A Chance Acquaintance



THE next morning, when Mr. Arbuton awoke, he found a clear light upon the world that he had left wrapped in fog at midnight. A heavy gale was blowing, and the wide river was running in seas that made the boat stagger in her course, and now and then struck her bows with a force that sent the spray from their seething tops into the faces of the people on the promenade. The sun, out of rifts of the breaking clouds, launched broad splendors across the villages and farms of the level landscape and the crests and hollows of the waves ; and a certain joy of the air penetrated to the guarded consciousness of Mr. Arbuton. Instinctively he looked about for the people he meant to have nothing more to do with, that he might appeal to the sympathies of one of them, at least, in his sense of such an admirable morning. But a great many passengers had come on board, during the night, at Murray Bay, where the brief season was ending, and their number hid the Ellisons from him. When he went to breakfast, he found some one had taken his seat across the table from them, and they did not notice him as he passed by in search of another chair. Kitty and the colonel were at table alone, and they both wore preoccupied faces. After breakfast he sought them out and asked for Mrs. Ellison, who had shared in most of the excitements of the day before, helping herself about with a pretty limp, and who certainly had not, as her husband phrased it, kept any of the meals waiting.

“ Why,” said the colonel, “ I ’m afraid her ankle’s worse this morning, and that we ’ll have to lie by at Quebec for a few days, at any rate.”

Mr. Arbuton heard this sad news with a cheerful aspect unaccountable in one who was concerned at Mrs. Ellison’s misfortune. He smiled, when he ought to have looked pensive, and he laughed at the colonel’s joke when the latter added, “ Of course, this is a great hardship for my cousin, who hates Quebec, and wants to get home to Eriecreek as soon as possible.”

Kitty promised to bear her trials with firmness, and Mr. Arbuton said, “ I had been planning to spend a few days in Quebec, myself.”

“ Indeed ! ” said Kitty, not thinking this very consequent.

“So the delay will —give me the opportunity of inquiring about Mrs. Ellison’s convalescence. In fact,” he added, turning to the colonel, “ I hope you ‘ll let me be of service to you in getting to a hotel.”

And when the boat landed, Mr. Arbuton actually busied himself in finding a carriage and putting the various Ellison wraps and bags into it. Then he helped to support Mrs. Ellison ashore, and to lift her to the best place. He raised his hat, and had good-morning on his tongue, when the astonished colonel called out, “ Why, the deuce ! You ’re going to ride up with us ? There’s only one decent hotel, and you ’ll have to go there ! ”

Mr. Arbuton thought he had better get another carriage ; he should crowd Mrs. Ellison ; but Mrs. Ellison protested that he would not at all ; and, to cut the matter short, he mounted to the colonel’s side. It was another stroke of fate.

At the hotel they found a line of people reaching half-way down the outer steps from the inside of the office.

“Hallo! what’s this?” asked the colonel of the last man in the queue.

“ O, it’s a little procession to the hotel register! We ’ve been three quarters of an hour in passing a given point,” said the man, who was plainly a fellow-citizen.

“ And have n’t got by yet,” said the colonel, taking to the speaker. “ Then the house is full ? ”

“Well, no; they haven’t begun to throw them out of the window.”

“ His humor is degenerating, Dick,” said Kitty; and “ Hadn’t you better go inside and inquire ? ” asked Mrs. Ellison. It was part of the Ellison travelling joke for her, a very inefficient person, to prompt the colonel in his duty.

“I ’m glad you mentioned it, Fanny. I was just going to drive off in despair.” The colonel vanished within doors, and after long delay came out flushed, but not with triumph. “ On the express condition that I have ladies with me, one an invalid, I am promised a room on the fifth floor some time during the day. The other hotel is crammed.”

Mrs. Ellison was ready to weep, and for the first time since her accident she harbored bitterness against Mr. Arbuton. They all sat silent, and the colonel on the sidewalk silently wiped his brow.

Mr. Arbuton, in the poverty of his invention, wondered if there was not some boarding-house where they could find shelter.

“Of course there is,” cried Mrs. Ellison, beaming upon her hero, and calling Kitty’s attention to his ingenuity by a pressure with her well foot. “ Richard, we must look up a boardinghouse.”

“ Do you know of any good boarding-houses?” asked the colonel of the driver, mechanically.

“ Plenty,” answered the man.

“Well, drive us to twenty or thirty first-class ones,” commanded the colonel ; and the search began.

The colonel first asked prices and looked at rooms, and if he pronounced any apartment unsuitable, Kitty was despatched by Mrs. Ellison to view it and refute him. As often as she confirmed him, Mrs. Ellison was sure that they were both too fastidious, and they never turned away from a door but they closed the gates of paradise upon that afflicted lady. She began to believe that they should find no place whatever, when at last they stopped before a portal so unboarding-house-like in all outward signs, that she maintained it was of no use to ring, and imparted so much of her distrust to the colonel that, after ringing, he prefaced his demand for rooms with an apology for supposing that there were rooms to let there. Then, after looking at them, he returned to the carriage and reported that the whole affair was perfect, and that he should look no farther. Mrs. Ellison replied that she never could trust his judgment, he was so careless. Kitty inspected the premises, and came back in a serene enthusiasm that alarmed the worst fears of Mrs. Ellison. She was sure that they had better look farther, she knew there were plenty of nicer places. Even if the rooms were nice and the situation pleasant, she was certain that there must be some drawbacks which they did not know of yet. Whereupon her husband lifted her from the carriage, and bore her, without reply or comment of any kind, into the house.

Throughout the search Mr. Arbuton had been making up his mind that he would take leave of his friends as soon as they found lodgings, give the day to Quebec, and take the evening train for Gorham, thus escaping the annoyances of a crowded hotel, and ending at once an acquaintance which he ought never to have let go so far. As long as the Ellisons were without shelter, he felt that it was due to himself not to abandon them. But even now that they were happily housed, had he done all that nobility obliged ? He stood irresolute beside the carriage.

“ Won’t you come up and see where we live?” asked Kitty, hospitably.

“ I shall be very glad,” said Mr. Arbuton.

“ My dear fellow,” said the colonel, in the parlor, “ I did n’t engage a room for you. I supposed you ’d rather take your chances at the hotel.”

“ O, I ’m going away to-night.”

“ Why, that’s a pity ! ”

“Yes, I ’ve no fancy for a cot-bed in the hotel parlor. But I don’t quite like to leave you here, after bringing this calamity upon you.”

“ O, don’t mention that! I was the only one to blame. Besides, we shall get on splendidly here.”

