SCENES FROM CANADIAN LIFE.
RE. AGATHA ARMOUR.
NEW YEAR'S EVE.
"Every one for his own. The night is starry and cold, my friend, And the New Year blithe and bold, my friend Comes up to take his own."—Tennyson.
New Year's Eve in the fair city of St. John, that queenly little city which sits upon her rocky throne overlooking the broad expanse of bay at her feet.
Reader, we do not wish to weary you with the known, but love for our own dear New Brunswick is surely sufficient apology.
It is one of the feelings of human nature to be possessed with a desire to worship the great and titled, to become enamoured with those appendages, which are the symbols of social distinction. Let us consider how we, as a people, are privileged. Is there any grander title this side of Heaven than found in these words, "I am a British subject," and next "I am a New Brunswicker"? You who have travelled have often felt your hearts rebound when listening to the eulogiums passed upon our country and its gifted sons through the medium of the pulpit, the platform and the press. "He is a New Brunswick boy." Ah, those words are sufficient to inspire us with thoughts ennobling, grand and elevating. There are to be found growlers in every clime, and it is only such that will desert their fatherland and seek refuge under foreign skies. We have liberty, right, education, refinement and culture in our midst; we have a good government, noble reforms, and all advantages to make us good and happy. Then let us cherish every right and institution which makes our beloved New Brunswick the pride of its loyal people. It is such feeling which prompts this work, and if the different scenes throughout the province which we will endeavor to portray, the usages of society, custom, &c., and the few characters introduced from real life, meet your approbation, our highest expectation will be realized.
Now back to our fair city.
On this New Year's Eve the moon was holding high carnival. Wrapped in a costume of silvery radiance, she was displaying her charms to the busy throng beneath with all the coquetry she could summon, to her aid, darting quick glances at youths and maidens, and by covert smiles bringing even the middle-aged man of business to her feet. The air is also influenced by her wooing, and is inclined to be less severe than some hours earlier. Floods of light are radiating King Square, giving even to its leafless trees a charm of softness and effect. Pedestrians are going to and fro, while several halt in the vicinity of the fountain to smoke their pipes and discuss the news of the day. Presently a quick step is heard approaching, and a trim little figure greets us, wrapped in a fur-lined cloak, which, despite its ungainliness, cannot conceal the grace of the wearer. As the maiden casts a passing glance we are impressed by the sweet purity of her face—a face that will stamp its image upon more than one heart, and leave memories that cannot be forgotten.
Such was Marguerite Verne as we now attempt to introduce her in the fond hope that others will see her as we do.
"Marguerite," exclaimed the child who had overtaken her as she reached the pavement in front of the Royal Hotel, "Marguerite I am tired running, I thought I never would get up to you. Golly, how you do streak along!"
"Charlie Verne, you naughty boy," returned the girl as she confronted her pet brother, his childish face aglow with the late exercise, "I thought you were going to keep house with Winnie?'
"So I was," said the boy, eyeing his sister closely to watch the effect of his speech, "but the Listers have arrived and I had to run and tell you."
At this announcement Marguerite Verne could scarce repress a hearty laugh and her large, deep violet eyes sparkled, and from their changing expressions exhibited such variety of shade that one would scarce venture to say which was the original one.
A deeper tinge now rested upon the purely oval cheek as the girl returned the recognition of a thoughtful-looking young man who had the air and manner of one possessed with more common sense than generally falls to the lot of the young men courted by the creme de la creme.
"Miss Verne, I see that you too are bent upon enjoying this glorious evening; the old year is going out in all its serenity."
"Yes indeed, Mr. Lawson; the old year is dying with all the true greatness that characterizes its life; it has left nothing undone, and if we have failed to garner up its hours sacredly, to us—not it—we lay the blame."
"True indeed; but how little do we think of those lessons until they are beyond reach. We make grand resolutions on each New Year, but how often do they go to the winds ere the first week has passed around."
Phillip Lawson's words took an earnest tone and his manner was earnest also. His rich, deep voice found its way far down in the maiden's heart; but she would not allow herself to think so. She would not acknowledge to herself that the restless emotions within her heart were other than a passing thought to a very dear friend! She must not see that Phillip Lawson, in his gifted, manly character, was her hero of all that was good and true, and that his was the nature by which she tested others.
As the foregoing remarks turned into a lengthy conversation Marguerite scarcely heeded that Trinity chimed out the hour of nine when the trio turned their steps homeward, Master Charlie forming an advance guard, and making the air resound with all the hilarity at his command when he came in friendly contact with some of his "fellers" as he expressed himself.
When Marguerite bade good night to her companion and stood for a moment in the hallway watching the retreating figure, we will not disclose her thoughts, but will follow her to the drawing-room, where "the Listers" are marshalled en masse awaiting her return.
"Marguerite, you darling!" exclaimed the eldest Miss Lister rushing forward and embracing the former in a manner that was more demonstrative than conventional, but was accepted with the best of grace, notwithstanding there was to be a repetition four times in succession.
Mrs. Lister was a distant cousin of Mr. Verne, and having six marriageable daughters on hand, had recourse to much diplomacy in the way of matrimonial speculations. For several years she had been in the habit of spending the New Year with the Verne family, each year adding one more eligible, until she has now the happy six.
It had ever been the boast of Mrs. Lister that she had attended boarding school, and carried off several prizes for her classic ability; and in order to establish the fact, had named her six daughters after six of the Muses. Clio, the eldest, inherited the largest part of her mother's ability.
The former often regretted that three unruly boys came to interrupt the succession of the classic nine.
But all this addition of inspiration at this festive season did not inspire the Verne family with any such high-toned sentiments as might have been expected.
"Marguerite Verne," explained the haughty Evelyn, the imperious first-born of the family, "you are enough to drive anyone distracted! How can you submit so tamely to being bored to death by such pests? Indeed, Aunt Hester with all her wisdom is preferable to that empty headed woman and her muses."
Marguerite had retired to her own room. She was sitting at a small ebony writing desk, jotting down a few thoughts in her diary When her sister entered, but now arose and drew forth a luxurious arm-chair for the imperious beauty to recline in.
"If worrying myself to death would do me any good, I might try it too, Evelyn; but as it does not, I try to make the best of it."
"There you are again, with your philosophical ideas. I must expect nothing else from one who cares so little for the opinions of others, and lives only in sight of all the old half-crazed poets and fanatics of the Dark Ages."
Marguerite durst not look toward the speaker, lest her quizzical expression might heap further assault upon her; so she sat quietly regarding a favorite print that hung over the mantelshelf. After a few moments silence, Evelyn drew herself up haughtily and arose to go, when Marguerite felt a rising sensation in her throat, and instantly rushed into her sister's arms. "Eve, dearest, I know you are disappointed in not going out this evening, and I am sorry; can you not believe me?"
Evelyn Verne was a beauty—beautiful as an houri, imperial as Cleopatra, but merciless as a De Medicis. She was a true woman of the world; self was the only shrine at which she worshipped; and if indeed she could feel a momentary sympathetic chord, surely Marguerite was the cause. The piercing black eyes send forth a flash that is electrifying, then fix themselves upon her companion. She is perhaps struggling between pride and duty, and it costs her a heavy sacrifice. As she gazes upon that sweet, soulful face she is almost tempted to become a nobler and better being; but the world has too heavy a hold upon her, and slightly pressing a kiss upon Marguerite's cheek, she takes leave without saying another word. As the latter listens to the rustle of the silken train through the spacious hall and stairway, she heaves a deep sigh, and once more seats herself beside her desk. On the pages of the little book she pens thoughts worthy of such a soul, and worthy of the memorable eve—worthy of the dying moments of the year which had been her friend, her comforter and her hope. She could look back without many regrets. The hours had not been misspent, and she could say: "Old Year, I used you well. Now that you are nearly gone I will not regret, but try, with God's help, to welcome in your child."
Marguerite sat thus while the clock struck twelve, when she buried her face in her hands and remained in thoughtful silence—a feeling too reverential for words, as something too sacred for intruding upon.
And now the New Year had been welcomed in. The moon, in all her majesty, witnessed the solemn pageant; and unseen choristers wafted the tidings from pole to pole.
"Another year," murmured Marguerite, as she gently raised the casement and looked out upon the beauty of the scene. Queen Square, studded with tributes to the Loyalists, was peaceful as the grave. Beyond was the calm, blue water of the harbor; while here and there a white sail upon its bosom added to the effect. Peace reigns over the city, and the lights have at last disappeared from the Verne mansion. Let us take the liberty to mention a few facts that may be necessary ere we proceed further.
The Vernes belonged to a genteel and respectable family. They did not lay claim to an aristocratic ancestry, but for generations could reckon on a spirit of proud independence and honest worth. Mr. Verne was a man of honor and sound principles in every sense of the word; and he always tried to inculcate those principles in the minds of his children. If he daily saw in his first-born traits of character which he openly condemned and censured, there stood in bold relief upon his heart the pure, high and noble character of his delicate Marguerite. Nor was he to be disappointed in the younger scions of the family. Fred. Verne was a noble, manly boy of fifteen, and gave promise of being a good and upright citizen; while the precocious Charlie, despite the daily amount of spoiling received in the domestic circle, was a clever little fellow, as ready with an answer as he was ready for his daily supply of chocolate caramels.
Mr. Verne had married when very young, and was still in the prime of manhood. He was not handsome; but an intelligent, open countenance was the most pleasing attraction in his face. One could look upon him the second time without a feeling of dislike or even indifference.
