The next morning our tourists found themselves at rest in Ha-Ha Bay, at the head of navigation for the larger steamers. The long line of sullen hills had fallen away, and the morning sun shone warm on what in a friendlier climate would have been a very lovely landscape. The bay was an irregular oval, with shores that rose in bold but not lofty heights on one side, while on the other lay a narrow plain with two villages clinging about the road that followed the crescent beach, and lifting each the slender tin-clad spire of its church to sparkle in the sun.
At the head of the bay was a mountainous top, and along its waters were masses of rocks, gayly painted with lichens and stained with metallic tints of orange and scarlet. The unchanging growth of stunted pines was the only forest in sight, though Ha-Ha Bay is a famous lumbering port, and some schooners now lay there receiving cargoes of odorous pine plank. The steamboat-wharf was all astir with the liveliest toil and leisure. The boat was taking on wood, which was brought in wheelbarrows to the top of the steep, smooth gangway-planking, where the habitant in charge planted his broad feet for the downward slide, and was hurled aboard more or less en masse by the fierce velocity of his heavy-laden wheelbarrow. Amidst the confusion and hazard of this feat a procession of other habitans marched aboard, each one bearing under his arm a coffin-shaped wooden box. The rising fear of Colonel Ellison, that these boxes represented the loss of the whole infant population of Ha-Ha Bay, was checked by the reflection that the region could not have produced so many children, and calmed altogether by the purser, who said that they were full of huckleberries, and that Colonel Ellison could have as many as he liked for fifteen cents a bushel. This gave him a keen sense of the poverty of the land, and he bought of the boys who came aboard such abundance of wild red raspberries, in all manner of birch-bark canoes and goblets and cornucopias, that he was obliged to make presents of them to the very dealers whose stock he had exhausted, and he was in treaty with the local half-wit—very fine, with a hunchback, and a massive wen on one side of his head—to take charity in the wild fruits of his native province, when the crowd about him was gently opened by a person who advanced with a flourishing bow and a sprightly "Good morning, good morning, sir!" "How do you do?" asked Colonel Ellison; but the other, intent on business, answered, "I am the only person at Ha-Ha Bay who speaks English, and I have come to ask if you would not like to make a promenade in my horse and buggy upon the mountain before breakfast. You shall be gone as long as you will for one shilling and sixpence. I will show you all that there is to be seen about the place, and the beautiful view of the bay from the top of the mountain. But it is elegant, you know, I can assure you."
The speaker was so fluent of his English, he had such an audacious, wide-branching mustache, such a twinkle in his left eye,—which wore its lid in a careless, slouching fashion,—that the heart of man naturally clove to him; and Colonel Ellison agreed on the spot to make the proposed promenade, for himself and both his ladies, of whom he went joyfully in search. He found them at the stern of the boat, admiring the wild scenery, and looking
"Fresh as the morn and as the season fair."
He was not a close observer, and of his wife's wardrobe he had the ignorance of a good husband, who, as soon as the pang of paying for her dresses is past, forgets whatever she has; but he could not help seeing that some gayeties of costume which he had dimly associated with his wife now enhanced the charms of his cousin's nice little face and figure. A scarf of lively hue carelessly tied about the throat to keep off the morning chill, a prettier ribbon, a more stylish jacket than Miss Ellison owned,—what do I know?—an air of preparation for battle, caught the colonel's eye, and a conscious red stole responsive into Kitty's cheek.
"Kitty," said he, "don't you let yourself be made a goose of."
"I hope she won't—by you!" retorted his wife, "and I'll thank you, Colonel Ellison, not to be a Betty, whatever you are. I don't think it's manly to be always noticing ladies' clothes."
"Who said anything about clothes?" demanded the colonel, taking his stand upon the letter.
"Well, don't you, at any rate. Yes, I'd like to ride, of all things; and we've time enough, for breakfast isn't ready till half past eight. Where's the carriage?"
The only English scholar at Ha-Ha Bay had taken the light wraps of the ladies and was moving off with them. "This way, this way," he said, waving his hand towards a larger number of vehicles on the shore than could have been reasonably attributed to Ha-Ha Bay. "I hope you won't object to having another passenger with you? There's plenty of room for all. He seems a very nice, gentlemanly person," said he, with a queer, patronizing graciousness which he had no doubt caught from his English patrons.
