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- Mrs. Falchion, Volume 2. - 2/25 -
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.
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
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