Part 3 out of 4
classics. And then, who knows what you might make of the young
Mrs. Murray did not respond to her husband's smile, but only
replied, "I am sure I wish I knew what is the matter with the boy,
and I wish he could leave school for a while."
"O, the boy is all right," said her husband, impatiently. "Only a
little less noisy, as far as I can see."
"No, he is not the same," replied his wife. "He is different to
me." There was almost a cry of pain in her voice.
"Now, now, don't imagine things. Boys are full of notions at
Hughie's age. He may need a change, but that is all."
With this the mother tried to quiet the tumult of anxious fear and
pain she found rising in her heart, but long after the house was
still, and while both her boy and his father lay asleep, she kept
pouring forth that ancient sacrifice of self-effacing love before
the feet of God.
Hughie rose late next morning, and the hurry and rush of getting
off to school in time left him no opportunity to get rid of the
little packages in his pocket, that seemed to burn and sting him
through his clothes. He determined to keep them safe in his pocket
all day and put them back in the drawer at night. His mother's
face, white with her long watching, and sad and anxious in spite of
its brave smile, filled him with such an agony of remorse that,
hurrying through his breakfast, he snatched a farewell kiss, and
then tore away down the lane lest he should be forced to confess
all his terrible secret.
The first person who met him in the school-yard was Foxy.
"Have you got that?" was his salutation.
A sudden fury possessed Hughie.
"Yes, you red-headed, sneaking fox," he answered, "and I hope it
will bring you the curse of luck, anyway."
Foxy hurried him cautiously behind the school, with difficulty
concealing his delight while Hughie unrolled his little bundles and
counted out the quarters and dimes and half dimes into his hand.
"There's a dollar, and there's a quarter, and--and--there's
another," he added, desperately, "and God may kill me on the spot
if I give you any more!"
"All right, Hughie," said Foxy, soothingly, putting the money into
his pocket. "You needn't be so mad about it. You bought the
pistol and the rest right enough, didn't you?"
"I know I did, but--but you made me, you big, sneaking thief--and
then you--" Hughie's voice broke in his rage. His face was pale,
and his black eyes were glittering with fierce fury, and in his
heart he was conscious of a wild longing to fall upon Foxy and tear
him to pieces. And Foxy, big and tall as he was, glanced at
Hughie's face, and saying not a word, turned and fled to the front
of the school where the other boys were.
Hughie followed slowly, his heart still swelling with furious rage,
and full of an eager desire to be at Foxy's smiling, fat face.
At the school door stood Miss Morrison, the teacher, smiling down
upon Foxy, who was looking up at her with an expression of such
sweet innocence that Hughie groaned out between his clenched teeth,
"Oh, you red-headed devil, you! Some day I'll make you smile out
of the other side of your big, fat mouth."
'Who are you swearing at?" It was Fusie.
"Oh, Fusie," cried Hughie, "let's get Davie and get into the woods.
I'm not going in to-day. I hate the beastly place, and the whole
gang of them."
Fusie, the little, harum-scarum French waif was ready for anything
in the way of adventure. To him anything was better than the even
monotony of the school routine. True, it might mean a whipping
both from the teacher and from Mrs. McLeod; but as to the teacher's
whipping, Fusie was prepared to stand that for a free day in the
woods, and as to the other, Fusie declared that Mrs. McLeod's
whipping "wouldn't hurt a skeeter."
To Davie Scotch, however, playing truant was a serious matter. He
had been reared in an atmosphere of reverence for established law
and order, but when Hughie gave command, to Davie there seemed
nothing for it but to obey.
The three boys watched till the school was called, and then
crawling along on their stomachs behind the heavy cedar-log fence,
they slipped into the balsam thicket at the edge of the woods and
were safe. Here they flung down their schoolbags, and lying prone
upon the fragrant bed of pine-needles strewn thickly upon the moss,
they peered out through the balsam boughs at the house of their
bondage with an exultant sense of freedom and a feeling of pity, if
not of contempt, for the unhappy and spiritless creatures who were
content to be penned inside any house on such a day as this, and
with such a world outside.
For some minutes they rolled about upon the soft moss and balsam-
needles and the brown leaves of last year, till their hearts were
running over with a deep and satisfying delight. It is hard to
resist the ministry of the woods. The sympathetic silence of the
trees, the aromatic airs that breathe through the shady spaces, the
soft mingling of broken lights--these all combine to lay upon the
spirit a soothing balm, and bring to the heart peace. And Hughie,
sensitive at every pore to that soothing ministry, before long
forgot for a time even Foxy, with his fat, white face and smiling
mouth, and lying on the broad of his back, and looking up at the
far-away blue sky through the interlacing branches and leaves, he
began to feel again that it was good to be alive, and that with all
his misery there were compensations.
But any lengthened period of peaceful calm is not for boys of the
age and spirit of Hughie and his companions.
"What are you going to do?" asked Fusie, the man of adventure.
"Do nothing," said Hughie from his supine position. "This is good
enough for me."
"Not me," said Fusie, starting to climb a tall, lithe birch, while
Hughie lazily watched him. Soon Fusie was at the top of the birch,
which began to sway dangerously.
"Try to fly into that balsam," cried Hughie.
"Yes, go on."
"Can't do it."
"Oh, pshaw! you can."
"No, nor you either. That's a mighty big jump."
"Come on down, then, and let me try," said Hughie, in scorn. His
laziness was gone in the presence of a possible achievement.
In a few minutes he had taken Fusie's place a the top of the
swaying birch. It did not look so easy from the top of the birch
as from the ground to swing into the balsam-tree. However, he
could not go back now.
"Dinna try it, Hughie!" cried Davie to him. "Ye'll no mak it, and
ye'll come an awfu' cropper, as sure as deith." But Hughie,
swaying gently back and forth, was measuring the distance of his
drop. It was not a feat so very difficult, but it called for good
judgment and steady nerve. A moment too soon or a moment too late
in letting go, would mean a nasty fall of twenty feet or more upon
the solid ground, and one never knew just how one would light.
"I wudna dae it, Hughie," urged Davie, anxiously.
But Hughie, swaying high in the birch, heeded not the warning, and
suddenly swinging out from the slender trunk and holding by his
hands, he described a parabola, and releasing the birch dropped on
to the balsam top. But balsam-trees are of uncertain fiber, and
not to be relied upon, and this particular balsam, breaking off
short in Hughie's hands, allowed him to go crashing through the
branches to the earth.
"Man! man!" cried Davie Scotch, bending over Hughie as he lay white
and still upon the ground. "Are ye deid? Maircy me! he's deid,"
sobbed Davie, wringing his hands. "Fusie, Fusie, ye gowk! where
are ye gone?"
In a moment or two Fusie reappeared through the branches with a
capful of water, and dashed it into Hughie's face, with the result
that the lad opened his eyes, and after a gasp or two, sat up and
looked about him.
"Och, laddie, laddie, are ye no deid?" said Davie Scotch.
"What's the matter with you, Scottie?" asked Hughie, with a
bewildered look about him. "And who's been throwing water all over
me?" he added, wrathfully, as full consciousness returned.
"Man! I'm glad to see ye mad. Gang on wi' ye," shouted Davie,
joyously. "Ye were deid the noo. Ay, clean deid. Was he no,
Fusie?" Fusie nodded.
"I guess not," said Hughie. "It was that rotten balsam top,"
looking vengefully at the broken tree.
"Lie doon, man," said Davie, still anxiously hovering about him.
"Dinna rise yet awhile."
"Oh, pshaw!" said Hughie, and he struggled to his feet; "I'm all
right." But as he spoke he sank down upon the moss, saying, "I
feel kind of queer, though."
"Lie still, then, will ye," said Davie, angrily. "Ye're fair
"Get me some water, Fusie," said Hughie, rather weakly.
"Run, Fusie, ye gomeril, ye!"
In a minute Fusie was back with a capful of water.
"That's better. I'm all right now," said Hughie, sitting up.
"Hear him!" said Davie. "Lie ye doon there, or I'll gie ye a crack
that'll mak ye glad tae keep still."
For half an hour the boys lay on the moss discussing the accident
fully in all its varying aspects and possibilities, till the sound
of wheels came up the road.
"Who's that, Fusie?" asked Hughie, lazily.
"Dunno me," said Fusie, peering through the trees.
"Do you, Scotty?"
"No, not I."
Hughie crawled over to the edge of the brush.
"Why, you idiots! it's Thomas Finch. Thomas!" he called, but
Thomas drove straight on. In a moment Hughie sprang up, forgetting
all about his weakness, and ran out to the roadside.
"Hello, Thomas!" he cried, waving his hand. Thomas saw him,
stopped, and looked at him, doubtfully. He, with all the Section,
knew how the school was going, and he easily guessed what took
"I'm not going to school to-day," said Hughie, answering Thomas's
Thomas nodded, and sat silent, waiting. He was not a man to waste
"I hate the whole thing!" exclaimed Hughie.
"Foxy, eh?" said Thomas, to whom on other occasions Hughie had
confided his grievances, and especially those he suffered at the
hands of Foxy.
"Yes, Foxy," cried Hughie, in a sudden rage. "He's a fat-faced
sneak! And the teacher just makes me sick!"
Thomas still waited.
