Part 2 out of 4
Hughie was still gazing and wondering when the old man, catching
his earnest, wide-open gaze, broke forth suddenly, in a voice
nearly jovial, "Well, lad, so you have taken up the school again.
You will be having a fine time of it altogether."
The lad, startled more by the joviality of his manner than by the
suddenness of his speech, hastily replied, "Indeed, we are not,
"What! what!" replied the old man, returning to his normal aspect
of severity. "Do you not know that you have great privileges now?"
"Huh!" grunted Hughie. "If we had Archie Munro again."
"And what is wrong with the new man?"
"Oh, I don't know. He's not a bit nice. He's--"
"Too many rules," said Thomas, slowly.
"Aha!" said his father, with a note of triumph in his tone; "so
that's it, is it? He will be bringing you to the mark, I warrant
you. And indeed it's high time, for I doubt Archie Munro was just
a little soft with you."
The old man's tone was aggravating enough, but his reference to the
old master was too much for Hughie, and even Thomas was moved to
words more than was his wont in his father's presence.
"He has too many rules," repeated Thomas, stolidly, "and they will
not be kept."
"And he is as proud as he can be," continued Hughie. "Comes along
with his cane and his stand-up collar, and lifts his hat off to the
big girls, and--and--och! he's just as stuck-up as anything!"
Hughie's vocabulary was not equal to his contempt.
"There will not be much wrong with his cane in the Twentieth
School, I dare say," went on the old man, grimly. "As for lifting
his hat, it is time some of them were learning manners. When I was
a boy we were made to mind our manners, I can tell you."
"So are we!" replied Hughie, hotly; "but we don't go shoween off
like that! And then himself and his rules!" Hughie's disgust was
"Rules!" exclaimed the old man. "Ay, that is what is the trouble."
"Well," said Hughie, with a spice of mischief, "if Thomas is late
for school he will have to bring a note of excuse."
"Very good indeed. And why should he be late at all?"
"And if any one wants a pencil he can't ask for it unless he gets
permission from the master."
"Capital!" said the old man, rubbing his hands delightedly. "He's
the right sort, whatever."
"And if you keep Thomas home a day or a week, you will have to
write to the master about it," continued Hughie.
"And what for, pray?" said the old man, hastily. "May I not keep--
but-- Yes, that's a very fine rule, too. It will keep the boys
from the woods, I am thinking."
"But think of big Murdie Cameron holding up his hand to ask leave
to speak to Bob Fraser!"
"And why not indeed? If he's not too big to be in school he's not
too big for that. Man alive! you should have seen the master in my
school days lay the lads over the forms and warm their backs to
"As big as Murdie?"
"Ay, and bigger. And what's more, he would send for them to their
homes, and bring them strapped to a wheel-barrow. Yon was a master
Hughie snorted. "Huh! I tell you what, we wouldn't stand that.
And we won't stand this man either."
"And what will you be doing now, Hughie?" quizzed the old man.
"Well," said Hughie, reddening at the sarcasm, "I will not do much,
but the big boys will just carry him out."
"And who will be daring to do that, Hughie?"
"Well, Murdie, and Bob Fraser, and Curly Ross, and Don, and--and
Thomas, there," added Hughie, fearing to hurt Thomas' feelings by
leaving him out.
"Ay," said the old man, shutting his lips tight on his pipestem and
puffing with a smacking noise, "let me catch Thomas at that!"
"And I would help, too," said Hughie, valiantly, fearing he had
exposed his friend, and wishing to share his danger.
"Well, your father would be seeing to that," said the old man, with
great satisfaction, feeling that Hughie's discipline might be
safely left in the minister's hands.
There was a pause of a few moments, and then a quiet voice inquired
gently, "He will be a very big man, Hughie, I suppose."
"Oh, just ordinary," said Hughie, innocently, turning to Mrs.
"Oh, then, they will not be requiring you and Thomas, I am
thinking, to carry him out." At which Hughie and Billy Jack and
Jessac laughed aloud, but Thomas and his father only looked
stolidly into the fire.
"Come, Thomas," said his mother, "take your fiddle a bit. Hughie
will like a tune." There was no need of any further discussing the
But Thomas was very shy about his fiddle, and besides he was not in
a mood for it; his father's words had rasped him. It took the
united persuasions of Billy Jack and Jessac and Hughie to get the
fiddle into Thomas' hands, but after a few tuning scrapes all
shyness and moodiness vanished, and soon the reels and strathspeys
were dropping from Thomas' flying fingers in a way that set
Hughie's blood tingling. But when the fiddler struck into Money
Musk, Billy Jack signed Jessac to him, and whispering to her, set
her out on the middle of the floor.
"Aw, I don't like to," said Jessac, twisting her apron into her
"Come away, Jessac," said her mother, quietly, "do your best." And
Jessac, laying aside shyness, went at her Highland reel with the
same serious earnestness she gave to her tidying or her knitting.
Daintily she tripped the twenty-four steps of that intricate,
ancient dance of the Celt people, whirling, balancing, poising,
snapping her fingers, and twinkling her feet in the true Highland
style, till once more her father's face smoothed out its wrinkles,
and beamed like a harvest moon. Hughie gazed, uncertain whether to
allow himself to admire Jessac's performance, or to regard it with
a boy's scorn, as she was only a girl. And yet he could not escape
the fascination of the swift, rhythmic movement of the neat,
"Well done, Jessac, lass," said her father, proudly. "But what
would the minister be saying at such frivolity?" he added, glancing
"Huh! he can do it himself well enough," said Hughie, "and I tell
you what, I only wish I could do it."
"I'll show you," said Jessac, shyly, but for the first time in his
life Hughie's courage failed, and though he would have given much
to be able to make his feet twinkle through the mazes of the
Highland reel, he could not bring himself to accept teaching from
Jessac. If it had only been Thomas or Billy Jack who had offered,
he would soon enough have been on the floor. For a moment he
hesitated, then with a sudden inspiration, he cried, "All right.
Do it again. I'll watch." But the mother said quietly, "I think
that will do, Jessac. And I am afraid your father will be going
with cold hands if you don't hurry with those mitts." And Jessac
put up her lip with the true girl's grimace and went away for her
knitting, to Hughie's disappointment and relief.
Soon Billy Jack took down the tin lantern, pierced with holes into
curious patterns, through which the candle-light rayed forth, and
went out to bed the horses. In spite of protests from all the
family, Hughie set forth with him, carrying the lantern and feeling
very much the farmer, while Billy Jack took two pails of boiled
oats and barley, with a mixture of flax-seed, which was supposed to
give to the Finch's team their famous and superior gloss. When
they returned from the stable they found in the kitchen Thomas, who
was rubbing a composition of tallow and bees-wax into his boots to
make them water-proof, and the mother, who was going about setting
the table for the breakfast.
"Too bad you have to go to bed, mother," said Billy Jack,
struggling with his boot-jack. "You might just go on getting the
breakfast, and what a fine start that would give you for the day."
"You hurry, William John, to bed with that poor lad. What would
his mother say? He must be fairly exhausted."
"I'm not a bit tired," said Hughie, brightly, his face radiant with
the delight of his new experiences.
"You will need all your sleep, my boy," said the mother, kindly,
"for we rise early here. But," she added, "you will lie till the
boys are through with their work, and Thomas will waken you for
"Indeed, no! I'm going to get up," announced Hughie.
"But, Hughie," said Billy Jack, seriously, "if you and Thomas are
going to carry out that man to-morrow, you will need a mighty lot
of sleep to-night."
"Hush, William John," said the mother to her eldest son, "you
mustn't tease Hughie. And it's not good to be saying such things,
even in fun, to boys like Thomas and Hughie."
"That's true, mother, for they're rather fierce already."
"Indeed, they are not that. And I am sure they will do nothing
that will shame their parents."
To this Hughie made no reply. It was no easy matter to harmonize
the thought of his parents with the exploit of ejecting the master
from the school, so he only said good night, and went off with the
silent Thomas to bed. But in the visions of his head which haunted
him the night long, racing horses and little girls with tossing
curls and twinkling feet were strangely mingled with wild conflicts
with the new master; and it seemed to him that he had hardly
dropped off to sleep, when he was awake again to see Thomas
standing beside him with a candle in his hand, announcing that
breakfast was ready.
"Have you been out to the stable?" he eagerly inquired, and Thomas
nodded. In great disappointment and a little shamefacedly he made
his appearance at the breakfast-table.
It seemed to Hughie as if it must be still the night before, for it
was quite dark outside. He had never had breakfast by candle-light
before in his life, and he felt as if it all were still a part of
his dreams, until he found himself sitting beside Billy Jack on a
load of saw-logs, waving good by to the group at the door, the old
man, whose face in the gray morning light had resumed its wonted
severe look, the quiet, little dark-faced woman, smiling kindly at
him and bidding him come again, and the little maid at her side
with the dark ringlets, who glanced at him from behind the shelter
of her mother's skirts, with shy boldness.
As Hughie was saying his good bys, he was thinking most of the
twinkling feet and the tossing curls, and so he added to his
farewells, "Good by, Jessac. I'm going to learn that reel from you
some day," and then, turning about, he straight-way forgot all
about her and her reel, for Billy Jack's horses were pawing to be
off, and rolling their solemn bells, while their breath rose in
white clouds above their heads, wreathing their manes in hoary
"Git-ep, lads," said Billy Jack, hauling his lines taut and
flourishing his whip. The bays straightened their backs, hung for
a few moments on their tugs, for the load had frozen fast during
the night, and then moved off at a smart trot, the bells solemnly
booming out, and the sleighs creaking over the frosty snow.
"Man!" said Hughie, enthusiastically, "I wish I could draw logs all
"It's not too bad a job on a day like this," assented Billy Jack.
And indeed, any one might envy him the work on such a morning.
Over the treetops the rays of the sun were beginning to shoot their
rosy darts up into the sky, and to flood the clearing with light
that sparkled and shimmered upon the frost particles, glittering
upon and glorifying snow and trees, and even the stumps and fences.
Around the clearing stood the forest, dark and still, except for
the frost reports that now and then rang out like pistol shots. To
Hughie, the early morning invested the forest with a new beauty and
a new wonder. The dim light of the dawning day deepened the
silence, so that involuntarily he hushed his voice in speaking, and
the deep-toned roll of the sleigh-bells seemed to smite upon that
dim, solemn quiet with startling blows. On either side the balsams
and spruces, with their mantles of snow, stood like white-swathed
sentinels on guard--silent, motionless, alert. Hughie looked to
see them move as the team drove past.
As they left the more open butternut ridge and descended into the
depths of the big pine swamp, the dim light faded into deeper
gloom, and Hughie felt as if he were in church, and an awe gathered
"It's awful still," he said to Billy Jack in a low tone, and Billy
Jack, catching the look in the boy's face, checked the light word
upon his lips, and gazed around into the deep forest glooms with
new eyes. The mystery and wonder of the forest had never struck
him before. It had hitherto been to him a place for hunting or for
getting big saw-logs. But to-day he saw it with Hughie's eyes, and
felt the majesty of its beauty and silence. For a long time they
drove without a word.
"Say, it's mighty fine, isn't it?" he said, adopting Hughie's low
"Splendid!" exclaimed Hughie. "My! I could just hug those big
trees. They look at me like--like your mother, don't they, or
mine?" But this was beyond Billy Jack.
"Like my mother?"
"Yes, you know, quiet and--and--kind, and nice."
"Yes," said Thomas, breaking in for the first time, "that's just
it. They do look, sure enough, like my mother and yours. They
have both got that look."
"Git-ep!" said Billy Jack to his team. "These fellows'll be
ketchin' something bad if we don't get into the open soon.
Shouldn't wonder if they've got 'em already, making out their
mothers like an old white pine. Git-ep, I say!"
"Oh, pshaw!" said Hughie, "you know what I mean."
"Not much I don't. But it don't matter so long as you're feelin'
all right. This swamp's rather bad for the groojums."
"What?" Hughie's eyes began to open wide as he glanced into the
"The groojums. Never heard of them things? They ketch a fellow in
places like this when it's gettin' on towards midnight, and about
daylight it's almost as bad."
"What are they like?" asked Hughie, upon whom the spell of the
"Oh, mighty queer. Always crawl up on your back, and ye can't help
Hughie glanced at Thomas and was at once relieved.
"Oh, pshaw! Billy Jack, you can't fool me. I know you."
"I guess you're safe enough now. They don't bother you much in the
clearing," said Billy Jack, encouragingly.
"Oh, fiddle! I'm not afraid."
"Nobody is in the open, and especially in the daytime."
"Oh, I don't care for your old groojums."
"Guess you care more for your new boss yonder, eh?" said Billy
Jack, nodding toward the school-house, which now came into view.
"Oh," said Hughie, with a groan, "I just hate going to-day."
"You'll be all right when you get there," said Billy Jack,
cheerfully. "It's like goin' in swimmin'."
Soon they were at the cross-roads.
"Good by, Billy Jack," said Hughie, feeling as if he had been on a
long, long visit. "I've had an awfully good time, and I'd like to
go back with you."
"Wish you would," said Billy Jack, heartily. "Come again soon.
And don't carry out the master to-day. It looks like a storm; he
might get cold."
"He had better mind out, then," cried Hughie after Billy Jack, and
set off with Thomas for the school. But neither Hughie nor Thomas
had any idea of the thrilling experiences awaiting them in the
Twentieth School before the week was done.
The first days of that week were days of strife. Murdie Cameron
and Bob Fraser and the other big boys succeeded in keeping in line
with the master's rules and regulations. They were careful never
to be late, and so saved themselves the degradation of bringing an
excuse. But the smaller boys set themselves to make the master's
life a burden, and succeeded beyond their highest expectations, for
the master was quick of temper, and was determined at all costs to
exact full and prompt obedience. There was more flogging done
those first six days than during any six months of Archie Munro's
rule. Sometimes the floggings amounted to little, but sometimes
they were serious, and when those fell upon the smaller boys, the
girls would weep and the bigger boys would grind their teeth and
The situation became so acute that Murdie Cameron and the big boys
decided that they would quit the school. They were afraid the
temptation to throw the master out would some day be more than they
could bear, and for men who had played their part, not without
credit, in the Scotch River fights, to carry out the master would
have been an exploit hardly worthy of them. So, in dignified
contempt of the master and his rules, they left the school after
the third day.
Their absence did not help matters much; indeed, the master
appeared to be relieved, and proceeded to tame the school into
submission. It was little Jimmie Cameron who precipitated the
crisis. Jimmie's nose, upon which he relied when struggling with
his snickers, had an unpleasant trick of failing him at critical
moments, and of letting out explosive snorts of the most disturbing
kind. He had finally been warned that upon his next outburst
punishment would fall.
It was Friday afternoon, the drowsy hour just before recess, while
the master was explaining to the listless Euclid class the
mysteries of the forty-seventh proposition, that suddenly a snort
of unusual violence burst upon the school. Immediately every eye
was upon the master, for all had heard and had noted his threat to
"James, was that you, sir?"
There was no answer, except such as could be gathered from Jimmie's
very red and very shamed face.
"James, stand up!"
Jimmie wriggled to his feet, and stood a heap of various angles.
"Now, James, you remember what I promised you? Come here, sir!"
Jimmie came slowly to the front, growing paler at each step, and
stood with a dazed look on his face, before the master. He had
never been thrashed in all his life. At home the big brothers
might cuff him good-naturedly, or his mother thump him on the head
with her thimble, but a serious whipping was to him an unknown
The master drew forth his heavy black strap with impressive
deliberation and ominous silence. The preparations for punishment
were so elaborate and imposing that the big boys guessed that the
punishment itself would not amount to much. Not so Jimmie. He
stood numb with fear and horrible expectation. The master lifted
up the strap.
"James, hold out your hand!"
Jimmie promptly clutched his hand behind his back.
"Hold out your hand, sir, at once!" No answer.
"James, you must do as you are told. Your punishment for
disobedience will be much severer than for laughing." But Jimmie
stood pale, silent, with his hands tight clasped behind his back.
The master stepped forward, and grasping the little boy's arm,
tried to pull his hand to the front; but Jimmie, with a roar like
that of a young bull, threw himself flat on his face on the floor
and put his hands under him. The school burst into a laugh of
triumph, which increased the master's embarrassment and rage.
"Silence!" he said, "or it will be a worse matter for some of you
than for James."
Then turning his attention to Jimmie, be lifted him from the floor
and tried to pull out his hand. But Jimmie kept his arms folded
tight across his breast, roaring vigorously the while, and saying
over and over, "Go away from me! Go away from me, I tell you! I'm
not taking anything to do with you."
The big boys were enjoying the thing immensely. The master's rage
was deepening in proportion. He felt it would never do to be
beaten. His whole authority was at stake.
"Now, James," he reasoned, "you see you are only making it worse
for yourself. I cannot allow any disobedience in the school. You
must hold out your hand."
But Jimmie, realizing that he had come off best in the first round,
stood doggedly sniffing, his arms still folded tight.
"Now, James, I shall give you one more chance. Hold out your
Jimmie remained like a statue.
Whack! came the heavy strap over his shoulders. At once Jimmie set
up his refrain, "Go away from me, I tell you! I'm not taking
anything to do with you!"
Whack! whack! whack! fell the strap with successive blows, each
heavier than the last. There was no longer any laughing in the
school. The affair was growing serious. The girls were beginning
to sob, and the bigger boys to grow pale.
"Now, James, will you hold out your hand? You see how much worse
you are making it for yourself," said the master, who was heartily
sick of the struggle, which he felt to be undignified, and the
result of which he feared was dubious.
But Jimmie only kept up his cry, now punctuated with sobs, "I'm--
"Jimmie, listen to me," said the master. "You must hold out your
hand. I cannot have boys refusing to obey me in this school." But
Jimmie caught the entreaty in the tone, and knowing that the battle
was nearly over, kept obstinately silent.
"Well, then," said the master, suddenly, "you must take it," and
lifting the strap, he laid it with such sharp emphasis over
Jimmie's shoulders that Jimmie's voice rose in a wilder roar than
usual, and the girls burst into audible weeping.
Suddenly, above all the hubbub, rose a voice, clear and sharp.
"Stop!" It was Thomas Finch, of all people, standing with face
white and tense, and regarding the master with steady eyes.
The school gazed thunderstruck at the usually slow and stolid
"What do you mean, sir?" said the master, gladly turning from
Jimmie. But Thomas stood silent, as much surprised as the master
at his sudden exclamation.
He stood hesitating for a moment, and then said, "You can thrash me
in his place. He's a little chap, and has never been thrashed."
The master misunderstood his hesitation for fear, pushed Jimmie
aside, threw down his strap, and seized a birch rod.
"Come forward, sir! I'll put an end to your insubordination, at
any rate. Hold out your hand!"
Thomas held out his hand till the master finished one birch rod.
"The other hand, sir!"
Another birch rod was used up, but Thomas neither uttered a sound
nor made a move till the master had done, then he asked, in a
strained voice, "Were you going to give Jimmie all that, sir?"
The master caught the biting sneer in the tone, and lost himself
"Do you dare to answer me back?" he cried. He opened his desk,
took out a rawhide, and without waiting to ask for his hand, began
to lay the rawhide about Thomas's shoulders and legs, till he was
out of breath.
"Now, perhaps you will learn your place, sir," he said.
"Thank you," said Thomas, looking him steadily in the eye.
"You are welcome. And I'll give you as much more whenever you show
that you need it." The slight laugh with which he closed this
brutal speech made Thomas wince as he had not during his whole
terrible thrashing, but still he had not a word to say.
"Now, James, come here!" said the master, turning to Jimmie. "You
see what happens when a boy is insubordinate." Jimmie came
trembling. "Hold out your hand!" Out came Jimmie's hand at once.
Whack! fell the strap.
"Stop it!" roared Thomas. "I took his thrashing."
"The other!" said the master, ignoring Thomas.
With a curious savage snarl Thomas sprung at him. The master,
however, was on the alert, and swinging round, met him with a
straight facer between the eyes, and Thomas went to the floor.
"Aha! my boy! I'll teach you something you have yet to learn."
For answer came another cry, "Come on, boys!" It was Ranald
Macdonald, coming over the seats, followed by Don Cameron, Billy
Ross, and some smaller boys. The master turned to meet them.
"Come along!" he said, backing up to his desk. "But I warn you
it's not a strap or a rawhide I shall use."
Ranald paid no attention to his words, but came straight toward
him, and when at arm's length, sprung at him with the cry, "Horo,
But before he could lay his hands upon the master, he received a
blow straight on the bridge of the nose that staggered him back,
stunned and bleeding. By this time Thomas was up again, and
rushing in was received in like manner, and fell back over a bench.
"How do you like it, boys?" smiled the master. "Come right along."
The boys obeyed his invitation, approaching him, but more warily,
and awaiting their chance to rush. Suddenly Thomas, with a savage
snarl, put his head down and rushed in beneath the master's guard,
paid no attention to the heavy blow he received on the head, and
locking his arms round the master's middle, buried his head close
into his chest.
At once Ranald and Billy Ross threw themselves upon the struggling
pair and carried them to the floor, the master underneath. There
was a few moments of fierce struggling, and then the master lay
still, with the four boys holding him down for dear life.
It was Thomas who assumed command.
"Don't choke him so, Ranald," he said. "And clear out of the way,
all you girls and little chaps."
"What are you going to do, Thomas?" asked Don, acknowledging
Thomas's new-born leadership.
"Tie him up," said Thomas. "Get me a sash."
At once two or three little boys rushed to the hooks and brought
one or two of the knitted sashes that hung there, and Thomas
proceeded to tie the master's legs.
While he was thus busily engaged, a shadow darkened the door, and a
voice exclaimed, "What is all this about?" It was the minister,
who had been driving past and had come upon the terrified, weeping
children rushing home.
"Is that you, Thomas? And you, Don?"
The boys let go their hold and stood up, shamed but defiant.
Immediately the master was on his feet, and with a swift, fierce
blow, caught Thomas on the chin. Thomas, taken off his guard, fell
with a thud on the floor.
"Stop that, young man!" said the minister, catching his arm.
"That's a coward's blow."
"Hands off!" said the master, shaking himself free and squaring up
"Ye would, would ye?" said the minister, gripping him by the neck
and shaking him as he might a child. "Lift ye're hand to me, would
ye? I'll break you're back to ye, and that I will." So saying,
the minister seized him by the arms and held him absolutely
helpless. The master ceased to struggle, and put down his hands.
"Ay, ye'd better, my man," said the minister, giving him a fling
Meantime Don had been holding snow to Thomas's head, and had
brought him round.
"Now, then," said the minister to the boys, "what does all this
The boys were all silent, but the master spoke.
"It is a case of rank and impudent insubordination, sir, and I
demand the expulsion of those impudent rascals."
"Well, sir," said the minister, "be sure there will be a thorough
investigation, and I greatly misjudge the case if there are not
faults on both sides. And for one thing, the man who can strike
such a cowardly blow as you did a moment ago would not be unlikely
to be guilty of injustice and cruelty."
"It is none of your business," said the master, insolently.
"You will find that I shall make it my business," said the
minister. "And now, boys, be off to your homes, and be here Monday
morning at nine o'clock, when this matter shall be gone into."
"ONE THAT RULETH WELL HIS OWN HOUSE"
The news of the school trouble ran through the section like fire
through a brule. The younger generations when they heard how
Thomas Finch had dared the master, raised him at once to the rank
of hero, but the heads of families received the news doubtfully,
and wondered what the rising generation was coming to.
The next day Billy Jack heard the story in the Twentieth store, and
with some anxiety waited for the news to reach his father's ears,
for to tell the truth, Billy Jack, man though he was, held his
father in dread.
"How did you come to do it?" he asked Thomas. "Why didn't you let
Don begin? It was surely Don's business."
"I don't know. It slipped out," replied Thomas. "I couldn't stand
Jimmie's yelling any longer. I didn't know I said anything till I
found myself standing up, and after that I didn't seem to care for
"Man! it was fine, though," said Billy Jack. "I didn't think it
was in you." And Thomas felt more than repaid for all his cruel
beating. It was something to win the approval of Billy Jack in an
affair of this kind.
It was at church on the Sabbath day that Donald Finch heard about
his son's doings in the school the week before. The minister, in
his sermon, thought fit to dwell upon the tendency of the rising
generation to revolt against authority in all things, and solemnly
laid upon parents the duty and responsibility of seeing to it that
they ruled their households well.
It was not just the advice that Donald Finch stood specially in
need of, but he was highly pleased with the sermon, and was
enlarging upon it in the churchyard where the people gathered
between the services, when Peter McRae, thinking that old Donald
was hardly taking the minister's advice to himself as he ought, and
not knowing that the old man was ignorant of all that had happened
in the school, answered him somewhat severely.
"It is good to be approving the sermon, but I would rather be
seeing you make a practical application of it."
"Indeed, that is true," replied Donald, "and it would not be amiss
for more than me to make application of it."
"Indeed, then, if all reports be true," replied Peter, "it would be
well for you to begin at home."
"Mr. McRae," said Donald, earnestly, "it is myself that knows well
enough my shortcomings, but if there is any special reason for your
remark, I am not aware of it."
This light treatment of what to Peter had seemed a grievous offense
against all authority incensed the old dominie beyond all endurance.
"And do you not think that the conduct of your son last week calls
for any reproof? And is it you that will stand up and defend it in
the face of the minister and his sermon upon it this day?"
Donald gazed at him a few moments as if he had gone mad. At length
he replied, slowly, "I do not wish to forget that you are an elder
of the church, Mr. McRae, and I will not be charging you with
telling lies on me and my family--"
"Tut, tut, man," broke in Long John Cameron, seeing how the matter
stood; "he's just referring to yon little difference Thomas had
with the master last week. But it's just nothing. Come away in."
"Thomas?" gasped Donald. "My Thomas?"
"You have not heard, then," said Peter, in surprise, and old Donald
only shook his head.
"Then it's time you did," replied Peter, severely, "for such things
are a disgrace to the community."
"Nonsense!" said Long John. "Not a bit of it! I think none the
less of Thomas for it." But in matters of this kind Long John
could hardly be counted an authority, for it was not so very long
ago since he had been beguiled into an affair at the Scotch River
which, while it brought him laurels at the hands of the younger
generation, did not add to his reputation with the elders of the
It did not help matters much that Murdie Cameron and others of his
set proceeded to congratulate old Donald, in their own way, upon
his son's achievement, and with all the more fervor that they
perceived that it moved the solemn Peter to righteous wrath. From
one and another the tale came forth with embellishments, till
Donald Finch was reduced to such a state of voiceless rage and
humiliation that when, at the sound of the opening psalm the
congregation moved into the church for the Gaelic service, the old
man departed for his home, trembling, silent, amazed.
How Thomas could have brought this disgrace upon him, he could not
imagine. If it had been William John, who, with all his good
nature, had a temper brittle enough, he would not have been
surprised. And then the minister's sermon, of which he had spoken
in such open and enthusiastic approval, how it condemned him for
his neglect of duty toward his family, and held up his authority
over his household to scorn. It was a terrible blow to his pride.
"It is the Lord's judgment upon me," he said to himself, as he
tramped his way through the woods. "It is the curse of Eli that is
hanging over me and mine." And with many vows he resolved that, at
all costs, he would do his duty in this crisis and bring Thomas to
a sense of his sins.
It was in this spirit that he met his family at the supper-table,
after their return from the Gaelic service.
"What is this I hear about you, Thomas?" he began, as Thomas came
in and took his place at the table. "What is this I hear about
you, sir?" he repeated, making a great effort to maintain a calm
and judicial tone.
Thomas remained silent, partly because he usually found speech
difficult, but chiefly because he dreaded his father's wrath.
"What is this that has become the talk of the countryside and the
disgrace of my name?" continued the father, in deepening tones.
"No very great disgrace, surely," said Billy Jack, lightly, hoping
to turn his father's anger.
"Be you silent, sir!" commanded the old man, sternly. "I will ask
for your opinion when I require it. You and others beside you in
this house need to learn your places."
Billy Jack made no reply, fearing to make matters worse, though he
found it hard not to resent this taunt, which he knew well was
flung at his mother.
"I wonder at you, Thomas, after such a sermon as yon. I wonder you
are able to sit there unconcerned at this table. I wonder you are
not hiding your head in shame and confusion." The old man was
lashing himself into a white rage, while Thomas sat looking
stolidly before him, his slow tongue finding no words of defense.
And indeed, he had little thought of defending himself. He was
conscious of an acute self-condemnation, and yet, struggling
through his slow-moving mind there was a feeling that in some sense
he could not define, there was justification for what he had done.
"It is not often that Thomas has grieved you," ventured the mother,
timidly, for, with all her courage, she feared her husband when he
was in this mood.
"Woman, be silent!" blazed forth the old man, as if he had been
waiting for her words. "It is not for you to excuse his
wickedness. You are too fond of that work, and your children are
reaping the fruits of it."
Billy Jack looked up quickly as if to answer, but his mother turned
her face full upon him and commanded him with steady eyes, giving,
herself, no sign of emotion except for a slight tightening of the
lips and a touch of color in her face.
"Your children have well learned their lesson of rebellion and
deceit," continued her husband, allowing his passion a free rein.
"But I vow unto the Lord I will put an end to it now, whatever.
And I will give you to remember, sir," turning to Thomas, "to the
end of your days, this occasion. And now, hence from this table.
Let me not see your face till the Sabbath is past, and then, if the
Lord spares me, I shall deal with you."
Thomas hesitated a moment as if he had not quite taken in his
father's words, then, leaving his supper untouched, he rose slowly,
and without a word climbed the ladder to the loft. The mother
followed him a moment with her eyes, and then once more turning to
Billy Jack, held him with calm, steady gaze. Her immediate fear
was for her eldest son. Thomas, she knew, would in the mean time
simply suffer what might be his lot, but for many a day she had
lived in terror of an outbreak between her eldest son and her
husband. Again Billy Jack caught her look, and commanded himself
"The fire is low, William John," she said, in a quiet voice. Billy
Jack rose, and from the wood-box behind the stove, replenished the
fire, reading perfectly his mother's mind, and resolving at all
costs to do her will.
At the taking of the books that night the prayer, which was spoken
in a tone of awful and almost inaudible solemnity, was for the most
part an exaltation of the majesty and righteousness of the
government of God, and a lamentation over the wickedness and
rebellion of mankind. And Billy Jack thought it was no good augury
that it closed with a petition for grace to maintain the honor of
that government, and to uphold that righteous majesty in all the
relations of life. It was a woeful evening to them all, and as
soon as possible the household went miserably to bed.
Before going to her room the mother slipped up quietly to the loft
and found Thomas lying in his bunk, dressed and awake. He was
still puzzling out his ethical problem. His conscience clearly
condemned him for his fight with the master, and yet, somehow he
could not regret having stood up for Jimmie and taken his
punishment. He expected no mercy at his father's hands next
morning. The punishment he knew would be cruel enough, but it was
not the pain that Thomas was dreading; he was dimly struggling with
the sense of outrage, for ever since the moment he had stood up and
uttered his challenge to the master, he had felt himself to be
different. That moment now seemed to belong to the distant years
when he was a boy, and now he could not imagine himself submitting
to a flogging from any man, and it seemed to him strange and almost
impossible that even his father should lift his hand to him.
"You are not sleeping, Thomas," said his mother, going up to his
"And you have had no supper at all."
"I don't want any, mother."
The mother sat silent beside him for a time, and then said, quietly,
"You did not tell me, Thomas."
"No, mother, I didn't like."
"It would have been better that your father should have heard this
from--I mean, should have heard it at home. And--you might have
told me, Thomas."
"Yes, mother, I wish now I had. But, indeed, I can't understand
how it happened. I don't feel as if it was me at all." And then
Thomas told his mother all the tale, finishing his story with the
words, "And I couldn't help it, mother, at all."
The mother remained silent for a little, and then, with a little
tremor in her voice, she replied: "No, Thomas, I know you couldn't
help it, and I--" here her voice quite broke--"I am not ashamed of
"Are you not, mother?" said Thomas, sitting up suddenly in great
surprise. "Then I don't care. I couldn't make it out well."
"Never you mind, Thomas, it will be well," and she leaned over him
and kissed him. Thomas felt her face wet with tears, and his
stolid reserve broke down.
"Oh, mother, mother, I don't care now," he cried, his breath coming
in great sobs. "I don't care at all." And he put his arms round
his mother, clinging to her as if he had been a child.
"I know, laddie, I know," whispered his mother. "Never you fear,
never fear." And then, as if to herself, she added, "Thank the
Lord you are not a coward, whatever."
Thomas found himself again without words, but he held his mother
fast, his big body shaking with his sobs.
"And, Thomas," she continued, after a pause, "your father--we must
just be patient." All her life long this had been her struggle.
"And--and--he is a good man." Her tears were now flowing fast, and
her voice had quite lost its calm.
Thomas was alarmed and distressed. He had never in all his life
seen his mother weep, and rarely had heard her voice break.
"Don't, mother," he said, growing suddenly quiet himself. "Don't
you mind, mother. It'll be all right, and I'm not afraid."
"Yes," she said, rising and regaining her self-control, "it will be
all right, Thomas. You go to sleep." And there were such evident
reserves of strength behind her voice that Thomas lay down, certain
that all would be well. His mother had never failed him.
The mother went downstairs with the purpose in her heart of having
a talk with her husband, but Donald Finch knew her ways well, and
had resolved that he would have no speech with her upon the matter,
for he knew that it would be impossible for him to persevere in his
intention to "deal with" Thomas, if he allowed his wife to have any
talk with him.
The morning brought the mother no opportunity of speech with her
husband. He, contrary to his custom, remained until breakfast in
his room. Outside in the kitchen, he could hear Billy Jack's
cheerful tones and hearty laugh, and it angered him to think that
his displeasure should have so little effect upon his household.
If the house had remained shrouded in gloom, and the family had
gone about on tiptoes and with bated breath, it would have shown no
more than a proper appreciation of the father's displeasure; but as
Billy Jack's cheerful words and laughter fell upon his ear, he
renewed his vows to do his duty that day in upholding his
authority, and bringing to his son a due sense of his sin.
In grim silence he ate his breakfast, except for a sharp rebuke to
Billy Jack, who had been laboring throughout the meal to make
cheerful conversation with Jessac and his mother. At his father's
rebuke Billy Jack dropped his cheerful tone, and avoiding his
mother's eyes, he assumed at once an attitude of open defiance, his
tones and words plainly offering to his father war, if war he would
"You will come to me in the room after breakfast," said his father,
as Thomas rose to go to the stable.
"There's a meeting of the trustees at nine o'clock at the school-
house at which Thomas must be present," interposed Billy Jack, in
firm, steady tones.
"He may go when I have done with him," said his father, angrily,
"and meantime you will attend to your own business."
"Yes, sir, I will that!" Billy Jack's response came back with
The old man glanced at him, caught the light in his eyes, hesitated
a moment, and then, throwing all restraint to the winds, thundered
out, "What do you mean, sir?"
"What I say. I am going to attend to my own business, and that
soon." Billy Jack's tone was quick, eager, defiant.
Again the old man hesitated, and then replied, "Go to it, then."
"I am going, and I am going to take Thomas to that meeting at nine
"I did not know that you had business there," said the old man,
"Then you may know it now," blazed forth Billy Jack, "for I am
going. And as sure as I stand here, I will see that Thomas gets
fair play there if he doesn't at home, if I have to lick every
trustee in the section."
"Hold your peace, sir!" said his father, coming nearer him. "Do
not give me any impertinence, and do not accuse me of unfairness."
"Have you heard Thomas's side of the story?" returned Billy Jack.
"I have heard enough, and more than enough."
"You haven't heard both sides."
"I know the truth of it, whatever, the shameful and disgraceful
truth of it. I know that the country-side is ringing with it. I
know that in the house of God the minister held up my family to the
scorn of the people. And I vowed to do my duty to my house."
The old man's passion had risen to such a height that for a moment
Billy Jack quailed before it. In the pause that followed the old
man's outburst the mother came to her son.
"Hush, William John! You are not to forget yourself, nor your duty
to your father and to me. Thomas will receive full justice in this
matter." There was a quiet strength and dignity in her manner that
commanded immediate attention from both men.
The mother went on in a low, even voice, "Your father has his duty
to perform, and you must not take upon yourself to interfere."
Billy Jack could hardly believe his ears. That his mother should
desert him, and should support what he knew she felt to be
injustice and tyranny, was more than he could understand. No less
perplexed was her husband.
As they stood there looking at each other, uncertain as to the next
step, there came a knock at the back door. The mother went to open
it, pausing on her way to push back some chairs and put the room to
rights, thus allowing the family to regain its composure.
"Good morning, Mrs. Finch. You will be thinking I have slept in
your barn all night." It was Long John Cameron.
"Come away in, Mr. Cameron. It is never too early for friends to
come to this house," said Mrs. Finch, her voice showing her great
Long John came in, glanced shrewdly about, and greeted Mr. Finch
with great heartiness.
"It's a fine winter day, Mr. Finch, but it looks as if we might
have a storm. You are busy with the logs, I hear."
Old Donald was slowly recovering himself.
"And a fine lot you are having," continued Long John. "I was just
saying the other day that it was wonderful the work you could get
"Indeed, it is hard enough to do anything here," said Donald Finch,
with some bitterness.
"You may say so," responded Long John, cheerfully. "The snow is
that deep in the bush, and--"
"You were wanting to see me, Mr. Cameron," interrupted Donald. "I
have a business on hand which requires attention."
"Indeed, and so have I. For it is--"
"And indeed, it is just as well you and all should know it, for my
disgrace is well known."
"Disgrace!" exclaimed Long John.
"Ay, disgrace. For is it not a disgrace to have the conduct of
your family become the occasion of a sermon on the Lord's Day?"
"Indeed, I did not think much of yon sermon, whatever," replied
"I cannot agree with you, Mr. Cameron. It was a powerful sermon,
and it was only too sorely needed. But I hope it will not be
without profit to myself."
"Indeed, it is not the sermon you have much need of," said Long
John, "for every one knows what a--"
"Ay, it is myself that needs it, but with the help of the Lord I
will be doing my duty this morning."
"And I am very glad to hear that," replied Long John, "for that is
why I am come."
"And what may you have to do with it?" asked the old man.
"As to that, indeed," replied Long John, coolly, "I am not yet
quite sure. But if I might ask without being too bold, what is the
particular duty to which you are referring?"
"You may ask, and you and all have a right to know, for I am about
to visit upon my son his sins and shame."
"And is it meaning to wheep him you are?"
"Ay," said the old man, and his lips came fiercely together.
"Indeed, then, you will just do no such thing this morning."
"And by what right do you interfere in my domestic affairs?"
demanded old Donald, with dignity. "Answer me that, Mr. Cameron."
"Right or no right," replied Long John, "before any man lays a
finger on Thomas there, he will need to begin with myself. And,"
he added, grimly, "there are not many in the county who would care
for that job."
Old Donald Finch looked at his visitor in speechless amazement. At
length Long John grew excited.
"Man alive!" he exclaimed, "it's a quare father you are. You may
be thinking it disgrace, but the section will be proud that there
is a boy in it brave enough to stand up for the weak against a
brute bully." And then he proceeded to tell the tale as he had
heard it from Don, with such strong passion and such rude vigor,
that in spite of himself old Donald found his rage vanish, and his
heart began to move within him toward his son.
"And it is for that," cried Long John, dashing his fist into his
open palm, "it is for that that you would punish your son. May God
forgive me! but the man that lays a finger on Thomas yonder, will
come into sore grief this day. Ay, lad," continued Long John,
striding toward Thomas and gripping him by the shoulders with both
hands, "you are a man, and you stood up for the weak yon day, and
if you efer will be wanting a friend, remember John Cameron."
"Well, well, Mr. Cameron," said old Donald, who was more deeply
moved than he cared to show, "it maybe as you say. It maybe the
lad was not so much in the wrong."
"In the wrong?" roared Long John, blowing his nose hard. "In the
wrong? May my boys ever be in the wrong in such a way!"
"Well," said old Donald, "we shall see about this. And if Thomas
has suffered injustice it is not his father will refuse to see him
righted." And soon they were all off to the meeting at the school-
Thomas was the last to leave the room. As usual, he had not been
able to find a word, but stood white and trembling, but as he found
himself alone with his mother, once more his stolid reserve broke
down, and he burst into a strange and broken cry, "Oh, mother,
mother," but he could get no further.
"Never mind, laddie," said his mother, "you have borne yourself
well, and your mother is proud of you."
At the investigation held in the school-house, it became clear
that, though the insubordination of both Jimmie and Thomas was
undeniable, the provocation by the master had been very great. And
though the minister, who was superintendent of instruction for the
district, insisted that the master's authority must, at all costs,
be upheld, such was the rage of old Donald Finch and Long John
Cameron that the upshot was that the master took his departure from
the section, glad enough to escape with bones unbroken.
After the expulsion of the master, the Twentieth School fell upon
evil days, for the trustees decided that it would be better to try
"gurl" teachers, as Hughie contemptuously called them; and this
policy prevailed for two or three years, with the result that the
big boys left the school, and with their departure the old heroic
age passed away, to be succeeded by an age soft, law-abiding, and
The spirit of this unheroic age was incarnate in the person of
"Foxy" Ross. Foxy got his name, in the first instance, from the
peculiar pinky red shade of hair that crowned his white, fat face,
but the name stuck to him as appropriately descriptive of his
tricks and his manners. His face was large, and smooth, and fat,
with wide mouth, and teeth that glistened when he smiled. His
smile was like his face, large, and smooth, and fat. His eyes,
which were light gray--white, Hughie called them--were shifty,
avoiding the gaze that sought to read them, or piercingly keen,
according as he might choose.
After the departure of the big boys, Foxy gradually grew in
influence until his only rival in the school was Hughie. Foxy's
father was the storekeeper in the Twentieth, and this brought
within Foxy's reach possibilities of influence that gave him an
immense advantage over Hughie. By means of bull's-eyes and
"lickerish" sticks, Foxy could win the allegiance of all the
smaller boys and many of the bigger ones, while with the girls,
both big and small, his willingness to please and his smooth
manners won from many affection, and from the rest toleration,
although Betsy Dan Campbell asserted that whenever Foxy Ross came
near her she felt something creeping up her backbone.
With the teacher, too, Foxy was a great favorite. He gave her
worshipful reverence and many gifts from his father's store,
eloquent of his devotion. He was never detected in mischief, and
was always ready to expose the misdemeanors of the other boys.
Thus it came that Foxy was the paramount influence within the
Outside, his only rival was Hughie, and at times Hughie's rivalry
became dangerous. In all games that called for skill, activity,
and reckless daring, Hughie was easily leader. In "Old Sow,"
"Prisoner's Base," but especially in the ancient and noble game of
"Shinny," Hughie shone peerless and supreme. Foxy hated games, and
shinny, the joy of those giants of old, who had torn victory from
the Sixteenth, and even from the Front one glorious year, was at
once Foxy's disgust and terror. As a little boy, he could not for
the life of him avoid turning his back to wait shuddering, with
humping shoulders, for the enemy's charge, and in anything like a
melee, he could not help jumping into the air at every dangerous
And thus he brought upon himself the contempt even of boys much
smaller than himself, who, under the splendid and heroic example of
those who led them, had only one ambition, to get a whack at the
ball, and this ambition they gratified on every possible occasion
reckless of consequences. Hence, when the last of the big boys,
Thomas Finch, against whose solid mass hosts had flung themselves
to destruction, finally left the school, Foxy, with great skill,
managed to divert the energies of the boys to games less violent
and dangerous, and by means of his bull's-eyes and his liquorice,
and his large, fat smile, he drew after him a very considerable
following of both girls and boys.
The most interesting and most successful of Foxy's schemes was the
game of "store," which he introduced, Foxy himself being the
storekeeper. He had the trader's genius for discovering and
catering to the weaknesses of people, and hence his store became,
for certain days of the week, the center of life during the
recreation hours. The store itself was a somewhat pretentious
successor to the little brush cabin with wide open front, where in
the old days the boys used to gather, and lying upon piles of
fragrant balsam boughs before the big blazing fire placed in front,
used to listen to the master talk, and occasionally read.
Foxy's store was built of slabs covered with thick brush, and
set off with a plank counter and shelves, whereon were displayed
his wares. His stock was never too large for his personal
transportation, but its variety was almost infinite, bull's-eyes
and liquorice, maple sugar and other "sweeties," were staples.
Then, too, there were balls of gum, beautifully clear, which in its
raw state Foxy gathered from the ends of the pine logs at the
sawmill, and which, by a process of boiling and clarifying known
only to himself, he brought to a marvelous perfection.
But Foxy's genius did not confine itself to sweets. He would buy
and sell and "swap" anything, but in swapping no bargain was ever
completed unless there was money for Foxy in the deal. He had
goods second-hand and new, fish-hooks and marbles, pot-metal knives
with brass handles, slate-pencils that would "break square," which
were greatly desired by all, skate-straps, and buckskin whangs.
But Foxy's financial ability never displayed itself with more
brilliancy than when he organized the various games of the school
so as to have them begin and end with the store. When the river
and pond were covered with clear, black ice, skating would be the
rage, and then Foxy's store would be hung with skate-straps, and
with cedar-bark torches, which were greatly in demand for the
skating parties that thronged the pond at night. There were no
torches like Foxy's. The dry cedar bark any one could get from the
fences, but Foxy's torches were always well soaked in oil and bound
with wire, and were prepared with such excellent skill that they
always burned brighter and held together longer than any others.
These cedar-bark torches Foxy disposed of to the larger boys who
came down to the pond at night. Foxy's methods of finance were
undoubtedly marked by ability, and inasmuch as his accounts were
never audited, the profits were large and sure. He made it a point
to purchase a certain proportion of his supplies from his father,
who was proud of his son's financial ability, but whether his
purchases always equaled his sales no one ever knew.
If the pond and river were covered with snow, then Foxy would
organize a deer-hunt, when all the old pistols in the section would
be brought forth, and the store would display a supply of gun caps,
by the explosion of which deadly ammunition the deer would be
dropped in their tracks, and drawn to the store by prancing steeds
whose trappings had been purchased from Foxy.
When the interest in the deer-hunt began to show signs of waning,
Foxy would bring forth a supply of gunpowder, for the purchase of
which any boy who owned a pistol would be ready to bankrupt
himself. In this Hughie took a leading part, although he had to
depend upon the generosity of others for the thrilling excitement
of bringing down his deer with a pistol-shot, for Hughie had never
been able to save coppers enough to purchase a pistol of his own.
But deer-hunting with pistols was forbidden by the teacher from the
day when Hughie, in his eagerness to bring his quarry down, left
his ramrod in his pistol, and firing at Aleck Dan Campbell at
point-blank range, laid him low with a lump on the side of his head
as big as a marble. The only thing that saved Aleck's life, the
teacher declared, was his thick crop of black hair. Foxy was in
great wrath at Hughie for his recklessness, which laid the deer-
hunting under the teacher's ban, and which interfered seriously
with the profits of the store.
But Foxy was far too great a man to allow himself to be checked by
any such misfortune as this. He was far too astute to attempt to
defy the teacher and carry on the forbidden game, but with great
ability he adapted the principles of deer-hunting to a game even
more exciting and profitable. He organized the game of "Injuns,"
some of the boys being set apart as settlers who were to defend the
fort, of which the store was the center, the rest to constitute the
invading force of savages.
The result was, that the trade in caps and gunpowder was brisker
than ever, for not only was the powder needed for the pistols, but
even larger quantities were necessary for the slow-matches which
hissed their wrath at the approaching enemy, and the mounted guns,
for which earthen ink-bottles did excellently, set out on a big
stump to explode, to the destruction of scores of creeping redskins
advancing through the bush, who, after being mutilated and mangled
by these terrible explosions, were dragged into the camp and
scalped. Foxy's success was phenomenal. The few pennies and fewer
half-dimes and dimes that the boys had hoarded for many long weeks
would soon have been exhausted had Hughie not wrecked the game.
Hughie alone had no fear of Foxy, but despised him utterly. He had
stood and yelled when those heroes of old, Murdie and Don Cameron,
Curly Ross, and Ranald Macdonald, and last but not to be despised
Thomas Finch, had done battle with the enemy from the Sixteenth or
the Front, and he could not bring himself to acknowledge the
leadership of Foxy Ross, for all his bull's-eyes and liquorice.
Not but what Hughie yearned for bull's-eyes and liquorice with
great yearning, but these could not atone to him for the loss out
of his life of the stir and rush and daring of the old fighting
days. And it galled him that the boys of the Sixteenth could flout
the boys of the Twentieth in all places and on all occasions with
But above all, it seemed to him a standing disgrace that the
habitant teamsters from the north, who in former days found it a
necessary and wise precaution to put their horses to a gallop as
they passed the school, in order to escape with sleighs intact from
the hordes that lined the roadway, now drove slowly past the very
gate without an apparent tremor. But besides all this, he had an
instinctive shrinking from Foxy, and sympathized with Betsy Dan in
her creepy feeling whenever he approached. Hence he refused
allegiance, and drew upon himself Foxy's jealous hatred.
It was one of Foxy's few errors in judgment that, from his desire
to humiliate Hughie and to bring him to a proper state of
subjection, he succeeded in shutting him out from the leadership in
the game of "Injuns," for Hughie promptly refused a subordinate
position and withdrew, like Achilles, to his tent. But, unlike
Achilles, though he sulked, he sulked actively, and to some
purpose, for, drawing off with him his two faithful henchmen,
"Fusie"--neither Hughie nor any one else ever knew another name for
the little French boy who had drifted into the settlement and made
his home with the MacLeods--and Davie "Scotch," a cousin of Davie
MacDougall, newly arrived from Scotland, he placed them in
positions which commanded the store entrance, and waited until the
settlers had all departed upon their expedition against the
invading Indians. Foxy, with one or two smaller boys, was left in
charge of the store waiting for trade.
In a few moments Foxy's head appeared at the door, when, whiz! a
snowball skinned his ear and flattened itself with a bang against
"Hold on there! Stop that! You're too close up," shouted Foxy,
thinking that the invaders were breaking the rules of the game.
Bang! a snowball from another quarter caught him fair in the neck.
"Here, you fools, you! Stop that!" cried Foxy, turning in the
direction whence the snowball came and dodging round to the side of
the store. But this was Hughie's point of attack, and soon Foxy
found that the only place of refuge was inside, whither he fled,
closing the door after him. Immediately the door became a target
for the hidden foe.
Meantime, the Indian war was progressing, but now and again a
settler would return to the fort for ammunition, and the moment he
reached the door a volley of snowballs would catch him and hasten
his entrance. Once in it was dangerous to come out.
By degrees Hughie augmented his besieging force from the more
adventurous settlers and Indians, and placed them in the bush
surrounding the door.
The war game was demoralized, but the new game proved so much more
interesting that it was taken up with enthusiasm and prosecuted
with vigor. It was rare sport. For the whole noon hour Hughie
and his bombarding force kept Foxy and his friends in close
confinement, from which they were relieved only by the ringing of
the school bell, for at the sound of the bell Hughie and his men,
having had their game, fled from Foxy's wrath to the shelter of the
When Foxy appeared it was discovered that one eye was half shut,
but the light that gleamed from the other was sufficiently baleful
to give token of the wrath blazing within, and Hughie was not a
little anxious to know what form Foxy's vengeance would take. But
to his surprise, by the time recess had come Foxy's wrath had
apparently vanished, and he was willing to treat Hughie's exploit
in the light of a joke. The truth was, Foxy never allowed passion
to interfere with business, and hence he resolved that he must
swallow his rage, for he realized clearly that Hughie was far too
dangerous as a foe, and that he might become exceedingly valuable
as an ally. Within a week Hughie was Foxy's partner in business,
enjoying hugely the privilege of dispensing the store goods, with
certain perquisites that naturally attached to him as storekeeper.
It was an evil day for Hughie when he made friends with Foxy and
became his partner in the store business, for Hughie's hoardings
were never large, and after buying a Christmas present for his
mother, according to his unfailing custom, they were reduced to a
very few pennies indeed. The opportunities for investment in his
new position were many and alluring. But all Hughie's soul went
out in longing for a pistol which Foxy had among his goods, and
which would fire not only caps, but powder and ball, and his
longing was sensibly increased by Foxy generously allowing him to
try the pistol, first at a mark, which Hughie hit, and then at a
red squirrel, which he missed. By day Hughie yearned for this
pistol, by night he dreamed of it, but how he might secure it for
his own he did not know.
Upon this point he felt he could not consult his mother, his usual
counselor, for he had an instinctive feeling that she would not
approve of his having a pistol in his possession; and as for his
father, Hughie knew he would soon make "short work of any such
folly." What would a child like Hughie do with a pistol? He had
never had a pistol in all his life. It was difficult for the
minister to realize that young Canada was a new type, and he would
have been more than surprised had any one told him that already
Hughie, although only twelve, was an expert with a gun, having for
many a Saturday during the long, sunny fall roamed the woods, at
first in company with Don, and afterwards with Don's gun alone, or
followed by Fusie or Davie Scotch. There was thus no help for
Hughie at home. The price of the pistol reduced to the lowest
possible sum, was two dollars and a half, which Foxy declared was
only half what he would charge any one else but his partner.
"How much have you got altogether?" he asked Hughie one day, when
Hughie was groaning over his poverty.
"Six pennies and two dimes," was Hughie's disconsolate reply. He
had often counted them over. "Of course," he went on, "there's my
XL knife. That's worth a lot, only the point of the big blade's
"Huh!" grunted Foxy, "there's jist the stub left."
"It's not!" said Hughie, indignantly. "It's more than half, then.
And it's bully good stuff, too. It'll nick any knife in the
school"; and Hughie dived into his pocket and pulled out his knife
with a handful of boy's treasures.
"Hullo!" said Foxy, snatching a half-dollar from Hughie's hand,
"whose is that?"
"Here, you, give me that! That's not mine," cried Hughie.
"Whose is it, then?"
"I don't know. I guess it's mother's. I found it on the kitchen
floor, and I know it's mother's."
"How do you know?"
"I know well enough. She often puts money on the window, and it
fell down. Give me that, I tell you!" Hughie's eyes were blazing
dangerously, and Foxy handed back the half-dollar.
"O, all right. You're a pretty big fool," he said, indifferently.
"'Losers seekers, finders keepers.' That's my rule."
Hughie was silent, holding his precious half-dollar in his hand,
deep in his pocket.
"Say," said Foxy, changing the subject, "I guess you had better pay
up for your powder and caps you've been firing."
"I haven't been firing much," said Hughie, confidently.
"Well, you've been firing pretty steady for three weeks."
"Three weeks! It isn't three weeks."
"It is. There's this week, and last week when the ink-bottle bust
too soon and burnt Fusie's eyebrows, and the week before when you
shot Aleck Dan, and it was the week before that you began, and
that'll make it four."
"How much?" asked Hughie, desperately, resolved to know the worst.
Foxy had been preparing for this. He took down a slate-pencil box
with a sliding lid, and drew out a bundle of crumbled slips which
Hughie, with sinking heart, recognized as his own vouchers.
"Sixteen pennies." Foxy had taken care of this part of the
"Sixteen!" exclaimed Hughie, snatching up the bunch.
"Count them yourself," said Foxy, calmly, knowing well he could
count on Hughie's honesty.
"Seventeen," said Hughie, hopelessly.
"But one of those I didn't count," said Foxy, generously. "That's
the one I gave you to try at the first. Now, I tell you," went on
Foxy, insinuatingly, "you have got how much at home?" he inquired.
"Six pennies and two dimes." Hughie's tone indicated despair.
"You've got six pennies and two dimes. Six pennies and two dimes.
That's twenty--that's thirty-two cents. Now if you paid me that
thirty-two cents, and if you could get a half-dollar anywhere, that
would be eighty-two. I tell you what I would do. I would let you
have that pistol for only one dollar more. That ain't much," he
"Only a dollar more," said Hughie, calculating rapidly. "But where
would I get the fifty cents?" The dollar seemed at that moment to
Hughie quite a possible thing, if only the fifty cents could be
got. The dollar was more remote, and therefore less pressing.
Foxy had an inspiration.
"I tell you what. You borrow that fifty cents you found, and then
you can pay me eighty-two cents, and--and--" he hesitated--"perhaps
you will find some more, or something."
Hughie's eyes were blazing with great fierceness.
Foxy hastened to add, "And I'll let you have the pistol right off,
and you'll pay me again some time when you can, the other dollar."
Hughie checked the indignant answer that was at his lips. To have
the pistol as his own, to take home with him at night, and to keep
all Saturday--the temptation was great, and coming suddenly upon
Hughie, was too much for him. He would surely, somehow, soon pay
back the fifty cents, he argued, and Foxy would wait for the
dollar. And yet that half-dollar was not his, but his mother's,
and more than that, if he asked her for it, he was pretty sure she
would refuse. But then, he doubted his mother's judgment as to his
ability to use firearms, and besides, this pistol at that price was
a great bargain, and any of the boys might pick it up. Poor
Hughie! He did not know how ancient was that argument, nor how
frequently it had done duty in smoothing the descent to the lower
regions. The pistol was good to look at, the opportunity of
securing it was such as might not occur again, and as for the half-
dollar, there could be no harm in borrowing that for a little
That was Foxy's day of triumph, but to Hughie it was the beginning
of many woeful days and nights. And his misery came upon him swift
and sure, in the very moment that he turned in from the road at the
manse gate, for he knew that at the end of the lane would be his
mother, and his winged feet, upon which he usually flew from the
gate home, dragged heavily.
He found his mother, not at the door, but in the large, pleasant
living-room, which did for all kinds of rooms in the manse. It was
dining-room and sewing-room, nursery and playroom, but it was
always a good room to enter, and in spite of playthings strewn
about, or snippings of cloth, or other stour, it was always a place
of brightness and of peace, for it was there the mother was most
frequently to be found. This evening she was at the sewing-machine
busy with Hughie's Sunday clothes, with the baby asleep in the
cradle beside her in spite of the din of the flying wheels, and
little Robbie helping to pull through the long seam. Hughie shrank
from the warm, bright, loving atmosphere that seemed to fill the
room, hating to go in, but in a moment he realized that he must
"make believe" with his mother, and the pain of it and the shame of
it startled and amazed him. He was glad that his mother did not
notice him enter, and by the time he had put away his books he had
braced himself to meet her bright smile and her welcome kiss.
The mother did not apparently notice his hesitation.
"Well, my boy, home again?" she cried, holding out her hand to him
with the air of good comradeship she always wore with him. "Are
you very hungry?"
"You bet!" said Hughie, kissing her, and glad of the chance to get
"Well, you will find something pretty nice in the pantry we saved
for you. Guess what."
"I know," shouted Robbie. "Pie! It's muzzie's pie. Muzzie tept
it for 'oo."
"Now, Robbie, you were not to tell," said his mother, shaking her
finger at him.
"O-o-o, I fordot," said Robbie, horrified at his failure to keep
"Never mind. That's a lesson you will have to learn many times,
how to keep those little lips shut. And the pie will be just as
"Thank you, mother," said Hughie. "But I don't want your pie."
"My pie!" said the mother. "Pie isn't good for old women."
"Old women!" said Hughie, indignantly. "You're the youngest and
prettiest woman in the congregation," he cried, and forgetting for
the moment his sense of meanness, he threw his arms round his
"Oh, Hughie, shame on you! What a dreadful flatterer you are!"
said his mother. "Now, run away to your pie, and then to your
evening work, my boy, and we will have a good lesson together after
Hughie ran away, glad to get out of her presence, and seizing the
pie, carried it out to the barn and hurled it far into the snow.
He felt sure that a single bite of it would choke him.
If he could only have seen Foxy any time for the next hour, how
gladly would he have given him back his pistol, but by the time he
had fed his cow and the horses, split the wood and carried it in,
and prepared kindling for the morning's fires, he had become
accustomed to his new self, and had learned his first lesson in
keeping his emotions out of his face. But from that night, and
through all the long weeks of the breaking winter, when games in
the woods were impossible by reason of the snow and water, and when
the roads were deep with mud, Hughie carried his burden with him,
till life was one long weariness and dread.
And through these days he was Foxy's slave. A pistol without
ammunition was quite useless. Foxy's stock was near at hand. It
was easy to write a voucher for a penny's worth of powder or caps,
and consequently the pile in Foxy's pencil-box steadily mounted
till Hughie was afraid to look at it. His chance of being free
from his own conscience was still remote enough.
During these days, too, Foxy reveled in his power over his rival,
and ground his slave in bitter bondage, subjecting him to such
humiliation as made the school wonder and Hughie writhe; and if
ever Hughie showed any sign of resentment or rebellion, Foxy could
tame him to groveling submission by a single word. "Well, I guess
I'll go down to-night to see your mother," was all he needed to say
to make Hughie grovel again. For with Hughie it was not the fear
of his father's wrath and heavy punishment, though that was
terrible enough, but the dread that his mother should know, that
made him grovel before his tyrant, and wake at night in a cold
sweat. His mother's tender anxiety for his pale face and gloomy
looks only added to the misery of his heart.
He had no one in whom he could confide. He could not tell any of
the boys, for he was unwilling to lose their esteem, besides, it
was none of their business; he was terrified of his father's wrath,
and from his mother, his usual and unfailing resort in every
trouble of his whole life, he was now separated by his terrible
Then Foxy began to insist upon payment of his debts. Spring was at
hand, the store would soon be closed up, for business was slack in
the summer, and besides, Foxy had other use for his money.
"Haven't you got any money at all in your house?" Foxy sneered one
day, when Hughie was declaring his inability to meet his debts.
"Of course we have," cried Hughie, indignantly.
"Don't believe it," said Foxy, contemptuously.
"Father's drawer is sometimes full of dimes and half-dimes. At
least, there's an awful lot on Mondays, from the collections, you
know," said Hughie.
"Well, then, you had better get some for me, somehow," said Foxy.
"You might borrow some from the drawer for a little while."
"That would be stealing," said Hughie.
"You wouldn't mean to keep it," said Foxy. "You would only take it
for a while. It would just be borrowing."
"It wouldn't," said Hughie, firmly. "It's taking out of his
drawer. It's stealing, and I won't steal."
"Huh! you're mighty good all at once. What about that half-
"You said yourself that wasn't stealing," said Hughie, passionately.
"Well, what's the difference? You said it was your mother's, and
this is your father's. It's all the same, except that you're
afraid to take your father's."
"I'm not afraid. At least it isn't that. But it's different to
take money out of a drawer, that isn't your own."
"Huh! Mighty lot of difference! Money's money, wherever it is.
Besides, if you borrowed this from your father, you could pay back
your mother and me. You would pay the whole thing right off."
Once more Hughie argued with himself. To be free from Foxy's
hateful tyranny, and to be clear again with his mother--for that he
would be willing to suffer almost anything. But to take money out
of that drawer was awfully like stealing. Of course he would pay
it back, and after all it would only be borrowing. Besides, it
would enable him to repay what he owed to his mother and to Foxy.
Through all the mazes of specious argument Hughie worked his way,
arriving at no conclusion, except that he carried with him a
feeling that if he could by some means get that money out of the
drawer in a way that would not be stealing, it would be a vast
relief, greater than words could tell.
That night brought him the opportunity. His father and mother were
away at the prayer meeting. There was only Jessie left in the
house, and she was busy with the younger children. With the firm
resolve that he would not take a single half-dime from his father's
drawer, he went into the study. He would like to see if the drawer
were open. Yes, it was open, and the Sabbath's collection lay
there with all its shining invitation. He tried making up the
dollar and a half out of the dimes and half-dimes. What a lot of
half-dimes it took! But when he used the quarters and dimes, how
much smaller the piles were. Only two quarters and five dimes made
up the dollar, and the pile in the drawer looked pretty much the
same as before. Another quarter-dollar withdrawn from the drawer
made little difference. He looked at the little heaps on the
table. He believed he could make Foxy take that for his whole
debt, though he was sure he owed him more. Perhaps he had better
make certain. He transferred two more dimes and a half-dime from
the drawer to the table. It was an insignificant little heap.
That would certainly clear off his whole indebtedness and make him
a free man.
He slipped the little heaps of money from the table into his
pocket, and then suddenly he realized that he had never decided to
take the money. The last resolve he could remember making was
simply to see how the dollar and a half looked. Without noticing,
he had passed the point of final decision. Alas! like many
another, Hughie found the going easy and the slipping smooth upon
the down incline. Unconsciously he had slipped into being a thief.
Now he could not go back. His absorbing purpose was concealment.
Quietly shutting the drawer, he was slipping hurriedly up to his
own room, when on the stairway he met Jessie.
"What are you doing here, Jessie?" he asked, sharply.
"Putting Robbie off to bed," said Jessie, in surprise. "What's the
matter with you?"
"What's the matter?" echoed Hughie, smitten with horrible fear that
perhaps she knew. "I just wanted to know," he said, weakly.
He slipped past her, holding his pocket tight lest the coins should
rattle. When he reached his room he stood listening in the dark to
Jessie going down the stairs. He was sure she suspected something.
He would go back and put the money in the drawer again, whenever
she reached the kitchen. He stood there with his heart-beats
filling his ears, waiting for the kitchen door to slam.
Then he resolved he would wrap the money up in paper and put it
safely away, and go down and see if Jessie knew. He found one of
his old copybooks, and began tearing out a leaf. What a noise it
made! Robbie would surely wake up, and then Jessie would come back
with the light. He put the copy-book under the quilt, and holding
it down firmly with one hand, removed the leaf with the other.
With great care he wrapped up the dimes and half-dimes by
themselves. They fitted better together. Then he took up the
quarters, and was proceeding to fold them in a similar parcel, when
he heard Jessie's voice from below.
"Hughie, what are you doing?" She was coming up the stair.
He jumped from the bed to go to meet her. A quarter fell on the
floor and rolled under the bed. It seemed to Hughie as if it would
never stop rolling, and as if Jessie must hear it. Wildly he
scrambled on the floor in the dark, seeking for the quarter, while
Jessie came nearer and nearer.
"Are you going to bed already, Hughie?" she asked.
Quickly Hughie went out to the hall to meet her.
"Yes," he yawned, gratefully seizing upon her suggestion. "I'm
awfully sleepy. Give me the candle, Jessie," he said, snatching it
from her hand. "I want to go downstairs."
"Hughie, you are very rude. What would your mother say? Let me
have the candle immediately, I want to get Robbie's stockings."
Hughie's heart stood still.
"I'll throw them down, Jessie. I want the candle downstairs just a
"Leave that candle with me," insisted Jessie. "There's another on
the dining-room table you can get."
"I'll not be a minute," said Hughie, hurrying downstairs. "You
come down, Jessie, I want to ask you something. I'll throw you
"Come back here, the rude boy that you are," said Jessie, crossly,
"and bring me that candle."
There was no reply. Hughie was standing, pale and shaking, in the
dining-room, listening intently for Jessie's step. Would she go
into his room, or would she come down? Every moment increased the
agony of his fear.
At length, with a happy inspiration, he went to the cupboard,
opened the door noisily, and began rattling the dishes.
"Mercy me!" he heard Jessie exclaim at the top of the stair. "That
boy will be my death. Hughie," she called, "just shut that
cupboard! You know your mother doesn't like you to go in there."
"I only want a little," called out Hughie, still moving the dishes,
and hearing, to his great relief, Jessie's descending step. In
desperation he seized a dish of black currant preserves which he
found on the cupboard shelf, and spilled it over the dishes and
upon the floor just as Jessie entered the room.
"Land sakes alive, boy! Will you never be done your mischief?" she
cried, rushing toward him.
"Oh!" he said, "I spilt it."
"Spilt it!" echoed Jessie, indignantly, "you needn't be telling me
that. Bring me a cloth from the kitchen."
"I don't know where it is, Jessie," cried Hughie, slipping upstairs
again with his candle.
To his great relief he saw that Jessie's attention was so entirely
taken up with removing the stains of the preserves from the
cupboard shelves and dishes, that she for the moment forgot
everything else, Robbie's stockings included.
Hurrying to his room, and shading the candle with his hand lest the
light should waken his little brother, he hastily seized the money
upon the bed quilt, and after a few moments' searching under the
bed, found the strayed quarter.
With these in his hand he passed into his mother's room. Leaving
the candle there, he came back to the head of the stairs and
listened for a moment, with great satisfaction, to Jessie muttering
to herself while she cleaned up the mess he had made. Then he
turned, and with trembling fingers he swiftly made up the quarter-
dollars into another parcel. With a great sigh of relief he put
the two parcels in his pocket, and seizing his candle turned to
leave the room. As he did so, he caught sight of himself in the
glass. With a great shock of surprise he stood gazing at the
terrified, white face, with the staring eyes.
"What a fool I am!" he said, looking at himself in the glass.
"Nobody will know, and I'll pay this back soon."
His eyes wandered to a picture which stood on a little shelf beside
the glass. It was a picture of his mother, the one he loved best
of all he had ever seen of her.
There was a sudden stab of pain at his heart, his breath came in a
great sob. For a moment he looked into the eyes that looked back
at him so full of love and reproach.
"I won't do it," he said, grinding his teeth hard, and forthwith
turned to go to his father's study.
But as he left the room he saw Jessie half-way up the stairs.
"What are you doing now?" she cried, wrathfully. "Up to some
mischief, I doubt."
With a sudden, inexplicable rage, Hughie turned toward her.
"It's none of your business! You mind your own business, will you,
and leave me alone." The terrible emotions of the last few minutes
were at the back of his rage.
"Just wait, you," said Jessie, "till your mother comes. Then
you'll hear it."
"You shut your mouth!" cried Hughie, his passion sweeping his whole
being like a tempest. "You shut your mouth, you old cat, or I'll
throw this candle at you." He raised the candle high in his hand
as he spoke, and altogether looked so desperate that Jessie stood
in terror lest he should make good his threat.
"Stop, now, Hughie," she entreated. "You will be setting the house
Hughie hesitated a moment, and then turned from her, and going into
his room, banged the door in her face, and Jessie, not knowing what
to make of it all, went slowly downstairs again, forgetting once
more Robbie's stockings.
"The old cat!" said Hughie to himself. "She just stopped me. I
was going to put it back."
The memory that he had resolved to undo his wrong brought him a
curious sense of relief.
"I was just going to put it back," he said, "when she had to
He was conscious of a sense of injury against Jessie. It was not
his fault that that money was not now in the drawer.
"I'll put it back in the morning, anyhow," he said, firmly. But
even as he spoke he was conscious of an infinality in his
determination, while he refused to acknowledge to himself a secret
purpose to leave the question open till the morning. But this
determination, inconclusive though it was, brought him a certain
calm of mind, so that when his mother came into his room she found
him sound asleep.
She stood beside his bed looking down upon him for a few moments,
with face full of anxious sadness.
"There's something wrong with the boy," she said to herself,
stooping to kiss him. "There's something wrong with him," she
repeated, as she left the room. "He's not the same."
During these weeks she had been conscious that Hughie had changed
in some way to her. The old, full, frank confidence was gone.
There was a constraint in his manner she could not explain. "He is
no longer a child," she would say to herself, seeking to allay the
pain in her heart. "A boy must have his secrets. It is foolish in
me to think anything else. Besides, he is not well. He is growing
too fast." And indeed, Hughie's pale, miserable face gave ground
enough for this opinion.
"That boy is not well," she said to her husband.
"Hughie," she replied. "He is looking miserable, and somehow he is
"Oh, nonsense! He eats well enough, and sleeps well enough," said
her husband, making light of her fears.
"There's something wrong," repeated his wife. "And he hates his
"Well, I don't wonder at that," said her husband, sharply. "I
don't see how any boy of spirit could take much pleasure in that
kind of a school. The boys are just wasting their time, and worse
than that, they have lost all the old spirit. I must see to it
that the policy of those close-fisted trustees is changed. I am
not going to put up with those chits of girls teaching any longer."
"There may be something in what you say," said his wife, sadly,
"but certainly Hughie is always begging to stay at home from
"And indeed, he might as well stay home," answered her husband,
"for all the good he gets."
"I do wish we had a good man in charge," replied his wife, with a
great sigh. "It is very important that these boys should have a
good, strong man over them. How much it means to a boy at Hughie's
time of life! But so few are willing to come away into the
backwoods here for so small a salary."
Suddenly her husband laid down his pipe.
"I have it!" he exclaimed. "The very thing! Wouldn't this be the
very thing for young Craven. You remember, the young man that
Professor MacLauchlan was writing about."
His wife shook her head very decidedly.
"Not at all," she said. "Didn't Professor MacLauchlan say he was
"O, just a little wild. Got going with some loose companions. Out
here there would be no temptation."
"I am not at all sure of that," said his wife, "and I would not
like Hughie to be under his influence."
"MacLauchlan says he is a young man of fine disposition and of fine
parts," argued her husband, "and if temptation were removed from
him he believes he would turn out a good man."
Mrs. Murray shook her head doubtfully. "He is not the man to put
Hughie under just now."
"What are we to do with Hughie?" replied her husband. "He is
getting no good in the school as it is, and we cannot send him away
"Send him away!" exclaimed his wife. "No, no, not a child like
"Craven might be a very good man," continued her husband. "He
might perhaps live with us. I know you have more than enough to do
now," he added, answering her look of dismay, "but he would be a
great help to Hughie with his lessons, and might start him in his