From Temple Bar. falling snow he must travel, into the A FREAK OF CUPID..

heart of this greater snowstorm he travelled, valiant, if somewhat doubt

ful. The earth was white, the firmament When he descended upon the ice of was white, the plumage of the wind was the lake he was no longer accompanied white. The wind flew between curling by the grey length of the log-fences. drift and falling cloud, brushing all. This road across the lake had been well comers with its feathers of light dry tracked after former snowfalls, and so snow. At the sides of the road the the untrodden snow rose high on either posts and bars of log-fences stood above side; branches of fir and cedar, stuck at the drifts; on the side of the bill the short intervals in these snow walls, naked maple-trees formed a soft brush marked out the way. The pony ceased of grey; just in sight, and no more, the to trot. The driver was only astonished white tin roof and grey walls of a huge that this cessation of speed had not church and a small village were visible; come sooner. all else was unbroken snow. The sur- Standing up in his sleigh and looking face of an ice-covered lake, the sloping round he could see two or three other fields, the long straight road between sleighs travelling across nearer the vilthe fences, were as pure, in their far- lage. The village he could no longer reaching whiteness, as the upper levels see, scarcely even the hill, nor was there of some cloud in shadeless air.

any communication over the deep un. A young Englishman was travelling trodden snow between his road and that alone through this region. He had set other on which there were travellers. out from the village and was about to Another hour passed, and now, as he cross the lake. A shaggy pony, a small went on slowly up the length of the sleigh, a couple of buffalo-robes and a lake, all sound and sight of other portmanteau formed his whole equip- sleighs were lost. The cloud was not ment. The snow was light and dry; the dark; the snow fell in such small flakes pony trotted although the road was that it did not seem that even an insoft; the young man, wrapped in his finite number of them could bury the fur-lined coat, had little to do in driv- world; the wind drifting them together, ing.

'though strong, was not boisterous; the In England no one would set out in March evening did not soon darken; such a storm; but this traveller had and yet there was something in the learned that in Canada the snowy past determined action of cloud and wind is regarded as a plaything, or a good and snow, making the certainty that medium of transit, or, at the worst, an night would come with no abatement, encumbrance to be plodded through as which caused even the inexperienced one plods through storms of rain. He Englishman to perceive that he was had found that he was not expected to passing into the midst of a heavy remain at an inn merely because it storm. snowed, and being a man of spirit, he As is frequently the case with travelhad on this day, as on others, done what lers, he had certain directions concernwas expected of him.

ing the road which appeared to be To-day, in the snow and wind, there adequate until he was actually conwas a slight difference from the storms fronted with that small portion of the of other days. The innkeeper, who had earth's surface to which it given him his horse an hour before by sary to apply them. He was to take the the walls of the great tin-roofed church, first road which crossed his, running had looked at the sky and the snow, and from side to side of the lake; but the asked if he knew the road well; but this first cross track appeared to him so had been accepted as an ignorant dis- narrow and so deeply drifted that he trust of the foreign gentleman. Hav. did not believe it to be the public road ing learned his lesson, that through he sought. "Some farm, hidden in the




level maple-bush just seen through the land undulated, the drifts were still falling snow, sends an occasional cart deeper. There were no trees here; he to the village by this by-path,” so he could see no house; there was hardly reassured himself; and the pony, who any evidence, except the evergreen had spied the track first and paused to branches stuck in the sides, that the have time to consider it, at the word of road had ever been trodden. The command obediently plodded its con- March dusk had now fallen, yet not tinuous route. A quarter of a mile darkly. The full moon was beyond the further on the traveller saw something clouds, and whatever wave of light on the road in front; as the sound of his came from declining day or rising pony's jangling bells approached, a night was held in by, and reflected horse lifted its head and shook its own softly from, the storm of pearl. After bells. The horse, the sleigh which it some debate he turned back to the lake ought to have been drawing, were and his former road. It must lead standing still, full in the centre of the somewhere; he pressed steadily on road. The first thought, that it was toward the western end of the lake. cheering to come upon the trace of The western shore was level; he another wayfarer, was checked by the hardly knew when he was upon the gloomy idea that some impassable drift land. The glimmering night blinded must bar the way.

