Carmen’s Messenger - Harold Bindloss - ebook

Carmen’s Messenger ebook

Harold Bindloss

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Opis

Jake Foster wanted to change something in his own country with small steps. To do this, he had to marry Alice, who is ready to invest in his business, in his idea. After the signing of the contract, he feels relieved because now he can increase income of his country. But is it worth the sacrifices for which he went?

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Liczba stron: 471

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Contents

I. FEATHERSTONE CHANGES HIS PLANS

II. THE MILL-OWNER

III. FOSTER MAKES A PROMISE

IV. THE FIRST ADVENTURE

V. FEATHERSTONE’S PEOPLE

VI. HIS COMRADE’S STORY

VII. THE PACKET

VIII. AN OFFER OF HELP

IX. THE FALSE TRAIL

X. THE DROVE ROAD

XI. THE POACHERS

XII. A COMPLICATION

XIII. FOSTER RETURNS TO THE GARTH

XIV. FOSTER SEES A LIGHT

XV. THE GLOVE

XVI. A DIFFICULT PART

XVII. THE LETTERS

XVIII. SPADEADAM WASTE

XIX. ALICE’S CONFIDENCE

XX. THE RIGHT TRACK

XXI. DALY TAKES ALARM

XXII. CARMEN GETS A SHOCK

XXIII. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING

XXIV. LAWRENCE’S STORY

XXV. FOSTER SETS OFF AGAIN

XXVI. THE REAL-ESTATE AGENT

XXVII. THE MINE

XXVIII. THE LOG BRIDGE

XXIX. FOSTER ARRIVES

XXX. RUN DOWN

XXXI. DALY SOLVES THE PUZZLE

XXXII. FEATHERSTONE APOLOGIZES

I. FEATHERSTONE CHANGES HIS PLANS

It was getting dark, and a keen wind blew across the ragged pines beside the track, when Jake Foster walked up and down the station at Gardner’s Crossing in North Ontario. Winter was moving southwards fast across the wilderness that rolled back to Hudson’s Bay, silencing the brawling rivers and calming the stormy lakes, but the frost had scarcely touched the sheltered valley yet and the roar of a rapid throbbed among the trees. The sky had the crystal clearness that is often seen in northern Canada, but a long trail of smoke stretched above the town, and the fumes of soft coal mingled with the aromatic smell of the pines. Gardner’s Crossing stood, an outpost of advancing industry, on the edge of the lonely woods.

The blue reflections of big arc-lamps quivered between the foam-flakes on the river, a line of bright spots, stretching back along the bank, marked new avenues of wooden houses, and, across the bridge, the tops of tall buildings cut against the glow that shimmered about the town. At one end rose the great block of the Hulton factory, which lost something of its utilitarian ugliness at night. Its harsh, rectangular outline faded into the background of forest, and the rows of glimmering windows gave it a curious transparent look. It seemed to overflow with radiance and filled the air with rumbling sound.

In a large measure, Gardner’s Crossing owed its rapid development to the enterprise of the Hulton Manufacturing Company. Hulton was ready to make anything out of lumber for which his salesmen found a demand; but his firm grip on the flourishing business had recently relaxed, and people wondered anxiously what would happen if he did not recover from the blow that had struck him down. Fred Hulton, his only son, and assistant treasurer to the Company, had been found in the factory one morning with a bullet-hole in his head, and it was believed that he had shot himself. His father gave his evidence at the inquiry with stern self-control, but took to his bed afterwards and had not left it yet. So far as the townsfolk knew, this was the first time he had shown any weakness of body or mind.

The train was late, but Foster enjoyed the pipe he lighted. It was ten years since he landed at Montreal, a raw lad without friends or money, and learned what hard work was in a lumber camp. Since then he had prospered, and the strenuous life he led for the first few years had not left much mark on him. Now he thought he had earned a holiday, and all arrangements for his visit to England were made. Featherstone, his partner, was going with him. Their sawmill, which was run by water-power, had closed for the winter, when building material was not wanted, and the development of a mineral claim they owned would be stopped by the frost. They had planned to put in a steam engine at the mill, but the Hulton Company had delayed a contract that would have kept the saws running until the river thawed.

Foster, however, did not regret this. Except on Sundays, he had seldom had an hour’s leisure for the last few years. Gardner’s Crossing, which was raw and new, had few amusements to offer its inhabitants; he was young, and now he could relax his efforts, felt that he was getting stale with monotonous toil. But he was a little anxious about Featherstone, who had gone to see a doctor in Toronto.

A whistle rang through the roar of the rapid and a fan-shaped beam of light swung round a bend in the track. Then the locomotive bell began to toll, and Foster walked past the cars as they rolled into the station. He found Featherstone putting on a fur coat at a vestibule door, and gave him a keen glance as he came down the steps. He thought his comrade looked graver than usual.

“Well,” he said, “how did you get on?”

“I’ll tell you later. Let’s get home, but stop at Cameron’s drug store for a minute.”

