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   Chapter 4 THE COMING OF JETHRO FAWE

The World For Sale, Volume 1. By Gilbert Parker Characters: 25499

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Gabriel Druse's house stood on a little knoll on the outskirts of the town of Manitou, backed by a grove of pines. Its front windows faced the Sagalac, and the windows behind looked into cool coverts where in old days many Indian tribes had camped; where Hudson's Bay Company's men had pitched their tents to buy the red man's furs. But the red man no longer set up his tepee in these secluded groves; the wapiti and red deer had fled to the north never to return, the snarling wolf had stolen into regions more barren; the ceremonial of the ancient people no longer made weird the lonely nights; the medicine-man's incantations, the harvest- dance, the green-corn-dance, the sun-dance had gone. The braves, their women, and their tepees had been shifted to reservations where Governments solemnly tried to teach them to till the field, and grow corn, and drive the cart to market; while yet they remembered the herds of buffalo which had pounded down the prairie like storm-clouds and given their hides for the tepee; and the swift deer whose skins made the wigwam luxurious.

Originally Manitou had been the home of Icelanders, Mennonites, and Doukhobors; settlers from lands where the conditions of earlier centuries prevailed, who, simple as they were in habits and in life, were ignorant, primitive, coarse, and none too cleanly.

They had formed an unprogressive polyglot settlement, and the place assumed a still more primeval character when the Indian Reservation was formed near by. When French Canadian settlers arrived, however, the place became less discordant to the life of a new democracy, though they did little to make it modern in the sense that Lebanon, across the river, where Ingolby lived, was modern from the day the first shack was thrown up.

Manitou showed itself antagonistic to progress; it was old-fashioned, and primitively agricultural. It looked with suspicion on the factories built after Ingolby came and on the mining propositions, which circled the place with speculation. Unlike other towns of the West, it was insanitary and uneducated; it was also given to nepotism and a primitive kind of jobbery; but, on the whole, it was honest. It was a settlement twenty years before Lebanon had a house, though the latter exceeded the population of Manitou in five years, and became the home of all adventuring spirits-land agents, company promoters, mining prospectors, railway men, politicians, saloon keepers, and up to-date dissenting preachers. Manitou was, however, full of back-water people, religious fanatics, little farmers, guides, trappers, old coureurs-de-bois, Hudson's Bay Company factors and ex-factors, half-breeds; and all the rest.

The real feud between the two towns began about the time of the arrival of Gabriel Druse, his daughter, and Madame Bulteel, the woman in black, and it had grown with great rapidity and increasing intensity. Manitou condemned the sacrilegiousness of the Protestants, whose meeting-houses were used for "socials," "tea-meetings," "strawberry festivals," and entertainments of many kinds; while comic songs were sung at the table where the solemn Love Feast was held at the quarterly meetings. At last when attempts were made to elect to Parliament an Irish lawyer who added to his impecuniousness, eloquence, a half-finished University education, and an Orangeman's prejudices of the best brand of Belfast or Derry, inter-civic strife took the form of physical violence. The great bridge built by Ingolby between the two towns might have been ten thousand yards long, so deep was the estrangement between the two places. They had only one thing in common-a curious compromise-in the person of Nathan Rockwell, an agnostic doctor, who had arrived in Lebanon with a reputation for morality somewhat clouded; though, where his patients in Manitou and Lebanon were concerned, he had been the "pink of propriety."

Rockwell had arrived in Lebanon early in its career, and had remained unimportant until a railway accident occurred at Manitou and the resident doctors were driven from the field of battle, one by death, and one by illness. Then it was that the silent, smiling, dark-skinned, cool-headed and cool-handed Rockwell stepped in, and won for himself the gratitude of all-from Monseigneur Lourde, the beloved Catholic priest, to Tekewani, the chief. This accident was followed by an epidemic.

That was at the time, also, when Fleda Druse returned from Winnipeg where she had been at school for one memorable and terrible six months, pining for her father, defying rules, and crying the night through for "the open world," as she called it. So it was that, to her father's dismay and joy in one, she had fled from school, leaving all her things behind her; and had reached home with only the clothes on her back and a few cents in her pocket.

