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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFlower Of The North - Chapter 23
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Flower Of The North - Chapter 23 Post by :rlscott Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :592

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Flower Of The North - Chapter 23

Chapter XXIII

For a moment Philip bowed his head, and then he turned and went noiselessly from the room, without speaking. As he closed the door softly behind him he looked back, and from her attitude beside Pierre he knew that Jeanne was whispering a prayer. A vision flashed before him, so quick that it had come like a ray of light --a vision of another hour, years and years ago, when Pierre had knelt beside HER, and when he had lifted up his wild, half-thought prayer out in the death-chill of the snowy barrens. And this was his reward, to have Jeanne kneel beside him as the soul which had loved her so faithfully took its flight.

Philip could not see when he turned his face to the light of the office. For the first time the grief which he had choked back escaped in a gasping break in his voice, and he wiped his eyes with his pocket-handkerchief. He knew that MacDougall was looking upon his weakness, but he did not at first see that there was another person in the room besides the engineer. This second person rose to meet him, while MacDougall remained in his seat, and as he came out into the clearer light of the room Philip could scarce believe his eyes.

It was Gregson!

"I am sorry that I came in just at this time, Phil," he greeted, in a low voice.

Philip stared, still incredulous. He had never seen Gregson as he looked now. The artist advanced no farther. He did not hold out his hand. There was none of the joy of meeting in his face. His eyes shifted to the door that led into the death-chamber, and they were filled with the gloom of a condemned man. With a low word Philip held out his hand to meet his old comrade's. Gregson drew back.

"No--not now," he said. "Wait--until you have heard me."

Something in his cold, passionless voice stopped Philip. He saw Gregson glance toward MacDougall, and understood what he meant. Going to the engineer, he placed a hand on his shoulder, and spoke so that only he could hear.

"She is in there, Mac--with Pierre. She wanted to be alone with him for a few minutes. Will you wait for her--outside--at the door, and take her over to Cassidy's wife? Tell her that I will come to her in a little while."

He followed MacDougall to the door, speaking to him in a low voice, and then turned to Gregson. The artist had seated himself at one side of the small office table, and Philip sat down opposite him, holding out his hand to him again.

"What is the matter, Greggy?"

"This is not a time for long explanations," said the artist, still holding back his hand. "They can come later, Phil. But to-night-- now--you must understand why I cannot shake hands with you. We have been friends for a good many years. In a few minutes we will be enemies--or you will be mine. One thing, before I go on, I must ask of you. I demand it. Whatever passes between us during the next ten minutes, say no word against Eileen Brokaw. I will say what you might say--that for a time her soul wandered, and was almost lost. But it has come back to her, strong and pure. I love her. Some strange fate has ordained that she should love me, worthless as I am. She is to be my wife."

Philip's hand was still across the table.

"Greggy--Greggy--God bless you!" he cried, softly. "I know what it is to love, and to be loved. Why should I be your enemy because Eileen Brokaw's heart has turned to gold, and she has given it to you? Greggy, shake!"

"Wait," said Gregson, huskily. "Phil, you are breaking my heart. Listen. You got my note? But I did not desert you so abominably. I made a discovery that last night of yours in Churchill. I went to Eileen Brokaw, and to-morrow--some time--if you care I will tell you of all that happened. First you must know this. I have found the 'power' that is fighting you down below. I have found the man who is behind the plot to ruin your company, the man who is responsible for Thorpe's crimes, the man who is responsible--for-- that--in--there."

He leaned across the table and pointed to the closed door.

"And that man--"

For a moment he seemed to choke.

"Is Brokaw, the father of my affianced wife!"

"Good God!" cried Philip. "Gregson, are you mad?"

