The Man From Glengarry by Ralph Connor
Chapter XXII. Forget That I Loved You
"The night for dreaming, but the morn for seeing." And so Ranald found it; for with the cold, calm light of the morning, he found himself facing his battle with small sense of victory in his blood. He knew he had to deal that morning with the crisis of his life. Upon the issue his whole future would turn, but his heart without haste or pause preserved its even beat. The hour of indecision had passed. He saw his way and he meant to walk it. What was beyond the turn was hid from his eyes, but with that he need not concern himself now. Meantime he would clear away some of this accumulated correspondence lying on his desk. In the midst of his work Harry came in and laid a bundle of bills before him.
"Here you are, old chap," he said, quietly. "That's the last of it."
Ranald counted the money.
"You are sure you can spare all this? There is no hurry, you know."
"No," said Harry, "I can't spare it, but it's safer with you than with me, and besides, it's yours. And I owe you more than money." He drew a deep breath to steady himself, and then went on: "And I want to say, Ranald, that I have bet my last stake."
Ranald pushed back his chair and rose to his feet.
"Now that's the best thing I've heard for some time," he said, offering Harry his hand; "and that's the last of that business."
He sat down, drew in his chair, and turning over his papers with a nervousness that he rarely showed, he continued: "And, Harry, I want you to do something for me. Before you go home this afternoon, will you come in here? I may want to send a note to Maimie by you."
"But--" began Harry.
"Wait a moment. I want to prevent all possibility of mistake. There may be a reply, and Harry, old chap, I'd rather not answer any questions."
Harry gazed at him a moment in perplexity. "All right, Ranald," he said, quietly, "you can trust me. I haven't the ghost of an idea what's up, but I know you're square."
"Thanks, old fellow," said Ranald, "I will never give you reason to change your opinion. Now get out; I'm awfully busy."
For some minutes after Harry had left the room Ranald sat gazing before him into space.
"Poor chap, he's got his fight, too, but I begin to think he'll win," he said to himself, and once more returned to his work. He had hardly begun his writing when the inner door of his office opened and Mr. St. Clair came in. His welcome was kindly and cordial, and Ranald's heart, which had been under strong discipline all morning, leaped up in warm response.
"You had a pleasant trip, I hope?" inquired Mr. St. Clair.
"Fine most of the way. Through May and June the flies were bad, but not so bad as usual, they said, and one gets used to them."
"Never saw anything like it. What a country that is!" cried Ranald, his enthusiasm carrying him away. "Fishing of all kinds and superb. In those little lonely lakes you get the finest black and white bass, beauties and so gamy. In the bigger waters, maskalonge and, of course, any amount of pike and pickerel. Then we were always running up against deer, moose and red, and everywhere we got the scent of bear. Could have loaded a boat with furs in a week."
"We must go up some day," replied Mr. St. Clair. "Wish I could get away this fall, but the fact is we are in shallow water, Ranald, and we can't take any chances."
Ranald knew well how serious the situation was. "But," continued Mr. St. Clair, "this offer of the British-American Lumber and Coal Company is most fortunate, and will be the saving of us. With one hundred thousand set free we are certain to pull through this season, and indeed, the financial stringency will rather help than hinder our operations. Really it is most fortunate. Indeed," he added, with a slight laugh, "as my sister-in-law would say, quite providential!"
"I have no doubt of that," said Ranald, gravely; "but, Mr. St. Clair--"
"Yes, no doubt, no doubt," said Mr. St. Clair, hastening to recover the tone, which by his unfortunate reference to Mrs. Murray, he had lost. The thought of her was not in perfect harmony with purely commercial considerations. "The fact is," he continued, "that before this offer came I was really beginning to despair. I can tell you that now."
Ranald felt his heart tighten.
"One does not mind for one's self, but when family interests are involved--but that's all over now, thank God!"
Ranald tried to speak, but his mind refused to suggest words. His silence, however, was enough for Mr. St. Clair, who, with nervous haste once more changed the theme. "In my note to you last night-- you got it, I suppose--I referred to some changes in the firm. "
Ranald felt that he was being crowded against the ropes. He must get to freer fighting ground. "I think before you go on to that, Mr. St. Clair," he began, "I ought to--"
"Excuse me, I was about to say," interrupted Mr. St. Clair, hastily, "Mr. Raymond and I have felt that we must strengthen our executive. As you know, he has left this department almost entirely to me, and he now realizes what I have long felt, that the burden has grown too heavy for one to carry. Naturally we think of you, and I may say we are more than glad, though it is a very unusual thing in the business world, that we can, with the fullest confidence, offer you a partnership." Mr. St. Clair paused to allow the full weight of this announcement to sink into his manager's mind.
