An inspiration from Arbuton

The next morning, on waking, Arbuton noticed that clear weather had replaced the fog of the night.

A strong breeze blew; the broad river rolled waves that made the steamer sway, and from time to time struck her bow violently, throwing the spray of their foaming crests at the figure of the striders of the forecastle.

The sun, through the gaps of the clouds, threw immense and splendid streams of light over the villages and farms which enameled the united surface of the landscape, as well as on the summit and in the hollow of the waves.

The fresh air brought a certain cheerfulness to the suspicious mind of the young traveler.

Involuntarily he looked for those people with whom he had promised himself that he had nothing to unravel, so that he could appeal to the sympathetic feelings of at least one of them, in the emotion which this admirable morning.

But a large number of passengers had embarked during the night at Malbaie, where the short summer season was drawing to a close, and the Ellison family was lost in the crowd.

At lunch he noticed that someone had taken his place, and no one paid any attention to him when he passed by, looking for another seat.

Kitty and the Colonel were breakfasting alone, and seemed preoccupied.

At the end of the table, Arbuton approached them and inquired about Mrs. Ellison, who had taken his share of almost all the amusements of the previous day, moving here and there in limping with elegance, and who-following the expression of her husband-certainly did not delay the meals.

“Faith,” said the colonel, “I am afraid that his foot will not be worse this morning, and that we must pass at least a few days at Quebec.

Arbuton welcomed this sad news with a seemingly inexplicable gaiety in someone who was no stranger to Mrs. Ellison’s misfortune.

He smiled instead of looking distressed, and began to laugh when the colonel jokingly added: {42}

-Naturally, this upset my cousin who hates Quebec and would like to return to Eriécreek as soon as possible.

Kitty promised to endure this ordeal with resignation.

“As for me,” said Arbuton-with enough inconsistency, as Kitty remarked-“I have made up my mind to spend a few days in Quebec, and I will have the opportunity to inquire about Mrs. Ellison’s recovery. By the way, “he added, turning to the colonel’s side,” I hope you will allow me to offer you my services to get to the hotel.

And indeed, when the boat was docked, Arbuton did nothing less than hold a car and place the trunks and overcoats of the Ellison family on it.

Then he helped carry the patient to the dock, and put it on the best seat. Then he raised his hat, and good morning was on his lips, when the colonel cried out in surprise.

-But, sapristi, you go up with us!

Arbuton thought he had better take another car; that it would bother Mrs. Ellison.

But this one protested, and finally he took a seat next to the colonel.

It was a new twist of fate.

At the hotel they found a crowd queuing from the controller’s office to halfway up the outside staircase.

-Hello! what does that mean? the colonel asked the last man in the line.

-It’s a small procession to the hotel’s register! It took us three quarters of an hour to get to a certain point, “said the man, who was obviously of the Colonel’s temperament.

-And you have not succeeded yet? said he, in the same tone. So the house is full?

-Oh no! they have not started throwing people out of the windows yet.

“His mood is spoiling, Colonel,” said Kitty.

“Would not you be better off entering and informing yourself? Mrs. Ellison asked.

So teasing the colonel by suggesting what he had to do was part of the pleasant program of the trip.

“You did well to remind me, Fanny. I was running away in despair.

And the colonel disappeared inside.

He came out a long time later, all transported, but no joy.

“For the very special reason,” said he, “that I have ladies with me, one of whom is ill, I am promised a room on the fifth floor; we can have it in the course of the day. They assure that the other hotel is congested and that it is useless to go there.

Mrs. Ellison was ready to cry, and for the first time since her accident she felt some spite against Arbuton. They remained all three silent on their seats, and the colonel, on the pavement, wiped his forehead without saying anything.

Arbuton, in the poverty of his imagination, asked if there was not some furnished lodging where they could find cover. {43}

-No doubt, there is! exclaimed Mrs. Ellison, proud of her hero, and calling with kitty’s attentionthe ingenuity of the young man. Richard, we have to find a pension house.

