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   Chapter 12 LOVE IS NOT ALL

Black Rock: A Tale of the Selkirks By Ralph Connor Characters: 14217

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Those days when we were waiting Craig's return we spent in the woods or on the mountain sides, or down in the canyon beside the stream that danced down to meet the Black Rock river, I talking and sketching and reading, and she listening and dreaming, with often a happy smile upon her face. But there were moments when a cloud of shuddering fear would sweep the smile away, and then I would talk of Craig till the smile came back again.

But the woods and the mountains and the river were her best, her wisest, friends during those days. How sweet the ministry of the woods to her! The trees were in their new summer leaves, fresh and full of life. They swayed and rustled above us, flinging their interlacing shadows upon us, and their swaying and their rustling soothed and comforted like the voice and touch of a mother. And the mountains, too, in all the glory of their varying robes of blues and purples, stood calmly, solemnly about us, uplifting our souls into regions of rest. The changing lights and shadows flitted swiftly over their rugged fronts, but left them ever as before in their steadfast majesty. 'God's in His heaven.' What would you have? And ever the little river sang its cheerful courage, fearing not the great mountains that threatened to bar its passage to the sea. Mrs. Mavor heard the song and her courage rose.

'We too shall find our way,' she said, and I believed her.

But through these days I could not make her out, and I found myself studying her as I might a new acquaintance. Years had fallen from her; she was a girl again, full of young warm life. She was as sweet as before, but there was a soft shyness over her, a half-shamed, half-frank consciousness in her face, a glad light in her eyes that made her all new to me. Her perfect trust in Craig was touching to see.

'He will tell me what to do,' she would say, till I began to realise how impossible it would be for him to betray such trust, and be anything but true to the best.

So much did I dread Craig's home-coming, that I sent for Graeme and old man Nelson, who was more and more Graeme's trusted counsellor and friend. They were both highly excited by the story I had to tell, for I thought it best to tell them all; but I was not a little surprised and disgusted that they did not see the matter in my light. In vain I protested against the madness of allowing anything to send these two from each other. Graeme summed up the discussion in his own emphatic way, but with an earnestness in his words not usual with him.

'Craig will know better than any of us what is right to do, and he will do that, and no man can turn him from it; and,' he added, 'I should be sorry to try.'

Then my wrath rose, and I cried-

'It's a tremendous shame! They love each other. You are talking sentimental humbug and nonsense!'

'He must do the right,' said Nelson in his deep, quiet voice.

'Right! Nonsense! By what right does he send from him the woman he loves?'

'"He pleased not Himself,"' quoted Nelson reverently.

'Nelson is right,' said Graeme. 'I should not like to see him weaken.'

'Look here,' I stormed; 'I didn't bring you men to back him up in his nonsense. I thought you could keep your heads level.'

'Now, Connor,' said Graeme, 'don't rage-leave that for the heathen; it's bad form, and useless besides. Craig will walk his way where his light falls; and by all that's holy, I should hate to see him fail; for if he weakens like the rest of us my North Star will have dropped from my sky.'

'Nice selfish spirit,' I muttered.

'Entirely so. I'm not a saint, but I feel like steering by one when I see him.'

When after a week had gone, Craig rode up one early morning to his shack door, his face told me that he had fought his fight and had not been beaten. He had ridden all night and was ready to drop with weariness.

'Connor, old boy,' he said, putting out his hand; 'I'm rather played. There was a bad row at the Landing. I have just closed poor Colley's eyes. It was awful. I must get sleep. Look after Dandy, will you, like a good chap?'

'Oh, Dandy be hanged,!' I said, for I knew it was not the fight, nor the watching, nor the long ride that had shaken his iron nerve and given him that face. 'Go in and lie down I'll bring you something.'

'Wake me in the afternoon,' he said; 'she is waiting. Perhaps you will go to her'-his lips quivered-'my nerve is rather gone.' Then with a very wan smile he added, 'I am giving you a lot of trouble.'

'You go to thunder!' I burst out, for my throat was hot and sore with grief for him.

'I think I'd rather go to sleep,' he replied, still smiling. I could not speak, and was glad of the chance of being alone with Dandy.

When I came in I found him sitting with his head in his arms upon the table fast asleep. I made him tea, forced him to take a warm bath, and sent him to bed, while I went to Mrs. Mavor. I went with a fearful heart, but that was because I had forgotten the kind of woman she was.

She was standing in the light of the window waiting for me. Her face was pale but steady, there was a proud light in her fathomless eyes, a slight smile parted her lips, and she carried her head like a queen.

'Come in,' she said. 'You need not fear to tell me. I saw him ride home. He has not failed, thank God! I am proud of him; I knew he would be true. He loves me'-she drew in her breath sharply, and a faint colour tinged her cheek-'but he knows love is not all-ah, love is not all! Oh! I am glad and proud!'

'Glad!' I gasped, amazed.

'You would not have him prove faithless!' she said with proud defiance.

'Oh, it is high sentimental nonsense,' I could not help saying.

'You should not say so,' she replied, and her voice rang clear. 'Honour, faith, and duty are sentiments, but they are not nonsense.'

In spite of my rage I was lost in amazed admiration of the high spirit of the woman who stood up so straight before me. But, as I told how worn and broken he was, she listened with changing colour and swelling bosom, her proud courage all gone, and only love, anxious and pitying, in her eyes.

'Shall I go to him?' she asked with timid eagerness and deepening colour.

'He is sleeping. He said he would come to you,' I replied.

'I shall wait for him,' she said softly, and the tenderness in her tone went straight to my heart, and it seemed to me a man might suffer much to be loved with love such as this.

In the early afternoon Graeme came to her. She met him with both hands outstretched, saying in a low voice-

'I am very happy.'

'Are you sure?' he asked anxiously.

'Oh, yes,' she said, but her voice was like a sob; 'quite, quite sure.'

They talked long together till I saw that Craig must soon be coming, and I called Graeme away. He held her hands, looking steadily into her eyes and said-

'You are better even than I thought; I'm going to be a better man.'

Her eyes filled with tears, but her smile did not fade as she answered-

'Yes! you will be a good man, and God will give you work to do.'

He bent his head over her hands and s

tepped back from her as from a queen, but he spoke no word till we came to Craig's door. Then he said with humility that seemed strange in him, 'Connor, that is great, to conquer oneself. It is worth while. I am going to try.'

I would not have missed his meeting with Craig. Nelson was busy with tea. Craig was writing near the window. He looked up as Graeme came in, and nodded an easy good-evening; but Graeme strode to him and, putting one hand on his shoulder, held out his other for Craig to take.

After a moment's surprise, Craig rose to his feet, and, facing him squarely, took the offered hand in both of his and held it fast without a word. Graeme was the first to speak, and his voice was deep with emotion-

'You are a great man, a good man. I'd give something to have your grit.'

Poor Craig stood looking at him, not daring to speak for some moments, then he said quietly-

'Not good nor great, but, thank God, not quite a traitor.'

'Good man!' went on Graeme, patting him on the shoulder. 'Good man! But it's tough.'

Craig sat down quickly, saying, 'Don't do that, old chap!'

I went up with Craig to Mrs. Mavor's door. She did not hear us coming, but stood near the window gazing up at the mountains. She was dressed in some rich soft stuff, and wore at her breast a bunch of wild-flowers. I had never seen her so beautiful. I did not wonder that Craig paused with his foot upon the threshold to look at her. She turned and saw us. With a glad cry, 'Oh! my darling; you have come to me,' she came with outstretched arms. I turned and fled, but the cry and the vision were long with me.

It was decided that night that Mrs. Mavor should go the next week. A miner and his wife were going east, and I too would join the party.

The camp went into mourning at the news; but it was understood that any display of grief before Mrs. Mavor was bad form. She was not to be annoyed.

But when I suggested that she should leave quietly, and avoid the pain of saying good-bye, she flatly refused-

'I must say good-bye to every man. They love me and I love them.'

