CAPTAIN DANTON'S DAUGHTERS
BY MAY AGNES FLEMING,
AUTHOR OF "NORINE'S REVENGE," "GUY EARLSCOURT'S WIFE," "A WONDERFUL WOMAN," "A TERRIBLE SECRET," "A MAD MARRIAGE," "ONE NIGHT'S MYSTERY," ETC.
TORONTO: BELFORD BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS. MDCCCLXXVII.
Printed and Stereotyped by The Globe Printing Company, 26 & 28 King Street East, Toronto.
Bound by Hunter, Rose & Co. Toronto.
"——A woman's will dies hard, In the field, or on the sward."
"There were three little women Each fair in the face, And their laughter with music Filled all the green place; As they wove pleasant thoughts With the threads of their lace.
Of the wind in the tree tops The flowers in the glen, Of the birds—the brown robin, The wood dove, the wren, They talked—but their thoughts Were of three little men!"
III.—A Change of Dynasty
V.—Seeing a Ghost
VII.—Hon. Lieutenant Reginald Stanford
VIII.—The Ghost Again
IX.—A Game for Two to Play at
XI.—One Mystery Cleared Up
XIV.—Trying to be True
XV.—One of Earth's Angels
XVII.—"She Took Up the Burden of Life Again."
XVIII.—"It's an Ill Wind Blows Nobody Good"
XX.—Bearing the Cross
XXI.—Dr. Danton's Good Works
XXII.—After the Cross, the Crown
XXIII.—"Long have I been True to You, now I'm True no Longer"
XXIV.—Coals of Fire
A low room, oblong in shape, three high narrow windows admitting the light through small, old-fashioned panes. Just at present there was not much to admit, for it was raining hard, and the afternoon was wearing on to dusk; but even the wet half-light showed you solid mahogany furniture, old-fashioned as the windows themselves, black and shining with age and polish; a carpet soft and thick, but its once rich hues dim and faded; oil paintings of taste and merit, some of them portraits, on the papered walls, the red glow of a large coal fire glinting pleasantly on their broad gilded frames.
At one of the windows, looking out at the ceaseless rain, a young lady sat—a young lady, tall, rather stout than slender, and not pretty. Her complexion was too sallow; her features too irregular; her dark hair too scant, and dry and thin at the parting; but her eyes were fine, large, brown and clear; her manner, self-possessed and lady-like. She was very simply but very tastefully dressed, and looked every day of her age—twenty six.
The rainy afternoon was deepening into dismal twilight; and with her cheek resting on her hand, the young lady sat with a thoughtful face.
A long avenue, shaded by towering tamaracks, led down to stately entrance-gates; beyond, a winding road, leading to a village, not to be seen from the window. Swelling meadows, bare and bleak now, spread away to the right and left of the thickly-wooded grounds; and beyond all, through the trees, there were glimpses of the great St. Lawrence, turbid and swollen, rushing down to the stormy Gulf.
For nearly half an hour the young lady sat by the window, her solitude undisturbed; no sign of life within or without the silent house. Then came the gallop of horse's hoofs, and a lad rode up the avenue and disappeared round the angle of the building.
Ten minutes after there was a tap at the door, followed by the entrance of a servant, with a dark Canadian face.
"A letter, Miss Grace," said the girl, in French.
"Bring in some more coal, Babette," said Miss Grace, also in French, taking the letter. "Where is Miss Eeny?"
"Practising in the parlour, Ma'moiselle."
"Very well. Bring in the coal."
Babette disappeared, and the young lady opened her letter. It was very short.
"Montreal, November, 5, 18—.
"My Dear Grace—Kate arrived in this city a week ago, and I have remained here since to show her the sights, and let her recruit after her voyage. Ogden tells me the house is quite ready for us, so you may expect us almost as soon as you receive this. We will be down by the 7th, for certain. Ogden says that Rose is absent. Write to her to return.
"Yours sincerely, Henry Danton."
"P. S.—Did Ogden tell you we were to have a visitor—an invalid gentleman—a Mr. Richards? Have the suite of rooms on the west side prepared for him. H. D."
The young lady refolded her note thoughtfully, and walking to the fire, stood looking with grave eyes into the glowing coals.
"So soon," she thought; "so soon; everything to be changed. What is Captain Danton's eldest daughter like, I wonder? What is the Captain like himself, and who can this invalid, Mr. Richards, be? I don't like change."
Babette came in with the coal, and Miss Grace roused herself from her reverie.
"Babette, tell Ledru to have dinner at seven. I think your master and his daughter will be here to-night."
"Mon Dieu, Mademoiselle! The young lady from England?"
"Yes; and see that there are fires in all the rooms upstairs."
"Yes, Miss Grace."
"Is Miss Eeny still in the parlour?"
"Yes, Miss Grace."
Miss Grace walked out of the dining-room, along a carved and pictured corridor, up a broad flight of shining oaken stairs, and tapped at the first door.
"Come in, Grace," called a pleasant voice, and Grace went in.
It was a much more elegant apartment than the dining-room, with flowers, and books, and birds, and pictures, and an open piano with music scattered about.
Half buried in a great carved and gilded chair, lay the only occupant of the room—a youthful angel of fifteen, fragile in form, fair and delicate of face, with light hair and blue eyes. A novel lying open in her lap showed what her occupation had been.
"I thought you were practising your music, Eeny," said Grace.
"So I was, until I got tired. But what's that you've got? A letter?"
Grace put it in her hand.
"From papa!" cried the girl, vividly interested at once. "Oh, Grace! Kate has come!"
The young lady laid down the letter and looked at her.
"How oddly you said that! Are you sorry?"
"Sorry! Oh, no."
"You looked as if you were. How strange it seems to think that this sister of mine, of whom I have heard so much and have never seen, should be coming here for good! And papa—he is almost a stranger, too, Grace. I suppose everything will be very different now."
"Very, very different," Grace said, with her quiet eyes fixed on the fire. "The old life will soon be a thing of the past. And we have been very happy here; have we not, Eeny?"
"Very happy," answered Eeny; "and will be still, I hope. Papa and Kate, and Mr. Richards—I wonder who Mr. Richards is?—shall not make us miserable."
"I suppose, Eeny," said Grace, "I shall be quite forgotten when this handsome Sister Kate comes. She ought to be very handsome."
She looked up at an oval picture about the marble mantel, in a rich frame—the photograph of a lovely girl about Eeny's age. The bright young face looked at you with a radiant smile, the exuberant golden hair fell in sunlight ripples over the plump white shoulders, and the blue eyes and rosebud lips smiled on you together. A lovely face, full of the serene promise of yet greater loveliness to come. Eeny's eyes followed those of Grace.
"You know better than that, Cousin Grace. Miss Kate Danton may be an angel incarnate, but she can never drive you quite out of my heart. Grace, how old is Kate?"
"Twenty years old."
"And Harry was three years older?"
"Grace, I wonder who Mr. Richards is?"
"So do I."
"Did Ogden say nothing about him?"
"Not a word."
"Will you write to Rose?"
"I shall not have time. I wish you would write, Eeny. That is what I came here to ask you to do."
"Certainly, with pleasure," said Eeny. "Rose will wait for no second invitation when she hears who have come. Will they arrive this evening?"
"Probably. They may come at any moment. And here I am lingering. Write the note at once, Eeny, and send Sam back to the village with it."
She left the parlour and went down stairs, looking into the dining-room as she passed. Babette was setting the table already, and silver and cut-glass sparkled in the light of the ruby flame. Grace went on, up another staircase, hurrying from room to room, seeing that all things were in perfect order. Fires burned in each apartment, lamps stood on the tables ready to be lit, for neither furnace nor gas was to be found here. The west suite of rooms spoken of in the letter were the last visited. A long corridor, lit by an oriel window, through which the rainy twilight stole eerily enough, led to a baize door. The baize door opened into a shorter corridor, terminated by a second door, the upper half of glass. This was the door of a study, simply furnished, the walls lined with book-shelves, surmounted by busts. Adjoining was a bathroom, adjoining that a bedroom. Fires burned in all, and the curtained windows commanded a wide western prospect of flower-garden, waving trees, spreading fields, and the great St. Lawrence melting into the low western sky.
"Mr. Richards ought to be very comfortable here," thought Grace. "It is rather strange Ogden did not speak of him."
She went down stairs again and back to the dining-room. Eeny was there, standing before the fire, her light shape and delicate face looking fragile in the red fire-light.
"Oh, Grace," said she, "I have just sent Babette in search of you. There is a visitor in the parlour for you."
"Yes, a gentleman; young, and rather handsome. I asked him who I should say wished to see you, and—what do you think?—he would not tell."
"No! What did he say?"
"Told me to mention to Miss Grace Danton that a friend wished to see her. Mysterious, is it not?"
"Who can it be?" said Grace, thoughtfully. "What does this mysterious gentleman look like, Eeny?"
"Very tall," said Eeny, "and very stately, with brown hair, and beard and mustache—a splendid mustache, Grace! and beautiful, bright brown eyes, something like yours. Very good-looking, very polite, and with the smile of an angel. There you have him."
"I am as much at a loss as ever," said Grace, leaving the dining-room. "This is destined to be an evening of arrivals I think."
She ran upstairs for the second time, and opened the parlour door. A gentleman before the fire, in the seat Eeny had vacated, arose at her entrance. Grace stood still an instant, doubt, amaze, delight, alternately in her face; then with a cry of "Frank!" she sprang forward, and was caught in the tall stranger's arms.
"I thought you would recognize me in spite of the whiskers," said the stranger. "Here, stand off and let me look at you; let me see the changes six years have wrought in my sister Grace."
He held her out at arm's length, and surveyed her smilingly.
"A little older—a little graver, but otherwise the same. My solemn Gracie, you will look like your own grandmother at thirty."
"Well, I feel as if I had lived a century or two now. When did you come?"
"From Germany, last week; from Montreal at noon."
"You have been a week in Montreal then?"
"With Uncle Roosevelt—yes."
"How good it seems to see you again, Frank. How long will you stay here—in St. Croix?"
"That depends—until I get tired, I suppose. So Captain Danton and his eldest daughter are here from England?"
"How did you learn that?"
"Saw their arrival in Montreal duly chronicled."
"What is she like, Grace?"
