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Chapter 38

  • Valancy walked quickly through the back streets and through Lover's Lane. Sh_id not want to meet any one she knew. She didn't want to meet even people sh_idn't know. She hated to be seen. Her mind was so confused, so torn, s_essy. She felt that her appearance must be the same. She drew a sobbin_reath of relief as she left the village behind and found herself on the "u_ack" road. There was little fear of meeting any one she knew here. The car_hat fled by her with raucous shrieks were filled with strangers. One of the_as packed with young people who whirled past her singing uproariously:
  • > "My wife has the fever, O then, > My wife has the fever, O then, > My wife has the fever, > Oh, I hope it won't leave her, > For I want to be single again."
  • Valancy flinched as if one of them had leaned from the car and cut her acros_he face with a whip.
  • She had made a covenant with death and death had cheated her. Now life stoo_ocking her. She had trapped Barney. Trapped him into marrying her. An_ivorce was so hard to get in Ontario. So expensive. And Barney was poor.
  • With life, fear had come back into her heart. Sickening fear. Fear of wha_arney would think. Would say. Fear of the future that must be lived withou_im. Fear of her insulted, repudiated clan.
  • She had had one draught from a divine cup and now it was dashed from her lips.
  • With no kind, friendly death to rescue her. She must go on living and longin_or it. Everything was spoiled, smirched, defaced. Even that year in the Blu_astle. Even her unashamed love for Barney. It had been beautiful becaus_eath waited. Now it was only sordid because death was gone. How could any on_ear an unbearable thing?
  • She must go back and tell him. Make him believe she had not meant to tric_im—she  _must_  make him believe that. She must say good-bye to her Blu_astle and return to the brick house on Elm Street. Back to everything she ha_hought left behind forever. The old bondage—the old fears. But that did no_atter. All that mattered now was that Barney must somehow be made to believ_he had not consciously tricked him.
  • When Valancy reached the pines by the lake she was brought out of her daze o_ain by a startling sight. There, parked by the side of old, battered ragge_ady Jane, was another car. A wonderful car. A purple car. Not a dark, roya_urple but a blatant, screaming purple. It shone like a mirror and it_nterior plainly indicated the car caste of Vere de Vere. In the driver's sea_at a haughty chauffeur in livery. And in the tonneau sat a man who opened th_oor and bounced out nimbly as Valancy came down the path to the landing- place. He stood under the pines waiting for her and Valancy took in ever_etail of him.
  • A stout, short, pudgy man, with a broad, rubicund, good-humoured face—a clean- shaven face, though an unparalysed little imp at the back of Valancy'_aralysed mind suggested the thought, "Such a face should have a fringe o_hite whisker around it." Old-fashioned, steel-rimmed spectacles on prominen_lue eyes. A pursey mouth; a little round, knobby nose. Where—where—where, groped Valancy, had she seen that face before? It seemed as familiar to her a_er own.
  • The stranger wore a green hat and a light fawn overcoat over a suit of a lou_heck pattern. His tie was a brilliant green of lighter shade; on the plum_and he outstretched to intercept Valancy an enormous diamond winked at her.
  • But he had a pleasant, fatherly smile, and in his hearty, unmodulated voic_as a ring of something that attracted her.
  • "Can you tell me, Miss, if that house yonder belongs to a Mr. Redfern? And i_o, how can I get to it?"
  • Redfern! A vision of bottles seemed to dance before Valancy's eyes—lon_ottles of bitters—round bottles of hair tonic—square bottles o_iniment—short, corpulent little bottles of purple pills—and all of the_earing that very prosperous, beaming moon-face and steel-rimmed spectacles o_he label. Dr. Redfern!
  • "No," said Valancy faintly. "No—that house belongs to Mr. Snaith."
  • Dr. Redfern nodded.
  • "Yes, I understand Bernie's been calling himself Snaith. Well, it's his middl_ame—was his poor mother's. Bernard Snaith Redfern—that's him. And now, Miss, you can tell me how to get over to that island? Nobody seems to be home there.
  • I've done some waving and yelling. Henry, there, wouldn't yell. He's a one-jo_an. But old Doc Redfern can yell with the best of them yet, and ain't abov_oing it. Raised nothing but a couple of crows. Guess Bernie's out for th_ay."
  • "He was away when I left this morning," said Valancy. "I suppose he hasn'_ome home yet."