"She just smiles and smiles at him, and he smiles at her. Ugh! I
can't stand him."
"Not much harm in smiling," said Thomas, solemnly.
"Oh, Thomas, I hate the school. I'm not going to go any more."
Thomas looked gravely down upon Hughie's passionate face for a few
moments, and then said, "You will do what your mother wants you, I
Hughie said nothing in reply, while Thomas sat pondering.
Finally he said, with a sudden inspiration, "Hughie, come along
with me, and help me with the potatoes."
"They won't let me," grumbled Hughie. "At least father won't. I
don't like to ask mother."
Thomas's eyes opened in surprise. This was a new thing in Hughie.
"I'll ask your mother," he said, at length. "Get in with me here."
Still Hughie hesitated. To get away from school was joy enough, to
go with Thomas to the potato planting was more than could be hoped
for. But still he stood making pictures in the dust with his bare
"There's Fusie," he said, "and Davie Scotch."
"Well," said Thomas, catching sight of those worthies through the
trees, "let them come, too."
Fusie was promptly willing, but Davie was doubtful. He certainly
would not go to the manse, where he might meet the minister, and
meeting the minister's wife under the present circumstances was a
"Well, you can wait at the gate with Fusie," suggested Hughie, and
so the matter was settled.
Fortunately for Hughie, his father was not at home. But not
Thomas's earnest entreaties nor Hughie's eager pleading would have
availed with the mother, for attendance at school was a sacred duty
in her eyes, had it not been that her boy's face, paler than usual,
and with the dawning of a new defiance in it, startled her, and
confirmed in her the fear that all was not well with him.
"Well, Thomas, he may go with you to the Cameron's for the
potatoes, but as to going with you to the planting, that is another
thing. Your mother is not fit to be troubled with another boy, and
especially a boy like Hughie. And how is she to-day, Thomas?"
continued Mrs. Murray, as Thomas stood in dull silence before her.
"She's better," said Thomas, answering more quickly than usual, and
with a certain eagerness in his voice. "She's a great deal better,
and Hughie will do her no harm, but good."
Mrs. Murray looked at Thomas as he spoke, wondering at the change
in his voice and manner. The heavy, stolid face had changed since
she had last seen it. It was finer, keener, than before. The
eyes, so often dull, were lighted up with a new, strange fire.
"She's much better," said Thomas again, as if insisting against
Mrs. Murray's unbelief.
"I am glad to hear it, Thomas," she said, gently. "She will soon
be quite well again, I hope, for she has had a long, long time of
"Yes, a long, long time," replied Thomas. His face was pale, and
in his eyes was a look of pain, almost of fear.
"And you will come to see her soon?" he added. There was almost a
piteous entreaty in his tone.
"Yes, Thomas, surely next week. And meantime, I shall let Hughie
go with you."
A look of such utter devotion poured itself into Thomas's eyes that
Mrs. Murray was greatly moved, and putting her hand on his
shoulder, she said, gently, "'He will give His angels charge.'
Don't be afraid, Thomas."
"Afraid!" said Thomas, with a kind of gasp, his face going white.
"Afraid! No. Why?" But Mrs. Murray turned from him to hide the
tears that she could not keep out of her eyes, for she knew what
was before Thomas and them all.
Meantime Hughie was busy putting into his little carpet-bag what he
considered the necessary equipment for his visit.
"You must wear your shoes, Hughie."
"Oh, mother, shoes are such an awful bother planting potatoes.
They get full of ground and everything."
"Well, put them in your bag, at any rate, and your stockings, too.
You may need them."
By degrees Hughie's very moderate necessities were satisfied, and
with a hurried farewell to his mother he went off with Thomas. At
the gate they picked up Fusie and Davie Scotch, and went off to the
Cameron's for the seed potatoes, Hughie's heart lighter than it had
been for many a day. And all through the afternoon, and as he
drove home with Thomas on the loaded bags, his heart kept singing
back to the birds in the trees overhead.
It was late in the afternoon when they drove into the yard, for the
roads were still bad in the swamp, where the corduroy had been
broken up by the spring floods.
Thomas hurried through unhitching, and without waiting to unharness
he stood the horses in their stalls, saying, "We may need them this
afternoon again," and took Hughie off to the house straight-way.
The usual beautiful order pervaded the house and its surroundings.
The back yard, through which the boys came from the barn, was free
of litter; the chips were raked into neat little piles close to the
wood-pile, for summer use. On a bench beside the "stoop" door was
a row of milk-pans, lapping each other like scales on a fish,
glittering in the sun. The large summer kitchen, with its spotless
floor and white-washed walls, stood with both its doors open to the
sweet air that came in from the fields above, and was as pleasant a
room to look in upon as one could desire. On the sill of the open
window stood a sweet-scented geranium and a tall fuschia with white
and crimson blossoms hanging in clusters. Bunches of wild flowers
stood on the table, on the dresser, and up beside the clock, and
the whole room breathed of sweet scents of fields and flowers, and
"the name of the chamber was peace."
Beside the open window sat the little mother in an arm-chair, the
embodiment of all the peaceful beauty and sweet fragrance of the
"Well, mother," said Thomas, crossing the floor to her and laying
his hand upon her shoulder, "have I been long away? I have brought
Hughie back with me, you see."
"Not so very long, Thomas," said the mother, her dark face lighting
with a look of love as she glanced up at her big son. "And I am
glad to see Hughie. He will excuse me from rising," she added,
with fine courtesy.
Hughie hurried toward her.
"Yes, indeed, Mrs. Finch. Don't think of rising." But he could
get no further. Boy as he was, and at the age when boys are most
heartless and regardless, he found it hard to keep his lip and his
voice steady and to swallow the lump in his throat, and in spite of
all he could do his eyes were filling up with tears as he looked
into the little woman's face, so worn and weary, so pathetically
It was months since he had seen her, and during these months a
great change had come to her and to the Finch household. After
suffering long in secret, the mother had been forced to confess to
a severe pain in her breast and under her arm. Upon examination
the doctor pronounced the case to be malignant cancer, and there
was nothing for it but removal. It was what Dr. Grant called "a
very beautiful operation, indeed," and now she was recovering her
strength, but only slowly, so slowly that Thomas at times found his
heart sink with a vague fear. But it was not the pain of the wound
that had wrought that sweet, pathetic look into the little woman's
face, but the deeper pain she carried in her heart for those she
loved better than herself.
The mother's sickness brought many changes into the household, but
the most striking of all the changes was that wrought in the slow
and stolid Thomas. The father and Billy Jack were busy with the
farm matters outside, upon little Jessac, now a girl of twelve
years, fell the care of the house, but it was Thomas that, with the
assistance of a neighbor at first, but afterwards alone, waited on
his mother, dressing the wound and nursing her. These weeks of
watching and nursing had wrought in him the subtle change that
stirred Mrs. Murray's heart as she looked at him that day, and that
made even Hughie wonder. For one thing his tongue was loosed, and
Thomas talked to his mother of all that he had seen and heard on
the way to the Cameron's and back, making much of his little visit
to the manse, and of Mrs. Murray's kindness, and enlarging upon her
promised visit, and all with such brightness and picturesqueness of
speech that Hughie listened amazed. For all the years he had known
Thomas he had never heard from his lips so many words as in the
last few minutes of talk with his mother. Then, too, Thomas seemed
to have found his fingers, for no woman could have arranged more
deftly and with gentler touch the cushions at his mother's back,
and no nurse could have measured out the medicine and prepared her
egg-nog with greater skill. Hughie could hardly believe his eyes
and ears. Was this Thomas the stolid, the clumsy, the heavy-
handed, this big fellow with the quick tongue and the clever,
Meantime Jessac had set upon the table a large pitcher of rich
milk, with oat cakes and butter, and honey in the comb.
"Now, Hughie, lad, draw in and help yourself. You and Thomas will
be too hungry to wait for supper," said the mother. And Hughie,
protesting politely that he was not very hungry, proceeded to
establish the contrary, to the great satisfaction of himself and
"Now, Thomas," said the mother, "we had better cut the seed."
"Indeed, and not a seed will you cut, mother," said Thomas,
emphatically. "You may boss the job, though. I'll bring the
potatoes to the back door." And this he did, thinking it no
trouble to hitch up the team to draw the wagon into the back yard
so that his mother might have a part in the cutting of the seed
potatoes, as she had had every year of her life on the farm.
Very carefully, and in spite of her protests that she could walk
quite well, Thomas carried his mother out to her chair in the shade
of the house, arranging with tender solicitude the pillows at her
back and the rug at her feet. Then they set to work at the
"Mind you have two eyes in every seed, Hughie," said Jessac,
"Huh! I know. I've cut them often enough," replied Hughie,
"Well, look at that one, now," said Jessac, picking up a seed that
Hughie had let fall; "that's only got one eye."
"There's two," said Hughie, triumphantly.
"That's not an eye," said Jessac, pointing to a mark on the potato;
"that's where the top grew out of, isn't it, mother?"
"It is, isn't it?" appealed Hughie.
Mrs. Finch took the seed and looked at it.
"Well, there's one very good eye, and that will do."
"But isn't that the mark of the top, mother?" insisted Jessac. But
the mother only shook her head at her.
"That's right, Jessac," said Thomas, driving off with his team;
"you look after Hughie, and mother will look after you both till I
get back, and there'll be a grand crop this year."
