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Mrs. Falchion, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 39714

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

I went to my cabin, took a book, sat down, and began to smoke. My thoughts drifted from the book, and then occurred a strange, incongruous thing. It was a remembered incident. It came like a vision as I was lighting a fresh cigar:

A boy and a girl in a village chemist's shop; he with a boy's love for her, she responding in terms, but not in fact. He passed near her carrying a measure of sulphuric acid. She put out her hand suddenly and playfully, as though to bar his way. His foot slipped on the oily floor, and the acid spilled on his hands and the skirt of her dress. He turned instantly and plunged his hands into a measure of alcohol standing near before the acid had more than slightly scalded them. She glanced at his startled face; hers was without emotion. She looked down, and said petulantly: "You have spoiled my dress; I cannot go into the street."

The boy's clothes were burnt also. He was poor, and to replace them must be a trial to him; her father owned the shop, and was well-to-do. Still, he grieved most that she should be annoyed, though he saw her injustice. But she turned away and left him.

Another scene then crossed the disc of smoke:

The boy and girl, now man and woman, standing alone in the chemist's shop. He had come out of the big working world, after travel in many countries. His fame had come with him. She was to be married the next day to a seller of purple and fine linen. He was smiling a good-bye, and there was nothing of the old past in the smile. The flame now was in her eyes, and she put out both her hands to stop him as he turned to go; but his face was passionless. "You have spoiled my heart," she said; "I cannot go into the world so."

"It is too late; the measures are empty," he replied.

"I love you to-day, I will loathe you to-morrow," was the answer.

But he turned and left her, and she blindly stretched out her hands and followed him into the darkness, weeping.

Was it the scent of the chemicals in my cabin, coupled with some subterranean association of things, which brought these scenes vividly before me at this moment? What had they to do with Mrs. Falchion?

A time came when the occurrence appeared to me in the light of prescience, but that was when I began to understand that all ideas, all reason and philosophy, are the result of outer impression. The primal language of our minds is in the concrete. Afterwards it becomes the cypher, and even at its highest it is expressed by angles, lines, and geometrical forms-substances and allusive shapes. But now, as the scene shifted by, I had involuntarily thrust forward my hands as did the girl when she passed out into the night, and, in doing so, touched the curtain of my cabin door swinging in towards me. I recovered myself, and a man timidly stepped inside, knocking as he did so. It was the Intermediate Passenger. His face was pale; he looked ill.

Poor as his dress was, I saw that he had known the influences and practised the graces of good society, though his manner was hesitating and anxious now. I knew at a glance that he was suffering from both physical pain and mental worry. Without a word, I took his wrist and felt his pulse, and he said: "I thought I might venture to come-"

I motioned him not to speak. I counted the irregular pulse-beats, then listened to the action of his heart, with my ear to his breast. There lay his physical trouble. I poured out a dose of digitalis, and, handing it to him, asked him to sit down. As he sat and drank the medicine, I rapidly studied him. The chin was firm, and the eyes had a dogged, persistent look that, when turned on you, saw not you, but something beyond you. The head was thrown slightly forward, the eyes looking up at an angle. This last action was habitual with him. It gave him a peculiar earnestness. As I noted these peculiarities, my mind was also with his case; I saw that his life was threatened. Perhaps he guessed what was going on in me, for he said in a low, cultured voice: "The wheels will stop too long some time, and there will be no rebound;"-referring to the irregular action of his heart.

"Perhaps that is true," I said; "yet it depends a good deal upon yourself when it will be. Men can die if they wish without committing suicide. Look at the Maori, the Tongan, the Malay. They can also prolong life (not indefinitely, but in a case like yours considerably), if they choose. You can lengthen your days if you do not brood on fatal things-fatal to you; if you do not worry yourself into the grave."

I knew that something of this was platitude, and that counsel to such a man must be of a more possible cast, if it is to be followed. I was aware also that, in nine cases out of ten, worry is not a voluntary or constitutional thing, but springs from some extraneous cause.

He smiled faintly, raised his head a little higher, and said: "Yes, that's just it, I suppose; but then we do not order our own constitutions; and I believe, Doctor, that you must kill a nerve before it ceases to hurt. One doesn't choose to worry, I think, any more than one chooses to lay bare a nerve." And then his eyes dropped, as if he thought he had already said too much.

