by John Charles Dent
A HALF-FORGOTTEN CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF AN UPPER CANADIAN
THE PLACE AND THE MAN.
Near the centre of one of the most flourishing of the western counties
of Ontario, and on the line of the Great Western branch of the Grand
Trunk Railway, stands a pleasant little town, which, for the purposes
of this narrative, may be called Millbrook. Not that its real name is
Millbrook, or any thing in the least similar thereto; but as this
story, so far as its main events are concerned, is strictly true, and
some of the actors in it are still living, it is perhaps desirable not
to be too precise in the matter of locality. The strange disappearance
of Mr. Savareen made a good deal of noise at the time, not only in the
neighborhood, but throughout Upper Canada. It was a nine days' wonder,
and was duly chronicled and commented upon by the leading provincial
newspapers of the period; but it has long since passed out of general
remembrance, and the chain of circumstances subsequently arising out of
the event have never been made known beyond the limited circle
immediately interested. The surviving members of that circle would
probably not thank me for once more dragging their names conspicuously
before the public gaze. I might certainly veil their personalities
under the thin disguise of initial letters, but to this mode of
relating a story I have always entertained a decided objection. The
chief object to be aimed at in story-telling is to hold the attention
of the reader, and, speaking for myself, I am free to confess that I
have seldom been able to feel any absorbing interest in characters who
figure merely as the M. or N. of the baptismal service. I shall
therefore assign fictitious names to persons and places, and I cannot
even pretend to mathematical exactness as to one or two minor details.
In reporting conversations, for instance, I do not profess to reproduce
the ipsissima verba of the speakers, but merely to give the
effect and purport of their discourses. I have, however, been at some
pains to be accurate, and I think I may justly claim that in all
essential particulars this story of Savareen's disappearance is as true
as any report of events which took place a good many years ago can
reasonably be expected to be.
First: As to the man. Who was he?
Well, that is easily told. He was the second son of a fairly well-to-do
English yeoman, and had been brought up to farming pursuits on the
paternal acres in Hertfordshire. He emigrated to Upper Canada in or
about the year 1851, and had not been many weeks in the colony before
he became the tenant of a small farm situated in the township of
Westchester, three miles to the north of Millbrook. At that time he
must have been about twenty-five or twenty-six years of age. So far as
could be judged by those who came most frequently into personal
relations with him, he had no very marked individuality to distinguish
him from others of his class and station in life. He was simply a young
English farmer who had migrated to Canada with a view to improving his
condition and prospects.
In appearance he was decidedly prepossessing. He stood five feet eleven
inches in his stockings; was broad of shoulder, strong of arm, and well
set up about the limbs. His complexion was fair and his hair had a
decided inclination to curl. He was proficient in most athletics; could
box and shoot, and if put upon his mettle, could leap bodily over a
five-barred gate. He was fond of good living, and could always be
depended upon to do full justice to a well-provided dinner. It cannot
be denied that he occasionally drank more than was absolutely necessary
to quench a normal thirst, but he was as steady as could be expected of
any man who has from his earliest boyhood been accustomed to drink beer
as an ordinary beverage, and has always had the run of the buttery
hatch. He liked a good horse, and could ride anything that went on four
legs. He also had a weakness for dogs, and usually had one or two of
those animals dangling near his heels whenever he stirred out of doors.
Men and things in this country were regarded by him from a strictly
trans-Atlantic point of view, and he was frequently heard to remark
that this, that, and the other thing were "nothink to what we 'ave at
He was more or less learned in matters pertaining to agriculture, and
knew something about the current doctrines bearing on the rotation of
crops. His literary education, moreover, had not been wholly neglected.
He could read and write, and could cast up accounts which were not of
too involved and complicated a character. It cannot truly be said that
he had read Tom Jones, Roderick Random, and Pierce Egan's Life in London.
He regarded Cruikshank's illustrations to the last named work—more
particularly that one depicting Corinthian Tom "getting the best
of Charley,"—as far better worth looking at than the whole collection
in the National Gallery, a place where he had once whirled away a
tedious hour or two during a visit to town.
Then, he was not altogether ignorant concerning several notable events
in the history of his native land. That is to say, he knew that a
certain king named Charles the First had been beheaded a good many
years ago, and that a disreputable personage named Oliver Cromwell had
somehow been mixed up in the transaction. He understood that the
destinies of Great Britain were presided over by Queen Victoria and two
Houses of Parliament, called respectively the House of Lords and the
House of Commons; and he had a sort of recollection of having heard
that those august bodies were called Estates of the Realm. In his eyes,
everything English was ipso facto to be commended and admired,
whereas everything un-English was ipso facto to be proportionately
condemned and despised. Any misguided person who took a different view
of the matter was to be treated as one who had denied the faith, and
was worse than an infidel.
I have said that his appearance was prepossessing, and so it was in the
ordinary course of things, though he had a broad scar on his left
cheek, which, on the rare occasions when he was angry, asserted itself
somewhat conspicuously, and imparted, for the nonce, a sinister
expression to his countenance. This disfigurement, as I have heard, had
been received by him some years before his arrival in Canada. During a
visit to one of the market towns in the neighborhood of his home, he
had casually dropped into a gymnasium, and engaged in a fencing bout
with a friend who accompanied him. Neither of the contestants had ever
handled a foil before, and they were of course unskilled in the use of
such dangerous playthings. During the contest the button had slipped
from his opponent's weapon, just as the latter was making a vigorous
lunge. As a consequence Savareen's cheek had been laid open by a wound
which left its permanent impress upon him. He himself was in the habit
of jocularly alluding to this disfigurement as his "bar sinister."
For the rest, he was stubborn as a mule about trifles which did not in
the least concern him, but as regarded the affairs of every-day life he
was on the whole pleasant and easy-going, more especially when nothing
occurred to put him out. When anything of the kind did occur, he
could certainly assume the attitude of an ugly customer, and on such
occasions the wound on his cheek put on a lurid hue which was not
pleasant to contemplate. His ordinary discourse mainly dealt with the
events of his everyday life. It was not intellectually stimulating, and
for the most part related to horses, dogs, and the crop prospects of
the season. In short, if you have ever lived in rural England, or if
you have been in the habit of frequenting English country towns on
market-days, you must have encountered scores of jolly young farmers
who, to all outward seeming, with the solitary exception of the
sinister scar, might pretty nearly have stood for his portrait.
Such was Reginald Bourchier Savareen, and if you have never come across
anybody possessing similar characteristics—always excepting the scar—
your experience of your fellow-creatures has been more limited than
might be expected from a reader of your age and manifest intelligence.
His farm—i.e., the farm rented by him—belonged to old Squire
Harrington, and lay in a pleasant valley on the western side of the
gravel road leading northward from Millbrook to Spotswood. The Squire
himself lived in the red brick mansion which peeped out from the clump
of maples a little further down on the opposite side of the road. The
country thereabouts was settled by a thrifty and prosperous race of
pioneers, and presented a most attractive appearance. Alternate
successions of hill and dale greeted the eye of the traveller as he
drove along the hard-packed highway, fifteen miles in length, which
formed the connecting link between the two towns above mentioned. The
land was carefully tilled, and the houses, generally speaking, were of
a better class than were to be found in most rural communities in Upper
Canada at that period. Savareen's own dwelling was unpretentious
enough, having been originally erected for one of the squire's "hired
men," but it was sufficient for his needs, as he had not married until
a little more than a year before the happening of the events to be
presently related, and his domestic establishment was small. His entire
household consisted of himself, his young wife, an infant in arms, a
man servant and a rustic maid of all work. In harvest time he, of
course, employed additional help, but the harvesters were for the most
part residents of the neighborhood, who found accommodation in their
own homes. The house was a small frame, oblong building, of the
conventional Canadian farm-house order of architecture, painted of a
drab color and standing a hundred yards or so from the main road. The
barn and stable stood a convenient distance to the rear. About midway
between house and barn was a deep well, worked with a windlass and
chain. During the preceding season a young orchard had been planted out
in the space intervening between the house and the road. Everything
about the place was kept in spick and span order. The tenant was fairly
successful in his farming operations, and appeared to be holding his
own with the world around him. He paid his rent promptly, and was on
excellent terms with his landlord. He was, in fact, rather popular with
his neighbors generally, and was regarded as a man with a fair future
About a quarter of a mile to the north of Savareen's abode was a
charming little hostelry, kept by a French Canadian named Jean Baptiste
Lapierre. It was one of the snuggest and cosiest of imaginable inns;
by no means the sort of wayside tavern commonly to be met with in
Western Canada in those times, or even in times much more recent. The
landlord had kept a high-class restaurant in Quebec in the old days
before the union of the Provinces, and piqued himself upon knowing what
was what. He was an excellent cook, and knew how to cater to the
appetites of more exacting epicures than he was likely to number among
his ordinary patrons in a rural community like that in which he had
piched his quarters. When occasion required, he could serve up a dinner
or supper at which Brillat Savarian himself would have had no excuse
for turning up his nose. It was seldom that any such exigeant demand as
this was made upon his skill, but even his ordinary fare was good
enough for any city sir or madam whom chance might send beneath his
roof, and such persons never failed to carry away with them pleasant
remembrances of the place.
The creaking sign which swayed in the breeze before the hospitable door
proclaimed it to be The Royal Oak, but it was commonly known throughout
the whole of that country-side as Lapierre's. The excellence of its
larder was proverbial, insomuch that professional men and others used
frequently to drive out from town expressly to dine or sup there. Once
a week or so—usually on Saturday nights—a few of the choice spirits
thereabouts used to meet in the cosy parlor and hold a decorous sort of
free-and-easy, winding up with supper at eleven o'clock. On these
occasions, as a matter of course, the liquor flowed with considerable
freedom, and the guests had a convivial time of it; but there was
nothing in the shape of wild revelry—nothing to bring reproach upon
the good name of the house. Jean Baptiste had too much regard for his
well-earned reputation to permit these meetings to degenerate into mere
orgies. He showed due respect for the sanctity of the Sabbath, and took
care to make the house clear of company before the stroke of midnight.
By such means he not only kept his guests from indulging in riotous
excesses, but secured their respect for himself and his establishment.
Savareen was a pretty regular attendant at these convivial gatherings,
and was indeed a not infrequent visitor at other times. He always met
with a warm welcome, for he could sing a good song, and paid his score
with commendable regularity. His Saturday nights' potations did not
interfere with his timely appearance on Sunday morning in his pew in
the little church which stood on the hill a short distance above
Lapierre's. His wife usually sat by his side, and accompanied him to
and fro. Everything seemed to indicate that the couple lived happily
together, and that they were mutually blessed in their domestic
relations. With regard to Mrs. Savareen, the only thing necessary to
be mentioned about her at present is that she was the daughter of a
carpenter and builder resident in Millbrook.
There was a good deal of travel on the Millbrook and Spotswood road,
more especially in the autumn, when the Dutch farmers from the
settlements up north used to come down in formidable array, for the
purpose of supplying themselves with fruit to make cider and
"applesass" for the winter. The great apple-producing district of the
Province begins in the townships lying a few miles to the south of
Westchester, and the road between Millbrook and Spotswood was, and is,
the most direct route thither from the Dutch settlements. The garb and
other appointments of the stalwart Canadian Teuton of those days were
such as to make him easily distinguishable from his Celtic or Saxon
neighbor. He usually wore a long, heavy, coat of coarse cloth, reaching
down to his heels. His head was surmounted by a felt hat with a brim
wide enough to have served, at a pinch, for the tent of a side-show.
His wagon was a great lumbering affair, constructed, like himself,
after an ante-diluvian pattern, and pretty nearly capacious enough for
a first-rate man-of-war. In late September and early October it was no
unprecedented thing to see as many as thirty or forty of these
ponderous vehicles moving southward, one at the tail of the other, in a
continuous string. They came down empty, and returned a day or two
afterwards laden with the products of the southern orchards. On the
return journey the wagons were full to overflowing. Not so the drivers,
who were an exceedingly temperate and abstemious people, too
parsimonious to leave much of their specie at the Royal Oak. It was
doubtless for this reason that mine host Lapierre regarded, and was
accustomed to speak of them with a good deal of easy contempt, not to
say aversion. They brought little or no grist to his mill, and he was
fond of proclaiming that he did not keep a hotel for the accommodation
of such canaille. The emphasis placed by him on this last word
was something quite refreshing to hear.
The road all the way from Millbrook to Spotswood, corresponds to the
mathematical definition of a straight line. It forms the third
concession of the township, and there is not a curve in it anywhere.
The concessions number from west to east, and the sidelines, running at
right angles to them are exactly two miles apart. At the northwestern
angle formed by the intersection of the gravel road with the first side
line north of Millbrook stood a little toll-gate, kept, at the period
of the story, by one Jonathan Perry. Between the toll-gate and
Savareen's on the same side of the road were several other houses to
which no more particular reference is necessary. On the opposite side
of the highway, somewhat more than a hundred yards north of the
toll-gate, was the abode of a farmer named Mark Stolliver. Half a mile
further up was John Calder's house, which was the only one until you
came to Squire Harrington's. To the rear of the Squire's farm was a
huge morass about fifty acres in extent, where cranberries grew in
great abundance, from which circumstance it was known as Cranberry
Now you have the entire neighborhood before you, and if you will cast
your eye on the following rough plan you will have no difficulty in
taking in the scene at a single glance:—
[Illustration: map of the area described in preceding text]
A JOURNEY TO TOWN.
In the early spring of the year 1854 a letter reached Savareen from
his former home in Hertfordshire, containing intelligence of the sudden
death of his father. The old gentleman had been tolerably well off in
this world's gear, but he had left a numerous family behind him, so
that there was no great fortune in store for Reginald. The amount
bequeathed to him, however, was four hundred pounds sterling clear of
all deductions—a sum not to be despised, as it would go far toward
enabling him to buy the farm on which he lived, and would thus give a
material impetus to his fortunes. The executors lost no time in winding
up and distributing the estate, and during the second week in July a
letter arrived from their solicitors enclosing a draft on the Toronto
agency of the Bank of British North America for the specified sum.
Savareen made arrangements with the local bank at Millbank to collect
the proceeds, and thus save him the expense of a journey to Toronto.
