Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

At the Foot of the Rainbow by Gene Stratton-Porter

Part 3 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Is she dead?" cried Dannie.

"The doctor is talking scare," said Jimmy. "But I don't scare so
easy. She's never been sick in her life, and she has lived
through it twice before, why should she die now? Of course the
kid is dead again," he added angrily.

Dannie shut his eyes and stood still. He had helped plant star-
flowers on two tiny cross-marked mounds at Five Mile Hill. Now,
there were three. Jimmy had worn out her love for him, that was
plain. "Why should she die now?" To Dannie it seemed that
question should have been, "Why should she live?"

Jimmy eyed him belligerently. "Why in the name of sinse did you
cut out whin I was off me pins?" he growled. "Of course I don't
blame you for cutting that kind of a party, me for the woods, all
right, but what I can't see is why you couldn't have gone for the
doctor and waited until I'd slept it off before you wint."

"I dinna know she was sick," answered Dannie. "I deserve anything
ony ane can say to me, and it's all my fault if she dees, but
this ane thing ye got to say ye know richt noo, Jimmy. Ye got to
say ye know that I dinna understand Mary was sick when I went."

"Sure! I've said that all the time," agreed Jimmy. "But what I
don't understand is, WHY you went! I guess she thinks it was her
fault. I came out here to try to study it out. The nurse-woman,
domn pretty girl, says if you don't get back before midnight,
it's all up. You're just on time, Dannie. The talk in the house
is that she'll wink out if you don't prove to her that she didn't
drive you away. She is about crazy over it. What did she do to
you?"

"Nothing!" exclaimed Dannie. "She was so deathly sick she dinna
what she was doing. I can see it noo, but I dinna understand
then."

"That's all right," said Jimmy. "She didn't! She kapes moaning
over and over 'What did I do?' You hustle in and fix it up with
her. I'm getting tired of all this racket."

All Dannie heard was that he was to go to Mary. He went up the
lane, across the garden, and stepped in at the back door. Beside
the table stood a comely young woman, dressed in blue and white
stripes. She was doing something with eggs and milk. She glanced
at Dannie, and finished filling a glass. As she held it to the
light, "Is your name Macnoun?" she inquired.

"Yes," said Dannie.

"Dannie Macnoun?" she asked.

"Yes," said Dannie.

"Then you are the medicine needed here just now," she said, as if
that were the most natural statement in the world. "Mrs. Malone
seems to have an idea that she offended you, and drove you from
home, just prior to her illness, and as she has been very sick,
she is in no condition to bear other trouble. You understand?"

"Do ye understand that I couldna have gone if I had known she was
ill?" asked Dannie in turn.

"From what she has said in delirium I have been sure of that,"
replied the nurse. "It seems you have been the stay of the family
for years. I have a very high opinion of you, Mr. Macnoun. Wait
until I speak to her."

The nurse vanished, presently returned, and as Dannie passed
through the door, she closed it after him, and he stood still,
trying to see in the dim light. That great snowy stretch, that
must be the bed. That tumbled dark circle, that must be Mary's
hair. That dead white thing beneath it, that must be Mary's face.
Those burning lights, flaming on him, those must be Mary's eyes.
Dannie stepped softly across the room, and bent over the bed. He
tried hard to speak naturally.

"Mary" he said, "oh, Mary, I dinna know ye were ill! Oh, believe
me, I dinna realize ye were suffering pain."

She smiled faintly, and her lips moved. Dannie bent lower.

"Promise," she panted. "Promise you will stay now."

Her hand fumbled at her breast, and then she slipped on the white
cover a little black cross. Dannie knew what she meant. He laid
his hand on the emblem precious to her, and said softly, "I swear
I never will leave ye again, Mary Malone."

A great light swept into her face, and she smiled happily.

"Now ye," said Dannie. He slipped the cross into her hand.
"Repeat after me," he said. "I promise I will get well, Dannie."

"I promise I will get well, Dannie, if I can," said Mary.

"Na," said Dannie. "That winna do. Repeat what I said, and
remember it is on the cross. Life hasna been richt for ye, Mary,
but if ye will get well, before the Lord in some way we will make
it happier. Ye will get well?"

"I promise I will get well, Dannie," said Mary Malone, and Dannie
softly left the room.

Outside he said to the nurse, "What can I do?"

She told him everything of which she could think that would be of
benefit.

"Now tell me all ye know of what happened," commanded Dannie.

"After you left," said the nurse, "she was in labor, and she
could not waken her husband, and she grew frightened and
screamed. There were men passing out on the road. They heard her,
and came to see what was the matter."

"Strangers?" shuddered Dannie, with dry lips.

"No, neighbors. One man went for the nearest woman, and the other
drove to town for a doctor. They had help here almost as soon as
you could. But, of course, the shock was a very dreadful thing,
and the heat of the past few weeks has been enervating."

"Ane thing more," questioned Dannie. "Why do her children dee?"

"I don't know about the others," answered the nurse. "This one
simply couldn't be made to breathe. It was a strange thing. It
was a fine big baby, a boy, and it seemed perfect, but we
couldn't save it. I never worked harder. They told me she had
lost two others, and we tried everything of which we could think.
It just seemed as if it had grown a lump of flesh, with no vital
spark in it."

Dannie turned, went out of the door, and back along the lane to
the river where he had left Jimmy. "`A lump of flesh with na
vital spark in it,'" he kept repeating. "I dinna but that is the
secret. She is almost numb with misery. All these days when she's
been without hope, and these awful nichts, when she's watched and
feared alone, she has no wished to perpetuate him in children who
might be like him, and so at their coming the `vital spark' is na
in them. Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy, have ye Mary's happiness and those
three little graves to answer for?"

He found Jimmy asleep where he had left him. Dannie shook him
awake. "I want to talk with ye," he said.

Jimmy sat up, and looked into Dannie's face. He had a complaint
on his lips but it died there. He tried to apologize. "I am
almost dead for sleep," he said. "There has been no rest for
anyone here. What do you think?"

"I think she will live," said Dannie dryly. "In spite of your
neglect, and my cowardice, I think she will live to suffer more
frae us."

Jimmy's mouth opened, but for once no sound issued. The drops of
perspiration raised on his forehead.

Dannie sat down, and staring at him Jimmy saw that there were
patches of white hair at his temples that had been brown a week
before; his colorless face was sunken almost to the bone, and
there was a peculiar twist about his mouth. Jimmy's heart weighed
heavily, his tongue stood still, and he was afraid to the marrow
in his bones.

"I think she will live," repeated Dannie. "And about the
suffering more, we will face that like men, and see what can be
done about it. This makes three little graves on the hill, Jimmy,
what do they mean to ye?"

"Domn bad luck," said Jimmy promptly.

"Nothing more?" asked Dannie. "Na responsibility at all. Ye are
the father of those children. Have ye never been to the doctor,
and asked why ye lost them?"

"No, I haven't," said Jimmy.

"That is ane thing we will do now," said Dannie, "and then we
will do more, much more."

"What are you driving at?" asked Jimmy.

"The secret of Mary's heart," said Dannie.

The cold sweat ran from the pores of Jimmy's body. He licked his
dry lips, and pulled his hat over his eyes, that he might watch
Dannie from under the brim.

"We are twa big, strong men," said Dannie. "For fifteen years we
have lived here wi' Mary. The night ye married her, the licht of
happiness went out for me. But I shut my mouth, and shouldered my
burden, and went on with my best foot first; because if she had
na refused me, I should have married her, and then ye would have
been the one to suffer. If she had chosen me, I should have
married her, juist as ye did. Oh, I've never forgotten that! So I
have na been a happy mon, Jimmy. We winna go into that any
further, we've been over it once. It seems to be a form of
torture especially designed fra me, though at times I must
confess, it seems rough, and I canna see why, but we'll cut that
off with this: life has been Hell's hottest sweat-box fra me
these fifteen years."

Jimmy groaned aloud. Dannie's keen gray eyes seemed boring into
the soul of the man before him, as he went on.

"Now how about ye? Ye got the girl ye wanted. Ye own a guid farm
that would make ye a living, and save ye money every year. Ye
have done juist what ye pleased, and as far as I could, I have
helped ye. I've had my eye on ye pretty close, Jimmy, and if YE
are a happy mon, I dinna but I'm content as I am. What's your
trouble? Did ye find ye dinna love Mary after ye won her? Did ye
murder your mither or blacken your soul with some deadly sin?
Mon! If I had in my life what ye every day neglect and torture,
Heaven would come doon, and locate at the foot of the Rainbow fra
me. But, ye are no happy, Jimmy. Let's get at the root of the
matter. While ye are unhappy, Mary will be also. We are
responsible to God for her, and between us, she is empty armed,
near to death, and almost dumb with misery. I have juist sworn to
her on the cross she loves that if she will make ane more effort,
and get well, we will make her happy. Now, how are we going to do
it?"

Another great groan burst from Jimmy, and he shivered as if with
a chill.

"Let us look ourselves in the face," Dannie went on, "and see
what we lack. What can we do fra her? What will bring a song to
her lips, licht to her beautiful eyes, love to her heart, and a
living child to her arms? Wake up, mon! By God, if ye dinna set
to work with me and solve this problem, I'll shake a solution out
of ye! What I must suffer is my own, but what's the matter with
ye, and why, when she loved and married ye, are ye breakin'
Mary's heart? Answer me, mon!"

Dannie reached over and snatched the hat from Jimmy's forehead,
and stared at an inert heap. Jimmy lay senseless, and he looked
like death. Dannie rushed down to the water with the hat, and
splashed drops into Jimmy's face until he gasped for breath. When
he recovered a little, he shrank from Dannie, and began to sob,
as if he were a sick ten-year-old child.

"I knew you'd go back on me, Dannie," he wavered. "I've lost the
only frind I've got, and I wish I was dead."

"I havena gone back on ye," persisted Dannie, bathing Jimmy's
face. "Life means nothing to me, save as I can use it fra Mary,
and fra ye. Be quiet, and sit up here, and help me work this
thing out. Why are ye a discontented mon, always wishing fra any
place save home? Why do ye spend all ye earn foolishly, so that
ye are always hard up, when ye might have affluence? Why does
Mary lose her children, and why does she noo wish she had na
married ye?"