Again I studied him, repeating my definitions in my mind. He was not a drunkard; he might have had no vice, so free was his face from any sign of dissipation or indulgence; but there was suffering, possibly the marks of some endured shame. The suffering and shadows showed the more because his features were refined enough for a woman. And altogether it struck me that he was possessed by some one idea, which gave his looks a kind of sorrowful eloquence, such as one sees on occasion in the face of a great actor like Salvini, on the forehead of a devout Buddhist, or in the eyes of a Jesuit missionary who martyrs himself in the wilds.

I felt at once for the man a sympathy, a brotherliness, the causes of which I should be at a loss to trace. Most people have this experience at one time or another in their lives. It is not a matter of sex; it may be between an old man and a little child, a great man and a labourer, a schoolgirl and an old native woman. There is in such companionships less self-interest than in any other. As I have said, I thought that this man had a trouble, and I wished to know it; not from curiosity,-though my mind had a selfish, inquiring strain,-but because I hoped I might be able to help him in some way. I put my hand on his shoulder, and replied: "You will never be better unless you get rid of your worry."

He drew in a sharp breath, and said: "I know that. I am afraid I shall never be better."

There was a silence in which we looked at each other steadily, and then he added, with an intense but quiet misery: "Never-never!"

At that he moved his hand across his forehead wearily, rose, and turned toward the door. He swayed as he did so, and would have fallen, but I caught him as he lost consciousness, and laid him on the cabin sofa. I chafed his hands, unloosed his collar, and opened the bosom of his shirt. As the linen dropped away from his throat, a small portrait on ivory was exposed on his breast. I did not look closely at it then, but it struck me that the woman's head in the portrait was familiar, though the artistic work was not recent, and the fashion of the hair was of years before. When his eyes opened, and he felt his neck bare, he hurriedly put up his hand and drew the collar close, and at the same time sent a startled and inquiring look at me. After a few moments I helped him to his feet, and, thanking me more with a look than with words, he turned towards the door again.

"Wait," I said, "until I give you some medicine, and then you shall take my arm to your cabin." With a motion of the hand, signifying the uselessness of remedies, he sat down again. As I handed him the phial, I continued: "I know that it is none of my business, but you are suffering. To help your body, your mind should be helped also. Can't you tell me your trouble? Perhaps I should be able to serve you. I would if I could."

It may be that I spoke with a little feeling and an apparent honesty; for his eyes searched mine in a kind of earnest bewilderment, as if this could not be true-as if, indeed, life had gone so hard with him that he had forgotten the way of kindness. Then he stretched out his hand and said brokenly: "I am grateful, believe me. I cannot tell you just now, but I will soon, perhaps." His hand was upon the curtain of the door, when my steward's voice was heard outside, calling my name. The man himself entered immediately, and said that Mrs. Falchion sent her compliments, and would I come at once to see her companion, Miss Caron, who had injured herself.

The Intermediate Passenger turned towards me a strange look; his lips opened as if about to speak, but he said nothing. At the instant there came to my mind whom the picture on his breast resembled: it was Mrs. Falchion.

I think he saw this new intelligence in my face, and a meaning smile took the place of words, as he slowly left the cabin, mutely refusing assistance.

I went to Mrs. Falchion's cabin, and met her outside the door. She looked displeased. "Justine has hurt herself," she said. "Please attend to her; I am going on deck."

The unfeeling nature of this remark held me to the spot for a moment; then I entered the cabin. Justine Caron, a delicate but warm-faced girl of little more than twenty, was sitting on the cabin sofa, her head supported against the wall, and her hand wound in a handkerchief soaked in blood. Her dress and the floor were also stained. I undid the handkerchief and found an ugly wound in the palm of the hand. I called the steward, and sent him to my dispensary for some necessaries; then I asked her how it happened. At the moment I saw the cause-a broken bottle lying on the floor. "The ship rolled," she said. "The bottle fell from the shelf upon the marble washstand, and, breaking, from there to the floor. Madame caught at my arm to save herself from falling; but I slipped, and was cut on the bottle-so."

