THERE are difficulties in the way of one who would describe
an event after an immortal poet has given it a setting
in lines that a worshipping world will not willingly
let die. A tree, it is said, is never struck by
lightning more than once, and it is safe to suppose
that a subject is never illumined by the rays of heaven-
descended genius without being as thoroughly exhausted.
Nevertheless, with our tame domestic lantern, let us
endeavour to throw a little prosaic light over the details
of a scene that has been irradiated by the imagination
of a Byron.
It was one of the events
of the season to the social world of that foreign town,
but to us it is one of the events of the century.
On an evening in June, 1815, in the city of Brussels,
the Duchess of Richmond gave a ball on so magnificent
a scale that even the gray heads of society’s
veteran devotees were a little turned, and the chestnut
and golden pates of their juniors tossed sleeplessly
on their pillows for several nights preceding it.
After all, humanity is perpetually and overpoweringly
interested in nothing except humanity. On the
evening appoin- ted there was a vast beautiful throng,
moving through halls as beautiful and more vast; there
was the witchery of soft lights and softer sounds, of
odours and colours that enchant the senses; there were
banks of flowers, each of whose tiny blossoms yielded
its dying breath to make the world sweeter for an hour,
and among them, under the starry lights, in warm human
veins, flowed a thousand streams; very blue, not so
blue, and even common crimson. But all flowed
faster than usual, perhaps the better to warm the lovely
bare shoulders and arms, or to paint the sweet cheeks
above them in the vivid hues of glad, intense young
life. Intermingled with the costly robes and [Page
110] flashing gems on the ideal figures of
fair women, gleamed the brilliant uniforms of brave
men. “A thousand hearts beat happily”—with
one exception. This was in the possession of the
second daughter of a duke. She was even then remarkable
for her beauty and for a certain imperious, condescending
grace. The gay throng of which she was a part
was no more to her than so many buttercups and daisies;
and these sum- ptuous apartments, so far as they concerned
her, might have been a series of green meadows.
At last her indifferent glance, travelling over the
room, encoun- tered an object that faintly flushed her
cheek, and brightened the eyes, whose orbit of vision
was now limited to the circle immediately about her.
Cold indifference had changed to throbbing impatience.
Ah, why did he not come! With whom was he lingering?
She dared not look up lest her glance, like a swift,
bright messenger, should tell him all her heart, and
draw him magnetically to her side. No, he must
come of his own choice, and quickly, else her mood would
change. Soft strains of music arose, melting,
aching, dying upon the air. Her heart melted,
ached, and apparently died also, for it turned cold
and hard as she glanced at her watch, and saw that it
was more than a minute, nearly two minutes (two eternities
they seemed to her) since she began to be glad that
she had come.
The next instant her long-lashed
lids were raised in spite of herself, and she confronted
a singularly tall and attractive-looking gentleman,
whose face, from its pensive sadness, had a certain
poetic charm. He begged the honour of the next
dance with her. She regretted that he was too
late. He looked disapp- ointed, but ventured to
name the next one. She was sorry, but it was imposs-
ible. Had she room for him anywhere at all on
her list? She shook her head prettily but inexorably.
The handsomest coquette and the plainest school-ma’am
have this in common, that they detest and punish tardiness.
The young man was overpowered [Page 111] by
his sense of loss. It was small comfort to stand
and look at the beautiful girl. When the gates
of paradise are closed against one it matters little
whether they are made of gold or of iron. Inwardly
he bestowed some very hard names upon himself for imagining
that that peerless creature would be allowed to await
a willing wall-flower his languidly deferred appearance.
Again those heavenly strains
rose and throbbed upon the air. It was maddening.
The keenness of his disappointment gave his face an
intensity of ardent expression that certainly did not
detract from its charm in the eyes of the girl who at
that instant glanced up into it. The next moment
he was pressed aside—very decorously, very courteously,
even apologetically pushed aside, but still compelled
by an insinuating patrician hand to make room for its
owner, a gentleman whose extremely lofty title had already
drawn the homage of a hundred admiring pairs of eyes
upon him, and whose prevailing expression was a haughty
consciousness of accustomed and assumed success.
