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Title: Mrs. Falchion, Complete
Author: Parker, Gilbert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MRS. FALCHION

By Gilbert Parker



INTRODUCTION

This novel was written in the days of the three-decker, and it went out
to sea as such. Every novel of mine written until 1893 was published in
two or three volumes, and the sale to the libraries was greater than the
sale to the general public. This book was begun in 1892 at the time when
the Pierre stories were being written, and it was finished in the summer
of 1893. It did not appear serially; indeed, I made no attempt at serial
publication. I had a feeling that as it was to be my first novel, it
should be judged as a whole and taken at a gasp, as it were. I believe
that the reader of Messrs. Methuen & Company was not disposed to publish
the book, but Mr. Methuen himself (or Mr. Stedman as he was then called)
was impressed by it and gave it his friendly confidence. He was certain
that it would arrest the attention of the critics and of the public,
whether it became popular or not. I have not a set of those original
three volumes. I wish I had, because they won for me an almost
unhoped-for pleasure. The ‘Daily Chronicle’ gave the volumes over
a column of review, and headed the notice, “A Coming Novelist.” The
‘Athenaeum’ said that ‘Mrs. Falchion’ was a splendid study of character;
‘The Pall Mall Gazette’ said that the writing was as good as anything
that had been done in our time, while at the same time it took rather a
dark view of my future as a novelist, because it said I had not probed
deep enough into the wounds of character which I had inflicted. The
article was written by Mr. George W. Stevens, and he was right in saying
that I had not probed deep enough. Few very young men--and I was very
young then--do probe very deeply. At the appearance of ‘When Valmond
Came to Pontiac’, however, Mr. Stevens came to the conclusion that my
future was assured.

I mention these things because they were burnt into my mind at the time.
‘Mrs. Falchion’ was my first real novel, as I have said, though it had
been preceded by a short novel called ‘The Chief Factor’, since rescued
from publication and never published in book form in England. I realised
when I had written ‘Mrs. Falchion’ that I had not found my metier, and I
was fearful of complete failure. I had come but a few years before from
the South Seas; I was full of what I had seen and felt; I was eager to
write of it all, and I did write of it; but the thing which was deeper
still in me was the life which ‘Pierre and His People’, ‘The Seats of
the Mighty’, ‘The Trail of the Sword’, ‘The Lane That Had no Turning’,
and ‘The Right of Way’ portrayed. That life was destined to give me
an assured place and public, while ‘Mrs. Falchion’, and the South Sea
stories published in various journals before the time of its production,
and indeed anterior to the writing of the Pierre series, only assured me
attention.

Happily for the book, which has faults of construction, superficialities
as to incident, and with some crudity of plot, it was, in the main, a
study of character. There was focus, there was illumination in the book,
to what degree I will not try to say; and the attempt to fasten the
mind of the reader upon the central figure, and to present that central
figure in many aspects, safeguarded the narrative from the charge
of being a mere novel of adventure, or, as one writer called it, “an
impudent melodrama, which has its own fascinations.”

Reading Mrs. Falchion again after all these years, I seem to realise
in it an attempt to combine the objective and subjective methods of
treatment--to combine analysis of character and motive with arresting
episode. It is a difficult thing to do, as I have found. It was not done
on my part wholly by design, but rather by instinct, and I imagine that
this tendency has run through all my works. It represents the elements
of romanticism and of realism in one, and that kind of representation
has its dangers, to say nothing of its difficulties. It sometimes
alienates the reader, who by instinct and preference is a realist, and
it troubles the reader who wants to read for a story alone, who cares
for what a character does, and not for what a character is or says,
except in so far as it emphasises what it does. One has to work,
however, in one’s own way, after one’s own idiosyncrasies, and here
is the book that represents one of my own idiosyncrasies in its most
primitive form.


CONTENTS:

     BOOK I

     BELOW THE SUN LINE

          I.     THE GATES OF THE SEA
          II.    “MOTLEY IS YOUR ONLY WEAR”
           III.   A TALE OF NO MAN’S SEA
          IV.    THE TRAIL OF THE ISHMAELITE
          V.     ACCUSING FACES
          VI.    MUMMERS ALL
          VII.   THE WHEEL COMES FULL CIRCLE
          VIII.  A BRIDGE OF PERIL
          IX.    “THE PROGRESS OF THE SUNS”
           X.     BETWEEN DAY AND DARK


     BOOK II

     THE SLOPE OF THE PACIFIC

          XI.    AMONG THE HILLS OF GOD
          XII.   THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME
          XIII.   THE SONG OF THE SAW
          XIV.   THE PATH OF THE EAGLE
          XV.    IN THE TROUGH OF THE WINDS
          XVI.   A DUEL IN ARCADY
          XVII.   RIDING THE REEFS
          XVIII.  THE STRINGS OF DESTINY
          XIX.   THE SENTENCE
          XX.    AFTER THE STORM
          XXI.   IN PORT



BOOK I. BELOW THE SUN LINE



CHAPTER I. THE GATES OF THE SEA

The part I played in Mrs. Falchion’s career was not very noble, but I
shall set it forth plainly here, else I could not have the boldness to
write of her faults or those of others. Of my own history little need
be said in preface. Soon after graduating with honours as a physician,
I was offered a professional post in a college of medicine in Canada. It
was difficult to establish a practice in medicine without some capital,
else I had remained in London; and, being in need of instant means, I
gladly accepted the offer. But six months were to intervene before
the beginning of my duties--how to fill that time profitably was the
question. I longed to travel, having scarcely been out of England during
my life. Some one suggested the position of surgeon on one of the great
steamers running between England and Australia. The idea of a long
sea-voyage was seductive, for I had been suffering from over-study,
though the position itself was not very distinguished. But in those days
I cared more for pleasing myself than for what might become a newly-made
professor, and I was prepared to say with a renowned Irish dean:
“Dignity and I might be married, for all the relations we are.”

I secured the position with humiliating ease and humiliating smallness
of pay. The steamer’s name was the ‘Fulvia’. It was one of the largest
belonging to the Occidental Company. It carried no emigrants and had a
passenger list of fashionable folk. On the voyage out to Australia the
weather was pleasant, save in the Bay of Biscay; there was no sickness
on board, and there were many opportunities for social gaiety, the
cultivation of pleasant acquaintances, and the encouragement of that
brisk idleness which aids to health. This was really the first holiday
in my life, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Nothing of unusual interest
occurred on the outward voyage; for one thing, because there were no
unusual people among the passengers; for another, because the vessel
behaved admirably. The same cannot be said of the return voyage: and
with it my story really begins. Misfortune followed us out of Sydney
harbour. We broke a crank-shaft between there and Port Phillip,
Melbourne; a fire in the hold occurred at Adelaide; and at Albany we
buried a passenger who had died of consumption one day out from King
George’s Sound. At Colombo, also, we had a misfortune, but it was of a
peculiar kind, and did not obtrude itself at once; it was found in
an addition to our passenger list. I had spent a day in exploring
Colombo--visiting Arabi Pasha, inspecting Hindu temples, watching the
jugglers and snake-charmers, evading guides and the sellers of brummagem
jewellery, and idling in the Cinnamon Gardens. I returned to the ship
tired out. After I had done some official duties, I sauntered to the
gangway, and, leaning against the bulwarks, idly watched the passengers
come on board from the tender. Two of these made an impression on me.
One was a handsome and fashionably-dressed woman, who was followed by
a maid or companion (as I fancied), carrying parcels; the other, a
shabbily-dressed man, who was the last to come up from the tender. The
woman was going down the companion-way when he stepped on deck with a
single bag in his hand, and I noticed that he watched her with a strange
look in his eyes. He stood still as he gazed, and remained so for
a moment after she had gone; then he seemed to recover himself, and
started, as I thought, almost guiltily, when he saw that my attention
was attracted. He nervously shifted his bag from one hand to the other,
and looked round as though not certain of where he should go. A steward
came to him officiously, and patronisingly too,--which is the bearing of
servants to shabbily-dressed people,--but he shook his head, caught his
bag smartly away from the steward’s fingers, and moved towards the after
part of the ship, reserved for intermediate passengers. As he went he
hesitated, came to the side of the vessel, looked down at the tender for
a moment, cast his eyes to where the anchor was being weighed, made as
if he would go back to the tender, then, seeing that the ladder was
now drawn up, sighed, and passed on to the second-class companion-way,
through which he disappeared.

I stood commenting idly to myself upon this incident, which, slight
though it was, appeared to have significance of a kind, when Hungerford,
the fifth officer, caught me slyly by the arm and said, “Lucky fellow!
Nothing to do but watch the world go by. I wish I had you in the North
Atlantic on a whaler, or in the No Man’s Sea on a pearl-smack for a
matter of thirty days.”

“What would come of that, Hungerford?” said I.

“An exchange of matter for mind, Marmion; muscle for meditation, physics
for philosophy.”

“You do me too much honour; at present I’ve neither mind, meditation,
nor philosophy; I am simply vegetating.”

“Which proves you to be demoralised. I never saw a surgeon on a ship
who wasn’t. They began with mind--more or less--they ate the fruits of
indolence, got precious near being sinful as well as indolent, and
ended with cheap cynicism, with the old ‘quid refert’--the thing Hamlet
plagiarised in his, ‘But it is no matter.’”

“Isn’t this an unusual occupation for you, Hungerford--this Swift-like
criticism?”

“Swift-like, is it? You see, I’ve practised on many of your race,
Marmion, and I have it pat now. You are all of two classes--those who
sicken in soul and leave after one trip, and those who make another trip
and are lost.”

“Lost? How?”

Hungerford pressed his fingers hard on my breastbone, looked at me
enigmatically from under his well-hung brows, and replied: “Brains put
out to seed, morals put out to vegetate--that’s ‘lost.’”

“What about fifth officers?”

“Fifth officers work like navvies, and haven’t time for foolishness.
They’ve got to walk the bridge, and practise the boats, and be
responsible for luggage--and here I am talking to you like an infallible
undergraduate, while the lascars are in endless confusion with a
half-dozen pieces of baggage, and the first officer foams because I’m
not there to set them right. I leave you to your dreams. Good-bye.”

Hungerford was younger than myself, but he knew the world, and I was
flattered by these uncommon remarks, because he talked to no one else
on the ship in the same way. He never sought to make friends, had a
thorough contempt for social trifling, and shrugged his shoulders at
the “swagger” of some of the other officers. I think he longed for a
different kind of sea-life, so accustomed had he been to adventurous and
hardy ways. He had entered the Occidental service because he had
fallen in love with a pretty girl, and thought it his duty to become a
“regular,” and thus have the chance of seeing her every three months in
London. He had conceived a liking for me, reciprocated on my part; the
more so, because I knew that behind his blunt exterior there was a warm
and manly heart. When he left me I went to my cabin and prepared for
dinner, laughing as I did so at his keen, uncompromising criticism,
which I knew was correct enough; for of all official posts that of
a ship-surgeon is least calculated to make a man take a pride in
existence. At its best, it is assisting in the movement of a panorama;
at its worst, worse than a vegetation. Hungerford’s solicitude for
myself, however, was misplaced, because this one voyage would end my
career as ship-surgeon, and, besides, I had not vegetated, but had been
interested in everything that had occurred, humdrum as it was. With
these thoughts, I looked out of the port-hole, to see the shores of
Colombo, Galle Face, and Mount Lavinia fading in the distance, and heard
seven bells--the time for dinner. When I took my seat at the table of
which I was the head, my steward handed to me a slip of paper, saying
that the chief steward had given a new passenger, a lady, the seat at my
right hand, which had been vacated at Colombo. The name on the paper was
“Mrs. Falchion.” The seat was still empty, and I wondered if this
was the beautiful passenger who had attracted me and interested the
Intermediate Passenger. I was selfish enough to wish so: and it was so.

We had finished the soup before she entered. The chief steward, with
that anxious civility which beauty can inspire in even so great a
personage, conducted her to her seat beside me. I confess that though I
was at once absorbed in this occurrence, I noticed also that some of the
ladies present smiled significantly when they saw at whose table Mrs.
Falchion was placed, and looked not a little ironically at the purser,
who, as it was known, always tried to get for his table the newest
addition to the passenger list--when it was a pretty woman. I believe
that one or two rude people chaffed the chief steward about “favouring
the doctor”; but he had a habit of saying uncomfortable things in
a deferential way, and they did not pursue the subject. Then they
commiserated the purser, who was an unpleasant little Jew of an envious
turn of mind; and he, as I was told, likened me to Sir John Falstaff.
I was sensitive in those days, and this annoyed me, particularly that
I had had nothing to do with placing Mrs. Falchion at my table. We are
always most sensitive when guilty concerning the spirit and not the
letter.

One who has lived the cosmopolitan life of London should be quick at
detecting nationalities, but I found it difficult, even after I heard
her speak, to guess at Mrs. Falchion’s native land. There were good
reasons for this, as may be duly seen. Her appearance in the saloon
caused an instant buzz of admiration and interest, of which she seemed
oblivious. If it was acting, it was good acting; if it was lack of
self-consciousness, it was remarkable. As I soon came to know, it was
the latter--which, in such a woman, increased the remarkableness. I was
inclined at first to venture the opinion that she was an actress; but I
discovered that she possessed the attracting power of an actress without
the calculated manner of one; her very lack of self-consciousness was
proof of this emancipation.

When she sat down, I immediately welcomed her by name to my table.
The only surprise she showed at my knowledge of her name and my
self-introduction was to lift her head slightly and look at me, as if
wondering whether I was likely to be an inquisitive and troublesome
host; and also, as I thought, to measure me according to her measure. It
was a quick look, and the interest she showed was of a passive kind. She
asked me as she might an old acquaintance--or a waiter--if the soup was
good, and what the fish was like; decided on my recommendation to wait
for the entrees; requested her next neighbour to pass the olives; in
an impersonal way began to talk about the disadvantages of life at sea;
regretted that all ship food tasted alike; wondered if the cook knew
how to make a Russian salad; and added that the menu was a national
compromise.

Now that she was close to me, I could see that her beauty was real and
notable. Her features were regular, her eyes of a greyish violet, her
chin strong, yet not too strong--the chin of a singer; her hands had
that charming quiet certainty of movement possessed by so few; and her
colour was of the most delightful health. In this delightful health, in
her bountiful yet perfect physical eloquence, her attractiveness, as
it seemed to me, chiefly lay. For no one would ever have guessed her to
possess an emotional temperament. All that was outer was fascinating,
all that was inner suggested coldness. After experience assured me that
all who came to know her shared this estimate, even in those days when
every man on the ship was willing to be her slave. She had a compelling
atmosphere, a possessive presence; and yet her mind at this time
was unemotional--like Octavia, the wife of Mark Antony, “of a cold
conversation.” She was striking and unusual in appearance, and yet well
within convention and “good form.” Her dress was simply and modestly
worn, and had little touches of grace and taste which, I understand,
many ladies on board sought to imitate, when they recovered from the
first feeling of envy.

She was an example of splendid life. I cared to look at her as one would
dwell on the sleek beauty of a deer--as, indeed, I have many a time
since then, in India, watched a tigress asleep on her chain, claws
hidden, wild life latent but slumbering. I could have staked my life
that Mrs. Falchion was insensible to love or passion, and unimpeachable
in the broad scheme of right and wrong; imperious in requiring homage,
incapable of giving it. I noticed when she laughed, as she did once at
table, that her teeth were very white and small and square; and, like a
schoolgirl, she had a habit of clicking them together very lightly, but
not conspicuously, as if trying their quality. This suggested, however,
something a little cruel. Her appetite was very good. She was coolly
anxious about the amusements; she asked me if I could get her a list
of the passengers, said that she was never sea-sick, and took a languid
interest in the ladies present. Her glance at the men was keen at first,
then neutral.

Once again, during the meal, she slowly turned and flashed an
inquiring glance at me. I caught her eyes. She did not show the least
embarrassment, and asked me if the band insisted on playing every day.
Before she left the saloon, one could see that many present were talking
about her. Even the grim old captain followed her with his eyes as she
went. When she rose, I asked her if she was going on deck. I did it
casually, as though it was her usual custom to appear there after
dinner. In like fashion she replied that her maid had some unpacking
to do, she had some things to superintend, and, when this was done,
she intended to spend a time on deck. Then, with a peculiar smile, she
passed out.

   [Note by Dr. Marmion appended to his MSS.:--“Many of the
   conversations and monologues in this history, not heard by myself
   when they occurred, were told to me afterwards, or got from the
   diaries and notes of the persons concerned. Only a few are purely
   imaginary.”]



CHAPTER II. “MOTLEY IS YOUR ONLY WEAR”

I went to my cabin, took a book, sat down, and began to smoke. My
thoughts drifted from the book, and then occurred a strange, incongruous
thing. It was a remembered incident. It came like a vision as I was
lighting a fresh cigar:

A boy and a girl in a village chemist’s shop; he with a boy’s love
for her, she responding in terms, but not in fact. He passed near her
carrying a measure of sulphuric acid. She put out her hand suddenly and
playfully, as though to bar his way. His foot slipped on the oily floor,
and the acid spilled on his hands and the skirt of her dress. He turned
instantly and plunged his hands into a measure of alcohol standing near
before the acid had more than slightly scalded them. She glanced at
his startled face; hers was without emotion. She looked down, and said
petulantly: “You have spoiled my dress; I cannot go into the street.”

The boy’s clothes were burnt also. He was poor, and to replace them must
be a trial to him; her father owned the shop, and was well-to-do. Still,
he grieved most that she should be annoyed, though he saw her injustice.
But she turned away and left him.

Another scene then crossed the disc of smoke:

The boy and girl, now man and woman, standing alone in the chemist’s
shop. He had come out of the big working world, after travel in many
countries. His fame had come with him. She was to be married the next
day to a seller of purple and fine linen. He was smiling a good-bye, and
there was nothing of the old past in the smile. The flame now was in her
eyes, and she put out both her hands to stop him as he turned to go;
but his face was passionless. “You have spoiled my heart,” she said; “I
cannot go into the world so.”

“It is too late; the measures are empty,” he replied.

“I love you to-day, I will loathe you to-morrow,” was the answer.

But he turned and left her, and she blindly stretched out her hands and
followed him into the darkness, weeping.

Was it the scent of the chemicals in my cabin, coupled with some
subterranean association of things, which brought these scenes vividly
before me at this moment? What had they to do with Mrs. Falchion?

A time came when the occurrence appeared to me in the light of
prescience, but that was when I began to understand that all ideas, all
reason and philosophy, are the result of outer impression. The primal
language of our minds is in the concrete. Afterwards it becomes the
cypher, and even at its highest it is expressed by angles, lines, and
geometrical forms--substances and allusive shapes. But now, as the scene
shifted by, I had involuntarily thrust forward my hands as did the
girl when she passed out into the night, and, in doing so, touched the
curtain of my cabin door swinging in towards me. I recovered myself,
and a man timidly stepped inside, knocking as he did so. It was the
Intermediate Passenger. His face was pale; he looked ill.

Poor as his dress was, I saw that he had known the influences and
practised the graces of good society, though his manner was hesitating
and anxious now. I knew at a glance that he was suffering from both
physical pain and mental worry. Without a word, I took his wrist and
felt his pulse, and he said: “I thought I might venture to come--”

I motioned him not to speak. I counted the irregular pulse-beats, then
listened to the action of his heart, with my ear to his breast. There
lay his physical trouble. I poured out a dose of digitalis, and, handing
it to him, asked him to sit down. As he sat and drank the medicine,
I rapidly studied him. The chin was firm, and the eyes had a dogged,
persistent look that, when turned on you, saw not you, but something
beyond you. The head was thrown slightly forward, the eyes looking up at
an angle. This last action was habitual with him. It gave him a peculiar
earnestness. As I noted these peculiarities, my mind was also with his
case; I saw that his life was threatened. Perhaps he guessed what was
going on in me, for he said in a low, cultured voice: “The wheels will
stop too long some time, and there will be no rebound;”--referring to
the irregular action of his heart.

“Perhaps that is true,” I said; “yet it depends a good deal upon
yourself when it will be. Men can die if they wish without committing
suicide. Look at the Maori, the Tongan, the Malay. They can also prolong
life (not indefinitely, but in a case like yours considerably), if
they choose. You can lengthen your days if you do not brood on fatal
things--fatal to you; if you do not worry yourself into the grave.”

I knew that something of this was platitude, and that counsel to such
a man must be of a more possible cast, if it is to be followed. I was
aware also that, in nine cases out of ten, worry is not a voluntary or
constitutional thing, but springs from some extraneous cause.

He smiled faintly, raised his head a little higher, and said:
“Yes, that’s just it, I suppose; but then we do not order our own
constitutions; and I believe, Doctor, that you must kill a nerve before
it ceases to hurt. One doesn’t choose to worry, I think, any more than
one chooses to lay bare a nerve.” And then his eyes dropped, as if he
thought he had already said too much.

Again I studied him, repeating my definitions in my mind. He was not a
drunkard; he might have had no vice, so free was his face from any sign
of dissipation or indulgence; but there was suffering, possibly the
marks of some endured shame. The suffering and shadows showed the more
because his features were refined enough for a woman. And altogether it
struck me that he was possessed by some one idea, which gave his looks a
kind of sorrowful eloquence, such as one sees on occasion in the face of
a great actor like Salvini, on the forehead of a devout Buddhist, or in
the eyes of a Jesuit missionary who martyrs himself in the wilds.

I felt at once for the man a sympathy, a brotherliness, the causes of
which I should be at a loss to trace. Most people have this experience
at one time or another in their lives. It is not a matter of sex; it may
be between an old man and a little child, a great man and a labourer, a
schoolgirl and an old native woman. There is in such companionships less
self-interest than in any other. As I have said, I thought that this man
had a trouble, and I wished to know it; not from curiosity,--though my
mind had a selfish, inquiring strain,--but because I hoped I might
be able to help him in some way. I put my hand on his shoulder, and
replied: “You will never be better unless you get rid of your worry.”

He drew in a sharp breath, and said: “I know that. I am afraid I shall
never be better.”

There was a silence in which we looked at each other steadily, and then
he added, with an intense but quiet misery: “Never--never!”

At that he moved his hand across his forehead wearily, rose, and turned
toward the door. He swayed as he did so, and would have fallen, but I
caught him as he lost consciousness, and laid him on the cabin sofa.
I chafed his hands, unloosed his collar, and opened the bosom of his
shirt. As the linen dropped away from his throat, a small portrait on
ivory was exposed on his breast. I did not look closely at it then, but
it struck me that the woman’s head in the portrait was familiar, though
the artistic work was not recent, and the fashion of the hair was
of years before. When his eyes opened, and he felt his neck bare, he
hurriedly put up his hand and drew the collar close, and at the same
time sent a startled and inquiring look at me. After a few moments I
helped him to his feet, and, thanking me more with a look than with
words, he turned towards the door again.

“Wait,” I said, “until I give you some medicine, and then you shall
take my arm to your cabin.” With a motion of the hand, signifying the
uselessness of remedies, he sat down again. As I handed him the phial,
I continued: “I know that it is none of my business, but you are
suffering. To help your body, your mind should be helped also. Can’t you
tell me your trouble? Perhaps I should be able to serve you. I would if
I could.”

It may be that I spoke with a little feeling and an apparent honesty;
for his eyes searched mine in a kind of earnest bewilderment, as if this
could not be true--as if, indeed, life had gone so hard with him that
he had forgotten the way of kindness. Then he stretched out his hand and
said brokenly: “I am grateful, believe me. I cannot tell you just now,
but I will soon, perhaps.” His hand was upon the curtain of the door,
when my steward’s voice was heard outside, calling my name. The man
himself entered immediately, and said that Mrs. Falchion sent her
compliments, and would I come at once to see her companion, Miss Caron,
who had injured herself.

The Intermediate Passenger turned towards me a strange look; his lips
opened as if about to speak, but he said nothing. At the instant there
came to my mind whom the picture on his breast resembled: it was Mrs.
Falchion.

I think he saw this new intelligence in my face, and a meaning smile
took the place of words, as he slowly left the cabin, mutely refusing
assistance.

I went to Mrs. Falchion’s cabin, and met her outside the door. She
looked displeased. “Justine has hurt herself,” she said. “Please attend
to her; I am going on deck.”

The unfeeling nature of this remark held me to the spot for a moment;
then I entered the cabin. Justine Caron, a delicate but warm-faced girl
of little more than twenty, was sitting on the cabin sofa, her head
supported against the wall, and her hand wound in a handkerchief
soaked in blood. Her dress and the floor were also stained. I undid the
handkerchief and found an ugly wound in the palm of the hand. I called
the steward, and sent him to my dispensary for some necessaries; then
I asked her how it happened. At the moment I saw the cause--a broken
bottle lying on the floor. “The ship rolled,” she said. “The bottle fell
from the shelf upon the marble washstand, and, breaking, from there to
the floor. Madame caught at my arm to save herself from falling; but I
slipped, and was cut on the bottle--so.”

As she ended there was a knock, but the curtain was not drawn, and Mrs.
Falchion’s voice was heard. “My dress is stained, Justine.”

The half-fainting girl weakly replied: “I am very sorry, madame,
indeed.”

To this Mrs. Falchion rejoined: “When you have been attended to, you
may go to bed, Justine. I shall not want you again to-night. But I shall
change my dress. It is so unpleasant; I hate blood. I hope you will be
well in the morning.”

To this Justine replied: “Ah, madame, I am sorry. I could not help it;
but I shall be quite well in the morning, I am sure.” Then she added
quietly to me: “The poor madame! She will not see suffering. She hates
pain. Sickness troubles her. Shall I be able to use my hand very soon,
monsieur?”

There was a wistful look in her eyes, and guessing why it was there, I
said: “Yes, soon, I hope--in a few days, no doubt.”

Her face lighted up, and she said: “Madame likes about her people who
are happy and well.” Then, as if she might have said too much, she
hurriedly added: “But she is very kind;” and, stooping down quickly, her
face whitening with the effort, she caught up the broken glass and threw
it through the port-hole into the sea.

A half-hour later I went on deck, and found Mrs. Falchion comfortably
seated in her deck-chair. I brought a stool over, and sat down beside
her. To this hour the quickness with which I got upon friendly terms
with her astonishes me.

“Justine is better?” she said, and her hand made a slight motion of
disgust.

“Yes. She was not dangerously hurt, of course.”

“Let us change the subject, please. They are going to have a fancy-dress
ball on board, I believe, before we get to Aden. How tiresome! Isn’t it
a little affectation on the part of the stage-struck committee? Isn’t
it--inconsequent?”

“That depends,” I said vaguely, inviting a question. She idled with a
book in her lap.

“On what?”

“On those who go, what costumes are worn, and how much beauty and art
appear.”

“But the trouble! Does it pay? What return does one get?”

“If all admire, half are envious, some are jealous, and one is
devoted--isn’t that enough?” I think I was a fool that night.

“You seem to understand women,” she said, with a puzzling and not quite
satisfactory smile. “Yes, all that is something.”

Though I was looking at the sea rather than at her, I saw again that
inquiring look in her eyes--such a measuring look as a recruiting
sergeant might give a victim of the Queen’s shilling.

After a moment’s pause she continued, I thought, abstractedly: “As what
should you go?”

I answered lightly and without premeditation, “As Caius Cassius. Why
should you not appear as Portia?”

She lifted her eyebrows at me.

“As Portia?”

“As Portia, the wife of Brutus,” I blundered on, at the same time
receiving her permission, by a nod, to light my cigar.

“The pious, love-sick wife of Brutus!” This in a disdainful tone, and
the white teeth clicked softly together.

“Yes, a good disguise,” I said banteringly, though I fancy somewhat
tentatively also, and certainly with a touch of rudeness. I was thinking
at that moment of the Intermediate Passenger, and I was curious.

“And you think of going in the disguise of a gentleman? Caius Cassius
was that, wasn’t he?” she retorted in an ironical tone.

“I suppose he was, though he was punished once for rudeness,” I replied
apologetically.

“Quite so,” was the decisive reply.

I felt that she was perfectly cool, while I was a little confused, and
ashamed too, that I had attempted to be playfully satirical. And so,
wondering what I should say next, I remarked in desperation: “Do you
like the sea?”

“I am never ill at sea,” was her reply. “But I do not really like it; it
is treacherous. The land would satisfy me if--” She paused.

“Yes, Mrs. Falchion--‘if’?”

“If I did not wish to travel,” she vaguely added, looking blandly at me.

“You have travelled much?” I ventured.

“A great deal;” and again I saw that scrutiny in her eyes. It occurred
to me at the moment that she might think I possessed some previous
knowledge of her.

My mind became occupied again with the Intermediate Passenger and the
portrait that he wore at his neck. I almost laughed to think of the
melodramatic turn which my first conversation with this woman might
chance to take. I felt that I was dealing with one who was able to meet
cleverly any advance of mine, but I determined to lead the talk into as
deep waters as possible.

“I suppose, too, you are a good practical sailor--that is, you
understand seamanship, if you have travelled much?” I do not know why I
said that, for it sounded foolish to me afterwards.

“Pretty well,” she replied. “I can manage a sail; I know the argot, I
could tell the shrouds from the bulwarks, and I’ve rowed a boat in a
choppy sea.”

“It is not an accomplishment usual to your sex.”

“It was ordinary enough where I spent the early part of my life,” was
the idle reply; and she settled herself more comfortably in her chair.

“Yes? May I ask where that was?” and as I said this, it occurred to
me that she was, perhaps, leading me on, instead of my leading her; to
betray me as to anything I knew about her.

“In the South Seas,” she replied. “My father was a British consul in the
Islands.”

“You have not come from the Islands now, I suppose?”

“No,” she said a little more softly; “it is years since I was in Samoa.
... My father is buried there.”

“You must have found it a romantic life in those half-barbaric places?”

She shifted in her chair. “Romantic!” Her tone conveyed a very slight
uneasiness and vagueness. “I am afraid you must ask some one else about
that sort of thing. I did not see much romance, but I saw plenty that
was half-barbaric.” Here she laughed slightly.

Just then I saw the lights of a vessel far off. “See--a vessel!” I said;
and I watched the lights in silence, but thinking. I saw that she too
was watching idly.

At length, as if continuing the conversation, I said: “Yes, I suppose
life must be somewhat adventurous and dangerous among savage people like
the Samoans, Tongans, and Fijians?”

“Indeed, then,” she replied decisively, “you are not to suppose anything
of the kind. The danger is not alone for the white people.”

At this I appeared, as I really was, interested, and begged her to
explain what she meant. She thought a moment, and then briefly, but
clearly, sketched the life of those islands, showing how, in spite of
missionary labour selfish and unselfish, the native became the victim
of civilisation, the prey of the white trader and beachcomber, who were
protected by men-of-war with convincing Nordenfeldt and Hotchkiss guns;
how the stalwart force of barbaric existence declined, and with it the
crude sense of justice, the practice of communism at its simplest
and purest, the valour of nationality. These phrases are my own--the
substance, not the fashion, of her speech.

“You do not, then,” I said, “believe wholly in the unselfishness of
missionaries, the fair dealing of traders, the perfect impartiality of
justice, as shown through steel-clad cruisers?”

“I have seen too much to be quite fair in judgment, I fear, even to
men-of-war’s men;” and she paused, listening to a song which came from
the after-part of the ship. The air was very still, and a few of the
words of the droll, plaintive ditty came to us.

Quartermaster Stone, as he passed us, hummed it, and some voices of the
first-class passengers near joined in the refrain:

        “Sing, hey, for a rover on the sea,
          And the old world!”

Some days later I got all of the song from one of the intermediate
passengers, and the last verse of it I give here:

       “I’m a-sailing, I’m a-sailing on the sea,
         To a harbour where the wind is still;
        Oh, my dearie, do you wait for me?
         Oh, my dearie, do you love me still?
        Sing, hey, for a rover on the sea,
          And the old world!”

I noticed that Mrs. Falchion’s brow contracted as the song proceeded,
making a deep vertical line between the eyes, and that the fingers of
the hand nearest me closed on the chair-arm firmly. The hand attracted
me. It was long, the fingers were shapely, but not markedly tapering,
and suggested firmness. I remarked afterward, when I chanced to shake
hands with her, that her fingers enclosed one’s hand; it was not a mere
touch or pressure, but an unemotional and possessive clasp. I felt sure
that she had heard the song before, else it had not produced even this
so slight effect on her nerves. I said: “It is a quaint song. I suppose
you are familiar with it and all of its kind?”

“I fancy I have heard it somewhere,” she answered in a cold voice.

I am aware that my next question was not justified by our very
short acquaintance; but this acquaintance had been singular from its
beginning, and it did not seem at that moment as it looks on paper;
besides, I had the Intermediate Passenger in my mind. “Perhaps your
husband is a naval man?” I asked.

A faint flush passed over her face, and then, looking at me with a
neutral expression and some reserve of manner, she replied: “My husband
was not a naval man.”

She said “was not.” That implied his death.

There was no trouble in her manner; I could detect no sign of
excitement. I turned to look at the lights of the approaching vessel,
and there, leaning against the railing that divided the two decks, was
the Intermediate Passenger. He was looking at us intently. A moment
after he disappeared. Beyond doubt there was some intimate association
between these two.

My thoughts were, however, distracted by our vessel signalling the
other. Hungerford was passing just then, and I said: “Have you any idea
what vessel it is, Hungerford?”

“Yes, man-of-war ‘Porcupine’, bound for Aden, I think.”

Mrs. Falchion at this laughed strangely, as she leaned forward looking,
and then, rising quickly, said: “I prefer to walk.”

“May I accompany you?” I asked.

She inclined her head, and we joined the promenaders. The band was
playing, and, for a ship-band, playing very well, the ballet music
of Delibes’ ‘Sylvia’. The musicians had caught that unaccentuated
and sensuous swing of the melody which the soft, tropical atmosphere
rendered still more languorous. With Mrs. Falchion’s hand upon my arm,
I felt a sense of capitulation to the music and to her, uncanny in its
suddenness. At this distance of time it seems to me absurd. I had once
experienced something of the same feeling with the hand of a young
medical student, who, skilled in thought-reading, discovered the number
of a bank-note that was in my mind.

This woman had an attractiveness compelling and delightful, at least in
its earlier application to me. Both professionally and socially I have
been brought into contact with women of beauty and grace, but never one
who, like Mrs. Falchion, being beautiful, seemed so unconscious of
the fact, so indifferent to those about her, so untouched by another’s
emotion, so lacking in sensitiveness of heart; and who still drew people
to her. I am speaking now of the earlier portion of our acquaintance; of
her as she was up to this period in her life.

I was not alone in this opinion of her, for, as time went on, every
presentable man and woman on the boat was introduced to her; and if some
women criticised and some disliked her, all acknowledged her talent and
her imperial attraction. Among the men her name was never spoken but
with reserve and respect, and her afternoon teas were like a little
court. She had no compromising tenderness of manner for man or woman;
she ruled, yet was unapproachable through any avenues of sentiment. She
had a quiet aplomb, which would be called ‘sang-froid’ in a man.

“Did you ever see a Spanish-Mexican woman dance?” she asked in one of
the pauses of the music.

“Never: never any good dancing, save what one gets at a London theatre.”

“That is graceful,” she said, “but not dancing. You have heard of music
stirring the blood; of savage races--and others--working themselves up
to ecstatic fury? Maybe you have seen the Dervishes, or the Fijians, or
the Australian aboriginals? No? Well, I have, and I have seen--which
is so much more--those Spanish-Mexican women dance. Did you ever see
anything so thrilling, so splendid, that you felt you must possess
it?”--She asked me that with her hand upon my arm!--“Well, that is it. I
have felt that way towards a horse which has won a great race, and to
a woman who has carried me with her through the fantastic drama of her
dance, until she stood at the climax, head thrown back, face glowing--a
statue. It is grand to be eloquent like that, not in words, but in
person.”

In this was the key to her own nature. Body and mind she was free from
ordinary morbidness, unless her dislike of all suffering was morbid.
With her this was a dislike of any shock to the senses. She was selfish
at all points.

These conclusions were pursued at the expense of speech on my part.
At first she did not appear to regard my silence. She seemed to have
thoughts of her own; but she shook them off with a little firm motion of
the shoulders, and, with the assumption of a demureness of manner and an
airy petulance, said: “Well, amuse me.”

“Amuse you?” was my reply. “Delighted to do so if I can. How?”

“Talk to me,” was the quick response.

“Would that accomplish the purpose?” This in a tone of mock protest.

“Please don’t be foolish, Dr. Marmion. I dislike having to explain. Tell
me things.”

“About what?”

“Oh, about yourself--about people you have met, and all that; for I
suppose you have seen a good deal and lived a good deal.”

“About hospital cases?” I said a little maliciously.

“No, please, no! I abhor everything that is sick and poor and
miserable.”

“Well,” said I, at idle venture, “if not a hospital, what about a gaol?”

I felt the hand on my arm twitch slightly, and then her reply came.

“I said I hated everything that was wretched and wicked. You are either
dense, or purposely irritating.”

“Well, then, a college?”

“A college? Yes, that sounds better. But I do not wish descriptions
of being ‘gated,’ or ‘sent down,’ or ‘ploughed,’ and that kind of
commonplace. I should prefer, unless your vanity leads you irresistibly
in that direction, something with mature life and amusement; or, at
least, life and incident, and good sport--if you do not dwell on the
horrors of killing.”

On the instant there came to me the remembrance of Professor Valiant’s
wife. I think it was not what she wanted; but I had a purpose, and I
began:

“Every one at St. Luke’s admired and respected Professor Valiant’s wife,
she was so frank and cordial and prettily downright. In our rooms we all
called her a good chap, and a dashed good chap when her husband happened
to be rustier than usual. He was our professor in science. It was the
general belief that he chose science for his life-work because it gave
unusual opportunities for torture. He was believed to be a devoted
vivisectionist; he certainly had methods of cruelty, masterly in their
ingenuity. He could make a whole class raw with punishment in a few
words; and many a scorching bit of Latin verse was written about his
hooked nose and fishy eye.

“But his highest talents in this direction were reserved for his wife.
His distorted idea of his own importance made him view her as a chattel,
an inferior being; the more so, I believe, because she brought him
little money when he married her. She was too much the woman to pretend
to kneel to him, and because she would not be his slave, she had a hard
time of it. He began by insisting that she should learn science, that
she might assist him in his experiments. She knew that she had no taste
for it, that it was no part of her wifely duty, and she did what suited
her better--followed the hounds. It was a picture to see her riding
across country. She could take a fence with a sound hunter like a bird.
And so it happened that, after a time, they went their own ways pretty
well; he ignoring her, neglecting her, deprecating her by manner, if not
by speech, and making her life more than uncomfortable.

“She was always kind to me. I was the youngest chap in the college, and
was known as ‘Marmy’ by every one; and because I was fonder of science
than most other men in the different years, Valiant was more gracious to
me than the rest, though I did not like him. One day, when I called, I
heard her say to him, not knowing that I was near: ‘Whatever you feel,
or however you act towards me in private, I will have respect when
others are present.’

“It was the custom for the professors to invite each student to luncheon
or dinner once during term-time. Being somewhat of a favourite of both
Professor and Mrs. Valiant however, I lunched with them often. I need
hardly say that I should not have exceeded the regulation once had it
not been for Mrs. Valiant. The last time I went is as clear in my memory
as if it were yesterday. Valiant was more satirical and cold-blooded
than usual. I noticed a kind of shining hardness in his wife’s eyes,
which gave me a strange feeling; yet she was talkative and even gay,
I thought, while I more than once clinched my fist under the table,
so much did I want to pummel him; for I was a lover of hers, in a
deferential, boyish way.

“At last, knowing that she liked the hunt, I asked her if she was going
to the meet on the following Saturday, saying that I intended to follow,
having been offered a horse. With a steely ring to her voice, and a
further brightening of the eyes, she said: ‘You are a stout little
sportsman, Marmy. Yes, I am going on Major Karney’s big horse, Carbine.’

“Valiant looked up, half sneering, half doubtful, I thought, and
rejoined: ‘Carbine is a valuable horse, and the fences are stiff in the
Garston country.’

“She smiled gravely, then, with her eyes fixed on her husband, said:
‘Carbine is a perfect gentleman. He will do what I ask him. I have
ridden him.’

“‘The devil you have!’ he replied.

“‘I am sure,’ said I, as I hoped, bravely, and not a little
enthusiastically, ‘that Carbine would take any fence you asked him.’

“‘Or not, as the case might be. Thank you, Marmy, for the compliment,’
she said.

“‘A Triton among minnows,’ remarked Valiant, not entirely under his
breath; ‘horses obey, and students admire, and there is no end to her
greatness.’

“‘There is an end to everything, Edward,’ she remarked a shade sadly and
quietly.

“He turned to me and said: ‘Science is a great study, Marmion, but it is
sardonic too; for you shall find that when you reduce even a Triton to
its original elements--’

“‘Oh, please let me finish,’ she interrupted softly. ‘I know the lecture
so well. It reads this way: “The place of generation must break to
give place to the generated; but the influence spreads out beyond the
fragments, and is greater thus than in the mass--neither matter nor mind
can be destroyed. The earth was molten before it became cold rock and
quiet world.” There, you see, Marmy, that I am a fellow-student of
yours.’

“Valiant’s eyes were ugly to watch; for she had quoted from a lecture
of his, delivered to us that week. After an instant he said, with slow
maliciousness: ‘Oh, ye gods, render me worthy of this Portia, and teach
her to do as Brutus’s Portia did, ad eternum!’

“She shuddered a little, then said very graciously, and as if he
had meant nothing but kindness: ‘Beggar that I am, I am even poor in
thanks.’ I will leave you now to your cigarettes; and because I must go
out soon, and shall not, I fear, see you again this afternoon, good-bye,
Marmy, till Saturday--till Saturday.’ And she left us.

“I was white and trembling with anger. He smiled coolly, and was
careful to choose me one of his best cigars, saying as he handed
it: ‘Conversation is a science, Marmion. Study it; there is solid
satisfaction in it; it is the only art that brings instant pleasure.
Like the stage, it gets its immediate applause.’

“Well, Mrs. Valiant did ride Carbine on that Saturday. Such a scene
it was! I see it now--the mottled plump of hounds upon the scent, the
bright sun showing up the scarlet coats of the whips gloriously, the
long stride of the hunters, ears back and quarters down! She rode
Carbine, and the fences WERE stiff--so stiff that I couldn’t have taken
half of them. Afterward I was not sorry that I couldn’t; for she rode
for a fall that day on Carbine, her own horse, she had bought him of
Major Karney a few days before,--and I heard her last words as she
lay beside him, smiling through the dreadful whiteness of her lips.
‘Goodbye, Marmy,’ she whispered. ‘Carbine and I go together. It is
better so, in the full cry and a big field. Tell the men at Luke’s that
I hope they will pass at the coming exams.... I am going up--for my
final--Marmy.--I wonder--if I’ll--pass.’ And then the words froze on her
lips.

“It was persecution that did it--diabolical persecution and selfishness.
That was the worst day the college ever knew. At the funeral, when the
provost read, ‘For that it hath pleased Thee to deliver this our sister
out of the miseries of this sinful world,’ Big Wallington, the wildest
chap among the grads, led off with a gulp in his throat, and we all
followed. And that gold-spectacled sneak stood there, with a lying white
handkerchief at his eyes.

“I laid myself out to make the college too hot for him. In a week I had
every man in the place with me, and things came to such a pass that
all of us must be sent down, or Valiant resign. He resigned. He found
another professorship; but the thing followed him, and he was obliged to
leave the country.”

When I finished the story, Mrs. Falchion was silent for a time, then,
with a slight air of surprise, and in a quite critical way, she said:
“I should think you would act very well, if you used less emotion. Mrs.
Valiant had a kind of courage, but she was foolish to die. She should
have stayed and fought him--fought him every way, until she was his
master. She could have done it; she was clever, I should think. Still,
if she had to die, it was better to go with a good horse that way. I
think I should prefer to go swiftly, suddenly, but without the horror
of blood and bruises, and that sort of thing.... I should like to meet
Professor Valiant. He was hard, but he was able too.... But haven’t
we had enough of horror? I asked you to amuse me, and you have merely
interested me instead. Oh!--”

This exclamation, I thought, was caused by the voice of the
quartermaster humming:

       “I’m a-sailing, I’m a-sailing on the sea,
         To a harbour where the wind is still”--

Almost immediately she said: “I think I will go below.” Then, after a
slight pause: “This is a liberal acquaintance for one day, Dr. Marmion;
and, you know, we were not introduced.”

“No, Mrs. Falchion, we were not introduced; but I am in some regards
your host, and I fear we should all be very silent if we waited for
regular introductions here. The acquaintance gives me pleasure, but it
is not nearly so liberal as I hope it may become.”

She did not answer, but smiled at me over her shoulder as she passed
down the staircase, and the next instant I could have bitten my tongue
for playing the cavalier as I had done; for showing, as I think I did,
that she had an influence over me--an influence peculiar to herself, and
difficult to account for when not in her presence.

I sat down, lit a cigar, and went over in my mind all that had been said
between us; all that had occurred in my cabin after dinner; every minute
since we left Colombo was laid bare to its minutest detail. Lascars
slipped by me in the half-darkness, the voices of two lovers near
alternated with their expressive silences, and from the music saloon
there came the pretty strains of a minuet, played very deftly. Under the
influence of this music my thoughts became less exact; they drifted. My
eyes shifted to the lights of the ‘Porcupine’ in the distance, and from
them again to the figures passing and repassing me on the deck. The
“All’s well” of the look-out seemed to come from an endless distance;
the swish of water against the dividing hull of the ‘Fulvia’ sounded
like a call to silence from another world; the phosphorescence swimming
through the jarred waters added to the sensation of unreality and
dreams. These dreams grew, till they were broken by a hand placed on
my shoulder, and I saw that one of the passengers, Clovelly, an English
novelist, had dropped out from the promenade to talk with me. He saw
my mood, however, and said quietly: “Give me a light for my cigar, will
you? Then, astride this stool, I’ll help you to make inventory of the
rest of them. A pretty study; for, at our best, ‘What fools we mortals
be!’”

“‘Motley is your only wear,’” was my reply; and for a full half-hour,
which, even for a man, is considerable, we spoke no word, but only
nodded when some one of the promenaders noticed us. There was a
bookmaker fresh from the Melbourne races; an American, Colonel Ryder,
whose eloquence had carried him round the world; a stalwart squatter
from Queensland; a pretty widow, who had left her husband under the sods
of Tasmania; a brace of girls going to join their lovers and be married
in England; a few officers fleeing from India with their livers and
their lives; a family of four lanky lasses travelling “home” to school;
a row of affable ladies, who alternated between envy and gaiety and
delight in, and criticism of, their husbands; a couple of missionaries,
preparing to give us lectures on the infamous gods of the heathen,--gods
which, poor harmless little creatures! might be bought at a few annas a
pint at Aden or Colombo,--and on the Exodus and the Pharaohs--pleasures
reserved for the Red Sea; a commercial traveller, who arranged
theatricals, and cast himself for all the principal parts; a humorous
and naive person who industriously hinted at the opulence of his estates
in Ireland; two stately English ladies of title; a cheerful array
of colonial knights and judges off to Europe for a holiday; and many
others, who made little worlds unto themselves, called cliques by blunt
people.

“To my mind, the most interesting persons on the ship,” said Clovelly at
last, “are the bookmaker, Miss Treherne, and the lady with whom you have
just been talking--an exceptional type.”

“An unusual woman, I fancy,” was my reply. “But which is Miss Treherne?
I am afraid I am not quite sure.”

He described her and her father, with whom I had talked--a London Q.C.,
travelling for his health, a notable man with a taste for science, who
spent his idle hours in reading astronomy and the plays of Euripides.

“Why not include the father in the list of the most interesting
persons?” I questioned.

“Because I have met many men like him, but no one quite like his
daughter, or Mrs.--what is her name?”

“Mrs. Falchion.”

“Or Mrs. Falchion or the bookmaker.”

“What is there so uncommon about Miss Treherne? She had not struck me as
being remarkable.”

“No? Well, of course, she is not striking after the fashion of Mrs.
Falchion. But watch her, study her, and you will find her to be the
perfection of a type--the finest expression of a decorous convention, a
perfect product of social conservatism; unaffected, cheerful, sensitive,
composed, very talented, altogether companionable.”

“Excuse me,” I said, laughing, though I was impressed; “that sounds as
if you had been writing about her, and applying to her the novelist’s
system of analysis, which makes an imperfect individual a perfect type.
Now, frankly, are you speaking of Miss Treherne, or of some one of whom
she is the outline, as it were?”

Clovelly turned and looked at me steadily. “When you consider a
patient,” he said, “do you arrange a diagnosis of a type or of a
person?--And, by the way, ‘type’ is a priggish word.”

“I consider the type in connection with the person.”

“Exactly. The person is the thing. That clears up the matter of business
and art. But now, as to Miss Treherne: I want to say that, having been
admitted to her acquaintance and that of her father, I have thought of
them only as friends, and not as ‘characters’ or ‘copy.’”

“I beg your pardon, Clovelly,” said I. “I might have known.”

“Now, to prove how magnanimous I am, I shall introduce you to Miss
Treherne, if you will let me. You’ve met her father, I suppose?” he
added, and tossed his cigar overboard.

“Yes, I have talked with him. He is a courteous and able man, I should
think.”

We rose. Presently he continued: “See, Miss Treherne is sitting there
with the Tasmanian widow--what is HER name?”

“Mrs. Callendar,” I replied. “Blackburn, the Queenslander, is joining
them.”

“So much the better,” he said. “Come on.”

As we passed the music saloon, we paused for an instant to look through
the port-hole at a pale-faced girl with big eyes and a wonderful
bright red dress, singing “The Angels’ Serenade,” while an excitable
bear-leader turned her music for her. Near her stood a lanky girl who
adored actors and tenors, and lived in the hope of meeting some of those
gentlemen of the footlights, who plough their way so calmly through the
hearts of maidens fresh from school.

We drew back to go on towards Miss Treherne, when Hungerford touched me
on the arm, and said: “I want to see you for a little while, Marmion, if
Mr. Clovelly will excuse you.”

I saw by Hungerford’s face that he had something of importance to say,
and, linking my arm in his, I went with him to his cabin, which was near
those of the intermediate passengers.



CHAPTER III. A TALE OF NO MAN’S SEA

Inside the cabin Hungerford closed the door, gripped me by the arm, and
then handed me a cheroot, with the remark: “My pater gave them to me
last voyage home. Have kept ‘em in tea.” And then he added, with no
appearance of consecutiveness: “Hang the bally ship, anyhow!”

I shall not attempt to tone down the crudeness of Hungerford’s language.
It contents me to think that the solidity of his character and his worth
will appear even through the crust of free-and-easy idioms, as they will
certainly be seen in his acts;--he was sound at heart and true as steel.

“What is the matter, Hungerford?” I asked lighting the cheroot.

“Everything’s the matter. Captain, with his nose in the air, and
trusting all round to his officers. First officer, no good--never any
use since they poured the coal on him. Purser, ought to be on a Chinese
junk. Second, third, fourth officers, first-rate chaps, but so-so
sailors. Doctor, frivolling with a lovely filly, pedigree not known.
Why, confound it! nobody takes this business seriously except the
captain, and he sits on a golden throne. He doesn’t know that in any
real danger this swagger craft would be filled with foolishness.
There isn’t more than one good boat’s crew on board--sailors, lascars,
stewards, and all. As for the officers, if the surgeon would leave the
lovely ladies to themselves, he’d find cases worth treating, and duties
worth doing. He should keep himself fit for shocks. And he can take my
word for it--for I’ve been at sea since I was a kid, worse luck!--that a
man with anything to do on a ship ought to travel every day nose out for
shipwreck next day, and so on, port to port. Ship-surgeons, as well as
all other officers, weren’t ordained to follow after cambric skirts and
lace handkerchiefs at sea. Believe me or not as you like, but, for a man
having work to do, woman, lovely woman, is rocks. Now, I suppose you’ll
think I’m insolent, for I’m younger than you are, Marmion, but you know
what a rough-and-tumble fellow I am, and you’ll not mind.”

“Well, Hungerford,” I said, “to what does this lead?”

“To Number 116 Intermediate, for one thing. It’s letting off steam for
another. I tell you, Marmion, these big ships are too big. There are
those canvas boats. They won’t work; you can’t get them together. You
couldn’t launch one in an hour. And as for the use of the others, the
lascars would melt like snow in any real danger. There’s about one
decent boat’s crew on the ship, that’s all. There! I’ve unburdened
myself; I feel better.”

Presently he added, with a shake of the head: “See here: now-a-days we
trust too much to machinery and chance, and not enough to skill of hand
and brain stuff. I’d like to show you some of the crews I’ve had in the
Pacific and the China Sea--but I’m at it again! I’ll now come, Marmion,
to the real reason why I brought you here.... Number 116 Intermediate
is under the weather; I found him fainting in the passage. I helped
him into his cabin. He said he’d been to you to get medicine, and you’d
given him some. Now, the strange part of the business is, I know him. He
didn’t remember me, however--perhaps because he didn’t get a good look
at me. Coincidence is a strange thing. I can point to a dozen in my
short life, every one as remarkable, if not as startling, as this. Here,
I’ll spin you a yarn:

“It happened four years ago. I had no moustache then, was fat like a
whale, and first mate on the ‘Dancing Kate’, a pearler in the Indian
Ocean, between Java and Australia. That was sailing, mind you--real
seamanship, no bally nonsense; a fight every weather, interesting
all round. If it wasn’t a deadly calm, it was a typhoon; if it wasn’t
either, it was want of food and water. I’ve seen us with pearls on board
worth a thousand quid, and not a drop of water nor three square meals
in the caboose. But that was life for men and not Miss Nancys. If
they weren’t saints, they were sailors, afraid of nothing but God
Almighty--and they do respect Him, even when they curse the winds and
the sea. Well, one day we were lying in the open sea, about two hundred
and fifty miles from Port Darwin. There wasn’t a breath of air. The sea
was like glass; the sun was drawing turpentine out of every inch of
the ‘Dancing Kate’. The world was one wild blister. There wasn’t a
comfortable spot in the craft, and all round us was that staring,
oily sea. It was too hot to smoke, and I used to make a Sede boy do my
smoking for me. I got the benefit of the smell without any work. I was
lying under the droop of a dingey, making the Sede boy call on all his
gods for wind, with interludes of smoke, when he chucked his deities and
tobacco, and, pointing, shouted, ‘Man! man!’

