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Produced by Early Canadiana Online, Robert Cicconetti,
Martin Pettit and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team





ENTERED according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year one
thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven, by WILLIAM BRIGGS, at the
Department of Agriculture.

To my mother





Beth at Eighteen 9

A Dream of Life 21

Whither, Beth? 30

Marie 42

"For I Love You, Beth" 47

'Varsity 55

Ended 64

The Heavenly Canaan 78

'Varsity Again 95

Death 113

Love 124

Farewell 137




In the good old county of Norfolk, close to the shore of Lake Erie, lies
the pretty village of Briarsfield. A village I call it, though in truth
it has now advanced almost to the size and dignity of a town. Here, on
the brow of the hill to the north of the village (rather a retired spot,
one would say, for so busy a man), at the time of which my story treats,
stood the residence of Dr. Woodburn.

It was a long, old-fashioned rough-cast house facing the east, with
great wide windows on each side of the door and a veranda all the way
across the front. The big lawn was quite uneven, and broken here and
there by birch trees, spruces, and crazy clumps of rose-bushes, all in
bloom. Altogether it was a sweet, home-like old place. The view to the
south showed, over the village roofs on the hill-side, the blue of Lake
Erie outlined against the sky, while to the north stretched the open,
undulating country, so often seen in Western Ontario.

One warm June afternoon Beth, the doctor's only daughter, was lounging
in an attitude more careless than graceful under a birch tree. She, her
father and Mrs. Margin, the housekeeper - familiarly known as Aunt
Prudence - formed the whole household. Beth was a little above the
average height, a girlish figure, with a trifle of that awkwardness one
sometimes meets in an immature girl of eighteen; a face, not what most
people would call pretty, but still having a fair share of beauty. Her
features were, perhaps, a little too strongly outlined, but the brow was
fair as a lily, and from it the great mass of dark hair was drawn back
in a pleasing way. But her eyes - those earnest, grey eyes - were the most
impressive of all in her unusually impressive face. They were such
searching eyes, as though she had stood on the brink scanning the very
Infinite, and yet with a certain baffled look in them as of one who had
gazed far out, but failed to pierce the gloom - a beaten, longing look.
But a careless observer might have dwelt longer on the affectionate
expression about her lips - a half-childish, half-womanly tenderness.

Beth was in one of her dreamy moods that afternoon. She was gazing away
towards the north, her favorite view. She sometimes said it was prettier
than the lake view. The hill on which their house stood sloped abruptly
down, and a meadow, pink with clover, stretched far away to rise again
in a smaller hill skirted with a bluish line of pines. There was a
single cottage on the opposite side of the meadow, with white blinds and
a row of sun-flowers along the wall; but Beth was not absorbed in the
view, and gave no heed to the book beside her. She was dreaming. She had
just been reading the life of George Eliot, her favorite author, and the
book lay open at her picture. She had begun to love George Eliot like a
personal friend; she was her ideal, her model, for Beth had some repute
as a literary character in Briarsfield. Not a teacher in the village
school but had marked her strong literary powers, and she was not at all
slow to believe all the hopeful compliments paid her. From a child her
stories had filled columns in the Briarsfield _Echo_, and now she was
eighteen she told herself she was ready to reach out into the great
literary world - a nestling longing to soar. Yes, she would be
famous - Beth Woodburn, of Briarsfield. She was sure of it. She would
write novels; oh, such grand novels! She would drink from the very
depths of nature and human life. The stars, the daisies, sunsets,
rippling waters, love and sorrow, and all the infinite chords that
vibrate in the human soul - she would weave them all with warp of gold.
Oh, the world would see what was in her soul! She would be the bright
particular star of Canadian literature; and then wealth would flow in,
too, and she would fix up the old home. Dear old "daddy" should retire
and have everything he wanted: and Aunt Prudence, on sweeping days,
wouldn't mind moving "the trash," as she called her manuscripts. Daddy
wouldn't make her go to bed at ten o'clock then; she would write all
night if she choose; she would have a little room on purpose, and
visitors at Briarsfield would pass by the old rough-cast house and point
it out as Beth Woodburn's home, and - well, this is enough for a sample
of Beth's daydreams. They were very exaggerated, perhaps, and a little
selfish, too; but she was not a fully-developed woman yet, and the years
were to bring sweeter fruit. She had, undoubtedly, the soul of genius,
but genius takes years to unfold itself.

