The only personal reference found about "A Parson's Daughter" occurs in The Saturday Journal for August 2, 1879, where this note appears among the vacation activities of Beadle authors and editors: " 'The Parson's Daughter' is at Mamaroneck, on the Sound, where the winds and the waters in pastoral measures are sure to preach the good intent that her pungent pen loves to put into words." Perhaps these words may serve sometime to identify her true name.
Only four stories were written for Beadle under this pen name. They all appeared originally in the Saturday Journal in 1879 and 1880. She had, however, written sketches for Belles and Beaux, and when that periodical folded up in April, 1874, she began contributing to the Saturday Journal and weekly sermonettes appeared until the name of that journal was changed to the Banner Weekly. Thereafter her column was replaced by the "Wide Awake Papers" by "Belle Bright," which were very similar in character to the "Parson's Daughter's" articles and may have been written by the same person. They were continued to 1885. Possibly the name belonged to Mrs. Victor.
Saturday Journal. Nos. 423, 438, 486, 545
Fireside Library. Nos. 56, 71, 80, 81
Waverley Library (quarto). No. 174
SPECIMEN OF "A PARSON'S DAUGHTER'S" STYLE
"A Parson's Daughter:" "Divorced but not Divided; or, His Guiding Star." Fireside Library No. 80, 12.
Mrs. Lane's boarders, male and female, consisted mostly of people who worked out all day—shopwomen and salesmen—so that luncheon was rarely frequented by them. For a few weeks previous to the death of Mrs. Letronne, however, that lady and a gentleman boarder, Mr. Casey Canton, occasionally appeared at that meal, at which Miss Lane presided, always attired with considerable jaunty stylishness. Which, considering that Mrs. Letronne was a mysterious, grave and uncommunicative woman while Mr. Canton was of pleasant address, and a strikingly handsome man, it was safe to assume was due more to a desire to please the eye of the latter personage than to any wish to fascinate Mrs. Letronne.
The Frenchwoman had rarely lingered long at the table; a habit into which Miss Lane and Mr. Canton seemed to have fallen from mutual enjoyment of each other's society, and to which they made no exception the day following Mrs. Letronne's death, when the gentleman came in and found Dora awaiting him with a tempting luncheon of delicately-broiled ham, poached eggs upon toast and smoking chocolate.
"Ah! are we all alone to-day?" he asked, seating himself complacently, and tossing back his luxuriant black hair from his flushed face.
"Yes," replied Miss Lane, commencing to pour his chocolate.
"And the stranger—is she buried?" speaking clearly and carelessly.
"Mrs. St. Martyn has arranged to have her taken to a receiving-vault, this afternoon."
"Indeed, for what?" with seeming idle curiosity.
"If they succeed in finding the missing papers, and who she is, they may wish to bury her in some particular place, I suppose."
A slight smile—a smile that held strange meaning-appeared around Mr. Canton's handsome mouth.
"And think you there are any chances of the papers being found?" he asked, lightly.
"Detectives are coming here—may be here at any moment," was Miss Lane's answer, her brilliant eyes meeting her companion's with steady, meaning gaze.
"Shall you be here?" she questioned, in a hushed, anxious way.
"Why not?" said Mr. Casey Canton, cooly. Then, without waiting for her to answer, he went on, not speaking with any evident attempt at secrecy, but in rapid, level tones that it would have been difficult to distinguish outside of the room. "No, I shall not be here; I am going away."
"Where?" asked the girl, with a little catch of her breath, the color paling in her glowing, velvety cheeks.
"In utter ignorance there is perfect safety. He who knows nothing can reveal nothing," replied the man, sententiously.
"Don't you mean to tell me, Casey? I must know!" she exclaimed, passionately.
"Have you no faith in me, beauty?" he said, reproachfully, pushing away his plate and leaning near to her with tender eyes. "I trust you, implicitly; my safety is in your hands!"
"Yes! And you know, Casey, that I would ten thousand times rather injure myself than you, as long as you are true to me!" the girl muttered, intense passion in face and voice, but a lurid passion that was as full of fierceness as sweetness.
"And you know, Dora, darling, or ought to know, that I shall always be true?" Canton answered, with melting tenderness. "My fate—both our fates, depend upon you. I am about to undertake a dangerous, but brilliant scheme. If I am successful, I shall make you one of the richest women in New York. In the meantime, everything is in your hands. You must act with great nerve and caution, and the less you know of my proceedings for a few weeks, the better; and there must be absolutely no communication between us."
The girl's face grew whiter and whiter. "I suppose you know best," she said; "and you can trust all here to me. But remember,"—with awful desperateness—"if you are ever untrue to me, I will kill you, Casey!"
He laughed, and caressed her cheeks with his slim, handsome hand.
"I thought you were going to say you would give me into the clutches of the law."
"And myself, too? That would not be halt punishment enough!"
"What an insatiate enemy you would be! But I do not fear you, Dora." And he pressed her passionately in his arms, a moment, as he arose.
"You are going now?" she whispered, clinging to him.
"Yes, to settle with your mother. Calm yourself, beauty. This will not do."
With an effort, the girl unclasped her arms from about him, and faced him firmly. "You mean to tell mother that you are going?"
"Certainly. There must be no secrecy about that." "And then, what? Tell me your plans, at least. What have you gained by—" A motion of her companion's finger silenced her.
"A secret," he said, speaking rapidly, "about the dead woman's life that will enable me to claim a splendid fortune."
"Casey? Dare you attempt it?" The girl was almost breathless, yet she smiled, triumphantly.
"It is a bold stroke, I know. But I dare attempt anything that will enable me to place my beautiful Dora amid the topmost New York society, where, with that charming face, she rightfully belongs."
"Oh! If you might succeed!" cried Miss Lane, with a fervency that showed how enticing to her was the dream of wealth. "Upon what ground will you make your claim?"
"Upon the ground that I am the son and rightful heir of its present possessor; which, in a few weeks, I hope to prove, beyond a doubt, to the father I intend adopting. You see how I trust you, beauty, with my secret."
The girl drew herself up proudly. "You know," she said, indignantly, "that tortures could not make me betray you! But, Casey, suppose this man should not believe you?"
"There are several ways of dealing with that difficulty," said Canton, cooly. "What bluffs me most is to know what connection the woman who was here this morning has with the affair. But there are sleuth-hounds in New York that her ladyship and her dainty counselor know nothing about, who are as sure on a trail as any detectives they may employ. Whatever her stakes are, I will play higher, and we shall see who will win!"
"You must!" aspirated Dora.
"You say so, beauty? I will! But I must not tarry another minute. Good-by, my heart!" again catching her in a brief, close embrace. "Good-by, Miss Lane," in a clearer, indifferent tone.
"Stay! One instant, Casey!" she whispered. "When shall I see you again?"
"Look out for a red chalk-mark on the doorstep, three mornings in succession, commencing upon a Saturday. The first mark will be the figure one, the second figure three, the third figure six. The afternoon of the third day meet me at the Block House in Central Park at sundown. Enter by the private entrance we used when we went up there last Sunday. Look for the marks yourself, and sweep them quickly off. It may be from five to twelve weeks. Not over that."