Meanwhile he concluded a bargain with Squire Harrington for the
purchase of the farm. The price agreed upon was $3,500, half of which
was to be paid down upon the delivery of the deed, the balance being
secured by mortgage. The cash would be forthcoming at the bank not
later than the 18th of the month, and accordingly that was the date
fixed upon for the completion of the transaction. Lawyer Miller was
instructed to have the documents ready for execution at noon, when the
parties and their respective wives were to attend at his office in
The morning of Monday, the 17th, was wet and gave promise of a rainy
day. As there seemed to be no prospect of his being able to do any
outside work on the farm, Savareen thought he might as well ride into
town and ascertain if the money had arrived. He saddled his black mare,
and started for Millbrook—about ten in the forenoon. His two dogs
showed a manifest desire to accompany him, but he did not think fit to
gratify their desire and ordered them back. Before he had ridden far
the rain ceased, and the sun came out warm and bright, but he was in an
idle mood, and didn't think it worth while to turn back. It seems
probable indeed, that he had merely wanted an excuse for an idle day in
town; as there was no real necessity for such a journey. Upon reaching
the front street he stabled his mare at the Peacock Inn, which was his
usual house of call when in Millbrook. He next presented himself at the
bank, where he made enquiry about his draft. Yes, the funds were there
all right. The clerk, supposing that he wanted to draw the amount there
and then, counted the notes out for him, and requested him to sign the
receipt in the book kept for such purposes. Savareen then intimated
that he had merely called to enquire about the matter, and that he
wished to leave the money until next day. The clerk, who was out of
humor about some trifle or other, and who was, moreover, very busy that
morning, spoke up sharply, remarking that he had had more bother about
that draft than the transaction was worth. His irritable turn and
language nettled Savareen, who accordingly took the notes, signed the
receipt and left the bank, declaring that "that shop" should be
troubled by no further business of his. The clerk, as soon as he had
time to think over the matter, perceived that he had been rude, and
would have tendered an apology, but his customer had already shaken the
dust of the bank off his feet and taken his departure, so that there
was no present opportunity of accommodating the petty quarrel. As
events subsequently turned out it was destined never to be accommodated
in this world, for the two never met again on this side the grave.
Instead of returning home immediately as he ought to have done,
Savareen hung about the tavern all day, drinking more than was good for
his constitution, and regaling every boon companion he met with an
account of the incivility to which he had been subjected at the hands
of the bank clerk. Those to whom he told the story thought he attached
more importance to the affair than it deserved, and they noticed that
the scar on his cheek came out in its most lurid aspect. He dined at
the Peacock and afterwards indulged in sundry games of bagatelle and
ten-pins; but the stakes consisted merely of beer and cigars, and he
did not get rid of more than a few shillings in the course of the
afternoon. Between six and seven in the evening his landlady regaled
him with a cup of strong tea, after which he seemed none the worse for
his afternoon's relaxations. A few minutes before dusk he mounted his
mare and started on his way homeward.
The ominous clouds of the early morning had long since passed over. The
sun had shone brightly throughout the afternoon, and had gone down amid
a gorgeous blaze of splendour. The moon would not rise till nearly
nine, but the evening was delightfully calm and clear, and the
horseman's way home was as straight as an arrow, over one of the best
roads in the country.
At precisely eight o'clock in the evening of this identical Monday,
July 17th, 1854, old Jonathan Perry sat tranquilly smoking his pipe at
the door of the toll-gate two miles north of Millbrook.
The atmosphere was too warm to admit of the wearing of any great
display of apparel, and the old man sat hatless and coatless on a sort
of settle at the threshold. He was an inveterate old gossip, and was
acquainted with the business of everybody in the neighborhood. He knew
all about the bargain entered into between Savareen and Squire
Harrington, and how it was to be consummated on the following day.
Savareen, when riding townwards that morning, had informed him of the
ostensible purpose of his journey, and it now suddenly occurred to the
old man to wonder why the young farmer had not returned home.
While he sat there pondering, the first stroke of the town bell
proclaiming the hour was borne upon his ear. Before the ringing had
ceased, he caught the additional sound of a horse's hoofs rapidly
advancing up the road.
"Ah," said he to himself, "here he comes. I reckon his wife'll be apt
to give him fits for being so late."
In another moment the horseman drew up before him, but only to exchange
a word of greeting, as the gate was thrown wide open, and there was
nothing to bar his progress. The venerable gate-keeper had conjectured
right. It was Savareen on his black mare.
"Well, Jonathan, a nice evening," remarked the young farmer.
"Yes, Mr. Savareen—a lovely night. You've had a long day of it in
town. They'll be anxious about you at home. Did you find the money all
right, as you expected?"
"O, the money was there, right enough, and I've got it in my pocket. I
had some words with that conceited puppy, Shuttleworth, at the bank.
He's altogether too big for his place, and I can tell you he'll have
the handling of no more money of mine." And then, for about the
twentieth time within the last few hours, he recounted the particulars
of his interview with the bank clerk.
The old man expressed his entire concurrence in Savareen's estimate of
Shuttleworth's conduct. "I have to pay the gate-money into the bank on
the first of every month," he remarked, "and that young feller always
acts as if he felt too uppish to touch it. I wonder you didn't drop
"O, I wasn't likely to do that," was the reply—"but I gave him a bit
of my mind, and I told him it 'ud be a long time afore I darkened the
doors of his shop again. And so it will. I'd sooner keep my bit o'
money, when I have any, in the clock-case at home. There's never any
Jonathan responded by saying that, in so far as he knew, there hadn't
been a burglary for many a year.
"But all the same," he continued, "I shouldn't like to keep such a sum
as four hundred pound about me, even for a single night. No more I
shouldn't like to carry such a pot o' money home in the night time,
even if nobody knew as I had it on me. Ride you home, Mr. Savareen, and
hide it away in some safe place till to-morrow morning—that's
"And very good advice it is, Jonathan," was the response. "I'll act
upon it without more words. Good night!" And so saying, Savareen
continued his course homeward at a brisk trot.
The old man watched him as he sped away up the road, but could not keep
him in view more than half a minute or so, as by this time the light of
day had wholly departed. He lighted his pipe, which had gone out during
the conversation, and resumed his seat on the settle. Scarcely had he
done so ere he heard the clatter of horse's hoofs moving rapidly
towards the gate from the northward. "Why," said he to himself, "this
must be Savareen coming back again. What's the matter now, I wonder?"
But this time he was out in his conjecture. When the horseman reached
the gate, he proved to be not Savareen, but mine host Lapierre, mounted
on his fast-trotting nag, Count Frontenac—a name irreverently
abbreviated by the sportsmen of the district into "Fronty." The rider
drew up with a boisterous "Woa!" and reached out towards the gate-keeper
a five-cent piece by way of toll, saying as he did so:
"Vell, Mister Perry, how coes everytings wiss you?"
"O, good evening, Mr. Lapierre; I didn't know you till you spoke. My
eyesight's getting dimmer every day, I think. Bound for town?"
"Yes, I want to see what has cot Mr. Safareen. He went to town early
this morning to see about some money matters, and promised to pe pack
in a couple of hours, put he ain't pack yet. Mrs. Safareen cot so
uneasy apout him to-night, that she came up to my place and pegged me
to ride down and hunt him up. I suppose you saw him on his way down?"
"Saw him! On his way down! What are you talking about? Didn't you meet
him just now?"
"Why, not two minutes ago. He passed through here on his way home just
before you came up."
"How long pefore?"
"How long! Why, don't I tell you, not two minutes. He hadn't hardly got
out o' sight when I heerd your horse's feet on the stones, and thought
it was him a-coming back again. You must a met him this side o'
Then followed further explanations on the part of old Jonathan, who
recounted the conversation he had just had with Savareen.
Well, of course, the key to the situation was not hard to find.
Savareen had left the toll-gate and proceeded northward not more than
two or three minutes before Lapierre, riding southward along the same
road, had reached the same point. The two had not encountered each
other. Therefore, one of them had deviated from the road. There had
been no deviation on the part of Lapierre, so the deviator must
necessarily have been Savareen. But the space of time which had elapsed
was too brief to admit of the latter's having ridden more than a
hundred yards or thereabouts. The only outlet from the road within four
times that distance was the gateway leading into Stolliver's house. The
explanation, consequently, was simple enough. Savareen had called in at
Stollivers. Q. E. D.
Strange, though, that he had said nothing to old Jonathan about his
intention to call there. He had ridden off as though intent upon
getting home without delay, and hiding his money away in a safe place
for the night. And, come to think of it, it was hard to understand what
possible reason he could have for calling at Stolliver's. He had never
had any business or social relations of any kind with Stolliver, and in
fact the two had merely a nodding acquaintance. Still another strange
thing was that Savareen should have taken his horse inside the gate, as
there was a tying-post outside, and he could not have intended to make
any prolonged stay. However, there was no use raising difficult
problems, which could doubt less be solved by a moment's explanation.
It was absolutely certain that Savareen was at Stolliver's because he
could not possibly have avoided meeting Lapierre if he had not called
there. It was Lapierre's business to find him and take him home.
Accordingly the landlord of the Royal Oak turned his horse's head and
cantered back up the road till he reached the front of Stolliver's
Stolliver and his two boys were sitting out on the front fence, having
emerged from the house only a moment before. They had been working in
the fields until past sundown, and had just risen from a late supper.
Old Stolliver was in the habit of smoking a pipe every night after his
evening meal, and in pleasant weather he generally chose to smoke it
out of doors, as he was doing this evening, although the darkness had
fallen. Lapierre, as he drew rein, saw the three figures on the fence,
but could not in the darkness, distinguish one from, another.
"Is that Mister Stollifer?" he asked.
"Yes; who be you?" was the ungracious response, delivered in a gruff
tone of voice. Old Stolliver was a boorish, cross-grained customer, who
paid slight regard to the amenities, and did not show to advantage in
"Don't you know me? I am Mister Lapierre."
"O, Mr. Lapierre, eh? Been a warm day."
"Yes. Hass Mister Safareen gone?"
"Mister Safareen. Wass he not here shoost now?"
"Here? What fur?"
The landlord was by this time beginning to feel a little disgusted at
the man's boorish incivility. "Will you pe so coot as to tell me," he
asked, "if Mister Safareen hass peen here?"
"Not as I know of. Hain't seen him."
Lapierre was astounded. He explained the state of affairs to his
interlocuter, who received the communication with his wonted stolidity,
and proceeded to light his pipe, as much as to say that the affair was
none of his funeral.
"Well," he remarked, with exasperating coolness, "I guess you must 'a'
passed him on the road. We hain't been out here more'n a minute or two.
Nobody hain't passed since then."
This seemed incredible. Where, then, was Savareen? Had he sunk into the
bowels of the earth, or gone up, black mare and all, in a balloon? Of
course it was all nonsense about the landlord having passed him on the
road without seeing or hearing anything of him. But what other
explanation did the circumstances admit of? At any rate, there was
nothing for Lapierre to do but ride back to Savareen's house and see if
he had arrived there. Yes, one other thing might be done. He might
return to the toll gate and ascertain whether Jonathan Perry was
certain as to the identity of the man from whom he had parted a few
minutes before. So Count Frontenac's head was once more turned
southward. A short trot brought him again to the toll-house. The
gatekeeper was still sitting smoking at the door. A moment's conference
with him was sufficient to convince Lapierre that there could be no
question of mistaken identity. "Why," said Jonathan, "I know Mr.
Savareen as well as I know my right hand. And then, didn't he tell me
about his row with Shuttleworth, and that he had the four hundred
pounds in his pocket. Why, dark as it was, I noticed the scar on his
cheek when he was talking about it.—I say, Missus, look here," he
called in a louder tone, whereupon his wife presented herself at the
threshold. "Now," resumed the old man, "just tell Mr. Lapierre whether
you saw Mr. Savareen talking to me a few minutes since, and whether you
saw him ride off up the road just before Mr. Lapierre came down. Did
you, or did you not?"
Mrs. Perry's answer was decisive, and at the same time conclusive as to
the facts. She had not only seen Savareen sitting on his black mare at
the door, immediately after the town bell ceased ringing for eight
o'clock; but she had listened to the conversation between him and her
husband, and had heard pretty nearly every word. Lapierre cross
examined her, and found that her report of the interview exactly
corresponded with what he had already heard from old Jonathan. "Why,"
said she, "there is no more doubt of its being Mr. Savareen than there
is of that gate-post being there on the road-side. 'Very good advice it
is,' says he, 'and I'll act upon it without more words.' Then he said
'good night,' and off he went up the road. Depend upon it, Mr.
Lapierre, you've missed him somehow in the darkness, and he's safe and
sound at home by this time."
"Yes, yes, Mr. Lapierre, not a doubt on it," resumed old Jonathan,
"you've a passed him on the road athout seein' 'im. It was dark, and
you were both in a hurry. I've heerd o' lots o' stranger things nor
Lapierre couldn't see it. He knew well enough that it was no more
possible for him to pass a man on horseback on that narrow highway, on
a clear night, without seeing him—more especially when he was out for
the express purpose of finding that very man—than it was possible for
him to serve out un petit verre of French brandy in mistake for
a gill of Hollands. The facts, however, seemed to be wholly against
him, as he bade the old couple a despondent good-night and put Count
Frontenac to his mettle. He stayed not for brook—there was a
brook a short distance up the road—and he stopped not for stone, but
tore along at a break-neck pace as though he was riding for a wager. In
five minutes he reached Savareen's front gate.
Mrs. Savareen was waiting there, on the look-out for her husband. No,
of course he had not got home. She had neither seen nor heard anything
of him, and was by this time very uneasy. You may be sure that her
anxiety was not lessened when she heard the strange tale which Lapierre
had to tell her.
Even then, however, she did not give up the hope of her husband's
arrival sometime during the night. Lapierre promised to look in again
in an hour or two, and passed on to his own place, where he regaled the
little company he found there with the narrative of his evening's
exploits. Before bedtime the story was known all over the neighborhood.
ONE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.
Mrs. Savareen sat up waiting for her lord until long past midnight, but
her vigil was in vain. Lapierre, after closing up his inn for the
night, dropped in, according to his promise, to see if any news of the
absentee had arrived. Nothing further could be done in the way of
searching for the latter personage until daylight.