"Who said she wished she hadn't married me?" cried Jimmy.

"Do ye mean to say ye think she doesn't?" blazed Dannie.

"I ain't said anything!" exclaimed Jimmy.

"Na, and I seem to have damn poor luck gettin' ye TO say
anything. I dinna ask fra tears, nor faintin' like a woman. Be a
mon, and let me into the secret of this muddle. There is a
secret, and ye know it. What is it? Why are ye breaking the heart
o' Mary Malone? Answer me, or 'fore God I'll wring the answer fra
your body!"

And Jimmy keeled over again. This time he was gone so far that
Dannie was frightened into a panic, and called the doctor coming
up the lane to Jimmy before he had time to see Mary. The doctor
soon brought Jimmy around, prescribed quiet and sleep; talked
about heart trouble developing, and symptoms of tremens, and
Dannie poured on water, and gritted his teeth. And it ended by
Jimmy being helped to Dannie's cabin, undressed, and put into
bed, and then Dannie went over to see what he could do for the
nurse. She looked at him searchingly.

"Mr. Macnoun, when were you last asleep?" she asked.

"I forget," answered Dannie.

"When did you last have a good hot meal?"

"I dinna know," replied Dannie.

"Drink that," said the nurse, handing him the bowl of broth she
carried, and going back to the stove for another. "When I have
finished making Mrs. Malone comfortable, I'm going to get you
something to eat, and you are going to eat it. Then you are going
to lie down on that cot where I can call you if I need you, and
sleep six hours, and then you're going to wake up and watch by
this door while I sleep my six. Even nurses must have some rest,
you know."

"Ye first," said Dannie. "I'll be all richt when I get food.
Since ye mention it, I believe I am almost mad with hunger."

The nurse handed him another bowl of broth. "Just drink that, and
drink slowly," she said, as she left the room.

Dannie could hear her speaking softly to Mary, and then all was
quiet, and the girl came out and closed the door. She deftly
prepared food for Dannie, and he ate all she would allow him, and
begged for more; but she firmly told him her hands were full now,
and she had no one to depend on but him to watch after the turn
of the night. So Dannie lay down on the cot. He had barely
touched it when he thought of Jimmy, so he got up quietly and
started home. He had almost reached his back door when it opened,
and Jimmy came out. Dannie paused, amazed at Jimmy's wild face
and staring eyes.

"Don't you begin your cursed gibberish again," cried Jimmy, at
sight of him. "I'm burning in all the tortures of fire now, and
I'll have a drink if I smash down Casey's and steal it."

Dannie jumped for him, and Jimmy evaded him and fled. Dannie
started after. He had reached the barn before he began to think.
"I depend on you," the nurse had said. "Jimmy, wait!" he called.
"Jimmy, have ye any money?" Jimmy was running along the path
toward town. Dannie stopped. He stood staring after Jimmy for a
second, and then he deliberately turned, went back, and lay down
on the cot, where the nurse expected to find him when she wanted
him to watch by the door of Mary Malone.

Chapter VII

THE APPLE OF DISCORD BECOMES A JOINTED ROD

"What do you think about fishing, Dannie?" asked Jimmy Malone.

"There was a licht frost last nicht," said Dannie. "It begins to
look that way. I should think a week more, especially if there
should come a guid rain."

Jimmy looked disappointed. His last trip to town had ended in a
sodden week in the barn, and at Dannie's cabin. For the first
time he had carried whiskey home with him. He had insisted on
Dannie drinking with him, and wanted to fight when he would not.
He addressed the bottle, and Dannie, as the Sovereign Alchemist
by turns, and "transmuted the leaden metal of life into pure
gold" of a glorious drunk, until his craving was satisfied. Then
he came back to work and reason one morning, and by the time Mary
was about enough to notice him, he was Jimmy at his level best,
and doing more than he had in years to try to interest and please
her.

Mary had fully recovered, and appeared as strong as she ever had
been, but there was a noticeable change in her. She talked and
laughed with a gayety that seemed forced, and in the midst of it
her tongue turned bitter, and Jimmy and Dannie fled before it.

The gray hairs multiplied on Dannie's head with rapidity. He had
gone to the doctor, and to Mary's sister, and learned nothing
more than the nurse could tell him. Dannie was willing to
undertake anything in the world for Mary, but just how to furnish
the "vital spark," to an unborn babe, was too big a problem for
him. And Jimmy Malone was growing to be another. Heretofore,
Dannie had borne the brunt of the work, and all of the worry. He
had let Jimmy feel that his was the guiding hand. Jimmy's plans
were followed whenever it was possible, and when it was not,
Dannie started Jimmy's way, and gradually worked around to his
own. But, there never had been a time between them, when things
really came to a crisis, and Dannie took the lead, and said
matters must go a certain way, that Jimmy had not acceded. In
reality, Dannie always had been master.

Now he was not. Where he lost control he did not know. He had
tried several times to return to the subject of how to bring back
happiness to Mary, and Jimmy immediately developed symptoms of
another attack of heart disease, a tendency to start for town, or
openly defied him by walking away. Yet, Jimmy stuck to him closer
than he ever had, and absolutely refused to go anywhere, or to do
the smallest piece of work alone. Sometimes he grew sullen and
morose when he was not drinking, and that was very unlike the gay
Jimmy. Sometimes he grew wildly hilarious, as if he were bound to
make such a racket that he could hear no sound save his own
voice. So long as he stayed at home, helped with the work, and
made an effort to please Mary, Dannie hoped for the best, but his
hopes never grew so bright that they shut out an awful fear that
was beginning to loom in the future. But he tried in every way to
encourage Jimmy, and help him in the struggle he did not
understand, so when he saw that Jimmy was disappointed about the
fishing, he suggested that he should go alone.

"I guess not!" said Jimmy. "I'd rather go to confission than to
go alone. What's the fun of fishin' alone? All the fun there is
to fishin' is to watch the other fellow's eyes when you pull in a
big one, and try to hide yours from him when he gets it. I guess
not! What have we got to do?"

"Finish cutting the corn, and get in the pumpkins before there
comes frost enough to hurt them."

"Well, come along!" said Jimmy. "Let's get it over. I'm going to
begin fishing for that Bass the morning after the first black
frost, if I do go alone. I mean it!"

"But ye said--" began Dannie.

"Hagginy!" cried Jimmy. "What a lot of time you've wasted if
you've been kaping account of all the things I've said. Haven't
you learned by this time that I lie twice to the truth once?"

Dannie laughed. "Dinna say such things, Jimmy. I hate to hear ye.
Of course, I know about the fifty coons of the Canoper, and
things like that; honest, I dinna believe ye can help it. But na
man need lie about a serious matter, and when he knows he is
deceiving another who trusts him." Jimmy became so white that he
felt the color receding, and turned to hide his face. "Of course,
about those fifty coons noo, what was the harm in that? Nobody
believed it. That wasna deceiving any ane."

"Yes, but it was," answered Jimmy. "The Boston man belaved it,
and I guiss he hasn't forgiven me, if he did take my hand, and
drink with me. You know I haven't had a word from him about that
coon skin. I worked awful hard on that skin. Some way, I tried to
make it say to him again that I was sorry for that night's work.
Sometimes I am afraid I killed the fellow."

"O-ho!" scoffed Dannie. "Men ain't so easy killed. I been
thinkin' about it, too, and I'll tell ye what I think. I think he
goes on long trips, and only gets home every four or five months.
The package would have to wait. His folks wouldna try to send it
after him. He was a monly fellow, all richt, and ye will hear fra
him yet."

"I'd like to," said Jimmy, absently, beating across his palm a
spray of goldenrod he had broken. "Just a line to tell me that he
don't bear malice."

"Ye will get it," said Dannie. "Have a little patience. But
that's your greatest fault, Jimmy. Ye never did have ony
patience."

"For God's sake, don't begin on me faults again," snapped Jimmy.
"I reckon I know me faults about as well as the nixt fellow. I'm
so domn full of faults that I've thought a lot lately about
fillin' up, and takin' a sleep on the railroad."

A new fear wrung Dannie's soul. "Ye never would, Jimmy," he
implored.

"Sure not!" cried Jimmy. "I'm no good Catholic livin', but if it
come to dyin', bedad I niver could face it without first
confissin' to the praste, and that would give the game away.
Let's cut out dyin', and cut corn!"

"That's richt," agreed Dannie. "And let's work like men, and then
fish fra a week or so, before ice and trapping time comes again.
I'll wager I can beat ye the first row."

"Bate!" scoffed Jimmy. "Bate! With them club-footed fingers of
yours? You couldn't bate an egg. Just watch me! If you are enough
of a watch to keep your hands runnin' at the same time."

Jimmy worked feverishly for an hour, and then he straightened and
looked about him. On the left lay the river, its shores bordered
with trees and bushes. Behind them was deep wood. Before them lay
their open fields, sloping down to the bottom, the cabins on one
side, and the kingfisher embankment on the other. There was a
smoky haze in the air. As always the blackbirds clamored along
the river. Some crows followed the workers at a distance, hunting
for grains of corn, and over in the woods, a chewink scratched
and rustled among the deep leaves as it searched for grubs. From
time to time a flock of quail arose before them with a whirr and
scattered down the fields, reassembling later at the call of
their leader, from a rider of the snake fence, which inclosed the
field.

"Bob, Bob White," whistled Dannie.

"Bob, Bob White," answered the quail.

"I got my eye on that fellow," said Jimmy. "When he gets a little
larger, I'm going after him."

"Seems an awful pity to kill him," said Dannie. "People rave over
the lark, but I vow I'd miss the quail most if they were both
gone. They are getting scarce."

"Well, I didn't say I was going to kill the whole flock," said
Jimmy. "I was just going to kill a few for Mary, and if I don't,
somebody else will."

"Mary dinna need onything better than ane of her own fried
chickens," said Dannie. "And its no true about hunters. We've the
river on ane side, and the bluff on the other. If we keep up our
fishing signs, and add hunting to them, and juist shut the other
fellows out, the birds will come here like everything wild
gathers in National Park, out West. Ye bet things know where they
are taken care of, well enough."