Foster took his bag and put it in a small American car. He drove slowly across the bridge and up the main street of the town, because there was some traffic and light wagons stood in front of the stores. Then as he turned in towards the sidewalk, ready to pull up, he saw a man stop and fix his eyes on the car. The fellow did not live at the Crossing, but visited it now and then, and Foster had met him once when he called at the sawmill.

“Drive on,” said Featherstone, touching his arm.

Although he was somewhat surprised, Foster did as he was told, and when they had passed a few blocks Featherstone resumed: “I can send down the prescription to-morrow. That was Daly on the sidewalk and I didn’t want to meet him.”

A minute later Foster stopped to avoid a horse that was kicking and plunging outside a livery stable while a crowd encouraged its driver with ironical shouts. Looking round, he thought he saw Daly following them, but a man ran to the horse’s head and Foster seized the opportunity of getting past.

“What did the doctor tell you?” he asked.

“He was rather disappointing,” Featherstone replied, and turned up the deep collar of his coat.

Foster, who saw that his comrade did not want to talk, imagined that he had got something of a shock. When they left the town, however, the jolting of the car made questions difficult and he was forced to mind his steering while the glare of the headlamps flickered across deep holes and ruts. Few of the dirt roads leading to the new Canadian cities are good, but the one they followed, though roughly graded, was worse than usual and broke down into a wagon trail when it ran into thick bush. For a time, the car lurched and labored like a ship at sea up and down hillocks and through soft patches, and Foster durst not lift his eyes until a cluster of lights twinkled among the trees. Then with a sigh of relief he ran into the yard of a silent sawmill and they were at home.

Supper was waiting, and although Foster opened a letter he found upon the table, neither of the men said anything of importance during the meal. When it was over, Featherstone sat down in a big chair by the stove, for the nights were getting cold. He was about thirty years of age, strongly built, and dressed in city clothes, but his face was pinched. For part of the summer, he and Foster had camped upon their new mineral claim in the bush and worked hard to prove the vein. June, as often happens in Canada, was a wet month, and although Featherstone was used to hardship, he sickened with influenza, perhaps in consequence of digging in heavy rain and sleeping in wet clothes. As he was nothing of a valetudinarian he made light of the attack, but did not get better as soon as he expected on his return, and went to see the Toronto doctor, when Foster urged him.

The latter lighted his pipe and looked about the room. It was warm and well lighted, and the furniture, which was plain but good, had been bought, piece by piece, to replace ruder articles they had made at the mill. One or two handsome skins lay upon the uncovered floor, and the walls were made of varnished cedar boards. A gun-rack occupied a corner, and the books on a shelf indicated that their owners had some literary taste, though there were works on mining and forestry. Above the shelf, the huge head of a moose, shot on a prospecting Journey to the North, hung between the smaller heads of bear and caribou.

Foster, who had hitherto lived in tents and shacks, remembered his misgivings when they built the house. Indeed, he had grumbled that it might prove a dangerous locking up of capital that was needed for the enlargement of the mill. Featherstone, however, insisted, and since most of the money was his, Foster gave in; but they had prospered since then. They were good friends, and had learned to allow for each other’s point of view during several years of strenuous toil and stern economy. Still, Foster admitted that their success was not altogether due to their own efforts, because once or twice, when they had to face a financial crisis, the situation was saved by a check Featherstone got from home. By and by the latter turned to his comrade.

“Your letter was from Hulton, wasn’t it? What does he want?”

“He doesn’t state, but asks us to call at the factory to-morrow evening. That’s all, but I heard in town that the doctor and nurse had left; Cameron told me Hulton fired them both because they objected to his getting up.”

“It’s possible,” Featherstone agreed. “Hulton’s not the man to bother about his health or etiquette when he wants to do a thing. Anyhow, as he has been a pretty good friend of ours, we will have to go, but I wouldn’t have imagined he’d have been ready to talk about the tragedy just yet.”

“You think that is what he wants to talk about?”

Featherstone nodded. “We knew Fred Hulton better than anybody at the Crossing, and at the inquiry I tried to indicate that his death was due to an accident. I imagined that Hulton was grateful. It’s true that I don’t see how the accident could have happened, but I don’t believe Fred shot himself. Though it was an open verdict, you and I and Hulton are perhaps the only people who take this view.”

“We’ll let it drop until to-morrow. What did you learn at Toronto?”

“Perhaps the most important thing was that I’ll have to give up my trip to the Old Country.”

“Ah,” said Foster, who waited, trying to hide his disappointment and alarm, for he saw that his suspicions about his partner’s health had been correct.

“The doctor didn’t think it wise; said something about England’s being too damp, and objected to a winter voyage,” Featherstone resumed. “It looks as if you were better at calculating the profit on a lumber deal than diagnosing illness, because while you doctored me for influenza, it was pneumonia I had. However, I admit that you did your best and you needn’t feel anxious. It seems I’m not much the worse, though I’ll have to be careful for the next few months, which I’m to spend on the Pacific slope, California for choice. It’s a bit of a knock, but can’t be helped.”

Foster declared his sympathy, but Featherstone stopped him. “There’s another matter; that fellow Daly’s here again. I expect you guessed what he came for the last time?”

“I did. The bank-book showed you drew a rather large sum.”

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