Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Darrel of the Blessed Isles by Irving Bacheller

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 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.

"Are they going to lock me in?"

"Wouldn't wonder," said Tunk, soberly.

"What can ye 'spect from a couple o' dummed ol' maids like them?"

There was a note of long suffering in his half-whispered tone,

"Good night, mister," said he, with a look of dejection. "Orter
have a nightcap, er ye'll git hoar-frost on yer hair."

Trove was all a-shiver in the time it took him to undress, and his
breath came out of him in spreading shafts of steam. Sheets of
flannel and not less than half a dozen quilts and comfortables made
a cover, under which the heat of his own blood warmed his body. He
became uncomfortably aware of the presence of his head and face,
however. He could hear stealthy movements beyond the door, and
knew they were barricading it with furniture. Long before daylight
a hurried removal of the barricade awoke him. Then he heard a rap
at the door, and the excited voice of Tunk.

"Say, mister! come here quick," it called.

Sidney Trove leaped out of bed and into his trousers. He hurried
through the dark parlour, feeling his way around a clump of chairs
and stumbling over a sofa. The two old maids were at the kitchen
door, both dressed, one holding a lighted candle. Tunk Hosely
stood by the door, buttoning suspenders with one hand and holding a
musket in the other. They were shivering and pale. The room was
now cold.

"Hear that!" Tunk whispered, turning to the teacher.

They all listened, hearing a low, weird cry outside the door.

"Soun's t' me like a raccoon," Miss S'mantha whispered thoughtfully.

"Or a lamb," said Miss Letitia.

"Er a painter," Tunk ventured, his ear turning to catch the sound.

"Let's open the door," said Sidney Trove, advancing.

"Not me," said Tunk, firmly, raising his gun.

Trove had not time to act before they heard a cry for help on the
doorstep. It was the voice of a young girl. He opened the door,
and there stood Mary Leblanc--a scholar of Linley School and the
daughter of a poor Frenchman. She came in lugging a baby wrapped
in a big shawl, and both crying.

"Oh, Miss Tower," said she; "pa has come out o' the woods drunk an'
has threatened to kill the baby. Ma wants to know if you'll keep
it here to-night."

The two old maids wrung their hands with astonishment and only said
"y!"

"Of course we'll keep it," said Trove, as he took the baby,

"I must hurry back," said the girl, now turning with a look of
relief.

Tunk shied off and began to build a fire; Miss S'mantha sat down
weeping, the girl ran away in the darkness, and Trove put the baby
in Miss Letitia's arms.

"I'll run over to Leblanc's cabin," said he, getting his cap and
coat. "They're having trouble over there."

He left them and hurried off on his way to the little cabin.

Loud cries of the baby rang in that abode of silence. It began to
kick and squirm with determined energy. Poor Miss Letitia had the
very look of panic in her face. She clung to the fierce little
creature, not knowing what to do. Miss S'mantha lay back in a fit
of hysterics. Tunk advanced bravely, with brows knit, and stood
looking down at the baby.

"Lord! this is awful!" said he. Then a thought struck him. "I'll
git some milk," he shouted, running into the buttery.

The baby thrust the cup away, and it fell noisily, the milk
streaming over a new rag carpet.

"It's sick; I'm sure it's sick," said Miss Letitia, her voice
trembling. "S'mantha, can't you do something?"

Miss S'mantha calmed herself a little and drew near.

"Jes' like a wil'cat," said Tunk, thoughtfully. "Powerful, too,"
he added, with an effort to control one of the kicking legs.

"What shall we do?" said Miss Letitia.

"My sister had a baby once," said Tunk, approaching it doubtfully
but with a studious look.

He made a few passes with his hand in front of the baby's face.
Then he gave it a little poke in the ribs, tentatively. The effect
was like adding insult to injury.

"If 'twas mine," said Tunk, "which I'm glad it ain't--I'd rub a
little o' that hoss liniment on his stummick,"

The two old maids took the baby into their bedroom. It was an hour
later when Trove came back. Tunk sat alone by the kitchen fire.
There was yet a loud wail in the bedroom.

"What's the news?" said Tunk, who met him at the door.

"Drunk, that's all," said Trove. "I took this bottle, sling-shot,
and bar of iron away from him. The woman thought I had better
bring them with me and put them out of his way."

He laid them on the floor in a corner.

"I got him into bed," he continued, "and then hid the axe and came
away. I guess they're all right now. When I left he had begun to
snore."

"Wal,--we ain't all right," said Tunk, pointing to the room. "If
you can conquer that thing, you'll do well. Poor Miss Teeshy!" he
added, shaking his head.

"What's the matter with her?" Trove inquired.

"Kicked in the stummick 'til she dunno where she is," said Tunk,
gloomily.

He pulled off his boots.

"If she don't go lame t'morrer, I'll miss my guess," he added.
"She looks a good deal like Deacon Haskins after he had milked the
brindle cow."

He leaned back, one foot upon the stove-hearth. Shrill cries rang
in the old house.

"'Druther 'twould hev been a painter," said Tunk, sighing.

"Why so?"

"More used to 'em," said Tunk, sadly.

They listened a while longer without speaking.

"Ye can't drive it, ner coax it, ner scare it away, ner do nuthin'
to it," said Tunk, presently.

He rose and picked up the things Trove had brought with him. "I'll
take these to the barn," said he; "they'd have a fit--if they was
t' see 'em. What be they?"

"I do not know what they are," said Trove.

"Wal!" said Tunk. "They're queer folks--them Frenchmen. This
looks like an iron bar broke in two in the middle."

He got his lantern, picked up the bottle, the sling-shot, and the
iron, and went away to the barn.

Trove went to the bedroom door and rapped, and was admitted. He
went to work with the baby, and soon, to his joy, it lay asleep on
the bed. Then he left the room on tiptoe, and a bit weary.

"A very full day!" he said to himself.

"Teacher, counsellor, martyr, constable, nurse--I wonder what next!"

And as he went to his room, he heard Miss S'mantha say to her
sister, "I'm thankful it's not a boy, anyway."

XVIII

A Day of Difficulties

All were in their seats and the teacher had called a class. Carlt
Homer came in.

"You're ten minutes late," said the teacher.

"I have fifteen cows to milk," the boy answered.

"Where do you live?"

"'Bout a mile from here, on the Beach Plains."

"What time do you begin milking?"

"'Bout seven o'clock."

"I'll go to-morrow morning and help you," said the teacher. "We
must be on time--that's a necessary law of the school."

At a quarter before seven in the morning, Sidney Trove presented
himself at the Homers'. He had come to help with the milking, but
found there were only five cows to milk.

"Too bad your father lost so many cows--all in a day," said he.
"It's a great pity. Did you lose anything?"

"No, sir."

"Have you felt to see?"

The boy put his hand in his pocket.

"Not there--it's an inside pocket, way inside o' you. It's where
you keep your honour and pride."

"Wal," said the boy, his tears starting, "I'm 'fraid I have."

"Enough said--good morning," the teacher answered as he went away.

One morning a few days later the teacher opened his school with
more remarks.

"The other day," said he, "I spoke of a thing it was very necessary
for us to learn. What was it?"

"To obey," said a youngster.

"Obey what?" the teacher inquired.

"Law," somebody ventured.

"Correct; we're studying law--every one of us--the laws of grammar,
of arithmetic, of reading, and so on. We are learning to obey
them. Now I am going to ask you what is the greatest law in the
world?"

There was a moment of silence. Then the teacher wrote these words
in large letters on the blackboard; "Thou shalt not lie."

"There is the law of laws," said the teacher, solemnly. "Better
never have been born than not learn to obey it. If you always tell
the truth, you needn't worry about any other law. Words are like
money--some are genuine, some are counterfeit. If a man had a bag
of counterfeit money and kept passing it, in a little while nobody
would take his money. I knew a man who said he killed four bears
at one shot. There's some that see too much when they're looking
over their own gun-barrels. Don't be one of that kind. Don't ever
kill too many bears at a shot."

After that, in the Linley district, a man who lied was said to be
killing too many bears at a shot.

Good thoughts spread with slow but sure contagion. There were some
who understood the teacher. His words went home and far with them,
even to their graves, and how much farther who can say? They went
over the hills, indeed, to other neighbourhoods, and here they are,
still travelling, and going now, it may be, to the remotest corners
of the earth. The big boys talked about this matter of lying and
declared the teacher was right.

"There's Tunk Hosely," said Sam Price. "Nobody'd take his word for
nuthin'."

"'Less he was t' say he was a fool out an' out," another boy
suggested.

"Dunno as I'd b'lieve him then," said Sam. "Fer I'd begin t' think
he knew suthin'."

A little girl came in, crying, one day.

"What is the trouble?" said the teacher, tenderly, as he leaned
over and put his arm around her.

"My father is sick," said the child, sobbing.

"Very sick?" the teacher inquired.

For a moment she could not answer, but stood shaken with sobs.

