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Dick was sitting with Catherine when this letter was put into her hand. She flushed up, poor little widow, and began to tremble when she read it, and with a sudden movement half held it out to Butler, and then changed her mind and took it back once more; and so sat, without speaking for a minute, with her dark eyes fixed gravely upon his face. She looked like a child trying to remember some half-forgotten lesson, and Dick wondered what words she was trying to fashion. It was a long, low, old-fashioned room in which they were sitting—the drawing-room of a house on the terrace at Richmond, with three deep windows looking out upon the loveliest haze and distance upon the river--wandering at its own sweet will—upon the showers of autumnal gold sparkling beneath the mists that were spreading to the silver hills. Toto and Totty were in one of the windows, whispering and exploding into sudden shrieks of laughter at one another's witticisms. Rosy was curled up over a novel on the floor; and Catherine, sitting in her little bowery corner, with some work and some flowers on her table, was looking prettier and more gentlo than ever in her black dress, with her plaintive childish face crowned with the sad dignity of a widow's cap. So she sat talking to the melancholy and ill-humoured young man in the arm-chair beside her. 6. You must find me a great bore," Dick was saying; “I come and grumble, and abuse everybody and everything. I tried to go back to my painting this morning-confound it, I can do nothing with it; I can do nothing but grumble.” Dick often rode over to see the little widow ; he would come in the worst of spirits, and go away cheered and touched by Madamo Fontaine’s constant kindness and sympathy. The little woman had learnt out of the depths of her own morbid experiences to be tender and gentle and forbearing with others wandering in the same dreary labyrinth in which she had been utterly lost only a very little while ago ; so it seemed to her, looking back. Things were different now, and Catherine could not help wondering why, sometimes, and feeling that to the dearest friend, the tenderest, the most loyal simple heart that ever beat, she owed more than she could ever pay with a lifetime of love and fidelity. She did not feel any particular gratitude to Lady Farebrother, whose money had contributed to the pleasant home and its various luxuries, and was doing more good now than it had ever done in the old lady's lifetime ; but the helping hand, the kindness, the protecting love, which first rescued her was Fontaine's, and Catherine did not forget it; one was a chance, the other a blessing. Catherine, sitting there with Reine's letter in her hand, wondered over the many changes and chances of this mortal life. She knew well enough by this time that poor Madame de Tracy was only eager to repair the breach between her and her nephew; that Mrs. Butler and Catherine Beamish were longing to prevent the possible and horrible mis-alliance that was always hanging over the family; and that they would all have gladly and eagerly consented to a marriage between Madame Fontaine and this terrible Richard. She sadly wonders why sho, a widow woman, is deemed a fitter wife for Dick now, than two years ago, when all her
heart's best devotion was his. Catherine felt she loved him still, as some women must love the ideal of their youth-loved him with a gentle, truehearted friendship and faithful sympathy that would be always his; but not as Reine loved him. Ah! that love was alive, and did not die at its birth. As for Dick himself, he made no profession of affection-- he was sincerely fond of Catherine. He was touched-how could he help it ?by the knowledge of her old affection for him. He came, with a longing for sympathy, for a kind soul to talk to, from his empty, lonely house to Catherine's tranquil bright home. He came with a sad scorn for himself in his heart; but there he was sitting beside her day after day. She suited him better than his own relations. Reine, who he thought was true as steel, bad deceived him and jilted him. Catherine bad but to put ont her hand, he was not unwilling; and Catherine, still looking him full in the face, put out her hand, but Reine's little letter was in it.
"Oh, Richard," Madame Fontaine said, unconsciously calling him by bis Christian name, “I want you to read this, to forgive me for what I am going to say
Her eyes were brimming, her voice was failing, but she made a great effort and spoke. Just now everything seemed of very little consequence to her in comparison with the great sadness which had long filled her heart. There was a pathos in her tones of which she was unconscious, as she tried, by talking as straight and direct to the point as Reine herself might have done, to put away at once, for ever, all misconception. At another time, perhaps, she could not have spoken as she did just ther. But her sorrow still encompassed her like a shield; she was invulnerable ; a new strength had come to her from her very weakness and remorse for
“I did not love my husband as I ought to have loved him when I married him," she said. "I deserve anything-everything. Even this explanation is a punishment for my folly. But if I had to live my life again now, and if I might choose, with open eyes, between the man who loved me and—and I would not have things otherwise. Oh, Richard, you do not think me ungrateful for speaking? I know all that passed. Poor Reine, dear Reine," said the true-hearted little woman; " there is no one so noble, so faithful. She left you because she loved you. Do you know how ill she has been? Miss Williamson (it was of the present writer that Catherine was speaking then) has written to me about her. She thinks she will die some day, if you leave her much longer alone. Oh, Richard, dear friend, won't you forgive her and me, and go back to her again ? No one has ever loved you as she does.”