Jimmy snipped a spray of purple ironwort with his corn-cutter,
and stuck it through his suspender buckle. "I think that would be
more fun than killin' them. If you're a dacint shot, and your gun
is clane" (Jimmy remembered the crow that had escaped with the
eggs at soap-making), "you pretty well know you're goin' to bring
down anything you aim at. But it would be a dandy joke to shell a
little corn as we husk it, and toll all the quail into Rainbow
Bottom, and then kape the other fellows out. Bedad! Let's do it."

Jimmy addressed the quail:

"Quailie, quailie on the fince,
We think your singin's just imminse.
Stay right here, and live with us,
And the fellow that shoots you will strike a fuss."

"We can protect them all richt enough," laughed Dannie. "And
when the snow comes we can feed Cardinals like cheekens. Wish
when we threshed, we'd saved a few sheaves of wheat. They do that
in Germany, ye know. The last sheaf of the harvest they put up on
a long pole at Christmas, as a thank-offering to the birds fra
their care of the crops. My father often told of it."

"That would be great," said Jimmy. "Now look how domn slow you
are! Why didn't you mintion it at harvest? I'd like things comin'
for me to take care of them. Gee! Makes me feel important just to
think about it. Next year we'll do it, sure. They'd be a lot of
company. A man could work in this field to-day, with all the
flowers around him, and the colors of the leaves like a garden,
and a lot of birds talkin' to him, and not feel afraid of being
alone."

"Afraid?" quoted Dannie, in amazement.

For an instant Jimmy looked startled. Then his love of proving
his point arose. "Yes, afraid!" he repeated stubbornly. "Afraid
of being away from the sound of a human voice, because whin you
are, the voices of the black divils of conscience come twistin'
up from the ground in a little wiry whisper, and moanin' among
the trees, and whistlin' in the wind, and rollin' in the thunder,
and above all in the dark they screech, and shout, and
roar,`We're after you, Jimmy Malone! We've almost got you, Jimmy
Malone! You're going to burn in Hell, Jimmy Malone!'"

Jimmy leaned toward Dannie, and began in a low voice, but he grew
so excited as he tried to picture the thing that he ended in a
scream, and even then Dannie's horrified eyes failed to recall
him. Jimmy straightened, stared wildly behind him, and over the
open, hazy field, where flowers bloomed, and birds called, and
the long rows of shocks stood unconscious auditors of the strange
scene. He lifted his hat, and wiped the perspiration from his
dripping face with the sleeve of his shirt, and as he raised his
arm, the corn- cutter flashed in the light.

"My God, it's awful, Dannie! It's so awful, I can't begin to tell
you!"

Dannie's face was ashen. "Jimmy, dear auld fellow," he said, "how
long has this been going on?"

"A million years," said Jimmy, shifting the corn-cutter to the
hand that held his hat, that he might moisten his fingers with
saliva and rub it across his parched lips.

"Jimmy, dear," Dannie's hand was on Jimmy's sleeve. "Have ye been
to town in the nicht, or anything like that lately?"

"No, Dannie, dear, I ain't," sneered Jimmy, setting his hat on
the back of his head and testing the corn-cutter with his thumb.
"This ain't Casey's, me lad. I've no more call there, at this
minute, than you have."

"It is Casey's, juist the same," said Dannie bitterly. "Dinna ye
know the end of this sort of thing?"

"No, bedad, I don't!" said Jimmy. "If I knew any way to ind it,
you can bet I've had enough. I'd ind it quick enough, if I knew
how. But the railroad wouldn't be the ind. That would just be the
beginnin'. Keep close to me, Dannie, and talk, for mercy sake,
talk! Do you think we could finish the corn by noon?"

"Let's try!" said Dannie, as he squared his shoulders to adjust
them to his new load. "Then we'll get in the pumpkins this
afternoon, and bury the potatoes, and the cabbage and turnips,
and then we're aboot fixed fra winter."

"We must take one day, and gather our nuts," suggested Jimmy,
struggling to make his voice sound natural, "and you forgot the
apples. We must bury thim too."

"That's so," said Dannie, "and when that's over, we'll hae
nothing left to do but catch the Bass, and say farewell to the
Kingfisher."

"I've already told you that I would relave you of all
responsibility about the Bass," said Jimmy, "and when I do, you
won't need trouble to make your adieus to the Kingfisher of the
Wabash. He'll be one bird that won't be migrating this winter."

Dannie tried to laugh. "I'd like fall as much as any season of
the year," he said, "if it wasna for winter coming next."

"I thought you liked winter, and the trampin' in the white woods,
and trappin', and the long evenings with a book."

"I do," said Dannie. "I must have been thinkin' of Mary. She
hated last winter so. Of course, I had to go home when ye were
away, and the nichts were so long, and so cold, and mony of them
alone. I wonder if we canna arrange fra one of her sister's girls
to stay with her this winter?"

"What's the matter with me?" asked Jimmy.

"Nothing, if only ye'd stay," answered Dannie.

"All I'll be out of nights, you could put in one eye," said
Jimmy. "I went last winter, and before, because whin they
clamored too loud, I could be drivin' out the divils that way,
for a while, and you always came for me, but even that won't be
stopping it now. I wouldn't stick my head out alone after dark,
not if I was dying!"

"Jimmy, ye never felt that way before," said Dannie. "Tell me
what happened this summer to start ye."

"I've done a domn sight of faleing that you didn't know anything
about," answered Jimmy. "I could work it off at Casey's for a
while, but this summer things sort of came to a head, and I saw
meself for fair, and before God, Dannie, I didn't like me looks."

"Well, then, I like your looks," said Dannie. "Ye are the best
company I ever was in. Ye are the only mon I ever knew that I
cared fra, and I care fra ye so much, I havna the way to tell ye
how much. You're possessed with a damn fool idea, Jimmy, and ye
got to shake it off. Such a great-hearted, big mon as ye! I winna
have it! There's the dinner bell, and richt glad I am of it!"

That afternoon when pumpkin gathering was over and Jimmy had
invited Mary out to separate the "punk" from the pumpkins, there
was a wagon-load of good ones above what they would need for
their use. Dannie proposed to take them to town and sell them. To
his amazement Jimmy refused to go along.

"I told you this morning that Casey wasn't calling me at
prisent," he said, "and whin I am not called I'd best not answer.
I have promised Mary to top the onions and bury the cilery, and
murder the bates."

"Do what wi' the beets?" inquired the puzzled Dannie.

"Kill thim! Kill thim stone dead. I'm too tinder-hearted to be
burying anything but a dead bate, Dannie. That's a thousand years
old, but laugh, like I knew you would, old Ramphirinkus! No,
thank you, I don't go to town!"

Then Dannie was scared. "He's going to be dreadfully seek or go
mad," he said.

So he drove to the village, sold the pumpkins, filled Mary's
order for groceries, and then went to the doctor, and told him of
Jimmy's latest developments.

"It is the drink," said that worthy disciple of Esculapius. "It's
the drink! In time it makes a fool sodden and a bright man mad.
Few men have sufficient brains to go crazy. Jimmy has. He must
stop the drink."

On the street, Dannie encountered Father Michael. The priest
stopped him to shake hands.

"How's Mary Malone?" he asked.

"She is quite well noo," answered Dannie, "but she is na happy. I
live so close, and see so much, I know. I've thought of ye
lately. I have thought of coming to see ye. I'm na of your
religion, but Mary is, and what suits her is guid enough for me.
I've tried to think of everything under the sun that might help,
and among other things I've thought of ye. Jimmy was confirmed in
your church, and he was more or less regular up to his marriage."

"Less, Mr. Macnoun, much less!" said the priest. "Since, not at
all. Why do you ask?"

"He is sick," said Dannie. "He drinks a guid deal. He has been
reckless about sleeping on the ground, and noo, if ye will make
this confidential?"--the priest nodded--"he is talking aboot
sleeping on the railroad, and he's having delusions. There are
devils after him. He is the finest fellow ye ever knew, Father
Michael. We've been friends all our lives. Ye have had much
experience with men, and it ought to count fra something. From
all ye know, and what I've told ye, could his trouble be cured as
the doctor suggests?"

The priest did a queer thing. "You know him as no living man,
Dannie," he said. "What do you think?"

Dannie's big hands slowly opened and closed. Then he fell to
polishing the nails of one hand on the palm of the other. At last
he answered, "If ye'd asked me that this time last year, I'd have
said `it's the drink,' at a jump. But times this summer, this
morning, for instance, when he hadna a drop in three weeks, and
dinna want ane, when he could have come wi' me to town, and
wouldna, and there were devils calling him from the ground, and
the trees, and the sky, out in the open cornfield, it looked
bad."

The priest's eyes were boring into Dannie's sick face. "How did
it look?" he asked briefly.

"It looked," said Dannie, and his voice dropped to a whisper, "it
looked like he might carry a damned ugly secret, that it would be
better fra him if ye, at least, knew."

"And the nature of that secret?"

Dannie shook his head. "Couldna give a guess at it! Known him all
his life. My only friend. Always been togither. Square a mon as
God ever made. There's na fault in him, if he'd let drink alone.
Got more faith in him than any ane I ever knew. I wouldna trust
mon on God's footstool, if I had to lose faith in Jimmy. Come to
think of it, that `secret' business is all old woman's scare. The
drink is telling on him. If only he could be cured of that awful
weakness, all heaven would come down and settle in Rainbow
Bottom."

They shook hands and parted without Dannie realizing that he had
told all he knew and learned nothing. Then he entered the post
office for the weekly mail. He called for Malone's papers also,
and with them came a slip from the express office notifying Jimmy
that there was a package for him. Dannie went to see if they
would let him have it, and as Jimmy lived in the country, and as
he and Dannie were known to be partners, he was allowed to sign
the book, and carry away a long, slender, wooden box, with a
Boston tag. The Thread Man had sent Jimmy a present, and from the
appearance of the box, Dannie made up his mind that it was a
cane.

Straightway he drove home at a scandalous rate of speed, and on
the way, he dressed Jimmy in a broadcloth suit, patent leathers,
and a silk hat. Then he took him to a gold cure, where he learned
to abhor whiskey in a week, and then to the priest, to whom he
confessed that he had lied about the number of coons in the
Canoper. And so peace brooded in Rainbow Bottom, and all of them
were happy again. For with the passing of summer, Dannie had
learned that heretofore there had been happiness of a sort, for
them, and that if they could all get back to the old footing it
would be well, or at least far better than it was at present.
With Mary's tongue dripping gall, and her sweet face souring, and
Jimmy hearing devils, no wonder poor Dannie overheated his team
in a race to carry a package that promised to furnish some
diversion.

Jimmy and Mary heard the racket, and standing on the celery hill,
they saw Dannie come clattering up the lane, and as he saw them,
he stood in the wagon, and waved the package over his head.

Jimmy straightened with a flourish, stuck the spade in the celery
hill, and descended with great deliberation. "I mintioned to
Dannie this morning," he said "that it was about time I was
hearin' from the Thrid Man."

"Oh! Do you suppose it is something from Boston?" the eagerness
in Mary's voice made it sound almost girlish again.

"Hunt the hatchet!" hissed Jimmy, and walked very leisurely into
the cabin.

Dannie was visibly excited as he entered. "I think ye have heard
from the Thread Mon," he said, handing Jimmy the package.

Jimmy took it, and examined it carefully. He never before in his
life had an express package, the contents of which he did not
know. It behooved him to get all there was out of the pride and
the joy of it.

Mary laid down the hatchet so close that it touched Jimmy's hand,
to remind him. "Now what do you suppose he has sent you?" she
inquired eagerly, her hand straying toward the packages.

Jimmy tested the box. "It don't weigh much," he said, "but one
end of it's the heaviest."

He set the hatchet in a tiny crack, and with one rip, stripped
off the cover. Inside lay a long, brown leather case, with small
buckles, and in one end a little leather case, flat on one side,
rounding on the other, and it, too, fastened with a buckle. Jimmy
caught sight of a paper book folded in the bottom of the box, as
he lifted the case. With trembling fingers he unfastened the
buckles, the whole thing unrolled, and disclosed a case of
leather, sewn in four divisions, from top to bottom, and from the
largest of these protruded a shining object. Jimmy caught this,
and began to draw, and the shine began to lengthen.

"Just what I thought!" exclaimed Dannie. "He's sent ye a fine
cane."

"A hint to kape out of the small of his back the nixt time he
goes promenadin' on a cow-kitcher! The divil!" exploded Jimmy.

His quick eyes had caught a word on the cover of the little book
in the bottom of the box.

"A cane! A cane! Look at that, will ye?" He flashed six inches of
grooved silvery handle before their faces, and three feet of
shining black steel, scarcely thicker than a lead pencil. "Cane!"
he cried scornfully. Then he picked up the box, and opening it
drew out a little machine that shone like a silver watch, and
setting it against the handle, slipped a small slide over each
end, and it held firmly, and shone bravely.

"Oh, Jimmy, what is it?" cried Mary.

"Me cane!" answered Jimmy. "Me new cane from Boston. Didn't you
hear Dannie sayin' what it was? This little arrangemint is my
cicly-meter, like they put on wheels, and buggies now, to tell
how far you've traveled. The way this works, I just tie this silk
thrid to me door knob and off I walks, it a reeling out behind,
and whin I turn back it takes up as I come, and whin I get home I
take the yardstick and measure me string, and be the same token,
it tells me how far I've traveled." As he talked he drew out
another shining length and added it to the first, and then
another and a last, fine as a wheat straw. "These last jints I'm
adding," he explained to Mary, "are so that if I have me cane
whin I'm riding I can stritch it out and touch up me horses with
it. And betimes, if I should iver break me old cane fish pole, I
could take this down to the river, and there, the books call it
`whipping the water.' See! Cane, be Jasus! It's the Jim-dandiest
little fishing rod anybody in these parts iver set eyes on. Lord!
What a beauty!"

He turned to Dannie and shook the shining, slender thing before
his envious eyes.

"Who gets the Black Bass now?" he triumphed in tones of utter
conviction.

There is no use in taking time to explain to any fisherman who
has read thus far that Dannie, the patient; Dannie, the
long-suffering, felt abused. How would you feel yourself?

"The Thread Man might have sent twa," was his thought. "The only
decent treatment he got that nicht was frae me, and if I'd let
Jimmy hit him, he'd gone through the wall. But there never is
anything fra me!"

And that was true. There never was.

Aloud he said, "Dinna bother to hunt the steelyards, Mary. We
winna weigh it until he brings it home."

"Yes, and by gum, I'll bring it with this! Look, here is a
picture of a man in a boat, pullin' in a whale with a pole just
like this," bragged Jimmy.

"Yes," said Dannie. "That's what it's made for. A boat and open
water. If ye are going to fish wi' that thing along the river
we'll have to cut doon all the trees, and that will dry up the
water. That's na for river fishing."

Jimmy was intently studying the book. Mary tried to take the rod
from his hand.

"Let be!" he cried, hanging on. "You'll break it!"

"I guess steel don't break so easy," she said aggrievedly. "I
just wanted to `heft' it."

"Light as a feather," boasted Jimmy. "Fish all day and it won't
tire a man at all. Done--unjoint it and put it in its case, and
not go dragging up everything along the bank like a living
stump-puller. This book says this line will bear twinty pounds
pressure, and sometimes it's takin' an hour to tire out a fish,
if it's a fighter. I bet you the Black Bass is a fighter, from
what we know of him."

"Ye can watch me land him and see what ye think about it,"
suggested Dannie.

Jimmy held the book with one hand and lightly waved the rod with
the other, in a way that would have developed nerves in an
Indian. He laughed absently.

"With me shootin' bait all over his pool with.this?" he asked. "I
guess not!"

"But you can't fish for the Bass with that, Jimmy Malone," cried
Mary hotly. "You agreed to fish fair for the Bass, and it
wouldn't be fair for you to use that, whin Dannie only has his
old cane pole. Dannie, get you a steel pole, too," she begged.

"If Jimmy is going to fish with that, there will be all the more
glory in taking the Bass from him with the pole I have," answered
Dannie.

"You keep out," cried Jimmy angrily to Mary. "It was a fair
bargain. He made it himself. Each man was to fish surface or
deep, and with his own pole and bait. I guess this IS my pole,
ain't it?"

"Yes," said Mary. "But it wasn't yours whin you made that
agreemint. You very well know Dannie expected you to fish with
the same kind of pole and bait that he did; didn't you, Dannie?"

"Yes," said Dannie, "I did. Because I never dreamed of him havin'
any other. But since he has it, I think he's in his rights if he
fishes with it. I dinna care. In the first place he will only
scare the Bass away from him with the racket that reel will make,
and in the second, if he tries to land it with that thing, he
will smash it, and lose the fish. There's a longhandled net to
land things with that goes with those rods. He'd better sent ye
one. Now you'll have to jump into the river and land a fish by
hand if ye hook it."

"That's true!" cried Mary. "Here's one in a picture."

She had snatched the book from Jimmy. He snatched it back.

"Be careful, you'll tear that!" he cried. "I was just going to
say that I would get some fine wire or mosquito bar and make
one."

Dannie's fingers were itching to take the rod, if only for an
instant. He looked at it longingly. But Jimmy was impervious. He
whipped it softly about and eagerly read from the book.

"Tells here about a man takin' a fish that weighed forty pounds
with a pole just like this," he announced. "Scat! Jumpin'
Jehosophat! What do you think of that!"

"Couldn't you fish turn about with it?" inquired Mary.

"Na, we couldna fish turn about with it," answered Dannie. "Na
with that pole. Jimmy would throw a fit if anybody else touched
it. And he's welcome to it. He never in this world will catch the
Black Bass with it. If I only had some way to put juist fifteen
feet more line on my pole, I'd show him how to take the Bass
to-morrow. The way we always have come to lose it is with too
short lines. We have to try to land it before it's tired out and
it's strong enough to break and tear away. It must have ragged
jaws and a dozen pieces of line hanging to it, fra both of us
have hooked it time and again. When it strikes me, if I only
could give it fifteen feet more line, I could land it."

"Can't you fix some way?" asked Mary.

"I'll try," answered Dannie.

"And in the manetime, I'd just be givin' it twinty off me dandy
little reel, and away goes me with Mr. Bass," said Jimmy. "I must
take it to town and have its picture took to sind the Thrid Man."

And that was the last straw. Dannie had given up being allowed to
touch the rod, and was on his way to unhitch his team and do the
evening work. The day had been trying and just for the moment he
forgot everything save that his longing fingers had not touched
that beautiful little fishing rod.

"The Boston man forgot another thing," he said. "The Dude who
shindys 'round with those things in pictures, wears a damn,
dinky, little pleated coat!"

Chapter VIII

WHEN THE BLACK BASS STRUCK

"Lots of fish down in the brook,
All you need is a rod, and a line, and a hook,"

Hummed Jimmy, still lovingly fingering his possessions.

"Did Dannie iver say a thing like that to you before?" asked
Mary.

"Oh, he's dead sore," explained Jimmy. "He thinks he should have
had a jinted rod, too."

"And so he had," replied Mary. "You said yoursilf that you might
have killed that man if Dannie hadn't showed you that you were
wrong."

"You must think stuff like this is got at the tin-cint store,"
said Jimmy.

"Oh, no I don't!" said Mary. "I expect it cost three or four
dollars."

"Three or four dollars," sneered Jimmy. "All the sinse a woman
has! Feast your eyes on this book and rade that just this little
reel alone cost fifteen, and there's no telling what the rod is
worth. Why it's turned right out of pure steel, same as if it
were wood. Look for yoursilf."

"Thanks, no! I'm afraid to touch it," said Mary.

"Oh, you are sore too!" laughed Jimmy. "With all that money in
it, I should think you could see why I wouldn't want it broke."

"You've sat there and whipped it around for an hour. Would it
break it for me or Dannie to do the same thing? If it had been
his, you'd have had a worm on it and been down to the river
trying it for him by now."

"Worm!" scoffed Jimmy. "A worm! That's a good one! Idjit! You
don't fish with worms with a jinted rod."

"Well what do you fish with? Humming birds?"

"No. You fish with--" Jimmy stopped and eyed Mary dubiously. "You
fish with a lot of things," he continued. "Some of thim come in
little books and they look like moths, and some like
snake-faders, and some of them are buck-tail and bits of tin,
painted to look shiny. Once there was a man in town who had a
minnie made of rubber and all painted up just like life. There
were hooks on its head, and on its back, and its belly, and its
tail, so's that if a fish snapped at it anywhere it got hooked."

"I should say so!" exclaimed Mary. "It's no fair way to fish, to
use more than one hook. You might just as well take a net and
wade in and seine out the fish as to take a lot of hooks and rake
thim out."

"Well, who's going to take a lot of hooks and rake thim out?"

"I didn't say anybody was. I was just saying it wouldn't be fair
to the fish if they did."

"Course I wouldn't fish with no riggin' like that, when Dannie
only has one old hook. Whin we fish for the Bass, I won't use but
one hook either. All the same, I'm going to have some of those
fancy baits. I'm going to get Jim Skeels at the drug store to
order thim for me. I know just how you do," said Jimmy
flourishing the rod. "You put on your bait and quite a heavy
sinker, and you wind it up to the ind of your rod, and thin you
stand up in your boat----"

"Stand up in your boat!"

"I wish you'd let me finish!--or on the bank, and you take this
little whipper-snapper, and you touch the spot on the reel that
relases the thrid, and you give the rod a little toss, aisy as
throwin' away chips, and off maybe fifty feet your bait hits the
water, `spat!' and `snap!' goes Mr. Bass, and `stick!' goes the
hook. See?"

"What I see is that if you want to fish that way in the Wabash,
you'll have to wait until the dredge goes through and they make a
canal out of it; for be the time you'd throwed fifty feet, and
your fish had run another fifty, there'd be just one hundred
snags, and logs, and stumps between you; one for every foot of
the way. It must look pretty on deep water, where it can be done
right, but I bet anything that if you go to fooling with that on
our river, Dannie gets the Bass."

"Not much, Dannie don't `gets the Bass,'" said Jimmy confidently.
"Just you come out here and let me show you how this works. Now
you see, I put me sinker on the ind of the thrid, no hook of
course, for practice, and I touch this little spring here, and
give me little rod a whip and away goes me bait, slick as grase.
Mr. Bass is layin' in thim bass weeds right out there, foreninst
the pie- plant bed, and the bait strikes the water at the idge,
see! and `snap,' he takes it and sails off slow, to swally it at
leisure. Here's where I don't pull a morsel. Jist let him rin and
swally, and whin me line is well out and he has me bait all
digistid, `yank,' I give him the round-up, and THIN, the fun
begins. He leps clear of the water and I see he's tin pound. If
he rins from me, I give him rope, and if he rins to, I dig in,
workin' me little machane for dear life to take up the thrid
before it slacks. Whin he sees me, he makes a dash back, and I
just got to relase me line and let him go, because he'd bust this
little silk thrid all to thunder if I tried to force him
onpleasant to his intintions, and so we kape it up until he's
plum wore out and comes a promenadin' up to me boat, bank I mane,
and I scoops him in, and that's sport, Mary! That's MAN'S
fishin'! Now watch! He's in thim bass weeds before the pie-plant,
like I said, and I'm here on the bank, and I THINK he's there, so
I give me little jinted rod a whip and a swing----"

Jimmy gave the rod a whip and a swing. The sinker shot in air,
struck the limb of an apple tree and wound a dozen times around
it. Jimmy said things and Mary giggled. She also noticed that
Dannie had stopped work and was standing in the barn door
watching intently. Jimmy climbed the tree, unwound the line and
tried again.

"I didn't notice that domn apple limb stickin' out there," he
said. "Now you watch! Right out there among the bass weeds
foreninst the pie-plant"

To avoid another limb, Jimmy aimed too low and the sinker shot
under the well platform not ten feet from him.

"Lucky you didn't get fast in the bass weeds," said Mary as Jimmy
reeled in.

"Will, I got to get me range," explained Jimmy. "This time----"

Jimmy swung too high. The spring slipped from under his
unaccustomed thumb. The sinker shot above and behind him and
became entangled in the eaves, while yards of the fine silk line
flew off the spinning reel and dropped in tangled masses at his
feet, and in an effort to do something Jimmy reversed the reel
and it wound back on tangles and all until it became completely
clogged. Mary had sat down on the back steps to watch the
exhibition. Now, she stood up to laugh.

"And THAT'S just what will happen to you at the river," she said.
"While you are foolin' with that thing, which ain't for rivers,
and which you don't know beans about handlin', Dannie will haul
in the Bass, and serve you right, too!"

"Mary," said Jimmy, "I niver struck ye in all me life, but if ye
don't go in the house, and shut up, I'll knock the head off ye!"

"I wouldn't be advisin' you to," she said. "Dannie is watching
you."

Jimmy glanced toward the barn in time to see Dannie's shaking
shoulders as he turned from the door. With unexpected patience,
he firmly closed his lips and went after a ladder. By the time he
had the sinker loose and the line untangled, supper was ready. By
the time he had mastered the reel, and could land the sinker
accurately in front of various imaginary beds of bass weeds,
Dannie had finished the night work in both stables and gone home.
But his back door stood open and therefrom there protruded the
point of a long, heavy cane fish pole. By the light of a lamp on
his table, Dannie could be seen working with pincers and a ball
of wire.

"I wonder what he thinks he can do?" said Jimmy.

"I suppose he is trying to fix some way to get that fifteen feet
more line he needs," replied Mary.

When they went to bed the light still burned and the broad
shoulders of Dannie bent over the pole. Mary had fallen asleep,
but she was awakened by Jimmy slipping from the bed. He went to
the window and looked toward Dannie's cabin. Then he left the
bedroom and she could hear him crossing to the back window of the
next room. Then came a smothered laugh and he softly called her.
She went to him.

Dannie's figure stood out clear and strong in the moonlight, in
his wood-yard. His black outline looked unusually powerful in the
silvery whiteness surrounding it.

He held his fishing pole in both hands and swept a circle about
him that would have required considerable space on Lake Michigan,
and made a cast toward the barn. The line ran out smoothly and
evenly, and through the gloom Mary saw Jimmy's figure straighten
and his lips close in surprise. Then Dannie began taking in line.
That process was so slow, Jimmy doubled up and laughed again.

"Be lookin' at that, will ye?" he heaved. "What does the domn
fool think the Black Bass will be doin' while he is takin' in
line on that young windlass?"

"There'd be no room on the river to do that," answered Mary
serenely. "Dannie wouldn't be so foolish as to try. All he wants
now is to see if his line will run, and it will. Whin he gets to
the river, he'll swing his bait where he wants it with his pole,
like he always does, and whin the Bass strikes he'll give it the
extra fifteen feet more line he said he needed, and thin he'll
have a pole and line with which he can land it."

"Not on your life he won't!" said Jimmy.

He opened the back door and stepped out just as Dannie raised the
pole again.

"Hey, you! Quit raisin' Cain out there!" yelled Jimmy. "I want to
get some sleep."

Across the night, tinged neither with chagrin nor rancor, boomed
the big voice of Dannie.

"Believe I have my extra line fixed so it works all right," he
said. "Awful sorry if I waked you. Thought I was quiet."

"How much did you make off that?" inquired Mary.

"Two points," answered Jimmy. "Found out that Dannie ain't sore
at me any longer and that you are."

Next morning was no sort of angler's weather, but the afternoon
gave promise of being good fishing by the morrow. Dannie worked
about the farms, preparing for winter; Jimmy worked with him
until mid-afternoon, then he hailed a boy passing, and they went
away together. At supper time Jimmy had not returned. Mary came
to where Dannie worked.

"Where's Jimmy?" she asked.

"I dinna, know" said Dannie. "He went away a while ago with some
boy, I didna notice who."

"And he didn't tell you where he was going?"

"No."

"And he didn't take either of his fish poles?"

"No."

Mary's lips thinned to a mere line. "Then it's Casey's," she
said, and turned away.

Dannie was silent. Presently Mary came back.

"If Jimmy don't come till morning," she asked, "or comes in shape
that he can't fish, will you go without him?"

"To-morrow was the day we agreed on," answered Dannie.

"Will you go without him?" persisted Mary.

"What would HE do if it were me?" asked Dannie.

"When have you iver done to Jimmy Malone what he would do if he
were you?"

"Is there any reason why ye na want me to land the Black Bass,
Mary?"

"There is a particular reason why I don't want your living with
Jimmy to make you like him," answered Mary. "My timper is being
wined, and I can see where it's beginning to show on you.
Whativer you do, don't do what he would."

"Dinna be hard on him, Mary. He doesna think," urged Dannie.

"You niver said twer words. He don't think. He niver thought
about anybody in his life except himself, and he niver will."

"Maybe he didna go to town!"

"Maybe the sun won't rise in the morning, and it will always be
dark after this! Come in and get your supper."

"I'd best pick up something to eat at home," said Dannie.

"I have some good food cooked, and it's a pity to be throwin' it
away. What's the use? You've done a long day's work, more for us
than yoursilf, as usual; come along and get your supper."

Dannie went, and as he was washing at the back door, Jimmy came
through the barn, and up the walk. He was fresh, and in fine
spirits, and where ever he had been, it was a sure thing that it
was nowhere near Casey's.

"Where have you been?" asked Mary wonderingly.

"Robbin' graves," answered Jimmy promptly. "I needed a few stiffs
in me business so I just went out to Five Mile and got them."

"What are ye going to do with them, Jimmy?" chuckled Dannie.

"Use thim for Bass bait! Now rattle, old snake!" replied Jimmy.

After supper Dannie went to the barn for the shovel to dig worms
for bait, and noticed that Jimmy's rubber waders hanging on the
wall were covered almost to the top with fresh mud and water
stains, and Dannie's wonder grew.

Early the next morning they started for the river. As usual Jimmy
led the way. He proudly carried his new rod. Dannie followed with
a basket of lunch Mary had insisted on packing, his big cane
pole, a can of worms, and a shovel, in case they ran out of bait.

