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155584751X
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The Last Crossing

The Last Crossing

by Guy Vanderhaeghe

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Overview

Journey from Victorian England to the whiskey trading posts of the Old West in this epic award-winning bestseller from the author of The Englishman’s Boy.
 
In the late nineteenth century, Englishmen Charles and Addington Gaunt are sent by their father to find their brother Simon, a missionary who has gone missing in the wilds of the American West. In the outreaches of the Montana frontier, the brothers hire a guide—a half Blackfoot, half Scot named Jerry Potts—to lead them further north into the area where Simon was last seen. As the party heads out, it grows to include a journalist, a saloonkeeper, a Civil War veteran in search of love, and a young woman bent on revenge.
 
There’s no telling what awaits them . . .
 
“One of North America’s best writers . . . A feast of a book.” —Annie Proulx, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
 
“Stuffed with enough goodies to keep us entertained for days.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“Quest and revenge, love and loss converge before the novel’s satisfying final twist.” —The Boston Globe
 
“The quality of its plotting, vivid characterizations and descriptions and dark humor place it firmly in the company of the likes of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555847517
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 12/01/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 618,135
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Guy Vanderhaeghe is the author of six books of fiction including The Englishman’s Boy (1996), which was a longtime national bestseller in Canada and won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction and for Best Book of the Year, and was short-listed for The Giller Prize, and the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Vanderhaeghe is a Visiting Professor of English at S.T.M. College in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

CHARLES GAUNT I let myself into the house, stand looking up the stairs, turn, go into the study, pour a whisky and soda. Today's mail is waiting, envelopes on a salver. My man, Harding, has laid a fire, but I don't trouble to light it. I leave my ulster on, stand sipping from the tumbler with a gloved hand, staring at the day's letters.

I know what they are. Invitations. Invitations for a weekend in the country. Invitations to dine. More invitations than I am accustomed to receiving. Now people court me. Queer old Charlie Gaunt has become a minor, middle-aged bachelor celebrity. Even Richards and Merton, long-time acquaintances with whom I dined tonight in the Athenaeum, did not allow my new eminence to pass unremarked. For years, I was never anyone's first choice as a portrait painter, never admitted as a full member of the Royal Academy, only very lately handed the privilege of sporting the initials A.R.A. after my name. Merely an Associate. Tardy laurels finally pressed upon an indifferent brow.

The highest praise ever bestowed by my fellow artists was to say I ought to have been a history painter, my rendering of marble in oil paint was as exquisite as Alma-Tadema's. Cosgrave, with a picture dealer's disdain for the truth, once described me to a dewlapped matron as a "court painter." By that he meant I had doodled up a portrait of a demented claimant to the throne of Spain (of which there are legion), a sallow-complexioned fellow who sat in my studio morosely munching walnuts and strewing the floor with their shells. I cannot recall his name, only that he wore a wig, but never the same wig twice. This led to an indistinct element to the portrayal of His Catholic Majesty's coiffure which mightily displeased him.

But now, the mountain comes to Mohammed. Artistic success won in an unexpected quarter. The dry old stick Charlie Gaunt publishes a volume of verse. Love poems, no less. For months, much of London society has been mildly engrossed in tea-time speculation about the identity of the lady of whom I wrote. A small assist to sales. Of course, it didn't hurt that the Times was laudatory and the Edinburgh Review kind in a niggling, parsimonious Scottish way.

Yesterday, I ran into Machar, the Glasgow refugee, outside Piccadilly Station. He was arch, and I was short with him.

"We hadn't guessed, Gaunt," he cooed. "I mean the book – that's a side of you we hadn't suspected."

I challenged him. "You've read it, have you?" "Haven't had time to read it yet. But I bought it."

He was lying. If he had it at all, it was borrowed from a lending library. "Well," I said, brandishing my stick to hail a passing cab, "then you don't know what you're talking about, do you, Machar?" I showed him my coattails, spun off without another word.

One of the envelopes on the tray attracts my eye, addressed by an unfamiliar hand and bearing a Canadian stamp. Inside, I discover a newspaper clipping already a month old.

