A Canadian Tale

By A. M. M.



  “Then lay on me whatever cross I need
To bring me there: I know thou canst not be
Unkind, unfaithful, or untrue to me.”

    KATIE found enough to occupy her mind and engross her thoughts when she returned home. A letter had been received, during her absence, from her uncle in Scotland, wishing her brother to come to him for two or three years, that he might have every possible advantage in mastering the profession he had chosen, during which time his uncle would himself meet all necessary expenses. As he was a childless widower, he could not offer Katie, who he understood was an invalid, the comfortable home she would require; otherwise, he said, he would have been delighted to see his niece over along with her brother. Katie, while grateful for his kindness, was very glad that she had not to decide about an invitation which she would have hesitated to accept, unless she [Page 195] had seen it to be her clear duty to do so. She had no wish, moreover, to desert the kind friends who had provided her with a home when she needed one; and they would have been equally unwilling to let her go.
    However, it was clear that Ned should accept the advantages that were offered him; and Katie could not oppose it, though she shrank from the separation involved in it. And even were he to have remained in Canada, she knew they must necessarily be much separated for the next few years; so she bravely made up her mind to face the trial, which, indeed, did not come single. Arthur had so far surpassed, in his private studies, the standard which was required for his entrance into a Canadian university, and was besides so desirous of seeing the Old World, and availing himself of its advantages, that his father consented to gratify his earnest wish to allow him to go at once to Oxford. His mother trusted that his now greatly improved health and strength would be able to stand the hard study into which she was afraid he would plunge, and be sufficiently reinforced, from time to time, if he spent his vacations in travelling. So it was arranged that Arthur and Ned should start together on their voyage, towards the end of September, and in preparation for that there was plenty both to do and to think of. Clara, too, was to be immediately sent away to “finish” her education at a fashionable city boarding-school; so that all Katie’s companions seemed to be leaving her at once. She did not allow herself to think how lonely she would be when they were all gone, but kept her mind and time full of the work she had to do for Ned, in providing as far as possible for his outfit. [Page 196]
    She would not hear, however, of Helen’s visit being postponed, though she unselfishly proposed to defer it until Ned’s departure. “And then it would be twice as lonely when you are gone too!” she said; and the argument convinced Helen that it was better to adhere to the original arrangement. Katie, who had written fully about her meeting with Mr Russell, was not suprised at the quietness with which Helen had listened to her eager accounts of him when she returned. Helen never began the subject herself, but Katie noticed that she would listen to her in silence for as long as she chose to go on; and in her secret heart she could not help suspecting that it would not be long before she had to give up Helen too! However, she said to herself that “sufficient for the day was the evil thereof,” and that she had enough to do for the present with certainties, without troubling herself with probabilities.
    After Helen had started on her visit, the days began to pass for Katie with terrible rapidity: so much had to be done, and there seemed so little time to do it in, though Helen had put everything in train, and Martha gave her most efficient assistance. At length all was in readiness—the last evening had come—and she could scarcely believe that the next morning would see the travellers set off on a journey that might separate them from her for years; and who could tell, indeed, whether or not a earthly reunion was in store for them?
    Arthur came to bid her good-bye during the evening, just as Ned had gone to say his farewell to Mrs Duncan and his friends at Pine Grove. He brought her, as a parting gift, a little Bible, beautifully bound in purple velvet, with gold [Page 197] clasps; which delighted her with its beauty, and of which she was a good deal in need, her own being very much worn; while she wished Ned to take him mother’s with him.
    “I chose this for you,” said Arthur, “because I did not know of anything else you would like better, and because I owe to you my first real appreciation of a book that I value now more than I ever thought I should have done.”
    “I am so glad of that,” said Katie, earnestly; “and I hope you will always value it, and take it as your guide.”
    “I hope so,” Arthur replied, very gravely; “and if so, it will be in a great degree owing to your example, and from seeing what its guidance has been to you.”
    Katie was both thankful and yet troubled, for she could not feel that she had any right to the distinction assigned her; and then she exclaimed—
    “Oh, how I wish I had something for you; but I have nothing that seems worth giving, except mamma’s old copy of the “Christian Year”—if you will take that; but it is rather faded and old.”
    Arthur said he would be very happy to take it, if it were not that he would be depriving her of what he knew she so valued. But she said it would only be a pleasure to her if he would keep it as a memento of their intercourse; and this he thereupon willingly agreed to do.
    After her brother and the friend who had been almost like a brother, were really off, and Clara, as it happened, away before them, Katie felt very much the blankness and desolation of the word “gone;” especially as so many things were always recalling them, and making her realise over and over again how much she missed them. But she [Page 198] wisely kept herself occupied with the various duties she had undertaken to discharge for Helen, which were as much as her strength was equal to; and for the rest, sustained herself by trying to act the part of a daughter to Mr Grey in the long October evenings. Snap was always her companion when she was alone, and he had now become so much attached to her that he rarely, with his own consent, lost sight of her for many minutes. And thus the time passed, not so very slowly after all, till a few weeks brought the welcome tidings of the arrival of the young travellers at their destination, and in good spirits, after a pleasant and prosperous voyage. The next letters told of Ned’s being settled with his uncle in Edinburgh, after a very kind reception, and of Arthur’s being fairly established in his college at Oxford.
    Before these letters arrived, however, Helen had returned home. She had met Mr Russell again, and Katie, from various things she noticed in her manner and appearance, soon suspected,—what Mr Russell’s own arrival shortly afterwards confirmed,—that she had promised some day to be his wife. The “some day” was left very indefinite; and Katie soon found from Mr Russell that it was chiefly because Helen could not make up her mind to leave her father, or to tax Katie with her duties, should she relinquish them. But Katie represented most strongly, though her heart rebelled all the time, how well Mr Grey and she would get on together, and how all that she should have to do would only be an interest for her, and work she should enjoy. She was Mr Russell’s most efficient ally, as he gratefully acknowledged, and their joint representations [Page 199] succeeded so far as to induce Helen to consent that the marriage should be fixed, if all were well, for the following summer. When it was all settled, and Katie had received Mr Russell’s warm thanks, and been claimed as his sister, and had heard Helen declare that she could not have left her father but for knowing his adopted daughter would be with him, she felt as if she really were of some use and importance, after all.
    Helen and she spent a quiet, happy winter together, though a little saddened by the thought of the approaching separation. They had plenty of work, and books full of interest, to occupy them at home, and there was always something to be done abroad, as much as they could overtake. They mixed very little in society. Katie was seldom at Pine Grove in Clara’s absence, and Caroline herself spent most of the winter away from home, on a visit to one of her sea-side friends, and engrossed with a round of gaieties. When she returned, it was rumoured—truly, as it proved—that she was soon to leave home finally as the wife of Lieutenant—now Captain—Ainslie.
    The two weddings took place in the following June. Clara came home from school to be one of the bridesmaids at her sister’s, which was the first, and remained to officiate in a like capacity at Helen’s. Caroline’s was in the church, of course, and was a very gay affair; Katie being present as a spectator, but not as one of the guests. The bride looked extremely pretty and graceful, and the wedding presents were declared to be “splendid,” as well as the wedding breakfast.
    Helen’s was as quiet as it could well be. Katie had [Page 200] shrunk from the idea of being a bridesmaid, but Helen so much wished to have both her and Clara, that she yielded; and she did not find it so formidable, after all, especially as the groomsmen were Mr Russell’s two younger brothers. The Elliotts and Mrs Duncan were almost the only guests; but the occasion seemed to be pervaded with the quiet, hopeful happiness which they have most reason to expect who desire, above all things, the approving presence of the Heavenly Guest, who alone can turn life’s water into wine.
    Katie thought, as she watched Mr and Mrs Russell drive away, how much preferable was the quiet, peaceful, domestic life, to be filled with noble work for God and man, that lay before them, to the career of frivolous excitement and fashionable dissipation to which Caroline Ainslie was looking forward.
    It had, of course, been rather a trial for Helen to leave the church in which she had been brought up, and to which her early associations so tenderly clung, for that which she must now join, as the church of her husband. But she had always loved and admired the Church of England service; and she felt too strongly of how little importance, comparatively, is the mere outward form of our connexion with Christ’s kingdom, provided he is the chief object of our attachment, to indulge in any repining over so very small an alloy as this in a cup so full of blessing. [Page 201]

[Chapter XVIII]