Dannie had recovered his temper, and was just great-hearted, big
Dannie again. He talked about the south wind, and shivered with
the frost, and listened for the splash of the Bass. Jimmy had
little to say. He seemed to be thinking deeply. No doubt he felt
in his soul that they should settle the question of who landed
the Bass with the same rods they had used when the contest was
proposed, and that was not all.

When they came to the temporary bridge, Jimmy started across it,
and Dannie called to him to wait, he was forgetting his worms.

"I don't want any worms," answered Jimmy briefly. He walked on.
Dannie stood staring after him, for he did not understand that.
Then he went slowly to his side of the river, and deposited his
load under a tree where it would be out of the way.

He lay down his pole, took a rude wooden spool of heavy fish cord
from his pocket, and passed the line through the loop next the
handle and so on the length of the rod to the point. Then he
wired on a sharp bass hook, and wound the wire far up the doubled
line. As he worked, he kept an eye on Jimmy. He was doing
practically the same thing. But just as Dannie had fastened on a
light lead to carry his line, a souse in the river opposite
attracted his attention. Jimmy hauled from the water a minnow
bucket, and opening it, took out a live minnow, and placed it on
his hook. "Riddy," he called, as he resank the bucket, and stood
on the bank, holding his line in his fingers, and watching the
minnow play at his feet.

The fact that Dannie was a Scotchman, and unusually slow and
patient, did not alter the fact that he was just a common human
being. The lump that rose in his throat was so big, and so hard,
he did not try to swallow it. He hurried back into Rainbow
Bottom. The first log he came across he kicked over, and
grovelling in the rotten wood and loose earth with his hands, he
brought up a half dozen bluish-white grubs. He tore up the ground
for the length of the log, and then he went to others, cramming
the worms and dirt with them into his pockets. When he had
enough, he went back, and with extreme care placed three of them
on his hook. He tried to see how Jimmy was going to fish, but he
could not tell.

So Dannie decided that he would cast in the morning, fish deep at
noon, and cast again toward evening.

He rose, turned to the river, and lifted his rod. As he stood
looking over the channel, and the pool where the Bass homed, the
Kingfisher came rattling down the river, and as if in answer to
its cry, the Black Bass gave a leap, that sent the water flying.

"Ready!" cried Dannie, swinging his pole over the water.

As the word left his lips, "whizz," Jimmy's minnow landed in the
middle of the circles widening about the rise of the Bass. There
was a rush and a snap, and Dannie saw the jaws of the big fellow
close within an inch of the minnow, and he swam after it for a
yard, as Jimmy slowly reeled in. Dannie waited a second, and then
softly dropped his grubs on the water just before where he
figured the Bass would be. He could hear Jimmy smothering oaths.
Dannie said something himself as his untouched bait neared the
bank. He lifted it, swung it out, and slowly trailed it in again.
"Spat!" came Jimmy's minnow almost at his feet, and again the
Bass leaped for it. Again he missed. As the minnow reeled away
the second time, Dannie swung his grubs higher, and struck the
water "Spat," as the minnow had done. "Snap," went the Bass. One
instant the line strained, the next the hook came up stripped
clean of bait.

Then Dannie and Jimmy really went at it, and they were strangers.
Not a word of friendly banter crossed the river. They cast until
the Bass grew suspicious, and would not rise to the bait; then
they fished deep. Then they cast again. If Jimmy fell into
trouble with his reel, Dannie had the honesty to stop fishing
until it worked again, but he spent the time burrowing for grubs
until his hands resembled the claws of an animal. Sometimes they
sat, and still- fished. Sometimes, they warily slipped along the
bank, trailing bait a few inches under water. Then they would
cast and skitter by turns.

The Kingfisher struck his stump, and tilted on again. His mate,
and their family of six followed in his lead, so that their
rattle was almost constant. A fussy little red-eyed vireo asked
questions, first of Jimmy, and then crossing the river besieged
Dannie, but neither of the stern-faced fishermen paid it any
heed. The blackbirds swung on the rushes, and talked over the
season. As always, a few crows cawed above the deep woods, and
the chewinks threshed about among the dry leaves. A band of larks
were gathering for migration, and the frosty air was vibrant with
their calls to each other.

Killdeers were circling above them in flocks. A half dozen robins
gathered over a wild grapevine, and chirped cheerfully, as they
pecked at the frosted fruit. At times, the pointed nose of a
muskrat wove its way across the river, leaving a shining ripple
in its wake. In the deep woods squirrels barked and chattered.
Frost-loosened crimson leaves came whirling down, settling in a
bright blanket that covered the water several feet from the bank,
and unfortunate bees that had fallen into the river struggled
frantically to gain a footing on them. Water beetles shot over
the surface in small shining parties, and schools of tiny minnows
played along the banks. Once a black ant assassinated an enemy on
Dannie's shoe, by creeping up behind it and puncturing its
abdomen.

Noon came, and neither of the fishermen spoke or moved from their
work. The lunch Mary had prepared with such care they had
forgotten. A little after noon, Dannie got another strike, deep
fishing. Mid-afternoon found them still even, and patiently
fishing. Then it was not so long until supper time, and the air
was steadily growing colder. The south wind had veered to the
west, and signs of a black frost were in the air. About this time
the larks arose as with one accord, and with a whirr of wings
that proved how large the flock was, they sailed straight south.

Jimmy hauled his minnow bucket from the river, poured the water
from it, and picked his last minnow, a dead one, from the grass.
Dannie was watching him, and rightly guessed that he would fish
deep. So Dannie scooped the remaining dirt from his pockets, and
found three grubs. He placed them on his hook, lightened his
sinker, and prepared to skitter once more.

Jimmy dropped his minnow beside the Kingfisher stump, and let it
sink. Dannie hit the water at the base of the stump, where it had
not been disturbed for a long time, a sharp "Spat," with his
worms. Something seized his bait, and was gone. Dannie planted
his feet firmly, squared his jaws, gripped his rod, and loosened
his line. As his eye followed it, he saw to his amazement that
Jimmy's line was sailing off down the river beside his, and heard
the reel singing.

Dannie was soon close to the end of his line. He threw his weight
into a jerk enough to have torn the head from a fish, and down
the river the Black Bass leaped clear of the water, doubled, and
with a mighty shake tried to throw the hook from his mouth.

"Got him fast, by God!" screamed Jimmy in triumph.

Straight toward them rushed the fish. Jimmy reeled wildly; Dannie
gathered in his line by yard lengths, and grasped it with the
hand that held the rod. Near them the Bass leaped again, and sped
back down the river. Jimmy's reel sang, and Dannie's line jerked
through his fingers. Back came the fish. Again Dannie gathered in
line, and Jimmy reeled frantically. Then Dannie, relying on the
strength of his line thought he could land the fish, and steadily
drew it toward him. Jimmy's reel began to sing louder, and his
line followed Dannie's. Instantly Jimmy went wild.

"Stop pullin' me little silk thrid!" he yelled. "I've got the
Black Bass hooked fast as a rock, and your domn clothes line is
sawin' across me. Cut there! Cut that domn rope! Quick!"

"He's mine, and I'll land him!" roared Dannie. "Cut yoursel', and
let me get my fish!"

So it happened, that when Mary Malone, tired of waiting for the
boys to come, and anxious as to the day's outcome, slipped down
to the Wabash to see what they were doing, she heard sounds that
almost paralyzed her. Shaking with fear, she ran toward the
river, and paused at a little thicket behind Dannie.

Jimmy danced and raged on the opposite bank. "Cut!" he yelled.
"Cut that domn cable, and let me Bass loose! Cut your line, I
say!"

Dannie stood with his feet planted wide apart, and his jaws set.
He drew his line steadily toward him, and Jimmy's followed. "Ye
see!" exulted Dannie. "Ye're across me. The Bass is mine! Reel
out your line till I land him, if ye dinna want it broken."

"If you don't cut your domn line, I will!" raved Jimmy.

"Cut nothin'!" cried Dannie. "Let's see ye try to touch it!"

Into the river went Jimmy; splash went Dannie from his bank. He
was nearer the tangled lines, but the water was deepest on his
side, and the mud of the bed held his feet. Jimmy reached the
crossed lines, knife in hand, by the time Dannie was there.

"Will you cut?" cried Jimmy.

"Na!" bellowed Dannie. "I've give up every damn thing to ye all
my life, but I'll no give up the Black Bass. He's mine, and I'll
land him!"

Jimmy made a lunge for the lines. Dannie swung his pole backward
drawing them his way. Jimmy slashed again. Dannie dropped his
pole, and with a sweep, caught the twisted lines in his fingers.

"Noo, let's see ye cut my line! Babby!" he jeered.

Jimmy's fist flew straight, and the blood streamed from Dannie's
nose. Dannie dropped the lines, and straightened. "You--" he
panted. "You--" And no other words came.

If Jimmy had been possessed of any small particle of reason, he
lost it at the sight of blood on Dannie's face.

"You're a domn fish thief!" he screamed.

"Ye lie!" breathed Dannie, but his hand did not lift.

"You are a coward! You're afraid to strike like a man! Hit me!
You don't dare hit me!"

"Ye lie!" repeated Dannie.

"You're a dog!" panted Jimmy. "I've used you to wait on me all me
life!"

"THAT'S the God's truth!" cried Dannie. But he made no movement
to strike. Jimmy leaned forward with a distorted, insane face.

"That time you sint me to Mary for you, I lied to her, and
married her meself. NOW, will you fight like a man?"

Dannie made a spring, and Jimmy crumpled up in his grasp.

"Noo, I will choke the miserable tongue out of your heid, and
twist the heid off your body, and tear the body to mince-meat,"
raved Dannie, and he promptly began the job.

With one awful effort Jimmy tore the gripping hands from his
throat a little. "Lie!" he gasped. "It's all a lie!"

"It's the truth! Before God it's the truth!" Mary Malone tried to
scream behind them. "It's the truth! It's the truth!" And her
ears told her that she was making no sound as with dry lips she
mouthed it over and over. And then she fainted, and sank down in
the bushes.

Dannie's hands relaxed a little, he lifted the weight of Jimmy's
body by his throat, and set him on his feet. "I'll give ye juist
ane chance," he said. "IS THAT THE TRUTH?"

Jimmy's awful eyes were bulging from his head, his hands were
clawing at Dannie's on his throat, and his swollen lips repeated
it over and over as breath came, "It's a lie! It's a lie!"