As she ended there was a knock, but the curtain was not drawn, and Mrs. Falchion's voice was heard. "My dress is stained, Justine."

The half-fainting girl weakly replied: "I am very sorry, madame, indeed."

To this Mrs. Falchion rejoined: "When you have been attended to, you may go to bed, Justine. I shall not want you again to-night. But I shall change my dress. It is so unpleasant; I hate blood. I hope you will be well in the morning."

To this Justine replied: "Ah, madame, I am sorry. I could not help it; but I shall be quite well in the morning, I am sure." Then she added quietly to me: "The poor madame! She will not see suffering. She hates pain. Sickness troubles her. Shall I be able to use my hand very soon, monsieur?"

There was a wistful look in her eyes, and guessing why it was there, I said: "Yes, soon, I hope-in a few days, no doubt."

Her face lighted up, and she said: "Madame likes about her people who are happy and well." Then, as if she might have said too much, she hurriedly added: "But she is very kind;" and, stooping down quickly, her face whitening with the effort, she caught up the broken glass and threw it through the port-hole into the sea.

A half-hour later I went on deck, and found Mrs. Falchion comfortably seated in her deck-chair. I brought a stool over, and sat down beside her. To this hour the quickness with which I got upon friendly terms with her astonishes me.

"Justine is better?" she said, and her hand made a slight motion of disgust.

"Yes. She was not dangerously hurt, of course."

"Let us change the subject, please. They are going to have a fancy-dress ball on board, I believe, before we get to Aden. How tiresome! Isn't it a little affectation on the part of the stage-struck committee? Isn't it-inconsequent?"

"That depends," I said vaguely, inviting a question. She idled with a book in her lap.

"On what?"

"On those who go, what costumes are worn, and how much beauty and art appear."

"But the trouble! Does it pay? What return does one get?"

"If all admire, half are envious, some are jealous, and one is devoted-isn't that enough?" I think I was a fool that night.

"You seem to understand women," she said, with a puzzling and not quite satisfactory smile. "Yes, all that is something."

Though I was looking at the sea rather than at her, I saw again that inquiring look in her eyes-such a measuring look as a recruiting sergeant might give a victim of the Queen's shilling.

After a moment's pause she continued, I thought, abstractedly: "As what should you go?"

I answered lightly and without premeditation, "As Caius Cassius. Why should you not appear as Portia?"

She lifted her eyebrows at me.

"As Portia?"

"As Portia, the wife of Brutus," I blundered on, at the same time receiving her permission, by a nod, to light my cigar.

"The pious, love-sick wife of Brutus!" This in a disdainful tone, and the white teeth clicked softly together.

"Yes, a good disguise," I said banteringly, though I fancy somewhat tentatively also, and certainly with a touch of rudeness. I was thinking at that moment of the Intermediate Passenger, and I was curious.

"And you think of going in the disguise of a gentleman? Caius Cassius was that, wasn't he?" she retorted in an ironical tone.

"I suppose he was, though he was punished once for rudeness," I replied apologetically.

"Quite so," was the decisive reply.

I felt that she was perfectly cool, while I was a little confused, and ashamed too, that I had attempted to be playfully satirical. And so, wondering what I should say next, I remarked in desperation: "Do you like the sea?"

"I am never ill at sea," was her reply. "But I do not really like it; it is treacherous. The land would satisfy me if-" She paused.

"Yes, Mrs. Falchion-'if'?"

"If I did not wish to travel," she vaguely added, looking blandly at me.

"You have travelled much?" I ventured.

"A great deal;" and again I saw that scrutiny in her eyes. It occurred to me at the moment that she might think I possessed some previous knowledge of her.

My mind became occupied again with the Intermediate Passenger and the portrait that he wore at his neck. I almost laughed to think of the melodramatic turn which my first conversation with this woman might chance to take. I felt that I was dealing with one who was able to meet cleverly any advance of mine, but I determined to lead the talk into as deep waters as possible.

"I suppose, too, you are a good practical sailor-that is, you understand seamanship, if you have travelled much?" I do not know why I said that, for it sounded foolish to me afterwards.

"Pretty well," she replied. "I can manage a sail; I know the argot, I could tell the shrouds from the bulwarks, and I've rowed a boat in a choppy sea."

