A Countess from Canada
Part 3 out of 6
"In a sense we are partners; that is, we agree to work together,
and to supply each other's shortages in stores so far as we can.
But the rivalry is there all the same. Peter M'Crawney knows he
would sell three times the stuff that he does now if it were not
for us; while of course our hands would be freer but for him, only
we are tied to him, because half of our customers are able to pay
us only in skins, and then Peter M'Crawney is our Bank of Exchange."
Katherine could not forbear a grimace as she spoke, for peltry can
be a very odorous currency, and she had to examine every skin
closely before deciding what it was worth in flour, bacon, or
tobacco, because the red man is a past master in the art of
outwitting the white man, when it comes to a question of trade.
"The plan of bartering skins for stores is not a good one, and the
man who buys the skins ought not to be the one who sells the sugar
and tea," Jervis remarked in a dictatorial tone; but Katherine only
laughed at him, and said that he knew nothing whatever about the
red man of the Keewatin wilds, or he would never suggest cash
"Still it will come, and the red man will be educated to a proper
appreciation of his privileges," Jervis maintained, with the quiet
obstinacy that Katherine had sometimes noticed in him before.
"I hope I shall be out of the trade before that time comes," she
said, as she guided the boat in to the landing place. "As soon as
Miles is able to take control of the store I shall return to my
proper avocation of school teaching--that is, always providing
there are children to be taught."
'Duke Radford sat in a cushioned chair at a sun-shiny window of the
kitchen. He looked up with a smile when his daughter entered the
room, and when she bent over him to kiss him he murmured: "Pretty
Katherine", and stroked her face caressingly; then he turned with
the pleased eagerness of a child to greet Jervis, whom he regarded
as a very good friend indeed.
Katherine sighed as she went back to help with the unlading of the
boat. It was a great comfort to feel that her father suffered
nothing either in body or mind, but sometimes she would have been
very thankful if she could have gone to him with her business
worries, and got his advice on things which perplexed her so much.
However, it was something to be thankful for that his burden of
apprehension was lifted so completely, and the thought of this
banished her tendency to sighing, bringing the smiles back instead.
Life might be hard, but while there was hope in it, it could not be
"Are you ready, Mary?"
"In one minute, Father. Let me see: three bags, a valise, a
hold-all, a portmanteau, two hatboxes, a camping sack, a case of
books, and a handbag. Oh dear, what a collection of things to look
after! How I wish we were like the dogs, dear creatures, which
grow their own clothes and have only their tails to hold up, or to
wag in sign of amity!"
The speaker was a girl of perhaps twenty, although she had one of
those quiet reserved faces which render difficult a correct
guessing of the age. She was standing in the porch of the Bellevue
Hotel, Temiskaming, and was garbed as if for rough travel, in coat
and skirt of heather-brown cloth, faced with brown leather, with a
brown hat on her head, and brown boots on her feet which reached
well above the ankle. Indeed her attire was so trim, and so
exceedingly suitable for rough work, that everyone at the first
glance decided she must be English.
"I fancy you would not care to wear the same coat always, nor yet
to wag the same tail," laughed her father, a genial-looking man of
fifty, who was dressed with equal fitness for rough travel, and was
just now intent on hurrying his daughter to the lake boat, which
was getting up steam at a little distance.
"Like it or not, I expect it is what I shall be reduced to by the
end of the summer," laughed Mary Selincourt, as she watched the
various bags and bundles being piled on to a barrow by the hotel
"Well, look your last on civilization and come along, for that boat
won't wait much longer," said Mr. Selincourt, adding with a laugh:
"unless indeed you are beginning to repent, in which case it is not
too late to change your mind and go back to Miss Griffith."
"Thank you! I never change my mind unless it is about the weather,
and I wouldn't turn back on this journey on any account whatever."
"Not if I turned back myself?" he enquired, as they went on board
"No; unless, of course, you were ill, in which case, I suppose, my
sense of duty would oblige me to stop, even while my inclination
was dragging me, with both hands, as near to the North Pole as a
woman may hope to get," she said, with a nervous catching of her
breath which showed some agitation behind.
"But James Bay isn't the North Pole," objected Mr. Selincourt.
"It is nearer though than this, I suppose. And this is better than
Montreal," she answered, then turned to talk to a gentleman who had
come on board before them, and was bound for a fishing camp higher
up the lake.
Lake Temiskaming is thirty miles long, and they reached its end in
the evening. But, as Mr. Selincourt had made arrangements to keep
the boat for use as a floating hotel until the next morning, their
first night in the wilds was a very comfortable one.
At dawn next morning everyone was astir. Three river boats were
landed; these were made light enough for portage work, and strong
enough for weight carrying. With them were landed some men engaged
at a point farther down the lake, who had undertaken to work the
boats up the Abbitibbi River to Hannah Bay. The men, although
there were plenty of them, looked askance at the luggage which had
to be unladen from the steamer and packed into the boats. They
were thinking of the portages, and the numberless times those bags,
bales, bundles, and boxes would have to be carried over miles of
portages on their shoulders. But the pay was good, quite twice
what they could have earned in any other direction, and as they
were too wise to quarrel with their daily bread, which in this case
was only biscuit, they accepted the burdens in silence.
Mr. Selincourt and Mary travelled always in the second boat with
the personal luggage which had surrounded Mary in the hotel porch,
while the boat which went in front and the one which came after
were laden with the heavier luggage. For many days after this
their journey went on. Sometimes they would make not more than
seven or eight miles in a day when the portages were bad, and on
one record day the total distance covered was only four miles. The
weather was well-behaved as a whole, although occasionally the rain
came down at a pour. Being so early in the summer, the rivers were
very full, so there was never any danger of running aground,
although they had to face many risks in going down the rapids, when
they had crossed the height of land on a ten-mile portage, and
began to descend the Mattagami River. The longest journey must
come to an end at last, however, and one hot afternoon late on in
June the three boats skirted the last headland of James Bay, and
caught sight of the flag flying from the staff above the fish shed.
"Father, look, there is my flag!" cried Mary, in great excitement.
"Don't you remember I made an especial flag for the fleet, and sent
it up by Mr. Ferrars? Why, how nice it looks, and somehow I feel
Just as if I were coming home."
"That is how I feel," responded Mr. Selincourt. "It is pretty
country too, but it makes me feel downright bad to think of all
these square miles of territory going to waste, so to speak, with
no one but a few Indians for population, and then to remember the
land hunger in England and----"
But Mary had put her hands over her ears, and cried: "Oh, if you
love me, spare me hearing any more about that land hunger just now!
I am very sorry for all the poor people who want to own three acres
and a cow, but can't afford the luxury; only just for a little
while I want to forget them, and to enjoy all this beauty without
any drawbacks if I can."
"I am afraid you will find the drawbacks, though, in spite of your
eagerness to escape them," said Mr. Selincourt, who had been
quietly examining Seal Cove through a glass. Then he handed the
glass to Mary, and said in a tone too low for the boatmen to hear:
"If I mistake not, the first drawback is there on the shore,
mending a net."
Mary took the glass and looked through it for a couple of minutes
without speaking; then she gave it back, saying, with a shudder:
"What a horrid-looking man!"
"Rather a low type by the look of him. But you must not judge all
the population by your first glimpse of it. Because one man is a
rogue does not prevent all the rest being honest," Mr. Selincourt
said, putting the glass to his eye to get another look at the place
they were approaching.
"Will our hut be down here on the shore?" asked Mary, who was
straining her eyes for a first glimpse of the house they were to
"No; Graham, who was one of the directors of the old company, you
know, told me I should be wise to have it built farther up the
river, at Roaring Water Portage, as it is so much more sheltered
there than down here on the coast."
"Ah! that was real wisdom, for if we make up our minds to stay the
winter, a sheltered position may make a great difference in our
comfort," she said quickly, then stretched out her hand for the
glass to have another look.
"You still think you want to spend next winter so far north?" said
her father, in a questioning tone.
"Why not?" she replied, with a weary note coming into her voice.
"One place is as good as another, only this would be better than
some, if only there is work of some sort to do."
"We shall see how we like it," he answered, then was silent, gazing
at the scene before him, which was looking its fairest on this June
The man mending nets on the shore, who was no other than Oily Dave,
had by this time become aware of the approaching boats, and was
rushing to and fro in a great state of bustle and excitement. They
could hear him calling to someone out of sight, and the sound of
his raucous voice only served to deepen the unpleasant impression
given by his appearance.
"Father, don't say much to that man, I don't like him," Mary said
in a low tone; and Mr. Selincourt nodded in reply, as the boats
drew in to the landing by the fish shed, and Oily Dave came
hurrying forward to greet them.
"Where is Mr. Ferrars?" asked Mr. Selincourt, and for all that he
was a genial, kindly man, thinking evil of none, he could not keep
a hard note out of his voice as he gazed at the mean, shifty face
of Oily Dave.
"He's away somewhere, over to Fort Garry, or perhaps he's crossed
to Akimiski Island. The fleet have been mostly round that way this
week past. Shall I show you round a bit, sir? I'm the acting
manager, formerly sole manager." Oily Dave contrived to throw a
withering emphasis on the latter adjective, and roiled up his eyes
in a manner meant to imply injured innocence, which, however, only
expressed low-down meanness and cunning.
"Ah, yes, I remember Mr. Graham spoke of you!" replied the new
owner, in a strictly non-committal tone. "But why did you say you
are acting manager? I only appointed Mr. Ferrars."
Oily Dave contracted his features into an unpleasant grin. "It
takes them as knows these waters to understand the fishing of them,
sir, and your grand drawing-room, bandbox manager would have been
pretty hard put to it many a time to know what to do for the best,
if it hadn't been for Oily Dave, which is me."
"I see," remarked Mr. Selincourt in a calm and casual tone, then
continued with quiet authority: "Please tell Mr. Ferrars when he
comes back that I have arrived, and ask him if he will come up to
Roaring Water Portage as soon as it is convenient for him to do so."
"Wouldn't you like me to come and guide you up the river?" demanded
Oily Dave, his jaw dropping in a crestfallen manner, for he had
thought what a fine chance he would have of getting ahead of Jervis
"No, thank you, we have travelled too many strange waters these
last few days to need guidance up the last two miles of our
Journey. It is two miles, is it not?"
"Nearer three, sir, but we mostly call it two, because it sounds
better," said Oily Dave. Then he took his greasy old hat off with
a flourish to Mary, and the boats started on again up the main
channel of the river.
There was plenty to interest the travellers now on the left bank of
the river; the fish shed showed a weather-beaten front to the broad
waters of the bay, while beyond it, perched on a high bluff, was a
fanny brown house, with a strange-looking wing built out at the
"Feather, look at that house, and the queer building at the side;
what is it?" cried Mary, who was flushed and eager; for to her this
entrance to Roaring Water River was like coming into her kingdom,
although it was not land her father owned in these parts, but
water, or at least the privilege to fish in the water, and the
right to cut the timber needed for the making of his boats.
"It looks uncommonly like part of an old boat. Well, if it is
Astor M'Kree's work, it would seem as if I have got a man who will
make the best use of the materials at hand," Mr. Selincourt
replied, in a tone of satisfaction.
"Here comes a woman; oh, please, we must stop and speak to her!"
said Mary, as a slatternly figure emerged from the house on the
bluff, and came running down the steep path to the water's edge,
gesticulating and shouting.
"Welcome, sir, and welcome, Miss, to Seal Cove!" cried Mrs. Jenkin
in a breathless tone. "We are all most dreadfully delighted to
have you here, and you will be sure to come and have tea with me on
your first spare afternoon," she panted, in hospitable haste, the
sun shining down on her dusty, unkempt hair, and revealing the rags
in her dress.
Mr. Selincourt looked at his daughter in quiet amusement; but Mary
rose to the occasion in a manner worthy of the country in which she
was living, and answered with sweet graciousness:
"Oh! I will be sure to come; thank you so much for asking me: but
I have got to get my house straight, you know, and that may take me
a few days, so perhaps I will drop down the river some morning
while it is cool, and let you know how I am getting on. Then you
must promise to come and see me."
"Oh, I'll come! I shall be just delighted! You won't mind if I
bring the babies, will you? There are only three of them, and the
oldest isn't five yet; so when I go out I'm forced to take them
with me, don't you see," Mrs. Jenkin said, smiling at the young
lady from England, and serenely oblivious of the defects in her own
"I shall be charmed to entertain the babies, and I will be sure to
come and see you very soon," called Mary, as the boat moved on,
leaving Mrs. Jenkin smiling and waving from the bank.
"What a nice little woman, and how friendly and kind in her
manner!" exclaimed Mary, whereat Mr. Selincourt laughed.
"Has Canada bewitched you already? What is to become of class
distinctions if you are just going to hobnob with anyone who may
happen along?" he asked, his eyes twinkling with fun, for he was
quoting from her own past utterances.
Mary reddened, but she laughed too, then said apologetically: "It
sounds the most fearful snobbery to even mention class distinctions
in these wilds, where the only aristocracy that counts is nobility
of endeavour. But I could not reckon myself that woman's superior,
Father, because under the same circumstances I might have been even
more untidy and down-at-heel than she is."
"It is hard to realize that you could be untidy under any
conditions, but perhaps you might be if you had all the work of a
house and the care of three babies on your hands," Mr. Selincourt
replied with a shake of his head. Then he applied himself to a
careful study of the river banks, which were mostly solitary,
although at intervals rough loghouses showed among the trees.
"Listen to that noise; we are getting near to some rapids," Mary
said, putting up her hand.
"Near to the end of our journey as well, for we stop below the
portage," Mr. Selincourt said, and then the boat swept round the
bend, and they saw before them a long, straight stretch of river,
with houses visible at the far end where the milky hue of the water
showed the river boiling over the rocks.
"So that is Roaring Water Portage! Well, the place is as pretty as
the name is musical. I am very glad," Mary said with a deep sigh
of content, and then she sat in silence while the boats swept up
the last stretch of river, and the long, long journey was done.
The boatmen drew to the left bank, leaving the store and its
outbuildings on the right. Oily Dave had told them that their
house stood to the left of the falls, and although they did not see
it at the first moment of landing, the well-trodden path up from
the water's edge showed that it must be near at hand.
"There it is. But it does not look a bit new. Oh, I am glad!"
exclaimed Mary, as a long, low hut came in sight, with glass
windows and an unpainted front door, which just now stood wide
open, while two small girls occupied the doorstep, and were making
dolls' bonnets from leaves and plaited grass.
"I'm afraid that is not our house; someone is living there," said
Mr. Selincourt: and the two small girls, becoming at this moment
aware of the approach of strangers, sprang to their feet and fled
into the house, casting the millinery away as they went.
"I'm afraid so too; but at least we can go and enquire where our
house is to be found," Mary answered.
Then they walked up to the door and knocked, and immediately a
slight, girlish figure came into view, with a small girl clinging
to either hand.
"Can you tell us where Mr. Selincourt's house is to be found?"
asked Mary, wondering why the girl had such sad eyes, and what
relation she could be to the two little ones.
"This is Mr. Selincourt's house. I came over this afternoon to see
that everything was in right order, that is all," the sad-eyed
girl--or was she a woman?--explained, drawing back for Mary to
Miss Selincourt entered, put her bag on the table, and gazed round
with a deep sigh of satisfaction.
"What a charming room! I think I should have been ready to weep if
this had not been our house. Are you Mrs. M'Kree?" she asked
doubtfully, for, although the girl looked so young, she had just
heard one of the children whisper, "Mummy."
"No, I am Mrs. Burton, and I come from the store across the river.
Mrs. M'Kree lives farther up the river, above the second portage,
so it is not easy for her to come down every day, and I have kept
the house open for her."
"It is very kind of you!" exclaimed Mary gratefully, realizing that
here was a very different specimen of womanhood, from the
good-natured slattern who had greeted her at Seal Cove.
"We have to be kind to each other in these wilds, or we should be
badly off sometimes," Mrs. Burton rejoined. Then she said timidly:
"We are very glad to welcome you, and we all feel that you have
conferred a great favour on us by coming to stay here this summer."
Something like an awkward lump got into Mary's throat then. She
had come the long, toilsome journey solely for her own pleasure,
and to be near her father, yet here was one thanking her for the
privilege her coming conferred on these lone dwellers in the
solitudes. She was rarely a creature of impulse, and always prided
herself on the way she kept her head; but the sweet friendliness of
the sad-eyed little woman touched her mightily, and stooping
forward she kissed Mrs. Burton warmly, then promptly apologized,
being properly ashamed of her forwardness.
"Oh, please forgive me! I really could not help it, and you--you
looked so kind!" she said ruefully.
Mrs. Burton laughed, although she looked rather embarrassed, then
she said gently: "I am afraid you must be very tired. If you will
sit down I will quickly get you some tea."
"Please don't trouble. Father and I are quite used to doing things
for ourselves, and I can make a kettle boil over my spirit lamp
while the men are bringing the luggage up from the boats," Mary
said hastily, feeling that she simply could not have this gentle,
refined woman waiting upon her,
But for all her gentleness Mrs. Burton could be firm when she
chose, and she replied quietly: "I should not think of going away
until I had seen you with a meal ready prepared. The fire is all
ready for lighting in the stove, and that will save your spirit
lamp, and you are in the wilderness now, remember, where spirit is
difficult to obtain."
The two little girls trotted after their mother. Mary tried to
make friends with them, but they were not used to strangers, so
showed her only averted faces and pouting red lips, which made her
understand that their friendship must be left to time.
When the luggage had been brought up from the boat, Mrs. Burton had
the kettle boiling, and then she sent one of the men across with a
boat to the store, giving him a message for Miles, which resulted
in a basket of fresh fish coming over at once. These, delicately
broiled over a fire of spruce chips, and served piping hot, made,
as Mr. Selincourt observed, a supper fit for a king.
Mrs. Burton stayed with her small daughters to share the meal, and
if she thought ruefully of the family over the river, who would
have to cook their own supper, and also go without the fish which
had been intended for them, she said nothing about it, One must
always suffer something in the give-and-take of life, and there
were plenty of canned goods at the store which might serve at a
"Now I must go," she said, when the supper dishes had been washed.
"It is time that Beth and Lotta went to bed, while my father will
be wearying for me if I am too long away."
"Your father?" broke from Mary in surprise, then she stopped
abruptly, realizing that her acquaintance with Mrs. Burton was too
short for over-much curiosity.
"I am a widow," the little woman answered, with the simple dignity
which became her so well. "I live with my father, or did; but now,
strictly speaking, it is he, poor man, who lives with us, and
Katherine earns the living for us all."
"Katherine is your sister?" asked Mary, and now there was tender
sympathy in her tone, and she was understanding why Mrs. Burton's
eyes were so sad.
"Katherine is my younger sister, and she is just wonderful," the
little woman said, with love and admiration thrilling her tones.
"She has done a man's work all the winter, and she is keeping the
business together as well as poor Father could have done."
Would They Be Friends?
When Mrs. Burton had gone, Mary set to work to inspect the little
loghouse, and make things comfortable for the night. But there was
not very much that needed doing, and their weeks of river travel
had shorn away so many habits which are the outcome of too much
civilization, that they had come down to a primitive simplicity of
living. The hut contained two small bedrooms, scarcely bigger than
cabins on board ship, one sitting-room, and a lean-to kitchen in
the rear. There was not an atom of paint about the place; it was
all bare, brown wood, restful to the eyes, and in perfect harmony
with the surrounding wilderness.
The boatmen had pitched their tent at the down-river side of the
house, and were sitting round a fire on the ground smoking their
pipes in great comfort and content. Mary had finished her survey
of the inside of her new home, and now wandered outside the house
to see what manner of country lay in the immediate neighbourhood of
Roaring Water Portage. Her father was sitting on a bench by the
hut door, drowsily comfortable with a cigar, and busy with
numberless plans for the future. He was not in a mood for talking
just then, and Mary was glad to be alone for a while.
It was broad daylight still, although the evening was getting on;
but the trees grew so thickly all about the hut that she could see
little beyond trunks and foliage, so, finding a little path which
led upward, she commenced to climb. Great boulders strewed the
ground here between the trees, and although by the sound she knew
herself to be near the river, she could not see it until after a
stiff climb of twenty minutes or so she emerged on an open space
above the falls. Here indeed was beauty enough to satisfy even her
desire for it. The undulating ground all about and below her was
mostly forest-clad, the larches showed in their vivid green against
the sombre hue of the pines, while giant cedars stood out black
against the evening sky. On one side, right away in the distance,
the waters of the bay reached to the horizon, but for to-night Mary
turned her back on the sea; it was the land that charmed her most.
Presently, just where the glory of the sunset reflected itself in
the river, she saw a boat coming skimming down the current. It was
just the touch of life that was necessary to lift the weird
solemnity from those silent forest reaches. From where she stood,
leaning against the trunk of a tree on the hilltop, Mary could see
without being seen; for she still wore the travelling dress which
so nearly matched the tree stem in colour, and a brown veil was
over her face, a necessary precaution against the mosquitoes which
There was a girl in the boat, with soft, wavy hair, pretty and
feminine in appearance, but with strength and decision in every
movement, which made Mary whisper to herself: "That must be
Katherine; and how graceful she is! I had quite expected her to be
a great, clumping creature, because Mrs. Burton said she did a
There was a boy in the boat as well, but it was the girl who
claimed Mary's attention now. The boat drew in at a point above
the falls where a little shed served as boathouse, and then the boy
and the girl rapidly unloaded various packages and bundles, which
were dumped in a heap on the bank, while the boat was drawn in and
secured under the shed.
"Phil, we shall have to make two journeys--we can never do it in
one," the girl said, and her voice had a tired ring which made the
unseen listener on the hilltop pity her exceedingly.
"Just you sit down for five minutes while I whistle for the dogs,"
said the boy. "They will hear if Miles doesn't, and there will be
such a clamour that everyone will know we are close home."
As he spoke he hooked two fingers between his lips, and the
resultant whistles were so piercing and shrill that Mary would have
been glad to thrust her fingers in her ears, only now she would not
move through fear of drawing attention to herself.
The whistles had scarcely ceased to vibrate through the quiet air
when in the distance there arose a mighty clamour of barking. Mary
caught her breath and waited now to see what was coming, and in
less than five minutes two huge dogs came bounding down the portage
path to the shed where the girl and boy were waiting.
"I must make friends with those dogs before I am many hours older,
or I shall be afraid to stir away from the house," Mary said to
herself, with a little shiver, as she watched the big brutes
But they were wanted for work, not play, so their gambols came to a
speedy end. The boy loaded each one with packages, and, picking up
a couple of bundles himself, started up the portage path, closely
followed by the dogs, which perfectly understood the work that was
required of them.
Then the girl rose to her feet, and stood for a moment gazing at
the golden glories of the setting sun. She stretched her arms out
with a quick, eager movement, as if asking for something she
yearned to possess, then dropped them to her side again, and
turning, proceeded to load the remainder of the packages and
bundles on to her own shoulders.
If only the river had not flowed between, Mary might have gone to
her assistance. As it was, she stood watching the bowed figure go
slowly up the portage path to disappear among the bushes, then she
also turned to retrace her steps to the hut. But the tired girl
was very much in Mary's thoughts that evening. Why had she
stretched out her arms to the glowing west with such a gesture of
entreaty? Of course it might have been just girlish
dissatisfaction with a toilsome, colourless life, or it might be
that there were ambitions and desires which had to be sternly
"I wonder if we shall be friends?" she said presently, speaking
aloud because she had entirely forgotten that she was not alone.
"Friends with whom?" asked her father sleepily. He was still
sitting on the bench by the hut door, and Mary was leaning against
the doorpost. She had been standing so ever since she came down
the hill, and her thoughts were still busy with the girl who had
looked so tired and carried such heavy burdens.
"I have seen a girl this evening, such a pretty girl, and so
graceful in her movements, but she was doing a portage as if she
were a man, and I felt that I should like to know her," Mary
answered, her voice and manner more dreamy than usual. Indeed, it
seemed as if the place had laid a spell upon her already.
"Probably you will have what you want, and then you will find
yourself disappointed. You must not expect to find much refinement
and culture in a wild place like this," Mr. Selincourt said.
"I do not look for it. But however rough or illiterate this girl
may be, I think she has a soul, a longing for something she does
not possess," went on Mary, who was weaving fancies and theories
together in quite a remarkable fashion for her.
"Most women long for what they don't possess, and some men do the
same," replied Mr. Selincourt, laughing a little. Then he rose and
stretched himself, saying: "I believe I will go to bed, for I am so
tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open. It is so late that
Jervis Ferrars will hardly come to-night now, although I should
have been glad to see him, for I am really anxious to know how the
fishing is going."
"Well, you won't have to wait long, for here he comes, I
fancy--although it seems funny that I should remember his step
after so many months," said Mary, as a firm tread sounded on the
path coming up through the bushes from the water's edge.
"Is that you, Ferrars?" asked Mr. Selincourt eagerly, his
sleepiness vanishing as if by magic.
"Yes, sir," responded a voice, and the next moment Jervis Ferrars
appeared in sight.
"I'm sorry that I was not on hand to welcome you when you arrived,"
"No matter, no matter at all!" exclaimed Mr. Selincourt, shaking
hands with him; but Mary only vouchsafed a nod in response to the
young man's courteous salutation.
"My welcome is only a little belated, but it could not be more
sincere. You have come just at the right time, I think," Jervis
went on; and at the suggestion of Mr. Selincourt the two sat down
on the bench side by side, while Mary remained leaning against the
doorpost as before.
"How is the fishing?" asked Mr. Selincourt.
"It is going very well indeed, and you will get a very good return
for your money this year, and a much better one next season. I
have been away on Akimiski all day, and I have been simply amazed
at the amount of fish which could be caught, cured, and marketed if
only we had the necessary plant."
"What sort of fish? Everyone is saying that Hudson Bay is played
out for seal and walrus, while whales are getting scarcer every
year," said Mr. Selincourt, who had bought out the old company
cheaply because of this growing scarcity.
"That may be," replied Jervis, "although, being a stranger to these
waters, I'm not in a position to give a reliable opinion. But of
lesser fish, such as cod, halibut, lobster, salmon, and that sort
of thing, there is enough going to waste to feed a nation."
"I tell you what we will do!" exclaimed Mr. Selincourt. "We will
order the necessary plant, and we will start a curing factory. Of
course we are out of the world for nine months in every year, but
that won't make much difference in the end; and we got our fishing
rights cheaply enough to enable us to make a very good thing indeed
out of our venture before we have done."
"Don't you think it is rather grasping of you to want to make more
money, Daddy, when you have got so much already?" broke in Mary, in
a playful tone, yet with some underlying seriousness of purpose.
"Not a bit of it, my dear. Because I have got some money should be
no barrier to my getting more, if I get it honestly," her father
answered with soothing toleration; for Mary had ideas, and was apt
to air them in rather unmeasured language when she was roused.
"It seems so ignoble to spend all one's time and energy in making
money when there are so many wrongs which need righting, and so
many people who need helping," she said, with a note of pathos in
"The most effectual way of helping people is to assist them in
helping themselves," broke in Jervis. "If Mr. Selincourt develops
this fishing as it is capable of being developed, he will do more
real good than if he spent hundreds of pounds in charity."
"If you were really a Canadian you would have said dollars, not
pounds," she interrupted, with mock gravity, just as if she were
making fun of him to his face.
"I am an Englishman," he said quietly, too much in earnest just
then to resent her levity, "so it is most natural to me to speak of
pounds. But that makes no difference to the question at issue.
When your father gets his factory going he will employ twenty men
where he now employs one. They in turn will be able to support
wives and families, which will mean employment for storekeepers,
"Oh, spare me any more, I beg!" she implored penitently, "and I
promise never, never to object to money-making schemes again. I
know you were going to add that the twenty men's wives would want
twenty new hats, and so there would be an opening for a first-class
millinery establishment at Roaring Water Portage."
"I had not thought of that, but of course it is quite true," he
said, adding with a laugh: "and there would be an opening for a
dressmaker also, don't you see?"
"I don't want to see. I don't want to hear anything more about it
at all. It is all too much in the future, too practical and
commonplace altogether to fit such a twilight as this," she said,
with a touch of petulance. "I want to know about the people here.
What sort of a man is Oily Dave? He looks a veritable old rascal."
"And for once appearances are not deceptive," replied Jervis.
"Since I have been here he has tried to quietly do for me about
once a week upon an average. He so nearly succeeded the first time
that it has encouraged him to persevere,"
"How truly horrid!" she cried with a shiver. "But there are nicer
people to compensate for him, I hope. Who is that delightfully
hospitable woman who lives in the house on the bluff, with a
boatlike projection at one end?"
"That is Mrs. Jenkin, my landlady, and the boat-like projection is
my abode. It is very comfortable, too," he answered.
"Then who is the very pretty girl who moves with as much grace as
if she had been brought up in drawing-rooms all her life, yet has
to carry heavy burdens over a portage like a man?" asked Mary
eagerly, her other questions having been intended only to lead up
Jervis Ferrars stood up with a quick movement, and a feeling that
the questioning had become suddenly intolerable; but his voice was
quiet and steady as he answered: "That would be Miss Radford, whose
father has the store over the river. But he has been ill for a
long time, poor man, and with little hope of recovery, so his
daughter has a very hard life. I am going over to see him now, if
you will excuse me. There is no doctor here, of course, so I have
done what I could for him."
"It was another daughter, a dear, delightful little person named
Mrs. Burton, who was here when we came," said Mary. "I am glad to
find there are such nice people here, and I hope we shall be
Jervis flung up his head with a haughty movement, almost as if he
resented the kindly overture, but he replied civilly enough; only
the thought in his mind as he went down to the river was that poor
Katherine, with her hard, drudging life for the good of others, was
so much more noble than this girl, who lived only to please
herself, that it would be a condescension on Katherine's part to be
friendly with her. When he reached the store it was to find no one
about but Mrs. Burton and the invalid.
"Ah, I am late to-night!" he said apologetically, and with a
feeling of sharp disappointment. "But Mr. Selincourt has come, and
I had to go over to report progress to him."
"What very nice people they are!" exclaimed Mrs. Burton with
enthusiasm. "I was charmed with Miss Selincourt. She will be a
great acquisition here this summer."
"Yes," Jervis remarked in an abstracted fashion, but not paying
much heed to what was being said, for he was in perplexity as to
why Katherine was not visible; and seeing no prospect of finding
out without a direct question, he made the plunge and asked: "Where
is your sister? Isn't she well?"
"Katherine has gone to bed, because she is so tired to-night. She
and Phil have done the backache portage, as they call it, and it
always wears her so much, poor girl," Mrs. Burton answered with a
sigh. Then she said, with an involuntary lowering of her voice as
she glanced at her father: "Katherine does not like the idea of our
telling Father that Mr. Selincourt has come. She says it may
excite him, and be very harmful. What do you think about it?"
Jervis glanced at the invalid, who sat in a chair by the open door,
gazing out at the evening sky, where the twilight still lingered.
'Duke Radford was sitting with his head stooped a little forward,
and smiling placidly as if his thoughts pleased him.
"I don't think it would hurt him; he takes so little notice," the
young man answered slowly. Then he added: "But Miss Radford would
know better about that than I do, and if she is afraid of the
effect upon him, it would be well to be careful."
"I don't think Katherine knows more about Father than I do, because
you see she is not much with him, and I don't think he understands
the difference between one person and another," said Mrs. Burton.
"He seems to find as much pleasure in talking to Oily Dave as to
Astor M'Kree, and that is certainly different from what he used to
be. But it will be very hard if we have to shut nice people like
the Selincourts out of the house just because it may upset Father,
who probably won't even realize that they are strangers at all."
"Well, we can but try him. Let us see if the name brings any worry
to him," said Jervis, and going across to the door he began to talk
to the invalid. "Mr. Selincourt and his daughter have come to
spend the summer here; they live in the hut across the river that
Astor M'Kree has done up so nicely. Would you like them to come
and see you?"
'Duke Radford looked at him curiously, as if not understanding what
he was talking about; then he said slowly: "Oh yes, I like to see
people, nice people; where do they come from?"
"England," replied the young man.
The invalid shivered, then said more haltingly than before: "I
don't like to think of England, it makes me sad; but Selincourt is
a pretty name--a very pretty name indeed!"
Mr. Selincourt is Indiscreet
When Katherine reached home that night after doing the "backache
portage" it seemed to be the last straw to her burden of endurance
to be told that Mr. Selincourt had arrived. The loss of the supper
fish did not trouble her, for she and Phil had brought home a fine
salmon, which they had taken from an Indian woman in exchange for a
couple of small packets of hairpins, which in England might have
fetched perhaps a halfpenny each, but in that remote district were
priced at a quarter of a dollar. It was the news of the arrival
which upset her so badly. She suffered tortures while she listened
to Mrs. Burton's eager talk about the Selincourts, of Mr.
Selincourt's kindly manner, and Miss Selincourt's graceful charm.
"Hush, hush!" she kept saying. "You will excite and worry Father
with all this talk of new people."
"I don't think so," Mrs. Burton replied. "See how peaceful he is,
and how little notice he takes of anything outside. He will not
remark any difference between Mr. Selincourt and Stee Jenkin,
except that he may find the former more interesting to talk to."
But Katherine shook her head, stealing many a glance at her father
while she ate her supper, and worrying lest the name of the man he
had wronged should stir some dim memory in his clouded mind, and
bring up some ghost from the hidden past, to turn his peaceful days
into a nightmare of unrest once more. The salmon might have been
sawdust for all the taste it had for her that night, and when
supper was done she hurried through the work which could not be
left, then, pleading weariness, went off to bed quite an hour
before her usual time.
Although she went to bed she could not sleep. She heard Jervis
come in and stay talking to Mrs. Burton. She also heard him say
that he was going to take Mr. and Miss Selincourt across to
Akimiski on the following day. Then Jervis left, her father went
with slow, faltering steps to his bed, and Nellie came in, but,
thinking her sister asleep, moved softly and did not speak, for
which Katherine was mutely grateful.
It was very early on the following morning when she saw the boat
with Mr. Selincourt and Mary slipping down the river, rowed by some
of the men who had brought them up from the lakes. So it would be
a day of respite, for the Selincourts would not be back until
evening, too late to go visiting among their neighbours, and
Katherine's spirits rose immediately, because there was one more
day to be happy in.
She had to go to Fort Garry that day, and started an hour before
noon, taking Phil with her as usual, and having her boat piled high
with skins taken in barter, bags of feathers, and other marketable
products. There was a short outlet to the bay from the river, a
weedy channel leading through flat meadows of vivid green; only, to
use an Irishism, they were not meadows at all, but stretches of
swamp, in Canadian parlance a muskeg: and the unwary creature,
human or animal, that set foot thereon was speedily engulfed. Very
beautiful these stretches of rich green looked on a bright summer's
day, and Katherine exclaimed in delight as she forced the boat
through the weedy channel, which became every week more difficult
"Oh, Phil, isn't it lovely!" she cried.
"Can't say I admire it," the boy answered grumpily. "The air down
here always seems to choke me, and it is twice as much trouble to
drive the boat through this narrow, weedy channel as it is to go
the longer way round."
"I know we shall have to cease coming this way soon, but it is
pretty, and I like it," Katherine answered, and would not admit
even to herself that her chief reason in choosing those weedy
byways, was the desire to avoid all danger of an encounter with the
The voyage to Fort Garry was without incident, and the interview
with the M'Crawneys was of the usual type. Mrs. M'Crawney was
low-spirited and homesick, yearning for Ireland, for the smell of
the peat reek and the society of her neighbours.
"I shall die if I stay here much longer. It is stagnation, not
life at all; indeed, I'd sooner be dead," moaned the poor
"But you have books," said Katherine, pointing to a well-filled
shelf in one corner of the room. "And if you are so lonely, why
not take some girl from an orphanage for a companion? It would be
good for the child and good for you too."
"Books are not satisfying, and I think it a great waste of time to
be always reading," Mrs. M'Crawney replied with a touch of
asperity. Her husband's love of books and willingness to spend
money upon them was always a sore point with her, only Katherine
did not know that, "And I wouldn't have a strange girl about the
house, not whatever. I never could abide having to do with other
"Then I am afraid you will have to go lonely," Katherine answered,
feeling that it was quite beyond her powers to make any more useful
suggestion to the poor unhappy woman, whose ailment consisted more
in a discontented mind than a diseased body.
The M'Crawneys were such an ill-matched pair that it always gave
her a feeling of irritation to go there, while Peter M'Crawney
himself was too much addicted to fulsome compliments to make her
willing to face him oftener than need be. There was a cool.
breeze creeping over the water as they turned back towards home,
and this tempered the heat, making rowing a pure pleasure.
"Let us go the longer way," pleaded Phil, who did not care for the
solemn stretches of green swamp on either side of the backwater.
But Katherine had been resting on her oars and looking round,
catching sight as she did so of a fishing boat, with its brown
sails set, making for the river mouth. With a fluttering of her
pulses she told herself that this was most likely the fleet boat
which had taken the new owner out to Akimiski, and was now bringing
him back. If this were the case, her little row boat and the
fisher would enter the river channel by the fish sheds side by
side. She would be hot and untidy with the vigorous exercise of
rowing, while Miss Selincourt, cool and calm, would gaze at her
with lofty disdain, regarding her merely as a rough working girl.
This was not to be endured for a moment, and, setting her hands
with a tighter grip on the oars, Katherine said decidedly: "We will
go through the swamps to-day. I want to get home as quickly as I
can, for there are so many things to see to, and a lot of booking
Phil resigned himself to the inevitable with a rather dour face,
and there was silence between them for quite ten minutes, as
Katherine, forced by the narrowness of the way, ceased rowing, and,
shipping her oars, picked up a paddle which formed part of the
boat's equipment, and commenced to paddle her way through the short
"What's that?" asked Phil sharply, jerking up his head to listen
again for a sound which would not have caught his ear at all if he
had not been so silent just then.
"I heard nothing," said Katherine, pausing in her work, but holding
the boat steady by planting her paddle in a group of rushes and
holding it fast. "What kind of sound was it, Phil?"
"Something like a fox makes when it is caught in a trap," replied
Phil. Then he cried eagerly: "There it is, and I believe it is a
man! Ahoy there! where are you, and what is wrong?"
"Help, help!" cried a voice from somewhere, only the trouble was to
know where to locate it.
"Yes, we will help you, only we can't think where you are; can't
you let us know?" called Katherine, sending her voice in a
reassuring shout over the reaches of treacherous green.
"I am here, holding on to some rushes," the voice said, and
Katherine fairly gasped with amazement to find the submerged one so
close at hand; for the patch of rushes to which she was holding the
boat was the only one anywhere near, and a little ridge of solid
ground connected it with the river bank, which was perhaps forty
"Be careful to keep calling out now," she said, preparing to force
the boat out of its channel and into the liquid mud of the fatal
"Here, here, here!" said the voice, sounding now so thick and
hoarse that Katherine at once decided it must be one of the
fishermen who had risked his life on the treacherous green of the
swamp, although she wondered that anyone could have lived at Seal
Cove for a week and not known of the danger that lay in the swamps.
"Phil, where can he be?" she cried, her voice sharp now with the
terror of having a man in peril of his life at her side, and yet
being unable to help him.
"There he is; I saw the rushes move," yelled Phil. "No, not that
clump--you are looking wrong; it is the one that has got a lupin
blooming in it. Ah, I saw it move again! Keep your spirits up,
old fellow, and we will have you out in no time!"
"But how?" groaned Katherine under her breath, for no effort of
hers would move the boat a foot farther through that awful slime,
and if she got wedged she would be forced to stay there until
someone came in search. Then, remembering the horrible danger of
the man, she called out: "Please don't struggle at all, only just
keep still, and I think we can save you, for we have got rope with
"So we have! My word, how fortunate!" exclaimed Phil, tugging a
big bundle of stout hempen cord from under the other things of
their miscellaneous lading.
"Get the other bundle too; I must have both," said Katherine, and,
taking the first, she made a slip knot and a loop which would
tighten to a certain extent.
"What are you going to do? You can't throw it over him from here,"
said the boy.
"Phil, can you be very brave, darling, and walk across on the
oars?" Katherine asked, a sob catching in her throat. "I will slip
this other rope round you; then, if you slip in, I can drag you
"I'll go," said Phil, alert and ready. Then he kicked off his
boots, which were stout--and every ounce mattered when one took to
walking on muskegs; but as his clothing consisted of only a flannel
shirt and serge knickerbockers there were no clothes for him to
Katherine slipped one loop of rope over his shoulders, put the
other looped rope into his hand, then laid an oar on the mud.
"Now, go; the rushes will hold you when you get there," she said
With light, cautious movements Phil stepped out on to the oar,
balancing himself like a tightrope dancer, and because he was so
small and light he passed in safety where a heavier person would
have been quickly submerged.
Katherine stood up in the boat paying out both coils of rope. Her
face was ghastly white, and her heart was beating to suffocation.
She had not felt like this that day when she ventured her life on
the ice to save Jervis Ferrars in the flood. But that had been her
own danger, this was her brother's, and therein lay the difference.
"Landed!" cried Phil, in a quavering tone of triumph, as he planted
his bare feet firmly in the rushes, which, happily, were so matted
together that they would not let him through. Then he stooped, and
Katherine heard him talking to the poor wretch caught in the mud
beyond. "Now, let me slip this over your arm. That's right; we've
got you safe enough, and they are English ropes, strong enough to
pull a carthorse out of a bear pit. You mustn't struggle, though,
however much you feel like it."
"Phil, can you reach the oar?" Katherine cried, her voice hoarse,
for she could hardly endure the strain of the waiting.
"Yes," said the boy, stooping now and touching the perilous bridge
which had carried him to the comparative safety of the clump of
"Then lay it across the clump, and well under the man's hands; keep
it as firm as you can for him, while I haul on the rope. Now
With all her strength Katherine hauled at the rope. She was
sitting now with her feet braced against the thwarts, and with
every muscle tense she strained and strained until the perspiration
streamed down her face, and the hot air of the swamp as it rose up
seemed to choke her.
[Illustration: With all her strength Katherine hauled at the rope.]
"Hooray, he's coming!" yelled Phil, and Katherine, who had been
almost fainting, gathered her courage for yet another effort.
Phil was helping now, but, best of all, the poor victim of the
muskeg was doing his share also, and at the end of a quarter of an
hour of pulling, tugging, and straining he was on his knees in the
clump of rushes beside Phil, and Katherine was able to rest her
bleeding hands and plan the next stage of that perilous journey.
But a few moments of rest that poor mud-coated wretch must have
before taking any more risks, so she said cheerfully: "Now, stay as
you are for five or ten minutes, just to get your strength back a
little, and I will shift my cargo to accommodate you, for you will
need a reserved seat, I fancy. Phil, take your handkerchief and
wipe the poor man's face. I'm afraid it is rather a dirty one.
Your handkerchiefs are never fit to be seen, but it is better than
Phil took a grimy blue-and-yellow cotton rag from the pocket of his
serge nether garments, and proceeded to wipe the rescued man's face
with as much force and energy as if he had been polishing tin pans
with a view to making them shine.
"Softly, softly! How would you like to have your own face rubbed
in that fashion?" admonished Katherine; and then, finishing her
preparations, she stood up in the boat in readiness to help the
poor man through his last stage to safety. "Please throw me that
oar," she said.
Phil took up the oar, and pitched it with great dexterity, so that
it fell close to the boat.
Katherine picked it up, making a little grimace of disgust at its
filthiness; then, wiping the worst of the mud off on the nearest
clump of rushes, she proceeded to lash both oars together with the
other end of the rope that was tied to Phil.
"Are you ready?" she asked sharply, for the man still knelt gasping
and panting, and seemed to have no power to help himself.
Aided by Phil he rose slowly to his feet, then said in a hoarse
voice: "I don't think I can walk that bridge."
"You will have to do it, or stay where you are until we can row
round to Seal Cove to bring assistance for you. Even then it may
be hours before help can reach you, for the fishermen are all out
to-day, and Mr. Ferrars is away also, as he has had to go to
Akimiski to-day with Mr. Selincourt and his daughter."
There was contempt in Katherine's tone now, and she meant it to be
so. If the man had a scrap of courage in him, she must fan it into
active life, but if he were a poltroon, pure and simple, then she
must do the best she could and leave the result.
To her delight, however, he lifted his head with an angry jerk. "I
will come, of course, but I shall sink in and you will have to pull
me out again," he said.
"Oh, you won't sink very far, and I have you well roped!" she said
cheerfully. "But if you are able to spare him, let Phil dance
across first, then he will be here to help me to pull if need be."
"Go along, boy, I will follow," said the man, and Katherine saw him
breathing deep and hard as Phil bounded lightly across, reaching
the boat without any mishap.
"Now is your turn; be quick!" she cried authoritatively, but her
heart seemed to fairly stop beating as the poor man took his first
step forward and reeled on the sinking oars. "Quick!" she
screamed, giving a sharp tug at the cord, which seemed to rouse
him, for then he came on sharply enough.
Katherine, standing up in the boat, put out her hands to steady him
when he came within reaching distance, and tried not to show how
she shrank from his exceeding filthiness.
"There," she said soothingly, as he sank in a limp heap in the seat
she had cleared for him, "you are safe now, and you will soon get
over the fright."
"Thank you!" he murmured, but seemed incapable of further speech,
and sat silent while they dragged up the bridge of oars, which had
sunk out of sight.
"It was lucky you tied them together," said Phil, when the oars
were dragged up and the handles cleansed on the rushes.
"Yes, if I had not thought of doing that we might have whistled for
our oars," said Katherine, with a laugh that had a nervous ring.
The man sitting in the boat was, so far as she could see, a
stranger, although he was so liberally coated with mud that it was
exceedingly difficult to make any guesses about his identity, so
there was nothing to account for the trembling which seized upon
her as she looked at him. It was a hard struggle getting the boat
back into the channel, and her hands were so sore with hauling on
the rope that it was positive torture to use the paddle. The sun
was pouring down with scorching brilliancy, and the flies gathered
in black swarms about her face and head as she worked her way into
the main channel again. Arriving there, she leaned forward and
spoke to the man, who sat silent and apparently dazed in the stern
of the boat.
"Are you staying at Seal Cove, and at whose house?" she asked
gently, feeling exceedingly pitiful for the poor fellow, who must
have lost his life if she had not chosen to bring her boat through
the weedy back channel that afternoon.
"No, I have a house at Roaring Water Portage; my name is
Selincourt," he answered.
The paddle which Katherine was stowing in the boat dropped from her
hands with a clatter, and there was positive terror in her eyes as
she gasped: "You are Mr. Selincourt, _the_ Mr. Selincourt?"
"I suppose so; I certainly don't know any other," he said, smiling
a little, which had a grotesque effect, for the mud with which his
face was so liberally smeared had dried stiff in the sunshine, and
the smiling made it crack like a painted mask which has been
"But I thought you had gone to Akimiski?" Katherine said, her
astonishment still so great that she would hardly have believed
even now that the stranger was telling the truth, had it not been
for the trembling which was upon her now that she found herself
face to face with the man whom her father had so seriously wronged
away back in the past.
"I should have been much wiser if I had gone," said Mr. Selincourt.
"But at the last moment I decided to stay and survey the land on
both sides of the river. I am sending back some of the boatmen
with mails to-morrow, and it seemed essential that I should be able
to write definitely to my agent in Montreal about land which I
might wish to purchase. Then I got Stee Jenkin to put me across
the river, and I wandered along the shore, then back along the
river bank until I reached these beautiful green meadows, as I
thought them. But when I started to walk across I began to sink, so
slowly at first that I hardly realized what was wrong."
"That is because the mud is firmer near the bank," said Katherine.
"Right out in the centre it will not bear a duck."
"I should have been under long before, only when I saw what was
coming I sat down, so sank more slowly. But it was horrible,
horrible!" he exclaimed, with a violent shudder.
"Don't think about it more than you can help, and we shall not be
long in getting you home," she said; then bent to her oars and
tried to forget how sorely her blistered hands were hurting her.
"We Must be Friends!"
When her father decided not to go to Akimiski, Mary spent a long
morning in roaming about Seal Cove, visiting the various little
houses dotted near the fish shed, and making herself thoroughly
acquainted with the neighbourhood. But when her father got into
Stee Jenkin's boat, and was rowed across the river to survey the
land on the farther side, Mary had herself rowed up the river, with
the intention of spending the afternoon in arranging the little
brown house to suit her own fancy. The afternoon proved so warm
that she decided on leaving the arranging to the next day, and sat
down to write letters instead. Even this proved a task beyond her
powers, for she was more exhausted than she realized by the long
journey over river and trail, and the hot day was making the
One letter, short and scrappy, got itself written, and then
weariness had its way. Mary went into her little bedroom, and,
lying down, went fast asleep. It was three hours later when she
awoke, and, feeling fearfully ashamed of her laziness, she went out
to the little kitchen to light a fire for getting a cup of tea
ready for her father.
No matter how well-to-do in money and gear people may be, if they
leave the beaten tracks of civilization and immure themselves in
the wilderness they will have to learn to help themselves or else
suffer hardship. So Mary Selincourt, whose father's yearly income
was a good way advanced in a four-figured total, found herself
compelled to the necessity of lighting her own fire, or going
without the tea. There was plenty of kindling wood close to her
hand, so the task presented no especial difficulty, but she laughed
softly to herself as she watched the leaping flames, and thought
how astonished some of her aristocratic friends would be if they
could see her doing domestic work amid such humble surroundings.
When the kettle began to sing she went into the little sitting-room
to set the table for tea, and was enjoying the work as if it were
play and she a child again, when a sound of voices and footsteps
brought her in haste to the open door. Two of the boatmen were
coming up the path from the river leading a mud-coated figure whom
at first Mary did not recognise. But a second glance showed her
that it was really her father. With a cry of alarm she met him at
the door, full of concern for his uncomfortable plight, yet not for
a moment realizing how terrible his danger had been.
"Dear Father, where have you been?" she cried.
"Within a hand-grip of death," he answered, with a quaver of
breakdown in his voice, for it had shaken him fearfully, that long,
slow torture of being sucked into the green ooze of the muskeg.
"Don't talk about it!" she said hastily. "I will put your clean
things ready. There is happily a kettle on the boil; the men will
help you to bath, and when you are in bed I will bring you tea."
"Yes," he answered languidly, while she flew to get things ready,
and called one of the men to assist her in putting water into the
big tin pan which was the only bath the house afforded.
She was going to put the pan in the bedroom, when the man who was
helping stopped her with a suggestion. "You had better leave the
pan here in front of the fire, Miss; the poor gentleman is so
exhausted, you see, and the fire will be a comfort to him."
"I had not thought of that, but I am quite sure you are right," she
said; then got the water to a comfortable temperature, and left the
men to do their best.
They were prompt and speedy. In half an hour Mr. Selincourt was
lying in bed, spent and faint it is true, but as clean as soap and
water could make him. Mary hovered about him with a world of
tenderness in face and manner, but she would not let him talk,
would not even let him tell her how or where he had come so near to
finding his death on that sunny June afternoon. It was not until
he was asleep that she ventured to go back to the kitchen. The men
had removed all traces of their work by cleaning the splashed
floor, and were busy now in the open space behind the house washing
the mud-caked clothes which they had stripped from Mr. Selincourt,
for those men who go on portage work must have at least an
elementary knowledge of washing, or be content to go without clean
shirts most of their time.
Mary beckoned for one of them to come to her.
"What happened to my father?" she asked. "I would not let him tell
me, he is too thoroughly upset."
"We don't know, Miss," replied the man who had made the timely
suggestion about the bath. "We were down on the bank, getting the
boat ready that is to start for the south to-morrow, when a boat
rowed by a girl came up the river. She was dripping with
perspiration, and looked as if she had been rowing for a wager.
Mr. Selincourt was sitting in the stern, and there was a small boy
covered with mud too. The girl bade us take Mr. Selincourt and get
him to bed, and said that she would send down river for Mr.
"How truly good of her!" cried Mary, with a mist of tears coming
into her eyes. "It must have been Miss Radford from the store over
the river. I was going to ask one of you to go to Seal Cove for
Mr. Ferrars, but if he has been already sent for he may soon be
here. So will you please go over to the store instead, give my
love to Miss Radford, and ask her to tell you what was wrong?"
The man dried his soapy hands by the simple process of rubbing them
on his trousers, and started on his errand, while Mary entered the
house again and peeped in at the open door of her father's room, to
make sure that he was still sleeping.
There was a good fire in the kitchen, and the kettle was boiling
again. Mary had not had her cup of tea yet, although she had made
one for her father. But she had forgotten all about that
--forgotten, indeed, that she had taken no food, except two
hard biscuits, since her early breakfast. It seemed such a long
time before the man came back. His comrade was still busy out at
the rear of the house, rubbing, pounding, and punching at the
mud-stained clothes to get them clean, and as he worked he whistled
softly over and over again two or three bars of "The Maple Leaf for
Ever". For years afterwards Mary never heard the song without
recalling that afternoon, with its keen anxiety, the glorious
sunshine, and the steamy, soapy atmosphere of the little kitchen.
From front door to back door she paced, always treading softly
through fear of disturbing the sleeper in the room beyond; then
paced from back door to front door again, and paused to wait for
the messenger whose coming was so delayed. Presently she heard the
sound of oars, then a boat grounded, and a moment later the man
came up the path, carefully carrying something in a basket which he
presented to Mary.
"It is a bottle of ginger posset which Mrs. Burton has sent over
for Mr. Selincourt. She says you must give him a teacupful as soon
as he wakes, and you ought to make him swallow it even if he
objects, as there is quinine in it, which may ward off swamp
fever," the man said, with the air of one repeating a lesson.
"Mrs. Burton is very kind," said Mary, as she took basket and
bottle. "But did you see Miss Radford, and why should there be
danger of swamp fever for my father?"
"Miss Radford had got a party of Indians in the store that were
taking all her time to manage," replied the man. "Indeed, I had to
chip in and help her a bit myself, for while she showed one lot
scarlet flannel and coloured calicoes, the other lot were trying to
help themselves to beans, tobacco, and that sort of thing. But by
the time I had punched the heads of three men, and slapped two
squaws in the face, they seemed to sort of understand that good
manners paid best, and acted according; then matters began to move
Mary clasped her hands in an agony of impatience. Would the man
ever tell her, or would she be compelled to shake the information
out of him?
"Did Miss Radford tell you what had happened?" she asked, with an
emphatic stamp of her foot on the floor.
"Yes, Miss. Mr. Selincourt, not knowing, ventured out on a muskeg,
and was being slowly sucked in, when she and her brother came along
the back creek in their boat. It was a touch-and-go business then,
for she had no planks or hurdles, though luckily she had ropes; but
by sending her little brother, who weighs next to nothing at all,
to slip a noose of rope under Mr. Selincourt's shoulders, she was
able to haul on the rope, and so drag him out by sheer force of
arm. She sent her love to you, and hopes he will soon be better,"
the man said, with a little flourish of his hands. In point of
fact Katherine had done nothing of the kind, but it sounded better
so, he thought, and gave a consolatory touch to the whole.
Mary turned abruptly away. Her father's misadventure was so much
worse than she had expected that the horror of it broke down her
self-control completely; the solid ground seemed to crumble under
her feet, and if she had not sunk into the nearest chair she must
have fallen. Sitting crouched in a corner, with her hands pressed
tightly against her face, striving for the mastery over those
unruly emotions of hers, she failed to hear sounds of another
arrival, and did not even look up when Jervis Ferrars entered,
without any ceremony of knocking.
A moment he stood in silence before her, not liking to disturb her,
nor even to be a witness of her breakdown, for he knew how proud
she was, and the humiliation it would be to her to be watched under
such conditions. Then, seeing the door of the bedroom half-open,
he passed silently and softly into the room, closing the door
behind him, and Mary was alone again. It might have been ten
minutes later before he reappeared, and then the anxious look had
left his face; he still looked concerned, but that was chiefly on
"Miss Selincourt, I am fearfully disappointed in you," he announced
gravely, and Mary's head came up with a jerk.
"I--I did not know that you had come," she faltered.
"All the more reason why you should have been brave and courageous,
until there was someone on whom to shift the responsibility," he
Mary reddened, and her tears disappeared as if by magic. "Is it
possible that you do not know the terrible danger my father has
been in?" she asked frigidly.
"Yes, I know. But in a wild country like this one must always be
expected to face a certain amount of risk; and it is never worth
while to weep over the might-have-beens, or how could one be happy
at all?" he said lightly.
"I know it was foolish, but the horror of it broke me down; and
then I was wondering whatever I should do if Father were to be ill,
so far away from doctors, nurses, and comforts of any sort," she
replied, with a shiver.
"I don't think he will be ill. He is sleeping as peacefully as an
infant, his pulse is steady, and his heart quiet. He may be a
little languid when he wakes, in which case we will keep him in bed
for a day or two. Remember, I am three parts a doctor, and you can
be wholly a nurse."
"I have had no experience," she faltered.
"That is only gained by practice," he answered. Then, looking at
the partly-set meal on the table, he asked: "What have you had to
"Not much," she answered in a dreary tone. "There were cold fish
and coffee for breakfast. I had two biscuits for luncheon, but
that was all."
"You are within seeing distance of starving, I should say, and that
is why your courage has turned to water," he said; and, going out
to the kitchen, he roused the fire again, refilled the kettle,
which had boiled itself dry, and when it boiled again made her a
good cup of tea, at the same time insisting on her making a solid
"Oh, I feel pounds better now!" she exclaimed, when he came back
from another visit to Mr. Selincourt, who still lay peacefully
"Let it be a warning to you in future not to neglect yourself at
critical moments," he replied; then asked: "What would you like me
to do for you? Shall I stay with Mr. Selincourt to-night? I do
not think he needs watching in the least, but if this will be a
comfort to you, I will remain with pleasure."
"It is very kind of you, and I accept thankfully," she said, with
such bounding relief at her heart that the whole of her outlook
changed at once. It was the responsibility she dreaded so much,
and when that was lifted from her shoulders she could be happy
again. "Can you remain now, or must you go back to Seal Cove
first?" she asked.
"I will stay now if you like, only I must trouble you to let me
send one of your boatmen down to Seal Cove, with a letter of
instruction for any of the boats which may arrive in with a cargo
before I can be there to have the shed opened," he said.
"One of the men shall go, certainly. But while you are writing
your letter may I take the boat and go over to the store to say
'Thank you' to Miss Radford and her brother for their goodness to
my father? I would not have left him if you had not been here, but
now I can go easily enough, and I do want them to know how really
grateful I am."
"Go, by all means. I will take care of Mr. Selincourt and write my
letter at the same time," Jervis answered, taking a fountain pen
and a notebook from his pocket, and beginning to write forthwith.
Mary walked out of the house and down to the river just as she was,
for the sun had gone down sufficiently to render a hat unnecessary.
The two men were busy with their boat still, but one of them left
his work and put Mary across the river in one of the other boats
which lay drawn up on the bank.
The Indians, who had been crowding the store half an hour before,
were encamped on the bank now, a little lower down, and were busy
cooking fish for their supper. There were no other customers
visible either inside the store or out. Now that the fishing was
in full swing the fishermen had little time for lounging about the
store; so, although the work of delivering goods was greater, there
were compensating circumstances in not having the store always
crowded up with men and lads, who had come more for the sake of
talking than buying.
Mary walked up the steep bank and across the open space to the
store door with a sense of the strangest unreality all about her.
It was herself who walked and moved, yet all the time she seemed to
stand aside and let another self think and feel and act. A
composite odour of groceries, bacon, tobacco, and cheap clothes met
her as she entered the rough, homely shed, which was a typical
emporium of the backwoods; but she had no time to analyse the
odours, being at once attracted by Katherine, who stood at a tall
desk by the window, entering items in a ledger. At the same time
Katherine glanced up and saw the visitor entering the door. She
flushed at the sight, and became suddenly nervous, acutely
conscious, too, of her poor, shabby clothes, old-fashioned and ill
cut, as contrasted with the picturesque house gown in which Mary
was garbed, a soft grey woollen, which, though simple enough to
have been worn upon any occasion, yet suggested London or Paris in
"You are Miss Radford, I think," said Mary in that quiet, cultured
voice which somehow matched, or at least harmonized, with her gown,
"and I have come to say 'Thank you' for your goodness to my dear
"Oh, but really it was not I who saved him, but Phil! I should
have been too heavy to walk three steps across that muskeg without
sticking fast," Katherine answered, with a low, nervous laugh.
But Mary was not to be put off in this fashion, and she went on,
her voice fluttering a little because of the emotion she was
keeping down with a resolute hand: "I know it was your brother who
went out on the swamp and put the rope round my father, but I also
know that it was really you who planned the rescue and pulled my
father out. I cannot speak of it all as I would wish, and words
are too faint and poor to express all I feel; but from my heart I
am grateful, and all my life I shall be in your debt."
A sob came up in Katherine's throat, and her heart fluttered
wildly, for she was thinking of that dark secret from the past
which her father had told her about, and she was wondering if the
work of to-day would in any sense help to wipe off that old score
of wrongdoing which stood to her father's account.
"It is only one's duty to help those who are in difficulties," she
said, when she could manage her voice, and still that curious
fluttering in her throat. "I hope Mr. Selincourt is not much the
worse for his accident. I was afraid that he was terribly shaken.
He must have suffered such fearful agony of mind during the time he
was being sucked down."
"He is sleeping now, peacefully as an infant. Mr. Ferrars, who is
with him, says that his pulse is steady and his heart quiet, so it
really looks as if the after effects may not be very bad," Mary
answered. Then she said impulsively: "I was on the hill last night
when you were waiting for the dogs to help you to make the portage.
My heart went out to you then, and I wondered should we ever be
friends; but to-day has settled that question so far as I am
concerned, and now we must be friends."
Katherine crimsoned right up to the roots of her hair. A year ago
how happy such words would have made her! And how glad she would
have been of the friendship of Mary Selincourt! But now all the
pleasure in such intercourse was checked and clouded, because she
was perforce obliged to sail under false colours.
The rosy flush faded from cheeks, neck, and brow, and her face was
white and weary as she answered coldly: "It is very kind of you to
talk of friendship, but I fancy there is too much difference in our
lives to admit of much intercourse. I have to work very hard just
now, and I have little or no leisure."
Mary winced as if Katherine had struck her a blow. She was not
used to having her offers of friendship flouted in this fashion;
but she was too much indebted to this girl in the shabby frock to
even dream of resenting the treatment of which poor Katherine was
already secretly ashamed.
"I know that you have to work very hard," Mary said gently. "But
if you knew how much I honour you for your unselfish courage, I
think you would not refuse to let me see as much of you as your
work will allow."
Katherine had to come down from her poor little pedestal then, but
she made her descent gracefully enough. "If you care to see me at
my work, we may even find time for friendship," she said, smiling
bravely, although her face was still very pale; "but work and I are
such close comrades that only Sunday finds us apart."
"Then I will have you and your work all the week, and you without
your work on Sundays," laughed Mary, afterwards saying good night
and going back across the river to her father again.
'Duke Radford's New Friend
Mr. Selincourt suffered but little ill effects from his accident.
He stayed in bed two days to ward off any danger of swamp fever,
but on the third morning got up at his usual hour, and after
breakfast had himself rowed across the river, and paid a visit to
the store. Early as it was, Katherine and Phil had already started
for an Indian encampment on Ochre Lake, so Mr. Selincourt found
only Miles in the store, and he was busy sweeping dead flies from
the molasses traps, and spreading fresh molasses for the catching
of another batch.
"Hullo, young man! is it you who pulled me out of the mud the other
day?" he asked.
"No, sir," replied Miles promptly; "I'm as heavy as Katherine, so
not adapted for walking on soft spots. It was Phil who put the
rope round you, but Katherine pulled you out."
"A plucky pair they were too, for it must have been difficult work.
Are they at home?" Mr. Selincourt asked, as he gazed round the
store, and thought what a bare-looking place it was.
"No, they started for Ochre Lake a good time ago. Where there is
portage work it is easiest to get it done in the morning this hot
weather. Can I have the pleasure of showing you anything this
morning, sir?" Miles asked, with his very best business manner,
which always had its due effect on the Seal Cove people.
Mr. Selincourt laughed. "I am afraid my wants would have to be
moderate, there is so little left to buy," he said, wondering if it
were poverty on the part of the Radfords which kept the stock so
"We are not so nearly cleared out as you would think," Miles
answered, in a confidential tone. "We always like the shelves to
look thin at this time of the year; then when the first shipment
comes to hand we bring all our surplus stock out of the cellar, and
it sells nearly as fast as we can serve it out."
"Well, that is one way of doing business; a shrewd way too,"
remarked Mr. Selincourt, nodding his head. "I shouldn't wonder if
you make a pile some day of your own; you look wideawake enough.
What are you going to be when you grow up?"
"A storekeeper; this store keeper, if Katherine can keep the
business going until I'm old enough to take the work over," Miles
answered, with the same promptness as had arrested Mr. Selincourt's
attention at the first.
"It is a hard life for a girl, I should think," he said, as he sat
down on a sugar barrel and watched Miles finishing with the traps.
"Yes, it is very hard. You see, there is so much tramping over
portages, rowing up and down river, and all that sort of thing. I
could manage most of it with Phil's help, only there is pricing the
skins, the feathers, and the fish which we take in barter from the
Indians. They wouldn't accept my prices, but would declare they
were being cheated by the papoose;" and the boy threw so much scorn
into his tone that Mr. Selincourt laughed aloud.
"How do you manage when the Indians come here to buy and your
sister is away?" he asked.
"Oh, I just call Nellie, that is Mrs. Burton, you know! She
doesn't know a thing about business, and is ignorant as a baby
about the value of skins, but she is grown-up, so they believe what
she says, only I have to tell her first."
"Your father can't attend to anything, then?" Mr. Selincourt
enquired pitifully. He had heard a little of 'Duke Radford's
affliction, and sympathized keenly with the children who had such a
heavy weight of responsibility to carry.
Miles shook his head. "Since his stroke, Father has not been able
to do anything at all. His memory is entirely gone, yet he is so
pleased to see people, and he always seems happy and content. Have
you time to go and talk to him for a little while, sir? He would
like to see you, I know."
Mr. Selincourt rose from his barrel with alacrity. "Oh, yes! I
will pay him a little visit; in fact, I have nothing else to do for
the next hour, for I promised Mary that I would not go wandering
round in soft spots to-day."
Miles opened the door of the kitchen and ushered the visitor in.
Mrs. Burton was making a batch of bread, and had to limit her
welcome to cheery words and smiles; but the twins immediately
claimed him as an old friend, rushing upon him with a freedom from
shyness which was surprising, until one knew that they were never
troubled with that complaint at home.
"Father, Mr. Selincourt has come to see you. He is the new owner
of the fleet, you know," Mrs. Burton said, speaking in raised tones
to a tall, worn man who sat in the sunshine by the open door, and
smiled serenely at the pleasant world outside.
'Duke Radford was not deaf, but they always raised their voices
when speaking to him, in order to attract his attention. He seemed
to live in a world apart, and it was only by touching him or
shouting that he could be brought back to the realities of life.
At the sound of his daughter's voice he looked round, and, seeing a
stranger in the room, at once rose and came forward with
outstretched hand. "I am very glad to see you, sir," he said, in
Mr. Selincourt was so surprised that he could not hide it. He had
expected to see a miserable-looking invalid, with imbecile writ
large all over him; instead of whom he was confronted by a
dignified, courteous gentleman, whose infirmity was only hinted at
by a certain languor of movement and wistfulness of expression.
"I am glad to see you looking so much better than I expected to
find you," Mr. Selincourt said, taking the proffered hand and
shaking it warmly.
"Yes, I am getting stronger. I have been ill, you know, and it has
upset me in many ways; my mind is not what it was, and I cannot
remember a great many things which it is very awkward to forget.
For instance, I cannot remember, sir, whether I have heard your
name or seen your face before;" and as he spoke, 'Duke Radford
looked up with wistful uncertainty into the face of the man whom
years ago he had wronged so heavily.
"My name you have heard, I dare say, but I do not suppose you have
seen me before, because I am an Englishman, and I have only been in
Canada for a year," Mr. Selincourt answered gently.
Mrs. Burton had left the room momentarily, or she might have said
that her father was an Englishman also. 'Duke Radford had probably
forgotten the fact himself, and after a moment of silence, in which
he seemed to be gathering up his scattered faculties, he asked:
"Do you think you are going to like Canada, sir?"
"I like it immensely. I intend settling in the country
permanently. I have nothing to hold me in England, nor anything
which interests me enough to make me want to stay there. But here
there is so much to be done; the country is crying out for
development, and I--well, I think I want to have a hand in the
doing of it," Mr. Selincourt answered.
'Duke Radford nodded his head in complete understanding; something
of his old vigour seemed to have returned to him, and for the
moment the clouds were swept from his brain.
"Canada is a fine country;" he said. "Even her waste places
possess untold sources of wealth. Take this place, for instance:
there are fish enough in the rivers and the bay to feed a
multitude; there is timber enough to build a dozen towns, and
construct a navy as well; yet it continues almost as solitary as
when I came here, I can't remember how many years ago."
"It is a great pity; but that may be altered with time. We shall
see," replied Mr. Selincourt, then plunged into talk about the
resources of the immediate neighbourhood, the possibilities of vast
coalfields underlying the forest lands, of minerals lurking in
barren hillsides, and many other things.
'Duke Radford came out of his absorption and talked as he had not
done for many months, and when the visitor rose to go, after a
couple of hours' sitting in the pleasant, homely kitchen, with the
appetizing smell of new-baked bread perfuming the air, the invalid
begged him to come again very soon.
"Indeed I will, if Mrs. Burton will let me; but if I have tired you
with such a long talk she may refuse to allow me in," Mr.
"Nellie won't do that. My children are very good to me, although
it is very hard on them that I should be left a log on their hands
like this. But I hope you will come soon, for you have given me a
very happy morning," the invalid said; and rising to his feet he
walked slowly into the sunshine, supporting himself on a stout
stick, to watch his visitor get into the waiting boat and be rowed
away to the opposite bank of the river.
When Katherine and Phil came down from Ochre Lake three hours
later, the invalid was still out-of-doors, only now he was seated
on a bank in the shade of a spreading spruce, while the twins
played round him, building houses of fir cones, and laying out
gardens in patterns of pine needles.
"Why, Father, it is pleasant to see you out-of-doors again, and I
am sure the air will do you good!" Katherine exclaimed in pleased
surprise, as she came down the portage path, laden with a great
reed basket filled with ptarmigan eggs.
"Katherine, I have had such a nice morning!" he said with childish
eagerness. "Mr. Selincourt has been to see me, and I like him so
Katherine nearly dropped her basket of eggs, being so much
astonished; then, pulling herself together with an effort, she
managed to say in a natural tone, although her face was rather
white: "I am glad you liked him. Did he stay long?"
"Yes, ever so long, and he is coming again soon. He thinks of
settling here, and building a house. I am so glad, for I think I
never met a man whom I liked better," he replied.
"Then it is lucky that I pulled him out of the mud," put in Phil,
who was very much disposed to swagger about his share in rescuing
Mr. Selincourt. "But if he'd been a disagreeable animal, I might
have been sorry that I had not left him there."
Katherine stood in a dumb amazement at the miracle which had been
wrought. All these months she had been dreading the coming of Mr.
Selincourt, because of its effect upon her father, and behold, it
was the one thing which had brought him happiness!
"Did you pull him out of the mud? What mud?" asked 'Duke Radford
in an interested tone, whereupon Phil promptly dropped the bundle
he was carrying and launched into a detailed account of the rescue
of Mr. Selincourt from the muskeg.
But Katherine went on to the store with her head in a whirl; almost
she was disposed to believe that dark story from her father's past
to be only a dream, or some conjured-up vision of a diseased
fancy--almost, but not quite. Only too well she knew that it was
the dread of Mr. Selincourt's coming which had induced her father's
stroke, and now--well, it was just the irony of fate, that what had
been so terrible in perspective should bring such pleasure in
Jervis Ferrars came in quite early that evening, and suggested that
Katherine should go with him to Ochre Lake, as he had some business
at the Indian encampment, and wanted a companion.
"But I have been to Ochre Lake once to-day; Phil and I went this
morning. I brought home a hundred eggs in one basket, and had to
carry them over both portages myself," she said, laughing.
"Never mind; another journey in the same direction won't hurt you,
because I will do the work," he answered. "I want to borrow your
boat, don't you see? and of course it lessens a little my burden of
indebtedness if you are there too."
"I shall also be useful in getting the boat over the portage,"
laughed Katherine, then ran away to get ready. There was really
nothing to keep her at the store this evening, and so few pleasures
came her way that it would have been foolish to refuse.
"Nellie, I am going to Ochre Lake with Mr. Ferrars. Do you mind?"
she asked, as she hurriedly shed her working frock and clothed
"No, dear, of course I don't. Good-bye! I hope you will have a
pleasant time," said Mrs. Burton, then kissed her sister
Katherine was a little surprised. Mrs. Burton was not given to
over-much demonstration of feeling, and so the kiss was out of the
ordinary. But then the evening was out of the ordinary too. As a
rule she hurried along the portage path, laden with burdens as
heavy as she could carry. To-night she sauntered at a leisurely
pace with no burdens at all; even the cares of the day were thrust
into the background for the moment, and she was genuinely
lighthearted and happy. It was pleasant, too, to sit at ease while
Jervis pulled the boat up river with long, swinging strokes that
never suggested tired arms in even the remotest connection; and if
they did not talk much, it was only because the river and the
sunset seemed suggestive of silence. They had passed the second
portage, and waved a greeting to Mrs. M'Kree, who was sitting at
ease in her garden while Astor lounged beside her. Then Jervis
began to talk about himself, which was unusual, the subject
apparently having but little interest for him in a general way.
"I have been writing to my mother to-day. It seems strange to
think we shall have a post out from here once a month all the
summer," he remarked, rowing slower now, as if he were tired of
violent exercise, and desired to take things easy.
"How glad your mother will be to get the letters!" exclaimed
Katherine, wondering how the poor woman had borne the weary waiting
of the past weeks.
"It has been hard on her, poor little Mother!" he said softly, then
went on with a hardness in his tone that grated on the ears of the
listener: "Few women have had to know greater contrasts in life
than my mother. She was brought up in the purple, a maid to brush
her hair and tie her shoestrings, but for the last six years she
has lived in a four-roomed cottage, and has done the family
"Oh, how hard for her!" exclaimed Katherine.
"It was hard, poor Mother!" Jervis said, and his voice grew so
tender that the listener understood the previous hardness must have
been meant for someone else. He was silent for some time after
that, and, pulling slowly up the river, kept his eyes fixed on the
water which was gliding past.
Katherine sat with her gaze fixed on the treetops, whilst her
fancies were busy with the poor lady who had fallen from the luxury
of having a lady's maid to doing the work of a washerwoman.
"I was to have been a doctor," Jervis said abruptly, taking up the
talk just where he had dropped it. "We were very poor, so I had
worked my way on scholarships and that sort of thing. I was very
keen on study, for I meant to make a name for myself. I believe I
should have done too, but----"
He broke off suddenly, and, after a pause, Katherine ventured
gently: "Don't you think it is the 'buts' which really make us live
to some purpose?"
"At least they make a mighty difference in our outlook," he
admitted with a smile. "The particular 'but' which stopped my
medical studies, and drove me into the first situation where I
could earn money was the death of my father, and the consequent
cessation of the income which had been his allowance under his
grandfather's will. We had been poor before; after that we were
Katherine nodded sympathetically. Her life had been hard, and
there was plenty of rough work in it, but she had never been within
seeing distance of destitution, and she had plenty of pity for
those whose lives had been fuller of care than her own.
"I tried keeping near home first," went on Jervis; "but it was of
no use. There was no room for me anywhere; the only thing I could
get to do was a miserable clerkship at twelve shillings a week.
Just think of it! Twelve shillings a week, and there were four of
us to live! I bore it for six months, and then I cleared out. My
next brother, who is four years younger, got work which brought in
enough to buy his food, and I have managed to send home something
to help to keep my mother and the youngest boy, who is still at
"Perhaps the necessity to do your utmost has been very good for
you," Katherine ventured demurely.
"I think it has," he answered with emphasis. "At any rate, I don't
feel disposed to quarrel now with the destiny which has knocked me
about the world, and brought me eventually to an anchorage like
Katherine's face flamed scarlet, to her intense mortification.
What would this man think of her, what must he think of her, if she
changed colour at every word he said?
But Jervis did not appear to notice her confusion, for which she
was devoutly thankful, and in a moment he went on talking: "It is
going to make a very great difference to me if Mr. Selincourt
decides to spend money in developing this place. The fisheries,
properly worked, will yield a cent-per-cent interest on the outlay,
and that is going to make a big difference to me, because I am not
manager merely, but I have a share in the profits also."
"A working partner," suggested Katherine.
"Something of the kind," he replied. Then turning his head he saw
that they were close to the Indian encampment, for long lines of
fish were stretched in all directions, drying in the sun.
"The end of our journey," he said lightly. "Do you sit here in the
boat and I will have my business finished in about ten minutes."
Katherine's gaze went to the treetops again, only now it was not
trees and sky that she saw, but a rose-hued future of happiness
stretching out before her.
Mrs. Burton was perplexed, and a good bit troubled in her mind.
She was honestly proud of Katherine's beauty, and longed that her
sister should have an easier life than she had had herself. So
that when Jervis Ferrars had begun to show rather a decided
inclination to cultivate Katherine's society, the elder sister had
felt both glad and sorry because of it. She was glad, because any
girl might have felt honoured by the notice of a man like Jervis
Ferrars: But she was sorry because he was so poor, and marriage
with him must mean for Katherine a life of hard work and much
drudgery; for in remote places and pioneer settlements it was on
the women, the wives and the mothers, that the real hardships of
Her own husband had been a poor man, a bright young Canadian, as
good-looking as Jervis Ferrars, but without his culture. Ted
Burton had commanded one of the boats of the fishing fleet, and was
holder of a good many shares in the company as well; but one day
his vessel came home without him, and Mrs. Burton had to return a
widow to her father's house. No wonder she dreaded Katherine
wedding after the same fashion. History has a trick of repeating
itself, and she could not bear to think of sunny-hearted Katherine
having to live always in the shadows, as she herself had done.
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