"I think so myself," said Dannie. "Ye never would have dared.
Ye'd have known that I'd find out some day, and on that day, I'd
kill ye as I would a copperhead."

"A lie!" panted Jimmy.

"Then WHY did ye tell it?" And Dannie's fingers threatened to
renew their grip.

"I thought if I could make you strike back," gasped Jimmy, "my
hittin' you wouldn't same so bad."

Then Dannie's hands relaxed. "Oh, Jimmy! Jimmy!" he cried. "Was
there ever any other mon like ye?"

Then he remembered the cause of their trouble.

"But, I'm everlastingly damned," Dannie went on, "if I'll gi'e up
the Black Bass to ye, unless it's on your line. Get yourself up
there on your bank!"

The shove he gave Jimmy almost upset him, and Jimmy waded back,
and as he climbed the bank, Dannie was behind him. After him he
dragged a tangled mass of lines and poles, and at the last up the
bank, and on the grass, two big fish; one, the great Black Bass
of Horseshoe Bend; and the other nearly as large, a channel
catfish; undoubtedly, one of those which had escaped into the
Wabash in an overflow of the Celina reservoir that spring.

"NOO, I'll cut," said Dannie. "Keep your eye on me sharp. See me
cut my line at the end o' my pole." He snipped the line in two.
"Noo watch," he cautioned, "I dinna want contra deection about
this!"

He picked up the Bass, and taking the line by which it was fast
at its mouth, he slowly drew it through his fingers. The wiry
silk line slipped away, and the heavy cord whipped out free.

"Is this my line?" asked Dannie, holding it up.

Jimmy nodded.

"Is the Black Bass my fish? Speak up!" cried Dannie, dangling the
fish from the line.

"It's yours," admitted Jimmy.

"Then I'll be damned if I dinna do what I please wi' my own!"
cried Dannie. With trembling fingers he extracted the hook, and
dropped it. He took the gasping big fish in both hands, and
tested its weight. "Almost seex," he said. "Michty near seex!"
And he tossed the Black Bass back into the Wabash.

Then he stooped, and gathered up his pole and line.

With one foot he kicked the catfish, the tangled silk line, and
the jointed rod, toward Jimmy. "Take your fish!" he said. He
turned and plunged into the river, recrossed it as he came,
gathered up the dinner pail and shovel, passed Mary Malone, a
tumbled heap in the bushes, and started toward his cabin.

The Black Bass struck the water with a splash, and sank to the
mud of the bottom, where he lay joyfully soaking his dry gills,
parched tongue, and glazed eyes. He scooped water with his tail,
and poured it over his torn jaw. And then he said to his progeny,
"Children, let this be a warning to you. Never rise to but one
grub at a time. Three is too good to be true! There is always a
stinger in their midst." And the Black Bass ruefully shook his
sore head and scooped more water.

Chapter IX

WHEN JIMMY MALONE CAME TO CONFESSION

Dannie never before had known such anger as possessed him when he
trudged homeward across Rainbow Bottom. His brain whirled in a
tumult of conflicting passions, and his heart pained worse than
his swelling face. In one instant the knowledge that Jimmy had
struck him, possessed him with a desire to turn back and do
murder. In the next, a sense of profound scorn for the cowardly
lie which had driven him to the rage that kills encompassed him,
and then in a surge came compassion for Jimmy, at the remberence
of the excuse he had offered for saying that thing. How childish!
But how like Jimmy! What was the use in trying to deal with him
as if he were a man? A great spoiled, selfish baby was all he
ever would be.

The fallen leaves rustled about Dannie's feet. The blackbirds
above him in chattering debate discussed migration. A stiff
breeze swept the fields, topped the embankment, and rushed down
circling about Dannie, and setting his teeth chattering, for he
was almost as wet as if he had been completely immersed. As the
chill struck in, from force of habit he thought of Jimmy. If he
was ever going to learn how to take care of himself, a man past
thirty-five should know. Would he come home and put on dry
clothing? But when had Jimmy taken care of himself? Dannie felt
that he should go back, bring him home, and make him dress
quickly.

A sharp pain shot across Dannie's swollen face. His lips shut
firmly. No! Jimmy had struck him. And Jimmy was in the wrong. The
fish was his, and he had a right to it. No man living would have
given it up to Jimmy, after he had changed poles. And slipped
away with a boy and gotten those minnows, too! And wouldn't offer
him even one. Much good they had done him. Caught a catfish on a
dead one! Wonder if he would take the catfish to town and have
its picture taken! Mighty fine fish, too, that channel cat! If it
hadn't been for the Black Bass, they would have wondered and
exclaimed over it, and carefully weighed it, and commented on the
gamy fight it made. Just the same he was glad, that he landed the
Bass. And he got it fairly. If Jimmy's old catfish mixed up with
his line, he could not help that. He baited, hooked, played, and
landed the Bass all right, and without any minnows either.

When he reached the top of the hill he realized that he was going
to look back. In spite of Jimmy's selfishness, in spite of the
blow, in spite of the ugly lie, Jimmy had been his lifelong
partner, and his only friend, and stiffen his neck as he would,
Dannie felt his head turning. He deliberately swung his fish pole
into the bushes, and when it caught, as he knew it would, he set
down his load, and turned as if to release it. Not a sight of
Jimmy anywhere! Dannie started on.

"We are after you, Jimmy Malone!"

A thin, little, wiry thread of a cry, that seemed to come
twisting as if wrung from the chill air about him, whispered in
his ear, and Dannie jumped, dropped his load, and ran for the
river. He couldn't see a sign of Jimmy. He hurried over the shaky
little bridge they had built. The catfish lay gasping on the
grass, the case and jointed rod lay on a log, but Jimmy was gone.

Dannie gave the catfish a shove that sent it well into the river,
and ran for the shoals at the lower curve of Horseshoe Bend. The
tracks of Jimmy's crossing were plain, and after him hurried
Dannie. He ran up the hill, and as he reached the top he saw
Jimmy climb on a wagon out on the road. Dannie called, but the
farmer touched up his horses and trotted away without hearing
him. "The fool! To ride!" thought Dannie. "Noo he will chill to
the bone!".

Dannie cut across the fields to the lane and gathered up his
load. With the knowledge that Jimmy had started for town came the
thought of Mary. What was he going to say to her? He would have
to make a clean breast of it, and he did not like the showing. In
fact, he simply could not make a clean breast of it. Tell her? He
could not tell her. He would lie to her once more, this one time
for himself. He would tell her he fell in the river to account
for his wet clothing and bruised face, and wait until Jimmy came
home and see what he told her.

He went to the cabin and tapped at the door; there was no answer,
so he opened it and set the lunch basket inside. Then he hurried
home, built a fire, bathed, and put on dry clothing. He wondered
where Mary was. He was ravenously hungry now. He did all the
evening work, and as she still did not come, he concluded that
she had gone to town, and that Jimmy knew she was there. Of
course, that was it! Jimmy could get dry clothing of his
brother-in-law. To be sure, Mary had gone to town. That was why
Jimmy went.

And he was right. Mary had gone to town. When sense slowly
returned to her she sat up in the bushes and stared about her.
Then she arose and looked toward the river. The men were gone.
Mary guessed the situation rightly. They were too much of river
men to drown in a few feet of water; they scarcely would kill
each other. They had fought, and Dannie had gone home, and Jimmy
to the consolation of Casey's. WHERE SHOULD SHE GO? Mary Malone's
lips set in a firm line.

"It's the truth! It's the truth!" she panted over and over, and
now that there was no one to hear, she found that she could say
it quite plainly. As the sense of her outraged womanhood swept
over her she grew almost delirious. "I hope you killed him,
Dannie Micnoun," she raved. "I hope you killed him, for if you
didn't, I will. Oh! Oh!"

She was almost suffocating with rage. The only thing clear to her
was that she never again would live an hour with Jimmy Malone. He
might have gone home. Probably he did go for dry clothing. She
would go to her sister. She hurried across the bottom, with
wavering knees she climbed the embankment, then skirting the
fields, she half walked, half ran to the village, and selecting
back streets and alleys, tumbled, half distracted, into the home
of her sister.

"Holy Vargin!" screamed Katy Dolan. "Whativer do be ailin' you,
Mary Malone?"

"Jimmy! Jimmy!" sobbed the shivering Mary.

"I knew it! I knew it! I've ixpicted it for years!" cried Katy.

"They've had a fight----"

"Just what I looked for! I always told you they were too thick to
last!"

"And Jimmy told Dannie he'd lied to me and married me
himsilf----"

"He did! I saw him do it!" screamed Katy.

"And Dannie tried to kill him----"

"I hope to Hivin he got it done, for if any man iver naded
killin'! A carpse named Jimmy Malone would a looked good to me
any time these fiftane years. I always said----"

"And he took it back----"

"Just like the rid divil! I knew he'd do it! And of course that
mutton-head of a Dannie Micnoun belaved him, whativer he said"

"Of course he did!"

"I knew it! Didn't I say so first?"

"And I tried to scrame and me tongue stuck----"

"Sure! You poor lamb! My tongue always sticks! Just what I
ixpicted!"

"And me head just went round and I keeled over in the bushes----"

"I've told Dolan a thousand times! I knew it! It's no news to
me!"

"And whin I came to, they were gone, and I don't know where, and
I don't care! But I won't go back! I won't go back! I'll not live
with him another day. Oh, Katy! Think how you'd feel if some one
had siparated you and Dolan before you'd iver been togither!"

Katie Dolan gathered her sister into her arms. "You poor lamb,"
she wailed. "I've known ivery word of this for fiftane years, and
if I'd had the laste idea 'twas so, I'd a busted Jimmy Malone to
smithereens before it iver happened!"

"I won't go back! I won't go back!" raved Mary.

"I guess you won't go back," cried Katy, patting every available
spot on Mary, or making dashes at her own eyes to stop the flow
of tears. "I guess you won't go back! You'll stay right here with
me. I've always wanted you! I always said I'd love to have you!
I've told thim from the start there was something wrong out
there! I've ixpicted you ivry day for years, and I niver was so
surprised in all me life as whin you came! Now, don't you shed
another tear. The Lord knows this is enough, for anybody. None at
all would be too many for Jimmy Malone. You get right into bid,
and I'll make you a cup of rid-pipper tay to take the chill out
of you. And if Jimmy Malone comes around this house I'll lav him
out with the poker, and if Dannie Micnoun comes saft-saddering
after him I'll stritch him out too; yis, and if Dolan's got
anything to say, he can take his midicine like the rist. The min
are all of a pace anyhow! I've always said it! If I wouldn't like
to get me fingers on that haythen; never goin' to confission,
spindin' ivrything on himself you naded for dacent livin'! Lit
him come! Just lit him come!"

Thus forestalled with knowledge, and overwhelmed with kindness,
Mary Malone cuddled up in bed and sobbed herself to sleep, and
Katy Dolan assured her, as long as she was conscious, that she
always had known it, and if Jimmy Malone came near, she had the
poker ready.

Dannie did the evening work. When he milked he drank most of it,
but that only made him hungrier, so he ate the lunch he had
brought back from the river, as he sat before a roaring fire. His
heart warmed with his body. Irresponsible Jimmy always had
aroused something of the paternal instinct in Dannie. Some one
had to be responsible, so Dannie had been. Some way he felt
responsible now. With another man like himself, it would have
been man to man, but he always had spoiled Jimmy; now who was to
blame that he was spoiled?

Dannie was very tired, his face throbbed and ached painfully, and
it was a sight to see. His bed never had looked so inviting, and
never had the chance to sleep been further away. With a sigh, he
buttoned his coat, twisted an old scarf around his neck, and
started for the barn. There was going to be a black frost. The
cold seemed to pierce him. He hitched to the single buggy, and
drove to town. He went to Casey's, and asked for Jimmy.

"He isn't here," said Casey.

"Has he been here?" asked Dannie.

Casey hesitated, and then blurted out, "He said you wasn't his
keeper, and if you came after him, to tell you to go to Hell."

Then Dannie was sure that Jimmy was in the back room, drying his
clothing. So he drove to Mrs. Dolan's, and asked if Mary were
there for the night. Mrs. Dolan said she was, and she was going
to stay, and he might tell Jimmy Malone that he need not come
near them, unless he wanted his head laid open. She shut the door
forcibly.

Dannie waited until Casey closed at eleven, and to his
astonishment Jimmy was not among the men who came out. That meant
that he had drank lightly after all, slipped from the back door,
and gone home. And yet, would he do it, after what he had said
about being afraid? If he had not drank heavily, he would not go
into the night alone, when he had been afraid in the daytime.
Dannie climbed from the buggy once more, and patiently searched
the alley and the street leading to the footpath across farms. No
Jimmy. Then Dannie drove home, stabled his horse, and tried
Jimmy's back door. It was unlocked. If Jimmy were there, he
probably would be lying across the bed in his clothing, and
Dannie knew that Mary was in town. He made a light, and
cautiously entered the sleeping room, intending to undress and
cover Jimmy, but Jimmy was not there.

Dannie's mouth fell open. He put out the light, and stood on the
back steps. The frost had settled in a silver sheen over the
roofs of the barns and the sheds, and a scum of ice had frozen
over a tub of drippings at the well. Dannie was bitterly cold. He
went home, and hunted out his winter overcoat, lighted his
lantern, picked up a heavy cudgel in the corner, and started to
town on foot over the path that lay across the fields. He
followed it to Casey's back door. He went to Mrs. Dolan's again,
but everything was black and silent there. There had been evening
trains. He thought of Jimmy's frequent threat to go away. He
dismissed that thought grimly. There had been no talk of going
away lately, and he knew that Jimmy had little money. Dannie
started for home, and for a rod on either side he searched the
path. As he came to the back of the barns, he rated himself for
not thinking of them first. He searched both of them, and all
around them, and then wholly tired, and greatly disgusted, he
went home and to bed. He decided that Jimmy HAD gone to Mrs.
Dolan's and that kindly woman had relented and taken him in. Of
course that was where he was.

Dannie was up early in the morning. He wanted to have the work
done before Mary and Jimmy came home. He fed the stock, milked,
built a fire, and began cleaning the stables. As he wheeled the
first barrow of manure to the heap, he noticed a rooster giving
danger signals behind the straw-stack. At the second load it was
still there, and Dannie went to see what alarmed it.

Jimmy lay behind the stack, where he had fallen face down, and as
Dannie tried to lift him he saw that he would have to cut him
loose, for he had frozen fast in the muck of the barnyard. He had
pitched forward among the rough cattle and horse tracks and
fallen within a few feet of the entrance to a deep hollow eaten
out of the straw by the cattle. Had he reached that shelter he
would have been warm enough and safe for the night.

Horrified, Dannie whipped out his knife, cut Jimmy's clothing
loose and carried him to his bed. He covered him, and hitching up
drove at top speed for a doctor. He sent the physician ahead and
then rushed to Mrs. Dolan's. She saw him drive up and came to the
door.

"Send Mary home and ye come too," Dannie called before she had
time to speak. "Jimmy lay oot all last nicht, and I'm afraid he's
dead."

Mrs. Dolan hurried in and repeated the message to Mary. She sat
speechless while her sister bustled about putting on her wraps.

"I ain't goin'," she said shortly. "If I got sight of him, I'd
kill him if he wasn't dead."

"Oh, yis you are goin'," said Katy Dolan. "If he's dead, you
know, it will save you being hanged for killing him. Get on these
things of mine and hurry. You got to go for decency sake; and
kape a still tongue in your head. Dannie Micnoun is waiting for
us."

Together they went out and climbed into the carriage. Mary said
nothing, but Dannie was too miserable to notice.

"You didn't find him thin, last night?" asked Mrs. Dolan.

"Na!" shivered Dannie. "I was in town twice. I hunted almost all
nicht. At last I made sure you had taken him in and I went to
bed. It was three o'clock then. I must have passed often, wi'in a
few yards of him."

"Where was he?" asked Katy.

"Behind the straw-stack," replied Dannie.

"Do you think he will die?"

"Dee!" cried Dannie. "Jimmy dee! Oh, my God! We mauna let him!"

Mrs. Dolan took a furtive peep at Mary, who, dry-eyed and white,
was staring straight ahead. She was trembling and very pale, but
if Katy Dolan knew anything she knew that her sister's face was
unforgiving and she did not in the least blame her.

Dannie reached home as soon as the horse could take them, and
under the doctor's directions all of them began work. Mary did
what she was told, but she did it deliberately, and if Dannie had
taken time to notice her he would have seen anything but his idea
of a woman facing death for any one she ever had loved. Mary's
hurt went so deep, Mrs. Dolan had trouble to keep it covered.
Some of the neighbors said Mary was cold-hearted, and some of
them that she was stupefied with grief.

Without stopping for food or sleep, Dannie nursed Jimmy. He
rubbed, he bathed, he poulticed, he badgered the doctor and
cursed his inability to do some good. To every one except Dannie,
Jimmy's case was hopeless from the first. He developed double
pneumonia in its worst form and he was in no condition to endure
it in the lightest. His labored breathing could be heard all over
the cabin, and he could speak only in gasps. On the third day he
seemed a little better, and when Dannie asked what he could do
for him, "Father Michael," Jimmy panted, and clung to Dannie's
hand.

Dannie sent a man and remained with Jimmy. He made no offer to go
when the priest came.

"This is probably in the nature of a last confession," said
Father Michael to Dannie, "I shall have to ask you to leave us
alone."

Dannie felt the hand that clung to him relax, and the
perspiration broke on his temples. "Shall I go, Jimmy?" he asked.

Jimmy nodded. Dannie arose heavily and left the room. He sat down
outside the door and rested his head in his hands.

The priest stood beside Jimmy. "The doctor tells me it is
difficult for you to speak," he said, "I will help you all I can.
I will ask questions and you need only assent with your head or
hand. Do you wish the last sacrament administered, Jimmy Malone?"

The sweat rolled off Jimmy's brow. He assented.

"Do you wish to make final confession?"

A great groan shook Jimmy. The priest remembered a gay, laughing
boy, flinging back a shock of auburn hair, his feet twinkling in
the lead of the dance. Here was ruin to make the heart of
compassion ache. The Father bent and clasped the hand of Jimmy
firmly. The question he asked was between Jimmy Malone and his
God. The answer almost strangled him.

"Can you confess that mortal sin, Jimmy?" asked the priest.

The drops on Jimmy's face merged in one bath of agony. His hands
clenched and his breath seemed to go no lower than his throat.

"Lied--Dannie," he rattled. "Sip-rate him--and Mary."

"Are you trying to confess that you betrayed a confidence of
Dannie Macnoun and married the girl who belonged to him,
yourself?"

Jimmy assented.

His horrified eyes hung on the priest's face and saw it turn cold
and stern. Always the thing he had done had tormented him; but
not until the past summer had he begun to realize the depth of
it, and it had almost unseated his reason. But not until now had
come fullest appreciation, and Jimmy read it in the eyes filled
with repulsion above him.

"And with that sin on your soul, you ask the last sacrament and
the seal of forgiveness! You have not wronged God and the Holy
Catholic Church as you have this man, with whom you have lived
for years, while you possessed his rightful wife. Now he is here,
in deathless devotion, fighting to save you. You may confess to
him. If he will forgive you, God and the Church will ratify it,
and set the seal on your brow. If not, you die unshriven! I will
call Dannie Macnoun."

One gurgling howl broke from the swollen lips of Jimmy.

As Dannie entered the room, the priest spoke a few words to him,
stepped out and closed the door. Dannie hurried to Jimmy's side.

"He said ye wanted to tell me something," said Dannie. "What is
it? Do you want me to do anything for you?"

Suddenly Jimmy struggled to a sitting posture. His popping eyes
almost burst from their sockets as he clutched Dannie with both
hands. The perspiration poured in little streams down his
dreadful face.

"Mary," the next word was lost in a strangled gasp. Then came
"yours" and then a queer rattle. Something seemed to give way.
"The Divils!" he shrieked. "The Divils have got me!"

Snap! his heart failed, and Jimmy Malone went out to face his
record, unforgiven by man, and unshriven by priest.

Book of the day: