John Talbot Smith.

Saranac : a story of Lake Champlain online

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vass with the books, and to enter contests for one
thing or another. Then you must see to the hall, and
its donations when the fair is ready to open."

" Very simple indeed," she commented and the
priest smiled as one might who had taken his degree
in fairs. She remembered that smile afterwards and
used it herself when amateurs spoke of the simplicity
of managing a fair. Canvassers were the first neces-
sity, and she set out to find them ; but had she the
plague the younger women could not have fled from
her more shamelessly. She became on the instant
a monster whom no one dared meet. They were
caught in the end when the priest came to her aid,
but while they surrendered she was accused of their en-
slavement. The art of selecting the proper canvassers
enrantured the astute lady. It was not simply a mat-
ter of catching your fish before frying it, one had to
be particular about the fish. Church people had a
rare instinct for the sport. The very perfection of a
canvasser was a girl of twenty who dressed well an 1
wore soft, silky, shimmering hair ; whose eyes were
magnetic and drooping, voice low and murmurous,
gesture rare and all-conquering; who approached a
victim like a dove and stripped him with the ferocity
of a catamount ; yet departing left behind a luminous



252

perfumed peace as of an angel visitant. It was sur-
prising how many were found with these qualifications
in one small town ; no less than twenty persuasive
maidens went forth willingly to coax the dimes from
the Saranac people, all with shining hair and down-
cast eyes, all determined to collect the money required
for the fair. They were not well up to the standard,
of course, yet none were far below it. Mrs. De-
Launay found them marvels of taste and grace
and praised them to the whole world. They ac-
cepted her praise meekly, and spared her none the
less. By the time they had wheedled fifty dollars out
of her purse her admiration was exhausted.

As a student of human nature she felt tnat even
this price was too high for a single lesson. Yet she
let them loose on helpless Saranac without pity, and
Saranac reared on its hind legs, pawed out with its
front feet, raised its voice to heaven in hearty protest
against the sirens. They were not to be shaken off.
The first fair in Saranac had started a vendetta which
was never to end until all concerned were exiled or
dead. The twenty canvassers remembered every
woman who in former years had flourished a fair book
in the town and had taxed their brethren or their
friends These were the first victims. Their cries
wera recognized night and day as the money was torn
from them, they could be seen flying through the
streets closely but gently pursued by them of the
shimmering hair and the downcast eyes, and their
pallid expression betrayed for days afterward the suf-
fering inflicted upon them.

Next the twenty turned upon the business men of
the town, the grocers and dry goods men, the lawyers



253

and politicians, the officials and dignitaries. The per-
secution raged heaviest against these classes, but they
bought a shortening of the agony by prompt and
gloomy payment of the tax, which in turn was taken
out of the church on the first opportunity. Mrs. De-
Launay did not wait to examine the other ravages of
her twenty aids ; she felt satisfied they would rend
their relatives and one another in the end, that not a
farthing would escape them. She had to choose the
ladies who would take charge of the tables or booths
at the fair. There were six tables and fifteen appli-
cations, and she appealed for guidance to the priest.
He looked over the names, and marked off the im-
possible people.

' From the others make a choice," he said. " They
are all good but their motives have much to do with
their usefulness.'' Mrs. DeLaunay liked to sift mo-
tives. The sifcing process in this instance gave her
six : Mrs. Cooney had a table last year and was so
much outshone by Mrs. Mooney that the disgrace
could be wiped out only by Mrs. Cooney overthrow-
ing Mrs. Mooney this year ; Miss Marechal had six
different dresses with which to pose for twelve nights
before an artistic booth ribboned to match each dress;
Mrs. Cloran was a widow, a grass widow the doubters
said, and she wanted social recognition ; Miss
O'Meara's father kept a saloon and she needed all
such things as fair-booths, membership in societies,
and the like to keep respectable ; Mis. Sweeney
washed for a living and wanted to let people see a
washerwoman was as good as the best ; and Mary
Lorty, old and ugly, desired to do a little for pure love
of the church and this special parish. As she was quite



254

incapable for a post of honor they gave her the office
of wiping dishes in the kitchen. When the appoint-
ments were made Mrs. DeLaunay had eight mortal
enemies and sharp-eyed critics to contend with, and
their arrows pursued her until the fair became a mere
memory

