McAllister had got his estate and the large revenue it yielded, and that was all he wanted. Lady Margaret was an appendage, and a very tiresome one into the bargain. She could not touch his sympathies, for whatever heart he ever had was far across the sea, where the cold green waters of the great St. Lawrence beat in unceasing murmur against the rocky beach at Father Point.
McAllister heard occasionally from his mother, whom he had often begged to come over to Scotland to share his prosperity, but the old lady always refused, saying that she was too old to venture so far from home.
He had written several times to M. Bois-le-Duc, but never had received any answer or news of the cure until a year ago, when a friar from Quebec had come to Scotland on a visit, and had brought a letter of introduction from the cure of Father Point to McAllister. The letter consisted only of a few short lines. Noel had often questioned his mother about Marie Gourdon, but on this subject the old lady was silent,—it is so easy to leave questions unanswered in letters.
“Margaret,” Noel called out suddenly, rousing himself from his meditations, “I am going out now, and I shall not be back till five o’clock. I am going to ride up the Glen.”
“Very well, but remember to be back in time to dress for dinner. Last time we were invited to the Severn’s you were half an hour late, and Lady Severn has not forgiven you yet.”
“Oh! all right. I shall be strictly on time this evening, and trust to make my peace with the old lady. Au revoir.”
“Alas! our memories may retrace
Each circumstance of time and place;
Season and scene come back again,
And outward things unchanged remain:
The rest we cannot reinstate;
Ourselves we cannot re-create,
Nor get our souls to the same key
Of the remember’d harmony.”
The dinner party at Mount Severn this evening was an undoubted success, as were most of Lady Severn’s entertainments, for she possessed to a great degree that invaluable gift of a hostess—the art of allowing people to entertain themselves. And, added to the charm of her manner, and her undoubted tact in bringing the right people together, Lady Severn had all the accessories to make a dinner party go off well. The large dining-room was a long, low, octagonal apartment, with a small conservatory opening out at the lower end. There were numerous small alcoves in the wall, and in the recesses of each of these were huge pots of maidenhair fern.
All along the oak-panelled walls at short intervals were placed old-fashioned brass sconces with candles in them, which shed a clear though subdued light on the dinner table and the faces of the guests, and brought into prominence the bright hues of the ladies’ gowns and the sparkling crystal and silver on the dinner table.