John Talbot Smith.

Saranac : a story of Lake Champlain online

. (page 3 of 18)
Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 3 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of some peculiar scenes in connection with this history.
Hugh was the last arrival, and received too much at-
tention thereby. The popular captain of the lake
steamer seemed to improve in manly beauty with the
improvement in his surroundings, and each person
present had a pleasant word for him. His entrance
inspired them. Unconsciously he was a leader, and
Miss DeLaunay had to admit, much against her will,
that his influence reached even herself.

The rehearsal began with spirit. Papa DeLaunay
was an enthusiastic amateur and played father to
Parthenia in an earnest, gentlemanly way. Hugh
felt like a detective as he watched him, and tried hard
to keep his eyes and thoughts on commonplace things.
The elegant appearance of DeLaunay iarred him.
His silver- white hair did not suit the head of a. crim-
inal. The fine aristocratic features, the white hands,
and graceful form opposed the notion of crime and


sin. Looking at the richness of the room Hugh
thought of Dannemora prison and the Texan plains.
He was simple-minded enough to be horrified by these
contrasts, which had pleased and thrilled him in
dramas. DeLaunay was conscious of the Captain's
interested gaze, and sat beside him in an interval.

" Well, what do you think of me as an actor ?" he

Hugh, conscious of two senses in the question,

" You do well for an old man," he said.

The old man laughed. He had a musical throat.
In his face there was scarcely a wrinkle.

" What are you laughing at ?" said Hugh.

" I am only fifty-five," he answered. " I don't call
that old."

" Nor I. You are a very clever actor," said Hugh
with a seriousness that evidently startled Mr. De
Launay. He looked sharply for an instant at Hugh,
and then excused himself politely to resume his place
in the play. It was not possible that conscience ever
troubled a man with so serene a face and so benevo-
lent an expression But Hugh in his innocence of
finer human sensibilities fancied his last remark had
struck home. Had Mr. DeLaunay remained a few
minutes longer he might have said harsher things for
the guilty conscience. The rehearsal went on, and
Ingomar's acting gave every one special delight, and
tortured John Winthrop with envy of it. He could
act like a gentleman in his part, but it had no effect
and had nothing to do with beautiful Parthenia, whose
melting eyes looked tenderly on Hugh and whose
white hands clasped Hugh's rougher ones in the scenes


between the savage chief and his captive. Miss De
Launay was in love with Hugh's acting, although she
k.iew he would amount to little in any other part.
He was simply Hugh Sullivan, the captain of a lake
steamer, in all that he did, and his orders to his sav-
age band were given in the tone he would use to lazy
deck-hands. But it was well done for an amateur, it was
dashing, and she was satisfied. Then she saw that he
was interested in her, that he surrendered to her charms
(in the play) as if he were thinking of a real surrender
in every day life. It was the last idea in his mind,
however. He was wondering if in real life Miss
Regina DeLaunay would be so royally brave for
her father's sake, and would make such sacrifices for
him as Parthenia made for her parent.

Mrs. DeLaunay complimented him on his acting.
She was a quiet-mannered woman, languid without
being offensive, and did not seem to depend very
much on her husband or daughter for her own com-

" It is pleasant for Regina to have an actor beside
her," she said, " it gives her an occasion to exert her-

Hugh thought irreverently that Mr. DeLaunay had
never been the occasion of great exertion for his wife.

" I hope you will be friends," continued Madame,
" if for no other reason than to keep up these private
theatricals. I admire them."

"Miss DeLaunay has so many friends," said Hugh.

" Not at all," replied the lady frankly, " she has not
five in Saranac and New York together. That is her
own affair. But it can be said to her credit that she
has no enemies."


Hugh wondered much at the contrast between the
lady's languid manner and her strong expressions.

"John Winthrop would give much to act as you
do," said Mrs. DeLaunay, " you are great friends I

" Went to school together, fought through the war
side by side, ma'am."

"A pity you cannot act alike," with mild sar-

The rehearsal ended, tea was served in the green
room and Regina did her Ingomar the honor of talk-
ing with him ten minutes, to the intense jealousy of
Winthrop. It was not a pleasant conversation by
any means. Hugh watched her much as an old Ro-
man might have regarded a Christian soon to be
thrown to the lions, without being conscious that such
observation might be offensive, and Regina, who
wished to be divinely gracious to a plebian who acted
so beautifully, was dismayed to find that Mr. Sullivan
was not aware of her graciousness.

