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Mrs. Falchion, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 38197

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

I went on deck again, and found Clovelly in the smoking-room. The bookmaker was engaged in telling tales of the turf, alternated with comic songs by Blackburn-an occupation which lasted throughout the voyage, and was associated with electric appeals to the steward to fill the flowing bowl. Clovelly came with me, and we joined Miss Treherne and her father. Mr. Treherne introduced me to his daughter, and Clovelly amiably drew the father into a discussion of communism as found in the South Sea Islands.

I do not think my conversation with Miss Treherne was brilliant. She has since told me that I appeared self-conscious and preoccupied. This being no compliment to her, I was treated accordingly. I could have endorsed Clovelly's estimate of her so far as her reserve and sedateness were concerned. It seemed impossible to talk naturally. The events of the day were interrupting the ordinary run of thought, and I felt at a miserable disadvantage. I saw, however, that the girl was gifted and clear of mind, and possessed of great physical charm, but of that fine sort which must be seen in suitable surroundings to be properly appreciated. Here on board ship a sweet gravity and a proud decorum-not altogether unnecessary-prevented her from being seen at once to the best advantage. Even at this moment I respected her the more for it, and was not surprised, nor exactly displeased, that she adroitly drew her father and Clovelly into the conversation. With Clovelly she seemed to find immediate ground for naive and pleasant talk; on his part, deferential, original, and attentive; on hers, easy, allusive, and warmed with piquant humour. I admired her; saw how cleverly Clovelly was making the most of her; guessed at the solicitude, studious care, and affection of her bringing-up; watched the fond pleasure of the father as he listened; and was angry with myself that Mrs. Falchion's voice rang in my ears at the same moment as hers. But it did ring there, and the real value of that smart tournament of ideas was partially lost to me.

The next morning I went to Boyd Madras's cabin. He welcomed me gratefully, and said that he was much better; as he seemed; but he carried a hectic flush, such as comes to a consumptive person. I said little to him beyond what was necessary for the discussion of his case. I cautioned him about any unusual exertion, and was about to leave, when an impulse came to me, and I returned and said: "You will not let me help you in any other way?"

"Yes," he answered; "I shall be very glad of your help, but not just yet. And, Doctor, believe me, I think medicines can do very little. Though I am thankful to you for visiting me, you need not take the trouble, unless I am worse, and then I will send a steward to you, or go to you myself."

What lay behind this request, unless it was sensitiveness, I could not tell; but I determined to take my own course, and to visit him when I thought fit.

Still, I saw him but once or twice on the after-deck in the succeeding days. He evidently wished to keep out of sight as much as possible. I am ashamed to say there was a kind of satisfaction in this to me; for, when a man's wife-and I believed she was Boyd Madras's wife-hangs on your arm, and he himself is denied that privilege, and fares poorly beside her sumptuousness, and lives as a stranger to her, you can scarcely regard his presence with pleasure. And from the sheer force of circumstances, as it seemed to me then, Mrs. Falchion's hand was often on my arm; and her voice was always in my ear at meal-times and when I visited Justine Caron to attend to her wound, or joined in the chattering recreations of the music saloon. It was impossible not to feel her influence; and if I did not yield entirely to it, I was more possessed by it than I was aware. I was inquisitive to know beyond doubt that she was the wife of this man. I think it was in my mind at the time that, perhaps, by being with her much, I should be able to do him a service. But there came a time when I was sufficiently undeceived. It was all a game of misery in which some one stood to lose all round. Who was it: she, or I, or the refugee of misfortune, Number 116 Intermediate? She seemed safe enough. He or I would suffer in the crash of penalties.

