Part 2 out of 2
now in his element, sniffing the battle like a young warhorse, and
forgetful of the odds against him. Le Loutre was everywhere at once,
tireless, seeing everything, spurring the work, and worth a hundred
Vergors in such a crisis as this.
Beauséjour was a strong post, a pentagon with heavy ramparts of earth,
with two bombproofs, so called, and mounting twenty-five pieces
of artillery. Some of the guns were heavy metal for those days and
that remote defense. I have seen them used as gateposts by the more
aristocratic of Beauséjour's present inhabitants. Within the fort was
a garrison of one hundred and sixty regulars. Three hundred Acadians
were added to this garrison--among them being Pierre and his father.
The rest of the Acadians spread themselves in bands through the woods
and uplands, in order to carry on a system of harassing attacks.
Across the Missaguash, some distance from its mouth, there was a bridge
called Pont-â-Buot, and thither, after a day or two of reconnoitering,
Colonel Moncton led his forces from Fort Lawrence. They marched in long
column up the Missaguash shore, wading through the rich young grasses.
As they approached they saw that the bridge had been broken down, and
the fragments used to build a breastwork on the opposite shore. This
breastwork, as far as they could see, was unoccupied.
Appearances in this case were deceptive. Hidden behind the breastwork
was a body of troops from Beauséjour. There were nearly four hundred
of them--Acadians and Indians, with a few regulars to give them
steadiness. Pierre, as might have been expected, was among the band,
beside his instructor, the old sergeant. Trembling with excitement,
though outwardly calm enough, Pierre watched, through the chinks of
the breastwork, the approach of the hostile column. Just as it reached
the point opposite, where the bridge had been broken away, he heard
a sharp command from an officer just behind him. Instantly, he hardly
knew how, he found himself on his feet, yelling fiercely, and firing
as fast as he could reload his musket. Through the rifts of the smoke
he could see that the hot fire was doing execution in the English ranks.
Presently, he heard the old sergeant remark:
"There come the guns! Now look out for a squall!"--and he saw two
fieldpieces being hurriedly dragged into position. The next thing
he knew there was a roar--the breastwork on one side of him flew
into fragments, and he saw a score of his comrades dead about him.
The roar was repeated several times, but his blood was up, and he
went on loading and firing as before, without a thought of fear.
At length the sergeant grabbed him by the arm.
"We've got to skip out of this and cut for cover in those bushes
yonder. We'll do more good there, and this breastwork, or what's
left of it, is no longer worth holding."
Pierre looked about him astonished, and found they were almost alone.
He shouldered his musket and strode sullenly into cover, the old
sergeant laughingly slapping him on the back.
Firing irregularly from the woods, the French succeeded in making it
very unpleasant for the English in their work of laying a new bridge.
But, notwithstanding, the bridge grew before their eyes. Pierre was
"We're beaten, it seems, already," he cried to the sergeant.
"Not at all!" responded the latter, cheerfully. "All this small force
could be expected to do has been already done. We have suffered but
slightly, while we have caused the enemy considerable loss. That's all
we set out to do. We're not strong enough to stand up to them; we're
only trying to weaken them all we can. See, now they're crossing--and
it's about time we were out of this!"
It was indeed so. The bridge was laid, the column was hastening across.
A bugle rang out the signal for retreat, and the fire from the bushes
ceased. In a moment the Acadian force had dissolved, scattering like
a cloud of mist before the sun. Pierre found himself, with a handful
of his comrades, speeding back to the fort. Others sought their proper
rendezvous. There was nothing for the English to chase, so they kept
their column unbroken. As Pierre entered the fort he saw the enemy
establishing themselves in the uplands, about a mile and a half
When night fell the heavens were lit up with a glare that carried terror
to the women and children on Isle au Tantramar. Vergor had set fire
to the chapel, and to all the houses of Beauséjour that might shelter
an approach to the ramparts. "Alas," cried the unhappy mother Lecorbeau
to the children about her, "we are once more homeless, without a roof
to shelter us!" and she and all the women broke into loud lamentations.
The children, however, seemed rather to enjoy the scene, and Edie told
an interested audience about the great blaze there was, and how red the
sky looked, the night her dear Pierre carried her away from Kenneticook.
For several days the English made no further advance, and to Pierre
and his fellow-Acadians in the fort the suspense became very trying.
The regulars took the delay most philosophically, seeming content
to wait just as long as the enemy would permit them. Pierre began
to wish he was with one of the guerilla parties outside, for these
were busy all the time, making little raids, cutting off foraging
parties, skirmishing with pickets, and retreating nimbly to the hills
whenever attacked in force. At length there came a change. A battalion
of New Englanders, about five hundred strong, advanced to within easy
range of the fort, and occupied a stony ridge well adapted for their
A braggart among the French officers, one Vannes by name, begged
to be allowed to sally forth with a couple of hundred men and rout
the audacious provincials. Vergor sanctioned the enterprise, and the
boaster marched proudly forth with his company. Arriving in front of
the New Englanders he astounded the latter, and supplied his comrades
in the fort with food for endless mirth, by facing the right about
and leading his shame-faced files quietly back to Beauséjour. Pierre
was profoundly thankful to the old sergeant for having dissuaded him
from joining in the sally. Covering Vannes's humiliation the fort
opened a determined fire, which after a time disabled one of the small
mortars which the assailants had placed in position. Gradually the
English brought up the rest of their guns, and on the following day
a sharp artillery duel was carried on between the fort and the ridge.
Within the ramparts things went but ill, and Pierre became despondent
as his eyes were opened to the almost universal corruption about him.
Enlightened by the shrewd comments of the old sergeant, the quiet
penetration of his father's glance, which saw everything, he soon
realized that fraud and self-seeking were become the ruling impulse
in Beauséjour. "Like master, like man" was a proverb which he saw
daily fulfilled. Vergor thought more of robbing than of serving his
country, and from him his subordinates took their cue. Le Loutre,
with his fiery fanaticism, went up, by contrast, in the estimation
of the honest-hearted boy. As the siege dragged on some of the Acadians
became homesick, or anxious about their families. These begged leave
to go home; which was of course refused. Others quietly went without
asking. An air of hopelessness stole over the garrison, which was
deepened to despair when news came from Louisburg that no help could
be expected from that quarter, the town being strictly blockaded by
At length, in an ignoble way, came the crisis. In one of the two vaulted
chambers of masonry which were dignified with the title of "bombproofs,"
a party of French officers, with a captive English lieutenant, were
sitting at breakfast. A shell from the English mortars dropped through
the ceiling, exploded, and killed seven of the company. Vergor, with
other officers and Le Loutre, was in the second bombproof. His martial
spirit was confounded at the thought that the one retreat might turn
out to be no more "bomb-proof" than the other. Most of his subordinate
officers shared his feelings, and in a few minutes, to the pleasant
astonishment of the English, and in spite of the furious protests
of Le Loutre and of two or three officers who were not lost to all
sense of manhood, a white flag was hoisted on Beauséjour. The firing
straightway ceased, on both sides, and an officer was sent forth to
negotiate a capitulation.
Pierre threw down his musket, and looked at his father, who stood
watching the proceedings with a smile of grim contempt. Then he turned
to the sergeant, who was smoking philosophically.
"Is _this_ the best France can do?" he cried, in a sharp voice.
"The English do certainly show to rather the better advantage,"
interposed Lecorbeau; but the old sergeant hastened to answer, in a
tone of sober grief:
"You must'nt judge _la belle France_ by the men she has been sending
out to Canada and Acadie these late years, my Pierre. These are the
creatures of Bigot, the notorious. It is he and they that are dragging
our honor in the dust!"
"Well," exclaimed Pierre, "I shall stay and see this thing through;
but as there is no more fighting to be done, you, father, had better go
and take care of mother and the children. There is nothing to be gained,
but a good deal to be risked by staying here and being taken prisoner.
The English may not think much of the powers of compulsion of a man
that can't fight any better than our commandant"
"You're right, my boy," said Lecorbeau, cheerfully. "My situation
just now is a delicate one, to say the least of it. Well, good-bye
for the present. By this time to-morrow, if all goes as expeditiously
as it has hitherto, we shall meet in our own cabin again."
With these words Lecorbeau walked coolly forth, on the side of the fort
opposite to the besiegers, and strolled across the marshes toward
Isle au Tantramar. Two or three more, who were in the same awkward
position as Lecorbeau, proceeded to follow his example. The rest,
considering that for them there was now no danger, the fighting being
done, stayed to see the end, and to pick up what they could in the way
of spoils. As for Le Loutre, realizing that his cause was lost and his
neck in the utmost jeopardy, he hid himself in a skillful disguise and
fled in haste for Quebec.
The same evening, at seven o'clock, the garrison marched out of Beauséjour
with the honors of war; whereupon a body of New Englanders marched in,
hoisted the flag of England, and fired a royal salute from the ramparts
of the fort. By the terms of the capitulation the garrison was to be sent
at once to Louisburg, and those Acadians who in taking part in the defense
had violated their oath of allegiance to King George were to be pardoned
as having done it under compulsion. All such matters of detail having been
arranged satisfactorily, Vergor gave a grand dinner to the English and
French officers in the stronghold of which his cowardice had robbed his
country. The fort was rechristened "Fort Cumberland," and the curiously
assorted guests all joined most cordially in drinking to the new title.
On the following day Lecorbeau brought his wife and family back to
the cottage under the willows, and Pierre was reunited to his beloved
"petite." Isle au Tantramar was soon deserted, for the families whose
homes at Beauséjour had just been burnt returned to camp amid the ashes
and erected rude temporary shelters. They were all overjoyed at the
leniency of the English; but a blow more terrible than any that had
yet befallen them was hanging over this most unhappy people.