" It is natural with some people to act well," said
Regira, thinking of her own talents. " It must be
natural to you."

" Not at all," said Hugh, " I feel at first like a pig
on ice. Afterwards I feel like a fish in a frying-pan.
But there's plenty of fun in it."

" You are a born Ingomar," said she, sure that in
real life the barbarian chief would have talked in
Grecian parlors of pigs and fish and frying-pans.

" I would like to have been the real thing," he re-

She was touched with the compliment and the
earnest look that went with it.


"For the sake of the real Parthenia?'' ihe said

" No, for the sake of the life. There must have
been a pile of money in it," he said, thoughtfully.

"I see you have your fortune to make yet, Mr.

He became suddenly aware of her sarcasm.

" Every man," he said laughing, " has that to do.
He has the choice too of getting it honestly, or by
playing Ingomar."

" Perhaps," she answered slyly, " your talent for
acting might be of use to you there."

" It has helped many a man," said Hugh with a
glance towards her father, which of course had no
meaning to her. When she moved away to entertain
another of the party Miss Regina felt that her ten
minutes had been wasted. Hugh Sullivan was not
only stupid but coarse, and seemed t o know nothing
of the refinements of thought and speech. Pigs and
fish and frying-pans ! She complained of him to John

" You know how he has been brought up," said
John, "his people are somewhat dull and rough, and
1 suppose he followed them. Mere Irish you kno v."
^" I am mere Irish," she said with dignity.

" Not at all," answered John cheerfully. " You
have some of the Celtic blood in you, bat it is blue
not red. And your training, and your parents, Miss
DeLaunay, and your creed. These are important
circumstances. You are not merely Irish."

*' No, I suppose not," mollified, " but if he is only
what he is how could you have gro vn up together so
intimate and friendly Damon and Pythias, you know."


Mr. Winthrop snapped his fingers, mentally at
the legend. Physically he never did such a thing.

" Damon and Pythias," he said, " were only a cir-
cumstance to us. Probably that Hugh Sullivan, whose
fibre is a little too coarse for you, saved my life at
the risk of his own a half dozen times. We had the
fever both. You ought to hav e seen his gentleness as a
nurse. He has the fibre of a man, Miss DeLau-
nay. I suppose he cannot make drawing-room
speeches, and talks of coal and steam and money "

" And pigs and fish and frying-pans," she added

" That's a matter of taste, 1 ' he said smiling. " I
know he's deficient in the finer sense. But if you
like a man, brave, honest, religious, superstitious, too
-all Catholics are superstitious your Ingomar is
a specimen not to be found everywhere."

* How very kind of you to say so. You interest me
in him very much. I do admire a brave man, a strong
one. I like to watch the lake boatmen in summer.
Such vigor, such muscle ! But they swear dreadfully."

John was satisfied. The jealousy which pinched
his heart when he thought of Hugh's acting, had no
reason for existence. Miss DeLaunay could never
endure a man who talked of pigs in a parlor, and that
was Hugh's fashion although he was anything but
vulgar or stupid. Therefore he listened with pleasure
to the parting compliments which Hugh received.

" You will not fail us," said Regina earnestly, " at
the next rehearsal. We cannot do without you."

" I know it," he answered, " and I shall get around.
But my mother is very much set against private thea-
tricals. She says in Ireland you might as well sell
your soul to the devil as turn play-actor."


" I must call on her, and change that opinion,*' said
Reginia sweetly.

" There is another side to Mrs. Sullivan's opposi-
t : on," John said when all were gone. He was laugh-
ing " In her eyes there is no one like her son, and
she dreads the moment when beauty will take him
from her."

Regina joined in his laugh. The idea that a mere
Irish peasant woman should fear to lose her son to
the princess of Saranac was very amusing. Hugh
heard her sweet laugh as he stepped onward down the
avenue, and a touch of sadness came upon him. What
a pity if the happiness which made her heart so light
should suddenly be buried under black ruin. He felt
a sudden wish to prevent such a catastrophe even at
the expense of justice, and he determined in any case
to have nothing to do with Li Roche and his scape-
grace son. For the second time he was sorry the
letter had been sent to Osborne, Texas.



When Captain La Roche touched Hugh's arm one
night on the street and asked him to call at his house
before nine o'clock he understood at once that a letter
had arrived from Amedee. He answered shortly that
it was too stormy a night and he had other business.
The tone might have warned La Roche against press-
ing his invitation.

