Part 1 out of 8
This etext was produced by Donald Lainson, email@example.com.
THE SKY PILOT IN NO MAN'S LAND
by RALPH CONNOR
I. ONLY A MISSIONARY
II. ON THE RED PINE TRAIL
III. A QUESTION OF CONSCIENCE
V. THE WAR DRUM CALLS
VI. THE MEN OF THE NORTH
VII. BARRICADES AND BAYONETS
VIII. A QUESTION OF NERVE
IX. SUBMARINES, BULLPUPS AND OTHER THINGS
XI. THE NEW MESSAGE
XII. A MAN OF GOD
XIII. INTENSIVE TRAINING
XIV. A TOUCH OF WAR
XV. THINNING RANKS
XVI. THE PASSING OF McCUAIG
XVII. LONDON LEAVE AND PHYLLIS
XVIII. A WEDDING JOURNEY
XIX. THE PILOT'S LAST PORT
XX. "CARRY ON"
THE SKY PILOT IN NO MAN'S LAND
ONLY A MISSIONARY
High upon a rock, poised like a bird for flight, stark naked, his
satin skin shining like gold and silver in the rising sun, stood a
youth, tall, slim of body, not fully developed but with muscles
promising, in their faultless, gently swelling outline, strength
and suppleness to an unusual degree. Gazing down into the pool
formed by an eddy of the river twenty feet below him, he stood as
if calculating the distance, his profile turned toward the man who
had just emerged from the bushes and was standing on the sandy
strand of the river, paddle in hand, looking up at him with an
expression of wonder and delight in his eyes.
"Ye gods, what a picture!" said the man to himself.
Noiselessly, as if fearing to send the youth off in flight, he laid
his paddle on the sand, hurriedly felt in his pockets, and swore to
himself vigorously when he could find no sketch book there.
"What a pose! What an Apollo!" he muttered.
The sunlight glistening on the beautiful white skin lay like pools
of gold in the curving hollows of the perfectly modelled body, and
ran like silver over the rounded swellings of the limbs. Instinct
with life he seemed, something in his pose suggesting that he had
either alighted from the golden, ambient air, or was about to
commit himself to it. The man on the sand continued to gaze as if
he were beholding a creature of another world.
"Oh, Lord! What lines!" he breathed.
Slowly the youth began to move his arms up to the horizontal, then
to the perpendicular, reaching to the utmost of his height upon his
toe tips, breathing deep the while. Smoothly, slowly, the muscles
in legs and thighs, in back, in abdomen, in chest, responding to
the exercise moved under the lustrous skin as if themselves were
living things. Over and over again the action was repeated, the
muscles and body moving in rhythmic harmony like some perfect
mechanism running in a bath of oil.
"Ye gods of Greece!" breathed the man. "What is this thing I see?
Flesh or spirit? Man or god?" Again he swore at himself for
neglecting to bring his sketch book and pencil.
"Hello, father! Where are you?" A girl's voice rang out, high,
clear, and near at hand.
"Good Lord!" said the man to himself, glancing up at the poised
figure. "I must stop her."
One startled glance the youth flung down upon him, another in the
direction of the voice, then, like a white, gleaming arrow he shot
down, and disappeared in the dark pool below.
With his eyes upon the water the man awaited his reappearing. A
half minute, a full minute he waited, but in vain. Swiftly he ran
toward the edge of the pool. There was no sign anywhere of the
Ghastly pale and panting, the man ran, as far round the base of the
rock as the water would allow him, seeking everywhere signs of the
"Hello, father! Oh, there you are!" Breaking through the bushes,
a girl ran to him.
"What is it, pater? You are ill. What is the matter?"
"Good heavens! he was there!" gasped the man, pointing to the high
rock. "He plunged in there." He pointed to the pool. "He hasn't
come up. He is drowned."
"Who? What are you saying? Wake up, father. Who was there?"
"A boy! A young man! He disappeared down there."
"A young man? Was he--was he--dressed?" inquired the girl.
"Dressed? No. No."
"Did he--did he--hear me--calling?"
"Of course he did. That's what startled him, I imagine. Poor boy!
I fear he is gone."
"Did he fall in, or did he dive?"
"He seemed to dive, but he has not come up. I fear he is gone."
"Oh, nonsense, father," said the girl. "I bet you he has swum
round the bend. Just go over the rock and see."
"God grant it!" said her father.
He dropped his paddle, ran up over the rock and down into the
little dell on the other side that ran down to the water's edge.
There he saw a tent, with all the accompaniments of a well ordered
camp, and a man cooking breakfast on a small fire.
"Well, I'll be combusticated!" he said to himself, weakly holding
to a little poplar tree.
"I say!" he cried, "where is he? Has he come in? Is he all
"Who?" said the man at the fire.
"The boy on the rock."
The man gazed at him astonished, then as if suddenly grasping his
"Yes, he came in. He's dressing in the tent."
"Well, I'll be condumbusticated!" said the man. "Say! what the
devil does he mean by scaring people out of their senses in that
The man at the fire stood gazing at him in an utterly bewildered
"If you will tell me exactly what you are after, I may be able to
The other drew slowly near the fire. He was still pale, and
"Hello, dad, is breakfast ready?" came a cheery voice from the
"Thank God, he is alive apparently," said the man, sinking down on
a log beside the fire. "You must pardon me, sir," he said. "You
see, I saw him take a header into the pool from that high rock over
yonder, and he never came up again. I thought he was drowned."
The man at the fire smiled.
"The young villain gave you a fright, did he? One of his usual
tricks. Well, as his father, and more or less responsible for him,
I offer the most humble apology. Have you had breakfast?"
"Yes. But why did he do such a thing?"
"Ask him. Here he comes."
Out from the tent came the youth in shorts, the warm glow of his
body showing through the filmy material.
"Hello!" he cried, backing toward the tent door. "You are the man
with the paddle. Is there by any chance a lady with you, or did I
hear a lady's voice over there? I assure you I got a deuce of a
"You gave me the supreme fright of my life, young man, I can tell
"But I surely heard a lady's voice," said the youth.
"You did. It was my daughter's voice, and it was she who suggested
that you had swum around the bend. And she sent me over here to
"Oh, your daughter. Excuse me," said the youth. "I shall be out
in a few minutes." He slid into the tent, and did not reappear.
The man remained chatting with the youth's father for a few
minutes, then rising said,
"Well, I feel better. I confess this thing gave me something of a
shock. But come round and see us before we go. We shall be
leaving in an hour."
The man at the fire promised to make the visit, and the other took
A few minutes later the youth reappeared.
"Is breakfast ready?" he cried. "My, but I'm hungry! But who is
"Sit down," said his father, "and get your breakfast while it is
"But who is he, dad?" persisted the youth.
"Who is he?" said his father, dishing up the bacon. "An oil
explorer, an artist, a capitalist, an American from Pittsburgh, the
father of one child, a girl. Her mother is dead. Nineteen years
old, athletic, modern type, college bred, 'boss of the show'
(quotation). These are a few of the facts volunteered within the
limited space of his visit."
"What's he like, dad?"
"Like? Like an American."
"Now, dad, don't allow your old British prejudices to run away with
"On the contrary, I am perfectly charmed. He is one of those
Americans who capture you at once, educated, frank, open, with that
peculiar charm that Britishers will not be able to develop for many
generations. An American, but not of the unspeakable type. Not at
all. You will like him."
"I am sure I shall," replied the youth. "I liked his voice and his
face. I like the Americans. I met such nice chaps at college. So
clever, and with such a vocabulary."
"Vocabulary? Well, I'm not too sure as to the vocabulary part of
"Yes, such bright, pat, expressive slang, so fresh and in such
variety. So different from your heavy British slang, in which
everything approaching the superlative must be one of three things,
'ripping,' with very distinct articulation on the double p, or 'top
hole,' or 'awfully jolly.' More recently, I believe, a fourth
variation is allowed in 'priceless.'
"Ah, my boy, you have unconsciously uttered a most searching
criticism on your American friends. Don't you know that a
vocabulary rich in slang is poverty stricken in forceful and well
chosen English? The wealth of the one is the poverty of the
"Where is he going?" enquired the boy.
"Out by way of Edmonton, Calgary, Moose Jaw, Minneapolis, so on to
Pittsburgh. Partner with him, young lawyer, expert in mines,
unmarried. He is coming back in a couple of months or so for a big
hunt. Wants us to join him. Really extraordinary, when you come
to think of it, how much information he was able to convey in such
a short space of time. Marvellous gift of expression!"