"The doctor says he can't live," said she, brokenly.

A solemn stillness fell in the little schoolroom. The teacher
lifted the child and held her close to his broad breast a moment.

"Be brave, little girl," said he, patting her head gently.
"Doctors don't always know. He may be better to-morrow."

He took the child to her seat, and sat beside her and whispered a
moment, his mouth close to her ear. And what he said, none knew,
save the girl herself, who ceased to cry in a moment but never
ceased to remember it.

A long time he sat, with his arm around her, questioning the
classes. He seemed to have taken his place between her and the
dark shadow.

Joe Beach had been making poor headway in arithmetic.

"I'll come over this evening, and we'll see what's the trouble.
It's all very easy," the teacher said.

He worked three hours with the young man that evening, and filled
him with high ambition after hauling him out of his difficulty.

But of all difficulties the teacher had to deal with, Polly Vaughn
was the greatest. She was nearly perfect in all her studies, but a
little mischievous and very dear to him. "Pretty;" that is one
thing all said of her there in Faraway, and they said also with a
bitter twang that she loved to lie abed and read novels. To Sidney
Trove the word "pretty" was inadequate. As to lying abed and
reading novels, he was free to say that he believed in it.

"We get very indignant about slavery in the south," he used to say;
"but how about slavery on the northern farms? I know people who
rise at cock-crow and strain their sinews in heavy toil the
livelong day, and spend the Sabbath trembling in the lonely shadow
of the Valley of Death. I know a man who whipped his boy till he
bled because he ran away to go fishing. It's all slavery, pure and
simple."

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return
unto the ground," said Ezra Tower.

"If God said it, he made slaves of us all," said young Trove.
"When I look around here and see people wasted to the bone with
sweat and toil, too weary often to eat the bread they have earned,
when I see their children dying of consumption from excess of
labour and pork fat, I forget the slaves of man and think only of
these wretched slaves of God."

But Polly was not of them the teacher pitied. She was a bit
discontented; but surely she was cheerful and well fed. God gave
her beauty, and the widow saw it, and put her own strength between
the curse and the child. Folly had her task every day, but Polly
had her way, also, in too many things, and became a bit selfish, as
might have been expected. But there was something very sweet and
fine about Polly. They were plain clothes she wore, but nobody
save herself and mother gave them any thought. Who, seeing her
big, laughing eyes, her finely modelled face, with cheeks pink and
dimpled, her shapely, white teeth, her mass of dark hair, crowning
a form tall and straight as an arrow, could see anything but the
merry-hearted Polly?

"Miss Vaughn, you will please remain a few moments after school,"
said the teacher one day near four o'clock. Twice she had been
caught whispering that day, with the young girl who sat behind her.
Trove had looked down, stroking his little mustache thoughtfully,
and made no remark. The girl had gone to work, then, her cheeks
red with embarrassment.

"I wish you'd do me a favour, Miss Polly," said the teacher, when
they were alone.

She blushed deeply, and sat looking down as she fussed with her
handkerchief. She was a bit frightened by the serious air of that
big young man.

"It isn't much," he went on. "I'd like you to help me teach a
little. To-morrow morning I shall make a map on the blackboard,
and while I am doing it I'd like you to conduct the school. When
you have finished with the primer class I'll be ready to take hold
again."

She had a puzzled look.

"I thought you were going to punish me," she answered, smiling.

"For what?" he inquired.

"Whispering," said she.

"Oh, yes! But you have read Walter Scott, and you know ladies are
to be honoured, not punished. I shouldn't know how to do such a
thing. When you've become a teacher you'll see I'm right about
whispering. May I walk home with you?"

Polly had then a very serious look. She turned away, biting her
lip, in a brief struggle for self-mastery.

"If you care to," she whispered.

They walked away in silence.

"Do you dance?" she inquired presently.

"No, save attendance on your pleasure," said he. "Will you teach
me?"

"Is there anything I can teach you?" She looked up at him playfully.

"Wisdom," said he, quickly, "and how to preserve blueberries, and
make biscuit like those you gave us when I came to tea. As to
dancing, well--I fear 'I am not shaped for sportive tricks.'"

"If you'll stay this evening," said she, "we'll have some more of
my blueberries and biscuit, and then, if you care to, we'll try
dancing."

"You'll give me a lesson?" he asked eagerly.

"If you'd care to have me."

"Agreed; but first let us have the blueberries and biscuit," said
he, heartily, as they entered the door. "Hello, Mrs. Vaughn, I
came over to help you eat supper. I have it all planned. Paul is
to set the table, I'm to peel the potatoes and fry the pork, Polly
is to make the biscuit and gravy and put the kettle on. You are to
sit by and look pleasant."

"I insist on making the tea," said Mrs. Vaughn, with amusement.

"Shall we let her make the tea?" he asked, looking thoughtfully at
Polly.

"Perhaps we'd better," said she, laughing.

"All right; we'll let her make the tea--we don't have to drink it."

"You," said the widow, "are like Governor Wright, who said to Mrs.
Perkins, 'Madam, I will praise your tea, but hang me if I'll drink
it.'"

"I'm going to teach the primer class in the morning," said Polly,
as she filled the tea-kettle.

"Look out, young man," said Mrs. Vaughn, turning to the teacher.
"In a short time she'll be thinking she can teach you."

"I get my first lesson to-night," said the young man. "She's to
teach me dancing."

"And you've no fear for your soul?"

"I've more fear for my body," said he, glancing down upon his long
figure. "I've never lifted my feet save for the purpose of
transportation. I'd like to learn how to dance because Deacon
Tower thinks it wicked and I've learned that happiness and sin mean
the same thing in his vocabulary."

"I fear you're a downward and backsliding youth," said the widow.

"You know what Ezra Tower said of Ebenezer Fisher, that he was 'one
o' them mush-heads that didn't believe in hell'? Are you one o'
that kind?" Proclaimers of liberal thought were at work there in
the north.

"Since I met Deacon Tower I'm sure it's useful and necessary. He's
got to have some place for his enemies. If it were not for hell,
the deacon would be miserable here and, maybe, happy hereafter."

"It's a great hope and comfort to him," said the widow, smiling.

"Well, God save us all!" said Trove, who had now a liking for both
the phrase and philosophy of Darrel. They had taken chairs at the
table.

"Tom," said he, "we'll pause a moment, while you give us the fourth
rule of syntax."

"Correct," said he, heartily, as the last word was spoken. "Now
let us be happy."

"Paul," said the teacher, as he finished eating, "what is the
greatest of all laws?"

"Thou shalt not lie," said the boy, promptly.

"Correct," said Trove; "and in the full knowledge of the law, I
declare that no better blueberries and biscuit ever passed my lips."

Supper over, Polly disappeared, and young Mr. Trove helped with the
dishes. Soon Polly came back, glowing in her best gown and
slippers.

"Why, of all things! What a foolish child!" said her mother. For
answer Polly waltzed up and down the room, singing gayly.

She stopped before the glass and began to fuss with her ribbons.
The teacher went to her side.

"May I have the honour, Miss Vaughn," Said he, bowing politely.
"Is that the way to do?"

"You might say, 'Will you be my pardner,'" said she, mimicking the
broad dialect of the region.

"I'll sacrifice my dignity, but not my language," said he. "Let us
dance and be merry, for to-morrow we teach."

"If you'll watch my feet, you'll see how I do it," said she; and
lifting her skirt above her dainty ankles, glided across the floor
on tiptoe, as lightly as a fawn at play. But Sidney Trove was not
a graceful creature. The muscles on his lithe form, developed in
the school of work or in feats of strength at which he had met no
equal, were untrained in all graceful trickery. He loved dancing
and music and everything that increased the beauty and delight of
life, but they filled him with a deep regret of his ignorance.

"Hard work," said he, breathing heavily, "and I don't believe I'm
having as much fun as you are."

The small company of spectators had been laughing with amusement.

"Reminds me of a story," said the teacher. "'What are all the
animals crying about?' said one elephant to another. 'Why, don't
you know?--it's about the reindeer,' said the other elephant; 'he's
dead. Never saw anything so sad in my life. He skipped so, and
made a noise like that, and then he died.' The elephant jumped up
and down, trying the light skip of the reindeer and gave a great
roar for the bleat of the dying animal, 'What,' said the first
elephant, 'did he skip so, and cry that way?' And he tried it.
'No, not that way but this way,' said the other; and he went
through it again. By this time every animal in the show had begun
to roar with laughter. 'What on earth are you doing?' said the
rhinoceros. 'It's the way the reindeer died,' said one of the
elephants.

"'Never saw anything so funny,' said the rhinoceros; 'if the poor
thing died that way, it's a pity he couldn't repeat the act.'

"'This is terrible,' said the zebra, straining at his halter. 'The
reindeer is dead, and the elephants have gone crazy.'"

