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- Mrs. Falchion, Volume 2. - 25/25 -
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?"
"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."
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 All he has to do is to be vague, and look prodigious (Scientist) Death is not the worst of evils Every true woman is a mother, though she have no child Fear a woman are when she hates, and when she loves He didn't always side with the majority He had neither self-consciousness nor fear Her own suffering always set her laughing at herself Learned what fools we mortals be Love can outlive slander Men do not steal up here: that is the unpardonable crime She had provoked love, but had never given it "Still the end of your existence," I rejoined--"to be amused?" The happy scene of the play before the villain comes in 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 Would look back and not remember that she had a childhood
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