TO be slowly recovering from a severe illness is almost
like being again a very little child. So thought
Rose Macleod, as she lay between lavender-scented sheets,
in the quaint stone cottage, whose deep old-fashioned
window seats, and low whitewashed ceilings, were becoming
as familiar to her as the stately halls of her home.
The protracted leisure of convalescence was growing
burdensome to her. So many days had she watched
the lights and shadows woven throughout the greenery,
just outside her window, or listened to the weird measure
of the rain when the wind surged like a sea through
the foliage, or held her breath for joy when a flying
bird pulsed vividly across the sky, or counted the milk-white
flowers of the locust tree, as they strewed the ground
with blossoms, or noted the exact moment when the morning-glories
softly clasped their purple petals together, as though
unable to contain a greater fulness of joy than was
brought by the summer morning. It was now early
evening, and Rose gave vent to a little uncontrollable
sigh. Mrs. Dunlop came as quickly to the bedside
as though the sigh had been the sound of a trumpet.
She was a very pleasant object for weary invalid eyes
to rest upon. Her dark hair was satin-smooth,
her voice and movements were quiet and refined.
There was in her face that mingling of shyness and sincerity,
irradiated by a look of the keenest intelligence, which
reminded Rose of Allan, between whom and his mother
there was a strong resemblance.
“I have something
to tell you,” she said gently. “As
my prisoner you have behaved in such an exemplary manner,
keeping all the rules of the institution, and making
no attempt to run away, that I have decided to give
you the freedom of another room.” [Page
“Oh, am I to go
into another room?” Had a voyage to Europe
been proposed to her it could scarcely have suggested
pleasanter ideas of change. “A new wall-paper,
and a new window! What more could I ask for?
But how am I to get there? What means of transportation
“That is just what
I am thinking of. I could dress you in my gray
wrapper, and then—would you mind if Allan were
to help me to lift you to the couch in my room?”
Rose shuddered a little.
A faint pink stained for a moment the whiteness of her
cheek. “I shouldn’t mind it if I were
senseless,” she said, “but I don’t
want him to think I have lost my senses again.
No, we’ll have to give up that idea.”
But Mrs. Dunlop was not
the sort of person to give up an idea without good cause.
“The mountain must then go to Mahomet,”
said she, and wheeling the couch close to the sick-bed,
she arranged the invalid cosily among the cushions,
and pushed her slowly into her own apartment.
“If I were twice as large as you are,” she
added, “instead of being just your size, I should
have carried you in half the time.”
But another and more serious
consequence followed that same evening upon the striking
similarity in figure between Mrs. Dunlop and Miss Macleod.
Golden twilight had changed to dim dusk, but Rose still
lay with her fair head almost buried among the cushions.
She expected a visit from her father that evening, and
the temptation to show him what she could do and dare
was irresistible. All her hostess’s hints
that bed-time had arrived were wasted upon deaf ears.
At last, in a little anxiety as to the result of her
experiment, if the Commodore did not arrive, Mrs. Dunlop
went out to the front gate to see if there were signs
of his approach. At the same moment Allan entered
the house by the back door, and looked about for his
mother. Impelled by a “fatalistic necessity”
he went up to her room, the [Page 89] sound
of his carefully modulated tread upon the stairway filling
the heart of Rose with delight, for was not that her
own father, who had probably been informed at the gate
of the change in her condition and surroundings, and
who was coming up so softly in order to surprise her.
Allan, meanwhile, glancing in, saw nothing in the gray
gloom but a small figure in a well-known wrapper, stretched
wearily upon the couch. “Poor little mother,”
he thought. “She is quite tired out.”
He went up to her intending to bestow a filial caress
upon her cheek, but before his design could be accomplished
he was drawn close by a single arm around his neck,
and repeatedly kissed. “You blessed darling!”
she softly exclaimed, “here I’ve been waiting
for you and waiting for you and longing—Oh!”
That silky moustache and that chin, that was not
stubby, could they belong to a gentleman of sixty years?
Her right arm fell limp and useless as the other.
“I thought you were my father,” she said
in a weak voice of mingled disappointment, anger and
“And I thought you
were my mother,” was all the guilty wretch could
offer in extenuation of his conduct.
The people whose parts
this unfortunate pair had been playing with such ill
success were now heard at the door below. Allan
felt like a criminal as he stole into the hall, and
thence into his own room; but the Commodore could scarcely
understand the propriety of a strange and otherwise
objectionable young man holding a moonless tête-à-tête
with his daughter. In any case his presence would
involve disagreeable explanations. If her cheeks
were as flushed as his own no doubt her doting parent
would ascribe it to renewed health and strength.
But the young man, sitting
alone in the perfumed darkness of that summer night,
with his hot head fallen upon the window-sill, did not
imagine that the fire that burned along his own veins
was an indication of health. On the contrary,
he feared it a symptom of a dreaded disease—the
fever [Page 90] and delirium of love.
What was that little yellow-haired girl to him?
Nothing! nothing! Yet her kisses burned upon his
lips, and every drop of blood in his body seemed to
contradict his nonchalant nothing with a passionate
everything! Yes, she was in truth the lamp of
his life, but in that radiant light how pitiful his
life appeared. How pitiful, and yet how beautiful,
for in the tender illumination of her imagined love
rough places became smooth, dark ways bright, and the
heights of possible achievement were faintly flushed
with all the delicate tints of dawn—the dawn of
a diviner day than any he had yet looked upon.
When he went to sleep it was to dream of walking in
a wilderness of roses. Pale and drooping, broken
and dying, red and roguish, blushing, wanton, wild and
warm, each bore some fantastic resemblance to Rose Macleod,
and each was set about with “little wilful thorns.”
The hand which he eagerly outstretched to pluck the
loveliest rose of all was pierced and bleeding.
Still he did not despair of reaching it. But as
his longing eyes drew nearer and nearer the stately
little beauty turned suddenly a deep blood-red, and
then he saw that the crimson drops falling from his
own wounds had worked this transformation. He
hid her in his bosom, and held her there. But
the closer she was pressed the richer and more fragrant
was the breath she exhaled, intoxicating all his senses,
and the farther into his heart went the cruel thorns,
until in mingled pain and rapture he awoke.
This Allan Dunlop, though
born and bred on a farm, had in him the spring of a
higher and finer life. He was a man of delicate
instincts, refined feelings, and great native sensibility,
inherited from his mother, at whose history we may take
a rapid backward glance.
Far away in one of the
stately homes of “Merrie England,” when
the eighteenth century was old, a gentlewoman, young,
charming, and full of an habitually repressed life and
[Page 91] gaiety, waited for her cavalier,
the youthful riding-master who had little to recommend
himself to her gracious kindness save that deep but
indefinable charm which a handsome man on a spirited
charger is so prone to exert on the feminine imagination.
The morning was fair, the lady was fairer, and the heart
of her gallant attendant beat faster than the feet of
his steed, as the flying skirt of her robe swept his
stirrup, and the soft length of her mist-like veil blew
before his eyes and caressed his brown cheek.
It was not the only mist that blew before his eyes nor
before her’s either, poor child! for the rival
contrast between this wild rush over hedge and ditch
and bright green meadow and the stiffly guarded walks
and ways of home had spurred her imagination also into
a gallop. “We will never come back,”
he said jestingly, “we will ride away into a world
of our own!” but there was something reckless
in his laugh and a formidable note of earnestness in
his jesting. He never dreamed that her pulse beat
quicker after his careless speeches, and he was in truth
a good deal in awe of her, for the buckram propriety
which had encased her like a garment ever since she
could remember was not easily thrown aside. This
young pair, though as deeply in love with each other
as it is possible for man and maid to be, had never
acknowledged the fact by a syllable. Anna Sherwood
was too shy and prim; Richard Dunlop too poor and proud.
He had been a trooper in a cavalry regiment, afterwards
riding-master in a garrison town in England, and since
his coming to Canada, and before taking to farming,
he held the position of fort-adjutant at Penetanguishene;
at present he was tutor in equestrian arts to the young
lady whom he passionately loved. Of her there
is little to tell except that until this dashing young
fellow crossed her path she had experienced about as
much change and variety in her life as though she had
been a plant grown in a flower-pot. On sunny days
she was allowed the outside air; on stormy days she
was kept within. She toiled not, neither [Page
92] did she spin. Nothing was required
of her except colourless acquiescence in a life of torpid,
unnatural, unendurable ennui.
The young lady’s
only guardian was a wealthy maiden aunt, who was as
rich as she was old maidish—a statement likely
to thrill the heart of any mammon-worshipper among her
acquaintance—and whose special pride was the exemplary
manner in which she had brought up her brother’s
child. The daring young fellow who had presumed
to fall in love with this model niece followed her uninvited
into the family sitting-room on returning from their
ride, a proceeding which rather alarmed the gentle Anna,
though her much dreaded relative was absent. He
did not sit down, but took a decisive stand on the hearth-rug.
He looked like a man who has something he must say,
though the saying of it will all but cost him his life.
She sat down with a strange foreboding at her heart
of something terrible to come. The austere influences
of her aunt’s home were upon her. She sat
in prim composure, pale hands clasped, and pale lids
drooping upon cheeks that had lost every particle of
the warmth and glow gained by exercise. “Miss
Sherwood,” he began, “there is something
I have been longing to say to you for weeks past, and
though it is a perfectly useless, almost impertinent
thing to say, still I cannot leave it burning in my
heart any longer. It is that you are dearer to
me than any woman on earth—and always will be.”
His voice broke a little, but he went bravely on. “You
need not think that I shall annoy you with frequent
repetitions of this fact, or that I expect to gain anything
by the statement of it. I know that you are proud
and self-sufficing, and,” a little bitterly, “that
I can never be anything more to you than the dust thrown
up by your horse’s heels—a necessary evil.
I don’t know why I should tell you this, except
that I cannot suffer in silence any longer. I
am going to leave you now—to leave you forever.
Won’t you say good-bye? Is there nothing
you will say to me, little Nan?” [Page
In spite of himself his
voice had sunk to a tone of caressing tenderness.
The pale proud girl had listened to him without moving
a fibre or lifting an eyelash. But now there came
a great flow of blood to her face, a swift rush of tears
to her eyes.
she said, “except”—
She wrung her hands: pride
dies very hard.
“Except that I love
His eyes blazed.
“Then, by Heaven,” he cried, “we shall
never part.” He caught her to his breast
and held her there a moment without speaking.
He was too dazed to speak. The scene was dramatic;
and Miss Maria Sherwood, who entered the room at that
moment, did not approve of the drama. She held
that it was sensational in conduct, scurrilous in character,
scandalous in its consequences; and it is highly probable
that from this brief glimpse of it she saw no reason
to change her opinions. Act second, as may be
imagined, was stormy and exiting, gaining in interest
as it progressed, and the last scene in these private
theatricals saw the hero and heroine shipped off to
Canada—that better country, where the lives and
loves of those to whom fate has been cruel are graciously
spared, under conditions adverse enough but still endurable.
That life and love can
continue to exist beneath bleak foreign skies, when
grim Poverty howls wolf-like at the door, and the winds
of seemingly year-long winters are scarcely less fierce,
was the proposition these courageous young people set
themselves to prove. No day dawned so dark that
was not illumined for him by the repetition of that
shamelessly unmaidenly speech, “I love you, Dick.”
As for her, she never ceased to smile at the blindness
of a man who could imagine that luxurious imprisonment
for life without him could be more alluring than the
greatest hardships endured in the perpetual sunshine
of his love.
Of this pair, whose romance
had outlasted the sordid [Page 94] cares
and trials of life in the backwoods, Allan Dunlop, with
his exquisite susceptibilities, and ambitious aims,
was the honest fruit. He was not visible to Rose
for some days after their emotional and wholly involuntary
encounter in his mother’s room, and then he brought
her a great handful of her fragrant namesakes.
She had been promoted for half-an-hour to a huge well-cushioned
chair, in which she reclined rather languidly.
The roses formed a pretext for a little desultory conversation,
and then Allan, noticing the invalid’s little
ears were turning pink, presumably at the recollection
of their last meeting, could not forbear saying:
“I feel that I ought
to beg your pardon, Miss Macleod, for the way I treated
you the other evening. It was a brutal assault,
though wholly unintentional.”
Poor Rose, who remembered
that it was she who made the assault, expressed the
belief that she would rather it were forgotten than
I can’t forget it. Some things make too
deep an impression. Of course,” he added,
in his embarrassment, “it was the last thing I
should have wished to do.”
echoed the miserable girl, wondering if he meant what
his mother, entering the room at that moment, “what
are you saying to distress my patient? I don’t
like the look of these feverish cheeks.”
“I fear I have committed
the unpardonable sin, as Miss Rose refuses to pardon
Mrs. Dunlop, who was in
absolute ignorance of the subject of conversation, looked
smilingly from one to the other.
“Promise her that
the offence will never be repeated, Allan,” she
said, “and then it may receive forgiveness.”
The young man coloured
scarlet. “The conditions are too hard,”
he murmured. “I think, on the whole, I should
prefer to go unforgiven.” And he hastily
rose and left the room. [Page 95]
But if Rose Macleod was
not free from afflictions of a sentimental nature, her
brother Edward was even less so. This young man
sorely missed the girlish society which his sister in
happier days had constantly drawn about her. One
afternoon, when time hung particularly heavy on his
hands, he decided to go over to “Bellevue,”
ostensibly to give Madame DeBerczy the latest information
concerning Rose, but really to solace his soul with
a sight of the beautiful Hélène.
On his way over he chanced to overtake the Algonquin
girl, Wanda, whom he proceeded to upbraid in no measured
terms for the way in which she had treated him.
she cried at last, covering her ears with her hands,
“your words are like hailstones, sharp and cruel
“Then will you not
say that you are sorry?” he pleaded, bending his
fair head once more perilously near to the soft, brown
“Sorry that you
deserved the blow? yes; certainly!”
Edward, an irrepressible smile breaking through his
assumed anger, “you are a witch, and a wicked
witch, too. It is like your race to be cruel and
merciless, indifferent to the pain you inflict, and—”
retorted the girl, indignantly, “it is not true.”
She was irradiated by her wrath. The usual faint
yet warm redness of her face had changed to a deeper
hue, and her eyes were smouldering fires. Edward
had never seen her look so handsome; but his attention
was distracted from her at that instant by some rough,
prickly shrubs, near which they were passing.
He put out his hand instinctively to keep them from
touching his companion, and a sharp thorn pierced his
palm. He immediately affected to be in great pain.
“It is easy for
the pale-face to suffer,” she said tauntingly.
“It is impossible
for your race to be pitiful,” he replied in the
same tone. [Page 96]
Again she flushed hotly,
and, as if to disprove his assertion, she seized his
hand, and pressed it closely to her angrily-heaving
bosom, as she tried to extract the thorn from it.
But it had penetrated too far, and with a quick impatient
ah! she bent her warm red lips to his palm and strove
to reach the thorn with her little white teeth.
After several attempts she was at last successful, and
looked up with an air of innocent triumph.
“I take back my
cruel words,” Edward said. “I am sure
you can be a little pitiful.” Then he put
her gently but hastily aside, for they were close upon
“Bellevue,” and he was eager to meet Hélène.
With a grieved, child-like
wonder the beautiful, ignorant savage watched him, as
he hurried across the velvet lawn, among beds of brilliant
flowers, to greet a lily-like maiden, clad in what,
in her uncivilized eyes, appeared to be a mingling of
mist and moonbeams. It was the first time that
he had shown a wish to leave her. Hitherto she
had been the object of his pursuit, of his devotion,
of his ardent desire. Now, like a cold blast,
his neglect struck chill upon her heart, and she turned
back into the forest solitudes with all the brightness
suddenly and strangely gone out of her life.
But instead of being translated
to the earthly paradise of a beautiful woman’s
favour, Edward, to his own great disappointment and
chagrin, found himself in a very different atmosphere.
Hélène was cold, nearly silent, utterly
indifferent. She was looking unusually well.
The rich harmonious contrasts of face and hair—the
midnight darkness of the one breaking into the radiant
dawn of the other—never before impressed him so
vividly. But she was terribly distant. The
young man assured himself rather bitterly that if she
were a thousand miles off she could not have been more
oblivious of his presence. She was alluring even
in her indifference, graceful, elegant, angelic—but
an angel [Page 97] carved in ice.
“I have been so unfortunate as to offend you,”
he said at parting, as they stood alone in the soft,
moonless, summer dusk.
I don’t know; is
it a matter of much importance?” There was an
accent of weariness in her voice, but the tone was hard.
“Yes, to me.
You are as cold as death!”
“What a very unpleasant
fancy!” She shivered lightly, and extended
the tips of her very chilly fingers to him in a last
was intensely proud. She had been an unobserved
witness of the scene between Edward and Wanda in the
wood, and of course, had made her own misinterpretation.
A man who could permit a low, untutored savage to fawn
upon him in that way, kissing his hand repeatedly, and
flushing with gratified vanity, presumably at his words
of endearment, could scarcely expect to be treated otherwise
than with disdain by the high-bred girl whom he had
previously delighted to honour. As for Edward
he was sorely hurt and bewildered. Hélène’s
treatment of him he considered decidedly curt, and natural
resentment burned within him at the thought. But
before he reached home his anger had passed away, and
with it all remembrance of the cold maiden and the unpleasant
evening she had given him. In their place lived
an intense recollection of a tawny woman, beautiful
and warm-blooded; and his heart thrilled with a tumult
of emotions at the memory of her lustrous velvet lips
closely pressed within his wounded hand. [Page