
are easily traced. One has but to run over the list of their
aristocratic names on the pages of the visitors' register at Government
House, or they are the noted presidents, patrons or members of some
"awfully nice" club, "you know!" or they are very well represented in
the business books of certain well known tailoring establishments; and
if none of these are sufficient, the Court register has a voice now and
then whose suasory accents could convince anyone.
But nothing in these discoveries would surprise Vivian Standish, for
there was little left savouring of "hard experience" that he had not
passed through at one time or other of his agitated career. He was no
stranger to the secrets of a little city like Ottawa. They are good
enough to frighten small boys and women. He, who had plunged into the
very heart of the mysteries of life as they are found in the grand
metropolises of the whole world, rather interested the comparatively
innocent and unsophisticated youth of the Canadian capital, who
recognized in him a graduate of that school of experience whose
dangerous knowledge was being tasted, as a novelty, yet by them.
Inwardly he smiled at the susceptibilities of the youths he came across;
he saw mirrored in them the youth of every other corner and nationality
of the globe. Worldling though he was, he was capable of very wise
reflections, and was given to moralizing in a sort of way. He never made
it a premeditated point to draw any unschooled youth into wrong; he did
not seek to make any innocent one the victim of an evil influence, as
many do who seem to be very active agents of the Author of Evil
himself,--young people who cannot gloat over their own spiritual ruin
until they have dragged the foolish, weak souls of unsuspecting victims
into the wreck they covet for themselves. He was satisfied to be
virtuously discreet among the unsuspecting, and be highly companionable
among those who were wiser in folly. He was glad to recognize Elersley
in a strange city, and Guy, friendly and hospitable ever, took him into
his charge until he had him thoroughly initiated into the ways of his
Guy's room was the scene of many a jovial merry-making for successive
nights after Vivian's arrival, and if cigar stumps and empty bottles
were ever indicative of rollicking bachelor hospitality, they surely
told the tale emphatically of Guy, for a very respectable heap of such
_restants_ generally made one conspicuous feature of next morning's
Standish was a jolly fellow, and the others took to him readily; he
smoked, drank, jested, or indulged in any other imaginable pastime that
was proposed, thus showing himself a complete sympathizer with his
When he stepped into the "feminine" circle, he was equally well
received, he was so entirely different in his attractions from the stale
_beaux_ that had introduced him to their lady friends. His first words
invariably made impression, and everything he said or did was stamped
with the quietest, most languid, and yet most thoroughly fascinating
style, that victims were ready to fall unsought before him. There was a
resistless power in the deep, dreamy look his beautiful eyes constantly
affected, and in the unsteady strength of his shapely hand, as it
happened, no matter how inadvertently, to touch the dainty fingers of
some susceptible belle; and even if his personal advantages failed him
completely, there yet remained his most powerful attraction--his voice.
Ottawa girls had never heard such original and such pleasant little
nothings as Vivian Standish told them at every moment of his
conversation, and the perfect cultivation of the voice that thrilled
their blessed little hearts with its resistless accents, induced many a
fair and blushing maiden to hand him over her conquered heart, as a
pitiable trophy that he had so fairly and yet so mercilessly won.
But Vivian Standish, in coming among the Ottawaites, had not been
attracted for the purpose of making such havoc among feminine hearts.
Any man can do that, in any place, and under any circumstances, if he
has a mind to. A woman to him, was a useless and troublesome appendage,
after he had kissed the dainty hand that had emptied its substantial
treasure into his roomy pockets. Courtesy, like every other quality he
had taken the trouble to acquire, had its matter-of-fact mission to
perform, towards accomplishing a great part of his mercenary purposes,
and hence the sacrifices he so often made cheerfully and admirably for
the gratification of some idolized daughter who was sole heiress to a
comfortable dozen of thousands.
His lucky genius had not driven him on to Ottawa for nothing, of this he
assured himself emphatically when he found out that Honor Edgeworth was
likely to substitute Guy Elersley in his uncle's favor, and find
herself, some day, rolling in wealth that had been scraped together by
the hands of those who had not owed her a single debt of gratitude; to
his reason such unfair freaks of destiny called loudly for resentment;
he claimed a right of monopoly as well as this more fortunate girl, and
he meant to exercise it too, though as quietly and noiselessly as
possible, he flattered himself, and encouraged his project with the
universal male belief, that a few little wild words of sentiment, and
marked attentions, suffice to level the trivial fortifications of any
woman's heart; his study was to make the right impression on the
responsible guardians of his choice, that his appeal, when made, should
be encouraged by these all-important voices. In this he attained a
splendid success, but his plots and plans were too clever for his own
management, and entrapped him in that very place, where he considered
himself most strongly fortified.
Henry Rayne, now growing weaker and older, had been as easily influenced
by the assumed manners of this adventurer as was any indiscreet woman;
the glitter, to his eyes, now dimmed and obscured by age, was that of
the solid metal, and the well-studied phrases and words that came so
blandly from the deceptive lips duped the old man pitifully.
Jean d'Alberg herself had caught the contagion, and smiled pleasant
greetings to him when he visited at Mr. Rayne's house; there was only
Honor who evaded the cunning trap, but even she was blinded a good deal.
Although the eternal fitness of things made it impossible that such
antithetical natures should ever blend in a harmony of any sort, he was
still fortunate enough not to produce the discord that would seem to
arise very naturally from such an unsympathetic contact.
Honor, without liking Vivian Standish, endured him well enough, and
enjoyed his clever conversations very well; she could not guess the
fierceness of the moral struggle that was taking place, as he calmly and
calculatingly planned her doom. She only felt a little of that repulsion
that purity and innocence naturally feel when brought into contact with
vice and guilt, for our moral natures have a special instinct of their
own, which attracts or repels characters whose influence upon them may
be beneficial or injurious, thus often causing us to dislike or distrust
persons without any apparent cause.
There was only one extra reason why Honor Edgeworth, above so many
others, failed to yield herself a ready victim to the wiles of this
fascinating man, and that was because her heart, unlike the generality
of those tiresome appendages, was closed to petition. She had learned to
love once, truly and warmly, and the gay, young, reckless hero whom she
had silently but devotedly honored at the secret shrine of her unsullied
heart, had suddenly passed out of her life, without a sign, or a token,
or a word, leaving her to weep over the wasted treasure of sentiment she
had so greedily hoarded up for him alone; not that this caused her to
lose her faith in man or vow to live a life of solitary sceptic
amendment for having indulged a foolish passion in her early days, but
because she firmly believed the object of her fond regard to be at heart
a worthy one, and because she felt that her happy lively sentiment,
becoming spent and weary, had only laid itself obscurely away, to taste
the hopeful sweetness of a "love's young dream,"--by and bye, she
promised herself, when her "fairy prince" came back, and woke up the
sleeping cupid from his bed of sighs, the world would be happier and
brighter, and full of pleasure unalloyed forevermore. So in the lonely
meanwhile, little words of kind regard, and little deeds of gallant
courtesy, seemed to her as only forerunners or harbingers of what was
coming to her out of the "to be" from the lips and hands of her absent
Such a way of viewing things naturally influenced this girl's character
and brought her back to that distracted existence, that contact with
practical life had almost annihilated. Her old meditative propensities
stole upon her again, it was nothing new now to see her with folded
hands and dreamy eyes that looked vacantly into the space before them.
A wonderful change was also coming over Henry Rayne; he who had spent a
good fifty years of his life in active service for society, now began to
feel, like countless others who had gone before him, that after all, the
most he could claim as the wages of honest fame and honor, were the
cushioned depths of an invalid chair, the first grade, to the narrow bed
where he would sleep his eternal sleep.
The old man was growing daily weaker and more childish, having never
known any of those influences through life, which become identical with
the very existence of those who have tasted them in wedded life, Henry
Rayne found himself in the sunset of his years with scarcely a tie to
bind him to the world for which he had done so much. There was only
Honor, who stood out in relief from the monotonous experience of his
life, and invited him to tarry a little longer on the border-line of
time; every moment that passed into eternity now seemed to bring this
girl nearer and nearer to his heart, for it was necessary, that at least
in death, he should learn the lesson of sacrifice, that had been so
well-spared him through life.
With the first warnings of his decline, Henry Rayne had learned to
realize how cold and bitter and cruel a world this world would be to his
little _protegee_ when he had left her, and for that reason he occupied
himself altogether, in the latter years of his life, in studying and
promoting a welfare for this precious charge, that would survive himself
for, may be long years of a lonesome life.
With this intimate knowledge of the old man's heart, one can perhaps
understand the partiality with which Vivian Standish was received into
the home of Henry Rayne, as a constant visitor.
Oh, to be idle one spring day!
To muse in wood or meadow;
Glide down the river 'twixt the play
Of sun and trembling shadow.
I'd see all wonders neath the stream,
The pebbles and vex'd grasses;
I'd lean across the boat and dream,
As each scene slowly passes.