The young lady whom he now honoured with a request to
dance did not think of his title, nor of his condescension,
nor of him. She declined with characteristic indifference
on the plea that she was already engaged, and turning
placed her hand on the arm of Sir Peregrine Maitland,
whose suddenly bewildered and enraptured heart, if it
had never before given its assent to the time-worn proposition
that all is fair in love as well as in war, certainly
could not hesitate now. Perhaps the triumphs of
the ball-room are not less thrilling than those of the
battle-field. “Why were you so cruel to
me a moment ago?” he murmured, looking down into
eyes that but too clearly reflected the happiness of
“For the same reason
that I am kind to you now,” she responded like
He did not ask her the
reason. Perhaps he was intuitively [Page
112] and blissfully aware of it. Did
ever maiden discover a more demurely daring way of telling
her lover that she loved him?
But now, caressed by little
wafts of perfume, and half-dazed by the blaze of lights
and colours around and above them, they were drifting
as on a tide upon soft swelling waves of music.
In liquid undulations of sweet sound they floated insensibly
down the windings of the waltz, nor dreamed of danger
till the note of warning came. It was a prodigious
note—nothing less than the boom of a cannon—and
the signal for instant, perhaps life-long, separation.
If ever more should meet those mutual eyes?
Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could
as we know, two pairs at least of those mutual eyes
were destined to meet again, and meet as gladly and
warmly as when their owners danced together on the evening
before the battle of Waterloo. But the chill atmosphere
of a father’s disapproval lay between them.
It is reasonable to suppose that the fourth Duke of
Richmond and Lennox was not so susceptible to the charms
of pensive and picturesque young gentlemen as was his
wilful daughter. Among the names on a list of
invitations to a party given by the latter appeared
that of Sir Peregrine Maitland, which, coming under
the cold parental eye, was prompt- ly erased.
At the same time he inquired of his daughter why she
permitted that undesirable gentleman to hang about her
skirts—why she did not let him go. The response
was that after this decided slight he probably would
go; she added with a little sigh that she did not know
where. The duke profanely and contemptuously mentioned
a locality which shall be nameless. The young
lady made no reply. She believed in division of
labour, and in former domestic affairs of this sort
her stern parent had invariably said what he pleased,
[Page 113] while she contented herself
with merely doing what she pleased.
speak louder than words, and the present case was no
exception, for while the echo of her father’s
speech did not go beyond the walls of the apartment
they were in, her own rash performance, which was a
direct consequence of it, was a few days later noised
abroad through all Paris. This was an evening
call at the lodgings of Sir Peregrine Maitland.
She came in unannounced, flushed, eager, defiant, lovely,
letting fall the rich train of her robe, which she had
caught up in a swift flight through the streets, and
throwing off her enveloping cloak, which scattered a
shower of sparkling drops on brow and bosom, and beautiful
bare arms, for a light shower had fallen. “They
would not let you come to me, so I have come to you,”
she declared with a daring little laugh. “I
have run away from my guests. There is a houseful
of them and they tire me to death. Everyone tires
me to-night except you.” The gentleman stood
before her speechless with bewilderment. “I
believe,” she said with a little pout, like a
spoiled child, “that you are not glad to see me.”
“Glad to see you,”
he repeated, “dearest yes! But not in this
way, at this time.”
She turned aside, but
the drops that glittered on her cheek now were not caused
by the rain. Her shimmering silken robes seemed
to utter continuous soft whispers of applause to her
nervous yet graceful movements. Altogether she
was an incongruous object in the unhome-like bareness
of a bachelor’s apartments. “You are
not very cordial, monsieur,” she remarked in a
cold tone, as she stood with her back to him, staring
hard at an uninteresting picture above the mantel-shelf;
“it seems to be a pleasure to you to receive an
evening caller, but not exactly a rapture.”