Then Ranald pulled himself together. He must break free or the fight would be lost before he had struck a blow.
"I need not say," he began once more, "how greatly gratified I am by this offer, and I feel sure you will believe that I am deeply grateful." Ranald's voice was low and even, but unknown to himself there was in it a tone of stern resolve that struck Mr. St. Clair's ear. He knew his manager. That tone meant war. Hastily he changed his front.
"Yes, yes, we are quite sure of that," he said, with increasing nervousness, "but we are thinking of our own interests as well as yours. Indeed, I feel sure"--here his voice became even more kindly and confidential--"that in advancing your position and prospects we are--I am only doing what will bring myself the greatest satisfaction in the end, for you know, Ranald, I--we do not regard you as a stranger." Ranald winced and grew pale. "We-- my family--have always felt toward you as--well, in fact, as if you were one of us."
Mr. St. Clair had delivered his last and deadliest blow and it found Ranald's heart, but with pain blanching his cheek Ranald stood up determined to end the fight. It was by no means easy for him to strike. Before him he saw not this man with his ingenious and specious pleading--it would not have been a difficult matter to have brushed him aside--but he was looking into the blue eyes of the woman he had for seven years loved more than he loved his life, and he knew that when his blow fell it would fall upon the face that, only a few hours ago, had smiled upon him, and upon the lips that had whispered to him, "I will remember, Ranald." Yet he was none the less resolved. With face set and bloodless, and eyes of gleaming fire, he faced the man that represented what was at once dearest in life and what was most loathsome in conduct.
"Give me a moment, Mr. St. Clair," he said, with a note of authority in his tone. "You have made me an offer of a position such as I could hardly hope to expect for years to come, but I value it chiefly because it means you have absolute confidence in me; you believe in my ability and in my integrity. I am determined that you will never have cause to change your opinion of me. You are about to complete a deal involving a very large sum of money. I have a report here," tapping his desk, "which you have not yet seen."
"It really doesn't matter!" interjected Mr. St. Clair; "you see, my dear fellow--"
"It matters to me. It is a report which not only you ought to have, but which, in justice, the buyer of the Bass River Limits ought to see. That report, Mr. St. Clair, ought to be given to Colonel Thorp."
"This is sheer folly," exclaimed Mr. St. Clair, impatiently.
"It is the only honorable course."
"Do you mean to insult me, sir?"
"There is only one other thing I would rather not do," said Ranald, in a grave voice, "and that is refuse Colonel Thorp the information he is entitled to from us."
"Sir!" exclaimed Mr. St. Clair, "this is outrageous, and I demand an apology or your resignation!"
"Colonel Thorp," announced a clerk, opening the door.
"Tell Colonel Thorp I cannot--ah, Colonel Thorp, I am glad to see you. Will you step this way?" opening the door leading to his own office.
The colonel, a tall, raw-boned, typical "Uncle Sam," even to the chin whisker and quid of tobacco, had an eye like an eagle. He shot a keen glance at Mr. St. Clair and then at Ranald.
"Yes," he said, helping himself to a chair, "this here's all right. This is your manager, eh?"
"Mr. Macdonald," said Mr. St. Clair, introducing him.
"How do you do? Heard about you some," said the colonel, shaking hands with him. "Quite a knocker, I believe. Well, you rather look like it. Used to do some myself. Been up north, so the boss says. Good country, eh?"
"Fine sporting country, Colonel," interrupted St. Clair. "The game, Mr. Macdonald says, come right into your tent and bed to be shot."
"Do, eh?" The colonel's eagle eye lighted up. "Now, what sort of game?"
"Almost every kind, Colonel," replied Ranald.
"Don't say! Used to do a little myself. Moose?"
"Yes, I saw a number of moose and any amount of other deer and, of course, plenty of bear."
"Don't say! How'd you come to leave them? Couldn't have done it myself, by the great Sam! Open timber?"