“I snatched a spy-glass. Sure enough, there was a boat on the water.
It was moving ever so slowly. It seemed to stop, and we saw something
lifted and waved, and then all was still again. I got a boat’s crew
together, and away we went in that deadly smother. An hour’s row and we
got within hail of the derelict--as one of the crew said, ‘feelin’ as
if the immortal life was jerked out of us.’ The dingey lay there on the
glassy surface, not a sign of life about her. Yet I had, as I said, seen
something waved. The water didn’t even lap its sides. It was ghostly, I
can tell you. Our oars licked the water; they didn’t attack it. Now, I’m
going to tell you something, Marmion, that’ll make you laugh. I don’t
think I’ve got any poetry in me, but just then I thought of some verses
I learned when I was a little cove at Wellington--a devilishly weird
thing. It came to me at that moment like a word in my ear. It made me
feel awkward for a second. All sailors are superstitious, you know. I’m
superstitious about this ship. Never mind; I’ll tell you the verses, to
show you what a queer thing memory is. The thing was called ‘No Man’s
Sea’:

       “‘The days are dead in the No Man’s Sea,
         And God has left it alone;
        The angels cover their heads and flee,
         And the wild four winds have flown.

       “‘There’s never a ripple upon the tide,
         There’s never a word or sound;
        But over the waste the white wraiths glide,
         To look for the souls of the drowned.

       “‘The No Man’s Sea is a gaol of souls,
         And its gate is a burning sun,
        And deep beneath it a great bell tolls
         For a death that never is done.

       “‘Alas! for any that comes anear,
         That lies on its moveless breast;
        The grumbling water shall be his bier,
         And never a place of rest.”’

“There are four of the verses. Well, I made a motion to stop the rowing,
and was mum for a minute. The men got nervous. They looked at the boat
in front of us, and then turned round, as though to see if the ‘Dancing
Kate’ was still in sight. I spoke, and they got more courage. I stood
up in the boat, but could see nothing in the dingey. I gave a sign to go
on, and soon we were alongside. In the bottom of the dingey lay a man,
apparently dead, wearing the clothes of a convict. One of the crew gave
a grunt of disgust, the others said nothing. I don’t take to men often,
and to convicts precious seldom; but there was a look in this man’s face
which the prison clothes couldn’t demoralise--a damned pathetic look,
which seemed to say, ‘Not guilty.’

“In a minute I was beside him, and found he wasn’t dead. Brandy brought
him round a little; but he was a bit gone in the head, and muttered all
the way back to the ship. I had unbuttoned his shirt, and I saw on his
breast a little ivory portrait of a woman. I didn’t let the crew see it;
for the fellow, even in his delirium, appeared to know I had exposed the
thing, and drew the linen close in his fingers, and for a long time held
it at his throat.”

“What was the woman’s face like, Hungerford?” I asked.

He parried, remarking only that she had the face of a lady, and was
handsome.

I pressed him. “But did it resemble any one you had ever seen?”

With a slight droop of his eyelids, he said: “Don’t ask foolish
questions, Marmion. Well, the castaway had a hard pull for life. He
wouldn’t have lived at all, if a breeze hadn’t come up and let us get
away to the coast. It was the beginning of the monsoon, and we went
bowling down towards Port Darwin, a crowd of Malay proas in our wake.
However, the poor beggar thought he was going to die, and one night he
told me his story. He was an escaped convict from Freemantle, Western
Australia. He had, with others, been taken up to the northern coast to
do some Government work, and had escaped in the dingey. His crime was
stealing funds belonging to a Squatting and Mining Company. There was
this extenuating circumstance: he could have replaced the money, which,
as he said, he’d only intended to use for a few weeks. But a personal
enemy threw suspicion on him, accounts were examined, and though he
showed he’d only used the money while more of his own was on the way to
him, the Company insisted on prosecuting him. For two reasons: because
it was itself in bad odour, and hoped by this trial to divert public
attention from its own dirty position; and because he had against him
not only his personal enemy, but those who wanted to hit the Company
through him. He’d filched to be able to meet the large expenses of his
wife’s establishment. Into this he didn’t enter minutely, and he didn’t
blame her for having so big a menage; he only said he was sorry that he
hadn’t been able to support it without having to come, even for a day,
to the stupidity of stealing. After two years he escaped. He asked me
to write a letter to his wife, which he’d dictate. Marmion, you or I
couldn’t have dictated that letter if we’d taken a year to do it. There
was no religion in it, no poppy-cock, but straightforward talk, full of
sorrow for what he’d done, and for the disgrace he’d brought on her.
I remember the last few sentences as if I’d seen them yesterday. ‘I am
dying on the open sea, disgraced, but free,’ he said. ‘I am not innocent
in act, but I was not guilty of intentional wrong. I did what I did
that you should have all you wished, all you ought to have. I ask
but this--and I shall soon ask for nothing--that you will have a kind
thought, now and then, for the man who always loved you, and loves
you yet. I have never blamed you that you did not come near me in my
trouble; but I wish you were here for a moment before I go away for
ever. You must forgive me now, for you will be free. If I were a better
man I would say, God bless you. In my last conscious moments I will
think of you, and speak your name. And now good-bye--an everlasting
good-bye. I was your loving husband, and am your lover until death.’ And
it was signed, ‘Boyd Madras.’

“However, he didn’t die. Between the captain and myself, we kept life
in him, and at last landed him at Port Darwin; all of us, officers and
crew, swearing to let no one know he was a convict. And I’ll say this
for the crew of the ‘Dancing Kate’ that, so far as I know, they kept
their word. That letter, addressed in care of a firm of Melbourne
bankers, I gave back to him before we landed. We made him up a purse
of fifty pounds,--for the crew got to like him,--and left him at Port
Darwin, sailing away again in a few days to another pearl-field farther
east. What happened to him at Port Darwin and elsewhere, I don’t know;
but one day I found him on a fashionable steamer in the Indian Ocean,
looking almost as near to Kingdom Come as when he starved in the dingey
on No Man’s Sea. As I said before, I think he didn’t recognise me; and
he’s lying now in 116 Intermediate, with a look on him that I’ve seen
in the face of a man condemned to death by the devils of cholera or
equatorial fever. And that’s the story, Marmion, which I brought you to
hear--told, as you notice, in fine classical style.”

“And why do you tell ME this, Hungerford--a secret you’ve kept all these
years? Knowledge of that man’s crime wasn’t necessary before giving him
belladonna or a hot bath.”

Hungerford kept back the whole truth for reasons of his own. He said:
“Chiefly because I want you to take a decent interest in the chap. He
looks as if he might go off on the long voyage any tick o’ the clock.
You are doctor, parson, and everything else of the kind on board. I like
the poor devil, but anyhow I’m not in a position to be going around with
ginger-tea in a spoon, or Ecclesiastes under my arm,--very good things.
Your profession has more or less to do with the mind as well as the
body, and you may take my word for it that Boyd Madras’s mind is as sick
as his torso. By the way, he calls himself ‘Charles Boyd,’ so I suppose
we needn’t recall to him his former experiences by adding the ‘Madras.’”

Hungerford squeezed my arm again violently, and added: “Look here,
Marmion, we understand each other in this, don’t we? To do what we can
for the fellow, and be mum.”

Some of this looks rough and blunt, but as it was spoken there was that
in it which softened it to my ear. I knew he had told all he thought
I ought to know, and that he wished me to question him no more, nor to
refer to Mrs. Falchion, whose relationship to Boyd Madras--or Charles
Boyd--both of us suspected.

“It was funny about those verses coming to my mind, wasn’t it, Marmion?”
 he continued. And he began to repeat one of them, keeping time to the
wave-like metre with his cheroot, winding up with a quick, circular
movement, and putting it again between his lips:

       “‘There’s never a ripple upon the tide,
         There’s never a breath or sound;
        But over the waste the white wraiths glide,
         To look for the souls of the drowned.”’

Then he jumped off the berth where he had been sitting, put on his
jacket, said it was time to take his turn on the bridge, and prepared
to go out, having apparently dismissed Number 116 Intermediate from his
mind.

I went to Charles Boyd’s cabin, and knocked gently. There was no
response. I entered. He lay sleeping soundly--the sleep that comes after
nervous exhaustion. I had a good chance to study him as he lay there.
The face was sensitive and well fashioned, but not strong; the hands
were delicate, yet firmly made. One hand was clinched upon that portion
of his breast where the portrait hung.



CHAPTER IV. THE TRAIL OF THE ISHMAELITE

I went on deck again, and found Clovelly in the smoking-room. The
bookmaker was engaged in telling tales of the turf, alternated with
comic songs by Blackburn--an occupation which lasted throughout the
voyage, and was associated with electric appeals to the steward to fill
the flowing bowl. Clovelly came with me, and we joined Miss Treherne
and her father. Mr. Treherne introduced me to his daughter, and Clovelly
amiably drew the father into a discussion of communism as found in the
South Sea Islands.

I do not think my conversation with Miss Treherne was brilliant. She has
since told me that I appeared self-conscious and preoccupied. This being
no compliment to her, I was treated accordingly. I could have endorsed
Clovelly’s estimate of her so far as her reserve and sedateness were
concerned. It seemed impossible to talk naturally. The events of the day
were interrupting the ordinary run of thought, and I felt at a miserable
disadvantage. I saw, however, that the girl was gifted and clear of
mind, and possessed of great physical charm, but of that fine sort which
must be seen in suitable surroundings to be properly appreciated.
Here on board ship a sweet gravity and a proud decorum--not altogether
unnecessary--prevented her from being seen at once to the best
advantage. Even at this moment I respected her the more for it, and was
not surprised, nor exactly displeased, that she adroitly drew her father
and Clovelly into the conversation. With Clovelly she seemed to find
immediate ground for naive and pleasant talk; on his part, deferential,
original, and attentive; on hers, easy, allusive, and warmed with
piquant humour. I admired her; saw how cleverly Clovelly was making the
most of her; guessed at the solicitude, studious care, and affection of
her bringing-up; watched the fond pleasure of the father as he listened;
and was angry with myself that Mrs. Falchion’s voice rang in my ears at
the same moment as hers. But it did ring there, and the real value of
that smart tournament of ideas was partially lost to me.

The next morning I went to Boyd Madras’s cabin. He welcomed me
gratefully, and said that he was much better; as he seemed; but he
carried a hectic flush, such as comes to a consumptive person. I said
little to him beyond what was necessary for the discussion of his case.
I cautioned him about any unusual exertion, and was about to leave, when
an impulse came to me, and I returned and said: “You will not let me
help you in any other way?”

“Yes,” he answered; “I shall be very glad of your help, but not just
yet. And, Doctor, believe me, I think medicines can do very little.
Though I am thankful to you for visiting me, you need not take the
trouble, unless I am worse, and then I will send a steward to you, or go
to you myself.”

What lay behind this request, unless it was sensitiveness, I could not
tell; but I determined to take my own course, and to visit him when I
thought fit.

Still, I saw him but once or twice on the after-deck in the succeeding
days. He evidently wished to keep out of sight as much as possible. I am
ashamed to say there was a kind of satisfaction in this to me; for, when
a man’s wife--and I believed she was Boyd Madras’s wife--hangs on your
arm, and he himself is denied that privilege, and fares poorly beside
her sumptuousness, and lives as a stranger to her, you can scarcely
regard his presence with pleasure. And from the sheer force of
circumstances, as it seemed to me then, Mrs. Falchion’s hand was often
on my arm; and her voice was always in my ear at meal-times and when
I visited Justine Caron to attend to her wound, or joined in the
chattering recreations of the music saloon. It was impossible not to
feel her influence; and if I did not yield entirely to it, I was more
possessed by it than I was aware. I was inquisitive to know beyond doubt
that she was the wife of this man. I think it was in my mind at the
time that, perhaps, by being with her much, I should be able to do him
a service. But there came a time when I was sufficiently undeceived. It
was all a game of misery in which some one stood to lose all round.
Who was it: she, or I, or the refugee of misfortune, Number 116
Intermediate? She seemed safe enough. He or I would suffer in the crash
of penalties.

It was a strange situation. I, the acquaintance of a day, was welcome
within the circle of this woman’s favour--though it was an unemotional
favour on her side; he, the husband, as I believed, though only half the
length of the ship away, was as distant from her as the north star. When
I sat with her on deck at night, I seemed to feel Boyd Madras’s face
looking at me from the half-darkness of the after-deck; and Mrs.
Falchion, whose keen eyes missed little, remarked once on my gaze in
that direction. Thereafter I was more careful, but the idea haunted
me. Yet, I was not the only person who sat with her. Other men paid her
attentive court. The difference was, however, that with me she assumed
ever so delicate, yet palpable an air of proprietorship, none the
less alluring because there was no heart in it. So far as the other
passengers were concerned, there was nothing jarring to propriety in
our companionship. They did not know of Number 116 Intermediate. She
had been announced as a widow; and she had told Mrs. Callendar that her
father’s brother, who, years before, had gone to California, had died
within the past two years and left her his property; and, because all
Californians are supposed to be millionaires, her wealth was counted
fabulous. She was going now to England, and from there to California in
the following year. People said that Dr. Marmion knew on which side his
bread was buttered. They may have said more unpleasant things, but I did
not hear them, or of them.

All the time I was conscious of a kind of dishonour, and perhaps it was
that which prompted me (I had fallen away from my intention of visiting
him freely) to send my steward to see how Boyd Madras came on, rather
than go myself. I was, however, conscious that the position could
not--should not--be maintained long. The practical outcome of this
knowledge was not tardy. A new influence came into my life which was to
affect it permanently: but not without a struggle.

A series of concerts and lectures had been arranged for the voyage, and
the fancy-dress ball was to close the first part of the journey--that
is, at Aden. One night a concert was on in the music saloon. I had just
come from seeing a couple of passengers who had been suffering from the
heat, and was debating whether to find Mrs. Falchion, who, I knew, was
on the other side of the deck, go in to the concert, or join Colonel
Ryder and Clovelly, who had asked me to come to the smoking-room when I
could. I am afraid I was balancing heavily in favour of Mrs. Falchion,
when I heard a voice that was new to me, singing a song I had known
years before, when life was ardent, and love first came--halcyon days in
country lanes, in lilac thickets, of pleasant Hertfordshire, where our
footsteps met a small bombardment of bursting seed-pods of the furze,
along the green common that sloped to the village. I thought of all
this, and of HER everlasting quiet.

With a different voice the words of the song would have sent me out of
hearing; now I stood rooted to the spot, as the notes floated out
past me to the nervelessness of the Indian Ocean, every one of them a
commandment from behind the curtain of a sanctuary.

The voice was a warm, full contralto of exquisite culture. It suggested
depths of rich sound behind, from which the singer, if she chose, might
draw, until the room and the deck and the sea ached with sweetness. I
scarcely dared to look in to see who it was, lest I should find it a
dream. I stood with my head turned away towards the dusky ocean. When,
at last, with the closing notes of the song, I went to the port-hole
and looked in, I saw that the singer was Miss Treherne. There was
an abstracted look in her eyes as she raised them, and she seemed
unconscious of the applause following the last chords of the
accompaniment. She stood up, folding the music as she did so, and
unconsciously raised her eyes toward the port-hole where I was. Her
glance caught mine, and instantly a change passed over her face. The
effect of the song upon her was broken; she flushed slightly, and, as I
thought, with faint annoyance. I know of nothing so little complimentary
to a singer as the audience that patronisingly listens outside a room
or window,--not bound by any sense of duty as an audience,--between whom
and the artists an unnatural barrier is raised. But I have reason to
think now that Belle Treherne was not wholly moved by annoyance--that
she had seen something unusual, maybe oppressive, in my look. She turned
to her father. He adjusted his glasses as if, in his pride, to see her
better. Then he fondly took her arm, and they left the room.

Then I saw Mrs. Falchion’s face at the port-hole opposite. Her eyes were
on me. An instant before, I had intended following Miss Treherne and her
father; now some spirit of defiance, some unaccountable revolution, took
possession of me, so that I flashed back to her a warm recognition. I
could not have believed it possible, if it had been told of me, that,
one minute affected by beautiful and sacred remembrances, the next I
should be yielding to the unimpassioned tyranny of a woman who could
never be anything but a stumbling-block and an evil influence. I had yet
to learn that in times of mental and moral struggle the mixed fighting
forces in us resolve themselves into two cohesive powers, and strive for
mastery; that no past thought or act goes for nothing at such a time,
but creeps out from the darkness where we thought it had gone for ever,
and does battle with its kind against the common foe. There moved before
my sight three women: one, sweet and unsubstantial, wistful and mute and
very young, not of the earth earthy; one, lissom, grave, with gracious
body and warm abstracted eyes, all delicacy, strength, reserve; the
other and last, daring, cold, beautiful, with irresistible charm, silent
and compelling. And these are the three women who have influenced my
life, who fought in me then for mastery; one from out the unchangeable
past, the others in the tangible and delible present. Most of us have to
pass through such ordeals before character and conviction receive their
final bias; before human nature has its wild trouble, and then settles
into “cold rock and quiet world;” which any lesser after-shocks may
modify, but cannot radically change.

I tried to think. I felt that to be wholly a man I should turn from
those eyes drawing me on. I recalled the words of Clovelly, who had said
to me that afternoon, half laughingly: “Dr. Marmion, I wonder how many
of us wish ourselves transported permanently to that time when we
didn’t know champagne from ‘alter feiner madeira’ or dry hock from sweet
sauterne; when a pretty face made us feel ready to abjure all the sinful
lusts of the flesh and become inheritors of the kingdom of heaven? Egad!
I should like to feel it once again. But how can we, when we have
been intoxicated with many things; when we are drunk with success and
experience; have hung on the fringe of unrighteousness; and know the
world backward, and ourselves mercilessly?”

Was I, like the drunkard, coming surely to the time when I could no
longer say yes to my wisdom, or no to my weakness? I knew that, an
hour before, in filling a phial with medicine, I found I was doing it
mechanically, and had to begin over again, making an effort to keep my
mind to my task. I think it is an axiom that no man can properly perform
the business of life who indulges in emotional preoccupation.

These thoughts, which take so long to write, passed then through my
mind swiftly; but her eyes were on me with a peculiar and confident
insistence--and I yielded. On my way to her I met Clovelly and Colonel
Ryder. Hungerford was walking between them. Colonel Ryder said: “I’ve
been saving that story for you, Doctor; better come and get it while
it’s hot.”

This was a promised tale of the taking of Mobile in the American Civil
War.

At any other time the invitation would have pleased me mightily; for,
apart from the other two, Hungerford’s brusque and original conversation
was always a pleasure--so were his cheroots; but now I was under an
influence selfish in its source. At the same time I felt that Hungerford
was storing up some acute criticism of me, and that he might let me hear
it any moment. I knew, numbering the order of his duties, that he could
have but a very short time to spare for gossip at this juncture, yet I
said that I could not join them for half an hour or so. Hungerford had
a fashion of looking at me searchingly from under his heavy brows, and I
saw that he did so now with impatience, perhaps contempt. I was certain
that he longed to thrash me. That was his idea of punishment and
penalty. He linked his arm in those of the other two men, and they moved
on, Colonel Ryder saying that he would keep the story till I came and
would wait in the smoking-room for me.

The concert was still on when I sat down beside Mrs. Falchion. “You
seemed to enjoy Miss Treherne’s singing?” she said cordially enough as
she folded her hands in her lap.

“Yes, I thought it beautiful. Didn’t you?”

“Pretty, most pretty; and admirable in technique and tone; but she has
too much feeling to be really artistic. She felt the thing, instead of
pretending to feel it--which makes all the difference. She belongs to
a race of delightful women, who never do any harm, whom everybody calls
good, and who are very severe on those who do not pretend to be good.
Still, all of that pleasant race will read their husband’s letters and
smuggle. They have no civic virtues. Yet they would be shocked to bathe
on the beach without a machine, as American women do,--and they look for
a new fall of Jerusalem when one of their sex smokes a cigarette after
dinner. Now, I do not smoke cigarettes after dinner, so I can speak
freely. But, at the same time, I do not smuggle, and I do bathe on the
beach without a machine--when I am in a land where there are no sharks
and no taboo. If morally consumptive people were given a few years in
the South Seas, where they could not get away from nature, there would
be more strength and less scandal in society.”

I laughed. “There is a frank note for Mr. Clovelly, who thinks he knows
the world and my sex thoroughly. He says as much in his books.--Have you
read his ‘A Sweet Apocalypse’? He said more than as much to me. But he
knows a mere nothing about women--their amusing inconsistencies;
their infidelity in little things and fidelity in big things; their
self-torturings; their inability to comprehend themselves; their periods
of religious insanity; their occasional revolts against the restraints
of a woman’s position, known only to themselves in their dark hours; ah,
really, Dr. Marmion, he is ignorant, I assure you. He has only got two
or three kinds of women in his mind, and the representatives of these
fooled him, as far as he went with them, to their hearts’ content.
Believe me, there is no one quite so foolish as the professional student
of character. He sees things with a glamour; he is impressionable; he
immediately begins to make a woman what he wishes her to be for his
book, not what she is; and women laugh at him when they read his books,
or pity him if they know him personally. I venture to say that I could
make Mr. Clovelly use me in a novel--not ‘A Sweet Apocalypse’--as a
placid lover of fancy bazaars and Dorcas societies, instead of a very
practical person, who has seen life without the romantic eye, and knows
as well the working of a buccaneering craft--through consular papers and
magisterial trials, of course--as of a colonial Government House. But it
is not worth while trying to make him falsify my character. Besides, you
are here to amuse me.”

This speech, as she made it, was pleasantly audacious and clever. I
laughed, and made a gesture of mock dissent, and she added: “Now I have
finished my lecture. Please tie my shoe-lace there, and then, as I said,
amuse me. Oh, you can, if you choose! You are clever when you like to
be. Only, this time, do not let it be a professor’s wife who foolishly
destroys herself, and cuts short what might have been a brilliant
career.”

On the instant I determined to probe deeper into her life, and try her
nerve, by telling a story with enough likeness to her own (if she was
the wife of Boyd Madras) to affect her acutely; though I was not sure I
could succeed. A woman who triumphs over sea-sickness, whom steam from
the boilers never affects, nor the propeller-screw disturbs, has little
to fear from the words of a man who is neither adroit, eloquent, nor
dramatic. However, I determined to try what I could do. I said: “I fancy
you would like something in the line of adventure; but my career has not
run in that direction, so I shall resort to less exciting fields, and, I
fear, also, a not very cheerful subject.”

“Oh, never mind!” said she. “What you wish, so long as it is not
conventional and hackneyed. But I know you will not be prosy, so go on,
please.”

“Well,” I began, “once, in the hospital, I attended a man--Anson was
his name--who, when he thought he was going to die, confided to me
his life’s secret. I liked the man; he was good-looking, amiable, but
hopelessly melancholy. He was dying as much from trouble as disease. No
counsel or encouragement had any effect upon him; he did, as I have seen
so many do--he resigned himself to the out-going tide. Well, for the
secret. He had been a felon. His crime had been committed through
ministering to his wife’s vanity.”

Here I paused. I felt Mrs. Falchion’s eyes searching me. I raised mine
steadily to hers with an impersonal glance, and saw that she had not
changed colour in the least. But her eyes were busy.

I proceeded: “When he was disgraced she did not come near him. When he
went to her, after he was released” (here I thought it best to depart
from any close resemblance to Mrs. Falchion’s own story), “and was
admitted to her, she treated him as an absolute stranger--as one who
had intruded, and might be violent. She said that she and her maid were
alone in the house, and hinted that he had come to disturb them. She
bade him go, or she must herself go. He called her by his own name, and
begged her, by the memory of their dead child, to speak kindly to him.
She said he was quite mistaken in her name, that she was Mrs. Glave, not
Mrs. Anson, and again insisted that he should go. He left her, and
at last, broken-hearted, found his way, in illness and poverty to the
hospital, where, toward the last, he was cared for by a noble girl,
a companion of his boyhood and his better days, who urged his wife to
visit him. She left him alone, said unpleasant things to the girl, did
not come to see her husband when he was dead, and provided nothing for
his burial. You see that, like you, she hated suffering and misery--and
criminals. The girl and her mother paid the expenses of the funeral,
and, with myself, were the only mourners. I am doubtful if the wife
knows even where he lies. I admit that the story sounds melodramatic;
but truth is more drama than comedy, I fancy. Now, what do you think of
it all, Mrs. Falchion?”

I had felt her shrink a little at the earlier part of my story, as if
she feared that her own tale was to be brutally bared before her;
but that soon passed, and she languidly tapped the chair-arm as the
narrative continued. When it was finished, she leaned over slightly, and
with these same fingers tapped my arm. I thrilled involuntarily.

“He died, did he?” she said. “That was the most graceful thing he could
do. So far as my knowledge of the world is concerned, men of his class
do NOT die. They live, and they never rise above their degradation. They
had not brains or courage enough to keep them out of gaol, and they have
not pluck or brains enough to succeed--afterwards. Your friend Anson was
quite gentlemanly in his action at the last. He had some sense of the
fitness of things. He could not find a place in the world without making
other people uncomfortable, and causing trouble. If he had lived, he
would always have added to the blight on his wife’s career, and have
been an arrow--not a thorn--in her side. Very likely he would have
created a scandal for the good young girl who nursed him. He made the
false step, and compelled society to reject him. It did not want to
do so; it never does. It is long-suffering; it tries not to see and
acknowledge things until the culprit himself forces it to take action.
Then it says: ‘Now you have openly and inconsiderately broken our bond
of mutual forbearance. You make me send you away. Go, then, behind stone
walls, and please do not come to me again. If you do, you will only be
a troublesome ghost. You will cause awkwardness and distress.’ So,
Mr. Anson--I must be polite to him--did the most reasonable and proper
thing. He disappeared from the play before it actually became tragedy.
There was no tragedy in his death--death is a magnificent ally; it
untangles knots. The tragedy was in his living--in the perpetual ruin
of his wife’s life, renewed every morning. He disappeared. Then the
play became drama, with only a little shadow of tragedy behind it. Now,
frankly, am I not right?”

“Mrs. Falchion,” I said, “your argument is clever, but it is only
incidentally true. You draw life, society and men no more correctly than
the author of ‘A Sweet Apocalypse’ would draw you. The social law you
sketch when reduced to its bare elements, is remorseless. It does not
provide for repentance, for restitution, for recovering a lost paradise.
It makes an act final, a sin irrevocable.”

“Well, since we are beginning to talk like a couple of books by a pair
of priggish philosophers, I might as well say that I think sin is final
so far as the domestic and social machinery of the world is concerned.
What his religious belief requires of a man is one thing, what his
fellow-men require of him is another. The world says, You shall have
latitude enough to swing in freely, but you must keep within the code.
As soon as you break the law openly, and set the machinery of public
penalty in motion, there is an end of you, so far as this world is
concerned. You may live on, but you have been broken on the wheel, and
broken you always will be. It is not a question of right or wrong, of
kindness or cruelty, but of general expediency and inevitableness. To
all effect, Mr. Anson was dead before he breathed his last. He died when
he passed within the walls of a gaol--condemned for theft.”

There was singular scorn in her last few words, and, dissent as I did
from her merciless theories, I was astonished at her adroitness and
downrightness--enchanted by the glow of her face. To this hour, knowing
all her life as I do, I can only regard her as a splendid achievement
of nature, convincing even when at the most awkward tangents with the
general sense and the straitest interpretation of life; convincing even
in those other and later incidents, which showed her to be acting not
so much by impulse as by the law of her nature. Her emotions were
apparently rationalised at birth--to be derationalised and broken up by
a power greater than herself before her life had worked itself out. I
had counted her clever; I had not reckoned with her powers of reasoning.
Influenced as I was by emotion when in her presence, I resorted to a
personal application of my opinions--the last and most unfair resort of
a disputant. I said I would rather be Anson dead than Mrs. Anson living;
I would rather be the active than the passive sinner; the victim, than a
part of that great and cruel machine of penalty.

“The passive sinner!” she replied. “Why, what wrong did she do?”

The highest moral conceptions worked dully in her. Yet she seemed then,
as she always appeared to be, free from any action that should set the
machine of penalty going against herself. She was inexorable, but she
had never, knowingly, so much as slashed the hem of the moral code.

“It was to give his wife pleasure that Anson made the false step,” I
urged.

“Do you think she would have had the pleasure at the price? The man was
vain and selfish to run any risk, to do anything that might endanger her
safety--that is, her happiness and comfort.”

“But suppose he knew that she loved ease and pleasure?--that he feared
her anger or disdain if he did not minister to her luxuries?”

“Then he ought not to have married that kind of a woman.” The hardness
in her voice was matched at that moment by the coldness of her face.

“That is begging the question,” I replied. “What would such a selfish
woman do in such a case, if her pleasure could not be gratified?”

“You must ask that kind of woman,” was her ironical answer.

I rashly felt that her castle of strength was crumbling. I ventured
farther.

“I have done so.”

She turned slightly toward me, yet not nervously, as I had expected.

“What did she say?”

“She declined to answer directly.”

There was a pause, in which I felt her eyes searching my face. I fear I
must have learned dissimulation well; for, after a minute, I looked
at her, and saw, from the absence of any curious anxiety, that I had
betrayed nothing. She looked me straight in the eyes and said: “Dr.
Marmion, a man must not expect to be forgiven, who has brought shame on
a woman.”

“Not even when he has repented and atoned?”

“Atoned! How mad you are! How can there be atonement? You cannot wipe
things out--on earth. We are of the earth. Records remain. If a man
plays the fool, the coward, and the criminal, he must expect to wear the
fool’s cap, the white feather, and the leg-chain until his life’s end.
And now, please, let us change the subject. We have been bookish long
enough.” She rose with a gesture of impatience.

I did not rise. “Pardon me, Mrs. Falchion,” I urged, “but this interests
me so. I have thought much of Anson lately. Please, let us talk a little
longer. Do sit down.”

She sat down again with an air of concession rather than of pleasure.

“I am interested,” I said, “in looking at this question from a woman’s
standpoint. You see, I am apt to side with the miserable fellow who
made a false step--foolish, if you like--all for love of a selfish and
beautiful woman.”

“She was beautiful?”

“Yes, as you are.” She did not blush at that rank compliment, any more
than a lioness would, if you praised the astonishing sleekness and
beauty of its skin.

“And she had been a true wife to him before that?”

“Yes, in all that concerned the code.”

“Well?--Well, was not that enough? She did what she could, as long as
she could.” She leaned far back in the chair, her eyes half shut.

“Don’t you think--as a woman, not as a theorist--that Mrs. Anson might
at least have come to him when he was dying?”

“It would only have been uncomfortable for her. She had no part in his
life; she could not feel with him. She could do nothing.”

“But suppose she had loved him? By that memory, then, of the time when
they took each other for better or for worse, until death should part
them?”

“Death did part them when the code banished him; when he passed from a
free world into a cage. Besides, we are talking about people marrying,
not about their loving.”

“I will admit,” I said, with a little raw irony, “that I was not exact
in definition.”

Here I got a glimpse into her nature which rendered after events not
so marvellous to me as they might seem to others. She thought a moment
quite indolently, and then continued: “You make one moralise like George
Eliot. Marriage is a condition, but love must be an action. The one is a
contract, the other is complete possession, a principle--that is, if it
exists at all. I do not know.”

She turned the rings round mechanically on her finger; and among them
was a wedding-ring! Her voice had become low and abstracted, and now
she seemed to have forgotten my presence, and was looking out upon the
humming darkness round us, through which now and again there rang a
boatswain’s whistle, or the loud laugh of Blackburn, telling of a joyous
hour in the smoking-room.

I am now about to record an act of madness, of folly, on my part. I
suppose most men have such moments of temptation, but I suppose, also,
that they act more sensibly and honourably than I did then. Her hand had
dropped gently on the chair-arm, near to my own, and though our fingers
did not touch, I felt mine thrilled and impelled toward hers. I do not
seek to palliate my action. Though the man I believed to be her husband
was below, I yielded myself to an imagined passion for her. In that
moment I was a captive. I caught her hand and kissed it hotly.

“But you might know what love is,” I said. “You might learn--learn of
me. You--”

Abruptly and with surprise she withdrew her hand, and, without any
visible emotion save a quicker pulsation of her breast, which might have
been indignation, spoke. “But even if I might learn, Dr. Marmion, be
sure that neither your college nor Heaven gave you the knowledge to
instruct me.... There: pardon me, if I speak harshly; but this is most
inconsiderate of you, most impulsive--and compromising. You are capable
of singular contrasts. Please let us be friends, friends simply. You are
too interesting for a lover, really you are.”

Her words were a cold shock to my emotion--my superficial emotion;
though, indeed, for that moment she seemed adorable to me. Without any
apparent relevancy, but certainly because my thoughts in self-reproach
were hovering about cabin 116 Intermediate, I said, with a biting shame,
“I do not wonder now!”

“You do not wonder at what?” she questioned; and she laid her hand
kindly on my arm.

I put the hand away a little childishly, and replied, “At men going to
the devil.” But this was not what I thought.

“That does not sound complimentary to somebody. May I ask you what you
mean?” she said calmly. “I mean that Anson loved his wife, and she did
not love him; yet she held him like a slave, torturing him at the same
time.”

“Does it not strike you that this is irrelevant? You are not my
husband--not my slave. But, to be less personal, Mr. Anson’s wife was
not responsible for his loving her. Love, as I take it, is a voluntary
thing. It pleased him to love her--he would not have done it if it
did not please him; probably his love was an inconvenient thing
domestically--if he had no tact.”

“Of that,” I said, “neither you nor I can know with any certainty. But,
to be scriptural, she reaped where she had not sowed, and gathered where
she had not strawed. If she did not make the man love her,--I believe
she did, as I believe you would, perhaps unconsciously, do,--she used
his love, and was therefore better able to make all other men admire
her. She was richer in personal power for that experience; but she was
not grateful for it nor for his devotion.”

“You mean, in fact, that I--for you make the personal application--shall
be better able henceforth to win men’s love, because--ah, surely, Dr.
Marmion, you do not dignify this impulse, this foolishness of yours, by
the name of love!” She smiled a little satirically at the fingers I had
kissed.

I was humiliated, and annoyed with her and with myself, though, down
in my mind, I knew that she was right. “I mean,” said I, “that I can
understand how men have committed suicide because of just such things.
My wonder is that Anson, poor devil! did not do it.” I knew I was
talking foolishly.

“He hadn’t the courage, my dear sir. He was gentlemanly enough to die,
but not to be heroic to that extent. For it does need a strong dash of
heroism to take one’s own life. As I conceive it, suicide would have
been the best thing for him when he sinned against the code. The world
would have pitied him then, would have said, He spared us the trial of
punishing him. But to pay the vulgar penalty of prison--ah!”

She shuddered and then almost coldly continued: “Suicide is an act of
importance; it shows that a man recognises, at least, the worthlessness
of his life. He does one dramatic and powerful thing; he has an instant
of great courage, and all is over. If it had been a duel in which, of
intention, he would fire wide, and his assailant would fire to kill, so
much the better; so much the more would the world pity. But either
is superior, as a final situation, than death with a broken heart--I
suppose that is possible?--and disgrace, in a hospital.”

“You seem to think only of the present, only of the code and the world;
and as if there were no heroism in a man living down his shame, righting
himself heroically at all points possible, bearing his penalty, and
showing the courage of daily wearing the sackcloth of remorse and
restitution.”

“Oh,” she persisted, “you make me angry. I know what you wish to
express; I know that you consider it a sin to take one’s life, even in
‘the high Roman fashion.’ But, frankly, I do not, and I fear--or rather,
I fancy--that I never shall. After all, your belief is a pitiless one;
for, as I have tried to say, the man has not himself alone to consider,
but those to whom his living is a perpetual shame and menace and cruelty
insupportable--insupportable! Now, please, let us change the subject
finally; and”--here she softly laughed--“forgive me if I have treated
your fancied infatuation lightly or indifferently. I want you for a
friend--at least, for a friendly acquaintance. I do not want you for a
lover.”

We both rose. I was not quite content with her nor with myself yet. I
felt sure that while she did not wish me for a lover, she was not averse
to my playing the devoted cavalier, who should give all, while she
should give nothing. I knew that my punishment had already begun.
We paced the deck in silence; and once, as we walked far aft, I saw,
leaning upon the railing of the intermediate deck, and looking towards
us--Boyd Madras; and the words of that letter which he wrote on the No
Man’s Sea came to me.

At length she said: “You have made no reply to my last remark. Are we to
be friends, and not lovers? Or shall you cherish enmity against me?
Or, worse still,”--and here she laughed, I thought, a little
ironically,--“avoid me, and be as icy as you have been--fervid?”

“Mrs. Falchion,” I said, “your enemy I do not wish to be--I could not
be if I wished; but, for the rest, you must please let me see what I may
think of myself to-morrow. There is much virtue in to-morrow,” I added.
“It enables one to get perspective.”

“I understand,” she said; and then was silent. We walked the deck slowly
for several minutes. Then we were accosted by two ladies of a committee
that had the fancy-dress ball in hand. They wished to consult Mrs.
Falchion in certain matters of costume and decoration, for which, it
had been discovered, she had a peculiar faculty. She turned to me half
inquiringly, and I bade her good-night, inwardly determined (how easy
it is after having failed to gratify ourselves!) that the touch of her
fingers should never again make my heart beat faster.

I joined Colonel Ryder and Clovelly in the smoking-room. Hungerford, as
I guessed gladly, was gone. I was too much the coward to meet his eye
just then. Colonel Ryder was estimating the amount he would wager--if he
were in the habit of betting--that the ‘Fulvia’ could not turn round
in her tracks in twenty minutes, while he parenthetically endorsed
Hungerford’s remarks to me--though he was ignorant of them--that lascars
should not be permitted on English passenger ships. He was supported by
Sir Hayes Craven, a shipowner, who further said that not one out of ten
British sailors could swim, while not five out of ten could row a boat
properly. Ryder’s anger was great, because Clovelly remarked with mock
seriousness that the lascars were picturesque, and asked the American
if he had watched them listlessly eating rice and curry as they squatted
between decks; whether he had observed the Serang, with his silver
whistle, who ruled them, and despised us “poor white trash;” and if
he did not think it was a good thing to have fatalists like them as
sailors--they would be cool in time of danger.

Colonel Ryder’s indignation was curbed, however, by the bookmaker,
who, having no views, but seeing an opportunity for fun, brought up
reinforcements of chaff and slang, easily construable into profanity,
and impregnated with terse humour. Many of the ladies had spoken of the
bookmaker as one of the best-mannered men on board. So he was to all
appearance. None dressed with better taste, nor carried himself with
such an air. There was even a deferential tone in his strong language, a
hesitating quaintness, which made it irresistible. He was at the service
of any person on board needing championship. His talents were varied.
He could suggest harmonies in colour to the ladies at one moment, and at
the next, in the seclusion of the bar counter, arrange deadly harmonies
in liquor. He was an authority on acting; he knew how to edit a
newspaper; he picked out the really nice points in the sermons delivered
by the missionaries in the saloon; he had some marvellous theories about
navigation; and his trick with a salad was superb. He now convulsed the
idlers in the smoking-room with laughter, and soon deftly drew off
the discussion to the speed of the vessel, arranging a sweep-stake
immediately, upon the possibilities of the run. He instantly proposed to
sell the numbers by auction. He was the auctioneer. With his eye-glass
at his eye, and Bohemian pleasantry falling from his lips, he ran the
prices up. He was selling Clovelly’s number, and had advanced it beyond
the novelist’s own bidding, when suddenly the screw stopped, the engines
ceased working, and the ‘Fulvia’ slowed down.

The numbers remained unsold. Word came to us that an accident had
happened to the machinery, and that we should be hove-to for a day, or
longer, to accomplish necessary repairs. How serious the accident to the
machinery was no one knew.



CHAPTER V. ACCUSING FACES

While we were hove-to, the ‘Porcupine’ passed us. In all probability it
would now get to Aden ahead of us; and herein lay a development of the
history of Mrs. Falchion. I was standing beside Belle Treherne as the
ship came within hail of us and signalled to see what was the matter.
Mrs. Falchion was not far from us. She was looking intently at the
vessel through marine-glasses, and she did not put them down until it
had passed. Then she turned away with an abstracted light in her eyes
and a wintry smile; and the look and the smile continued when she
sat down in her deck-chair and leaned her cheek meditatively on the
marine-glass. But I saw now that something was added to the expression
of her face--a suggestion of brooding or wonder. Belle Treherne,
noticing the direction of my glances, said: “Have you known Mrs.
Falchion long?”

“No, not long,” I replied. “Only since she came on board.”

“She is very clever, I believe.”

I felt my face flushing, though, reasonably, there was no occasion for
it, and I said: “Yes, she is one of the ablest women I have ever met.”

“She is beautiful, too--very beautiful.” This very frankly.

“Have you talked with her?” asked I.

“Yes, a little this morning, for the first time. She did not speak much,
however.” Here Miss Treherne paused, and then added meditatively: “Do
you know, she impressed me as having singular frankness and singular
reserve as well? I think I admired it. There is no feeling in her
speech, and yet it has great candour. I never before met any one like
her. She does not wear her heart upon her sleeve, I imagine.”

A moment of irony came over me; that desire to say what one really does
not believe (a feminine trait), and I replied: “Are both those articles
necessary to any one? A sleeve?--well, one must be clothed. But a
heart?--a cumbrous thing, as I take it.”

Belle Treherne turned, and looked me steadily in the eyes for an
instant, as if she had suddenly awakened from abstraction, and slowly
said, while she drew back slightly: “Dr. Marmion, I am only a girl,
I know, and inexperienced, but I hoped most people of education and
knowledge of life were free from that kind of cynicism to be read of
in books.” Then something in her thoughts seemed to chill her words and
manner, and her father coming up a moment after, she took his arm, and
walked away with a not very cordial bow to me.

The fact is, with a woman’s quick intuition, she had read in my tone
something suggestive of my recent experience with Mrs. Falchion. Her
fine womanliness awoke; the purity of her thoughts, rose in opposition
to my flippancy and to me; and I knew that I had raised a prejudice not
easy to destroy.

This was on a Friday afternoon.

On the Saturday evening following, the fancy-dress ball was to occur.
The accident to the machinery and our delay were almost forgotten in the
preparations therefor. I had little to do; there was only one sick man
on board, and my hand could not cure his sickness. How he fared, my
uncomfortable mind, now bitterly alive to a sense of duty, almost
hesitated to inquire. Yet a change had come. A reaction had set in for
me. Would it be permanent? I dared scarcely answer that question, with
Mrs. Falchion at my right hand at table, with her voice at my ear. I was
not quite myself yet; I was struggling, as it were, with the effects of
a fantastic dream.

Still, I had determined upon my course. I had made resolutions. I had
ended the chapter of dalliance. I had wished to go to 116 Intermediate
and let its occupant demand what satisfaction he would. I wanted to say
to Hungerford that I was an ass; but that was even harder still. He was
so thorough and uncompromising in nature, so strong in moral fibre, that
I felt his sarcasm would be too outspoken for me just at present.
In this, however, I did not give him credit for a fine sense of
consideration, as after events showed. Although there had been no spoken
understanding between us that Mrs. Falchion was the wife of Boyd Madras,
the mind of one was the other’s also. I understood exactly why he told
me Boyd Madras’s story: it was a warning. He was not the man to harp on
things. He gave the hint, and there the matter ended, so far as he was
concerned, until a time might come when he should think it his duty
to refer to the subject again. Some time before, he had shown me the
portrait of the girl who had promised to be his wife. She, of course,
could trust HIM anywhere, everywhere.

Mrs. Falchion had seen the change in me, and, I am sure, guessed the new
direction of my thoughts, and knew that I wished to take refuge in a
new companionship--a thing, indeed, not easily to be achieved, as I felt
now; for no girl of delicate and proud temper would complacently regard
a hasty transference of attention from another to herself. Besides, it
would be neither courteous nor reasonable to break with Mrs. Falchion
abruptly. The error was mine, not hers. She had not my knowledge of the
immediate circumstances, which made my position morally untenable. She
showed unembarrassed ignorance of the change. At the same time I
caught a tone of voice and a manner which showed she was not actually
oblivious, but was touched in that nerve called vanity; and from this
much feminine hatred springs.

I made up my mind to begin a course of scientific reading, and was
seated in my cabin, vainly trying to digest a treatise on the pathology
of the nervous system, when Hungerford appeared at the door. With a nod,
he entered, threw himself down on the cabin sofa, and asked for a match.
After a pause, he said: “Marmion, Boyd Madras, alias Charles Boyd, has
recognised me.”

I rose to get a cigar, thus turning my face from him, and said: “Well?”

“Well, there isn’t anything very startling. I suppose he wishes I had
left him in the dingey on No Man’s Sea. He’s a fool.”

“Indeed, why?”

“Marmion, are your brains softening? Why does he shadow a woman who
wouldn’t lift her finger to save him from battle, murder, or sudden
death?”

“From the code,” I said, in half soliloquy.

“From the what?”

“Oh, never mind, Hungerford. I suppose he is shadowing--Mrs. Falchion?”

He eyed me closely.

“I mean the woman that chucked his name; that turned her back on him
when he was in trouble; that hopes he is dead, if she doesn’t believe
that he is actually; that would, no doubt, treat him as a burglar if he
went to her, got down on his knees, and said: ‘Mercy, my girl, I’ve come
back to you a penitent prodigal. Henceforth I shall be as straight as
the sun, so help me Heaven and your love and forgiveness!’”

Hungerford paused, as if expecting me to reply; but, leaning forward on
my knees and smoking hard, I remained silent. This seemed to anger him,
for he said a little roughly: “Why doesn’t he come out and give you
blazes on the promenade deck, and corner her down with a mighty cheek,
and levy on her for a thousand pounds? Both you and she would think more
of him. Women don’t dislike being bullied, if it is done in the right
way--haven’t I seen it the world over, from lubra to dowager? I tell
you, man--sinning or not--was meant to be woman’s master and lover, and
just as much one as the other.”

At this point Hungerford’s manner underwent a slight change, and he
continued: “Marmion, I wouldn’t have come near you, only I noticed you
have altered your course, and are likely to go on a fresh tack. It isn’t
my habit to worry a man. I gave you a signal, and you didn’t respond at
first. Well, we have come within hail again; and now, don’t you think
that you might help to straighten this tangle, and try to arrange a
reconciliation between those two?

“The scheme is worth trying. Nobody need know but you and me. It
wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice to her to give him a taste of the thing
she swore to do--how does it run?--‘to have and to hold from this day
forward’?--I can’t recall it; but it’s whether the wind blows fair or
foul, or the keel scrapes the land or gives to the rock, till the sea
gulps one of ‘em down for ever. That’s the sense of the thing, Marmion,
and the contract holds between the two, straight on into the eternal
belly. Whatever happens, a husband is a husband, and a wife a wife. It
seems to me that, in the sight of Heaven, it’s he that’s running fair
in the teeth of the wind, every timber straining, and she that’s riding
with it, well coaled, flags flying, in an open channel, and passing the
derelict without so much as, ‘Ahoy there!’”

Now, at this distance of time, I look back, and see Hungerford, “the
rowdy sailor,” as he called himself, lying there, his dark grey
eyes turned full on me; and I am convinced that no honester, more
sturdy-minded man ever reefed a sail, took his turn upon the bridge, or
walked the dry land in the business of life. It did not surprise me,
a year after, when I saw in public prints that he was the hero of--but
that must be told elsewhere. I was about to answer him then as I knew
he would wish, when a steward appeared and said: “Mr. Boyd, 116
Intermediate, wishes you would come to him, sir, if you would be so
kind.”

Hungerford rose, and, as I made ready to go, urged quietly: “You’ve got
the charts and soundings, Marmion, steam ahead!” and, with a swift but
kindly clench of my shoulder, he left me. In that moment there came a
cowardly feeling, a sense of shamefacedness, and then, hard upon it, and
overwhelming it, a determination to serve Boyd Madras so far as lay in
my power, and to be a man, and not a coward or an idler.

When I found him he was prostrate. In his eyes there was no anger, no
indignation, nor sullenness--all of which he might reasonably have felt;
and instantly I was ashamed of the thought which, as I came to him,
flashed through my mind, that he might do some violent thing. Not that
I had any fear of violence; but I had an active dislike of awkward
circumstances. I felt his fluttering pulse, and noted the blue line on
his warped lips. I gave him some medicine, and then sat down. There was
a silence. What could I say? A dozen thoughts came to my mind, but I
rejected them. It was difficult to open up the subject. At last he put
his hand upon my arm and spoke:

“You told me one night that you would help me if you could. I ought
to have accepted your offer at first; it would have been better.--No,
please don’t speak just yet. I think I know what you would say. I knew
that you meant all you urged upon me; that you liked me. I was once
worthy of men’s liking, perhaps, and I had good comrades; but that is
all over. You have not come near me lately, but it wasn’t because you
felt any neglect, or wished to take back your words; but--because of
something else.... I understand it all. She has great power. She always
had. She is very beautiful. I remember when--but I will not call it
back before you, though, God knows, I go over it all every day and every
night, until it seems that only the memory of her is real, and that she
herself is a ghost. I ought not to have crossed her path again, even
unknown to her. But I have done it, and now I cannot go out of that path
without kneeling before her once again, as I did long ago. Having seen
her, breathed the same air, I must speak or die; perhaps it will be
both. That is a power she has: she can bend one to her will, although
she often, involuntarily, wills things that are death to others. One
MUST care for her, you understand; it is natural, even when it is
torture to do so.”

He put his hand on his side and moved as if in pain. I reached over and
felt his pulse, then took his hand and pressed it, saying: “I will be
your friend now, Madras, in so far as I can.”

He looked up at me gratefully, and replied: “I know that--I know that.
It is more than I deserve.”

Then he began to speak of his past. He told me of Hungerford’s kindness
to him on the ‘Dancing Kate’, of his luckless days at Port Darwin, of
his search for his wife, his writing to her, and her refusal to see
him. He did not rail against her. He apologised for her, and reproached
himself. “She is most singular,” he continued, “and different from
most women. She never said she loved me, and she never did, I know. Her
father urged her to marry me; he thought I was a good man.”

Here he laughed a little bitterly. “But it was a bad day for her. She
never loved any one, I think, and she cannot understand what love
is, though many have cared for her. She is silent where herself is
concerned. I think there was some trouble--not love, I am sure of
that--which vexed her, and made her a little severe at times; something
connected with her life, or her father’s life, in Samoa. One can only
guess, but white men take what are called native wives there very
often--and who can tell? Her father--but that is her secret!... While I
was right before the world, she was a good wife to me in her way. When I
went wrong, she treated me as if I were dead, and took her old name. But
if I could speak to her quietly once more, perhaps she would listen.
It would be no good at all to write. Perhaps she would never begin the
world with me again, but I should like to hear her say, ‘I forgive you.
Good-bye.’ There would be some comfort in a kind farewell from her. You
can see that, Dr. Marmion?”

He paused, waiting for me to speak. “Yes, I can see that,” I said; and
then I added: “Why did you not speak to her before you both came on
board at Colombo?”

“I had no chance. I only saw her in the street, an hour before the ship
sailed. I had scarcely time to take my passage.”

Pain here checked his utterance, and when he recovered, he turned again
to me, and continued: “To-morrow night there is to be a fancy-dress ball
on board. I have been thinking. I could go in a good disguise. I could
speak to her, and attract no notice; and if she will not listen to me,
why, then, that ends it. I shall know the worst, and to know the worst
is good.”

“Yes,” said I; “and what do you wish me to do?”

“I wish to go in a disguise, of course; to dress in your cabin, if you
will let me. I cannot dress here, it would attract attention; and I am
not a first-class passenger.”

“I fear,” I replied, “that it is impossible for me to assist you to the
privileges of a first-class passenger. You see, I am an officer of the
ship. But still I can help you. You shall leave this cabin to-night. I
will arrange so that you may transfer yourself to one in the first-class
section.... No, not a word; it must be as I wish in this. You are ill;
I can do you that kindness at least, and then, by right, you can attend
the ball, and, after it, your being among the first-class passengers can
make little difference; for you will have met and spoken then, either to
peace or otherwise.”

I had very grave doubts of any reconciliation; the substance of my
notable conversation with Mrs. Falchion was so prominent in my mind. I
feared she would only reproduce the case of Anson and his wife. I was
also afraid of a possible scene--which showed that I was not yet able to
judge of her resources. After a time, in which we sat silent, I said to
Madras: “But suppose she should be frightened?--should--should make a
scene?”

He raised himself to a sitting posture. “I feel better,” he said. Then,
answering my question: “You do not know her quite. She will not stir a
muscle. She has nerve. I have seen her in positions of great peril and
trial. She is not emotional, though I truly think she will wake one day
and find her heart all fire but not for me. Still, I say that all
will be quite comfortable, so far as any demonstration on her part is
concerned. She will not be melodramatic, I do assure you.”

“And the disguise--your dress?” inquired I.

