John Talbot Smith.

Saranac : a story of Lake Champlain online

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by the Saranac mind ; the injustice done him by De
Launay was felt, but not clearly known ; the thrilling
events of his return had touched every h eart ; it was
precise'y like a story in the Ledger, but alas ! the
hero was dying at the moment his prosperity was
greatest. So the Saranac people wept, and called to
fee their hero in numbers. Mrs. DeLaunay brought
fl^we-s, and smoothed his pillow ; Regina and her
father agreed with her that it was not the place for
them.

" It would certainly trouble his dreams to see
either of you," said Mrs. DeLaunay. This was true,
for the only shadow on his dying hours, very light it
was, sprang from the thoughts of what might have
been. It was too far off to cause any resentment.
Mrs. DeLaunay had the pleasure of seeing Tim
Grady a penitent at Amedee's bedside. Humiliation
had not conquered the old man's conceit, but the
failure of his most precise prophecies had softened
his heart. The whole town was weeping over his



221

godson, how could he, who had the right and duty to
weep, stand apart with dry eyes ! And the boy had
done we 1 ', and was going down to the grave like
a Christian. He came in to see him, therefore,
bringing a crucifix indulged for the dying, whose like
was not in the county outside of the priest's house.
This was his excuse ; and then after much hemming
he made Hs appeal just as Mrs. DeLaunay entered
in her quietest way and sat down near the door un-
coticed.

" I'm goin' to ask yer pardon, Amede"e," said Mr.
Grady with the air of one who was astonishing the
town, and Atnede"e made a gesture of dissent, but the
old man continued, "for makin' things harder for ye
at the start than they ought to've been ; but I was
mighty uncertain about yez, an' I was afraid ye'd
break yer mother's heart, an' ruin yer father, for I did
not belave ye had such will an' grace in ye, as ye've
shown. An' if people hadn't interfered I'd have come
long ago to tell ye this, an' let ye know I stud up for
ye agin DeLaunay whin yer own flesh an' blood gev
ye up. But people will interfere. An' I don't forget
ye're me godson, an' I was as proud of ye for twenty
years as if ye were me own ; ye know that ; an' I'm
proud of ye now, prouder than ever ; an' I hope ys
won't go without forgivin' me, an' on me knees," he
went dovn at the word, " I ask yer pardon for the
mane things I did, an' the mane words I said agin ye,
which was agin me bounden duty, sence a god father
should stick to his godson through sin and shame, in
all weathers, till the last breath. Do you forgive me,
Amede'e ?"

" Oh, Tim,'' said Amedee, " I forgive if there's any-



222

fiing to forg've. You always did what you thought
right. Now whisper." Tim rose, and bent over him.
* I don't wish the others to hear. When I am dead,
do you prepare me for the coffin. Remember, I want
no one but you, godfather, and anyone you choose to
help you, to prepare my body.''

The unbidden tears burst suddenly fron Tim's
eyes, and for a moment he could not speak.

" I'll see to it," he said at last, and turned to the
door. Mrs. DeLaunay saluted him gravely, and
whiskered:

"You were slow in earning to it, Mr. Grady, but I
was delighted to hear your apologies to that poor boy,
and see you on your knees to him at last.''

His glance ought to have slain her. HP went down
to the store where Captain LaRoche and Monsieur
Narcisse McCarthy kept watch on each other, and
from that moment began to order them about like
cash boys. As they were all old friends they quar-
relled amicably. No one was kinder to Amedee in
his sickness than John Winthrop, who felt a meek re-
morse for his share in the first misfortunes of the man.
As a lawyer he could not avoid being harsh at that
timi*, but his harshness had been unnecessary. He
made up for it now by sharing the watch in the sick-
room with Hugh, and by a hundred little kindnesses.
It occurred to Arae^ee one day that Winthrop might
like to know what he had said to Regina concerning
those letters ; he could not help thinking there was
something more serious in that bit of deception than
he could make out ; and John's kindnesi deserved
that he should be enlightened. He forgot the matter
directly until one morning the young men were leav-



223

ing him after the night watch. Then he called Win-
throp to the bedside.

" I should have told you before,'' he said, "that you
and I were not altogether strangers when we met
here first. Do you remember the tramp whom you
paid to hand certain letters to Miss DeLaunay, that
night the Adirondack went ashore above Westport.
I am chat tramp "

* You surprise me," said Winthrop, and he might
have added, you alarm me, so great and sudden a
fear took hold of him, turning his face slowly to a
blue pallor.

" I was doubtful of that affair," continued Amedee,
" and I told Miss DeLaunay the whole story. She
didn't seem to mind it. I hope there was no harm
in it. But I just thought you ought to know."

" Thank you," said Winthrop calmly. " It is of no
account. No harm was done, and it need not trouble
your conscience "

But he cursed that conscience under his breath
with a blasphemy that could not be put on paper.

" I am so glad," said Amede"e. " Good morning."

It was the last morning Amedee saw with mortal
eyes. When the priest made his usual visit shortly
after the breakfast hour he saw for the first time the
death-look in the patient face. For that matter he
might have seen it in the faces of wift and mother,
who had both recognized the fatal sign when the
morning Tght first betrayed it. Their mute glances
towards the priest while they waited for his decision
were half hopeful, half-despairing. He gave them a
look of intelligence, and with a gesture ordered ths
usual preparations.



224

" I am going to anoint you, Amede'e," was all he
said.

" Did ever a man need it more,'' said Atnede"e
sighing.

He had read the ritual of Extreme Unction over
and over until the significance and full intent of the
sacrament had lighted his intelligence and warmed his
heart. At his own wish it had been deferred until the
last moment, that he nrght feel all the more strength-
ened and comforted by its reception j it was a delicate
way of telling him how near the end was, and he un-
derstood. His mother and wife calmly, but with
beating, anguished hearts, lighted the candles and
knelt in silent prayer. The sacred oil was applied to
Amed6e's closed eyes : May the Lord, through this
holy oiling and His most loving mercy, forgive you
for the sins of sight, said the priest ! Then to his
ears, the oil was applied, and the priest said, may the
Lord, through this holy oiling and His most loving
mercy, forgive you for the sins of hearing ! Such
things as I have heard and seen, the sick man sighed !
When the oil touched the nostrils, the priest said,
may the Lord, through this holy oiling and His most
loving mercy, forgive you the sins of smell! Over
the thin, compressed lips the priest drew his thumb
in the form of a cross, and said while Amedee
watched him dreamily : May the Lord, through this
holy oiling and His most loving mercy, forgive you
for sins of taste and speech ! Then Amede'e spread
his wasted hands on the counterpane, and in
the palm of each the priest made the sign of
the cross with the oil saying: May the
Lord, through this holy oiling and His most loving



22 5

mercy, forgive you for the sins of touch ! If I were
a priest, thought Amedee, he would rub the holy
oil on the back of my hands ; poor hands, no man's
money and no man's blood ever stained you, but
you suffered just the same. Madame rose at this
point and uncovered her son's feet, the priest
touched the soles with the oil and said for the last
time : May the Lord, through this holy oiling and
His most loving mercy, forgive you for the sins of
walking ! I shall never walk again, thought Amedee,
until the resurrection.

The last prayers were said, the candles extinguished,
and the priest sat down beside the bed to speak a few
last words of consolation, but Amedee did not need
them. His face was glowing with happiness and his
thoughts were crowding upon him like a mob, not in
disorder but too rapidly for expression. It was like
delirium, and unlike for he did rot lose his mental
balance. The sight of the priest seemed to bring be-
fore his bed in solemn procession all the priests that
had ever been and would be ; the thought of his
mother and his wife brought to his vision innumer-
able mourners, weeping for their dead. He was not
sad, nor indifferent. His tears fell ; he saw their tears
and their faces ; at one moment those in the room
kissed him and knelt about him praying with lighted
candles ; he consoled and encouraged them in his
broken sentences, and said aga-n and again, I am so
happy ; and his face showed his happiness. Some
one said at midnight, it is twelve o'clock, and a long
time after, when troops of splendidly colored visions
had flashed before his mind, he heard the clock strike
one. Mother, he said suddenly, at what hour was I



226

born. Just at this hour, she answered trembling.
He smiled and died ! Madame and Elizabeth ga' r e
loud cries of anguish, and the men bowed their heads.
For a little while there was that silence which is found
nowhere but at the death-bed when the agony is ended.
Then there was a stir among the men, and Mr. Grady
began to say the beads in aid of the poor soul at the
judgment seat. Monsieur Narcisse McCarthy had
been making ready to perform that fanction, but he
was too slow and too polite for a man who never
missed an opportunity. He answered Mr. Grady's
invocations with less fervor than was usual wit'i him.

When the prayers were over the mourning women
were led away to another room, and the dead was left
in Mr Grady's charge.

" The last words Amedee said to me," Tim an-
nounced to those present, " wor that I should take
charge o' the layin' out ; an' he forb'd that any wan
besides me should lay a hand on him."

Every one submitted to this declaration.

" But he left it to me to choose a helper," continued
Mr. Grady loftily, " an' if Misther McCarthey 'd be
kind enough to lend a hand ''

Monsieur Narcisse accepted with dignity and re-
serve, as if he doubted the wisdom of poor Amedee's
choice. He admitted later that Tim had been the
boy's godfather much longer than he himself had been
his father-in-law, but maintained that the widow's
father should hold a position of confidence next to the
parents of Amedee. Mr. Grady discoursed tearfully
while they made the preparations for burial, and it
was te Monsieur McCarthy's disadvantage that he
could not feel similar grief.



227

' You wor at his christenin', McCarthy," said Tim.
"An' ye mind how he kicked an' yelled an' screamed.
Poor Amedee ! quiet enough are ye at this moment I
And he weighed fourteen pound if he weighed an
ounce. Not much more than that now ye'd think to
]uk at him. I carried him on me showlder manny a
time when h^ weighed more. 'Twas I that tot him
to shwim, an' a purtier shwimmer than he was at fif
teen ye wouldn't find on all Champlain. D'ye mind
how he jumped into the lake the night we thried to
lasso him, an' shwam to his own mother's door. 'Twas
a blessin' he didn't dhrown then in his sins. I never
thought he'd live to get the sacraments, an' here he is
afore me wid the blessed oils hardly dhry on him, an'
all his throubbs over, an' a splendid funeral waitin'
for him, an' a who'e town cryin' for him, an' a wife
an' childhren to folly him."

" Children," said Monsieur Narcisse.

" Well, there may be yet," said Tim maliciously,
" an' then wills or no wills the store goes to thim."

Mrs. Sullivan appeared in the room just as they
were finishing the work of preparation, an uttered an
exclamation at the s'gM of Tim Grady.

" Musha, thin," she said in a low tone, " but it
takes yerself, Tim, to show the brazen face when it's
needed An' I wondher the boy doesn't turn on the
bed at the touch o' yer hand after all the heart-scald-
in' ye gev him. An' if he wor anny relation o' mine,
it's on the outside o' the door ye'd be this minit
washing the mud off the steps, which is too good for the
likes o' ye."

" Did ye come here to raise a storm in the pres-
ence o' the dead ? " asked Mr. Grady sternly.



228

" Since he's quiet," said she, looking at the boy, "I
may well be."

" Did ye know," said Mr. Grady, u that on me two
knees I begged his pardon yistherday, an' that he
asked me himself to lay him out, an' forbid anny other
livin' sowl to come next or nigh him while I was pre-
parin' him for his rest. Wasn't it I that stud up for
him whin you an' the likes iv ye scarcely remembered
his name ? Didn't I tackle DeLaunay for him whin
yer own son was helpin' to chate him out iv his
rights? Didn't I go to Texas afther him"

"Ye did, Tim," interrupted Mrs. Sullivan tenderly,
*' an ye spoiled it all be yer behavior whin ye kem
home. But if he's pardoned ye what right have we
to say a word."

This excited conversation was carried on almost in
whispers and gave Monsieur McCarthy much pleas-
ure. He foresaw his own insignificance at Amedee s
funeral ; Tim would receive the appointment of di-
rector fr^m Captain LaRoche, and the widow would
not object ; therefore it pleased him that Mr. Grady
should receive an occasional rasping from his friends.
He could afford to be insignificant The will was in
favor of the widow, who was now sole proprietor of the
finest store in Saranac; and Captain LaRoche, al-
though avoiding speech, was wrathy that his son had
left him no share in it. Madame would not hear of
such a thing. The two fathers had shared, while
Amed6e was dying, in the management of the
store ; now Monsieur Narcisse McCarthy alone had
a right to ask for the key, to enter, to handle the
goods, and to look at the books. It was humiliating,
c,nd if the captain said nothing his numerous sons



229

and daughters and their sons and daughters said
more than enough for him, out of Madame's hearing.

The waking of Amedee was a notable event in the
history of Saranac. The hero of a real romance was
dead, and the whole town, including the prosperous
villain who had helped to kill him, wen t to look at the
wasted face, to shed tears of sympathy, and tears of
onions where sympathy was weak, to gossip in the
parlor, to sip wine, and to congratulate the widow on
her will, whose meanest word was now town talk.

It was a hitch in the romance that the villain
should be on earth and the hero in heaven, but this
was borne with since the hero had left so popular
a will. Everyone spoke with LaRoche about it, and
admired his generosity in permitting such a will to be
made ; and as this praise was all he could get out of
the estate he made shift to be content with it, but he
ground his teeth when he looked at Monsieur Narcisse.
The strangers who came to look at Amede"e or to
pray beside him found it an ordeal to pass through
the crowd in the parlor, and to retire again. It was a
decorous crowd by day, and a chatty crowd at night.
The women gossiped in the parlor, and the men told
solemn tales in the kitchen, for it is notable that men
take these occasions with greater seriousness than
women, though with fewer tears. Being in good part
boatmen they felt glad that Amedee had found a de-
cent harbor at last, and died with a good name. Cap-
tain Sullivan was tbe most respected man among them
for the help he had given the poor lad against the
powers of the town. Thus they talked for the two
days and nights that AmedeVs body lay in state in his
own parlor, until the morning of the funeral came.



230



CHAPTER XXIV.

REJECTED !

John Winthrop was a pall-bearer at the funeral,
and it can be imagined how the burying of Amedee
interested him. Had he his way the body would hive
been pitched into the lake with a weight to the heels.
He was half disgusted with himself for the insare
hatred for Amede which took possession of him.
He was certain it was insanity, for his good sense
told him that the honesty of the Texan was to be
commended, but told him in vain. He could not
shake off his passion, could not look at the dead body
as a dead force powerless forevermore, could not take
a business view of the matter at all He was ruined
hopelessly by the act of this dead tramp. Regina had
endured the disgrace of a dishonest father partly be-
cause there was no escape from it, bit a dishonored
husband it was in her power to avoid. And in hf r
esteem he knew himself forever dishonored. He had
done a detestable thing, betrayed his friend, fixed
upon him a false charge. For nothing ! To no pur-
pose because this worthless dead thief had a scruple
ot conscience. He looked at him in his coffin and
scowled that he had no power to torture him. He
rejoiced in the tears, the groans, the passionate fare-
wells of mother and wife hanging over the wasted
body. It soothed him for a moment, that bitter an-
guish. It did him good to see the coffin lid screwed
down finally.



No one but Regina understood the strange ex-
pression on his face, and she paid little heed. The
snow was deep, and the hole into which they lowered
the coffia looked ghastly. It was not deep or hideous
enough for Winthrop, who shovelled his share of earth
on the coffin with glee. It was childish, unmanly,
ungenerous as he knew, but his pain and despair had
to vent themselves on something ; and what did a
lost wretch like him care for generosity or manliness.
His dsy was done. The living might be generous,
the dead were dead. Poor Winthrop had lost his
balance. It was well that he spoke not to discover
the loss to others. His face was pale and severe,
and in returning Hugh called his attention to it.

Winthrop erdured Sullivan's chatter in silence.
It was painful to argue with him, who
owned the unanswerable argument of success. He
alore now had a flawless title 1o Regina's esteem. Of
the three men this young woman had ben lei to re-
spect at various times but one ha 1 been able to main-
tain his reputation. The other two were alike in
guiltiness, but the younger was the greater sinner ; for
DeLaunay had betrayed his innocent clerk whereas
Le, John Winthrop, had betrayed his innocent friend.
It was here that the lawyer lost his head. Had he
won Regina his treason would have annoyed but not
sickened him; and in time he would have escaped
even annoyance. Loss of her meant for him the end
of all things. He could no longer look at the situa-
tion as one disinterested and hopeful, and study the
chances of success. Like a brave man cornered he
was bent on resisting to the utmost his fate, and could
hope that his might be the one chance in a thousand.



He was capable of nothing more. He could not see
ground for accomplishing more. Had he kept his
wits about him he would not have blundered.

Regina had taken the affair very sensibly, and if
let alone might in the end have felt flattered. All this
villany was done for her sake. She began to see a
pleasant logic in it. Captain Sullivan, if he ever de-
sired to marry her, probably informed Winthrop of
her father's sin in order to drive the lawyer from the
field ; and John had his revenge by contriving that
she should read the guilty letter.