"Well," replied Ranald, slowly, "on the east of the Bass River--"
"All that north country, Colonel," said Mr. St. Clair, "is pretty much the same, I imagine; a little of all kinds."
"Much water, streams, and such?"
"Yes, on the west side of the Bass there is plenty of water, a number of small streams and lakes, but--"
"Oh, all through that north country, Colonel, you are safe in having a canoe in your outfit," said Mr. St. Clair, again interrupting Ranald.
"Lots of water, eh? Just like Maine, ha, ha!" The colonel's quiet chuckle was good to hear.
"Reminds me"--here he put his hand into his inside pocket and pulled out a flask, "excuse the glass," he said, offering it to Mr. St. Clair, who took a slight sip and handed it back.
"Have a little refreshment," said the colonel, offering it to Ranald.
"I never take it, thank you."
"Don't? Say, by the great Sam, how'd you get through all that wet country? Wall, it will not hurt you to leave it alone," solemnly winking at St. Clair, and taking a long pull himself. "Good for the breath," he continued, putting the flask in his pocket. "Now, about those limits of mine, the boss here has been telling you about our deal?"
"A little," said Ranald.
"We've hardly had time to look into anything yet," said Mr. St. Clair; "but if you will step into my office, Colonel, I have the papers and maps there." Mr. St. Clair's tone was anxious. Once more the colonel shot a glance at him.
"You have been on the spot, I judge," he said to Ranald, rising and following Mr. St. Clair.
"Yes, over it all."
"Wall, come along, you're the map we want, eh? Maps are chiefly for purposes of deception, I have found, ha, ha! and there ain't none of 'em right," and he held the door for Ranald to enter.
Mr. St. Clair was evidently annoyed. Unfolding a map he laid it out on the table. "This is the place, I believe," he said, putting his finger down upon the map.
"Ain't surveyed, I judge," said the colonel to Ranald.
"No, only in part; the old Salter lines are there, but I had to go away beyond these."
"Warn't 'fraid of gettin' lost, eh? Ha, ha! Wall show us your route."
Ranald put his finger on the map, and said: "I struck the Bass River about here, and using that as a base, first explored the whole west side, for, I should say, about ten miles back from the river."
"Don't say! How'd you grub? Game mostly?"
"Well, we carried some pork and Hudson Bay hard tack and tea, and of course, we could get all the fish and game we wanted."
"Lots of game, eh? Small and big?" The colonel was evidently much interested in this part of Ranald's story. "By the great Sam, must go up there!"
"It would do you all the good in the world, Colonel," said Mr. St. Clair, heartily. "You must really go up with your men and help them lay out the ground, you know."
"That's so! Now if you were lumbering in there, how'd you get the timber out?"
"Down the Bass River to Lake Nipissing," said Ranald, pointing out the route.
"Yes, but how'd you get it to the Bass? These limits, I understand, lie on both sides of the Bass, don't they?"
"And the Bass cuts through it the short way?"
"Wall, does that mean six or eight or ten miles of a haul?"
"On the west side," replied Ranald, "no. There are a number of small streams and lakes which you could utilize."
"And on the east side?"
"You see, Colonel," broke in Mr. St. Clair, "that whole country is one net-work of water-ways. Notice the map here; and there are always a number of lakes not marked."
"That is quite true," said Ranald, "as a rule; but on the east side--"
"Oh, of course," said Mr. St. Clair, hastily, "you will find great differences in different parts of the country."
Mr. St. Clair folded up the map and threw it on the table.
"Let's see," said the colonel, taking up the map again. "Now how about the camps, Mr. Macdonald, where do you locate them?"
"I have a rough draught here in which the bases for camps are indicated," said Ranald, ignoring the imploring and angry looks of his chief.
"Let's have a look at 'em," said the colonel.
"Oh, you haven't shown me this," said Mr. St. Clair, taking the draught from Ranald.
"No, sir, you have not seen my final report."
"No, not yet, of course. We have hardly had time yet, Colonel, but Mr. Macdonald will make a copy of this for you and send it in a day or two," replied Mr. St. Clair, folding up the sketch, nervously, and placing it on his desk. The colonel quietly picked up the sketch and opened it out.