Mr. Arbuton suffered a vague disappointment. At the bottom of his heart was a formless hope that he might in some way be necessary to the Ellisons in their adversity ; or if not that, then that something might entangle him further and compel his stay. But they seemed quite equal in themselves to the situation ; they were in far more comfortable quarters than they could have hoped for, and plainly should want for nothing ; Fortune put on a smiling face, and bade him go free of them. He fancied it a mocking smile, though, as he stood an instant silently weighing one thing against another. The colonel was patiently waiting his motion; Mrs. Ellison sat watching him from the sofa ; Kitty moved about the room with averted face, — a pretty domestic presence, a household priestess ordering the temporary Penates. Mr. Arbuton opened his lips to say farewell, but a god spoke through them, — inconsequently, as the gods for the most part do, saying, “ I suppose you ’ve got all the rooms here.”

“ O, as to that I don’t know,” answered the colonel, not recognizing the language of inspiration, “ let’s ask the landlady.” Kitty knocked a photograph-book off the table, and Mrs. Ellison said, “Why, Kitty ! ” But nothing more was spoken till the landlady came. She had another room, but doubted if it would answer. It was in the attic, and not very desirable, being a back room, though it had a pleasant outlook. Mr. Arbuton had no doubt that it would do very well for the short time he was going to stay, and took it hastily, without going to look at it. He had his valise carried up at once, and then he went to the post-office to see if he had any letters, offering to ask also for Colonel Ellison.

Kitty stole off to explore the chamber given her at the rear of the house ; that is to say, she opened the window looking out on what their hostess told her was the garden of the UrsulineConvent, and stood there in a mute transport. A black cross rose in the midst, and all about this wandered the paths and alleys of the garden, through clumps of lilac-bushes and among the spires of hollyhocks. The grounds were enclosed by high walls in part, and in part by the group of the convent edifices, built of gray stone, high gabled, and topped by dormerwindowed, steep roofs of tin, that, under the high morning sun, lay an expanse of keenest splendor, while many a grateful shadow dappled the full-foliaged garden below. Two slim, tall poplars stood against the gable of the chapel, and shot their tops above its steep roof, and under a porch near them two nuns sat motionless in the sun, black-robed, with black veils falling over their shoulders, and their white faces lost in the white linen that draped them from breast to crown. Their hands lay quiet in their laps, and they seemed unconscious of the other nuns walking in the garden-paths with little children, their pupils, and answering their laughter from time to time with voices as simple and innocent as their own. Kitty looked down upon them all with a swelling heart. They were but figures in a beautiful picture of something old and poetical; but she loved them, and pitied them, and was most happy in them, all the same as if they had been real. It could not be that they and she were in the same world : she must be dreaming over a book in Charley’s room at Eriecreek. She shaded her eyes for a better look, when the noonday gun boomed from the citadel ; the bell upon the chapel jangled harshly, and those strange maskers, those quaint blackbirds with white breasts and faces, flocked indoors. At the same time a small dog under her window howled dolorously at the jangling of the bell ; and Kitty, with an impartial joy, turned from the pensive romance of the convent garden to the mild comedy of the scene to which his woful note attracted her. When he had uttered all his anguish, he relapsed into the quietest small French dog that ever was, and lay down near a large, tranquil cat, whom neither the bell nor he had been able to stir from her slumbers in the sun; a peasant-like old man kept on sawing wood, and a little child stood still amidst the larkspurs and marigolds of a tiny garden, while over the flower-pots on the low window-sill of the neighboring house to which it belonged, a young, motherly face gazed peacefully out. The great extent of the convent grounds had left this poor garden scarce breathing-space for its humble blooms ; with the low paling fence that separated it from the adjoining house-yards it looked like a toy-garden or the background of a puppet-show, and in its way it was as quaint and unreal to the young girl as the nunnery itself.

When she saw it first, the city’s walls and other warlike ostentations had taken her imagination with the historic grandeur of Quebec ; but the fascination deepened now that she was admitted, as it were, to the religious heart and the domestic privacy of the famous old town. She was romantic, as most good young girls are; and she had the same pleasure in the strangeness of the things about her as she would have felt in the keeping of a charming story. To Fanny’s “Well, Kitty, I suppose all this just suits you,” when she had returned to the little parlor where the sufferer lay, she answered with a sigh of irrepressible content, “O yes! could anything be more beautiful?” And her enraptured eye dwelt upon the low ceilings, the deep, wide chimneys eloquent of the mighty fires with which they must roar in winter, the French windows with their curious and clumsy fastenings, and all the little details that made the place alien and precious.

Fanny broke into a laugh at the visionary absence in her face.

“ Do you think the place is good enough for your hero and heroine?” asked she, slyly ; for Kitty had one of those family reputes, so hard to survive, for childish attempts of her own in the world of fiction where so great part of her life had been passed; and Mrs. Ellison, who was as unliterary a soul as ever breathed, admired her with the heartiness which unimaginative people often feel for their idealizing friends, and believed that she was always deep in the mysteries of some plot.

“ O, I don’t know,” Kitty answered with a little color, “about heroes and heroines; but I’d like to live here, myself. Yes,” she continued, rather to herself than her listener, “ I do believe this is what I was made for. I’ve always wanted to live amongst old things, in a stone house with dormer-windows. Why, there is n’t a single dormer-window in Eriecreek, nor even a brick house, let alone a stone one. O yes, indeed ! I was meant for an old country,”

“ Well then, Kitty, I don’t see what you ’re to do but to marry East and live East ; or else find a rich husband, and get him to take you to Europe to live.”

“ Yes ; or get him to come and live in Quebec. That’s all I’d ask, and he need n’t be a very rich man, for that.”

“ Why, you poor child, what sort of husband could you get to settle down in this dead old place ?”

“O, I suppose some kind of artist or literary man.”

This was not Mrs. Ellison’s notion of the kind of husband who was to realize for Kitty her fancy for life in an old country ; but she was content to let the matter rest for the present, and, in a serene thankfulness to the power that had brought two marriageable young creatures together under the same roof, and beneath her own observance, she composed herself among the sofa-cushions, from which she meant to conduct the campaign against Mr. Arbuton with relentless vigor.

“ Well,” she said, “ it won’t be fair if you ’re not happy in this world, Kitty, you ask so little of it”; while Kitty turned to the window overlooking the street, and lost herself in the drama of the passing figures below. They were new, and yet oddly familiar, for she had long known them in the realm of romance. The peasant-women who went by, in hats of felt or straw, some on foot with baskets, and some in their light market-carts, were all, in their wrinkled and crooked age or their fresh-faced, strong-limbed youth, her friends since childhood in many a tale of France or Germany ; and the blackrobed priests, who mixed with the passers on the narrow wooden sidewalk, and now and then courteously gave way, or lifted their wide-rimmed hats in a grave, smiling salutation, were more recent acquaintances, but not less intimate. They were out of old romances about Italy and Spain, in which she was very learned ; and this butcher’s boy, tilting along through the crowd with a half-staggering run, was from any one of Dickens’s stories, and she divined that the four-armed wooden trough on his shoulder was the butcher’s tray, which figures in every novelist’s description of a London streetcrowd. There were many other types, as French mothers of families with market-baskets on their arms ; very pretty French school-girls with books under their arms ; wild-looking country boys with red raspberries in all sorts of birchbark measures ; and quiet gliding nuns with white hoods and downcast faces : each of whom she unerringly relegated to an appropriate corner of her world of unreality. A young, mild-faced, spectacled Anglican curate she did not give a moment’s pause, but rushed him instantly through the whole series of Anthony Trollope’s novels, which dull books, I am sorry to say, she had read, and liked, every one ; and then she began to find various people astray out of Thackeray. The trig corporal, with the little visorless cap worn so jauntily, the light stick carried in one hand, and the broad-sealed official document in the other, had also, in his breast-pocket, one of those brief, infrequent missives which Lieutenant Osborne used to send to poor Amelia ; a tall, awkward officer did duty for Major Dobbin ; and when a very pretty lady driving a pony carriage, with a footman in livery on the little perch behind her, drew rein beside the pavement, and a handsome young captain in a splendid uniform saluted her and began talking with her in a languid, affected way, it was George Osborne recreant to the thought of his betrothed, one of whose tender letters he kept twirling in his fingers while he talked.

