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- Mrs. Falchion, Volume 1. - 1/25 -


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


Mrs. Falchion, Volume 1. - 1/25

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