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- Wild Youth, Volume 2. - 5/12 -
backslided, and who, in the words of Rigby the chemist, "Must be spewed out of the mouth of the righteous into the dust of shame."
That was the situation when Joel Mazarine drove furiously into the town and made for the railway station. Men like Jonas Billings, who saw him, and had the scent for sensation, passed the word on downtown, as it is called, that something "was up" with Mazarine, and the railway station was the place where what was up could be seen. Therefore; a quarter of an hour before the arrival of the express which was to carry Orlando Guise's mother to her sick sister three hundred miles down the line, a goodly number of citizens had gathered at the station-far more than usually watched the entrance or exit of the express.
Mazarine's wagon and steaming horses were tied up outside the station, and inside on the platform Moses-not-much, as Mazarine had been called by Jonas Billings, marched up and down, his snaky little eyes blinking at the doorway of the station reception-room. People came and some of them nodded to him derisively. Some, with more hardihood, asked him if he was going East; if he was expecting anyone; if he was seeing somebody off.
A good many asked him the last question, because, as the minutes had passed, Burlingame had arrived. He had also disclosed his great joke to those who would carry it far and near, together with the news that Louise had taken flight. The last fact, however, was known to several people, because more than one had seen the Young Doctor and Patsy Kernaghan taking Louise to Nolan Doyle's ranch.
It was dusk. The lamps of the station were being lighted five minutes before the express arrived, and as the lights flared up, Orlando entered the waiting-room of the station, with a lady on his arm, and presently showed at the platform doorway, smiling and cheerful. He did not blench when Mazarine came towards him. Mazarine had seen the flutter of a blue skirt in the waiting-room, and his wife had worn blue that day!
Orlando saw the heavy, offensive figure of Mazarine making for him. He, however, appeared to take no notice, though he watched his outrageous pursuer out of the corner of his eye, as he quietly gave orders to a porter concerning a little heap of luggage. When he had finished this, he turned, as it were casually, to Mazarine. Then he giggled in the face of the Master of Tralee. It was like the matador's waving of the scarlet cloth in the face of the enraged bull. Having thus relieved his feelings, Orlando turned and walked to the door of the reception-room, but was stopped by the old man rushing at him. Swinging round, Orlando almost filled the doorway.
"You devil's spawn," Mazarine almost shouted," get out of that doorway. I want my wife. You needn't try to hide her. You thief! You lecherous circus rider! Stand aside--leper!"
Orlando coolly stretched out his elbows till they touched the sides of the door, and as the crowd pressed, he said to them mockingly:
"Get back, boys. Give him air. Can't you see he's gasping for breath." Then he giggled again.
The old man looked round at the crowd, but he saw no sympathy--only aversion and ridicule. Suddenly he snatched his little black-bound Bible from his pocket, and held it up.
"What does this Book say?" he thundered. "It says that a wife shall cleave unto her husband until death. For the seducer and the betrayer death is the portion."
The whistle of the incoming train was heard in the distance.
The old man was desperate. It was clear he meant to assault Orlando. "You will only take her away over my dead body," he ground out in his passion. "The Lord gave, and only the Lord shall take away." He gathered himself together for the attack.
Orlando waved a hand at him as one would at a troublesome child. At that instant, his mother stepped up behind him in the reception-room.
"Orlando," she said in her mincing, piping little voice, "Orlando, dear, the train is coming. Let me out. I'm not afraid of that bad man. I want to catch my train."
Orlando stepped aside, and his mother passed through, to the consternation of Mazarine, who fell back. The old man now realized that Burlingame had tricked him. Laughter went up from the crowd. They had had a great show at no cost.
"'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again,' Mr. Mazarine!" called someone from the crowd.
"It's the next train she's going by, old Moses-not-much," shouted a friend of Jonas Billings.
"She's had enough of you, Joel!" sneered another mocker.
"Wouldn't you like to know where she is, yellow-lugs?" queried a fat washerwoman.
For an instant Mazarine stood demused, and then, thrusting the Bible into his pocket, he drew himself up in an effort of pride and defiance.
"Judases! Jezebels!" he burst out at them all. Then he lunged through the doorway of the reception-room; but at the door opening on the street his courage gave way, and hunched up like one in pain, he ran towards the hitching-post where he had left his horses and wagon. They were not there. With a groan which was also a malediction, he went up the street like a wounded elephant, and made his way to the police-station through a town which had no pity for him.
During the hour he remained in the town, Mazarine searched in vain for his horses and wagon. He looked everywhere except the shed behind the Methodist Church. It was there the two wags who had played the trick on him had carefully hitched the horses, and presently they announced in town that they did it because they knew Mazarine would want to go to the prayer-meeting to lay his crimes before the Mercy Seat!
It was quite true that it was prayer-meeting night, and as the merciless wags left the shed, the voice of brother Rigby the chemist was narrating for the hundredth time the story of his conversion, when, as he said, "the pains of hell gat hold of him." Brother Rigby loved to relate the tortures of the day when he was convicted of sin; but on this night his ancient story seemed appropriate, as he had dealt with great severity on the doings of the backslider, Joel Mazarine.
When the two wags returned to the front street of Askatoon, they were just in time to see the second meeting of Orlando and Mazarine. Mazarine had not been able to find his horses at any hotel or livery stable, or in any street. It was at the moment, when, in his distraction, he had decided to walk back to Tralee, that Orlando, driving up the street, saw him. Orlando reined in his horses dropped from his buggy and approached him.
There was a look in Orlando's eyes which was a reflection from a remote past, from ancestors who had settled their troubles with the first weapon and the best opportunity to their hands. "The furrin element in him," as Jonas Billings called it, had been at full flood ever since he had bade his mother good-bye. A storm of anger had been raised in him. As he said to himself, he had had enough; he had been filled up to the chin by the Mazarine business; and his impulsive youth wanted to end it by some smashing act which would be sensational and decisive. So it was that Fate offered the opportunity, as he came up the front street of Askatoon, and found himself face to face with Mazarine, over against the offices of Burlingame.
"A word with you, Mr. Mazarine," he said, with the air of a man who wants to ease his mind of its trouble by action. "Back there at the station, I kept my tongue and let you down easy enough, because my mother was present. She is old and sensitive, and she doesn't like to see her son doing the dirty work every man must do some time or other, when there's street cleaning to be done. Now, let me tell you this: you've slandered as good a girl, you've libelled as straight a wife, as the best man in the world ever had. You've made a public scandal of your private home. You've treated the pure thing as if it were the foul thing; and yet, you want to keep the pure thing that you treat like a foul thing, under your rawhide whip, because it's young and beautiful and good. You don't want to save her soul"--he pointed to the Bible, which the old man had snatched from his pocket again--"you don't want to save her soul. You don't care whether she's happy in this world or the next; what you want is what you can see of her, for your life in this world only. You want--"
The old man interrupted him with a savage emotion which Jonas Billings said made him look like "a satyre."
"I want to save her from the wrath to come," he said. "This here holy Book gives me my rights. It says, 'Thou shalt not steal,' and the trouble I have comes from you that's stole my wife, that's put her soul in jeopardy, robbed my home--"
"Robbed your home!" interjected Orlando quietly, but with a voice of suppressed passion. "Robbed your home! Why, the other day you tried to prevent her entering it. You wanted to shut her out. After she had lived with you all those years, you believed she lied to you when she told you the truth about that night on the prairie; but her innocence was proved by one who was there all the time, and for shame's sake you had to let her in. But she couldn't stand it. I don't wonder. A lark wouldn't be at home where a vulture roosted."
"And so the lark flies away to the cuckoo," snarled the old man, with flecks of froth gathering at the corners of his mouth; for the sight of this handsome, long-limbed youth enraged him.
"Give her back to me. You know where she is," he persisted. "You've got her hid away. That's why you've sent your mother East--so's she wouldn't know, though from what I see, I shouldn't think it'd have made much difference to her."
Exclamations broke from the crowd. It was the wild West. It was a country where, not twenty years before, men did justice upon men without the assistance of the law; and the West understood that the dark insult just uttered would in days not far gone have meant death. The onlookers exclaimed, and then became silent, because a subtle sense of tragedy suddenly smothered their voices. Upon the silence there broke a little giggling laugh. It came from lips that were one in paleness with a face grown stony.
"I ought to kill you," Orlando said quietly after a moment, yet scarcely above a whisper. "I ought to kill you, Mazarine, but that would only be playing your game, for the law would get hold of me, and the girl that has left you would be sorrowful, for she knows I love her, though I never told her so. She'd be sorry to see the law get at me. She's going to be mine some day, in the right way. I'm not going behind your back to say it; I'm announcing it to all and sundry. I never did a thing to her that couldn't have been seen by all the world, and I never said a thing to her that couldn't be heard by all the world; but I hope she'll never go back
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