  • She spoke flatly and tonelessly. This last shock had temporarily bereft her o_hatever little power of reasoning had been left her by Dr. Trent'_evelation. In the back of her mind the aforesaid little imp was jeeringl_epeating a silly old proverb, "It never rains but it pours." But she was no_rying to think. What was the use?
  • Dr. Redfern was gazing at her in perplexity.
  • "When you left this morning? Do you live—over there?"
  • He waved his diamond at the Blue Castle.
  • "Of course," said Valancy stupidly. "I'm his wife."
  • Dr. Redfern took out a yellow silk handkerchief, removed his hat and moppe_is brow. He was very bald, and Valancy's imp whispered, "Why be bald? Wh_ose your manly beauty? Try Redfern's Hair Vigor. It keeps you young."
  • "Excuse me," said Dr. Redfern. "This is a bit of a shock."
  • "Shocks seem to be in the air this morning." The imp said this out loud befor_alancy could prevent it.
  • "I didn't know Bernie was—married. I didn't think he  _would_  have go_arried without telling his old dad."
  • Were Dr. Redfern's eyes misty? Amid her own dull ache of misery and fear an_read, Valancy felt a pang of pity for him.
  • "Don't blame him," she said hurriedly. "It—it wasn't his fault. It—was all m_oing."
  • "You didn't ask him to marry you, I suppose," twinkled Dr. Redfern. "He migh_ave let me know. I'd have got acquainted with my daughter-in-law before thi_f he had. But I'm glad to meet you now, my dear—very glad. You look like _ensible young woman. I used to sorter fear Barney'd pick out some pretty bi_f fluff just because she was good-looking. They were all after him, o_ourse. Wanted his money? Eh? Didn't like the pills and the bitters but like_he dollars. Eh? Wanted to dip their pretty little fingers in old Doc'_illions. Eh?"
  • "Millions!" said Valancy faintly. She wished she could sit down somewhere—sh_ished she could have a chance to think—she wished she and the Blue Castl_ould sink to the bottom of Mistawis and vanish from human sight forevermore.
  • "Millions," said Dr. Redfern complacently. "And Bernie chucks them for—that."
  • Again he shook the diamond contemptuously at the Blue Castle, "Wouldn't yo_hink he'd have more sense? And all on account of a white bit of a girl. H_ust have got over _that_  feeling, anyhow, since he's married. You mus_ersuade him to come back to civilisation. All nonsense wasting his life lik_his. Ain't you going to take me over to your house, my dear? I suppose you'v_ome way of getting there."
  • "Of course," said Valancy stupidly. She led the way down to the little cov_here the disappearing propeller boat was snuggled.
  • "Does your—your man want to come, too?"
  • "Who? Henry. Not he. Look at him sitting there disapproving. Disapproves o_he whole expedition. The trail up from the road nearly gave him a conniption.
  • Well, it  _was_  a devilish road to put a car on. Whose old bus is that u_here?"
  • "Barney's."
  • "Good Lord! Does Bernie Redfern ride in a thing like that? It looks like th_reat-great-grandmother of all the Fords."
  • "It isn't a Ford. It's a Grey Slosson," said Valancy spiritedly. For som_ccult reason, Dr. Redfern's good-humoured ridicule of dear old Lady Jan_tung her to life. A life that was all pain but still  _life._  Better tha_he horrible half-dead-and-half-aliveness of the past few minutes—or years.
  • She waved Dr. Redfern curtly into the boat and took him over to the Blu_astle. The key was still in the old pine—the house still silent and deserted.
  • Valancy took the doctor through the living-room to the western verandah. Sh_ust at least be out where there was air. It was still sunny, but in th_outhwest a great thundercloud, with white crests and gorges of purple shadow, was slowly rising over Mistawis. The doctor dropped with a gasp on a rusti_hair and mopped his brow again.
  • "Warm, eh? Lord, what a view! Wonder if it would soften Henry if he could se_t."
  • "Have you had dinner?" asked Valancy.
  • "Yes, my dear—had it before we left Port Lawrence. Didn't know what sort o_ild hermit's hollow we were coming to, you see. Hadn't any idea I was goin_o find a nice little daughter-in-law here all ready to toss me up a meal.
  • Cats, eh? Puss, puss! See that. Cats love me. Bernie was always fond of cats!
  • It's about the only thing he took from me. He's his poor mother's boy."
  • Valancy had been thinking idly that Barney must resemble his mother. She ha_emained standing by the steps, but Dr. Redfern waved her to the swing seat.
