John Talbot Smith.

Saranac : a story of Lake Champlain online

. (page 16 of 18)
Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 16 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


explanation clears away other misunderstandings
which had annoyed me. He is your debtor in that.''

"And then he too loves you," said John mournfully,
" but he has always thought himse f unworthy of you,
and has not so much as dreamed of pressing a suit.
Hugh is naturally noble even if his training leads him
to say and do awkward things. I suppose his religion
has srmething to do with it. I hope you feel that I
have done my utmost to restore him to your good
opinion."

"You have done your utmost," she repl ed quite
calmly, but she was hot and cold by turn-s, and could



236

hardly speak. A dying man could not have exposed
his ill doing better or have repaired injuries more
thoroughly than poor Winthrop. There was nothing
now for him to do, as far as Regina was concerned,
but to die. He could not make up his mind to do
that right away. Of his wits there remained to him
only that fraction which bade him fight for his hope
to the last. He did not see that with his own
hand he had destroyed it when he had put up on its
pedestal once more her shattered ideal of Hugh, and
published the Captain's love for her. It was joy
that agitated her, and she hardly heard him beginning
to plead his own cause. A look and a single word
silenced him. She never knew that the word sen-
tenced him to death. Almost directly, hope and sus-
pense being over, he became cordial and common-
place, and could talk cheerfully with Mrs. DeLaunay
when that clever lady entered. Her appearance gave
Regina a chance to escape politely. The eyes he
sent after her explained to Mrs. DeLaunay that an
interesting and sorrowful event had occurred.

" So Regina means to marry the Captain," was her
secret comment as she proceeded to interest the law-
yer in her newest scheme for the benefit of Saranac.
To Winthrop, although he listened and criticized
suavely, her talk was the merest chatter.

" Every year the priest has a fair," she said, " and
this year I am going to help him make it the grandest
of successes."

" I thought you had done with the humbug of
creeds."

" I am just beginning to pay attention to them,"
she answered, " and besides what has a fair to d j with



creeds. One month it's the priest, and the next the
Odd Fellow. We help both to make money."

" Money can always be found around a creed."

" But not in it always. You know Father McManus
as well as I do. Pray don't be bitter when the helping
of a man like that is concerned."

"Oi, if it's the man"

" Who else ? Suppose a gruff, callous farmer held
his place ; would I lift a finger to help him ? Then
tell me some nice things to do to help this pleasant
and hard worked priest. I have been made a sort of
superintendent. I must have some curiosities to make
up fjr lack ot variety and costliness."

" Exhibit me "

"And Captain Sullivan." she adrled slyly.

"No, he's ordinary. He's a success. I am a fail-
ure."

" You have escaped then against your will ?"

"Oh, very much against it."

" What a consolation to know that in breaking your
own heart you have spared the heart of your friend."

" If success meant the smashing of his heart to
bits," he said savagely, " I would not regret it. And
he has the same temper in this matter."

" I see you will be o* no use in the fair."

" No, I will all my usefulness to the Captain. By
that time he will have heart enough to do the work of
two."

" This girl was born to make trouble," Mrs. De-
Launay said to herself as Winthrop went off growling.
"The sooner she marries some one the better. If
this love business remains in suspense long I shall get
no help out of these people for my table. The Cap-
tain ought to propose to morrow."



She told Captain Sullivan of Wimhrop's failure sup
posing it had for him real significance. His face
clouded.

" I had supposed," he said, " that sooner or later
their marriage would be a sure thing "

Mrs. DeLaunay was mystified at his words and ex-
pression. Had not Winthrop told her that the Cap-
tain was a success where he had been a failure ?

" Waat are you frowning about ?" she said. " Is
the news so unexpected and startling ?*'

" I am afraid for John," he replied. " He is queer
in some points, and this is one of them. You don't
know what a tremendous sorrow this will be to him.
He never was hopeful, but still he had hope."

She found herself affected by his unaccountable
manner. Successful lovers do not frown on hear-
ing of a rival's defeat, become anxious over the
ill effects of a rejection, and openly declare their
disappointment at their own success. Someone
was making a mistake, and she hoped it was not
Regina. To make sure she besieged Winthrop in his
office next day on behalf of the fair, and when he was
thoroughly annoyed by her persistency she told him
what the Captain had said, and explained the cause
of her mystification.

