John Talbot Smith.

Saranac : a story of Lake Champlain online

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bly wandering in shame and sorrow through the wil-
derness. Regina 1'stened, watching the east
shore where the first dawn would appear, and
Winthrop talked with his eyes fastened on her
face, studying that new strange expression which
so puzzled him. The ship's lantern gave but
a feeble light, and sometimes her head
was bowed ; yet he knew the expression would be
there when her face came out of the shadow again.
Presently she fell asleep so quietly that he alone no-
ticed. He was sitting at her feet, and rose to a stand-


ing position as if for greater ease. It was to watch
her more closely. The men talked, Regina slept, and
the slow minutes crept on. Her lips moved once, a
smile parted them, and a single word was breathed
into his ear.


Then there was quiet again, aud the talk of the
two men continued ; but the utterance of that name,
the tenderness of the tone, had hurt him like a
mortal wound. No matter what he thought,
what conclusions he reached, they are easily compre-
hended; a sudden temptation seized him and he
walked away to the lake shore, which was here a
precipice, and debated if he would throw himself
headlong into the water, or hand to Regina the fatal
letter lying against his heart. To die was nothing ;
to live dishonored was dreadful. He could drown
himself ; could he betray his friend ? It took fifteen
minutes to settle this practical question in favcr of his
own life. There was nothing morbid in the reason-
ing which led to his decision, nothing dramatic.
Winthrop's honor was most sensitive ; to do a mean
thing seemed for him impossible ; to betray his bosom
friend, to make him appear despicable in Regina's
eyes was an alternative with death. Death was an
easy thing, while this treachery was torture. Yet he
decided to live a traitor to his friend in the hope of
one day winning this incomparable girl ; and it took
him but fifteen unpleasant minutes, to wound to death
the one virtue in which he took pride.

It was gray dawn when Regina awoke, and a flush
of light was threatening the East. The tramp sat
near tranquilly smoking a cigar. There was no sound


in the wilderness. When the man saw her moving he
; tood up respectfully with a few old letters in his
hand, and held them out to her.

" I think some of the gentlemen lost 'em," he said.
"If you could look 'em over, and give 'em to the
captain. It ain't safe for me to have 'em."

She took them listlessly, and examined them with
her thoughts elsewhere. There were no envelopes to
the letters. She opened the first and read " Dear
John," let her eye run down the page to the signature,
and caught the words " prison," " DeLaunay," "jail,"
stopped in a fright, and read the paragraph, looked
at the date and the signature, and then handed them
to the tramp.

" Give them te the Captain with my compliments,''
she said in a low voice, " or to Mr. Winthrop. I
think they belong to him."

Oh, what a catastrophe that letter had wrought in
her mind, and what a pain it sent through her heart !
But as she said to herself very sensibly an instant
after, it could not have happened otherwise. He was
of low extraction, he was vulgar, and, therefore, he
could break a solemn promise, lie with ease, play the
hypocrite, and scheme to marry her like any selfish
fellow. His tears, generosity, bravery, were animal
things ; everyone knows that a dog can be faithful to
his master even to death, and yet rob another cur of
a cheap bone. Fortunately she had not committed
herself. She had come near to making a gieat mis-
take, but her own caution had been strong enough to
save her. It was delightful to think of. She d'd not
owe her salvation to anyone but herself. Therefore
she stood up very proudly, and thanked her stars that


the DeLaunay pride was safe. The Captain and
Winthrop with her father came up to invite the women
to a breakfast on the UVe shore. Mr. DeLaunay was
in perfect toilet, the young men looked worn, and the
Captain's face utterly sad. Winthrop seemed cheerful,
and h's shrewd glance detected at once the very or
dinary, not to say disappointed exp'ession of Regina's
calm countenance. The curious exaltation of the
nig'-'t previous was gone, and she glanced at Hugh as
one would glance at a wall. There was no change in
her polite manner, except a slight increase of her
natural reserve, and disposition to silence. The Cap-
tain certainly did not notice it, and had she become
an idiot at that particular moment would scarcely
have given it a thought in the disaster that had be-
fallen his beautiful ship. The few hours spent in
waiting for rescuers calmed the disturbed spirits of the
few interested in the episode of the letter, and when
they finally sailed away to Saranac, Regina and Win-
throp had the separate conviction that all's well that
ends well, and that matters were very msch as they
had been before Captain LaRorhe's troublesome son
stirred calm but muddy waters.


