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Mrs. Falchion, Complete By Gilbert Parker Characters: 37946

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

We travelled slowly down the hillside into the village, and were about to turn towards the big mill when we saw Mr. Devlin and Ruth riding towards us. We halted and waited for them. Mr. Devlin was introduced to Mrs. Falchion by his daughter, who was sweetly solicitous concerning Mrs. Falchion and Justine Caron, and seemed surprised at finding them abroad after the accident of the day before. Ruth said that her father and herself had just come from the summer hotel, where they had gone to call upon Mrs. Falchion. Mrs. Falchion heartily acknowledged the courtesy. She seemed to be playing no part, but was apparently grateful all round; yet I believe that even already Ruth had caught at something in her presence threatening Roscoe's peace; whilst she, from the beginning, had, with her more trained instincts, seen the relations between the clergyman and his young parishioner.-But what had that to do with her?

Between Roscoe and Ruth there was the slightest constraint, and I thought that it gave a troubled look to the face of the girl. Involuntarily, the eyes of both were attracted to Mrs. Falchion. I believe in that moment there was a kind of revelation among the three. While I talked to Mr. Devlin I watched them, standing a little apart, Justine Caron with us. It must have been a painful situation for them; to the young girl because a shadow was trailing across the light of her first love; to Roscoe because the shadow came out of his past; to Mrs. Falchion because she was the shadow. I felt that trouble was at hand. In this trouble I knew that I was to play a part; for, if Roscoe had his secret and Mrs. Falchion had the key to it, I also held a secret which, in case of desperate need, I should use. I did not wish to use it, for though it was mine it was also another's. I did not like the look in Mrs. Falchion's eyes as she glanced at Ruth: I was certain that she resented Roscoe's regard for Ruth and Ruth's regard for Roscoe; but, up to that moment, I had not thought it possible that she cared for him deeply. Once she had influenced me, but she had never cared for me.

I could see a change in her. Out of it came that glance at Ruth, which seemed to me the talon-like hatred that shot from the eyes of Goneril and Regan: and I was sure that if she loved Roscoe there would be mad trouble for him and for the girl. Heretofore she had been passionless, but there was a dormant power in her which had only to be wickedly aroused to wreck her own and others' happiness. Hers was one of those volcanic natures, defying calculation and ordinary conceptions of life; having the fullest capacity for all the elementary passions-hatred, love, cruelty, delight, loyalty, revolt, jealousy. She had never from her birth until now felt love for any one. She had never been awakened. Even her affection for her father had been dutiful rather than instinctive. She had provoked love, but had never given it. She had been self-centred, compulsive, unrelenting. She had unmoved seen and let her husband go to his doom-it was his doom and death so far as she knew.

Yet, as I thought of this, I found myself again admiring her. She was handsome, independent, distinctly original, and possessing capacity for great things. Besides, so far, she had not been actively vindictive-simply passively indifferent to the sufferings of others. She seemed to regard results more than means. All she did not like she could empty into the mill of the destroying gods: just as General Grant poured hundreds of thousands of men into the valley of the James, not thinking of lives but victory, not of blood but triumph. She too, even in her cruelty, seemed to have a sense of wild justice which disregarded any incidental suffering.

I could see that Mr. Devlin was attracted by her, as every man had been who had ever met her; for, after all, man is but a common slave to beauty: virtue he respects, but beauty is man's valley of suicide. Presently she turned to Mr. Devlin, having, as it seemed to me, made Roscoe and Ruth sufficiently uncomfortable. With that cheerful insouciance which was always possible to her on the most trying occasions, she immediately said, as she had often said to me, that she had come to Mr. Devlin to be amused for the morning, perhaps the whole day. It was her way, her selfish way, to make men her slaves.

Mr. Devlin gallantly said that he was at her disposal, and with a kind of pride added that there was plenty in the valley which would interest her; for he was a frank, bluff man, who would as quickly have spoken disparagingly of what belonged to himself, if it was not worthy, as have praised it.

"Where shall we go first?" he said. "To the mill?"

"To the mill, by all means," Mrs. Falchion replied; "I have never been in a great saw-mill, and I believe this is very fine. Then," she added, with a little wave of the hand towards the cable running down from Phil Boldrick's eyrie in the mountains, "then I want to see all that cable can do-all, remember."

Mr. Devlin laughed. "Well, it hasn't many tricks, but what it does it does cleverly, thanks to The Padre."

"Oh yes," responded Mrs. Falchion, still looking at the cable; "The Padre, I know, is very clever."

"He is more than clever," bluffly replied Mr. Devlin, who was not keen enough to see the faint irony in her tones.

"Yes," responded Mrs. Falchion in the same tone of voice, "he is more than clever. I have been told that he was once very brave. I have been told that once in the South Seas he did his country a great service."

She paused. I could see Ruth's eyes glisten and her face suffuse, for though she read the faint irony in the tone, still she saw that the tale which Mrs. Falchion was evidently about to tell, must be to Galt Roscoe's credit. Mrs. Falchion turned idly upon Ruth and saw the look in her face. An almost imperceptible smile came upon her lips. She looked again at the cable and Phil Boldrick's eyrie, which seemed to have a wonderful attraction for her. Not turning away from it, save now and then to glance indolently at Mr. Devlin or Ruth, and once enigmatically at myself, she said:

"Once upon a time-that is the way, I believe, to begin a pretty story-there were four men-of-war idling about a certain harbour of Samoa. One of the vessels was the flag-ship, with its admiral on board. On one of the other vessels was an officer who had years before explored this harbour. It was the hurricane season. He advised the admiral not to enter the harbour, for the indications foretold a gale, and himself was not sure that his chart was in all respects correct, for the harbour had been hurriedly explored and sounded. But the admiral gave orders, and they sailed in.

"That day a tremendous hurricane came crying down upon Samoa. It swept across the island, levelled forests of cocoa palms, battered villages to pieces, caught that little fleet in the harbour, and played with it in a horrible madness. To right and left were reefs, behind was the shore, with a monstrous surf rolling in; before was a narrow passage. One vessel made its way out-on it was the officer who had surveyed the harbour. In the open sea there was safety. He brought his vessel down the coast a little distance, put a rope about him and in the wild surf made for the shore. I believe he could have been court-martialled for leaving his ship, but he was a man who had taken a great many risks of one kind and another in his time. It was one chance out of a hundred; but he made it-he got to the shore, travelled down to the harbour where the men-of-war were careening towards the reefs, unable to make the passage out, and once again he tied a rope about him and plunged into the surf to try for the admiral's ship. He got there terribly battered. They tell how a big wave lifted him and landed him upon the quarter-deck just as big waves are not expected to do. Well, like the hero in any melodrama of the kind, he very prettily piloted monsieur the admiral and his fleet out to the open sea."

She paused, smiling in an inscrutable sort of way, then turned and said with a sudden softness in her voice, though still with the air of one who wished not to be taken with too great a seriousness: "And, ladies and gentlemen, the name of the ship that led the way was the 'Porcupine'; and the name of the hero was Commander Galt Roscoe, R.N.; and 'of such is the kingdom of heaven!'"

There was silence for a moment. The tale had been told adroitly, and with such tact as to words that Roscoe could not take offence-need not, indeed, as he did not, I believe, feel any particular self-consciousness. I am not sure but he was a little glad that such evidence should have been given at the moment, when a kind of restraint had come between him and Ruth, by one who he had reason to think was not wholly his friend might be his enemy. It was a kind of offset to his premonitions and to the peril over which he might stumble at any moment.

To me the situation was almost inexplicable; but the woman herself was inexplicable: at this moment the evil genius of us all, at that doing us all a kind of crude, superior justice. I was the first to speak.

"Roscoe," I said, "I never had heard of this, although I remember the circumstance as told in the newspapers. But I am glad and proud that I have a friend with such a record."

"And, only think," said Mrs. Falchion, "he actually was not court-martialled for abandoning his ship to save an admiral and a fleet. But the ways of the English Admiralty are wonderful. They go out of their way to avoid a court-martial sometimes, and they go out of their way to establish it sometimes."

By this time we had started towards the mill. Roscoe walked ahead with Ruth Devlin. Mr. Devlin, Mrs. Falchion, Justine Caron and myself walked together.

Mrs. Falchion presently continued, talking, as it seemed to me, at the back of Roscoe's head:

"I have known the Admiralty to force an officer to resign the navy because he had married a native wife. But I never knew the Admiralty to court-martial an officer because he did not marry a native wife whom he OUGHT to have married: but, as I said, the ways of the Admiralty are past admiration."

I could see Roscoe's hand clinch at his side, and presently he said over his shoulder at her: "Your memory and your philosophy are as wonderful as the Admiralty are inscrutable."

She laughed. "You have not lost your old gift of retort," she said. "You are still amusing."

"Well, come," said Mr. Devlin cheerfully, "let's see if there isn't something even more amusing than Mr. Roscoe in Viking. I will show you, Mrs. Falchion, the biggest saw that ever ate the heart out of a Norfolk pine."

At the mill Mrs. Falchion was interested. She asked questions concerning the machinery which mightily pleased Mr. Devlin, they were so apt and intelligent; and herself assisted in giving an immense log to the teeth of the largest saw, which, with its six upright blades, ate, and was never satisfied. She stooped and ran her ungloved hand into the sawdust, as sweet before the sun has dried it as the scent of a rose. The rich smell of the fresh-cut lumber filled the air, and suggested all kinds of remote and pleasant things. The industry itself is one of the first that comes with the invasion of new territory, and makes one think of man's first work in the world: to fell the tree and till the soil. It is impossible to describe that fierce, jubilant song of the saw, which even when we were near was never shrill or shrieking: never drowning our voices, but vibrant and delightful. To Mrs. Falchion it was new; she was impressed.

"I have seen," she said to Mr. Devlin, "all sorts of enterprises, but never anything like this. It all has a kind of rough music. It is enjoyable."

Mr. Devlin beamed. "I have just added something to the mill that will please you," he said.

She looked interested. We all gathered round. I stood between Mrs. Falchion and Ruth Devlin, and Roscoe beside Justine Caron.

"It is the greatest mill-whistle in the country," he continued. "It will be heard from twelve to twenty-five miles, according to the condition of the atmosphere. I want big things all round, and this is a masterpiece, I guess. Now, I'll let you hear it if you like. I didn't expect to use it until to-night at nine o'clock, when, also for the first time, I am to light the mills by electricity; a thing that's not been attempted yet in any saw-mill on the Continent. We're going to work night and day for a couple of months."

"This is all very wonderful. And are you indebted to Mr. Roscoe in these things too?-Everybody seems to need him here."

"Well," said the mill-owner, laughing, "the whistle is my own. It's the sort of thing I would propose-to blow my trumpet, as it were; but the electricity and the first experiments in it I owe to The Padre."

"As I thought," she said, and turned to Roscoe. "I remember," she added, "that you had an electrical search-light on the 'Porcupine', and that you were fond of electricity. Do you ever use search-lights here? I should think they might be of use in your parish. Then, for a change, you could let the parish turn it upon you, for the sake of contrast and edification."

For the moment I was exceedingly angry. Her sarcasm was well veiled, but I could feel the sardonic touch beneath the smiling surface. This innuendo seemed so gratuitous. I said to her, almost beneath my breath, that none of the others could hear: "How womanly!"

She did no more than lift her eyebrows in acknowledgment, and went on talking lightly to Mr. Devlin. Roscoe was cool, but I could see now in his eyes a kind of smouldering anger; which was quite to my wish. I hoped he would be meek no longer.

Presently Ruth Devlin said: "Would it not be better to wait till to-night, when the place is lighted, before the whistle is blown? Then you can get a better first impression. And if Mrs. Falchion will come over to our home at Sunburst, we will try and amuse her for the rest of the day-that is, after she has seen all here."

Mrs. Falchion seemed struck by the frankness of the girl, and for an instant debated, but presently said: "No, thank you. When all is seen now, I will go to the hotel, and then will join you all here in the evening, if that seems feasible. Perhaps Dr. Marmion will escort me here. Mr. Roscoe, of course, has other duties."

"I shall be happy," I said, maliciously smiling, "to guide you to the sacrifice of the saw."

She was not disturbed. She touched Mr. Devlin's arm, and, looking archly at him, nodded backwards towards me. "'Beware the anaconda!'" she said.

It was impossible not to be amused; her repartee was always so unrestrained. She disarmed one by what would have been, in a man, insolent sang-froid: in her it was piquancy, daring.

Presently she added: "But if we are to have no colossal whistle and no electric light till evening, there is one thing I must have: and that is your remarkable Phil Boldrick, who seems to hold you all in the palm of his hand, and lives up there like a god on his Olympus."

"Well, suppose you go and call on him," said Roscoe, with a touch of dry humour, his eye on the cable that reached to Boldrick's perch.

She saw her opportunity, and answered promptly: "Yes, I will call on him immediately,"-here she turned towards Ruth,-"if Miss Devlin and yourself will go with me."

"Nonsense," interposed Mr. Devlin. "Besides, the cage will only hold two easily. Anyhow, it's absurd."

"Why is it absurd? Is there any danger?" queried Mrs. Falchion.

"Not unless there's an idiot at the machinery."

"I should expect you to manage it," she persisted.

"But no woman has ever done it."

"I will make the record." And, turning to Ruth: "You are not afraid?"

"No, I am not afraid," said the girl bravely, though she acknowledged to me afterwards that while she was not afraid of anything where her own skill was called in question, such as mountain-climbing, or even puma-hunting, she did not joyfully anticipate swinging between heaven and earth on that incline. "I will go," she added, "if my father will let me. ... May I?" she continued, turning to him.

Perhaps something of the father's pride came up in him, perhaps he had just got some suspicion that between his daughter and Mrs. Falchion there was a subterranean rivalry. However it was, he gave a quick, quizzical look at both of them, then glanced at Roscoe, and said: "I'll make no objections, if Ruth would like to introduce you to Phil. And, as Mrs. Falchion suggested, I'll 'turn the crank.'"

I could see that Roscoe had a bad moment. But presently he appeared to me perfectly willing that Ruth should go. Maybe he was as keen that she should not appear at a disadvantage beside Mrs. Falchion as was her father.

A signal was given, and the cage came slowly down the cable to the mill. We could see Boldrick, looking little bigger than a child at the other end, watching our movements. At the last moment Mr. Devlin and Roscoe seemed apprehensive, but the women were cool and determined. I noticed Mrs. Falchion look at Ruth curiously once or twice after they entered the cage, and before they started, and what she saw evidently gave her a higher opinion of the girl, for she laid her hand on Ruth's arm suddenly, and said: "We will show these mere men what nerve is."

Ruth nodded, then 'bon voyage' was said, and the signal was given. The cage ascended at first quickly, then more slowly, swaying up and down a little on the cable, and climbing higher and higher through the air to the mountain-side. What Boldrick thought when he saw the two ascending towards him, he expressed to Mr. Devlin later in the day in vigorous language: what occurred at his but Ruth Devlin told me afterwards. When the cage reached him, he helped the two passengers out, and took them to his hut. With Ruth he had always been a favourite, and he welcomed her with admiring and affectionate respect.

"Never b'lieved you could have done it, Miss Devlin-never! Not but what I knew you weren't afraid of anything on the earth below, or the waters under the earth; but when you get swinging there over the world, and not high enough to get a hold on heaven, it makes you feel as if things was droppin' away from you like. But, by gracious! you did it like an eagle-you and your friend."

By this time he was introduced, and at the name of Mrs. Falchion, he cocked his head, and looked quizzically, as if trying to remember something, then drew his hand once or twice across his forehead. After a moment he said: "Strange, now, ma'am, how your name strikes me. It isn't a common name, and I've heerd it before somewhere-somewhere. It isn't your face that I've seen before-for I'd have remembered it if it was a thousand years ago," he added admiringly. "But I've heard some one use it; and I can't tell where."

She looked curiously at h

im, and said: "Don't try to remember, and it will come to you in good time. But show us everything about your place before we go back, won't you, please?"

He showed them his hut, where he lived, quite alone. It was supplied with bare necessaries, and with a counter, behind which were cups and a few bottles. In reference to this, Boldrick said: "Temperance drinks for the muleteers, tobacco and tea and sugar and postage stamps and things. They don't gargle their throats with anything stronger than coffee at this tavern."