It was getting on pretty well towards morning when Mrs. Savareen sought
her couch, and when she got there her slumber was broken and disturbed.
She knew not what to think, but she was haunted by a dread that she
would never again see her husband alive.
Next morning, soon after daylight, the whole neighborhood was astir,
and the country round was carefully searched for any trace of the
missing man. Squire Harrington went down to town and made inquiries at
the bank, where he ascertained that the story told by Savareen to old
Jonathan Perry, as to his altercation with Shuttleworth, was
substantially correct. This effectually disposed of any possible theory
as to Jonathan and his wife having mistaken somebody else for Savareen.
Squire Harrington likewise learned all about the man's doings on the
previous afternoon, and was able to fix the time at which he had
started for home. He had ridden from the door of the Peacock at about a
quarter to eight. This would bring him to the toll-gate at eight
o'clock—the hour at which Perry professed to have seen and conversed
with him. There was no longer any room for doubt. That interview and
conversation had actually taken place at eight o'clock on the previous
evening, and Savareen had ridden northward from the gate within
five minutes afterwards. He could not have proceeded more than a
hundred—or, at the very outside, two hundred—yards further, or he must
inevitably have been encountered by Lapierre. How had he contrived to
vanish so suddenly out of existence? And it was not only the man, but
the horse, which had disappeared in this unaccountable manner. It
seemed improbable that two living substances of such bulk should pass
out of being and leave no trace behind them. They must literally have
melted into thin air.
No, they hadn't. At least the black mare hadn't, for she was discovered
by several members of the searching-party a little before noon. When
found, she was quietly cropping the damp herbage at the edge of the
cranberry swamp at the rear of Squire Harrington's farm. She was
wholly uninjured, and had evidently spent the night there. The bit had
been removed from her mouth, but the bridle hung intact round her neck.
The saddle, however, like its owner, had disappeared from her back.
Then the men began a systematic search in the interior of the swamp.
They soon came upon the saddle, which had apparently been deliberately
unbuckled, removed from off the mare, and deposited on a dry patch of
ground, near the edge of the morass. A little further in the interior
they came upon a man's coat, made of dark brown stuff. This garment was
identified by one of the party as belong to Savareen. It was wet and
besmirched with mud, and, in fact was lying half in and half out of a
little puddle of water when it was found. Then the searchers made sure
of finding the body.
But in this they were disappointed. They explored the recesses of the
swamp from end to end and side to side with the utmost thoroughness,
but found nothing further to reward their search. The ground was too
soft and marshy to retain any traces of footsteps, and the mare and
saddle furnished the only evidence that the object of their quest had
been in the neighborhood of the swamp—and of course this evidence was
of the most vague and inconclusive character.
Then the party proceeded in a body to the missing man's house. Here
another surprise awaited them. The coat was at once recognised by Mrs.
Savareen as belonging to her husband, but IT WAS NOT THE COAT WORN BY
HIM AT THE TIME OF HIS DISAPPEARANCE. Of this there was no doubt
whatever. In fact, he had not worn it for more than a week previously.
His wife distinctly remembered having folded and laid it away in the
top of a large trunk on the Saturday of the week before last, since
which time she had never set eyes on it. Here was a deepening of the
The search was kept up without intermission for several days, nearly
all of the farmers in the vicinity taking part in it, even to the
neglect of the harvest work which demanded their attention. Squire
Harrington was especially active, and left no stone unturned to unravel
the mystery. Lapierre gave up all his time to the search, and left the
Royal Oak to the care of its landlady. The local constabulary bestirred
themselves as they had never done before. Every place, likely and
unlikely, where a man's body might possibly lie concealed; every tract
of bush and woodland; every barn and out building; every hollow and
ditch; every field and fence corner, was explored with careful
minuteness. Even the wells of the district were peered into and
examined for traces of the thirteen stone of humanity which had so
unaccountably disappeared from off the face of the earth. Doctor Scott,
the local coroner, held himself in readiness to summon a coroner's jury
at the shortest notice. When all these measures proved unavailing, a
public meeting of the inhabitants was convened, and funds were
subscribed to still further prosecute the search. A reward of a hundred
pounds was offered for any information which should lead to the
discovery of the missing man, dead or alive, or, which should throw any
light upon his fate. Hand-bills proclaiming this reward, and describing
the man's personal appearance, were exhibited in every bar room and
other conspicuous place throughout Westchester and the adjacent
townships. Advertisements, setting forth the main facts, were inserted
in the principal newspapers of Toronto, Hamilton and London, as well as
in those of several of the nearest county towns.
All to no purpose. Days—weeks—months passed by, and furnished not the
shadow of a clue to the mysterious disappearance of Reginald Bourchier
Savareen on the night of Monday, the 17th of July, 1854.
For a long time subsequent to the night of the disappearance a more
puzzled community than the one settled along the Millbrook and
Spotswood road would have been hard to find in Upper Canada. At first
sight it seemed probable that the missing man had been murdered for his
money. On the afternoon of the day when he was last seen in Millbrook
the fact of his having four hundred pounds in bank bills in his
possession was known to a great many people, for, as already intimated,
he told the story of his dispute at the bank to pretty nearly everyone
with whom he came in contact during the subsequent portion of the day,
and he in every instance wound up his narration by proclaiming to all
whom it might concern that he had the notes in his pocket. But it was
difficult to fix upon any particular individual as being open to
suspicion. There had been no attempt on the part of any of his
associates on that afternoon to detain him in town, and his remaining
there until the evening had been entirely due to his own inclinations.
So far as was known, he had not been followed by any person after his
departure from the Peacock at 7.45. Anyone following would have had no
prospect of overtaking him unless mounted on a good horse, and must
perforce have passed through the toll-gate. According to the testimony
of Perry and his wife, nobody had passed through the gate in his wake,
nor for more than an hour after him. But—mystery of mysteries—where
had he managed to hide himself and his mare during the two or three
minutes which had elapsed between his departure from the gate and the
arrival there of Lapierre? And, if he had been murdered, what had
become of his body?
Had it been at all within the bounds of reason to suspect Stolliver,
suspicion would certainly have fallen upon that personage. But any idea
of the kind was altogether out of the question. Stolliver was a
boorish, uncompanionable fellow, but a more unlikely man to commit such
a serious crime could not have been found in the whole country side.
Again, he could not have had any conceivable motive for making away
with Savareen, as he had been working all day in the fields and knew
nothing about the four hundred pounds. Besides, a little quiet
investigation proved the thing to be an absolute impossibility. At the
time of Savareen's disappearance, Stolliver had been sitting at his own
table, in the company of his wife, his family, and a grown-up female
servant. He had sat down to table at about a quarter to eight, and had
not risen therefrom until several minutes after the town bell had
ceased to ring. On rising, he had gone out with his two boys—lads of
thirteen and fifteen years of age respectively—and had barely taken up
a position with them on the front fence when Lapierre came along and
questioned him, as related in a former chapter. So it was certainly not
worth while to pursue that branch of enquiry any farther.
The only other persons upon whom the shadow of suspicion could by any
possibility fall were Lapierre and Jonathan Perry. Well, so far as the
latter was concerned the idea was too absurd for serious consideration.
To begin with, Jonathan was seventy-six years of age, feeble and almost
decrepid. Then, he was a man of excellent character, and,
notwithstanding his humble station in life, was liked and respected by
all who knew him. Finally, he could not have done away with Savareen
without the knowledge and concurrence of his wife, a gentle, kindly old
soul, who found her best consolation between the covers of her bible,
and who would not have raised her finger against a worm. So that branch
of the enquiry might also be considered as closed.
As to Lapierre, the idea was at least as preposterous as either of the
others. The jovial landlord of the Royal Oak was on the whole about as
likely a man to commit robbery or murder as the bishop of the diocese.
He was of a cheery, open nature; was not greedy or grasping; had a
fairly prosperous business, and was tolerably well-to-do. On the night
of the 17th, he had undertaken to go down town and bring home the
absent man, but he had done so at the pressing request of the man's
wife, and out of pure kindness of heart. When setting out on his
mission he knew nothing about the altercation at the bank, and was
consequently ignorant that Savareen had any considerable sum of money
on his person. His first knowledge on these subjects had been
communicated to him by Perry, and before that time the man had
disappeared. It also counted for something that Savareen and he had
always been on the most friendly terms, and that Savareen was one of
his best customers. But, even if he had been the most bloodthirsty of
mankind, he had positively had no time to perpetrate a murder. The
two or three minutes elapsing between Savareen's departure from the
toll-gate and Lapierre's arrival there had been too brief to admit of
the latter's having meanwhile killed the former and made away with his
body; to say nothing of his having also made such a disposition of the
black mare as to enable it to be found in Cranberry Swamp on the
After a while people began to ask whether it was probable that any
murder at all had been committed. The finding of the coat was an
unfathomable mystery, but it really furnished no evidence one way or
the other. And if there had been a murder, how was it that no traces of
the body were discoverable? How was it that no cry or exclamation of
any kind had been heard by old Jonathan, sitting there at the door in
the open air on a still night? It was certain that his ears had been
wide open, and ready enough to take in whatever was stirring, for he
had heard the sound of Count Frontenac's hoofs as they came clattering
down the road.
Such questions as these were constantly in the mouths of the people of
that neighborhood for some days after the disappearance, but they met
with no satisfactory answer from any quarter, and as the time passed by
it began to be believed that no light would ever be thrown upon the
most mysterious occurrence that had ever taken place since that part of
the country had been first settled. One of the constables, discouraged
by repeated failures, ventured in all seriousness to express a
suspicion that Savareen had been bodily devoured by his mare. How else
could you account for no trace of him being visible anywhere?
By an unaccountable oversight, Shuttleworth had kept no memorandum of
the number of the notes paid over to Savareen, and it was thus
impossible to trace them.
"A WIDOW, HUSBANDLESS, SUBJECT TO FEARS."
The position of the missing man's wife was a particularly trying and
painful one—a position imperatively calling for the sympathy of the
community in which she lived. That sympathy was freely accorded to her,
but time alone could bring any thing like tranquillity to a mind
harrassed by such manifold anxieties as hers. After a lapse of a few
weeks Squire Harrington generously offered to take the farm off her
hands, but to this proposal she was for some time loath to assent. In
spite of her fears and misgivings, fitful gleams of hope that her
husband would return to her flitted across her mind. If he came back he
should find her at her post. Meanwhile the neighbors showed her much
kindness. They voluntarily formed an organisation of labor, and
harvested her crops, threshed them out and conveyed them to market for
her. Her brother, a young man of eighteen, came out from town and took
up his abode with her, so that she would not be left wholly desolate
among strangers. And so the summer and autumn glided by.
But this state of things could not last. The strange solitude of her
destiny preyed sorely upon her and when the first snows of winter
arrived, bringing with them no tidings of the absent one, the fortitude
of the bereaved woman broke down. She gave up the farm, and with her
little baby boy and such of her household belongings as she chose to
retain, went back to the home of her parents in Millbrook. She was a
few hundred dollars better off in this world's goods than she had been
when she had left that home about thirteen months before, but her
spirit was sadly bent, if not altogether broken, and the brightness
seemed to have utterly faded out of her life.
In process of time she became in some degree accustomed, if not
reconciled to her lot. But her situation was, to say the least,
anomalous. Her parents were, on the whole, kind and considerate, but
she was conscious of being, after a fashion, isolated from them and
from all the rest of the world. She felt, as one who was, in the
language of the proverb, neither maid, wife nor widow. She knew
not whether her child's father was living or dead. She was barely
twenty-three years of age, but she was not free to form a second
marriage, even if she had had any inclination for such a union, which,
to do her justice, she had not, for she cherished the memory of her
absent lord with fond affection, and persisted in believing that, even
if he were living, it was through no fault of his own that he remained
away from her. She lived a very quiet and secluded life. In spite of
her mother's importunities, she seldom stirred out of doors on week
days, and saw few visitors. She was a regular attendant at church
on Sundays, and sought to find relief from mental depression in the
consolations of religion. Her chief consolation, however, lay in her
child, upon whom she lavished all the tenderness of a soft and gentle
nature. She fondly sought to trace in the little fellow's bright
features some resemblance to the lineaments of him she had loved and
lost. To do this successfully required a rather strong effort of the
imagination, for, to tell the truth, the boy favored his mother's side
of the house, and was no more like his father than he was like the
twelve patriarchs. But a fond mother often lives in an ideal world
of her own creation, and can trace resemblances invisible to ordinary
mortals. So it was with this mother, who often declared that her boy
had a way of "looking out of his eyes," as she expressed it, which
forcibly brought back the memory of happy days which had forever passed
Of course Savareen's relatives in the old country received due notice
of his strange disappearance, and of the various circumstances
connected with that event. Mrs. Savareen had herself communicated the
facts, and had also sent over a copy of the Millbrook Sentinel,
containing a long and minute account of the affair. A letter arrived
from Herefordshire in due course, acknowledging the receipt of these
missives, and enquiring whether the lost had been found. Several
communications passed to and fro during the first few months, after
which, as there was really nothing further to write about, the
correspondence fell off; it being of course understood that should any
new facts turn up, they should be promptly made known.
The stars do not pause in their spheres to take note of the afflictions
of us mortals here below. To the bereaved woman it seemed unaccountable
that the succeeding months should come and go as formerly, and as
though nothing had occurred to take the saltness and savor out of her
young life. Ever and anon her slumbers were disturbed by weird dreams,
in which the lost one was presented before her in all sorts of
frightful situations. In these dreams which came to her in the silent
watches of the night, she never seemed to look upon her husband as
dead. He always seemed to be living, but surrounded by inextricable
complications involving great trouble and danger. She sometimes awoke
from these night visions with a loud cry which startled the household,
and proved how greatly her nerves had been shaken by the untoward
circumstances of her fate.
In the early spring of the ensuing year she sustained another painful
bereavement through the death of her mother. This event imparted an
additional element of sadness to her already cloudy existence; but it
was not without certain attendant compensations, as it rendered
necessary a more active course of life on her part, and so left her
less time to brood over her earlier sorrow. No Benvolio was needed to
tell us that
"One fire burns out another's burning:
One pain is lessened by another's anguish."
