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from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961
In the year 18___ there was living in ___________ England, one Sinclair Baxter, a widower, with an only child, a daughter, on whom he lavished all his love and care and wealth, her mother having died when the child, still in infancy, was too young to realize the friend she had lost.
Mr. Baxter procured a well recommended governess, under whom Mildred Baxter grew up in grace and girlhood, and at fifteen, with fabulous wealth at her command, and an indulgent father to cater to her every fancy and whim, she became the idol of the whole community, and her bright, loving disposition, - cheerful, charitable, nearly to a fault - won for her the admiration and love of everyone who knew her.
Amongst her many admirers and suitors, Paul Langstone was the favoured one. Langstone had just come from Oxford University, bringing with him all the honours of the classroom.
His parents were in middling circumstances, and everyone wondered and whispered to each other, when Paul was sent off to Oxford, his father being only an obscure planter in L_______, without any visible means for the necessary requirements of such an undertaking.
However, there was no second Paul Langstone in all the country round. He was a type of man, who when meet even casually on the street, causes men to turn and look at him again; he was the personification of a perfect mould. His height was five feet eleven, he held himself erect, his walk was proud and firm, his features were regular and noble. Add to this a thorough education, a lofty and aristocratic bearing, with a disposition open and sunny and an all-round "good fellow well met". No wonder Mildred Baxter gave him her preference, and her father's door was always and ever open to thin, as the accepted suitor bye and bye of the rich and coveted heiress.
People, lots of them, pointed out that Miss Baxter's condescension was ludicrous in the extreme, and people were right, even if they were spiteful, because Miss Baxter, with her talents and expectations and the many virtues above recorded, had hosts of admirers, every one of whom, in position and family, was superior to Langstone, who had neither place nor position, nor expectations, only what he might carve out for himself in the future.
Promises were made - vows pledged, and after the first year of Langstone's service as clerk in the office of Messrs. Newman & Company, England, Mildred Baxter and Paul Langstone were duly engaged, and as a continual reminder of the happy fact, Miss Baxter wore on her finger a ring of exquisite design, bought and paid for by Paul out of his very first payment of salary.
At the moment of this engagement Miss Baxter looked upon it as the holiest and greatest event in her life, no other man from henceforth could be thought of or considered by this high-minded, noble and well-bred English girl. It was a epoch of her young life; Langstone was her king, her lord, her all - he need never knuckle down to the petty requirements of working for a living, for when her father would pass away she would be left the richest girl in England. Of course, 'twould then be all his, his and theirs. Yet 'twas right that he now work a little, 'twill make the better man of him, prepare him for time when her love, her wealth, her care, would raise him up, lift him to what her father had been. "Oh", she would say, "how happy I am!" "If I could only make everyone as happy as I am myself." Yes, Mildred Baxter was indeed a noble-minded beautiful girl, as will be seen in the course of this narrative.
After a couple of years of close application to office work, Langstone was advanced, with a very fair and substantial salary, to their rooms in Newfoundland, for three - six - nine years, according to the rise and fall in trade. Thus it was that in May 1843, Paul Langstone arrived at Gaultois, Fortune Bay, on the brigantine "Empire" to put in the allotted time, between the rooms there, and the more extensive ones at Harbour Breton for a period as above mentioned.
The parting between him and Miss Baxter can best be understood by the reader - bringing it back to him or himself. Vows were renewed, promises were again entered into, and were it not for the bravery and the bright pictures drawn of the future, by this true and noble woman, Langstone would have given up the commission, and this story would never have been told.
After a few months at Gaultois, Langstone was transferred to Harbour Breton, and there came to him life's joys and its sorrows - its rewards and its dues, and instead of three, six or nine years away from his English home, and all it ever meant, a visitor may discern in a quiet spot in Harbour Breton churchyard the following:
Harbour Breton, as everybody knows, is the capital of Fortune Bay. It is solely a fishing place - but at this time that industry was prosecuted n a very large scale; fish were plentiful, prices good, and nearly every creature inside its four walls were more or less depending on Newman & Company for their support; cash was the only unknown quantity, but for everything else necessary to keep body and soul together there was no lacking, and the Jersey rooms paid for all.
On or about the 25th of October in every year - all the busy hum of catching, curing and storing of fish would be totally closed down and for the intervening time, until perhaps the latter part of April, at the very earliest, dances, raffles and weddings would be the order of the night, and indeed of the day too, and 'twould be hard to find in all Newfoundland a more happy and contented lot than the fisherfolk of this little town, in their simplicity and contentment.
