The Man From Glengarry by Ralph Connor
Chapter XXI. I Will Remember
The Albert was by all odds the exclusive club in the capital city of upper Canada, for men were loath to drop the old name. Its members belonged to the best families, and moved in the highest circles, and the entre was guarded by a committee of exceeding vigilance. They had a very real appreciation of the rights and privileges of their order, and they cherished for all who assayed to enter the most lofty ideal. Not wealth alone could purchase entrance within those sacred precincts unless, indeed, it were of sufficient magnitude and distributed with judicious and unvulgar generosity. A tinge of blue in the common red blood of humanity commanded the most favorable consideration, but when there was neither cerulean tinge of blood nor gilding of station the candidate for membership in the Albert was deemed unutterable in his presumption, and rejection absolute and final was inevitable. A single black ball shut him out. So it came as a surprise to most outsiders, though not to Ranald himself, when that young gentleman's name appeared in the list of accepted members in the Albert. He had been put up by both Raymond and St. Clair, but not even the powerful influence of these sponsors would have availed with the members had it not come to be known that young Macdonald was a friend of Captain De Lacy's of Quebec, don't you know! and a sport, begad, of the first water; for the Alberts favored athletics, and loved a true sport almost as much as they loved a lord. They never regretted their generous concession in this instance, for during the three years of his membership, it was the Glengarry Macdonald that had brought glory to their club more than any half dozen of their other champions. In their finals with the Montrealers two years ago, it was he, the prince of all Canadian half-backs, as every one acknowledged, who had snatched victory from the exultant enemy in the last quarter of an hour. Then, too, they had never ceased to be grateful for the way in which he had delivered the name of their club from the reproach cast upon it by the challenge long flaunted before their aristocratic noses by the cads of the Athletic, when he knocked out in a bout with the gloves, the chosen representative of that ill-favored club--a professional, too, by Jove, as it leaked out later.
True, there were those who thought him too particular, and undoubtedly he had peculiar ideas. He never drank, never played for money, and he never had occasion to use words in the presence of men that would be impossible before their mothers and sisters; and there was a quaint, old-time chivalry about him that made him a friend of the weak and helpless, and the champion of women, not only of those whose sheltered lives had kept them fair and pure, but of those others as well, sad-eyed and soul-stained, the cruel sport of lustful men. For his open scorn of their callous lust some hated him, but all with true men's hearts loved him.
The club-rooms were filling up; the various games were in full swing.
"Hello, little Merrill!" Young Merrill looked up from his billiards.
"Glengarry, by all the gods!" throwing down his cue, and rushing at Ranald. "Where in this lonely universe have you been these many months, and how are you, old chap?" Merrill was excited.
"All right, Merrill?" inquired the deep voice.
"Right, so help me--" exclaimed Merrill, solemnly, lifting up his hand. "He's inquiring after my morals," he explained to the men who were crowding about; "and I don't give a blank blank who knows it," continued little Merrill, warmly, "my present magnificent manhood," smiting himself on the breast, "I owe to that same dear old solemnity there," pointing to Ranald.
"Shut up, Merrill, or I'll spank you," said Ranald.
"You will, eh?" cried Merrill, looking at him. "Look at him vaunting his beastly fitness over the frail and weak. I say, men, did you ever behold such condition! See that clear eye, that velvety skin, that--Oh, I say! pax! pax! peccavi!"
"There," said Ranald, putting him down from the billiard-table, "perhaps you will learn when to be seen."
"Brute," murmured little Merrill, rubbing the sore place; "but ain't he fit?" he added, delightedly. And fit he looked. Four years of hard work and clean living had done for him everything that it lies in years to do. They had made of the lank, raw, shanty lad a man, and such a man as a sculptor would have loved to behold. Straight as a column he stood two inches over six feet, but of such proportions that seeing him alone, one would never have guessed his height. His head and neck rose above his square shoulders with perfect symmetry and poise. His dark face, tanned now to a bronze, with features clear-cut and strong, was lit by a pair of dark brown eyes, honest, fearless, and glowing with a slumbering fire that men would hesitate to stir to flame. The lines of his mouth told of self-control, and the cut of his chin proclaimed a will of iron, and altogether, he bore himself with an air of such quiet strength and cool self-confidence that men never feared to follow where he led. Yet there was a reserve about him that set him a little apart from men, and a kind of shyness that saved him from any suspicion of self-assertion. In vain he tried to escape from the crowd that gathered about him, and more especially from the foot-ball men, who utterly adored him.