It was a happy hour for them all. The slanting rays of the
afternoon sun filled the air with a genial warmth. A little breeze
bore from the orchard near by a fragrance of apple-blossoms. A
matronly hen, tethered by the leg to her coop, raised indignant
protest against the outrage on her personal liberty, or clucked and
crooned her invitations, counsels, warnings, and encouragements, in
as many different tones, to her independent, fluffy brood of
chicks, while a huge gobbler strutted up and down, thrilling with
pride in the glossy magnificence of his outspread tail and pompous,
Hughie was conscious of a deep and grateful content, but across his
content lay a shadow. If only that would lift! As he watched
Thomas with his mother, he realized how far he had drifted from his
own mother, and he thought with regret of the happy days, which now
seemed so far in the past, when his mother had shared his every
secret. But for him those days could never come again.
At supper, Hughie was aware of some subtle difference in the spirit
of the home. As to Thomas so to his father a change had come. The
old man was as silent as ever, indeed more so, but there was no
asperity in his silence. His critical, captious manner was gone.
His silence was that of a great sorrow, and of a great fear. While
there was more cheerful conversation than ever at the table, there
was through all a new respect and a certain tender consideration
shown toward the silent old man at the head, and all joined in an
effort to draw him from his gloom. The past months of his wife's
suffering had bowed him as with the weight of years. Even Hughie
could note this.
After supper the old man "took the Books" as usual, but when, as
High Priest, he "ascended the Mount of Ordinances to offer the
evening sacrifice," he was as a man walking in thick darkness
bewildered and afraid. The prayer was largely a meditation on the
heinousness of sin and the righteous judgments of God, and closed
with an exaltation of the Cross, with an appeal that the innocent
might be spared the punishment of the guilty. The conviction had
settled in the old man's mind that "the Lord was visiting upon him
and his family his sins, his pride, his censoriousness, his
hardness of heart." The words of his prayer fell meaningless upon
Hughie's English ears, but the boy's heart quivered in response to
the agony of entreaty in the pleading tones, and he rose from his
knees awed and subdued.
There was no word spoken for some moments after the prayer. With
people like the Finches it was considered to be an insult to the
Almighty to depart from "the Presence" with any unseemly haste.
Then Thomas came to help his mother to her room, but she, with her
eyes upon her husband, quietly put Thomas aside and said, "Donald,
will you tak me ben?"
Rarely had she called him by his name before the family, and all
felt that this was a most unusual demonstration of tenderness on
The old man glanced quickly at her from under his overhanging
eyebrows, and met her bright upward look with an involuntary shake
of the head and a slight sigh. Comfort was not for him, and he
must not delude himself. But with a little laugh she put her hand
on his arm, and as if administering reproof to a little child, she
said some words in Gaelic.
"Oh, woman, woman!" said Donald in reply, "if it was yourself we
had to deal with--"
"Whisht, man! Will you be putting me before your Father in
heaven?" she said, as they disappeared into the other room.
There was no fiddle that evening. There was no heart for it with
Thomas, neither was there time, for there was the milking to do,
and the "sorting" of the pails and pans, and the preparing for
churning in the morning, so that when all was done, the long
evening had faded into the twilight and it was time for bed.
Before going upstairs, Thomas took Hughie into "the room" where his
mother's bed had been placed. Thomas gave her her medicine and
made her comfortable for the night.
"Is there nothing else now, mother?" he said, still lingering about
"No, Thomas, my man. How are the cows doing?"
"Grand; Blossom filled a pail to-night, and Spotty almost twice.
She's a great milker, yon."
"Yes, and so was her mother. I remember she used to fill two pails
when the grass was good."
"I remember her, too. Her horns curled right back, didn't they?
And she always looked so fierce."
"Yes, but she was a kindly cow. And will the churn be ready for
"Yes, mother, we'll have buttermilk for our porridge, sure enough."
"Well, you'll need to be up early for that, too early, Thomas, lad,
for a boy like you."
"A boy like me!" said Thomas, feigning indignation, and stretching
himself to his full height. "Where would you be getting your men,
"You are man enough, laddie," said his mother, "and a good one you
will come to be, I doubt. And you, too, Hughie, lad," she added,
turning to him. "You will be like your father."
"I dunno," said Hughie, his face flushing scarlet. He was weary
and sick of his secret, and the sight of the loving comradeship
between Thomas and his mother made his burden all the heavier.
"What's wrong with yon laddie?" asked Mrs. Finch, when Hughie had
gone away to bed.
"Now, mother, you're too sharp altogether. And how do you know
anything is wrong with him?"
"I warrant you his mother sees it. Something is on his mind.
Hughie is not the lad he used to be. He will not look at you
straight, and that is not like Hughie."
"Oh, mother, you're a sharp one," said Thomas. "I thought no one
had seen that but myself. Yes, there is something wrong with him.
It's something in the school. It's a poor place nowadays, anyway,
and I wish Hughie were done with it."
"He must keep at the school, Thomas, and I only wish you could do
the same." His mother sighed. She had her own secret ambition for
Thomas, and though she never opened her heart to her son, or indeed
to any one, Thomas somehow knew that it was her heart's desire to
see him "in the pulpit."
"Never you mind, mother," he said, brightly. "It'll all come
right. Aren't you always the one preaching faith to me?"
"Yes, laddie, and it is needed, and sorely at times."
"Now, mither," said Thomas, dropping into her native speech, "ye
mauna be fashin' yersel. Ye'll jist say 'Now I lay me,' and gang
to sleep like a bairnie."
"Ay, that's a guid word, laddie, an' a'll tak it. Ye may kiss me
guid nicht. A'll tak it."
Thomas bent over her and whispered in her ear, "Ay, mither, mither,
ye're an angel, and that ye are."
"Hoots, laddie, gang awa wi' ye," said his mother, but she held her
arms about his neck and kissed him once and again. There was no
one to see, and why should they not give and take their heart's
fill of love.
But when Thomas stood outside the room door, he folded his arms
tight across his breast and whispered with lips that quivered, "Ay,
mither, mither, mither, there's nane like ye. There's nane like
ye." And he was glad that when he went upstairs, he found Hughie
unwilling to talk.
The next three days they were all busy with the planting of the
potatoes, and nothing could have been better for Hughie. The
sweet, sunny air, and the kindly, wholesome earth and honest hard
work were life and health to mind and heart and body. It is
wonderful how the touch of the kindly mother earth cleanses the
soul from its unwholesome humors. The hours that Hughie spent in
working with the clean, red earth seemed somehow to breathe virtue
into him. He remembered the past months like a bad dream. They
seemed to him a hideous unreality, and he could not think of Foxy
and his schemes, nor of his own weakness in yielding to temptation,
without a horrible self-loathing. He became aware of a strange
feeling of sympathy and kinship with old Donald Finch. He seemed
to understand his gloom. During those days their work brought
those two together, for Billy Jack had the running of the drills,
and to Thomas was intrusted the responsibility of "dropping" the
potatoes, so Hughie and the old man undertook to "cover" after
Side by side they hoed together, speaking not a word for an hour at
a time, but before long the old man appeared to feel the lad's
sympathy. Hughie was quick to save him steps, and eager in many
ways to anticipate his wishes. He was quick, too, with the hoe,
and ambitious to do his full share of the work, and this won the
old man's respect, so that by the end of the first day there was
established between them a solid basis of friendship.
Old Donald Finch was no cheerful companion for Hughie, but it was
to Hughie a relief, more than anything else, that he was not much
with either Thomas or Billy Jack.
"You're tired," he ventured, in answer to a deep sigh from the old
man, toward the close of the day.
"No, laddie," replied the old man, "I know not that I am working.
The burden of toil is the least of all our burdens." And then,
after a pause, he added, "It is a terrible thing, is sin."
To an equal in age the old man would never have ventured this
confidence, but to Hughie, to his own surprise, he found it easy to
"A terrible thing," he repeated, "and it will always be finding you
Hughie listened to him with a fearful sinking of heart, thinking of
himself and his sin.
"Yes," repeated the old man, with awful solemnity, "it will come up
with you at last."
"But," ventured Hughie, timidly, "won't God forgive? Won't he ever
The old man looked at him, leaning upon his hoe.
"Yes, he will forgive. But for those who have had great
privileges, and who have sinned against light--I will not say."
The fear deepened in Hughie's heart.
"Do you mean that God will not forgive a man who has had a good
chance, an elder, or a minister, or--or--a minister's son, say,
There was something in Hughie's tone that startled the old man. He
glanced at Hughie's face.
"What am I saying?" he cried. "It is of myself I am thinking, boy,
and of no minister or minister's son."
But Hughie stood looking at him, his face showing his terrible
anxiety. God and sin were vivid realities to him.
"Yes, yes," said the old man to himself, "it is a great gospel.
'As far as the east is distant from the west.' 'And plenteous
redemption is ever found with him.'"
"But, do you think," said Hughie, in a low voice, "God will tell
all our sins? Will he make them known?"
"God forbid!" cried the old man. "'And their sins and their
iniquities will I remember no more.' 'The depths of the sea.' No,
no, boy, he will surely forget, and he will not be proclaiming
It was a strange picture. The old man leaning upon the top of his
hoe looking over at the lad, the gloom of his face irradiated with
a momentary gleam of hope, and the boy looking back at him with
almost breathless eagerness.