"Sidney Trove," said the teacher, as he was walking away that
evening, "you'll have to look out for yourself. You're a teacher
and you ought to be a man--you must be a man or I'll have nothing
more to do with you."

XIX

Amusement and Learning

There was much doing that winter in the Linley district. They were
a month getting ready for the school "exhibition." Every home in
the valley and up Cedar Hill rang with loud declamations. The
impassioned utterances of James Otis, Daniel Webster, and Patrick
Henry were heard in house, and field, and stable. Every evening
women were busy making costumes for a play, while the young
rehearsed their parts. Polly Vaughn, editor of a paper to be read
that evening, searched the countryside for literary talent. She
found a young married woman, who had spent a year in the State
Normal School, and who put her learning at the service of Polly, in
a composition treating the subject of intemperance. Miss Betsey
Leech sent in what she called "a piece" entitled "Home." Polly,
herself, wrote an editorial on "Our Teacher," and there was hemming
and hawing when she read it, declaring they all had learned much,
even to love him. Her mother helped her with the alphabetical
rhymes, each a couplet of sentimental history, as, for example:--

"A is for Alson, a jolly young man,
He'll marry Miss Betsey, they say, if he can."

They trimmed the little schoolhouse with evergreen and erected a
small stage, where the teacher's desk had been. Sheets were hung,
for curtains, on a ten-foot rod.

A while after dark one could hear a sound of sleigh-bells in the
distance. Away on drifted pike and crossroad the bells began to
fling their music. It seemed to come in rippling streams of sound
through the still air, each with its own voice. In half an hour
countless echoes filled the space between them, and all were as one
chorus, wherein, as it came near, one could distinguish song and
laughter.

Young people from afar came in cutters and by the sleigh load;
those who lived near, afoot with lanterns. They were a merry
company, crowding the schoolhouse, laughing and whispering as they
waited for the first exhibit. Trove called them to order and made
a few remarks.

"Remember," said he, "this is not our exhibition. It is only a
sort of preparation for one we have planned. In about twenty years
the Linley School is to give an exhibition worth seeing. It will
be, I believe, an exhibition of happiness, ability, and success on
the great stage of the world. Then I hope to have on the programme
speeches in Congress, in the pulpit, and at the bar. You shall see
in that play, if I mistake not, homes full of love and honour, men
and women of fair fame. It may be you shall see, then, some whose
names are known and honoured of all men."

Each performer quaked with fear, and both sympathy and approval
were in the applause. Miss Polly Vaughn was a rare picture of
rustic beauty, her cheeks as red as her ribbons, her voice low and
sweet. Trove came out in the audience for a look at her as she
read. Ringing salvos of laughter greeted the play and stirred the
sleigh-bells on the startled horses beyond the door. The programme
over, somebody called for Squire Town, a local pettifogger, who
flung his soul and body into every cause. He often sored his
knuckles on the court table and racked his frame with the violence
of his rhetoric. He had a stock of impassioned remarks ready for
all occasions.

He rose, walked to the centre of the stage, looked sternly at the
people, and addressed them as "Fellow Citizens." He belaboured the
small table; he rose on tiptoe and fell upon his heels; often he
seemed to fling his words with a rapid jerk of his right arm as one
hurls a pebble. It was all in praise of his "young friend," the
teacher, and the high talent of Linley School.

The exhibition ended with this rare exhibit of eloquence. Trove
announced the organization of a singing-school for Monday evening
of the next week, and then suppressed emotion burst into noise.
The Linley school-house had become as a fount of merry sound in the
still night; then the loud chorus of the bells, diminishing as they
went away, and breaking into streams of music and dying faint in
the far woodland.

One Nelson Cartright--a jack of all trades they called him--was the
singing-master. He was noted far and wide for song and penmanship.
Every year his intricate flourishes in black and white were on
exhibition at the county fair.

"Wal, sir," men used to say thoughtfully, "ye wouldn't think he
knew beans. Why, he's got a fist bigger'n a ham. But I tell ye,
let him take a pen, sir, and he'll draw a deer so nat'ral, sir,
ye'd swear he could jump over a six-rail fence. Why, it is
wonderful!"

Every winter he taught the arts of song and penmanship in the four
districts from Jericho to Cedar Hill. He sang a roaring bass and
beat the time with dignity and precision. For weeks he drilled the
class on a bit of lyric melody, of which a passage is here given:--

"One, two, three, ready, sing," he would say, his ruler cutting the
air, and all began:--

Listen to the bird, and the maid, and the bumblebee,
Tra, la la la la, tra, la la la la,
Joyfully we'll sing the gladsome melody,
Tra, la, la, la, la.

The singing-school added little to the knowledge or the
cheerfulness of that neighbourhood. It came to an end the last day
of the winter term. As usual, Trove went home with Polly. It was
a cold night, and as the crowd left them at the corners he put his
arm around her.

"School is over," said she, with a sigh, "and I'm sorry."

"For me?" he inquired.

"For myself," she answered, looking down at the snowy path.

There came a little silence crowded with happy thoughts.

"At first, I thought you very dreadful," she went on, looking up at
him with a smile. He could see her sweet face in the moonlight and
was tempted to kiss it.

"Why?"

"You were so terrible," she answered. "Poor Joe Beach! It seemed
as if he would go through the wall."

"Well, something had to happen to him," said the teacher.

"He likes, you now, and every one likes you here. I wish we could
have you always for a teacher."

"I'd be willing to be your teacher, always, if I could only teach
you what you have taught me."

"Oh, dancing," said she, merrily; "that is nothing. I'll give you
all the lessons you like."

"No, I shall not let you teach me that again," said he.

"Why?"

"Because your pretty feet trample on me."

Then came another silence.

"Don't you enjoy it?" she asked, looking off at the stars.

"Too much." said he. "First, I must teach you something--if I can."

He was ready for a query, if it came, but she put him off.

"I intend to be a grand lady," said she, "and, if you do not learn,
you'll never be able to dance with me."

"There'll be others to dance with you," said he. "I have so much
else to do."

"Oh, you're always thinking about algebra and arithmetic and those
dreadful things," said she.

"No, I'm thinking now of something very different."

"Grammar, I suppose," said she, looking down.

"Do you remember the conjugations?"

"Try me," said she.

"Give me the first person singular, passive voice, present tense,
of the verb to love."

"I am loved," was her answer, as she looked away.

"And don't you know--I love you," said he, quickly.

"That is the active voice," said she, turning with a smile.

"Polly," said he, "I love you as I could love no other in the
world."

He drew her close, and she looked up at him very soberly.

"You love me?" she said in a half whisper.

"With all my heart," he answered. "I hope you will love me
sometime."

Their lips came together.

"I do not ask you, now, to say that you love me," said the young
man. "You are young and do not know your own heart."

She rose on tiptoe and fondly touched his cheek with her fingers.

"But I do love you," she whispered.

"I thank God you have told me, but I shall ask you for no promise.
A year from now, then, dear, I shall ask you to promise that you
will be my wife sometime."

"Oh, let me promise now," she whispered.

"Promise only that you will love me if you see none you love
better."

They were slowly nearing the door. Suddenly she stopped, looking
up at him.

"Are you sure you love me?" she asked.

"Yes," he whispered.

"Sure?"

"As sure as I am that I live."

"And will love me always?"

"Always," he answered.

She drew his head down a little and put her lips to his ear. "Then
I shall love you always," she whispered.

Mrs. Vaughn, was waiting for them at the fireside. They sat
talking a while.

"You go off to bed, Polly," said the teacher, presently. "I've
something to say, and you're not to hear it."

"I'll listen," said she, laughing.

"Then we'll whisper," Trove answered.

"That isn't fair," said she, with a look of injury, as she held the
candle. "Besides, you don't allow it yourself."

"Polly ought to go away to school," said he, after Polly had gone
above stairs. "She's a bright girl."

"And I so poor I'm always wondering what'll happen to-morrow," said
Mrs. Vaughn. "The farm has a mortgage, and it's more than I can do
to pay the interest. Some day I'll have to give it up."

"Perhaps I can help you," said the young man, feeling the fur on
his cap.

There was an awkward silence.

"Fact is," said the young man, a bit embarrassed, "fact is, I love
Polly."

In the silence that followed Trove could hear the tick of his watch.

"Have ye spoken to her?" said the widow, with a serious look.

"I've told her frankly to-night that I love her," said he. "I
couldn't help it, she was so sweet and beautiful."

"If you couldn't help it, I don't see how I could," said she. "But
Polly's only a child. She's a big girl, I know, but she's only
eighteen."

"I haven't asked her for any promise. It wouldn't be fair. She
must have a chance to meet other young men, but, sometime, I hope
she will be my wife."

"Poor children!" said Mrs. Vaughn, "you don't either of you know
what you're doing."

He rose to go.

