Mr. Norton bowed, smiled, and reseated himself near the invalid.
In the mean time, Mr. Dubois and his daughter went through the rain to the stables; his wife replenished the tea-urn and began to rearrange the table.
Mrs. McNab, during the scene that had thus unexpectedly occurred, had been waddling from one part of the room to the other, exclaiming, “The Lord be gude to us!” Her presence, however, seemed for the time to be ignored.
When she heard the gentle movements made by Mrs. Dubois among the dishes, her dream seemed suddenly to fade out of view. Seating herself again at the table, she diligently pursued the task of finishing her supper, yet ever and anon examining the prostrate form upon the floor.
“Peradventure he’s a mon fra’ the States. His claithes look pretty nice. As a gen’al thing them people fra’ the States hae plenty o’ plack in their pockets. What do you think, sir?”
“He is undoubtedly a gentleman from New England”, said Mr. Norton.
Mrs. McNab was a native of Dumfries, Scotland, and had made her advent in the Miramichi country about five years previous to the occurrences just mentioned.
Having buried her husband, mother, and two children,—hoping that change of scene might lighten the weight upon her spirits, she had concluded to emigrate with some intimate acquaintances to the Province of New Brunswick.
On first reaching the settlement, she had spent several weeks at the Dubois House, where she set immediately at work to prove her accomplishments, by assisting in making up dresses for Mrs. Dubois and Adele.
She entertained them with accounts of her former life in Scotland,—talking largely about her acquaintance with the family of Lord Lindsay, in which she had served in the capacity of nurse. She described the castle in which they resided, the furniture, the servants, and the grand company; and, more than all, she knew or pretended to know the traditions, legends, and ghost stories connected, for many generations past, with the Lindsay race.
She talked untiringly of these matters to the neighbors, exciting their interest and wonder by the new phases of life presented, and furnishing food for the superstitious tendencies always rife in new and ignorant settlements. In short, by these means, she won her way gradually in the community, until she came to be the general factotum.
It was noticed, indeed, that in the annual round of her visits from house to house, Mrs. McNab had a peculiar faculty of securing to herself the various material comforts available, having an excellent appetite and a genius for appropriating the warmest seat at the fireplace and any other little luxury a-going. These things were, however, overlooked, especially by the women of the region, on account of her social qualities, she being an invaluable companion during the long days and evenings when their husbands and sons were away, engaged in lumbering or fishing. When the family with which she happened to be sojourning were engaged in domestic occupations, Mrs. McNab, established in some cosey corner, told her old wife stories and whiled away the long and dismal wintry hours.