The Macleod Gazette July 17, 1896

JERRY POTTS DEAD

AN HISTORICAL LANDMARK GONE

Jerry Potts is dead. Through the whole North West, in many parts of eastern Canada, and in England itself, this announcement will excite sorrow, in many cases sympathy, and in all, interest. Jerry was a type, and a type that is fast disappearing. A half-breed, with all that name implies, he had the proud distinction of being a very potent factor in the discovery (if it might be so called) and settlement of the western part of the North West Territories. When Colonels French and Macleod left their worried, and almost helpless column at Sweet Grass in '74, after a march of 900 miles and a vain search for the much vaunted "Whoop-Up" it was the veriative accident of fortune that in Benton they found Jerry Potts ...

My eyes skim the remainder of the obituary, settle on the last paragraph.

Jerry Potts is dead, but his name lives, and will live. His memory will long be green in the hearts of those who knew him best, and "faithful and true" is the character he leaves behind him – the best monument of a valuable life.

The indestructible Potts dead. The news excites a pang of melancholy despite the fact that I have not laid eyes on him for a quarter-century. Yes, faithful and true he certainly was. And now, apparently famous too, after a fashion. Jerry Potts, how unlikely a candidate for renown.

Wondering who could have sent me such a notice, I peek into the envelope and dislodge a small piece of notepaper, a few words scrawled on it in pencil. There is something you must know. I can only tell it to you in person. I beg you to come soon. Signed, Custis Straw.

The shock of the name turns me to the window. In the square below, street lamps are shedding an eerie jade light which trembles in the weft of the fog.

It seems I am asked to perform at another's bidding, just as I did more than two decades ago when my father set my feet on the Pasha, 1,790 tons of iron steamship breaching the Irish Sea, bound for New York.

Twilight, the ship trailing scarves of mist, the air wet on my face. Standing at the stern, damp railing gripped in my gloves, sniffing thefishy salt of the ocean, gazing back to the blurred lights of the river traffic plying the mouth of the Mersey.

The land slowly vanishing from sight, retiring at ten knots, as the screw boiled water and I stood, one hand clamped to my top hat to hold it in place, and peered down. Alone. The other passengers had gone to dress for dinner. The propeller frothed the water, beat it white, the ship's wake a metalled road pointing back to England. The breeze freshened, the skirts of my frock coat fluttered. Sailors cried out, preparing to raise auxiliary sail. Chop clapped the sides of the vessel, pale veins of turbulence in the dark granite sea. A first glimpse of stars, their salmon-pink coronas.

Deferential footsteps behind me, a smiling steward had come to announce dinner was served. I shook my head, "Thank you, I shall not dine tonight." The puzzled steward's face. Thirty guineas passage, meals, wine included, and the gentleman does not wish to dine tonight?

Not when I preferred to gaze upon what I was leaving, to recall those figures in the Ford Madox Brown painting, The Last of England. A young couple in the stern of a boat, holding hands, faces sombre, the white cliffs of Dover sentimental in the distance, the ties of the woman's bonnet whipping in the wind. A lady flying from England just as Simon, my twin brother, had fled it.

Beneath my feet, the deck of the Pasha lurched, grew more and more tipsy with every minute that passed. Yet that unsteadiness was nothing to how unbalanced I feel now, staring down into Grosvenor Square, wondering what has prompted Custis Straw's blunt and peremptory summons, what it means.

CHAPTER 2

Out of the black inkwell of the night sky, incongruously, a white flood poured. Fat flakes of lazy snow eddying, sticking like wet feathers to whatever they touched. Simon Gaunt, waking with a start, discovered himself seated on an inert horse, becalmed in a storm. For the briefest of moments, mind a blur of white, he searched for a name. Seized it. "Reverend Witherspoon!" he shouted. "Reverend!" Nothing answered, nothing moved except for the palsied snow.

Since dawn, Witherspoon had been driving them to the brink of collapse. In London, Simon Gaunt had not recognized the danger of that side of Witherspoon, the reliance on iron rules. Cited like Holy Scripture. When journeying one must never halt until wood and shelter are obtained.

But here, on a barren tabletop plain, wood and shelter were a figment of the imagination.

Press on, my boy.

As the October dusk drew down, Simon had argued desperately for making camp. But Witherspoon would not hear of it; the imposing face that ecstatic love could render soft as soap in London was now cast as hard as an Old Testament prophet's certainty. We shall not yield to adversity.

So on they went, deeper and deeper into bewildering nightfall, Witherspoon flogging his mare until he opened a safe ten yards, a cordon sanitaire between himself and the weak-kneed naysayer. Ten yards to symbolize the moral gulf separating master and disciple.

