Prescott of Saskatchewan - Harold Bindloss - ebook

Prescott of Saskatchewan ebook

Harold Bindloss

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The story of the imitation of man. After all, everyone has a person to whom you want to strive. There is a murder and a chase in Western Canada a few days before the advent of cars or even telegraph lines in much of the country. Great attention to the landscape. The author does not regret the descriptions of landscapes.

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Liczba stron: 472

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Contents

I. Jernyngham’s Happy Thought

II. Muriel Sees the West

III. Jernyngham Makes a Decision

IV. Muriel Feels Regret

V. The Mystery of the Muskeg

VI. A Deal in Land

VI. The Search

VIII. A Day on the Prairie

IX. Prescott Makes a Promise

X. A New Clew

XI. A Revelation

XII. Prescott’s Flight

XIII. The Construction Camp

XIV. On the Trail

XV. Miss Foster’s Escort

XVI. The Missionary’s Ally

XVII. The Passage of the Mountains

XVIII. Defeat

XIX. Prescott’s Return

XX. Muriel Relieves her Mind

XXI. Wandle Takes Precautions

XXII. Jernyngham Makes a Discovery

XXIII. A Night Ride

XXIV. Muriel Proves Obdurate

XXV. A Woman’s Influence

XXVI. Prescott Makes Inquiries

XXVII. Startling News

XXVIII. The End of the Pursuit

XXIX. Jernyngham Breaks Down

XXX. Prescott’s Vindication

CHAPTER I

JERNYNGHAM’S HAPPY THOUGHT

The air was cooling down toward evening at Sebastian, where an unpicturesque collection of wooden houses stand upon a branch line on the Canadian prairie. The place is not attractive during the earlier portion of the short northern summer, when for the greater part of every week it lies sweltering in heat, in spite of the strong west winds that drive dust-clouds through its rutted streets. As a rule, during the remaining day or two the temperature sharply falls, thunder crashes between downpours of heavy rain, and the wet plank sidewalks provide a badly-needed refuge from the cement-like “gumbo” mire.

The day, however, had been cloudless and unusually hot. Prescott had driven in from his wheat farm at some distance from the settlement, and he now walked toward the hotel. He was twenty-eight years old, of average height and rather spare figure; his face, which had been deeply bronzed by frost and sun, was what is called open, his gray eyes were clear and steady, the set of his lips and mould of chin firm. He looked honest and good-natured, but one who could, when necessary, sturdily hold his own. His attire was simple: a wide gray hat, a saffron-colored shirt with flannel collar, and a light tweed suit, something the worse for wear.

As he passed along the sidewalk he looked about. The small, frame houses were destitute of paint and any pretense of beauty, a number of them had raised, square fronts which hid the shingled roofs; but beyond the end of the street there was the prairie stretching back to the horizon. In the foreground it was a sweep of fading green and pale ocher; farther off it was tinged with gray and purple; and where it cut the glow of green and pink on the skyline a long birch bluff ran in a cold blue smear. To the left of the opening rose three grain elevators: huge wooden towers with their tops narrowed in and devices of stars and flour-bags painted on them. At their feet ran the railroad track, encumbered with a string of freight-cars; a tall water-tank, a grimy stage for unloading coal, and a small office shack marked the station.

Prescott, however, did not notice much of this; he was more interested in the signs of conflict on the persons of the men he met. Some looked as if they had been violently rolled in the dust; others wore torn jackets; and the faces of several were disfigured by bruises. Empty bottles, which make handy clubs, were suggestively scattered about the road. All this was unusual, but Prescott supposed some allowance must be made for the fact that it was the anniversary of the famous victory of the Boyne. Moreover, there was a community of foreign immigrants, mixed with some Irishmen and French Canadians, but all professing the Romish faith, engaged in some railroad work not far away.

In front of the hotel ran a veranda supported on wooden pillars, and a row of chairs was set out on the match-strewn sidewalk beneath it. Most of them were occupied by after-supper loungers, and several of the men bore scars. Prescott stopped and lighted his pipe.

“Things seem to have been pretty lively here,” he remarked. “I came in to see the implement man and found he couldn’t talk straight, with half his teeth knocked out. It’s lucky the Northwest troopers have stopped your carrying pistols.”

One of the men laughed.

“We’ve had a great day, sure. Quite a few of the Dagos had knives, and Jernyngham had a sword. Guess he’d be in trouble now, only it wasn’t one you could cut with.”

“How did he get the sword?”

