Puslapio vaizdai

she was not in truth husbandless, the sequel would prove her conviction, unsupported by a shred of evidence or even probability, to be right? The answer she made to this, woman-like, was illogical; but not the less was the idea to be dismissed from her thoughts. She simply entertained the conviction; and, continuing to nurse it in her mind, it became the more difficult, if not impossible, Leighton found, to dislodge it. To this extent, however, the two cases were not parallel, and the discovery appeared to give comfort to his surpassingly sweet companion. In the case of Leighton's friend, the husband had, from mere motives of vanity, concealed his escape from death; for in his fall he had not been killed, though he had permanently injured his spine. In poor Wilton's case, had the accident not been fatal - such at least was Isabel's argument – his motive, she was sure, was not vanity, but, being a man of great refinement of feeling, delicate concern for herself. Only for her elopement with Wilton, Leighton was reminded, she would have had to swallow her loathing and marry, as her father insisted, a gilded hunchback. was the knowledge of this, as well as of his probably crippled and helpless condition, that made it bitter for her husband to return to her. Rather than disclose the fact that in his disablement and deformity he still lived, he preferred-so Isabel argued that she should think him dead.


To all this what could Leighton say, what argument could he possibly use, that would not wound the feelings of the beautiful woman by his side, if he attempted to treat her cherished convictions as illusory? He saw this and compassionately refrained. Yet would he have been willing, if the way had been plain, to have dissuaded Lady Isabel from her broodings, to urge her to be kind only to herself, and to lure her thoughts to a new lover. With his sympathetic disposition and chivalrous nature, he could not bear, however, to turn the loved one at his side from her dear misery, far less obtrude himself and his own happiness upon one whose heart was bound up in being loyal to its first and perhaps only love. Yet Isabel was neither morbid nor callous in her sorrow. Her heart, she herself admitted, was susceptible to new influences; and time was graciously, if slowly, doing its work. For Leighton she felt - she hardly knew why

a real affection; and on the drive back

to Rosseau there was a moment when, touched by something he had said, she had almost broken her reserve and thrown herself weeping upon his breast. She had a woman's tenderness of heart, and she had also a woman's weakness for sympathy. Nor, given a worthy subject, such as she had near her, on whom to expend her worship and love, was she to be chidden for showing that she was but a woman. Her life, save for the passing gleam of wedded felicity, had had more than its share of gloom and sorrow. Should we wonder now, when Love came again offering to brighten that life with sunshine, that she should peer behind the veil of her widowhood at the little god's fair face?

On the return to Maplehurst, Leighton and Lady Isabel, as we have already said, found themselves volubly catechized by Mrs. Kinglake as to the cause of their tardy appearance. In this lady's mouth the catechizings, however, were a bit of pleasant banter, not a seriously intended interrogation. Knowing this to be the


the interrogations were met by Leighton's jocose answer that after borrowing a carriage and span it was incumbent upon them to go and return them.

Late in the evening of the same day the steamer arrived from the foot of the lakes, bringing Mr. Lewis and his son-in-law. Mr. Kinglake brought news from Toronto which, while it cast a gloom over the party and was the cause of much indecision and hesitancy of action, strangely emphasized the afternoon's colloquy between Lady Isabel and Leighton. This was nothing less than the confirmation of Isabel's longcherished conviction that her husband still lived. Mr. Kinglake, it seems, had found a cablegram at Toronto from his partner in London, saying that among the personal letters that, in his absence, had come to the office for him, was one from the Continent, marked on the envelope "Immediate." This, it was found, was a message dictated by Mr. Wilton, from a monastery in the Austrian Tyrol, informing his correspondent that he was still alive, and that, though his life had been prolonged for four years since his accident and disappearance, he was now dying, and wished Mr. Kinglake to bring Lady Isabel, if she was still unmarried, to his side. To none of the party did the news come with less surprise than to her who had allowed herself to be persuaded that she was a widow. Mrs. Kinglake, of the two ladies, was