He rose from the berth slowly, and, opening a portmanteau, drew from
it a cloth of white and red, fringed with gold. It was of beautiful
texture, and made into the form of a toga or mantle. He said: “I was a
seller of such stuffs in Colombo, and these I brought with me, because
I could not dispose of them without sacrifice when I left hurriedly. I
have made them into a mantle. I could go as--a noble Roman, perhaps!”
 Then a slight, ironical smile crossed his lips, and he stretched out his
thin but shapely arms, as if in derision of himself.

“You will go as Menelaus the Greek,” said I.

“I as Menelaus the Greek?” The smile became a little grim.

“Yes, as Menelaus; and I will go as Paris.” I doubt not that my voice
showed a good deal of self-scorn at the moment; but there was a kind of
luxury in self-abasement before him. “Your wife, I know, intends to go
as Helen of Troy. It is all mumming. Let it stand so, as Menelaus and
Helen and Paris before there was any Trojan war, and as if there never
could be any--as if Paris went back discomfited, and the other two were
reconciled.”

His voice was low and broken. “I know you exaggerate matters, and
condemn yourself beyond reason,” he replied. “I will do as you say. But,
Dr. Marmion, it will not be all mumming, as you shall see.”

A strange look came upon his face at this. I could not construe it;
and, after a few words of explanation regarding his transference to
the forward part of the ship, I left him. I found the purser, made the
necessary arrangements for him, and then sought my cabin, humbled in
many ways. I went troubled to bed. After a long wakefulness, I dozed
away into that disturbed vestibule of sleep where the world’s happenings
mingle with the visions of unconsciousness. I seemed to see a man’s
heart beating in his bosom in growing agonies, until, with one last
immense palpitation, it burst, and life was gone. Then the dream
changed, and I saw a man in the sea, drowning, who seemed never to
drown entirely, his hands ever beating the air and the mocking water.
I thought that I tried many times to throw him a lighted buoy in the
half-shadow, but some one held me back, and I knew that a woman’s arms
were round me.

But at last the drowning man looked up and saw the woman so, and, with
a last quiver of the arms, he sank from sight. When he was gone, the
woman’s arms dropped away from me; but when I turned to speak to her,
she, too, had gone.

I awoke.

Two stewards were talking in the passage, and one was saying, “She’ll
get under way by daybreak, and it will be a race with the ‘Porcupine’ to
Aden. How the engines are kicking below!”



CHAPTER VI. MUMMERS ALL

The next day was beautiful, if not enjoyable. Stirring preparations
were being made for the ball. Boyd Madras was transferred to a cabin far
forward, but he did not appear at any meal in the saloon, or on deck.
In the morning I was busy in the dispensary. While I was there, Justine
Caron came to get some medicine that I had before given her. Her hand
was now nearly well. Justine had nerves, and it appeared to me that
her efforts to please her mistress, and her occasional failures, were
wearing her unduly. I said to her: “You have been worried, Miss Caron?”

“Oh, no, Doctor,” she quickly replied.

I looked at her a little sceptically, and she said at last: “Well,
perhaps a little. You see, madame did not sleep well last night, and I
read to her. It was a little difficult, and there was not much choice of
books.”

“What did you read?” I asked mechanically, as I prepared her medicine.

“Oh, some French novel first--De Maupassant’s; but madame said he was
impertinent--that he made women fools and men devils. Then I tried some
modern English tales, but she said they were silly. I knew not what to
do. But there was Shakespeare. I read Antony and Cleopatra, and she said
that the play was grand, but the people were foolish except when they
died--their deaths were magnificent. Madame is a great critic; she is
very clever.”

“Yes, yes, I know that; but when did she fall asleep?”

“About four o’clock in the morning. I was glad, because she is very
beautiful when she has much sleep.”

“And you--does not sleep concern you in this matter of madame?”

“For me,” she said, looking away, “it is no matter. I have no beauty.
Besides, I am madame’s servant,”--she blushed slightly at this,”--and
she is generous with money.”

“Yes, and you like money so much?”

Her eyes flashed a little defiantly as she looked me in the face. “It is
everything to me.”

She paused as if to see the effect upon me, or to get an artificial
(I knew it was artificial) strength to go on, then she added: “I love
money. I work for it; I would bear all for it--all that a woman could
bear. I--” But here she paused again, and, though the eyes still
flashed, the lips quivered. Hers was not the face of cupidity. It was
sensitive, yet firm, as with some purpose deep as her nature was by
creation and experience, and always deepening that nature. I suddenly
got the conviction that this girl had a sorrow of some kind in her life,
and that this unreal affection for money was connected with it. Perhaps
she saw my look of interest, for she hurriedly continued: “But, pardon
me, I am foolish. I shall be better when the pain is gone. Madame is
kind; she will let me sleep this afternoon, perhaps.”

I handed her the medicine, and then asked: “How long have you known Mrs.
Falchion, Miss Caron?”

“Only one year.”

“Where did you join her?”

“In Australia.”

“In Australia? You lived there?”

“No, monsieur, I did not live there.”

A thought came to my mind--the nearness of New Caledonia to Australia,
and New Caledonia was a French colony--a French penal colony! I smiled
as I said the word penal to myself. Of course the word could have no
connection with a girl like her, but still she might have lived in the
colony. So I added quietly: “You perhaps had come from New Caledonia?”

Her look was candid, if sorrowful. “Yes, from New Caledonia.”

Was she, thought I, the good wife of some convict--some political
prisoner?--the relative of some refugee of misfortune? Whatever she was,
I was sure that she was free from any fault. She evidently thought that
I might suspect something uncomplimentary of her, for she said: “My
brother was an officer at Noumea. He is dead. I am going to France, when
I can.”

I tried to speak gently to her. I saw that her present position must
be a trial. I advised her to take more rest, or she would break down
altogether, for she was weak and nervous; I hinted that she might have
to give up entirely, if she continued to tax herself heedlessly; and,
finally, that I would speak to Mrs. Falchion about her. I was scarcely
prepared for her action then. Tears came to her eyes, and she said to
me, her hand involuntarily clasping my arm: “Oh no, no! I ask you not to
speak to madame. I will sleep--I will rest. Indeed, I will. This service
is so much to me. She is most generous. It is because I am so altogether
hers, night and day, that she pays me well. And the money is so much. It
is my honour--my dead brother’s honour. You are kind at heart; you will
make me strong with medicine, and I will ask God to bless you. I could
not suffer such poverty again. And then, it is my honour!”

I felt that she would not have given way thus had not her nerves been
shaken, had she not lived so much alone, and irregularly, so far as her
own rest and comfort were concerned, and at such perpetual cost to her
energy. Mrs. Falchion, I knew, was selfish, and would not, or could
not, see that she was hard upon the girl, by such exactions as midnight
reading and loss of sleep. She demanded not merely physical but mental
energy--a complete submission of both; and when this occurred with a
sensitive, high-strung girl, she was literally feeding on another’s
life-blood. If she had been told this, she, no doubt, would have been
very much surprised.

I reassured Justine. I told her that I should say nothing directly
to Mrs. Falchion, for I saw she was afraid of unpleasantness; but I
impressed upon her that she must spare herself, or she would break
down, and extorted a promise that she would object to sitting up after
midnight to read to Mrs. Falchion.

When this was done, she said: “But, you see, it is not madame’s fault
that I am troubled.”

“I do not wish,” I said, “to know any secret,--I am a doctor, not a
priest,--but if there is anything you can tell me, in which I might
be able to help you, you may command me in so far as is possible.”
 Candidly, I think I was too inquiring in those days.

She smiled wistfully, and replied: “I will think of what you say so
kindly, and perhaps, some day soon, I will tell you of such trouble as
I have. But, believe me, it is no question of wrong at all, by any
one--now. The wrong is over. It is simply that a debt of honour must be
satisfied; it concerns my poor dead brother.”

“Are you going to relatives in France?” I asked.

“No; I have no relatives, no near friends. I am alone in the world. My
mother I cannot remember; she died when I was very young. My father had
riches, but they went before he died. Still, France is home, and I must
go there.” She turned her head away to the long wastes of sea.

Little more passed between us. I advised her to come often on deck,
and mingle with the passengers; and told her that, when she pleased, I
should be glad to do any service that lay in my power. Her last words
were that, after we put into Aden, she would possibly take me at my
word.

After she had gone, I found myself wondering at my presentiment that
Aden was to be associated with critical points in the history of some of
us; and from that moment I began to connect Justine Caron with certain
events which, I felt sure, were marshalling to an unhappy conclusion. I
wondered, too, what part I should play in the development of the comedy,
tragedy, or whatever it was to be. In this connection I thought of Belle
Treherne, and of how I should appear in her eyes if that little scene
with Mrs. Falchion, now always staring me in the face, were rehearsed
before her. I came quickly to my feet, with a half-imprecation at
myself; and a verse of a crude sea-song was in my ears:

       “You can batten down cargo, live and dead,
        But you can’t put memory out of sight;
        You can paint the full sails overhead,
        But you can’t make a black deed white....”

Angry, I said to myself: “It wasn’t a black deed; it was foolish, it was
infatuation, it was not right, but it is common to shipboard; and I lost
my head, that was all.”

Some time later I was still at work in the dispensary, when I heard Mr.
Treherne’s voice calling to me from outside. I drew back the curtain. He
was leaning on his daughter’s arm, while in one hand he carried a stick.
“Ah, Doctor, Doctor,” cried he, “my old enemy, sciatica, has me in its
grip, and why, in this warm climate, I can’t understand. I’m afraid I
shall have to heave-to, like the ‘Fulvia’, and lay up for repairs. And,
by the way, I’m glad we are on our course again.” He entered, and sat
down. Belle Treherne bowed to me gravely, and smiled slightly. The smile
was not peculiarly hospitable. I knew perfectly well that to convince
her of the reality of my growing admiration for her would be no easy
task; but I was determined to base my new religion of the affections
upon unassailable canons, and I felt that now I could do best by waiting
and proving myself.

While I was arranging some medicine for Mr. Treherne, and advising him
on care against chills in a hot climate, he suddenly broke in with: “Dr.
Marmion, Captain Ascott tells me that we shall get to Aden by Tuesday
morning next. Now, I was asked by a friend of mine in London to visit
the grave of a son of his--a newspaper correspondent--who was killed in
one of the expeditions against the native tribes, and was buried in the
general cemetery at Aden. On the way out I was not able to fulfil the
commission, because we passed Aden in the night. But there will be
plenty of time to do so on Tuesday, I am told. This, however, is my
difficulty: I cannot go unless I am better, and I’m afraid there is no
such luck as that in store for me. These attacks last a week, at least.
I wish my daughter, however, to go. One of the ladies on board will go
with her--Mrs. Callendar, I believe; and I am going to be so bold as
to ask you to accompany them, if you will. I know you better than any
officer on board; and, besides, I should feel safer and better satisfied
if she went under the protection of an officer,--these barbarous places,
you know!--though, of course, it may be asking too much of you, or what
is impossible.”

I assented with pleasure. Belle Treherne was looking at the Latin names
on the bottles at the time, and her face showed no expression either of
pleasure or displeasure. Mr. Treherne said bluffly: “Dr. Marmion, you
are kind--very kind, and, upon my word, I’m much obliged.” He then
looked at his daughter as if expecting her to speak.

She looked up and said conventionally: “You are very kind, Dr. Marmion,
and I am much obliged.” Then I thought her eyes twinkled with amusement
at her own paraphrase of her father’s speech, and she added: “Mrs.
Callendar and myself will be much honoured indeed, and feel very
important in having an officer to attend us. Of course everybody else
will be envious, and, again of course, that will add to our vanity.”

At this she would have gone; but her father, who was suffering just
enough pain to enjoy anything that would divert his attention from it,
fell into conversation upon a subject of mutual interest, in which his
daughter joined on occasion, but not with enthusiasm. Yet, when they
came to go, she turned and said kindly, almost softly, as her fingers
touched mine: “I almost envy you your profession, Dr. Marmion. It opens
doors to so much of humanity and life.”

“There is no sin,” I laughingly said, “in such a covetousness, and,
believe me, it can do no harm to me, at least.” Then I added gravely: “I
should like my profession, in so far as I am concerned, to be worth your
envy.” She had passed through the door before the last words were said,
but I saw that her look was not forbidding.

       .........................

Is there unhappiness anywhere? There is not a vexing toss of the sea,
not a cloud in the sky. Is not catastrophe dead, and the arrows of
tragedy spilled? Peace broadens into deep, perfumed dusk towards Arabia;
languor spreads towards the unknown lands of the farthest south. No
anxious soul leans out from the casement of life; the time is heavy with
delightful ease. There is no sound that troubles; the world goes by and
no one heeds; for it is all beyond this musky twilight and this pleasant
hour. In this palace on the sea Mirth trails in and out with airy and
harmonious footsteps. Even the clang-clang of eight bells has music--not
boisterous nor disturbing, but muffled in the velvety air. Then, through
this hemisphere of jocund quiet, there sounds the “All’s well” of the
watch.

But, look! Did you see a star fall just then, and the long avenue of
expiring flame behind it?--Do not shudder; it is nothing. No cry of pain
came through that brightness. There was only the “All’s well” from the
watchers.

The thud of the engines falls on a padded atmosphere, and the lascars
move like ghosts along the decks. The long, smooth promenade is canopied
and curtained, and hung with banners, and gay devices of the gorgeous
East are contributing to the federation of pleasure.

And now, through a festooned doorway, there come the people of many
lands to inhabit the gay court. Music follows their footsteps: Hamlet
and Esther; Caractacus and Iphigenia; Napoleon and Hermione; The Man
in the Iron Mask and Sappho; Garibaldi and Boadicea; an Arab sheikh
and Joan of Arc; Mahomet and Casablanca; Cleopatra and Hannibal--a
resurrected world. But the illusion is short and slight. This world
is very sordid--of shreds and patches, after all. It is but a
pretty masquerade, in which feminine vanity beats hard against
strangely-clothed bosoms; and masculine conceit is shown in the work of
the barber’s curling-irons and the ship-carpenter’s wooden swords
and paper helmets. The pride of these folk is not diminished because
Hamlet’s wig gets awry, or a Roman has trouble with his foolish garters.
Few men or women can resist mumming; they fancy themselves as somebody
else, dead or living. Yet these seem happy in this nonsense. The
indolent days appear to have deadened hatred, malice, and all
uncharitableness. They shall strut and fret their hour upon this little
stage. Let that sprightly girl forget the sudden death which made her an
orphan; the nervous broker his faithless wife; the grey-haired soldier
his silly and haunting sins; the bankrupt his creditors.

“On with the dance, let joy be unconfined!” For the captain is on the
bridge, the engineer is beneath; we have stout walls, and a ceaseless
sentry-go. In the intervals of the dance wine passes, and idle things
are said beside the draped and cushioned capstan or in the friendly
gloom of a boat, which, in the name of safety, hangs taut between its
davits. Let this imitation Cleopatra use the Cleopatra’s arts; this
mellow Romeo (sometime an Irish landlord) vow to this coy Juliet; this
Helen of Troy--Of all who walked these decks, mantled and wigged
in characters not their own, Mrs. Falchion was the handsomest, most
convincing. With a graceful swaying movement she passed along the
promenade, and even envy praised her. Her hand lay lightly on the arm
of a brown stalwart native of the Indian hills, fierce and savage
in attire. Against his wild picturesqueness and brawny strength, her
perfectness of animal beauty, curbed and rendered delicate by her inner
coldness, showed in fine contrast; and yet both were matched in the fine
natural prowess of form.

With a singular affirmation of what had been, after all, but
a sadly-humourous proposal, I had attired myself in a Greek
costume--quickly made by my steward, who had been a tailor--and was
about to leave my cabin, when Hungerford entered, and exclaimed, as he
took his pipe from his mouth in surprise: “Marmion, what does this
mean? Don’t you know your duties better? No officer may appear at these
flare-ups in costume other than his uniform. You’re the finest example
of suburban innocence and original sin I’ve seen this last quarter of
a century, wherein I’ve kept the world--and you--from tottering to
destruction.” He reached for one of my cigars.

Without a word, and annoyed at my own stupidity, I slowly divested
myself of the clothes of Greece; while Hungerford smoked on, humming to
himself occasionally a few bars of The Buccaneer’s Bride, but evidently
occupied with something in his mind. At length he said: “Marmion, I said
suburban innocence and original sin, but you’ve a grip on the law of
square and compass too. I’ll say that for you, old chap--and I hope you
don’t think I’m a miserable prig.”

Still I replied nothing, but offered him one of my best cigars, taking
the other one from him, and held the match while he lighted it--which,
between men, is sufficient evidence of good-feeling. He understood, and
continued: “Of course you’ll keep your eye on Mrs. Falchion and Madras
to-night: if he is determined that they shall meet, and you have
arranged it. I’d like to know how it goes before you turn in, if you
don’t mind. And, I say, Marmion, ask Miss Treherne to keep a dance for
me--a waltz--towards the close of the evening, will you? Excuse me, but
she is the thorough-bred of the ship. And if I have only one hop down
the promenade, I want it to be with a girl who’ll remind me of some one
that is making West Kensington worth inhabiting. Only think, Marmion, of
a girl like her--a graduate in arts, whose name and picture have been in
all the papers--being willing to make up with me, Dick Hungerford! She
is as natural and simple as a girl can be, and doesn’t throw Greek roots
at you, nor try to convince you of the difference between the songs
of the troubadours and the sonnets of Petrarch. She doesn’t care a rap
whether Dante’s Beatrice was a real woman or a principle; whether James
the First poisoned his son; or what’s the margin between a sine and a
cosine. She can take a fence in the hunting-field like a bird--! Oh, all
right, just hold still, and I’ll unfasten it.” And he struggled with a
recalcitrant buckle. “Well, you’ll not forget about Miss Treherne, will
you? She ought to go just as she is. Fancy-dress on her would be gilding
the gold; for, though she isn’t surpassingly beautiful, she is very
fine, very fine indeed. There, now, you’re yourself again, and look all
the better for it.”

By this time I was again in my uniform, and I sat down, and smoked, and
looked at Hungerford. His long gossip had been more or less detached,
and I had said nothing. I understood that he was trying, in his blunt,
honest way, to turn my thoughts definitely from Mrs. Falchion to Belle
Treherne; and he never seemed to me such a good fellow as at that
moment. I replied at last: “All right, Hungerford; I’ll be your
deputation, your ambassador, to Miss Treherne. What time shall we see
you on deck?”

“About 11.40--just in time to trip a waltz on the edge of eight bells.”

“On the edge of Sunday, my boy.”

“Yes. Do you know, it is just four years ago tomorrow since I found Boyd
Madras on the No Man’s Sea?”

“Let us not talk of it,” said I.

“All right. I merely stated the fact because it came to me. I’m
mum henceforth. And I want to talk about something else. The first
officer,--I don’t know whether you have noticed him lately, but I tell
you this: if we ever get into any trouble with this ship he’ll go to
pieces. Why, the other night, when the engine got tangled, he was as
timid as a woman. That shock he had with the coal, as I said before, has
broken his nerve, big man as he is.”

“Hungerford,” I said, “you do not generally croak, but you are earning
the character of the raven for yourself to-night. The thing is growing
on you. What IS the use of bringing up unpleasant subjects? You are an
old woman.” I fear there was the slightest irritation in my voice; but,
truth is, the last few days’ experiences had left their mark on me, and
Hungerford’s speech and manner had suddenly grown trying.

He stood for a moment looking at me with direct earnestness from under
his strong brows, and then he stepped forward, and, laying his hand
upon my arm, rejoined: “Do not be raw, Marmion. I’m only a blunt, stupid
sailor; and, to tell you God’s truth, as I have told you before, every
sailor is superstitious--every real sailor. He can’t help it--I can’t. I
have a special fit on me now. Why don’t I keep it to myself? Because
I’m selfish, and it does me good to talk. You and I are in one secret
together, and it has made me feel like sharing this thing with a pal, I
suppose.”

I seized his hand and begged his pardon, and called myself unpleasant
names, which he on the instant stopped, and said: “That’s all right,
Marmy; shake till the knuckles crack! I’m off. Don’t forget the dance.”
 He disappeared down the passage.

Then I went on deck, and the scene which I have so imperfectly described
passed before me. Mrs. Falchion was surrounded with admirers all the
evening, both men and women; and two of the very stately English ladies
of title, to whom I before referred, were particularly gracious to her;
while she, in turn, bore herself with becoming dignity. I danced with
her once, and was down on her programme for another dance. I had also
danced with Belle Treherne, who appeared as Miriam, and was chaperoned
by one of the ladies of title; and I had also “sat out” one dance
with her. Chancing to pass her as the evening wore on, I saw her
in conversation with Mrs. Falchion, who had dismissed her cavalier,
preferring to talk, she said, for dancing was tiresome work on the
Indian Ocean. Belle Treherne, who up to that moment had never quite
liked her, yielded to the agreeable charm of her conversation and her
frank applausive remarks upon the costumes of the dancers. She had a
good word for every one, and she drew her companion out to make the most
of herself, as women less often do before women than in the presence
of men. I am certain that her interest in Belle Treherne was real, and
likewise certain that she cherished no pique against her because I
had transferred my allegiance. Indeed, I am sure that she had no deep
feeling of injured pride where I was concerned. Such after acidity as
she sometimes showed was directed against the foolish part I had played
with her and my action in subsequent events; it did not proceed from
personal feeling or self-value.

Some time after this meeting I saw Boyd Madras issue from the
companion-way dressed as a Greek. He wore a false beard, and carried
off well his garments of white and scarlet and gold--a very striking
and presentable man. He came slowly forward, looking about him steadily,
and, seeing me, moved towards me. But for his manner I should scarcely
have recognised him. A dance was beginning; but many eyes were turned
curiously, and even admiringly, to him; for he looked singular and
impressive and his face was given fulness by a beard and flesh paints.
I motioned him aside where there was shadow, and said: “Well, you have
determined to see her?”

“Yes,” he said; “and I wish you, if you will, to introduce me to her as
Mr. Charles Boyd.

“You still think this wise?” I asked.

“It is my earnest wish. I must have an understanding to-night.” He
spoke very firmly, and showed no excitement. His manner was calm and
gentlemanly.

He had a surprising air of decision. Supporting an antique character, he
seemed for the moment to have put on also something of antique strength
of mind, and to be no longer the timid invalid. “Then, come with me,” I
answered.

We walked in silence for a few minutes, and then, seeing where Mrs.
Falchion was, we advanced to her. The next dance on her programme was
mine. In my previous dance with her we had talked as we now did at
table--as we did the first hour I met her--impersonally, sometimes (I
am bold to say) amusingly. Now I approached her with apologies for being
late. The man beside her took his leave. She had only just glanced at
me at first, but now she looked at my companion, and the look stayed,
curious, bewildered.

“It is fitting,” I said, “that Greek meet Greek--that Menelaus should be
introduced to Helen. May I say that when Helen is not Helen she is Mrs.
Falchion, and when Menelaus is not Menelaus he is--Mr. Charles Boyd.”

I am afraid my voice faltered slightly, because there came over me
suddenly a nervousness as unexpected as it was inconvenient, and my
words, which began lightly, ended huskily. Had Madras miscalculated this
woman?

Her eyes were afire, and her face was as pale as marble; all its slight
but healthy glow had fled. A very faint gasp came from her lips. I saw
that she recognised him, as he bowed and mentioned her name, following
my introduction. I knew not what might occur, for I saw danger in her
eyes in reply to the beseeching look in his. Would melodrama supervene
after all? She merely bowed towards me, as if to dismiss me, and then
she rose, took his arm, and moved away. The interview that follows came
to me from Boyd Madras afterwards.

When they had reached the semi-darkness of the forward part of the ship,
she drew her hand quickly away, and, turning to him, said: “What is the
name by which you are called? One does not always hear distinctly when
being introduced.”

He did not understand what she was about to do, but he felt the deadly
coldness in her voice. “My name is known to you,” he replied. He
steadied himself.

“No, pardon me, I do not know it, for I do not know you.... I never saw
you before.” She leaned her hand carelessly on the bulwarks.

He was shocked, but he drew himself together. Their eyes were intent
on each other. “You do know me! Need I tell you that I am Boyd Madras?”
 “Boyd Madras,” she said, musing coldly. “A peculiar name.”

“Mercy Madras was your name until you called yourself Mrs. Falchion,” he
urged indignantly, yet anxiously too.

“It suits you to be mysterious, Mr.--ah yes, Mr. Boyd Madras;
but, really, you might be less exacting in your demands upon one’s
imagination.” Her look was again on him casually.

He spoke breathlessly. “Mercy--Mercy--for God’s sake, don’t treat me
like this! Oh, my wife, I have wronged you every way, but I loved you
always--love you now. I have only followed you to ask you to forgive
me, after all these years. I saw you in Colombo just before you came
on board, and I felt that I must come also. You never loved me. Perhaps
that is better for you, but you do not know what I suffer. If you could
give me a chance, and come with me to America--anywhere, and let me
start the world again? I can--travel straight now, and I will work hard,
and be honest. I will--” But here sudden pain brought back the doubt
concerning his life and its possibilities.

He leaned against the bulwarks, and made a helpless, despairing motion
with his hand. “No, no!” he said; and added with a bitter laugh: “Not
to begin the world again, but to end it as profitably and silently as I
can. ... But you will listen to me, my wife? You will say at least that
you forgive me the blight and ill I brought upon you?”

She had listened to him unmoved outwardly. Her reply was instant. “You
are more melodramatic than I thought you capable of being--from your
appearance,” she said in a hard tone. “Your acting is very good, but not
convincing. I cannot respond as would become the unity and sequence of
the play.... I have no husband. My husband is dead--I buried him years
ago. I have forgotten his name--I buried that too.”

All the suffering and endured scorn of years came to revolt in him. He
leaned forward now, and caught her wrist. “Have you no human feeling?”
 he said “no heart in you at all? Look. I have it in me here suddenly to
kill you as you stand. You have turned my love to hate. From your smooth
skin there I could strip those rags, and call upon them all to look at
you--my wife--a felon’s wife; mine to have and to hold--to hold, you
hear!--as it was sworn at the altar. I bare my heart to you, repenting,
and you mock it, torture it, with your undying hate and cruelty. You
have no heart, no life. This white bosom is all of you--all of your
power to make men love you--this, and your beauty. All else, by God, is
cruel as the grave!”

His voice had sunk to a hoarse whisper. She had not sought to remove
his hand, nor struggled in the least; and once it seemed as if this new
development of his character, this animal fierceness, would conquer her:
she admired courage. It was not so. He trembled with weakness before he
had finished. He stopped too soon; he lost.

“You will find such parts exhausting to play,” she murmured, as he let
her arm fall. “It needs a strong physique to endure exaggerated, nervous
sentiment. And now, please, let us perform less trying scenes.” Then,
with a low, cold anger, she continued: “It is only a coward that will
dog a woman who finds his presence insupportable to her. This woman
cannot, if she would, endure this man’s presence; it is her nature.
Well, why rush blindly at the impossible? She wishes to live her spoiled
life alone. The man can have no part in it--never, never! But she has
money. If in that way--”

He stretched out his hand protestingly, the fingers spread in
excitement. “No more--not another word!” he said. “I ask for
forgiveness, for one word of kindness--and I am offered money! the fire
that burned me to eat, instead of bread! I had a wife once,” he added in
a kind of troubled dream, looking at her as if she were very far away,
“and her name was Mercy--her name was Mercy--Mercy Madras. I loved her.
I sinned for her sake. A message came that she was dead to me; but I
could not believe that it was so altogether, for I had knelt at her feet
and worshipped her. I went to her, but she sent me away angrily. Years
passed. ‘She will have relented now,’ I said, and I followed her, and
found her as I thought. But it was not she; it was a wicked ghost in
her beautiful body--nothing more. And then I turned away and cursed
all things, because I knew that I should never see my wife again. Mercy
Madras was dead. ... Can you not hear the curses?”

Still she was unmoved. She said with a cruel impatience in her voice:
“Yes, Mercy Madras is dead. How then can she forgive? What could her
ghost--as you call her--do, but offer the thing which her husband--when
he was living--loved so well that he sold himself into bondage,
and wrecked his world and hers for it--Money? Well, money is at his
disposal, as she said before--”

But she spoke no more. The man in him straight way shamed her into
silence with a look. She bowed her head, yet not quite in shame, for
there was that in her eyes which made her appear as if his suffering was
a gratuitous infliction. But at this moment he was stronger, and he drew
her eyes up by the sheer force of his will. “I need no money now,” he
coldly declared. “I need nothing--not even you; and can you fancy that,
after waiting all these years for this hour, money would satisfy me?
Do you know,” he continued slowly and musingly, “I can look upon you
now--yes, at this moment--with more indifference than you ever showed to
me? A moment ago I loved you: now I think you horrible; because you are
no woman; you have a savage heart. And some day you will suffer as I do,
so terribly that even the brazen serpent could not cure you. Then you
will remember me.”

He was about to leave her, but he had not taken two steps before he
turned, with all the anger and the passion softened in his eyes, and
said, putting his hand out towards yet not to touch her, “Good-bye--for
the last time.” And then the look was such as might be turned upon a
forgiven executioner.

“Good-night,” she replied, and she did not look into his eyes, but out
to sea. Her eyes remained fixed upon its furtive gloom. She too was
furtive and gloomy at this moment. They were both sleek, silent, and
remorseless. There was a slight rustle to her dress as she changed her
position. It was in grim keeping with the pitiless rustle of the sea.

And so they parted. I saw him move on towards the companion-way, and
though I felt instinctively that all had gone ill with him, I was
surprised to see how erect he walked. After a minute I approached her.
She heard me coming, and presently turned to me with a curious smile.
“Who is Mr. Charles Boyd?” she asked. “I did not pierce his disguise.
I could not tell whether I had met him on board before. Have I? But my
impression is that I had not seen him on the ship.”

“No, you had not seen him,” I replied. “He had a fancy to travel, until
yesterday, with the second-class passengers. Now he has a first-class
cabin--in his proper place, in fact.”

“You think so--in his proper place?” The suggestion was not pleasant.

“Assuredly. Why do you speak in that way?” was my indignant reply.

She took my arm as we moved on. “Because he was slightly rude to me.”

I grew bold, and determined to bring her to some sort of reckoning.

“How rude were you to him?”

“Not rude at all. It is not worth while being so--to anybody,” was her
chilly answer.

“I was under the impression you had met him before,” I said gravely.

“Indeed? And why?” She raised her eyebrows at me. I pushed the matter
to a conclusion. “He was ill the other day--he has heart trouble. It was
necessary for me to open the clothes about his neck. On his breast I saw
a little ivory portrait of a woman’s head.”

“A woman’s head,” she repeated absently, and her fingers idly toyed with
a jingling ornament in her belt. In an idle moment I had sketched the
head, as I remembered it, on a sheet of paper, and now I took it from
my pocket and handed it to her. We were standing near a port-hole of the
music saloon, from which light streamed.

“That is the head,” said I.

She deliberately placed the paper in the belt of light, and, looking
at it, remarked mechanically: “This is the head, is it?” She showed no
change of countenance, and handed it back to me as if she had seen no
likeness. “It is very interesting,” she said, “but one would think you
might make better use of your time than by surreptitiously sketching
portraits from sick men’s breasts. One must have plenty of leisure to do
that sort of thing, I should think. Be careful that you do not get into
mischief, Dr. Marmion.” She laughed. “Besides, where was the special
peculiarity in that portrait that you should treasure it in pencil
so conventionally?--Your drawing is not good.--Where was the point or
need?”

“I have no right to reply to that directly,” I responded. “But this
man’s life is not for always, and if anything happened to him it would
seem curious to strangers to find that on his breast--because, of
course, more than I would see it there.”

“If anything happened? What should happen? You mean, on board ship?”
 There was a little nervousness in her tone now.

“I am only hinting at an awkward possibility,” I replied.

She looked at me scornfully. “When did you see that picture on his
breast?” I told her. “Ah! before THAT day?” she rejoined. I knew
that she referred to the evening when I had yielded foolishly to the
fascination of her presence. The blood swam hotly in my face. “Men are
not noble creatures,” she continued.

“I am afraid you would not give many their patents of nobility if you
had power to bestow them,” I answered.

“Most men at the beginning, and very often ever after, are ignoble
creatures. Yet I should confer the patents of nobility, if it were my
prerogative; for some would succeed in living up to them. Vanity would
accomplish that much. Vanity is the secret of noblesse oblige; not
radical virtue--since we are beginning to be bookish again.”

“To what do you reduce honour and right?” returned I.

“As I said to you on a memorable occasion,” she answered very drily, “to
a code.”

“That is,” rejoined I, “a man does a good action, lives an honourable
life, to satisfy a social canon--to gratify, say, a wife or mother, who
believes in him, and loves him?”

“Yes.” She was watching Belle Treherne promenading with her father. She
drew my attention to it by a slight motion of the hand, but why I could
not tell.

“But might not a man fall by the same rule of vanity?” I urged. “That
he shall appear well in their eyes, that their vanity in turn should be
fed, might he not commit a crime, and so bring misery?”

“Yes, it is true either way--pleasure or misery. Please come to the
saloon and get me an ice before the next dance.”

I was perplexed. Was she altogether soulless? Even now, as we passed
among the dancers, she replied to congratulations on her make-up and
appearance with evident pleasure.

An hour later, I was taking Belle Treherne from the arm of Hungerford
for the last waltz, and, in reply to an inquiring glance from him, I
shook my head mournfully. His face showed solicitude as he walked away.
Perhaps it did not gratify my vanity that Belle Treherne, as her father
limped forward at the stroke of eight bells to take her below, said
to me: “How downright and thorough Mr. Hungerford is!” But I frankly
admitted that he was all she might say good of him, and more.

The deck was quickly dismantled, the lights went out, and all the
dancers disappeared. The masquerade was over; and again, through the
darkness, rose the plaintive “All’s well!” And it kept ringing in my
ears until it became a mocking sound, from which I longed to be free.
It was like the voice of Lear crying over the body of Cordelia: “Never,
never, never, never, never!”

Something of Hungerford’s superstitious feeling possessed me. I went
below, and involuntarily made my way to Boyd Madras’s cabin.

Though the night was not hot, the door was drawn to. I tapped. His voice
at once asked who was there, and when I told him, and inquired how he
was, he said he was not ill, and asked me to come to his cabin in the
morning, if I would. I promised, and bade him good-night. He responded,
and then, as I turned away from the door, I heard him repeat the
good-night cordially and calmly.



CHAPTER VII. THE WHEEL COMES FULL CIRCLE

The next morning I was up early, and went on deck. The sun had risen,
and in the moist atmosphere the tints of sky and sea were beautiful.
Everywhere was the warm ocean undulating lazily to the vague horizon. A
few lascars were still cleansing the decks; others were seated on
their haunches between decks, eating curry from a calabash; a couple of
passengers were indolently munching oranges; and Stone the quartermaster
was inspecting the work lately done by the lascars. Stone gave me a
pleasant good-morning, and we walked together the length of the deck
forward. I had got about three-fourths of the length back again, when I
heard a cry from aft--a sharp call of “Man overboard!” In a moment I had
travelled the intermediate deck, and was at the stern, looking below,
where, in the swirling waters, was the head of a man. With cries of
“Man overboard!” I threw two or three buoys after the disappearing head,
above which a bare arm thrust itself. I heard the rush of feet behind
me, and in a moment Hungerford and Stone were beside me. The signal was
given for the engines to stop; stewards and lascars came running on deck
in response to Hungerford’s call, and the first officer now appeared.
Very soon a crew was gathered on the after-deck, about a boat on the
port side.

Passengers by this time showed in various stages of dressing--women
wringing their hands, men gesticulating. If there is anything calculated
to send a thrill of awe through a crowd, it is the cry of “Man
overboard!” And when one looked below, and saw above the drowning head
two white arms thrust from the sea, a horrible thing was brought home to
each of us. Besides, the scene before us on the deck was not reassuring.
There was trouble in getting the boat lowered. The first officer was
excited, the lascars were dazed, the stewards were hurried without being
confident; only Hungerford, Stone, and the gunner were collected. The
boat should have been launched in a minute, but still it hung between
its davits; its course downward was interrupted; something was wrong
with the ropes, “A false start, by---!” said the bookmaker, looking
through his eye-glass. Colonel Ryder’s face was stern, Clovelly was pale
and anxious, as moment after moment went, and the boat was not yet free.
Ages seemed to pass before the boat was let down even with the bulwarks,
and a crew of ten, with Hungerford in command, were in it, ready to
be lowered. Whether the word was given to lower, or whether it was any
one’s fault, may never perhaps be known; but, as the boat hung there,
suddenly it shot down at the stern, some one having let go the ropes at
that end; and the bow being still fast, it had fallen like a trap-door.
It seemed, on the instant, as if the whole crew were tossed into
the water; but some had successfully clutched the boat’s side, and
Hungerford hung by a rope with one hand. In the eddying water, however,
about the reversing screw, were two heads, and farther off was a man
struggling. The face of one of the men near the screw was upturned for a
moment; it was that of Stone the quartermaster.

A cry went up from the passengers, and they swayed forward to the
suspended boat; but Colonel Ryder turned almost savagely upon them.
“Keep quiet!” he said. “Stand back! What can you do? Give the officers a
chance.” He knew that there had been a false start, and bad work indeed;
but he also saw that the task of the officers must not be made harder.
His sternness had effect. The excited passengers drew back, and I took
his place in front of them. When the first effort had been made to lower
the boat, I asked the first officer if I could accompany the crew, but
he said no. I could, therefore, do nothing but wait. A change came on
the crowd. It became painfully silent, none speaking save in whispers,
and all watching with anxious faces either the receding heads in the
water or the unfortunate boat’s crew. Hungerford showed himself a
thorough sailor. Hanging to the davit, he quietly, reassuringly, gave
the order for righting the boat, virtually taking the command out of
the hands of the first officer, who was trembling with nervousness.
Hungerford was right; this man’s days as a sailor were over. The
accident from which he had suffered had broken his nerve, stalwart as he
was. But Hungerford was as cool as if this were ordinary boat-practice.
Soon the boat was drawn up again, and others took the place of those who
had disappeared. Then it was lowered safely, and, with Hungerford erect
in the bows, it was pulled swiftly along the path we had come.

At length, too, the great ship turned round, but not in her tracks. It
is a pleasant fiction that these great steamers are easily managed. They
can go straight ahead, but their huge proportions are not adapted for
rapid movement. However, the work of rescue was begun. Sailors were
aloft on watch, Captain Ascott was on the bridge, sweeping the sea with
his glass; order was restored. But the ship had the feeling of a home
from which some familiar inmate had been taken, to return no more.
Children clasped their mothers’ hands and said, “Mother, was it the poor
quartermaster?” and men who the day before had got help from the petty
officers in the preparation of costumes, said mournfully: “Fife the
gunner was one of them.”

But who was the man first to go overboard--and who was it first gave the
alarm? There were rumours, but no one was sure. All at once I remembered
something peculiar in that cry of “Man overboard!” and it shocked me. I
hurried below, and went to the cabin of Boyd Madras. It was empty; but
on a shelf lay a large envelope, addressed to Hungerford and myself.
I tore it open. There was a small packet, which I knew contained the
portrait he had worn on his bosom, addressed to Mrs. Falchion; and the
other was a single sheet directed to me, fully written upon, and marked
in the corner: “To be made public.”

So, he had disappeared from the play? He had made his exit? He had
satisfied the code at last? Before opening the letter addressed to me,
I looked round. His clothes were folded upon one of the berths; but the
garments of masquerade were not in the cabin. Had he then gone out of
the world in the garb of a mummer? Not altogether, for the false beard
he had worn the night before lay beside the clothes. But this terrible
earnestness of his would look strange in last night’s disguise.

I opened the packet addressed to Hungerford and myself, and saw that it
contained a full and detailed account of his last meeting with his
wife. The personal letter was short. He said that his gratitude was
unspeakable, and now must be so for ever. He begged us not to let the
world know who he was, nor his relationship to Mrs. Falchion, unless she
wished it; he asked me to hand privately to her the packet bearing her
name. Lastly, he requested that the paper for the public be given to the
captain of the ‘Fulvia’.

Going out into the passage, I found a steward, who hurriedly told me
that just before the alarm was given he had seen Boyd Madras going aft
in that strange costume, which he mistook for a dressing-gown, and he
had come to see if, by any chance, it was he who had gone overboard. I
told him that it was. He disappeared, and soon the whole ship knew it.
I went to the captain, gave him the letter, and told him only what was
necessary to tell. He was on the bridge, and was occupied with giving
directions, so he asked me the substance of the letter, and handed it
back to me, requesting me to make a copy of it soon and leave it in his
cabin. I then took all the papers to my cabin, and locked them up. I
give here the substance of the letter which was to be made public:

   Because you know how much I have suffered physically while on board
   this ship, and because you have been kind to me, I wish, through
   you, to say my last word to the world: though, indeed, this may seem
   a strange form for gratitude to take. Dying men, however, make few
   apologies, and I shall make none. My existence, as you know, is an
   uncertain quantity, and may be cut short at any moment in the
   ordinary course of things. But I have no future in the active
   concerns of life; no past on which to dwell with satisfaction; no
   friends to mourn for my misfortunes in life, nor for my death,
   whether it be peaceful or violent; therefore, I have fewer
   compunctions in ending a mistaken career and a worthless life.

   Some one will profit by my death: who it is matters not, for it is
   no friend of mine. My death adjusts a balance, perhaps not nicely,
   yet it does it. And this is all I have to say.... I am
   going. Farewell....

After a brief farewell to me added, there came the subscription “Charles
Boyd;” and that was all. Why he cried out “Man overboard” (for now I
recognised that it was his voice which gave the alarm), I do not know,
except that he wished his body to be recovered, and to receive burial.

Just here, some one came fumbling at the curtain of my cabin. I heard a
gasp--“Doctor--my head! quick!”

I looked out. As I drew the curtain a worthless lascar sailor fell
fainting into my cabin. He had been drinking a good deal, and the horror
and excitement of the accident had brought on an apoplectic fit. This in
a very hot climate is suddenly fatal. In three minutes, in spite of me,
he was dead. Postponing report of the matter, I went on deck again among
the passengers.

I expected that Mrs. Falchion would be among them, for the news must
have gone to every part of the ship; but she was not there. On the
outskirts of one of the groups, however, I saw Justine Caron. I went
to her, and asked her if Mrs. Falchion had risen. She said that she had
not: that she had been told of the disaster, and had appeared shocked;
but had complained of a headache, and had not risen. I then asked
Justine if Mrs. Falchion had been told who the suicide was, and was
answered in the negative. At that moment a lady came to me and said in
an awed whisper: “Dr. Marmion, is it true that the man who committed
suicide was a second-class passenger, and that he appeared at the ball
last night, and danced with Mrs. Falchion?”

I knew that my reply would soon become common property, so I said:

“He was a first-class passenger, though until yesterday he travelled
second-class. I knew him. His name was Charles Boyd. I introduced him to
Mrs. Falchion last night, but he did not stay long on deck, because
he felt ill. He had heart trouble. You may guess that he was tired of
life.” Then I told her of the paper which was for the public, and she
left me.

The search for the unfortunate men went on. No one could be seen near
the floating buoys which were here and there picked up by Hungerford’s
boat. The long undulations of the water had been broken up in a large
area about the ship, but the sea was still comparatively smooth. We were
steaming back along the track we had come. There was less excitement
on board than might be expected. The tropical stillness of the air,
the quiet suddenness of the tragedy itself, the grim decisiveness of
Hungerford, the watchful silence of a few men like Colonel Ryder and
Clovelly, had effect upon even the emotion of those women, everywhere
found, who get a morbid enjoyment out of misery.

Nearly all were watching the rescue boat, though a few looked over the
sides of the ship as if they expected to find bodies floating about.
They saw sharks, instead, and a trail of blood, and this sent them away
sickened from the bulwarks. Then they turned their attention again
upon the rescue party. It was impossible not to note what a fine figure
Hungerford made, as he stood erect in the bow, his hand over his eyes,
searching the water. Presently we saw him stop the boat, and something
was drawn in. He signalled the ship. He had found one man--but dead or
alive? The boat was rapidly rowed back to the ship, Hungerford making
efforts for resuscitation. Arrived at the vessel, the body was passed up
to me.

It was that of Stone the quartermaster. I worked to bring back life, but
it was of no avail. A minute after, a man in the yards signalled that he
saw another. It was not a hundred yards away, and was floating near the
surface. It was a strange sight, for the water was a vivid green, and
the man wore garments of white and scarlet, and looked a part of some
strange mosaic: as one has seen astonishing figures set in balls of
solid glass. This figure framed in the sea was Boyd Madras. The boat
was signalled, it drew near, and two men dragged the body in, as a shark
darted forward, just too late, to seize it. The boat drew alongside the
‘Fulvia’. I stood at the gangway to receive this castaway. I felt his
wrist and heart. As I did so I chanced to glance up at the passengers,
who were looking at this painful scene from the upper deck. There,
leaning over the railing, stood Mrs. Falchion, her eyes fixed with a
shocking wonder at the drooping, weird figure. Her lips parted, but
at first they made no sound. Then, she suddenly drew herself up with a
shudder. “Horrible! horrible!” she said, and turned away.

I had Boyd Madras taken to an empty cabin next to mine, which I used for
operations, and there Hungerford and myself worked to resuscitate him.
We allowed no one to come near. I had not much hope of bringing life
back, but still we worked with a kind of desperation, for it seemed to
Hungerford and myself that somehow we were responsible to humanity for
him. His heart had been weak, but there had been no organic trouble:
only some functional disorder, which open-air life and freedom from
anxiety might have overcome. Hungerford worked with an almost fierce
persistence. Once he said: “By God, I will bring him back, Marmion, to
face that woman down when she thinks she has got the world on the hip!”

I cannot tell what delight we felt when, after a little time, I saw
a quiver of the eyelids and a slight motion of the chest. Presently a
longer breath came, and the eyes opened; at first without recognition.
Then, in a few moments, I knew that he was safe--desperately against his
will, but safe.

His first sentient words startled me. He gasped, “Does she think I am
drowned?”

“Yes.”

“Then she must continue to do so!”

“Why?”

“Because”--here he spoke faintly, as if sudden fear had produced
additional weakness--“because I had rather die a thousand deaths than
meet her now; because she hates me. I must begin the world again. You
have saved my life against my will: I demand that you give that life its
only chance of happiness.”

As his words came to me, I remembered with a start the dead lascar, and,
leading Hungerford to my cabin, I pointed to the body, and whispered
that the sailor’s death was only known to me. “Then this is the
corpse of Boyd Madras, and we’ll bury it for him,” he said with quick
bluntness. “Do not report this death to Captain Ascott--he would only
raise objections to the idea. This lascar was in my watch. It will be
supposed he fell overboard during the accident to the boat. Perhaps some
day the funeral of this nigger will be a sensation and surprise to her
blessed ladyship on deck.”

I suggested that it seemed underhand and unprofessional, but the
entreating words of the resuscitated man in the next room conquered my
objections.

It was arranged that Madras should remain in the present cabin, of which
I had a key, until we reached Aden; then he should, by Hungerford’s aid,
disappear.

We were conspirators, but we meant harm to nobody. I covered up the face
of the dead lascar and wrapped round him the scarlet and gold cloth
that Madras had worn. Then I got a sailor, who supposed Boyd Madras
was before him, and the body was soon sewed in its shotted shroud and
carried to where Stone the quartermaster lay.

At this day I cannot suppose I would do these things, but then it seemed
right to do as Madras wished: he was, under a new name, to begin life
afresh.

After giving directions for the disposition of the bodies, I went on
deck. Mrs. Falchion was still there. Some one said to her: “Did you know
the man who committed suicide?”

“He was introduced to me last night by Dr. Marmion,” she replied, and
she shuddered again, though her face showed no remarkable emotion. She
had had a shock to the senses, not to the heart.

When I came to her on the deck, Justine was saying to her: “Madame, you
should not have come. You should not see such painful things when you
are not well.”

She did not reply to this. She looked up at me and said: “A strange
whim, to die in those fanciful rags. It is dreadful to see; but he had
the courage.”

I replied: “They have as much courage who make men do such things and
then live on.”

Then I told her briefly that I held the packet for her, that I guessed
what was in it, and that I would hand it to her later. I also said that
he had written to me the record of last night’s meeting with her, and
that he had left a letter which was to be made public. As I said these
things we were walking the decks, and, because eyes were on both of us,
I tried to show nothing more unusual in manner than the bare tragedy
might account for.

“Well,” she said, with a curious coldness, “what use shall you make of
your special knowledge?”

“I intend,” I said, “to respect his wish, that your relationship to him
be kept unknown, unless you declare otherwise.”

“That is reasonable. If he had always been as reasonable! And,” she
continued, “I do not wish the relationship to be known: practically
there is none.... Oh! oh!” she added, with a sudden change in her
voice, “why did he do as he did, and make everything else
impossible--impossible!... Send me, or give me the packet, when you
wish: and now please leave me, Dr. Marmion.”

The last few words were spoken with some apparent feeling, but I knew
she was thinking of herself most, and I went from her angry.

I did not see her again before the hour that afternoon when we should
give the bodies of the two men to the ocean. No shroud could be prepared
for gunner Fife and able-seaman Winter, whose bodies had no Christian
burial, but were swallowed by the eager sea, not to be yielded up even
for a few hours. We were now steaming far beyond the place where they
were lost.

The burial was an impressive sight, as burials at sea mostly are. The
lonely waters stretching to the horizon helped to make it so. There was
a melancholy majesty in the ceremony.

The clanging bell had stopped. Captain Ascott was in his place at the
head of the rude draped bier. In the silence one only heard the swish of
water against the ‘Fulvia’s’ side, as we sped on towards Aden. People do
not know how beautiful, how powerful, is the burial service in the Book
of Common Prayer, who have only heard it recited by a clergyman. To hear
it read by a hardy man, whose life is among stern duties, is to receive
a new impression. He knows nothing of lethargic monotone; he interprets
as he reads. And when the man is the home-spun captain of a ship, who
sees before him the poor shell of one that served him for ten years,
“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the
Lord,” has a strange significance. It is only men who have borne
the shock of toil and danger, and have beaten up against the world’s
buffetings, that are fit to say last words over those gone down in the
storm or translated in the fiery chariot of duty.

The engines suddenly stopped. The effect was weird. Captain Ascott’s
fingers trembled, and he paused for an instant and looked down upon
the dead, then out sorrowfully to the waiting sea, before he spoke the
words, “We therefore commit their bodies to the deep.” But, the moment
they were uttered, the bier was lifted, there was a swift plunge, and
only the flag and the empty boards were left. The sobbing of women now
seemed almost unnatural; for around us was the bright sunlight, the gay
dresses of the lascars, the sound of the bell striking the hours, and
children playing on the deck. The ship moved on.

And Mrs. Falchion? As the burial service was read, she had stood, and
looked, not at the bier, but straight out to sea, calm and apparently
unsympathetic, though, as she thought, her husband was being buried.
When, however, the weighted body divided the water with a swingeing
sound, her face suddenly suffused, as though shame had touched her
or some humiliating idea had come. But she turned to Justine almost
immediately, and soon after said calmly: “Bring a play of Moliere, and
read to me, Justine.”

I had the packet her supposed dead husband had left for her in my
pocket. I joined her, and we paced the deck, at first scarcely speaking,
while the passengers dispersed, some below, some to the smoking-rooms,
some upon deck-chairs to doze through the rest of the lazy afternoon.
The world had taken up its orderly course again. At last, in an
unfrequented corner of the deck, I took the packet from my pocket and
handed it to her. “You understand?” I asked.

“Yes, I understand. And now, may I beg that for the rest of your natural
life”--here she paused, and bit her lip in vexation that the unlucky
phrase had escaped her--“you will speak of this no more?”

“Mrs. Boyd Madras,” I said (here she coloured indignantly),--“pardon me
for using the name, but it is only this once,--I shall never speak of
the matter to you again, nor to any one else, unless there is grave
reason.”

We walked again in silence. Passing the captain’s cabin, we saw a number
of gentlemen gathered about the door, while others were inside. We
paused, to find what the incident was. Captain Ascott was reading the
letter which Boyd Madras had wished to be made public. (I had given it
to him just before the burial, and he was acting as though Boyd Madras
was really dead--he was quite ignorant of our conspiracy.) I was about
to move on, but Mrs. Falchion touched my arm. “Wait,” she said. She
stood and heard the letter through. Then we walked on, she musing.
Presently she said: “It is a pity--a pity.”

I looked at her inquiringly, but she offered no explanation of the
enigmatical words. But, at this moment, seeing Justine waiting, she
excused herself, and soon I saw her listening to Moliere. Later in the
day I saw her talking with Miss Treherne, and it struck me that she
had never looked so beautiful as then, and that Miss Treherne had never
seemed so perfect a product of a fine convention. But, watching them
together, one who had had any standard of good life could never have
hesitated between the two. It was plain to me that Mrs. Falchion was
bent upon making a conquest of this girl who so delicately withstood
her; and Belle Treherne has told me since, that, when in her presence,
and listening to her, she was irresistibly drawn to her; though at the
same time she saw there was some significant lack in her nature; some
hardness impossible to any one who had ever known love. She also told me
that on this occasion Mrs. Falchion did not mention my name, nor did
she ever in their acquaintance, save in the most casual fashion. Her
conversation with Miss Treherne was always far from petty gossip or that
smart comedy in which some women tell much personal history, with the
guise of badinage and bright cynicism. I confess, though, it struck me
unpleasantly at the time, that this fresh, high-hearted creature should
be in familiar conversation with a woman who, it seemed to me, was the
incarnation of cruelty.

