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Chapter XIX. My Foreigner

The Night Hawk Mining Company, after a period of doubt and struggle, was solidly on its feet at last. True, its dividends were not large, but at least it was paying its way, and it stood well among the financial institutions of the country. Its satisfactory condition was accounted for by its President, Sir Robert Menzies, at the last Annual Meeting of the Company, in the following words: "It is to the fidelity, diligence, good judgment, and ability to handle men, shown by our young Manager, Mr. Kalmar, during the past five years, that the Company owes its present excellent standing."

The Foreign Colony and the mine reacted upon each other, to their mutual advantage, the one furnishing labourers, the other work and cash. The colony had greatly prospered on this account, but perhaps more on account of the influence of Dr. Brown and his mission. The establishment of a Government school had relieved the missionary of an exacting and laborious department of his work, and allowed him to devote himself to his Hospital and his Training Home. The changes apparent in the colony, largely as the result of Dr. Brown's labours, were truly remarkable. The creating of a market for their produce by the advent of the railway, and for their labour by the development of the mine, brought the Galician people wealth, but the influence of Dr. Brown himself, and of his Home, and of his Hospital, was apparent in the life and character of the people, and especially of the younger generation. The old mud-plastered cabins were giving place to neat frame houses, each surrounded by its garden of vegetables and flowers. In dress, the sheep skin and the shawl were being exchanged for the ready-made suit and the hat of latest style. The Hospital, with its staff of trained nurses under the direction of the young matron, the charming Miss Irma, by its ministrations to the sick, and more by the spirit that breathed through its whole service, wrought in the Galician mind a new temper and a new ideal. In the Training Home fifty Galician girls were being indoctrinated into that most noble of all sciences, the science of home-making, and were gaining practical experience in all the cognate sciences and arts.

At the Night Hawk ranch too were all the signs of the new order of things. Fenced fields and imported stock, a new ranch house with stables and granaries, were some of the indications that the coming of the market for the produce of the ranch had synchronized with the making of the man for its administration. The call of the New Time, and the appeal of the New Ideal, that came through the railroad, the mine, but, more than both, through the Mission and its founder, found a response in the heart of Jack French. The old laissez faire of the pioneer days gave place to a sense of responsibility for opportunity, and to habits of decisive and prompt attention to the business of the hour. Five years of intelligent study of conditions, of steady application to duty, had brought success not in wealth alone, but in character and in influence.

But upon Kalman, more than upon any other, these five years had left their mark. The hard grind of daily work, the daily burden of administration, had toughened the fibre of his character and hardened the temper of his spirit, and this hardening and toughening could be seen in every line of his face and in every motion of his body. Twice during the five years he had been sent by Jack French to the city for a three months' term in a Business College, where he learned to know, not only the books of his College curriculum, but, through Jack's introductions, the men who were doing big things for the country. He had returned to his place and to his work in the mine with vision enlarged, ideal exalted, and with the purpose strengthened to make the best out of life. In every sense the years had made a man of him. He was as tall as Jack, lithe and strong; in mind keen and quick, in action resolute. To those he met in the world of labour and of business he seemed hard. To his old friends on the ranch or at the Mission, up through all the hardness there welled those springs that come from a heart kind, loyal, and true. Among the Galicians of the colony, he was their acknowledged leader, because he did justly by them and because, although a Canadian among Canadians, he never forgot to own and to honour the Slav blood that flowed in his veins, and to labour for the advancement of his people.

But full of work and ambition as he was, yet there were times when Jack French read in his eyes the hunger of his heart. For after all, it is in the heart a man carries his life, it is through the heart come his finest ideals, from the heart his truest words and deeds.

At one such time, and the week before she came again, Jack French, looking through the window of his own heart and filled with a great pity for the young man who had come to be more than brother to him, had ventured to speak. But only once, for with such finality of tone and manner as made answer impossible, Kalman had made reply.

"No, Jack, I had my dream. It was great while it lasted, but it is past, and I shall dream no more."