It was a strange situation. I, the acquaintance of a day, was welcome within the circle of this woman's favour-though it was an unemotional favour on her side; he, the husband, as I believed, though only half the length of the ship away, was as distant from her as the north star. When I sat with her on deck at night, I seemed to feel Boyd Madras's face looking at me from the half-darkness of the after-deck; and Mrs. Falchion, whose keen eyes missed little, remarked once on my gaze in that direction. Thereafter I was more careful, but the idea haunted me. Yet, I was not the only person who sat with her. Other men paid her attentive court. The difference was, however, that with me she assumed ever so delicate, yet palpable an air of proprietorship, none the less alluring because there was no heart in it. So far as the other passengers were concerned, there was nothing jarring to propriety in our companionship. They did not know of Number 116 Intermediate. She had been announced as a widow; and she had told Mrs. Callendar that her father's brother, who, years before, had gone to California, had died within the past two years and left her his property; and, because all Californians are supposed to be millionaires, her wealth was counted fabulous. She was going now to England, and from there to California in the following year. People said that Dr. Marmion knew on which side his bread was buttered. They may have said more unpleasant things, but I did not hear them, or of them.

All the time I was conscious of a kind of dishonour, and perhaps it was that which prompted me (I had fallen away from my intention of visiting him freely) to send my steward to see how Boyd Madras came on, rather than go myself. I was, however, conscious that the position could not-should not-be maintained long. The practical outcome of this knowledge was not tardy. A new influence came into my life which was to affect it permanently: but not without a struggle.

A series of concerts and lectures had been arranged for the voyage, and the fancy-dress ball was to close the first part of the journey-that is, at Aden. One night a concert was on in the music saloon. I had just come from seeing a couple of passengers who had been suffering from the heat, and was debating whether to find Mrs. Falchion, who, I knew, was on the other side of the deck, go in to the concert, or join Colonel Ryder and Clovelly, who had asked me to come to the smoking-room when I could. I am afraid I was balancing heavily in favour of Mrs. Falchion, when I heard a voice that was new to me, singing a song I had known years before, when life was ardent, and love first came-halcyon days in country lanes, in lilac thickets, of pleasant Hertfordshire, where our footsteps met a small bombardment of bursting seed-pods of the furze, along the green common that sloped to the village. I thought of all this, and of HER everlasting quiet.

With a different voice the words of the song would have sent me out of hearing; now I stood rooted to the spot, as the notes floated out past me to the nervelessness of the Indian Ocean, every one of them a commandment from behind the curtain of a sanctuary.

The voice was a warm, full contralto of exquisite culture. It suggested depths of rich sound behind, from which the singer, if she chose, might draw, until the room and the deck and the sea ached with sweetness. I scarcely dared to look in to see who it was, lest I should find it a dream. I stood with my head turned away towards the dusky ocean. When, at last, with the closing notes of the song, I went to the port-hole and looked in, I saw that the singer was Miss Treherne. There was an abstracted look in her eyes as she raised them, and she seemed unconscious of the applause following the last chords of the accompaniment. She stood up, folding the music as she did so, and unconsciously raised her eyes toward the port-hole where I was. Her glance caught mine, and instantly a change passed over her face. The effect of the song upon her was broken; she flushed slightly, and, as I thought, with faint annoyance. I know of nothing so little complimentary to a singer as the audience that patronisingly listens outside a room or window,-not bound by any sense of duty as an audience,-between whom and the artists an unnatural barrier is raised. But I have reason to think now that Belle Treherne was not wholly moved by annoyance-that she had seen something unusual, maybe oppressive, in my look. She turned to her father. He adjusted his glasses as if, in his pride, to see her better. Then he fondly took her arm, and they left the room.

