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Darrel of the Blessed Isles by Irving Bacheller

Part 4 out of 5

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"Ah, boy, of one thing be sure; it is not the stolen money. For
many years thy father hath been a frugal man--saving, ever saving
the poor fruit of his toil. Nay, boy, if it come o' thy father,
have no fear o' that. For a time put thy money in the bank."

"Then my father lives near me--where I may be meeting him every day
of my life?"

"No," said Darrel, shaking his head. Then lifting his finger and
looking into the eyes of Trove, he spoke slowly and with deep
feeling. "Now that ye know his will I warn ye, boy, seek him no
more. Were ye to meet him now an' know him for thy father an' yet
refuse to let him pass, I'd think thee a monster o' selfish
cruelty."

XXIV

Beginning the Book of Trouble

The rickety stairway seemed to creak with surprise at the slowness
of his feet as Trove descended. It was circus day, and there were
few in the street. Neither looking to right nor left he hurried to
the bank of Hillsborough and left his money. Then, mounting his
mare, he turned to the wooded hills and went away at a swift
gallop. When the village lay far behind them and the sun was low,
he drew rein to let the mare breathe, and turned, looking down the
long stairway of the hills. In the south great green waves of
timber land, rose into the sun-glow as they swept over hill and
mountain. Presently he could hear a galloping horse and a faint
halloo down the valley, out of which he had just come. He stopped,
listening, and soon a man and horse, the latter nearly spent with
fast travel, came up the pike.

"Well, by Heaven! You gave me a hard chase," said the man.

"Do you wish to see me?" Trove inquired.

"Yes--my name is Spinnel. I am connected with the bank of
Hillsborough. Your name is Trove--Sidney Trove?"

"Yes, sir."

"You deposited three thousand dollars today?"

"I did."

"Well, I've come to see you and ask a few questions. I've no
authority, and you can do as you like about answering."

The man pulled up near Trove and took a note-book and pencil out of
his pocket.

"First, how came you by that money?" said he, with some show of
excitement in his manner.

"That is my business," said Trove, coolly.

"There's more or less truth in that," said the other. "But I'll
explain. Night before last the bank in Milldam was robbed, and the
clerk who slept there badly hurt. Now, I've no doubt you're all
right, but here's a curious fact--the sum taken was about three
thousand dollars."

Trove began to change colour. He dismounted, looking up at the
stranger and holding both horses by the bit.

"And they think me a thief?" he demanded.

"No," was the quick reply. "They've no doubt you can explain
everything."

"I'll tell you all I know about the money," said Trove. "But come,
let's keep the horses warm."

They led them and, walking slowly, Trove told of his night in the
sugar-bush. Something in the manner of Spinnel slowed his feet and
words. The story was finished. They stopped, turning face to face.

"It's grossly improbable," Trove suggested thoughtfully.

"Well, it ain't the kind o' thing that happens every day or two,"
said the other. "If you're innocent, you won't mind my looking you
over a little to see if you have wounds or weapons. Understand,
I've no authority, but if you wish, I'll do it."

"Glad to have you. Here's a hunting-knife, and a flint, and some
bird shot," Trove answered, as he began to empty his pockets.

Spinnel examined the hunting-knife and looked carefully at each
pocket.

"Would you mind taking off your coat?" he inquired.

The young man removed his coat, uncovering a small spatter of blood
on a shirt-sleeve.

"There's no use going any farther with this," said the young man,
impatiently. "Come on home with me, and I'll go back with you in
the morning and prove my innocence."

The two mounted their horses and rode a long way in silence.

"It is possible," said Trove, presently, "that the robber was a man
that knew me and, being close pressed, planned to divert suspicion."

Save that of the stranger, there was no sleep at the little house
in Brier Dale that night. But, oddly, for Mary and Theron Allen it
became a night of dear and lasting memories of their son. He sat
long with them under the pine trees, and for the first time they
saw and felt his strength and were as children before it.

"It's all a school," said he, calmly. "An' I'm just beginning to
study the Book of Trouble. It's full of rather tough problems, but
I'm not going to flunk or fail in it."

XXV

The Spider Snares

Trove and Spinnel were in Hillsborough soon after sunrise the
morning of that memorable day. The young man rapped loudly on the
broad door at the Sign of the Dial, but within all was silent. The
day before Darrel had spoken of going off to the river towns, and
must have started. A lonely feeling came into the boy's heart as
he turned away. He went promptly to the house of the district
attorney and told all he knew of the money that he had put in the
bank. He recounted all that took place the afternoon of his stay
at Robin's Inn--the battles of the cocks, and the spider, and how
the wounded fowl had probably sprinkled his sleeve with blood. In
half an hour, news of the young man's trouble had gone to every
house in the village. Soon a score of his schoolmates and half the
faculty were at his side--there in the room of the justice. Theron
Allen arrived at nine o'clock, although at that hour two
responsible men had already given a bail-bond. After dinner,
Trove, a constable, and the attorney rode to Robin's Inn. The news
had arrived before them, but only the two boys and Tunk were at
home. The latter stood in front of the stable, looking earnestly
up the road.

"Hello," said he, gazing curiously at horse and men as they came up
to the door. He seemed to be eyeing the attorney with hopeful
anticipation.

"Tunk," said Trove, cheerfully, "you have a mournful eye."

Tunk advanced slowly, still gazing, both hands deep in his trousers
pockets.

"Ez Tower just went by," said he, with suppressed feeling. "Said
you was arrested fer murder."

"I presume you were surprised."

"Wal," said he, "Ez ain't said a word before in six months."

Tunk opened the horse's mouth and stood a moment, peering
thoughtfully at his teeth.

"Kind of unexpected to be spoke to by Ez Tower," he added, turning
his eyes upon them with the same curious look.

The interrogation of Tunk and the two boys began immediately. The
story of the fowl corroborated, the sugar-bush became an object of
investigation. Milldam was ten miles away, and it was quite
possible for the young man to have ridden there and back between
the hour when Tunk left him and that of sunrise when he met Mrs.
Vaughn at her door. Trove and Tunk Hosely went with the officers
down a lane to the pasture and thence into the wood by a path they
followed that night to and from the shanty. They discovered
nothing new, save one remarkable circumstance that baffled Trove
and renewed the waning suspicion of the men of the law. On almost
a straight line from bush to barn were tracks of a man that showed
plainly where they came out of the grass upon the garden soil.
Now, the strange part of it lay in this fact: the boots of Sidney
Trove exactly fitted the tracks. They followed the footprints
carefully into the meadow-grass and up to the stalk of mullen.
Near the top of it was the abandoned home of the spider and around
it were the four snares Trove had observed, now full of prey.

"Do not disturb the grass here," said Trove, "and I will prove to
you that the tracks were made before the night in question. Do you
see the four webs?"

"Yes," said the attorney..

"The tracks go under them," said Trove, "and must, therefore, have
been made before the webs. I will prove to you that the webs were
spun before two o'clock of the day before yesterday. At that hour
I saw the spinner die. See, her lair is deserted."

He broke the stalk of mullen and the cables of spider silk that led
away from it, and all inspected the empty lair. Then he told of
that deadly battle in the grass.

"But these webs might have been the work of another spider," said
the attorney.

"It matters not," Trove insisted, "for the webs were spun at least
twelve hours before the crime. One of them contains the body of a
red butterfly with starred wings. We cut the wings that day, and
Miss Vaughn put them in a book she was reading."

Paul brought the wings, which exactly fitted the tiny torso of the
butterfly. They could discern the footprints, one of which had
broken the ant's road, while another was completely covered by the
butterfly snare.

"Those tracks were made before the webs--that is evident," said the
attorney. "Do you know who made the tracks?"

"I do not," was the answer of the young man.

Trove remained at Robin's Inn that night, and after the men had
gone he recalled a circumstance that was like a flash of lightning
in the dark of his great mystery.

Once at the Sign of the Dial his friend, the tinker, had shown him
a pair of new boots. He remembered they were of the same size and
shape as those he wore.

"We could wear the same boots," he had remarked to Darrel.

"Had I to do such penance I should be damned," the tinker had
answered. "Look, boy, mine are the larger by far. There's a man
coming to see me at the Christmas time--a man o' busy feet. That
pair in your hands I bought for him."

"Day before yesterday," said Tunk, that evening, "I was up in the
sugar-bush after a bit o' hickory, an' I see a man there, an' I
didn't have no idee who 'twas. He was tall and had white hair an'
whiskers an' a short blue coat. When I first see him he was
settin' on a log, but 'fore I come nigh he got up an' made off."

Although meagre, the description was sufficient. Trove had no
longer any doubt of this--that the stranger he had seen at Darrel's
had been hiding in the bush that day whose events were now so
important.

Whoever had brought the money, he must have known much of the plans
and habits of the young man, and, the night before Trove's arrival
at Robin's Inn, he came, probably, to the sugar woods, where he
spent the next day in hiding.

The young man was deeply troubled. Polly and her mother sat well
into the night with him, hearing the story of his life, which he
told in full, saving only the sin of his father. Of that he had
neither the right nor the heart to tell.

"God only knows what is the next chapter," said he, at last. "It
may rob me of all that I love in this world."

"But not of me," said Polly, whispering in his ear.

"I wish I were sure of that," he answered.

XXVI

The Coming of the Cars

That year was one of much reckoning there in the land of the hills.
A year it was of historic change and popular excitement. To begin
with, a certain rich man bought a heavy cannon, which had roared at
the British on the frontier in 1812, and gave it to the town of
Hillsborough. It was no sooner dumped on the edge of the little
park than it became a target of criticism. The people were to be
taxed for the expense of mounting it--"Taxed fer a thing we ain't
no more need of than a bear has need of a hair-brush," said one
citizen. Those Yankees came of men who helped to fling the tea
into Boston harbour, and had some hereditary fear of taxes.

Hunters and trappers were much impressed by it. They felt it over,
peering curiously into the muzzle, with one eye closed.

"Ye couldn't kill nuthin' with it," said one of them.

"If I was to pick it up an' hit ye over the head with it, I guess
ye wouldn't think so," said another.

Familiarity bred contempt, and by and by they began to shoot at it
from the tavern steps.

The gun lay rejected and much in the way until its buyer came to
his own rescue and agreed to pay for the mounting. Then came
another and more famous controversy as to which way they should
"p'int" the gun. Some favoured one direction, some another, and at
last, by way of compliment, they "p'inted" it squarely at the house
of the giver on the farther side of the park. And it was loaded to
the muzzle with envy and ingratitude.

The arrest of Sidney Trove, also, had filled the town with exciting
rumours, and gossip of him seemed to travel on the four winds--much
of it as unkind as it was unfounded.

Then came surveyors, and promoters of the railroad, and a plan of
aiding it by bonding the towns it traversed. In the beginning
horror and distrust were in many bosoms. If the devil and some of
his angels had come, he might, indeed, for a time, have made more
converts and less excitement.

"It's a delusion an' a snare," said old Colonel Barclay in a
speech. "Who wants t' whiz through the air like a bullet? God
never intended men to go slidin' over the earth that way. It ain't
nat'ral ner it ain't common sense. Some say it would bring more
folks into this country. I say we can supply all the folks that's
nec'sary. I've got fourteen in my own family. S'pose ye lived on
a tremendous sidehill that reached clear to New York City, so ye
could git on a sled an' scoot off like a streak o' lightnin'. Do
ye think ye'd be any happier? Do ye think ye'd chop any more wood
er raise a bigger crop o' potatoes? S'pose ye could scoot yer
crops right down t' Albany in a day. That would be all right if
'ye was the only man that was scootin', but if there was anything
t' be made by it, there'd be more than a million sleds on the way,
an' ye couldn't sell yer stuff for so much as ye git here. Some
day ye'd come home and ask where's Ma an' Mary, and then Sam would
say, 'Why, Mary's slid down t' New York, and the last I see o' Ma
she was scootin' for Rochester.'"

Here, the record says, Colonel Barclay was interrupted by laughter
and a voice.

"Wal, if there was a railroad, they could scoot back ag'in," said
the voice.

"Yes," the Colonel rejoined, "but mebbe after they'd been there a
while ye'd wish they couldn't. Wal, you git your own supper, an'
then Sam says, says he, 'I guess I'll scoot over t' Watertown and
see my gal fer a few minutes.' An' ye sit by the fire a while,
rockin' the twins, an' by and by yer wife comes back. An' ye say,
'Ma, why don't ye stay t' home?' 'Wal,' says she, 'it is so
splendid, and there's so much goin' on.' An' Mary, she begins t'
talk as if she'd bit her tongue, an' step stylish, an' hold up her
dress like that, jest as though she was steppin' over a hot
griddle. Purty soon it's dizzle-dazzle an' flippity-floppity an'
splendiferous and sewperb, an' the first thing ye know ye ain't
knee-high to a grasshopper. Sam he comes back an' tells Ed all
about the latest devilment. You hear of it; then, mebbe, ye begin
to limber up an' think ye'll try it yerself. An' some morning
ye'll wake up an' find yer moral character has scooted. You
fellers that go t' meetin' here an' talk about resistin'
temptation--if you ever git t' goin' it down there in New York
City, temptation 'll have to resist you. My friends, ye don't want
to make it too easy fer everybody to go somewhere else. If ye do,
by an' by there won't be nobody left here but them that's too old
t' scoot er a few sickly young folks who don't care fer the sinful
attractions o' this world."

Who shall say that old Colonel Barclay had not the tongue of a
prophet?

"An' how about the cost?" he added in conclusion, "Fellow-citizens,
ye'll have to pay five cents a mile fer yer scootin', an' a tax,--a
tax, fellow-citizens, to help pay the cost o' the railroad. If
there's anybody here that don't feel as if he'd been taxed enough,
he ought t' be taxed fer his folly."

The dread of "scooting" grew for a time, but wise men were able to
overcome it.

In 1850, the iron way had come through the wilderness and begun to
rend the northern hills. Some were filled with awe, learning for
the first time that in the moving of mountains giant-powder was
more efficient than faith. Soon it had passed Hillsborough and was
finished. Everybody came to see the cars that day of the first
train. The track was lined with people at every village; many with
children upon arms and shoulders. They waited long, and when the
iron horse came roaring out of the distance, women fell back and
men rolled their quids and looked eagerly up the track. It came on
with screaming whistle and noisy brakes and roaring wheels.
Children began to cry with fear and men to yell with excitement.
Dogs were barking wildly, and two horses ran away, dragging with
them part of a picket-fence. A brown shoat came bounding over the
ties and broke through the wall of people, carrying many off their
feet and creating panic and profanity. The train stopped, its
engine hissing. A brakeman of flashy attire, with fine leather
showing to the knees, strolled off and up the platform on high
heels, haughty as a prince. Confusion began to abate.

"Hear it pant," said one, looking at the engine.

"Seems so it had the heaves," another remarked thoughtfully.

"Goes like the wind," said a passenger, who had just alighted.
"Jerked us ten mile in less 'n twenty minutes."

"Folks 'll have to be made o' cast iron to ride on them air cars,"
said another. "I'd ruther set on the tail of a threshin'-machine.
It gave a slew on the turn up yender, an' I thought 'twas goin'
right over Bowman's barn. It flung me up ag'in the side o' the
car, an' I see stars fer a minute. 'What's happened,' says I to
another chap. 'Oh, we're all right,' says he. 'Be we?' says I,
an' then I see I'd lost a tooth an' broke my glasses. 'That ain't
nuthin',' says he, 'I had my foot braced over ag'in that other
seat, an' somebody fell back on my leg, an' I guess the knee is out
o' j'int. But I'm alive, an' I ain't got no fault to find. If I
ever git off this shebang, I'm goin' out in the woods somewhere an'
set down an' see what kind o' shape I'm in. I guess I'm purty nigh
sp'ilt, an' it cost me fifty cents t' do it.'

"'An' all yer common sense, tew,' says I."

A number got aboard, and the train started. Rip Enslow was on the
rear platform, his faithful hound galloping gayly behind the train.
Some one had tied him to the brake rod. Nearly a score of dogs
followed, barking merrily. Rip's hound came back soon, his tongue
low, his tail between his legs. A number called to him, but he
seemed to know his own mind perfectly, and made for the stream and
lay down in the middle of it, lapping the shallow water, and stayed
there for the rest of the afternoon.

A crowd of hunters watched him.

"Looks so he'd been ketched by a bear," said one.

In half an hour Rip returned also, a shoulder out of joint, a lump
on his forehead, a big rent in his trousers. He was one, of those
men of whom others gather wisdom, for, after that, everybody in the
land of the hills knew better than to jump off the cars or tie his
hound to the rear platform.

And dogs came to know, after a little while, that the roaring
dragon was really afraid of them and would run like a very coward
if it saw a dog coming across the fields. Every small cur that
lived in sight of it lay in the tall grass, and when he saw the
dragon coming, chased him off the farm of his master.

Among those who got off the train at Hillsborough that day was a
big, handsome youth of some twenty years. In all the crowd there
were none had ever seen him before. Dressed in the height of
fashion, he was a figure so extraordinary that all eyes observed
him as he made his way to the tavern. Trove and Polly and Mrs.
Vaughn were in that curious throng on the platform, where a depot
was being built.

"My! What a splendid-looking fellow," said Polly, as the stranger
passed,

Trove had a swift pang of jealousy that moment. Turning, he saw
Riley Brooke--now known as the "Old Rag Doll"--standing near them
in a group of villagers.

"I tell you, he's a thief," the boy heard him saying, and the words
seemed to blister as they fell; and ever after, when he thought of
them, a great sternness lay like a shadow on his brow.

"I must go," said he, calmly turning to Polly. "Let me help you
into the wagon."

When they were gone, he stood a moment thinking. He felt as if he
were friendless and alone.

"You're a giant to day," said a friend, passing him; but Trove made
no answer. Roused incomprehensibly, his heavy muscles had become
tense, and he had an odd consciousness of their power. The people
were scattering, and he walked slowly down the street. The sun was
low, but he thought not of home or where he should spend the night.
It was now the third day after his arrest. Since noon he had been
looking for Darrel, but the tinker's door had been locked for days,
according to the carpenter who was at work below. For an hour
Trove walked, passing up and down before that familiar stairway, in
the hope of seeing his friend. Daylight was dim when the tinker
stopped by the stairs and began to feel for his key. The young man
was quickly at the side of Darrel.

"God be praised!" said the latter; "here is the old Dial an' the
strong an' noble Trove. I heard o' thy trouble, boy, far off on
the postroad, an' I have made haste to come to thee."

XXVII

The Rare and Costly Cup

Trove had been reciting the history of his trouble and had finished
with bitter words.

"Shame on thee, boy," said the tinker, as Trove sat before him with
tears of anger in his eyes. "Watch yonder pendulum and say not a
word until it has ticked forty times. For what are thy learning
an' thy mighty thews if they do not bear thee up in time o'
trouble? Now is thy trial come before the Judge of all. Up with
thy head, boy, an' be acquitted o' weakness an' fear an' evil
passion."

"We deserve better of him," said Trove, speaking of Riley Brooke.
"When all others hated him, we were kind to the old sinner, and it
has done him no good."

"Ah, but has it done thee good? There's the question," said
Darrel, his hand upon the boy's arm.

"I believe it has," said Trove, with a look of surprise.

"It was thee I thought of, boy; I had never much thought o' him."

That moment Trove saw farther into the depth of Darrel's heart than
ever before. It startled him. Surely, here was a man that passed
all understanding.

Darrel crossed to his bench and began to wind the clocks.

"Ho, Clocks!" said he, thoughtfully. "Know ye the cars have come?
Now must we look well to the long hand o' the clock. The old,
slow-footed hour is dead, an' now, boy, the minute is our king."

He came shortly and sat beside the young man.

"Put away thy unhappiness," said he, gently, patting the boy's
hand. "No harm shall come to thee--'tis only a passing cloud."

"You're right, and I'm not going to be a fool," said Trove. "It
has all brought me one item of good fortune."

"An' that is?"

"I have discovered who is my father."

"An' know ye where he is now?" the tinker inquired.

"No; but I know it is he to whom you gave the boots at Christmas
time."

"Hush, boy," said Darrel, in a whisper, his hand raised.

He crossed to the bench, returning quickly and drawing his chair in
front of the young man.

"Once upon a time," he whispered, sitting down and touching the
palm of his open hand with the index finger of the other, "a youth
held in his hand a cup, rare an' costly, an' it was full o'
happiness, an' he was tempted to drink. 'Ho, there, me youth,'
said one who saw him, 'that is the happiness of another.' But he
tasted the cup, an' it was bitter, an' he let it fall, an' the
other lost his great possession. Now that bitter taste was ever on
the tongue o' the youth, so that his own cup had always the flavour
o' woe."

The tinker paused a moment, looking sternly into the face of the
young man.

"I adjure thee, boy, touch not the cup of another's happiness, or
it may imbitter thy tongue. But if thou be foolish an' take it up,
mind ye do not drop it."

"I shall be careful--I shall neither taste nor drop it," said Trove.

"God bless thee, boy! thou'rt come to a great law--who drains the
cup of another's happiness shall find it bitter, but who drains the
cup of another's bitterness shall find it sweet."

A silence followed, in which Trove sat looking at the old man whose
words were like those of a prophet. "I have no longer any right to
seek my father," he thought. "And, though I meet him face to face,
I must let him go his way."

Suddenly there came a rap at the door, and when Darrel opened it,
they saw only a letter hanging to the latch. It contained these
words, but no signature:--

"There'll be a bonfire and some fun to-night at twelve, in the
middle of Cook's field. Messrs. Trove and Darrel are invited."

"Curious," said Darrel. "It has the look o' mischief."

"Oh, it's only the boys and a bit of skylarking," said Trove.
"Let's go and see what's up--it's near the time."

The streets were dark and silent as they left the shop. They went
up a street beyond the village limits and looked off in Cook's
field but saw no light there. While they stood looking a flame
rose and spread. Soon they could see figures in the light, and,
climbing the fence, they hastened across an open pasture. Coming
near they saw a score of men with masks upon their faces.

"Give him the tar and feathers," said a strange voice.

"Not if he will confess an' seek forgiveness," another answered.

"Down to your knees, man, an' make no outcry, an' see you repeat
the words carefully, as I speak them, or you go home in tar and
feathers."

They could hear the sound of a scuffle, and, shortly, the phrases
of a prayer spoken by one voice and repeated by another.

They were far back in the gloom, but could hear each word of that
which follows: "O God, forgive me--I am a liar and a hypocrite--I
have the tongue of scandal and deceit--I have robbed the poor--I
have defamed the good--and, Lord, I am sick--with the rottenness of
my own heart. And hereafter--I will cheat no more--and speak no
evil of any one--Amen."

"Now, go to your home, Riley Brooke," said the voice, "an'
hereafter mind your tongue, or you shall ride a rail in tar and
feathers."

They could see the crowd scatter, and some passed near them,
running away in the darkness.

"Stoop there an' say not a word," the tinker whispered, crouching
in the grass.

When all were out of hearing, they started for the little shop.

"Hereafter," said Darrel, as they walked along, "God send he be
more careful with the happiness of other men. I do assure thee,
boy, it is bitter, bitter, bitter."

XXVIII

Darrel at Robin's Inn

Trove had much to help him,--youth, a cheerful temperament, a
counsellor of unfailing wisdom. Long after they were gone he
recalled the sadness and worry of those days with satisfaction,
for, thereafter, the shock of trouble was never able to surprise
and overthrow him.

After due examination he had been kept in bail to wait the action
of the grand jury, soon to meet. Now there were none thought him
guilty--save one or two afflicted with the evil tongue. It seemed
to him a dead issue and gave him no worry. One thing, however,
preyed upon his peace,--the knowledge that his father was a thief.
A conviction was ever boring in upon him that he had no right to
love Polly. A base injustice it would be, he thought, to marry her
without telling what he had no right to tell. But he was ever
hoping for some word of his father--news that might set him free.
He had planned to visit Polly, and on a certain day Darrel was to
meet him at Robin's Inn. The young man waited, in some doubt of
his duty, and that day came--one of the late summer--when he and
Darrel went afoot to the Inn, crossing hill and valley, as the crow
flies, stopping here and there at isles of shadow in a hot amber
sea of light. They sat long to hear the droning in the stubble and
let their thought drift slowly as the ship becalmed.

"Some days," said Darrel, "the soul in me is like a toy skiff,
tossing in the ripples of a duck pond an' mayhap stranding on a
reed or lily. An' then," he added, with kindling eye and voice,
"she is a great ship, her sails league long an' high, her masthead
raking the stars, her hull in the infinite sea."

"Well," said Trove, sighing, "I'm still in the ripples of the duck
pond."

"An' see they do not swamp thee," said Darrel, with a smile that
seemed to say, "Poor weakling, your trouble is only as the ripples
of a tiny pool." They went on slowly, over green pastures, halting
at a brook in the woods. There, again, they rested in a cool shade
of pines, Darrel lighting his pipe.

"I envy thee, boy," said the tinker, "entering on thy life-work in
this great land--a country blest o' God. To thee all high things
are possible. Where I was born, let a poor lad have great hope in
him, an' all--ay, all--even those he loved, rose up to cry him
down. Here in this land all cheer an' bid him God-speed. An' here
is to be the great theatre o' the world's action. Many of high
hope in the broad earth shall come, an' here they shall do their
work. An' its spirit shall spread like the rising waters, ay, it
shall flood the world, boy, it shall flood the world."

Trove made no reply, but he thought much and deeply of what the
tinker said. They lay back a while on the needle carpet, thinking.
They could hear the murmur of the brook and a woodpecker drumming
on a dead tree.

"Me head is busy as yon woodpecker's," Darrel went on. "It's the
soul fire in this great, free garden o' God--it's America. Have ye
felt it, boy?"

"Yes; it is in your eyes and on your tongue," said Trove.

"Ah boy! 'tis only God's oxygen. Think o' the poor fools withering
on cracker barrels in Hillsborough an' wearing away 'the lag end o'
their lewdness.' I have no patience with the like o' them, I'd
rather be a butcher's clerk an' carry with me the redolence o' ham."

In Hillsborough, where all spoke of him as an odd man of great
learning, there were none, saving Trove and two or three others,
that knew the tinker well, for he took no part in the roaring
gossip of shop and store.

"Hath it ever occurred to thee," said Darrel, as they walked along,
"that a fool is blind to his folly, a wise man to his wisdom?"

When they were through the edge of the wilderness and came out on
Cedar Hill, and saw, below them, the great, round shadow of Robin's
Inn, they began to hasten their steps. They could see Polly
reading a book under the big tree.

"What ho! the little queen," said Darrel, as they came near, "Now,
put upon her brow 'an odorous chaplet o' sweet summer buds.'"

She came to meet them in a pretty pink dress and slippers and white
stockings.

"Fair lady, I bring thee flowers," said Darrel, handing her a
bouquet. "They are from the great garden o' the fields."

"And I bring a crown," said Trove, as he kissed her and put a
wreath of clover and wild roses on her brow.

"I thought something dreadful had happened," said Polly, with tears
in her eyes. "For three days I've been dressed up waiting."

"An' a grand dress it is," said Barrel, surveying her pretty figure.

"I've nearly worn it out waiting," said she, looking down, her
voice trembling.

"Tut, tut, girl--'tis a lovely dress," the tinker insisted.

"It is one my mother wore when she was a girl," said Polly,
proudly. "It was made over."

"O--oh! God love thee, child!" said the tinker, in a tone of great
admiration. "'Tis beautiful."

"And, you came through the woods?" said Polly.

"Through wood and field," was Trove's answer.

"I wonder you knew the way."

"The little god o' love--he shot his arrows, an' we followed them
as the hunter follows the bee," said Darrel.

"It was nice of you to bring the flowers," said Polly. "They are
beautiful."

"But not like those in thy cheeks, dear child. Where is the good
mother?" said Darrel.

"She and the boys are gone a-berrying, and I have been making
jelly. We're going to have a party to-night for your birthday."

"'An' rise up before the hoary head an' honour the face o' the old
man,'" said Darrel, thoughtfully. "But, child, honour is not for
them that tinker clocks."

"'Honour and fame from no condition rise,'" said Polly, who sat in
a chair, knitting.

"True, dear girl! Thy lips are sweeter than the poet's thought."

"You'll turn my head;" the girl was laughing as she spoke.

"An it turn to me, I shall be happy," said the tinker, smiling, and
then he began to feel the buttons on his waistcoat. "Loves me,
loves me not, loves me, loves me not--"

"She loves you," said Polly, with a smile.

"She loves me, hear that, boy," said the tinker. "Ah, were she not
bespoke! Well, God be praised, I'm happy," he added, filling his
pipe.

"And seventy," said Polly.

"Ay, three score an' ten--small an' close together, now, as I look
off at them, like a flock o' pigeons in the sky."

"What do you think?" said Polly, as she dropped her knitting. "The
two old maids are coming to-night."

"The two old maids!" said Darrel; "'tis a sign an' a wonder."

"Oh, a great change has come over them," Polly went on. "It's all
the work o' the teacher. You know he really coaxed them into
sliding with him last winter."

"I heard of it--the gay Philander!" said Darrel, laughing merrily.
"Ah! he's a wonder with the maidens!"

"I know it," said Polly, with a sigh.

Trove was idly brushing the mat of grass with a walking-stick. He
loved fun, but he had no conceit for this kind of banter.

"It was one of my best accomplishments," said he, blushing. "I
taught them that there was really a world outside their house and
that men were not all as lions, seeking whom they might devour."

Soon the widow and her boys came, their pails full of berries.

"We cannot shake hands with you," said Mrs. Vaughn, her fingers red
with the berry stain.

"Blood o' the old earth!" said Darrel. "How fares the clock?"

"It's too slow, Polly says."

"Ah, time lags when love is on the way," Darrel answered.

"Foolish child! A little while ago she was a baby, an' now she is
in love."

"Ah, let the girl love," said Darrel, patting the red cheek of
Polly, "an' bless God she loves a worthy lad,"

"You'd better fix the clock." said Polly, smiling. "It is too
fast, now."

"So is the beat o' thy heart," Darrel answered, a merry look in his
eyes, "an' the clock is keeping pace."

Trove got up, with a laugh, and went away, the boys following.

"I'm worried about him," the widow whispered. "For a long time he
hasn't been himself."

"It's the trouble--poor lad! 'Twill soon be over," said Darrel,
hopefully.

There were now tears in the eyes of Polly.

"I do not think he loves me any more," said she, her lips trembling.

"Speak not so, dear child; indeed he loves thee."

"I have done everything to please him," said Polly, in broken
words, her face covered with her handkerchief.

"I wondered what was the matter with you, Polly," said her mother,
tenderly.

"Dear, dear child!" said the tinker, rising and patting her head.
"The chaplet on thy brow an' thee weeping!--fairest flower of all!"

"I have wished that I was dead;" the words came in a little moan
between sobs.

"Because: Love hath led thee to the great river o' tears? Nay,
child, 'tis a winding river an' crosses all the roads."

He had taken her handkerchief, and with a tender touch was drying
her eyes.

"Now I can see thee smiling, an' thy lashes, child--they are like
the spray o' the fern tip when the dew is on it."

Polly rose and went away into the house. Darrel wiped his eyes,
and the widow sat, her chin upon her hand, looking down sadly and
thoughtfully. Darrel was first to speak.

"Did it ever occur to ye, Martha Vaughn, this child o' thine is
near a woman but has seen nothing o' the world ?"

"I think of that often," said she, the mother's feeling in her
voice.

"Well, if I understand him, it's a point of honour with the boy not
to pledge her to marriage until she has seen more o' life an' made
sure of her own heart. Now, consider this: let her go to the
school at Hillsborough, an' I'll pay the cost."

The widow looked up at him without speaking.

"I'm an old man near the end o' this journey, an' ye've known me
many years," Darrel went on. "There's nothing can be said against
it. Nay; I'll have no thanks. Would ye thank the money itself,
the bits o' paper? No; nor Roderick Darrel, who, in this business,
is no more worthy o' gratitude. Hush! who comes?"

It was Polly herself in a short, red skirt, her arms bare to the
elbows. She began to busy herself about the house.

"Too bad you took off that pretty dress, Polly," said Trove, when
he returned.

She came near and whispered to him.

"This," said she, looking down sadly, "is like the one I wore when
you first came."

"Well, first I thought of your arms," said he, "they were so
lovely! Then of your eyes and face and gown, but now I think only
of the one thing,--Polly."

The girl was happy, now, and went on with the work, singing, while
Trove lent a hand.

A score of people came up the hill from Pleasant Valley that night.
Tunk went after the old maids and came with them in the chaise at
supper time. There were two wagon-loads of young people, and,
before dusk, men and their wives came sauntering up the roadway and
in at the little gate.

Two or three of the older men wore suits of black broadcloth, the
stock and rolling collar--relics of "old decency" back in Vermont
or Massachusetts or Connecticut. Most were in rough homespun over
white shirts with no cuffs or collar. All gathered about Darrel,
who sat smoking outside the door. He rose and greeted each one of
the women with a bow and a compliment. The tinker was a man of
unfailing courtesy, and one thing in him was extremely odd,--even
there in that land of pure democracy,--he treated a scrub-woman
with the same politeness he would have accorded the finest lady.
But he was in no sense a flatterer; none that saw him often were
long in ignorance of that. His rebuke was even quicker than his
compliment, as many had reason to know. And there was another
curious thing about Darrel,--these people and many more loved him,
gathering about his chair as he tinkered, hearing with delight the
lore and wisdom of his tongue, but, after all, there were none that
knew him now any better than the first day he came. A certain wall
of dignity was ever between him and them.

Half an hour before dark, the yard was thronged with people. They
listened with smiles or a faint ripple of merry feeling as he
greeted each.

"Good evening, Mrs. Beach," he would say. "Ah! the snow is falling
on thy head. An' the sunlight upon thine, dear girl," he added,
taking the hand of the woman's daughter.

"An' here's Mr. Tilly back from the far west," he continued. "How
fare ye, sor?"

"I'm well, but a little too fat," said Thurston Tilly.

"Well, sor, unless it make thy heart heavy, be content.

"Good evening, Mrs. Hooper,--that is a cunning hand with the pies.

"Ah, Mrs. Rood, may the mouse never leave thy meal bag with a tear
in his eye.

"Not a gray hair in thy head, Miss Tower, nor even a gray thought.

"An' here's Mrs. Barbour--'twill make me sweat to carry me pride
now. How goes the battle?"

"The Lord has given me sore affliction," said she.

"Nay, dear woman," said the tinker in that tone so kindly and
resistless, "do not think the Lord is hitting thee over the ears.
It is the law o' life.

"Good evening, Elder, what is the difference between thy work an'
mine?"

"I hadn't thought of that."

"Ah, thine is the dial of eternity--mine that o' time." And so he
greeted all and sat down, filling his pipe.

"Now, Weston, out with the merry fiddle," said he, "an' see it give
us happy thoughts."

A few small boys were gathered about him, and the tinker began to
hum an Irish reel, fingers and forearm flying as he played an
imaginary fiddle. But, even now, his dignity had not left him.
The dance began. All were in the little house or at the two doors,
peering in, save Darrel, who sat with his pipe, and Thurston Tilly,
who was telling him tales of the far west. In the lull of sound
that followed the first figure, Trove came to look out upon them.
A big, golden moon had risen above the woods, and the light and
music and merry voices had started a sleepy twitter up in the dome
of Robin's Inn.

"Do you see that scar?" he heard Tilly saying.

"I do, sor."

"Well, a man shot me there."

"An' what for?" the tinker inquired.

"I was telling him a story. It cured me. Do you carry a gun?"

"I do not, sor."

"Wal, then, I'll tell you about the man I work for."

Tunk, who had been outside the door in his best clothes, but who,
since he put them on, had looked as if he doubted the integrity of
his suspenders and would not come in the house, began to laugh
loudly.

"That man Tunk can see the comedy in all but himself," was Trove's
thought, as he returned with a smile of amusement.

Soon Trove and Polly came out and stood a while by the lilac bush,
at the gate.

"You worry me, Sidney Trove," said she, looking off at the moonlit
fields.

Then came a silence full of secret things, like the silences of
their first meeting, there by the same gate, long ago. This one,
however, had a vibration that seemed to sting them.

"I am sorry," said he, with a sigh.

Another silence in which the heart of the girl was feeling for the
secret in his.

"You are so sad, so different," she whispered.

Polly waited full half a minute for his answer. Then she touched
her eyes with her handkerchief, turned impatiently, and went
halfway to the door. Darrel caught her hand, drawing her near him.

"Give me thy hand, boy," said he to Trove, now on his way to the
door.

He stood with his arms around the two.

"Every shadow hath the wings o' light," he whispered. "Listen."

The house rang with laughter and the music of Money Musk.

"'Tis the golden bell of happiness," said he, presently. "Go an'
ring it. Nay--first a kiss."

He drew them close together, and they kissed each other's lips, and
with smiling faces went in to join the dance.

XXIX

Again the Uphill Road

Again the middle of September and the beginning of the fall term.
Trove had gone to his old lodgings at Hillsborough, and Polly was
boarding in the village, for she, too, was now in the uphill road
to higher learning. None, save Darrel, knew the secret of the
young man,--that he was paying her board and tuition. The thought
of it made him most happy; but now, seeing her every day had given
him a keener sense of that which had come between them. He sat
much in his room and had little heart for study. It was a cosey
room now. His landlady had hung rude pictures on the wall and
given him a rag carpet. On the table were pieces of clear quartz
and tourmaline and, about each window-frame, odd nests of bird or
insect--souvenirs of wood-life and his travel with the drove.
There, too, on the table were mementos of that first day of his
teaching,--the mirror spectacles with which he had seen at once
every corner of the schoolroom, the sling-shot and bar of iron he
had taken from the woodsman, Leblanc.

One evening of his first week at Hillsborough that term, Darrel
came to sit with him a while.

"An' what are these?" said the tinker, at length, his hand upon the
shot and iron.

"I do not know."

"Dear boy," said Darrel, "they're from the kit of a burglar, an'
how came they here?"

"I took them from Louis Leblanc," said the young man, who then told
of his adventure that night.

"Louis Leblanc!" exclaimed Darrel. "The scamp an' his family have
cleared out."

The tinker turned quickly, his hand upon the wrist of the young man.

"These things are not for thee to have," he whispered. "Had ye no
thought o' the danger?"

Trove began to change colour.

"I can prove how I came by them," he stammered.

"What is thy proof?" Darrel whispered again.

"There are Leblanc's wife and daughter."

"Ah, where are they? There be many would like to know."

The young man thought a moment.

"Well, Tunk Hosely, there at Mrs. Vaughn's."

"Tunk Hosely!" exclaimed the tinker, with a look that seemed to
say, "God save the mark! An' would they believe him, think?"

Trove began to look troubled as Darrel left him.

"I'll go and drop them in the river," said Trove to himself.

It was eleven o'clock and the street dark and deserted as he left
his room.

"It is a cowardly thing to do," the young man thought as he walked
slowly, but he could devise no better way to get rid of them.

In the middle of the big, open bridge, he stopped to listen.
Hearing only the sound of the falls below, Trove took the odd tools
from under his coat and flung them over the rail.

He turned then, walking slowly off the bridge and up the main
street, of Hillsborough. At a corner he stopped to listen. His
ear had caught the sound of steps far behind him. He could hear it
no longer, and went his way, with a troubled feeling that robbed
him of rest that night. In a day or two it wore off, and soon he
was hold of the bit, as he was wont to say, and racing for the lead
in his work. He often walked to school with Polly and went to
church with her every Sunday night. There had been not a word of
love between them, however, since they came to the village, until
one evening she said:--

"I am very unhappy, and I wish I were home."

"Why?"

She was not able to answer for a moment.

"I know I am unworthy of you," she whispered.

His lungs shook him with a deep and tremulous inspiration. For a
little he could not answer.

"That is why you do not love me?" she whispered again.

"I do love you," he said with a strong effort to control himself,
"but I am not worthy to touch the hem of your garment."

"Tell me why, Sidney?"

"Some day--I do not know when--I will tell you all. And if you can
love me after that, we shall both be happy."

"Tell me now," she urged.

"I cannot," said he, "but if you only trust me, Polly, you shall
know. If you will not trust me--"

He paused, looking down at the snow path.

"Good night!" he added presently.

They kissed and parted, each going to the company of bitter tears.

As of old, Trove had many a friend,--school-fellows who came of an
evening, now and then, for his help in some knotty problem. All
saw a change in him. He had not the enthusiasm and good cheer of
former days, and some ceased to visit him. Moreover they were free
to say that Trove was getting a big head. For one thing, he had
become rather careless about his clothes,--a new trait in him, for
he had the gift of pride and the knack of neatness.

A new student sought his acquaintance the very first week of the
term,--that rather foppish young man who got off the cars at
Hillsborough the day of their first coming. He was from Buffalo,
and, although twenty-two years of age, was preparing to enter
college. His tales of the big city and his frank good-fellowship
made him a welcome guest. Soon he was known to all as "Dick"--his
name being Richard Roberts. It was not long before Dick knew
everybody and everybody knew Dick, including Polly, and thought him
a fine fellow. Soon Trove came to know that when he was detained a
little after school Dick went home with Polly. That gave him no
concern, however, until Dick ceased to visit him, and he saw a
change in the girl.

One day, two letters came for Trove. They were in girlish
penmanship and bore no signature, but stung him to the quick.

"For Heaven's sake get a new hat," said one.

"You are too handsome to neglect your clothes," said the other.

As he read them, his cheeks were burning with his shame. He went
for his hat and looked it over carefully. It was faded, and there
was a little rent in the crown. His boots were tapped and mended,
his trousers threadbare at the knee, and there were two patches on
his coat.

"I hadn't thought of it," said he, with a sigh. Then he went for a
talk with Darrel.

"Did you ever see a more shabby-looking creature?" he inquired, as
Darrel came to meet him. "I am so ashamed of myself I'd like to go
lie in your wood box while I talk to you."

"'What hempen homespun have we swaggering here?'" Darrel quoted in
a rallying voice.

"I'll tell you." Trove began.

"Nay, first a roundel," said the tinker, as he began to shuffle his
feet to the measure of an old fairy song.

"If one were on his way to the gallows, you would make him laugh,"
said Trove, smiling.

"An I could, so would I," said the old man. "A smile, boy, hath in
it 'some relish o' salvation.' Now, tell me, what is thy trouble?"

"I'm going to leave school," said Trove.

"An' wherefore?"

"I'm sick of this pinching poverty. Look at my clothes; I thought
I could make them do, but I can't."

He put the two notes in Darrel's hand. The tinker wiped his
spectacles and then read them both.

"Tut, tut, boy!" said he, presently, with a very grave look. "Have
ye forgotten the tatters that were as a badge of honour an'
success? Weeks ago I planned to find thee better garments, but, on
me word, I had no heart for it. Nay, these old ones had become
dear to me. I was proud o' them--ay, boy, proud o' them. When I
saw the first patch on thy coat, said I, 'It is the little ensign
o' generosity.' Then came another, an', said I, 'That is for honour
an' true love,' an' these bare threads--there is no loom can weave
the like o' them. Nay, boy," Darrel added, lifting an arm of the
young man and kissing one of the patches, "be not ashamed o'
these--they're beautiful, ay, beautiful. They stand for the
dollars ye gave Polly."

Trove turned away, wiping his eyes.

He looked down at his coat and trousers and began to wonder if he
were, indeed, worthy to wear them.

"I'm not good enough for them," said he, "but you've put new heart
in me, and I shall not give up. I'll wear them as long as I can
make them do, and girls can say what they please."

"The magpies!" said Darrel. "When they have a thought for every
word they utter, Lord! there'll be then a second Sabbath in the
week."

Next evening Trove went to see Polly.

As he was leaving, she held his hand in both of hers and looked
down, blushing deeply, as if there were something she would say,
had she only the courage.

"What is it, Polly?" said he.

"Will you--will you let me buy you a new hat?" said she, soberly,
and hesitating much between words.

He thought a moment, biting his lip.

"I'd rather you wouldn't, Polly," said he, looking down at the
faded hat. "I know it's shabby, but, after all, I'm fond o' the
old thing. I love good clothes, but I can't afford them now."

Then he bade her good night and came away.

XXX

Evidence

It was court week, and the grand jury was in session. There were
many people in the streets of the shire town. They moved with a
slow foot, some giving their animation to squints of curiosity and
shouts of recognition, some to profanity and plug tobacco. Squire
Day and Colonel Judson were to argue the famous maple-sugar case,
and many causes of local celebrity were on the calendar.

There were men with the watchful eye of the hunter, ever looking
for surprises. They moved with caution, for here, indeed, were
sights and perils greater than those of the timber land. Here
were houses, merchants, lawyers, horse-jockeys, whiskey, women.
They knew the thickets and all the wild creatures that lived in
them, but these things of the village were new and strange. They
came out of the stores and, after expectorating, stood a moment
with their hands in their pockets, took a long look to the right
and a long look to the left and threw a glance into the sky, and
then examined the immediate foreground. If satisfied, they began
to move slowly one way or the other and, meeting hunters presently,
would ask:--

"Here fer yer bounties?"

"Here fer my bounties," another would say. Then they both took a
long look around them.

"Wish't I was back t' the shanty."

"So do I."

"Scares me."

"Too many houses an' too many women folks."

"An' if ye wan' t' git a meal o' vittles, it costs ye three
mushrats."

Night and morning the tavern offices were full of smart-looking
men,--lawyers from every village in the county, who, having dropped
the bitter scorn of the court room, now sat gossiping in a cloud of
tobacco smoke, rent with thunder-peals of laughter and lightning
flashes of wit. Teams of farmer folk filled the sheds and were
tied to hitching-posts, up and down the main thoroughfare of the
village. Every day rough-clad, brawny men led their little sons to
the courthouse.

"Do ye see that man with the spectacles and the bald head?" they
had been wont to whisper, when seated in the court room, "that air
man twistin' his hair,--that's Silas Wright; an' that tall man that
jes' sot down?--that's John L. Russell. Now I want ye t' listen,
careful. Mebbe ye'll be a lawyer, sometime, yerself, as big as any
of 'em."

The third day of that week--it was about the middle of the
afternoon--a score of men, gossiping in the lower hall of the court
building, were hushed suddenly. A young man came hurrying down the
back stairs with a look of excitement.

"What's up?" said one.

"Sidney Trove is indicted," was the answer of the young man.

He ran out of doors and down the street. People began crowding out
of the court room. Information, surprise, and conjecture--a kind
of flood pouring out of a broken dam--rushed up and down the forty
streets of the village. Soon, as of old, many were afloat and some
few were drowning in it. For a little, busy hands fell limp and
feet grew slow and tongues halted. A group of school-girls on
their way home were suddenly overtaken by the onrushing tide. They
came close together and whispered. Then a little cry of despair,
and one of them fell and was borne into a near house. A young man
ran up the stairway at the Sign of the Dial and rapped loudly at
Darrel's door, Trove and the tinker were inside.

"Old fellow," said the newcomer, his hand upon Trove's arm,
"they've voted to indict you, and I've seen all the witnesses."

Trove had a book in his hand. He rose calmly and flung it on the
table.

"It's an outrage," said he, with a sigh.

"Nay, an honour," said Darrel, quickly. "Hold up thy head, boy.
The laurel shall take the place o' the frown."

He turned to the bearer of these evil tidings.

"Have ye more knowledge o' the matter?"

"Yes, all day I have been getting hold of their evidence," said the
newcomer, a law student, who was now facing his friend Trove. "In
the first place, it was a man of blue eyes and about your build who
broke into the bank at Milldam. It is the sworn statement of the
clerk, who has now recovered. He does not go so far as to say you
are the man, but does say it was a man like you that assaulted him.
It appears the robber had his face covered with a red bandanna
handkerchief in which square holes were cut so he could see
through. The clerk remembers it was covered with a little white
figure--that of a log cabin. Such a handkerchief was sold years
ago in the campaign of Harrison, but has gone out of use. Not a
store in the county has had them since '45. The clerk fired upon
him with a pistol, and thinks he wounded him in the left forearm.
In their fight the robber struck him with a sling-shot, and he
fell, and remembers nothing more until he came to in the dark
alone. The skin was cut in little squares, where the shot struck
him, and that is one of the strong points against you."

"Against me?" said Trove.

"Yes--that and another. It seems the robber left behind him one
end of a bar of iron. The other end of the same bar and a
sling-shot--the very one that probably felled the clerk--have been
found."

The speaker rose and walked half across the room and back, looking
down thoughtfully.

"I tell ye what, old fellow," said he, sitting down again, "it is
mighty strange. If I didn't know you well, I'd think you guilty.
Here comes a detective who says under oath that one night he saw
you come out of your lodgings, about eleven o'clock, and walk to
the middle of the bridge and throw something into the water. Next
morning bar and shot were found. As nearly as he could make out
they lay directly under the place where you halted."

Darrel sat looking thoughtfully at the speaker.

"A detective ?" said Trove, rising erect, a stern look upon him.

"Yes--Dick Roberts."

"Roberts, a detective!" said Trove, in a whisper. Then he turned
to Darrel, adding, "I shall have to find the Frenchman."

"Louis Leblanc?" the young man asked.

"Louis Leblanc," Trove answered with surprise.

"He has been found," said the other.

"Then I shall be able to prove my point. He came to his home drunk
one night and began to bully his family. I was boarding with the
Misses Tower and went over and took the shot and iron from his
hands and got him into bed. The woman begged me to bring them
away."

"He declares that he never saw the shot or the iron."

Darrel rose and drew his chair a bit nearer.

"Very well, but there's the wife," said he, quickly.

"She will swear, too, that she never saw them."

"And how about the daughter?" Trove inquired.

"Run away and nowhere to be found," was the answer of the other
young man. "I've told you bad news enough, but there's more, and
you ought to know it all. Louis Leblanc is in Quebec, and he says
that a clock tinker lent him money with which to leave the States."

"It was I, an' God bring him to repentance--the poor beggar!" said
Darrel. "He agreed to repay me within a fortnight an' was in sore
distress, but he ran away, an' I got no word o' him."

"Well, the inference is, that you, being a friend of the accused,
were trying to help him."

"I'm caught in a web," said Trove, leaning forward, his head upon
his hands, "and Leblanc's wife is the spider. How about the money?
Have they been able to identify it?"

"In part, yes; there's one bill that puzzles them. It's that of an
old bank in New York City that failed years ago and went out of
business."

Then a moment of silence and that sound of the clocks--like
footsteps of a passing caravan, some slow and heavy, some quick, as
if impatient to be gone.

"Ye speeding seconds!" said Darrel, as he crossed to the bench.
"Still thy noisy feet."

Then he walked up and down, thinking.

The friend of Sidney Trove put on his hat and stood by the door.

"Don't forget," said he, "you have many friends, or I should not be
able to tell you these things. Keep them to yourself and go to
work. Of course you will be able to prove your innocence."

"I thank you with all my heart," said Trove.

"Ay, 'twas friendly," the old man remarked, taking the boy's hand.

"I have to put my trust in Tunk--the poor liar!" said Trove, when
they were alone.

"No," Darrel answered quickly. "Were ye drowning, ye might as well
lay hold of a straw. Trust in thy honour; it is enough."

"Let's go and see Polly," said the young man.

"Ay, she o' the sweet heart," said the tinker; "we'll go at once."

They left the shop, and on every street they travelled there were
groups of men gossiping. Some nodded, others turned away, as the
two passed. Dick Roberts met them at the door of the house where
Polly boarded.

"I wish to see Miss Vaughn," said Trove, coolly.

"She is ill," said Roberts.

"Could I not see her for a moment?" Trove inquired.

"No."

"Is she very sick?"

"Very."

Darrel came close to Roberts. He looked sternly at the young man.

"Boy," said he, with great dignity, his long forefinger raised,
"within a day ye shall be clothed with shame."

"They were strange words," Trove thought, as they walked away in
silence; and when they had come to the little shop it was growing
dusk.

"What have I done to bring this upon me and my friends?" said
Trove, sinking into a chair.

"It is what I have done," said Darrel; "an' now I take the mantle
o' thy shame. Rise, boy, an' hold up thy head."

The old man stood erect by the side of the young man.

"See, I am as tall an' broad as thou art."

He went to an old chest and got a cap and drew it down upon his
head, pushing his gray hair under it. Then he took from his pocket
a red bandanna handkerchief, figured with a cabin, tying it over
his face. He turned, looking at Trove through two square holes in
the handkerchief.

"Behold the robber!" said he.

"You know who is the robber?" Trove inquired.

Darrel raised the handkerchief and flung it back upon his head.

"'Tis Roderick Darrel," said he, his hand now on the shoulder of
the young man.

For a moment both stood looking into each other's eyes.

"What joke is this, my friend?" Trove whispered.

"I speak not lightly, boy. If where ye thought were honour an'
good faith, there be only guilt an' shame, can ye believe in
goodness?"

For his answer there were silence and the ticking of the clocks.

"Surely ye can an' will," said the old man, "for there is the
goodness o' thy own heart. Ah, boy, though I have it not, remember
that I loved honour an' have sought to fill thee with it. This
night I go where ye cannot follow."

The tinker turned, halting a pendulum.

Trove groaned as he spoke, "O man, tell me, quickly, what do you
mean?"

"That God hath laid his hand upon me," said Darrel, sternly. "I
cannot see thee suffer, boy, when I am the guilty one. O Redeemer
o' the world! haste me, haste me now to punishment."

The young man staggered, like one dazed by the shock of a blow,
stepped backward, and partly fell on a lounge against the wall.
Darrel came and bent over him. Trove sat leaning, his hand on the
lounge, staring up at the tinker, his eyes dreadful and amazed.

"You, you will confess and go to prison!" he whispered.

"Fair soul!" said the old man, stroking the boy's head, "think not
o' me. Where I go there be flowers--lovely flowers! an' music, an'
the bards an' prophets. Though I go to punishment, still am I in
the Blessed Isles."

"You are doing it to save me," Trove whispered, taking the hand of
the old man. "I'll not permit it. I'll go to prison first."

"Am I so great a fool, think ye, as to claim an evil that is not
mine? An' would ye keep in me the burning o' remorse when I seek
to quench it? I warn thee, meddle not with the business o' me
soul. That is between the great God an' me."

Darrel stood to his full height, the red handkerchief covering his
head and falling on his back. He began with a tone of contempt
that changed quickly into one of sharp command. There was a little
silence and then a quick rap.

"Come in," Darrel shouted, as he let the handkerchief fall upon his
face again.

The district attorney, a constable, and the bank clerk, who had
been injured the night of the robbery, came in.

"He is not guilty," said Trove, rising quickly.

"I command ye, boy, be silent," said Darrel, sternly.

"Have ye ever seen that hand," he added, approaching the clerk, and
pointing at a red mark as large as a dime on the back of his left
hand.

"Yes," the clerk answered with surprise, looking from hand to
handkerchief. Then, turning to the lawyer, he added, "This is the
man."

"Now," Darrel continued, rolling up his sleeve, "I'll show where
thy bullet struck me in the left arm. See, there it seared the
flesh!"

They saw a star, quite an inch long, midway from hand to elbow,

"Do you mean to say that you are guilty of this crime?" the
attorney asked.

"I am guilty and ready for punishment," Darrel answered. "Now,
discharge the boy."

"To-morrow," said the attorney. "That is for the court to do."

Darrel went to Trove, who now sat weeping, his face upon his hands.

"Oh the great river o' tears!" said Darrel, touching the boy's
head. "Beyond it are the green shores of happiness, an' I have
crossed, an' soon shalt thou. Stop, boy, it ill becomes thee.
There is a dear, dear child whose heart is breaking. Go an'
comfort her."

Trove sat as if he had not heard. The tinker went to his table and
hurriedly wrote a line or two, folding and directing it.

"Go quickly, boy, an' tell her, an' then take this to Riley Brooke
for me."

The young man struggled a moment for self-mastery, rose with a sigh
and a stern look, and put on his hat.

"It is about bail?" said he, in a whisper.

"Yes," Darrel answered.

Trove hurried away. A woman met him at the door, within which
Polly boarded.

"Is she better?" Trove asked.

"Yes; but has asked me to say that she does not wish to see you."

Trove stood a moment, his tongue halting between anger and
surprise. He turned without a word, walking away, a bitter
feeling in his heart.

Brooke greeted him with unexpected heartiness. He was going to bed
when the young man rapped upon his door.

Brooke opened the letter and read the words aloud: "Thanks, I shall
not need thy help."

"What!" Trove exclaimed.

"He says he shall not need the help I offered him," Brooke answered.

"Good night!" said Trove, who, turning, left the house and hurried
away. Lights were out everywhere in the village now. The windows
were dark at the Sign of the Dial. He hurried up the old stairs
and rapped loudly, but none came to admit him. He called and
listened; within there were only silence and that old, familiar
sound of the seconds trooping by, some with short and some with
long steps. He knew that soon they were to grow faint and weary
and pass no more that way. He ran to the foot of the stairs and
stood a moment hesitating. Then he walked slowly to the county
jail and looked up at the dark and silent building. For a little
time he leaned upon a fence, there in the still night, shaken with
sobs. Then he began walking up and down by the jail yard. He had
not slept an hour in weeks and was weary, but he could not bear to
come away and walked slower as the night wore on, hearing only the
tread of his own feet. He knew not where to go and was drifting up
and down, like a derelict in the sea. By and by people began to
pass him,--weary crowds,--and they were pointing at the patches on
his coat, and beneath them he could feel a kind of burning, but the
crowd was dumb. He tried to say, "I am not to blame," but his
heart smote him when it was half said. Then, suddenly, many people
were beside him, and far ahead on a steep hill, in dim, gray light,
he could see Darrel toiling upward. And sometimes the tinker
turned, beckoning him to follow. And Trove ran, but the way was
long between them. And the tinker called to him; "Who drains the
cup of another's bitterness shall find it sweet." Quickly he was
alone, groping for his path in black darkness and presently coming
down a stairway into the moonlit chamber of his inheritance. Then
the men of the dark and a feeling of faintness and great surprise
and a broad, blue field all about him and woods in the distance,
and above the growing light of dawn. His bones were aching with
illness and overwork, his feet sore. "I have been asleep," he
said, rubbing his eyes, "and all night I have been walking."

He was in the middle of a broad field. He went on slowly and soon
fell of weakness and lay for a time with his eyes closed. He could
hear the dull thunder of approaching hoofs; then he felt a silky
muzzle touching his cheek and the tickle of a horse's mane. He
looked up at the animal, feeling her face and neck. "You feel like
Phyllis, but you are not Phyllis--you are all white," said the
young man, as he patted her muzzle. He could hear other horses
coming, and quickly she, that was bending over him, reared with an
open mouth and drove them away. She returned again, her long mane
falling on his face. "Don't step on me," he entreated. "'Remember
in the day o' judgment God'll mind the look o' yer master.'" He
took hold of those long, soft threads, and the horse lifted him
gently to his feet, and they walked, his arm about her neck, his
face in the ravelled silk of her mane. "I don't know whose horse
you are, even, or where you are taking me," he said. They went
down a long lane and came at length to a bar-way, and Trove crawled
through.

He saw near him a great white house--one he had never seen
before--and a beautiful lady in the doorway. He turned toward her,
and it seemed a long journey to the door, although he knew it was
only a few paces. He fell heavily on the steps, and the woman gave
a little cry of alarm. She came quickly and bent over him. His
clothes were torn, his face pale and haggard, his eyes closed.

"I am sick," he whispered faintly.

"Theron! Theron! come here! Sidney is sick," he heard her calling.

"Is it you, mother?" the boy whispered, feeling her face. "I
thought it was a great, white mansion here, and that you--that you
were an angel."

XXXI

A Man Greater than his Trouble

For a month the young man lay burning with fever, his brain boiled
in hot blood until things hideous and terrible were swarming out of
it, as if it were being baned of dragons. Two months had passed
before he was able to leave his bed. He remembered only the glow
of an Indian summer morning on wood and field, but when he rose
they were all white with snow. For weeks he had listened to the
howl of the fir trees and had seen the frost gathering on his
window, but knew not how swiftly the days had gone, so that when he
looked out of doors and saw the midwinter he was filled with
astonishment.

"I must go," said he.

"Not yet, my boy," said Mary Allen. "You, are not strong enough."

"Darrel has taken my trouble on him, and I must go."

"I have heard you say it often since you fell on the doorstep,"
said she, stroking his hand. "There is a letter from him;" and she
brought the letter and put it in his hands. Trove opened it
eagerly and read as follows:--

"DEAR SIDNEY: It is Sunday night and all day I have been walking in
the Blessed Isles. And one was the Blessed Isle of remembrance
where I met thee and we talked of all good things. If I knew it
were well with thee I should be quite happy, boy, quite happy. I
was a bit weary of travel and all the roads had grown long. I miss
the tick of the clocks, but my work is easy and I have excellent
good friends. I send thee my key. Please deliver the red, tall
clock to Betsy Hale, who lives on the road to Waterbury Hill, and
kindly take that cheerful youngster from Connecticut--the one with
the walnut case and a brass pendulum--to Mrs. Henry Watson. You
remember that ill-tempered Dutch thing, with a loud gong and a
white dial, please take that to Harry Warner, I put some work on
them all but there's no charge. The other clocks belong to me. Do
with them as thou wilt and with all that is mine. The rent is paid
to April. Then kindly surrender the key. Now can ye do all this
for a man suffering the just punishment of many sins? I ask it for
old friendship and to increase the charity I saw growing in thy
heart long ago. At last I have word of thy father. He died a
peaceful, happy death, having restored the wealth that cursed him
to its owner. For his sake an' thine I am glad to know it. Now
between thee and the dear Polly there is no shadow. Tell her
everything. May the good God bless and keep thee; but the long
road of Happiness, that ye must seek and find.

"Yours truly,
"R. DARREL of the Blessed Isles."

Trove read the letter many times, and, as he grew strong, he began
to think with clearness and deliberation of his last night in
Hillsborough. Darrel was the greatest problem of all. Pondering
he saw, or thought he saw, the bottom of it. Events were coming,
however, that robbed him utterly of his conceit and all the hope it
gave him. The sad lines about his father kept him ever in some
doubt. A week more, and he was in the cutter one morning, behind
Phyllis, on his way to Robin's Inn. As he drew up at the old,
familiar gate the boys ran out to meet him. Somehow they were not
the same boys--they were a bit more sober and timid. Tunk came
with a "Glad to see ye, mister," and took the mare. The widow
stood in the doorway, smiling sadly.

"How is Polly?" said Trove.

For a moment there was no answer. He walked slowly to the steps,
knowing well that some new blow was about to fall upon him.

"She is better, but has been very sick," said the widow.

Trove sat down without speaking and threw his coat open.

"You, too, have been very sick," said Mrs. Vaughn.

"Yes, very," said he.

"I heard of it and went to your home one day, but you didn't know
me."

"Tell me, where is Polly?"

"In school, and I am much worried."

"Why?"

"Well, she's pretty, and the young men will not let her alone.
There's one determined she shall marry him."

"Is she engaged?"'

"No, but--but, sir, I think she is nearly heartbroken."

"I'm sorry," said Trove. "Not that she may choose another, but
that she lost faith in me."

"Poor child! Long ago she thought you had ceased to love her,"
said the widow, her voice trembling,

"I loved her as I can never love again," said he, his elbow resting
on a table, his head leaning on his hand. He spoke calmly.

"Don't let it kill you, boy," said she.

"No," he answered. "A man must be greater than his trouble; I have
work to do, and I shall not give up. May I go and see Polly?"

"Not now," said the widow, "give her time to find her own way. If
you deserve her love it will return to you."

"I fear that you, too, have lost faith in me," said Trove.

"No," she answered, "but surely Darrel is not the guilty one. It's
all such a mystery."

"Mrs. Vaughn, do not suffer yourself to think evil of me or of
Darrel. If I do lose your daughter, I hope I may not lose your
good opinion." The young man spoke earnestly and his eyes were wet.

"I shall not think evil of you," said the woman.

Trove stood a moment, his hand upon the latch.

"If there's anything I can do for you or for Polly," said he, "I
should like to know it. Let's hope for the best. Some day you
must let me come and--" he hesitated, his voice failing him for a
moment, "and play a game of checkers," he added.

Paul stood looking up at him sadly, his face troubled.

"It's an evil day when the heart of a child is heavy," said Trove,
bending over the boy. "What is the first law, Paul?"

"Thou shalt learn to obey," said the boy, quickly.

"And who is the great master?"

"Yourself."

"Right, boy! Let's command our hearts to be happy."

The great, bare maple was harping dolefully in the wind. Trove
went for the mare, and Tunk rode down the hill with him in the
cutter.

"Things here ain't what they used t' be," said Tunk.

"No?"

"Widder, she takes on awful. Great changes!"

There was a moment of silence.

"I ain't the same dum fool I used t' be," Tunk added presently.

"What's happened to you?"

"Well, they tol' me what you said about lyin'. Ye know a man in
the hoss business is apt t' git a leetle careless, but I ain't no
such dum fool as I used t' be. Have you heard that Teesey Tower
was married?"

"The old maid?"

"Yes, sir; the ol' maid, to Deacon Haskins, an' he lives with 'em,
an' now they're jes like other folks. Never was so surprised since
I was first kicked by a hoss."

Tunk's conscience revived suddenly and seemed to put its hand over
his mouth.

"Joe Beach is goin' to be a doctor," Tunk went on presently.

"I advised him to study medicine," Trove answered.

"He's gone off t' school at Milldam an' is workin' like a beaver.
He was purty rambunctious 'til you broke him to lead."

They rode then to the foot of the hill in silence.

"Seems so everything was changed," Tunk added as he left the
cutter. "Ez Tower has crossed the Fadden bridge. Team run away
an' snaked him over. They say he don't speak to his hosses now."

Trove went on thoughtfully. Some of Tunk Hosely's talk had been as
bread for his hunger, as a harvest, indeed, giving both seed and
sustenance. More clearly than ever he saw before him the great
field of life where was work and the joy of doing it. For a time
he would be a teacher, but first there were other things to do.

XXXII

The Return of Thurst Tilly

Trove sat in council with Mary and Theron Allen. He was now in
debt to the doctor; he needed money, also, for clothing and boots
and an enterprise all had been discussing.

"I'll give you three hundred dollars for the mare," said Allen.

Trove sat in thoughtful silence, and, presently, Allen went out of
doors. The woman got her savings and brought them to her son.

"There is twenty-three dollars, an' it may help you," she whispered.

"No, mother; I can't take it," said the young man. "I owe you more
now than I can ever pay. I shall have to sell the mare. It's a
great trial to me, but--but I suppose honour is better than horses."

"Well, I've a surprise for you," said she, bringing a roll of cloth
from the bedroom. "Those two old maids spun the wool, and I wove
it, and, see, it's all been fulled."

"You're as good as gold, mother, and so are they. It's grand to
wear in the country, but I'm going away and ought to have an extra
good suit. I'd like to look as fine as any of the village boys,
and they don't wear homespun. But I'll have plenty of use for it."

Next day he walked to Jericho Mills and paid the doctor. He went
on to Milldam, buying there a handsome new outfit of clothing.
Then he called to see the President of the bank--that one which had
set the dogs of the law on him.

"You know I put three thousand dollars in the bank of
Hillsborough," said Trove, when he sat facing the official. "I
took the money there, believing it to be mine. If, however, it is
yours, I wish to turn it over to you."

"It is not our money," said the President. "That bundle was sent
here, and we investigated every bill--a great task, for there were
some three hundred of them. Many are old bills and two the issue
of banks gone out of business. It's all a very curious problem.
They would not have received this money, but they knew of the
robbery and suspected you at once. Now we believe absolutely in
your honour."

"I shall put that beyond all question," said Trove, rising.

He took the cars to Hillsborough. There he went to the Sign of the
Dial and built a fire in its old stove. The clocks were now
hushed. He found those Darrel had written of and delivered them.
Returning, he began to wind the cherished clocks of the tinker--old
ones he had gathered here and there in his wandering--and to start
their pendulums. One of them--a tall clock in the corner with a
calendar-dial--had this legend on the inner side of its door:--

"Halted in memory of a good man,
Its hands pointing to the moment of his death,
Its voice hushed in his honour."

Trove shut the door of the old clock and hurried to the public
attorney's office, where he got the address of Leblanc. He met
many who shook his hand warmly and gave him a pleasant word. He
was in great fear of meeting Polly, and thought of what he should
do and say if he came face to face with her. Among others he met
the school principal.

"Coming back to work?" the latter inquired.

"No, sir; I've got to earn money."

"We need another teacher, and I'll recommend you."

"I'm much obliged, but I couldn't come before the fall term," said
Trove.

"I'll try to keep the place for you," said his friend, as they
parted.

Trove came slowly down the street, thinking how happy he could be
now, if Darrel were free and Polly had only trusted him. Near the
Sign of the Dial he met Thurston Tilly.

"Back again?" Trove inquired.

"Back again. Boss gi'n up farmin'."

"Did he make his fortune?"

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