-Do you know any good pension house? the colonel asked the driver mechanically.

“A large number,” replied this one.

“Well, drive us to twenty or thirty of the best,” the Colonel commanded.

And we went off to discover.

The colonel first inquired about prices, then visited the rooms, and as soon as he spoke out against certain apartments, Mrs. Ellison immediately sent Kitty to see and confuse her.

Whenever it confirmed the colonel’s opinion, Mrs. Ellison claimed that they were too difficult; and they never left a door without the poor sufferer imagining that those in Paradise were closing behind them.

She began to believe that their peregrinations would be fruitless, when they finally stopped in front of the vestibule of a house whose exterior betrayed so little the object of their research, that the young woman even advised not to ring.

She so well shared his opinion with the colonel, that, the risky ringing, he preceded his request a few words of apology for having supposed that there were rooms for rent.

After a glance at these, he returned to the car, declared that everything was for the best, and that we did not need to go further.

Mrs. Ellison replied that she could not trust the judgment of her husband; he was so inconsistent.

Kitty visited the rooms, and came back delighted, which alarmed Mrs. Ellison more and more.

She was sure it was better to look elsewhere; that there were a host of other places much more conducive.

Even though the rooms were nice and the resort pleasurable, there were some drawbacks that we would discover later. Thereupon her husband took her in his arms, got her out of the car, and, without answer or comment, carried her to the house.

During all these races, Arbuton had promised to leave his traveling companions as soon as they discovered a lodging, to spend only the day in Quebec, and to take the evening train for Gorham, thus escaping the troubles of a Cluttered hotel, and cutting short relationships that he should never have let go so far.

As long as the Ellison family had been homeless, he had thought it his duty not to give up. And even now that she had fortunately found shelter, was not he obliged to do something more? He stood irresolute near the car.

-Do you not go in to see our neighborhoods? Kitty asked hospitably.

“With pleasure,” replied the young man.

“My dear fellow,” said the colonel, returning to the salon, “I have not rented a room for you. I assumed you’d rather run your chances at the hotel. {44}

-Oh! I leave tonight.

-Why is that? it’s annoying!

“I have little provision for a camp bed in the hotel lounges, you see. And yet I hesitate to leave you here, after having caused you this calamity.

-Oh! do not talk about that; I am the only one to blame. We will get out of trouble perfectly.

Arbuton felt like a vague disappointment.

There was in the depths of his heart some hope that it might be necessary for this embarrassed family, or otherwise, that something else would hold him back and force him not to leave his new friends.

But they seemed to be admirably coping with the situation; they were lodged much better than they expected, and really needed nothing. Fortune smiled at him, and made him free.

This smile, however, seemed a little ironic as he weighed things, standing up and saying nothing.

The colonel waited patiently; Mrs. Ellison examined her from the sofa where she was sitting; Kitty lurked in the apartment, diverting the head-pretty fairy from the new interior, priestess presiding at the installation of these temporary penises.

Arbuton opened his mouth to bid farewell, but a good genius spoke for him-with the habitual inconsistency of most good geniuses:

“Besides,” he said, “I suppose you occupy all the rooms available in the house.

-Oh! as for that, I do not know, “replied the colonel, without recognizing the language of inspiration; we must inform ourselves.

Kitty dropped a photo album from his table.

-Well, Kitty! Mrs. Ellison said.

There was not another word until the arrival of the hostess, who declared to have another room … to know if it would be appropriate.

It was a garret, back, but with a magnificent view.

Arbuton was convinced that it would be his business for a day or two to spend in Quebec; he hastened to restrain her without seeing her.

He had his trunk carried there, then went to the post office to see if he could find any letters to his address, offering to do the same service to Colonel Ellison.

Kitty escaped to go exto plore the room assigned to her on the back of the house; that is to say, she opened the window overlooking what the hostess told her to be the Ursuline convent, and stopped there in silent admiration.

A black cross rose in the center, and all around it ran the paths and alleys of the garden, among the tufts of lilac and among the slender stems of the hollyhocks.