Most of us have at one time or another been forced to learn that hard
truth for ourselves. This forlorn woman had probably never read the
passage, but her experience brought abundant confirmation of it home to
her at this time. She was driven to assume the internal management of
the household, and found grateful solace in the occupations which the
position involved. She once more began to take an interest in the
prosaic affairs of everyday life, and became less addicted to looking
forward to a solitary, joyless old age. So that, all things considered,
this second bereavement was not to be regarded in the light of an
affliction absolutely without mitigation.
It might well have been supposed that the place she was now called upon
to fill would have been the means of drawing closer the ties between
her surviving parent and herself. For a time it certainly had that
effect. Her presence in his house must have done much to soften the
blow to her father, and her practical usefulness was made manifest
every hour of the day. She carefully ministered to his domestic needs,
and did what she could to alleviate the burden which had been laid upon
him. But the old, old story was once more repeated. In little more than
a year from the time her mother had been laid in her grave, she was
made aware of the fact that the household was to receive a new
mistress. In other words, she was to be introduced to a stepmother. The
event followed hard upon the announcement. As a necessary consequence
she was compelled to assume a secondary place in her father's house.
It may be true that first marriages are sometimes made in Heaven. It is
even possible that second marriages may now and then be forged in the
same workshop. But it was soon brought home to Mrs. Savareen that this
particular marriage was not among the number. Her stepmother, who was
not much older than herself, proved a veritable thorn in her side. She
was made to perceive that she and her little boy were regarded in the
light of encumbrances, to be tolerated until they could be got rid of.
But not passively tolerated. The stepmother was a rather coarse-grained
piece of clay—an unsympathetic, unfeeling woman, who knew how to say
and to do unpleasant things without any apparent temper or ill-will.
The immortal clockmaker, when he was in a more quaintly sententious
humor than common, once propounded the doctrine that the direct road to
a mother's heart is through her child. He might have added the equally
incontestable proposition that the most effectual method of torturing a
mother's heart is through the same medium. The mother who has an only
child, who is all the world to her, is actually susceptible to anything
in the shape of interference with her maternal prerogatives. Such
interference, by whomsoever exercised, is wholly intolerable to her.
This susceptibility may perhaps be a feminine weakness, but it is a
veritable maternal instinct, and one with which few who have observed
it will have the heart to find fault. In Mrs. Savareen's bosom this
foible existed in a high state of development, and her stepmother so
played upon it as to make life under the same roof with her a cross too
hard to be borne. After a few months' trial, the younger of the two
women resolved that a new home must be found for herself and her little
boy. The carrying out of this resolve rendered some consideration
necessary, for her own unaided means were inadequate for her support.
Her father, though not what could be called a poor man, was far from
rich, and he had neither the means nor the will to maintain two
establishments, however humble. But she was expert with her needle, and
did not despair of being able to provide for the slender wants of
herself and child. She rented and furnished a small house in the town,
where she found that there was no ground for present anxiety as to her
livelihood. There was plenty of needlework to be had to keep her nimble
fingers busy from morn till night, and her income from the first was in
excess of her expenditure. She was constrained to lead a humdrum sort
of existence, but it was brightened by the presence and companionship
of her boy, who was a constant source of pride and delight to her.
Whenever she caught herself indulging in a despondent mood, she took
herself severely to task for repining at a lot which might have lacked
this element of brightness, and which lacking that, would, it seemed to
her, have been too dreary for human endurance.
No useful purpose would be served by lingering over this portion of the
narrative. Suffice it to say that the current of the lonely woman's
life flowed smoothly on several years, during which she received no
tidings of her lost husband and heard nothing to throw the faintest
scintilla of light upon his mysterious disappearance. Little Reginald
grew apace, and continued to be the one consolation in her great
bereavement—the solitary joy which reconciled her to her environment.
A GUEST ARRIVES AT THE ROYAL OAK.
It was getting on towards the middle of the month of August, 1859. The
harvest all along the Millbrook and Spotswood road was in full
progress. And a bounteous harvest it was, even for that favored region.
Squire Harrington confidently counted upon a yield of fifty bushels of
wheat to the acre. True, he was a model farmer, and knew how to make
the most of a good season, but his neighbors were not far behind him,
and were looking forward to full granaries when threshing should be
over. For once there was little or no grumbling at the dispensations of
Providence. The weather had been as propitious as though the local
tillers of the soil had themselves had a voice in the making of it, and
even gruff Mark Stolliver was constrained to admit that there were
fewer grounds for remonstrating with the Great Disposer of events than
usual at this season of the year. Every wheat field in the township
presented an active spectacle throughout the day. The cradles were
busily plied from early morn till nightfall, and the swaths of golden
grain furnished heavy work for the rakers and binders. The commercial
crisis of 1857 had made itself felt in the district, as well as in all
other parts of Upper Canada. Many of the farmers had fallen
considerably behindhand, and had for once in a way felt the grip of
hard times. But the prolific crops which were now being gathered in
bade fair to extricate them from such obligations as they had been
compelled to incur, and the prevailing tone was one of subdued though
On the evening of Saturday, the 13th of the month, sundry of the yeomen
who lived thereabouts assembled at Lapierre's, after a hard week's
work, to congratulate one another on the prospects of the harvest, and
to discuss a few tankards of the reaming ale for which the Royal Oak
was famous throughout the township. The landlord himself was on hand as
usual, to dispense the hospitalities of his bar and larder. The five
years which had rolled over his head since that memorable night of
Savareen's disappearance had left but slight traces of their passage
upon his jovial countenance. He had never been able to fathom the
impenetrable secret of that strange July night, but he had all along
been wont to remark that the mystery would be cleared up some day, and
that he confidently expected to hear some tidings of the missing man
before he died. As for his guests, though most of them had resided in
the neighborhood at the time of his disappearance, they had long ceased
to give themselves any particular concern about the matter. So long as
there had seemed to be any prospect of getting at the bottom of the
affair they had taken a vigorous part in the search, and had exerted
themselves to bring the mystery to light; but when month succeeded
month without supplying any clue to the puzzle, they had gradually
resigned themselves to the situation, and, except when the topic came
up for discussion at their Saturday night meetings, they seldom
indulged in anything more than a passing allusion to it.
Ten o'clock had struck, and it seemed improbable that any further
company would arrive. The assembled guests, to the number of seven or
eight, sat in their accustomed places around a goodly-sized table in
the room behind the bar. Lapierre occupied an easy chair, placed near
the door communicating with the bar, so as to be handy in case of his
being needed there. Farmer Donaldson had just regaled the circle with
his favorite ditty, The Roast Beef of Old England, which he flattered
himself he could render with fine effect. Having concluded his
performance, he sat modestly back in his elbow-chair, and bowed to the
vociferous plaudits accorded to him. The tankards were then charged
afresh, and each man devoted himself to the allaying of his thirst for
the next minute or two. Mine host had promised to give Faintly as Tolls
the Evening Chime in the course of the evening, and was now called upon
to redeem his pledge.
"Ah," he remarked, "that vas alvays a faforite song of mine. And ton't
you remember how font of it our frient Safareen used to pe? He used to
call for it regular efery Saturday night, schoost pefore supper in the
old times. Ah, put that wass a strange peesiness. I haf never peen aple
to think of it without perspiring." And so saying, he dived into the
pocket of his white linen jacket, and produced therefrom a red silk
handkerchief, with which he mopped his beaming countenance until it
"Ay," responded Farmer Donaldson, "that was the strangest thing as ever
happened in these parts. I wonder if it will ever be cleared up."
"You know my opinion apout that," resumed the host, "I alvays said he
vould turn up. But it is—let me see—yes, it is more that fife years
ago. It wass on the night of the sefenteenth of Chooly, 1854; and here
it is, the mittle of Aucust, 1859. Vell, vell, how the years go py!
Safareen was a coot sort. I thought much of him, and woot like to see
him once acain."
"I don't say but what he was a good fellow," remarked one of the
company; "but I can tell you he had a devil of a temper of his own when
his blood was up. I remember one night in this very room when he had
some words with Sam Dolsen about that black mare o' his'n. He fired up
like a tiger, and that scar on his cheek glowed like a carbuncle. It
seemed as if it was going to crack open. I made sure he was going to
drop into Sam, and he would 'a done, too, if our landlord hadn't
interfered and calmed him down."
"Yes, yes," interrupted Farmer Donaldson; "Savareen had his tempers, no
doubt, when he had been drinking more free than common; but he was a
jolly feller, all the same. I wish he was with us at this moment."
This sentiment was pretty generally re-echoed all round the festive
board. Just then a rather heavy footstep was heard to enter the
adjoining bar-room from outside. The landlord rose and passed out
through the doorway, to see if his services were required. The door of
communication was left open behind him, so that the company in the
inner room had no difficulty in seeing and hearing everything that took
In the middle of the bar room stood a short heavy-set man, whose dress
and bearing pronounced him to be a stranger in those parts. He was
apparently middle-aged—say somewhere between thirty-five and forty.
His clothing was of expensive material, but cut after a style more
prononce than was then seen in Canada, or has ever since been
much in vogue here. His hat was a broad-brimmed Panama, which cost
twenty dollars if it cost a penny. His coat, so far as could be seen
under his thin summer duster—was of fine bluish cloth, short of waist,
long of skirt, and—the duster notwithstanding—plentifully besprinkled
and travel-stained with dust. The waistcoat, which seemed to be of the
same material as the coat, was very open-breasted, and displayed a
considerable array of shirt front. Across the left side was hung a
heavy gold watch-chain, from which depended two great bulbous-looking
seals. On his feet he wore a pair of gaiters of patent leather, white
from the dust of the road. In one hand he carried a light, jaunty
Malacca cane, while the other grasped a Russian-leather portmanteau,
called by him and by persons of his kind a valise. He wore no gloves—a
fact which enabled you to see on the middle finger of his left hand a
huge cluster diamond ring, worth any price from a thousand dollars
upwards. His face was closely shaven, except for a prominent moustache.
He had crisp, curling black hair, worn tolerably short. His eyes were
rather dull and vacant, not because he was either slow or stupid, but
because he felt or affected to feel, a sublime indifference to all
things sublunary. You would have taken him for a man who had run the
gauntlet of all human experiences—a man to whom nothing presented
itself in the light of a novelty, and who disdained to appear much
interested in anything you might say or do. Taken altogether he had
that foreign or rather cosmopolitan look characteristic of the citizen
of the United States who has led an unsettled, wandering life. His
aspect was fully borne out by his accent, when he began to speak.
"Air you the landlord?" he asked, as the host stepped forward to greet
He received a reply in the affirmative.
"This, then, is the Royal Oak tavern, and your name is Lapierre?"
Two nods signified the host's further assent to these undeniable
"Have you got a spare bedroom, and can you put me up from now till
The landlord again signified his assent, whereupon the stranger put
down his cane and portmanteau on a bench and proceeded to divest
himself of his wrapper.
"You haf had supper?" asked Lapierre.
"Well, I had a light tea down to Millbrook, but I know your Saturday
night customs at the Royal Oak, and if you hain't got any objections
I'd like to take a hand in your eleven o'clock supper. To tell the
truth, I'm sharp-set, and I know you always have a bite of something
appetizing about that time."
Upon being informed that supper would be ready at the usual hour, and
that he would be welcome to a seat at the board, he signified a desire
to be shown to his room, so that he could wash and make himself
presentable. In response to an enquiry about his horse, he intimated
that that animal for the present consisted of Shank's mare; that he had
ridden up from town with Squire Harrington, and dismounted at that
gentleman's gate. "The Squire offered to drive me on as far as here,"
he added; "but as it was only a short walk I reckoned I'd come on
Without further parley the guest was shown to his chamber, whence he
emerged a few minutes later, and presented himself before the company
assembled in the room behind the bar.
"Hope I ain't intruding, gentlemen," he remarked, as he took a vacant
seat at the lower end of the table; "I've often heard of the good times
you have here on Saturday nights. Heard of 'em when I was a good many
hundred miles from here, and when I didn't expect ever to have the
pleasure of joining your mess. Guess I'd better introduce myself. My
name's Thomas Jefferson Haskins. I live at Nashville, Tennessee, where
I keep a hotel and do a little in horseflesh now an' agin. Now, I shall
take it as a favor if you'll allow the landlord to re-fill your glasses
at my expense, and then drink good-luck to my expedition." All this
with much volubility, and without a trace of bashfulness.
The company all round the table signified their hearty acquiescence,
and while the landlord was replenishing the tankards, the stranger
proceeded to further enlighten them respecting his personal affairs. He
informed them that a man had cleared out from Nashville about six
months ago, leaving him, the speaker, in the lurch to the tune of
twenty-seven hundred dollars. A few days since he had learned that the
fugitive had taken up his quarters at Spotswood, in Upper Canada, and
he had accordingly set out for that place with intent to obtain a
settlement. He had reached Millbrook by the seven o'clock express this
evening, only to find that he was still fifteen miles from his
destination. Upon inquiry, he learned that the stage from Millbrook for
Spotswood ran only once a day, leaving Millbrook at seven o'clock in
the morning. There would not be another stage until Monday morning. He
was on the point of hiring a special conveyance, and of driving through
that night, when all of a sudden he had remembered that Lapierre's
tavern was on the Millbrook and Spotswood road, and only three miles
away. He had long ago heard such accounts of the Royal Oak and its
landlord, and particularly of the Saturday night suppers, that he had
resolved to repair thither and remain over for Monday's stage. "I was
going to hire a livery to bring me out here," he added, "but a
gentleman named Squire Harrington, who heard me give the order for the
buggy, told me he lived close by the Royal Oak, and that I was welcome
to ride out with him, as he was just going to start for home. That
saved me a couple of dollars. And so, here I be."
Lapierre could not feel otherwise than highly flattered by the way the
stranger referred to his establishment, but he was wholly at a loss to
understand how the fame of the Royal Oak, and more especially of the
Saturday night suppers, had extended to so great a distance as
Nashville. In response to his inquiries on these points, however, Mr.