"He is honest and cunning both, ' said Winthrop.
" It is true that he expected rny success and had no
hopes for himself, not thinking that she ever would
care enough for him to marry him. And he had wit
enough to conceal from you what he has concealed
from all but her since he was conscious of it. He
has reason to fear for me, because I have said things
to him at times wMch he cannot understand. It is



239

only I that have made the mistake. It can never be
remedied."

The explanation was rational, but she thought if
Winthrop could have seen the captain's face when he
spoke to her, he would be now tempted to believe
that the mistake had been made in another direction.
She did not say outright that her thought was in favor
of the captain's heart freedom. It would not do to
complicate the situation ; but she really suspected
that Captain Sullivan had never once thought of love
or marriage in Regina's connection. If true it would
be mortifying to all concerned.

CHAPTER XXV.

OPEN CONFESSION.

Winthrop was incurably se'fish. His fine sense of
honor was no hindrance to the rugged growth of his
selfishness which had its proper influence on his
moral character ; we look for consideration in people
of refined tastes ; the enthusiast in art, whose tears
fall at the grace of a statue and the delicate coloring
of a picture, should not be capable of wounding his
fellows ; and the man, whose sense of honor would
send him to death smiling, should have the sweet and
unselfish temper of a saint. But a violet can bloom
in the shadow of a muck heap, and a fine sense of
honor exist in the midst of vices. Winthrop was hon-
orable as far as he thought honor should go, and as
selfish as an intelligent, warm-hearted man could be.
He felt some remorse for his treason to Hugh, it
offended that honor which he had guarded for yea-s
with pride. But in his plans of suicide he had pity for
none but himself. He never once considered his



240

trembling and anxious father, the grief which would
surely befall him at the fate of his only child ; nor
the reflection that would be cast on Regina, whose re-
jection of his suit had led him to death ! He thought
of nothing but ridding himself of his intolerable pain,
of the life which had become a horror to him. He de-
layed the crime for one reason chiefly : it would not
do to create a scene, a sensation, a scandal. Ha de-
tested scenes. He studied therefore to have his death
happen in an apparently natural manner.

He was forced to hide his grief, and mask his inten-
tions. The fact that he would soon be dead enabled
him to assume a false cheerfulness which imposed on
all but Hugh Sullivan. The temptation to mope, or
to surrender himself to frenzy was checked, if not re-
moved, by the mental sight of that dead body whose
heartache was forever ended. Why grieve now over
that which in a few weeks would be noth-
ing. He was well satisfied with his com-
fortable materialism. He wound up his business
without hurry, and talked of a trip to California in
the interest of a few New York mine owners. His
father was entirely deceived, closely as he watched
him. John even had the hardihood to jest before
him on his chances of winning Regina's hand ; he
would grow moody and hopeful by turns j and ac-
cepted his father's sympathy precisely as in the good
time when there had been hope. Nevertheless, there
were days when his grief burst the unnatural bonds,
and drove him to madness almost. He fled then to
distant towns and returned only when the frenzy and
its traces were gone. In his sleep which was sound
but not dreamless he went over the trouble which



241

had come to him and enacted the scenes of hope and
expected happiness through which he had passed.
So little did his approaching death affect him that in
these moments the thought of it occurred only to
soothe his anguish. It was in this way his father
learned the misfortune that threatened them. He
met him wandering in the upper hall one midnight,
and moaning gently. A glance told the father that
his son was in a state of somnambulism. When he
returned to his room old David followed as far as the
door. John had begun to talk.

" If that letter had never been written," he said
quite dearly, and repeated the sentence many times
with heavy sighs. " How could she refuse me, when
I loved her as he never can. She the only woman
in the world for me ! What pain !" At this he groaned
so deeply that the old man gave a low cry. " But
death will end it," went on the sleeper, " what a relief
is death," and as if the thought soothed him he
slipped into bed with a prolonged sigh. His father
sat beside him quietly and studied his face in despair.
The few sentences he had heard might mean that
his boy had been rejected and was going over in his
s^ep the drama of his disappointment ; or they might
simply be the result of John's anxiety over the result
of his suit. Sitting there thinking of possibilities the
old father felt the fond of God heavy upon him. How
much was he to blame for the condition in which this
boy found himself before the third derade of his life
had well ended He remembe r ed how often he had
sat thus at his bedside in all the years since his baby-
hood. The moulding of the young life had been for
twenty years entirely in his own hands. But he