Most of the people whom she saw passing had letters or papers, and, in fact, they were coming from the postoffice, where the noonday mails had just been opened. So she went on turning substance into shadow, — unless, indeed, flesh and blood is the illusion,— and, as I am bound to own, catching at very slight pretexts in many cases for the exercise of her sorcery, when her eye fell upon a gentleman at a little distance. At the same moment he raised his eyes from a letter at which he had been glancing, and ran them along the row of houses opposite, till they rested on the window at which she stood. Then he smiled and lifted his hat, and, with a start, she recognized Mr. Arbuton, while a certain chill struck to her heart through the tumult she felt there. There was something so forbidding in his unconsciousness, that all her trepidation about him, which had been wearing away under the events of the morning, was renewed again, and the aspect, in which he had been so strange that she did not know him, seemed the only one that he had ever worn. This effect lasted till Mr. Arbuton could find his way to her, and place in her eager hand a letter from the girls and Dr. Ellison. She forgot it then, and vanished till she read her letter.



THE first care of Colonel Ellison had been to call a doctor, and to know the worst about the sprained ankle, upon which his plans had fallen lame ; and the worst was that it was not a bad sprain, but Mrs. Ellison, having been careless of it the day before, had aggravated the hurt, and she must now have that perfect rest, which physicians prescribe so recklessly of all other interests and duties, for a week at least, and possibly two or three.

The colonel was still too much a soldier to be impatient at the doctor’s order, but he was of far too active a temper to be quiet under it. He therefore proposed to himself nothing less than the capture of Quebec in an historical sense, and even before dinner he began to prepare for the campaign. He sallied forth, and descended upon the bookstores wherever he found them lurking, in whatsoever recess of the Upper or Lower Town, and returned home laden with guide-books to Quebec, and monographs upon episodes of local history, such as are produced in great quantity by the semi-clerical literary taste of out-of-the-way Catholic capitals. The colonel, who had always a newspaper somewhere about him, was not a reader of many books. Of the volumes in the doctor’s library, he never willingly opened any but the plays of Shakespeare, and Don Quixote, long passages of which he knew by heart. He had sometimes attempted other books, but for the most of Kitty’s favorite authors he professed as frank a contempt as for the Mound-Builders themselves. He had read one book of travel, namely, The Innocents Abroad, which he held to be so good a book that he need never read anything else about the countries of which it treated. When he brought in this extraordinary collection of pamphlets, both Kitty and Fanny knew what to expect ; for the colonel was as ready to receive literature at second-hand as to avoid its original sources. He had in this way picked up a great deal of useful knowledge, and he was famous for clipping from newspapers scraps of instructive fact, all of which he relentlessly remembered. He had already a fair outline of the local history in his mind, and this had been deepened and freshened by Dr. Ellison’s recent talk of his historical studies. Moreover, he had secured in the course of the present journey, from his wife’s and cousin’s reading of divers guide-books, a store of names and dates, which he desired to attach to the proper localities with their help.

14 Light reading for leisure hours, Fanny,” said Kitty, looking askance at the colonel’s literature as she sat down near her cousin after dinner.

“ Yes ; and you start fair, ladies. Start with Jacques Cartier, ancient mariner of Dieppe, in the year 1535. No favoritism in this investigation ; no bringing forward of Champlain or Montcalm prematurely ; no running off on subsequent conquests or other sideissues. Stick to the discovery, and the names of Jacques Cartier and Donnacona. Come, do something for an honest living.”

“ Who was Donnacona ?” demanded Mrs. Ellison, with indifference.

“That is just what these fascinating little volumes will tell us. Kitty, read something to your suffering cousins about Donnacona, — he sounds uncommonly like an Irishman,” answered the colonel, establishing himself in an easy-chair; and Kitty picked up a small sketch of the history of Quebec, and, opening it, fell into the trance which came upon her at the touch of a book, and read on for some pages to herself.

“ Well, upon my word,” said the colonel, “ I might as well be reading about Donnacona myself, for any comfort I get.”

44 O Dick, I forgot. I was just looking. Now I’m really going to commence.”

“No, not yet,” cried Mrs. Ellison, rising on her elbow. “Where is Mr. Arbuton ? ”

“What has he to do with Donnacona, my dear ? ”

“ Everything. You know he ’s stayed on our account, and I never heard of anything so impolite, so inhospitable, as offering to read without him. Go and call him, Richard, do.”

“O no,” pleaded Kitty, “he won't care about it. Don’t call him, Dick.”

“ Why, Kitty, I’m surprised at you ! When you read so beautifully ! You need n’t be ashamed, I’m sure.”

“ I ’m not ashamed ; but, at the same time, I don't want to read to him.”

“ Well, call him any way, colonel. He’s in his room.”

“ If you do,” said Kitty, with superfluous dignity, " I must go away.”

“ Very well, Kitty, just as you please. Only I want Richard to witness that I ’m not to blame if Mr. Arbuton thinks us unfeeling or neglectful.”

“ O, if he does n’t say what he thinks, it ’ll make no difference.”

“ It seems to me that this is a good deal of fuss to make about one human being, a mere passing man and brother of a day, is n’t it ? ” said the colonel. “Go on with Donnacona, do.”

There came a knock at the door. Kitty leaped nervously to her feet, and fled out of the room. After all it was only the little French serving-maid upon some errand which she quickly despatched.

“ Well, now what do you think?” asked Mrs. Ellison.

“Why, I think you’ve a surprising knowledge of French for one who studied it at school. Do you suppose she understood you ? ”

“ O, nonsense ! You know I mean Kitty and her very queer behavior. Richard, if you moon at me in that stupid way,” she continued, “ I shall certainly end in an insane asylum. Can’t you see what’s under your very nose ? ”

“Yes, I can, Fanny,” answered the colonel, “if anything’s there. But I give you my word, I don’t know any more than millions yet unborn what you’re driving at.” The colonel took up the book which Kitty had thrown down, and went to his room to try to read up Donnacona for himself, while his wife penitently turned to a pamphlet in French, which he had bought with the others. “ After all,” she thought, “ men will be men ; and seemed not to find the fact wholly wanting in consolation.