Thomas Jefferson Haskins gave a clear and lucid explanation, which will
be found in the next chapter.
THE GUEST CREATES A SENSATION AT THE ROYAL OAK.
"Well," said Haskins, "I didn't hear of you quite so far off as
Nashville. It was when I was travelling in Kentucky buying horses, last
year. At Lexington I fell in with an English chap named Randall, who
used to live in this neighborhood. I hired him to buy horses for me. He
was with me about three months, an' if I could only 'a' kept him sober
he'd been with me yet, for he was about as keen a judge of a horse as
ever I came across in my born days, and knew mighty well how to make a
bargain. Well, we hadn't been together a week afore he begun to tell me
about a place where he used to live in Canada West, where he said a
little money went a long way, and where good horses could be bought
cheap. He wanted me to send him up here to buy for me, and I don't know
but I should 'a' done it if I'd found he was to be trusted. But he
would drink like all creation when he had money. Old Bourbon was a
thing he couldn't resist. He had an awful poor opinion of all the rest
of our American institootions, and used to say they wa'n't o' no
account as compared to what he used to have to home in England; but
when it come to Bourbon whisky, he was as full-mouthed as Uncle Henry
Clay himself. He 'lowed there wa'n't anything either in England or in
Canada to touch it. An' when he got four or five inches of it inside
him, there was no gittin' along with him nohow. There wa'n't anything
on airth he wouldn't do to git a couple of inches more, and when he got
them he was the catawamptiousest critter I ever did see. You couldn't
place any more dependence on him than on a free nigger. Besides, he
used to neglect his wife, and a man who neglects his wife ain't a man
to trust with a couple o' thousand dollars at a time. No sir-ree! Not
much, he ain't. But, as I was sayin', the way he used to harp on this
place o' Lapierre's was a caution. Whenever we used to git planted down
in one of our cross-road taverns, he'd turn up his nose till you could
see clean down his throat into his stommick. The fact is, our country
taverns ain't up to much, an' sometimes I could hardly stand 'em
myself. When we'd come in after a hard day's ridin', and git sot down
to a feed of heavy short-cake and fat pork, then Randall 'ud begin to
blow about the grub up here at Lapierre's. He used to tell about the
hot suppers served up here to a passel o' farmers on Saturday nights
till I most got sick o' hearing him. But I see your mugs air empty
again, gentlemen. Landlord, please to do your dooty, and score it up to
During this long harangue the assembled guests alternately scanned the
speaker and each other with inquiring but vacant countenances. They
were puzzling themselves to think who this Randall could be, as no man
of that name had ever been known in that community. When Mr. Haskins
paused in his discourse, and gave his order for replenishment, Farmer
Donaldson was about to remonstrate against this second treat at the
expense of a stranger, and to propose that he himself should stand
sponsor for the incoming refreshments. But before he could get out a
word, the landlord suddenly sprang from his seat with a white, agitated
"Tell me," he said, addressing the stranger—"What like is this
Rantall? Please to tescripe his features."
"Well," drawled the person addressed, after a short pause—"there
ain't much to describe about him. He's a tallish feller—fully four
inches taller'n I be. He's broad and stout—a big man ginerally.
Weighs, I should say, not much under a hundred and ninety. Ruther light
complected, and has a long cut in his face that shows awful white when
he gits his back up. Thunder! he pretty nearly scared me with that
gash one night when he was drunk. It seemed to open and shut like a
clam-shell, and made him look like a Voodoo priest! You'd think the
blood was goan to spurt out by the yard."
By this time every pair of eyes in the room was staring into the
speaker's face with an expression of bewildered astonishment. Not a man
there but recognized the description as a vivid, if somewhat
exaggerated portraiture of the long-lost Reginald Bourchier Savareen.
The stranger from Tennessee readily perceived that he had produced a
genuine sensation. He gazed from one to another for a full minute
without speaking. Then he gave vent to his surcharged feelings by the
exclamation: "For the land's sake!"
An air of speechless bewilderment still pervaded the entire group. They
sat silent as statues, without motion, and almost without breath.
Lapierre was the first to recover himself. By a significant gesture he
imposed continued silence upon the company, and began to ask questions.
He succeeded in eliciting some further pertinent information.
Haskins was unable to say when Randall had acquired a familiarity with
the ways and doings of the people residing in the vicinity of the Royal
Oak, but it must have been some time ago, as he had lived in the States
long enough to have become acquainted with various localities there. As
to when and why he had left Canada the stranger was also totally
ignorant. He knew, however, that Randall was living in the city of New
York about three months ago, as he had seen him there, and had visited
him at his lodgings on Amity street in May, when he (Haskins) had
attended as a delegate to a sporting convention. At that time Randall
had been employed in some capacity in Hitchcock's sale stable, and
made a few dollars now and again by breeding dogs. He lived a needy
hand-to-mouth existence, and his poor wife had a hard time of it. His
drinking habits prevented him from getting ahead in the world, and he
never staid long in one place, but the speaker had no doubt that he
might still be heard of at Hitchcock's by anybody who wanted to hunt him
up. "But," added Mr. Haskins, "I hope I haven't got him into trouble by
coming here to-night. Has he done anything? Anything criminal, I mean?"
After a moment's deliberation, Lapierre told the whole story. There was
no doubt in the mind of any member of the company that Randall and
Savareen were "parts of one stupendous whole." The one important
question for consideration was: What use ought to be made of the facts
thus strangely brought to light?
By this time supper was announced, and the stranger's news, exciting as
it was, did not prevent the guests from doing ample justice to it.
Haskins was loud in his praises of the "spread," as he termed it. "Jack
Randall," he remarked, "could lie when he had a mind to, but he told
the holy truth when he bragged you up as far ahead of the Kentucky
cooks. Yes, I don't mind if I do take another mossel of that
frickersee. Dog me if it don't beat canvas-backs."
Before the meeting broke up it was agreed on all hands that for the
present it would be advisable for the guests to allow the morrow to
pass before saying anything to their wives or anyone else about Mr.
Haskins' disclosures. It was further resolved that that gentleman
should accompany Lapierre to Millbrook after breakfast in the morning,
and that Mrs. Savareen's father should be made acquainted with the
known facts. It was just possible, after all, that Jack Randall might
be Jack Randall, and not Savareen, in which case it was desirable to
save the lost man's wife from cruel agitation to no purpose. It would
be for her father, after learning all that they knew, to communicate
the facts to her or to withhold them, as might seem best to him. On
this understanding the company broke up on the stroke of midnight. I am
by no means prepared to maintain that their pledges were in all cases
kept, and that they each and every one went to sleep without taking
their wives into confidence respecting the strange disclosures of the
NO. 77 AMITY STREET.
The next day was Sunday, but this circumstance did not deter Lapierre
from hitching up his horse and conveying his guest down to Millbrook at
an early hour. The pair called at the house of Mrs. Savareen's father
before ten o'clock, and had a long interview with him. Church services
began at eleven, but it was remarked by the Methodist congregation, and
commented upon as a thing almost without precedent, that Mrs. Savareen
and her father were both absent on that day.
The old gentleman was much disturbed by what he heard from Mr. Haskins.
His daughter had passed through an ordeal of great suffering, and had
finally become reconciled to her lot. To tell her this news would be to
open the old wounds afresh, and to bring back the domestic grief which
time had about dispelled. Yet his course seemed clear. To tell her the
truth was an imperative duty. It would be shameful to permit her to go
on mourning for one who was in every way unworthy, and who might turn
up at any unexpected moment to the destruction of her peace of mind.
Moreover, the secret was already known to too many persons to admit of
any hope that it would be permanently kept. She must be told, and there
could be no question that her father was the proper person to tell her.
She would, however, wish to personally see and converse with the man
who had brought the news, so there was no time to be lost. Leaving his
two visitors to await his return, the old man set out with a sad heart
for his daughter's house. He found her and her little boy just ready to
set out for church, but the first glance at her father's face told her
that something had happened, and that there would be no church-going
for that day. She sat pale and trembling as she listened, and the old
man himself was not much more composed. He broke the news as gently as
he could, and she bore it better than he had expected, suppressing her
agitation and taking in all the details without interruption. Even when
all the circumstances had been laid before her, her self-command did
not desert her. Yes, she must see the stranger from Tennessee. Possibly
she might extract something from him which others had failed to elicit.
Her father accordingly went back to his own home, and brought Mr.
Haskins over. The three spent several hours in talking of the affair,
but the stranger had nothing more to tell, and finally took his leave,
promising to call on his way back from Spotswood.
Father and daughter spent the evening together, and tried to reach some
definite conclusion as to what, if anything, ought to be done. There
could be no reasonable doubt that Randall and Savareen were one. Since
there was just the shadow of doubt, and the want of absolute certainty,
made it impossible for Mrs. Savareen to leave the matter as it stood.
She felt that she must know the whole truth.
A course was finally decided upon. Father and daughter would start for
New York without delay and probe the matter to the bottom. The news
could not wholly be kept from the stepmother, but she was enjoined to
maintain a strict silence on the subject until further light should be
thrown upon it. Master Reginald was temporarily left in her charge.
They started for New York by the mid-day express on Monday, and reached
their destination on Tuesday afternoon. Lodgings were secured at a
quiet, respectable hotel, and then the old man set out alone to hunt up
Hitchcock's stable. He had no difficulty in finding it, and the man in
charge of the office readily gave him the information he sought. Jack
Randall was no longer employed at the establishment, but he lodged with
his wife at No. 77 Amity street. The best time to catch him at home was
early in the morning. He was of a convivial turn, and generally spent
his evenings about town. He was supposed to be pretty hard up, but that
was his chronic condition, and, so far as known, he was not in absolute
want. With these tidings the father returned to his daughter.
Mrs. Savareen could not bear the idea of permitting the evening to pass
without some further effort. She determined to pay a visit to 77 Amity
street, in person, and if possible to see the man's wife for herself. A
servant-maid in the hotel undertook to pilot her to her destination,
which was but a short distance away. It was about eight o'clock when
she set out and the light of day was fast disappearing. Upon reaching
the corner of Amity street and Broadway, she dismissed her attendant
and made the rest of the journey alone. The numbers on the doors of the
houses were a sufficient direction for her, and she soon found herself
ringing at the bell of 77.
Her summons was answered by a seedy-looking porter. Yes, Mrs. Randall
was upstairs in her room on the third story. Mr. Randall was out. The
lady could easily find the way for herself. Second door to the left on
the third flat. Straight up. And so saying the man disappeared into the
darkness at the rear of the house, leaving the visitor to group her way
up two dimly-lighted stairways as best she could.
The place was evidently a lodging-house of very inferior description to
be so near the palatial temples of commerce just round the corner. The
halls were uncarpeted, and, indeed, without the least sign of furniture
of any sort. As Mrs. Savareen slowly ascended one flight of stairs
after another, she began to wonder if she had not done an unwise thing
in venturing alone into a house and locality of which she knew nothing.
Having reached the third story she found herself in total darkness,
except for such faint twilight as found its way through a back window.
This however was just sufficient to enable her to perceive the second
door on the left. She advanced towards it and knocked. A female voice
responded by an invitation to enter. She quietly turned the knob of the
door and advanced into the room.
AN INTERVIEW BY CANDLELIGHT.
The apartment in which the "bold discoverer in an unknown sea" found
herself presented an appearance far from cheerful or attractive. It was
of small dimensions, but too large for the meagre supply of furniture
it contained. The unpapered walls displayed a monotonous surface of
bare whitewash in urgent need of renewal. In one corner was an
impoverished looking bed, on which reposed an infant of a few months
old. At the foot of the bed was a cheap toilet stand, with its
accessories. In the adjacent corner was a door apparently opening into
a closet or inner receptacle of some kind, against which was placed a
battered leather trunk with a broken hasp. A small table of stained
pine, without any covering, stood near the middle of the room, and two
or three common wooden chairs were distributed here and there against
the walls. The faint light of expiring day found admission by means of
a window looking out upon the roofs to the rear of the house. The only
artificial light consisted of a solitary candle placed on the table, at
the far end of which sat a woman engaged in sewing.
The light, dim and ineffectual as it was, served to show that this
woman was in a state of health which her friends, if she had any, must
have deemed to be anything but satisfactory. It was easy to perceive
that she had once possessed an attractive and rather pretty face. Some
portion of her attractiveness still remained, but the beauty had been
washed away by privation and misery, leaving behind nothing but a faint
simulacrum of its former self. She was thin and fragile to the point of
emaciation, insomuch that her print dress hung upon her as loosely as a
morning wrapper. Her cheeks were sunken and hollow, and two dark
patches beneath a pair of large blue eyes plainly indicated serious
nervous waste. In addition to these manifest signs of a low state of
bodily health, her pinched features had a worn, weary expression which
told a sad tale of long and continuous suffering. Most of these things
her visitor, with feminine quickness of perception, took in at the
first momentary glance, and any pre-conceived feeling of hostility
which may have had a place in her heart gave way to a sentiment of
womanly sympathy. Clearly enough, any display of jealous anger would be
wholly out of place in such a presence and situation.
Mrs. Savareen had not given much pre-consideration as to her line of
action during the impending interview. She had merely resolved to be
guided by circumstances, and what she saw before her made her errand
one of some difficulty. Her main object, of course, was to ascertain,
beyond the possibility of doubt, whether the man calling himself Jack
Randall was the man known to her as Reginald Bourchier Savareen.
The tenant of the room rose as her visitor entered, and even that
slight exertion brought on a hollow cough which was pitiful to hear.
"I am sorry to see," gently remarked the visitor, "that you are far
"Yes," was the reply; "I've got a cold, and ain't very smart. Take a
chair." And so saying, she placed a chair in position, and made a not
ungraceful motion towards it with her hand.
Mrs. Savareen sat down, and began to think what she would say next. Her
hostess saved her from much thought on the matter by enquiring whether
she had called to see Mr. Randall.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Savareen, "I would like to see him for a few
moments, if convenient."
"Well, I am sorry he's out, and I don't suppose he'll be in for
some time. He's generally out in the fore part of the evening; but he's
most always home in the morning. Is it anything I can tell him?"
Here was a nice complication. Had Mrs. Savareen been a student of
Moliere, the fitting reply to such a question under such circumstances
would doubtless have risen to her lips. But I shrewdly suspect that she
had never heard of the famous Frenchman, whose works were probably an
unknown quantity in Millbrook in those days. After a momentary
hesitation she fenced with the question, and put one in her turn.
"Do you know if he has heard from his friends in Hertfordshire lately?"
"Hertfordshire? O, that is the place he comes from in the Old Country.
No, he never hears from there. I have often wanted him to write to his
friends in England, but he says it is so long since he left that they
have forgotten all about him." Here the speaker was interrupted by
another fit of coughing.
"No," she resumed, "he never even wrote to England to tell his friends
when we were married. He was only a boy when he left home, and he was a
good many years in Canady before he came over to the States."
Just at this point it seemed to occur to Mrs. Randall that she was
talking rather freely about her husband to a person whom she did not
know, and she pulled herself up with a rather short turn. She looked
intently into her visitor's face for a moment, as though with an inward
monition that something was wrong.
"But," she resumed, after a brief pause, "do you know my husband? I
can't remember as I ever seen you before. You don't live in New York: I
can see that. I guess you come from the West."
Then Mrs. Savareen felt that some explanation was necessary. She fairly
took the animal by the extreme tip of his horns.
"Yes," she responded, "I live in the West, and I have only been in New
York a very short time. I accidentally heard that Mr. Randall lived
here, and I wish to ascertain if he is the same gentleman I once knew
in Canada. If he is, there is something of importance I should like to
tell him. Would you be so kind as to describe his personal appearance
The woman again inspected her very carefully, with eyes not altogether
free from suspicion.
"I don't exactly understand," she exclaimed. "You don't want to do him
any harm, do you? You haven't got anything agin him? We are in deep
enough trouble as it is."
The last words were uttered in a tone very much resembling a wail of
despair. By this time the visitor's sympathies were thoroughly aroused
on behalf of the poor broken creature before her.
She felt that she had not the heart to add to the burden of grief which
had been imposed upon the frail woman who sat there eyeing her with
anxiety depicted upon her weary, anxious face.
"I can assure you," responded Mrs. Savareen, "that I have no intention
of doing any harm either to him or to you. I would much rather do you a
kindness, if I could. I can see for myself that you stand in great need
The last words were spoken in a tone which disarmed suspicion, and
which at the same time stimulated curiosity. The shadow on Mrs.
Randall's face passed away.
"Well," said she, "I beg your pardon for mistrusting you, but my
husband has never told me much about his past life, and I was afraid
you might be an enemy. But I am sure, now I look at you, that you
wouldn't do harm to anybody. I'll tell you whatever you want to know,
if I can."
"Thank you for your good opinion. Will you be good enough, then, to
describe Mr. Randall's personal appearance? I have no other object than
to find out if he is the person I used to know in Canada."
"How long ago did you know him in Canady?"
"I saw him last in the summer of 1854—about five years ago."
"Well, at that rate I've known him pretty near as long as you hev. It's
more'n four years since I first got acquainted with him down, in Ole
Virginny, where I was raised. Why, come to think of it, I've got his
likeness, took just before we was married. That'll show you whether
he's the man you knew."
As she spoke, she rose and opened the leather trunk in the corner by
the closet door. After rummaging among its contents, she presently
returned with a small oval daguerreotype in her hand. Opening the case
she handed it to Mrs. Savareen. "There he is," she remarked, "an' it's
considered an awful good likeness."
Mrs. Savareen took the daguerreotype and approached the candle. The
first glance was amply sufficient. It was the likeness of her husband.
She made up her mind as to her line of action on the instant. Her love
for the father of her child died away as she gazed on his picture. It
was borne in upon her that he was a heartless scoundrel, unworthy of
any woman's regard. Before she withdrew her glance from the
daguerreotype, her love for him was dead and buried beyond all
possibility of revivification. What would it avail her to still further
lacerate the heart of the unhappy woman in whose presence she stood?
Why kill her outright by revealing the truth? There was but a step—and
evidently the step was a short one—between her and the grave. The
distance should not be abridged by any act of the lawful wife.
She closed the case and quietly handed it back to the woman, whom it
will still be convenient to call Mrs. Randall. "I see there has been
some misunderstanding," she said. "This is not the Mr. Randall I knew
In her kind consideration for the invalid, she deliberately conveyed a
false impression, though she spoke nothing more than the simple truth.
There had indeed been "some misunderstanding," and Savareen's likeness
was certainly not the likeness of Mr. Randall. As matter of fact, Mrs.
Savareen had really known a Mr. Randall in Millbrook, who bore no
resemblance whatever to her husband. Thus, she spoke the literal truth,
while she at the same time deceived her hostess for the latter's own
good. Affliction had laid its blighting hand there heavily enough
already. Her main object now was to get away from the house before the
return of the man who had so villainously wrecked two innocent lives.
But a warm sympathy for the betrayed and friendless woman had sprung up
in her heart, and she longed to leave behind some practical token of
her sympathy. While she was indulging in these reflections the infant
on the bed awoke and set up a startled little cry. Its mother advanced
to where it lay, took it up in her arms, sat down on the edge of the
bed, and stilled its forlorn little wails by the means known to mothers
from time immemorial. When it became quiet she again deposited it on
the bed and resumed her seat by the table.
Mrs. Savareen continued standing.
"I am sorry to have disturbed you unnecessarily," she remarked "and
will now take my leave. Is there anything I can do for you? I should be
glad if I could be of any use. I am afraid you are not very comfortably
off, and you are far from well in health. It is not kind of Mr. Randall
to leave you alone like this. You need rest and medical advice."
These were probably the first sympathetic words Mrs. Randall had heard
from one of her own sex for many a long day. The tears started to her
tired eyes, as she replied:
"I guess there ain't no rest for me this side o' the grave. I haven't
any money to git medical advice, and I don't suppose a doctor could do
me any good. I'm pretty well run down and so is baby. I'm told it can't
live long, and if it was only laid to rest I wouldn't care how soon my
time came. You're right about our being awful hard up. But don't you be
too hard on my husband. He has his own troubles as well as me. He
hain't had no cash lately, and don't seem to be able to git none."
"But he could surely stay at home and keep you company at nights, when
you are so ill. It must be very lonely for you."
"Well, you see, I ain't much company for him. He's ben brought up
different to what I hev, an's ben used to hevin' things comfortable. I
ain't strong enough to do much of anything myself, with a sick baby.
I'm sure I don't know what's to be the end of it all. Es a gineral
thing he don't mean to be unkind, but——"
Here the long-suffering woman utterly broke down, and was convulsed by
a succession of sobs, which seemed to exhaust the small stock of
vitality left to her. The visitor approached the chair where she sat,
knelt by her side, and took the poor wasted form in her arms.
They mingled their tears together. For some time neither of them was
able to speak a word, but the sympathy of the stronger of the two acted
like a cordial upon her weaker sister, who gradually became calm and
composed. The sobs died away, and the shattered frame ceased to
tremble. Then they began to talk. Mrs. Savareen's share in the
conversation was chiefly confined to a series of sympathetic questions,
whereby she extracted such particulars as furnished a key to the
present situation. It appeared that the soi-disant Jack Randall
had made the acquaintance of his second victim within a short time
after his departure from Canada. He had then been engaged in business
on his own account as a dealer in horses in Lexington, Kentucky, where
the father of the woman whose life he had afterwards blighted kept a
tavern. He had made soft speeches to her, and had won her heart,
although, even then, she had not been blind to his main defect—a
fondness for old Bourbon. After a somewhat protracted courtship she had
married him, but the sun of prosperity had never shone upon them after
their marriage, for his drinking habit had grown upon him, and he had
soon got to the end of what little money he had. He had been compelled
to give up business, and to take service with anyone who would employ
him. Then matters had gone from bad to worse. He had been compelled to
move about from one town to another, for his habits would not admit of
his continuing long in any situation. She had accompanied him wherever
he went with true wifely devotion, but had been constrained to drink
deeply of the cup of privation, and had never been free from anxiety.
About six months ago they had come to New York, where he had at first
found fairly remunerative employment in Hitchcock's sale stable. But
there, as elsewhere, he had wrecked his prospects by drink and neglect
of business, and for some time past the unhappy pair had been entirely
destitute. The baby had been born soon after they had taken up their
quarters in New York. The mother's health, which had been far from
strong before this event, completely broke down, and she had never
fully recovered. The seeds of consumption, which had probably been
implanted in her before her birth, had rapidly developed themselves
under the unpromising regimen to which she had been subjected, and it
was apparent that she had not long to live. She was unable to afford
proper nourishment to her child, which languished from day to day, and
the only strong desire left to her was that she might survive long
enough to see it fairly out of the world.
Such was the sad tale poured into the sympathetic ears of Mrs.
Savareen, as she knelt there with the poor creature's head against her
boson. She, for the time, lost sight of her own share in the misery
brought about by the man who, in the eye of the law, was still her
husband. She spoke such words of comfort and consolation as suggested
themselves to her, but the case was a hopeless one, and it was evident
that no permanent consolation could ever again find a lodgment in the
breast of the woman who supposed herself to be Mrs. Randall. The best
that was left to her in this world was to hear the sad rites pronounced
over her babe, and then to drop gently away into that long, last sleep,
wherein, it was to be hoped, she would find that calm repose which a
cruel fate had denied her so long as she remained on earth.
Mrs. Savareen, it will be remembered, was a pious woman. In such a
situation as that in which she found herself, we may feel sure that she
did not omit all reference to the consolations of religion. She poured
into the ear of this sore-tried soul a few of those words at which
thinkers of the modern school are wont to sneer, but which for eighteen
centuries have brought balm to the suffering and the afflicted of every
clime. Moreover, she did not neglect to administer consolation of a
material kind. She emptied her purse into the invalid's lap. It
contained something like thirty dollars—more money, probably, than
Mrs. Randall had ever called her own before. "Keep this for your own
use," she said—"it will buy many little comforts for you and baby. No,
I will not take any of it back. I am comfortably off and shall not want
it." Then, with a final embrace, and a few hurried words of farewell,
she stepped to the bedside and imprinted a kiss on the little waif
lying there, all unconscious of the world of sin and sorrow in which it
held so precarious a dwelling place. Her mission was at an end. She
silently passed from the room, closing the door behind her.
STILL A MYSTERY.
At the head of the stairway she paused for a moment to collect herself
before passing down and out into the street. What she had left behind
her was of a nature well fitted to excite emotion, and her bosom rose
and fell with a gentle tenderness and pity. But she had learned self
control in the school of experience, and her delay was a brief one.
Mastering her emotions, she walked steadily down the two flights of
stairs, opened the front door for herself, and was just about to cross
the threshold when a man entered. The light of the street lamp fell
full upon his face. It was the face of the man whose mysterious
disappearance five years before had created such a profound sensation
throughout Western Canada. There was no possibility of mistaking it,
though it was greatly changed for the worse. Five years had wrought
terrible havoc upon it. The scar on the left cheek was more conspicuous
than of yore, and the features seemed to have settled into a perpetual
frown. But, worst of all, the countenance was bloated and besotted. The
nose had become bulbous and spongy, the eyes watery and weak. The man's
clothes were patched and seedy, and presented a general aspect of being
desperately out at elbows. His unsteady step indicated that he was at
least half drunk at that moment. He did not see; or at any rate did not
take any notice of the woman who gazed into his face so intently. As he
staggered on his way upstairs he stumbled and narrowly escaped falling.
Could it be possible that this disreputable object was the man whom she
had once loved as her husband? She shuddered as she passed out on to
the pavement. Truly, his sin had found him out.
She had no difficulty in finding her way back to the hotel, without
asking questions of anybody. Upon reaching it she conferred for a
moment with the office clerk, and then passed up to a small general
sitting-room where she found her father. The old gentleman was
beginning to be anxious at her long absence.
"Well, father, I find there is an express for Suspension Bridge at
midnight. I think we had better take it. It is now half-past ten. I
have learned all I wanted to know, and there is no use for us to stay
here on expense. But perhaps you are tired, and would like a night's
"Found out all you wanted to know? Do you mean to say you have seen
"Yes, and I never wish to see or hear of him again in this world. Don't
question me now. I will tell you all before we get home, and after that
I hope you will never mention his name in my presence. When shall we
Finding her really anxious to be gone, the old man assented to her
proposition, and they started on their way homeward by the midnight
train. They reached Millbrook in due course, the father having
meanwhile been informed of all that his daughter had to tell him.
Savareen's disappearance remained as profound a mystery to them as
ever, but it had at any rate been made clear that he had absconded of
his own free will, and that in doing so he must have exercised a good
deal of shrewdness and cunning.
The question as to how far it was advisable to take the public into
their confidence exercised the judgment of both father and daughter.
The conclusion arrived at was that as little as possible should be said
about the matter. Their errand to New York was already known, and could
not be wholly ignored. The fact of Savareen's existence would have to
be admitted. It would inevitably be chronicled by the Sentinel,
and the record would be transferred to the columns of other newspapers.
The subject would be discussed among the local quidnuncs, and the
excitement of five years since would to some extent be revived. All
this must naturally be expected, and would have to be endured as best
it might; but it was resolved that people should not be encouraged to
ask questions, and that they should be made to understand that the
topic was not an agreeable one to the persons immediately concerned. It
might reasonably be hoped that gossip would sooner or later wear itself
out. For the present it would be desirable for Mrs. Savareen to keep
within doors, and to hold as little communication with her neighbors as
This programme was strictly adhered to, and everything turned out
precisely as had been expected. Mr. Haskins reached Millbrook on his
way home to Tennessee within a day or two after the return of father
and daughter from New York. He was informed by the father that Randall
and Savareen were identical, but that the family wished to suppress all
talk about the affair as far as possible. He took the hint, and
departed on his way homeward, without seeking to probe further into
matters in which he had no personal concern.