Those of my good friends who already despise Dick Butler, and who think him a poor creature at best, and no better than his paintings, will, I fear, despise him still more, for his eyes were full of tears when he looked up at last from the paper on which Reine's few words of sad congratulation were standing in black and white before him.
“God bless you, dear lady," he said, taking Madame Fontaine's out
stretched hand, and starting up. “You have saved me from committing a great wrong. I will write to you to-morrow when I have seen her.”
And then he went away quickly, without noticing the children, and a minute afterwards they heard his horse's feet clattering down the road. Then the three children, who had been listening with all their ears, and perfectly understanding everything, and thrilling with sympathy as children do, came and flung themselves upon the little widow, almost crushing her down upon
the sofa. "No, no, no," said Toto, in his broken English, “I shall not ’ave you mary. I want you, and when I'm a man." ... "Oh, Cathy, you won't leave us again, will you ? Promise, please promise,” cried Totty, and Rosa said nothing, but threw away her novel, griped one of Cathy's poor little hands tight in hers, crushing it with all her might, until her sister, half laughing, half crying, had to call out for mercy. And so, with one last bright appealing look, Catherine happily disappears, in the children's adoring but somewhat tyrannical embrace.
Good-by, little Catherine. Yours is no hard fate, after all. Toto is pour defender ; Rosy and Totty your faithful companions; friends and plenty and peaceful leisure are yours now.
Courseulles, where the oysters are preserved, and where the establishment is situated of which poor Fontaine spoke with so much enthusiasm, is a dreary little tumble-down village of odds and ends; of broken barrels, torn garments, oyster-heaps, and swinging shutters, standing upon the border of a great mud marsh, which at low water reaches out for a mile or more to meet a grey and turbid sea. The oysters are sorted out in long tauks, according to size, and fatten undisturbed, and in their places, round a little counting-house which stands in the middle of these calm and melancholy waters. The shutters swing, in the village a child or two turns over the oyster-heaps, the ragged garments flutter in the wind. It is not a place likely to attract mere pleasure-seekers, and yet as Dominique, the day after that little conversation at Richmond, comes leading the horse out of the stable of the inn at Courseulles, he meets a gentleman who has ridden over from Petitport upon M. de Tracy's bay mare, and who quietly asks him to see to the horse, and to tell him where Jademoiselle Chrétien is to be found.
“ Mademoiselle is in the counting-house," says Dominique, staring and grinning, and showing his great red gums; and Richard, for it is Richard of course, makes his way across the desolate waste between the inn and the oyster-tanks, and opens a gate for himself and walks along a narrow raised pathway leading to the little counting-house.
Before Butler could reach the door it opened, and Reine came out and stood for an instant looking at the great waste where the dredgers were at work, and where a dirty red gleam of sunset was glaring upon the mud. She sighed, and then she turned suddenly, feeling, as people do, that some one was watching her. Some one! She turned and looked with a quick sudden motion, and then, although she stood quite still, all her heart seemed to go out to welcome the one person in the whole world she most wearied for, and least thought she should see ever again. She did not speak, but, somehow, she was in his arms, and her wondering, tender, passionate eyes were recounting silently all the story of the long rad months through which she had wasted ; and as Dick looked at her, when : he saw her sweet face once more, the dreary marshes, the falling houses, seemed to be touched with some brightest and most sudden brilliance. Everything was plain to them both. I don't think they either of them ever knew how or in what words the story was told—the best and most perfect story which belongs to this complaining world ; to the world in which there are sad histories and wicked ones, in which some stories are well forgotten, and others, alas ! never uttered; but in which the sacred
: inspiration of love comes now and again to kindle cold hearts, to brighten sad lives, to bless and to cheer the failing and doubtful, and to tell them that a living and sacred power is moving upon the troubled waters of life.
We most of us have seen at one time or another great rocks piled upon rocks, landslips, and devastations, blasted trunks of trees sliding down the fierce sides of the mountains, the overflow of angry waters, vapour floating mid air in the solitude. And Nature working by some great law unknown, and only vaguely apprehended by us insects crawling a little way up the sides of her vast chasms, heaps and orders in some mighty fashion, and brings about noblest harmonies out of chaos. And so, too, out of the dire dismays and confusions of the secret world come results both mighty and gentle : great rocks stand shading daisies from the midday heat ; trees uptorn by some avalanche, lie soft upon lichen and little clinging mosses ; there are fissures where the snow lies dazzling; and huge stones sliding down the sides of the mountain seem arrested by the soft sprays of gentle little creeping plants, whose green leaves sparkle against the granite.