The last thing Simon could remember before falling asleep was the Reverend's broad shoulders rocking side to side like a wagging forefinger, reproving his feebleness, admonishing his sloth.

How long had he slept?

"Reverend Witherspoon! Reverend Witherspoon!" The snow drowned his cry. Knowingly or unknowingly, Witherspoon had ridden on and Simon was alone. A cold clinker of fear settled in the grate of his belly. Lost. He lashed his horse into a trot; the gelding submitted for a hundred reluctant yards, then faltered, came to a complete standstill.

How dreadfully cold it was. A breeze sprang to sudden life and his cheeks, wet with melting snow, stiffened at the icy touch. The wind panted, flakes swirled, thickened. Twisting in his saddle, Simon strained for a glimpse of Witherspoon hastening to gather the lost lamb, some darker blot in the darkness of night. The blizzard was strengthening, slapping at horse and rider; he could feel the gelding's mane fluttering against his hands clamped to the reins.

Bouncing his heels on the gelding's ribs, he urged it to resume an unwilling shamble. The gusts were growing fiercer, snow was biting at his face like flying sand. He ducked his head and watched the drifts unroll beneath him, a white scroll of vellum, luminous in the dim light.

The scroll stopped. His hat sailed off. Dismounting, Simon rifled the saddlebag, found his old Oxford scarf, bandaged his burning ears with it, knotted it under his chin. Wind keened through the weave of the wool. Never had he known such cold; it drew heat out of the body like a leech draws blood. Forehead, eyes, cheeks ached from the frigid, sucking mouth.

Weariness overwhelmed him, dropped his forehead heavily against the horse's flank. He let it rest there. Just a minute. Only a minute. Then he would move. Go on. The gelding's rump was crusted with ice and snow, so was Simon's beard. Raking his fingers through it, he plucked away clots of ice, trying to pray. "Lord God of Hosts," he began, but his thoughts were lost in the roar of the storm, brain nothing but a puddle of numb slush. Falling back on memory, he recited from the Book of Common Prayer. "'O most glorious and gracious Lord God, who dwellest in heaven, but beholdest all things below,'" he mumbled. "'Look down, we beseech thee, and hear us, calling out of the depth of misery, and out of the jaws of this death, which is now ready to swallow us up: Save, Lord, or else we perish. The living, the living shall praise thee. O send thy word of command to rebuke the raging winds and the roaring ...'" His voice ebbed away.

It was no good. He dove back into the saddlebag, fingers turned to pincers by the cold, and grappled a tin, pried away the top. The wind caught the lid, tore it from his hand, kited it off into the howling night. He patted, crooned and clucked, feeding the exhausted horse his shortbread, trying to kindle in it a little strength to continue on.

The gelding shied when he tried to remount. Somehow Simon snagged the stirrup with his boot and clambered aboard, weeping when the horse once more stubbornly stalled, beating its neck with a fist. But then it swung its head, put the wind to their backs, moved off hesitantly. With the blizzard whipping its hindquarters, the gelding broke into a lope, then a wild staggering gallop, heaving like a storm-driven ship. Simon tasted long white streaks of snow, smears on the chalkboard of night, as his brain jerked from spot to spot on his body, probing. Face dead, a slab of wood. Fingers dead. Twigs.

Latimer, bound to the stake, had said to the chained and sobbing Nicholas Ridley beside him, "Play the man, master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

He would have welcomed to burn like Latimer now.

The horse gave a grunt, stumbled, fell in slow, dreamy increments. Simon became a boy again. His father had bought him a ticket at the London zoo for a ride on the camel. The dromedary was lowering itself to earth, in stages, a complicated, groaning piece of machinery, settling to its knees, sinking.

Pitched headlong, Simon lay in a pillow of snow, listening to Ridley screaming in the flames.

No, not Ridley screaming, the horse. He staggered to the fallen gelding. It was trying to rise on three legs, the fourth was horribly broken. Lurching up and falling back, lurching up and falling back. Simon caught the head stall, pulled the beast down and squatted on its neck, bringing to an end the terrible struggle. The horse stared up at him. Its eye a coal-yoked egg.

He placed his hand over the eye. His brother Addington had smashed a lot of hunters' legs. Addington, merciless rider. Long ago, a boy of ten, he'd seen one of the victims of Addington's recklessness destroyed. The gamekeeper delivered the coup de grâce while Addington and his fox-hunting friends drank whisky in the house. The callous cruelty of it had made him sob miserably, displeasing his father. "Buck up," Father had commanded him.

Left hand blinkering the eye of the horse, Simon reached for the knife sheathed on his belt. Less a knife than a small, bone-handled sword bought in Fort Benton, a bowie knife the Americans called it.

He told himself, "The Holy Ghost reads hearts."

When he sliced the throat, a tremor ran down the horse's neck, hot blood scalded his hand. The weary horse did not take long to die.

Whimpering, Simon huddled against its belly, cringing from the wind. His hands were alive with needles of agony; when he slipped them down the front of his pants to warm them, he felt the gluey blood on his privates.

There was a hymn – it skipped about his brain before he heard himself singing. "'How mighty is the Blood that ran for sinful nature's needs! It broke the ban, it rescued man; it lives, and speaks, and pleads!'" Blood running for sinful nature's needs. Living, speaking, pleading. To rescue man.

Simon scrambled to his knees, knife upraised. Drove the sixteeninch blade into the horse's chest, sawed the belly down to the legs. Guts spilling, a thin steam sifting out of the lips of the incision. Plunged his hands into the mess of entrails. Tore away, scooping offal behind him, hacking with the knife at whatever resisted, whatever clung. Moaning, hunching his shoulders, drawing his knees up to his chest, wriggling away at the mouth of the wound, he burrowed into the balmy pocket.

O precious Side-hole's cavity I want to spend my life in thee ...
Safe in the slick, rich animal heat, out of the cruel wind. Not all of him, but enough. An embryo, curled in the belly of the dead horse.

The little bells sewn to the hem of Talks Different's caped buffalo robe jingled crisply as she strode along, towing an old buffalo bull hide piled with sticks rooted out of a coulee bottom. The sharp cold that had greeted her at dawn was lifting; Sun was climbing higher and higher, softening the snow, making it stick to the parfleche soles of her moccasins.

The passing of last night's blizzard had left the air perfectly still. Talks Different sweated in her robe, eyes squinted against Sun's dazzling dance on the white plain. All at once, she stopped and stared. Off in the distance, something was moving, most likely a prairie wolf gorging on a kill. She gave a tug to the hide-tail, briskly covered another hundred yards, but still could not give a name to what it was she saw. Something crouched above a carcass, something forbidding and black. The bells of her robe pealed a thin warning, but the creature did not run from the ringing like a coyote or wolf would. And it was too small to be a grizzly.

The glaring light stabbed thorns in her eyes; they streamed with tears. What she was straining to see could not be a vision, visions were given freely to her. This seemed to be a thing of the earth, but very strange. She hurried on.

Now she could recognize the body of a horse, one hoofed leg jutting up. But the black thing that had moved before now stayed absolutely still, wrapped up in a ball. She called out to it, identifying herself as a holy being, asking it if it were a holy being too. At the sound of her voice, it stirred, twitched.

Talks Different was not afraid to meet anything strange because she had been made an unusual being herself, a bote granted the blessing of Two Spirit. Confident in her sacred power she came forward, ready to face whatever waited there.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Last Crossing"
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Copyright © 2002 G & M Vanderhaeghe Productions Inc..
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Reading Group Guide

1. The Last Crossing is set in the late nineteenth century, mostly in the American and Canadian west, with some scenes in England. We learn that the story unfolds in, and around, 1871 [p 11]. Yet some sections of the novel occur before this date, as with the section, narrated by Custis, about his experiences during the Civil War [pp 261-72]. Why does Vanderhaeghe cut back and forth between geographical locations and different times? Why does he choose to insert prior information through loops of memory? Why does he set his novel in this historical period?

2. Characters’ names draw attention to themselves. Stoveall, Straw, Potts, and Gaunt resonate with meaning beyond proper names. Potts thinks that “nothing exists for white men unless they give it a name in their own language” [p 8]. Later, Potts broods on his multiple names, including Bear Child and Mr. Moses [p 303]. Do names define character? If so, why do some characters have multiple names?

3. Simon Gaunt absconds to the west because he believes he can convert North American natives to spiritual enlightenment that is vaguely Christian and vaguely poetic in nature. Should we interpret Simon’s mission as misguided, historically informed, obstinate, ethically suspect, or psychologically deluded? Moreover, should we understand Simon’s relation to the bote as an expression of his spirituality or as an expression of his sexuality?

4. Songs dot The Last Crossing. Addington Gaunt sings about prostitutes in the Burlington Arcade [p 26]. The Kelso brothers taunt Lucy and Madge by singing “Buffalo girls” [p 189]. Charles remembers a ribald song about the king and queen [p 201]. A kissing song is sung during the dance at Fort Edmonton [p 290] and, afterwards, Addington sings a song about buffalo in a monotonous voice [p 294]. Why does Vanderhaeghe include these songs? Why do these songs often express demeaning sentiments–usually about women?

5. Charles fears his father and yet writes to him in order to appease him. He claims that he cannot escape the “golden cage” [p 201] created for him by his father. Yet Henry Gaunt, after his stroke, turns out to be a relatively tame, if paranoid, old man. Does the power of the father exist in the minds of the sons? How does Jerry Potts’s relation to his three white fathers parallel Charles’s relation to his father? And how does Potts’s relation to his son Mitchell parallel Charles’s belated understanding that he too is a father? In what senses is The Last Crossing about the relation of fathers and sons?

6. Custis Straw thinks about the Bible frequently. He claims he first read the Bible “‘to make myself believe every single word was true. The second time I read it to satisfy myself it was all a lie. Now I read it to weigh both sides, and find some truth’” [p 260]. Often he meditates on Moses leading his people out of tyranny and into the Promised Land. How do Biblical stories, and especially tales about Moses, underlie and inform The Last Crossing? Does the Bible offer truthful or mythic stories to Custis’ imagination? How does Potts’s version of Moses and Pharoah, whom he mistakenly calls Far Away [pp 187-88], alter interpretation of the Mosaic story?

7. Simon and Charles are twins. Why does Vanderhaeghe choose to represent the brothers as twins? Why does one twin flee the other? Why is one a mystic and one a painter? Why does Simon resist all of Charles’s importunate demands to return to England? How does the motif of twins reflect on Potts’s native and white duality? Why does Charles call himself the “left twin” [p 157]?

8. Narration frequently breaks into first-person monologues, heralded by an italicized name: Charles, Lucy, Custis. For example, Charles narrates chapter 5 [pp 29-39], whereas Custis narrates the opening of chapter 6 [pp 40-45]. While giving access to specific memories and versions of events, this style of narrative also might omit certain kinds of information. What is omitted? Why does Vanderhaeghe choose to narrate Jerry Potts’s sections in third-person indirect discourse rather than in first-person, testimonial style?

9. Several letters are, or are not, delivered in the course of The Last Crossing. Custis writes to Charles. Charles sends reports to his father. Charles writes to Lucy. Why do people choose to communicate through letters, as when Charles, heading back to England, sends a letter to Lucy via Custis [pp 363-65]? What does Aloysius Dooley’s letter reveal that his first-person narratives do not reveal [pp 375-76]? What motivates characters to write rather than speak or narrate? Why does Vanderhaeghe include letters in The Last Crossing?

10. Why do so many women vanish in The Last Crossing? Pearl, a whore, disappears [pp 26-27]. Madge dies. Eunice Gaunt dies in childbirth [p 33]. Mary, taking Mitchell with her, leaves Jerry. Why do so few of the relations between men and women work out well in the novel? Why must Lucy give birth to her daughter outside of Charles’s and the reader’s knowledge?

11. A lot of characters die in The Last Crossing: Addington Gaunt, Henry Gaunt, Jerry Potts, Titus Kelso, Custis Straw, Blackfoot warriors, Civil War soldiers. Why are some deaths narrated and some not? What point of view is adopted to narrate death, in, for instance, the grizzly bear’s attack on Addington? Why do characters want to sup with the dead [p 229]?

12. The Last Crossing depicts several battle scenes: Custis fights in the Civil War; the Cree and the Blackfoot battle each other; Addington boxes with Custis; Custis shoots Titus in his whisky cave. How do these battles reflect on each other? What are the battles about? What is won or lost by fighting?

13. Many characters fall ill in this novel and use different sorts of medicine. Straw suffers from migraines (or “megrim”), and has a lengthy, undiagnosed illness. Addington has tertiary syphilis. How does Dr. Bengough’s medicine differ from Potts’s medicine bag? Are illnesses only of the body? Why does Custis call the frontier between the American west and the British colonies the “Medicine Line” [p 147]?

14. Why does Aloysius Dooley, hotel proprietor, demonstrate such loyalty and friendship to Custis Straw? What binds the two characters together?

15. Epic narratives often deploy common motifs, such as the founding of a city or nation, battles, visits to the underworld. In what ways is The Last Crossing an epic? If it is an epic, how does it reflect on the founding of a nation?

16. What does the title of the novel refer to? What is the last crossing? What is crossed? Why is the crossing the last one?

17. The Last Crossing contains tall tales, including the preposterous, amusing (and in reality debatedly authentic) story about John Rowand, the tyrant who commanded Fort Edmonton for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Rowand’s body, allegedly pickled in rum, crosses the Atlantic twice before it is buried in Quebec [p 284]. Simon, as a follower of Reverend Witherspoon, believes another sort of tall tale. Are any of the tales in this novel not tall? What effects does exaggeration create? What actions do tall tales instigate? Does the tallness of a tale mitigate its credibility or authenticity? Why does Custis, referring to drifters cast up after the Civil War, mention “pitiful stories way too big for their sorry selves” [p 41]?

18. Why do so many people chase each other in The Last Crossing? Lucy pursues the Kelso brothers, because she thinks they have murdered Madge. Charles chases Simon. Custis chases Lucy. Aloysius follows Custis. Aloysius calls this sequence “a game of fox and hounds” [p 120]. Why does Vanderhaeghe structure this novel around a series of displacements and chases? Why do people bestir themselves in order to chase others? How does Simon’s refusal to return to London call the bluff of the chase? Who does or does not leave a trail? Why are so many Canadian novels about chasing others through the untamed wilderness?

19. Would Canada exist without trading companies and the British military? How does Vanderhaeghe write Canadian history in The Last Crossing, specifically the history of the west? Why does he draw attention to Ayto’s writing up of Addington’s exploits, as well as Charles’s drawing of Addington in military postures? Is military history the real history of Canada, or does history lie beyond the military? More specifically, how does Addington’s bloodthirsty hacking down of Irish peasants [p 23] affect the representation of the British military?

20. Charles continues to draw and paint portraits, yet publishes a volume of love poetry to some acclaim. How does this fulfil, or deny, Simon’s suggestion that Charles yearns for love [p 155], and, by extension, that Charles must learn about love in order to draw? Why does Charles switch from painting to poetry, as different artistic pursuits, in his middle age?

21. Wild West tales take for granted that constitutional forms of justice and law do not hold sway in frontier towns. Vigilante justice or revenge takes precedence over legislation and jurisprudence. Judge Daniels imprisons Custis without a writ of habeas corpus [pp 44-45]. Later, Custis shoots Titus Kelso, an administration of justice performed out of self-defence, but a form of justice that also seems to avenge Madge's death. How does Vanderhaeghe represent justice in The Last Crossing? Does justice differ according to race? Whereas Addington proves to be Madge’s murderer, he receives no legal meting out of justice, but justice of a different sort. Is this justice really just?

22. Charles Gaunt and Ayto debate whether the pen is mightier than the sword [pp 142-43]. Which is mightier, according to evidence proffered in The Last Crossing?

23. Simon suffers from “romanticism” [p 153]. How does his romanticism–the reading of Rousseau and Arnold, the taking of moonlit walks from Oxford to London–lead him astray? Why does Vanderhaeghe not tell us exactly what becomes of Simon? Is romanticism, as an ideology, really so destructive?

24. Jerry Potts curses comically in English [p 231]. Custis, whose name half suggests some kind of curse, swears that his first wife Louella would have died cussing him if she had had the voice to do so [p 261]. What is a curse? Why is a curse formed in language? Are some characters cursed in the novel and others not? Can anything remedy a curse?

25. Some characters have dreams or visions in The Last Crossing. Lucy dreams about Charles [p 193], as well as a dog [p 318]. Addington sees his mother in a vision [p 308]. Should we interpret these dreams and visions as delusions or as prophesies? Do they lead characters astray or guide them to just action?

26. Several characters in The Last Crossing have a hybrid or conjoined identity. Potts is half-native and half-Scottish. The Sutherland boys are likewise half-white and half-native. Aloysius is an Irish-American. Simon and Charles have a mixed identity because they are twins and because they travel to North America. Is identity ever free of hybridity? Who suffers for living between cultures, languages, and identities?

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