MRS. FALCHION - COMPLETE
MRS. FALCHION - COMPLETE
This novel was written in the days of the three-decker and it went out
to sea as such. Every novel of mine written until 1893 was published in
two or three volumes and the sale to the libraries was greater than the
sale to the general public. This book was begun in 1892 at the time when
the Pierre stories were being written and it was finished in the summer
of 1893. It did not appear serially; indeed I made no attempt at serial
publication. I had a feeling that as it was to be my first novel it
should be judged as a whole and taken at a gasp as it were. I believe
that the reader of Messrs. Methuen & Company was not disposed to publish
the book but Mr. Methuen himself (or Mr. Stedman as he was then called)
was impressed by it and gave it his friendly confidence. He was certain
that it would arrest the attention of the critics and of the public
whether it became popular or not. I have not a set of those original
three volumes. I wish I had because they won for me an almost unhoped-
for pleasure. The 'Daily Chronicle' gave the volumes over a column of
review and headed the notice "A Coming Novelist." The 'Athenaeum' said
that 'Mrs. Falchion' was a splendid study of character; 'The Pall Mall
Gazette' said that the writing was as good as anything that had been done
in our time while at the same time it took rather a dark view of my
future as a novelist because it said I had not probed deep enough into
the wounds of character which I had inflicted. The article was written
by Mr. George W. Stevens and he was right in saying that I had not
probed deep enough. Few very young men--and I was very young then--do
probe very deeply. At the appearance of 'When Valmond Came to Pontiac'
however Mr. Stevens came to the conclusion that my future was assured.
I mention these things because they were burnt into my mind at the time.
'Mrs. Falchion' was my first real novel as I have said though it had
been preceded by a short novel called 'The Chief Factor' since rescued
from publication and never published in book form in England. I realised
when I had written 'Mrs. Falchion' that I had not found my metier and I
was fearful of complete failure. I had come but a few years before from
the South Seas; I was full of what I had seen and felt; I was eager to
write of it all and I did write of it; but the thing which was deeper
still in me was the life which 'Pierre and His People' 'The Seats of the
Mighty' 'The Trail of the Sword' 'The Lane That Had no Turning' and
'The Right of Way' portrayed. That life was destined to give me an
assured place and public while 'Mrs. Falchion' and the South Sea
stories published in various journals before the time of its production
and indeed anterior to the writing of the Pierre series only assured me
Happily for the book which has faults of construction superficialities
as to incident and with some crudity of plot it was in the main a
study of character. There was focus there was illumination in the book
to what degree I will not try to say; and the attempt to fasten the mind
of the reader upon the central figure and to present that central figure
in many aspects safeguarded the narrative from the charge of being a
mere novel of adventure or as one writer called it "an impudent
melodrama which has its own fascinations."
Reading Mrs. Falchion again after all these years I seem to realise in
it an attempt to combine the objective and subjective methods of
treatment--to combine analysis of character and motive with arresting
episode. It is a difficult thing to do as I have found. It was not
done on my part wholly by design but rather by instinct and I imagine
that this tendency has run through all my works. It represents the
elements of romanticism and of realism in one and that kind of
representation has its dangers to say nothing of its difficulties.
It sometimes alienates the reader who by instinct and preference is a
realist and it troubles the reader who wants to read for a story alone
who cares for what a character does and not for what a character is or
says except in so far as it emphasises what it does. One has to work
however in one's own way after one's own idiosyncrasies and here is
the book that represents one of my own idiosyncrasies in its most
BELOW THE SUN LINE
I. THE GATES OF THE SEA
II. "MOTLEY IS YOUR ONLY WEAR"
III. A TALE OF NO MAN'S SEA
IV. THE TRAIL OF THE ISHMAELITE
V. ACCUSING FACES
VI. MUMMERS ALL
VII. THE WHEEL COMES FULL CIRCLE
VIII. A BRIDGE OF PERIL
IX. "THE PROGRESS OF THE SUNS"
X. BETWEEN DAY AND DARK
THE SLOPE OF THE PACIFIC
XI. AMONG THE HILLS OF GOD
XII. THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME
XIII. THE SONG OF THE SAW
XIV. THE PATH OF THE EAGLE
XV. IN THE TROUGH OF THE WINDS
XVI. A DUEL IN ARCADY
XVII. RIDING THE REEFS
XVIII. THE STRINGS OF DESTINY
XIX. THE SENTENCE
XX. AFTER THE STORM
XXI. IN PORT
BELOW THE SUN LINE
THE GATES OF THE SEA
The part I played in Mrs. Falchion's career was not very noble but I
shall set it forth plainly here else I could not have the boldness to
write of her faults or those of others. Of my own history little need be
said in preface. Soon after graduating with honours as a physician I
was offered a professional post in a college of medicine in Canada. It
was difficult to establish a practice in medicine without some capital
else I had remained in London; and being in need of instant means I
gladly accepted the offer. But six months were to intervene before the
beginning of my duties--how to fill that time profitably was the
question. I longed to travel having scarcely been out of England during
my life. Some one suggested the position of surgeon on one of the great
steamers running between England and Australia. The idea of a long sea-
voyage was seductive for I had been suffering from over-study though
the position itself was not very distinguished. But in those days I
cared more for pleasing myself than for what might become a newly-made
professor and I was prepared to say with a renowned Irish dean: "Dignity
and I might be married for all the relations we are."