The contests for a doll and a gold watch were
started without difficulty, with suspicious ease the
priest thought. Two little girls were to contest the
doll and two men the watch Mr. Tim Grady offered
himself as a contestant aid proposed the name of
Motsieur Narcisse McCa'thy as his opponent. He
did not mention his reasons for voluntarily entering a
contest which most men avoided when they could.
He simply boasted of his ability to win that watch
against Monsieur McCarthy or any of his b r eed, and
he wanted the chance to prove the boast. This chal-
lenge interested the town for a few days, and forced
McCarthy to take it up as proudly and arrogantly as
it had been thrown down. Mr. Grady thu> entered the
public view once more as a popular favorite, a place
he had not held since the lawn-party ; it was his
natural place before his humiliation ; he had almost
taken oath to hold it nov by making a contest which
would be a Saranac tradition; and he soured the
proud and frugal soul of Monsieur McCarthy by his
loud decoration to sink five hundred dollars in the
wat:h. The town applauded. Mrs, DeLaunay flat-
tered him. The contest for the watch absorbed all
interest. Nevertheless the doll contest was properly
arranged with the children of two leading politicians
as contestants. The priest thought it quite a stroke
of diplomacy to bring politics into the contest and



255

complimented the President. They did not know the
politicians. Tiiese gentlemen met after the contest
had began and the richer said to the poorer:

" There is no ir.e in spending money on the thing.
I want to make a deal with you. Let me have the
doll, and I'll stand the bill. We'll put it at one hun-
dred dollars. The winner goes down for fifty one the
loser for forty nine, and the thing's settled right here
What d'ye say?"

The poorer said many things expressive of his will-
ingness to get out of a scrape for nothing, even with
the r restige of defeat for his child. The preparations
for the fair was now in full swing, and Saranac was in
a state of fever. Mrs. DeLaunay could not remem-
ber its like. The novelty of it never wore away from
her. Fifty chosen souls selected by herself were now
every day goading the people to madness ; demand
ing gifts for the tables, dainties for the restaurant and
hard money for the treasury ; with effects of profanity,
bad temper, slander, and abuse that kept the atmos-
phere of the village in a constant glow. The tongues
of the gossips went day and night like hard pressed
thrashers in harvest time ; the friends of the fair had
to enjoy spotless reputations to escape censure.

' But it's life," said Mrs. DeLaunay to her family
" It's the nearest approach to the wickedness and dash
of a big city that Saranac has ever shown me. You
must get into it, Regina. It will do you good."

"I am in it, mamma,'' said Regina very composedly.
" Captain Sullivan and I are to revive the theatri-
cals."

" The very thin g," cried mamma, " and you shall
put your father and me in at least one cast. How-



256

ever why did I not think of it before ? You shall
have the decorations. The Captain is the very man
for the decorations. I saw him use a hammer like a
born carpenter."

" What's the matter with John Winthrop," said her
husband peevishl), "isn't he good on decorations ?"

" He's in the West on business I heard," said Re-
gina as calmly as before, " and will not be back for
months. Mines, I think, or something of that kind."

" Mines in midwinter," said he laughing, " that's a
story."

But there was no further comment on the incident,
and Regina had told all she knew about it just as
Hugh had told it to her. He might have told her
more, but she had suddenly lost interest in Winthrop
under the ardent glances of the confident Captain,
who had spoken the last word to John as he left Sara-
nac and had comforted the father ever since in his
loneliness. Old David had failed visibly after his
son's going.

" I shan't ever see him again," he said to Hugh
often, " but that's better'n to see the last of him the
way I feared. Now he'll keep his promise, he was
always true to his word, he won't die until he hears
I'm dead. By that time who knows what'U happen.
I'm prayin' for two things : if he's got to die soon that
a fever or an accident may take him off without his
fault, or that he'll get another grip on life, and live
right on for the love of it. I don't want my boy to
go into the next world, even if he doesn't believe in
it, after committing suicide. What do you folks teach
about going that way ?"

" Why," said Hugh embarrassed," you'll have to see



257

Tim Grady about that. I'm poor in catechism, and
I never heard much about it. But it's like dying
with all your sins on you, and no repentance."

" You! II never go that way," said David with a feel-
ing of envy for Mr. Sullivan. " None of you Catho-
lics do with all your nonsense. No, not even that
God-forsaken Amede'e, thrown like a dog into Texas,
where by right he ought to have been shot or hanged;
he comes home to die with his mother and the priest,
to be buried among the best with all his sins forgiven;
and my boy, that was brought up respectably well,
there's no use talking about it. One man goes this
way, another that. It's laid out for us, I suppose."

