Part 1 out of 6
This eBook was produced by Anne Folland, Tiffany Vergon, Charles
Aldarondo, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
*renumbered chapters beginning with chapter 24: original text had two
chapters numbered 23
*changed Fenning to Fenner 3 times (11 instances of Fenner) on pages
120, 122, and 133 of the original.]
THE CITY OF FIRE
GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL
THE CITY OF FIRE
Sabbath Valley lay like a green jewel cupped in the hand of the
surrounding mountains with the morning sun serene upon it picking out
the clean smooth streets, the white houses with their green blinds, the
maples with their clear cut leaves, the cosy brick school house wide
winged and friendly, the vine clad stone church, and the little stone
bungalow with low spreading roof that was the parsonage. The word manse
had not yet reached the atmosphere. There were no affectations in
Billy Gaston, two miles away and a few degrees up the mountain side,
standing on the little station platform at Pleasant View, waiting for
the morning train looked down upon the beauty at his feet and felt its
loveliness blindly. A passing thrill of wonder and devotion fled
through his fourteen-year-old soul as he regarded it idly. Down there
was home and all his interests and loyalty. His eyes dwelt
affectionately on the pointing spire and bell tower. He loved those
bells, and the one who played them, and under their swelling tones had
been awakened new thoughts and lofty purposes. He knew they were lofty.
He was not yet altogether sure that they were his, but they were there
in his mind for him to think about, and there was a strange awesome
lure about their contemplation.
Down the platform was the new freight agent, a thickset, rubber-shod
individual with a projecting lower jaw and a lowering countenance. He
had lately arrived to assist the regular station agent, who lived in a
bit of a shack up the mountain and was a thin sallow creature with sad
eyes and no muscles. Pleasant View was absolutely what it stated, a
pleasant view and nothing else. The station was a well weathered box
that blended into the mountain side unnoticeably, and did not spoil the
view. The agent's cabin was hidden by the trees and did not count. But
Pleasant View was important as a station because it stood at the
intersection of two lines of thread like tracks that slipped among the
mountains in different directions; one winding among the trees and
about a clear mountain lake, carried guests for the summer to and fro,
and great quantities of baggage and freight from afar; the other
travelled through long tunnels to the world beyond and linked great
cities like jewels on a chain. There were heavy bales and boxes and
many trunks to be shifted and it was obvious that the sallow station
agent could not do it all. The heavy one had been sent to help him
through the rush season.
In five minutes more the train would come from around the mountain and
bring a swarm of ladies and children for the Hotel at the Lake. They
would have to be helped off with all their luggage, and on again to the
Lake train, which would back up two minutes later. This was Billy's
harvest time. He could sometimes make as much as fifty cents or even
seventy-five if he struck a generous party, just being generally
useful, carrying bags and marshalling babies. It was important that
Billy should earn something for it was Saturday and the biggest ball
game of the season came off at Monopoly that afternoon. Billy could
manage the getting there, it was only ten miles away, but money to
spend when he arrived was more than a necessity. Saturday was always a
good day at the station.
Billy had slipped into the landscape unseen. His rusty, trusty old
bicycle was parked in a thick huckleberry growth just below the grade
of the tracks, and Billy himself stood in the shelter of several
immense packing boxes piled close to the station. It was a niche just
big enough for his wiry young length with the open station window close
at his ear. From either end of the platform he was hidden, which was as
it should be until he got ready to arrive with the incoming train.
The regular station agent was busy checking a high pile of trunks that
had come down on the early Lake train from the Hotel and had to be
transferred to the New York train. He was on the other side of the
station and some distance down the platform.
Beyond the packing boxes the heavy one worked with brush and paint
marking some barrels. If Billy applied an eye to a crack in his hiding
place he could watch every stroke of the fat black brush, and see the
muscles in the swarthy cheeks move as the man mouthed a big black
cigar. But Billy was not interested in the new freight agent, and
remained in his retreat, watching the brilliant sunshine shimmer over
the blue-green haze of spruce and pine that furred the way down to the
valley. He basked in it like a cat blinking its content. The rails were
beginning to hum softly, and it would not be long till the train
Suddenly Billy was aware of a shadow looming.
The heavy one had laid down his brush and was stealing swiftly,
furtively to the door of the station with a weather eye to the agent on
his knees beside a big trunk writing something on a check. Billy drew
back like a turtle to his shell and listened. The rail was beginning to
sing decidedly now and the telephone inside the grated window suddenly
sat up a furious ringing. Billy's eye came round the corner of the
window, scanned the empty platform, glimpsed the office desk inside and
the weighty figure holding the receiver, then vanished enough to be out
of sight, leaving only a wide curious ear to listen:
"That you Sam? Yep. Nobody about. Train's coming. Hustle up. Anything
doing? You _don't say_! Some big guy? _Say_, that's good news
at last! Get on the other wire and hold it. I'll come as quick as the
train's gone. S'long!"
Billy cocked a curious eye like a flash into the window and back again,
ducking behind the boxes just in time to miss the heavy one coming out
with an excited air, and a feverish eye up the track where the train
was coming into view around the curve.
In a moment all was stir and confusion, seven women wanting attention
at once, and imperious men of the world crying out against railroad
regulations. Billy hustled everywhere, transferring bags and suit cases
with incredible rapidity to the other train, which arrived promptly,
securing a double seat for the fat woman with the canary, and the
poodle in a big basket, depositing the baggage of a pretty lady on the
shady side, making himself generally useful to the opulent looking man
with the jewelled rings; and back again for another lot. A whole dollar
and fifteen cents jingled in his grimy pocket as the trains finally
moved off in their separate directions and the peace of Pleasant View
settled down monotonously once more.
Billy gave a hurried glance about him. The station agent was busy with
another batch of trunks, but the heavy one was nowhere to be seen. He
gave a quick glance through the grated window where the telegraph
instrument was clicking away sleepily, but no one was there. Then a
stir among the pines below the track attracted his attention, and
stepping to the edge of the bank he caught a glimpse of a broad dusty
back lumbering hurriedly down among the branches.
With a flirt of his eye back to the absorbed station agent Billy was
off down the mountain after the heavy one, walking stealthily as any
cat, pausing in alert attention, listening, peering out eerily whenever
he came to a break in the undergrowth. Like a young mole burrowing he
wove his way under branches the larger man must have turned aside, and
so his going was as silent as the air. Now and then he could hear the
crash of a broken branch or the crackle of a twig, or the rolling of a
stone set free by a heavy foot, but he went on like a cat, like a
little wood shadow, till suddenly he felt he was almost upon his prey.
Then he paused and listened.
The man was kneeling just below him. He could hear the labored
breathing. There was a curious sound of metal and wood, of a key
turning in a lock. Billy drew himself softly into a group of cypress
and held his breath. Softly he parted the foliage and peered. The man
was down upon his knees before a rough box, holding something in his
hand which he put to his ear. Billy could not quite see what it was.
And now the man began to talk into the box. Billy ducked and listened:
"Hello, Sam! You there! Couldn't come any quicker, lots of passengers.
Lots of freight. What's doing, anyhow?"
Billy could hear a faint murmur of words, now and then one gutteral
burst out and became distinct, and gradually enough words pieced
themselves together to become intelligible.
"... Rich guy! High power machine ... Great catch ... Tonight!... Got a
bet on to get there by sunrise.... Can't miss him!"
Billy lay there puzzled. It sounded shady, but what was the line
anyway? Then the man spoke.
"Sounds easy Sammy, but how we goin' to kidnap a man in a high power
machine? Wreck it of course, but he might get killed and where would be
the reward? Besides, he's likely to be a good shot--"
The voice from the ground again growing clearer:
"Put something across the road that he'll have to get out and move,
like a fallen tree, or one of you lie in the road beside a car as if
you was hurt. I'm sending Shorty and Link. They'll get there about
eight o'clock. Beat him to it by an hour anyway, maybe more. Now it's
up to you to look after details. Get anyone you want to help till
Shorty and Link get there, and pay 'em so in case anything gets them,
or they're late. I'll keep you wise from time to time how the guy gets
on. I've got my men on the watch along the line."
"I'd like t' know who I'd get in this God forsaken place!" growled the
heavy one, "Not a soul in miles except the agent, and _he'd_ run
right out and telegraph for the State constab. Say, Sammy, who is this
guy anyway? Is there enough in it to pay for the risk? You know
kidnapping ain't any juvenile demeanor. I didn't promise no such stuff
as this when I said I'd take a hand over here. Now just a common little
hold-up ain't so bad. That could happen on any lonely mountain road.
But this here kidnapping, you never can tell how its going to turn out.
Might be murder before you got through, especially if Link is along.
_You know Link!_"
"That's all right, Pat, you needn't worry, this'll go through slick as
a whistle, and a million in it if we work it right. The house is all
ready--you know where--and never a soul in all the world would suspect.
It's far enough away and yet not too far--. You'll make enough out of
this to retire for life if you want to Pat, and no mistake. All you've
got to do is to handle it right, and you know your business."
"Who'd you say he was?"
"Shafton, Laurence Shafton, son of the big Shafton, you know Shafton
A heavy whistle blended with the whispering pines.
"You don't say? How much family?"
"Mother living, got separate fortune in her own right. Father just
dotes on him. Uncle has a big estate on Long Island, plenty more
millions there. I think a million is real modest in us to ask, don't
"Where's he goin' to? What makes you think he'll come this way 'stead
of the valley road?"
"'Cause he's just started, got all the directions for the way, went
over it carefully with his valet. Valet gave me the tip you understand,
and has to be in on the rake-off. It's his part to keep close to the
family, see? Guy's goin' down to Beechwood to a house party, got a bet
on that he'll make it before daylight. He's bound to pass your mountain
soon after midnight, see? Are you goin' to do your part, or ain't you?
Or have I got to get a new agent down there? And say! I want a message
on this wire as soon as the job is completed. Now, you understand? Can
you pull it off?"
It was some time after the key clicked in the lock and the bulky form
of the freight agent lumbered up through the pines again before Billy
stirred. Then he wriggled around through the undergrowth until he found
himself in front of the innocent looking little box covered over with
dried grass and branches. He examined it all very carefully, pried
underneath with his jack knife, discovered the spot where the wire
connected, speculated as to where it tapped the main line, prospected a
bit about the place and then on hands and knees wormed himself through
the thick growth of the mountain till he came out to the huckleberry
clump, and recovering his bicycle walked innocently up to the station
as if it were the first time that day and enquired of the surly freight
man whether a box had come for his mother.