About this time in the season, or perhaps a little later, probably during Christmas month, Langstone appeared on the scene, and of course, possessing all the elements of manhood, and endowed with all the charms and elegance of the young Englishman, he became a lion in society. He was sought for and invited everywhere. No assembly, no entertainment, could be a success if he was absent; the girls of the harbour were all crazy after him and the one to whom the slightest preference was shown at a dance or a raffle, by Langstone, was envied in and around the harbour.
During the first two years Langstone kept good his vows and promises to (as he himself used to put it) the "girl he left behind", and a continual flow of correspondence, unbroken, had passed between them, and his fiancee in England would invariably end her letter in this wise, "I am counting the days and hours Paul for your return - never forget I am giving up much to be true to you. Hardly a day passes over but some new and very eligible suitor is thrust in my way, then I think of you, in that far away country, and your fidelity to me, and I frankly tell the new man the truth, and in a manner, dear Paul, that does not allow of his return".
In the beginning of the second term, about the middle of November, 1843, there came from Jersey Harbour, Fortune Bay, a small settlement, I might say a small settlement adjoining Harbour Breton - a new store-keeper for the firm, his wife and two daughters, the youngest, Alice, being then just out of her teens, a beautiful girl, educated and refined, and on the whole, superior in every particular to the ladies with whom Langstone's nights of amusements were generally passed.
This girl, Alice Young, wasn't long in the gay whirl of Harbour Breton life before she took in the whole state of affairs, and being the daughter herself of an Englishman, knew that the wily Paul could only be won by the one whose indifference and reserve would bring him to his knees. This, Miss Young carried out in all its rigidity, and after a very few weeks the result was seen, and Langstone, with the whole feminine portion of Harbour Breton following and catering to his every whim and caprice, for a smile or a bow, was himself continually seeking the company and favour of this ass from Jersey Harbour, who, without showing the smallest bit of reciprocity on her part, avoided and shunned him on every occasion; and thus, Paul Langstone, in a very short time, even before he knew it himself, found his Waterloo.
This continued on during the fall and winter of 1843, Paul soliciting interviews and meetings, and nearly every time a refusal. the end was inevitable; Langstone feel victim to the charms of Miss Young, and to his shame it had to be written, that in the early sumer of 1844 Paul Langstone and Alice Young were married, truly and lawfully, duly registered on the Parish Book, signed and certified in the usual form of the marriage ceremony, then lawful and binding, according to God's own great Sacrament of Matrimony.
In all that has so far been recited there is nothing new, nothing on which to found a tale. Had Langstone then written Miss Baxter in England and confessed the truth she, in her goodness of heart, and richness of character, would have borne the blow bravely, pity him for his weakness, mourn for a time, perhaps, his loss, but eventually forgive and forget him. But, no, the correspondence still went on, not one word in all the letters which would give a shadow of suspicion as to the truth, and she, poor girl, writing him across the water, words of endearment and truth. "Every day, dear Paul, brings us nearer together, tomorrow I shall have ne day less to wait, and so on from day to day until the great red letter one which will bring you to me, and who or what then shall ever part us?"
During the remainder of the year 1844, and on until early spring of 1846, this correspondence continued - two years and a half of written lies, lies the most villainous that man could pen, lies deceiving and placing in a false position a girl whose character was as noble as his was vile, lies of a damnable calibre, lies so gigantic in their infamy, so degrading in their meaning that no wonder they cried to heaven for vengeance, and vengeance overtook him when he least expected it.
Visitors to the west coast of Newfoundland up to the year 1892 have, on some trip or other in the fall of the year, or early spring, seen the English brig "Eliza", one of the very oldest ships probably, at the time of her loss in 1902, on the shipping list of "Lloyd's". Every spring and fall she would arrive at La Poile, west coast of Newfoundland, and there, load with fish for foreign markets, and this she had been successfully doing year after year, to the memory of the oldest inhabitant.
In April 1846 as Captain ______ was walking the deck of said ship, awaiting a more favourable wind, in the City of Bristol, England, he was accosted by a young man of about sixteen years of age, in a very modest and polite tone, wishing him a good morning. the Captain was at once struck with the bearing and good looks of the boy, and invited him up to the bridge. In a bound by was beside the Captain, and surprised him somewhat by his first words. "Look, Captain, I want to get to Newfoundland. I have plenty of means to pay myself right through. Your ship is the only one in all England leaving now for that place. Give me a run across - I'll pay in advance".