" I have a letter," said he, " from my son. I'm
goin' to 'ave DeLaunay arrested to-morrow."

Hugh turned upon him fiercely.


" How many have you told of this thing?'' he said.

"No one but t>e ol' woman. She's so tickled I
never saw anyone take on as she does. But we
'aven't tol' no one till we know what we're goin' to

" 1 11 go down with you now," said Hugh. In spite
of his own wishes he was forced to enter into a matter
which boded so much evil to Retina DeLaunay, if
only to protect her. He could not bear the thought
of disgrace and sorrow coming to her, and being man
of the world enough to know that publicity might be
prevented in many ways he resolved then and there
"to see her through it." It was a bitter night. The
wind and the falling snow together made the time
mournful. It seemed to Hugh as they plodded
along the lighted streets that the people must
know of the letter which LaRoche carried.
By one of those coincidences so ironical and frequent
they met most of the parties interested in the letter
Mr. O Grady came out of the post-office ani greeted
them, o'd Winthrop hobbled by, and Regina with her
father flew past in a sleigh. LaRoche thinking of
his letter paid no heed.

The hoase-kitchen was a welcome spot on such a
night. The wood stove threw out its grateful heat on
the small neat room which Madame LaRoche kept
always in spotless condition. The kerosene lamp, a
dolphin erect on his tail in the attempt to swallow a
glass bowl, was lighted and standing on its red knit
cushion. The altar to the Mother of God, with blue,
red and yellow cardlesticks, the crucifix above it, the
holy water bottle and the blessed candle beside it had
its proper corner. The rag carpet was madame's own


weaving. The rosebushes and geraniums on the
shelf were her particular care. This was the room in
which for fifteen years she had wept and prayed for
the vindication of her son. Hugh when he looked on
her calm worn face thought suddenly of his own mo-
ther and felt a pity that was new to him for the woman.
Her face now was joyful, but alas it would never lose
the expression of sorrow fixed there by long grieving.
Joy only lighted it strongly, but could not dispel the
lines of grief. After all, he thought, it was only fair
that the DeLaunays should taste the woe they had
dealt to others. Madame LaRoche gravely welcomed
Hugh. She regarded him highly.

" I want you," said La Roche, " to read the letter
to t^e ol' woman. You see I only tol' her 'ow it was.
I'm rot a good reader you know. But I made it out
for myself. You kin give it to her straight."

He was nervous and could not speak without tremb-
ling. When he handed the letter to Hugh his hands
shook. The poor mother fixed her eyes on it with
an expression that went to Hugh's heart. Her sole
hope was there. The captain locked the door and
read in a low tone the strange story which Amedee
La Roche had written in distant Texas.

" Dear father and mother," it began, " I don't know
how to write this letter. I am afraid of myself since
I received Mr. Sullivan's letter. He told me the
whole story, how that villain DeLaunay "

" He forgot himself," said the father.

u Who could blame 'im." answered the mother bow-
ing to the crucifix over the altar.
"gave out that I had stolen over three thousand
dollars," Hugh continued. " And so everyone has

believed. That is what the fellows from Saranac that
I met out here meant when they said puzzling things
to me. But I must tell my own story at once, that
you and mother may know the exact truth. Poor
mother, what she must have suffered for me only God
will ever know."

Madame LaRoche bent her head and resolutely
held back the tears that rushed to her eyes.

" Mon pauvre fils," she thought, "c'est lui qui a

" Here is the truth about the money I was said to
have stolen from the firm. The week before I left I
had been drinking pretty hard, and gambling, too,
and most of my money had gone that way. I was
not short in my accounts. I had not taken one cent
from the firm. I never did. Often when I was out
of money I took ten or twenty dollars from the safe.
Both members of the firm knew it. I have taken as
high as fifty dollars, and they did not object.

" When I got out this time I took fifty dollars and
spent it quickly on drink. Then I took fifty mo T e.
It was one o'clock in the morning when I went to
the office to take the second fifty. I was half drunk,
but I had my senses. I had no idea of stealing. The
boys were waiting for me in the saloon. I knew I
could pay it back in the morning. I did not feel like
a thief. I never stole in my life. You remember
that well "

" Remember," said LaRoche, with a sudden burst
of feeling. "He was the honeses' boy, Hugh, that
you never saw. He might drink an' gamble, but it
went agin his gram to steal."

