Part 1 out of 5
E-text prepared by the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE FOURTH WATCH
H. A. CODY
AUTHOR OF THE FRONTIERSMAN, UNDER SEALED ORDERS, THE LONG PATROL, ETC.
"Messengers, Watchmen and Stewards of the Lord," who have faithfully
toiled through Life's long night, and now in their Fourth Watch and Last
Watch behold the dawn of a new Life breaking, this book is affectionately
dedicated by one but yet in the Second Watch.
IV.--The Warder of the Night
V.--The Breath of Slander
VIII.--The Golden Key
IX.--Beating the Devil
XI.--Guarding the Flock
XII.--Light and Shadow
XIII.--For the Sake of a Child
XIV.--The Long Night
XVI.--For Sweet Love's Sake
XXII.--In the Deep of the Heart
XXIII.--Where Is Dan?
XXIV.--The Rush of Doom
XXV.--Beneath the Ashes
XXVI.--A Rope of Sand
XXVII.--In the Toils
XXVIII.--Waiting and Serving
XXX.--Beneath the Surface
XXXI.--Light at Eventide
The Fourth Watch
The boy plied his hoe in a listless manner, for his thoughts were
elsewhere. Several hundred yards to the right stood the forest, glorious
in its brilliant autumn hues. There among those trees the wary partridges
were feeding or perching temptingly upon bough, fallen log or ragged
stump. To the left the waters of the noble River St. John rippled and
sparkled beneath the glowing sun. Over there amidst that long stretch of
marshland, in many a cove and reedy creek, the wild ducks were securely
hidden. What connection had a rugged, stirring lad with a brown sombre
potato patch when the strong insistent voice of the wild was calling him
to fields afar? There was no inspiration here--among these straggling
rows. Nothing to thrill a boy's heart, or to send the blood surging and
tingling through his body. But there--! He sighed as he leaned upon his
hoe and looked yearningly around. Down on the shore; in a sheltered cove
among the trees, the _Scud_, a small boat, was idly flapping her
dirty patched sail.
"Wonder what dad left it up for?" thought the boy.
"Maybe he's going after more ducks. Wish to goodness he'd help with these
potatoes so I could get off, too."
Then his eyes roamed out over the water until they rested upon a white
sail away in the distance, bearing steadily down-stream. He watched it
carelessly for some time, but noticing the manner in which it drooped
under an occasional squall his interest became aroused.
"There's too much canvas, that's sure!" he ejaculated. "Some idiot, I
s'pose, who doesn't know 'bout these squalls. Guess he'll learn soon if he
isn't careful. Now the _Scud_, she's all right. I'd risk her any
time--My--!" and he almost held his breath as the white sail, much nearer
now, swooped to the water like the wing of a gigantic bird. The boat
righted herself, however, and sped gracefully forward. Again and again she
dipped and careened under each successive squall, winning the lad's
unstinted admiration. But even as he looked and wondered, a furious gust
caught the white sail as it listed heavily, and drove it with one sweep to
the water, overturning the boat as it did so. With a cry of fear the boy
dropped his hoe, stared for an instant at the overturned craft, and then
sped across the potato field sloping to the shore. He did not wait to go
by the path, which led straight up to a little cabin in the valley, but,
making a short cut to the left, leaped into a tangled thicket beyond. He
crashed his way through the branches and underbrush, not heeding the
numerous scratches upon face and hands.
He reached the _Scud_, tore, rather than untied the painter from an
old oak root, and sent the boat reeling backwards from its moorings. The
sail flapped wildly in the breeze, which was now growing stronger, and the
craft began to drift. Catching up the centre-board, lying near, the boy
drove it down into its narrow groove with a resounding thud. Seizing the
sheet-line with one hand, and squatting well astern he grasped the tiller
with the other. Nobly the boat obeyed her little determined commander. The
sail filled, she listed to the left and darted forward, bearing bravely up
the wind. Straight ahead the boy could see the distressed boat sinking
lower and lower in the water, with a man and a woman clinging desperately
to the upturned side. The wind was now whistling around him, and at times
threatening to rip away the patched sail. The water was rough, and the
angry white-caps were dashing their cold spray over his clothes. But not
for an instant did he swerve from his course until quite near the wreck.
Then letting go the sheet-line he permitted the boat to fall away a little
to the left. In this manner he was able to swing gradually in a
half-circle, and by the time he was up again to the teeth of the wind the
_Scud_ was lying close to the overturned boat.
So preoccupied had been the boy up to this moment that he had no time to
observe closely the shipwrecked pair. Now, however, he cast a curious
glance in their direction, as he let go the rudder and sheet-line, and
threw out the painter to the man. Eagerly the latter seized the rope, and
managed to hold the two boats together.
"Give us yer hand," shouted the boy, "and let her come out first. Be
careful now," he continued as the crafts bumped against each other.
"There, that's good."
With considerable difficulty the two strangers were rescued from their
perilous position, and then the _Scud_ dropped away from the wreck.
"Where do you want to go?" asked the boy, as once again he brought the
boat to the wind.
"Over there," responded the man, pointing to the opposite shore. "We can
land on that point and get driven home."
Almost mechanically the boy swung the _Scud_ around, and headed her
for the place indicated. From the moment he had caught a glimpse of the
woman clinging to the boat he had found it hard to turn away his eyes. Her
hat was gone, and the wind was blowing her dark-brown hair about her face,
which was white as death. But when she turned her large blue eyes filled
with gratitude and fear upon her rescuer, a strange feeling of
embarrassment swept suddenly over him. Women he had seen before, but none
such as this. How quiet she was, too--not a cry or complaint did she make.
Her clothes were wet; the water cold, and the wind raw. But she sat there
in the boat watching him with those big eyes as he guided the _Scud_
He looked at her dress, how neat and clean it was. Then he glanced at his
own rough togs. How coarse, worn and dirty were they, while his shoes were
heavy grey brogans. A flush mantled his sun-browned face. He shifted
uneasily, gripped the tiller more firmly, and drove the _Scud_ a
point nearer to the wind. What must she think of him? he wondered. Was she
comparing him with the well-dressed man at her side, who was looking
thoughtfully out over the blue water? A feeling of jealousy stole into his
heart. He had never known such a thing before. He knew what it was to be
angry--to stamp and shout in his rage. He had engaged in several pitched
battles with the boys in the neighbourhood who had made fun of him. But
his life--a life of freedom--had satisfied him. To hunt, to trap, to
wander over hill, valley and forest was all that he asked for. He had
never thought of anything higher, never dreamed of any life but the one
his father led, hunting, and trapping in season and making a slight
pretence of farming. Now, however, something was stirring within him. He
longed to show this woman that though his clothes and shoes were rough, he
was almost a man and could do great things.
"What is your name, my boy?"
The words startled him, and he glanced quickly up. The woman was looking
at him still, but now she was smiling. Was she laughing at him?
"My name's Dan," was the reply.
"Dan, Dan what?"
"Oh, just old Jim's boy."
"Old Jim, Old Jim!" repeated the woman. "Do you mean Jim Flitter, the
"Yep, that's him."
"And do you live over there?"
"Yep. In that shanty up the valley, Dad and I live there alone."
"Have you no mother, Dan?" and the woman's voice was soft and low.
She was about to question further, but noticing the look upon the boy's
face she desisted.
"Do you know you've saved our lives?" she remarked after a short silence.
"I can never thank you enough for what you have done for us to-day. I
don't think I could have clung to that boat much longer."
"I ain't done nuthin'," Dan replied. "But next time you go out don't carry
so much sail, specially when it's squally. I mayn't always be handy like I
was to-day. But come, we're at the pint, so I'll land you here." Saying
which, Dan let the sail go free, and ran the boat gently up the pebbly
"Now, my boy," asked the man, "how much do I owe you?" Dan had stooped and
was about to push the _Scud_ from the beach. He looked up quickly at
the question, but made no reply.
"How much?" demanded the man, somewhat impatiently.
"What do you mean?" asked the boy.
"What do I mean? Simply this. You've done us a great service, saved us
from death, and how much money do you want? How much shall I pay you?"
Dan was standing erect now. His dark eyes fixed full upon the man's face,
flashed with anger, while his heart thumped tumultuously beneath his
little checkered shirt.
"What! won't take any pay!"
"And why not?"
"Cause I won't. You've no right to ask me. It ain't fair!"
That was all Dan could utter. He could not express his feelings;
repugnance filled his heart at the thought of taking money for what he had
done. He felt the woman's eyes fixed upon him. What would she think, of
him, Dan Flitter, taking money for saving people's lives? He gave one
quick glance in her direction, turned, and pushing the boat from the
shore, sprang in, leaving the man and the woman upon the beach gazing
wonderingly after him.
"Danny, what's the meaning of this?"
Mr. Flitter laid down his paper, took his pipe from his mouth, and looked
inquiringly at his son.
Dan was seated at the farther end of the table, cleaning his beloved
shot-gun. It had done good work that day, and a fine string of partridges
hung in an outer room, ready to go to the store early the next morning. A
week had now passed since the rescue on the river, and during the whole of
that time he had said nothing about it to his father. There was a reason
for this. The latter had been much away from home during the day, only
coming in late at night when his son was in bed, so they had little chance
for conversation. It was a busy season, and they must make the most of it.
So while the one scoured the forest for partridges, the other searched the
river for ducks and geese. But Dan did not feel inclined to say anything
to his father about what he had done. To him it was not worth mentioning.
That he had picked up two shipwrecked people, and set them ashore, in his
eyes was a very simple thing. It was made less so by the thought of that
woman with the large eyes, beautiful face and sunny smile. How could he
describe to his father the new feeling which had come into his breast, the
longing for something more than the life he was leading, and the desire to
show that woman what he really could do?