"The more the merrier," answered Colonel Ellison, and "Not in the least!" said his wife, not meaning the proverb. Her eye had swept the whole array of vehicles and had found them all empty, save one, in which she detected the blamelessly coated back of Mr. Arbuton. But I ought perhaps to explain Mrs. Ellison's motives better than they can be made to appear in her conduct. She cared nothing for Mr. Arbuton; and she had no logical wish to see Kitty in love with him. But here were two young people thrown somewhat romantically together; Mrs. Ellison was a born match-maker, and to have refrained from promoting their better acquaintance in the interest of abstract matrimony was what never could have entered into her thought or desire. Her whole being closed for the time about this purpose; her heart, always warm towards Kitty,—whom she admired with a sort of generous frenzy,—expanded with all kinds of lovely designs; in a word, every dress she had she would instantly have bestowed upon that worshipful creature who was capable of adding another marriage to the world. I hope the reader finds nothing vulgar or unbecoming in this, for I do not; it was an enthusiasm, pure and simple, a beautiful and unselfish abandon; and I am sure men ought to be sorry that they are not worthier to be favored by it. Ladies have often to lament in the midst of their finesse that, really, no man is deserving the fate they devote themselves to prepare for him, or, in other words, that women cannot marry women.
I am not going to be so rash as try to depict Mrs. Ellison's arts, for then, indeed, I should make her appear the clumsy conspirator she was not, and should merely convict myself of ignorance of such matters. Whether Mr. Arbuton was ever aware of them, I am not sure: as a man he was, of course, obtuse and blind; but then, on the other hand, he had seen far more of the world than Mrs. Ellison, and she may have been clear as day to him. Probably, though, he did not detect any design; he could not have conceived of such a thing in a person with whom he had been so irregularly made acquainted, and to whom he felt himself so hopelessly superior. A film of ice such as in autumn you find casing the still pools early in the frosty mornings had gathered upon his manner over night; but it thawed under the greetings of the others, and he jumped actively out of the vehicle to offer the ladies their choice of seats. When all was arranged he found himself at Mrs. Ellison's side, for Kitty had somewhat eagerly climbed to the front seat with the colonel. In these circumstances it was pure zeal that sustained Mrs. Ellison in the flattering constancy with which she babbled on to Mr. Arbuton and refrained from openly resenting Kitty's contumacy.
As the wagon began to ascend the hill, the road was so rough that the springs smote together with pitiless jolts, and the ladies uttered some irrepressible moans. "Never mind, my dear," said the colonel, turning about to his wife, "we've got all the English there is at Ha-Ha Bay, any way." Whereupon the driver gave him a wink of sudden liking and good-fellowship. At the same time his tongue was loosed, and he began to talk of himself. "You see my dog, how he leaps at the horse's nose? He is a moose-dog, and keeps himself in practice of catching the moose by the nose. You ought to come in the hunting season. I could furnish you with Indians and everything you need to hunt with. I am a dealer in wild beasts, you know, and I must keep prepared to take them."
"Yes, for Barnum and the other showmen. I deal in deer, wolf, bear, beaver, moose, cariboo, wild-cat, link—"
"Link—link! You say deer for deers, and link for lynx, don't you?"
"Certainly," answered the unblushing colonel. "Are there many link about here?"
"Not many, and they are a very expensive animal. I have been shamefully treated in a link that I have sold to a Boston showman. It was a difficult beast to take; bit my Indian awfully; and Mr. Doolittle would not give the price he promised."
"What an outrage!"
"Yes, but it was not so bad as it might have been. He wanted the money back afterwards; the link died in about two weeks," said the dealer in wild animals, with a smile that curled his mustache into his ears, and a glance at Colonel Ellison. "He may have been bruised, I suppose. He may have been homesick. Perhaps he was never a very strong link. The link is a curious animal, miss," he said to Kitty, in conclusion.
They had been slowly climbing the mountain road, from which, on either hand, the pasturelands fell away in long, irregular knolls and hollows. The tops were quite barren, but in the little vales, despite the stones, a short grass grew very thick and tenderly green, and groups of kine tinkled their soft bells in a sweet, desultory assonance as they cropped the herbage. Below, the bay filled the oval of the hills with its sunny expanse, and the white steamer, where she lay beside the busy wharf, and the black lumber-ships, gave their variety to the pretty scene, which was completed by the picturesque villages on the shore. It was a very simple sight, but somehow very touching, as if the soft spectacle were but a respite from desolation and solitude; as indeed it was.
