The Right of Way
ROSALIE WARNS CHARLEY
Charley's eyes met Rosalie's with a look the girl had never seen in them
before. It gave a glow to his haggard face.
Rosalie turned to Jo and greeted him with a friendlier manner than was her
wont towards him. The nearer she was to Charley, the farther away from him, to
her mind, was Portugais, and she became magnanimous.
Jo nodded' awkwardly and left the room. Looking after the departing figure,
Rosalie said: "I know he has been good to you, but—but do you trust him,
"Does not everybody in Chaudiere trust him?"
"There is one who does not, though perhaps that's of no consequence."
"Why do you not trust him?"
"I don't know. I never knew him do a bad thing; I never heard of a bad thing
he has done; and—he has been good to you."
She paused, flushing as she felt the significance of her words, and
continued: "Yet there is—I cannot tell what. I feel something. It is not
reasonable to go upon one's feelings; but there it is, and so I do not trust
"It is the way he lives, here in these lonely woods—the mystery around him."
A change passed over her. With the first glow of meeting the object of her
visit had receded, though since her last interview with the Seigneur she had not
rested a moment, in her anxiety to warn him of his danger. "Oh, no," she said,
lifting her eyes frankly to his: "oh, no, Monsieur! It is not that. There is
mystery about you!" She felt her heart beating hard. It almost choked her, but
she kept on bravely. "People say strange and bad things about you. No one
knows"—she trembled under the painful inquiry of his eyes. Then she gained
courage and went on, for she must make it clear she trusted him, that she took
him at his word, before she told him of the peril before him—"No one knows where
you came from... and it is nobody's business. Some people do not believe in you.
But I believe in you—I should believe in you if every one doubted; for there is
no feeling in me that says, 'He has done some wicked thing that stands-between
us.' It isn't the same as with Portugais, you see—naturally, it could not be the
She seemed not to realise that she was telling more of her own heart than she
had ever told. It was a revelation, having its origin in an honesty which
impelled a pure outspokenness to himself. Reserve, of course, there had been
elsewhere, for did not she hold a secret with him? Had she not hidden things,
equivocated else where? Yet it had been at his wish, to protect the name of a
dead man, for the repose of whose soul masses were now said, with expensive
candles burning. For this she had no repentance; she was without logic where
this man's good was at stake.
Charley had before him a problem, which he now knew he never could evade in
the future. He could solve it by none of the old intellectual means, but by the
use of new faculties, slowly emerging from the unexplored fastnesses of his
"Why should you believe in me?" he asked, forcing himself to smile, yet
acutely alive to the fact that a crisis was impending. "You, like all down there
in Chaudiere, know nothing of my past, are not sure that I haven't been a
hundred times worse than you think poor Jo there. I may have been anything. You
may be harbouring a man the law is tracking down."
In all that befell Rosalie Evanturel thereafter, never could come such
another great resolute moment. There was nothing to support her in the crisis
but her own faith. It needed high courage to tell this man who had first given
her dreams, then imagination, hope, and the beauty of doing for another's
well-being rather than for her own—to tell this man that he was a suspected
criminal. Would he hate her? Would his kindness turn to anger? Would he despise
her for even having dared to name the suspicion which was bringing hither an
austere Abbe and officers of the law?
"We are harbouring a man the law is tracking down," she said with an infinite
appeal in her eyes.
He did not quite understand. He thought that perhaps she meant Jo, and he
glanced towards the door; but she kept her eyes on him, and they told him that
she meant himself. He chilled, as though ether were being poured through his
Did the world know, then, that Charley Steele was alive? Was the law sending
its officers to seize the embezzler, the ruffian who had robbed widow and
If it were so.... To go back to the world whence he came, with the injury he
must do to others, and the punishment also that he must suffer, if he did not
tell the truth about Billy! And Chaudiere, which, in spite of all, was beginning
to have a real belief in him—where was his contempt for the world now!... And
Rosalie, who trusted him—this new element rapidly grew dominant in his
thoughts-to be the common criminal in her eyes!
His paleness gave way to a flush as like her own as could be.
"You mean me?" he asked quietly.
She had thought that his flush meant anger, and she was surprised at the
quiet tone. She nodded assent. "For what crime?" he asked.
His heart seemed to stand still. Then, it had come in spite of all it had
come. Here was his resurrection, and the old life to face.