His father's sudden question startled him. The mail was carried but once a
week to this place, and by the time the paper arrived from the post office
it was several days old. Mr. Flitter had come home earlier than usual,
having had a fine day's shooting on the river, and was in excellent
spirits. Game was in great demand, and he looked hopefully for good sales
on the morrow. After their scanty meal he picked up the paper and began to
read. Silence reigned in the little dingy shanty for some time, broken
only by the short, sharp question.
"Don't you know anything about it, Danny?" insisted Mr. Flitter, noticing
the startled and puzzled look upon his son's face.
"What do you mean, dad?"
"Why, about that wreck on the river. This paper says that you saved two
people from drowning right off here over a week ago."
Dan's face flushed and his heart beat fast. What! was his name in the
paper? Would the people in the big city see it? What would the boys in the
neighbourhood think? Would they make fun of him any more? He could show
them now that he was somebody, for his name was in the paper! These
thoughts drove surgingly through his brain. He rose from his place and
stood by his father's side.
"Show me, dad," he whispered; "let me see it."
"There, Danny, look at the heading:--
"'A Boy's Brave Deed.'"
"And is that long piece all about me, dad?"
"Yes, and it states what you did. Why didn't you tell me about it, son?"
"Where's my name, dad?" asked Dan, unheeding his father's question.
"There," and Mr. Flitter, pointing with his finger, spelled out the words,
"Does it say, dad, who those people were that got swamped?"
"No, their names are not given. It only says that the young man lives in
the city. But why didn't you tell me about it, Dan?"
"Thought it wasn't worth while," replied the boy. "But I don't see how
they know about it down there to put it in the paper."
"How did it happen, son. Let's have the whole story." Mr. Flitter pulled
off his boots, lighted his pipe afresh, and leaned back to listen.
"I wonder who that woman is," he remarked, when Dan had finished his brief
account. "I know most people for miles around, and it's strange I don't
know her from your description. However, I shall make inquiries and find
During the days that followed, Dan lived in a new world. His feet trod the
earth, and he trudged for miles the woodland ways. But his mind was in
It was an enchanted world through which he moved, and he was master of
all. The trees on every side were crowds of admiring people, and the
branches were so many outstretched hands pointing to him. His breast
swelled with pride. He walked erect, his head held high, while his eyes
flashed with a triumphant light. The birds sang his praises; the squirrels
chattered one to another, and every brook babbled "Daniel Flitter, Daniel
Flitter." His name had appeared in the paper! He was no longer an obscure
person, but a hero--a wonder! He kept the clipping carefully wrapped up in
his pocket. Often he would sit down in some quiet forest spot, unfold his
treasure and look long and proudly upon those two magic words. One day as
he sat studying the paper a desire came into his heart to know all of
those wonderful words before and after his name. He could not read, never
having gone to school. In fact he never wanted to do so. His one aim was
to be a mighty hunter and trapper like his father. But now, a longing had
entered his soul; a spark from the mysterious fire of life had found a
lodging which needed only a little fanning to produce a bright and fervent
"Dad," said he, that night, while eating his supper, "I wish I knew how to
read. All the boys in this settlement can read and write. Ain't I old
enough to begin?"
"You're old enough, lad, but we live a long way from the schoolhouse, and
when you were little it was too far for you to walk. You might go this
winter, when there's spare time, if you don't mind the distance."
"I don't mind that, dad, but all the rest will know so much that they'll
make fun of me. I only know a few of my letters, and mother taught me them
before she died."
"She did, lad, she did, God bless her," and a huskiness came into Mr.
Flitter's voice as he spoke. "If she were alive now you would know as much
as any boy of your age, for your mother was a smart one, and I guess you
take after her, Dan.
"I wish I had her now," and the boy gave a deep eigh. "She'd help me every
night, and I wouldn't be stupid any more."
Mr. Flitter made no reply to these words. He finished his supper in
silence, and while Dan washed the few dishes he sat thoughtfully smoking
his old clay pipe.
"Laddie," he remarked as they were preparing for bed, "I've been having
deep thoughts to-night, and I've come to the conclusion that I haven't
done right by you. I've neglected you too much."
"In what way, dad?" questioned the boy.
"Oh, in many ways. I've fed and clothed you, though I guess you've earned
it all. But I've not thought enough about your mind--your education, I
mean. Besides, there are deeper and more serious things in life of which
I've told you nothing. I do feel mighty guilty when I think about it all."
"You've been good to me, though," and Dan looked inquiringly into his
"Yes, in a way. But, then, haven't I been good to our old mare, Queen? I
feed and blanket her. But what more have I done for you--and you are my
own son? Now look here," he added, after a pause, "I'm willing to teach
you at nights how to read, and see if we can't make up for my past
"Dad! D'you mean it?"
"There now, that'll do. No more talking. Let's off to bed, and we'll have
the first lesson to-morrow night."
The days that followed were busy ones for Dan. The shooting season closed,
but there was other work to do. The rabbits had to be snared and his
regular rounds made to the traps set for the wiry mink, lumbering raccoon,
and the wily fox. Each night, the animals brought in during the day had to
be skinned, and the pelts carefully stretched. Then when this had been
accomplished to his satisfaction he would turn his attention to his
His father was cutting cord-wood for a neighbour, and was able to get home
at night. Then the two pored over the mysterious letters and words in the
little cabin, the elder doing his best to impart his scanty knowledge to
the younger. They were happy times for Dan. He had something to live for
now, and throughout the day, as he wandered from trap to trap, the words
he had studied the night before kept ringing in his ears.
But, alas! such scenes were to be dispelled all too soon. They were too
good to last long. One evening Dan returned home to find an unusual
commotion about the place. Men and women were there who had never before
entered the building. And the doctor, whom he had often met on the road,
what was he doing there? What were they whispering about? and why did they
look at him in that way, when he entered the house? Where was his father?
Who was that lying on the bed so very still? Could it be dad? He had never
seen him like that before. Then the thought flashed upon him: something
was wrong! His father was hurt! and with a cry he rushed forward, and bent
over the prostrate form. But no word of welcome, no sign of recognition
did he receive. Nothing but that vacant stare met his ardent gaze.
Slowly, very slowly, he grasped the meaning of it all, as the sympathetic
watchers told the brief story. His father had met with a serious accident.
A large birch tree in falling had lodged against another, a sturdy maple.
While cutting at the latter the birch had suddenly turned over and
swooping to the ground with a resounding crash had buried Mr. Flitter
beneath the branches ere he had had time to escape. He had been carried
home bruised, broken, and unconscious. The doctor had been hurriedly
summoned, and had done all in his power for the injured man. But in vain,
for in a short time he had breathed his last.
Dan uttered not a word when the tale had been told. He asked no questions,
neither did he make any outcry. He stood like one stricken dumb, dry-eyed
and motionless, gazing upon that quiet form lying upon the bed. Gently
they led him away, and tried to speak to him. He did not heed them. A
weight such as he had never known before pressed upon his heart. He wished
to be alone, somewhere in the woods, out there where no one could gaze
upon him. His father was dead! For him there was no consolation from the
words of the Man of Sorrows. The life beyond had no meaning for him. His
mother had taught him to say the little prayer, "Now I lay me down to
sleep," but that seemed so long ago, and he had not repeated it after her
death. He had seen the birds and animals lying dead, but had thought
nothing about it then. Now his father was just like them, would never look
at him again, would never speak to him any more.
He watched in a dazed manner what took place on the two following days.
Neighbours came, spoke to him, stayed awhile and then departed. The day of
the funeral arrived. He stood with the rest at the graveside. It was cold,
and the wind laden with snow whistled about him. He heard the grey-headed,
white-bearded clergyman read the Burial Service. The words of hope had no
meaning for him. An awful feeling of desolation filled his heart as he
watched the earth thrown into the grave. A shiver passed through his body,
caused not by the coldness alone. Several came to speak to him. He did not
want to see them. He turned and fled down across the field over the fence
to the humble cabin in the valley. This he entered, now so quiet and
desolate. He reached the bed--his father's bed--and throwing himself upon
it gave vent to his grief. His pent-up feelings at last found an outlet
and tears coursed down his tanned cheeks, moistening the pillow beneath
his little curly head.
"Are you cold, lad?"
"No," was the brief reply.
Parson John, Rector of Glendow, glanced down at the little muffled figure
at his side. He reached over, tucked in the robes more closely about their
feet, and spoke one word to Midnight. The horse, noble animal that she
was, bounded forward. The ice, glassy and firm, stretched out far ahead.
It was a raw, midwinter day and the wind drifting in from the north-east
presaged a storm. But the magnificent beast, black as a raven's wing, did
not mind it. With head low, tail almost touching the dash-board, and eyes
sparkling with animation, she clipped along with great strides.
The parson gave a half-audible chuckle as he settled back in the seat and
gripped the reins more firmly.
"What will Nellie say," he thought, "when she sees the lad? Won't she be
surprised! She's never tired of talking about that rescue on the river."
Dan thoroughly enjoyed the drive as he nestled by the parson's side. It
was very strange to be speeding along in such a luxurious manner, with a
horse travelling like the wind, and a big jolly man holding the reins. He
said nothing, but kept his eye fixed upon Midnight, his admiration
steadily increasing. He would like to own a horse like that, and down in
his heart he determined to have one some day--his very own.
"What do you think of Midnight, lad?" asked the parson, noticing Dan's
"Great!" was the reply.
"Wish to have one like her, eh?"
"You will some day, boy; you will. But get a good one or none at all, and
here's a safe rule:
"Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad breast, full eye, small head and nostrils wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong.
Thin, mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide.
"Now the man who said that, knew what he was talking about."
"What's his name?" asked Dan. "Does he live here?"
"Ho, ho!" and the parson's hearty laugh rang out over the snow. "'Does he
live here?' I'm afraid not. Very few in Glendow know old Will Shakespeare,
more's the pity."
"I should like to meet him, though," remarked Dan. "He must know a lot
"Ay, ay, lad, he knows a lot about most things, and you shall know him
some day, Dan, when you get older. But here we are right at home. We've
made great time."
