Part 1 out of 4
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A STORY OF THE EARLY DAYS IN GLENGARRY
by RALPH CONNOR
I. THE SPELLING-MATCH
II. THE DEEPOLE
III. THE EXAMINATION
IV. THE NEW MASTER
V. THE CRISIS
VI. "ONE THAT RULETH WELL HIS OWN HOUSE"
VIII. FOXY'S PARTNER
IX. HUGHIE'S EMANCIPATION
X. THE BEAR HUNT
XI. JOHN CRAVEN'S METHOD
XII. THE DOWNFALL
XIII. THE FIRST ROUND
XIV. THE FINAL ROUND
XV. THE RESULT
GLENGARRY SCHOOL DAYS
The "Twentieth" school was built of logs hewn on two sides. The
cracks were chinked and filled with plaster, which had a curious
habit of falling out during the summer months, no one knew how; but
somehow the holes always appeared on the boys' side, and being
there, were found to be most useful, for as looking out of the
window was forbidden, through these holes the boys could catch
glimpses of the outer world--glimpses worth catching, too, for all
around stood the great forest, the playground of boys and girls
during noon-hour and recesses; an enchanted land, peopled, not by
fairies, elves, and other shadowy beings of fancy, but with living
things, squirrels, and chipmunks, and weasels, chattering ground-
hogs, thumping rabbits, and stealthy foxes, not to speak of a host
of flying things, from the little gray-bird that twittered its
happy nonsense all day, to the big-eyed owl that hooted solemnly
when the moon came out. A wonderful place this forest, for
children to live in, to know, and to love, and in after days to
It was Friday afternoon, and the long, hot July day was drawing to
a weary close. Mischief was in the air, and the master, Archibald
Munro, or "Archie Murro," as the boys called him, was holding
himself in with a very firm hand, the lines about his mouth showing
that he was fighting back the pain which had never quite left him
from the day he had twisted his knee out of joint five years ago,
in a wrestling match, and which, in his weary moments, gnawed into
his vitals. He hated to lose his grip of himself, for then he knew
he should have to grow stern and terrifying, and rule these young
imps in the forms in front of him by what he called afterwards, in
his moments of self-loathing, "sheer brute force," and that he
always counted a defeat.
Munro was a born commander. His pale, intellectual face, with its
square chin and firm mouth, its noble forehead and deep-set gray
eyes, carried a look of such strength and indomitable courage that
no boy, however big, ever thought of anything but obedience when
the word of command came. He was the only master who had ever been
able to control, without at least one appeal to the trustees, the
stormy tempers of the young giants that used to come to school in
the winter months.
The school never forgot the day when big Bob Fraser "answered back"
in class. For, before the words were well out of his lips, the
master, with a single stride, was in front of him, and laying two
swift, stinging cuts from the rawhide over big Bob's back,
commanded, "Hold out your hand!" in a voice so terrible, and with
eyes of such blazing light, that before Bob was aware, he shot out
his hand and stood waiting the blow. The school never, in all its
history, received such a thrill as the next few moments brought;
for while Bob stood waiting, the master's words fell clear-cut upon
the dead silence, "No, Robert, you are too big to thrash. You are
a man. No man should strike you--and I apologize." And then big
Bob forgot his wonted sheepishness and spoke out with a man's
voice, "I am sorry I spoke back, sir." And then all the girls
began to cry and wipe their eyes with their aprons, while the
master and Bob shook hands silently. From that day and hour Bob
Fraser would have slain any one offering to make trouble for the
master, and Archibald Munro's rule was firmly established.
He was just and impartial in all his decisions, and absolute in his
control; and besides, he had the rare faculty of awakening in his
pupils an enthusiasm for work inside the school and for sports
But now he was holding himself in, and with set teeth keeping back
the pain. The week had been long and hot and trying, and this day
had been the worst of all. Through the little dirty panes of the
uncurtained windows the hot sun had poured itself in a flood of
quivering light all the long day. Only an hour remained of the
day, but that hour was to the master the hardest of all the week.
The big boys were droning lazily over their books, the little boys,
in the forms just below his desk, were bubbling over with spirits--
spirits of whose origin there was no reasonable ground for doubt.
Suddenly Hughie Murray, the minister's boy, a very special imp,
held up his hand.
"Well, Hughie," said the master, for the tenth time within the hour
replying to the signal.
The master hesitated. It would be a vast relief, but it was a
little like shirking. On all sides, however, hands went up in
support of Hughie's proposal, and having hesitated, he felt he must
surrender or become terrifying at once.
"Very well," he said; "Margaret Aird and Thomas Finch will act as
captains." At once there was a gleeful hubbub. Slates and books
were slung into desks.
"Order! or no spelling-match." The alternative was awful enough to
quiet even the impish Hughie, who knew the tone carried no idle
threat, and who loved a spelling-match with all the ardor of his
little fighting soul.
The captains took their places on each side of the school, and with
careful deliberation, began the selecting of their men, scanning
anxiously the rows of faces looking at the maps or out of the
windows and bravely trying to seem unconcerned. Chivalry demanded
that Margaret should have first choice. "Hughie Murray!" called
out Margaret; for Hughie, though only eight years old, had
preternatural gifts in spelling; his mother's training had done
that for him. At four he knew every Bible story by heart, and
would tolerate no liberties with the text; at six he could read the
third reader; at eight he was the best reader in the fifth; and to
do him justice, he thought no better of himself for that. It was
no trick to read. If he could only run, and climb, and swim, and
dive, like the big boys, then he would indeed feel uplifted; but
mere spelling and reading, "Huh! that was nothing."
"Ranald Macdonald!" called Thomas Finch, and a big, lanky boy of
fifteen or sixteen rose and marched to his place. He was a boy one
would look at twice. He was far from handsome. His face was long,
and thin, and dark, with a straight nose, and large mouth, and high
cheek-bones; but he had fine black eyes, though they were fierce,
and had a look in them that suggested the woods and the wild things
that live there. But Ranald, though his attendance was spasmodic,
and dependent upon the suitability or otherwise of the weather for
hunting, was the best speller in the school.
For that reason Margaret would have chosen him, and for another
which she would not for worlds have confessed, even to herself.
And do you think she would have called Ranald Macdonald to come and
stand up beside her before all these boys? Not for the glory of
winning the match and carrying the medal for a week. But how
gladly would she have given up glory and medal for the joy of it,
if she had dared.
At length the choosing was over, and the school ranged in two
opposing lines, with Margaret and Thomas at the head of their
respective forces, and little Jessie MacRae and Johnnie Aird, with
a single big curl on the top of his head, at the foot. It was a
point of honor that no blood should be drawn at the first round.
To Thomas, who had second choice, fell the right of giving the
first word. So to little Jessie, at the foot, he gave "Ox."
"O-x, ox," whispered Jessie, shyly dodging behind her neighbor.
"In!" said Margaret to Johnnie Aird.
"I-s, in," said Johnnie, stoutly.
"Right!" said the master, silencing the shout of laughter. "Next
With like gentle courtesies the battle began; but in the second
round the little A, B, C's were ruthlessly swept off the field with
second-book words, and retired to their seats in supreme
exultation, amid the applause of their fellows still left in the
fight. After that there was no mercy. It was a give-and-take
battle, the successful speller having the right to give the word to
the opposite side. The master was umpire, and after his "Next!"
had fallen there was no appeal. But if a mistake were made, it was
the opponent's part and privilege to correct with all speed, lest a
second attempt should succeed.
Steadily, and amid growing excitement, the lines grew less, till
there were left on one side, Thomas, with Ranald supporting him,
and on the other Margaret, with Hughie beside her, his face pale,
and his dark eyes blazing with the light of battle.
Without varying fortune the fight went on. Margaret, still serene,
and with only a touch of color in her face, gave out her words with
even voice, and spelled her opponent's with calm deliberation.
Opposite her Thomas stood, stolid, slow, and wary. He had no
nerves to speak of, and the only chance of catching him lay in
lulling him off to sleep.
They were now among the deadly words.
"Parallelopiped!" challenged Hughie to Ranald, who met it easily,
giving Margaret "hyphen" in return.
"H-y-p-h-e-n," spelled Margaret, and then, with cunning
carelessness, gave Thomas "heifer." ("Hypher," she called it.)
Thomas took it lightly.
Like lightning Hughie was upon him. "H-e-i-f-e-r."
"F-e-r," shouted Thomas. The two yells came almost together.
There was a deep silence. All eyes were turned upon the master.
"I think Hughie was first," he said, slowly. A great sigh swept
over the school, and then a wave of applause.
The master held up his hand.
"But it was so very nearly a tie, that if Hughie is willing--"
"All right, sir," cried Hughie, eager for more fight.
But Thomas, in sullen rage, strode to his seat muttering, "I was
just as soon anyway." Every one heard and waited, looking at the
"The match is over," said the master, quietly. Great disappointment
showed in every face.
"There is just one thing better than winning, and that is, taking
defeat like a man." His voice was grave, and with just a touch of
sadness. The children, sensitive to moods, as is the characteristic
of children, felt the touch and sat subdued and silent.
There was no improving of the occasion, but with the same sad
gravity the school was dismissed; and the children learned that day
one of life's golden lessons--that the man who remains master of
himself never knows defeat.
The master stood at the door watching the children go down the
slope to the road, and then take their ways north and south, till
the forest hid them from his sight.
"Well," he muttered, stretching up his arms and drawing a great
breath, "it's over for another week. A pretty near thing, though."
Archibald Munro had a steady purpose in life--to play the man, and
to allow no pain of his--and pain never left him long--to spoil his
work, or to bring a shadow to the life of any other. And though he
had his hard times, no one who could not read the lines about his
mouth ever knew how hard they were.
It was this struggle for self-mastery that made him the man he was,
and taught him the secrets of nobleness that he taught his pupils
with their three "R's"; and this was the best of his work for the
North and south in front of the school the road ran through the
deep forest of great pines, with underbrush of balsam and spruce
and silver-birch; but from this main road ran little blazed paths
that led to the farm clearings where lay the children's homes.
Here and there, set in their massive frames of dark green forest,
lay the little farms, the tiny fenced fields surrounding the little
log houses and barns. These were the homes of a people simple of
heart and manners, but sturdy, clean living, and clear thinking,
with their brittle Highland courage toughened to endurance by their
long fight with the forest, and with a self-respect born of victory
over nature's grimmest of terrors.
A mile straight south of the school stood the manse, which was
Hughie's home; two miles straight west Ranald lived; and Thomas
Finch two miles north; while the other lads ought to have taken
some of the little paths that branched east from the main road.
But this evening, with one accord, the boys chose a path that led
from the school-house clearing straight southwest through the
What a path that was! Beaten smooth with the passing of many bare
feet, it wound through the brush and round the big pines, past the
haunts of squirrels, black, gray, and red, past fox holes and
woodchuck holes, under birds' nests and bee-trees, and best of all,
it brought up at last at the Deep Hole, or "Deepole," as the boys
There were many reasons why the boys should have gone straight
home. They were expected home. There were cows to get up from the
pasture and to milk, potatoes that needed hoeing, gardens to weed,
not to speak of messages and the like. But these were also
excellent reasons why the boys should unanimously choose the cool,
smooth-beaten, sweet-scented, shady path that wound and twisted
through the trees and brush, but led straight to the Deepole.
Besides, this was Friday night, it was hot, and they were tired
out; the mere thought of the long walk home was intolerable. The
Deepole was only two miles away, and "There was lots of time" for
anything else. So, with wild whoops, they turned into the shady
path and sped through the forest, the big boys in front, with
Ranald easily leading, for there was no runner so swift and
tireless in all the country-side, and Hughie, with the small boys,
On they went, a long, straggling, yelling line, down into the cedar
swamp, splashing through the "Little Crick" and up again over the
beech ridge, where, in the open woods, the path grew indistinct and
was easy to lose; then again among the great pines, where the
underbrush was so thick that you could not tell what might be just
before, till they pulled up at the old Lumber Camp. The boys
always paused at the ruins of the old Lumber Camp. A ruin is ever
a place of mystery, but to the old Lumber Camp attached an awful
dread, for behind it, in the thickest part of the underbrush, stood
the cabin of Alan Gorrach.
Alan's was a name of terror among all the small children of the
section. Mothers hushed their crying with, "Alan Gorrach will get
you." Alan was a small man, short in the legs, but with long,
swinging, sinewy arms. He had a gypsy face, and tangled, long,
black hair; and as he walked through the forest he might be heard
talking to himself, with wild gesticulations. He was an itinerant
cooper by trade, and made for the farmers' wives their butter-tubs
and butter-ladles, mincing-bowls and coggies, and for the men,
whip-stalks, axe handles, and the like. But in the boys' eyes he
was guilty of a horrible iniquity. He was a dog-killer. His chief
business was the doing away with dogs of ill-repute in the country;
vicious dogs, sheep-killing dogs, egg-sucking dogs, were committed
to Alan's dread custody, and often he would be seen leading off his
wretched victims to his den in the woods, whence they never
returned. It was a current report that he ate them, too. No
wonder the boys regarded him with horror mingled with fearful awe.
In broad day, upon the high road, the small boys would boldly fling
taunts and stones at Alan, till he would pull out his long, sharp
cooper's knife and make at them. But if they met him in the woods
they would walk past in trembling and respectful silence, or slip
off into hiding in the bush, till he was out of sight.
It was always part of the programme in the exploring of the Lumber
Camp for the big boys to steal down the path to Alan's cabin, and
peer fearfully through the brush, and then come rushing back to the
little boys waiting in the clearing, and crying in terror-stricken
stage whispers, "He's coming! He's coming!" set off again through
the bush like hunted deer, followed by the panting train of
youngsters, with their small hearts thumping hard against their
In a few minutes the pine woods, with its old Lumber Camp and
Alan's fearsome cabin, were left behind; and then down along the
flats where the big elms were, and the tall ash-trees, and the
alders, the flying, panting line sped on in a final dash, for they
could smell the river. In a moment more they were at the Deepole.
O! that Deepole! Where the big creek took a great sweep around
before it tore over the rapids and down into the gorge. It was
always in cool shade; the great fan-topped elm-trees hung far out
over it, and the alders and the willows edged its banks. How cool
and clear the dark brown waters looked! And how beautiful the
golden mottling on their smooth, flowing surface, where the sun
rained down through the over-spreading elm boughs! And the grassy
sward where the boys tore off their garments, and whence they raced
and plunged, was so green and firm and smooth under foot! And the
music of the rapids down in the gorge, and the gurgle of the water
where it sucked in under the jam of dead wood before it plunged
into the boiling pool farther down! Not that the boys made note of
all these delights accessory to the joys of the Deepole itself, but
all these helped to weave the spell that the swimming-hole cast
over them. Without the spreading elms, without the mottled, golden
light upon the cool, deep waters, and without the distant roar of
the little rapid, and the soft gurgle at the jam, the Deepole would
still have been a place of purest delight, but I doubt if, without
these, it would have stolen in among their day dreams in after
years, on hot, dusty, weary days, with power to waken in them a
vague pain and longing for the sweet, cool woods and the clear,
brown waters. Oh, for one plunge! To feel the hug of the waters,
their soothing caress, their healing touch! These boys are men
now, such as are on the hither side of the darker river, but not a
man of them can think, on a hot summer day, of that cool, shaded,
mottled Deepole, without a longing in his heart and a lump in his
The last quarter of a mile was always a dead race, for it was a
point of distinction to be the first to plunge, and the last few
seconds of the race were spent in the preliminaries of the
disrobing. A single brace slipped off the shoulder, a flutter of a
shirt over the head, a kick of the trousers, and whoop! plunge!
"Hurrah! first in." The little boys always waited to admire the
first series of plunges, for there were many series before the hour
was over, and then they would off to their own crossing, going
through a similar performance on a small scale.
What an hour it was! What contests of swimming and diving! What
water fights and mud fights! What careering of figures, stark
naked, through the rushes and trees! What larks and pranks!
And then the little boys would dress. A simple process, but more
difficult by far than the other, for the trousers would stick to
the wet feet--no boy would dream of a towel, nor dare to be guilty
of such a piece of "stuck-upness"--and the shirt would get wrong
side out, or would bundle round the neck, or would cling to the wet
shoulders till they had to get on their knees almost to squirm into
it. But that over, all was over. The brace, or if the buttons
were still there, the braces were easily jerked up on the shoulders,
and there you were. Coats, boots, and stockings were superfluous,
collars and ties utterly despised.
Then the little ones would gather on the grassy bank to watch the
big ones get out, which was a process worth watching.
"Well, I'm going out, boys," one would say.
"Oh, pshaw! let's have another plunge."
"All right. But it's the last, though."
Then a long stream of naked figures would scramble up the bank and
rush for the last place. "First out, last in," was the rule, for
the boys would much rather jump on some one else than be jumped on
themselves. After the long line of naked figures had vanished into
the boiling water, one would be seen quietly stealing out and up
the bank kicking his feet clean as he stepped off the projecting
root onto the grass, when, plunk! a mud ball caught him, and back
he must come. It took them full two hours to escape clean from the
water, and woe betide the boy last out. On all sides stood boys,
little and big, with mud balls ready to fling, till, out of sheer
pity, he would be allowed to come forth clean. Then, when all were
dressed, and blue and shivering--for two amphibious hours, even on
a July day, make one blue--more games would begin, leap-frog, or
tag, or jumping, or climbing trees, till they were warm enough to
set out for home.
It was as the little ones were playing tag that Hughie came to
grief. He was easily king of his company and led the game. Quick
as a weasel, swift and wary, he was always the last to be caught.
Around the trees, and out and in among the big boys, he led the
chase, much to Tom Finch's disgust, who had not forgotten the
spelling-match incident. Not that he cared for the defeat, but he
still felt the bite in the master's final words, and he carried a
grudge against the boy who had been the occasion of his humiliation.
"Keep off!" he cried, angrily, as Hughie swung himself round him.
But Hughie paid no heed to Tom's growl, unless, indeed, to repeat
his offense, with the result that, as he flew off, Tom caught him a
kick that hastened his flight and laid him flat on his back amid
the laughter of the boys.
"Tom," said Hughie, gravely and slowly, so that they all stood
listening, "do you know what you kick like?"
The boys stood waiting.
In a moment Tom had him by the neck, and after a cuff or two, sent
him flying, with a warning to keep to himself.
But Hughie, with a saucy answer, was off again on his game,
circling as near Tom Finch as he dared, and being as exasperating
as possible, till Tom looked as if he would like a chance to pay
him off. The chance came, for Hughie, leading the "tag," came
flying past Tom and toward the water. Hardly realizing what he was
doing, Tom stuck out his foot and caught him flying past, and
before any one knew how it had happened, poor Hughie shot far out
into the Deepole, lighting fair on his stomach. There was a great
shout of laughter, but in a moment every one was calling, "Swim,
Hughie!" "Keep your hands down!" "Don't splash like that, you
fool!" "Paddle underneath!" But Hughie was far too excited or too
stunned by his fall to do anything but splash and sputter, and
sink, and rise again, only to sink once more. In a few moments the
affair became serious.
The small boys began to cry, and some of the bigger ones to
undress, when there was a cry from the elm-tree overhanging the
"Run out that board, Don. Quick!"
It was Ranald, who had been swinging up in the highest branches,
and had seen what had happened, and was coming down from limb to
limb like a squirrel. As he spoke, he dropped from the lowest limb
into the water close to where Hughie was splashing wildly.
In an instant, as he rose to the surface, Hughie's arms went round
his neck and pulled his head under water. But he was up again, and
tugging at Hughie's hands, he cried:
"Don't, Hughie! let go! I'll pull you out. Let go!" But Hughie,
half-insensible with terror and with the water he had gulped in,
clung with a death-grip.
"Hughie!" gasped Ranald, "you'll drown us both. Oh, Hughie man,
let me pull you out, can't you?"
Something in the tone caught Hughie's ear, and he loosed his hold,
and Ranald, taking him under the chin, looked round for the board.
By this time Don Cameron was in the water and working the board
slowly toward the gasping boys. But now a new danger threatened.
The current had gradually carried them toward the log jam, under
which the water sucked to the falls below. Once under the jam, no
power on earth could save.
"Hurry up, Don!" called out Ranald, anxiously. Then, feeling
Hughie beginning to clutch again, he added, cheerily, "It's all
right. You'll get us." But his face was gray and his eyes were
staring, for over his shoulder he could see the jam and he could
feel the suck of the water on his legs.
"Oh, Ranald, you can't do it," sobbed Hughie. "Will I paddle
"Yes, yes, paddle hard, Hughie," said Ranald, for the jam was just
at his back.
But as he spoke, there was a cry, "Ranald, catch it!" Over the
slippery logs of the jam came Tom Finch pushing out a plank.
"Catch it!" he cried, "I'll hold this end solid." And Ranald
caught and held fast, and the boys on the bank gave a mighty shout.
Soon Don came up with his board, and Tom, catching the end, hauled
it up on the rolling logs.
"Hold steady there now!" cried Tom, lying at full length upon the
logs; "we'll get you in a minute."
By this time the other boys had pulled a number of boards and
planks out of the jam, and laying them across the logs, made a kind
of raft upon which the exhausted swimmers were gradually hauled,
and then brought safe to shore.
"Oh, Ranald," said Tom, almost weeping, "I didn't mean to--I never
thought--I'm awfully sorry."
"Oh, pshaw!" said Ranald, who was taking off Hughie's shirt
preparatory to wringing it, "I know. Besides, it was you who
pulled us out. You were doing your best, Don, of course, but we
would have gone under the jam but for Tom."
For ten minutes the boys stood going over again the various
incidents in the recent dramatic scene, extolling the virtues of
Ranald, Don, and Thomas in turn, and imitating, with screams of
laughter, Hughie's gulps and splashings while he was fighting for
his life. It was their way of expressing their emotions of
gratitude and joy, for Hughie was dearly loved by all, though no
one would have dared to manifest such weakness.
As they were separating, Hughie whispered to Ranald, "Come home
with me, Ranald. I want you." And Ranald, looking down into the
little white face, went. It would be many a day before he would
get rid of the picture of the white face, with the staring black
eyes, floating on the dark brown water beside him, and that was why
When they reached the path to the manse clearing Ranald and Hughie
were alone. For some minutes Hughie followed Ranald in silence on
a dog-trot, through the brule, dodging round stumps and roots and
climbing over fallen trees, till they came to the pasture-field.
"Hold on, Ranald," panted Hughie, putting on a spurt and coming up
even with his leader.
"Are you warm enough?" asked Ranald, looking down at the little
"Are you dry?"
"Indeed, you are not too dry," said Ranald, feeling his wet shirt
and trousers, "and your mother will be wondering."
"I'll tell her," said Hughie, in a tone of exulting anticipation.
"What!" Ranald stood dead still.
"I'll tell her," replied Hughie. "She'll be awful glad. And
she'll be awful thankful to you, Ranald."
Ranald looked at him in amazement.
"I think I will jist be going back now," he said, at length. But
Hughie seized him.
"Oh, Ranald, you must come with me."
He had pictured himself telling his mother of Ranald's exploit, and
covering his hero with glory. But this was the very thing that
Ranald dreaded and hated, and was bound to prevent.
"You will not be going to the Deepole again, I warrant you," Ranald
said, with emphasis.
"Not go to the Deepole?"
"No, indeed. Your mother will put an end to that sort of thing."
"Mother! Why not?"
"She will not be wanting to have you drowned."
Hughie laughed scornfully. "You don't know my mother. She's not
afraid of--of anything."
"But she will be telling your father."
This was a matter serious enough to give Hughie pause. His father
might very likely forbid the Deepole.
"There is no need for telling," suggested Ranald. "And I will just
go in for a minute."
"Will you stay for supper?"
Ranald shook his head. The manse kitchen was a bright place, and
to see the minister's wife and to hear her talk was to Ranald pure
delight. But then, Hughie might tell, and that would be too awful
"Do, Ranald," pleaded Hughie. "I'll not tell."
"I am not so sure."
"Sure as death!"
Still Ranald hesitated. Hughie grew desperate.
"God may kill me on the spot!" he cried, using the most binding of
all oaths known to the boys. This was satisfactory, and Ranald
But Hughie was not skilled in deceiving, and especially in deceiving
his mother. They were great friends, and Hughie shared all his
secrets with her and knew that they were safe, unless they ought to
be told. And so, when he caught sight of his mother waiting for him
before the door, he left Ranald, and thrilling with the memory of
the awful peril through which he had passed, rushed at her, and
crying, "Oh, mother!" he flung himself into her arms. "I am so glad
to see you again!"
"Why, Hughie, my boy, what's the matter?" said his mother, holding
her arms tight about him. "And you are all wet! What is it?" But
Hughie held her fast, struggling with himself.
"What is it?" she asked again, turning to Ranald.
"We were running pretty fast--and it is a hot day--and--" But the
clear gray-brown eyes were upon him, and Ranald found it difficult
to go on.
"Oh, mother, you mustn't ask," cried Hughie; "I promised not to
"Not to tell me, Hughie?" The surprise in the voice was quite too
much for Hughie.
"Oh, mother, we did not want to frighten you--and--I promised."
"Then you must keep your promise. Come away in, my boy. Come in,
It was her boy's first secret from her. Ranald saw the look of
pain in the sweet face, and could not endure it.
"It was just nothing, Mrs. Murray," he began.
"Did you promise, too, Ranald?"
"No, that I did not. And there is nothing much to tell, only
Hughie fell into the Deepole and the boys pulled him out!"
"Oh, mother!" exclaimed Hughie, "it was Ranald. He jumped right
down from the tree right into the water, and kept me up. You told
yourself, Ranald," he continued, delighted to be relieved of his
promise; and on he went to give his mother, in his most picturesque
style, a description of the whole scene, while Ranald stood looking
miserable and ashamed.
"And Ranald was ashamed for me to tell you, and besides, he said
you wouldn't let me go to the Deepole again. But you will, won't
you mother? And you won't tell father, will you?"
The mother stood listening, with face growing whiter and whiter,
till he was done. Then she stooped down over the eager face for
some moments, whispering, "My darling, my darling," and then coming
to Ranald she held her hand on his shoulder for a moment, while she
said, in a voice bravely struggling to be calm, "God reward you,
Ranald. God grant my boy may always have so good and brave a
friend when he needs."
And from that day Ranald's life was different, for he had bound to
him by a tie that nothing could ever break, a friend whose
influence followed him, and steadied and lifted him up to
greatness, long after the grave had hidden her from men's sight.
The two years of Archibald Munro's regime were the golden age of
the school, and for a whole generation "The Section" regarded that
period as the standard for comparison in the following years.
Munro had a genius for making his pupils work. They threw
themselves with enthusiasm into all they undertook--studies,
debate nights, games, and in everything the master was the source
And now his last examination day had come, and the whole Section
was stirred with enthusiasm for their master, and with grief at his
The day before examination was spent in "cleaning the school."
This semi-annual event, which always preceded the examination, was
almost as enjoyable as the examination day itself, if indeed it was
not more so. The school met in the morning for a final polish for
the morrow's recitations. Then after a speech by the master the
little ones were dismissed and allowed to go home though they never
by any chance took advantage of this permission. Then the master
and the bigger boys and girls set to work to prepare the school for
the great day. The boys were told off in sections, some to get dry
cedar boughs from the swamp for the big fire outside, over which
the iron sugar-kettle was swung to heat the scrubbing water; others
off into the woods for balsam-trees for the evergreen decorations;
others to draw water and wait upon the scrubbers.
It was a day of delightful excitement, but this year there was
below the excitement a deep, warm feeling of love and sadness, as
both teacher and pupils thought of to-morrow. There was an
additional thrill to the excitement, that the master was to be
presented with a gold watch and chain, and that this had been kept
a dead secret from him.
What a day it was! With wild whoops the boys went off for the dry
cedar and the evergreens, while the girls, looking very housewifely
with skirts tucked back and sleeves rolled up, began to sweep and
otherwise prepare the room for scrubbing.
The gathering of the evergreens was a delightful labor. High up
in the balsam-trees the more daring boys would climb, and then,
holding by the swaying top, would swing themselves far out from the
trunk and come crashing through the limbs into the deep, soft snow,
bringing half the tree with them. What larks they had! What
chasing of rabbits along their beaten runways! What fierce and
happy snow fights! And then, the triumph of their return, laden
with their evergreen trophies, to find the big fire blazing under
the great iron kettle and the water boiling, and the girls well on
with the scrubbing.
Then, while the girls scrubbed first the benches and desks, and
last of all, the floors, the boys washed the windows and put up the
evergreen decorations. Every corner had its pillar of green, every
window had its frame of green, the old blackboard, the occasion
of many a heartache to the unmathematical, was wreathed into
loveliness; the maps, with their bewildering boundaries, rivers and
mountains, capes, bays and islands, became for once worlds of
beauty under the magic touch of the greenery. On the wall just
over his desk, the master wrought out in evergreen an arching
"WELCOME," but later on, the big girls, with some shy blushing,
boldly tacked up underneath an answering "FAREWELL." By the time
the short afternoon had faded into the early evening, the school
stood, to the eyes of all familiar with the common sordidness of
its everyday dress, a picture of artistic loveliness. And after
the master's little speech of thanks for their good work that
afternoon, and for all their goodness to him, the boys and girls
went their ways with that strangely unnameable heart-emptiness that
brings an ache to the throat, but somehow makes happier for the
The examination day was the great school event of the year. It was
the social function of the Section as well. Toward this event all
the school life moved, and its approach was attended by a deepening
excitement, shared by children and parents alike, which made a kind
of holiday feeling in the air.
The school opened an hour later than ordinarily, and the children
came all in their Sunday clothes, the boys feeling stiff and
uncomfortable, and regarding each other with looks half shy and
half contemptuous, realizing that they were unnatural in each
other's sight; the girls with hair in marvelous frizzes and shiny
ringlets, with new ribbons, and white aprons over their home-made
winsey dresses, carried their unwonted grandeur with an ease and
delight that made the boys secretly envy but apparently despise
them. The one unpardonable crime with all the boys in that country
was that of being "proud." The boy convicted of "shoween off," was
utterly contemned by his fellows. Hence, any delight in new
clothes or in a finer appearance than usual was carefully avoided.
Ranald always hated new clothes. He felt them an intolerable
burden. He did not mind his new homespun, home-made flannel check
shirt of mixed red and white, but the heavy fulled-cloth suit made
by his Aunt Kirsty felt like a suit of mail. He moved heavily in
it and felt queer, and knew that he looked as he felt. The result
was that he was in no genial mood, and was on the alert for any
indication of levity at his expense.
Hughie, on the contrary, like the girls, delighted in new clothes.
His new black suit, made down from one of his father's, with
infinite planning and pains by his mother, and finished only at
twelve o'clock the night before, gave him unmixed pleasure. And
handsome he looked in it. All the little girls proclaimed that in
their shy, admiring glances, while the big girls teased and petted
and threatened to kiss him. Of course the boys all scorned him and
his finery, and tried to "take him down," but Hughie was so
unfeignedly pleased with himself, and moved so easily and naturally
in his grand attire, and was so cheery and frank and happy, that no
one thought of calling him "proud."
Soon after ten the sleighloads began to arrive. It was a mild
winter day, when the snow packed well, and there fluttered down
through the still air a few lazy flakes, large, soft, and feathery,
like bits of the clouds floating white against the blue sky. The
sleighs were driven up to the door with a great flourish and jingle
of bells, and while the master welcomed the ladies, the fathers and
big brothers drove the horses to the shelter of the thick-standing
pines, and unhitching them, tied them to the sleigh-boxes, where,
blanketed and fed, they remained for the day.
Within an hour the little school-house was packed, the children
crowded tight into the long desks, and the visitors on the benches
along the walls and in the seats of the big boys and girls. On the
platform were such of the trustees as could muster up the necessary
courage--old Peter MacRae, who had been a dominie in the Old
Country, the young minister and his wife, and the schoolteacher
from the "Sixteenth."
First came the wee tots, who, in wide-eyed, serious innocence, went
through their letters and their "ox" and "cat" combinations and
permutations with great gusto and distinction. Then they were
dismissed to their seats by a series of mental arithmetic
questions, sums of varying difficulty being propounded, until
little white-haired, blue-eyed Johnnie Aird, with the single big
curl on the top of his head, was left alone.
"One and one, Johnnie?" said the master, smiling down at the rosy
"Three," promptly replied Johnnie, and retired to his seat amid the
delighted applause of visitors and pupils, and followed by the
proud, fond, albeit almost tearful, gaze of his mother. He was her
baby, born long after her other babies had grown up into sturdy
youth, and all the dearer for that.
Then up through the Readers, till the Fifth was reached, the
examination progressed, each class being handed over to the charge
of a visitor, who forthwith went upon examination as truly as did
"Fifth class!" In due order the class marched up to the chalk line
on the floor in front of the master's desk, and stood waiting.
The reading lesson was Fitz-Greene Halleck's "Marco Bozzaris," a
selection of considerable dramatic power, and calling for a
somewhat spirited rendering. The master would not have chosen this
lesson, but he had laid down the rule that there was to be no
special drilling of the pupils for an exhibition, but that the
school should be seen doing its every-day work; and in the reading,
the lessons for the previous day were to be those of the
examination day. By an evil fortune, the reading for the day was
the dramatic "Marco Bozzaris." The master shivered inwardly as he
thought of the possibility of Thomas Finch, with his stolidly
monotonous voice, being called upon to read the thrilling lines
recording the panic-stricken death-cry of the Turk: "To arms! They
come! The Greek! The Greek!" But Thomas, by careful plodding,
had climbed to fourth place, and the danger lay in the third verse.
"Will you take this class, Mr. MacRae?" said the master, handing
him the book. He knew that the dominie was not interested in the
art of reading beyond the point of correct pronunciation, and hence
he hoped the class might get off easily. The dominie took the book
reluctantly. What he desired was the "arith-MET-ic" class, and did
not care to be "put off" with mere reading.
"Well, Ranald, let us hear you," he rather growled. Ranald went at
his work with quiet confidence; he knew all the words.
"Page 187, Marco Bozzaris.
"At midnight in his guarded tent,
The Turk lay dreaming of the hour
When Greece, her knee in suppliance bent,
Should tremble at his power."
And so on steadily to the end of his verse.
The next was "Betsy Dan," the daughter of Dan Campbell, of "The
Island." Now, Betsy Dan was very red in hair and face, very shy
and very nervous, and always on the point of giggles. It was a
trial to her to read on ordinary days, but to-day it was almost
more than she could bear. To make matters worse, sitting
immediately behind her, and sheltered from the eye of the master,
sat Jimmie Cameron, Don's youngest brother. Jimmie was always on
the alert for mischief, and ever ready to go off into fits of
laughter, which he managed to check only by grabbing tight hold of
his nose. Just now he was busy pulling at the strings of Betsy
Dan's apron with one hand, while with the other he was hanging onto
his nose, and swaying in paroxysms of laughter.
Very red in the face, Betsy Dan began her verse.
"At midnight in the forest shades,
Pause, while Betsy Dan clutched behind her.
("Tchik! tchik!") a snicker from Jimmie in the rear.
"--his Suliote band,
True as the steel of--"
("im-im,") Betsy Dan struggles with her giggles.
"Elizabeth!" The master's voice is stern and sharp.
Betsy Dan bridles up, while Jimmie is momentarily sobered by the
"True as the steel of their tried blades,
Heroes in heart and hand.
There had the Persians thousands stood--"
("Tchik! tchik! tchik,") a long snicker from Jimmie, whose nose
cannot be kept quite in control. It is becoming too much for poor
Betsy Dan, whose lips begin to twitch.
("im-im, thit-tit-tit,") Betsy Dan is making mighty efforts to hold
in her giggles.
"--had the glad earth (tchik!) drunk their blood,
On old Pl-a-a-t-t-e-a-'s day."
"Elizabeth Campbell!" The master's tone was quite terrible.
"I don't care! He won't leave me alone. He's just--just (sob)
pu--pulling at me (sob) all the time."
By this time Betsy's apron was up to her eyes, and her sobs were
"James, stand up!" Jimmie slowly rose, red with laughter, and
covered with confusion.
"I-I-I di-dn't touch her!" he protested.
"O--h!" said little Aleck Sinclair, who had been enjoying Jimmie's
prank hugely; "he was--"
"That'll do, Aleck, I didn't ask you. James is quite able to tell
me himself. Now, James!"
"I-I-I was only just doing that," said Jimmie, sober enough now,
and terrified at the results of his mischief.
"Doing what?" said the master, repressing a smile at Jimmie's
"Just-just that!" and Jimmie touched gingerly with the point of his
finger the bows of Betsy Dan's apron-strings.
"Oh, I see. You were annoying Elizabeth while she was reading. No
wonder she found it difficult. Now, do you think that was very
Jimmie twisted himself into a semicircle.
"Come here, James!" Jimmie looked frightened, came round the
class, and up to the master.
"Now, then," continued the master, facing Jimmie round in front of
Betsy Dan, who was still using her apron upon her eyes, "tell
Elizabeth you are sorry."
Jimmie stood in an agony of silent awkwardness, curving himself in
"Are you sorry?"
"Well, tell her so."
Jimmie drew a long breath and braced himself for the ordeal. He
stood a moment or two, working his eyes up shyly from Betsy Dan's
shoes to her face, caught her glancing at him from behind her
apron, and began, "I-I-I'm (tchik! tchik) sor-ry," (tchik). Betsy
Dan's look was too much for the little chap's gravity.
A roar swept over the school-house. Even the grim dominie's face
"Go to your seat and behave yourself," said the master, giving
Jimmie a slight cuff. "Now, Margaret, let us go on."
Margaret's was the difficult verse. But to Margaret's quiet voice
and gentle heart, anything like shriek or battle-cry was foreign
enough, so with even tone, and unmodulated by any shade of passion,
she read the cry, "To arms! They come! The Greek! The Greek!"
Nor was her voice to be moved from its gentle, monotonous flow even
by the battle-cry of Bozzaris, "Strike! till the last armed foe
"Next," said the dominie, glad to get on with his task.
The master breathed freely, when, alas for his hopes, the minister
"But, Margaret, do you think Bozzaris cheered his men in so gentle
a voice as that?"
Margaret smiled sweetly, but remained silent, glad to get over the
"Wouldn't you like to try it again?" suggested the minister.
Margaret flushed up at once.
"Oh, no," said his wife, who had noticed Margaret's flushing face.
"Girls are not supposed to be soldiers, are they, Margaret?"
Margaret flashed a grateful look at her.
"That's a boy's verse."
"Ay! that it is," said the old dominie; "and I would wish very much
that Mrs. Murray would conduct this class."
But the minister's wife would not hear of it, protesting that the
dominie could do it much better. The old man, however, insisted,
saying that he had no great liking for this part of the
examination, and would wish to reserve himself, with the master's
permission, for the "arith-MET-ic" class.
Mrs. Murray, seeing that it would please the dominie, took the
book, with a spot of color coming in her delicate, high-bred face.
"You must all do your best now, to help me," she said, with a smile
that brought an answering smile flashing along the line. Even
Thomas Finch allowed his stolid face a gleam of intelligent
sympathy, which, however, he immediately suppressed, for he
remembered that the next turn was his, and that he must be getting
himself into the appearance of dogged desperation which he
considered suitable to a reading exercise.
"Now, Thomas," said the minister's wife, sweetly, and Thomas
"They fought like brave men, long--"
"Oh, Thomas, I think we will try that man's verse again, with the
cries of battle in it, you know. I am sure you can do that well."
It was all the same to Thomas. There were no words he could not
spell, and he saw no reason why he should not do that verse as well
as any other. So, with an extra knitting of his eyebrows, he set
Thomas's voice fell with the unvarying regularity of the beat of a
"But, Thomas, wait a minute. You see you must speak these words,
'To arms! They come!' differently from the others. These words
were shrieked by the sentries, and you must show that in your
"Speak them out, man," said the minister, sharply, and a little
nervously, fearing that his wife had undertaken too great a task,
and hating to see her defeated.
"Now, Thomas," said Mrs. Murray, "try again. And remember the
sentries shrieked these words, 'To arms!' and so on."
Thomas squared his shoulders, spread his feet apart, added a
wrinkle to his frown, and a deeper note of desperation to his tone,
and began again.
The master shuddered.
"Now, Thomas, excuse me. That's better, but we can improve that
yet." Mrs. Murray was not to be beaten. The attention of the
whole school, even to Jimmie Cameron, as well as that of the
visitors, was now concentrated upon the event.
"See," she went on, "each phrase by itself. 'An hour passed on:
the Turk awoke.' Now, try that far."
Again Thomas tried, this time with complete success. The visitors
"Ah, that's it, Thomas. I was sure you could do it."
Thomas relaxed a little, but not unduly. He was not sure what was
yet before him.
"Now we will get that 'sentries shriek.' See, Thomas, like this a
little," and she read the words with fine expression.
"You must put more pith, more force, into those words, Thomas.
Speak out, man!" interjected the minister, who was wishing it was
"Now, Thomas, I think this will be the last time. You have done
very well, but I feel sure you can do better."
The minister's wife looked at Thomas as she said this, with so
fascinating a smile that the frown on Thomas' face deepened into a
hideous scowl, and he planted himself with a do-or-die expression
in every angle of his solid frame. Realizing the extreme necessity
of the moment, he pitched his voice several tones higher than ever
before in his life inside a house and before people, and made his
And now, feeling that the crisis was upon him, and confusing speed
with intensity, and sound with passion, he rushed his words, with
ever-increasing speed, into a wild yell.
There was a moment of startled stillness, then, "tchik! tchik!" It
was Jimmie again, holding his nose and swaying in a vain effort to
control a paroxysm of snickers at Thomas' unusual outburst.
It was like a match to powder. Again the whole school burst into a
roar of uncontrollable laughter. Even the minister, the master,
and the dominie, could not resist. The only faces unmoved were
those of Thomas Finch and the minister's wife. He had tried his
best, and it was to please her, and she knew it.
A swift, shamed glance round, and his eyes rested on her face.
That face was sweet and grave as she leaned toward him, and said,
"Thank you, Thomas. That was well done." And Thomas, still
looking at her, flushed to his hair roots and down the back of his
neck, while the scowl on his forehead faded into a frown, and then
"And if you always try your best like that, Thomas, you will be a
great and good man some day."
Her voice was low and soft, as if intended for him alone, but in
the sudden silence that followed the laughter it thrilled to every
heart in the room, and Thomas was surprised to find himself trying
to swallow a lump in his throat, and to keep his eyes from
blinking; and in his face, stolid and heavy, a new expression was
struggling for utterance. "Here, take me," it said; "all that I
have is thine," and later days brought the opportunity to prove it.
The rest of the reading lesson passed without incident. Indeed,
there pervaded the whole school that feeling of reaction which
always succeeds an emotional climax. The master decided to omit
the geography and grammar classes, which should have immediately
followed, and have dinner at once, and so allow both children and
visitors time to recover tone for the spelling and arithmetic of
The dinner was an elaborate and appalling variety of pies and
cakes, served by the big girls and their sisters, who had recently
left school, and who consequently bore themselves with all proper
dignity and importance. Two of the boys passed round a pail of
water and a tin cup, that all the thirsty might drink. From hand
to hand, and from lip to lip the cup passed, with a fine contempt
of microbes. The only point of etiquette insisted upon was that no
"leavings" should be allowed to remain in the cup or thrown back
into the pail, but should be carefully flung upon the floor.
There had been examination feasts in pre-historic days in the
Twentieth school, when the boys indulged in free fights at long
range, using as missiles remnants of pie crust and cake, whose
consistency rendered them deadly enough to "bloody" a nose or black
an eye. But these barbaric encounters ceased with Archie Munro's
advent, and now the boys vied with each other in "minding their
manners." Not only was there no snatching of food or exhibition of
greediness, but there was a severe repression of any apparent
eagerness for the tempting dainties, lest it should be suspected
that such were unusual at home. Even the little boys felt that it
would be bad manners to take a second piece of cake or pie unless
specially pressed; but their eager, bulging eyes revealed only too
plainly their heart's desire, and the kindly waiters knew their
duty sufficiently to urge a second, third, and fourth supply of the
toothsome currant or berry pie, the solid fruit cake, or the oily
doughnut, till the point was reached where desire failed.
"Have some more, Jimmie. Have a doughnut," said the master, who
had been admiring Jimmie's gastronomic achievements.
"He's had ten a'ready," shouted little Aleck Sinclair, Jimmie's
Jimmie smiled in conscious pride, but remained silent.
"What! eaten ten doughnuts?" asked the master, feigning alarm.
"He's got four in his pocket, too," said Aleck, in triumph.
"He's got a pie in his own pocket," retorted Jimmie, driven to
"A pie!" exclaimed the master. "Better take it out. A pocket's
not the best place for a pie. Why don't you eat it, Aleck?"
"I can't," lamented Aleck. "I'm full up."
"He said he's nearly busted," said Jimmie, anxiously. "He's got a
pain here," pointing to his left eye. The bigger boys and some of
the visitors who had gathered round shouted with laughter.
"Oh, pshaw, Aleck!" said the master, encouragingly, "that's all
right. As long as the pain is as high up as your eye you'll
recover. I tell you what, put your pie down on the desk here,
Jimmie will take care of it, and run down to the gate and tell Don
I want him."
Aleck, with great care and considerable difficulty, extracted from
his pocket a segment of black currant pie, hopelessly battered, but
still intact. He regarded it fondly for a moment or two, and then,
with a very dubious look at Jimmie, ran away on his errand for the
It took him some little time to find Don, and meanwhile the
master's attention was drawn away by his duty to the visitors. The
pie left to Jimmie's care had an unfortunately tempting fringe of
loose pieces about it that marred its symmetry. Jimmie proceeded
to trim it into shape. So absorbed did he become in this trimming
process, that before he realized what he was about, he woke
suddenly to the startling fact that the pie had shrunk into a
comparatively insignificant size. It would be worse than useless
to save the mutilated remains for Aleck; there was nothing for it
now but to get the reproachful remnant out of the way. He was so
busily occupied with this praiseworthy proceeding that he failed to
notice Aleck enter the room, flushed with his race, eager and once
Arriving at his seat, he came upon Jimmie engaged in devouring the
pie left in his charge. With a cry of dismay and rage he flung
himself upon the little gourmand, and after a short struggle,
secured the precious pie; but alas, bereft of its most delicious
part--it was picked clean of its currants. For a moment he gazed,
grief-stricken, at the leathery, viscous remnant in his hand.
Then, with a wrathful exclamation, "Here, then, you can just take
it then, you big pig, you!" He seized Jimmie by the neck, and
jammed the sticky pie crust on his face, where it stuck like an
adhesive plaster. Jimmie, taken by surprise, and rendered
nerveless by the pangs of an accusing conscience, made no
resistance, but set up a howl that attracted the attention of the
master and the whole company.
"Why, Jimmie!" exclaimed the master, removing the doughy mixture
from the little lad's face, "what on earth are you trying to do?
What is wrong, Aleck?"
"He ate my pie," said Aleck, defiantly.
"Ate it? Well, apparently not. But never mind, Aleck, we shall
get you another pie."
"There isn't any more," said Aleck, mournfully; "that was the last
"Oh, well, we shall find something else just as good," said the
master, going off after one of the big girls; and returning with a
doughnut and a peculiarly deadly looking piece of fruit cake, he
succeeded in comforting the disappointed and still indignant Aleck.
The afternoon was given to the more serious part of the school
work--writing, arithmetic, and spelling, while, for those whose
ambitions extended beyond the limits of the public school, the
master had begun a Euclid class, which was at once his despair and
his pride. In the Twentieth school of that date there was no waste
of the children's time in foolish and fantastic branches of study,
in showy exercises and accomplishments, whose display was at once
ruinous to the nerves of the visitors, and to the self-respect and
modesty of the children. The ideal of the school was to fit the
children for the struggle into which their lives would thrust them,
so that the boy who could spell and read and cipher was supposed to
be ready for his life work. Those whose ambition led them into the
subtleties of Euclid's problems and theorems were supposed to be in
preparation for somewhat higher spheres of life.
Through the various classes of arithmetic the examination
proceeded, the little ones struggling with great seriousness
through their addition and subtraction sums, and being wrought up
to the highest pitch of excitement by their contest for the first
place. By the time the fifth class was reached, the air was heavy
with the feeling of battle. Indeed, it was amazing to note how the
master had succeeded in arousing in the whole school an intense
spirit of emulation. From little Johnnie Aird up to Thomas Finch,
the pupils carried the hearts of soldiers.
Through fractions, the "Rule of Three," percentages, and stocks,
the senior class swept with a trail of glory. In vain old Peter
MacRae strewed their path with his favorite posers. The brilliant
achievements of the class seemed to sink him deeper and deeper into
the gloom of discontent, while the master, the minister and his
wife, as well as the visitors, could not conceal their delight. As
a last resort the old dominie sought to stem their victorious
career with his famous problem in Practice, and to his huge
enjoyment, one after another of the class had to acknowledge
defeat. The truth was, the master had passed lightly over this
rule in the arithmetic, considering the solution of problems by the
method of Practice as a little antiquated, and hardly worthy of
much study. The failure of the class, however, brought the dominie
his hour of triumph, and so complete had been the success of the
examination that the master was abundantly willing that he should
Then followed the judging of the copy-books. The best and cleanest
book in each class was given the proud distinction of a testimonial
written upon the first blank page, with the date of the examination
and the signatures of the examiners attached. It was afterwards
borne home in triumph by the happy owner, to be stored among the
family archives, and perhaps among the sacred things that mothers
keep in their holy of holies.
After the copy-books had been duly appraised, there followed an
hour in which the excitement of the day reached its highest mark.
The whole school, with such of the visitors as could be persuaded
to join, were ranged in opposing ranks in the deadly conflict of a
spelling-match. The master, the teacher from the Sixteenth, and
even the minister's wife, yielded to the tremendous pressure of
public demand that they should enter the fray. The contest had a
most dramatic finish, and it was felt that the extreme possibility
of enthusiasm and excitement was reached when the minister's wife
spelled down the teacher from the Sixteenth, who every one knew,
was the champion speller of all the country that lay toward the
Front, and had a special private armory of deadly missiles laid up
against just such a conflict as this. The tumultuous triumph of
the children was not to be controlled. Again and again they
followed Hughie in wild yells, not only because his mother was a
great favorite with them all, but because she had wrested a victory
from the champion of the Front, for the Front, in all matters
pertaining to culture and fashion, thought itself quite superior to
the more backwoods country of the Twentieth.
It was with no small difficulty that the master brought the school
to such a degree of order that the closing speeches could be
received with becoming respect and attention. The trustees,
according to custom, were invited to express their opinion upon the
examination, and upon school matters generally. The chairman, John
Cameron, "Long John," as he was called, broke the ice after much
persuasion, and slowly rising from the desk into which he had
compressed his long, lank form, he made his speech. Long John was
a great admirer of the master, but for all that, and perhaps
because of that, he allowed himself no warmer words of commendation
than that he was well pleased with the way in which the children
had conducted themselves. "They have done credit to themselves,"
he said, "and to their teacher. And indeed I am sorry he is
leaving us, for, so far, I have heard no complaints in the
The other trustees followed in the path thus blazed out for them by
Long John. They were all well pleased with the examination, and
they were all sorry to lose the master, and they had heard no
complaints. It was perfectly understood that no words of praise
could add to the high testimony that they "had heard no complaints."
The dominie's speech was a little more elaborate. Somewhat
reluctantly he acknowledged that the school had acquitted itself
with "very considerable credit," especially the "arith-MET-ic"
class, and indeed, considering all the circumstances, Mr. Munro was
to be congratulated upon the results of his work in the Section.
But the minister's warm expression of delight at the day's
proceedings, and of regret at the departure of the master, more
than atoned for the trustees' cautious testimony, and the dominie's
somewhat grudging praise.
Then came the moment of the day. A great stillness fell upon the
school as the master rose to make his farewell speech. But before
he could say a word, up from their seats walked Betsy Dan and
Thomas Finch, and ranged themselves before him. The whole
assemblage tingled with suppressed excitement. The great secret
with which they had been burdening themselves for the past few
weeks was now to be out. Slowly Thomas extracted the manuscript
from his trousers pocket, and smoothed out its many folds, while
Betsy Dan waited nervously in the rear.
"Oh, why did they set Thomas to this?" whispered the minister's
wife, who had a profound sense of humor. The truth was, the choice
of the school had fallen upon Ranald and Margaret Aird. Margaret
was quite willing to act, but Ranald refused point-blank, and
privately persuaded Thomas to accept the honor in his stead. To
this Thomas agreed, all the more readily that Margaret, whom he
adored from a respectful distance, was to be his partner. But
Margaret, who would gladly have been associated with Ranald, on the
suggestion that Thomas should take his place, put up her lower lip
in that symbol of scorn so effective with girls, but which no boy
has ever yet accomplished, and declared that indeed, and she would
see that Tom Finch far enough, which plainly meant "no."
Consequently they had to fall back upon Betsy Dan, who, in addition
to being excessively nervous, was extremely good-natured. And
Thomas, though he would greatly have preferred Margaret as his
assistant, was quite ready to accept Betsy Dan.
The interval of waiting while Thomas deliberately smoothed out the
creases of the paper was exceedingly hard upon Betsy Dan, whose
face grew redder each moment. Jimmie Cameron, too, who realized
that the occasion was one of unusual solemnity, was gazing at
Thomas with intense interest growing into amusement, and was
holding his fingers in readiness to seize his nose, and so check
any explosion of snickers. Just as Thomas had got the last fold of
his paper straightened out, and was turning it right end up, it
somehow slipped through his fingers to the floor. This was too
much for Jimmie, who only saved himself from utter disgrace by
promptly seizing his nose and holding on for dear life. Thomas
gave Jimmie a passing glare and straightened himself up for his
work. With a furious frown he cleared his throat and began in a
solemn, deep-toned roar, "Dear teacher, learning with regret that
you are about to sever your connection," etc., etc. All went well
until he came to the words, "We beg you to accept this gift, not
for its intrinsic value," etc., which was the cue for Betsy Dan.
But Betsy Dan was engaged in terrorizing Jimmie, and failed to come
in, till, after an awful pause, Thomas gave her a sharp nudge, and
whispered audibly, "Give it to him, you gowk." Poor Betsy Dan, in
sudden confusion, whipped her hand out from under her apron, and
thrusting a box at the master, said hurriedly, "Here it is, sir."
As Thomas solemnly concluded his address, a smile ran round the
room, while Jimmie doubled himself up in his efforts to suppress a
tempest of snickers.
The master, however, seemed to see nothing humorous in the
situation, but bowing gravely to Thomas and Betsy Dan, he said,
kindly, "Thank you, Thomas! Thank you, Elizabeth!" Something in
his tone brought the school to attention, and even Jimmie forgot to
have regard to his nose. For a few moments the master stood
looking upon the faces of his pupils, dwelling upon them one by
one, till his eyes rested upon the wee tots in the front seat,
looking at him with eyes of innocent and serious wonder. Then he
thanked the children for their gift in a few simple words, assuring
them that he should always wear the watch with pride and grateful
remembrance of the Twentieth school, and of his happy days among
But when he came to say his words of farewell, and to thank them
for their goodness to him, and their loyal backing of him while he
was their teacher, his voice grew husky, and for a moment wavered.
Then, after a pause, he spoke of what had been his ideal among
them. "It is a good thing to have your minds trained and stored
with useful knowledge, but there are better things than that. To
learn honor, truth, and right; to be manly and womanly; to be self-
controlled and brave and gentle--these are better than all possible
stores of learning; and if I have taught you these at all, then I
have done what I most wished to do. I have often failed, and I
have often been discouraged, and might have given up were it not
for the help I received at my worst times from our minister and
from Mrs. Murray, who often saved me from despair."
A sudden flush tinged the grave, beautiful face of the minister's
young wife. A light filled her eyes as the master said these
words, for she remembered days when the young man's pain was almost
greater than he could bear, and when he was near to giving up.
When the master ceased, the minister spoke a few words in
appreciation of the work he had done in the school, and in the
whole Section, during his three years' stay among them, and
expressed his conviction that many a young lad would grow into a
better man because he had known Archibald Munro, and some of them
would never forget what he had done for them.
By this time all the big girls and many of the visitors were openly
weeping. The boys were looking straight in front of them, their
faces set in an appearance of savage gloom, for they knew well how
near they were to "acting like the girls."
After a short prayer by the minister, the children filed out past
the master, who stood at the door and shook hands with them one by
one. When the big boys, and the young men who had gone to school
in the winter months, came to say good by, they shook hands
silently, and then stood close about him as if hating to let him
go. He had caught for them in many a close base-ball match; he had
saved their goal in many a fierce shinny fight with the Front; and
while he had ruled them with an iron rule, he had always treated
them fairly. He had never failed them; he had never weakened; he
had always been a man among them. No wonder they stood close about
him and hated to lose him. Suddenly big Bob Fraser called out in a
husky voice, "Three cheers for the captain!" and every one was glad
of the chance to let himself out in a roar. And that was the last
of the farewells.
THE NEW MASTER
Right in front of the school door, and some little distance from
it, in the midst of a clump of maples, stood an old beech-tree with
a dead top, and half-way down where a limb had once been and had
rotted off, a hole. Inside this hole two very respectable but
thoroughly impudent red squirrels had made their nest. The hole
led into the dead heart of the tree, which had been hollowed out
with pains so as to make a roomy, cosy home, which the squirrels
had lined with fur and moss, and which was well stored with
beechnuts from the tree, their winter's provisions.
Between the boys and the squirrels there existed an armed
neutrality. It was understood among the boys that nothing worse
than snowballs was to be used in their war with the squirrels,
while with the squirrels it was a matter of honor that they should
put reasonable limits to their profanity. But there were times
when the relations became strained, and hence the holidays were no
less welcome to the squirrels than to the boys.
To the squirrels this had been a day of unusual anxiety, for the
school had taken up again after its two weeks' holidays, and the
boys were a little more inquisitive than usual, and unfortunately,
the snow happened to be good for packing. It had been a bad day
for nerves, and Mr. Bushy, as the boys called him, found it
impossible to keep his tail in one position for more than one
second at a time. It was in vain that his more sedate and self-
controlled partner in life remonstrated with him and urged a more
"It's all very well for you, my dear," Mr. Bushy was saying, rather
crossly I am afraid, "to urge a philosophic mind, but if you had
the responsibility of the family upon you--Goodness gracious! Owls
and weasels! What in all the woods is that?"
"Can't be the wolves," said Mrs. Bushy, placidly, "it's too early
"Might have known," replied her husband, quite crossly; "of course
it's those boys. I wonder why they let them out of school at all.
Why can't they keep them in where it is warm? It always seems to
me a very silly thing anyway, for them to keep rushing out of their
hole in that stupid fashion. What they do in there I am sure I
don't know. It isn't the least like a nest. I've seen inside of
it. There isn't a thing to eat, nor a bit of hair or moss. They
just go in and out again."
"Well, my dear," said his wife, soothingly, "you can hardly expect
them to know as much as people with a wider outlook. We must
remember they are only ground people."
"That's just it!" grumbled Mr. Bushy. "I only wish they would just
keep to themselves and on the ground where they belong, but they
have the impudence to come lumbering up here into our tree."
"Oh, well," replied his partner, calmly, "you must acknowledge they
do not disturb our nest."
"And a good thing for them, too," chattered Mr. Bushy, fiercely,
smoothing out his whiskers and showing his sharp front teeth, at
which Mrs. Bushy smiled gently behind her tail.
"But what are they doing now?" she inquired.
"Oh, they are going off into the woods," said Mr. Bushy, who had
issued from his hole and was sitting up on a convenient crotch.
"And I declare!" he said, in amazed tones, "they haven't thrown one
snowball at me. Something must be badly wrong with them. Wonder
what it is? This is quite unprecedented."
At this Mrs. Bushy ventured carefully out to observe the
extraordinary phenomenon, for the boys were actually making their
way to the gate, the smaller ones with much noisy shouting, but the
big boys soberly enough engaged in earnest conversation. It was
their first day of the new master, and such a day as quite
"flabbergastrated," as Don Cameron said, even the oldest of them.
But of course Mr. and Mrs. Bushy knew nothing of this, and could
"Murdie," cried Hughie to Don's big brother, who with Bob Fraser,
Ranald Macdonald, and Thomas Finch was walking slowly toward the
gate, "you won't forget to ask your pa for an excuse if you happen
to be late to-morrow, will you?"
Murdie paid no attention.
"You won't forget your excuse, Murdie," continued Hughie, poking
him in the back.
Murdie suddenly turned, caught him by the neck and the seat of his
trousers, and threw him head first into a drift, from which he
emerged wrathful and sputtering.
"Well, I hope you do," continued Hughie, "and then you'll catch it.
And mind you," he went on, circling round to get in front of him,
"if you want to ask big Bob there for his knife, mind you hold up
your hand first." Murdie only grinned at him.
The new master had begun the day by enunciating the regulations
under which the school was to be administered. They made rather a
formidable list, but two of them seemed to the boys to have gone
beyond the limits of all that was outrageous and absurd. There was
to be no speaking during school hours, and if a boy should desire
to ask a question of his neighbor, he was to hold up his hand and
get permission from the master. But worse than all, and more
absurd than all, was the regulation that all late comers and
absentees were to bring written excuses from parents or guardians.
"Guardian," Thomas Finch had grunted, "what's that?"
"Your grandmother," whispered Don back.
It was not Don's reply that brought Thomas into disgrace this first
day of the new master's rule, it was the vision of big Murdie
Cameron walking up to the desk with an excuse for lateness, which
he had obtained from Long John, his father. This vision breaking
suddenly in upon the solemnity of Thomas Finch's mind, had sent him
into a snort of laughter, not more to the surprise of the school
than of himself. The gravity of the school had not been greatly
helped by Thomas sheepish answer to the master's indignant question,
"What did you do that for, sir?"
"I didn't; it did itself."
On the whole, the opening day had not been a success. As a matter
of fact, it was almost too much to expect that it should be
anything but a failure. There was a kind of settled if unspoken
opinion among the children that no master could ever fill Archibald
Munro's place in the school. Indeed, it was felt to be a kind of
impertinence for any man to attempt such a thing. And further,
there was a secret sentiment among the boys that loyalty to the old
master's memory demanded an attitude of unsympathetic opposition to
the one who came to take his place. It did not help the situation
that the new master was unaware of this state of mind. He was
buoyed up by the sentiments of enthusiastic admiration and approval
that he carried with him in the testimonials from his last board of
trustees in town, with which sentiments he fully agreed, and hence
he greeted the pupils of the little backwoods school with an airy
condescension that reduced the school to a condition of speechless
and indignant astonishment. The school was prepared to tolerate
the man who should presume to succeed their former master, if
sufficiently humble, but certainly not to accept airy condescension
"Does he think we're babies?" asked Don, indignantly.
"And did you see him trying to chop at recess?" (REE'cis, Hughie
called it.) "He couldn't hit twice in the same place."
"And he asked me if that beech there was a maple," said Bob Fraser,
in deep disgust.
"Oh, shut up your gab!" said Ranald, suddenly. "Give the man a
"Will YOU bring an excuse when you're absent, Ranald?" asked
"And where would I be getting it?" asked Ranald, grimly, and all
the boys realized the absurdity of expecting a written excuse for
Ranald's absence from his father. Macdonald Dubh was not a man to
be bothered with such trifles.
"You might get it from your Aunt Kirsty, Ranald," said Don, slyly.
The boys shouted at the suggestion.
"And she could do it well enough if it would be necessary," said
Ranald, facing square round on Don, and throwing up his head after
his manner when battle was in the air, while the red blood showed
in his dark cheek and his eyes lit up with a fierce gleam. Don
read the danger signal.
"I'm not saying she couldn't," he hurried to say, apologetically,
"but it would be funny, wouldn't it?"
"Well," said Ranald, relenting and smiling a little, "it would be
keeping her busy at times."
"When the deer are running, eh, Ranald," said Murdie, good-
naturedly. "But Ranald's right, boys," he continued, "give the man
a chance, say I."
"There's our bells," cried Thomas Finch, as the deep, musical boom
of the Finch's sleigh-bells came through the bush. "Come on,
Hughie, we'll get them at the cross." And followed by Hughie and
the boys from the north, he set off for the north cross-roads,
where they would meet the Finch's bob-sleighs coming empty from the
saw-mill, to the great surprise and unalloyed delight of Mr. and
Mrs. Bushy, who from their crotch in the old beech had watched with
some anxiety the boys' unusual conduct.
"There they are, Hughie," called Thomas, as the sleighs came out
into the open at the crossroads. "They'll wait for us. They know
you're coming," he yelled, encouragingly, for the big boys had left
the smaller ones, a panting train, far in the rear, and were piling
themselves upon the Finch's sleighs, with never a "by your leave"
to William John--familiarly known as Billy Jack--Thomas' eldest
brother, who drove the Finch's team.
Thomas' home lay a mile north and another east from the Twentieth
cross-roads, but the winter road by which they hauled saw-logs to
the mill, cut right through the forest, where the deep snow packed
hard into a smooth track, covering roots and logs and mud holes,
and making a perfect surface for the sleighs, however heavily
loaded, except where here and there the pitch-holes or cahots came.
These cahots, by the way, though they became, especially toward the
spring, a serious annoyance to teamsters, only added another to the
delights that a sleigh-ride held for the boys.
To Hughie, the ride this evening was blissful to an unspeakable
degree. He was overflowing with new sensations. He was going to
spend the night with Thomas, for one thing, and Thomas as his host
was quite a new and different person from the Thomas of the school.
The minister's wife, ever since the examination day, had taken a
deeper interest in Thomas, and determined that something should be
made out of the solemn, stolid, slow-moving boy. Partly for this
reason she had yielded to Hughie's eager pleading, backing up the
invitation brought by Thomas himself and delivered in an agony of
red-faced confusion, that Hughie should be allowed to go home with
him for the night. Partly, too, because she was glad that Hughie
should see something of the Finch's home, and especially of
the dark-faced, dark-eyed little woman who so silently and
unobtrusively, but so efficiently, administered her home, her
family, and their affairs, and especially her husband, without
suspicion on his part that anything of the kind was being done.
In addition to the joy that Hughie had in Thomas in his new role as
host, this winter road was full of wonder and delight, as were all
roads and paths that wound right through the heart of the bush.
The regular made-up roads, with the forest cut back beyond the
ditches at the sides, were a great weariness to Hughie, except
indeed, in the springtime, when these ditches were running full
with sun-lit water, over the mottled clay bottom and gravelly
ripples. But the bush roads and paths, summer and winter, were
filled with things of wonder and of beauty, and this particular
winter road of the Finch's was best of all to Hughie, for it was
quite new to him, and besides, it led right through the mysterious,
big pine swamp and over the butternut ridge, beyond which lay the
Finch's farm. Balsam-trees, tamarack, spruce, and cedar made up
the thick underbrush of the pine swamp, white birch, white ash, and
black were thickly sprinkled through it, but high above these
lesser trees towered the white pines, lifting their great, tufted
crests in lonely grandeur, seeming like kings among meaner men.
Here and there the rabbit runways, packed into hard little paths,
crossed the road and disappeared under the thick spruces and
balsams; here and there, the sly, single track of the fox, or the
deep hoof-mark of the deer, led off into unknown depths on either
side. Hughie, sitting up on the bolster of the front bob beside
Billy Jack, for even the big boys recognized his right, as Thomas'
guest, to that coveted place, listened with eager face and wide-
open eyes to Billy Jack's remarks upon the forest and its strange
One thing else added to Hughie's keen enjoyment of the ride. Billy
Jack's bays were always in the finest of fettle, and pulled hard on
the lines, and were rarely allowed the rapture of a gallop. But
when the swamp was passed and the road came to the more open
butternut ridge, Billy Jack shook the lines over their backs and
let them out. Their response was superb to witness, and brought
Hughie some moments of ecstatic rapture. Along the hard-packed
road that wound about among the big butternuts, the rangey bays
sped at a flat gallop, bounding clear over the cahots, the booming
of the bells and the rattling of the chains furnishing an
exhilarating accompaniment to the swift, swaying motion, while the
children clung for dear life to the bob-sleighs and to each other.
It was all Billy Jack could do to get his team down to a trot by
the time they reached the clearing, for there the going was
perilous, and besides, it was just as well that his father should
not witness any signs on Billy Jack's part of the folly that he was
inclined to attribute to the rising generation. So steadily enough
the bays trotted up the lane and between long lines of green
cordwood on one side and a hay-stack on the other, into the yard,
and swinging round the big straw-stack that faced the open shed,
and was flanked on the right by the cow-stable and hog-pen, and on
the left by the horse-stable, came to a full stop at their own
"Thomas, you take Hughie into the house to get warm, till I
unhitch," said Billy Jack, with the feeling that courtesy to the
minister's son demanded this attention. But Hughie, rejecting this
proposition with scorn, pushed Thomas aside and set himself to
unhitch the S-hook on the outside trace of the nigh bay. It was
one of Hughie's grievances, and a very sore point with him, that
his father's people would insist on treating him in the privileged
manner they thought proper to his father's son, and his chief
ambition was to stand upon his own legs and to fare like other
boys. So he scorned Billy Jack's suggestion, and while some of the
children scurried about the stacks for a little romp before setting
off for their homes, which some of them, for the sake of the ride,
had left far behind, Hughie devoted himself to the unhitching of
the team with Billy Jack. And so quick was he in his movements,
and so fearless of the horses, that he had his side unhitched and
was struggling with the breast-strap before Billy Jack had finished
with his horse.
"Man! you're a regular farmer," said Billy Jack, admiringly, "only
you're too quick for the rest of us."
Hughie, still struggling with the breast-strap, found his heart
swell with pride. To be a farmer was his present dream.
"But that's too heavy for you," continued Billy Jack. "Here, let
down the tongue first."
"Pshaw!" said Hughie, disgusted at his exhibition of ignorance, "I
knew that tongue ought to come out first, but I forgot."
"Oh, well, it's just as good that way, but not quite so easy," said
Billy Jack, with doubtful consistency.
It took Hughie but a few minutes after the tongue was let down to
unfasten his end of the neck-yoke and the cross-lines, and he was
beginning at his hame-strap, always a difficult buckle, when Billy
Jack called out, "Hold on there! You're too quick for me. We'll
make them carry their own harness into the stable. Don't believe
in making a horse of myself." Billy Jack was something of a
The Finch homestead was a model of finished neatness. Order was
its law. Outside, the stables, barns, stacks, the very wood-piles,
evidenced that law. Within, the house and its belongings and
affairs were perfect in their harmonious arrangement. The whole
establishment, without and within, gave token of the unremitting
care of one organizing mind, for, from dark to dark, while others
might have their moments of rest and careless ease, "the little
mother," as Billy Jack called her, was ever on guard, and all the
machinery of house and farm moved smoothly and to purpose because
of that unsleeping care. She was last to bed and first to stir,
and Billy Jack declared that she used to put the cats to sleep at
night, and waken up the roosters in the morning. And through it
all her face remained serene, and her voice flowed in quiet tones.
Billy Jack adored her with all the might of his big heart and body.
Thomas, slow of motion as of expression, found in her the center of
his somewhat sluggish being. Jessac, the little dark-faced maiden
of nine years, whose face was the very replica of her mother's,
knew nothing in the world dearer, albeit in her daily little
housewifely tasks she felt the gentle pressure of that steadfast
mind and unyielding purpose. Her husband regarded her with a
curious mingling of reverence and defiance, for Donald Finch was an
obstinate man, with a man's love of authority, and a Scotchman's
sense of his right to rule in his own house. But while he talked
much about his authority, and made a great show of absolutism with
his family, he was secretly conscious that another will than his
had really kept things moving about the farm; for he had long ago
learned that his wife was always right, while he might often be
wrong, and that, withal her soft words and gentle ways, hers was a
will like steel.
Besides the law of order, another law ruled in the Finch household--
the law of work. The days were filled with work, for they each
had their share to do, and bore the sole responsibility for its
being well done. If the cows failed in their milk, or the fat
cattle were not up to the mark, the father felt the reproach as
his; to Billy Jack fell the care and handling of the horses; Thomas
took charge of the pigs, and the getting of wood and water for the
house; little Jessac had her daily task of "sorting the rooms," and
when the days were too stormy or the snow too deep for school, she
had in addition her stent of knitting or of winding the yarn for
the weaver. To the mother fell all the rest. At the cooking and
the cleaning, and the making and the mending, all fine arts with
her, she diligently toiled from long before dawn till after all the
rest were abed. But besides these and other daily household duties
there were, in their various seasons, the jam and jelly, the
pumpkin and squash preserves, the butter-making and cheese-making,
and more than all, the long, long work with the wool. Billy Jack
used to say that the little mother followed that wool from the
backs of her sheep to the backs of her family, and hated to let the
weaver have his turn at it. What with the washing and the oiling
of it, the carding and the spinning, the twisting and the winding,
she never seemed to be done. And then, when it came back from the
weaver in great webs of fulled-cloth and flannel and winsey, there
was all the cutting, shaping, and sewing before the family could
get it on their backs. True, the tailor was called in to help, but
though he declared he worked no place else as he worked at the
Finch's, it was Billy Jack's openly expressed opinion that "he
worked his jaw more than his needle, for at meal-times he gave his
needle a rest."
But though Hughie, of course, knew nothing of this toiling and
moiling, he was distinctly conscious of an air of tidiness and
comfort and quiet, and was keenly alive to the fact that there was
a splendid supper waiting him when he got in from the stables with
the others, "hungry as a wild-cat," as Billy jack expressed it.
And that WAS a supper! Fried ribs of fresh pork, and hashed
potatoes, hot and brown, followed by buckwheat pancakes, hot and
brown, with maple syrup. There was tea for the father and mother
with their oat cakes, but for the children no such luxury, only the
choice of buttermilk or sweet milk. Hughie, it is true, was
offered tea, but he promptly declined, for though he loved it well
enough, it was sufficient reason for him that Thomas had none. It
took, however, all the grace out of his declining, that Mr. Finch
remarked in gruff pleasantry, "What would a boy want with tea!"
The supper was a very solemn meal. They were all too busy to talk,
at least so Hughie felt, and as for himself, he was only afraid
lest the others should "push back" before he had satisfied the
terrible craving within him.
After supper the books were taken, and in Gaelic, for though Donald
Finch was perfectly able in English for business and ordinary
affairs of life, when it came to the worship of God, he found that
only in the ancient mother tongue could he "get liberty." As
Hughie listened to the solemn reading, and then to the prayer that
followed, though he could understand only a word now and again, he
was greatly impressed with the rhythmic, solemn cadence of the
voice, and as he glanced through his fingers at the old man's face,
he was surprised to find how completely it had changed. It was no
longer the face of the stern and stubborn autocrat, but of an
earnest, humble, reverent man of God; and Hughie, looking at him,
wondered if he would not be altogether nicer with his wife and boys
after that prayer was done. He had yet to learn how obstinate and
even hard a man can be and still have a great "gift in prayer."
From the old man's face, Hughie's glance wandered to his wife's,
and there was held fascinated. For the first time Hughie thought
it was beautiful, and more than that, he was startled to find that
it reminded him of his mother's. At once he closed his eyes, for
he felt as if he had been prying where he had no right.
After the prayer was over they all drew about the glowing polished
kitchen stove with the open front, and set themselves to enjoy that
hour which, more than any other, helps to weave into the memory the
thoughts and feelings that in after days are associated with home.
Old Donald drew forth his pipe, a pleased expectation upon his
face, and after cutting enough tobacco from the black plug which
he pulled from his trousers pocket, he rolled it fine, with
deliberation, and packed it carefully into his briar-root pipe,
from which dangled a tin cap; then drawing out some live coals from
the fire, he with a quick motion picked one up, set it upon the top
of the tobacco, and holding it there with his bare finger until
Hughie was sure he would burn himself, puffed with hard, smacking
puffs, but with a more comfortable expression than Hughie had yet
seen him wear. Then, when it was fairly lit, he knocked off the
coal, packed down the tobacco, put on the little tin cap, and sat
back in his covered arm-chair, and came as near beaming upon the
world as ever he allowed himself to come.
"Here, Jessac," he said to the little dark-faced maiden slipping
about the table under the mother's silent direction. Jessac
glanced at her mother and hesitated. Then, apparently reading her
mother's face, she said, "In a minute, da," and seizing the broom,
which was much taller than herself, she began to brush up the
crumbs about the table with amazing deftness. This task completed,
and the crumbs being thrown into the pig's barrel which stood in
the woodshed just outside the door, Jessac set her broom in the
corner, hung up the dust-pan on its proper nail behind the stove,
and then, running to her father, climbed up on his knee and
snuggled down into his arms for an hour's luxurious laziness before
the fire. Hughie gazed in amazement at her temerity, for Donald
Finch was not a man to take liberties with; but as he gazed, he
wondered the more, for again the face of the stern old man was
"Be quaet now, lassie. Hear me now, I am telling you," he
admonished the little girl in his arms, while there flowed over his
face a look of half-shamed delight that seemed to fill up and
smooth out all its severe lines.