John Talbot Smith.

Saranac : a story of Lake Champlain online

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Chapter I. The Pilot's Son, i

" II. Mr. Grady Admired the French, 12

" III. The Senior Partner, - 20

" IV. A Rehearsal, ... 29

" V. The Letter from Texas, - - 38

" VI. Vengeance Delayed, - 47

" VII. After the Play, .... 56

" VIII. The Pilot's Bargain, - - 69

" IX. Quiet Times, ... 78

" X. Tim Grady in Texas, - 85

" XI. An Odd Letter, .... 91

" XII. A Change of Heart, - - 103

" XIII. Winthrop's Temptation, - - 112

" XIV. The Steamer's Fate, - - 117

XV. Amed^e! 129

" XVI. A Texas Steer, ... 141

XVII. Banished, 153

XVIII. A Climax, .... 161

" XIX. Winthrop in Favor, - - - 175

" XX. A Lawn Party, 184

XXL- The Wedding, .... 199

XXII. A Revelation, ... 210




Chapter XXIII. At Rest, 219

" XXIV. Rejected ! .... 230
" XXV. Open Confession, - - -239
" XXVI. The Fair, .... 250
" XXVII. AmedSe's Daughter, - - - 273



In Saranac the world was celebrating New Year's
Day, or as the villagers themselves would call it le
Jour de Van, The day of all the year ; and because of
a certain custom connected with this celebration a
difficulty had sprung up in the household of Mrs.
Sullivan, at five o'clock of the morning, which brought
trouble to the hearts of her two grandchildren. Sara-
nac was a border town, with a mixed population,
American by instinct and training, French Canadian,
Irish, English, and a mixture of all three at times in
the matters of blood and sentiment. Hence there
were all sorts of customs and traditions and senti-
ments in Saranac, and all sorts of difficulties springing
from them ; and one of these had intruded on Mrs.
Sullivan on the unluckiest day of all the year for such
a thing to happen. Because this good woman held it
as an axiom almost, that the troubles of New Year's
Day are sure to repeat themselves daily the entire
year. She was therefore careful to make the festival
one of unbounded joy, to banish all words, thoughts,
and deeds smacking of sorrow. It was a heroic effort
for a reminiscent mind, but success had so often re-
warded the effort as to make it easy in the end.

Mrs. Sullivan's eldest daughter one day married a

young neighbor with French blood and a French
name. This event had occurred eleven years before
the story opens, the young man was now dead a year,
and the daughter had returned with her two children
to her mother's house. Mrs. Sullivan was annoyed at
one feature of these incid .-nts. It was not only her
daughter who came home, but also her daughter's
French children, with pretty French names and
fashions, the Sullivan blood prominent but ornamen-
ted so daintily as to stir her wrath daily against
" Frinch notions." The children and their mother
spoke excellent French, and it seemed to the grand-
mother that the Sullivan had been extinguished in the

"Afther fightin' the Frinch for thirty years," she
exclaimed to a friend, " here I have a houseful o' thim.
Wirra, to think I'd ever see the day whin wan o' me
name 'ud be a grandmother to Frinchmen!"

The position however was not hopeless, and grand-
ma's severity was never called out except to repress
or condemn "Frinch notions" in her children. Her
harshness on this point gave Remi and Elise a dread
of offending her. And when New Year's morning
came and it was necessary to ask grandma's blessing
according to Canadian custom the first serious diffi-
culty of life in grandma's home presented itself. They
had always received papa's blessing on that happy
day, and papa before he died had commanded them
to ask it thenceforth from Grandma Sullivan. It was
five o'clock in the morning, and down in the kitchen
they could hear her clattering the dishes briskly while
they stood in their white night-dresses at the head of
the stairs talking.

" You go first and ask her," said Remi in French,
" and you can have my sled all day."

" You're a boy, you ought to go first," said Elise,
not caring much to bargain.

" Let us not go at all," he ventured.

" But papa, you forget, Remi," said Elise tearfully.

"I don't forget, but what's the use of asking
when there'll be a big fuss made and no good come
of it." .

" Well, you take my hand and let us go down even,"
said Elise, " and I'll ask her."

"All right. But mind I run the minute she says
' that's another Frinch notion.' "

They giggled a little over grandma's brogue, and
then stole softly dowa the stairs. Only a vivid re-
membrance of papa's command prevented a stampede
from the door. There was a long and dreadful pause
outside the kitchen.

" I'm going back to bed," said Remi, but Elise
threw open the door and both little figures bowed
very sweetly to grandma as they wished her a happy
New Year and kissed her and showed their gifts from
mamma and Uncle Hugh. Then grandma being in
a good humor the little diplomats knelt down at her
knees and Elise said with her heart in her mouth :

' Please, grandma, give us your benediction."

" Me what," said the astonished lady.

" Your blessing, grandma," said Remi.

" Another Frinch notion," snapped Mrs. Sullivan.
" Yez have me tired wid 'em. Shure, haven't ye me
blessin' mornin', noon, and night the year round, and
why do ye be wantin' it New Year's Day above anny
other time ? "

" Papa told us to come to you," said Elise, holding
Remi so tightly that he could not move.

" Well, he had some sinse if he was Frinch," said
the old lady, " the Lord rest his sowl this day ! It's
not refusin' his orphans annythm' I'd be, an' the whole
house is yours while ye're in it. But I'll have no
Frinch notions here "

" Please, grandma," sniffled Elise.

"An* to day the first of the year to begin id in
Frinch style I wouldn't do it for an angel, glory be
to God, let alone a Lajeunesse "

" To-morrow's just as good," said Remi.

" But papa said to-day," and Elise puckered up her
features for a good cry when grandma picked her up
and kissed the wrinkles away, saying :

" Don't cry on New Year's day, acushla, ye can
take me binedictlon, or whatever ye call it - it's not
much good anyhow an' don't have a wet eye or a
cross word for any living sowl to-day."

And grandma went on then to scold th'-nu for not
being more like the Sullivans, and to praise them for
remembering their father's wishes, and to describe the
way her county in Ireland celebrated New Year's day
without anything French or Protestant about it, only
the pure, sweet Irish and Catholic way, which was
better than any other in the whole world, until Elise
nearly cried again with grief that her name was not
Sullivan and she had not been born in Ireland. But
the blessing of grandma was enough to make the day
bright for the children, and they forgot their own
names in the joy and fun of the festival.

" As the day began, so it will end," said Mrs. Sulli-
van to her daughter, in describing how her blessing

had been given. " It s a Frinch day for this house
God help us. I never see the like of it afore - it'll
be Frinch here, an 1 Frinch there where'll ye put 'em
all, Julia, I'd like to know, and yer relatives comin'
to see ye, Tony Christmas, and Bony Batcheese. an'
all the other beautiful names that belongs to 'em."

" See here, mother," said Hugh, " you want to be
careful how you step out to-day. This is the day for
making up among old enemies, and as sure as Mrs.
Bobeau meets you she'll speak to you, and perhaps
kiss you right in the street."

Mrs. Sullivan's indignation at the mere mention of
such a scene was too great for words, and lest it might
really come to pass she hurried away to Mass as the
first bell was ringing, and so escaped a reconciliation.
The snow was heavy on the ground. The sun did
not honor the day with his appearance. The great
Lake Champlain, on which Saranac stands, stretched
away for miles in its covering of snow and ice, with
black shores and grim mountains around. A man
stood in the street reading a letter as Mrs. Sullivan
passed by.

" 'Appy Noo Yir," he said. " I s'pose Cap'n Sulli-
van will be at church to day ?"

" The same to you, Misther Rush ; I hope he will,"
said Mrs. Sullivan. " It's where every Christian ought
to be."

" If I don't see Mm this mornin', tell 'im I'll be
round to night to 'ave a talk with 'im."

" I will, sor," with chilling dignity, and under her
breath, " Of course ye'll be round, ye'll all be round
to see the Lajeunesses, but you won't see me, good
man, if I can help it."

It was really a French Canadian day, however, and
Mrs. Sullivan found it hard to withstand the hearty
and polite manner of the people. The churchgoers
were out in force before she got half way up the
street. They came in threes and fives and tens,
whole family groups of three generations, the young
ones laughing ever their awkward attempts to get the
day's benediction from their parents, the old ones
blocking the way with vigorous handshaking of
friends. The streets of the town looked festive with
the movement of the cheerful procession which Mrs.
Sullivan unconsciously headed on the way to the
church. A few neighbors tried to overtake her in
vain. By this behavior she escaped the dreaded
congratulations, and once inside the church she
was secure for two hours. Even here the French
idea pursued her. The green trimmings on the walls
were put on in Canadian style, and the priest preach-
ed a French sermon to please the majority of his
people, who, nevertheless, understood and spoke Eng-
lish well.

" I'll be talkin' the language meself before I get
home," said Mis. Sullivan at this last pinch to her
feelings, and in a kind of despair she went out with the
crowd, and was shaken and pushed and laughed at
and talked to almost to her o ?n door where Mrs.
Bobeau was waiting for her to put the seal on the
degradation of the Sullivans by kissing her and asking
her to be a friend once more.

" And this is only the beginning" she sighed.

The door bell was ringing constantly all the after-
noon, and from the parlor came a steady flow of talk
and laughing and the clinking of glasses with enough

French conversation to exasperate her. Mrs. Lajeu-
nesse and Captain Hugh Sullivan did the honors,
and seemed to like it. They tried to coax her into
the room, but her steady reply was, " I'm Irish Let
the Frinch celebrate without me." And they did,
quite used to the polite indisposition which Mrs. Sul-
livan suffered from on New Year's Day. But the
night being come, the townspeople went each to his
own tea-table, and the home was left to its own. The
lamps were lighted and the curtains drawn, and Mrs.
Sullivan had the floor.

" Now, mother,'' said the Captain cheerfully, " let
us hear how you celebrated in the County Down or
Limerick on this glorious day."

" I was born in the County Limerick," said his
mother, with dignity, "and rared in the County

" All Ireland," said Remi, " isn't as big as New
York State."

"Hush, Remi," said mamma, in a tone of warn

"The more shame to New York State," said Mrs.
Sullivan, " to let a little island bate it all to pieces.
The State is good enough. I can't find any fault on'y
wid the people in it."

The bell rang. " Ye might be in Ireland twenty
New Year's Days," she continued, " an' the bell on
the door wouldn't ring as often as this afternoon

" Because why ?" said the Captain. " Were there
no bells ?"

" Bekase why, sor ? Bekase the people had too
much sense to go round bell-ringing anny day."


" Captain LaRoche to see Uncle Hugh," bawled
Rerui from the parlor door.

" He towld me he was comin' to see ye," said Mrs.
Sullivan, " but I forgot all about it, I declare. Let
him walk right in, child. Wan captain more won't
spoil the broth."

LaRoche was a swarthy lake sailor of sixty, griz-
zled and weather-beaten, but good for twenty years
more of the peaceful, healthful life which his kind en-
joys on Lake Champlain. He bowed with his never-
failing French courtesy to each person present, and
when the greetings and inquiries were done, handed
Hugh a letter.

" See what you can make out of that," he said.

The children took possession of him in a moment,
while Hugh was reading, and wormed a short story
out of him concerning the great storms on the lake
and the great boats that had been wrecked. Then
Hugh looked up from his letter.

"I never well understood," he said, "just how your
son got into trouble, and so perhaps I don't see what
this letter means."

" You were a boy, Cap'n," said LaRoche, " w'en
Amedee got hisself into a mess he'll never git out of,
I s'pose. Your mother knows about it. He was a
smart boy, Amedee, too smart for his own good. He
worked for Winthrop & Co., as clerk, and took to
drinkin' an' carryin' on. That's wot brought him
low, Cap'n. He took to helpin' hisself at last of their
money. W'en it was found out he run away an' I
hain't seen him sence."

** There was an awful row over it, wasn't there ?"
said Rcmi, deeply interested.

' No, 'twas very quite. All I knowed about it was
when Howard DeLaunay come tome and told me
about it. Amedec was gone then with three thous-
and dollars spent of their money. Winthrop wanted to
follow him, but DeLaunay saie no. All they could do
was to jail him. What was the use o' that when the
money was gone. The story got out, o' course, and made
it pretty hard for me an 1 the ol' woman. She hain't
ever quite got over it. He was all we had to home,
an' we couldn't make up our minds to losin' our boy
that way. We never calc'lated on it."

"No, God help ye, nor would anny wan," said
sympathetic Mrs. Sullivan. " An' have ye never heard
of him?"

" That's a letter from him," pointing to the letter
which Hugh had just read. " He writes onct in a
while. He seems to be a wild sort of boy yit, an'
stays mostly in Texas. What do you make of it,
Cap'n ?"

" I'll think over it," said Hugh carelessly. The old
man folded the letter sadly and seemed disappointed.
At a sign from Hugh the members of the family,
one after another, excused themselves for a mo-
ment, and did not return. The two men were
alone together, although LaRoche did not yet per-
ceive it. He had great respect for the opinion of
young Sullivan, on whose boat he had been for
many years a wheelsman.

" Your son seems to think," said Hugh, " that he
did not take as much money as they say."

" Do you know what I thought when I read that
letter ?" and the old man's eyes looked savage an in-


" Better not say it, LaRoche, until you know more
about it "

" Well, look at the words, Cap'n." He unfolded
the letter and read slowly as if he were spelling each

" I met Jack Wilson out here not long ago, and
heard all about you, and the stories they tell of me.
Someone is lying, father, when it is said I stole
over three thousand dollars. As there is a God above
me I never took over two hundred from the safe, and
that I no more intended to steal than if I took De-
Launay's hat for an hour's walk. Put down those
stories, father, every time."

" W'en I read that letter," said the old man, " I'll
tell you wot I thought. My boy was al'ays hones' as
the day. I never knew 'im to steal. If he hadn't
gone so quick, I'd 'a spent my las' cent to save 'im.
W'en I read that letter I thought someone did that
stealin' an' put it on to my boy. They made 'im be-
lieve he took it, or that he took some, an' sent 'im off
in a hurry like a real thief, and left us 'is mother an'
me him a poor, brokeup thing in Texas

His confused speech ended in a low, violent sob.

" I'll tell you what you can do," said Hugh. " I
guess you had better let me do it. You're not fit
just now to do anything with such an idea as that.
It's impossible. But I'll look up the circumstances
that happened after Amedee ran away. I'll send him
a good account of them, and ask him to send us his
story. Then you can see how foolish this fancy is. I
wish it was different. But it isn't. You'd better be-
lieve that "

" I mus' believe it," said LaRoche, " until the other


side has its say. You can look after it, Hugh. You're
edicated, an' know jest how to go about it. It's fifteen
years, you know. The ol' woman is crying at home
now, for it's fifteen New Years she hasn't seen him.
She has no hopes to see him ever any more."

" Are you going to write to him soon ?"

" He won't let us write often. Onct a year, some-
times twice he sends us a new address. He's al'ays
movin'. He sent us a new address this time, Osboroe,

" Then leave all to me," said Hugh as he attended
the old man to the door and bade him good night. He
stood there thinking a few minutes over the passage
in the letter. It might mean a good deal, and it
probably meant no more than the defiant scrawl of a
ruined adventurer, anxious to hold some place still in
the esteem of his wretched parents. The common
report of Amedee La Roche had made him a fast
young man, not bad but foolish, who had spent all
the money his hands could touch, and for his father's
sake was spared the agony of pursuit and the shame
of a prison. Hugh Sullivan had never before heard
his father speak of him, and he was astonished to see
how firm had been the recent hope that his son might
yet prove himself an innocent and wronged man. This
could be done only by proving some very respectable
people respectable rascals, which in the present case
would be the most daring and hopeless task any man
could set himself.

" Well, God help him," said Mrs. Sullivan when
they were in the sitting-room again, " he has the
father's heart and the father's sorra, even if he is a



The next morning asnow-and-wind storm had taken
lodgings in Saranac. There was already a hard-packed
covering of snow on the ground. The contributions
of January and February were yet to come, and the
first came generously. A west wind sent every snow-
flake to the ground like a bullet from the gun ; where
it attacked a street or a lonely building it sent the
frightened snow dashing into the air against itself, and
played all the pranks of a mad artist with a picture.
In an hour Saranac was partly effaced and altogether
defaced. Streets were filled up, houses shrouded
from peak to foundation stone with daubs of snow, and
sight of the world limited to a twenty-foot circle. The
wind roared and shrieked without a second's abace-
ment. A storm in Saranac, for a really harmless and
beneficent creature, was as wild as a Texan broncho,
and while it held possession of the town ended all oc-
cupations except those which must go on in spite of
death or weather. It stayed three days and often
five, during which time Saranac fo^k ate apples, drank
cider, cracked butternuts, ar.d told stories in an ad-
mirable, never-out of fashion way.

Mr. Tim Grady, who was a Saranac philosopher of
eminence, and so many things besides that only along
history might detail them, always found a strong
reason for vis ting Mrs. Sullivan in stormy weather;


not only because her cider had a Celtic sting and her
apples a Limerick flavor, but chiefly because Mrs.
Sullivan was a skeptic as to Mr. Grady's learning and
had to be convinced by illustration and overthrown by
argument oftener than more credulous people. No
sooner was the old gentleman prevented by bad
weather from his usual tour of the town than he
crossed the garden and knocked at Mrs. Sullivan's
kitchen door, carrying in his hand the latest news
from Limerick, and in his mind a few intellectual
fireworks to knock the skepticism of the old lady
dumb. Some said this and others said that concern-
ing these visits. There was nothing to be said, how-
ever, but what this story shall discover, the return of
Mrs. Lajeunesse to her mother's home having blighted
every hope that Tim Grady might have entertained
towards his countrywoman. He was in the kitchen
paring an apple as early as eight o'clock that stormy
morning. Hugh was still abed. The children were
playing in the parlor and chattering like birds in
French, while Mrs. Sullivan listened in pleased won-
der to the fluent tongues.

"Isn't it wondherful, Misther Grady," said she,
"how they can undherstand wan another, talkin'
away wid such gibberish I an' thin in a minute they
turn to English and away they go as fast in that as
ever I could."

Mr. Grady listened to this simple wonderment with
a smile of pity widening his wide mouth, and a criti-
cal glance for the pulp of the pared apple in his

"'Tis as you say, Mrs. Soollivan," he replied, " but
if ye'll remimber Patrick Sweeny, that was brought


up two miles from your own father's house in Kilbeg
his mother was a Sheehy of Youghal an' his father
sint him for twelve years to Paris to study, why,
woman dear, he had seven languages jist as pat to his
tongue as butter to buttermilk."

" Wor thim the Sweeny's of the Red barns ?" said
Mrs. Sullivan.

" The very same, ma'am. I mind me o' hearin'
Patrick call home the min to dinner in the seven
languages, an' his own aunt tould me he had the hair
sthandin' on her head talkin' Haybrew to her the
whole time she was there,"

" Was that the widdy Powers beyant the big hill ?"

"The same, ma'am." "Faith, thin," said Mrs.
Sullivan, "he must have talked her hair aff wid his
Haybrew, for her poll was as smooth as a bullyard
ball afore I left Limerick."

"An' there was Cardinal Mezzofanti," continued Mr.
Grady, not heeding this rebuke to his veracity, " he
spoke fifty-eight languages before he died."

"Where did he find 'em all to learn, Misther
Grady? I thought there was only the Irish, an'
Dutch, an' the Frinch besides the English. An' sure
they're enough to bother our brains widout puttin'
any more onto us. That's what I say."

" Did ye ever hear tell o' the tower o' Babel," said
Mr. Grady with that air which warned the old lady
that the moment to crush her had arrived.

"I did as well as other people," she answered boldly.

" Well there's where he picked up his fifty eight,

" An' did he have to go as far as that for 'em, poor

Mr. Grady refused to pursue the subject any fur-
ther, conscious that he had overwhelmed Mrs. Sulli-
van if she were the sort of a woman to submit when
knocked down and out. There was a silence of a few
minutes until her greatest grievance jogging her mem-
ory she cautiously opened her mind to Mr. Grady.

"Yistherday was a great day for the Frinch," she

" It was a great day for us all I hope, Mrs. Sulli-

" Ay, but isn't it sfhrange how they all come out on
that day wid colors an' ribbons an' silks an' velvets,
an' make nothin' at all o' Christmas day just like hay-

" I never saw a woman that had so much agin the
Frinch as you have," said Mr. Grady with a touch of
severity. " Now if you knew, Mrs Sullivan "

" I don't want to know."

"If you knew, Mrs. Sullivan "

" Why couldn't they let me alone, and take some-
wan like yourself to play their thricks an "

" If you knew, Mrs. Sullivan, all we owe to them "

" All they owe to us, you mane, Misther Grady.
Sure they owe everywan, an' it's not us that 'ud owe
the likes o' them."

" Now, I'll tell ye ma'am, why I admire the Frinch,"
said Mr. Grady with savage deliberation. " First of
all to begin right here at home, they helped this coun-
thry whin it needed help against England in the great
an' glorious sthruggle for independence in '76. An'
next," with increased vehemence, " they have been as
good Catholics as wan 'ud wish to see till lately. An'
best of all whin Irishmin wanted a home, which they


couldn't git annywhere else, Frinchrain gev it to thim.
.An' whin Ireland wanted help she sint her soldiers to
help her. Look at the Frinch ginerals that fought
Orange William," this was a favorite figure with Mr.
Grady and most exasperating to Mrs. Sullivan,
" look at Gineral Humbert landin' his throops on the
shores o' Bantry Bay, look at what the great Napoleon
said to Emmet, * me heart is wid ye, but me hands
are full,' look at"

" Ay, luk, luk, luk, ' cried Mrs. Sullivan with scorn,
" its a wondher yer eyes are not turned round wid
lukkin' backwards. Well, ould man, I luk to Saranac,
an' I see what I see, an' I don't care for Napoleon or
Emmet or anny other great gineral. What did they

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Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 1 of 18)