In the first place Billy hadn't any mother, only an aunt who went out
washing and had hard times to keep a decent place for Billy to sleep
and eat, and she never had a box come by freight in her life. But the
burly one did not know that. Just what Billy Gaston did it for, perhaps
he did not quite know himself, save that the lure of hanging round a
mystery was always great. Moreover it gave him deep joy to know that he
knew something about this man that the man did not know he knew. It was
always good to know things. It was always wise to keep your mouth shut
about them when you knew them. Those were the two most prominent planks
in Billy Gaston's present platform and he stood upon them firmly.
The burly one gave Billy a brief and gruff negative to his query and
went on painting barrel labels. He was thinking of other matters, but
Billy still hung around. He had a hunch that he might be going to make
merchandise in some way of the knowledge that he had gained, so he hung
around, silently, observantly, leaning on old rusty-trusty.
The man looked up and frowned suspiciously:
"I told you NO!" he snapped threateningly, "What you standin' there
Billy regarded him amusedly as from a superior height.
"Don't happen to know of any odd jobs I could get," he finally
"Where would you expect a job around this dump?" sneered the man with
an eloquent wave toward the majestic mountain, "Busy little hive right
here now, ain't it?"
He subsided and Billy, slowly, thoughtfully, mounted his wheel and rode
around the station, with the air of one who enjoys the scenery. The
third time he rounded the curve by the freight agent the man looked up
with a speculative squint and eyed the boy. The fourth time he called
out, straightening up and laying down his brush.
"Say, Kid, do you know how to keep yer mouth shut?"
The boy regarded him with infinite contempt.
"Well, that depends!" he said at last. "If anybody'd make it worth my
The man looked at him narrowly, the tone was at once so casual and yet
so full of possible meaning. The keenest searching revealed nothing in
the immobile face of the boy. A cunning grew in the eyes of the man.
"How would a five look to you?"
"Not enough," said the boy promptly, "I need twenty-five."
"Well, ten then."
"The boy rode off down the platform and circled the station again while
the man stood puzzled, half troubled, and watched him:
"I'll make it fifteen. What you want, the earth with a gold fence
"I said I needed twenty-five," said Billy doggedly, lowering his eyes
to cover the glitter of coming triumph.
The thick one stood squinting off at the distant mountain thoughtfully,
then he turned and eyed Billy again.
"How'm I gonta know you're efficient?" he challenged.
"Guess you'c'n take me er leave me," came back the boy quickly. "Course
if you've got plenty help--"
The man gave him a quick bitter glance. The kid was sharp. He knew
there was no one else. Besides, how much had he overheard? Had he been
around when the station telephone rang? Kids like that were deep. You
could always count on them to do a thing well if they undertook it.
"Well, mebbe I'll try you. You gotta be on hand t'night at eight
o'clock sharp. It's mebbe an all night job, but you may be through by
"Nothing much. Just lay in the road with your wheel by your side and
act like you had a fall an' was hurt. I wanta stop a man who's in a
Billy regarded him coolly.
"Oh, no!" said the other, "Just a little evening up of cash. You see
that man's got some money that oughtta be mine by good rights, and I
wantta get it."
"_I_ see!" said Billy nonchalantly, "An' whatcha gonta do if he
don't come across?"
The man gave him a scared look.
"Oh, nothin' sinful son; just give him a rest fer a few days where he
won't see his friends, until he gets ready to see it the way I do."
"H'm!" said Billy narrowing his gray eyes to two slits. "An' how much
did ya say ya paid down?"
The man looked up angrily.
"I don't say I pay nothing down. If you do the work right you get the
cash t'night, a round twenty-five, and it's twenty bucks more'n you
deserve. Why off in this deserted place you ought ta be glad to get
twenty-five cents fer doin' nothin' but lay in the road."
The boy with one foot on the pedal mounted sideways and slid along the
platform slowly, indifferently.
"Guess I gotta date t'night," he called over his shoulder as he swung
the other leg over the cross bar.
The heavy man made a dive after him and caught him by the arm.
"Look here, Kid, I ain't in no mood to be toyed with," he said gruffly,
"You said you wanted a job an' I'm being square with you. Just to show
I'm being square here's five down."
Billy looked at the ragged green bill with a slight lift of his
"Make it ten down and it's a go," he said at last with a take-it-or-
leave-it air. "I hadn't oughtta let you off'n less'n half, such a shady
job as this looks, but make it a ten an' I'll close with ya. If ya
don't like it ask the station agent to help ya. I guess he wouldn't
object. He's right here handy, too. I live off quite a piece."
But the man had pulled out another five and was crowding the bills upon
him. He had seen a light in that boy's eye that was dangerous. What was
five in a case of a million anyway?
Billy received the boodle as if it had been chewing gum or a soiled
handkerchief, and stuffed it indifferently into his already bulging
pocket in a crumple as if it were not worth the effort.
"A'rright. I'll be here!" he declared, and mounting his wheel with an
air of finality, sailed away down the platform, curved off the high
step with a bump into the road and coasted down the road below the
tunnel toward Monopoly, leaving Sabbath Valley glistening in the
sunshine off to the right. With all that money in his pocket what was
the use of going back to Sabbath Valley for his lunch and making his
trip a good two miles farther? He would beat the baseball team to it.
The thick one stood disconsolately, his grimy cap in his hand and
scratched his dusty head of curls in a troubled way.
"Gosh!" he said wrathfully, "The little devil! Now I don't know what
he'll do. I wonder--! But what else could I do?"
Over in Sabbath Valley quiet sweetness brooded, broken now and again by
the bell-like sound of childish laughter here and there. The birds were
holding high carnival in the trees, and the bees humming drowsy little
tunes to pretend they were not working.
Most of the men were away at work, some in Monopoly or Economy, whither
they went in the early morning in their tin Lizzies to a little store
or a country bank, or a dusty law office; some in the fields of the
fertile valley; and others off behind the thick willow fringe where
lurked the home industries of tanning and canning and knitting, with a
plush mill higher up the slope behind a group of alders and beeches,
its ugly stone chimneys picturesque against the mountain, but doing its
best to spoil the little stream at its feet with all colors of the
rainbow, at intervals dyeing its bright waters.
The minister sat in his study with his window open across the lawn
between the parsonage and the church, a lovely velvet view with the old
graveyard beyond and the wooded hill behind. He was faintly aware of
the shouting of the birds in glad carnival in the trees, and the busy
droning of the bees, as he wrote an article on Modern Atheism for a
magazine in the distant world; but more keenly alive to the song on the
lips of his child, but lately returned from college life in one of the
great universities for women. He smiled as he wrote, and a light came
in his deep thoughtful eyes. She had gone and come, and she was still
unspoiled, mentally, physically, or spiritually. That was a great deal
to have kept out of life in these days of unbelief. He had been almost
afraid to hope that she would come back the same.
In the cool sitting-room his wife was moving about, putting the house
in order for the day, and he knew that on her lips also was the smile
of the same content as well as if he were looking at her beloved face.
On the front veranda Marilyn Severn swept the rugs and sang her happy
song. She was glad, glad to be home again, and her soul bubbled over
with the joy of it. There was happiness in the curve of her red lips,
in the softly rounded freshness of her cheek and brow, in the eyes that
held dancing lights like stars, and in every gleaming tendril of her
wonderful bright hair that burst forth from under the naive little
sweeping cap that sat on her head like a crown. She was small, lithe,
graceful, and she vibrated joy, health, eagerness in every glance of
her eye, every motion of her lovely hands.
Down the street suddenly sounded a car. Not the rattling, cheap affairs
that were commonly used in those parts for hard work and dress affairs,
with a tramp snuffle and bark as they bounced along beneath the maples
like house dogs that knew their business and made as much noise about
it as they could; but a car with a purr like a soft petted cat by the
fire, yet a power behind the purr that might have belonged to a lion if
the need for power arose. It stole down the street like a thing of the
world, well oiled and perfect in its way, and not needing to make any
clatter about its going. The very quietness of it made the minister
look up, sent the minister's wife to raise the shade of the sitting-room
window, and caused the girl to look up from her task.
The morning flooded her face, the song was stayed, a great light came
into her eyes.
The man who was driving the car had the air of not expecting to stop at
the parsonage. Even when he saw the girl on the porch he held to his
way, and something hard and cold and infinitely sad settled down over
his face. It even looked as though he did not intend to recognize her,
or perhaps wasn't sure whether she would recognize him. There was a
moment's breathless suspense and the car slid just the fraction past
the gate in the hedge, without a sign of stopping, only a lifting of a
correct looking straw hat that somehow seemed a bit out of place in
Sabbath Valley. But Lynn left no doubt in his mind whether she would
recognize him. She dropped her broom and sped down the, path, and the
car came to an abrupt halt, only a hair's breadth past the gate,--but
still--that hair's breadth.
"Oh, Mark, I'm so glad to see you!" she cried genuinely with her hand
out in welcome, "They said you were not at home."
The boy's voice--he had been a boy when she left him, though now he
looked strangely hard and old like a man of the world--was husky as he
answered gravely, swinging himself down on the walk beside her:
"I just got in late last night. How are you Lynn? You're looking fine."
He took her offered hand, and clasped it for a brief instant in a warm
strong pressure, but dropped it again and there was a quick cold
withdrawing of his eyes that she did not understand. The old Mark
Carter would never have looked at her coolly, impersonally like that.
What was it, was he shy of her after the long separation? Four years
was a long time, of course, but there had been occasional letters. He
had always been away when she was at home, and she had been home very
little between her school years. There had been summer sessions twice
and once father and mother had come to her and they had taken a
wonderful trip together. But always there had seemed to be Mark Carter,
her old friend and playmate, in the background. Now, suddenly he seemed
to be removed to indefinite distances. It was as if she were looking at
a picture that purported to be her friend, yet seemed a travesty, like
one wearing a mask. She stood in the sunlight looking at him, in her
quaint little cap and a long white enveloping house apron, and she
seemed to him like a haloed saint. Something like worship shone in his
eyes, but he kept the mask down, and looked at her with the eyes of a
stranger while he talked, and smiled a stiff conventional smile. But a
look of anguish grew in his young face, like the sorrow of something
primeval, such as a great rock in a desert.
The minister had forgotten his article and was watching them through
the window, the tall handsome youth, his head bared with the glint of
the sun on his short cropped gold curls making one think of a young
prince, yet a prince bound under a spell and frozen in a block of ice.
He was handsome as Adonis, every feature perfect, and striking in its
manly beauty, yet there was nothing feminine about him. The minister
was conscious of all this as he watched--this boy whom he had seen grow
up, and this girl of his heart. A great still question came into the
father's look as he watched.
The minister was conscious of Lynn's mother standing in the doorway
just behind him, although she had made no noise in entering. And at
once she knew he was aware of her presence.
"Isn't that Mark Carter?" she asked just above a breath.
"And she doesn't know! You haven't told her?"
The minister shook his head.
"He will tell her. See, he is telling her now!"
The mother drew a shade nearer.
"But how do you know? See, she is doing the talking. You think he will
tell her? _What_ will he tell her, Graham?"
"Oh, he will not tell her in words, but every atom of his being is
telling her now. Can't you see? He is telling her that he is no longer
worthy to be her equal. He is telling her that something has gone
"Graham, what do you _think_ is the matter with him? Do you think
he is--BAD?" She lifted frightened eyes to his as she dropped into her
low chair that always stood conveniently near his desk.
A wordless sorrow overspread the minister's face, yet there was
something valiant in his eyes.
"No, I can't think that. I must believe in him in spite of everything.
It looks to me somehow as if he was trying to be bad and couldn't."
"Well, but--Graham, isn't that the same thing? If he wants to be?"
The minister shook his head.
"He doesn't want to be. But he has some purpose in it. He is doing
it--perhaps--well--it might be for _her_ sake you know."
The mother looked perplexed, and hesitated, then shook her head.
"That would be--preposterous! How could he hurt her so--if he cared. It
must be--he does not care--!"
"He cares!" said the man.
"Then how do you explain it?"
"I don't explain it."
"Are you going to let it go on?"
"What can be done?"
"I'd do something."
"No, Mary. That's something he's got to work out himself. If he isn't
big enough to get over his pride. His self-consciousness. His--whatever
he calls it--If he isn't big enough--Then he isn't _big_ enough--!"
The man sighed with a faraway patient look. The woman stirred uneasily.
"Graham," she said suddenly lifting her eyes in troubled question,
"When your cousin Eugenie was here, you remember, she talked about it
one day. She said we had no right to let Lynn become so attached to a
mere country boy who would grow up a boor. She said he had no
education, no breeding, no family, and that Lynn had the right to the
best social advantages to be had in the world. She said Lynn was a
natural born aristocrat, and that we had a great responsibility
bringing up a child with a face like hers, and a mind like hers, and an
inheritance like hers, in this little antiquated country place. She
said it was one thing for you with your culture and your fine
education, and your years of travel and experience, to hide yourself
here if you choose for a few years, pleasing yourself at playing with
souls and uplifting a little corner of the universe while you were
writing a great book; but it was quite another for us to allow our
gifted young daughter to know no other life. And especially she harped
on Lynn's friendship with Mark. She called him a hobbledehoy, said his
mother was 'common', and that coming from a home like that, he would
never amount to anything or have an education. He would always be
common and loaferish, and it wouldn't make any difference if he did, he
would never be cultured no matter how much education he had. He was not
in her _class_. She kept saying that over. She said a lot of things
and always ended up with that. And finally she said that we were
perfectly crazy, both of us. That she supposed Lynn thought she was
christianizing the boy or something, but it was dangerous business, and
we ought to be warned. And Graham, _I'm afraid Mark heard it!_ He
was just coming up on the porch as she finished and I'm almost sure he
The eyes of the minister gave a startled flicker and then grew
comprehending. "I wondered why he gave up college after he had worked
so hard to get in."
"But Graham! Surely, if he had heard he would have wanted to show her
that she was wrong."
"No, Mary. He is not built that way. It's his one big fault. Always to
be what he thinks people have labeled him, or to seem to be. To be that
in defiance, knowing in his heart he really isn't that at all. It's a
curious psychological study. It makes me think of nothing else but when
the Prince of the Power of the Air wanted to be God. Mark wants to be a
young God. When he finds he's not taken that way he makes himself look
like the devil in defiance. Don't you remember, Mary, how when Bob
Bliss broke that memorial window in the church and said it was Mark did
it, how Mark stood looking, defiantly from one to another of us to see
if we would believe it, and when he found the elders were all against
him and had begun to get ready for punishment, he lifted his fine young
shoulders, and folded his arms, and just bowed in acquiescence, as if
to say yes, he had done it? Don't you remember, Mary? He nearly broke
my heart that day, the hurt look in his eyes; the game, mistaken,
little devil! He was only ten, and yet for four long months he bore the
blame in the eyes of the whole village for breaking that window, till
Bob told the truth and cleared him. Not because he wanted to save Bob
Bliss, for everybody knew he was a little scamp, and needed punishment,
but because he was _hurt_--hurt way down into the soul of him to
think anybody had _thought_ he would want to break the window we
had all worked so hard to buy. And he actually broke three cellar
windows in that vacant store by the post office, yes, and paid for
them, just to keep up his character and give us some reason for our
belief against him."
The wife with a cloud of anxiety in her eyes, and disapproval in her
voice, answered slowly:
"That's a bad trait, Graham. I can't understand it. It is something
wrong in his nature."
"Yes, Mary, it is sin, original sin, but it comes at him from a
different direction from most of us, that's all. It comes through
sensitiveness. It is his reaction to a deep and mortal hurt. Some men
would be stimulated to finer action by criticism, he is stimulated to
defy, and he does not know that he is trying to defy God and all the
laws of the universe. Some day he will find it out, and know that only
through humility can he make good."
"But he is letting all his opportunities go by."
"I'm not so sure. You can't tell what he may be doing out in the world
where he is gone."
"But they say he is very wild."
"They were always saying things about him when he was here, and most of
them were not true. You and I knew him, Mary. Was there ever a finer
young soul on earth than he with his clear true eyes, his eager tender
heart, his brave fearlessness and strength. I can not think he has sold
his soul to sin--not yet. It may be. It may be that only in the Far
Country will he realize it is God he wants and be ready to say, 'I have
sinned' and 'I will arise.'"
"But Graham, I should think that just because you believe in him you
could talk to him."
"No, Mary. I can't probe into the depths of that sensitive soul and dig
out his confidence. He would never give it that way. It is a matter
between himself and God."
"Lynn has God too, my dear. We must not forget that. Life is not all
for this world, either. Thank God Lynn believes that!"
The mother sighed with troubled eyes, and rose. The purring of the
engine was heard. Lynn would be coming in. They watched the young man
swing his car out into the road and glide away like a comet with a wild
sophisticated snort of his engine that sent him so far away in a flash.
They watched the girl standing where he had left her, a stricken look
upon her face, and saw her turn slowly back to the house with eyes
down--troubled. The mother moved away. The father bent his head upon
his hand with closed eyes. The girl came back to her work, but the song
on her lips had died. She worked silently with a far look in her eyes,
trying to fathom it.
The eyes of her father and mother followed her tenderly all that day,
and it was as if the souls of the three had clasped hands, and
understood, so mistily they smiled at one another.
Billy Gaston, refreshed by a couple of chocolate fudge sundaes, a
banana whip, and a lemon ice-cream soda, was seated on the bench with
the heroes of the day at the Monopoly baseball grounds. He wore his
most nonchalant air, chewed gum with his usual vigor, shouted himself
hoarse at the proper places, and made casual grown-up responses to the
condescension of the team, wrapping them tenderly in ancient sweaters
when they were disabled, and watching every move of the game with a
practised eye and an immobile countenance. But though to the eyes of
the small fry on the grass at his feet he was as self-sufficient as
ever, somehow he kept having strange qualms, and his mind kept
reverting to the swart fat face of Pat at the Junction, as it ducked
behind the cypress and talked into the crude telephone on the mountain.
Somehow he couldn't forget the gloat in his eye as he spoke of the
"rich guy." More and more uneasy he grew, more sure that the expedition
to which he was pledged was not strictly "on the square."
Not that Billy Gaston was afraid. The thrill of excitement burned along
his veins and filled him with a fine elation whenever he thought of the
great adventure, and he gave his pocket a protective slap where the
"ten bones" still reposed intact. He felt well pleased with himself to
have made sure of those. Whatever happened he had that, and if the man
wasn't on the square Pat deserved to lose that much. Not that Billy
Gaston meant to turn "yellow" after promising, but there was no telling
whether the rest of the twenty-five would be forthcoming or not. He
fell to calculating its worth in terms of new sweaters and baseball
bats. If worst came to worst he could threaten to expose Pat and his
During the first and second innings these reflections soothed his soul
and made him sit immovable with jaws grinding in rythmic harmony with
the day. But at the beginning of the third inning one of the boys from
his Sunday-school class strolled by and flung himself full length on
the grass at his feet where he could see his profile just as he had
seen it on Sunday while he was listening to the story that the teacher
always told to introduce the lesson. He could see the blue of Lynn
Severn's eyes as she told it, and strangely enough portions of the tale
came floating back in trailing mist across the dusty baseball diamond
and obscured the sight of Sloppy Hedrick sliding to his base. It was a
tale of one, Judas, who betrayed his best Friend with a kiss. It came
with strange illogical persistence, and seemed curiously incongruous
with the sweet air of summer blowing over the hard young faces and
dusty diamond. What had Judas to do with a baseball game, or with Billy
Gaston and what he meant to do on the mountain that night?--and earn
good money--! Ah! That was it. Make good money! But who was he
betraying he would like to know? Well if it wasn't on the square
perhaps he was betraying that same _One_--Aw--Rats! He wasn't
under anybody's thumb and Judas lived centuries ago. He wasn't doing
any harm helping a man do something he wasn't supposed to know what.
Hang it all! Where was Mark Carter anyway? Somehow Cart always seemed
to set a fella straight. He was like Miss Lynn. He saw through things
you hadn't even told him about. But this was a man's affair, not a
Of course there was another side to it. He _could_ give some of
the money to Aunt Saxon to buy coal--instead of the sweater--well,
maybe it would do both. And he _could_ give some to that fund for
the Chinese Mission, Miss Lynn was getting up in the class. He would
stop on the way back and give her a whole dollar. He sat, chin in hand,
gazing out on the field, quite satisfied with himself, and suddenly
some one back by the plate struck a fine clean ball with a click and
threw the bat with a resounding ring on the hard ground as he made for
a home run. Billy started and looked keenly at the bat, for somehow the
ring of it as it fell sounded curiously like the tinkle of silver. Who
said thirty pieces of silver? Billy threw a furtive look about and a
cold perspiration broke out on his forehead. Queer that old Bible story
had to stick itself in. He could see the grieving in the Master's eyes
as Judas gave Him that kiss. She had made the story real. She could do
that, and made the boy long somehow to make it up to that betrayed
Master, and he couldn't get away from the feeling that he was falling
short. Of course old Pat had _said_ the man had money _belonging_ to
_him_, and you had to go mostly by what folks _said_, but it did look
The game seemed slow after that. The two captains were wrangling over
some point of rule, and the umpire was trying to pacify them both.