"What did I steal?" he asked with dull apathy. "The gold vessels from the
Catholic Cathedral of Quebec, after—after trying to blow up Government House
His despair passed. His face suddenly lighted. He smiled. It was so absurd.
"Really!" he said. "When was the place blown up?"
"Two days before you came here last year—it was not blown up; an attempt was
"Ah, I did not know. Why was the attempt made to blow it up?"
"Some Frenchman's hatred of the English, they say."
"But I am not French."
"They do not know. You speak French as perfectly as English—ah, Monsieur,
Monsieur, I believe you are whatever you say." Pain and appeal rang from her
"I am only an honest tailor," he answered gently. He ruled his face to
calmness, for he read the agony in the girl's face, and troubled as he was, he
wished to show her that he had no fear.
"It is for what you were they will arrest you," she said helplessly, and as
though he needed to have all made clear to him. "Oh, Monsieur," she continued,
in a broken voice, "it would shame me so to have you made a prisoner in
Chaudiere—before all these silly people, who turn with the wind. I should not
lift my head—but yes, I should lift my head!" she added hurriedly. "I should
tell them all they lied—every one—the idiots! The Seigneur—"
"Well, what of the Seigneur-Rosalie?"
Her own name on his lips—the sound of it dimmed her eyes.
"Monsieur Rossignol does not know you. He neither believes nor disbelieves.
He said to me that if you wanted consideration, to command him, for in Chaudiere
he had heard nothing but good of you. If you stayed, he would see that you had
justice—not persecution. I saw him two hours ago."
She said the last words shyly, for she was thinking why the Seigneur had
spoken as he did—that he had taken her opinion of Monsieur as his guide, and she
had not scrupled to impress him with her views. The Seigneur was in danger of
becoming prejudiced by his sentiments.
A wave of feeling passed over Charley, a rushing wave of sympathy for this
simple girl, who, out of a blind confidence, risked so much for him. Risk there
certainly was, if she—if she cared for him. It was cruelty not to reassure her.
Touching his breast, he said gravely: "By this sign here, I am not guilty of
the crime for which they come to seek me, Rosalie. Nor of any other crime for
which the law might punish me—dear, noble friend."
He did so little to get such rich return. Her eyes leaped up to brighter
degrees of light, her face shone with a joy it had never reflected before, her
blood rushed to her finger-tips. She abruptly sat down in a chair and buried her
face in her hands, trembling. Then, lifting her head slowly, after a moment she
spoke in a tone that told him her faith, her gratitude—not for reassurance, but
for confidence, which is as water in a thirsty land to a woman.
"Oh, Monsieur, I thank you, I thank you from the depth of my heart; and my
heart is deep indeed, very, very deep—I cannot find what lies lowest in it! I
thank you, because you trust me, because you make it so easy to—to be your
friend; to say 'I know' when any one might doubt you. One has no right to speak
for another till—till the other has given confidence, has said you may. Ah,
Monsieur, I am so happy!"
In very abandonment of heart she clasped her hands and came a step nearer to
him, but abruptly stopped still; for, realising her action, timidity and
embarrassment rushed upon her.
Charley understood, and again his impulse was to say what was in his heart
and dare all; but resolution possessed him, and he said quickly:
"Once, Rosalie, you saved me—from death perhaps. Once your hands helped my
pain—here." He touched his breast. "Your words now, and what you do, they still
help me—here... but in a different way. The trouble is in my heart, Rosalie. You
are glad of my confidence? Well, I will give you more.... I cannot go back to my
old life. To do so would injure others—some who have never injured me and some
who have. That is why. That is why I do not wish to be taken to Quebec now on a
false charge. That is all I can say. Is it enough?"
She was about to answer, but Jo Portugais entered, exclaiming. "M'sieu'," he
cried, "men are coming with the Seigneur and Cure."
Charley nodded at Jo, then turned to Rosalie. "You need not be seen if you go
out by the back way, Mademoiselle." He held aside the bear-skin curtain of the
door that led into the next room.
There was a frightened look in her face. "Do not fear for me," he continued.
"It will come right—somehow. You have done more for me than any one has ever
done or ever will do. I will remember till the last moment of my life.
He laid a hand on her shoulder and gently pushed her from the room.
"God protect you! The Blessed Virgin speak for you! I will pray for you," she