Among the English officers encamped at Beauséjour was the slim young
lieutenant who had led the band of avengers at Kenneticook. He spoke
French; he was interested in the Acadian people; and he moved about
among them inquiring into their minds and troubles. The cabin under
the willows, almost the only house left standing in Beauséjour village,
at once attracted him, and he sauntered down the hill to visit it.
The household was in a bustle getting things once more to rights;
and a group of children played chattering about the low, red, ocher-washed
door. As the lieutenant approached, Lecorbeau came forth to meet and greet
him. The Englishman was just on the point of grasping the Acadian's
outstretched hand, when a shrill cry of "Uncle Willie" rang in his ears,
and he found one of the children clinging to him rapturously. For an
instant he was utterly bewildered, gazing down on the sunburned fair
little face upturned to his. Then he snatched the child to his heart,
exclaiming passionately, "My Edie, my darling!" To Lecorbeau, and to
his wife and Pierre, who now appeared, the scene was clear in an instant;
and a weight of misery rolled down upon the heart of Pierre as he
realized that now he should lose the little one he loved so well.
For a few moments the child and her new-found uncle were entirely
absorbed in each other. But presently the little one looked around
and pointed to Pierre.
"Here's my Pierre!" she explained in her quaint French--"and there's
papa Lecorbeau, and mamma Lecorbeau, and there's little Jacques,
and Bibi, and Vergie, and Tiste. Won't you come and live with us, too?"
Her uncle covered her face anew with his kisses. "My darling," he said,
"you will come with me to Halifax, to mamma!"
"And leave Pierre?" she cried, her eyes filling. "I can't leave my
Pierre, who saved me from the cruel Indians."
This recalled the young man's thoughts to the mystery of the little
one's presence at Beauséjour. Lecorbeau gave him a bench, and sitting
down beside him told the story, while Edie sat with one hand in her
uncle's clasp and the other in that of Pierre. The young Englishman
was deeply moved. Having heard all, and questioned of the matter
minutely, he rose and shook Pierre by the hand, thanking him in few
words, indeed, but in a voice that spoke his emotion. Then he poured
out his gratitude to Lecorbeau and his wife for their goodness, to this
child of their foes; and little by little he gathered the Acadian's
feelings toward the English, and the part he had played throughout.
At length he said:
"Can you allow me to quarter myself here for the present? I cannot take
Edie into the camp, and she would not be willing if I could. I see from
her love for you how truly kind she has found you. I want to be with
the little one as much as possible; and, moreover, my presence here
may prove of use to you in the near future."
The significance of these last words Lecorbeau did not care to question,
but after a glance at his wife, who looked dumfounded at the proposition,
"You may well realize, monsieur, that with this small cabin and this
large family we can give you but poor accommodation. But such as it is,
you are more than welcome to it. Your coming will be to us an honor
and a pleasure, and a most valued protection."
The lieutenant at once took up his abode in Lecorbeau's cabin. When,
a few weeks later, the first scenes were enacted in the tragedy known
as the "Expulsion of the Acadians," the friendship of the young
lieutenant and of Edie stood Lecorbeau in good stead. This storm
which scattered to the four winds the remnant of the Acadians, passed
harmlessly over the cabin beneath the willows of Beauséjour. When
Acadie was once more quiet, and Edie and her uncle went to Halifax,
Lecorbeau added fertile acres to his farm; while Pierre accompanied
his "petite" to the city, where his own abilities, and the lieutenant's
steadfast friendship, won him advancement and success.
* * * * *
HOW THE CARTER BOYS LIFTED THE MORTGAGE.
[Illustration: "When he reached the door he knocked imperiously."--_See
CATCHING A TARTAR.
As long as they could remember, the roaring flow and rippling ebb of
the great tides had been the most conspicuous and companionable sounds
in the ears of Will and Ted Carter. The deep, red channel of the creek
that swept past their house to meet the Tantramar, a half mile further on,
was marked on the old maps, dating from the days of Acadian occupation,
by the name of the Petit Canard. But to the boys, as to all the villagers
of quiet Frosty Hollow, it was known as "the Crick."
To "the Crick" the Carters owed their little farm. Mrs. Carter was
a sea captain's widow, living with her two boys, Will and Ted,
in a small yellow cottage on the crest of a green hill by the water.
Behind the cottage, framing the barn and the garden and the orchard,
and cutting off the north wind, was a thick grove of half-grown fir
trees. From the water, however, these were scarcely visible, and the
yellow house twinkled against the broad blue of the sky like the golden
eye of a great forget-me-not.
I have said that the Carters owed their little farm to the creek. That
is to say, their farm was made up chiefly of marsh, or diked meadow,
which had been slowly deposited by the waters of the creek at high tide,
then captured and broken into the service of man by the aid of long,
imprisoned ramparts of sodded clay. This marsh land was inexhaustibly
fertile, deep with grass, purple in patches with vetch blossoms, pink
and crimson, along the ditches with beds of wild roses. Outside the dikes
the tawny current of the creek clamored almost ceaselessly, quiet only
for a little while at high water. When the tide was low, or nearly so,
the creek was a shining, slippery, red gash, twisting hither and thither
through stretches of red-brown, sun-cracked flats, whitened here and
there with deposited salt. Where the creek joined the Tantramar, its
parent stream, the abyss of coppery and gleaming ooze revealed at ebb
tide made a picture never to be forgotten; for the tidal Tantramar does
not conform to conventional ideas of what a river should be.
Had the creek been their only creditor the Carters would have been
fortunate. As it was, the little farm was mortgaged up to its full value.
When Captain Carter died of yellow fever on the voyage home from Brazil,
he left the family little besides the farm. To be sure, there was a share
in the ship, besides; but this Mrs. Carter made haste to sell, though
shipping was at the time away down, and she realized almost nothing
from the sale. Had she held on to the property a year longer she would
have found herself almost comfortable, for there came a sudden activity
in the carrying trade, and shipowners made their fortunes rapidly.
But Mrs. Carter cared little for business considerations where a
sentiment was concerned; and being descended from one of the oldest
and most distinguished families of the country, she had a lofty
confidence that the country owed her a living, and would be at pains
to meet the obligation. In this confidence she was sadly disappointed;
and so it came about that, while Will and Ted were yet but small lads,
the farm was mortgaged to Mr. Israel Hand, who greatly desired to
add it to his own adjoining property.
It happened one summer afternoon, when Will was nearly eighteen years
of age, and Ted fifteen, that the boys were raking hay in the meadow,
while Mr. Israel Hand was toiling up the long hill that led from
Frosty Hollow to the yellow cottage. The figure of Mr. Hand was hidden
from the boys' view by the dense foliage of the maples and birch trees
bordering the road. Toward the top of the hill, however, the line
of trees was broken; and in the gap towered a superb elm. Immediately
beneath the elm, half inclosed in a luxuriant thicket of cinnamon,
rose, and clematis, stood an inviting rustic seat which commanded
a view of the marshes, and the windings of the Tantramar, and the
far-off waters of the bay, and the historic heights of ramparted
Toward the seat beneath the elm tree Ted kept casting eager but furtive
glances. This presently attracted Will's attention.
"What have you, young one, been up to now?" he queried, in a tone half
amused and half rebuking.
Ted's eyes sparkled mischievously.
"O, nothing much!" said he, bending his curly head over the remains
of a bird's egg, which he suddenly discovered in the grass. But his
denial was not intended to deny so much as to provoke further inquiry.
He was a persistent, and sometimes troublesome practical joker; but he
usually wanted Will to know of his pranks beforehand, that Will's
steady good sense might keep him from anything too extravagant in
the way of trickery.
"O, come off now, Ted," exclaimed Will, grinning. "Tell me what it is,
or I'll go and find out, and spoil the fun."
"It's just a little trap I've set for a fellow I want to catch,"
replied Ted, thus adjured.
"Well?" said Will, expectantly.
"Well!" continued the joker. "I've set a tub of 'crick' water--with
lots of mud in it--right under the seat up there, and fixed the bushes
and vines round it so that it hardly shows. I've sawed the seat almost
through, from underneath, so that when a fellow sits down on it--and
after climbing the hill, you know, he always sits down hard--well,
you can see just what's going to happen."
"O, yes," grumbled the elder boy, "I see _just_ what's going to happen.
_I'll_ have to fix a new seat there to-morrow; for _you_ can't make
a decent job of it. But, look here, I don't think much of that for
a trick: There's nothing clever about it, and you may catch the wrong
person. I think you'd better go and fix it, before you do something
you'll be sorry for."
"Don't you worry your old head!" answered Ted, determinedly. "I'm watching
to see who comes along. Do you suppose I'd let Mrs. Burton, or the rector
tumble into the tub? What d'you take me for, you old duffer?"
"Well," said Will, good-humoredly, "whom do you expect to catch?"
"Is your head so taken up with scientific musings that you haven't
noticed how, lately, Will Hen Baizley has taken to going home this way
every afternoon, instead of by the short cut over the back road?
I expect he's got a girl down at the corners, or he wouldn't be coming
such a long way round. Anyway, when he gets to the top of the hill
he always sits down on our seat, and fills up his pipe. I've been
looking for a chance at him this long while!"
Will Hen Baizley was the most objectionable "tough" that Frosty Hollow
could boast. He was a bad-tempered bully, cruel in his propensities,
and delighting to interfere in all the innocent amusements of the
village youngsters. He was a loutish tyrant, and Ted had suffered
various petty annoyances at his hands for several years. In fact, the
boy was looking forward to the day when he might, without presumption,
undertake to give the bully a thrashing and deliver the neighbourhood
from his thraldom. As Will Hen, however, was about twenty years of age,
large, and not unskillful with his fists, Ted saw some years of waiting
yet ahead of him. Such suspense he could not endure. He preferred to
begin now, and trust to fate--and his brother Will--to pull him through.
Will raked the hay thoughtfully for a few minutes without replying.
He was a clear-headed youth, and he speedily caught the drift of
"It'll be good enough for him," said Will, at length, "but you've got
a good deal of gall, it seems to me, young one! Why, Will Hen'll pound
you for it, sure. He'll know it's your doing."
"Let him pound, the brute!" answered Ted, defiantly. "Anyway, I don't
suppose _you_ are going to let him handle me _too_ rough! I dare
say he won't actually punch me, for fear of getting into a row
with you--though" (and here a wicked twinkle came into Ted's eye, for
he knew the pugnacity that lurked in his big brother's scientific
nature), "though he _does_ say he can particularly knock the
stuffing out of you!"
"Dear me," murmured Will, grinning thoughtfully. "If he talks to you
about it, tell him there isn't any stuffing in me to speak of."
During this conversation the boys had both, for a few minutes, forgotten
to watch the seat under the elm tree. Suddenly Ted glanced up, a thrill
of mingled apprehension and delight went through him as he saw Mr. Israel
Hand approaching the fatal spot.
"Look, quick!" he exclaimed, in a gleeful whisper.
Will looked. But Will was not amused.
"Hi! there! _Don't sit down_, Mr. Hand! Don't!" He yelled, jumping
into the air and waving his hay rake to attract additional attention.
But it was too late!
Mr. Israel Hand was tired and hot from his walk up the hill. He was vexed,
too, at the prospect of a disagreeable interview with Mrs. Carter, who
would not understand business matters. The seat beneath the elm was
a most inviting place. From it he could see the whole farm which he
meant presently to annex to his own broad acres. He was on the point
of seating himself when he heard Will's yell. He had a vague consciousness
that the boys did not love him, to say the least of it. He concluded
they were now making game of him. Why shouldn't he sit down? If it was
their seat now, it would soon be his, anyway.
"Impudent young scoundrels!" he muttered, and sat down firmly.
As the boys saw him crash through, and disappear, all but his head
and heels, in a great splash of leaves and blossoms and muddy water,
Ted fairly shrieked with uncontrollable mirth. But as for Will, he
was too angry to see the fun of the situation.
"There," he exclaimed, bitterly, with a ring in his voice that checked
Ted's laughter on the instant, "your tomfoolery has fixed us at last.
Out we'll go next spring, as sure as you want a licking. Hand'll
foreclose now, for sure; and I can't say I'll blame him. No use me
trying to stave him off now!"
Ted hung his head, feeling miserable enough, and casting about vainly
for an excuse.
"But I never--"
"O, don't wriggle, now," retorted Will, sternly. "You know you saw him
in time to warn him. You _wanted_ to get him into it. You just come along
with me, and apologize. If he _is_ an old skinflint, you've got to
remember he could have sold us out last year, only I succeeded in
begging off. Mother's high and mighty airs to him made the job twice
as hard as it might have been; but _you've_ made it _impossible_ to do
anything more. Now he'll have us out in a twelve-month--and I was just
getting things so into shape that with two years more I could have
saved the old place!"
As the boys climbed the hillside Will's face was very white, and his
mouth twitched nervously. He had taken hold of affairs about two
years before, stopped a number of leaks, and displayed great tact
in neutralizing the effects of Mrs. Carter's aristocratic and exclusive
notions. Mrs. Carter was a woman of untiring industry, most capable
in all household matters, but superbly uncommercial. Having got the
management into his own hands, and having entirely won his mother's
confidence, Will was beginning to see a gleam of light ahead of him.
If he could keep Mr. Israel Hand pacified for two years more, and yet
prevent the schemer from imagining that the mortgage was going to be
paid in the end, he felt that victory was his. Mr. Hand wanted the
farm--but if he could win a reputation for forbearance, and get the
farm not less surely in the long run, he would be all the better
satisfied. It was thus Will had gauged him. The boy's ambition was
to clear off the debt, and then earn something wherewith to finish
his own education and Ted's. Now, seeing the whole scheme nipped in
the fair bud by Ted's recklessness, small wonder if his heart grew hard.
Presently, however, catching sight of Ted's face of misery, stained
with one or two furtive tears, his wrath began to melt.
"Well, Ted," said he, "never mind now. It's no use crying over spilt
milk. You hadn't much time to think. I know you wouldn't have had it
happen for a good deal if you'd had time to think. Brace up, and maybe
we'll find some way out of the scrape!"
At this Ted's face brightened a little, and he ejaculated fervently:
"I wish I wasn't such an idiot!"
"Don't fret!" replied Will, and the two trudged on to the little white
gate in front of the yellow cottage, carrying grievous apprehensions
in their hearts.
Meanwhile, Mr. Israel Hand had extricated himself from the tub. He was
not hurt saving as regards his dignity. But his heart was absolutely
bursting with righteous rage. And yet, and yet, it was sweet to think
of the revenge that lay so close within his grasp. No one now could
accuse him of being too severe. Public feeling would justify his
course--and Mr. Israel Hand had a good deal of respect for public
He did not pause to remove one atom of the sticky creek mud that
plastered grotesquely his rusty but solemn suit of black. Drenched
and defiled, he felt himself an object of sympathy. He would not even
remove the occasional green leaves and rosebuds that clung to him here
and there with a most ludicrous effect, making one think of a too
festive picnicker. Mr. Hand was quite lacking in a sense of the
When he reached the door he knocked imperiously, and after a second,
rapped again. Mrs. Carter was busy in the kitchen. She resented the
hastiness of the summons. Under no circumstances would she let herself
be seen in the rôle of kitchen girl. She clung to appearances with a
tenacity that nothing could shake. Long practice in this sort of thing,
however, had made her very expert; and by the time Mr. Hand had
thundered at the knocker four or five times, his wrath getting hotter
as his damp clothes got more chilly, Mrs. Carter had made herself
presentable and was ready to open the door.
Severe and stately in her widow's garments, cool of countenance as if
she had been but sitting in expectancy of callers, she opened the door
and confronted Mr. Hand. Recognizing her unwelcome visitor, she drew
herself up to her full height, and the little, dripping old man looked
the more grotesque and mean by contrast.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Hand," she began in tones of ice; "can I do
anything"--but at this point she took in the full absurdity of his
appearance. With all her stateliness she had a keen appreciation
of the ridiculous, and it was from her that Ted derived his excess
of humor and his love of mischief. Passionately as she scorned Mr. Hand,
she could forget herself so far as to let him amuse her. Her large face
melted into a smile. She struggled to keep from open laughter.
"Look at me, just look at me, at my condition!" burst forth Mr. Hand
"This is some of the work of your two brats of boys, madam. I'll
horsewhip them, I'll have them horsewhipped!"
By this time Mrs. Carter was laughing unreservedly. She was consumed
with mirth, as Mr. Hand continued:
"O, yes! I don't doubt you put them up to it! I don't doubt you think
it is a great joke; a great joke, madam. But I'll make you smart for it!
You think there's no one in Frosty Hollow fit to associate with you, eh!
You're a pauper, and your brats are paupers! That's what you are.
I'll foreclose that mortgage at once, and out you'll go, just as quickly
as the course of law will permit. This time next year you'll have no
roof over your head, and everyone in the village will say I have done
quite right by you! I--"
"Really, Mr. Hand" exclaimed Mrs. Carter, interrupting, "you have
no right to appear before me in such a shocking condition. If you wish
to talk to me you must call again, and in more suitable attire. Excuse
me!" And she shut the door in his face.
Mr. Hand shook his fist at the big brass knocker, then turned to go.
The boys were just opening the little white gate. Mr. Hand paused
between the beds of sweet williams and canterbury bells. He was
in doubt as to the attitude he had better assume to Will and Ted.
Glancing along the road he saw the figure of Will Hen Baizley
inspecting curiously the ruins of the seat beneath the elm. Here
was an ally if need should arise. He decided on prompt retribution,
and seized his stick in a firmer grasp.
THE HAND OF THE LAW.
"You pauper brats," began Mr. Hand, advancing along the garden path,
"I'll teach you to play your dirty tricks on me!" And he raised his
With a quick movement of his arm, Will had the stick firmly in his
grip so that Mr. Hand could not stir it.
"Stop that, Mr. Hand!" said Will, quietly. "You mustn't do that, sir.
It was never intended _you_ should fall into that trap, sir. It was
set for another person altogether. You know, sir, you heard me yell
to you not to sit down on it!"
"Let go of my stick, you young scoundrel!" exclaimed Mr. Hand, somewhat
less outrageously than he had spoken before. The firmness of Will's
grasp and the steadiness of his glance had a quieting effect on the
money lender's temper.
"Certainly, sir," said Will, releasing the cane. "Only don't do anything
foolish. I don't wonder you are angry, very angry indeed. But I tried
to stop you. And now we want to apologize and tell you how sorry we--"
"Indeed, indeed we are sorry, sir," burst in Ted, impetuously. "We
wouldn't have had it happen for worlds, Mr. Hand!"
"Very likely not--not for a farm, in fact," retorted Mr. Hand with
"But it was only I did it, and I'm the only one to blame, sir," urged
Ted, desperately, catching the full meaning of the last remark.
By this time Will Hen Baizley had approached. He paused in the middle
of the road, filled with curiosity. Catching sight of Mr. Hand's absurd
appearance, he understood what had happened. He saw the whole thing,
as he thought, and he relished the joke hugely. Shaking and cackling
with laughter, he came over and leaned against the picket fence. His
ridicule exasperated Mr. Hand, who suddenly resolved that he did not
want Mr. Baizley's assistance. He scowled menacingly at the young
ruffian, and then replied to Ted's beseeching plea:
"You needn't talk to me, and think you're going to come round me with
your soft soap. You're all alike, the whole lot of you. You play a
disgraceful trick on me, and then your mother slams the door in my face.
You're a pack of fools. When you're just paupers, at my mercy for the
roof that covers you, one'd think, even if you hadn't any decency,
you might know what side your bread was buttered on. I reckon you
expect everyone to lick your shoes because your name's Carter! Well,
your name's mud now. I'm going to foreclose right off, and out you'll
go next spring. And I don't want to hear no talk about it."
Ted's face got very red, and it was with difficulty he kept back the
tears of shame and bitterness, as he realized the consequences of
his folly. But Will Hen Baizley was there, so he held himself manfully
erect, and glared defiantly at the tough who was grinning over the fence.
Mr. Hand pushed past and was about to open the gate, when Will spoke:
"That's all right, Mr. Hand," said the tactful youth, soothingly. "Of
course I can't blame you. Don't think I blame you. Business is business,
and you might have honestly enough turned us out a year ago. We are
grateful to you, Ted and I, for having been so forbearing in the past.
_We_ won't complain a bit. And as for mother, why, sir, you mustn't
think hard of her if _she_ complains, because you know she doesn't
understand business. And then, she's had such a lot of trouble it has
made her a little quick tempered to some people."
These remarks were very gratifying to Mr. Israel Hand. They did not
alter his determination in the slightest degree, but they soothed
his sense of injury. They largely removed his desire for revenge,
and left nothing but his desire to possess the farm as soon as possible.
The astute Will rightly judged that an opponent with two motives for
hostility would be more difficult to handle than one with but a single
"Well," said Mr. Hand, "you know now exactly what I'm going to do.
You seem to be a very sensible young man, William, and please remember
it was only on your representations and at your earnest request that
I waited so long as I have. I look to you to prevent unnecessary fuss.
You must yield to the inevitable. So don't let your mother raise any
useless trouble. It won't do any good."
With a sense of satisfaction that quite outweighed the humiliations
he had suffered, Mr. Hand strode off down the hill, ignoring Will Hen
Baizley, and forgetful of the mud and rose leaves on his raiment.
"Haw!" exclaimed Will Hen Baizley. "That's a good un! You done that
slick! An' the old fellow b'lieved yer, too! Couldn't 'a lied out'n
it slicker'n that myself!"
"There was no lying about it," answered Ted, fiercely, flushing redder
than ever. But Will replied more calmly:
"What we told Mr. Hand was the exact truth, Will Hen. You can just bet
we didn't want to let _him_ in for that. No, sir-ee! It was another
lad altogether that little surprise party was intended for!"
And Will grinned mysteriously.
"Mebbe 'twas me you was after!" suggested Will Hen Baizley, with
"I wouldn't bother my head about who it was intended for, if I were
you," said Will, in a good-natured voice.
"Ef't had been me stidder old Hand, I'd 'a' broke every bone in yer
carkus," growled Baizley.
"It wasn't Will that fixed the trap, anyway," said Ted. "It was me,
and Will never saw it till he came up the hill just now!"
"O, 'twas you, was it!" remarked Will Hen Baizley. "_I_ see, I see!
Thought yer'd git square, eh? So it _was_ me you expected to see
flounderin' in that there old tub! I've 'most a mind to lick you fur it
Ted laughed; and the tough made a motion to spring over the fence.
"Baizley!" said Will. And the fellow paused.
"Go slow, now!" continued Will, with an amiable smile, but with a
significant look in his eye. "I dare say you'd sooner fight than eat,
but you'd better go home to your supper just now. Anyway, you mustn't
come in here, for I don't want to be bothered!"
"Do you want to fight?" queried Will Hen Baizley, defiantly, but at
the same time withdrawing from the fence. "I can lick you out o'
"But I don't want to be licked out of my skin, thank you, not this
evening!" responded Will, sweetly.
"Yer dars'n't come out here an' stand up to me," said the tough.
"O, go along, Will Hen, and quit talking to your hat," laughed Will,
picking up the hoe and beginning to attack some weeds. "Do you suppose
I've nothing better to do than punching your soft head? Maybe I'll
fight you some day when there's something to fight about, and then
you won't be half as eager. Bye-bye!"
At this Ted tittered with delight. As for Will Hen Baizley, he was
impressed by Will's confidence and coolness so much that he did not
really wish just then to try conclusions with him. Therefore he
contented himself with repeating his taunt of "you dars'n't!" and
swaggered slowly away. The boys went into the house.
They found their mother in high good humor. She felt that she had
come off victorious in the encounter with Mr. Hand, and she gave the
boys a spirited account of the interview. This was received by Ted
with unfeigned relish, but Will smiled rather grimly.
"And what was the impertinent old man saying to you out in the garden?"
inquired the lady at length.
"O, nothing more than we expected to hear, mother," replied Will.
"He merely gave us formal notice that he could let matters run on no
longer, but would foreclose instantly."
"By all means let him foreclose, as he calls it!" said Mrs. Carter,
"We've got to let him, as we can do nothing else," answered Will.
"But it's a little tough to think we'll have to leave the old place
"Leave this place!" exclaimed Mrs. Carter, warmly. "Indeed, we won't
do anything of the sort. I should like to see him try to turn us out!
Old Hand, whose father used to blacken your poor grandfather's boots,
turn _us_ out of our own house! You don't know what you are talking
To this Will made no reply. He merely smiled very slightly, and thrust
his chin forward with an expression of mingled doggedness and good humor.
His mother felt that he was not convinced.
"But, mother," began Ted, "Will does know all about it. Old Hand _is_
"You hush at once, Teddie," interrupted Mrs. Carter. "You are only
a little boy. As for Hand, if he attempts to interfere with me I will
drive over to Barchester and see the Hon. Mr. Germain about it. I will
go to law, if necessary, to defend our rights!"
"The trouble is, mother, in this matter we haven't any rights left
to speak of. It is the rights of Mr. Hand that the law will think of,"
said Will, gently.
"Willie," said his mother with severity, "I don't want to hear any
more nonsense. I'm sure it was not so when _I_ was young, that the
law would allow our domestics to trample upon us. The judges in those
days were all gentlemen. I'm sure, Willie, I don't know where you get
those low, radical ideas. I fear I have been foolish not to look more
closely into the kind of books you read!"
"Now, mother," began Ted, pugnaciously, fired as usual with indiscreet
zeal to make his mother see things with Will's eyes.
But Will interrupted him. "Come off, Ted," said he, "mother's right.
The very best thing she can do is to go and see Mr. Germain. Come along
now, it's time the cattle were tended."
"Hurry in again, then," said Mrs. Carter, mollified. "I'm going to have
pancakes for you to-night, because you've been working so hard."
"Bully for you, muz!" cried Ted, joyously, regardless of his mother's
aversion to slang. And Will smiled back his gratification as they
started for the barn.
In a few minutes the cow stable was musical with the recurrent bubbling
swish of the streams of milk which the boys' skilled hands were directing
into their tin pails.
"Say, Ted," exclaimed Will, from under the red and white flank of his cow.
"What's up now?" inquired Ted.
"I've just got hold of a brilliant idea," continued Will. "We may escape
old Hand yet, and come out of this scrape fairly and creditably."
"But you _are_ a clever old beggar!" responded Ted, in a voice of
admiration. "You've got the brains of the family! What is it?"
"Come down to the crick with me after tea, and I'll explain," said Will.
"But don't say anything to mother. It's no use worrying her, and she's
got enough to attend to!"
"Now don't keep me dying with curiosity," urged Ted, pausing in his
milking and turning round. "Just give me a hint, to keep me from
'bursting,' so to speak!"
"Well," answered Will, "it's _new marsh_ I'm after. Some more dike.
See? Now wait till we're on the spot. I'm thinking."
"By all means, _let_ it think if it can think like that," exclaimed
Ted, jubilantly, and went on with his milking. Already he saw the
mortgage lifted, and all their difficulties at an end, so unbounded
was his confidence in Will's resources.
After tea Will led his brother down to the marsh. Along the breezy
top of the dike the boys walked rapidly, one behind the other, the dike
top being narrow. It was near low tide, and the creek clamored cheerfully
along the bottom of its naked red channel. A crisp, salty fragrance came
from the moist slopes and gullies; and here and there a little pond, left
behind by the ebb, gleamed like flames in the low sunset.
Toward the upper end of the Carter farm the dike curved sharply inland
till it joined the steep slope of their pasture lot. Here was a spacious
cove, inclosed by the Carter's pasture lot on the south and west, by
their dike on the east, and on the north by the channel of the creek.
At the time the dike was built the channel had lain close in along
the foot of the upland, but it had gradually moved out to a straight
course as the cove filled up with sediment. Of this change the dike
itself had been the main cause. Now the cove appeared at high water
as a bay or lagoon; but very early in the ebb its whole surface was
uncovered, and, except along the outermost edge, thin patches of salt
grass were already beginning to appear.
To this spot the boys betook themselves, treading the way gingerly
over the tenacious but slippery surface. Will pointed to a half barrel
sunk level in the ooze. It was full to the brim with fine silt.
"What do you think of that?" inquired Will, mysteriously.
Ted racked his brain for a suitable reply. He could gather no clew
to Will's purpose, so he remarked:
"Very nice, healthy looking mud, seems to me? Going to sell it for
"Paint!" exclaimed Will, scornfully. "But how long do you suppose
that tub has been there?"
"Looks as if it had been there from the year one," replied Ted, still
"_I_ put _it_ there just three weeks ago!" said Will, watching
his brother's face.
"You _did!_" said Ted, blankly. Then a light dawned upon him.
"But that's mighty quick work!" he continued. "You don't mean to tell
me that all that mud was deposited by the tide in three weeks!"
"Every bit of it!" averred Will. "You see the Tantramar water is just
loaded with silt. It has so much that the moment it stops to rest
it throws down as much of the load as it can. When it gets moving,
regularly under way, it has to pick it up again. But the longer it
stops the more it throws down; and the slower it moves the less it
picks up again. Inside the tub it is always slack water, so whatever
falls there stays there. That's why the tub has filled up so quick.
Nearly a foot and a half in three weeks! Why, Ted, a raise of a foot
and a half along the outer slope of this cove, and we could dike in
the whole cove. See?"
Ted's eyes grew round and triumphant at the suggestion.
"But how can it be done?" he asked
"Won't we have to wait till the tide does it for us?" and his tone
dropped gradually from elation to dejection.
"Not much!" said Will, turning back to the dike. "Just look here a
Seating himself on the dike top, he took a book from his pocket and
began making rough diagrams on the fly leaf.
[Illustration: Diagram of Warping Dykes.]
A PIECE OF ENGINEERING.
Ted craned his neck eagerly to watch the movements of Will's pencil.
"You know," began Will, with his head on one side, "in some parts of
the world, when they want to make the tide work for them, they use
things they call 'warping dikes.' These run on a slant out from the
shore toward the channel. They generally slope up stream pretty sharply.
The tide comes in, loaded right up with fine mud, flows over and into
and around the long lines of warping dike, then stops and begins to
unload. Now, you see, when there are no warping dikes, the current
has nothing to delay it, so it soon gets going on the ebb so fast that
it washes away pretty near all it has deposited. But these warping dikes
bring in a new state of affairs. They so hinder the ebb that there is
more silt deposited, and at the same time there is less current on the
flats to carry the mud away. As the engineers say, there is not so much
'scouring'--a first-rate word to express it. Haven't you noticed how,
in some spots, the current seems to scour away all the mud and leave
naked stones and pebbles?"
"Yes," exclaimed Ted, "I get hold of the idea now. And when the warping
dikes have got their work in, what then?"
"Why, we'll dike the whole cove in. A short bit of dike from that corner
straight across to the point will do it. We'll be able to get at it in a
couple of months; and then, if you and I can't put the job through before
the ground gets frozen, why, I'll hire help, that's all!"
"But it's a pretty big contract you're giving us, isn't it?" queried Ted,
doubtfully. "Those warping dikes you're talking of look to me like an
all summer's job. What'll they be like, anyway?"
"O, they'll be very slight. We can run them, with the help of old Jerry
to haul for us, in less than no time, working evenings and wet days.
We'll just lay lines of brush a foot high, and pile heavy stones along
the top to keep it in place. Then we can raise them a little higher as
the place fills up!"
"O!" murmured Ted, greatly relieved. "I thought we'd have to _dig_
them all, like the other dikes."
After this the boys' talk was of nothing but deposits and warping
dikes and scouring. Their evenings and rainy days, usually spent in
their mother's company and in study, were now devoted to the labor of
hauling stones and brush down to the shore of the cove. To Mrs. Carter
they explained the scheme, but without reference to its connection
with Mr. Israel Hand. She grasped its possibilities at once, being
clear-headed except where her prejudices were involved.
"How many acres do you expect to reclaim?" she inquired, after praising
Will's sagacity warmly.
"Well," said Will, "of course we won't have it surveyed till the work's
done and we are sure of the property; but I have an idea it will go a
good ten acres, or maybe twelve."
"And good diked land, or _ma'sh_ as these people call it, is worth
about two hundred dollars an acre, isn't it?" went on Mrs. Carter.
"_This_ will be, in two or three years, anyway," answered Will,
"for it will be _deep_ marsh, alluvial to the bottom and permanently
"And what do you suppose it ought to be worth next year, as soon as
it's diked in?" asked Ted.
"O," said Will, carelessly, "maybe a hundred and fifty, or ten better,
"Dear boys," said Mrs. Carter, "if all goes well you'll both be able
to get through college, perhaps. I must keep on steadily with Ted's Latin
this fall and winter. Dear me, I'm so sorry I let them laugh me out of my
desire to study Greek when I was a girl. I could be so useful to you both
now if I'd learnt it!"
"Don't you worry about that, muz," said Ted, jumping up to kiss her.
"If you plug me up in my Latin, we'll find some way to manage about
the Greek time enough!"
When haying was over there was a slack time on the farm for a few weeks,
and these few weeks sufficed the boys, working with eager energy, to get
all the warping dikes laid down. To avoid the nuisance of neighbors'
questionings, the idea occurred to Ted of sticking up stakes at intervals
along the rows of brush and stone. When these stakes were connected
at the tops by binders, they looked like the framework of a long and
elaborate series of fish weirs. Gaspereaux were fairly abundant in the
creek at certain seasons, so there was nothing unreasonable in the
supposition. But the dwellers in Frosty Hollow laughed hugely.
"Them Carter boys thinks they knows everything," was the universal
comment, "but they don't know the first thing about how to run a fish
weir. Why, them there weirs 'll shet every gaspereaux aout o' the cove,
'n 'tain't much of a place fur gaspereaux, anyways!"
When such remarks were tendered to the boys they would merely reply,
"You just wait till you see how our way works. If it doesn't work
the way we expect, then maybe it'll be time enough to try your way!"
The experiment interested the village for a few weeks, and at length
died out of notice.
It was utterly eclipsed, indeed, by a topic of profounder interest.
The village learned that Mr. Hand was foreclosing his mortgage, and
that the Carters were to be sold out the ensuing spring. Some of the
people were sympathetic, but others, resenting Mrs. Carter's proud
exclusiveness, took a malicious delight in the near prospect of her
Roused at last to a sense of the reality of the danger, Mrs. Carter,
who was quite too busy at her buttermaking and other indoor farmwork
to spare time for her threatened visit to Barchester, wrote urgently
to the Hon. Mr. Germain. The boys posted her letter, from which they
knew nothing could come, and then went to comfort themselves with a
sight of the way the silt was piling up inside their warping dikes.
The growth of the deposit had exceeded their most sanguine expectations.
Early in August they decided that it was time to begin the permanent
dike, the "running dike," as it was called in local parlance. That same
day came a letter from Mr. Germain. When the boys came in to tea they
found their mother in tears of indignation and despair.
"_There's_ what he says!" exclaimed she, pointing to the open letter,
which she had laid on Will's plate. "I do think things have come
to a strange pass in these days. I _certainly_ never dreamed that
Charles Germain could change like the rest!"
"Never mind, mother dear," said Will, soothingly. "We're not in our
last ditch yet. Trust me!"
And taking up the letter he read aloud for Ted's benefit:
"_My dear Mrs. Carter_: Believe me, it gives me great grief to learn
of the difficulties you are in, and to feel myself so powerless to
render you assistance. I feel bound to tell you that Mr. Hand, if I
understand your letter, is entirely within his rights. You would
have not a shadow of a case against him in the courts. There is but
one way of escape from the penalty, and that is by payment of your
indebtedness to him. In this, alas! I cannot help you at all adequately,
as I have lately suffered such losses that I am just now financially
embarrassed. Even had you good security to offer I could not lend you
the sum you need, as my own borrowing powers (this strictly between
ourselves) are just now taxed to their utmost. I think I can, however,
offer one of your boys a position in my office on a small salary; and
for the other I could, perhaps, within the next few months, obtain a
situation in the Exchange Bank of this town. This, perhaps, would
relieve your most pressing anxieties, and it would be a great pleasure
to me to serve you.
"Yours, with sincerest regards and sympathy,
"That's a jolly nice letter!" exclaimed Ted.
"Yes, mother," said Will, handing it back to her, "I don't see anything
the matter with that."
Mrs. Carter drew herself up proudly. "Don't you see," said she, "that he
_puts me off!_ I asked him to extricate me from this difficulty, to
defend for me _my rights!_ In reply he offers me, as if I were a beggar,
employment for my sons. Practically, he takes the part of old Hand.
O, I've no patience with such men! I'm serious!"
"Well, mother, you must allow," said Will, "that if Mr. Germain says so,
it's no use thinking of going to law against old Hand, is it? As for
Mr. Germain's kind offer to find places for Ted and me, why, if the worst
comes to the worst, that wouldn't be _too_ bad. We could live pretty
comfortably in Barchester with our little salaries and your clever
housekeeping. But maybe we won't have to leave here after all! _That's_
what Ted and I have been up to all summer. We anticipated that Mr. Germain
would disappoint you; but we wouldn't say so. Our plan is to _sell the
new marsh_, when we get it diked in, and with the proceeds pay off Hand's
mortgage with all the arrears of interest. There ought to be something
left over, too!"
"But I was proposing--I wanted to deed that piece of marsh to you boys!"
objected Mrs. Carter, in a voice of mingled gratification and doubt.
"O, muz!" answered Will, putting his arm around her, "what do we want
of it? The whole farm is ours, in that it's yours. That's all we want
the new marsh for--just to clear off the mortgage. And we're going
to do it, too! We begin work on the running dike to-morrow."
"You are two dear, good boys!" exclaimed their mother, tenderly. "If only
your poor father could have lived! How proud he would have been of both
of you!" And her eyes filled with tears. Next day Will and Ted armed
themselves with diking spades, and set to work determinedly. They had
the old horse, Jerry, on the spot, harnessed to a light cart, ready
to haul material as wanted. They began at the lower end of the cove,
building upward from the corner of the old dike. Their purpose in this
was to keep the scouring in check. By this method of procedure they
would have the final outlet (usually so difficult to close) located
at the shallowest part of the cove. There would thus, as soon as the
dike extended a little distance, be some water left behind after every
flood tide, and there would be so much less to make violent escape
with the ebb. If there should be left, finally, more imprisoned water
than the sun could well evaporate that autumn, Will explained to Ted
that it would be a simple matter to drain it off and close up the
outlet between tides.
At the end of the first day's work Mrs. Carter came down to note
progress, and was shown several feet of sound, shapely dike, with
planks and large stones laid on the exposed end as a protection against
the tide. A little calculation showed that it would be quite feasible,
with perhaps a week or so of hired help toward the last, to finish
the dike before hard weather should set in.
Everybody now at the yellow cottage on the hill was cheerful in the
hope of speedy success. To their ears the clamor of the ebbing and
flowing tides was a jubilant music. Their loved "crick" was becoming
their friend-in-need. Its unctuous red flats acquired a new beauty
in their eyes, and the mighty, sweeping tides they came to regard
as the embodiment of their good genius.
With the rapidly growing dike all went swimmingly for a time. But the
neighbors were now completely undeceived. Though nettled at their former
dullness, they could not but applaud the ingenuity of the scheme;
and they rather approved the reticence which the boys had observed
in the matter.
Among the villagers, however, there was one who did not like the
turn affairs were taking. Mr. Hand perceived that he might yet be
defeated in his effort to gain possession of the Carters' farm.
He was an astute old man, if he _didn't_ at first understand the
His first step was to threaten Will with proceedings to stop the work.
He owned the marsh on the opposite side of the creek, and he claimed
that the building of the new dike would so alter the channel that his
property would be endangered. Will presently proved to him, beyond
cavil, that the slight deflection of the currents would only throw
the scouring force of the stream against a point of rocky upland,
some hundreds of yards below his marsh, where it could not possibly
do any harm. Then Mr. Hand professed himself entirely satisfied,
and departed to devise other weapons.
By the middle of September the dike extended more than halfway across
the mouth of the cove, and the work was daily growing easier. The
facing of the water front, of course, was being left to do afterwards,
when the weather should be unfit for digging.
One morning, after a very high tide, the boys came down to find a
good ten feet or more of their work washed away. They were terribly
"How on earth did it happen?" groaned Ted. "Do you suppose we didn't
protect the end properly?"
"I don't see any other explanation," said Will, gloomily.
"But if the stones were _swept_ off by the tide," exclaimed Ted, with
sudden significance, "wouldn't they be lying to one side or the other?
These look as if they had been pulled off!"
"By the great horn spoon, you've hit it, young one!" cried Will,
excited beyond his wont. "Good for you! The tide never did it! Some
one has been helping the tide!"
"Will Hen Baizley!" declared Ted. "I shouldn't wonder a bit!" said
Will. "Well, Ted, there's nothing to do but go to work and build it
up again. And to-night, why, we'll 'lay for him,' that's all!"
Doggedly and wrathfully the boys toiled all day. At tea they told
their mother what had occurred. Mrs. Carter was furious. But when
Will declared their intention of watching that night for the depredator,
her anger vanished in fear. At first she forbid positively all thought
of such a thing. Will declared that he _must_ do it--it simply had to
be done. Thereupon she said she would forbid Ted going. At this Ted
burst forth indignantly.
"What, mother, would you have me leave Will all alone out there?"
An idea which was, of course, to Mrs. Carter intolerable. She forgot
to be imperative; she became appealing.
"But, muz," said Will, reassuringly, "there is no danger at all. You
can trust me, can't you? Ted and I will each take a good, big club,
and if, as we think, it is Will Hen Baizley, we'll give him a pounding
that will keep him civil for a while."
"But what if he should have some ruffians with him?" urged the mother.
"Well, just to be safe, _I'll_ take my gun, so as to be able to give
them a scare, you know. But Ted is so impetuous and bloodthirsty
that he'd better not take anything but a club!"
"O, dear me! I suppose you _will_ go!" said Mrs. Carter. "But at least
you must wrap up warm and take something in your pockets to eat!"
Just about dark the boys betook themselves to the lower corner of the
new dike. Under the shelter of the old dike they fixed themselves
a hiding place of brush and grass. From this point they could see
distinctly the figure of anyone approaching across the marsh. When
they were comfortably established Ted inquired:
"Say, old fellow, have you got your gun loaded?"
"No!" whispered Will.
"Why not?" asked Ted, anxiously.
"You don't suppose I want to shoot anybody, do you?" said Will. "I've
got both barrels loaded with powder and wadding, so I can scare them
out of their wits. And I've some bird shot in my pocket, to pepper
their legs with if I should have to!"
"O!" said Ted.
The boys talked for perhaps an hour, in a cautious undertone, not
audible ten feet off by reason of the rushing and hissing and clamoring
of the incoming tide. Then they were silent for a while. At length Ted
"O, I say, but I'm getting sleepy. Can't you let me go to sleep for
a bit? Wake me in an hour, and I'll let you snooze."
"S't!" whispered Will, laying his hand on his brother's arm. "I heard
something splash in that pool yonder!"
The boys noiselessly raised their eyes to a level with the top of the
dike. At first they could see nothing. Then they detected a shadowy
figure making for the place where they had last been at work.
A RESCUE AND A BATTLE.
"He's alone!" whispered Ted. "Shall we jump on him?"
"Hold on; wait till he gets to work," said Will. "Then, if we catch
him in the act, he can't make any excuse, but just take his medicine
like a man!"
"It's Baizley, eh?" murmured Ted.
At this moment they heard the stones and planks being pulled off the
end of the dike. Then came the sound of a spade thrust into the clay
"Now," exclaimed Will, "let's onto him! let me get hold of him first,
and then you take a hand in."
Grasping their clubs, and leaving the gun lying by their nest, the
boys slipped over the dike and dashed upon the marauder. So occupied
was the latter with his nefarious task that he heard nothing till
the boys were within ten feet of him. Then he started up, and raised
his spade threateningly.
"Drop that, Baizley, or I'll blow a hole in you!" cried Will, springing
at his neck.
At this instant the silent figure flung itself adroitly off the dike,
dropping the spade and eluding Will's grasp. It started swiftly across
the muddy flat, the two boys close on its heels.
For a few yards the boys just held their own. Then Ted, being the
swifter, forged ahead. In a few seconds more he overtook the fugitive,
sprang upon his neck, and bore him headlong to the ground. The next
moment, before either could recover, Will had come up, and his iron
grip was on the stranger's throat.
"No nonsense, now," said Will, in a voice that carried conviction,
at the same time tapping the fellow's cranium lightly with his club.
"If you don't want the life half pounded out of you, keep still!"
The fellow lay quiet, only gasping:
"Don't choke me!"
Will relaxed his grip, and then exclaimed to Ted, in astonishment:
"Why, it ain't Baizley!"
"Course, it ain't!" growled the fallen one, sullenly, appearing
indignant at the imputation.
"Sit up, and let's look at the fellow that goes round nights cutting
people's dikes!" commanded Will.
The fellow turned over on his face.
"Sit up!" repeated Will, in a cold voice, which sounded as if he was
"Why," exclaimed Ted. "If it isn't Jim Hutchings!"
"Old Hand's man, eh? I begin to smell a mouse," said Will, sarcastically.
"It's as plain as a pikestaff!" almost shouted Ted. "It's old Hand
that ought to get the licking we were going to give you. But we'll
have to pound you a little for his sake and your own too!"
"No, Hutchings," said Will, after a moment's thought. "You deserve
a licking, but we'll let you off. Only take warning. I'll blame old
Hand this time, and you can let him know he's likely to hear from us
about this, and about last night's work. But as for you, if we catch
you fooling round this dike again, you'll be sorry as long as you live.
We're on the watch for you and the likes of you. And over yonder I've
got my gun, in case there were more than one of you in the scrape."
"We've loaded her up, both barrels," said Ted, maliciously, "with
big charges of bird shot, so she'll scatter well and everybody get
By this time Jim Hutchings was on his feet.
"Now clear out!" was Will's peremptory direction.
Hutchings started back toward the dike to get his spade.
"No, you don't," laughed Ted. "That's confiscated!'"
"Never mind the spade!" said Will, firmly, as Hutchings hesitated.
"We'll keep it and try and find some use for it!"
The fellow would have liked to contest the point, but he remembered
the feeling of Will's grip. With an oath he turned on his heel and
made for the uplands. Then the boys went back to the dike, possessed
themselves of the spade, and repaired the slight damage that had
"Shall we stay any longer?" asked Ted, again getting sleepy.
"No, I fancy we won't be bothered this way any more!" answered Will.
"At all events, Jim Hutchings won't come back!" And he chuckled to
Will proved right. The dike was no more molested. By the middle of October
it was within two or three yards of completion. At the gap the ground
was high, so that at ordinary tides there was small outflow and inflow.
Two or three days more of satisfactory work, and the new marsh would be
an accomplished fact Will and Ted were in a fever of anxiety, day and
night, lest something should happen at the last to mar their plans.
Above all, they had a vague dread of some sinister move on the part
of Mr. Hand.
Just at this time it happened that old Jerry lost a shoe. Ted was away
in the woods looking for a stray cow, so Will had to take the horse
down into the village to the blacksmith.
On his return, about the middle of the forenoon, he passed a field in
which Will Hen Baizley was at work digging a ditch. Along the foot of
the field ran a clear trout brook, into which it was evidently the
intention to drain a little swamp which lay further up the slope. Near
where Baizley was digging, the brook widened out into a sandy-bottomed,
sunny pool, in which the minnows were always darting and flickering.
Not far off stood the house of Mr. Israel Hand, where he guarded
the one being he was supposed to love, his little four-year-old orphan
grandson. Whether or not he cared for anyone else, it would be hard
to say; but there was no questioning the fact that he absolutely
worshiped Toddles, as the baby was called. The little one was a
blue-eyed, chubby, handsome lad, with long yellow curls and an unlimited
capacity for mischief.
As Will passed along the road he saw Toddles playing in the field where
Baizley was digging. Presently he was tickled to observe that the child
had discovered Baizley's tin dinner pail, hidden in a clump of raspberry
bushes. The mischievous little rascal promptly emptied the contents out
upon the sward, and then, with his chubby hands full of cheese and
pumpkin pie, scampered over to the edge of the pool.
"Pitty pishies! give pishies 'eir dinner! Pishies! Pishies!" cried
the gleeful little voice; and splash into the pool went the cheese
and pumpkin pie, frightening the "pishies" nearly out of their wits.
Will exploded with laughter; and at the same moment Baizley, looking
up from his work, discovered the fate that had befallen his dinner.
Now Will Hen Baizley was in an unusually bad temper. Digging ditches
was not a labor he was accustomed to, and it made his back ache. In his
best of humors he was a coarse and heartless bully. On this occasion
he was filled with rage against the baby depredator. Toddles had annoyed
him on several previous occasions, and just now Will's laughter was the
one thing best calculated to sting his annoyance into fury. With a roar
that frightened Toddles into instant silence, he rushed forward and
grabbed the child, giving him a violent cuff on the side of the head.
It happened that Mr. Hand was looking out of the window of his house
on the hillside and saw all that happened. With a hoarse cry of rage
and terror he rushed out to the rescue. But the house was three or four
hundred yards away, and his old knees trembled beneath him as he thought
of what the little one might suffer before he could get there.
The poor little fellow was dazed by the blow, and could not get his
breath to scream. The next moment Baizley had seized him by the legs
and soused him in the pool. When he came out again he found his voice,
and a long shriek of pain and terror went through Mr. Hand's heart
like a knife.
All this had happened so quickly that Will was unable to hinder it.
He was choking with indignant pity, and found himself on the fence
and half way across the field before he could yell:
"Drop that, you brute!"
Baizley was too much occupied to hear or heed. He was just about to
duck the little one a second time when Will arrived.
With one hand Will seized the child by the petticoats, and with the
other dealt the ruffian a blow in the mouth that staggered him and
made him release his victim. Will had just time to drop the little
fellow to one side and put up his guard when Baizley was upon him
with a curse.
The blow was a mighty one, and so sudden that Will parried it with
difficulty, at the same time almost staggering upon Toddles, who lay
on his face wailing piteously. Afraid lest the child should get injured
in the conflict, Will dodged aside and ran off a few paces. Ascribing
this movement to fear, Baizley followed him up impetuously, with oaths
On a bit of level, dry turf Will faced his big antagonist. Baizley was
heavy of build, strong of arm, and not without some knowledge of the
pugilistic art. He was also a little taller than Will. To the casual
glance the latter appeared no match for him. Fair-skinned, slender,
and with something of a studious stoop to his shoulders, Will's
appearance gave small indication of the strength that lurked in his
well-corded sinews. Under his pale skin he concealed almost as much
sheer lifting power as Baizley's big frame could muster; and the
steel-like elasticity of his compact muscles gave his blows swiftness
Keen of eye, and with a cool, provoking, indulgent smile hovering faintly
about his mouth at times, he successfully parried several terrific lunges.
He spoke not a word, husbanding his wind prudently, while Baizley, on the
other hand, kept interjecting bursts of fragmentary profanity. About this
time Mr. Hand arrived upon the scene, panting heavily, and seating himself
on the ground, gathered the sobbing Toddles into his arms.
Will's first intention was to act on the defensive till he should weary
his opponent; but his opponent's sledge-hammer fists were not easily
warded off. He got one heavy blow on the chest that made him gasp for
breath; then he tried dodging, and giving ground nimbly and unexpectedly.
At length he saw an opening, and quicker than thought he struck heavily
with his left fist on Baizley's eye. At the same instant in came a
terrific blow which made his head ring and the stars chase themselves
before his eyes.
For a moment the two combatants lurched apart. Will was the first to
recover himself. A white rage surged up within him, and he felt his
veins prickle, his sinews tighten. A new access of nervous energy
seemed to flow into him, and he imagined his strength had been suddenly
doubled. The ruffian's hands struck out both together wildly.
Will's chance had come, and he grasped it. The bully reeled under a
blow between the eyes, and fell headlong.
For a moment he did not stir. Then he began to gather himself up.
"Have you had enough?" inquired Will.
"Yes, I've quit!" growled Baizley.
"You are a contemptible, cowardly brute," continued Will, "and it's
in jail you ought to be. Mind you, now, if I catch you, or hear of
you abusing a youngster again, it's in jail you'll certainly be!"
As Baizley slunk away, Mr. Hand came up with Toddles in his arms.
The little one was still shaking with sobs, and his tear-stained
face looked so white and pitiful that Will felt like going after
Baizley and giving him another thrashing.
"Poor little kid!" he said, compassionately, taking no notice whatever
of Mr. Hand.
But Mr. Hand positively refused to be ignored.
"God bless you, God bless you, William!" he exclaimed, with the ring
of sincere feeling in his voice. "You're a noble young man, a _noble_
young man. I can't thank you; words can't express what I--what I feel
toward you for this."
Here he kissed passionately the yellow head of Toddles as it lay on
"Don't speak of it, Mr. Hand," said Will, wiping his bleeding face.
"Any other fellow would have done the same if he'd had the chance.
That cowardly brute! I wish I hadn't let him off so easy!"
"I'll have him arrested to-morrow," burst out Mr. Hand, his voice
quavering and shrill with anger. "But as for you, William," he continued
more quietly, "what you've done for my Toddles I never can forget.
You sha'n't have no cause to say I'm ungrateful to one that's been
a friend to Toddles!"
"Well, Mr. Hand," said Will, returning to his wagon, "all I can say is
I'm mighty glad I happened along just when I did. Toddles is a great boy,
and I've always liked him, whatever I may have had against his grandfather
since that night on the dike! I hope Toddles won't be a bit the worse now!"
"Don't talk about that dike," pleaded Mr. Hand, nervously. "_Don't_
mention it again! Don't, William! And, William, you will hear from me
in a day or two about business matters. Or, I'll be in to see you!"
A TRANSFER OF THE MORTGAGE.
When Will reached home Ted met him at the gate with a cry of surprise
"What in the world have you been doing to your face?" he questioned.
"Thrashing Baizley!" said Will, tersely.
Ted's exclamations had brought Mrs. Carter to the door in time to hear
Will's reply. She was alarmed at the sight of Will's swollen and
discolored features; and her alarm made her angry.
"I'm ashamed of you, Willie," she cried, "stooping to brawl with a low
fellow like that. It serves you right if you have got hurt. Come, run in
and get your face bathed in hot water. Why, it's dreadful! Go right
up stairs and get me the arnica, Teddie!"
As Mrs. Carter bathed the swollen face in hot water, Ted standing by
with the arnica bottle, Will managed to get out a somewhat grimly
jocose account of the affray. Ted, of course, was jubilant. From time
to time he sprang up and shouted. At length, clapping Will on the back,
so violently that his mother spilled the hot water, he cried:
"Good boy! _Good_ boy! O, if I'd _only_ been there!"
As for Mrs. Carter, her assumed vexation had quickly disappeared. She
listened proudly and in silence. At the end she merely said:
"Dear boy, that was fine of you. It was just what your poor father
would have expected of you!"
Will spluttered some discolored water out of his mouth before replying,
and twisted his features into a lugubrious attempt at a smile.
"I felt pretty big, myself just after it was over," he said at length,
"but now it's sort of different. A fellow can't feel heroic with his
face bunged up like this. But say, muz, old Hand can't be as bad as
they make out when he's so wrapped up in Toddles. He just worships
There was a pause, and in through the window came the rushing clamor
of the creek.
"Well," said Mrs. Carter, rather reluctantly, "Mr. Hand has probably
his redeeming qualities. At least, he appreciated your courage. By
your account he did speak quite nicely."
"What do you suppose he meant by saying you would hear from him in a
day or two?" queried Ted.
"O," said Will, "I think the old fellow is grateful; and I think he's
mighty ashamed of what he got Hutchings to do to our dike that time.
I shouldn't wonder if he'd offer us more time, and withdraw proceedings
"I should _think_ so!" exclaimed Mrs. Carter, indignantly. "He could
hardly have the face to sell us out now! But I don't wish to be under
any obligation to him, that's certain. When the new marsh is sold we
can be entirely independent of him!"
"Yes, muz, that's so," said Will, "but _do_ let _me_ arrange with
him! You say you wanted to deed that new marsh to Ted and me! Now I
make a request of you. Don't talk business at all with Mr. Hand till
I've had a talk with him myself. I promise you I'll consider your wishes
in the matter!"
"Well, since you wish it so much, it shall be as you say!" said
Mrs. Carter, rather unwillingly, at length.
"And also, muz," continued Will, removing the big, wet sponge from
his eyes to make the more potent appeal; "_if_ Mr. Hand should come
to see me when I'm out, _do_ promise to be nice to him!"
Mrs. Carter made no reply.
"Ted wishes it as much as I do, don't you, Ted?" added Will.
"You're just right," responded Ted, fervently. "So much depends on
little things just now!"
Still Mrs. Carter kept silence. Mr. Hand was her most cordial detestation.
"And you know, muz," went on Will, coaxingly, "you can be _so_ fetching
when you want to be, and when you want to be otherwise, well" (and here
Will chuckled). "I don't exactly wonder that old Hand doesn't love you
much. But no one can smooth him down like you, if you only will. Do it,
muz, just for us boys! All you'll have to do will be just smile on him,
and talk about the weather!"
"O, you dreadful flatterer," laughed Mrs. Carter. "Do you think it's
right to try and soft soap your mother this way? Well, I'll promise
to be polite and nice to Mr. Hand if he should call! Will that do?"
"Thank you, muz!" said both the boys together.
The copious use of hot water and arnica soon brought Will's face into
something like shape, and work on the dike was not greatly hindered.
In less than three days more the gap was closed, and the tides finally
shut out from the new marsh. The expanse of reddish-brown mud, dotted
with pools of muddy water and patches of yellow-green salt grass, was
not exactly fair to look upon; but the boys' hearts swelled with triumph
as they surveyed it, leaning on their victorious spades. There was yet
the dike front to be faced, and much ditching to be done besides, ere
the land would become productive.
"But it's good for a hundred and fifty an acre, just as it stands,"
declared Will, his voice trembling a little with exultation.
"Lay it there, old man!" exclaimed Ted, holding out his hand. And the
two boys clasped hands in a grip that was full of love and trust, and
a pledge of mutual support all through the future.
"Now," said Will, "in a day or two I'd better go and see Mr. Germain
and get his advice as to the best way of selling."
"That's a good plan," answered Ted "You take mother with you, she'll
enjoy the drive. And I'll stay and look after things."
"As for old Hand," went on Will, "I shouldn't wonder a bit if he would
offer to knock off that two hundred and fifteen dollars arrears of
"Perhaps," said Ted. "It would be decent of him."
That afternoon, as the Carters were sitting down to tea, Jim Hutchings
arrived with a note from Mr. Hand. The man looked very uncomfortable
as Ted came to the kitchen door. He said he would wait for an answer;
but he surlily refused to come in.
Mr. Hand's note was to Will, asking if he would be at home that evening.
Will answered that he would, and would be glad to see Mr. Hand.
About eight o'clock Mr. Hand appeared, and was ushered by Ted into the
sitting room where Will and his mother were talking over the matter of
the new marsh. Mrs. Carter greeted Mr. Hand quite graciously, as Will
brought forward a chair. Then she started to leave the room.
But Mr. Hand, flattered by her politeness, begged her to remain.
"I thought," said Mrs. Carter, "that if you had business with my son
Will, Ted and I might perhaps be in your way!" and returning to her
chair she took up a piece of sewing. Ted hovered over her, too anxious
and excited to sit down.
"Yes," said Mr. Hand, "my business is entirely with William; but I
should be glad to hear that you approve of it."
Mr. Hand had rather dreaded the possible attitude of Mrs. Carter. It had
been his intention not to let the warm regard he felt for Will interfere
with the stiffness of his demeanor to Will's mother. But Mrs. Carter's
affability had flattered him in spite of himself. At the same time,
he glowed with the consciousness that he was going to perform an act
of really distinguished generosity. He was, by second nature, just what
he got the credit of being, hard, unscrupulous, avaricious. But his
unselfish devotion to his little grandson was gradually opening up a warm
and wholesome spot in his heart, where flourished anew the capabilities
for good which had not been lacking to him in his youth.
As he gazed about the cozy room, and felt his presence not distasteful,
he began to feel very much at ease. The luxury of benefaction was a new
one to him, and he wondered at the keenness of its flavor. He began to
forget what he had intended to say.
"And how is Toddles, Mr. Hand?" inquired Will, presently.
"None the worse, none the worse at all," said Mr. Hand, recalling
himself. "He said he wanted to come and see you, William. He was
anxious to give you a kiss; and he's got a lot of pebbles and his
favorite jackknife stowed away in a little box, to give you when
he sees you!" And Mr. Hand laughed genially. He was prepared to talk
all night on the subject of Toddles.
"And what has become of that ruffian Baizley?" asked Mrs. Carter.
"I never could have imagined anyone being such a fiend as to treat
an innocent baby that way. I hope you have had him arrested."
"He got away. He left on a ship that night," replied Mr. Hand. "But,
madam, you should be very proud of your son William."
"I am," laughed Mrs. Carter. "I am very proud of both my sons."
"But William, if you will allow me to say so, is a very unusual young
man," persisted Mr. Hand. "Edward, of course, is younger, and I don't
know him so well. But I never saw anything like the courage with which
William attacked that ferocious Baizley, who must have been twice his
weight. And the way he handled him, too! It was truly wonderful, madam.
Baizley was just nowhere. I never could have believed it if I had'nt
seen it with my own eyes!"
"Now, Mr. Hand, you'll make me vain, if you don't stop," laughed Will.
"You wouldn't think Baizley was just nowhere if you could have seen
Will's face when he came home that morning," interrupted Ted.
But Mr. Hand was now on the track he had laid down for himself, and
would not be switched off.
"And, moreover," he continued, "you are a judicious young man, William,
and you seem to have an excellent head for business. I admire good
business abilities. In fact, I may say that for a long time I have
felt well disposed toward you. Now, however, allow me to say that
I feel the very highest esteem and regard for you; and as a little
mark of my gratitude, and in the name of my grandson, I beg that you
will accept what is enclosed in this envelope."
He drew from his pocket a long, official-looking envelope, and handed
it to Will with a ceremonious bow.
Will hardly knew what to say. He could not guess what was in it, and all
he could do was to stammer a few confused words of thanks. The envelope
had a very important look, and he was both impressed and mystified.
Ted could not repress his eager curiosity, and came around to Will's
side. Even Mrs. Carter was intensely interested, and forgot to refrain
from showing it. Mr. Hand looked on with a swelling sense of benevolence.
He had anticipated no such delightful sensations.
With his pocketknife Will opened the envelope very carefully along
the end. With nervous fingers he drew out a legal document, with
red seals and several smaller documents attached.
For a moment the legal verbiage of the instruments bewildered him.
Then he exclaimed:
"Why, it's the mortgage! I don't exactly understand! O, Mr. Hand,
this is _too_ good of you. You relinquish the mortgage, the whole debt,
for nothing. That is _too_ generous, really!"
Mrs. Carter was a little overwhelmed. She rose to try and mingle
thanks and protestations, but Mr. Hand cut her short.
"O no, William," he explained, "you have not read all the papers! You
will see that I have not released the mortgage at all. I have made it
over to another person, to _you_, that's all. This farm is still under
mortgage, but you, William, are now the mortgagee. I have nothing more
to do with the matter at all. The claim is all yours, with some two
hundred and fifteen dollars arrears of interest, which you must collect
for yourself the best way you can. But if I may, I would like to intercede
for your good mother now, and beg you not to be too severe!"
Mr. Hand chuckled, as he gazed on the mystified faces about him. Then
Will sprang forward and grasped his hand. He could not find words to
express his gratitude. They simply would not come.
"Then we're not going to be sold out?" cried Ted.
"Not unless William sells you out for the amount of the mortgage.
Ask him," replied Mr. Hand.
Such an act of generosity on the part of "old Hand" deprived even the
impetuous Ted of his powers of expression. But Mrs. Carter found words.
"Really, Mr. Hand," she said, and her voice trembled with deep feeling.
"I wish I could make you see how we appreciate your noble generosity.
I wish you could see how bitterly I reproach myself for the injustice
I have done you in the past. However hard and merciless you may have
seemed to me, I must have grossly misunderstood you; for only a good
and generous heart could prompt you to such an action as this. Neither
I nor my sons can even pretend to thank you. We feel your kindness too
"Mother hits it exactly. That's what I wanted to say, only somehow
I couldn't, Mr. Hand," said Will.
"But will you not let us hope we may be honored with your friendship
in the future?" continued Mrs. Carter. "You must often be lonely at home,
and I should be so pleased to see your little grandson here whenever you
can manage to bring him."
"That's so," exclaimed Ted. "I want to see the young hero that fed Will
Hen Baizley's dinner to the fishes. _He's_ the one we have to thank
for the present jolly state of affairs!"
Mr. Hand was overflowing with good will. Moreover, he was hugely
flattered by Mrs. Carter's words and manner. In his heart he attached
an extravagant importance to the accidents of pedigree. He was struggling
to utter his appreciation of Mrs. Carter's proffered friendship, when
there came a knock at the front door. It was Jim Hutchings, whom Mr. Hand
had left outside to hold the horse.
"There's somebuddy a-goin' to set your barn afire," he whispered eagerly.
"Come quiet, an' we'll ketch him in the act!"
"Fetch a pail of water, Ted," said Will, with prompt presence of mind,
running upstairs for his gun.
While he was gone Mr. Hand asked Hutchings how he knew of it.
"I thought I seen a chap slide behind the barn, so I jest hitched the
hoss an' crep' over to see what he was up ter," explained Hutchings.
As the boys and Hutchings, followed discreetly by Mrs. Carter and
Mr. Hand, emerged from the back door, a glimmer of flame appeared
behind the stable. There was a swift rush, and Ted dashed out the
growing flame with his bucket of water. At the same moment Will and
Jim Hutchings threw themselves upon a man who was just fanning the
flame into vigor.
The stranger sprang up, and a revolver shot rang out upon the night.
On the instant a blow from Will's gunstock brought him to the ground,
and Hutchings grabbed the revolver. "Now keep still, or it'll be the
worse for you," said Will. "Ted, bring a rope."
Partly stunned, or realizing that resistance was useless, the stranger
lay still with one arm over his face. Presently Ted came back with the
rope and a lantern.
"If it isn't Will Hen Baizley back again!" exclaimed Hutchings.
"Thought you'd get even with me before the ship sailed, eh?" inquired
"Well," said Mr. Hand, "I'll see that he is taken care of for a good
while in the penitentiary. Tie him up so he can't make trouble, and
we'll drive him right over to the jail now."
Baizley could not be induced to utter a word, so he was put into the
wagon, where Hutchings held him while Mr. Hand took the reins. As he
bid good night, Mr. Hand said to Will:
"By the way, William, if you decide to sell your mother out, you had
better see the sheriff pretty soon. There'll be some costs, and fees,
and so forth, that you'll have to pay, you know."
"All right," laughed Will, happily. "I guess I can manage. I'm pretty
rich now, you know."
The boys stood at the garden gate with their arms linked to their
mother's and listened to the wagon as it clattered away. Then the
rushing of the flood tide, washing up to their dikes, attracted
"The tide's coming in for us, dear boys," said Mrs. Carter. "How
lovely the creek sounds to-night! Surely God has been very good
to us, and the prospect, that was so dark a while ago, has become
very bright and happy."
"Fifteen hundred dollars' worth of new marsh at least," said Will,
joyously, "and no debt on the farm, no foreclosure, no sheriff's sale!
You, muz and Ted, I verily believe I'll have to sell you out after all,
to keep you from getting too big!"
"Say, old man, let's yell!" exclaimed Ted.
"All right!" began Will; but their mother laid her hands over their mouths.
"O, no! no!" she pleaded "What would the neighbors think--and Mr. Hand?"