Then he took them to the cave in which puma, bear, and wapiti skins were piled, together with a few stores and the kits of travellers who had left their belongings in Boldrick's keeping till they should come again. After Mrs. Falchion and Ruth had seen all, they came out upon the mountain-side and waved their handkerchiefs to us, who were still watching from below. Then Boldrick hoisted a flag on his hut, which he used on gala occasions, to celebrate the event, and, not content with this, fired a 'feu de joie', managed in this way: He took two anvils used by the muleteers and expressmen to shoe their animals, and placed one on the other, putting powder between. Then Mrs. Falchion thrust a red-hot iron into the powder, and an explosion ensued. I was for a moment uneasy, but Mr. Devlin reassured me, and instantly a shrill whistle from the little mills answered the salute.

Just before they got into the cage, Mrs. Falchion turned to Boldrick, and said: "You have not been trying to remember where you heard my name before? Well, can you not recall it now?"

Boldrick shook his head. "Perhaps you will recall it before I see you again," she said.

They started. As they did so, Mrs. Falchion said suddenly, looking at Boldrick keenly: "Were you ever in the South Seas?"

Boldrick stood for an instant open-mouthed, and then exclaimed loudly, as the cage swung down the incline: "By Jingo! No, ma'am, I was never there, but I had a pal who come from Samoa."

She called back at him: "Tell me of him when we meet again. What was his name?"

They were too far down the cable now for Boldrick's reply to reach them distinctly. The descent seemed even more adventurous than the ascent, and, in spite of myself, I could not help a thrill of keen excitement. But they were both smiling when the cage reached us, and both had a very fine colour.

"A delightful journey, a remarkable reception, and a very singular man is your Mr. Boldrick," said Mrs. Falchion.

"Yes," replied Mr. Devlin, "you'll know Boldrick a long time before you find his limits. He is about the most curious character I ever knew, and does the most curious things. But straight-straight as a die, Mrs. Falchion!"

"I fancy that Mr. Boldrick and I would be very good friends indeed," said Mrs. Falchion; "and I purpose visiting him again. It is quite probable that we shall find we have had mutual acquaintances." She looked at Roscoe meaningly as she said this, but he was occupied with Ruth.

"You were not afraid?" Roscoe said to Ruth. "Was it not a strange sensation?"

"Frankly, at first I was a little afraid, because the cage swings on the cable, and it makes you uncomfortable. But I enjoyed it before we got to the end."

Mrs. Falchion turned to Mr. Devlin. "I find plenty here to amuse me," she said, "and I am glad I came. To-night I want to go up that cable and call on Mr. Boldrick again, and see the mills and the electric light, and hear your whistle, from up there. Then, of course, you must show us the mill working at night, and afterwards-may I ask it?-you must all come and have supper with me at the summer hotel."

Ruth dropped her eyes. I saw she did not wish to go. Fortunately Mr. Devlin extricated her. "I'm afraid that will be impossible, Mrs. Falchion," he said: "much obliged to you all the same. But I am going to be at the mill pretty near all night, and shouldn't be able to go, and I don't want Ruth to go without me."

"Then it must be another time," said Mrs. Falchion.

"Oh, whenever it's convenient for Ruth, after a day or two, I'll be ready and glad. But I tell you what: if you want to see something fine, you must go down as soon as possible to Sunburst. We live there, you know, not here at Viking. It's funny, too, because, you see, there's a feud between Viking and Sunburst-we are all river-men and mill-hands at Viking, and they're all salmon-fishers and fruit-growers at Sunburst. By rights I ought to live here, but when I started I thought I'd build my mills at Sunburst, so I pitched my tent down there. My wife and the girls got attached to the place, and though the mills were built at Viking, and I made all my money up here, I live at Sunburst and spend my shekels there. I guess if I didn't happen to live at Sunburst, people would be trailing their coats and making Donnybrook fairs every other day between these two towns. But that's neither here nor there. Take my advice, Mrs. Falchion, and come to Sunburst and see the salmon-fishers at work, both day and night. It is about the biggest thing in the way of natural picturesqueness that you'll see-outside my mills. Indians, half-breeds, white men, Chinamen-they are all at it in weirs and cages, or in the nets, and spearing by torch-light!-Don't you think I would do to run a circus, Mrs. Falchion?-Stand at the door, and shout: 'Here's where you get the worth of your money'?"