She smiled her old imperious smile as she threw herself
into a tired-looking chair, while her host, with very
obvious reluctance, [Page 114] sank
into one just opposite. For an instant her beauty
smote upon his brain. He leaned forward until
his face touched the lapful of rare old laces that flowed
wave-like from waist to knee on the dress of the girl
he murmured, “it is a rapture”—then
he suddenly drew himself very far back in his chair—“but
not exactly a pleasure!”
She rose again and moved
restlessly about the room. He stood pale, speechless,
waiting for her to go—a waiting that was almost
a supplication. “How could you have the
courage to come to me,” he breathed as she drew
“Because I hadn’t
the courage to stay away from you. I am brave
enough to do, but not to endure.”
“My poor love!
if this escapade becomes public you will have enough
“I do not care for
the world.” She stood facing him with the
absolute sincerity and trust of irresistible love.
“I care for you,” she said.
He took the little jewelled
hand and reverently kissed it.
do that!” she cried, drawing it away with a quick
impatient frown. He drew away, supposing that
he had offended her, while she, giving him the puzzled
incredulous look that a woman must give a man when she
discovers, not that his intuitions are duller than her
own, but that he has no intuitions at all, continued
her tour about the room.
he said, following her, but not venturing to lay a finger
upon her, but not venturing to lay a finger upon her,
“you must go.” His voice
was earnest and very tender.
“The same idea has
occurred to me,” she said, “but I dislike
to hurry. There is nothing so vulgar as haste.”
Her old mocking tone had returned, and in despair he
threw himself back into his seat.
Something in the pathetic
grace of his attitude and the beauty of his sensitive
poetic face smote upon the heart that, with all its
perversity, belonged alone to him. She [Page
115] ran to him and knelt at his side, with
her white arms out- stretched across his knees, and
her lovely head bowed upon them. The young man
realized with sharp distinctness that the fear of society
is not the strongest feeling that can animate the human
frame. He uttered a few passionate words of endearment,
and would have gathered her closely into his breast,
but she, without looking up, sprang suddenly from him
and, seizing her cloak, sped wind-like to her home.
But there were consequences.
Madame Grundy, who is chief among those for whom Satan
finds some mischief still, openly declared that there
were some forms of imprudence that could be tolerated
and some that could not, and that this particular indiscretion
must, with reluctance, be relegated to the latter class.
The irate father of the erring one coincided with this
view of things, and a speedy marriage was the result.
“Not guilty—but she mustn’t do so
again!” had evidently been the verdict of society.
A few months later, in
1818, Sir Peregrine Maitland, his affairs of love happily
settled, was appointed ruler of Upper Canada, where
his attention was turned to affairs of State.
But there was one subject in connection with his courtship-days
which had never been satisfactorily settled, and upon
which he did not venture to question his wife until
several years had elapsed. Then, late one afternoon,
it re- curred to him in that unaccountable way in which
bygone events are accustomed to rise at odd times and
lay claim to the attention.
said, “why did you object to my kissing your hand
the evening you called on me in Paris?”
“You may lay out
the corn-coloured silk, Emma,” said Lady Sarah
to her maid, who came that moment with an inquiry upon
toilette matters. Then as the girl disappeared
she resumed her novel, peeping over the top of it at
“As though I wanted
you to kiss my hand!” she said. [Page
A sudden light seemed to dawn upon the dense masculine
understanding. Sir Peregrine was very proud of
his beautiful wife. At the private reception which
she gave that evening the corn-coloured silk gown was
the centre of a group of government officials and the
social dignitaries of the time, between herself and
whom the ball of conversation kept lightly moving.
She turned from them to
greet an old friend. “Ah, Commodore, so
you are really settled here for the winter. Rose
told me that you had some thoughts of remaining out
in the bush through the cold season, in the cosy but
rather too exclusive manner of a family of chipmunks.