"You have got that last report of yours, I suppose," he said, with a swift glance at Mr. St. Clair. That gentleman's face was pallid and damp; his whole fortune hung on Ranald's reply. It was to him a moment of agony.
Ranald glanced at his face, and paused. Then drawing his lips a little tighter, he said: "Colonel Thorp, my final report has not yet been handed in. Mr. St. Clair has not seen it. In my judgment--" here Mr. St. Clair leaned his hand hard upon his desk-- "you are getting full value for your money, but I would suggest that you go yourself or send your inspector to explore the limits carefully before you complete the deal."
Colonel Thorp, who had been carefully scanning the sketch in his hand, suddenly turned and looked Ranald steadily in the eye. "These marks on the west side mean camps?"
"There are very few on the east side?"
"There are very few; the east side is inferior to the west."
"Yes, much inferior."
"But in your opinion the limit is worth the figure?"
"I would undertake to make money out of it; it is good value."
The colonel chewed hard for a minute, then turning to Mr. St. Clair, he said: "Wall, Mr. St. Clair, I'll give you one hundred thousand for your limit; but by the great Sam, I'd give twice the sum for your manager, if he's for sale! He's a man!" The emphasis on the he was ever so slight, but it was enough. Mr. St. Clair bowed, and sinking down into his chair, busied himself with his papers.
"Wall," said the colonel, "that's settled; and that reminds me," he added, pulling out his flask, "good luck to the Bass River Limits!"
He handed the flask to Mr. St. Clair, who eagerly seized it and took a long drink.
"Goes good sometimes," said the colonel, innocently. "Wall, here's lookin' at you," he continued, bowing toward Ranald; "and by the great Sam, you suit me well! If you ever feel like a change of air, indicate the same to Colonel Thorp."
"Ah, Colonel," said Mr. St. Clair, who had recovered his easy, pleasant manner, "we can sell limits but not men."
"No, by the great Sammy," replied the colonel, using the more emphatic form of his oath, "ner buy 'em! Wall," he added, "when you have the papers ready, let me know. Good day!"
"Very good, Colonel, good by, good by!"
The colonel did not notice Mr. St. Clair's offered hand, but nodding to Ranald, sauntered out of the office, leaving the two men alone. For a few moments Mr. St. Clair turned over his papers in silence. His face was flushed and smiling.
"Well, that is a most happy deliverance, Ranald," he said, rubbing his hands. "But what is the matter? You are not well."
White to the lips, Ranald stood looking at his chief with a resolved face.
"Mr. St. Clair, I wish to offer you my resignation as manager."
"Nonsense, Ranald, we will say no more about that. I was a little hasty. I hope the change I spoke of will go into immediate effect."
"I must beg to decline." The words came slowly, sternly from Ranald's white lips.
"And why, pray?"
"I have little doubt you can discover the reason, Mr. St. Clair. A few moments ago, for honorable dealing, you would have dismissed me. It is impossible that I should remain in your employ."
"Mr. Macdonald, are you serious in this? Do you know what you are doing? Do you know what you are saying?" Mr. St. Clair rose and faced his manager.
"Only too well," said Ranald, with lips that began to quiver, "and all the more because of what I must say further. Mr. St. Clair, I love your daughter. I have loved her for seven years. It is my one desire in life to gain her for my wife."
Mr. St. Clair gazed at him in utter astonishment.
"And in the same breath," he said at length, "you insult me and ask my permission."
"It is vain to ask your permission, I fear, but it is right that you should know my desire and my purpose."
"My unalterable purpose."
"You take my daughter out of my house in--in spite of my teeth?" Mr. St. Clair could hardly find words.
"She will come with me," said Ranald, a little proudly.
"And may I ask how you know? Have you spoken to my daughter?"
"I have not spoken to her openly." The blood rose in his dark face. "But I believe she loves me."
"Well, Mr. Macdonald, your confidence is only paralleled by your prodigious insolence."
"I hope not," said Ranald, lowering his head from its proud pose. "I have no desire to be insolent."
Once more Mr. St. Clair looked at him in silence. Then slowly and with quiet emphasis, he said: "Mr. Macdonald, you are a determined man, but as God lives, this purpose of yours you will never carry out. I know my daughter, I think, better than you know her, and I tell you," here a slight smile of confidence played for a moment on his face, "she will never be your wife."
Ranald bowed his head.