"I was a little premature," he added, "but you mustn't blame me.
Put yourself in my place. If you were a young man and loved a girl
as sweet as Polly and were walking home with her on a moonlit
night--"

"I presume there'd be more or less love-making," said the widow.
"She is a pretty thing and has the way of a woman. We were
speaking of you the other day, and she said to me: 'He is
ungrateful. You can teach the primer class for him, and be so good
that you feel perfectly miserable, and give him lessons in dancing,
and put on your best clothes, and make biscuit for him, and then,
perhaps, he'll go out and talk with the hired man.' 'Polly,' said
I, 'you're getting to be very foolish.' 'Well, it comes so easy,'
said she. 'It's my one talent'"

XX

At the Theatre of the Woods

Next day Trove went home. He took with him many a souvenir of his
first term, including a scarf that Polly had knit for him, and the
curious things he took from the Frenchman Leblanc, and which he
retained partly because they were curious and partly because Mrs.
Leblanc had been anxious to get rid of them. He soon rejoined his
class at Hillsborough, having kept abreast of it in history and
mathematics by work after school and over the week's end. He was
content to fall behind in the classics, for they were easy, and in
them his arrears gave him no terror. Walking for exercise, he laid
the plan of his tale and had written some bits of verse. Of an
evening he went often to the Sign of the Dial, and there read his
lines and got friendly but severe criticism. He came into the shop
one evening, his "Horace" under his arm.

"'_Maecenas, atavis, edite regibus_'" Trove chanted, pausing to
recall the lines.

The tinker turned quickly. "'_O et presidium et duice decus
meum_,'" he quoted, never stopping until he had finished She ode.

"Is there anything you do not know?" Trove inquired.

"Much," said the tinker, "including the depth o' me own folly. A
man that displays knowledge hath need o' more."

Indeed, Trove rarely came for a talk with Darrel when he failed to
discover something new in him--a further reach of thought and
sympathy or some unsuspected treasure of knowledge. The tinker
loved a laugh and would often search his memory for some phrase of
bard or philosopher apt enough to provoke it. Of his great store
of knowledge he made no vainer use.

Trove had been overworking; and about the middle of June they went
for a week in the woods together. They walked to Allen's the first
day, and, after a brief visit there, went off in the deep woods,
camping on a pond in thick-timbered hills. Coming to the lilied
shore, they sat down a while to rest. A hawk was sailing high
above the still water. Crows began to call in the tree-tops. An
eagle sat on a dead pine at the water's edge and seemed to be
peering down at his own shadow. Two deer stood in a marsh on the
farther shore, looking over at them. Near by were the bones of
some animal, and the fresh footprints of a painter. Sounds echoed
far in the hush of the unbroken wilderness.

"See, boy," said Darrel, with a little gesture of his right hand,
"the theatre o' the woods! See the sloping hills, tree above tree,
like winding galleries. Here is a coliseum old, past reckoning.
Why, boy, long before men saw the Seven Hills it was old. Yet see
how new it is--how fresh its colour, how strong its timbers! See
the many seats, each with a good view, an' the multitude o' the
people, yet most o' them are hidden. Ten thousand eyes are looking
down upon us. Tragedies and comedies o' the forest are enacted
here. Many a thrilling scene has held the stage--the spent deer
swimming for his life, the painter stalking his prey or leaping on
it."

"Tis a cruel part," said Trove. "He is the murderer of the play.
I cannot understand why there are so many villains in its cast,
Both the cat and the serpent baffle me."

"Marry, boy, the world is a great school--an' this little drama o'
the good God is part of it," said Darrel. "An' the play hath a
great moral--thou shalt learn to use thy brain or die. Now, there
be many perils in this land o' the woods--so many that all its
people must learn to think or perish by them. A pretty bit o'
wisdom it is, sor. It keeps the great van moving--ever moving, in
the long way to perfection. Now, among animals, a growing brain
works the legs of its owner, sending them far on diverse errands
until they are strong. Mind thee, boy, perfection o' brain and
body is the aim o' Nature. The cat's paw an' the serpent's coil
are but the penalties o' weakness an' folly. The world is for the
strong. Therefore, God keep thee so, or there be serpents will
enter thy blood an' devour thee--millions o' them."

"And what is the meaning of this law?"

"That the weak shall not live to perpetuate their kind," said
Darrel. "Every year there is a tournament o' the sparrows. Which
deserves the fair--that is the question to be settled. Full tilt
they come together, striking with lance and wing. Knight strives
with knight, lady with lady, and the weak die. Lest thou forget,
I'll tell thee a tale, boy, wherein is the great plan. The queen
bee--strongest of all her people--is about to marry.[1] A clear
morning she comes out o' the palace gate--her attendants following.
The multitude of her suitors throng the vestibule; the air, now
still an' sweet, rings with the sound o' fairy timbrels. Of a
sudden she rises into the blue sky, an' her suitors follow. Her
swift wings cleave the air straight as a plummet falls. Only the
strong may keep in sight o' her; bear that in mind, boy. Her
suitors begin to fall wearied. Higher an' still higher the good
queen wings her way. By an' by, of all that began the journey,
there is but one left with her, an' he the strongest of her people.
An' they are wed, boy, up in the sun-lit deep o' heaven. So the
seed o' life is chosen, me fine lad."

[1 In behalf of Darrel, the author makes acknowledgment of his
indebtedness to M. Maurice Maeterlinck for an account of the
queen's flight in his interesting "Life of the Bee."]

They sat a little time in silence, looking at the shores of the
pond.

"Have ye never felt the love passion?" said Darrel.

"Well, there's a girl of the name of Polly," Trove answered.

"Ah, Polly! she o' the red lip an' the dark eye," said Darrel,
smiling. "She's one of a thousand." He clapped his hand upon his
knee, merrily, and sang a sentimental couplet from an old Irish
ballad.

"Have ye won her affection, boy?" he added, his hand on the boy's
arm.

"I think I have."

"God love thee! I'm glad to hear it," said the old man. "She is a
living wonder, boy, a living wonder, an' had I thy youth I'd give
thee worry."

"Since her mother cannot afford to do it, I wish to send her away
to school," said Trove.

"Tut, tut, boy; thou hast barely enough for thy own schooling."

"I've eighty-two dollars in my pocket," said Trove, proudly. "I do
not need it. The job in the mill--that will feed me and pay my
room rent, and my clothes will do me for another year."

"On me word, boy; I like it in thee," said Darrel; "but surely she
would not take thy money."

"I could not offer it to her, but you might go there, and perhaps
she would take it from you."

"Capital!" the tinker exclaimed. "I'll see if I can serve thee.
Marry, good youth, I'll even give away thy money an' take credit
for thy benevolence. Teacher, philanthropist, lover--I believe
thou'rt ready to write."

"The plan of my first novel is complete," said Trove. "That poor
thief,--he shall be my chief character,--the man of whom you told
me."

"Poor man! God make thee kind to him," said the tinker. "An'
thou'rt willing, I'll hear o' him to-night. When the firelight
flickers,--that is the time, boy, for tales."

They built a rude lean-to, covered with bark, and bedded with
fragrant boughs. Both lay in the firelight, Darrel smoking his
pipe, as the night fell.

"Now for thy tale," said the tinker.

The tale was Trove's own solution of his life mystery, shrewdly
come to, after a long and careful survey of the known facts. And
now, shortly, time was to put the seal of truth upon it, and daze
him with astonishment, and fill him with regret of his cunning. It
should be known that he had never told Darrel or any one of his
coming in the little red sleigh.