Then a soft expression crossed the face of the dreamer. She leaned
back, her eyes closed and a light smile played about her lips. She was
thinking of one who had encouraged her so earnestly - a tall, slender
youth, with light curly hair, blue eyes and a fair, almost girlish,
face - too fair and delicate for the ideal of most girls: but Beth
admired its paleness and delicate features, and Clarence Mayfair had
come to be often in her thoughts. She remembered quite well when the
Mayfairs had moved into the neighborhood and taken possession of the
fine old manor beside the lake, and she had become friends with the only
daughter, Edith, at school, and then with Clarence. Clarence wrote such
pretty little poems, too. This had been the foundation of their
friendship, and, since their tastes and ambitions were so much alike,
what if -

Her eyes grew brighter, and she almost fancied he was looking down into
her face. Oh, those eyes - hush, maiden heart, be still. She smiled at
the white cloud drifting westward - a little boat-shaped cloud, with two
white figures in it, sailing in the summer blue. The breeze ruffled her
dark hair. There fell a long shadow on the grass beside her.

"Clarence - Mr. Mayfair! I didn't see you coming. When did you get home?"

"Last night. I stayed in Toronto till the report of our 'exams' came

"I see you have been successful," she replied. "Allow me to congratulate

"Thank you. I hear you are coming to 'Varsity this fall, Miss Woodburn.
Don't you think it quite an undertaking? I'm sure I wish you joy of the
hard work."

"Why, I hope you are not wearying of your course in the middle of it,
Mr. Mayfair. It is only two years till you will have your B.A."

"Two years' hard work, though; and, to tell the truth, a B.A. has lost
its charms for me. I long to devote my life more fully to literature.
That is my first ambition, you know, and I seem to be wasting so much

"You can hardly call time spent that way wasted," she answered. "You
will write all the better for it by and by."

Then they plunged into one of their old-time literary talks of authors
and books and ambitions. Beth loved these talks. There was no one else
in Briarsfield she could discuss these matters with like Clarence. She
was noticing meanwhile how much paler he looked than when she saw him
last, but she admired him all the more. There are some women who love a
man all the more for being delicate. It gives them better opportunities
to display their womanly tenderness. Beth was one of these.

"By the way, I mustn't forget my errand," Clarence exclaimed after a
long chat.

He handed her a dainty little note, an invitation to tea from his sister
Edith. Beth accepted with pleasure. She blushed as he pressed her hand
in farewell, and their eyes met. That look and touch of his went very
deep - deeper than they should have gone, perhaps; but the years will
tell their tale. She watched him going down the hill-side in the
afternoon sunshine, then fell to dreaming again. What if, after all, she
should not always stay alone with daddy? If someone else should
come - And she began to picture another study where she should not have
to write alone, but there should be two desks by the broad windows
looking out on the lake, and somebody should -

"Beth! Beth! come and set the tea-table. My hands is full with them

Beth's dream was a little rudely broken by Mrs. Martin's voice, but she
complacently rose and went into the house.

Mrs. Martin was a small grey-haired woman, very old-fashioned; a prim,
good old soul, a little sharp-tongued, a relic of bygone days of
Canadian life. She had been Dr. Woodburn's housekeeper ever since Beth
could remember, and they had always called her "Aunt Prudence."

"What did that gander-shanks of a Mayfair want?" asked the old lady with
a funny smile, as Beth was bustling about.

"Oh, just come to bring an invitation to tea from Edith."

Dr. Woodburn entered as soon as tea was ready. He was the ideal father
one meets in books, and if there was one thing on earth Beth was proud
of it was "dear daddy." He was a fine, broad-browed man, strikingly like
Beth, but with hair silvery long before its time. His eyes were like
hers, too, though Beth's face had a little shadow of gloom that did not
belong to the doctor's genial countenance.