"Miss Kate Danton."
"I don't know. I expect them every moment; I should think they came by the same train you did."
"Perhaps so—I rode second-class. I got talking to an old Canadian, and found him such a capital old fellow, that I kept beside him all the way. By-the-by, Grace, you've got into very comfortable quarters, haven't you?"
"Yes, Danton Hall is a very fine place."
"How long is it you have been here?"
"And how often has the Captain been in that time?"
"Twice; but he has given up the sea now, and is going to settle down."
"I thought his eldest daughter was a fixture in England?"
"So did I," said Grace; "but the grandmother with whom she lived has died, it appears; consequently, she comes to her natural home for the first time. That is her picture."
Miss Danton's brother raised his handsome brown eyes to the exquisite face, and took a long survey.
"She ought to be a beauty if she looks like that. Belle blonde, and I admire blondes so much! do you know, Grace, I think I shall fall in love with her?"
"Don't. It will be of no use."
"Why not? I am a Danton—a gentleman—a member of the learned profession of medicine and not so bad-looking. Why not, Grace?"
He rose up as he said it, his brown eyes smiling. Not so bad-looking, certainly. A fine-looking fellow, as he leaned against the marble mantel, bronzed and bearded, and a thorough gentleman.
"It is all of no use," Grace said, with an answering smile. "Doctor Danton's numberless perfections will be quite lost on the heiress of Danton Hall. She is engaged."
"What a pity! Who is the lucky man?"
"Hon. Lieutenant Reginald Stanford, of Stanford Royals, Northumberland, England, youngest son of Lord Reeves."
"Then mine is indeed a forlorn hope! What chance has an aspiring young doctor against the son of a lord."
"You would have no chance in any case," said Grace, with sudden seriousness. "I once asked her father which his eldest daughter most resembled, Rose or Eeny. 'Like neither,' was his reply. 'My daughter Kate is beautiful, and stately, and proud as a queen.' I shall never forget his own proud smile as he said it."
"You infer that Miss Danton, if free, would be too proud to mate with a mere plebeian professional man."
"Then resignation is all that remains. Is it improper to smoke in this sacred chamber, Grace? I must have something to console me. Quite a grand alliance for Danton's daughter, is it not?"
"They do not seem to think so. I heard her father say he would not consider a prince of the blood-royal too good for his peerless Kate."
"The duse he wouldn't! What an uplifted old fellow he must be!"
"Captain Danton is not old. His age is about forty-five, and he does not look forty."
"Then I'll tell you what to do, Grace—marry him!"
"Frank, don't be absurd! Do you know you will have everything in this room smelling of tobacco for a week. I can't permit it, sir."
"Well, I'll be off," said her brother, looking at his watch, "I promised to return in half an hour for supper."
"M. le Cure. Oh, you don't know I am stopping at the presbytery. I happened to meet the curate, Father Francis, in Montreal—we were school-boys together—and he was about the wildest, most mischievous fellow I ever met. We were immense friends—a fellow-feeling, you know, makes us wondrous kind. Judge of my amazement on meeting him on Notre Dame street, in soutane and broad-brimmed hat, and finding he had taken to Mother Church. You might have knocked me down with a feather, I assure you. Mutual confidences followed; and when he learned I was coming to St. Croix, he told me that I must pitch my tent with him. Capital quarters it is, too; and M. le Cure is the soul of hospitality. Will you give me a glass of wine after that long speech, and to fortify me for my homeward route?"
Grace rang and ordered wine. Doctor Danton drank his glass standing, and then drew on his gloves.
"Have you to walk?" asked his sister. "I will order the buggy for you."
"By no means. I rode up here on the Cure's nag, and came at the rate of a funeral. The old beast seemed to enjoy himself, and to rather like getting soaked through, and I have no doubt will return as he came. And now I must go; it would never do to be found here by these grand people—Captain and Miss Danton."
His wet overcoat hung on a chair; he put it on while walking to the door, with Grace by his side.
"When shall I see you again, Frank?"
"To-morrow. I want to have a look at our English beauty. By Jove! it knows how to rain in Canada."
The cold November blast swept in as Grace opened the front door, and the rain fell in a downpour. In the black darkness Grace could just discern a white horse fastened to a tree.
"That is ominous, Grace," said her brother. "Captain Danton and his daughter come heralded by wind and tempest. Take care it is not prophetic of domestic squalls."
He ran down the steps, but was back again directly.
"Who was that pale, blue-eyed fairy I met when I entered?"
"Give her my best regards—Doctor Frank's. She will be rather pretty, I think; and if Miss Kate snubs me, perhaps I shall fall back on Miss Eveleen. It seems to me I should like to get into so great a family. Once more, bon soir, sister mine, and pleasant dreams."
He was gone this time for good. His sister stood in the doorway, and watched the white horse and its tall, dark rider vanish under the tossing trees.
Grace went slowly back to the parlour and stood looking thoughtfully into the fire. It was pleasant in that pleasant parlour, bright with the illumination of lamp and fire—doubly pleasant in contrast with the tumult of wind and rain without. Very pleasant to Grace, and she sighed wearily as she looked up from the ruby coals to the radiant face smiling down from over the mantel.
"You will be mistress to-morrow," she thought; "the place I have held for the last four years is yours from to-night. Beautiful as a queen. What will your reign be like, I wonder?"
She drew up the arm-chair her brother had vacated and sat down, her thoughts drifting backward to the past. Backward four years, and she saw herself, a penniless orphan, dependent on the bounty of that miserly Uncle Roosevelt in Montreal. She saw again the stately gentleman who came to her, and told her he was her father's third cousin, Captain Danton, of Danton Hall. She had never seen him before; but she had heard of her wealthy cousin from childhood, and knew his history. She knew he had married in early youth an English lady, who had died ten years after, leaving four children—a son, Henry, and three daughters, Katherine, Rosina and Eveleen. The son, wild and wayward all his life, broke loose at the age of twenty, forged his father's name, and fled to New York, married an actress, got into a gambling affray, and was stabbed. That was the end of him. The eldest daughter, born in England, had been brought up by her maternal grandmother, who was rich, and whose heiress she was to be. Mrs. Danton and her two youngest children resided at the Hall, while the Captain was mostly absent. After her death, a Canadian lady had taken charge of the house and Captain Danton's daughters. All this Grace knew, and was quite unprepared to see her distant kinsman, and to hear that the Canadian lady had married and left, and that she was solicited to take her place. The Captain's terms were so generous that Grace accepted at once; and, a week after, was domesticated at the Hall, housekeeper and companion to his daughters.
Four years ago. Looking back to-night, Grace sighed to think how pleasant it had all been, now that it was over. It had been such a quiet, untroubled time—she sole mistress, Rose's fits of ill-temper and Eeny's fits of illness the only drawback. And now it was at an end forever. The heiress of Danton Hall was coming to wield the sceptre, and a new era would dawn with the morrow.
There was a tap at the door, and a voice asking: "May I come in, Grace?" and Grace woke up from her dreaming.
"Yes, Eeny," she said; and Eeny came in, looking at her searchingly.
"Have you been crying?" she asked, taking a stool at her feet.
"Crying? no! What should I cry for?"
"You look so solemn. I heard your visitor go, and ran up. Who was it?"
"My brother, who has just returned from Germany."
"Dear me! Didn't I say he had eyes like you? He's a Doctor, isn't he?"
"Grace, I thought you said you were poor?"
"Well, I am poor—am I not?"
"Then who paid for your brother studying medicine in Germany?"
"Uncle Roosevelt. He is very fond of Frank."
"Is your Uncle Roosevelt rich?"
"I believe so. Very rich, and very miserly."
"Has he sons and daughters?"
"No; we are his nearest relatives."
"Then, perhaps, he will leave you his fortune, Grace."
"Hardly, I think. He may remember Frank in his will; but there is no telling. He is very eccentric."
"Grace, I hope he won't leave it to you," said Eeny soberly.
"Really, why not, pray?"
"Because, if you were rich you would go away. I should be sorry if you left Danton Hall."
Grace stooped to kiss the pale young face.
"My dear Eeny, you forget that your beautiful sister Kate is coming. In a week or two, you will have room in your heart for no one but her."
"You know better than that," said Eeny; "perhaps she will be like Rose, and I shall not love her at all."
"Do you mean to say you do not love Rose, then?"
"Love Rose?" repeated Eeny, very much amazed at the question; "love Rose, indeed! I should like to see any one who could love Rose. Grace, where is your brother stopping? At the hotel?"
"No; at Monsieur le Cure's. He knows Father Francis. Eeny, do you hear that?"
She started up, listening. Through the tempest of wind and rain, and the surging of the trees, they could hear carriage wheels rattling rapidly up to the house.
"I hear it," said Eeny; "papa has come. O Grace, how pale you are!"
"Am I?" Grace said, laying her hand on heart, and moving towards the door. She paused in the act of opening it, and caught Eeny suddenly and passionately to her heart. "Eeny, my darling, before they come, tell me once more you will not let this new sister steal your heart entirely from me. Tell me you will love me still."
"Always, Grace," said Eeny; "there—the carriage has stopped!"
Grace opened the door and went out into the entrance hall. The marble-paved floor, the domed ceiling, the carved, and statued, and pictured walls, were quite grand in the blaze of a great chandelier. An instant later, and a loud knock made the house ring, and Babette flung the front door wide open. A stalwart gentleman, buttoned up in a great-coat, with a young lady on his aim, strode in.
"Quite a Canadian baptism, papa," the silvery voice of the young lady said; "I am almost drenched."
Grace heard this, and caught a glimpse of Captain Danton's man, Ogden, gallanting a pretty, rosy girl, who looked like a lady's maid, and then, very, very pale, advanced to meet her master and his daughter.
"My dear Miss Grace," the hearty voice of the sailor said, as he grasped her hand, "I am delighted to see you. My daughter Kate, Miss Grace."
My daughter Kate bowed in a dignified manner, scarcely looking at her. Her eyes were fixed on a smaller, slighter figure shrinking behind her.
"Hallo, Eeny!" cried the Captain, catching her in his arms; "trying to play hide-and-go-seek, are you? Come out and let us have a look at you."
He held her up over his head as if she had been a kitten, and kissed her as he set her down, laughing and breathless.
