Chapter Five Relations
Puzzlement, Daniel had seen many times on the faces of those he had rescued. Confusion, suspicion, even gratitude he had seen. Contempt, even if kindly and tolerant, he had not seen before. The Reverend Brightman had listened to Daniel’s description of himself, LeClerc and Mei Ling as time travelers plucking the doomed from out of history and bringing them into new lives in the future. He had seen the holoviewer presentation of the Empress watching the ship as it turned and plunged to the bottom of the river. When it ended he had turned to Daniel and had asked him, “are you saved.”
Papa had smiled when Alice had called their rescuers angels.
“No child, whatever they are, they are not angels. Even so they may be going about God’s work as many non-believers do.”
One of them, the Chinese woman, Mei Ling, Colin had not approved of. She was too assertive, too disrespectful of the proprieties. She was, he feared, an immoral woman. When Alice asked what that meant he told her that he would explain it when she was older. It was not that he was not grateful for their saving of their lives but such gratitude he reminded Alice should not allow them to blind themselves to certain unpleasant truths. His own foolishness had blinded him to his wife’s unfaithfulness. So they had fled Cobourg, he and Alice. He had told the neighbors that they would do God’s work in the wilds of Central Africa but it was not only God that had called Colin forth. The looks of pity and smirks of contempt in the faces of his neighbours had also helped
As for going deep into the future: stuff and nonsense. The Day of Judgement would have ensued long before any such estimate of time as that given by this Chinese woman. If given the choice of choosing of believing the messiah or her, he, Colin Brightman, would prefer the Messiah and so would his daughter. He reminded himself that even Satan was only God’s servant using only such power as god had granted him
“How many others from the empress,” he asked.
Daniel wondered if he were going to ask if they were saved.
“Twenty-seven.” The last, a young musician from Hamilton, they pulled out just minutes before the Norwegian freighter struck.
“Out of a thousand?”
“Yes.” Daniel looked down at his mug of cocoa. He waited for the coming accusation of failure.
Colin touched him on his shoulder. “You saved twenty-seven lives. Do not assume blames for lives you could not save. They are with God now. We thank you for our lives.”
Daniel nodded. “Thank you,” he muttered.
“When do we meet the others?” Colin asked.
“As soon as you like,” said Mei Ling. “but there is someone who would like to speak to you first.”
“My father. A hundred years after your ….. he developed the first working prototype of a time portal, a doorway between your time and ours.”
“China must be very proud of him.”
“My father is not Chinese. He is a Canadian like you.”
“I see.” There were a few Chinese in Canada. The government had failed to rid the land of them.
He had no quarrel with Chinese living in China. Once they abandoned their heathen superstitions and became good Protestants China could take its place among the civilized nations. However he just saw no reason for them to be in Canada, a white man’s country. A great part of the world’s problems Colin thought stemmed from people moving around too much.
“Why would he wish to speak to me?”
“You married an Elizabeth Foley?”
“My father is her great nephew. His name is Mathew Foley.”
Colin blanched. “Dear God.”
He seemed so unFoleylike, a ancient wisp of a man bent over a bush of blue roses. Most Foleys being farmers took an interest in crops but flowers had never been considered to be a crop. However it was not only the doctor’s interest in roses that struck Daniel as being unFoleylike. He did wonder about the change color of the roses. They seemed unnatural somehow but then so did everything else here.
“You asked Mister Bishop to bring my daughter and me out of the Empress. May I ask why?”
The old man smiled. “We’re family, Colin.”
“Family? That was your only reason Doctor?”
“According to Mei Ling you don’t seem to approve of my name.”
“My apologies, doctor. The Foleys tend to recycle names. They are not a very imaginative lot. But Mathew….”
“You didn’t like Mathew Foley?”
“I knew him. If ever a soul was damned….”
“I’m afraid I have trouble with the idea of eternal punishment.”
As do most sinners thought Colin but he allowed the old man to ramble on.
“Are you implying that the sins of the fathers….?”
“No doctor. What I’m saying is what I learned as a minister in Kilmarnock, that the man that you were named after murdered his own children to keep his land. Your family’s wealth rests upon the blood of murdered infants.”
