JAMES AND JIMMY
Macartney found him lying very still;
nothing, in fact, seemed to be alive but his eyes,
which were wide open and missed nothing.
“You’re hurt, I’m afraid. Can
you tell me anything?”
Urquhart spoke in a curiously level
tone. It seemed to give impartiality to what
he said, as if he had been discussing the troubles
of a man he hardly knew.
“Back broken, I believe.
Anyhow, I can’t feel anything. I’m
sorry you came down after me.”
“My dear fellow,” said James, “what
do you take me for?”
Those bright, all-seeing, steady eyes
were fixed upon him. They had the air of knowing
“Well, you knew what I did
take you for, anyhow, and so it would have been reasonable ”
“We won’t talk about all
that,” James said. “Let me cover you
up with something and then I’ll see
what can be done about moving you.”
Urquhart spoke indifferently about
that. “I doubt if you can get down and
it’s a good step to Odde. Four hours, I
“Yes, but there would be a house
nearer than Odde. If I could get some bearers we’d
get you comfortable before dark.”
“Oh, I’m comfortable enough
now,” Urquhart said. James thought that
a bad sign.
He unpacked the rucksacks, got out
the brandy-flask, a mackintosh, a sweater and a cape.
“Now, my dear man, I’m going to hurt you,
I’m afraid; but I must have you on a dry bed;
and you must drink some of this liquor. Which
will you have first?”
“The brandy,” said Urquhart, “and
as soon as you like.”
He helped as much as he could, groaned
once or twice, sweated with the effort; but the thing
was done. He lay on the mackintosh, his head on
a rucksack, the cape and sweater over him. Macartney
went to the edge of the plateau to prospect.
A billowy sea of white stretched out to a blue infinity.
The clouds had lifted or been vaporised. He could
see nothing of Odde; but he believed that he could
make out a thread of silver, which must be the fiord.
It would take him too long to get out there and back and
yet to stay here! That meant that the pair of
them would die. It is but just to him to say
that no alternative presented itself to him.
The pair of them would die? Well, yes. What
else was there? He returned. Urquhart was
waiting for him, intensely awake to everything.
“Old chap,” said James,
“that’s no go. I didn’t try
the snow; but I can judge distances. It’s
a deuce of a way down, even if there is a way,
“It’s all right,”
Urquhart said, “there isn’t a way.
I’m cornered this time. But there’s
just a chance for you if you work at it.
It’ll begin to freeze in fact, it
has begun already. Now if you can find the shovel,
you might employ yourself finely, digging a stairway.
You’ll be up by midnight.”
“Never mind about me,”
James said. “I’m going to keep you
But Urquhart was fretting. He
frowned and moved his head about. “No,
no, don’t begin that. It’s not worth
it and I can’t have you do it.
You ought to know who I am before you begin the Good
Samaritan stunt. I want to talk to you while
I can. I’ve got a good deal to tell you.
That will be better for me than anything.”
Jimmy was prepared for something of the kind.
“I believe it will,” he
said. “Go on, then, and get it over.”
It had been his first impulse to assure
the poor chap that he knew all about it; but a right
instinct stopped him. He would have to hear it.
So Urquhart began his plain tale,
and as he got into it the contrast between it and
himself became revolting, even to him. A hale
man might have brazened it out with a better air.
A little of the romance with which it had begun, which
indeed alone made it tolerable, would have been about
it still. A sicker man than Urquhart, who made
a hard death for himself, would have given up the
battle, thrown himself at James’s feet and asked
no quarter. Urquhart was not so far gone as that;
a little bluster remained. He did it badly.
He didn’t mean to be brutal; he meant to be
honest; but it sounded brutal, and James could hardly
He saw, too, as the poor chap went
on, that he was getting angry, and doing himself harm.
That was so. Every step he took in his narrative
sharpened the edge of the fate which cut him off.
He would have made a success of it if he could but
he had been really broken before he broke his back,
and the knowledge exasperated him.
So he took refuge in bluster, made
himself out worse than he was, and in so doing distorted
Lucy. James was in torment, remembering what he
must. He felt her arms close about his neck; he
felt the rush of her words: “And oh, darling,
I thought it was you of course I thought
so and I was proud and happy that
you should like me so much! I looked at myself
in the glass afterwards. I thought, ’You
must be rather pretty.’ ...” Oh,
Heaven, and this mocking, dying devil, with his triumphs!
“Say no more, man, say no more,”
broke from him. “I understand the rest.
I have nothing to say to you. You did badly you
did me a wrong and her too. But it’s
done with, and she (God bless her!) can take no harm.
How can she? She acted throughout with a pure
mind. She thought that you were me, and when
she found that you weren’t well,
well, take your pride in that. I give it up to
you. Why shouldn’t I? She gave you
her innocent heart. I don’t grudge you.”
“You needn’t,” said
Urquhart, “since I’m a dead man. But
if I had been a living one, who knows ?”
He laughed bitterly, and stung the other.
“You forget one thing,”
said James, with something of his old frozen calm.
“For all that you knew, ten minutes after you
had left my house that day the first of
them I might have benefited by your act and
you been none the wiser, nor I any the worse off.
And there would have been an end of it.”
Urquhart considered the point.
James could have seen it working in his poor, wicked,
silly mind, but kept his face away.
“Yes,” Urquhart said,
“you might; but you didn’t.”
Then he laughed again not a pleasant sound.
“Man,” said James indignant,
“don’t you see? What robs me of utterance
is that I have benefited by what you have done.”
“It’s more than you have
deserved, in my opinion,” Urquhart retorted.
“I’ll ask you not to forget that she has
loved me, and doesn’t blame me. And I’ll
ask you not to forget that it is I who am telling you
all this, and not she.” It was his last
The retort was easy, and would have
crushed him; but James did not make it. Let him
have his pitiful triumph. He was not angry any
more; he couldn’t be and there was
Lucy to be thought of. What would Urquhart think
of a Lucy who could have revealed such things as these?
He would have judged her brazen, little knowing the
warm passion of her tears. Ah, not for him these
holy moments. No, let him die thinking honour
of her honour according to his own code.
He put his hand out and touched Urquhart’s face
with the back of it.
“Let us leave it at this,”
he said; “we both love her. We are neither
of us fit. She would have taken either of us.
But I came first, and then came Lancelot and
she loves the law. Put it no other way.”
“The law, the law!” said the fretful,
“The law of her nature,” said James.
He felt Urquhart’s piercing
eyes to be upon him and schooled himself to face them
and to smile into them. To his surprise he saw
them fill with tears.
“You are a good chap,”
Urquhart said. “I never knew that before.”
Macartney blew his nose.
No more was said, but the sufferer
now allowed him to do what he would. He chafed
his hands and arms with brandy; took off his boots
and chafed his feet. He succeeded in getting a
certain warmth into him, and into himself too.
He began to be hopeful.
“I think I shall pull you through,”
he told him. “You ought to be a pretty
hard case. I suppose you don’t know how
you came to fall so badly.”
“Well, I do,” Urquhart said.
“Don’t tell me if you’d rather not.”
“Oh, what does it matter now? It was a
James smiled. “Another whim?”
“Yes and another fiasco. You
see, in a way, I had dared you to come.”
“I admit that.”
“Well, I hadn’t played
fair. I knew, and you didn’t, that it was
a bad job. You can’t get down this way not
when the snow’s like this.”
“Oh, can’t you?”
“I think not. Well, I ought
to have told you. I was tempted. That’s
the worst thing I ever did. I ask your pardon
“You have it, old chap,” said James.
“You can afford to be magnanimous,”
Urquhart snapped out fiercely. “Damn it,
you have everything. But I felt badly about it
as I was going down, and I thought, ’They’ll
feel the break, and know it’s all over.
So I cut the painter do you see?”
“Yes,” said James, “I see.”
He did indeed see.
Urquhart began to grow drowsy and
to resent interference. He was too far gone to
think of anything but the moment’s ease.
James, on the other hand, was entirely absorbed in
his patient. “I’m not going to let
you sleep,” he said. “It’s no
good making a fuss. I’ve got the kinch
on you now.” It was as much as he had.
The air was biting cold, and the colder it got the
more insistent on sleep Urquhart became.
James stared about him. Was this
the world that he knew? Were kindly creatures
moving about somewhere in it, helping each other?
Was Lucy in this place? Had she lain against
his heart two nights ago? Had he been so blessed?
Had life slipped by and was this the end?
Which was the reality, and which the dream? If
both had been real, and this was the end of men’s
endeavour if this were death if
one slipped out in this cur’s way, the tail
between the legs why not end it? He
could sleep himself, he thought. Suppose he lay
by this brother cur of his and slept? Somewhere
out beyond this cold there were men by firelight kissing
their wives. Poor chaps, they didn’t know
the end. This was the end loneliness
and cold. Yes, but you could sleep!...
Suddenly he started, intent and quivering.
He had heard a cry. Every fibre of him claimed
life. He listened, breathlessly. Above the
knocking of his own heart he heard it again. No
doubt at all. He turned to Urquhart and shook
him. “They are coming they are
coming we are going to be saved!”
He was violently moved; tears were streaming down
his face. Urquhart, out of those still, aware,
dreadfully intelligent eyes, seemed to see them coming whoever
they were. He too, and his pitiful broken members,
were calling on life.
James, on his feet, shouted with might
and main, and presently was answered from near at
hand. Then he saw Lingen and the guide wading
through the snow. “They have found us,”
he told Urquhart; “it’s Francis Lingen
and the guide. How they’ve done it I don’t
pretend to guess.”
“They’ve got around the
cornice,” Urquhart said. “It can be
done I know.” He seemed indifferent again,
even annoyed again that he couldn’t be allowed
to sleep. James thought it a pose, this time.
Lingen, out of breath but extremely
triumphant, met James.
“Thank God,” he said.
James with lifted brows waved his head backward to
indicate the sufferer.
“He’s very bad,”
he said. “How did you get him to come?”
He meant the guide.
Flaming Lingen said, “I made
him. I was desperate. I’ve never done
such a thing before, but I laid hands on him.”
“You are a brick,” said James.
Lingen said, “It’s something
to know that you can throttle a man when you want
to badly enough. I hadn’t the slightest
idea. It’s a thing I never did before.
I rather like it.”
Throttled or not, the guide saved
the situation. He saved it, undisguisedly, for
his own sake; for he had no zest for helping to carry
a bier over the Folgefond. They made a litter
of alpen-stocks and the mackintosh, and so between
them carried Urquhart down the mountain. No need
to dwell on it. They reached the hotel at Odde
about midnight, but halfway to it they found help.