AN ALGONQUIN MAIDEN
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CHAPTER XXII.

LOVE’S REWARDS.

 


A FEW days afterwards the body of the Algonquin Maiden, recovered from the waves, was lying in an upper chamber at Pine Towers.  Whatever may have been the supreme agony in which this suffering soul parted from its human habitation, no trace of it remained upon the inanimate form.  Free from scar or stain it lay, the languid limbs forever motionless, the cold hands crossed upon a pulseless breast, the beautiful figure, heavily shadowed in enshrouding tresses, stretched in painless repose, and on the wonderful face the expression of one who has gained, not rest and peace—when had she ever hungered for these?— but the look, almost startling in its intensity, of one who has found love.  Some- where, sometime, we who struggle through life—nay, rather, struggle after life— in this world that God so loved, shall find our longings satisfied; the one yearning cry of our heart shall be stilled.  The poet shall touch the stars, whose pale light now shines so uncertainly upon his brow; the painter shall put upon canvas a beauty too deep for words; the worshipper of nature shall thrill with the know- ledge of unspoken secrets; the seeker after truth shall learn the mysteries of heaven.  The infinite Father cannot deny his children; He will not cheat them.  But the lessons of patience are harder to learn than those of labour.
     Upon this poor child of the wilderness had fallen a happiness so bewildering and so complete that it seemed as though the perfect lips must open to give utterance to a joy too full to be contained.  But to the man self-accused of robbing her of love and life, this sweet reflected glory from the other side of the dark gateway brought no consolation.  In that silent room, flooded with cold moonlight, Edward Macleod stood alone in the dead girl’s presence, and felt the bitter waves of remorse sweep over his soul.  Her beauty, [Page 234] touched by the light of absolute happiness, thrilled him now as never before.  From mere wantonness he had crushed out the heart of this faultlessly lovely and innocent creature, and his head fell upon his breast in shame and self-contempt.  God might forgive him, but how could he ever forgive himself?
     The door blew open, and, silently as a vision, Hélène came in and stood beside him.  It was a strange place for a lover’s tryst—that bare room with its lifeless occupant, flooded with white unearthly moonlight.  “Let me stay with you, Edward,” she pleaded, with quivering lips.  “No,” she added, in answer to the unspoken fear in his eyes, “I shall not try to comfort you.”  She knew intuitively that no consolation could avail in this hour of silent self-torture.  “Only,” she whispered, “you must let me share your grief, for I also have wronged her.”
     And so, with clasped hands, they bent together and kissed the beautiful still lips that could never utter an accusing word against them.  Their love founded upon death had suddenly become as mysterious and sacred as the life of a child whose mother perished when she gave it birth.
     Some months elapsed after the burial of Wanda before Edward ventured to bring his dearest hopes under the notice of Madame DeBerczy.  This august personage, in whose memory yet lingered frequent rumours of the young man’s flirtations with the nut-brown forest maid, cherished no particular partiality for him.  If Hélène’s lover had ever entertained the unfounded illusion that her lily-white hand had been too lightly won, he might willingly have submitted to the just punishment of his presumption; but in view of his long struggle to win her favour, it was dispiriting to learn that there was still a greater height to conquer,—the lofty indifference of one whom he wished, in spite of her weaknesses, to make his mother-in-law.  Ice, however, will melt when exposed to a certain degree of heat, and this was where [Page 235] Edward’s naturally sunny disposition and the warmth of his love did him good service.  Before the good lady fairly realized the change that was passing over her feelings with regard to her daughter’s suitor, she had ceased to speak of him as that frivolous young Macleod, and had begun to see for herself in his handsome face the sincerity and sadness that follow in the wake of every deep and painful experience.
     From approval it is but a step to appreciation, and this merges by natural degrees into affection.  Hélène, who, though she did not consider Edward faultless, was apt to find his faults more alluring than the virtues of some others, had at last the satisfaction of knowing that her mother inclined to take a like view of them; and her now impatient lover was made glad by a formal acceptance from Madame DeBerczy of his request for her daugther’s hand.
     Meantime, Rose and Allan, whose course of love, if it had not suffered so tempestuous a passage, had still flowed for the most part under gloomy skies, were at last in the enjoyment of undisputed shunshine.  In this unaccustomed atmosphere the fairest flower of the Macleod family bloomed anew, and her lover at last beheld his prospects couleur de rose.  Allan had accepted an invitation from the old Commodore to visit Pine Towers, and the impression he made upon his prospective father-in-law grew daily deeper and pleasanter, till, to the elder gentleman’s sorrow at the thought of parting from his fondly-loved daughter, was added real regret that he had never before appreciated the sterling qualities of her chosen husband.
     Politically, their views, which had once been wide asunder as the poles, had now almost unconsciously met and kissed each other.  Nor was this the result of abandoned convictions.  Both men continued to cherish their old notions of things, and to hold to the traditions of the party to which each was attached.  But Allan Dunlop and the Commodore had come to know and to respect each other, and, as the [Page 236] result, each took a more dispassionate view of the questions which disturbed the country and which had ranged them politically on opposite sides.  This change was especially noticeable in the elder of the two.  Though allied to the party who prided themselves in being regarded as stiff, unbending Tories, Commodore Macleod had an acute sense of what was just and fair; and under a somewhat rough exterior he had a kindly, sympathetic heart.  This latter virtue in the old gentleman made him keenly alive to the grievances of the people, and particularly sensitive to appeals from settlers, the hardships of whose lot, though he had himself little experience of them, were nevertheless often present to his mind.  His manly character, moreover, thought it was occasionally hid under a sailor’s brusque testiness, disposed him to appreciate manliness in others, and to be sympathetic towards those whose aims were high and whose motives were good.  Thus, despite his inherent conservatism and pride of birth, he was gradually won over to regard Dunlop, first with tolerance, then with awakened interest and respect, and finally with admiration and love.
     Dunlop, on the other hand, though he abated nothing in his enthusiasm for the cause of the people, and never faltered in his loyalty to duty, came to regard the political situation, if not from the point of view of his opponents, at least from a point of view which was eminently statesmanlike and discreet.  Influenced by a broader comprehension of affairs, and by a more complaisant regard for the country’s rulers, who had done and were doing much for the young common- wealth, however sorely the political system pressed upon the people, Dunlop placed a check upon his gift of parliamentary raillery, and refrained from press- ing many reforms which time, he knew, would quietly and with less acrimony bring about. 
     To these ameliorating influences both men unresistingly submitted them- selves, and, as a consequence, each came nearer to the other; while the bond of love between [Page 237] Rose and Allan cemented the alliance political, and threw down all barriers that had once frowned on the alliance matrimonial.  It was a consciousness of this change of feeling which led Allan Dunlop, on his return for a time to his political duties at York, to write to Rose in the following strain, and to assure her of the complete cordiality that now existed, and was sure to continue to exist, between her father and himself:

                                                                        “YORK, November 30th, 1827.
     “MY DEAR ROSE:  From the paradise of the garden of Pine Towers, with you as its ineffably sweet, pervading presence, to the inferno of these Legislative Halls, with their scenes of discord and turbulence, duty and fate have ruthlessly and unfeelingly banished me.  Coming from your restful presence, how little disposed am I to enter upon the strifes of these stormy times, and to take up the gage of battle thrown recklessly down by some knight of the Upper House, whose idea, either of manly dignity of Parliamentary warfare, is not that of the “preux chevalier, sans peur et sans reproche.”
     Yet I would be unworthy of the little queen I serve, whose smiles and favour are a continuous inspiration to me, were I weakly to forego my duty, and desire to seek the solace of her presence without having first acquitted myself with honour on this mimic field of battle.  What is to be the outcome of this strife of tongues, and what the future of our country, riven asunder as it is by those, on the one side, who are jealous merely for their own rights and privileges, and, on the other, by those who care only for the distraction and clamour of fruitless conten- tion, it were hard to say.  With the ever-increasing complications, the fires of discontent must some day burst into flame.  Even now it wants but the breath of a bold, daring spirit to set the whole Province in a blaze; and I shudder at the prospect unless a spirit of conciliation speedily shows itself, and the Executive makes some surrender of its autocratic powers. [Page 238]
     In the discussion of political affairs I had recently with your father, I am glad to say that we agree very closely as to the inciting causes of the public discontent, and have a common opinion as to the best,—indeed, the only satisfactory,— means of applying a remedy.  This unity of feeling must rivet and perpetuate our friendship, and aid in bringing about, what I ardently desire, some necessary and immediate reforms in our mode of government.  I need hardly say to you, who are so dear to me, how fervently I hail this mutual understanding on political matters, and how much I auger from it of weal to the country and of pleasure and happiness to ourselves.  Heaven grant that all I expect from it may be realized!
     I have no news to give you of social matters in York, save of Lady Mary Willis’s Fancy Ball, which is to come off at the close of the year.  Mr. Galt, of the Canada Company, the Robinsons, Hewards, Hagermans, Widmers, Spragges, and Baldwins—everybody but a few of the Government House people—are taking a great interest in the coming affair.  There is to be a sleighing-party soon also from the Macaulays to the Crookshank’s farm, and on to the Denisons.  I have been asked to join it, and wish you were to be here in time, to make one— the dearest to me!—of the party.
     With my respects to your father, kind regards to Edward and Mad’lle Hélène, and abiding love to your sweet self and the little people of your household,
            I remain, ever and devotedly yours,
                                                                   ALLAN DUNLOP.”

     But there was little need now of formal—or indeed of any—correspondence between Allan and Rose, for they were soon to be forever together, in the bonds not only of a common sympathy and a common interest in their country’s welfare, but in that closer union of hearts which both had secretly longed for and both had feared would never come about.  It was arranged that in the spring of the follow- ing year [Page 239] there would be a double marriage, and that the day that saw Edward united to Hélène would also see the union of Allan and Rose.  Even now, preparations for the interesting event had been set on foot, and society in “Muddy Little York” was on the tip-toe of excitement over the coming weddings.
     As the winter passed, and the month drew near which was to witness the two-fold alliance, the young people of the Capital took a delirious interest in every circumstance, however trivial, connected with the affair.  Of course, the double ceremony was to take place at the Church of St. James, and it was known that the Lieutenant-Governor and Lady Sarah Maitland, before finally quitting the Province, were to be present, and that the redoubtable politico-ecclesiastic, the Archdeacon of York, was to tie the knots, and, in his richest Doric, pronounce both couples severally “mon and wife.”  The wedding breakfast, it was also a matter of current talk, was to be at the homestead of a distinguished member of the local judiciary; and it had also leaked out that, thereafter, the united couples were to embark on His Majesty’s sloop-of-war, “The Princess Charlotte,” and be conveyed as far as Kingston, on the wedding journey to Quebec, where Edward, with his bride, was to proceed to England to rejoin his regiment, and Allan and Rose were to spend the honeymoon in some delightful retreat on the St. Lawrence.
     What need is there to continue the chronicle?—save to assure the modern reader of this old-time story that everything happily came about as foreshad- owed in the gossip we have just related, and that the after-fortunes of the four happy people who took that early wedding journey on the St. Lawrence were as bright as those of the happiest Canadian bride and bridegroom that have ever taken the same journey since.

 

THE END. [Page 240]