“What brings you here?”
Mariette’s harsh face smiled at him gravely.
“The conviction that if I didn’t come, you would be committing a folly.”
“What do you mean?”
“Giving up your Commissionership, or some nonsense of that sort.”
“I have given it up.”
“H’m! Anything from Ottawa yet?”
It was impossible, Anderson pointed out, that there should be any letter for another three days. But he had written finally and did not mean to be over-persuaded.
Mariette at once carried him off for a walk and attacked him vigorously. “Your private affairs have nothing whatever to do with your public work. Canada wants you—you must go.”
“Canada can easily get hold of a Commissioner who would do her more credit,” was the bitter reply. “A man’s personal circumstances are part of his equipment. They must not be such as to injure his mission.”
Mariette argued in vain.
As they were both dining in the evening with Elizabeth and Philip, a telegram was brought in for Anderson from the Prime Minister. It contained a peremptory and flattering refusal to accept his resignation. “Nothing has occurred which affects your public or private character. My confidence quite unchanged. Work is best for yourself, and the public expects it of you. Take time to consider, and wire me in two days.”
Anderson thrust it into his pocket, and was only with difficulty persuaded to show it to Mariette.
But in the course of the evening many letters arrived—letters of sympathy from old friends in Quebec and Manitoba, from colleagues and officials, from navvies and railwaymen, even, on the C.P.R., from his future constituents in Saskatchewan—drawn out by the newspaper reports of the inquest and of Anderson’s evidence. For once the world rallied to a good man in distress! and Anderson was strangely touched and overwhelmed by it.
He passed an almost sleepless night, and in the morning as he met Elizabeth on her balcony he said to her, half reproachfully, pointing to Mariette below—
“It was you sent for him.”
“A woman knows her limitations! It is harder to refuse two than one.”
For twenty-four hours the issue remained uncertain. Letters continued to pour in; Mariette applied the plain-spoken, half-scornful arguments natural to a man holding a purely spiritual standard of life; and Elizabeth pleaded more by look and manner than by words.
Anderson held out as long as he could. He was assaulted by that dark midway hour of manhood, that distrust of life and his own powers, which disables so many of the world’s best men in these heightened, hurrying days. But in the end his two friends saved him—as by fire.
Mariette himself dictated the telegram to the Prime Minister in which Anderson withdrew his resignation; and then, while Anderson, with a fallen countenance, carried it to the post, the French Canadian and Elizabeth looked at each other—in a common exhaustion and relief.