A few minutes after there was a murmur of voices in the entry without, at a window looking upon the convent garden, where it happened to Mr. Arbuton, descending from his attic chamber, to find Kitty standing, a pretty shape against the reflected light of the convent roofs, and amidst a little greenery of house-plants, tall geraniums, an overarching ivy, some delicate roses. She had paused there, on her way from Fanny’s to her own room, and was looking into the garden, where a pair of silent nuns were pacing up and down the paths, turning now their backs with the heavy sable coiffure sweeping their black robes, and now their still, masklike faces, set in that stiff framework of white linen. Sometimes they came so near that she could distinguish their features, and imagine an expression that she should know if she saw them again ; and while she stood self-forgetfully feigning a character for each of them, Mr. Arbuton spoke to her and took his place at her side.

“ We’re remarkably favored in having this bit of opera under our windows, Miss Ellison,” he said, and smiled as Kitty answered, “ O, is it really like an opera ? I never saw one, but I could imagine it must be beautiful,” and they both looked on in silence a moment, while the nuns moved, shadow-like, out of the garden, and left it empty.

Then Mr. Arbuton said something to which Kitty answered simply, “ I ’ll see if my cousin does n’t want me,” and presently stood beside Mrs. Ellison’s sofa, a little conscious in color. “ Fanny, Mr. Arbuton has asked me to go and see the cathedral with him. Do you think it would be right? ”

Mrs. Ellison’s triumphant heart rose to her lips. “ Why, you dear, particular, innocent little goose,” she cried, flinging her arms about Kitty, and kissing her till the young girl blushed again ; “of course it would ! Go ! You mustn’t stay mewed up in here. I sha’ n't be able to go about with you ; and if I can judge by the colonel’s breathing, as he calls it, from the room in there, he won’t, at present. But the idea of your having a question of propriety ! ” And indeed it was the first time Kitty had ever had such a thing, and the remembrance of it put a kind of constraint upon her, as she strolled demurely beside Mr. Arbuton towards the cathedral.

“You must be guide,” said he, “for this is my first day in Quebec, you know, and you are an old inhabitant in comparison.”

“I ’ll show the way,” she answered, “ if you ’ll interpret the sights. I think I must be stranger to them than you, in spite of my long residence. Sometimes I ’m afraid that I do only fancy I enjoy these things, as Mrs. March said, for I ’ve no European experiences to contrast them with. I know that it seems very delightful, though, and quite like what I should expect in Europe.”

“ You’d expect very little of Europe, then, in most things; though there’s no disputing that it’s a very pretty illusion of the Old World.”

A few steps had brought them into the market-square in front of the cathedral, where a little belated traffic still lingered in the few old peasant-women hovering over baskets of such fruits and vegetables as had long been out of season in the States, and the housekeepers and serving-maids cheapening these wares. A sentry moved mechanically up and down before the high portal of the Jesuit Barracks, over the arch of which were still the letters I. H. S. carved long ago upon the key-stone ; and the ancient edifice itself, with its yellow stucco front and its grated windows, had every right to be a monastery turned barracks in France or Italy. A row of quaint stone houses— inns and shops — formed the upper side of the Square ; while the modern buildings of the Rue Fabrique on the lower side might serve very well for that show of improvement which deepens the sentiment of surrounding antiquity and decay in Latin towns. As for the cathedral, which faced the convent from across the Square, it was as cold and torpid a bit of Renaissance as could be found in Rome itself. A red-coated soldier or two passed through the Square ; three or four neat little French policemen lounged about in blue uniforms and flaring havelocks; some walnut-faced, blue-eyed old citizens and peasants sat upon the thresholds of the row of old houses, and gazed dreamily through the smoke of their pipes at the slight stir and glitter of shopping about the fine stores of the Rue Fabrique. An air of serene disoccupation pervaded the place, with which the occasional riot of the drivers of the long row of calashes and carriages in front of the cathedral did not discord. Whenever a stray American wandered into the Square, there was a wild flight of these drivers towards him, and his person was lost to sight amidst their pantomime. They did not try to underbid each other, and they were perfectly good-humored ; as soon as he had made his choice, the rejected multitude returned to their places on the curbstone, saluting the successful aspirant with inscrutable jokes as he drove off, while the horses went on munching the contents of their leathern head-bags, and tossing them into the air to shake down the lurking grains of corn.

“ It is like Europe ; your friends were right,” said Mr. Arbuton as they escaped into the cathedral from one of these friendly onsets. “ It’s quite the atmosphere of foreign travel, and you ought to be able to realize the feelings of a tourist.”

A priest was saying mass at one of the side-altars, assisted by acolytes in their every-day clothes ; and outside of the railing a market-woman, with a basket of choke-cherries, knelt among a few other poor people. Presently a young English couple came in, he with a dashing India scarf about his hat, and she very stylishly dressed, who also made their genuflections with the rest, and then sat down and dropped their heads in prayer.

“ This is like enough Europe, too,” murmured Mr. Arbuton. “It’s very good North Italy; or South, for the matter of that.”

“O, is it?” answered Kitty, joyously. “I thought it must be!” And she added, in that trustful way of hers : “ It ’s all very familiar; but then it seems to me on this journey that I’ve seen a great many things that I know I’ve only read of before ” ; and so followed Mr. Arbuton in his tour of the pictures.

She was as ignorant of art as any Roman or Florentine girl whose life has been passed in the midst of it ; and she believed these mighty fine pictures, and was puzzled by Mr. Arbuton’s behavior towards them, who was too little imaginative or too conscientious to make merit for them out of the things they suggested. He treated the poor altar-pieces of the Quebec cathedral with the same harsh indifference he would have shown to the second-rate paintings of a European gallery ; doubted the Vandyck, and cared nothing for the Conception, “in the style of Le Brun,” over the high-altar, though it had the historical interest of having survived that bombardment of 1759, which destroyed the church.

Kitty innocently singled out the worst picture in the place as her favorite, and then was piqued, and presently frightened, at his cold reluctance about it. He made her feel that it was very bad, and that she shared its inferiority, though he said nothing. She learned the shame of not being a connoisseur in a connoisseur’s company, and she perceived more painfully than ever before that a Bostonian, who had been much in Europe, might be very uncomfortable to the simple, untravelled American. Yet, she reminded herself, the Marches had been in Europe too, and they were Bostonians also ; and they did not go about putting everything under foot ; they seemed to care for everything they saw, and to have a friendly jest, if not praises, for it. She liked that ; she would have been well enough pleased to have Mr. Arbuton laugh outright at her picture, and she could have joined him in it. But the look, however flattered into an air of polite question at last, which he had bent upon her, seemed to outlaw her and condemn her taste in everything. As they passed out of the cathedral, she would rather have gone home than continued the walk as he begged her, if she were not tired, to do ; but this would have been flight, and she was not a coward. So they sauntered down the Rue Fabrique, and turned into Palace Street. As they went by the door of Hotel Musty, her pleasant friends came again into her mind, and she said, “ This is where we stayed last week, with Mr. and Mrs. March.”