It was a pleasant little tea-table to which they sat down. Mrs Martin
always took tea with them, and as she talked over Briarsfield gossip to
the doctor, Beth, as was her custom, looked silently out of the window
upon the green sloping lawn.

"Well, Beth, dear," said Dr. Woodburn, "has Mrs. Martin told you that
young Arthur Grafton is coming to spend his holidays with us?"

"Arthur Grafton! Why, no!" said Beth with pleased surprise.

"He is coming. He may drop in any day. He graduated this spring, you
know. He's a fine young man, I'm told."

"Oh! Beth ain't got time to think about anything but that slim young
Mayfair, now-a-days," put in Mrs. Martin. "He's been out there with her
most of the afternoon, and me with all them cherries to tend to."

Beth saw a faint shadow cross her father's face, but put it aside as
fancy only and began to think of Arthur. He was an old play-fellow of
hers. An orphan at an early age, he had spent his childhood on his
uncle's farm, just beyond the pine wood to the north of her home. Her
father had always taken a deep interest in him, and when the death of
his uncle and aunt left him alone in the world, Dr. Woodburn had taken
him into his home for a couple of years until he had gone away to
school. Arthur had written once or twice, but Beth was staying with her
Aunt Margaret, near Welland, that summer, and she had seen fit, for
unexplained reasons, to stop the correspondence: so the friendship had
ended there. It was five years now since she had seen her old
play-fellow, and she found herself wondering if he would be greatly

After tea Beth took out her books, as usual, for an hour or two; then,
about eight o'clock, with her tin-pail on her arm, started up the road
for the milk. This was one of her childhood's tasks that she still took
pleasure in performing. She sauntered along in the sweet June twilight
past the fragrant clover meadow and through the pine wood, with the
fire-flies darting beneath the boughs. Some girls would have been
frightened, but Beth was not timid. She loved the still sweet solitude
of her evening walk. The old picket gate clicked behind her at the Birch
Farm, and she went up the path with its borders of four-o'clocks. It was
Arthur's old home, where he had passed his childhood at his uncle's - a
great cheery old farm-house, with morning-glory vines clinging to the
windows, and sun-flowers thrusting their great yellow faces over the
kitchen wall.

The door was open, but the kitchen empty, and she surmised that Mrs.
Birch had not finished milking; so Beth sat down on the rough bench
beneath the crab-apple tree and began to dream of the olden days. There
was the old chain swing where Arthur used to swing her, and the
cherry-trees where he filled her apron. She was seven and he was
ten - but such a man in her eyes, that sun-browned, dark-eyed boy. And
what a hero he was to her when she fell over the bridge, and he rescued
her! He used to get angry though sometimes. Dear, how he thrashed
Sammie Jones for calling her a "little snip." Arthur was good, though,
very good. He used to sit in that very bench where she was sitting, and
explain the Sunday-school lesson to her, and say such good things. Her
father had told her two or three years ago of Arthur's decision to be a
missionary. He was going away off to Palestine. "I wonder how he can do
it," she thought. "He has his B.A. now, too, and he was always so
clever. He must be a hero. I'm not good like that; I - I don't think I
want to be so good. Clarence isn't as good as that. But Clarence must be
good. His poetry shows it. I wonder if Arthur will like Clarence?"

Mrs. Birch, with a pail of fresh milk on each arm, interrupted her

Beth enjoyed her walk home that night. The moon had just risen, and the
pale stars peeped through the patches of white cloud that to her fancy
looked like the foot-prints of angels here and there on the path of the
infinite. As she neared home a sound of music thrilled her. It was only
an old familiar tune, but she stopped as if in a trance. The touch
seemed to fill her very soul. It was so brave and yet so tender. The
music ceased; some sheep were bleating in the distance, the stars were
growing brighter, and she went on toward home.

She was surprised as she crossed the yard to see a tall dark-haired
stranger talking to her father in the parlor. She was just passing the
parlor door when he came toward her.

"Well, Beth, my old play-mate!"


They would have made a subject for an artist as they stood with clasped
hands, the handsome dark-eyed man, the girl, in her white dress, her
milk-pail on her arm, and her wondering grey eyes upturned to his.

"Why, Beth, you look at me as if I were a spectre."

"But, Arthur, you're so changed! Why, you're a man, now!" at which he
laughed a merry laugh that echoed clear to the kitchen.

Beth joined her father and Arthur in the parlor, and they talked the old
days over again before they retired to rest. Beth took out her pale blue
dress again before she went to sleep. Yes, she would wear that to the
Mayfair's next day, and there were white moss roses at the dining-room
window that would just match. So thinking she laid it carefully away and
slept her girl's sleep that night.



It was late the next afternoon when Beth stood before the mirror
fastening the moss roses in her belt. Arthur had gone away with her
father to see a friend, and would not return till well on in the
evening. Aunt Prudence gave her the customary warning about not staying
late and Beth went off with a lighter heart than usual. It was a
delightful day. The homes all looked so cheery, and the children were
playing at the gates as she went down the street. There was one her eye
dwelt on more than the rest. The pigeons were strutting on the sloping
roof, the cat dozed in the window-sill, and the little fair-haired girls
were swinging under the cherry-tree. Yes, marriage and home must be
sweet after all. Beth had always said she never would marry. She wanted
to write stories and not have other cares. But school girls change
their views sometimes.

It was only a few minutes' walk to the Mayfair residence beside the
lake. Beth was familiar with the place and scarcely noticed the great
old lawn, the trees almost concealing the house: that pretty fountain
yonder, the tennis ground to the south, and the great blue Erie
stretching far away.

Edith Mayfair came down the walk to meet her, a light-haired, winsome
creature, several years older than Beth. But she looked even younger.
Hers was such a child-like face! It was pretty to see the way she twined
her arm about Beth. They had loved each other ever since the Mayfairs
had come to Briarsfield three years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Mayfair were
sitting on the veranda. Beth had always loved Mrs. Mayfair; she was such
a bright girlish woman, in spite of her dignity and soft grey hair. Mr.
Mayfair, too, had a calm, pleasing manner. To Beth's literary mind there
was something about the Mayfair home that reminded her of a novel. They
were wealthy people, at least supposed to be so, who had settled in
Briarsfield to live their lives in rural contentment.

It was a pretty room of Edith's that she took Beth into - a pleasing
confusion of curtains, books, music, and flowers, with a guitar lying
on the coach. There was a photo on the little table that caught Beth's
attention. It was Mr. Ashley, the classical master in Briarsfield High
School, for Briarsfield could boast a High School. He and Edith had
become very friendly, and village gossip was already linking their
names. Beth looked up and saw Edith watching her with a smiling,
blushing face. The next minute she threw both arms about Beth.

"Can't you guess what I was going to tell you, Beth, dear?"

"Why, Edith, are you and Mr. Ashley - "

"Yes, dear. I thought you would guess."

Beth only hugged her by way of congratulation, and Edith laughed a
little hysterically. Beth was used to these emotional fits of Edith's.
Then she began to question -

"When is it to be?"

"September. And you will be my bridesmaid, won't you, dear?"

Beth promised.

"Oh, Beth, I think marriage is the grandest institution God ever made."

Beth had a strange dream-like look in her eyes, and the tea-bell broke
their reverie.

Mr. Ashley had dropped in for tea, and Clarence sat beside Beth, with
Edith and her betrothed opposite. It was so pleasant and home-like,
with the pink cluster of roses smiling in at the window.

After tea, Edith and Mr. Ashley seemed prepared for a _tête-à-tête_, in
which Mrs. Mayfair was also interested; and Clarence took Beth around to
the conservatory to see a night-blooming cirius. It was not out yet, and
so they went for a promenade through the long grounds toward the lake.
Beth never forgot that walk in all her life to come. Somehow she did not
seem herself. All her ambition and struggle seemed at rest. She was a
child, a careless child, and the flowers bloomed around her, and
Clarence was at her side. The lake was very calm when they reached it;
the stars were shining faintly, and they could see Long Point Island
like a long dark line in the distant water.

"Arthur is going to take me over to the island this week," said Beth.

They had just reached a little cliff jutting out over the water. It was,
perhaps, one of the most picturesque scenes on the shores of Lake Erie.

"Wouldn't it be grand to be on this cliff and watch a thunderstorm
coming up over the lake?" said Beth.

"You are very daring Beth - Miss Woodburn. Edith would rather hide her
head under the blankets."

"Do you know, I really love thunderstorms," continued Beth. "It is such
a nice safe feeling to lie quiet and sheltered in bed and hear the
thunder crash and the storm beat outside. Somehow, I always feel more
deeply that God is great and powerful, and that the world has a live
ruler." She stopped rather suddenly. Clarence never touched on religious
subjects in conversation -

"Dear, what a ducking Arthur and I got in a thunderstorm one time. We
were out hazel-nutting and - "

"Do you always call Mr. Grafton Arthur?" interrupted Clarence, a little

"Oh, yes! Why, how funny it would seem to call Arthur Mr. Grafton!"

"Beth" - he grew paler and his voice almost trembled, - "Beth, do you love
Arthur Grafton?"

"Love Arthur! Why, dear, no! I never thought of it. He's just like my
brother. Besides," she continued after a pause, "Arthur is going away
off somewhere to be a missionary, and I don't think I could be happy if
I married a man who wasn't a writer."

That was very naive of Beth. She forgot Clarence's literary

"Then can you love me, Beth? Don't you see that I love you?"

There was a moment's silence. Their eyes met in a long, earnest look. An
impulse of tenderness came over her, and she threw both arms about his
neck as he clasped her to his breast. The stars were shining above and
the water breaking at their feet. They understood each other without

"Oh, Clarence, I am so happy, so very happy!"

The night air wafted the fragrance of roses about them like incense.
They walked on along the shore, happy lovers, weaving their life-dreams
under the soft sky of that summer night.

"I wonder if anyone else is as happy as we are, Beth!"

"Oh, Clarence, how good we ought to be! I mean to always be kinder and
to try and make other people happy, too."

"You are good, Beth. May God bless our lives."

She had never seen Clarence so earnest and manly before. Yes, she was
very much in love, she told herself.

They talked much on the way back to the house. He told her that his
father was not so wealthy as many people supposed; that it would be
several years before he himself could marry. But Beth's brow was not
clouded. She wanted her college course, and somehow Clarence seemed so
much more manly with a few difficulties to face.

A faint sound of music greeted them as they reached the house. Edith was
playing her guitar. Mrs. Mayfair met them on the veranda.

"Why, Clarence, how late you've kept the child out," said Mrs. Mayfair
with a motherly air. "I'm afraid you will catch cold, Miss Woodburn;
there is such a heavy dew!"

Clarence went up to his mother and said something in a low tone. A
pleased look lighted her face.

"I am so glad, dear Beth, my daughter. I shall have another daughter in
place of the one I am giving away."

She drew the girl to her breast with tender affection. Beth had been
motherless all her life, and the caress was sweet and soothing to her.
Edith fastened her cape and kissed her fondly when she was going home.
Clarence went with her, and somehow everything was so dream-like and
unreal that even the old rough-cast home looked strange and shadowy in
the moon-light. It was perhaps a relief that her father had not yet

She was smiling and happy, but even her own little room seemed strangely
unnatural that night. She stopped just inside the door and looked at it,
the moonlight streaming through the open window upon her bed. Was she
really the same Beth Woodburn that had rested there last night and
thought about the roses. She took them out of her belt now. A sweetly
solemn feeling stole over her, and she crossed over and knelt at the
window, the withered roses in her hand, her face upturned to heaven.
Sacred thoughts filled her mind. She had longed for love, someone to
love, someone who loved her; but was she worthy, she asked herself, pure
enough, good enough? She felt to-night that she was kneeling at an
unseen shrine, a bride, to be decked by the holy angels in robes whiter
than mortal ever saw.

Waves of sweet music aroused her. She started up as from a dream,
recognizing at once the touch of the same hand that she had heard in the
distance the night before, and it was coming from their own parlor
window, right beneath hers! She held her breath almost as she stole out
and leaned over the balustrade to peer into the parlor. Why, it was
Arthur! Was it possible he could play like that? She made a striking
picture as she stood there on the stairs, her great grey eyes drinking

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Online LibraryMaud PetittBeth Woodburn → online text (page 1 of 7)