But there is another important personage of whom we must make mention—the mistress of the Verne mansion. She is, to say it in as few words as possible, an out-and-out woman of the world—one who never says or does anything without considering what will be the world's opinion of her, and one who never says or does anything unless there be some selfish motive at the bottom of it; one who lives only for the gratification of her own selfish ends, so far as her friends and family are concerned, and whose chief delight is show, display and social greatness.
It may be said that when Mr. Verne married his child-wife, who had been petted and spoiled by her elders, he made much allowance for her daily short-comings, and fondly hoped that he might bend the impulsive nature to his will; but when he saw the great mistake he had made, he calmly bowed his head in submission to the decrees of fate, and labored more diligently to set a good example before his children. When vainly remonstrating with his wife, upon the increasing gaiety into which she plunged so wildly, he always found encouragement from the sympathetic Marguerite; and when retired from the noise and din of the drawing-room, his favorite amusement was a game of chess, with the latter for partner. It was then that Marguerite's deep violet eyes would sparkle and her face glow with enthusiasm, as she followed her father through the mazes of the game, and her clear silvery laughter had more charm than the ravishing strains of the most brilliant fantasia.
Surrounded by the elite of the city of St. John, Evelyn Verne was courted by the rich, the gay and the distinguished. It was the sole end of Mrs. Verne's existence that her daughters should make grand matches. For this purpose she entered upon a career which we intend to pursue through all its straight and crooked paths, hoping in the sequel to impart the sad but profitable lesson!
Sunnybank, the stately residence of the Vernes, is indeed an imposing structure. Its towering form and massive appearance mark it as one of the noblest piles in St. John. Its costly windows, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow; its solid brick walls, stone pillars and grand entrance, bespeak it the home of wealth and affluence. Even the solid brick pavement leading from the main gateway to the terrace marks the substantial tone of the edifice, and impresses one with the stability of its owner. And the statuary, seen from the highway, denotes the taste displayed in the vestibule, with its floor of tesselated pavement, echoing to the tread of footsteps as the corridors of some grand old cathedral.
It is now our privilege to be introduced to the interior, and we make good use of our opportunity while mingling with its guests.
On this clear wintry evening as we are ushered into the Verne drawing-room with its beautifully-frescoed wall and rare painting a pretty sight is presented to our view. Seated at the piano is Marguerite, who is singing a quaint little ballad for the benefit of a company of children gathered at her feet. She is evidently their queen, as the sly glances at the happy-faced maiden are ever increasing to be repaid by the sweetest of smiles. Evelyn Verne appeared in a heavy garnet silk with bodice and draperies of the same shade in velvet. Her elbow sleeves reveal arms that would rival in miniature those of the master-piece of Phidias—the Pallas Athena—which graced the Parthenon in by-gone ages. Her hair, of purplish blackness, gives effect to the creamy tints of her complexion, and heightens the damask tinge of the beautifully-rounded cheeks. One glance at this magnificent looking form and you are victimized by her charms; you cast a side glance towards the childish-looking girl at the piano, and you will only pronounce her passing fair. Beauty is beauty, and will charm while the world goes on, and while we are endowed with that sense which, in general, has outweighed all others; but in most cases we are, in the end, taught that the beauty of the soul will wear until time is no more, and the beauty that fades is a thing of the past!
"Evelyn, dearest, if Paris had now to decide between the goddesses, he certainly would have awarded you the golden apple," exclaimed the first muse, who never let an opportunity slip to display her knowledge of mythology.
"What nonsense you talk, Clio!" returned Evelyn, whose heightened color betrayed the insincerity of her speech.
Urania Lister, "the Fifth Muse," as Fred. Verne had dubbed her, now entered from the conservatory, and throwing aside a scarlet wrap, also joined in the conversation. She was a slight creature, with some pretension to good looks; but there was a sort of languor in her manner that disappointed one ere she had uttered half a dozen sentences. In order to sustain the character her name suggested, she was continually soaring into immensity of space and deducing celestial problems for the uninitiated habitant of this lower sphere. It was when Urania had taken one of her upper flights into empyrean air that the fond mother would exclaim: "If Galileo were alive to-day I believe he could get ideas from my dear Urania."
But to return to the drawing-room.
The children have been dismissed to their homes, and Charlie consigned to the limits of his own apartments. A slight bustle is heard in the hall, and presently two visitors are duly announced by a servant in waiting. A smile of satisfaction beamed on the countenance of the anxious Mrs. Lister as she eyed the two young gentlemen on their being introduced to her three daughters, and in less time than it would be possible to conceive, she was consummating two brilliant matches for the ancient-looking Clio and the celestial Urania.
Be it said for this lady's benefit, and by way of explanation, she had consigned three of the muses to "dear papa," and kept the three most eligible under the shadow of her wing.
While the devoted parent is weaving all manner of bright visions, she resolves that practice be not sacrificed to theory, and commences by a skilful contrivance to expatiate upon the ability and goodness of her offspring.
Montague Arnold is indeed an expert in all that concerns society through its labyrinthine phases. Not a look or tone but he has thoroughly studied, and ere he is many moments in an individual's society can accommodate his pliable nature to every demand. His physique is striking, his face handsome, his manner engaging, and he is reputed to be wealthy. His family connections are desirable, and he has education, accomplishment, and the benefit of a lengthened tour on the continent.
What then is to debar such an one from entry into the best social circle the city affords?
Will we overstep the bounds of charity and describe a scene in which Montague Arnold and his companion, Hubert Tracy, played a conspicuous part a few hours previous? Ah, no! "Tell it not in Gath!" Let them be happy while they may.
Of Hubert Tracy we might have a more favorable opinion. There is still upon his broad, fair forehead a trace of manliness and honor, but there is about the lower part of his youthful looking face a lack of determination that threatens to mark him as a victim for the wary and dissipated man of the world.
Conversation had now become general, while music and games filled up the intervals.
Evelyn Verne was indeed the object upon whom Mr. Arnold lavished his attentions—a fact not overlooked by Mrs. Lister. Hubert Tracy was devoting himself to the Muses, and occasionally venturing a glance at Marguerite, who took much interest in the younger members of the circle, and seemed happy in her devotedness to brother Fred, and his chum, silently engaged over a game of chess. Mrs. Verne smiled, chatted and listened to each as opportunity served, and looked with fond delight upon the imperious Evelyn, who, by a series of coquettish manoeuvres, held her admirer in chains apparently ready to be put to any test for her sake.
"This new beau of Eve's is in earnest, and there is no chance for my dear Urania. Well, well! men do not appreciate a girl of such heavenly ideas as my celestial-minded daughter, and they throw themselves away upon a pretty face without an ounce of brains." Poor Mrs. Lister had murmured these sentences after the events of the evening had transpired and she was enjoying the privacy of her own room. She always expressed her thoughts to herself, as she judged best never to let her dear girls know that she felt anxious for their settlement in life.
A few mornings later while the family lingered over the late breakfast in the handsomely-furnished morning-room, with its delicate tints of mauve and gold, the conversation turned upon the gossip of the preceding days. Miss Verne had not sufficiently recruited from the dissipation attendant upon a large assemblage, given by a lady friend in honor of some relative who had arrived from Ottawa. She was inclined to be resentful and petulant, and found fault with everything, from the delicious hot coffee and tempting rolls to the generous sunbeam that danced in at the opposite window, and it increased her anger so that she could scarcely restrain herself in the presence of her guests.
"You are somewhat uncharitable this morning, my dear," was the only reproof of Mrs. Verne, while she sought to cover her annoyance in a marked attention towards the others at the table.
"Indeed, Miss Marguerite; it will be a long time before I shall tell as many lies for you again. I was really ashamed, for they all knew that they were broad falsehoods," exclaimed Miss Verne, casting an angry glance at her sister, who sat between her mother and Mrs. Lister, looking the very picture of contentment and good nature.
"I am sorry, Eve, that you committed any grievous sins on my account, for it was a very unnecessary thing to do."
"Unnecessary! Be careful, my dear little Madge, or I will out with the whole truth; and if I do not bring the blushes to your cheek my name is not Evelyn Verne."
"Come, come, girls—never mind more talk now," said Mrs. Verne, rising from her seat, and motioning them to withdraw, at the same time trying to conceal a look of displeasure that had contracted into a dark frown.
Mrs. Verne was a woman not to be trifled with. She had a look of one born to command, and well each member of her family was aware of the fact. She was a handsome woman, of proud and dignified presence, high-tempered, and in many instances unreasonable, her opinions being strengthened by the force of circumstances, and very seldom on the side of right. On this morning in question she was inclined to feel somewhat ruffled at Marguerite, rather than the aggressor. Miss Verne had thrown out a hint that was more effective than a well-timed speech of polished oratory, and well she knew it.
"Such a ridiculous thing to think of," repeated the haughty mistress with emphasis, as she swept from room to room giving orders to each domestic, and arranging and rearranging matters to meet her own taste and convenience. The pretty crimson cashmere morning robe, with relief of creamy lace, hung in graceful folds and set off Mrs. Verne's form to advantage; and as you looked upon her then and thought how she must have looked more than twenty years in the past, you could not blame Mr. Verne for seeking her to grace his luxurious and beautiful home.
Evelyn Verne has picked up a very sensational novel and is languishing on a divan of crimson velvet and old gold plush, with a drapery of beautiful design which she had thrown aside. One arm is gracefully curved around her head, while the other clasps the book, and in contrast with the rich hue of oriental costume resembles that of polished ivory.