Then I saw Mrs. Falchion's face at the port-hole opposite. Her eyes were on me. An instant before, I had intended following Miss Treherne and her father; now some spirit of defiance, some unaccountable revolution, took possession of me, so that I flashed back to her a warm recognition. I could not have believed it possible, if it had been told of me, that, one minute affected by beautiful and sacred remembrances, the next I should be yielding to the unimpassioned tyranny of a woman who could never be anything but a stumbling-block and an evil influence. I had yet to learn that in times of mental and moral struggle the mixed fighting forces in us resolve themselves into two cohesive powers, and strive for mastery; that no past thought or act goes for nothing at such a time, but creeps out from the darkness where we thought it had gone for ever, and does battle with its kind against the common foe. There moved before my sight three women: one, sweet and unsubstantial, wistful and mute and very young, not of the earth earthy; one, lissom, grave, with gracious body and warm abstracted eyes, all delicacy, strength, reserve; the other and last, daring, cold, beautiful, with irresistible charm, silent and compelling. And these are the three women who have influenced my life, who fought in me then for mastery; one from out the unchangeable past, the others in the tangible and delible present. Most of us have to pass through such ordeals before character and conviction receive their final bias; before human nature has its wild trouble, and then settles into "cold rock and quiet world;" which any lesser after-shocks may modify, but cannot radically change.

I tried to think. I felt that to be wholly a man I should turn from those eyes drawing me on. I recalled the words of Clovelly, who had said to me that afternoon, half laughingly: "Dr. Marmion, I wonder how many of us wish ourselves transported permanently to that time when we didn't know champagne from 'alter feiner madeira' or dry hock from sweet sauterne; when a pretty face made us feel ready to abjure all the sinful lusts of the flesh and become inheritors of the kingdom of heaven? Egad! I should like to feel it once again. But how can we, when we have been intoxicated with many things; when we are drunk with success and experience; have hung on the fringe of unrighteousness; and know the world backward, and ourselves mercilessly?"

Was I, like the drunkard, coming surely to the time when I could no longer say yes to my wisdom, or no to my weakness? I knew that, an hour before, in filling a phial with medicine, I found I was doing it mechanically, and had to begin over again, making an effort to keep my mind to my task. I think it is an axiom that no man can properly perform the business of life who indulges in emotional preoccupation.

These thoughts, which take so long to write, passed then through my mind swiftly; but her eyes were on me with a peculiar and confident insistence-and I yielded. On my way to her I met Clovelly and Colonel Ryder. Hungerford was walking between them. Colonel Ryder said: "I've been saving that story for you, Doctor; better come and get it while it's hot."

This was a promised tale of the taking of Mobile in the American Civil War.

At any other time the invitation would have pleased me mightily; for, apart from the other two, Hungerford's brusque and original conversation was always a pleasure-so were his cheroots; but now I was under an influence selfish in its source. At the same time I felt that Hungerford was storing up some acute criticism of me, and that he might let me hear it any moment. I knew, numbering the order of his duties, that he could have but a very short time to spare for gossip at this juncture, yet I said that I could not join them for half an hour or so. Hungerford had a fashion of looking at me searchingly from under his heavy brows, and I saw that he did so now with impatience, perhaps contempt. I was certain that he longed to thrash me. That was his idea of punishment and penalty. He linked his arm in those of the other two men, and they moved on, Colonel Ryder saying that he would keep the story till I came and would wait in the smoking-room for me.

The concert was still on when I sat down beside Mrs. Falchion. "You seemed to enjoy Miss Treherne's singing?" she said cordially enough as she folded her hands in her lap.

"Yes, I thought it beautiful. Didn't you?"

"Pretty, most pretty; and admirable in technique and tone; but she has too much feeling to be really artistic. She felt the thing, instead of pretending to feel it-which makes all the difference. She belongs to a race of delightful women, who never do any harm, whom everybody calls good, and who are very severe on those who do not pretend to be good. Still, all of that pleasant race will read their husband's letters and smuggle. They have no civic virtues. Yet they would be shocked to bathe on the beach without a machine, as American women do,-and they look for a new fall of Jerusalem when one of their sex smokes a cigarette after dinner. Now, I do not smoke cigarettes after dinner, so I can speak freely. But, at the same time, I do not smuggle, and I do bathe on the beach without a machine-when I am in a land where there are no sharks and no taboo. If morally consumptive people were given a few years in the South Seas, where they could not get away from nature, there would be more strength and less scandal in society."

I laughed. "There is a frank note for Mr. Clovelly, who thinks he knows the world and my sex thoroughly. He says as much in his books.-Have you read his 'A Sweet Apocalypse'? He said more than as much to me. But he knows a mere nothing about women-their amusing inconsistencies; their infidelity in little things and fidelity in big things; their self-torturings; their inability to comprehend themselves; their periods of religious insanity; their occasional revolts against the restraints of a woman's position, known only to themselves in their dark hours; ah, really, Dr. Marmion, he is ignorant, I assure you. He has only got two or three kinds of women in his mind, and the representatives of these fooled him, as far as he went with them, to their hearts' content. Believe me, there is no one quite so foolish as the professional student of character. He sees things with a glamour; he is impressionable; he immediately begins to make a woman what he wishes her to be for his book, not what she is; and women laugh at him when they read his books, or pity him if they know him personally. I venture to say that I could make Mr. Clovelly use me in a novel-not 'A Sweet Apocalypse'-as a placid lover of fancy bazaars and Dorcas societies, instead of a very practical person, who has seen life without the romantic eye, and knows as well the working of a buccaneering craft-through consular papers and magisterial trials, of course-as of a colonial Government House. But it is not worth while trying to make him falsify my character. Besides, you are here to amuse me."

This speech, as she made it, was pleasantly audacious and clever. I laughed, and made a gesture of mock dissent, and she added: "Now I have finished my lecture. Please tie my shoe-lace there, and then, as I said, amuse me. Oh, you can, if you choose! You are clever when you like to be. Only, this time, do not let it be a professor's wife who foolishly destroys herself, and cuts short what might have been a brilliant career."

On the instant I determined to probe deeper into her life, and try her nerve, by telling a story with enough likeness to her own (if she was the wife of Boyd Madras) to affect her acutely; though I was not sure I could succeed. A woman who triumphs over sea-sickness, whom steam from the boilers never affects, nor the propeller-screw disturbs, has little to fear from the words of a man who is neither adroit, eloquent, nor dramatic. However, I determined to try what I could do. I said: "I fancy you would like something in the line of adventure; but my career has not run in that direction, so I shall resort to less exciting fields, and, I fear, also, a not very cheerful subject."

"Oh, never mind!" said she. "What you wish, so long as it is not conventional and hackneyed. But I know you will not be prosy, so go on, please."

"Well," I began, "once, in the hospital, I attended a man-Anson was his name-who, when he thought he was going to die, confided to me his life's secret. I liked the man; he was good-looking, amiable, but hopelessly melancholy. He was dying as much from trouble as disease. No counsel or encouragement had any effect upon him; he did, as I have seen so many do-he resigned himself to the out-going tide. Well, for the secret. He had been a felon. His crime had been committed through ministering to his wife's vanity."

Here I paused. I felt Mrs. Falchion's eyes searching me. I raised mine steadily to hers with an impersonal glance, and saw that she had not changed colour in the least. But her eyes were busy.

I proceeded: "When he was disgraced she did not come near him. When he went to her, after he was released" (here I thought it best to depart from any close resemblance to Mrs. Falchion's own story), "and was admitted to her, she treated him as an absolute stranger-as one who had intruded, and might be violent. She said that she and her maid were alone in the house, and hinted that he had come to disturb them. She bade him go, or she must herself go. He called her by his own name, and begged her, by the memory of their dead child, to speak kindly to him. She said he was quite mistaken in her name, that she was Mrs. Glave, not Mrs. Anson, and again insisted that he should go. He left her, and at last, broken-hearted, found his way, in illness and poverty to the hospital, where, toward the last, he was cared for by a noble girl, a companion of his boyhood and his better days, who urged his wife to visit him. She left him alone, said unpleasant things to the girl, did not come to see her husband when he was dead, and provided nothing for his burial. You see that, like you, she hated suffering

and misery-and criminals. The girl and her mother paid the expenses of the funeral, and, with myself, were the only mourners. I am doubtful if the wife knows even where he lies. I admit that the story sounds melodramatic; but truth is more drama than comedy, I fancy. Now, what do you think of it all, Mrs. Falchion?"

I had felt her shrink a little at the earlier part of my story, as if she feared that her own tale was to be brutally bared before her; but that soon passed, and she languidly tapped the chair-arm as the narrative continued. When it was finished, she leaned over slightly, and with these same fingers tapped my arm. I thrilled involuntarily.

"He died, did he?" she said. "That was the most graceful thing he could do. So far as my knowledge of the world is concerned, men of his class do NOT die. They live, and they never rise above their degradation. They had not brains or courage enough to keep them out of gaol, and they have not pluck or brains enough to succeed-afterwards. Your friend Anson was quite gentlemanly in his action at the last. He had some sense of the fitness of things. He could not find a place in the world without making other people uncomfortable, and causing trouble. If he had lived, he would always have added to the blight on his wife's career, and have been an arrow-not a thorn-in her side. Very likely he would have created a scandal for the good young girl who nursed him. He made the false step, and compelled society to reject him. It did not want to do so; it never does. It is long-suffering; it tries not to see and acknowledge things until the culprit himself forces it to take action. Then it says: 'Now you have openly and inconsiderately broken our bond of mutual forbearance. You make me send you away. Go, then, behind stone walls, and please do not come to me again. If you do, you will only be a troublesome ghost. You will cause awkwardness and distress.' So, Mr. Anson-I must be polite to him-did the most reasonable and proper thing. He disappeared from the play before it actually became tragedy. There was no tragedy in his death-death is a magnificent ally; it untangles knots. The tragedy was in his living-in the perpetual ruin of his wife's life, renewed every morning. He disappeared. Then the play became drama, with only a little shadow of tragedy behind it. Now, frankly, am I not right?"

"Mrs. Falchion," I said, "your argument is clever, but it is only incidentally true. You draw life, society and men no more correctly than the author of 'A Sweet Apocalypse' would draw you. The social law you sketch when reduced to its bare elements, is remorseless. It does not provide for repentance, for restitution, for recovering a lost paradise. It makes an act final, a sin irrevocable."

"Well, since we are beginning to talk like a couple of books by a pair of priggish philosophers, I might as well say that I think sin is final so far as the domestic and social machinery of the world is concerned. What his religious belief requires of a man is one thing, what his fellow-men require of him is another. The world says, You shall have latitude enough to swing in freely, but you must keep within the code. As soon as you break the law openly, and set the machinery of public penalty in motion, there is an end of you, so far as this world is concerned. You may live on, but you have been broken on the wheel, and broken you always will be. It is not a question of right or wrong, of kindness or cruelty, but of general expediency and inevitableness. To all effect, Mr. Anson was dead before he breathed his last. He died when he passed within the walls of a gaol-condemned for theft."

There was singular scorn in her last few words, and, dissent as I did from her merciless theories, I was astonished at her adroitness and downrightness-enchanted by the glow of her face. To this hour, knowing all her life as I do, I can only regard her as a splendid achievement of nature, convincing even when at the most awkward tangents with the general sense and the straitest interpretation of life; convincing even in those other and later incidents, which showed her to be acting not so much by impulse as by the law of her nature. Her emotions were apparently rationalised at birth-to be derationalised and broken up by a power greater than herself before her life had worked itself out. I had counted her clever; I had not reckoned with her powers of reasoning. Influenced as I was by emotion when in her presence, I resorted to a personal application of my opinions-the last and most unfair resort of a disputant. I said I would rather be Anson dead than Mrs. Anson living; I would rather be the active than the passive sinner; the victim, than a part of that great and cruel machine of penalty.

"The passive sinner!" she replied. "Why, what wrong did she do?"