Mrs. Falchion subscribed most liberally to the fund raised for the
children of the quartermaster and munificently to that for the crew
which had, under Hungerford, performed the rescue work. The only effect
of this was to deepen the belief that she was very wealthy, and could
spend her money without affectation; for it was noticeable that she,
of all on board, showed the least outward excitement at the time of the
disaster. It occurred to me that once or twice I had seen her eyes
fixed on Hungerford inquisitively, and not free from antipathy. It was
something behind her usual equanimity. Her intuitive observation had led
her to trace his hand in recent events. Yet I know she admired him too
for his brave conduct. The day following the tragedy we were seated
at dinner. The captain and most of the officers had risen, but Mrs.
Falchion, having come in late, was still eating, and I remained seated
also. Hungerford approached me, apologising for the interruption. He
remarked that he was going on the bridge, and wished to say something
to me before he went. It was an official matter, to which Mrs. Falchion
apparently did not listen. When he was about to turn away, he bowed
to her rather distantly; but she looked up at him and said, with an
equivocal smile:

“Mr. Hungerford, we often respect brave men whom we do not like.”

Then he, understanding her, but refusing to recognise the compliment,
not altogether churlishly replied: “And I might say the same of women,
Mrs. Falchion; but there are many women we dislike who are not brave.”

“I think I could recognise a brave man without seeing his bravery,” she
urged.

“But I am a blundering sailor,” he rejoined, “who only believes his
eyes.”

“You are young yet,” she replied.

“I shall be older to-morrow,” was his retort.

“Well, perhaps you will see better to-morrow,” she rejoined, with
indolent irony.

“If I do, I’ll acknowledge it,” he added. Then Hungerford smiled at me
inscrutably. We two held a strange secret.



CHAPTER VIII. A BRIDGE OF PERIL

No more delightful experience may be had than to wake up in the harbour
of Aden some fine morning--it is always fine there--and get the first
impression of that mighty fortress, with its thousand iron eyes, in
strong repose by the Arabian Sea. Overhead was the cloudless sun, and
everywhere the tremulous glare of a sandy shore and the creamy wash of
the sea, like fusing opals. A tiny Mohammedan mosque stood gracefully
where the ocean almost washed its steps, and the Resident’s house,
far up the hard hillside, looked down upon the harbour from a green
coolness. The place had a massive, war-like character. Here was
a battery with earthworks; there, a fort; beyond, a signal-staff.
Hospitals, hotels, and stores were incidents in the picture. Beyond the
mountain-wall and lofty Jebel Shamsan, rising in fine pink and bronze,
and at the end of a high-walled path between the great hills, lay the
town of Aden proper. Above the town again were the mighty Tanks,
formed out of clefts in the mountains, and built in the times when the
Phoenicians made Aden a great mart, the richest spot in all Arabia.

Over to the left, on the opposite side of the harbour, were wide
bungalows shining in the sun, and flanking the side of the ancient
aqueduct, the gigantic tomb of an Arab sheikh. In the harbour were the
men-of-war of all nations, and Arab dhows sailed slowly in, laden with
pilgrims for Mecca--masses of picturesque sloth and dirt--and disease
also; for more than one vessel flew the yellow flag. As we looked, a
British man-of-war entered the gates of the harbour in the rosy light.
It was bringing back the disabled and wounded from a battle, in which a
handful of British soldiers were set to punish thirty times their number
in an unknown country. But there was another man-of-war in port with
which we were familiar. We passed it far out on the Indian Ocean. It
again passed us, and reached Aden before we did. The ‘Porcupine’ lay not
far from the ‘Fulvia’, and as I leaned over the bulwarks, idly looking
at her, a boat shot away from her side, and came towards us. As it drew
near, I saw that it was filled with luggage--a naval officer’s, I knew
it to be. As the sailors hauled it up, I noticed that the initials upon
the portmanteaus were G. R. The owner was evidently an officer going
home on leave, or invalided. It did not, however, concern me, as I
thought, and I turned away to look for Mr. Treherne, that I might fulfil
my promise to escort his daughter and Mrs. Callendar to the general
cemetery at Aden; for I knew he was not fit to do the journey, and there
was nothing to prevent my going.

A few hours later I stood with Miss Treherne and Mrs. Callendar in
the graveyard beside the fortress-wall, placing wreaths of artificial
flowers and one or two natural roses--a chance purchase from a shop
at the port--on the grave of the young journalist. Miss Treherne had
brought some sketching materials, and both of us (for, as has been
suggested, I had a slight gift for drawing) made sketches of the
burial-place. Having done this, we moved away to other parts of the
cemetery, looking at the tombstones, many of which told sad tales enough
of those who died far away from home and friends. As we wandered on, I
noticed a woman kneeling beside a grave. It grew upon me that the figure
was familiar. Presently I saw who it was, for the face lifted. I excused
myself, went over to her, and said:--“Miss Caron, you are in trouble?”

She looked up, her eyes swimming with tears and pointed to the
tombstone. On it I read:

            Sacred to the Memory of
               HECTOR CARON,
            Ensign in the French Navy.

         Erected by his friend, Galt Roscoe,
                H.B.M.N.

Beneath this was the simple line:

           “Why, what evil hath he done?”

“He was your brother?” I asked.

“Yes, monsieur, my one brother.” Her tears dropped slowly.

“And Galt Roscoe, who was he?” asked I.

Through her grief her face was eloquent. “I never saw him--never knew
him,” she said. “He saved my poor Hector from much suffering; he nursed
him, and buried him here when he died, and then--that!” pointing to the
tombstone. “He made me love the English,” she said. “Some day I shall
find him, and I shall have money to pay him back all he spent--all.” Now
I guessed the meaning of the scene on board the ‘Fulvia’, when she had
been so anxious to preserve her present relations with Mrs. Falchion.
This was the secret--a beautiful one. She rose. “They disgraced Hector
in New Caledonia,” she said, “because he refused to punish a convict
at Ile Nou who did not deserve it. He determined to go to France to
represent his case. He left me behind, because we were poor. He went to
Sydney. There he came to know this good man,”--her finger gently felt
his name upon the stone,--“who made him a guest upon his ship; and so he
came on towards England. In the Indian Ocean he was taken ill: and this
was the end.”

She mournfully sank again beside the grave, but she was no longer
weeping.

“What was this officer’s vessel?” I said presently. She drew from her
dress a letter. “It is here. Please read it all. He wrote that to me
when Hector died.”

The superscription to the letter was--H.B.M.S. Porcupine.

I might have told her then that the ‘Porcupine’ was in the harbour
at Aden, but I felt that things would work out to due ends without my
help--which, indeed, they began to do immediately. As we stood there
in silence, I reading over and over again the line upon the pedestal, I
heard footsteps behind, and, turning, I saw a man approaching us, who,
from his manner, though he was dressed in civilian’s clothes, I guessed
to be an officer of the navy. He was of more than middle height, had
black hair, dark blue eyes, straight, strongly-marked brows, and was
clean-shaven. He was a little ascetic-looking, and rather interesting
and uncommon, and yet he was unmistakably a sea-going man. It was a face
that one would turn to look at again and again--a singular personality.
And yet my first glance told me that he was not one who had seen much
happiness. Perhaps that was not unattractive in itself, since people who
are very happy, and show it, are often most selfish too, and repel where
they should attract. He was now standing near the grave, and his eyes
were turned from one to the other of us, at last resting on Justine.

Presently I saw a look of recognition. He stepped quickly forward.
“Mademoiselle, will you pardon me?” he said very gently, “but you remind
me of one whose grave I came to see.” His hand made a slight motion
toward Hector Caron’s resting-place. Her eyes were on him with an
inquiring earnestness. “Oh, monsieur, is it possible that you are my
brother’s friend and rescuer?”

“I am Roscoe. He was my good friend,” he said to her, and he held out
his hand. She took it, and kissed it impulsively. He flushed, and drew
it back quickly and shyly.

“Some day I shall be able to repay you for all your goodness,” she said.
“I am only grateful now--grateful altogether. And you will tell me all
you knew of him--all that he said and did before he died?”

“I will gladly tell you all I know,” he answered, and he looked at her
compassionately, and yet with a little scrutiny, as though to know more
of her and how she came to be in Aden. He turned to me inquiringly.

I interpreted his thought by saying: “I am the surgeon of the ‘Fulvia’.
I chanced upon Miss Caron here. She is travelling by the ‘Fulvia’.”

With a faint voice, Justine here said: “Travelling--with my mistress.”

“As companion to a lady,” I preferred to add in explanation, for I
wished not to see her humble herself so. A look of understanding came
into Roscoe’s face. Then he said: “I am glad that I shall see more of
you; I am to travel by the ‘Fulvia’ also to London.”

“Yet I am afraid I shall see very little of you,” she quietly replied.

He was about to say something to her, but she suddenly swayed and would
have fallen, but that he caught her and supported her. The weakness
lasted only for a moment, and then, steadying herself, she said to both
of us: “I hope you will say nothing of this to madame? She is kind, most
kind, but she hates illness--and such things.”

Galt Roscoe looked at me to reply, his face showing clearly that he
thought “madame” an extraordinary woman. I assured Justine that we would
say nothing. Then Roscoe cordially parted from us, saying that he would
look forward to seeing us both on the ship; but before he finally went,
he put on the grave a small bouquet from his buttonhole. Then I excused
myself from Justine, and, going over to Miss Treherne, explained to
her the circumstances, and asked her if she would go and speak to the
afflicted girl. She and Mrs. Callendar had been watching the incident,
and they eagerly listened to me. I think this was the moment that
I first stood really well with Belle Treherne. Her sympathy for the
bereaved girl flooded many barriers between herself and me.

“Oh,” she said quickly, “indeed I will go to her, poor girl! Will you
come also, Mrs. Callendar?”

But Mrs. Callendar timidly said she would rather Miss Treherne went
without her; and so it was. While Miss Treherne was comforting the
bereaved girl, I talked to Mrs. Callendar. I fear that Mrs. Callendar
was but a shallow woman; for, after a moment of excitable interest in
Justine, she rather naively turned the talk upon the charms of Europe.
And, I fear, not without some slight cynicism, I followed her where she
led; for, as I said to myself, it did not matter what direction our idle
tongues took, so long as I kept my mind upon the two beside that grave:
but it gave my speech a spice of malice. I dwelt upon Mrs. Callendar’s
return to her native heath--that is, the pavements of Bond Street and
Piccadilly, although I knew that she was a native of Tasmania. At this
she smiled egregiously.

At length Miss Treherne came to us and said that Justine insisted she
was well enough to go back to the vessel alone, and wished not to be
accompanied. So we left her there.

A score of times I have stopped when preparing my notes for this tale
from my diary and those of Mrs. Falchion and Galt Roscoe, to think how,
all through the events recorded here, and many others omitted, Justine
Caron was like those devoted and, often, beautiful attendants of the
heroes and heroines of tragedy, who, when all is over, close the eyes,
compose the bodies, and cover the faces of the dead, pronouncing with
just lips the benediction, fittest in their mouths. Their loves, their
deeds, their lives, however good and worthy, were clothed in modesty and
kept far up the stage, to be, even when everything was over, not always
given the privilege to die as did their masters, but, like Horatio, bade
to live and be still the loyal servant:

     “But in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
        To tell my story.”

There was no reason why we should go to the ship immediately, and I
proposed that we should first explore the port-town, and then visit the
city of Aden--five miles away beyond the hills--and the Tanks. To this
the ladies consented.

Somauli policemen patrolled the streets; Somauli, Arab, and Turkish
guides impeded the way; Arabs in plain white, Arab sheikhs in blue and
white, and gold, lounged languidly about, or drank their coffee in the
shade of the bazaars. Children of the desert, nearly naked, sprinkled
water before the doors of the bazaars and stores and upon the hot
thoroughfare, from long leather bottles; caravans of camels, with dusty
stride, swung up the hillside and beyond into the desert; the Jewish
water-carrier with his donkey trudged down the pass from the cool
fountains in the volcanic hills; a guard of eunuchs marched by with the
harem of a Mohammedan; in the doorways of the houses goats and donkeys
fed. Jews, with greasy faces, red-hemmed skirt, and hungry look, moved
about, offering ostrich feathers for sale, everywhere treated worse than
the Chinaman in Oregon or at Port Darwin. We saw English and Australian
passengers of the ‘Fulvia’ pelting the miserable members of a despised
race with green fruit about the streets, and afterwards from the deck of
the ship. A number of these raised their hats to us as they passed; but
Belle Treherne’s acknowledgment was chilly.

“It is hard to be polite to cowards,” she said.

After having made some ruinous bargains in fezes, Turkish cloths and
perfume, I engaged a trap, and we started for Aden. The journey was not
one of beauty, but it had singular interest. Every turn of the wheels
carried us farther and farther away from a familiar world to one of
yesterday. White-robed warriors of the desert, with lances, bent their
brows upon us as they rode away towards the endless sands, and vagabonds
of Egypt begged for alms. In about three-quarters of an hour we had
passed the lofty barriers of Jebel Shamsan and its comrades, and
were making clouds of dust in the streets of Aden. In spite of the
cantonments, the British Government House, and the European Church,
it was an Oriental town pure and simple, where the slow-footed hours
wandered by, leaving apathy in their train; where sloth and surfeit sat
in the market-places; idle women gossiped in their doorways; and naked
children rolled in the sun. Yet how, in the most unfamiliar places, does
one wake suddenly to hear or see some most familiar thing, and learn
again that the ways of all people and nations are not, after all, so far
apart! Here three naked youths, with trays upon their heads, cried aloud
at each doorway what, interpreted, was: “Pies! Hot pies! Pies all hot!”
 or, “Crum-pet! Crumpet! Won’t you buy-uy a crum-pet!”

One sees the same thing in Kandy, in Calcutta, in Tokio, in Istamboul,
in Teheran, in Queensland, in London.

To us the great Tanks overlooking the place were more interesting than
the town itself, and we drove thither. At Government House and here were
the only bits of green that we had seen; they were, in fact, the only
spots of verdure on the peninsula of Aden. It was a very sickly green,
from which wan and dusty fig trees rose. In their scant shadow, or in
the shelter of an overhanging ledge of rock, Arabs offered us draughts
of cool water, and oranges. There were people in the sickly gardens, and
others were inspecting the Tanks. Passengers from the ship had brought
luncheon-baskets to this sad oasis.

As we stood at the edge of one of the Tanks, Miss Treherne remarked with
astonishment that they were empty. I explained to her that Aden did not
have the benefits conferred even on the land of the seven fat and seven
lean kine--that there had not been rain there for years, and that when
it did come it was neither prolonged nor plentiful. Then came questions
as to how long ago the Tanks were built.

“Thirteen hundred years!” she exclaimed. “How strange to feel it so! It
is like looking at old graves. And how high the walls are, closing up
the gorge between the hills.”

At that moment Mrs. Callendar drew our attention to Mrs. Falchion and a
party from the ship. Mrs. Falchion was but a few paces from us, smiling
agreeably as she acknowledged our greetings. Presently two of her party
came to us and asked us to share their lunch. I would have objected,
and I am certain Belle Treherne would gladly have done so, but Mrs.
Callendar was anxious to accept, therefore we expressed our gratitude
and joined the group. On second thoughts I was glad that we did so,
because, otherwise, my party must have been without refreshments
until they returned to the ship--the restaurants at Aden are not to be
trusted. To me Mrs. Falchion was pleasantly impersonal, to Miss Treherne
delicately and actively personal. At the time I had a kind of fear of
her interest in the girl, but I know now that it was quite sincere,
though it began with a motive not very lofty--to make Belle Treherne her
friend, and so annoy me, and also to study, as would an anatomist, the
girl’s life.

We all moved into the illusive shade of the fig and magnolia trees, and
lunch was soon spread. As we ate, conversation turned upon the annoying
persistency of Eastern guides, and reference was made to the exciting
circumstances attending the engagement of Amshar, the guide of Mrs.
Falchion’s party. Among a score of claimants, Amshar had had one
particular opponent--a personal enemy--who would not desist even when
the choice had been made. He, indeed, had been the first to solicit the
party, and was rejected because of his disagreeable looks. He had even
followed the trap from the Port of Aden. As one of the gentlemen was
remarking on the muttered anger of the disappointed Arab, Mrs. Falchion.
said: “There he is now at the gate of the garden.”

His look was sullenly turned upon our party. Blackburn, the Queenslander
said, “Amshar, the other fellow is following up the game,” and pointed
to the gate.

Amshar understood the gesture at least, and though he gave a toss of the
head, I noticed that his hand trembled as he handed me a cup of water,
and that he kept his eyes turned on his opponent.

“One always feels unsafe with these cut-throat races,” said Colonel
Ryder, “as some of us know, who have had to deal with the nigger of
South America. They think no more of killing a man--”

“Than an Australian squatter does of dispersing a mob of aboriginals or
kangaroos,” said Clovelly.

Here Mrs. Callendar spoke up briskly. “I don’t know what you mean by
‘dispersing.’”

“You know what a kangaroo battue is, don’t you?”

“But that is killing, slaughtering kangaroos by the hundred.”

“Well, and that is aboriginal dispersion,” said the novelist. “That is
the aristocratic method of legislating the native out of existence.”

Blackburn here vigorously protested. “Yes, it’s very like a novelist,
on the hunt for picturesque events, to spend his forensic soul upon ‘the
poor native,’--upon the dirty nigger, I choose to call him: the
meanest, cruellest, most cowardly, and murderous--by Jove, what a lot of
adjectives!--of native races. But we fellows, who have lost some of
the best friends we ever had--chums with whom we’ve shared blanket and
tucker--by the crack of a nulla-nulla in the dark, or a spear from the
scrub, can’t find a place for Exeter Hall and its ‘poor native’ in our
hard hearts. We stand in such a case for justice. It is a new country.
Not once in fifty times would law reach them. Reprisal and dispersion
were the only things possible to men whose friends had been massacred,
and--well, they punished tribes for the acts of individuals.”

Mrs. Falchion here interposed. “That is just what England does. A
British trader is killed. She sweeps a native town out of existence with
Hotchkiss guns--leaves it naked and dead. That is dispersion too; I have
seen it, and I know how far niggers as a race can be trusted, and how
much they deserve sympathy. I agree with Mr. Blackburn.”

Blackburn raised his glass. “Mrs. Falchion,” he said, “I need no further
evidence to prove my case. Experience is the best teacher.”

“As I wish to join the chorus to so notable a compliment, will somebody
pass the claret?” said Colonel Ryder, shaking the crumbs of a pate
from his coat-collar. When his glass was filled, he turned towards Mrs.
Falchion, and continued: “I drink to the health of the best teacher.”
 And every one laughingly responded. This impromptu toast would have been
drunk with more warmth, if we could have foreseen an immediate event.
Not less peculiar were Mrs. Falchion’s words to Hungerford the evening
before, recorded in the last sentence of the preceding chapter.

Cigars were passed, and the men rose and strolled away. We wandered
outside the gardens, passing the rejected guide as we did so. “I don’t
like the look in his eye,” said Clovelly.

Colonel Ryder laughed. “You’ve always got a fine vision for the
dramatic.”

We passed on. I suppose about twenty minutes had gone when, as we were
entering the garden again, we heard loud cries. Hurrying forward towards
the Tanks, we saw a strange sight.

There, on a narrow wall dividing two great tanks, were three
people--Mrs. Falchion, Amshar, and the rejected Arab guide. Amshar was
crouching behind Mrs. Falchion, and clinging to her skirts in abject
fear. The Arab threatened with a knife. He could not get at Amshar
without thrusting Mrs. Falchion aside, and, as I said, the wall was
narrow. He was bent like a tiger about to spring.

Seeing Mrs. Falchion and Amshar apart from the others,--Mrs. Falchion
having insisted on crossing this narrow and precipitous wall,--he had
suddenly rushed after them. As he did so, Miss Treherne saw him, and
cried out. Mrs. Falchion faced round swiftly, and then came this tragic
situation.

Some one must die.

Seeing that Mrs. Falchion made no effort to dislodge Amshar from her
skirts, the Arab presently leaped forward. Mrs. Falchion’s arms went out
suddenly, and she caught the wrist that held the dagger. Then there
was an instant’s struggle. It was Mrs. Falchion’s life now, as well as
Amshar’s. They swayed. They hung on the edge of the rocky chasm. Then
we lost the gleam of the knife, and the Arab shivered, and toppled over.
Mrs. Falchion would have gone with him, but Amshar caught her about
the waist, and saved her from the fall which would have killed her as
certainly as it killed the Arab lying at the bottom of the tank. She had
managed to turn the knife in the Arab’s hand against his own breast, and
then suddenly pressed her body against it; but the impulse of the act
came near carrying her over also.

Amshar was kneeling at her feet, and kissing her gown gratefully. She
pushed him away with her foot, and, coolly turning aside, began to
arrange her hair. As I approached her, she glanced down at the Arab.
“Horrible! horrible!” she said. I remembered that these were her words
when her husband was lifted from the sea to the ‘Fulvia’.

Not ungently, she refused my hand or any assistance, and came down among
the rest of the party. I could not but feel a strange wonder at the
powerful side of her character just shown--her courage, her cool daring.
In her face now there was a look of annoyance, and possibly disgust, as
well as of triumph--so natural in cases of physical prowess. Everybody
offered congratulations, but she only showed real pleasure, and that
mutely, at those of Miss Treherne. To the rest of us she said: “One had
to save one’s self, and Amshar was a coward.”

And so this woman, whose hardness of heart and excessive cruelty
Hungerford and I were keeping from the world, was now made into a
heroine, around whom a halo of romance would settle whenever her name
should be mentioned. Now, men, eligible and ineligible, would increase
their homage. It seemed as if the stars had stopped in their courses to
give her special fortune.

That morning I had thought her appearance at this luncheon-party was
little less than scandalous, for she knew, if others did not, who Boyd
Madras was. After the occurrence with the Arab, the other event was
certainly much less prominent, and here, after many years, I can see
that the act was less in her than it would have been in others. For,
behind her outward hardness, there was a sort of justice working, an
iron thing, but still not unnatural in her.

Belle Treherne awakened also to a new perception of her character, and
a kind of awe possessed her, so masculine seemed her courage, yet
so womanly and feminine her manner. Mrs. Callendar was loud in her
exclamations of delight and wonder at Mrs. Falchion’s coolness; and the
bookmaker, with his usual impetuosity, offered to take bets at four to
one that we should all be detained to give evidence in the matter.

Clovelly was silent. He occasionally adjusted his glasses, and looked at
Mrs. Falchion as if he had suddenly come to a full stop in his opinions
regarding her. This, I think, was noticed by her, and enjoyed too, for
she doubtless remembered her conversation with me, in which she had said
that Clovelly thought he understood her perfectly. Colonel Ryder, who
was loyal at all times, said she had the nerve of a woman from Kentucky.
Moreover, he had presence of mind, for he had immediately sent off a
native to inform the authorities of what had occurred; so that before
we had got half-way to the town we were met by policemen running towards
us, followed by a small detachment of Indian soldiers. The officer in
command of the detachment stopped us, and said that the governor would
be glad if we would come to Government House for an hour, while an
inquiry was being held.

To this we cheerfully consented, of course; and, in a room where punkahs
waved and cool claret-cup awaited us, we were received by the governor,
who was full of admiration of Mrs. Falchion. It was plain, however, that
he was surprised at her present equanimity. Had she no nerves at all?

“I can only regret exceedingly,” said the governor, “that your visit to
Aden has had such a tragical interruption; but since it has occurred,
I am glad to have the privilege of meeting a lady so brave as Mrs.
Falchion.”--The bookmaker had introduced us all with a naivete that, I
am sure, amused the governor, as it certainly did his aide-de-camp. “We
should not need to fear the natives if we had soldiers as fearless,” his
excellency continued.

At this point the inquiry began, and, after it was over, the governor
said that there the matter ended so far as we were concerned, and then
he remarked gallantly that the Government of Aden would always remain
Mrs. Falchion’s debtor. She replied that it was a debt she would be
glad to preserve unsettled for ever. After this pretty exchange of
compliments, the governor smiled, and offered her his arm to the door,
where our ‘char a bans’ awaited us.

So impressed was the bookmaker with the hospitable reception the
governor had given us, that he offered him his cigar-case with its
contents, said he hoped they would meet again, and asked his excellency
if he thought of coming to Australia. The governor declined the cigars
graciously, ignored the hoped-for pleasure of another meeting, and
trusted that it might fall to his lot to visit Australia some day.
Thereupon the bookmaker insisted on the aide-de-camp accepting the
cigar-case, and gave him his visiting-card. The aide-de-camp lost
nothing by his good-humoured acceptance, if he smoked, because, as I
knew, the cigars were very good indeed. Bookmakers, gamblers and Jews
are good judges of tobacco. And the governor’s party lost nothing in
dignity because, as the traps wheeled away, they gave a polite little
cheer for Mrs. Falchion. I, at first, was fearful how Belle Treherne
would regard the gaucheries of the bookmaker, but I saw that he was
rather an object of interest to her than otherwise; for he was certainly
amusing.

As we drove through Aden, a Somauli lad ran from the door of a house,
and handed up a letter to the driver of my trap. It bore my name, and
was handed over to me. I recognised the handwriting. It was that of Boyd
Madras. He had come ashore by Hungerford’s aid in the night. The letter
simply gave an address in England that would always find him, and stated
that he intended to take another name.



CHAPTER IX. “THE PROGRESS OF THE SUNS”

News of the event had preceded us to the ‘Fulvia’, and, as we scrambled
out on the ship’s stairs, cheers greeted us. Glancing up, I saw
Hungerford, among others, leaning over the side, and looking at Mrs.
Falchion in a curious cogitating fashion, not unusual to him. The look
was non-committal, yet earnest. If it was not approval, it was not
condemnation; but it might have been slightly ironical, and that annoyed
me. It seemed impossible for him--and it was so always, I believe--to
get out of his mind the thought of the man he had rescued on No Man’s
Sea. I am sure it jarred upon him that the band foolishly played a
welcome when Mrs. Falchion stepped on the deck. As I delivered Miss
Treherne into the hands of her father, who was anxiously awaiting us,
Hungerford said in my ear: “A tragedy queen, Marmion.” He said it so
distinctly that Mrs. Falchion heard it, and she gave him a searching
look. Their eyes met and warred for a moment, and then he added: “I
remember! Yes, I can respect the bravery of a woman whom I do not like.”

“And this is to-morrow,” she said, “and a man may change his mind, and
that may be fate--or a woman’s whim.” She bowed, turned away, and went
below, evidently disliking the reception she had had, and anxious to
escape inquiries and congratulations. Nor did she appear again until the
‘Fulvia’ got under way about six o’clock in the evening. As we moved out
of the harbour we passed close to the ‘Porcupine’ and saw its officers
grouped on the deck, waving adieus to some one on our deck, whom I
guessed, of course, to be Galt Roscoe.

At this time Mrs. Falchion was standing near me. “For whom is that
demonstration?” she said.

“For one of her officers, who is a passenger by the ‘Fulvia’,” I
replied. “You remember we passed the ‘Porcupine’ in the Indian Ocean?”

“Yes, I know that very well,” she said, with a shade of meaning.
“But”--here I thought her voice had a touch of breathlessness--“but who
is the officer? I mean, what is his name?”

“He stands in the group near the door of the captain’s cabin, there. His
name is Galt Roscoe, I think.”

A slight exclamation escaped her. There was a chilly smile on her lips,
and her eyes sought the group until it rested on Galt Roscoe. In a
moment she said “You have met him?”

“In the cemetery this morning, for the first time.”

“Everybody seems to have had business this morning at the cemetery.
Justine Caron spent hours there. To me it is so foolish, heaping up a
mound, and erecting a tombstone over--what?--a dead thing, which, if one
could see it, would be dreadful.”

“You would prefer complete absorption--as of the ocean?” I brutally
retorted.

She appeared not to notice the innuendo. “Yes, what is gone is gone.
Graves are idolatry. Gravestones are ghostly. It is people without
imagination who need these things, together with crape and black-edged
paper. It is all barbaric ritual. I know you think I am callous, but I
cannot help that. For myself, I wish the earth close about me, and level
green grass above me, and no one knowing of the place; or else, fire or
the sea.”

“Mrs. Falchion,” said I, “between us there need be no delicate words.
You appear to have neither imagination, nor idolatry, nor remembrances,
nor common womanly kindness.”

“Indeed!” she said. “Yet you might know me better.” Here she touched
my arm with the tips of her fingers, and, in spite of myself, I felt
my pulse beat faster. It seemed to me that in her presence, even now, I
could not quite trust myself. “Indeed!” she repeated. “And who made
you omniscient, Dr. Marmion? You hardly do yourself justice. You hold
a secret. You insist on reminding me of the fact. Is that in perfect
gallantry? Do you know me altogether, from your knowledge of that
one thing? You are vain. Or does the secret wear on you, and--Mr.
Hungerford? Was it necessary to seek HIS help in keeping it?”

I told her then the true history of Hungerford’s connection with Boyd
Madras, and also begged her pardon for showing just now my knowledge of
her secret. At this she said, “I suppose I should be grateful,” and was
there a slightly softer cadence to her voice?

“No, you need not be grateful,” I said. “We are silent, first, because
he wished it; then because you are a woman.”

“You define your reasons with astonishing care and taste,” she replied.

“Oh, as to taste!--” said I; but then I bit my tongue.

At that she said, her lips very firm and pale, “I could not pretend to
a grief I did not feel. I acted no lie. He died as we had
lived--estranged. I put up no memorials.”

But I, thinking of my mother lying in her grave, a woman after God’s own
heart, who loved me more than I deserved, repeated almost unconsciously
these lines (clipped from a magazine):

       “Sacred the ring, the faded glove,
        Once worn by one we used to love;
        Dead warriors in their armour live,
        And in their relics saints survive.

       “Oh, Mother Earth, henceforth defend
        All thou hast garnered of my friend,
        From winter’s wind and driving sleet,
        From summer’s sun and scorching heat.

       “Within thine all-embracing breast
        Is hid one more forsaken nest;
        While, in the sky, with folded wings,
        The bird that left it sits and sings.”

I paused; the occasion seemed so little suited to the sentiment, for
around us was the idle excitement of leaving port. I was annoyed with
myself for my share in the conversation so far. Mrs. Falchion’s eyes
had scarcely left that group around the captain’s door, although she had
appeared acutely interested in what I was saying. Now she said:

“You recite very well. I feel impressed, but I fancy it is more your
voice than those fine sentiments; for, after all, you cannot glorify
the dead body. Look at the mummy of Thothmes at Boulak, and think what
Cleopatra must look like now. And please let us talk about something
else. Let us--” She paused.

I followed the keen, shaded glance of her eyes, and saw, coming from
the group by the captain’s door, Galt Roscoe. He moved in our direction.
Suddenly he paused. His look was fixed upon Mrs. Falchion. A flush
passed over his face, not exactly confusing, but painful, and again
it left him pale, and for a moment he stood motionless. Then he came
forward to us. He bowed to me, then looked hard at her. She held out her
hand.

“Mr. Roscoe, I think?” she said. “An old friend,” she added, turning to
me. He gravely took her extended hand and said:

“I did not think to see you here, Miss--”

“MRS. Falchion,” she interrupted clearly.

“MRS. Falchion!” he said, with surprise. “It is so many years since we
had met, and--”

“And it is so easy to forget things? But it isn’t so many, really--only
seven, the cycle for constitutional renewal. Dear me, how erudite that
sounds!... So, I suppose, we meet the same, yet not the same.”

“The same, yet not the same,” he repeated after her, with an attempt at
lightness, yet abstractedly.

“I think you gentlemen know each other?” she said.

“Yes; we met in the cemetery this morning. I was visiting the grave of a
young French officer.”

“I know,” she said--“Justine Caron’s brother. She has told me; but she
did not tell me your name.”

“She has told you?” he said.

“Yes. She is--my companion.” I saw that she did not use the word that
first came to her.

“How strangely things occur! And yet,” he added musingly, “I suppose,
after all, coincidence is not so strange in these days of much travel,
particularly with people whose lives are connected--more or less.”

“Whose lives are connected--more or less,” she repeated after him, in a
steely tone.

It seemed to me that I had received my cue to leave. I bowed myself
away, and went about my duties. As we steamed bravely through the
Straits of Babelmandeb, with Perim on our left, rising lovely through
the milky haze, I came on deck again, and they were still near where I
had left them an hour before. I passed, glancing at them as I did so.
They did not look towards me. His eyes were turned to the shore, and
hers were fixed on him. I saw an expression on her lips that gave
her face new character. She was speaking, as I thought, clearly and
mercilessly. I could not help hearing her words as I passed them.

“You are going to be that--you!” There was a ring of irony in her
tone. I heard nothing more in words, but I saw him turn to her somewhat
sharply, and I caught the deep notes of his voice as he answered her.
When, a moment after, I looked back, she had gone below.

Galt Roscoe had a seat at Captain Ascott’s table, and I did not see
anything of him at meal-times, but elsewhere I soon saw him a great
deal. He appeared to seek my company. I was glad of this, for I found
that he was an agreeable man, and had distinct originality of ideas,
besides being possessed of very considerable culture. He also had that
social aplomb so much a characteristic of the naval officer. Yet, man of
the world as he was, he had a strain of asceticism which puzzled me. It
did not make him eccentric, but it was not a thing usual with the naval
man. Again, he wished to be known simply as Mr. Roscoe, not as Captain
Roscoe, which was his rank. He said nothing about having retired, yet
I guessed he had done so. One evening, however, soon after we had left
Aden, we were sitting in my cabin, and the conversation turned upon a
recent novel dealing with the defection of a clergyman of the Church of
England through agnosticism. The keenness with which he threw himself
into the discussion and the knowledge he showed, surprised me. I knew
(as most medical students get to know, until they know better) some
scientific objections to Christianity, and I put them forward. He
clearly and powerfully met them. I said at last, laughingly: “Why, you
ought to take holy orders.”

“That is what I am going to do,” he said very seriously, “when I get to
England. I am resigning the navy.” At that instant there flashed through
my mind Mrs. Falchion’s words: “You are going to be that--you!”

Then he explained to me that he had been studying for two years, and
expected to go up for deacon’s orders soon after his return to England.
I cannot say that I was greatly surprised, for I had known a few, and
had heard of many, men who had exchanged the navy for the Church. It
struck me, however, that Galt Roscoe appeared to view the matter from
a stand-point not professional; the more so, that he expressed his
determination to go to the newest part of a new country, to do the
pioneer work of the Church. I asked him where he was going, and he said
to the Rocky Mountains of Canada. I told him that my destination was
Canada also. He warmly expressed the hope that we should see something
of each other there. This friendship of ours may seem to have been
hastily hatched, but it must be remembered that the sea is a great
breeder of friendship. Two men who have known each other for twenty
years find that twenty days at sea bring them nearer than ever they were
before, or else estrange them.

It was on this evening that, in a lull of the conversation, I casually
asked him when he had known Mrs. Falchion. His face was inscrutable, but
he said somewhat hurriedly, “In the South Sea Islands,” and then changed
the subject. So, there was some mystery again? Was this woman never to
be dissociated from enigma? In those days I never could think of her
save in connection with some fatal incident in which she was scathless,
and some one else suffered.

It may have been fancy, but I thought that, during the first day or
two after leaving Aden, Galt Roscoe and Mrs. Falchion were very little
together. Then the impression grew that this was his doing, and again
that she waited with confident patience for the time when he would seek
her--because he could not help himself. Often when other men were paying
her devoted court I caught her eyes turned in his direction, and I
thought I read in her smile a consciousness of power. And it so was.
Very soon he was at her side. But I also noticed that he began to look
worn, that his conversation with me lagged. I think that at this time
I was so much occupied with tracing personal appearances to personal
influences that I lost to some degree the physician’s practical
keenness. My eyes were to be opened. He appeared to be suffering, and
she seemed to unbend to him more than she ever unbent to me, or any one
else on board. Hungerford, seeing this, said to me one day in his blunt
way: “Marmion, old Ulysses knew what he was about when he tied himself
to the mast.”

But the routine of the ship went on as before. Fortunately, Mrs.
Falchion’s heroism at Aden had taken the place of the sensation
attending Boyd Madras’s suicide. Those who tired of thinking of both
became mildly interested in Red Sea history. Chief among these was the
bookmaker. As an historian the bookmaker was original. He cavalierly
waved aside all such confusing things as dates: made Moses and Mahomet
contemporaneous, incidentally referred to King Solomon’s visits
to Cleopatra, and with sad irreverence spoke of the Exodus and the
destruction of Pharaoh’s horses and chariots as “the big handicap.”
 He did not mean to be irreverent or unhistorical. He merely wished
to enlighten Mrs. Callendar, who said he was very original, and quite
clever at history. His really startling points, however, were his
remarks upon the colours of the mountains of Egypt and the sunset tints
to be seen on the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. To him the grey, and
pink, and melancholy gold only brought up visions of a race at Epsom or
Flemington--generally Flemington, where the staring Australian sun
pours down on an emerald course, on a score of horses straining upon
the start, the colours of the jockeys’ coats and caps changing in the
struggle like a kaleidoscope, and making strange harmonies of colour.
The comparison between the mountains of Egypt and a race-course might
seem most absurd, if one did not remember that the bookmaker had his own
standards, and that he thought he was paying unusual honour to the
land of the Fellah. Clovelly plaintively said, as he drank his hock
and seltzer, that the bookmaker was hourly saving his life; and Colonel
Ryder admitted at last that Kentucky never produced anything quite like
him.

The evening before we came to the Suez Canal I was walking with Miss
Treherne and her father. I had seen Galt Roscoe in conversation with
Mrs. Falchion. Presently I saw him rise to go away. A moment after,
in passing, I was near her. She sprang up, caught my arm, and pointed
anxiously. I looked, and saw Galt Roscoe swaying as he walked.

“He is ill--ill,” she said.

I ran forward and caught him as he was falling. Ill?

Of course he was ill. What a fool I had been! Five minutes with him
assured me that he had fever. I had set his haggard appearance down
to some mental trouble--and I was going to be a professor in a medical
college!

Yet I know now that a troubled mind hastened the fever.



CHAPTER X. BETWEEN DAY AND DARK

From the beginning Galt Roscoe’s fever was violent. It had been hanging
about him for a long time, and was the result of malarial poisoning.
I devoutly wished that we were in the Mediterranean instead of the Red
Sea, where the heat was so great; but fortunately we should soon be
there. There was no other case of sickness on board, and I could devote
plenty of time to him. Offers of assistance in nursing were numerous,
but I only encouraged those of the bookmaker, strange as this may seem;
yet he was as gentle and considerate as a woman in the sick-room. This
was on the first evening of his attack. After that I had reasons for
dispensing with his generous services. The night after Roscoe was taken
ill we were passing through the canal, the search-light of the ‘Fulvia’
sweeping the path ahead of it and glorifying everything it touched. Mud
barges were fairy palaces; Arab punts beautiful gondolas; the ragged
Egyptians on the banks became picturesque; and the desolate country
behind them had a wide vestibule of splendour. I stood for half an hour
watching this scene, then I went below to Roscoe’s cabin and relieved
the bookmaker. The sick man was sleeping from the effects of a sedative
draught. The bookmaker had scarcely gone when I heard a step behind me,
and I turned and saw Justine Caron standing timidly at the door, her
eyes upon the sleeper. She spoke quietly. “Is he very ill?”

I answered that he was, but also that for some days I could not tell how
dangerous his illness might be. She went to the berth where he lay, the
reflected light from without playing weirdly on his face, and smoothed
the pillow gently.

“If you are willing, I will watch for a time,” she said. “Everybody is
on deck. Madame said she would not need me for a couple of hours. I will
send a steward for you if he wakes; you need rest yourself.”

That I needed rest was quite true, for I had been up all the night
before; still I hesitated. She saw my hesitation, and added:

“It is not much that I can do, still I should like to do it. I can at
least watch.” Then, very earnestly: “He watched beside Hector.”

I left her with him, her fingers moving the small bag of ice about his
forehead to allay the fever and her eyes patiently regarding him. I went
on deck again. I met Miss Treherne and her father. They both inquired
for the sick man, and I told Belle--for she seemed much interested--the
nature of such malarial fevers, the acute forms they sometimes take, and
the kind of treatment required. She asked several questions, showing
a keen understanding of my explanations, and then, after a moment’s
silence, said meditatively: “I think I like men better when they are
doing responsible work; it is difficult to be idle--and important too.”

I saw very well that, with her, I should have to contend for a long time
against those first few weeks of dalliance on the ‘Fulvia’.

Clovelly joined us, and for the first time--if I had not been so
egotistical it had appeared to me before--I guessed that his somewhat
professional interest in Belle Treherne had developed into a very
personal thing. And with that thought came also the conception of what
a powerful antagonist he would be. For it improves some men to wear
glasses; and Clovelly had a delightful, wheedling tongue. It was
allusive, contradictory (a thing pleasing to women), respectful yet
playful, bold yet reverential. Many a time I have longed for Clovelly’s
tongue. Unfortunately for me, I learned some of his methods without
his art; and of this I am occasionally reminded at this day. A man like
Clovelly is dangerous as a rival when he is not in earnest; when he IS
in earnest, it becomes a lonely time for the other man--unless the girl
is perverse.

I left the two together, and moved about the deck, trying to think
closely about Roscoe’s case, and to drive Clovelly’s invasion from my
mind. I succeeded, and was only roused by Mrs. Falchion’s voice beside
me.

“Does he suffer much?” she murmured.

When answered, she asked nervously how he looked--it was impossible that
she should consider misery without shrinking. I told her that he was
only flushed and haggard as yet and that he was little wasted. A thought
flashed to her face. She was about to speak, but paused. After a moment,
however, she remarked evenly: “He is likely to be delirious?”

“It is probable,” I replied.

Her eyes were fixed on the search-light. The look in them was
inscrutable. She continued quietly: “I will go and see him, if you will
let me. Justine will go with me.”

“Not now,” I replied. “He is sleeping. To-morrow, if you will.”

I did not think it necessary to tell her that Justine was at that moment
watching beside him. We walked the deck together in silence.

“I wonder,” she said, “that you care to walk with me. Please do not make
the matter a burden.”

She did not say this with any invitation to courteous protest on my
part, but rather with a cold frankness--for which, I confess, I always
admired her. I said now: “Mrs. Falchion, you have suggested what might
easily be possible in the circumstances, but I candidly admit that I
have never yet found your presence disagreeable; and I suppose that is a
comment upon my weakness. Though, to speak again with absolute truth, I
think I do not like you at this present.”

“Yes, I fancy I can understand that,” she said. “I can understand how,
for instance, one might feel a just and great resentment, and have in
one’s hand the instrument of punishment, and yet withhold one’s hand and
protect where one should injure.”

At this moment these words had no particular significance to me, but
there chanced a time when they came home with great force. I think,
indeed, that she was speaking more to herself than to me. Suddenly she
turned to me.

“I wonder,” she said, “if I am as cruel as you think me--for, indeed, I
do not know. But I have been through many things.”

Here her eyes grew cold and hard. The words that followed seemed in
no sequence. “Yet,” she said, “I will go and see him to-morrow....
Good-night.” After about an hour I went below to Galt Roscoe’s cabin.
I drew aside the curtain quietly. Justine Caron evidently had not heard
me. She was sitting beside the sick man, her fingers still smoothing
away the pillow from his fevered face and her eyes fixed on him. I spoke
to her. She rose. “He has slept well,” she said. And she moved to the
door.

“Miss Caron,” I said, “if Mrs. Falchion is willing, you could help me to
nurse Mr. Roscoe?”

A light sprang to her eyes. “Indeed, yes,” she said.

“I will speak to her about it, if you will let me?” She bowed her head,
and her look was eloquent of thanks. After a word of good-night we
parted.

I knew that nothing better could occur to my patient than that Justine
Caron should help to nurse him. This would do far more for him than
medicine--the tender care of a woman--than many pharmacopoeias.

Hungerford had insisted on relieving me for a couple of hours at
midnight. He said it would be a good preparation for going on the bridge
at three o’clock in the morning. About half-past two he came to my cabin
and waked me, saying: “He is worse--delirious; you had better come.”

He was indeed delirious. Hungerford laid his hand on my shoulder.
“Marmion,” he said, “that woman is in it. Like the devil, she is
ubiquitous. Mr. Roscoe’s past is mixed up with hers somehow. I don’t
suppose men talk absolute history in delirium, but there is no reason,
I fancy, why they shouldn’t paraphrase. I should reduce the number of
nurses to a minimum if I were you.”

A determined fierceness possessed me at the moment. I said to him: “She
shall nurse him, Hungerford--she, and Justine Caron, and myself.”

“Plus Dick Hungerford,” he added. “I don’t know quite how you intend to
work this thing, but you have the case in your hands, and what you’ve
told me about the French girl shows that she is to be trusted. But as
for myself, Marmion M.D., I’m sick--sick--sick of this woman, and all
her words and works. I believe that she has brought bad luck to this
ship; and it’s my last voyage on it; and--and I begin to think you’re a
damned good fellow--excuse the insolence of it; and--good-night.”

For the rest of the night I listened to Galt Roscoe’s wild words. He
tossed from side to side, and murmured brokenly. Taken separately, and
as they were spoken, his words might not be very significant, but pieced
together, arranged, and interpreted through even scant knowledge of
circumstances, they were sufficient to give me a key to difficulties
which, afterwards, were to cause much distress. I arrange some of
the sentences here to show how startling were the fancies--or
remembrances--that vexed him.

“But I was coming back--I was coming back--I tell you I should have
stayed with her for ever.... See how she trembles!--Now her breath
is gone--There is no pulse--Her heart is still--My God, her heart
is still!--Hush! cover her face.... Row hard, you devils!--A hundred
dollars if you make the point in time.... Whereaway?--Whereaway?--Steady
now!--Let them have it across the bows!--Low! low!--fire low!... She is
dead--she is dead!”

These things he would say over and over again breathlessly, then he
would rest a while, and the trouble would begin again. “It was not I
that did it--no, it was not I. She did it herself!--She plunged it in,
deep, deep, deep! You made me a devil!... Hush! I WILL tell!--I know
you--yet--Mercy--Mercy--Falchion--”

Yes, it was best that few should enter his cabin. The ravings of a sick
man are not always counted ravings, no more than the words of a well man
are always reckoned sane. At last I got him into a sound sleep, and by
that time I was thoroughly tired out. I called my own steward, and asked
him to watch for a couple of hours while I rested. I threw myself down
and slept soundly for an hour beyond that time, the steward having
hesitated to wake me.

By that time we had passed into the fresher air of the Mediterranean,
and the sea was delightfully smooth. Galt Roscoe still slept, though his
temperature was high.

My conference with Mrs. Falchion after breakfast was brief, but
satisfactory. I told her frankly that Roscoe had been delirious, that he
had mentioned her name, and that I thought it best to reduce the number
of nurses and watchers. I made my proposition about Justine Caron. She
shook her head a little impatiently, and said that Justine had told her,
and that she was quite willing. Then I asked her if she would not also
assist. She answered immediately that she wished to do so. As if to make
me understand why she did it, she added: “If I did not hear the wild
things he says, some one else would; and the difference is that I
understand them, and the some one else would interpret them with the
genius of the writer of a fairy book.”

And so it happened that Mrs. Falchion came to sit many hours a day
beside the sick couch of Galt Roscoe, moistening his lips, cooling his
brow, giving him his medicine. After the first day, when she was,
I thought, alternating between innate disgust of misery and her
womanliness and humanity,--in these days more a reality to me,--she
grew watchful and silently solicitous at every turn of the malady. What
impressed me most was that she was interested and engrossed more, it
seemed, in the malady than in the man himself.

And yet she baffled me even when I had come to this conclusion.

During most of his delirium she remained almost impassive, as if she had
schooled herself to be calm and strong in nerve; but one afternoon she
did a thing that upset all my opinions of her for a moment. Looking
straight at her with staring, unconscious eyes, he half rose in his bed,
and said in a low, bitter tone: “I hate you. I once loved you--but I
hate you now!” Then he laughed scornfully, and fell back on the
pillow. She had been sitting very quietly, musing. His action had been
unexpected, and had broken upon a silence. She rose to her feet quickly,
gave a sharp indrawn breath, and pressed her hand against her side, as
though a sudden pain had seized her. The next moment, however, she was
composed again, and said in explanation that she had been half asleep,
and he had startled her. But I had seen her under what seemed to me more
trying conditions, and she had not shown any nervousness such as this.

The passengers, of course, talked. Many “true histories” of Mrs.
Falchion’s devotion to the sick man were abroad; but it must be said,
however, that all of them were romantically creditable to her. She
had become a rare product even in the eyes of Miss Treherne, and more
particularly her father, since the matter at the Tanks. Justine Caron
was slyly besieged by the curious, but they went away empty; for
Justine, if very simple and single-minded, was yet too much concerned
for both Galt Roscoe and Mrs. Falchion to give the inquiring the
slightest clue. She knew, indeed, little herself, whatever she may have
guessed. As for Hungerford, he was dumb. He refused to consider the
matter. But he roundly maintained once or twice, without any apparent
relevance, that a woman was like a repeating decimal--you could follow
her, but you never could reach her. He usually added to this: “Minus
one, Marmion,” meaning thus to exclude the girl who preferred him to any
one else. When I ventured to suggest that Miss Treherne might also be
excepted, he said, with maddening suggestion: “She lets Mrs. Falchion
fool her, doesn’t she? And she isn’t quite sure the splendour of a
medical professor’s position is superior to that of an author.”

In these moments, although I tried to smile on him, I hated him a
little. I sought to revenge myself on him by telling him to help
himself to a cigar, having first placed the box of Mexicans near him. He
invariably declined them, and said he would take one of the others
from the tea-box--my very best, kept in tea for sake of dryness. If
I reversed the process he reversed his action. His instinct regarding
cigars was supernatural, and I almost believe that he had--like the
Black Dwarf’s cat--the “poo’er” of reading character and interpreting
events--an uncanny divination.

I knew by the time we reached Valetta that Roscoe would get well; but he
recognised none of us until we arrived at Gibraltar. Justine Caron and
myself had been watching beside him. As the bells clanged to “slow
down” on entering the harbour, his eyes opened with a gaze of sanity and
consciousness. He looked at me, then at Justine.

“I have been ill?” he said.

Justine’s eyes were not entirely to be trusted. She turned her head
away.

“Yes, you have been very ill,” I replied, “but you are better.”

He smiled feebly, adding: “At least, I am grateful that I did not die at
sea.” Then he closed his eyes. After a moment he opened them, and said,
looking at Justine: “You have helped to nurse me, have you not?” His
wasted fingers moved over the counterpane towards her.

“I could do so little,” she murmured.

“You have more than paid your debt to me,” he gently replied. “For I
live, you see, and poor Hector died.”

She shook her head gravely, and rejoined: “Ah no, I can never pay the
debt I owe to you and to God--now.” He did not understand this, I know.
But I did. “You must not talk any more,” I said to him.

But Justine interposed. “He must be told that the nurse who has done
most for him is Mrs. Falchion.” His brows contracted as if he were
trying to remember something. He moved his head wearily.

“Yes, I think I remember,” he said, “about her being with me, but
nothing clearly--nothing clearly. She is very kind.”

Justine here murmured: “Shall I tell her?”

I was about to say no; but Roscoe nodded, and said quietly, “Yes, yes.”

Then I made no objection, but urged that the meeting should only be for
a moment. I determined not to leave them alone even for that moment.
I did not know what things connected with their past--whatever it
was--might be brought up, and I knew that entire freedom from excitement
was necessary. I might have spared myself any anxiety on the point. When
she came she was perfectly self-composed, and more as she seemed when
I first knew her, though I will admit that I thought her face more
possible to emotion than in the past.

It seems strange to write of a few weeks before as the past; but so much
had occurred that the days might easily have been months and the weeks
years.

She sat down beside him and held out her hand. And as she did so, I
thought of Boyd Madras and of that long last night of his life, and of
her refusal to say to him one comforting word, or to touch his hand in
forgiveness and friendship. And was this man so much better than Boyd
Madras? His wild words in delirium might mean nothing, but if they meant
anything, and she knew of that anything, she was still a heartless,
unnatural woman, as I had once called her.

Roscoe took her hand and held it briefly. “Dr. Marmion says that you
have helped to nurse me through my illness,” he whispered. “I am most
grateful.”

I thought she replied with the slightest constraint in her voice. “One
could not let an old acquaintance die without making an effort to save
him.”

At that instant I grew scornful, and longed to tell him of her husband.
But then a husband was not an acquaintance. I ventured instead: “I am
sorry, but I must cut short all conversation for the present. When he
is a little better, he will be benefited by your brightest gossip, Mrs.
Falchion.”

She rose smiling, but she did not again take his hand, though I thought
he made a motion to that end. But she looked down at him steadily for
a moment. Beneath her look his face flushed, and his eyes grew hot with
light; then they dropped, and the eyelids closed on them. At that she
said, with an incomprehensible airiness: “Good-night. I am going now to
play the music of ‘La Grande Duchesse’ as a farewell to Gibraltar. They
have a concert on to-night.”

And she was gone.

At the mention of La Grande Duchesse he sighed, and turned his head away
from her. What it all meant I did not know, and she had annoyed me
as much as she had perplexed me; her moods were like the chameleon’s
colours. He lay silent for a long time, then he turned to me and said:
“Do you remember that tale in the Bible about David and the well of
Bethlehem?” I had to confess my ignorance.

“I think I can remember it,” he continued. And though I urged him not to
tax himself, he spoke slowly thus:

   “And David was in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was
   then in Bethlehem.

   “And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me to drink of
   the water of the well of Bethlehem that is at the gate!

   “And the three brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew
   water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took
   and brought it to David; nevertheless, he would not drink thereof,
   but poured it out unto the Lord.