“It was King Billy’s,” explained another man. “Fellow who was acting him got knocked out with a bottle in his eye. Jernyngham got up on the horse instead and led the last charge, when we whipped them across the track.”

“Where’s the Protestant Old Guard now?”

“Some of it’s in Clayton’s surgery; rest’s gone home. When it looked as if the stores would be wrecked, Reeve Marvin butted in. Telephoned the railroad boss to send up gravel cars for his boys; told the other crowd he’d bring the troopers in if they didn’t quit. Ordered all strangers off on the West-bound, and now we’re simmering down.”

“Where’s Jernyngham?”

The man jerked his hand toward the hotel.

“In his room, a bit the worse for wear. Mrs. Jernyngham’s nursing him.”

Pushing open the wire-mesh mosquito door, Prescott entered the building. Its interior was shadowy and filled with cigar smoke; flies buzzed everywhere, and the smell of warm resinous boards pervaded the rank atmosphere. The place was destitute of floor covering or drapery, and the passage Prescott walked down was sloppy with soap and water from a row of wash-basins, near which hung one small wet towel. Ascending the stairs, he entered a little and very scantily furnished room with walls of uncovered pine. It contained a bed with a ragged quilt and a couple of plain wooden chairs, in one of which a man leaned back. He was about thirty years old and he roughly resembled Prescott, only that his face, which was a rather handsome one, bore the stamp of indulgence. His forehead was covered by a dirty bandage, there was dust on his clothes, and Prescott thought he was not quite sober. In the other chair sat a young woman with fine dark eyes and glossy black hair, whose appearance would have been prepossessing had it not been spoiled by her slatternliness and cheap finery. She smiled at the visitor as he walked in.

“If you’d come sooner, we might have kep’ him out o’ trouble,” she said. “He got away from me when things begun to hum.”

Her slight accent suggested the French Canadian strain, though Prescott imagined that there was a trace of Indian blood in her. Her manners were unfinished, her character was primitive, but Prescott thought she was as good a consort as Jernyngham deserved. The latter had a small wheat farm lying back on the prairie, but his erratic temperament prevented his successfully working it. Prescott was not a censorious person, and he had a liking and some pity for the man.

“Well,” he said, in answer to the woman’s remark, “that was certainly foolish of him. But what had he to do with the row, anyway?”

“Have a drink, and I’ll try to explain,” said Jernyngham. “A big cool drink might clear my head, and I feel it needs it.”

“You kin have soda, but nothin’ else!” the woman broke in. “I’ll send it up; and now that I kin leave you, I’m goin’ to the store.” She turned to Prescott. “Nothin’ but soda; and see he don’t git out!”

She left them and Jernyngham laughed.

“Ellice’s a good sort; I sometimes wonder how she puts up with me. Anyhow, I’m glad you came, because I’m in what might be called a dilemma.”

As this was not a novelty to his companion, Prescott made no comment, and by and by two tumblers containing iced liquid were brought in. Jernyngham drained his thirstily and looked up with a grin.

“It isn’t exhilarating, but it’s cool,” he said. “Now, however, you’re curious about my honorable scars–I got them from a bottle. It broke, you see, but there’s some satisfaction in remembering that I knocked out the other fellow with the flat of the Immortal William’s sword.”

“You’ll get worse hurt some day,” Prescott rebuked him severely.

“It’s possible, but you’re wandering from the point. I’m trying to remember what led me into the fray in the incongruous company of certain Hardshell Baptists, Ontario Methodists, and Belfast Presbyterians. As a young man, my sympathies were with the advanced Anglicans, perhaps because my people were sternly Evangelical. Then the whole thing’s unreasonable–what have I to do, for instance, with the Protestant succession?”

“It isn’t very plain,” said Prescott. “Still, everybody knows what kind of fool you are.”

“I live,” declared Jernyngham. “You steady, industrious fellows grow. The row began at the ball-game–disputed base, I think–and our lot had got badly whipped at the first round when I stood on the veranda and sang them, “No Surrender.’ That was enough for the Ulster boys, and three or four of them go a long way in this kind of scrimmage.”

Prescott had no sympathy with Jernyngham’s vagaries, but one could not be angry with him: the man was irresponsible. In a few moments, however, Jernyngham’s face grew graver.

“Jack,” he resumed, “I’m in a hole. Never troubled to ask for my letters until late in the afternoon, and now I don’t know what to do unless you can help me.”

“You had better tell me what the trouble is.”

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