“ Those Boston people ?”

“ Yes.”

“ Do you know where they live in Boston ? ”

“ Why, we have their address ; but I can’t think of it. I believe somewhere in the southern part of the city — ”

“ The South End ? ”

“ O yes, that’s it. Have you ever heard of them ? ”

“ No.”

“ I thought perhaps you might have known Mr. March. He’s in the insurance business — ”

“O no! No, I don’t know him,” said Mr. Arbuton, eagerly. Kitty wondered if there could be anything wrong with the business repute of Mr. March, but dismissed the thought as unworthy ; and having perceived that her friends were snubbed, she said bravely, that they were the most delightful people she had ever seen, and she was sorry that they were not still in Quebec. He shared her regret tacitly, if at all, and they walked in silence down to the gate, whence they were tempted by the wandering picturesqueness of the Lower Town, and strolled down the winding street outside the wall. But it was not a pleasant ramble for Kitty: she was in a dim dread of hitherto unseen and unimagined trespasses against good taste, not only in pictures and people, but in all life, which, from having been a very smiling prospect when she set out with Mr. Arbuton, was suddenly become a narrow pathway, in which one must pick one’s way with more regard to each step than any general end. All this was as undefined and obscure and uncertain as the intimations which had produced it, and which, in words, had really amounted to nothing. But she felt more and more that in her companion there was something wholly alien to the influences which had shaped her; and though she could not know how much, she was sure of enough to make her dreary in his presence.

They wandered long amidst the quaintness and noiseless bustle of the Lower Town thoroughfares, and came by and by to that old church, the oldest in Quebec, which was built near two hundred years ago, in fulfilment of a vow made at the repulse of Sir William Phipps’s attack upon the city, and further famed for the prophecy of a nun, that this church should be ruined by the fire in which a successful attempt of the English was yet to involve the Lower Town. A painting, which represented the vision of the nun, perished in the conflagration which verified it, in 1759; but the walls of the ancient structure remain to witness this singular piece of history, which Kitty now glanced at furtively in one of the colonel’s guidebooks : since her ill-fortune with the picture in the cathedral, she had not openly cared for anything.

At one side of the church there was a booth for the sale of crockery and tin ware ; and there was an every-day cheerfulness of small business in the shops and tented stands about the square on which the church faced, and through which there was continual passing of heavy burdens from the port, swift calashes, and slow, country-paced market-carts.

Mr. Arbuton made no motion to enter the church, and Kitty would not hint the curiosity she felt to see the interior ; and while they lingered a moment, the door opened, and a peasant came out with a little coffin in his arms. His eyes were dim and his face wet with weeping, and he bore the little coffin tenderly, as if his caress might reach the dead child within. Behind him she came who must be the mother, her lace deeply hidden in her veil. Beside the pavement waited a shabby calash, with a driver half asleep on his perch ; and the man, still clasping his precious burden, clambered into the vehicle, and laid it upon his knees, while the woman groped, through her tears and veil, for the step. Kitty and her companion had moved reverently aside ; but now Mr. Arbuton came forward, and helped the woman to her place. She gave him a hoarse, sad “ Merci !” and spread a fold of her shawl fondly over the end of the little coffin ; the drowsy driver whipped up his beast, and the calash jolted away.

Kitty cast a grateful glance upon Mr. Arbuton, as they now entered the church, by a common impulse. On their way towards the high-altar they passed the rude black bier, with the tallow candles yet smoking in their black wooden candlesticks. A few worshippers were dropped here and there in the vacant seats, and at a principal side-altar knelt a poor woman praying before a wooden effigy of the dead Christ that lay in a glass case under the altar. The image was of life-size, and was painted to represent life, or rather death, with false hair and beard, and with the muslin drapery managed to expose the stigmata: it was stretched upon a bed strewn with artificial flowers; and it was dreadful. But the poor soul at her devotions there prayed to it in an ecstasy of supplication, flinging her arms asunder with imploring gesture, clasping her hands and bowing her head upon them, while her person swayed from side to side in the abandon of her prayer. Who could she be, and what was her mighty need of blessing or forgiveness ? As her wont was, Kitty threw her own soul into the imagined case of the suppliant, the tragedy of her desire or sorrow. Yet, like all who suffer sympathetically, she was not without consolations unknown to the principal; and the waning afternoon, as it lit up the conventional ugliness of the old church, and the paraphernalia of its altars, relieved her emotional self-abandon with a remote sense of content, so that it may have been a jealousy for the integrity of her own revery, as well as her feeling for the poor woman, that made her tremble lest Mr. Arbuton should in some way disparage the spectacle. I suppose that her interest in it was an aesthetic rather than a spiritual one ; it embodied to her sight many a scene of penitence that had played before her fancy, and I do not know but she would have been willing to have the suppliant guilty of some dreadful misdeed, rather than eating meat last Friday, which was probably her sin. However it was, the ancient crone before that ghastly idol was precious to her, and it seemed too great a favor, when at last the suppliant wiped her eyes, rose trembling from her knees, and, approaching Kitty, stretched towards her a shaking palm for charity.

It was a touch that transfigured all, and gave even Mr. Arbuton’s neutrality a light of ideal character. He bestowed the alms craved of him in turn, he did not repulse the beldame’s blessing; and Kitty, who was already moved by his kindness to that poor mourner at the door, forgot that the earlier part of their walk had been so miserable, and climbed back to the Upper Town through the Prescott Gate in greater gayety than she had yet known that day in his company. I think he had not done much to make her cheerful; but it is one of the advantages of a temperament like his, that very little is expected of it, and that it can more easily than any other make the human heart glad; at the least softening in it, the soul frolics with a craven lightsomeness. For this reason Kitty was able to enjoy with novel satisfaction the picturesqueness of Mountain Street, and they both admired the huge shoulder of rock near the gate, with its poplars atop, and the battery at the brink, with the muzzles of the guns thrust forward against the sky. She could not move him to her pleasure in the grotesqueness of the circus-bills plastered half-way up the rock ; but he tolerated the levity with which she commented on them, and her gay sallies upon all passing things, and he said nothing to prevent her reaching home in serene satisfaction.

“ Well, Kitty,” said the tenant of the sofa, as Kitty and the colonel drew up to the table on which the tea was laid at the sofa-side, “ you ’ve had a nice walk, have n’t you ? ”

“ O yes, very nice. That is, the first part of it was n’t very nice ; but after a while we reached an old church in the Lower Town, — which was very interesting, — and then we appeared to cheer up and take a new start.”