Mr. Tuttle one day entered Winthrop's office to
engage the lawyer's services for a friend. It was the
most dignified event of his existence, this engaging a
liwyer, and he wished the whole world to know it ;
but even all Saranac could not be got together in
midsummer long enough to feel interested in the inci-
dent. Winthrop alone was to be impressed with Mr.

I 3


Tattle's new sense of personal dignity on this occa-
sion. He droned his opinions into John's ears until
the lawyer fancied him a lazy bee relishing the task
of boring a lawyer in his private office.

" I'm a no account feller," said Sol, " tho' I hev
taken the pledge from the priest, an' I hev held on to
a bank book. Sometimes it's the no account fellers
that gits choosed for mighty partikler an' important
persitions. I know I'm no account, but I know I am
also choosed by a certain pusson to git your advice
an' counsel, by law an' by court, in the best way them
things air fixed up by the hull o' New York state. It's
a ticklish thing, an' money's got to be put into it, an'
money's to come out of it too ; but Sol Tuttle per-
vides the money, an' once in he stays in till the last
dollar is jingled, an' you kin put him down for a slab-
sided, holler chested, round-shouldered "

" Hold on, Sol," cried the lawyer, waking up from
his day dream. "Let us know what you're after on
the spot, and stop spouting. What do you want ?"

" What do I want ? Thet's for you to tell, Mr.
Lawyer. We don't know what we want, we don't.
We want our rights first off, an' as they've been tuck
away nigh onto fifteen year, they must be pretty well
used up I reckon. Then we want their full value, an'
our good name, which is our reputation, back, an'
enough spot cash to make us forgive an' forgit forever.
But I'm sartin there's more that we want, on'y it takes
a lawyer feller to find it out."

Winthrop kept a discreet silence.

" Mr. Stone sent me to ye askin' if you would be
so kind as to take up a job o' that sort ?"

" Certainly," said John, " no trouble delighted."

" That's what I told 'im. You never met Mr.
Stone ?"

" No," said John, " I hope to see him soon."

" Wai, that depends on your advice an' your abil-
ity. If you say so, he'll come over to-morrer an' take
the town by surprise. It'll be a big surprise, too.
Mr. Stone is a public character, an' we used to know
him by his right name, Amede'e LaRoche."

"Ah!" said John then, and a fine smile lighted up
his face. His opportunity had come.

"I tole 'im," continued Sol, "that the best an' onli-
est way to handle this hull business was to put it in
your hands. I saw the scrabblin' that ol' cuss Tim
Grady an' Cap'n Sullivan had the last time. An'
what did it amount to? Nothin'. New, sez I, this
time that'll be no scrabblin'. We'll hev the best law-
yer in town, an' we'll spend money on him, sez I."

" Where is Mr. Stone stopping ?''

" With me an' Sairey over on the Point. You
never see sech a poor washed out critter as he's got
to be, that was the mos' proper boy in Saranac onct.
But hard times an' drink an' despa'r, Lor' I whar
won't they land a man ! I lay the hull blame onto De-
Launay. He ought to smart for it, an' he will, by gum."

" What does Mr. Stone want ?"

" He wants to come home here to his folks without
gittin' arrested, for things he never done. He wants
his good name, which is his reputation, back. He
wants to be compensified for all he stood out in Texas,
consortin' with wild beasts an' wild men. He wants
to be let alone. Above all he wants to git squar'
with DeLaunay, the double-dyed villyan that tuck
three thousand dollars an' laid it on him. Them's


the things he wants, an' here's the money to back you
up in gittin' 'em "

And Sol with dignity placed one hundred dollars
on the desk before the lawyer.

" Mr. Stone is not feeling well ?"

" No," said Sol, " he aint. I shouldn't wonder if
Con hed him, he coughs so ; an' he s mighty thin.
His own mother wouldn't know him. But he's got
his dander up, an' his grit is suthin' fearful to see, an'
he talks like, wal, I swow, thar aint no preacher I
ever heerd could hold a taller candle to him when he
gits started."

" Does he drink ? '

" Haint touched a drop sence spring ; swars he
won't never put a drop in his mouth till he's got his
rights. He sez to me, Sol, if ever you see me lookin'
weak at whisky, or reachin' for it, or about to take a
nip, jump on me. If I once go on a racket I'd clean
out all Saranac. No Eastern man knows, sez he,
what a commotion and a excitement a Texas steer
can raise when he gits started. Jump on me, sez he,
an' I'll be thankful. An' I'll do it, sez I, with Sairey's
help, an' mebbe he won't feel so thankful when I'm
through with him."

" Then Mr. Stone leaves his case with me."

" That's what's the matter."

" And he is willing to be guided by my advice.'

" Iv'e come over to get it and fetch it back."

" Then tell him to stay with you until I call on him.
Let him be known as Mr Stone. Let him keep his
mouth shut, and recognize no one. I shall go to see
him this evening perhaps, or to-morrow early, and
hear his story, and arrange for whatever is best."

" That's business," said Sol, and he would have
continued to drone another hour but that the lawyer
hurried him into the street on some pretence.

He returned him his money saying that the re-
tainer could be paid after Mr. Stone and he had de-
termined what to do and how *o do it.

Sl went off to his boat, and John Winthrop began
to study the unexpected incident which promised to
bring him into pleasant and hopeful relations with
Regina DeLaunay. Amede"e LaRoche had returned
to give trouble, as his father had given trouble on his
acrount. Winthrop had recently added to his knowl-
edge of this matter. He knew that money had been
stolen years ago, and DeLaunay had stolen it while
young LaRoche bore the odium and the punishment.
Captain Sullivan had saved the DeLaunays from ex-
posure when the victim's father had threatened them.
This time the victim himself was at their doors. Com-
pelled to pay again, there was no saying where these
payments would cease with a desperado from Texas,
who could never give up so profitable a blackmail.
How would Regina accept his interference in her be-
half? Her pride might not bear the thought of
his share in a disgraceful secret. To be twice ex-
posed, and each time before the men who thought
most highly of her was bitter indeed. But he thought
nothing of the risk so glad was he of his opportunity,
so confident that it meant entire success for him.
Hugh had blundered in his management of LaRoche.
The affair should have been hushed up at once a.n'\
foiever. Poor business it must have been not to have
killed the snake at the first blow. His claim to Re-
gina's gratitude would be that in a short week her


danger, root and branch and seed, would be utterly
destroyed at his hands. He went to see her within
the hour, and had difficulty to conceal his joy under
the mask of a business manner.

She always received him kindly and thought well of
him. His air was distinguished, his refinement ad-
mirable, and he belonged to her set. That his letter
had smashed her idol did not connect him in her
mind with that painful fact. It had been very pain-
ful! She was grateful for tbe discovery of Hugh's
true character as a person might be to the surgeon
who had cut his leg cff successfully ; but the shock,
the depression, the long convalescence were memo-
ries of years. She took consolation from remember-
ing how much worse it might have been.

"A man has just arrived in this vicinity," Wiathrop
said directly, " who will interest you His name is
Amede LaRoche. He is a drunkard ar d a wretch
from Texas, where he led a life of debauchery, and
now comes East to levy blackmail on your family
He was driven out of here fifteen years ago for com
mon stealing, and had a bad name before he went.
Through some gossip I learned the main facts about
him. He is hiding in this vicinity. A friend of his
came to me to day to place his case in my hands.
He wants money from your family, and permission to
to come back to Saranac and live in dissipation until
he dies. I know that you have already given his
father money to keep him quiet, and a foolish thing it
was to do. I know he has no more claim on you
than I have. It was a great mistake to admit his
father's claim."

He talked in this strain for five minutes, merely to


give her time to recover from the shock of hearing
AmedeVs name. She grew pale for a moment,
flashed, and was calm again. Before he had done
talking she was ready to answer him.

" You are not acquainted with all the circumstan-
ces, ' she said. " The affair was kept very quiet."

" I know that this wretch now hopes to get some
money out of you, if you will be so weak as to give it
to him.'"

" I will speak to my father," she answered. " It
is very good of you to give me notice of this matter.
My father will settle everything."

"As he did before by giving money," he said,
smiling, to take the harshness from his words. " That
will never do. Why not take the whole matter into
your own hands, and bring it to an end without dis-
turbing your father."

" If I could," she began, and stopped with tears
forcing themselves into her eyes. The outlook was
so dreary!