the traveller; no ray of candle light was The other sleigh was a rough wooden in sight. He began to think that he platform on runners. Upon it a man, was destined to see his horse slowly wrapped in a ragged buffalo-skin, lay buried, and himself to fight as long as prostrate. The Englishman jumped might be, a losing battle with the fiends to the ground and waded till he could of the air. lay his hand upon the recumbent figure. At last the plodding pony stopped

At the touch the man jumped fiercely, again resolutely. Long lines of Lomand shook himself from sleep. Warm, bardy poplars here met the road. They luxurious sleep, only that, seemed to were but as the ghosts of trees; their have enthralled him. His cheeks were stately shape, their regular succession, red, his aquiline nose, red also, sug- inspired him with some sentiment of gested some amount of strong drink; romance which he did not stay to but his black eyes were bright, show define. He dimly discerned shrubs as ing that the senses were wholly alive. if planted in a pleasure-ground. Wad. He looked defiant, inquiring. He was a ing and fumbling he found a paling and French-Canadian, apparently a habitant. a gate. The pony turned off the highbut he understood the English questions road with renewed courage in its addressed to him. The curious thing motion; the Englishman, letting loose was that he seemed to have no reason the rein, found himself drawn slowly for stopping. When he had with diffi- up a long avenue of the ghostly poplar culty made way for the gentleman to trees. The road was straight, the land pass him on the road, he followed was flat, the poplars were upright. slowly, as it seemed reluctantly. A The simplicity affected him with the mile further on the Englishman, now notion that he was coming to an enfar in front, suspected that the other chanted palace. The pony approached had again stopped, and wondered much. the door of a large house, dim to the The man's face had impressed him; the sight; its huge pointed tin roof, its high cheek bones, the aquiline nose, the stone sides, mantled as they were with clearness of the eye and complexion, snowflakes and fringed with icicles at these had not expressed dull folly. eaves and lintels, hardly gave a dark

Now the Englishman came to another outline in the glimmering storm. The cross road, wider but more deeply rays of light which twinkled through drifted than the track he was on. He chinks of shutters might be analogous turned into it and ploughed the drifts. to the stars produced by a stunned When he reached the shore, where the brain; it seemed to the Englishman that

if he went up and tried to knock on the don at play. Above all, as evidence of door the ghostly house, the ghostly her youth, there was that inward quiver poplar avenue, would vanish. The of delight at his appearance and presthought was born of the long monotony ence, veiled perfectly, but seen behind of a danger which had called for no the veil, as one may detect glee rising in activity of brain or muscle on his part. the heart of a child even though it be The pony knew better; it stopped before upon its formal behavior. the door.

“Can you tell me if there is any house The traveller stood in a small porch within reach where I can stop for the raised a step or two from the ground. night?” He gave a succinct account of The door was opened by a middle-aged his journey, the lost road, the increasFrench woman clad in a peasant's gown ing storm. “My horse is dead tired, of bluish-grey. Behind her holding a but it might go a mile or so further." lamp a little above her head, stood a The serving-woman, evincing some young girl, large, womanly in form, little curiosity, received from the girl with dimpled softness of face, and an interpretation in low and rapid dressed in a rich but quaint garment of French. The woman expressed by her amber color. With raised and statu- gestures some pity for man and beast. esque wrist, she held the lamp aloft to The girl replied with gentle brevity:keep the light from dazzling her eyes. “We know that the roads are snowed She was looking through the doorway úp. The next house is three miles with the quiet interest of responsibility, farther on.” nothing of which was expressed in the He hesitated, but his necessity was servant's furrowed countenance. obvious. “Is the master of the house at home?" "I am afraid I must beg for a night's “There is no master."

