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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesForeigner - Chapter 8. The Price Of Vengeance
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Foreigner - Chapter 8. The Price Of Vengeance Post by :angiecook Category :Long Stories Author :Ralph Connor Date :May 2012 Read :658

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Foreigner - Chapter 8. The Price Of Vengeance


Dr. Wright's telephone rang early next morning. The doctor was prompt to respond. His practice had not yet reached the stage that rendered the telephone a burden. His young wife stood beside him, listening with eager hope in her wide-open brown eyes.

"Yes," said the doctor. "Oh, it's you. Delighted to hear your ring." "No, not so terribly. The rush doesn't begin till later in the day." "Not at all. What can I do for you?" "Certainly, delighted." "What? Right away?" "Well, say within an hour."

"Who is it?" asked his wife, as the doctor hung up the phone. "A new family?"

"No such luck," replied the doctor. "This has been a frightfully healthy season. But the spring promises a very satisfactory typhoid epidemic."

"Who is it?" said his wife again, impatiently.

"Your friend Mrs. French, inviting me to an expedition into the foreign colony."

"Oh!" She could not keep the disappointment out of her tone. "I think Mrs. French might call some of the other doctors."

"So she does, lots of them. And most of them stand ready to obey her call."

"Well," said the little woman at his side, "I think you are going too much among those awful people."

"Awful people?" exclaimed the doctor. "It's awfully good practice, I know. That is, in certain lines. I can't say there is very much variety. When a really good thing occurs, it is whisked off to the hospital and the big guns get it."

"Well, I don't like your going so much," persisted his wife. "Some day you will get hurt."

"Hurt?" exclaimed the doctor. "Me?"

"Oh, I know you think nothing can hurt you. But a bullet or a knife can do for you as well as for any one else. Supposing that terrible man--what's his name?--Kalmar--had struck you instead of the Polak, where would you be?"

"The question is, where would he be?" said the doctor with a smile. "As for Kalmar, he's not too bad a sort; at least there are others a little worse. I shouldn't be surprised if that fellow Rosenblatt got only a little less than he deserved. Certainly O'Hara let in some light upon his moral ulcers."

"Well, I wish you would drop them, anyway," continued his wife.

"No, you don't," said the doctor. "You know quite well that you would root me out of bed any hour of the night to see any of their kiddies that happened to have a pain in their little tumtums. Between you and Mrs. French I haven't a moment to devote to my large and growing practice."

"What does she want now?" It must be confessed that her tone was slightly impatient.

"Mrs. French has succeeded in getting the excellent Mrs. Blazowski to promise for the tenth time, I believe, to allow some one, preferably myself, to take her eczematic children to the hospital."

"Well, she won't."

"I think it is altogether likely. But why do you think so?"

"Because you have tried before."


"Well, Mrs. French has, and you were with her."

"That is correct. But to-day I shall adopt new tactics. Mrs. French's flank movements have broken down. I shall carry the position with a straight frontal attack. And I shall succeed. If not, my dear, that little fur tippet thing which you have so resolutely refused to let your eyes rest upon as we pass the Hudson's Bay, is yours."

"I don't want it a bit," said his wife. "And you know we can't afford it."

"Don't you worry, little girl," said the doctor cheerfully, "practice is looking up. My name is getting into the papers. A few more foreign weddings with attendant killings and I shall be famous."

At the Blazowski shack Mrs. French was waiting the doctor, and in despair. A crowd of children appeared to fill the shack and overflow through the door into the sunny space outside, on the sheltered side of the house.

The doctor made his way through them and passed into the evil-smelling, filthy room. For Mrs. Blazowski found it a task beyond her ability to perform the domestic duties attaching to the care of seven children and a like number of boarders in her single room. Mrs. French was seated on a stool with a little child of three years upon her knee.

"Doctor, don't you think that these children ought to go to the hospital to-day?" she said, as the doctor entered.

"Why, sure thing; they must go. Let's look at them."