"It would be great," said Hughie, at last, "if he would forget."
"Yes," said the old man, the gleam in his face growing brighter,
"'If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us,'
and forgiving with him is forgetting. Ah, yes, it is a great
gospel," he continued, and standing there he lifted up his hand and
broke into a kind of chant in Gaelic, of which Hughie could catch
no meaning, but the exalted look on the old man's face was
"Must we always tell?" said Hughie, after the old man had ceased.
"What are you saying, laddie?"
"I say must we always tell our sins--I mean to people?"
The old man thought a moment. "It is not always good to be talking
about our sins to people. That is for God to hear. But we must be
ready to make right what is wrong."
"Yes, yes," said Hughie, eagerly, "of course one would be glad to
The old man gave him one keen glance, and began hoeing again.
"Ye'd better be asking ye're mother about that. She will know."
"No, no," said Hughie, "I can't."
The old man paused in his work, looked at the boy for a moment or
two, and then went on working again.
"Speak to my woman," he said, after a few strokes of his hoe.
"She's a wonderful wise woman." And Hughie wished that he dared.
During the days of the planting they became great friends, and to
their mutual good. The mother's keen eyes noted the change both in
Hughie and in her husband, and was glad for it. It was she that
suggested to Billy Jack that he needed help in the back pasture
with the stones. Billy Jack, quick to take her meaning, eagerly
insisted that help he must have, indeed he could not get on with
the plowing unless the stones were taken off. And so it came that
Hughie and the old man, with old Fly hitched up in the stone-boat,
spent two happy and not unprofitable days in the back pasture.
Gravely they discussed the high themes of God's sovereignty and
man's freedom, with all their practical issues upon conduct and
destiny. Only once, and that very shyly, did the old man bring
round the talk to the subject of their first conversation that
meant so much to them both.
"The Lord will not be wanting to shame us beyond what is
necessary," he said. "There are certain sins which he will bring
to light, but there are those that, in his mercy, he permits us to
hide; provided always," he added, with emphasis, "we are done with
"Yes, indeed," assented Hughie, eagerly, "and who wouldn't be done
But the old man shook his head sadly.
"If that were always true a man would soon be rid of his evil
heart. But," he continued, as if eager to turn the conversation,
"you will be talking with my woman about it. She's a wonderful
wise woman, yon."
Somehow the opportunity came to Hughie to take the old man's
advice. On Saturday evening, just before leaving for home, he
found himself alone with Mrs. Finch sitting beside the open window,
watching the sun go down behind the trees.
"What a splendid sunset!" he cried. He was ever sensitive to the
majestic drama of nature.
"Ay," said Mrs. Finch, "the clouds and the sun make wonderful
beauty together, but without the sun the clouds are ugly things.
Hughie quickly took her meaning.
"They are not pleasant," he said.
"No, not pleasant," she replied, "but with the sunlight upon them
they are wonderful."
Hughie was silent for some moments, and then suddenly burst out,
"Mrs. Finch, does God forget sins, and will he keep them hid, from
people, I mean?"
"Ay," she said, with quiet conviction, "he will forget, and he will
hide them. Why should he lay the burden of our sins upon others?
And if he does not why should we?"
"Do you mean we need not always tell? I'd like to tell my--some
"Ay," she replied, "it's a weary wark and a lanely to carry it oor
lane, but it's an awfu' grief to hear o' anither's sin. An awfu'
grief," she repeated to herself.
"But," burst out Hughie, "I'll never be right till I tell my
"Ay, and then it is she would be carrying the weight o' it."
"But it's against her," said Hughie, his hands going up to his
face. "Oh, Mrs. Finch, it's just awful mean. I don't know how I
"Ye can tell me, laddie, if ye will," said she, kindly, and Hughie
poured forth the whole burden that had lain so long upon him, but
he told it laying upon Foxy small blame, for during those days, his
own part had come to bulk so large with him that Foxy's was almost
For some moments after he had done Mrs. Finch sat in silence,
leaning forward and patting the boy's bowed head.
"Ay, but he is rightly named," she said, at length.
"Who?" asked Hughie, surprised.
"Yon store-keepin' chiel." Then she added, "But ye're done wi' him
and his tricks, and ye'll stand up against him and be a man for the
"Oh, I don't know," said Hughie, too sick at heart and too
penetrated with the miserable sense of his own meanness and
cowardice, to make any promise.
"And as tae ye're mither, laddie," went on Mrs. Finch, "it will be
a sair burden for her." When Mrs. Finch was greatly moved she
always dropped into her broadest Scotch.
"Oh, yes, I know," said Hughie, his voice now broken with sobs,
"and that's the worst of it. If I didn't have to tell her! She'll
just break her heart, I know. She thinks I'm so--oh, oh--" The
long pent up feelings came flooding forth in groans and sobs.
For some moments Mrs. Finch sat quietly, and then she said,
"Listen, laddie. There is Another to be thought of first."
"Another?" asked Hughie. "Oh, yes, I know. But He knows already,
and indeed I have often told Him. But besides, you say He will
forget, and take it away. But mother doesn't know, and doesn't
"Well, then, laddie," said Mrs. Finch, with quiet firmness, "let
her tell ye what to do. Mak ye're offer to tell her, and warn her
that it'll grieve ye baith, and then let her say."
"Yes, I'll do it. I'll do it to-night, and if she says so, then
I'll tell her."
And so he did, and when he came back to the Finch's on Monday
morning, for his mother saw that leaving school for a time would be
no serious loss, and a week or two with the Finches might be a
great gain, he came radiant to Mrs. Finch, and finding her in her
chair by the open window alone, he burst forth, "I told her, and
she wouldn't let me. She didn't want to know so long as I said it
was all made right. And she promised she would trust me just the
same. Oh, she's splendid, my mother! And she's coming this week
to see you. And I tell you I just feel like--like anything! I
can't keep still. I'm like Fido when he's let off his chain. He
just goes wild."
Then, after a pause, he added, in a graver tone, "And mother read
Zaccheus to me. And isn't it fine how He never said a word to
him?"--Hughie was too excited to be coherent--"but stood up for
him, and"--here Hughie's voice became more grave--"I'm going to
restore fourfold. I'm going to work at the hay, and I fired that
old pistol into the pond, and I'm not afraid of Foxy any more, not
Hughie rushed breathlessly through his story, while the dark face
before him glowed with intelligent sympathy, but she only said,
when he had done, "It is a graund thing to be free, is it no'?"
THE BEAR HUNT
"Is Don round, Mrs. Cameron?"
"Mercy me, Hughie! Did ye sleep in the woods? Come away in.
Ye're a sight for sore eyes. Come away in. And how's ye're mother
"All right, thank you. Is Don in?"
"Don? He's somewhere about the barn. But come away, man, there's
a bit bannock here, and some honey."
"I'm in a hurry, Mrs. Cameron, and I can't very well wait," said
Hughie, trying to preserve an evenness of tone and not allow his
excitement to appear.
"Well, well! What's the matter, whatever?" When Hughie refused a
"bit bannock" and honey, something must be seriously wrong.
"Nothing at all, but I'm just wanting Don for a--for something."
"Well, well, just go to the old barn and cry at him."
Hughie found Don in the old barn, busy "rigging up" his plow, for
the harvest was in and the fall plowing was soon to begin.
"Man, Don!" cried Hughie, in a subdued voice, "it's the greatest
thing you ever heard!"
"What is it now, Hughie? You look fairly lifted. Have you seen a
"A ghost? No, something better than that, I can tell you."
Hughie drew near and lowered his voice, while Don worked on
"It's a bear, Don."
Don dropped his plow. His indifference vanished. The Camerons
were great hunters, and many a bear had they, with their famous
black dogs, brought home in their day, but not for the past year or
two; and never had Don bagged anything bigger than a fox or a coon.
"Where did you see him?"
"I didn't see him." Don looked disgusted. "But he was in our
house last night."
"Look here now, stop that!" said Don, gripping Hughie by the jacket
and shaking him.
But Hughie's summer in the harvest-field had built up his muscles,
and so he shook himself free from Don's grasp, and said, "Look out
there! I'm telling you the truth. Last night father was out late
and the supper things were left on the table--some honey and stuff--
and after father had been asleep for a while he was wakened by
some one tramping about the house. He got up, came out of his
room, and called out, 'Jessie, where are the matches?' And just
then there was an awful crash, and something hairy brushed past his
leg in the dark and got out of the door. We all came down, and
there was the table upset, the dishes all on the floor, and four
great, big, deep scratches in the table."
"Pshaw! It must have been Fido."
"Fido was in the barn, and just mad to get out; and besides, the
tracks are there yet behind the house. It was a bear, sure enough,
and I'm going after him."
"Yes, and I want you to come with the dogs."
"Oh, pshaw! Dear knows where he'll be now," said Don, considering.
"Like enough in the Big Swamp or in McLeod's beech bush. They're
awful fond of beechnuts. But the dogs can track him, can't they?"
"By jingo! I'd like to get him," said Don, kindling under Hughie's
excitement. "Wait a bit now. Don't say a word. If Murdie hears
he'll want to come, sure, and we don't want him. You wait here
till I get the gun and the dogs."
