A kind of shudder passed over her. “She is lovely,” she said to herself; “but that terrible beauty! If she had had my pale skin and hair, I should have feared less; but she has nothing of that beauty from me. Yet perhaps it is the best; the whole mental nature may be mine, as the whole physical is——” Her hand pressed strongly upon her heart. “I have been at peace so long,” she went on, “yet I always knew trouble must come again, and through her; but if it were only for me, it would be nothing. Now she must suffer. I had thought she might escape. But it is the old story, the sins of the fathers——Can no miseries of mine be enough to free her?”
She turned away into her own room, and shut the door softly, so as not to wake her child; yet firmly, as if she would shut out even that child from all share in her solitary burden.
Maurice’s prediction of a fine day proved true. At twelve o’clock the weather was as brilliant as possible; the sky blue and clear, the river blue and glittering. The Mermaid, a small steamer, lay in the wharf, gaily decorated with flags; and throngs of people began to gather at the landing and on the deck. Among a group of the most important guests, stood the acknowledged leader of the expedition, the ‘Queen of Cacouna,’ Mrs. Bellairs. She was talking fast and merrily to everybody in turn, giving an occasional glance to the provision baskets as they were carried on board, and meantime keeping an anxious look-out along the bank of the river, for the appearance of her own little carriage, which ought to have been at the rendezvous long ago.
A very handsome man stood beside her. He was of a type the more striking because specimens of it so rarely found their way in to the fresh, vigorous, hard-working Colonial society. Remarkably tall, yet perfectly proportioned, the roughest backwoodsman might have envied his apparent physical strength; polished in manner to a degree which just, and only just, escaped effeminacy, the most spoiled beauty might have been proud of his homage. At present, however, he stood lazily enough, smiling a little at his hostess’ vivacity, exchanging a word or two with her husband, or following the direction of her eyes along the road. At last a cloud of dust appeared. “Here they are, I believe,” cried Mrs. Bellairs. “Ah! Maurice, I ought to have sent you, two girls never are to be trusted.” Mr. Percy turned round. He was conscious of a little amused curiosity about this Backwoods beauty, and, at hearing this second appeal to Maurice where she was concerned, it occurred to him to look more attentively than he had done before at the person appealed to. They were standing opposite to each other, and they had three attributes in common. Both were tall, both young, and both handsome. Percy was twenty-eight, and looked more than his age. Maurice was twenty-four, and looked less. Percy was fair—his