After Midnight had been carefully stabled and fed, Parson John led his
little charge into the Rectory. Scarcely had they crossed the threshold
into a brightly-lighted room ere the sound of a sweet voice humming an old
familiar tune fell gently upon their ears. Then a heavy tapestry curtain
was drawn aside, and a slender girlish form stood before them. Beholding
the lad, she gave a start of surprise, while her face, of more than
ordinary beauty, flushed with pleasure.
"Ha, ha, Nellie," laughed her father, giving her an affectionate kiss, "I
have captured your young hero at last, and I'm glad you recognize him.
He's to live with us, to be your honourable bodyguard, your Fidus Achates,
What a picture this venerable man presented as he stood there. Wrapped in
a great-coat, with fur mittens in his hands; a long grey beard sweeping
his breast; hair abundant and white, crowning a face of singular strength
and refinement, he seemed the very embodiment of health and hearty cheer.
No ascetic this, but a man in whose veins flowed the fire of youth, and
whose eyes twinkled with quiet, honest laughter as they looked into his
daughter's puzzled face.
"I don't exactly understand," Nellie remarked, glancing first at her
father and then at Dan.
"No, I know you don't, dear, but I'll tell you all about it later. It's
enough now to know that I found him, and we are to give him a home here.
So if you'll let us have something to eat, we'll be very glad, won't we,
Dan stood as if in a dream during this conversation. His eyes remained
fixed upon Nellie's face. Could it be possible that this was the woman he
had rescued, and who had spoken so kindly to him? It was the same, there
could be no mistake, only now she seemed more beautiful than ever. He felt
her soft hand pressing his rough, brown one, and heard her hearty welcome.
Words would not come to his lips. He was like a dumb person. But his eyes
noted much, especially the dining-room, with the table spread, the white
cloth and wonderful dishes. He had never seen anything like them before.
And good reason was there for Dan's wonder. Others too would have looked
with admiration upon that scene had they been present. Everything in the
room bespoke Nellie's gentle care, from the spotless table-linen to the
well-polished, old-fashioned sideboard, a relic of the stirring Loyalist
days. Several portraits of distinguished divines adorned the walls, while
here and there nature scenes, done in water-colours, by whose hand it was
easy to guess, were artistically arranged.
Nellie's devotion to her father was beautiful to behold. Her eyes sparkled
with delight as he related several amusing incidents of his visit to a
sick parishioner in an outlying district.
"And how did you find Mr. Stickles?" she inquired.
"'Simply joggin', parson, simply joggin,'" came the reply, at which the
fair hostess laughed heartily.
"And I suppose Mrs. Stickles is as jolly as ever?"
"Oh, yes. She is just the same. Poor soul! she has her hands full with her
sick husband, and a houseful of little ones. Yet she keeps remarkably
bright and cheerful. She was much concerned about my welfare, and while
she sent Sammy to look after Midnight she bustled around to make me as
comfortable as possible."
"'Poor dear man,' she said, 'ye ain't as young as ye used to be, an' I
often say to John that the work's tellin' on ye. Ye've got too large a
circus, parson, too large a circus.'"
"Dear soul," laughed Nellie. "There isn't a more real person in Glendow
than Mrs. Stickles. She's a friend to everyone, and knows everybody's
business for miles around."
"Indeed, she does," replied her father. "It was she who told me about our
young friend here, and I started off post-haste to capture him. So we have
to thank Mrs. Stickles for it all."
Supper ended, Parson John and Dan went into the study, while Nellie
cleared away the dishes. A bright fire burned in the large fire-place,
giving the room a most genial appearance. The parson brought down a long
church-warden pipe, filled and lighted it. Next he drew up a comfortable
chair and proceeded to read his mail which had arrived during his absence.
Dan, in the meantime, had taken up his position in a cosy-corner nearby. A
large picture-book had been given to him, and eagerly his eyes wandered
over the wonderful things he found therein. After a while he closed the
book and leaned back against the cushions. How comfortable it was. What
luxury! He had never experienced anything like it in his life. It seemed
like a dream. He watched Parson John for a time as he read his letters and
papers. Then he looked about the room, admiring the many things he there
beheld. Gradually his eyes closed. He forgot his surroundings, and was
soon fast asleep, far away in dreamland.
When Nellie had finished with the dishes, she came into the study, and,
seeing Dan, she paused to look upon him. Then she crossed to where her
father was sitting, and touched him gently on the shoulder and pointed to
the sleeping lad. Together they watched him and in their hearts there
welled up a deep love for the orphan boy.
"Poor little fellow," remarked Nellie, in a low voice, taking a seat by
her father's side. "I am so glad he is with us to-night. He seemed to be
"Yes, dear," her father replied, laying down the paper. "We are fortunate
in getting him. I wanted a boy for some time. I understand he has a fine
"And you said that Mrs. Stickles told you about him?"
"Yes. And what she said was quite true. I found Dan living with the Tragen
family. Mr. Tragen has seven children of his own, and could not very well
keep another for any length of time. He told me that the day of the
funeral he went to the Flitter house, and found Dan all alone, lying on
his father's bed, weeping as if his heart would break. With difficulty he
had persuaded him to leave and go with him. That was over a week ago and
Dan has been with him ever since. Mrs. Tragen, worthy woman that she is,
took good care of him and treated him like one of her own. Truly the Lord
will reward her. By the way, she told me an interesting thing about the
"What is it?" questioned Nellie.
"It seems he has never been at school, and cannot read or write. He is
very anxious to learn, and his father, before his death, was giving him
some lessons. We must see that he has every chance to learn while with
"But, father, there's no school in the district this winter, a most
"Why not teach him at home, dearie?" and the parson looked into his
daughter's face. "Why not have a school here? We can give him a start
anyway, and he will not be too far behind the rest when next the public
"Oh, that will be splendid!" exclaimed Nellie, "and may I be the teacher?
I always wanted to do something in that line, and may we begin to-morrow?"
"Any time you like, dearie, and may God bless you, child, for your
interest in the boy. You remind me more and more of your dear mother."
"And why should I not take an interest in him, father? He saved my life,
and, though I can never repay him, I should like to feel that I am doing
something. You know I read to Nora whenever I can, but this need not
interfere with that. And, oh, father, Stephen was here this afternoon, and
he's in great trouble."
"What's wrong, dearie?" questioned the parson, as Nellie paused and a deep
flush suffused her face.
"The Frenelle homestead is to be sold."
"What! do I understand you aright? Peter Frenelle's farm, that fine
property which he left free of debt when he died?"
"Yes, it's only too true. You know there has been a heavy mortgage on it
for several years, and as the interest has not been paid for some time the
mortgage has been foreclosed, and the place is to be sold."
"Dear me, dear me," and the parson leaned back in his chair and closed his
eyes, as he always did when in deep thought. "It's bad management, that's
what it is. Stephen has had a splendid start, and through carelessness he
has let everything go to ruin."
"Father, don't blame Stephen too much. He's only young, and had a great
responsibility placed upon his shoulders after his father's death."
"Blame him! Blame him! Why should I blame anyone?" and the parson placed
his hand to his forehead. "Stephen is as dear to me as my own son--and I
love him. But, oh, it is hard to see my old friend's farm go to others. I
have talked with Stephen time and time again. But he has not taken the
right grip of life. Poor Mrs. Frenelle, her heart must be broken. And
Nora, that dear invalid girl, how hard for her."
Nellie made no reply to her father's words. She sat looking into the fire.
Tears were in her eyes and her heart was heavy. Everything had seemed so
bright but a short time before, and now this dark cloud had arisen. Oh, if
Stephen would only bestir himself. They had known each other from
childhood. He had always been her hero. As a child her day-dreams and
fancies were woven about him. And as years advanced their love for each
other had increased. It was the natural blending of two souls which had
gradually and silently grown together in the bright sunshine of happy
A knock upon the door at the side of the house startled her. At once she
arose to ascertain its meaning, and shortly returned.
"Father," she said, "Billy Fletcher is very sick, and wishes to see you."
"Who brought word, my dear?"
"Hugh Peters. He called to see the old man as he was coming down the road,
and found him quite ill."
The effect of this message was quite magical. No longer was Parson John
the quiet fireside reader, but the true sympathetic pastor. He laid aside
his pipe, and at once arose from his comfortable chair. An expression of
loving concern overspread Nellie's face as she assisted him on with his
storm coat, and procured his cap, mittens and overshoes. But no word of
remonstrance came from her lips, no urging him to put off his visit until
the morning. From a child she had been accustomed to these sudden calls to
the side of departing parishioners, to read the Word of life and at times
to administer the Holy Communion.
Her father's step was slow as of one much wearied, though his voice was
cheery and strong as he bade his daughter good-bye, seized the small
lantern she had lighted for him, and stepped out into the cold night on
his mission of love.
The Warder of the Night
After her father's departure, Nellie sat before the fire engaged upon some
needlework. Occasionally her hands rested in her lap, while she gazed
thoughtfully into the bright blaze. The soft light from the shaded lamp
fell athwart her wealth of dark-brown hair and fair face. Her long lashes
drooped as she leaned back in an easy-chair, and let her mind wander to
the days when she and Stephen played together as happy children. What
bright dreams were theirs, and how many fairy palaces they erected in the
far unknown future.
A movement in the cosy-corner roused her from her reverie. She glanced
quickly in that direction and saw Dan sitting bolt upright, gazing
intently upon her. Nellie smiled as she saw his look of wonder mingled
"Have you had a nice sleep?" she asked.
"Guess so," came the slow reply. "I dreamed that you and my father were
right by my side, but when I woke he was gone and only you are with me."
"I hope you will like it here," Nellie remarked, hardly knowing what to
say. "We want to make you happy, and love you just like our own little
"I'm almost a man now," and Dan straightened up his shoulders and proudly
threw back his head. "I can hunt and work. See how strong I am," and he
placed his right hand upon the muscle of his doubled-up left arm.
