Part 3 out of 5
and I know to-night that it is."
A moment later, Jerry lay sleeping like a very little child. For a while
the Indian watched him silently. Then, arising, he took off his buckskin
shirt, folded it neatly, and, lifting the sleeping boy's head, arranged
it as a pillow. Then, naked to the waist, he laid himself down outside
near the fire--and he, too, slept.
The third day a tiny speck loomed across the rim of sky and prairie. It
grew larger with the hours--nearer, clearer. The Indian, shading his
keen eyes with his palm, peered over the miles.
"Little brave," he said, after some silent moments, "they are coming,
one day sooner than we hoped. Your brother, he must have ride like the
prairie wind. Yes, one, no, two buckboards--Hudson's Bay horses. I know
them, those horses."
The boy sat up, staring into the distance. "I don't know whether I'm
glad or sorry," he said. "Father will be driving one buckboard, I know,
and I'd like to see him, but, oh, I don't want to leave you, Five
"You not leave me, not for long," said the Indian. "You come back some
day, when you great doctor. Maybe you doctor my own people. I wait for
But the buckboards were spinning rapidly nearer, and nearer. Yes, there
was his father, Factor MacIntyre, of the Hudson's Bay, driving the first
rig, but who was that beside him?--Billy? No, not Billy. "Oh, it's
_mother_!" fairly yelled Jerry. And the next moment he was in her arms.
"Couldn't keep her away, simply couldn't!" stormed Mr. MacIntyre. "No,
sir, she had to come--one hundred and seventeen miles by the clock!
Couldn't trust me! Couldn't trust Billy! Just _had_ to come herself!"
And the genial Factor stamped around the little camp, wringing Five
Feathers' hand, and watching with anxious look the pale face and thin
fingers of his smallest son.
"Oh, father, mother, he's been so good!" said Jerry, excitedly, nodding
towards the Indian.
"Good? I should think so!" asserted Mr. MacIntyre. "Why, boy, do you
know you would have been lame all your life if it hadn't been for Five
Feathers here? Best Indian in all the Hudson's Bay country!"
"Yes, dearie; the best Indian in all the Hudson's Bay country," echoed
Mrs. MacIntyre, with something like a tear in her voice.
"Bet your boots! Best Indian in all the Hudson's Bay country!"
re-echoed Billy, who had arrived, driving the other buckboard. But Five
Feathers only sat silent. Then, looking directly at Billy, he said, "You
ride day and night, too. You nearly kill that horse?"
"Yes, I nearly did," admitted Billy.
"Good brother you. You my brother, too," said the Indian, holding out
his hand; and Billy fairly wrung that slender, brown hand--that hand,
small and kind as a woman's.
* * * * * * * *
This all happened long ago, and last year Jerry MacIntyre graduated from
McGill University in Montreal with full honors in medicine. He had three
or four splendid offers to begin his medical career, but he refused them
all, smilingly, genially, and to-day he is back there, devoting his life
and skill to the tribe of Five Feathers, "best Indian in all the
Hudson's Bay country."
Sons of Savages
Life-Training of the Redskin Boy-child
The redskin boy-child who looks out from his little cradle-board on a
world of forest through whose trails his baby feet are already being
fitted to follow is not many hours old before careful hands wrap him
about with gay-beaded bands that are strapped to the carven and colored
back-board that will cause him to stand erect and upright when he is a
grown warrior. His small feet are bound against a foot support so that
they are exactly straight; that is to start his walk in life aright.
He is but an atom in the most renowned of the savage races known to
history, a people that, according to the white man's standard, is
uncivilized, uneducated, illiterate, and barbarous. Yet the upbringing
of every Red Indian male child begins at his birth, and ends only when
he has acquired the learning considered essential for the successful
man to possess, and which has been predetermined through many ages by
many wise ancestors.
His education is twofold, and always is imparted in "pairs" of
subjects--that is, while he is being instructed in the requisites of
fighting, hunting, food getting, and his national sports, he takes
with each "subject" a very rigid training in etiquette, for it would
be as great a disgrace for him to fail in manners of good breeding as
to fail to take the war-path when he reaches the age of seventeen.
The education of an Iroquois boy is begun before he can even speak. The
first thing he is taught is courage--the primitive courage that must
absolutely despise fear--and at the same time he is thoroughly grounded
in the first immutable law of Indian etiquette, which is that under no
conceivable conditions must one ever stare, as the Redskin races hold
that staring marks the lowest level of ill-breeding.
SECOND, RELIGIOUS TRAINING
His second subject is religious training. While he is yet a baby in
arms he is carried "pick-a-back" in his mother's blanket to the ancient
dances and festivals, where he sees for the first time, and in his
infant way participates in, the rites and rituals of the pagan faith,
learning to revere the "Great Spirit," and to anticipate the happy
hunting grounds that await him after death.
At the end of a long line of picturesque braves and warriors who circle
gracefully in the worshipping dance, his mother carries him, her
smooth, soft-footed, twisting step lulling him to sleep, for his tiny,
copper-colored person, swinging to every curve of the dance, soon
becomes an unconscious bit of babyhood. But the instant he learns to
walk, he learns, too, the religious dance-steps, Then he rises to the
dignity of being allowed to slip his hand in that of his father and
take his first important steps in the company of men.
Accompanying his religious training is the all-important etiquette of
accepting food without comment. No Indian talks of food, or discusses it
while taking it. He must neither commend nor condemn it, and a child who
remarks upon the meals set before him, however simple the remark may be,
instantly feels his disgrace in the sharpest reproof from his parents.
It is one of the unforgivable crimes.
TRICKS OF FOOD-GETTING
His third subject is to master the tricks of food-getting. His father,
or more often his grandfather, takes him in hand at an early age, and
minutely trains him in all the art and artifice of the great life-fight
for food both for himself and for those who may in later years be
dependent on him. He is drilled assiduously in hunting, fishing,
trapping, in game calls, in wood and water lore; he learns to paddle
with stealth, to step in silence, to conceal himself from the scent and
sight of bird and beast, to be swift as a deer, keen as an eagle, alert
as a fox.
He is admonished under no conditions, save in that of extreme hunger or
in self-defence, to kill mating game, or, in fact, to kill at all save
for food or to obtain furs for couch purposes. Wanton slaying of wild
things is unknown among the uncivilized Red Indians. When they want
occupation in sport or renown, they take the warpath against their
fellow-kind, where killing will flaunt another eagle-feather in their
crest, not simply another pair of antlers to decorate their tepee.
With this indispensable lesson in the essentials of living always comes
the scarcely less momentous one of the utter unimportance of youth. He
is untiringly disciplined in the veneration of age, whether it be in man
or woman. He must listen with rapt attention to the opinions and advice
of the older men. He mast keep an absolute silence while they speak,
must ever watch for opportunities to pay them deference.
AGE BEFORE LINEAGE
If he happen, fortunately, to be the son of a chief of ancient lineage,
the fact that he is of blood royal will not excuse him entering a door
before some aged "commoner." Age has more honor than all his patrician
line of descent can give him. Those lowly born but richly endowed with
years must walk before him; he is not permitted to remain seated if some
old employee is standing even at work; his privilege of birth is as
nothing compared with the honor of age, even in his father's hireling.
The fourth thing he must master is the thorough knowledge of medicinal
roots and herbs--antidotes for snake-bite and poison--also the various
charms and the elementary "science" of the medicine man, though the
occupation of the latter must be inherited, and made in itself a life
study. With this branch of drilling also is inculcated the precept of
etiquette never to speak of or act slightingly of another's opinion,
and never to say the word "No," which he is taught to regard as a rude
refusal. He may convey it by manner or action, but speak it--never.
And during the years he is absorbing this education he is unceasingly
instructed in every branch of warfare, of canoe-making, of fashioning
arrows, paddles and snow-shoes. He studies the sign language, the
history and legends of his nation; he familiarizes himself with the
"archives" of wampum belts, learning to read them and to value the great
treaties they sealed. He excels in the national sports of "lacrosse,"
"bowl and beans," and "snow snake," and when, finally, he goes forth
to face his forest world he is equipped to obtain his own living with
wisdom and skill, and starts life a brave, capable, well-educated
gentleman, though some yet call him an uncivilized savage.
Jack o' Lantern
Everybody along the river knew old "Andy" Lavergne; for years he had
been "the lamplighter," if such an office could exist in the rough
backwoods settlement that bordered that treacherous stream in the timber
country of northern Ontario. He had been a great, husky man in his time,
who could swing an axe with the best of the lumbermen, but an accident
in a log jam had twisted his sturdy legs and hips for life, and laid him
off active service, and now he must cease to accompany the great gangs
of choppers in the lumber camps, and do his best to earn a few honest
dollars about the settlement and the sawmill. So the big-hearted mill
hands paid him good money for doing many odd jobs, the most important of
which was to keep a lantern lighted every dark night, both summer and
winter, to warn them of the danger spot in the Wildcat river, that raced
in its treacherous course between the mill and their shanty homes on the
This danger spot was a perfect snarl of jagged rocks, just below the
surface of the black waters that eddied about in tiny whirlpools, deadly
to any canoe in summer, and still more deadly in winter, for the ice
never formed here as in the rest of the river. Only a thin, deceptive
coating ever bridged that death hole, and the man who mistook it for
solid ice would never live to cross that river again. So, on the high
bank above this death trap old Andy lighted his lantern, year in and
year out. Sometimes he was accompanied by his old grey horse, who
followed him about like a dog. Sometimes little Jacky Moran, his young
neighbor, went to help him on very stormy or windy nights. Sometimes
both Jacky and the horse would go, and as a reward for his assistance
old Andy would always lift the boy to the grey's back and let him ride
home. Then one wet spring old Andy got rheumatism in his poor, twisted
legs, and the first night he was unable to leave his shanty Jacky came
whistling in at nightfall and offered to take the lantern up stream
alone. Andy consented gratefully, and, with the horse at his heels,
Jacky set out for the bank above the dangerous spot.
"I believe, old Grey, it's the lantern you love as much as you love
Andy," laughed the boy as he struck a match and sheltered its flame from
the wind. "Here you are following me and the lantern just as if you
belonged to us, or as if Andy were here. How's that?" But the old grey
only stood watching the lamp-lighting. His long, pathetic face was very
expressive, but, try as he would, he could not speak and tell the boy
that he had learned to love him as well as Andy. So he only put his soft
nose down to Jacky's shoulder, and in his own silent way coaxed the boy
to mount and ride home, which Jacky promptly did, bursting into the old
Frenchman's shanty with the news that the grey had followed the lantern.
"Don't you believe it, Jacky," chuckled Andy. "The grey loves the
lantern, I know, but it's you he's followed. You see that horse knows
a lot, and he knows that his old master is never likely to light that
lantern again, and he wants you for his master now."
"Well, he may have me," smiled the boy. "We'll just light up together
after this." Which they certainly did, for that was the beginning of
the end. Andy could never hobble much further than his own door, and
Jacky took upon his young shoulders the duties of both lamp-lighting
and feeding and caring for his now constant companion, the grey.
"I see your Jacky is helping old Andy since he's been laid up," said
Alick Duncan, the big foreman, some weeks later, as he paddled across
the river with the boy's father.
"Oh, he likes Andy," replied Mr. Moran, "and he likes the old horse,
and he likes the work, too. He feels important every time he lights
that lantern to steer the mill hands off danger.
"Speaking of the horse," went on the big foreman, "they're short one up
at the lumber camp. The boss sent down yesterday that we had to get him
an extra horse by hook or crook. They've started hauling logs. It would
be a great thing if Andy could sell that nag at a good figure. It would
help him out. He's hard up for cash, I bet. I'll speak to him to-night
At supper Tom Moran mentioned what a fine thing it was for Andy that
there was an urgent demand for a horse at the lumber camp; that he could
get twice the money for old Grey that the animal was worth. Mrs. Moran
agreed that it would be a great help to old Andy, but Jacky's small face
went white, he ceased his boyish chatter, and his little throat refused
to swallow a mouthful of food.
As soon as he could, he escaped, slipped outside, and made for Andy's
shanty as fast as his young legs could carry him. With small ceremony
he flung open the door, to find the old Frenchman sitting in his barrel
chair, a single tallow candle on the shelf above his head, his ever
present pipe between his lips, and his lame leg stuck up on a bench
before the tumbledown stove, where a good spruce fire crackled and
burned. For the first time the extreme poverty of the place struck
Jacky's senses. He realized instantly, but for the first time, how much
in need of money the poor old cripple must be, but, nevertheless, his
voice shook as he exclaimed, "Oh, Andy, you won't sell old Grey? Oh,
you won't, will you?"
"Why not, youngster?" asked a deep voice from the gloom beyond the
stove, and Jacky saw with a start that Alick Duncan was already there
with his offer to buy.
"Because," began the boy, "because--well, because he helps us, Andy and
me; he helps us light up at night." It was a lame excuse, and poor Jacky
"It appears to me Andy ain't doing much lighting up these days," went on
the foreman. "And you know, kid, Andy's old and sick, and money don't
come easy to him. If he gets one square meal of pork and beans a day,
he's getting more than I think he does. The horse is no use to him now.
He can't even pay for its keep when next winter comes. He can't use it,
anyhow, and Andy needs the money."
But the boy had now recovered his balance.
"But timber hauling would kill old Grey. He wouldn't last any time at
it; he's too old," he argued.
"That's so, sunny," said the foreman; "he sure can't last long at that
work, but don't you see Andy will have his money, even if the horse does
"But--but Grey will die," said the boy tremulously.
"Maybe," answered the foreman, "but Andy will have something to live on,
and that is more important."
"But I'll help Andy," cried the boy enthusiastically. "I'm used to the
lighting up now. I can do all the work. Can't the mill hands go on
paying him just the same as ever? Can't they, Andy? I'll do the
lamp-lighting for you, and we'll just keep old Grey. Won't you, Andy?
The boy was at Andy's shoulder, his thin young fingers clutched the old
shirt-sleeve excitedly, his voice arose, high and shrill and earnest.
"Why, boy," said the old Frenchman, "I didn't know you cared so much.
_I_ don't want to sell Grey, and I _won't_ sell him if you help me with
my work for the mill hands."
Alick Duncan rose to his feet, his big, hearty laugh ringing out as
Jacky seized his hand with the words, "There, Mr. Duncan, Andy _won't_
sell Grey. He says so. You heard him."
The big foreman stooped, picked up the boy, and swung him on his
shoulder as if he had been a kitten.
"All right, little Jack o' Lantern, do as you like. We mill hands will
go on with Andy's pay, only you help him all you can--and maybe he'll
keep the old grey--just for luck."
"I _know_ it's for luck," laughed Jacky. "The grey knows so much. Why,
Mr. Duncan, he knows _everything_; he knows as much as the mill hands."
"I dare say," said the big foreman, dryly. "If he didn't he wouldn't
have even horse sense."
"But why do you call me that--'Jack o' Lantern'?" asked the boy from his
perch on the big man's shoulder.
"Because I thought the name suited you," smiled the foreman. "I've often
seen the little Jack o' Lantern hovering above the marshes and swales,
a dancing, pretty light, moving about to warn woodsmen of danger spots,
just as your lantern, Jacky, warns the rivermen of that nasty 'wildcat'
place in the river."
"But," said the boy, "dad has always told me that the Jack o' Lantern is
a foolish light, that it deceives people, that it misleads them, that
sometimes they follow it and then get swamped in the marshes."
"Yes, but folks know enough to _not_ follow your lantern, boy," answered
the foreman seriously. "Your light is a warning, not an invitation."
"Well, the warning light will always be there, as long as I have legs to
carry it," assured Jacky, as the big foreman set him down on the floor.
Then--"And when I fail, I'll just send the grey."
They all laughed then, but none of them knew that, weeks later, the
boy's words would come true.
It was late in January, and the blackest night that the river had ever
known. A furious gale drove down from the west and the very stars were
shut in behind a gloomy sky. Little Jacky Moran trimmed his lantern,
filled it with oil, whistled for Grey, and set forth as the black night
was falling. The oncoming darkness seemed to outdo itself. Before he
was half way up the river, night fell, and he found that he could see
but a very few feet before him, although it was not yet half-past five
o'clock. At six the men would leave the mill over the river, and,
journeying afoot across the ice, would reach home in safety if the
lantern were lighted, and if not, any or all of them might be plunged
into the treacherous "Wild Cat," with no hope of ever reaching shore
"He called me Jack o' Lantern," the boy said to himself. "It's a
dancing, deceiving light, but he'll find to-night that I'll deceive
nobody." And through the darkness the child plodded on. Behind him
walked the stiff-kneed old horse, solemn-faced and faithful, following
the lantern with stumbling gait, his soft nose, as ever, very near the
boy's shoulder. The way seemed endless, and Jacky, with stooped and
huddled shoulders, bent his head to the wind and forged on. Then, just
as he was within fifty yards of the turn that led up to the danger spot,
an unusually wild gust swept his cap from his head and sent it bounding
off the narrow footpath. Boylike, he reached for it, and failing to
recapture it, started in pursuit. In the darkness he did not see the
little ledge of earth and rock that hung a few feet above a "dip" on the
left side, and in his hurried chase he suddenly plunged forward, and
was hurled abruptly to a level far below the footpath. He fell heavily,
badly. One foot got twisted somehow, and as he landed he heard a faint
sharp "crack" in the region of his shoe. Something seemed to grow numb
right up to his knee. He tried to struggle to his feet, but dropped down
into a wilted little heap. Then he realized with horror that he was
unable to stand. For a moment he was bewildered with pain and the utter
darkness, for in his fall the lantern had rolled with him, then gone
out. The boy struck a match, and with but little difficulty lighted the
lantern. It seemed strange that the gale had ceased so suddenly, until,
in looking about, he saw that he was in a hollow, and the wind was
roaring above his head. He was quite sheltered where he lay, but his
brief gratitude for this gave way to horrified dismay when he discovered
that the light, too, was sheltered--that the ledge of earth and rock
arose between him and the river bank, that he could never reach the
dreaded danger spot with his warning light, and, near to it though he
was, the flame was completely obscured from the sight of anyone crossing
For a moment the situation overwhelmed him. He sat and shivered. The
agony of his injured foot was now asserting itself above the first
numbness, and the realization that he was failing to warn the mill
hands, that he was only a Jack o' Lantern after all, seized on his young
heart and brain like a torturing claw. Despair settled down on him,
blacker, more terrible than the coming night. He fancied he could hear
the mill hands crash through the death hole, and he called wildly,
"Help! Oh, somebody help me!" all the time knowing that the shanties
were too far away for anyone there to hear, and that the footpath above
him was too lonely for any chance lumberman to be taking at this hour.
No one ever passed that way but himself, and in the old days Andy and
the grey--oh, he had not thought of the grey--where had the animal gone?
Instantly he whistled, called, whistled again, and over the ledge above
his head looked a long, serious face, with great solemn eyes, and a
soft, warm nose. The very sight gave the boy courage, and at his next
whistle the old horse carefully picked his way down the bank, and
reaching down his long neck, felt Jacky's shoulder with his velvety
"Oh, Grey," cried the boy, "you must help me. You must do something, oh,
something, to help!" Then he made an attempt to stand, to get on the
animal's back, but his poor foot gave out, and he huddled down to the
ground again in pitiful, hopeless pain. The horse's nose touched his
ear, starting him from a fast oncoming stupor. At the same instant the
six o'clock whistle blew at the mill across the frozen river. In a few
moments the men would be coming home, crossing the ice, perhaps to their
death instead of to the warm supper awaiting them at their shanty homes.
The thought of it all gripped Jacky's young heart with fear, but he was
powerless to warn them. He could not take a single step, and he was
rapidly becoming paralyzed with cold and pain. Once more the soft nose
of the old horse touched his ear. With the nearness of the warm,
friendly nose, his quick wit returned.
"Grey!" he almost shouted, "Grey-Boy, do you think _you_ could take the
lantern? Oh, Grey-Boy, help me think! I'm getting so numb and sleepy.
Oh, couldn't _you_ carry it for me?" With an effort the boy struggled
to his knees, and slipping his arms about the neck of his old chum,
he cried, "Oh, Grey, I saved you once from dying at the logging camp.
They'd have killed you there. Save the mill hands now just for me,
Grey, just for Jack o' Lantern, because I'm deceiving them at last."
The warm, soft nose still snuggled against his ear. The horse seemed
actually to understand. In a flash the boy determined to tie the lantern
to the animal's neck. Then, in another flash, he realized that he had
nothing with which to secure it there. The horse had not an inch of
halter or tie line on him. An inspiration came to him like an answer to
prayer, and within two seconds he acted upon it. Ripping off his coat,
he flung it over the horse's neck, the sleeves hanging down beneath the
animal's throat. Slipping one through the ring handle of the lantern, he
knotted them together. The horse lifted his head, and the lantern swung
clear and brilliant almost under the soft, warm nostrils.
"Get up there, old Grey! Get up!" shouted the boy desperately,
"clicking" with his tongue the well-known sound to start a horse on
the go. "Get up! And oh, Grey, go to the danger spot, nowhere else.
The danger spot, quick! Get up!"
The animal turned, and slowly mounted the broken ledge of earth and
rock. Jacky watched with strained, aching eyes until the light
disappeared over the bluff. Then his agonized knees collapsed. His
shoulders, with no warmth except the thin shirt-sleeves to cover them,
began to sting, then ache, then grow numb. Once more he huddled into
a limp little heap, and this time his eyes closed.
* * * * * * * *
"Do you know, father, I'm anxious about Jacky," said Mrs. Moran, as
they sat down to supper without the boy. "He's never come back since
he started with the lantern, and it's such an awful night. I'm afraid
something has happened to him."
"Why, nothing could have happened," answered Mr. Moran. "The lantern was
burning at the 'death-hole' all right as we crossed the ice."
"Then why isn't Jacky home long ago?" asked Mrs. Moran. "He never goes
to Andy's at this hour. He is always on time for supper. I don't like
it, Tom, one bit. The night is too bad for him not to have come directly
home. There, hear that wind." As she spoke the gale swept around the
bend of the river, and the house rocked with the full force of the
Tom Moran shoved back his chair, leaving his meal half finished. "That's
so," said he, a little anxiously, as he got into his heavy coat. "I'll
go up shore and see. Oh, there's Alick now, and 'Old Mack,'" as a
thundering knock fell on the door. "They said they were coming over
after supper for a talk with me." Then, as the door burst open, and the
big foreman, accompanied by "Old Mack," shouldered their way into the
room, Tom Moran added: "Say, boys, the kid ain't home, and his mother is
getting nervous about him. Will you two fellows take a turn around the
bend with me to hunt him up?"
"What!" yelled the big foreman. "Our little Jack o' Lantern out in this
blizzard? You better believe we'll go with you, Tom. And what's more,
we'll go right now. Hustle up, boys." And Alick Duncan strode out again,
with a frown of anxiety knitting his usually jovial face.
"Lantern's there all right," he shouted, as they neared the bank above
the danger spot. He was a few yards in advance of Jack's father and
"Old Mack." Then suddenly he stood stock still, gave vent to a long,
explosive whistle, and yelled, "Well, I'll be gin-busted! Look a' there,
boys!" And following his astounded gaze, they saw, on the brink of the
river, an old grey horse, with down-hanging head, his back to the gale,
and about his neck a boy's coat, from the knotted sleeves of which was
suspended a lighted lantern.
Tom Moran was at the animal's side instantly. "His mother was right," he
cried. "Something has happened to Jacky." And he began searching about
"Now look here, Tom," said the big foreman, "keep your boots on,
and take this thing easy. If that horse knows enough to stand there
a-waiting for the boy, he knows enough to help us find him. We'll just
pretend to lead him home, and see what he'll do." And relieving the
horse of the lantern, he tied the little coat closer about the long
throat, and, using it as a halter, induced the grey to follow him. Down
the bank from the danger spot they went, round the bend to the footpath,
along the trail for fifty yards. Then the horse stopped. "Come on here!
Get up!" urged the big foreman, as he strained at the coat sleeve. But
the horse stood perfectly still, and refused to be coaxed further. "I'll
bet Jack o' Lantern is around here somewhere. Jack o'--oh, Jack o'!" he
shouted, for Tom Moran's throat was choked. He could not call the boy's
"Jack o' Lantern--where are you?" reiterated Alick Duncan. But there was
Meanwhile "Old Mack" had been snooping around the hollows at one side of
the trail, and Jacky's father was peering about the ledges opposite.
Presently he stopped, leaned over, and with love-sharpened eyesight, saw
a little, dark heap far below lying in the snow. "There's something
here, boys," he called brokenly.
Alick Duncan sprang to the ledge, looked over, made a strange sound with
his throat, and with an icy fear in his great heart, that never had
known fear before, he laid his big hand on Tom Moran's shoulder and
said, "Stay here, Tom. I'll go. It will be better for _me_ to go." And
slipping over the ledge, he dropped down beside the unconscious boy.
In another minute he was rubbing the cold hands, rousing the dormant
senses. Presently Jacky spoke, and with a shout of delight the big
foreman lifted the boy in his huge arms, and, struggling up the uneven
ledge, he shouted, "He's all O.K., Tom--just kind of laid out, but
still in the fight."
With the familiar voice in his ears, Jacky's senses returned, for,
lifting his head, he cried, "Oh, Mr. Duncan, did Grey-Boy take the
lantern to the danger-spot?"
"Bet your boots he did, son," said Tom Moran, stretching down his arms
to help the big foreman lift his burden. "We found him standing still
and firm as a flag pole, with that light hoisted under his chin."
"Thank goodness!" sighed the boy. "Oh, I was _so_ afraid he'd go home
with it, instead of to the river." Then, with a little gasp, "Mr.
Duncan, I told you once Grey had as much sense as a man. He saved you."
"No, Jack o' Lantern," said the big foreman gently, as he wrapped his
great coat around the half-frozen boy, "no, siree, it was you, and your
quick wits, that did it. Old Grey got the lantern habit, but it would
have done no good had you not had sense enough to sling the light around
his neck; and you leaving yourself to freeze here without a coat--bless
you, youngster! The mill hands and this big Scotchman won't forget
_that_ in a hurry."
And it was on faithful old Grey's back that the injured boy rode
home--home to warm blankets, warm supper, and the warm love of his
mother, but also to the knowledge that one of the smaller bones in his
ankle had broken when he heard that snapping sound. But it did not take
so long to mend, after all, and one day in the early spring the big
foreman appeared, his shrewd eyes twinkling with fun, although he made
the grave statement that Andy had at last consented to sell old Grey.
"It isn't true! It can't be true!" gasped Jacky. "Sell Grey-Boy after
what he did to save the mill hands? Oh! I _can't_ believe Andy would do
such a thing." And his thin little face went white, and his poor foot
dragged as he stood erect, as if to fight for the horse's rights.
"But Andy has sold him, nevertheless," grinned Alick Duncan, "sold him
to me and the other mill hands, and we're going to give him away."
"Away?" cried the boy, with startled, agonized eyes.
"Yes, lad," answered the big foreman seriously; and placing his strong
hand on Jacky's head, he added, "Give him away to the bravest little
chap in the world--a chap we all call Jack o' Lantern."
For a moment the boy stood speechless, then held out his arms--for the
old grey horse had come slowly up to the shanty, and with downbent head
was laying his soft, warm muzzle against Jacky's ear.
The Barnardo Boy
The only thing that young Buckney could say to express his surprise at
the wonderful stone buildings was "Blow me!" He had expected to find
that the great Canadian city of Montreal would be just a few slab
shacks, with forests on all sides, and painted Indians prowling,
tomahawk in hand, in search of scalps. When he left the big Atlantic
liner with twenty other raw English lads of his own street-bred sort, he
thought he was saying good-bye to civilization forever. And here, all
around him, arose the massive stone-built city, teeming with life, with
gayety, wealth, and poverty, carriages, horses, motor cars--why, it was
just like London, after all! And once more "Buck" said, "Blow me!"
"What's that he says, father?" asked a slender young lady who had
accompanied her father, the great surgeon, to help him select a
Barnardo boy to assist the stableman.
"Oh, it's an English street expression," smiled the surgeon. "I expect
he'll have dozens of queer sayings."
"Never mind," said the young lady; "he has a nice face, and his eyes
lock terribly straight at one. I think we'll take him, father?"
Her voice rose in a question, but it took Buck just two seconds to
know she need not have asked it. The great surgeon would have taken
an elephant if she had expressed a liking for it.
"Keep on the right side of her and you'll stand in wid de old man,"
whispered the boy next to him.
"Don't yer t'ink I sees dat?" sneered Buck. "Yer must t'ink I lef' my
h'yes in Lunnon." And the shrewd young street arab arose to his feet,
touched his cap with his forefinger, and said:
"H'all right, sir; I 'opes I'll suit."
That was the beginning of it, yet, notwithstanding Buck had made up his
mind that whatever happened he would _make_ himself "suit," still he met
with a serious discouragement the very next morning, when his unwilling
ears overheard a conversation between the surgeon and the stableman. The
latter was saying:
"I hope you will excuse me speaking, Doctor, but I think you've made a
mistake getting this here green Barnardo boy to help with the horses.
They never do know nothin', those English boys, and you can't teach
"Well," hesitated the doctor, "we'll have to give him a trial, I
suppose. Miss Connie took a fancy to him."
"Oh, _Miss Connie_, was it?" repeated the stableman, in quite another
tone. "Then that settles it, sir." And it did.
"So I owes dis 'ere 'ome to 'Miss Connie,' does I?" remarked Buck to
himself. "Den if dis is so, I's good for payin' of her fer it." Only
he pronounced "pay" "py."
But it was a long two years before the boy got any chance to "py" her
for her kindness, and when the chance did come, he would have given his
sturdy young life to avert it. By this time, much mixing with Canadians
had blunted his London street-bred accent. To be sure he occasionally
slipped an "h," or inserted one where it should not be, but he was fast
swinging into line with the great young country he now called "home."
He could eat Indian corn and maple syrup, he could skate, toboggan, and
ply a paddle, he could handle a horse as well as Watkins, the stableman,
who was heard on several occasions to remark that he could not get along
without the boy.
In the holidays, when Miss Connie was home from school, Buck was
frequently allowed to drive her, or sit in his cream and brown livery
beside her while she drove herself. These were always great occasions,
for no refined feminine being had ever come into his life before. If
he ever had a mother--which he often doubted--he certainly had no
recollection of her or her surroundings. To be sure the women about the
"Home" in far-off England were kind and good, but this slim Canadian
girl was so different. She looked like a flower, and he had never heard
her speak a harsh, unlovely word in all those two years. Once as he
stood at the carriage door, the rug over his arm, waiting for Miss
Connie to descend the steps for her afternoon drive, an impudent little
"Canuck" jeered at him in passing.
"Hello, Hinglish!" he yelled. "We're a Barnardo boy, we h'is, fer all
our swell brass buttons."
Buck winced. How he hated Watkins on the box to hear this everlasting
taunt cast at him. But a sweet voice from the steps called:
"You are quite right, my boy. He is a Barnardo boy. I wish we were all
as great and good as Dr. Barnardo. I am proud to have one of his boys
in my household."
The young urchin shrank away, abashed, for it was Miss Connie's voice.
Buck pulled himself together, touched his hat, and opened the carriage
door. But the girl paused on the steps, and her voice was very sincere
as she said: "I mean it, Buckney" (she always called him "Buckney").
"I am very proud to have you here."
Buck touched his hat. "Thank you, madam," was all he said, but his young
heart sang with gratitude. Would he _ever_ get the chance to show her
how he valued her kindness, he wondered. And then--the chance came.
Buck was never a heavy sleeper; his boyhood had been too bedless for
him to attach much importance to sleep now. Too often had the tip of
a policeman's boot stirred him gently, as he lay curled up near an
alley-way in London. Too often had rude kicks awakened him, when down in
the "slums" he huddled, numb with cold and hunger. His ears had grown
acute, his legs nimble in that dreadful, faraway life, and listening
while he slept became second nature. Thus he sat bolt upright in his
comfortable little bed above the carriage house when a soft creeping
footstep stole up the gravel walk from the stables to the kitchen. The
night was very warm, and the open window at his elbow was shutterless.
In the dark he could see nothing at first, then he made out the figure
of a man, crouching low, and creeping around the kitchen porch to the
doctor's surgery window. Immediately afterwards a low, gentle, rasping
sound fell on his ears. He had seen enough of crime in the old days to
know the man was filing something. Should he awaken Watkins? What was
the use? Watkins would probably jump up, exclaiming aloud. He always did
when awakened suddenly. Perhaps, after all, he could alarm the family
before the man got in. Then, to his amazement, someone opened the window
from the _inside_. By this time Buck had got his "night-sight." The man
inside was exactly like the man outside, and he had evidently effected
an entrance into the house some time during the day when the maids were
upstairs, and had probably concealed himself in the cellar. Both wore
masks. Instantly Buck was out of bed, dragging on his trousers. Then,
barefooted and shirtless, he slipped downstairs, slid the side door open
enough to squeeze through, and peered out. All he could see was the last
leg of a man disappearing through the window. They were both inside now.
Buck knew every room, hall and door in that house, for every spring
and fall he had helped the maids "clean house," taking up and laying
carpets. The knowledge stood him in good stead now. What window upstairs
would be open, he wondered. The bath-room, of course; it was small, but
he could wriggle through it, he told himself, or he would break every
bone in his body, at least, trying. All this time he was running and
crouching along the shadow of the high stone wall, that, bordered with
shrubs, made splendid "cover." He reached the kitchen, and, without
waiting to think whether it would bear him or not, seized hold of the
twisted vine trunks of the old Virginia creeper that partly covered the
house from ground to roof. Fortunately they held, and up he went like a
young squirrel, his bare toes clutching like claws in the tangle of the
stems and twigs. He gained the roof, crawled rapidly along, and reached
the bath-room window, only to find he could barely clutch the sill with
the tips of his fingers. Standing on tiptoe, he got a little grip, then
his bare toes and knees started to work; inch by inch up they went over
the rough stone wall, while his hands slipped further and further over
the sill, until they could seize the ledge on the inside. Twice his
knees slid back, then his toes refused to clutch. They grew wet, and
warm, and he knew the sickening slipping back was because of blood
oozing from his skin. But he was in the bath-room now, and didn't care.
Then, as he flung the door open, the whole downstairs hall was flooded
with light, and a strange choking sound came from below. Then the
doctor's voice, smothered but audible, begging, "Go back! Go back,
Connie! Lock your door!"
"You say one word aloud and I'll fire!" said a low voice, and Buck
reached the head of the stairs only to see Doctor Raymond lying half
dressed on the floor, his hands tied behind him, and a grasp of strong,
dirty fingers on his throat.
"Oh, you're killing him! You're killing my father!" cried Miss Connie,
in a half scream, as, too frightened to move, she stood huddled back
in a corner, gripping a large cloak about her.
Buck stared at the scene a fraction of a second. He could understand it
all. The doctor had been alarmed and had gone downstairs to investigate.
Miss Connie had been awakened and had followed her father, thinking
probably that he was ill. All this flashed through the boy's mind as
he flung out his weaponless hands in despair, but the gesture was the
salvation of the household. His fingers touched something cold, hard,
polished. It was a huge, heavy, brass bowl that held a fern. How often
his strong young fingers had cleaned that bowl with powder and chamois
skin, with never a thought that it would serve him well some time!
Now he grasped it, and creeping noiselessly around the large, square
"balcony" of the upstairs hall, he stood directly above the ruffian
whose fingers yet clutched the doctor's throat.
"Catch that girl!" the other man was saying. "She'll scream! Catch her,
I say, and gag her!"
"Oh, my girl, my little girl! Leave her alone, you demons!" gasped the
helpless doctor. But just as the fingers loosed their brutal grasp
on the father's throat to reach for the frail, delicate flesh of the
daughter's, straight as a carpenter's leaden plumb there crashed on to
the top of the assailant's head a huge, polished brass bowl. The man
fell, limp, senseless as a corpse. His confederate whirled on his heel,
and fired his revolver twice rapidly above his head, just missing Buck.
Connie shrieked, and the next moment the big, unclean fingers had
locked themselves about her throat, and she was forced to her knees,
while a guttural voice said: "Scream, will you! Well, try it! _This_
is what you get!"
For weeks Buck's ears rang with that awful, smothered cry of his young
mistress, of the tortured voice of the doctor, helplessly choking, "Oh,
my girl! My daughter!" But by this time Buck was three steps from the
bottom, and the back of the burglar was toward him as he crouched over
the struggling girl, choking the screams in her delicate throat. Like a
vampire, Buck sprang from the third stair, landing on the man's back,
his legs worked inside the man's elbows, pinioning the scoundrel's arms
back like a trussed turkey, his arms went round the bull-like neck,
and his tough young fingers closed on a sinewy throat. He clung to the
creature's back like an octopus, while they rolled over and over, and
the terrified girl struggled up, regaining her breath.
"Quick! quick! Miss Connie! The telephone! The police! Ring! Ring!"
Buck managed to shout. Then, "Untie the doctor's hands and feet!"
But the burglar's arms were now gripping behind him, and digging, cruel
fingers pierced Buck's flesh. But the boy never relaxed his octopus
hold. The tighter the big nails clutched, the tighter his own boyish
fingers stiffened on the man's throat.
An eternity seemed to elapse. He saw Miss Connie fly to the telephone,
then her weak little hands struggled with the ropes on her father's
wrists. But before she could begin to loose them, four gigantic men in
blue uniforms were climbing in the open surgery window to encounter a
sight not soon to be forgotten. The doctor, bound and bruised, lay on
the floor; beside him, a man rapidly regaining consciousness and sitting
up in a dazed condition; a young girl, with brutal red marks about her
throat; and on the floor at her feet a man with a boy clinging to his
back like a barnacle to a boat, his young arms and bare legs binding the
fellow like ropes. It took those police officers but the twinkling of an
eye to have the two burglars handcuffed and cowed at the point of their
revolvers, and to hear the whole story of the rescued doctor.
"But who's this little duffer?" asked the inspector, gazing at Buck.
"Why, look at his knees and feet! They're dripping blood!"
"Got that shinning up the creeper and the stone-wall into the bathroom,"
said Buck, feeling terribly awkward to be seen in such a plight before
Miss Connie. So he stammered out his explanation, from the moment he had
awakened to this very instant.
"Dropped the Damascus bowl on his head, did you?" gasped the doctor.
Then, as he looked at Buck as if he saw him for the first time, he
beheld his bleeding feet and torn knees. "Officers," said the great:
surgeon, "you asked who he is. He's our boy! He's _my_ boy! I never had
a son of my own, but--but--Buckney goes to college next year, and he
goes as my adopted son. This night has shown me what he's made of."
Then, for the first time in all that dreadful night, Miss Connie
gave out. She sat weakly down, crying like a very little child. "Oh,
Buckney!" she sobbed, "they told us not to take a Barnardo boy; that
they were, half of them, just street arabs; that we--we couldn't trust
them. So, sometimes I've been afraid to hope _you_ were all right; and
now you have probably saved my life."
"No 'probably' about it, Miss Connie," said the officer; "he undoubtedly
has saved your life, and the doctor's too. But, come, child, don't cry;
get to bed--there's a good little girl. You've had a bad night of it."
Then, turning to his men, he commanded: "March those two choice
specimens to the police station at once. Well, good-night, doctor!
Good-night, Miss Connie." And looking at Buck he said, curiously,
"Good-night, youngster! So you're a Barnardo boy, eh?"
"Yes, sir," said Buck, lifting his chin a little. "I used to be ashamed
of it, but--"
"You needn't be," said the officer. "It's not what a boy _was_, but
what he _is_, that counts nowadays. Goodnight! I wish we had more
Britishers like you."
Then the door closed and the tramp of the policemen and their prisoners
died slowly away in the night.
The Broken String
Archie Anderson was lying on the lounge that was just hidden from the
front room by a bend of the folding doors. He was utterly tired out,
with that unreasonable weariness that comes from what most of his boy
chums called "doing nothing." He had been standing still, practising for
two hours steadily, and his throbbing head and weakening knees finally
conquered his energy. He flung himself down among the pillows, his
violin and bow on a nearby chair. Then a voice jarred on every nerve of
his sensitive body; it was a lady's voice in the next room, and she was
saying to his mother:
"And how is poor Archie to-day?"
"Poor Archie!" How he hated to be called "poor" Archie!
His mother's voice softened as she replied: "Oh, he's _pretty_ well
to-day; his head aches and he seems to be weak, but he has been
practising all the morning."
"He must be a great care and anxiety to you," said the caller.
Archie shuddered at the words.
"Only a sweet care," said his mother. "I am always hoping he will
outgrow his delicate health."
Archie groaned. How horribly like a girl it was to be "delicate."
"I think," went on the caller, raspingly, "that a frail boy _is_ a care.
One depends so on one's sons to be a strength to one in old age; to help
in their father's business, and things like that--unless, of course, one
The harsh voice ceased, and Archie felt in his soul that the speaker was
glancing meaningly about the bare little parlor of his father's house.
He could have hugged his mother as he heard her say: "Oh, well, Trig
and Dudley will help their father; and none of us grudge Archie his
inability to help, or his music lessons either."
"I should think his violin and his books and lessons would be a great
expense to you," proceeded the caller.
"Nothing is an expense that fills his life and helps him to forget he
is shut away from the other boys and their jolly sports, just because
he is not strong enough to participate in them," replied his mother,
with a slight chill in her voice at her visitor's impertinence.
Presently the caller left, and Mrs. Anderson, slipping through the
folding doors, saw Archie outstretched on the pillows. She bent over
him with great concern; her eyes read every expression of his face,
every attitude of his languid body.
"Archie, you didn't hear?" she asked, pleadingly.
"I'm afraid I did, motherette," he said, springing up with unusual
He stood before her, a head taller than herself, his thin form frail as
a flower, his long, slim fingers twitching, his wonderful, wistful eyes
and sensitive mouth revealing all the artist nature of a man of thirty,
instead of a boy of fourteen. He was on the point of flaring out with
indignation against the visitor, but his lack of physical strength
seemed to crowd upon him just at that moment. He sank upon the lounge
again, and with his face against Mrs. Anderson's arm, said: "Thank you,
motherette, for fighting for me. Perhaps even with all this miserable
ill-health of mine I can fight for you some day."
"Of course you will, dear," she replied cheerily. "Don't you mind what
they say; you know 'Hock' always stands by you, and he's as good as your
mother to fight for you."
"Dear old 'Hock!' Decent old 'Hock!'" he said admiringly. "He's the best
boy in the world, but he is not _you_, motherette."
"There he is now!" said Mrs. Anderson, as a piercing whistle assailed
the window, followed by a round, red face, a skinning sunburnt nose, and
an assertive voice, saying, "I'll just come in this way, Arch." And a
leg was flung over the window sill. "It's easier than goin' 'round by
"Hock" prided himself on being a "sport," and he certainly looked one:
thick-knit legs, sturdy ankles, a short, chunky neck, hands with a grip
like a vise, a big, good-natured dimpling mouth, eyes that were narrow
and twinkling, muscles as hard as nails, and thirteen years old, but
imagining himself eighteen. He had been christened "Albert Edward," but
fortune smiled upon him, making him the champion junior hockey player of
the county, so the royal name was discarded with glee, and henceforth he
was known far and wide as "Hock" McHenry.
The friendship between Hock and Archie was the wonder of the town. Some
people said, "Hock is so coarse and loud and slangy, I don't see how
Archie Anderson can have anything to do with him." Others said: "Archie
is so frail and sensitive, and so wrapped up in his music, how _can_
Hock find anything in him that is jolly, and boyish, and congenial?"
But Hock's people and Archie's people knew that one supplied what the
other lacked. For so often this conversation between the two boys would
be overheard. Archie's plaintive voice would say: "Oh, Hock, it is so
good to have you around; you make me forget that I can't play hockey
and football with the rest of the kids! You play it for me as well as
for yourself. I'm such a dub; laid up sick half the time."
And Hock would frequently be heard to remark: "Say, Arch, do you know
if it weren't for you I'd grow into a regular tough. You kind of keep
me straight, and--oh, well, straight and all that!"
And so the odd friendship went on, Hock attending his school daily--the
acknowledged leader of all the sports and mischief that existed; Archie
getting to school about two days out of every five, yet managing through
his hours of illness to mount week by week, month by month, up, up, up
in his music.
"I won't always be an expense at home, and have dad keep me as if I
were a girl," Archie would tell himself on his good strong days when
he felt he had accomplished something with his violin. "I can feel
the music growing right in my fingers. I feel I'll play to thousands
yet--thousands of people and thousands of dollars." Then perhaps a fit
of coughing would come on, and the boy would grow discouraged again,
but only until Hock appeared on his daily round, and plumping his
sturdy person into a chair would tell all the news, and finish with,
"Say, Arch, fiddle for a fellow, won't you?"
And while Archie played, Hock would sit quietly looking out of
the window, vowing to himself he would give up slang, and go to
Sunday-school regularly, and not shoot craps any more behind the barn
with boys his father had expressed a wish not to have around the place.
In after years Hock knew what made him have these good impulses while
he listened to Archie's playing. He knew that a great and beautiful
art--the art of music--was inborn in his chum; that the wild,
melancholy voice of the violin was bringing out the best in them both.
* * * * * * * *
It was summer time. The little Canadian city where they lived, which
stretched its length along the borders of the great lake, became a very
popular resort for holiday makers, and many Southerners flocked to the
two large hotels, seeking the cooler air of the North. Ball and tennis
matches and regattas made the little city very gay, and the season was
swinging at its height when one night Hock's burly voice heralded his
legs through the window of the Anderson parlor. Evidently he was greatly
excited, for he shouted at the top of his lungs that the east end
factory was on fire, with a dozen operators cut off from the stairs and
elevators, and that his father, who was foreman, was begging on all
sides for volunteers to rescue the people from the top story. In the
twinkling of an eye Hock was off again with crowds of running men and
boys; the fire engines went clanging past with the rattle and roar of
galloping horses and shouting men. Never had Archie Anderson felt his
frailty as he felt it at this moment. The very news made him almost
faint, but he started to run with the crowd until his shortening breath
and incessant coughing compelled him to return home, where he flung
himself down on the doorstep, burying his throbbing forehead in his
hands and saying: "Oh! I'm no good! I can never hope to be a man! I'm
not even a boy! I seem to myself like a baby!"
Late at night his father and brothers returned, all begrimed with soot
and ashes. They had worked valiantly with the firemen and rescuers,
saving life after life. But with all their courage and pluck they could
not save big Tom Morris, who perished in the flames just because he
insisted upon others and weaker ones being saved first.
For days the town was plunged in gloom. Everyone liked Tom Morris,
and everyone's heart ached for his little widow and her three small
children, left penniless. Then the only pleasant thing in connection
with the disaster occurred. The kindly visitors at the summer hotels
began getting up a huge benefit concert, the proceeds of which were to
be presented to Mrs. Tom and her babies. Hock heard of it first--nothing
ever escaped his lynx-like ears. Astride the window-sill he communicated
his gossip to Archie something in this fashion:
"Say, Arch, they're going to have the best performance. Miss Van Alstine
from New York is going to sing, and some long-haired fellow at one of
the hotels is going to play the piano--they say he's great; and, oh!
say, Arch, did you ever hear of a great fiddler named Ventnor?"
"Only the world-renowned Ventnor," said Archie. "Why do you ask, Hock?"
"Well, he's the one! 'Greatest on earth,' they say. Gets thousands of
dollars every night he fiddles. He's staying at the Lake View Hotel,
"Ventnor _here_!" fairly screamed Archie. "The _great_ Ventnor! Oh,
Hock, is he going to play?"
"Yes, he is!" said Hock, smacking his lips together with glee that
something had at last taken Archie out of himself and made him forget
his frailty, if only for a moment, "Yes, siree," continued Hock. "He's
going to play three times. Heard him say so myself when they asked him
on the beach this morning. He speaks the tanglest-legged English you
ever heard. He said, 'Me, I holiday; me, I not blay when I holiday.'
Then a batch of ladies tried to explain things to him, and when his
Russian-Italian-French brain got around things, he up with his hands and
ran them through his long grey hair and wagged his head, and said, 'Me,
I understand! Me, I don't blay money when I holiday, but me, I blay for
unfortunate beeples. I blay dree times.' Oh, it was funny, Arch!"
"Funny!" said Archie. "Funny! Hock, I'll knock you down if you call
Ventnor 'funny.' Why, it's the most beautiful thing in the world for
him to do. Oh, Hock! and to think that at last I will hear him!"
"I never heard tell of him before," observed Hock, with evident pride
in his ignorance.
"There's no greater violinist in the world, Hock," replied Archie with
enthusiasm. His cheeks were scarlet, his eyes sparkling, his thin hands
trembling with excitement.
"Well, I'm not keen on hearing anyone fiddle any better than you do,"
Hock answered soberly. "Whenever you fiddle you just give me the
jim-jams, with the creeps going up and down my back; and what's worse,
I always have to blow my nose when you get through."
"What a good chap you are, Hock! You make me believe in myself. Perhaps
I really will amount to something some day," replied Archie, warmly.
"Betcherlife!" said the sturdy one. "Well, so-long! I'm glad you'll hear
the big violin player, Arch, if you really have been wanting to."
Wanting to! Archie Anderson had longed to hear Ventnor ever since he
first drew a bow across the strings. He could hardly wait until the
night of the great concert. Owing to the extreme heat of the summer he
had been taking his lessons late in the evening, but on this eventful
night his teacher, himself anxious to go, told Archie to come at seven
o'clock; he could then give him a full hour, and the lesson would be
over in plenty of time for them both to attend the concert at half-past
eight. The lesson was trying and the excitement was beginning to tell on
the boy, so, without returning home, he went straight to the hall, his
violin case tucked under his arm. Purposely he had engaged a seat in
the very first row; he wanted to watch the great master's marvellous
fingers, as well as drink in the music they made. Even at eight o'clock
the hall was so packed that he could hardly get through the aisles.
The excellence of the programme, as well as the charitable object, had
drawn out the entire town, and Archie took his seat fearful that the
overpowering summer heat and crowded hall would be his undoing. He did
not even hear the opening piano solo by the "long-haired fellow," as
Hock had called him, nor did he rhapsodize over handsome Miss Van
Alstine, whose wonderful gown and thrilling voice captured the audience.
It was only when a slender, dark, elderly man stepped down to the
footlights with a violin in his long, thin hands that Archie sat bolt
upright, his eyes blazing with excitement, his breath catching in his
The great man's face was fine as an engraving, with a melancholy mouth,
and eyes that burned like black fires. He stood a brief second, gave his
head, crowned with long, grey hair, a quick, nervous toss, and drew his
bow across the strings softly, sweetly, with a heart-breaking sound that
fell on his listeners like the sob of a thousand winds. For five minutes
he held them spellbound. It was only when he half smiled and stepped
into the stage wings that they realized that it was over. Then with one
accord the entire audience broke into a storm of applause--all but
Archie, who sat with locked fingers and tense face; for the life of
him he could not move a single muscle--he was simply paralyzed with
pleasure; at last he had listened to _music_!
It was nearing the end of the programme, and Ventnor had stepped forth
to play his last number. It was a wild, eerie Hungarian air, that wailed
and whispered like a lost child, then mounted up, up, louder, louder, a
perfect hurricane of melody, when--suddenly a sharp crack like a pistol
shot cut the air. The music ceased--one of the violin strings had
snapped. At another time the great man would have finished the number on
the three remaining strings, but the heat, the lax practice of a holiday
season--something, or perhaps everything combined, for the instant
overcame him. He stood like an awkward child, gazing down at the
trailing, useless string.
Instantly, Archie's sensitive brain grasped the whole situation.
Ventnor's business manager was not with him; he had not brought a second
violin. Like a flash Archie whipped his own out of its case. He had just
come from his lesson; it was in perfect tune. Before the shy, frail boy
knew what he was actually doing he was beside the footlights, handing
his own violin up to the great master, whose wonderful eyes gazed down
into the small, pale face, and whose hand immediately reached out,
grasping the poor, cheap little fiddle that Archie had learned his
scales on. The audience broke into applause, but with a single glance
Ventnor stilled them, and dashed straight into the melody precisely
where he had left off.
Archie could hardly believe his ears. Was _that_ his old thirty-dollar
fiddle? That marvellous thing that murmured, and wept, and laughed under
the master hand! Oh! the voice of it! The voice of it!
They would not let Ventnor go when he smiled himself off the stage.
They called and shouted, "Encore!" "Encore!" until he returned to
respond--respond, not with his own priceless instrument, but with
Archie's, and with a grace and kindliness that only a great man
possesses. He played a good-night lullaby on the boy's cheap little
violin, and, moreover, played it as he never had before. Archie
remembered afterwards that he had presence of mind enough to get on his
feet when they all sang "God Save the King," but it really seemed a
dream that Ventnor was shaking hands with him and saying, "I t'ank you,
me; I t'ank you. You save me great awkwardness." And then, before he
knew it, he had promised to go to the hotel the next day and play for
All the way home he was thinking, "Fancy it!--I, Archie Anderson, asked
to play before Ventnor!" Then came the fuss and the delight of the
people at home over his good fortune, but he soon slipped away to bed,
exhausted with the evening's events. His mother, coming into the room
later to say good-night, saw that close to his bed, on a table where he
could reach out and touch it during the night, lay his violin.
"Motherette," he smiled happily, "I feel that it is consecrated."
"Keep it so, little lad of mine. Keep both your music and your violin
* * * * * * * *
Never had Archie played so well, for all his shyness and nervousness. He
seemed to gather something of the great man's soul as he played before
him at the hotel the following day.
Ventnor became greatly excited. "Boy, boy!" he cried, "you have a great
music in you! You must have study and work, like what is it you
Canadians say?--like Sam Hill!"
"Yes," said Archie, quietly; "rainy days and east wind days, when I
coughed and could not go to school, I worked, and--well, I just worked."
"Me, I should t'ink you did! Why, boy, I will make you great. I will
teach you all this summer."
"I'm afraid father can't afford that," faltered Archie.
"Me, I tell you I holiday now. I take no money in my holiday. I teach
you because I like you, me," replied the master, irritably.
"But I can never repay you," answered Archie.
"Me, I will give to the world a great musician; it is you! That's repay
enough for me--the satisfaction of making one great violinist. That's
And so it all came about. Day after day Ventnor taught, trained and
encouraged Archie Anderson. Day after day the boy drew greater music
from the heart of his fiddle. He seemed to stride ahead under the power
of the master; and as for Ventnor, he seemed beside himself with joy at
what he called his "find." They grew to be friends. Archie confided his
great discouragement of ill-health, his inability to attend school.
"Me, I fix all that," answered Ventnor. "Me, I go see to-night your
parents. I talk to them." And he did, but his "talk" amazed even the
boy. He wanted Archie to go with him to California, where his autumn
season began. He wanted to adopt him, to take him away for two years. He
gesticulated, and raised his eyebrows, and talked down every objection
"I tell you I want him. I make a virtuoso of him. He is _my_ boy. I
discover him. He's good boy; he work, work, work. Never do I see a boy
work like dat. He is in earnest. Dat is de greatest t'ing a boy can
have, to be earnest. It make him a great, good man. He's not selfish
either. He not t'ink of himself, only other beeple. I meet with
misfortune. I break my string. He lend me his violin. Me, I'm selfish. I
don't lend my violin to not a person. No, not even the King of England.
Den, too, Archie, his throat and lungs, and his physique, it is not
strong, not robust. I take him hot country, warm California. He get
This last argument was too much for Archie's family. They yielded, and
when Ventnor left for the West the boy went with him. He never missed a
week writing home or to "Hock," and at the end of two years he returned.
In his pocket was a signed contract as "first violin" in the finest
orchestra of a great Southern city. He had left his cough with his short
trousers in California, and had outgrown as much of his frailness as a
boy of his temperament ever can. The day he left to fill his engagements
the lady called who used to speak of him as "poor Archie, he's such an
expense to his parents," and sat talking to Mrs. Anderson in the little
parlor. Trig had just secured a "situation," and the caller was asking
"Yes," replied Mrs. Anderson, "Trig has done very well. He gets six
dollars a week now, and Dudley, you know, gets ten." Then with
pardonable asperity she added:
"Archie is doing a little better, however; he's getting seventy-five
dollars a week to start on. He has already paid his father back every
copper spent on his tuition."
"_Archie! Seventy-five dollars a week_! Why, he is hardly seventeen! How
ever did he do it?" exclaimed the visitor.
"Hock, dear loyal old Hock, says it's because Archie is the very best
boy in the world," replied Mrs. Anderson, laughingly, "but I say it was
the result of a broken string."
Maurice of His Majesty's Mails
Old Maurice Delorme boasted the blood of many nations; his "bulldog"
grit came to him from an English sea-captain, a bluff, genial old tar
whom he could recall as being his "grand-daddy" sixty years ago; his
gay, rollicking love of laughter and song came to him through his half
French father; his love of wood and water lore, his endurance, his gift
of strategy, were his birthright directly from his Red Indian mother;
consequently there was but one place in the world where such a trinity
of nationalities could be fostered in one man, but one place where that
man could breathe and be happy, and that place was amid the struggling
heights and the yawning canyons of the Rocky Mountains.
Years before Canada had constructed her world-famous transcontinental
railroad, which now stretches its belt of steel from Atlantic to
Pacific, Maurice Delorme set out for the golden West, working his way
across the vast Canadian half of the American continent. He had done
everything for a living--that is, everything that was honorable, for his
British-French-Indian blood was the blood of honest forefathers, and he
prided himself that he could directly and bravely look into the eyes of
any man living; for, after all, does not dishonesty make the eyes shift
and the heart cowardly?
He had trapped for fur-bearing animals on the North Shores; he had
twice fought the rebels at the Red River; he had freighted many and
many a "prairie schooner" from the Assiniboine to the Saskatchewan; and
then, one glorious morning in July, when the hot yellow sun poured its
wealth of heat and light into the velvety plains of Alberta, Maurice
descried at the very edge of the western horizon a far-off speck of
shining white, apparently not larger than a single lump of sugar. As
day followed day, and he traversed mile upon mile, more sugar lumps were
visible; and, below their whiteness, the grayish distances grew into
mountain shapes. Then he realized that at last he beheld the inimitable
glory of the Rockies that swept in snow-tipped grandeur from south to
Then followed the years when he, his wife and a little Maurice lived
in the fastnesses of those mighty ranges; when he learned to know and
follow the trail of the mountain goat; when the rugged passes grew
familiar to him as the little village where he had been born in Quebec;
when the countless forests of Douglas fir held no mysteries and no fears
for him; and, because he had learned these things, because he was brave
and courageous, because his life had been clean and honest, he was
selected to carry His Majesty's mails from a primitive "landing" on one
of the Kootenay Lakes to the great gold mines, forty miles into the
interior, and over one of the wildest, loneliest mountain trails in all
Then it was that, once a month, when the mail came in by the tiny
steamer, Maurice Delorme would harness up his six tough little
mountain-climbing horses, put on his cartridge belt, tuck a formidable
revolver into his hip pocket and a good gun beneath the seat of the
wagon, toss in the bags of mail and the express packages, say a laughing
good-bye to Mrs. Delorme and little Maurice, and "hit the trail" for
the gold mines. How he hated to leave those two helpless ones alone in
the vast, uninhabited surroundings! But Mrs. Delorme had the fearless
courage and self-reliance of the women of the North, and little Maurice
was yearly growing, growing, growing. Now he was ten, now twelve, now
fourteen--a sturdy young mountaineer, with the sinews of an athlete, and
a store of learning, not from books, for he had never known a school,
but from the simple teaching of his parents and the unlimited knowledge
of woodcraft, of the habits of wild things, of mountain peaks, of
plants, of animals, insects and birds, and of the incessant hunt for
food that must always be when one lives beyond the pale of civilized
* * * * * * * *
And then one day, when little Maurice was about fifteen years old, his
father staggered into their pretty log home, bleeding, crushed and
dazed. The fate of the mountaineer had met him, for, during one of those
sudden tempests that sweep through the canyons, a wind-riven tree had
hurled its length down across the trail, its rotting heart and decaying
branches falling--providentially with broken force--sparing the
galloping horses and only injuring the driver--for how he escaped death
was beyond human explanation.
Little Maurice was then the man of the house. He helped his brave mother
dress the sufferer's wounds, he cared for the horses, he provided wood
and water, going about whistling softly to himself and trying to shut
his eyes to the fact that the food was growing less and less daily, and
that the mail day was drawing nearer and nearer. Of course the steamer
would bring flour and bacon and tea but it would also bring the mail and
express to be transported to the gold mines. His father would never be
well enough to drive the mails up that jagged mountain trail; and, worse
than that, his father must have fresh meat broth at once. Little Maurice
went into the sick-room, and standing beside the bed looked carefully
into the face of old Maurice. The eyes were feverish, the forehead
puckered with pain, the hands hot and growing thin. Then he turned
away, followed his mother outside, and, after a brief talk with her, he
reached up for his father's gun, took the stock of ammunition and dry
biscuits, whistled for his dog, and, a moment later, was swallowed up in
The long day slipped by; hour after hour Mrs. Delorme would go to the
door, shade her eyes with her hand, and look keenly up the mountain
slopes, with their wilderness of pines. Once she saw a faint, blue puff
of smoke, and her quick ear caught the sharp crack of a far-off rifle.
Then all was silent for hours. The warm September sun had dropped behind
the western peaks, and the canyons were purpling with oncoming twilight,
when two quick successive shots broke the evening stillness, and echoed
like a salute of twenty-one guns far down the valley. Mrs. Delorme ran
once again to the door. The shots could not have been five hundred yards
distant, for down through the firs came Royal, the magnificent hound,
whining and grinning and licking his mouth with delight, and, behind
him, Maurice, shouting that he had killed a deer, and was hungry enough
to eat half of it himself.
"And, mother," he cried, "I could have got the game at noon to-day,
but Royal and I have been hours and hours closing in on him, getting
him into the runway, so that, when I did drop him, it would be near
home, for I could never pack his carcass all that way. He must weigh
two hundred and fifty pounds. Oh, but he's a fat one. And here are some
mountain grouse Roy and I got. Daddy will have all the broth he can
drink, and you and old Roy here and I will have some venison steaks for
So, breathless and proud and excited, Maurice chattered on, preparing
a huge knife to quarter the deer, the more easily to pack it home.
There was great rejoicing in the log shack that night. Old Maurice
swallowed his bowl of hot grouse soup with relish, and clasped his son's
hand with the firm grip one man gives to another. The anxious lines left
Mrs. Delorme's face, as she laughed and praised young Maurice's prowess
as a bread-winner. Royal stretched his long, lithe legs, yawning audibly
with weariness and content as he lay beside the stove sniffing the
appetizing smells of broiling steaks, knowing well his share would be
generous after his long and faithful hunt and obedience to his young
master. And so the little mountain home was well supplied with fresh
meat, hot soups, smoked venison hams and dried flitches, until the day
of fresh supplies, when the primitive steamer tooted its shrill whistle
far down the lake, and Mrs. Delorme, young Maurice and Royal all went
down to greet the first fellow-beings they had seen for a month, and to
receive and care for seven bags of His Majesty's mails, bound for the
distant gold mines.
"Why seven bags?" asked Mrs. Delorme of the captain. "We never get more
"The extra is a large consignment of registered mail, madam," he
replied. "Big money for the mines, they tell me. You want to keep an eye
on that extra bag. Old Maurice doesn't want to lose that."
Then he was told the story of the old driver's accident, and forthwith
climbed the steep trail from the landing to the shack to see how things
really were. He saw at a glance that Delorme would not be about for some
weeks to come; so, after an encouraging word and a kindly good-bye, the
captain turned, as he left the door, and, slapping young Maurice on the
shoulder in his bluff, hearty way, said:
"Well, kid, I guess you'll have to carry the mails this time. Start
good and early to-morrow. I'm a day late bringing them, as it is. The
managers of the mines are not the waiting sort, and there's money--money
that they need--in that extra bag. Better take a gun with you, boy, and
keep a sharp lookout for that registered stuff--mind!"
"Yes, captain," answered young Maurice, very quietly. "I'll land the
mail at the mines all right."
And, a few minutes later, the departing whistle of the little steamer
was heard far down the lake, as night fell softly and silently on the
solitary little mountain home of the Delormes.
* * * * * * * *
In the grey dawn of the next morning Maurice was astir, his horses were
being well fed, his mail bags packed securely, his gun looked over
sharply. Then came the savory smells of bacon and toast for breakfast,
the hurried good-byes, the long, persistent whistle for Royal, the deer
hound, his constant chum in all things, then the whizzing crack of
the young driver's "blacksnake" whip, a bunching together of the four
horses' sturdy little hoofs, a spring forward, and the "mountain mail"
was away--away up the yawning canyon, where the peaks lifted on every
side, where the black forests crowded out the glorious sunrise, away up
the wild gorge, where human foot rarely fell and only the wild things
prowled from starlight to daylight the long years through; where the
trail wound up and up the steeps, losing itself in the clouds which hung
like great festoons of cobwebs half-high against the snow line. In all
that vast world Maurice drove on utterly alone, save for the pleasant
companionship of his four galloping horses and the cheering presence of
Royal, who panted at the rear wheels of the mail coach, and wagged his
tail in a frenzy of delight whenever his human friend spoke to him.
The climb was so precipitous that it was hours before he could reach
the summit, and he was yet some miles from being half way when his
well-trained eye caught indications of coming disaster. A thousand
trivial things announced that a mountain storm was brewing; the clouds
trailed themselves into long, leaden ribbons, then swirled in circles
like whirlpools. The huge Douglas firs began to murmur, then whisper,
then growl. The sky grew thick and reddish, the gleaming, snow-clad
Maurice took in the situation at once. With the instinct of a veteran
mail carrier, his first care was to roll his mail bags in a rubber
sheet, while the registered sack, doubly protected, he never allowed for
a moment to leave its station beneath his knees under the seat. These
simple precautions were barely completed before the storm was upon
him. A blinding flash set his horses on edge, their sensitive nerves
quivering in every flank. Maurice gathered the lines firmly, seized his
"blacksnake," and, with a low whistle, urged his animals, that bounded
forward, snorting with fear as a crack of thunder followed, booming down
the gorges with deafening echoes. In another moment the whole forest
seemed alive. The giant pines whipped and swayed together, their supple
tips bending and beaten with the fury of the tempest. Above the wild
voices of the hurricane came the frequent crash of falling timber;
but, through it all, the boy drove on without thought of himself or
of shelter, and through it all the splendid animals kept the trail,
responding as only the horse can respond to the touch of a guiding rein
or the sound of the mountaineer's whistle. But the end came for Maurice,
when, upon rounding an abrupt steep, his four animals reared in terror,
then seemed to crouch back upon their haunches. The rude log bridge they
should have dashed across was gone--in its place gaped a huge fissure,
its throat choked with wreckage of trestle and planking.
The unexpected halt nearly pitched Maurice from the wagon, but he
steadied first his nerve, then his hands, then his eyes. Why had the
bridge gone down, was his first thought. The storm was of far too brief
duration to have done the mischief. Then those keen young eyes of his
saw beyond the tempest and the ruined bridge. They saw about the useless
supports and wooden props fresh chips from a recent axe. In a second his
brain grasped the fact that the bridge had been cut away on purpose. His
thoughts flew forward--for what purpose was it destroyed? Like a dream
seemed to come the captain's voice in his ears: "Better take a gun with
you, boy, and keep a sharp lookout for that registered stuff--mind!" And
he heard himself reply, "I'll land the mail at the mines all right."
"And I'll do it, too!" he said, aloud. Then, above the hoarse voices of
the storm, he heard a low, long, penetrating whistle. Quick as a flash
the boy realized his position. He snatched the registered mail bag from
between his knees. "Royal! Royal! Good dog!" he called, softly, and the
poor, wet, storm-beaten creature came instantly, reaching pathetically
toward his young master, his forefeet pawing the wagon wheels, his fine,
keen nose sniffing at the mail sack outheld by Maurice.
"Royal, you must watch!" said the boy. "Watch, Royal, watch!" Then,
with a strengthy fling of his arm, he hurled the precious bag of
registered mail over the rim of the precipice, far down into the canyon,
two hundred feet below. For an instant the dog stood rigid. Then, like
the needle to the north, he turned, held his sensitive head high in the
air for a moment, sniffed audibly and was gone. Then again came that
low, long whistle. The horses' ears went erect, and Maurice sat silent,
grasping the reins and peering ahead through the now lessening rain.
But, with all his young courage, his heart weakened when a voice spoke
directly behind him. It said:
"Who are you?"
He turned and faced three men, and, looking directly into the eyes of
the roughest-seeming one of the trio, he replied, quietly:
"I think you know who I am."
"Humph! Cool, I must say!" answered the first speaker. "Well, perhaps we
can warm you up a bit; but maybe you can save us some trouble by telling
us where old Delorme is."
"At home," said Maurice.
"And you've brought the mall in place of Delorme, I suppose? Well, so
much the better for us. I'll trouble you to hand me out that bag of
The man ceased speaking, his hand on the rim of the front wheel.
"I have no registered stuff," the boy answered, truthfully. "Just six
common mail bags. Do you wish them? As I am only one boy against three
men, I suppose there is not much use resisting." Maurice's lip curled in
a half sneer, and his eyes never left the big bully's face.
"A lie won't work this time, young fellow!" the man threatened. "Boys,
go through that wagon! go over every inch of it now; you'll find the
stuff all right."
The other two men emptied the entire load into the trail, then turned
and stared at their leader.
"This is a bluff! Rip open those bags!" he growled. And the next moment
the contents of the six bags were sprawling in the mud. They contained
nothing but ordinary letters and newspapers.
"Sold!" blurted out the man. "We might have known that any yarn
'Saturday Jim' told us would be a lie. He couldn't give a man a straight
tip to save his life! Come on, boys! There's nothing doing this trip!"
And, swinging about, he turned up an unbroken trail that opened on some
hidden pass to the "front." His two pals followed at his heels,
muttering sullenly over their ill success.
"No," said Maurice to himself. "You're quite right, gentlemen! There's
nothing doing this trip!" But, aloud, he only spoke gently to his
wearied horses as he unhitched and secured them to the rear of the
wagon, gathered the scattered mail, and then scanned the sky narrowly.
The storm was over, but the firs still thrashed their tops in the wind,
the clouds still trailed and circled about the mountain summit. For a
full hour Maurice sat quietly and thought things. What was to be done?
The bridge was gone, the registered mail at the bottom of the canyon,
and the day growing shorter every moment. Only one course lay before
him. (He would not consider, even for a second, that any way lay open
to him behind.) He must get that mail to the mines, or he could never
look his father in the face again. He walked cautiously to the brink of
the precipice and looked over. It was very steep. Nothing was visible
but broken rock, boulders and bracken. No sign of either Royal or the
mail bag; but he knew that somewhere, far below, the dog was keeping
watch; that his four wise, steady feet had unerringly taken him where
his animal instinct had dictated; and Maurice argued that, where his
four feet could go, his two could follow. He must recover the bag,
select his fleetest horse, and ride bareback on to the mines.
The descent was a long, rough, dangerous business, but Maurice had
learned many a climbing trick from the habits of the mountain goat, and
at last he stood at the canyon's bottom, a tired, lonely but courageous
bit of boyhood, ready to suffer and dare anything so long as he could
prove himself worthy of the trust that his father had placed in his
strong young hands.
He stood for a moment, awed by the wonder of the granite walls that rose
like a vast fortress, towering above him, silent and motionless. Then he
gave one clear whistle, then listened. Almost within stone's throw came
the response the half-sad, wholly eager whine of a dog. Maurice was
beside him in a twinkling, patting and hugging the beautiful animal, who
lay, with shining eyes and wagging tail, his forepaws resting on the
coarse canvas which bore, woven redly into its warp and woof, the two
words: "Canada Mail."
What a meeting it was! Boy and dog, each with a worthy trust, worthily
kept. But it was one, two, three hours before Maurice, footsore,
exhausted, and with bleeding fingers, followed by Royal, panting and
thirsty, regained the trail where the horses stood, ready for the onward
gallop, three of them failing to understand why they were to be left in
the lonely forest, while the fourth was quickly bridled, packed with the
mail sacks and Maurice, and told to "be careful now!" as he picked his
way down and around the bridgeless gorge and "hit the trail" on the
It was very late that night when the men at the mines heard the even
gallop of an approaching horse. Many of the miners had gone to bed
grumbling and threatening when no mail had arrived and no wages were
paid. The manager and his assistants were still up, however, perplexed
and worried that, for the first time, old Maurice Delorme had failed to
reach the camp with the company's money bags. But up the rough makeshift
of a road came those galloping hoofs, halting before the primitive
post office, while the crowd gathered and welcomed a strange trio. The
manager himself lifted poor, stiff, tired "Little" Maurice from the
back of an equally stiff, tired mountain pony, while a hot, hungry
hound whined about, trying to tell the whole story in his wonderful dog
fashion; but, when they did hear the real story from Maurice, there was
a momentary silence, then a rough old miner fairly shouted, "Well, by
the Great Horn Spoon, he's old Maurice Delorme's son all right!" Then
The Whistling Swans
For several evenings early in October the North Street boys had been
gathering at Benson's to try and organize a club, but the difficulty
seemed to be to decide upon what kind of a club would be most
interesting. The ball season would soon be over, the long winter would
soon be on them, and things wore a pretty flat outlook, unless they
could arrange some interesting diversion for that string of dull days,
only broken by Christmas holidays. The West Ward fellows had a Checker
Club, the Third Form fellows had a Puzzle Club, the Collegiates had a
Canadian Literature Club; even the Mill boys down on the Flats had a
Captain Kidd Club, proving themselves at times bandits quite worthy the
club's name. Only the North Street boys seemed "out of it," but from the
way they talked and shouted and wrangled at these preliminary meetings
it looked as if they certainly intended to "come in" out of their
isolation. But there had been five meetings without any decision having
been arrived at. Every boy of the ten present seemed to want a different
sort of club. The things that were suggested would have amazed the
members of the various other clubs could they have heard them.
Then, one night when the din and confusion were at fever heat, the door
suddenly opened and in walked Benson's father.
"Why, what's all this babel?" he exclaimed, as silence fell on the
crowd and the boys got to their feet meekly to greet him with polite
"good-evenings." "I never heard such a parrot-and-monkey, Kilkenny-cat
outfit in all my life! What's up, fellows?"
Benson's father was generally acknowledged to be a "comedian." No one
ever saw him in a temper, or heard him speak a sharp word. He had a
droll, woebegone face that never smiled, but a face everybody--from the
mayor to the poorest mill hand--loved and respected. How often Benson
had come in from school, ill-tempered and sour-visaged at something that
had gone wrong in the class-room, only to have that droll face of his
father's and some equally droll remark upset all his dignity and
indignation into laughter and consequent good nature.
"One at a time, boys, just one at a time, or I shall have bustificated
eardrums! What is it all about?"
Then they told him, but, it must be confessed, not one at a time.
"A club, eh?" he questioned, straddling a chair and leaning his arms on
the back. "What kind of a club, pleasure club, improvement club,
sporting club, what?"
"That's the trouble; we can't hit on it!" they chorused.
For a moment he sat silent, his round, childish eyes surveying the world
that hung on his very first words.
"I saw a queer thing as I came up the street to-night", he began,
seemingly having forgotten the subject in hand. "A dray-horse was
standing before the mill gates, and frisking about its heels was a dandy
little cocker spaniel, prettiest little dog you ever saw. The horse got
tired leaning on one leg, I guess, for he shifted his position, and, in
bringing down his left hind leg, he just pinned the little cocker's foot
to the ground with his big hoof. Cocker yelled. Worst row I ever
heard--until I came into this room. But what do you suppose Mr. Horse
did? Just lifted gently his left fore-hoof, but the squealing did not
stop. Then he lifted his right fore-hoof; still the squealing went on.
'Thinks I,' said the horse to himself, 'it must be my right hind-hoof,'
so he lifted that. 'No, sir,' he told himself; 'sure, it's my
left-hinder'; and lifting that, he released the poor dog, who dashed
around to the horse's head, leaping up to his nose, and saying, 'Thank
you!' over and over.* And the big, clumsy dray-horse just drew his
long face a little longer, and said: 'Never mind, old chap! I didn't
mean to hurt you; I'm sorry.' Then came the drayman out of the mill--a
nice, considerate, heart-warm, intelligent human being. Oh, yes! we
humans know so much more than animals, don't we, fellows? And because
the big, patient, kindly dray-horse had, in its restlessness, moved
twenty feet from the spot the driver left him at, that creature that is
supposed to have known better, just took his whip and licked and lashed
that glorious animal, yelling in a frenzy of temper, 'I'll teach you to
move, when I leave you! You--' Well, boys, you nor I don't care to hear
all he did say."
[*Fact observed by the writer's brother.]
"The brute!" "The big human hulk!" "The sneak!" "And he called himself a
man!" were some of the phrases growled out by the indignant boys.
"Yes, a man," continued Benson's father, "_so_ much better than the
dray-horse, that knew enough to lift his feet until he lifted the right
one. I believe if that horse had the feet of a centipede, he would have
gone on lifting them until the dog was released. I tell you, boys, if I
could get anyone to help me, I'd start an Animal Rescue Club, to--"
But the good gentleman never finished that sentence. The boys were on
top of him, round him, under him, clamoring and shouting for him to
organize their club for them, to help them study the habits and ways
and "thoughts" of animals, to prevent abuse and cruelty towards them.
They voted him in as honorary president, and went home that night the
happiest-hearted lot of boys in the country. Just before they dispersed,
however, a shy little chap named Jimmy Duffy, who had not much
opportunity to speak amid the noise of stronger voices, said:
"But, Mr. Benson, you _do_ think the dray-horse thought and reasoned,
"Surely he did, boy! And he spoke, too, in his own simple
horse-language, though we cannot understand his tongue; but we should,"
answered Benson's father.
It was not very long before the "Animal Rescue Club" of North Street
became known far and wide, and its influence began to be felt in all
quarters. The unfeeling drayman whose act of cruelty first gave rise
to the organization was watched, then reported to police headquarters,
from where he received a sound lecture because of various other
ill-treatments of his horse, and after a time he began to see his own
unkindness through the same spectacles as the "Animal Rescuers" viewed
it, and within two months he became a considerate, gentle driver.
"If the club never does another thing but reform that one man, and make
him kinder to that big, good-hearted horse of his, it has been organized
for some purpose," commented Mr. Benson, one evening, when he "dropped
in" to one of the meetings. "Keep it up, fellows. Our little four-footed
animals serve us well, and deserve consideration in return." And the
boys worked hard and faithfully to follow his advice. Homeless cats,
stray, mangy dogs, ill-fed horses, neglected cows, street sparrows,
pigeons, bluejays, were watched and protected and relieved of their
sufferings all that winter through. Finally Benson's father arranged his
evenings so that he could spend an hour with the club at each meeting,
which time he devoted to "lecturing" on the habits and haunts of
animals and birds. Those lectures were the delight of all, for this
happy-hearted, boyish man would, in some marvellous fashion, discover
all the humorous habits and comical dispositions and actions of every
living thing. The little wiry-haired Irish terrier was a comedian, he
declared. The bull-moose was a tragedian, the black bear cub was a
clown, the lynx a villain, and the migrating birds a sweet, invisible
chorus. Then to each and all he would attach some fascinating story,
explaining why they resembled these characters. Often the entire club
would be roaring with laughter over animal antics and bird capers,
then the young faces would be very serious the next minute over some
pathetic, heartbreaking tale of hunted deer-mothers trying to protect
their pretty fawns, or some father fox lying dead because a swift bullet
had caught him as he raided the poultry yard in the endeavor to seize
food for the pretty litter of sharp-nosed little cubs, curled up with
their mother in a distant cave.
So the boys listened and learned and laughed, and, as spring crept up
the calendar, their only regret at the return of the ball season was
that the club meetings would be over until next autumn.
* * * * * * * *
It was late in April when little Jimmy Duffy's father was called to
Buffalo on business. The night before leaving, he said: "It's most
annoying! Here I have to go all that way for just about one hour's talk
with a man; an entire day wasted for the sake of one hour, or--hold on,
let's see, Jimmy. You have never seen Niagara Falls, have you?"
"No, dad," answered Jimmy, his face eager with hope.
"Then you be ready to come with me to-morrow. I'll get through my
business by noon, and you and I will just 'do' the Falls until dark,
and get home on the late train. How does that strike you?"
But Jimmy was speechless with delight. For years he had longed to see
Niagara, but there was a number of older brothers and sisters, and
Jimmy's turn never seemed to have come until to-day. But the treat was
here at last. A whole day along with his big dad, prowling about Niagara
Falls, feasting his eyes upon its wonders, listening to its everlasting
roar as it plunges over the heights! Jimmy did not sleep very much that
night, and, long before train time, he was up, dressed in his best
suit, even got himself a fresh pocket-handkerchief, scrambled through
breakfast, then sat fidgeting on the front doorstep, while his father
took a leisurely meal, glanced calmly at his watch occasionally, then,
pushing back his chair, stepped briskly into the hall, glanced at the
weather, got his light coat and hat, said good-bye to Mrs. Duffy, and
called out "Now, then, Jimmy!" But Jimmy was already at the gate, having
kissed his mother good-bye almost an hour before, and presently they
were swinging up to the station at a good gait, Mr. Duffy silent,
thoughtful, engrossed in his coming business engagement, Jimmy dancing,
whistling, strung up with excitement that bade fair to continue
throughout the day.
It took three hours to reach Buffalo. Then poor Jimmy had to sit in a
stuffy outer office while his father and "the man" talked on the other
side of a glass door. Jimmy thought they would never stop, but in
exactly one hour the door opened, and he heard "the man" say:
"Now, Mr. Duffy, will you come to my club and we will have luncheon
"Not to-day, thanks, Mr. Brown. I have my small boy with me, and we're
off for the Falls. Jimmy's never seen them yet."
"Well, well!" answered Mr. Brown. "That's nice! Going to be a boy again
yourself, eh, Duffy? Well, have a good time, and good luck to you both!"
And the glass door closed.
His business ended, Jimmy's father seemed another person. He chatted and
talked and laughed with his son, ordered a splendid luncheon for them
both, swung aboard the train, and by two o'clock they were standing
on the very edge of the precipice, with the glorious Falls of Niagara
thundering into the basin at their feet. The column of filmy mist, the
gorgeous rainbows, the stupendous cataract, leaping and snarling like a
million wolves--it whirled about Jimmy's brain like a wild dream of No
Man's Land, and he walked beside his father in a daze of delight. They
prowled through the islands, crossed the cobwebby bridges from rock to
rock above the Falls, and finally sprawled on a bald ledge of stone that
jutted far out into the turbulent river.
"We'll just rest here a few minutes, James," said his father, playfully.
"Then we must go below the Falls and explore the ice-bridge. I see it
is yet in perfect condition. You are fortunate, my boy, to be able to
see it. There are some winters that never bring an ice-bridge. Then
sometimes it thaws in March, so we are lucky to-day."
About them tossed and tumbled the angry rapids, wrangling and brawling
around their granite shores, but, above their conflicting noises arose a
far, clear, musical sound, like a hundred throats and lips that whistled
"What's that?" exclaimed Mr. Duffy, sitting erect suddenly.
"I don't know," said the boy, scanning the tangled waters with his
unpractised young eyes.
"There it is again, dad!" he cried. "It is whistling. A great company,
somewhere, whistling!" Then, looking quickly skyward, he pointed
excitedly upstream, "Look, look! Birds! They are birds! Great white
ones, dad! What are they? There's the whistle again!"
Mr. Duffy shaded his eyes from the sun, and watched; for there, in the
smooth waters above the rapids, were settling, one by one, a magnificent
host of snow-white swans, their wearied bodies almost drooping into the
river, their exhausted pinions dropping, nerveless and trailing, into
the dark, deceptive stream, which lured them like a snare to its breast.
"Jimmy, Jimmy!" shouted Mr. Duffy, "they're swans, and they're dead
played out! They're migrating north for the summer! I bet they've flown
a thousand miles! See, boy, they're spent, dead beat!"
Jimmy fairly held his breath. The magnificent band of birds were slowly
floating towards them. Now they could distinguish each regal body,
feathered in dazzling white, each bill, scarlet as a July poppy, each
gracefully lifted throat. But the majestic creatures floated swiftly and
silently on, on, on!
"Father!" The boy's voice trembled huskily. "Oh, father, you don't think
they are in any danger of going over, do you?" His begging, pleading
tones revealed his own childish fears.
"Oh, _surely_ not!" answered Mr. Duffy, but his tone lacked confidence.
Then, after a brief silence, he almost groaned: "Jimmy, they're done
for! They don't see their danger, and they're too tired to rise if they
do. Oh, boy, if we could save them!"
But Jimmy stood rigid, staring, his heart slowly breaking, breaking.
Anyone could see now that the stately battalion was doomed. With utter
unconsciousness they drifted on, exhausted with their far journey from
the lagoons and marshes of Chesapeake Bay, where the torrid suns had
driven them from their winter haunts, to wing their way to their summer
home in the far, white North.
"Oh, Jimmy, the pity of it!" murmured Mr. Duffy. But the boy stood
wordless, as the irresistible giant current caught the trusting birds
and swept them, with a hideous, overpowering force, to the very brink
of the Horseshoe Fall. The boy, thrilling with the horror of it, shut
his eyes, and flung himself, face downward, on the rocks. A strange,
inarticulate moan left the man's lips. The boy lifted his head, lifted
his eyes, but the river was empty.
They ran breathlessly across the cobwebby bridges, around Goat Island,
then to the shore, then to the elevator, and descended to the
ice-bridge; but, above the angry battle of Niagara, arose the plaintive,
dying cries of scores of snow-white birds, the shouts of gathering
sightseers. Against the ruthless edges of ice lay, bleeding and broken,
what was left of that superb company homeward bound. Their poor, twisted
legs, their crushed heads, their flattened bodies, their pitiful, dying
struggles, would melt a heart of stone. No more those graceful throats
would whistle through the April airs, beneath the early suns and the
late morning stars. The sweet, wild chorus was stilled forever.
By the time Jimmy and his father arrived, crowds of people had descended
with stones and sticks anything they could lay their hands on--and were
beating the remaining spark of life out of the helpless birds, then
seizing and quarrelling over the bodies, without one word of pity or
regret for the dreadful catastrophe, so long as they could secure the
coveted specimens of this rare migratory bird. Then Jimmy noticed that
some few had actually escaped injury, but, before he could reach them,
older and stronger people had rushed upon the terrified and weakened
creatures, and were clubbing them to death.
"Stop it! stop it!" he shouted. "Those birds are not injured! Save them!
Let them go!"
"Not if _I_ know it!" yelled back a huge fellow with the face of a
greedy demon. "Why, these birds are worth twenty dollars apiece!"
he blurted, "and I'm going to have every one of them."
Down, down, down, went one after another as they tried to rise and
spread their magnificent wings, until only one remained. With the
quickness of a cat, Jimmy flung his thin little body between the
flopping victim and the upraised club.
"You strike that swan if you dare!" he cried, fiercely, glaring up at
the would-be murderer with indignant eyes.
"Hello, bantam! You after twenty dollars, too?" sneered the man.
"No; I'm after this swan's life, and I'm going to have it!" growled the
boy. "The bird is mine!"
"Yes, Jimmy," said his father, approaching sadly. "And it's the only one
that has life. I have counted one hundred and sixteen, either dead or
[*It is a fact that occurred in April, 1908, that a company of one
hundred and sixteen whistling swans were carried over Niagara
Falls, and that the only one which escaped the weapons of
destroyers was rescued by a little boy, and cared for exclusively
The boy took off his coat, wrapping it about the superb bird, then
carried it carefully to the elevator, and, soon after reaching the
summit of the shore, had it fed and tended, then gently crated for
shipment home. The tired bird submitted without protest to being
measured. From tip to tail it measured fifty-one inches, with the
magnificent expansion of wing of eighty-one inches, the only survivor of
that glorious white company that was whistling its way to the North. And
it was the kindly, boyish hand of little Jimmy Duffy, youngest member of
the "Animal Rescue Club," that had saved it from a crueller death than
even old, heartless Niagara could have given it, and it was his hands
that gently removed the bars of the crate in the Duffys' big backyard.
"There, you beautiful thing," he said, as he removed the last slat,
"stay with us if you can, but go when and where you want. There are
no prisons around here."
But the next morning the swan was still in the yard. The ducks talked
to it, but its sad, wondering eyes and listless wings spoke louder than
words of its weariness and woe. Scores of boys came to see it that day,
and the evening brought Benson's father. After hearing the story all he
could say was: "It's a good thing for me that I was not there. I'm a
pretty big fellow, and can lick chaps that are even bigger than I am,
and if I'd caught that brute killing those uninjured birds, I'd have
thrown him into the Whirlpool Rapids, sure as you're born; I'd be
in jail now, and probably get hanged in the autumn. Yes, taking it
altogether, I'm glad I wasn't there!"
Of course, many of the townspeople were for having Jimmy confine the
bird, or at least send it to a museum, or enclose it in a wire netting;
but the boy replied:
"No, thanks. I have seen enough of them die, and I don't want my swan
to die of a broken heart."
But the swan stayed on day after day, seemingly content and happy. Then
there dawned a beautiful day in May. The sun shone hot and level on the
little backyard. In the middle of the morning a clear, musical, distinct
whistle brought Jimmy running to the side door. The swan's head was
uplifted, its crimson beak pointing away from the sun. Presently it
spread its regal wings and floated up, up, up. One more clear, lingering
whistle, and it was away, while Jimmy watched it with eyes both dumbly
sad and unspeakably glad, until it was but a radiant white speck sailing
into the north, to search for others of its kind.
The Delaware Idol*
[*This tale is absolutely true. The writer's father was the boy
who destroyed the Delaware idol, the head of which is at this time
one of the treasures in the family collection of Indian relics and
Young "Wampum" sat listening to the two old hunters as they talked and
chuckled, boasted and bragged, and smoked their curious stone pipes hour
after hour. He was a splendid boy, this Wampum of the Mohawks, as quick
and lithe as a lynx. His face was strikingly handsome, for it lacked the
usual melancholy of the redman, having in its place a haughty, daring
expression that gave it the appearance of extreme bravery, and even a
dash of wild majesty. That he was a favorite with the older men of his
tribe was generally acknowledged, for he was a magnificent hunter, an
unerring shot, and, best of all, he could go without food for untold
hours, always a thing to be very proud of among the Indian people. So
the two old hunters told their stories and laughed over adventures with
the same freedom as if the boy had not been present.
"Yes," said old "Fire-Flower," beginning his story, "that was the
strangest bear hunt the Grand River ever saw. These white men think they
can come here and kill game, but a bear knows more than a paleface, at
least that one did."