shelter." The girl spoke with a mellow voice He had been wondering a good deal and with a manner of soft dignity; yet, what she would say, how she would having regarded the stranger, there accede, and then he perceived that her leaped into her face, as it seemed to dignity knew no circumlocution. I him, behind the outward calm of the will send the man for your horse.” She dark eyes and dimpling curves, a cer- said it with hardly a moment's pause. tain excited interest and delight. The

The woman gave him a small broom, current of thought thus revealed con

an implement to the use of which he trasted with the calm which she in- had grown accustomed, and disapstinctively turned to him, as tủe words peared upon the errand. The girl stood which an actor speaks aside contrast still in her statuesque pose of lightwith those which are not soliloquy.

bearer. The young man busied himself With more hesitation, more obvious in brushing the snow from cap and coat modesty, he said:

and boots. As he brushed himself he “May I speak to the mistress of the felt elation in the knowledge, not house?”

ordinarily uppermost, that he was a I am the mistress."

good-looking fellow and a gentleman. He could but look upon her more intently. She could not have been more than eighteen years of age. Her hair “My name is Courthope.” The visitor, had the soft and loose manner of lying denuded of coat and cap, presented his upon her head that is often seen in hair card, upon which was written, “Mr. which has, till lately, been allowed to George Courthope." hang loose to the winds. Her dress, He began telling his hostess whence folded over the full bosom and sweep he came and what was his business. A ing to the ground in ample curves, was, quarry which a dead relative had belittle as he could have described a

queathed to him had had sufficient modern fashion, even to his eyes evi- attraction to bring him across the sea dently fantastic-such as a child might and across this railless region. His few



words of self-introduction were mingled glish, like father. He says “cawn't," with and followed by regrets for his in- and "shawn't," and "heah," and trusion, expressions of excessive grat. "theyah”-genuine, no affectation. Oh” itude. All the time his mind was ques- (here came a little gurgle of joy), "and tioning amazedly.

to-night too! It's the first perfectly By the time the speeches which he joyful thing that has ever come to us." deemed necessary were finished, he had Courthope moved quietly back and followed the girl into a spacious room, stood before the blazing logs, looking furnished in the large gay style of the down into them with a smile of pure fifties, brilliantly lit, as if for a festival, pleasure upon his lips. and warmed by a log fire of generous It was not long before the door, which dimensions. Having led him in, listen- she had left ajar, was re-opened, and a ing silently the while, and put her light-wheeled chair was pushed into the additional lamp upon the table, she now room. It contained a slight, elfin-like spoke, with no empressement, almost girl, white-faced, flaxen-haired, sharpwith a manner of insouciance.

featured, and arrayed in gorgeous crim“You are perfectly welcome; my son. The elder sister pushed from befather would never have wished his hind. The little procession wore an air house to be inhospitable."

of triumphant satisfaction, still temWith her words his own apologies pered by the proprieties. seemed to lose their significance; be felt "This is my sister,” said the mistress a little foolish, and she, with some of the house, slight evidence of childish awkward- “I am very glad to see you, Mr. Courtness, seemed to seek a pretext for short hope.” The tones of Eliz were sharp escape.

and thin. She was evidently acting a "I will tell my sister.” These words part, as with the air of a very grand came with more abruptness, as if the lady she held out her uand. interior excitement was working itself He was somewhat dazzled. He felt to the surface.

it not inappropriate to ask if he had The room was a long one. She went entered fairyland. Eliz would have anout by a door at the farther end, and, as swered him with fantastic affirmative, with intense curiosity he watched her but the elder sister, like a sensible child quickly receding form, he noticed that who knew better how to arrange the when she thought herself out of his game, interposed. sight she entered the other room with "I'll explain it to you. Eliz and I are a skip. At that same end of the room giving a party to-night. There hasn't hung a full-length portrait of a gentle- been any company in the house since man. It was natural that Courthope father died four years ago, and should walk towards it, trying to be- know he wouldn't like us to be dull, so come acquainted with some link in the when our stepmother went out, and train of circumstances which had raised sent word that she couldn't come back this enchanted palace in the wilderness; to-night, we decided to have a grand he had not followed to hear, but he party. There are only to be play-people, overheard.

you know; all the people in Miss Aus“Eliz, it's a real young man!"

ten's books are coming, and the nice No! you are only making up, and” ones out of 'Sir Charles Grandison.'» (here a touch of querulousness) "I've She paused to see if he understood. often told you that I don't like make- “Are the 'Mysteries of Udolpho' in. ups that one wants too much to be true. vited ?” he asked. I'll only have the Austens and Sir -"No, the others we just chose here and Charles and Evelina and"

there, because we liked them-Evelina, “Eliz! He's not a make-up; the fairies although she was rather silly and we have sent him to our party. Isn't it told her that we couldn't have Lord just fairilly entrancing? He has a curly Ormond, and Miss Matty and Brother moustache and a nice nose. He's En- Peter out of ‘Cranford,' and Moses


Wakefield, because we liked him best real person too; just a Mr. Courthope of the family, and the Portuguese nun come in by accident." who wrote the letters. We thought we "Well, then he can help us in the rewould have liked to invite the young ceiving and chatting to them.” Eliz man in 'Maud' to meet her, but we de- was quite reconciled. cided we should have to draw the line He felt glad to realize that his missomewhere and leave out the poetry- take had been merely playful. "In that people.”

case, may I have dinner without growThe girl, leaning her forearms slightly ing grey?" He asked it of Madge, and on the back of her sister's chair, gave her smile came back, so readily did she the explanation in soft, business-like forget what she had hardly consciously tones, and there was only the faintest perceived. lurking of a smile about the corners of When the sharp-voiced little Eliz had her lips to indicate that she kept in view been wheeled into the dining-room to both reality and fantasy.

superintend some preparations there beI think that I shall have to ask for fore the meal was ready, Courthope an introduction to the Portuguese nun,” could again break through the spell that said Courthope; --the others, I am happy the imaginary reception imposed. He to say, I have met before.

came from his dressing-room to find A smile of approval leapt straight out Madge at the housewifely act of reof her dark eyes into bis, as if she would plenishing the fire. Filled with curihave said: “Good boy! you have read osity, unwilling to ask questions, be quite the right sort of books!"

remarked that he feared she must often Eliz was not endowed with the same feel lonely, that he supposed Mrs. well-balanced sense of proportion; for King did not often make visits unacthe time the imaginary was the real. companied by her daughters.

"The only question that remains to be "She does not, worse luck!" Madge on decided," she cried, is, who you would her knees replied with childish prefer to be. We will let you choose audacity. Bingley, or Darcy, or

“I hope when she returns she may not "It would be fair to tell him," said be offended by my intrusion.” the other, her smile broadening now, "Don't hope it,”—she smiled—“such that it's only the elderly people and hope would be vain.” notables who have been invited to din. He could not help laughing. ner, the young folks are coming in “Is it dutiful then of you”-he paused after; so if you are hungry- _Her _"or of me?" soft voice paused, as if suspended in "Which do you prefer—to sleep in the mid-air, allowing him to draw the in- barn, or that I should be undutiful and ference.

disobey my stepmother?” “It depends entirely on who you are, In a minute she gave her chin that who I would like to be." He did not lift in the air that he had seen before. realize that there was undue gallantry "You need not feel uncomfortable in his speech; he felt exactly like an- about Mrs. King; the house is really other child playing, loyally determined mine, not hers, and father always had to be her mate, whatever the character his house full of company. 'I am doing that might entail. “I will even be the my duty to him in taking you in, and in idiotic Edward if you are Eleanor Dash- making a feast to please Eliz when the wood.”

stepmother happens to be away and I Her chin was raised just half an inch can do it peaceably. And when she higher; the smile that had been peeping happens to be here I do my duty to him from eyes and dimples seemed to retire by keeping the peace with her.” for the moment

"Is she unkind to you?” he asked, “Oh, we,” she said, "are the hostesses. with the ready, overflowing pity that My sister is Eliz King and I am Madge young men are apt to give to pretty King, and I think you had better be a women who complain.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »