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Between Whiles.

by

Helen Jackson (H. H.)

Author of "Ramona," "A Century of Dishonor," "Verses," "Sonnets and
Lyrics," "Glimpses of Three Coasts," "Bits of Travel," "Bits of Travel
at Home," "Zeph," "Mercy Philbrick's Choice," "Hetty's Strange History,"
"Bits of Talk about Home Matters," "Bits of Talk for Young Folks,"
"Nelly's Silver Mine," "Cat Stories."

1888.






Contents.


The Inn of the Golden Pear
The Mystery of Wilhelm Rütter
Little Bel's Supplement
The Captain of the "Heather Bell"
Dandy Steve
The Prince's Little Sweetheart




Between Whiles.




The Inn of the Golden Pear.

I.


Who buys? Who buys? 'Tis like a market-fair;
The hubbub rises deafening on the air:
The children spend their honest money there;
The knaves prowl out like foxes from a lair.

Who buys? Who sells? Alas, and still alas!
The children sell their diamond stones for glass;
The knaves their worthless stones for diamonds pass.
He laughs who buys; he laughs who sells. Alas!


In the days when New England was only a group of thinly settled
wildernesses called "provinces," there was something almost like the old
feudal tenure of lands there, and a relation between the rich land-owner
and his tenants which had many features in common with those of the
relation between margraves and vassals in the days of Charlemagne.

Far up in the North, near the Canada line, there lived at that time an
eccentric old man, whose name is still to be found here and there on the
tattered parchments, written "WILLAN BLAYCKE, Gentleman."

Tradition occupies itself a good deal with Willan Blaycke, and does not
give his misdemeanors the go-by as it might have done if he had been
either a poorer or a less clever man. Why he had crossed the seas and
cast in his lot with the pious Puritans, nobody knew; it was certainly
not because of sympathy with their God-reverencing faith and God-fearing
lives, nor from any liking for hardships or simplicity of habits. He had
gold enough, the stories say, to have bought all the land from the St.
Johns to the Connecticut if he had pleased; and he had servants and
horses and attire such as no governor in all the provinces could boast.
He built himself a fine house out of stone, and the life he led in it
was a scandal and a byword everywhere. For all that, there was not a man
to be found who had not a good word to say for Willan Blaycke, and not a
woman who did not look pleased and smile if he so much as spoke to her.
He was generous, with a generosity so princely that there were many who
said that he had no doubt come of some royal house. He gave away a farm
to-day, and another to-morrow, and thought nothing of it; and when
tenants came to him pleading that they were unable to pay their rent, he
was never known to haggle or insist.

Naturally, with such ways as these he made havoc of his estates, vast as
they were, and grew less and less rich year by year. However, there was
enough of his land to last several generations out; and if he had
married a decent woman for his wife, his posterity need never have
complained of him. But this was what Willan Blaycke did,--and it is as
much a mystery now as it doubtless was then, why he did it,--he married
Jeanne Dubois, the daughter of a low-bred and evil-disposed Frenchman
who kept a small inn on the Canadian frontier. Jeanne had a handsome but
wicked face. She stood always at the bar, and served every man who came;
and a great thing it was for the house, to be sure, that she had such
bold black eyes, red cheeks, and a tongue even bolder than her glances.
But there was not a farmer in all the north provinces who would have
taken her to wife, not one, for she bore none too good a name; and men's
speech about her, as soon as they had turned their backs and gone on
their journeys, was quite opposite to the gallant and flattering things
they said to her face in the bar. Some people said that Willan Blaycke
was drunk when he married Jeanne, that she took him unawares by means of
a base plot which her father and she had had in mind a long time. Others
said that he was sober enough when he did it, only that he was like one
out of his mind,--he sorrowed so for the loss of his only son, Willan,
whom he had in the beginning of that year sent back to England to be
taught in school.

He had brought the child out with him,--a little chap, with marvellously
black eyes and yellow curls, who wore always the costliest of
embroidered coats, which it was plain some woman's hand had embroidered
for him; but whether the child's mother were dead or alive Willan
Blaycke never told, and nobody dared ask.

That the boy needed a mother sadly enough was only too plain. Riding
from county to county on his little white pony by his father's side,
sitting up late at roystering feasts till he nodded in his chair, seeing
all that rough men saw, and hearing all that rough men said, the child
was in a fair way to be ruined outright; and so Willan Blaycke at last
came to see, and one day, in a fit of unwonted conscientiousness and
wisdom, he packed the poor sobbing little fellow off to England in
charge of a trusty escort, and sternly made up his mind that the lad
should not return till he was a man grown. It was only a few months
after this that Jeanne Dubois became Mistress Willan Blaycke; so it
seemed not improbable that the bereaved father's loneliness had had much
to do with that extraordinary step.

Be that as it may, whether he were drunk or sober when he married her,
he treated her as a gentleman should treat his wife, and did his best to
make her a lady. She was always clad in a rich fashion; and a fine show
she made in her scarlet petticoat and white hat with a streaming scarlet
feather in it, riding high on her pillion behind Willan Blaycke on his
great black horse, or sitting up straight and stiff in the swinging
coach with gold on the panels, which he had bought for her in Boston at
a sale of the effects of one of the disgraced and removed governors of
the province of Massachusetts. If there had been any roads to speak of
in those days, Jeanne Dubois would have driven from one end to the other
of the land in her fine coach, so proud was she of its splendor; but
even pride could not heal the bruises she got in jolting about in it,
nor the terror she felt of being overturned. So she gradually left off
using it, and consoled herself by keeping it standing in all good
weather in full sight from the highway, that everybody might know she
had it.

It was a sore trial to Jeanne that she had no children,--a sore trial
also to her wicked old father, who had plotted that the great Blaycke
estates should go down in the hands of his descendants. Not so Willan
Blaycke. It was undoubtedly a consolation to him in his last days to
think that his son Willan would succeed to everything, and the Dubois
blood remain still in its own muddy channel. It is evident that before
he died he had come to think coldly of his wife; for his mention of her
in his will was of the curtest, and his provision for her during her
lifetime, though amply sufficient for her real needs, not at all in
keeping with the style in which she had dwelt with him.

The exiled Willan had returned to America a year before his father's
death. He was a quiet, well-educated, rather scholarly young man. It
would be foolish to deny that his filial sentiment had grown cool during
the long years of his absence, and that it received some violent shocks
on his return to his father's house. But he was full of ambition, and
soon saw the opening which lay before him for distinction and wealth as
the ultimate owner of the Blaycke estates. To this end he bent all his
energies. He had had in England a good legal education; he was a clear
thinker and a ready speaker, and speedily made himself so well known and
well thought of, that when his father died there were many who said it
was well the old man had been taken away in time to leave the young
Willan a property worthy of his talents and industry.

Willan had lived in his father's house more as a guest than as a son. To
the woman who was his father's wife, and sat at the head of his father's
table, he bore himself with a distant courtesy, which was far more
irritating to her coarse nature than open antagonism would have been.
But Jeanne Dubois was clever woman enough to comprehend her own
inferiority to both father and son, and to avoid collisions with either.
She had won what she had played for, and on the whole she had not been
disappointed. As she had never loved her husband, she cared little that
he did not love her; and as for the upstart of a boy with his fine airs,
well, she would bide her time for that, Jeanne thought,--for it had
never crossed Jeanne's mind that when her husband died she would not be
still the mistress of the fine stone house and the gilt panelled coach,
and have more money than she knew what to do with. Many malicious
reveries she had indulged in as to how, when that time came, she would
"send the fellow packing," "he shouldn't stay in her house a day." So,
when it came to pass that the cards were turned, and it was Willan who
said to her, on the morning after his father's funeral, "What are your
plans, Madame?" Jeanne was for a few seconds literally dumb with anger
and astonishment.

Then she poured out all the pent-up hatred of her vulgar soul. It was a
horrible scene. Willan conducted himself throughout the interview with
perfect calmness; the same impassable distance which had always been so
exasperating to Jeanne was doubly so now. He treated her as if she were
merely some dependant of the house, for whom he, as the executor of the
will, was about to provide according to instructions.

"If I can't live in my own house," cried the angry woman, "I'll go back
to my father and tend bar again; and how'll you like that?"

"It is purely immaterial to me, Madame," replied Willan, "where you
live. I merely wish to know your address, that I may forward to you the
quarterly payments of your annuity.



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