John Talbot Smith.

Saranac : a story of Lake Champlain online

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through the lively and graceful figures of the dance.
It was a piece of condescension on the part of the
DeLaunays and John Wmthrop to stoop to please
the mob ; but there is no doubt they enjoyed the re
spectful worship quite as much as little gods usually
do. Captain Sullivan took it as a penance. It was
all well enough on the stage, but on the deck of his
own steamer to be displaying his shapely limbs in the
Greek costume to the people he met with every day
it was painful. He endured it for the sake of the priest,

9 8

who had requested the pretty exhibition. Such cheer-
ing from the pleased people when it was over.

Mrs. Sullivan had, with her own eyes, seen it, and
was mixed in her feelings. She had come down to
see the ship after the play was over, as she would not
attend anything so sinful as a play. She told Father
McManus so.

" Then how comes it," said he, " that you let your
son act in it, and permit your children to attend it ?
You must not countenance sin in your own house-

" Well," replied Mrs. Sullivan sourly, " I know I'm
in America, not Ireland, an' what's sin over there's
respectable here, an' I hould me tongue since it's no
use to talk to young people whin the priest himself s
in it/'

" Mr Grady believes in the play," said Father

" Sure annythin' that's novelty plases him," she re-
plied with a polite laugh. " What's ould is new nowa-
days he says, and that's why he is shinin' himself up
like ye'd brish an ould tin pan to make it look well."

She was there for one purpose, to discover how
her ice cream suited the tastes of the parish and take
eloquent vengeance on those who spoke lightly of its
flavor or other qualities. So she sat down in the
cosy restaurant of the ladies' cabin, and was making
a pretence of eating when the dramatic people all
came in, were introduced every one by Hugh, sur-
rounded her, and began to eat her ice cream and
cake with such warm praise that she fairly blushed.
She did not know how Hugh had prepared them for
that joke. Miss Del aunay said very little about it,


chatted in a sensible, kindly way that was far from
frivolity. To say that the old lady was gratified would
be a weak way of expressing her satisfaction ; to say
that she looked down from a lofty height of scorn
upon those who came after and found fault with her
work would be the correct thing.

It was such a night on the quarter deck that Hugh
took the entire troupe to the pilot house. Moreover,
he wished to put a question and give a warning to
Regina DeLaunay, and he thought the occasion very
proper. They stood apart from the others at his

" You won't mind my referring to the recent trouble
you have had," he said and felt the chill of her man-
ner at once, u but I must ask you, have you men-
tioned the affair to any others than those who knew
it first ?"

"Why do you ask?"

" To protect myself. You remember I gave you
my word of honor, not to mention the matter "

" I beg pardon. It was my fault. You were
forced to it almost. I led you perhaps to think
you should. '

" I give you my word again without any compul
sion," he said roughly, " for I do not wish to be mixed
up in a family affair at all. I should not have inter-
fered anyway, but I really laughed at the affair at the
beginning and was anxious only to save those donkeys,
Grady and LaRoche, from braying. I mention it
now, as I said, to protect myself. John Winthrop
knows it."

She was so astonished and scared that she gripped
his arm fiercely and gave a low cry.


" Only a few days ago," said Hugh, " he asked me
plump what was there in the report of your father
being sent to jail, and if I had not told him about it.
I denied everything, of course. But it shows that
some whisper has reached him, and that he knows I
was acquainted with it ; he thought to surprise me,
for John is a sharp lawyer. I don't think Grady or
LaRoche told him, for they would lose money by
talking. Yet Grady might. Anyway I don't want
you to think for a moment even by accident that I
would break my word."

' I could not,'' she said earnestly.

"So I repeat to }ou that I shall keep the matter
as safe a secret as if I had never heard it. Do not
blame me then if it becomes public."

" You have been only too kind. But tell me, do
) ou think there is any danger ? "

" From John Winthrop," he said in surprise. " He
would die before breathing a word that would reflect
on you, or on the meanest thing belonging to you."

They stood silent for a little while, and now that
the matter was off his mind Hugh seemed in the mood
to talk of pigs and irying-pans. The lovely night had
not the slightest effect on him. Miss DeLaunay,
completely frightened out of her pride, called his at
tention to the lake under the light of a late moon
and he said it meant muggy weather. The moon
hung low in the sky and a single cloud like a gate bar
stretched across its face ; its light fell only on the dis
tant woods ard little patches of water. The great
bridge crept over the black water like a huge animal,
and its red and green switch lights looked like terrib e
eyes. The air was soft. The members of the troupe


were talking in low murmurs. It was just the time
for quoting poetry. But Captain Sullivan could not
talk either philosophy or poetry, and she was disap-

" I've seen it so often," he explained, " that it makes
me think of going to bed t v^ry time I look at it."

The country-people meanwhile had got warmed to
their work, and the scenes around were as full of fun
as a circus-day. By a gracious whim of Father Mc-
Manus' the dancing hours were increased thirty
minutes. It was now ten o'clock and the merrymakers
had still ninety minutes in which to get rid of surplus
spirits, short time indeed for strong constitutions,
but what more could be expected from a church affair.

All the parish from the grandfather to the child in
arms, from the ditch-digger to the professional man,
was there, and much good humor was the result. It
can be guessed how carefully managed was the steam-
boat festival when Regina DeLaunay and her set did
not hesitate to attend. Father McManus was, of
course, the centre of interest and dignity. Wherever
he moved the eyes of the crowd followed. He patted
the children and bought them candy, pinched the
cheeks of the babies, ate ice-cream or oysters with
the solid men of the congregation He did this so
often that one might have wondered at his staying
power if not acquainted with the facts : He never
refused an invitation to refreshment, but a couple of
oysters, or a small cup of coffee, or a mouthful of
Mrs. Sullivan's cream satisfied him, and enabled him
to avoid disasters to his digestion.

With severe and hearty earnestness the young
people did double work in the last ninety minutes.


Each set being ended the dancers melted from the
floor into the refreshment rooms, and their successors
sprang into position on the instant ; the music went
off like a park of artillery, and the young feet took
the measure gaily. Father McManus never tired of
watching them. The vast'y polite bowing which fol-
lowed the uproarious command to salute partners ;
the first dash forward of the leading couple ; the dis-
play of individual character in solo dancing; the
effect of quickened movement of the final numbers,
the occasional confusion, the inspiring rat-tat of the
rhythmic feet, the soft laughter, the rush of the last
minute, the many sighs of pleasure and pleasant ex
haustion, of broken conversation and little shrieks,
which marked the stopping of the music, were things
to give delight. The country people perspired at
their work, and the director, and the musicians ; no
fun for them in simply moving to the sound of music,
they insisted upon exhausting themselves with laugh-
ter and activity. They objected to a brief inter-
mission for lunch. Dancing came only once a month
and eating was for every day in the year. They be-
sieged the priest for permission to waltz, and he gra-
ciously permitted the girls to dance it among them-
selves. Then the quadrilles were resumed. No
music which the musicians could furnish was rapid
enough for the eager feet, and the director exhausted
his figures to suit the dancers. Right and left flew
partners with amazing speed, swinging one another
like the turn of a wheel, bowed, skipped, tapped the
floor as with drum- sticks, flashed from point to point
about the circle and met again. Ribbons and jewelry
could not stand the strain, watch-chamrs were trampled


like coal-dust. The last figure was made up of Irish
airs, and began with "all hands around.' It would
have made the stones of Salem dance to madness to
hear that musir, unsuited, perhaps, for intellectual
heads, but sure to take any mortal listener fatally by
the heels. The dancers answered to it like racers in
the last quarter Their faces shone with delight, and
were regretful too, f r was it not the last of this lovely
evening? Cruel Father McManus! He made a
s gn to the director after a whisper to the musicians
in the very height of the last minute's enjoyment, and
all at once the music stopped, and the musicians fled.
There was a general laugh at the confusion.

" It is one minute after half-past eleven," the priest
explained. " I wish you all good-night."

It was a proclamation in behalf of law and order.
In less than five minutes the steamer was deserted
save by its watchmen, and before midnight the village
of Saranac was as quiet as if angels lived there.



Regina informed her father of the talk with Cap-
tain Sullivan on the steamer, and was not surprised
at the characteristic meanness of his first word 5 :.

' The beggar is getting ready to blackmail us," he
said, trembling and paling. " He wants money, he
works on our fears for a little and then makes his de-
mand Ah, that is what he was working for in all
this. Maybe too he is in league with the others to
make money out of me."