"It is not an accomplishment usual to your sex."

"It was ordinary enough where I spent the early part of my life," was the idle reply; and she settled herself more comfortably in her chair.

"Yes? May I ask where that was?" and as I said this, it occurred to me that she was, perhaps, leading me on, instead of my leading her; to betray me as to anything I knew about her.

"In the South Seas," she replied. "My father was a British consul in the Islands."

"You have not come from the Islands now, I suppose?"

"No," she said a little more softly; "it is years since I was in Samoa. ... My father is buried there."

"You must have found it a romantic life in those half-barbaric places?"

She shifted in her chair. "Romantic!" Her tone conveyed a very slight uneasiness and vagueness. "I am afraid you must ask some one else about that sort of thing. I did not see much romance, but I saw plenty that was half-barbaric." Here she laughed slightly.

Just then I saw the lights of a vessel far off. "See-a vessel!" I said; and I watched the lights in silence, but thinking. I saw that she too was watching idly.

At length, as if continuing the conversation, I said: "Yes, I suppose life must be somewhat adventurous and dangerous among savage people like the Samoans, Tongans, and Fijians?"

"Indeed, then," she replied decisively, "you are not to suppose anything of the kind. The danger is not alone for the white people."

At this I appeared, as I really was, interested, and begged her to explain what she meant. She thought a moment, and then briefly, but clearly, sketched the life of those islands, showing how, in spite of missionary labour selfish and unselfish, the native became the victim of civilisation, the prey of the white trader and beachcomber, who were protected by men-of-war with convincing Nordenfeldt and Hotchkiss guns; how the stalwart force of barbaric existence declined, and with it the crude sense of justice, the practice of communism at its simplest and purest, the valour of nationality. These phrases are my own-the substance, not the fashion, of her speech.

"You do not, then," I said, "believe wholly in the unselfishness of missionaries, the fair dealing of traders, the perfect impartiality of justice, as shown through steel-clad cruisers?"

"I have seen too much to be quite fair in judgment, I fear, even to men-of-war's men;" and she paused, listening to a song which came from the after-part of the ship. The air was very still, and a few of the words of the droll, plaintive ditty came to us.

Quartermaster Stone, as he passed us, hummed it, and some voices of the first-class passengers near joined in the refrain:

"Sing, hey, for a rover on the sea,

And the old world!"

Some days later I got all of the song from one of the intermediate passengers, and the last verse of it I give here:

"I'm a-sailing, I'm a-sailing on the sea,

To a harbour where the wind is still;

Oh, my dearie, do you wait for me?

Oh, my dearie, do you love me still?

Sing, hey, for a rover on the sea,

And the old world!"

I noticed that Mrs. Falchion's brow contracted as the song proceeded, making a deep vertical line between the eyes, and that the fingers of the hand nearest me closed on the chair-arm firmly. The hand attracted me. It was long, the fingers were shapely, but not markedly tapering, and suggested firmness. I remarked afterward, when I chanced to shake hands with her, that her fingers enclosed one's hand; it was not a mere touch or pressure, but an unemotional and possessive clasp. I felt sure that she had heard the song before, else it had not produced even this so slight effect on her nerves. I said: "It is a quaint song. I suppose you are familiar with it and all of its kind?"

"I fancy I have heard it somewhere," she answered in a cold voice.

I am aware that my next question was not justified by our very short acquaintance; but this acquaintance had been singular from its beginning, and it did not seem at that moment as it looks on paper; besides, I had the Intermediate Passenger in my mind. "Perhaps your husband is a naval man?" I asked.

A faint flush passed over her face, and then, looking at me with a neutral expression and some reserve of manner, she replied: "My husband was not a naval man."

She said "was not." That implied his death.

There was no trouble in her manner; I could detect no sign of excitement. I turned to look at the lights of the approaching vessel, and there, leaning against the railing that divided the two decks, was the Intermediate Passenger. He was looking at us intently. A moment after he disappeared. Beyond doubt there was some intimate association between these two.

My thoughts were, however, distracted by our vessel signalling the other. Hungerford was passing just then, and I said: "Have you any idea what vessel it is, Hungerford?"