"What did you say, dad?"
"Say? Oh, as to his invitation! Why, I believe I accepted, my
boy. It seemed as if I could do nothing else. It's a way he has."
"Is--is the daughter to be along?"
"Let me see. What did he say? Really, I don't know. But I should
judge that it would be entirely as she wished. She is--"
"Boss of the show, eh?"
"Exactly. Most vivid phrase, eh?"
"Very. And no doubt aptly descriptive of the fact."
In half an hour the breakfast was finished, and the elder man got
his pipe a-going.
"Now, dad, you had better go along and make your call, while I get
things together here."
"What! You not going! No, no, that won't do, my boy. It was
about you they were concerned. You were the occasion of the
acquaintanceship. Besides, meeting in the wilderness this way we
can't do that sort of thing, you know."
"Well, dad, frankly, I am quite terrified of the young lady.
Suppose she should start bossing us. We should both be quite
"Oh, nonsense, boy! Come along. Get your hat."
"All right, I'll come. On your head be the consequences, dad. No.
I don't need a hat. Fortunately I put on a clean shirt. Will I
do, dad? You know I'm 'scairt stiff,' as Harry Hobbs would say."
His father looked him over, but there was nothing critical in his
glance. Pride and love filled his eyes as they ran over his son's
face and figure. And small wonder! The youth was good to look
upon. A shade under six feet he stood, straight and slim, strength
and supple grace in every move of his body. His face was beautiful
with the beauty of features, clean cut and strong, but more with
the beauty of a clear, candid soul. He seemed to radiate an
atmosphere of cheery good nature and unspoiled simplicity. He was
two years past his majority, yet he carried the air of a youth of
eighteen, in which shyness and fearlessness looked out from his
deep blue eyes. It was well that he wore no hat to hide the mass
of rich brown hair that waved back from his forehead.
"You'll do, boy," said his father, in a voice whose rigid evenness
of tone revealed the emotion it sought to conceal. "You'll take
all the shine from me, you young beggar," he added in a tone of
gruff banter, "but there was a time--"
"WAS a time, dad? IS, and don't tell me you don't know it. I
always feel like a school kid in any company when you're about.
'When the sun comes out
All the little stars run in,'"
he sang from a late music hall effusion. "Why, just come here and
look at yourself," and the boy's eyes dwelt with affectionate pride
upon his father.
It was easy to see where the boy got his perfect form. Not so tall
as his son, he was more firmly knit, and with a kind of dainty
neatness in his appearance which suggested the beau in earlier
days. But there was nothing of weakness about the erect, trim
figure. A second glance discovered a depth of chest, a thickness
of shoulder and of thigh, and a general development of muscle such
as a ring champion might show; and, indeed, it was his achievements
in the ring rather than in the class lists that won for Dick Dunbar
in his college days his highest fame. And though his fifty years
had slowed somewhat the speed of foot and hand, the eye was as sure
as ever, and but little of the natural force was abated which once
had made him the glory of the Cambridge sporting youth, and which
even yet could test his son's mettle in a fast bout.
On the sandy shore of the river below the eddy, they found the
American and his party gathered, with their stuff ranged about them
ready for the canoes.
"Ah, here you are, sir," said the American, advancing hat in hand.
"And this is your son, the young rascal who came mighty near giving
me heart failure this morning. By the way, I haven't the pleasure
of knowing your name."
"My name is Richard Dunbar, and this is my son Barry."
"My name is Osborne Howland, of Pittsburgh, and this is my daughter
Paula. In bloomers, as you see, but nevertheless my daughter.
Meet also my friend and partner, Mr. Cornwall Brand."
The party exchanged greetings, and spent some moments giving
utterance to those platitudes which are so useful in such
circumstances, a sort of mental marking time preparatory to further
The girl possessed that striking, dashing kind of brunette beauty
that goes with good health, good living, and abundance of outdoor
exercise. She carried herself with that air of assured self-
confidence that comes as the result of a somewhat wide experience
of men, women and things. She quite evidently scorned the
conventions, as her garb, being quite masculine, her speech being
outspoken and decorated with the newest and most ingenious slang,
her whole manner being frankly impulsive, loudly proclaimed.
But Barry liked her at once, and made no pretence of concealing his
liking. To her father, also, he was immediately drawn. As to
Cornwall Brand, between whom and the girl there seemed to exist a
sort of understanding, he was not so sure.
For half an hour or so they stood by the river exchanging their
experiences in these northern wilds, and their views upon life in
the wilderness and upon things in general. By a little skilful
managing the girl got the young man away from the others, and then
proceeded to dissect and classify him.
Through the open woods along the river bank they wandered, pausing
here and there to admire the view, until they came to an overhanging
bank at the entrance to a somewhat deep gorge, through which the
river foamed to the boiling rapids below. It was indeed a beautiful
scene. The banks of the river were covered with every variety of
shrub and tree, except where the black rocks broke through; between
the banks the dark river raged and fretted itself into a foam
against its rocky barriers; over them arched the sky, a perfect
"What a lovely view!" exclaimed the girl, seating herself upon the
edge of the bank. "Now," she said, "tell me about yourself. You
gave my pater a fearful fright this morning. He was quite
paralysed when I came on him."
"I am very sorry," said the youth, "but I had no intention--"
"I know. I told him not to worry," replied the girl. "I knew you
would be all right."
"And how, pray?" said the young man, blushing at the memory of his
startling appearance upon that rock.
"I knew that any fellow who could take that dive wouldn't likely
let himself drown. I guessed, too, that if you heard me hoot--"
"I did," said the youth.
"You sure would get slippy right away."
"I guess you were pretty well startled yourself, weren't you?" said
the girl, pursuing the subject with cool persistence.
"Rather," said the young man, blushing more violently, and wishing
she would change the subject. "You are going out?" he enquired.
"Too bad," he said, his disappointment evident in his tone.
"When are you going out? But who are you, anyway?" asked the girl.
"You have to tell me that."
"My life story, so to speak?"
"It's very short and simple, like the annals of the poor," he
replied. "From England in infancy, on a ranch in northern Alberta
for ten years, a puny little wretch I was, terribly bothered with
asthma, then"--the boy hesitated a moment--"my mother died, father
moved to Edmonton, lived there for five years, thence to Wapiti,
away northwest of Edmonton, our present home, prepared for college
by my father, university course in Winnipeg, graduated in theology
a year ago, now the missionary in charge of Wapiti and the
"A preacher!" said the girl, her face and her tone showing her
disappointment only too plainly.
"Not much of a preacher, I fear," said the young man with a smile.
"A missionary, rather. That's my story."
She noticed with some chagrin that he did not ask for hers.
"What are you doing here?" she enquired.
He hesitated a moment or two.
"Dad and I always take a trip into the wilds every summer." Then
he added after a few moments' pause, "But of course we have other
business on hand up here."
"Business? Up here?"
"Yes. Dad has some." He made as if to continue, but changed his
mind and fell into silence, leaving her piqued by his reserve and
by his apparent indifference to the things concerning herself. She
did not know that he was eagerly hoping that she would supply this
At length he ventured, "Must you go away to-day?"
"I don't suppose there's any 'must' about it."
"Why not stay?"
"Why should I?"
"Oh, it would be jolly," he cried. "You see, we could--explore
about here--and,"--he ended rather lamely,--"it's a lovely country."
"We've seen a lot of it. It IS lovely," she said, her eyes upon
his face as if appraising him. "I should like to know you better,"
she added, with sudden and characteristic frankness, "so I think we
will stay. But you will have to be awfully good to me."
"Why, of course," he cried. "That's splendid! Perfectly jolly!"
"Then we had better find father and tell him. Come along," she
ordered, and led the way back to the camp.
The young man followed her, wondering at her, and giving slight
heed to the chatter she flung over her shoulder at him as she
strode along through the bushes.
"What's the matter with you?" she cried, facing round upon him.
"You were thinking about me, I know. Confess, now."
"I was," he acknowledged, smiling at her.
"What were you thinking? Tell me," she insisted.
"I was thinking--" He paused.
"Go on!" she cried.
"I was thinking of what your father said about you."
"My father? About me? What did he say? To you?"
"No. To dad."
"What was it? Tell me. I must know." She was very imperious in
her manner. The youth only smiled at her.
"Go on!" she said impatiently.
"I think possibly your father was right," he replied, "when he said
you 'boss the show.'"
"Oh, that's what he said, eh? Well, I guess he's about right."
"But you don't really?"
"Don't what? 'Boss the show'? Well, I boss my own show, at any
rate. Don't you?"
"Don't I what, exactly? Boss the show? Well, I don't think we
have any 'show,' and I don't believe we have any 'boss.' Dad and I
just talk things over, you see."
"But," she insisted, "some one in the last analysis must decide.
Your menage, no matter how simple, must have a head. It is a law
of the universe itself, and it is the law of mankind. You see, I
have done some political economy."
"And yet," said the young man, "you say you run your own show?"
"Exactly. Every social organism must have a head, but every
individual in the organism must live its own free life. That is
true democracy. But of course you don't understand democracy, you
"Aha! There you are! You Americans are the most insular of all
the great peoples of the world. You know nothing of other people.
You know only your own history and not even that correctly, your
own geography, and your own political science. You know nothing of
Canada. You don't know, for instance, that the purest form of
democracy on this American continent lies outside the bounds of the
U. S. A."
"In Canada?" she asked scornfully. "By the way, how many Canadians
"Yes, I know. We are a small people," he said quietly, "but no more
real democracy exists anywhere in the world than in this country of
mine. We are a small people, but," he said, with a sweep of his
hand toward the west and the north, "the future is with us. The
day is coming when along this waterway great cities shall be, with
factories and humming industries. These plains, these flowing
hills will be the home of millions of men, and in my lifetime,
His eyes began to glow, his face to shine with a rare and
"Do you know the statistics of your country? Do you know that
during the last twenty years the rate of Canada's growth was three
times greater than ever in the history of the United States? You
are a great commercial nation, but do you know that the per capita
rate of Canada's trade to-day is many times that of the United
States? You are a great agricultural people, but do you know that
three-quarters of the wheat land on this continent is Canadian, and
that before many years you will be coming to Canada for your wheat,
yes, and for your flour? Do you see that river? Do you know that
Canada is the richest country in the world in water power? And
more than that, in the things essential to national greatness,--not
these things that you can see, these material things," he said,
sweeping his hand contemptuously toward the horizon, "but in such
things as educational standards, in administration of justice, in
the customs of a liberty loving people, in religious privileges, in
everything that goes to make character and morale, Canada has
already laid the foundations of a great nation."
He stopped short, abashed, the glow fading from his face, the light
from his eyes.
"Forgive me," he said, with a little laugh. "I am a first class
ass. I fear I was blowing like a fog horn. But when you touch
Canada you release something in me."
While he was speaking her eyes never left his face. "Go on!" she
said, in a voice of suppressed emotion, "go on. I love to hear
Her wonted poise was gone; she was obviously stirred with deep
"Go on!" she commanded, laying her hand upon his arm. "Don't stop.
Tell me more about--about Canada, about anything," she added
A warm, eager light filled her eyes. She was biting her lips to
still their tremor.
"There's plenty to tell about Canada," he said, "but not now. What
started me? Oh, democracy. Yes, it was you that began it.
Democracy? After all, it is worth while that the people who are
one day to fill this wide land should be truly democratic, truly
free, and truly great."
Once more the light began to burn in his eyes and in his face.
"Ah, to have a hand in that!"
"And you," she said in a low voice, "you with all that in you, are
only a preacher."
"A missionary," he corrected.
"Well, a missionary. Only a missionary."
Disappointment and scorn were all too evident in her voice.
"ONLY a missionary. Ah, if I could only be one. A missionary!
With a mission and a message to my people! If only I had the gift
of tongues, of flaming, burning, illuminating speech, of heart-
compelling speech! To tell my people how to make this country
truly great and truly free, how to keep it free from the sordid
things, the cruel things, the unjust, the unclean, the loathsome
things that have debased and degraded the older nations, that are
debasing and degrading even your young, great nation. Ah, to be a
missionary with a tongue of fire, with a message of light! A
missionary to my people to help them to high and worthy living, to
help them to God! ONLY a missionary! What would you have me? A
He turned swiftly upon her, a magnetic, compelling personality.
From the furious scorn in his voice and in his flaming face she
visibly shrank, almost as if he had struck her.
"No!" she breathed. "Nothing else. Only a missionary."
Silent she stood, as if still under the spell of his words, her
eyes devouring his face.
"How your mother would have loved you, would have been proud of
you," she said in a low tone. "Is--is there no one else to--to
rejoice in you?" she asked shyly, but eagerly.
He laughed aloud. "There's dad, dear old dad."
"And no one else?" Still with shy, eager eyes she held him.
"Oh, heaps," he cried, still laughing.
She smiled upon him, a slightly uncertain smile, and yet as if his
answer somehow satisfied her.
"Good-bye," she said impulsively, offering her hand.
"But you are not going! You're staying a few days!" he gasped.
"No, we're going. We're going right away. Goodbye," she said. "I
don't want those others to see. Goodbye. Oh, it's been a
wonderful morning! And,--and--a friend is a wonderful discovery."
Her hand held his in a strong, warm grasp, but her eyes searched
his face as if seeking something she greatly desired.
"Good-bye. I am sorry you are going," he said, simply. "I want to
know you better."
"Do you?" she cried, with a sudden eagerness in her voice and
manner. Then, "No. You would be disappointed. I am not of your
world. But you shall see me again," she added, as if taking a new
resolve. "We are coming back on a big hunt, and you and your
father are to join us. Won't you?"
"Dad said we should," said the youth, smiling at the remembrance.
"And you?" she said, with a touch of impatience.
"If things can so arrange themselves--my work, I mean, and dad's."
"But, do you want to? Do you really want to?" she asked. "I wish
I knew. I hate not to understand people. You are hard to know. I
don't know you. But you will come?"
"I think so," said the young man. "Of course a fellow's work comes
first, you know."
"Work?" she cried. "Your work? Oh, your missionary work. Oh,
yes, yes. I should like to see you at it. Come, let us go."
Mr. Cornwall Brand they found in a fever of impatience. He had the
trip scheduled to a time table, and he hated to be forced to change
his plans. His impatience showed itself in snappy commands and
inquiries to his Indian guides, who, however, merely grunted
replies. They knew their job and did it without command or advice,
and with complete indifference to anything the white man might have
to say. To Paula the only change in his manner was an excess of
Her father, however, met her with remonstrances.
"Why, Paula, my dear, you have kept us waiting."
"What's the rush, pater?" she enquired, coolly.
"Why, my dear, we are already behind our schedule, and you know
Cornwall hates that," he said in a low voice.
"Cornwall!" said Paula, in a loud voice of unmistakable ill temper.
"Does Cornwall run this outfit?"
"My dear Paula!" again remonstrated her father.
She turned to him impatiently, with an angry word at her lips,
caught upon Barry's face a look of surprise, paused midway in her
passion, then moved slowly toward him.
"Well," she asked, in an even, cold voice, "what do you think about
it? And anyway," she dropped her voice so that none heard but
himself, "why should you halt me? Who are you, to give me pause
"Only a missionary," he answered, in an equally low tone, but with
a smile gentle, almost wistful on his face.
As with a flash the wrathful cloud vanished.
"A missionary," she replied softly. "God knows I need one."
"You do," he said emphatically, and still he smiled.
"Come, Paula," called Cornwall Brand. "We are all waiting."
Her face hardened at his words.
"Good-bye," she said to Barry. "I am coming back again to--to your
"Of course you are," said Barry, heartily. "They all do."
He went with her to the canoe, steadied her as she took her place,
and stood watching till the bend in the river shut them from view.
"Nice people," said his father. "Very fine, jolly girl."
"Yes, isn't she?" replied his son.
"Handsome, too," said his father, glancing keenly at him.
"Is she? Yes, I think so. Yes, indeed, very," he added, as if
pondering the matter. "When do we move, dad?"
A look of relief crossed the father's face.
"This afternoon, I think. We have only a few days now. We shall
run up Buffalo Creek into the Foothills for some trout. It will be
a little stiff, but you are fit enough now, aren't you, Barry?"
His voice was tinged with anxiety.
"Fit for anything, dad, thanks to you."
"Not to me, Barry. To yourself largely."
"No," said the boy, throwing his arm round his father's shoulder,
"thanks to you, dear old dad,--and to God."
ON THE RED PINE TRAIL
On the Red Pine trail two men were driving in a buckboard drawn by
a pair of half-broken pinto bronchos. The outfit was a rather
ramshackle affair, and the driver was like his outfit. Stewart
Duff was a rancher, once a "remittance man," but since his marriage
three years ago he had learned self-reliance and was disciplining
himself in self-restraint. A big, lean man he was, his thick
shoulders and large, hairy muscular hands suggesting great physical
strength, his swarthy face, heavy features, coarse black hair,
keen dark eyes, deepset under shaggy brows, suggesting force of
character with a possibility of brutality in passion. Yet when he
smiled his heavy face was not unkindly, indeed the smile gave it a
kind of rugged attractiveness. He was past his first youth, and on
his face were the marks of the stormy way by which he had come.
He drove his jibing bronchos with steady hands. No light touch was
his upon the reins, and the bronchos' wild plunging met with a
check from those muscular hands of such iron rigidity as to fling
them back helpless and amazed upon their hocks.
His companion was his opposite in physical appearance, and in those
features and lines that so unmistakably reveal the nature and
character within. Short and stout, inclined indeed to fat, to his
great distress, his thick-set figure indicated strength without
agility, solidity without resilience. He had a pleasant, open
face, with a kindly, twinkling blue eye that goes with a merry
heart, with a genial, sunny soul. But there was in the blue eye
and in the open face, for all the twinkles and the smiles, a
certain alert shrewdness that proclaimed the keen man of business,
and in the clean cut lips lay the suggestion of resolute strength.
A likable man he was, with an infinite capacity for humour, but
with a bedrock of unyielding determination in him that always
surprised those who judged him lightly.
The men were friends, and had been comrades more or less during
those pioneer days that followed their arrival in the country from
Scotland some dozen years ago. Often they had fallen out with each
other, for Duff was stormy of temper and had a habit of letting
himself swing out upon its gusts of passion, reckless of
consequences; but he was ever the one to offer amends and to seek
renewal of good relations. He had few friends, and so he clung the
more closely to those he had. At such times the other would wait
in cool, good-tempered but determined aloofness for his friend's
"You can chew your cud till you're cool again," he would say when
the outbreak would arise. But invariably their differences were
composed and their friendship remained unbroken.
The men sat in the buckboard, leaning forward with hunched
shoulders, swaying easily to the pitching of the vehicle as it
rattled along the trail which, especially where it passed over the
round topped ridges, was thickly strewn with stones. Before them,
now on the trail and now ranging wide over the prairie, ran a
beautiful black and white English setter.
"Great dog that, Sandy," said Duff. "I could have had a dozen
birds this afternoon. A wonderful nose, and steady as a rock."
"A good dog, Stewart," assented Sandy, but with slight interest.
"There ain't another like him in this western country," said the
owner of the dog with emphasis.
"Oh, I don't know about that. There are some very good dogs around
here, Stewart," replied Sandy lightly.
"But I know. And that's why I'm saying there ain't his like in
this western country, and that's as true as your name is Sandy
"Well, my name is Sandy Bayne, all right, but how did he come out
at the Calgary trials?"
"Aw, those damned gawks! They don't know a good dog from a he-
goat! They don't know what a dog is for, or how to use him."
"Oh, now, Stewart," said Sandy, "I guess Willocks knows a dog when
he sees one."
"Willocks!" said his friend with scorn. "There's where you're
wrong. Do you know why he cut Slipper out of the Blue Ribbon?
Because he wouldn't range a mile away. Darned old fool! What's
the good of a point a mile away! Keeps you running over the whole
creation, makes you lose time, tires yourself and tires your dog;
and more than that, in nine cases out of ten you lose your bird.
Give me a close ranger. He cleans up as he goes, keeps your game
right at your hand, and gets you all the sport there is."
"Who beat you, Stewart, in the trials?"
"That bitch of Snider's."
"Man! Stewart, that's a beautiful bitch! I know her well. She's a
beautiful bitch!" Sandy began to show enthusiasm.
"Oh, there you go! That's just what those fool judges said.
'Beautiful dog! Beautiful dog!' Suppose she is! Looks ain't
everything. They're something, but the question is, does she get
the birds? Now, Slipper there got three birds to her one. Got 'em
within range, too."
"Ah, but Stewart, yon's a good bitch," said Sandy.
"Look here!" cried his friend, "I have bred more dogs in the old
country than those men ever saw in their lives."
"That may be, Stewart, but yon's a good bitch," persisted Sandy.
For a mile more they discussed the merits of Slipper and of his
rivals, Sandy with his semi-humorous chaff extracting quiet
amusement from his friend's wrath, and the latter, though
suspecting that he was being drawn, unable to restrain his
passionate championship of his dog.
At length Sandy, wearying of the discussion, caught sight of a
figure far before them on the trail.
"Who is that walking along there?" he enquired.
Together they ran over the names of all who in this horse country
were unfortunate enough to be doomed to a pedestrian form of
"Guess it's the preacher," said Duff finally, whose eyes were like
"He's been out at my place Sunday afternoon," said Sandy, "but I
haven't met him myself. What sort is he?"
"Don't ask me. I sometimes go with the madame to church, but
generally I fall asleep. He's no alarm clock."
"Then you can't tell what sort of a preacher he is," said Sandy
with a twinkle in his eye. "You can't hear much when you are
"I hear enough to know that he's no good as a preacher. I hear
they're going to fire him."
"I tell you what it is, Stewart," said Sandy, "I don't believe you
would know a good sermon if you heard one."
"What's that you say? I've heard the best preachers in the country
that breeds preachers, in the country where preachers grow like the
berries on the bramble bushes. I know preaching, and I like good
"Oh, come off, Stewart! You may be a good judge of dogs, but I'm
blowed if I am going to take you as a judge of preachers."
"The same qualities in all of them, dogs, horses, preachers,"
"How do you make that out?"
"Well, take a horse. He must be a good-looker. This preacher is a
good-looker, all right, but looks ain't everything. Must be quick
at the start, must have good action, good style, staying power, and
good at the finish. Most preachers never know when to finish, and
that's the way with this man."
"Are you going to take him up?" inquired Sandy, for they were now
close upon the man walking before them.
"Oh, I guess not," replied Duff. "I haven't much use for him."
"Say, what's the matter with him? He looks rather puffed out,"
said Sandy. "Better take him up."
"All right," replied Duff, pulling up his bronchos. "Good day.
Will you have a ride? Mr. Barry Dunbar, my friend Mr. Bayne."
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Bayne," said Barry, who was pale and panting
hard. "Thanks for the lift. The truth--is--I'm rather--done up.
A touch of asthma--the first--in five years. An old trouble of
"Get up here," said Sandy. "There's room for three in the seat."
"No--thank you,--I should--crowd you,--all right behind here.
Beastly business--this asthma. Worse when--the pollen--from the
plants--is floating--about--so they say. I don't know--nobody
does--I fancy." They drove on, bumping over the stones, Barry
gradually getting back his wind. The talk of the men in the front
seat had fallen again on dogs, Stewart maintaining with ever
increasing vehemence his expert knowledge of dogs, of hunting dogs,
and very especially of setter hunting dogs; his friend, while
granting his knowledge of dogs in general, questioning the
unprejudiced nature of his judgment as far as Slipper was
As Duff's declarations grew in violence they became more and more
elaborately decorated with profanity. In the full tide of their
conversation a quiet voice broke in:
"Too many 'damns.'"
"What!" exclaimed Duff.
"I beg your pardon!" said Sandy.
"Too many 'damns,'" said Barry, looking quietly at Duff.
"Dams? Where?" said Duff, looking about.
"Beaver dams, do you mean?" enquired Sandy. "I don't see any."
"Too many 'damns,'" reiterated Barry. "You don't need them. You
really don't need them, you know, and besides, they are not right.
Profanity is quite useless, and it's wicked."
"Well, I'll be damned!" said Stewart in a low voice to his friend.
"He means us."
"And quite right, too," said Sandy solemnly. "You know your
English is rotten bad. Yes, sir," he continued, turning round to
Barry, "I quite agree with you. My friend is quite unnecessarily
free in his speech."
"Yes, but you are just the same, you know," said Barry. "Not quite
so many, but then you are not quite so excited."
"Got you there, old sport," grunted Duff, highly amused at Sandy's
discomfiture. But to Barry he said, "I guess it's our own business
how we express ourselves."
"Yes, it is, but, pardon me, not entirely so. There are others in
the world, you know, and you must consider others. The habit is a
bad habit, a rotten habit, and quite useless--silly, indeed."
Duff turned his back upon him. Sandy, giving his friend a nudge,
burst into a loud laugh.
"You are right, sir," he said, turning to Barry. "You are quite
At this point Slipper created a diversion.
"Hello!" said Duff. "Say! Look at him!" He pointed to the dog.
"Ain't he a picture!"
A hundred yards away stood Slipper, rigid, every muscle, every hair
taut, one foot arrested in air.
"I'll just get those," said Duff, slipping out of the buckboard and
drawing the gun from beneath the seat. "Steady, old boy, steady!
Hold the lines, Sandy."
He moved quickly toward the dog who, quivering with that mysterious
instinct found in the hunting dog, still held the point with taut
muscles, nose and tail in line.
"Hello!" Barry called out. "It isn't the season yet for chicken.
I say, Mr. Duff," he shouted, "it isn't the chicken season, you
"Better leave him alone," said Sandy.
"But it isn't the season yet! It is against the law!" protested
Meantime Stewart Duff was closing up cautiously behind Slipper.
"Forward, old boy! Ste-e-e-ady! Forward!" The dog refused to
move. "Forward, Slipper!"
Still the dog remained rigid, as if nailed to the ground.
Slowly the dog turned his head with infinite caution half round
toward his master, as if in protest.
"Hello, there!" shouted Barry, "you know--"
Just as he called there was on all sides a great whirring of wings.
A dozen chicken flew up from under Duff's feet. Bang! Bang! went
"Missed, as I'm a sinner!" exclaimed Sandy. "I thought he was a
better shot than that."
Back came Duff striding wide toward the buckboard. Fifty yards
away he shouted:
"Say! what the devil do you mean calling like that at a man when
he's on the point of shooting!" His face was black with anger. He
looked ready to strike. Barry looked at him steadily.
"But, I was just reminding you that it was not the season for
chicken yet," he said in the tone of a man prepared to reason the
"What's that got to do with it! And anyway, whose business is it
what I do but my own?"
"But it's against the law!"
"Oh, blank the law! Besides--"
"Besides it isn't--well, you know, it isn't quite sporting to shoot
out of season." Barry's manner was as if dealing with a fractious
Duff, speechless with his passion, looked at him as if not quite
sure what form his vengeance should take.
"He's quite right, Stewart," said his friend Sandy, who was hugely
enjoying himself. "You know well enough you are down on the farmer
chaps who go pot hunting before season. It's rotten sport, you
"Oh, hell! Will you shut up! Can't I shoot over my dog when he
points? I'm not out shooting. If I want to give my dog a little
experience an odd bird or two don't matter. Besides, what the--"
"Oh, come on, Stewart! Get in, and get a move on! You know you
are in the wrong. But I thought you were a better shot than that,"
His remark diverted Duff's rage.
"Better shot!" he stormed. "Who could shoot with a--a--a--" he was
feeling round helplessly for a properly effective word,--"with a
fellow yelling at you?" he concluded lamely. "I'd have had a brace
of them if it hadn't been for him."
"In that case," said Barry coolly, "I saved you from the law."
"Saved me from the law! What the devil do you mean, anyway?" said
Stewart. "If I want to pick up a bird who's to hinder me? And
what's the law got to do with it?"
"Well, you know, I'm not sure but it might have been my duty to
report you. I feel that all who break the game laws should be
reported. It is the only way to stop the lawless destruction of
Barry spoke in a voice of quiet deliberation, as if pondering the
proper action in the premises.
"Quite right, too," said Sandy gravely, but with a twinkle in his
blue eye. "They ought to be reported. I have no use for those
Duff made no reply. His rage and disgust, mingled with the sense
of his being in the wrong, held him silent. No man in the whole
country was harder upon the game poachers than he, but to be held
up in his action and to be threatened with the law by this young
preacher, whom he rather despised anyway, seemed to paralyse his
mental activities. It did not help his self-control that he was
aware that his friend was having his fun of him.
At this moment, fortunately for the harmony of the party, their
attention was arrested by the appearance of a motor car driven at a
furious rate along the trail, and which almost before they were
aware came honking upon them. With a wild lurch the bronchos
hurled themselves from the trail, upsetting the buckboard and
spilling its load.
Duff, cumbered with his gun, which he had reloaded, allowed one of
the reins to drop from his hands and the team went plunging about
in a circle, but Barry, the first to get to his feet, rushed to the
rescue, snatched the reins and held on till he had dragged the
plunging bronchos to a halt.
The rage which had been boiling in Duff, and which with difficulty
had been held within bounds, suddenly burst all bonds of control.
With a fierce oath he picked up the gun which he had thrown aside
in his struggle with the horses, and levelled it at the speeding
"For God's sake, Stewart, stop!" shouted Bayne, springing toward
Barry was nearer and quicker. The shot went off, but his hand had
knocked up the gun.
"My God, Stewart! Are you clean crazy!" said Bayne, gripping him
by the arm. "Do you know what you are doing? You are not fit to
carry a gun!"
"I'd have bust his blanked tires for him, anyway!" blustered Duff,
though his face and voice showed that he had received a shock.
"Yes, and you might have been a murderer by this time, and heading
for the pen, but for Dunbar here. You owe him more than you can
ever pay, you blanked fool!"
Duff made no reply, but busied himself with his horses. Nor did he
speak again till everything was in readiness for the road.
"Get in," he then said gruffly, and that was his last word until
they drove into the village.
At the store he drew up.
"Thank you for the lift," said Barry. "I should have had a tough
job to get back in time."
Duff grunted at him, and passed on into the store.
"I am very glad to have met you," said Bayne, shaking hands warmly
with him. "You have done us both a great service. He is my
friend, you know."
"I am afraid I have offended him, all the same. But you see I
couldn't help it, could I?"
Bayne looked at his young, earnest face for a moment or two as if
studying him, then said with a curious smile, "No, I don't believe
you could have helped it." And with that he passed into the store.
"What sort of a chap is that preacher of yours?" he asked of the
"I don't know; he ain't my church. Ask Innes there. He's a
Bayne turned to a long, lean, hard-faced man leaning against the
"My name is Bayne, from Red Pine, Mr. Innes. I am interested in
knowing what sort of a chap your preacher is. He comes out to our
section, but I never met him till to-day."
"Oh, he's no that bad," said Innes cautiously.
"Not worth a cent," said a little, red headed man standing near.
"He can't preach for sour apples."
"I wadna just say that, Mr. Hayes," said Innes.
"How do you know, Innes?" retorted Hayes. "You know you fall
asleep before he gets rightly started."
"I aye listen better with ma eyes shut."
"Yes, and snore better, too, Mac," said Hayes. "But I don't blame
you. Most of them go to sleep anyway. That's the kind of preacher
"What sort of a chap is he? I mean what sort of man?"
"Well, for one thing, he's always buttin' in," volunteered a
square-built military looking man standing near. "If he'd stick to
his gospel it wouldn't be so bad, but he's always pokin' his nose
"But he's no that bad," said Innes again, "and as for buttin' in,
McFettridge, and preachin' the gospel, I doubt the country is a
good deal the better for the buttin' in that him and his likes have
done this past year. And besides, the bairns all like him."
"Well, that's not a bad sign, Mr. Innes," said Sandy Bayne, "and
I'm not sure that I don't like him myself. But I guess he butts
in, all right."
"Oh, ay! he butts in," agreed Innes, "but I'm no so sure that
that's no a part of his job, too."
A QUESTION OF CONSCIENCE
The Dunbars lived in a cottage on a back street, which had the
distinction of being the only home on the street which possessed
the adornment of a garden. A unique garden it was, too. Indeed,
with the single exception of Judge Hepburn's garden, which was
quite an elaborate affair, and which was said to have cost the
Judge a "pile of money," there was none to compare with it in the
village of Wapiti.
Any garden on that bare, wind-swept prairie meant toil and infinite
pains, but a garden like that of the Dunbars represented in
addition something of genius. In conception, in design, and in
execution the Dunbars' garden was something apart. Visitors were
taken 'round to the back street to get a glimpse of the Dunbars'
cottage and garden.
The garden was in two sections. That at the back of the cottage,
sheltered by a high, close board fence covered with Virginia
creeper, was given over to vegetables, and it was quite marvellous
how, under Richard Dunbar's care, a quarter of an acre of ground
could grow such enormous quantities of vegetables of all kinds.
Next to the vegetable garden came the plot for small fruits--
strawberries, raspberries, currants, of rare varieties.
The front garden was devoted to flowers. Here were to be found the
old fashioned flowers dear to our grandmothers, and more particularly
the old fashioned flowers native to English and Scottish soil.
Between the two gardens a thick row of tall, splendid sunflowers
made a stately hedge. Then came larkspur, peonies, stocks, and
sweet-williams, verbenas and mignonette, with borders of lobelia and
heliotrope. Along the fence were sweet peas, for which Alberta is
But it was the part of the garden close about the front porch and
verandah where the particular genius of Richard Dunbar showed
itself. Here the flowers native to the prairie, the coulee, the
canyon, were gathered; the early wind flower, the crowfoot and the
buffalo bean, wild snowdrops and violets. Over trellises ran the
tiny morning-glory, with vetch and trailing arbutus. A bed of wild
roses grew to wonderful perfection. Later in the year would be
seen the yellow and crimson lilies, daisies white and golden, and
when other flowers had faded, golden rod and asters in gorgeous
contrast. The approach to the door of the house was by a gravel
walk bordered by these prairie flowers.
The house inside fulfilled the promise of the garden. The living
room, simple in its plan, plain in its furnishing, revealed
everywhere that touch in decorative adornment that spoke of the
cultivated mind and refined taste. A group of rare etchings had
their place over the mantel above a large, open fireplace. On the
walls were to be seen really fine copies of the world's most famous
pictures, and on the panels which ran 'round the walls were bits of
pottery and china, relics of other days and of other homes.
But what was most likely to strike the eye of a stranger on
entering the living room was the array of different kinds of
musical instruments. At one end of the room stood a small upright
piano, a 'cello held one corner, a guitar another; upon a table a
cornet was deposited, and on the piano a violin case could be seen,
while a banjo hung from a nail on the wall.
Near the fireplace a curiously carved pipe-rack hung, with some
half dozen pipes of weird design, evidently the collection of
years, while just under it a small table held the utensils sacred
to the smoker.
When Barry entered he found the table set and everything in
readiness for tea.
"Awfully sorry I'm too late to help you with tea, dad. I have had
a long walk, and quite a deuce of a time getting home."
"All right, boy. Glad you are here. The toast is ready, tea
waiting to be infused. But what happened? No, don't begin telling
me till you get yourself ready. But hurry, your meeting hour will
be on in no time."
"Right-o, dad! Shame to make a slavey of you in this way. I'll be
out in a jiffy."
He threw off his coat and vest, shirt and collar, took a pail of
water to a big block in the little shed at the back, soused his
head and shoulders in it with loud snorting and puffing, and
emerged in a few minutes looking refreshed, clean and wholesome,
his handsome face shining with vigorous health.
Together they stood at the table while the son said a few words of
"I'm ravenous, dad. What! Fried potatoes! Oh, you are a brick."
"No. That reminds me of my thrilling tale, which I shall begin
after my third slice of toast, and not before. You can occupy the
precious minutes, dad, in telling me of your excitements in the
office this afternoon."
"Don't sniff at me. I had a few, though apparently you think it
impossible in my humdrum grey life."
"Good!" said Barry, his mouth full of toast. "Go on."
"Young Neil Fraser is buying, or has just bought, the S.Q.R.
ranch. Filed the transfer to-day."
"Neil Fraser? He's in my tale, too. Bought the S.Q.R.? Where did
he get the stuff?"
"Dough, the dirt, the wherewithal, in short the currency, dad."
"Barry, you are ruining your English," said his father.
"Yum-yum. Bully! Did you notice that, dad? I'm coming on, eh?
One thing I almost pray about, that I might become expert in
slinging the modern jaw hash. I'm appallingly correct in my forms
of speech. But go on, dad. I'm throwing too much vocalisation
myself. You were telling me about Neil Fraser. Give us the chorus
"I don't like it, boy," said his father, shaking his head, "and
especially in a clergyman."
"But that's where you are off, dad. The trouble is, when I come
within range of any of my flock all my flip vocabulary absolutely
vanishes, and I find myself talking like a professor of English or
a maiden lady school ma'am of very certain age."
"I don't like it, boy. Correct English is the only English for a
"I wonder," said the lad. "But I don't want to worry you, dad."
"Oh, as for me, that matters nothing at all, but I am thinking of
you and of your profession, your standing."
"I know that, dad. I sometimes wish you would think a little more
about yourself. But what of Neil Fraser?"
"He has come into some money. He has bought the ranch."
Barry's tone expressed doubtful approval. "Neil is a good sort,
dad, awfully reckless, but I like him," said Barry. "He is up and
up with it all."
"Now, what about your afternoon?" said his father.
"Well, to begin with, I had a dose of my old friend, the enemy."
"Barry, you don't tell me! Your asthma!" His father sat back from
the table gazing at him in dismay. "And I thought that was all
"So did I, dad. But it really didn't amount to much. Probably
some stomach derangement, more likely some of that pollen which is
floating around now. I passed through a beaver meadow where they
were cutting hay, and away I went in a gale of sneezing, forty
miles an hour. But I'm all right now, dad. I'm telling you the
truth. You know I do."
"Yes, yes, I know," said his father, concern and relief mingling in
his voice, "but you don't know how to take care of yourself, Barry.
But go on with your tale."
"Well, as I was panting along like a 'heavey horse,' as Harry Hobbs
would say,--not really too bad, dad,--along comes that big rancher,
Stewart Duff, driving his team of pinto bronchos, and with him a
chap named Bayne, from Red Pine Creek. He turned out to be an
awfully decent sort. And Duff's dog, Slipper, ranging on ahead, a
"Yes, I have seen him."
They discussed for a few moments the beauties and points of Duff's
Slipper, for both were keen sportsmen, and both were devoted to
dogs. Then Barry went back to his tale and gave an account of what
had happened during the ride home.
"You see Slipper ranging about got 'on point' and beautiful work it
was, too. Out jumped Duff with his gun, ready to shoot, though, of
course, he knew it was out of season and that he was breaking the
law. Well, just as Slipper flushed the birds, I shouted to Duff
that he was shooting out of season. He missed."
"Oh, he was properly wrathful at my spoiling his shot," cried the
"I don't know that I blame him, Barry," said his father thoughtfully.
"It is an annoying thing to be shouted at with your gun on a bird,
you know, extremely annoying."
"But he was breaking the law, dad!" cried Barry indignantly.
"I know, I know. But after all--"
"But, dad, you can't sit there and tell me that you don't condemn
him for shooting out of season. You know nothing makes you more
furious than hearing about chaps who pot chicken out of season."
"I know, I know, my boy." The father was apparently quite
distressed. "You are quite right, but--"
"Now, dad, I won't have it! You are not to tell me that I had no
business to stop him if I could. Besides, the law is the law, and
sport is sport."
"I quite agree, Barry. Believe me, I quite agree. Yet all the
same, a chap does hate to have his shot spoiled, and to shout at a
fellow with his gun on a bird,--well, you'll excuse me, Barry, but
it is hardly the sporting thing."
"Sporting! Sporting!" said Barry. "I know that I hated to do it,
but it was right. Besides talk about 'sporting'--what about
shooting out of season?"
"Yes, yes. Well, we won't discuss it. Go on, Barry."
"But I don't like it, dad. I don't like to think that you don't
approve of what I do. It was a beastly hard thing to do, anyway.
I had to make myself do it. It was my duty." The young man sat
looking anxiously at his father.
"Well, my boy," said his father, "I may be wrong, but do you think
you are always called upon to remonstrate with every law breaker?
No, listen to me," he continued hurriedly. "What I mean is, must
you or any of us assume responsibility for every criminal in the
Barry sat silent a moment, considering this proposition.
"I wish I knew, dad. You know, I have often said that to excuse
myself after I have funked a thing, and let something go by without
speaking up against it."
"Yes. Funked standing up for the right thing, you know."
"Funked it!" said his father again. "You wouldn't do that, Barry?"
"Oh, wouldn't I, though? I am afraid you don't know me very well,
dad. However, I rather think I had started him up before that, you
know. You won't like this either. But I may as well go through
with it. You know, he was swearing and cursing most awfully, just
in his ordinary talk you know, and that is a thing I can't stand,
so I up and told him he was using too many 'damns.'"
"You did, eh?" In spite of himself the father could not keep the
surprise out of his voice. "Well, that took some nerve, at any
"There you are again, dad! You think I had no right to speak. But
somehow I can't help feeling I was right. For don't you see, it
would have seemed a bit like lowering the flag to have kept
"Then for God's sake speak out, lad! I do not feel quite the same
way as you, but it is what you think yourself that must guide you.
But go on, go on."
"Well, I assure you he was in a proper rage, and if it hadn't been
for Bayne I believe he would have trimmed me to a peak, administered
a fitting castigation, I mean."
"He would, eh?" said the father with a grim smile. "I should like
to see him try."
"So should I, dad, if you were around. I think I see you--feint
with the right, then left, right, left! bing! bang! bung! All over
but the shiver, eh, dad? It would be sweet! But," he added
regretfully, "that's the very thing a fellow cannot do."
"Cannot do? And why not, pray? It is what every fellow is in duty
bound to do to a bully of that sort."
"Yes, but to be quite fair, dad, you could hardly call Duff a
bully. At least, he wasn't bullying me. As a matter of fact, I
was bullying him. Oh, I think he had reason to be angry. When a
chap undertakes to pull another chap up for law breaking, perhaps
he should be prepared to take the consequences. But to go on.
Bayne stepped in--awfully decent of him, too,--when just at that
moment, as novelists say, with startling suddenness occurred an
event that averted the impending calamity. Along came Neil Fraser,
no less, in that new car of his, in a whirlwind of noise and dust,
honking like a flock of wild geese. Well, you should have seen
those bronchos. One lurch, and we were on the ground, a beautiful
upset, and the bronchos in an incipient runaway, fortunately
checked by your humble servant. Duff, in a new and real rage this
time, up with his gun and banged off both barrels after the motor
car, by this time honking down the trail."
"By Jove! he deserved it," said the father. "Those motor fellows
make me long to do murder at times."
"That's because you have no car, Dad, of course."
"Did he hit him, do you think?"
"No. My arm happened to fly up, the gun banged toward the zenith.
"Well, Barry, you do seem to have run foul of Mr. Duff."
"Three times, dad. But each time prevented him from breaking the
law and doing himself and others injury. Would you have let him
off this last time, dad?"
"No, no, boy. Human life has the first claim upon our care. You
did quite right, quite right. Ungovernable fool he must be!
Shouldn't be allowed to carry a gun."
"So Bayne declared," said Barry.
"Well, you have had quite an exciting afternoon. But finish your
tea and get ready for the meeting. I will wash up."
"Not if I know it, dad. You take your saw-horse and do me a little
Handel or Schubert. Do, please," entreated his son. "I want that
before meeting more than anything else. I want a change of mood.
I confess I am slightly rattled. My address is all prepared, but I
must have atmosphere before I go into the meeting."
His father took the 'cello, and after a few moments spent in
carefully tuning up, began with Handel's immortal Largo, then he
wandered into the Adagio Movement in Haydn's third Sonata, from
thence to Schubert's Impromptu in C Minor, after which he began the
Serenade, when he was checked by his son.
"No, not that, dad, that's sickening. I consider that the most
morally relaxing bit of music that I know. It frays the whole
moral fibre. Give us one of Chopin's Ballades, or better still a
bit of that posthumous Fantasie Impromptu, the largo movement. Ah!
He flung his dish-cloth aside, ran to the piano and began an
accompaniment to his father's playing.
"Now, dad, the Largo once more before we close." They did the
Largo once and again, then springing from the piano Barry cried:
"That Largo is a means of grace to me. There could be no better
preparation for a religious meeting than that. If you would only
come in and play for them, it would do them much more good than all
"If you would only take your music seriously, Barry," replied his
father, somewhat sadly, "you would become a good player, perhaps
even a great player."
"And then what, dad?"
His father waved him aside, putting up his 'cello.
"No use going into that again, boy."
"Well, I couldn't have been a great player, at any rate, dad."
"Perhaps not, boy, perhaps not," said his father. "Great players
are very rare. But it is time for your meeting."
"So it is, dad. Awfully sorry I didn't finish up those dishes.
Let them go till I return. I wish you would, dad, and come along
with me." His voice had a wistful note in it.
"Not to-night, boy, I think. We will have some talk after. You
will only be an hour, you know."
"All right, dad," said Barry. "Some time you may come." He could
not hide the wistful regret of his tone.
"Perhaps I shall, boy," replied his father.
It was the one point upon which there was a lack of perfect harmony
between father and son. When the boy went to college it was with
the intention of entering the profession of law, for which his
father had been reading in his young manhood when the lure of
Canada and her broad, free acres caught him, and he had abandoned
the law and with his wife and baby boy had emigrated to become a
land owner in the great Canadian west.
Alas! death, that rude spoiler of so many plans, broke in upon the
sanctity and perfect peace of that happy ranch home and ravished it
of its treasure, leaving a broken hearted man and a little boy,
orphaned and sickly, to be cared for. The ranch was sold, the
rancher moved to the city of Edmonton, thence in a few years to a
little village some twenty-five miles nearer to the Foothills,
where he became the Registrar and Homestead Inspector for the
Here he had lived ever since, training the torn tendrils of his
heart about the lad, till peace came back again, though never the
perfect joy of the earlier days. Every May Day the two were wont
to go upon an expedition many miles into the Foothills, to a
little, sunny spot, where a strong, palisaded enclosure held a
little grave. So little it looked, and so lonely amid the great
hills. There, not in an abandonment of grief, but in loving and
grateful remembrance of her whose dust the little grave now held,
of what she had been to them, and had done for them, they spent the
day, returning to take up again with hearts solemn, tender and
chastened, the daily routine of life.
That his son should grow to take up the profession of law had been
the father's dream, but during his university course the boy had
come under the compelling influence of a spiritual awakening that
swept him into a world filled with new impressions and other
desires. Obeying what he felt to be an imperative call, the boy
chose the church as his profession, and after completing his
theological course in the city of Winnipeg, and spending a year in
study in Germany, while still a mere youth he had been appointed as
missionary to the district of which his own village was the centre.
But though widely separate from each other in the matter of religion,
there were many points of contact between them. They were both men
of the great out-of-doors, and under his father's inspiration and
direction the boy had come to love athletic exercises of all kinds.
They were both music-mad, the father having had in early youth a
thorough musical education, the boy possessing musical talent of a
high order. Such training as was his he had received from his
father, but it was confined to one single instrument, the violin.
To this instrument, upon which his father had received the tuition
of a really excellent master, the son devoted long hours of study
and practice during his boyhood years, and his attainments were such
as to give promise of something more than an amateur's mastery of
his instrument. His college work, however, interfered with his
music, and to his father's great disappointment and regret he was
forced to lay aside his study of the violin. On the piano, however,
the boy developed an extraordinary power of improvisation and of
sight reading, and while his technique was faulty his insight, his
power of interpretation were far in excess of many artists who were
his superiors in musical knowledge and power of execution. Many
were the hours the father and son spent together through the long
evenings of the western winter, and among the many bonds that held
them in close comradeship, none was stronger than their common
devotion to music.
Long after his son had departed to his meeting the father sat
dreaming over his 'cello, wandering among the familiar bits from
the old masters as fancy led him, nor was he aware of the lapse of
time till his son returned.
"Hello! Nine-thirty?" he exclaimed, looking at his watch. "You
have given them an extra dose to-night."
"Business meeting afterwards, which didn't come off after all,"
said his son. "Postponed till next Sunday." With this curt
announcement, and without further comment he sat down at his desk.
But after a few moments he rose quickly, saying, "Let us do some
real work, dad."
He took up his violin. His father, who was used to his moods,
without question or remark proceeded to tune up. An hour's hard
practice followed, without word from either except as regarded the
work in hand.
"I feel better now, dad," said the young man when they had finished.
"And now for a round with you."
"But what about your wind, boy? I don't like that asthma of yours
"I am quite all right. It's quite gone. I feel sure it was the
pollen from the beaver meadow."
They cleared back the table and chairs from the centre of the room,
stripped to their shirts, put on the gloves and went at each other
with vim. Their style was similar, for the father had taught the
son all he knew, except that the father's was the fighting and the
son's the sparring style. To-night the roles appeared to be
reversed, the son pressing hard at the in-fighting, the father
trusting to his foot work and countering with the light touch of a
man making points.
"You ARE boring in, aren't you?" said the father, stopping a fierce
"You are not playing up, dad," said his son. "I don't feel like
soft work to-night. Come to me!"
"As you say," replied the father, and for the next five minutes
Barry had no reason to complain of soft work, for his father went
after him with all the fight that was in him, so that in spite of a
vigorous defence the son was forced to take refuge in a runaway
"Now you're going!" shouted the son, making a fierce counter with
his right to a hard driven left, which he side-stepped. It was a
fatal exposure. Like the dart of a snake the right hand hook got
him below the jaw, and he was hurled breathless on the couch at the
side of the room.
"Got you now!" said his father.
"Not quite yet," cried Barry. Like a cat he was on his feet,
breathing deep breaths, dodging about, fighting for time.
"Enough!" cried his father, putting down his hands.
"Play up!" shouted Barry, who was rapidly recovering his wind. "No
soft work. Watch out!"
Again the father was on guard, while Barry, who seemed to have
drawn upon some secret source of strength, came at him with a
whirlwind attack, feinting, jabbing, swinging, hooking, till
finally he landed a short half arm on the jaw, which staggered his
father against the wall.
"Pax!" cried the young man. "I have all I want."
"Great!" said his father. "I believe you could fight, boy, if you
were forced to."
In the shed they sluiced each other with pails of water, had a rub
down and got into their dressing gowns.
"I feel fine, now, dad, and ready for anything," said Barry,
glowing with his exercise and his tub. "I was feeling like a
quitter. I guess that asthma got at my nerve. But I believe I
will see it through some way."
"Yes?" said his father, and waited.
"Yes. They were talking blue ruin in there to-night. Finances are
behind, congregation is running down, therefore the preacher is a
"Well, lad, remember this," said his father, "never let your liver
decide any course of action for you. Some good stiff work, a turn
with the gloves, for instance, is the best preparation I know for
any important decision. A man cannot decide wisely when he feels
grubby. Your asthma this afternoon is a symptom of liver."
"It is humiliating to a creature endowed with conscience and
intellect to discover how small a part these play at times in his
decisions. The ancients were not far wrong who made the liver the
seat of the emotions."
"Well," said his father, "it is a good thing to remember that most
of our bad hours come from our livers. So the preacher is a
failure? Who said so?"
"Oh, a number of them, principally Hayes."
"Thank God, and go to sleep," said his father. "If Hayes were
pleased with my preaching I should greatly suspect my call to the
"But seriously, I am certainly not a great preacher, and perhaps
not a preacher at all. They say I have no 'pep,' which with some
of them appears to be the distinctive and altogether necessary
characteristic of a popular preacher."
"What said Innes?" enquired his father.
"Did you ever hear Innes say much? From his silence one would
judge that he must possess the accumulated wisdom of the ages."
"When he does talk, however, he generally says something. What was
"'Ah, weel,' said the silent one, 'Ah doot he's no a Spurgeon, not
yet a Billy Sunday, but ye'll hardly be expectin' thae fowk at
Wapiti for nine hundred dollars a year.' Then, bless his old
heart, he added, 'But the bairns tak to him like ducks to water, so
you'd better bide a bit.' So they decided to 'bide a bit' till
next Sunday. Dad, at first I wanted to throw their job in their
faces, only I always know that it is the old Adam in me that feels
like that, so I decided to 'bide a bit' too."
"It is a poor job, after all, my boy," said his father. "It's no
gentleman's job the way it is carried on in this country. To think
of your being at the bidding of a creature like Hayes!"
He could have said no better word. The boy's face cleared like the
sudden shining of the sun after rain. He lifted his head and said,
"Thank God, not at his bidding, dad. 'One is your Master,'" he
quoted. "But after all, Hayes has something good in him. Do you
know, I rather like him. He's--"
"Oh, come now, we'll drop it right there," said his father, in a
disgusted tone. "When you come to finding something to like in
that rat, I surrender."
"Who knows?" said the boy, as if to himself. "Poor Hayes. He may
be quite a wonderful man, considering all things, his heredity and
his environment. What would I have been, dad, but for you?"
His father grunted, pulled hard at his pipe, coughed a bit, then
looked his son straight in the face, saying, "God knows what any of
us owe to our past." He fell into silence. His mind was far away,
following his heart to the palisaded plot of ground among the
Foothills and the little grave there in which he had covered from
his sight her that had been the inspiration to his best and finest
things, and his defence against the things low and base that had
once hounded his soul, howling hard upon his trail.
The son, knowing his mood, sat in silence with him, then rising
suddenly he sat himself on the arm of his father's chair, threw his
arm around his shoulder and said, "Dear old dad! Good old boy you
are, too. Good stuff! What would I have been but for you? A
puny, puling, wretched little crock, afraid of anything that could
spit at me. Do you remember the old gander? I was near my eternal
damnation that day."
"But you won out, my boy," said his father in a croaking voice,
putting his arm round his son.
"Yes, because you made me stick it, just as you have often made me
stick it since. May God forget me if I ever forget what you have
done for me. Shall we read now?"
He took the big Bible from its place upon the table, and turning
the leaves read aloud from the teachings of the world's greatest
Master. It was the parable of the talents.
"Rather hard on the failure," he said as he closed the book.
"No, not the failure," said his father, "the slacker, the quitter.
It is nature's law. There is no place in God's universe for a
"You are right, dad," said Barry. "Good-night."
He kissed his father, as he had ever done since his earliest
infancy. Their prayers were said in private, the son, clergyman
though he was, could never bring himself to offer to lead the
devotions of him at whose knee he had kneeled every night of his
life, as a boy, for his evening prayer.
"Good-night, boy," said his father, holding him by the hand for a
moment or so. "We do not know what is before us, defeat, loss,
suffering. That part is not in our hands altogether, but the shame
of the quitter never need, and never shall be ours."
The little man stepped into his bedroom with his shoulders squared
and his head erect.
"By Jove! He's no quitter," said his son to himself, as his eyes
followed him. "When he quits he'll be dead. God keep me from
The hour for the church service had not quite arrived, but already
a number of wagons, buckboards and buggies had driven up and
deposited their loads at the church door. The women had passed
into the church, where the Sunday School was already in session;
the men waited outside, driven by the heat of the July sun and the
hotter July wind into the shade of the church building.
Through the church windows came the droning of voices, with now and
then a staccato rapping out of commands heard above the droning.
"That's Hayes," said a sturdy young chap, brown as an Indian,
lolling upon the grass. "He likes to be bossing something."
"That's so, Ewen," replied a smaller man, with a fish-like face,
his mouth and nose running into a single feature.
"I guess he's doin' his best, Nathan Pilley," answered another man,
stout and stocky, with bushy side whiskers flanking around a
rubicund face, out of which stared two prominent blue eyes.
"Oh, I reckon he is, Mr. Boggs. I have no word agin Hayes,"
replied Nathan Pilley, a North Ontario man, who, abandoning a rocky
farm in Muskoka, had strayed to this far west country in search of
better fortune. "I have no word agin Mr. Hayes, Mr. Boggs," he
reiterated. "In fact, I think he ought to be highly commended for
his beneficent work."
"But he does like to hear himself giving out orders, all the same,"
persisted the young man addressed as Ewen.
"Yes, he seems to sorter enjoy that, too, Ewen," agreed Nathan, who
was never known to oppose any man's opinion.
"He's doin' his best," insisted Mr. Boggs, rather sullenly.
"Yes, he is that, Mr. Boggs, he is that," said Nathan.
"But he likes to be the big toad in the puddle," said Ewen.
"Well, he certainly seems to, he does indeed, Ewen."
Clear over the droning there arose at this point another sound, a
chorus of childish laughter.
"That's the preacher's class," said Boggs. "Quare sort o' Sunday
School where the kids carry on like that."
"Seems rather peculiar," agreed Nathan, "peculiar in Sunday School,
"What's the matter with young Pickles?" enquired Ewen.
The eyes of the company, following the pointing finger, fell upon
young Pickles standing at the window of the little vestry to the
church, and looking in. He was apparently convulsed with laughter,
with his hand hard upon his mouth and nose as a kind of silencer.
"Do you know what's the matter with him, Pat?" continued Ewen.