The passage being read is certainly pleasing—yes, rapturous—for a current of an electrifying nature suffuses the slightly-pale cheeks and delicate lips, and again Evelyn Verne wears a beauty that is fatal in its effects. While the latter is engaged in this selfish manner we hasten to a somewhat odd-looking apartment, which, from its confused array of books, playthings, fishing-tackle, hammocks, old guns, powder-horns, costumes that had assisted in personating pages and courtiers, and also many other articles of less pretensions, might be taken for a veritable curiosity-shop. A central figure gives interest to the surroundings and prompts our curiosity to watch the proceedings.
The mischievous smile upon Marguerite Verne's face is of sufficient proof that she is engaged in a pleasant occupation. She has pressed two of the Misses Lister into willing service, and they are a happy group.
"What will this make, Madge?" yelled Charlie, with as much as his lungs had capacity, holding up an old green velvet tunic with enormous supply of tinsel.
"I'll go as Coeur de Lion, and wear it," exclaimed little Ned Bertram, snatching the precious article from the other.
"Nonsense, children!" cried Marguerite, who, with her companions, laughed long and heartily at the ludicrous representation of the "knight of the black plume."
Considerable time had been spent in bringing these would-be heroes to any decision as to their respective characters. Ned wished to be Richard the Third, and Charlie that of Richmond and repeat the triumphs of Bosworth; but meeting such obstinate opposition from their council, turned their attention to "something commoner," as Ned expressed himself. After several hours intermingled with side-splitting laughter and grave discussion, a fair representation of Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday was produced, while Marguerite and her friends received more compliments from the young aspirants than the most gallant cavalier of the sixteenth century ever paid to the queen of love and beauty. But the last remark was a deep thrust from the innocent and unconscious boy.
"You darling old Madge! I am going to tell Mr. Lawson you got us up, and I am sure we will get the prize. And I bet you I'll not forget to put a word in for you too, Miss Marguerite, and mind you Mr. Lawson don't consider me no small account."
The manner in which this twelve-year-old urchin got off the speech had a telling effect. His air of importance brought a burst of laughter, but it could scarcely hide the blushes that played hide-and-seek on the girl's face—which fact fortunately escaped the notice of the Listers.
The long-looked-for hour has arrived, and Crusoe and Friday emerge from their "den," as Miss Verne contemptuously designated the curiosity-shop. On this occasion Marguerite remains at home. Her constitution is rather delicate, and owing to a slight cold and throat irritation it is deemed advisable to exercise caution.
"I am sorry that you will not have your papa's company this evening. There is to be a meeting of the Board. There is always something going on."
"Don't mind me, mamma. Please bear in mind I am good company for myself. I remember once reading a passage in some book which said that all the pleasure we derived had its source in ourselves, and not in external objects. I often think of it and believe it to be true."
"What a sensible, but conceited girl!" exclaimed the proud matron as she kissed Marguerite, and sallied forth to chaperone the Misses Lister and their loquacious mamma.
"You dear old room, I'm with you once again," said the girl in half dramatic tones, as she drew her favorite arm-chair near the grate and sat down, not to read but to weave bright, golden dreams—fit task for a sweet maiden of eighteen summers—with a quaint simplicity of manner that is more captivating than all the wily manoeuvres that coquetry can devise. Were there any pretty pictures in those dreams? Yes. But those that gave the most pleasure she tried hard to shut out from her sight and with a gentle sigh murmured "it can never be."
Sweet Marguerite! Has she her "concealments" too?
A NOBLE CHARACTER.
In Phillip Lawson, a young lawyer of more than average ability, is realized Pope's definition of an honest man—"the noblest work of God." Those who think that all lawyers are a set of unscrupulous and unprincipled men are sadly mistaken. There are in our midst men of the legal profession who follow the paths of high-souled honor and integrity with as unerring coarse as the magnet the north pole.
But it is in a special sense we wish to speak.
Phillip Lawson is sitting at his desk in one of the upstair apartments of a large building not many rods from "the Chambers." His office is not inviting in its appearance—no luxurious leather-upholstered arm-chairs, Brussels carpeting—nothing to suggest ease or even comfort. Stamped upon every inch of space enclosed within those four bare walls we fancy we can almost see the words "up-hill work! up-hill work"!—and look toward the young aspirant to see if he is in the least disheartened thereby. But our friend receives us with a gracious smile and extends his hand in a manner that is hearty and genuine. Even the tone of his voice is assuring, and we listen, wrapt in admiration, forgetful that we are trespassing upon his generosity. But we must first introduce you personally to the subject of our remarks, that you may form your own impression:
Phillip Lawson is not handsome. His large irregular features are not in keeping with the proportions we call classic, nor is the sallow complexion any improvement; but despite these facts, there is indeed much that is attractive in Mr. Lawson's face. His gray eyes have a tender sympathetic look—tender as that of a woman; his brows have the reflection of genius as they are being knitted over some intricate and perplexing law points at issue; and the look of benevolence expressed in the lips, mouth, and chin, impart a tone of self-respect and dignity which, united with culture and refinement, make our legal friend an ornament to the profession.
Nor is it when office hours are over that Mr. Lawson's labors are ended. His services are freely given to many societies. Old and young, rich and poor, can testify to the fact.
Yet he does not rest here. Many an hour the midnight oil has burned low as this thoughtful student sat poring over pile upon pile of some old work as he kept up his never-flagging research, or penned his thoughts with marvellous rapidity.
As anyone appears to better advantage in a neat, cosy little library, with a bright fire burning in the grate, than in a cheerless, dim and prosy den, called by way of courtesy, an "office," we thus look in upon the young man of books and letters. Phillip Lawson has just returned from a meeting in connexion with his church, and judging from his haggard looks, has had a busy day. His bright-eyed little sister has made her appearance at his elbow, and has placed upon the pretty five-o'clock table a cup of coffee and some of her own making of tea-cakes.
"Lottie, you silly little puss, why did you go to such trouble?" asked the admiring brother, as he took the little hands in his and looked into the piquant face for answer.
"Just as if I am going to let you work yourself to death and starve you into the bargain! Oh, no, my big brother, I am too selfish to keep you for myself to do any such thing; so go now and take the coffee while it is hot, else I shall have to bring more."
Lottie Lawson shook her head with all the determination of a miss of fourteen, and emphasized the fact by settling herself very cosily into a low seat to see that every cake is disposed of to her satisfaction.
"Have you anything to tell me, little one? You know I can talk and eat at the same time," said Phillip, sipping his coffee with the abandon of an epicure.
"Indeed, I have not one bit of news worth telling. I hear anything except a lot of the silly stuff the girls bring to school."
"Well, that must be worth something, arising from such a variety of sources," replied the young man, his grave face expressive of the fund of true humor within.
"Suppose you heard of the quarrel between Maud Harrington and Hattie Reynolds?"
"No; what was it about?"
"Oh! I can hardly tell you; but it was at recess, and nearly all the girls were out, except three or four. Maud said that Carrie Wilson's mamma had been calling at Mrs. Simpson's and that she said that Mrs. Ashley told that Hattie's sister Belle was the most dowdy-looking girl at the Langley's party."
"How did Hattie find it out?" asked Phillip, with all the gravity he would exercise on one of his clients.
"Oh! you know listeners never hear anything good about themselves. Hattie was listening and never said a word about it until she got home, and then Hattie's mother went to all the folks who were mixed up in it and they had an awful time of it. Oh, yes, and what do you think?——" Lottie gave another piece of news of much more importance to her brother than the preceding one, but he very quietly kept his own counsel, and soon after dismissed the little maiden, that he might take up a few hours of hard study. The student lamp was lighted, and new fuel added to the grate. Phillip Lawson sat himself down; but it cost him great effort to concentrate his thoughts upon the work before him. Still he labored on and fought manfully with the intruding thoughts, that, despite all resistance, would at times be heard. But duty gained the victory, and it was not until the young man had placed the much-prized manuscript in its resting place, drawn his chair nearer the hearth, and lit a cigar with the blessed expectation of having a puff of the weed, that he again reverted to the banished subject.
"How the child could hear such a thing! Much as I dislike gossip I should, like to question her further, but I dare not encourage such things in a child," murmured the young man, involuntarily pressing his hand upon his brow, as if bent upon study. And it Was a study both pleasant and unpleasant. It presented two pictures—one fair and bewitching, which lit up the student's face with its reflection, while the other, dark and lowering from its deep and gloomy appearance, shed a cloud of despondency and sadness upon the thoughtful brow, leaving thereon an expression that was fretful and annoying.
"If the fellow were worthy of her I would not care so much, I could and would live it down; but for me to see her associated with him through life, it is something dreadful. And what am I to do? Warn them of the danger myself? oh, no; that will never do! I will be accused of plotting to secure the prize myself. But you will certainly do it in justice to the man whom you value as a true friend, if for nothing else," were the burning thoughts that forced themselves uppermost, and bade the young man reflect very seriously. "Yes, that is a motive sufficient to nerve any man; but there is a deeper one—yes, I will admit it—a selfish one." There was a struggle going on worthy the soul of this noble-minded youth. He was trying to solve a problem which vacillated between right and wrong. It was no common task, for when duty pointed the way, the form of self overshadowed the path, and showed only fitful gleams of light.
"I will be cautious; but she must not be sacrificed to the artful wiles of unprincipled tricksters while I have an trinity. Come what may, I must and will speak out!" Phillip Lawson thus resolved, with a sense of relief. He knew now how to act, and his mind was clear, calmly awaiting the hour to carry his resolutions into effect. But how often do a few careless words change the whole course of action which hours of thought had premeditated.
Phillip Lawson's high-toned resolutions by these means were scattered to the winds, and he turned once more to the lofty aspirations of his intellectual nature for refuge.
Let us explain:
It is the hour of twilight, and the streets have an air of desertion. The people of fashion that are daily to be seen on King and Prince William streets have retired within their palatial residences, and none are abroad except an occasional man of business, with wearied and abstracted air, soon to find rest in the bosom of his family. Suddenly a handsome turnout claims our attention, and instantly the driver assists a lady to alight. She is dressed in costly furs and velvet, and her haughty mien shows that her associations and preferences are with the patrician side of nature.
"Will you come in, too, Rania? I need not ask Marguerite, lest she might miss a chance of seeing 'Farmer Phil' and lose effervescence of the hayseed. Do you know he is always associated, in my mind, with homespun and hayseed."
Evelyn Verne laughed at the cleverness of her remark, and adjusting her mantle entered a publisher's establishment, followed by the said Rania Lister.
"Homespun and hayseed," muttered a muffled figure as he stood in the recess of a doorway, from which situation he could see each occupant of the sleigh and hear every syllable that was uttered.
"Homespun and hayseed! ah! my proud beauty, the effervescence of hayseed is less noxious than the stench odors inhaled from dissipation and vice, notwithstanding the fact that they are perfumed over with all the garish compliments and conventional gallantries that society demands."
Phillip Lawson had a highly-wrought imaginative temperament. He had not heard more than those few words, but his mind was quick to take in the whole situation. He could hear the lengthy speeches of ridicule and sarcasm aimed at him from every possible standpoint, and he felt the more determined to live down the scathing thoughts. The man did not hear the reply by Marguerite Verne to her arrogant sister, but he calmly and slowly repeated the words—"God bless you, noble girl!" He still had faith in the purity of her mind, and would have given much to be able to convince her of the fact.
It did, indeed, seem a coincidence that the moment Phillip Lawson uttered the words above quoted, an almost perfect repetition found their way into Marguerite's heart, and left a deep impression which all the taunts of the subtle Evelyn could not shake off. Nor did it seem strange to her when she fancied that a figure, on the opposite side of the street, hurrying along at a rapid pace could be none other than the subject of her thoughts.
* * * * *
"A delightful evening, indeed. It is almost too fine to remain indoors."
The speaker is none other than Mr. Lawson. He is looking his best in the neatly-fitting dress suit, with all the little make-ups necessary to complete a gentleman's evening costume, and while he leisurely surveys the groups of pretty faces on every side, is also engaged in entertaining a bewitching little brunette, charmingly attired in cream veiling and lace, with clusters of lovely damask roses to enhance the brilliancy of her complexion.
The scene was truly intoxicating. Mrs. Holman, the fashionable belle of society and wife of one of the leading physicians of the city, was entertaining a brilliant assemblage of the elite. The informal announcement of her grand "at home" had kept society in a delightful state of anticipation for the past ten days, and reality was indeed equal to all that could be devised. The grand drawing-room, furnished with regard to the beautiful in art, was certainly a fit receptacle for such an array of beauty and grace. There was the exquisite blonde, with face of angelic purity; next came the imperial Cleopatras, with their dusky grandeur of style rivalling that of empresses; and conspicuous among the latter was Evelyn Verne. Her amber-satin robes revealed the fact that she was an adept in the art of dress, and spared no pains to display the beautifully-rounded form and graceful carriage as she whirled through the mazes of the waltz, with Montague Arnold as partner. The latter was indeed a handsome man—one that is sure to attract a fashionable woman. There is a sarcastic expression lurking around the well-formed mouth, that has not, to the intelligent mind, a wholesome tendency; but then there is such a dash of style, and an amount of gay and charming sentiment in every word, that the resistless Montague Arnold finds himself an important adjunct to every gathering representing wealth and prestige.
To an ordinary observer the contrast between Phillip Lawson and the acknowledged beau of society never appeared more striking, and many would exclaim, "Well, Lawson is a very nice fellow, but then he is awkward, and makes a poor appearance in society."
At this moment a familiar and graceful figure engaged the attention of the young lawyer. Marguerite Verne has been dancing, and accidentally finds herself seated near the conservatory in which Phillip stood. He is instantly at her side and it is then that the real beauty asserts itself—beauty of soul. "Miss Marguerite, I see you are determined to enjoy yourself, if I may judge by the number of dances you have already participated in," said the young man, eager to join in conversation with the gentle but dignified girl.
"Why are you not doing likewise, Mr. Lawson? Now if all the gentlemen were like you what would be our fate? What an array of hopeless wallflowers there would be! Really I feel half angry at you already!—" Marguerite stopped suddenly in her remarks. Hubert Tracy came to claim her for the next dance, and as she took the arm of the latter, she quickly turned towards Phillip Lawson exclaiming, "Remember, I will be back in a few moments to finish what I intended to say. Indeed you need not think to escape censure so easily;" while the accompanying ripple of silvery laughter "low and sweet" were something to contemplate in the happy meantime.
"Mr. Lawson is evidently not intended to be a society man," remarked Hubert Tracy to his partner, when they had reached the other end of the room.
"In my opinion he is all the more to be appreciated," returned the other in a tone of reproof which stung the young man with deep anger and resentment; but he was too artful to express himself, and from that moment there entered into his mind a firm resolve to lessen the high estimate that Marguerite Verne had formed of the would-be lover.
A SCENE OF HILARITY.
Several weeks had elapsed since Hubert Tracy had made up his mind to thwart the man whom he hated with a bitter hate. He was not backward in expressing his thoughts to the accomplished Mr. Arnold, who entered into the project heart and soul, and discussed the subject with all the nonchalance his shallow nature was capable of.
On the evening in question they are seated at a small side-table, profusely decorated with champagne bottles, glasses, and a few delicate morsels of refreshments.
"At the bazaar, Dick?" exclaimed Montague, stroking his artistically-waxed moustache with considerable dexterity.
The individual addressed as Dick was certainly a dude of the fifteenth degree—his pale-blue pantaloons being sufficient proof without venturing another glance. His movements, voice and manner were constant reminders of the excruciating assertion, "I'm a dude." But of the question.
"Oh! is that you, Arnold? I really did not expect to see you here to-night. How is business at the governor's? Hear you are making a bold dash there?"
"Yes, you can bet on that! I'm the white-headed boy there now."
As Arnold was in a short time highly exhilarated by the contents of the table, he became very communicative, and as his conversation was not such as would be under the head of pure language, we will leave him to make merry with his set of jovial companions.
Hubert Tracy was calm and self-possessed. He was too much intent upon some plans to allow himself to become incapable. He had "another iron in the fire," to quote his expression as he thought the matter over to himself, and called upon all the powers unknown to come to his aid.
It was within a short time that Hubert Tracy had become vitiated in his moral nature. He had hitherto been known as a good-living young man—one that respected what was good and pure; but the old, old story—he fell in with bad company, and almost fell beyond reprieve.
You ask, "Had he a home?" He had, indeed, a home, where all that was good and pure was daily practised—loving, warm-hearted sisters, and a fond trusting mother had not the power to drag him back from the tempting gulf of dissipation and allurement. But we will not say that their prayers were lost. There was yet a small, still voice, that would intrude itself upon the young man, and despite his attempts to silence it forever, would steal upon him in the silent hour of midnight, and haunt him in the noisy abodes of revelry and carousal. It even forces itself upon him now as he sits planning a scheme to outwit his rival. The voice is repeating over and over again the words "Lawson is a good young man," and they are re-echoed until Hubert Tracy raises his head and glances around as if to convince himself of the reality. "A good young man," he murmurs bitterly; "I was one myself—in the past."
A bitter groan escaped the lips of the speaker as he uttered the sentence, and his face became stone-like in expression.
"It is of no use; I must not give up. The fellow is good; but what is that to me now? If he win the day, I am lost forever—for it is only through her I will be a better man—and surely, with Lawson's nature, he would willingly make the sacrifice. But here I am, moralizing like a preacher," cried the young man, as he arose and began pacing up and down the floor in an excited manner. "By heaven! it won't do to give up! If I ever expect to be a better man I must first fall still lower!"
A strange method of reasoning indeed! But a striking illustration of the fact that degenerate natures have always some loop-hole to crawl through in order to shield themselves from just reproach.
Hubert Tracy had not sufficient moral courage to take upon himself the responsibility of his actions. He had not faith to strike out on the path of right, and with a sense of his own helplessness, turn to Providence for his guide. Oh no, he could not see ahead of him with an honest hopefulness; but instead "an ever-during dark surrounds him," and he, with all the cowardice of his nature, consoles himself with the thought that the nobility of Phillip Lawson is apology for his base actions.
It was after such reverie that Hubert Tracy bethought himself of an engagement he had made to join a number of acquaintances at a whist party. He straightened himself up and cast a glance in the mirror opposite to see if he would "pass muster" in a crowd. "Guess I'm all right," he exclaimed, stroking his fingers through the masses of chestnut curls that clung so prettily around his well-shaped head.
"Halloo, Tracy, not going so soon? The night's young yet, boy! Come, sit down and have some of the 'rosy,'" shouted a rubicund-faced youth, with a generous proportion of carrotty hair crowning his low flat forehead.