“Well,” said the colonel, “what did you find so interesting at that old church ? ”

“Why, there was a baby’s funeral; and an old woman, perfectly crushed by some trouble or other, praying before an altar — ”

“It seems to take very little to cheer you up,” said the colonel. “ All you ask of your fellow-beings is a heartbreaking bereavement and a religious agony, and you are lively at once. Some people might require human sacrifices, but you don’t.”

Kitty looked at her cousin a moment with eyes of vague amaze. The grossness of the absurdity flashed upon her, and she felt as if another touch must bring the tears. She said nothing ; but Mrs. Ellison, who saw only that she was cut off from her heart’s desire of gossip, came to the rescue.

“ Don’t answer a word, Kitty, not a single word; I never heard anything more insulting from one cousin to another ; and I should say it, if I was brought into a court of justice — ”

A sudden burst of laughter from Kitty, who hid her conscious face in her hands, interrupted Mrs. Ellison’s defence.

“ Well,” said Mrs. Ellison, piqued at her desertion, “ I hope you understand yourselves. I don’t.” This was Mrs. Ellison’s attitude towards her husband’s whole family, who on their part never had been able to account for the colonel’s choice except as a joke, and sometimes questioned if he had not perhaps carried the joke too far ; though they loved her too, for a kind of passionate generosity and sublime, inconsequent unselfishness about her.

“ What I Want to know, now,” said the colonel, as soon as Kitty would let him, “ and I ’ll try to put it as politely as I can, is simply this : what made the first part of your walk so disagreeable ? You did n’t see a wedding-party, or a child rescued from a horrible death, or a man saved from drowning, or anything of that kind, did you ? ”

But the colonel would have done better not to say anything. His wife was made peevish by his persistence, and the loss of the harmless pleasure upon which she had counted in the history of Kitty’s walk with Mr. Arbuton. Kitty herself would not laugh again ; in fact she grew serious and thoughtful, and presently took up a book, and after that went to her own room, where she stood awhile at her window, and looked out on the garden of the Ursulines. The moon hung full orb in the stainless heaven, and deepened the mystery of the paths and trees, and lit the silvery roofs and chimneys of the convent with tender effulgence. A wandering odor of leaf and flower stole up from the garden, but she perceived the sweetness, like the splendor, with veiled senses. She was turning over in her thought the incidents of her walk, and trying to make out if anything had really happened, first to provoke her against Mr. Arbuton, and then to reconcile her to him. Had he said or done anything about her favorite painting (which she hated now), or the Marches, to offend her ? Or if it had been his tone and manner, was his after-conduct at the old church sufficient penance ? What was it he had done that common humanity did not require ? Was he so very superior to common humanity, that she should meekly rejoice at his kindness to the afflicted mother? Why need she have cared for his forbearance toward the rapt devotee ? She became aware that she was ridiculous. “ Dick was right,” she confessed, and I will not let myself be made a goose of” ; and when the bugle at the citadel called the soldiers to rest, and the harsh chapel-bell bade the nuns go dream of heaven, she also fell asleep, a smile on her lips and a light heart in her breast.



QUEBEC, August-, 1870.

DEAR GIRLS : Since the letter I wrote you a day or two after we got here, we have been going on very much as you might have expected. A whole week has passed, but we still bear our enforced leisure with fortitude; and, though Boston and New York are both fading into the improbable (as far as we are concerned), Quebec continues inexhaustible, and I don’t begrudge a moment of the time we are giving it.

Fanny still keeps her sofa; the first enthusiasm of her affliction has worn away, and she has nothing to sustain her now but planning our expeditions about the city. She has got the map and the history of Quebec by heart, and she holds us to the literal fulfilment of all her instructions. On this account, she often has to send Dick and me out together when she would like to keep him with her, for she won’t trust either of us alone, and when we come back she examines us separately to see whether we have skipped anything. This makes us faithful in the smallest things. She says she is determined that Uncle Jack shall have a full and circumstantial report from me of all that he wants to know about the celebrated places here, and I really think he will, if I go on, or am goaded on, in this way. It’s pure devotion to the cause in Fanny, for you know she does n’t care for such things herself, and has no pleasure in it but carrying a point. Her chief consolation under her trial of keeping still is to see how I look in her different dresses. She sighs over me as I appear in a new garment, and says, O, if she only had the dressing of me ! Then she gets up and limps and hops across the room to where I stand before the glass, and puts a pin here and a ribbon there, and gives my hair (which she has dressed herself) a little dab, to make it lie differently, and then scrambles back to her sofa, and knocks her lame ankle against something, and lies there groaning and enjoying herself like a martyr. On days when she thinks she is never going to get well, she says she does n’t know why she does n't give me her things at once and be done with it; and on days when she thinks she is going to get well right away, she says she will have me one made something like whatever dress I have got on, as soon as she ’s home. Then up she ’ll jump again for the exact measure, and tell me the history of every stitch, and how she ’ll have it altered just the least grain, and differently trimmed to suit my complexion better ; and ends by having promised to get me something not in the least like it. You have some idea already of what Fanny is ; and all you have got to do is to multiply it by about fifty thousand. Her sprained ankle simply intensifies her whole character.

Besides helping to compose Fanny’s expeditionary corps, and really exerting himself in the cause of Uncle Jack, as he calls it, Dick is behaving beautifully. Every morning, after breakfast, he goes over to the hotel, and looks at the arrivals and reads the newspapers, and though we never get anything out of him afterwards, we somehow feel informed of all that is going on. He has taken to smoking a clay pipe in honor of the Canadian fashion, and he wears a gay, barbaric scarf of Indian muslin wound round his hat and flying out behind ; because the Quebeckers protect themselves in that way against sunstroke when the thermometer gets up among the sixties. He has also bought a pair of snow-shoes to be prepared for the other extreme of weather, in case anything else should happen to Fanny, and detain us into the winter. When he has rested from his walk to the hotel, we usually go out together and explore, as we do also in the afternoon ; and in the evening we walk on Durham Terrace, — a promenade overlooking the river, where the whole cramped and crooked city goes for exercise. It ’s a formal parade in the evening; but one morning I went there before breakfast, for a change, and found it the resort of careless ease ; two or three idle boys were sunning themselves on the carriages of the big guns that stand on the Terrace, a little dog was barking at the chimneys of the Lower Town, and an old gentleman was walking up and down in his dressing-gown and slippers, just as if it were his own front porch. He looked something like Uncle Jack, and I wished it had been he, — to see the smoke curling softly up from the Lower Town, the bustle about the market-place, and the shipping in the river, and the haze hanging over the water a little way off, and the near hills all silver, and the distant ones blue.

