Mrs. Falchion - Volume 2

Mrs. Falchion - Volume 2

MRS. FALCHION - VOLUME 2. GILBERT PARKER 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. ...