indeed the more visibly affected. Overcome with emotion, this loving friend and confidante threw her arms around Isabel, bewailed the poor wife's unhappy fate, and pleaded to be taken home with her on her sad mission. The necessity of instant action, in whatever was to be done, all admitted; though so suddenly had the news come upon them that no one was prepared at first with a suggestion. The first to break silence was Lady Isabel herself. With a kiss she disengaged herself from Mrs. Kinglake's embrace and said kindly but firmly that she would go at once to England and go alone. Each of the party endeavored to induce her to accept Mrs. Kinglake's company, at least as far as England, but of this Isabel would not hear; nor would she even accept a convoy to Quebec. All she would agree to was the return of her friends in the morning to Toronto. From there she would alone proceed to Quebec and take the first steamer to England. As no argument of love or fear could dissuade her from this decision, the whole party found themselves the following morning proceeding down the lakes, and early in the afternoon they took train at Gravenhurst for Toronto.

The young Canadian artist, we need hardly say, was of the party. Leighton's relations, not only with the ladies, but with the two English gentlemen, were by this time of the most cordial, indeed intimate, character. Besides being apprised of Leighton's gallant rescue of, and subsequent kind service to, Lady Isabel and Mrs. Kinglake, Mr. Lewis and his son-in-law had learned much while at Toronto of the artist's social and professional repute, and of his great kindness of heart. Both at Quebec and at the lakes they had also their own experience and had formed a favorable opinion of Leighton. So highly did they think of him that between themselves they had begun to talk of him as a probable future husband for Isabel. fore the telegram had been received from England, the two gentlemen had resolved upon asking the artist to go with them as their guest to the Northwest. Under these circumstances it was natural that Leighton should be of their party in the return to Toronto; and it was even now being debated whether they should not consent to his accompanying Isabel to Quebec, as he had offered to do, prompted by feelings of the deepest commiseration and respect.


On the way down to Toronto, a passage

in the earliest steamer had been secured by telegraph; and a messenger was to meet them at the station to say if it was necessary that, to catch the steamer, Lady Isabel should go on to Quebec that night. There was therefore little time for hesitation. Moreover, there was no one of the party but felt that not only would their fair friend be safe in Leighton's care, but that it would be the greatest kindness to her that one who had so deservedly gained their whole confidence should be permitted, as he wished, in her hour of trial, to serve her. When they arrived at Toronto, they found that Isabel must go on at once. In the now bitter parting and on a journey which would put to the strain every feeling and emotion, no one could gainsay that Leighton should be Isabel's convoy. So wrung with sorrow was the poor lady's heart, that she herself seemed a passive agent in the arrangements that had been kindly made for her. Farewells were hastily said, and with a hurried exchange of addresses, to govern future correspondence on both sides, the east-bound train severed Lady Isabel from her friends, and Leighton also took cordial leave of those who were now bound for the West.

Very touching was the wail that broke from the heart of poor Lady Isabel as she now experienced what it was to part from friends who had been so kind and dear to her, and began to realize what it meant to commit herself to the mission on which she was about to set out alone. Putting her hand in Leighton's, she acknowledged with a look of infinite sadness that, so far, she was not alone. Presently she added that she owed more to Leighton's kindness and outflowing sympathy than she had ever hoped to receive, or ever again to accept, from one of his sex. To these heartfelt words the young artist was fain to reply; but his compassionate heart was too full for utterance. He could but look tenderly into the divine face before him; and, ere the fair soft hand was withdrawn, raise it reverently to his lips.

In the long journey to the old historic seaport there was no attention that Leighton failed to pay his companion; nor was there even an unexpressed wish of her heart that he did not endeavor to anticipate. Nor, on Lady Isabel's part, was there aught of all his loving-kindness that passed unnoticed by her, or that failed by look at least to find acknowledgment.

But never for a moment did Leighton forget that the dear traveller by his side was still wife and not widow. The consciousness of this novel under the circumstances as it was, and suddenly as the fact had come upon them - was indeed clear in the minds of both. To Leighton this consciousness carried a pang to his heart, for did it not suggest to him that Wilton might recover, and that in that event he could never be Isabel's wooer? Whatever might betide, her lover, he felt, he must be; and yet it seemed hard that he must continue to love but never possess. But possession just now was not, and in truth had scarcely ever been, in Leighton's thoughts. It was nearness to, not possession of, his idol that he longed for; and now his fears mocked him with the dread thought that the separation might be forever. Some inkling of what was passing through his brain seemed to occur to Isabel, for, just as they were approaching Quebec, and had the evening before them ere they were to be parted by the morrow's steamer, she asked him if they might not walk out together to the little chapel in the suburbs where they had first met. To this Leighton readily agreed, and thither, after dinner at the St. Louis, they went, spending an hour together in the chapel. A service was being held when they reached the place, in which both joined, the fair and reverent Englishwoman staying for a brief while thereafter in silent prayer at the altar.

Early in the morning Leighton saw his dear charge transferred to the steamer, the poor lady endeavoring with but ill success to keep up the appearance of being stayed by a stout heart. To her unfeigned delight, Leighton, through the courtesy of the captain, whom he had previously known, brought her the news that he was permitted to accompany her down the St. Lawrence as far as Rimouski, where they would stop for the mails and to land the river pilot. In her loneliness and affliction she felt deeply thankful for what she reverently termed "this new mercy." In the passage down the river Leighton considerately tried to divert her thoughts from her brooding trouble. Even his own sorrow he put aside by giving Isabel some practical counsel as to how she was to proceed in the different stages of the long journey before her. What were to be the issues of this journey neither could foresee, and so neither referred to the future. Of

one thing Leighton was not left in doubt, and that came out quite naturally in their talk down the river. The old love, he saw, was not dead in Lady Isabel's heart, and the message from the far-off monastery, it was clear, had revived in her breast more than the sense of duty.

By this time the evening had come on, and the steamer's pulsing screw was fast bringing separation to both loved and lover. Hurried now were the parting words of the two, though the emotion of both made those words few and fitful. The steamer at first slowed, and then stopped; next came the sound of shuffling feet along the deck and the touch on Leighton's shoulder of the hand of the shore-going pilot. Isabel now rose and held out her hand with words of broken farewell. Leighton, greatly moved, was about to raise the dear hand to his lips, when, with a swooning cry, she withdrew it from his grasp and flung both arms around the neck of her lover. The captain called to him that in another moment the ship would be off; but Leighton did not need, though he must heed, the warning. Twining his arms around the slight figure that hung on his breast, he bore it to a seat near by, fervently kissing, as he did so, the lips of the woman he loved. Recommitting his charge to the captain's care, he bounded to the open gangway at the steamer's side, caught the rope ladder, and was gone.

More than a year has passed since the occurrence of the events we have related, and Leighton still finds himself in the thrall of his consuming love. Within a month after the parting scene on the waters of the lower St. Lawrence, the queenly Isabel became in reality a widow. Arriving duly at Liverpool, she hastened at once to the Continent and made no halt until she reached the monastery in the Bavarian Alps on the northern frontier of the Tyrol. When she was admitted to the hospital of the Order, the good priest who took her name said compassionately that her husband still lived, but that in another day it would have been too late. Poor Wilton, she found, was barely conscious; the angel of death was even now hovering over his pallet. The same evening he died and on the morrow was buried.

Just before the end there was a brief lucid moment, during which the wan face of the dying man was lit by a brief ray of recognition. This, with a feeble pressure

of the hand, was all the solace that was vouchsafed to the disconsolate wife. It was too late to receive from Wilton's own lips the story of his escape from death and the motives which led him to hide from his wife what had really occurred and his place of concealment. Lady Isabel had the facts afterwards narrated to her by the abbot of the monastery. These, however, we need not recite, as, curiously enough, they closely corresponded with what had long been her own convictions. But it was not, it seems, the injuries her husband met with in his fall from the cliff that killed him, though they left him maimed and deformed. More than three years after the occurrence a gloom fell upon the poor man, and at times he was the victim of strange delusions. During one of these periods of mental alienation he made an attempt upon his own life, and it was from the effects of this that he died.

After Wilton's death, one of the friars of the monastery, who was a special favorite of the deceased artist, put a packet in Lady Isabel's hands, which in view of his death had been entrusted to his care. The packet contained, beside some pathetic references to the blight that had fallen upon both their lives, a memorandum of moneys due to him, which he bequeathed to his wife, from the sale of pictures from his brush that had been sent from time to time to Munich while he was cloistered in the monastery. These pictures had commanded high figures, though the name of the painter had never been disclosed; and the price Wilton had received for them had enabled him not only to become a princely patron of the monastery but to leave a comfortable sum to his widow. The subjects of the paintings were chiefly ecclesiastical; many of them being Madonnas of such rare beauty that they had been sought after as altar ornaments by the great dignitaries of the Church. One of these the artist had set aside in the monastery as a gift to his wife; and the poor friar who informed Isabel of the fact was rash enough to add that the faces of all the Madonnas were replicas of the face of her with whom he now spoke. For this carnal but natural remark, the poor monk, no doubt, would speedily scourge himself and do humble penance.

For a month or more after the burial of Wilton, Lady Isabel lingered in the village hard by the monastery, tending the

flowers on her husband's grave, and trying to read the riddle of life in the presence of the eternal hills. At the village she was joined by her aunt, to whom the Kinglakes had written, giving her the few facts that were in their possession, and begging her to have a care of Isabel, as they knew she would, until their return to England.

This lady, who was much attached to her niece, took the bereaved widow from the Tyrol to her home in Devon, and did much to bring back to her cheek the hue of health and to her mind its wonted tone and vigor. In this she was greatly assisted by the return of the Kinglakes, with whom, after a while, Isabel went to reside.

In the meantime, the reader will doubtless ask, what of Leighton? He, poor fellow, for a year after he heard of Wilton's death, had his days of uncertainty and nights of tribulation. Isabel of course corresponded with him, though at first at long intervals. His delicacy of feeling prevented him from obtruding more frequently with his own letters. But he had become a fast friend of the Kinglakes, and both husband and wife were his regular correspondents. It was chiefly through them that he heard of the object of his affections; and in fragments of their epistles, and on messages occasionally enclosed in them from Isabel, he kept his love alive. Of late, however, he had heard more often, and directly, from the regal widow, and always in terms of unmistakable affection. It was from her he learned that Mr. Lewis's sons were not going that year to Canada, but that they would sail early in the following spring, accompanied by their sister and her husband, Mr. Kinglake. By the following mail Leighton received a letter from Mr. Lewis himself, confirming the news Isabel had given him and extending a cordial invitation to him to visit England as his guest. This Leighton was sorely tempted to do, and indeed, before receiving the invitation, he had resolved upon a trip to the Old World on his own account. This he found, however, from the number of commissions that now crowded upon him as a rising artist, was at present out of the question. Perhaps later on in the year, he added, the project might be undertaken.

To Mrs. Kinglake he wrote, begging her to intercede with Destiny in his behalf, that it might be possible for him soon to be in



England. Never was lover, he confessed, more eager to worship at the shrine of his love. Meantime, with what patience he could command, he would live on hope and hourly offer up the incense of his devotion.

Since despatching to Mr. Lewis his apologies for inability to accept his invitation some months have elapsed; and Leighton now finds that he is compelled to abandon his visit to England. The regret which this news occasioned to all has given place to joy in Leighton's mind at the announcement contained in a late letter from Mrs. Kinglake. This letter informed the artist that the writer and her husband were to accompany her brothers (Mr. Lewis's sons) in the spring to Canada, and that Lady Isabel was to be of the party. The following mail brought the artist another letter, from the same friendly correspondent, with an explanation of Lady Isabel's design in consenting to come to Canada. The explanation was not needed by Leighton, for he had already, and from a more direct source, been apprised of its purport. It is, however, due to the reader that we should divulge this lover's secret. It is that Lady Isabel is coming to Canada,

not this time as a visitor, but as an immigrant and settler. Leighton, though he could not go to England in person for a wife, found that the woman he loved was gracious enough to consent to be wooed and won by correspondence!

Our story is now told. In the spring the little chapel at Quebec is to be decked with flowers, not for a peasant's but for an artist's wedding. For the happy event Leighton has already written a nuptial ode which is at once a Song of Welcome and an Epithalamium. The ode, which is being set to music, is to be sung by some of the best voices drawn from the choirs of the Quebec and Montreal churches. Nor is the event to be commemorated only by human agency. Nature in that happy spring time will awake from the torpor of her winter sleep and break into the glorious rhythmic chant of summer. Not man merely, but the whole world about us, is under the thrall of love. The woods, therefore, will deck themselves in their brightest attire, and every stream under Canadian skies will, at the coming of the Lady Isabel, rejoice and be glad. G. MERCER ADAM.

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