  • "Sit down, dear. Never stand when you can sit. I want to get a good look a_arney's wife. Well, well, I like your face. No beauty—you don't mind m_aying that—you've sense enough to know it, I reckon. Sit down."
  • Valancy sat down. To be obliged to sit still when mental agony urges us t_tride up and down is the refinement of torture. Every nerve in her being wa_rying out to be alone—to be hidden. But she had to sit and listen to Dr.
  • Redfern, who didn't mind talking at all.
  • "When do you think Bernie will be back?"
  • "I don't know—not before night probably."
  • "Where did he go?"
  • "I don't know that either. Likely to the woods—up back."
  • "So he doesn't tell you his comings and goings, either? Bernie was always _ecretive young devil. Never understood him. Just like his poor mother. But _hought a lot of him. It hurts me when he disappeared as he did. Eleven year_go. I haven't seen my boy for eleven years."
  • "Eleven years." Valancy was surprised. "It's only six since he came here."
  • "Oh, he was in the Klondike before that—and all over the world. He used t_rop me a line now and then—never give any clue to where he was but just _ine to say he was all right. I s'pose he's told you all about it."
  • "No. I know nothing of his past life," said Valancy with sudden eagerness. Sh_anted to know—she must know now. It hadn't mattered before. Now she must kno_ll. And she could never hear it from Barney. She might never even see hi_gain. If she did, it would not be to talk of his past.
  • "What happened? Why did he leave his home? Tell me. Tell me."
  • "Well, it ain't much of a story. Just a young fool gone mad because of _uarrel with his girl. Only Bernie was a stubborn fool. Always stubborn. Yo_ever could make that boy do anything he didn't want to do. From the day h_as born. Yet he was always a quiet, gentle little chap, too. Good as gold.
  • His poor mother died when he was only two years old. I'd just begun to mak_oney with my Hair Vigor. I'd dreamed the formula for it, you see. Some drea_hat. The cash rolled in. Bernie had everything he wanted. I sent him to th_est schools—private schools. I meant to make a gentleman of him. Never ha_ny chance myself. Meant he should have every chance. He went through McGill.
  • Got honours and all that. I wanted him to go in for law. He hankered afte_ournalism and stuff like that. Wanted me to buy a paper for him—or back hi_n publishing what he called a 'real, worthwhile, honest-to-goodness Canadia_agazine.' I s'pose I'd have done it—I always did what he wanted me to do.
  • Wasn't he all I had to live for? I wanted him to be happy. And he never wa_appy. Can you believe it? Not that he said so. But I'd always a feeling tha_e wasn't happy. Everything he wanted—all the money he could spend—his ow_ank account—travel—seeing the world—but he wasn't happy. Not till he fell i_ove with Ethel Traverse. Then he was happy for a little while."
  • The cloud had reached the sun and a great, chill, purple shadow came swiftl_ver Mistawis. It touched the Blue Castle—rolled over it. Valancy shivered.
  • "Yes," she said, with painful eagerness, though every word was cutting her t_he heart. "What—was—she—like?"
  • "Prettiest girl in Montreal," said Dr. Redfern. "Oh, she was a looker, al_ight. Eh? Gold hair—shiny as silk—great, big, soft, black eyes—skin like mil_nd roses. Don't wonder Bernie fell for her. And brains as well.  _She_asn't a bit of fluff. B.A. from McGill. A thoroughbred, too. One of the bes_amilies. But a bit lean in the purse. Eh! Bernie was mad about her. Happies_oung fool you ever saw. Then—the bust-up."
  • "What happened?" Valancy had taken off her hat and was absently thrusting _in in and out of it. Good Luck was purring beside her. Banjo was regardin_r. Redfern with suspicion. Nip and Tuck were lazily cawing in the pines.
  • Mistawis was beckoning. Everything was the same. Nothing was the same. It wa_ hundred years since yesterday. Yesterday, at this time, she and Barney ha_een eating a belated dinner here with laughter. Laughter? Valancy felt tha_he had done with laughter forever. And with tears, for that matter. She ha_o further use for either of them.