"Have you got any bullets or slugs?"
"Yes, lots. Why? Have you a gun?"
"Yes, you just bet! I've got our gun. What did you think I was
going to do? Put salt on his tail? I've got it down the lane."
"All right, you wait there for me."
"Don't be long," said Hughie, slipping away.
It was half an hour before Don appeared with the gun and the dogs.
"What in the world kept you? I thought you were never coming,"
said Hughie, impatiently.
"I tell you it's no easy thing to get away with mother on hand, but
it's all right. Here's your bullets and slugs. I've brought some
bannocks and cheese. We don't know when we'll get home. We'll
pick up the track in your brule. Does any one know you're going?"
"No, only Fusie. He wanted to come, but I wouldn't have it. Fusie
gets so excited." Hughie's calmness was not phenomenal. He could
hardly stand still for two consecutive seconds.
"Well, let's go," and Don set off on a trot, with one of the black
dogs in leash and the other following, and after him came Hughie
In twenty minutes they were at the manse clearing.
"Now," said Don, pulling up, "where did you say you saw his track?"
"Just back of the house there, and round the barn, and then
straight for the brule."
The boys stood looking across the fallen timber toward the barn.
"There's Fido barking," said Hughie. "I bet he's on the scent
"Yes," answered Don, "and there's your father, too."
"Gimmini crickets! so it is," said Hughie, slowly. "I don't think
it's worth while going up there to get that track. Can't we get it
just as well in the woods here?" There were always things to do
about the house, and besides, the minister knew nothing of Hughie's
familiarity with the gun, and hence would soon have put a stop to
any such rash venture as bear-hunting.
The boys waited, listening to Fido, who was running back and
forward between the brule and the house barking furiously. The
minister seemed interested in Fido's manoeuvres, and followed him a
"Man!" said Hughie, in a whisper, "perhaps he'll go and look for
the gun himself. And Fido will find us, sure. I say, let's go."
"Let's wait a minute," said Don, "to see what direction Fido takes,
and then we'll put our dogs on."
In a few minutes Hughie breathed more freely, for his father seemed
to lose his interest in Fido, and returned slowly to the house.
"Now," said Hughie, "let's get down into the brule as near Fido as
we can get."
Cautiously the boys made their way through the fallen timber,
keeping as much as possible under cover of the underbrush. But
though they hunted about for some time, the dogs evidently got no
scent, for they remained quite uninterested in the proceedings.
"We'll have to get up closer to where Fido is," said Don, "and the
sooner we get there the better."
"I suppose so," said Hughie. "I suppose I had better go. Fido
will stop barking for me." So, while Don lay hid with the dogs in
the brule, Hughie stole nearer and nearer to Fido, who was still
chasing down toward the brule and back to the house, as if urging
some one to come forth and investigate the strange scent he had
discovered. Gradually Hughie worked his way closer to Fido until
within calling distance.
Just as he was about to whistle for the dog, the back door opened
and forth came the minister again. By this time Fido had passed
into the brule a little way, and could not be seen from the house.
It was an anxious moment for Hughie. He made a sudden desperate
resolve. He must secure Fido now, or else give up the chance of
getting on the trail of the bear. So he left his place of hiding,
and bending low, ran swiftly forward until Fido caught sight of
him, and hearing his voice, came to him, barking loudly and making
every demonstration of excitement and joy. He seized the dog by
the collar and dragged him down, and after holding him quiet for a
moment, hauled him back to Don.
"We'll have to take him with us," he said. "I'll put this string
on his collar, and he'll go all right." And to this Don agreed,
though very unwillingly, for he had no confidence in Fido's hunting
"I tell you he's a great fighter," said Hughie, "if we should ever
get near that bear."
"Oh, pshaw!" said Don, "he may fight dogs well enough, but when it
comes to a bear, it's a different thing. Every dog is scared of a
bear the first time he sees him."
"Well, I bet you Fido won't run from anything," said Hughie,
To their great relief they saw the minister set off in the opposite
direction across the fields.
"Thank goodness! He's off to the McRae's," said Hughie.
"Now, then," said Don, "we'll go back to the track there, and put
the dogs on. You go on with Fido." And Hughie set off with Fido
pulling eagerly upon the string.
When they reached the spot where Fido had been seized by Hughie,
suddenly the black dog who had been following Don at some distance,
stopped short and began to growl. In a moment his mate threw up
his nose and began sniffing about, the hair rising stiff upon his
"He's catching it," said Don, in an excited tone. "Here, you hold
him. I must get the other one, or he'll be off." He was not a
minute too soon, for the other dog, who had been ranging about,
suddenly found the trail, and with a fierce, short bark, was about
to dash off when Don threw himself upon him. In a few moments both
dogs were on the leash, and set off upon the scent at a great pace.
The trail was evidently plain enough to the dogs, for they followed
hard, leading the boys deeper and deeper into the bush.
"He's making for the Big Swamp," said Don, and on they went, with
eyes and ears on the alert, expecting every moment to hear the
snort of a bear, or to meet him on the further side of every bunch
For an hour they went on at a steady trot, over and under fallen
logs, splashing through water holes, crashing over dead brushwood,
and tearing through the interlacing boughs of the thick underbrush
of spruce and balsam. The black dogs never hesitated. They knew
well what was their business there, and that they kept strictly in
mind. Fido, on the other hand, who loved to roam the woods in an
aimless hunt for any and every wild thing that might cross his
nose, but who never had seriously hunted anything in particular,
trotted good-naturedly behind Hughie with rather a bored expression
on his face.
The trail, which had led them steadily north, all at once turned
west and away from the swamp.
"Say," said Don, "he's making for Alan Gorrach's cabin."
"Man!" said Hughie, "that would be fine, to get him there. It's
good and open, too."
"Too open by a long way," grunted Don. "We'd never get him there."
Sure enough, the dogs led up from the swamp and along the path to
Alan's cabin. The door stood open, and in answer to Don's "Horo!"
Alan came out.
"What now?" he said, glowering at Don.
"You won't be wanting any dogs to-day, Alan?" said Don, politely.
Alan glanced at him suspiciously, but said not a word.
"These are very good dogs, indeed, Alan."
"Go on your ways, now," said Alan.
"These black ones are not in very good condition, but Fido there is
a good, fat dog."
Alan's wrath began to rise.
"Will you be going on, now, about your business?"
"Better take them, Alan, there's a hard winter coming on."
"Mac an' Diabhoil!" cried Alan, in a shrill voice, suddenly
bursting into fury. "I will be having your heart's blood," he
cried, rushing into his cabin.
"Come on, Hughie," cried Don, and away they rushed, following the
black dogs upon the trail of the bear.
Deeper and deeper into the swamp the dogs led the way, the going
becoming more difficult and the underbrush thicker at every step.
After an hour or two of hard work, the dogs began to falter, and
ran hither and thither, now on one scent and then on another, till
tired out and disgusted, Don held them in, and threw himself down
upon the soft moss that lay deep over everything.
"We're on his old tracks here," said Don, savagely, "and you can't
pick out the new from the old."
"His hole must be somewhere not too far away," said Hughie.
"Yes, perhaps it is, but then again it may be across the ridge. At
any rate, we'll have some grub."
As they ate the bannocks and cheese, they pictured to themselves
what they should do if they ever should come up with the bear.
"One thing we've got to be careful of," said Don, "and that is, not
to lose our heads."
"That's so," assented Hughie, feeling quite cool and self-possessed
at the time.
"Because if you lose your head you're done for," continued Don.
"Remember Ken McGregor?"
"No," said Hughie.
"Didn't you ever hear that? Why, he ran into a bear, and made a
drive at him with his axe, but the bear, with one paw knocked the
axe clear out of his hand, and with one sweep of the other tore his
insides right out. They're mighty cute, too," went on Don.
"They'll pretend to be almost dead just to coax you near enough,
and then they'll spin round on their hind legs like a rooster. If
they ever do catch you, the only thing to do is to lie still and
make believe you're dead, and then, unless they're very hungry,
they won't hurt you much."
After half an hour's rest, the hunting instinct awoke again within
them, and the boys determined to make another attempt. After
circling about the swamp for some time, the boys came upon a beaten
track which led straight through the heart of the swamp.
"I say," said Don, "this is going to strike the ridge somewhere
just about there," pointing northeast, "and if we don't see
anything between here and the ridge, we'll strike home that way.
It'll be better walking than this cursed swamp, anyway. Are you
Hughie refused to acknowledge any weariness.
"Well, then, I am," said Don.
The trail was clear enough, and they were able to follow at a good
pace, so that in a few minutes, as they had expected, they struck
the northeast end of the swamp. Here again they called a halt, and
tying up the dogs, lay down upon the dry, brown leaves, lazily
eating the beechnuts and discussing their prospects of meeting the
bear, and their plans for dealing with him.
"Well, let's go on," at length said Don. "There's just a chance of
our meeting him on this ridge. He's got a den somewhere down in
the swamp, and he may be coming home this way. Besides, it'll take
us all our time, now, to get home before dark. I guess there's no
use keeping the dogs any longer. We'll just let them go." So
saying, Don let the black dogs go free, but after a little
skirmishing through the open beech woods, the dogs appeared to lose
all interest in the expedition, and kept close to Don's heels.