"It shall be as she wills," he said, in a grave, almost sad, voice. "She shall decide," and he passed into his office.
All day long Ranald toiled at his desk, leaving himself no time for thought. In the late afternoon Harry came in on his way home.
"Thanks, old chap," said Ranald, looking up from his work; "sha'n't be able to come to-night, I am sorry to say."
"Not come?" cried Harry.
"No, it is impossible."
"What rot, and Maimie has waited ten days for you. Come along!"
"It is quite impossible, Harry," said Ranald, "and I want you to take this note to Maimie. The note will explain to her."
"But, Ranald, this is--"
"And, Harry, I want to tell you that this is my last day here."
Harry gazed at him speechless.
"Mr. St. Clair and I have had a difference that can never be made right, and to-night I leave the office for good."
"Leave the office for good? Going to leave us? What the deuce can the office do without you? And what does it all mean? Come, Ranald, don't be such a confounded sphynx! Why do you talk such rubbish?"
"It is true," said Ranald, "though I can hardly realize it myself; it is absolutely and finally settled; and I say, old man, don't make it harder for me. You don't know what it means to me to leave this place, and--you, and--all!" In spite of his splendid nerve Ranald's voice shook a little. Harry gazed at him in amazement.
"I will give your note to Maimie," he said, "but you will be back here if I know myself. I'll see father about this."
"Now, Harry," said Ranald, rising and putting his hand on his shoulder, "you are not going to mix up in this at all; and for my sake, old chap, don't make any row at home. Promise me," said Ranald again holding him fast.
"Well, I promise," said Harry, reluctantly, "but I'll be hanged if I understand it at all; and I tell you this, that if you don't come back here, neither shall I."
"Now you are talking rot, Harry," said Ranald, and sat down again to his desk. Harry went out in a state of dazed astonishment. Alone Ranald sat in his office writing steadily except that now and then he paused to let a smile flutter across his stern, set face, as a gleam of sunshine over a rugged rock on a cloudy day. He was listening to his heart, whose every beat kept singing the refrain, "I love her, I love her; she will come to me!"
At that very moment Maimie was showing her Aunt Murray her London dresses and finery, and recounting her triumphs in that land of social glory.
"How lovely, how wonderfully lovely they are," said Mrs. Murray, touching the beautiful fabrics with fond fingers; "and I am sure they will suit you well, my dear. Have you worn most of them?"
"No, not all. This one I wore the evening I went with the Lord Archers to the Heathcote's ball. Lord Heathcote, you know, is an uncle of Captain De Lacy."
"Was Captain De Lacy there?" inquired Mrs. Murray.
"Yes, indeed," cried Maimie, "and we had a lovely time!" either the memory of that evening brought the warm blushes to her face, or it may be the thought of what she was about to tell her aunt; "and Captain De Lacy is coming to-morrow."
"Yes, he has written to Aunt Frank, and to papa as well."
Mrs. Murray sat silent, apparently not knowing what to say, and Maimie stood with the dress in her hands waiting for her aunt to speak. At length Mrs. Murray said: "You knew Captain De Lacy before, I think."
"Oh, I have known him for a long time, and he's just splendid, auntie, and he's coming to--" Maimie paused, but her face told her secret.
"Do you mean he is going to speak to your father about you, Maimie?" Maimie nodded. "And are you glad?"
"He's very handsome, auntie, and very nice, and he's awfully well connected, and that sort of thing, and when Lord Heathcote dies he has a good chance of the estates and the title."
"Do you love him, Maimie?" asked her aunt, quietly.
Maimie dropped the dress, and sitting down upon a low stool, turned her face from her aunt, and looked out of the window.
"Oh, I suppose so, auntie," she said. "He's very nice and gentlemanly and I like to be with him--"
"But, Maimie, dear, are you not sure that you love him?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Maimie, petulantly. "Are you not pleased, auntie?"
"Well, I confess I am surprised. I do not know Captain De Lacy, and besides I thought it was--I thought you--" Mrs. Murray paused, while Maimie's face grew hot with fiery blushes, but before she could reply they heard Harry's step on the stairs, and in a moment he burst into the room.
"Ranald isn't coming!" he exclaimed. "Here's a note for you, Maimie. But what the--but what he means," said Harry, checking himself, "I can't make out."
"Not coming?" cried Maimie, the flush fading from her face. "What can he mean?" She opened the note, and as she read the blood rushed quickly into her face again, and as quickly fled, leaving her pale and trembling.
"Well, what does he say?" inquired Harry, bluntly.
"He says it is impossible for him to come tonight," said Maimie, putting the note into her bosom.
"Huh!" grunted Harry, and flung out of the room.
Immediately Maimie pulled out the note.
"Oh, auntie," she cried, "I am so miserable; Ranald is not coming and he says--there read it." She hurriedly thrust the note into Mrs. Murray's hands, and Mrs. Murray, opening it, read:
MY DEAR MAIMIE: It is impossible for me to go to you tonight. Your father and I have had a difference so serious that I can never enter his house again, but I am writing now to tell you what I meant to tell you to-night. I love you, Maimie. I love you with all my heart and soul. I have loved you since the night I pulled you from the fire.
"Maimie," said Mrs. Murray, handing her back the note, "I do not think you ought to give me this. That is too sacred for any eyes but your own."
"Oh, I know, auntie, but what can I do? I am so sorry for Ranald! What shall I do, auntie?"
"My dear child, in this neither I nor any one can advise you. You must be true to yourself."
"Oh, I wish I knew what to do!" cried Maimie. "He wants me to tell him--" Maimie paused, her face once more covered with blushes, "and I do not know what to say!"
"What does your heart say, Maimie?" said Mrs. Murray, quietly.
"Oh, auntie, I am so miserable!"
"But, Maimie," continued her aunt, "in this matter, as I said before, you must be true to yourself. Do you love Ranald?"
"Oh, auntie, I cannot tell," cried Maimie, putting her face in her hands.
"If Ranald were De Lacy would you love him?"
"Oh yes, yes, how happy I would be!"
Then Mrs. Murray rose. "Maimie, dear," she said, and her voice was very gentle but very firm, "let me speak to you for your dear mother's sake. Do not deceive yourself. Do not give your life for anything but love. Ranald is a noble man and he will be a great man some day, and I love him as my own son, but I would not have you give yourself to him unless you truly loved him." She did not mention De Lacy's name nor utter a word in comparison of the two, but listening to her voice, Maimie knew only too well whither her love had gone.
"Oh, auntie," she cried, "I cannot bear it!"
"Yes, Maimie dear, you can bear to do the right, for there is One in whose strength we can do all things."
Before Maimie could reply her Aunt Frances came in.
"It is dinner-time," she announced, "and your father has just come in, Maimie, and we must have dinner over at once."
Maimie rose, and going to the glass, smoothed back her hair. Her Aunt Frances glanced at her face and then at Mrs. Murray, and as if fearing Maimie's reply, went on hurriedly, "You must look your very best to-night, and even better to-morrow," she said, smiling, significantly. She came and put her hands on Maimie's shoulders, and kissing her, said: "Have you told your Aunt Murray who is coming to-morrow? I am sure I'm very thankful, my dear, you will be very happy. It is an excellent match. Half the girls in town will be wild with envy. He has written a very manly letter to your father, and I am sure he is a noble fellow, and he has excellent prospects. But we must hurry down to dinner," she said, turning to Mrs. Murray, who with a look of sadness on her pale face, left the room without a word.
"Ranald is not coming," said Maimie, when her Aunt Murray had gone.
"Indeed, from what your father says," cried Aunt Frank, indignantly, "I do not very well see how he could. He has been most impertinent."
"You are not to say that, Aunt Frank," cried Maimie. "Ranald could not be impertinent, and I will not hear it." Her tone was so haughty and fierce that Aunt Frank thought it wiser to pursue this subject no further.
"Well," she said, as she turned to leave the room, "I'm very glad he has the grace to keep away tonight. He has always struck me as a young man of some presumption."
When the door closed upon her Maimie tore the note from her bosom and pressed it again and again to her lips: "Oh, Ranald, Ranald," she cried, "I love you! I love you! Oh, why can it not be? Oh, I cannot--I cannot give him up!" She threw herself upon her knees and laid her face in the bed. In a few minutes there came a tap at the door, and her Aunt Frances's voice was heard, "Maimie, your father has gone down; we must not delay." The tone was incisive and matter-of-fact. It said to Maimie, "Now let's have no nonsense. Be a sensible woman of the world." Maimie rose from her knees. Hastily removing all traces of tears from her face, and glancing in the glass, she touched the little ringlets into place and went down to dinner.
It was a depressing meal. Mr. St. Clair was irritable; Harry perplexed and sullen; Maimie nervously talkative. Mrs. Murray was heroically holding herself in command, but the look of pain in her eyes and the pathetic tremor on her lips belied the brave smiles and cheerful words with which she seconded Aunt Frank.
After dinner the company separated, for there were still preparations to make for the evening. As Mrs. Murray was going to her room, she met Harry in the hall with his hat on.
"Where are you going, Harry?"
"Anywhere," he growled, fiercely, "to get out of this damnable hypocrisy! Pardon me, Aunt Murray, I can't help it, it is damnable, and a whole lot of them are in it!"
Then Mrs. Murray came, and laying her hand on his arm, said: "Don't go, Harry; don't leave me; I want some one; come upstairs."
Harry stood looking at the sweet face, trying to smile so bravely in spite of the tremulous lips.
"You are a dear, brave little woman," he said, hanging up his hat, "and I'll be hanged if I don't stay by you. Come along upstairs." He stooped, and lifting her in his arms in spite of her laughing protests, carried her upstairs to her room. When they came down to the party they both looked braver and stronger.
The party was a great success. The appointments were perfect; the music the best that could be had, and Maimie more beautiful than ever. In some mysterious way, known only to Aunt Frank, the rumor of Maimie's approaching engagement got about among the guests and produced an undertone of excitement to the evenings gayety. Maimie was too excited to be quite natural, but she had never appeared more brilliant and happy, and surely she had every cause. She had achieved a dizzy summit of social success that made her at once the subject of her friends' congratulations and her rivals' secret envy, and which was the more delightful it would be hard to say. Truly, she was a fortunate girl, but still the night was long, and she was tired of it all before it was over. The room seemed empty, and often her heart gave a leap as her eyes fell upon some form that appeared more handsome and striking than others near, but only to sink again in disappointment when a second glance told her that it was only some ordinary man. Kate, too, kept aloof in a very unpleasant way, and Harry, devoting himself to Kate, had not done his duty. But in spite of everything the party had been a great success, and when it was over Maimie went straight to bed to sleep. She knew that Ranald would be awaiting the answer to his note, but she could not bring herself to face what she knew would be an ordeal that might murder sleep for her, and sleep she must have, for she must be her best to-morrow. It would have been better for all involved had she written her answer that night; otherwise Ranald would not have been standing at her door in the early afternoon asking to see her. It was Aunt Frances who came down to the drawing-room. As Ranald stood up and bowed, she adjusted her pince-nez upon her aristocratic nose, and viewed him.
"You are wishing to see Miss St. Clair," she said, in her very chilliest tone.
"I asked to see Maimie," said Ranald, looking at her with cool, steady eyes.
"I must say, Mr. Macdonald, that after your conduct to my brother yesterday, I am surprised you should have the assurance to enter his house."
"I would prefer not discussing office matters with you," said Ranald, politely, and with a suspicion of a smile. "I have come to see Maimie."
"That, I am glad to say, is impossible, for she is at present out with Captain De Lacy who has just arrived from the East to--see-- to--in short, on a very special errand."
For a moment Ranald stood without reply.
"She is out, you say?" he answered at length.
"She is out with Captain De Lacy." He caught the touch of triumph in her voice.
"Will she be back soon?" inquired Ranald, looking baffled.
"Of course one cannot tell in such a case," answered Miss St. Clair, "but I should think not." Miss St. Clair was enjoying herself. It did her good to see this insolent, square-jawed young man standing helpless before her.
"It is important that I should see her," said Ranald, after a few moments' thought. "I shall wait." Had Miss St. Clair known him better she would have noticed with some concern the slow fires kindling in his eyes. As it was she became indignant.
"That, Mr. Macdonald, you shall not; and allow me to say frankly that your boldness--your insolence--I may say, is beyond all bounds."
"Insolence, and when?" Ranald was very quiet.
"You come to the house of your employer, whom you have insulted, and demand to see his daughter."
"I have a right to see her."
"Right? What right have you, pray?"
Then Ranald stood up and looked Miss St. Clair full in the face with eyes fairly alight.
"Miss St. Clair, have you ever known what it is to love with all your soul and heart?" Miss St. Clair gasped. "Because if not, you will not understand me; if you have you will know why I must see Maimie. It is seven years now since I began to love her. I remember the spot in the woods; I see the big tree there behind her and the rising ground stretching away to the right. I see the place where I pulled her out of the fire. Every morning since that time I have waked with the thought of her; every night my eyes have closed with a vision of her before me. It is for her I have lived and worked. I tell you she is mine! I love her! I love her, and she loves me. I know it." His words came low, fierce, and swift.
Miss St. Clair stood breathless. What a man he looked and how handsome he was!
With but a moment's pause Ranald went on, but his voice took a gentler tone. "Miss St. Clair, do you understand me? Yes, I know you do." The blood came flowing suddenly to her thin cheeks. "You say she is out with Captain De Lacy, and you mean me to think that she is to give herself to him. He loves her, I know, but I say she is mine! Her eyes have told me that. She is mine, I tell you, and no man living will take her from me." The fire that always slumbered in his eyes was now blazing in full fury. The great passion of his life was raging through his soul, vibrating in his voice, and glowing in his dark face. Miss St. Clair sat silent, and then motioned him to a seat.
"Mr. Macdonald," she said, with grave courtesy, "you are too late, I fear. I did not realize--Maimie will never be yours. I know my niece." At the sad earnestness of her voice, Ranald's face began to grow pale.
"I will wait for her," he said, quietly.
"I beg you will not."
"I will wait," he repeated, with lips tight pressed.
"It is vain, Mr. Macdonald, I assure you. Spare yourself and her. I know what--I could have--" Her voice grew husky.
"I will wait," once more replied Ranald, the lines of his face growing tense.
Miss St. Clair rose and gave him her hand. "I will send a friend to you, and I beg you to excuse me," Ranald bowed gravely, "and to forgive me," and she left the room. Ranald heard her pass through the hall and up the stairs and then a door closed behind her. Before he had time to gather his thoughts together he heard a voice outside that made his heart stand still. Then the front door opened quickly and Maimie and De Lacy stood in the hall. She was gayly talking. Ranald rose and stood with his back to the door. Before him was a large mirror which reflected the hall through the open door. He stood waiting for them to enter.
"Hang up your hat, Captain De Lacy, then go in and find a chair while I run upstairs," cried Maimie, gayly. "You must learn your way about here now."
"No," said De Lacy, in a low, distinct voice. "I can wait no longer, Maimie."
She looked at him a moment as if in fear.
"Come," he said, holding out his hands to her. "There was no chance in the park, and I can wait no longer." Slowly she came near. "My darling, my sweetheart," he said, in a low voice full of intense passion. Then, while she lay in his arms, he kissed her on the lips twice. Ranald stood gazing in the mirror as if fascinated. As their lips met a low groan burst from him. He faced about, and with a single step, stood in the doorway. Shriek after shriek echoed through the house as Maimie sprang from De Lacy's arms and shrank back to the wall.
"Great heavens," cried De Lacy, "why it's Macdonald! What the deuce do you mean coming in on people like that?"
"What is it, Maimie," cried her Aunt Frank, hurrying down stairs.
Then she saw Ranald standing in the doorway, with face bloodless, ghastly, livid. Quickly she went up to him, and said, in a voice trembling and not ungentle: "Oh, why did you wait, Mr. Macdonald; go away now, go away."
Ranald turned and looked at her with a curious uncomprehending gaze, and then said, "Yes, I will go away." He took a step toward Maimie, his eyes like lurid flames. She shrank from him, while De Lacy stepped in his path. With a sweep of his arm he brushed De Lacy aside, hurling him crashing against the wall, and stood before the shrinking girl.
"Good by, Maimie; forget that I loved you once."
The words came slowly from his pallid lips. For some moments he stood with his burning eyes fastened upon her face. Then he turned slowly from her and groped blindly for his hat. Miss St. Clair hurried toward him, found his hat, and putting it in his hand, said, in a broken voice, while tears poured down her cheeks: "Here it is; good by, good by."
He looked at her a moment as if in surprise, and then, with a smile of rare sweetness on his white lips, he said, "I thank you," and passed out, going feebly like a man who has got a death wound.