" I did not light the lamp. I went straight to the

safe, and with a candle to see by opened it and took
out the money. There was yet two hundre I dollars
there. When I closed the safe and timed round to
go out there was DeLaunay standing with a pistol
pointed at me. ' You thief,' he said."

Madame LaRoche gave a slight shriek, and her
husband to keep back the oath that sprang to his
lips gripped the back of his chair.

" I am no thief," I said. " I have a right to be
hrre. I have taken a ^undred dollars, but I shall put
it back w) en it is wanted "

'You go to jail this moment," he said, keeping the
pistol pointed at me. " You are a common burglar.
I have caught you m the act of breaking into this
office and stealing f r om this safe. You will get five
.}ears in Dannemora for this. You must come with
me row to the constable. If you try to escape I will
shoot you."

"Then I thought of you, mother, and my heart
fa'led. I begged of him for your sake to let me off.
J offered to work a year without wages if he would
let me go. He would not. I was getting ready to do
something desperate when he said, ' Your parents are
decent people, you are a disgrace to them. If you
will start at once for Texas, and have no communica-
tion with your friends for a year you can go 1 was
glad to get such an offer. He provided me with
money for my fare, but warned me if I broke the
conditions he would clap me in o jail at any time."

" I went past our house on my way to the railroad,
and saw the light in the kitchen."

" It was this very lamp," said Madame.

"I knew you were waiting for me, mother, as you


always did, even when I wis worst. I wanted to go
in and kiss you good-bye, hut DeLaunay had forbid
den it. I looked in the window and saw you sitting
there with your beads in your hand, waiting to hear
my knock, and it broke my heart, mother, to think
how long you might wait and never hear it again
Then you looked up, and for fear that you might see
my face, I stole away."

" But I saw it, man Dieu" cried out Madame, tears
of anguish streaming down her face. She rose and
went to the window to point out the very pane against
which the wind had piled high the snow.

" I saw his face 'ere," she said ; " I thought it was
a ghost. Wen he not come back that night, nex'
mornin' I said my boy is dead."

She returned to her seat, drying her eyes. Cap-
tain Li Roche put another log in the stove.

" I was on the boat then," he said, " but the women-
folks said she took on terrible. She was al'ays cer-
tain of seein' the face agin the glass. It seems now
she did/'

Hugh resumed his reading.

" T got to Texas, and have stayed here ever since.
I had a hope, that my stay here would not be long.
I tried to be good for a while, but when hope went I
got reckless. I have been anything but a good man,
mother. But when I got Mr. Sullivan's letter, and
when I read of the lies told about me in Saranac I
felt that God was punishing me for my sins "

" I took one hundred dollars. I did not steal them.
If DeLaunay says I took three thousand dollars he
lies. He took the money himself, and then laid it to
me. That was why he sent me to Texas. That was


why he sent me letters without date or name threat-
ening me if I came back I would go to jail. I un-
derstand it well. Now, father, you must try to get
me back. If I stay in Texas much longer I will die.
I have been to confession and communion. I have
a new scapular. I am trying by praying to God to
get justice. Oh, how I have suffered for fifteen years,
for what I never did "

Madame LaRoche could control herself no longer,
and burst into violent sobbing, the father was silent
and busied himself with the fire. The letter ended at
this point abruptly with an appeal for an immediate
answer. There was sorrowful silence for a long time.
When Madame was calm once more LaRoche said :

" Any way, ol' woman, you're satisfied with your
boy that he ain't no thief."

" I knew he wasn't, always,"

"An' to morrow after I get Mr. DeLaunay arrested,"
he said to Hugh, "you k : n write an' tell the boy
we're doin' what we kin to help him."

Hugh did not reply except by a nod of his hear*.
He had seen the expression on the Captain's face as
he folded the letter and put it carefully in his pocket, a
half smile around tne lips, anger and agony in the
eyes and the lines of the face, violent determination
in the glance he gave the letter. To turn him from
any purpose formed under such emotion would be a
thankless task. He simply said :

" You must not be in a hurry, whatever you do "

" That's true," answered the pilot quietly. " I've
waited nigh onto fifteen years. Not much of a hurry
is it?"

"A mistake now would add fifteen years to that.''


" Oh, I'll get a lawyer. It'll cost money, but if it
took every cent I have that man must pay for what
he did.''

" I wish you would take my advice," said Hugh,
after doing some rapid thinking.

" Not if it goes agin arrestin' Mr. DeLaunay."