242

had known little of the moulding process, supposing
that his son would grow up as he ha<l grown or
better, y s, much better. So far he had been a joy
and an honor to him. The thought that from this
moment he might look to see him brought home
dead, disfigured by knife or bullet or long days in the
water, was terrible. In what point had he failed, to
bring upon his son such a destiny ? John began to
talk again, but this time indistinctly. The old man
recalling a certain trick of his own boyhood, took the
sleeper's hand and began to smooth it gently, fixing
his eyes on the composed face.

" What are you thinking of ?" he said.

" Of death," said John distinctly. " I wish I could
die now, but of course no one must know. I must
wait."

" How about your father? Ic will kill him to lose
you."

* Death is better for us all," said the sleeper with
a slight frown.

"But your father wants life and you," urged the
old man. " How could you break his hea- 1 ? '

" As she broke mine. My heart is broken," and
his hand went to his side in pain, the sleeper groan-
ing.

" Then you are bound to kill yourself, no matter
who dies on your coffin ? '

"Let every man look to himself," answered Jonn.

"You have a hard heart," said the father. " You
would not be a good lover, being so poor a son, and
you deserved to Icse that girl. She stood by her
father always."

** So she did," the sleeper assented, and for the



243

fiist time his calm, melancholy face grew troubled.
He began to mutter indistinct Nothings again. Once
more the father urged him to give up the idea of
death.

" Never," said John, " though hell opened."

Here he began to show signs of awakening, and
the old man tottered away weeping, afraid to have
him know that his secret crept through his dreams
and revealed itself. He talked the matter over the
next day with Hugh and learned from the unwilling
lips of the Captain the story of John's disappoint-
ment.

Oh, well, that settles it," said the old man. "He
raay kill himself at anytime. You knov his mind
on that point as well as I do, Hugh Sullivan. I
wonder he has not done it before this. What is de-
laying him ?''

" I don't really think," said Hugh dubiously, " he
has maJe up his mind to suicide. He talks of a trip
to California, and he is getting his business ready to
be able to get away."

"I didn't know that. He won't hang himself in
Saranac tl'en, but he must be watched. We must
make ourselves his guards, I for the house, and you
for outdoors. Of course we can't prevent him in the
long run, but WJ nvght delay it until his senses come
back, and then he might find it worth while living."

O:d David spoke in a hard, business-like raanasr,
for now that the danger was made certain he could
face it with desperate courage, and scheme to avoid it.

" We must be careful how we act," said Hugh ;
" he's cne that doesn't care for scenes, and, if he sus-
pected, it might anger him."



244

" I don't know," was the answer. " I think I've
been too careful of his feelings, and didn't talk out as
I should have at the right time. Hereafter I don't
give two cents for his feelings if by hurting them I can
do him any good. He's going to do this thing on the
sly, quiet and natural, as if he had no hand in it. Now,
when I get a chance I'm going to tell him fair and
square that if he's found dead anywhere I'm going
to hang myself He wouldn't like to be made ridicu
lous in that way."

The idea was acceptable to Hugh, as his good sense
was too strong to let him accept suicide for a finish ot
a love affiir. The mysteries of soul growth had never
made even their existence known to him, and he was
unable to see that there is a training and even a phil,
osophy which properly leads to suicide. Hencefor-
ward John Winthrop had a bodyguard, and so efficient
that he gave it the slip the first moment a frenzy of
rage and grief came upon him His grief woke him
up at midnight and sent him out stealthily to shout
and rave his anguish to the air. He was g me an
hour when old Divid discoveied his flight. A quiet
search through the house and gardens, and the ab-
sence of his outdoor clothing proved that he was
abroad. There were no trains until five o'clock He
had therefore been compelled to travel afoot, and in
a fhort time the father had Captain Sullivan out of
bed started in pursuit.

" All he has to do to die on a night like this," said
old Wiothrop, " is to take a dose of morphine and lie
down to freeze."

