The Lane that had No Turning/A Son of the Wilderness
A SON OF THE WILDERNESS.
RACHETTE told the story to Medallion and the Little Chemist’s wife on Sunday after Mass, and because he was vain of his English he forsook his own tongue and paid tribute to the Anglo-Saxon.
"Ah, she was so purty, that Norinne, when she drive through the parishes all twelve days, after the wedding, a dance every night, and her eyes and cheeks on fire all the time. And Bargon, bagosh! that Bargon, he have a pair of shoulders like a wall, and five hunder’ dollars and a horse and wagon. Bagosh, I say that time: ‘Bargon he have put a belt round the world and buckle it tight to him—all right, ver’ good.’ I say to him: ‘Bargon, what you do when you get ver’ rich out on the Souris River in the prairie west?’ He laugh and throw up his hands, for he have not many words any kind. And the dam little dwarf Parpon, he say: ‘He will have flowers on the table and ice on the butter, and a wheel in his head.’
"And Bargon laugh and say: ‘I will have plenty for my friends to eat and drink and a ver’ fine time.’
"‘Good,’ we all say-‘Bagosh!’
So they make the trip through twelve parish, and the fiddles go all the time, and I am what you say ‘best man’ with Bargon. I go all the time, and Lucette Dargois, she go with me and her brother—holy! what an eye had she in her head, that Lucette! As we go we sing a song all right, and there is no one sing so better as Norinne:
"‘C’est la belle Françoise,
C’est la belle Françoise,
Qui veut se marier,
Ma luron lurette!
Qui veut se marier,
Ma luron lure!’
"Ver’ good, bagosh! Norinne and Bargon they go out to the Souris, and Bargon have a hunder’ acre, and he put up a house and a shed not ver’ big, and he carry his head high and his shoulders like a wall; yes, yes. First year it is pretty good time, and Norinne’s cheeks—ah, like an apple they. Bimeby a baby laugh up at Bargon from Norinne’s lap. I am on the Souris at a saw-mill then, and on Sunday sometime I go up to see Bargon and Norinne. I t’ink that baby is so dam funny; I laugh and pinch his nose. His name is Marie, and I say I marry him pretty quick some day. We have plenty hot cake, and beans and pork, and a little how-you-are from a jar behin’ the door.
"Next year it is not so good. There is a bad crop and hard time, and Bargon he owe two hunder’ dollar, and he pay int’rest. Norinne, she do all the work, and that little Marie, there is dam funny in him, and Norinne, she keep go, go, all the time, early and late, and she get ver’ thin and quiet. So I go up from the mill more times, and I bring fol-lols for that Marie, for you know I said I go to marry him some day. And when I see how Bargon shoulders stoop and his eye get dull, and there is nothing in the jar behin’ the door, I fetch a horn with me, and my fiddle, and, bagosh! there is happy sit-you-down. I make Bargon sing 'La Belle Françoise,’ and then just before I go I make them laugh, for I stand by the cradle and I sing to that Marie:
"‘Adieu, belle Françoise;
Adieu, belle Françoise!
Moi, je to marierai,
Ma luron lurette
Moi, je to marierai,
Ma luron luré!’
"So; and another year it go along, and Bargon he know that if there come bad crop it is good-bye-my lover with himselves. He owe two hunder’ and fifty dollar. It is the spring at Easter, and I go up to him and Norinne, for there is no Mass, and Pontiac is too far away off. We stan’ at the door and look out, and all the prairie is green, and the sun stan’ up high like a light on a pole, and the birds fly by ver’ busy looking for the summer and the prairie-flower.
"‘Bargon,’ I say—and I give him a horn of old rye—‘here’s to le bon Dieu!’
"‘Le bon Dieu, and a good harvest!’ he say.
"I hear some one give a long breath behin’, and I look round; but, no, it is Norinne with a smile—for she never grumble—bagosh! What purty eyes she have in her head! She have that Marie in her arms, and I say to Bargon it is like the Madonna in the Notre Dame at Montreal. He nod his head. ‘C’est le bon Dieu—it is the good God,’ he say.
"Before I go I take a piece of palm—it come from the Notre Dame; it is all bless by the Pope—and I nail it to the door of the house. ‘For luck,’ I say. Then I laugh, and I speak out to the prairie: ‘Come along, good summer; come along, good crop; come two hunder’ and fifty dollars for Gal Bargon.’ Ver’ quiet I give Norinne twenty dollar, but she will not take him. ‘For Marie,’ then I say: ‘I go to marry him, bimeby.’ But she say: ‘Keep it and give it to Marie yourself some day.’
"She smile at me, then she have a little tear in her eye, and she nod to where Bargon stan’ houtside, and she say: ‘If this summer go wrong, it will kill him. He work and work and fret and worry for me and Marie, and sometimes he just sit and look at me and say not a word.’
"I say to her that there will be good crop, and next year we will be ver’ happy. So, the time go on, and I send up a leetla snack of pork and molass’ and tabac, and sugar and tea, and I get a letter from Bargon bimeby, and he say that heverything go right, he t’ink, this summer. He say I must come up. It is not dam easy to go in the summer, when the mill run night and day; but I say I will go.
"When I get up to Bargon’s I laugh, for all the hunder’ acre is ver’ fine, and Bargon stan’ hin the door, and stretch out his hand, and say: 'Rachette, there is six hunder’ dollar for me.’ I nod my head, and fetch out a horn, and he have one, his eyes all bright like a lime-kiln. He is thin and square, and his beard grow ver’ thick and rough and long, and his hands are like planks. Norinne, she is ver’ happy, too, and Marie bite on my finger, and I give him sugar-stick to suck.
"Bimeby Norinne say to me, ver’ soft: ‘If a hailstorm or a hot wind come, that is the end of it all, and of my poor Gal.’
"What I do? I laugh and ketch Marie under the arms, and I sit down, and I put him on my foot, and I sing that damn funny English song—‘Here We Go to Banbury Cross.’ An’ I say: ‘It will be all as happy as Marie pretty quick. Bargon he will have six hunder’ dollar, and you a new dress and a hired girl to help you.’
"But all the time that day I think about a hailstorm or a hot wind whenever I look out on that hunder’ acre farm. It is so beautiful, as you can guess—the wheat, the barley, the corn, the potatoes, the turnip, all green like sea-water, and pigeons and wild ducks flying up and down, and the horse and the ox standing in a field ver’ comfer’ble.
"We have good time that day, and go to bed all happy that night. I get up at five o’clock, an’ I go hout. Bargon stan’ there looking hout on his field with the horse bridle in his hand. ‘The air not feel right,’ he say to me. I t’ink the same, but I say to him: ‘Your head not feel right—him too sof’.’ He shake his head and go down to the field for his horse and ox, and hitch them up together, and go to work making a road.
"It is about ten o’clock when the damn thing come. Piff! go a hot splash of air in my face, and then I know that it is all up with Gal Bargon. A month after it is no matter, for the grain is ripe then, but now, when it is green, it is sure death to it all. I turn sick in my stomich, and I turn round and see Norinne stan’ hin the door, all white, and she make her hand go as that, like she push back that hot wind.
"‘Where is Gal?’ she say. ‘I must go to him.’ ‘No,’ I say, ‘I will fetch him. You stay with Marie.’ Then I go ver’ quick for Gal, and I find him, his hands all shut like that! and he shake them at the sky, and he say not a word, but his face, it go wild, and his eyes spin round in his head. I put my hand on his arm and say: ‘Come home, Gal. Come home, and speak kind to Norinne and Marie.’
"I can see that hot wind lean down and twist the grain about—a damn devil thing from the Arzone desert down South. I take Gal back home, and we sit there all day, and all the nex’ day, and a leetla more, and when we have look enough, there is no grain on that hunder’ acre farm—only a dry-up prairie, all grey and limp. My skin is bake and rough, but when I look at Gal Bargon I know that his heart is dry like a bone, and, as Parpon say that back time, he have a wheel in his head. Norinne she is quiet, and she sit with her hand on his shoulder, and give him Marie to hold.
"But it is no good; it is all over. So I say: ‘Let us go back to Pontiac. What is the good for to be rich? Let us be poor and happy once more.’
"And Norinne she look glad, and get up and say: ‘Yes, let us go back.’ But all at once she sit down with Marie in her arms, and cry—bagosh, I never see a woman cry like that!
"So we start back for Pontiac with the horse and the ox and some pork and bread and molass’. But Gal Bargon never hold up his head, but go silent, silent, and he not sleep at night. One night he walk away on the prairie, and when he come back he have a great pain. So he lie down, and we sit by him, an’ he die. But once he whisper to me, and Norinne not hear: ‘You say you will marry him, Rachette?’ and I say, ‘I will.’
"‘C’est le bon Dieu!’ he say at the last, but he say it with a little laugh. I think he have a wheel in his head. But bimeby, yiste’day, Norinne and Marie and I come to Pontiac.”
The Little Chemist’s wife dried her eyes, and Medallion said in French: “Poor Norinne! Poor Norinne! And so, Rachette, you are going to marry Marie, by and by?” There was a quizzical look in Medallion’s eyes.
Rachette threw up his chin a little. “I’m going to marry Norinne on New Year’s Day,” he said.
“Bagosh! poor Norinne!” said Medallion, in a queer sort of tone. “It is the way of the world,” he added. “I’ll wait for Marie myself.”
It looks as if he meant to, for she has no better friend. He talks to her much of Gal Bargon; of which her mother is glad, for there is but one great love in a woman's life. All others have different names and meanings.