I secured the position with humiliating ease and humiliating smallness
of pay. The steamer's name was the 'Fulvia'. It was one of the largest
belonging to the Occidental Company. It carried no emigrants and had a
passenger list of fashionable folk. On the voyage out to Australia the
weather was pleasant save in the Bay of Biscay; there was no sickness
on board and there were many opportunities for social gaiety the
cultivation of pleasant acquaintances and the encouragement of that
brisk idleness which aids to health. This was really the first holiday
in my life and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Nothing of unusual interest
occurred on the outward voyage; for one thing because there were no
unusual people among the passengers; for another because the vessel
behaved admirably. The same cannot be said of the return voyage: and
with it my story really begins. Misfortune followed us out of Sydney
harbour. We broke a crank-shaft between there and Port Phillip
Melbourne; a fire in the hold occurred at Adelaide; and at Albany we
buried a passenger who had died of consumption one day out from King
George's Sound. At Colombo also we had a misfortune but it was of a
peculiar kind and did not obtrude itself at once; it was found in an
addition to our passenger list. I had spent a day in exploring Colombo--
visiting Arabi Pasha inspecting Hindu temples watching the jugglers and
snake-charmers evading guides and the sellers of brummagem jewellery
and idling in the Cinnamon Gardens. I returned to the ship tired out.
After I had done some official duties I sauntered to the gangway and
leaning against the bulwarks idly watched the passengers come on board
from the tender. Two of these made an impression on me. One was a
handsome and fashionably-dressed woman who was followed by a maid or
companion (as I fancied) carrying parcels; the other a shabbily-dressed
man who was the last to come up from the tender. The woman was going
down the companion-way when he stepped on deck with a single bag in his
hand and I noticed that he watched her with a strange look in his eyes.
He stood still as he gazed and remained so for a moment after she had
gone; then he seemed to recover himself and started as I thought
almost guiltily when he saw that my attention was attracted. He
nervously shifted his bag from one hand to the other and looked round
as though not certain of where he should go. A steward came to him
officiously and patronisingly too--which is the bearing of servants to
shabbily-dressed people--but he shook his head caught his bag smartly
away from the steward's fingers and moved towards the after part of the
ship reserved for intermediate passengers. As he went he hesitated
came to the side of the vessel looked down at the tender for a moment
cast his eyes to where the anchor was being weighed made as if he would
go back to the tender then seeing that the ladder was now drawn up
sighed and passed on to the second-class companion-way through which he
I stood commenting idly to myself upon this incident which slight
though it was appeared to have significance of a kind when Hungerford
the fifth officer caught me slyly by the arm and said "Lucky fellow!
Nothing to do but watch the world go by. I wish I had you in the North
Atlantic on a whaler or in the No Man's Sea on a pearl-smack for a
matter of thirty days."
"What would come of that Hungerford?" said I.
"An exchange of matter for mind Marmion; muscle for meditation physics
"You do me too much honour; at present I've neither mind meditation
nor philosophy; I am simply vegetating."
"Which proves you to be demoralised. I never saw a surgeon on a ship
who wasn't. They began with mind--more or less--they ate the fruits of
indolence got precious near being sinful as well as indolent and ended
with cheap cynicism with the old 'quid refert'--the thing Hamlet
plagiarised in his 'But it is no matter.'"
"Isn't this an unusual occupation for you Hungerford--this Swift-like
"Swift-like is it? You see I've practised on many of your race
Marmion and I have it pat now. You are all of two classes--those who
sicken in soul and leave after one trip and those who make another trip
and are lost."
Hungerford pressed his fingers hard on my breastbone looked at me
enigmatically from under his well-hung brows and replied: "Brains put
out to seed morals put out to vegetate--that's 'lost.'"
"What about fifth officers?"
"Fifth officers work like navvies and haven't time for foolishness.