" Perhaps so," she answered wearily. " It does not


look very reasonable though. Time will tell, I sup-
pose. He assured me on his honor '

" Honor 1" sneered Mr. DeLaunay, in a fine tone

" That he had said nthing about it to anyone, and
never would. He thought Grady might have been
dealing with Mr. Winthrop, and made a bargain with

"If Winthrop gets hold of it we shall know very
soon who dealt with him. If it were only a question
of money I would not care. Regina, this Sullivan is
dangerous. You must look after him, tame him, find
out if he wants money, or what he wants. He is a
sneak. I hated him from the start. But I we have
reglected him. You and I must cultivate him. Call
on him, and invite him here. I feel if we can keep him
friendly there will be no trouble in saving ourselves."'

" Very well," she replied, coldly. " I have an ex-
cuse to call on his sister to day, and I will try to do
what I can. But, really, I do not think you need fear
him." He looked at her for a moment curiously.

" You see," he said, " I have no faith in what is
called a man's honor. You were always foolish on
that point, weren't you, Regina ?"

" Until lately," she answered with much composure,
and a laugh really good-humored.

" Don't bite me,'' said her father playfully. He
minded her bitter speeches no more than this.

She called on Mrs. Lajeunesse that day only to find
Remi much better, and also very eager to get well.
Because in a week's time the boys of his age were to
make their first communion, and the mere thought of
being in bed on that occasion had fairly banished the
fe /er and given the lad his normal spirits again.


' How very lucky," said Miss DeLaunay in her
coaxing voice, " to get well so quickly "

" Oh, there was no luck in it," said Remi confi-
dently. '* I just prayed to Saint Anthony and it came
through him. When I want anything, really and truly,
he is my saint. He's not as slow as grandma's Saint

" My dear," said mamma, " Miss DeLaunay does
not understand your talk about saints."

" I was in St. Anthony's city," the young lady said,
" and saw his rooms and churches and many relics of
him. He was a wonderful man."

" Here's Uncle Hugh," said Remi suddenly, and
his fa-e lighted up so radiantly that Regina could not
help saying,

u He seems to think so much of his uncle."

"He has every reason," answered the mother gent-
ly. " No father could be more to my children than
Hugh. He is wrapped up in them."

Miss DeLaunay could see that after the captain
had greeted her and sat down at the bedside. The
boy was in love with his uncle, while every glance and
caress of the young man had a father's tenderness in
it, and admiration too ; for he did rot fail to declare
in his ready, frank way that he thought Remi a won-
derful boy. It was a prevailing opinion in the house-
hold. Miss Regina was well satisfied with a kno*l-
edge of his virtues before she lett the house, and re-
ceived a pressing invitation to attend the church on
the day of his First Communion. Ot course she ac
cepted graciously, just as she had taken a second
jilate of cream st the festival, to please Mrs. Sullivan.
It touched her to see Captain Sullivan's love for his


nephew, it was so womanlike in its nature, and yet so
manlike in its restrained expression. She felt that a
wrong had been done the captain both by her father
and herself, and that some atonement was his due.
She was satisfied that If ugh's motives had not only
been honorable in his interference of late, but also
chivalruus ; that he had worked sincerely to save her
father from disgrace with no other motive than that of
assisting the unfortunate. His whole conduct showed
it. Of course there might be the deepest cratt in h s
behavior. But she did not think a man who talked of
pigs and pans in a parlor was really capable of craft
so extraordinary. A blackmailer ! A secret suitor !
Still the thought that she was inexperienced and easily
deceived determined her not to gush in her intercourse
with the Sullivans. If, as she believed, Hugh Sulli-
van had acted from the purest motives there was time
after a long acquaintance to show proper gratitude.
For the present a little interest in Mrs. Lajeunesse,
Rtmi, and the old lady's cream would do.

The children went on retreat together a few days
before the Easter communion. When Regina called
on Friday she met the two in the garden walking up
and down in silence.

"Good-morning," she said sweetly. They looked
up at the sky, fingers to lips, half smiling, and paid no
attention to her gieeting. Mrs. Lajeunesse admit-
ting her explained, also smiling, that the rule of a ie
treat was silence, and the children were cairying out
the rule literally.

" We've turned ourselves into a deaf 'n dumb hos-
pittle," said Mrs. Sullivan in good humor, "an' the
but paid her the compliment of a second plate, and


only consolation in it is that the Frinch is gone wid
the English."

