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Chapter 14


Mrs. Ellison had Kitty's whole story, and so has the reader, but for a little thing that happened next day, and which is perhaps scarcely worthy of being set down.

Mr. Arbuton's valise was sent for at night from the Hôtel St. Louis, and they did not see him again. When Kitty woke next morning, a fine cold rain was falling upon the drooping hollyhocks in the Ursulines' Garden, which seemed stricken through every leaf and flower with sudden autumn. All the forenoon the garden-paths remained empty, but under the porch by the poplars sat the slender nun and the stout nun side by side, and held each other's hands. They did not move, they did not appear to speak.

The fine cold rain was still falling as Kitty and Fanny drove down Mountain Street toward the Railway Station, whither Dick and the baggage had preceded them, for they were going away from Quebec. Midway, their carriage was stopped by a mass of ascending vehicles, and their driver drew rein till the press was over. At the same time Kitty saw advancing up the sidewalk a figure grotesquely resembling Mr. Arbuton. It was he, but shorter, and smaller, and meaner. Then it was not he, but only a light overcoat like his covering a very common little man about whom it hung loosely,—a burlesque of Mr. Arbuton's self-respectful overcoat, or the garment itself in a state of miserable yet comical collapse.

"What is that ridiculous little wretch staring at you for, Kitty?" asked Fanny.

"I don't know," answered Kitty, absently.

The man was now smiling and gesturing violently. Kitty remembered having seen him before, and then recognized the cooper who had released Mr. Arbuton from the dog in the Sault au Matelot, and to whom he had given his lacerated overcoat.

The little creature awkwardly unbuttoned the garment, and took from the breast-pocket a few letters, which he handed to Kitty, talking eagerly in French all the time.

"What is he doing, Kitty?"

"What is he saying, Fanny?"

"Something about a ferocious dog that was going to spring upon you, and the young gentleman being brave as a lion and rushing forward, and saving your life." Mrs. Ellison was not a woman to let her translation lack color, even though the original wanted it.

"Make him tell it again."

When the man had done so, "Yes," sighed Kitty, "it all happened that day of the Montgomery expedition; but I never knew, before, of what he had done for me. Fanny," she cried, with a great sob, "may be I'm the one who has been cruel? But what happened yesterday makes his having saved my life seem such a very little matter."

"Nothing at all!" answered Fanny, "less than nothing!" But her heart failed her.

The little cooper had bowed himself away, and was climbing the hill, Mr. Arbuton's coat-skirts striking his heels as he walked.

"What letters are those?" asked Fanny.

"O, old letters to Mr. Arbuton, which he found in the pocket. I suppose he thought I would give them to him."

"But how are you going to do it?"

"I ought to send them to him," answered Kitty. Then, after a silence that lasted till they reached the boat, she handed the letters to Fanny. "Dick may send them," she said.


William Dean Howells

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