"Some day you will be as big as my father, won't you?" replied Nellie,
much amused at the sturdy lad.
"Was that your father who brought me here?"
"And what's his name?"
"Mr. Westmore. But most people call him 'Parson John.' You'll call him
that, too, won't you? He likes it better."
"Yes; if you want me to, I will. But, say, what's your name?"
"Oh, mine's just Nellie, Nellie Westmore. Not very pretty, is it?"
"I think it is. Do you know that was my mother's name--Nellie, I mean, not
the other one."
"And do you remember your mother, Dan?"
"Only a little. She was good and pretty, just like you."
"Tell me about her, will you? I should like to hear."
And there in the quietness of that room Dan's tongue was unloosed, and in
his own simple way he told about his mother, her death, and how he and his
father had lived together in the little log shanty. Half an hour passed in
this quiet talk, and when at length Dan ceased Nellie glanced at the
"Why, I didn't think it was so late! It is time you were in bed. You must
be tired. Come, I will show you where you are to sleep to-night, and
to-morrow we will fix up a room for your very own."
Going to the kitchen Nellie lighted a small lamp, and with this in her
hand she and Dan went up the small winding stairway.
"This is the place," and she opened a door leading to a room at the north
of the house. "The pipe from the hall stove comes up there, so it's always
quite warm. I do hope you will sleep well."
She went to the window to draw down the blind and as she did so a light
fell upon her eyes which gave her a distinct start. It was not from the
moon, for the night was dark, but from a burning building, a short
distance up the road. The flames were leaping and curling through the
roof, sending up blazing cinders in every direction.
Nellie's heart almost stopped beating as she gazed upon the scene. It was
Billy Fletcher's house! and what of her father? Was he amidst those
flames, or had he escaped?
"Dan, Dan!" she cried, turning to the lad, "Come, quick! I'm afraid that
something terrible has happened! Get on your coat and cap as quickly as
possible and let's make haste!"
It did not take them long to throw on their wraps, and to hurry forth into
To Nellie the distance seemed never-ending. Would they ever reach the
house? How the road had lengthened! and her breath came hard and fast as
she staggered forward, trying to keep pace with the more hardy lad. The
light of the fire illumined the road for some distance around, and guided
their steps. Drawing near they could discover no one about the place. What
did it all mean? Here Nellie paused and with wildly beating heart looked
at the seething mass before her, and listened to the roar of the flames as
they sent up their wild flamboyant tongues into the air. Had her father
been entrapped in that terrible furnace? She glanced towards a barn on her
right and as she did so her eyes fell upon a sight never to be forgotten.
Someone was there, kneeling in the snow with bent head gazing intently
upon some object before him. It was her father! and with a cry of joy
Nellie rushed forward. She found he was kneeling by Billy Fletcher's side,
supporting his head, and carefully wrapping around him his own great-coat.
He looked up and an expression of relief came into his face as he saw his
daughter standing there.
"I am so glad you have come," he exclaimed. "Poor Billy's in a bad way. We
need help. He must be taken to some house. I wish you would hurry up the
road for assistance. Dan will go with you. Get his nephew Tom as quickly
Waiting to hear no more, Nellie, fatigued though she was, started at once
for assistance, Dan following close behind. They had gone only a short
distance, however, when they met Tom himself running along the road.
"What's wrong?" he gasped.
"Don't you see?" Nellie replied. "The house is burning down."
"And Uncle Billy; is he safe?"
"Yes, he's safe, but almost dead."
"And the box, what about it?"
"The money box; the iron one, where he keeps his papers and gold."
"I know nothing about the box," replied Nellie, while a feeling of great
repugnance welled up within her at the heartlessness of the man. He cared
little for his uncle, the feeble old body, but only for what he possessed.
By this time they had reached the place where the sick man was lying.
"Is he living?" shouted his nephew.
"Yes," replied the parson, "though I doubt if he can last long. We must
get him away to your house as soon as possible."
"But the box, Parson; did you save it?" questioned Tom.
"No, I never thought about it, and, besides, I did not know where it was."
At this Billy opened his faded eyes, and fixed them upon his nephew's
face. He tried to speak, but his voice was thick and his words were
"Where's the box?" shouted Tom.
Again the old man endeavoured to say something. Failing in this he made an
effort to rise. The struggle was too much for him, and with a cry he sank
back upon the snow, dead.
By this time several neighbours had arrived, and stood near with a look of
awe upon their rugged faces. Nellie drew her father aside, knowing full
well that his care was needed no longer.
"Come," she said, "we had better go home, These men will do the rest. You
have done your part."
He followed her along the little path leading to the main road. Reaching
this she took him by the arm and supported his steps, which were now
over-feeble. Slowly and feelingly, he told the story of the night. He had
found the old man in a bad condition, and cold from the lack of a good
fire. Filling the stove with a liberal supply of wood, and making Billy as
comfortable as the circumstances would permit, he had sat down to watch
his charge. Ere long the sick man grew much worse. Then the chimney had
caught fire. The bricks must have been loose somewhere, which allowed the
flames to pour through into the dry woodwork overhead, which was soon
converted into a blazing mass. Seeing that nothing could be done to save
the building Mr. Westmore was forced to carry Billy, sick though he was,
out of the house. He tried to reach the barn, but his strength failed, so
he was forced to lay his burden upon the snow, and wrap his great-coat
around the helpless man.
"Poor Billy! poor Billy!" said the parson in conclusion. "He was careless
about higher things. I hope the good Lord will not judge him too harshly."
"But he was not always like that, father," Nellie remarked.
"No, no, thank God. He had a happy home when I first came to this parish,
long before you were born. I have often told you about the sweet,
God-fearing wife he had then. But after she was laid to rest a great
change took place in Billy's life. He became very rebellious and never
darkened the church door. He acquired a great passion for money, and grew
to be most miserly. As the years passed his harshness increased. He waxed
sullen and disagreeable. His neighbours shunned him and he looked upon
them all with a suspicious eye. His money he never placed in a bank, but
kept it in his house in gold coin, in a strong, iron box, so I have been
told, and would count it over and over again with feverish delight."
"But, father," remonstrated Nellie, "there must have been something good
in poor old Billy. You know how fond he was of Tony Stickles."
"True, very true, dear. I have often wondered about the affection between
the two. No one else could live with the old man, except Tony, and he
served him like a faithful dog. It is generally believed that Billy
confided many things to Tony. He is a peculiar lad, and people have tried
in vain to find out what he knew. He will certainly feel badly when he
comes out of the woods, where he is now working, and hears about Billy's
death. But here we are at home. Oh dear, the journey has greatly tired
me," and the parson panted heavily as he entered the house.
During the homeward walk Dan trudged along close by Nellie's side, busy
with his own thoughts. He longed for something to happen that he might
show her what a man he was. If a robber or a wolf, or some frightful
monster, would spring out from the roadside, he would meet it
single-handed, kill or drive it away. Then to behold the look of
gratitude and admiration upon the woman's face as she looked at him, what
bliss that would be! Little did the father and daughter realize, as they
slowly walked and conversed, what thoughts and feelings were thrilling
the little lad by their side, feelings which in all ages have electrified
clods of humanity into heroes, and illuminated life's dull commonplaces
with the golden romance of chivalry.
The Breath of Slander
"When a man dies he kicks the dust." Thus pithily wrote Henry Thoreau, the
quaint philosopher, in his little shack by the beautiful Walden pool. The
truth of this saying was certainly verified in old Billy Fletcher's death,
and the people of Glendow were destined to see the dust stirred by his
departure, rise in a dense cloud and centre around the venerable parson of
The day after the fire was clear and fine. Not a breath of wind stirred
the crisp air, and the sun-kissed snow lying smooth and white over all the
land sparkled like millions of diamonds.
Near the window in her little cottage, not far from the Rectory, sat Mrs.
Larkins, busily knitting. She was a woman of superior qualities and had
seen better days. Her toil-worn hands and care-marked face could not
disguise the gentle, refined spirit within, which expressed itself in her
every word and action. Two little graves in the Churchyard, lying side by
side, and marked by a small cross of white marble, told how the silent
messenger had entered that home. Often the husband and wife were seen
standing by those little mounds, while tears coursed down their rugged,
"No father could have been kinder than Parson John," she had frequently
remarked when speaking about their loss, "and no sister more sympathetic
than dear Nellie. They loved our little ones as if they were their very
own. On that bright summer day when we laid our lambs to rest the parson's
voice faltered as he read the Burial Service, and tears glistened in his
Since then whatever happened of joy or sorrow at the Rectory was of the
deepest interest to the lonely two over the way. So on this bright
afternoon as Mrs. Larkins sat by the window her thoughts were busy with
the events of the past night.
A knock upon the door broke her reverie. Opening it, what was her surprise
to find there a woman, with an old-fashioned shawl about her shoulders,
and a bright, jolly face peering forth from a capacious grey hood.
"Mrs. Stickles!" she exclaimed. "Is it really you? Why, I haven't seen you
for such a long time! Come in at once, and lay off your wraps, while I
make you a cup of tea, for you must be chilled through and through."
"Indeed, I am," Mrs. Stickles replied, bustling into the room, and untying
her hood. "Sammy hed to bring the old mare to the blacksmith shop to git
shod, an' John, my man, sez to me, 'Mother,' sez he, 'ye jist put on yer
duds, an' go along, too. It'll do ye a world o' good.' I hated to leave
John, poor soul, he's so poorly. But I couldn't resist the temptation, an'
so I come. My, that's good tea!" she ejaculated, leaning back in a big,
cosy chair. "Ain't that tumble about old Billy Fletcher, an' him sich a
"You've heard about his death, then?" Mrs. Larkins replied.
"Should think I hed. We stopped fer a minute at the store. I wanted to git
some calicer fer the girls, an' while I was thar I heerd Tom Flinders an'
Pete Robie talkin' about it. Why, it was awful! An' to think the dear old
parson was thar all alone! When Pete told me that I jist held up me hands
in horror. 'Him thar with that dyin' man!' sez I. 'Jist think of it!'