Mrs. Falchion laughed. "I am sure you and I will be good friends; you are amusing. And, to be perfectly frank with you, I am very weary of trying to live in the intellectual altitudes of Dr. Marmion-and The Padre."

I had never seen her in a greater strain of gaiety. It had almost a kind of feverishness-as if she relished fully the position she held towards Roscoe and Ruth, her power over their future, and her belief (as I think was in her mind then) that she could bring back to her self Roscoe's old allegiance. That she believed this, I was convinced; that she would never carry it out, was just as strong: for I, though only the chorus in the drama, might one day find it in my power to become, for a moment, one of the principal actors-from which position I had declined one day when humiliated before Mrs. Falchion on the 'Fulvia'. Boyd Madras was in my mind.

After a few minutes we parted, agreeing to meet again in the valley in the evening. I had promised, as Mrs. Falchion had suggested, to escort her and Justine Caron from the summer hotel to the mill. Roscoe had duties at both Viking and Sunburst and would not join us until we all met in the evening. Mr. Devlin and Ruth rode away towards Sunburst. Mrs. Falchion, Justine, and myself travelled slowly up the hillside, talking chiefly upon the events of the morning. Mrs. Falchion appeared to admire greatly the stalwart character of Mr. Devlin; in a few swift, complimentary words disposed of Ruth; and then made many inquiries concerning Roscoe's work, my own position, and the length of my stay in the mountains; and talked upon many trivial matters, never once referring-as it seemed to me, purposely-to our past experiences on the 'Fulvia', nor making any inquiry concerning any one except Belle Treherne.

She showed no surprise when I told her that I expected to marry Miss Treherne. She congratulated me with apparent frankness, and asked for Miss Treherne's address, saying she would write to her. As soon as she had left Roscoe's presence she had dropped all enigmatical words and phrases, and, during this hour I was with her, was the tactful, accomplished woman of the world, with the one present object: to make her conversation agreeable, and to keep things on the surface. Justine Caron scarcely spoke during the whole of our walk, although I addressed myself to her frequently. But I could see that she watched Mrs. Falchion's face curiously; and I believe that at this time her instinct was keener by far to read what was in Mrs. Falchion's mind than my own, though I knew much more of the hidden chain of events connecting Mrs. Falchion's life and Galt Roscoe's.

I parted from them at the door of the hotel, made my way down to Roscoe's house at the ravine, and busied myself for the greater part of the day in writing letters, and reading on the coping. About sunset I called for Mrs. Falchion, and found her and Justine Caron ready and waiting. There was nothing eventful in our talk as we came down the mountain-side towards Viking-Justine Caron's presence prevented that. It was dusk when we reached the valley. As yet the mills were all dark. The only lights visible were in the low houses lining the banks of the river. Against the mountainside there seemed to hang one bunch of flame like a star, large, red, and weird. It was a torch burning in front of Phil Boldrick's hut. We made our way slowly to the mill, and found Mr. Devlin, Ruth, and Roscoe, with Ruth's sister, and one or two other friends, expecting us.

"Well," said Mr. Devlin heartily, "I have kept the show waiting for you. The house is all dark, but I guess you'll see a transformation scene pretty quick. Come out," he continued, "and let us get the front seats. They are all stalls here; nobody has a box except Boldrick, and it is up in the flies."

"Mr. Devlin," said Mrs. Falchion, "I purpose to see this show not only from the stalls, but from the box in the flies. Therefore, during the first act, I shall be here in front of the foot-lights. During the second act I shall be aloft like Tom Bowling-"

"In other words-" began Mr. Devlin.

"In other words," added Mrs. Falchion, "I am going to see the valley and hear your great horn blow from up there!" She pointed towards the star in front of Phil's hut.

"All right," said Mr. Devlin; "but you will excuse me if I say that I don't particularly want anybody to see this performance from where Tom Bowling bides."

We left the office and went out upon the platform, a little distance from the mill. Mr. Devlin gave a signal, touched a wire, and immediately it seemed as if the whole valley was alight. The mill itself was in a blaze of white. It was transfigured-a fairy palace, just as the mud barges in the Suez Canal had been transformed by the search-light of the 'Fulvia'. For the moment, in the wonder of change from darkness to light, the valley became the picture of a dream. Every man was at his post in the mill, and in an instant work was going on as we had seen it in the morning. Then, all at once, there came a great roar, as it were, from the very heart of the mill-a deep diapason, dug out of the throat of the hills: the big whistle.

"It sounds mournful-like a great animal in pain," said Mrs. Falchion. "You might have got one more cheerful."

"Wait till it gets tuned up," said Mr. Devlin. "It hasn't had a chance to get the burs out of its throat. It will be very fine as soon as the engine-man knows how to manage it."

"Yes," said Ruth, interposing, "a little toning down would do it good-it is shaking the windows in your office; feel this platform tremble!"

"Well, I bargained for a big whistle and I've got it: and I guess they'll know if ever there's a fire in the town!" Just as he said this, Roscoe gave a cry and pointed.

We all turned, and saw a sight that made Ruth Devlin cover her face with her hands and Mrs. Falchion stand horror-stricken. There, coming down the cable with the speed of lightning, was the cage. In it was a man-Phil Boldrick. With a cry and a smothered oath, Mr. Devlin sprang towards the machinery, Roscoe with him. There was nobody near it, but they saw a boy whose duty it was that night to manage the cable, running towards it. Roscoe was the first to reach the lever; but it was too late. He partially stopped the cage, but only partially. It came with a dull, sickening thud to the ground, and Phil Boldrick-Phil Boldrick's broken, battered body-was thrown out.

A few minutes later Boldrick was lying in Mr. Devlin's office.

Ill luck for Viking in the hour of her success. Phil's shattered hulk is drifting. The masts have gone by the board, the pilot from the captain's side. Only the man's "unconquerable soul" is on the bridge, watching the craft dip at the bow till the waters, their sport out, should hugely swallow it.

We were all gathered round. Phil had asked to see the lad who, by neglecting the machinery for a moment, had wrecked his life. "My boy," he said, "you played an ugly game. It was a big mistake. I haven't any grudge agen you, but be glad I'm not one that'd haunt you for your cussed foolishness.... There, now, I feel better; that's off my mind!"

"If you're wanting to show remorse or anything," he continued, "there's my friend, Mr. Roscoe, The Padre-he's all right, you understand!-Are you there?... Why don't you speak?" He stretched out his hand. The lad took it, but he could not speak: he held it and sobbed.

Then Phil understood. His brow wrinkled with a sudden trouble. He said: "There, never mind. I'm dying, but it isn't what I expected. It doesn't smart nor tear much; not more than river-rheumatism. P'r'aps I wouldn't mind it at all if I could see."

For Phil was entirely blind now. The accident had destroyed his remaining eye. Being blind, he had already passed that first corridor of death-darkness. Roscoe stooped over him, took his hand, and spoke quietly to him. Phil knew the voice, and said with a faint smile: "Do you think they'd plant me with municipal honours-honours to pardners?"

"We'll see to that, Phil," said Mr. Devlin from behind the clergyman.

Phil recognised the voice. "You think that nobody'll kick at making it official?"

"Not one, Phil."

"And maybe they wouldn't mind firin' a volley-Lights out, as it were: and blow the big whistle? It'd look sociable, wouldn't it?"

"There'll be a volley and the whistle, Phil-if you have to go," said Mr. Devlin.

There was a silence, then the reply came musingly: "I guess I hev to go. ... I'd hev liked to see the corporation runnin' longer, but maybe I can trust the boys."

A river-driver at the door said in a deep voice: "By the holy! yes, you can trust us."

"Thank you kindly.... If it doesn't make any difference to the rest, I'd like to be alone with The Padre for a little-not for religion, you understand, for I go as I stayed, and I hev my views,-but for private business."

Slowly, awkwardly, the few river-drivers passed out-Devlin and Mrs. Falchion and Ruth and I with them-for I could do nothing now for him-he was broken all to pieces. Roscoe told me afterwards what happened then.

"Padre," he said to Roscoe, "are we alone?"

"Quite alone, Phil."

"Well, I hevn't any crime to tell, and the business isn't weighty; but I hev a pal at Danger Mountain-" He paused.

"Yes, Phil?"

"He's low down in s'ciety; but he's square, and we've had the same blanket for many a day together. I crossed him first on the Panama level. I was broke-stony broke. He'd been shipwrecked, and was ditto. He'd been in the South Seas; I in Nicaragua. We travelled up through Mexico and Arizona, and then through California to the Canadian Rockies. At last we camped at Danger Mountain, a Hudson's Bay fort, and stayed there. It was a roughish spot, but we didn't mind that. Every place isn't Viking. One night we had a difference-not a quarrel, mind you, but a difference. He was for lynchin' a fellow called Piccadilly, a swell that'd come down in the world, bringin' the worst tricks of his tribe with him. He'd never been a bony fidy gentleman-just an imitation. He played sneak with the daughter of Five Fingers, an Injin chief. We'd set store by that girl. There wasn't one of us rough nuts but respected her. She was one of the few beautiful Injin women I've seen. Well, it come out that Piccadilly had ruined her, and one morning she was found dead. It drove my pal well-nigh crazy. Not that she was anything partik'ler to him; but the thing took hold of him unusual."

Now that I know all concerning Roscoe's past life, I can imagine that this recital must have been swords at his heart. The whole occurrence is put down minutely in his diary, but there is no word of comment upon it.

Phil had been obliged to stop for pain, and, after Roscoe had adjusted the bandages, he continued:

"My pal and the others made up their minds they'd lynch Piccadilly; they wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt-for it wasn't certain that the girl hadn't killed herself.... Well, I went to Piccadilly, and give him the benefit. He left, and skipped the rope. Not, p'r'aps, that he ought to hev got away, but once he'd showed me a letter from his mother,-he was drunk too, at the time,-and I remembered when my brother Rodney was killed in the Black Hills, and how my mother took it; so I give him the tip to travel quick."

He paused and rested. Then presently continued: "Now, Padre, I've got four hundred dollars-the most I ever had at one time in my life. And I'd like it to go to my old pal-though we had that difference, and parted. I guess we respect each other about the same as we ever did. And I wish you'd write it down so that the thing would be municipal."

Roscoe took pencil and paper and said: "What's his name, Phil?"

"Sam-Tonga Sam."

"But that isn't all his name?"

"No, I s'pose not, but it's all he ever had in general use. He'd got it because he'd been to the Tonga Islands and used to yarn about them. Put 'Tonga Sam, Phil Boldrick's Pal at Danger Mountain, ult'-add the 'ult,' it's c'rrect.-That'll find him. And write him these words, and if you ever see him say them to him-'Phil Boldrick never had a pal that crowded Tonga Sam.'"

When the document was written, Roscoe read it aloud, then both signed it, Roscoe guiding the battered hand over the paper.

This done, there was a moment's pause, and then Phil said: "I'd like to be in the open. I was born in the open-on the Madawaska. Take me out, Padre."

Roscoe stepped to the door, and silently beckoned to Devlin and myself. We carried him out, and put him beside a pine tree.

"Where am I now?" he said. "Under the white pine, Phil." "That's right. Face me to the north."

We did so. Minutes passed in silence. Only the song of the saw was heard, and the welting of the river. "Padre," he said at last hurriedly, "lift me up, so's I can breathe."

This was done.

"Am I facin' the big mill?"


"That's c'rrect. And the 'lectric light is burnin' in the mill and in the town, an' the saws are all goin'?"


"By gracious, yes-you can hear 'em! Don't they scrunch the stuff, though!" He laughed a little. "Mr. Devlin an' you and me hev been pretty smart, hevn't we?"

Then a spasm caught him, and after a painful pause he called: "It's the biggest thing in cables.... Stand close in the cage.... Feel her swing!-Safe, you bet, if he stands by the lever...."

His face lighted with the last gleam of living, and he said slowly: "I hev a pal-at Danger Mountain."

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