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- The Right of Way, Volume 5. - 6/10 -
fond of too."
Charley's back was on them at that moment, of which he was glad, for his face was haggard with anxiety, and it seemed hours before the Cure said: "Whom do you mean, Maurice?" and hours before the Seigneur replied: "Mrs. Flynn, of course. I'm sending her tomorrow."
Mrs. Flynn had gone, and Charley had, in one sense, been made no happier by that, for it seemed to him that Rosalie would rather that strangers' eyes were on her than the inquisitively friendly eye of Mary Flynn.
Weeks had grown into months, and no news came--none save that which the Cure let fall, or was brought by the irresponsible Notary, who heard all gossip. Only the Cure's scant news were authentic, however, and Charley never saw the good priest but he had a secret hope of hearing him say that Rosalie was coming back. Yet when she came back, what would, or could, he do? There was always the crime for which he or Billy must be punished. Concerning this crime his heart was growing harder--for Rosalie's sake. But there was Kathleen--and Rosalie was now in the city where she lived, and they might meet! There was one solution-- if Kathleen should die! It sickened him that he could think of that with a sense of relief, almost of hope. If Kathleen should die, then he would be free to marry Rosalie--into what? He still could only marry her into the peril and menace of the law? Again, even if Kathleen did not stand in the way, neither the Cure nor any other priest would marry him to her without his antecedents being certified. A Protestant minister would, perhaps, but would Rosalie give up her faith? Following him without the blessing of the Church, she would trample under foot every dear tradition of her life, win the scorn of all of her religion, and destroy her own peace; for the faith of her fathers was as the breath of her nostrils. What cruelty to her!
But was it, after all, even true that he had but to call and she would come? In truth it well might be that she had learned to despise him; to feel how dastardly he had been to take her love, given in blind simplicity, bestowed like the song of the bird upon the listening fields --to take the plenteous fulness of her life, and give nothing in return save the empty hand, the hopeless hour, the secret sorrow.
Nothing could quench his misery. The physical part of him craved without ceasing for something to allay his distress. Again and again he fought his old enemy with desperate resolve. To fall again, to touch liquor once more, was to end all for ever. He fought on tenaciously and gloomily, with little of the pride of life, with nothing of the old stubborn self-will, but with a new-awakened sense. He had found conscience at last--and more.
The months went by and still M. Evanturel lingered on, and Rosalie did not come. The strain became too great at last. In the week preceding Easter, when all the parish was busy at Four Mountains, making costumes, rehearsing, building, putting up seats, cutting down trees, and erecting crosses and calvaries, Charley disclosed to Jo a new intention.
In the earlier part of the winter Jo and he had met two or three times a week, but now Jo had come to help him with his work in the shop--two silent, devoted companions. They understood each other, and in that understanding were life and death. For never did Jo forget that a year from the day he had confessed his sins he meant to give himself up to justice. This caused him no sleepless nights. He thought more of Charley than of himself, and every month now he went to confession, and every day he said his prayers. He was at his prayers when Charley went to tell him of his purpose. Charley had often seen Jo on his knees of late, and he had wondered, but not with the old pagan mind. "Jo," he said, "I am going away--to Montreal."
"To Montreal!" exclaimed Jo huskily. "You are going back--to stay?"
"Not that. I am going--to see--Rosalie Evanturel." Jo was troubled but not dumfounded. It had slowly crept into his mind that Charley loved the girl, though he had no real ground for suspicion. His will, however, had been so long the slave of the other man's that he had far-off reflections of his thoughts. He made no reply in words, but nodded his head.
"I want you to stay here, Jo. If I don't come back, and--and she does, stand by her, Jo. I can trust you." "You will come back, M'sieu'--but you will come back, then?" Jo asked heavily.
"If I can, Jo--if I can," he answered.
Long after he had gone, Jo wandered up and down among the trees on the river-road, up which Charley had disappeared with Jo's dogs and sled. He kept shaking his head mournfully.
THE FORGOTTEN MAN
It was Easter morning, and the good sunrise of a perfect spring made radiant the high hill above the town. Rosy-fingered morn touched with magic colour the masts and scattered sails of the ships upon the great river, and spires and towers quivered with rainbow light. The city was waking cheerfully, though the only active life was in the pealing bells and on the deep flowing rivers. The streets were empty yet, save for an assiduous priest or the cart of a milkman. Here and there a window opened and a drowsy head was thrust into the eager air. These saw a bearded countryman with his team of six dogs and his little cart going slowly up the street. It was plain the man had come a long distance-- from the mountains in the east or south, no doubt, where horses were few, and dogs, canoes, and oxen the means of transportation.
As the man moved slowly through the streets, his dogs still gallantly full of life after their hard journey, he did not stare about him after the manner of countrymen. His movements had intelligence and freedom. He was an unusual figure for a woodsman or river-man--he did not wear ear-rings or a waist-sash as did the river-men, and he did not turn in his toes like a woodsman. Yet he was plainly a man from the far mountains.
The man with the dogs did not heed the few curious looks turned his way, but held his head down as though walking in familiar places. Now and then he spoke to his dogs, and once he stopped before a newspaper office, which had a placard bearing these lines:
The Coming Passion Play In the Chaudiere Valley.
He looked at it mechanically, for, though he was concerned in the Passion Play and the Chaudiere Valley, it was an abstraction to him at this moment. His mind was absorbed by other things.
Though he looked neither to right nor to left, he was deeply affected by all round him.
At last he came to a certain street, where he and his dogs travelled more quickly. It opened into a square, where bells were booming in the steeple of a church. Shops and offices in the street were shut, but a saloon-door was open, and over the doorway was the legend: Jean Jolicoeur, Licensed to sell Wine, Beer, and other Spirituous and Fermented Liquors.
Nearly opposite was a lawyer's office, with a new-painted sign. It had once read, in plain black letters, Charles Steele, Barrister, etc.; now it read, in gold letters and many flourishes of the sign-painter's art, Rockwell and Tremblay, Barristers, Attorneys, etc.
Here the man looked up with trouble in his eyes. He could see dimly the desk and the window beside which he had sat for so many years, and on the wall a map of the city glowed with the incoming sun.
He moved on, passing the saloon with the open door. The landlord, in his shirt-sleeves, was standing in the doorway. He nodded, then came out to the edge of the board-walk.
"Come a long way, M'sieu'?" he asked.
"Four days' journey," answered the man gruffly through his beard, looking the landlord in the eyes. If this landlord, who in the past had seen him so often and so closely, did not recognise him, surely no one else would. It was, however, a curious recurrence of habit that, as he looked at the landlord, he instinctively felt for his eye-glass, which he had discarded when he left Chaudiere. For an instant there was an involuntary arrest of Jean Jolicoeur's look, as though memory had been roused, but this swiftly passed, and he said:
"Fine dogs, them! We never get that kind hereabouts now, M'sieu'. Ever been to the city before?"
"I've never been far from home before," answered the Forgotten Man.
"You'd better keep your eyes open, my friend, though you've got a sharp pair in your head--sharp as Beauty Steele's almost. There's rascals in the river-side drinking-places that don't let the left hand know what the right does."
"My dogs and I never trust anybody," said the Forgotten Man, as one of the dogs snarled at the landlord's touch. "So I can take care of myself, even if I haven't eyes as sharp as Beauty Steele's, whoever he is."
The landlord laughed. "Beauty's only skin-deep, they say. Charley Steele was a lawyer; his office was over there"--he pointed across the street. "He went wrong. He come here too often--that wasn't my fault. He had an eye like a hawk, and you couldn't read it. Now I can read your eye like a book. There's a bit of spring in 'em, M'sieu'. His eyes were hard winter-ice five feet deep and no fishing under--froze to the bed. He had a tongue like a cross-cut saw. He's at the bottom of the St. Lawrence, leaving a bad job behind him.
"Have a drink--hein?" He jerked a finger backwards to the saloon door. "It's Sunday, but stolen waters are sweet, sure!"
The Forgotten Man shook his head. "I don't drink, thank you."
"It'd do you good. You're dead beat. You've been travelling hard--eh?"
"I've come a long way, and travelled all night."
"I am going back to-morrow."
Charley nodded--he glanced involuntarily at the sign across the street.
Jean Jolicoeur saw the look. "Lawyer's business, p'r'aps?"
"A lawyer's business--yes."
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