The highest moral conceptions worked dully in her. Yet she seemed then, as she always appeared to be, free from any action that should set the machine of penalty going against herself. She was inexorable, but she had never, knowingly, so much as slashed the hem of the moral code.

"It was to give his wife pleasure that Anson made the false step," I urged.

"Do you think she would have had the pleasure at the price? The man was vain and selfish to run any risk, to do anything that might endanger her safety-that is, her happiness and comfort."

"But suppose he knew that she loved ease and pleasure?-that he feared her anger or disdain if he did not minister to her luxuries?"

"Then he ought not to have married that kind of a woman." The hardness in her voice was matched at that moment by the coldness of her face.

"That is begging the question," I replied. "What would such a selfish woman do in such a case, if her pleasure could not be gratified?"

"You must ask that kind of woman," was her ironical answer.

I rashly felt that her castle of strength was crumbling. I ventured farther.

"I have done so."

She turned slightly toward me, yet not nervously, as I had expected.

"What did she say?"

"She declined to answer directly."

There was a pause, in which I felt her eyes searching my face. I fear I must have learned dissimulation well; for, after a minute, I looked at her, and saw, from the absence of any curious anxiety, that I had betrayed nothing. She looked me straight in the eyes and said: "Dr. Marmion, a man must not expect to be forgiven, who has brought shame on a woman."

"Not even when he has repented and atoned?"

"Atoned! How mad you are! How can there be atonement? You cannot wipe things out-on earth. We are of the earth. Records remain. If a man plays the fool, the coward, and the criminal, he must expect to wear the fool's cap, the white feather, and the leg-chain until his life's end. And now, please, let us change the subject. We have been bookish long enough." She rose with a gesture of impatience.

I did not rise. "Pardon me, Mrs. Falchion," I urged, "but this interests me so. I have thought much of Anson lately. Please, let us talk a little longer. Do sit down."

She sat down again with an air of concession rather than of pleasure.

"I am interested," I said, "in looking at this question from a woman's standpoint. You see, I am apt to side with the miserable fellow who made a false step-foolish, if you like-all for love of a selfish and beautiful woman."

"She was beautiful?"

"Yes, as you are." She did not blush at that rank compliment, any more than a lioness would, if you praised the astonishing sleekness and beauty of its skin.

"And she had been a true wife to him before that?"

"Yes, in all that concerned the code."

"Well?-Well, was not that enough? She did what she could, as long as she could." She leaned far back in the chair, her eyes half shut.

"Don't you think-as a woman, not as a theorist-that Mrs. Anson might at least have come to him when he was dying?"

"It would only have been uncomfortable for her. She had no part in his life; she could not feel with him. She could do nothing."

"But suppose she had loved him? By that memory, then, of the time when they took each other for better or for worse, until death should part them?"

"Death did part them when the code banished him; when he passed from a free world into a cage. Besides, we are talking about people marrying, not about their loving."

"I will admit," I said, with a little raw irony, "that I was not exact in definition."

Here I got a glimpse into her nature which rendered after events not so marvellous to me as they might seem to others. She thought a moment quite indolently, and then continued: "You make one moralise like George Eliot. Marriage is a condition, but love must be an action. The one is a contract, the other is complete possession, a principle-that is, if it exists at all. I do not know."

She turned the rings round mechanically on her finger; and among them was a wedding-ring! Her voice had become low and abstracted, and now she seemed to have forgotten my presence, and was looking out upon the humming darkness round us, through which now and again there rang a boatswain's whistle, or the loud laugh of Blackburn, telling of a joyous hour in the smoking-room.

I am now about to record an act of madness, of folly, on my part. I suppose most men have such moments of temptation, but I suppose, also, that they act more sensibly and honourably than I did then. Her hand had dropped gently on the chair-arm, near to my own, and though our fingers did not touch, I felt mine thrilled and impelled toward hers. I do not seek to palliate my action. Though the man I believed to be her husband was below, I yielded myself to an imagined passion for her. In that moment I was a captive. I caught her hand and kissed it hotly.