"Kalman, my boy, don't make a mistake. Life is a long thing, and can be very dreary." There was no mistaking the pain in Jack's voice.

"Is it, Jack?" said Kalman. "I am afraid you are right. But I can never forget--my father was a foreigner, and I am one, and the tragedy of that awful night can never be wiped from her mind. The curse of it I must bear!"

"But, Kalman, you are not ashamed of your blood--of your father?"

Then Kalman lifted up his head and his voice rang out. "Of my blood? No. But it is not hers. Of my father? No. To me he was the just avenger of a great cause. But to her," his voice sank to a hoarse whisper, "he was a murderer! No, Jack, it may not be."

"But, Kalman, my boy," remonstrated Jack, "think of all--"

"Think? For these five years I have thought till my heart is sore with thinking! No, Jack, don't fret. I don't. Thank God there are other things. There is work, a people to help, a country to serve."

"Other things!" said French bitterly. "True, there are, and great things, but, Kalman, boy, I have tried them, and to-night after thirty years, as I speak to you--my God!--my heart is sick of hunger for something better than things! Love! my boy, love is the best!"

"Poor Jack!" said Kalman softly, "dear old boy!" and went out. But of that hunger of the heart they never spoke again.

And now at the end of five years' absence she was coming again. How vivid to Kalman was his remembrance of the last sight he had of her. It was at the Night Hawk ranch, and on the night succeeding that of the tragedy at the mine. In the inner room, beside his father's body, he was sitting, his mind busy with the tragic pathos of that grief-tortured, storm-beaten life. Step by step, as far as he knew it, he was tracing the tear-wet, blood-stained path that life had taken; its dreadful scenes of blood and heart agony were passing before his mind; when gradually he became aware that in the next room the Sergeant, with bluff and almost brutal straightforwardness, was telling her the story of Rosenblatt's dreadful end. "And then, begad! after grilling the wretch for all that time, didn't the infernal, bloodthirsty fiend in the most cheerful manner touch off the powder and blow the man into eternity." Then through the thin partition he heard her faint cry of horror. He remembered how, at the Sergeant's description of his father, something seemed to go wrong in his brain. He had a dim remembrance of how, dazed with rage, he had felt his way out to the next room, and cried, "You defamer of the dead! you will lie no more!" He had a vivid picture of how in horror she had fled from him while he dragged out the Sergeant by the throat into the night, and how he had been torn from him by the united efforts of Brown and French together. He remembered how, after the funeral service, when he had grown master of himself again, he had offered the Sergeant his humble apology before them all. But most vivid of all was his memory of the look of fear and repulsion in her eyes when he came near her. And that was the last look he had had of her. Gladly would he have run away from meeting her again; but this he could not do, for Jack's sake and for his own. Carefully he rehearsed the scene, what he would say, and how he would carry himself with what rigid self-control and with what easy indifference he would greet her.

But the meeting was quite other than he had planned. It was at the mine. One shiny September morning the heavy cars were just starting down the incline to the mine below, when through the carelessness of the operator the brake of the great drum slipped, and on being applied again with reckless force, broke, and the car was off, bringing destruction to half a dozen men at the bottom of the shaft. Quick as a flash of light, Kalman sprang to the racing cog wheels, threw in a heavy coat that happened to be lying near, and then, as the machinery slowed, thrust in a handspike and checked the descent of the runaway car. It took less than two seconds to see, to plan, to execute.

"Great work!" exclaimed a voice behind him.

He turned and saw Sir Robert Menzies, and between him and French, his daughter Marjorie.

"Glad to see you, Sir Robert," he exclaimed heartily.

"That was splendid!" said his daughter, pale and shaken by what she had seen.

One keen searching look he thrust in through her eyes, scanning her soul. Bravely, frankly, she gave him back his look. Kalman drew a deep breath. It was as if he had been on a long voyage of discovery, how long he could not tell. But what he had seen brought comfort to his heart. She had not shrunk from him.

"That was fine!" cried Marjorie again, offering him her hand.

"I am afraid," he said, holding back his, "that my hand is not clean enough to shake with you."

"Give it to me," she said almost imperiously. "It is the hand of a brave man and good."

Her tone was one of warm and genuine admiration. All Kalman's practised self-control deserted him. He felt the hot blood rising in his face. With a great effort he regained command of himself and began pointing out the features of interest in the mine.

"Great changes have taken place in the last five years," she said, looking down the ravine, disfigured by all the sordid accompaniments of a coal mine.

"Yes, great changes," said Kalman.

"At Wakota, too, there are great changes," she said, walking a little apart from the others. "That Mr. Brown has done wonderful things for those foreigners."

"Yes," said Kalman proudly, "he has done great things for my people."

"They are becoming good Canadians," replied Marjorie, her colour showing that she had noted his tone and meaning.

"Yes, they will be good Canadians," said Kalman. "They are good Canadians now. They are my best men. None can touch them in the mine, and they are good farmers too."

"I am sure they are," cried Marjorie heartily. "How wonderful the power of this country of yours to transform men! It is a wonderful country Canada."

"That it is," cried Kalman with enthusiasm. "No man can tell, for no man knows the magnificence of its possibilities. We have only skirted round the edge and scratched its surface."

"It is a fine thing," said Marjorie, "to have a country to be made, and it is fine to be a man and have a part in the making of it."

"Yes," agreed Kalman, "it is fine."

"I envy you," cried Marjorie with enthusiasm.

A shadow fell on Kalman's face. "I don't know that you need to, after all."

Then she said good-by, leaving him with heart throbbing and nerves tingling to his finger tips. Ah, how dear she was! What mad folly to think he could forget her! Every glance of her eye, every tone in her soft Scotch voice, every motion of hand and body, how familiar they all were! Like the faint elusive perfume from the clover fields of childhood, they smote upon his senses with intoxicating power. Standing there tingling and trembling, he made one firm resolve. Never would he see her again. Tomorrow he would make a long-planned trip to the city. He dared not wait another day. To-morrow? No, that was Sunday. He would spend one full happy day in that ravine seeking to recatch the emotions that had thrilled his boy's heart on that great night five years ago, and having thus filled his heart, he would take his departure without seeing her again.

It was the custom of the people of the ranch to spend Sunday afternoon at the Mission. So without a word even to French, calling his dogs, Captain and Queen, Kalman rode down the trail that led past the lake and toward the Night Hawk ravine. By that same trail he had gone on that memorable afternoon, and though five years had passed, the thoughts, the imaginings of that day, were as freshly present with him as if it had been but yesterday. And though they were the thoughts and imaginings of a mere boy, yet to-day they seemed to him good and worthy of his manhood.

Down the trail, well beaten now, through the golden poplars he rode, his dogs behind him, till he reached the pitch of the ravine. There, where he had scrambled down, a bridle path led now. It was very different, and yet how much remained unchanged. There was the same glorious sun raining down his golden beams upon the yellow poplar leaves, the same air, sweet and genial, in him the same heart, and before him the same face, but sweeter it seemed, and eyes the same that danced with every sunbeam and lured him on. He was living again the rapture of his boyhood's first great passion.

At the mine's mouth he paused. Not a feature remained of the cave that he had discovered five years ago, but sitting there upon his horse, how readily he reconstructed the scene! Ah, how easy it was! Every line of that cave, the new fresh earth, the gleaming black seam, the very stones in the walls, he could replace. Carefully, deliberately, he recalled the incidents of the evening spent in the cave: the very words she spoke; how her lips moved as she spoke them; how her eyes glanced, now straight at him, now from under the drooping lids; how she smiled, how she wept, how she laughed aloud; how her face shone with the firelight playing on it, and the soul light radiating through it. He revelled in the memory of it all. There was the very spot where Mr. Penny had lain in vocal slumber. Here he had stood with the snowstorm beating on his face. He resolved to trace step by step the path he had taken that night, and to taste again the bliss of which he had drunk so deep. And all the while, as he rode down the gorge, underneath the rapture of remembering, he was conscious of an exquisite pain. But he would go through with it. He would not allow the pain to spoil his day, his last day near her. Down by the running water, as on that night, underneath and through the crowding trees, out to where the gorge widened into the valley, he rode. When hark! He paused. Was that Queen's bay? Surely it was. "A wolf?" he thought. "No, there are none left in the glen." He shrank from meeting any one that afternoon. He waited to hear again that deep, soft trumpet note, and strained his ear for voices. But all was still except for the falling of a ripe leaf now and then through the trees. He hated to give up the afternoon he had planned.

He rode on. He reached the more open timber. He remembered that it was here he had first caught the sound of voices behind that blinding drift. Through the poplars he pressed his horse. It was at this very spot that, through an opening in the storm, he had first caught sight--what! His heart stood still, and then leaped into his throat. There, on the very spot where he had seen her that night, she stood again to-day! Was it a vision of his fond imagination? He passed his hand over his eyes. No, she was there still! standing among the golden poplars, the sunlight falling all around her. With all his boyhood's frenzy in his heart, he gazed at her till she turned and looked toward him. A moment more, with his spurs into his horse's side, he crashed through the scrub and was at her side.

"You! you!" he cried, in the old cry. "Marjorie! Marjorie!"

Once more he had her in his arms. Once more he was kissing her face, her eyes, her lips. Once more she was crying, "Oh, Kalman! Stop! You must stop! You must stop!" And then, as before, she laid her head upon his breast, sobbing, "When I saw the dogs I feared you would come, but I could not run away. Oh, you must stop! Oh, I am so happy!" And then he put her from him and looked at her.

"Marjorie," he said, "tell me it is no dream, that it is you, that you are mine! Yes," he shouted aloud, "do you hear me? You are mine! Before Heaven I say it! No man, nothing shall take you from me!"

"Hush, Kalman!" she cried, coming to him and laying her hand upon his lips; "they are just down by the river there."

"Who are they? I care not who they are, now that you are mine!"

"And oh, how near I was to losing you!" she cried. "You were going away to-morrow, and I should have broken my heart."

"Ah, dear heart! How could I know?" he said. "How could I know you could ever love a foreigner, the son of a--"

"The son of a hero, who paid out his life for a great cause," she cried with a sob. "Oh, Kalman, I have been there. I have seen the people, your father's people."

Kalman's face was pale, his voice shaking. "You have seen? You understand? You do not shrink from me?" He felt his very soul trembling in the balance.

"Shrink from you!" she cried in scorn. "Were I Russian, I should be like your father!"

"Now God be thanked!" cried Kalman. "That fear is gone. I fear nothing else. Ah, how brave you are, sweetheart!"

"Stop, Kalman! Man, man, you are terrible. Let me go! They are coming!"

"Hello there! Steady all." It was Brown's voice. "Now, then, what's this?"

Awhile they stood side by side, then Marjorie came shyly to Sir Robert.

"I didn't mean to, father," she said penitently, "not a bit. But I couldn't help myself. He just made me."

Sir Robert kissed her.

Kalman stepped forward. "And I couldn't help it, Sir," he said. "I tried my best not to. Will you give her to me?"

"Listen to him, now, will you?" said Sir Robert, shaking him warmly by the hand. "It wasn't the fault of either of them."

"Quite true, Sir," said French gravely. "I'm afraid it was partly mine. I saw the dogs--I thought it would be good for us three to take the other trail."

"Blame me, Sir," said Brown penitently. "It was I who helped to conquer her aversion to the foreigner by showing her his many excellences. Yes," continued Brown in a reminiscent manner, "I seem to recall how a certain young lady into these ears made solemn declaration that never, never could she love one of those foreigners."

"Ah," said Marjorie with sweet and serious emphasis, "but not my foreigner, my Canadian foreigner."

Ralph Connor