He tried to take the little child from Mrs. French's knee, but the little one vehemently objected.

"Well, let's look at you, anyway," said the doctor, proceeding to unwind some filthy rags from the little one's head. "Great Scott!" he exclaimed in a low voice, "this is truly awful!"

The hair was matted with festering scabs. The ears, the eyes, the fingers were full of running sores.

"I had no idea this thing had gone so far," he said in a horrified voice.

"What is it?" said Mrs. French. "Is it--"

"No, not itch. It is the industrious and persevering eczema pusculosum, known to the laity as salt rheum of the domestic variety."

"It has certainly got worse this last week," said Mrs. French.

"Well, this can't go on another day, and I can't treat her here. She must go. Tell your mother," said the doctor in a decided tone to a little girl of thirteen who stood near.

Mrs. Blazowski threw up her hands with voluble protestation. "She says they will not go. She put grease on and make them all right."

"Grease!" exclaimed the doctor. "I should say so, and a good many other things too! Why, the girl's head is alive with them! Heavens above!" said the doctor, turning to Mrs. French, "she's running over with vermin! Let's see the other."

He turned to a girl of five, whose head and face were even more seriously affected with the dread disease.

"Why, bless my soul! This girl will lose her eyesight! Now look here, these children must go to the hospital, and must go now. Tell your mother what I say."

Again the little girl translated, and again the mother made emphatic reply.

"What does she say?"

"She say she not let them go. She fix them herself. Fix them all right."

"Perhaps we better wait, Doctor," interposed Mrs. French. "I'll talk to her and we'll try another day."

"No," said the doctor, catching up a shawl and wrapping it around the little girl, "she's going with me now. There will be a scrap, and you will have to get in. I'll back you up."

As the doctor caught up the little child, the mother shouted, "No, no! Not go!"

"I say yes," said the doctor; "I'll get a policeman and put you all in prison. Tell her."

The threat made no impression upon the mother. On the contrary, as the doctor moved toward the door she seized a large carving-knife and threw herself before him. For a moment or two they stood facing each other, the doctor uncertain what his next move should be, but determined that his plan should not fail this time. It was Mrs. French who interposed. With a smile she laid her hand upon the mother's arm.

"Tell her," she said to the little girl, "that I will go with the children, and I promise that no hurt shall come to them. And I will bring them back again safe. Your mother can come and see them to-morrow--to-day. The hospital is a lovely place. They will have nice toys, dolls, and nice things to eat, and we'll make them better."

Rapidly, almost breathlessly, and with an eager smile on her sweet face, Mrs. French went on to describe the advantages and attractions of the hospital, pausing only to allow the little girl to translate.

At length the mother relented, her face softened. She stepped from the door, laying down her knife upon the table, moved not by the glowing picture of Mrs. French's words, but by the touch upon her arm and the face that smiled into hers. Once more the mother spoke.

"Will you go too?" interpreted the little girl.

"Yes, surely. I go too," she replied.

This brought the mother's final surrender. She seized Mrs. French's hand, and bursting into loud weeping, kissed it again and again. Mrs. French put her arms around the weeping woman, and unshrinking, kissed the tear-stained, dirty face. Dr. Wright looked on in admiring silence.

"You are a dead sport," he said. "I can't play up to that; but you excite my ambition. Get a shawl around the other kiddie and come along, or I'll find myself kissing the bunch."

Once more he started toward the door, but the mother was before him, talking and gesticulating.

"What's the row now?" said the doctor, turning to the little interpreter.

"She says she must dress them, make them clean."

"It's a big order," said the doctor, "but I submit."

With great energy Mrs. Blazowski proceeded to prepare her children for their momentous venture into the world. The washing process was simple enough. From the dish-pan which stood upon the hearth half full of dirty water and some of the breakfast dishes, she took a greasy dish-cloth, wrung it out carefully, and with it proceeded to wash, not untenderly, the festering heads, faces and fingers of her children, resorting from time to time to the dish-pan for a fresh supply of water. This done, she carefully dried the parts thus diligently washed with the handkerchief which she usually wore about her head. Then pinning shawls about their heads, she had her children ready for their departure, and gave them into Mrs. French's charge, sobbing aloud as if she might never see them more.