   “And he said, My God forbid it me that I should do this; is not this
   the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?
   Therefore he would not drink it.”

He paused a moment, and then added: “One always buys back the past at a
tremendous price. Resurrections give ghosts only.”

“But you must sleep now,” I urged. And then, because I knew not what
else more fitting, I added: “Sleep, and

        “‘Let the dead past bury its dead.’”

“Yes, I will sleep,” he answered.



BOOK II. THE SLOPE OF THE PACIFIC



CHAPTER XI. AMONG THE HILLS OF GOD

“Your letters, sir,” said my servant, on the last evening of the college
year. Examinations were over at last, and I was wondering where I should
spend my holidays. The choice was very wide; ranging from the Muskoka
lakes to the Yosemite Valley. Because it was my first year in Canada, I
really preferred not to go beyond the Dominion. With these thoughts
in my mind I opened my letters. The first two did not interest me;
tradesmen’s bills seldom do. The third brought a thumping sensation of
pleasure--though it was not from Miss Treherne. I had had one from her
that morning, and this was a pleasure which never came twice in one day,
for Prince’s College, Toronto, was a long week’s journey from London,
S.W. Considering, however, that I did receive letters from her once a
week, it may be concluded that Clovelly did not; and that, if he had, it
would have been by a serious infringement of my rights. But, indeed, as
I have learned since, Clovelly took his defeat in a very characteristic
fashion, and said on an important occasion some generous things about
me.

The letter that pleased me so much was from Galt Roscoe, who, as he
had intended, was settled in a new but thriving district of British
Columbia, near the Cascade Mountains. Soon after his complete recovery
he had been ordained in England, had straightway sailed for Canada,
and had gone to work at once. This note was an invitation to spend the
holiday months with him, where, as he said, a man “summering high among
the hills of God” could see visions and dream dreams, and hunt and fish
too--especially fish. He urged that he would not talk parish concerns
at me; that I should not be asked to be godfather to any young
mountaineers; and that the only drawback, so far as my own predilections
were concerned, was the monotonous health of the people. He described
his summer cottage of red pine as being built on the edge of a lovely
ravine; he said that he had the Cascades on one hand with their big
glacier fields, and mighty pine forests on the other; while the
balmiest breezes of June awaited “the professor of pathology and
genial saw-bones.” At the end of the letter he hinted something about a
pleasant little secret for my ear when I came; and remarked immediately
afterwards that there were one or two delightful families at Sunburst
and Viking, villages in his parish. One naturally associated the little
secret with some member of one of these delightful families. Finally, he
said he would like to show me how it was possible to transform a naval
man into a parson.

My mind was made up. I wrote to him that I would start at once. Then I
began to make preparations, and meanwhile fell to thinking again about
him who was now the Reverend Galt Roscoe. After the ‘Fulvia’ reached
London I had only seen him a few times, he having gone at once into the
country to prepare for ordination. Mrs. Falchion and Justine Caron I had
met several times, but Mrs. Falchion forbore inquiring for Galt Roscoe:
from which, and from other slight but significant matters, I gathered
that she knew of his doings and whereabouts. Before I started for
Toronto she said that she might see me there some day, for she was going
to San Francisco to inspect the property her uncle had left her, and in
all probability would make a sojourn in Canada. I gave her my address,
and she then said she understood that Mr. Roscoe intended taking a
missionary parish in the wilds. In his occasional letters to me while we
all were in England Roscoe seldom spoke of her, but, when he did, showed
that he knew of her movements. This did not strike me at the time as
anything more than natural. It did later.

Within a couple of weeks I reached Viking, a lumbering town with great
saw-mills, by way of San Francisco and Vancouver. Roscoe met me at the
coach, and I was taken at once to the house among the hills. It stood on
the edge of a ravine, and the end of the verandah looked over a verdant
precipice, beautiful but terrible too. It was uniquely situated; a nest
among the hills, suitable either for work or play. In one’s ears was
the low, continuous din of the rapids, with the music of a neighbouring
waterfall.

On the way up the hills I had a chance to observe Roscoe closely. His
face had not that sturdy buoyancy which his letter suggested. Still, if
it was pale, it had a glow which it did not possess before, and even
a stronger humanity than of old. A new look had come into his eyes,
a certain absorbing earnestness, refining the past asceticism. A more
amiable and unselfish comrade man never had.

The second day I was there he took me to call upon a family at Viking,
the town with a great saw-mill and two smaller ones, owned by James
Devlin, an enterprising man who had grown rich at lumbering, and who
lived here in the mountains many months in each year.

Mr. James Devlin had a daughter who had had some advantages in the East
after her father had become rich, though her earlier life was spent
altogether in the mountains. I soon saw where Roscoe’s secret was to
be found. Ruth Devlin was a tall girl of sensitive features, beautiful
eyes, and rare personality. Her life, as I came to know, had been one of
great devotion and self-denial. Before her father had made his fortune,
she had nursed a frail-bodied, faint-hearted mother, and had cared for,
and been a mother to, her younger sisters. With wealth and ease came
a brighter bloom to her cheek, but it had a touch of care which would
never quite disappear, though it became in time a beautiful wistfulness
rather than anxiety. Had this responsibility come to her in a city, it
might have spoiled her beauty and robbed her of her youth altogether;
but in the sustaining virtue of a life in the mountains, warm hues
remained on her cheek and a wonderful freshness in her nature. Her
family worshipped her--as she deserved.

That evening Roscoe confided to me that he had not asked Ruth Devlin to
be his wife, nor had he, indeed, given her definite tokens of his love.
But the thing was in his mind as a happy possibility of the future. We
talked till midnight, sitting at the end of the verandah overlooking the
ravine. This corner, called the coping, became consecrated to our many
conversations. We painted and sketched there in the morning (when we
were not fishing or he was not at his duties), received visitors, and
smoked in the evening, inhaling the balsam from the pines. An old man
and his wife kept the house for us, and gave us to eat of simple but
comfortable fare. The trout-fishing was good, and many a fine trout was
broiled for our evening meal; and many a fine string of trout found its
way to the tables of Roscoe’s poorest parishioners, or else to furnish
the more fashionable table at which Ruth Devlin presided. There were
excursions up the valley, and picnics on the hill-sides, and occasional
lunches and evening parties at the summer hotel, a mile from us farther
down the valley, at which tourists were beginning to assemble.

Yet, all the time, Roscoe was abundantly faithful to his duties at
Viking and in the settlement called Sunburst, which was devoted to
salmon-fishing. Between Viking and Sunburst there was a great jealousy
and rivalry; for the salmon-fishers thought that the mills, though on a
tributary stream, interfered, by the sawdust spilled in the river, with
the travel and spawning of the salmon. It needed all the tact of both
Mr. Devlin and Roscoe to keep the places from open fighting. As it was,
the fire smouldered. When Sunday came, however, there seemed to be truce
between the villages. It appeared to me that one touched the primitive
and idyllic side of life: lively, sturdy, and simple, with nature about
us at once benignant and austere. It is impossible to tell how fresh,
bracing, and inspiring was the climate of this new land. It seemed
to glorify humanity, to make all who breathed it stalwart, and almost
pardonable even in wrong-doing. Roscoe was always received respectfully,
and even cordially, among the salmon-fishers of Sunburst, as among the
mill-men and river-drivers of Viking: not the less so, because he had an
excellent faculty for machinery, and could talk to the people in their
own colloquialisms. He had, besides, though there was little exuberance
in his nature, a gift of dry humour, which did more than anything else,
perhaps, to make his presence among them unrestrained.

His little churches at Viking and Sunburst were always well
attended--often filled to overflowing--and the people gave liberally to
the offertory: and I never knew any clergyman, however holy, who did
not view such a proceeding with a degree of complacency. In the pulpit
Roscoe was almost powerful. His knowledge of the world, his habits of
directness, his eager but not hurried speech, his unconventional but
original statements of things, his occasional literary felicity and
unusual tact, might have made him distinguished in a more cultured
community. Yet there was something to modify all this: an occasional
indefinable sadness, a constant note of pathetic warning. It struck
me that I never had met a man whose words and manner were at times so
charged with pathos; it was artistic in its searching simplicity. There
was some unfathomable fount in his nature which was even beyond any
occurrence of his past; some radical, constitutional sorrow, coupled
with a very strong, practical, and even vigorous nature.

One of his most ardent admirers was a gambler, horse-trader, and
watch-dealer, who sold him a horse, and afterwards came and offered
him thirty dollars, saying that the horse was worth that much less than
Roscoe had paid for it, and protesting that he never could resist the
opportunity of getting the best of a game. He said he did not doubt but
that he would do the same with one of the archangels. He afterwards sold
Roscoe a watch at cost, but confessed to me that the works of the watch
had been smuggled. He said he was so fond of the parson that he felt he
had to give him a chance of good things. It was not uncommon for him to
discourse of Roscoe’s quality in the bar-rooms of Sunburst and
Viking, in which he was ably seconded by Phil Boldrick, an eccentric,
warm-hearted fellow, who was so occupied in the affairs of the villages
generally, and so much an advisory board to the authorities, that he had
little time left to progress industrially himself.

Once when a noted bully came to Viking, and, out of sheer bravado and
meanness, insulted Roscoe in the streets, two or three river-drivers
came forward to avenge the insult. It was quite needless, for the
clergyman had promptly taken the case in his own hands. Waving them
back, he said to the bully: “I have no weapon, and if I had, I could not
take your life, nor try to take it; and you know that very well. But I
propose to meet your insolence--the first shown me in this town.”

Here murmurs of approbation went round.

“You will, of course, take the revolver from your pocket, and throw it
on the ground.”

A couple of other revolvers were looking the bully in the face, and he
sullenly did as he was asked.

“You have a knife: throw that down.”

This also was done under the most earnest emphasis of the revolvers.
Roscoe calmly took off his coat. “I have met such scoundrels as you on
the quarter-deck,” he said, “and I know what stuff is in you. They call
you beachcombers in the South Seas. You never fight fair. You bully
women, knife natives, and never meet any one in fair fight. You have
mistaken your man this time.”

He walked close up to the bully, his face like steel, his thumbs caught
lightly in his waistcoat pockets; but it was noticeable that his hands
were shut.

“Now,” he said, “we are even as to opportunity. Repeat, if you please,
what you said a moment ago.”

The bully’s eye quailed, and he answered nothing. “Then, as I said, you
are a coward and a cur, who insults peaceable men and weak women. If I
know Viking right, it has no room for you.” Then he picked up his coat,
and put it on.

“Now,” he added, “I think you had better go; but I leave that to the
citizens of Viking.”

What they thought is easily explained. Phil Boldrick, speaking for all,
said: “Yes, you had better go--quick; but on the hop like a cur, mind
you: on your hands and knees, jumping all the way.”

And, with weapons menacing him, this visitor to Viking departed,
swallowing as he went the red dust disturbed by his hands and feet.

This established Roscoe’s position finally. Yet, with all his popularity
and the solid success of his work, he showed no vanity or egotism, nor
ever traded on the position he held in Viking and Sunburst. He seemed
to have no ambition further than to do good work; no desire to be known
beyond his own district; no fancy, indeed, for the communications of his
labours to mission papers and benevolent ladies in England--so much the
habit of his order. He was free from professional mannerisms.

One evening we were sitting in the accustomed spot--that is, the coping.
We had been silent for a long time. At last Roscoe rose, and walked up
and down the verandah nervously.

“Marmion,” said he, “I am disturbed to-day, I cannot tell you how: a
sense of impending evil, an anxiety.”

I looked up at him inquiringly, and, of purpose, a little sceptically.

He smiled something sadly and continued: “Oh, I know you think
it foolishness. But remember that all sailors are more or less
superstitious: it is bred in them; it is constitutional, and I am afraid
there’s a good deal of the sailor in me yet.”

Remembering Hungerford, I said: “I know that sailors are superstitious,
the most seasoned of them are that. But it means nothing. I may think
or feel that there is going to be a plague, but I should not enlarge the
insurance on my life because of it.”

He put his hand on my shoulder and looked down at me earnestly. “But,
Marmion, these things, I assure you, are not matters of will, nor yet
morbidness. They occur at the most unexpected times. I have had such
sensations before, and they were followed by strange matters.”

I nodded, but said nothing. I was still thinking of Hungerford. After a
slight pause he continued somewhat hesitatingly:

“I dreamed last night, three times, of events that occurred in my
past; events which I hoped would never disturb me in the life I am now
leading.”

“A life of self-denial,” ventured I. I waited a minute, and then added:
“Roscoe, I think it only fair to tell you--I don’t know why I haven’t
done so before--that when you were ill you were delirious, and talked of
things that may or may not have had to do with your past.”

He started, and looked at me earnestly. “They were unpleasant things?”

“Trying things; though all was vague and disconnected,” I replied.

“I am glad you tell me this,” he remarked quietly. “And Mrs. Falchion
and Justine Caron--did they hear?” He looked off to the hills.

“To a certain extent, I am sure. Mrs. Falchion’s name was generally
connected with--your fancies.... But really no one could place any
weight on what a man said in delirium, and I only mention the fact to
let you see exactly on what ground I stand with you.”

“Can you give me an idea--of the thing I raved about?”

“Chiefly about a girl called Alo, not your wife, I should judge--who was
killed.”

At that he spoke in a cheerless voice: “Marmion, I will tell you all the
story some day; but not now. I hoped that I had been able to bury it,
even in memory, but I was wrong. Some things--such things--never die.
They stay; and in our cheerfulest, most peaceful moments confront us,
and mock the new life we are leading. There is no refuge from memory and
remorse in this world. The spirits of our foolish deeds haunt us, with
or without repentance.” He turned again from me and set a sombre face
towards the ravine. “Roscoe,” I said, taking his arm, “I cannot believe
that you have any sin on your conscience so dark that it is not wiped
out now.”

“God bless you for your confidence. But there is one woman who, I fear,
could, if she would, disgrace me before the world. You understand,” he
added, “that there are things we repent of which cannot be repaired. One
thinks a sin is dead, and starts upon a new life, locking up the past,
not deceitfully, but believing that the book is closed, and that no
good can come of publishing it; when suddenly it all flames out like the
letters in Faust’s book of conjurations.”

“Wait,” I said. “You need not tell me more, you must not--now; not until
there is any danger. Keep your secret. If the woman--if THAT woman--ever
places you in danger, then tell me all. But keep it to yourself now. And
don’t fret because you have had dreams.”

“Well, as you wish,” he replied after a long time. As he sat in silence,
I smoking hard, and he buried in thought, I heard the laughter of people
some distance below us in the hills. I guessed it to be some tourists
from the summer hotel. The voices came nearer.

A singular thought occurred to me. I looked at Roscoe. I saw that he was
brooding, and was not noticing the voices, which presently died away.
This was a relief to me. We were then silent again.



CHAPTER XII. THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME

Next day we had a picnic on the Whi-Whi River, which, rising in the far
north, comes in varied moods to join the Long Cloud River at Viking.

   [Dr. Marmion, in a note of his MSS., says that he has purposely
   changed the names of the rivers and towns mentioned in the second
   part of the book, because he does not wish the locale to be too
   definite.]

Ruth Devlin, her young sister, and her aunt Mrs. Revel, with Galt Roscoe
and myself, constituted the party. The first part of the excursion
had many delights. The morning was fresh and sweet, and we were all in
excellent spirits. Roscoe’s depression had vanished; but there was an
amiable seriousness in his manner which, to me, portended that the faint
roses in Ruth Devlin’s cheeks would deepen before the day was done,
unless something inopportune happened.

As we trudged gaily up the canon to the spot where we were to take a big
skiff, and cross the Whi-Whi to our camping-ground, Ruth Devlin, who
was walking with me, said: “A large party of tourists arrived at Viking
yesterday, and have gone to the summer hotel; so I expect you will be
gay up here for some time to come. Prepare, then, to rejoice.”

“Don’t you think it is gay enough as it is?” I answered. “Behold this
festive throng.”

“Oh, it is nothing to what there might be. This could never make Viking
and ‘surrounding country’ notorious as a pleasure resort. To
attract tourists you must have enough people to make romances and
tragedies,--without loss of life, of course,--merely catastrophes
of broken hearts, and hair-breadth escapes, and mammoth fishing
and shooting achievements, such as men know how to invent,”--it was
delightful to hear her voice soften to an amusing suggestiveness, “and
broken bridges and land-slides, with many other things which you can
supply, Dr. Marmion. No, I am afraid that Viking is too humdrum to be
notable.”

She laughed then very lightly and quaintly. She had a sense of humour.

“Well, but, Miss Devlin,” said I, “you cannot have all things at once.
Climaxes like these take time. We have a few joyful things. We have
splendid fishing achievements,--please do not forget that basket
of trout I sent you the other morning,--and broken hearts and such
tragedies are not impossible; as, for instance, if I do not send you as
good a basket of trout to-morrow evening; or if you should remark that
there was nothing in a basket of trout to--”

“Now,” she said, “you are becoming involved and--inconsiderate.
Remember, I am only a mountain girl.”

“Then let us only talk of the other tragedies. But are you not a
little callous to speak of such things as if you thirsted for their
occurrence?”

“I am afraid you are rather silly,” she replied. “You see, some of the
land up here belongs to me. I am anxious that it should ‘boom’--that
is the correct term, is it not?--and a sensation is good for ‘booming.’
What an advertisement would ensue if the lovely daughter of an American
millionaire should be in danger of drowning in the Long Cloud, and a
rough but honest fellow--a foreman on the river, maybe a young member
of the English aristocracy in disguise--perilled his life for her! The
place of peril would, of course, be named Lover’s Eddy, or the Maiden’s
Gate--very much prettier, I assure you, than such cold-blooded things as
the Devil’s Slide, where we are going now, and much more attractive to
tourists.”

“Miss Devlin,” laughed I, “you have all the eagerness of the incipient
millionaire. May I hope to see you in Lombard Street some day, a very
Katherine among capitalists?--for, from your remarks, I judge that you
would--I say it pensively--‘wade through slaughter to a throne.’”

Galt Roscoe, who was just ahead with Mrs. Revel and Amy Devlin, turned
and said: “Who is that quoting so dramatically? Now, this is a picnic
party, and any one who introduces elegies, epics, sonnets, ‘and such,’
is guilty of breaking the peace at Viking and its environs. Besides,
such things should always be left to the parson. He must not be
outflanked, his thunder must not be stolen. The scientist has unlimited
resources; all he has to do is to be vague, and look prodigious; but the
parson must have his poetry as a monopoly, or he is lost to sight, and
memory.”

“Then,” said I, “I shall leave you to deal with Miss Devlin yourself,
because she is the direct cause of my wrong-doing. She has expressed the
most sinister sentiments about Viking and your very extensive parish.
Miss Devlin,” I added, turning to her, “I leave you to your fate, and I
cannot recommend you to mercy, for what Heaven made fair should remain
tender and merciful, and--”

“‘So young and so untender!’” she interjected, with a rippling
laugh. “Yet Cordelia was misjudged very wickedly, and traduced very
ungallantly, and so am I. And I bid you good-day, sir.”

Her delicate laugh rings in my ears as I write. I think that sun
and clear skies and hills go far to make us cheerful and harmonious.
Somehow, I always remember her as she was that morning.

She was standing then on the brink of a new and beautiful experience, at
the threshold of an acknowledged love. And that is a remarkable time to
the young.

There was something thrilling about the experiences of that morning,
and I think we all felt it. Even the great frowning precipices seemed
to have lost their ordinary gloom, and when some young white eagles rose
from a crag and flew away, growing smaller as they passed, until they
were one with the snow of the glacier on Mount Trinity, or a wapiti
peeped out from the underwood and stole away with glancing feet down the
valley; we could scarcely refrain from doing some foolish thing out of
sheer delight. At length we emerged from a thicket of Douglas pine upon
the shore of the Whi-Whi, and, loosening our boat, were soon moving
slowly on the cool current. For an hour or more we rowed down the river
towards the Long Cloud, and then drew into the shade of a little
island for lunch. When we came to the rendezvous, where picnic parties
generally feasted, we found a fire still smoking and the remnants of a
lunch scattered about. A party of picnickers had evidently been there
just before us. Ruth suggested that it might be some of the tourists
from the hotel. This seemed very probable.

There were scraps of newspaper on the ground, and among them was
an empty envelope. Mechanically I picked it up, and read the
superscription. What I saw there I did not think necessary to disclose
to the other members of the party; but, as unconcernedly as
possible, for Ruth Devlin’s eyes were on me, I used it to light a
cigar--inappropriately, for lunch would soon be ready.

“What was the name on the envelope?” she said. “Was there one?”

I guessed she had seen my slight start. I said evasively: “I fancy there
was, but a man who is immensely interested in a new brand of cigar--”

“You are a most deceitful man,” she said. “And, at the least, you are
selfish in holding your cigar more important than a woman’s curiosity.
Who can tell what romance was in the address on that envelope--”

“What elements of noble tragedy, what advertisement for a certain
property in the Whi-Whi Valley,” interrupted Roscoe, breaking off the
thread of a sailor’s song he was humming, as he tended the water-kettle
on the fire.

This said, he went on with the song again. I was struck by the wonderful
change in him now. Presentiments were far from him, yet I, having read
that envelope, knew that they were not without cause. Indeed, I had an
inkling of that the night before, when I heard the voices on the hill.
Ruth Devlin stopped for a moment in the preparations to ask Roscoe
what he was humming. I, answering for him, told her that it was an old
sentimental sea-song of common sailors, often sung by officers at
their jovial gatherings. At this she pretended to look shocked, and
straightway demanded to hear the words, so that she could pronounce
judgment on her spiritual pastor and master.

He good-naturedly said that many of these old sailor songs were amusing,
and that he often found himself humming them. To this I could testify,
and he sang them very well indeed--quietly, but with the rolling tone of
the sailor, jovial yet fascinating. At our united request, his humming
became distinct. Three of the verses I give here:

       “The ‘Lovely Jane’ went sailing down
         To anchor at the Spicy Isles;
        And the wind was fair as ever was blown,
         For the matter of a thousand miles.

       “Then a storm arose as she crossed the line,
         Which it caused her masts to crack;
        And she gulped her fill of the whooping brine,
         And she likewise sprained her back.

       “And the capting cried, ‘If it’s Davy Jones,
         Then it’s Davy Jones,’ says he,
       ‘Though I don’t aspire to leave my bones
         In the equatorial sea.’”

What the further history of the ‘Lovely Jane’ was we were not informed,
for Ruth Devlin announced that the song must wait, though it appeared to
be innocuous and child-like in its sentiments, and that lunch would be
served between the acts of the touching tragedy. When lunch was over,
and we had again set forth upon the Whi-Whi, I asked Ruth to sing an old
French-Canadian song which she had once before sung to us. Many a time
the woods of the West had resounded to the notes of ‘En Roulant ma
Boule’, as the ‘voyageurs’ traversed the long paths of the Ottawa, St.
Lawrence, and Mississippi; brave light-hearted fellows, whose singing
days were over.

By the light of coming events there was something weird and pathetic in
this Arcadian air, sung as it was by her. Her voice was a mezzo-soprano
of rare bracing quality, and she had enough natural sensibility to
give the antique refinement of the words a wistful charm, particularly
apparent in these verses:

       “Ah, cruel Prince, my heart you break,
        In killing thus my snow-white drake.

       “My snow-white drake, my love, my King,
        The crimson life-blood stains his wing.

       “His golden bill sinks on his breast,
        His plumes go floating east and west--

       “En roulant ma boule:
         Rouli, roulant, ma boule roulant,
        En roulant ma boule roulant,
         En roulant ma boule!”

As she finished the song we rounded an angle in the Whi-Whi. Ahead of
us lay the Snow Rapids and the swift channel at one side of the rapids
which, hurrying through a rocky archway, was known as the Devil’s Slide.
There was one channel through the rapids by which it was perfectly safe
to pass, but that sweep of water through the Devil’s Slide was sometimes
a trap of death to even the most expert river-men. A half-mile below the
rapids was the confluence of the two rivers. The sight of the tumbling
mass of white water, and the gloomy and colossal grandeur of the Devil’s
Slide, a buttress of the hills, was very fine.

But there was more than scenery to interest us here, for, moving
quickly towards the Slide, was a boat with three people in it. They
were evidently intending to attempt that treacherous passage, which
culminated in a series of eddies, a menace to even the best oarsman
ship. They certainly were not aware of their danger, for there came over
the water the sound of a man’s laughing voice, and the two women in the
boat were in unconcerned attitudes. Roscoe shouted to them, and motioned
them back, but they did not appear to understand.

The man waved his hat to us, and rowed on. There was but one thing for
us to do: to make the passage quickly through the safe channel of the
rapids, and to be of what service we could on the other side of the
Slide, if necessary. We bent to the oars, and the boat shot through the
water. Ruth held the rudder firmly, and her young sister and Mrs. Revel
sat perfectly still. But the man in the other boat, thinking, doubtless,
that we were attempting a race, added his efforts to the current of the
channel. I am afraid that I said some words below my breath scarcely
proper to be spoken in the presence of maidens and a clerk in holy
orders. Roscoe was here, however, a hundred times more sailor than
parson. He spoke in low, firm tones, as he now and then suggested a
direction to Ruth Devlin or myself. Our boat tossed and plunged in the
rapids, and the water washed over us lightly once or twice, but we went
through the passage safely, and had turned towards the Slide before the
other boat got to the rocky archway.

We rowed hard. The next minute was one of suspense, for we saw the boat
shoot beneath the archway. Presently it emerged, a whirling plaything in
treacherous eddies. The man wildly waved his arm, and shouted to us.
The women were grasping the sides of the boat, but making no outcry. We
could not see the faces of the women plainly yet. The boat ran forward
like a race-horse; it plunged hither and thither. An oar snapped in the
rocks, and the other one shot from the man’s hand. Now the boat swung
round and round, and dipped towards the hollow of a whirlpool. When we
were within a few rods of them, it appeared to rise from the water,
was hurled on a rock, and overturned. Mrs. Revel buried her face in her
hands, and Ruth gave a little groan, but she held the rudder firmly,
as we swiftly approached the forms struggling in the water. All,
fortunately, had grasped the swamped boat, and were being carried down
the stream towards us. The man was caring resolutely for himself,
but one, of the women had her arm round the other, supporting her. We
brought our skiff close to the swirling current. I called out words of
encouragement, and was preparing to jump into the water, when Roscoe
exclaimed in a husky voice: “Marmion, it is Mrs. Falchion.”

Yes, it was Mrs. Falchion; but I had known that before. We heard her
words to her companion: “Justine, do not look so. Your face is like
death. It is hateful.”

Then the craft veered towards the smoother water where we were. This
was my opportunity. Roscoe threw me a rope, and I plunged in and swam
towards the boat. I saw that Mrs. Falchion recognised me; but she made
no exclamation, nor did Justine Caron. Their companion, however, on the
other side of the boat, was eloquent in prayers to be rescued. I caught
the bow of the boat as it raced past me, and with all my strength swung
it towards the smoother water. I ran the rope I had brought, through
the iron ring at the bow, and was glad enough of that; for their lives
perhaps depended on being able to do it. It had been a nice calculation
of chances, but it was done. Roscoe immediately bent to the oars, I
threw an arm around Justine, and in a moment Roscoe had towed us into
safer quarters. Then he drew in the rope. As he did so, Mrs. Falchion
said: “Justine would drown so easily if one would let her.”

These were her first words to me. I am sure I never can sufficiently
admire the mere courage of the woman and her presence of mind in danger.
Immediately afterwards she said--and subsequently it seemed to me
marvellous: “You are something more than the chorus to the play this
time, Dr. Marmion.”

A minute after, and Justine was dragged into our boat, and was followed
by Mrs. Falchion, whose first words to Roscoe were: “It is not such a
meeting as one would plan.”

And he replied: “I am glad no harm has come to you.”

The man was duly helped in. A poor creature he was, to pass from this
tale as he entered it, ignominiously and finally here. I even hide
his nationality, for his race are generally more gallant. But he was
wealthy, had an intense admiration for Mrs. Falchion, and had managed
to secure her in his boat, to separate from the rest of the picnic
party--chiefly through his inefficient rowing.

Dripping with water as Mrs. Falchion was, she did not, strange to say,
appear at serious disadvantage. Almost any other woman would have
done so. She was a little pale, she must have felt miserable, but she
accepted Ruth Devlin’s good offices--as did Justine Caron those of Mrs.
Revel--with much self-possession, scanning her face and form critically
the while, and occasionally turning a glance on Roscoe, who was now cold
and impassive. I never knew a man who could so banish expression
from his countenance when necessary. Speaking to Belle Treherne long
afterwards of Mrs. Falchion’s self-possessed manner on this occasion,
and of how she rose superior to the situation, I was told that I must
have regarded the thing poetically and dramatically, for no woman could
possibly look self-possessed in draggled skirts. She said that I always
magnified certain of Mrs. Falchion’s qualities.

That may be so, and yet it must be remembered that I was not predisposed
towards her, and that I wished her well away from where Roscoe was.

As for Justine Caron, she lay with her head on Mrs. Revel’s lap,
and looked from beneath heavy eyelids at Roscoe with such gratitude
and--but, no, she is only a subordinate in the story, and not a chief
factor, and what she said or did here is of no vital consequence at this
moment! We rowed to a point near the confluence of the two rivers, where
we could leave our boats to be poled back through the rapids or portaged
past them.

On the way Mrs. Falchion said to Roscoe: “I knew you were somewhere in
the Rockies; and at Vancouver, when I came from San Francisco, I heard
of your being here. I had intended spending a month somewhere in the
mountains, so I came to Viking, and on to the summer hotel: but really
this is too exciting for recreation.”

This was spoken with almost gay outward manner, but there was a note in
her words which I did not like, nor did I think that her eye was very
kind, especially when she looked at Ruth Devlin and afterwards at
Roscoe.

We had several miles to go, and it was nightfall--for which Mrs.
Falchion expressed herself as profoundly grateful--when we arrived at
the hotel. Our parting words were as brief as, of necessity, they had
been on our journey through the mountains, for the ladies had ridden
the horses which we had sent over for ourselves from Viking, and we men
walked in front. Besides, the thoughts of some of us were not at all
free from misgiving. The spirit possessing Roscoe the night before
seemed to enter into all of us, even into Mrs. Falchion, who had lost,
somewhat, the aplomb with which she had held the situation in the
boat. But at the door of the hotel she said cheerfully: “Of course, Dr.
Marmion will find it necessary to call on his patients to-morrow--and
the clergyman also on his new parishoners.”

The reply was left to me. I said gravely: “Let us be thankful that both
doctor and clergyman are called upon to use their functions; it might
easily have been only the latter.”

“Oh, do not be funereal!” she replied. “I knew that we were not to drown
at the Devil’s Slide. The drama is not ended yet, and the chief actors
cannot go until ‘the curtain.’--Though I am afraid that is not quite
orthodox, is it, Mr. Roscoe?”

Roscoe looked at her gravely. “It may not be orthodox as it is said, but
it is orthodox, I fancy, if we exchange God for fate, and Providence for
chance.... Good-night.”

He said this wearily. She looked up at him with an ironical look, then
held out her hand, and quickly bade him good-night. Partings all round
were made, and, after some injunctions to Mrs. Falchion and Justine
Caron from myself as to preventives against illness, the rest of us
started for Sunburst.

As we went, I could not help but contrast Ruth and Amy Devlin, these
two gentle yet strong mountain girls, with the woman we had left. Their
lives were far from that dolorous tide which, sweeping through a selfish
world, leaves behind it the stain of corroding passions; of cruelties,
ingratitude, hate, and catastrophe. We are all ambitious, in one way or
another. We climb mountains over scoria that frays and lava that burns.
We try to call down the stars, and when, now and then, our conjuring
succeeds, we find that our stars are only blasting meteors. One moral
mishap lames character for ever. A false start robs us of our natural
strength, and a misplaced or unrighteous love deadens the soul and
shipwrecks just conceptions of life.

A man may be forgiven for a sin, but the effect remains; it has found
its place in his constitution, and it cannot be displaced by mere
penitence, nor yet forgiveness. A man errs, and he must suffer; his
father erred, and he must endure; or some one sinned against the man,
and he hid the sin--But here a hand touched my shoulder! I was startled,
for my thoughts had been far away. Roscoe’s voice spoke in my ear: “It
is as she said; the actors come together for ‘the curtain.’”

Then his eyes met those of Ruth Devlin turned to him earnestly and
inquiringly. And I felt for a moment hard against Roscoe, that he should
even indirectly and involuntarily, bring suffering into her life. In
youth, in early manhood, we do wrong. At the time we seem to be injuring
no one but ourselves; but, as we live on, we find that we were wronging
whomsoever should come into our lives in the future. At the instant I
said angrily to myself: “What right has he to love a girl like that,
when he has anything in his life that might make her unhappy, or
endanger her in ever so little!”

But I bit my tongue, for it seemed to me that I was pharisaical; and I
wondered rather scornfully if I should have been so indignant were
the girl not so beautiful, young, and ingenuous. I tried not to think
further of the matter, and talked much to Ruth,--Gait Roscoe walked with
Mrs. Revel and Amy Devlin,--but I found I could not drive it from my
mind. This was not unnatural, for was not I the “chorus to the play”?



CHAPTER XIII. THE SONG OF THE SAW

There was still a subdued note to Roscoe’s manner the next morning.
He was pale. He talked freely however of the affairs of Viking and
Sunburst, and spoke of business which called him to Mr. Devlin’s great
saw mill that day. A few moments after breakfast we were standing in the
doorway. “Well,” he said, “shall we go?”

I was not quite sure where he meant to go, but I took my hat and joined
him. I wondered if it would be to the summer hotel or the great mill. My
duty lay in the direction of the hotel. When we stepped out, he added:
“Let us take the bridle-path along the edge of the ravine to the hotel.”

The morning was beautiful. The atmosphere of the woods was of soft,
diffusive green--the sunlight filtering through the transparent leaves.
Bowers of delicate ferns and vines flanked the path, and an occasional
clump of giant cedars invited us: the world was eloquent.

Several tourists upon the verandah of the hotel remarked us with
curiosity as we entered. A servant said that Mrs. Falchion would be glad
to see us; and we were ushered into her sitting-room. She carried no
trace of yesterday’s misadventure. She appeared superbly well. And yet,
when I looked again, when I had time to think upon and observe detail,
I saw signs of change. There was excitement in the eyes, and a slight
nervous darkness beneath them, which added to their charm. She rose,
smiling, and said: “I fear I am hardly entitled to this visit, for I am
beyond convalescence, and Justine is not in need of shrift or diagnosis,
as you see.”

I was not so sure of Justine Caron as she was, and when I had paid my
respects to her, I said a little priggishly (for I was young), still not
too solemnly: “I cannot allow you to pronounce for me upon my patients,
Mrs. Falchion; I must make my own inquiries.”

But Mrs. Falchion was right. Justine Caron was not suffering much from
her immersion; though, speaking professionally, her temperature was
higher than the normal. But that might be from some impulse of the
moment, for Justine was naturally a little excitable.

We walked aside, and, looking at me with a flush of happiness in her
face, she said: “You remember one day on the ‘Fulvia’ when I told you
that money was everything to me; that I would do all I honourably could
to get it?”

I nodded. She continued: “It was that I might pay a debt--you know it.
Well, money is my god no longer, for I can pay all I owe. That is, I
can pay the money, but not the goodness, the noble kindness. He is
most good, is he not? The world is better that such men as Captain Galt
Roscoe live--ah, you see I cannot quite think of him as a clergyman. I
wonder if I ever shall!” She grew suddenly silent and abstracted, and,
in the moment’s pause, some ironical words in Mrs. Falchion’s voice
floated across the room to me: “It is so strange to see you so. And you
preach, and baptise; and marry, and bury, and care for the poor and--ah,
what is it?--‘all those who, in this transitory life, are in sorrow,
need, sickness, or any other adversity’?... And do you never long for
the flesh-pots of Egypt? Never long for”--here her voice was not quite
so clear--“for the past?”

I was sure that, whatever she was doing, he had been trying to keep the
talk, as it were, on the surface. I was equally sure that, to her last
question, he would make no reply. Though I was now speaking to Justine
Caron, I heard him say quite calmly and firmly: “Yes, I preach, baptise,
marry, and bury, and do all I can for those who need help.”

“The people about here say that you are good and charitable. You have
won the hearts of the mountaineers. But you always had a gift that
way.”--I did not like her tone.--“One would almost think you had
founded a new dispensation. And if I had drowned yesterday, you would,
I suppose, have buried me, and have preached a little sermon about
me.--You could have done that better than any one else!... What would
you have said in such a case?”

There was an earnest, almost a bitter, protest in the reply.

“Pardon me, if I cannot answer your question. Your life was saved, and
that is all we have to consider, except to be grateful to Providence.
The duties of my office have nothing to do with possibilities.”

She was evidently torturing him, and I longed to say a word that would
torture her. She continued: “And the flesh-pots--you have not answered
about them: do you not long for them--occasionally?”

“They are of a period,” he answered, “too distant for regret.”

“And yet,” she replied softly, “I fancied sometimes in London last year,
that you had not outgrown that antique time--those lotos-days.”

He made no reply at once, and in the pause Justine and I passed out to
the verandah.

“How long does Mrs. Falchion intend remaining here, Miss Caron?” I said.

Her reply was hesitating: “I do not quite know; but I think some time.
She likes the place; it seems to amuse her.”

“And you--does it amuse you?”

“It does not matter about me. I am madame’s servant; but, indeed, it
does not amuse me particularly.”

“Do you like the place?”

The reply was somewhat hurried, and she glanced at me a little
nervously. “Oh yes,” she said, “I like the place, but--”

Here Roscoe appeared at the door and said, “Mrs. Falchion wishes to see
Viking and Mr. Devlin’s mills, Marmion. She will go with us.”

In a little time we were on our way to Viking. I walked with Mrs.
Falchion, and Roscoe with Justine. I was aware of a new element in Mrs.
Falchion’s manner. She seemed less powerfully attractive to me than in
the old days, yet she certainly was more beautiful. It was hard to trace
the new characteristic. But at last I thought I saw it in a decrease of
that cold composure, that impassiveness, so fascinating in the past. In
its place had come an allusive, restless something, to be found in
words of troublesome vagueness, in variable moods, in an increased
sensitiveness of mind and an undercurrent of emotional bitterness--she
was emotional at last! She puzzled me greatly, for I saw two spirits in
her: one pitiless as of old; the other human, anxious, not unlovely.

At length we became silent, and walked so side by side for a time. Then,
with that old delightful egotism and selfishness--delightful in its very
daring--she said: “Well, amuse me!”

“And is it still the end of your existence,” I rejoined--“to be amused?”

“What is there else to do?” she replied with raillery.

“Much. To amuse others, for instance; to regard human beings as
something more than automata.”

“Has Mr. Roscoe made you a preaching curate? I helped Amshar at the
Tanks.”

“One does not forget that. Yet you pushed Amshar with your foot.”

“Did you expect me to kiss the black coward? Then, I nursed Mr. Roscoe
in his illness.”

“And before that?”

“And before that I was born into the world, and grew to years of
knowledge, and learned what fools we mortals be, and--and there--is that
Mr. Devlin’s big sawmill?”

We had suddenly emerged on a shelf of the mountainside, and were looking
down into the Long Cloud Valley. It was a noble sight. Far to the north
were foothills covered with the glorious Norfolk pine, rising in steppes
till they seemed to touch white plateaus of snow, which again billowed
to glacier fields whose austere bosoms man’s hand had never touched; and
these suddenly lifted up huge, unapproachable shoulders, crowned with
majestic peaks that took in their teeth the sun, the storm, and the
whirlwinds of the north, never changing countenance from day to year and
from year to age.

Facing this long line of glory, running irregularly on towards that
sea where Franklin and M’Clintock led their gay adventurers,--the bold
ships,--was another shore, not so high or superior, but tall and sombre
and warm, through whose endless coverts of pine there crept and idled
the generous Chinook winds--the soothing breath of the friendly Pacific.
Between these shores the Long Cloud River ran; now boisterous, now soft,
now wallowing away through long channels, washing gorges always dark as
though shaded by winter, and valleys always green as favoured by summer.
Creeping along a lofty narrow path upon that farther shore was a mule
train, bearing packs which would not be opened till, through the great
passes of the mountain, they were spilled upon the floors of fort and
post on the east side of the Rockies.

Not far from where the mule train crept along was a great hole in the
mountain-side, as though antique giants of the hills had tunnelled
through to make themselves a home or to find the eternal secret of the
mountains. Near to this vast dark cavity was a hut--a mere playhouse, it
seemed, so small was it, viewed from where we stood. From the edge of a
cliff just in front of this hut, there swung a long cable, which reached
almost to the base of the shore beneath us; and, even as we looked,
we saw what seemed a tiny bucket go swinging slowly down that strange
hypotenuse. We watched it till we saw it get to the end of its journey
in the valley beneath, not far from the great mill to which we were
bound.

“How mysterious!” said Mrs. Falchion. “What does it mean? I never saw
anything like that before. What a wonderful thing!”

Roscoe explained. “Up there in that hut,” he said, “there lives a man
called Phil Boldrick. He is a unique fellow, with a strange history.
He has been miner, sailor, woodsman, river-driver, trapper,
salmon-fisher;--expert at the duties of each of these, persistent at
none. He has a taste for the ingenious and the unusual. For a time he
worked in Mr. Devlin’s mill. It was too tame for him. He conceived the
idea of supplying the valley with certain necessaries, by intercepting
the mule trains as they passed across the hills, and getting them down
to Viking by means of that cable. The valley laughed at him; men said
it was impossible. He went to Mr. Devlin, and Mr. Devlin came to me.
I have, as you know, some knowledge of machinery and engineering.
I thought the thing feasible but expensive, and told Mr. Devlin so.
However, the ingenuity of the thing pleased Mr. Devlin, and, with that
singular enterprise which in other directions has made him a rich man,
he determined on its completion. Between us we managed it. Boldrick
carries on his aerial railway with considerable success, as you see.”

“A singular man,” said Mrs. Falchion. “I should like to see him. Come,
sit down here and tell me all you know about him, will you not?”

Roscoe assented. I arranged a seat for us, and we all sat.

Roscoe was about to begin, when Mrs. Falchion said, “Wait a minute. Let
us take in this scene first.”

We were silent. After a moment I turned to Mrs. Falchion, and said: “It
is beautiful, is it not?”

She drew in a long breath, her eyes lighted up, and she said, with a
strange abandon of gaiety: “Yes, it is delightful to live.”

It seemed so, in spite of the forebodings of my friend and my own
uneasiness concerning him, Ruth Devlin, and Mrs. Falchion. The place
was all peace: a very monotony of toil and pleasure. The heat drained
through the valley back and forth in visible palpitations upon the roofs
of the houses, the mills, and the vast piles of lumber: all these seemed
breathing. It looked a busy Arcady. From beneath us life vibrated with
the regularity of a pulse: distance gave a kind of delighted ease to
toil. Event appeared asleep.

But when I look back now, after some years, at the experiences of
that day, I am astonished by the running fire of events, which,
unfortunately, were not all joy.

As I write I can hear that keen wild singing of the saw come to us
distantly, with a pleasant, weird elation. The big mill hung above the
river, its sides all open, humming with labour, as I had seen it many a
time during my visit to Roscoe. The sun beat in upon it, making a
broad piazza of light about its sides. Beyond it were pleasant shadows,
through which men passed and repassed at their work. Life was busy all
about it. Yet the picture was bold, open, and strong. Great iron hands
reached down into the water, clamped a massive log or huge timber,
lightly drew it up the slide from the water, where, guided by the
hand-spikes of the men, it was laid upon its cradle and carried slowly
to the devouring teeth of the saws: there to be sliced through rib and
bone in moist sandwiched layers, oozing the sweet sap of its fibre; and
carried out again into the open to be drained to dry bones under the
exhaust-pipes of the sun: piles upon piles; houses with wide chinks
through which the winds wandered, looking for tenants and finding none.

To the north were booms of logs, swilling in the current, waiting for
their devourer. Here and there were groups of river-drivers and their
foremen, prying twisted heaps of logs from the rocks or the shore into
the water. Other groups of river-drivers were scattered upon the banks,
lifting their huge red canoes high up on the platforms, the spring’s
and summer’s work of river-driving done; while others lounged upon
the grass, or wandered lazily through the village, sporting with the
Chinamen, or chaffing the Indian idling in the sun--a garish figure
stoically watching the inroads of civilisation. The town itself was
squat but amiable: small houses and large huts; the only place of note
and dignity, the new town hall, which was greatly overshadowed by the
big mill, and even by the two smaller ones flanking it north and south.

But Viking was full of men who had breathed the strong life of the
hills, had stolen from Nature some of her brawny strength, and set
themselves up before her as though a man were as great as a mountain
and as good a thing to see. It was of such a man that Galt Roscoe was to
tell us. His own words I will not give, but will speak of Phil Boldrick
as I remember him and as Roscoe described him to us.

Of all the men in the valley, none was so striking as Phil Boldrick.
Of all faces his was the most singular; of all characters his the most
unique; of all men he was the most unlucky, save in one thing--the
regard of his fellows. Others might lay up treasures, not he; others
lose money at gambling, not he--he never had much to lose. But yet he
did all things magniloquently. The wave of his hand was expansive, his
stride was swaying and decisive, his over-ruling, fraternal faculty was
always in full swing. Viking was his adopted child; so much so that a
gentleman river-driver called it Philippi; and by that name it sometimes
went, and continues still so among those who knew it in the old days.

Others might have doubts as to the proper course to pursue under certain
circumstances; it was not so with Phil. They might argue a thing out
orally, he did so mentally, and gave judgment on it orally. He was
final, not oracular. One of his eyes was of glass, and blue; the other
had an eccentricity, and was of a deep and meditative grey. It was a
wise and knowing eye. It was trained to many things--like one servant in
a large family. One side of his face was solemn, because of the gay but
unchanging blue eye, the other was gravely humourous, shrewdly playful.
His fellow citizens respected him; so much so, that they intended to
give him an office in the new-formed corporation; which means that
he had courage and downrightness, and that the rough, straightforward
gospel of the West was properly interpreted by him.

If a stranger came to the place, Phil was sent first to reconnoitre; if
any function was desirable, Phil was requested to arrange it; if justice
was to be meted out, Phil’s opinion had considerable weight--for he had
much greater leisure than other more prosperous men; if a man was taken
ill (this was in the days before a doctor came), Phil was asked to
declare if he would “shy from the finish.”

I heard Roscoe more than once declare that Phil was as good as two
curates to him. Not that Phil was at all pious, nor yet possessed of
those abstemious qualities in language and appetite by which good men
are known; but he had a gift of civic virtue--important in a
wicked world, and of unusual importance in Viking. He had neither
self-consciousness nor fear; and while not possessed of absolute tact
in a social way, he had a knack of doing the right thing bluntly, or
the wrong thing with an air of rightness. He envied no man, he coveted
nothing; had once or twice made other men’s fortunes by prospecting, but
was poor himself. And in all he was content, and loved life and Viking.

Immediately after Roscoe had reached the mountains Phil had become his
champion, declaring that there was not any reason why a man should
not be treated sociably because he was a parson. Phil had been a great
traveller, as had many who settled at last in these valleys to the
exciting life of the river: salmon-catching or driving logs. He had
lived for a time in Lower California and Mexico, and had given Roscoe
the name of The Padre: which suited the genius and temper of the rude
population. And so it was that Roscoe was called The Padre by every one,
though he did not look the character.

As he told his story of Phil’s life I could not help but contrast him
with most of the clergymen I knew or had seen. He had the admirable ease
and tact of a cultured man of the world, and the frankness and warmth of
a hearty nature, which had, however, some inherent strain of melancholy.
Wherever I had gone with him I had noticed that he was received with
good-humoured deference by his rough parishioners and others who were
such only in the broadest sense. Perhaps he would not have succeeded so
well if he had worn clerical clothes. As it was, of a week day, he could
not be distinguished from any respectable layman. The clerical uniform
attracts women more than men, who, if they spoke truly, would resent it.
Roscoe did not wear it, because he thought more of men than of function,
of manliness than clothes; and though this sometimes got him into
trouble with his clerical brethren who dearly love Roman collar, and
coloured stole, and the range of ritual from a lofty intoning to the
eastward position, he managed to live and himself be none the worse,
while those who knew him were certainly the better.

When Roscoe had finished his tale, Mrs. Falchion said: “Mr. Boldrick
must be a very interesting man;” and her eyes wandered up to the great
hole in the mountain-side, and lingered there. “As I said, I must meet
him,” she added; “men of individuality are rare.” Then: “That great
‘hole in the wall’ is, of course, a natural formation.”

“Yes,” said Roscoe. “Nature seems to have made it for Boldrick. He uses
it as a storehouse.”

“Who watches it while he is away?” she said. “There is no door to the
place, of course.”

Roscoe smiled enigmatically. “Men do not steal up here: that is the
unpardonable crime; any other may occur and go unpunished; not it.”

The thought seemed to strike Mrs. Falchion. “I might have known!” she
said. “It is the same in the South Seas among the natives--Samoans,
Tongans, Fijians, and others. You can--as you know, Mr. Roscoe,”--her
voice had a subterranean meaning,--“travel from end to end of those
places, and, until the white man corrupts them, never meet with a case
of stealing; you will find them moral too in other ways until the white
man corrupts them. But sometimes the white man pays for it in the end.”

Her last words were said with a kind of dreaminess, as though they had
no purpose; but though she sat now idly looking into the valley beneath,
I could see that her eyes had a peculiar glance, which was presently
turned on Roscoe, then withdrawn again. On him the effect was so far
disturbing that he became a little pale, but I noticed that he met her
glance unflinchingly and then looked at me, as if to see in how far I
had been affected by her speech. I think I confessed to nothing in my
face.

Justine Caron was lost in the scene before us. She had, I fancy,
scarcely heard half that had been said. Roscoe said to her presently:
“You like it, do you not?”

“Like it?” she said. “I never saw anything so wonderful.”

“And yet it would not be so wonderful without humanity there,” rejoined
Mrs. Falchion. “Nature is never complete without man. All that would be
splendid without the mills and the machinery and Boldrick’s cable, but
it would not be perfect: it needs man--Phil Boldrick and Company in
the foreground. Nature is not happy by itself: it is only brooding and
sorrowful. You remember the mountain of Talili in Samoa, Mr. Roscoe, and
the valley about it: how entrancing yet how melancholy it is. It always
seems to be haunted, for the natives never live in the valley. There is
a tradition that once one of the white gods came down from heaven, and
built an altar, and sacrificed a Samoan girl--though no one ever knew
quite why: for there the tradition ends.”

I felt again that there was a hidden meaning in her words; but Roscoe
remained perfectly still. It seemed to me that I was little by little
getting the threads of his story. That there was a native girl; that the
girl had died or been killed; that Roscoe was in some way--innocently
I dared hope--connected with it; and that Mrs. Falchion held the key to
the mystery, I was certain. That it was in her mind to use the mystery,
I was also certain. But for what end I could not tell. What had passed
between them in London the previous winter I did not know: but it seemed
evident that she had influenced him there as she did on the ‘Fulvia’,
had again lost her influence, and was now resenting the loss, out of
pique or anger, or because she really cared for him. It might be that
she cared.

She added after a moment: “Add man to nature, and it stops sulking:
which goes to show that fallen humanity is better than no company at
all.”

She had an inherent strain of mockery, of playful satire, and she told
me once, when I knew her better, that her own suffering always set
her laughing at herself, even when it was greatest. It was this
characteristic which made her conversation very striking, it was so
sharply contrasted in its parts; a heartless kind of satire set against
the most serious and acute statements. One never knew when she would
turn her own or her interlocutor’s gravity into mirth.

Now no one replied immediately to her remarks, and she continued: “If I
were an artist I should wish to paint that scene, given that the lights
were not so bright and that mill machinery not so sharply defined. There
is almost too much limelight, as it were; too much earnestness in the
thing. Either there should be some side-action of mirth to make it less
intense, or of tragedy to render it less photographic; and unless, Dr.
Marmion, you would consent to be solemn, which would indeed be droll;
or that The Padre there--how amusing they should call him that!--should
cease to be serious, which, being so very unusual, would be tragic, I
do not know how we are to tell the artist that he has missed a chance of
immortalising himself.”

Roscoe said nothing, but smiled at her vivacity, while he deprecated her
words by a wave of his hand. I also was silent for a moment; for there
had come to my mind, while she was speaking and I was watching the
scene, something that Hungerford had said to me once on board the
‘Fulvia’. “Marmion,” said he, “when everything at sea appears so
absolutely beautiful and honest that it thrills you, and you’re itching
to write poetry, look out. There’s trouble ahead. It’s only the pretty
pause in the happy scene of the play before the villain comes in and
tumbles things about. When I’ve been on the bridge,” he continued, “of
a night that set my heart thumping, I knew, by Jingo! it was the devil
playing his silent overture. Don’t you take in the twaddle about God
sending thunderbolts; it’s that old war-horse down below.--And then
I’ve kept a sharp lookout, for I knew as right as rain that a company of
waterspouts would be walking down on us, or a hurricane racing to catch
us broadsides. And what’s gospel for sea is good for land, and you’ll
find it so, my son.”

I was possessed of the same feeling now as I looked at the scene before
us, and I suppose I seemed moody, for immediately Mrs. Falchion said:
“Why, now my words have come true; the scene can be made perfect. Pray
step down to the valley, Dr. Marmion, and complete the situation, for
you are trying to seem serious, and it is irresistibly amusing--and
professional, I suppose; one must not forget that you teach the young
‘sawbones’ how to saw.”