"'I guess he didn't mind it,' sez Si Farrington, who was awaitin' upon me.
'He likes jobs of that nater.' I don't know what in the world he meant. I
s'pose ye've heerd all about it, Mrs. Larkins?"
"Yes," came the somewhat slow reply. "I've heard too much."
"Ye don't say so now!" and Mrs. Stickles laid down her cup, and brought
forth the knitting which she had with her. "Anything serious?"
"Well, you can judge for yourself. John helped to carry Billy to his
nephew's house, and then assisted the others in putting out the fire. But
search as they might they could not find the box."
"Ye don't say so! Well, I declare."
"No, they searched every portion of the rubbish, ashes and all, but could
find no trace of it. That's what's troubling me. I do hope they will find
it for the parson's sake."
"Indeed! Ye surprise me," and Mrs. Stickles laid down her knitting. "Wot
the parson has to do with that box is more'n I kin understand."
"No, perhaps you don't. But you see after the men had made a thorough
search and could not find the box, Tom Fletcher became much excited. He
swore like a trooper, declared that there had been foul play, and hinted
that the parson had something to do with it. You know that the Fletchers
have been waiting a long time for Billy to die in order to get his gold,
"Yes, yes, I know Tom Fletcher," broke in Mrs. Stickles. "Don't I know
'im, an' wot a mean sneak he is. He's suspicious of everybody, an' is
always lookin' fer trouble. An' as to meanness, why he hasn't a heart as
big as the smallest chicken. Ye could take a thousand hearts sich as his'n
an' stick 'em all to the wall with one tiny pin, an' then they wouldn't be
half way up to the head. Mean! Why didn't he once put a twenty-five cent
piece inter the kerlection plate by mistake, an' come back the next day to
git it, an' gave a cent in its place. If that ain't mean I'd like to know
whar ye'd find it," and Mrs. Stickles sniffed contemptuously as her
needles whirled and rattled between her nimble fingers.
"Yes," Mrs. Larkins replied, "he carries his meanness into everything. If
he even imagines that it was the parson's fault that the house burned
down, and the will was destroyed, his anger will burn like fire. He's very
revengeful, too, and has an old grudge to pay back. The parson, you know,
was the means of making him close up his liquor business some years ago,
and he has been waiting ever since for a chance to hit back. I tell you
this, Mrs. Stickles, that a man who tries to do his duty is bound to stir
up opposition, and sometimes I wonder why such a good man should have to
bear with vindictive enemies. I suppose it's for some purpose."
"Indeed it is, Mrs. Larkins. Indeed it is," and Mrs. Stickles' needles
clicked faster than ever. "It was only last night I was talkin' to my man
John about this very thing. 'John,' sez I, 'd'ye remember them two apple
trees in the orchard down by the fence?'
"'Well,' sez he.
"'An' ye recollect,' sez I, 'how one was loaded down with apples, while
t'other had nuthin' but leaves?'
"I remember," sez he.
"'Well, then,' sez I, 'One was pelted with sticks an' stones all summer,
an' even hed some of its branches broken, while t'other was not teched.
Why was that?
"'Cause it hed plenty of good fruit on it,' sez he.
"'Jist so,' sez I. 'Cause it hed good fruit. An' that's why so often the
Lord's good people er pelted with vile words cause they're loaded down
with good deeds. If they never did nuthin' the devil 'ud leave 'em alone,
but jist 'cause they bear good fruit is the reason they're pelted.' John
reckoned I was right, an' he's got a purty level head, if I do say it."
"I only hope most of the people in the parish will stand by the parson,"
replied Mrs. Larkins. "I know some will, but there are others who are
easily led, and Tom Fletcher's got a sharp tongue."
"Why wouldn't they stan' by 'im, Mrs. Larkins? Wot hev they agin 'im? Tell
Mrs. Larkins did not answer for a while, but sat gazing out of the window
as if she did not hear the remark.
"I'm thinking of the parson's son, Philip," Mrs. Larkins at length
replied. "You know about him, of course?"
"Sartin' I do. I've knowed Phillie sense he was a baby, an' held 'im in me
arms, too. He was a sweet lamb, that's wot he was. I understan' he's a
minin' ingineer out in British Columbia, an' doin' fine from the last
account I heerd."
"That was some time ago, Mrs. Stickles, was it not?"
"I believe it was last summer."
"Well, it seems that Philip's in trouble."
"Lan' sake, ye don't tell me!" and Mrs. Stickles dropped her knitting and
held up her hands in horror. "I was afeered of it, Mrs. Larkins. It's no
place fer man or beast out thar. Hev the Injins hurt 'im, or the bears
clawed 'im? I understan' they're thick as flies in summer."
"Oh, no, not that," replied Mrs. Larkins. "You see over a year ago Philip
invested in some mining property out there, and the prospects looked so
bright that he induced his father to join him in the enterprise. Though
the parson's salary has always been small, with strict economy he had laid
something by each year for his old age. The whole of this he gave to
Philip to be invested. For a time things looked very bright and it seemed
as if the mines would produce handsome profits. Unfortunately several
claimants for the property suddenly turned up, with the result that the
whole affair is now in litigation. The case is to be decided in a few
months, and should it go against Philip he and his father will be ruined.
Philip manages the matter, and the parson advances what money he can
scrape together. Just lately the whole affair has leaked out, and some
people, knowing how the parson needs money, may not be slow to impute to
him things of which he is entirely ignorant."
Mrs. Stickles was about to speak, when a jingle of bells sounded outside.
"Well, I declare!" she exclaimed, "Sammy's back already!" With that, she
rose to her feet, and the conversation ended.
The church was crowded the day old Billy was buried, for a funeral in
Glendow was always an important event. Parson John was clad in his simple
robes of office and read the Burial Service in a resonant, well-modulated
voice. Beholding such nobleness, gentleness and dignity of his face and
bearing, only the most suspicious could associate him with any underhanded
dealing. What connection had such a man with the base things of life?
Mounting the pulpit, he gave a short, impressive address. There was no
sentiment, or flowery language. He glossed nothing over, but in a few
words sketched Billy Fletcher's life, and pointed him out as a warning to
those who become careless and indifferent to higher things.
"The parson talked mighty plain to-day," said one man in a low voice to
another, as they wended their way to the graveyard. "He didn't put poor
Billy in Heaven, that's certain, and perhaps he's right. I guess he hit
the Fletchers pretty hard."
"Oh, yes," the other replied. "The parson got his say from the pulpit, hut
the Fletchers will have theirs later."
"Why, what have they to say?"
"Oh, you'll see."
"About that box?"
"Tut, tut, man. Why, they haven't a leg to stand on in that matter."
"But they'll make legs. Surely you know Tom Fletcher by this time. He'll
stop at nothing when once he gets started, and though he may not be able
to do anything definitely, he'll do a lot of talking, and talk tells in
Glendow, mark my word."
And this proved only too true. Talk did begin to tell both in the homes
and at the stores. One man, who had met the parson on a hurried trip to
the city, declared that he was driving like mad, and hardly spoke in
passing. Another related that when Tom Fletcher asked Billy about the box,
the dying man pointed to the parson, and tried to speak. Though some of
the more sensible scoffed at such stories as ridiculous, it made little
difference, for they passed from mouth to mouth, increasing in interest
and importance according to the imagination of the narrator.
Although this slander with malignant breath was spreading through the
parish, it did not for a time reach the Rectory. All unconscious of
impending trouble, father and daughter lived their quiet life happy in
each other's company.
The day of the auction of the Frenelle homestead dawned mild and clear.
"Don't give Dan too many lessons," laughed Parson John, as he kissed his
daughter good-bye and tucked in the robes about his feet.
"No fear, father," was the laughing reply. "Perhaps he will turn the
tables upon me. He knows so much about the woods, wild animals and birds
that I like to learn from him."
Midnight strode along the road, glad of the run in the fresh air. The
sleigh bells sent forth their sweet music, echoing and re-echoing from the
neighbouring hills and forest. Everything spoke of peace, and in Parson
John's heart dwelt a deeper peace, as he guided Midnight through the
gateway and reined her up before the Frenelle door.
Though he was somewhat early, others were earlier still, and a group of
men, hardy sons of toil, were standing near the house engaged in earnest
conversation. They had come a long distance, for an auction such as this
was a most unusual occurrence in Glendow. The Frenelle homestead had
belonged to the family from the early Loyalist days, descending from
father to son for several generations. Each had contributed something to
the improvement of the land, but it remained for Peter Frenelle, Stephen's
father, to bring it under an excellent state of cultivation. A
clear-headed, hard-working man, he had brought his scientific knowledge,
acquired by careful study, to bear upon the soil, until his broad, rich
acres, free from stone, became the envy and admiration of the parish.
One quiet evening he was strolling around the farm with Parson John, his
firm and faithful counsellor from childhood. Looking across the fields of
waving grain, and down upon the long straight rows of corn, standing
golden in the setting sun, he paused in his walk, and remained for some
time in deep thought. "John," he at length remarked, placing his hand
affectionately upon his companion's shoulder, "the Lord has been very good
to me all of these years. He has blessed me in house and field; He has
given me health and strength, and now in my latter days peace and light at
His companion was not surprised at these words, for often before had Mr.
Frenelle talked in this manner. But early the next morning when he was
summoned to his friend's bedside, to receive his final message, and to
hold the hand outstretched to him till it was still and cold, the solemn
utterance of the previous evening came forcibly to his mind.