Instantly on her return she had gone among the stricken people as fearlessly as Rockwell had done, but chiefly among the women and children; and it was said that the herbal medicine she administered was marvellous in its effect-so much so that Rockwell asked for the prescription, which she declined to give.

Thus it was that the French Canadian mothers with daughters of their own, bright-eyed brunettes, ready for the man-market, regarded with toleration the girl who took their children away for picnics down the river or into the woods, and brought them back safe and sound at the end of the day. Not that they failed to be shocked sometimes, when, on her wild Indian pony, Fleda swept through Manitou like a wind and out into the prairie, riding, as it were, to the end of the world. Try as they would, these grateful mothers of Manitou, they could not get as near to Fleda Druse as their children did, and they were vast distances from her father.

"There, there, look at him," said old Madame Thibadeau to her neighbour Christine Brisson-"look at him with his great grey-beard, and his eyes like black fires, and that head of hair like a bundle of burnt flax! He comes from the place no man ever saw, that's sure."

"Ah, surelee, men don't grow so tall in any Christian country," announced Christine Brisson, her head nodding sagely. "I've seen the pictures in the books, and there's nobody so tall and that looks like him-not anywhere since Adam."

"Nom de pipe, sometimes-trulee, sometimes, I look up there at where he lives, and I think I see a thousand men on horses ride out of the woods behind his house and down here to gobble us all up. That's the way I feel. It's fancy, but I can't help that." Dame Thibadeau rested her hands-on her huge stomach as though the idea had its origin there.

"I've seen a lot of fancies come to pass," gloomily returned her friend.

"It's a funny world. I don't know what to make of its sometimes."

"And that girl of his, the strangest creature, as proud as a peacock, but then as kind as kind to the children-of a good heart, surelee. They say she has plenty of gold rings and pearls and bracelets, and all like that. Babette Courton, she saw them when she went to sew. Why doesn't Ma'm'selle wear them?"

Christine looked wise and smoothed out her apron as though it was a parchment. "With such queer ones, who knows? But, yes, as you say, she has a kind heart. The children, well, they follow her everywhere."

"Not the children only," sagely added the other. "From Lebanon they come, the men, and plenty here, too; and there's that Felix Marchand, the worst of all in Manitou or anywhere."

"I'd look sharp if Felix Marchand followed me," remarked Christine. "There are more papooses at the Reservation since he come back, and over in Lebanon-!" She whispered darkly to her friend, and they nodded knowingly.

"If he plays pranks in Manitou he'll get his throat cut, for sure. Even with Protes'ants and Injuns it's bad enough," remarked Dame Thibadeau, panting with the thought of it.

"He doesn't even leave the Doukhobors alone. There's-" Again Christine whispered, and again that ugly look came to their faces which belongs to the thought of forbidden things.

"Felix Marchand'll have much money-bad penny as he is," continued Christine in her normal voice. "He'll have more money than he can put in all the trouser legs he has. Old Hector, his father, has enough for a gover'ment. But that M'sieu' Felix will get his throat cut if he follows Ma'm'selle Druse about too much. She hates him-I've seen when they met. Old man Druse'll make trouble. He don't look as he does for nothing."

"Ah, that's so. One day, we shall see what we shall see," murmured

Christine, and waved a hand to a friend in the street.

This conversation happened on the evening of the day that Fleda Druse shot the Carillon Rapids alone. An hour after the two gossips had had their say Gabriel Druse paced up and down the veranda of his house, stopping now and then to view the tumbling, hurrying Sagalac, or to dwell upon the sunset which crimsoned and bronzed the western sky. His walk had an air of impatience; he seemed disturbed of mind and restless of body.

He gave an impression of great force. He would have been picked out of a multitude, not alone because of his remarkable height, but because he had an air of command and the aloofness which shows a man sufficient unto himself.

As he stood gazing reflectively into the sunset, a strange, plaintive, birdlike note pierced the still evening air. His head lifted quickly, yet he did not look in the direction of the sound, which came from the woods behind the house. He did not stir, and his eyes half-closed, as though he hesitated what to do. The call was not that of a bird familiar to the Western world. It had a melancholy softness like that of the bell-bird of the Australian bush. Yet, in the insistence of the note, it was, too, a challenge or a summons.

Three times during the past week he had heard it-once as he went by the market-place of Manitou; once as he returned in the dusk from Tekewani's Reservation, and once at dawn from the woods behind the house. His present restlessness and suppressed agitation had been the result.

It was a call he knew well. It was like a voice from a dead world. It asked, he knew, for an answering call, yet he had not given it. It was seven days since he first heard it in the market-place, and in that seven days he had realized that nothing in this world which has ever been, really ceases to be. Presently, the call was repeated. On the three former occasions there had been no repetition. The call had trembled in the air but once and had died away into unbroken silence. Now, however, it rang out with an added poignancy. It was like a bird calling to its vanished mate.

With sudden resolution Druse turned. Leaving the veranda, he walked slowly behind the house into the woods and stood still under the branches of a great cedar. Raising his head, a strange, solemn note came from his lips; but the voice died away in a sharp broken sound which was more human than birdlike, which had the shrill insistence of authority. The call to him had been almost ventriloquial in its nature. His lips had not moved at all.

There was silence for a moment after he had called into the void, as it were, and then there appeared suddenly from behind a clump of juniper, a young man of dark face and upright bearing. He made a slow obeisance with a gesture suggestive of the Oriental world, yet not like the usual gesture of the East Indian, the Turk or the Persian; it was composite of all.

He could not have been more than twenty-five years of age. He was so sparely made, and his face being clean-shaven, he looked even younger. His clothes were the clothes of the Western man; and yet there was a manner of wearing them, there were touches which were evidence to the watchful observer that he was of other spheres. His wide, felt, Western hat had a droop on one side and a broken treatment of the crown, which of itself was enough to show him a stranger to the prairie, while his brown velveteen jacket, held by its two lowest buttons, was reminiscent of an un-English life. His eyes alone would have announced him as of some foreign race, though he was like none of the foreigners who had been the pioneers of Manitou. Unlike as he and Gabriel Druse were in height, build, and movement, still there was something akin in them both.

After a short silence evidently disconcerting to him, "Blessing and hail, my Ry," he said in a low tone. He spoke in a strange language and with a voice rougher than his looks would have suggested.

The old man made a haughty gesture of impatience. "What do you want with me, my Romany 'chal'?" he asked sharply.-[A glossary of Romany words will be found at the end of the book.]

The

young man replied hastily. He seemed to speak by rote. His manner was too eager to suit the impressiveness of his words. "The sheep are without a shepherd," he said. "The young men marry among the Gorgios, or they are lost in the cities and return no more to the tents and the fields and the road. There is disorder in all the world among the Romanys. The ancient ways are forgotten. Our people gather and settle upon the land and live as the Gorgios live. They forget the way beneath the trees, they lose their skill in horses. If the fountain is choked, how shall the water run?"

A cold sneer came to the face of Gabriel Druse. "The way beneath the trees!" he growled. "The way of the open road is enough. The way beneath the trees is the way of the thief, and the skill of the horse is the skill to cheat."

"There is no other way. It has been the way of the Romany since the time of Timur Beg and centuries beyond Timur, so it is told. One man and all men must do as the tribe has done since the beginning."

The old man pulled at his beard angrily. "You do not talk like a Romany, but like a Gorgio of the schools."

The young man's manner became more confident as he replied. "Thinking on what was to come to me, I read in the books as the Gorgio reads. I sat in my tent and worked with a pen; I saw in the printed sheets what the world was doing every day. This I did because of what was to come."

"And have you read of me in the printed sheets? Did they tell you where I was to be found?" Gabriel Druse's eyes were angry, his manner was authoritative.

The young man stretched out his hands eloquently. "Hail and blessing, my Ry, was there need of printed pages to tell me that? Is not everything known of the Ry to the Romany people without the written or printed thing? How does the wind go? How does the star sweep across the sky? Does not the whisper pass as the lightning flashes? Have you forgotten all, my Ry? Is there a Romany camp at Scutari? Shall it not know what is the news of the Bailies of Scotland and the Caravans by the Tagus? It is known always where my lord is. All the Romanys everywhere know it, and many hundreds have come hither from overseas. They are east, they are south, they are west."

He made gesture towards these three points of the compass. A dark frown came upon the old man's forehead. "I ordered that none should seek to follow, that I be left in peace till my pilgrimage was done. Even as the first pilgrims of our people in the days of Timur Beg in India, so I have come forth from among you all till the time be fulfilled."

There was a crafty look in the old man's eyes as he spoke, and ages of dubious reasoning and purpose showed in their velvet depths.

"No one has sought me but you in all these years," he continued. "Who are you that you should come? I did not call, and there was my command that none should call to me."

A bolder look grew in the other's face. His carriage gained in ease. "There is trouble everywhere-in Italy, in Spain, in France, in England, in Russia, in mother India"-he made a gesture of salutation and bowed low-"and our rites and mysteries are like water spilt upon the ground. If the hand be cut off, how shall the body move? That is how it is. You are vanished, my lord, and the body dies."

The old man plucked his beard again fiercely and his words came with guttural force. "That is fool's talk. In the past I was never everywhere at once. When I was in Russia, I was not in Greece; when I was in England, I was not in Portugal. I was always 'vanished' from one place to another, yet the body lived."

"But your word was passed along the roads everywhere, my Ry. Your tongue was not still from sunrise to the end of the day. Your call was heard always, now here, now there, and the Romanys were one; they held together."

The old man's face darkened still more and his eyes flashed fire. "These are lies you are telling, and they will choke you, my Romany 'chal'. Am I deceived, I who have known more liars than any man under the sky? Am I to be fooled, who have seen so many fools in their folly? There is roguery in you, or I have never seen roguery."

"I am a true Romany, my Ry," the other answered with an air of courage and a little defiance also.

"You are a rogue and a liar, that is sure. These wailings are your own. The Romany goes on his way as he has gone these hundreds of years. If I am silent, my people will wait until I speak again; if they see me not they will wait till I enter their camps once more. Why are you here? Speak, rogue and liar." The wrathful old man, sure in his reading of the youth, towered above him commandingly. It almost seemed as though he would do him bodily harm, so threatening was his attitude, but the young Romany raised his head, and with a note of triumph said:

"I have come for my own, as it is my right."

"What is your own?"

"What has been yours until now, my Ry."

A grey look stole slowly up the strong face of the exiled leader, for his mind suddenly read the truth behind the young man's confident words.

"What is mine is always mine," he answered roughly. "Speak! What is it

I have that you come for?"

The young man braced himself and put a hand upon his lips. "I come for your daughter, my Ry." The old man suddenly regained his composure, and authority spoke in his bearing and his words. "What have you to do with my daughter?"

"She was married to me when I was seven years of age, as my Ry knows. I am the son of Lemuel Fawe-Jethro Fawe is my name. For three thousand pounds it was so arranged. On his death-bed three thousand pounds did my father give to you for this betrothal. I was but a child, yet I remembered, and my kinsmen remembered, for it is their honour also. I am the son of Lemuel Fawe, the husband of Fleda, daughter of Gabriel Druse, King and Duke and Earl of all the Romanys; and I come for my own."

Something very like a sigh of relief came from Gabriel Druse's lips, but the anger in his face did not pass, and a rigid pride made the distance between them endless. He looked like a patriarch giving judgment as he raised his hand and pointed with a menacing finger at Jethro Fawe, his Romany subject-and, according to the laws of the Romany tribes, his son- in-law. It did not matter that the girl-but three years of age when it happened-had no memory of the day when the chiefs and great people assembled outside the tent of Lemuel Fawe when he lay dying, and, by the simple act of stepping over a branch of hazel, the two children were married: if Romany law and custom were to abide, then the two now were man and wife. Did not Lemuel Fawe, the old-time rival of Gabriel Druse for the kinship of the Romanys, the claimant whose family had been rulers of the Romanys for generations before the Druses gained ascendancy-did not Fawe, dying, seek to secure for his son by marriage what he had failed to get for himself by other means?

All these things had at one time been part of Gabriel Druse's covenant of life, until one year in England, when Fleda, at twelve years of age, was taken ill and would have died, but that a great lady descended upon their camp, took the girl to her own house, and there nursed and tended her, giving her the best medical aid the world could produce, so that the girl lived, and with her passionate nature loved the Lady Barrowdale as she might have loved her own mother, had that mother lived and she had ever known her. And when the Lady Barrowdale sickened and died of the same sickness which had nearly been her own death, the promise she made then overrode all other covenants made for her. She had promised the great lady who had given her own widowed, childless life for her own, that she would not remain a Gipsy, that she would not marry a Gipsy, but that if ever she gave herself to any man it would be to a Gorgio, a European, who travelled oftenest "the open road" leading to his own door. The years which had passed since those tragic days in Gloucestershire had seen the shadows of that dark episode pass, but the pledge had remained; and Gabriel Druse had kept his word to the dead, because of the vow made to the woman who had given her life for the life of a Romany lass.

The Romany tribes of all the nations did not know why their Ry had hidden himself in the New World; they did not know that the girl had for ever forsworn their race, and would never become head of all the Romanys, solving the problem of the rival dynasties by linking her life with that of Jethro Fawe. But Jethro Fawe had come to claim his own.

Now Gabriel Druse's eyes followed his own menacing finger with sharp insistence. In the past such a look had been in his eyes when he had sentenced men to death. They had not died by the gallows or the sword or the bullet, but they had died as commanded, and none had questioned his decree. None asked where or how the thing was done when a fire sprang up in a field, or a quarry, or on a lonely heath or hill-top, and on the pyre were all the belongings of the condemned, being resolved into dust as their owner had been made earth again.

"Son of Lemuel Fawe," the old man said, his voice rough with authority, "but that you are of the Blood, you should die now for this disobedience. When the time is fulfilled, I will return. Until then, my daughter and I are as those who have no people. Begone! Nothing that is here belongs to you. Begone, and come no more!"

"I have come for my own-for my Romany 'chi', and I will not go without her. I am blood of the Blood, and she is mine."

"You have not seen her," said the old man craftily, and fighting hard against the wrath consuming him, though he liked the young man's spirit. "She has changed. She is no longer Romany."

"I have seen her, and her beauty is like the rose and the palm."

"When have you seen her since the day before the tent of Lemuel Fawe now seventeen years ago?" There was an uneasy note in the commanding tone.

"I have seen her three times of late, and the last time I saw her was an hour or so since, when she rode the Rapids of Carillon."

The old man started, his lips parted, but for a moment he did not speak. At last words came. "The Rapids-speak. What have you heard, Jethro, son of Lemuel?"

"I did not hear, I saw her shoot the Rapids. I ran to follow. At

Carillon I saw her arrive. She was in the arms of a Gorgio of Lebanon-

Ingolby is his name."

A malediction burst from Gabriel Druse's lips, words sharp and terrible in their intensity. For the first time since they had met the young man blanched. The savage was alive in the giant.

"Speak. Tell all," Druse said, with hands clenching.

Swiftly the young man told all he had seen, and described how he had run all the way-four miles-from Carillon, arriving before Fleda and her Indian escort.

He had hardly finished his tale, shrinking, as he told it, from the fierceness of his chief, when a voice called from the direction of the house.

"Father-father," it cried.

A change passed over the old man's face. It cleared as the face of the sun clears when a cloud drives past and is gone. The transformation was startling. Without further glance at his companion, he moved swiftly towards the house. Once more Fleda's voice called, and before he could answer they were face to face.

She stood radiant and elate, and seemed not apprehensive of disfavour or reproach. Behind her was Tekewani and his braves.

"You have heard?" she asked reading her father's face.

"I have heard. Have you no heart?" he answered. "If the Rapids had drowned you!"

She came close to him and ran her fingers through his beard tenderly.

"I was not born to be drowned," she said softly.

Now that she was a long distance from Ingolby, the fact that a man had held her in his arms left no shadow on her face. Ingolby was now only part of her triumph of the Rapids. She tossed a hand affectionately towards Tekewani and his braves.

"How!" said Gabriel Druse, and made a gesture of salutation to the

Indian chief.

"How!" answered Tekewani, and raised his arm high in response. An instant afterwards Tekewani and his followers were gone their ways.

Suddenly Fleda's eyes rested on the young Romany who was now standing at a little distance away. Apprehension came to her face. She felt her heart stand still and her hands grow cold, she knew not why. But she saw that the man was a Romany.

Her father turned sharply. A storm gathered in his face once more, and a murderous look came into his eyes.

"Who is he?" Fleda asked, scarce above a whisper, and she noted the insistent, amorous look of the stranger.

"He says he is your husband," answered her father harshly.

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