"I was almost mad, when I first made the discovery," said Gregson, as cold as ice. "But I am sane now. His scheme was to have the government annul your provisional license. Thorpe and his men were to destroy this camp, and kill you. The money on hand from stock, over six hundred thousand dollars, would have gone into Brokaw's pockets. There is no need of further detail--now--for you can understand. He knew Thorpe, and secured him as his agent. It was merely a whim of Thorpe's to take the name of Lord Fitzhugh instead of something less conspicuous. Three months before Brokaw came to Churchill he wished to get detailed instructions to Thorpe which he dared not trust to a wilderness mail service. He could find no messenger whom he dared trust. So he sent Eileen. She was at Fort o' God for a week. Then she came to Churchill, where we saw her. The scheme was that Brokaw should bribe the ship's captain to run close into Blind Eskimo Point, at night, and signal to Thorpe and Eileen, who would be waiting. It worked, and Eileen and Thorpe came on with the ship. At the landing--you remember-- Eileen was met by the girl from Fort o' God. In order not to betray herself to you she refused to recognize her. Later she told her father, and Thorpe and Brokaw saw in it an opportunity to strike a first blow. Brokaw had brought two men whom he could trust, and Thorpe had four or five others at Churchill. The attack on the cliff followed, the object being to kill the man, but take the girl unharmed, A messenger was to take the news of what happened to Fort o' God, and lay the crime to men who had run up to Churchill from your camp. Chance favored you that night, and you spoiled their plan. Chance favored me, and I found Eileen. It is useless for me to go into detail as to what happened after that, except to say this--that Eileen knew nothing of the proposed attack, that she was ignorant of the heinousness of the plot against you, and that she was almost as much a tool of her father as you. Phil--"

For the first time there came a pleading light into Gregson's eyes as he leaned across the table.

"Phil, if it wasn't for Eileen I would not be here. I thought that she would kill herself when I told her as much of the story as I knew. She told me what she had done; she confessed for her father. In that hour of her agony I could not keep back my love. We plotted. I forged a letter, and made it possible to accompany Brokaw and Eileen up the Churchill. It was not my purpose to join you, and so Eileen professed to be taken ill. We camped, back from the river, and I sent our two Indians back to Churchill, for Eileen and I wished to be alone with Brokaw in the terrible hour that was coming. That is all. Everything is revealed. I have come to you as quickly as I could, to find that Thorpe is dead. In my own selfishness I would have shielded Brokaw, arguing that he could pay Thorpe, and work honorably henceforth. You would never have known. It is Eileen who makes this confession, not I. Phil, her last words to me were these: 'You love me. Then you will tell him all this. Only after this, if he shows us a mercy which we do not deserve, can I be your wife.'

"There is only one other thing to add. I have shown Brokaw a ray of hope. He will hand over to you all his rights in the company and the six hundred thousand in the treasury. He will sign over to you, as repurchase money for whatever stock you wish to call in, practically his whole fortune--five hundred thousand. He will disappear, completely and forever. Eileen and I will hunt out our own little corner in a new world, and you will never hear of us again. This is what we have planned to do, if you show us mercy."

Philip had not spoken during Gregson's terrible recital. He sat like one turned to stone. Rage, wonder, and horror burned so fiercely in his heart that they consumed all evidence of emotion. And to arouse him now there came an interruption that sent the blood flushing back into his face--a low knock at the closed door, a slow lifting of the latch, the appearance of Jeanne. Through her tears she saw only the man she loved, and sobbing aloud now, like a child, she stretched out her arms to him; and when he sprang to her and caught her to his breast, she whispered his name again and again, and stroked his face with her hands. Love, overpowering, breathing of heaven, was in her touch, and as she lifted her face to him of her own sweet will now, entreating him to kiss her and to comfort her for what she had lost, he saw Gregson moving with bowed head, like a stricken thing, toward the outer door. In that moment the things that had been in his heart melted away, and raising a hand above his head, he called, softly:

"Tom Gregson, my old chum, if you have found a love like this, thank your God. My own love I would lose if I destroyed yours. Go back to Eileen. Tell Brokaw that I accept his offers. And when you come back in a few days, bring Eileen. My Jeanne will love her."

And Jeanne, looking from Philip's face, saw Gregson, for the first time, as he passed through the door.

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Chapter XXIVBoth Philip and Jeanne were silent for some moments after Gregson had gone; their only movement was the gentle stroking of Philip's hand over the girl's soft hair. Their hearts were full, too full for speech. And yet he knew that upon his strength depended everything now. The revelations of Gregson, which virtually ended the fight against him personally, were but trivial in his thoughts compared with the ordeal which was ahead of Jeanne. Both Pierre and her father were dead, and, with the exception of Jeanne, no one but he knew of the secret that had died with them.
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Chapter XXIINews of the double tragedy had swept through the camp, and there was a crowd in front of the supply-house. Philip passed close to Thorpe's house to avoid discovery, ran a hundred yards up the trail over which Jeanne had fled a short time before, and then cut straight across through the thin timber for the head of the lake. He felt no effort in his running. Low bush whipped him in the face and left no sting. He was not conscious that he was panting for breath when he came out in the black shadow of the mountain. This
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