"You little whiff of thistle-down, why can't you get fat and rosy as you ought? There, kiss your sister Kate, and bid her welcome."
Eeny looked timidly up, and was mesmerized at one glance. Two lovely eyes of starry radiance looked down into hers, and the loveliest face Eeny ever saw was lighted with a bewitching smile. Two arms were held out, and Eeny sprang into them, and kissed the exquisite face rapturously.
"You darling child!" the sweet voice said, and that was all; but she held her close, with tears in the starry eyes.
"There, there!" cried Captain Danton; "that will do. You two can hug each other at your leisure by-and-by; but just at present I am very hungry, and should like some dinner. The dining-room is in this direction, isn't it, Grace? I think I know the way."
He disappeared, and Kate Danton disengaged her new-found sister, still holding her hand.
"Come and show me to my room, Eeny," she said. "Eunice," to the rosy lady's-maid, "tell Ogden to bring up the trunks and unpack at once. Come."
Still holding her sister's hand, Kate went upstairs, and Eeny had eyes and ears for no one else. Eunice gave her young lady's order to Ogden, and followed, and Grace was left standing alone.
"Already," she thought, bitterly, "already I am forgotten!"
Not quite. Captain Danton appeared at the head of the stairs, divested of his great-coat.
"I say, Ogden. Oh, Miss Grace, will you come upstairs, if you please? Ogden, attend to the luggage, and wait for me in my dressing-room."
He returned to the parlour, and Grace found him standing with his back to the fire when she entered. A portly and handsome man, florid and genial, with profuse fair hair, mustache and side-whiskers. He placed a chair for her, courteously, and Grace sat down.
"You are looking pale, Miss Grace," he said, regarding her. "You have not been ill, I trust. Ogden told me you were all well."
"I am quite well, thank you."
"You wrote to Rose, I suppose? Where is it she has gone?"
"To the house of Miss La Touche; a friend of hers, in Ottawa. Eeny has written to her, and Rose will probably be here in a day or two, at most."
The Captain nodded.
"As for you, my dear young lady, I find you have managed so admirably in my absence, that I trust we shall retain you for many years yet. Perhaps I am selfish in the wish, but it comes so naturally that you will pardon the selfishness. Kate is in total ignorance of the mysteries of housekeeping. Heaven help me and my friends if we had to depend on her catering! Besides," laughing slightly, "some one is coming before long to carry her off."
Grace bowed gravely.
"So you see, my fair kinswoman, you are indispensable. I trust we shall prevail upon you to remain."
"If you wish me to do so, Captain Danton, I shall, certainly."
"Thank you. Is that rich old curmudgeon, your uncle, alive yet?"
"And your brother? In Germany still, I suppose."
"No, sir; my brother is in Canada—in St. Croix. He was here this evening."
"Indeed! Where is he stopping? We must get him to come here."
"He is on a visit to M. le Cure, and I do not think means to stay long."
The door opened as she said it, and Kate and Eeny came in. The sisters had their arms around each other's waist, and Eeny seemed entranced. Kate went over and stood beside her father, looking up fondly in his face.
"How pretty the rooms are, papa! My boudoir and bedroom are charming. Eeny is going to chaperone me all over to-morrow—such a dear, romantic old house."
Grace sat and looked at her. How beautiful she was! She still wore slight mourning, and her dress was black silk, that fell in full rich folds behind her, high to the round white throat, where it was clasped with a flashing diamond. A solitaire diamond blazed on her left hand—those slender, delicate little hands—her engagement ring, no doubt. They were all the jewels she wore. The trimming of her dress was of filmy black lace, and all her masses of bright golden hair were twisted coronet-wise round her noble and lovely head. She was very tall, very slender; and the exquisite face just tinted with only the faintest shadow of rose. "Beautiful, and stately, and proud as a queen!" Yes, she looked all that, and Grace wondered what manner of man had won that high-beating heart. There was a witchery in her glance, in her radiant smile, in every graceful movement, that fascinated even her father's sedate housekeeper, and that seemed to have completely captivated little Eeny. In her beauty and her pride, as she stood there so graceful and elegant, Grace thought her father was right when he said a prince was not too good for his peerless daughter.
He smiled down on her now as men do smile down on what is the apple of their eye and the pride of their heart, and then turned to Eeny, clinging to her stately sister.
"Take care, Eeny! Don't let Kate bewitch you. Don't you know that she is a sorceress, and throws a glamour over all she meets? She's uncanny, I give you warning—a witch; that's the word for it!"
Eeny's reply was to lift Kate's hand and kiss it.
"Do witches ever eat, papa?" laughed Miss Danton; "because I am very hungry. What time do we dine?"
"What time, Miss Grace?" asked the Captain.
"Immediately, if you wish, sir."
"Immediately let it be, then."
Grace rang and ordered dinner to be served. Thomas, the old butler, and a boy in buttons made their appearance with the first course. Grace had always presided, but this evening she sat beside Eeny, and Miss Kate took the head of the table.
"The first time, papa," she said. "If I make any blunders, tell me."
"Oh, papa!" exclaimed Eeny, "I thought some one else was coming. A sick gentleman—Mr. what?—oh, Richards?"
The face of Captain Danton and his eldest daughter darkened suddenly at the question. Grace saw it in surprise.
"He will be here presently," he said, but he said it with an air of restraint; and Kate, leaning forward with that radiant smile of hers, began telling Eeny some story of their life at sea that made her forget Mr. Richards.
They adjourned to the drawing-room after dinner. A long, low, sumptuous apartment, very stately and very grand, and decorated with exquisite taste.
"What a beautiful room!" Kate said. "We had nothing half so quaint and old as this at home, papa?"
There was a grand piano near one of the tall windows, with a music-rack beside it, and the young lady went over and opened it, and ran her fingers with a masterly touch over the keys.
"That's right, Kate," said her father; "give us some music. How do you like your piano?"
"Like is not the word, papa. It is superb!"
The white hands sparkled over the polished ivory keys, and the room was filled with melody. Eeny stood by the piano with a rapt face. Captain Danton sat in an arm-chair and listened with half-closed eyes, and Grace sat down in a corner, and drew from her pocket her crochet.
"Oh, Kate, how beautifully you play?" Eeny cried ecstatically, when the flying hands paused, "I never heard anything like that. What was it?"
"Only a German waltz, you little enthusiast! Don't you play?"
"A little. Rose plays too, polkas and waltzes; but bah! not like that."
"Who is your teacher?"
"Monsieur De Lancey. He comes from Montreal twice a week to give us lessons. But you play better than he does."
"Little flatterer!" kissing her and laughing, and the white hands busy again. "Papa, what will you have?"
"A song, my dear."
"Well, what do you like? Casta Diva?"
"I'd be sorry to like it! can you sing the Lass o' Gowrie?"
"I shall try, if you wish."
She broke into singing as she spoke, and Grace's work dropped in her lap as she listened. What an exquisite voice it was! So clear, so sweet, so powerful. The mute-wrapped stillness that followed the song was the best applause. Miss Danton rose up, laughing at her sister's entranced face.
"Oh, don't stop!" Eeny cried, imploringly. "Sing again, Kate."
There was a loud ring at the doorbell before Kate could answer. Captain Danton and Grace had been listening an instant before to a carriage rolling up the drive. The former started up now and hurried out of the room; and Kate stood still, intently looking at the door.
"Who is that?" said Eeny. "Mr. Richards?"
Kate laid her hand on the girl's shoulder, and still stood silent and intent. They could hear the door open, hear the voices of the Captain and his man Ogden; and then there was a shuffling of feet in the hall and up the stairs.
"They are helping him upstairs," said Kate, drawing a long breath. "Yes, it is Mr. Richards."
Eeny looked as if she would like to ask some questions, but her sister sat down again at the piano, and drowned her words in a storm of music. Half an hour passed, nearly an hour, Miss Danton played on and on without ceasing, and then her father came back. The girl looked at him quickly and questioningly, but his high coloured face was as good-humoured as ever.
"Playing away still," he said, "and Eeny's eyes are like two midnight moons. Do you know it is half-past ten, Miss Eeny, and time little girls were in bed?"
Grace rose up, and put her work in her pocket. Eeny came over, kissed her father and sister good-night, and retired. Grace, with a simple good-night, was following her example, but the cordial Captain held out his hand.
"Good-night, my little housekeeper," he said; "and pleasant dreams."
Miss Danton held out her taper fingers, but her good-night was quiet and cool.
Her father's housekeeper, it would seem, did not impress her very favourably, or she was too proud to be cordial with dependants.
Up in her own room, Grace turned her lamp low, and sitting down by the window, drew back the curtains. The rain still fell, the November wind surged through the trees, and the blackness was impenetrable. Was this wintry tempest, as her brother had said, ominous of coming trouble and storms in their peaceful Canadian home?
"I wonder how she and Rose will get on," thought Grace. "Rose's temper is as gusty as this November night, and I should judge those purple eyes can flash with the Danton fire, too. When two thunder-clouds meet, there is apt to be an uproar. I shall not be surprised if there is war in the camp before long."
Her door opened softly. Grace turned round, and saw Eeny in a long night-dress, looking like a spirit.
"May I come in, Grace?"
"It is time you were in bed," said Grace, turning up the lamp, and beginning to unbraid her hair.
Eeny came in and sat down on a low stool at Grace's feet.
"Oh, Grace, isn't she splendid?"
"You know whom I mean—Kate."
"She is very handsome," Grace said quietly, going on with her work.
"Handsome! She is lovely? She is glorious! Grace, people talk about Rose being pretty; but she is no more to Kate than—than just nothing at all."
"Did you come in merely to say that? If so, Miss Eveleen, I must request you to depart, as I am going to say my prayers."
"Directly," said Eeny, nestling more comfortably on her stool. "Did you ever hear any one play and sing as she does?"
"She plays and sings remarkably well."
"Grace, what would you give to be as beautiful as she is?"
"Nothing! And now go."
"Yes. Isn't it odd that papa did not bring Mr. Richards into the drawing-room. Ogden and papa helped him up stairs, and Ogden brought him his supper."
"Who told you that?"
"Babette. Babette saw him, but he was so muffled up she could not make him out. He is very tall and slim, she says, and looks like a young man."
"Eeny, how soon are you going?"