But if we are coming to the grand and the beautiful, why, there is no direction in which you can look about Quebec without seeing it; and it is always mixed up with something so familiar and homelike, that my heart warms to it. The Jesuit Barracks are justacross the street from us in the foreground of the most magnificent landscape ; the building is — think, you Eriecreekers of an hour! — two hundred years old, and it looks five hundred. The English took it away from the Jesuits in 1760, and have used it as barracks ever since ; but it is n’t at all changed, so that a Jesuit missionary who visited it the other day said that it was as if his brother priests had been driven out of it the week before. Well, you might think so old and so historical a place would be putting on airs, but it takes as kindly to domestic life as a new frame-house, and I am never tired oflooking over into the yard at the frowzy soldiers’ wives hanging out clothes, and the unkempt children playing about among the burdocks, and chickens and cats, and the soldiers themselves carrying about the officers’ boots, or sawing wood and picking up chips to boil the teakettle. They are off dignity as well as off duty, then ; but when they are on both, and in full dress, they make our volunteers (as I remember them) seem very shabby and slovenly.

Over the belfry of the Barracks, our windows command a view of half Quebec, with its roofs and spires dropping down the slope to the Lower Town, where the masts of the ships in the river come tapering up among them, and then of the plain stretching from the river in the valley to a range of mountains against the horizon, with far-off white villages glimmering out of their purple folds. The whole plain is bright with houses and harvest-fields ; and the distinctly divided farms — the owners cut them up every generation, and give each son a strip of the entire length, —run back on either hand, from the straight roads bordered by poplars, while the highways near the city pass between lovely villas.

But this landscape and the Jesuit Barracks with all their merits are nothing to the Ursuline Convent, just under our back windows, which I told you something about in my other letter. We have been reading up its history since, and we know about Madame de la Peltrie, the noble Norman lady who founded it in 1640. She was very rich and very beautiful, and a saint from the beginning, so that when her husband died, and her poor old father wanted her to marry again and not go into a nunnery, she did n’t mind cheating him by a sham marriage with a devout gentleman ; and she came to Canada as soon as her father was dead, with another saint, Marie de l’Incarnation, and founded this convent. The first building is standing yet, as strong as ever, though everything about it but the stone walls was burnt two centuries ago. Only a few years since an old ash-tree, under which the Ursulines first taught the Indian children, blew down, and now a large black cross marks its place. The modern nuns are in the garden nearly the whole morning long, and by night the ghosts of the former nuns haunt it ; and in very bright moonlight I myself do a bit of Madame de la Peltrie there, and teach little Indian boys, — who dwindle like those in the song, as the moon goes down. It is an enchanted place, and I wish we had it in the back yard at Eriecreek, though I don’t think the neighbors would approve of the architecture. I have adopted two nuns for my own : one is tall and slender and pallid, and you can see at a glance that she broke the heart of a mortal lover, and knew it, when she became the bride of heaven; and the other is short and plain and plump, and looks as comfortable and commonplace as life-after-dinner. When the world is bright I revel in the statue-like sadness of the beautiful nun, who never laughs or plays with the little girl pupils ; but when the world is dark — as the best of worlds will be at times for a minute or two — I take to the fat nun, and go in for a clumsy romp with the children ; and then I fancy that I am wiser if not better than the fair slim Ursuline. But whichever I am, for the time being, I am vexed with the other; yet they always are together, as if they were counterparts. I think a nice story might be written about them.

In Wolfe’s siege of Quebec this Ursuline Garden of ours was everywhere torn up by the falling bombs, and the sisters were driven out into the world they had forsaken forever, as Fanny has been reading in a little French account of the events, written at the time, by a nun of the General Hospital. It was there the Ursulines took what refuge there was ; going from their cloistered school-rooms and their innocent little ones to the wards of the hospital, filled with the wounded and dying of either side, and echoing with their dreadful groans. What a sad, evil, bewildering world they had a glimpse of! In the garden here, our poor Montcalm — I belong to the French side, please, in Quebec — was buried in a grave dug for him by a bursting shell. They have his skull now in the chaplain’s room of the convent, where we saw it the other day. They have made it comfortable in a glass box, neatly bound with black, and covered with a white lace drapery, just as if it were a saint’s. It was broken a little in taking it out of the grave; and a few years ago, some English officers borrowed it to look at, and were horrible enough to pull out some of the teeth. Tell Uncle Jack the head is very broad above the ears, but the forehead is small.

The chaplain also showed us a copy of an old painting of the first convent, Indian lodges, Madame de la Peltrie’s house, and Madame herself, very splendidly dressed, with -an Indian chief before her, and some French cavaliers riding down an avenue towards her. Then he showed us some of the nuns’ work in albums, painted and lettered in a way to give me an idea of old missals. By and by he went into the chapel with us, and it gave such a queer notion of his indoors life to have him put on an overcoat and india-rubbers to go a few rods through the open air to the chapel door : he had not been very well, he said. When he got in, he took off his hat, and put on an octagonal priest’s cap, and showed us everything in the kindest way — and his manners were exquisite. There were beautiful paintings sent out from France at the time of the Revolution ; and woodcarvings round the high-altar, done by Quebec artists in the beginning of the last century ; for he said they had a school of arts then at St. Anne’s, twenty miles below the city. Then there was an ivory crucifix, done so life-like that you could scarcely bear to look at it. But what I most cared for was the tiny twinkle of a votive lamp which he pointed out to us in one corner of the nuns’ chapel : it was lit a hundred and fifty years ago by two of our French officers when their sister took the veil, and has never been extinguished since, except during the siege of 1759. Of course, I think a storymight be written about this ; and the truth is, the possibilities of fiction in Quebec are overpowering ; I go about in a perfect haze of romances, and meet people at every turn who have nothing to do but invite the passing novelist into their houses, and have their likenesses done at once for heroes and heroines. They need n’t change a thing about them, but sit just as they are ; and if this is in the present, only think how the whole past of Quebec must be crying out to be put into historical romances !

I wish you could see the houses, and how substantial they are. I can only think of Eriecreek as an assemblage of huts and bark-lodges in contrast. Our boarding-house is comparatively slight, and has stone walls only a foot and a half thick, but the average is two feet and two and a half; and the other day Dick went through the Laval University, — he goes everywhere and gets acquainted with everybody, — and saw the foundation walls of the first building, which have stood all the sieges and conflagrations since the seventeenth century ; and no wonder, for they are six feet thick, and form a series of low-vaulted corridors, as heavy, he says, as the casemates of a fortress. There is a beautiful old carved staircase there, of the same date ; and he liked the president, a priest, ever so much ; and we like the looks of all the priests we see ; they are so handsome and polite, and they all speak English, with some funny little defect. The other day, we asked such a nice young priest about the way to Hare Point, where it is said the Recollet friars had their first mission on the marshy meadows : he did n’t know of this bit of history, and we showed him our book. “ Ah ! you see, the book say ‘ pro-bably the site.’ If it had said certainly, I should have known. But pro-bab-ly, pro-bab-ly, you see!” However, he showed us the way, and down we went through the Lower Town, and out past the General Hospital to this Pointe aux Lièvres, which is famous also because somewhere near it, on the St. Charles, Jacques Cartier wintered in 1536, and kidnapped the Indian king Donnacona, whom he carried to France. And it was here Montcalm’s forces tried to rally after their defeat by Wolfe. (Please read this several times to Uncle Jack, so that he can have it impressed upon him how faithful I am in my historical researches.)

