My Lady Jane by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The boat got into Broughton half an hour after the train had gone. We
had been delayed by some small accident to the machinery; hence that
lost half-hour, which meant a night's sojourn for me in Broughton. I
am ashamed of the things I thought and said. When I think that fate
might have taken me at my word and raised up a special train, or some
such miracle, by which I might have got away from Broughton that
night, I experience a cold chill. Out of gratitude I have never sworn
over missing connections since.
At the time, however, I felt thoroughly exasperated. I was in a hurry
to get on. Important business engagements would be unhinged by the
delay. I was a stranger in Broughton. It looked like a stupid, stuffy
little town. I went to a hotel in an atrocious humor. After I had
fumed until I wanted a change, it occurred to me that I might as well
hunt up Clark Oliver by way of passing the time. I had never been
overly fond of Clark Oliver, although he was my cousin. He was a bit
of a cad, and stupider than anyone belonging to our family had a right
to be. Moreover, he was in politics, and I detest politics. But I
rather wanted to see if he looked as much like me as he used to. I
hadn't seen him for three years and I hoped that the time might have
differentiated us to a saving degree. It was over a year since I had
last been blown up by some unknown, excited individual on the ground
that I was that scoundrel Oliver—politically speaking. I thought that
was a good omen.
I went to Clark's office, found he had left, and followed him to his
rooms. The minute I saw him I experienced the same nasty feeling of
lost or bewildered individuality which always overcame me in his
presence. He was so absurdly like me. I felt as if I were looking into
a mirror where my reflection persisted in doing things I didn't do,
thereby producing a most uncanny sensation.
Clark pretended he was glad to see me. He really couldn't have been,
because his Great Idea hadn't struck him then, and we had always
disliked each other.
"Hello, Elliott," he said, shaking me by the hand with a twist he had
learned in election campaigns, whereby something like heartiness was
simulated. "Glad to see you, old fellow. Gad, you're as like me as
ever. Where did you drop from?"
I explained my predicament and we talked amiably and harmlessly for
awhile about family gossip. I abhor family gossip, but it is a shade
better than politics, and those two subjects are the only ones on
which Clark can converse at all. I described Mary Alice's wedding, and
Florence's new young man, and Tom-and-Kate's twins. Clark tried to be
interested but I saw he had something on what serves him for a mind.
After awhile it came out. He looked at his watch with a frown.
"I'm in a bit of a puzzle," he said. "The Mark Kennedys are giving a
dinner to-night. You don't know them, of course. They're the big
people of Broughton. Kennedy runs the politics of the place, and Mrs.
K. makes or mars people socially. It's my first invitation there and
it's necessary I should accept it—necessary every way. Mrs. K. would
never forgive me if I disappointed her at the last moment. Not that I,
personally, am of much account—yet—to her. But it would leave a
vacant place. Mrs. K. would never notice me again and, as she bosses
Kennedy, I can't afford to offend her. Besides, there's a girl who'll
be there. I've met her once. I want to meet her again. She's a beauty
and no mistake. Toplofty as they make 'em, though. However, I think
I've made an impression on her. It was at the Harvey's dance last
week. She was the handsomest woman there, and she never took her eyes
off me. I've given Mrs. Kennedy a pretty broad hint that I want to
take her in to dinner. If I don't go I'll miss all round."
"Well, what is there to prevent you from going?" I asked, squiffily. I
never could endure the way Clark talked about girls and hinted at his
"Just this. Herbert Bronson came to town this afternoon and is leaving
on the 10.30 train to-night. He's sent me word to meet him at his
hotel this evening and talk over a mining deal I've been trying to
pull off. I simply must go. It's my one chance to corral Bronson. If I
lose him it'll be all up, and I'll be thousands out of pocket."
"Well, you are in rather a predicament," I agreed, with the
philosophical acceptance of the situation that marks the outsider. I
wasn't hampered by the multiplicity of my business and social
engagements that evening, so I could afford to pity Clark. It is
always rather nice to be able to pity a person you dislike.
"I should say so. I can't make up my mind what to do. Hang it. I'll
have to see Bronson. There's no question about that. A man ought to
keep an understood substitute on hand to send to dinners when he can't
go. By Jove! Elliott!"
Clark's Great Idea had arrived. He bounced up eagerly.
"Elliott, will you go to the Kennedys' in my place? They'll never
know the difference. Do, now—there's a good fellow!"
"Nonsense!" I said.
"It isn't nonsense. The resemblance between us was foreordained for
this hour. I'll lend you my dress suit—it'll fit you—your figure is
as much like mine as your face. You've nothing to do with yourself
this evening. I offer you a good dinner and an agreeable partner. Come
now, to oblige me. You know you owe me a good turn for that Mulhenen
The Mulhenen business clinched the matter. Until he mentioned it I
had no notion whatever of masquerading as Clark Oliver at the
Kennedys' dinner. But, as Clark so delicately put it, he had done me a
good turn in that affair and the obligation had rankled ever since. It
is beastly to be indebted for a favor to a man you detest. Now was my
chance to pay it off and I took it without more ado.
"But," I said doubtfully, "I don't know the Kennedys—nor any of the
social stunts that are doing in Broughton; I won't dare to talk about
anything, and I'll seem so stupid, even if I don't actually make some
irremediable blunder, that the Kennedys will be disgusted with you. It
will probably do your prospects more harm than your absence would."
"Not at all. Keep your mouth shut when you can and talk generalities
when you can't, and you'll pass. If you take that girl in she's a
stranger in Broughton and won't suspect your ignorance of what's going
on. Nobody will suspect you. Nobody here knows I have a cousin so like
me. Our own mothers haven't always been able to tell us apart. Our
very voices are alike. Come now, get into my dinner togs. You haven't
much time and Mrs. K. doesn't like late comers."
There seemed to be a number of things that Mrs. Kennedy did not like.
I thought my chance of pleasing that critical lady extremely small,
especially when I had to live up to Clark Oliver's personality.
However, I dressed as expeditiously as possible. The novelty of the
adventure rather pleased me. I always liked doing unusual things.
Anything was better than lounging away the evening at my hotel. It
couldn't do any harm. I owed Clark Oliver a good turn and I would save
Mrs. Kennedy the annoyance of a vacant chair.
There was no disputing the fact that I looked most disgustingly like
Clark when I got into his clothes. I actually felt a grudge against
them for their excellent fit.
"You'll do," said Clark. "Remember you're a Conservative to-night and
don't let your rank Liberal views crop out, or you'll queer me for
all time with the great and only Mark. He doesn't talk politics at his
dinners, though, so you're not likely to have trouble on that score.
Mrs. Kennedy has a weakness for beer mugs. Her collection is
considered very fine. Scandal whispers that Miss Harvey has a budding
interest in settlement work—"
"Miss who?" I said sharply.
"Harvey. Christian name unknown. That's the girl I mentioned. You'll
probably take her in. Be nice to her even if you have to make an
effort. She's the one I've picked out as your future cousin, you know,
so I don't want you to spoil her good opinion of me in any way."
The name had given me a jump. Once, in another world, I had known a
Jane Harvey. But Clark's Miss Harvey couldn't be Jane. A month before
I had read a newspaper item to the effect that Jane was on the Pacific
coast. Moreover, Jane, when I knew her, had certainly no manifest
vocation for settlement work. I didn't think two years could have
worked such a transformation. Two years! Was it only two years? It
seemed more like two centuries.
I went to the Kennedys' in a pleasantly excited frame of mind and a
cab. I just missed being late by a hairbreadth. The house was a big
one, and everybody pertaining to it was big, except the host. Mark
Kennedy was a little, thin man with a bald head. He didn't look like a
political power, but that was all the more reason for his being one in
a world where things are not what they seem.
Mrs. Kennedy greeted me cordially and told me significantly that she
had granted my request. This meant, as my card had already informed
me, that I was to take Miss Harvey out. Of course there would be no
introduction since Clark Oliver was already acquainted with the lady.
I was wondering how I was to locate her when I got a shock that made
me dizzy. Jane was over in a corner looking at me.
There was no time to collect my wits. The guests were moving out to
the dining-room. I took my nerve in my hand, crossed the room, bowed,
and the next moment was walking through the hall with Jane's hand on
my arm. The hall was a good long one; I blessed the architect who had
planned it. It gave me time to sort out my ideas.
Jane here! Jane going out to dinner with me, believing me to be Clark
Oliver! Jane—but it was incredible! The whole thing was a dream—or I
had gone crazy!
I looked at her sideways when we had got into our places at the table.
She was more beautiful than ever, that tall, brown-haired, disdainful
Jane. The settlement work story I was inclined to dismiss as a myth.
Settlement work in a beautiful woman generally means crowsfeet or a
broken heart. Jane, according to my sight and belief, possessed
Once upon a time I had been engaged to Jane. I had been idiotically in
love with her in those days and still more idiotically believed that
she loved me. The trouble was that, although I had been cured of the
latter phase of my idiocy, the former had become chronic. I had never
been able to get over loving Jane. All through those two years I had
hugged the fond hope that sometime I might stumble across her in a
mild mood and make matters up. There was no such thing as seeking her
out or writing to her, since she had icily forbidden me to do so, and
Jane had a most detestable habit—in a woman—of meaning what she
said. But the deity I had invoked was the god of chance—and this was
how he had answered my prayers. I was eating my dinner beside Jane,
who supposed me to be Clark Oliver!
What should I do? Confess the truth and plead my cause while she had
to sit beside me? That would never do. Someone might overhear us. And,
in any case, it would be no passport to Jane's favor that I was a
guest in the house under false pretences. She would be certain to
disapprove strongly. It was a maddening situation.
Jane, who was calmly eating soup—she was the only woman I had ever
seen who could eat soup and look like a goddess at the same
time—glanced around and caught me studying her profile. I thought she
blushed slightly and I raged inwardly to think that blush was meant
for Clark Oliver—Clark Oliver who had told me he thought Jane was
smitten on him! Jane! On him!
"Do you know, Mr. Oliver," said Jane slowly, "that you are startlingly
like a—a person I used to know? When I first saw you the other night
I took you for him."
A person you used to know! Oh, Jane, that was the most unkindest cut
"My cousin, Elliott Cameron, I suppose?" I answered as indifferently
as I could. "We resemble each other very closely. You were acquainted
with Cameron, Miss Harvey?"
"Slightly," said Jane.
"A fine fellow," I said unblushingly.
"A-h," said Jane.
"My favorite relative," I went on brazenly. "He's a thoroughly good
sort—rather dull now to what he used to be, though. He had an
unfortunate love affair two years ago and has never got over it."
"Indeed?" said Jane coldly, crumbling a bit of bread between her
fingers. Her face was expressionless and her voice ditto; but I had
heard her criticize nervous people who did things like that at table.
"I fear poor Elliott's life has been completely spoiled," I said, with
a sigh. "It's a shame."
"Did he confide the affair to you?" asked Jane, a little scornfully.
"Well, after a fashion. He said enough for me to guess the rest. He
never told me the lady's name. She was very beautiful, I understand,
and very heartless. Oh, she used him very badly."
"Did he tell you that, too?" asked Jane.
"Not he. He won't listen to a word against her. But a chap can draw
his own conclusions, you know."
"What went wrong between them?" asked Jane. She smiled at a lady
across the table, as if she were merely asking questions to make
conversation, but she went on crumbling bread.
"Simply a very stiff quarrel, I believe. Elliott never went into
details. The lady was flirting with somebody else, I fancy."
"People have such different ideas about flirting," said Jane,
languidly. "What one would call mere simple friendliness another
construes into flirting. Possibly your friend—or is it your
cousin?—is one of those men who become insanely jealous over every
trifle and attempt to exert authority before they have any to exert. A
woman of spirit would hardly fail to resent that."
"Of course Elliott was jealous," I admitted. "But then, you know, Miss
Harvey, that jealousy is said to be the measure of a man's love. If he
went beyond his rights I am sure he is bitterly sorry for it."
"Does he really care about her still?" asked Jane, eating most
industriously, although somehow the contents of her plate did not grow
noticeably less. As for me, I didn't pretend to eat. I simply pecked.
"He loves her with all his heart," I answered fervently. "There never
has been and never will be any other woman for Elliott Cameron."
"Why doesn't he go and tell her so?" inquired Jane, as if she felt
rather bored over the whole subject.
"He doesn't dare to. She forbade him ever to cross her path again.
Told him she hated him and always would hate him as long as she
"She must have been an unpleasantly emphatic young woman," commented
"I'd like to hear anyone say so to Elliott," I responded. "He
considers her perfection. I'm sorry for Elliott. His life is wrecked."
"Do you know," said Jane slowly, as if poking about in the recesses of
her memory for something half forgotten. "I believe I know the—the
girl in question."
"Really?" I said.
"Yes, she is a friend of mine. She—she never told me his name, but
putting two and two together, I believe it must have been your cousin.
But she—she thinks she was the one to blame."
"Does she?" It was my turn to ask questions now, but my heart thumped
so that I could hardly speak.
"Yes, she says she was too hasty and unreasonable. She didn't mean to
flirt at all—and she never cared for anyone but—him. But his
jealousy irritated her. I suppose she said things to him she didn't
really mean. She—she never supposed he was going to take her at her
"Do you think she cares for him still?" Considering what was at stake,
I think I asked the question very well.
"I think she must," said Jane languidly. "She has never looked at any
other man. She devotes most of her time to charitable work, but I feel
sure she isn't really happy."
So the settlement story was true. Oh, Jane!
"What would you advise my cousin to do?" I asked. "Do you think he
should go boldly to her? Would she listen to him—forgive him?"
"She might," said Jane.
"Have I your permission to tell Elliott Cameron this?" I demanded.
Jane selected and ate an olive with maddening deliberation.
"I suppose you may—if you are really convinced that he wants to hear
it," she said at last, as if barely recollecting that I had asked the
question two minutes previously.
"I'll tell him as soon as I go home," I said.
I had the satisfaction of startling Jane at last. She turned her head
and looked at me. I got a good, square, satisfying gaze into her big,
"Yes," I said, compelling myself to look away. "He came in on the boat
this afternoon too late for his train. Has to stay over till to-morrow
night. I left him in my rooms when I came away. Doubtless to-morrow
will see him speeding recklessly to his dear divinity. I wonder if he
knows where she is at present."
"If he doesn't," said Jane, with the air of dismissing the subject
once and forever from her mind, "I can give him the information. You
may tell him I'm staying with the Duncan Moores, and shall be leaving
day after to-morrow. By the way, have you seen Mrs. Kennedy's
collection of steins? It is a remarkably fine one."
Clark Oliver couldn't come to our wedding—or wouldn't. Jane has never
met him since, but she cannot understand why I have such an aversion to
him, especially when he has such a good opinion of me. She says she
thought him charming, and one of the most interesting conversationalists
she ever went out to dinner with.