" I am beginning to feel a real interest in this fes-
tival," said Regina. " What a change in those pretty
children, and what curious ways of teaching them
religious lessons."

" I suppose," said Mrs. Sullivan with polite curi-
osity, "ye had somethin' o' the same thing whin ye
wor young yerself."

" No silence, no retreat, no walking in the garden
praying," said Regina lightly. " I always found it
hard to say my night- prayers. Sometimes I think I
have no faith in prayer, I do so little of it."

" O' coorse iv that's yer thrainin' that's the way ye
have a right to feel, Miss DeLaunay. But it's mighty
poor feelin' to die on I shud think."

Preparation caused universal excitement in spite of
the rules of the retreat. Remi had a new suit, new
hat, new gloves and shoes, and Mrs. Sullivan had
consented to appear in a new dress, bonnet and shawl
for the first time in years. Then the white sash
which the boy was to wear was not of a width to suit
her large taste, its narrowness resulted in one dispute
with her daughter, while another followed, in whispers
of course, as to whether the sash should cross the
right shoulder or the left. It was like walking among
eggs Saturday evening after the children had come
home from confession, for Remi was so determined to
keep from committing a single fault until bed time
that if his grandmother spoke a word or made an
unusual movement his eyes rolled at her as at one
who had commited a sin. She was glad when his
mother finally lodged him in bed, and she had leisure


to drape herself in her new garments " to get the
hang o' them before the morrow." The excitement
was not diminished when Remi woke up at eleven
o'clock with a parched throat and a cry for water,
shedding copious tears lest it was after twelve, and he
had broken his fast in drinking. They had to show
him the clock before he could rest in comfort.
Then there was peace until daylight.

The April day was charming in Saranac, a reil first
communion day, not too cold, clear as crystal, and the
dry, hard earth full of promise oi spring. The blue
lake and its misty shores looked unutterably lovely
in the morning sun. The shabby streets were lighted
up by groups of people in their best attire, and each
group surrounded a boy in a white sash or a girl in a
wreath and veil and white dress, as beautiful to look
at as an angel might be. Regina thought so, and
her thought was already expressed in the faces of the
people. Among the dignified members of the proces-
sion that lined the street to the church, none so dig-
nified as Mr. Tim Grady, who could scarcely believe
his two eyes when he saw the Sullivans riding to
Mass in DeLaunay's carriage. He was walking at
the head of a group, in which were Captain LaRoche
and his wife, and discoursing on theology fluently.
Regina would have turned her face away when she
saw him, but that the sorrowful, lovely face of Mrs.
LaRoche attracted her when she recognized the cap-

" Tell me," she said to Mrs. Lajeunesse, " is that
woman, the tall one with the very sad face, the wife
of Captain LaRoche ?"

" God help her," answered Mrs. Sullivan, " it is.

She carres the sad heart to-day, the crayther, thinkin'
o' the b'y t^at made his first cmnmunion nearly twen'y
five years ago, an' threw grace an' all away for money
an' gamblin' an' drtnkin'. I reminder as well as I do
this minute the day she took him to the church jist
as well as we're takin' Remi ; an' ye may be sure she
thinks of it too, when she sees the childher dhressed
up so nice for their first communion."

A troubled, frightened look came into the face of
Remi's mother, and Regina grew all at once gloomy.
Her father had atoned with money for the mischief
he had d me, but what money could heal the wound
in this woman's heart or restore her son.

" All she prays for now," continued Mrs. Sullivan,
"is that he may come home to die wid the priest an'
be buried in consecrated ground. I often heard her
say she'd be happy as a bride iv his body were lyin' in
consecrated ground."

" Mother," said M r s. Lajeunesse trembling, " don't
talk of those things on a morning like this."

" The Ooss o' Christ be about us," cried the old
lady, " but I clane forgot meself. I declare I ought
to be sthruck dumb on t K ese occasions."

Regina took one long earnest look at the face of
Ame^e's mother before the carriage passed, and
felt its lines of sorrow burn into her mind with a sense
of physical pain.

" I suppose," she whispered to Mrs. Sullivan as
they left the carriage, " the poor woman prays for her

Mrs. Sullivan answered with a gesture.

" Do you think her prayers will be amwered ?"