For several years after her husband's sudden death, Mrs. Frenelle managed
the farm and exhibited remarkable skill in directing the various hired
But as Stephen, her only son, advanced to manhood she relinquished the
responsibility and devoted her time almost entirely to her household
affairs. This change was so gradual as to be almost imperceptible. Stephen
disliked the drudgery of farm life and left the work to the hired men. So
long as he could draw upon his father's careful savings to pay the wages
and supply his own needs, he did not worry. The neighbours shook their
heads and prophesied trouble as they saw the land producing less each
year, and its acres, formerly rich with grain, covered with bushes. Parson
John reasoned and remonstrated, though all in vain. Stephen always
promised to do better, but in the end continued the same as before. At
last the awakening came, sudden and terrible. The bank account had been
overdrawn to a considerable extent, and payment was demanded. The only
thing to do was to mortgage the farm, and with a heavy heart Mrs. Frenelle
signed the pledge of death to the dear homestead. For a time Stephen tried
to settle down to steady work, but the old habit of carelessness was too
strong upon him, and ere long he drifted back to his former ways. The
interest on the mortgage remained unpaid. Foreclosure was the inevitable
result, and the farm was accordingly advertised for sale.
At last the day of doom had arrived.
Parson John found Mrs. Frenelle in the cosy sitting-room with her invalid
daughter, Nora. The latter was endeavouring to comfort her mother. The
girl's face, although worn with care and suffering, was sweet to look
upon. She was not what one would call pretty, but it was impossible to be
long in her presence without feeling the influence of her strong buoyant
disposition. The angel of pain had purged away much of the dross of her
nature, leaving the pure gold undimmed. She inherited, too, much of her
father's strength of character which seemed to be lacking in her brother.
"What are we to do?" sobbed poor Mrs. Frenelle, as the parson entered the
room. "We will be driven from our dear old home, where we have spent so
many happy years! We will be penniless!"
"Hush, mother dear," remonstrated her daughter. "Don't get so discouraged.
The place may bring more than will cover the mortgage. We will have that
to start with again, and in a few years we may be able to pay everything
off. Stephen may settle down to hard, steady work and all will be well."
"Nora is right," replied the parson. "The purchaser, whoever he is, will
no doubt let you remain here, and give you a fair chance to redeem the
place. Our Glendow people, you know, have big hearts."
"Oh, I wish I could see it in that light," and Mrs. Frenelle glanced at
the clergyman through her tears. "It is Mr. Farrington I fear. His mind is
set upon having this place. He has looked upon it with greedy eyes for a
number of years. He has only a little land in connection with his store,
and his wife is always complaining that they have not enough room. She has
said on several occasions that they would own this farm some day. Then,
you see, Farrington is a candidate for the next Councillor election. He
has large ambitions, and hopes eventually to run for the Local House. He
thinks a place such as this with its fine, old-fashioned house will give
him a certain standing which he now lacks. He wants to pose as a country
gentleman, and his wife wishes to have the house in which to entertain her
distinguished guests, who, as she imagines, will visit them. Oh, to think
of Mrs. Farrington living here!" and the poor woman buried her face in her
"But perhaps someone else will outbid him," suggested Mr. Westmore. "I
would not lose heart yet."
"There is no one in Glendow able to bid successfully against Mr.
Farrington," Nora replied. "We have learned, however, that Mr. Turpin, a
real estate man, arrived from the city last night. He wishes to buy the
place merely as a speculation, hoping to turn it over to some rich people
who wish to come to Canada to settle. But there is the bell!" and she
half-started from her invalid's chair, but sank back with a little cry at
the pain caused by the sudden movement.
As the day was mild the auction took place in the open where the
auctioneer, surrounded by some two dozen men, was mounted on a large box.
At first the bidding was general and brisk. Gradually, however, it
dwindled down to three or four, and finally to Farrington and Turpin, the
real estate man. The former was standing a little apart from the rest,
with his eyes intent upon the auctioneer, and unable to repress the
eagerness which shone in his face. As the bidding advanced and drew near
the three thousand dollar mark, Turpin showed signs of weakening, while
his bids came slower and slower. Farrington, noticing this, could not
control his pleasure, and when he at length offered the round sum of three
thousand dollars Turpin gave up the struggle and, moving back a little,
perched himself upon a barrel, and seemed to take no interest in the
A triumphant light gleamed in Farrington's eyes as he observed his
vanquished opponent. He glanced towards the house, and, seeing Mrs.
Frenelle standing in the doorway, his lips parted in a cruel smile. It was
that smile more than anything else which revealed the real nature of the
The breathless silence which for a time ensued at this crisis was broken
by the harsh cry of the auctioneer:
"Three thousand dollars!" he called. "Going at three thousand dollars! Any
advance on three thousand dollars. Going at three thousand dollars. Once--
"Three thousand one hundred," came suddenly from Parson John.
An earthquake shock could hardly have startled the men more than this bid
from such an unexpected quarter.
Farrington's face reddened, and he moved a step nearer to be sure that he
had not been mistaken.
"Did I hear aright?" he gasped. "Did the parson add one hundred to my
"Three thousand one hundred dollars from Parson Westmore," shouted the
auctioneer. "Any advance on three thousand one hundred dollars?"
"Another hundred, then, damn it," and Farrington thrust his hands deeper
into his pockets, while his eyes gleamed with an angry light.
"Three thousand five hundred," came the quiet response.
Silence followed this last bid, which plainly proved that Farrington, too,
was weakening. He looked around as if uncertain what to do, and his eyes
rested upon Mrs. Frenelle. In her eagerness she had moved from the door,
and was standing near the group of men with her eyes fixed full upon the
clergyman. The expression upon her face was that of a drowning person,
who, when all hope has been abandoned, sees a rescuer suddenly at hand. It
was this look more than the half-suppressed laugh that passed among the
men, which caused him to fling another one hundred dollars at the
"Four thousand," again came strong and clear from Parson John without the
The auctioneer waited for Farrington to increase his bid. The men almost
held their breath in the excitement of the moment, and Mrs. Frenelle moved
a step nearer with her hands firmly clasped before her.
"Four thousand dollars," the auctioneer spoke slowly and impressively now.
"Any--advance--on four thousand dollars? Going at four thousand dollars--
Once--twice--third--and----last call----, and sold to Parson Westmore for
four thousand dollars."
As these words fell from the speaker's lips a deep sigh broke the tense
feeling of the little company. They had been stirred more than was their
wont by the scene that they had just witnessed. These men knew but little
of the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms, the strife of modern nations,
the deeds of statesmen, and the affairs of the financial world. And yet in
the sale of this farm in an obscure country place the secret springs of
life, even though on a small scale, were laid bare. The pathos of a happy
home on the verge of destruction, with a loving mother and an invalid
child in danger of being cast out upon the cold world, and to see this
tragedy so narrowly averted through one staunch champion successfully
beating back pride and greed as represented in the person of Silas
Farrington--truly it was a miniature of the world's history, which may be
found in every town, village or home.
"I trust you understand the conditions of the sale, sir," and the
auctioneer looked curiously at the clergyman, who was standing somewhat by
himself. "One-third of the amount down, and the balance in half-yearly
payments. I only mention this in case you may not know it."
"I understand perfectly well," was the reply. "The _whole_ amount
shall be paid at once, and the matter settled without delay."
"Guess the ministry must be a payin' job," sneered Farrington, "when a
poor country parson kin fork out four thousand dollars at one slap. I see
now why ye're allus dunnin' us fer money. Mebbe ye've got a hot sermon all
ready on the subject fer us next Sunday."
Mr. Westmore looked intently at the man for an instant, and his lips
parted as if to reply. Instead, however, he turned without a word and
moved slowly towards the house.
He reached Nora's side, and took her outstretched hand in his. Tears of
joy were in her eyes as she lifted them to her Rector's face, and
endeavoured to find adequate words in which to express her gratitude.
"I know we are safe now!" she said. "But we never thought of you buying
the place! I cannot understand it at all. Four thousand dollars! What a
lot of money!"
"No, my child, you cannot understand it now, but you will some day," and
as Mr. Westmore turned his face towards the window a tear might have been
detected stealing slowly down his furrowed cheek.
Silas Farrington flung himself out of his sleigh and handed the reins to a
young man who had come forth from the store.
"What are ye so slow about?" he snarled. "Here I've been callin' fer the
last five minutes. Why don't ye hustle when I call?"
"I was running molasses," came the surly reply, "and how could I leave--"
"There now, no back talk; I never allow it. Put up the horse, an' don't
spend all day about it, either."
With these words Farrington made his way to the house, leaving the young
man inwardly cursing his unjust master.
"Ye're late, Si," a voice exclaimed, as he opened the door and entered.
"We've been waitin' fer ye a full hour or more."
"I couldn't help it," Farrington replied. "I was delayed."
"An' how much did ye pay fer the farm, Si?"
"Farm be--be--hanged! I'm sick of it."
"But didn't ye git it, Si?" his wife persisted.
"Git it? No!"
"I said no!"
"But who did, then?"
"What! Parson John?"
"Certainly. Who else would he fool enough to interfere with me?"
"Well, well!" ejaculated Mrs. Farrington. "Do tell us about it, Si?"
"No, not a word more about it," snapped her husband, "till we git down to
dinner. I'm most starved. Is it ready?"
"Dear me, yes. I'd clean fergot about it," and Mrs. Farrington bustled off
to the kitchen.
Everything in the dining-room betokened care and industry, from the
nicely-papered walls, adorned with pictures, to the large sideboard, with
its display of old china and glassware. The table-linen was spotlessly
clean, and the food served up was well cooked. But, notwithstanding this,
something seemed wrong. An indefinable atmosphere pervaded the place which
spoiled the effect of it all. It was not the corrupted English falling
from the lips of these people which grated so harshly upon the senses. It
was the spirit of pretence which overshadowed everything--the effort to be
what they were not. Had old Titbottom been there with his magic
spectacles, he would have beheld in Farrington little more than a roll of
bills; in his wife the very essence of pretence and ambition; while the
daughter Eudora and their son Dick would be labelled "exact samples" of
Farrington told of the auction in no measured terms. He was annoyed at the
unexpected outcome and did not try to conceal his anger. The inserted
exclamations of the family told their own tale. They were much
disappointed, especially Mrs. Farrington.