The Captain had little fear of this calamity if Win-
throp were in his senses, but it was hard to say what



245

fancies ruled his train. He advised old David to Jet
the matter right itself, for search would annoy John,
adv ; ce quite thrown away upon him. To calna his
excitement Hugh examined the shore for a mile or
two, and went out on the ice returning to visit the
fishing hut of Sol Tuttle. He saw the light
from its single window a long way off. It was a
primitive affair, nothing more than a box with a
door, a single pane of glass for a window, and a
stove pipe sticking through the roof. The box had a
hole cut in its floor, another hole was cut in the ice,
and there in lazy contentment the fisherman sat and
hooked or speared the fish that came within reach.
Hugh took a peep through the window before going
to the door, and saw John sitting within at his ease.
Sol was droning some story in his ear, but the listen-
er's mind was far away from it. He sat with a line
in his hand watching a hole in the ice, as if the tragedy
of the fish world interested him. Hugh's appearance
gave him a slight shock, for he felt at once that his
design upon his own life was discovered. They were
watching and following him. Bitter indeed it was
that the man he had betrayed should be standirg
guard over his broken life, preserving it, one would
think, as did the ancients their captives to honor the
triumph of the conqueror. Sullivan did not seek to
hide on entering the hut, but before Sol he would
say nothing,

" Looking for me,' John said sourly.

"Not now, I've found you. The oil m-n didn't
kn'-w whether you had gone fishing or fighting, and to
satisfy him I took a walk around. Much fish, Sol?"

" Toll'able,'' said the husband of Sa;rey lazily.



246

"I forgot one thing," observed the lawyer, 4 'a It tie
whiskey for a night like this. Go up to my house,
and t-11 my father to send me down a bottle of the
best "

S 1 obeyed mournfully.

"There wuza time,'' he said, "w'en sich a errant
would a set me jumpin'. But sence I tuck the pledge
it's like attendin' one's own funeril, an' I hate to go
like thunder. But that's my failure o' course, an' I
go with pleasure for you young fellers, which sooner
or later must dry up same as me if ye would save
yesselves '

"Of course,'' said John, when they were alone,
" my father rooted you out of bed, and sent you look-
ing /or a supposed corpse along the shore ? Well, I
have made a fool of myself, thinking to hide such a
purpose from h;ru Why it must have been written
all over me when an old, half blind man could gues s
it like this."

"You gave it away in your sleep," said Hugh." He
heard you talking of it at midnight. You might as
well give it up altogether now unless you want to
kill him off wilh anxiety, and have the town talking
and laughing at you. Besides it isn't fair to Miss
DeLaunay to mark her life w th such a thing She
would always feel as if she had a hand in it."

It grated fiercely on Winthrop's pride to be talked
to in this fashion, but nothing else could be expected
from his friend. And it hurt him much to think that
he had never once considered Regina and how his
deats would reflect on her any more than he had con-
sidered his father, and in a former instance his friend.

" Don't talk of it," he said impatiently ; " the fit is



247

gone by, and I s^all live until the earth is tired of me,
and without duplicity, too. You never knew the trick
1 1 lay* d on you. I must settle this business once for
all Read that letter carefully."

Hugh read his own letter of the previous year, and
read it easily, then cried out in surprise, and read it
again. It was his without doubt.

" How could I have written that thing," he said.
" Was it through this you got acquainted with the La
Rorbe trouble ? It beats me "

Winthrop explained how the telltale paragraph was
written, and left Hugh in wonder.

"Of course, that makes it plain," said the Captain,
" and then I was accustomed to tell you everything, and
to have no secrets from you, and it slipped out natural."

Although this affectiona f e remark was made as a
m^re s f atement without a tone of sentimental feeling,
it went straight to Winthrop's heart.

" But you ought to know how I used it," he said.
'* I was a 'raid Regina DeLaunay thought too much
of you at one time, that she was making a sort of hero
out of you, and I placed the letter in her way. She
read it and was disgusted with you."

Hugh laughed heartily.

" You were served just right when you lost her after
such a lawyer's trick as that," he said. " I know
you had it in you to do it. Confess now, didn't you
arrange to get Amedee drunk the first day he came
to town, knowing how things would turn out."

" No. Bat I knew if he were allowed to enter the
town free and happy, he would do as he did."

" Both tricks of the same color. And what good
did you get out of 'em ?"



548

'" Only evil and sorrow. That cursed Amedee gave
away t^e letter trick to Regina. I am glad he is dead.
I a- k your pardon for the way I treated you '

"D^n't mention it/' said the Captain.

'' Great gods," said John Winthrop to himself as he
looked at his chum's impassive face and indifferent
air, " he takes this treason as a thing to smile at, and
makes me ashamed for trembling at the confession
of it."

" I don't think this letter business hurt you much
with Miss DeLaunay," Hugh began in a kindly way.

" I know it didn't," Winthrop broke in. " Had I
shot her father and burned the town it would have
made no difference, since she was in love with you,
with your acting in Ingomar, with your generous de-
fence of her father, with your uniform, with your big
boat, with your coolness and courage the nignt the
steamer went ashore at Westport. She admitted as
much to me the other day. It maddened me that
night to hear her in her sleep call you by name as if
she were already your wife. Of course the letter
cooled her affection for a time, but now it is stronger
than ever as you know."

Had Winthrop 's attention been elsewhere than
with the fishes he would have seen that Hugh did not
know. That hardy young man, who took his friend s
treason as the most venial of sins, and could see his
big boats run up on dry land without other mental
worry than additional presence of mind, turned red,
purple, green and white while John was speaking, and
remained white at the end He had intended to say
that Regina was not yet lost to Winthrop, but he did
not say it. His eyes sho.ie like stars out of his pale



449

face, and his heart beat loud. He knew very quickly
what was the matter, even though he had never suf-
fered such emotion before. Not for one instant dur-
ing this whole year had he dreamed of love for Regina
or marriage with her. She was not for blunt sailors
like h'm. But he had admired her beautv, her good
sense, her courage, her strong high spirit, he had
thought in his heart that such would be the wife he
would one day choose ; and this plain true fact of her
love for him burst in upon his soul as light once burst
in upon creation, and gave form and beauty to the
world veiled in darkness. He was dizzy and sad for
an instant, as he comprehended suddenly for the first
time what this old friend of his was suffering. If this
light went out of his life now he would find the pain
bitter to bear. But with God's good help, and the
man's pious heart turned gratefully to God always, it
would never go out again 1

The suspicions of sharp-witted Mrs. DeLaunay had
been correct, Captain Sullivan had never thought of
Regina ; and the sensitiveness and emotional weakness
of Wmthrop had waked the hearts of these two, and
had driven the poor fellow into the very measures
which for his own sake he should have avoided. The
two men sat there in silence, one in the depths of pain
the other on the heights of joy until Sol Tuttle opened
the door with an uncertain hand, and staggered in
with the bottle of whiskey in his pocket. He bad the
intention and a strong desire to say something, but
his powers of speech were gone. So was the smooth
old liquor which had once filled the bottle.

" And it was twenty years old," said John regret-
fully, as the messenger slid to the floor, and fell asleep.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE FAIR.

Mrs. DeLaunay was enjoying herself as President
of the annual church fair, whose plump receipts made
life on the mission tolerable for the parish priest.
The om>e did not of itself confer much honor or re-
sponsibility, but her energy soon made it the very
source of honor and centre of interest while the agony
was on. Saranac braced itself for the fair as athletes
do for a tug of war. It had many of the features
peculiar to a mild epidemic ; everybody suffered at
the same time and in the same way ; and all hoped
to get compensation some day in heaven or in a short-
ened purgatory. The priest announced it each year
in one form, for he had a good sense of humor ; the
receipts this year, dear brethren, are certain to be
less than needed, and the trustees think the ladies
should hold a fair ; I suggested other means of raising
this money to the ladies themselves, but they would
not listen ; t^eir clamor for a fair has grown so loud
that I can only surrender to the popular demand ;
therefore the ladies will meet after Mass in the vestry
to take action.

Mrs. DeLaunay happened to be in the church that
morning, and took the speech seriously. She went
in with the few desperate women who knew there was
no escape from the conscription and so they saved
their pride by volunteering. Her request to be made



25'

an associate was answered by making her president
of t^e managing committee, and honorary head of the
Fair. The other ladies congratulated her afterwards
so warmly that one could infer their joy at escaping
the honor.

u What am I to do ?" she asked.

" A little of everything," the priest said. " You
must find women to take charge of the tables, to can-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18

Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 16 of 18)