The "Rawdon's" Luck

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The "Rawdon's" Luck
Charles G. D. Roberts
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THE “RAWDON’S” LUCK. BY CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS Continued. The Rector laughed, but inquired, “Why, does Coxen really think there’s any danger?” “Well, he says maybe, and maybe not. If she don’t go off till the tide’s turned, he thinks as how she’s all right. But if she should go on the flood, with this wind kotching her spars, and the tide agen’ her, her keel in the contrairy direction, he says she’d turn bottom side up, sure. But them as have the handlin’ of her knows all about that too.” Such things have happened before now,” said the Judge. “When ships are too heavily sparred. But there should be no possible danger when wind and tide are in the same direction. I’ll venture to say, though, the old lady’s apprehensions are not lightened much by this notion. That’s identically what she dreamed, at all events-the ship turning over. But in these days dreams all come through the ivory gate-eh, Rector? No more perspicuous and reliable monitions from the other side now! I expect they’ve barred up that other gate we used to read of, finding out that in these days the truth is generally a distasteful communication.” “I’m not so sure of all that Judge,” answered the Rector. “There are more things in heaven and in earth-you remember the rest of it! But for this dream of Mrs. Bainbridge’s I don’t think we need seek any supernatural origin. Her own moteherly fears, and her reluctance to part with Reuben for so long a time, should supply material for many nightmares.” “But, sir,” said Carson, “she ain’t a mite afeard of the ship’s rolling over. She says, rightly, that there ain’t no necessity for the Captain to be aboard when she goes off, and there ain’t no more necessity of his standin’ anyways close to her, neither. As I drove Miss Majorie past the shipyard this afternoon Mrs Bainbridge run out and was a-telling Miss Marjorie about it. And I gathered from what was said that the Captain had humored her like, and promised to stand well out of the road when the ship should be going off. So she’s noways oneasy on that head. But she took a-cryin’ to Miss Marjorie, and saying that if her son sailed that she’d never see him again, and begging and praying Miss Marjorie not to let him go. And Miss Marjorie-” Here Marjorie glanced up at him, and a sudden light seemed to break on his mental vision. He hesitated muttered something about “the old lady’s being most wild, anyhow!” then was silent, pondering this new idea of his. In fact, it was a whole brood of ideas, and called for careful consideration on his part. The Judge looked up sharply: “And in answer to this extraordinary request Miss Marjorie said-?” “That I felt Captain Bainbridge knew his duty and would do it; that she couldn’t expect him to be turned from it by any mere superstitions or dreams; that she ought to laugh at herself for her fears and try and not worry her son when he was going to be away from her for so long.” Marjorie spoke in a voice of kindly interest, with just a trace of indifference, as if the matter were a little foreign to the subject of her present meditations. Her face was calm and unflushed. She quietly reached out a graceful arm and hand to help herself to the fruit. The Rector noted an almost excessive coolness and deliberation in this gesture, and at the same time a faint trembling of the fingers, a vagueness in their movement among the grapes and oranges. To the Judge and Miss Merritt, however, her manner was wholly reassuring; and Carson was out of the way, nursing his idea contemplatively by the sideboard. “The old lady rather forgets little social inequalities,” said the Judge, “in her foolish excitement.” “My patience!” cried Miss Merritt, half laughing and nervously rubbing with delicate fingers her alim and blue-veined wrist-“I really think Mrs. Bainbridge would implore the aid of any person whatever to detain Captain Reuben from this voyage, even by persuasion or even ‘vi et armis,’ as uncle would say.” The Rector laughed a trifle impatiently. He was something of a democratic aristocrat, finding much of the truest aristocracy among the people. He was a most conservative radical, who would cling doggedly to all that he considered to be for its own sake worth clinging to; but an unjust institution or prejudice however time-honored, he would overturn promptly and radically. Answering the Judge he said: “We who think so complacently of our imposing array of ancestors occasionally see inequalities where there are none, Judge. I fail to perceive much inequality, social or otherwise, between Captain Reuben and ourselves. There’s no man I more heartily respect for ability, uprightness and honor; and he is as thorough a gentleman, in every way as you or I. Then, what advantages has he had? And yet we, with none of his disadvantages to contend against-how do we surpass him, I would like to know?” “That may be! That may be!” replied the Judge. “But after all there is a difference in our stations, and I could never quite overlook it. Noblesse oblige, you know, Rector. But I do respect Captain Reuben, and have a cordial liking for him, I assure you. Although the inequality exists – and a pretty wide chasm it is, too-nevertheless, I believe in ignoring it under all ordinary circumstances. I would never remind him of it unless I had to, d’you see? But, Rector, I think you underrate his advantages. There is no miracle in his superior personnel refinement. Captain Reuben has had your instruction and guidance and friendship from a boy. I had no greater advantage myself, Mr. Rawdon.” “Oh,” cried the Rector, “thank you, indeed! But the virtue lay not in the cultivator but in the good ground, you may be sure. During this discussion Marjorie had once or twice thanked the Rector with her eyes, and at the same time had made mute confession to him more fully than she intended. This she realized on receiving from his answering glance the fullest and freest absolution, given quite intentionally; indeed, under the circumstances, it is highly improbable that he would have absolved her at all in so many words. Chapter III The same evening, the Rector having taken his leave soon after dinner, the Judge was sitting back comfortable in his leather-covered arm-chair in the library, while Miss Merritt, according to custom, read aloud a few chapters from “Old Colonial Days”, a volume dear to the Judge’s heart. Books of reminiscence or of gossipy biography were the Judge’s chief delight in literature. He loved to stop the reader frequently while he supplemented the narrative with some bit from his own retentive memory. It was the next best thing to writing reminiscences himself, which he had often thought of doing; but he never could muster resolution to actually begin. Marjorie was not present at the reading, but she was fond of sitting on the portico during such nights as these, so no notice was taken of her absence. But Marjorie was not on the portico. She had gone down the gravel-walk to its farthest extremity, and there she stood, leaning on the white gate, under the white arch, which gleamed like marble in the unclouded moonlight. Behind her the heavy foliage of the horse chestnuts, whose lower branches swept the lawn, shut off all view from the house, and a great bush of syringa beside her thrust its masses of creamy blossom clear over the arch, burdening the night air with perfume. All in black, except for the lace at her throat, she stood, leaning both arms, from which the sleeves fell away, upon the broad top of the gate; visible but dimly, save for the lustrous face and arms. She stood on the border-land between two widely-varying worlds. Behind her was the semi-tropical luxuriance of horse-chestnuts, acacias and rich clusters of syringe bloom, opposing a barrier to the unstinted tide of moonlight which streamed upon it and over it, but could not reach the dewy lawn and dark walks. Before her, drawing her gaze persistently to the utmost horizon, the dim hue of the Nova Scotia shore lay a level expanse, naked and shadowless under the full moon; an expanse of marsh and plains and flats and shining water, unbroken, save by a few weird Lombardy poplars along the roadside and the projection of “Snowdon’s Oaks” far off to the right. Soon she turned eagerly to the left. Steps were heard approaching, and straightaway an energetic figure, well built and active in movement, came close up to the gate in front of her. His broad-brimmed white hat he pushed well back from his forehead, took Marjorie face in both hands, looked into her eyes some moments without a word, then kissed both eyes and lips softly. Dropping both hands he said “Come!” and she opened the gate quietly and came out to him. They turned to the right, and as he put his arm about her, he said: "Dear heart, you must love me to night! The love you give me to night must last me a long year, and more. The ships sail tomorrow evening.” Majorie gave a half sob, came in front of him, and put her arms around his neck. “Oh, Reube!” she whispered, quickly, “don’t, or I shall-make a fool of myself. It is so hard to wear a mask all the time, to make believe I am indifferent, and to keep myself all the time under restrict as I do. Don’t let me break down now. I would have so much to make up for, you know, that I don’t know when I’d get control of myself again. And I can’t stay out very long.” Reube’s answer to this was muffled in his beard. It must have been an inarticulate answer, otherwise it would have been heard distinctly. For his voice, though capable of the most winning gentleness, was very clear and firm. “But,” she continued, “how do you know for certain that you will sail to-morrow? Perhaps the wind won’t be right.” “There’s no hope of that,” said he. “The wind went down about sunset, and it’s sure to blow from the same quarter to-morrow. Then I’m off in the evening. But oh, Marjorie, Marjorie, that I might take my darling with me!” “Don’t tempt me!” cried Marjorie. “Reube you wouldn’t tempt me- wouldn’t want me to leave my father here to break his heart. Nothing- nothing but sorrow could come of it for us. Don’t talk about that Reube!” “No, darling. I don’t ask that for one moment. I only couldn’t help giving expression to what is my inmost thought and longing-and yours too, Marjorie. But certainly we are the only ones that ought to suffer, if any one must; and we can afford to suffer for a little while, knowing our own love, and that nothing can really separate us, and that the time must go by somehow, and all come right at last.” But now Marjorie was not prepared to accept the full force of this comfort. The utterness of the separation, her loneliness dragging through the many weary months, these were too apparent to her just now. They [illegible part of a paragraph] “How shall I live,” said she, “with my whole heart forced to keep silence? Not able to talk to anyone about you without seeming not to care? Not able to show the slightest Or to make any inquiries! Wearing a perfectly indifferent face all at all time, and my whole heart with you-with you always!” And her clasp of his hand tightened sharply with her effort for self-control. By this time they had come up the carriage way quieting the dogs softly as they passed the kennels, through the thick shadow cast by the wide old barns, and now they paused at the high, narrow red gate which led out from the yards to the back fields and the groves. Reube had made no answer to Marjorie’s last words, and in the complete silence that had fallen between them suddenly the pawing of the horses in their stalls, and the low sound of their feeding, became very audible. From the upload pasture near by came the bleating of a lamb, whose mother, grown restless, had strayed from the thicket of young firs where the rest of the flock were sleeping. With senses intensely sharpened, the lovers turned to the sound, and beheld the mother moving across the bright, bare hillside. Then out of the blackest depths of the grove came the startling hoot of an owl; its gray wings flapped into the moonlight for a moment, and then returned to the darkness. This sudden sound broke down Marjorie’s self-control, and she began to sob violently. Captain Reuben led her through the gate, and a little way to the left, where stood an old open-frame windmill, throwing grotesque shadows from its beams and hovering vans. He drew her down with him to a seat on one of the heavy timber of the windmill’s foundation, and presently he said "My darling, it’s wretched enough, all this concealment! If you would only let me take you in now to your father, explain everything, and claim your love openly in the name of all that’s just and right! It should have been done long ago if only you had consented. I know your father is very-inflexible, and holds to some ideas of his on the matter of social rank perhaps a little too tenaciously; but he must know as well as you or I do that there’s no real reason for his opposition in this case. He never can hold out against us when we have love and right on our side. We will do this now, without any delay. Then I shall have you unreservedly all the rest of the evening and can come to you again tomorrow afternoon to have a last word with my love before sailing. And you will have that element of pain removed-that of perpetual false appearances. You will not feel nearly so much alone; you will have sympathy and encouragement in some quarters I know of, and you will be able to hear from me, to write to me, openly and with some regularity. In any case, you must write, and you must hear from me, if it has to be through my mother. But don’t let it be through my mother, darling! Do as I wish you at once, and let us have all clear. All this secrecy and underhandeness is miserable. A while ago I should have said this nothing could induce me to deceit, but now this is very like deceit. Ah! You and love have taught me that I am capable of more than I imagined. I’m afraid you might teach me almost anything, darling; but don’t teach me any more deception just now. Let us unlearn the old lesson and all will be well!” He had her in his arms now, his blue eyes looking straight into her grey ones, the earnestness of his appeal and his passion expressing themselves rather by the intense low monotony of his voice than by his imperfectly-connected utterance. His hat had fallen off, and lay on the grass at their feet, and the moon shone full upon his face. The face was that of one used to mastery— thoughtful, fair for a seaman's essentially handsome, with its broad forehead, abundant, short, dark hair and close dark heard. Lifting her lightly, he sat her on her feet, and would straight have sought an interview with the Judge; but Marjorie stopped him piteously. “No, no, no!” said she: “Reube, you mustn’t think of such a thing. I know father better than you do. It would be a thousand times worse than useless. And he is all I’ll have-his love is all I’ll have to comfort me while you’re gone. Would you take that from me, Reube, and leave me only father’s reproaches or his still more bitter disregard?” And she went on to tell of their conversation that afternoon over the dinner-table. Finally he was constrained to yield, though he could with difficulty master his bitterness over the arrogance which underlaid the Judge’s suavity. But all discussion upon that point was dropped, and as they slowly retraced their steps their talk was of the thousand and one little subjects which all amount to the same thing. But in particular he said: “If all goes well to-morrow morning-” “Mind what you promised your mother and me about the launch!” said Marjorie. goes well tomorrow morning,” said he, “And you see the “C. C. Rawdon” in the afternoon towed down the bay to anchorage below the ‘Oaks’; and if this wind holds, as it’s sure to do, then, darling, let your afternoon walk be down the dykes, and come out on the rocks at Snowdon’s not latter than four o’clock. I shall be put ashore below, and will walk up the flats and meet you; so we will have one more goodbye. [Illegible partway through paragraph] You must try and comfort her as much as you can when I’m gone. Now, mind, you’ll not fail me; you’ll come to me tomorrow, darling!” Now they stood again beside the white gate. It was time for Marjorie to go in. But as he held her in his arms, and they leaned for a moment on the gate, the rich scent of the syringe floating down about them intoxicated them. Silently the moment prolonged itself into a dream of unalloyed happiness, the reaction from their wretchedness and disquiet: forgotten all their anxiety, all the grief of parting, all the uncertainty and the lonely months before them. How long they lasted they knew not! But at length behind the screen of branches was heard the sound of the hall door opening. For one instant her lips were upon his. Then, slipping through the white gate, she sped up the path and vanished out of sight. The Captain stood some moments passing his hands across his forehead in a dazed sort of way, and recovered himself at last, with an effort. Then-lovers being the least original of men-he plucked a blossom of syringa and folded it away with a photograph and a silky coil of dark hair. As he walked slowly from the spot he carried a spray of the same bloom, whose overpowering yet pervasive and subtle perfume he likened to the passionate intensity of his love. CHAPTER IV The next afternoon, about three o’clock, Marjorie was traversing a green lane which leads over the marsh to the dykes. As Reube had predicted, there was a light wind, holding fair for the ship to go out that night. The launch had been in all respects successful; and Marjorie, looking out her window before breakfast, had beheld the “C. C. Rawdon” moving swiftly down the river, decorated with gay streamers and many-colored flags, the little black and red tug puffing violently under her side. The ship’s majestic motion over the tawny surface and between the low green banks, the crowded decks, the fluttering of the streamers, the heavy volumes of smoke rolling off to the right before the breeze-all this made a joyous and brilliant picture. But its beauty was lost upon Marjorie. She saw in it only the nearness and certainty of pain, and bitterly resented the bright pageantry. Marjorie had left for “The Oaks,” and for her last farewell with her lover, at an earlier hour than the length of the walk required. She thirsted for the solitude of her path along the dykes. The road she was now traversing ran its devious but level way between two narrow black ditches, of which the farther sides, where the soil had been thrown up into a low ridge, were clothed with a matted luxuriant growth of wild roses and scented flowering shrubs. Here and there a ditch intersected the road, and was crossed upon a few cedar rails laid parallel to one another and with the course of the ditch. About a stone’s throw to the right, at the bottom of a deep, grassy channel, whose windings the road pursued, a slow stream stole on through muffling water-weeds and beds of wild iris. Here and there the green banks stood wider apart, and the quiet current dividing its meager tide flowed round a little interval island, whereon a crop of tall grass rose straight and still, unswayed in its sheltered seclusion; the while the winds were racing ceaselessly across the vast marsh-levels. This, before the dykes were built, had been a tidal river, and these green banks at low tide a slippery chasm of red mud. Reaching this dyke, Marjorie ascended its sloping inner wall and continued her walk along its summit, pausing a moment at the abateaux [aboiteaux] built here for the accommodation of the creek. She watched on the landward side the dwindling pool of backed-up waters; on her left the stream, escaping noisily from the sinice and hurrying out and down the furrowed flats. As she went she fixed her attention upon the thin bearded grasses among which her feet were moving; upon the reddish reach of flats, sloping gently, and edge in the seaward distance by a line of yellow breakers; upon the wind that drove so steadily past her, sweeping ceaselessly the bleak dyke-summit, and hurtling in long streaks of purple and green over the awarded surface of the marsh lands. The only things unmoved by all the stir and hushed tumult, which were sending her hair and hatstrings into confusion, seemed the far-off white cottages on the upland, a few scattered gray barns with red doors and, near by, a single brown haystack. But at her feet the mass of wild roses, wild peas and convolvuli that lined the inner slope of the duke, the wind rushing by above their heads, the broad sun resting drowsily upon them-these were all unmoved, though in the wind’s very teeth. Noting all this minutely, even to the differences among the bumble-bees which droned about the vetch-blossoms-for while all were booming about and alike engrossed in their business, some were giants and others dwarfs, some black and pale grayish gold, and others black and deep orange or rusty red-noting these she succeeded in banishing introspection and miserable thought; but she could not banish the consciousness of dull pain that underlay the brightness and kept importuning for her attention. To be Continued.