" There is no question of your success," he said.
" That is why I come to you. Your father need
know nothing. The means are easy and at your

" What must I do ? What can I do ? "

" Give me permission to do all, and do you ratify
my actions. The plan is very simple. His father has
been well paid, and may be made to understand that
he must keep his son quiet if he wishes to keep the

She reflected a few minutes, and the thought of the
wretched man's mother, of her father's guilt made her

" I would like," she said, " to have this man al-
lowed to stay in Saranac with his mother. He has
been so long away from her."

u That can be managed if he is willing and his
mother wants him."

She looked at him in surprise, and he said,

" These people are not sentimental. LaRoche is a
rover, and will be one until he dies ; his habits can't
be the nicest now, and may soon disgust his mother.
After they have lived in the same house together a few
weeks or months she may get tired of him, and he get
tired of civilized routine. You are not acquainted
with these people. They are very practical. Amedee's
lather took your money, and never bothered his head
about his son since."

" Yes, they must be practical," said Regina

" Do you give me permission then to represent you
in this matter ? "

' 1 am so grateful," she answered, " but first, I was
tHnkinej ihough you may call it sentimental, have
you s^en this man from Texas ? "

" No. I may visit him to-night."

* Then take me with you, Mr. Winthrop. I would
feel easier after seeing him. I would let you do as
you pleased afterwards. You men of business are so
hard w ti one another. Though I trust you. Ys f I
would like to see him, and know that he was as care-
less as you think."

" I fear it would make him bolder in his demands
if he received a visit from you. It would give him
importance. You can imagine what he must be after
fifteen years in the wild West, consorting with despera'


" I can imagine," she said humbly enough, for this
human wreck was of her father's making.

" Take a boatman's son, fond of drink and gaming,
and put him in a school of sin on the frontier, for
fifteen years. This man is not merely a desperado,
he is a drunkard. He became even in the West the
miserable hanger on of barrooms, too contemptible
for the men who had helped to degrade him. His
personal habits, his manners, his language, his very
thoughts must be something vile. One might find in
tha dens at Whitehall something like this wretched
blackmailer. Little use to shed tears over him."

Her tears fell like rain. Every word of his de-
scription went to her heart.

" Oh," she said, " can he have come to that ? Can
any poor soul sink so low ?"

" Yes, indeed," said John cheerfully. " The only
consolation being that its their own wish. This fellow
began very low, you understand, a common boatman's
ton, a poor Canadian of low birth and mean training.
Manv a man goes as low at times. It's painful, but
it seems unavoidable. It will be best for yau to keep
away from him."

" Do you think you have drawn a true picture of
this LaRoche ?''

"Hardly true enough," he answered. "The truth
wo did be very repulsive."

" Then I must surely go to see him," was her reply.
" When I have seen him, I can be satisfied, and I will
accept your kind offer to deal with him alone."

" Very well,'' he said, too astonished to protest.
His warm description had only strengthened her de-
sire to see a wretch so degraded. A woman's whim,


he thought it. What matter! He had succeeded,
and her whims were trifles. So nicely had he spoken
that she believed in his implied ignorance of her
father's guilt. She made no effort to set him right,
and was relieved at his way of treating the facts, since
it saved her from saying outright that her father made
confession of his guilt, and that Amede"e was an inno-
cent and wronged man. She was pleased too at the
kindly way he protected the good name of his friend,
Captain Sullivan ; not a word of that shameful letter
which had given her so much pain. What sensibility !
What honor ! And he was bound by no word, only
by his faith to his friend !

They went together after early tea to visit the
Point, where Tuttle had his modest and peculiar
home. The lake was very placid in the sunset, and
detted with fishing-boats creeping homeward in a
breeze too weak to support a cobweb. But they who
fish for pleasure are poor oarsmen, and will endure all
labors but that of rowing! The coachman of the
DeLaunay establishment handled the oars, and in
consequence their conversation was formal until they
reached the miniature dock which Sol Tuttle had
built on the water front. The fisherman came down
the pathway to conduct them to the door.

" We want to see Mr. Stone," said John, " if he will
be so kind as to spare us the time."

" Yes, walk right in," Sol answered, very nervous
at sight of Regina. " Tain't no place to take com-
pany, but I s'posen business is business, in my yard
as well as in a circus tent. Mr. Stone is jes 1 now per-
ambulatin' around the Point with Sairey, but I reckon
one minute '11 fetch him to anchor.

He hurried out to find the man, and left them to
the comforts of Mrs. Tuttle's kitchen. Regina was
almost terrified at the meeting with the wretch her
father had brought to ruin. His rags, his sins, his
broken health seemed to be more her father's than
his who suffered them. She went over the details of
the picture Winthrop had drawn for her and felt like
weeping. The lawyer cheered her more by his man-
ner than his words. With him the case was already
settled ; a poor wretch from the frontier, desperate
and cowardly, attempting to blackmail wealthy people
was a trifling character. He waited impatiently for
the drunken reprobate who had almost spoiled the
speech of his godfather.

Amedee came in alone after a few minutes, intro-
duced by a distant shout from Sol that Mr. Stone was
at hand. Regina and her lawyer were too surprised
at sight of him to say anything at once ; simply be-
cause he was a taU, well dressed man, pale and worn,
with piercing black eyes. His movements were easy,
and his look confident. There was little trace of sin-
ner and tramp about him. Regina felt relieved, and
the lawyer annoyed.

" I am Mr. Stone," said Amede'e.

" This lady is Miss DeLaunay," said the lawyer in
return. " I acquainted her with your arrival, with a
view to a - this interview, that before going to law
you might try to arrange matters. It is often more
profitable to both parties Miss DeLaunay has called
from a friendly motive, and without the knowledge of
her father. Knowing this yon can speak freely before

"I am more than grateful," said Amede'e, with a


bow to Regina. " I have come back home to get a
little justice : not all, you see, for I am in weak health
and I do not look to getting entirely well. But if my
good name were restored, and the few years that re-
main to me were secured against want, I would not
care for more. Your father treated me cruelly, Miss
DeLaunay, and yet I will say no more than this. You
can see that I have a right to some compensation for
the shame and suffering of fifteen years "

"You put it very mildly," said the lawyer. "I
think Miss DeLaunay understands the matter very
well. You must remember, though, that her desire is
to spare her father as much pain as possible. He
would probably resist your demands, and fight them.
Her idea is a compromise, which would suit both

For her life Regina could rot have opened her
mouth to suggest money or other rompromise to the
victim of her father's cruelty.

" I am not in a state to care for compromise,'' said
Amede"e. " A good name is worth more to me now
than a fortune. I don't care how it is arranged, but
I cannot accept anything that leaves me a thief. I
have suffered everything that a fool can bring on him-
self you ran guess what life is in Texas -what was it
all to the bad name I carried ? I cannot forget that
I am known as a thief in my own town. Even my
parents believe I took that money. Why, I have
almost believed it myself. I had made up my mind
to die a ruffian in Texas, without priest or Church,
killed by drink, a death good enough for a thief. Bat
I was stung into something like decent shame when
men told me how I had insulted my godfather, and

how he had looked upon me in my drunken sleep.
That nerved me to come East and make a fight for
justice, for the only thing that is of use to me now, a
good name. I forgive DeLaunay all the rest, but my
name he must give back. There can be no compro-
mise on that. I beg pardon if I speak too harshly,
Miss DeLaunay. But you understand me. You can
feel what it must be to a man so poor and mean as I,
to be ashamed of his name, and afraid to go live with
his own."

" I do understand," she said humbly, and after that
she said no more. The lawyer made a few wide sug-
gestions, and then they went away speedily. There
was nothing to be gained by conversation with a pro-
fessional gambler, cool, reckless, determined, who had
become suddenly insane on the matter of reputation.
That was the way John Winthrop expressed it on
their way home, but Regina felt that the first en-
counter was to the desperado's advantage.



Sol Tuttle appeared the next morning to tell the
lawyer that Amede'e would not need his services.

" The reason bein','' said Sol frankly, "that Mr. Stone
don't like wimmin folks a foolin' around his lawsuits.
Tain't safe, nohow, and I'm mortified an' nonplushed
to think any lawyer feller that I named an 1 recker-
mended to a friend of mine should ha' done it so reck-
less like. Moreover an' besides the pertickler woming
in this case bein' the very party my friend is lawsuit-
ing. It looks queer, Mr. Winthrop, an I'm not afraid
to say so."


" That's all right," said John pleasantly. " Tt was a
very good thing for Mr. Stone that I saw Miss De
Launay without waiting for her father. She is willing
that your friend shall return to his mother, and gives
her word that no proceedings will be taken against
him. If he had waited until Mr. DeLaunay was ready
to welcome him to Saranac, your board bill would

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Online LibraryJohn Talbot SmithSaranac : a story of Lake Champlain → online text (page 9 of 18)