Mr. Arbuton must have been talking of travel elsewhere, for now he said to Mrs. Ellison, "This looks like a bit of Norway; the bay yonder might very well be a fjord of the Northern sea."
Mrs. Ellison murmured her sense of obligation to the bay, the fjord, and Mr. Arbuton, for their complaisance, and Kitty remembered that he had somewhat snubbed her the night before for attributing any suggestive grace to the native scenery. "Then you've really found something in an American landscape. I suppose we ought to congratulate it," she said, in smiling enjoyment of her triumph.
The colonel looked at her with eyes of humorous question; Mrs. Ellison looked blank; and Mr. Arbuton, having quite forgotten what he had said to provoke this comment now, looked puzzled and answered nothing: for he had this trait also in common with the sort of Englishman for whom he was taken, that he never helped out your conversational venture, but if he failed to respond inwardly, left you with your unaccepted remark upon your hands, as it were. In his silence, Kitty fell a prey to very evil thoughts of him, for it made her harmless sally look like a blundering attack upon him. But just then the driver came to her rescue; he said, "Gentlemen and ladies, this is the end of the mountain promenade," and, turning his horse's head, drove rapidly back to the village.
At the foot of the hill they came again to the church, and his passengers wanted to get out and look into it. "O certainly," said he, "it isn't finished yet, but you can say as many prayers as you like in it."
The church was decent and clean, like most Canadian churches, and at this early hour there was a good number of the villagers at their devotions. The lithographic pictures of the stations to Calvary were, of course, on its walls, and there was the ordinary tawdriness of paint and carving about the high altar.
"I don't like to see these things," said Mrs. Ellison. "It really seems to savor of idolatry. Don't you think so, Mr. Arbuton?"
"Well, I don't know. I doubt if they're the sort of people to be hurt by it."
"They need a good stout faith in cold climates, I can tell you," said the colonel. "It helps to keep them warm. The broad church would be too full of draughts up here. They want something snug and tight. Just imagine one of these poor devils listening to a liberal sermon about birds and fruits and flowers and beautiful sentiments, and then driving home over the hills with the mercury thirty degrees below zero! He couldn't stand it."
"Yes, yes, certainly," said Mr. Arbuton, and looked about him with an eye of cold, uncompassionate inspection, as if he were trying it by a standard of taste, and, on the whole, finding the poor little church vulgar.
When they mounted to their places again, the talk fell entirely to the colonel, who, as his wont was, got what information he could out of the driver. It appeared, in spite of his theory, that they were not all good Catholics at Ha-Ha Bay. "This chap, for example," said the Frenchman, touching himself on the breast and using the slang he must have picked up from American travellers, "is no Catholic,—not much! He has made too many studies to care for religion. There's a large French party, sir, in Canada, that's opposed to the priests and in favor of annexation."
He satisfied the colonel's utmost curiosity, discoursing, as he drove by the log-built cottages which were now and then sheathed in birch-bark, upon the local affairs, and the character and history of such of his fellow-villagers as they met. He knew the pretty girls upon the street and saluted them by name, interrupting himself with these courtesies in the lecture he was giving the colonel on life at Ha-Ha Bay. There was only one brick house (which he had built himself, but had been obliged to sell in a season unfavorable for wild beasts), and the other edifices dropped through the social scale to some picturesque barns thatched with straw. These he excused to his Americans, but added that the ungainly thatch was sometimes useful in saving the lives of the cattle toward the end of an unusually long, hard winter.
"And the people," asked the colonel, "what do they do in the winter to pass the time?"
"Draw the wood, smoke the pipe, court the ladies.—But wouldn't you like to see the inside of one of our poor cottages? I shall be very proud to have you look at mine, and to have you drink a glass of milk from my cows. I am sorry that I cannot offer you brandy, but there's none to be bought in the place."
"Don't speak of it! For an eye-opener there is nothing like a glass of milk," gayly answered the colonel.