What have you been doing all summer?”
unspotted from the world,” replied the gentleman,
with a stately bow to the lady, and a sportive glance
at the worthy representatives of the social world surrounding
“How very scriptural!
Do Bibles grow on bushes in the backwoods that quotation
of them comes so easily?”
“I don’t know,
I’m sure. Such searching theological
questions are, I suppose, what a man must expect to
confront when he forsakes the simple and sequestered
life of the chipmunks.”
“Well, I am disappointed.
I supposed from the expression of your eyes that you
were going to say something complimentary.”
“My dear Lady Sarah,
do compliments grow on street corners in the metropolis
that the expectation of them comes so easily?”
in drawing-rooms either, apparently. It is a novelty
to meet a man who persists in making his conversation
impersonal; but it is really cold-hearted of you to
think of remaining so long away from us.”
“How can you say
so! Absence, you know, makes the heart grow fonder.”
The lady made a feint of moving away. “Now
if it were only possible for me to absent myself,”
she said, laughingly.
That is for me to do.” And the gentleman
withdrew with flattering haste.
In his place appeared
a blonde young man, with deep sea-blue eyes and a bright
buoyant expression, on whose arm his hostess laid a
soft detaining hand. “Were you on the point
of asking me to walk about a little?” she inquired.
“I am going to accept with alacrity.”
The young fellow, who
would scarcely have made the suggestion in the face
and eyes of several among the most distinguished of
his fellow citizens immediately surrounding her, was
not slow to respond, though he assumed an expression
“I fear this is
a deep-laid plot,” he remarked. “I
saw my father leaving you in haste a moment ago.
Probably he has offended you, and you are about to visit
the iniquities of the parents upon the children.
Pray are you taking me apart in order to spare my sensitive
feelings? So kind of you!”
“Well, it was not
my benevolent intention to lecture you at all, either
in public or private, but since you speak of it so feelingly
no doubt the need exists. First tell me what you
have been doing all summer.”
“Living out in the
wild woods among the wild flowers, wild animals, wild
“What a wild young
man! I am positively afraid of you.”
Please oblige me by remaining so. It is difficult
for me to be appalling for any length of time, yet the
emotion of fear must be cultivated in your mind at all
“Because you will
never dare to lecture the awe-inspiring being of whom
you are in mortal terror.”
“Oh! are you sure
of that? I met a famous lecturer the [Page
118] other day, and he assured me that he never
stepped before an audience without suffering from fright;
yet he did not spare his hearers on that account.”
“Such is the hardheartedness
of man. We expect more from a woman.”
“More of a lecture,
or more hardheartedness?”
“More of the latter—from
“Well I am under
the impression that you will receive, before long, a
good deal of the former from a young lady present.
Are you aware that we are observed?”
“I am sure that
one of us is the observed of all observers.”
“It is kind of you
not to add that politeness forbids you to say which.
But what I mean is that since we began to talk I have
twice encountered a glance from the darkest eyes I ever
“They must belong
to Mademoiselle DeBerczy.”
That girl’s eyes and hair are black enough to
cast a gloom over the liveliest conversation.”
“But her smiles
are bright enough to illumine the gloom.”
“Then it is a shame
that she should waste them upon that rather slow-looking
young man in front of her. Will you take me back
to my seat and then go and see if you can release her
The request was immediately
acceded to, and not long afterwards Hélène
DeBerczy and Edward Macleod were exchanging the light
talk, not worth reporting, that springs so easily from
those whose hearts are light.
Meantime where was Rose?
To all outward appearance she was demurely listening
to the remarks of a distinguished statesman, whose opinions
were held to be of great weight, and whose form, at
any rate, fully merited this description. He was
so delighted to think that one so young and fair could
be so deep. Alas! she was deep in a sense
the gifted gentleman never knew. For, while the
sweet head bowed [Page 119] assent,
and the rose-bud lips unclosed to utter such remarks
as “Ah, indeed! You surprise me!”
and “Very true!” to statements of profound
national import, her maiden meditations were as free
as fancy. Before her mental vision the brilliant
rooms with their gay well-dressed assemblage melted
away, and in their place was a fair green meadow, wide
and waving and deliciously cool under the declining
sun of a summer evening. The last load of the
second crop of hay was on its way to the barn, when
a great longing desire took possession of her to ride
on it. She walked out to the field, very slowly
and feebly, but still she actually walked—and
the whole cavalcade came to a dead stop at sight of
her, for she had never been able to go any farther than
the gate since her accident. Mr. Dunlop, and Allan,
and the hired man, and even the oxen all stopped, and
looked at her as though they expected to hear that the
house was afire, or that the servant girl had run away
with the butcher’s boy. But when they found
that nothing was wanted except a ride on a load of hay
Mr. Dunlop said, “bless the child!” and
held her up as high as he could reach. Then Allan
lifted her the rest of the way, blushing as he did so.
She remembered how beautifully clean he looked in his
white shirt sleeves, and what clear warm shades of brown
there were in the eyes and on the cheeks under the broad
straw hat. She remembered, too, with a little
warmth of feeling—not a very uncomfortable
warmth of feeling—how, when the wagon made a great
lurch going over a ditch, she had uttered a little scream,
and laid strenuous hands of appeal upon the white sleeved
arm, and how, when they came to another ditch, a brown
palm had held fast to her trembling hand until the danger
was over. Halfway in the barn door he made the
oxen stop, until she had stood on tip toe, and put her
hand among the little swallows in a nest under the eaves.
Ah, what was there in the memory of new-mown hay to
fill her with this sharp sweet pain? She awoke
from her [Page 120] dream to a consciousness
that the gentleman beside her was saying that it was
sufficiently clear to every enlightened understanding
that unless tum tum tum tum measures were instantly
adopted mum mum mum mum would be the inevitable result.
“Oh, no doubt of
it,” said Rose, and then there was a readjustment
of the group in her immediate vicinity. Lady Sarah
Maitland appeared with a bewitching smile and begged
to introduce the honourable gentleman, who had been
discoursing with so much eloquence to a friend of hers.
The ‘friend’ hovered in the distance, but
even in perspective it was clear to be seen that he
was a man of great powers of endurance.
The honourable gentleman
concealed under a flattered smile his distaste for the
proposition, and in a few moments his place was occupied
by Lady Sarah, who took one of the little hands, soft
and pink as a handful of rose-leaves, between her own.
“I wonder if I might
venture to ask a favour,” she said.
I should never venture to refuse it,” returned
the young girl, with all a young girl’s appreciation
of kindness coming from a thoroughbred woman of the
“Then I wish very
much that you would sing one of your favourite songs.
It would be a great pleasure to very many of us.”
wait to be coaxed,” was the reply, after a moment’s
hesitation. “It is only really good singers
who can afford to do that.”
In spite of her dimpled
figure and child-face, Rose Macleod had a very stately
little way with her, and it served to repel one pair
of eyes that for the first time that evening caught
sight of her as she moved towards the instrument.
A little queen! That was what he had always called
her in his heart. His little queen!
Oh, how had he dared to enthrone her there? Presumptuous
idiot! she was as far [Page 121] from
him as the stars are from the weeds. But the girl
at the piano thought of nothing but the sharp, sweet
odour of new-mown hay. Sharp as a sword and sweet
as love, it pierced and thrilled her being. Then,
like a fragrant blossom, a melody sprang from the hidden
sources of her pain. The sympathetic musical expressiveness
of her voice, and its pure penetrating quality filled
the room, and riveted the attention of every one in
it. Others came in from adjoining rooms, until,
in the press of the throng, a young man was forced,
in spite of himself, nearer and nearer to the instrument,
and found himself close beside the fair girl-goddess
of song, just as the last words left her lips.
Like one awaking from sleep she looked at him, and then
the glad light of recognition swept up to her eyes.
Her dream had come true. “Oh,” she
exclaimed, “it is Allan!” [Page