"Only think!" she cried, when her husband had ended, "that the parson
above all men should interfere in this matter! Him that's allus talkin'
about lovin' our neighbours as ourselves, standin' a-tween us an' our
natral rights. I hev often told Eudora, heven't I, dear? that we need a
better place than this. Now, that Frenelle homestead is jist what we want,
an' it seemed as if the Lord intended we should hev it, too. It is so
included from all pryin' eyes, an' away from them country people who are
so uncongenial. Their manners are so rough an' they know so little about
proper equity. The parson knows very well that we are city bred, an' that
our descendants hev allus had good blood in their veins, an' that we try
to follow their Example by givin' a tone to the community ever sense we
came from the city. He knows what we are a-tryin' to do, an' yit he'll
serve us in this mean fashion."
"I wonder where he got the spondulicks," broke in her son Richard.
"Richard, Richard! you must not use sech a word as that," and Mrs.
Farrington cast a reproving glance at her son. "Ye must hev heerd it from
Tom Jones; ye know ye never hear it at home, fer we are allus very
pertickeler about our language."
"Well, money, then, ma. I don't care what ye call it."
"Oh, I guess that'll not be hard to account fer," replied Farrington with
a knowing laugh. "Tom Fletcher may be able to throw some light upon the
subject. It seems to me that the parson has come to the end of his rope.
We've borne with 'im fer years, an' it's about time he was makin' a move.
He's too old fer the ministry. We need a young man, with fire an' vim.
Anyway, the rest may do as they please, but as fer me not another cent do
I pay as long as he is in charge."
"Ye've allus paid well, Si," remarked his wife, "an' the parson is not one
"Yes, I reckon I hev," and Farrington gulped down, his tea. "I used to
contribute heavily; eight dollars a year, an' a bag of oats at Christmas.
Now I give only four sense I've enlarged my bizness an' can't afford so
much. Besides, the parson doesn't deal with me as much as he should. He
gits too many of his supplies in the city. If he expects me to paternise
'im he must deal with me. I've told 'im so very plainly on several
"Ye certainly did yer part, Si," Mrs. Farrington replied. "If all in the
parish 'ud do as well there'd be no trouble. It is disgraceful that these
country people do not pay more to support the Church. It throws sich a
burden upon us. Only think of Mrs. Jimmy Brown buyin' a new Bristles
carpet, when the old one was quite good enough. An' her last year's hat
could hev been made over as well as not. But, no, it would not do. She had
to hev another, which cost quite a penny, so I understand."
"An' Vivien Nelson's fur-lined coat, ma," chimed in Eudora, "I know it
didn't cost one cent less than seventy-five dollars!"
"These country people are so extravagant, ye know," returned her mother.
"They are allus tryin' to imitate their sufferiors. To think of Vivien
Nelson, a farmer's daughter, hevin' a fur-lined coat which cost almost as
much as Eudora's! It is really disgraceful! I'm sure her father could give
more to the Church than he does, an' yit he'll let us hear the brunt of
"Guess he'll hev to bear mor'n ever now," replied her husband as he rose
from the table. "I'm done with the whole bizness, an' I'm mighty glad I
heven't paid fer the last year, an' don't intend to now."
As Farrington passed out of the dining-room into the store, his clerk, a
young man new to the business, was serving a middle-aged woman at the
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Sturgis," the former was saying, "but we are entirely out
of it just now. We can order it for you, though, and have it in a few
Farrington turned angrily upon his heel as these words fell upon his ears.
"What does she want?" he demanded.
"Number forty, white thread; but we're out of it."
"You stupid blockhead, we're not out of it! We're never out! If you'd use
yer eyes half as much as yer tongue ye'd be all right."
"But I can't find it. I've looked everywhere," and the clerk's eyes flashed
danger as he turned them upon his master.
"Well, look again. Don't stand thar starin' like an ijut!"
The young man did as he was commanded. He searched and rummaged, but all
"Oh, come out of that, an' let me thar," and Farrington shoved his way
past the clerk, and fumbled excitedly in the box.
"Ah-yes-no-fifty-sixty-Well, I declare! Not thar! Confound it! Why didn't
ye tell me we were out before? Why did ye wait till the last spool was
gone afore sayin' a word about it?"
"I've only been here a week," replied the clerk, "and how could I know you
were out. No one has called for number forty thread since I've been here."
Farrington was beaten, and was forced to swallow his anger as best he
could. It was most aggravating to be thus humiliated in the presence of
this woman. He strode across the room, and stood with his back to the
stove, wondering how he could get even with his clerk. He would discharge
him. "No, that wouldn't do. It was hard to get a man to stay with him, and
this was a good worker. Anyway, he must be taught his place, and not
answer back. He would let him know that he owned the store.
"Give me my mail, please."
Farrington started, and turning, beheld a little lad standing by his side.
"Mail! whose mail?" he demanded, glad of an excuse to give vent to his
anger. "What's yer name? I don't know anything about _my_ mail."
"I want Parson John's mail," persisted the boy. Don't you know him?"
"Know 'im! Well, I guess! I know 'im too d--n well. But who are you, and
what do ye want with the parson's mail?"
"Oh, I live with him now. I'm Dan, old Jim's boy. Didn't you know I was
"Ha, ha, that's a good one! To think that I should know every brat who
comes to the place."
"I'm not a brat! I'm almost a man," and Dan straightened himself up. "Give
me my mail, please; Parson John's waiting for it."
"Let 'im wait. I'm not supposed to give out mail to all the riff-raff who
comes fer it. Why doesn't he come 'imself?"
"Busy! busy! Yes, I s'pose he is busy, plannin' mischief; wonderin' what
to do with Billy Fletcher's gold. How much did he git? I s'pose he gave
you some to hold yer tongue."
Farrington had no intention of uttering these last words, but his heart
was so full of anger that he hardly knew what he was saying.
Dan's eyes flashed, and his little hands suddenly doubled at his side. He
did not comprehend the meaning of these words, but he felt that his
friend, the white-headed old man, was being insulted. With him to think
was to act, and many a boy larger than himself had felt the lightning
blows of those little tense knuckles.
"What do ye mean?" he demanded, looking up into Farrington's face.
"What do I mean? Well, if ye want to know, I mean that Parson John is a
rogue, an' that you are nuthin' but a young sucker, an impudent outcast,
spongin' fer yer livin' upon others."
Hardly had the words left Farrington's lips, when, with a cry as of a wild
animal, Dan leaped full upon him, caught him by the hair with one hand,
and with the other rained blow after blow upon his face.
With a howl of mingled pain and rage, Farrington endeavoured to free
himself from this human wild-cat. He struggled and fought, and at length
succeeded in tearing away that writhing, battering form. With one hand he
held him at arm's length and shook him as a terrier shakes a rat. Dan
struggled, squirmed and bit, but all in vain; he was held as in a vice.
Not satisfied with shaking the lad, Farrington reached over and, seizing a
broken barrel stave from the wood-box, brought it down over the lad's
shoulder and back with a resounding thud. A cry of pain, the first that he
had uttered, fell from Dan's lips, and with a mighty effort he tried to
escape. The stick was raised again. It was about to fall, when suddenly it
flew into the air, the grip of the boy relaxed, and Farrington staggered
back from a furious blow dealt him by the young clerk. Farrington tried to
recover, but each time he was hurled to the floor by the stalwart athlete
standing before him, his eyes blazing with anger.
"Get up, you coward!" he cried, when at length Farrington remained
sprawling upon the floor. "Get up if you can, and dare!"
"Curse you!" snarled the defeated man. "Ye'll pay fer this!"
"We'll see about that later," calmly replied the clerk. "There's to be no
more bullying while I'm here, and I won't be here long, for I'm done with
you and your outfit."
"Go, go at once, d--n you, or I'll kick ye out!" shouted Farrington.
"Kick me out, if you can," came the reply. "Get up and do it," and the
young man laughed scornfully. "No, you know you can't. Now, look here;
just a word before we part. I've stood your insolent abuse for a week,
without retaliating. But when you laid hands upon that boy it was a
"But he flew at me like a wild-cat," Farrington growled.
"Yes, and wouldn't anyone with a spark of life in him at all, after he had
been insulted by such a thing as you. You like to get a chap such as that
in your claws and torture him. You've done it before, I understand. But
it's not been such fun this time. No, no, the worm has turned at last. I'm
going now--so do what you like. I've no fear of such a thing as you."
He turned, put on his heavy coat and left the building. As he did so Dan
slipped out ahead of him, and started up the road as fast as his little
feet would carry him.
The Golden Key
"Why, Dan, what's the matter?"
Nellie was sitting before the open fire busily engaged with her needle as
the lad entered the room. He stared at her for an instant, and then a
sheepish grin crossed his face. His clothes were torn, and his hair tossed
in the wildest confusion, while marks of blood spotted his cheeks.
"What in the world have you been doing?" Nellie insisted.
"Nuthin' much," came the slow reply,
"Well, you don't look like it. Have you been fighting?"
"Y'bet!" and Dan smacked his lips. "I swatted him good and hard, that's
what I did."
"Swatted him--punched his face, and dug out some of his hair."
"Punched his face and dug out his hair!" Nellie exclaimed. "I don't
understand. Sit down, and tell me about it."
Perched upon a chair Dan gave a brief though vivid description of the
scene in the store, to which Nellie listened with almost breathless
"And did he say that father took old Billy's gold?" she asked. "Are you
"Sure's I'm livin'. He said it, and he called him a rogue and me a--a--bad
name!" Dan was about to tell what that name was, but the word stuck in his
throat, and he found it impossible to bring it forth. "Sucker and
sponger!" how those words stung him. How contemptuously his father had
always spoken of such people. They rankled in his heart as he sped up the
road. A squirrel in an old fir-tree had shouted them at him, while a
forlorn crow soaring overhead had looked down and given its hoarse croak
of contempt. He was a sucker--a sponger! living upon others! What was he
doing to earn his living? Nothing. What would his father think were he
"Dan, I'm sorry you did that," and as Nellie looked into those big brown
eyes a deep love for this little lad welled up in her heart.
"Why. I thought you'd be glad," came the astonished reply. "If anybody
called my dad bad names when he was alive I'd been glad if someone swatted
Nellie remained silent for a while, steadily working away at her sewing.
"Dan," she said at length, "I want you to promise me something, will you?"
"Y'bet. What is it?"
"I want you to promise that you will say nothing about this to my father."
"Why? Wouldn't he like to know how I punched that man?"
"No, no. And besides I don't want him to know what has been said about
him. It's a cruel lie, and if father hears of it, it will worry him so
much. Will you keep the secret with me?"
"Yes, if you want me to. I'll not say a word, but, oh, I think Parson John
would like to know how I punched him," and Dan gave a deep sigh at the
thought of losing such pleasure.
"Thank you," Nellie replied. "I know I can trust you. Run away now, change
your clothes, and wash your face; then get the wood in, before father
Long and silently Nellie remained before the fire with her hands resting
upon her lap. Her brain was in a tumult, and her heart ached. What else
was being said about her father? To whom should she go for information?
She thought of Mrs. Larkins, but then she was over at the Hall getting
ready for a church sale to be given that very evening by the Ladies' Aid
Society. Stephen was coming for her early, as she was to have charge of
one of the fancy booths. Afterwards there was to be a quiet dance by the
young people, and she had promised Stephen that she would stay for a
while, and have her first dance with him.
At length she aroused from her reverie and prepared her father's supper.
How weary he looked, she thought, as she sat and watched him, and listened
to his casual talk about his afternoon visit and the auction in the
morning. A feeling of resentment filled her heart as she recalled what
Farrington had said. To think that he should say such things about her
father, who was always so patient and loving; who was ever trying to help
others, no matter who they were. Tears came to her eyes at the thought.
Suddenly she rose, and going to where her father was sitting put her arms
around him, and gave him a loving kiss.
"Ho, ho!" came the delighted exclamation. "What ails my little girl
to-night? What does she want now?"
"I want you, daddy," she replied. "I want to love you more, and be more
help to you."
"Help me more! What could you do more than you do now? There, run away and
get ready. I hear bells; Stephen must be coming, and I'm afraid you'll be
late. Dan and I will look after the dishes."
That evening in the church hall, when the sale had ended, the fiddler
tuned up his instrument, and several made ready for the dance. It was
truly a pleasant sight which met the eyes of a number of the older ones as
they sat back near the wall. Grouped around the large room the flower and
strength of the neighbourhood chatted with one another, while waiting for
the dance to begin. They seemed like one large family, these youths and
maidens, who had known one another from childhood. Bright and happy were
their faces, glowing with health, and the active exercise of daily life.
Somewhat apart from the rest stood Nellie Westmore, engaged in earnest
conversation with Vivien Nelson. Presently the former turned partly around
and her eyes rested upon Mrs. Larkins sitting quietly in one corner of the
room. A bright smile illumined her face as she crossed over and sat down
by her side.
"I am glad you stayed, Mrs. Larkins," she began. "I did not think you
would care to remain."
"I like to see the young people enjoying themselves," Mrs. Larkins
replied, "and I hope you will have a pleasant time, Nellie."
"I generally do," came the slow response; "but to-night my conscience
"And in what way?"
"Oh, about my father."
"Why, is he sick?"
"No, not that. He is troubled somewhat in his mind, and I feel I should
have stayed at home to cheer him up. I know he needs me to-night, and it
was just his love which made him forget himself. He is always like that;
thinking about others all the time."
"Don't worry, Nellie. Your father will have his books to occupy his mind."
"Yes, I know that. But he is feeling rather down-cast to-night after that
auction this morning. Some cruel things were said about him, and I always
know when he is in trouble, though he seldom complains."
Nellie paused, and gazed for a time upon the group in the centre of the
room, as if intent on what was taking place there. Then her dark eyes,
filled with a questioning look, turned full upon Mrs. Larkins' face.
"I am glad to be with you for a few moments," she whispered, "for I wish
to ask you something. I have only spoken of it to Vivien, for she is so
true and noble. Have you heard these stories about my father, Mrs.
"In connection with Billy Fletcher's gold?" was the reply.
"Yes, yes, that is what I mean. Oh, it troubles me so much."
"Yes, I have heard some of them, Nellie. But do not give yourself
unnecessary concern. Evil-minded people will talk. I said nothing to you,
hoping the matter would soon die down. Has your father heard anything?"
"No, not yet, and I trust no one will tell him. He has enough worry now
without these. He has that trouble with the mine in British Columbia;
then, this morning's annoyance. Oh, he must not know what people are
"I have heard but little lately," Mrs. Larkins responded in an effort to
comfort her. "Let us trust that the talk will not amount to much."
"But Vivien tells me that it is not so. Since the auction the stories have
started up again stronger than ever. People cannot understand where father
got so much money to pay for the farm. I don't even know myself, for
father never told me. Tom Fletcher and others are saying all sorts of
things. What shall we do?"
Her bosom heaved as she uttered these words, which somewhat expressed the
agitated state of her mind. Before Mrs. Larkins could further reply, the
music struck up, and Stephen came for Nellie to claim her for the opening
"How worthy," thought Mrs. Larkins as her eyes followed Nellie as she went
forward, "is she of a true man's love. What nobleness and strength of
character are there. But what of Stephen? If he would only get the right
grip. Such a face as his is surely meant for higher things than a life of
She was aroused by Farrington, who had taken the seat by her side which
Nellie had recently vacated.
"They're hevin' a good time," he began, nodding towards the dancers.
"Dick's in his element to-night."
"Rhoda Gadsby makes him a good partner," replied Mrs. Larkins.
"Only fair, Mrs. Larkins, only fair. She's not a bad girl, but no real
pardner fer my son Dick. I'm sorry her father is my opponent at the comin'
election. He'll never win, mark my word. Gadsby's too full of notions. He
wants to set the world on fire, an' has all kinds of new-fangled idees. He
will never do fer a Councillor-never. What Glendow wants is a real
practical man, one who understands human nater."
"But Mr. Gadsby is a superior man," replied Mrs. Larkins. "He reads much,
and is trying to farm along scientific lines."
"Tryin' to farm! Yes, yer right thar, Mrs. Larkins. But that's about as
fer as he's got. He has big idees, an' is allus talkin' about this parish
bein' behint the times."
"And in what way?"
"Oh, as regards the schools. They don't teach enough branches, sich as
botany, drawin' an' sich like. What do the childern of Glendow want with
botany stuck into their brains? Let 'em learn to read, write an' cipher.
Them things will pay. But as fer botany, who ever heerd of it helpin' a
man to manage a farm, or a woman to sew, cook or make butter? Now, look at
me, Mrs. Larkins. I never studied botany, an' behold my bizness. I don't
know a bit about botany, an' here I'm runnin' fer a Councillor, an'
lookin' forred to the Local House. No, no, this botany bizness is all
"But," remonstrated Mrs. Larkins, "do you not enjoy the beautiful? Life
should be more than the mere grubbing through dust and heat, grinding out
our little day, wearing out the body and cramping up the soul in field,
factory, office or behind the counter. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and
whatever tends to enlarge our children's perspective, which will give them
a love for the beautiful, will lessen the drudgery of life, and develop
their characters. The Creator who made human beings in His own image, and
endowed them with powers above the brute creation, surely intended that
these divine faculties should be used and not allowed to lie dormant."
Mrs. Larkins spoke more strongly than was her wont. She was naturally a
quiet woman. But this man's narrowness and ignorance nettled her.
Farrington, however, was not in the least affected by such words; in fact
he rather pitied anyone who did not see eye to eye with him.
"What ye say, Mrs. Larkins," he replied, "is very fine in theory. But the
question is, 'Will it pay?' Fer them as likes sich things they may study
'em to their hearts' content. But what do sich people amount to? I seen
the parson once stand fer a long time watchin' the settin' sun, an' when I
axed 'im what he saw he looked at me sorter dazed like. 'Mr. Farrington,'
sez he, 'I saw wonderful things to-night, past man's understandin'. I've
been very near to God, an' beheld the trailin' clouds of His glory!'
'Parson,' sez I, 'What will ye take fer yer knowledge? How much is it
worth? While ye've been gazin' out thar at that sunset I've been gazin' at
these letters, an' I find I'm better off by twenty-five dollars by gittin'
my eggs an' butter to market day afore yesterday, jist when the prices had
riz. That's what comes of gazin' at facts sich as price lists an' knowin'
how to buy an' sell at the right time. That's of more value than lookin'
at all the flowers an' sunsets in the world!' The parson didn't say
nuthin', but jist looked at me, while the men in the store haw-hawed right
out an' told the joke all round. Xo, you may find music in ripplin' water,
an' poetry in flowers, an' sunsets, as Phil Gadsby and the parson sez, but
give me the poetry of a price list, an' the music of good solid coin upon
my counter. Them's the things which tell, an' them's the things we want
taught in our schools."
Just as Farrington finished, cries of fright fell upon their ears. Turning
quickly towards the dancers Mrs. Larkins noticed that most of them had
fallen back in little groups, leaving Stephen Frenelle and Dick Farrington
alone in the middle of the room. The attitude of the two left no doubt as
to the cause of the disturbance. With clenched fists they faced each other
as if about to engage in a fierce struggle. The former's eyes glowed with
an intense light, while his strained, white face betokened the agitated
state of his feelings.
"Say that again!" he hissed, looking straight at his opponent. "Say it if
Dick stood irresolute with the look of fear blanching his face at sight of
the angry form before him. While he hesitated and all held their breath,
Nellie Westmore moved swiftly forward, and laid a timid hand upon