He lay thinking for a time after the tinker spoke. Then he began:--

"Well, the time is 1833, the place a New England city on the sea.
Chapter I: A young woman is walking along a street, with a child
sleeping in her arms. She is dark-skinned,--a Syrian. It is
growing dusk; the street is deserted, save by her and two sailors,
who are approaching her. They, too, are Syrians. One seems to
strike her,--it is mere pretence, however,--and she falls. The
other seizes the child, who, having been drugged, is still asleep.
A wagon is waiting near. They drive away hurriedly, their captive
under a blanket. The kidnappers make for the woods in New
Hampshire. Officers of the law drive them far. They abandon their
horse, tramping westward over trails in the wilderness, bearing the
boy in a sack of sail-cloth, open at the top. They had guns and
killed their food as they travelled. Snow came deep; by and by
game was scarce and they had grown weary of bearing the boy on
their backs. One waited in the woods with the little lad while the
other went away to some town or city for provisions. He came back,
hauling them in a little sleigh. It was much like those made for
the delight of the small boy in every land of snow. It had a box
painted red and two bobs and a little dashboard. They used it for
the transportation of boy and impedimenta. In the deep wilderness
beyond the Adirondacks they found a cave in one of the rock ledges.
They were twenty miles from any post-office but shortly discovered
one. Letters in cipher were soon passing between them and their
confederates. They learned there was no prospect of getting the
ransom. He they had thought rich was not able to raise the money
they required or any large sum. Two years went by, and they
abandoned hope. What should they do with the boy? One advised
murder, but the other defended him. It was unnecessary, he
maintained, to kill a mere baby, who knew not a word of English,
and would forget all in a month. And murder would only increase
their peril. Now eight miles from their cave was the cabin of a
settler. They passed within a mile of it on their way out and in.
They had often met the dog of the settler roving after small
game--a shepherd, trustful, affectionate, and ever ready to make
friends. One day they captured the dog and took him to their cave.
They could not safely be seen with the boy, so they planned to let
the dog go home with him in the little red sleigh. Now the
settler's cabin was like that of my father, on the shore of a pond.
It was round, as a cup's rim, and a mile or so in diameter.
Opposite the cabin a trail came to the water's edge, skirting the
pond, save in cold weather, when it crossed the ice. They waited
for a night when their tracks would soon disappear. Then, having
made a cover of the sail-cloth sack in which they had brought the
boy, and stretched it on withes, and made it fast to the sleigh
box, they put the sleeping boy in the sleigh, with hot stones
wrapped in paper, and a robe of fur, to keep him warm, hitched the
dog to it, and came over hill and trail, to the little pond, a
while after midnight. Here they buckled a ring of bells on the
dog's neck and released him. He made for his home on the clear
ice; the bells and his bark sounding as he ran. They at the cabin
heard him coming and opened their door to dog and traveller. So
came my hero in a little red sleigh, and was adopted by the settler
and his wife, and reared by them with generous affection. Well, he
goes to school and learns rapidly, and comes to manhood. It's a
pretty story--that of his life in the big woods. But now for the
love tale. He meets a young lady--sweet, tender, graceful,
charming."

"A moment," said Darrel, raising his hand. "Prithee, boy, ring
down the curtain for a brief parley. Thou say'st they were
Syrians--they that stole the lad. Now, tell me, hast thou reason
for that?"

"Ample," said Trove. "When they took him out of the sleigh the
first words he spoke were "Anah jouhan." He used them many times,
and while he forgot they remembered them. Now "Anah jouhan" is a
phrase of the Syrian tongue, meaning 'I am hungry.'"

"Very well!" said the old man, with emphasis, "and sailors--that is
a just inference. It was a big port, and far people came on the
four winds. Very well! Now, for the young lady. An' away with
thy book unless I love her."

"She is from life--a simple-hearted girl, frank and beautiful
and--" Trove hesitated, looking into the dying fire.

"Noble, boy, make sure o' that, an' nobler, too, than girls are apt
to be. If Emulation would measure height with her, see that it
stand upon tiptoes."

"So I have planned. The young man loves her. She is in every
thought and purpose. She has become as the rock on which his hope
is founded. Now he loves honour, too, and all things of good
report. He has been reared a Puritan. By chance, one day, it
comes to him that his father was a thief."

The boy paused. For a moment they heard only the voices of the
night.

"He dreaded to tell her," Trove continued; "yet he could not ask
her to be his wife without telling. Then the question, Had he a
right to tell?--for his father had not suffered the penalty of the
law and, mind you, men thought him honest."

"'Tis just," said Darrel; "but tell me, how came he to know his
father was a thief?"

"That I am thinking of, and before I answer, is there more you can
tell me of him or his people?"

Darrel rose; and lighting a torch of pine, stuck it in the ground.
Then he opened his leathern pocket-book and took out a number of
cuttings, much worn, and apparently from old newspapers. He put on
his glasses and began to examine the cuttings.

"The other day," said he, "I found an account of his mother's
death. I had forgotten, but her death was an odd tragedy."

And the tinker began reading, slowly, as follows:--

"'She an' her mother--a lady deaf an' feeble--were alone, saving
the servants in a remote corner o' the house. A sound woke her in
the still night. She lay a while listening. Was it her husband
returning without his key? She rose, feeling her way in the dark
and trembling with the fear of a nervous woman. Descending stairs,
she came into a room o' many windows. The shades were up, an'
there was dim moon-light in the room. A door, with panels o' thick
glass, led to the garden walk. Beyond it were the dark forms of
men. One was peering in, his face at a panel, another kneeling at
the lock. Suddenly the door opened; the lady fell fainting with a
loud cry. Next day the kidnapped boy was born.'"

Darrel stopped reading, put the clipping into his pocket-book, and
smothered the torch.

"It seems the woman died the same day," said he.

"And was my mother," the words came in a broken voice.

Half a moment of silence followed them. Then Darrel rose slowly,
and a tremulous, deep sigh came from the lips of Trove.

"Thy mother, boy!" Darrel whispered.

The fire had burnt low, and the great shadow of the night lay dark
upon them. Trove got to his feet and came to the side of Darrel.

"Tell me, for God's sake, man, tell me where is my father," said he.

"Hush, boy! Listen. Hear the wind in the trees?" said Darrel.

There was a breath of silence broken by the hoot of an owl and the
stir of high branches. "Ye might as well ask o' the wind or the
wild owl," Darrel said. "I cannot tell thee. Be calm, boy, and
say how thou hast come to know."

Again they sat down together, and presently Trove told him of those
silent men who had ever haunted the dark and ghostly house of his
inheritance.

"'Tis thy mother's terror,--an' thy father's house,--I make no
doubt," said Darrel, presently, in a deep voice. "But, boy, I
cannot tell any man where is thy father; not even thee, nor his
name, nor the least thing, tending to point him out, until--until I
am released o' me vow. Be content; if I can find the man, ere
long, thou shalt have word o' him."

Trove leaned against the breast of Darrel, shaking with emotion.
His tale had come to an odd and fateful climax.

The old man stroked his head tenderly.

"Ah, boy," said he, "I know thy heart. I shall make haste--I
promise thee, I shall make haste. But, if the good God should
bring thy father to thee, an' thy head to shame an' sorrow for his
sin, forgive him, in the name o' Christ, forgive him. Ay, boy,
thou must forgive all that trespass against thee."

"If I ever see him, he shall know I am not ungrateful," said the
young man.

A while past twelve o'clock, those two, lying there in the
firelight, thinking, rose like those startled in sleep. A mighty
voice came booming over the still water and echoed far and wide.
Slowly its words fell and rang in the great, silent temple of the
woods:--

"'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have
not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

"'And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all
mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that
I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

"'And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I
give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me
nothing.

"'Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity
vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up,

"'Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not
easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

"'Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things.

"'Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they
shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether
there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.'"

As the last words died away in the far woodland, Trove and Darrel
turned, wiping their eyes in silence. That flood of inspiration
had filled them. Big thoughts had come drifting down with its
current. They listened a while, but heard only the faint crackle
of the fire.

"Strange!" said Trove, presently.

"Passing strange, and like a beautiful song," said Darrel.

"It may be some insane fanatic."

"Maybe, but he hath the voice of an angel," said the old man.

They passed a sleepless night and were up early, packing to leave
the woods. Darrel was to go in quest of the boy's father. Within
a week he felt sure he should be able to find him.

They skirted the pond, crossing a long ridge on its farther shore.
At a spring of cool water in a deep ravine they halted to drink and
rest. Suddenly they heard a sound of men approaching; and when the
latter had come near, a voice, deep, vibrant, and musical as a
harp-string, in these lines of Hamlet:--

"'Why right; you are i' the right;
And so without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part;
You as your business and desire shall point you;
For every man has business and desire
Such as it is; and for mine own part
Look you, I'll go pray.'"

Then said Darrel, loudly:--

"'These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.'"

Two men, a guide in advance, came along the trail--one, a most
impressive figure, tall, erect, and strong; its every move
expressing grace and power.

Again the deep music of his voice, saying:--

"'I'm sorry they offend you heartily; yes, faith, heartily.'"

And Darrel rejoined, his own rich tone touching the note of
melancholy in the other:--

"'There's no offence, my lord.'"

"'What Horatio is this?" the stranger inquired, offering his hand.
"A player?"

"Ay, as are all men an' women," said Darrel, quickly. "But I, sor,
have only a poor part. Had I thy lines an' makeup, I'd win
applause."

The newcomers sat down, the man who had spoken removing his hat.
Curly locks of dark hair, with now a sprinkle of silver in them,
fell upon his brows. He had large brown eyes, a mouth firm and
well modelled, a nose slightly aquiline, and wore a small, dark
imperial--a mere tuft under his lip.

"Well, Colonel, you have paid me a graceful compliment," said he.

"Nay, man, do not mistake me rank," said Darrel.

"Indeed--what is it?"

"Friend," he answered, quickly. "In good company there's no higher
rank. But if ye think me unworthy, I'll be content with 'Mister.'"

"My friend, forgive me," said the stranger, approaching Darrel.
"Murder and envy and revenge and all evil are in my part, but no
impertinence."

"I know thy rank, sor. Thou art a gentleman," said Darrel. "I've
seen thee 'every inch a king.'"

Darrel spoke to the second period in that passage of Lear, the
majesty and despair of the old king in voice and gesture. The
words were afire with feeling as they came off his tongue, and all
looked at him with surprise.