"My dear lad, you don't know what you're asking. Take on old salt's advice and stay at home; and besides, where I am going is hundreds of miles from the city." "' What part of Newfoundland are you bound for, Cap?".
"Little Harbour, or La Poile, the most desolate and dejected part of the island."
"Is it the west or north coast, Cap?"
"How far is it from there to Harbour Breton, Cap?"
"About one hundred and ten miles."
"Is there a way in that country, sir, for me to reach Harbour Breton after the ship arrives at La Poile?"
"Oh well, yes, I believe so."
"That will do, Cap. May I come with you?"
"What is your name, lad?"
"Look at the care you'd be giving me."
"My dear Cap, I am eighteen. I am strong, I am rich, and I am used to travelling. I have been all over the United Kingdom. I have been in France, Italy, and ever so many more places. Please give me a passage, sir. I'll promise you that I'll be no care to you. Shall I come."
"Well, well, son, get your effects. I'm only waiting the turn of the tide; the more I look at you the less I can refuse."
This was the 17th day of April. On the 14th day of May the "Eliza" arrived at La Poile, Newfoundland, and three days later Stan Sheppard arrived at Harbour Breton on the Boat "Benny" a small schooner then plying between Channel and Fortune Bay, the property of the Jersey firm, Clement & Co. of Burgeo.
Sheppard's appearance amongst the people of the Harbour caused quite a commotion. Who was he? Where did he come from? Isn't he grand? Does anyone know him? How long was he going to stay? etc., etc., were the questions asked, none of which could be answered with any certainty.
Meanwhile Sheppard, as handsome as Apollo, had a smile and a bow for everyone whom he met, and the excitement that Paul Langstone's coming created was nothing in comparison with the appearance of this prince among men, as he was termed by the unanimous voice of the Harbour.
After enquiring for and procuring quiet and private lodgings, Sheppard, in one way and another, such as only a thorough-bred Englishman could achieve, won the landlady over, and after a few days stay knew and understood the most minute details of everyone, and their mode of living and enjoyment, and the result was he sauntered forth the very afternoon of the second day of his arrival, ripe and fortified for the first act of the drama for which he had undergone so much to perform.
His first visit was to the house of the agent of the Jersey premises. There he was received with the cordiality and good breeding which one gentleman can bestow upon another, and after a little preliminary talking, Sheppard said, "I have in my possession a letter of introduction to a clerk in your employ, a countryman of mine. What time can I receive you permission to deliver it in person?"
"Ah yes, I presume you mean Langstone?"
"Yes, that's the name of course, he is still in your employ?"
"Certainly, shall I send for him immediately?"
"Thank you, thank you, but as my stay is not limited here in Newfoundland, and a this is one of your business hours, it would perhaps entail some delay. May I have your permission to go to his office? I have only to deliver the letter at present. By the way, when does he quit work?"
"Every evening at six, stores and offices close down. We never depart from the old English custom, even out here in Newfoundland; but come, I shall accompany you and introduce you to Langstone; not a bad fellow, a little unfortunate. He certainly will be glad to see you."
They both walked to the office, and not a syllable passed the lips of Sheppard, though spoken to by his companion many times. Having arrived at the manager's private office, and after courteously accepting a chair from his host, Sheppard became deadly pale, and as the gong was rung, calling the outer rooms, the penetrating eyes of the agent noticed Sheppard adjusting, with great care and precision, the glasses he never seemed to leave off, though at that period spectacles were seldom needed by the young, and indeed, by the aged and infirm.
On the arrival of Langstone, Sheppard had arisen and now faced him, whose marble-like countenance had become even worse in pallor then Sheppard's own a minute before. Langstone walked up close bo him. "I welcome you, sir, to this part of Newfoundland", reaching out his hand, which the other did not pretend to see, simply replying, "I thank you, and am only the bearer of this note from my cousin at home." Then looking Langstone straight in the face, continued, "I presume she and you are friends - Mildred Baxter." As he mentioned the name, Sheppard watched him closely through his glasses, and saw very perceptibly the first act in his drama having the desired effect, and as Langstone reached, without a word of reply, for the missive, his hand and whole form shook as the aspen; after which Sheppard turned to the manager:"I thank you very much for your courtesy, and shall not detain Mr. Langstone any longer from his post. Good evening, gentlemen."
This page transcribed by James
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)
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