I was piqued, annoyed. I said, though I admit it was not cleverly said:
“Mrs. Falchion, I am willing to go and complete that situation, if you
will go with me; for you would provide the tragedy--plenty of it; there
would be the full perihelion of elements; your smile is the incarnation
of the serious.”

She looked at me full in the eyes. “Now that,” she said, “is a very good
‘quid pro quo’--is that right?--and I have no doubt that it is more or
less true; and for a doctor to speak truth and a professor to be under
stood is a matter for angels. And I actually believe that, in time,
you will be free from priggishness, and become a brilliant
conversationalist; and--suppose we wander on to our proper places in the
scene.... Besides, I want to see that strange man, Mr. Boldrick.”



CHAPTER XIV. THE PATH OF THE EAGLE

We travelled slowly down the hillside into the village, and were about
to turn towards the big mill when we saw Mr. Devlin and Ruth riding
towards us. We halted and waited for them. Mr. Devlin was introduced
to Mrs. Falchion by his daughter, who was sweetly solicitous concerning
Mrs. Falchion and Justine Caron, and seemed surprised at finding them
abroad after the accident of the day before. Ruth said that her father
and herself had just come from the summer hotel, where they had gone
to call upon Mrs. Falchion. Mrs. Falchion heartily acknowledged the
courtesy. She seemed to be playing no part, but was apparently grateful
all round; yet I believe that even already Ruth had caught at something
in her presence threatening Roscoe’s peace; whilst she, from the
beginning, had, with her more trained instincts, seen the relations
between the clergyman and his young parishioner.--But what had that to
do with her?

Between Roscoe and Ruth there was the slightest constraint, and
I thought that it gave a troubled look to the face of the girl.
Involuntarily, the eyes of both were attracted to Mrs. Falchion. I
believe in that moment there was a kind of revelation among the three.
While I talked to Mr. Devlin I watched them, standing a little apart,
Justine Caron with us. It must have been a painful situation for them;
to the young girl because a shadow was trailing across the light of her
first love; to Roscoe because the shadow came out of his past; to Mrs.
Falchion because she was the shadow. I felt that trouble was at hand.
In this trouble I knew that I was to play a part; for, if Roscoe had his
secret and Mrs. Falchion had the key to it, I also held a secret which,
in case of desperate need, I should use. I did not wish to use it, for
though it was mine it was also another’s. I did not like the look in
Mrs. Falchion’s eyes as she glanced at Ruth: I was certain that she
resented Roscoe’s regard for Ruth and Ruth’s regard for Roscoe; but,
up to that moment, I had not thought it possible that she cared for him
deeply. Once she had influenced me, but she had never cared for me.

I could see a change in her. Out of it came that glance at Ruth, which
seemed to me the talon-like hatred that shot from the eyes of Goneril
and Regan: and I was sure that if she loved Roscoe there would be mad
trouble for him and for the girl. Heretofore she had been passionless,
but there was a dormant power in her which had only to be wickedly
aroused to wreck her own and others’ happiness. Hers was one of those
volcanic natures, defying calculation and ordinary conceptions of life;
having the fullest capacity for all the elementary passions--hatred,
love, cruelty, delight, loyalty, revolt, jealousy. She had never from
her birth until now felt love for any one. She had never been awakened.
Even her affection for her father had been dutiful rather than
instinctive. She had provoked love, but had never given it. She had been
self-centred, compulsive, unrelenting. She had unmoved seen and let her
husband go to his doom--it was his doom and death so far as she knew.

Yet, as I thought of this, I found myself again admiring her. She was
handsome, independent, distinctly original, and possessing capacity
for great things. Besides, so far, she had not been actively
vindictive--simply passively indifferent to the sufferings of others.
She seemed to regard results more than means. All she did not like she
could empty into the mill of the destroying gods: just as General Grant
poured hundreds of thousands of men into the valley of the James, not
thinking of lives but victory, not of blood but triumph. She too, even
in her cruelty, seemed to have a sense of wild justice which disregarded
any incidental suffering.

I could see that Mr. Devlin was attracted by her, as every man had
been who had ever met her; for, after all, man is but a common slave
to beauty: virtue he respects, but beauty is man’s valley of suicide.
Presently she turned to Mr. Devlin, having, as it seemed to me,
made Roscoe and Ruth sufficiently uncomfortable. With that cheerful
insouciance which was always possible to her on the most trying
occasions, she immediately said, as she had often said to me, that she
had come to Mr. Devlin to be amused for the morning, perhaps the whole
day. It was her way, her selfish way, to make men her slaves.

Mr. Devlin gallantly said that he was at her disposal, and with a kind
of pride added that there was plenty in the valley which would interest
her; for he was a frank, bluff man, who would as quickly have spoken
disparagingly of what belonged to himself, if it was not worthy, as have
praised it.

“Where shall we go first?” he said. “To the mill?”

“To the mill, by all means,” Mrs. Falchion replied; “I have never been
in a great saw-mill, and I believe this is very fine. Then,” she added,
with a little wave of the hand towards the cable running down from Phil
Boldrick’s eyrie in the mountains, “then I want to see all that cable
can do--all, remember.”

Mr. Devlin laughed. “Well, it hasn’t many tricks, but what it does it
does cleverly, thanks to The Padre.”

“Oh yes,” responded Mrs. Falchion, still looking at the cable; “The
Padre, I know, is very clever.”

“He is more than clever,” bluffly replied Mr. Devlin, who was not keen
enough to see the faint irony in her tones.

“Yes,” responded Mrs. Falchion in the same tone of voice, “he is more
than clever. I have been told that he was once very brave. I have been
told that once in the South Seas he did his country a great service.”

She paused. I could see Ruth’s eyes glisten and her face suffuse, for
though she read the faint irony in the tone, still she saw that the
tale which Mrs. Falchion was evidently about to tell, must be to Galt
Roscoe’s credit. Mrs. Falchion turned idly upon Ruth and saw the look in
her face. An almost imperceptible smile came upon her lips. She looked
again at the cable and Phil Boldrick’s eyrie, which seemed to have a
wonderful attraction for her. Not turning away from it, save now and
then to glance indolently at Mr. Devlin or Ruth, and once enigmatically
at myself, she said:

“Once upon a time--that is the way, I believe, to begin a pretty
story--there were four men-of-war idling about a certain harbour of
Samoa. One of the vessels was the flag-ship, with its admiral on board.
On one of the other vessels was an officer who had years before explored
this harbour. It was the hurricane season. He advised the admiral not to
enter the harbour, for the indications foretold a gale, and himself was
not sure that his chart was in all respects correct, for the harbour had
been hurriedly explored and sounded. But the admiral gave orders, and
they sailed in.

“That day a tremendous hurricane came crying down upon Samoa. It swept
across the island, levelled forests of cocoa palms, battered villages to
pieces, caught that little fleet in the harbour, and played with it in
a horrible madness. To right and left were reefs, behind was the shore,
with a monstrous surf rolling in; before was a narrow passage. One
vessel made its way out--on it was the officer who had surveyed the
harbour. In the open sea there was safety. He brought his vessel down
the coast a little distance, put a rope about him and in the wild surf
made for the shore. I believe he could have been court-martialled for
leaving his ship, but he was a man who had taken a great many risks of
one kind and another in his time. It was one chance out of a hundred;
but he made it--he got to the shore, travelled down to the harbour where
the men-of-war were careening towards the reefs, unable to make the
passage out, and once again he tied a rope about him and plunged into
the surf to try for the admiral’s ship. He got there terribly battered.
They tell how a big wave lifted him and landed him upon the quarter-deck
just as big waves are not expected to do. Well, like the hero in any
melodrama of the kind, he very prettily piloted monsieur the admiral and
his fleet out to the open sea.”

She paused, smiling in an inscrutable sort of way, then turned and said
with a sudden softness in her voice, though still with the air of one
who wished not to be taken with too great a seriousness: “And,
ladies and gentlemen, the name of the ship that led the way was the
‘Porcupine’; and the name of the hero was Commander Galt Roscoe, R.N.;
and ‘of such is the kingdom of heaven!’”

There was silence for a moment. The tale had been told adroitly, and
with such tact as to words that Roscoe could not take offence--need
not, indeed, as he did not, I believe, feel any particular
self-consciousness. I am not sure but he was a little glad that such
evidence should have been given at the moment, when a kind of restraint
had come between him and Ruth, by one who he had reason to think was
not wholly his friend might be his enemy. It was a kind of offset to his
premonitions and to the peril over which he might stumble at any moment.

To me the situation was almost inexplicable; but the woman herself was
inexplicable: at this moment the evil genius of us all, at that doing us
all a kind of crude, superior justice. I was the first to speak.

“Roscoe,” I said, “I never had heard of this, although I remember the
circumstance as told in the newspapers. But I am glad and proud that I
have a friend with such a record.”

“And, only think,” said Mrs. Falchion, “he actually was not
court-martialled for abandoning his ship to save an admiral and a fleet.
But the ways of the English Admiralty are wonderful. They go out of
their way to avoid a court-martial sometimes, and they go out of their
way to establish it sometimes.”

By this time we had started towards the mill. Roscoe walked ahead with
Ruth Devlin. Mr. Devlin, Mrs. Falchion, Justine Caron and myself walked
together.

Mrs. Falchion presently continued, talking, as it seemed to me, at the
back of Roscoe’s head:

“I have known the Admiralty to force an officer to resign the navy
because he had married a native wife. But I never knew the Admiralty to
court-martial an officer because he did not marry a native wife whom
he OUGHT to have married: but, as I said, the ways of the Admiralty are
past admiration.”

I could see Roscoe’s hand clinch at his side, and presently he said over
his shoulder at her: “Your memory and your philosophy are as wonderful
as the Admiralty are inscrutable.”

She laughed. “You have not lost your old gift of retort,” she said. “You
are still amusing.”

“Well, come,” said Mr. Devlin cheerfully, “let’s see if there isn’t
something even more amusing than Mr. Roscoe in Viking. I will show you,
Mrs. Falchion, the biggest saw that ever ate the heart out of a Norfolk
pine.”

At the mill Mrs. Falchion was interested. She asked questions concerning
the machinery which mightily pleased Mr. Devlin, they were so apt and
intelligent; and herself assisted in giving an immense log to the teeth
of the largest saw, which, with its six upright blades, ate, and was
never satisfied. She stooped and ran her ungloved hand into the sawdust,
as sweet before the sun has dried it as the scent of a rose. The rich
smell of the fresh-cut lumber filled the air, and suggested all kinds of
remote and pleasant things. The industry itself is one of the first that
comes with the invasion of new territory, and makes one think of man’s
first work in the world: to fell the tree and till the soil. It is
impossible to describe that fierce, jubilant song of the saw, which
even when we were near was never shrill or shrieking: never drowning our
voices, but vibrant and delightful. To Mrs. Falchion it was new; she was
impressed.

“I have seen,” she said to Mr. Devlin, “all sorts of enterprises,
but never anything like this. It all has a kind of rough music. It is
enjoyable.”

Mr. Devlin beamed. “I have just added something to the mill that will
please you,” he said.

She looked interested. We all gathered round. I stood between Mrs.
Falchion and Ruth Devlin, and Roscoe beside Justine Caron.

“It is the greatest mill-whistle in the country,” he continued. “It will
be heard from twelve to twenty-five miles, according to the condition of
the atmosphere. I want big things all round, and this is a masterpiece,
I guess. Now, I’ll let you hear it if you like. I didn’t expect to use
it until to-night at nine o’clock, when, also for the first time, I am
to light the mills by electricity; a thing that’s not been attempted yet
in any saw-mill on the Continent. We’re going to work night and day for
a couple of months.”

“This is all very wonderful. And are you indebted to Mr. Roscoe in these
things too?--Everybody seems to need him here.”

“Well,” said the mill-owner, laughing, “the whistle is my own. It’s the
sort of thing I would propose--to blow my trumpet, as it were; but the
electricity and the first experiments in it I owe to The Padre.”

“As I thought,” she said, and turned to Roscoe. “I remember,” she added,
“that you had an electrical search-light on the ‘Porcupine’, and that
you were fond of electricity. Do you ever use search-lights here? I
should think they might be of use in your parish. Then, for a change,
you could let the parish turn it upon you, for the sake of contrast and
edification.”

For the moment I was exceedingly angry. Her sarcasm was well veiled,
but I could feel the sardonic touch beneath the smiling surface. This
innuendo seemed so gratuitous. I said to her, almost beneath my breath,
that none of the others could hear: “How womanly!”

She did no more than lift her eyebrows in acknowledgment, and went on
talking lightly to Mr. Devlin. Roscoe was cool, but I could see now
in his eyes a kind of smouldering anger; which was quite to my wish. I
hoped he would be meek no longer.

Presently Ruth Devlin said: “Would it not be better to wait till
to-night, when the place is lighted, before the whistle is blown? Then
you can get a better first impression. And if Mrs. Falchion will come
over to our home at Sunburst, we will try and amuse her for the rest of
the day--that is, after she has seen all here.”

Mrs. Falchion seemed struck by the frankness of the girl, and for an
instant debated, but presently said: “No, thank you. When all is seen
now, I will go to the hotel, and then will join you all here in the
evening, if that seems feasible. Perhaps Dr. Marmion will escort me
here. Mr. Roscoe, of course, has other duties.”

“I shall be happy,” I said, maliciously smiling, “to guide you to the
sacrifice of the saw.”

She was not disturbed. She touched Mr. Devlin’s arm, and, looking archly
at him, nodded backwards towards me. “‘Beware the anaconda!’” she said.

It was impossible not to be amused; her repartee was always so
unrestrained. She disarmed one by what would have been, in a man,
insolent sang-froid: in her it was piquancy, daring.

Presently she added: “But if we are to have no colossal whistle and no
electric light till evening, there is one thing I must have: and that is
your remarkable Phil Boldrick, who seems to hold you all in the palm of
his hand, and lives up there like a god on his Olympus.”

“Well, suppose you go and call on him,” said Roscoe, with a touch of dry
humour, his eye on the cable that reached to Boldrick’s perch.

She saw her opportunity, and answered promptly: “Yes, I will call on
him immediately,”--here she turned towards Ruth,--“if Miss Devlin and
yourself will go with me.”

“Nonsense,” interposed Mr. Devlin. “Besides, the cage will only hold two
easily. Anyhow, it’s absurd.”

“Why is it absurd? Is there any danger?” queried Mrs. Falchion.

“Not unless there’s an idiot at the machinery.”

“I should expect you to manage it,” she persisted.

“But no woman has ever done it.”

“I will make the record.” And, turning to Ruth: “You are not afraid?”

“No, I am not afraid,” said the girl bravely, though she acknowledged
to me afterwards that while she was not afraid of anything where her
own skill was called in question, such as mountain-climbing, or even
puma-hunting, she did not joyfully anticipate swinging between heaven
and earth on that incline. “I will go,” she added, “if my father will
let me. ... May I?” she continued, turning to him.

Perhaps something of the father’s pride came up in him, perhaps he had
just got some suspicion that between his daughter and Mrs. Falchion
there was a subterranean rivalry. However it was, he gave a quick,
quizzical look at both of them, then glanced at Roscoe, and said: “I’ll
make no objections, if Ruth would like to introduce you to Phil. And, as
Mrs. Falchion suggested, I’ll ‘turn the crank.’”

I could see that Roscoe had a bad moment. But presently he appeared to
me perfectly willing that Ruth should go. Maybe he was as keen that
she should not appear at a disadvantage beside Mrs. Falchion as was her
father.

A signal was given, and the cage came slowly down the cable to the mill.
We could see Boldrick, looking little bigger than a child at the other
end, watching our movements. At the last moment Mr. Devlin and Roscoe
seemed apprehensive, but the women were cool and determined. I noticed
Mrs. Falchion look at Ruth curiously once or twice after they entered
the cage, and before they started, and what she saw evidently gave her
a higher opinion of the girl, for she laid her hand on Ruth’s arm
suddenly, and said: “We will show these mere men what nerve is.”

Ruth nodded, then ‘bon voyage’ was said, and the signal was given. The
cage ascended at first quickly, then more slowly, swaying up and down a
little on the cable, and climbing higher and higher through the air to
the mountain-side. What Boldrick thought when he saw the two ascending
towards him, he expressed to Mr. Devlin later in the day in vigorous
language: what occurred at his but Ruth Devlin told me afterwards. When
the cage reached him, he helped the two passengers out, and took them to
his hut. With Ruth he had always been a favourite, and he welcomed her
with admiring and affectionate respect.

“Never b’lieved you could have done it, Miss Devlin--never! Not but what
I knew you weren’t afraid of anything on the earth below, or the waters
under the earth; but when you get swinging there over the world, and not
high enough to get a hold on heaven, it makes you feel as if things
was droppin’ away from you like. But, by gracious! you did it like an
eagle--you and your friend.”

By this time he was introduced, and at the name of Mrs. Falchion,
he cocked his head, and looked quizzically, as if trying to remember
something, then drew his hand once or twice across his forehead. After a
moment he said: “Strange, now, ma’am, how your name strikes me. It isn’t
a common name, and I’ve heerd it before somewhere--somewhere. It isn’t
your face that I’ve seen before--for I’d have remembered it if it was a
thousand years ago,” he added admiringly. “But I’ve heard some one use
it; and I can’t tell where.”

She looked curiously at him, and said: “Don’t try to remember, and it
will come to you in good time. But show us everything about your place
before we go back, won’t you, please?”

He showed them his hut, where he lived, quite alone. It was supplied
with bare necessaries, and with a counter, behind which were cups and a
few bottles. In reference to this, Boldrick said: “Temperance drinks for
the muleteers, tobacco and tea and sugar and postage stamps and things.
They don’t gargle their throats with anything stronger than coffee at
this tavern.”

Then he took them to the cave in which puma, bear, and wapiti skins were
piled, together with a few stores and the kits of travellers who had
left their belongings in Boldrick’s keeping till they should come
again. After Mrs. Falchion and Ruth had seen all, they came out upon
the mountain-side and waved their handkerchiefs to us, who were still
watching from below. Then Boldrick hoisted a flag on his hut, which he
used on gala occasions, to celebrate the event, and, not content with
this, fired a ‘feu de joie’, managed in this way: He took two anvils
used by the muleteers and expressmen to shoe their animals, and placed
one on the other, putting powder between. Then Mrs. Falchion thrust
a red-hot iron into the powder, and an explosion ensued. I was for
a moment uneasy, but Mr. Devlin reassured me, and instantly a shrill
whistle from the little mills answered the salute.

Just before they got into the cage, Mrs. Falchion turned to Boldrick,
and said: “You have not been trying to remember where you heard my name
before? Well, can you not recall it now?”

Boldrick shook his head. “Perhaps you will recall it before I see you
again,” she said.

They started. As they did so, Mrs. Falchion said suddenly, looking at
Boldrick keenly: “Were you ever in the South Seas?”

Boldrick stood for an instant open-mouthed, and then exclaimed loudly,
as the cage swung down the incline: “By Jingo! No, ma’am, I was never
there, but I had a pal who come from Samoa.”

She called back at him: “Tell me of him when we meet again. What was his
name?”

They were too far down the cable now for Boldrick’s reply to reach them
distinctly. The descent seemed even more adventurous than the ascent,
and, in spite of myself, I could not help a thrill of keen excitement.
But they were both smiling when the cage reached us, and both had a very
fine colour.

“A delightful journey, a remarkable reception, and a very singular man
is your Mr. Boldrick,” said Mrs. Falchion.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Devlin, “you’ll know Boldrick a long time before you
find his limits. He is about the most curious character I ever knew,
and does the most curious things. But straight--straight as a die, Mrs.
Falchion!”

“I fancy that Mr. Boldrick and I would be very good friends indeed,”
 said Mrs. Falchion; “and I purpose visiting him again. It is quite
probable that we shall find we have had mutual acquaintances.” She
looked at Roscoe meaningly as she said this, but he was occupied with
Ruth.

“You were not afraid?” Roscoe said to Ruth. “Was it not a strange
sensation?”

“Frankly, at first I was a little afraid, because the cage swings on the
cable, and it makes you uncomfortable. But I enjoyed it before we got to
the end.”

Mrs. Falchion turned to Mr. Devlin. “I find plenty here to amuse me,”
 she said, “and I am glad I came. To-night I want to go up that cable and
call on Mr. Boldrick again, and see the mills and the electric light,
and hear your whistle, from up there. Then, of course, you must show us
the mill working at night, and afterwards--may I ask it?--you must all
come and have supper with me at the summer hotel.”

Ruth dropped her eyes. I saw she did not wish to go. Fortunately
Mr. Devlin extricated her. “I’m afraid that will be impossible, Mrs.
Falchion,” he said: “much obliged to you all the same. But I am going to
be at the mill pretty near all night, and shouldn’t be able to go, and I
don’t want Ruth to go without me.”

“Then it must be another time,” said Mrs. Falchion.

“Oh, whenever it’s convenient for Ruth, after a day or two, I’ll be
ready and glad. But I tell you what: if you want to see something fine,
you must go down as soon as possible to Sunburst. We live there, you
know, not here at Viking. It’s funny, too, because, you see, there’s a
feud between Viking and Sunburst--we are all river-men and mill-hands at
Viking, and they’re all salmon-fishers and fruit-growers at Sunburst. By
rights I ought to live here, but when I started I thought I’d build
my mills at Sunburst, so I pitched my tent down there. My wife and the
girls got attached to the place, and though the mills were built at
Viking, and I made all my money up here, I live at Sunburst and spend
my shekels there. I guess if I didn’t happen to live at Sunburst, people
would be trailing their coats and making Donnybrook fairs every other
day between these two towns. But that’s neither here nor there. Take my
advice, Mrs. Falchion, and come to Sunburst and see the salmon-fishers
at work, both day and night. It is about the biggest thing in the way
of natural picturesqueness that you’ll see--outside my mills. Indians,
half-breeds, white men, Chinamen--they are all at it in weirs and cages,
or in the nets, and spearing by torch-light!--Don’t you think I would do
to run a circus, Mrs. Falchion?--Stand at the door, and shout: ‘Here’s
where you get the worth of your money’?”

Mrs. Falchion laughed. “I am sure you and I will be good friends; you
are amusing. And, to be perfectly frank with you, I am very weary of
trying to live in the intellectual altitudes of Dr. Marmion--and The
Padre.”

I had never seen her in a greater strain of gaiety. It had almost a kind
of feverishness--as if she relished fully the position she held towards
Roscoe and Ruth, her power over their future, and her belief (as I think
was in her mind then) that she could bring back to her self Roscoe’s
old allegiance. That she believed this, I was convinced; that she would
never carry it out, was just as strong: for I, though only the chorus
in the drama, might one day find it in my power to become, for a moment,
one of the principal actors--from which position I had declined one day
when humiliated before Mrs. Falchion on the ‘Fulvia’. Boyd Madras was in
my mind.

After a few minutes we parted, agreeing to meet again in the valley in
the evening. I had promised, as Mrs. Falchion had suggested, to escort
her and Justine Caron from the summer hotel to the mill. Roscoe had
duties at both Viking and Sunburst and would not join us until we all
met in the evening. Mr. Devlin and Ruth rode away towards Sunburst. Mrs.
Falchion, Justine, and myself travelled slowly up the hillside, talking
chiefly upon the events of the morning. Mrs. Falchion appeared to
admire greatly the stalwart character of Mr. Devlin; in a few swift,
complimentary words disposed of Ruth; and then made many inquiries
concerning Roscoe’s work, my own position, and the length of my stay
in the mountains; and talked upon many trivial matters, never once
referring--as it seemed to me, purposely--to our past experiences on
the ‘Fulvia’, nor making any inquiry concerning any one except Belle
Treherne.

She showed no surprise when I told her that I expected to marry Miss
Treherne. She congratulated me with apparent frankness, and asked for
Miss Treherne’s address, saying she would write to her. As soon as she
had left Roscoe’s presence she had dropped all enigmatical words
and phrases, and, during this hour I was with her, was the tactful,
accomplished woman of the world, with the one present object: to make
her conversation agreeable, and to keep things on the surface. Justine
Caron scarcely spoke during the whole of our walk, although I addressed
myself to her frequently. But I could see that she watched Mrs.
Falchion’s face curiously; and I believe that at this time her instinct
was keener by far to read what was in Mrs. Falchion’s mind than my own,
though I knew much more of the hidden chain of events connecting Mrs.
Falchion’s life and Galt Roscoe’s.

I parted from them at the door of the hotel, made my way down to
Roscoe’s house at the ravine, and busied myself for the greater part of
the day in writing letters, and reading on the coping. About sunset
I called for Mrs. Falchion, and found her and Justine Caron ready and
waiting. There was nothing eventful in our talk as we came down the
mountain-side towards Viking--Justine Caron’s presence prevented that.
It was dusk when we reached the valley. As yet the mills were all dark.
The only lights visible were in the low houses lining the banks of the
river. Against the mountainside there seemed to hang one bunch of flame
like a star, large, red, and weird. It was a torch burning in front of
Phil Boldrick’s hut. We made our way slowly to the mill, and found
Mr. Devlin, Ruth, and Roscoe, with Ruth’s sister, and one or two other
friends, expecting us.

“Well,” said Mr. Devlin heartily, “I have kept the show waiting for you.
The house is all dark, but I guess you’ll see a transformation scene
pretty quick. Come out,” he continued, “and let us get the front seats.
They are all stalls here; nobody has a box except Boldrick, and it is up
in the flies.”

“Mr. Devlin,” said Mrs. Falchion, “I purpose to see this show not only
from the stalls, but from the box in the flies. Therefore, during the
first act, I shall be here in front of the foot-lights. During the
second act I shall be aloft like Tom Bowling--”

“In other words--” began Mr. Devlin.

“In other words,” added Mrs. Falchion, “I am going to see the valley and
hear your great horn blow from up there!” She pointed towards the star
in front of Phil’s hut.

“All right,” said Mr. Devlin; “but you will excuse me if I say that I
don’t particularly want anybody to see this performance from where Tom
Bowling bides.”

We left the office and went out upon the platform, a little distance
from the mill. Mr. Devlin gave a signal, touched a wire, and immediately
it seemed as if the whole valley was alight. The mill itself was in a
blaze of white. It was transfigured--a fairy palace, just as the mud
barges in the Suez Canal had been transformed by the search-light of
the ‘Fulvia’. For the moment, in the wonder of change from darkness to
light, the valley became the picture of a dream. Every man was at his
post in the mill, and in an instant work was going on as we had seen it
in the morning. Then, all at once, there came a great roar, as it were,
from the very heart of the mill--a deep diapason, dug out of the throat
of the hills: the big whistle.

“It sounds mournful--like a great animal in pain,” said Mrs. Falchion.
“You might have got one more cheerful.”

“Wait till it gets tuned up,” said Mr. Devlin. “It hasn’t had a chance
to get the burs out of its throat. It will be very fine as soon as the
engine-man knows how to manage it.”

“Yes,” said Ruth, interposing, “a little toning down would do it
good--it is shaking the windows in your office; feel this platform
tremble!”

“Well, I bargained for a big whistle and I’ve got it: and I guess
they’ll know if ever there’s a fire in the town!” Just as he said this,
Roscoe gave a cry and pointed.

We all turned, and saw a sight that made Ruth Devlin cover her face with
her hands and Mrs. Falchion stand horror-stricken. There, coming
down the cable with the speed of lightning, was the cage. In it was a
man--Phil Boldrick. With a cry and a smothered oath, Mr. Devlin sprang
towards the machinery, Roscoe with him. There was nobody near it, but
they saw a boy whose duty it was that night to manage the cable, running
towards it. Roscoe was the first to reach the lever; but it was too
late. He partially stopped the cage, but only partially. It came with a
dull, sickening thud to the ground, and Phil Boldrick--Phil Boldrick’s
broken, battered body--was thrown out.

A few minutes later Boldrick was lying in Mr. Devlin’s office.

Ill luck for Viking in the hour of her success. Phil’s shattered hulk is
drifting. The masts have gone by the board, the pilot from the captain’s
side. Only the man’s “unconquerable soul” is on the bridge, watching
the craft dip at the bow till the waters, their sport out, should hugely
swallow it.

We were all gathered round. Phil had asked to see the lad who, by
neglecting the machinery for a moment, had wrecked his life. “My boy,”
 he said, “you played an ugly game. It was a big mistake. I haven’t
any grudge agen you, but be glad I’m not one that’d haunt you for your
cussed foolishness.... There, now, I feel better; that’s off my mind!”

“If you’re wanting to show remorse or anything,” he continued, “there’s
my friend, Mr. Roscoe, The Padre--he’s all right, you understand!--Are
you there?... Why don’t you speak?” He stretched out his hand. The lad
took it, but he could not speak: he held it and sobbed.

Then Phil understood. His brow wrinkled with a sudden trouble. He said:
“There, never mind. I’m dying, but it isn’t what I expected. It doesn’t
smart nor tear much; not more than river-rheumatism. P’r’aps I wouldn’t
mind it at all if I could see.”

For Phil was entirely blind now. The accident had destroyed his
remaining eye. Being blind, he had already passed that first corridor
of death--darkness. Roscoe stooped over him, took his hand, and spoke
quietly to him. Phil knew the voice, and said with a faint smile: “Do
you think they’d plant me with municipal honours--honours to pardners?”

“We’ll see to that, Phil,” said Mr. Devlin from behind the clergyman.

Phil recognised the voice. “You think that nobody’ll kick at making it
official?”

“Not one, Phil.”

“And maybe they wouldn’t mind firin’ a volley--Lights out, as it were:
and blow the big whistle? It’d look sociable, wouldn’t it?”

“There’ll be a volley and the whistle, Phil--if you have to go,” said
Mr. Devlin.

There was a silence, then the reply came musingly: “I guess I hev to go.
... I’d hev liked to see the corporation runnin’ longer, but maybe I can
trust the boys.”

A river-driver at the door said in a deep voice: “By the holy! yes, you
can trust us.”

“Thank you kindly.... If it doesn’t make any difference to the rest,
I’d like to be alone with The Padre for a little--not for religion, you
understand, for I go as I stayed, and I hev my views,--but for private
business.”

Slowly, awkwardly, the few river-drivers passed out--Devlin and Mrs.
Falchion and Ruth and I with them--for I could do nothing now for
him--he was broken all to pieces. Roscoe told me afterwards what
happened then.

“Padre,” he said to Roscoe, “are we alone?”

“Quite alone, Phil.”

“Well, I hevn’t any crime to tell, and the business isn’t weighty; but I
hev a pal at Danger Mountain--” He paused.

“Yes, Phil?”

“He’s low down in s’ciety; but he’s square, and we’ve had the same
blanket for many a day together. I crossed him first on the Panama
level. I was broke--stony broke. He’d been shipwrecked, and was ditto.
He’d been in the South Seas; I in Nicaragua. We travelled up through
Mexico and Arizona, and then through California to the Canadian Rockies.
At last we camped at Danger Mountain, a Hudson’s Bay fort, and stayed
there. It was a roughish spot, but we didn’t mind that. Every place
isn’t Viking. One night we had a difference--not a quarrel, mind you,
but a difference. He was for lynchin’ a fellow called Piccadilly, a
swell that’d come down in the world, bringin’ the worst tricks of
his tribe with him. He’d never been a bony fidy gentleman--just an
imitation. He played sneak with the daughter of Five Fingers, an Injin
chief. We’d set store by that girl. There wasn’t one of us rough nuts
but respected her. She was one of the few beautiful Injin women I’ve
seen. Well, it come out that Piccadilly had ruined her, and one morning
she was found dead. It drove my pal well-nigh crazy. Not that she was
anything partik’ler to him; but the thing took hold of him unusual.”

Now that I know all concerning Roscoe’s past life, I can imagine that
this recital must have been swords at his heart. The whole occurrence is
put down minutely in his diary, but there is no word of comment upon it.

Phil had been obliged to stop for pain, and, after Roscoe had adjusted
the bandages, he continued:

“My pal and the others made up their minds they’d lynch Piccadilly; they
wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt--for it wasn’t certain that
the girl hadn’t killed herself.... Well, I went to Piccadilly, and give
him the benefit. He left, and skipped the rope. Not, p’r’aps, that
he ought to hev got away, but once he’d showed me a letter from his
mother,--he was drunk too, at the time,--and I remembered when my
brother Rodney was killed in the Black Hills, and how my mother took it;
so I give him the tip to travel quick.”

He paused and rested. Then presently continued: “Now, Padre, I’ve got
four hundred dollars--the most I ever had at one time in my life. And
I’d like it to go to my old pal--though we had that difference, and
parted. I guess we respect each other about the same as we ever did. And
I wish you’d write it down so that the thing would be municipal.”

Roscoe took pencil and paper and said: “What’s his name, Phil?”

“Sam--Tonga Sam.”

“But that isn’t all his name?”

“No, I s’pose not, but it’s all he ever had in general use. He’d got it
because he’d been to the Tonga Islands and used to yarn about them. Put
‘Tonga Sam, Phil Boldrick’s Pal at Danger Mountain, ult’--add the ‘ult,’
it’s c’rrect.--That’ll find him. And write him these words, and if
you ever see him say them to him--‘Phil Boldrick never had a pal that
crowded Tonga Sam.’”

When the document was written, Roscoe read it aloud, then both signed
it, Roscoe guiding the battered hand over the paper.

This done, there was a moment’s pause, and then Phil said: “I’d like to
be in the open. I was born in the open--on the Madawaska. Take me out,
Padre.”

Roscoe stepped to the door, and silently beckoned to Devlin and myself.
We carried him out, and put him beside a pine tree.

“Where am I now?” he said. “Under the white pine, Phil.” “That’s right.
Face me to the north.”

We did so. Minutes passed in silence. Only the song of the saw was
heard, and the welting of the river. “Padre,” he said at last hurriedly,
“lift me up, so’s I can breathe.”

This was done.

“Am I facin’ the big mill?”

“Yes.”

“That’s c’rrect. And the ‘lectric light is burnin’ in the mill and in
the town, an’ the saws are all goin’?”

“Yes.”

“By gracious, yes--you can hear ‘em! Don’t they scrunch the stuff,
though!” He laughed a little. “Mr. Devlin an’ you and me hev been pretty
smart, hevn’t we?”

Then a spasm caught him, and after a painful pause he called: “It’s
the biggest thing in cables.... Stand close in the cage.... Feel her
swing!--Safe, you bet, if he stands by the lever....”

His face lighted with the last gleam of living, and he said slowly: “I
hev a pal--at Danger Mountain.”



CHAPTER XV. IN THE TROUGH OF THE WINDS

The three days following the events recorded in the preceding chapter
were notable to us all. Because my own affairs and experiences are of
the least account, I shall record them first: they will at least throw
a little light on the history of people who appeared previously in this
tale, and disappeared suddenly when the ‘Fulvia’ reached London, to make
room for others.

The day after Phil Boldrick’s death I received a letter from Hungerford,
and also one from Belle Treherne. Hungerford had left the Occidental
Company’s service, and had been fortunate enough to get the position of
first officer on a line of steamers running between England and the West
Indies. The letter was brusque, incisive, and forceful, and declared
that, once he got his foot firmly planted in his new position, he would
get married and be done with it. He said that Clovelly the novelist had
given a little dinner at his chambers in Piccadilly, and that the guests
were all our fellow-passengers by the ‘Fulvia’; among them Colonel
Ryder, the bookmaker, Blackburn the Queenslander, and himself.

This is extracted from the letter:

    ... Clovelly was in rare form.--Don’t run away with the idea
   that he’s eating his heart out because you came in just ahead in the
   race for Miss Treherne. For my part--but, never mind!--You had
   phenomenal luck, and you will be a phenomenal fool if you don’t
   arrange for an early marriage. You are a perfect baby in some
   things. Don’t you know that the time a woman most yearns for a man
   is when she has refused him? And Clovelly is here on the ground,
   and they are in the same set, and though I’d take my oath she would
   be loyal to you if you were ten thousand miles from here for ten
   years, so far as a promise is concerned, yet remember that a promise
   and a fancy are two different things. We may do what’s right for
   the fear o’ God, and not love Him either. Marmion, let the marriage
   bells be rung early--a maiden’s heart is a ticklish thing....

   But Clovelly was in rare form, as I said; and the bookmaker, who
   had for the first time read a novel of his, amiably quoted from it,
   and criticised it during the dinner, till the place reeked with
   laughter. At first every one stared aghast (“stared aghast!”--how
   is that for literary form?); but when Clovelly gurgled, and then
   haw-hawed till he couldn’t lift his champagne, the rest of us
   followed in a double-quick. And the bookmaker simply sat calm and
   earnest with his eye-glass in his eye, and never did more than
   gently smile. “See here,” he said ever so candidly of Clovelly’s
   best character, a serious, inscrutable kind of a man, the dignified
   figure in the book--“I liked the way you drew that muff. He was
   such an awful outsider, wasn’t he? All talk, and hypocrite down to
   his heels. And when you married him to that lady who nibbled her
   food in public and gorged in the back pantry, and went ‘slumming’
   and made shoulder-strings for the parson--oh, I know the kind!”--
   [This was Clovelly’s heroine, whom he had tried to draw, as he said
   himself, “with a perfect sincerity and a lovely worldly-mindedness,
   and a sweet creation altogether.”] “I said, that’s poetic justice,
   that’s the refinement of retribution. Any other yarn-spinner would
   have killed the male idiot by murder, or a drop from a precipice, or
   a lingering fever; but Clovelly did the thing with delicate torture.
   He said, ‘Go to blazes,’ and he fixed up that marriage--and there
   you are! Clovelly, I drink to you; you are a master!”

   Clovelly acknowledged beautifully, and brought off a fine thing
   about the bookmaker having pocketed L5000 at the Derby, then
   complimented Colonel Ryder on his success as a lecturer in London
   (pretty true, by the way), and congratulated Blackburn on his coming
   marriage with Mrs. Callendar, the Tasmanian widow. What he said of
   myself I am not going to repeat; but it was salaaming all round,
   with the liquor good, and fun bang over the bulwarks.

   How is Roscoe? I didn’t see as much of him as you did, but I liked
   him. Take my tip for it, that woman will make trouble for him some
   day. She is the biggest puzzle I ever met. I never could tell
   whether she liked him or hated him; but it seems to me that either
   would be the ruin of any “Christom man.” I know she saw something
   of him while she was in London, because her quarters were next to
   those of my aunt the dowager (whose heart the gods soften at my
   wedding!) in Queen Anne’s Mansions, S.W., and who actually liked
   Mrs. F., called on her, and asked her to dinner, and Roscoe too,
   whom she met at her place. I believe my aunt would have used her
   influence to get him a good living, if he had played his cards
   properly; but I expect he wouldn’t be patronised, and he went for a
   “mickonaree,” as they say in the South Seas.... Well, I’m off
   to the Spicy Isles, then back again to marry a wife. “Go thou and
   do likewise.”

   By the way, have you ever heard of or seen Boyd Madras since he
   slipped our cable at Aden and gave the world another chance?
   I trust he will spoil her wedding--if she ever tries to have one.
   May I be there to see!

Because we shall see nothing more of Hungerford till we finally dismiss
the drama, I should like to say that this voyage of his to the West
Indies made his fortune--that is, it gave him command of one of the
finest ships in the English merchant service. In a storm a disaster
occurred to his vessel, his captain was washed overboard, and he was
obliged to take command. His skill, fortitude, and great manliness,
under tragical circumstances, sent his name booming round the world;
and, coupled, as it was, with a singular act of personal valour, he
had his pick of all vacancies and possible vacancies in the merchant
service, boy (or little more) as he was. I am glad to say that he is now
a happy husband and father too.

The letter from Belle Treherne mentioned having met Clovelly several
times of late, and, with Hungerford’s words hot in my mind, I
determined, though I had perfect confidence in her, as in myself, to be
married at Christmas-time. Her account of the courtship of Blackburn and
Mrs. Callendar was as amusing as her description of an evening which the
bookmaker had spent with her father, when he said he was going to marry
an actress whom he had seen at Drury Lane Theatre in a racing drama.
This he subsequently did, and she ran him a break-neck race for many a
day, but never making him unhappy or less resourceful. His verdict, and
his only verdict, upon Mrs. Falchion had been confided to Blackburn, who
in turn confided it to Clovelly, who passed it on to me.

He said: “A woman is like a horse. Make her beautiful, give her a high
temper and a bit of bad luck in her youth, and she’ll take her revenge
out of life; even though she runs straight, and wins straight every
time; till she breaks her heart one day over a lost race. After that
she is good to live with for ever. A heart-break for that kind is their
salvation: without it they go on breaking the hearts of others.”

As I read Belle’s and Hungerford’s letters my thoughts went back
again--as they did so often indeed--to the voyage of the ‘Fulvia’, and
then to Mrs. Falchion’s presence in the Rocky Mountains. There was a
strange destiny in it all, and I had no pleasant anticipations about
the end; for, even if she could or did do Roscoe no harm, so far as his
position was concerned, I saw that she had already begun to make trouble
between him and Ruth.

That day which saw poor Boldrick’s death put her in a conflicting light
to me. Now I thought I saw in her unusual gentleness, again an unusual
irony, an almost flippant and cruel worldliness; and though at the time
she was most touched by the accident, I think her feeling of horror at
it made her appear to speak in a way which showed her unpleasantly to
Mr. Devlin and his daughter. It may be, however, that Ruth Devlin saw
further into her character than I guessed, and understood the strange
contradictions of her nature. But I shall, I suppose, never know
absolutely about that; nor does it matter much now.

The day succeeding Phil’s death was Sunday, and the little church
at Viking was full. Many fishers had come over from Sunburst. It was
evident that people expected Roscoe to make some reference to
Phil’s death in his sermon, or, at least, have a part of the service
appropriate. By a singular chance the first morning lesson was David’s
lamentation for Saul and Jonathan. Roscoe had a fine voice. He read
easily, naturally--like a cultivated layman, not like a clergyman;
like a man who wished to convey the simple meaning of what he read,
reverently, honestly. On the many occasions when I heard him read the
service, I noticed that he never changed the opening sentence, though
there were, of course, others from which to choose. He drew the people
to their feet always with these words, spoken as it were directly to
them:

   “When the wicked man turneth away from the wickedness that he hath
   committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save
   his soul alive.”

I noticed this morning that he instantly attracted the attention of
every one, and held it, with the first words of the lesson:

   “The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the
   mighty fallen!”

It seemed to me as if the people at first almost tried to stop
breathing, so intense was the feeling. Mrs. Falchion was sitting very
near me, and though she had worn her veil up at first, as I uncharitably
put it then, to disconcert him, she drew it rather quickly down as his
reading proceeded; but, so far as I could see, she never took her
eyes off his face through the whole service; and, impelled in spite of
myself, I watched her closely. Though Ruth Devlin was sitting not far
from her, she scarcely looked that way.

Evidently the text of the sermon was not chosen that it might have some
association with Phil’s death, but there was a kind of simple grandeur,
and certainly cheerful stalwartness, in his interpretation and practical
rendering of the text:

   “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?
    ... travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak
   in righteousness, mighty to save.”

A man was talking to men sensibly, directly, quietly. It was impossible
to resist the wholesome eloquence of his temperament; he was a
revelation of humanity: what he said had life.

I said to myself, as I had before, Is it possible that this man ever did
anything unmanly?

After the service, James Devlin--with Ruth--came to Roscoe and myself,
and asked us to lunch at his house. Roscoe hesitated, but I knew it was
better for him not to walk up the hills and back again immediately after
luncheon; so I accepted for us both; and Ruth gave me a grateful look.
Roscoe seemed almost anxious not to be alone with Ruth--not from any
cowardly feeling, but because he was perplexed by the old sense of
coming catastrophe, which, indeed, poor fellow, he had some cause to
feel. He and Mr. Devlin talked of Phil’s funeral and the arrangements
that had been made, and during the general conversation Ruth and I
dropped behind.

Quite abruptly she said to me: “Who is Mrs. Falchion?”

“A widow--it is said--rich, unencumbered,” I as abruptly answered.

“But I suppose even widows may have pedigrees, and be conjugated in the
past tense,” was the cool reply. She drew herself up a little proudly.

I was greatly astonished. Here was a girl living most of her life in
these mountains, having only had a few years of social life in the East,
practising with considerable skill those arts of conversation so much
cultivated in metropolitan drawing-rooms. But I was a very dull fellow
then, and had yet to learn that women may develop in a day to wonderful
things.

“Well,” I said in reply, “I suppose not. But I fear I cannot answer
regarding the pedigree, nor a great deal about the past, for I only met
her under two years ago.”

“And yet I have imagined that you knew her pretty well, and that Mr.
Roscoe knew her even better--perhaps,” she said suggestively.

“That is so,” I tried to say with apparent frankness, “for she lived in
the South Seas with her father, and Roscoe knew her there.”

“She is a strange woman, and quite heartless in some ways; and yet, do
you know, I like her while I dislike her; and I cannot tell why.”

“Do not try to tell,” I answered, “for she has the gift of making people
do both.--I think she likes and dislikes herself--as well as others.”

“As well--as others,” she replied slowly. “Yes, I think I have noticed
that. You see,” she added, “I do not look at people as most girls of
my age: and perhaps I am no better for that. But Mrs. Falchion’s
introduction to me occurred in such peculiar circumstances, and the
coincidence of your knowing her was so strange, that my interest is not
unnatural, I suppose.”

“On the contrary,” I said, “I am only surprised that you have restrained
your curiosity so much and so long. It was all very strange; though the
meeting was quite to be expected, as Mrs. Falchion herself explained
that day. She had determined on coming over to the Pacific Coast; this
place was in her way; it is a fashionable resort; and she stood a good
chance of finding old friends.”

“Yes--of finding--old friends,” was the abstracted reply. “I like Miss
Caron, her companion, very much better than--most women I have met.”

This was not what she was going to say, but she checked herself, lest
she might be suspected of thinking uncharitably of Mrs. Falchion. I,
of course, agreed with her, and told her the story of Galt Roscoe and
Hector Caron, and of Justine’s earnestness regarding her fancied debt to
Roscoe.

I saw that the poison of anxiety had entered the girl’s mind; and it
might, perhaps, bear fruit of no engaging quality. In her own home,
however, it was a picture to see her with her younger sisters and
brothers, and invalid mother. She went about very brightly and sweetly
among them, speaking to them as if she was mother to them all, angel
of them all, domestic court for them all; as indeed she was. Here there
seemed no disturbing element in her; a close observer might even have
said (and in this case I fancy I was that) that she had no mind or heart
for anything or anybody but these few of her blood and race. Hers was a
fine nature--high, wholesome, unselfish. Yet it struck me sadly also, to
see how the child-like in her, and her young spirit, had been so early
set to the task of defence and protection: a mother at whose breasts
a child had never hung; maternal, but without the relieving joys of
maternity.

I knew that she would carry through her life that too watchful, too
anxious tenderness; that to her last day she would look back and not
remember that she had a childhood once; because while yet a child she
had been made into a woman.

Such of the daughters of men make life beautiful; but themselves are
selfish who do not see the almost intolerable pathos of unselfishness
and sacrifice. At the moment I was bitter with the thought that, if Mrs.
Falchion intended anything which could steal away this girl’s happiness
from her, even for a time, I should myself seek to retaliate--which was,
as may appear, in my power. But I could not go to Mrs. Falchion now
and say: “You intend some harm to these two: for God’s sake go away
and leave them alone!” I had no real ground for making such a request.
Besides, if there was any catastrophe, any trouble, coming, or possible,
that might hasten it, or, at least, give it point.

I could only wait. I had laid another plan, and from a telegram I had
received in answer to one I had sent, I believed it was working. I did
not despair. I had, indeed, sent a cable to my agent in England, which
was to be forwarded to the address given me by Boyd Madras at Aden. I
had got a reply saying that Boyd Madras had sailed for Canada by the
Allan Line of steamers. I had then telegraphed to a lawyer I knew in
Montreal, and he had replied that he was on the track of the wanderer.

All Viking and Sunburst turned out to Phil Boldrick’s funeral.
Everything was done that he had requested. The great whistle roared
painfully, revolvers and guns were fired over his grave, and the
new-formed corporation appeared. He was buried on the top of a
foot-hill, which, to this day, is known as Boldricks’ Own. The grave was
covered by an immense flat stone bearing his name. But a flagstaff was
erected near, no stouter one stands on Beachy Head or elsewhere,--and on
it was engraved:

               PHIL BOLDRICK,

          Buried with Municipal Honours on
          the Thirtieth day of June 1883.

        This to his Memory, and for the honour of
             Viking and Sunburst.

“Padre,” said a river-driver to Galt Roscoe after the rites were
finished, “that was a man you could trust.”

“Padre,” added another, “that was a man you could bank on, and draw your
interest reg’lar. He never done a mean thing, and he never pal’d with
a mean man. He wasn’t for getting his teeth on edge like some in the
valley. He didn’t always side with the majority, and he had a gift of
doin’ things on the square.”

Others spoke in similar fashion, and then Viking went back to work, and
we to our mountain cottage.

Many days passed quietly. I saw that Galt Roscoe wished to speak to me
on the subject perplexing him, but I did not help him. I knew that
it would come in good time, and the farther off it was the better. I
dreaded to hear what he had to tell, lest, in spite of my confidence in
him, it should really be a thing which, if made public, must bring ruin.
During the evenings of these days he wrote much in his diary--the very
book that lies by me now. Writing seemed a relief to him, for he was
more cheerful afterwards. I know that he had received letters from the
summer hotel, but whether they were from Mrs. Falchion or Justine Caron
I was not then aware, though I afterwards came to know that one of them
was from Justine, asking him if she might call on him. He guessed that
the request was connected with Hector Caron’s death; and, of course,
gave his consent. During this time he did not visit Ruth Devlin, nor did
he mention her name. As for myself, I was sick of the whole business,
and wished it well over, whatever the result.

I make here a few extracts from Roscoe’s diary, to show the state of his
mind at this period:

   Can a man never get away from the consequences of his wickedness,
   even though he repents?... Restitution is necessary as well
   as repentance; but when one cannot make restitution, when it is
   impossible--what then? I suppose one has to reply, Well, you have
   to suffer, that is all.... Poor Alo! To think that after all
   these years, you can strike me!

   There is something malicious in the way Mercy Falchion crosses my
   path. What she knows, she knows; and what she can do if she
   chooses, I must endure. I cannot love Mercy Falchion again, and
   that, I suppose, is the last thing she would wish now. I cannot
   bring Alo back. But how does that concern her! Why does she hate
   me so? For, underneath her kindest words,--and they are kind
   sometimes,--I can detect the note of enmity, of calculating scorn.
   ... I wish I could go to Ruth and tell her all, and ask her to
   decide if she can take a man with such a past.... What a
   thing it is to have had a clean record of unflinching manliness at
   one’s back!

I add another extract:

   Phil’s story of Danger Mountain struck like ice at my heart. There
   was a horrible irony in the thing: that it should be told to me, of
   all the world, and at such a time. Some would say, I suppose, that
   it was the arrangement of Providence. Not to speak it profanely, it
   seems to be the achievement of the devil. The torture was too
   malicious for God....

   Phil’s letter has gone to his pal at Danger Mountain....

The fourth day after the funeral Justine Caron came to see Galt Roscoe.
This was the substance of their conversation, as I came to know long
afterwards.

“Monsieur,” she said, “I have come to pay something of a debt which I
owe to you. It is a long time since you gave my poor Hector burial, but
I have never forgotten, and I have brought you at last--you must not
shake your head so--the money you spent.... But you MUST take it. I
should be miserable if you did not. The money is all that I can repay;
the kindness is for memory and gratitude always.”

He looked at her wonderingly, earnestly, she seemed so unworldly,
standing there, her life’s ambition not stirring beyond duty to her
dead. If goodness makes beauty, she was beautiful; and yet, besides
all that, she had a warm, absorbing eye, a soft, rounded cheek, and she
carried in her face the light of a cheerful, engaging spirit.

“Will it make you happier if I take the money?” he said at last, and his
voice showed how she had moved him.

“So much happier!” she answered, and she put a roll of notes into his
hand.

“Then I will take it,” he replied, with a manner not too serious, and
he looked at the notes carefully; “but only what I actually spent,
remember; what I told you when you wrote me at Hector’s death; not
this ample interest. You forget, Miss Caron, that your brother was my
friend.”

“No I cannot forget that. It lives with me,” she rejoined softly. But
she took back the surplus notes. “And I have my gratitude left still,”
 she added, smiling.

“Believe me, there is no occasion for gratitude. Why, what less could
one do?”

“One could pass by on the other side.”

“He was not fallen among thieves,” was his reply; “he was among
Englishmen, the old allies of the French.”

“But the Priests and the Levites, people of his own
country--Frenchmen--passed him by. They were infamous in falsehood,
cruel to him and to me.--You are an Englishman; you have heart and
kindness.”

He hesitated, then he gravely said: “Do not trust Englishmen more than
you trust your own countrymen. We are selfish even in our friendships
often. We stick to one person, and to benefit that one we sacrifice
others. Have you found all Englishmen--and WOMEN unselfish?” He
looked at her steadily; but immediately repented that he had asked the
question, for he had in his mind one whom they both knew, too well,
perhaps; and he added quickly: “You see, I am not kind.”

They were standing now in the sunlight just outside the house. His hands
were thrust down in the pockets of his linen coat; her hands opening and
shutting her parasol slightly. They might, from their appearance, have
been talking of very inconsequent things.

Her eyes lifted sorrowfully to his. “Ah, monsieur,” she rejoined, “there
are two times when one must fear a woman.” She answered his question
more directly than he could have conjectured. But she felt that she must
warn him.

“I do not understand,” he said.

“Of course you do not. Only women themselves understand that the two
times when one must fear a woman are when she hates, and when she
loves--after a kind. When she gets wicked or mad enough to hate, either
through jealousy or because she cannot love where she would, she is
merciless. She does not know the honour of the game. She has no pity.
Then, sometimes when she loves in a way, she is, as you say, most
selfish. I mean a love which--is not possible. Then she does some mad
act--all women are a little mad sometimes. Most of us wish to be good,
but we are quicksilver....”

Roscoe’s mind had been working fast. He saw she meant to warn him
against Mrs. Falchion. His face flushed slightly. He knew that Justine
had thought well of him, and now he knew also that she suspected
something not creditable or, at least, hazardous in his life.

“And the man--the man whom the woman hates?”

“When the woman hates--and loves too, the man is in danger.”

“Do you know of such a man?” he almost shrinkingly said.

“If I did I would say to him, The world is wide. There is no glory in
fighting a woman who will not be fair in battle. She will say what
may appear to be true, but what she knows in her own heart to be
false--false and bad.”

Roscoe now saw that Justine had more than an inkling of his story.

He said calmly: “You would advise that man to flee from danger?”

“Yes, to flee,” she replied hurriedly, with a strange anxiety in her
eyes; “for sometimes a woman is not satisfied with words that kill. She
becomes less than human, and is like Jael.”

Justine knew that Mrs. Falchion held a sword over Roscoe’s career; she
guessed that Mrs. Falchion both cared for him and hated him too; but
she did not know the true reason of the hatred--that only came out
afterwards. Woman-like, she exaggerated in order that she might move
him; but her motive was good, and what she said was not out of keeping
with the facts of life.

“The man’s life even might be in danger?” he asked.

“It might.”

“But surely that is not so dreadful,” he still said calmly.

“Death is not the worst of evils.”

“No, not the worst; one has to think of the evil word as well. The evil
word can be outlived; but the man must think of those who really love
him--who would die to save him--and whose hearts would break if he
were killed. Love can outlive slander, but it is bitter when it has to
outlive both slander and death. It is easy to love with joy so long as
both live, though there are worlds between. Thoughts fly and meet; but
Death makes the great division.... Love can only live in the pleasant
world.”

Very abstractedly he said: “Is it a pleasant world to you?”

She did not reply directly to that, but answered: “Monsieur, if you know
of such a man as I speak of, warn him to fly.” And she raised her eyes
from the ground and looked earnestly at him. Now her face was slightly
flushed, she looked almost beautiful.

“I know of such a man,” he replied, “but he will not go. He has to
answer to his own soul and his conscience. He is not without fear, but
it is only fear for those who care for him, be they ever so few. And
he hopes that they will be brave enough to face his misery, if it must
come. For we know that courage has its hour of comfort.... When such a
man as you speak of has his dark hour he will stand firm.”

Then with a great impulse he added: “This man whom I know did wrong, but
he was falsely accused of doing a still greater. The consequence of the
first thing followed him. He could never make restitution. Years went
by. Some one knew that dark spot in his life--his Nemesis.”

“The worst Nemesis in this life, monsieur, is always a woman,” she
interrupted.

“Perhaps she is the surest,” he continued. “The woman faced him in the
hour of his peace and--” he paused. His voice was husky.

“Yes, ‘and,’ monsieur?”

“And he knows that she would ruin him, and kill his heart and destroy
his life.”

“The waters of Marah are bitter,” she murmured, and she turned her face
away from him to the woods. There was no trouble there. The birds were
singing, black squirrels were jumping from bough to bough, and they
could hear the tapping of the woodpecker. She slowly drew on her gloves,
as if for occupation.

He spoke at length as though thinking aloud: “But he knows that,
whatever comes, life has had for him more compensations than he
deserves. For, in his trouble, a woman came, and said kind words, and
would have helped him if she could.”

“There were TWO women,” she said solemnly.

“Two women?” he repeated slowly.

“The one stayed in her home and prayed, and the other came.”

“I do not understand,” he said: and he spoke truly.

“Love is always praying for its own, therefore one woman prayed at home.
The other woman who came was full of gratitude, for the man was noble,
she owed him a great debt, and she believed in him always. She knew that
if at any time in his life he had done wrong, the sin was without malice
or evil.”

“The woman is gentle and pitiful with him, God knows.”

She spoke quietly now, and her gravity looked strange in one so young.

“God knows she is just, and would see him fairly treated. She is so far
beneath him! and yet one can serve a friend though one is humble and
poor.”

“How strange,” he rejoined, “that the man should think himself miserable
who is befriended in such a way! Mademoiselle, he will carry to his
grave the kindness of this woman.”

“Monsieur,” she added humbly, yet with a brave light in her eyes, “it is
good to care whether the wind blows bitter or kind. Every true woman is
a mother, though she have no child. She longs to protect the suffering,
because to protect is in her so far as God is.... Well, this woman
cares that way....” She held out her hand to say good-bye. Her look was
simple, direct, and kind. Their parting words were few and unremarkable.

Roscoe watched Justine Caron as she passed out into the shade of the
woods, and he said to himself: “Gratitude like that is a wonderful
thing.” He should have said something else, but he did not know, and she
did not wish him to know: and he never knew.



CHAPTER XVI. A DUEL IN ARCADY

The more I thought of Mrs. Falchion’s attitude towards Roscoe, the more
I was puzzled. But I had at last reduced the position to this: Years
ago Roscoe had cared for her and she had not cared for him. Angered
or indignant at her treatment of him, Roscoe’s affections declined
unworthily elsewhere. Then came a catastrophe of some kind, in which
Alo (whoever she was) suffered. The secret of this catastrophe Mrs.
Falchion, as I believe, held. There was a parting, a lapse of years, and
then the meeting on the ‘Fulvia’: with it, partial restoration of Mrs.
Falchion’s influence, then its decline, and then a complete change of
position. It was now Mrs. Falchion that cared, and Roscoe that shunned.
It perplexed me that there seemed to be behind Mrs. Falchion’s present
regard for Roscoe some weird expression of vengeance, as though somehow
she had been wronged, and it was her duty to punish. In no other way was
the position definable. That Roscoe would never marry her was certain to
my mind. That he could not marry her now was also certain--to me; I had
the means to prevent it. That she wished to marry him I was not
sure, though she undoubtedly cared for him. Remained, therefore, the
supposition that if he cared for her she would do him no harm, as to his
position. But if he married Ruth, disaster would come--Roscoe himself
acknowledged that she held the key of his fortunes.

Upon an impulse, and as a last resort, I had taken action whereby
in some critical moment I might be able to wield a power over Mrs.
Falchion. I was playing a blind game, but it was the only card I held.
I had heard from the lawyer in Montreal that Madras, under another name,
had gone to the prairie country to enter the mounted police. I had then
telegraphed to Winnipeg, but had got no answer.

I had seen her many times, but we had never, except very remotely,
touched upon the matter which was uppermost in both our minds. It was
not my wish to force the situation. I knew that my opportunity would
come wherein to spy upon the mind of the enemy. It came. On the evening
that Justine Caron called upon Roscoe, I accidentally met Mrs. Falchion
in the grounds of the hotel. She was with several people, and as I
spoke to her she made a little gesture of invitation. I went over, was
introduced to her companions, and then she said:

“Dr. Marmion, I have not yet made that visit to the salmon-fishers at
Sunburst. Unfortunately, on the days when I called on Miss Devlin, my
time was limited. But now I have a thirst for adventure, and time hangs
heavy. Will you perform your old office of escort, and join a party,
which we can make up here, to go there to-morrow?”

I had little love for Mrs. Falchion, but I consented, because it
seemed to me the chance had come for an effective talk with her; and I
suggested that we should go late in the afternoon of the next day,
and remain till night and see the Indians, the half-breeds, and white
fishermen working by torch-light on the river. The proposition was
accepted with delight.

Then the conversation turned upon the feud that existed between Viking
and Sunburst, the river-drivers and the fishers. During the last few
days, owing to the fact that there were a great many idle river-men
about, the river-driving for the season being done, there had been more
than one quarrel of a serious nature at Sunburst. It had needed a great
deal of watchfulness on the part of Mr. Devlin and his supporters to
prevent fighting. In Sunburst itself, Mr. Devlin had much personal
influence. He was a man of exceedingly strong character, bold, powerful,
persuasive. But this year there had been a large number of rough,
adventurous characters among the river-men, and they seemed to
take delight in making sport of, and even interfering with, the
salmon-fishers. We talked of these things for some time, and then I took
my leave. As I went, Mrs. Falchion stepped after me, tapped me on the
arm, and said in a slow, indolent tone:

“Whenever you and I meet, Dr. Marmion, something happens--something
strange. What particular catastrophe have you arranged for to-morrow?
For you are, you know, the chorus to the drama.”

“Do not spoil the play by anticipation,” I said.

“One gets very weary of tragedy,” she retorted. “Comedy would be a
relief. Could you not manage it?”

“I do not know about to-morrow,” I said, “as to a comedy. But I promise
you that one of these days I will present to you the very finest comedy
imaginable.”

“You speak oracularly,” she said; “still you are a professor, and
professors always pose. But now, to be perfectly frank with you, I do
not believe that any comedy you could arrange would be as effective as
your own.”

“You have read ‘Much Ado about Nothing’,” I said.

“Oh, it is as good as that, is it?” she asked.

“Well, it has just as good a final situation,” I answered. She seemed
puzzled, for she saw I spoke with some undercurrent of meaning. “Mrs.
Falchion,” I said to her suddenly and earnestly, “I wish you to think
between now and to-morrow of what I am just going to say to you.”

“It sounds like the task set an undergraduate, but go on,” she said.

“I wish you to think,” said I, “of the fact that I helped to save your
life.”

She flushed; an indignant look shot into her face, and her voice
vibrating, she said:

“What man would have done less?” Then, almost immediately after, as
though repenting of what she had said, she continued in a lower tone and
with a kind of impulsiveness uncommon to her: “But you had courage, and
I appreciate that; still, do not ask too much. Good-night.”

We parted at that, and did not meet again until the next afternoon, when
I joined her and her party at the summer hotel. Together we journeyed
down to Sunburst.

It was the height of the salmon-fishing season. Sunburst lay cloyed
among the products of field and forest and stream. At Viking one got the
impression of a strong pioneer life, vibrant, eager, and with a touch of
Arcady. But viewed from a distance Sunburst seemed Arcady itself. It was
built in green pastures, which stretched back on one side of the river,
smooth, luscious, undulating to the foot-hills. This was on one side
of the Whi-Whi River. On the other side was a narrow margin, and then a
sheer wall of hills in exquisite verdure. The houses were of wood, and
chiefly painted white, sweet and cool in the vast greenness. Cattle
wandered shoulders deep in the rich grass, and fruit of all kinds was
to be had for the picking. The population was strangely mixed. Men had
drifted here from all parts of the world, sometimes with their families,
sometimes without them. Many of them had settled here after mining
at the Caribou field and other places on the Frazer River. Mexican,
Portuguese, Canadian, Californian, Australian, Chinaman, and coolie
lived here, side by side, at ease in the quiet land, following a
primitive occupation with primitive methods.

One could pick out the Indian section of the village, because not far
from it was the Indian graveyard, with its scaffolding of poles and
brush and its offerings for the dead. There were almost interminable
rows of scaffolding on the river’s edge and upon the high bank where
hung the salmon drying in the sun. The river, as it ambled along, here
over shallows, there over rapids and tiny waterfalls, was the pathway
for millions and millions of salmon upon a pilgrimage to the West and
North--to the happy hunting grounds of spawn. They came in droves so
thick at times that, crowding up the little creeks which ran into the
river, they filled them so completely as to dam up the water and make
the courses a solid mass of living and dead fish. In the river itself
they climbed the rapids and leaped the little waterfalls with incredible
certainty; except where man had prepared his traps for them. Sometimes
these traps were weirs or by-washes, made of long lateral tanks of
wicker-work. Down among the boulders near the shore, scaffoldings were
raised, and from these the fishermen with nets and wicker-work baskets
caught the fish as they came up.

We wandered about during the afternoon immensely interested in all
that we saw. During that time the party was much together, and my
conversation with Mrs. Falchion was general. We had supper at a quiet
little tavern, idled away an hour in drinking in the pleasant scene; and
when dusk came went out again to the banks of the river.

From the time we left the tavern to wander by the river I managed to be
a good deal alone with Mrs. Falchion. I do not know whether she saw that
I was anxious to speak with her privately, but I fancy she did. Whatever
we had to say must, in the circumstances, however serious, be kept
superficially unimportant. And, as it happened, our serious conference
was carried on with an air of easy gossip, combined with a not
artificial interest in all we saw. And there was much to see. Far up and
down the river the fragrant dusk was spotted with the smoky red light
of torches, and the atmosphere shook with shadows, through which ran the
song of the river, more amiable than the song of the saw, and the low,
weird cry of the Indians and white men as they toiled for salmon in the
glare of the torches. Here upon a scaffolding a half-dozen swung their
nets and baskets in the swift river, hauling up with their very long
poles thirty or forty splendid fish in an hour; there at a small
cascade, in great baskets sunk into the water, a couple of Indians
caught and killed the salmon that, in trying to leap the fall, plumped
into the wicker cage; beyond, others, more idle and less enterprising,
speared the finny travellers, thus five hundred miles from home--the
brave Pacific.

Upon the banks the cleaning and curing went on, the women and children
assisting, and as the Indians and half-breeds worked they sang either
the wild Indian melodies, snatches of brave old songs of the ‘voyageurs’
of a past century, or hymns taught by the Jesuit missionaries in the
persons of such noble men as Pere Lacombe and Pere Durieu, who have
wandered up and down the vast plains of both sides of the Rockies
telling an old story in a picturesque, heroic way. These old hymns were
written in Chinook, that strange language,--French, English, Spanish,
Indian, arranged by the Hudson’s Bay Company, which is, like the
wampum-belt, a common tongue for tribes and peoples not speaking any
language but their own. They were set to old airs--lullabies, chansons,
barcarolles, serenades, taken out of the folk-lore of many lands. Time
and again had these simple arcadian airs been sung as a prelude to some
tribal act that would not bear the search-light of civilisation--little
by the Indians east of the Rockies, for they have hard hearts and fierce
tongues, but much by the Shuswaps, Siwashes, and other tribes of the
Pacific slope, whose natures are for peace more than for war; who, one
antique day, drifted across from Japan or the Corea, and never, even in
their wild, nomadic state, forgot their skill and craft in wood and gold
and silver.

We sat on the shore and watched the scene for a time, saying nothing.
Now and again, as from scaffolding to scaffolding, from boat to boat,
and from house to house, the Chinook song rang and was caught up in a
slow monotone, so not interfering with the toil, there came the sound
of an Indian drum beaten indolently, or the rattle of dry hard sticks--a
fantastic accompaniment.

“Does it remind you of the South Seas?” I asked Mrs. Falchion, as, with
her chin on her hand, she watched the scene.

She drew herself up, almost with an effort, as though she had been lost
in thought, and looked at me curiously for a moment. She seemed trying
to call back her mind to consider my question. Presently she answered
me: “Very little. There is something finer, stronger here. The
atmosphere has more nerve, the life more life. This is not a land for
the idle or vicious, pleasant as it is.”

“What a thinker you are, Mrs. Falchion!”

She seemed to recollect herself suddenly. Her voice took on an
inflection of satire. “You say it with the air of a discoverer. With
Columbus and Hervey and you, the world--” She stopped, laughing softly
at the thrust, and moved the dust about with her foot.

“In spite of the sarcasm, I am going to add that I feel a personal
satisfaction in your being a woman who does think, and acts more on
thought than impulse.”

“‘Personal satisfaction’ sounds very royal and august. It is long, I
imagine, since you took a--personal satisfaction--in me.”

I was not to be daunted. “People who think a good deal and live a fresh,
outdoor life--you do that--naturally act most fairly and wisely in time
of difficulty--and contretemps.”

“But I had the impression that you thought I acted unfairly and
unwisely--at such times.”

We had come exactly where I wanted. In our minds we were both looking at
those miserable scenes on the ‘Fulvia’, when Madras sought to adjust the
accounts of life and sorely muddled them.

“But,” said I, “you are not the same woman that you were.”

“Indeed, Sir Oracle,” she answered: “and by what necromancy do you
know?”

“By none. I think you are sorry now--I hope you are--for what--”

She interrupted me indignantly. “You go too far. You are
almost--unbearable. You said once that the matter should be buried, and
yet here you work for an opportunity, Heaven knows why, to place me at a
disadvantage!”

“Pardon me,” I answered; “I said that I would never bring up those
wretched scenes unless there was cause. There is cause.”

She got to her feet. “What cause--what possible cause can there be?”

I met her eye firmly. “I am bound to stand by my friend,” I said. “I can
and I will stand by him.”

“If it is a game of drawn swords, beware!” she retorted. “You speak to
me as if I were a common adventuress. You mistake me, and forget
that you--of all men--have little margin of high morality on which to
speculate.”

“No, I do not forget that,” I said, “nor do I think of you as an
adventuress. But I am sure you hold a power over my friend, and--”

She stopped me. “Not one word more on the subject. You are not to
suppose this or that. Be wise do not irritate and annoy a woman like me.
It were better to please me than to preach to me.”

“Mrs. Falchion,” I said firmly, “I wish to please you--so well that some
day you will feel that I have been a good friend to you as well as to
him--”

Again she interrupted me. “You talk in foolish riddles. No good can come
of this.”

“I cannot believe that,” I urged; “for when once your heart is moved by
the love of a man, you will be just, and then the memory of another man
who loved you and sinned for you--”

“Oh, you coward!” she broke out scornfully--“you coward to persist in
this!”

I made a little motion of apology with my hand, and was silent. I was
satisfied. I felt that I had touched her as no words of mine had ever
touched her before. If she became emotional, was vulnerable in her
feelings, I knew that Roscoe’s peace might be assured. That she loved
Roscoe now I was quite certain. Through the mists I could see a
way, even if I failed to find Madras and arrange another surprising
situation. She was breathing hard with excitement.

Presently she said with incredible quietness, “Do not force me to do
hard things. I have a secret.”

“I have a secret too,” I answered. “Let us compromise.”

“I do not fear your secret,” she answered. She thought I was referring
to her husband’s death. “Well,” I replied, “I honestly hope you never
will. That would be a good day for you.”

“Let us go,” she said; then, presently: “No, let us sit here and forget
that we have been talking.”

I was satisfied. We sat down. She watched the scene silently, and I
watched her. I felt that it would be my lot to see stranger things
happen to her than I had seen before; but all in a different fashion. I
had more hope for my friend, for Ruth Devlin, for--!

I then became silent even to myself. The weltering river, the fishers
and their labour and their songs, the tall dark hills, the deep gloomy
pastures, the flaring lights, were then in a dream before me; but I was
thinking, planning.

As we sat there, we heard noises, not very harmonious, interrupting the
song of the salmon-fishers. We got up to see. A score of river-drivers
were marching down through the village, mocking the fishers and making
wild mirth. The Indians took little notice, but the half-breeds and
white fishers were restless.

“There will be trouble here one day,” said Mrs. Falchion.

“A free fight which will clear the air,” I said.

“I should like to see it--it would be picturesque, at least,” she added
cheerfully; “for I suppose no lives would be lost.”

“One cannot tell,” I answered; “lives do not count so much in new
lands.”

“Killing is hateful, but I like to see courage.”

And she did see it.



CHAPTER XVII. RIDING THE REEFS

The next afternoon Roscoe was sitting on the coping deep in thought,
when Ruth rode up with her father, dismounted, and came upon him so
quietly that he did not hear her. I was standing in the trees a little
distance away.

She spoke to him once, but he did not seem to hear. She touched his arm.
He got to his feet.

“You were so engaged that you did not hear me,” she said.

“The noise of the rapids!” he answered, after a strange pause, “and your
footstep is very light.”

She leaned her chin on her hand, rested against the rail of the coping,
looked meditatively into the torrent below, and replied: “Is it so
light?” Then after a pause: “You have not asked me how I came, who came
with me, or why I am here.”

“It was first necessary for me to conceive the delightful fact that you
are here,” he said in a dazed, and, therefore, not convincing tone.

She looked him full in the eyes. “Please do not pay me the ill
compliment of a compliment,” she said. “Was it the sailor who spoke then
or the--or yourself? It is not like you.”

“I did not mean it as a compliment,” he replied. “I was thinking about
critical and important things.”

“‘Critical and important’ sounds large,” she returned.

“And the awakening was sudden,” he continued. “You must make allowance,
please, for--”

“For the brusque appearance of a very unimaginative, substantial, and
undreamlike person? I do. And now, since you will not put me quite at my
ease by assuming, in words, that I have been properly ‘chaperoned’ here,
I must inform you that my father waits hard by--is, as my riotous young
brother says, ‘without on the mat.’”

“I am very glad,” he replied with more politeness than exactness.

“That I was duly escorted, or that my father is ‘without on the mat’?
... However, you do not appear glad one way or the other. And now I must
explain our business. It is to ask your company at dinner (do consider
yourself honoured--actually a formal dinner party in the Rockies!) to
meet the lieutenant-governor, who is coming to see our famous Viking
and Sunburst.... But you are expected to go out where my father feeds
his--there, see--his horse on your ‘trim parterre.’ And now that I have
done my duty as page and messenger without a word of assistance, Mr.
Roscoe, will you go and encourage my father to hope that you will be
vis-a-vis to his excellency?” She lightly beat the air with her whip,
while I took a good look at the charming scene.

Roscoe looked seriously at the girl for an instant. He understood too
well the source of such gay social banter. He knew it covered a hurt. He
said to her: “Is this Ruth Devlin or another?”

And she replied very gravely: “It is Ruth Devlin and another too,” and
she looked down to the chasm beneath with a peculiar smile; and her eyes
were troubled.

He left her and went and spoke to her father whom I had joined, but,
after a moment, returned to Ruth. Ruth turned slightly to meet him as he
came. “And is the prestige of the house of Devlin to be supported?”
 she said; “and the governor to be entertained with tales of flood and
field?”

His face had now settled into a peculiar calmness. He said with a touch
of mock irony: “The sailor shall play his part--the obedient retainer of
the house of Devlin.”

“Oh,” she said, “you are malicious now! You turn your long accomplished
satire on a woman.” And she nodded to the hills opposite, as if to tell
them that it was as they had said to her: those grand old hills with
which she had lived since childhood, to whom she had told all that had
ever happened to her.

“No, indeed no,” he replied, “though I am properly rebuked. I fear I am
malicious--just a little, but it is all inner-self-malice: ‘Rome turned
upon itself.’”

“But one cannot always tell when irony is intended for the speaker of
it. Yours did not seem applied to yourself,” was her slow answer, and
she seemed more interested in Mount Trinity than in him.

“No?” Then he said with a playful sadness: “A moment ago you were not
completely innocent of irony, were you?”

“But a man is big and broad, and should not--he should be magnanimous,
leaving it to woman, whose life is spent among little things, to be
guilty of littlenesses. But see how daring I am--speaking like this
to you who know so much more than I do.... Surely, you are still only
humorous, when you speak of irony turned upon yourself--the irony so icy
to your friends?”

She had developed greatly. Her mind had been sharpened by pain. The
edge of her wit had become poignant, her speech rendered logical and
allusive. Roscoe was wise enough to understand that the change in her
had been achieved by the change in himself; that since Mrs. Falchion
came, Ruth had awakened sharply to a distress not exactly definable. She
felt that though he had never spoken of love to her, she had a right to
share his troubles. The infrequency of his visits to her of late, and
something in his manner, made her uneasy and a little bitter. For there
was an understanding between them, though it had been unspoken and
unwritten. They had vowed without priest or witness. The heart speaks
eloquently in symbols first, and afterwards in stumbling words.

It seemed to Roscoe at this moment, as it had seemed for some time,
that the words would never be spoken. And was this all that had troubled
her--the belief that Mrs. Falchion had some claim upon his life? Or had
she knowledge, got in some strange way, of that wretched shadow in his
past?

This possibility filled him with bitterness. The old Adam in him awoke,
and he said within himself “God in heaven, must one folly, one sin,
kill me and her too? Why me more than another!... And I love her, I love
her!”

His eyes flamed until their blue looked all black, and his brows grew
straight over them sharply, making his face almost stern.... There
came swift visions of renouncing his present life; of going with
her--anywhere: to tell her all, beg her forgiveness, and begin life over
again, admitting that this attempt at expiation was a mistake; to have
his conscience clear of secret, and trust her kindness. For now he
was sure that Mrs. Falchion meant to make his position as a clergyman
impossible; to revenge herself on him for no wrong that, as far as he
knew, he ever did directly to her. But to tell this girl, or even
her father or mother, that he had been married, after a shameful,
unsanctified fashion, to a savage, with what came after, and the awful
thing that happened--he who ministered at the altar! Now that he looked
the thing in the face it shocked him. No, he could not do it.

She said to him, while he looked at her as though he would read her
through and through, though his mind was occupied with a dreadful
possibility beyond her:

“Why do you look so? You are stern. You are critical. Have
I--disimproved so?”

The words were full of a sudden and natural womanly fear, that something
in herself had fallen in value. They had a pathos so much the more
moving because she sought to hide it.

There swam before his eyes the picture of happiness from which she
herself had roused him when she came. He involuntarily, passionately,
caught her hand and pressed it to his lips twice; but spoke nothing.

“Oh! oh!--please!” she said. Her voice was low and broken, and she spoke
appealingly. Could he not see that he was breaking her heart, while
filling it also with unbearable joy? Why did he not speak and make this
possible, and not leave it a thing to flush her cheeks, and cause her to
feel he had acted on a knowledge he had no right to possess till he had
declared himself in speech? Could he not have spared her that?--This
Christian gentleman, whose worth had compassed these mountains and won
the dwellers among them--it was bitter. Her pride and injured heart rose
up and choked her.

He let go her hand. Now his face was partly turned from her, and she saw
how thin and pale it was. She saw, too, what I had seen during the past
week, that his hair had become almost white about the temples; and the
moveless sadness of his position struck her with unnatural force, so
that, in spite of herself, tears came suddenly to her eyes, and a slight
moan broke from her. She would have run away; but it was too late.

He saw the tears, the look of pity, indignation, pride, and love in her
face.

“My love!” he cried passionately. He opened his arms to her.

But she stood still. He came very close to her, spoke quickly, and
almost despairingly: “Ruth, I love you, and I have wronged you; but here
is your place, if you will come.”

At first she seemed stunned, and her face was turned to her mountains,
as though the echo of his words were coming back to her from them, but
the thing crept into her heart and flooded it. She seemed to wake, and
then all her affection carried her into his arms, and she dried her eyes
upon his breast.

After a time he whispered, “My dear, I have wronged you. I should not
have made you care for me.”

She did not seem to notice that he spoke of wrong. She said: “I was
yours, Galt, even from the beginning, I think, though I did not quite
know it. I remember what you read in church the first Sunday you came,
and it has always helped me; for I wanted to be good.”

She paused and raised her eyes to his, and then with sweet solemnity she
said: “The words were:

   “‘The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’
   feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.’”

“Ruth,” he answered, “you have always walked on the high places. You
have never failed. And you are as safe as the nest of the eagle, a noble
work of God.”

“No, I am not noble; but I should like to be so. Most women like
goodness. It is instinct with us, I suppose. We had rather be good than
evil, and when we love we can do good things; but we quiver like the
compass-needle between two poles. Oh, believe me! we are weak; but we
are loving.”

“Your worst, Ruth, is as much higher than my best as the heaven is--”

“Galt, you hurt my fingers!” she interrupted.

He had not noticed the almost fierce strength of his clasp. But his life
was desperately hungry for her. “Forgive me, dearest.--As I said, better
than my best; for, Ruth, my life was--wicked, long ago. You cannot
understand how wicked!”

“You are a clergyman and a good man,” she said, with pathetic negation.

“You give me a heart unsoiled, unspotted of the world. I have been in
some ways worse than the worst men in the valley there below.”

“Galt, Galt, you shock me!” she said.

“Why did I speak? Why did I kiss your hand as I did? Because at the
moment it was the only honest thing to do; because it was due you that
I should say: ‘Ruth, I love you, love you so much’”--here she nestled
close to him--“‘so well, that everything else in life is as nothing
beside it--nothing! so well that I could not let you share my
wretchedness.’”

She ran her hand along his breast and looked up at him with swimming
eyes.

“And you think that this is fair to me? that a woman gives the heart for
pleasant weather only? I do not know what your sorrow may be, but it is
my right to share it. I am only a woman; but a woman can be strong
for those she loves. Remember that I have always had to care for
others--always; and I can bear much. I will not ask what your trouble
is, I only ask you”--here she spoke slowly and earnestly, and rested her
hand on his shoulder--“to say to me that you love no other woman; and
that--that no other woman has a claim upon you. Then I shall be content
to pity you, to help you, to love you. God gives women many pains, but
none so great as the love that will not trust utterly; for trust is our
bread of life. Yes, indeed, indeed!”

“I dare not say,” he said, “that it is your misfortune to love me, for
in this you show how noble a woman can be. But I will say that the cup
is bitter-sweet for you.... I cannot tell you now what my trouble is;
but I can say that no other living woman has a claim upon me.... My
reckoning is with the dead.”

“That is with God,” she whispered, “and He is just and merciful too....
Can it not be repaired here?” She smoothed back his hair, then let her
fingers stray lightly on his cheek.

It hurt him like death to reply. “No, but there can be punishment here.”

She shuddered slightly. “Punishment, punishment,” she repeated
fearfully--“what punishment?”

“I do not quite know.” Lines of pain grew deeper in his face.... “Ruth,
how much can a woman forgive?”

“A mother, everything.” But she would say no more. He looked at her long
and earnestly, and said at last: “Will you believe in me no matter what
happens?”

“Always, always.” Her smile was most winning.

“If things should appear dark against me?”

“Yes, if you give me your word.”

“If I said to you that I did a wrong; that I broke the law of God,
though not the laws of man?”

There was a pause in which she drew back, trembling slightly, and looked
at him timidly and then steadily, but immediately put her hands bravely
in his, and said: “Yes.”

“I did not break the laws of man.”

“It was when you were in the navy?” she inquired, in an awe-stricken
tone.

“Yes, years ago.”

“I know. I feel it. You must not tell me. It was a woman, and this
other woman, this Mrs. Falchion knows, and she would try to ruin you,
or”--here she seemed to be moved suddenly by a new thought--“or have
you love her. But she shall not, she shall not--neither! For I will love
you, and God will listen to me, and answer me.”

“Would to Heaven I were worthy of you! I dare not think of where you
might be called to follow me, Ruth.”

“‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God,’” she rejoined in a
low voice.

“‘Thy God my God!’” he repeated after her slowly. He suddenly wondered
if his God was her God; whether now, in his trouble, he had that comfort
which his creed and profession should give him. For the first time he
felt acutely that his choice of this new life might have been more a
reaction from the past, a desire for expiation, than radical belief that
this was the right and only thing for him to do. And when, some time
after, he bade Ruth good-bye, as she went with her father, it came to
him with appalling conviction that his life had been a mistake. The
twist of a great wrong in a man’s character distorts his vision; and if
he has a tender conscience he magnifies his misdeeds.

In silence Roscoe and I watched the two ride down the slope. I guessed
what had happened: afterwards I was told all. I was glad of it, though
the end was not yet promising. When we turned to go towards the house
again, a man lounged out of the trees towards us. He looked at me, then
at Roscoe, and said:

“I’m Phil Boldrick’s pal from Danger Mountain.” Roscoe held out his
hand, and the man took it, saying: “You’re The Padre, I suppose, and
Phil was soft on you. Didn’t turn religious, did he? He always had a
streak of God A’mighty in him; a kind of give-away-the-top-of-your-head
chap; friend o’ the widow and the orphan, and divvy to his last crust
with a pal. I got your letter, and come over here straight to see that
he’s been tombed accordin’ to his virtues; to lay out the dollars
he left me on the people he had on his visitin’ list; no loafers, no
gophers, not one; but to them that stayed by him I stay, while prog and
liquor last.”

I saw Roscoe looking at him in an abstracted way, and, as he did not
reply, I said: “Phil had many friends and no enemies.” Then I told him
the tale of his death and funeral, and how the valley mourned for him.

While I spoke he stood leaning against a tree, shaking his head and
listening, his eyes occasionally resting on Roscoe with a look as
abstracted and puzzled as that on Roscoe’s face. When I had finished he
drew his hand slowly down his beard and a thick sound came from behind
his fingers. But he did not speak.

Then I suggested quietly that Phil’s dollars could be put to a better
use than for prog and liquor.

He did not reply to this at all; but after a moment’s pause, in which
he seemed to be studying the gambols of a squirrel in a pine tree, he
rubbed his chin nervously, and more in soliloquy than conversation said:
“I never had but two pals that was pals through and through. And one was
Phil and the other was Jo--Jo Brackenbury.”

Here Roscoe’s hand, which had been picking at the bark of a poplar,
twitched suddenly.

The man continued: “Poor Jo went down in the ‘Fly Away’ when she swung
with her bare ribs flat before the wind, and swamped and tore upon
the bloody reefs at Apia.... God, how they gnawed her! And never a rag
holdin’ nor a stick standin’, and her pretty figger broke like a tin
whistle in a Corliss engine. And Jo Brackenbury, the dandiest rip,
the noisiest pal that ever said ‘Here’s how!’ went out to heaven on a
tearing sea.”

“Jo Brackenbury--” Roscoe repeated musingly. His head was turned away
from us.

“Yes, Jo Brackenbury; and Captain Falchion said to me” (I wonder that
I did not start then) “when I told him how the ‘Fly Away’ went down to
Davy, and her lovers went aloft, reefed close afore the wind--‘Then,’
says he, ‘they’ve got a damned sound seaman on the Jordan, and so help
me! him that’s good enough to row my girl from open sea, gales poundin’
and breakers showin’ teeth across the bar to Maita Point, is good enough
for use where seas is still and reefs ain’t fashionable.’”

Roscoe’s face looked haggard as it now turned towards us. “If you will
meet me,” he said to the stranger, “to-morrow morning, in Mr. Devlin’s
office at Viking, I will hand you over Phil Boldrick’s legacy.”

The man made as if he would shake hands with Roscoe, who appeared not to
notice the motion, and then said: “I’ll be there. You can bank on that;
and, as we used to say down in the Spicy Isles, where neither of you
have been, I s’pose, Talofa!”

He swung away down the hillside.

Roscoe turned to me. “You see, Marmion, all things circle to a centre.
The trail seems long, but the fox gets killed an arm’s length from his
hole.”

“Not always. You take it too seriously,” I said. “You are no fox.”

“That man will be in at the death,” he persisted.

“Nonsense, Roscoe. He does not know you. What has he to do with you?
This is overwrought nerves. You are killing yourself with worry.”

He was motionless and silent for a minute. Then he said very quietly:
“No, I do not think that I really worry now. I have known”--here he laid
his hand upon my shoulder and his eyes had a shining look--“what it is
to be happy, unspeakably happy, for a moment; and that stays with me. I
am a coward no longer.”

He drew his finger tips slowly across his forehead. Then he continued:
“To-morrow I shall be angry with myself, no doubt, for having that
moment’s joy, but I cannot feel so now. I shall probably condemn myself
for cruel selfishness; but I have touched life’s highest point this
afternoon, Marmion.”

I drew his hand down from my shoulder and pressed it. It was cold.
He withdrew his eyes from the mountain, and said: “I have had dreams,
Marmion, and they are over. I lived in one: to expiate--to wipe out--a
past, by spending my life for others. The expiation is not enough. I
lived in another: to win a woman’s love; and I have, and was caught
up by it for a moment, and it was wonderful. But it is over now, quite
over. ... And now for her sake renunciation must be made, before I have
another dream--a long one, Marmion.”

I had forebodings, but I pulled myself together and said firmly:
“Roscoe, these are fancies. Stop it, man. You are moody. Come, let us
walk, and talk of other things.”

“No, we will not walk,” he said, “but let us sit there on the coping
and be quiet--quiet in that roar between the hills.” Suddenly he swung
round, caught me by the shoulders and held me gently so.

“I have a pain at my heart, Marmion, as if I’d heard my death sentence;
such as a soldier feels who knows that Death looks out at him from iron
eyes. You smile: I suppose you think I am mad.”

I saw that it was best to let him speak his mind. So I answered: “Not
mad, my friend. Say on what you like. Tell me all you feel. Only, for
God’s sake be brave, and don’t give up until there’s occasion. I am sure
you exaggerate your danger, whatever it is.”

“Listen for a minute,” said he: “I had a brother Edward, as good a lad
as ever was; a boisterous, healthy fellow. We had an old nurse in our
family who came from Irish hills, faithful and kind to us both. There
came a change over Edward. He appeared not to take the same interest in
his sports. One day he came to me, looking a bit pale, and said: ‘Galt,
I think I should like to study for the Church.’ I laughed at it, yet
it troubled me in a way, for I saw he was not well. I told Martha,
the nurse. She shook her head sadly, and said: ‘Edward is not for the
Church, but you, my lad. He is for heaven.’

“‘For heaven, Martha?’ laughed I.

“‘In truth for heaven,’ she replied, ‘and that soon. The look of his eye
is doom. I’ve seen it since I swaddled him, and he will go suddenly.’

“I was angry, and I said to her,--though she thought she spoke the
truth,--‘This is only Irish croaking. We’ll have the banshee next.’

“She got up from her chair and answered me solemnly: ‘Galt Roscoe, I
HAVE heard the banshee wail, and sorrow falls upon your home. And don’t
you be so hard with me that have loved you, and who suffers for the lad
that often and often lay upon my breast. Don’t be so hard; for your day
of trouble comes too. You, not he, will be priest at the altar. Death
will come to him like a swift and easy sleep; but you will feel its
hand upon your heart and know its hate for many a day, and bear the slow
pangs of it until your life is all crushed, and you go from the world
alone, Love crying after you and not able to save you, not even the love
of woman--weaker than death.... And, in my grave, when that day comes
beside a great mountain in a strange land, I will weep and pray for you;
for I was mother to you too, when yours left you alone bewhiles, never,
in this world, to come back.’

“And, Marmion, that night towards morning, as I lay in the same room
with Edward, I heard his breath stop sharply. I jumped up and drew aside
the curtains to let in the light, and then I knew that the old woman
spoke true.... And now!... Well, I am like Hamlet--and I can say with
him: ‘But thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart--but
it is no matter!”’....

I tried to laugh and talk away his brooding, but there was little
use, his convictions were so strong. Besides, what can you do with a
morbidness which has its origin in fateful circumstances?

I devoutly wished that a telegram would come from Winnipeg to let me
know if Boyd Madras, under his new name, could be found. I was a hunter
on a faint trail.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE STRINGS OF DESTINY

When Phil’s pal left us he went wandering down the hillside, talking
to himself. Long afterwards he told me how he felt, and I reproduce his
phrases as nearly as I can.

“Knocked ‘em, I guess,” he said, “with that about Jo Brackenbury....
Poor Jo! Stuck together, him and me did, after she got the steel in her
heart.”... He pulled himself together, shuddering.... “Went back on me,
she did, and took up with a cursed swell, and got it cold--cold. And I?
By Judas! I never was shut of that. I’ve known women, many of ‘em, all
countries, but she was different. I expect now, after all these years,
that if I got my hand on the devil that done for her, I’d rattle
his breath in his throat. There’s things that clings. She clings, Jo
Brackenbury clings, and Phil Boldrick clings; and they’re gone, and I’m
left to go it alone. To play the single hand--what!--by Jiminy!”

He exclaimed thus on seeing two women approach from the direction of
the valley. He stood still, mouth open, staring. They drew near, almost
passed him. But one of them, struck by his intense gaze, suddenly turned
and came towards him.

“Miss Falchion! Miss Falchion!” he cried. Then, when she hesitated as if
with an effort of memory, he added: “Don’t you know me?”

“Ah,” she replied abruptly, “Sam Kilby! Are you Sam Kilby, Jo
Brackenbury’s friend, from Samoa?”

“Yes, miss, I’m Jo Brackenbury’s friend; and I’ve rowed you across the
reefs with him more than once I guess so! But it’s a long way from Apia
to the Rockies, and it’s funny to meet here.”

“When did you come here--and from where?”

“I come to-day from the Hudson’s Bay post at Danger Mountain. I’m Phil
Boldrick’s pal.”

“Ah,” she said again, with a look in her eyes not pleasant to see, “and
what brings you up here in the hills?” Hers was more than an ordinary
curiosity.

“I come to see the Padre who was with Phil--when he left. And the
Padre’s a fair square sort, as I reckon him, but melancholy, almighty
melancholy.”

“Yes, melancholy, I suppose,” she said, “and fair square, as you say.
And what did you say and do?”

“Why, we yarned about Phil, and where I’d get the legacy to-morrow; and
I s’pose I had a strong breeze on the quarter, for I talked as free as
if we’d grubbed out of the same dough-pan since we was kiddies.”

“Yes?”

“Yes siree; I don’t know how it was, but I got to reelin’ off about
Jo--queer, wasn’t it? And I told ‘em how he went down in the ‘Fly
Away’, and how the lovely ladies--you remember how we used to call the
whitecaps lovely ladies--fondled him out to sea and on to heaven.”

“And what did--the Padre--think of that?”

“Well, he’s got a heart, I should say, and that’s why Phil cottoned to
him, maybe,--for he looked as if he’d seen ghosts. I guess he’d never
had a craft runnin’ ‘tween a sand-bar and a ragged coral bank; nor seen
a girl like the ‘Fly Away’ take a buster in her teeth; nor a man-of-war
come bundlin’ down upon a nasty glacis, the captain on the bridge,
engines goin’ for all they’re worth, every man below battened in,
and every Jack above watchin’ the fight between the engines and the
hurricane.... Here she rolls six fathoms from the glacis that’ll rip her
copper garments off, and the quiverin’ engines pull her back; and she
swings and struggles and trembles between hell in the hurricane and God
A’mighty in the engines; till at last she gets her nose at the neck of
the open sea and crawls out safe and sound.... I guess he’d have more
marble in his cheeks, if he saw likes o’ that, Miss Falchion?”

Kilby paused and wiped his forehead.

She had listened calmly. She did not answer his question. She said:
“Kilby, I am staying at the summer hotel up there. Will you call on
me--let me see.... say, to-morrow afternoon?--Some one will tell you the
way, if you do not know it.... Ask for MRS. Falchion, Kilby, not Miss
Falchion.... You will come?”

“Why, yes,” he replied, “you can count on me; for I’d like to hear of
things that happened after I left Apia--and how it is that you are Mrs.
Falchion, for that’s mighty queer.”

“You shall hear all that and more.” She held out her hand to him and
smiled. He took it, and she knew that now she was gathering up the
strings of destiny.

They parted.

The two passed on, looking, in their cool elegance, as if life were the
most pleasant thing; as though the very perfume of their garments would
preserve them from that plague called trouble.

“Justine,” said Mrs. Falchion, “there is one law stranger than all; the
law of coincidence. Perhaps the convenience of modern travel assists
it, but fate is in it also. Events run in circles. People connected with
them travel that way also. We pass and re-pass each other many times,
but on different paths, until we come close and see each other face to
face.”

She was speaking almost the very words which Roscoe had spoken to me.
But perhaps there was nothing strange in that.

“Yes, madame,” replied Justine; “it is so, but there is a law greater
than coincidence.”

“What, Justine?”

“The law of love, which is just and merciful, and would give peace
instead of trouble.”

Mrs. Falchion looked closely at Justine, and, after a moment, evidently
satisfied, said: “What do you know of love?”

Justine tried hard for composure, and answered gently: “I loved my
brother Hector.”

“And did it make you just and merciful and--an angel?”

“Madame, you could answer that better. But it has not made me be at war;
it has made me patient.”

“Your love--for your brother--has made you that?” Again she looked
keenly, but Justine now showed nothing but earnestness.

“Yes, madame.”

Mrs. Falchion paused for a moment, and seemed intent on the beauty of
the pine-belted hills, capped by snowy peaks, and wrapped in a most
hearty yet delicate colour. The red of her parasol threw a warm soft
ness upon her face. She spoke now without looking at Justine.

“Justine, did you ever love any one besides your brother?--I mean
another man.”

Justine was silent for a moment, and then she said: “Yes, once.” She was
looking at the hills now, and Mrs. Falchion at her.

“And you were happy?” Here Mrs. Falchion abstractedly toyed with a piece
of lace on Justine’s arm. Such acts were unusual with her.

“I was happy--in loving.”

“Why did you not marry?”

“Madame--it was impossible--quite.” This, with hesitation and the
slightest accent of pain.

“Why impossible? You have good looks, you were born a lady; you have a
foolish heart--the fond are foolish.” She watched the girl keenly,
the hand ceased to toy with the lace, and caught the arm itself--“Why
impossible?”

“Madame, he did not love me, he never could.”

“Did he know of your love?”

“Oh no, no!” This with trouble in her voice.

“And you have never forgotten?”

The catechism was merciless; but Mrs. Falchion was not merely malicious.
She was inquiring of a thing infinitely important to her. She was
searching the heart of another, not only because she was suspicious, but
because she wanted to know herself better.

“It is easy to remember.”

“Is it long since you saw him?”

The question almost carried terror with it, for she was not quite sure
why Mrs. Falchion questioned her. She lifted her eyes slowly, and there
was in them anxiety and joy. “It seems,” she said, “like years.”

“He loves some one else, perhaps?”

“Yes, I think so, madame.”

“Did you hate her?”

“Oh no; I am glad for him.”

Here Mrs. Falchion spoke sharply, almost bitterly. Even through her soft
colour a hardness appeared. “You are glad for him? You would see another
woman in his arms and not be full of anger?”

“Quite.”

“Justine, you are a fool.”

“Madame, there is no commandment against being a fool.”

“Oh, you make me angry with your meekness!” Here Mrs. Falchion caught a
twig from a tree by her, snapped it in her fingers, and petulantly threw
its pieces to the ground. “Suppose that the man had once loved you, and
afterwards loved another--then again another?”

“Madame, that would be my great misfortune, but it might be no wrong in
him.”

“How not a wrong in him?”

“It may have been my fault. There must be love in both--great love, for
it to last.”

“And if the woman loved him not at all?”

“Where, then, could be the wrong in him?”

“And if he went from you,”--here her voice grew dry and her words were
sharp,--“and took a woman from the depths of--oh, no matter what! and
made her commit--crime--and was himself a criminal?”

“It is horrible to think of; but I should ask myself how much I was to
blame.... What would you ask yourself, madame?”

“You have a strain of the angel in you, Justine. You would forgive Judas
if he said, ‘Peccavi.’ I have a strain of Satan--it was born in me--I
would say, You have sinned, now suffer.”

“God give you a softer heart,” said Justine, with tender boldness and
sincerity.

At this Mrs. Falchion started slightly, and trouble covered her face.
She assumed, however, a tone almost brusque, artificially airy and
unimportant.

“There, that will do, thank you.... We have become serious and
incomprehensible. Let us talk of other things. I want to be gay....
Amuse me.”

Arrived at the hotel, she told Justine that she must not be disturbed
till near dinner-time, and withdrew to her sitting-room. There she sat
and thought, as she had never done in her life before. She thought upon
everything that had happened since the day when she met Galt Roscoe on
the ‘Fulvia’; of a certain evening in England, before he took orders,
when he told her, in retort to some peculiarly cutting remark of hers,
that she was the evil genius of his life: that evening when her heart
grew hard, as she had once said it should always be to him, and she
determined again, after faltering many times, that just such a genius
she would be; of the strange meeting in the rapids at the Devil’s Slide,
and the irony of it; and the fact that he had saved her life--on
that she paused a while; of Ruth Devlin--and here she was swayed by
conflicting emotions; of the scene at the mill, and Phil Boldrick’s
death and funeral; of the service in the church where she meant to mock
him, and, instead, mocked herself; of the meeting with Tonga Sam; of all
that Justine had said to her: then again of the far past in Samoa, with
which Galt Roscoe was associated, and of that first vow of vengeance for
a thing he had done; and how she had hesitated to fulfil it year after
year till now.

Passing herself slowly back and forth before her eyes, she saw that she
had lived her life almost wholly alone; that no woman had ever cherished
her as a friend, and that on no man’s breast had she ever laid her head
in trust and love. She had been loved, but it had never brought her
satisfaction. From Justine there was devotion; but it had, as she
thought, been purchased, paid for, like the labour of a ploughboy.
And if she saw now in Justine’s eyes a look of friendship, a note of
personal allegiance, she knew it was because she herself had grown more
human.

Her nature had been stirred. Her natural heart was struggling against
her old bitterness towards Galt Roscoe and her partial hate of Ruth
Devlin. Once Roscoe had loved her, and she had not loved him. Then, on a
bitter day for him, he did a mad thing. The thing became--though neither
of them knew it at the time, and he not yet--a great injury to her, and
this had called for the sharp retaliation which she had the power to
use. But all had not happened as she expected; for something called Love
had been conceived in her very slowly, and was now being born, and sent,
trembling for its timid life, into the world.

She closed her eyes with weariness, and pressed her hands to her
temples.

She wondered why she could not be all evil or all good. She spoke and
acted against Ruth Devlin, and yet she pitied her. She had the nettle to
sting Roscoe to death, and yet she hesitated to use it. She had said to
herself that she would wait till the happiest moment of his life, and
then do so. Well, his happiest moment had come. Ruth Devlin’s heart was
all out, all blossomed--beside Mrs. Falchion’s like some wild flower
to the aloe.... Only now she had come to know that she had a heart.
Something had chilled her at her birth, and when her mother died, a
stranger’s kiss closed up all the ways to love, and left her an icicle.
She was twenty-eight years old, and yet she had never kissed a face
in joy or to give joy. And now, when she had come to know herself, and
understand what others understand when they are little children in
their mother’s arms, she had to bow to the spirit that denies. She drew
herself up with a quiver of the body.

“O God!” she said, “do I hate him or love him!” Her head dropped in her
hands. She sat regardless of time, now scarcely stirring, desperately
quiet. The door opened softly and Justine entered. “Madame,” she said,
“pardon me; I am so sorry, but Miss Devlin has come to see you, and I
thought--”

“You thought, Justine, that I would see her.” There was unmistakable
irony in her voice. “Very well.... Show her in.”

She rose, stretched out her arms as if to free herself of a burden,
smoothed her hair, composed herself, and waited, the afternoon sun just
falling across her burnished shoes, giving her feet of gold. She chanced
to look down at them. A strange memory came to her: words that she
had heard Roscoe read in church. The thing was almost grotesque in its
association. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who
bringeth glad tidings, who publisheth peace!”

Ruth Devlin entered, saying, “I have come, to ask you if you will dine
with us next Monday evening?”

Then she explained the occasion of the dinner party, and said: “You see,
though it is formal, I am asking our guests informally;” and she added
as neutrally and as lightly as she could--“Mr. Roscoe and Dr. Marmion
have been good enough to say that they will come. Of course, a dinner
party as it should be is quite impossible to us simple folk, but when a
lieutenant-governor commands, we must do the best we can--with the help
of our friends.”

Mrs. Falchion was delighted, she said, and then they talked of trivial
matters, Ruth smoothing out the folds of her riding-dress with her whip
more earnestly, in preoccupation, than the act called for. At last she
said, in the course of the formal talk: “You have travelled much?”

“Yes, that has been my lot,” was the reply; and she leaned back in the
gold-trimmed cane chair, her feet still in the belt of sunlight.

“I have often wished that I might travel over the ocean,” said Ruth,
“but here I remain--what shall I say?--a rustic in a bandbox, seeing the
world through a pin-hole. That is the way my father puts it. Except, of
course, that I think it very inspiring to live out here among wonderful
mountains, which, as Mr. Roscoe says, are the most aristocratic of
companions.”

Some one in the next room was playing the piano idly yet expressively.
The notes of Il Trovatore kept up a continuous accompaniment to their
talk, varying, as if by design, with its meaning and importance, and yet
in singular contrast at times to their thoughts and words. It was almost
sardonic in its monotonous persistence.

“Travel is not all, believe me, Miss Devlin,” was the indolent reply.
“Perhaps the simpler life is the happier. The bandbox is not the worst
that may come to one--when one is born to it. I am not sure but it is
the best. I doubt that when one has had the fever of travel and the
world, the bandbox is permanently habitable again.”

Mrs. Falchion was keen; she had found her opportunity.

On the result of this duel, if Ruth Devlin but knew it, depends her own
and another’s happiness. It is not improbable, however, that something
of this was in her mind. She shifted her chair so that her face was not
so much in the light. But the belt of sunlight was broadening from Mrs.
Falchion’s feet to her dress.

“You think not?” Ruth asked slowly.

The reply was not important in tone. Mrs. Falchion had picked up a paper
knife and was bending it to and fro between her fingers.

“I think not. Particularly with a man, who is, we will say, by
nature, adventurous and explorative. I think if, in some mad moment, I
determined to write a novel, it should be of such a man. He flies wide
and far; he sees all; he feeds on novelty; he passes from experience to
experience--liberal pleasures of mind and sense all the way. Well, he
tires of Egypt and its flesh-pots. He has seen as he hurried on--I hope
I am not growing too picturesque--too much of women, too many men. He
has been unwise--most men are. Perhaps he has been more than unwise; he
has made a great mistake, a social mistake--or crime--less or more.
If it is a small one, the remedy is not so difficult. Money, friends,
adroitness, absence, long retirement, are enough. If a great one, and he
is sensitive--and sated--he flies, he seeks seclusion. He is afflicted
with remorse. He is open to the convincing pleasures of the simple and
unadorned life; he is satisfied with simple people. The snuff of the
burnt candle of enjoyment he calls regret, repentance. He gives himself
the delights of introspection, and wishes he were a child again--yes,
indeed it is so, dear Miss Devlin.”