"Sit down Tracy," exclaimed another, slapping him on the back by way of accompaniment to the words: "We'll not go home till morning," which song the whole company began to roar in a style more forcible than artistic.
When the last strains of music had spent its force and a general interchange of silly speeches had been made, the young man once more rose to go, but a youth with broad Scotch accent seized him by the arm exclaiming: "Don't go yet, Tracy dear; for if ye do, ye need'nt come back here."
"A poet of the first water," cried a voice from behind, at which all joined in another roar of laughter, which reached its climax when a feminine-looking youth exclaimed, "What a pity the government have not discovered such talent! they would surely have him for poet laureate."
Before quiet was again restored Tracy took advantage of the occasion to cover his retreat, and hastily gained a small side entrance which led to the suspicious-looking alley not many yards from a very public thoroughfare. Having reached the street without any serious apprehension, he then set off at a rapid pace in the direction of his lodging.
A careful toilet, including some necessary antidotes, and we find the subject of our remarks an honored guest in one of the luxurious drawing-rooms in the city. Not a trace of the recent association is visible as Mr. Tracy takes his seat at a whist-table with an interesting and amiable young lady for partner.
"What a brilliant young man Mr. Tracy is," remarked an anxious mamma to a lady sitting near, who also was on the qui vive for an eligible parti in the capacity of a son-in-law.
"Don't you think Miss Simpkins is very forward; just see how she is flirting with Mr. Tracy. I'm glad she is no relation of mine."
Miss Dorothy Strong had ventured the above speech in hopes of testing the strong tendencies of her audience. She was a spinster of youthful pretension, and invariably took occasion to condemn any such exhibition on the part of others a dozen years her junior. Not meeting any remonstrance she made quite a speech on the familiarity of young ladies, their want of dignity, and ended in a grand peroration upon the conceit of the young men, their vicious habits and all short-comings she could bring to bear upon the subject.
But Miss Dorothy's speech was unhappily chosen, and therefore "lost its sweetness upon a desert air."
"Sour grapes," whispered a pretty miss of sixteen to her elder sister, as they stood apart from the others and watched the effect of the oration.
As we glance towards the said Miss Simpkins and watch the game for a few moments, we feel certain that Hubert Tracy is not deeply concerned whether he win or lose. He is evidently studying a deeper game—one on which he would willingly stake all he possessed.
"Now, Mr. Tracy, that was mine as it lay!" cried his partner, somewhat petulantly, as she noted the mistake.
"Never mind this time; I will look out better again," said the culprit, his penitential look being sufficient apology for a more grievous offence.
"If I didn't know you better, Tracy, I would say you were in love," exclaimed a fashionable young man, engaged as bookkeeper in one of the largest wholesale firms in the city.
"You seem to have great confidence in your own opinion, Mr. Berkeley," retorted Miss Simpkins, who, be it said, was a girl of much moral stamina, having an aversion to conceited young men, and let no opportunity slip when she could give a home-thrust.
"Pray don't be so captious, Lottie; I am certain that Mr. Berkeley's opinions are always founded on correct observation," timidly ventured a mild-looking little woman, whose speech had no other motive than a desire to throw oil on troubled waters.
As the game progressed, the party became more interested, and after an hour or more thus engaged Miss Simpkins was congratulated on her run of good luck; and Mr. Tracy, to show his appreciation of her ability, turned out some pretty compliments.
"Where is Mr. Arnold to-night, Mr. Tracy?" asked one of the guests, as the party stood in the hall making their adieux to the hostess.
"I cannot say," replied the young man, tugging at his great coat with more vehemence than was necessary, but affording relief to hide this oracular reply.
"Oh! you need not ask that question," exclaimed a voice near; "we all know that he is at 'Sunnybank,' paying his devoirs to the peerless Evelyn." The speaker was a young lady, and the tone of this speech intimated that jealousy was at the bottom of it. But there was another side to the story. Turning to Hubert Tracy, with an air of playful badinage, the young lady continued: "And I believe that Miss Marguerite has a lover too. Surely, Mr. Tracy, you must know about it for you are on intimate terms with the family. You can enlighten us upon the subject."
Hubert Tracy was master of his feelings, but he had difficulty to suppress himself. An opportune bustle among some of the other guests gave him time to reply in a cool and wholly indifferent manner which would turn their attention to another source.
It was only when this would-be suitor had thrown off the mask of studied indifference that he began to realize the state of his mind.
"It will never be," he cried, in a fit, half-anger, half-emotional, as he paced his room during the silent hours that precede the dawn.
"I don't want to injure the fellow in any other way. Arnold says wipe him out; but—heavens! those words—he is a good young man! what makes them haunt me! It seems as if my mother and the dear girls at home are repeating them to me: Why was I not dragged up, instead of living hourly under the influence of a sainted mother and devoted self-sacrificing sisters? Ah! young man; it is a hard struggle for you to fall when you think of 'Home, sweet home!'"
Such was the soliloquy of Hubert Tracy as he sat himself down in a half-desperate state and commenced writing a letter with that nervous haste which showed he was anxious to get rid of the disagreeable task at once. After the envelope had been addressed the writer gave a sigh of relief, and rising from his seat, exclaimed: "Heavens! I would rather than a fortune it was over with!"
Despite the fact that curiosity has been defined "the lowest emotion of the soul," we cannot forbear glancing over the content of the letter which seemed to affect the writer so deeply. It ran thus:—
ST. JOHN, Jan. 25th, 188-.
Dear Friend,—Intended to write you some days ago, but am now at fever heat, and manufacture my thoughts accordingly. Going to make no excuse, but come to the point right off. You heard the report about Lawson. It is too true, and if I cannot choke him off somehow, it is all up with me. I want to get the fellow out of the way. Can you secure that site for him instead of poor Jim Watters? If we can only get that deuced sprig of the law entrapped out there, some goodly stroke of malaria may come to the rescue, and I can breathe the grateful fog with double freedom. "Give the devil his due," I believe the fellow is a veritable Mark Tapley—jolly under all circumstances—and will in the end thank us for giving him a change of climate and the vicissitudes of life so invigorating to his athletic and muscular composition. Much depends upon you to think and act at once. Saw that "drummer" yesterday; not a bad sort of a fellow. He speaks well of you—says you are a tramp. Go to headquarters on receipt of this and write immediately. If Lawson can be induced to go, my prayers will follow you for life.
Yours in dilemma, H. T.
This epistle—disconnected and vague as it seems—needed no further explanation on the part of the writer. The recipient was acquainted with the whole history of Hubert Tracy's career and also that of Montague Arnold.
It is necessary to add that while this correspondence was being carried on, that Hubert Tracy was a daily caller at Mr. Lawson's office, and without any apparent effort, had the satisfaction of knowing that the young lawyer was much attracted by his engaging manners and persuasive tongue.
It had been considered somewhat strange that a man of Lawson's integrity should look with favor upon a gay youth whose preferences were ever on the side of conviviality, but many wise-headed seniors said that the influence might be exerted upon the other side and Tracy would thank heaven for the star which guided him thither.
It was surprising how many little attentions were paid our young lawyer from the fact of the newly-formed friendship, and how many consultations were held as regards a promising field which glittered before the eye of the hopeful aspirant. A wide range of labor lay within his grasp, and Phillip Lawson was not made of the stuff to lose a prize when it could be attained at any cost of self-sacrifice and personal feeling. With herculean effort he shakes off the bitter thoughts that hourly intrude within the privacy of his own heart, and armed with all the moral courage and true heroism of his soul he goes forth into the world's conflicts a noble defender of the rights of true manhood!
A bevy of fair and interesting young girls are grouped around Marguerite Verne in the spacious bay-window of the library. One, a bewitching brunette, dressed in slight mourning, is indeed a pretty picture to contemplate. Louise Rutherford possesses a face and form which bespeaks a high degree of idealism—an aesthetic nature that is lofty and inspiring. As she turns toward the fair young hostess, there is an expressive look of sympathy that leads one to know they are firm friends.
"It is no use to say anything against it if you two have made up your minds," exclaimed a good-natured looking maiden of seventeen, who had been trying to convince her audience that they had not selected the most fashionable characters for the coming parlor entertainment.
"That's just what I always have said, Mattie. You know well what Damon proposes Pythias will ever agree to," ventured another devotee with a "cute" little face, tiny hands and tiny feet, with decisive tone and dignity of manner showing that she was beyond the ordinary type of girlhood, whose highest ambition is to have a good time, cheat her teachers out of as many lessons as she can, and walk, skate and dance, with a train of admirers ever at her command.
Helen Rushton was a native of Halifax and had been bred upon strictly conservative principles, but there was an innate generosity of heart that converted them into a happy medium.
She had relatives in St. John, and hearing much of its advantages And disadvantages, had accepted an invitation to see for herself, And now, after six months had been passed amid the grateful breezes and invigorating fog, she dreaded the approaching season, which demanded her return home.
Marguerite Verne was indeed the crowning deity on that happy morning, as she replied to the many little speeches intended for her benefit, and as the color came and went she was truly worthy of all the admiration then and there bestowed.
She is in striking contrast to Louise Rutherford whose black cashmere costume forms an effective back-ground.
Marguerite's delicate cream-colored morning robe is also relieved by the shades of garnet worn by the others.
Much real happiness is exhibited as one looks upon every countenance within the radius of her smiles. No jealousy lurks upon the brow of any. Thrice happy Marguerite! The secret of making others happy lies within the confines of your own unselfish nature!
"Well, girls, I declare, you have not told me one bit of news. Surely there must be something going on worth talking about," exclaimed a new comer who had pounced in upon the company sans ceremonie.
"Nothing much, Josie," returned Marguerite, "we have just been having an old-fashioned chat, and I am not sorry to say gossip has been at a discount."
"Oh, you bad girl! Now, had that been Louise I would have been 'hoppin', but, girls, you see, we take everything from Madge."
"Yes, anything from her is worth coming from Halifax to hear," exclaimed Helen Rushton, rising from her position and crossing over to the range of bookshelves that adorned the opposite walls.
"Well, it's no use; I'm out of my element here. I can't get up to your high-toned talk. Look at Louise—reminds one of a Roman empress—and you, my self-conceited Haligonian, must follow suit; was there ever such a set?" The manner in which this speech was dictated set the circle in a roar of laughter, and Josie Jordan felt repaid seventy-times-seven.
"Helen is going to leave us soon. That is news," exclaimed Louise Rutherford, glancing at the incorrigible Josie.
"But bad news," chimed in Marguerite.
"Not going home so soon, Helen," ventured Josie, with an earnest, inquiring glance.
"I am only going to Fredericton, or the Celestial City, as it is generally called," said the other in reply.
"Pardon me, Helen, but the manner in which you say that word only would lead one to suppose you did not entertain a high opinion of our seat of government. I have been there during several sessions, and I always felt sorry when the time was up, and the M.P.P.'s and their families turned their faces homeward."
The speaker was Louise Rutherford—her face aglow with an enthusiasm, called up by those pleasing associations which gave rise to her speech.
"Louise Rutherford," said Helen Rushton, the color mounting higher in her cheeks, "you misinterpret my thoughts. If I have not sufficient command of the powers of speech to express myself without blunder, you should not attribute it to want of charity. Indeed," added the girl, with more than due emphasis, "if, for no other reason, I should speak respectfully of the place, from the fact that I have very dear friends there."
"Josie, this is all your doings," cried Marguerite, raising her hand in a menacing gesture and trying playfully to restore quiet.
"I'm always bent upon mischief," cried Josie, her eyes sparkling with merriment. "Indeed, at home, I am treated to that highly- seasoned speech every hour of the day, and now I don't think I could live without it."
"Helen, my dear, I did not"—"think to shed a tear in all my miseries," shouted Josie, in a stagy and tragic style, and then, 'twixt laughter and song, attempted a series of courtesies worthy a star actress.
"Why did you interrupt Louise when she was going to say something good?" asked Marguerite in a half-reproachful tone.
"Just because I want no scenes until to-morrow evening, when Miss Louise Rutherford and Miss Rushton will not display their histrionic ability to a desert air."
"Hear! hear!" cried a voice from without, and instantly a promising youth dashed in sans ceremonie, claiming all the familiarity due a younger brother.
Fred. Verne's arrival changed the current of conversation. Louise and Helen were soon interested in the costumes to be worn at the theatricals, and Marguerite's good taste was always to be consulted on such occasions.
"Madge is a genius of the first order. Charlie and the boys all swear by her, and say she would beat the fellow that invented the carnivals."
"Fred, do be moderate," cried Marguerite; who at the same moment could not repress a feeling of pride in the boy's earnestness and filial affection.
But Fred, was not to be gainsaid, and edged in his witticisms with an air of infinite satisfaction. Trinity chimed out the hour of twelve, and served as a reminder for the withdrawal of the guests. Josie had succeeded in getting up a first-class encounter with the indomitable Fred, and then beat a hasty retreat, utterly regardless of the least approach to etiquette.
"I will see you again before you go away, Helen?"
"Yes, my dear Madge," cried the other putting her arms around Marguerite in a sweet caressing manner, "and I shall have one more chat that will last until I see your dear old face again."
Marguerite Verne stood in the outer doorway waving adieu and throwing tokens of affection to the two young girls until they had crossed Queen Square and were lost to view.
On returning to her room a formidable array of letters lay awaiting their owner.
A glance at the address of each was sufficient. Marguerite rapidly seized a large square and heavy one from among the number and very soon devoured its contents. It came from "cousin Jennie Montgomery," a genuine and true hearted girl whom Marguerite loved as a sister. Mrs. Montgomery was a sister of Mrs. Verne but never was nature known to indulge in so many freaks as when she bestowed such relationship.
"Gladswood," the comfortable and happy home of the Montgomerys, was indeed no misnomer; for in this beautiful and sylvan retreat every heart was truly made glad and every guest only felt sad when the summons of duty suggested departure.
Marguerite Verne never had too many society demands upon her to neglect correspondence with cousin Jennie, and she was more than delighted on this morning to hear such glowing accounts of "Gladswood" and its inmates. On the situation of this charming country seat we might exhaust pages and never weary of the effort. It stood on a rising knoll surrounded by the picturesque scenery of Sussex Vale. Here was that enchanting beauty of nature in which the most aesthetic soul might revel. In the months of summer the verdure was "a thing of beauty." Luxuriant meadows showered with golden buttercups, alternating with patches of highly-scented red and white clover, while the air seemed freighted with the balsamic odor of the crowning foliage. But the foliage of "Gladswood"! We have no powers capable of description. The majestic maples, stately willows and graceful elms were grouped with an effect that baffled the mind of man. And the interfacings of soft feathery furze, moss and ferns. Surely this spot must have been in the mystic ages one grand amphitheatre for the sylvan deities. And the stately manor-house, for such it much resembles with its quaint wings and irregular outbuildings. Its old-fashioned windows, tall chimneys, projecting eaves and arched doorway have an inviting appearance and impresses one with the fact that there are still some substantial homes—some reminder of the past.
And now we come to the mistress of "Gladswood." While she is carefully pruning some choice specimens of ferns growing on the shady side of the doorway, we take advantage of the situation, and hence the result: Mrs. Montgomery is a matronly-looking woman, of about forty-five years of age, perhaps less; for the abundant mass of dark chestnut hair reveals not one silvery thread. One glance is sufficient. Never was character more cleverly delineated than upon this woman's face. There, in bold relief, is the deep penetrative mind—one that has power to read the masses as they pass before her mental vision. Her's is the heart that opens wide to the one crushed and broken by the uncharitable sect called "the world." Her's is the hand ready to help the suffering and support the tottering. The shoddyisms of modern every-day life have no charms for Mrs. Montgomery. Woe be to the victim who comes under her censure. She has no mercy upon those who are under a daily strain to cater to the usages of society.
Let us see good, honest and noble-minded men and women, and then will follow all those accomplishments that are really necessary. Jennie Montgomery had early imbibed those principles, and in her we see a striking illustration of this truth.
But in our praise of the mistress we must not forget to introduce the master.
Mr. Montgomery is not the sort of man one would naturally associate with his energetic and self-reliant helpmate. There is a lack of shrewdness and an utter want of that keen discriminating power, which can give at first glance the full numerical value of all exterior objects. The owner of "Gladswood" belonged to that "come-easy-go-easy" class, who, unless circumstances come to their relief, are ever being duped or made a prey to the avaricious. But Mr. Montgomery had a source of never-failing strength in his wife. "Had William Montgomery married a different kind of wife he would have become a poor man," had grown into a proverb regarding matters at "Gladswood." All business transactions and pecuniary affairs always received the approval of Mrs. Montgomery before they took effect; while each and every individual about the farm well understood the business-like capacity of their respected mistress. But it must not be supposed that Mrs. Montgomery was the ruling spirit of "Gladswood." She displayed no strong-minded nor dictatorial manner; no arrogant gestures or inclinations to combativeness; but seemed as one endowed with the happy faculty of presenting herself at the right time and right place, and by her motherly counsel to superintend the working of her household in a perfect and unconscious manner.
There are several younger members of this family, but as they are not necessary throughout the work we will not make mention of them here.
On the morning when Marguerite Verne sat in the luxurious crimson velvet arm-chair reading Cousin Jennie's letter, the latter was engaged in fashioning some dainty scraps of wool and silk into various little knick-knacks for a bazaar.
The pupils in attendance at the common school were anxious to procure some extra apparatus for the hall, and having received much assistance from the young ladies of the district, entered into the work with a will.
Jennie Montgomery was a host in herself. A bright, amiable girl of eighteen, with robust constitution, sunny disposition, and step elastic as a fairy. She was, indeed, an ornament to her home and also to the community.
Jennie was not a beauty—had not the least pretentions to one. Her dark complexion was pure and health-like; but it was not heightened by that peachy bloom peculiar to brunette's, instead only a warm, bright and ruddy hue, which some might consider as approaching the rustic. Her eyes, as they sparkle with delight at the pretty array of bright colors, might not be admired as of the poetic or ideal type, but in their depths lurks a keen and significant expression of the peculiarly intelligent and earnest appeal that seldom speaks in vain. The neat and cosy parlor, with its many articles of female handiwork, speak for the taste and talent displayed by this interesting girl. The pretty sketches of familiar haunts near her loved home showed that genius had stamped the brow of Jennie Montgomery, and inspired her with a deep enthusiasm for the beautiful and sublime.
Presently she rises from the work table, and opening a door leading to the balcony, stands for some moments gazing in mute admiration upon the lovely view of Sussex Vale, wrapped in its mantle of purest white, reflected in the sunshine as a vast expanse of frosted silver.
A LAWYER'S REVERIE—A VERDANT CLIENT.
A dismal dreary day. The fog had crept slowly over the city and enveloped every object within its reach. There was fog clinging to turrets, spires and towers, fog in the streets, fog in the alleys, fog in the ditches—all was fog. It hurried along utterly regardless of the delicate fabrics that were ruthlessly despoiled by its touch, musing now and then, doubtlessly, on the ingratitude of the fair daughters of St. John who, in the possession of their clear and brilliant complexions forgot to give thanks to the great enhancer.
In the midst of this fog many pedestrians are wandering to and fro, crowding the streets, hurrying along the wharves, hailing vehicles, accosting their friends, and in fact as perfectly happy in their surroundings as though the cheerful, sunshine were illuminating all visible space.
Passing along Prince William street as far as Chubb's Corner we see a familiar form—it is Phillip Lawson. He is enveloped in a gray Mackintosh and his soft felt hat is worn with an air of careless ease that is more becoming than otherwise.
"Chubb's Corner" had lost its charm for the young lawyer. He did not stop to consult stocks, exchanges, debentures or any such business, but merely nodding to an acquaintance or so crossed the street and wended his steps to the lawyers' nests—nests from the fact that in this, locality they hatched all the schemes by which to victimize their unwary clients.
But of our friend. He gained his apartments, and throwing aside the outer garment, sat down at his desk and drawing his hand across his forehead, began to think. "I want to see nobody for the next hour," murmured the young man, his brows contracting as he spoke.
A deep shade settled upon the usually mild countenance. A question of momentous importance was to be decided. "To be or not to be" was the final answer. Each solution involved a corresponding number of conflicting doubts and anxieties, and left scarcely any choice in the mind of the reasoner.
"No doubt it's a good field for a beginner in life. St. John has more lawyers than would start a colony. Some of us must go to the wall, and I don't fancy being one of that number."
This was the sunny side of Phillip's reflection. He was trying to cheat himself into the belief that "green fields and pastures new" were panacea for all other grievances, and that that was the goal of his ambition.
"Yes, it's a good 'spec'; but why is the fellow so anxious for me to get it? Still I would like to hear more of the matter before I question the motives."
The young lawyer was aware of the fact that Hubert Tracy had been using his influence for another a short time previous, and he could not see his motives for such change of opinion. True, a sudden intimacy had sprung up between them, but the subject had been hitherto mentioned and acted upon; therefore the last reason formed no groundwork for his convictions.
Occasionally a dark thought crossed Phillip Lawson's mind. Can the fellow be honest? I cannot bear to think ill of a fellow-man, and I must not now. I know that Tracy is not what he might be, yet he has a kind heart and what's the use of my talking, who is faultless? "Let him that is without sin cast the first stone."
It was here that the beauty of Phillip Lawson's character showed itself. The young man was a Christian. He had always cherished the principles of true piety, and as he repeated over the words of Him who was the friend of sinners, it was in tones of sublime tenderness.
Instantly a second thought flashed across his mind—he had an acquaintance—a member of a legal firm in that newly-founded city in the Northwest. He, therefore, made up his mind to write at an early date and make all the necessary inquiries.
Having settled his mind upon this point another subject presented itself to our friend, and from the sudden flash of his grey eyes one would imagine that it was of an electrifying nature.
It is one, which, from the remote ages, has had power to magnetize, humanize and civilize; it is the power which makes man what he should be—love—that short word of four letters—what a world of thought it embraces—it held the heart of Phillip Lawson at will, and despite his power of self-control he was often the victim of its vagaries.
But the lawyer had not long time to indulge in such thoughts. A knock aroused him.
A stalwart looking youth of muscular build (with suit of grey homespun not cut exactly in the proportions of that of a dude) stood upon the threshold with a look upon his florid face that betrayed some embarrassment.
"You be Mr. Lawson the lawyer, sir."
"Yes, sir," said the young practitioner, a smile lighting up his face and making him an interlocutor not to be dreaded by the most unsophisticated client.
"'Spose I needn't ask, be you pretty well posted in law?" queried the individual on taking his seat, at the same time pulling out an enormous expanse of red and yellow cotton, called by way of courtesy a handkerchief, which he vigorously switched across his face as though a swarm of mosquitoes were on the aggressive, and kept the field unflinchingly.
"What is the cause of complaint, sir?" ventured the interested lawyer, scarcely able to repress a smile.
"Well, sir, to come to the pint at once, as you fellers allus happin to say, since I was knee-hight of a grasshopper I had a hankerin' after the law, and allus envied tother fellers when they'd to go to the 'Squire's on trials, and I tell you they thought themselves some punkins when they got a day's wages for goin'"—
"Of your question at issue," interrupted our legal friend, "I mean on what point do you wish to consult me, sir?"
"Well, sir, as I told you before, I'm comin' straight to the pint," replied the youth, giving the aforesaid bandana a more vigorous switch in the direction of his interrogator, then continued, "and, firstly (as them lecturin' fellers say) I allus thought I'd like mighty well to have a trial myself, and bring some un up to the scratch; and I've jest got my wish, and if it costs all dad's worth I'll make 'em sweat!
"Are you a minor, sir?" demanded the lawyer.
"No, sir; I'm no relative to them miners, nor don't want to be, tho' Sally Ann is allus taggin' arter me, and would like terrible well to hitch on to me; but I tell you, 'Squire, I'm not so green as they think, though I'm mighty fond of buckwheat."
This last speech was too much tax on the risibility of the "'Squire," as familiarly dubbed by the would-be client, and after some merriment, explained the tenor of his question, assuring the youth that it bore no allusion to "Sally Ann."
After the young lawyer had taxed his ingenuity to draw the verdant client "to the point" he learned that the cause of complaint was directed against one Joshua Jones, who had given himself an invitation to haul off some cedar poles claimed to be the property of the said Mose Spriggins, and the said Mose wished indemnification right speedily.
"Tell you what 'Squire I'll put him fur as the law will carry it, and if you can slap on plenty of cost 'Squire, it'll do me more good than eaten my supper."
"I shall do the best I can for you sir," said the young man, carefully noting the points which Mose brought to bear on the matter.
"Well now 'Squire, suppose you want your wages for this 'eer job. What's your price?"
Mose now produced a complicated piece of mechanism from his expansive waistcoat pocket. It might have been constructed for a three-fold purpose—for money, pipes and tobacco. The odoriferous exhalation giving strong evidence of the latter commodity.
"Well 'Squire, you fellers earn your livin' mighty easy," exclaimed Mose, tendering the five dollar bill into the lawyer's hand.
The latter smiled, pocketed the fee and commenced writing the letter to the defendant Joshua Jones.
"Now sir, if this thing works well, I don't grudge ye the money 'Squire, and any time I have somethin' more in the law business I'll throw it your way, for I think you a squarer sort of a chap than them ere gang further up the street. I tell you they're sharpers, they fleeced dad last summer and I wasn't agoin' to be so green, eh 'Squire?"
"Well Mr. Spriggins, I shall always try to work to your satisfaction any time you are in need of advice," returned our friend, rising from the desk and going toward the window.
Mr. Spriggins thought he would soon be ready for "startin'" and also rose up, in the meantime depositing the before-mentioned wallet in his waistcoat pocket. Silence reigned in the lawyer's office for three minutes, when the door was reopened and Mose Spriggins' rubicund face once more adorned the apartment.
"Say, 'Squire, aint there a new kind of insurance consarn 'round these diggins? I'm thinkin' of gittin' my life insured—not 'cause there's any kinsumption in our fam'ly, only there's no tellin' when a feller might peg out. Tell you, 'Squire, I'm sound as a bell."
Mr. Spriggins turned himself around for inspection, and shrugged his broad shoulders with an air of evident self-esteem.
A lengthy speech might have followed, but our legal friend averted the catastrophe by informing his client that the Dominion Safety Fund office was close at hand, and with quiet mien escorted the said Mr. Spriggins to the door.
A genial "come in" answered the summons of the applicant, and in another chapter we will be able to inform the reader how the veritable Mr. Spriggins was sent home rejoicing from the fact that he had become insured in the Safety Fund.
Phillip Lawson was re-established at his desk, and not wishing to allow his thoughts to wander to the subject which had hitherto occupied them, took up a novel that lay upon the opposite shelf. It was one of George Eliot's masterpieces—Daniel Deronda. Its depth of thought and richness in the sublime and beautiful theories as regards the Jewish dispensation had a charm for the talented scholar, and he read for more than an hour, deeply buried in the inspired words of the gifted author—one who will occupy a deep niche in the inmost recesses of all hearts, so long as the literature bearing her impress shall make its way in all tongues and through every clime! Presently a light, well-known step greets the reader's ears, and a trim little maiden, with waterproof, heavy boots, and umbrella in the foreground, presents herself upon terms of much familiarity.
"And my dear old Phillip, how happy you look in here! Why, its fearfully disagreeable out to-day, and you look as contented as if the room was heated only by the sunshine, while I am really shivering with the dampness and fog."
"Well, little woman, what brought you out to-day?" exclaimed the indulgent brother, stroking the fair hair of his pet sister as she stood beside him, looking into his face with a look of pure devotion—a look which showed that her brother was her world, and in his face shone all that was good and true in her eyes.
Lottie Lawson was a child of a sweet and tender nature. She had been watched over by a model mother, and this earnest mother's prayers had not fallen unanswered.
"God grant that the woman be a living realization of the child," was the fervent prayer that dwelt upon Phillip Lawson's lips, as he drew the child towards him and tenderly kissed the fair forehead.
"You wonder why I am out to-day, brother Phillip; I came on a message from Kitty."
The latter was the house-maid, and the young man smiled as he thought of the force of character which constituted this efficient maid of all works.
"Oh, I see now, there is some excuse for you. What are Miss Kitty's demands to-day?"
"She is having a new dress made and wished me to select some samples for trimmings, and as she wants to wear the dress home next Sunday, I had to go to-day."
"Yes, that is all right; Kitty's wishes must be attended to," said Phillip, with an air of much gravity.
"Will you soon be ready to go with me Phillip. I shall wait for you. It is just such a day as needs your dear old self to drive the gloom from the back parlor."
The little maiden had not long to wait for an answer, as the young lawyer took down his mackintosh, and in a very short time the pair were to be seen walking at a quick pace along Charlotte street, through King Square and out beyond the limits of the old church-yard.
A neat and cosy cottage is reached, and a tidy looking domestic answers the summons and smiles graciously as the coveted samples are placed in her hand while she receives a full explanation of the prices and the additional advice of Miss Lottie thrown in as extras. The cottage has an air of neatness throughout. Its windows filled with choice plants and gorgeous foliage lend a charm that impresses one with the taste of the inmates. The spotless purity of the muslin curtains and the transparency of the windows bespeak the thorough cleanliness and comfort of this home-like little nest. And the inviting parlor: it's furniture was neither elegant nor costly. The plain mahogany chairs and straight-backed old-fashioned sofa were well preserved. Not a particle of dust could be seen without the aid of a microscope. And the beautifully polished andirons which had done service in the family for many years, and seemed to assume an air of importance over the less attractive articles grouped around. A pretty little work-table with writing-desk combined stood at the left side of the hearth. It was a gift from Phillip Lawson to sister Lottie. It was the child's favorite seat, and that fact repaid the brother more than the most extravagant praise.
The upright piano was not neglected. Piles of music lay near, and the well-worn rug beneath showed that music had its charms for the members of this household.
Reader, we will not weary you with minute details, but merely say, such was the home of Phillip Lawson. In this abode he could look back to a country home, with which, as the haughty Evelyn Verne said, "you could associate hayseed." But did that fact lesson the reputation of this gifted scholar?
Nay; the sons of the soil are in reality the "lords of creation." They have the first and highest calling, and ere the proud beauty had passed through all the ordeals of life, she hastily repented of the bitter and sarcastic words.
As our legal friend occupies a prominent part in our story we will endeavor to give such explanation as will enable the reader to form a true estimate of his character.
Phillip Lawson was indeed the son of a farmer—a man who had, by honest industry and untiring perseverance, made a comfortable home for his family in one of the frontier settlements of Carleton County—that truly agricultural locality where nature has done so much to assist the sons of toil—that county where the crops are almost spontaneous, and where none need be ill off, unless through misfortune or mismanagement.
"The Lawson farm" was the abode of comfort and happiness. Thrift greeted the eye on every side—from the well-filled barns to the unbroken range of fences, through which a sheep could not crawl, nor even could the most "highlariously" inclined Ayrshire be tempted to try the pass.
The neat farmhouse, with its bright coat of paint, was the attraction of the district, and was just such a place as would be besieged by all the lecturers, agents, and travellers that happened to strike oil in this direction. Nor were they ever disappointed.
Mrs. Lawson was truly wife, mother and friend. None passed her door without the hospitality they craved.
"It is a wonder to me how the Lawson's stand it," was often the comments of the less hospitable neighbors, as they watched with no uncommon curiosity the daily arrival of some unexpected guest.
"The more we give the more we'll have," was the wise mother's reply as she sometimes heard complaints from the female portion of the household as regards the extra work.
It had always been the highest ambition of John Lawson that his family should grow up industrious men and women and that they should each receive all the benefits of education that lay within his power.
In his eldest son he saw much ability and also a mind logical and argumentative, and he had fully resolved that the boy should be educated and trained for the legal profession. And the farmer "plodded his weary way homeward" each day buoyed up with the thought that he was doing his duty towards his family and above all towards his God.
"But man proposes and God disposes."
Ere the young student had finished his collegiate course the fond parent was called to his long home, and within a year the heart-broken mother was re-united in that world where sorrow never comes; where she awaits a further re-union, when she shall once more gather to her bosom the loved forms whom she watches over in anxious solicitude from the portals of her blessed abode. It was from this time that the noble minded youth was aroused to a sense of his duty. He must not give up the course of action which had been laid out for him.
What was to be done?
Sickness and death had told heavily upon the pecuniary resources of the family. Much of the produce had to go to pay the wages of labourers, and only by dint of much anxiety and careful management could the farm be made to cover expenses. Something further must be done.
Julia Lawson had reached her sixteenth year, and possessing more than ordinary ability, resolved to prepare for the vocation of teaching; and within a year from the time she had formed such resolution, was actually engaged as teacher of the school in their immediate district.
This fact gave Phillip Lawson much relief of mind, as the young teacher could still have a care over the household, and give advice to the two younger children under her charge. The young student having received his degree at the N. B. University next turned his thoughts towards the law.
While spending a few weeks at home to assist in the farm-work, he received a letter from an old friend of his father. Nothing could exceed the joy of this young man as he read and re-read the kind-hearted proposal from one of St. John's most able and popular lawyers, praying that the son of his old friend engage to enter as a student in his office.
"The Lord will provide," was the earnest comment of the reader, as he folded the missive and laid it away between the leaves of his wallet.
But means were necessary as well. Phillip had, much against his inclination, to raise money by a mortgage upon the farm. He had often heard it said that a property once mortgaged was never redeemed, and the thought gave much concern. But the old maxim, "Where there's a will, there's a way," was ever rising uppermost in his mind, and he was doubly resolved to make the trial.
A few weeks later the student is at his desk, poring over the dry documents and legal lore. On his brow is determination and disregard of difficulties.
Phillip Lawson soon became a general favorite. His generous nature and frank manners won the esteem of his fellow students, and also that of the senior members of the firm.
"Lawson will make a mark some day—he has it in him," was the first remark passed upon the student as the eagle-eyed solicitor glanced at the son of his friend, whose thoughts were intent upon the copy of Blackstone before him.
Things went on prosperously at the homestead; and as the student had succeeded in increasing his means by giving evening lessons to a class of young men, he felt comforted and assured that in the end all would come out right.
But a heavy blow had suddenly fallen upon the Lawson family—typhoid fever came into the household and prostrated the noble-minded Julia upon a bed of suffering.
Uncomplainingly she had watched her pet sister through all the stages of this dread disease, until the child had been pronounced out of danger. It was then that outraged nature asserted itself and the worn-out system was not equal to the strain—she succumbed to the raging and delirious fever an object of deep and tender pity.
"God help me," cried Phillip Lawson, in despairing tones as he read the letter conveying the news in as mild a form as possible. "If Julia lives I shall never be separated from her again," were the reproachful thoughts that forced themselves upon the affectionate brother.
Need we speak of the agonizing hours spent in the dread suspense that followed.
In the midnight watches as the hours dragged slowly by, the young student was silently learning to "suffer and be strong." And it was well that these lessons took deep root in good soil, for within a few weeks Phillip Lawson knelt beside the dying bed of his beloved sister, and in heart-broken accents commending her departing spirit to the loving Saviour.
Ah, such a scene is too sacred for intrusion; but it is only by such means that we can realize the true value of our esteemed friend.
And as the last sod had been placed upon Julia Lawson's grave, and the flowers that she loved strewn over it by loving hands, we cannot move from the spot.
It is scenes like those that teach us what we are, so long as there is the least impress of the Divine in our nature will we look to those scenes as mile-stones on our journey through life.
Kneeling beside the sacred spot the grief-stricken brother was utterly unconscious of our presence. With tearless eyes he gazed upon the mound that held the remains of her he loved so fondly.
Who will not say that in that dark hour there hovered near a band of angelic beings, and foremost in that band the angel mother whose breath fanned the pale brow of the mourner and quieted the soul within?
Ah, yes; it is not heresy to think thus. Phillip Lawson surely felt such influence as he arose and in tones of quiet resignation murmured, "Father thy will be done." Then picking up a half blown rose that had fallen upon the ground, pressed it to his lips exclaiming, "fitting emblem of the pure and innocent young life cut off ere it had blossomed into womanhood."
And the hollow sounds that greeted the mourner as he wandered listlessly from room to room apparently looking for some object, some vague uncertainty, something indefinable.
What solemn stillness reigns around where death has been! The painful oppression, the muffled tread, the echoes that haunt as tidings from the spirit world, borne on invisible wings, confronting us at every step.
To the most matter-of-fact mind these things are indeed a solemn reality. Death has power to change our every-day thoughts to others ennobling, beautifying and divine! But we do not sink under the weight of affliction. God has seen otherwise for us. He heals the wounds and bids us go on amid life's cares administering to those around us with increased diligence, happy in the thought of doing what is required of us.
Throughout the inexhaustible stores of poetry and song is there anything more exquisitely touching than the lofty and inspired dirge wailed out in tremulous tones—in memoriam—and the healthful words,
"Ring out the grief that saps the mind For those that here we see no more; Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind."
But to return to the Lawson homestead.
Very soon all was bustle and preparation. The young student had rented the farm and by selling off the stock had raised means to secure a home for the children in the city, and ere a few weeks had passed around we find them comfortably situated in a convenient tenement in the suburbs of St. John.