The ground was closed by a high wall, and partly by the group of buildings of the convent, built of gray stone, with high gables, and surmounted by high roofs, pierced by dormers, and whose shiny metal surface shone under the sun in the morning already high, while lower down, beneficent shades faded under the thick leaves. {45}

Two slender, slender poplars stood against the apse of the chapel, marrying their tops above the roof; and nearby, under the porch, two sisters were seated in the sun, motionless, in black robes, with veils of the same shade falling on their shoulders, their pale figure lost in the kind of white-clothed camail that enveloped them in the chest to the head.

With their hands on their knees, they did not seem to see the other nuns, who were walking in the alleys of the garden with little girls, their pupils, answering their laughter from time to time, in a voice so soft and as innocent as they are.

Kitty looked at them from above, her heart moved.

It was for her only the figures of a painting representing something old and poetic; but she loved them, pitied them, and admired them as if they really had not been anything else. It was impossible for them to inhabit the same world as Kitty, who thought she was dreaming about a book from Charlie’s room at Eriecreek.

She put her hand over her eyes to see better, when the cannon of noon rumbled on the citadel. The bell of the chapel uttered its discordant appeal, and these strange masks, these singular black birds, throat and white figure, returned in crowds.

At the same moment, under the window, a little dog screamed painfully at the cracked sound of the bell; and Kitty, in her impartial gaiety, turned away from the romantically dreamy scene of the garden of the nuns, towards the naive comedy on which the lugubrious note attracted her attention.

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When he had given way to his anguish, the animal resumed his attitude of little French dog, peaceful if it ever was, and went to sleep near a big lazy cat whose neither the bell nor he had could interrupt the sum in the sun.

A man with a peasant twist was sawing wood; a small child was there, quiet, among the feet of larks and carnations of a very small garden, while over flower pots that bloomed on the low window of the neighboring house adjoining the enclosure a young mother’s face looked peacefully outside.

The great expanse of the grounds of the convent barely left a breathing space for the humble flowers of this little garden, which, with the low palisade separating it from the neighboring courtyards, seemed like a child’s toy or the scene of a puppet theater.

In this way, the garden seemed to the girl as outside of real life as the convent itself.

When she saw Quebec for the first time, the walls and other warlike devices had drawn her attention to the historic grandeur of the city; but this attraction was still increasing now that it was, so to speak, admitted into the religious and domestic intimacy of the old city.

There was a romance in her house, as in almost all the good natures of a young girl; and she found, in the strangeness of her surroundings, the same pleasure she could have found in following the thread of a charming narrative.

Also, when she returned to the salon where the patient was resting, Fanny asked her: {46}

-Well, Kitty, are you all right?

She answered with an irrepressible sigh of contentment:

-Oh yes! can there be anything more beautiful?

And his enthusiastic eye stopped on the low ceilings, the vast and deep chimney telling eloquently the large fires that were to roar, the French windows to the curious and massive Spanishettes, and all those little details that made the place something of rare and attractive.

Fanny burst out laughing at the ecstatic distraction in which her cousin’s physiognomy was lost.

-Do you think this place is good enough for a hero and a heroine? she asked maliciously.

It must be said that Kitty had, by some childish attempts on the domain of fiction where she had spent a great part of her life, conquered in the family one of those reputations from which it is so difficult to get rid of; and Mrs. Ellison, who was as unappealistic as it is possible to be, admired her with this fervor that people with littlemagination always maintain the place of their friends whose dispositions are turned towards the literary creations.

She sincerely believed her cousin always immersed in the mysterious combinations of some novel.

-Oh! replied Kitty, blushing a little, as for heroes and heroines, I do not know; but I would like to live there myself. Yes, she continued, addressing herself rather than her interlocutor, I really think I was made for that. I always wanted to live among old things, in a stone house, with skylights. But there is not a single skylight in Eriecreek, and far from having stone houses, there is not only one in brick. Oh yes, definitely! I was born to live in an old country.