"Well," said the doctor, as he drove rapidly away, "we're well out of that. I was just figuring what sort of hold would be most fatal to the old lady when you interposed."

"Poor thing!" said Mrs. French. "They're very fond of their children, these Galicians, and they're so suspicious of us. They don't know any better."

As they passed Paulina's house, the little girl Irma ran out from the door.

"My mother want you very bad," she said to Mrs. French.

"Tell her I'll come in this afternoon," said Mrs. French.

"She want you now," replied Irma, with such a look of anxiety upon her face that Mrs. French was constrained to say, "Wait one moment, Doctor. I'll see what it is. I shall not keep you."

She ran into the house, followed by the little girl. The room was full of men who stood about in stolid but not unsympathetic silence, gazing upon Paulina, who appeared to be prostrated with grief. Beside her stood the lad Kalman, the picture of desolation.

"What is it?" cried Mrs. French, running to her. "Tell me what is the matter."

Irma told the story. Early that morning they had gone to the jail, but after waiting for hours they were refused admission by the guard.

"A very cross man send us away," said the girl. "He say he put us in jail too. We can see our fadder no more."

Her words were followed by a new outburst of grief on the part of Paulina and the two children.

"But the Judge said you were to see him," said Mrs. French in surprise. "Wait for me," she added.

She ran out and told the doctor in indignant words what had taken place, a red spot glowing in each white cheek.

"Isn't it a shame?" she cried when she had finished her story.

"Oh, it's something about prison rules and regulations, I guess," said the doctor.

"Prison rules!" exclaimed Mrs. French with wrath rare in her. "I'll go straight to the Judge myself."

"Get in," said the doctor, taking up the lines.

"Where are you going? We can't leave these poor things in this way," the tears gathering in her eyes and her voice beginning to break.

"Not much," said the doctor briskly; "we are evidently in for another scrap. I don't know where you will land me finally, but I'm game to follow your lead. We'll go to the jail."

Mrs. French considered a moment. "Let us first take these children to the hospital and then we shall meet Paulina at the jail."

"All right," said the doctor, "tell them so. I am at your service."

"You are awfully good, Doctor," said the little lady, her sweet smile once more finding its way to her pale face.

"Ain't I, though?" said the doctor. "If the spring were a little further advanced you'd see my wings sprouting. I enjoy this. I haven't had such fun since my last football match. I see the finish of that jail guard. Come on."

Within an hour the doctor and Mrs. French drove up to the jail. There, at the bleak north door, swept by the chill March wind, and away from the genial light of the shining sun, they found Paulina and her children, a shivering, timid, shrinking group, looking pathetically strange and forlorn in their quaint Galician garb.

The pathos of the picture appeared to strike both the doctor and his friend at the same time.

"Brute!" said the doctor, "it's some beast of an understrapper. He might have let them in, anyway. I'll see the head turnkey."

"Isn't it terribly sad?" replied Mrs. French.

The doctor rang the bell at the jail door, prepared for battle.

"I want to see Mr. Cowan."

The guard glanced past the doctor, saw the shrinking group behind him and gruffly announced, "This is not the hour for visitors."

"I want to see Mr. Cowan," repeated the doctor slowly, looking the guard steadily in the eye. "Is he in?"

"Come in," said the guard sullenly, allowing the doctor and his friend to enter, and shutting the door in the faces of the Galicians.

In a few moments Mr. Cowan appeared, a tall athletic man, kindly of face and of manner. He greeted Mrs. French and the doctor warmly.

"Come into the office," he said; "come in."

"Mr. Cowan," said Mrs. French, "there is a poor Galician woman and her children outside the door, the wife and children of the man who was condemned yesterday. The Judge told them they could see the prisoner to-day."