Fido, on the other hand, followed, ranging the woods on either
side, cheerfully interested in scaring up rabbits, ground-hogs, and
squirrels. He had never known the rapture of bringing down big
game, and so was content with whatever came his way.
At length the hunters reached the main trail where their paths
separated; but a little of the swamp still remained, and on the
other side was the open clearing.
"This is your best way," said Don, pointing out the path to Hughie.
"We had bad luck to-day, but we'll try again. We may meet him
still, you know, so don't fire at any squirrel or anything. If I
hear a shot I'll come to you, and you do the same by me."
"I say," said Hughie, "where does this track of mine come out? Is
it below the Deepole there, or is it on the other side of the
"Why, don't you know?" said Don. "This runs right up to the back
of the Fisher's berry patch, and through the sugar-bush to your own
clearing. I'll go with you if you like."
"Oh, pshaw!" said Hughie, "I'll find it all right. Come on, Fido."
But Fido had disappeared. "Good night, Don."
"Good night," said Don. "Mind you don't fire unless it's at a
bear. I'll do the same."
In a few minutes Hughie found himself alone in the thick underbrush
of the swamp. The shadows were lying heavy, and the sunlight that
still caught the tops of the tall trees was quite lost in the gloom
of the low underbrush. Deep moss under foot, with fallen trees and
thick-growing balsam and cedars, made the walking difficult, and
every step Hughie wished himself out in the clearing. He began to
feel, too, the oppression of the falling darkness. He tried
whistling to keep up his courage, but the sound seemed to fill the
whole woods about him, and he soon gave it up.
After a few minutes he stood still and called for Fido, but the dog
had gone on some hunt of his own, and with a sense of deeper
loneliness, he set himself again to his struggle with the moss and
brush and fallen trees. At length he reached firmer ground, and
began with more cheerful heart to climb up to the open.
Suddenly he heard a rustle, and saw the brush in front of him move.
"Oh, there you are, you brute," he cried, "come in here. Come in,
Fido. Here, sir!"
He pushed the bushes aside, and his heart jumped and filled his
mouth. A huge, black shape stood right across his path not ten
paces away. A moment they gazed at each other, and then, with a
low growl, the bear began to sway awkwardly toward him. Hughie
threw up his gun and fired. The bear paused, snapping viciously
and tearing at his wounded shoulder, and then rushed on Hughie
without waiting to rise on his hind legs.
Like a flash Hughie dodged behind the brush, and then fled like the
wind toward the open. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the bear
shambling after him at a great pace, and gaining at every jump, and
his heart froze with terror. The balsams and spruces were all too
low for safety. A little way before him he saw a small birch. If
he could only make that he might escape. Summoning all his
strength he rushed for the tree, the bear closing fast upon him.
Could he spring up out of reach of the bear's awful claws?
Two yards from the tree he heard an angry snap and snarl at his
heels. With a cry, he dropped his gun, and springing for the
lowest bough, drew up his legs quickly after him with the horrible
feeling of having them ripped asunder. To his amazement he found
that the bear was not scrambling up the tree after him, but was
still some paces off, with Fido skirmishing at long range. It was
Fido's timely nip that had brought him to a sudden halt, and
allowed Hughie to make his climb in safety.
"Good dog, Fido. Sic him! Sic him, old fellow!" cried out Hughie,
but Fido was new to this kind of warfare, and at every jump of the
raging brute he fled into the brush with his tail between his legs,
returning, however, to the attack as the bear retired.
After driving Fido off, the bear rushed at the tree, and in a fury
began tearing up its roots. Then, as if realizing the futility of
this, he flung himself upon its trunk and began shaking it with
great violence from side to side.
Hughie soon saw that the tree would not long stand such an attack.
He slipped down to the lowest bough so that his weight might be
taken from the swaying top, and encouraging Fido, awaited results.
He found himself singularly cool. Having escaped immediate danger,
the hunter's instinct awoke within him, and he longed to get that
bear. If he only had his gun, he would soon settle him, but the
bear, unfortunately, had possession of that. He began hurriedly to
cut off as stout a branch as he could to make himself a club. He
was not a moment too soon, for the bear, realizing that he could
neither tear up the tree by the roots nor shake his enemy out of
it, decided, apparently, to go up for him.
He first set himself to get rid of Fido, which he partially
succeeded in doing by chasing him a long distance off. Then, with
a great rush, he flew at the tree, and with amazing rapidity began
Hughie, surprised by this swift attack, hastened to climb to the
higher branches, but in a moment he saw that this would be fatal.
Remembering that the bear is like the dog in his sensitive parts,
he descended to meet his advancing foe, and reaching down, hit him
a sharp blow on the snout. With a roar of rage and surprise the
bear let go his hold, slipped to the ground, and began to tear up
the earth, sneezing violently.
"Oh, if I only had that gun," groaned Hughie, "I'd get him. And if
he gets away after Fido again, I believe I'll try it."
The bear now set himself to plan some new form of attack. He had
been wounded, but only enough to enrage him, and his fury served to
fix more firmly in his head the single purpose of getting into his
grip this enemy of his in the tree, whom he appeared to have so
nearly at his mercy.
Whatever his new plan might be, a necessary preliminary was getting
rid of Fido, and this he proceeded to do. Round about the trees he
pursued him, getting farther and farther away from the birch, till
Hughie, watching his chance, slipped down the tree and ran for his
gun. But no sooner had he stooped for it than the bear saw the
move, and with an angry roar rushed for him.
Once more Hughie sprang for his branch, but the gun caught in the
boughs and he slipped to the ground, the bear within striking
distance. With a cry he sprang again, reached his bough and drew
himself up, holding his precious gun safe, wondering how he had
escaped. Again it was Fido that had saved him, for as the bear had
gathered himself to spring, Fido, seeing his chance, rushed boldly
in, and flinging himself upon the hind leg of the enraged brute,
held fast. It was the boy's salvation, but alas! it was Fido's
destruction, for wheeling suddenly, the bear struck a swift
downward blow with his powerful front paw, and tore the whole side
of the faithful brute wide open. With a howl, poor Fido dragged
himself away out of reach and lay down, moaning pitifully.
The bear, realizing that he had got rid of one foe, now proceeded
more cautiously to deal with the other, and began warily climbing
the tree, keeping his wicked little eyes fixed upon Hughie.
Meantime, Hughie was loading his gun with all speed. He emptied
his powder-horn into the muzzle, and with the bear coming slowly
nearer, began to search for his bullets. Through one pocket after
another his trembling fingers flew, while with the butt of his gun
he menaced his approaching enemy.
"Where are those bullets?" he groaned. "Ah, here they are!" diving
into his trousers pocket. "Fool of a place to keep them, too!"
He took a handful of slugs and bullets, poured them into his gun,
rammed down a wadding of leaves upon all, retreating as he did so
to the higher limbs, the bear following him steadily. But just as
he had his cap securely fixed upon the nipple, the bear suddenly
revealed his plan. Holding by his front paws, he threw his hind
legs off from the trunk. It was his usual method of felling trees.
The tree swayed and bent till the top almost touched the ground.
But Hughie, with his legs wreathed round the trunk, brought his gun
to his shoulder, and with its muzzle almost touching the breast of
the hanging brute, pulled the trigger.
There was a terrific report, the bear dropped in a heap from the
tree, and Hughie was hurled violently to the ground some distance
away, partially stunned. He raised himself to see the bear
struggle up to a sitting position, and gnashing his teeth, and
flinging blood and foam from his mouth, begin to drag himself
toward him. He was conscious of a languid indifference, and found
himself wondering how long the bear would take to cover the
But while he was thus cogitating there was a sharp, quick bark, and
a great black form hurled itself at the bear's throat and bore the
fierce brute to the ground.
Drawing a long sigh, Hughie sank back to the ground, with the sound
of a far-away shot in his ears, and darkness veiling his eyes.
He was awakened by Don's voice anxiously calling him.
"Are you hurt much, Hughie? Did he squeeze you?"
Hughie sat up, blinking stupidly.
"What?" he asked. "Who?"
"Why, the bear, of course."
"The bear? No. Man! It's too bad you weren't here, Don," he went
on, rousing himself. "He can't be gone far."
"Not very," said Don, laughing loud. "Yonder he lies."
Hughie turned his head and gazed, wondering, at the great black
mass over which Don's black dogs were standing guard, and sniffing
with supreme satisfaction.
Then all came back to him.
"Where's Fido?" he asked, rising. "Yes, it was Fido saved me, for
sure. He tackled the bear every time he rushed at me, and hung
onto him just as I climbed the tree the second time."
As he spoke he walked over to the place where he had last seen the
dog. A little farther on, behind a spruce-tree, they found poor
Fido, horribly mangled and dead.
Hughie stooped down over him. "Poor old boy, poor old Fido," he
said, in a low voice, stroking his head.
Don turned away and walked whistling toward the bear. As he sat
beside the black carcass his two dogs came to him. He threw his
arms round them, saying, "Poor old Blackie! Poor Nigger!" and he
understood how Hughie was feeling behind the spruce-tree beside the
faithful dog that had given him his life.
As he sat there waiting for Hughie, he heard voices.
"Horo!" he shouted.
"Where are you? Is that you, Don?" It was his father's voice.
"Yes, here we are."