Billy arose with well feigned languor and remarked, "Well, I gotta beat
it. Guess we're gonta win all right. So long!" and lounged away to his
He purchased another soda at the drug store to get one of his fives
changed into ones, one of which he stowed away in his breast pocket,
while the remainder was stuffed in his trousers after the manner of a
man. He bent low over his handle bars, chewing rythmically and pedaled
away rapidly in the direction of Sabbath Valley.
The bells of the little stone church were playing tender melodies as he
shot briskly down the maple lined street at a break neck pace, and the
sun was just hovering on the rim of the mountain. The bells often
played at sunset, especially Saturday evenings, when Marilyn Severn was
at home, and the village loved to hear them. Billy wouldn't have owned
it, but he loved to hear those bells play better than anything else in
his young life, and he generally managed to be around when they were
being played. He loved to watch the slim young fingers manipulating the
glad sounds. A genius who had come to the quiet hill village to die of
an incurable disease had trained her and had left the wonderful little
pipe organ with its fine chime of bells attached as his memorial to the
peace the village had given him in his last days. Something of his
skill and yearning had fallen upon the young girl whom he had taught.
Billy always felt as if an angel had come and was ringing the bells of
heaven when Marilyn sat at the organ playing the bells.
This night a ray of the setting sun slanting through the memorial
window on her bronze gold hair gave her the look of Saint Cecilia
sitting there in the dimness of the church. Billy sidled into a back
seat still chewing and watched her. He could almost see a halo in
yellow gold sun dust circling above her hair. Then a sudden revulsion
came with the thought of "that guy Judas" and the possibility that he
and the old fellow had much in common. But Bah! He would go to the
mountain just to prove to himself that there was nothing crooked in it.
The music was tender that night and Billy felt a strange constriction
in his throat. But you never would have guessed, as Lynn Severn turned
at the end of her melody to search the dimness for the presence she
felt had entered, that he had been under any stress of emotion, the way
he grinned at her and sidled up the aisle.
"Yeah, we won awright," in answer to her question, "Red Rodge and
Sloppy had 'em beat from the start. Those other guys can't play ball
Then quite casually he brought forth the dollar from his breast pocket.
"Fer the Chinese Fund," he stated indifferently.
The look in her face was beautiful to see, almost as if there were
tears behind the sapphire lights in her eyes.
"Billy! All this?"
He felt as if she had knighted him. He turned red and hot with shame
"Aw, that ain't much. I earned sommore too, fer m'yant." He twisted his
cap around on his other hand roughly and then blurted out the last
thing he had meant to say:
"Miss Lynn, it ain't wrong to do a thing you don't know ain't wrong, is
Marilyn looked at him keenly and laughed.
"It generally is, Billy, if you think it _might_ be. Don't ever
try to fool your conscience, Billy, it's too smart for that."
He grinned sheepishly and then quite irrelevantly remarked:
"I saw Cart last night."
But she seemed to understand the connection and nodded gravely:
"Yes, I saw him a moment this morning. He said he might come back again
The boy grunted contentedly and watched the warm color of her cheek
under the glow of the ruddy sunset. She always seemed to him a little
bit unearthly in the starriness of her beauty. Of course he never put
it to himself that way. In fact he never put it at all. It was just a
fact in his life. He had two idols whom he worshipped from afar, two
idols who understood him equally well and were understood by him, and
for whom he would have gladly laid down his young life. This girl was
one, and Mark Carter was the other. It was the sorrow of his young life
that Mark Carter had left Sabbath Valley indefinitely. The stories that
floated back of his career made no difference to Billy. He adored him
but the more in his fierce young soul, and gloried in his hero's need
of faithful friends. He would not have owned it to himself, perhaps,
but he had spoken of Mark just to find out if this other idol believed
those tales and was affected by them. He drew a sigh of deep content as
he heard the steady voice and knew that she was still the young man's
They passed out of the church silently together and parted in the glow
of red that seemed flooding the quiet village like a painting. She went
across the stretch of lawn to the low spreading veranda where her
mother sat talking with her father. Some crude idea of her beauty and
grace stole through his soul, but he only said to himself:
"How,--kind of--_little_ she is!" and then made a dash for his
rusty old wheel lying flat at the side of the church step. He gathered
it up and wheeled it around the side of the church to the old
graveyard, threading his way among the graves and sitting down on a
broad flat stone where he had often thought out his problems of life.
The shadow of the church cut off the glow of sunset, and made it seem
silent and dark. Ahead of him the Valley lay. Across at the right it
stretched toward the Junction, and he could see the evening train just
puffing in with a wee wisp of white misty smoke trailing against the
mountain green. The people for the hotels would be swarming off, for it
was Saturday night. The fat one would be there rolling trunks across
and the station agent would presently close up. It would be dark over
there at eight o'clock. The mountains loomed silently, purpling and
steep and hazy already with sleep.
To the left lay the road that curved up to the forks where one went
across to the Highway and at right angles the Highway went straight
across the ridge in front of him and sloped down to the spot where the
fat one expected him to play his part at eight o'clock to-night. The
Highway was the way down which the "rich guy" was expected to come
speeding in a high power car from New York, and had to be stopped and
relieved of money that "did not belong to him."
Billy thought it all over. Somehow things seemed different now. He had
by some queer psychological process of his own, brought Lynn Severn's
mind and Mark Carter's mind together to bear upon the matter and gained
a new perspective. He was pretty well satisfied in his own soul that
the thing he had set out to do was not "on the level." It began to be
pretty plain to him that that "rich guy" might be in the way of getting
hurt or perhaps still worse, and he had no wish to be tangled up in a
mess like that. At the same time he did not often get a chance to make
twenty-five dollars, and he had no mind to give it up. It was not in
his unyellow soul to go back on his word without refunding the money,
and a dollar of it was already spent to the "Chinese Fund," to say
nothing of sundaes and sodas and whips. So he sat and studied the
mountain ahead of him.
Suddenly, as the sun, which had been for a long time slipping down
behind the mountains at his back, finally disappeared, his face
cleared. He had found a solution.
He sprang up from the cold stone, where his fingers had been
mechanically feeling out the familiar letters of the inscription:
"Blessed are the dead--" and catching up the prone wheel, strode upon
it and dashed down the darkening street toward the little cottage near
the willows belonging to his Aunt Saxon. He was whistling as he went,
for he was happy. He had found a way to keep his cake and eat it too.
It would not have been Billy if he had not found a way out.
Aunt Saxon turned a drawn and anxious face away from the window at his
approach and drew a sigh of momentary relief. This bringing up boys was
a terrible ordeal. But thanks be this immediate terror was past and her
sister's orphaned child still lived! She hurried to the stove where the
waiting supper gave forth a pleasant odor.
"Been down to the game at M'nop'ly," he explained happily as he flung
breezily into the kitchen and dashed his cap on a chair, "Gee! That ham
smells good! Say, Saxy, whad-ya do with that can of black paint I left
on the door step last Saturday?"
"It's in a wooden box in the corner of the shed, Willie," answered his
Aunt, "Come to supper now. It'll all get cold. I've been waiting most
"Oh, hang it! I don't s'pose you know where the brush is--Yes, I'm
coming. Oh, here 'tis!"
He ate ravenously and briefly. His aunt watched him with a kind of
breathless terror waiting for the inevitable remark at the close:
"Well, I gotta beat it! I gotta date with the fellas!"
She had ceased to argue. She merely looked distressed. It seemed a part
of his masculinity that was inevitable.
At the door he was visited with an unusual thoughtfulness. He stuck his
head back in the room to say:
"Oh, yes, Saxy, I _might_ not be home till morning. I _might_
stay all night some place."
He was going without further explanation, but her dismay as she
"But to-morrow is the Sabbath, Willie--!" halted him once more.
"Oh, I'll be home time fer Sunday-school," he promised gaily, and was
off down the road in the darkness, his old wheel squeaking
rheumatically with each revolution growing fainter and fainter in the
But Billy did not take the road to the Junction in his rapid flight.
Instead he climbed the left hand mountain road that met the Forks and
led to the great Highway. Slower and slower the old wheel went, Billy
puffing and bending low, till finally he had to dismount and put a drop
of oil in a well known spot which his finger found in the dark, from
the little can he carried in his pocket for such a time of need. He did
not care to proclaim his coming as he crept up the rough steep way. And
once when a tin Lizzie swept down upon him, he ducked and dropped into
the fringe of alders at the wayside until it was past. Was that, could
it have been Cart? It didn't look like Cart's car, but it was very
dark, and the man had not dimmed his lights. It was blinding. He hoped
it was Cart, and that he had gone to the parsonage. Somehow he liked to
think of those two together. It made his own view of life seem
stronger. So he slunk quietly up to the fork where the Highway swept
down round a curve, and turned to go down across the ridge. Here was
the spot where the rich guy would presently come. He looked the ground
over, with his bike safely hidden below road level. With a sturdy set
of satisfaction to his shoulders, and a twinkle of fun in his eye, he
began to burrow into the undergrowth and find branches, a fallen log,
stones, anything, and drag them up across the great state highway till
he had a complete barricade.
There had come a silverness in the sky over the next eastern mountain,
and he could see the better what he was doing. Now and again he stopped
cautiously and listened, his heart beating high with fear lest after
all the rich guy might arrive before he was ready for him. When the
obstruction was finished he got out a large piece of card board which
had been fastened to the handle bars of his wheel, and from a box also
fastened on behind his saddle he produced his can of paint and a brush.
The moon was beginning to show off at his right, and gave a faint
luminus gleam, as he daubed his letters in crudely.
"DETOUR to SABBATH VALLEY.
Rode flooded. Brige down."
His card was large, but so were his letters. Nevertheless in spite of
their irregularity he got them all on, and fastened the card firmly to
the most obvious spot in the barricade. Then with a wicked gleam of
mischief in his eye he looked off down the Highway across the ridge to
where some two miles away one Pat must be awaiting his coming, and gave
a single mocking gesture common to boys of his age. Springing on his
wheel he coasted down the humps and into the darkness again.
He reflected as he rode that no harm could possibly be done. The road
inspector would not be along for a couple of days. It would simply mean
that a number of cars would go around by the way of Sabbath Valley for
a day or so. It might break up a little of the quiet of the Sabbath day
at home, but Billy did not feel that that would permanently injure
Sabbath Valley for home purposes, and he felt sure that no one could
possibly ever detect his hand in the matter.
The road at the forks led four ways, Highway, coming from New York and
the Great North East, running North and South, and the Cross road
coming from Economy and running through Sabbath Valley to Monopoly. He
had made the Detour below the Cross Road, so that people coming from
Economy would find no hindrance to their progress. He felt great
satisfaction in the whole matter.
And now there remained but to do his part and get his money. He thought
he saw a way to make sure of that money, and his conscience had no
qualms for extracting it from so crooked a thief as Pat.
The clock on the church tower at Sabbath Valley was finishing the last
stroke of eleven when Billy came slickly up the slope of the road from
Sabbath Valley, and arrived on the station platform nonchalantly.
By the light of the moon he could dimly see Pat standing uneasily off
by the tracks, and the heads of two men down below in the bushes near
the lower end of the Highway where it crossed the tracks and swept on
South between two mountains.
Pat held his watch in his hand and looked very ugly, but nothing fazed
Billy. He didn't have to carry this thing out if he didn't want to, and
the man knew he knew too much to be ugly to him.
"There you are, you young Pill you!" was Pat's greeting, "What kinduva
time is this 'ere to be coming along to your expensive job? I said
"Oh," said Billy with a shrug and jumped to his wheel again, "Then I
guess I'll be going back. Good night!"
"Here! Wait up there, you young devil! You come mighty nigh dishing the
whole outfit, but now you're here, you'll earn your ten bucks I was
fool enough to give you, but nothing more, do you hear that?" and the
man leered into his freckled young face with an ugly gun in his hand.
Billy eyed the gun calmly. He had seen guns before. Moreover he didn't
believe the man had the nerve to shoot. He wasn't quite so sure of the
two dark shadows in the bushes below, but it was well to be on the safe
"Keep yer shirt on," said Billy impertinently, "and save yer powder.
You don't want the whole nation to know about this little affair of
ours do you _Pat?_"
The wide one glared.
"Well, you better not have anything like shooting going on, fer I've
got some friends back here a little way waiting to joy ride back with
me when my work's over. They might get funny if they heard a gun and
come too soon."
"You little devil, you! I mighta known you'd give it away--!" he began,
but he lowered the gun perceptibly. "Every little skunk like you is
yella--yella as the devil--"
But Pat did not finish his sentence, for Billy, with a blaze in his
eyes like the lamps of a tiger, and a fierce young cat-like leap flew
at the flabby creature, wrenched the gun out of his astonished hand,
and before he could make any outcry held it tantalizingly in his face.
Billy had never had any experience before with bullies and bandits
except in his dreams; but he had played football, and tackled every
team in the Valley, and he had no fear of anything. Moreover he had
spent long hours boxing and wrestling with Mark Carter, and he was hard
as nails and wiry as a cat. The fat one was completely in his hands. Of
course those other two down across the tracks might have made trouble
if Pat had cried out, but they were too far away to see or hear the
silent scuffle on the platform. But Billy was taking no chances.
"Now, keep on yer shirt, Pat, and don't make no outcry. My friends can
get here's easy as yours, so just take it quiet. All you gotta do is
take that remark back you just uttered. I ain't yella, and you gotta
say so. Then you hand over those fifteen bones, and I'm yer man."
It was incredible that Pat should have succumbed, but he did. Perhaps
he was none too sure of his friends in the bushes. Certainly the time
was getting short and he was in a hurry to get to his job on the
Highway. Also he had no mind for being discovered or interrupted. At
any rate with a hoarse little laugh of pretended courage he put his
hand in his baggy pocket and pulled out the bills.
"You win, Kid," he admitted, "I guess you're all white. Anything to
please the baby and get down to biz. Now, sonny, put that gun away, it
don't look well. Besides, I--got another." He put his hand
insinuatingly to his hip pocket with a grin, but Billy's grin answered
"That's all right, pard. I'll just keep this one awhile then. You don't
need two. Now, what's wanted?"
Pat edged away from the boy and measured him with his eye. The moon was
coming up and Billy loomed large in the darkness. There was a
determined set to his firm young shoulders, a lithe alertness about his
build, and a fine glint in his eye. Pat was really a coward. Besides,
Pat was getting nervous. The hidden telephone had called him several
times already. He could hear even now in imagination its faint click in
the moss. The last message had said that the car had passed the state
line and would soon be coming to the last point of communication. After
that it was the mountain highway straight to Pleasant View, nothing to
hinder. It was not a time to waste in discussion. Pat dropped to an
"Come along then, Kid. Yes, bring your wheel. We'll want it. Down this
way, just over the tracks, so, see? We want you to fall off that there
wheel an' sprawl in the road like you had caught yer wheel on the track
an' it had skidded, see? Try her now, and just lay there like you was
off your feed."
Billy slung himself across his wheel, gave a cursory glance at the
landscape, took a running slide over the tracks with a swift pedal or
two and slumped in a heap, lying motionless as the dead. He couldn't
have done it more effectively if he had practised for a week. Pat
caught his breath and stooped over anxiously. He didn't want a death at
the start. He wouldn't care to be responsible for a concussion of the
brain or anything like that. Besides, he couldn't waste time fooling
with a fool kid when the real thing might be along any minute. He
glanced anxiously up the broad white ribbon of a road that gleamed now
in the moonlight, and then pulling out his pocket flash, flooded it
swiftly over Billy's upturned freckled face that lay there still as
death without the flicker of an eyelash. The man was panic-stricken. He
stooped lower, put out a tentative finger, turned his flash full in the
boy's face again, and was just about to call to his helpers for aid
when Billy opened a large eye and solemnly winked.
Pat shut off his flash quickly, stuck it in his pocket backed off with
a low relieved, "All right Kid, you'll do. I guess you're all right
after all, now you jest lay--!" and slid away down the slope into the
Billy with upturned face eyed the moon and winked; again, as if to a
friend up there in the sky. He was thinking of the detour two miles up
It was very pleasant lying there in the cool moonlight with the evening
breeze blowing his rough hair and playing over his freckles, and with
the knowledge of those twenty-four bucks safely buttoned inside his
sweater, and that neat little gun in his pocket where he could easily
close his fingers about it. The only thing he regretted was that for
conscience sake he had had to put up that detour. It would have been so
much more exciting than to have put up this all-night camouflage and
wait here till dawn for a guy that wasn't coming at all. He began to
think about the "guy" and wonder if he would take the detour to Sabbath
Valley, or turn back, or perhaps try Economy. That would be
disappointing. He would stand no chance of even hearing what he was
like. Now if he went through Sabbath Valley, Red or Sloppy or Rube
would be sure to sight a strange car, particularly if it was a _high
power_ racer or something of that sort, and they could discuss it,
and he might be able to find out a few points about this unknown, whom
he was so nobly delivering for conscience sake--or Lynn Severn's--from
an unknown fate. Of course he wouldn't let the fellows know he knew
anything about the guy.
He had lain there fifteen minutes and was beginning to grow drowsy
after his full day in the open air. If it were not for the joke of the
thing he couldn't keep awake.
Pat stole out from the weeds at the slope of the road and whispered
"That's all right, Kid, jest you lay there and hold that pose. You
couldn't do better. Yer wheel finishes the blockade. Nobody couldn't
get by if he tried. That's the Kid! 'Clare if I don't give you another
five bucks t'morrer if you carry this thing through. Don't you get cold
Billy uttered a guttural of contempt in his throat and Pat slid away to
hiding once more. The distant bells struck the midnight hour. Billy
thrilled with their sweetness, with the fact that they belonged to him,
that he had sat that very evening watching those white fingers among
the keys, manipulating them. He thought of the glint on her hair,--the
halo of dusty gold in the sunshine above--the light in her eyes--the
glow of her cheek--her delicate profile against the memorial window--
the glint of her hair--it came back, not in those words, but the vision
of it--what was it like? Oh--of course. Cart's hair. The same color.
They were alike, those two, and yet very different. When he had grown a
man he would like to be like Cart. Cart was kind and always understood
when you were not feeling right. Cart smoothed the way for people in
trouble--old women and animals, and well--girls sometimes. He had seen
him do it. Other people didn't always understand, but he did. Cart
always had a reason. It took men to understand men. That thought had a
good sound to the boy on his back in the moonlight. Although he felt
somewhat a fool lying there waiting in the road when all the time there
was that Detour. It would have been more a man's job if there hadn't
had to be that Detour, but he couldn't run risks with strange guys, and
men who carried guns, not even for--well, thirty pieces of silver--!
But hark! What was that?
There seemed to be a singing along the ground. Was he losing his nerve
lying here so long? No, there it was again! It couldn't be possible
that he could hear so far as two miles up that road. It was hard and
smooth macadam of course, that highway, but it couldn't be that--what
was it they called it?--vibrations?--would reach so far! It must be. He
would ask Cart about that.
The humming continued and grew more distinct, followed by a sort of
throbbing roar that seemed coming toward him, and yet was still very
far away. It must be a car at the Detour. In a moment it would turn
down the bumpy road toward Sabbath Valley, and very likely some of
those old broken whiskey bottles along the way would puncture a tire
and the guy would take till morning getting anywhere. Perhaps he could
even get away in time to come up innocently enough and help him out. A
guy like that might not know how to patch a puncture.
But the sound was distinctly coming on. Billy opened one eye, then the
other, and hastily scanned the sky in either direction for an
aeroplane, but the sky was as clear as crystal without a speck, and the
sound was distinctly drawing nearer.
A voice from the roadside hurtled sharply across:
"Hist! There! He's coming! Lay still! Remember you get five more bucks
if you pull this off!"
A cold chill crept down Billy's back on tiny needle-pointed fringe of
feet like a centipede. There was a sudden constriction in his throat
and a leaden weight on each eye. He could not have opened them if he
had tried, for a great white light stabbed across them and seemed to be
holding them down for inspection. The thing he had wanted to have
happen had come, and he was frightened; frightened cold clear to the
soul of him--not at the thing that was about to come, but at the fact
that he had broken faith with himself after all; broken faith with the
haloed girl at the organ in the golden light; broken faith--for thirty
pieces of silver! In that awful moment he was keenly conscious of the
fact that when he got the other five there would be just thirty dollars
for the whole! Thirty pieces of silver and the judgment day already
Lynn Severn was restless as she sat on the porch in the cool dark
evening and heard unheeding the small village sounds that stole to her
ears. The laughter of two children playing hide and seek behind the
bushes across the way; the call of their mother summoning them to bed.