"The hour for visitors," said Mr. Cowan, "is three in the afternoon."

"Could you not let her in now? She has already waited for hours at the door this morning, and on being refused went home broken-hearted. She does not understand our ways and is very timid. I wish you could let her in now while I am here."

Mr. Cowan hesitated. "I should greatly like to oblige you, Mrs. French. You know that. Sit down, and I will see. Let that woman and her children in," he said to the guard.

The guard went sullenly to the door, followed by Mrs. French.

"Come in here," he said in a gruff voice.

Mrs. French hurried past him, took Paulina by the arm, and saying, "Come in and sit down," led her to a bench and sat beside her. "It's all right," she whispered. "I am sure you can see your husband. Tell her," she said to Irma.

In a short time Mr. Cowan came back.

"They may see him," he said. "It is against all discipline, but it is pretty hard to resist Mrs. French," he continued, turning to the doctor.

"It is quite useless trying," said the doctor; "I have long ago discovered that."

"Come," said that little lady, leading Paulina to the door of the cell.

The guard turned the lock, shot back the bolts, opened the door and motioning with his hand, said gruffly to Paulina, "Go in."

The woman looked into the cell in shrinking fear.

"Go on," said Mrs. French in an encouraging voice, patting her on the shoulder, "I will wait here."

Clinging to one another, the woman and children passed in through the door which the guard closed behind them with a reverberating clang. Mrs. French sat on the bench outside, her face cast down, her eyes closed. Now and then through the grating of the door rose and fell a sound of voices mingled with that of sobs and weeping, hearing which, Mrs. French covered her face with her hands, while the tears trickled down through her fingers.

As she sat there, the door-bell rang and two Galician men appeared, seeking admission.

"We come to see Kalmar," said one of them.

Mrs. French came eagerly forward. "Oh, let them come in, please. They are friends of the prisoner. I know them."

Without a word the guard turned from her, strode to the office where Mr. Cowan sat in conversation with the doctor, and in a few moments returned with permission for the men to enter.

"Sit down there," he said, pointing to a bench on the opposite side of the door from that on which Mrs. French was sitting.

Before many minutes had elapsed, the prisoner appeared at the door of his cell with Paulina and his children.

"Would you kindly open the door?" he said in a courteous tone to the guard. "They wish to depart."

The guard went toward the door, followed by Mrs. French, who stood waiting with hands outstretched toward the weeping Paulina. As the door swung open, the children came forth, but upon the threshold Paulina paused, glanced into the cell, ran back and throwing herself at the prisoner's feet, seized his hand and kissed it again and again with loud weeping.

For a single instant the man yielded her his hand, and then in a voice stern but not unkind, he said, "Go. My children are in your keeping. Be faithful."

At once the woman rose and came back to the door where Mrs. French stood waiting for her.

As they passed on, the guard turned to the men and said briefly, "Come."

As they were about to enter the cell, the boy suddenly left Paulina's side, ran to Simon Ketzel and clutching firm hold of his hand said, "Let me go with you."

"Go back," said the guard, but the boy still clung to Ketzel's hand.

"Oh, let him go," said Mrs. French. "He will do no harm." And the guard gave grudging permission.

With a respectful, almost reverential mien, the men entered the cell, knelt before the prisoner and kissed his hand. The moments were precious and there was much to say and do, so Kalmar lost no time.

"I have sent for you," he said, "first to give you my report which you will send back to headquarters."

Over and over again he repeated the words of his report, till he was certain that they had it in sure possession.

"This must go at once," he said.

"At once," replied Simon.

"In a few weeks or months," continued the prisoner in a low voice, "I expect to be free. Siberia could not hold me, and do you think that any prison in this country can? But this report must go immediately."

"Immediately," said Simon again.

"Now," said Kalmar solemnly, "there is one thing more. Our cause fails chiefly because of traitors. In this city is a traitor. My oath demands his death or mine. If I fail, I must pass the work on to another. It is for this I have called you here. You are members of our Brotherhood. What do you say?"

The men stood silent.

"Speak!" said Kalmar in a low stern voice. "Have you no words?"

But still they stood silent and distressed, looking at each other.

"Tell me," said Kalmar, "do you refuse the oath?"

"Master," said Joseph Pinkas sullenly, "this is a new country. All that we left behind. That is all well for Russia, but not for Canada. Here we do not take oath to kill."

"Swine!" hissed Kalmar with unutterable scorn. "Why are you here? Go from me!"

From his outstretched hand Joseph fell back in sudden fear. Kalmar strode to the door and rattled it in its lock.

"This man wishes to go," he said, as the guard appeared. "Let him go."

"What about the others?" said the guard.

"Permit them to remain for a few moments," said Kalmar, recovering the even tone of his voice with a tremendous effort.

"Now, Simon Ketzel," he said, turning back to the man who stood waiting him in fear, "what is your answer?"

Simon took his hand and kissed it. "I will serve you with my money, with my life. I am all Russian here," smiting on his breast, "I cannot forget my countrymen in bondage. I will help them to freedom."

"Ah," said Kalmar, "good. Now listen. This Rosenblatt betrayed us, brought death and exile to many of our brothers and sisters. He still lives. He ought to die. What do you say?"

"He ought to die," answered Simon.

"The oath is laid upon me. I sought the privilege of executing vengeance; it was granted me. I expect to fulfil my oath, but I may fail. If I fail," here he bent his face toward that of Simon Ketzel, his bloodshot eyes glowing in his white face like red coals, "if I fail," he repeated, "is he still to live?"

"Do you ask me to kill him?" said Simon in a low voice. "I have a wife and three children. If I kill this man I must leave them. There is no place for me in this country. There is no escape. I must lay upon my children that burden forever. Do you ask me to do this? Surely God will bring His sure vengeance upon him. Let him go into the hands of God."

"Let him go?" said Kalmar, his breath hissing through his shut teeth. "Listen, and tell me if I should let him go. Many years ago, when a student in the University, I fell under suspicion, and without trial was sent to prison by a tyrannical Government. Released, I found it difficult to make a living. I was under the curse of Government suspicion. In spite of that I succeeded. I married a noble lady and for a time prospered. I joined a Secret Society. I had a friend. He was the rejected suitor of my wife. He, too, was an enthusiast for the cause of freedom. He became a member of my Society and served so well that he was trusted with their most secret plans. He sold them to the Government, seeking my ruin. The Society was broken up and scattered, the members, my friend included, arrested and sent to prison, exile and death. Soon he was liberated. I escaped. In a distant border town I took up my residence, determined, when opportunity offered, to flee the country with my wife and two infant children, one a babe in his mother's arms. At this time my friend discovered me. I had no suspicion of him. I told him my plans. He offered to aid me. I gave him the money wherewith to bribe the patrol. Once more he betrayed me. Our road lay through a thick forest. As we drove along, a soldier hailed us. I killed him and we dashed forward, only to find another soldier waiting. We abandoned our sleigh and took to a woodcutter's track through the forest. We had only a mile to go. There were many tracks. The soldier pursued us through the deep snow, firing at random. A bullet found a place in my wife's heart. Ah! My God! She fell to the snow, her babe in her arms. I threw myself at her side. She looked up into my face and smiled. 'I am free at last,' she said. 'Farewell, dear heart. The children--leave me--carry them to freedom.' I closed her eyes, covered her with snow and fled on through the forest, and half frozen made my way across the border and was safe. My children I left with friends and went back to bring my wife. I found blood tracks on the snow, and bones." He put his hands over his face as if to shut out the horrid picture, then flinging them down, he turned fiercely upon Simon. "What do you say? Shall I let him go?"

"No," said Simon, reaching out both his hands. "By the Lord God Almighty! No! He shall die!"

Kalmar tore open his shirt, pulled out a crucifix.