Ruth sat regarding her, her deep eyes glowing. Mrs. Falchion continued:
“In short, he finds the bandbox, as you call it, suited to his
renunciations. Its simplicities, which he thinks is regeneration, are
only new sensations. But--you have often noticed the signification of
a ‘but,’” she added, smiling, tapping her cheek lightly with the ivory
knife--“but the hour arrives when the bandbox becomes a prison, when
the simple hours cloy. Then the ordinary incident is merely gauche, and
expiation a bore.

“I see by your face that you understand quite what I mean.... Well,
these things occasionally happen. The great mistake follows the man,
and, by a greater misery, breaks the misery of the bandbox; or the man
himself, hating his captivity, becomes reckless, does some mad thing,
and has a miserable end. Or again, some one who holds the key to his
mistake comes in from the world he has left, and considers--considers,
you understand!--whether to leave him to work out his servitude, or,
mercifully--if he is not altogether blind--permit him the means of
escape to his old world, to the life to which he was born--away from
the bandbox and all therein.... I hope I have not tired you--I am sure I
have.”

Ruth saw the full meaning of Mrs. Falchion’s words. She realised
that her happiness, his happiness--everything--was at stake. All Mrs.
Falchion’s old self was battling with her new self. She had determined
to abide by the result of this meeting. She had spoken in a half gay
tone, but her words were not everything; the woman herself was there,
speaking in every feature and glance. Ruth had listened with an
occasional change of colour, but also with an outward pride to which she
seemed suddenly to have grown. But her heart was sick and miserable. How
could it be otherwise, reading, as she did, the tale just told her in a
kind, of allegory, in all its warning, nakedness, and vengeance? But she
detected, too, an occasional painful movement of Mrs. Falchion’s lips,
a kind of trouble in the face. She noticed it at first vaguely as she
listened to the music in the other room; but at length she interpreted
it aright, and she did not despair. She did not then follow her first
impulse to show that she saw the real meaning of that speech, and rise
and say, “You are insulting,” and bid her good-day.

After all, where was the ground for the charge of insult? The words had
been spoken impersonally. So, after a moment, she said, as she drew a
glove from a hand slightly trembling: “And you honestly think it is the
case: that one having lived such a life as you describe so unusually,
would never be satisfied with a simple life?”

“My dear, never--not such a man as I describe. I know the world.”

“But suppose not quite such an one; suppose one that had not been
so--intense; so much the social gladiator; who had business of life as
well,”--here the girl grew pale, for this was a kind of talk unfamiliar
and painful to her, but to be endured for her cause,--“as well as
‘the flesh-pots of Egypt;’ who had made no wicked mistakes--would he
necessarily end as you say?”

“I am speaking of the kind of man who had made such mistakes, and he
would end as I say. Few men, if any, would leave the world for--the
bandbox, shall I still say? without having a Nemesis.”

“But the Nemesis need not, as you say yourself, be inevitable.
The person who holds the key of his life, the impersonation of his
mistake--”

“His CRIMINAL mistake,” Mrs. Falchion interrupted, her hand with the
ivory knife now moveless in that belt of sunlight across her knees.

“His criminal mistake,” Ruth repeated, wincing--“might not it become
changed into mercy, and the man be safe?”

“Safe? Perhaps. But he would tire of the pin-hole just the same.... My
dear, you do not know life.”

“But, Mrs. Falchion,” said the girl, now very bravely, “I know the
crude elements of justice. That is one plain thing taught here in the
mountains. We have swift reward and punishment--no hateful things called
Nemesis. The meanest wretch here in the West, if he has a quarrel,
avenges himself openly and at once. Actions are rough and ready,
perhaps, but that is our simple way. Hate is manly--and womanly
too--when it is open and brave. But when it haunts and shadows, it is
not understood here.”

Mrs. Falchion sat during this speech, the fingers of one hand idly
drumming the arm of her chair, as idly as when on board the ‘Fulvia’ she
listened to me telling that story of Anson and his wife. Outwardly her
coolness was remarkable. But she was really admiring, and amazed at
Ruth’s adroitness and courage. She appreciated fully the skilful duel
that had kept things on the surface, and had committed neither of
them to anything personal. It was a battle--the tragical battle of a
drawing-room.

When Ruth had ended, she said slowly: “You speak very earnestly. You do
your mountains justice; but each world has its code. It is good for some
men to be followed by a slow hatred--it all depends on themselves. There
are some who wish to meet their fate and its worst, and others who would
forget it. The latter are in the most danger always.”

Ruth rose.

She stepped forward slightly, so that her feet also were within
the sunlight. The other saw this; it appeared to interest her. Ruth
looked--as such a girl can look--with incredible sincerity into Mrs.
Falchion’s eyes, and said: “Oh, if I knew such a man, I would be
sorry--sorry for him; and if I also knew that his was only a mistake and
not a crime, or, if the crime itself had been repented of, and atonement
made, I would beg some one--some one better than I--to pray for him. And
I would go to the person who had his life and career at disposal, and
would say to her, if it were a woman, oh, remember that it is not he
alone who would suffer! I would beg that woman--if it were a woman--to
be merciful, as she one day must ask for mercy.”

The girl as she stood there, all pale, yet glowing with the white light
of her pain, was beautiful, noble, compelling. Mrs. Falchion now rose
also. She was altogether in the sunlight now. From the piano in the
next room came a quick change of accompaniment, and a voice was heard
singing, as if to the singer’s self, ‘Il balen del suo sorris’. It is
hard to tell how far such little incidents affected her in what she
did that afternoon; but they had their influence. She said: “You are
altruistic--or are you selfish, or both?... And should the woman--if it
were a woman--yield, and spare the man, what would you do?”

“I would say that she had been merciful and kind, and that one in this
world would pray for her when she needed prayers most.”

“You mean when she was old,”--Mrs. Falchion shrank a little at the sound
of her own words. Now her careless abandon was gone; she seemed to be
following her emotions. “When she was old,” she continued, “and came
to die? It is horrible to grow old, except one has been a saint--and
a mother.... And even then--have you ever seen them, the women of
that Egypt of which we spoke--powdered, smirking over their champagne,
because they feel for an instant a false pulse of their past?--See how
eloquent your mountains make me!--I think that would make one hard and
cruel; and one would need the prayers of a churchful of good women, even
as good--as you.”

She could not resist a touch of irony in the last words, and Ruth, who
had been ready to take her hand impulsively, was stung. But she
replied nothing; and the other, after waiting, added, with a sudden
and wonderful kindness: “I say what is quite true. Women might dislike
you--many of them would--though you could not understand why; but you
are good, and that, I suppose, is the best thing in the world. Yes, you
are good,” she said musingly, and then she leaned forward and quickly
kissed the girl’s cheek. “Good-bye,” she said, and then she turned her
head resolutely away.

They stood there both in the sunlight, both very quiet, but their hearts
were throbbing with new sensations. Ruth knew that she had conquered,
and, with her eyes all tearful, she looked steadily, yearningly at the
woman before her; but she knew it was better she should say little now,
and, with a motion of the hand in good-bye,--she could do no more,--she
slowly went to the door. There she paused and looked back, but the other
was still turned away.

For a minute Mrs. Falchion stood looking at the door through which the
girl had passed, then she caught close the curtains of the window, and
threw herself upon the sofa with a sobbing laugh.

“To her--I played the game of mercy to her!” she cried. “And she has his
love, the love which I rejected once, and which I want now--to my shame!
A hateful and terrible love. I, who ought to say to him, as I so long
determined: ‘You shall be destroyed. You killed my sister, poor Alo;
if not with a knife yourself you killed her heart, and that is just the
same.’ I never knew until now what a heart is when killed.”

She caught her breast as though it hurt her, and, after a moment,
continued: “Do hearts always ache so when they love? I was the wife of a
good man oh! he WAS a good man, who sinned for me. I see it now!--and I
let him die--die alone!” She shuddered. “Oh, now I see, and I know
what love such as his can be! I am punished--punished! for my love is
impossible, horrible.”

There was a long silence, in which she sat looking at the floor, her
face all grey with pain. At last the door of the room softly opened, and
Justine entered.

“May I come in, madame?” she said.

“Yes, come, Justine.” The voice was subdued, and there was in it what
drew the girl swiftly to the side of Mrs. Falchion. She spoke no word,
but gently undid the other’s hair, and smoothed and brushed it softly.

At last Mrs. Falchion said: “Justine, on Monday we will leave here.”

The girl was surprised, but she replied without comment: “Yes, madame;
where do we go?”

There was a pause; then: “I do not know. I want to go where I shall get
rested. A village in Italy or--” she paused.

“Or France, madame?” Justine was eager.

Mrs. Falchion made a gesture of helplessness. “Yes, France will do....
The way around the world is long, and I am tired.” Minutes passed, and
then she slowly said: “Justine, we will go to-morrow night.”

“Yes, madame, to-morrow night--and not next Monday.”

There was a strange only half-veiled melancholy in Mrs. Falchion’s next
words: “Do you think, Justine, that I could be happy anywhere?”

“I think anywhere but here, madame.”

Mrs. Falchion rose to a sitting posture, and looked at the girl fixedly,
almost fiercely. A crisis was at hand. The pity, gentleness, and honest
solicitude of Justine’s face conquered her, and her look changed to one
of understanding and longing for companionship: sorrow swiftly welded
their friendship.

Before Mrs. Falchion slept that night, she said again: “We will leave
here to-morrow, Justine, for ever.”

And Justine replied: “Yes, madame, for ever.”



CHAPTER XIX. THE SENTENCE

The next morning Roscoe was quiet and calm, but he looked ten years
older than when I had first seen him. After breakfast he said to me: “I
have to go to the valley to pay Phil Boldrick’s friend the money, and to
see Mr. Devlin. I shall be back, perhaps, by lunchtime. Will you go with
me, or stay here?”

“I shall try to get some fishing this morning, I fancy,” I said.
“And possibly I shall idle a good deal, for my time with you here is
shortening, and I want to have a great store of laziness behind me for
memory, when I’ve got my nose to the grindstone.”

He turned to the door, and said: “Marmion, I wish you weren’t going. I
wish that we might be comrades under the same roof till--” He paused and
smiled strangely.

“Till the finish,” I added, “when we should amble grey-headed, sans
everything, out of the mad old world? I imagine Miss Belle Treherne
would scarcely fancy that.... Still, we can be friends just the same.
Our wives won’t object to an occasional bout of loafing together, will
they?”

I was determined not to take him too seriously. He said nothing, and in
a moment he was gone.

I passed the morning idly enough, yet thinking, too, very much about
my friend. I was anxiously hoping that the telegram from Winnipeg would
come. About noon it came. It was not known quite in what part of the
North-west, Madras (under his new name) was, for the corps of mounted
police had been changed about recently. My letter had, however, been
forwarded into the wilds.

I saw no immediate way but to go to Mrs. Falchion and make a bold bid
for his peace. I had promised Madras never to let her know that he was
alive, but I would break the promise if Madras himself did not come.
After considerable hesitation I started. It must be remembered that the
events of the preceding chapter were only known to me afterwards.

Justine Caron was passing through the hall of the hotel when I arrived.
After greetings, she said that Mrs. Falchion might see me, but that they
were very busy; they were leaving in the evening for the coast. Here
was a pleasant revelation! I was so confused with delight at the
information, that I could think of nothing more sensible to say than
that the unexpected always happens. By this time we were within Mrs.
Falchion’s sitting-room. And to my remark, Justine replied “Yes, it is
so. One has to reckon most with the accidents of life. The expected is
either pleasant or unpleasant; there is no middle place.”

“You are growing philosophic,” said I playfully. “Monsieur,” she said
gravely, “I hope as I live and travel, I grow a little wiser.” Still she
lingered, her hand upon the door.

“I had thought that you were always wise.”

“Oh no, no! How can you say so? I have been very foolish sometimes.”...
She came back towards me. “If I am wiser I am also happier,” she added.

In that moment we understood each other; that is, I read how unselfish
this girl could be, and she knew thoroughly the source of my anxiety,
and was glad that she could remove it.

“I would not speak to any one save you,” she said, “but do you not also
think that it is good we go?”

“I have been thinking so, but I hesitated to say so,” was my reply.

“You need not hesitate,” she said earnestly. “We have both understood,
and I know that you are to be trusted.”

“Not always,” I said, remembering that one experience of mine with
Mrs. Falchion on the ‘Fulvia’. Holding the back of a chair, and looking
earnestly at me, she continued: “Once, on the vessel, you remember, in
a hint so very little, I made it appear that madame was selfish.... I
am sorry. Her heart was asleep. Now, it is awake. She is unselfish. The
accident of our going away is hers. She goes to leave peace behind.” “I
am most glad,” said I. “And you think there will be peace?”

“Surely, since this has come, that will come also.”

“And you--Mademoiselle?” I should not have asked that question had I
known more of the world. It was tactless and unkind.

“For me it is no matter at all. I do not come in anywhere. As I said, I
am happy.”

And turning quickly, yet not so quickly but that I saw her cheeks were
flushed, she passed out of the room. In a moment Mrs. Falchion entered.
There was something new in her carriage, in her person. She came towards
me, held out her hand, and said, with the same old half-quizzical tone:
“Have you, with your unerring instinct, guessed that I was leaving, and
so come to say good-bye?”

“You credit me too highly. No, I came to see you because I had an
inclination. I did not guess that you were going until Miss Caron told
me.”

“An inclination to see me is not your usual instinct, is it? Was it some
special impulse, based on a scientific calculation--at which, I suppose,
you are an adeptor curiosity? Or had it a purpose? Or were you bored,
and therefore sought the most startling experience you could conceive?”
 She deftly rearranged some flowers in a jar.

“I can plead innocence of all directly; I am guilty of all indirectly:
I was impelled to come. I reasoned--if that is scientific--on what I
should say if I did come, knowing how inclined I was to--”

“To get beyond my depth,” she interrupted, and she motioned me to a
chair.

“Well, let it be so,” said I. “I was curious to know what kept you in
this sylvan, and I fear, to you, half-barbaric spot. I was bored with
myself; and I had some purpose in coming, or I should not have had the
impulse.”

She was leaning back in her chair easily, not languidly. She seemed
reposeful, yet alert.

“How wonderfully you talk!” she said, with good-natured mockery. “You
are scientifically frank. You were bored with yourself.--Then there
is some hope for your future wife.... We have had many talks in our
acquaintance, Dr. Marmion, but none so interesting as this promises to
be. But now tell me what your purpose was in coming. ‘Purpose’ seems
portentous, but quite in keeping.”

I noticed here the familiar, almost imperceptible click of the small
white teeth.

Was I so glad she was going that I was playful, elated? “My purpose,”
 said I, “has no point now; for even if I were to propose to amuse
you--I believe that was the old formula--by an idle day somewhere, by an
excursion, an--”

“An autobiography,” she broke in soothingly.

“Or an autobiography,” I repeated stolidly, “you would not, I fancy, be
prepared to accept my services. There would be no chance--now that you
are going away--for me to play the harlequin--”

“Whose office you could do pleasantly if it suited you--these adaptable
natures!”

“Quite so. But it is all futile now, as I say.”

“Yes, you mentioned that before.--Well?”

“It is well,” I replied, dropping into a more meaning tone.

“You say it patriarchally, but yet flatteringly.” Here she casually
offered me a flower. I mechanically placed it in my buttonhole. She
seemed delighted at confusing me. But I kept on firmly.

“I do not think,” I rejoined gravely now, “that there need be any
flattery between us.”

“Why?--We are not married.”

“That is as radically true as it is epigrammatic,” blurted I.

“And truth is more than epigram?”

“One should delight in truth; I do delight in epigram; there seems
little chance for choice here.”

It seemed to me that I had said quite what I wished there, but she only
looked at me enigmatically.

She arranged a flower in her dress as she almost idly replied, though
she did not look me full in the face as she had done before: “Well,
then, let me add to your present delight by saying that you may go play
till doomsday, Dr. Marmion. Your work is done.”

“I do not understand.”

Her eyes were on me now with the directness she could so well use at
need.

“I did not suppose you would, despite your many lessons at my hands. You
have been altruistic, Dr. Marmion; I fear critical people would say that
you meddled. I shall only say that you are inquiring--scientific,
or feminine--what you please!... You can now yield up your portfolio
of--foreign affairs--of war--shall I say? and retire into sedative
habitations, which, believe me, you become best.... What concerns
me need concern you no longer. The enemy retreats. She offers
truce--without conditions. She retires.... Is that enough for even you,
Professor Marmion?”

“Mrs. Falchion,” I said, finding it impossible to understand why she
had so suddenly determined to go away (for I did not know all the truth
until afterwards--some of it long afterwards), “it is more than I dared
to hope for, though less, I know, than you have heart to do if you
willed so. I know that you hold some power over my friend.”

“Do not think,” she said, “that you have had the least influence. What
you might think, or may have intended to do, has not moved me in the
least. I have had wrongs that you do not know. I have changed--that is
all. I admit I intended to do Galt Roscoe harm.

“I thought he deserved it. That is over. After to-night, it is not
probable that we shall meet again. I hope that we shall not; as,
doubtless, is your own mind.”

She kept looking at me with that new deep look which I had seen when she
first entered the room.

I was moved, and I saw that just at the last she had spoken under
considerable strain. “Mrs. Falchion,” said I, “I have THOUGHT harder
things of you than I ever SAID to any one. Pray believe that, and
believe, also, that I never tried to injure you. For the rest, I can
make no complaint. You do not like me. I liked you once, and do now,
when you do not depreciate yourself of purpose.... Pardon me, but I say
this very humbly too.... I suppose I always shall like you, in spite of
myself. You are one of the most gifted and fascinating women that I ever
met. I have been anxious for my friend. I was concerned to make peace
between you and your husband--”

“The man who WAS my husband,” she interrupted musingly.

“Your husband--whom you so cruelly treated. But I confess I have found
it impossible to withhold admiration of you.”

For a long time she did not reply, but she never took her eyes off my
face, as she leaned slightly forward. Then at last she spoke more gently
than I had ever heard her, and a glow came upon her face.

“I am only human. You have me at advantage. What woman could reply
unkindly to a speech like that? I admit I thought you held me utterly
bad and heartless, and it made me bitter.... I had no heart--once. I had
only a wrong, an injury, which was in my mind; not mine, but another’s,
and yet mine. Then strange things occurred.... At last I relented. I
saw that I had better go. Yesterday I saw that; and I am going--that is
all.... I wished to keep the edge of my intercourse with you sharp
and uncompanionable to the end; but you have forced me at my weakest
point....” Here she smiled somewhat painfully.... “Believe me, that is
the way to turn a woman’s weapon upon herself. You have learned much
since we first met.... Here is my hand in friendliness, if you care to
take it; and in good-bye, should we not meet again more formally before
I go.”

“I wish now that your husband, Boyd Madras, were here,” I said.

She answered nothing, but she did not resent it, only shuddered a
little.

Our hands grasped silently. I was too choked to speak, and I left her.
At that moment she blinded me to all her faults. She was a wonderful
woman.

       .....................

Galt Roscoe had walked slowly along the forest-road towards the valley,
his mind in that state of calm which, in some, might be thought numbness
of sensation, in others fortitude--the prerogative of despair. He came
to the point of land jutting out over the valley, where he had stood
with Mrs. Falchion, Justine, and myself, on the morning of Phil
Boldrick’s death.

He looked for a long time, and then, slowly descending the hillside,
made his way to Mr. Devlin’s office. He found Phil’s pal awaiting him
there. After a few preliminaries, the money was paid over, and Kilby
said:

“I’ve been to see his camping-ground. It’s right enough. Viking has done
it noble.... Now, here’s what I’m goin’ to do: I’m goin’ to open bottles
for all that’ll drink success to Viking. A place that’s stood by my
pal, I stand by--but not with his money, mind you! No, that goes to you,
Padre, for hospital purposes. My gift an’ his.... So, sit down and write
a receipt, or whatever it’s called, accordin’ to Hoyle, and you’ll do me
proud.”

Roscoe did as he requested, and handed the money over to Mr. Devlin for
safe keeping, remarking, at the same time, that the matter should be
announced on a bulletin outside the office at once.

As Kilby stood chewing the end of a cigar and listening to the brief
conversation between Roscoe and Mr. Devlin, perplexity crossed his face.
He said, as Roscoe turned round: “There’s something catchy about your
voice, Padre. I don’t know what; but it’s familiar like. You never was
on the Panama level, of course?”

“Never.”

“Nor in Australia?”

“Yes, in 1876.”

“I wasn’t there then.”

Roscoe grew a shade paler, but he was firm and composed. He was
determined to answer truthfully any question that was asked him,
wherever it might lead.

“Nor in Samoa?”

There was the slightest pause, and then the reply came:

“Yes, in Samoa.”

“Not a missionary, by gracious! Not a mickonaree in Samoa?”

“No.” He said nothing further. He did not feel bound to incriminate
himself.

“No? Well, you wasn’t a beachcomber, nor trader, I’ll swear. Was you
there in the last half of the Seventies? That’s when I was there.”

“Yes.” The reply was quiet.

“By Jingo!” The man’s face was puzzled. He was about to speak again; but
at that moment two river-drivers--boon companions, who had been hanging
about the door--urged him to come to the tavern. This distracted him. He
laughed, and said that he was coming, and then again, though with less
persistency, questioned Roscoe.. “You don’t remember me, I suppose?”

“No, I never saw you, so far as I know, until yesterday.”

“No? Still, I’ve heard your voice. It keeps swingin’ in my ears; and I
can’t remember.... I can’t remember!... But we’ll have a spin about it
again, Padre.” He turned to the impatient men. “All right, bully-boys,
I’m comin’.”

At the door he turned and looked again at Roscoe with a sharp,
half-amused scrutiny, then the two parted. Kilby kept his word. He was
liberal to Viking; and Phil’s memory was drunk, not in silence, many
times that day. So that when, in the afternoon, he made up his mind
to keep his engagement with Mrs. Falchion, and left the valley for the
hills, he was not entirely sober. But he was apparently good-natured. As
he idled along he talked to himself, and finally broke out into singing:

       “‘Then swing the long boat down the drink,
        For the lads as pipe to go;
        But I sink when the ‘Lovely Jane’ does sink,
        To the mermaids down below.’

       “‘The long boat bides on its strings,’ says we,
        ‘An’ we bides where the long boat bides;
        An’ we’ll bluff this equatorial sea,
        Or swallow its hurricane tides.’

       “But the ‘Lovely Jane’ she didn’t go down,
        An’ she anchored at the Spicy Isles;
        An’ she sailed again to Wellington Town--
        A matter of a thousand miles.”

It will be remembered that this was part of the song sung by Galt Roscoe
on the Whi-Whi River, the day we rescued Mrs. Falchion and Justine
Caron. Kilby sang the whole song over to himself until he reached a
point overlooking the valley. Then he stood silent for a time, his
glance upon the town. The walk had sobered him a little. “Phil, old
pal,” he said at last, “you ain’t got the taste of raw whiskey with you
now. When a man loses a pal he loses a grip on the world equal to all
that pal’s grip was worth.... I’m drunk, and Phil’s down there among the
worms--among the worms!... Ah!” he added in disgust, and, dashing his
hand across his eyes, struck off into the woods again, making his way
to the summer hotel, where he had promised to meet Mrs. Falchion. He
inquired for her, creating some astonishment by his uncouth appearance
and unsteady manner.

He learned from Justine that Mrs. Falchion had gone to see Roscoe, and
that he would probably meet her if he went that way. This he did. He was
just about to issue into a partly open space by a ravine near the
house, when he heard voices, and his own name mentioned. He stilled and
listened.

“Yes, Galt Roscoe,” said a voice, “Sam Kilby is the man that loved
Alo--loved her not as you did. He would have given her a home, have made
her happy, perhaps. You, when Kilby was away, married her--in native
fashion--which is no marriage--and KILLED her.”

“No, no, I did not kill her--that is not so. As God is my Judge, that is
not so.”

“You did not kill her with the knife?... Well, I will be honest now, and
say that I believe that, whatever I may have hinted or said before. But
you killed her just the same when you left her.”

“Mercy Falchion,” he said desperately, “I will not try to palliate my
sin. But still I must set myself right with you in so far as I can. The
very night Alo killed herself I had made up my mind to leave the navy. I
was going to send in my papers, and come back to Apia, and marry her as
Englishmen are married. While I remained in the navy I could not, as
you know, marry her. It would be impossible to an English officer. I
intended to come back and be regularly married to her.”

“You say that now,” was the cold reply.

“But it is the truth, the truth indeed. Nothing that you might say could
make me despise myself more than I do; but I have told you all, as I
shall have to tell it one day before a just God. You have spared me: He
will not.”

“Gait Roscoe,” she replied, “I am not merciful, nor am I just. I
intended to injure you, though you will remember I saved your life that
night by giving you a boat for escape across the bay to the ‘Porcupine’,
which was then under way. The band on board, you also remember, was
playing the music of La Grande Duchesse. You fired on the natives who
followed. Well, Sam Kilby was with them. Your brother officers did
not know the cause of the trouble. It was not known to any one in Apia
exactly who it was that Kilby and the natives had tracked from Alo’s
hut.”

He drew his hand across his forehead dazedly.

“Oh, yes I remember!” he said. “I wish I had faced the matter there and
then. It would have been better.”

“I doubt that,” she replied. “The natives who saw you coming from
Alo’s hut did not know you. You wisely came straight to the Consul’s
office--my father’s house. And I helped you, though Alo, half-caste Alo,
was--my sister!”

Roscoe started back. “Alo--your--sister!” he exclaimed in horror.

“Yes, though I did not know it till afterwards, not till just before
my father died. Alo’s father was my father; and her mother had been
honestly married to my father by a missionary; though for my sake it
had never been made known. You remember, also, that you carried on your
relations with Alo secretly, and my father never suspected it was you.”

“Your sister!” Roscoe was white and sick.

“Yes. And now you understand my reason for wishing you ill, and for
hating you to the end.”

“Yes,” he said despairingly, “I see.”

She was determined to preserve before him the outer coldness of her
nature to the last.

“Let us reckon together,” she said. “I helped to--in fact, I saved your
life at Apia. You helped to save my life at the Devil’s Slide. That is
balanced. You did me--the honour to say that you loved me once. Well,
one of my race loved you. That is balanced also. My sister’s death
came through you. There is no balance to that. What shall balance Alo’s
death? ... I leave you to think that over. It is worth thinking about.
I shall keep your secret, too. Kilby does not know you. I doubt that he
ever saw you, though, as I said, he followed you with the natives that
night in Apia. He was to come to see me to-day. I think I intended to
tell him all, and shift--the duty--of punishment on his shoulders, which
I do not doubt he would fulfil. But he shall not know. Do not ask why. I
have changed my mind, that is all. But still the account remains a
long one. You will have your lifetime to reckon with it, free from any
interference on my part; for, if I can help it, we shall never meet
again in this world--never.... And now, good-bye.”

Without a gesture of farewell she turned and left him standing there, in
misery and bitterness, but in a thankfulness too, more for Ruth’s sake
than his own. He raised his arms with a despairing motion, then let them
drop heavily to his side....

And then two strong hands caught his throat, a body pressed hard against
him, and he was borne backward--backward--to the cliff!



CHAPTER XX. AFTER THE STORM

I was sitting on the verandah, writing a letter to Belle Treherne. The
substantial peace of a mountain evening was on me. The air was clear,
and full of the scent of the pines and cedars, and the rumble of the
rapids came musically down the canon. I lifted my head and saw an eagle
sailing away to the snow-topped peak of Trinity, and then turned to
watch the orioles in the trees. The hour was delightful. It made me
feel how grave mere living is, how noble even the meanest of us becomes
sometimes--in those big moments when we think the world was built for
us. It is half egotism, half divinity; but why quarrel with it?

I was young, ambitious; and Love and I were at that moment the only
figures in the universe really deserving attention! I looked on down
a lane of cedars before me, seeing in imagination a long procession of
pleasant things; of--As I looked, another procession moved through the
creatures of my dreams, so that they shrank away timidly, then utterly,
and this new procession came on and on, until--I suddenly rose, and
started forward fearfully, to see--unhappy reality!--the body of Galt
Roscoe carried towards me.

Then a cold wind seemed to blow from the glacier above and killed all
the summer. A man whispered to me: “We found him at the bottom of the
ravine yonder. He’d fallen over, I suppose.”

I felt his heart. “He is not dead, thank God!” I said.

“No, sir,” said the other, “but he’s all smashed.” They brought him
in and laid him on his bed. I sent one of the party for the doctor at
Viking, and myself set to work, with what appliances I had, to deal with
the dreadful injuries. When the doctor came, together we made him into
the semblance of a man again. His face was but slightly injured, though
his head had received severe hurts. I think that I alone saw the marks
on his throat; and I hid them. I guessed the cause, but held my peace.

I had sent round at once to James Devlin (but asked him not to come till
morning), and also to Mrs. Falchion; but I begged her not to come at
all. I might have spared her that; for, as I afterwards knew, she had
no intention of coming. She had learned of the accident on her way to
Viking, and had turned back; but only to wait and know the worst or the
best.

About midnight I was left alone with Roscoe. Once, earlier in the
evening, he had recognised me and smiled faintly, but I had shaken
my head, and he had said nothing. Now, however, he was looking at me
earnestly. I did not speak. What he had to tell me was best told in his
own time.

At last he said faintly: “Marmion, shall I die soon?”

I knew that frankness was best, and I replied: “I cannot tell, Roscoe.
There is a chance of your living.”

He moved his head sadly. “A very faint chance?”

“Yes, a faint one, but--”

“Yes? ‘But’?” He looked at me as though he wished it over.

“But it rests with you whether the chance is worth anything. If you are
content to die, it is gone.”

“I am content to die,” he replied.

“And there,” said I, “you are wrong and selfish. You have Ruth to live
for. Besides, if you are given the chance, you commit suicide if you do
not take it.”

There was a long pause, and then he said: “You are right; I will live if
I can, Marmion.”

“And now YOU are right.” I nodded soothingly to him, and then asked him
to talk no more; for I knew that fever would soon come on.

He lay for a moment silent, but at length whispered: “Did you know
it was not a fall I had?” He raised his chin and stretched his throat
slightly, with a kind of trembling.

“I thought it was not a fall,” I replied.

“It was Phil’s pal--Kilby.”

“I thought that.”

“How could you--think it? Did--others--think so?” he asked anxiously.

“No, not others; I alone. They thought it accident; they could have no
ground for suspicion. But I had; and, besides, there were marks on your
throat.”

“Nothing must happen to him, you understand. He had been drinking,
and--and he was justified. I wronged him in Samoa, him and Mrs.
Falchion.”

I nodded and put my fingers on my lips.

Again there was silence. I sat and watched him, his eyes closed, his
body was motionless. He slept for hours so, and then he waked rather
sharply, and said half deliriously: “I could have dragged him with me,
Marmion.”

“But you did not. Yes, I understand. Go to sleep again, Roscoe.”

Later on the fever came, and he moaned and moved his head about his
pillow. He could not move his body--it was too much injured.

There was a source of fear in Kilby. Would he recklessly announce what
he had done, and the cause of it? After thinking it over and over, I
concluded that he would not disclose his crimes. My conclusions were
right, as after events showed.

As for Roscoe, I feared that if he lived he must go through life maimed.
He had a private income; therefore if he determined to work no more in
the ministry, he would, at least, have the comforts of life.

Ruth Devlin came. I went to Roscoe and told him that she wished to
see him. He smiled sorrowfully and said: “To what end, Marmion? I am a
drifting wreck. It will only shock her.” I think he thought she would
not love him now if he lived--a crippled man.

“But is this noble? Is it just to her?” said I.

After a long time he answered: “You are right again, quite right. I am
selfish. When one is shaking between life and death, one thinks most of
one’s self.”

“She will help to bring you back from those places, Roscoe.”

“If I am delirious ever, do not let her come, will you, Marmion? Promise
me that.” I promised.

I went to her. She was very calm and womanly. She entered the room, went
quietly to his bedside, and, sitting down, took his hand. Her smile was
pitiful and anxious, but her words were brave.

“My dearest,” she said, “I am so sorry. But you will soon be well, so we
must be as patient and cheerful as we can.”

His eyes answered, but he did not speak. She leaned over and kissed his
cheek. Then he said: “I hope I may get well.”

“This was the shadow over you,” she ventured. “This was your
presentiment of trouble--this accident.”

“Yes, this was the shadow.”

Some sharp thought seemed to move her, for her eyes grew suddenly hard,
and she stooped and whispered: “Was SHE there--when--it happened, Galt?”

He shrank from the question, but he said immediately: “No, she was not
there.”

“I am glad,” she added, “that it was only an accident.”

Her eyes grew clear of their momentary hardness. There is nothing in
life like the anger of one woman against another concerning a man.

Justine Caron came to the house, pale and anxious, to inquire. Mrs.
Falchion, she said, was not going away until she knew how Mr. Roscoe’s
illness would turn.

“Miss Caron,” I said to her, “do you not think it better that she should
go?”

“Yes, for him; but she grieves now.”

“For him?”

“Not alone for him,” was the reply. There was a pause, and then she
continued: “Madame told me to say to you that she did not wish Mr.
Roscoe to know that she was still here.”

I assured her that I understood, and then she added mournfully: “I
cannot help you now, monsieur, as I did on board the ‘Fulvia’. But he
will be better cared for in Miss Devlin’s hands, the poor lady!... Do
you think that he will live?”

“I hope so. I am not sure.”

Her eyes went to tears; and then I tried to speak more encouragingly.

All day people came to inquire, chief among them Mr. Devlin, whose big
heart split itself in humanity and compassion. “The price of the big
mill for the guarantee of his life!” he said over and over again. “We
can’t afford to let him go.”

Although I should have been on my way back to Toronto, I determined to
stay until Roscoe was entirely out of danger. It was singular, but in
this illness, though the fever was high, he never was delirious. It
would almost seem as if, having paid his penalty, the brain was at rest.

While Roscoe hovered between life and death, Mr. Devlin, who persisted
that he would not die, was planning for a new hospital and a new church,
of which Roscoe should be president and padre respectively. But the
suspense to us all, for many days, was very great; until, one morning
when the birds were waking the cedars, and the snow on Mount Trinity
was flashing coolness down the hot valley, he waked and said to me:
“Marmion, old friend; it is morning at last.”

“Yes, it is morning,” said I. “And you are going to live now? You are
going to be reasonable and give the earth another chance?”

“Yes, I believe I shall live now.”

To cheer him, I told him what Mr. Devlin intended and had planned;
how river-drivers and salmon-fishers came every day from the valley to
inquire after him. I did not tell him that there had been one or two
disturbances between the river-drivers and the salmon-fishers. I tried
to let him see that there need be no fresh change in his life. At length
he interrupted me.

“Marmion,” he said, “I understand what you mean. It would be cowardly of
me to leave here now if I were a whole man. I am true in intention, God
knows, but I must carry a crippled arm for the rest of my life, must
I not?.... and a crippled Padre is not the kind of man for this place.
They want men straight on their feet.”

“Do you think,” I answered, “that they will not be able to stand the
test? You gave them--shall I say it?--a crippled mind before; you give
them a crippled body now. Well, where do you think the odds lie? I
should fancy with you as you are.”

There was a long silence in which neither of us moved. At last he turned
his face towards the window, and, not looking at me, said lingeringly:
“This is a pleasant place.”

I knew that he would remain.

I had not seen Mrs. Falchion during Roscoe’s illness; but every day
Justine came and inquired, or a messenger was sent. And when, this
fortunate day, Justine herself came, and I told her that the crisis was
past, she seemed infinitely relieved and happy. Then she said:

“Madame has been ill these three days also; but now I think she will be
better; and we shall go soon.”

“Ask her,” said I, “not to go yet for a few days. Press it as a favour
to me.” Then, on second thought, I sat down and wrote Mrs. Falchion a
note, hinting that there were grave reasons why she should stay a
little longer: things connected with her own happiness. Truth is, I had
received a note that morning which had excited me. It referred to Mrs.
Falchion. For I was an arch-plotter--or had been.

I received a note in reply which said that she would do as I wished.
Meanwhile I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of some one.

That night a letter came to Roscoe. After reading it shrinkingly he
handed it to me. It said briefly:

   I’m not sorry I did it, but I’m glad I hevn’t killed you. I was
   drunk and mad. If I hadn’t hurt you, I’d never hev forgive myself.
   I reckon now, there’s no need to do any forgivin’ either side.
   We’re square--though maybe you didn’t kill her after all. Mrs.
   Falchion says you didn’t. But you hurt her. Well, I’ve hurt you.
   And you will never hear no more of Phil’s pal from Danger Mountain.

Immediately after sunset of this night, a storm swept suddenly down the
mountains, and prevented Ruth and her father from going to Viking. I
left them talking to Roscoe, he wearing such a look on his face as I
like to remember now, free from distress of mind--so much more painful
than distress of body. As I was leaving the room, I looked back and saw
Ruth sitting on a stool beside Roscoe’s chair, holding the unmaimed hand
in hers; the father’s face shining with pleasure and pride. Before I
went out, I turned again to look at them, and, as I did so, my eye fell
on the window against which the wind and rain were beating. And through
the wet there appeared a face, shocking in its paleness and misery--the
face of Mrs. Falchion. Only for an instant, and then it was gone.

I opened the door and went out upon the verandah. As I did so, there
was a flash of lightning, and in that flash a figure hurried by me. One
moment, and there was another flash; and I saw the figure in the beating
rain, making toward the precipice.

Then I heard a cry, not loud, but full of entreaty and sorrow. I moved
quickly toward it. In another white gleam I saw Justine with her
arms about the figure, holding it back from the abyss. She said with
incredible pleading:

“No, no, madame, not that! It is wicked--wicked.”

I came and stood beside them.

The figure sank upon the ground and buried a pitiful face in the wet
grass.

Justine leaned over her.

She sobbed as one whose harvest of the past is all tears. Nothing human
could comfort her yet.

I think she did not know that I was there. Justine lifted her face to
me, appealing.

I turned and stole silently away.



CHAPTER XXI. IN PORT

That night I could not rest. It was impossible to rid myself of the
picture of Mrs. Falchion as I had seen her by the precipice in the
storm. What I had dared to hope for had come. She had been awakened; and
with the awakening had risen a new understanding of her own life and
the lives of others. The storm of wind and rain that had swept down the
ravine was not wilder than her passions when I left her with Justine in
the dark night.

All had gone well where the worst might have been. Roscoe’s happiness
was saved to him. He felt that the accident to him was the penalty
he paid for the error of his past; but in the crash of penalties Mrs.
Falchion, too, was suffering; and, so far as she knew, must carry with
her the remorse of having seen, without mercy, her husband sink to a
suicide’s grave. I knew that she was paying a great price now for a
mistaken past. I wished that I might make her remorse and sorrow less.
There was a way, but I was not sure that all would be as I wished. Since
a certain dreadful day on the ‘Fulvia’, Hungerford and I had held a
secret in our hands. When it seemed that Mrs. Falchion would bring a
great trouble and shame into Roscoe’s life, I determined to use the
secret. It must be used now only for Mrs. Falchion’s good. As I said
in the last chapter, I had received word that somebody was coming whose
presence must take a large place in the drama of these events: and I
hoped the best.

Until morning I lay and planned the best way to bring things to a
successful issue. The morning came--beautiful after a mad night. Soon
after I got up I received a note, brought by a boy from Viking, which
gave me a thrill of excitement. The note requested me to go to Sunburst.
But first I sent a note to Mrs. Falchion, begging her in the name of our
new friendship not to leave the mountains that day. I also asked that
she would meet me in Sunburst that evening at eight o’clock, at a place
indicated by me. I asked for a reply by the messenger I sent, and urged
her to ask no questions, but to trust me as one who only wished to do
her a great service, as I hoped her compliance would make possible. I
waited for the reply, and it bore but the one word--“Yes.”

Greatly pleased, I started down the valley. It was still early when I
reached Sunburst. I went directly to the little tavern from whence the
note had come, and remained an hour or more. The result of that hour’s
conversation with the writer of the note was memorable, as was the hour
itself. I began to hope fondly for the success of my scheme.

From the tavern I went to the village, with an elation hardly disturbed
by the fact that many of the salmon-fishers were sullen, because of
foolish depredations committed the evening before by idle river-men and
mill-hands of Viking. Had I not been so occupied with Mrs. Falchion and
an event wherein she must figure, I should have taken more seriously the
mutterings of the half-breeds, the moroseness of the Indians, and the
nervous threatenings of the white fishers: the more so because I knew
that Mr. Devlin had started early that morning for the Pacific Coast,
and would not be back for some days.

No two classes of people could be more unlike than the salmon-fishers of
Sunburst and the mill-hands and river-drivers of Viking. The life of the
river-men was exciting, hardy, and perilous; tending to boisterousness,
recklessness, daring, and wild humour: that of the salmon-fishers was
cheerful, picturesque, infrequently dangerous, mostly simple and
quiet. The river-driver chose to spend his idle hours in crude, rough
sprightliness; the salmon-fisher loved to lie upon the shore and listen
to the village story-teller,--almost official when successful,--who
played upon the credulity and imagination of his listeners. The
river-driver loved excitement for its own sake, and behind his
boisterousness there was little evil. When the salmon-fisher was roused,
his anger became desperately serious. It was not his practice to be
boisterous for the sake of boisterousness.

All this worked for a crisis.

From Sunburst I went over to Viking, and for a time watched a handful of
river-drivers upon a little island in the centre of the river, working
to loosen some logs and timber and foist them into the water, to be
driven down to the mill. I stood interested, because I had nothing to
do of any moment for a couple of hours. I asked an Indian on the bank
to take his canoe and paddle me over to the island. He did so. I do not
know why I did not go alone; but the Indian was near me, his canoe was
at his hand, and I did the thing almost mechanically. I landed on the
island and watched with great interest the men as they pried, twisted
and tumbled the pile to get at the key-log which, found and loosened,
would send the heap into the water.

I was sorry I brought the Indian with me, for though the river-drivers
stopped their wild sing-song cry for a moment to call a “How!” at me,
they presently began to toss jeering words at the Indian. They had
recognised him--I had not--as a salmon-fisher and one of the Siwash
tribe from Sunburst. He remained perfectly silent, but I could see
sullenness growing on his face. He appeared to take no notice of his
scornful entertainers, but, instead of edging away, came nearer and
nearer to the tangle of logs--came, indeed, very close to me, as I stood
watching four or five men, with the foreman close by, working at a huge
timber. At a certain moment the foreman was in a kind of hollow. Just
behind him, near to the Indian, was a great log, which, if loosened by
a slight impulse, must fall into the hollow where the foreman stood.
The foreman had his face to us; the backs of the other men were on
us. Suddenly the foreman gave a frightened cry, and I saw at the same
instant the Indian’s foot thrust out upon the big log. Before the
foreman had time to get out of the hollow, it slid down, caught him just
above the ankle and broke the leg.

I wheeled, to see the Indian in his canoe making for the shore. He was
followed by the curses of the foreman and the gang. The foreman was
very quiet, but I could see that there was danger in his eye, and
the exclamations of the men satisfied me that they were planning an
inter-municipal difficulty.

I improvised bandages, set the leg directly, and in a little while we
got to the shore on a hastily constructed raft. After seeing the foreman
safely cared for, and giving Mr. Devlin’s manager the facts of the
occurrence, more than sated with my morning’s experience, I climbed the
mountain side, and took refuge from the heat in the coolness of Roscoe’s
rooms.

In the afternoon I received a note from Mrs. Falchion, saying that on
the following day she would start for the coast; that her luggage
would be taken to Sunburst at once; and that, her engagement with me
fulfilled, she would spend a night there, not returning again to the
hills. I was preparing for my own departure, and was kept very busy
until evening. Then I went quickly down into the valley,--for I was
late,--and trudged eagerly on to Sunburst. As I neared the village I
saw that there were fewer lights--torches and fires--than usual on the
river. I noticed also that there were very few fishers on the banks or
in the river. But still the village seemed noisy, and, although it
was dusk, I could make out much stir in the one street along which the
cottages and huts ambled for nearly a mile.

All at once it came to me strongly that the friction between the two
villages had consummated in the foreman’s injury, and was here coming to
a painful crisis. My suspicions had good grounds. As I hurried on I saw
that the lights usually set on the banks of the river were scattered
through the town. Bonfires were being lighted, and torches were flaring
in front of the Indian huts. Coming closer, I saw excited groups of
Indians, half-breeds, and white men moving here and there; and then, all
at once, there came a cry--a kind of roar--from farther up the village,
and the men gathered themselves together, seizing guns, sticks, irons,
and other weapons, and ran up the street. I understood. I was moderately
swift of foot those days. I came quickly after them, and passed them. As
I did so I inquired of one or two fishers what was the trouble.

They told me, as I had guessed, that they expected an attack on the
village by the mill-hands and river-drivers of Viking.

The situation was critical. I could foresee a catastrophe which would
for ever unsettle the two towns, and give the valley an unenviable
reputation. I was certain that, if Roscoe or Mr. Devlin were present, a
prohibitive influence could be brought to bear; that some one of strong
will could stand, as it were, in the gap between them, and prevent a
pitched battle, and, possibly, bloodshed. I was sure that at Viking the
river-drivers had laid their plans so secretly that the news of them
would scarcely reach the ears of the manager of the mill, and that,
therefore, his influence, as Mr. Devlin’s, would not be available.

Remained only myself--as I first thought. I was unknown to a great
number of the men of both villages, and familiar with but very
few--chiefly those with whom I had a gossiping acquaintance. Yet,
somehow, I felt that if I could but get a half-dozen men to take a firm
stand with me, I might hold the rioters in check.

As I ran by the side of the excitable fishers, I urged upon one or
two of them the wisdom and duty of preventing a conflict. Their reply
was--and it was very convincing--that they were not forcing a struggle,
but were being attacked, and in the case would fight. My hasty
persuasion produced but little result. But I kept thinking hard.
Suddenly it came to me that I could place my hand upon a man whose
instincts in the matter would be the same as mine; who had authority;
knew the world; had been in dangerous positions in his lifetime; and
owed me something. I was sure that I could depend upon him: the more so
that once frail of body he had developed into a strong, well-controlled
man.

Even as I thought of him, I was within a few rods of the house where he
was. I looked, and saw him standing in the doorway. I ran and called
to him. He instantly joined me, and we ran on together: the fishermen
shouting loudly as they watched the river-drivers come armed down the
hill-slope into the village.

I hastily explained the situation to my friend, and told him what we
must do. A word or two assured me of all I wished to know. We reached
the scene of the disorder. The fishermen were bunched together,
the river on the one side, the houses and hills on the other. The
river-drivers had halted not many yards away, cool, determined and
quiet, save for a little muttering. In their red shirts, top boots,
many of them with long black hair and brass earrings, they looked a most
formidable crowd. They had evidently taken the matter seriously, and
were come with the intention of carrying their point, whatever it might
be. Just as we reached the space between the two parties, the massive
leader of the river-drivers stepped forward, and in a rough but
collected voice said that they had come determined to fight, if fighting
were necessary, but that they knew what the end of the conflict would
be, and they did not wish to obliterate Sunburst entirely if Sunburst
accepted the conditions of peace.

There seemed no leader to the fishermen.

My friend said to me quickly: “You speak first.” Instantly I stepped
forward and demanded to know what the terms of peace were. As soon as I
did so, there were harsh mutterings among the river-drivers. I explained
at once, waving back some of the fisher-men who were clamouring about
me, that I had nothing whatever to do with the quarrel; that I happened
to be where I was by accident, as I had happened by accident to see the
difficulty of the morning. But I said that it was the duty of every man
who was a good citizen and respected the laws of his country, to see, in
so far as it was possible, that there should be no breach of those laws.
I spoke in a clear strong voice, and I think I produced some effect
upon both parties to the quarrel. The reply of the leader was almost
immediate. He said that all they demanded was the Indian who had so
treacherously injured the foreman of their gangs. I saw the position at
once, and was dumfounded. For a moment I did not speak.

I was not prepared for the scene that immediately followed. Some one
broke through the crowd at my back, rushed past me, and stood between
the two forces. It was the Indian who had injured the foreman. He was
naked to the waist, and painted and feathered after the manner of his
tribe going to battle. There was a wild light in his eye, but he had no
weapon. He folded his arms across his breast, and said:

“Well, you want me. Here I am. I will fight with any man all alone,
without a gun or arrow or anything. I will fight with my arms--to kill.”

I saw revolvers raised at him instantly, but at that the man, my friend,
who stood beside me, sprang in front of the Indian.

“Stop--stop!” he cried. “In the name of the law! I am a sergeant of
the mounted police of Canada. My jurisdiction extends from Winnipeg to
Vancouver. You cannot have this man except over my body: and for my body
every one of you will pay with your lives; for every blow struck this
night, there will be a hundred blows struck upon the river-drivers
and mill-hands of this valley. Take care! Behind me is the law of the
land--her police and her soldiery.”

He paused. There was almost complete silence. He continued:

“This man is my prisoner; I arrest him.”--He put his hand upon the
Indian’s shoulder.--“For the crime he committed this morning he shall
pay: but to the law, not to you. Put up your revolvers, men. Go back to
Viking. Don’t risk your lives; don’t break the law and make yourselves
criminals and outlaws. Is it worth it? Be men. You have been the
aggressors. There isn’t one of you but feels that justice which is the
boast of every man of the West. You wanted to avenge the crime of this
morning. But the vengeance is the law’s.--Stand back--Stand back!” he
said, and drew his revolver, as the leader of the river-drivers stepped
forward. “I will kill the first man that tries to lay his hand upon my
prisoner. Don’t be mad. I am not one man, I am a whole country.”

I shall never forget the thrill that passed through me as I saw a man
who, but a handful of months before, was neck deep in his grave, now
blossomed out into a strong, defiant soldier.

There was a pause. At last the leader of the river-drivers spoke. “See,”
 he said, “Sergeant, I guess you’re right. You’re a man, so help me! Say,
boys,” he continued, turning to his followers, “let him have the Injin.
I guess he’s earned him.”

So saying he wheeled, the men with him, and they tramped up the slope
again on their way back to Viking. The man who had achieved this turned
upon the fishers.

“Back to your homes!” he said. “Be thankful that blood was not shed here
to-night, and let this be a lesson to you. Now, go.”

The crowd turned, slowly shambled down the riverside, and left us three
standing there.

But not alone. Out of the shadow of one of the houses came two women.
They stepped forward into the light of the bonfire burning near us. One
of the women was very pale.

It was Mrs. Falchion.

I touched the arm of the man standing beside me. He wheeled and saw her
also. A cry broke from his lips, but he stood still. A whole life-time
of sorrow, trouble, and love looked out of his eyes. Mrs. Falchion came
nearer. Clasping her hands upon her breast, she peered up into his face,
and gasped:

“Oh--oh--I thought that you were drowned--and dead! I saw you buried
in the sea. No--no--it cannot be you! I have heard and seen all within
these past few minutes. YOU are so strong and brave, so great a man!...
Oh, tell me, tell me, are you in truth my husband?”

He spoke.

“I was your husband, Mercy Falchion. I was drowned, but this man”--he
turned and touched my shoulder--“this man brought me back to life.
I wanted to be dead to the world. I begged him to keep my secret. A
sailor’s corpse was buried in my shroud, and I lived. At Aden I stole
from the boat in the night. I came to America--to Canada--to begin a new
life under a new name, never to see you again.... Do not, do not speak
to me--unless I am not to lose you again; unless I am to know that now
you forgive me--that you forgive me--and wish me to live--my wife!”

She put both her hands out, a strange, sorrowful look in her eyes, and
said: “I have sinned--I have sinned.”

He took her hands in his.

“I know,” he said, “that you do not love me yet; but you may some day.”

“No,” she said, “I do not love you; but.... I am glad you live. Let
us--go home.”


THE END.



     ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:

     A heart-break for that kind is their salvation
     A man may be forgiven for a sin, but the effect remains
     A man you could bank on, and draw your interest reg’lar
     Aboriginal dispersion
     All he has to do is to be vague, and look prodigious (Scientist)
     And even envy praised her
     Audience that patronisingly listens outside a room or window
     But to pay the vulgar penalty of prison--ah!
     Death is a magnificent ally; it untangles knots
     Death is not the worst of evils
     Engrossed more, it seemed, in the malady than in the man
     Every true woman is a mother, though she have no child
     Fear a woman are when she hates, and when she loves
     For a man having work to do, woman, lovely woman, is rocks
     He didn’t always side with the majority
     He had neither self-consciousness nor fear
     Her own suffering always set her laughing at herself
     It is difficult to be idle--and important too
     It is hard to be polite to cowards
     Jews everywhere treated worse than the Chinaman
     Learned what fools we mortals be
     Love can outlive slander
     Men do not steal up here: that is the unpardonable crime
     One always buys back the past at a tremendous price
     One doesn’t choose to worry
     Saying uncomfortable things in a deferential way
     She had provoked love, but had never given it
     Slow-footed hours wandered by, leaving apathy in their train
     “Still the end of your existence,” I rejoined--“to be amused?”
      That anxious civility which beauty can inspire
     The happy scene of the play before the villain comes in
     The ravings of a sick man are not always counted ravings
     The sea is a great breeder of friendship
     The tender care of a woman--than many pharmacopoeias
     The threshold of an acknowledged love
     There are things we repent of which cannot be repaired
     There is no refuge from memory and remorse in this world
     Think that a woman gives the heart for pleasant weather only?
     Thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart
     Time a woman most yearns for a man is when she has refused him
     Vanity; and from this much feminine hatred springs
     Very severe on those who do not pretend to be good
     What is gone is gone Graves are idolatry
     Who get a morbid enjoyment out of misery
     Would look back and not remember that she had a childhood





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