Men were evidently much alike. When clever,
handsome, magnetic, like Amedee, John, Hugh, and
her father they were great rogues, powerful sinners ;
when virtuous or spotless they were priests or cranks,
too stupid or too indifferent to practice necessary vil-
lainy. She wondered though if such a thing as unim-
peachable honesty existed anywhere. She nad once
thought herself and all her intimates honest. Her
mother had slipped once, and her father many times;
she herself had been wilfully unjust to Amede'e, whose
father had sold his son's right to justice against De-
Launay for money.

They were all honest until it came to a pinch ; then
the father sold his son, and the friend betrayed the
friend. Of course these were not serious matters in
which honesty had failed them. If called on to be
martyrs these people would probably go to the scaf-
fold cheerfully. In minor points there was evidently
no standard but comfort or convenience. While she
would like to have known of men and women who
lived faithful and spotless in all things big and little,
she was determined not to be cast down by discovering



233

the sins of her friends. All men were sinners. For poor
Winthrop there was the heavy excuse that he had sinned
against the lesser love for sake of the greater. She
was willing to pardon him the moment he confessed.

Had he known of her humor and keeping his wits
about him he would have discovered it the end of
the chapter would have been far different. But his
w'ts were clean gone. This spotless creature whom he
adored was lost to him forever ; for the reasons, as
he believed, that her standards were angelic and that
she had not an ounce of practical sense in her sys-
tem. She could not allow for human weakness. She
was disgusted with her father, now much more with
him whom she had praised for his fidelity to his
friend ! As happiness and life were surely ended for
him, he proceeded to act like a man on his death-bed.
He must make atonement, bid farewell, and dispose
of his property. He first made confession to Regina,
and was not surprised that she received his frigid
statement without the least display of feeling.

"I owe you an apology," he said, "for those letters
which were given to you by LaRoche that night the
steamer went ashore. Amed^e told me he had ex-
plained the deception practised on you. You can
guess what prompted me to the deception. I was
dee^y in love with you, and desperate because there
seemed no hope for me. You were dreaming of
Captain Sullivan. That morning when you fell asleep
on the cabin porch I stood watching your face. You
murmured his name with such an expression that it
drove me mad I could not resist the temptation to
destroy your esteem for him. I sent you the letter
which did that."



234

" Very effectually," she said politely, not a trace of
anger or other feeling in tone or manner.

" I have no way of making reparation," he continu-
ed, " but except to myself I trust there has been no
harm done. I wish sincerely to get forgiveness from
>ou."

" You have it," she answered cordially, and almost
added, " Please don't feel so badly," but saved her-
self in time.

"I owe it to the Captain to put him right in your
estimation. Although he actually wrote that letter,
he was utterly unconscious of having revealed a se-
cret. I will explain it to you if you like. Indeed I
must explain it to you. First let me read the letter."

S^ e would have objected, but he did not give her
time.

" You see how it reads. As if I were already ac-
quainted with the facts in your father's case. He
is not telling me something new, but commenting on
something which both of us are supposed to know."

When she looked mystified he handed her the fatal
letter of whose existence Hugh was unconscious, and
pointed out its peculiarity

" Naturally you read it hastily when Amedee hand-
ed it to you,'' he continued sadly. " I was puzzled
over its meaning when I first received it. I knew
nothing of the LaRoche trouble, was out of town
when it began and ended, and could only surmise that
Hugh was referring to something which was town-
talk at home, and which he supposed I had heard.
On returning I made a few inquiries, and
could learn nothing. Then I spoke to Hugh cau-
tiously. I asked him if it were he whot old me of



235

something in connection with the DeLaunays, which
might have laaded one of them in prison. He denied
everything promptly. I studied the letter again, and
hit upon a solution of the mystery. Observe that it
consists of three paragraphs. The middle one might
be left out, and the letter is complete. As it stands
it is puzzling for it supposes me to have a knowledge
which I had not. The explanation seems to be this:
Hugh had been at Dennarrora prison that week
hunting up a position for a friend. The mention of
the word prison in the first paragraph suggested to
him the recent LaRorhe trouble, and he wrote uncon-
sciously his thoughts about it in the second para-
graph ; in tiie third he returns to the proper subject
of the letter. Hz has never once dreamed of his
innocent betrayal of a family secret. Fidelity is his
great virtue. Ev?n if he never gave you his word to
keep the stcre t, his lips would have been the last to
mention it You must do him the justice to hold
him innocent of this wrong."

" I do, ' she answered somewhat agitated. " Your


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Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 15 of 18)