VOL. XXXI. — NO. 185. 23

It makes me dreadfully angry and sad to think the French should have been robbed of Quebec, after what they did to build it. But it is still quite a French city in everything, even to sympathy with France in this Prussian war, which you would hardly think they would care about. Our landlady says the very boys in the street know about the battles, and explain, every time the French are beaten, how they were outnumbered and betrayed, — something the way we used to do in the first of our war.

I suppose you will think I am crazy ; but I do wish Uncle Jack would wind up his practice at Eriecreek, and sell the house, and come to live at Quebec. I have been asking prices of things, and I find that everything is very cheap, even according to the Eriecreek standard ; we could get a beautiful house on the St. Louis Road for two hundred a year ; beef is ten or twelve cents a pound, and everything else in proportion. Then besides that, the washing is sent out into the country to be done by the peasant-women, and there is n’t a crumb of bread baked in the house, but it all comes from the bakers ; and only think, girls, what a relief that would be ! Do get Uncle Jack to consider it seriously.

Since I began this letter the afternoon has worn away —the light from the sunset on the mountains would glorify our supper-table without extra charge, if we lived here—and the twilight has passed, and the moon has come up over the gables and dormerwindows of the convent, and looks into the garden so invitingly that I can't help joining her. So I will put my writing by till to-morrow. The going-tobed bell has rung, and the red lights have vanished one by one from the windows, and the nuns are asleep, and another set of ghosts is playing in the garden with the copper-colored phantoms of the Indian children of long ago. What ! not Madame de la Peltrie ? Oh ! how do they like those little fibs of yours up in heaven ?

Sunday afternoon. — As we were at the French cathedral last Sunday, we went to the English to-day ; and I could easily have imagined myself in some church of Old England, hearing the royal family prayed for, and listening to the pretty poor sermon delivered with such an English brogue. The people, too, had such Englishy faces and such queer little eccentricities of dress ; the young lady that sang contralto in the choir wore a scarf like a man’s on her hat. The cathedral is n’t much, architecturally, I suppose, but it affected me very solemnly, and I could n’t help feeling that it was as much a part of British power and grandeur as the citadel itself. Over the bishop’s seat drooped the flag of a Crimean regiment, tattered by time and battles, which was hung up here with great ceremonies, in 1860, when the Prince of Wales presented them with new colors; and up in the gallery was a kind of glorified pew for royal highnesses and governor-generals and so forth, to sit in when they are here. There are tablets and monumental busts about the walls ; and one to the memory of the Duke of Lenox, the governor-general who died in the middle of the last century from the bite of a fox ; which seemed an odd fate for a duke, and somehow made me very sorry for him.

Fanny, of course, could n’t go to church with me, and Dick got out of it by lingering too late over the newspapers at the hotel, and so I trudged off with our Bostonian, who is still with us here. I did n’t dwell much upon him in my last letter, and I don’t beIieve now I can make him quite clear to you. He has been a good deal abroad, and he is Europeanized enough not to think much of America, though I can’t find that he quite approves of Europe, and his experience seems not to have left him any particular country in either hemisphere.

He is n’t the Bostonian of Uncle jack’s imagination, and I suspect he would n’t like to be. He is rather too young, still, to have much of an antislavery record, and even if he had lived soon enough, I think that he would not have been a John Brown man. I am afraid that he believes in “vulgar and meretricious distinctions ” of all sorts, and that he has n’t an atom of “ magnanimous democracy ” in him. In fact, I find, to my great astonishment, that some ideas which I thought were held only in England, and which I had never seriously thought of, seem actually a part of Mr. Arbuton’s nature or education. He talks about the lower classes, and tradesmen, and the best people, and good families, as I supposed nobody in this country ever did, — in earnest. To be sure, I have been reading all my life of characters who had such opinions, but I thought they were just put into novels to eke out somebody’s unhappiness, — to keep the highborn daughter from marrying beneath her for love, and so on ; or else to be made fun of in the person of some silly old woman or some odious snob ; and I could hardly believe at first that our Bostonian was serious in talking that way. Such things sound so differently in real life ; and I laughed at them till I found that he did n’t know what to make of my laughing, and then I took leave to differ with him in some of his notions ; but he never disputes anything I say, and so makes it seem rude to differ with him. I always feel, though he begins it, as if I had thrust my opinions upon him. But in spite of his weaknesses and disagreeabilities, there is something really high about him ; he is so scrupulously true, so exactly just, that Uncle Jack himself could n’t be more so ; though you can see that he respects his virtues as the peculiar result of some extraordinary system. Here at Quebec, though he goes round patronizing the landscape and the antiquities, and coldly smiling at my little enthusiasms, there is really a great deal that ought to be at least improving in him. I get to paying him the same respect that he pays himself, and imbues his very clothes with, till everything he has on appears to look like him and respect itself accordingly. I have often wondered what his hat, his honored hat, for instance, would do, if I should throw it out of the front window. It would make an earthquake, I believe.

He is politely curious about us ; and from time to time, in a shrinking, disgusted way, he asks some leading question about Eriecreek, which he doesn’t seem able to form any idea of, as much as I explain it. He clings to his original notion, that it is in the heart of the Oil Regions, of which he has seen pictures in the illustrated papers ; and when I assert myself against his opinions, he treats me very gingerly, as if I were an explosive sprite, or an inflammable naiad from a torpedoed well, and it would n’t be quite safe to oppose me, or I would disappear with a flash and a bang.

When Dick is n’t able to go with me on Fanny’s account, Mr. Arbuton takes his place in the expeditionary corps ; and we have visited a good many points of interest together, and now and then he talks very entertainingly about his travels. But I don’t think they have made him very cosmopolitan. It seems as if he went about with a little imaginary standard, and was chiefly interested in things, to see whether they fitted it or not. Trifling matters annoy him ; and when he finds sublimity mixed up with absurdity, it almost makes him angry. One of the oddest and oldestlooking buildings in Quebec is a bit of a one-story house on St. Louis Street, to which poor General Montgomery was taken after he was shot; and it is a pastry-cook’s now, and the tarts and cakes in the window vexed Mr. Arbuton so much — not that he seemed to care for Montgomery — that I did n’t dare to laugh.

I live very little in the nineteenth century at present, and do not care much for people who do. Still I have a few grains of affection left for Uncle Jack, which I want you to give him.

I suppose it will take about six stamps to pay this letter.

I forgot to say that Dick goes to be barbered every day at the “ Montcalm Shaving and Shampooing Saloon,” so called because they say Montcalm held his last council of war there. It is a queer little steep-roofed house, with a flowering bean up the front, and a bit of garden, full of snap-dragons, before it.

We shall be here a week or so yet, at any rate, and then, I think, we shall go straight home, Dick has lost so much time already.

With a great deal of love,


W. D. Howells.