The tinkle of a piano down the street; the whine of a Victrola in
another home; the cry of a baby in pain; the murmur of talk on the
porch next door; the slamming of a door; the creak of a gate; footsteps
going down the brick pavement; the swinging to and fro of a hammock
holding happy lovers under the rose pergola at Joneses. She could
identify them all, and found her heart was listening for another sound,
a smooth running car that purred, coming down the street. But it did
By and by she slipped out and into the church, opening one window to
let in the moonlight, and unlocking the organ by the sense of feeling.
Her fingers strayed along the keys in tender wandering melodies, but
she did not pull the stop that controlled the bells. She would have
liked to play those bells and call through them to Mark across the
mountains where he might be riding, call to tell him that she was
waiting, call to ask him why he was so strangely aloof, so silent, and
pale in his dignity; what had come between them, old friends of the
years? She felt she could say with the bells what her lips could never
speak. But the bells would cry her trouble to the villagers also, and
she could not let _them_ hear. So she played soft melodies of
trust and hope and patience, until her father came to find her, and
linking his arm in hers walked back with her through the moonlight, not
asking anything, only seeming to understand her mood. He was that way
always. He could understand without being told. Somehow she felt it and
was comforted. He was that way with everybody. It was what made him so
beloved in his parish, which comprised the whole Valley, that and his
great sincerity and courage. But always his sense of understanding
seemed keenest with this flower-faced girl of his. He seemed to have
gone ahead of her way always to see that all was right--or wrong--and
then walked with her to be sure she did not stumble or miss her way. He
never attempted to reason her out of herself, nor to minimize her
trials, but was just there, a strong hold when she needed it. She
looked up with a smile and slipped her hand in his. She understood his
perfect sympathy, as if his own past youth were touching hers and
making her know that whatever it was she had to face she would come
through. He was like a symbol of God's strength to her. Somehow the
weight was lifted from her heart. They lingered on the piazza together
in the moonlight a few minutes, speaking quietly of the morrow and its
duties, then they went into the wide pleasant living room, and sat
down, mother and daughter near together, while the father read a
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
"I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress:
my God; in him will I trust.
"Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the
fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
"He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his
wings shalt thou trust."
The words seemed to fill the room with a sweet peace, and to draw the
hearts of the listeners as a Voice that is dear draws and soothes after
a day of separation and turmoil and distress.
They knelt and the minister's voice spoke familiarly to the Unseen
Presence, giving thanks for mercies received, mentioning little
throbbing personalities that belonged to them as a family and as
individuals, reminding one of what it must have been in the days before
Sin had come and Adam walked and talked with God in the cool of the
evening, and received instruction and strengthening straight from the
Source. One listening would instinctively have felt that here was the
secret of the great strength of Lynn Severn's life; the reason why
neither college nor the world had been able to lure her one iota from
her great and simple faith which she had brought with her from her
Valley home and taken back again unsullied. This family altar was the
heart of her home, and had brought her so near to God that she
_knew_ what she had believed and could not be shaken from it by
any flippant words from lovely or wise lips that only knew the theory
of her belief and nothing of its spirit and tried to argue it away with
a fine phrase and a laugh.
So Lynn went up to her little white chamber that looked out upon the
quiet hills, knelt awhile beside the white bed in the moonlight, then
lay down and slept.
* * * * *
Out among the hills on the long smooth road in the white moonlight
there shot a car like a living thing gone crazy, blaring a whiter light
than the moonlight down the way, roaring and thundering as only a
costly and well groomed beast of a machine can roar and thunder when it
is driven by hot blood and a mad desire, stimulated by frequent
applications from a handy flask, and a will that has never known a
He knew it was a mad thing he was doing, rushing across space through
the dark at the beck of a woman's smile, a woman who was another man's
wife, but a woman who had set on fire a whole circle of men of which he
was a part. He was riding against all caution to win a bet, riding
against time to get there before two other men who were riding as hard
from other directions to win the woman who belonged to an absent
husband, win her and run away with her if he could. It was the
culmination of a year of extravagances, the last cry in sensations, and
the telephone wires had been hot with daring, wild allurement, and mad
threat in several directions since late the night before.
The woman was in a great summer hotel where extravagances of all sorts
are in vogue, and it had been her latest game to call with her lute-like
voice over the phone to three of her men friends who had wooed her
the strongest, daring them all to come to her at once, promising to fly
with the one who reached her first, but if none reached her before
morning dawned she remained as she was and laughed at them all.
Laurence Shafton had closed with the challenge at once and given orders
for his car to be ready to start in ten minutes. From a southern city
about an equal distance from the lady, one Percy Emerson, of the
Wellington-Emersons, started about the same time, leaving a trail of
telegrams and phone messages to be sent after his departure. The third
man, Mortimer McMarter, a hot-headed, hot-blooded scot, had started with
the rest, for the lady knew her lovers well, and not one would refuse;
but he was lying dead at a wayside inn with his car a heap of litter
outside from having collided with a truck that was minding its own
business and giving plenty of room to any sane man. This one was not
sane. But of this happening not even the lady knew as yet, for Mortimer
McMarter was not one to leave tales behind him when he went out of
life, and the servants who had sent his messages were far away.
The clock in the car showed nearly twelve and the way was long ahead.
But he would make it before the dawn. He must. He stepped on the
accelerator and shot round a curve. A dizzy precipice yawned at his
side. He took another pull at the flask he carried and shot on wildly
through the night. Then suddenly he ground on his brakes, the machine
twisted and snarled like an angry beast and came to a stand almost into
the arms of a barricade across the road. The young man hurled out an
oath, and leaned forward to look, his eyes almost too blood-shot and
blurred to read:
"DETOUR to Sabbath Valley!"
He laughed aloud. "Sabbath Valley!" He swore and laughed again, then
looked down the way the rude arrow pointed, "Well, I like that! Sabbath
Valley. That'll be a good joke to tell, but I'll make it yet or land in
hell--!" He started his car and twisted it round to the rougher road,
feeling the grind of the broken glass that strewed the way. Billy had
done his work thoroughly, and anticipated well what would happen. But
those tires were costly affairs. They did not yield to the first cut
that came, and the expensive car built for racing on roads as smooth as
glass bumped and jogged down into the ruts and started toward Sabbath
Valley, with the driver pulling again at his almost empty flask, and
swaying giddily in his seat. Half a mile farther down the mountain, the
car gave a gasp, like the flitting soul of a dying lion, and came with
sudden grinding breaks to a dead stop in the heart of a deep wood.
Five minutes later another car, with a soft purring engine came up to
the Crossroads from Economy, slowed just a fraction as it crossed the
Highway, the driver looking keenly at the barricade, then stopping his
car with a sudden jerk and swinging out. He turned a pocket flash on
the big card board Billy had erected, its daubed letters still wet and
blurring into the pasteboard. He looked a bit quizzical over the
statement, "RODE FLOODED, BRIGE DOWN," because he happened to know
there was no bridge and nothing to flood the road for several miles
ahead. He examined the barricade carefully, even down to the broken
glass in the road, then deliberately, swiftly, with his foot kicked
away the glass, cleared a width for his car, and jumping in backed up,
turned and started slowly down the condemned road to investigate.
Something was wrong down the highway, and the sooner it was set right
the better. There was one thing, he wished he had his gun with him, but
then--! And he swung on down for two miles, going faster and faster,
seeing nothing but white still road, and quiet sleeping trees, with
looming mountains against the sky everywhere. Then, suddenly, across
the way in the blare of his lights a white face flashed into view, and
a body, lying full across the road, with a bicycle flung to one side
completing the block. He brought his car to a quick stand and jumped
out, but before he could take one step or even stoop, someone caught
him from behind, and something big and dark and smothering was flung
over his head. A heavy blow seemed to send him whirling, whirling down
into infinite space, with a long tongue of living fire leaping up to
"Beat it, Kid, and keep yer face shut!" hissed Pat into Billy's ear, at
the same time stuffing a bill into his hand.
Billy had just sense enough left to follow the assisting kick and roll
himself out of the road, with a snatch at his machine which pulled it
down out of sight. He had a secret feeling that he was "yellow" after
all in spite of his efforts, letting a guy get taken this way without
even a chance to put up a fight. Where was that gun? He reached his
hand into his pocket and was steadied by the feeling of the cold steel.
Then he knew that the men were in the car and were about to start. They
had dumped the owner into the back seat and were going to carry him off
somewhere. What were they going to do? He must find out. He was
responsible. He hadn't meant to let anything like this happen. If
everything wasn't going to be on the square he might have to get into
it yet. He must stick around and see.
The men were having a whispered consultation over the car. They were
not used to that kind, but a car was a car. They tried to start it with
nervous glances down the road. It jerked and hissed and complained but
began to obey. The wheels were beginning to move. In a flash it would
Billy scrambled noiselessly up the bank behind the car, his move well
covered by the noise of the engine. With a quick survey of the
situation he tucked himself hastily into the spare tire on the back,
just as the car gave a lurch and shot forward down across the tracks.
He had all he could do to maintain his position and worm himself into a
firmer holding for the first minute or two, and when he began to
realize what he was doing he found his heart beating like a young trip
hammer. He slid a groping hand into his pocket once more for
reassurance. If anything really happened he had the gun.
But his heart was heavy. Things had not gone right. He had planned to
carry this thing through as a large joke, and here he was mixed up in a
crooked deal if ever there was one. The worst of it was he wasn't out
of it yet. He wished he knew whose car this was and where they were
bound for. How about the license tag? Gripping his unstable seat he
swayed forward and tried to see it just below him. In the dim light it
looked like a New York license. It must be the guy they were after all
right,--they had telephoned about a New York man--yet--_Cart_ had
a New York license on his car! He was living in New York now,--and
there must be lots of other guys--!
A kind of sickening thud seemed to drop through his mind down to the
pit of his stomach as he tried to think it out. His eyes peered into
the night watching every familiar landmark--there was the old pine
where they always turned off to go fishing: and yes, they were turning
_away_ from Economy road. Yes, they were going through Hackett's
Pass. A chill crept through his thin old sweater as the damp breath of
ferns and rocks struck against his face. His eyes shone grim and hard
in the night, suddenly grown old and stern. This was the kind of thing
you read about in novels. In spite of pricks of conscience his spirits
rose. It was great to be in it if it had to be. The consciousness of
Sabbath Valley bathed in peaceful moonlight, all asleep, of the
minister and his daughter, and Aunt Saxon, fell away; even the memory
of bells that called to righteousness--he was out in the night on a
wild ride and his soul thrilled to the measure of it. He fairly exulted
as he reflected that he might be called upon to do some great deed of
valor--in fact he felt he _must_ do a great deed of valor to
retrieve his self respect after having made that balk about the detour.
How did that guy get around the detour anyway? _Some guy!_
Hackett's Pass was far behind and the moon was going low when the car
stopped for a moment and a hurried consultation took place inside.
Billy couldn't hear all that was said, but he gathered that time was
short and the conspirators must be back at a certain place before
morning. They seemed somehow to have missed a trail that was to have
cut the distance greatly. Billy clung breathlessly to his cramped
position and waited. He hoped they wouldn't get out and try to find the
way, for then some of them might see him, and he was so stiff he was
sure he would bungle getting out of the way. But after a breathless
moment the car started on more slowly, and finally turned down a steep
rough place, scarcely a trail, into the deeper woods. For a long time
they went along, slower and slower, into the blackness of night it
seemed. There was no moon, and the men had turned off the lights. There
was nothing but a pocket flash which one of them carried, and turned on
now and again to show them the way. The engine too was muffled and went
snuffing along through the night like a blind thing that had been
gagged. Billy began to wonder if he would ever find his legs useful
again. Sharp pains shot through his joints, and he became aware of
sleep dropping upon his straining eyes like a sickening cloud. Yet he
must keep awake.
He squirmed about and changed his position, staring into the darkness
and wondering if this journey was ever to end. Now they were bumping
down a bank, and slopping through water, not very deep, a small
mountain stream on one of the levels. He tried to think where it must
be, but was puzzled. They seemed to have traveled part of the way in
curves. Twice they stopped and backed up and seemed to be returning on
their tracks. They crossed and recrossed the little stream, and the
driver was cursing, and insisting on more light. At last they began
climbing again and the boy drew a breath of relief. He could tell
better where he was on the heights. He began to think of morning and
Sabbath Valley bathed in its Sabbath peace, with the bells chiming a
call to worship--and _he not there!_ Aunt Saxon would be
_crazy!_ She would bawl him out! _He should worry!_ and she
would weep, pink weak tears from her old thin eyes, that seemed to have
never done much else but weep. The thought turned and twisted in his
soul like an ugly curved knife and made him angry. Tears always made
him angry. And Miss Lynn--she would watch for him--! He had promised to
be there! And she would not understand--and there would come that
grieved look in her eyes. She would think--Oh, she would think he did
not _want_ to come, and did not _mean_ to keep his promise,
and things like that--and she would have to think them! He couldn't
help it, could he? He _had_ to come along, didn't he?
In the midst of his miserable reflections the car stopped dead on a
level place and with a cold perspiration on his forehead Billy peered
around him. They must have reached the top of a ridge, for the sky was
visible with the morning star pinned against a luminous black. Against
it a blacker shape was visible, half hid in trees, a building of some
sort, solid, substantial, but deserted.
The men were getting out of the car. Billy gripped the gun and dropped
silently to the ground, sliding as stealthily into the shadows of the
trees as if he had been a snake.
Pat, stepped heavily to the ground and began to give directions in a
low growl. Billy crouched and listened.
"Let's get him shifted quick! We gotta beat it outta here! Link, it's
up to you an' Shorty to get this car over the state line before light,
an' you'll have to run me back to the Crossing first, so I can be at
the station in time for the early train. That'll be _going some!_"
"Well, I guess _anyhow not_," said Link sullenly, "Whadda ya think
we are? Fools? Run you back to the Crossing in a pig's eye. You'll foot
it back if you get there, er come with us. We ain't gonta get caught
with this car on our hands. What we gonta do with it anyhow, when we
get crost the state line?"
"Why, you run it into the field off behind that row of alders. Sam's
got a man on the lookout. They'll have that little old car so she won't
recognize her best friend before you can count three, so you should
worry. And you'll run me back or you won't get the dough. See?
_I'll_ see to that. Pat said I wasn't to run no risks fer not
bein' back in time. Now, shift that guy's feet out on my shoulder.
Handle him quick. Nope, he won't wake up fer two hours yet. I give him
plenty of dope. Got them bracelets tight on his feet? All right now.
He's some hefty bird, ain't he?"
They moved away in the direction of the building, carrying a long dark
shape between them, and Billy breathless in the bushes, watched,
turning rapid plans in his mind. Here he was in the midst of an
automobile getaway! Many the time he had gone with Mark and the Chief
of Police on a still hunt for car thieves, but this time he was of the
party. His loyal young heart boiled hot with rage, and he determined to
do what he could single-handed to stem the tide of crime. Just what he
was going to do he was undetermined. One, thing was certain, he must
get the number of that license tag. He looked toward the house.
The group had paused with their burden at the door and Pat had turned
on his pocket flash light for just an instant as they fumbled with an
ancient lock. In that instant the whole front of the old stone house
was lit up clearly, and Billy gasped. The _haunted house!_ The
house on the far mountain where a man had murdered his brother and then
hanged himself. It had stood empty and closed for years, ever since
Billy could remember, and was shunned and regarded with awe, and
pointed out by hunters as a local point of interest.
Billy regarded with contempt the superstition that hung around the
place, but he gasped when he saw where he was, for they must have come
twenty miles round about and it was at least ten across the mountains
by the short cut. Ten miles from home, and he had to foot it! If he had
only brought old trusty! No telling now whether he would ever see it
again. But what were bicycles at such a time as this!
The flash had gone out and the house was in darkness again, but he
could hear the grating of a rusty hinge as the door opened, and faint
footfalls of rubbered feet shuffled on a dusty floor. Now was his time!
He darted out to the back of the car, and stooping down with his face
close to the license, holding his old cap in one hand to shelter it
drew out his own pocket flash and turned it on the sign, registering
the number clearly on his alert young mind. The flash light was on its
last breath of battery, and blinked asthmatically, winking out into a
thread of red as the boy pressed it eagerly for one more look. He had
been so intent that he had not heard the rubbered feet till they were
almost upon him, and he had barely time to spring back into the bushes.
"Hist! What was that?" whispered Pat, and the three stopped motionless
in their tracks. Billy held his breath and touched the cold steel in
his pocket. Of course there was always the gun, but what was one gun
The whistle of the Cannery at Sabbath Valley blew a relief blast five
minutes ahead of midnight in deference to the church chimes, and the
night shift which had been working overtime on account of a consignment
of tomatoes that would not keep till Monday, poured joyously out into
the road and scattered to their various homes.
The outmost of these homegoers, Tom McMertrie and Jim Rafferty, who
lived at the other extreme of the village, came upon a crippled car,
coughing and crawling toward them in front of the Graveyard. Its
driver, much sobered by lack of stimulant, and frequent necessity for
getting out and pushing his car over hard bits of road, called to them
The two workmen, pleasant of mood, ready for a joke, not altogether
averse to helping if this proved to be "the right guy," halted and
stepped into the road just to look the poor noble car over. It was the
lure of the fine machine.
"Met with an accident?" Jim remarked affably, as if it were something
"Had toire thrubble?" added Tom, punching the collapsed tires.
The questions seemed to anger the driver, who demanded loftily:
"Where's your garage?"
"Garage? Oh, we haven't any garage," said Jim pleasantly, with a mute
twinkle in his Irish eye.
"No garage? Haven't any garage! What town is this,--if you call it a
"Why, mon, this is Sawbeth Volley! Shorely ye've heard of Sawbeth
"No, I never heard of it!" said the stranger contemptuously, "but from
what I've seen of it so far I should say it ought to be called Hell's
Pit! Well, what do you do when you want your car fixed?"
"Well, we don't hoppen to hove a cyar," said Tom with a meditative air,
stooping to examine the spokes of a wheel, "Boot, ef we hod mon, I'm
thenkin' we'd _fix_ it!"
Jim gave a flicker of a chuckle in his throat, but kept his outward
gravity. The stranger eyed the two malevolently, helplessly, and began
once more, holding his rage with a cold voice.
"Well, how much do you want to fix my car?" he asked, thrusting his
hand into his pocket and bringing out an affluent wallet.
The men straightened up and eyed him coldly. Jim turned indifferently
away and stepped back to the sidewalk. Tom lifted his chin and replied
"Why, Mon, it's the _Sawbeth,_ didn't ye know? I'm s'proised at
ye! It's the Sawbeth, an' this is Sawbeth Volley! We don't wurruk on
the Sawbeth day in Sawbeth Volley. Whist! Hear thot, mon?"
He lifted his hand and from the stone belfry near-by came the solemn
tone of the chime, pealing out a full round of melody, and then tolling
solemnly twelve slow strokes. There was something almost uncanny about
it that held the stranger still, as if an unseen presence with a
convincing voice had been invoked. The young man sat under the spell
till the full complement of the ringing was finished, the workman with
his hand up holding attention, and Jim Rafferty quietly enjoying it all
from the curb stone.
When the last sweet resonance had died out, the Scotchman's hand went
slowly down, and the stranger burst forth with an oath:
"Well, can you tell me where I can go to get fixed up? I've wasted
enough time already."
"I should say from whut I've seen of ye, mon, that yer roight in thot
statement, and if I was to advoise I'd say go right up to the parson,
His loight's still burnin' in the windo next beyant the tchurtch, so
ye'll not be disturbin' him. Not that he'd moind. He'll fix ye up ef
anybody cun; though I'm doubtin' yer in a bad wy, only wy ye tak it.
Good-night to ye, the winda wi' the leight, mon, roight next beyant the
The car began its coughing and spluttering, and slowly jerked itself
into motion, its driver going angrily on his unthankful way. The two
workmen watching him with amused expressions, waited in the shadow of a
tree till the car came to a stop again in front of the parsonage, and a
tall young fellow got out and looked toward the lighted window.
"Oh, boy! He's going in!" gasped Jim, slapping his companion silently
on the back. "Whatt'll Mr. Severn think, Tommy?"
"It'll do the fresh laddie gude," quoth Tom, a trifle abashed but ready
to stand by his guns, "I'm thenkin' he's one of them what feels they
owns the airth, an' is bound to step on all worms of the dust whut
comes in thur wy. But Jim, mon, we better be steppin' on, fer tomorra's
the Sawbeth ya ken, an' it wuddent be gude for our souls if the parson
shud cum out to investigate." Chuckling away into the silent street
they disappeared, while Laurence Shafton stalked angrily up the little
path and pounded loudly on the quaint knocker of the parsonage.
* * * * *
The minister was on his knees beside his desk, praying for the soul of
the wandering lad who had been dear to him for years. He had finished
his preparation for the coming day, and his heart was full of a great
longing. As he poured out his desire he forgot the hour and his need
for rest. It was often in such companionship he forgot all else. He was
that kind of a man.
But he came to his feet on the instant with the knock, and was ready to
go out on any errand of mercy that was needing him. It was not an
unusual thing for a knock to come interrupting his midnight devotions.
Sometimes the call would be to go far out on the mountain to some one
who was in distress, or dying.
The minister swung the door wide and peered into the night pleasantly
almost as if to welcome an unexpected guest. In the sudden flood of the
porch light his face was illumined, and behind him the pretty living
room gave a sweet homely setting. The stranger stood for an instant
blinking, half astonished; then the memory of his rendezvous at break
of day brought back his irritation at the delay.
"Are you Parsons?" he demanded, just as if "Parsons" were at fault that
he had not been on hand before.
"Parsons?" said Mr. Severn reflectively. "I don't recall anyone of that
name hereabouts. Perhaps you are on the wrong road. There is a Parsons
"Parsons is the name. Aren't you Parsons? A couple of men down the road
said you were, and that you could fix me up. They said right next the
church and that your light was still burning." The visitor's tone was
Severn's face cleared with a smile.
"Oh, they must have said 'Parson,' they often call me that. Come in.
What can I do for you?"
The young man eyed him coldly and made no move to enter.
"Parson or Parsons, it makes no difference does it? Mr. Parson, if
you're so particular then, come out and look at my car. It seems to be
in bad shape, and be quick about it. I've got over two hundred miles to
make before daybreak, so get a hustle on. I'll pay you well if you
don't waste any time."
A queer look descended upon the minister in twinkles of amusement
around his eyes and lips much like the smile that Tom MacMertrie had
worn, only there was not a rag of hurt pride about it. With entire
pleasantness he said:
"Just wait a moment till I get a light."
As he turned to go Shafton called after him:
"Oh, by the way, got anything to drink? I'm thirsty as the devil."
Severn turned, instant hospitality in his face.
"What will you have? Water or milk? Plenty of both."
He smiled and Shafton looked at him in haughty amazement.
"Man! I said I wanted something to _drink!_" he thundered, "but
don't stand there all night doddering. I've got to get started!"
A slight lifting of the chin, a trifle of steel in the kind eyes, a
shade of coolness in the voice, as the clear comprehension of heaven
had sifted the visitor, and the minister said, almost sternly:
"Oh, I see," and disappeared through a swinging door into the pantry.
It was about this time that Lynn Severn awoke to near consciousness and
wondered what kind of a queer noisy guest her father had now.
The minister was gone sometime and the guest grew impatient, stamping
up and down the piazza and kicking a porch rocker out of his path. He
looked at his watch and frowned, wondering how near he was to the end
of his detour, and then he started in pursuit of his man, tramping
through the Severn house as if it were a public garage, and almost
running into the minister as he swung the door open. Severn was
approaching with a lighted lantern in one hand and a plate of brown
bread and butter, with a cup of steaming coffee in his other hand.
Laurence Shafton stopped abruptly, a curse on his lips, but something,
either the genial face of the minister, or the aroma of the coffee,
silenced him. And indeed there was something about Graham Severn that
was worth looking at. Tall and well built, with a face at once strong
and sweet, and with a certain luminousness about it that almost seemed
like transparency to let the spirit shine through, although there was
nothing frail about his well cut features.
Laurence Shafton, looking into the frank kind eyes of the minister
suddenly became aware that this man had taken a great deal of trouble
for him. He hadn't brought any liquor, probably because he did not know
enough of the world to understand what it was he wanted, or because he
was playing a joke. As he looked into those eyes and noted with his
half befuddled senses the twinkle playing at the corners he was not
quite sure but the joke was on himself. But however it was the coffee
smelled good and he took it and blundered out a brief "Thanks."
Eating his brown bread and butter, the like of which had never entered
his pampered lips before, and taking great swoops of the hot strong
coffee he followed this strange new kind of a man out to the car in the
moonlight, paying little heed to the careful examination that ensued,
being so accustomed to ordering all his needs supplied and finding them
forthcoming without delay.
Finally the minister straightened up:
"I'm afraid you won't go many miles to-night. You've burned out your
"Hell!" remarked the young gentleman pausing before the last swallow of
"Oh, you won't find it so bad as that, I imagine," answered the steady
voice of the minister. "I can give you a bed and take care of you over
to-morrow, and perhaps Sandy McPherson can fix you up Monday, although
I doubt it. He'd have to make new bearings, or you'd have to send for
some to the factory."
But Lawrence Shafton did not wait to hear the suggestions. He stormed
up and down the sidewalk in front of the parsonage and let forth such a
stream of choice language as had not been heard in that locality in
many a long year. The minister's voice, cool, stern, commanding, broke
in upon his ravings.
"I think that will be about all, sir!"
Laurence Shafton stopped and stared at the minister's lifted hand, not
because he was overawed, simply because never before in the whole of
his twenty-four years had any one dared lift voice to him in a tone of
command or reproof. He could not believe his ears, and his anger rose
hotly. He opened his mouth to tell this insignificant person who he was
and where to get off, and a few other common arguments of gentlemen of
his class, but the minister had a surprising height as he stood in the
moonlight, and there was that something strange and spiritual about him
that seemed to meet the intention and disarm it. His jaw dropped, and
he could not utter the words he had been about to speak. This was
insufferable--! But there was that raised hand. It seemed like some one
not of this world quite. He wasn't afraid, because it wasn't in him to
be afraid. That was his pose, not afraid of those he considered his
inferiors, and he did not consider that anyone was his superior. But
somehow this was something new in his experience. A man like this! It
was almost as if his mere being there demanded a certain homage. It was
queer. The young man passed a hand over his hot forehead and tried to
think. Then the minister's voice went calmly on. It was almost as if he
had not said that other at all. Perhaps he had not. Perhaps he dreamed
it or imagined it. Perhaps he had been taking too much liquor and this
was one of the symptoms--! Yet there still ringing in his ears--well
his soul anyway,--were those quiet words, "That will be about all,
sir!" Sternly. As if he had a _right_ to speak that way _to
him_! To Laurence Shafton, son of the great Wilson J. Shafton, of
New York! He looked up at the man again and found a sort of respect for
him dawning in himself. It was queer, but the man was--well,
interesting. What was this he was saying?
"I am sorry"--just as if he had never rebuked him at all, "I am sorry
that there seems to be no other way. If I had a car I would take you to
the nearest railway station, but there are no trains to-night, not even
twenty miles away until six in the morning. There are only four cars
owned in the village. Two are gone off on a summer trip, the third is
out of commission being repaired, and the fourth belongs to the doctor,
who happens to be away on the mountain to-night attending a dying man.
You see how it is."
The young man opened his mouth to curse once more, and strangely enough
closed it again: Somehow cursing seemed to have lost its force.
"There is just one chance," went on the minister thoughtfully, "that a
young man who was visiting his mother to-day may still be here. I can
call up and find out. He would take you I know."
Almost humbly the great man's son followed the minister back to the
house and listened anxiously while he called a number on the telephone.
"Is that you Mrs. Carter? I'm sorry if I have disturbed you. What? You
hadn't gone to bed yet? Oh, waiting for Mark? Then he isn't there?
That's what I called up for. There is some one here in trouble, needing
to be taken to Monopoly. I was sure Mark would help him out if
possible. Yes, please, if he comes soon, ask him to call me. Just leave
a note for him, can't you? I wouldn't sit up. Mark will take good care
of himself. Yes, of course, that's the mother of it. Well, good-night,
The young man strode angrily out to the door, muttering--but no words
were distinct. He wanted to be away from the compelling calmness of
those eyes that seemed to search him through. He dashed out the screen
door, letting it slam behind him, and down the steps, intending to
_make_ his car go on at all odds until he reached another town
somewhere. It had gone so far, it could go on a little farther perhaps.
This country parson did not know about cars, how should he?
And then somewhere right on the top step he made a false step and
slipped, or was it his blindness of rage? He caught at the vines with
frantic hands, but as if they laughed at him they slipped from his
grasp. His feet clattered against the step trying for footing, but he
was too near the edge, and he went down straight into a little rocky
nook where ferns and violets were growing, and a sharp jagged rock
stuck up and bit him viciously as he slid and struggled for a firm
footing again. Then an ugly twist of his ankle, and he lay in a
humiliating heap in the shadow of the vines on the lawn, crying out and
beginning to curse with the pain that gripped him in sharp teeth, and
stung through his whole excitable inflamed being.
The minister was there almost at once, bending over him. Somehow he
felt as if he were in the power of somebody greater than he had ever
met before. It was almost like meeting God out on the road somewhere.
The minister stooped and picked him up, lightly, as if he had been a
feather, and carried him like a baby, thrown partly over his shoulder;
up the steps, and into that blasted house again. Into the bright light
that sickened him and made the pain leap up and bring a mighty
He laid him almost tenderly upon a soft couch, and straightened the
pillows about him, seeming to know just how every bone felt, and how
every nerve quivered, and then he asked a few questions in a quiet
voice. "What happened? Was it your ankle? Here? Or _here?_ All
right. Just be patient a minute, I'll have you all fixed up. This was
my job over in France you know. No, don't move. It won't hurt long. It
was right here you said. Now, wait till I get my bottle of lotion."
He was back in an instant with bandages, and bottle, and seemed to know
just how to get off a shoe with the least trouble.
An hour later the scion of a great New York family lay sleeping in the
minister's study, the old couch made up with cool sheets, and the
swollen ankle comfortably bandaged with cool wet cloths. Outside in the
moonlight the crippled car stood alone, and Sabbath Valley slept, while
the bells chimed out a single solemn stroke.
Billy was doing some rapid thinking while he stood motionless in the
bushes. It seemed a half hour, but in reality it was but a few seconds
before he heard a low whistle. The men piled rapidly into the car with
furtive looks on either side into the dark.
Billy gave a wavering glance toward the looming house in the darkness
where the motionless figure had been left. Was it a dead man lying
there alone, or was he only doped. But what could he do in the dark
without tools or flash? He decided to stick with the machine, for he
had no desire to foot it home, and anyway, with his bicycle he would be
far more independent. Besides, there was the perfectly good automobile
to think about. If the man was dead he couldn't be any deader. If he
was only doped it would be some time before he came to, and before
these keepers could get back he would have time to do something. Billy
never doubted his responsibility in the matter. It was only a question
of expediency. If he could just "get these guys with the goods on
them," he would be perfectly satisfied.
He made a dash for his seat at the back while the car was turning, and
they were off at a brisk pace down the mountain, not waiting this time
to double on their tracks, but splashing through the Creek only once
and on up to the road again.
Like an uneasy fever in his veins meantime, went and came a vision of
that limp inert figure of the man being carried into the haunted house
as it stood out in the flare of the flash light, one arm hanging
heavily. What did that hand and arm remind him of? Oh--h! The time when