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- Mrs. Falchion, Volume 2. - 10/25 -
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.
"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?"
"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?"
"That's c'rrect. And the 'lectric light is burnin' in the mill and in the town, an' the saws are all goin'?"
"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."
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,
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