It was decided, too, at first, that there should be nothing in the way of a testimonial, but when Craig found out that the men were coming to her with all sorts of extraordinary gifts, he agreed that it would be better that they should unite in one gift. So it was agreed that I should buy a ring for her. And were it not that the contributions were strictly limited to one dollar, the purse that Slavin handed her when Shaw read the address at the farewell supper would have been many times filled with the gold that was pressed upon the committee. There were no speeches at the supper, except one by myself in reply on Mrs. Mavor's behalf. She had given me the words to say, and I was thoroughly prepared, else I should not have got through. I began in the usual way: 'Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Mavor is-' but I got no further, for at the mention of her name the men stood on the chairs and yelled until they could yell no more. There were over two hundred and fifty of them, and the effect was overpowering. But I got through my speech. I remember it well. It began-

'Mrs. Mavor is greatly touched by this mark of your love, and she will wear your ring always with pride.' And it ended with-

'She has one request to make, that you will be true to the League, and that you stand close about the man who did most to make it. She wishes me to say that however far away she may have to go, she is leaving her heart in Black Rock, and she can think of no greater joy than to come back to you again.'

Then they had 'The Sweet By and By,' but the men would not join in the refrain, unwilling to lose a note of the glorious voice they loved to hear. Before the last verse she beckoned to me. I went to her standing by Craig's side as he played for her. 'Ask them to sing,' she entreated; 'I cannot bear it.'

'Mrs. Mavor wishes you to sing in the refrain,' I said, and at once the men sat up and cleared their throats. The singing was not good, but at the first sound of the hoarse notes of the men Craig's head went down over the organ, for he was thinking I suppose of the days before them when they would long in vain for that thrilling voice that soared high over their own hoarse tones. And after the voices died away he kept on playing till, half turning toward him, she sang alone once more the refrain in a voice low and sweet and tender, as if for him alone. And so he took it, for he smiled up at her his old smile full of courage and full of love.

Then for one whole hour she stood saying good-bye to those rough, gentle-hearted men whose inspiration to goodness she had been for five years. It was very wonderful and very quiet. It was understood that there was to be no nonsense, and Abe had been heard to declare that he would 'throw out any cotton-backed fool who couldn't hold himself down,' and further, he had enjoined them to remember that 'her arm wasn't a pump-handle.'

At last they were all gone, all but her guard of honour-Shaw, Vernon Winton, Geordie, Nixon, Abe, Nelson, Craig, and myself.

This was the real farewell; for, though in the early light of the next morning two hundred men stood silent about the stage, and then as it moved out waved their hats and yelled madly, this was the last touch they had of her hand. Her place was up on the driver's seat between Abe and Mr. Craig, who held little Marjorie on his knee. The rest of the guard of honour were to follow with Graeme's team. It was Winton's fine sense that kept Graeme from following them close. 'Let her go out alone,' he said, and so we held back and watched her go.

She stood with her back towards Abe's plunging four-horse team, and steadying herself with one hand on Abe's shoulder, gazed down upon us. Her head was bare, her lips parted in a smile, her eyes glowing with their own deep light; and so, facing us, erect and smiling, she drove away, waving us farewell till Abe swung his team into the canyon road and we saw her no more. A sigh shuddered through the crowd, and, with a sob in his voice, Winton said: 'God help us all.'

I close my eyes and see it all again. The waving crowd of dark-faced men, the plunging horses, and, high up beside the driver, the swaying, smiling, waving figure, and about all the mountains, framing the picture with their dark sides and white peaks tipped with the gold of the rising sun. It is a picture I love to look upon, albeit it calls up another that I can never see but through tears.

I look across a strip of ever-widening water, at a group of men upon the wharf, standing with heads uncovered, every man a hero, though not a man of them suspects it, least of all the man who stands in front, strong, resolute, self-conquered. And, gazing long, I think I see him turn again to his place among the men of the mountains, not forgetting, but every day remembering the great love that came to him, and remembering, too, that love is not all. It is then the tears come.

But for that picture two of us at least are better men to-day.

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