It was hardly to be supposed, however, that the local population would
show equal forbearance. Curiosity was widespread, and was not to be
suppressed from a mere sentiment of delicacy. No sooner did it become
known that the father and daughter had returned than the former was
importuned by numerous friends and acquaintances to disclose the result
of his journey. He so far responded to these importunities as to admit
that the missing man was living in the States under an assumed name,
but he added that neither his daughter nor himself was inclined to talk
about the matter. He said in effect: "My daughter's burden is a heavy
one to bear, and any one who has any consideration for either her or me
will never mention the matter in the presence of either of us. Anyone
who does so will thereby forfeit all right to be regarded as a friend
or well-wisher." This did not silence gossiping tongues, but it at
least prevented them from propounding their questions directly to
himself. He was promptly interviewed by the editor of the
Sentinel, who received exactly the same information as other
people, and no more. The next number of the paper contained a leading
article on the subject, in which the silence of Mrs. Savareen and her
father was animadverted upon. The public, it was said, were entitled to
be told all that there was to tell. Savareen's disappearance had long
since become public property, and the family were not justified in
withholding any information which might tend to throw light on that
dark subject. This article was freely copied by other papers, and for
several weeks the topic was kept conspicuously before the little world
of western Canada. Nowhere was the interest in the subject more keenly
manifested than at the Royal Oak, where it furnished the theme of
frequent and all-but-interminable discussion. Not a day passed but mine
host Lapierre publicly congratulated himself upon his acumen in having
all along believed and declared that Savareen was still in the land of
the living. This landlord shared the prevalent opinion that the family
should be more communicative. "I haf always," said he, "peen a coot
frient to Mrs. Safareen. I respect her fery mooch, put I think she
might let us know sometings more apout her discoferies in New York."
Scores of other persons harped to the same monotonous tune. But father
and daughter submitted to this as to a necessary penalty of their
situation, and by degrees the excitement quieted down. I am not
prepared to say whether the stepmother received further enlightenment
than other people, but if she did she kept her tongue between her teeth
like a sensible woman. As for Mrs. Savareen herself, she consistently
refrained from speaking on the subject to anyone, and even the most
inveterate gossips showed sufficient respect for her feelings to ask
her no questions. She held the even tenor of her way, doing her work
and maintaining herself as usual, but she lived a secluded life, and
was seldom seen outside her own house.
Thus, several months passed away without the occurrence of any event
worthy of being recorded. The mystery of Savareen's disappearance
remained a mystery still. But the time was approaching when all that
had so long been dark was to be made clear, and when the strange
problem of five years before was to be solved.
COALS OF FIRE.
The gloomy month of November, 1859, was drawing to its close. The
weather, as usual at that time of the year, was dull and sober, and the
skies were dark and lowering. More than three months had elapsed since
the journey to New York, and Mrs. Savareen and her affairs had ceased
to be the engrossing topics of discussion among the people of Millbrook
and its neighborhood. She continued to live a very secluded life, and
seldom stirred beyond the threshold of her own door. Almost her only
visitors were her father and brother, for her stepmother rarely
intruded upon her domain, and indeed was not much encouraged to do so,
as her presence never brought comfort with it. The little boy continued
to grow apace, and it seemed to the fond mother that he became dearer
to her every day. He was the sole light and joy of her life, and in him
were bound up all her hopes for the future. Of late she had ceased to
scan his features in the hope of tracing there some resemblance of his
absent father. Since her visit to Amity street, that fond
illusion had wholly departed, never to return. She had ceased even to
speak to him about his other parent, and had begun to regard herself in
the light of an actual widow. Such was the state of affairs when the
humdrum of her existence was broken in upon by a succession of
circumstances which it now becomes necessary to unfold.
It was rapidly drawing towards six o'clock in the evening, and the
darkness of night had already fallen upon the outer landscape. Mrs.
Savareen sat in her little parlor with her boy upon her knee, as it was
her custom to sit at this hour. The lamp had not been lighted, but the
fireplace sent forth a ruddy blaze, making the countless shadows
reflect themselves on the floor, and in the remote corners of the room.
To both the mother and the child, this hour, "between the dark and the
daylight" was incomparably the most delightful of the twenty-four, for
it was consecrated to story-telling. Then it was that the boy was first
introduced to those old-time legends which in one form or another have
thrilled the bosoms of happy childhood for so many hundreds of years,
and which will continue to thrill them through centuries yet unborn.
Then it was that he made the acquaintance of Little Red Riding Hood,
Jack the Giant Killer, and the Seven Champions of Christendom. The
mingled lights and shades from the blazing logs of hickory in the
fireplace lent additional charm to the thousand and one stories which
the mother recounted for the child's edification, and I doubt not that
Jack's wonderful bean-stalk is still associated in Master Reggie's mind
with that cosy little room with its blended atmosphere of cheerful
twilight and sombre shadow.
A few minutes more and it would be tea time. It would never do,
however, to break off the story of the Babes in the Wood just at the
time when the two emissaries of the wicked uncle began to quarrel in
the depths of the forest. The child's sympathies had been thoroughly
aroused, and he would not tamely submit to be left in suspense. No, the
gruesome old tale must be told out, or at least as far as where the
robin redbreasts, after mourning over the fate of the hapless infants
"did cover them with leaves." And so the mother went on with the
narrative. She had just reached the culminating point when an
approaching footstep was heard outside. Then came a knock at the door,
followed by the entrance of Mrs. Savareen's father. It was easy to see
from his face that this was no mere perfunctory call. Evidently he had
news to tell.
"Something has happened, father," said Mrs. Savareen, as calmly as she
"Well, yes, something has happened. It is nothing very dreadful, but
you had better prepare yourself to hear unpleasant news."
"It is that man—he has come."
"Yes, he has come to town."
"Is he at the door?"
"No, he is at my house. I thought I had better come over and tell you,
instead of letting him come himself and take you by surprise."
"What has he come for, and what does he want?" inquired Mrs. Savareen,
in a harder tone of voice than she was accustomed to use.
"Well, for one thing he wants to see you, and I suppose you can't very
well avoid seeing him. He is your husband, you know. He knows nothing
about the journey to New York. He has no means, and looks shabby and
sickly. I shouldn't wonder if he isn't long for this world."
"So you didn't tell him anything about the New York trip?"
"No, I didn't exactly know what your views might be, and he looked such
a worn-out, pitiful object that I held my tongue about it. I think you
had better see him and hear what he has to say."
It appeared that Savareen had arrived at Millbrook by the 4:15 p.m.
train from New York, and that he had slunk round by the least
frequented streets to his father-in-law's house without being
recognised by any one. It might be doubted, indeed, whether any of his
old friends would have recognised him, even if they had met him face
to face in broad daylight, for he was by no means the ruddy, robust,
self-complacent looking personage they had been accustomed to see in
the old days when he was wont to ride into town on his black mare. His
clothes were seamy and worn, and his physical proportions had shrunk so
much that the shabby garments seemed a world too wide for him. His face,
which three months ago had been bloated and sodden, had become pale and
emaciated, and the scar upon his left cheek seemed to have developed
until it was the most noticeable thing about him. His step was feeble
and tremulous, and it was evident that his health had completely broken
down. He was in fact in a state bordering on collapse, and was hardly
fit to be going about. His financial condition was on a par with his
bodily state. He had expended his last dime in the purchase of his
railway ticket, and at the moment of reaching his father-in-law's door
he had been well-nigh famished for want of food. When a loaf of bread
and some slices of cold meat had been set before him, he had fallen to
with the voracity of a jungle tiger. He had vouchsafed no explanation
of his presence, except that he felt he was going to die, and that he
wanted to see his wife and child. As he was tired out and sorely in
need of rest, he had been put to bed, and his father-in-law, after
seeing him snugly stowed away between the sheets, had set out to bear
the news to his wife.
There could be no doubt as to what was the proper thing to be done.
Mrs. Savareen made the fire safe, put on her bonnet and shawl and
locked up the house. Then, taking her little boy by the hand, she
accompanied her father to the old house where, six or seven years
before, the handsome young farmer had been in the habit of visiting and
paying court to her. On arriving she found the invalid buried in the
deep, profound sleep of exhaustion. Consigning her boy to the care of
her stepmother, she took her place by the bedside and waited. Her vigil
was a protracted one, for the tired-out sleeper did not awaken until
the small hours of the next morning. Then with a long drawn
respiration, he opened his eyes, and fixed them upon the watcher with a
weak, wandering expression, as though he was unable to fully grasp the
The truth found its way to him by degrees. He shifted himself uneasily,
as though he would have been glad to smother himself beneath the
bedclothes, was it not for lack of resolution. A whipped hound never
presented a more abject appearance.
His wife was the first to speak. "Do you feel rested?" she asked in a
"Rested? O, yes, I remember now. We are at your father's."
"Yes; but don't talk any more just now, if it tires you. Try to go to
"You are good to me; better than I deserve," he responded, after a
pause. Then great tears welled up to his eyes, and coursed one after
another down his thin, worn face. It was easy to see that he was weak
as water. His long journey by rail without food had been too much for
him, and in his state of health it was just possible he might never
The womanly nature of the outraged wife came uppermost, as it always
does under such circumstances. Her love for the miserable creature
lying there before her had been killed and crucified long ago, never to
be revived. But she could not forget that she had once loved him, and
that he was the father of her child. No matter how deeply he had
wronged her, he was ill and suffering—perhaps dying. His punishment
had come upon him without any act of hers. She contrasted his present
bearing with that of other days. He was bent, broken, crushed. Nothing
there to remind her of the stalwart, manly young fellow whose voice had
once stirred her pulse to admiration and love. All the more reason why
she should be good to him now, all undeserving as he might be. Our
British Homer showed a true appreciation of the best side of feminine
nature when he wrote—
"O woman, in our hour of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please;
When pain and anguish wring thy brow,
A ministering angel thou!"
She rose and approached the bed, while her gaze rested mildly upon his
face. Drawing forth her handkerchief, she wiped the salt tears from his
cheeks with a caressing hand. To him lying there in his helplessness,
she seemed no unfit earthly representative of that Divine Beneficence
"whose blessed task," says Thackeray, "it will one day be to wipe the
tear from every eye." Her gentleness caused the springs to well forth
afresh, and the prostrate form was convulsed by sobs. She sat by his
side on the bed, and staunched the miniature flood with a tender touch.
By-and-by calm returned, and he sank into a profound and apparently
When he again awoke it was broad daylight. The first object on which
his eyes rested was the patient watcher who had never left her post the
whole night long, and who still sat in an armchair at his bedside,
ready to minister to his comfort. As soon as she perceived that he was
awake she approached and took his wasted hand in her own. He gazed
steadily in her face, but could find no words to speak.
"You are rested now, are you not?" she murmured, scarcely above her
After a while he found his voice and asked how long he had slept. Being
enlightened on the point, he expressed his belief that it was time for
him to rise.
"Not yet," was the response; "you shall have your breakfast first, and
then it will be time enough to think about getting up. I forbid you to
talk until you have had something to eat," she added, playfully. "Lie
still for a few minutes, while I go and see about a cup of tea." And so
saying she left him to himself.
Presently she returned, bearing a tray and eatables. She quietly raised
him to a sitting posture, and placed a large soft pillow at his back.
He submitted to her ministrations like a child. It was long since he
had been tended with such care, and the position doubtless seemed a
little strange to him. After drinking a cup of tea and eating several
morsels of the good things set before him he evidently felt refreshed.
His eyes lost somewhat of their lack-lustre air of confirmed
invalidism, and his voice regained a measure of its natural tone. When
he attempted to rise and dress himself, however, he betrayed such a
degree of bodily feebleness that his wife forbade him to make further
exertions. He yielded to her importunities, and remained in bed, which
was manifestly the best place for him. He was pestered by no
unnecessary questions to account for his presence, Mrs. Savareen
rightly considering that it was for him to volunteer any explanations
he might have to make whenever he felt equal to the task.
After a while his little boy was brought in to see the father of whom
he dimly remembered to have heard. His presence moved the sick man to
further exhibitions of tearful sensibility, but seemed, on the whole,
to have a salutary effect. Long absence and a vagabond life had not
quenched the paternal instinct, and the little fellow was caressed with
a fervor too genuine to admit of the possibility of its being assumed.
Master Reggie received these ebullitions of affection without much
corresponding demonstrativeness. He could not be expected to feel any
vehement adoration for one whom he had never seen since his earliest
babyhood, and whose very name for some months past had been permitted
to sink out of sight. His artless prattle, however, was grateful in the
ears of his father, who looked and listened as if entranced by sweet
strains of music. His wasted—worse than wasted—past seemed to rise
before him, as the child's accents fell softly upon his ear, and he
seemed to realize more than ever how much he had thrown away.
In the course of the forenoon Mrs. Savareen's stepmother took her place
in the sick chamber, and she herself withdrew to another room to take
the rest of which she was by this time sorely in need. The invalid
would not assent to the proposal to call in a physician. He declared
that he was only dead tired, and that rest and quiet would soon restore
him without medicine, in so far as any restoration was possible. And so
the day passed by.
In the evening the wife again took her place at the bedside, and she
had not been there long ere her husband voluntarily began his chapter
of explanations. His story was a strange one, but there was no room to
doubt the truth of any portion of it.
THE BAD HALF CROWN.
He began by comparing himself to the bad half-crown, which always finds
its way back, but which has no right to expect a warm welcome on its
return. "Were it not," said he, "that I feel myself to be pretty near
the end of my earth's journey, I could not have the face to tell you my
story at all. But I feel that I am worn out, and don't think it likely
that I shall ever leave this room except for the grave. You shall know
everything, even more fully than I have ever known it myself until
within the last few hours. They say that when a man is nearing his end
he sees more clearly than at any other time of his life. For my part I
now see for the first time that I have never been anything but a
worthless lout from my cradle. I have never been fit to walk alone, and
if health and strength were to come back to me I should not be one whit
better than I have hitherto been. I don't know whether I ever told you
that I have a streak of gipsy blood in my veins. My grandmother was a
Romany, picked up by my grandfather on Wandsworth Common. I don't offer
this fact as any excuse for my conduct, but I have sometimes thought
that it may have something to do with the pronounced vagabondism which
has always been one of my most distinctive features. So long as I was
at home in my father's house he kept me from doing anything very
outrageous, but I was always a creature of impulse, ready to enter into
any hair-brained scheme without counting the cost. I never looked a
week ahead in my life. It was sufficient for me if the present was
endurable, and if the general outlook for the future promised something
new. My coming to this country in the first place was a mere impulse,
inspired by a senseless liking for adventure and a wish to see strange
faces and scenes. My taking Squire Harrington's farm was an impulse,
very largely due to its proximity to Lapierre's, who is a jolly
landlord and knows how to make his guests comfortable. I had no special
aptitude for farm life; no special desire to get on in the world; no
special desire to do anything except pass the time as pleasantly as I
could, without thought or care for the future. And as I have fully made
up my mind to make a clean breast of it, I am going to tell you
something which will make you despise me more than you ever despised me
yet. When I married you I did so from impulse. Don't mistake me. I
liked you better than any other woman I had ever seen. I liked your
pretty face, and your gentle, girlish ways. I knew that you were good,
and would make an excellent wife. But I well knew that I had no such
feeling towards you as a man should have towards the woman whom he
intends to make the companion of his life—no such feeling, for
instance, as I have for you at this moment. Well, I married you and we
lived together as happily as most young couples do. I knew that I had a
good wife, and you didn't know, or even suspect, what a brainless,
heartless clod you had for your husband. Our married life glided by
without anything particular happening to disturb it. But the thing
became monotonous to me, and I had the senseless vagabond's desire for
change. We did fairly well on the farm, but once or twice I was on the
point of proposing to you that we should emigrate to the Western
States. I began to drink more than was good for me, and two or three
times when I came home half-sees over you reproached me, and looked at
me in a way I didn't like. This I inwardly resented, like the besotted
fool I was. It seemed to me that you might have held your tongue. The
feeling wasn't a very strong one with me, and if it hadn't been for
that cursed four hundred pounds, things might have gone on for some
time longer. Of course I kept all this to myself, for I was at least
sensible enough to feel ashamed of my want of purpose, and knew that I
deserved to be horsewhipped for not caring more for you and baby.
"The legacy from my father, if properly used, would have placed us on
our feet. With a farm of my own, I might reasonably hope to become a
man of more importance in our community than I had been. For a time
this was the only side of the picture that presented itself to my mind.
I began to contemplate myself as a landed proprietor, and the
contemplation was pleasant enough. I bought the farm from Squire
Harrington in good faith, and with no other intention than to carry out
the transaction. When I left home on the morning of that 17th of July,
I had no more intention of absconding than I now have of running for
Parliament. The idea never so much as entered my mind. The morning was
wet, and it seemed likely that we should have a rainy day. I was in a
more loaferish mood than usual, and thought I might as well ride to
town to pass the time. The hired man, whose name I have forgotten, was
not within call at the moment, so I went out to the stable to saddle
Black Bess for myself. Then I found that the inner front padding of the
saddle had been torn by rats during the night, and that the metal plate
was exposed. To use it in that state would have galled the mare's back,
and it was necessary to place something beneath it. I looked about me
in the stable, but saw nothing suitable, so I returned into the house
to get some kind of an old cloth for the purpose. If you had been there
I should have asked for what I wanted, but you were not to be seen, and
when I called out your name you did not answer. Then, in a fit of
momentary stupid petulance, I went into the front bedroom, opened my
trunk, and took out the first thing that came uppermost. I should have
taken and used it for what I wanted just then, even if it had been a
silk dress or petticoat; but it happened to be a coat of my own. I took
it out to the stable, placed it under the saddle, and rode off. Before
reaching the front gate I saw how it was that you had not answered my
call, for, as you doubtless remember, you were out in the orchard with
baby in your arms, at some distance from the house. I nodded to you as
I rode past, little thinking that years would elapse before I should
see you again.
"I suppose you know all about how I spent the day. I had a bit of a
quarrel with the clerk at the bank, and that put me out of humor. I had
not intended to draw the money, but to leave it on deposit till next
"Shuttleworth's ill-tempered remarks nettled me. I took the notes in a
huff, and left the bank with them in my pocket. I ought to have had
sense enough to ride home at once, but I went to the Peacock and
muddled myself with drink. I felt elated at having such a large sum of
money about me, and carried on like a fool and a sot all afternoon. I
didn't start for home till a few minutes before dark. Up to that moment
the idea of clearing out had never presented itself to my mind. But as
I cantered along the quiet road I began to think what a good time I
could have with four hundred pounds in my pocket, in some far-off place
where I was not known, and where I should be free from incumbrances of
"In the half-befuddled condition in which I then was, the idea quickly
took possession of my stupid imagination. I rode along, however,
without coming to any fixed determination, till I reached Jonathan
Perry's toll-gate. I exchanged a few words with him, and then resumed
my journey. Suddenly it flashed upon me that, if I was really going to
make a strike for it, nothing was to be gained by delaying my flight.
What was the use of going home? If I ever got there I should probably
be unable to summon up sufficient resolution to go at all. Just then I
heard the sound of a horse's feet advancing rapidly down the road. An
impulse seized me to get out of the way. But to do this was not easy.
There was a shallow ditch along each side of the road, and the fence
was too high for a leap. Before I could let down the rails and betake
myself to the fields the horseman would be on the spot. As I cast rapid
glances this way and that, I came in front of the gateway of the lane
leading down by the side of Stolliver's house to his barnyard. As it
happened, the gate was open. On came the horse clattering down the
road, and not a second was to be lost if I wished to remain unseen. I
rode in, dismounted, shut to the gate, and led my mare a few yards down
the lane to an overhanging black cherry tree, beneath which I ensconced
myself. Scarcely had I taken up my position there when the horse and
his rider passed at a swift trot down the road. It was too dark for me
to tell at that distance who the rider was, but, as you shall hear, I
soon found out. I stood still and silent, with my hand on Bess's mane,
cogitating what to do next. While I did so, Stolliver's front door
opened, and he and his boys walked out to the front fence, where the
old man lighted his pipe. Then I heard the horse and his rider coming
back up the road from the tollgate. In another moment the rider drew up
and began to talk to Stolliver. I listened with breathless attention,
and heard every word of the conversation, which related to myself. I
feared that Bess would neigh or paw the ground, in which case the
attention of the speakers would have been drawn to my whereabouts. But,
as my cursed fate would have it, the mare made no demonstration of any
kind, and I was completely hidden from view by the darkness and also by
the foliage of the cherry tree under which I stood. The horseman, as
you probably know, was Lapierre, who had been despatched by you to
bring me home. This proceeding on your part I regarded, in my then
frame of mind, in the light of an indignity. A pretty thing, truly, if
I was to be treated as though I was unable to take care of myself, and
if my own wife was to send people to hunt for me about the
neighborhood! I waited in silence till Lapierre had paid his second
visit to the toll-gate and ridden off homewards. Still I waited, until
old Stolliver and his boys returned into the house. Then I led the mare
as softly as I could down the lane, and around to the back of the barn,
where we were safe from observation.
"I chuckled with insane glee at having eluded Lapierre, and then I
determined on a course of action. Like the egotistical villain I was, I
had no more regard for your feelings than if you had been a stick or a
stone. You should never suspect that I had wilfully deserted you, and
should be made to believe that I had been murdered. Having formed my
plans, I led the mare along the edges of the fields, letting down the
fences whenever it was necessary to do so, and putting them carefully
up again after passing through. I made my way down past the rear end of
John Calder's lot, and so on to the edge of the swamp behind Squire
Harrington's. Bess would take no harm there during the night and would
be found safe enough on the morrow. I removed the bit from her mouth,
so that she could nibble the grass, and left the bridle hanging round
her neck, securing it so that she would not be likely to trip or throw
herself. I showed far more consideration for her than I did for the
wife of my bosom. I removed the saddle so that she could lie down and
roll, if she felt that way disposed. I took the coat I had used for a
pad, and carried it a short distance into the swamp and threw it into a
puddle of water. I deliberated whether I should puncture the end of my
finger with my jack-knife and stain my coat with the blood, but
concluded that such a proceeding was unnecessary. I knew that you would
be mystified by the coat as you knew quite well that I had not worn it
when I left home in the morning. Then I bade farewell to poor Bess,
and, unaccountable as it may seem to you, I was profoundly touched at
parting from her in such a way. I embraced her neck and kissed her on
the forehead. As I tore myself away from her I believe I was within an
ace of shedding tears. Yet, not a thought of compunction on your
account penetrated my selfish soul. I picked my way through the swamp
to the fourth concession, and then struck out across unfrequented
fields for Harborough station, eight miles away.
"The moon was up, and the light shone brightly all the way, but I
skulked along the borders of out-of-the-way fields, and did not
encounter a human being. As I drew near the station I secreted myself
on the dark side of an old shed, and lay in wait for the first train
which might stop there. I did not have to remain more than about half
an hour. A mixed train came along from the west, and as it drew up I
sprang on the platform of the last car but one. To the best of my
knowledge nobody saw me get aboard. I was not asked for my ticket until
the train approached Hamilton, when I pretended that I had lost it, and
paid my fare from Dundas, where I professed to have boarded the train.
I got off at Hamilton, and waited for the east-bound express, which
conveyed me to New York."
REGINALD BOURCHIER SAVAREEN DISCOVERS THE GREAT SECRET.
Thus far Savareen had been permitted to tell his own story. I do not,
of course, pretend that it came from his lips in the precise words set
down in the foregoing chapter, but for the sake of brevity and
clearness, I have deemed it best to present the most salient portion of
the narrative in the first person. It was related to me years
afterwards by Mrs. Savareen herself, and I think I am warranted in
saying that I have given the purport of her relation with tolerable
accuracy. There is no need to present the sequel in the same fashion,
nor with anything like the same fulness of detail. The man unburdened
himself with all the appearance of absolute sincerity, and made no
attempt to palliate or tone down anything that told against himself. He
admitted that upon reaching New York he had entered upon a career of
wild dissipation. He drank, gambled and indulged in debauchery to such
an extent that in less than six weeks he had got pretty nearly to the
end of his four hundred pounds. He assumed a false name and carefully
abstained from ever looking at the newspapers, so that he remained in
ignorance of all that had taken place in the neighborhood of his home
after his departure. Becoming tired of the life he was leading in the
great city, he proceeded southward, and spent some months wandering
about through the Southern States. His knowledge of horse-flesh enabled
him to pick up a livelihood, and even at times to make money; but his
drinking propensities steadily gained the mastery over him and stood in
the way of his permanent success in any pursuit. During a sojourn at a
tavern in Lexington, Kentucky, he had formed an attachment for the
daughter of his landlord. She was a good girl in her way, and knew how
to take care of herself; but Mr. Jack Randall passed for a bachelor,
and seemed to be several grades above the ordinary frequenters of her
father's place. Their marriage and subsequent adventures have been
sufficiently detailed by the unhappy woman herself, during her
conference with Mrs. Savareen at No. 77 Amity street.
The soi-disant Randall had gone on from bad to worse, until he
had become the degraded creature of whom his wife had caught a
momentary glimpse under the glare of gas lamp on her departure from the
Amity street lodgings. The woman who supposed herself to be his wife
had informed him that a strange lady had called and been very kind to
her, but she had told him nothing about the lady having come from
Canada. Why she was thus reticent I am unable to say with certainty.
Perhaps it was because she attached no importance to the circumstance,
after the lady's declaration that the daguerreotype did not represent
the man whom she wished to find. Perhaps she had some inkling of the
truth, and dreaded to have her suspicions confirmed. She knew that she
had but a short time to live, and may very well have desired to sleep
her last sleep without making any discovery detrimental to her peace of
mind. Whatever the cause may have been, she kept silent to everything
but the main fact that a kind lady had called and supplied her with a
small store of money to provide for herself and the child. Savareen
never learned or even suspected, that the lady who ministered to the
wants of his victims was his own wife, until the truth was told to him
by the wife herself. Small difference to him however, where the money
came from. He had no scruples about taking a part of it to buy drink
for himself and one or two loafers he numbered among his personal
acquaintances. But there was sufficient left to provide for all the
earthly needs of the dying woman and her child. The little one breathed
its last within two days of Mrs. Savareen's visit, and the mother
followed it to the grave a week later.
Since then "Jack Randall" had dragged on a solitary existence in New
York, and had been on the very brink of starvation. Every half dime he
could lay hold of, by hook or by brook—and I fear it was sometimes by
both—was spent in the old way. Then his health suddenly broke down,
and for the first time he knew what it was to be weak and ill. Finally
he had been compelled to admit to himself that he was utterly beaten in
the race of life; and with a profound depth of meanness which
transcended any of his former acts, he had made up his mind to return
in his want and despair, to the wife whom he had so basely deserted.
Since leaving Westchester he had heard nothing of her, direct or
indirect; but he doubted not that she was supplied with the necessaries
of life, and that she would yield him her forgiveness.
It is possible to sympathize with the prodigal son, but whose heart is
wide enough to find sympathy for such a prodigal husband as this?
His wife heard him patiently out to the very end. Then she told him of
the arrival of Mr. Thomas Jefferson Haskins at the Royal Oak, and the
consequent visit to New York. The recital did not greatly move him. The
telling of his own story had again reduced him to a state of extreme
exhaustion, and he was for the time being incapable of further emotion.
He soon after dropped asleep, and as he was tolerably certain not to
awake until next morning, there was no occasion for further attendance
upon him. Mrs. Savareen drew to another apartment to ponder a while,
before retiring to rest, on the strange tale which she had heard.
Next morning it was apparent that Savareen was alarmingly ill, and that
his illness did not arise solely from exhaustion. A doctor was called
in, and soon pronounced his verdict. The patient was suffering from
congestion of the lungs. The malady ran a rapid course, and in another
week he lay white and cold in his coffin, the scar on his cheek,
showing like a great pale ridge on a patch of hoar-frost.
* * * * *
My story is told. The young widow donned the conventional weeds—"the
trappings and the suits of woe"—prescribed by custom under such
circumstances. It is only reasonable to believe that she sincerely
mourned the loss of her girlhood's ideal, but it was surely too much to
expect that she should be overwhelmed by grief at the death of one who
had been practically dead to her for years, and whose unworthiness had
recently been so unmistakably brought home to her. With her subsequent
fortunes the reader has no concern; but it can be no harm to inform him
that she remains a widow still, and that she at this moment resides
with her son—a prosperous lawyer—in one of the chief towns of Western