DURING the rest of the dreary winter the memory of that
enchanted walk through mire and darkness and driving
snow, kept two hearts—Rose’s and Allan’s—fully
awake. A pity, too; for sleep covers a multitude
of sufferings, and when the most impressible part of
our being is wrapped in unconsciousness, we can make
shift to go through the world with only an endurable
number of the usual aches and ailments. If these
young hearts had ever really slumbered since their owners
met for the first time, less than a year before, it
had been rather an uneasy re- pose; and now that they
were fully awake, it was to find not the glory of the
dawn, but a dark bleak day, whose beginning could scarcely
be distinguished from the night out of which it emerged,
whose end was so far—so drearily far away.
Things went on as before in their old monotonous manner.
Winter relented into spring, and the intimacy that had
warmed almost into acknowledged love that wild March
evening had apparently died of its own intensity.
Rose and Allan met occasionally, but with mutual avoidance;
she from innate loyalty to her father—he from
a pride that was too strong to plead. So the endless
conflict went on, but not alone in the minds of the
The doughty Commodore
was daily suffering in his own person the just punishment,
which is but too apt to overtake the man, who in a point
of differ- ence with a woman ends by having his own
way. This stern parent liked to think of himself
as generous, compassionate, and tender-hearted; and
he had been grievously cheated out of this agreeable
sensation. His daughter’s absolute and sweet-natured
loyalty to his will sharpened his sense of deprivation.
Was it possible that he was unnatural and tyrannical?
The answer [Page 179] to this question
was what Rose’s pale cheeks seemed to require
of him, and he chafed under the mute, unconscious, persistent
repetition of the query. He recommended her to
take long walks, but she came back from them paler and
more lifeless than before. He began to see that
it was possible to gain one’s own point and lose
something infinitely more precious. It hurt him
to see her suffer, and he despised himself as the suspected
cause of her sufferings. He asked himself how
he could have endured it if, in his courting days, he
had been shut out from the woman he loved. She
was infinitely his superior, he thought with a swelling
heart, and then his arm fell on the back of the chair
beside him, and his hand clenched, as he grimly wondered
what bolts or bars would suffice to have kept them apart.
If she was alive now would she have taken this cruelly
peremptory course with their daughter? He revolved
the question with a sore heart. It admitted of
but one answer. In all her sweet and gentle life
his wife had never been either peremptory or cruel.
Unknown to Rose her father’s
stout heart showed signs of thawing with the weather.
He began to inform himself warily, and by indirect means,
with regard to the character, circumstances, and prospects
of Allan Dunlop, in much the same way as we make a study
of the drug, hitherto supposed to be a poison, but now
believed capable of saving the life of a loved one.
In his present mood of despondency and anxiety it seemed
that every fresh fact that he learned served to raise
Allan and lower himself in his own estimation.
It is difficult to atone for a wrong so delicate that
one shrinks from expressing it in words, and yet the
need of making at least one attempt at reparation was
pressing sorely upon him.
So it was with almost
a girlish bound of the heart that the Commodore read
aloud, one morning, in all the polysyllabic glory of
newspaper English, an account of the [Page 180]
heroic way in which a young child was saved
from drowning by the prompt and daring action of Allan
Dunlop. It was an opportunity for praising his
enemy, and the worthy gentleman was almost as relieved
and happy as the rescued child. “Upon my
word, Rose,” he said, turning to the silent girl
at the other end of the breakfast table, “that
young Dunlop is a much finer fellow than I supposed
him to be.”
she assented meagrely. She had no idea of undoing
the work of weeks—the work of steeling herself
against the sweetness of recollection— by too
warm an interest in the subject.
“The idea of a child
paddling about alone in a boat during that horrible
storm,” continued the Commodore, more impatient,
if the truth were known, with his daughter’s lukewarmness
than with the waif’s recklessness. “Not
one man in a thousand,” he continued abruptly,
“would have ventured out on Lake Ontario in that
“People of plebeian
origin usually have a well-developed muscular system,”
“But they are not
fond of risking their life in the interest of their
muscles,” returned the gentleman, annoyed at the
girl’s obstinacy, nor dreaming how sweet from
his lips sounded his praise of her lover.
“It depends upon
what their life is worth. Common folks, who suffer
under the well-merited contempt of their social superiors,
must grow at last to despise what better educated people
know to be despicable.”
“No doubt, it is
as you say,” replied her father. He was
thoroughly irritated, and all his benevolent notions
took flight, as they are apt to do when the object of
our philanthropy proves perverse. “I was
about to suggest that you invite him to your party to-morrow
night; but in [Page 181] the present
state of feeling per- haps it would be better not.”
the least idea that he would come,” returned the
girl. “He isn’t the sort of person
to allow himself to be taken up and dropped at random.”
“Well, settle it
to suit yourself,” he concluded. She reflected
bitterly that this privilege came when it was too late.
Nevertheless, she was grateful for it, and scolded herself
soundly for giving her father undutiful replies.
She also remar- ked in the solitude of her own room
that she did not care a particle whether Allan came
or not, and then with a fluttering heart she wrote him
a note of invitation. When Tredway was requested
to deliver it that ancient servitor manifested so much
interest in his errand that the blue eyes of his young
mistress lingered on him a moment in surprise.
“I am under very
great obligations to Mr. Dunlop,” he said.
“I may say that I owe my life to him?”
laughed the girl. “Why it was only the other
day that he rescued a strange child from the wild waves.”
“He rescued me from
the wild woods,” said the man, with the impressiveness
of one who wishes to celebrate the most remarkable escape
on record. Tred- way had a profound objection
to the woods. In the previous summer he had, with
great reluctance, served as commissary general to a
party of young men, who went in pursuit of a week’s
sport to Burlington Bay. Edward and Allan were
of the number, and when Tredway was lost on a little
expedition of his own, to the nearest shanty in quest
of provisions, it was Allan who went in search of him,
and after some difficulty brought him back to camp.
The event had been a source of some amusement to the
rest; but to the mind of its hero it had lost nothing
of its tragic aspect. “The woods are very
confusing to a person of my life and habits,”
he observed deprecatingly. [Page 182]
“Oh, yes, indeed,”
returned Rose, “and so very different from England.”
The gratitude with which
Tredway listened to this remark was not unmixed with
regret that the tone in which it was uttered was sportive
rather than serious. He was consoled, however,
by the reflection that national differences could not
be expected to oppress the heart of unthinking youth
as it did that of sad maturity.
The unreasoning joy that
flamed in Allan Dunlop’s face, as he glanced over
the dainty note, faded into ashen paleness as he remembered
what its respon- se must be. “Sit down,
Tredway,” he said mechanically, “I will
have an answer ready in a moment.” Grateful
to be relieved of the pains of indecision by the necessity
for prompt action he took up a pen and wrote rapidly:
It is very hard for me
to refuse your kind invitation to be with you to-morrow
night, but it is impossible to accept it. If I
were invited to Paradise, ‘for one night only,’
with the knowledge that I must forego my share of its
delights thenceforth, I should wish to return the same
answer. Have I no right to hint that your presence
is my Paradise? Forgive me for it, and for my
rudeness and perverseness, which all arises out of my
consuming and indestructible love for you. The
only thing I can say that can condone this offence is
that I never cease trying to destroy your image in my
heart. So far the results are extremely discouraging;
but I cannot resign the hope that Time, the great healer,
may also prove, like other notable physicians, the great
destroyer. Ah! what am I saying? I can never
say enough to you, and yet already I have said too much.
God bless the sweet ruler of my life and heart forever,
and grant that every ill that threatens her may fall
instead upon the head of her unworthy lover. [Page
Will you not write me
a word of forgiveness for resisting the temptation to
go to you?
Ever your worshipper,
ended with a strange feeling of the incongruity of this
declaration of passion with his surroundings, the stuffy
unhomelike chambers on King Street, and the rather severe
presence of a man, whose existence emphasized all the
hated social distinction that never weighed so heavily
on him as at present. This rigorous representative
of his class took the message delivered to him, and
stood for a moment hesitatingly in the doorway.
“Your people are
quite well, I hope, Tredway,” said Allan.
“Yes, sir, thank
you. Quite well with the exception of Miss Rose.
She is looking badly.”
“I am very sorry.
I made no inquiries about her, because, since her accident
last summer, she has never been otherwise than well.
I wish,” and his tones were sad and sincere as
his meaning, “that I could do something for her.”
“Thank you, sir.
It is taking a great liberty to say so, but your visits
are so infrequent that I believe Miss Rose is under
the impression that you did not greatly care.”
“Oh, I care
enough, quite enough,” he added mentally.
“The fact is there is danger of my caring too
much, and nobody knows better than you, Tredway, that
that would be the greatest piece of folly I could perpetrate.
Miss Rose is vastly my social superior.”
The old man bowed his
head as though this were too obvious a truth to need
comment. Then he said encouragingly:
“Ah, there is nothing
but the remains of their former greatness left to the
Macleods. They are growing more and more bourgeois
since coming to this degenerate country.” [Page
“Yes, I imagine
that their family dignity, in such times as these, may
be a little out of repair; but I can hardly venture
to build vain hopes on the ruins. You are a good
fellow, Tredway; good-bye!”
A few days later the coveted
answer to his missive came.
Since I am to see you
no more it seems unnecessary if not unkind of me to
write and prolong the pain of parting. But if
you were dying, and should tell me with nearly your
latest breath what you wrote in your letter, I should
want you to know that the confession was dear and sacred
to me—something I should remember all the rest
of my life.
I am not willing to believe
that your future will be wholly bereft of consolation.
One who is capable of imperiling his life to save that
of an unknown child ought to know that he can never
find any better company than his own. But you
need never be lonely; I hear your name and career frequently
spoken of with warm appreciation by your friends, among
whom I hope you will always number
Yours very sincerely,
Allan, as he read and re-read this brief epistle, “she
does not despise my love, but she recognizes its hopelessness.”
With the usual blunt- ness of masculine perception he
failed to see that it was impossible for her to ignore
what he himself was accustomed to dwell upon at such
dreary length. If he was profoundly convinced
that there was no hope, she could scarcely con- descend
to suggest that there might be a glimmer. So the
young man continued to be wrapped in the darkness which
was largely born of his own imagination.
he wrote, in immediate response, “shall I assign
you among my friends? One’s friend may be
simply [Page 185] an acquaintance of
long stand- ing, who cherishes no special animosity
toward one, or it may be the stranger of a year ago,
who now is knit into the very fibre of one’s being.
Just so closely woven with my inmost self have you grown,
dear, and to put the thought of you away from me is
like putting my own eyes from me. Do you think
I can be trusted as a friend? I foresee that I
shall be the most faithless one ever known, for I have
never been your friend, and I don’t know how to
begin to be one, whereas I have had nearly a year’s
experience in loving you. But I am jesting with
a sore heart. It is strange that I can jest at
all; and yet I know that I am richer and happier in
owning the smallest corner of your heart, than if I
possessed the whole of any other woman’s.”
He wrote a great
deal more of the same sort, by turns light, fanciful,
woful or desperate. But all this Rose ignored.
“I am very glad,” she wrote demurely, “that
you are rich and happy on such insufficient grounds.
I could scarcely deny a corner of my heart to any of
my friends, but the rest of them are well enough acquainted
with me to know that the possession is not a source
of unmixed joy. This illusion of yours must be
destroyed, and, as you will see, my share of this correspondence
is going to tend gently but inexorably towards that
end. I still cherish hopes of retaining your friendship.
It is so much more difficult for a man to be a woman’s
friend than it is for him to be by turns her worshipper
and oppressor—and you are made to conquer difficult
things, and be made stronger by them. You have
admirable qualities—self-forgetfulness, lofty
purpose, a will that never falters, a heart that never
faints. I discovered all these before I received
your letters. Otherwise, do you think I would
have discovered them at all?”
Thus preached this adorable
little high-priest of heroic self-denial, and when she
had made an end she burst into tears, and wished that
Allan were there to wipe them away. [Page 186]