" As sure as you an' I, Miss DeLaunay, are standin'

here, Amede"e LaRoche'll be buried in that cimmiU
ary," declared the old lady with such emphasis that a
load was lifted off Regina's heart Mr. Jo m Win-
throp himself assisted them to alight from the car-
riage, and brought Regina to the seat he had secured
for her father and mother. This pew was the centre
of attraction for curious eyes that morning. Many
were surprised to see Mr. DeLaunay genuflect and
bless himself, but the smile that his wife smiled at
these motions of habit they could not see because the
lac*y did not permit it to appear on the surface. The
church was clean bat dingy. The plaster was broken
here and there, the stoves were woeful to look at, and
the altar was a flimsy and miserable affair. Regina
noted these things when her eyes were not wandering
to the pew where AmedeVs mother sat eyeing the
happy children with a feeling that Miss DeLaunay
knew was in the poor mother's heart.

Her father alrr.ost dozed, her mother looked bored,
and John Winthrop kept up a running fire of comments
which spoiled everything. He did not like the sing-
ing, or the sermon, the standing up or the sitting
down, the priest or his people ; and he kept telling
these things to Regina in a comical way until the
spirit of the scene had left her. The parish priest was
not a good talker, and his sermon was tiresome ; so
was the singing. But the children were lovely, and their
innocent devotion would charm the hardest. Regina
felt t u e reverence of the people at the august moments
of the Mass. The hush was thrilling. When the
little white-clothed children took their places at the
al'ar-rail every neck was craned to get a better look,
and many an eye was moistened. Remi among his


rougher companions looked angelic. His uncle and
John Winthrop looked at him with interest, and their
faces turned profile together gave Regina a chance to
study them at the same moment. The study was a
revelation. The fine cultured features of the lawyer
were disfigured by an expression of cold pity for super
stition; the ruddier, plumper face f the captain
seemed transfigured by feeling. In this instance the
less noble face had evidently the nobler heart!

After the children had received the communion the
elders went up to the holy table, and among them
were the Sullivans. The expression of pity on Win-
throp's face turned to curiosity on seeing Hugh leave
his seat to take part in the ceremony; then he seemed
amused at the grav ; ty of Hugh's manner, and looked
at his nails awkwardly for a while. He could not be
cynical here for he knew his friend's sincerity; he
only looked puzzled, and soon became cynical again.

" Papa," whispered Regina, when the singing be-
gan, " the woman in black just ahead of you in the
other aisle is AmedeVs mother."

Mr. DeL^unay looked languidly in that direction,
and saw the poor mother pull her veil over a face
streaming with tears while she hurried from the
church to prevent the sobs that struggled for loud ut-
teran^e. Regina's face was expressive as she met
father's gaze.

" She had fourteen children," he whispered with a
smile. " I wish this affair would end."

It was ending almost at that moment, but he was
not familiar enough with ceremonies he still believed
in to know that. His daughter felt the pleasure of
witnessing such a scene damped by the sorrow of a


bereft mother, the heartlessness of her father and the
indifference of the others. What a contrast they
were to the Sullivans and the simple people about
them ! In all her relations with her friends and
neighbors she had never passed through a single
scene where human emotions were so fully and nobly
moved to spiritual things. It might be superstition,
folly, witchcraft. If so, what a pity that the ways cf
evil should have beauties that the ways of trutn had
not ! Feeling this sentiment she expressed it to Win-
throp and the captain as they stood by her carriage
after all was over. She expressed it vigorously, notic-
ing that the lawyer looked tired and the boatman pale
but exalted.

" Millinery and tears in equal proportions affect any
woman," sneered the lawyer.

u It was our sincerity that affected Miss DeLaunay,"
was the Captain's serious answer.

These two answers set her thinking more deeply
than ever, and her look as she drove away made poor
Winthrop heart-sick.



John Winthrop's heart was so wholly in Regina's
keeping that he had made up his mind to be her hus-
band one day or cease to live. He was therefore
greatly relieved when navigation opened for the
passenger steamers and Captain Hugh one fine even-
ing sailed awav. For thirty-six hours the Captam
would be out of Saranac, and out of temptation ; and


the impression which he had made on Regina might
weaken. Winthrop was still more pleased when the
necessities of business and the ordinary accidents of

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Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 7 of 18)