They entered the best room of the house,—wide, low-ceiled, dimly lit by two small windows, and fortified against the winter by a huge Canada stove of cast-iron. It was rude but neat, and had an air of decent comfort. Through the window appeared a very little vegetable garden with a border of the hardiest flowers. "The large beans there," explained the host, "are for soup and coffee. My corn," he said, pointing out some rows of dwarfish maize, "has escaped the early August frosts, and so I expect to have some roasting-ears yet this summer."
"Well, it isn't exactly what you'd call an inviting climate, is it?" asked the colonel.
The Canadian seemed a hard little man, but he answered now with a kind of pathos, "It's cruel! I came here when it was all bush. Twenty years I have lived here, and it has not been worth while. If it was to do over again, I should rather not live anywhere. I was born in Quebec," he said, as if to explain that he was used to mild climates, and began to tell of some events of his life at Ha-Ha Bay. "I wish you were going to stay here awhile with me. You wouldn't find it so bad in the summer-time, I can assure you. There are bears in the bush, sir," he said to the colonel, "and you might easily kill one."
"But then I should be helping to spoil your trade in wild beasts," replied the colonel, laughing.
Mr. Arbuton looked like one who might be very tired of this. He made no sign of interest either in the early glooms and privations or the summer bears of Ha-Ha Bay. He sat in the quaint parlor, with his hat on his knee, in the decorous and patient attitude of a gentleman making a call.
He had no feeling, Kitty said to herself; but that is a matter about which we can easily be wrong. It was rather to be said of Mr. Arbuton that he had always shrunk from knowledge of things outside of a very narrow world, and that he had not a ready imagination. Moreover, he had a personal dislike, as I may call it, of poverty; and he did not enjoy this poverty as she did, because it was strange and suggestive, though doubtless he would have done as much to relieve distress.
"Rather too much of his autobiography," he said to Kitty, as he waited outside the door with her, while the Canadian quieted his dog, which was again keeping himself in practice of catching the moose by making vicious leaps at the horse's nose. "The egotism of that kind of people is always so aggressive. But I suppose he's in the habit of throwing himself upon the sympathy of summer visitors in this way. You can't offer a man so little as shilling and sixpence who's taken you into his confidence. Did you find enough that was novel in his place to justify him in bringing us here, Miss Ellison?" he asked with an air he had of taking you of course to be of his mind, and which equally offended you whether you were so or not.
Every face that they had seen in their drive had told its pathetic story to Kitty; every cottage that they passed she had entered in thought, and dreamed out its humble drama. What their host had said gave breath and color to her fancies of the struggle of life there, and she was startled and shocked when this cold doubt was cast upon the sympathetic tints of her picture. She did not know what to say at first; she looked at Mr. Arbuton with a sudden glance of embarrassment and trouble; then she answered, "I was very much interested. I don't agree with you, I believe"; which, when she heard it, seemed a resentful little speech, and made her willing for some occasion to soften its effect. But nothing occurred to her during the brief drive back to the boat, save the fact that the morning air was delicious.
"Yes, but rather cool," said Mr. Arbuton, whose feelings apparently had not needed any balm; and the talk fell again to the others.
On the pier he helped her down from the wagon, for the colonel was intent on something the driver was saying, and then offered his hand to Mrs. Ellison.
She sprang from her place, but stumbled slightly, and when she touched the ground, "I believe I turned my foot a little," she said with a laugh. "It's nothing, of course," and fainted in his arms.
Kitty gave a cry of alarm, and the next instant the colonel had relieved Mr. Arbuton. It was a scene, and nothing could have annoyed him more than this tumult which poor Mrs. Ellison's misfortune occasioned among the bystanding habitans and deck-hands, and the passengers eagerly craning forward over the bulwarks, and running ashore to see what the matter was. Few men know just how to offer those little offices of helpfulness which such emergencies demand, and Mr. Arbuton could do nothing after he was rid of his burden; he hovered anxiously and uselessly about, while Mrs. Ellison was carried to an airy position on the bow of the boat, where in a few minutes he had the great satisfaction of seeing her open her eyes. It was not the moment for him to speak, and he walked somewhat guiltily away with the dispersing crowd.
Mrs. Ellison addressed her first words to pale Kitty at her side. "You can have all my things, now," she said, as if it were a clause in her will, and perhaps it had been her last thought before unconsciousness.
"Why, Fanny," cried Kitty, with an hysterical laugh, "you're not going to die! A sprained ankle isn't fatal!"