"Yes, man-of-war 'Porcupine', bound for Aden, I think."

Mrs. Falchion at this laughed strangely, as she leaned forward looking, and then, rising quickly, said: "I prefer to walk."

"May I accompany you?" I asked.

She inclined her head, and we joined the promenaders. The band was playing, and, for a ship-band, playing very well, the ballet music of Delibes' 'Sylvia'. The musicians had caught that unaccentuated and sensuous swing of the melody which the soft, tropical atmosphere rendered still more languorous. With Mrs. Falchion's hand upon my arm, I felt a sense of capitulation to the music and to her, uncanny in its suddenness. At this distance of time it seems to me absurd. I had once experienced something of the same feeling with the hand of a young medical student, who, skilled in thought-reading, discovered the number of a bank-note that was in my mind.

This woman had an attractiveness compelling and delightful, at least in its earlier application to me. Both professionally and socially I have been brought into contact with women of beauty and grace, but never one who, like Mrs. Falchion, being beautiful, seemed so unconscious of the fact, so indifferent to those about her, so untouched by another's emotion, so lacking in sensitiveness of heart; and who still drew people to her. I am speaking now of the earlier portion of our acquaintance; of her as she was up to this period in her life.

I was not alone in this opinion of her, for, as time went on, every presentable man and woman on the boat was introduced to her; and if some women criticised and some disliked her, all acknowledged her talent and her imperial attraction. Among the men her name was never spoken but with reserve and respect, and her afternoon teas were like a little court. She had no compromising tenderness of manner for man or woman; she ruled, yet was unapproachable through any avenues of sentiment. She had a quiet aplomb, which would be called 'sang-froid' in a man.

"Did you ever see a Spanish-Mexican woman dance?" she asked in one of the pauses of the music.

"Never: never any good dancing, save what one gets at a London theatre."

"That is graceful," she said, "but not dancing. You have heard of music stirring the blood; of savage races-and others-working themselves up to ecstatic fury? Maybe you have seen the Dervishes, or the Fijians, or the Australian aboriginals? No? Well, I have, and I have seen-which is so much more-those Spanish-Mexican women dance. Did you ever see anything so thrilling, so splendid, that you felt you must possess it?"-She asked me that with her hand upon my arm!-"Well, that is it. I have felt that way towards a horse which has won a great race, and to a woman who has carried me with her through the fantastic drama of her dance, until she stood at the climax, head thrown back, face glowing-a statue. It is grand to be eloquent like that, not in words, but in person."

In this was the key to her own nature. Body and mind she was free from ordinary morbidness, unless her dislike of all suffering was morbid. With her this was a dislike of any shock to the senses. She was selfish at all points.

These conclusions were pursued at the expense of speech on my part. At first she did not appear to regard my silence. She seemed to have thoughts of her own; but she shook them off with a little firm motion of the shoulders, and, with the assumption of a demureness of manner and an airy petulance, said: "Well, amuse me."

"Amuse you?" was my reply. "Delighted to do so if I can. How?"

"Talk to me," was the quick response.

"Would that accomplish the purpose?" This in a tone of mock protest.

"Please don't be foolish, Dr. Marmion. I dislike having to explain. Tell me things."

"About what?"

"Oh, about yourself-about people you have met, and all that; for I suppose you have seen a good deal and lived a good deal."

"About hospital cases?" I said a little maliciously.

"No, please, no! I abhor everything that is sick and poor and miserable."

"Well," said I, at idle venture, "if not a hospital, what about a gaol?"

I felt the hand on my arm twitch slightly, and then her reply came.

"I said I hated everything that was wretched and wicked. You are either dense, or purposely irritating."

"Well, then, a college?"

"A college? Yes, that sounds better. But I do not wish descriptions of being 'gated,' or 'sent down,' or 'ploughed,' and that kind of commonplace. I should prefer, unless your vanity leads you irresistibly in that direction, something with mature life and amusement; or, at least, life and incident, and good sport-if you do not dwell on the horrors of killing."

On the instant there came to me the remembrance of Professor Valiant's wife. I think it was not what she wanted; but I had a purpose, and I began:

"Every one at St. Luke's admired and respected Professor Valiant's wife, she was so frank and cordial and prettily downright. In our rooms we all called her a good chap, and a dashed good chap when her husband happened to be rustier than usual. He was our professor in science. It was the general belief that he chose science for his life-work because it gave unusual opportunities for torture. He was believed to be a devoted vivisectionist; he certainly had methods of cruelty, masterly in their ingenuity. He could make a whole class raw with punishment in a few words; and many a scorching bit of Latin verse was written about his hooked nose and fishy eye.

"But his highest talents in this direction were reserved for his wife. His distorted idea of his own importance made him view her as a chattel, an inferior being; the more so, I believe, because she brought him little money when he married her. She was too much the woman to pretend to kneel to him, and because she would not be his slave, she had a hard time of it. He began by insisting that she should learn science, that she might assist him in his experiments. She knew that she had no taste for it, that it was no part of her wifely duty, and she did what suited her better-followed the hounds. It was a picture to see her riding across country. She could take a fence with a sound hunter like a bird. And so it happened that, after a time, they went their own ways pretty well; he ignoring her, neglecting her, deprecating her by manner, if not by speech, and making her life more than uncomfortable.

"She was always kind to me. I was the youngest chap in the college, and was known as 'Marmy' by every one; and because I was fonder of science than most other men in the different years, Valiant was more gracious to me than the rest, though I did not like him. One day, when I called, I heard her say to him, not knowing that I was near: 'Whatever you feel, or however you act towards me in private, I will have respect when others are present.'

"It was the custom for the professors to invite each student to luncheon or dinner once during term-time. Being somewhat of a favourite of both Professor and Mrs. Valiant however, I lunched with them often. I need hardly say that I should not have exceeded the regulation once had it not been for Mrs. Valiant. The last time I went is as clear in my memory as if it were yesterday. Valiant was more satirical and cold-blooded than usual. I noticed a kind of shining hardness in his wife's eyes, which gave me a strange feeling; yet she was talkative and even gay, I thought, while I more than once clinched my fist under the table, so much did I want to pummel him; for I was a lover of hers, in a deferential, boyish way.

"At last, knowing that she liked the hunt, I asked her if she was going to the meet on the following Saturday, saying that I intended to follow, having been offered a horse. With a steely ring to her voice, and a further brightening of the eyes, she said: 'You are a stout little sportsman, Marmy. Yes, I am going on Major Karney's big horse, Carbine.'

"Valiant looked up, half sneering, half doubtful, I thought, and rejoined: 'Carbine is a valuable horse, and the fences are stiff in the Garston country.'

"She smiled gravely, then, with her eyes fixed on her husband, said: 'Carbine is a perfect gentleman. He will do what I ask him. I have ridden him.'

"'The devil you have!' he replied.

"'I am sure,' said I, as I hoped, bravely, and not a little enthusiastically, 'that Carbine would take any fence you asked him.'

"'Or not, as the case might be. Thank you, Marmy, for the compliment,' she said.

"'A Triton among minnows,' remarked Valiant, not entirely under his breath; 'horses obey, and students admire, and there is no end to her greatness.'

"'There is an end to everything, Edward,' she remarked a shade sadly and quietly.

"He turned to me and said: 'Science is a great study, Marmion, but it is sardonic too; for you shall find that when you reduce even a Triton to its original elements-'

"'Oh, please let me finish,' she interrupted softly. 'I know the lecture so well. It reads this way: "The place of generation must break to give place to the generated; but the influence spreads out beyond the fragments, and is greater thus than in the mass-neither matter nor mind can be destroyed. The earth was molten before it became cold rock and quiet world." There, you see, Marmy, that I am a fellow-student of yours.'

"Valiant's eyes were ugly to watch; for she had quoted from a lecture of his, delivered to us that week. After an instant he said, with slow maliciousness: 'Oh, ye gods, render me worthy of this Portia, and teach her to do as Brutus's Portia did, ad eternum!'

"She shuddered a little, then said very graciously, and as if he had meant nothing but kindness: 'Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks.' I will leave you now to your cigarettes; and because I must go out soon, and shall not, I fear, see you again this afternoon, good-bye, Marmy, till Saturday-till Saturday.' And she left us.

"I was white and trembling with anger. He smiled coolly, and was careful to choose me one of his best cigars, saying as he handed it: 'Conversation is a science, Marmion. Study it; there is solid satisfaction in it; it is the only art that brings instant pleasure. Like the stage, it gets its immediate applause.'

"Well, Mrs. Valiant did ride Carbine on that Saturday. Such a scene it was! I see it now-the mottled plump of hounds upon the scent, the bright sun showing up the scarlet coats of the whips gloriously, the long stride of the hunters, ears back and quarters down! She rode Carbine, and the fences WERE stiff-so stiff that I couldn't have taken half of them. Afterward I was not sorry that I couldn't; for she rode for a fall that day on Carbine, her own horse, she had bought him of Major Karney a few days before,-and I heard her last words as she lay beside him, smiling through the dreadful whiteness of her lips. 'Goodbye, Marmy,' she whispered. 'Carbine and I go together. It is better so, in the full cry and a big field. Tell the men at Luke's that I hope they will pass at the coming exams.... I am going up-for my final-Marmy.-I wonder-if I'll-pass.' And then the words froze on her lips.

"It was persecution that did it-diabolical persecution and selfishness. That was the worst day the college ever knew. At the funeral, when the provost read, 'For that it hath pleased Thee to deliver this our sister out of the miseries of this sinful world,' Big Wallington, the wildest chap among the grads, led off with a gulp in his throat, and we all followed. And that gold-spectacled sneak stood there, with a lying white handkerchief at his eyes.

"I laid myself out to make the college too hot for him. In a week I had every man in the place with me, and things came to such a pass that all of us must be sent down, or Valiant resign. He resigned. He found another professorship; but the thing followed him, and he was obliged to leave the country."

When I finished the story, Mrs. Falchion was silent for a time, then, with a slight air of surprise, and in a quite critical way, she said: "I should think you would act very well, if you used less emotion. Mrs. Valiant had a kind of courage, but she was foolish to die. She should have stayed and fought him-fought him every way, until she was his master. She could have done it; she was clever, I should think. Still, if she had to die, it was better to go with a good horse that way. I think I should prefer to go swiftly, suddenly, but without the horror of blood and bruises, and that sort of thing.... I should like to meet Professor Valiant. He was hard, but he was able too.... But haven't we had enough of horror? I asked you to amuse me, and you have merely interested me instead. Oh!-"

This exclamation, I thought, was caused by the voice of the quartermaster humming:

"I'm a-sailing, I'm a-sailing on the sea,

To a harbour where the wind is still"-

Almost immediately she said: "I think I will go below." Then, after a slight pause: "This is a liberal acquaintance for one day, Dr. Marmion; and, you know, we were not introduced."

"No, Mrs. Falchion, we were not introduced; but I am in some regards your host, and I fear we should all be very silent if we waited for regular introductions here. The acquaintance gives me pleasure, but it is not nearly so liberal as I hope it may become."

She did not answer, but smiled at me over her shoulder as she passed down the staircase, and the next instant I could have bitten my tongue for playing the cavalier as I had done; for showing, as I think I did, that she had an influence over me-an influence peculiar to herself, and difficult to account for when not in her presence.

I sat down, lit a cigar, and went over in my mind all that had been said between us; all that had occurred in my cabin after dinner; every minute since we left Colombo was laid bare to its minutest detail. Lascars slipped by me in the half-darkness, the voices of two lovers near alternated with their expressive silences, and from the music saloon there came the pretty strains of a minuet, played very deftly. Under the influence of this music my thoughts became less exact; they drifted. My eyes shifted to the lights of the 'Porcupine' in the distance, and from them again to the figures passing and repassing me on the deck. The "All's well" of the look-out seemed to come from an endless distance; the swish of water against the dividing hull of the 'Fulvia' sounded like a call to silence from another world; the phosphorescence swimming through the jarred waters added to the sensation of unreality and dreams. These dreams grew, till they were broken by a hand placed on my shoulder, and I saw that one of the passengers, Clovelly, an English novelist, had dropped out from the promenade to talk with me. He saw my mood, however, and said quietly: "Give me a light for my cigar, will you? Then, astride this stool, I'll help you to make inventory of the rest of them. A pretty study; for, at our best, 'What fools we mortals be!'"

"'Motley is your only wear,'" was my reply; and for a full half-hour, which, even for a man, is considerable, we spoke no word, but only nodded when some one of the promenaders noticed us. There was a bookmaker fresh from the Melbourne races; an American, Colonel Ryder, whose eloquence had carried him round the world; a stalwart squatter from Queensland; a pretty widow, who had left her husband under the sods of Tasmania; a brace of girls going to join their lovers and be married in England; a few officers fleeing from India with their livers and their lives; a family of four lanky lasses travelling "home" to school; a row of affable ladies, who alternated between envy and gaiety and delight in, and criticism of, their husbands; a couple of missionaries, preparing to give us lectures on the infamous gods of the heathen,-gods which, poor harmless little creatures! might be bought at a few annas a pint at Aden or Colombo,-and on the Exodus and the Pharaohs-pleasures reserved for the Red Sea; a commercial traveller, who arranged theatricals, and cast himself for all the principal parts; a humorous and naive person who industriously hinted at the opulence of his estates in Ireland; two stately English ladies of title; a cheerful array of colonial knights and judges off to Europe for a holiday; and many others, who made little worlds unto themselves, called cliques by blunt people.

"To my mind, the most interesting persons on the ship," said Clovelly at last, "are the bookmaker, Miss Treherne, and the lady with whom you have just been talking-an exceptional type."

"An unusual woman, I fancy," was my reply. "But which is Miss Treherne? I am afraid I am not quite sure."

He described her and her father, with whom I had talked-a London Q.C., travelling for his health, a notable man with a taste for science, who spent his idle hours in reading astronomy and the plays of Euripides.

"Why not include the father in the list of the most interesting persons?" I questioned.

"Because I have met many men like him, but no one quite like his daughter, or Mrs.-what is her name?"

"Mrs. Falchion."

"Or Mrs. Falchion or the bookmaker."

"What is there so uncommon about Miss Treherne? She had not struck me as being remarkable."

"No? Well, of course, she is not striking after the fashion of Mrs. Falchion. But watch her, study her, and you will find her to be the perfection of a type-the finest expression of a decorous convention, a perfect product of social conservatism; unaffected, cheerful, sensitive, composed, very talented, altogether companionable."

"Excuse me," I said, laughing, though I was impressed; "that sounds as if you had been writing about her, and applying to her the novelist's system of analysis, which makes an imperfect individual a perfect type. Now, frankly, are you speaking of Miss Treherne, or of some one of whom she is the outline, as it were?"

Clovelly turned and looked at me steadily. "When you consider a patient," he said, "do you arrange a diagnosis of a type or of a person?-And, by the way, 'type' is a priggish word."

"I consider the type in connection with the person."

"Exactly. The person is the thing. That clears up the matter of business and art. But now, as to Miss Treherne: I want to say that, having been admitted to her acquaintance and that of her father, I have thought of them only as friends, and not as 'characters' or 'copy.'"

"I beg your pardon, Clovelly," said I. "I might have known."

"Now, to prove how magnanimous I am, I shall introduce you to Miss Treherne, if you will let me. You've met her father, I suppose?" he added, and tossed his cigar overboard.

"Yes, I have talked with him. He is a courteous and able man, I should think."

We rose. Presently he continued: "See, Miss Treherne is sitting there with the Tasmanian widow-what is HER name?"

"Mrs. Callendar," I replied. "Blackburn, the Queenslander, is joining them."

"So much the better," he said. "Come on."

As we passed the music saloon, we paused for an instant to look through the port-hole at a pale-faced girl with big eyes and a wonderful bright red dress, singing "The Angels' Serenade," while an excitable bear-leader turned her music for her. Near her stood a lanky girl who adored actors and tenors, and lived in the hope of meeting some of those gentlemen of the footlights, who plough their way so calmly through the hearts of maidens fresh from school.

We drew back to go on towards Miss Treherne, when Hungerford touched me on the arm, and said: "I want to see you for a little while, Marmion, if Mr. Clovelly will excuse you."

I saw by Hungerford's face that he had something of importance to say, and, linking my arm in his, I went with him to his cabin, which was near those of the intermediate passengers.

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