BY CHARLES HEAVYSEGE, Author of "Saul," "Jephthah's Daughter." &c., &c., &c.
ILLUSTRATED BY J. ALLAN. (engraved by John Henry Walker after illustrations by J. Allan)
MONTREAL RICHARD WORTHINGTON, GREAT ST. JAMES STREET.
M. LONGMOORE & CO., PRINTERS.
"Take, oh take those lips away, That so sweetly were forsworn; And those eyes, the break of day, Lights that do mislead the morn: But my kisses bring again, bring again Seals of love, but sealed in vain, seal'd in vain."
Measure for Measure.
On a bright day during the month of September, of the year 1800, two persons were in earnest conversation in a lawyer's office in the city of Montreal. One of them was the most distinguished advocate of that place; a man of some three score years, and of a commanding yet wild and singular aspect. His companion was a well-dressed female of middle age, and comely, though mournful countenance. Some disagreeable topic seemed to have just ruffled both of their tempers, for her face was moist with tears, and darkened with an expression of disappointment. His own was slightly marked with annoyance, and, suddenly ceasing to arrange some folded law papers that he held in his hands, and had gathered up from the table at which he was standing, he exclaimed in tones of mingled surprise and asperity: "Still at the old song! still harping, harping, harping! Peace, no more of it. Heaven would be insufferable with but one hymn, hell thrice horrible with but one howl, earth uninhabitable with but one evil. Oh, variety, what a charm hast thou!"
"Is this, then, all your answer?" enquired the female, sorrowfully.
"Is it not decisive?" he demanded sharply. "Woman, away: am I not busy? Is not this the very Passion week of preparation before the Easter of the Assizes?" Then with an upward leer of his eyes, that were now filled with frolicksome humour, whilst at the corners of his mouth flickered a grim smile, he continued: "Mona Macdonald, I am neither selfish nor sensual, though women call me so; not prone to be provoked to marriage; though Satan in your shape has for so many years tempted me thereto, I have still remained in the bachelors' Eden, in spite of you and the Serpent. Marry you! Do I look in the humour for mischief? Do I appear vile enough to commit the unpardonable sin? No, a man may put himself beyond the reach of mercy by other means than that."
Mona looked up and sighed, and he continued:
"What more is marriage than mere desert sands, in which life's current is lost until it reappears in a parcel of bubbles called babies. What is it but the fool's end, the knave's means; a warning to the wise, a snare to the simple; the wantonness of youth, the weakness of years; a pillory wherein to exercise patience; what is it but the Church's stocks for the wayward feet of women. Marry you! To marry is to commit two souls to the prison of one body; to put two pigs into one poke; two legs into one boot, two arms into one sleeve, two heads into one hat, two necks into one noose, two corpses into one coffin, and this into a wet grave, for marriage is a perennial spring of tears. Marry! Why should I bind myself with a vow that I must break, not being by nature continent and loving? Marry you! Yes, when I hate you. Have I a sinistrous look to meditate such mischief? Do I seem old enough to be a bridegroom? Pish! I am ashamed to be so importuned."
This badinage was uttered with the fire of youth, combined with the authority of age, accustomed to be obeyed, and the listener offered no rejoinder; but the speaker, having approached, gazed into her eyes with a twinkling smile of mirth, that gradually changed to one of fondness and pity; and kissing her respectfully, he added in a soft tone: "Come, come, how is the maid Amanda, how fares our charming foundling?"
"Well," was quietly replied.
"Mona, I love that girl," he continued, assuming a tone of deep sincerity, "for along with the whole web of your goodness, nature has interwoven into the fine fabric of her form a thread of my evil—not in the grosser sense,—no, no; still, look after her; the breath of passion must be stirring in her, and at her years most maids are tinder to love's dropping sparks. Remember, there never yet was a nun but once had tender thoughts. Love comes unto all that live, and with not less certainty than death's advances —nay, even the cold, bony frame of death itself, at last comes wooing, and elopes with life. Now, home and cheer your charge." And he playfully pushed her from the room, then, throwing himself into his chair, resumed the interrupted study of his briefs.
"A seducer flourishes, and a poor maid is undone."
All's Well That Ends Well.
The advocate was by birth an Englishman, and a cadet of an ancient family, who, after having spent a dissolute youth and early manhood, had come to Canada. Here he became acquainted with an old, half-pay Highland officer of Wolfe's Army, who for his signal services rendered during the operations of the British force before Quebec, had been rewarded with a grant of land in that vicinity. Like others of his countrymen, the Highlander had settled in the Province, and married into a French Canadian family. But, soon, after their union, his wife died in giving birth to a daughter, which he reared to womanhood with all the strength of an undivided affection. The Englishman's frank bearing and singular mental powers won the admiration of the old soldier, and, at the same time, dazzled and captivated his comely and unsophisticated daughter, to whom the stranger was soon understood to stand in the light of a lover. But Macdonald—for such was the name of the warm-hearted clansman—was not destined to see his dearest wishes realized in the union of the two. A sudden sickness laid low his hardy frame, and, dying, he called the pair to his bedside, and joined their hands in anticipation of the rite of wedlock. The father dead, the lover betook himself to the study of the law, and with an extraordinary aptitude and diligence, not only mastered the details of legal practice, but comprehended, beyond others, the great principles both of English and of French jurisprudence as practised in Lower Canada. Ambitious of excellence, he resolved to complete his studies of the latter in France itself. Of means he had little, but she, confiding in his honor, consented that the estate left to her by her father should be sold, to furnish him with the necessary funds for his maintenance in Paris. In that gay capital—whilst taking advantage of libraries, and sitting at the feet of the Gamaliels of the French Bar,—he associated with gamesters and courtezans, and was at length left with resources barely sufficient to enable him to return to Canada. Settling in Montreal, his extraordinary acquaintance with both schools of law, his impassioned and versatile eloquence, his ready repartee, his habitual, grim and grotesque humour, his outrageous sallies of wit, his unmerciful logic, his fierce invective, his irony, his sarcasm, and his deep, irresistible scorn, all heightened by his singularly expressive personal presence, and eyes kindling with lambent fire, made him a forensic antagonist with whom few willingly chose to deal. He soon became the favorite counsel for the defence. Extensive practice, and its concomitant, a large income, were now his, and his betrothed, who, in giving him her fortune, felt as though she had given him nothing till with it she had given him herself, day by day looked for the nuptial tie, and at length besought him to relieve her from what had become a doubtful and even a dishonorable position. But such was no longer in his thoughts. Instead of performing towards her his long plighted vows, he sent her to a lonely dwelling on the then unpeopled Ottawa to hide her shame. There she remained till the scandal of their connection was forgotten, and he brought her, along with her female child, a creature of surpassing beauty, to a new retreat, called Stillyside, bought by him for that purpose, and situated behind the bluff known as Mount Royal, or popularly the "mountain," that lifts its wooded sides in the rear of, and gives name to, the City of Montreal. During these years of their separation, whilst laborious in his profession, he continued to indulge his vein for pleasure; not openly and abroad, as in his earlier days, but in the semi-secrecy of his home; and with a still increasing income, his expenditure from this ungracious cause also augmented. Moreover, in those days, the province was, in great measure, ruled by irresponsible officials, and often unscrupulous but energetic adventurers like himself;—men of powerful parts and free lives, whom a community of race, religion, language, and interest, united in a sort of Masonic association, whereof his house became one of the centres of reunion. There, aware of his gentle descent, and impressed with his transcendent abilities; charmed with his conversation—as pithy as it was apt to be impure—his wit, his taste, his information, his judgment; sensible, too, of the excellence of his wines, and luxuriance of his table, around which military officer and civil servant, merchant and judge, were accustomed to assemble, rank and office were forgotten, etiquette laid aside, and abandon ruled the hour. Votaries of Venus and of Bacchus were all of them, however disguised; and, secure in that close conclave, where no pure female presence was found to check the bacchanalian song, or forbid the ribald jest, all sat to listen to and applaud their host's inimitable stories, his grotesque descriptions, his wayward thoughts and fantastic images; to hearken to his close analysis, his robust reasoning, his wondrous pathos, his sublime exaggeration; and, as the wine circulated, to observe yet more his chameleon aspect and Protean character unfold itself; now grovelling like the Paradisal toad, wherein, at the ear of Eve, was hidden the form of Lucifer; now, touched by the Ithuriel spear of some keen conception, suddenly soaring, like to the bright expanded shape of the surprised and fallen Archangel, till the guests themselves, like the startled Ithuriel recoiling from the instant apparition of the fiend, drew back in amazement, or, as if at the jests of another Yorick, raised over the table a long, eruptive roar. Nor was that all. For a moment he would assume the moralist, the theologian, or,—leaving both revelation and the pandects,—become the philosopher, pacing the universe for occult truth; or the metaphysician, tracking the region of the supersensuous; and, over every theme, flying on mocking mental pinions, seeming an intellectual satan, passing through the region of vain questionings and doubtful disquisition, dim out to the abyss. And thus he lived, using, and abusing, his rare gifts; no virtuous and accomplished wife presiding at these feasts, ever degenerating into orgies, or giving sanctity to these walls; within which were gathered the brightest, gayest, noblest, most powerful —often most dissolute—of the land. But now the guests were thinned in numbers by death, by marriage, by worn out passions; and many a fierce spirit had been tamed by adversity, till the mirth had grown to be half moody, and the saturnalia gross rather in intention than in fact.