"No; but I've heard that a person with a sprained ankle can't put their foot to the ground for weeks; and I shall only want a dressing-gown, you know, to lie on the sofa in." With that, Mrs. Ellison placed her hand tenderly on Kitty's head, like a mother wondering what will become of a helpless child during her disability; in fact she was mentally weighing the advantages of her wardrobe, which Kitty would now fully enjoy, against the loss of the friendly strategy which she would now lack. Helpless to decide the matter, she heaved a sigh.
"But, Fanny, you won't expect to travel in a dressing-gown."
"Indeed, I wish I knew whether I could travel in anything or not. But the next twenty-four hours will show. If it swells up, I shall have to rest awhile at Quebec; and if it doesn't, there may be something internal. I've read of accidents when the person thought they were perfectly well and comfortable, and the first thing they knew they were in a very dangerous state. That's the worst of these internal injuries: you never can tell. Not that I think there's anything of that kind the matter with me. But a few days' rest won't do any harm, whatever happens; the stores in Quebec are quite as good and a little cheaper than in Montreal; and I could go about in a carriage, you know, and put in the time as well in one place as the other. I'm sure we could get on very pleasantly there; and the colonel needn't be home for a month yet. I suppose that I could hobble into the stores on a crutch."
Whilst Mrs. Ellison's monologue ran on with scarcely a break from Kitty, her husband was gone to fetch her a cup of tea and such other light refreshment as a lady may take after a swoon. When he returned she bethought herself of Mr. Arbuton, who, having once come back to see if all was going well, had vanished again.
"Why, our friend Boston is bearing up under his share of the morning's work like a hero—or a lady with a sprained ankle," said the colonel as he arranged the provision. "To see the havoc he's making in the ham and eggs and chiccory is to be convinced that there is no appetizer like regret for the sufferings of others."
"Why, and here's poor Kitty not had a bite yet!" cried Mrs. Ellison. "Kitty, go off at once and get your breakfast. Put on my—"
"O, don't, Fanny, or I can't go; and I'm really very hungry."
"Well, I won't then," said Mrs. Ellison, seeing the rainy cloud in Kitty's eyes. "Go just as you are, and don't mind me." And so Kitty went, gathering courage at every pace, and sitting down opposite Mr. Arbuton with a vivid color to be sure, but otherwise lion-bold. He had been upbraiding the stars that had thrust him further and further at every step into the intimacy of these people, as he called them to himself. It was just twenty-four hours, he reflected, since he had met them, and resolved to have nothing to do with them, and in that time the young lady had brought him under the necessity of apologizing for a blunder of her own; he had played the eavesdropper to her talk; he had sentimentalized the midnight hour with her; they had all taken a morning ride together; and he had ended by having Mrs. Ellison sprain her ankle and faint in his arms. It was outrageous; and what made it worse was that decency obliged him to take henceforth a regretful, deprecatory attitude towards Mrs. Ellison, whom he liked least among these people. So he sat vindictively eating an enormous breakfast, in a sort of angry abstraction, from which Kitty's coming roused him to say that he hoped Mrs. Ellison was better.
"O, very much! It's just a sprain."
"A sprain may be a very annoying thing," said Mr. Arbuton dismally. "Miss Ellison," he cried, "I've been nothing but an affliction to your party since I came on board this boat!"
"Do you think evil genius of our party would be too harsh a term?" suggested Kitty.
"Not in the least; it would be a mere euphemism,—base flattery, in fact. Call me something worse."
"I can't think of anything. I must leave you to your own conscience. It was a pity to end our ride in that way; it would have been such a pleasant ride!" And Kitty took heart from his apparent mood to speak of some facts of the morning that had moved her fancy. "What a strange little nest it is up here among these half-thawed hills! and imagine the winter, the fifteen or twenty months of it, they must have every year. I could almost have shed tears over that patch of corn that had escaped the early August frosts. I suppose this is a sort of Indian summer that we are enjoying now, and that the cold weather will set in after a week or two. My cousin and I thought that Tadoussac was somewhat retired and composed last night, but I'm sure that I shall see it in its true light, as a metropolis, going back. I'm afraid that the turmoil and bustle of Eriecreek, when I get home—"
"Eriecreek?—when you got home?—I thought you lived at Milwaukee."
"O no! It's my cousins who live at Milwaukee. I live at Eriecreek, New York State."