Mathew thought for a moment. “Well, most fortunes do.”
The village lay below him shrouded by a fresh coating of snow. A day’s travel by road by road and yet he had never been there before. He had heard of it in tales told of backwoodsmen. Kilmarnock where the most exciting event was watching grass grow. The people who lived in the village and the surrounding township were too ignorant and dull-minded to live anywhere else. He had been appointed to preside over the spiritual needs of the smallest segment of its population, the Methodists. Within that congregation no family held as much wealth as did the Foleys.
“Mathew always saw the Foleys as bordering upon destitution. Perhaps they had been once but when I first them they were among the wealthiest families in the township. The only true threat they faced were their own suspicions.”
“There are those who say I should have left you and your daughter to drown, that what I am doing threatens the very fabric of space and time.”
“Does it?” asked Colin.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. Perhaps I am just being a Foley.”
He handed Colin a straw boater similar to the one he had seen in an ancient photograph. “Let’s go for a walk shall we? I’ll show you my garden.”
Colin’s concept of a garden extended to a quarter acre sown with potatoes carrots and tomatoes. Mathew’s garden extended over acres of hills interspersed by a tree-lined stream and a yellow brick road.
“I am a man of faith, not of science but I do know that you must have had a reason, apart from a distant ancestral claim to change the past.”
“Hardly an ancestral claim. You left no descendents, Colin. As for changing the past., your body and that of your daughter as well as hundreds of others were never found. How do you know that we changed anything?”
“Why did you come for us?”
“Curiousity. Seventy-five years after the empress sank, Elizabeth died in a hospital in Kingston. Her last two words were Colin and Alice. She never stopped loving you.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you want us?”
“My parents died when I was very young. I never learned anything about my family. You knew them, my
“Surely with your ability to cross time at will you could visit them yourself.”
“Not without risking interference with the past.”
“But don’t you do that anyway? That’s what this is all about? Satisfying your curiosity?”
“To some extent. Tell me about them.”
“My Uncle Joshua was a Methodist minister in Brockville. Becoming as minister like him was all that I ever wanted to do. At his urging I took out my school teaching certificate while studying to become a minister. First came to Kilmarnock in 1901 appointed as a school teacher by the province just an unimportant hamlet of passing interest only to its own inhabitants. Still it was close to home.”
“Is that when you first met Mathew Foley?”
“No. Not at the school. He had no children at the school and took no interest in education. I met him at chapel with his wife Margaret, a plain dull-minded woman but sincere in her beliefs. The chapel was an important part of her life. It was also at chapel that I met Elizabeth and her family.”
Mei Ling studied the readings of Colin’s body as Louise watched the two men stroll through the garden. He seems to be telling the truth,” said Mei Ling. Louise nodded but said nothing
“What do you think of him?” asked Mei Ling.
Louise shrugged. She had not objected in principle to retrieving survivors from the Empress but to do so just to satisfy a whim? “A man of his time. Colin. Abysmally ignorant. Hopelessly biased but he’s not unintelligent. By the standards of his time he has a good education. We should be able to make use of him. A community leader perhaps.”
“Not as a traveler?”
As Mathew poured the tea, John began. “In October of 1913 Margaret Foley lay dying. She asked to see me. During those last few years of her life she had lived as a recluse rarely seeing anyone venturing out only to go to Chapel and to buy provisions. She refused visitors except for her lawyer, John Foley who lived in Toronto, and her physician, Doctor MacTavish. During the last few months of her life when she was too ill to travel, she took on a hired girl at the doctor’s insistence and added me to her list of visitors. I would go out to see her, alone as she insisted. On my last visit she told me about Mathew and her children.”
“She had given birth to four daughters. Each one had died shortly after birth. For years she had blamed herself. Then two decades after the last one had died, Mathew had told her the truth. Because they were girls he had smothered them, to protect the land. Then he told her that since she had failed to give him a son he planned to divorce her.”
“She killed him. She struck him over the head with a fire iron. Her rage gave her a strength that she would not have had otherwise. The land for which Mathew had killed her children in order to save she had willed to the church.”
“After her funeral I asked the doctor and constable what they knew about the matter. They confirmed what she had told me. Mathew Foley had murdered his own children. That was the family that I had married into. Your family.”
Mathew Foley. Every Sunday he would sit in his pew. A great heavy-set, long white beard his hands browned and calloused by decades in the fields, he reminded the young minister of an Old Testament prophet, Elijah perhaps with that same stern look of resolution. Disliked by most, hated by many, for over a third of a century Mathew had guided the Foley clan bringing it up from poverty to prosperity and relative respectability. His position as an elder in the chapel and front pew were testaments to his success. The young minister’s own courting and wedding of Elizabeth Foley, George Foley’s youngest daughter, had raised considerable comment within the township but not as much among the Methodists, another indication of how far the Foley family had risen.
Mathew had done his work well. The Foleys, if not wealthy had gained in respectability, at least in the eyes of the world outside of Kilmarnock. The extent of Foley landholdings in Lanark and in Northumberland Counties had helped persuade Colin’s family that the Foleys roughhewn as they were would make suitable in laws.
If the respectable families of the village, the McKays, MacTavishes and Campbells looked askance at the wedding, what did it matter? None of them were Methodists. So he had married his dark-haired beauty whose love for him had shown as fair as the Rose of Sharon.
The third of seven children, Colin had been sired by an engineer on a Kingston steamer had been a man rough in both and in manner, given to the use of both obscenities and a wide leather strap. His death in a boiler explosion just after Colin’s eighth birthday had left Colin’s mother distraught. Colin had been left with little more then a feeling of relief. Responsibility for the family now passed to the Reverend Joshua Brightman. Joshua, pious, gentle and patient seemed to, the young Colin to be everything his father had not been. From Joshua he had derived his own interest to become a minister. Always judge a person by what they are, not by they were, he had told him. So it had been with the Foleys. He had heard rumors about the family’s past. Who in Lanark County had not? Thieves and drunkards the Foleys had been called.
Within the small Methodist Meeting House such stories seemed to refer to earlier days two generations before. What family in the district, Methodist, Presbyterian or Romanist could claim to be without sin? What mattered was what they were now, not what they had been. So he had told Elizabeth. If they were somewhat crude in manner and lacking in education and wit, so be it. His parents had been that way. Honest y and a willingness to work hard were of much greater value. They appeared rough by the standards of Toronto or Montreal, so what? Did one go forth into the wilderness seeking a man clothed in soft raiment?
Colin had discussed the matter of Margaret Foley with the two physicians resident in the village Doctors Peter Mac Tavish and Jean Campbell. Both he had met in the course of his professional duties. Doctor MacTavish now in his eighties rarely ventured outside his sprawling red brick home on the shore of Lake Lomond, adjacent to the hospital.
He spoke, his voice shaded by a curious Central European accent that the people of Kilmarnock had long before ceased to notice. “Margaret is a woman who has known a great deal of suffering.”
Colin had nodded sympathetically. As a physician the doctor would have seen his share of suffering. “I understand that doctor, but is it true what she told me?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“And the family?”
“Did they know?”
The doctor shrugged. “Perhaps you should ask your father in law? They are your family now.”
“Did they know?”
“Mathew was their chieftain, the family head. They knew he would do anything to protect the land.”
“Did they know?” he asked Constable Thomas. Thomas sucked at his pipe. His dark eyes looked away from the minister. “When I was thirteen and my brother George Henry was nine we were sent here. In return for our passage we were hired out. My brother got sent out to the Foley homestead about forty miles north of here. Within less then a month, having been starved beaten and neglect he was dead. They knew, Mister Brightman. They knew.”
“For if a man gaineth the world and hath not charity it profiteth him not.”
As he spoke Colin looked out at the Foleys ranged in the front pews. Twenty years before, they had edged their way into the back seats. George Foley frowned as he always did in acknowledgement that any words spoken in chapel should be treated as a serious matter. Of understanding, Colin might as well have been speaking to the ocean. Had George known of Mathew’s crimes? How many other Foleys had known? Colin tried not to look at Elizabeth.
That night long after Elizabeth had fallen asleep he sat on the edge of their bed. He looked down at her breathing softly. He should not blame her for her family’s sins. He knew that then. He knew it even as he watched the walls of Quebec City fade. A mistake he told himself. He had made a terrible mistake. Not just because he longed for her physically but because he knew that she could not, would not have dome or approved of anything vile.
He had courted her during the fading of the winter, as the first green buds had begun to sprout. He had married her as the leaves had begun to flame. Years before Uncle Joshua had told him, “judge not a person by what he was but by what he is. He had done so with Elizabeth and with the Foleys.” Now he asked himself what kind of a man was George Foley.
“There have been rumors, sir.”
“Rumors?” asked George.
“Yes sir, concerning the way your brother Mathew was killed.”
“And what would those rumors be?”
“That he was murdered by Margaret.”
That stupid bitch had done worse than kill Mathew. She had taken land away from the Foleys. Not just a few acres of scrub but prime land worked by Foley hands for two generations. Bad as that was she had done something even worse. The wallet, the symbol of God’s protection over the Foley family she had given to the traitor John Foley. Only once before could he remember the Foleys being so threatened, when crazy Aunt Isabel left that Thomas brat to die in a barn. That had cost Daniel Foley his life but the family had kept the land. Mathew had defended the land had given himself to it and had held it. Margaret had undone thirty years of work.
To retain the land he had to secure his son-in-law’s support
He spoke of how while bringing the cows out to pasture he had found a brown leather wallet with fifty pounds in it. “The money in that wallet we used to buy our first bit of decent land. Like the ancient Israelites we suffered much but with God’s blessing we overcame. God extended his hand over us.”
“So anyone who opposes the Foleys…”
“Opposes God himself.”
The equanimity with which George spoke chilled Colin far more than the autumn rain. He remembered his uncle Joshua’s words. “Judge no man by what he was but by what he is” What kind of man is George Foley? Despite himself he smiled, “I didn’t know that you were a theologian.”
“Margaret was a generous woman.”
“She was that,” agreed Colin.”
“She left the church the richest land in the township.”
“And Mathew’s gold?”
Tiny traces of gold found on Mathew’s farm had once caused a small ripple of excitement in Kilmarnock. The ripples had faded during the years since Mathew’s death.
“Geologists claimed developing it was uneconomical.”
George shrugged. “Gold is gold. Margaret would like to see that used for the church.”
“I suppose that she would.”
“Working together maybe we could do a lot of good for the church?”
“Maybe we could.” He could see the gold shining through his father-in-law’s eyes but he could also see other things, blood, hate and fear. Fear of losing what he had, fear of going back to what his family had been. That evening Colin had had written to his uncle inquiring about a position in an African mission. He did not tell Elizabeth of his decision. She was his wife bound to obey him. He also feared that once told she would not be able to resist telling her father. As his wife however she did have the right to be told. After the letter arrived from Uncle Joshua confirming that he had been accepted did he tell her about what he had learned her family and about his decision to work in Africa.
Colin had hoped that confronted with the truth Elizabeth would share in his revulsion towards Mathew and George that she would embrace his future mission among the heathen.
She looked at him as if seeing him for the first time. “You’re running away, aren’t you? You are so ashamed of my family that you cannot bear to be in the same country with them. Go if you want,. Alice and I stay here.”
Perhaps Elizabeth had hoped that by returning to her father’s house she would bring her husband to his senses. If so, the plan died an early death. George would not have her. Her husband might be a lunatic but he remained her husband. “You wanted him in your bed. Now you stay with him.”
What else would George have said asked Colin. Even among her family a marriage vow remained a marriage vow. He could not at first understand her objections her accusation that he was forcing her to chose between her husband and her father. She had made that choice when she had married him.
Standing on the stern of the Empress Colin hated that one word “even”.
Elizabeth’s brown eyes froze. “Once I was just your Elizabeth. My family did not matter. For the first time in my life I was Elizabeth. Now I am Elizabeth Foley, a Foley that you will grow to hate. And Alice? Will she become a Foley as well? Will you look for signs in her? Will you begin to hate her as you have begun to hate me?”
That night they made love with a passionate intensity that he had not felt in months. In the morning when he woke he found her gone. He awoke after the sun had risen. Beside him he found a note. On it she had written three words. “I am Elizabeth.”
She had taken thirty dollars, her clothes and her wedding ring. He thought of following her but he had to give Alice her breakfast and see her off to school. He then had the clear away the dishes and to prepare a sermon. Only after he had finished did he journey up to George Foley’s homestead to inquire about whether or not. When he arrived in the early evening George told her that he had not seen here. A week passed before a letter arrived that she was staying with cousins in Cobourg. There were two places she had decided that she would never go to. One was Africa. The other was Kilmarnock. If Colin wished to join her he would be welcome.
George had snorted. Who could accept a wife telling her husband where he could and could not live? Rubbish. “Give her a week. She’ll be back. “
To add force to his argument he wrote to his nephew Tom in Coburg urging him not to support the silly girl. Despite his dislike for the man Colin accepted his father-in –law’s advice and continued with his plans to work in Rhodesia.
Every night he would listen to Alice crying for her mother. Every night he would dream of her. He thought of going to Coburg but could not in good conscience so. That would be condoning what she had done. God had a mission for him. Bowing to his wife’s selfish desires would betray that mission. Anyway what kind of a woman would abandon her own child? In a way she was as cruel and as selfish as Mathew Foley had been. How could such a woman be fit to do God’s work?
Then the letter came. She had found work in a small shop in Coburg. Theyt could be happy there she had told him. Here the Foley name was just a name. She needed time to be by herself she told him. She would always be his wife and Alice’s mother.
He had written back telling her that Foley would mean even less in Rhodesia and that in doing God’s work she could hope to find redemption. He waited for an answer, an answer that never came.
“Did you love her?” Mathew asked.
“As much as I love Alice.”
“Then why didn’t you go to her and tell her that?”
Colin looked down at his hands. “Ever since I was young I had been taught not to trust my own feelings. In the sum of God’s creation, they meant nothing and could lead to damnation. In time perhaps we could have come back together.”
“Time that you never had. So you decided to leave?”
“Not at once. I …. I knew that I couldn’t stay. If I did I would be condoning the family’s acceptance of what Mathew had done.”
“But Elizabeth had even been born when those crimes had taken place. How could you hold her responsible?”
“I didn’t. I told myself that what ever had happened between Mathew and Margaret had been between them. How could the distant past come between Elizabeth and me That’s what I asked myself.”
“But it did.”
“Did she know? Suppose she did? That would have meant that the evil within Mathew had spread through her. If it had infected Elizabeth it might touch Alice. I would not let Alice be touched by it,”
“I didn’t hold Elizabeth responsible but I did hold her family responsible. To look at them in chapel thinking what they might have known. To offer them comfort, to bless them. No. In good conscience I could not do that anymore. I resigned my post and applied for a position in Rhodesia as far away from them as I could think of. would bring Alice and Elizabeth. They would be safe there.”
“Fear made me run. In that fear I condemned myself and my own child. We can never go back can we?”
“Elizabeth ….Was she happy?”
“As much as anyone is I suppose.. She had two other husbands and five other children. Yet your name and Alice’s were the last that she spoke.”
Three minutes passed. For that time Colin stared at the trees trying not to look at the old man or at the past. Then he coughed. “My deepest wish is to go back and apologize to her but I can’t do that, can I?”
“So what do we do now?”
“Go forward. I would be pleased if you and your daughter were to be my guest for a few weeks. I may find myself in need of your …. advice.”
Advice? To serve as spiritual advisor to the most powerful man in this world; God must have been keeping him for a very special purpose. Colin smiled. “I would be honored sir.”
“Good. Excellent. We are establishing a new colony combining the survivors of the Titanic with those of the Empress. You could be of great use to us.”
Colin nodded. “Kilmarnock so I was told was established by a man who believed people were entitled to second chances. Perhaps that’s what this place is.”
Colin smiled. Here lost somewhere in space and in time he could find God’s purpose for his life. Perhaps his losing of Elizabeth, his meeting of Mathew, his being taken here, all of it might be God’ plan and not simply the result of his own cowardice. He bowed his head and prayed.