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- Marguerite Verne - 1/71 -


MARGUERITE VERNE;

OR:

SCENES FROM CANADIAN LIFE.

BY

RE. AGATHA ARMOUR.

CHAPTER I.

NEW YEAR'S EVE.

"Every one for his own. The night is starry and cold, my friend, And the New Year blithe and bold, my friend Comes up to take his own."--_Tennyson_.

New Year's Eve in the fair city of St. John, that queenly little city which sits upon her rocky throne overlooking the broad expanse of bay at her feet.

Reader, we do not wish to weary you with the known, but love for our own dear New Brunswick is surely sufficient apology.

It is one of the feelings of human nature to be possessed with a desire to worship the great and titled, to become enamoured with those appendages, which are the symbols of social distinction. Let us consider how we, as a people, are privileged. Is there any grander title this side of Heaven than found in these words, "I am a British subject," and next "I am a New Brunswicker"? You who have travelled have often felt your hearts rebound when listening to the eulogiums passed upon our country and its gifted sons through the medium of the pulpit, the platform and the press. "He is a New Brunswick boy." Ah, those words are sufficient to inspire us with thoughts ennobling, grand and elevating. There are to be found growlers in every clime, and it is only such that will desert their fatherland and seek refuge under foreign skies. We have liberty, right, education, refinement and culture in our midst; we have a good government, noble reforms, and all advantages to make us good and happy. Then let us cherish every right and institution which makes our beloved New Brunswick the pride of its loyal people. It is such feeling which prompts this work, and if the different scenes throughout the province which we will endeavor to portray, the usages of society, custom, &c., and the few characters introduced from real life, meet your approbation, our highest expectation will be realized.

Now back to our fair city.

On this New Year's Eve the moon was holding high carnival. Wrapped in a costume of silvery radiance, she was displaying her charms to the busy throng beneath with all the coquetry she could summon, to her aid, darting quick glances at youths and maidens, and by covert smiles bringing even the middle-aged man of business to her feet. The air is also influenced by her wooing, and is inclined to be less severe than some hours earlier. Floods of light are radiating King Square, giving even to its leafless trees a charm of softness and effect. Pedestrians are going to and fro, while several halt in the vicinity of the fountain to smoke their pipes and discuss the news of the day. Presently a quick step is heard approaching, and a trim little figure greets us, wrapped in a fur-lined cloak, which, despite its ungainliness, cannot conceal the grace of the wearer. As the maiden casts a passing glance we are impressed by the sweet purity of her face--a face that will stamp its image upon more than one heart, and leave memories that cannot be forgotten.

Such was Marguerite Verne as we now attempt to introduce her in the fond hope that others will see her as we do.

"Marguerite," exclaimed the child who had overtaken her as she reached the pavement in front of the Royal Hotel, "Marguerite I am tired running, I thought I never would get up to you. Golly, how you do streak along!"

"Charlie Verne, you naughty boy," returned the girl as she confronted her pet brother, his childish face aglow with the late exercise, "I thought you were going to keep house with Winnie?'

"So I was," said the boy, eyeing his sister closely to watch the effect of his speech, "but the Listers have arrived and I had to run and tell you."

At this announcement Marguerite Verne could scarce repress a hearty laugh and her large, deep violet eyes sparkled, and from their changing expressions exhibited such variety of shade that one would scarce venture to say which was the original one.

A deeper tinge now rested upon the purely oval cheek as the girl returned the recognition of a thoughtful-looking young man who had the air and manner of one possessed with more common sense than generally falls to the lot of the young men courted by the _creme de la creme_.

"Miss Verne, I see that you too are bent upon enjoying this glorious evening; the old year is going out in all its serenity."

"Yes indeed, Mr. Lawson; the old year is dying with all the true greatness that characterizes its life; it has left nothing undone, and if we have failed to garner up its hours sacredly, to us--not it--we lay the blame."

"True indeed; but how little do we think of those lessons until they are beyond reach. We make grand resolutions on each New Year, but how often do they go to the winds ere the first week has passed around."

Phillip Lawson's words took an earnest tone and his manner was earnest also. His rich, deep voice found its way far down in the maiden's heart; but she would not allow herself to think so. She would not acknowledge to herself that the restless emotions within her heart were other than a passing thought to a very dear friend! She must not see that Phillip Lawson, in his gifted, manly character, was her hero of all that was good and true, and that his was the nature by which she tested others.

As the foregoing remarks turned into a lengthy conversation Marguerite scarcely heeded that Trinity chimed out the hour of nine when the trio turned their steps homeward, Master Charlie forming an advance guard, and making the air resound with all the hilarity at his command when he came in friendly contact with some of his "fellers" as he expressed himself.

When Marguerite bade good night to her companion and stood for a moment in the hallway watching the retreating figure, we will not disclose her thoughts, but will follow her to the drawing-room, where "the Listers" are marshalled _en masse_ awaiting her return.

"Marguerite, you darling!" exclaimed the eldest Miss Lister rushing forward and embracing the former in a manner that was more demonstrative than conventional, but was accepted with the best of grace, notwithstanding there was to be a repetition four times in succession.

Mrs. Lister was a distant cousin of Mr. Verne, and having six marriageable daughters on hand, had recourse to much diplomacy in the way of matrimonial speculations. For several years she had been in the habit of spending the New Year with the Verne family, each year adding one more eligible, until she has now the happy six.

It had ever been the boast of Mrs. Lister that she had attended boarding school, and carried off several prizes for her classic ability; and in order to establish the fact, had named her six daughters after six of the Muses. Clio, the eldest, inherited the largest part of her mother's ability.

The former often regretted that three unruly boys came to interrupt the succession of the classic nine.

But all this addition of inspiration at this festive season did not _inspire_ the Verne family with any such high-toned sentiments as might have been expected.

"Marguerite Verne," explained the haughty Evelyn, the imperious first-born of the family, "you are enough to drive anyone distracted! How can you submit so tamely to being bored to death by such pests? Indeed, Aunt Hester with all her wisdom is preferable to that empty headed woman and her muses."

Marguerite had retired to her own room. She was sitting at a small ebony writing desk, jotting down a few thoughts in her diary When her sister entered, but now arose and drew forth a luxurious arm-chair for the imperious beauty to recline in.

"If worrying myself to death would do me any good, I might try it too, Evelyn; but as it does not, I try to make the best of it."

"There you are again, with your philosophical ideas. I must expect nothing else from one who cares so little for the opinions of others, and lives only in sight of all the old half-crazed poets and fanatics of the Dark Ages."

Marguerite durst not look toward the speaker, lest her quizzical expression might heap further assault upon her; so she sat quietly regarding a favorite print that hung over the mantelshelf. After a few moments silence, Evelyn drew herself up haughtily and arose to go, when Marguerite felt a rising sensation in her throat, and instantly rushed into her sister's arms. "Eve, dearest, I know you are disappointed in not going out this evening, and I am sorry; can you not believe me?"

Evelyn Verne was a beauty--beautiful as an houri, imperial as Cleopatra, but merciless as a De Medicis. She was a true woman of the world; self was the only shrine at which she worshipped; and if indeed she could feel a momentary sympathetic chord, surely Marguerite was the cause. The piercing black eyes send forth a flash that is electrifying, then fix themselves upon her companion. She is perhaps struggling between pride and duty, and it costs her a heavy sacrifice. As she gazes upon that sweet, soulful face she is almost tempted to become a nobler and better being; but the world has too


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