"Oh!" Mr. Arbuton looked blank and not altogether pleased. Milwaukee was bad enough, though he understood that it was largely peopled from New England, and had a great German element, which might account for the fact that these people were not quite barbaric. But this Eriecreek, New York State! "I don't think I've heard of it," he said.
"It's a small place," observed Kitty, "and I believe it isn't noted for anything in particular; it's not even on any railroad. It's in the north-west part of the State."
"Isn't it in the oil-regions?" groped Mr. Arbuton.
"Why, the oil-regions are rather migratory, you know. It used to be in the oil-regions; but the oil was pumped out, and then the oil-regions gracefully withdrew and left the cheese-regions and grape-regions to come back and take possession of the old derricks and the rusty boilers. You might suppose from the appearance of the meadows, that all the boilers that ever blew up had come down in the neighborhood of Eriecreek. And every field has its derrick standing just as the last dollar or the last drop of oil left it."
Mr. Arbuton brought his fancy to bear upon Eriecreek, and wholly failed to conceive of it. He did not like the notion of its being thrust within the range of his knowledge; and he resented its being the home of Miss Ellison, whom he was beginning to accept as a not quite comprehensible yet certainly agreeable fact, though he still had a disposition to cast her off as something incredible. He asked no further about Eriecreek, and presently she rose and went to join her relatives, and he went to smoke his cigar, and to ponder upon the problem presented to him in this young girl from whose locality and conjecturable experiences he was at loss how to infer her as he found her here.
She had a certain self-reliance mingling with an innocent trust of others which Mrs. Isabel March had described to her husband as a charm potent to make everybody sympathetic and good-natured, but which it would not be easy to account for to Mr. Arbuton. In part it was a natural gift, and partly it came from mere ignorance of the world; it was the unsnubbed fearlessness of a heart which did not suspect a sense of social difference in others, or imagine itself misprized for anything but a fault. For such a false conception of her relations to polite society, Kitty's Uncle Jack was chiefly to blame. In the fierce democracy of his revolt from his Virginian traditions he had taught his family that a belief in any save intellectual and moral distinctions was a mean and cruel superstition; he had contrived to fix this idea so deeply in the education of his children, that it gave a coloring to their lives, and Kitty, when her turn came, had the effect of it in the character of those about her. In fact she accepted his extreme theories of equality to a degree that delighted her uncle, who, having held them many years, was growing perhaps a little languid in their tenure and was glad to have his grasp strengthened by her faith. Socially as well as politically Eriecreek was almost a perfect democracy, and there was little in Kitty's circumstances to contradict the doctor's teachings. The brief visits which she had made to Buffalo and Erie, and, since the colonel's marriage, to Milwaukee, had not sufficed to undeceive her; she had never suffered slight save from the ignorant and uncouth; she innocently expected that in people of culture she should always find community of feeling and ideas; and she had met Mr. Arbuton all the more trustfully because as a Bostonian he must be cultivated.
In the secluded life which she led perforce at Eriecreek there was an abundance of leisure, which she bestowed upon books at an age when most girls are sent to school. The doctor had a good taste of an old-fashioned kind in literature, and he had a library pretty well stocked with the elderly English authors, poets and essayists and novelists, and here and there an historian, and these Kitty read childlike, liking them at the time in a certain way, and storing up in her mind things that she did not understand for the present, but whose beauty and value dawned upon her from time to time, as she grew older. But of far more use and pleasure to her than these now somewhat mouldy classics were the more modern books of her cousin Charles,—that pride and hope of his father's heart, who had died the year before she came to Eriecreek. He was named after her own father, and it was as if her Uncle Jack found both his son and his brother in her again. When her taste for reading began to show itself in force, the old man one day unlocked a certain bookcase in a little upper room, and gave her the key, saying, with a broken pride and that queer Virginian pomp which still clung to him, "This was my son's, who would one day have been a great writer; now it is yours." After that the doctor would pick up the books out of this collection which Kitty was reading and had left lying about the rooms, and look into them a little way. Sometimes he fell asleep over them; sometimes when he opened on a page pencilled with marginal notes, he would put the volume gently down and go very quickly out of the room.
"Kitty, I reckon you'd better not leave poor Charley's books around where Uncle Jack can get at them," one of the girls, Virginia or Rachel, would say; "I don't believe he cares much for those writers, and the sight of the books just tries him." So Kitty kept the books, and herself for the most part with them, in the upper chamber which had been Charles Ellison's room, and where, amongst the witnesses of the dead boy's ambitious dreams, she grew dreamer herself and seemed to inherit with his earthly place his own fine and gentle spirit.
The doctor, as his daughter suggested, did not care much for the modern authors in whom his son had delighted. Like many another simple and pure-hearted man, he thought that since Pope there had been no great poet but Byron, and he could make nothing out of Tennyson and Browning, or the other contemporary English poets. Amongst the Americans he had a great respect for Whittier, but he preferred Lowell to the rest because he had written The Biglow Papers, and he never would allow that the last series was half so good as the first. These and the other principal poets of our nation and language Kitty inherited from her cousin, as well as a full stock of the contemporary novelists and romancers, whom she liked better than the poets on the whole. She had also the advantage of the magazines and reviews which used to come to him, and the house over-flowed with newspapers of every kind, from the Eriecreek Courier to the New York Tribune. What with the coming and going of the eccentric visitors, and this continual reading, and her rides about the country with her Uncle Jack, Kitty's education, such as it was, went on very actively and with the effect, at least, to give her a great liveliness of mind and several decided opinions. Where it might have warped her out of natural simplicity, and made her conceited, the keen and wholesome airs which breathed continually in the Ellison household came in to restore her. There was such kindness in this discipline, that she never could remember when it wounded her; it was part of the gayety of those times when she would sit down with the girls, and they took up some work together, and rattled on in a free, wild, racy talk, with an edge of satire for whoever came near, a fantastic excess in its drollery, and just a touch of native melancholy tingeing it. The last queer guest, some neighborhood gossip, some youthful folly or pretentiousness of Kitty's, some trait of their own, some absurdity of the boys if they happened to be at home, and came lounging in, were the themes out of which they contrived such jollity as never was, save when in Uncle Jack's presence they fell upon some characteristic action or theory of his and turned it into endless ridicule.
But of such people, of such life, Mr. Arbuton could have made nothing if he had known them. In many things he was an excellent person, and greatly to be respected for certain qualities. He was very sincere; his mind had a singular purity and rectitude; he was a scrupulously just person so far as he knew. He had traits that would have fitted him very well for the career he had once contemplated, and he had even made some preliminary studies for the ministry. But the very generosity of his creed perplexed him, his mislikers said; contending that he could never have got on with the mob of the redeemed. "Arbuton," said a fat young fellow, the supposed wit of the class, "thinks there are persons of low extraction in heaven; but he doesn't like the idea." And Mr. Arbuton did not like the speaker very well, either, nor any of his poorer fellow-students, whose gloveless and unfashionable poverty, and meagre board and lodgings, and general hungry dependence upon pious bequests and neighborhood kindnesses, offended his instincts. "So he's given it up, has he?" moralized the same wit, upon his retirement. "If Arbuton could have been a divinely commissioned apostle to the best society, and been obliged to save none but well-connected, old-established, and cultivated souls, he might have gone into the ministry." This was a coarse construction of the truth, but it was not altogether a perversion. It was long ago that he had abandoned the thought of the ministry, and he had since travelled, and read law, and become a man of society and of clubs; but he still kept the traits that had seemed to make his vocation clear. On the other hand he kept the prejudices that were imagined to have disqualified him. He was an exclusive by training and by instinct. He gave ordinary humanity credit for a certain measure of sensibility, and it is possible that if he had known more kinds of men, he would have recognized merits and excellences which did not now exist for him; but I do not think he would have liked them. His doubt of these Western people was the most natural, if not the most justifiable thing in the world, and for Kitty, if he could have known all about her, I do not see how he could have believed in her at all. As it was, he went in search of her party, when he had smoked his cigar, and found them on the forward promenade. She had left him in quite a lenient mood, although, as she perceived with amusement, he had done nothing to merit it, except give her cousin a sprained ankle. At the moment of his reappearance, Mrs. Ellison had been telling Kitty that she thought it was beginning to swell a little, and so it could not be anything internal; and Kitty had understood that she meant her ankle as well as if she had said so, and had sorrowed and rejoiced over her, and the colonel had been inculpated for the whole affair. This made Mr. Arbuton's excuses rather needless, though they were most graciously received.