  • "Blest if I know, my dear. Some fool quarrel, I suppose. Bernie just li_ut—disappeared. He wrote me from the Yukon. Said his engagement was broke_nd he wasn't coming back. And not to try to hunt him up because he was neve_oming back. I didn't. What was the use? I knew Bernie. I went on piling u_oney because there wasn't anything else to do. But I was mighty lonely. All _ived for was them little notes now and then fro_ernie—Klondike—England—South Africa—China—everywhere. I thought maybe he'_ome back some day to his lonesome old dad. Then six years ago even th_etters stopped. I didn't hear a word of or from him till last Christmas."
  • "Did he write?"
  • "No. But he drew a check for fifteen thousand dollars on his bank account. Th_ank manager is a friend of mine—one of my biggest shareholders. He'd alway_romised me he'd let me know if Bernie drew any checks. Bernie had fift_housand there. And he'd never touched a cent of it till last Christmas. Th_heck was made out to Aynsley's, Toronto—"
  • "Anysley's?" Valancy heard herself saying Aynsley's! She had a box on he_ressing-table with the Aynsley trademark.
  • "Yes. The big jewellery house there. After I'd thought it over a while, I go_risk. I wanted to locate Bernie. Had a special reason for it. It was time h_ave up his fool hoboing and come to his senses. Drawing that fifteen told m_here was something in the wind. The manager communicated with th_ynsleys—his wife was an Aynsley—and found out that Bernard Redfern had bough_ pearl necklace there. His address was given as Box 444, Port Lawrence, Muskoka, Ont. First I thought I'd write. Then I thought I'd wait till the ope_eason for cars and come down myself. Ain't no hand at writing. I've motore_rom Montreal. Got to Port Lawrence yesterday. Enquired at the post-office.
  • Told me they knew nothing of any Bernard Snaith Redfern, but there was _arney Snaith had a P. O. box there. Lived on an island out here, they said.
  • So here I am. And where's Barney?"
  • Valancy was fingering her necklace. She was wearing fifteen thousand dollar_round her neck. And she had worried lest Barney had paid fifteen dollars fo_t and couldn't afford it. Suddenly she laughed in Dr. Redfern's face.
  • "Excuse me. It's so—amusing," said poor Valancy.
  • "Isn't it?" said Dr. Redfern, seeing a joke—but not exactly hers. "Now, yo_eem like a sensible young woman, and I dare say you've lots of influence ove_ernie. Can't you get him to come back to civilisation and live like othe_eople? I've a house up there. Big as a castle. Furnished like a palace. _ant company in it—Bernie's wife—Bernie's children."
  • "Did Ethel Traverse ever marry?" queried Valancy irrelevantly.
  • "Bless you, yes. Two years after Bernie levanted. But she's a widow now.
  • Pretty as ever. To be frank, that was my special reason for wanting to fin_ernie. I thought they'd make it up, maybe. But, of course, that's all of_ow. Doesn't matter. Bernie's choice of a wife is good enough for me. It's m_oy I want. Think he'll soon be back?"
  • "I don't know. But I don't think he'll come before night. Quite late, perhaps.
  • And perhaps not till tomorrow. But I can put you up comfortably. He'l_ertainly be back tomorrow."
  • Dr. Redfern shook his head.
  • "Too damp. I'll take no chances with rheumatism."
  • "Why suffer that ceaseless anguish? Why not try Redfern's Liniment?" quote_he imp in the back of Valancy's mind.
  • "I must get back to Port Lawrence before rain starts. Henry goes quite ma_hen he gets mud on the car. But I'll come back tomorrow. Meanwhile you tal_ernie into reason."
  • He shook her hand and patted her kindly on the shoulder. He looked as if h_ould have kissed her, with a little encouragement, but Valancy did not giv_t. Not that she would have minded. He was rather dreadful an_oud—and—and—dreadful. But there was something about him she liked. Sh_hought dully that she might have liked being his daughter-in-law if he ha_ot been a millionaire. A score of times over. And Barney was his son—an_eir.
  • She took him over in the motor boat and watched the lordly purple car rol_way through the woods with Henry at the wheel looking things not lawful to b_ttered. Then she went back to the Blue Castle. What she had to do must b_one quickly. Barney  _might_  return at any moment. And it was certainl_oing to rain. She was thankful she no longer felt very bad. When you ar_ludgeoned on the head repeatedly, you naturally and mercifully become more o_ess insensible and stupid.
  • She stood briefly like a faded flower bitten by frost, by the hearth, lookin_own on the white ashes of the last fire that had blazed in the Blue Castle.
  • "At any rate," she thought wearily, "Barney isn't poor. He will be able t_fford a divorce. Quite nicely."