" Not for Catholics," said Hugh.

" No confound 'em, not for Catholics," repeated
David. " Ah, if I could have foreseen these days,
John would have been brought up a Catholic. You
get a pile of comfort out of your religion. Anyone
can see that. Don't you ?"

" I can't say I ever got much for I never needed
any so far. But I've seen them that have, and I know
when it's needed it's there for me. With us every-
thing is certain, you know."

" That's it," said David with animation. " Certain
is the word. There's no miserable doubt like what I
suffer from. You know where you're going and why
and what's going to happen. I've read some about
it. And you believe your prayers will be answered.
Your sins are all forgiven before you go, with your
sacraments and things. I must talk to Tim Grady
about it. There's nothing like certainty when the
grave is near."

There was a long silence then, for Hugh Sulliran



2 S 8

could not talk theology of any sort with comfort, and
Winthrop was plainly anxious to give vent to feelings
which troubled him vaguely and which needed a sym-
pathetic ear.

" Tim Grady can tell you everything," was the way
Hugh got out of an awkward position. There was
little time for theology just then. The fair had open-
ed with a rattle and bang, and its officials could think
of nothing else. For twelve nights they would have
to endure the misery of late hours and excitement.
Aching hearts like old David's would have to see to
their own aches in the meantime. The town hall was
the seat of the fair, and under the skilful hands of the
decorators it had become presentable. Country vil-
lages have little to decorate with, but Regina and the
Captain had collected unlimited bunting and cedar
from the winter woods, and had produced patriotic,
artistic, and natural effects, sufficient to make the na-
tives stare. These heavy souls went open mouthed
through the green arches into the restaurant, the
shooting-gallery, the side-shows, the booths, and
looked out into the main room as if from a wood
bower into a clearing. It cost only ten cents to see
all this beauty and to be badgered by the canvassers,
but it cost a round sum to see " the hull show " after
one got inside.

In the shooting-gallery where a rosy-cheeked Robin
Hood presided over the air-guns, three shots at an
American Indian cost five cents ; three shrieks from
the said Indian entitled the lucky marksmen to a
cigar whose smoke smelled of the plague. The art
gallery was in charge of a siren whose eloquence
shamed the manager of a dime museum ; she needed



259

all her language to do a profitable business, since one
inspection of her junk collection was too much for
the simplest. Saranac was highly amazed at the new
features Mrs. DeLaunay had put into the fair. The
young ladies in the various departments were dressed
like prim Puritans, and the ladies in the booths in
colonial style. There was a Turk at the door of the
menagerie, a Delmonico waiter in the restaurant, and
an Uncle Tom at the the ticket cfiVe of the minstrel
show ; Mother Goose went round with the grab-bag
and a gipsy told wonderful fortunes. The restaurant
was a bower of peace and beauty, and its Delmonico
waiter moved grandly about to the tinkling of a
music box, faithfully copying his model even to the
securing of tips. When one had completed the circle
of entertainment provided for him, no matter how
slim his intentions, he was out a round dollar. It
took Saranac three nights to discover the fact.

Mrs. Sullivaa attended the fair on the night chosen
for the production of the play in which the entire De-
Launay family took part.

" Did you like it ? " asked her daughter on her re-
turn.

" Maybe I did an' maybe I didn't,'' she answered.
" There wor some things no dacint person 'ud like,
an' thin agin there wor things mighty plasin' an'
funny. Fairs are pritty much like the world, betwixt
an' between, some good an' some bad in 'em, an'
that's why people likes 'em so much, I belave. Mickey
Moran took the tickets at the door, an' yed die to
hear the bladgin' of him. He hasn't had an office,
good or bad, since he was supervisor, and the way he
rut up wid the poor people was awful. He wasfightin'



260

wicl every wan ov 'em. Whin I put in me quarther
for a ticket,

* Is this a good quarther,' sez he.

' Faith,' sez I, ' it's so long since ye had wan o' yer
own, I don't believe ye cud tell,' sez I.

An' widout another word he drops his impidence,
an' hands me a ticket. Oh, he knows me."

' He ought to after that," said her daughter in an
offended tone.

u Well, haven't I a right to defend meself,'' said tbe
old lady, answering the tone, " an' wud I let wan o'
the Morans put an insult upon me afore the whole
world. You might, bekase ye're half Frinch, but I'm
Irish. Whin I got into the hall sure the sates were
all down an' every wan o' thim taken. They wor
goin' to have a play. How well ye didn't tell me
that afore I got ready to go."

" I knew you wouldn't go if I did."

'* To be sure not. Such a play but wait till I
come to it. While I was standin' there like a fool
wid a crowd o' boys that had no sates along comes
Father McManus."

" Ye have no sate," says he.

" I'm no worse off than many's an other," says I.

" Well come along now an' I'll get ye a good place,"
says he, and up the aisle he marched me afore them
all, an' planted me like a queen in the first row. I
was that proud of it I couldn't see a thing for tin
minute?. Whin I got back me sinses the play was
goin' on. 'Twas a wild kind ov a thing calkd the
Octhroon, an' who was in it, d'ye mind but me brave
Hugh an' the whole DeLaunay family. Pon me sowl,
'twas a sight to see Mrs. DeLaunay an' her husband



26 1

bowin' an' talkin' an' runnin' an an' afF as if they wor
in their oven house at home. An' Regina looked as
sweet as an angel. But that bucko Hugh spiled it all
makin' lo/e to her. Divil a such love-makin' ever I
heerd tell of. He went on his knees to her an' he
kissed her hand, an' he fanned her whin she fainted,
an' he talked sweet till the boys in the gallery began
to shout an' the priest had to quiet 'em. An' the
worst of it all, Julia, was that he looked as if he
meant it. D'ye think, now that John Winthrop's
gone, Hugh 'd have any idea o' makin' up to her."

" What did the people say about it ?" was the eva-
sive reply.

" They said 'twas the most nathural actin' they ever
saw, an' ould Mother Two-and-Six put in her tongue
to say there wor more nathure than actin' in it. An'
faith, she's not far wrong, I'm thinkin' ; though her
tongue carries farther than her piety. I'll talk to
him to morrow about it. Well, thin, the play wound
up wid a big nagur of an Indian shootin' a man an' the
chairs wor taken out an' I med the rounds ov every-
thing. Dr. Crowley took me through 'em all, an' paid
me way. I saw the minsthrels, an' the menagerie, an'
the art gallerey; I took a grab out o' the grab bag,
haulin' out the biggest thing I could lay me hands on,
an' it took us an hour unwindin' the paper to get at
a match ; I had me fortune towld that marriage was
in me house ag'in ; I ate three kinds o' crame in the
atin'-room, an' knew me own out o' the three. An'
they had a little music-box playin' there that soft ye'd
think ye wor atin' it wid the crame."

" I suppose everybody was there," said Mrs. La
jeunesse.



262

"Ay, an' everybody's relations. I had a bow from
Mrs. DeLaunay afore I left musha, but she's the
fine figure of a woman, head and shouldhers over 'em
all. An' Regina shook hands with me kind o' shy an'
sad poor thing. An' every girl that had a book kem
up for me to sign, an' I signed every wan, for ye
couldn't get out ov it they wor that bowld. An'
Misther McCarthy spint tin cints on me for sody
wather, and it roost bruk his heart to part with so
much at wanst; but I med up for it by givin' a dollar
to his contist. But Tim Grady bate 'em all for
grandher an' cheek. There he was dhressed to kill,
as thick as molasses wid the poorest, an' Mrs. De.
Launay, an' everyone ; an' tillin the crowd he had five
hundhred dollars to dhrop in the contist ; an' ye cud
see Frinchy McCarthy turn green about the lips whin
any wan repated the same to him. It was a great
night anyhow for me, an' I hope the priest '11 make a
handful o' money out of it."

" Do you think Mr. Grady will win the watch ?"

"Not a doubt of id. That ould man never yet was
baten by livin' sowl except Mrs DeLaunay."

Mr. Tim Grady had no doubt of his success at the
Fair polls, though he grumbled at the loss of time old
David Winthrop caused him. Hugh Sullivan offered
to canvass for him while Winthrop claimed his ser-
vices.

" Have you any idea what's troubling the old man ?'
Hugh asked.

Mr. Grady shook his head in the old prophetic fash-
ion.

" I know but I won't tell until the right moment,"
he replied, " then youll be more surprised than I was



263

wh : n I first suspected it. He's interested in theology a
bit, and he's interested in death a bit, an' I'm givin'
him pints on both."

" Points !" said Hugh. ' He'll be like an apple
stuck with cloves when you get done shoving points
into him. '

Nevertheless strange things were occurring in the
quiet house where David Winthrop mourned for his
son and sat waiting for death, and Tim Grady was in
part responsible for them. After a few controversial
buffets Tim had said plainly to him,

" Ye're wan o' the luckiest men that ever drew
breath. Ye've never been baptized accordin' to yer
own sayin 1 , an' now ye're on the verge o* the grave,
an* ye have only to be baptized to shtep off the earth
clear o' purgatory sthraight into heaven. I don't care
what sort iv a life a man's had whin he kin do that
he's done as much for himself as a saint cud. Whin
ye're ready for the priest say the word an' I'll see to
it. There's no use argifiyin'. Ye're mind's med up
some time, an' ye only have to speak."

The idea of giving some completeness to his life
had taken firm hold of Winthrop. This world was
ended for him. A bruised heart and a wretched body
were all he had left of fortune. Into the next world,
whose existence he accepted, he was carrying a soul
as wretched as the body he left behind ; a soul bur-
dened with the memory of his lost son, and destined
to as lame a course as his earthly life had been. He
could not bear that thought, and turned desperately
to religion. The sublime and definite promises of the
Church appealed to him with irresistible strength. To
d e as free from si a and penalty as the babe, sancti-



264

fied by the Body of Christ, and strengthened with the
holy oils, to enter upon eternal life in an instant, per-
fect, sure of that success denied him upon earth,
heart whole, never to know weariness again, it was
a dream to inspire the dead. He believed long be-
fore books and Tim Grady fixed it in his soul He
hardly knew why he hesitated to seize the prize at
his hand, the prize which made his life a triumph
where men saw failure. Yet he hesitated. Until one
midnight the reason of his hesitation was given to him
in the hour between half thought and sleep. His mis-
takes, his blunders, his losses all through life had come
from hesitation, and now he was to blunder again, to
lose eternity in delaying without reason. He started up
in alarm wide-awake to his danger, and called his one
servant to run to the town hall with a note for Tim
Grady. Even now a weakness seized him, and he
could not dress as he intended, but lay back on his
pillow wondering with the grim courage of a man out
ot luck if death would take him in the night alone
and pass out with his soul as the priest entered the
door!

The priest and Hugh Sullivan came in with Grady
and set to work with speed His passing fit of weak
ness left him, and he gave a clear account of his
wishes, and a brief statement of his faith. The three
sacraments were administered to him between mid-
night and morning, and he slept, with Grady at his
bedside and Hugh slumbering in the next room,
forever beyond the reach of evil fortune. Grady
watched his face with interest. At first after the
priest had gone its expression was one of placid satis-
faction and comfort, but in the gray light it seemed to



265

fake on the hue of death. His body lay still and
fixed, so that Tim grew alarmed and called him
gently, then touched and shook him, only to see the
body fall limply back into its place. It looked like
death, but as Mr. Grady could see no reason for this
sudden departure he made no outcry and stood wait-
ing and thinking, and presently with a loud sigh old
David came suddenly out of his heavy sleep, sat up
in the bed, stared about him excitedly, as if he had
difficulty in locating himself, and then lay back on the
pillow with the tears streaming down his face.

"John is dead/' he cried out so loudly that Hugh
came hurrying in from the next room, and began to
soothe and comfort him. Mr. G r ady seeing that
something unusual had happened " may be a temp-
tation direct from the divil "secretly fingered his
beads in the outer room. When the old man had
quieted down he looked at Hugh sadly and said
again :

" John is dead, but not by his own hand, thank
God !" His information was accepted as a matter of
fact and nothing more was said about it.

" It's lucky he got the sacraments afore he wint
out of his mind,' 1 Mr. Grady said. Winthrop rallied
however and did not appear delirious or insane there-
after. His friends left him to his housekeeper, and
went back to the work of the fair now drawing to a
close amid much excitement. The two days reserved
for the children had passed without disaster. They
were the only days when the noisy little ones
were permitted to attend unguarded by parents
or friends. They tired out the officials.
Every child had a quarter to fpend, and



266

felt itself master of its fate. Nothing suited them.
They found the prices too high, the candy not sweet
enough, the ice cream too cold, the ladies too "sassy."
They refused to sign a book or to invest their money
without an instant return of one hundred per cent.
They were there for three dollars' worth of fun for
twenty-five cents, and some hoped to save five cents
on the bargain. They inspected the goods over and
over, and protested against inferior articles on the
wheel of fortune. The ridicule they cast on eveiy-


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Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 17 of 18)