--A. L. B
The bright, golden summer days were growing scarcer and scarcer; band
nights experiences were fast becoming items of the past--that past which
had realized itself so strangely to poor Honor. She had hoped
sanguinely, trustingly, and now it seemed that fate would bring her
defiant proofs of its iron will in spite of herself.
She had not taken it as a sign of inconstancy, that Guy had never sent
the smallest message of encouragement to her, but rather tried to weave
it in as a sprig of the laurel crown she daily wove in silent sadness,
for her truant lover, when he would return, full of happy explanations,
to claim her all his own.
Vivian was as constant and devoted when the leaves began to turn, as
when the leaves began to bud. This was perhaps the most intricate plot
of his scheming life, but he was proving himself equal to it: he was
probing his way slowly and quietly into the well guarded sanctum of
Honor Edgeworth's heart, trying to accumulate every energy of his soul
into one eloquent appeal to her obstinate nature.
The gorgeous colors of the western sky were fading dimly one evening,
behind the misty mountain tops. It was towards the end of August, a
lovely evening, such as comes back to us before the autumn, as a
reminder of the closing season.
Vivian Standish, pausing suddenly, rested his oars on the placid water,
and contemplated in silence, the figure of Honor Edgeworth, reclining on
the cushioned seat of his handsome boat. They had rowed a long way up
the canal, and any sentimental readers who have been there, either
alone, with only the memory of some dearer one, or still better, in the
actual company of some strangely loved acquaintance, will not hesitate,
in pronouncing this still, cool, shady retreat, one of the most
suggestive spots on earth. If anyone's untiring devotion and wildest
appeals have not, up to this, made any impression upon the being one
loves, the very best remedy is to launch a cosy boat into this very
canal, and pull with a mighty strength for four or five miles up from
the "deep cut." Soon a sequestered paradise is reached, where the bended
boughs interlacing, whisper, in caressing, rustling to each other, over
the narrow stream of rippling water below, here pause and wait. There is
a hush whose voice is more eloquent than any human appeal. The low
gurgling music of the little waves that creep techily over and under the
hanging boughs that teaze and obstruct them in their onward passage, the
crowded leaves, rubbing their swaying heads affectionately together; the
gentle wind resting in sighs of relief upon the graceful tree tops, and
sending its messages of love from bough to bough, until it spends itself
upon the quiet bosom of the waters below; the love-sick birds that woo
our beauteous nature in this, her bewitching costume, with their rich
and rarest warblings, vie with one another in chanting from their
ruffled throats their little tales of ecstasy and love, all teach us
clearly, that out in the busy world there is no witchery like this.
In the open sunlight, nature dons her every day attire, but in the shady
retreat of these, her chosen spots, she coquettishly arrays herself in
most resistless costumes.
While one pauses, leaning on his oars amid such scenes as this, one
cannot but feel like flirting very earnestly with nature; the
surrounding beauty cannot help reflecting some of its liveliness upon
the admirers, and the stray, "tangled" sunbeams that lose one another in
the thick foliage cannot but give a new love-light to the eyes that
linger thoughtfully upon them. So that the first impulse to admire
nature being gratified, each finds a consequent impulse towards natural
admiration, creeping into the heart. _She_ looks questioningly into
_his_ eyes, and if _he_ knows anything he will respond appropriately,
and after that, each finds out that the other is one of the most
enhancing elements of the beautiful that they have been contemplating
all the while.
To Honor Edgeworth, it was the most delightful treat possible, to drink
in the beauty and elegance of such surroundings, to this at least, her
heart was never closed--it was easy enough to battle against the hoarse
voice of temptation in the busy world, but here, all was different, this
was a spot created, not for the art and acceptations of conventionality,
but for the freedom ahd expansion of the heart and soul.
To lie in a recumbent attitude and feel the gentle breath of the breeze,
playing among her yielding curls, or listen to it, whispering its
effective lullaby into her ears, to drink such a long draught of
nature's own narcotic, as would steal her away from the world of
reality, closing her drowsy lids upon the actual, and unfolding to her
in tempting dreams, the realizations of all her exaggerated, but
cherished ideals, this was the luxury of living, this made life worth
prizing, worth striving for in Honor Edgeworth's eyes.
There are many beside her, who are fond of being nursed into this drowsy
state by some such delightful influence. People, there are, who without
ever acknowledging their weakness, for such a thing, are often seized
with the strangest moods and cravings, a longing for sweet words, or
tender caresses, or something correspondingly emotional in the abstract
fills them up, they would like to lie lazily by some smouldering fire,
on an easy couch, and have some gentle hand to smoothe away the wrinkles
from their brows, or some loving voice to whisper suggestive little
trifles, into their willing ears: when they see a flood of moonlight
filling the earth with its soft stillness, they immediately long to
animate the scene by their own presence, but, with some treasured
beauty, leaning on one arm, and looking bewitchingly into their love-lit
eyes, every emotional sight, sound or feeling, brings to them the
possible intensity of a gratified love, the fruits, they _might_ gather
from their own sentiment, if they had power to indulge it. This is why
we meet so many dreamy, romantic girls, who are ever on the _qui vive_,
expecting the hero, with deep eyes and heavy moustaches, that never
comes. Girls who see more beauty, and poetry, and romance, in the
distant "red light of a cigar" twinkling through the darkness, on some
quiet night, than in all the stars of heaven combined; girls who expect
that every silent, handsome man, who gives them a passing glance (of
aimless curiosity) is a wonderful character, just stepped over the
threshold of some of Ouida's or The Duchess' volumes, ready to seize
them in his steady arms, if they sprain an ankle, or faint over some
fright; ready to rescue them from some terrible accident, and then fall
violently in love, marry them, but, unlike the book, in reality, "live
in miserable wretchedness for ever after."
Such also are those _yearning_ men, who are ever taking flights into the
delightful world of the ideal--men, who try, with a pair of plentiful
eyes, to conquer "female heartdom," who think to find the "open sesame"
to that valuable depository, by knocking the practical element out of
life, and by grasping at chance, in the dim, soulful, dreamy, intense,
abstract world of thought. Men, who the punster would say in the dewy
twilight or still moonlight, are _pie_ously all for _soul_, but who in
the raw early afternoon are _sole_ly all for _pie_.
But from a suspicion of an inclination to such influence, I must surely
except Vivian Standish, he could neither see, hear or feel any
fascination in those things, and yet, he was not without knowing, that
herein lay the weak point of souls more susceptible than his own; he was
cunning enough to know, that a young lady is at the limit of all her
reason and control, when ushered into such a spot, as that which he had
chosen as a resting-place during their row, on this eventful evening.
But with all his precious knowledge, there were a few very simple
things, which Vivian Standish had never learned; he understood other
people perfectly, it is true, human nature, was as legible to him, as
the plainest book, as a rule, he read faces, as he would the morning-
paper, and yet, strange to say, he knew less of his own self than he did
of any one--he was clever enough to veneer his character well, that
others might not know him, but apart from that he was a mystery to
himself--he had certain instinctive ideas of his own bias and
inclinations; he knew every positive quality or defect he had, and in
that same he had plenty to remember, but he never asked himself, whether
he was proof against every passing circumstance or not; he met them
generally, with an admirable collectedness and _sang-froid_, but,
depending on the spur of the moment is not the safest thing in a person
of his pursuits. The cleverest diplomatists and adventurers have been
betrayed by themselves and so was he.
While he sat, watching the contemplative features of the girl in the
boat before him, something, in the clear depths of the admiring eyes,
struck him; there was an expression of infinite longing over her face,
her mouth was drawn into a sad smile, and her hands were folded
listlessly on her lap: a few withering daisies and butter-cups, that she
had snatched an hour before as they skimmed along the shore, lay
carelessly between her fingers, and the loose ties of her broad hat were
fluttering on the breeze, under her pretty, upturned chin. If ever
repentance could have worked its influence over a guilty soul, it could
not have found a moment more propitious than this, wherein to accomplish
its task, the very last susceptibility of a heart, hardened and inured
to sin was struggling to assert itself, a long, unheeded impulse, was
trying to shake away the fetters of vice and crime, and free itself to
The fierce combat between his good and evil spirits waged for an
instant, he must either fall before this commanding angel, or crush with
a mighty blow, and forever, the already weak agent of good, whose "wee
small voice" tantalized him strangely at this moment.
But while he hesitated, his destiny decided itself; a new phase suddenly
substituted his calculating indifference, he felt a strong, jealous
passion flooding his whole soul, he saw the beauty of Honor Edgeworth's
face by an entirely new light, he scorned the suspicion--but the truth
was terribly bare, he had been caught in his own meshes--he loved this
girl. It did not steal upon him, nor come by slow degrees, but rushed in
a crushing torrent of realization, into his heart. All the words of
devotedness and admiration, that he had spoken to her of late, were only
a mockery, to what his passion suggested now.
Love, to so many others an enviable blessing, threatened to be a
miserable portion for him, for naturally enough, coming to him as it did
through the channels of the soul, it had to partake of the unholy nature
of these unhealthy and corrupt by-ways; and hence instead of the pure,
buoyant emotion that fills the honest breast, in the redeeming passion
of its first exalted love, there rushed into the heart of Vivian
Standish, a poisonous torrent of insuperable desire, that held him like
an iron-bound victim, foaming and struggling in his own chains. A look
of devouring admiration flashed from his fiery eyes over the face of the
girl. She was thinking; thinking something pleasant, something
fascinating, thinking of someone agreeable to her thought--who was not
_he_, this he knew, and a crushing feeling of envy, worse than the worst
hatred, filled him. Whose memory did he, by his own voluntary action,
awake within her by bringing her to this spot? who was it, conjured by
her, sat between them, or perhaps substituted him altogether? "Egad," he
stifled, between his teeth, "I must know the worst of this." With a
voice that bespoke a terrible power of self-command, Vivian, blandly
broke this heavy silence--
"I need not ask if you enjoy yourself, Honor, I can see that?"
The girl turned her head slowly towards him, as if loth to raise her
eyes from the visionary world, that fascinated her, and smiling, as if
in sad remembrance, answered abstractedly,
"Yes, I am easily influenced by such surroundings as these," and as she
spoke she waved her hand with a graceful gesture that took in her
"That _movement_, included me, I wonder if the _words_ did as well," he
said quickly, and so huskily, that Honor looked up a little startled.
"Well--yes, you too," she said laughingly, though a little stiffly, "you
must suppose that you have your share of influence over me as well as
every other thing and person associated with my life."
"Only as well, as every other thing, eh?" he interrupted sneeringly,
"only as well, as a terrier dog--or a dutiful servant--or a well-cooked
dinner, I suppose, is that it?" and leaning over on his oars, he looked
savagely into the trembling girl's face.
Honor straightened herself into a stiff, sitting posture, and looking
indignantly into his eyes, answered haughtily--
"Mr. Standish, you have rather a strange way of jesting to-day, might I
trouble you to resume your old self, at least while I am obliged to be
with you?" but his eyes only rivetted themselves still more greedily
upon her, and his hands trembled still more nervously, as he clutched
"Jesting?" he said in a mocking tone, "jesting, did you say? No Honor, I
have jested all my life, but I swear to you, that now I am in terrible
earnest, do not provoke me at this moment, for I can scarcely hold
myself responsible, hereafter, for what I may do--it is your work that I
am in such a state, not mine--come now--tell me, of whom were you
thinking when I spoke to you a moment ago? I must know it or you regret
A slow withering smile of sublime contempt, crept into the handsome face
of the threatened girl--
"Spare your _brutem fulmen_, Mr. Standish, I pray you," she said in
pitiful sarcasm, "you will not terrify me--I must say, that I did not
require this emphatic proof to convince me of how thorough a gentleman
you are, I could have believed without it, but I think if your intention
was to take advantage of respectable circumstances and gain a noble
victory for yourself, you might possibly find easier terms yet than
those which oppose you now, get some one who defies you infinitely less
than I do; you need not then trouble to bray so loud." And as she
finished speaking, she turned her head, in languid disgust away from the
peering face of her companion, and carelessly paddled the tips of three
dainty fingers in the quiet water, at the same time humming a gay little
selection to herself. Her perfect ease and composure disconcerted him,
not a little, it certainly was the most efficacious way of bringing him
back to his polished senses again.
But though the first madness of his attack, was gradually subsiding, he
still sat silently gazing into her face, until becoming somewhat
concerned, Honor looked coldly back into his searching face and said
with the most provoking supineness, in her tone.
"When you have gratified your eyes sufficiently with their insolent
occupation, will you be kind enough to either row me yourself, or allow
me to row myself back to the boat-house, or anywhere convenient to the
This awoke him to the actual state of things; he straightened his oars,
and made sundry other preparations to start, but as he leaned forward to
take the first backward stroke, he looked steadily into her face and
said in a husky, almost defiant tone,
"Dust, like this, can never blind my eyes, but resign yourself, for Guy
Elersley and you will never meet again." In spite of herself, Honor was
startled a little; a greyish shadow flitted across her face, her lips
trembled for an instant, and a wincing expression shot from her eyes,
the words sounded so much like a prophecy of evil, how could he say them
so emphatically unless he knew something, could it be possible that Guy
was dead? Oh no, she would not yield to such a gloomy idea of the
possible, this man was only trying to frighten her--but frightened she
would not be, she suddenly recollected herself, and in a splendid manner
"Indeed, Mr. Standish! Although you introduce a strangely inappropriate
subject, I must say your intelligence grieves me, for I like Guy
Elersley exceedingly well, and should be heartily sorry were I given to
credit your statements with the slightest suspicion of truth."
He had begun to congratulate himself that, at last, he had secured her
unawares, but the last remark confounded him altogether--baffled in
every attempt he gave up trying to threaten her, and resolved to come
back now, if he could, at least to her former favor.
Carefully smothering all his latent passion of jealousy and rage, he
addressed his next words in tones of such humiliation and regret as took
Honor by the greatest surprise.
"Honor, what have I done?" he said seriously and sorrowfully, "have I
forgotten your dignity in the intensity of my emotion?"
"It was your own you forgot," she interrupted, "or you could never have
forgotten mine, but then one can't be too hard on a person for
forgetting such mere trifles, I don't blame you, yours is so
insignificant, that I often forget it myself."
"I deserve it all, Honor, go on--I have been a brute I see--but it was
not I, it was the demon of jealousy within me, will you not say that you
absolve me Honor, for believe me I knew not what I did?"
Something of actual despair rung from his voice, he bowed his face with
its pained expression, and Honor believed him sincere, perhaps, after
all the man was beside himself she thought, he who had never before made
the most pardonable breach of etiquette or courtesy.
The jealousy that was the evident cause of his strongest utterance, was
perhaps, what any woman can forgive her lover's rival most easily, for
it gives a spice to love, so with a little appeal to her womanly
sympathies, Honor thawed out, and answered his miserable
self-condemnations in forgiving but reserved terms.
"Do not trouble yourself so," she said half consolingly. "I assure you,
your words have had no effect in the world on me; if I thought
differently of you, they would have meant more, but as it is, console
yourself that you have injured no one half so much, as you have
The ambiguous words deceived him--he looked gladly up and exclaimed--
"You are an angel, Honor!" but he had not understood the deep meaning of
her thought, he did not know, that, when we love, truly and devotedly,
or even cherish and esteem some one, an unkind word or a cruel retort,
from those lips to us, makes a breach, which no forgiving phrases can
ever right again. When the heart that loves has been wounded by the hand
it adores, no remedy can ever fully heal the rankled spot, where the
poisoned arrow has lodged. We can forgive the injury of one, whom we
have never cherished nor loved, we can treat with indifference the
slights of those we care little about, but it takes an angel's mercy, an
infinite fortitude, a supernatural test of our moral strength to raise
up again the golden idol that one word of cruel unkindness, has
shattered within our hearts.
It was nearly dusk when Honor and Vivian Standish landed at Mr. Rayne's
boat-house, near the bridge. The night air was growing cooler, and the
stars were breaking through the cloudless sky in quiet succession.
With the tenderest of solicitude, Vivian carefully placed Honor's wrap
around her shoulders, and gently assisting her up the steep ascent of
the boat-house stairs, he stole his hand under the knotted fringe of the
warm shawl, and thrust it within her arm.
Honor, for a great many reasons, chose to sign a treaty of peace with
Vivian Standish. She suspected that he knew, perhaps more than he cared
to show, of her attachment for Guy, and if a word of unmeaning
forgiveness, could serve to buy him over, she did not hesitate in
purchasing discretion with such counterfeit coins, for she cared little,
if she were exalted or not in such opinions as his.
Thus, they proceeded, quite amicably on their homeward way, both in an
unusually good humor. There is a auspicious feature about such suddenly
assumed gaiety, that cannot but amuse the disinterested participator;
when either in such a case as that of Vivian Standish we wish thereby to
drown the memory of a recent mistake or blunder, by indulging in loud
mirth, that distracts the mind from the unpleasantness just experienced,
or when we are under the painful influence of some personal trouble, be
it a substantial loss of any sort, or the more unfortunate burden, cast
upon us by any social stigma, then, when the whole world, learning of
our misfortune extends its hand in stinging sympathy, and looks with
painful enquiry of curious compassion, to see "how we take it," what a
piercing spur we thrust into our pride, to drive into it that forced
merriment and happy resignation, which we blindly hope will stand for
indifference in the eyes of a criticising society, at all times, it is
neccessarily a short-lived effort, and so it was in the case of those
two young people. When they reached Mr. Rayne's house, and separated at
the gate, the masks fell immediately, and each went his way laughing at
the absurd mockeries of life, by which, we cheat one another face to
face, at those ridiculous attempts at veneering, through which it is as
easy to see, as through a pane of polished glass, and yet, to which we
have constant recourse, as though the human heart were more presentable
in its mean disguises of truth and honesty, than when laid bare, in the
actual existing state, of diplomacy, selfishness, and deceit.
"But all was false and hollow, though his tongue
Dropt manna; and could make the worse appear
The better reason."
"I will surely be recognized by some one, if I stay here this evening,"
Guy said, as he brushed his hair and readjusted his cravat, before a
neat mirror in one of the prim bed-rooms of a Sparks street boarding-
house. "I had better seek some way of keeping myself ahide for awhile,
until I find out, how love-matters are progressing in a certain
quarter," and as he soliloquized, he turned to the open window that
faced the busy street, just in time to catch a glimpse of the "street
car," as it hurried by. There was a placard in conspicuous letters on
either side announcing to the public that a "moonlight excursion would
take place, that night _per_ steamer '_Peerless_.'"
This suggested itself to Guy as one way of spending his dull evening in
tolerable comfort. He looked at his watch, and found it wanted yet a
quarter to half-past seven. He looked out at the dull gray sky, "I don't
think fair Luna under whose patronage they give their excursion, will
favor them with her presence to-night," he muttered in a satisfied
voice, "and for that I thank her profusely."
He opened his large valise, that lay beside the bed and took from its
respectable inside, a handful of good cigars, these he deposited in his
coat-pocket, he then thrust his head into a large rimmed felt hat, that
partially covered his features, and otherwise gave him an appearance of
disguise, and having carefully closed both window and door of his tidy
room, went quietly out.
Down through the familiar streets, where he had so often strolled a few
little years ago, he strolled again to-night, but how different a man!
The usual processions of the working-class were thickening as the "after
tea," leisure hours advanced: the "loafers" of the old type with soft
slouched hats bent over their eyes, and with mouths full of very strong
tobacco and language were posed artistically here and there in classic-
looking groups, at the corners of Sparks and its intersecting streets.
Cabmen lounged around the vicinity of Dufferin Bridge, as it were in the
very postures he had seen them take, when last he strolled along that
path, a dissipated, reckless, love-sick youth. But it gratified him
to-night beyond anything, as he looked in critical survey from corner to
corner of the "Russell," to recognize among that never failing gathering
which haunts the thresholds of this flourishing hotel, the "friends of
his youth" without _him_. He had not realized the step he had taken,
until these scenes brought back the past so forcibly, to lay it beside
the prosperous present. How many times had he stood idly before those
doors, reckoning it worthy sport indeed, to pass unscrupulous remarks on
passers-by behind his half-smoked cheroot: he cast a sympathetic look,
as he thought, at a couple of unsuspecting girls, who just then were
making their way along that thoroughfare, and his face said very
plainly, "Well, you hardly know poor creatures, what noble jests your
tiny feet, and tiny waists, and faces and figures, your gait and your
dress, are causing for that high-minded audience across the way."
Sussex street had its same quaint, deserted, look, except that the
different stocks in the melancholy business establishments looked a
little more fly-stained, and time-worn, the sausages and meat-pies in
the restaurant windows were a trifle staler looking, and more suggestive
of sea-sickness; the thriving hotels, and boarding-houses were a degree
dingier, time having laid his dusty finger unmolested, on their
muslin-screened windows, telling a woeful tale of laziness and neglect.
At last the bright broad "Ottawa," came in view, sparkling and rippling
in the red sunset, like a mass of liquid gems.
The majestic "Peerless," was at her old post near the wharf looking as
comfortable and as inviting as ever: the same Notice stood out in all
its faulty spelling, where pleasure-boats were for hire, and all the
bright yellow sawdust which of late years has so deeply wounded the
delicate enthusiasm of the aesthete, traced in golden letters its story
of industry and honest labor, on one of nature's unwritten pages. The
decks of the favorite "Peerless" were already well-filled with
excursionists, who looked over the firm balustrades at the numbers of
eager pleasure-seekers who still poured down the steps leading to the
boat. Pulling his broad brimmed hat more definitely over his face, Guy
fell in behind a group of descending people, and reached the boat barely
in time, for as he stepped on board, the captain followed, the men
hauled in the gang-way, the last shrill whistle deafened the ears of the
passengers, those on the shore who watched the pleasant proceedings, now
waved their handkerchiefs and hats, there was a great paddling and
splashing until the steamer turned out into the broad river, then
quietly, gracefully and lightly, she skipped along the clear calm water,
just as the evening shadows were veiling the turrets and spires of
surrounding edifices in their heavy mist.
Soon the wharf and its anxious spectators faded from view, then by
degrees the towers and gables of the Parliament Buildings dropped into
the shadowy distance, the tall pine trees along the shore receded within
clouds of dark, smoky, blue, little twinkling lights sprung from the
gathering darkness along the water's edge; the twilight was growing into
black night, and the tame pleasures on board were developing into wild
There was no moon, but this is not necessarily a great disappointment,
provided her absence does not foretell rain. A very dark night on deck,
with strains of dreamy music echoing from the lighted apartment within,
does not seem to the young couples seated by the railing outside,
looking into the blue-black waves, as the most tiresome and unsuggestive
circumstance in life.
Fully protected by this impenetrable darkness, Guy made his way to a
secluded corner of the deck, where, besides being isolated and free from
observation, he could both hear and see the merriment that was now at
its height within. A soft, sleepy sort of breeze was blowing from the
water, and now and then heated participators of the dance drew near the
little windows to catch the cool breath of heaven as it stole in.
Guy sat silently and pensively smoking his expensive cigars, planning
and plotting all sorts of things to the accompaniment of bewitching
strains of twittering waltz music and peals of merry laughter from
within. He became distracted now and then in spite of himself, wandering
away from his important mental problems to yield to the influence of
association and remembrance which stole over him in a sad sort of
pleasant way. Here was just the kind of evening he had _once_ enjoyed
immensely, and might possibly enjoy again; there were all the same faces
he had seen countless times upon countless occasions before laughing and
chatting merrily. One or two couples out of the crowd who had been in
the first grade of love-sickness when he last saw them, now seemed to
belong more emphatically to one-another than before, and the sadder but
wiser looking fellows who followed some of these developed ladies about
gallantly, were loaded with satchels and shawls and other feminine
tackle which strangely became them in Guy's eyes; they danced less,
flirted less than they used in Guy's days, but then matrimony has its
martyrs and its sacrifices, like every other institution, and the thorns
and roses grow on the one branch. Some are unfortunate enough indeed in
culling the matrimonial nosegay, for very soon the over-mature rose
falls in withered beauty to the ground, leaf by leaf, and the
disconsolate admirer stands open-mouthed and sorry, with a bare stalk of
healthy thorns between his finger and thumb, but it is mostly his own
doing, for even if his fair enchantress has spared him the disagreeable
necessity of "popping the question," she had left him the power to
Guy learned more of practical life from his nook in the dark on this
festive night, than a year's ordinary observation could ever have taught
him. He shook his head in amused pity once or twice as he recognized
some of his "old friends" among the gay crowd; how well he knew of old
that some of those civil servants had likely made the tour of whole
departments that afternoon to borrow the half-dollar admission fee that
granted them all this pleasure to-night, fellows who had been rollicking
all their lives, who had not hesitated over anything, who would as soon
fall in love with a troupe of bouncing actresses, and follow them around
from city to city, as they would eat their dinner, and yet he could see
the gratification of unsuspecting girls as these destitute enthusiasts
sought and enjoyed their company. It amused Guy to see some of them
actually looking serious, as they led some fair creature on their arm
through the moving circle of the dance; or bent suspiciously over the
chair of some golden-haired beauty on the deck. Guy tried to improvise a
consistent sequel to these little love-signs, but it grew ridiculous
naturally enough, he gathered all these interesting little circumstances
within the limits of "a plain gold ring," but these are "deuced" narrow
limits for two healthy people and one small income to thrive in.
He tried to imagine the placid pretty faces of the patient pampered
blondes and brunettes, if these same devoted ones, now so interesting as
lovers, were to come home some luckless evening as prosy husbands and
say "Eva," or "Bee," or "Ada, it's all up with us now, the bailiff will
be here in the morning, I knew this sort of high life couldn't last--"
and then to fling himself down in democratic contempt on the parlor
sofa, with its dainty tidies and cushions of "applique" or pale-blue
satin, and use its rosewood or mahogany framework as the commonest
bootjack. Of course a fellow is always sure that these ornamental little
wives have no other consolation for themselves or any one else, but in
the copious tears that swell up into their pretty eyes, they must sit
down and sob to break their dear little hearts with every now and then a
hysterical sentence from behind the dainty lawn handkerchief, saying
"what will everyone think? What will Lady Featherly say? We wont be
asked to any more 'at homes' now, and the ball at 'Rideau' is next week,
oh dear--boo--hoo--hoo!" Of course the merciless husband gets mad
because his poor little helpless wife sees fit to weep over a fate that
must disgrace her in the eyes of the social world. She wouldn't mind
being refused everywhere for "credit" as long as they had enough to eat
and "kept up appearances," and she knows very well that no one will
believe her when she says she and "Percy" gave up house-keeping as a
"nuisance." Then there are those who will be delighted over her reverse,
the ones she never would invite to her five o'clock teas or evening
parties, will chuckle now over her misfortune, she tells herself
bitterly. How can she do without servants, she who has never brushed her
own hair all her single life. She can only cry and be sorry she ever
married. She is so unequal to such awful responsibilities. Asking
herself what she _could_ do to assist "Percy" in this catastrophe, only
gives her another fresh grief to realize. She sees that lawn-tennis is a
useless accomplishment before the bailiffs threat, dancing or singing,
or good looks are equally worthless in such a dilemma, high-toned
friends are of no avail, they drop the acquaintance generally, under
The helpless little beauties must then break their hearts in grief, they
cannot do what less accomplished or less fashionable girls would be able
to do in such a moment, how could anyone expect them to say, "Let us
dismiss the servant, I know my household duties as well as she,
henceforth _I_ will make your shirts and knit your stockings, leave off
these expensive places of amusement, I have not been accustomed to them
and can live without them." How can they do this who have lived a single
life so inconsistent with the acquirement of such rude accomplishments
as characterize the daughters of respectable but far less fashionable
citizens than their fathers. A sudden stop in the dreamy waltz hurled
Guy back from the mysteries of the future he had undertaken to unravel,
he laughed inwardly as he re-settled himself comfortably on his chair,
at the vagaries his fancy had indulged in at the sad expense of these
unconscious couples, who were as happy in their present state of mutual
appreciation as though no cloud however dark and heavy in the coming
future could dim the brightness of this hour.
'T'were hard to tell what other extravagant freaks Guy may not have
indulged in after this, for the orchestra had ceased grating its
instruments into accord, and was inviting the dancers to join in a gay
"Rush Polka," but the sound of voices near him caught his ear suddenly
and he started up in a listening attitude. There was no mistaking--he
leaned farther away from the little window from whence streamed a flood
of lamplight, and holding his breath, he listened eagerly for the next
"I was inclined to call for Honor," said one, "but I felt so certain of
meeting her here that I deemed it unnecessary."
The words came plainly, not loudly, but distinctly to Guy's hearing as
they crossed Vivian Standish's lips; he recognized the bland deceptive
voice and set his teeth in contempt; he had come to Ottawa, for the sole
purpose of hunting up this gallant hero and a kind fortune had placed
him within his very hands. Another voice broke the ensuing silence, one
that had a great effect on Guy, for he could only remember the familiar
strains of his uncle's voice by its ruins, it was weak and tremulous and
uncertain, its saddened tones touched Guy considerably.
"You see," the old man was saying "you never can rely much on girls,
Honor was taken with such a bad headache to-night that she preferred we
would leave her behind, Madame d'Alberg insisted on my coming, since I
was well enough for the first time in a long while."
"Certainly, you should not have missed the trip," Vivian answered, "but
I am sorry that Honor should be indisposed, I wanted her particularly
So--thought Guy, it has come to this--"Honor"--how pat it came from his
vicious lips. He made up his mind at this juncture to listen to every
word, feeling sure to find some valuable clue before this night was
over. The voice of assumed anxiety broke from Vivian's lips and
interrupted Guy's thought.
"I hope you are on the way to complete recovery at last Mr. Rayne," he
said, "really I begin to feel anxious about you."
Guy fancied the old man shaking his head in the usual contemplative way
as the words came--
"Oh no, my dear boy, my system has completely broken up now, my decline
is a matter of months only, now."
Vivian was about to protest, when Mr. Rayne continued:
"And I don't mind much, time was when I felt life full of
responsibilities that cheered me on, but now--my old age is almost a
Guy understood this illusion and winced, the unsteady voice still
"Since Honor's welfare in the dim future, when I shall be dead and gone,
promises to be safe, I have had no reluctance to die. I lived for her."
At these words Guy strained every nerve in his body and listened
devouringly. Vivian spoke next,
"What surprises me," he said "is that Honor has not been snatched away
long before this."
"She's a strange girl," Mr. Rayne answered pensively, "she does not take
fancies easily, she has treated open admirers with such provoking
coldness since she has 'come out' that I wonder at her having a friend
"That is what weakens my hope," said Vivian Standish, in a splendid
mockery of despair. "I fear that she might meet my proposal with the
same indifference, and thus make my life a miserable blank."
The color rushed to Guy's face, and then faded as suddenly away.
"Infernal villain!" he muttered, and it was only by an extraordinary
effort he conquered the impulse to spring upon the person of this vile
adventurer, and strangle him then and there. What providential influence
had brought him back to Ottawa at such a crisis, he asked himself.
"Well," he heard his uncle say distractedly, "I have not broached the
subject to her yet. She is a strange disposition and cannot be treated
like others of her age and sex. I think the better plan would be, for
you to deserve her love first, and from what we have all seen of you, I
reckon that will not be the hardest of tasks. This is September--if you
wish, after three months longer, I will speak to her, and tell her my
opinion of you."
"How can I ever thank you or repay you sufficiently, dear Mr. Rayne,"
was the answer Guy heard to this painful speech of his uncle's. "I have
no fear," continued the hypocrite, anxiously, "except," and he
hesitated--"that she may have loved already--that is the only obstacle I
"I don't think it," said Henry Rayne. "I'm sure she has not--who could
she have loved?"
"You ought to know," continued Standish "whether at any time of her life
she has met with some-one she preferred to any other. Do you think for
instance," and his voice lowered so that Guy could scarcely catch its
accents "that there was anything between her and--your nephew, Guy
Guy's face wore the strangest expression of contempt and pain, as he
leaned nearer still to the side from whence the voices came. He could
see them now--dark shadows only on the misty outline of the night. They
were leaning with their backs against the small green railing, each
smoking a cigar. Guy crouched nearer the protecting wall, and waited
patiently for the issue of this strange _rencontre_. His uncle was
silent for a second, and the uncertain voice with which he answered
Vivian's last remark, pained him severely.
"Why do you think that?" he asked, almost huskily, "That never struck my
mind, and if it had, I assure you, Standish, much as I esteem you, I
would have kept that boy by me. If I suspected that Honor would ever
love him, my life's happiness would have been complete."
Guy's eyes were growing moist.
"It is only natural," said the smooth, bland voice of Vivian Standish
"that you should like to encourage the welfare of your own, but I must
say, that Guy Elersley did not make a proper use of the advantages
fortune threw in his way." Guy agreed sadly here "I think he was a
little ungrateful besides, in return for your kindness, for I had always
understood from him, that in his eyes, you were worth only the wealth
you would leave him at your death. I don't want to run down the absent
ones, but all the same, I must say, that Elersley had his faults."
Guy ground his teeth in smothered hatred.
"Spare me this, Standish," said the old man pleadingly, "for in spite of
all that has happened, I cannot teach myself to forget how I loved this
boy all his life, fondly and foolishly, and if he were within my arm's
grasp at this moment, I doubt whether I would not take him back to me
again as warmly as ever, for I never cease to reproach myself for having
treated him so severely for so small an offence."
"It is your excessive mercy and goodness that cause you this regret,"
Vivian said, "for you surely were lenient to him in your justice after
"Let us drop his name," interrupted the old man, "it has not crossed my
lips for years, but now that your suggestion brings back the past to me,
I am puzzled and surprised a little. I remember now, how Honor carefully
collected every little trifling belonging of Guy's that had been left at
our house, and carried them to her own room, where they have laid since.
I thought at the time, it was to spare me the pain of coming across
them, as she had heard something of our dispute; but now, I recognize
the possibility of there having been a more pitiful motive. She never
utters his name either. I wonder have I done them both the awful wrong
of thrusting myself between their young hearts, and spoiling the happy
ambition of their lives--may God help me to repair it if I have!"
Guy's head fell wearily on his folded arms that rested on the back of a
vacant chair in front of him. This was such a painful scene to witness
in silence that he felt himself almost overcome. He never cherished
Honor so wildly or devotedly as he did at this moment. The details that
fell from the lips of his uncle were items of a sad, sweet tale for
him--he no longer doubted of her faithful love for him now.
Lest Mr. Rayne should become too remorseful for the injustice he had
done these young people, Vivian hastened to speak in a reassuring voice.
"But it is plain, Mr. Rayne, if your nephew thought anything of this
girl, he would have sent her some word or token of regard at parting, in
spite of you or anyone else, that might encourage or sustain her love
during their separation. This he did not think it worth his while to do,
which is almost proof positive that he cared very little for her."
"Heaven help me to bear this!" was Guy's inarticulate prayer as those
last words reached his ears. "Of all the infamous blackguards and
disreputable scoundrels I ever met"--here he stopped, and listened
again. They had resumed the topic of Vivian's proposal.
"I tell you," said Mr. Rayne wearily, "to visit and court her for three
months longer, anyway. At the end of that time you can propose if you
will, and I will give my consent readily. I am glad to hear you say you
have means enough to hold you independent of my little girl's fortune. I
would not like to see her wedded for her dowry."
"The wealth of character and beauty is her real dowry, Mr. Rayne," the
hypocrite replied, "Any other is worthless before that."
"Aye, aye! you are right there, my boy," added Mr. Rayne, shaking his
head pensively. Then changing his tone suddenly said, "I feel a little
chilly here, Vivian, my boy; let us go inside."
"Take my arm, Mr. Rayne, and let me feel that in even so little a thing
I can make myself useful to you."
They passed in silently where the lamp light and music and merry sounds
flooded the gay rooms. Guy bent forward as they closed the little glass
door behind them, and caught a glimpse of the changed, wasted,
melancholy old man he loved so well, leaning on the traitorous arm of a
tall, straight, handsome one, who was associated with the bitterest
feelings of hatred and revenge within his breast.
How he longed to be away from this merry-making crowd, where he could
lay his wearied head to rest, and where the mockery of life might cease
to taunt him for a little while. Only one thought saved him and
encouraged him through all--the thought that _she_ had not forgotten
him, in spite of the base treachery practised by the man he had trusted.
Through all his painful realizations, this angelic face of his beloved,
soothed and comforted and cheered him until he felt a new strength in
his arm and a new fire in his heart, urging him on to retributive
Out of all that crowd of merry-makers that landed back on the Queen's
Wharf, close on to midnight of that night, not one had noticed the
solitary figure under the broad felt hat, though his very friends
jostled and elbowed past him in the throng.
Stepping ashore, he hired a carriage and drove rapidly away. He had
spent an evening with all the old faces after an absence of years, and
not one of his many friends and acquaintances suspected Guy Elersley any
nearer than the possible distance of the unknown.
"Was I deceived or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?"
"Three months! three months!" Guy said in a low, puzzled voice, as he
lay wide awake on his bed, turning and twisting all the circumstances of
his recent discoveries over and over in his head. "I can never stay here
all that time. Besides, I have a good deal to do." He thought over it a
little while longer, and then looking quite satisfied, he turned himself
comfortably on the other side and went deliberately off into a peaceful
Three months never appear to us to contain half of their real length
when we have much to consider and much to do in a given time of that
duration. One month had already elapsed, during whose flight Guy had
made some important discoveries.
He had traced up the bogus parsonage, and had even found, by some lucky
accident, the residence of Philip Campbell, the rescuer of Fifine de
Maistre. The "Lower Farms" is, of all secluded spots, about the most
secluded, and people went there just as Guy did--through curiosity. It
tempted Guy in his search as being the most direct route from the house
where the extraordinary wedding had taken place. He had been sitting in
the small public room of the village inn a few hours after his arrival,
hiding his anxious face behind the folds of the country weekly
newspaper, when the conversation of a group of men at the counter in the
corner interested him.
"Take somethin', doctor," said one burly, good-natured fellow to an aged
person of apparent dignity and respectability, "you must feel all out o'
sorts after this day's work."
"Not a bit," said the man addressed, "we doctors grow quite accustomed
to such sights when we have reached my age in the profession."
"I dare say, indeed, doctor," said a credulous looking youth, who was
rubbing his unshaved chin and lips with the broad back of a sunburnt
hand, "ye must have interestin' sights now and then doctor, though wan
'ud think there wudd'nt be much fuss in a place like this, barrin' it
comes from folks' own contrariness, like Michael Doyle's daughter
to-day--the world knows if they'd stuck to the old style, like their
dacenter neighbors, and burnt their safe tallow candles, Maggie Doyle
wuddn't be shrivelled up to a crisp to-night from coal ile 'splosions.
We all told 'em so!"--wound up this matter-of-fact youth, after
reviewing in a few words the sad fate of one of the village girls, who
had, the night previous, met her death through a lamp explosion that had
set fire to her clothes.
"'Tis sad to see a young woman the victim of death," the doctor said
reflectively. "I get quite overcome myself when I see them suffer. I
have never forgotten the pitiful sight of the young woman we picked up
in the bush leading from the 'Grey House' one morning about three years
This familiar allusion of the old doctor's to his experience of that
eventful day was as well understood by every one there as it was by
himself, but somehow such persons of eminence as doctors or curates of
small villages always find the rustic inhabitants ready to appreciate
their tales, were it their hundredth repetition. Fortunately for Guy,
some rough sycophant expressed himself interested in the allusion, and
asked a question or two, which succeeded in bringing out for about the
sixtieth time from the doctor's lips the whole story of Josephine de
Maistre's rescue. Guy strained his ears as he leaned sideways to hear
the interesting details. He could scarcely conceal his agitation as each
precious item dropped from the aged doctor's lips. Finally, Guy laid
down his paper and approached the listening group.
"I have overheard your strange story," he said, addressing the venerable
man of medicine, "and being of your profession myself, I naturally
interest myself in your experience. Did your unfortunate patient die?"
he tried to ask in the most careless curiosity.
The village doctor looked condescendingly on the intruder, and the
others in dumb courtesy moved aside to let the new comer through.
"No, she did not die," the doctor answered, rubbing his hands, "but
though she recovered her bodily health, her mind was terribly deranged.
None of us could glean anything of importance from her wild answers, she
was foolishly inconsistent in everything, but when she spoke of her
'revenge' and of 'Bijou,' whoever that was."
Guy felt as if his heart had bounded into his mouth, and had to muster
all the moral courage he could to prevent his betraying himself, his
tone was a masterpiece of affected indifference when he asked,--
"Do you know what became of this poor victim after she left here?"
"Oh, we did not lose sight of her," said the doctor, in a tone which
insinuated that a suspicion of such neglect insulted the dignity of his
profession, "by no means. When she had recovered her physical health
under our treatment, we had her transferred to 'Beauport,' where she was
sure to be well treated--It was as sad a case on the whole, I think, as
was ever recorded," mused the would-be wise and experienced physician,
and as Guy agreed with him, he strolled lazily towards the door, and in
another moment had quitted the inn.
Guy felt himself now to be the direct depository of a great mission,
which his conscience bade him fulfil right away. Just as hurriedly and
as anxiously as if he were hastening to the death-bed of his nearest
relative, Guy took the very next train down to Quebec, resolving
silently to spend every exertion he was capable of in this precious
duty, or die.
In the fiercest battles of our daily lives, there are only two incitants
which can never fail to give our heart a hope, our hope a courage, our
courage a strength, and our strength whatever possible success can be
wrung from fate under such circumstances; these are, the two great
influences of hatred--and of love. There is no strength so fierce, so
terrible as the hater's, just as there is no strength so steady, so
hopeful, so ambitious, as that which guides the lover's hand. We would
do a great many hard and trying things for our love's sake, but those
things which the righteous could never do--even for their love--are the
better sweets of an active hatred. Love has its limits, but hatred--its
only sweetness is its infinity, its boundless freedom, and its endless
There was something of both these stimulants pressing Guy Elersley
onward to determined action. All the mighty strength of years of subdued
love and sincerest devotion spurred him hopefully on, and all the
crushing power of a few days' hatred goaded him on to merciless action.
He stowed away that other every-day life of his, and assumed this new
phase of his existence dutifully and well. The reward stood in the
distance, smiling and beckoning, though 'tis true that his eyes could
only discover the familiar outlines of his heart's idol through the
doubtful mists of the "possible", but it were as well to spend his
pent-up emotions in this way as have them crushed from his heart by a
merciless blow of fate, in bitter disappointment.
It would scarcely interest the reader to follow Guy Elersley in his
rambles, from the time he passed out of the dingy doorway of the village
public-house until he drew up, after a long drive, before the imposing
entrance of "Beauport Asylum." The bracing air of the country road that
leads to this establishment had had a most beneficial effect on Guy's
temperament, and therefore as he alighted from his _caleche_, his step
had resumed something of its old lightness, and his face had lost some
of its serious expression.
Guy cogitated sadly as he sauntered quietly up the gravel walks that
lead to the main entrance of the edifice. With its air of quiet and
peaceful dignity, its beautiful paths, and _parterres_ of blooming
flowers, its fountains and grottoes, none could suspect that its
melancholy mission was to shelter the noblest work of an Infinite hand
in a wrecked and shattered state. There are collected the precious,
priceless ruins of the masterpieces of the Artist of Life; an assemblage
of ruins over which the most hardened cannot refrain from weeping, were
it their very last tear.
Before making any inquiries, Guy passed silently as any ordinary visitor
through the different apartments of the "women's ward," carefully
studying and scrutinizing any young or beautiful faces that might answer
the purpose, he was there to serve: but a pained expression of growing
disappointment like despair was settling on his face, as he scanned the
last group of quiet, staring countenances that remained to be seen.
There was nothing in all that mass of wrecked humanity which satisfied
Quiet, reserved women, looked up into his face with a meaningless gaze
as he passed from one to another in his eager search, turning their
heads stupidly in his direction, as they knitted their well-shaped
stockings diligently; other dishevelled, drivelling imbeciles, gathered
up in the corners of benches or on the floors, raised their empty eyes
to look carelessly out through masses of tumbled hair at him, and then
with some half articulate chuckle to clasp their hands tightly around
their knees again, and drop their heads into their laps.
From these harmless, foolish victims, Guy passed eagerly on to the more
thrilling presence of the maniacs, but even here, though wild shrieks
and dark threatening looks greeted him on all sides, he could not find a
clue to assist in unravelling his secret plot. There were loud toned
viragos who screached and roared in fearful imprecations and appealed to
unknown people, victims of the demon alcohol--there were the dark,
sullen, silent ones, brooding over their imaginary or real wrongs, and
weeping and moaning piteously--there were the dangerous, careless and
happy victims, who filled the dismal cells with their heart-rending
peals of wild laughter, that fall upon the heart like the loneliest
knell--there were the apparently quiet, religious ones who addressed
their Creator in ceaseless, meaningless prayer, crying for forgiveness
and mercy, but there was no bright, pretty French child, who called for
"Bijou" or her "revenge," and this discouraged Guy very much. Presently
addressing the guide, who escorted him through these apartments of
living death, Guy said:
"Have you no cases of love mania, one younger than these?" waving his
hand, as he spoke, in the direction of the rooms he had just visited.
The middle-aged guide shook her head sadly and said:
"Not at present, Sir, the last one of that sort, died a few months after
Guy's heart sank as heavily as a lump of lead within his breast.
"Died?" he reiterated in a tone which bespoke a faint hope that the
other had made some mistake.
"Yes, Sir, poor thing," said the pensive-looking woman addressed, "she
was a beautiful sight to look upon too, such a pretty face, and such
slender little hands, she was very melancholy for three or four months,
and then died."
"Do you know the circumstances that brought about her derangement?"
asked Guy, almost in despair of ever solving the tangled problem now.
"I think, if I don't mistake," quietly answered his informant, twirling
her thumbs, "that her husband had deserted her, and then committed
suicide, although they had been married but a year."
Guy grasped this as the straw to which he might yet cling, and looking
hurriedly up at the demure woman who stood watching him silently, he
"Pardon my inquisitiveness, madam, but I am in search of a friend, who,
I was told, was sent here nearly three years ago, being at that time the
unfortunate victim of a love episode."
Guy fancied the reserved matron was casting covert glances at himself,
and he fairly staggered as she said in a long breath--
"The pity is, you young gentleman don't repent in time. Where's the use
o' looking for the girl, now, she's mad; why didn't ye leave her her
senses when she had 'em?"
"My dear woman," Guy gasped, with dilated eyes, "_I_ am not the party to
blame, _I_ am only a friend of the young lady's, I am sorry you should
consider me guilty of such a serious crime!"
"Oh, beg your pardon, sir," the woman interrupted coolly, "but its not
such a great mistake of mine, I'll be bound the young gentleman as has
had his finger in the pie, is just as sleek and fine to look at outside
as yourself," then meditatively "there's no trusting young men by their
Guy could not shirk the truth of this, for Vivian Standish's "outside"
was far more polished than his own, and he therefore accepted the
woman's tame apology and calmed down.
"I would give anything I own, that would assist me in recovering her,"
he said, so earnestly, that his matter-of-fact guide rested her lean
chin in her hollow palm, and agreed to "think" for his benefit.
After a second or two fraught with extreme anxiety for Guy, the woman
"Do you know of anything particular to trace her by?"
Guy recalled the village doctor's account and quickly told her, that,
the circumstances connected with her mania had so impressed her, that
she continually talked of revenge, frequently using the name "Bijou,"
"she had also," he continued, a little less hopefully, and more
reluctantly, "a large Newfoundland dog with her, when she left the
doctor's house on the 'Lower Farms'"
"Ah, now I know!" the quiet matron exclaimed in subdued surprise, "the
young lady with the dog, sure enough--sure enough, but we don't count
her somehow," said the woman, interrupting her exclamation of surprise.
"I am so glad that you remember at last," said Guy, whose heart was
throbbing with anxiety while she spoke, "do tell me all you remember of
her, like a good woman."
"Well, you see," the provokingly slow woman began, "I was just serving
my first year, and I was full of pity and sympathy for the poor souls I
saw in trouble--though I become quite used to 'em now--and this young
creature in particular went straight to my heart. I was good to her, and
she took to me, and we became fast friends; she never would give up the
great big dog, and he clung to her in return for all he was worth, but
one day this sweet creature called me, and says she, 'don't be uneasy
about me Mrs. Hammond, there is nothing very wrong with my brain,' says
she, 'I've had a very bad attack of brain fever,' says she, 'and I feel
its effects sometimes yet, but that will soon pass away,' says she, 'and
I'll be as right as ever again,' I did not mind this," continued the
narrator addressing Guy confidentially, "for the worst of them sometimes
talk as sensible as you or me, but, for all that, I hoped in my heart
'twas the truth, and I kept on coming to see her, and talking common
sense to her, like I would to you or any other sensible folk, and by and
bye, I found out that her own predictions was true, and that she had
quite recovered her senses. We reported this, and the attending
physician agreed with us, and we were all mighty glad, sir," the woman
said kindly "for the sweet girl's own sake."
"And what became of her then?" asked Guy, impatiently, unable to await
the woman's pleasure to hear the happy sequel.
"Well sir," continued she, "the young lady said she had neither money
nor friends, and expressed a wish to retire to some place, where she
could practice acts of gratitude to the Almighty, for having saved her
from the threatened fate of madness. She did not tell us quite as plain
as that what her intentions were, but we soon found out, so unless
anything unusual happened, you will find her yet, cloistered voluntarily
in the home of some pious ladies who dwell on the outskirts of the city.
Anyone will drive you there; you are on the road now; it is far enough
on the outskirts of the town, but a pleasant drive for all that, and
sure, sir, I, for one, wish you the best of success in your
"Thank you, my good woman, a thousand times I thank you. You have
lightened a great burden from my heart, and I will not forget it
either," and as he showered his protestations of gratitude on the head
of the gratified matron, he bowed himself out, and beat a hasty retreat
back to his carriage.
"Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister woman.
Tho' they may gang a kennin' wrang,
To step aside is human."
"Is it the little home on the hill?" said the half-indignant _caleche_
driver, "well, to be sure I know it as well as I do the nose on my face;
step in sur, and: you'll soon see if I do or not."
Jumping hastily up, Guy settled himself for, as he hoped, the last drive
to the first part of the success he strove so hard to win.
Quebec, as every tourist has acknowledged, is a "fine old place," and
now that his heart was somewhat lighter, Guy allowed himself to realize,
like the others, that he had indeed come to a "fine old place," and one
whose memory threatened to cling around his heart for the remaining
years of his life. Many thoughts filled his busy brain as he rattled
along in his two-wheeled conveyance over the country roads, drinking in
the freshness and beauty of his rural surroundings, and yielding gladly
to the bracing currents of country air that swept past his troubled
face, cooling and refreshing him considerably.
By and by, growing a little curious about the nature of the place to
which he had ordered this man to drive him, he leaned forward a little
and asked the broad-faced Irishman, who was lilting a merry tune to
himself as they jaunted along.
"What sort of a place is this we are driving to, Pat."
"Och, faith yer honor, mebbe 'tis dhrivin' to the divil we are, for all
Pat knows. G'long there, Sally."
"But I mean the convent, Pat, surely his devilship does not intrude
"Oh thin, the Lord forbid," Pat answered as he, turned the contents of
his battered felt hat towards Guy; this characteristic piece of
head-wear was just completing that interesting transformation that is
the inevitable fate of all long-lived black felts, viz. to develop
themselves into a promising green, which is quite in its place on the
head of an Irish hackman.
Guy thought it worth his while to interest himself in the fellow, and
asked rather curiously--
"You are a Catholic Pat, are you not?"
"Faith I niver was anything else since I was anything at all," was the
contented reply. "I got my honest name in a Catholic chapel in th' ould
sod, an' I'll take it as honest as I got it, to a Catholic churchyard
when I die."
"That's right," said Guy, half seriously, though slightly amused at the
strange way the fellow spoke his determination.
"Have you ever been to this place, we are going to, Pat?"
"Troth there isn't an inch nor a fut o' ground in all Quaybec that this
ould nag and meself didn't explore some time or other."
"Who runs the institution?" Guy queried next.
"The divil a run it iver got as long as I know it," said Pat, as he
gathered up his shabby whip, to the accompaniment of some snack of his
oily tongue, which succeeded miserably in inducing his languid old mare
to stretch her angular supports over more space at a time, "tis allays
bin standin in the wan spot since me father was a lad, and that's longer
ago nor I can remember, seein' that they put off rearing me up 'till the
rest was all grown up an' out o' the way."
Guy could not refrain from smiling at the droll way in which his
companion handled a subject, he had learned before, and therefore
to-day's experience was nothing new to him, that direct questions will
never get direct answers from an illiterate Irishman, and so he resigned
himself beforehand to the ordeal he was passing through at present.
By and by however, Pat drew forth from a depository of doubtful
cleanliness and respectability, a short, black pipe, that fitted
becomingly between his plentiful lips. Then after a moment's hesitation,
he said doubtfully, over the sea-green shoulder of his ancient
"I suppose, sir, you're something of a smoker?"
Taking this as one way of asking a permission to indulge, Guy answered
readily. "Indeed I am, Mr. Crowley, that precious weed and myself are
not strangers, at all."
"So then, ye carry it about with you, as well as meself?" he said, with
a timid chuckle. Guy agreed that he did, just to satisfy him; the next
moment the forefinger and thumb of the amusing Pat Crowley, in all their
innocence of toilet attentions, were thrust into the depths of his
waistcoat pocket, from whence they unearthed a solitary match;
instinctively he flourished this on the leg of his baggy trousers, and
applied the flame to the empty briar-root, that protruded on its short
stem from his substantial mouth; but after a vain puff or two, he flung
it impatiently away and replaced the time worn pipe within the flavored
precincts of his waistcoat pocket.
Guy, who watched these interesting proceedings in silent amusement,
could not subdue the curiosity which prompted him to say.
"I thought you were going to have a smoke for yourself, Mr. Crowley?"
"H'm, so did I, meself," returned Pat.
"And why don't you? I don't object."
"Och divil a thing but smoke was in the insthrument, bad luck to
it,--however sir, as ye say ye carry the tabakky about wid ye, take a
loan o' the pipe an' welcome, for 'twould never be Pat Crowley, 'ud sit
down with that in his pocket, that could make another man happy, and him
not wantin' it nayther."
The hint had the desired affect. Guy's face broke into a broad smile, as
the true meaning of the words showed itself.
"I have the tobacco he said, and no pipe as you suspect, and your moral
is mine, too Crowley, so here's the tobacco and use your pipe to the
best of its advantages old fellow."
As Crowley's gratified smile wrinkled over his face and rested in
emphatic creases around his eyes, he readjusted the dwarfed pipe between
his sallow teeth, and Guy heard him mutter, as he leaned forward to rest
the lines, while he rubbed the little shavings between his brawny hands.
"Ye're a dacent mother's son, ivery inch o'you, so ye are."
When the curling clouds of smoke, piled upwards over Crowley's head from
Guy's good tobacco, the "nag" was touched up, with a multiplied emphasis
on the technical snack, and was kept trotting to the utmost limit of her
lazy agility during the remainder of the drive. Crowley must have
repented his own surliness in the stingy information he gave, respecting
the place they were driving to, for, settling himself in a safe heap on
the leather cushion of his semi-respectable conveyance, he began:
"This house, yer honor, that we're dhrivin to, mebbe, you'd like to
know, now that I do remember that I know somethin' of it, 'tis the
natest little hole in Quaybec, though I don't think many knows much
about it, ye see, it doesn't belong to any reg'lar nuns, them allays
does good, and so does these, although they remind me more of the 'old
maid,' they live in what they call 'volunthry sayclusion,' an faith it
don't matther a hang to the world what they live in, I belave there's no
love lost between 'em an' the world, leastways no one knows where they
came from, an' there's not manny as tries to find out, they do be
singin' an' prayin' an' carryin' on wid all sorts o' religis capers, and
in troth, I think meself, that Pat Crowley's battered ould sowl 'ud look
as fine in Heaven any day, that is, if it ever gets there."
"I daresay, Pat," Guy answered, "you are a very good man no doubt."
"I'm not good, bad luck to me," the old fellow returned half gruffly,
"but faith if I do the 'ould boy' a turn now and thin, it's sore agin me
grain, an' I'm not without tellin' him so, but shure he's the very divil
for plaguing the best natured man in creation, unto doin' mischief."
Guy laughed outright at this original declaration and said teasingly:--
"You should run away from the devil, Crowley, like the ladies in this
little retreat, and wisely shun temptation in such seclusion."
"Troth, the deuce a temptation 'ud iver bother thim, while there was
anyone else to be had, divil a one o' them 'ud be there at all, if they
iver got the temptation to marry, och I know all about 'volunthry
sayclusion,' I'd do it meself rather than be an ould maid."
"I think," Guy said, laughing, "that you are in as much danger of one of
these, as the other, but you should be a little more partial to these
virtuous ladies than you are. I'll not speak any more of them, lest you
should condemn them altogether."
"Well, sir," said the old cabman, rising from his seat, "ye may go in
now and judge for yerself, here's the blessed saintly spot itself and a
dale more snug and genteel it looks than my little house. Now, I'd bet
me Sunday brogues, 'tis yerself'll be sorry such fine young women 'ud
believe in volunthary sayclusion. When you get inside them walls ye'll
see that 'tis jokin' I was, an' that there's fine specimins of beauty
and gentility there that 'ud make quare havic among your own kind, if
they remained outside," he said laughing broadly, and poking the end of
his whip into Guy.
"I dare say, Crowley, but my mission here is strictly a charitable one,
and I don't intend to let anything else distract me from it," said Guy,
good humoredly, and as Crowley knotted the cracked leather lines around
a trimly painted post that stood by the entrance, Guy closed the modest
little gate and walked steadily up the gravel path, to the long low
square building that stood before him. There were even rows of small
windows, tastily but simply decked in muslin screens and showing dainty
bows of spotless ribbons; a few pots of blooming plants standing outside
on the broad flat sills lent a charm to the quiet beauty of the shining
panes and the muslin screens. Neat beds in the front of the house were
covered with the richest flowers, and well trimmed lawns sloping away at
either side of the spacious building, thrust the idea of primness on the
intruder. As a limit to the grounds were groves of tall thick trees
encircling all the well-kept _parterre_ within.
There was a low, broad verandah in front of the house whose steps Guy
had just mounted, and when about to drop the shining knocker he held in
his hand, the saddest, sweetest strains of a human voice he had ever
heard, arrested the movement. He laid the heavy "dog's head" quietly
back and walked a couple of steps towards the end of the platform, which
commanded a view of the rear lawn, with its summer-houses, and vines,
and rockeries, and all such lovely elements, which contributed towards
making the rustic nook a veritable paradise.
Glancing stealthily through the green lattice-work that separated him
from the grounds, Guy saw, with intense admiration and wonder, the
figure of a young and lovely girl, seated on a low rustic bench, with a
great, shaggy dog crouched at her feet. She held within her dainty
hands, a small book covered in black cloth, and swinging from the end of
which was a long silk tape and a medal, with which her delicate fingers
were toying carelessly. Presently she closed the little volume, bound
the long tape around it, securing it with the tiny medal, then folding
her hands, she raised her eyes, and in the saddest, sweetest and
clearest tones, her musical voice warbled the words,--
"Mother pure and mother mild
Hear the wailing of thy child.
Listen to my pleading cry,
Hearken to my heart's deep sigh--"
_Ora pro me_
The dreamy, dark eyes rested for a moment in their upturned attitude,
the slender hands remained clasped tightly together, but only while the
echo lingered of the sweet, sad voice, which had stolen from her lips as
a breathing anthem from on high. Guy was mesmerized--lost to everything
but the one vision which fascinated his gaze; he had ever been
susceptible to beauty's influence--with some people, the silent
contemplation of breathing beauty becomes a wild passion, and in Guy
Elersley, appreciation of such eloquent loveliness was bordering on this
superlative limit--and yet there was so little art about the being he
was devouring with such greedy eyes. She wore a plain, neat costume of
drab serge, a deep linen collar fastened high at her throat, and deep
bands of the same at her wrists; her rich, dark hair was short and crept
in large negligent waves over her shapely head, her face was very pale,
which contrasted favorably with the dark hair and eyes, and the deep
rich color of her well-curved lips. The close-fitting spencer jacket was
gathered in with a very broad belt at her small waist, and the neat,
heavy skirt fell in uninterrupted, plain folds to her ankles. Suddenly,
while Guy watched her, she started as if waking from a lethargy, and
turning to the animal that crouched lovingly beside her, she said,--
"Come Sailor dear, we are late for study hour."
Instinctively the brute roused and shook his shaggy fur at the sound of
her voice, looking up trustfully into the kind face of his mistress.
With a light and fleet step, Fifine turned towards the side entrance of
the building, wherein she and her faithful companion vanished in a
moment, leaving Guy petrified with silent wonder and admiration on the
other side of the lattice work.
It would be impossible to describe the conflict of emotions that passed
through Guy Elersley's breast at this moment; the bitter indignation he
had felt up to this for Vivian Standish was nothing when compared with
the inveterate contempt and hatred that substituted it at sight of this
lovely wrecked flower, which he saw pining and withering in beautiful
decline, far away from the world she could so easily have dazzled. It
was with a dangerous light in his eyes, and a threatening vow in his
heart, that Guy knocked this time at the broad hall door. His call was
answered by an elderly woman of quiet, reserved appearance, who neither
seemed surprised nor concerned by his visit. In as respectful and
business-like a manner as possible, Guy asked for the lady directress of
the institution, and was immediately shown by this silent noiseless
woman into an apartment at the right, where she left him to wait alone
in his wonder for a few moments.
The room was scrupulously neat, and tolerably well-furnished, but there
was a painful simplicity and provoking fitness and quaintness about the
things he saw, that upset his nerves uncomfortably. Every element of
furniture was so intensely appropriate, and consistent with all the
surroundings; the silence was so settled and sacred, and the noiseless
tread of the inmates, as they glided here and there through the
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