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- Mrs. Falchion, Volume 2. - 3/25 -
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.
"What was the name on the envelope?" she said. "Was there one?"
I guessed she had seen my slight start. I said evasively: "I fancy there was, but a man who is immensely interested in a new brand of cigar--"
"You are a most deceitful man," she said. "And, at the least, you are selfish in holding your cigar more important than a woman's curiosity. Who can tell what romance was in the address on that envelope--"
"What elements of noble tragedy, what advertisement for a certain property in the Whi-Whi Valley," interrupted Roscoe, breaking off the thread of a sailor's song he was humming, as he tended the water-kettle on the fire.
This said, he went on with the song again. I was struck by the wonderful change in him now. Presentiments were far from him, yet I, having read that envelope, knew that they were not without cause. Indeed, I had an inkling of that the night before, when I heard the voices on the hill. Ruth Devlin stopped for a moment in the preparations to ask Roscoe what he was humming. I, answering for him, told her that it was an old sentimental sea-song of common sailors, often sung by officers at their jovial gatherings. At this she pretended to look shocked, and straightway demanded to hear the words, so that she could pronounce judgment on her spiritual pastor and master.
He good-naturedly said that many of these old sailor songs were amusing, and that he often found himself humming them. To this I could testify, and he sang them very well indeed--quietly, but with the rolling tone of the sailor, jovial yet fascinating. At our united request, his humming became distinct. Three of the verses I give here:
"The 'Lovely Jane' went sailing down To anchor at the Spicy Isles; And the wind was fair as ever was blown, For the matter of a thousand miles.
"Then a storm arose as she crossed the line, Which it caused her masts to crack; And she gulped her fill of the whooping brine, And she likewise sprained her back.
"And the capting cried, 'If it's Davy Jones, Then it's Davy Jones,' says he, 'Though I don't aspire to leave my bones In the equatorial sea.'"
What the further history of the 'Lovely Jane' was we were not informed, for Ruth Devlin announced that the song must wait, though it appeared to be innocuous and child-like in its sentiments, and that lunch would be served between the acts of the touching tragedy. When lunch was over, and we had again set forth upon the Whi-Whi, I asked Ruth to sing an old French-Canadian song which she had once before sung to us. Many a time the woods of the West had resounded to the notes of 'En Roulant ma Boule', as the 'voyageurs' traversed the long paths of the Ottawa, St. Lawrence, and Mississippi; brave light-hearted fellows, whose singing days were over.
By the light of coming events there was something weird and pathetic in this Arcadian air, sung as it was by her. Her voice was a mezzo-soprano of rare bracing quality, and she had enough natural sensibility to give the antique refinement of the words a wistful charm, particularly apparent in these verses:
"Ah, cruel Prince, my heart you break, In killing thus my snow-white drake.
"My snow-white drake, my love, my King, The crimson life-blood stains his wing.
"His golden bill sinks on his breast, His plumes go floating east and west--
"En roulant ma boule: Rouli, roulant, ma boule roulant, En roulant ma boule roulant, En roulant ma boule!"
As she finished the song we rounded an angle in the Whi-Whi. Ahead of us lay the Snow Rapids and the swift channel at one side of the rapids which, hurrying through a rocky archway, was known as the Devil's Slide. There was one channel through the rapids by which it was perfectly safe to pass, but that sweep of water through the Devil's Slide was sometimes a trap of death to even the most expert river-men. A half-mile below the rapids was the confluence of the two rivers. The sight of the tumbling mass of white water, and the gloomy and colossal grandeur of the Devil's Slide, a buttress of the hills, was very fine.
But there was more than scenery to interest us here, for, moving quickly towards the Slide, was a boat with three people in it. They were evidently intending to attempt that treacherous passage, which culminated in a series of eddies, a menace to even the best oarsman ship. They certainly were not aware of their danger, for there came over the water the sound of a man's laughing voice, and the two women in the boat were in unconcerned attitudes. Roscoe shouted to them, and motioned them back, but they did not appear to understand.
The man waved his hat to us, and rowed on. There was but one thing for us to do: to make the passage quickly through the safe channel of the rapids, and to be of what service we could on the other side of the Slide, if necessary. We bent to the oars, and the boat shot through the water. Ruth held the rudder firmly, and her young sister and Mrs. Revel sat perfectly still. But the man in the other boat, thinking, doubtless, that we were attempting a race, added his efforts to the current of the channel. I am afraid that I said some words below my breath scarcely proper to be spoken in the presence of maidens and a clerk in holy orders. Roscoe was here, however, a hundred times more sailor than parson. He spoke in low, firm tones, as he now and then suggested a direction to Ruth Devlin or myself. Our boat tossed and plunged in the rapids, and the water washed over us lightly once or twice, but we went through the passage safely, and had turned towards the Slide before the other boat got to the rocky archway.
We rowed hard. The next minute was one of suspense, for we saw the boat shoot beneath the archway. Presently it emerged, a whirling plaything in treacherous eddies. The man wildly waved his arm, and shouted to us. The women were grasping the sides of the boat, but making no outcry. We could not see the faces of the women plainly yet. The boat ran forward like a race-horse; it plunged hither and thither. An oar snapped in the rocks, and the other one shot from the man's hand. Now the boat swung round and round, and dipped towards the hollow of a whirlpool. When we were within a few rods of them, it appeared to rise from the water, was hurled on a rock, and overturned. Mrs. Revel buried her face in her hands, and Ruth gave a little groan, but she held the rudder firmly, as we swiftly approached the forms struggling in the water. All, fortunately, had grasped the swamped boat, and were being carried down the stream towards us. The man was caring resolutely for himself, but one, of the women had her arm round the other, supporting her. We brought our skiff close to the swirling current. I called out words of encouragement, and was preparing to jump into the water, when Roscoe exclaimed in a husky voice: "Marmion, it is Mrs. Falchion."
Yes, it was Mrs. Falchion; but I had known that before. We heard her words to her companion: "Justine, do not look so. Your face is like death. It is hateful."
Then the craft veered towards the smoother water where we were. This was my opportunity. Roscoe threw me a rope, and I plunged in and swam towards the boat. I saw that Mrs. Falchion recognised me; but she made no exclamation, nor did Justine Caron. Their companion, however, on the other side of the boat, was eloquent in prayers to be rescued. I caught the bow of the boat as it raced past me, and with all my strength swung it towards the smoother water. I ran the rope I had brought, through the iron ring at the bow, and was glad enough of that; for their lives perhaps depended on being able to do it. It had been a nice calculation of chances, but it was done. Roscoe immediately bent to the oars, I threw an arm around Justine, and in a moment Roscoe had towed us into safer quarters. Then he drew in the rope. As he did so, Mrs. Falchion said: "Justine would drown so easily if one would let her."
These were her first words to me. I am sure I never can sufficiently admire the mere courage of the woman and her presence of mind in danger. Immediately afterwards she said--and subsequently it seemed to me
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