"Is Hughie there?" inquired another voice.
"Losh me! that's the minister," said Don. "Yes, all right," he
cried aloud, as up came Long John Cameron and the minister, with
Fusie and a stranger bringing up the rear.
"Fine work, this. You're fine fellows, indeed," cried Long John,
"frightening people in this way."
"Where is Hughie?" said the minister, sternly.
Hughie came from behind the brush, hurriedly wiping his eyes.
"Here, father," he said.
"And what are you doing here at this hour of the night, pray?" said
the minister, angrily, turning toward him.
"I couldn't get home very well," replied Hughie.
"And why not, pray? Don't begin any excuses with me, sir."
Nothing annoyed the minister as an attempt to excuse ill-doing.
"I guess he would have been glad enough to have got home half an
hour ago, sir," broke in Don, laughing. "Look there." He pointed
to the bear lying dead, with Nigger standing over him.
"The Lord save us!" said Long John Cameron, himself the greatest
among the hunters of the county. "What do you say? And how did
you get him? Jee-ru-piter! he's a grand one."
The old man, the minister, and Don walked about the bear in
"Yon's a terrible gash," said Long John, pointing to a gaping wound
in the breast. "Was that your Snider, Don?"
"Not a bit of it, father. The bear's Hughie's. He killed him
"Losh me! And you don't tell me! And how did you manage that,
"He chased me up that tree, and I guess would have got me only for
The minister gasped.
"Got you? Was he as near as that?"
"He wasn't three feet away," said Hughie, and with that he
proceeded to give, in his most graphic style, a description of his
great fight with the bear.
"When I heard the first shot," said Don, "I was away across the
swamp. I tell you I tore back here, and when I came, what did I
see but Hughie and Mr. Bear both sitting down and looking coolly at
each other a few yards apart. And then Nigger downed him and I put
a bullet into his heart." Don was greatly delighted, and extremely
proud of Hughie's achievement.
"And how did you know about it?" asked Don of his father.
"It was the minister here came after me."
"Yes," said the minister, "it was Fusie told me you had gone off on
a bear hunt, and so I went along to the Cameron's with Mr. Craven
here, to see if you had got home."
Meantime, Mr. Craven had been looking Hughie over.
"Mighty plucky thing," he said. "Great nerve," and he lapsed into
silence, while Fusie could not contain himself, but danced from one
foot to the other with excited exclamations.
The minister had come out intending, as he said, "to teach that boy
a lesson that he would remember," but as he listened to Hughie's
story, his anger gave place to a great thankfulness.
"It was a great mercy, my boy," he said at length, when he was
quite sure of his voice, "that you had Fido with you."
"Yes, indeed, father," said Hughie. "It was Fido saved me."
"It was the Lord's goodness," said the minister, solemnly.
"And a great mercy," said Long John, "that your lad kept his head
and showed such courage. You have reason to be proud of him."
The minister said nothing just then, but at home, when recounting
the exploit to the mother, he could hardly contain his pride in his
"Never thought the boy would have a nerve like that, he's so
excitable. I had rather he killed that bear than win a medal at
The mother sat silent through all the story, her cheek growing more
and more pale, but not a word did she say until the tale was done,
and then she said, "'Who delivereth thee from destruction.'"
"A little like David, mother, wasn't it?" said Hughie; but though
there was a smile on his face, his manner and tone were earnest
"Yes," said his mother, "a good deal like David, for it was the
same God that delivered you both."
"Rather hard to cut Fido out of his share of the glory," said Mr.
Craven, "not to speak of a cool head and a steady nerve."
Mrs. Murray regarded him for a moment or two in silence, as if
meditating an answer, but finally she only said, "We shall cut no
one out of the glory due to him."
At the supper-table the whole affair was discussed in all its
bearings. In this discussion Hughie took little part, making light
of his exploit, and giving most of the credit to Fido, and the
mother wondered at the unusual reserve and gravity that had fallen
upon her boy. Indeed, Hughie was wondering at himself. He had a
strange new feeling in his heart. He had done a man's deed, and
for the first time in his life he felt it unnecessary to glory in
his deeds. He had come to a new experience, that great deeds need
no voice to proclaim them. During the thrilling moments of that
terrible hour he had entered the borderland of manhood, and the awe
of that new world was now upon his spirit.
It was chiefly this new experience of his that was sobering him,
but it helped him not a little to check his wonted boyish
exuberance that at the table opposite him sat a strange young man,
across whose dark, magnetic face there flitted, now and then, a
lazy, cynical smile. Hughie feared that lazy smile, and he felt
that it would shrivel into self-contempt any feeling of
The mother and Hughie said little to each other, waiting to be
alone, and after Hughie had gone to his room his mother talked long
with him, but when Mr. Craven, on his way to bed, heard the low,
quiet tones of the mother's voice through the shut door, he knew it
was not to Hughie she was speaking, and the smile upon his face
lost a little of its cynicism.
Next day there was no smile when he stood with Hughie under the
birch-tree, watching the lad hew flat one side, but gravely enough
he took the paper on which Hughie had written, "Fido, Sept. 13th,
18--," saying as he did so, "I shall cut this for you. It is good
to remember brave deeds."
JOHN CRAVEN'S METHOD
Mr. John Craven could not be said to take his school-teaching
seriously; and indeed, any one looking at his face would hardly
expect him to take anything seriously, and certainly those who in
his college days followed and courted and kept pace with Jack
Craven, and knew his smile, would have expected from him anything
other than seriousness. He appeared to himself to be enacting a
kind of grim comedy, exile as he was in a foreign land, among
people of a strange tongue.
He knew absolutely nothing of pedagogical method, and consequently
he ignored all rules and precedents in the teaching and conduct of
the school. His discipline was of a most fantastic kind. He had a
feeling that all lessons were a bore, therefore he would assign the
shortest and easiest of tasks. But having assigned the tasks, he
expected perfection in recitation, and impressed his pupils with
the idea that nothing less would pass. His ideas of order were of
the loosest kind, and hence the noise at times was such that even
the older pupils found it unbearable; but when the hour for
recitation came, somehow a deathlike stillness fell upon the
school, and the unready shivered with dread apprehension. And yet
he never thrashed the boys; but his fear lay upon them, for his
eyes held the delinquent with such an intensity of magnetic,
penetrating power that the unhappy wretch felt as if any kind of
calamity might befall him.
When one looked at John Craven's face, it was the eyes that caught
and held the attention. They were black, without either gleam or
glitter, indeed almost dull--a lady once called them "smoky eyes."
They looked, under lazy, half-drooping lids, like things asleep,
except in moments of passion, when there appeared, far down, a
glowing fire, red and terrible. At such moments it seemed as if,
looking through these, one were catching sight of a soul ablaze.
They were like the dull glow of a furnace through an inky night.
He was constitutionally and habitually lazy, but in a reading
lesson he would rouse himself at times, and by his utterance of a
single line make the whole school sit erect. Friday afternoon he
gave up to what he called "the cultivation of the finer arts." On
that afternoon he would bring his violin and teach the children
singing, hear them read and recite, and read for them himself; and
no greater punishment could be imposed upon the school than the
loss of this afternoon.
"Man alive! Thomas, he's mighty queer," Hughie explained to his
friend. "When he sits there with his feet on the stove smoking
away and reading something or other, and letting them all gabble
like a lot of ducks, it just makes me mad. But when he wakes up
he puts the fear of death on you, and when he reads he makes you
shiver through and through. You know that long rigmarole,
'Friends, Romans, countrymen'? I used to hate it. Well, sir, he
told us about it last Friday. You know, on Friday afternoons we
don't do any work, but just have songs and reading, and that sort
of thing. Well, sir, last Friday he told us about the big row in
Rome, and how Caesar was murdered, and then he read that thing to
us. By gimmini whack! it made me hot and cold. I could hardly
keep from yelling, and every one was white. And then he read that
other thing, you know, about Little Nell. Used to make me sick,
but, my goodness alive! do you know, before he got through the
girls were wiping their eyes, and I was almost as bad, and you
could have heard a pin drop. He's mighty queer, though, lazy as
the mischief, and always smiling and smiling, and yet you don't
feel like smiling back."
"Do you like him?" asked Thomas, bluntly.
"Dunno. I'd like to, but he won't let you, somehow. Just smiles
at you, and you feel kind of small."
The reports about the master were conflicting and disquieting, and
although Hughie was himself doubtful, he stood up vehemently for
him at home.
"But, Hughie," protested the minister, discussing these reports, "I
am told that he actually smokes in school."
Hughie was silent.
"Answer me! Does he smoke in school hours?"
"Well," confessed Hughie, reluctantly, "he does sometimes, but only
after he gives us all our work to do."
"Smoke in school hours!" ejaculated Mrs. Murray, horrified.
"Well, what's the harm in that? Father smokes."
"But he doesn't smoke when he is preaching," said the mother.
"No, but he smokes right afterwards."
"But not in church."
"Well, perhaps not in church, but school's different. And anyway,
he makes them read better, and write better too," said Hughie,
"Certainly," said his father, "he is a most remarkable man. A most
"What about your sums, Hughie?" asked his mother.
"Don't know. He doesn't bother much with that sort of thing, and
I'm just as glad."
"You ought really to speak to him about it," said Mrs. Murray,
after Hughie had left the room.