"Oh, Grace," she said, coaxingly, "let me stay all night with you."
"And keep me awake until morning, talking? Not I," said Grace. "Go!"
"Please let me stay?"
"No! Be off!"
She lifted her up, led her to the door, and put her out, and Eeny ran off to her own chamber.
As Grace closed her door, she heard Kate Danton's silk dress rustle upstairs.
"Good-night, papa," she heard her say in that soft, clear voice that made her think of silver bells.
"Good-night, my dear," the Captain replied. And then the silk dress rustled past, a door opened and shut, and Miss Danton had retired.
A CHANGE OF DYNASTY.
With the cold November sunlight flooding her room, Grace rose next morning, dressed and went down stairs. Very neat and lady-like she looked, in her spotted gingham wrapper, her snowy collar and cuffs, and her dark hair freshly braided.
A loud-voiced clock in the entrance-hall struck seven. No one seemed to be astir in the house but herself, and her footsteps echoed weirdly in the dark passages. A sleepy scullery maid was lighting the kitchen fire when she got there, gaping dismally over her work; and Grace, leaving some directions for Ma'am Ledru, the cook, departed again, this time for the dining-room, where footman James was lighting another fire. Grace opened the shutters, drew back the curtains, and let in the morning sunburst in all its glory. Then she dusted and re-arranged the furniture, swept up the marble hearth, and assisted Babette to lay the cloth for breakfast. It was invariably her morning work; and the table looked like a picture when she had done, with its old china and sparkling silver.
It was almost eight before she got through; and she ran upstairs for her bonnet and shawl, and started for her customary half-hour's walk before breakfast. She took the road leading to the village, still and deserted, and came back all glowing from the rapid exercise.
Captain Danton stood on the front steps smoking a meerschaum pipe, as she came up the avenue.
"Good morning, Hebe!" said the Captain. "The November roses are brighter in Canada than elsewhere in August!"
Grace laughed, and was going in, but he stopped her.
"Don't go yet. I want some one to talk to. Where have you been?"
"Only out for a walk, sir."
"So early! What time do you get up, pray?"
"About half-past six."
"Primitive hours, upon my word. When is breakfast time?"
"Nine, sir. The bell will ring in a moment."
It rang as she spoke, and Grace tripped away to take off her bonnet and smooth her hair, blown about by the morning wind. The Captain was in the dining-room when she descended, standing in his favourite position with his back to the fire, his coat-tails drawn forward, and his legs like two sides of a triangle.
"Are the girls up yet, Grace? Excuse the prefix; we are relatives, you know. Ah! here is one of them. Good-morning, Mademoiselle."
"Good-morning, papa," said Eeny, kissing him. "Where is Kate?"
"Kate is here!" said the voice that was like silver bells; and Kate came in, graceful and elegant in her white cashmere morning robe, with cord and tassels of violet, and a knot of violet ribbon at the rounded throat. "I have not kept you waiting, have I?"
She kissed her father and sister, smiled and bowed to Grace and took her place to preside. Very prettily and deftly the white hands fluttered among the fragile china cups and saucers, and wielded the carved and massive silver coffee-pot.
Grace thought she looked lovelier in the morning sunshine than in the garish lamplight, with that flush on her cheeks, and the beautiful golden hair twisted in shining coils.
Grace was very silent during breakfast, listening to the rest. The Captain and his eldest daughter were both excellent talkers, and never let conversation flag. Miss Danton rarely addressed her, but the Captain's cordiality made amends for that.
"I must see that brother of yours to-day, Grace," he said, "and get him to come up here. The Cure, too, is a capital fellow—I beg his pardon—I must bring them both up to dinner. Are the Ponsonbys, and the Landry's, and the Le Favres in the old places yet?"
"I'll call on them, then—they don't know I'm here—and see if a little company won't enliven our long Canadian winter. You three, Grace, Rose and Eeny, have been living here like nonettes long enough. We must try and alter things a little for you."
The Captain's good-natured efforts to draw his taciturn housekeeper out did not succeed very well. She had that unsocial failing of reserved natures, silence habitually; and her reserve was always at its worst in the presence of the Captain's brilliant daughter. That youthful beauty fixed her blue eyes now and then on the dark, downcast face with an odd look—very like a look of aversion.
"What kind of person is this Miss Grace of yours, Eeny?" she asked her sister, after breakfast. "Very stupid, isn't she?"
"Stupid! Oh, dear, no! Grace is the dearest, best girl in the world, except you, Kate. I don't know how we should ever get on without her."
"I didn't know," said Kate, rather coldly; "she is so silent and impenetrable. Come! You promised to show me through the house."
They were alone in the dining-room. She walked over to the fire, and stood looking thoughtfully up at the two portraits hanging over the mantel—Captain Danton at twenty-seven, and his wife at twenty-four.
"Poor mamma!" Kate said, with a rare tenderness in her voice. "How pretty she was! Do you remember her, Eeny?"
"No," said Eeny. "You know I was such a little thing, Kate. All I know about her is what Margery tells me."
"Who is Margery?"
"My old nurse, and Harry's, and yours, and Rose's. She nursed us all, babies, and took care of mamma when she died. She was mama's maid when she got married, and lived with her all her life. She is here still."
"I must see Margery, then. I shall like her, I know; for I like all things old and storied, and venerable. I can remember mamma the last time she was in England; her tall, slender figure, her dark, wavy hair, and beautiful smile. She used to take me in her arms in the twilight and sing me to sleep."
"Dear Kate! But Grace has been a mother to me. Do you know, Margery says Rose is like her?"
"Yes; all except her temper. Oh!" cried Eeny, making a sudden grimace, "hasn't Rose got a temper!"
"A bad one?"
"A bad one! You ought to see her tearing up and down the room in a towering passion, and scolding. Mon Dieu!" cried Eeny, holding her breath at the recollection.
"Do you ever quarrel?" asked Kate, laughing.
"About fifty times a day. Oh, what a blessing it was when she went to Ottawa! Grace and I have been in paradise ever since. She'll behave herself for a while when she comes home, I dare say, before you and papa; but it won't be for long."
Grace came in, and Kate drew Eeny away to show her over the house. It was quite a tour. Danton Hall was no joke to go over. Upstairs and down stairs; along halls and passages; the drawing-room, where they had been last night; the winter drawing-room on the second floor, all gold and crimson; a summer morning-room, its four sides glass, straw matting on the floor, flower-pots everywhere, looking like a conservatory; the library, where, perpetuated in oils, many Dantons hung, and where book-shelves lined the walls; into what was once the nursery, where empty cribs stood as in olden times, and where, under a sunny window, a low rocker stood, Mrs. Danton's own chair; into Kate's fairy boudoir, all fluted satin and brocatelle; into her bed-chamber, where everything was white, and azure, and spotless as herself; into Eeny's room, pretty and tasteful, but not so superb; into Rose's, very disordered, and littered, and characteristic; into papa's, big, carpetless, fireless, dreadfully grim and unlike papa himself; into Grace's, the perfection of order and taste, and then Eeny stopped, out of breath.
"There's lots more," she said; "papa's study, but he is writing there now, and the green-room, and Mr. Richards' rooms, and——"
"Never mind," said Kate, hastily, "we will not disturb papa or Mr. Richards. Let us go and see old Margery."
They found the old woman in a little room appropriated to her, knitting busily, and looking bright, and hale, and hearty. She rose up and dropped the young lady a stiff curtsey.
"I'm very glad to see you, Miss," said Margery. "I nursed you often when you was a little blue-eyed, curly-haired, rosy cheeked baby. You are very tall and very pretty, Miss; but you don't look like your mother. She don't look like her mother. You're Dantons, both of you; but Miss Rose, she looks like her, and Master Harry—ah, poor, dear Master Harry! He is killed; isn't he, Miss Kate?"
Kate did not speak. She walked away from the old woman to a window, and Eeny saw she had grown very pale.
"Don't talk about Harry, Margery!" whispered Eeny, giving her a poke. "Kate doesn't like it."
"I beg your pardon, Miss," said Margery. "I didn't mean to offend; but I nursed you all, and I knew your mamma when she was a little girl. I was a young woman then, and I remember that sweet young face of hers so well. Like Miss Rose, when she is not cross."
Kate smiled at the winding up and went away.
"Where now?" she asked, gayly. "I am not half tired of sight-seeing. Shall we explore the outside for a change? Yes? Then come and let us get our hats. Your Canadian Novembers are of Arctic temperature."
"Wait until our Decembers tweak the top of your imperial nose off," said Eeny, shivering in anticipation. "Won't you wish you were back in England!"
The yellow November sunshine glorified garden, lawn and meadow as Eeny led her sister through the grounds. They explored the long orchard, strolled down the tamarack walk, and wandered round the fish pond. But garden and orchard were all black with the November frost, the trees rattled skeleton arms, and the dead leaves drifted in the melancholy wind. They strayed down the winding drive to the gate, and Kate could see the village of St. Croix along the quarter of a mile of road leading to it, with the sparkling river beyond.
"I should like to see the village," she said, "but perhaps you are tired."
"Not so tired as that. Let us go."
"If I fatigue you to death, tell me so," said Kate. "I am a great pedestrian. I used to walk miles and miles daily at home."
Miss Danton found St. Croix quite a large place, with dozens of straggling streets, narrow wooden sidewalks, queer-looking, Frenchified houses, shops where nothing seemed selling, hotels all still and forlorn, and a church with a tall cross and its doors open. Sabbath stillness lay over all—the streets were deserted, the children seemed too indolent to play, the dogs too lazy to bark. The long, sluggish canal, running like a sleeping serpent round the village, seemed to have more of life than it had.
"What a dull place!" said Kate. "Has everybody gone to sleep? Is it always like this?"
"Mostly," said Eeny. "You should hear Rose abuse it. It is only fit for a lot of Rip Van Winkles, or the Seven Sleepers, she says. All the life there is, is around the station when the train comes and goes."
The sisters wandered along the canal until the village was left behind, and they were in some desolate fields, sodden from the recent rains. A black marsh spread beyond, and a great gloomy building reared itself against the blue Canadian sky on the other side.
"What old bastille is that?" asked Kate.
"The St. Croix barracks," said Eeny uneasily. "Come away Kate. I am afraid of the soldiers—they may see us."
She turned round and uttered a scream. Two brawny redcoats were striding across the wet field to where they stood. They reeled as they walked, and set up a sort of Indian war-whoop on finding they were discovered.
"Don't you run away, my little dears," said one, "we're coming as fast as we can."
"Oh, Kate!" cried Eeny, in terror, "what shall we do?"
"Let us go at once," said Kate, "those men are intoxicated."
They started together over the fields, but the men's long strides gained upon them at every step.
"I say, my dear," hiccoughed one, laying his big hand on Kate's shoulder, "you musn't run away, you know. By George! you're a pretty girl! give us a kiss!"
He put his arms round her waist. Only for an instant; the next, with all the blood of all the Dantons flushing her cheeks, she had sprung back and struck him a blow in the face that made him reel. The blood started from the drunken soldier's nose, and he stood for a second stunned by the surprise blow; the next, with an imprecation, he would have caught her, but that something caught him from behind, and held him as in a vise. A big dog had come over the fields in vast bounds, and two rows of formidable ivory held the warrior fast. The dog was not alone; his master, a tall and stalwart gentleman, was beside the frightened girls, with his strong grasp on the other soldier's collar.
"You drunken rascal!" said the owner of the dog, "you shall get the black hole for this to-morrow. Tiger, my boy, let go." The dog with a growl released his hold. "And now be off, both of you, or my dog shall tear you into mince-meat!"
The drunken ruffians shrunk away discomfited, and Eeny held out both her hands to their hero.
"Oh, Doctor Danton! What should we have done without you?"
"I don't know," said the Doctor. "You would have been in a very disagreeable predicament, I am afraid. It is hardly safe for young ladies to venture so far from the village unattended, while these drunken soldiers are quartered here."
"I often came alone before," said Eeny, "and no one molested me. Let me make you acquainted with my sister—Kate, Doctor Danton."
Kate held out her hand with that bewitching smile of hers.
"Thank you and Tiger very much. I was not aware I had a namesake in St. Croix."
"He is Grace's brother," said Eeny, "and he is only here on a visit—he is just from Germany."
Kate bowed, patting Tiger's big head with her snowflake of a hand.
"This is another friend we have to thank," she said. "How came you to be so opportunely at hand, Doctor Danton?"
"By the merest chance. Tiger and I take our morning constitutional along these desolate fields and flats. I'll have these fellows properly punished for their rudeness."
"No, no," said Kate, "let them go. It is not likely to happen again. Besides," laughing and blushing, "I punished one of them already, and Tiger came to my assistance with the other."
"You served him right," said the Doctor. "If you will permit me, Miss Danton, I will escort you to the village."
"Come home with us," said Eeny, "we will just be in time for luncheon, and I know you want to see Grace."
"A thousand thanks, Mademoiselle—but no—not this morning."
Kate seconded the invitation; but Doctor Danton politely persisted in refusing. He walked with them as far as St. Croix, then raised his hat, said good-bye, whistled for Tiger, and was gone.
The young ladies reached the hall in safety, in time to brush their hair before luncheon, where, of course, nothing was talked of but their adventure and their champion.
"By George! if I catch these fellows, I'll break every bone in their drunken skins," cried the irate Captain. "A pretty fix you two would have been in, but for the Doctor. I'll ride down to the parsonage, or whatever you call it, immediately after luncheon, and bring him back to dinner, will he nill he—the Cure, too, if he'll come, for the Cure is a very old friend."
Captain Danton was as good as his word. As soon as luncheon was over, he mounted his horse and rode away, humming a tune. Kate stood on the steps, with the pale November sunlight gilding the delicate rose-bloom cheeks, and making an aureole round the tinsel hair watching him out of sight. Eeny was clinging round her as usual, and Grace stopped to speak to her on her way across the hall.
"You ought to go and practise, Eeny. You have not touched the piano to-day, and to-morrow your teacher comes."
"Yes, Eeny," said Kate, "go attend to your music. I am going upstairs, to my room."
She smiled, kissed her, opened the parlour door, pushed her in, and ran up the broad staircase. Not to her own room, though, but along the quiet corridor leading to the green baize door. The key of that door was in her pocket; she opened it, locked it behind her, and was shut up with the, as yet, invisible Mr. Richards.
Eeny practised conscientiously three hours. It was then nearly five o'clock, and the afternoon sun was dropping low in the level sky. She rose up, closed the piano, and went in search of her sister. Upstairs and down stairs and in my lady's chamber, but my lady was nowhere to be found. Grace didn't know where she was. Eunice, the rosy English maid, didn't know. Eeny was perplexed and provoked. Five o'clock struck, and she started out in the twilight to hunt the grounds—all in vain. She gave it up in half an hour, and came back to the house. The hall lamps were lighted upstairs and down, and Eeny, going along the upper hall, found what she wanted. The green baize door was unlocked, and her sister Kate came out, relocked it, and put the key in her pocket.
Eeny stood still, looking at her, too much surprised to speak. While she had been hunting everywhere for her, Kate had been closeted with the mysterious invalid all the afternoon.
"Time to dress for dinner, I suppose, Eeny," she said looking at her watch. "One must dress, if papa brings company. Did you see Eunice? Is she in my room?"
"I don't know. Have you been in there with Mr. Richards all the afternoon?"
"Yes; he gets lonely, poor fellow! Run away and dress."
Eunice was waiting in her young lady's boudoir, where the fire shone bright, the wax candles burned, the curtains were drawn, and everything looked deliciously comfortable. Kate sank into an easy-chair, and Eunice took the pins out of the beautiful glittering hair, and let it fall in a shining shower around her.
"What dress will you please to wear, miss?"
"The black lace, I think, since there is to be company, and the pearls."
She lay listlessly while Eunice combed out the soft, thick hair, and twisted it coronet-wise, as she best liked to wear it. She stood listless while her dress was being fastened, her eyes misty and dreamy, fixed on the diamond ring she wore. Very lovely she looked in the soft, rich lace, pale pearls on the exquisite throat; and she smiled her approval of Eunice's skill when it was all over.
"That will do, Eunice, thank you. You can go now."
The girl went out, and Kate sank back in her chair, her blue eyes, tender and dreamy, still fixed on the fire. Drifting into dream-land, she lay twisting her flashing diamond round and round on her finger, and heedless of the passing moments. The loud ringing of the dinner-bell aroused her, and she arose with a little sigh from her pleasant reverie, shook out her lace flounces, and tripped away down stairs.
They were all in the dining-room when she entered—papa, Eeny, Grace and strangers—Doctor Danton and a clerical-looking young man, with a pale scholarly face and penetrating eyes, and who was presented as Father Francis.
"The Cure couldn't come," said the Captain. "A sick call. Very sorry. Capital company, the Cure. Why can't people take sick at reasonable hours, Father Francis?"
"Ask Doctor Danton," said Father Francis. "I am not a physician—of the bodies of men."
"Don't ask me anything while the first course is in progress," said the Doctor. "You ought to know better. I trust you have quite recovered from your recent fright, Miss Danton."
"A Danton frightened!" exclaimed her father. "The daughter of all the Dantons that ever fought and fell, turn coward! Kate, deny the charge!"
"Miss Danton is no coward," said the Doctor. "She gave battle like a heroine."
Kate blushed vividly.
"As you are strong, be merciful," she said. "I own to being so thoroughly frightened that I shall never go there alone again. I hope, my preserver, Herr Tiger, is well."
"Quite well. Had he known I was coming here, he would doubtless have sent his regards."
"Who is Herr Tiger?" asked the Captain.
"A big Livonian blood-hound of mine, and my most intimate friend, with the exception of Father Francis here."
"Birds of a feather," said the young priest. "Not that I class myself with Doctors and blood-hounds. You should have allowed Tiger to give those fellows a lesson they would remember, Danton. Their drunken insolence is growing unbearable."
Dinner went on and ended. The ladies left the dining-room; the gentlemen lingered, but not long.
Kate was at the piano entrancing Eeny, and Grace sat at her crochet. Miss Danton got up and made tea, and the young Doctor lay back in an arm-chair talking to Eeny, and watched, with half-closed eyes, the delicate hands floating deftly along the fragile china cups.
"Give us some music, Kate," her father said, when it was over. "Grace, put away your knitting, and be my partner in a game of whist. Father Francis and the Doctor will stand no chance against us."
The quartet sat down. Kate's hands flew up and down the shining octaves of her piano, and filled the room with heavenly harmony, the waves of music that ebbed, and flowed, and fascinated. She played until the card party broke up, and then she wheeled round on her stool.
"Who are the victors?" she asked.
"We are," said the Doctor. "When I make up my mind to win, I always win. The victory rests solely with me."
"I'll vouch for your skill in cheating," said Grace. "Father Francis, I am surprised that you countenance such dishonest proceedings."
"I wouldn't in any one but my partner," said the young priest, crossing over to the piano. "Don't cease playing, Miss Danton. I am devotedly fond of music, and it is very rarely indeed I hear such music as you have given us to-night. You sing, do you not?"
"Sing!" exclaimed her father. "Kate sings like a nightingale. Sing us a Scotch song, my dear."
"What shall it be, papa?"
"Anything. 'Auld Robin Gray,' if you like."
Kate sang the sweet old Scottish ballad with a pathos that went to every heart.
"That is charming," said Father Francis. "Sing for me, now, Scots wha hae."
She glanced up at him brightly; it was a favourite of her own, and she sang it for him as he had never heard it sung before.
"Have you no favourite, Doctor Danton?" she asked, turning to him with that dangerous smile of hers. "I want to treat all alike."
"Do you sing 'Hear me, Norma'?"
Her answer was the song. Then she arose from the instrument, and Father Francis pulled out his watch.
"What will the Cure think of us!" he exclaimed; "half-past eleven. Danton, get up this instant and let us be off."
"I had no idea it was so late," said the doctor, rising, despite the Captain's protest. "Your music must have bewitched us, Miss Danton."
They shook hands with the Captain and departed.
Grace and Eeny went upstairs at once. Kate was lingering still in the drawing-room when her father came back from seeing his guests off.
"A fine fellow, that young doctor," said the Captain, in his hearty way; "a remarkably fine fellow. Don't you think so, Kate?"
"He is well-bred," said Kate, listlessly. "I think I prefer Father Francis. Good-night, papa."
She kissed her father and went slowly up to her room. Eunice was there waiting to undress her, and Kate lay back in an arm chair while the girl took down and combed out her long hair. She lay with half-closed eyes, dreaming tenderly, not of this evening, not of Dr. Danton, but of another, handsomer, dearer, and far away.
Next morning, when the family assembled at breakfast, Captain Danton found a letter on his plate, summoning him in haste to Montreal.
"Business, my dear," he said, answering his eldest daughter's enquiring look; "business of moment."
"Nothing concerning—" She paused, looking startled. "Nothing relating to—"
"To Mr. Richards. No, my dear. How do you ladies purpose spending the day?"
He looked at Grace, who smiled.
"My duties are all arranged," she said. "There is no fear of the day hanging heavily on my hands."
"And you two?"
"I don't know, papa," said Kate listlessly. "I can practise, and read, and write letters, and visit Mr. Richards. I dare-say I will manage."
"Let us have a drive," said Eeny. "We can drive with papa to the station, and then get Thomas to take us everywhere. It's a lovely day, and you have seen nothing of St. Croix and our country roads yet."
Eeny's idea was applauded, and immediately after breakfast the barouche was ordered out, and Thomas was in attendance. Mr. Ogden packed his master's valise, and the trio entered the carriage and were driven off.
"Attend to Mr. Richards as usual, Ogden," said the Captain, as Ogden helped him into his overcoat. "I will be back to-morrow."
Grace stood in the doorway and watched the barouche until the winding drive hid it from view. Then she went back to attend to her housekeeper's duties—to give the necessary orders for dinner, see that the rooms were being properly arranged, and so forth. Everything was going on well; the house was in exquisite order from attic to cellar. Ogden shut up with Mr. Richards, the servants quietly busy, and Danton Hall as still as a church on a week-day. Grace, humming a little tune, took her sewing into the dining-room, where she liked best to sit, and began stitching away industriously. The ticking of a clock on the mantel making its way to twelve, the rattling of the stripped trees in the fresh morning wind, were, for a time, the only sounds outdoor or in. Then wheels rattled rapidly over the graveled drive, coming to the house in a hurry, and Grace looked up in surprise.
"Back so soon," she thought? "They cannot have driven far."
But it was not the handsome new barouche—it was only a shabby little buggy from the station, in which a young lady sat with a pile of trunks and bandboxes.
"Rose!" exclaimed Grace. "I quite forgot she was coming to-day."
A moment later and the front door opened and shut with a bang, flying feet came along the hall, a silk dress rustled stormily, the dining-room door was flung open, and a young lady bounced in and caught Grace in a rapturous hug.
"You darling old thing!" cried a fresh young voice. "I knew I should find you here, even if I hadn't seen you sitting at the window. Aren't you glad to have me home again? And have you got anything to eat? I declare I'm famished!"
Pouring all this out in a breath, with kisses for commas, the young lady released Grace, and flung herself into an arm-chair.
"Ring the bell, Grace, and let us have something to eat. You don't know how hungry I am. Are you alone? Where are the rest?"
Grace, taking this shower of questions with constitutional phlegm, arose, rang the bell, and ordered cakes and cold chicken; the young lady meantime taking off her pretty black velvet turban, with its long feather, flung it in a corner, and sent her shawl, gloves, and fur collar flying after it.
"Now, Rose," expostulated Grace, picking them up, "how often must I tell you the floor is not the proper place to hang your things? I suppose you will be having the whole house in a litter, as usual, now that you have got home."
"Why did you send for me then?" demanded Rose. "I was very well off. I didn't want to come. Never got scolded once since I went away, and I pitched my clothes everywhere! Say, Grace, how do you get on with the new comers?"
Here Babette appeared with the young lady's lunch, and Miss Rose sat down to it promptly.
"What is she like, Kate—handsome?"
"Very!" with emphasis.
"Handsomer than I am?"
"A thousand times handsomer!"
"Bah! I don't believe it! Tall and fair, with light hair and blue eyes. Am I right?"
"Then she is as insipid as milk and water—as insipid as you are, old Madame Grumpy. And papa—he's big and loud-voiced, and red-faced and jolly, I suppose?"
"Miss Rose Danton, be a little more respectful, if you want me to answer your questions."
"Well, but isn't he? And Mr. Richards—who's Mr. Richards?"
"I don't know."
"Isn't he here?"
"Then why don't you know?"
"Because I have not, like Rose Danton, a bump of inquisitiveness as large as a turnip."
"Now, Grace, don't be hateful. Tell me all you know about Mr. Richards."
"And that is nothing. I have never even seen him. He is an invalid; he keeps his rooms, night and day. His meals are carried upland no one sees him but your father, and sister, and Ogden."
"Mon Dieu!" cried Rose, opening her eyes very wide. "A mystery under our very noses! What can it mean? There's something wrong somewhere, isn't there?"
"I don't know anything about it; it is none of my business, and I never interfere in other people's."
"You dear old Granny Grumpy! And now that I've had enough to eat, why don't you ask me about my visit to Ottawa, and what kind of time I had?"
"Because I really don't care anything about it. However, I trust you enjoyed yourself."
"Enjoyed myself!" shrilly cried Rose. "It was like being in paradise! I never had such a splendid, charming, delightful time since I was born! I never was so sorry for anything as for leaving."
"Oh, Grace! it was beautiful—so gay, so much company; and I do love company! A ball to-night, a concert to-morrow, a sociable next evening, the theatre, dinner-parties, matinees, morning calls, shopping and receptions! Oh," cried Rose, rapturously, "it was glorious!"
"Dear me!" said Grace, stitching away like a sewing-machine; "it must have been a great trial to leave."
"It was. But I am going back. Dear Ottawa! Charming Ottawa! I was excessively happy in Ottawa!"
She laid hold of a kitten slumbering peacefully on a rug as she spoke, and went waltzing around the room, whistling a lively tune. Grace looked at her, tried to repress a smile, failed, and continued her work. She was very, very pretty, this second daughter of Captain Danton, and quite unlike the other two. She was of medium height, but so plump and rounded as to look less tall than she really was. Her profuse hair, of dark, chestnut brown, hung in thick curls to her waist; her complexion was dark, cheeks round and red as apples, her forehead low, her nose perfection, her teeth like pearls, her eyes small, bright and hazel. Very pretty, very sparkling, very piquant, and a flirt from her cradle.
"Did you learn that new accomplishment in Ottawa, pray?" asked Grace.
"What new accomplishment?"
"Yes, Jules taught me."
"Who is Jules?"
"Jules La Touche—the son of the house—handsome as an angel, and my devoted slave."
"Indeed! Has he taught you anything else?"
"Only to love him and to smoke cigarettes."
"Smoke!" exclaimed Grace, horrified.
"Yes, m'amour! I have a whole package in my trunk. If you mend my stockings I will let you have some. I could not exist without cigarettes now."
"I shall have to mend your stockings in any case. As to the cigarettes, permit me to decline. What will your papa say to such goings on?"
"He will be charmed, no doubt. If he isn't, he ought to. Just fancy when he is sitting alone of an evening over his meerschaum, what nice, sociable smokes we can have together. Jules and I used to smoke together by the hour. My darling Jules! how I long to go back to Ottawa and you once more! Grace!" dropping the cat and whirling up to her, "would you like to hear a secret?"
"Not particularly; what is it?"
"You won't tell—will you?"
"I don't know; I must hear it first."
"It's a great secret; I wouldn't tell anybody but you; and not you, unless you promise profoundest silence."
"I make no promises blindly. Tell me or not, just as you please. I don't think much of your secrets, anyhow."
"Don't you?" said Rose, nettled; "look here, then."
She held out her left hand. On the third finger shone a shimmering opal ring.
"Well?" said Grace.
"Well!" said Rose, triumphantly. "Jules gave me that; that is my engagement ring."
Grace sat and looked at her aghast.
"No!" she said; "you don't mean it, Rose?"
"I do mean it. I am engaged to Jules La Touche, and we are going to be married in a year. That is my secret, and if you betray me I will never forgive you."
"And you are quite serious?"
"Perfectly serious, chere grogneuse."
"Do Monsieur and Madame La Touche know?"
"Certainly not. Mon Dieu! We are too young. Jules is only twenty, and I eighteen. We must wait; but I love him to distraction, and he adores me! Tra-la-la!"
She seized the cat once more, and went whirling round the room.
Her waltz was suddenly interrupted.
A gentleman, young, tall, and stately, stood, hat in hand, in the doorway, regarding her.
"Don't let me intrude," said the gentleman, politely advancing. "Don't let me interrupt anybody, I beg!"
Grace arose, smiling.
"Rose, let me present my brother, Doctor Danton! Frank, Miss Rose Danton!"
Miss Rose dropped the kitten and her eyes, and made an elaborate curtsey.
"My entrance spoiled a very pretty tableau," said the Doctor, "and disappointed pussy, I am afraid. Pray, continue your waltz, Miss Rose, and don't mind me."
"I don't," said Rose, carelessly, "my waltz was done, and I have to dress."
She ran out of the room, but put her head in again directly.
"Will you come and curl my hair by-and-by?"
"No, I haven't time."
"What shall I do, then? Babette tears it out by the roots."
"I am not busy," said the Doctor, blandly. "I haven't much experience in curling young ladies' hair, but I am very willing to learn."
"You are very kind," said his sister, "but we can dispense with your services. You might get Eunice, I dare say, Rose; she has nothing else to do."
"Your sister's maid; you can ring for her; she understands hair-dressing better than Babette."
Rose ran up stairs. At the front window of the upper hall stood Ogden and Eunice.
Rose nodded familiarly to the valet, and turned to the girl.
"Are you Eunice?"
"Are you busy?"
"Then come into my room, please, and comb my hair."
Eunice followed the young lady, and Ogden returned to the mysterious regions occupied by Mr. Richards.
Once more the house was still; its one disturbing element was having her hair curled; and Grace and her brother talked in peace below stairs.
It was past luncheon-hour when the barouche rolled up to the door. Kate, all aglow from her drive in the frosty air, stopped her laughing chat with pale Eeny at the sight which met her eyes. Standing on the portico steps, playing with a large dog Kate had reason to know, and flirting—it looked like flirting—with the dog's master, stood a radiant vision, a rounded girlish figure, arrayed in bright maize-colored merino, elaborately trimmed with black lace and velvet, the perfect shoulders and arms bare, the cheeks like blush roses, the eyes sparkling as stars, and the golden-brown hair, freshly curled, falling to her waist.
"Oh, how beautiful!" Kate cried, under her breath.
The next moment, Eeny ran up the steps, and favoured this vision of youthful bloom with a kiss, while Kate followed more decorously.
"How do, Eeny?" said Rose. "Kate!"
She held out both her hands. Kate caught her in a sort of rapture in her arms.
"My sister!" she cried. "My darling Rose!"
And then she stopped, for Doctor Danton was looking on with a preternatural gravity that provoked her.
"When did you come, Rose?" asked Eeny.
"Two hours ago. Have you had a pleasant drive, Kate?"
"Very, and I am hungry after it. We have kept Miss Grace waiting, I am afraid; isn't it past luncheon-time? Come to my room with me, Rose. Are you going, Doctor? Won't you stay to luncheon?"
"Some other time. Good morning, ladies. Come, Tiger."
He sauntered down the avenue, whistling, and the three sisters turned into the house.
"Very agreeable!" said Rose. "Grace's brother; and rather handsome."
"Handsome!" exclaimed Kate. "He is not handsome, my pretty sister." She took her in her arms again, and kissed her fondly. "My pretty sister! how much I am going to love you!"
Rose submitted to be kissed with a good grace, but with a little envious pang at her vain, coquettish heart, to see how much more beautiful her superb sister was than herself. She nestled luxuriously in an arm-chair, while Eunice dressed her young mistress, chattering away in French like a magpie. They descended together to luncheon; pale Eeny was totally eclipsed by brilliant Rose, and all the afternoon they spent together over the piano, and sauntering through the grounds.
"Retribution, Eeny," said Grace, kissing Eeny's pale cheek. "You forgot me for this dazzling Kate, and now you are nowhere. You must come back to Grace again."
"There is nobody like Grace," said Eeny, nestling close. "But Kate and Rose won't be always like this. 'Love me little, love me long.' Wait until Kate finds out what Rose is made of."
But despite Eeny's prophecy, the two sisters got on remarkably well together.
Captain Danton did not return next day, according to promise, so they were thrown entirely upon one another. Instead, there came a note from Montreal, which told them that business would detain him in that city for nearly a fortnight longer. "When I do return," ended the note, "I will fetch an old friend to see Kate."
"Who can it be?" wondered Kate. "There is no old friend of mine that I am aware of in Montreal. Papa likes to be mysterious."
"Yes," said Rose; "I should think so, when we have a mystery in the very house."
"Mr. Richards, of course. He's a mystery worse than anything in the 'Mysteries of Udolpho.' Why can nobody get to see him but that soft-stepping, oily-tongued little weasel, Ogden?"
Kate looked at the pretty sister she loved so well, with the coldest glances she had ever given her.
"Mr. Richards is an invalid; he is unable to see any one, or quit his room. What mystery is there in that?"
"There's a mystery somewhere," said Rose, sagaciously. "Who is Mr. Richards?"
"A friend of papa's—and poor. Don't ask so many questions, Rose. I have nothing more to say on the subject."
"Then I must find out for myself—that is all," thought Rose; "and I will, too, before long, in spite of half a dozen Ogdens."
Rose tried with a zeal and perseverance worthy a better cause, and most signally failed. Mr. Richards was invisible. His meals went up daily. Ogden and Kate visited him daily, but the baize door was always locked, and Ogden and Kate, on the subject, were dumb. Kate visited the invalid at all hours, by night and by day. Ogden rarely left him except when Miss Danton was there, and then he took a little airing in the garden. Rose's room was near the corridor leading to the green baize room; and often awaking "in the dead waste and middle of the night," she would steal to that mysterious room to listen. But nothing was ever to be heard, nothing ever to be seen—the mystery was fathomless. She would wander outside at all hours, under Mr. Richards' window; and looking up, wonder how he endured his prison, or what he could possibly be about—if those dark curtains were never raised and he never looked at the outer world. Once or twice a face had appeared, but it was always the keen, thin face of Mr. Ogden; and Rose's curiosity, growing by what it fed on, began to get insupportable.
"What can it mean, Grace?" she would say to the housekeeper, to whom she had a fashion, despite no end of snubbing, of confiding her secret troubles. "There's something wrong; where there's secrecy, there's guilt—I've always heard that."
"Don't jump at conclusions, Miss Rose, and don't trouble yourself about Mr. Richards; it is no affair of yours."
"But I can't help troubling myself. What business have papa, and Kate, and that nasty Ogden, to have a secret between them and I not know it? I feel insulted, and I'll have revenge. I never mean to stop till I ferret out the mystery. I have the strongest conviction I was born to be a member of the detective police, and one of these days the mystery of Mr. Richards will be a mystery no more."
Grace had her own suspicions, but Grace was famous for minding her own business, and kept her suspicions to herself. Rose's manoeuvring amused her, and she let her go on. Every strategy the young lady could conceive was brought to bear, and every stratagem was skilfully baffled.
"Why don't you have Doctor Danton to see Mr. Richards, Kate?" she said to her sister, one evening, meeting her coming out of Mr. Richards' room. "I should think he was skilful."
"Very likely," said Kate, with an air of reserve, "but Mr. Richards does not require medical care."
"Oh, he is not very bad, then? You should bring him down stairs in that case; a little lively society—mine, for instance—might do him good."
Kate's dark eyes flashed impatiently.
"Rose," she said, sharply, "how often must I tell you Mr. Richards is hypochondriacal and will not quit his room? Cease to talk on the subject. Mr. Richards will not come down-stairs."
She swept past—majestic and a little displeased. Rose shrugged her plump shoulders and ran down stairs, for Doctor Danton was coming up the avenue, and Rose, of late, had divided her attention pretty equally between playing detective amateur and flirting with Doctor Danton. But there was a visitor for Rose in the drawing-room; and the young Doctor, entering the dining-room, found his sister alone, looking dreamily out at the starry twilight.
"Grace," he said, "I come to say good-bye; I am going to Montreal."
Grace looked round at him with a sudden air of relief.
"Oh, Frank! I am glad. When are you going?"
Doctor Frank stared at her an instant in silence, and then hooked a footstool towards him with his cane.
"Well, upon my word, for a sister who has not seen me for six years, that is affectionate. You're glad I'm going, are you?"
"You know what I mean; it is about Rose Danton."
"Well, what about Miss Rose?"
"I am glad you are going to get out of her way. I am glad she will have no chance to make a fool of you. I am glad you will have no time to fall in love with her."
"My pretty Rose! My dark-eyed darling! Grace, you are heartless."
Grace looked at him, but his face was in shadow, and the tone of his voice told nothing.
"I don't know whether you are serious or not," she said. "For your own sake, I hope you are not. Rose has been flirting with you, but I thought you had penetration enough to see through her. I hope, I trust, Frank, you have not allowed yourself to think seriously of her."
"Why not?" said Doctor Danton; "she is very pretty, she has charming ways, we are of the same blood, I should like to be married. It is very nice to be married, I think. Why should I not think seriously of her?"
"Because you might as well fall in love with the moon, and hope to win it."
"Do you mean she would not have me?"
"Trying, that. But why? Her conduct is encouraging. I thought she was in love with me."
Again Grace looked at him, puzzled; again his face was in shadow, and his inscrutable voice baffled her.
"I do not believe you ever thought any such thing. The girl is a coquette born. She would flirt with Ogden, for the mere pleasure of flirting. She flirts with you because there is no one else."
"Trying!" repeated the Doctor. "Very! And you really think there is no use in my proposing—you really think she will not marry me?"
"I really think so."
"And why? Don't break my heart without a reason. Is it because I am poor?"
"Because you are poor, and not handsome enough, or dashing enough for the vainest, shallowest little flirt that ever made fools of men. Is that plain enough?"
"That's remarkably plain, and I am very much obliged to you. My darling Rose! But hush! A silk dress rustles—here she comes!"
The door opened; it was Rose, but not alone; both sisters were with her, and Doctor Danton arose at once to make his adieus.
"I depart to-morrow for Montreal," he said. "Farewell, Miss Danton."
"Good-bye," letting the tips of her fingers touch his. "Bon voyage."
She walked away to the window, cold indifference in every line of her proud face.
He held out his hand to Rose, glancing sideways at his sister.
"Adieu, Miss Rose," he said; "I shall never forget the pleasant hours I have passed at Danton Hall."
He pressed the little plump hand, and Rose's rosy cheeks took a deeper dye; but she only said, "Good-bye," and walked away to the piano, and played a waltz.
Eeny was the only one who expressed regret, and gave his hand a friendly shake.
"I am sorry you are going," she said. "Come back soon, Doctor Frank."
Doctor Frank looked as if he would like to kiss her; but Kate was there, queenly and majestic, and such an impropriety was not to be thought of.
It was Kate, however, who spoke to him last, as he left the room.
"Take good bye from me to Tiger," she said. "I shall be glad when Tiger comes back to St. Croix."
"'Love me, love my dog,'" quoted Rose. "How about Tiger's master, Kate?"
"I shall always be pleased to see Doctor Danton," said Kate, with supreme indifference. "Sing me a twilight song, Rose."
Rose sang "Kathleen Mavourneen" in a sweet contralto voice.
Kate stood listening to the exquisite words and air, watching Doctor Danton's full figure fading out in the November gloom, and thinking of some one she loved far away.
"O hast thou forgotten how soon we must sever; O hast thou forgotten how soon we must part? It may be for years, and it may be forever, Then why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?"
SEEING A GHOST.
Three days after the departure of Grace's brother, Captain Danton returned to the Hall. Strange to say, the young Doctor had been missed in these three days by the four Misses Danton. Even the stately Kate, who would have gone to the block sooner than have owned it, missed his genial presence, his pleasant laugh, and ever interesting conversation; Rose missed her flirtee, and gaped wearily the slow hours away that had flown coquetting with him; Eeny missed the pocketfuls of chocolate, bon-bons, and the story books new from Montreal; and Grace missed him most of all. But Eeny was the only one honest enough to own it, and she declared the house was as lonely as a dungeon since Doctor Frank had gone away.
"One would think you had fallen in love with him, Eeny," said Rose.
"No," retorted Eeny; "I leave that for you. But he was nice; I liked him, and I wish he would come back. Don't you, Kate?"
"I don't care, particularly," said Kate. "I wish papa would come."
"And bring that unknown friend of yours. I say, Kate," said Rose mischievously, "they say you're engaged—perhaps it's your fiance."
Up over Kate's pearly face the hot blood flew, and she turned hastily to the nearest window.
"Too late, ma soeur," said Rose, her eyes dancing. "You blush beautifully. Won't I have a look at him when he comes, the conquering hero, who can win our queenly Kate's heart."
"Rose, hush!" cried Kate, yet not displeased, and with that roseate light in her face still.
Rose came over, and put her arm around her waist coaxingly.
"Tell me about him, Kate. Is he handsome?"
"Who? Reginald? Of course he is handsome."
"I want to see him dreadfully! Have you his picture? Won't you show it me?"
There was a slender gold chain round Kate's neck, which she wore night and day. A locket was attached, and her hand pressed it now, but she did not take it out.
"Some other time, my pet," she said, kissing Rose. "Come, let us go for a ride."
Rose was an accomplished horsewoman, and never looked so well as in a side-saddle. She owned a spirited black mare, which she called Regina, and she had ridden out every day with Doctor Frank while that gentleman was in St. Croix. Kate rode well, too. A fleet-footed little pony, named Arab, had been trained for her use, and the sisters galloped over the country together daily.
Eeny and Grace, both mortally afraid of horse-flesh, never rode.
Between music, books, and riding, the three days' interval passed pleasantly enough.
Rose was an inveterate novel reader, and the hours Kate spent shut up with that unfathomable mystery, Mr. Richards, her younger sister passed absorbed in the last new novel.
They had visitors too—the Ponsonbys, the Landrys, the Le Favres, and everybody of note in the neighbourhood called. Father Francis, M. le Cure, the Reverend Augustus Clare, the Episcopal incumbent of St. Croix, an aristocratic young Englishman, came to see them in the evening to hear Miss Danton sing, and to play backgammon.
The Reverend Augustus, who was slim, and fair, and had face and hands like a pretty girl, was very much impressed with the majestic daughter of Captain Danton, who sang so magnificently, and looked at him with eyes like blue stars.
The day that brought her father home had been long and dull. There had been no callers, and they had not gone out. A cold north wind had shrieked around the house all day, rattling the windows, and tearing frantically through the gaunt arms of the stripped trees. The sky was like lead, the river black and turbid. As the afternoon wore on, great flakes of snow came fluttering through the opaque air, slowly at first, then faster, till all was blind, fluttering whiteness, and the black earth was hidden.
Kate stood by the dining-room window watching the fast-falling snow. It had been a long day to her—a long, weary, aimless day. She had tried to read, to play, to sing, to work; and failed in all. She had visited Mr. Richards; she had wandered, in a lost sort of way, from room to room; she had lain listlessly on sofas, and tried to sleep, all in vain. The demon of ennui had taken possession of her; and now, at the end of every resource, she stood looking drearily out at the wintry scene. She was dressed for the evening, and looked like a picture, buttoned up in that black velvet jacket, its rich darkness such a foil to her fair face and shining golden hair. Grace was her only companion—Grace sitting serenely braiding an apron for herself, Rose was fathoms deep in "Les Miserables," and Eeny was drumming on the piano in the drawing-room. There had been a long silence, but presently Grace looked up from her work, and spoke.
"This wintry scene is new to you, Miss Danton. You don't have such wild snow storms in England?"
Kate glanced round, a little surprised.
It was very rarely indeed her father's housekeeper voluntarily addressed her.
"No," she said, "not like this; but I like it. We ought to have sleighing to-morrow, if it continues."
"Probably. We do not often have sleighing, though, in November."
There was another pause.
Kate yawned behind her white hand.
"I wish Father Francis would come up," she said wearily. "He is the only person in St. Croix worth talking to."
The dark, short November afternoon was deepening with snowy night, when through the ghostly twilight the buggy from the station whirled up to the door, and two gentlemen alighted. Great-coats, with upturned collars, and hats pulled down, disguised both, but Kate recognized her father, the taller and stouter, with a cry of delight.
"Papa!" she exclaimed; and ran out of the room to meet him. He was just entering, his jovial laugh ringing through the house as he shook the snow off, and caught her in his wet arms.
"Glad to be home again, Kate! You don't mind a cold kiss, do you? Let me present an old friend whom you don't expect, I'll wager."
The gentleman behind him came forward. A gentleman neither very young, nor very handsome, nor very tall; at once plain-looking and proud-looking. The pale twilight was bright enough for Kate to recognize him as he took off his hat.
"Sir Ronald Keith!" she cried, intense surprise in every line of her face; "why, who would have thought of seeing you in Canada?"
She held out her hand frankly, but there was a marked air of restraint in Sir Ronald's manner as he touched it and dropped it again.
"I thought it would be an astonisher," said her father; "how are Grace and Eeny?"
"And Rose? Has Rose got home?"
At this juncture Ogden appeared, and his master turned to him.
"Ogden, see that Sir Ronald's luggage is taken to his room, and then hold yourself in readiness to attend him. This way, Sir Ronald, there is just time to dress for dinner, and no more."
He led his visitor to the bedroom regions, and Kate returned to the drawing-room. Rose was there dressed beautifully, and with flowers in her hair, and all curiosity to hear who their visitor was. There was a heightened colour in Kate's face and an altered expression in her eyes that puzzled Grace.
"He is Sir Ronald Keith," she said, in reply to Rose. "I have known him for years."
"Sir Ronald; knight or baronet?"
"Baronet, of course," Kate said, coldly; "and Scotch. Don't get into a gale, Rose; you won't care about him; he is neither young nor handsome."
"Is he unmarried?"
"His income is eight thousand a year."
"Mon Dieu! A baronet and eight thousand a year! Kate, I am going to make a dead set at him. Lady Keith—Lady Rose Keith; that sounds remarkably well, doesn't it? I always thought I should like to be 'my lady.' Grace, how do I look?"
Kate sat down to the piano, and drowned Rose's words in a storm of music. Rose looked at her with pursed-up lips.
"Kate is in one of her high and mighty moods," she thought. "I don't pretend to understand her. If she is engaged in England, what difference can it make to her whether I flirt with this Scotch baronet or not? What do I care for her airs? I'll flirt if I please."
She sat still, twisting her glossy ringlets round her fingers, while Kate played on with that unsmiling face. Half an hour, and the dinner-bell rang. Ten minutes after, Captain Danton and his guest stood before them.
For a moment Rose did not see him; her father's large proportions, as he took her in his arms and kissed her, overshadowed every one else.
"How my little Rose has grown!" the Captain said looking at her fondly; "as plump as a partridge and as Rosy as her name. Sir Ronald—my daughter Rose."
Rose bowed with finished grace, thinking, with a profound sense of disappointment:
"What an ugly little man!"
Then it was Eeny's turn, and presently they were all seated at the table—the baronet at Kate's right hand, talking to her of Old England, and of by-gone days, and of people the rest knew nothing about. Captain Danton gallantly devoted himself to the other three, and told them he had brought them all presents from Montreal.
"Oh, papa, have you though!" cried Rose. "I dearly love presents; what have you brought me?"
"Wait until after dinner, little curiosity," said her father. "Grace, whom do you think I met in Montreal?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Why, that brother of yours. I was loitering along the Champ de Mars, when who should step up but Doctor Frank. Wasn't I astonished! I asked what brought him there, and he told me he found St. Croix so slow he couldn't stand it any longer. Complimentary to you, young ladies."
Kate gave Rose a mischievous look, and Rose bit her lip and tossed back her auburn curls.
"I dare say St. Croix and its inhabitants can survive the loss," she said. "Papa, the next time you go to Montreal I want you to take me. It's a long time since I have been there."
"I thought you were going back to Ottawa," said Grace. "You seem to have forgotten all about it."
Rose gave her an alarmed look; and finding a gap in the tete-a-tete between her sister and Sir Ronald, struck smilingly in. He was small and he was homely, but he was a baronet and worth eight thousand a year, and Rose brought all the battery of her charms to bear. In vain. She might as well have tried to fascinate one of the gnarled old tamaracks out-of-doors. Sir Ronald was utterly insensible to her brightest smiles and glances, to her rosiest blushes and most honeyed words. He listened politely, he answered courteously; but he was no more fascinated by Captain Danton's second daughter than he was by Captain Danton's housekeeper.
Rose was disgusted, and retreated to a corner with a book, and sulked. Grace, Kate, and Eeny, who all saw through the little game, were exceedingly amused.
"I told you it was of no use, Rose," said Kate, in a whisper, pausing at the corner. "Do you always read with the book upside down? Sir Ronald is made of flint, where pretty girls are concerned. You won't be 'my lady' this time."
"Sir Ronald is a stupid stick!" retorted Rose. "I wouldn't marry him if he were a duke instead of a baronet. One couldn't expect anything better from a Scotchman, though."
It was the first experience Kate had had of Rose's temper. She drew back now, troubled.
"I hope we will not be troubled with him long!" continued Rose, spitefully. "The place was stupid enough before, but it will be worse with that sulky Scotchman prowling about. I tried to be civil to him this evening. I shall never try again."
With which Miss Rose closed her lips, and relapsed into her book, supremely indifferent to her sister's heightened colour and flashing eyes. She turned away in silence, and fifteen minutes after, Rose got up and left the room, without saving good-night to any one.
Rose kept her word. From that evening she was never civil to the Scotch baronet, and took every occasion to snub him. But her incivility was as completely thrown away as her charms had been. It is doubtful whether Sir Ronald ever knew he was snubbed; and Kate, seeing it, smiled to herself, and was friends with offended Rose once more. She and the baronet were on the best of terms; he was always willing to talk to her, always ready to be her escort when she walked or rode, always on hand to turn her music and listen entranced to her singing. If it was not a flirtation, it was something very like it, and Rose was nowhere. She looked on with indignant eyes, and revenged herself to the best of her power by flirting in her turn with the Reverend Augustus Clare.