“Well, then, Kitty, you only have to marry a man from the East, and establish yourself in the East; or find a rich husband who takes you to live in Europe.

-Or Quebec. That’s all I would ask; and he would not need to be rich for that.

“But, my poor child, what kind of husband will you find who wishes to settle in this necropolis?

-Oh! but, I suppose, some artist, or some man of letters.

This was not the kind of husband Ellison thought she would realize Kitty’s dream of living in an old country; but she was not sorry to leave the subject aside for the moment, and full of a serene gratitude to Providence who had led two young men to marry under the same roof, and under her watch, she curled up among the couch cushions, willing to drive from there the campaign against Arbuton with vigor and perseverance.

“Faith, it will be an injustice if you are not happy in this world, Kitty; you are so undemanding, “she said to the girl, who, turned towards the window, allowed her reverie to go astray among the figures who passed beneath her in the street.

These figures were new, yet strangely familiar, for she had often seen them in the land of fiction. {47}

The peasant women who passed with their hats of felt or straw, some on foot with baskets on their arms, the others in their light market carts – whether they were wrinkled and bent by age or fresh vigor and youth-were all childhood friends she had known in more than one fairy tale in France or Germany.

The black-clad priests who passed each other with the passers-by on the narrow wooden sidewalk, deviating from time to time with politeness, or bowing, grave and smiling, lifting their broad-brimmed hats, were for her more recent knowledge, but no less intimate. They were part of the old Italian and Spanish novels, which were familiar to him.

The butcher boy, piercing the crowd in his zigzagging, came out of any Dickens story, and she thought she recognized, in the small four-handed wooden bucket he carried on the shoulder, the platter of the pork butcher which appears in all the descriptions that the novelists make of the crowd that throngs the streets of London.

There were several other types, such as French mothers with their baskets of markets; very pretty little schoolgirls of the same nationality with their books under their arms; small, scary villagers with raspberries in birch bark cassava; nuns slipping slowly, with their white hoods and lowered faces. Kitty grouped them all, each in his respective place, in the world of his imagination.

A young Anglican minister, sweet face adorned with besicles, did not suffer a second of hesitation, and immediately passed through the series of novels of Anthony Trollope, boring books that she had all read, I regret to say, and that she loved.

Then it was Thackeray’s heroes who parade before his eyes.

The service corporal, with his cap without a visor, his cheek worn, a light pad in one hand, an official document with a large seal in the other, had also, in his tunic pocket, one of those short and rare missives that Lieutenant Osborne sent to poor Amelia.

A long, airless officer played the part of Major Dobbin. And when a pretty woman, driving a little pony carriage with a footman in livery perched behind her, pulled the reins on the side of the sidewalk, and a young and pretty captain in bright uniform greeted her and began to chat with her. in a languid and affected tone, it was Osborne unfaithful to his betrothed, which he was rolling, conversing, one of the tender notes between his fingers.

Almost all passers-by had papers or letters in their hands; the fact is that they were leaving the post office where the trunks of the south had just been opened.
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So she was going, turning reality into fantomantic-unless, to speak truly, flesh and blood are an illusion-and, I must confess, in many cases connected with the slightest pretexts for these magical transformations, when his gaze fell upon a individual advancing at some distance.

At the same moment, he looked away from a letter he had just opened, looked around the row of houses opposite, until they stopped on the window where they were looking. Kitty.

He smiled, and saluted her with the hat.

She recognized Arbuton, and felt a certain shudder pass through her heart through the tumultuous impressions that dominated it.

Until then the young man had brought with her so much cold reserve and so much height, that the emotion experienced sometimes in his presence, the day before-emotion that the events of the morning had entirely dissipated-awoke in the soul of the girl; and the new aspect under which the young man appeared to him-strange enough, however, that she had difficulty in recognizing the actor of this new role-seemed to him the only one under which he had ever presented himself to his mind.

This lasted until Arbuton, having approached the girl, put in her impatient hand a letter from the cousins ​​of Eriecreek and Dr. Ellison.

So she forgot everything, and withdrew to read her letter.