"Ah, you have seen me play it," said the stranger. "There's no
other Lear that declares himself with that gesture."

"It is Edwin Forrest," said Darrel, as the stranger offered his
hand.

"The same, and at your service," the great actor replied. "And may
I ask who are you?"

"Roderick Darrel, son of a wheelwright on the river Bann, once a
fellow of infinite jest, believe me, but now, alas! like the skull
o' Yorick in the churchyard."

"The churchyard'" said Forrest, thoughtfully. "That to me is the
saddest of all scenes. When it's over and I leave the stage, it is
to carry with me an awe-inspiring thought of the end which is
coming to all."

He crumbled a lump of clay in his palm.

"Dust!" he whispered, scattering it in the air.

"Think ye the dust is dead? Nay, man; a mighty power is in it,"
said Darrel. "Let us imagine thee dead an' turned to clay. Leave
the clay to its own law, sor, an' it begins to cleanse an' purge
itself. Its aim is purity, an' it never wearies. Could I live
long enough, an' it were under me eye, I'd see the clay bleaching
white with a wonderful purity. Then, slowly, it would begin to
come clear, an' by an' by it would be clearer an' lovelier than a
drop o' dew at sunrise. Lo and behold! the clay has become a
sapphire. So, sor, in the waters o' time God washes the great
world. In every grain o' dust the law is written, an' I may read
the destiny o' the nobler part in the fate o' the meaner.

"'Imperious Forrest, dead an' turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep despair away.'"

"Delightful and happy man! I must know you better," said the great
tragedian. "May I ask, sir, what is your calling?"

"I, sor, am a tinker o' clocks."

"A tinker of clocks!" said the other, looking at him thoughtfully.
"I should think it poorly suited to your talents."

"Not so. I've only a talent for happiness an' good company."

"And you find good company here?"

"Yes; bards, prophets, an' honest men. They're everywhere."

"Tell me," said Forrest, "were you not some time a player?"

"Player of many parts, but all in God's drama--fool, servant of a
rich man, cobbler, clock tinker, all in the coat of a poor man. Me
health failed me, sor, an' I took to wandering in the open air.
Ten years ago in the city of New York me wife died, since when I
have been tinkering here in the edges o' the woodland, where I have
found health an' friendship an' good cheer. Faith, sor, that is
all one needs, save the company o' the poets.

"'I pray an' sing an' tell old tales an' laugh
At gilded butterflies, an' hear poor rogues
Talk o' court news.'"

Trove had missed not a word nor even a turn of the eye in all that
scene. After years of acquaintance with the tinker he had not yet
ventured a question as to his life history. The difference of age
and a certain masterly reserve in the old gentleman had seemed to
discourage it. A prying tongue in a mere youth would have met
unpleasant obstacles with Darrel. Never until that day had he
spoken freely of his past in the presence of the young man.

"I must see you again," said the tragedian, rising. "Of those
parts I try to play, which do you most like?"

"St. Paul," said Darrel, quickly. "Last night, sor, in this great
theatre, we heard the voice o' the prophet. Ah, sor, it was like a
trumpet on the walls of eternity. I commend to thee the part o'
St. Paul. Next to that--of all thy parts, Lear."

"Lear?" said Forrest, rising. "I am to play it this autumn. Come,
then, to New York. Give me your address, and I'll send for you."

"Sor," said Darrel, thoughtfully, "I can give thee much o' me love
but little o' me time. Nay, there'd be trouble among the clocks.
I'd be ashamed to look them in the face. Nay,--I thank thee,--but
I must mind the clocks."

The great player smiled with amusement.

"Then," said he, "I shall have to come and see you play your part.
Till then, sir, God give you happiness."

"Once upon a time," said Darrel, as he held the hand of the player,
"a weary traveller came to the gate o' Heaven, seeking entrance.

"'What hast thou in thy heart?' said the good St. Peter.

"'The record o' great suffering an' many prayers,' said the poor
man. 'I pray thee now, give me the happiness o' Heaven.'

"'Good man, we have none to spare,' said the keeper. 'Heaven hath
no happiness but that men bring. It is a gift to God and comes not
from Him. Would ye take o' that we have an' bring nothing? Nay,
go back to thy toil an' fill thy heart with happiness, an' bring it
to me overflowing. Then shalt thou know the joy o' paradise.
Remember, God giveth counsel, but not happiness.'"

"If I only had your wisdom," said Forrest, as they parted.

"Ye'd have need o' more," the tinker answered.

Trove and Darrel walked to the clearing above Faraway. At a corner
on the high hills, where northward they could see smoke and spire
of distant villages, each took his way,--one leading to
Hillsborough, the other to Allen's.

"Good-by; an' when I return I hope to bear the rest o' thy tale,"
said Darrel, as they parted.

"Only God is wise enough to finish it," said the young man.

"'Well, God help us; 'tis a world to see,'" Darrel quoted, waving
his hand. "If thy heart oppress thee, steer for the Blessed Isles."

XXI

Robin's Inn

A big maple sheltered the house of the widow Vaughn. After the
noon hour of a summer day its tide of shadow began flowing fathoms
deep over house and garden to the near field, where finally it
joined the great flood of night. The maple was indeed a robin's
inn at some crossing of the invisible roads of the air. Its green
dome towered high above and fell to the gable end of the little
house. Its deep and leafy thatch hid every timber of its frame
save the rough column. Its trunk was the main beam, each limb a
corridor, each tier of limbs a floor, and branch rose above branch
like steps in a stairway. Up and down the high dome of the maple
were a thousand balconies overlooking the meadow.

From its highest tier of a summer morning the notes of the bobolink
came rushing off his lyre, and farther down the golden robin
sounded his piccolo. But, chiefly, it was the home and refuge of
the familiar red-breasted robin. The inn had its ancient customs.
Each young bird, leaving his cradle, climbed his own stairway till
he came out upon a balcony and got a first timid look at field and
sky. There he might try his wings and keep in the world he knew by
using bill and claw on the lower tiers.

At dawn the great hall of the maple rang with music, for every
lodger paid his score with song. Therein it was ever cool, and
clean, and shady, though the sun were hot. Its every nook and
cranny was often swept and dusted by the wind. Its branches
leading up and outward to the green wall were as innumerable
stairways. Each separate home was out on rocking beams, with its
own flicker of sky light overhead. For a time at dusk there was a
continual flutter of weary wings at the lower entrance, a good
night twitter, and a sound of tiny feet climbing the stairways in
that gloomy hall. At last, there was a moment of gossip and then
silence on every floor. There seemed to be a night-watch in the
lower hall, and if any green young bird were late and noisy going
up to his home, he got a shaking and probably lost a few feathers
from the nape of his neck. Long before daybreak those hungry,
half-clad little people of the nests began to worry and crowd their
mothers. At first, the old birds tried to quiet them with
caressing movements, and had, at last, to hold their places with
bill and claw. As light came an old cock peered about him,
stretched his wings, climbed a stairway, and blew his trumpet on
the outer wall. The robin's day had begun.

Mid-autumn, when its people shivered and found fault and talked of
moving, the maple tried to please them with new and brighter
colours--gold, with the warmth of summer in its look; scarlet,
suggesting love and the June roses. Soon it stood bare and
deserted. Then what was there in the creak-and-whisper chorus of
the old tree for one listening in the night? Belike it might be
many things, according to the ear, but was it not often something
to make one think of that solemn message: "Man that is born of a
woman is of few days and full of trouble"? They who lived in that
small house under the tree knew little of all that passed in the
big world. Trumpet blasts of fame, thunder of rise and downfall,
came faintly to them. There the delights of art and luxury were
unknown. Yet those simple folk were acquainted with pleasure and
even with thrilling and impressive incidents. Field and garden
teemed with eventful life and hard by was the great city of the
woods.

XXII

Comedies of Field and Dooryard

Trove was three days in Brier Dale after he came out of the woods.
The filly was now a sleek and shapely animal, past three years of
age. He began at once breaking her to the saddle, and, that done,
mounting, he started for Robin's Inn. He carried a game rooster in
a sack for the boy Tom. All came out with a word of welcome; even
the small dog grew noisy with delight Tunk Hosely, who had come to
work for Mrs. Vaughn, took the mare and led her away, his shoulder
leaning with an added sense of horsemanship. Polly began to hurry
dinner, fussing with the table, and changing the position of every
dish, until it seemed as if she would never be quite satisfied.
Covered with the sacred old china and table-linen of her
grandmother, it had, when Polly was done with it, a very smart
appearance indeed. Then she called the boys and bade them wash
their hands and faces and whispered a warning to each, while her
mother announced that dinner was ready.

"Paul, what's an adjective?" said the teacher, as they sat down.

"A word applied to a noun to qualify or limit its meaning," the boy
answered glibly.

"Right! And what adjective would you apply to this table?"

The boy thought a moment.

"Grand!" said he, tentatively.

"Correct! I'm going to have just such a dinner every day on my
farm."

"Then you'll have to have Polly too," said Tom, innocently.

"Well, you can spare her."

"No, sir," the boy answered. "You ain't good to her; she cries
every time you go away."

There was an awkward silence and the widow began to laugh and Polly
and Trove to blush deeply.

"Maybe she whispered, an' he give her a talkin' to," said Paul.

"Have you heard about Ezra Tower?" said Mrs. Vaughn, shaking her
head at the boys and changing the topic with shrewd diplomacy.

"Much; but nothing new," said Trove.

"Well, he swears he'll never cross the Fadden bridge or speak to
anybody in Pleasant Valley."

"Why?"

"The taxes. He don't believe in improvements, and when he tried to
make a speech in town-meeting they all jeered him. There ain't any
one good enough for him to speak to now but himself an'--an' his
Creator."

In the midst of dinner, they heard an outcry in the yard. Tom's
game-cock had challenged the old rooster, and the two were leaping
and striking with foot and wing. Before help came the old rooster
was badly cut in the neck and breast. Tunk rescued him, and
brought him to the woodshed, where Trove sewed up his wounds. He
had scarcely finished when there came a louder outcry among the
fowls. Looking out they saw a gobbler striding slowly up the path
and leading the game-cock with a firm hold on the back of his neck.
The whole flock of fowls were following. The rooster held back and
came on with long but unequal strides, Never halting, the turkey
led him into the full publicity of the open yard. Now the cock was
lifted so his feet came only to the top of the grass; now his head
was bent low, and his feet fell heavily. Through it all the
gobbler bore himself with dignity and firmness. There was no show
of wrath or unnecessary violence. He swung the cock around near
the foot of the maple tree and walked him back and then returned
with him. Half his journey the poor cock was reaching for the
grass and was then lowered quickly, so he had to walk with bent
knees. Again and again the gobbler walked up and down with him
before the assembled flock. Hens and geese cackled loudly and
clapped their wings. Applause and derision rose high each time the
poor cock swung around, reaching for the grass. But the gobbler
continued his even stride, deliberately, and as it seemed,
thoughtfully, applying correction to the quarrelsome bird. Walking
the grass tips had begun to tire those reaching legs. The cock
soon straddled along with a serious eye and an open mouth. But the
gobbler gave him no rest. When, at length, he released his hold,
the game-cock lay weary and wild-eyed, with no more fight in him
than a bunch of rags. Soon he rose and ran away and hid himself in
the stable. The culprit fowl was then tried, convicted, and
sentenced to the block.

"It's the fate of all fighters that have only a selfish cause,"
said the teacher. He was sitting on the grass, Polly, and Tom, and
Paul, beside him.

"Look here," said he, suddenly. "I'll show you another fight."

All gathered about him. Down among the grass roots an ant stood
facing a big, hairy spider. The ant backed away, presently, and
made a little detour, the spider turning quickly and edging toward
him. The ant stood motionless, the spider on tiptoe, with daggers
drawn. The big, hairy spider leaped like a lion to its prey. They
could see her striking with the fatal knives, her great body
quivering with fierce energy. The little ant was hidden beneath
it. Some uttered a cry of pity, and Paul was for taking sides.

"Wait a moment," said the teacher, restraining his hand. The
spider had begun to tremble in a curious manner.

"Look now," said Trove, with some excitement.

Her legs had begun to let go and were straightening stiff on both
sides of her. In a moment she tilted sideways and lay still. They
saw a twinkle of black, legs and the ant making off in the stubble.
They picked up the spider's body; it was now only an empty shell.
Her big stomach had been torn away and lay in little strips and
chunks, down at the roots of the stubble.

"It's the end of a bit of history," said the teacher, as he tore
away the curved blades of the spider and put them in Polly's palm.

"Let's see where the ant goes."

He got down upon his hands and knees and watched the little black
tiger, now hurrying for his lair. In a moment he was joined by
others, and presently they came into a smooth little avenue under
the grass. It took them into the edge of the meadow, around a
stalk of mullen, where there were a number of webs.

"There's where she lived--this hairy old woman," said the
teacher,--"up there in that tower. See her snares in the
grass--four of them?"

He rapped on the stalk of mullen with a stick, peering into the
dusty little cavern of silk near the top of it.

"Sure enough! Here is where she lived; for the house is empty, and
there's living prey in the snares."

"What a weird old thing!" said Polly. "Can you tell us more about
her?"

"Well, every summer," said Trove, "a great city grows up in the
field. There are shady streets in it, no wider than a cricket's
back, and millions living in nest and tower and cave and cavern.
Among its people are toilers and idlers, laws and lawbreakers,
thieves and highwaymen, grand folk and plain folk. Here is the
home of the greatest criminal in the city of the field. See! it is
between two leaves,--one serving as roof, the other as floor and
portico. Here is a long cable that comes out of her sitting room
and slopes away to the big snare below. Look at her sheets of silk
in the grass. It's like a washing that's been hung out to dry.
From each a slender cord of silk runs to the main cable. Even a
fly's kick or a stroke of his tiny wing must have gone up the tower
and shaken the floor of the old lady, maybe, with a sort of
thunder. Then she ran out and down the cable to rush upon her
helpless prey. She was an arrant highwayman,--this old lady,--a
creature of craft and violence. She was no sooner married than she
slew her husband--a timid thing smaller than she--and ate him at
one meal. You know the ants are a busy people. This road was
probably a thoroughfare for their freight,--eggs and cattle and
wild rice. I'll warrant she used to lie and wait for them; and woe
to the little traveller if she caught him unawares, for she could
nip him in two with a single thrust of her knives. Then she, would
seize the egg he bore and make off with it. Now the ants are
cunning. They found her downstairs and cut her off from her home
and drove her away into the grass jungle. I've no doubt she faced
a score of them, but, being a swift climber, with lots of rope in
her pocket, was able to get away. The soldier ants began to beat
the jangle. They separated, content to meet her singly, knowing
she would refuse to fight if confronted by more than one. And you
know what happened to her."

All that afternoon they spent in the city of the field. The life
of the birds in the great maple interested them most of all. In
the evening he played checkers with Polly and told her of school
life in the village of Hillsborough--the work and play of the
students.

"Oh! I do wish I could go," said she, presently, with a deep sigh.

He thought of the eighty-two dollars in his pocket and longed to
tell her all that he was planning for her sake.

Mrs. Vaughn went above stairs with the children.

Then Trove took Polly's hand. They looked deeply into each other's
eyes a moment, both smiling.

"It's your move," said she, smiling as her glance fell.

He moved all the checkers.

There came a breath of silence, and a great surge of happiness that
washed every checker off the board, and left the two with flushed
faces. Then, as Mrs. Vaughn was coming downstairs, the checkers
began to rattle into position.

"I won," said he, as the door opened.

"But he didn't play fair," said Folly.

"Children, I'm afraid you're playing more love than checkers," said
the widow. "You're both too young to think of marriage."

Those two looked thoughtfully at the checkerboard, Polly's chin
resting on her hand. She had begun to smile.

"I'm sure Mr. Trove has no such thought in his head," said she,
still looking at the board.

"You're mother is right; we're both very young," said Trove.

"I believe you're afraid of her," said Polly, looking up at him
with a smile.

"I'm only thinking of your welfare," said Mrs. Vaughn, gently.
"Young love should be stored away, and if it keeps, why, then it's
all right."

"Like preserves!" said Polly, soberly, as if she were not able to
see the point.

Against the protest of Polly and her mother, Trove went to sleep in
the sugar shanty, a quarter of a mile or so back in the woods. On
his first trip with the drove he had developed fondness for
sleeping out of doors. The shanty was a rude structure of logs,
with an open front. Tunk went ahead, bearing a pine torch, while
Trove followed, the blanket over his shoulder. They built a
roaring fire in front of the shanty and sat down to talk.

"How have you been?" Trove inquired.

"Like t' killed me there at the ol' maids'."

"Were they rough with you?"

"No," said Tunk, gloomily.

"What then?"

"Hoss."

"Kicked?" was Trove's query.

"Lord! I should think so. Feel there."

Trove felt the same old protuberance on Tunk's leg.

"Swatted me right in the knee-pan. Put both feet on my chest, too.
Lord! I'd be coughin' up blood all the while if I wa'n't careful."

"And why did you leave?"

"Served me a mean trick," said Tunk, frowning. "Letishey went away
t' the village t' have a tooth drawed, an' t'other one locked me up
all day in the garret chamber. Toward night I crawled out o' the
window an' clim' down the lightnin' rod. An' she screamed for help
an' run t' the neighbours. Scairt me half t' death. Heavens! I
didn't know what I'd done!"

"Did you come down fast?" Trove inquired.

"Purty middlin' fast."

"Well, a man never ought to travel on a lightning rod."

Tunk sat in sober silence a moment, as if he thought it no proper
time for levity.