"But you might know what love is," I said. "You might learn-learn of me. You-"

Abruptly and with surprise she withdrew her hand, and, without any visible emotion save a quicker pulsation of her breast, which might have been indignation, spoke. "But even if I might learn, Dr. Marmion, be sure that neither your college nor Heaven gave you the knowledge to instruct me.... There: pardon me, if I speak harshly; but this is most inconsiderate of you, most impulsive-and compromising. You are capable of singular contrasts. Please let us be friends, friends simply. You are too interesting for a lover, really you are."

Her words were a cold shock to my emotion-my superficial emotion; though, indeed, for that moment she seemed adorable to me. Without any apparent relevancy, but certainly because my thoughts in self-reproach were hovering about cabin 116 Intermediate, I said, with a biting shame, "I do not wonder now!"

"You do not wonder at what?" she questioned; and she laid her hand kindly on my arm.

I put the hand away a little childishly, and replied, "At men going to the devil." But this was not what I thought.

"That does not sound complimentary to somebody. May I ask you what you mean?" she said calmly. "I mean that Anson loved his wife, and she did not love him; yet she held him like a slave, torturing him at the same time."

"Does it not strike you that this is irrelevant? You are not my husband-not my slave. But, to be less personal, Mr. Anson's wife was not responsible for his loving her. Love, as I take it, is a voluntary thing. It pleased him to love her-he would not have done it if it did not please him; probably his love was an inconvenient thing domestically-if he had no tact."

"Of that," I said, "neither you nor I can know with any certainty. But, to be scriptural, she reaped where she had not sowed, and gathered where she had not strawed. If she did not make the man love her,-I believe she did, as I believe you would, perhaps unconsciously, do,-she used his love, and was therefore better able to make all other men admire her. She was richer in personal power for that experience; but she was not grateful for it nor for his devotion."

"You mean, in fact, that I-for you make the personal application-shall be better able henceforth to win men's love, because-ah, surely, Dr. Marmion, you do not dignify this impulse, this foolishness of yours, by the name of love!" She smiled a little satirically at the fingers I had kissed.

I was humiliated, and annoyed with her and with myself, though, down in my mind, I knew that she was right. "I mean," said I, "that I can understand how men have committed suicide because of just such things. My wonder is that Anson, poor devil! did not do it." I knew I was talking foolishly.

"He hadn't the courage, my dear sir. He was gentlemanly enough to die, but not to be heroic to that extent. For it does need a strong dash of heroism to take one's own life. As I conceive it, suicide would have been the best thing for him when he sinned against the code. The world would have pitied him then, would have said, He spared us the trial of punishing him. But to pay the vulgar penalty of prison-ah!"

She shuddered and then almost coldly continued: "Suicide is an act of importance; it shows that a man recognises, at least, the worthlessness of his life. He does one dramatic and powerful thing; he has an instant of great courage, and all is over. If it had been a duel in which, of intention, he would fire wide, and his assailant would fire to kill, so much the better; so much the more would the world pity. But either is superior, as a final situation, than death with a broken heart-I suppose that is possible?-and disgrace, in a hospital."

"You seem to think only of the present, only of the code and the world; and as if there were no heroism in a man living down his shame, righting himself heroically at all points possible, bearing his penalty, and showing the courage of daily wearing the sackcloth of remorse and restitution."

"Oh," she persisted, "you make me angry. I know what you wish to express; I know that you consider it a sin to take one's life, even in 'the high Roman fashion.' But, frankly, I do not, and I fear-or rather, I fancy-that I never shall. After all, your belief is a pitiless one; for, as I have tried to say, the man has not himself alone to consider, but those to whom his living is a perpetual shame and menace and cruelty insupportable-insupportable! Now, please, let us change the subject finally; and"-here she softly laughed-"forgive me if I have treated your fancied infatuation lightly or indifferently. I want you for a friend-at least, for a friendly acquaintance. I do not want you for a lover."

We both rose. I was not quite content with her nor with myself yet. I felt sure that while she did not wish me for a lover, she was not averse to my playing the devoted cavalier, who should give all, while she should give nothing. I knew that my punishment had already begun. We paced the deck in silence; and once, as we walked far aft, I saw, leaning upon the railing of the intermediate deck, and looking towards us-Boyd Madras; and the words of that letter which he wrote on the No Man's Sea came to me.

At length she said: "You have made no reply to my last remark. Are we to be friends, and not lovers? Or shall you cherish enmity against me? Or, worse still,"-and here she laughed, I thought, a little ironically,-"avoid me, and be as icy as you have been-fervid?"

"Mrs. Falchion," I said, "your enemy I do not wish to be-I could not be if I wished; but, for the rest, you must please let me see what I may think of myself to-morrow. There is much virtue in to-morrow," I added. "It enables one to get perspective."

"I understand," she said; and then was silent. We walked the deck slowly for several minutes. Then we were accosted by two ladies of a committee that had the fancy-dress ball in hand. They wished to consult Mrs. Falchion in certain matters of costume and decoration, for which, it had been discovered, she had a peculiar faculty. She turned to me half inquiringly, and I bade her good-night, inwardly determined (how easy it is after having failed to gratify ourselves!) that the touch of her fingers should never again make my heart beat faster.

I joined Colonel Ryder and Clovelly in the smoking-room. Hungerford, as I guessed gladly, was gone. I was too much the coward to meet his eye just then. Colonel Ryder was estimating the amount he would wager-if he were in the habit of betting-that the 'Fulvia' could not turn round in her tracks in twenty minutes, while he parenthetically endorsed Hungerford's remarks to me-though he was ignorant of them-that lascars should not be permitted on English passenger ships. He was supported by Sir Hayes Craven, a shipowner, who further said that not one out of ten British sailors could swim, while not five out of ten could row a boat properly. Ryder's anger was great, because Clovelly remarked with mock seriousness that the lascars were picturesque, and asked the American if he had watched them listlessly eating rice and curry as they squatted between decks; whether he had observed the Serang, with his silver whistle, who ruled them, and despised us "poor white trash;" and if he did not think it was a good thing to have fatalists like them as sailors-they would be cool in time of danger.

Colonel Ryder's indignation was curbed, however, by the bookmaker, who, having no views, but seeing an opportunity for fun, brought up reinforcements of chaff and slang, easily construable into profanity, and impregnated with terse humour. Many of the ladies had spoken of the bookmaker as one of the best-mannered men on board. So he was to all appearance. None dressed with better taste, nor carried himself with such an air. There was even a deferential tone in his strong language, a hesitating quaintness, which made it irresistible. He was at the service of any person on board needing championship. His talents were varied. He could suggest harmonies in colour to the ladies at one moment, and at the next, in the seclusion of the bar counter, arrange deadly harmonies in liquor. He was an authority on acting; he knew how to edit a newspaper; he picked out the really nice points in the sermons delivered by the missionaries in the saloon; he had some marvellous theories about navigation; and his trick with a salad was superb. He now convulsed the idlers in the smoking-room with laughter, and soon deftly drew off the discussion to the speed of the vessel, arranging a sweep-stake immediately, upon the possibilities of the run. He instantly proposed to sell the numbers by auction. He was the auctioneer. With his eye-glass at his eye, and Bohemian pleasantry falling from his lips, he ran the prices up. He was selling Clovelly's number, and had advanced it beyond the novelist's own bidding, when suddenly the screw stopped, the engines ceased working, and the 'Fulvia' slowed down.

The numbers remained unsold. Word came to us that an accident had happened to the machinery, and that we should be hove-to for a day, or longer, to accomplish necessary repairs. How serious the accident to the machinery was no one knew.

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