"Will you swear by God and all the saints that if I fail you will take my place?"

Simon hesitated. The boy sprang forward, snatched the crucifix from his father's hand, pressed his lips against it and said in a loud voice, "I swear, by God and all the saints."

The father started back, and for a few moments silently contemplated his boy. "What, boy? You? You know not what you say."

"I do know, father. It was my mother you left there in the snow. Some day I will kill him."

"No, no, my boy," said the father, clasping him in his arms. "You are your father's son, your mother's son," he cried. "You have the heart, the spirit, but this oath I shall not lay upon you. No, by my hand he shall die, or let him go." He stood for some moments silent, his head leaning forward upon his breast. "No," he said again, "Simon is right. This is a new land, a new life. Let the past die with me. With this quarrel you have nothing to do. It is not yours."

"I will kill him," said the boy stubbornly, "I have sworn the oath. It was my mother you left in the snow. Some day I will kill him."

"Aha! boy," said the father, drawing him close to his side, "my quarrel is yours. Good! But first he is mine. When my hand lies still in death, you may take up the cause, but not till then. You hear me?"

"Yes, father," said the boy.

"And you promise?"

"I promise."

"Now farewell, my son. A bitter fate is ours. A bitter heritage I leave you!" He sank down upon the bench, drew his boy toward him and said brokenly, "Nay, nay, it shall not be yours. I shall free you from it. In this new land, let life be new with you. Let not the shadow of the old rest upon you." He gathered the boy up in his strong arms and strained him to his breast. "Now farewell, my son. Ah! God in Heaven!" he cried, his tears raining down upon the boy's face, "must I give up this too! Ah, those eyes are her eyes, that face her face! Is this the last? Is this all? How bitter is life!" He rocked back and forward on the bench, his boy's arms tight about his neck. "My boy, my boy! the last of life I give up here! Keep faith. This," pulling out the miniature, "I would give you now, but it is all I have left. When I die I will send it to you. Your sister I give to your charge. When you are a man guard her. Now go. Farewell."

The guard appeared at the door.

"Come, you must go. Time's up," he said roughly.

"Time is up," cried the father, "and all time henceforth is useless to me. Farewell, my son!" kissing him. "You must go from me. Don't be ashamed of your father, though he may die a prisoner or wander an exile."

The boy clung fast to his father's neck, drawing deep sobbing breaths.

"Boy, boy," said the father, mingling his sobs with those of his son, "help me to bear it!"

It was a piteous appeal, and it reached the boy's heart. At once he loosened one hand from its hold, put it up and stroked his father's face as his sobs grew quiet. At the touch upon his face, the father straightened himself up, gently removed his son's clinging arm from his neck.

"My son," he said quietly, "we must be men. The men of our blood meet not death so."

Immediately the boy slipped from his father's arms and stood erect and quiet, looking up into the dark face above him watchful for the next word or sign. The father waved his hand toward the door.

"We now say farewell," he said quietly. He stooped down, kissed his son gravely and tenderly first upon the lips, then upon the brow, walked with him to the barred door.

"We are ready," he said quietly to the guard who stood near by.

The boy passed out, and gave his hand to Paulina, who stood waiting for him.

"Simon Ketzel," said Kalmar, as he bade him farewell, "you will befriend my boy?"

"Master, brother," said Simon, "I will serve your children with my life." He knelt, kissed the prisoner's hand, and went out.

That afternoon, the name of Michael Kalmar was entered upon the roll of the Provincial Penitentiary, and he took up his burden of life, no longer a man, but a mere human animal driven at the will of some petty tyrant, doomed to toil without reward, to isolation from all that makes life dear, to deprivation of the freedom of God's sweet light and air, to degradation without hope of recovery. Before him stretched fourteen long years of slow agony, with cruel abundance of leisure to feed his soul with maddening memories of defeated vengeance, with fearful anxieties for the future of those dear as life, with feelings of despair over a cause for which he had sacrificed his all.

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