Yet ever amidst these distracting pleasures his heart reverted, first, to the woody wilds of Ottawa, and afterwards, to the sylvan shades of Stillyside, which latter he still took delight to visit and adorn; cherishing its mistress, and watching over and nurturing her child, the fruit of her fondness and of his falsehood;—but commonly known and publicly acknowledged, only as her foster daughter, and, in his own prouder circle, as his ward. For himself, he never occupied other than a handsome suburban residence, situated between the city and the foot of Mount Royal, and whose doors Mona Macdonald seldom entered; and when she did so, it was to be scowled upon by its menial mistress, a French Canadian, named Babet Blais, who viewed the melancholy visitor with angry and jealous eyes. Into this house many comely Abigails had come and gone; but Babet Blais remained in spite of him, having, as she deemed, acquired a wife's settlement and privileges, by virtue of the presence of a dwarfish, swarthy creature, half oaf, half imp, their mutual offspring. This strange being, as if in mockery, for he was ugly from the womb, was named Narcisse, and flitted about the house rather than made it his home; rarely entering it, except in his father's absence, and then chiefly to obtain largess from his mother, who loved and indulged him the more because others disliked or despised him. Reckless, stupid, savage; ignoble and stubborn; with thick, black, stubby hair, and dark, bushy, beetling brows; his protuberant eyes filled with cunning, and burning with a lustre like live coals; deep-chested, and with shoulders raised and rounded, giving him an air of pugnacity; snarl written upon his countenance, and pride in the pose of his pygmean figure; dull, dissolute, and disobedient, he was, nevertheless, the idol of his mother. She, poor woman, reverenced, almost worshipped, him, as being something superior to her plebeian self, by reason of the father's part that was in him; wondering how his sire should be so blind to his merits, and so severe upon his alleged faults and foibles. She the rather encouraged him in his irregularities since others rebuked them, and was the more liberal towards him, because of his father's stint; deeming his vices and extravagance to be not only excusable, but proper, in one who had to uphold and play the part of a gentleman. His father strove to instil into him some knowledge of law, but soon relinquished the distasteful and hopeless task, and articled him to a Notary, who, for a tempting premium, consented to take him into his office. But, instead of applying himself there, he spent most of his time in idleness and debauchery; by night frequenting the abodes of vice and infamy, and by day, haunting the doors and corridors of the court-house, in the latter always instinctively seeking to avoid a rencontre with his sullen and offended parent.
"Haply despair hath seized her."
It was now evening, and the landscape lay steeped in yellow sunshine; when Mona Macdonald rode slowly homewards, silent and buried in gloom. Her way lay around the base of the mountain. But neither its adjacent and majestic sides on the one hand, nor the placid, mellow-tinted, and sky-bounded plain on the other were regarded by her. Her thoughts were still with the advocate in his office, or with her departed father in her native home below Quebec, as he and she had lived and loved each other there, nearly twenty years before. Thus preoccupied, she lent no heed to the landscape, although before her was the broad, descending sun, and behind her was the mighty Saint Lawrence basking in burnished gold; and soon another stream, a branch of the Ottawa, appeared in the distance, the two clasping between them as in a zone the Island of Montreal. But neither the note of birds, the lowing of cattle, the barking of dogs, the churr of the bullfrog, the distant human voices coming faintly over the lea, nor yet the elysean landscape were seen or heard; and not until the carriage drew up at Stillyside, and the bark of a lap-dog, on the top of the distant steps, that led to the verandah in front of the house, struck her ear, did she fully awake from her mournful reverie. Then, alighting, she passed through a postern that hung at the side of folding gates, and, winding her way up a walk bordered with shrubs and flowers, approached the dwelling, that stood upon a knoll. At that moment the sound of a cowbell in the contiguous mountain coppice told the slow approach of a dappled dairy, in charge of a swarthy French Canadian youth. All else was quiet about the place, that seemed to be lying in a sort of listless, half dreamy tranquillity and halcyon repose. The mansion itself was spacious, and built of the grey limestone of the district. Woodbine and hop, clematis and the Virginia creeper half concealed its rugged exterior, and clothed in tangled luxuriance the verandah that extended along the front. The roof was covered with shingles, painted red; and in it were a number of dormer windows, which, like all the other windows, were hidden with closed green blinds or shutters. Swallows were darting about the eaves, and wheeling around a fountain and jet d'eau in front, that were fed by a mountain spring behind the house; whilst from one of the rather numerous chimneys a frail wreath of blue smoke crept, and lingered lazily about the lightning rod, before it rose and melted away into the pure evening sky. But by this time the lap-dog had come forwards to meet her, and now ran in advance, emitting a fitful and joyous bark; and as she ascended the steps the door was opened by a servant, who, having admitted her, closed it again; but not before a stranger might, from without, have witnessed a fair and youthful female figure swiftly descend the stairs into the hall, and, throwing her arms around the neck of the returned traveller, greet her with an affectionate salute. A large, grey mastiff now appeared from the rear of the building, and, while the driver was removing sundry parcels from the carriage, took a few slow and solemn turns about the knoll, then, on the departure of man and vehicle, retired for the night to his kennel, leaving the scene as quiet as before.
"Ungracious wretch, Fit for the mountains, and the barbarous caves Where manners ne'er were preached! Out of my sight."
On the morning of the following day, Mona Macdonald sat at breakfast in a room at Stillyside. She was plainly and neatly dressed; and with her sat a figure more lady-like, and still in her teens, attired simply, but with negligent taste. Both seemed abstracted, and, as they silently sipped their tea, appeared to be brooding over some recent, sad subject of conversation. The weather, too, without, was as sombre as the mood within. A canopy of cold, grey clouds covered the sky; the air was chilly, and the wind swayed the trees to and fro, betokening rain. From time to time the cat, with arched back, and tail erect, came loudly purring, and rubbing its sleek sides against the skirts of its mistresses; the lap-dog was restless; and upon the hearthrug a drowsy spaniel lay with his nose between his paws, and whined fitfully in a dog's day-dream; whilst the females, at length altogether ceasing to eat, sat self-absorbed. On the face of the elder was an expression of sorrow tempered with patience, but on that of the younger, an air of melancholy was mingled with resentment, that heightened almost into majesty a form and countenance of extraordinary and statuesque beauty. From time to time her companion regarded her with a look of anxiety and tenderness; and at length, seeing her still abstaining from the suspended meal, exclaimed:
"Eat, child, eat: fasting is bad for the young."
"I have no appetite, except for information," was mournfully replied; and the elder again regarded her affectionately; then with subdued earnestness, and in an expostulatory tone, rejoined:
"Be pacified, Amanda; for curiosity often brings us care. Let well alone, and it will continue to be well with you; but why should you thus persist to peer into the bottom of your past; as it were, asking the fashion of your swaddling clothes? Fie! you are too impatient; too importunate. Pray, no longer question me against my will, making enquiries that may not be answered. Live without asking why you live. No more of this. Does not your guardian love you as though you were his child; and is he not wiser than yourself; to judge of what knowledge is for your welfare? You ask me, why this mystery about your birth. Amanda, we move midst mystery from birth to death, and they who seek to solve it seek for sorrow."
"These words disturb me more than your past silence," exclaimed the younger. "What horror is there to reveal touching my origin, that you yet dare not shew me?"
"I dare not break your guardian's command," replied the elder, firmly.
"Neither can I control a natural desire to know what so nearly concerns me," retorted the other. "I beg of you to solve this mystery of my birth. It is my right, my birthright, to know who gave me birth. It is said that I was found—where was I found? by whom? how have I been confided to your care? by whose appointment have I had given to me this guardian? and why is he so kind, and wherefore are you so faithful? Tell me, nurse, why has he caused me to be educated with such care; from what motive has he caused me to be furnished with accomplishments that seem to reach beyond the bounds of my prospective sphere? Nurse, I charge you,—if you indeed have nursed me from my birth, as you declare you have done,—tell me, I pray you tell me: it is not much to ask: the very poorest child yet knows its parentage; the meanest beggar knows whether his father once asked alms or not; but I know nothing of my progenitors; whether they were of a proud or of a humble station, whether good or vicious; whether they be yet living or be long since dead. I do not know even whether my guardian knew them, nor how he has come to be my guardian, my kind supporter, friend: nothing do I know of these, whose all I ought to know. What is the reason of this singular secrecy? Nurse, tell me all you know,—for well I know you know,—tell me, I say, about my parentage; declare, again I charge you, and now most solemnly, if you really love me, who gave me to your care and to his kind tutelage: Nurse, Mona, foster-mother, speak; how have I become the ward, nay, like the very child, of that eccentric, wise, gay, good old man?"
"More gay than good, and not so wise as wicked," muttered Mona, and, not giving her companion time to reply, continued:
"Amanda, do not importune me further, I conjure you. Enough for you to know your guardian loves you, cherishes you even as if you were his child. Let us arise from table since our meal seems done;—what is it that alarms you?" Ah! And at that moment the report of a gun, the crashing of a window pane, the sound of shot hurtling past, its striking the opposite wall of the apartment, and dropping, along with falling plaster, on to the floor, burst upon them; followed, without, by the expostulating tones of a man-servant, that were soon overpowered by a loud guffaw, and, before the interlocuters had recovered from their astonishment and terror, Narcisse, followed by several men carrying fowling pieces, rushed, swearing, into the vestibule. Amanda saw him, and, rising to her feet, regarded him through the doorway with a look of scorn and anger akin to that cast by the Belviderean Apollo upon the wounded Python. But his dull temperament was invulnerable to the arrows that shot from her eyes, and, undaunted, he swept forward into the room, and with coarse familiarity attempted to salute her. He was unsuccessful, for Mona, advancing between them, hindered the nearer approach of the intruding mannikin, who, baffled, and with the eyes of Amanda still fixed upon him, and yet beaming ineffable contempt and disdain, at length stood before her with downcast look, like one detected in some act of guilt. His companions one by one slunk back to the lawn, whither in the dumb disgrace of his discomfiture, he followed them. There, meeting with the domestic already mentioned, and who had now been joined by a fellow-servant; first an altercation, then a scuffle ensued, in which latter the mastiff took an effective part, in maintaining the equality of the house against what otherwise would have been overwhelming odds; but he was at last disabled by a blow with the butt of a fowling-piece, whilst the lap-dog, as it stood barking on the borders of the fray, was shot dead by the cowardly and vindictive Narcisse. This was too much to be borne, and, indignant, the ladies descended to the lawn. At the same moment, three female domestics appeared upon the scene, and changed the character of the encounter. Three brawny ruffians seized each an Abigail, and attempted to bear her off, as of old the treacherous Roman bachelors carried the Sabine maids. Screams filled the air, mingled with oaths and laughter; and the affair that had been begun in vulgar, aimless, frolic, might have ended in serious outrage, but just then a horseman appeared at the gate, dismounted, and, rushing in, riding-whip in hand, plied it with such vigor, that in a few seconds all the rude gang had fled except Narcisse, who, having stumbled, was seized by the collar, hurried forward, and spurned through the gateway into the road, leaving his fowling-piece behind him.