They've got to walk the bridge and practise the boats and be
responsible for luggage--and here I am talking to you like an infallible
undergraduate while the lascars are in endless confusion with a half-
dozen pieces of baggage and the first officer foams because I'm not
there to set them right. I leave you to your dreams. Good-bye."
Hungerford was younger than myself but he knew the world and I was
flattered by these uncommon remarks because he talked to no one else
on the ship in the same way. He never sought to make friends had a
thorough contempt for social trifling and shrugged his shoulders at the
"swagger" of some of the other officers. I think he longed for a
different kind of sea-life so accustomed had he been to adventurous and
hardy ways. He had entered the Occidental service because he had fallen
in love with a pretty girl and thought it his duty to become a
"regular" and thus have the chance of seeing her every three months in
London. He had conceived a liking for me reciprocated on my part; the
more so because I knew that behind his blunt exterior there was a warm
and manly heart. When he left me I went to my cabin and prepared for
dinner laughing as I did so at his keen uncompromising criticism which
I knew was correct enough; for of all official posts that of a ship-
surgeon is least calculated to make a man take a pride in existence.
At its best it is assisting in the movement of a panorama; at its worst
worse than a vegetation. Hungerford's solicitude for myself however
was misplaced because this one voyage would end my career as ship-
surgeon and besides I had not vegetated but had been interested in
everything that had occurred humdrum as it was. With these thoughts
I looked out of the port-hole to see the shores of Colombo Galle Face
and Mount Lavinia fading in the distance and heard seven bells--the time
for dinner. When I took my seat at the table of which I was the head my
steward handed to me a slip of paper saying that the chief steward had
given a new passenger a lady the seat at my right hand which had been
vacated at Colombo. The name on the paper was "Mrs. Falchion." The seat
was still empty and I wondered if this was the beautiful passenger who
had attracted me and interested the Intermediate Passenger. I was
selfish enough to wish so: and it was so.
We had finished the soup before she entered. The chief steward with
that anxious civility which beauty can inspire in even so great a
personage conducted her to her seat beside me. I confess that though I
was at once absorbed in this occurrence I noticed also that some of the
ladies present smiled significantly when they saw at whose table Mrs.
Falchion was placed and looked not a little ironically at the purser
who as it was known always tried to get for his table the newest
addition to the passenger list--when it was a pretty woman. I believe
that one or two rude people chaffed the chief steward about "favouring
the doctor"; but he had a habit of saying uncomfortable things in a
deferential way and they did not pursue the subject. Then they
commiserated the purser who was an unpleasant little Jew of an envious
turn of mind; and he as I was told likened me to Sir John Falstaff. I
was sensitive in those days and this annoyed me particularly that I had
had nothing to do with placing Mrs. Falchion at my table. We are always
most sensitive when guilty concerning the spirit and not the letter.
One who has lived the cosmopolitan life of London should be quick at
detecting nationalities but I found it difficult even after I heard her
speak to guess at Mrs. Falchion's native land. There were good reasons
for this as may be duly seen. Her appearance in the saloon caused an
instant buzz of admiration and interest of which she seemed oblivious.
If it was acting it was good acting; if it was lack of self-
consciousness it was remarkable. As I soon came to know it was the
latter--which in such a woman increased the remarkableness. I was
inclined at first to venture the opinion that she was an actress; but I
discovered that she possessed the attracting power of an actress without
the calculated manner of one; her very lack of self-consciousness was
proof of this emancipation.
When she sat down I immediately welcomed her by name to my table.
The only surprise she showed at my knowledge of her name and my self-
introduction was to lift her head slightly and look at me as if
wondering whether I was likely to be an inquisitive and troublesome host;
and also as I thought to measure me according to her measure. It was a
quick look and the interest she showed was of a passive kind. She asked
me as she might an old acquaintance--or a waiter--if the soup was good
and what the fish was like; decided on my recommendation to wait for the
entrees; requested her next neighbour to pass the olives; in an
impersonal way began to talk about the disadvantages of life at sea;
regretted that all ship food tasted alike; wondered if the cook knew how
to make a Russian salad; and added that the menu was a national
Now that she was close to me I could see that her beauty was real and
notable. Her features were regular her eyes of a greyish violet her
chin strong yet not too strong--the chin of a singer; her hands had that
charming quiet certainty of movement possessed by so few; and her colour
was of the most delightful health. In this delightful health in her
bountiful yet perfect physical eloquence her attractiveness as it
seemed to me chiefly lay. For no one would ever have guessed her to
possess an emotional temperament. All that was outer was fascinating
all that was inner suggested coldness. After experience assured me that
all who came to know her shared this estimate even in those days when
every man on the ship was willing to be her slave. She had a compelling
atmosphere a possessive presence; and yet her mind at this time was
unemotional--like Octavia the wife of Mark Antony "of a cold
conversation." She was striking and unusual in appearance and yet well
within convention and "good form." Her dress was simply and modestly
worn and had little touches of grace and taste which I understand many
ladies on board sought to imitate when they recovered from the first
feeling of envy.