"You can't do anything for a fellow that doesn't drink," complained Starry Hamilton, the big captain of the foot-ball team.
"Drink! a nice captain you are, Starry," said Ranald, "and Thanksgiving so near."
"We haven't quite shut down yet," explained the captain.
"Then I suppose a cigar is permitted," replied Ranald, ordering the steward to bring his best. In a few minutes he called for his mail, and excusing himself, slipped into one of the private rooms. The manager of the Raymond & St. Clair Company and prominent clubman, much sought after in social circles, he was bound to find letters of importance awaiting him, but hastily shuffling the bundle, he selected three, and put the rest in his pocket.
"So she's back," he said to himself, lifting up one in a square envelope, addressed in large, angular writing. He turned it over in his hand, feasting his eyes upon it, as a boy holds a peach, prolonging the blissful anticipation. Then he opened it slowly and read:
MY DEAR RANALD: All the way home I was hoping that on my return, fresh from the "stately homes of England," and from association with lords and dukes and things, you would be here to receive your share of the luster and aroma my presence would shed (that's a little mixed, I fear); but with a most horrible indifference to your privileges you are away at the earth's end, no one knows where. Father said you were to be home to-day, so though you don't in the least deserve it, I am writing you a note of forgiveness; and will you be sure to come to my special party to-morrow night? I put it off till to-morrow solely on your account, and in spite of Aunt Frank, and let me tell you that though I have seen such heaps of nice men, and all properly dear and devoted, still I want to see you, so you must come. Everything else will keep. Yours,
Over and over again he read the letter, till the fire in his eyes began to gleam and his face became radiant with a tender glow.
"'Yours, Maimie,' eh? I wonder now what she means," he mused. "Seven years and for my life I don't know yet, but to-morrow night-- yes, to-morrow night, I will know!" He placed the letter in its envelope and put it carefully in his inside pocket. "Now for Kate, dear old girl, no better anywhere." He opened his letter and read:
DEAR RANALD: What a lot of people will be delighted to see you back! First, dear old Dr. Marshall, who is in despair over the Institute, of which he declares only a melancholy ruin will be left if you do not speedily return. Indeed, it is pretty bad. The boys are quite terrible, and even my "angels" are becoming infected. Your special pet, Coley, after reducing poor Mr. Locke to the verge of nervous prostration, has "quit," and though I have sought him in his haunts, and used my very choicest blandishments, he remains obdurate. To my remonstrances, he finally deigned to reply: "Naw, they ain't none of 'em any good no more; them ducks is too pious for me." I don't know whether you will consider that a compliment or not. So the Institute and all its people will welcome you with acclaims of delight and sighs of relief. And some one else whom you adore, and who adores you, will rejoice to see you. I have begged her from Maimie for a few precious days. But that's a secret, and last of all and least of all, there is
P. S.--Of course you will be at the party to-morrow night. Maimie looks lovelier than ever, and she will be so glad to see you.
"What a trump she is," murmured Ranald; "unselfish, honest to the core, and steady as a rock. 'Some one else whom you adore.' Who can that be? By Jove, is it possible? I will go right up to-night."
His last letter was from Mr. St. Clair, who was the chief executive of the firm. He glanced over it hurriedly, then with a curious blending of surprise, perplexity, and dismay on his face, he read it again with careful deliberation:
MY DEAR RANALD: Welcome home! We shall all be delighted to see you. Your letter from North Bay, which reached me two days ago, contained information that places us in rather an awkward position. Last May, just after you left for the north, Colonel Thorp, of the British-American Coal and Lumber Company, operating in British Columbia and Michigan, called to see me, and made an offer of $75,000 for our Bass River limits. Of course you know we are rather anxious to unload, and at first I regarded his offer with favor. Soon afterwards I received your first report, sent apparently on your way up. I thereupon refused Colonel Thorp's offer. Then evidently upon the strength of your report, which I showed him, Colonel Thorp, who by the way is a very fine fellow, but a very shrewd business man, raised his offer to an even hundred thousand. This offer I feel inclined to accept. To tell you the truth, we have more standing timber than we can handle, and as you know, we are really badly crippled for ready money. It is a little unfortunate that your last report should be so much less favorable in regard to the east half of the limits. However, I don't suppose there is any need of mentioning that to Colonel Thorp, especially as his company are getting a good bargain as it is, and one which of themselves, they could not possibly secure from the government. I write you this note in case you should run across Colonel Thorp in town to-morrow, and inadvertently say something that might complicate matters. I have no doubt that we shall be able to close the deal in a few days.
Now I want to say again how delighted we all are to have you back. We never realized how much we were dependent upon you. Mr. Raymond and I have been talking matters over, and we have agreed that some changes ought to be made, which I venture to say will not be altogether disagreeable to you. I shall see you first thing in the morning about the matter of the limits.
Maimie has got home, and is, I believe, expecting you at her party to-morrow night. Indeed, I understand she was determined that it should not come off until you had returned, which shows she shares the opinion of the firm concerning you.
I am yours sincerely,
EUGENE ST. CLAIR.
Ranald sat staring at the letter for a long time. He saw with perfect clearness Mr. St. Clair's meaning, and a sense of keen humiliation possessed him as he realized what it was that he was expected to do. But it took some time for the full significance of the situation to dawn upon him. None knew better than he how important it was to the firm that this sale should be effected. The truth was if the money market should become at all close the firm would undoubtedly find themselves in serious difficulty. Ruin to the company meant not only the blasting of his own prospects, but misery to her whom he loved better than life; and after all, what he was asked to do was nothing more than might be done any day in the world of business. Every buyer is supposed to know the value of the thing he buys, and certainly Colonel Thorp should not commit his company to a deal involving such a large sum of money without thoroughly informing himself in regard to the value of the limits in question, and when he, as an employee of the Raymond and St. Clair Lumber Company, gave in his report, surely his responsibility ceased. He was not asked to present any incorrect report; he could easily make it convenient to be absent until the deal was closed. Furthermore, the chances were that the British- American Coal and Lumber Company would still have good value for their money, for the west half of the limits was exceptionally good; and besides, what right had he to besmirch the honor of his employer, and to set his judgment above that of a man of much greater experience? Ranald understood also Mr. St. Clair's reference to the changes in the firm, and it gave him no small satisfaction to think that in four years he had risen from the position of lumber checker to that of manager, with an offer of a partnership; nor could he mistake the suggestion in Mr. St. Clair's closing words. Every interest he had in life would be furthered by the consummation of the deal, and would be imperiled by his refusing to adopt Mr. St. Clair's suggestion. Still, argue as he might, Ranald never had any doubt as to what, as a man of honor, he ought to do. Colonel Thorp was entitled to the information that he and Mr. St. Clair alone possessed. Between his interests and his conscience the conflict raged.
"I wish I knew what I ought to do," he groaned, all the time battling against the conviction that the information he possessed should by rights be given to Colonel Thorp. Finally, in despair of coming to a decision, he seized his hat, saying, "I will go and see Kate," and slipping out of a side door, he set off for the Raymond home. "I will just look up Coley on the way," he said to himself, and diving down an alley, he entered a low saloon with a billiard hall attached. There, as he had expected, acting as marker, he found Coley.
Mike Cole, or Coley, as his devoted followers called him, was king of St. Joseph's ward. Everywhere in the ward his word ran as law. About two years ago Coley had deigned to favor the Institute with a visit, his gang following him. They were welcomed with demonstrations of joy, and regaled with cakes and tea, all of which Coley accepted with lordly condescension. After consideration, Coley decided that the night classes might afford a not unpleasant alternative on cold nights, to alley-ways and saloons, and he allowed the gang to join. Thenceforth the successful conduct of the classes depended upon the ability of the superintendent to anticipate Coley's varying moods and inclinations, for that young man claimed and exercised the privilege of introducing features agreeable to the gang, though not necessarily upon the regular curriculum of study. Some time after Ranald's appearance in the Institute as an assistant, it happened one night that a sudden illness of the superintendent laid upon his shoulders the responsibility of government. The same night it also happened that Coley saw fit to introduce the enlivening but quite impromptu feature of a song and dance. To this Ranald objected, and was invited to put the gang out if he was man enough. After the ladies had withdrawn beyond the reach of missiles, Ranald adopted the unusual tactics of preventing exit by locking the doors, and then immediately became involved in a discussion with Coley and his followers. It cost the Institute something for furniture and windows, but thenceforth in Ranald's time there was peace. Coley ruled as before, but his sphere of influence was limited, and the day arrived when it became the ambition of Coley's life to bring the ward and its denizens into subjection to his own over-lord, whom he was prepared to follow to the death. But like any other work worth doing, this took days and weeks and months.
"Hello, Coley!" said Ranald, as his eyes fell upon his sometime ally and slave. "If you are not too busy I would like you to go along with me."
Coley looked around as if seeking escape.
"Come along," said Ranald, quietly, and Coley, knowing that anything but obedience was impossible, dropped his marking and followed Ranald out of the saloon.
"Well, Coley, I have had a great summer," began Ranald, "and I wish very much you could have been with me. It would have built you up and made a man of you. Just feel that," and he held out his arm, which Coley felt with admiring reverence. "That's what the canoe did," and then he proceeded to give a graphic account of his varied adventures by land and water during the last six months. As they neared Mr. Raymond's house, Ranald turned to Coley and said: "Now I want you to cut back to the Institute and tell Mr. Locke, if he is there, that I would like him to call around at my office to- morrow. And furthermore, Coley, there's no need of your going back into that saloon. I was a little ashamed to see one of my friends in a place like that. Now, good night, and be a man, and a clean man."
Coley stood with his head hung in abject self-abasement, and then ventured to say, "I couldn't stand them ducks nohow!"
"Who do you mean?" said Ranald.
"Oh, them fellers that runs the Institute now, and so I cut."
"Now look here, Coley," said Ranald, "I wouldn't go throwing stones at better men than yourself, and especially at men who are trying to do something to help other people and are not so beastly mean as to think only of their own pleasure. I didn't expect that of you, Coley. Now quit it and start again," and Ranald turned away.
Coley stood looking after him for a few moments in silence, and then said to himself, in a voice full of emphasis: "Well, there's just one of his kind and there ain't any other." Then he set out at a run for the Institute.
It was Kate herself who came to answer Ranald's ring.
"I knew it was you," she cried, with her hand eagerly outstretched and her face alight with joy. "Come in, we are all waiting for you, and prepare to be surprised." When they came to the drawing- room she flung open the door and with great ceremony announced "The man from Glengarry, as Harry would say."
"Hello, old chap!" cried Harry, springing to his feet, but Ranald ignored him. He greeted Kate's mother warmly for she had shown him a mother's kindness ever since he had come to the city, and they were great friends, and then he turned to Mrs. Murray, who was standing waiting for him, and gave her both his hands.
"I knew from Kate's letter," he said, "that it would be you, and I cannot tell you how glad I am." His voice grew a little unsteady and he could say no more. Mrs. Murray stood holding his hands and looking into his face.
"It cannot be possible," she said, "that this is Ranald Macdonald! How changed you are!" She pushed him a little back from her. "Let me look at you; why, I must say it, you are really handsome!"
"Now, auntie," cried Harry, reprovingly, "don't flatter him. He is utterly ruined now by every one, including both Kate and her mother."
"But really, Harry," continued Mrs. Murray, in a voice of delighted surprise, "it is certainly wonderful; and I am so glad! And I have been hearing about your work with the boys at the Institute, and I cannot tell you the joy it gave me."
"Oh, it is not much that I have done," said Ranald, deprecatingly.
"Indeed, it is a noble work and worthy of any man," said Mrs. Murray, earnestly, "and I thank God for you."
"Then," said Ranald, firmly, "I owe it all to yourself, for it is you that set me on this way."
"Listen to them admiring each other! It is quite shameless," said Harry.
Then they began talking about Glengarry, of the old familiar places, of the woods and the fields, of the boys and girls now growing into men and women, and of the old people, some of whom were passed away. Before long they were talking of the church and all the varied interests centering in it, but soon they went back to the theme that Glengarry people everywhere are never long together without discussing--the great revival. Harry had heard a good deal about it before, but to Kate and her mother the story was mostly new, and they listened with eager interest as Mrs. Murray and Ranald recalled those great days. With eyes shining, and in tones of humble, grateful wonder they reminded each other of the various incidents, the terrors, the struggles, the joyful surprises, the mysterious powers with which they were so familiar during those eighteen months. Then Mrs. Murray told of the permanent results; how over three counties the influence of the movement was still felt, and how whole congregations had been built up under its wonderful power.
"And did you hear," she said to Ranald, "that Donald Stewart was ordained last May?"
"No," replied Ranald; "that makes seven, doesn't it?"
"Seven what?" said Kate.
"Seven men preaching the Gospel to-day out of our own congregation," replied Mrs. Murray.
"But, auntie," cried Harry, "I have always thought that all that must have been awfully hard work."
"It was," said Ranald, emphatically; and he went on to sketch Mrs. Murray's round of duties in her various classes and meetings connected with the congregation.
"Besides what she has to do in the manse!" exclaimed Harry; "but it's a mere trifle, of course, to look after her troop of boys."
"How can you do it?" said Kate, gazing at her in admiring wonder.
"It isn't so terrible as Harry thinks. That's my work, you see, said Mrs. Murray; "what else would I do? And when it goes well it is worth while."
"But, auntie, don't you feel sometimes like getting away and having a little fun? Own up, now."
"Fun?" laughed Mrs. Murray.
"Well, not fun exactly, but a good time with things you enjoy so much, music, literature, and that sort of thing. Do you remember, Kate, the first time you met auntie, when we took her to Hamlet?"
"She wasn't quite sure about it, but I declare till I die I will never forget the wonder and the delight in her face. I tell you I wept that night, but not at the play. And how she criticised the actors; even Booth himself didn't escape," continued Harry; "and so I say it's a beastly shame that you should spend your whole life in the backwoods there and have so little of the other sort of thing. Why you are made for it!"
"Harry," answered Mrs. Murray, in surprise, "that was my work, given me to do. Could I refuse it? And besides after all, fun, as you say, passes; music stops; books get done with; but those other things, the things that Ranald and I have seen, will go on long after my poor body is laid away."
"But still you must get tired," persisted Harry.
"Yes, I get tired," she replied, quietly. At the little touch of weariness in the voice, Kate, who was looking at the beautiful face, so spiritual, and getting, oh, so frail, felt a sudden rush of tears in her eyes. But there was no self-pity in that heroic soul. "Yes, I get tired," she repeated, "but, Harry, what does that matter? We do our work and then we will rest. But oh, Harry, my boy, when I come to your city and see all there is to do, I wish I were a girl again, and I wonder at people thinking life is just for fun."
Harry, like other young men, hated to be lectured, but from his aunt he never took anything amiss. He admired her for her brilliant qualities, and loved her with a love near to worship.
"I say, auntie," he said, with a little uncertain laugh, "it's like going to church to hear you, only it's a deal more pleasant."
"But, Harry, am I not right?" she replied, earnestly. "Do you think that you will get the best out of your life by just having fun? Oh, do you know when I went with Kate to the Institute the other night and saw those boys my heart ached. I thought of my own boys, and--" The voice ceased in a pathetic little catch, the sensitive lips trembled, the beautiful gray-brown eyes filled with sudden tears. For a few moments there was silence; then, with a wavering smile, and a gentle, apologetic air, she said: "But I must not make Harry think he is in church."
"Dear Aunt Murray," cried Harry, "do lecture me. I'd enjoy it, and you can't make it too strong. You are just an angel." He left his seat, and going over to her chair, knelt down and put his arms about her.
"Don't you all wish she was your aunt?" he said, kissing her.
"She is mine," cried Kate, smiling at her through shining tears.
"She's more," said Ranald, and his voice was husky with emotion.
But with the bright, joyous little laugh Ranald knew so well, she smoothed back Harry's hair, and kissing him on the forehead, said: "I am sure you will do good work some day. But I shall be quite spoiled here; I must really get home."
As Ranald left the Raymond house he knew well what he should say to Mr. St. Clair next morning. He wondered at himself that he had ever been in doubt. He had been for an hour in another world where the atmosphere was pure and the light clear. Never till that night had he realized the full value of that life of patient self- sacrifice, so unconscious of its heroism. He understood then, as never before, the mysterious influence of that gentle, sweet-faced lady over every one who came to know her, from the simple, uncultured girls of the Indian Lands to the young men about town of Harry's type. Hers was the power of one who sees with open eyes the unseen, and who loves to the forgetting of self those for whom the Infinite love poured Itself out in death.
"Going home, Harry?" inquired Ranald.
"Yes, right home; don't want to go anywhere else to-night. I say, old chap, you're a better and cleaner man than I am, but it ain't your fault. That woman ought to make a saint out of any man."
"Man, you would say so if you knew her," said Ranald, with a touch of impatience; "but then no one does know her. They certainly don't down in the Indian Lands, for they don't know what she's given up."
"That's the beauty of it," replied Harry; "she doesn't feel it that way. Given up? not she! She thinks she's got everything that's good!"
"Well," said Ranald, thoughtfully, after a pause, "she knows, and she's right."
When they came to Harry's door Ranald lingered just a moment. "Come in a minute," said Harry.
"I don't know; I'm coming in to-morrow."
"Oh, come along just now. Aunt Frank is in bed, but Maimie will be up," said Harry, dragging him along to the door.
"No, I think not to-night." While they were talking the door opened and Maimie appeared.
"Ranald," she cried, in an eager voice, "I knew you would be at Kate's, and I was pretty sure you would come home with Harry. Aren't you coming in?"
"Where's Aunt Frank?" asked Harry.
"She's upstairs," said Maimie.
"Thank the Lord, eh?" added Harry, pushing in past her.
"Go away in and talk to her," said Maimie. Then turning to Ranald and looking into his devouring eyes, she said, "Well? You might say you're glad to see me." She stood where the full light of the doorway revealed the perfect beauty of her face and figure.
"Glad to see you! There is no need of saying that," replied Ranald, still gazing at her.
"How beautiful you are, Maimie," he added, bluntly.
"Thank you, and you are really quite passable."
"And I am glad to see you."
"That's why you won't come in."
"I am coming to-morrow night."
"Everybody will be here to-morrow night."
"Yes, that's certainly a drawback."
"And I shall be very busy looking after my guests. Still," she added, noticing the disappointment in his face, "it's quite possible--"
"Exactly," his face lighting up again.
"Have you seen father's study?" asked Maimie, innocently.
"No," replied Ranald, wonderingly. "Is it so beautiful?"
"No, but it's upstairs, and--quiet."
"Well?" said Ranald.
"And perhaps you might like to see it to-morrow night."
"How stupid I am. Will you show it to me?"
"I will be busy, but perhaps Harry--"
"Will you?" said Ranald, coming close to her, with the old imperative in his voice.
Maimie drew back a little.
"Do you know what you make me think of?" she asked, lowering her voice.
"Yes, I do. I have thought of it every night since."
"You were very rude, I remember."
"You didn't think so then," said Ranald, boldly.
"I ought to have been very angry," replied Maimie, severely.
"But you weren't, you know you weren't; and do you remember what you said?"
"What I said? How awful of you; don't you dare! How can I remember?"
"Yes, you do remember, and then do you remember what I said?"
"What you said indeed! Such assurance!"
"I have kept my word," said Ranald, "and I am coming to-morrow night. Oh, Maimie, it has been a long, long time." He came close to her and caught her hand, the slumbering fire in his eyes blazing now in flame.
"Don't, don't, I'm sure there's Aunt Frank. No, no," she pleaded, in terror, "not to-night, Ranald!"
"Then will you show me the study to-morrow night?"
"Oh, you are very mean. Let me go!"
"Will you?" he demanded, still holding her hand.
"Yes, yes, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. My hand is quite sore. There, now, good night. No, I won't shake hands! Well, then, if you must have it, good night."