The stranger now for the first time seemed to observe the ladies, and bowing to them respectfully, for a moment appeared to hesitate whether to approach and address them. They, too, stood silent, but it was with mixed astonishment and agitation, and he still stood regarding the younger with an expression of deep admiration; till, as if suddenly recollecting himself, and bowing yet more profoundly than before, accompanied with an apologetic smile, enhancing the beauty of his young and noble countenance, he gracefully retired to his steed, vaulted into the saddle, and, galloping away, was soon hidden from their view by a turn in the road.
"Oh, nurse, Mona, we have been rude indeed!" then exclaimed the younger: "We have committed the most odious of all sins, ingratitude; and," she added half archly, "we have seen the noblest of all forms, Mona, a gentleman. Nay, but to have let the chivalrous stranger, our deliverer, depart without a word of grateful recognition;—who will champion us the next time, good Mona."
"May we never again require such timely help, child," replied her mentor: "But let us go within and ascertain the damage that has been done there by these vagabonds from the city;" and, so saying, she took up the dead lap-dog and carried it tenderly in upon her arm, viewing it with a wistful expression of grief and pity, whilst Amanda stooped to caress the wounded mastiff, then followed with an air of pensive majesty, not without looking in the direction in which the gallant stranger, had disappeared.
"An ill-favored thing, sir, but mine own."
As You Like It.
It was near mid-day, and the advocate was engaged in his office, when the notary with whom Narcisse had been placed, suddenly entering, angrily demanded:
"Where is Narcisse, where is your son, sir? Here I am wanting his assistance, now, and he is missing, he is gone, no one knows where, nor where he has stowed those papers. Where is he, sir; where is the boy, I say; where is your son?"
The advocate looked up at this sudden disturbance, and, drawing a deep sigh, exclaimed with bitter emphasis:
"I would he were nowhere; that he were erased from the book of being; I would he were in heaven,—or else—in your office, Monsieur Veuillot. Is that a bad wish for either?"
"But he is not in my office," said Veuillot.
"Nor in heaven neither, I fear," rejoined the advocate.
"Where is he, then?" demanded the excited notary: "where is your son?"
"Such a son!" murmured the advocate, shrugging his shoulders. "Do you wish to be pleasant with me, Monsieur Veuillot? my evil genius call him. Son! I own I feed him, as I do other vermin that infest my house."
"But where is he?" reiterated the notary with growing impatience, and seeming resolved to take no denial.
"Where is he?" echoed the advocate: "ask his mother; yes, sir, ask his dam. Oh, Monsieur Veuillot, is there not deep damnation in thus having an idiot for one's child? Here is your purgatory:—purgatory? no: for purgatory is a kind of half-way house to heaven, but this son of mine is to me a slippery stepping-stone to perdition. Sir, a child should be a cherub to lift its parents' spirit to the skies; but mine, oh!"—and a spasm of agony passed over the old man's visage, succeeded by a forced expression of calmness, as he continued:
"Veuillot, you have heard of Solomon. He speaks of the foolish son of a wise father. He was himself the father of a fool, that rent the kingdom,—Rehoboam I mean,—and he kept concubines, too; so I suppose he waxed fruitful in fools. I have but one fool, therefore I am thankful;—but then he is a thorough fool, a most unmitigated, and unmitigatable fool; the fool of fools, a finished fool, the pink of fools; a most preposterous, backwards-going, crab-like fool; a filthy fool; an idiot, sir, without either parts or particle of ambition; an ape, an owl that flits about by day; a bat, and a bad bat, that flits from tavern to sty; chief of the devil's nightingales; a raven that, roving to foul roosts, goes beating the bosom of the night; a soul that loves the darkness; a mole, sir, a blind mole; a piece of animated perversity, a creature that persists to go astray."
"Where has he strayed to now?" demanded the notary.
"Into the hands of justice, perhaps;" was the fierce reply: "into the grip of the law; up to the foot of the gallows; on to the hill of my extreme disgrace."
"Where is he, where can I find him? tell me only where," cried Veuillot.
"Where! let echo answer,—would you wish to hunt him?" said the advocate, mocking. "Did you ever gallop, sir, after a hedgehog? have you assisted to draw a badger? I am badgered by him, and will blame him, ay, ban him, for he is my curse, my bane; why should I not curse him as Noah cursed that foul whelp Canaan? Beshrew him for a block-head, a little black-browed beetle, a blot of ink, a shifting shadow, a roving rat, a mouse, yes, sir, a very mouse, that creeps in and out of its hole when the old cat is away. Away, Mr. Notary, away; go, good Monsieur Veuillot. There are more conceptions in man than he has yet expressed either in statutes or in testaments. Go; you are a deed-drawer; I'll be a deed doer: I'll do, I'll do,—I do not know what I'll do, but something shall be done. He shall be shaken over perdition; sent to grind in the prison house; sold into slavery:—fool! he shall be banished to Caughnawaga, or to Loretto;—the further the better; he shall be sent to the Lake of the Two Mountains, sir, or to Saint Regis to learn the war-whoop and gallant the squaws. You smile:—but to your errand, Veuillot; it is not known where my son is: I saw him last night, may I never see him again! Then, dying, my old age, perhaps, may close in peace: not else, not else."
The notary departed, but the exasperated lawyer still conversed with himself. "I cannot decently die," he said, "any more than I can devoutly live, pricked through the very reins and kidneys with that skewer. Alas! he is my goad, my thorn in the flesh, the messenger of satan sent to buffet me. He is the mosquitto that stings my knuckles; the little, black, abominable fly that will insist to assail my nose; he is my bruise, my blain, my blister, my settled, ceaseless source of irritation: the cause, the cause—of what is he the cause? Alas! that I should ever have been the cause of such a foul effect! But let it be so; the whitest skins have moles, the sun has spots; he is my mole, my spot; and I, I am the father of the fool, Narcisse."
Narcisse was that moment at a tavern in the beautiful village of Cote des Neiges, adjacent to Stillyside, and much resorted to by pleasure seekers from Montreal. His companions, too, were there, bewailing the loss of one of their fowling-pieces, and devising means for revenge on their interrupter and successful assailant. There they remained, and, instead of spending the day, as was their first intention, on the side of the mountain, in popping at small birds they passed many of its hours in quaffing large potations, the effects of which they in some degree slept off by a long afternoon nap. It was now nightfall, and they were returning homewards, conversing in loud and angry tones on the humiliation of the morning, and threatening retribution against its cause, the gallant stranger. Narcisse, with the litigiousness of his maternal race, and prompted by his inkling of law, was for launching an action for assault and battery against their assailant's purse, whilst the others, pot-valiant, declared their anxiety to meet him in bodily conflict on another field; and thus discoursing in the deepening gloom, the party arrived opposite the mansion at Stillyside. For a few moments they halted, undetermined whether to approach, and demand the delivery of the captured weapon; but at last agreed to waive the requisition, chiefly at the instance of Narcisse, who authoritatively ruled, that to demand and accept of the feloniously acquired gun, would be to compound a felony. Hereupon, being somewhat more at ease in their minds, they proceeded, and now less noisily, continuing on their way with only occasional bursts of abuse, and the firing off of fag ends of French songs, accompanied with a fitful fusilade of low, horselaughter; and thus, mollified and maudlin, unsteadily continued their straggling march, until they halted at a gate on the roadside, and some distance behind which, loomed a large, dingy and deserted-looking dwelling, half concealed by tall trees. No light was to be seen, but, after a brief consultation, the party swung open the gate, entered, and having reached the house, one of the number gave a peculiar tapping at a window, followed by a low whistle or call, that was immediately answered by a corresponding sound from within, and this again by a counter signal, which was repeated like the faintly returning tone of an echo; and, after some delay, the door slowly opened, the voices of men and women, mingling in boisterous mirth, burst forth like the roar of a suddenly opened furnace, the party entered, and the door was closed again.
"How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags?"
At the same hour that Narcisse and his companions entered the sombre and suspicious looking dwelling, the advocate returned to his home in the upper environs of the city, wearied in mind and frame, from an application broken only by the entrance of Monsieur Veuillot, and the arrival of a messenger from Stillyside, who, hot and excited from the violent scene whereof it had been the theatre, painted the outrage in deepened colors, and exaggerated form. Anger and shame contended in the old lawyer's bosom as he heard the story; the former sentiment urging for the punishment of the delinquents, the latter pleading for forbearance; for amongst the transgressors was his illegitimate son, whose share in the offence, if brought into the light of the tribunal, would thence cast back a shadow upon the father, and point, publicly and anew, to their disreputable relationship. Others also, whose reputation was far dearer to him than his own, must be dragged, either as witnesses or as prosecutrix, to public gaze, and thus be made to furnish matter for the tongue of scandal. Perhaps, too, some latent paternal tenderness inclined the incensed advocate to mercy; and, giving the messenger a hastily written note, sympathizing with the tenants of Stillyside, he despatched him thither, along with a noble Newfoundland dog, then lying in the office, and which he meant should replace the disabled mastiff. Afterwards, his thoughts, occupied with the important professional business of the day, scarcely reverted to the vexatious occurrence of the morning; but now, at eve, the tide of attention, that had been so long dammed back, came flowing over his spirit with increasing depth and force; and, in spite of his unwillingness and the necessity for recruiting his wasted energies, for the performance of the onerous public duties of the morrow, he fell to brooding over the new misdeed of the already too obnoxious Narcisse. From the son, his musings reverted to the menial mother, and, by contrast, from her to the fair tenants at Stillyside; till, tossed by the contrary and vexed tides of thought and feeling, he arose, perturbed from the lounge, went to the window, and, drawing aside the curtains, beheld in the east the full moon climbing the clear, blue heavens, amidst a multitude of marble clouds. Struck with sudden admiration and oblivious pleasure, he opened the folding frames and stepped into the garden. The air was balmy; and, soothed by the change, he returned within, reassumed the habiliments of the day, took a stout, ivory-headed walking cane from its corner, and, calling a domestic, announced that he should for some time be absent. His first impulse was to cross a contiguous, half-reclaimed tract, sprinkled with vast boulders of the glacial period, and reach the turnpike road that led around the mountain. But before he turned to commence his stroll he paused to gaze down on the outstretched city, that, lying as asleep on the arm of the St. Lawrence, with tin-covered domes, spires, cupolas, minarets, and radiant roofs, showing like molten silver in the moonbeams, contrasting with the dark shingles covering most of the houses, presented an enchanted-looking scene of glory and of gloom. On the left, and oldest of its class, was the Bonsecours Church, with its high-pitched roof, and airy, but inelegant, campanile, refulgent as if cut from some rock of diamond. Nearer, was the Court House, and, beneath it, the Jail; and, behind them both, the dusky expanse of the poplar-planted Champ de Mars. In the midst of the city rose the tin-mailed tower and spire of the French Cathedral, and, at its rear, loomed the neighboring, wall-girt, solemn Seminary of Saint Sulpice. The bright, precipitous roof of the Church of the Recollets, and the spangled canopy of the vast foundation of the Grey Nuns reposed resplendent; and, within its ample enclosure, luminous as a moon-lit lake, the quadrangled and cloistered College of Montreal. Beyond these, in the midst of the shining river, duskily slumbered the little, fortified and wooded Island of Sainte Helene; and up the stream, apast the petty promontory of Pointe Saint Charles, stretched the low, umbrageous lapse of Nuns Island, whence the eye followed the bending flood, that trended towards where, with eternal toil and sullen roar, agonize for ever the hoary rapids of Lachine. In the other direction the eye roved downwards over Hochelaga and Longueuil, Longue Pointe and Pointe aux Trembles, towards where lay the islet-strewn shallows of Boucherville, and, lower yet, the village of Varennes. The mountains of Boucherville, Beloeil, Chambly, and Vermont shadowy bounded the horizon; and, turning from these, abrupt before him rose the awful and spectral presence of Mount Royal. Skirting its foot he now proceeded, brushing away the shining dew, disturbing the lazy lizard and the serenading grasshopper, and hearing below him the harsh croaking of the bullfrog in the pool; whilst, ever and anon, the gust awoke, with a huge sigh, the dreaming maples, poplars, and dark, penitential pines. From the remote, secluded farms came the faint bark of dogs; and amidst such sights and sounds he at length emerged upon the winding road, that, if followed, would lead him past Stillyside. Slowly and without special aim he continued to walk, ruminating and still drawn onwards, lured by the time and scene, until the sound alike of mastiff and of cur had ceased, the grasshopper refused to pipe upon the dusty road, and the too distant bullfrog was no longer heard gurgling to its mates, but all was silent, lying as in a trance, both heaven and earth. And then he paused, and lapsing into meditation, stood unconscious of surrounding things, till the tolling of the clock in the distant tower of the cathedral of Notre Dame awoke him, and, starting from his reverie and listening, he counted the hours to the full score of midnight. Struck, then, by the weird aspect of the scene and singular silence, a vague sense of horror stole through him, and he exclaimed hoarsely: "This is the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and spirits walk abroad!" and scarcely had the words escaped his lips when a wild tumult rose near him, and he perceived a bacchanalian and disorderly troop of both sexes sallying into the moonlight; wherein with uncouth antics and inviting pose, they disported towards a group of trees, encircling which, and in the chequered beams beneath their boughs, he beheld them in Harlequin and Columbine-like appeals of passion, or already mated and forming for the meditated measure; appearing the very gang of Circe;—and in their midst he now observed his son, the brutish looking, cunning, and sensual Narcisse, wine-flushed and loud, and seeming to be the mimic Comus of the crew. As with the power of divination, he at once comprehended the spectacle. He had arrived opposite the equivocal building wherein Narcisse and his companions had disappeared some hours before, and the door of which had just been suddenly flung open, and kindling with wrath he at once advanced upon the bacchants in the midst of their orgies. At the same instant, from the direction of the city and unseen by him, a tall rider on a lofty steed, cloak flying to the breeze, swept by like an apparition; greeted only with a comical yell of astonishment and derision from one of the females, as like a spectre it swept by. But the hilarious band before him was too much preoccupied with the performance of its mockeries to have observed anything, and the advocate, with eyes gleaming and fixed upon his son, who now perceiving him stood terror stricken, approached the revellers, who subsided before him, as, with grey hair fluttering in the wind, he came beneath the extending boughs, like some denouncing Druid amidst the sacred oaks, his countenance inflamed, his whole frame seeming to shake as if in throes to eject some foul possession; or, rather, as if he were himself a fierce, incarnate, and unfriendly spirit; and, at length, addressing his son, who was now leaning against a tree, both for support and concealment, he burst forth: "Miscreant!"—and the word was echoed from the side of a huge, dilapidated barn, —"Wretches," he hollowed; and the guilty crowd, fearing both individual recognition and personal contact, again began to retire.
"Stay," he commanded, imperiously, "you are known, and flight shall put the worst construction on your case;—halt, brawlers and bullies, spendthrifts and bankrupts, breakers of the peace; sons of afflicted parents, husbands of weeping wives, brothers of sisters both ashamed and grieved; outlaws; the city's scum, the country's scourge, the harvest that shall yet be reaped for the jail, and leave gleanings for the gallows; abandoned creatures, linger;" and suddenly grasping Narcisse: "Sirrah," he cried, "here is your nightly haunt, these are your companions,—come with me, sir, come,—ah, will you resist your"—father he was about to say, but he recoiled from the word as from an adder, and, casting upon his son a look of unspeakable disdain, he shook the writhing criminal, who the next moment escaped from his hold, and slunk away, still looking backward over his shoulder and muttering curses upon his begetter. The advocate stood watching him in silence, as, withdrawing along with the others, the distance dimmed his form, and drowned his maledictions; then, drawing a deep sigh, a dark, vindictive scowl gathered upon his visage, until its expression became diabolical, and these words rolled from his heaving chest in deep, irregular murmurs:
"Thou son of a wicked and rebellious woman, do I not know that thou hast set my friends against me, and caused mine enemies to hold me in derision! But thou shalt suffer, thou shalt bend, or I will break thee, yea, dash thee into pieces. May not the potter do what he wills with the cup his own hands have fashioned? Away with thee, misshapen reptile; may soon the Saint Lawrence hide thee, or may'st thou soon be laid in the burial field of thy mother's race. Away, thou vessel of dishonor; grant Heaven that I may not yet make of thee a vessel of wrath!" and the old man's countenance worked convulsively, as he seemed to be revolving some terrible idea; but at last growing calmer he exclaimed: "Down, down, ye cruel thoughts, ye horrible conceptions; hence, busiest suggestions of the fiend; be silent at my ears, ye visionary lips; ye perilous and importunate prompters, peace!" But scarcely had he uttered these words, when a report of firearms sounded amongst the trees, and a shot rattled through the boughs, scattering the leaves upon his head; and the replicated echoes had hardly ceased, when a peal of triumphant laughter rose, and continued to be renewed till the spot appeared a field for the sport of a hundred goblins of mischief.
"Come in," at length said a voice, and, turning, he beheld a woman standing in the doorway.
"Who are you?" he enquired.
"Enter, and learn;" she answered: "I would not have you murdered in your old age. Do you not know me?" and seizing him rudely she drew him towards her until his face almost touched her own emaciated countenance, on which played a sardonic smile as she turned it towards the moonlight, and he strove to free himself, exclaiming:
"Witch, hag, loose me:" and gazed upon her with a look of mingled amazement and abhorrence.
"Am I then so changed?" she demanded, with a gloomy smile; "am I become a leper; am I grown loathsome now, whom you once declared to be so lovely? Follow me, false man; you did not once require solicitation." And again the sound of firearms startled the night, and once more the leaves fell fluttering on his head, and the beldam angrily exclaimed: "Come in, old fool," and laid hands on him a second time, as, in a voice thick and hurried with dislike and terror, he replied: "You are remembered by me, woman; give me shelter for a moment," and hastily stepping with her over the threshhold, she closed the door after them. Another burst of triumphant laughter rose from the retiring revellers, and again moonlight and returning silence rested on the scene.
"It is my lady: oh, it is my love!"
Romeo and Juliet.
The agitation of the morning at Stillyside had subsided as the day wore, but the mind of Amanda Macdonald (for such was the name of the younger and fairer denizen of that sequestered abode) remained pensive and preoccupied; and when at her usual hour she had ascended to her chamber, instead of retiring to rest, she took up a tale of the troubadours, and read; nor did she lay down the volume till the sudden flickering of the candle in the socket and the simultaneous tolling from the distant belfry of the church of the village of Saint Laurent warned her that it was midnight. Then, feeling oppressed, alike with the heaviness of the atmosphere of her room, and a strange weight at her heart, analogous to the lassitude that is sometimes felt in the beginning of sickness, she arose, drew aside the curtains, and throwing open the folding window, stepped on to the verandah. A clear Canadian night, appearing a new and chaster version of the day, greeted her. The moon, at night's meridian, hung high in the fulness of its autumnal splendor, tranquil in the solitude of the sky, a solitude unbroken, save by a few small stars that were twinkling in the azure, and a fleet of low, dappled clouds that were coasting the horizon. Awhile her eyes dwelt abstractedly on the sight, then, falling, they wandered listlessly over the broad and shining expanse of landscape before her; where Nature, unrobed, seemed as in a bath; for in front, the grass, steeped in descending dews, glittered as a lake. Woods confined the view in one direction, and the gleamy wave of the Ottawa, amidst filmy obscurity, bounded it, yet further off, in another. Unseen but felt, like the unperceived Genius of the landscape, towered close behind her the sombre-sided mountain; and, touched by the solemn scene, she advanced, and, leaning upon the balustrade, heaved a deep sigh; then lapsed into a reverie so profound, that she failed to hear the tramp of a horse now rapidly approaching, and to note the change to sudden silence, caused by its stopping at the postern. But there, transfixed with wonder and admiration, and looking like a bronze equestrian statue at the gate, now, mounted, sat gazing the lately flying horseman of the road, the champion of the morning on those grounds, and contemplated the figure on the verandah; then, dismounting, tied his steed, and vaulting over the fence, swiftly approached across the lawn; till, as if suddenly aware of being on holy ground, he paused, and stood with reverential aspect and clasped hands, eagerly bending towards her as if in adoration. Thus engaged, as stands in ecstasy some newly arrived pilgrim before a shrine, he stood enrapt; whilst she remained as moveless as a carved angel leaning over a cathedral aisle, and, with her eyes fixed on vacancy, at length mournfully exclaimed: "Sad, sad, so sad!—yet why am I so sad? No denser grows the mystery around my birth; and if knight errants yet live, rescuing maids, or he is a wandering god, and here is Arcadia, why should that make me grieve? It is true that he is handsome—and yet what of that?—most men are handsome in the eyes of maids. But he appears the paragon of men. Is he indeed not all a man should be? Where were the blemish, the exception; who shall challenge nature, saying, in his form, that here she has given too little, there too much?—Ah, me! I am not happy, yet I should be so."
"Can I have heard aright, or do I dream?" gasped out the stranger.
"A knight, a god;" she continued, yet musing; "oh, he came hither like a knight of old, or as an angry angel sent to scatter fiends;—or, rather, like the lightning he arrived, out of the storm cloud of I know not where. Where is he now? whence was he? who is he? what? Alas, I know nothing of where, nor who, nor what, nor whence he is; all that I know is, I am strangely sad; and that such perfection was not made for me."
"Is this not Stillyside?" enquired the listener, "or do I wander in some spirit-land; lost, lost;—oh, so luxuriously lost! She, too, seems lost—lost in a reverie, and all forlorn. I'll speak to her;—and yet I fear to speak, I fear to breathe, lest the undulating air should burst this, and prove it to be but a bubble. Yet she breathes, she spoke, and oh, such words! Words, be at my command; I will address her, for this is not fancy: could fancy shew a moving soul of sorrow? See how the passion plays upon that face, as she thus stands with sad-eyed earnestness, maintaining converse with the hollow sky. Looked ever aught so fair yet so forlorn? Methinks there is a tear upon her cheek. Why comes it from the Eden of her eye? I must speak to her;" and with mixed fear and fervour he exclaimed: "May Heaven keep you from grave cause of sorrow, lady! Forgive me, oh, forgive me, lady, or vision, for, by these dazzled eyes, and, as I fear, by your offended form, I Scarcely can divine whether you are of earth or air; pardon me if I have appeared here by night, as unpremeditatedly as I came by day. Bid me begone, —and yet permit me to remain, for, by my life, and the deep admiration with which you have inspired me, I cannot leave you till I learn your grief, and with it, peradventure, my own doom. Whom did you speak of even now, fair form?"
"Who asks of me that question; who is it that thus listens when I thought myself alone?" she demanded haughtily, looking downwards from the verandah. "Sir, just now I spoke, and said—I know not what. What you have overheard me say I fear was foolish; do not, then, regard it. I know you now. You are the stranger who, this morning, drove those violent intruders from these grounds. Ah, who would have thought you would return by night, and thus, sir, play the eaves-dropper! Oh, for shame! Nay, you are not the one I took you for. Sir, it is mean to overlisten; mean, very mean; nay, it is base, unmanly, to listen to a maid, when she commits her vagaries to the moon."
"Scourge me, for I deserve it, with your tongue;" rejoined the stranger—"but, lady, you were not alone, though I were absent; no; you cannot be alone. Such excellence must draw hither elves and midnight troops of fairies; by day, by night, each moment must array around you the good wishes of the world. No, not alone; the very sky is filled with watchers and the ground covered with invisible feet, that have come here to do you homage; then why not I found here to pay you mine? Are you still angry?"
"You have offended me," she answered;—"and yet perhaps I am too severe with you. I fear I am ungrateful. 'Mean,' did I say? It was mean in me to say so, and most forgetful of the favor conferred here by you this morning. No, I vow it was not mean—at least in you. And yet it was mean, it was very mean in you, sir, thus to overstep the golden mean of manners. Scourge you? Ah, I fear you well deserve it;—and yet if I could, I would put to scourging that word, 'mean,' that has just escaped from out of my petulent lips, as sometimes a froward, disobedient child runs into danger; breaking away from out of the nurse's arms. But you should not have played the bold intruder, and joined in these vain vigils;—nay, begone, or I must, myself, withdraw. I do entreat you, stay no longer; come some other time,—but go to-night; make no excuse for staying, or you may yet compel me to be angry with you. Indeed, I fear that I am too forgiving. Go, I pardon you,—but go at once, or I may yet repent to have condoned what it, in truth, were hard to justify."
"Heaven pardons heavier sins," observed the stranger.
"Yes, when its pardon is sought for;" was rejoined; "but I pardon you without your craving it; and, remember, Heaven's pardon is not granted to us simply for the asking; neither do we receive it because our hearts are penitent; but for the sake of Him who died for us upon the cross; hence you are now forgiven by me, not for your prayers' sake, nor for your regret, but rather because beforehand, the night's offence has been cancelled by the morning's favor. For the rest, retire, sir: what you have heard, you have heard. You have heard my words, yet give no heed to them. If I to-night have walked forth in my sleep, and dreamed on this verandah;—why, then, it was but a dream. Let it be thus esteemed, and so we part. Good night."
"Stay!" exclaimed the stranger, as, smiling with ineffable sweetness, and deeply curtsying, she drew backwards towards the window: "Stay; how can those part whom destiny hath joined; how be divided whom their fates make one? Stay, lady, and let love, young love, plead his own cause. Oh, I would yet charm you with my tongue, even as your own detected tongue has just declared that this morning I charmed you with my deed. Stay. If, in truth, you did admire, what, at the moment of its execution, I thought nothing of, and value now only as it has relation to yourself, hear my appeal."
"What does this mean?" she asked, startled at his earnestness: "I do not know you; go, oh, go; I say again, I do not know you, sir."
"I never knew myself till now," he cried with bitter pathos.
"I say, I do not know you; you do not know me;" she reiterated.
"Know me to be irrevocably yours;" rejoined the stranger, "for you have bound my heart in such fast thraldom, that even yourself could not deliver it."
"And, perhaps, I would not, if I could,—unless you asked it:" she answered: "and yet, sir, possibly you jest. Oh, sir, forbear; begone, nor longer fool here a surprised, lone girl. What is your purpose? who, and whence, are you? On your honor, answer me truly."
"I am the seigneur Montigny's only son: my purpose and my thoughts towards you are all honorable:" he replied. And she rejoined: "Oh, if your intentions are dishonorable, and you have not the spirit, as you have the aspect, of a gentleman, yet keep this secret, as you are a man."
"What shall be said to reassure you?" demanded Montigny. "Witness, Heaven, if I assume to act, or intend anything injurious towards you. Believe me. I am the heir to a proud seigniory: you are,—I know not what; enough for me to know, you are the fairest figure that has yet filled mine eyes, and surely as good as fair. Will you be mine, as I am yours for ever? Speak, why are you silent?"
"Hist," she said, listening.
"What is the matter?" he enquired.
"Nothing, perhaps nothing:" she continued, whilst her voice faltered:—"but go, oh, go, and come again to-morrow, or next week, or when you will. I'll think on what you have said; but go; I tremble so; stay here no longer; think, should we be observed. I am ashamed to think of it. I am ashamed to look the moon in the face, ashamed to look into yours. Oh, sir, what have I done? What have you said? How have I answered? for I am perplexed. Away, yet come again; come fifty times; but stay no longer now; begone;—return though when you choose; do not wait for an invitation.—Listen, I hear it again; begone, begone; did you not hear something?—it was nothing, perhaps, but yet begone."
"Never without your love pledge will I leave you," replied Montigny firmly.
"And would you force me to avow myself?" she asked. "May Heaven absolve me if I err herein! No, give me leisure to reflect: this were too sudden. These passion-hurried vows were too much like those vapors, that, igniting, rush like to unorbed stars across the night, then, vanished, leave it blacker. Do not tempt me. To act in haste is to repent at leisure; and quickliest lighted coals grow soonest cool. Even now I feel my cheek aglow with shame, that burns its passage to my rooted hair. Away: if you should not forget me, why, you are as though you were still present; for your thought, which is your truest self, remains with me. If you should grow oblivious—why, it is I that shall suffer, and not you."
"Oh, waste of words on what can never be!" Exclaimed Montigny: "cease to doubt me. Forget you! Love's memories are immortal. Love writes the lineaments of the beloved in rock, not sand."
"Yet rocks may lose their effigies, the pyramids their inscriptions, the strong-clamped monument may tumble, and the marble bust, by time, may let the salient features fall into one indistinguishable round," she answered doubtingly.
"They may;" rejoined Montigny: "but neither flowing time nor chafing circumstance can erase affection from the constant mind. Mind is more obdurate than steel; and love, the tenderest of the train of passions, is, in its memory, as indestructible as gold;—gold that resists the all-corroding fire. No; the fire may melt the impress from the seal, the sun the angles from the stony ice; the jagged rocks may from encounter with the wind and rain grow smooth; this hilly globe may grow at length to be as level as is the sea, and every jutting headland of the shore may crumble and disappear; but your bright image must to the eventide of life's cogitation, stay, like a sacred peak whose lofty brow stands ever gilded in the setting sun. Forget you! little hazard: he whose heart is impressed with the absent's form, needs wear no miniature upon the breast; the scholar who knows his task by rote, needs not retain his eye upon the book."
"Hearts may prove false," she answered solemnly, "and tasks to treacherous memory committed may be forgotten; but will you forget these weighty words: will you be constant, oh, will you prove true; for did I give you all I have, my love, what were there left me should you throw it away?"
"Injurious and incredulous one," returned Montigny, "save Lucifer, who ever threw from him heaven?"
"Forgive me," she replied, "it is but a timid girl that speaks. She did not doubt you, though she sought to prove you. Yet are you sure you love her? Ask your heart, then render me its reply, as one might do, who having listened for me to the murmuring shell, should bring me tidings of the storm-vexed sea. Vow not, but listen."
Montigny seemed for awhile to listen to his heart; then, looking at her, replied:
"Surer than is assurance itself I am yours. Say that you are mine, and every further word shall seem only to be redundant and apochryphal; for when love's lips have made their revelation, what more is wanting to complete the canon."
"Believe that I have said it," she half whispered; then, starting, and changing color, "hist, hist," she added, "once more I hear it: heard you nothing?"
"I nothing heard but you," replied Montigny: "Proceed; for your voice is sweeter to me than plashing fountain's, or than Saint Laurent's chimes, or than would be—could we hear it—the fabulous music of those night-hung spheres, coming harmonious to our listening ears, borne on the shoulders of the cherub winds. Why are you silent?"
"Listen," she said, looking still more alarmed.
"I do," he answered.
"Yet heard you nothing?"
"Nothing but ourselves."
"What further should I hear?" he asked.
"And yet it seemed as if I heard another," she continued. "Are we watched? speak, tell me," she demanded,—"I hear it again; listen."
Montigny listened a moment, then replied soothingly:
"Dismiss these pale-cheeked panics, for you hear nothing; or if you do it is but the common voices of the night. It is merely the hoarse bullfrog croaking in the swamp; and the green grasshopper a chirrupping in the meadow; for, saving these, all nature with myself is listening to you. Be reassured: there is nothing, but what your own excited fancy has conjured: even the wind has ceased to sigh amongst the leaves; the moon stands still, and her arrested beam no longer draws the shadow on the dreamy dial. Then, proceed, my love, for when you speak you fill my ears with heaven, but when you pause then opens the abyss."
"Yet listen; I hear it again:" she said; "it was not fancy; no."
"What else? what can befall you, love, whilst I am here?" he murmured.
"Nothing, I hope," she answered, falteringly.
"Then nothing dread."
"I dread to say it, yet I must: Good night."
"Already?" he demanded.
"All too long!" cried an imperious voice; and the advocate stood before them.
"Amanda, ah, Amanda, Miss Macdonald," he continued, "is it thus you fool us? Go, bird, into your cage. Nurse, take my lady in." And Amanda beheld behind her the melancholy Mona, half shrouded in a cloak covering her night attire.
Silently they both of them withdrew, and the stranger was left alone with the advocate, who, laying his hand detectingly on the other's shoulder, thus addressed him:
"Claude Montigny, I do not ask of you what brings you here, for I have something overheard, and in that something, all. Given the arc, the eye completes the perfect circle; furnished the angle and the object's distance, and we can tell the dizzy altitude. Mark me, sir. We climb with risk, but there is greater danger in descending. Young sir seigneur, you have ascended to a height you may not safely stoop from. As sportive and adventurous schoolboys sometimes ascend a scaffolding in the absence of the builders, and continue to scale from tier to tier, until they pause for breath; so, I fear, that you this night, in her protector's absence, have soared in the affections of my ward. Beware, beware: I would not threaten you—a gentleman neither needs nor brooks a threat—but, by my life and the strength that yet is left me, woe to the man that shall fool me in yonder girl! Seek not to trifle with me, Claude Montigny. Tell me your purpose; inform me how your acquaintance with my ward began; how it was fostered; how it has been concealed; and how it thus has ripened into this secret, midnight interview. Speak; what do you say, sir, in arrest of judgment? Be seated, and recount to me the story of your love, if you do love my ward—as you have told her that you do—and to that love be attached a story, long or brief; or if this passion—which you have propounded most passionately to her—be of a mere mushroom growth, born of to-night, sown by the hand of moonlight in a girl's dark eyes; or in her heart, perhaps, by the fairies that you spoke of, and producing some form of feeling or forced fruit of fancy; coeval with, and meant to be as transient, as is the present fungi of these fields. Sit down by me, and let your tongue a true deliverance make between yourself, me, and my foster-daughter." And seating himself heavily on a garden bench, and leaning with both hands clasped over the top of his gold-headed cane, he looked enquiringly up into the face of the young man, and added: "Come, plead before me to this charge of heart-stealing, as touching which you have been taken in the act."
"Sir," then said the stranger with dignity, whilst he slowly seated himself; "sir, you are justified in thus misdoubting me; for though a gentleman should, like the wife of Caesar, be above suspicion, never yet knew chivalry a time but there were recreant knights. Moreover, I can perceive that circumstances now must shadow, and, as with refracting influence, distort me, so that I may well stand here seeming to be deformed, although my soul, if you could see it, would show wanting no part of honour's fair proportions. Hear me, then, patiently, for I plead less for my own defence than for her vindication who has just retired beneath your frown."
And the ingenuous but compromised Montigny sketched the brief history of his passion, and when he had done, the advocate, looking into his countenance keenly, but confidingly, rejoined:
"You speak the truth, I know it by your eye, wherein no falsehood might harbour for a moment; yet, young seigneur, you have entered on a perilous path; dare you walk in it? It is the way of honor, and will prove to be the way of safety; but, beshrew me, if I do not fear that it may prove to you a way of pain. Whatever may be the ways of wisdom, the ways of honour are not always ways of pleasantness, nor is the path of duty always one of peace. If you would wear the rose you must grasp it as it grows amidst the thorns. And now, farewell—yet, hold. I hold you to your bond. The forfeit were the forfeit of your word, which you have pledged to me and mine. Remember, not only have you offered love unto my ward, but you have been accepted."
"Even so:" exclaimed Montigny; "and may—"
"Call nothing down that might become your harm," said the advocate admonishingly: "Rain has before now become transformed to hailstones, and done much damage; and dews descending so benignly, have once, it is said, in form of rain, swelled to a deluge that has drowned the world. May the skies be still propitious to you, Claude Montigny. Although temptation burn as fiercely as dogdays, do not fall beneath it, for less hurtful were a hundred sunstrokes to the body, than to the soul is one temptation that hath overcome it. Again farewell." And he pressed Claude's hand convulsively, then tossed it from him half disdainfully, and both departed from the grounds.
"Think no more of this night's accidents."
Midsummer Night's Dream.
From Stillyside Claude Montigny rode towards the western extremity of the island; his thoughts steeped in bliss, and the country, as it slumbered in the moonlight, seeming to him the land of Elysium. At the ferry of Pointe Saint Claire he engaged a bateau in which he was rowed over the confluence of the rivers Ottawa and Saint Lawrence by four boatmen who, from time to time, in a low tone, as if afraid of awakening the dawn, chaunted, now an old song of Normandy, and now a ballad upon the fate of some lost voyageur. The moon was yet shining, and he was in the mood to enjoy such minstrelsy; but when they neared the opposite shore, a feeling of sadness and apprehension stole over him, as he thought of meeting his father, to whom he knew he must either communicate distasteful tidings, or what was worse to his ingenuous mind, practice a culpable concealment. Thus musing, as day broke he leaped on shore, and again mounting his horse rode thoughtful through forest and farm; now reburied in the darkness of night, which yet lingered amidst the foliage, and now emerging into the light of the clearing; until, as the sun was rising over the opposite bank of the St. Lawrence, he entered the manorial gates of Mainville, and passing through the park-like grounds, was once more in the proud home of the Montignys.
Meantime, Amanda Macdonald had not slept. Shame, joy, fear, hope possessed her; but fear chiefly, for she dreaded the coming morrow, when she must meet her foster-mother, and—what to her was yet more terrible—her, as she supposed, deeply offended guardian; and it was not till the birds began to chirp and flit about her window, that she fell into a deep, refreshing slumber that lasted long into the day, and was at length broken by the voice of Mona bidding her arise.
The advocate, on the other hand, who had at once returned to town, arose at his usual hour, and repairing to his office, began the business of the day; whilst at a later period, the dissipated Narcisse again found his boon companions, and with them renewed the debauch of yesterday.
During the day the anxious Mona did not fail to question her charge touching the interrupted interview; and the latter at length related how it had befallen, confessed to her sudden passion for the gallant Montigny, revealed his plighted vows, and confiding herself to the bosom where she had always found advice and comfort, deprecated the displeasure of her guardian. But the betrayed Mona could give her only slight encouragement, in what was now yet nearer to her than even her guardian's favor, her lover's truth.
"Child," said Mona to her emphatically and in a warning tone, after musing, "Child, hope not too much; fear everything, for man is naturally false towards woman. Ah, you have yet learned but little of man, and may you never learn too much. Beware, beware, beware, Amanda. Happy the ignorant, happy is the woman whom no false man has taught to distrust his sex! Man's love to woman is as evanescent as is the presence of the summer-morning mist, that, for an hour or so, hugs lovingly the lea, then vanishes for ever. What are his vows but vapour? Poor, rash girl, why, without warning me, have you opened the horn-book of love, and spelled at such a speed, that, in a day's time, you have read as far as warier maids dare con in years?" And Amanda looked both abashed and amazed; but at length enquired in wonder:
"What may you mean by these strange utterances? Nay, nay, dear Mona: you slander your own father by this language."
"Thou canst not say, child, that I slander thine," responded Mona, tartly; and her countenance darkened with an equivocal expression new to Amanda, who, catching at the inuendo, earnestly demanded,
"Who was my father? tell me, for you know; I myself know, I feel, (and not untrustworthy is this intuition) that I am not here a mere fortuitous foundling. Who was my mother? I charge you to inform me."
"Girl, had not man been false, you had not needed to have so often asked of me that question," Mona replied with a cynical expression, and hoarse, sepulchral voice, that, whilst it seemed to vindicate herself, reproved her fellow, on whose face an air of horror now mantled, as she excitedly exclaimed:
"Say more, or else unsay what you have already uttered. What must be understood from this alarming language? Although there hangs a mystery over my birth, surely there rests upon it no dishonor. Acquaint me, then, once more I charge you, and now by the love and kindness that you have always shewn to me, declare, for you know—I say I feel you know; whose child am I, where was I born, how have I been committed to your care, adopted, cherished; I, who have no filial claims upon you; adjudged to be an orphan, perhaps the child of charity; how have I been divided between you and my guardian, or held as if I were your mutual bond? Inform me, Mona, my good Mona, foster-mother, nurse, you who have been to me as a true mother might be, say whose I am; whether, and where, my parents live; and, if they live, why they have thus abandoned me," and she burst into a flood of tears.
"Quiet yourself, my fond one," answered Mona, moved also to tears by this appeal; "your birth on one side is as high as any that this country boasts, therefore is as high as Claude Montigny's. Your mother is descended from a warlike Scottish line, your father's father was an English peer. Your parents are yet living; but their union, which was in many points unequal, was, alas! rendered the more unequal by a gulf-like disproportion in the passion that provoked it;—a gulf, too, that was undiscovered, till, too late, your mother saw it. Thence, their lives, their loves, so call it, their mutual progress (save on the course of fondness towards yourself, their child, whereon they journey equal side by side) has for years kept, and yet keeps, a still disparting pace; and, oh, Amanda, excuse these tears, for well I know your mother, and pity her, having many a time listened to her fruitless complaints; but until your father, who is the laggard one of this most misappointed pair, shall, either underneath the whip of a castigating conscience, or prompted by the spur of your poor mother's sharp appeals, come up abreast, and fill a certain chasm of omission by an indemnifying deed, which has been by him most selfishly left undone, but whose performance is essential to the full fruition by you of your fortune, you must remain, as you have hitherto done, my foster-child, and your grim guardian's ward; a waif we hold waiting for its claimants; and until they arrive, let me beseech you, as though I were the mother I have spoken of, to think no further of young Claude Montigny."
"Any bar, any cross, any impediment will be medicinable to me: I am sick in displeasure to him; and whatsoever comes athwart his affection, ranges evenly with mine. How canst thou cross this marriage?"
Much ado about nothing.
A few days after the conversation detailed in the preceding chapter, there was ushered into the office of the advocate at Montreal a gentleman, who announced himself as Montigny, Seigneur of Mainville. He was tall, and of a distinguished aspect, and had scarcely accepted of the advocate's invitation to be seated, when, like a man impatient to be done with a disagreeable business, he began:
"I have a son, sir, and you, as I believe, a ward, an orphan girl;" pronouncing with a mixture of pity and contempt the last two words.
The advocate observed this depreciatory intonation, and throwing himself backwards in his large easy chair, repeated: "An orphan girl," at the same time putting a half angry, half comical expression into his countenance, and perpetrating a pun in what followed: "Yes, many of your Canadian noblesse would bless themselves to have been her father. The poor fellow, it is well he is not here to have overheard you. An orphan girl: true, as you say, I have an orphan girl,—or one that passes for such; a girl I love, a ward, a charming child, yonder at Stillyside. Were I disposed to praise her I might say she is the Mountain's maid; the Dryad of its woods, a grace, a goddess, fairer than Diana, and far purer, for one may guess the fool Diana made of that poor boy, Endymion. But what concerning my ward, sir, my most immaculate lady?"
"Would you forbid my son access to her?" enquired the seigneur.
"Ah! you wish for an injunction;" said the advocate; "show me cause. I have, sir—as you seem aware—a ward dwelling yonder at my seat at Stillyside;—a place I sometimes visit; a sort of shrine, a kind of hermitage or chapel, wherein two devotees, two nun-like, holy women consume the hours; leading there, pious, penitential lives, making each day a sort of hallowed tide, and every eve a vigil."
"You are humorous," replied the seigneur. "Excuse me, I am sorry, but it were best that I should speak plainly. I would not wish to see your ward dishonored."
"Dishonored! not a seigneur, nor a seigneur's son dare dream of such a consummation, nor, daring so to dream, could compass it," cried the advocate, growing crimson. "Yet this is kind of you;" he added, bowing as if deeply grateful;—"and yet," he continued, "there can be no fear of an offence: is not your son a clergyman? for, if he be, and they confess to him anything worse than to have admitted him to their confidence—why, sir, he shall be allowed to enter, and shrive them when he chooses;" and after a momentary silence, "Fie! fie!" he resumed, rolling in his chair; "'the fool hath said in his heart there is no God,' and the wise man of Mainville, who has been all his life looking for purity in a petticoat, says 'there is no virtue in woman.' But I say, both these oracles are in the wrong; there is not only a Divinity, but there are women too who are virtuous. This is a clumsy jest, sir. My ward be dishonored by your son? Yes, when the diamond can be cut with a feather. Monsieur Montigny, a tempest is as harmless as a breath, when that tempest is being hurled against the rock; a breath is even as effectual as is a tempest, when that breath is puffed against the dust. So buzzing blandishments of sighing fops, may blow the frail flowerets from weak, wanton natures; whilst vehement vows of otherwise most honorable men, though urged as strongly as the northern blast, are in vain against the marble front of virtue. I am marble to your wishes."
"You weigh your danger as little as you do your language," observed the seigneur. "Will you permit a trespasser, a tempter within your grounds; a wolf, a fox, a bear within your fold?"
The advocate shrugged his shoulders and replied: "No, heaven forbid;—and Stillyside is to me as an outer court of heaven, wherein my ward dwells as a sort of semi-solitary angel."
"Yet angels fell, and so may she fall," interjected the seigneur quickly.
"They did, and without a tempter, too, Monsieur Montigny," returned the advocate, quietly; then added: "the height of heaven turned the heads of the angels giddy."
"Girls are giddy," remarked the seigneur gravely.
"Boys are more frequently foolish," drily retorted the advocate: "and often coming to girls for kisses, go away with cuffs. I hope your son has neither sought for the one nor yet received the other. But what is this son, Monsieur Montigny, that you would have me believe to be so formidable? Is he another Lucifer, couched at my Ward's ear, as his dark prototype once squatted at that of Eve? Or is he Lothario alive again? Is he Leander, and are the Ottawa's jaws a western Hellespont, with my ward and Stillyside, for Hero and her tower?"
"Your verandah," remarked the seigneur, "is not higher than was Hero's tower, although, I trust, your ward's virtue may be more exalted than was Hero's. But are you aware, sir, that already my son has had her company, alone, at midnight, on your grounds; all others retired; she alone watching, with Claude Montigny and the broad, full moon?"
"An actionable moon," exclaimed the lawyer, "and a decided case of lunacy against the lovers. But, alas, sir, in this respect we have all been sinners in our youth, and all grown wondrous righteous with our years. Have we not ourselves, when we were young,—ay, and upon inclement winter nights too, courted brown peasant girls beneath both stars and moon? What if the nights were cold, the blood was warm; and now with these volcanic veins of ours grown cool, why, we may walk on the quenched crater of concupiscence, and who dares challenge us, and say, ha, ha! smut clings to you, gentlemen; you have the smell of fire upon you. No, sir, no; we are fumigated, ventilated, scented, powdered, purged as with hyssop. Pish! he must be truly an Ethiop, whom time cannot whiten; a very leopard, who will not part with his spots, since the sun himself shall lose his some day, purged in his own fires."
"I repeat, sir, your ward is in danger," said the seigneur doggedly.
"Not at all. Is the diamond in danger when it is put into the crucible; is the gold deteriorated when it is being deterged from dross?" was responded.
"Infatuated man, would you open the door to the seducer?" asked the seigneur, growing angry with the contumelious lawyer.
"Seducer!" said the advocate, affecting to be shocked: "that is a huge stone to throw at your own son: and remember; is not every man's frame a glass house, whereat the soul that inhabits it should invite no stone throwing from the little red catapult of a neighbour's tongue? Beware, beware; have mercy, Monsieur Montigny. 'All flesh is grass,' the Prophet proclaims; but I assert, 'All flesh is glass.'"
"A woman's reputation is as brittle," was the seigneur's ready repartee; "therefore warn off my son from Stillyside."
"But should he not regard me, sir, what then?"
"Brandish the law over him, your chosen weapon," answered the seigneur.
The lawyer suddenly looked grave, and, affecting to be offended, demanded sternly: "Monsieur Montigny, am I a mere mechanic to do your bidding? Brandish the law indeed! Is, then, the law but an ordinary cudgel, to thwack the shoulders with or beat the brains out? The law, sir, is a sacred weapon, not to be lightly taken up, neither to be profanely applied to paltry uses, any more than we would take the tempered razor to pick a bone, or pare our cheese with. Brandish the law! The man that can talk of brandishing the law would brandish a piece of the true cross, sir, if he had it; he would drink, sir, from his mother's skull, and with his father's thigh-bones play at shinty. What is the law? What less is it than the will and force of all employed for one; the savage sense of justice, disciplined and drilled till it can move in regular array, invincibly, to conquer wrong; surely too vast an engine to be employed on trifles. Who wants a wheel to break a butterfly upon; or, to crush a worm who calls for a pavior's rammer? Monsieur Montigny, listen. Mercy is Heaven's first attribute, and the executioner is the State's meanest, as well as last, servant; shall I, then, stoop to this, who may aspire to that? Shall I wield a whip of legal scorpions before your son, should he seek to re-enter Stillyside? Would you have me, as once Heaven's cherubim stood at the gates of Paradise, with fiery swords turning all ways, to hinder its ejected tenants from breaking back into the garden,—would you have me, I say, stand at my gates at Stillyside, and, meeting young Montigny, flourish in his face a fist full of fasces, in the form of threatened pains and penalties? No; your suit, sir, is denied: you take nothing by your motion."
"Dare you deny," retorted the seigneur, loudly, and with a look of coming triumph; "dare you deny that you are privy to their intimacy; will you assert that you—yourself unseen—have not witnessed my son in secret, midnight conversation with your ward at Stillyside; there overheard them interchanging vows of endless love, and dealing declarations of devotedness unto each other;—I ask you; did you not hear and see these doings, and, even when you did at length surprise the pair, did you not by failing to condemn their folly, give it your silent sanction?"
"Something of this I did," said the advocate coolly, "for I remembered some rather liberal breathings of my own when I was young,—and youth will have its fling,—nay, do not bite your lip, but listen. Monsieur Montigny, thus far we have met guile with guile. Just like two wily fencers, both of us, waiting to spy our advantage, have still witheld the lunge, until, at last, you, having grown desperate, have rushed into the close. Yet, do not let your anger overbear discretion. The heated iron hisses when it is plunged into the trough, but shall we hiss at each other like geese or serpents? Shall we quarrel, deny the undeniable, try to undo the accomplished deed? What is done is done, and not Omnipotence itself, sir, could undo it."
"But we may hinder further evil," observed the seigneur.
"Ay? Would you keep out the lightning by high builded walls?" demanded the advocate, "for you are as likely to accomplish that, as to keep lovers from each other. No, let them alone, for they are as climbing Titans towards their wishes' skies; despising guardians' gates and fathers' fences, just as much as did Briareus and his crew disdain its rugged sides, and risk their necks up steep Olympus, when they were making war on Jove. You cannot bar them. The sun may be debarred from attics, and frost may be kept out of cellars, but, Monsieur Montigny, the mutually enamoured can never be permanently parted. Sir, no more."
"Enamoured he, and she at length dishonoured," cried the seigneur, disregarding the injunction.
"Her honour is its own sufficient guardian," was responded.
"Have regard, sir, to your future peace," was urged.
"Peace, sir, like silence, never comes for calling for," rejoined the advocate.
"Impracticable man, have you no fear?" demanded the foiled Montigny upbraidingly.
"None for my ward; I hope you have as little for your son," said the lawyer sarcastically.
"Your ward invites my son, by sitting upon the verandah at midnight, to attract him when he passes by, as the Hebrew woman, Tamar, once sat to decoy the foolish Judah. Do you deny this? I have learned all, all," outburst the indignant seigneur.
"Do I deny it?" cried the advocate, the blood, in anger, rushing to his face. "Dare you affirm it? Monsieur, if you mean seriously to asperse my ward, I say, prepare;—not for the action of the law,—no, no, I hate the law, when it is cited for myself,—but for the action of an old man's arm. Sir, I have been a swordsman in my youth, and though the lank skeleton of my skill at fence is buried in disuse, it moves now in the grave of this right hand, that so long has wielded only the quiet quill. I do not bid you quail; not I,—but, by the angry devil of the duel, you answer me, either sword point to sword point; or from the pointing pistol, that shall speak both sharp and decisive, and the dotting bullet, perhaps, put a period to your proud life's scrawl. But no; I am grown too old to have recourse to violence. Away, go, go; but, mind you, do not breathe this calumny into a human ear,—no, not into the air. Shame, shame! you are no noble minded man, to villify my ward and your own son; whom, if I accounted to be as strangely base as you have shown yourself to be, and have depicted him, I would forbid to tread within my gates, and hound him from my door at Stillyside."
"Words only anger you," said the astonished and half daunted seigneur.
"Such words as yours have been:" was replied. "What! do you expect to strike upon a bank where bees have settled, yet not be stung; or dream to be allowed to draw the bare hand, clasping down a sword, but not be wounded?"
"What shall I say, yet not offend you?" soothingly enquired Montigny.
"Say what you will," the advocate continued: "what can be worse than what you have said already?"
"Hear me," said the seigneur, in the manner of one who is going to make a confidential proposal: "Either remove your ward, and receive a compensation for her absence, or quickly marry her, and I will provide her with a dower."
"Now you are indeed a generous gentleman," said the advocate, smiling; "You must have built churches, surely, or founded hospitals, and always have dealt out dollars liberally to the deserving. But you are wealthy, and can do these things without being impoverished. It is fortunate that you are wealthy, for I shall accept of no paltry sum. Only imagine, to have to banish her; to quench, or to remove, the very beam that fills my life with light. You must be liberal, if you would have me exile her Come, sign me a bond for what I shall demand."
"You are in haste," observed the seigneur, somewhat startled at the advocate catching so readily at the bait; but the latter was ready with his reply:
"Because your son may now be at Stillyside, and, whilst we are haggling, may carry off my ward,—or I might change my mind," he answered.
"And I, too, may change mine," was the rejoinder.
"Why, then, we are quits;" observed the advocate carelessly, and as if all parley were at an end; "we are as we were, and, for the young ones, they are as they were; but if I know the force of youthful blood, you, with all your endeavours, will not be able long to keep them apart."
"What is your price for her expatriation?" demanded the seigneur sullenly, as if coming to terms; and the advocate replied:
"No, marry her, marry her; we will have her married. We either marry her or do nothing in this business, sir, which, after all, were, perhaps, best left to those who have most interest in it;—but if you think differently, be it yours to find the money, I will find the match:—and let it be understood, that you find her a dowry which would be fitting for a seigneur's daughter; or else, without a dowry, I shall not scruple to give her to a seigneur's son. Why are you silent?"
The proud, perplexed parent made no answer, but secretly groaned in his dilemma, and at length exclaimed: "Insatiate old man, have you no son, the thought of which may teach you to be just towards me and mine? What do I ask of you? Little,—or what would cost you little, yet you ask a fortune of me; and to enrich, too, one, whom, as a punishment, I have reason rather to desire should always be poor. Do not deny it; she has ensnared my son. It is impossible, that he who has roamed over half the world, and has yet come home uncaptivated, though in his travels he has met the fairest and the richest, can have been caught at the mere passing by your farm of Stillyside, can at a glance have been so smitten as to meditate this marriage. No, he has been decoyed, seduced. You might as well declare that a young eagle would not return to its nest, but plunge into some casually discovered coop, and roost there, as aver that, without some irregular influence, Claude Montigny would seek your ward in marriage. If she marry him, she will marry a beggar: not an acre of mine shall he inherit, not a dollar of mine will he receive. Give her a dowry? Give her a dukedom. No, sir; I will not buy brass from you at the price of gold; I will not subsidize you to avoid your ward." And, with the words, he bowed himself out of the room, and the advocate, casting himself backwards in his easy chair, laughing, exclaimed: "Was ever such a proposition started?—started! yes; and shall eventually be carried. It is not what we do, but it is the motive that induced the deed, that gives the color to it. She shall be Madam Montigny, in spite of old Montigny's self; and for her dowry, (which I asked Montigny to provide, only that it might be returned to him through his son), I'll mortgage my old brains to procure it for her."
While you here do snoring lie Open-ey'd conspiracy His time doth take: If of life you keep a care, Shake off slumber, and beware: Awake! Awake!
Amongst the seigniories contiguous to the eastern extremity of the island of Montreal, lies that of Montboeuf. Its present owner was Andre Duchatel, a descendent of the Sieur Duchatel, a cadet of an ancient French noble family, to whom the seigniory was granted by royal letters patent, about the middle of the seventeenth century. But if any nobility of soul, or refinement of aspect existed in the first of the Canadian dynasty of Duchatel, it had not been transmitted to the living representative of the line. As the long hung-up sword or unused ploughshare, lose their brightness and edge from want of use, perhaps these qualities of mind and body had disappeared for want of a fitter field for their display. Andre Duchatel, seigneur of Montboeuf, was a vulgar looking, short, broad-set, florid figure, of fifty years or so; material in his tastes, in disposition obstinate and narrow-minded, unenlarged by education; shy with strangers, yet fond of good fellowship with his acquaintance, and, with much reason, accounted to be rich. He was a widower, but lived in a kind of surly, patriarchal state, in the midst of three sons and a daughter; the former being dissipated and sensual, the latter of a showy person, but in character, superficial, vain, vindictive, proud.