She was an example of splendid life. I cared to look at her as one would
dwell on the sleek beauty of a deer--as indeed I have many a time since
then in India watched a tigress asleep on her chain claws hidden wild
life latent but slumbering. I could have staked my life that Mrs.
Falchion was insensible to love or passion and unimpeachable in the
broad scheme of right and wrong; imperious in requiring homage incapable
of giving it. I noticed when she laughed as she did once at table that
her teeth were very white and small and square; and like a schoolgirl
she had a habit of clicking them together very lightly but not
conspicuously as if trying their quality. This suggested however
something a little cruel. Her appetite was very good. She was coolly
anxious about the amusements; she asked me if I could get her a list of
the passengers said that she was never sea-sick and took a languid
interest in the ladies present. Her glance at the men was keen at first
Once again during the meal she slowly turned and flashed an inquiring
glance at me. I caught her eyes. She did not show the least
embarrassment and asked me if the band insisted on playing every day.
Before she left the saloon one could see that many present were talking
about her. Even the grim old captain followed her with his eyes as she
went. When she rose I asked her if she was going on deck. I did it
casually as though it was her usual custom to appear there after dinner.
In like fashion she replied that her maid had some unpacking to do she
had some things to superintend and when this was done she intended to
spend a time on deck. Then with a peculiar smile she passed out.
[Note by Dr. Marmion appended to his MSS.:--"Many of the
conversations and monologues in this history not heard by myself
when they occurred were told to me afterwards or got from the
diaries and notes of the persons concerned. Only a few are purely
"MOTLEY IS YOUR ONLY WEAR"
I went to my cabin took a book sat down and began to smoke. My
thoughts drifted from the book and then occurred a strange incongruous
thing. It was a remembered incident. It came like a vision as I was
lighting a fresh cigar:
A boy and a girl in a village chemist's shop; he with a boy's love for
her she responding in terms but not in fact. He passed near her
carrying a measure of sulphuric acid. She put out her hand suddenly and
playfully as though to bar his way. His foot slipped on the oily floor
and the acid spilled on his hands and the skirt of her dress. He turned
instantly and plunged his hands into a measure of alcohol standing near
before the acid had more than slightly scalded them. She glanced at his
startled face; hers was without emotion. She looked down and said
petulantly: "You have spoiled my dress; I cannot go into the street."
The boy's clothes were burnt also. He was poor and to replace them must
be a trial to him; her father owned the shop and was well-to-do. Still
he grieved most that she should be annoyed though he saw her injustice.
But she turned away and left him.
Another scene then crossed the disc of smoke:
The boy and girl now man and woman standing alone in the chemist's
shop. He had come out of the big working world after travel in many
countries. His fame had come with him. She was to be married the next
day to a seller of purple and fine linen. He was smiling a good-bye and
there was nothing of the old past in the smile. The flame now was in her
eyes and she put out both her hands to stop him as he turned to go;
but his face was passionless. "You have spoiled my heart" she said;
"I cannot go into the world so."
"It is too late; the measures are empty" he replied.
"I love you to-day I will loathe you to-morrow" was the answer.
But he turned and left her and she blindly stretched out her hands and
followed him into the darkness weeping.
Was it the scent of the chemicals in my cabin coupled with some
subterranean association of things which brought these scenes vividly
before me at this moment? What had they to do with Mrs. Falchion?
A time came when the occurrence appeared to me in the light of
prescience but that was when I began to understand that all ideas all
reason and philosophy are the result of outer impression. The primal
language of our minds is in the concrete. Afterwards it becomes the
cypher and even at its highest it is expressed by angles lines and
geometrical forms--substances and allusive shapes. But now as the scene
shifted by I had involuntarily thrust forward my hands as did the girl
when she passed out into the night and in doing so touched the curtain
of my cabin door swinging in towards me. I recovered myself and a man
timidly stepped inside knocking as he did so. It was the Intermediate
Passenger. His face was pale; he looked ill.
Poor as his dress was I saw that he had known the influences and
practised the graces of good society though his manner was hesitating
and anxious now. I knew at a glance that he was suffering from both
physical pain and mental worry. Without a word I took his wrist and