In 1877 Victoria, BC , a young gambler struggles to preserve his way of life against snobbery and coming change while experiencing his first emotional awaking.
It’s the end of May, 1877, and Curt Prescott returns home to the growing harbor city of Victoria, British Columbia after a three-month poker circuit on the mainland. A new “Moral Action Committee” has sprung up in his absence. Headed by the wife of the new preacher, the committee threatens to cast out all soiled doves and gamblers from the city.
Curt meets the new preacher, “Bud” Andrews, Bud’s shrewish wife, Sarah, and their idealistic daughter, Mary. Bud seeks to convert Curt while Curt plans to destroy the committee. Pressures mount for Curt as he tries to help his young constable friend keep the peace with a notorious lowlife, while at the same time trying to ease his jealous girlfriend’s insecurities. As Curt falls in love with Mary, the battle for his lifestyle becomes a battle of life and death, and of love lost and found.
“My name is Bud Andrews. I’m the parson here.”
Curt shook with him and was surprised at the strength in the shorter man’s grip, and at the calluses he felt on the hand. He looked into the man’s face, noting the gay wrinkles around his eyes and the corners of his mouth. His gray hair was short, neat, and just beginning to thin on top.
“Curt Prescott.” He watched for some sort of reaction to his name but if there was any, it was lost as the preacher lifted his head in reaction to a raven squawking as it flapped above them. The glance was brief, and the preacher’s eyes came back to Curt’s.
“I was just inside preparing my sermon for tomorrow when I noticed you out here. I wanted to introduce myself and to thank you for sparing me further humiliation the other night.”
Curt shrugged and his eyes sought the spiky tips of the evergreens on the hillside. “Forget it.”
Bud shook his head. “I never forget a kindness.” He paused briefly and then said, “I don’t believe I’ve seen you in church at all.”
“I’ve been away for some time.”
“I see.” The preacher looked down at the grave marker. “A relative of yours?”
“My condolences. I see she’s been gone a long time now.” He touched Curt’s left arm with his open palm. “She’s at peace now, son. But I sense that you are not.”
Reflexively, Curt’s arm drew tighter against his side, away from the touch. He had looked away when the preacher first reached out, but Andrews’ words now made Curt’s eyes whip back to his. The older man shifted uncomfortably under the intensity of Curt’s probing gaze.
“Well, I just thought I would come and meet you. I won’t intrude on you any longer.” He stepped away, then hesitated. “If you’d ever like to talk, I’m always available.”
“Thanks, parson.” Not that he was ever likely to take him up on it.
Still, the preacher did not go. He cleared his throat, looking back at Curt as if undecided about something. “I—I noticed that you’re not wearing a wedding band. If you’ve got no one who cooks for you, perhaps you’d like to come to my home for dinner, as a small token of thanks. I assure you my wife is an excellent cook.”
Curt’s first impulse was to say no. But then, in a flash of inspiration, it occurred to him that this might be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Moral Action Committee, and to find out if it was a real threat or just another flash in the pan of righteousness. He met the preacher’s eyes and nodded.
“Thank you, parson. I’m obliged.”
A smile brightened the preacher’s face. “Very good. Are you ready to go now?”
Nodding, Curt followed the preacher out of the cemetery.