"That is not the way to talk, Joe," said Madame
severely. "Mr. Sullivan is our friend. Do as he
says. We can wait some more. Don't get mad w'en
Amedee is all right."

" You see," said Hugh, having no doubt whatever
of DeLaunay's guilt, " when DeLaunay put this
caarge on your son he insisted on his seeing none of his
friends for a year. I don't know much about the case,
but I suspect he wished to fix everything in that year
so that Amedee could never prove anything against
him He is a rich man now. The books that Amedee
kept you remember were all falsified. He may have
destroyed these books. Suppose you arrest him to-
morrow, and a trial takes place next week Where are
your witnesses? Who is going to prove that De-
Launay stole the money and put the crime on your
son ? And if the case is thrown out, what will pre-
vent him from getting damages out of you, and taking
away your property ? "

The good sense of this came home to La Roche
and angered him the more against the man whse
position in spite of his crime wis yet so strong.

"If he did that," he answered swinging the iron
poker suggestively, " I would kill him "

Madame LaRoche made the sign of the cross, and
bowed in apology to the crucifix.

" Of course I don't mean I'd do such a thing," said


her husband with a nervous laugh, " but I would feel
like it. A poor man 'as no show agin a rich one. I
know that."

"I don't," Hugh replied shortly, "but the poor
man must use his wits and his money, and not fight
when he's sure to get whipped."

After long hesitation aad thought LaRoche said,

" Wat would you advise me t do ?"

" See the priest. He's tke safest mati to take ad-
vice from."

The frown on LaRoche's brow lightened. For a
moment he had suspected Hugh of an intention to
turn him from his purpose. He became frank once
more, and allowed Hugh to talk freely on the best
way to attack DeLaunay. Delay was all the young
man wanted. He could not see his way clearly to
helping Regina, because he felt that justice must be
done the poor vagabond in Texas, and this suffering
household How to do it with as little disgrace for
Regina as possible was his problem. It ocrurred to
him that if once old David Winthrop gt these facts
in his hands, nothing would save DeLaunay from the
penalty of his crime.

" The pries'," said LaReche, " is a good man. I
think, ol' woman, I'll go up an* talk with him to-mor-

" He is our true friea'," said Madame. " He 'as
al'ays said with us, * Your poor boy is innocent.' "

" I think we owe 'ira sme pw rent, an' I km
bring it up to 'im at the same time. I'll go up the
irst thing in the moniin',"

" Would you like to hare me go with you ?" said


" It would be the best thing for me/' LaRorhe an-
swered readily. " Abcut ten o'clock's the time, an' I
km meet you at the hotd.**

Madame had begun to light all the candles on the
litt'e altar, and when Hugh went to the door the room
was in a blaze of light.

" On doit remercier le feen Dieu pour ses graces,"
she said to her husband. " II a trouve" notre fils."

" Good night," said the Captain.

"Mille remerciments, Monsieur Sullivan," said
Madame with deep emotion.

" Pas de quoi," Hugh answered, stopping to take a
second look at the little altar " Say a prayer for me
there please. Prayers must be heard from such a
beautiful shrine as that. Good night."

He plunged into the storm. The fine, dry snow
dashed into his face as he went up the street. A
sleigh laden with furs stood before a residence, and
Regina DeLaunay was coming down the steps to take
a seat in it. She did not recognize him in the dark
ness and storm. He was studying at that moment
what possible plan could be devised to save her from
shame and yet restore to honor and usefulness the
poor exile in Texas.



A sleepless night left Captain La Roche with con-
fused ideas and disturbed emotions. At first it
seemed the right thing to do, to consult the priest. But
he had dreamed of his boy tramping through Texa<=,
after all his education and the promise of his youth ;

4 8

he feared Hugh Sullivan was not interested enough
in proving his boy's innocence, being a friend of De
Launay and a friend of the priest. How could he
trust these people until I^eLaunay was safely in jail.
He told his wife this.

" Mr. DeLaunay won't stay long in jail," she re-
plied. " He can give bail for thousands."

" Anyway I'm going to have him arrested," he said.
"Then I can see the priest afterwards."

Madame did not attempt to change the will of the
stubborn pilot. She was arranging the table for break-
fast, and now began to ligkt the candles on the altar.

'' What again !" cried LaRoche. " Is this a church
we have. But we cannot take up a collection every
Sunday ta pay for candles." He spoke in French
seriously. Nevertheless he knelt down beside her to

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 3 of 18)