"Well, my dear," said the minister, smiling, "you heard what Hughie
said. It would be rather awkward for me to speak to him about
smoking. I think, perhaps, you had better do it."
"I am afraid," said his wife, with a slight laugh, "it would be
just as awkward for me. I wonder what those Friday afternoons of
his mean," she continued.
"I am sure I don't know, but everywhere throughout the section I
hear the children speak of them. We'll just drop in and see. I
ought to visit the school, you know, very soon."
And so they did. The master was surprised, and for a moment
appeared uncertain what to do. He offered to put the classes
through their regular lessons, but at once there was a noisy outcry
against this on the part of the school, which, however, was
effectually and immediately quelled by the quiet suggestion on the
master's part that anything but perfect order would be fatal to the
programme. And upon the minister requesting that the usual
exercises proceed, the master smilingly agreed.
"We make Friday afternoons," he said, "at once a kind of reward
day for good work during the week, and an opportunity for the
cultivation of some of the finer arts."
And certainly he was a master in this business. He had strong
dramatic instincts, and a remarkable power to stimulate and draw
forth the emotions.
When the programme of singing, recitations, and violin-playing was
finished, there were insistent calls on every side for "Mark
Antony." It appeared to be the 'piece de resistance' in the minds
of the children.
"What does this mean?" inquired the minister, as the master stood
smiling at his pupils.
"Oh, they are demanding a little high tragedy," he said, "which I
sometimes give them. It assists in their reading lessons," he
explained, apologetically, and with that he gave them what Hughie
called, "that rigmarole beginning, 'Friends, Romans, countrymen,'"
Mark Antony's immortal oration.
"Well," said the minister, as they drove away from the school,
"what do you think of that, now?"
"Marvelous!" exclaimed his wife. "What dramatic power, what
insight, what interpretation!"
"You may say so," exclaimed her husband. "What an actor he would
"Yes," said his wife, "or what a minister he would make! I
understand, now, his wonderful influence over Hughie, and I am
"O, he can't do Hughie any harm with things like that," replied her
"No, but Hughie now and then repeats some of his sayings about--
about religion and religious convictions, that I don't like. And
then he is hanging about that Twentieth store altogether too much,
and I fancied I noticed something strange about him last Friday
evening when he came home so late."
"O, nonsense," said the minister. "His reputation has prejudiced
you, and that is not fair, and your imagination does the rest."
"Well, it is a great pity that he should not do something with
himself," replied his wife. "There are great possibilities in that
"He does not take himself seriously enough," said her husband.
"That is the chief trouble with him."
And this was apparently Jack Craven's opinion of himself, as is
evident from his letter to his college friend, Ned Maitland.
"For the last two months I have been seeking to adjust myself to my
surroundings, and find it no easy business. I have struck the land
of the Anakim, for the inhabitants are all of 'tremenjous' size,
and indeed, 'tremenjous' in all their ways, more particularly in
their religion. Religion is all over the place. You are liable to
come upon a boy anywhere perched on a fence corner with a New
Testament in his hand, and on Sunday the 'tremenjousness' of their
religion is overwhelming. Every other interest in life, as meat,
drink, and dress, are purely incidental to the main business of the
day, which is the delivering, hearing, and discussing of sermons.
"The padre, at whose house I am very happily quartered, is a
'tremenjous' preacher. He has visions, and gives them to me. He
gives me chills and thrills as well, and has discovered to me a
conscience, a portion of my anatomy that I had no suspicion of
"The congregation is like the preacher. They will sit for two
hours, and after a break of a few minutes they will sit again for
two hours, listening to sermons; and even the interval is somewhat
evenly divided between their bread and cheese in the churchyard and
the discussion of the sermon they have just listened to. They are
great on theology. One worthy old party tackled me on my views of
the sermon we had just heard; after a little preliminary sparring I
went to my corner. I often wonder in what continent I am.
"The school, a primitive little log affair, has much run to seed,
but offers opportunity for repose. I shall avoid any unnecessary
excitement in this connection.
"In private life the padre is really very decent. We have great
smokes together, and talks. On all subjects he has very decided
opinions, and in everything but religion, liberal views. I lure
him into philosophic discussions, and overwhelm him with my newest
and biggest metaphysical terms, which always reduce his enormous
cocksureness to more reasonable dimensions.
"The minister's wife is quite another proposition. She argues,
too, but unfortunately she asks questions, in the meekest way
possible acknowledging her ignorance of my big terms, and insisting
upon definitions and exact meanings, and then it's all over with
me. How she ever came to this far land, heaven knows, and none but
heaven can explain such waste. Having no kindred soul to talk
with, I fancy she enjoys conversation with myself, (sic) revels in
music, is transported to the fifth heaven by my performance on the
violin, but evidently pities me and regards me as dangerous. But,
my dear Maitland, after a somewhat wide and varied experience of
fine ladies, I give you my verdict that here among the Anakim, and
in this wild, woody land, is a lady fine and fair and saintly. She
will bother me, I know. Her son Hughie (he of the bear), of whom I
told you, the lad with the face of an angel and the temper of an
angel, but of a different color--her son Hughie she must make into
a scholar. And no wonder, for already he has attained a remarkable
degree of excellence, by the grace, not of the little log school,
however, I venture to shy. His mother has been at him. But now
she feels that something more is needed, and for that she turns to
me. You will be able to see the humor of it, but not the pathos.
She wants to make a man out of her boy, 'a noble, pure-hearted
gentleman,' and this she lays upon me! Did I hear you laugh?
Smile not, it is the most tragic of pathos. Upon me, Jack Craven,
the despair of the professors, the terror of the watch, the--alas!
you know only too well. My tongue clave to the roof of my mouth,
and before I could cry, 'Heaven forbid that I should have a hand in
the making of your boy!' she accepted my pledge to do her desire
for her young angel with the OTHER-angelic temper.
"And now, my dear Ned, is it for my sins that I am thus pursued?
What is awaiting me I know not. What I shall do with the young cub
I have not the ghostliest shadow of an idea. Shall I begin by
thrashing him soundly? I have refrained so far; I hate the role of
executioner. Or shall I teach him boxing? The gloves are a great
educator, and are at times what the padre would call 'means of
"But what will become of me? Shall I become prematurely aged, or
shall I become a saint? Expect anything from your most devoted,
but most sorely bored and perplexed,
In one point the master was a great disappointment to Hughie; he
could not be persuaded to play shinny. The usual challenge had
come up from the Front, with its more than usual insolence, and
Hughie, who now ranked himself among the big boys, felt the shame
and humiliation to be intolerable. By the most strenuous exertions
he started the game going with the first fall of snow, but it was
difficult to work up any enthusiasm for the game in the face of
Foxy's very determined and weighty opposition, backed by the
master's lazy indifference. For, in spite of Hughie's contempt and
open sneers, Foxy had determined to reopen his store with new and
glowing attractions. He seemed to have a larger command of capital
than ever, and he added several very important departments to his
The rivalry between Hughie and Foxy had become acute, but besides
this, there was in Hughie's heart a pent-up fierceness and longing
for revenge that he could with difficulty control. And though he
felt pretty certain that in an encounter with Foxy he would come
off second best, and though in consequence he delayed that
encounter as long as possible, he never let Foxy suspect his fear
of him, and waited with some anxiety for the inevitable crisis.
Upon one thing Hughie was resolved, that the challenge from the
Front should be accepted, and that they should no longer bear the
taunt of cowardice, but should make a try, even though it meant
His first step had been the organization of the shinny club. His
next step was to awaken the interest of the master. But in vain he
enlarged upon the boastfulness and insolence of the Front; in vain
he recounted the achievements of their heroes of old, who in those
brave days had won victory and fame over all comers for their
school and county; the master would not be roused to anything more
than a languid interest in the game. And this was hardly to be
wondered at, for shinny in the snow upon the roadway in front of
the school was none too exciting. But from the day when the game
was transferred to the mill-pond, one Saturday afternoon when the
North and South met in battle, the master's indifference vanished,
for it turned out that he was an enthusiastic skater, and as Hughie
said, "a whirlwind on the ice."
After that day shinny was played only upon the ice, and the master,
assuming the position of coach, instituted a more scientific style
of game, and worked out a system of combined play that made even
small boys dangerous opponents to boys twice their size and weight.
Under his guidance it was that the challenge to the Front was so
worded as to make the contest a game on ice, and to limit the
number of the team to eleven. Formerly the number had been
somewhat indefinite, varying from fifteen to twenty, and the style
of play a general melee. Hughie was made captain of the shinny
team, and set himself, under the master's direction, to perfect
their combination and team play.
The master's unexpected interest in the shinny game was the first
and chief cause of Foxy's downfall as leader of the school, and if
Hughie had possessed his soul in patience he might have enjoyed the
spectacle of Foxy's overthrow without involving himself in the
painful consequences which his thirst for vengeance and his
vehement desire to accomplish Foxy's ruin brought upon him.
The story of the culmination of the rivalry between Hughie and Foxy
is preserved in John Craven's second letter to his friend Edward
Maitland. The letter also gives an account of the master's own
undoing--an undoing which bore fruit to the end of his life.
"I hasten to correct the false impression my previous letter must
have conveyed to you. It occurs to me that I suggested that this