"I made up my mind," said he, with an injured look, "it wa'n't
goin' t' do my character no good t' live there with them ol' maids."

There was a bitter contempt in his voice when he said "ol' maids."

"I'd kind o' like t' draw the ribbons over that mare o' yourn,
mister," said Tunk, presently.

"Do you think you could manage her?"

"What!" said Tunk, in a voice of both query and exclamation. "Huh!
Don't I look as if I'd been used t' hosses. There ain't a bone in
my body that ain't been kicked--some on 'em two or three times.
Don't ye notice how I walk? Heavens, man! I hed my ex sprung
'fore I was fifteen!"

Tunk referred often and proudly to this early springing of his
"ex," by which he meant probably that horse violence had bent him
askew.

"Well, you shall have a chance to drive her," said Trove, spreading
his blanket. "But if I'd gone through what you have, I'd keep out
of danger."

"I like it," said Tunk, with emphasis. "I couldn't live without
it. Danger is a good deal like chawin' terbaccer--dum nasty 'til
ye git used to it. Fer me it's suthin' like strawberry short-cake
and allwus was. An' nerve, man, why jes' look a' there."

He held out a hand to show its steadiness.

"Very good," Trove remarked.

"Good? Why, it's jest as stiddy as a hitchin' post, an' purty nigh
as stout. Feel there," said Tunk, swelling his biceps.

"You must be very strong," said Trove, as he felt the rigid arm.

"A man has t' be in the boss business, er he ain't nowheres. If
they get wicked, ye've got t' put the power to 'em."

Tunk had only one horse to care for at the widow's, but he was
always in "the hoss business."

Then Tunk lit his torch and went away. Trove lay down, pulled his
blanket about him, and went to sleep.

XXIII

A New Problem

When Trove woke in the morning, a package covered with white paper
lay on the blanket near his hand. He rose and picked it up, and
saw his own name in a strange handwriting on the wrapper. He
turned it, looking curiously at seal and superscription. Tearing
it open, he found to his great surprise a brief note and a roll of
money. "Herein is a gift for Mr. Sidney Trove," said the note.
"The gift is from a friend unknown, who prays God that wisdom may
go with it, so it prove a blessing to both."

Trove counted the money carefully. There were $3000 in bank bills.
He sat a moment, thinking; then he rose, and began searching for
tracks around the shanty. He found none, however, in the dead
leaves which he could distinguish from those of Tunk and himself.

"It must be from my father," said he,--a thought that troubled him
deeply, for it seemed to bring ill news--that his father would
never make himself known.

"He must have seen me last night," Trove went on. "He must even
have been near me--so near he could have touched me with his hand.
If I had only wakened!"

He put the money in his pocket and made ready to go. He would
leave at once in quest of Darrel and take counsel of him. It was
early, and he could see the first light of the sun, high in the
tall towers of hemlock. The forest rang with bird songs. He went
to the brook near by, and drank of its clear, cold water, and
bathed in it. Then he walked slowly to Robin's Inn, where Mrs.
Vaughn had begun building a fire. She observed the troubled look
in his face, but said nothing of it then. Trove greeted her and
went to the stable to feed his mare. As he neared the door he
heard a loud "Whoa." He entered softly, and the big barn, that
joined the stable, began to ring with noise. He heard Tunk
shouting "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" at the top of his voice. Peering
through, he could see the able horseman leaning back upon a pair of
reins tied to a beam in front of him. His cry and attitude were
like those of a jockey driving a hard race. He saw Trove, and
began to slow up.

"You are a brave man--there's no doubt of it," said the teacher.

"What makes ye think so?" Tunk inquired soberly, but with a glowing
eye.

"If you were not brave, you'd scare yourself to death, yelling that
way."

"It isn't possible, or Tunk would have perished long ago," said the
widow, who had come to feed her chickens.

"It's enough to raise the neighbours," Trove added.

"There ain't any near neighbours but them over 'n the
buryin'-ground, and they must be a little uneasy," said the widow.

"Used t' drive so much in races," said Tunk, "got t' be kind of a
habit with me--seems so. Ain't eggzac'ly happy less I have holt o'
the ribbons every day or two. Ye know I used t' drive ol' crazy
Jane. She pulled like Satan. All ye had t' do was t' lean back
an' let 'er sail."

"But why do you shout that way?"

"Scares the other hosses," Tunk answered, dropping the reins and
tossing his whip aside. "It's a shame I have t' fool my time away
up here on a farm."

He went to work at the chores, frowning with discontent. Trove
watered and fed his mare and went in to breakfast. An hour later,
he bade them all good-by, and set out for Allen's. A new fear
began to weigh upon him as he travelled. Was this a part of that
evil sum, and had his father begun now to scatter what he had never
any right to touch? Whoever brought him that big roll of money had
robbed him of his peace. Even his ribs, against which it chafed as
he rode along, began to feel sore. Home at last, he put up the
mare and went to tell his mother that he must be off for
Hillsborough.

"My son," said she, her arms about his neck, "our eyes are growing
dim and for a long time have seen little of you."

"And I feel the loss," Trove answered. "I have things to do there,
and shall return tonight."

"You look troubled," was her answer. "Poor boy! I pray God to
keep you unspotted of the world." She was ever fearing unhappy
news of the mystery--that something evil would come out of it.

As Trove rode away he took account of all he owed those good people
who had been mother and father to him. What a pleasure it would
give him to lay that goodly sum in the lap of his mother and bid
her spend it with no thought of economy.

The mare knew him as one may know a brother. There was in her
manner some subtle understanding of his mood. Her master saw it in
the poise of her head, in the shift of her ears, and in her tender
way of feeling for his hand. She, too, was looking right and left
in the fields. There were the scenes of a boyhood, newly but
forever gone. "That's where you overtook me on the way to school,"
said he to Phyllis, for so the tinker had named her.

She drew at the rein, starting playfully as she heard his voice,
and shaking his hand as if to say, "Oh, master, give me the rein.
I will bear you swiftly to happiness."

Trove looked down at her proudly, patting the silken arch of her
neck. If, as Darrel had once told him, God took note of the look
of one's horses, she was fit for the last journey. Arriving at
Hillsborough, he tied her in the sheds and took his way to the Sign
of the Dial. Darrel was working at his little bench. He turned
wearily, his face paler than Trove had ever seen it, his eyes
deeper under their fringe of silvered hair.

"An' God be praised, the boy!" said he, rising quickly. "Canst
thou make a jest, boy, a merry jest?"

"Not until you have told me what's the matter."

"Illness an' the food o' bitter fancy," said the tinker, with a sad
face.

"Bitter fancy?"

"Yes; an' o' thee, boy. Had I gathered care in the broad fields
all me life an' heaped it on thy back, I could not have done worse
by thee."

Darrel put his hand upon the boy's shoulder, surveying him from
head to foot.

"But, marry," he added, "'tis a mighty thigh an' a broad back."

"Have you seen my father?"

"Yes."

There was a moment of silence, and Trove began to change colour.

"And what did he say?"

"That he will bear his burden alone."

Then, for a moment, silence and the ticking of the clocks.

"And I shall never know my father?" said Trove, presently, his lips
trembling. "God, sir! I insist upon it. I have a right to his
name and to his shame also." The young man sank upon a chair,
covering his face.

"Nay, boy, it is not wise," said Darrel, tenderly. "Take thought
of it--thou'rt young. The time is near when thy father can make
restitution, ay, an' acknowledge his sin before the world. All
very near to him, saving thyself, are dead. Now, whatever comes,
it can do thee no harm."

"But I care not for disgrace; and often you have told me that I
should live and speak the truth, even though it burn me to the
bone."

"So have I, boy, so have I; but suppose it burn others to the bone.
It will burn thy wife; an' thy children, an' thy children's
children, and them that have reared thee, an' it would burn thy
father most of all."

Trove was utterly silenced. His father was bent on keeping his own
disgrace.

"Mind thee, boy, the law o' truth is great, but the law o' love is
greater. A lie for the sake o' love--think o' that a long time,
think until thy heart is worn with all fondness an' thy soul is
ready for its God, then judge it."

"But when he makes confession I shall know, and go to him, and
stand by has side," the young man remarked.

"Nay, boy, rid thy mind o' that. If ye were to hear of his crime,
ye'd never know it was thy father's."

"It is a bitter sorrow, but I shall make the best of it," said
Trove.

"Ay, make the best of it. Thou'rt now in the deep sea, an' God
guide thee."

"But I ask your help--will you read that?" said Trove, handing him
the mysterious note that came with the roll of money.

"An' how much came with it?" said Darrel, as he read the lines.

"Three thousand dollars. Here they are; I do not know what to do
with them."

"'Tis a large sum, an' maybe from thy father," said Darrel, looking
down at tile money. "Possibly, quite possibly it is from thy
father."

"And what shall I do with the money? It is cursed; I can make no
use of it."

Book of the day: