Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Glengarry School Days: a story of early days in Glengarry
Author: Connor, Ralph, 1860-1937
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Glengarry School Days: a story of early days in Glengarry" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



GLENGARRY SCHOOLDAYS

A STORY OF THE EARLY DAYS IN GLENGARRY


By Ralph Connor



CONTENTS

I.    THE SPELLING-MATCH

II.   THE DEEPOLE

III.  THE EXAMINATION

IV.   THE NEW MASTER

V.    THE CRISIS

VI.   "ONE THAT RULETH WELL HIS OWN HOUSE"

VII.  FOXY

VIII. FOXY'S PARTNER

IX.   HUGHIE'S EMANCIPATION

X.    THE BEAR HUNT

XI.   JOHN CRAVEN'S METHOD

XII.  THE DOWNFALL

XIII. THE FIRST ROUND

XIV.  THE FINAL ROUND

XV.   THE RESULT



GLENGARRY SCHOOL DAYS



CHAPTER I

THE SPELLING-MATCH


The "Twentieth" school was built of logs hewn on two sides. The cracks
were chinked and filled with plaster, which had a curious habit of
falling out during the summer months, no one knew how; but somehow the
holes always appeared on the boys' side, and being there, were found to
be most useful, for as looking out of the window was forbidden, through
these holes the boys could catch glimpses of the outer world--glimpses
worth catching, too, for all around stood the great forest, the
playground of boys and girls during noon-hour and recesses; an enchanted
land, peopled, not by fairies, elves, and other shadowy beings of
fancy, but with living things, squirrels, and chipmunks, and weasels,
chattering ground-hogs, thumping rabbits, and stealthy foxes, not
to speak of a host of flying things, from the little gray-bird that
twittered its happy nonsense all day, to the big-eyed owl that hooted
solemnly when the moon came out. A wonderful place this forest, for
children to live in, to know, and to love, and in after days to long
for.

It was Friday afternoon, and the long, hot July day was drawing to a
weary close. Mischief was in the air, and the master, Archibald Munro,
or "Archie Murro," as the boys called him, was holding himself in with
a very firm hand, the lines about his mouth showing that he was fighting
back the pain which had never quite left him from the day he had twisted
his knee out of joint five years ago, in a wrestling match, and which,
in his weary moments, gnawed into his vitals. He hated to lose his
grip of himself, for then he knew he should have to grow stern and
terrifying, and rule these young imps in the forms in front of him by
what he called afterwards, in his moments of self-loathing, "sheer brute
force," and that he always counted a defeat.

Munro was a born commander. His pale, intellectual face, with its square
chin and firm mouth, its noble forehead and deep-set gray eyes, carried
a look of such strength and indomitable courage that no boy, however
big, ever thought of anything but obedience when the word of command
came. He was the only master who had ever been able to control, without
at least one appeal to the trustees, the stormy tempers of the young
giants that used to come to school in the winter months.

The school never forgot the day when big Bob Fraser "answered back" in
class. For, before the words were well out of his lips, the master, with
a single stride, was in front of him, and laying two swift, stinging
cuts from the rawhide over big Bob's back, commanded, "Hold out your
hand!" in a voice so terrible, and with eyes of such blazing light, that
before Bob was aware, he shot out his hand and stood waiting the blow.
The school never, in all its history, received such a thrill as the next
few moments brought; for while Bob stood waiting, the master's words
fell clear-cut upon the dead silence, "No, Robert, you are too big to
thrash. You are a man. No man should strike you--and I apologize." And
then big Bob forgot his wonted sheepishness and spoke out with a man's
voice, "I am sorry I spoke back, sir." And then all the girls began
to cry and wipe their eyes with their aprons, while the master and Bob
shook hands silently. From that day and hour Bob Fraser would have slain
any one offering to make trouble for the master, and Archibald Munro's
rule was firmly established.

He was just and impartial in all his decisions, and absolute in his
control; and besides, he had the rare faculty of awakening in his pupils
an enthusiasm for work inside the school and for sports outside.

But now he was holding himself in, and with set teeth keeping back the
pain. The week had been long and hot and trying, and this day had been
the worst of all. Through the little dirty panes of the uncurtained
windows the hot sun had poured itself in a flood of quivering light all
the long day. Only an hour remained of the day, but that hour was to
the master the hardest of all the week. The big boys were droning lazily
over their books, the little boys, in the forms just below his desk,
were bubbling over with spirits--spirits of whose origin there was no
reasonable ground for doubt.

Suddenly Hughie Murray, the minister's boy, a very special imp, held up
his hand.

"Well, Hughie," said the master, for the tenth time within the hour
replying to the signal.

"Spelling-match!"

The master hesitated. It would be a vast relief, but it was a little
like shirking. On all sides, however, hands went up in support of
Hughie's proposal, and having hesitated, he felt he must surrender or
become terrifying at once.

"Very well," he said; "Margaret Aird and Thomas Finch will act as
captains." At once there was a gleeful hubbub. Slates and books were
slung into desks.

"Order! or no spelling-match." The alternative was awful enough to quiet
even the impish Hughie, who knew the tone carried no idle threat, and
who loved a spelling-match with all the ardor of his little fighting
soul.

The captains took their places on each side of the school, and with
careful deliberation, began the selecting of their men, scanning
anxiously the rows of faces looking at the maps or out of the windows
and bravely trying to seem unconcerned. Chivalry demanded that Margaret
should have first choice. "Hughie Murray!" called out Margaret;
for Hughie, though only eight years old, had preternatural gifts in
spelling; his mother's training had done that for him. At four he knew
every Bible story by heart, and would tolerate no liberties with the
text; at six he could read the third reader; at eight he was the best
reader in the fifth; and to do him justice, he thought no better of
himself for that. It was no trick to read. If he could only run, and
climb, and swim, and dive, like the big boys, then he would indeed feel
uplifted; but mere spelling and reading, "Huh! that was nothing."

"Ranald Macdonald!" called Thomas Finch, and a big, lanky boy of fifteen
or sixteen rose and marched to his place. He was a boy one would look at
twice. He was far from handsome. His face was long, and thin, and dark,
with a straight nose, and large mouth, and high cheek-bones; but he had
fine black eyes, though they were fierce, and had a look in them that
suggested the woods and the wild things that live there. But Ranald,
though his attendance was spasmodic, and dependent upon the suitability
or otherwise of the weather for hunting, was the best speller in the
school.

For that reason Margaret would have chosen him, and for another which
she would not for worlds have confessed, even to herself. And do you
think she would have called Ranald Macdonald to come and stand up beside
her before all these boys? Not for the glory of winning the match and
carrying the medal for a week. But how gladly would she have given up
glory and medal for the joy of it, if she had dared.

At length the choosing was over, and the school ranged in two opposing
lines, with Margaret and Thomas at the head of their respective forces,
and little Jessie MacRae and Johnnie Aird, with a single big curl on
the top of his head, at the foot. It was a point of honor that no blood
should be drawn at the first round. To Thomas, who had second choice,
fell the right of giving the first word. So to little Jessie, at the
foot, he gave "Ox."

"O-x, ox," whispered Jessie, shyly dodging behind her neighbor.

"In!" said Margaret to Johnnie Aird.

"I-s, in," said Johnnie, stoutly.

"Right!" said the master, silencing the shout of laughter. "Next word."

With like gentle courtesies the battle began; but in the second
round the little A, B, C's were ruthlessly swept off the field with
second-book words, and retired to their seats in supreme exultation,
amid the applause of their fellows still left in the fight. After
that there was no mercy. It was a give-and-take battle, the successful
speller having the right to give the word to the opposite side. The
master was umpire, and after his "Next!" had fallen there was no appeal.
But if a mistake were made, it was the opponent's part and privilege to
correct with all speed, lest a second attempt should succeed.

Steadily, and amid growing excitement, the lines grew less, till there
were left on one side, Thomas, with Ranald supporting him, and on the
other Margaret, with Hughie beside her, his face pale, and his dark eyes
blazing with the light of battle.

Without varying fortune the fight went on. Margaret, still serene, and
with only a touch of color in her face, gave out her words with even
voice, and spelled her opponent's with calm deliberation. Opposite her
Thomas stood, stolid, slow, and wary. He had no nerves to speak of, and
the only chance of catching him lay in lulling him off to sleep.

They were now among the deadly words.

"Parallelopiped!" challenged Hughie to Ranald, who met it easily, giving
Margaret "hyphen" in return.

"H-y-p-h-e-n," spelled Margaret, and then, with cunning carelessness,
gave Thomas "heifer." ("Hypher," she called it.)

Thomas took it lightly.

"H-e-i-p-h-e-r."

Like lightning Hughie was upon him. "H-e-i-f-e-r."

"F-e-r," shouted Thomas. The two yells came almost together.

There was a deep silence. All eyes were turned upon the master.

"I think Hughie was first," he said, slowly. A great sigh swept over the
school, and then a wave of applause.

The master held up his hand.

"But it was so very nearly a tie, that if Hughie is willing--"

"All right, sir," cried Hughie, eager for more fight.

But Thomas, in sullen rage, strode to his seat muttering, "I was just as
soon anyway." Every one heard and waited, looking at the master.

"The match is over," said the master, quietly. Great disappointment
showed in every face.

"There is just one thing better than winning, and that is, taking defeat
like a man." His voice was grave, and with just a touch of sadness. The
children, sensitive to moods, as is the characteristic of children, felt
the touch and sat subdued and silent.

There was no improving of the occasion, but with the same sad gravity
the school was dismissed; and the children learned that day one of
life's golden lessons--that the man who remains master of himself never
knows defeat.

The master stood at the door watching the children go down the slope to
the road, and then take their ways north and south, till the forest hid
them from his sight.

"Well," he muttered, stretching up his arms and drawing a great breath,
"it's over for another week. A pretty near thing, though."



CHAPTER II

THE DEEPOLE


Archibald Munro had a steady purpose in life--to play the man, and to
allow no pain of his--and pain never left him long--to spoil his work,
or to bring a shadow to the life of any other. And though he had his
hard times, no one who could not read the lines about his mouth ever
knew how hard they were.

It was this struggle for self-mastery that made him the man he was, and
taught him the secrets of nobleness that he taught his pupils with their
three "R's"; and this was the best of his work for the Twentieth school.

North and south in front of the school the road ran through the
deep forest of great pines, with underbrush of balsam and spruce and
silver-birch; but from this main road ran little blazed paths that led
to the farm clearings where lay the children's homes. Here and there,
set in their massive frames of dark green forest, lay the little farms,
the tiny fenced fields surrounding the little log houses and barns.
These were the homes of a people simple of heart and manners, but
sturdy, clean living, and clear thinking, with their brittle Highland
courage toughened to endurance by their long fight with the forest, and
with a self-respect born of victory over nature's grimmest of terrors.

A mile straight south of the school stood the manse, which was Hughie's
home; two miles straight west Ranald lived; and Thomas Finch two miles
north; while the other lads ought to have taken some of the little
paths that branched east from the main road. But this evening, with one
accord, the boys chose a path that led from the school-house clearing
straight southwest through the forest.

What a path that was! Beaten smooth with the passing of many bare feet,
it wound through the brush and round the big pines, past the haunts of
squirrels, black, gray, and red, past fox holes and woodchuck holes,
under birds' nests and bee-trees, and best of all, it brought up at last
at the Deep Hole, or "Deepole," as the boys called it.

There were many reasons why the boys should have gone straight home.
They were expected home. There were cows to get up from the pasture and
to milk, potatoes that needed hoeing, gardens to weed, not to speak of
messages and the like. But these were also excellent reasons why the
boys should unanimously choose the cool, smooth-beaten, sweet-scented,
shady path that wound and twisted through the trees and brush, but led
straight to the Deepole. Besides, this was Friday night, it was hot,
and they were tired out; the mere thought of the long walk home was
intolerable. The Deepole was only two miles away, and "There was lots
of time" for anything else. So, with wild whoops, they turned into the
shady path and sped through the forest, the big boys in front, with
Ranald easily leading, for there was no runner so swift and tireless in
all the country-side, and Hughie, with the small boys, panting behind.

On they went, a long, straggling, yelling line, down into the cedar
swamp, splashing through the "Little Crick" and up again over the beech
ridge, where, in the open woods, the path grew indistinct and was easy
to lose; then again among the great pines, where the underbrush was
so thick that you could not tell what might be just before, till they
pulled up at the old Lumber Camp. The boys always paused at the ruins of
the old Lumber Camp. A ruin is ever a place of mystery, but to the old
Lumber Camp attached an awful dread, for behind it, in the thickest part
of the underbrush, stood the cabin of Alan Gorrach.

Alan's was a name of terror among all the small children of the section.
Mothers hushed their crying with, "Alan Gorrach will get you." Alan was
a small man, short in the legs, but with long, swinging, sinewy arms.
He had a gypsy face, and tangled, long, black hair; and as he walked
through the forest he might be heard talking to himself, with wild
gesticulations. He was an itinerant cooper by trade, and made for the
farmers' wives their butter-tubs and butter-ladles, mincing-bowls and
coggies, and for the men, whip-stalks, axe handles, and the like. But
in the boys' eyes he was guilty of a horrible iniquity. He was
a dog-killer. His chief business was the doing away with dogs of
ill-repute in the country; vicious dogs, sheep-killing dogs, egg-sucking
dogs, were committed to Alan's dread custody, and often he would be seen
leading off his wretched victims to his den in the woods, whence they
never returned. It was a current report that he ate them, too. No wonder
the boys regarded him with horror mingled with fearful awe.

In broad day, upon the high road, the small boys would boldly fling
taunts and stones at Alan, till he would pull out his long, sharp
cooper's knife and make at them. But if they met him in the woods they
would walk past in trembling and respectful silence, or slip off into
hiding in the bush, till he was out of sight.

It was always part of the programme in the exploring of the Lumber
Camp for the big boys to steal down the path to Alan's cabin, and peer
fearfully through the brush, and then come rushing back to the little
boys waiting in the clearing, and crying in terror-stricken stage
whispers, "He's coming! He's coming!" set off again through the bush
like hunted deer, followed by the panting train of youngsters, with
their small hearts thumping hard against their ribs.

In a few minutes the pine woods, with its old Lumber Camp and Alan's
fearsome cabin, were left behind; and then down along the flats where
the big elms were, and the tall ash-trees, and the alders, the flying,
panting line sped on in a final dash, for they could smell the river. In
a moment more they were at the Deepole.

O! that Deepole! Where the big creek took a great sweep around before
it tore over the rapids and down into the gorge. It was always in cool
shade; the great fan-topped elm-trees hung far out over it, and the
alders and the willows edged its banks. How cool and clear the dark
brown waters looked! And how beautiful the golden mottling on their
smooth, flowing surface, where the sun rained down through the
over-spreading elm boughs! And the grassy sward where the boys tore off
their garments, and whence they raced and plunged, was so green and firm
and smooth under foot! And the music of the rapids down in the gorge,
and the gurgle of the water where it sucked in under the jam of dead
wood before it plunged into the boiling pool farther down! Not that
the boys made note of all these delights accessory to the joys of
the Deepole itself, but all these helped to weave the spell that the
swimming-hole cast over them. Without the spreading elms, without
the mottled, golden light upon the cool, deep waters, and without the
distant roar of the little rapid, and the soft gurgle at the jam, the
Deepole would still have been a place of purest delight, but I doubt if,
without these, it would have stolen in among their day dreams in after
years, on hot, dusty, weary days, with power to waken in them a vague
pain and longing for the sweet, cool woods and the clear, brown waters.
Oh, for one plunge! To feel the hug of the waters, their soothing
caress, their healing touch! These boys are men now, such as are on the
hither side of the darker river, but not a man of them can think, on a
hot summer day, of that cool, shaded, mottled Deepole, without a longing
in his heart and a lump in his throat.

The last quarter of a mile was always a dead race, for it was a point of
distinction to be the first to plunge, and the last few seconds of the
race were spent in the preliminaries of the disrobing. A single brace
slipped off the shoulder, a flutter of a shirt over the head, a kick
of the trousers, and whoop! plunge! "Hurrah! first in." The little boys
always waited to admire the first series of plunges, for there were many
series before the hour was over, and then they would off to their own
crossing, going through a similar performance on a small scale.

What an hour it was! What contests of swimming and diving! What water
fights and mud fights! What careering of figures, stark naked, through
the rushes and trees! What larks and pranks!

And then the little boys would dress. A simple process, but more
difficult by far than the other, for the trousers would stick to the
wet feet--no boy would dream of a towel, nor dare to be guilty of such
a piece of "stuck-upness"--and the shirt would get wrong side out, or
would bundle round the neck, or would cling to the wet shoulders till
they had to get on their knees almost to squirm into it. But that over,
all was over. The brace, or if the buttons were still there, the braces
were easily jerked up on the shoulders, and there you were. Coats,
boots, and stockings were superfluous, collars and ties utterly
despised.

Then the little ones would gather on the grassy bank to watch the big
ones get out, which was a process worth watching.

"Well, I'm going out, boys," one would say.

"Oh, pshaw! let's have another plunge."

"All right. But it's the last, though."

Then a long stream of naked figures would scramble up the bank and rush
for the last place. "First out, last in," was the rule, for the boys
would much rather jump on some one else than be jumped on themselves.
After the long line of naked figures had vanished into the boiling
water, one would be seen quietly stealing out and up the bank kicking
his feet clean as he stepped off the projecting root onto the grass,
when, plunk! a mud ball caught him, and back he must come. It took them
full two hours to escape clean from the water, and woe betide the boy
last out. On all sides stood boys, little and big, with mud balls ready
to fling, till, out of sheer pity, he would be allowed to come forth
clean. Then, when all were dressed, and blue and shivering--for two
amphibious hours, even on a July day, make one blue--more games would
begin, leap-frog, or tag, or jumping, or climbing trees, till they were
warm enough to set out for home.

It was as the little ones were playing tag that Hughie came to grief.
He was easily king of his company and led the game. Quick as a weasel,
swift and wary, he was always the last to be caught. Around the trees,
and out and in among the big boys, he led the chase, much to Tom Finch's
disgust, who had not forgotten the spelling-match incident. Not that he
cared for the defeat, but he still felt the bite in the master's final
words, and he carried a grudge against the boy who had been the occasion
of his humiliation.

"Keep off!" he cried, angrily, as Hughie swung himself round him.
But Hughie paid no heed to Tom's growl, unless, indeed, to repeat his
offense, with the result that, as he flew off, Tom caught him a kick
that hastened his flight and laid him flat on his back amid the laughter
of the boys.

"Tom," said Hughie, gravely and slowly, so that they all stood
listening, "do you know what you kick like?"

The boys stood waiting.

"A h-e-i-p-h-e-r."

In a moment Tom had him by the neck, and after a cuff or two, sent him
flying, with a warning to keep to himself.

But Hughie, with a saucy answer, was off again on his game, circling as
near Tom Finch as he dared, and being as exasperating as possible, till
Tom looked as if he would like a chance to pay him off. The chance
came, for Hughie, leading the "tag," came flying past Tom and toward the
water. Hardly realizing what he was doing, Tom stuck out his foot and
caught him flying past, and before any one knew how it had happened,
poor Hughie shot far out into the Deepole, lighting fair on his stomach.
There was a great shout of laughter, but in a moment every one was
calling, "Swim, Hughie!" "Keep your hands down!" "Don't splash like
that, you fool!" "Paddle underneath!" But Hughie was far too excited or
too stunned by his fall to do anything but splash and sputter, and sink,
and rise again, only to sink once more. In a few moments the affair
became serious.

The small boys began to cry, and some of the bigger ones to undress,
when there was a cry from the elm-tree overhanging the water.

"Run out that board, Don. Quick!"

It was Ranald, who had been swinging up in the highest branches, and
had seen what had happened, and was coming down from limb to limb like
a squirrel. As he spoke, he dropped from the lowest limb into the water
close to where Hughie was splashing wildly.

In an instant, as he rose to the surface, Hughie's arms went round his
neck and pulled his head under water. But he was up again, and tugging
at Hughie's hands, he cried:

"Don't, Hughie! let go! I'll pull you out. Let go!" But Hughie,
half-insensible with terror and with the water he had gulped in, clung
with a death-grip.

"Hughie!" gasped Ranald, "you'll drown us both. Oh, Hughie man, let me
pull you out, can't you?"

Something in the tone caught Hughie's ear, and he loosed his hold, and
Ranald, taking him under the chin, looked round for the board.

By this time Don Cameron was in the water and working the board slowly
toward the gasping boys. But now a new danger threatened. The current
had gradually carried them toward the log jam, under which the water
sucked to the falls below. Once under the jam, no power on earth could
save.

"Hurry up, Don!" called out Ranald, anxiously. Then, feeling Hughie
beginning to clutch again, he added, cheerily, "It's all right. You'll
get us." But his face was gray and his eyes were staring, for over his
shoulder he could see the jam and he could feel the suck of the water on
his legs.

"Oh, Ranald, you can't do it," sobbed Hughie. "Will I paddle
underneath?"

"Yes, yes, paddle hard, Hughie," said Ranald, for the jam was just at
his back.

But as he spoke, there was a cry, "Ranald, catch it!" Over the slippery
logs of the jam came Tom Finch pushing out a plank.

"Catch it!" he cried, "I'll hold this end solid." And Ranald caught and
held fast, and the boys on the bank gave a mighty shout. Soon Don
came up with his board, and Tom, catching the end, hauled it up on the
rolling logs.

"Hold steady there now!" cried Tom, lying at full length upon the logs;
"we'll get you in a minute."

By this time the other boys had pulled a number of boards and planks out
of the jam, and laying them across the logs, made a kind of raft upon
which the exhausted swimmers were gradually hauled, and then brought
safe to shore.

"Oh, Ranald," said Tom, almost weeping, "I didn't mean to--I never
thought--I'm awfully sorry."

"Oh, pshaw!" said Ranald, who was taking off Hughie's shirt preparatory
to wringing it, "I know. Besides, it was you who pulled us out. You were
doing your best, Don, of course, but we would have gone under the jam
but for Tom."

For ten minutes the boys stood going over again the various incidents
in the recent dramatic scene, extolling the virtues of Ranald, Don, and
Thomas in turn, and imitating, with screams of laughter, Hughie's gulps
and splashings while he was fighting for his life. It was their way of
expressing their emotions of gratitude and joy, for Hughie was dearly
loved by all, though no one would have dared to manifest such weakness.

As they were separating, Hughie whispered to Ranald, "Come home with
me, Ranald. I want you." And Ranald, looking down into the little
white face, went. It would be many a day before he would get rid of the
picture of the white face, with the staring black eyes, floating on the
dark brown water beside him, and that was why he went.

When they reached the path to the manse clearing Ranald and Hughie were
alone. For some minutes Hughie followed Ranald in silence on a dog-trot,
through the brule, dodging round stumps and roots and climbing over
fallen trees, till they came to the pasture-field.

"Hold on, Ranald," panted Hughie, putting on a spurt and coming up even
with his leader.

"Are you warm enough?" asked Ranald, looking down at the little flushed
face.

"You bet!"

"Are you dry?"

"Huh, huh."

"Indeed, you are not too dry," said Ranald, feeling his wet shirt and
trousers, "and your mother will be wondering."

"I'll tell her," said Hughie, in a tone of exulting anticipation.

"What!" Ranald stood dead still.

"I'll tell her," replied Hughie. "She'll be awful glad. And she'll be
awful thankful to you, Ranald."

Ranald looked at him in amazement.

"I think I will jist be going back now," he said, at length. But Hughie
seized him.

"Oh, Ranald, you must come with me."

He had pictured himself telling his mother of Ranald's exploit, and
covering his hero with glory. But this was the very thing that Ranald
dreaded and hated, and was bound to prevent.

"You will not be going to the Deepole again, I warrant you," Ranald
said, with emphasis.

"Not go to the Deepole?"

"No, indeed. Your mother will put an end to that sort of thing."

"Mother! Why not?"

"She will not be wanting to have you drowned."

Hughie laughed scornfully. "You don't know my mother. She's not afraid
of--of anything."

"But she will be telling your father."

This was a matter serious enough to give Hughie pause. His father might
very likely forbid the Deepole.

"There is no need for telling," suggested Ranald. "And I will just go in
for a minute."

"Will you stay for supper?"

Ranald shook his head. The manse kitchen was a bright place, and to see
the minister's wife and to hear her talk was to Ranald pure delight. But
then, Hughie might tell, and that would be too awful to bear.

"Do, Ranald," pleaded Hughie. "I'll not tell."

"I am not so sure."

"Sure as death!"

Still Ranald hesitated. Hughie grew desperate.

"God may kill me on the spot!" he cried, using the most binding of all
oaths known to the boys. This was satisfactory, and Ranald went.

But Hughie was not skilled in deceiving, and especially in deceiving his
mother. They were great friends, and Hughie shared all his secrets with
her and knew that they were safe, unless they ought to be told. And so,
when he caught sight of his mother waiting for him before the door, he
left Ranald, and thrilling with the memory of the awful peril through
which he had passed, rushed at her, and crying, "Oh, mother!" he flung
himself into her arms. "I am so glad to see you again!"

"Why, Hughie, my boy, what's the matter?" said his mother, holding her
arms tight about him. "And you are all wet! What is it?" But Hughie held
her fast, struggling with himself.

"What is it?" she asked again, turning to Ranald.

"We were running pretty fast--and it is a hot day--and--" But the clear
gray-brown eyes were upon him, and Ranald found it difficult to go on.

"Oh, mother, you mustn't ask," cried Hughie; "I promised not to tell."

"Not to tell me, Hughie?" The surprise in the voice was quite too much
for Hughie.

"Oh, mother, we did not want to frighten you--and--I promised."

"Then you must keep your promise. Come away in, my boy. Come in,
Ranald."

It was her boy's first secret from her. Ranald saw the look of pain in
the sweet face, and could not endure it.

"It was just nothing, Mrs. Murray," he began.

"Did you promise, too, Ranald?"

"No, that I did not. And there is nothing much to tell, only Hughie fell
into the Deepole and the boys pulled him out!"

"Oh, mother!" exclaimed Hughie, "it was Ranald. He jumped right down
from the tree right into the water, and kept me up. You told yourself,
Ranald," he continued, delighted to be relieved of his promise; and on
he went to give his mother, in his most picturesque style, a description
of the whole scene, while Ranald stood looking miserable and ashamed.

"And Ranald was ashamed for me to tell you, and besides, he said you
wouldn't let me go to the Deepole again. But you will, won't you mother?
And you won't tell father, will you?"

The mother stood listening, with face growing whiter and whiter, till
he was done. Then she stooped down over the eager face for some moments,
whispering, "My darling, my darling," and then coming to Ranald she
held her hand on his shoulder for a moment, while she said, in a voice
bravely struggling to be calm, "God reward you, Ranald. God grant my boy
may always have so good and brave a friend when he needs."

And from that day Ranald's life was different, for he had bound to
him by a tie that nothing could ever break, a friend whose influence
followed him, and steadied and lifted him up to greatness, long after
the grave had hidden her from men's sight.



CHAPTER III

THE EXAMINATION


The two years of Archibald Munro's regime were the golden age of the
school, and for a whole generation "The Section" regarded that period as
the standard for comparison in the following years. Munro had a genius
for making his pupils work. They threw themselves with enthusiasm into
all they undertook--studies, debate nights, games, and in everything the
master was the source of inspiration.

And now his last examination day had come, and the whole Section
was stirred with enthusiasm for their master, and with grief at his
departure.

The day before examination was spent in "cleaning the school." This
semi-annual event, which always preceded the examination, was almost as
enjoyable as the examination day itself, if indeed it was not more
so. The school met in the morning for a final polish for the morrow's
recitations. Then after a speech by the master the little ones were
dismissed and allowed to go home though they never by any chance took
advantage of this permission. Then the master and the bigger boys and
girls set to work to prepare the school for the great day. The boys were
told off in sections, some to get dry cedar boughs from the swamp for
the big fire outside, over which the iron sugar-kettle was swung to heat
the scrubbing water; others off into the woods for balsam-trees for the
evergreen decorations; others to draw water and wait upon the scrubbers.

It was a day of delightful excitement, but this year there was below the
excitement a deep, warm feeling of love and sadness, as both teacher
and pupils thought of to-morrow. There was an additional thrill to the
excitement, that the master was to be presented with a gold watch and
chain, and that this had been kept a dead secret from him.

What a day it was! With wild whoops the boys went off for the dry cedar
and the evergreens, while the girls, looking very housewifely with
skirts tucked back and sleeves rolled up, began to sweep and otherwise
prepare the room for scrubbing.

The gathering of the evergreens was a delightful labor. High up in the
balsam-trees the more daring boys would climb, and then, holding by
the swaying top, would swing themselves far out from the trunk and come
crashing through the limbs into the deep, soft snow, bringing half the
tree with them. What larks they had! What chasing of rabbits along their
beaten runways! What fierce and happy snow fights! And then, the triumph
of their return, laden with their evergreen trophies, to find the big
fire blazing under the great iron kettle and the water boiling, and the
girls well on with the scrubbing.

Then, while the girls scrubbed first the benches and desks, and last of
all, the floors, the boys washed the windows and put up the evergreen
decorations. Every corner had its pillar of green, every window had its
frame of green, the old blackboard, the occasion of many a heartache to
the unmathematical, was wreathed into loveliness; the maps, with their
bewildering boundaries, rivers and mountains, capes, bays and islands,
became for once worlds of beauty under the magic touch of the greenery.
On the wall just over his desk, the master wrought out in evergreen an
arching "WELCOME," but later on, the big girls, with some shy blushing,
boldly tacked up underneath an answering "FAREWELL." By the time the
short afternoon had faded into the early evening, the school stood,
to the eyes of all familiar with the common sordidness of its everyday
dress, a picture of artistic loveliness. And after the master's little
speech of thanks for their good work that afternoon, and for all their
goodness to him, the boys and girls went their ways with that strangely
unnameable heart-emptiness that brings an ache to the throat, but
somehow makes happier for the ache.

The examination day was the great school event of the year. It was the
social function of the Section as well. Toward this event all the school
life moved, and its approach was attended by a deepening excitement,
shared by children and parents alike, which made a kind of holiday
feeling in the air.

The school opened an hour later than ordinarily, and the children came
all in their Sunday clothes, the boys feeling stiff and uncomfortable,
and regarding each other with looks half shy and half contemptuous,
realizing that they were unnatural in each other's sight; the girls
with hair in marvelous frizzes and shiny ringlets, with new ribbons, and
white aprons over their home-made winsey dresses, carried their unwonted
grandeur with an ease and delight that made the boys secretly envy but
apparently despise them. The one unpardonable crime with all the boys
in that country was that of being "proud." The boy convicted of "shoween
off," was utterly contemned by his fellows. Hence, any delight in new
clothes or in a finer appearance than usual was carefully avoided.

Ranald always hated new clothes. He felt them an intolerable burden. He
did not mind his new homespun, home-made flannel check shirt of mixed
red and white, but the heavy fulled-cloth suit made by his Aunt Kirsty
felt like a suit of mail. He moved heavily in it and felt queer, and
knew that he looked as he felt. The result was that he was in no genial
mood, and was on the alert for any indication of levity at his expense.

Hughie, on the contrary, like the girls, delighted in new clothes.
His new black suit, made down from one of his father's, with infinite
planning and pains by his mother, and finished only at twelve o'clock
the night before, gave him unmixed pleasure. And handsome he looked in
it. All the little girls proclaimed that in their shy, admiring glances,
while the big girls teased and petted and threatened to kiss him. Of
course the boys all scorned him and his finery, and tried to "take him
down," but Hughie was so unfeignedly pleased with himself, and moved so
easily and naturally in his grand attire, and was so cheery and frank
and happy, that no one thought of calling him "proud."

Soon after ten the sleighloads began to arrive. It was a mild winter
day, when the snow packed well, and there fluttered down through the
still air a few lazy flakes, large, soft, and feathery, like bits of the
clouds floating white against the blue sky. The sleighs were driven up
to the door with a great flourish and jingle of bells, and while the
master welcomed the ladies, the fathers and big brothers drove the
horses to the shelter of the thick-standing pines, and unhitching them,
tied them to the sleigh-boxes, where, blanketed and fed, they remained
for the day.

Within an hour the little school-house was packed, the children crowded
tight into the long desks, and the visitors on the benches along the
walls and in the seats of the big boys and girls. On the platform were
such of the trustees as could muster up the necessary courage--old Peter
MacRae, who had been a dominie in the Old Country, the young minister
and his wife, and the schoolteacher from the "Sixteenth."

First came the wee tots, who, in wide-eyed, serious innocence, went
through their letters and their "ox" and "cat" combinations and
permutations with great gusto and distinction. Then they were dismissed
to their seats by a series of mental arithmetic questions, sums
of varying difficulty being propounded, until little white-haired,
blue-eyed Johnnie Aird, with the single big curl on the top of his head,
was left alone.

"One and one, Johnnie?" said the master, smiling down at the rosy face.

"Three," promptly replied Johnnie, and retired to his seat amid the
delighted applause of visitors and pupils, and followed by the proud,
fond, albeit almost tearful, gaze of his mother. He was her baby, born
long after her other babies had grown up into sturdy youth, and all the
dearer for that.

Then up through the Readers, till the Fifth was reached, the examination
progressed, each class being handed over to the charge of a visitor, who
forthwith went upon examination as truly as did the class.

"Fifth class!" In due order the class marched up to the chalk line on
the floor in front of the master's desk, and stood waiting.

The reading lesson was Fitz-Greene Halleck's "Marco Bozzaris," a
selection of considerable dramatic power, and calling for a somewhat
spirited rendering. The master would not have chosen this lesson, but he
had laid down the rule that there was to be no special drilling of the
pupils for an exhibition, but that the school should be seen doing its
every-day work; and in the reading, the lessons for the previous day
were to be those of the examination day. By an evil fortune, the reading
for the day was the dramatic "Marco Bozzaris." The master shivered
inwardly as he thought of the possibility of Thomas Finch, with his
stolidly monotonous voice, being called upon to read the thrilling lines
recording the panic-stricken death-cry of the Turk: "To arms! They come!
The Greek! The Greek!" But Thomas, by careful plodding, had climbed to
fourth place, and the danger lay in the third verse.

"Will you take this class, Mr. MacRae?" said the master, handing him the
book. He knew that the dominie was not interested in the art of reading
beyond the point of correct pronunciation, and hence he hoped the class
might get off easily. The dominie took the book reluctantly. What he
desired was the "arith-MET-ic" class, and did not care to be "put off"
with mere reading.

"Well, Ranald, let us hear you," he rather growled. Ranald went at his
work with quiet confidence; he knew all the words.

"Page 187, Marco Bozzaris.

"At midnight in his guarded tent, The Turk lay dreaming of the hour
 When Greece, her knee in suppliance bent,
 Should tremble at his power."

And so on steadily to the end of his verse.

"Next!"

The next was "Betsy Dan," the daughter of Dan Campbell, of "The Island."
Now, Betsy Dan was very red in hair and face, very shy and very nervous,
and always on the point of giggles. It was a trial to her to read on
ordinary days, but to-day it was almost more than she could bear. To
make matters worse, sitting immediately behind her, and sheltered from
the eye of the master, sat Jimmie Cameron, Don's youngest brother.
Jimmie was always on the alert for mischief, and ever ready to go off
into fits of laughter, which he managed to check only by grabbing tight
hold of his nose. Just now he was busy pulling at the strings of Betsy
Dan's apron with one hand, while with the other he was hanging onto his
nose, and swaying in paroxysms of laughter.

Very red in the face, Betsy Dan began her verse.

"At midnight in the forest shades, Bozzaris--"

Pause, while Betsy Dan clutched behind her.

"--Bozzaris ranged--"

("Tchik! tchik!") a snicker from Jimmie in the rear.

"--his Suliote band, True as the steel of--"

("im-im,") Betsy Dan struggles with her giggles.

"Elizabeth!" The master's voice is stern and sharp.

Betsy Dan bridles up, while Jimmie is momentarily sobered by the
master's tone.

"True as the steel of their tried blades, Heroes in heart and hand.
 There had the Persians thousands stood--"

("Tchik! tchik! tchik,") a long snicker from Jimmie, whose nose cannot
be kept quite in control. It is becoming too much for poor Betsy Dan,
whose lips begin to twitch.

"There--"

("im-im, thit-tit-tit,") Betsy Dan is making mighty efforts to hold in
her giggles.

"--had the glad earth (tchik!) drunk their blood, On old Pl-a-a-t-t-e-a-'s day."

Whack! whack!

"Elizabeth Campbell!" The master's tone was quite terrible.

"I don't care! He won't leave me alone. He's just--just (sob)
pu--pulling at me (sob) all the time."

By this time Betsy's apron was up to her eyes, and her sobs were quite
tempestuous.

"James, stand up!" Jimmie slowly rose, red with laughter, and covered
with confusion.

"I-I-I di-dn't touch her!" he protested.

"O--h!" said little Aleck Sinclair, who had been enjoying Jimmie's prank
hugely; "he was--"

"That'll do, Aleck, I didn't ask you. James is quite able to tell me
himself. Now, James!"

"I-I-I was only just doing that," said Jimmie, sober enough now, and
terrified at the results of his mischief.

"Doing what?" said the master, repressing a smile at Jimmie's woebegone
face.

"Just-just that!" and Jimmie touched gingerly with the point of his
finger the bows of Betsy Dan's apron-strings.

"Oh, I see. You were annoying Elizabeth while she was reading. No wonder
she found it difficult. Now, do you think that was very nice?"

Jimmie twisted himself into a semicircle.

"N-o-o."

"Come here, James!" Jimmie looked frightened, came round the class, and
up to the master.

"Now, then," continued the master, facing Jimmie round in front of Betsy
Dan, who was still using her apron upon her eyes, "tell Elizabeth you
are sorry."

Jimmie stood in an agony of silent awkwardness, curving himself in
varying directions.

"Are you sorry?"

"Y-e-e-s."

"Well, tell her so."

Jimmie drew a long breath and braced himself for the ordeal. He stood a
moment or two, working his eyes up shyly from Betsy Dan's shoes to
her face, caught her glancing at him from behind her apron, and began,
"I-I-I'm (tchik! tchik) sor-ry," (tchik). Betsy Dan's look was too much
for the little chap's gravity.

A roar swept over the school-house. Even the grim dominie's face
relaxed.

"Go to your seat and behave yourself," said the master, giving Jimmie a
slight cuff. "Now, Margaret, let us go on."

Margaret's was the difficult verse. But to Margaret's quiet voice and
gentle heart, anything like shriek or battle-cry was foreign enough, so
with even tone, and unmodulated by any shade of passion, she read the
cry, "To arms! They come! The Greek! The Greek!" Nor was her voice to
be moved from its gentle, monotonous flow even by the battle-cry of
Bozzaris, "Strike! till the last armed foe expires!"

"Next," said the dominie, glad to get on with his task.

The master breathed freely, when, alas for his hopes, the minister spoke
up.

"But, Margaret, do you think Bozzaris cheered his men in so gentle a
voice as that?"

Margaret smiled sweetly, but remained silent, glad to get over the
verse.

"Wouldn't you like to try it again?" suggested the minister.

Margaret flushed up at once.

"Oh, no," said his wife, who had noticed Margaret's flushing face.
"Girls are not supposed to be soldiers, are they, Margaret?"

Margaret flashed a grateful look at her.

"That's a boy's verse."

"Ay! that it is," said the old dominie; "and I would wish very much that
Mrs. Murray would conduct this class."

But the minister's wife would not hear of it, protesting that the
dominie could do it much better. The old man, however, insisted, saying
that he had no great liking for this part of the examination, and
would wish to reserve himself, with the master's permission, for the
"arith-MET-ic" class.

Mrs. Murray, seeing that it would please the dominie, took the book,
with a spot of color coming in her delicate, high-bred face.

"You must all do your best now, to help me," she said, with a smile that
brought an answering smile flashing along the line. Even Thomas Finch
allowed his stolid face a gleam of intelligent sympathy, which, however,
he immediately suppressed, for he remembered that the next turn was
his, and that he must be getting himself into the appearance of dogged
desperation which he considered suitable to a reading exercise.

"Now, Thomas," said the minister's wife, sweetly, and Thomas plunged
heavily.

"They fought like brave men, long--"

"Oh, Thomas, I think we will try that man's verse again, with the cries
of battle in it, you know. I am sure you can do that well."

It was all the same to Thomas. There were no words he could not spell,
and he saw no reason why he should not do that verse as well as
any other. So, with an extra knitting of his eyebrows, he set forth
doggedly.

"An-hour-passed-on-the-Turk-awoke-that-bright-dream-was-his-last."

Thomas's voice fell with the unvarying regularity of the beat of a
trip-hammer.

"He-woke-to-hear-his-sentries-shriek-to-arms-they-come-the-Greek
the-Greek-he-woke--"

"But, Thomas, wait a minute. You see you must speak these words, 'To
arms! They come!' differently from the others. These words were shrieked
by the sentries, and you must show that in your reading."

"Speak them out, man," said the minister, sharply, and a little
nervously, fearing that his wife had undertaken too great a task, and
hating to see her defeated.

"Now, Thomas," said Mrs. Murray, "try again. And remember the sentries
shrieked these words, 'To arms!' and so on."

Thomas squared his shoulders, spread his feet apart, added a wrinkle
to his frown, and a deeper note of desperation to his tone, and began
again.

"An-hour-passed-on-the-Turk-awoke-that-bright-dream-was--"

The master shuddered.

"Now, Thomas, excuse me. That's better, but we can improve that yet."
Mrs. Murray was not to be beaten. The attention of the whole school,
even to Jimmie Cameron, as well as that of the visitors, was now
concentrated upon the event.

"See," she went on, "each phrase by itself. 'An hour passed on: the Turk
awoke.' Now, try that far."

Again Thomas tried, this time with complete success. The visitors
applauded.

"Ah, that's it, Thomas. I was sure you could do it."

Thomas relaxed a little, but not unduly. He was not sure what was yet
before him.

"Now we will get that 'sentries shriek.' See, Thomas, like this a
little," and she read the words with fine expression.

"You must put more pith, more force, into those words, Thomas. Speak
out, man!" interjected the minister, who was wishing it was all over.

"Now, Thomas, I think this will be the last time. You have done very
well, but I feel sure you can do better."

The minister's wife looked at Thomas as she said this, with so
fascinating a smile that the frown on Thomas' face deepened into a
hideous scowl, and he planted himself with a do-or-die expression in
every angle of his solid frame. Realizing the extreme necessity of the
moment, he pitched his voice several tones higher than ever before in
his life inside a house and before people, and made his final attempt.

"An-hour-passed-on: the-Turk-awoke: That-bright-dream-WAS-his-last."

And now, feeling that the crisis was upon him, and confusing speed
with intensity, and sound with passion, he rushed his words, with
ever-increasing speed, into a wild yell.

"He-woke-to-hear-his-sentries-shriek-to-arms-they
come-the-Greek-THE-GREEK!"

There was a moment of startled stillness, then, "tchik! tchik!" It was
Jimmie again, holding his nose and swaying in a vain effort to control a
paroxysm of snickers at Thomas' unusual outburst.

It was like a match to powder. Again the whole school burst into a
roar of uncontrollable laughter. Even the minister, the master, and the
dominie, could not resist. The only faces unmoved were those of Thomas
Finch and the minister's wife. He had tried his best, and it was to
please her, and she knew it.

A swift, shamed glance round, and his eyes rested on her face. That
face was sweet and grave as she leaned toward him, and said, "Thank you,
Thomas. That was well done." And Thomas, still looking at her, flushed
to his hair roots and down the back of his neck, while the scowl on his
forehead faded into a frown, and then into smoothness.

"And if you always try your best like that, Thomas, you will be a great
and good man some day."

Her voice was low and soft, as if intended for him alone, but in the
sudden silence that followed the laughter it thrilled to every heart in
the room, and Thomas was surprised to find himself trying to swallow a
lump in his throat, and to keep his eyes from blinking; and in his face,
stolid and heavy, a new expression was struggling for utterance. "Here,
take me," it said; "all that I have is thine," and later days brought
the opportunity to prove it.

The rest of the reading lesson passed without incident. Indeed, there
pervaded the whole school that feeling of reaction which always succeeds
an emotional climax. The master decided to omit the geography and
grammar classes, which should have immediately followed, and have dinner
at once, and so allow both children and visitors time to recover tone
for the spelling and arithmetic of the afternoon.

The dinner was an elaborate and appalling variety of pies and cakes,
served by the big girls and their sisters, who had recently left
school, and who consequently bore themselves with all proper dignity and
importance. Two of the boys passed round a pail of water and a tin cup,
that all the thirsty might drink. From hand to hand, and from lip to
lip the cup passed, with a fine contempt of microbes. The only point
of etiquette insisted upon was that no "leavings" should be allowed to
remain in the cup or thrown back into the pail, but should be carefully
flung upon the floor.

There had been examination feasts in pre-historic days in the Twentieth
school, when the boys indulged in free fights at long range, using as
missiles remnants of pie crust and cake, whose consistency rendered them
deadly enough to "bloody" a nose or black an eye. But these barbaric
encounters ceased with Archie Munro's advent, and now the boys vied with
each other in "minding their manners." Not only was there no snatching
of food or exhibition of greediness, but there was a severe repression
of any apparent eagerness for the tempting dainties, lest it should be
suspected that such were unusual at home. Even the little boys felt that
it would be bad manners to take a second piece of cake or pie unless
specially pressed; but their eager, bulging eyes revealed only too
plainly their heart's desire, and the kindly waiters knew their duty
sufficiently to urge a second, third, and fourth supply of the toothsome
currant or berry pie, the solid fruit cake, or the oily doughnut, till
the point was reached where desire failed.

"Have some more, Jimmie. Have a doughnut," said the master, who had been
admiring Jimmie's gastronomic achievements.

"He's had ten a'ready," shouted little Aleck Sinclair, Jimmie's special
confidant.

Jimmie smiled in conscious pride, but remained silent.

"What! eaten ten doughnuts?" asked the master, feigning alarm.

"He's got four in his pocket, too," said Aleck, in triumph.

"He's got a pie in his own pocket," retorted Jimmie, driven to
retaliate.

"A pie!" exclaimed the master. "Better take it out. A pocket's not the
best place for a pie. Why don't you eat it, Aleck?"

"I can't," lamented Aleck. "I'm full up."

"He said he's nearly busted," said Jimmie, anxiously. "He's got a
pain here," pointing to his left eye. The bigger boys and some of the
visitors who had gathered round shouted with laughter.

"Oh, pshaw, Aleck!" said the master, encouragingly, "that's all right.
As long as the pain is as high up as your eye you'll recover. I tell you
what, put your pie down on the desk here, Jimmie will take care of it,
and run down to the gate and tell Don I want him."

Aleck, with great care and considerable difficulty, extracted from his
pocket a segment of black currant pie, hopelessly battered, but still
intact. He regarded it fondly for a moment or two, and then, with a very
dubious look at Jimmie, ran away on his errand for the master.

It took him some little time to find Don, and meanwhile the master's
attention was drawn away by his duty to the visitors. The pie left to
Jimmie's care had an unfortunately tempting fringe of loose pieces about
it that marred its symmetry. Jimmie proceeded to trim it into shape. So
absorbed did he become in this trimming process, that before he realized
what he was about, he woke suddenly to the startling fact that the pie
had shrunk into a comparatively insignificant size. It would be worse
than useless to save the mutilated remains for Aleck; there was nothing
for it now but to get the reproachful remnant out of the way. He was
so busily occupied with this praiseworthy proceeding that he failed to
notice Aleck enter the room, flushed with his race, eager and once more
empty.

Arriving at his seat, he came upon Jimmie engaged in devouring the pie
left in his charge. With a cry of dismay and rage he flung himself upon
the little gourmand, and after a short struggle, secured the precious
pie; but alas, bereft of its most delicious part--it was picked clean
of its currants. For a moment he gazed, grief-stricken, at the leathery,
viscous remnant in his hand. Then, with a wrathful exclamation, "Here,
then, you can just take it then, you big pig, you!" He seized Jimmie by
the neck, and jammed the sticky pie crust on his face, where it stuck
like an adhesive plaster. Jimmie, taken by surprise, and rendered
nerveless by the pangs of an accusing conscience, made no resistance,
but set up a howl that attracted the attention of the master and the
whole company.

"Why, Jimmie!" exclaimed the master, removing the doughy mixture from
the little lad's face, "what on earth are you trying to do? What is
wrong, Aleck?"

"He ate my pie," said Aleck, defiantly.

"Ate it? Well, apparently not. But never mind, Aleck, we shall get you
another pie."

"There isn't any more," said Aleck, mournfully; "that was the last
piece."

"Oh, well, we shall find something else just as good," said the master,
going off after one of the big girls; and returning with a doughnut
and a peculiarly deadly looking piece of fruit cake, he succeeded in
comforting the disappointed and still indignant Aleck.

The afternoon was given to the more serious part of the school
work--writing, arithmetic, and spelling, while, for those whose
ambitions extended beyond the limits of the public school, the master
had begun a Euclid class, which was at once his despair and his
pride. In the Twentieth school of that date there was no waste of the
children's time in foolish and fantastic branches of study, in showy
exercises and accomplishments, whose display was at once ruinous to
the nerves of the visitors, and to the self-respect and modesty of
the children. The ideal of the school was to fit the children for the
struggle into which their lives would thrust them, so that the boy who
could spell and read and cipher was supposed to be ready for his life
work. Those whose ambition led them into the subtleties of Euclid's
problems and theorems were supposed to be in preparation for somewhat
higher spheres of life.

Through the various classes of arithmetic the examination proceeded, the
little ones struggling with great seriousness through their addition
and subtraction sums, and being wrought up to the highest pitch of
excitement by their contest for the first place. By the time the fifth
class was reached, the air was heavy with the feeling of battle. Indeed,
it was amazing to note how the master had succeeded in arousing in the
whole school an intense spirit of emulation. From little Johnnie Aird up
to Thomas Finch, the pupils carried the hearts of soldiers.

Through fractions, the "Rule of Three," percentages, and stocks, the
senior class swept with a trail of glory. In vain old Peter MacRae
strewed their path with his favorite posers. The brilliant achievements
of the class seemed to sink him deeper and deeper into the gloom of
discontent, while the master, the minister and his wife, as well as
the visitors, could not conceal their delight. As a last resort the old
dominie sought to stem their victorious career with his famous problem
in Practice, and to his huge enjoyment, one after another of the class
had to acknowledge defeat. The truth was, the master had passed lightly
over this rule in the arithmetic, considering the solution of problems
by the method of Practice as a little antiquated, and hardly worthy of
much study. The failure of the class, however, brought the dominie his
hour of triumph, and so complete had been the success of the examination
that the master was abundantly willing that he should enjoy it.

Then followed the judging of the copy-books. The best and cleanest book
in each class was given the proud distinction of a testimonial written
upon the first blank page, with the date of the examination and the
signatures of the examiners attached. It was afterwards borne home in
triumph by the happy owner, to be stored among the family archives,
and perhaps among the sacred things that mothers keep in their holy of
holies.

After the copy-books had been duly appraised, there followed an hour
in which the excitement of the day reached its highest mark. The whole
school, with such of the visitors as could be persuaded to join, were
ranged in opposing ranks in the deadly conflict of a spelling-match. The
master, the teacher from the Sixteenth, and even the minister's wife,
yielded to the tremendous pressure of public demand that they should
enter the fray. The contest had a most dramatic finish, and it was felt
that the extreme possibility of enthusiasm and excitement was reached
when the minister's wife spelled down the teacher from the Sixteenth,
who every one knew, was the champion speller of all the country that lay
toward the Front, and had a special private armory of deadly missiles
laid up against just such a conflict as this. The tumultuous triumph
of the children was not to be controlled. Again and again they followed
Hughie in wild yells, not only because his mother was a great favorite
with them all, but because she had wrested a victory from the champion
of the Front, for the Front, in all matters pertaining to culture and
fashion, thought itself quite superior to the more backwoods country of
the Twentieth.

It was with no small difficulty that the master brought the school to
such a degree of order that the closing speeches could be received with
becoming respect and attention. The trustees, according to custom, were
invited to express their opinion upon the examination, and upon school
matters generally. The chairman, John Cameron, "Long John," as he was
called, broke the ice after much persuasion, and slowly rising from
the desk into which he had compressed his long, lank form, he made his
speech. Long John was a great admirer of the master, but for all that,
and perhaps because of that, he allowed himself no warmer words of
commendation than that he was well pleased with the way in which
the children had conducted themselves. "They have done credit to
themselves," he said, "and to their teacher. And indeed I am sorry he is
leaving us, for, so far, I have heard no complaints in the Section."

The other trustees followed in the path thus blazed out for them by Long
John. They were all well pleased with the examination, and they were
all sorry to lose the master, and they had heard no complaints. It
was perfectly understood that no words of praise could add to the high
testimony that they "had heard no complaints."

The dominie's speech was a little more elaborate. Somewhat reluctantly
he acknowledged that the school had acquitted itself with "very
considerable credit," especially the "arith-MET-ic" class, and indeed,
considering all the circumstances, Mr. Munro was to be congratulated
upon the results of his work in the Section. But the minister's warm
expression of delight at the day's proceedings, and of regret at the
departure of the master, more than atoned for the trustees' cautious
testimony, and the dominie's somewhat grudging praise.

Then came the moment of the day. A great stillness fell upon the school
as the master rose to make his farewell speech. But before he could
say a word, up from their seats walked Betsy Dan and Thomas Finch,
and ranged themselves before him. The whole assemblage tingled with
suppressed excitement. The great secret with which they had been
burdening themselves for the past few weeks was now to be out. Slowly
Thomas extracted the manuscript from his trousers pocket, and smoothed
out its many folds, while Betsy Dan waited nervously in the rear.

"Oh, why did they set Thomas to this?" whispered the minister's wife,
who had a profound sense of humor. The truth was, the choice of the
school had fallen upon Ranald and Margaret Aird. Margaret was quite
willing to act, but Ranald refused point-blank, and privately persuaded
Thomas to accept the honor in his stead. To this Thomas agreed, all the
more readily that Margaret, whom he adored from a respectful distance,
was to be his partner. But Margaret, who would gladly have been
associated with Ranald, on the suggestion that Thomas should take his
place, put up her lower lip in that symbol of scorn so effective with
girls, but which no boy has ever yet accomplished, and declared that
indeed, and she would see that Tom Finch far enough, which plainly
meant "no." Consequently they had to fall back upon Betsy Dan, who, in
addition to being excessively nervous, was extremely good-natured.
And Thomas, though he would greatly have preferred Margaret as his
assistant, was quite ready to accept Betsy Dan.

The interval of waiting while Thomas deliberately smoothed out the
creases of the paper was exceedingly hard upon Betsy Dan, whose face
grew redder each moment. Jimmie Cameron, too, who realized that the
occasion was one of unusual solemnity, was gazing at Thomas with
intense interest growing into amusement, and was holding his fingers
in readiness to seize his nose, and so check any explosion of snickers.
Just as Thomas had got the last fold of his paper straightened out, and
was turning it right end up, it somehow slipped through his fingers to
the floor. This was too much for Jimmie, who only saved himself from
utter disgrace by promptly seizing his nose and holding on for dear
life. Thomas gave Jimmie a passing glare and straightened himself up
for his work. With a furious frown he cleared his throat and began in
a solemn, deep-toned roar, "Dear teacher, learning with regret that you
are about to sever your connection," etc., etc. All went well until
he came to the words, "We beg you to accept this gift, not for its
intrinsic value," etc., which was the cue for Betsy Dan. But Betsy Dan
was engaged in terrorizing Jimmie, and failed to come in, till, after an
awful pause, Thomas gave her a sharp nudge, and whispered audibly, "Give
it to him, you gowk." Poor Betsy Dan, in sudden confusion, whipped her
hand out from under her apron, and thrusting a box at the master, said
hurriedly, "Here it is, sir." As Thomas solemnly concluded his address,
a smile ran round the room, while Jimmie doubled himself up in his
efforts to suppress a tempest of snickers.

The master, however, seemed to see nothing humorous in the situation,
but bowing gravely to Thomas and Betsy Dan, he said, kindly, "Thank you,
Thomas! Thank you, Elizabeth!" Something in his tone brought the school
to attention, and even Jimmie forgot to have regard to his nose. For
a few moments the master stood looking upon the faces of his pupils,
dwelling upon them one by one, till his eyes rested upon the wee tots in
the front seat, looking at him with eyes of innocent and serious wonder.
Then he thanked the children for their gift in a few simple words,
assuring them that he should always wear the watch with pride and
grateful remembrance of the Twentieth school, and of his happy days
among them.

But when he came to say his words of farewell, and to thank them for
their goodness to him, and their loyal backing of him while he was their
teacher, his voice grew husky, and for a moment wavered. Then, after
a pause, he spoke of what had been his ideal among them. "It is a good
thing to have your minds trained and stored with useful knowledge, but
there are better things than that. To learn honor, truth, and right; to
be manly and womanly; to be self-controlled and brave and gentle--these
are better than all possible stores of learning; and if I have taught
you these at all, then I have done what I most wished to do. I have
often failed, and I have often been discouraged, and might have given up
were it not for the help I received at my worst times from our minister
and from Mrs. Murray, who often saved me from despair."

A sudden flush tinged the grave, beautiful face of the minister's young
wife. A light filled her eyes as the master said these words, for she
remembered days when the young man's pain was almost greater than he
could bear, and when he was near to giving up.

When the master ceased, the minister spoke a few words in appreciation
of the work he had done in the school, and in the whole Section, during
his three years' stay among them, and expressed his conviction that many
a young lad would grow into a better man because he had known Archibald
Munro, and some of them would never forget what he had done for them.

By this time all the big girls and many of the visitors were openly
weeping. The boys were looking straight in front of them, their faces
set in an appearance of savage gloom, for they knew well how near they
were to "acting like the girls."

After a short prayer by the minister, the children filed out past the
master, who stood at the door and shook hands with them one by one. When
the big boys, and the young men who had gone to school in the winter
months, came to say good by, they shook hands silently, and then stood
close about him as if hating to let him go. He had caught for them in
many a close base-ball match; he had saved their goal in many a fierce
shinny fight with the Front; and while he had ruled them with an iron
rule, he had always treated them fairly. He had never failed them; he
had never weakened; he had always been a man among them. No wonder they
stood close about him and hated to lose him. Suddenly big Bob Fraser
called out in a husky voice, "Three cheers for the captain!" and every
one was glad of the chance to let himself out in a roar. And that was
the last of the farewells.



CHAPTER IV

THE NEW MASTER


Right in front of the school door, and some little distance from it, in
the midst of a clump of maples, stood an old beech-tree with a dead top,
and half-way down where a limb had once been and had rotted off, a
hole. Inside this hole two very respectable but thoroughly impudent red
squirrels had made their nest. The hole led into the dead heart of the
tree, which had been hollowed out with pains so as to make a roomy, cosy
home, which the squirrels had lined with fur and moss, and which was
well stored with beechnuts from the tree, their winter's provisions.

Between the boys and the squirrels there existed an armed neutrality. It
was understood among the boys that nothing worse than snowballs was to
be used in their war with the squirrels, while with the squirrels it
was a matter of honor that they should put reasonable limits to their
profanity. But there were times when the relations became strained, and
hence the holidays were no less welcome to the squirrels than to the
boys.

To the squirrels this had been a day of unusual anxiety, for the school
had taken up again after its two weeks' holidays, and the boys were a
little more inquisitive than usual, and unfortunately, the snow happened
to be good for packing. It had been a bad day for nerves, and Mr. Bushy,
as the boys called him, found it impossible to keep his tail in one
position for more than one second at a time. It was in vain that his
more sedate and self-controlled partner in life remonstrated with him
and urged a more philosophic mind.

"It's all very well for you, my dear," Mr. Bushy was saying, rather
crossly I am afraid, "to urge a philosophic mind, but if you had the
responsibility of the family upon you--Goodness gracious! Owls and
weasels! What in all the woods is that?"

"Can't be the wolves," said Mrs. Bushy, placidly, "it's too early for
them."

"Might have known," replied her husband, quite crossly; "of course it's
those boys. I wonder why they let them out of school at all. Why can't
they keep them in where it is warm? It always seems to me a very silly
thing anyway, for them to keep rushing out of their hole in that stupid
fashion. What they do in there I am sure I don't know. It isn't the
least like a nest. I've seen inside of it. There isn't a thing to eat,
nor a bit of hair or moss. They just go in and out again."

"Well, my dear," said his wife, soothingly, "you can hardly expect them
to know as much as people with a wider outlook. We must remember they
are only ground people."

"That's just it!" grumbled Mr. Bushy. "I only wish they would just keep
to themselves and on the ground where they belong, but they have the
impudence to come lumbering up here into our tree."

"Oh, well," replied his partner, calmly, "you must acknowledge they do
not disturb our nest."

"And a good thing for them, too," chattered Mr. Bushy, fiercely,
smoothing out his whiskers and showing his sharp front teeth, at which
Mrs. Bushy smiled gently behind her tail.

"But what are they doing now?" she inquired.

"Oh, they are going off into the woods," said Mr. Bushy, who had
issued from his hole and was sitting up on a convenient crotch. "And I
declare!" he said, in amazed tones, "they haven't thrown one snowball at
me. Something must be badly wrong with them. Wonder what it is? This is
quite unprecedented."

At this Mrs. Bushy ventured carefully out to observe the extraordinary
phenomenon, for the boys were actually making their way to the gate, the
smaller ones with much noisy shouting, but the big boys soberly enough
engaged in earnest conversation. It was their first day of the new
master, and such a day as quite "flabbergastrated," as Don Cameron said,
even the oldest of them. But of course Mr. and Mrs. Bushy knew nothing
of this, and could only marvel.

"Murdie," cried Hughie to Don's big brother, who with Bob Fraser, Ranald
Macdonald, and Thomas Finch was walking slowly toward the gate, "you
won't forget to ask your pa for an excuse if you happen to be late
to-morrow, will you?"

Murdie paid no attention.

"You won't forget your excuse, Murdie," continued Hughie, poking him in
the back.

Murdie suddenly turned, caught him by the neck and the seat of his
trousers, and threw him head first into a drift, from which he emerged
wrathful and sputtering.

"Well, I hope you do," continued Hughie, "and then you'll catch it. And
mind you," he went on, circling round to get in front of him, "if you
want to ask big Bob there for his knife, mind you hold up your hand
first." Murdie only grinned at him.

The new master had begun the day by enunciating the regulations under
which the school was to be administered. They made rather a formidable
list, but two of them seemed to the boys to have gone beyond the limits
of all that was outrageous and absurd. There was to be no speaking
during school hours, and if a boy should desire to ask a question of his
neighbor, he was to hold up his hand and get permission from the master.
But worse than all, and more absurd than all, was the regulation that
all late comers and absentees were to bring written excuses from parents
or guardians.

"Guardian," Thomas Finch had grunted, "what's that?"

"Your grandmother," whispered Don back.

It was not Don's reply that brought Thomas into disgrace this first
day of the new master's rule, it was the vision of big Murdie Cameron
walking up to the desk with an excuse for lateness, which he had
obtained from Long John, his father. This vision breaking suddenly in
upon the solemnity of Thomas Finch's mind, had sent him into a snort of
laughter, not more to the surprise of the school than of himself. The
gravity of the school had not been greatly helped by Thomas sheepish
answer to the master's indignant question, "What did you do that for,
sir?"

"I didn't; it did itself."

On the whole, the opening day had not been a success. As a matter of
fact, it was almost too much to expect that it should be anything but
a failure. There was a kind of settled if unspoken opinion among the
children that no master could ever fill Archibald Munro's place in the
school. Indeed, it was felt to be a kind of impertinence for any man to
attempt such a thing. And further, there was a secret sentiment among
the boys that loyalty to the old master's memory demanded an attitude of
unsympathetic opposition to the one who came to take his place. It did
not help the situation that the new master was unaware of this state of
mind. He was buoyed up by the sentiments of enthusiastic admiration
and approval that he carried with him in the testimonials from his last
board of trustees in town, with which sentiments he fully agreed, and
hence he greeted the pupils of the little backwoods school with an airy
condescension that reduced the school to a condition of speechless and
indignant astonishment. The school was prepared to tolerate the man who
should presume to succeed their former master, if sufficiently humble,
but certainly not to accept airy condescension from him.

"Does he think we're babies?" asked Don, indignantly.

"And did you see him trying to chop at recess?" (REE'cis, Hughie called
it.) "He couldn't hit twice in the same place."

"And he asked me if that beech there was a maple," said Bob Fraser, in
deep disgust.

"Oh, shut up your gab!" said Ranald, suddenly. "Give the man a chance,
anyway."

"Will YOU bring an excuse when you're absent, Ranald?" asked Hughie.

"And where would I be getting it?" asked Ranald, grimly, and all the
boys realized the absurdity of expecting a written excuse for Ranald's
absence from his father. Macdonald Dubh was not a man to be bothered
with such trifles.

"You might get it from your Aunt Kirsty, Ranald," said Don, slyly. The
boys shouted at the suggestion.

"And she could do it well enough if it would be necessary," said Ranald,
facing square round on Don, and throwing up his head after his manner
when battle was in the air, while the red blood showed in his dark cheek
and his eyes lit up with a fierce gleam. Don read the danger signal.

"I'm not saying she couldn't," he hurried to say, apologetically, "but
it would be funny, wouldn't it?"

"Well," said Ranald, relenting and smiling a little, "it would be
keeping her busy at times."

"When the deer are running, eh, Ranald," said Murdie, good-naturedly.
"But Ranald's right, boys," he continued, "give the man a chance, say
I."

"There's our bells," cried Thomas Finch, as the deep, musical boom of
the Finch's sleigh-bells came through the bush. "Come on, Hughie, we'll
get them at the cross." And followed by Hughie and the boys from the
north, he set off for the north cross-roads, where they would meet
the Finch's bob-sleighs coming empty from the saw-mill, to the great
surprise and unalloyed delight of Mr. and Mrs. Bushy, who from their
crotch in the old beech had watched with some anxiety the boys' unusual
conduct.

"There they are, Hughie," called Thomas, as the sleighs came out into
the open at the crossroads. "They'll wait for us. They know you're
coming," he yelled, encouragingly, for the big boys had left the smaller
ones, a panting train, far in the rear, and were piling themselves
upon the Finch's sleighs, with never a "by your leave" to William
John--familiarly known as Billy Jack--Thomas' eldest brother, who drove
the Finch's team.

Thomas' home lay a mile north and another east from the Twentieth
cross-roads, but the winter road by which they hauled saw-logs to the
mill, cut right through the forest, where the deep snow packed hard
into a smooth track, covering roots and logs and mud holes, and making
a perfect surface for the sleighs, however heavily loaded, except where
here and there the pitch-holes or cahots came. These cahots, by the way,
though they became, especially toward the spring, a serious annoyance
to teamsters, only added another to the delights that a sleigh-ride held
for the boys.

To Hughie, the ride this evening was blissful to an unspeakable degree.
He was overflowing with new sensations. He was going to spend the night
with Thomas, for one thing, and Thomas as his host was quite a new and
different person from the Thomas of the school. The minister's wife,
ever since the examination day, had taken a deeper interest in Thomas,
and determined that something should be made out of the solemn, stolid,
slow-moving boy. Partly for this reason she had yielded to Hughie's
eager pleading, backing up the invitation brought by Thomas himself
and delivered in an agony of red-faced confusion, that Hughie should be
allowed to go home with him for the night. Partly, too, because she
was glad that Hughie should see something of the Finch's home, and
especially of the dark-faced, dark-eyed little woman who so silently and
unobtrusively, but so efficiently, administered her home, her family,
and their affairs, and especially her husband, without suspicion on his
part that anything of the kind was being done.

In addition to the joy that Hughie had in Thomas in his new role as
host, this winter road was full of wonder and delight, as were all roads
and paths that wound right through the heart of the bush. The regular
made-up roads, with the forest cut back beyond the ditches at the sides,
were a great weariness to Hughie, except indeed, in the springtime, when
these ditches were running full with sun-lit water, over the mottled
clay bottom and gravelly ripples. But the bush roads and paths, summer
and winter, were filled with things of wonder and of beauty, and this
particular winter road of the Finch's was best of all to Hughie, for it
was quite new to him, and besides, it led right through the mysterious,
big pine swamp and over the butternut ridge, beyond which lay the
Finch's farm. Balsam-trees, tamarack, spruce, and cedar made up the
thick underbrush of the pine swamp, white birch, white ash, and black
were thickly sprinkled through it, but high above these lesser trees
towered the white pines, lifting their great, tufted crests in lonely
grandeur, seeming like kings among meaner men. Here and there the rabbit
runways, packed into hard little paths, crossed the road and disappeared
under the thick spruces and balsams; here and there, the sly, single
track of the fox, or the deep hoof-mark of the deer, led off into
unknown depths on either side. Hughie, sitting up on the bolster of the
front bob beside Billy Jack, for even the big boys recognized his right,
as Thomas' guest, to that coveted place, listened with eager face and
wide-open eyes to Billy Jack's remarks upon the forest and its strange
people.

One thing else added to Hughie's keen enjoyment of the ride. Billy
Jack's bays were always in the finest of fettle, and pulled hard on the
lines, and were rarely allowed the rapture of a gallop. But when the
swamp was passed and the road came to the more open butternut ridge,
Billy Jack shook the lines over their backs and let them out. Their
response was superb to witness, and brought Hughie some moments of
ecstatic rapture. Along the hard-packed road that wound about among the
big butternuts, the rangey bays sped at a flat gallop, bounding clear
over the cahots, the booming of the bells and the rattling of the chains
furnishing an exhilarating accompaniment to the swift, swaying motion,
while the children clung for dear life to the bob-sleighs and to each
other. It was all Billy Jack could do to get his team down to a trot by
the time they reached the clearing, for there the going was perilous,
and besides, it was just as well that his father should not witness
any signs on Billy Jack's part of the folly that he was inclined to
attribute to the rising generation. So steadily enough the bays trotted
up the lane and between long lines of green cordwood on one side and
a hay-stack on the other, into the yard, and swinging round the big
straw-stack that faced the open shed, and was flanked on the right by
the cow-stable and hog-pen, and on the left by the horse-stable, came to
a full stop at their own stable door.

"Thomas, you take Hughie into the house to get warm, till I unhitch,"
said Billy Jack, with the feeling that courtesy to the minister's son
demanded this attention. But Hughie, rejecting this proposition with
scorn, pushed Thomas aside and set himself to unhitch the S-hook on the
outside trace of the nigh bay. It was one of Hughie's grievances, and
a very sore point with him, that his father's people would insist
on treating him in the privileged manner they thought proper to his
father's son, and his chief ambition was to stand upon his own legs
and to fare like other boys. So he scorned Billy Jack's suggestion, and
while some of the children scurried about the stacks for a little romp
before setting off for their homes, which some of them, for the sake of
the ride, had left far behind, Hughie devoted himself to the unhitching
of the team with Billy Jack. And so quick was he in his movements,
and so fearless of the horses, that he had his side unhitched and was
struggling with the breast-strap before Billy Jack had finished with his
horse.

"Man! you're a regular farmer," said Billy Jack, admiringly, "only
you're too quick for the rest of us."

Hughie, still struggling with the breast-strap, found his heart swell
with pride. To be a farmer was his present dream.

"But that's too heavy for you," continued Billy Jack. "Here, let down
the tongue first."

"Pshaw!" said Hughie, disgusted at his exhibition of ignorance, "I knew
that tongue ought to come out first, but I forgot."

"Oh, well, it's just as good that way, but not quite so easy," said
Billy Jack, with doubtful consistency.

It took Hughie but a few minutes after the tongue was let down to
unfasten his end of the neck-yoke and the cross-lines, and he was
beginning at his hame-strap, always a difficult buckle, when Billy Jack
called out, "Hold on there! You're too quick for me. We'll make them
carry their own harness into the stable. Don't believe in making a horse
of myself." Billy Jack was something of a humorist.

The Finch homestead was a model of finished neatness. Order was its law.
Outside, the stables, barns, stacks, the very wood-piles, evidenced that
law. Within, the house and its belongings and affairs were perfect
in their harmonious arrangement. The whole establishment, without and
within, gave token of the unremitting care of one organizing mind, for,
from dark to dark, while others might have their moments of rest and
careless ease, "the little mother," as Billy Jack called her, was ever
on guard, and all the machinery of house and farm moved smoothly and to
purpose because of that unsleeping care. She was last to bed and first
to stir, and Billy Jack declared that she used to put the cats to sleep
at night, and waken up the roosters in the morning. And through it all
her face remained serene, and her voice flowed in quiet tones. Billy
Jack adored her with all the might of his big heart and body. Thomas,
slow of motion as of expression, found in her the center of his somewhat
sluggish being. Jessac, the little dark-faced maiden of nine years,
whose face was the very replica of her mother's, knew nothing in the
world dearer, albeit in her daily little housewifely tasks she felt
the gentle pressure of that steadfast mind and unyielding purpose. Her
husband regarded her with a curious mingling of reverence and defiance,
for Donald Finch was an obstinate man, with a man's love of authority,
and a Scotchman's sense of his right to rule in his own house. But while
he talked much about his authority, and made a great show of absolutism
with his family, he was secretly conscious that another will than
his had really kept things moving about the farm; for he had long ago
learned that his wife was always right, while he might often be wrong,
and that, withal her soft words and gentle ways, hers was a will like
steel.

Besides the law of order, another law ruled in the Finch household--the
law of work. The days were filled with work, for they each had their
share to do, and bore the sole responsibility for its being well done.
If the cows failed in their milk, or the fat cattle were not up to the
mark, the father felt the reproach as his; to Billy Jack fell the care
and handling of the horses; Thomas took charge of the pigs, and the
getting of wood and water for the house; little Jessac had her daily
task of "sorting the rooms," and when the days were too stormy or the
snow too deep for school, she had in addition her stent of knitting or
of winding the yarn for the weaver. To the mother fell all the rest. At
the cooking and the cleaning, and the making and the mending, all fine
arts with her, she diligently toiled from long before dawn till after
all the rest were abed. But besides these and other daily household
duties there were, in their various seasons, the jam and jelly, the
pumpkin and squash preserves, the butter-making and cheese-making, and
more than all, the long, long work with the wool. Billy Jack used to say
that the little mother followed that wool from the backs of her sheep
to the backs of her family, and hated to let the weaver have his turn
at it. What with the washing and the oiling of it, the carding and the
spinning, the twisting and the winding, she never seemed to be done. And
then, when it came back from the weaver in great webs of fulled-cloth
and flannel and winsey, there was all the cutting, shaping, and sewing
before the family could get it on their backs. True, the tailor was
called in to help, but though he declared he worked no place else as he
worked at the Finch's, it was Billy Jack's openly expressed opinion that
"he worked his jaw more than his needle, for at meal-times he gave his
needle a rest."

But though Hughie, of course, knew nothing of this toiling and moiling,
he was distinctly conscious of an air of tidiness and comfort and
quiet, and was keenly alive to the fact that there was a splendid supper
waiting him when he got in from the stables with the others, "hungry as
a wild-cat," as Billy jack expressed it. And that WAS a supper! Fried
ribs of fresh pork, and hashed potatoes, hot and brown, followed by
buckwheat pancakes, hot and brown, with maple syrup. There was tea for
the father and mother with their oat cakes, but for the children no such
luxury, only the choice of buttermilk or sweet milk. Hughie, it is true,
was offered tea, but he promptly declined, for though he loved it well
enough, it was sufficient reason for him that Thomas had none. It took,
however, all the grace out of his declining, that Mr. Finch remarked
in gruff pleasantry, "What would a boy want with tea!" The supper was
a very solemn meal. They were all too busy to talk, at least so Hughie
felt, and as for himself, he was only afraid lest the others should
"push back" before he had satisfied the terrible craving within him.

After supper the books were taken, and in Gaelic, for though Donald
Finch was perfectly able in English for business and ordinary affairs
of life, when it came to the worship of God, he found that only in the
ancient mother tongue could he "get liberty." As Hughie listened to the
solemn reading, and then to the prayer that followed, though he could
understand only a word now and again, he was greatly impressed with the
rhythmic, solemn cadence of the voice, and as he glanced through his
fingers at the old man's face, he was surprised to find how completely
it had changed. It was no longer the face of the stern and stubborn
autocrat, but of an earnest, humble, reverent man of God; and Hughie,
looking at him, wondered if he would not be altogether nicer with
his wife and boys after that prayer was done. He had yet to learn how
obstinate and even hard a man can be and still have a great "gift in
prayer."

From the old man's face, Hughie's glance wandered to his wife's, and
there was held fascinated. For the first time Hughie thought it was
beautiful, and more than that, he was startled to find that it reminded
him of his mother's. At once he closed his eyes, for he felt as if he
had been prying where he had no right.

After the prayer was over they all drew about the glowing polished
kitchen stove with the open front, and set themselves to enjoy that hour
which, more than any other, helps to weave into the memory the thoughts
and feelings that in after days are associated with home. Old Donald
drew forth his pipe, a pleased expectation upon his face, and after
cutting enough tobacco from the black plug which he pulled from his
trousers pocket, he rolled it fine, with deliberation, and packed it
carefully into his briar-root pipe, from which dangled a tin cap; then
drawing out some live coals from the fire, he with a quick motion picked
one up, set it upon the top of the tobacco, and holding it there with
his bare finger until Hughie was sure he would burn himself, puffed with
hard, smacking puffs, but with a more comfortable expression than Hughie
had yet seen him wear. Then, when it was fairly lit, he knocked off the
coal, packed down the tobacco, put on the little tin cap, and sat back
in his covered arm-chair, and came as near beaming upon the world as
ever he allowed himself to come.

"Here, Jessac," he said to the little dark-faced maiden slipping about
the table under the mother's silent direction. Jessac glanced at her
mother and hesitated. Then, apparently reading her mother's face, she
said, "In a minute, da," and seizing the broom, which was much taller
than herself, she began to brush up the crumbs about the table with
amazing deftness. This task completed, and the crumbs being thrown into
the pig's barrel which stood in the woodshed just outside the door,
Jessac set her broom in the corner, hung up the dust-pan on its proper
nail behind the stove, and then, running to her father, climbed up
on his knee and snuggled down into his arms for an hour's luxurious
laziness before the fire. Hughie gazed in amazement at her temerity, for
Donald Finch was not a man to take liberties with; but as he gazed,
he wondered the more, for again the face of the stern old man was
transformed.

"Be quaet now, lassie. Hear me now, I am telling you," he admonished
the little girl in his arms, while there flowed over his face a look of
half-shamed delight that seemed to fill up and smooth out all its severe
lines.

Hughie was still gazing and wondering when the old man, catching his
earnest, wide-open gaze, broke forth suddenly, in a voice nearly jovial,
"Well, lad, so you have taken up the school again. You will be having a
fine time of it altogether."

The lad, startled more by the joviality of his manner than by the
suddenness of his speech, hastily replied, "Indeed, we are not, then."

"What! what!" replied the old man, returning to his normal aspect of
severity. "Do you not know that you have great privileges now?"

"Huh!" grunted Hughie. "If we had Archie Munro again."

"And what is wrong with the new man?"

"Oh, I don't know. He's not a bit nice. He's--"

"Too many rules," said Thomas, slowly.

"Aha!" said his father, with a note of triumph in his tone; "so that's
it, is it? He will be bringing you to the mark, I warrant you. And
indeed it's high time, for I doubt Archie Munro was just a little soft
with you."

The old man's tone was aggravating enough, but his reference to the old
master was too much for Hughie, and even Thomas was moved to words more
than was his wont in his father's presence.

"He has too many rules," repeated Thomas, stolidly, "and they will not
be kept."

"And he is as proud as he can be," continued Hughie. "Comes along with
his cane and his stand-up collar, and lifts his hat off to the big
girls, and--and--och! he's just as stuck-up as anything!" Hughie's
vocabulary was not equal to his contempt.

"There will not be much wrong with his cane in the Twentieth School, I
dare say," went on the old man, grimly. "As for lifting his hat, it is
time some of them were learning manners. When I was a boy we were made
to mind our manners, I can tell you."

"So are we!" replied Hughie, hotly; "but we don't go shoween off like
that! And then himself and his rules!" Hughie's disgust was quite
unutterable.

"Rules!" exclaimed the old man. "Ay, that is what is the trouble."

"Well," said Hughie, with a spice of mischief, "if Thomas is late for
school he will have to bring a note of excuse."

"Very good indeed. And why should he be late at all?"

"And if any one wants a pencil he can't ask for it unless he gets
permission from the master."

"Capital!" said the old man, rubbing his hands delightedly. "He's the
right sort, whatever."

"And if you keep Thomas home a day or a week, you will have to write to
the master about it," continued Hughie.

"And what for, pray?" said the old man, hastily. "May I not
keep--but--Yes, that's a very fine rule, too. It will keep the boys from
the woods, I am thinking."

"But think of big Murdie Cameron holding up his hand to ask leave to
speak to Bob Fraser!"

"And why not indeed? If he's not too big to be in school he's not too
big for that. Man alive! you should have seen the master in my school
days lay the lads over the forms and warm their backs to them."

"As big as Murdie?"

"Ay, and bigger. And what's more, he would send for them to their homes,
and bring them strapped to a wheel-barrow. Yon was a master for you!"

Hughie snorted. "Huh! I tell you what, we wouldn't stand that. And we
won't stand this man either."

"And what will you be doing now, Hughie?" quizzed the old man.

"Well," said Hughie, reddening at the sarcasm, "I will not do much, but
the big boys will just carry him out."

"And who will be daring to do that, Hughie?"

"Well, Murdie, and Bob Fraser, and Curly Ross, and Don, and--and Thomas,
there," added Hughie, fearing to hurt Thomas' feelings by leaving him
out.

"Ay," said the old man, shutting his lips tight on his pipestem and
puffing with a smacking noise, "let me catch Thomas at that!"

"And I would help, too," said Hughie, valiantly, fearing he had exposed
his friend, and wishing to share his danger.

"Well, your father would be seeing to that," said the old man, with
great satisfaction, feeling that Hughie's discipline might be safely
left in the minister's hands.

There was a pause of a few moments, and then a quiet voice inquired
gently, "He will be a very big man, Hughie, I suppose."

"Oh, just ordinary," said Hughie, innocently, turning to Mrs. Finch.

"Oh, then, they will not be requiring you and Thomas, I am thinking, to
carry him out." At which Hughie and Billy Jack and Jessac laughed aloud,
but Thomas and his father only looked stolidly into the fire.

"Come, Thomas," said his mother, "take your fiddle a bit. Hughie will
like a tune." There was no need of any further discussing the new
master.

But Thomas was very shy about his fiddle, and besides he was not in
a mood for it; his father's words had rasped him. It took the united
persuasions of Billy Jack and Jessac and Hughie to get the fiddle into
Thomas' hands, but after a few tuning scrapes all shyness and moodiness
vanished, and soon the reels and strathspeys were dropping from Thomas'
flying fingers in a way that set Hughie's blood tingling. But when the
fiddler struck into Money Musk, Billy Jack signed Jessac to him, and
whispering to her, set her out on the middle of the floor.

"Aw, I don't like to," said Jessac, twisting her apron into her mouth.

"Come away, Jessac," said her mother, quietly, "do your best." And
Jessac, laying aside shyness, went at her Highland reel with the same
serious earnestness she gave to her tidying or her knitting. Daintily
she tripped the twenty-four steps of that intricate, ancient dance of
the Celt people, whirling, balancing, poising, snapping her fingers,
and twinkling her feet in the true Highland style, till once more her
father's face smoothed out its wrinkles, and beamed like a harvest moon.
Hughie gazed, uncertain whether to allow himself to admire Jessac's
performance, or to regard it with a boy's scorn, as she was only a
girl. And yet he could not escape the fascination of the swift, rhythmic
movement of the neat, twinkling feet.

"Well done, Jessac, lass," said her father, proudly. "But what would the
minister be saying at such frivolity?" he added, glancing at Hughie.

"Huh! he can do it himself well enough," said Hughie, "and I tell you
what, I only wish I could do it."

"I'll show you," said Jessac, shyly, but for the first time in his life
Hughie's courage failed, and though he would have given much to be able
to make his feet twinkle through the mazes of the Highland reel, he
could not bring himself to accept teaching from Jessac. If it had only
been Thomas or Billy Jack who had offered, he would soon enough have
been on the floor. For a moment he hesitated, then with a sudden
inspiration, he cried, "All right. Do it again. I'll watch." But the
mother said quietly, "I think that will do, Jessac. And I am afraid
your father will be going with cold hands if you don't hurry with those
mitts." And Jessac put up her lip with the true girl's grimace and went
away for her knitting, to Hughie's disappointment and relief.

Soon Billy Jack took down the tin lantern, pierced with holes into
curious patterns, through which the candle-light rayed forth, and went
out to bed the horses. In spite of protests from all the family, Hughie
set forth with him, carrying the lantern and feeling very much the
farmer, while Billy Jack took two pails of boiled oats and barley, with
a mixture of flax-seed, which was supposed to give to the Finch's team
their famous and superior gloss. When they returned from the stable they
found in the kitchen Thomas, who was rubbing a composition of tallow and
bees-wax into his boots to make them water-proof, and the mother, who
was going about setting the table for the breakfast.

"Too bad you have to go to bed, mother," said Billy Jack, struggling
with his boot-jack. "You might just go on getting the breakfast, and
what a fine start that would give you for the day."

"You hurry, William John, to bed with that poor lad. What would his
mother say? He must be fairly exhausted."

"I'm not a bit tired," said Hughie, brightly, his face radiant with the
delight of his new experiences.

"You will need all your sleep, my boy," said the mother, kindly, "for
we rise early here. But," she added, "you will lie till the boys are
through with their work, and Thomas will waken you for your breakfast."

"Indeed, no! I'm going to get up," announced Hughie.

"But, Hughie," said Billy Jack, seriously, "if you and Thomas are going
to carry out that man to-morrow, you will need a mighty lot of sleep
to-night."

"Hush, William John," said the mother to her eldest son, "you mustn't
tease Hughie. And it's not good to be saying such things, even in fun,
to boys like Thomas and Hughie."

"That's true, mother, for they're rather fierce already."

"Indeed, they are not that. And I am sure they will do nothing that will
shame their parents."

To this Hughie made no reply. It was no easy matter to harmonize the
thought of his parents with the exploit of ejecting the master from the
school, so he only said good night, and went off with the silent Thomas
to bed. But in the visions of his head which haunted him the night long,
racing horses and little girls with tossing curls and twinkling feet
were strangely mingled with wild conflicts with the new master; and it
seemed to him that he had hardly dropped off to sleep, when he was
awake again to see Thomas standing beside him with a candle in his hand,
announcing that breakfast was ready.

"Have you been out to the stable?" he eagerly inquired, and Thomas
nodded. In great disappointment and a little shamefacedly he made his
appearance at the breakfast-table.

It seemed to Hughie as if it must be still the night before, for it was
quite dark outside. He had never had breakfast by candle-light before
in his life, and he felt as if it all were still a part of his dreams,
until he found himself sitting beside Billy Jack on a load of saw-logs,
waving good by to the group at the door, the old man, whose face in the
gray morning light had resumed its wonted severe look, the quiet, little
dark-faced woman, smiling kindly at him and bidding him come again, and
the little maid at her side with the dark ringlets, who glanced at him
from behind the shelter of her mother's skirts, with shy boldness.

As Hughie was saying his good bys, he was thinking most of the twinkling
feet and the tossing curls, and so he added to his farewells, "Good
by, Jessac. I'm going to learn that reel from you some day," and then,
turning about, he straight-way forgot all about her and her reel, for
Billy Jack's horses were pawing to be off, and rolling their solemn
bells, while their breath rose in white clouds above their heads,
wreathing their manes in hoary rime.

"Git-ep, lads," said Billy Jack, hauling his lines taut and flourishing
his whip. The bays straightened their backs, hung for a few moments
on their tugs, for the load had frozen fast during the night, and then
moved off at a smart trot, the bells solemnly booming out, and the
sleighs creaking over the frosty snow.

"Man!" said Hughie, enthusiastically, "I wish I could draw logs all
winter."

"It's not too bad a job on a day like this," assented Billy Jack. And
indeed, any one might envy him the work on such a morning. Over the
treetops the rays of the sun were beginning to shoot their rosy darts
up into the sky, and to flood the clearing with light that sparkled and
shimmered upon the frost particles, glittering upon and glorifying snow
and trees, and even the stumps and fences. Around the clearing stood the
forest, dark and still, except for the frost reports that now and then
rang out like pistol shots. To Hughie, the early morning invested the
forest with a new beauty and a new wonder. The dim light of the dawning
day deepened the silence, so that involuntarily he hushed his voice in
speaking, and the deep-toned roll of the sleigh-bells seemed to smite
upon that dim, solemn quiet with startling blows. On either side
the balsams and spruces, with their mantles of snow, stood like
white-swathed sentinels on guard--silent, motionless, alert. Hughie
looked to see them move as the team drove past.

As they left the more open butternut ridge and descended into the depths
of the big pine swamp, the dim light faded into deeper gloom, and Hughie
felt as if he were in church, and an awe gathered upon him.

"It's awful still," he said to Billy Jack in a low tone, and Billy Jack,
catching the look in the boy's face, checked the light word upon his
lips, and gazed around into the deep forest glooms with new eyes. The
mystery and wonder of the forest had never struck him before. It had
hitherto been to him a place for hunting or for getting big saw-logs.
But to-day he saw it with Hughie's eyes, and felt the majesty of its
beauty and silence. For a long time they drove without a word.

"Say, it's mighty fine, isn't it?" he said, adopting Hughie's low tone.

"Splendid!" exclaimed Hughie. "My! I could just hug those big trees.
They look at me like--like your mother, don't they, or mine?" But this
was beyond Billy Jack.

"Like my mother?"

"Yes, you know, quiet and--and--kind, and nice."

"Yes," said Thomas, breaking in for the first time, "that's just it.
They do look, sure enough, like my mother and yours. They have both got
that look."

"Git-ep!" said Billy Jack to his team. "These fellows'll be ketchin'
something bad if we don't get into the open soon. Shouldn't wonder if
they've got 'em already, making out their mothers like an old white
pine. Git-ep, I say!"

"Oh, pshaw!" said Hughie, "you know what I mean."

"Not much I don't. But it don't matter so long as you're feelin' all
right. This swamp's rather bad for the groojums."

"What?" Hughie's eyes began to open wide as he glanced into the forest.

"The groojums. Never heard of them things? They ketch a fellow in places
like this when it's gettin' on towards midnight, and about daylight it's
almost as bad."

"What are they like?" asked Hughie, upon whom the spell of the forest
lay.

"Oh, mighty queer. Always crawl up on your back, and ye can't help
twistin' round."

Hughie glanced at Thomas and was at once relieved.

"Oh, pshaw! Billy Jack, you can't fool me. I know you."

"I guess you're safe enough now. They don't bother you much in the
clearing," said Billy Jack, encouragingly.

"Oh, fiddle! I'm not afraid."

"Nobody is in the open, and especially in the daytime."

"Oh, I don't care for your old groojums."

"Guess you care more for your new boss yonder, eh?" said Billy Jack,
nodding toward the school-house, which now came into view.

"Oh," said Hughie, with a groan, "I just hate going to-day."

"You'll be all right when you get there," said Billy Jack, cheerfully.
"It's like goin' in swimmin'."

Soon they were at the cross-roads.

"Good by, Billy Jack," said Hughie, feeling as if he had been on a long,
long visit. "I've had an awfully good time, and I'd like to go back with
you."

"Wish you would," said Billy Jack, heartily. "Come again soon. And don't
carry out the master to-day. It looks like a storm; he might get cold."

"He had better mind out, then," cried Hughie after Billy Jack, and set
off with Thomas for the school. But neither Hughie nor Thomas had any
idea of the thrilling experiences awaiting them in the Twentieth School
before the week was done.



CHAPTER V

THE CRISIS


The first days of that week were days of strife. Murdie Cameron and
Bob Fraser and the other big boys succeeded in keeping in line with the
master's rules and regulations. They were careful never to be late,
and so saved themselves the degradation of bringing an excuse. But the
smaller boys set themselves to make the master's life a burden, and
succeeded beyond their highest expectations, for the master was quick
of temper, and was determined at all costs to exact full and prompt
obedience. There was more flogging done those first six days than during
any six months of Archie Munro's rule. Sometimes the floggings amounted
to little, but sometimes they were serious, and when those fell upon the
smaller boys, the girls would weep and the bigger boys would grind their
teeth and swear.

The situation became so acute that Murdie Cameron and the big boys
decided that they would quit the school. They were afraid the temptation
to throw the master out would some day be more than they could bear,
and for men who had played their part, not without credit, in the Scotch
River fights, to carry out the master would have been an exploit hardly
worthy of them. So, in dignified contempt of the master and his rules,
they left the school after the third day.

Their absence did not help matters much; indeed, the master appeared to
be relieved, and proceeded to tame the school into submission. It was
little Jimmie Cameron who precipitated the crisis. Jimmie's nose, upon
which he relied when struggling with his snickers, had an unpleasant
trick of failing him at critical moments, and of letting out explosive
snorts of the most disturbing kind. He had finally been warned that upon
his next outburst punishment would fall.

It was Friday afternoon, the drowsy hour just before recess, while the
master was explaining to the listless Euclid class the mysteries of the
forty-seventh proposition, that suddenly a snort of unusual violence
burst upon the school. Immediately every eye was upon the master, for
all had heard and had noted his threat to Jimmie.

"James, was that you, sir?"

There was no answer, except such as could be gathered from Jimmie's very
red and very shamed face.

"James, stand up!"

Jimmie wriggled to his feet, and stood a heap of various angles.

"Now, James, you remember what I promised you? Come here, sir!"

Jimmie came slowly to the front, growing paler at each step, and stood
with a dazed look on his face, before the master. He had never been
thrashed in all his life. At home the big brothers might cuff him
good-naturedly, or his mother thump him on the head with her thimble,
but a serious whipping was to him an unknown horror.

The master drew forth his heavy black strap with impressive deliberation
and ominous silence. The preparations for punishment were so elaborate
and imposing that the big boys guessed that the punishment itself would
not amount to much. Not so Jimmie. He stood numb with fear and horrible
expectation. The master lifted up the strap.

"James, hold out your hand!"

Jimmie promptly clutched his hand behind his back.

"Hold out your hand, sir, at once!" No answer.

"James, you must do as you are told. Your punishment for disobedience
will be much severer than for laughing." But Jimmie stood pale, silent,
with his hands tight clasped behind his back.

The master stepped forward, and grasping the little boy's arm, tried to
pull his hand to the front; but Jimmie, with a roar like that of a young
bull, threw himself flat on his face on the floor and put his hands
under him. The school burst into a laugh of triumph, which increased the
master's embarrassment and rage.

"Silence!" he said, "or it will be a worse matter for some of you than
for James."

Then turning his attention to Jimmie, be lifted him from the floor and
tried to pull out his hand. But Jimmie kept his arms folded tight across
his breast, roaring vigorously the while, and saying over and over, "Go
away from me! Go away from me, I tell you! I'm not taking anything to do
with you."

The big boys were enjoying the thing immensely. The master's rage was
deepening in proportion. He felt it would never do to be beaten. His
whole authority was at stake.

"Now, James," he reasoned, "you see you are only making it worse for
yourself. I cannot allow any disobedience in the school. You must hold
out your hand."

But Jimmie, realizing that he had come off best in the first round,
stood doggedly sniffing, his arms still folded tight.

"Now, James, I shall give you one more chance. Hold out your hand."

Jimmie remained like a statue.

Whack! came the heavy strap over his shoulders. At once Jimmie set up
his refrain, "Go away from me, I tell you! I'm not taking anything to do
with you!"

Whack! whack! whack! fell the strap with successive blows, each heavier
than the last. There was no longer any laughing in the school. The
affair was growing serious. The girls were beginning to sob, and the
bigger boys to grow pale.

"Now, James, will you hold out your hand? You see how much worse you are
making it for yourself," said the master, who was heartily sick of the
struggle, which he felt to be undignified, and the result of which he
feared was dubious.

But Jimmie only kept up his cry, now punctuated with sobs,
"I'm--not--taking--anything--to do--with--you."

"Jimmie, listen to me," said the master. "You must hold out your hand. I
cannot have boys refusing to obey me in this school." But Jimmie caught
the entreaty in the tone, and knowing that the battle was nearly over,
kept obstinately silent.

"Well, then," said the master, suddenly, "you must take it," and lifting
the strap, he laid it with such sharp emphasis over Jimmie's shoulders
that Jimmie's voice rose in a wilder roar than usual, and the girls
burst into audible weeping.

Suddenly, above all the hubbub, rose a voice, clear and sharp.

"Stop!" It was Thomas Finch, of all people, standing with face white and
tense, and regarding the master with steady eyes.

The school gazed thunderstruck at the usually slow and stolid Thomas.

"What do you mean, sir?" said the master, gladly turning from Jimmie.
But Thomas stood silent, as much surprised as the master at his sudden
exclamation.

He stood hesitating for a moment, and then said, "You can thrash me in
his place. He's a little chap, and has never been thrashed."

The master misunderstood his hesitation for fear, pushed Jimmie aside,
threw down his strap, and seized a birch rod.

"Come forward, sir! I'll put an end to your insubordination, at any
rate. Hold out your hand!"

Thomas held out his hand till the master finished one birch rod.

"The other hand, sir!"

Another birch rod was used up, but Thomas neither uttered a sound nor
made a move till the master had done, then he asked, in a strained
voice, "Were you going to give Jimmie all that, sir?"

The master caught the biting sneer in the tone, and lost himself
completely.

"Do you dare to answer me back?" he cried. He opened his desk, took out
a rawhide, and without waiting to ask for his hand, began to lay the
rawhide about Thomas's shoulders and legs, till he was out of breath.

"Now, perhaps you will learn your place, sir," he said.

"Thank you," said Thomas, looking him steadily in the eye.

"You are welcome. And I'll give you as much more whenever you show that
you need it." The slight laugh with which he closed this brutal speech
made Thomas wince as he had not during his whole terrible thrashing, but
still he had not a word to say.

"Now, James, come here!" said the master, turning to Jimmie. "You see
what happens when a boy is insubordinate." Jimmie came trembling. "Hold
out your hand!" Out came Jimmie's hand at once. Whack! fell the strap.

"The other!"

"Stop it!" roared Thomas. "I took his thrashing."

"The other!" said the master, ignoring Thomas.

With a curious savage snarl Thomas sprung at him. The master, however,
was on the alert, and swinging round, met him with a straight facer
between the eyes, and Thomas went to the floor.

"Aha! my boy! I'll teach you something you have yet to learn."

For answer came another cry, "Come on, boys!" It was Ranald Macdonald,
coming over the seats, followed by Don Cameron, Billy Ross, and some
smaller boys. The master turned to meet them.

"Come along!" he said, backing up to his desk. "But I warn you it's not
a strap or a rawhide I shall use."

Ranald paid no attention to his words, but came straight toward him, and
when at arm's length, sprung at him with the cry, "Horo, boys!"

But before he could lay his hands upon the master, he received a blow
straight on the bridge of the nose that staggered him back, stunned and
bleeding. By this time Thomas was up again, and rushing in was received
in like manner, and fell back over a bench.

"How do you like it, boys?" smiled the master. "Come right along."

The boys obeyed his invitation, approaching him, but more warily, and
awaiting their chance to rush. Suddenly Thomas, with a savage snarl,
put his head down and rushed in beneath the master's guard, paid no
attention to the heavy blow he received on the head, and locking his
arms round the master's middle, buried his head close into his chest.

At once Ranald and Billy Ross threw themselves upon the struggling pair
and carried them to the floor, the master underneath. There was a few
moments of fierce struggling, and then the master lay still, with the
four boys holding him down for dear life.

It was Thomas who assumed command.

"Don't choke him so, Ranald," he said. "And clear out of the way, all
you girls and little chaps."

"What are you going to do, Thomas?" asked Don, acknowledging Thomas's
new-born leadership.

"Tie him up," said Thomas. "Get me a sash."

At once two or three little boys rushed to the hooks and brought one or
two of the knitted sashes that hung there, and Thomas proceeded to tie
the master's legs.

While he was thus busily engaged, a shadow darkened the door, and a
voice exclaimed, "What is all this about?" It was the minister, who
had been driving past and had come upon the terrified, weeping children
rushing home.

"Is that you, Thomas? And you, Don?"

The boys let go their hold and stood up, shamed but defiant.

Immediately the master was on his feet, and with a swift, fierce blow,
caught Thomas on the chin. Thomas, taken off his guard, fell with a thud
on the floor.

"Stop that, young man!" said the minister, catching his arm. "That's a
coward's blow."

"Hands off!" said the master, shaking himself free and squaring up to
him.

"Ye would, would ye?" said the minister, gripping him by the neck and
shaking him as he might a child. "Lift ye're hand to me, would ye?
I'll break you're back to ye, and that I will." So saying, the minister
seized him by the arms and held him absolutely helpless. The master
ceased to struggle, and put down his hands.

"Ay, ye'd better, my man," said the minister, giving him a fling
backward.

Meantime Don had been holding snow to Thomas's head, and had brought him
round.

"Now, then," said the minister to the boys, "what does all this mean?"

The boys were all silent, but the master spoke.

"It is a case of rank and impudent insubordination, sir, and I demand
the expulsion of those impudent rascals."

"Well, sir," said the minister, "be sure there will be a thorough
investigation, and I greatly misjudge the case if there are not faults
on both sides. And for one thing, the man who can strike such a cowardly
blow as you did a moment ago would not be unlikely to be guilty of
injustice and cruelty."

"It is none of your business," said the master, insolently.

"You will find that I shall make it my business," said the minister.
"And now, boys, be off to your homes, and be here Monday morning at nine
o'clock, when this matter shall be gone into."



CHAPTER VI

"ONE THAT RULETH WELL HIS OWN HOUSE"


The news of the school trouble ran through the section like fire through
a brule. The younger generations when they heard how Thomas Finch had
dared the master, raised him at once to the rank of hero, but the heads
of families received the news doubtfully, and wondered what the rising
generation was coming to.

The next day Billy Jack heard the story in the Twentieth store, and with
some anxiety waited for the news to reach his father's ears, for to tell
the truth, Billy Jack, man though he was, held his father in dread.

"How did you come to do it?" he asked Thomas. "Why didn't you let Don
begin? It was surely Don's business."

"I don't know. It slipped out," replied Thomas. "I couldn't stand
Jimmie's yelling any longer. I didn't know I said anything till I found
myself standing up, and after that I didn't seem to care for anything."

"Man! it was fine, though," said Billy Jack. "I didn't think it was in
you." And Thomas felt more than repaid for all his cruel beating. It was
something to win the approval of Billy Jack in an affair of this kind.

It was at church on the Sabbath day that Donald Finch heard about his
son's doings in the school the week before. The minister, in his sermon,
thought fit to dwell upon the tendency of the rising generation to
revolt against authority in all things, and solemnly laid upon parents
the duty and responsibility of seeing to it that they ruled their
households well.

It was not just the advice that Donald Finch stood specially in need of,
but he was highly pleased with the sermon, and was enlarging upon it
in the churchyard where the people gathered between the services, when
Peter McRae, thinking that old Donald was hardly taking the minister's
advice to himself as he ought, and not knowing that the old man was
ignorant of all that had happened in the school, answered him somewhat
severely.

"It is good to be approving the sermon, but I would rather be seeing you
make a practical application of it."

"Indeed, that is true," replied Donald, "and it would not be amiss for
more than me to make application of it."

"Indeed, then, if all reports be true," replied Peter, "it would be well
for you to begin at home."

"Mr. McRae," said Donald, earnestly, "it is myself that knows well
enough my shortcomings, but if there is any special reason for your
remark, I am not aware of it."

This light treatment of what to Peter had seemed a grievous offense
against all authority incensed the old dominie beyond all endurance.

"And do you not think that the conduct of your son last week calls for
any reproof? And is it you that will stand up and defend it in the face
of the minister and his sermon upon it this day?"

Donald gazed at him a few moments as if he had gone mad. At length he
replied, slowly, "I do not wish to forget that you are an elder of the
church, Mr. McRae, and I will not be charging you with telling lies on
me and my family--"

"Tut, tut, man," broke in Long John Cameron, seeing how the matter
stood; "he's just referring to yon little difference Thomas had with the
master last week. But it's just nothing. Come away in."

"Thomas?" gasped Donald. "My Thomas?"

"You have not heard, then," said Peter, in surprise, and old Donald only
shook his head.

"Then it's time you did," replied Peter, severely, "for such things are
a disgrace to the community."

"Nonsense!" said Long John. "Not a bit of it! I think none the less of
Thomas for it." But in matters of this kind Long John could hardly be
counted an authority, for it was not so very long ago since he had been
beguiled into an affair at the Scotch River which, while it brought
him laurels at the hands of the younger generation, did not add to his
reputation with the elders of the church.

It did not help matters much that Murdie Cameron and others of his set
proceeded to congratulate old Donald, in their own way, upon his son's
achievement, and with all the more fervor that they perceived that it
moved the solemn Peter to righteous wrath. From one and another the tale
came forth with embellishments, till Donald Finch was reduced to such a
state of voiceless rage and humiliation that when, at the sound of the
opening psalm the congregation moved into the church for the Gaelic
service, the old man departed for his home, trembling, silent, amazed.

How Thomas could have brought this disgrace upon him, he could not
imagine. If it had been William John, who, with all his good nature, had
a temper brittle enough, he would not have been surprised. And then the
minister's sermon, of which he had spoken in such open and enthusiastic
approval, how it condemned him for his neglect of duty toward his
family, and held up his authority over his household to scorn. It was a
terrible blow to his pride.

"It is the Lord's judgment upon me," he said to himself, as he tramped
his way through the woods. "It is the curse of Eli that is hanging over
me and mine." And with many vows he resolved that, at all costs, he
would do his duty in this crisis and bring Thomas to a sense of his
sins.

It was in this spirit that he met his family at the supper-table, after
their return from the Gaelic service.

"What is this I hear about you, Thomas?" he began, as Thomas came in and
took his place at the table. "What is this I hear about you, sir?" he
repeated, making a great effort to maintain a calm and judicial tone.

Thomas remained silent, partly because he usually found speech
difficult, but chiefly because he dreaded his father's wrath.

"What is this that has become the talk of the countryside and the
disgrace of my name?" continued the father, in deepening tones.

"No very great disgrace, surely," said Billy Jack, lightly, hoping to
turn his father's anger.

"Be you silent, sir!" commanded the old man, sternly. "I will ask for
your opinion when I require it. You and others beside you in this house
need to learn your places."

Billy Jack made no reply, fearing to make matters worse, though he found
it hard not to resent this taunt, which he knew well was flung at his
mother.

"I wonder at you, Thomas, after such a sermon as yon. I wonder you are
able to sit there unconcerned at this table. I wonder you are not hiding
your head in shame and confusion." The old man was lashing himself into
a white rage, while Thomas sat looking stolidly before him, his slow
tongue finding no words of defense. And indeed, he had little thought of
defending himself. He was conscious of an acute self-condemnation, and
yet, struggling through his slow-moving mind there was a feeling that in
some sense he could not define, there was justification for what he had
done.

"It is not often that Thomas has grieved you," ventured the mother,
timidly, for, with all her courage, she feared her husband when he was
in this mood.

"Woman, be silent!" blazed forth the old man, as if he had been waiting
for her words. "It is not for you to excuse his wickedness. You are too
fond of that work, and your children are reaping the fruits of it."

Billy Jack looked up quickly as if to answer, but his mother turned her
face full upon him and commanded him with steady eyes, giving, herself,
no sign of emotion except for a slight tightening of the lips and a
touch of color in her face.

"Your children have well learned their lesson of rebellion and deceit,"
continued her husband, allowing his passion a free rein. "But I vow unto
the Lord I will put an end to it now, whatever. And I will give you
to remember, sir," turning to Thomas, "to the end of your days, this
occasion. And now, hence from this table. Let me not see your face till
the Sabbath is past, and then, if the Lord spares me, I shall deal with
you."

Thomas hesitated a moment as if he had not quite taken in his father's
words, then, leaving his supper untouched, he rose slowly, and without
a word climbed the ladder to the loft. The mother followed him a moment
with her eyes, and then once more turning to Billy Jack, held him with
calm, steady gaze. Her immediate fear was for her eldest son. Thomas,
she knew, would in the mean time simply suffer what might be his lot,
but for many a day she had lived in terror of an outbreak between
her eldest son and her husband. Again Billy Jack caught her look, and
commanded himself to silence.

"The fire is low, William John," she said, in a quiet voice. Billy Jack
rose, and from the wood-box behind the stove, replenished the fire,
reading perfectly his mother's mind, and resolving at all costs to do
her will.

At the taking of the books that night the prayer, which was spoken in a
tone of awful and almost inaudible solemnity, was for the most part an
exaltation of the majesty and righteousness of the government of God,
and a lamentation over the wickedness and rebellion of mankind. And
Billy Jack thought it was no good augury that it closed with a petition
for grace to maintain the honor of that government, and to uphold that
righteous majesty in all the relations of life. It was a woeful evening
to them all, and as soon as possible the household went miserably to
bed.

Before going to her room the mother slipped up quietly to the loft and
found Thomas lying in his bunk, dressed and awake. He was still puzzling
out his ethical problem. His conscience clearly condemned him for his
fight with the master, and yet, somehow he could not regret having stood
up for Jimmie and taken his punishment. He expected no mercy at his
father's hands next morning. The punishment he knew would be cruel
enough, but it was not the pain that Thomas was dreading; he was dimly
struggling with the sense of outrage, for ever since the moment he had
stood up and uttered his challenge to the master, he had felt himself to
be different. That moment now seemed to belong to the distant years
when he was a boy, and now he could not imagine himself submitting to
a flogging from any man, and it seemed to him strange and almost
impossible that even his father should lift his hand to him.

"You are not sleeping, Thomas," said his mother, going up to his bunk.

"No, mother."

"And you have had no supper at all."

"I don't want any, mother."

The mother sat silent beside him for a time, and then said, quietly,
"You did not tell me, Thomas."

"No, mother, I didn't like."

"It would have been better that your father should have heard this
from--I mean, should have heard it at home. And--you might have told me,
Thomas."

"Yes, mother, I wish now I had. But, indeed, I can't understand how it
happened. I don't feel as if it was me at all." And then Thomas told his
mother all the tale, finishing his story with the words, "And I couldn't
help it, mother, at all."

The mother remained silent for a little, and then, with a little tremor
in her voice, she replied: "No, Thomas, I know you couldn't help it, and
I--" here her voice quite broke--"I am not ashamed of you."

"Are you not, mother?" said Thomas, sitting up suddenly in great
surprise. "Then I don't care. I couldn't make it out well."

"Never you mind, Thomas, it will be well," and she leaned over him and
kissed him. Thomas felt her face wet with tears, and his stolid reserve
broke down.

"Oh, mother, mother, I don't care now," he cried, his breath coming in
great sobs. "I don't care at all." And he put his arms round his mother,
clinging to her as if he had been a child.

"I know, laddie, I know," whispered his mother. "Never you fear, never
fear." And then, as if to herself, she added, "Thank the Lord you are
not a coward, whatever."

Thomas found himself again without words, but he held his mother fast,
his big body shaking with his sobs.

"And, Thomas," she continued, after a pause, "your father--we must just
be patient." All her life long this had been her struggle. "And--and--he
is a good man." Her tears were now flowing fast, and her voice had quite
lost its calm.

Thomas was alarmed and distressed. He had never in all his life seen his
mother weep, and rarely had heard her voice break.

"Don't, mother," he said, growing suddenly quiet himself. "Don't you
mind, mother. It'll be all right, and I'm not afraid."

"Yes," she said, rising and regaining her self-control, "it will be all
right, Thomas. You go to sleep." And there were such evident reserves of
strength behind her voice that Thomas lay down, certain that all would
be well. His mother had never failed him.

The mother went downstairs with the purpose in her heart of having a
talk with her husband, but Donald Finch knew her ways well, and had
resolved that he would have no speech with her upon the matter, for he
knew that it would be impossible for him to persevere in his intention
to "deal with" Thomas, if he allowed his wife to have any talk with him.

The morning brought the mother no opportunity of speech with her
husband. He, contrary to his custom, remained until breakfast in his
room. Outside in the kitchen, he could hear Billy Jack's cheerful tones
and hearty laugh, and it angered him to think that his displeasure
should have so little effect upon his household. If the house had
remained shrouded in gloom, and the family had gone about on tiptoes
and with bated breath, it would have shown no more than a proper
appreciation of the father's displeasure; but as Billy Jack's cheerful
words and laughter fell upon his ear, he renewed his vows to do his duty
that day in upholding his authority, and bringing to his son a due sense
of his sin.

In grim silence he ate his breakfast, except for a sharp rebuke to
Billy Jack, who had been laboring throughout the meal to make cheerful
conversation with Jessac and his mother. At his father's rebuke Billy
Jack dropped his cheerful tone, and avoiding his mother's eyes, he
assumed at once an attitude of open defiance, his tones and words
plainly offering to his father war, if war he would have.

"You will come to me in the room after breakfast," said his father, as
Thomas rose to go to the stable.

"There's a meeting of the trustees at nine o'clock at the school-house
at which Thomas must be present," interposed Billy Jack, in firm, steady
tones.

"He may go when I have done with him," said his father, angrily, "and
meantime you will attend to your own business."

"Yes, sir, I will that!" Billy Jack's response came back with fierce
promptness.

The old man glanced at him, caught the light in his eyes, hesitated a
moment, and then, throwing all restraint to the winds, thundered out,
"What do you mean, sir?"

"What I say. I am going to attend to my own business, and that soon."
Billy Jack's tone was quick, eager, defiant.

Again the old man hesitated, and then replied, "Go to it, then."

"I am going, and I am going to take Thomas to that meeting at nine
o'clock."

"I did not know that you had business there," said the old man,
sarcastically.

"Then you may know it now," blazed forth Billy Jack, "for I am going.
And as sure as I stand here, I will see that Thomas gets fair play there
if he doesn't at home, if I have to lick every trustee in the section."

"Hold your peace, sir!" said his father, coming nearer him. "Do not give
me any impertinence, and do not accuse me of unfairness."

"Have you heard Thomas's side of the story?" returned Billy Jack.

"I have heard enough, and more than enough."

"You haven't heard both sides."

"I know the truth of it, whatever, the shameful and disgraceful truth of
it. I know that the country-side is ringing with it. I know that in the
house of God the minister held up my family to the scorn of the people.
And I vowed to do my duty to my house."

The old man's passion had risen to such a height that for a moment
Billy Jack quailed before it. In the pause that followed the old man's
outburst the mother came to her son.

"Hush, William John! You are not to forget yourself, nor your duty to
your father and to me. Thomas will receive full justice in this matter."
There was a quiet strength and dignity in her manner that commanded
immediate attention from both men.

The mother went on in a low, even voice, "Your father has his duty to
perform, and you must not take upon yourself to interfere."

Billy Jack could hardly believe his ears. That his mother should desert
him, and should support what he knew she felt to be injustice and
tyranny, was more than he could understand. No less perplexed was her
husband.

As they stood there looking at each other, uncertain as to the next
step, there came a knock at the back door. The mother went to open it,
pausing on her way to push back some chairs and put the room to rights,
thus allowing the family to regain its composure.

"Good morning, Mrs. Finch. You will be thinking I have slept in your
barn all night." It was Long John Cameron.

"Come away in, Mr. Cameron. It is never too early for friends to come to
this house," said Mrs. Finch, her voice showing her great relief.

Long John came in, glanced shrewdly about, and greeted Mr. Finch with
great heartiness.

"It's a fine winter day, Mr. Finch, but it looks as if we might have a
storm. You are busy with the logs, I hear."

Old Donald was slowly recovering himself.

"And a fine lot you are having," continued Long John. "I was just saying
the other day that it was wonderful the work you could get through."

"Indeed, it is hard enough to do anything here," said Donald Finch, with
some bitterness.

"You may say so," responded Long John, cheerfully. "The snow is that
deep in the bush, and--"

"You were wanting to see me, Mr. Cameron," interrupted Donald. "I have a
business on hand which requires attention."

"Indeed, and so have I. For it is--"

"And indeed, it is just as well you and all should know it, for my
disgrace is well known."

"Disgrace!" exclaimed Long John.

"Ay, disgrace. For is it not a disgrace to have the conduct of your
family become the occasion of a sermon on the Lord's Day?"

"Indeed, I did not think much of yon sermon, whatever," replied Long
John.

"I cannot agree with you, Mr. Cameron. It was a powerful sermon, and it
was only too sorely needed. But I hope it will not be without profit to
myself."

"Indeed, it is not the sermon you have much need of," said Long John,
"for every one knows what a--"

"Ay, it is myself that needs it, but with the help of the Lord I will be
doing my duty this morning."

"And I am very glad to hear that," replied Long John, "for that is why I
am come."

"And what may you have to do with it?" asked the old man.

"As to that, indeed," replied Long John, coolly, "I am not yet quite
sure. But if I might ask without being too bold, what is the particular
duty to which you are referring?"

"You may ask, and you and all have a right to know, for I am about to
visit upon my son his sins and shame."

"And is it meaning to wheep him you are?"

"Ay," said the old man, and his lips came fiercely together.

"Indeed, then, you will just do no such thing this morning."

"And by what right do you interfere in my domestic affairs?" demanded
old Donald, with dignity. "Answer me that, Mr. Cameron."

"Right or no right," replied Long John, "before any man lays a finger on
Thomas there, he will need to begin with myself. And," he added, grimly,
"there are not many in the county who would care for that job."

Old Donald Finch looked at his visitor in speechless amazement. At
length Long John grew excited.

"Man alive!" he exclaimed, "it's a quare father you are. You may be
thinking it disgrace, but the section will be proud that there is a boy
in it brave enough to stand up for the weak against a brute bully." And
then he proceeded to tell the tale as he had heard it from Don, with
such strong passion and such rude vigor, that in spite of himself old
Donald found his rage vanish, and his heart began to move within him
toward his son.

"And it is for that," cried Long John, dashing his fist into his open
palm, "it is for that that you would punish your son. May God forgive
me! but the man that lays a finger on Thomas yonder, will come into sore
grief this day. Ay, lad," continued Long John, striding toward Thomas
and gripping him by the shoulders with both hands, "you are a man, and
you stood up for the weak yon day, and if you efer will be wanting a
friend, remember John Cameron."

"Well, well, Mr. Cameron," said old Donald, who was more deeply moved
than he cared to show, "it maybe as you say. It maybe the lad was not so
much in the wrong."

"In the wrong?" roared Long John, blowing his nose hard. "In the wrong?
May my boys ever be in the wrong in such a way!"

"Well," said old Donald, "we shall see about this. And if Thomas has
suffered injustice it is not his father will refuse to see him righted."
And soon they were all off to the meeting at the school-house.

Thomas was the last to leave the room. As usual, he had not been able
to find a word, but stood white and trembling, but as he found himself
alone with his mother, once more his stolid reserve broke down, and he
burst into a strange and broken cry, "Oh, mother, mother," but he could
get no further.

"Never mind, laddie," said his mother, "you have borne yourself well,
and your mother is proud of you."

At the investigation held in the school-house, it became clear that,
though the insubordination of both Jimmie and Thomas was undeniable, the
provocation by the master had been very great. And though the minister,
who was superintendent of instruction for the district, insisted that
the master's authority must, at all costs, be upheld, such was the rage
of old Donald Finch and Long John Cameron that the upshot was that the
master took his departure from the section, glad enough to escape with
bones unbroken.



CHAPTER VII

FOXY


After the expulsion of the master, the Twentieth School fell upon evil
days, for the trustees decided that it would be better to try "gurl"
teachers, as Hughie contemptuously called them; and this policy
prevailed for two or three years, with the result that the big boys left
the school, and with their departure the old heroic age passed away, to
be succeeded by an age soft, law-abiding, and distinctly commercial.

The spirit of this unheroic age was incarnate in the person of "Foxy"
Ross. Foxy got his name, in the first instance, from the peculiar pinky
red shade of hair that crowned his white, fat face, but the name stuck
to him as appropriately descriptive of his tricks and his manners. His
face was large, and smooth, and fat, with wide mouth, and teeth that
glistened when he smiled. His smile was like his face, large, and
smooth, and fat. His eyes, which were light gray--white, Hughie called
them--were shifty, avoiding the gaze that sought to read them, or
piercingly keen, according as he might choose.

After the departure of the big boys, Foxy gradually grew in influence
until his only rival in the school was Hughie. Foxy's father was the
storekeeper in the Twentieth, and this brought within Foxy's reach
possibilities of influence that gave him an immense advantage over
Hughie. By means of bull's-eyes and "lickerish" sticks, Foxy could win
the allegiance of all the smaller boys and many of the bigger ones,
while with the girls, both big and small, his willingness to please
and his smooth manners won from many affection, and from the rest
toleration, although Betsy Dan Campbell asserted that whenever Foxy Ross
came near her she felt something creeping up her backbone.

With the teacher, too, Foxy was a great favorite. He gave her worshipful
reverence and many gifts from his father's store, eloquent of his
devotion. He was never detected in mischief, and was always ready to
expose the misdemeanors of the other boys. Thus it came that Foxy was
the paramount influence within the school.

Outside, his only rival was Hughie, and at times Hughie's rivalry became
dangerous. In all games that called for skill, activity, and reckless
daring, Hughie was easily leader. In "Old Sow," "Prisoner's Base,"
but especially in the ancient and noble game of "Shinny," Hughie shone
peerless and supreme. Foxy hated games, and shinny, the joy of those
giants of old, who had torn victory from the Sixteenth, and even from
the Front one glorious year, was at once Foxy's disgust and terror. As
a little boy, he could not for the life of him avoid turning his back to
wait shuddering, with humping shoulders, for the enemy's charge, and in
anything like a melee, he could not help jumping into the air at every
dangerous stroke.

And thus he brought upon himself the contempt even of boys much smaller
than himself, who, under the splendid and heroic example of those who
led them, had only one ambition, to get a whack at the ball, and
this ambition they gratified on every possible occasion reckless of
consequences. Hence, when the last of the big boys, Thomas Finch,
against whose solid mass hosts had flung themselves to destruction,
finally left the school, Foxy, with great skill, managed to divert the
energies of the boys to games less violent and dangerous, and by means
of his bull's-eyes and his liquorice, and his large, fat smile, he drew
after him a very considerable following of both girls and boys.

The most interesting and most successful of Foxy's schemes was the game
of "store," which he introduced, Foxy himself being the storekeeper. He
had the trader's genius for discovering and catering to the weaknesses
of people, and hence his store became, for certain days of the week,
the center of life during the recreation hours. The store itself was a
somewhat pretentious successor to the little brush cabin with wide open
front, where in the old days the boys used to gather, and lying upon
piles of fragrant balsam boughs before the big blazing fire placed in
front, used to listen to the master talk, and occasionally read.

Foxy's store was built of slabs covered with thick brush, and set off
with a plank counter and shelves, whereon were displayed his wares.
His stock was never too large for his personal transportation, but its
variety was almost infinite, bull's-eyes and liquorice, maple sugar
and other "sweeties," were staples. Then, too, there were balls of gum,
beautifully clear, which in its raw state Foxy gathered from the ends
of the pine logs at the sawmill, and which, by a process of boiling and
clarifying known only to himself, he brought to a marvelous perfection.

But Foxy's genius did not confine itself to sweets. He would buy and
sell and "swap" anything, but in swapping no bargain was ever completed
unless there was money for Foxy in the deal. He had goods second-hand
and new, fish-hooks and marbles, pot-metal knives with brass handles,
slate-pencils that would "break square," which were greatly desired by
all, skate-straps, and buckskin whangs.

But Foxy's financial ability never displayed itself with more brilliancy
than when he organized the various games of the school so as to have
them begin and end with the store. When the river and pond were covered
with clear, black ice, skating would be the rage, and then Foxy's store
would be hung with skate-straps, and with cedar-bark torches, which
were greatly in demand for the skating parties that thronged the pond
at night. There were no torches like Foxy's. The dry cedar bark any one
could get from the fences, but Foxy's torches were always well soaked
in oil and bound with wire, and were prepared with such excellent skill
that they always burned brighter and held together longer than any
others. These cedar-bark torches Foxy disposed of to the larger boys
who came down to the pond at night. Foxy's methods of finance were
undoubtedly marked by ability, and inasmuch as his accounts were never
audited, the profits were large and sure. He made it a point to purchase
a certain proportion of his supplies from his father, who was proud of
his son's financial ability, but whether his purchases always equaled
his sales no one ever knew.

If the pond and river were covered with snow, then Foxy would organize
a deer-hunt, when all the old pistols in the section would be brought
forth, and the store would display a supply of gun caps, by the
explosion of which deadly ammunition the deer would be dropped in their
tracks, and drawn to the store by prancing steeds whose trappings had
been purchased from Foxy.

When the interest in the deer-hunt began to show signs of waning, Foxy
would bring forth a supply of gunpowder, for the purchase of which
any boy who owned a pistol would be ready to bankrupt himself. In
this Hughie took a leading part, although he had to depend upon the
generosity of others for the thrilling excitement of bringing down his
deer with a pistol-shot, for Hughie had never been able to save coppers
enough to purchase a pistol of his own.

But deer-hunting with pistols was forbidden by the teacher from the day
when Hughie, in his eagerness to bring his quarry down, left his ramrod
in his pistol, and firing at Aleck Dan Campbell at point-blank range,
laid him low with a lump on the side of his head as big as a marble. The
only thing that saved Aleck's life, the teacher declared, was his
thick crop of black hair. Foxy was in great wrath at Hughie for his
recklessness, which laid the deer-hunting under the teacher's ban, and
which interfered seriously with the profits of the store.

But Foxy was far too great a man to allow himself to be checked by any
such misfortune as this. He was far too astute to attempt to defy the
teacher and carry on the forbidden game, but with great ability he
adapted the principles of deer-hunting to a game even more exciting and
profitable. He organized the game of "Injuns," some of the boys being
set apart as settlers who were to defend the fort, of which the store
was the center, the rest to constitute the invading force of savages.

The result was, that the trade in caps and gunpowder was brisker than
ever, for not only was the powder needed for the pistols, but even
larger quantities were necessary for the slow-matches which hissed their
wrath at the approaching enemy, and the mounted guns, for which earthen
ink-bottles did excellently, set out on a big stump to explode, to the
destruction of scores of creeping redskins advancing through the bush,
who, after being mutilated and mangled by these terrible explosions,
were dragged into the camp and scalped. Foxy's success was phenomenal.
The few pennies and fewer half-dimes and dimes that the boys had hoarded
for many long weeks would soon have been exhausted had Hughie not
wrecked the game.

Hughie alone had no fear of Foxy, but despised him utterly. He had stood
and yelled when those heroes of old, Murdie and Don Cameron, Curly Ross,
and Ranald Macdonald, and last but not to be despised Thomas Finch, had
done battle with the enemy from the Sixteenth or the Front, and he could
not bring himself to acknowledge the leadership of Foxy Ross, for
all his bull's-eyes and liquorice. Not but what Hughie yearned for
bull's-eyes and liquorice with great yearning, but these could not atone
to him for the loss out of his life of the stir and rush and daring of
the old fighting days. And it galled him that the boys of the Sixteenth
could flout the boys of the Twentieth in all places and on all occasions
with impunity.

But above all, it seemed to him a standing disgrace that the habitant
teamsters from the north, who in former days found it a necessary and
wise precaution to put their horses to a gallop as they passed the
school, in order to escape with sleighs intact from the hordes that
lined the roadway, now drove slowly past the very gate without an
apparent tremor. But besides all this, he had an instinctive shrinking
from Foxy, and sympathized with Betsy Dan in her creepy feeling whenever
he approached. Hence he refused allegiance, and drew upon himself Foxy's
jealous hatred.

It was one of Foxy's few errors in judgment that, from his desire to
humiliate Hughie and to bring him to a proper state of subjection,
he succeeded in shutting him out from the leadership in the game
of "Injuns," for Hughie promptly refused a subordinate position and
withdrew, like Achilles, to his tent. But, unlike Achilles, though he
sulked, he sulked actively, and to some purpose, for, drawing off with
him his two faithful henchmen, "Fusie"--neither Hughie nor any one else
ever knew another name for the little French boy who had drifted into
the settlement and made his home with the MacLeods--and Davie "Scotch,"
a cousin of Davie MacDougall, newly arrived from Scotland, he placed
them in positions which commanded the store entrance, and waited until
the settlers had all departed upon their expedition against the invading
Indians. Foxy, with one or two smaller boys, was left in charge of the
store waiting for trade.

In a few moments Foxy's head appeared at the door, when, whiz! a
snowball skinned his ear and flattened itself with a bang against the
slabs.

"Hold on there! Stop that! You're too close up," shouted Foxy, thinking
that the invaders were breaking the rules of the game.

Bang! a snowball from another quarter caught him fair in the neck.

"Here, you fools, you! Stop that!" cried Foxy, turning in the direction
whence the snowball came and dodging round to the side of the store.
But this was Hughie's point of attack, and soon Foxy found that the only
place of refuge was inside, whither he fled, closing the door after him.
Immediately the door became a target for the hidden foe.

Meantime, the Indian war was progressing, but now and again a settler
would return to the fort for ammunition, and the moment he reached the
door a volley of snowballs would catch him and hasten his entrance. Once
in it was dangerous to come out.

By degrees Hughie augmented his besieging force from the more
adventurous settlers and Indians, and placed them in the bush
surrounding the door.

The war game was demoralized, but the new game proved so much more
interesting that it was taken up with enthusiasm and prosecuted with
vigor. It was rare sport. For the whole noon hour Hughie and his
bombarding force kept Foxy and his friends in close confinement, from
which they were relieved only by the ringing of the school bell, for at
the sound of the bell Hughie and his men, having had their game, fled
from Foxy's wrath to the shelter of the school.

When Foxy appeared it was discovered that one eye was half shut, but the
light that gleamed from the other was sufficiently baleful to give token
of the wrath blazing within, and Hughie was not a little anxious to know
what form Foxy's vengeance would take. But to his surprise, by the time
recess had come Foxy's wrath had apparently vanished, and he was willing
to treat Hughie's exploit in the light of a joke. The truth was, Foxy
never allowed passion to interfere with business, and hence he resolved
that he must swallow his rage, for he realized clearly that Hughie
was far too dangerous as a foe, and that he might become exceedingly
valuable as an ally. Within a week Hughie was Foxy's partner in
business, enjoying hugely the privilege of dispensing the store goods,
with certain perquisites that naturally attached to him as storekeeper.



CHAPTER VIII

FOXY'S PARTNER


It was an evil day for Hughie when he made friends with Foxy and became
his partner in the store business, for Hughie's hoardings were never
large, and after buying a Christmas present for his mother, according
to his unfailing custom, they were reduced to a very few pennies indeed.
The opportunities for investment in his new position were many and
alluring. But all Hughie's soul went out in longing for a pistol which
Foxy had among his goods, and which would fire not only caps, but powder
and ball, and his longing was sensibly increased by Foxy generously
allowing him to try the pistol, first at a mark, which Hughie hit, and
then at a red squirrel, which he missed. By day Hughie yearned for this
pistol, by night he dreamed of it, but how he might secure it for his
own he did not know.

Upon this point he felt he could not consult his mother, his usual
counselor, for he had an instinctive feeling that she would not approve
of his having a pistol in his possession; and as for his father, Hughie
knew he would soon make "short work of any such folly." What would a
child like Hughie do with a pistol? He had never had a pistol in all his
life. It was difficult for the minister to realize that young Canada was
a new type, and he would have been more than surprised had any one told
him that already Hughie, although only twelve, was an expert with a gun,
having for many a Saturday during the long, sunny fall roamed the woods,
at first in company with Don, and afterwards with Don's gun alone, or
followed by Fusie or Davie Scotch. There was thus no help for Hughie at
home. The price of the pistol reduced to the lowest possible sum, was
two dollars and a half, which Foxy declared was only half what he would
charge any one else but his partner.

"How much have you got altogether?" he asked Hughie one day, when Hughie
was groaning over his poverty.

"Six pennies and two dimes," was Hughie's disconsolate reply. He had
often counted them over. "Of course," he went on, "there's my XL knife.
That's worth a lot, only the point of the big blade's broken."

"Huh!" grunted Foxy, "there's jist the stub left."

"It's not!" said Hughie, indignantly. "It's more than half, then. And
it's bully good stuff, too. It'll nick any knife in the school"; and
Hughie dived into his pocket and pulled out his knife with a handful of
boy's treasures.

"Hullo!" said Foxy, snatching a half-dollar from Hughie's hand, "whose
is that?"

"Here, you, give me that! That's not mine," cried Hughie.

"Whose is it, then?"

"I don't know. I guess it's mother's. I found it on the kitchen floor,
and I know it's mother's."

"How do you know?"

"I know well enough. She often puts money on the window, and it fell
down. Give me that, I tell you!" Hughie's eyes were blazing dangerously,
and Foxy handed back the half-dollar.

"O, all right. You're a pretty big fool," he said, indifferently.
"'Losers seekers, finders keepers.' That's my rule."

Hughie was silent, holding his precious half-dollar in his hand, deep in
his pocket.

"Say," said Foxy, changing the subject, "I guess you had better pay up
for your powder and caps you've been firing."

"I haven't been firing much," said Hughie, confidently.

"Well, you've been firing pretty steady for three weeks."

"Three weeks! It isn't three weeks."

"It is. There's this week, and last week when the ink-bottle bust too
soon and burnt Fusie's eyebrows, and the week before when you shot Aleck
Dan, and it was the week before that you began, and that'll make it
four."

"How much?" asked Hughie, desperately, resolved to know the worst.

Foxy had been preparing for this. He took down a slate-pencil box with a
sliding lid, and drew out a bundle of crumbled slips which Hughie, with
sinking heart, recognized as his own vouchers.

"Sixteen pennies." Foxy had taken care of this part of the business.

"Sixteen!" exclaimed Hughie, snatching up the bunch.

"Count them yourself," said Foxy, calmly, knowing well he could count on
Hughie's honesty.

"Seventeen," said Hughie, hopelessly.

"But one of those I didn't count," said Foxy, generously. "That's the
one I gave you to try at the first. Now, I tell you," went on Foxy,
insinuatingly, "you have got how much at home?" he inquired.

"Six pennies and two dimes." Hughie's tone indicated despair.

"You've got six pennies and two dimes. Six pennies and two dimes. That's
twenty--that's thirty-two cents. Now if you paid me that thirty-two
cents, and if you could get a half-dollar anywhere, that would be
eighty-two. I tell you what I would do. I would let you have that pistol
for only one dollar more. That ain't much," he said.

"Only a dollar more," said Hughie, calculating rapidly. "But where would
I get the fifty cents?" The dollar seemed at that moment to Hughie quite
a possible thing, if only the fifty cents could be got. The dollar was
more remote, and therefore less pressing.

Foxy had an inspiration.

"I tell you what. You borrow that fifty cents you found, and then you
can pay me eighty-two cents, and--and--" he hesitated--"perhaps you will
find some more, or something."

Hughie's eyes were blazing with great fierceness.

Foxy hastened to add, "And I'll let you have the pistol right off, and
you'll pay me again some time when you can, the other dollar."

Hughie checked the indignant answer that was at his lips. To have the
pistol as his own, to take home with him at night, and to keep all
Saturday--the temptation was great, and coming suddenly upon Hughie,
was too much for him. He would surely, somehow, soon pay back the fifty
cents, he argued, and Foxy would wait for the dollar. And yet that
half-dollar was not his, but his mother's, and more than that, if he
asked her for it, he was pretty sure she would refuse. But then, he
doubted his mother's judgment as to his ability to use firearms, and
besides, this pistol at that price was a great bargain, and any of the
boys might pick it up. Poor Hughie! He did not know how ancient was that
argument, nor how frequently it had done duty in smoothing the descent
to the lower regions. The pistol was good to look at, the opportunity
of securing it was such as might not occur again, and as for the
half-dollar, there could be no harm in borrowing that for a little
while.

That was Foxy's day of triumph, but to Hughie it was the beginning of
many woeful days and nights. And his misery came upon him swift and
sure, in the very moment that he turned in from the road at the manse
gate, for he knew that at the end of the lane would be his mother, and
his winged feet, upon which he usually flew from the gate home, dragged
heavily.

He found his mother, not at the door, but in the large, pleasant
living-room, which did for all kinds of rooms in the manse. It was
dining-room and sewing-room, nursery and playroom, but it was always
a good room to enter, and in spite of playthings strewn about, or
snippings of cloth, or other stour, it was always a place of brightness
and of peace, for it was there the mother was most frequently to be
found. This evening she was at the sewing-machine busy with Hughie's
Sunday clothes, with the baby asleep in the cradle beside her in spite
of the din of the flying wheels, and little Robbie helping to pull
through the long seam. Hughie shrank from the warm, bright, loving
atmosphere that seemed to fill the room, hating to go in, but in a
moment he realized that he must "make believe" with his mother, and the
pain of it and the shame of it startled and amazed him. He was glad that
his mother did not notice him enter, and by the time he had put away
his books he had braced himself to meet her bright smile and her welcome
kiss.

The mother did not apparently notice his hesitation.

"Well, my boy, home again?" she cried, holding out her hand to him with
the air of good comradeship she always wore with him. "Are you very
hungry?"

"You bet!" said Hughie, kissing her, and glad of the chance to get away.

"Well, you will find something pretty nice in the pantry we saved for
you. Guess what."

"Don't know."

"I know," shouted Robbie. "Pie! It's muzzie's pie. Muzzie tept it for
'oo."

"Now, Robbie, you were not to tell," said his mother, shaking her finger
at him.

"O-o-o, I fordot," said Robbie, horrified at his failure to keep his
promise.

"Never mind. That's a lesson you will have to learn many times, how to
keep those little lips shut. And the pie will be just as good."

"Thank you, mother," said Hughie. "But I don't want your pie."

"My pie!" said the mother. "Pie isn't good for old women."

"Old women!" said Hughie, indignantly. "You're the youngest and
prettiest woman in the congregation," he cried, and forgetting for the
moment his sense of meanness, he threw his arms round his mother.

"Oh, Hughie, shame on you! What a dreadful flatterer you are!" said his
mother. "Now, run away to your pie, and then to your evening work, my
boy, and we will have a good lesson together after supper."

Hughie ran away, glad to get out of her presence, and seizing the pie,
carried it out to the barn and hurled it far into the snow. He felt sure
that a single bite of it would choke him.

If he could only have seen Foxy any time for the next hour, how gladly
would he have given him back his pistol, but by the time he had fed
his cow and the horses, split the wood and carried it in, and prepared
kindling for the morning's fires, he had become accustomed to his new
self, and had learned his first lesson in keeping his emotions out of
his face. But from that night, and through all the long weeks of the
breaking winter, when games in the woods were impossible by reason
of the snow and water, and when the roads were deep with mud, Hughie
carried his burden with him, till life was one long weariness and dread.

And through these days he was Foxy's slave. A pistol without ammunition
was quite useless. Foxy's stock was near at hand. It was easy to write a
voucher for a penny's worth of powder or caps, and consequently the pile
in Foxy's pencil-box steadily mounted till Hughie was afraid to look at
it. His chance of being free from his own conscience was still remote
enough.

During these days, too, Foxy reveled in his power over his rival, and
ground his slave in bitter bondage, subjecting him to such humiliation
as made the school wonder and Hughie writhe; and if ever Hughie showed
any sign of resentment or rebellion, Foxy could tame him to groveling
submission by a single word. "Well, I guess I'll go down to-night to see
your mother," was all he needed to say to make Hughie grovel again.
For with Hughie it was not the fear of his father's wrath and heavy
punishment, though that was terrible enough, but the dread that his
mother should know, that made him grovel before his tyrant, and wake at
night in a cold sweat. His mother's tender anxiety for his pale face and
gloomy looks only added to the misery of his heart.

He had no one in whom he could confide. He could not tell any of the
boys, for he was unwilling to lose their esteem, besides, it was none
of their business; he was terrified of his father's wrath, and from his
mother, his usual and unfailing resort in every trouble of his whole
life, he was now separated by his terrible secret.

Then Foxy began to insist upon payment of his debts. Spring was at hand,
the store would soon be closed up, for business was slack in the summer,
and besides, Foxy had other use for his money.

"Haven't you got any money at all in your house?" Foxy sneered one day,
when Hughie was declaring his inability to meet his debts.

"Of course we have," cried Hughie, indignantly.

"Don't believe it," said Foxy, contemptuously.

"Father's drawer is sometimes full of dimes and half-dimes. At least,
there's an awful lot on Mondays, from the collections, you know," said
Hughie.

"Well, then, you had better get some for me, somehow," said Foxy. "You
might borrow some from the drawer for a little while."

"That would be stealing," said Hughie.

"You wouldn't mean to keep it," said Foxy. "You would only take it for a
while. It would just be borrowing."

"It wouldn't," said Hughie, firmly. "It's taking out of his drawer. It's
stealing, and I won't steal."

"Huh! you're mighty good all at once. What about that half-dollar?"

"You said yourself that wasn't stealing," said Hughie, passionately.

"Well, what's the difference? You said it was your mother's, and this is
your father's. It's all the same, except that you're afraid to take your
father's."

"I'm not afraid. At least it isn't that. But it's different to take
money out of a drawer, that isn't your own."

"Huh! Mighty lot of difference! Money's money, wherever it is. Besides,
if you borrowed this from your father, you could pay back your mother
and me. You would pay the whole thing right off."

Once more Hughie argued with himself. To be free from Foxy's hateful
tyranny, and to be clear again with his mother--for that he would be
willing to suffer almost anything. But to take money out of that drawer
was awfully like stealing. Of course he would pay it back, and after all
it would only be borrowing. Besides, it would enable him to repay what
he owed to his mother and to Foxy. Through all the mazes of specious
argument Hughie worked his way, arriving at no conclusion, except that
he carried with him a feeling that if he could by some means get that
money out of the drawer in a way that would not be stealing, it would be
a vast relief, greater than words could tell.

That night brought him the opportunity. His father and mother were away
at the prayer meeting. There was only Jessie left in the house, and she
was busy with the younger children. With the firm resolve that he would
not take a single half-dime from his father's drawer, he went into the
study. He would like to see if the drawer were open. Yes, it was open,
and the Sabbath's collection lay there with all its shining invitation.
He tried making up the dollar and a half out of the dimes and
half-dimes. What a lot of half-dimes it took! But when he used the
quarters and dimes, how much smaller the piles were. Only two quarters
and five dimes made up the dollar, and the pile in the drawer looked
pretty much the same as before. Another quarter-dollar withdrawn from
the drawer made little difference. He looked at the little heaps on
the table. He believed he could make Foxy take that for his whole debt,
though he was sure he owed him more. Perhaps he had better make certain.
He transferred two more dimes and a half-dime from the drawer to the
table. It was an insignificant little heap. That would certainly clear
off his whole indebtedness and make him a free man.

He slipped the little heaps of money from the table into his pocket, and
then suddenly he realized that he had never decided to take the money.
The last resolve he could remember making was simply to see how the
dollar and a half looked. Without noticing, he had passed the point of
final decision. Alas! like many another, Hughie found the going easy and
the slipping smooth upon the down incline. Unconsciously he had slipped
into being a thief.

Now he could not go back. His absorbing purpose was concealment. Quietly
shutting the drawer, he was slipping hurriedly up to his own room, when
on the stairway he met Jessie.

"What are you doing here, Jessie?" he asked, sharply.

"Putting Robbie off to bed," said Jessie, in surprise. "What's the
matter with you?"

"What's the matter?" echoed Hughie, smitten with horrible fear that
perhaps she knew. "I just wanted to know," he said, weakly.

He slipped past her, holding his pocket tight lest the coins should
rattle. When he reached his room he stood listening in the dark to
Jessie going down the stairs. He was sure she suspected something.
He would go back and put the money in the drawer again, whenever she
reached the kitchen. He stood there with his heart-beats filling his
ears, waiting for the kitchen door to slam.

Then he resolved he would wrap the money up in paper and put it safely
away, and go down and see if Jessie knew. He found one of his old
copybooks, and began tearing out a leaf. What a noise it made! Robbie
would surely wake up, and then Jessie would come back with the light. He
put the copy-book under the quilt, and holding it down firmly with one
hand, removed the leaf with the other. With great care he wrapped up the
dimes and half-dimes by themselves. They fitted better together. Then
he took up the quarters, and was proceeding to fold them in a similar
parcel, when he heard Jessie's voice from below.

"Hughie, what are you doing?" She was coming up the stair.

He jumped from the bed to go to meet her. A quarter fell on the floor
and rolled under the bed. It seemed to Hughie as if it would never stop
rolling, and as if Jessie must hear it. Wildly he scrambled on the
floor in the dark, seeking for the quarter, while Jessie came nearer and
nearer.

"Are you going to bed already, Hughie?" she asked.

Quickly Hughie went out to the hall to meet her.

"Yes," he yawned, gratefully seizing upon her suggestion. "I'm awfully
sleepy. Give me the candle, Jessie," he said, snatching it from her
hand. "I want to go downstairs."

"Hughie, you are very rude. What would your mother say? Let me have the
candle immediately, I want to get Robbie's stockings."

Hughie's heart stood still.

"I'll throw them down, Jessie. I want the candle downstairs just a
minute."

"Leave that candle with me," insisted Jessie. "There's another on the
dining-room table you can get."

"I'll not be a minute," said Hughie, hurrying downstairs. "You come
down, Jessie, I want to ask you something. I'll throw you Robbie's
stockings."

"Come back here, the rude boy that you are," said Jessie, crossly, "and
bring me that candle."

There was no reply. Hughie was standing, pale and shaking, in the
dining-room, listening intently for Jessie's step. Would she go into his
room, or would she come down? Every moment increased the agony of his
fear.

At length, with a happy inspiration, he went to the cupboard, opened the
door noisily, and began rattling the dishes.

"Mercy me!" he heard Jessie exclaim at the top of the stair. "That boy
will be my death. Hughie," she called, "just shut that cupboard! You
know your mother doesn't like you to go in there."

"I only want a little," called out Hughie, still moving the dishes, and
hearing, to his great relief, Jessie's descending step. In desperation
he seized a dish of black currant preserves which he found on the
cupboard shelf, and spilled it over the dishes and upon the floor just
as Jessie entered the room.

"Land sakes alive, boy! Will you never be done your mischief?" she
cried, rushing toward him.

"Oh!" he said, "I spilt it."

"Spilt it!" echoed Jessie, indignantly, "you needn't be telling me that.
Bring me a cloth from the kitchen."

"I don't know where it is, Jessie," cried Hughie, slipping upstairs
again with his candle.

To his great relief he saw that Jessie's attention was so entirely taken
up with removing the stains of the preserves from the cupboard shelves
and dishes, that she for the moment forgot everything else, Robbie's
stockings included.

Hurrying to his room, and shading the candle with his hand lest the
light should waken his little brother, he hastily seized the money upon
the bed quilt, and after a few moments' searching under the bed, found
the strayed quarter.

With these in his hand he passed into his mother's room. Leaving the
candle there, he came back to the head of the stairs and listened for
a moment, with great satisfaction, to Jessie muttering to herself while
she cleaned up the mess he had made. Then he turned, and with trembling
fingers he swiftly made up the quarter-dollars into another parcel. With
a great sigh of relief he put the two parcels in his pocket, and seizing
his candle turned to leave the room. As he did so, he caught sight of
himself in the glass. With a great shock of surprise he stood gazing at
the terrified, white face, with the staring eyes.

"What a fool I am!" he said, looking at himself in the glass. "Nobody
will know, and I'll pay this back soon."

His eyes wandered to a picture which stood on a little shelf beside the
glass. It was a picture of his mother, the one he loved best of all he
had ever seen of her.

There was a sudden stab of pain at his heart, his breath came in a great
sob. For a moment he looked into the eyes that looked back at him so
full of love and reproach.

"I won't do it," he said, grinding his teeth hard, and forthwith turned
to go to his father's study.

But as he left the room he saw Jessie half-way up the stairs.

"What are you doing now?" she cried, wrathfully. "Up to some mischief, I
doubt."

With a sudden, inexplicable rage, Hughie turned toward her.

"It's none of your business! You mind your own business, will you, and
leave me alone." The terrible emotions of the last few minutes were at
the back of his rage.

"Just wait, you," said Jessie, "till your mother comes. Then you'll hear
it."

"You shut your mouth!" cried Hughie, his passion sweeping his whole
being like a tempest. "You shut your mouth, you old cat, or I'll throw
this candle at you." He raised the candle high in his hand as he spoke,
and altogether looked so desperate that Jessie stood in terror lest he
should make good his threat.

"Stop, now, Hughie," she entreated. "You will be setting the house on
fire."

Hughie hesitated a moment, and then turned from her, and going into his
room, banged the door in her face, and Jessie, not knowing what to make
of it all, went slowly downstairs again, forgetting once more Robbie's
stockings.

"The old cat!" said Hughie to himself. "She just stopped me. I was going
to put it back."

The memory that he had resolved to undo his wrong brought him a curious
sense of relief.

"I was just going to put it back," he said, "when she had to interfere."

He was conscious of a sense of injury against Jessie. It was not his
fault that that money was not now in the drawer.

"I'll put it back in the morning, anyhow," he said, firmly. But even as
he spoke he was conscious of an infinality in his determination, while
he refused to acknowledge to himself a secret purpose to leave the
question open till the morning. But this determination, inconclusive
though it was, brought him a certain calm of mind, so that when his
mother came into his room she found him sound asleep.

She stood beside his bed looking down upon him for a few moments, with
face full of anxious sadness.

"There's something wrong with the boy," she said to herself, stooping to
kiss him. "There's something wrong with him," she repeated, as she left
the room. "He's not the same."

During these weeks she had been conscious that Hughie had changed in
some way to her. The old, full, frank confidence was gone. There was
a constraint in his manner she could not explain. "He is no longer
a child," she would say to herself, seeking to allay the pain in her
heart. "A boy must have his secrets. It is foolish in me to think
anything else. Besides, he is not well. He is growing too fast." And
indeed, Hughie's pale, miserable face gave ground enough for this
opinion.

"That boy is not well," she said to her husband.

"Which boy?"

"Hughie," she replied. "He is looking miserable, and somehow he is
different."

"Oh, nonsense! He eats well enough, and sleeps well enough," said her
husband, making light of her fears.

"There's something wrong," repeated his wife. "And he hates his school."

"Well, I don't wonder at that," said her husband, sharply. "I don't see
how any boy of spirit could take much pleasure in that kind of a school.
The boys are just wasting their time, and worse than that, they have
lost all the old spirit. I must see to it that the policy of those
close-fisted trustees is changed. I am not going to put up with those
chits of girls teaching any longer."

"There may be something in what you say," said his wife, sadly, "but
certainly Hughie is always begging to stay at home from school."

"And indeed, he might as well stay home," answered her husband, "for all
the good he gets."

"I do wish we had a good man in charge," replied his wife, with a great
sigh. "It is very important that these boys should have a good, strong
man over them. How much it means to a boy at Hughie's time of life! But
so few are willing to come away into the backwoods here for so small a
salary."

Suddenly her husband laid down his pipe.

"I have it!" he exclaimed. "The very thing! Wouldn't this be the very
thing for young Craven. You remember, the young man that Professor
MacLauchlan was writing about."

His wife shook her head very decidedly.

"Not at all," she said. "Didn't Professor MacLauchlan say he was
dissipated?"

"O, just a little wild. Got going with some loose companions. Out here
there would be no temptation."

"I am not at all sure of that," said his wife, "and I would not like
Hughie to be under his influence."

"MacLauchlan says he is a young man of fine disposition and of fine
parts," argued her husband, "and if temptation were removed from him he
believes he would turn out a good man."

Mrs. Murray shook her head doubtfully. "He is not the man to put Hughie
under just now."

"What are we to do with Hughie?" replied her husband. "He is getting no
good in the school as it is, and we cannot send him away yet."

"Send him away!" exclaimed his wife. "No, no, not a child like that."

"Craven might be a very good man," continued her husband. "He might
perhaps live with us. I know you have more than enough to do now," he
added, answering her look of dismay, "but he would be a great help to
Hughie with his lessons, and might start him in his classics. And then,
who knows what you might make of the young man."

Mrs. Murray did not respond to her husband's smile, but only replied,
"I am sure I wish I knew what is the matter with the boy, and I wish he
could leave school for a while."

"O, the boy is all right," said her husband, impatiently. "Only a little
less noisy, as far as I can see."

"No, he is not the same," replied his wife. "He is different to me."
There was almost a cry of pain in her voice.

"Now, now, don't imagine things. Boys are full of notions at Hughie's
age. He may need a change, but that is all."

With this the mother tried to quiet the tumult of anxious fear and pain
she found rising in her heart, but long after the house was still, and
while both her boy and his father lay asleep, she kept pouring forth
that ancient sacrifice of self-effacing love before the feet of God.



CHAPTER IX

HUGHIE'S EMANCIPATION


Hughie rose late next morning, and the hurry and rush of getting off to
school in time left him no opportunity to get rid of the little packages
in his pocket, that seemed to burn and sting him through his clothes. He
determined to keep them safe in his pocket all day and put them back in
the drawer at night. His mother's face, white with her long watching,
and sad and anxious in spite of its brave smile, filled him with such
an agony of remorse that, hurrying through his breakfast, he snatched a
farewell kiss, and then tore away down the lane lest he should be forced
to confess all his terrible secret.

The first person who met him in the school-yard was Foxy.

"Have you got that?" was his salutation.

A sudden fury possessed Hughie.

"Yes, you red-headed, sneaking fox," he answered, "and I hope it will
bring you the curse of luck, anyway."

Foxy hurried him cautiously behind the school, with difficulty
concealing his delight while Hughie unrolled his little bundles and
counted out the quarters and dimes and half dimes into his hand.

"There's a dollar, and there's a quarter, and--and--there's another," he
added, desperately, "and God may kill me on the spot if I give you any
more!"

"All right, Hughie," said Foxy, soothingly, putting the money into his
pocket. "You needn't be so mad about it. You bought the pistol and the
rest right enough, didn't you?"

"I know I did, but--but you made me, you big, sneaking thief--and then
you--" Hughie's voice broke in his rage. His face was pale, and his
black eyes were glittering with fierce fury, and in his heart he was
conscious of a wild longing to fall upon Foxy and tear him to pieces.
And Foxy, big and tall as he was, glanced at Hughie's face, and saying
not a word, turned and fled to the front of the school where the other
boys were.

Hughie followed slowly, his heart still swelling with furious rage, and
full of an eager desire to be at Foxy's smiling, fat face.

At the school door stood Miss Morrison, the teacher, smiling down
upon Foxy, who was looking up at her with an expression of such sweet
innocence that Hughie groaned out between his clenched teeth, "Oh, you
red-headed devil, you! Some day I'll make you smile out of the other
side of your big, fat mouth."

"Who are you swearing at?" It was Fusie.

"Oh, Fusie," cried Hughie, "let's get Davie and get into the woods. I'm
not going in to-day. I hate the beastly place, and the whole gang of
them."

Fusie, the little, harum-scarum French waif was ready for anything in
the way of adventure. To him anything was better than the even monotony
of the school routine. True, it might mean a whipping both from the
teacher and from Mrs. McLeod; but as to the teacher's whipping, Fusie
was prepared to stand that for a free day in the woods, and as to the
other, Fusie declared that Mrs. McLeod's whipping "wouldn't hurt a
skeeter."

To Davie Scotch, however, playing truant was a serious matter. He had
been reared in an atmosphere of reverence for established law and order,
but when Hughie gave command, to Davie there seemed nothing for it but
to obey.

The three boys watched till the school was called, and then crawling
along on their stomachs behind the heavy cedar-log fence, they slipped
into the balsam thicket at the edge of the woods and were safe. Here
they flung down their schoolbags, and lying prone upon the fragrant bed
of pine-needles strewn thickly upon the moss, they peered out through
the balsam boughs at the house of their bondage with an exultant sense
of freedom and a feeling of pity, if not of contempt, for the unhappy
and spiritless creatures who were content to be penned inside any house
on such a day as this, and with such a world outside.

For some minutes they rolled about upon the soft moss and balsam-needles
and the brown leaves of last year, till their hearts were running over
with a deep and satisfying delight. It is hard to resist the ministry of
the woods. The sympathetic silence of the trees, the aromatic airs
that breathe through the shady spaces, the soft mingling of broken
lights--these all combine to lay upon the spirit a soothing balm, and
bring to the heart peace. And Hughie, sensitive at every pore to that
soothing ministry, before long forgot for a time even Foxy, with his
fat, white face and smiling mouth, and lying on the broad of his back,
and looking up at the far-away blue sky through the interlacing branches
and leaves, he began to feel again that it was good to be alive, and
that with all his misery there were compensations.

But any lengthened period of peaceful calm is not for boys of the age
and spirit of Hughie and his companions.

"What are you going to do?" asked Fusie, the man of adventure.

"Do nothing," said Hughie from his supine position. "This is good enough
for me."

"Not me," said Fusie, starting to climb a tall, lithe birch, while
Hughie lazily watched him. Soon Fusie was at the top of the birch, which
began to sway dangerously.

"Try to fly into that balsam," cried Hughie.

"No, sir!"

"Yes, go on."

"Can't do it."

"Oh, pshaw! you can."

"No, nor you either. That's a mighty big jump."

"Come on down, then, and let me try," said Hughie, in scorn. His
laziness was gone in the presence of a possible achievement.

In a few minutes he had taken Fusie's place a the top of the swaying
birch. It did not look so easy from the top of the birch as from the
ground to swing into the balsam-tree. However, he could not go back now.

"Dinna try it, Hughie!" cried Davie to him. "Ye'll no mak it, and ye'll
come an awfu' cropper, as sure as deith." But Hughie, swaying gently
back and forth, was measuring the distance of his drop. It was not
a feat so very difficult, but it called for good judgment and steady
nerve. A moment too soon or a moment too late in letting go, would mean
a nasty fall of twenty feet or more upon the solid ground, and one never
knew just how one would light.

"I wudna dae it, Hughie," urged Davie, anxiously.

But Hughie, swaying high in the birch, heeded not the warning, and
suddenly swinging out from the slender trunk and holding by his hands,
he described a parabola, and releasing the birch dropped on to the
balsam top. But balsam-trees are of uncertain fiber, and not to be
relied upon, and this particular balsam, breaking off short in Hughie's
hands, allowed him to go crashing through the branches to the earth.

"Man! man!" cried Davie Scotch, bending over Hughie as he lay white
and still upon the ground. "Are ye deid? Maircy me! he's deid," sobbed
Davie, wringing his hands. "Fusie, Fusie, ye gowk! where are ye gone?"

In a moment or two Fusie reappeared through the branches with a capful
of water, and dashed it into Hughie's face, with the result that the lad
opened his eyes, and after a gasp or two, sat up and looked about him.

"Och, laddie, laddie, are ye no deid?" said Davie Scotch.

"What's the matter with you, Scottie?" asked Hughie, with a bewildered
look about him. "And who's been throwing water all over me?" he added,
wrathfully, as full consciousness returned.

"Man! I'm glad to see ye mad. Gang on wi' ye," shouted Davie, joyously.
"Ye were deid the noo. Ay, clean deid. Was he no, Fusie?" Fusie nodded.

"I guess not," said Hughie. "It was that rotten balsam top," looking
vengefully at the broken tree.

"Lie doon, man," said Davie, still anxiously hovering about him. "Dinna
rise yet awhile."

"Oh, pshaw!" said Hughie, and he struggled to his feet; "I'm all right."
But as he spoke he sank down upon the moss, saying, "I feel kind of
queer, though."

"Lie still, then, will ye," said Davie, angrily. "Ye're fair obstinate."

"Get me some water, Fusie," said Hughie, rather weakly.

"Run, Fusie, ye gomeril, ye!"

In a minute Fusie was back with a capful of water.

"That's better. I'm all right now," said Hughie, sitting up.

"Hear him!" said Davie. "Lie ye doon there, or I'll gie ye a crack
that'll mak ye glad tae keep still."

For half an hour the boys lay on the moss discussing the accident fully
in all its varying aspects and possibilities, till the sound of wheels
came up the road.

"Who's that, Fusie?" asked Hughie, lazily.

"Dunno me," said Fusie, peering through the trees.

"Do you, Scotty?"

"No, not I."

Hughie crawled over to the edge of the brush.

"Why, you idiots! it's Thomas Finch. Thomas!" he called, but Thomas
drove straight on. In a moment Hughie sprang up, forgetting all about
his weakness, and ran out to the roadside.

"Hello, Thomas!" he cried, waving his hand. Thomas saw him, stopped, and
looked at him, doubtfully. He, with all the Section, knew how the school
was going, and he easily guessed what took Hughie there.

"I'm not going to school to-day," said Hughie, answering Thomas's look.

Thomas nodded, and sat silent, waiting. He was not a man to waste his
words.

"I hate the whole thing!" exclaimed Hughie.

"Foxy, eh?" said Thomas, to whom on other occasions Hughie had confided
his grievances, and especially those he suffered at the hands of Foxy.

"Yes, Foxy," cried Hughie, in a sudden rage. "He's a fat-faced sneak!
And the teacher just makes me sick!"

Thomas still waited.

"She just smiles and smiles at him, and he smiles at her. Ugh! I can't
stand him."

"Not much harm in smiling," said Thomas, solemnly.

"Oh, Thomas, I hate the school. I'm not going to go any more."

Thomas looked gravely down upon Hughie's passionate face for a few
moments, and then said, "You will do what your mother wants you, I
guess."

Hughie said nothing in reply, while Thomas sat pondering.

Finally he said, with a sudden inspiration, "Hughie, come along with me,
and help me with the potatoes."

"They won't let me," grumbled Hughie. "At least father won't. I don't
like to ask mother."

Thomas's eyes opened in surprise. This was a new thing in Hughie.

"I'll ask your mother," he said, at length. "Get in with me here."

Still Hughie hesitated. To get away from school was joy enough, to go
with Thomas to the potato planting was more than could be hoped for. But
still he stood making pictures in the dust with his bare toes.

"There's Fusie," he said, "and Davie Scotch."

"Well," said Thomas, catching sight of those worthies through the trees,
"let them come, too."

Fusie was promptly willing, but Davie was doubtful. He certainly would
not go to the manse, where he might meet the minister, and meeting the
minister's wife under the present circumstances was a little worse.

"Well, you can wait at the gate with Fusie," suggested Hughie, and so
the matter was settled.

Fortunately for Hughie, his father was not at home. But not Thomas's
earnest entreaties nor Hughie's eager pleading would have availed with
the mother, for attendance at school was a sacred duty in her eyes, had
it not been that her boy's face, paler than usual, and with the dawning
of a new defiance in it, startled her, and confirmed in her the fear
that all was not well with him.

"Well, Thomas, he may go with you to the Cameron's for the potatoes, but
as to going with you to the planting, that is another thing. Your mother
is not fit to be troubled with another boy, and especially a boy like
Hughie. And how is she to-day, Thomas?" continued Mrs. Murray, as Thomas
stood in dull silence before her.

"She's better," said Thomas, answering more quickly than usual, and with
a certain eagerness in his voice. "She's a great deal better, and Hughie
will do her no harm, but good."

Mrs. Murray looked at Thomas as he spoke, wondering at the change in his
voice and manner. The heavy, stolid face had changed since she had last
seen it. It was finer, keener, than before. The eyes, so often dull,
were lighted up with a new, strange fire.

"She's much better," said Thomas again, as if insisting against Mrs.
Murray's unbelief.

"I am glad to hear it, Thomas," she said, gently. "She will soon
be quite well again, I hope, for she has had a long, long time of
suffering."

"Yes, a long, long time," replied Thomas. His face was pale, and in his
eyes was a look of pain, almost of fear.

"And you will come to see her soon?" he added. There was almost a
piteous entreaty in his tone.

"Yes, Thomas, surely next week. And meantime, I shall let Hughie go with
you."

A look of such utter devotion poured itself into Thomas's eyes that
Mrs. Murray was greatly moved, and putting her hand on his shoulder,
she said, gently, "'He will give His angels charge.' Don't be afraid,
Thomas."

"Afraid!" said Thomas, with a kind of gasp, his face going white.
"Afraid! No. Why?" But Mrs. Murray turned from him to hide the tears
that she could not keep out of her eyes, for she knew what was before
Thomas and them all.

Meantime Hughie was busy putting into his little carpet-bag what he
considered the necessary equipment for his visit.

"You must wear your shoes, Hughie."

"Oh, mother, shoes are such an awful bother planting potatoes. They get
full of ground and everything."

"Well, put them in your bag, at any rate, and your stockings, too. You
may need them."

By degrees Hughie's very moderate necessities were satisfied, and with a
hurried farewell to his mother he went off with Thomas. At the gate they
picked up Fusie and Davie Scotch, and went off to the Cameron's for the
seed potatoes, Hughie's heart lighter than it had been for many a day.
And all through the afternoon, and as he drove home with Thomas on
the loaded bags, his heart kept singing back to the birds in the trees
overhead.

It was late in the afternoon when they drove into the yard, for the
roads were still bad in the swamp, where the corduroy had been broken up
by the spring floods.

Thomas hurried through unhitching, and without waiting to unharness
he stood the horses in their stalls, saying, "We may need them this
afternoon again," and took Hughie off to the house straight-way.

The usual beautiful order pervaded the house and its surroundings.
The back yard, through which the boys came from the barn, was free
of litter; the chips were raked into neat little piles close to the
wood-pile, for summer use. On a bench beside the "stoop" door was a row
of milk-pans, lapping each other like scales on a fish, glittering
in the sun. The large summer kitchen, with its spotless floor and
white-washed walls, stood with both its doors open to the sweet air that
came in from the fields above, and was as pleasant a room to look
in upon as one could desire. On the sill of the open window stood
a sweet-scented geranium and a tall fuschia with white and crimson
blossoms hanging in clusters. Bunches of wild flowers stood on the
table, on the dresser, and up beside the clock, and the whole room
breathed of sweet scents of fields and flowers, and "the name of the
chamber was peace."

Beside the open window sat the little mother in an arm-chair, the
embodiment of all the peaceful beauty and sweet fragrance of the room.

"Well, mother," said Thomas, crossing the floor to her and laying his
hand upon her shoulder, "have I been long away? I have brought Hughie
back with me, you see."

"Not so very long, Thomas," said the mother, her dark face lighting with
a look of love as she glanced up at her big son. "And I am glad to see
Hughie. He will excuse me from rising," she added, with fine courtesy.

Hughie hurried toward her.

"Yes, indeed, Mrs. Finch. Don't think of rising." But he could get no
further. Boy as he was, and at the age when boys are most heartless and
regardless, he found it hard to keep his lip and his voice steady and to
swallow the lump in his throat, and in spite of all he could do his eyes
were filling up with tears as he looked into the little woman's face, so
worn and weary, so pathetically bright.

It was months since he had seen her, and during these months a great
change had come to her and to the Finch household. After suffering long
in secret, the mother had been forced to confess to a severe pain in
her breast and under her arm. Upon examination the doctor pronounced the
case to be malignant cancer, and there was nothing for it but removal.
It was what Dr. Grant called "a very beautiful operation, indeed," and
now she was recovering her strength, but only slowly, so slowly that
Thomas at times found his heart sink with a vague fear. But it was not
the pain of the wound that had wrought that sweet, pathetic look into
the little woman's face, but the deeper pain she carried in her heart
for those she loved better than herself.

The mother's sickness brought many changes into the household, but the
most striking of all the changes was that wrought in the slow and
stolid Thomas. The father and Billy Jack were busy with the farm matters
outside, upon little Jessac, now a girl of twelve years, fell the care
of the house, but it was Thomas that, with the assistance of a neighbor
at first, but afterwards alone, waited on his mother, dressing the wound
and nursing her. These weeks of watching and nursing had wrought in him
the subtle change that stirred Mrs. Murray's heart as she looked at him
that day, and that made even Hughie wonder. For one thing his tongue
was loosed, and Thomas talked to his mother of all that he had seen and
heard on the way to the Cameron's and back, making much of his little
visit to the manse, and of Mrs. Murray's kindness, and enlarging upon
her promised visit, and all with such brightness and picturesqueness
of speech that Hughie listened amazed. For all the years he had known
Thomas he had never heard from his lips so many words as in the last few
minutes of talk with his mother. Then, too, Thomas seemed to have found
his fingers, for no woman could have arranged more deftly and with
gentler touch the cushions at his mother's back, and no nurse could have
measured out the medicine and prepared her egg-nog with greater skill.
Hughie could hardly believe his eyes and ears. Was this Thomas the
stolid, the clumsy, the heavy-handed, this big fellow with the quick
tongue and the clever, gentle hand?

Meantime Jessac had set upon the table a large pitcher of rich milk,
with oat cakes and butter, and honey in the comb.

"Now, Hughie, lad, draw in and help yourself. You and Thomas will be
too hungry to wait for supper," said the mother. And Hughie, protesting
politely that he was not very hungry, proceeded to establish the
contrary, to the great satisfaction of himself and the others.

"Now, Thomas," said the mother, "we had better cut the seed."

"Indeed, and not a seed will you cut, mother," said Thomas,
emphatically. "You may boss the job, though. I'll bring the potatoes to
the back door." And this he did, thinking it no trouble to hitch up the
team to draw the wagon into the back yard so that his mother might have
a part in the cutting of the seed potatoes, as she had had every year of
her life on the farm.

Very carefully, and in spite of her protests that she could walk quite
well, Thomas carried his mother out to her chair in the shade of the
house, arranging with tender solicitude the pillows at her back and the
rug at her feet. Then they set to work at the potatoes.

"Mind you have two eyes in every seed, Hughie," said Jessac, severely.

"Huh! I know. I've cut them often enough," replied Hughie, scornfully.

"Well, look at that one, now," said Jessac, picking up a seed that
Hughie had let fall; "that's only got one eye."

"There's two," said Hughie, triumphantly.

"That's not an eye," said Jessac, pointing to a mark on the potato;
"that's where the top grew out of, isn't it, mother?"

"It is, isn't it?" appealed Hughie.

Mrs. Finch took the seed and looked at it.

"Well, there's one very good eye, and that will do."

"But isn't that the mark of the top, mother?" insisted Jessac. But the
mother only shook her head at her.

"That's right, Jessac," said Thomas, driving off with his team; "you
look after Hughie, and mother will look after you both till I get back,
and there'll be a grand crop this year."

It was a happy hour for them all. The slanting rays of the afternoon
sun filled the air with a genial warmth. A little breeze bore from the
orchard near by a fragrance of apple-blossoms. A matronly hen, tethered
by the leg to her coop, raised indignant protest against the outrage on
her personal liberty, or clucked and crooned her invitations, counsels,
warnings, and encouragements, in as many different tones, to her
independent, fluffy brood of chicks, while a huge gobbler strutted
up and down, thrilling with pride in the glossy magnificence of his
outspread tail and pompous, mighty chest.

Hughie was conscious of a deep and grateful content, but across his
content lay a shadow. If only that would lift! As he watched Thomas with
his mother, he realized how far he had drifted from his own mother, and
he thought with regret of the happy days, which now seemed so far in
the past, when his mother had shared his every secret. But for him those
days could never come again.

At supper, Hughie was aware of some subtle difference in the spirit of
the home. As to Thomas so to his father a change had come. The old man
was as silent as ever, indeed more so, but there was no asperity in his
silence. His critical, captious manner was gone. His silence was that
of a great sorrow, and of a great fear. While there was more cheerful
conversation than ever at the table, there was through all a new respect
and a certain tender consideration shown toward the silent old man at
the head, and all joined in an effort to draw him from his gloom. The
past months of his wife's suffering had bowed him as with the weight of
years. Even Hughie could note this.

After supper the old man "took the Books" as usual, but when, as High
Priest, he "ascended the Mount of Ordinances to offer the evening
sacrifice," he was as a man walking in thick darkness bewildered and
afraid. The prayer was largely a meditation on the heinousness of sin
and the righteous judgments of God, and closed with an exaltation of the
Cross, with an appeal that the innocent might be spared the punishment
of the guilty. The conviction had settled in the old man's mind that
"the Lord was visiting upon him and his family his sins, his pride, his
censoriousness, his hardness of heart." The words of his prayer fell
meaningless upon Hughie's English ears, but the boy's heart quivered
in response to the agony of entreaty in the pleading tones, and he rose
from his knees awed and subdued.

There was no word spoken for some moments after the prayer. With people
like the Finches it was considered to be an insult to the Almighty to
depart from "the Presence" with any unseemly haste. Then Thomas came to
help his mother to her room, but she, with her eyes upon her husband,
quietly put Thomas aside and said, "Donald, will you tak me ben?"

Rarely had she called him by his name before the family, and all felt
that this was a most unusual demonstration of tenderness on her part.

The old man glanced quickly at her from under his overhanging eyebrows,
and met her bright upward look with an involuntary shake of the head and
a slight sigh. Comfort was not for him, and he must not delude
himself. But with a little laugh she put her hand on his arm, and as if
administering reproof to a little child, she said some words in Gaelic.

"Oh, woman, woman!" said Donald in reply, "if it was yourself we had to
deal with--"

"Whisht, man! Will you be putting me before your Father in heaven?" she
said, as they disappeared into the other room.

There was no fiddle that evening. There was no heart for it with
Thomas, neither was there time, for there was the milking to do, and the
"sorting" of the pails and pans, and the preparing for churning in the
morning, so that when all was done, the long evening had faded into the
twilight and it was time for bed.

Before going upstairs, Thomas took Hughie into "the room" where his
mother's bed had been placed. Thomas gave her her medicine and made her
comfortable for the night.

"Is there nothing else now, mother?" he said, still lingering about her.

"No, Thomas, my man. How are the cows doing?"

"Grand; Blossom filled a pail to-night, and Spotty almost twice. She's a
great milker, yon."

"Yes, and so was her mother. I remember she used to fill two pails when
the grass was good."

"I remember her, too. Her horns curled right back, didn't they? And she
always looked so fierce."

"Yes, but she was a kindly cow. And will the churn be ready for the
morning?"

"Yes, mother, we'll have buttermilk for our porridge, sure enough."

"Well, you'll need to be up early for that, too early, Thomas, lad, for
a boy like you."

"A boy like me!" said Thomas, feigning indignation, and stretching
himself to his full height. "Where would you be getting your men,
mother?"

"You are man enough, laddie," said his mother, "and a good one you will
come to be, I doubt. And you, too, Hughie, lad," she added, turning to
him. "You will be like your father."

"I dunno," said Hughie, his face flushing scarlet. He was weary and sick
of his secret, and the sight of the loving comradeship between Thomas
and his mother made his burden all the heavier.

"What's wrong with yon laddie?" asked Mrs. Finch, when Hughie had gone
away to bed.

"Now, mother, you're too sharp altogether. And how do you know anything
is wrong with him?"

"I warrant you his mother sees it. Something is on his mind. Hughie is
not the lad he used to be. He will not look at you straight, and that is
not like Hughie."

"Oh, mother, you're a sharp one," said Thomas. "I thought no one had
seen that but myself. Yes, there is something wrong with him. It's
something in the school. It's a poor place nowadays, anyway, and I wish
Hughie were done with it."

"He must keep at the school, Thomas, and I only wish you could do the
same." His mother sighed. She had her own secret ambition for Thomas,
and though she never opened her heart to her son, or indeed to any one,
Thomas somehow knew that it was her heart's desire to see him "in the
pulpit."

"Never you mind, mother," he said, brightly. "It'll all come right.
Aren't you always the one preaching faith to me?"

"Yes, laddie, and it is needed, and sorely at times."

"Now, mither," said Thomas, dropping into her native speech, "ye mauna
be fashin' yersel. Ye'll jist say 'Now I lay me,' and gang to sleep like
a bairnie."

"Ay, that's a guid word, laddie, an' a'll tak it. Ye may kiss me guid
nicht. A'll tak it."

Thomas bent over her and whispered in her ear, "Ay, mither, mither,
ye're an angel, and that ye are."

"Hoots, laddie, gang awa wi' ye," said his mother, but she held her arms
about his neck and kissed him once and again. There was no one to see,
and why should they not give and take their heart's fill of love.

But when Thomas stood outside the room door, he folded his arms tight
across his breast and whispered with lips that quivered, "Ay, mither,
mither, mither, there's nane like ye. There's nane like ye." And he was
glad that when he went upstairs, he found Hughie unwilling to talk.

The next three days they were all busy with the planting of the
potatoes, and nothing could have been better for Hughie. The sweet,
sunny air, and the kindly, wholesome earth and honest hard work were
life and health to mind and heart and body. It is wonderful how the
touch of the kindly mother earth cleanses the soul from its unwholesome
humors. The hours that Hughie spent in working with the clean, red earth
seemed somehow to breathe virtue into him. He remembered the past months
like a bad dream. They seemed to him a hideous unreality, and he could
not think of Foxy and his schemes, nor of his own weakness in yielding
to temptation, without a horrible self-loathing. He became aware of a
strange feeling of sympathy and kinship with old Donald Finch. He seemed
to understand his gloom. During those days their work brought those two
together, for Billy Jack had the running of the drills, and to Thomas
was intrusted the responsibility of "dropping" the potatoes, so Hughie
and the old man undertook to "cover" after Thomas.

Side by side they hoed together, speaking not a word for an hour at a
time, but before long the old man appeared to feel the lad's sympathy.
Hughie was quick to save him steps, and eager in many ways to anticipate
his wishes. He was quick, too, with the hoe, and ambitious to do his
full share of the work, and this won the old man's respect, so that
by the end of the first day there was established between them a solid
basis of friendship.

Old Donald Finch was no cheerful companion for Hughie, but it was to
Hughie a relief, more than anything else, that he was not much with
either Thomas or Billy Jack.

"You're tired," he ventured, in answer to a deep sigh from the old man,
toward the close of the day.

"No, laddie," replied the old man, "I know not that I am working. The
burden of toil is the least of all our burdens." And then, after a
pause, he added, "It is a terrible thing, is sin."

To an equal in age the old man would never have ventured this
confidence, but to Hughie, to his own surprise, he found it easy to
talk.

"A terrible thing," he repeated, "and it will always be finding you
out."

Hughie listened to him with a fearful sinking of heart, thinking of
himself and his sin.

"Yes," repeated the old man, with awful solemnity, "it will come up with
you at last."

"But," ventured Hughie, timidly, "won't God forgive? Won't he ever
forget?"

The old man looked at him, leaning upon his hoe.

"Yes, he will forgive. But for those who have had great privileges, and
who have sinned against light--I will not say."

The fear deepened in Hughie's heart.

"Do you mean that God will not forgive a man who has had a good chance,
an elder, or a minister, or--or--a minister's son, say, like me?"

There was something in Hughie's tone that startled the old man. He
glanced at Hughie's face.

"What am I saying?" he cried. "It is of myself I am thinking, boy, and
of no minister or minister's son."

But Hughie stood looking at him, his face showing his terrible anxiety.
God and sin were vivid realities to him.

"Yes, yes," said the old man to himself, "it is a great gospel. 'As far
as the east is distant from the west.' 'And plenteous redemption is ever
found with him.'"

"But, do you think," said Hughie, in a low voice, "God will tell all our
sins? Will he make them known?"

"God forbid!" cried the old man. "'And their sins and their iniquities
will I remember no more.' 'The depths of the sea.' No, no, boy, he will
surely forget, and he will not be proclaiming them."

It was a strange picture. The old man leaning upon the top of his
hoe looking over at the lad, the gloom of his face irradiated with a
momentary gleam of hope, and the boy looking back at him with almost
breathless eagerness.

"It would be great," said Hughie, at last, "if he would forget."

"Yes," said the old man, the gleam in his face growing brighter, "'If we
confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us,' and forgiving
with him is forgetting. Ah, yes, it is a great gospel," he continued,
and standing there he lifted up his hand and broke into a kind of chant
in Gaelic, of which Hughie could catch no meaning, but the exalted look
on the old man's face was translation enough.

"Must we always tell?" said Hughie, after the old man had ceased.

"What are you saying, laddie?"

"I say must we always tell our sins--I mean to people?"

The old man thought a moment. "It is not always good to be talking about
our sins to people. That is for God to hear. But we must be ready to
make right what is wrong."

"Yes, yes," said Hughie, eagerly, "of course one would be glad to do
that."

The old man gave him one keen glance, and began hoeing again.

"Ye'd better be asking ye're mother about that. She will know."

"No, no," said Hughie, "I can't."

The old man paused in his work, looked at the boy for a moment or two,
and then went on working again.

"Speak to my woman," he said, after a few strokes of his hoe. "She's a
wonderful wise woman." And Hughie wished that he dared.

During the days of the planting they became great friends, and to their
mutual good. The mother's keen eyes noted the change both in Hughie and
in her husband, and was glad for it. It was she that suggested to Billy
Jack that he needed help in the back pasture with the stones. Billy
Jack, quick to take her meaning, eagerly insisted that help he must
have, indeed he could not get on with the plowing unless the stones
were taken off. And so it came that Hughie and the old man, with old Fly
hitched up in the stone-boat, spent two happy and not unprofitable days
in the back pasture. Gravely they discussed the high themes of God's
sovereignty and man's freedom, with all their practical issues upon
conduct and destiny. Only once, and that very shyly, did the old man
bring round the talk to the subject of their first conversation that
meant so much to them both.

"The Lord will not be wanting to shame us beyond what is necessary," he
said. "There are certain sins which he will bring to light, but there
are those that, in his mercy, he permits us to hide; provided always,"
he added, with emphasis, "we are done with them."

"Yes, indeed," assented Hughie, eagerly, "and who wouldn't be done with
them?"

But the old man shook his head sadly.

"If that were always true a man would soon be rid of his evil heart.
But," he continued, as if eager to turn the conversation, "you will be
talking with my woman about it. She's a wonderful wise woman, yon."

Somehow the opportunity came to Hughie to take the old man's advice. On
Saturday evening, just before leaving for home, he found himself alone
with Mrs. Finch sitting beside the open window, watching the sun go down
behind the trees.

"What a splendid sunset!" he cried. He was ever sensitive to the
majestic drama of nature.

"Ay," said Mrs. Finch, "the clouds and the sun make wonderful beauty
together, but without the sun the clouds are ugly things."

Hughie quickly took her meaning.

"They are not pleasant," he said.

"No, not pleasant," she replied, "but with the sunlight upon them they
are wonderful."

Hughie was silent for some moments, and then suddenly burst out, "Mrs.
Finch, does God forget sins, and will he keep them hid, from people, I
mean?"

"Ay," she said, with quiet conviction, "he will forget, and he will hide
them. Why should he lay the burden of our sins upon others? And if he
does not why should we?"

"Do you mean we need not always tell? I'd like to tell my--some one."

"Ay," she replied, "it's a weary wark and a lanely to carry it oor lane,
but it's an awfu' grief to hear o' anither's sin. An awfu' grief," she
repeated to herself.

"But," burst out Hughie, "I'll never be right till I tell my mother."

"Ay, and then it is she would be carrying the weight o' it."

"But it's against her," said Hughie, his hands going up to his face.
"Oh, Mrs. Finch, it's just awful mean. I don't know how I did it."

"Ye can tell me, laddie, if ye will," said she, kindly, and Hughie
poured forth the whole burden that had lain so long upon him, but he
told it laying upon Foxy small blame, for during those days, his
own part had come to bulk so large with him that Foxy's was almost
forgotten.

For some moments after he had done Mrs. Finch sat in silence, leaning
forward and patting the boy's bowed head.

"Ay, but he is rightly named," she said, at length.

"Who?" asked Hughie, surprised.

"Yon store-keepin' chiel." Then she added, "But ye're done wi' him and
his tricks, and ye'll stand up against him and be a man for the wee
laddies."

"Oh, I don't know," said Hughie, too sick at heart and too penetrated
with the miserable sense of his own meanness and cowardice, to make any
promise.

"And as tae ye're mither, laddie," went on Mrs. Finch, "it will be
a sair burden for her." When Mrs. Finch was greatly moved she always
dropped into her broadest Scotch.

"Oh, yes, I know," said Hughie, his voice now broken with sobs, "and
that's the worst of it. If I didn't have to tell her! She'll just
break her heart, I know. She thinks I'm so--oh, oh--" The long pent up
feelings came flooding forth in groans and sobs.

For some moments Mrs. Finch sat quietly, and then she said, "Listen,
laddie. There is Another to be thought of first."

"Another?" asked Hughie. "Oh, yes, I know. But He knows already, and
indeed I have often told Him. But besides, you say He will forget, and
take it away. But mother doesn't know, and doesn't suspect."

"Well, then, laddie," said Mrs. Finch, with quiet firmness, "let her
tell ye what to do. Mak ye're offer to tell her, and warn her that it'll
grieve ye baith, and then let her say."

"Yes, I'll do it. I'll do it to-night, and if she says so, then I'll
tell her."

And so he did, and when he came back to the Finch's on Monday morning,
for his mother saw that leaving school for a time would be no serious
loss, and a week or two with the Finches might be a great gain, he came
radiant to Mrs. Finch, and finding her in her chair by the open window
alone, he burst forth, "I told her, and she wouldn't let me. She didn't
want to know so long as I said it was all made right. And she promised
she would trust me just the same. Oh, she's splendid, my mother! And
she's coming this week to see you. And I tell you I just feel like--like
anything! I can't keep still. I'm like Fido when he's let off his chain.
He just goes wild."

Then, after a pause, he added, in a graver tone, "And mother read
Zaccheus to me. And isn't it fine how He never said a word to
him?"--Hughie was too excited to be coherent--"but stood up for him,
and"--here Hughie's voice became more grave--"I'm going to restore
fourfold. I'm going to work at the hay, and I fired that old pistol into
the pond, and I'm not afraid of Foxy any more, not a bit."

Hughie rushed breathlessly through his story, while the dark face before
him glowed with intelligent sympathy, but she only said, when he had
done, "It is a graund thing to be free, is it no'?"



CHAPTER X

THE BEAR HUNT


"Is Don round, Mrs. Cameron?"

"Mercy me, Hughie! Did ye sleep in the woods? Come away in. Ye're a
sight for sore eyes. Come away in. And how's ye're mother and all?"

"All right, thank you. Is Don in?"

"Don? He's somewhere about the barn. But come away, man, there's a bit
bannock here, and some honey."

"I'm in a hurry, Mrs. Cameron, and I can't very well wait," said Hughie,
trying to preserve an evenness of tone and not allow his excitement to
appear.

"Well, well! What's the matter, whatever?" When Hughie refused a "bit
bannock" and honey, something must be seriously wrong.

"Nothing at all, but I'm just wanting Don for a--for something."

"Well, well, just go to the old barn and cry at him."

Hughie found Don in the old barn, busy "rigging up" his plow, for the
harvest was in and the fall plowing was soon to begin.

"Man, Don!" cried Hughie, in a subdued voice, "it's the greatest thing
you ever heard!"

"What is it now, Hughie? You look fairly lifted. Have you seen a ghost?"

"A ghost? No, something better than that, I can tell you."

Hughie drew near and lowered his voice, while Don worked on
indifferently.

"It's a bear, Don."

Don dropped his plow. His indifference vanished. The Camerons were great
hunters, and many a bear had they, with their famous black dogs, brought
home in their day, but not for the past year or two; and never had Don
bagged anything bigger than a fox or a coon.

"Where did you see him?"

"I didn't see him." Don looked disgusted. "But he was in our house last
night."

"Look here now, stop that!" said Don, gripping Hughie by the jacket and
shaking him.

But Hughie's summer in the harvest-field had built up his muscles, and
so he shook himself free from Don's grasp, and said, "Look out there!
I'm telling you the truth. Last night father was out late and the supper
things were left on the table--some honey and stuff--and after father
had been asleep for a while he was wakened by some one tramping about
the house. He got up, came out of his room, and called out, 'Jessie,
where are the matches?' And just then there was an awful crash, and
something hairy brushed past his leg in the dark and got out of the
door. We all came down, and there was the table upset, the dishes all on
the floor, and four great, big, deep scratches in the table."

"Pshaw! It must have been Fido."

"Fido was in the barn, and just mad to get out; and besides, the tracks
are there yet behind the house. It was a bear, sure enough, and I'm
going after him."

"You?"

"Yes, and I want you to come with the dogs."

"Oh, pshaw! Dear knows where he'll be now," said Don, considering.

"Like enough in the Big Swamp or in McLeod's beech bush. They're awful
fond of beechnuts. But the dogs can track him, can't they?"

"By jingo! I'd like to get him," said Don, kindling under Hughie's
excitement. "Wait a bit now. Don't say a word. If Murdie hears he'll
want to come, sure, and we don't want him. You wait here till I get the
gun and the dogs."

"Have you got any bullets or slugs?"

"Yes, lots. Why? Have you a gun?"

"Yes, you just bet! I've got our gun. What did you think I was going to
do? Put salt on his tail? I've got it down the lane."

"All right, you wait there for me."

"Don't be long," said Hughie, slipping away.

It was half an hour before Don appeared with the gun and the dogs.

"What in the world kept you? I thought you were never coming," said
Hughie, impatiently.

"I tell you it's no easy thing to get away with mother on hand, but it's
all right. Here's your bullets and slugs. I've brought some bannocks and
cheese. We don't know when we'll get home. We'll pick up the track in
your brule. Does any one know you're going?"

"No, only Fusie. He wanted to come, but I wouldn't have it. Fusie gets
so excited." Hughie's calmness was not phenomenal. He could hardly stand
still for two consecutive seconds.

"Well, let's go," and Don set off on a trot, with one of the black dogs
in leash and the other following, and after him came Hughie running
lightly.

In twenty minutes they were at the manse clearing.

"Now," said Don, pulling up, "where did you say you saw his track?"

"Just back of the house there, and round the barn, and then straight for
the brule."

The boys stood looking across the fallen timber toward the barn.

"There's Fido barking," said Hughie. "I bet he's on the scent now."

"Yes," answered Don, "and there's your father, too."

"Gimmini crickets! so it is," said Hughie, slowly. "I don't think it's
worth while going up there to get that track. Can't we get it just as
well in the woods here?" There were always things to do about the house,
and besides, the minister knew nothing of Hughie's familiarity with the
gun, and hence would soon have put a stop to any such rash venture as
bear-hunting.

The boys waited, listening to Fido, who was running back and forward
between the brule and the house barking furiously. The minister seemed
interested in Fido's manoeuvres, and followed him a little way.

"Man!" said Hughie, in a whisper, "perhaps he'll go and look for the gun
himself. And Fido will find us, sure. I say, let's go."

"Let's wait a minute," said Don, "to see what direction Fido takes, and
then we'll put our dogs on."

In a few minutes Hughie breathed more freely, for his father seemed to
lose his interest in Fido, and returned slowly to the house.

"Now," said Hughie, "let's get down into the brule as near Fido as we
can get."

Cautiously the boys made their way through the fallen timber, keeping as
much as possible under cover of the underbrush. But though they hunted
about for some time, the dogs evidently got no scent, for they remained
quite uninterested in the proceedings.

"We'll have to get up closer to where Fido is," said Don, "and the
sooner we get there the better."

"I suppose so," said Hughie. "I suppose I had better go. Fido will
stop barking for me." So, while Don lay hid with the dogs in the brule,
Hughie stole nearer and nearer to Fido, who was still chasing down
toward the brule and back to the house, as if urging some one to come
forth and investigate the strange scent he had discovered. Gradually
Hughie worked his way closer to Fido until within calling distance.

Just as he was about to whistle for the dog, the back door opened and
forth came the minister again. By this time Fido had passed into the
brule a little way, and could not be seen from the house. It was an
anxious moment for Hughie. He made a sudden desperate resolve. He must
secure Fido now, or else give up the chance of getting on the trail of
the bear. So he left his place of hiding, and bending low, ran swiftly
forward until Fido caught sight of him, and hearing his voice, came to
him, barking loudly and making every demonstration of excitement and
joy. He seized the dog by the collar and dragged him down, and after
holding him quiet for a moment, hauled him back to Don.

"We'll have to take him with us," he said. "I'll put this string on his
collar, and he'll go all right." And to this Don agreed, though very
unwillingly, for he had no confidence in Fido's hunting ability.

"I tell you he's a great fighter," said Hughie, "if we should ever get
near that bear."

"Oh, pshaw!" said Don, "he may fight dogs well enough, but when it comes
to a bear, it's a different thing. Every dog is scared of a bear the
first time he sees him."

"Well, I bet you Fido won't run from anything," said Hughie,
confidently.

To their great relief they saw the minister set off in the opposite
direction across the fields.

"Thank goodness! He's off to the McRae's," said Hughie.

"Now, then," said Don, "we'll go back to the track there, and put the
dogs on. You go on with Fido." And Hughie set off with Fido pulling
eagerly upon the string.

When they reached the spot where Fido had been seized by Hughie,
suddenly the black dog who had been following Don at some distance,
stopped short and began to growl. In a moment his mate threw up his nose
and began sniffing about, the hair rising stiff upon his back.

"He's catching it," said Don, in an excited tone. "Here, you hold him. I
must get the other one, or he'll be off." He was not a minute too soon,
for the other dog, who had been ranging about, suddenly found the trail,
and with a fierce, short bark, was about to dash off when Don threw
himself upon him. In a few moments both dogs were on the leash, and set
off upon the scent at a great pace. The trail was evidently plain enough
to the dogs, for they followed hard, leading the boys deeper and deeper
into the bush.

"He's making for the Big Swamp," said Don, and on they went, with eyes
and ears on the alert, expecting every moment to hear the snort of a
bear, or to meet him on the further side of every bunch of underbrush.

For an hour they went on at a steady trot, over and under fallen logs,
splashing through water holes, crashing over dead brushwood, and tearing
through the interlacing boughs of the thick underbrush of spruce and
balsam. The black dogs never hesitated. They knew well what was their
business there, and that they kept strictly in mind. Fido, on the other
hand, who loved to roam the woods in an aimless hunt for any and every
wild thing that might cross his nose, but who never had seriously hunted
anything in particular, trotted good-naturedly behind Hughie with rather
a bored expression on his face.

The trail, which had led them steadily north, all at once turned west
and away from the swamp.

"Say," said Don, "he's making for Alan Gorrach's cabin."

"Man!" said Hughie, "that would be fine, to get him there. It's good and
open, too."

"Too open by a long way," grunted Don. "We'd never get him there."

Sure enough, the dogs led up from the swamp and along the path to Alan's
cabin. The door stood open, and in answer to Don's "Horo!" Alan came
out.

"What now?" he said, glowering at Don.

"You won't be wanting any dogs to-day, Alan?" said Don, politely.

Alan glanced at him suspiciously, but said not a word.

"These are very good dogs, indeed, Alan."

"Go on your ways, now," said Alan.

"These black ones are not in very good condition, but Fido there is a
good, fat dog."

Alan's wrath began to rise.

"Will you be going on, now, about your business?"

"Better take them, Alan, there's a hard winter coming on."

"Mac an' Diabhoil!" cried Alan, in a shrill voice, suddenly bursting
into fury. "I will be having your heart's blood," he cried, rushing into
his cabin.

"Come on, Hughie," cried Don, and away they rushed, following the black
dogs upon the trail of the bear.

Deeper and deeper into the swamp the dogs led the way, the going
becoming more difficult and the underbrush thicker at every step. After
an hour or two of hard work, the dogs began to falter, and ran hither
and thither, now on one scent and then on another, till tired out and
disgusted, Don held them in, and threw himself down upon the soft moss
that lay deep over everything.

"We're on his old tracks here," said Don, savagely, "and you can't pick
out the new from the old."

"His hole must be somewhere not too far away," said Hughie.

"Yes, perhaps it is, but then again it may be across the ridge. At any
rate, we'll have some grub."

As they ate the bannocks and cheese, they pictured to themselves what
they should do if they ever should come up with the bear.

"One thing we've got to be careful of," said Don, "and that is, not to
lose our heads."

"That's so," assented Hughie, feeling quite cool and self-possessed at
the time.

"Because if you lose your head you're done for," continued Don.
"Remember Ken McGregor?"

"No," said Hughie.

"Didn't you ever hear that? Why, he ran into a bear, and made a drive at
him with his axe, but the bear, with one paw knocked the axe clear out
of his hand, and with one sweep of the other tore his insides right out.
They're mighty cute, too," went on Don. "They'll pretend to be almost
dead just to coax you near enough, and then they'll spin round on their
hind legs like a rooster. If they ever do catch you, the only thing
to do is to lie still and make believe you're dead, and then, unless
they're very hungry, they won't hurt you much."

After half an hour's rest, the hunting instinct awoke again within them,
and the boys determined to make another attempt. After circling about
the swamp for some time, the boys came upon a beaten track which led
straight through the heart of the swamp.

"I say," said Don, "this is going to strike the ridge somewhere just
about there," pointing northeast, "and if we don't see anything between
here and the ridge, we'll strike home that way. It'll be better walking
than this cursed swamp, anyway. Are you tired?"

Hughie refused to acknowledge any weariness.

"Well, then, I am," said Don.

The trail was clear enough, and they were able to follow at a good
pace, so that in a few minutes, as they had expected, they struck the
northeast end of the swamp. Here again they called a halt, and tying
up the dogs, lay down upon the dry, brown leaves, lazily eating the
beechnuts and discussing their prospects of meeting the bear, and their
plans for dealing with him.

"Well, let's go on," at length said Don. "There's just a chance of our
meeting him on this ridge. He's got a den somewhere down in the swamp,
and he may be coming home this way. Besides, it'll take us all our time,
now, to get home before dark. I guess there's no use keeping the dogs
any longer. We'll just let them go." So saying, Don let the black dogs
go free, but after a little skirmishing through the open beech woods,
the dogs appeared to lose all interest in the expedition, and kept close
to Don's heels.

Fido, on the other hand, followed, ranging the woods on either side,
cheerfully interested in scaring up rabbits, ground-hogs, and squirrels.
He had never known the rapture of bringing down big game, and so was
content with whatever came his way.

At length the hunters reached the main trail where their paths
separated; but a little of the swamp still remained, and on the other
side was the open clearing.

"This is your best way," said Don, pointing out the path to Hughie. "We
had bad luck to-day, but we'll try again. We may meet him still, you
know, so don't fire at any squirrel or anything. If I hear a shot I'll
come to you, and you do the same by me."

"I say," said Hughie, "where does this track of mine come out? Is it
below the Deepole there, or is it on the other side of the clearing?"

"Why, don't you know?" said Don. "This runs right up to the back of the
Fisher's berry patch, and through the sugar-bush to your own clearing.
I'll go with you if you like."

"Oh, pshaw!" said Hughie, "I'll find it all right. Come on, Fido." But
Fido had disappeared. "Good night, Don."

"Good night," said Don. "Mind you don't fire unless it's at a bear. I'll
do the same."

In a few minutes Hughie found himself alone in the thick underbrush of
the swamp. The shadows were lying heavy, and the sunlight that still
caught the tops of the tall trees was quite lost in the gloom of the low
underbrush. Deep moss under foot, with fallen trees and thick-growing
balsam and cedars, made the walking difficult, and every step Hughie
wished himself out in the clearing. He began to feel, too, the
oppression of the falling darkness. He tried whistling to keep up his
courage, but the sound seemed to fill the whole woods about him, and he
soon gave it up.

After a few minutes he stood still and called for Fido, but the dog had
gone on some hunt of his own, and with a sense of deeper loneliness,
he set himself again to his struggle with the moss and brush and fallen
trees. At length he reached firmer ground, and began with more cheerful
heart to climb up to the open.

Suddenly he heard a rustle, and saw the brush in front of him move.

"Oh, there you are, you brute," he cried, "come in here. Come in, Fido.
Here, sir!"

He pushed the bushes aside, and his heart jumped and filled his mouth.
A huge, black shape stood right across his path not ten paces away. A
moment they gazed at each other, and then, with a low growl, the bear
began to sway awkwardly toward him. Hughie threw up his gun and fired.
The bear paused, snapping viciously and tearing at his wounded shoulder,
and then rushed on Hughie without waiting to rise on his hind legs.

Like a flash Hughie dodged behind the brush, and then fled like the wind
toward the open. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the bear shambling
after him at a great pace, and gaining at every jump, and his heart
froze with terror. The balsams and spruces were all too low for safety.
A little way before him he saw a small birch. If he could only make that
he might escape. Summoning all his strength he rushed for the tree,
the bear closing fast upon him. Could he spring up out of reach of the
bear's awful claws?

Two yards from the tree he heard an angry snap and snarl at his heels.
With a cry, he dropped his gun, and springing for the lowest bough, drew
up his legs quickly after him with the horrible feeling of having
them ripped asunder. To his amazement he found that the bear was not
scrambling up the tree after him, but was still some paces off, with
Fido skirmishing at long range. It was Fido's timely nip that had
brought him to a sudden halt, and allowed Hughie to make his climb in
safety.

"Good dog, Fido. Sic him! Sic him, old fellow!" cried out Hughie, but
Fido was new to this kind of warfare, and at every jump of the raging
brute he fled into the brush with his tail between his legs, returning,
however, to the attack as the bear retired.

After driving Fido off, the bear rushed at the tree, and in a fury began
tearing up its roots. Then, as if realizing the futility of this, he
flung himself upon its trunk and began shaking it with great violence
from side to side.

Hughie soon saw that the tree would not long stand such an attack. He
slipped down to the lowest bough so that his weight might be taken from
the swaying top, and encouraging Fido, awaited results.

He found himself singularly cool. Having escaped immediate danger, the
hunter's instinct awoke within him, and he longed to get that bear.
If he only had his gun, he would soon settle him, but the bear,
unfortunately, had possession of that. He began hurriedly to cut off as
stout a branch as he could to make himself a club. He was not a moment
too soon, for the bear, realizing that he could neither tear up the tree
by the roots nor shake his enemy out of it, decided, apparently, to go
up for him.

He first set himself to get rid of Fido, which he partially succeeded
in doing by chasing him a long distance off. Then, with a great rush, he
flew at the tree, and with amazing rapidity began to climb.

Hughie, surprised by this swift attack, hastened to climb to the higher
branches, but in a moment he saw that this would be fatal. Remembering
that the bear is like the dog in his sensitive parts, he descended to
meet his advancing foe, and reaching down, hit him a sharp blow on
the snout. With a roar of rage and surprise the bear let go his
hold, slipped to the ground, and began to tear up the earth, sneezing
violently.

"Oh, if I only had that gun," groaned Hughie, "I'd get him. And if he
gets away after Fido again, I believe I'll try it."

The bear now set himself to plan some new form of attack. He had been
wounded, but only enough to enrage him, and his fury served to fix more
firmly in his head the single purpose of getting into his grip this
enemy of his in the tree, whom he appeared to have so nearly at his
mercy.

Whatever his new plan might be, a necessary preliminary was getting rid
of Fido, and this he proceeded to do. Round about the trees he pursued
him, getting farther and farther away from the birch, till Hughie,
watching his chance, slipped down the tree and ran for his gun. But no
sooner had he stooped for it than the bear saw the move, and with an
angry roar rushed for him.

Once more Hughie sprang for his branch, but the gun caught in the boughs
and he slipped to the ground, the bear within striking distance. With a
cry he sprang again, reached his bough and drew himself up, holding his
precious gun safe, wondering how he had escaped. Again it was Fido that
had saved him, for as the bear had gathered himself to spring, Fido,
seeing his chance, rushed boldly in, and flinging himself upon the hind
leg of the enraged brute, held fast. It was the boy's salvation, but
alas! it was Fido's destruction, for wheeling suddenly, the bear struck
a swift downward blow with his powerful front paw, and tore the whole
side of the faithful brute wide open. With a howl, poor Fido dragged
himself away out of reach and lay down, moaning pitifully.

The bear, realizing that he had got rid of one foe, now proceeded more
cautiously to deal with the other, and began warily climbing the tree,
keeping his wicked little eyes fixed upon Hughie.

Meantime, Hughie was loading his gun with all speed. He emptied his
powder-horn into the muzzle, and with the bear coming slowly nearer,
began to search for his bullets. Through one pocket after another his
trembling fingers flew, while with the butt of his gun he menaced his
approaching enemy.

"Where are those bullets?" he groaned. "Ah, here they are!" diving into
his trousers pocket. "Fool of a place to keep them, too!"

He took a handful of slugs and bullets, poured them into his gun, rammed
down a wadding of leaves upon all, retreating as he did so to the higher
limbs, the bear following him steadily. But just as he had his cap
securely fixed upon the nipple, the bear suddenly revealed his plan.
Holding by his front paws, he threw his hind legs off from the trunk. It
was his usual method of felling trees. The tree swayed and bent till the
top almost touched the ground. But Hughie, with his legs wreathed round
the trunk, brought his gun to his shoulder, and with its muzzle almost
touching the breast of the hanging brute, pulled the trigger.

There was a terrific report, the bear dropped in a heap from the tree,
and Hughie was hurled violently to the ground some distance away,
partially stunned. He raised himself to see the bear struggle up to a
sitting position, and gnashing his teeth, and flinging blood and foam
from his mouth, begin to drag himself toward him. He was conscious of
a languid indifference, and found himself wondering how long the bear
would take to cover the distance.

But while he was thus cogitating there was a sharp, quick bark, and a
great black form hurled itself at the bear's throat and bore the fierce
brute to the ground.

Drawing a long sigh, Hughie sank back to the ground, with the sound of a
far-away shot in his ears, and darkness veiling his eyes.

He was awakened by Don's voice anxiously calling him.

"Are you hurt much, Hughie? Did he squeeze you?"

Hughie sat up, blinking stupidly.

"What?" he asked. "Who?"

"Why, the bear, of course."

"The bear? No. Man! It's too bad you weren't here, Don," he went on,
rousing himself. "He can't be gone far."

"Not very," said Don, laughing loud. "Yonder he lies."

Hughie turned his head and gazed, wondering, at the great black mass
over which Don's black dogs were standing guard, and sniffing with
supreme satisfaction.

Then all came back to him.

"Where's Fido?" he asked, rising. "Yes, it was Fido saved me, for sure.
He tackled the bear every time he rushed at me, and hung onto him just
as I climbed the tree the second time."

As he spoke he walked over to the place where he had last seen the
dog. A little farther on, behind a spruce-tree, they found poor Fido,
horribly mangled and dead.

Hughie stooped down over him. "Poor old boy, poor old Fido," he said, in
a low voice, stroking his head.

Don turned away and walked whistling toward the bear. As he sat beside
the black carcass his two dogs came to him. He threw his arms round
them, saying, "Poor old Blackie! Poor Nigger!" and he understood how
Hughie was feeling behind the spruce-tree beside the faithful dog that
had given him his life.

As he sat there waiting for Hughie, he heard voices.

"Horo!" he shouted.

"Where are you? Is that you, Don?" It was his father's voice.

"Yes, here we are."

"Is Hughie there?" inquired another voice.

"Losh me! that's the minister," said Don. "Yes, all right," he cried
aloud, as up came Long John Cameron and the minister, with Fusie and a
stranger bringing up the rear.

"Fine work, this. You're fine fellows, indeed," cried Long John,
"frightening people in this way."

"Where is Hughie?" said the minister, sternly.

Hughie came from behind the brush, hurriedly wiping his eyes. "Here,
father," he said.

"And what are you doing here at this hour of the night, pray?" said the
minister, angrily, turning toward him.

"I couldn't get home very well," replied Hughie.

"And why not, pray? Don't begin any excuses with me, sir." Nothing
annoyed the minister as an attempt to excuse ill-doing.

"I guess he would have been glad enough to have got home half an hour
ago, sir," broke in Don, laughing. "Look there." He pointed to the bear
lying dead, with Nigger standing over him.

"The Lord save us!" said Long John Cameron, himself the greatest among
the hunters of the county. "What do you say? And how did you get him?
Jee-ru-piter! he's a grand one."

The old man, the minister, and Don walked about the bear in admiring
procession.

"Yon's a terrible gash," said Long John, pointing to a gaping wound in
the breast. "Was that your Snider, Don?"

"Not a bit of it, father. The bear's Hughie's. He killed him himself."

"Losh me! And you don't tell me! And how did you manage that, Hughie?"

"He chased me up that tree, and I guess would have got me only for
Fido."

The minister gasped.

"Got you? Was he as near as that?"

"He wasn't three feet away," said Hughie, and with that he proceeded to
give, in his most graphic style, a description of his great fight with
the bear.

"When I heard the first shot," said Don, "I was away across the swamp.
I tell you I tore back here, and when I came, what did I see but Hughie
and Mr. Bear both sitting down and looking coolly at each other a few
yards apart. And then Nigger downed him and I put a bullet into his
heart." Don was greatly delighted, and extremely proud of Hughie's
achievement.

"And how did you know about it?" asked Don of his father.

"It was the minister here came after me."

"Yes," said the minister, "it was Fusie told me you had gone off on a
bear hunt, and so I went along to the Cameron's with Mr. Craven here, to
see if you had got home."

Meantime, Mr. Craven had been looking Hughie over.

"Mighty plucky thing," he said. "Great nerve," and he lapsed into
silence, while Fusie could not contain himself, but danced from one foot
to the other with excited exclamations.

The minister had come out intending, as he said, "to teach that boy a
lesson that he would remember," but as he listened to Hughie's story,
his anger gave place to a great thankfulness.

"It was a great mercy, my boy," he said at length, when he was quite
sure of his voice, "that you had Fido with you."

"Yes, indeed, father," said Hughie. "It was Fido saved me."

"It was the Lord's goodness," said the minister, solemnly.

"And a great mercy," said Long John, "that your lad kept his head and
showed such courage. You have reason to be proud of him."

The minister said nothing just then, but at home, when recounting the
exploit to the mother, he could hardly contain his pride in his son.

"Never thought the boy would have a nerve like that, he's so excitable.
I had rather he killed that bear than win a medal at the university."

The mother sat silent through all the story, her cheek growing more and
more pale, but not a word did she say until the tale was done, and then
she said, "'Who delivereth thee from destruction.'"

"A little like David, mother, wasn't it?" said Hughie; but though there
was a smile on his face, his manner and tone were earnest enough.

"Yes," said his mother, "a good deal like David, for it was the same God
that delivered you both."

"Rather hard to cut Fido out of his share of the glory," said Mr.
Craven, "not to speak of a cool head and a steady nerve."

Mrs. Murray regarded him for a moment or two in silence, as if
meditating an answer, but finally she only said, "We shall cut no one
out of the glory due to him."

At the supper-table the whole affair was discussed in all its bearings.
In this discussion Hughie took little part, making light of his exploit,
and giving most of the credit to Fido, and the mother wondered at the
unusual reserve and gravity that had fallen upon her boy. Indeed, Hughie
was wondering at himself. He had a strange new feeling in his heart.
He had done a man's deed, and for the first time in his life he felt it
unnecessary to glory in his deeds. He had come to a new experience, that
great deeds need no voice to proclaim them. During the thrilling moments
of that terrible hour he had entered the borderland of manhood, and the
awe of that new world was now upon his spirit.

It was chiefly this new experience of his that was sobering him, but it
helped him not a little to check his wonted boyish exuberance that
at the table opposite him sat a strange young man, across whose dark,
magnetic face there flitted, now and then, a lazy, cynical smile.
Hughie feared that lazy smile, and he felt that it would shrivel into
self-contempt any feeling of boastfulness.

The mother and Hughie said little to each other, waiting to be alone,
and after Hughie had gone to his room his mother talked long with him,
but when Mr. Craven, on his way to bed, heard the low, quiet tones of
the mother's voice through the shut door, he knew it was not to Hughie
she was speaking, and the smile upon his face lost a little of its
cynicism.

Next day there was no smile when he stood with Hughie under the
birch-tree, watching the lad hew flat one side, but gravely enough he
took the paper on which Hughie had written, "Fido, Sept. 13th, 18--,"
saying as he did so, "I shall cut this for you. It is good to remember
brave deeds."



CHAPTER XI

JOHN CRAVEN'S METHOD


Mr. John Craven could not be said to take his school-teaching seriously;
and indeed, any one looking at his face would hardly expect him to take
anything seriously, and certainly those who in his college days followed
and courted and kept pace with Jack Craven, and knew his smile, would
have expected from him anything other than seriousness. He appeared
to himself to be enacting a kind of grim comedy, exile as he was in a
foreign land, among people of a strange tongue.

He knew absolutely nothing of pedagogical method, and consequently he
ignored all rules and precedents in the teaching and conduct of the
school. His discipline was of a most fantastic kind. He had a feeling
that all lessons were a bore, therefore he would assign the shortest and
easiest of tasks. But having assigned the tasks, he expected perfection
in recitation, and impressed his pupils with the idea that nothing less
would pass. His ideas of order were of the loosest kind, and hence the
noise at times was such that even the older pupils found it unbearable;
but when the hour for recitation came, somehow a deathlike stillness
fell upon the school, and the unready shivered with dread apprehension.
And yet he never thrashed the boys; but his fear lay upon them, for his
eyes held the delinquent with such an intensity of magnetic, penetrating
power that the unhappy wretch felt as if any kind of calamity might
befall him.

When one looked at John Craven's face, it was the eyes that caught and
held the attention. They were black, without either gleam or glitter,
indeed almost dull--a lady once called them "smoky eyes." They looked,
under lazy, half-drooping lids, like things asleep, except in moments
of passion, when there appeared, far down, a glowing fire, red and
terrible. At such moments it seemed as if, looking through these, one
were catching sight of a soul ablaze. They were like the dull glow of a
furnace through an inky night.

He was constitutionally and habitually lazy, but in a reading lesson he
would rouse himself at times, and by his utterance of a single line
make the whole school sit erect. Friday afternoon he gave up to what he
called "the cultivation of the finer arts." On that afternoon he would
bring his violin and teach the children singing, hear them read and
recite, and read for them himself; and no greater punishment could be
imposed upon the school than the loss of this afternoon.

"Man alive! Thomas, he's mighty queer," Hughie explained to his friend.
"When he sits there with his feet on the stove smoking away and reading
something or other, and letting them all gabble like a lot of ducks,
it just makes me mad. But when he wakes up he puts the fear of death on
you, and when he reads he makes you shiver through and through. You know
that long rigmarole, 'Friends, Romans, countrymen'? I used to hate
it. Well, sir, he told us about it last Friday. You know, on Friday
afternoons we don't do any work, but just have songs and reading, and
that sort of thing. Well, sir, last Friday he told us about the big row
in Rome, and how Caesar was murdered, and then he read that thing to
us. By gimmini whack! it made me hot and cold. I could hardly keep from
yelling, and every one was white. And then he read that other thing, you
know, about Little Nell. Used to make me sick, but, my goodness alive!
do you know, before he got through the girls were wiping their eyes, and
I was almost as bad, and you could have heard a pin drop. He's mighty
queer, though, lazy as the mischief, and always smiling and smiling, and
yet you don't feel like smiling back."

"Do you like him?" asked Thomas, bluntly.

"Dunno. I'd like to, but he won't let you, somehow. Just smiles at you,
and you feel kind of small."

The reports about the master were conflicting and disquieting, and
although Hughie was himself doubtful, he stood up vehemently for him at
home.

"But, Hughie," protested the minister, discussing these reports, "I am
told that he actually smokes in school."

Hughie was silent.

"Answer me! Does he smoke in school hours?"

"Well," confessed Hughie, reluctantly, "he does sometimes, but only
after he gives us all our work to do."

"Smoke in school hours!" ejaculated Mrs. Murray, horrified.

"Well, what's the harm in that? Father smokes."

"But he doesn't smoke when he is preaching," said the mother.

"No, but he smokes right afterwards."

"But not in church."

"Well, perhaps not in church, but school's different. And anyway, he
makes them read better, and write better too," said Hughie, stoutly.

"Certainly," said his father, "he is a most remarkable man. A most
unusual man."

"What about your sums, Hughie?" asked his mother.

"Don't know. He doesn't bother much with that sort of thing, and I'm
just as glad."

"You ought really to speak to him about it," said Mrs. Murray, after
Hughie had left the room.

"Well, my dear," said the minister, smiling, "you heard what Hughie
said. It would be rather awkward for me to speak to him about smoking. I
think, perhaps, you had better do it."

"I am afraid," said his wife, with a slight laugh, "it would be just as
awkward for me. I wonder what those Friday afternoons of his mean," she
continued.

"I am sure I don't know, but everywhere throughout the section I hear
the children speak of them. We'll just drop in and see. I ought to visit
the school, you know, very soon."

And so they did. The master was surprised, and for a moment appeared
uncertain what to do. He offered to put the classes through their
regular lessons, but at once there was a noisy outcry against this on
the part of the school, which, however, was effectually and immediately
quelled by the quiet suggestion on the master's part that anything but
perfect order would be fatal to the programme. And upon the minister
requesting that the usual exercises proceed, the master smilingly
agreed.

"We make Friday afternoons," he said, "at once a kind of reward day for
good work during the week, and an opportunity for the cultivation of
some of the finer arts."

And certainly he was a master in this business. He had strong dramatic
instincts, and a remarkable power to stimulate and draw forth the
emotions.

When the programme of singing, recitations, and violin-playing was
finished, there were insistent calls on every side for "Mark Antony." It
appeared to be the 'piece de resistance' in the minds of the children.

"What does this mean?" inquired the minister, as the master stood
smiling at his pupils.

"Oh, they are demanding a little high tragedy," he said, "which I
sometimes give them. It assists in their reading lessons," he explained,
apologetically, and with that he gave them what Hughie called, "that
rigmarole beginning, 'Friends, Romans, countrymen,'" Mark Antony's
immortal oration.

"Well," said the minister, as they drove away from the school, "what do
you think of that, now?"

"Marvelous!" exclaimed his wife. "What dramatic power, what insight,
what interpretation!"

"You may say so," exclaimed her husband. "What an actor he would make!"

"Yes," said his wife, "or what a minister he would make! I understand,
now, his wonderful influence over Hughie, and I am afraid."

"O, he can't do Hughie any harm with things like that," replied her
husband, emphatically.

"No, but Hughie now and then repeats some of his sayings about--about
religion and religious convictions, that I don't like. And then he is
hanging about that Twentieth store altogether too much, and I fancied
I noticed something strange about him last Friday evening when he came
home so late."

"O, nonsense," said the minister. "His reputation has prejudiced you,
and that is not fair, and your imagination does the rest."

"Well, it is a great pity that he should not do something with himself,"
replied his wife. "There are great possibilities in that young man."

"He does not take himself seriously enough," said her husband. "That is
the chief trouble with him."

And this was apparently Jack Craven's opinion of himself, as is evident
from his letter to his college friend, Ned Maitland.


"Dear Ned:--

"For the last two months I have been seeking to adjust myself to my
surroundings, and find it no easy business. I have struck the land
of the Anakim, for the inhabitants are all of 'tremenjous' size, and
indeed, 'tremenjous' in all their ways, more particularly in their
religion. Religion is all over the place. You are liable to come upon a
boy anywhere perched on a fence corner with a New Testament in his hand,
and on Sunday the 'tremenjousness' of their religion is overwhelming.
Every other interest in life, as meat, drink, and dress, are purely
incidental to the main business of the day, which is the delivering,
hearing, and discussing of sermons.

"The padre, at whose house I am very happily quartered, is a
'tremenjous' preacher. He has visions, and gives them to me. He gives
me chills and thrills as well, and has discovered to me a conscience, a
portion of my anatomy that I had no suspicion of possessing.

"The congregation is like the preacher. They will sit for two hours,
and after a break of a few minutes they will sit again for two hours,
listening to sermons; and even the interval is somewhat evenly divided
between their bread and cheese in the churchyard and the discussion of
the sermon they have just listened to. They are great on theology. One
worthy old party tackled me on my views of the sermon we had just heard;
after a little preliminary sparring I went to my corner. I often wonder
in what continent I am.

"The school, a primitive little log affair, has much run to seed, but
offers opportunity for repose. I shall avoid any unnecessary excitement
in this connection.

"In private life the padre is really very decent. We have great smokes
together, and talks. On all subjects he has very decided opinions, and
in everything but religion, liberal views. I lure him into philosophic
discussions, and overwhelm him with my newest and biggest metaphysical
terms, which always reduce his enormous cocksureness to more reasonable
dimensions.

"The minister's wife is quite another proposition. She argues, too,
but unfortunately she asks questions, in the meekest way possible
acknowledging her ignorance of my big terms, and insisting upon
definitions and exact meanings, and then it's all over with me. How
she ever came to this far land, heaven knows, and none but heaven can
explain such waste. Having no kindred soul to talk with, I fancy she
enjoys conversation with myself, (sic) revels in music, is transported
to the fifth heaven by my performance on the violin, but evidently
pities me and regards me as dangerous. But, my dear Maitland, after
a somewhat wide and varied experience of fine ladies, I give you my
verdict that here among the Anakim, and in this wild, woody land, is
a lady fine and fair and saintly. She will bother me, I know. Her son
Hughie (he of the bear), of whom I told you, the lad with the face of
an angel and the temper of an angel, but of a different color--her son
Hughie she must make into a scholar. And no wonder, for already he has
attained a remarkable degree of excellence, by the grace, not of the
little log school, however, I venture to shy. His mother has been at
him. But now she feels that something more is needed, and for that
she turns to me. You will be able to see the humor of it, but not the
pathos. She wants to make a man out of her boy, 'a noble, pure-hearted
gentleman,' and this she lays upon me! Did I hear you laugh? Smile not,
it is the most tragic of pathos. Upon me, Jack Craven, the despair of
the professors, the terror of the watch, the--alas! you know only too
well. My tongue clave to the roof of my mouth, and before I could cry,
'Heaven forbid that I should have a hand in the making of your boy!'
she accepted my pledge to do her desire for her young angel with the
OTHER-angelic temper.

"And now, my dear Ned, is it for my sins that I am thus pursued? What
is awaiting me I know not. What I shall do with the young cub I have
not the ghostliest shadow of an idea. Shall I begin by thrashing him
soundly? I have refrained so far; I hate the role of executioner. Or
shall I teach him boxing? The gloves are a great educator, and are at
times what the padre would call 'means of grace.'

"But what will become of me? Shall I become prematurely aged, or shall I
become a saint? Expect anything from your most devoted, but most sorely
bored and perplexed,

"J. C."



CHAPTER XII

THE DOWNFALL


In one point the master was a great disappointment to Hughie; he could
not be persuaded to play shinny. The usual challenge had come up from
the Front, with its more than usual insolence, and Hughie, who now
ranked himself among the big boys, felt the shame and humiliation to be
intolerable. By the most strenuous exertions he started the game
going with the first fall of snow, but it was difficult to work up
any enthusiasm for the game in the face of Foxy's very determined and
weighty opposition, backed by the master's lazy indifference. For,
in spite of Hughie's contempt and open sneers, Foxy had determined to
reopen his store with new and glowing attractions. He seemed to have a
larger command of capital than ever, and he added several very important
departments to his financial undertaking.

The rivalry between Hughie and Foxy had become acute, but besides this,
there was in Hughie's heart a pent-up fierceness and longing for revenge
that he could with difficulty control. And though he felt pretty certain
that in an encounter with Foxy he would come off second best, and though
in consequence he delayed that encounter as long as possible, he never
let Foxy suspect his fear of him, and waited with some anxiety for the
inevitable crisis.

Upon one thing Hughie was resolved, that the challenge from the Front
should be accepted, and that they should no longer bear the taunt of
cowardice, but should make a try, even though it meant certain defeat.

His first step had been the organization of the shinny club. His next
step was to awaken the interest of the master. But in vain he enlarged
upon the boastfulness and insolence of the Front; in vain he recounted
the achievements of their heroes of old, who in those brave days had won
victory and fame over all comers for their school and county; the master
would not be roused to anything more than a languid interest in the
game. And this was hardly to be wondered at, for shinny in the snow upon
the roadway in front of the school was none too exciting. But from
the day when the game was transferred to the mill-pond, one Saturday
afternoon when the North and South met in battle, the master's
indifference vanished, for it turned out that he was an enthusiastic
skater, and as Hughie said, "a whirlwind on the ice."

After that day shinny was played only upon the ice, and the master,
assuming the position of coach, instituted a more scientific style of
game, and worked out a system of combined play that made even small
boys dangerous opponents to boys twice their size and weight. Under his
guidance it was that the challenge to the Front was so worded as to
make the contest a game on ice, and to limit the number of the team to
eleven. Formerly the number had been somewhat indefinite, varying from
fifteen to twenty, and the style of play a general melee. Hughie was
made captain of the shinny team, and set himself, under the master's
direction, to perfect their combination and team play.

The master's unexpected interest in the shinny game was the first and
chief cause of Foxy's downfall as leader of the school, and if Hughie
had possessed his soul in patience he might have enjoyed the
spectacle of Foxy's overthrow without involving himself in the painful
consequences which his thirst for vengeance and his vehement desire to
accomplish Foxy's ruin brought upon him.

The story of the culmination of the rivalry between Hughie and Foxy is
preserved in John Craven's second letter to his friend Edward Maitland.
The letter also gives an account of the master's own undoing--an undoing
which bore fruit to the end of his life.


"Dear Ned:--

"I hasten to correct the false impression my previous letter must have
conveyed to you. It occurs to me that I suggested that this school
afforded unrivaled opportunities for repose. Further acquaintance
reveals to me the fact that it is the seething center of the most
nerve-racking excitement. The life of the school is reflected in the
life of the community, and the throbs of excitement that vibrate from
the school are felt in every home of the section. We are in the thick
of preparations for a deadly contest with the insolent, benighted,
boastful, but hitherto triumphant Front, in the matter of shinny. You
know my antipathy to violent sports, and you will find some difficulty
in picturing me an enthusiastic trainer and general director of the
Twentieth team, flying about, wildly gesticulating with a club, and
shrieking orders, imprecations, cautions, encouragements, in the most
frantic manner, at as furious a company of little devils as ever went
joyously to battle.

"Then, as if this were not excitement enough, I am made the unwitting
spectator of a truly Homeric contest, bloodier by far than many of those
fought on the plains of windy Troy, between the rival leaders of the
school, to wit, Hughie of the angelic face and OTHER-angelic temper, and
an older and much heavier boy, who rejoices in the cognomen of 'Foxy,'
as being accurately descriptive at once of the brilliance of his foliage
and of his financial tactics.

"It appears that for many months this rivalry has existed, but I
am convinced that there is more in the struggle than appears on the
surface. There is some dark and deadly mystery behind it all that only
adds, of course, to the thrilling interest it holds for me.

"Long before I arrived on the arena, which was an open space in the
woods in front of what Foxy calls his store, wild shrieks and yells fell
upon my ears, as if the aboriginal denizens of the forest had returned.
Quietly approaching, I soon guessed the nature of the excitement, and
being unwilling to interfere until I had thoroughly grasped the ethical
and other import of the situation, I shinned up a tree, and from this
point of vantage took in the spectacle. It appeared from Foxy's violent
accusations that Hughie had been guilty of wrecking the store, which,
by the way, the latter utterly despises and contemns. The following
interesting and striking conversation took place:

"'What are you doing in my store, anyway?' says he of the brilliant
foliage. 'You're just a thief, that's what you are, and a sneaking
thief.'

"Promptly the lie comes back. 'I wasn't touching your rotten stuff!' and
again the lie is exchanged.

"Immediately there is demand from the spectators that the matter be
argued to a demonstration, and thereupon one of the larger boys, wishing
to precipitate matters and to furnish a casus belli, puts a chip upon
Hughie's shoulder and dares Foxy to knock it off. But Hughie flings the
chip aside.

"'Go away with yourself and your chip. I'm not going to fight for any
chip.'

"Yells of derision, 'Cowardy, cowardy, custard,' 'Give him a good
cuffing, Foxy,' 'He's afraid,' and so forth. And indeed, Hughie appears
none too anxious to prove his innocence and integrity upon the big and
solid body of his antagonist.

"Foxy, much encouraged by the clamor of his friends, deploys in force in
front of his foe, shouting, 'Come on, you little thief!'

"'I'm not a thief! I didn't touch one of your things!'

"'Whether you touched my things or not, you're a thief, anyway, and you
know you are. You stole money, and I know it, and you know it yourself.'

"To this Hughie strangely enough makes no reply, wherein lies the
mystery. But though he makes no reply he faces up boldly to Foxy and
offers battle. This is evidently a surprise to Foxy, who contents
himself with threats as to what he can do with his one hand tied behind
his back, and what he will do in a minute, while Hughie waits, wasting
no strength upon words.

"Finally Foxy strides to his store door, and apparently urged to frenzy
by the sight of the wreckage therein, comes back and lands a sharp cuff
on his antagonist's ear.

"It is all that is needed. As if he had touched a spring, Hughie flew
at him wildly, inconsequently making a windmill of his arms. But
fortunately he runs foul of one of Foxy's big fists, and falls back
with spouting nose. Enthusiastic yells from Foxy's following. And Foxy,
having done much better than he expected, is encouraged to pursue his
advantage.

"Meantime the blood is being mopped off Hughie's face with a snowball,
his tears flowing equally with his blood.

"'Wait till to-morrow,' urges Fusie, his little French fidus Achates.

"'To-morrow!' yells Hughie, suddenly. 'No, but now! I'll kill the lying,
sneaking, white-faced beast now, or I'll die myself!' after which heroic
resolve he flings himself, blood and tears, upon the waiting Foxy, and
this time with better result, for Foxy, waiting the attack with arms up
and eyes shut, finds himself pummeled all over the face, and after a few
moments of ineffectual resistance, turns, and in quite the Homeric way
seeks safety in flight, followed by the furious and vengeful Achilles,
and the jeering shouts of the bloodthirsty but disappointed rabble.

"As I have said, the mystery behind it remains unsolved, but Foxy's
reign is at an end, and with him goes the store, for which I am devoutly
thankful.

"I would my tale ended here with the downfall of Foxy, but, my dear Ned,
I have to record a sadder and more humiliating downfall than that--the
abject and utter collapse of my noble self. I have once more played
the fool, and played into the hands of the devil, mine own familiar and
well-beloved devil.

"The occasion I need not enlarge upon; it always waits. A long day's
skate, a late supper with some of the wilder and more reckless outcasts
of this steady-going community that frequent the back store, results in
my appearing at the manse door late at night, very unsteady of leg and
incoherent of speech. By a most unhappy chance, a most scurvy trick
my familiar devil played upon me, the door is opened by the minister's
wife. I can see her look of fear, horror, and loathing yet. It did
more to pull me together than a cold bath, so that I saved myself the
humiliation of speech and escaped to my room.

"And now, what do you think? Reproaches, objurgations, and final
dismissal on the part of the padre, tearful exhortations to repentance
on the part of his wife? Not a bit. If you believe me, sir, my unhappy
misadventure remains a secret with her. She told not a soul. Remarkably
fine, I call that. And what more, think you? A cold and haughty reserve,
or a lofty pity, with the fearful expectation of judgment? Not in
the least. Only a little added kindness, a deeper note to the frank,
sympathetic interest she has always shown, and that is all. My dear
chap, I offered to leave, but when she looked at me with those great
hazel-brown eyes of hers and said, 'Why should you go? Would it be
better for you any place else?' I found myself enjoying the luxury of
an entirely new set of emotions, which I shall not analyze to you. But
I feel more confident than ever that I shall either die early or end in
being a saint.

"And now, do you know, she persists in ignoring that anything has taken
place, talks to me about her young men and her hopes for them, the work
she would do for them, and actually asks my assistance! It appears that
ever since their Great Revival, which is the beginning of days to them,
events being dated from before the Great Revival or after, some of
these young men have a desire to be ministers, or think they have. It is
really her desire, I suspect, for them. The difficulty is, preparation
for college. In this she asks my help. The enormous incongruity of
the situation does not appear to strike her, that I, the--too many
unutterable things--should be asked to prepare these young giants, with
their 'tremenjous' religious convictions, for the ministry; nevertheless
I yield myself to do anything and everything she lays upon me. I repeat,
I shall without doubt end in being a saint myself, and should not be
surprised to find myself with these 'tremenjous' young men on the way
to Holy Orders. Fancy the good Doctor's face! He would suspect a lurking
pleasantry in it all.

"This letter, I know, will render chaotic all your conceptions of me,
and in this chaos of mind I can heartily sympathize. What the next
chapter will be, God only knows! It depends upon how my familiar devil
behaves himself. Meantime, I am parleying with him, and with some
anxiety as to the result subscribe myself,

"Your friend,

"J. C."



CHAPTER XIII

THE FIRST ROUND


The challenge from the Front was for the best two out of three, the
first game to be played the last day of the year. Steadily, under
Craven's coaching, the Twentieth team were perfected in their systematic
play; for although Craven knew nothing of shinny, he had captained the
champion lacrosse team of the province of Quebec, and the same general
rules of defense and attack could be applied with equal success to the
game of shinny. The team was greatly strengthened by the accession of
Thomas Finch and Don Cameron, both of whom took up the school again with
a view to college. With Thomas in goal, Hughie said he felt as if a big
hole had been filled up behind him.

The master caused a few preliminary skirmishes with neighboring teams
to be played by way of practice, and by the time the end of the year had
come, he felt confident that the team would not disgrace their school.
His confidence was not ill-founded.

"We have covered ourselves with glory," he writes to his friend Ned
Maitland, "for we have whipped to a finish the arrogant and mighty
Front. I am more than ever convinced that I shall have to take a few
days off and get away to Montreal, or some other retired spot, to
recover from the excitement of the last week.

"Under my diligent coaching, in which, knowing nothing whatever of
shinny, I have striven to introduce something of the lacrosse method,
our team got into really decent fighting trim. Under the leadership of
their captain, who has succeeded in infusing his own fierce and furious
temper into his men, they played like little demons, from the drop of
the ball till the game was scored. 'Furious' is the word, for they and
their captain play with headlong fury, and that, I might say, is about
their only defect, for if they ever should run into a bigger team, who
had any semblance of head about them, and were not merely feet, they
would surely come to grief.

"I cannot stay to recount our victory. Let it suffice that we were
driven down in two big sleigh-loads by Thomas Finch, the back wall of
our defense, and Don Cameron, who plays in the right of the forward
line, both great, strapping fellows, who are to be eventually, I
believe, members of my preparatory class.

"The Front came forth, cheerful, big, confident, trusting in the might
of their legs. We are told that the Lord taketh no pleasure in the legs
of man, and this is true in the game of shinny. Not legs alone, but
heart and head win, with anything like equal chances.

"Game called, 2:30; Captain Hughie has the drop; seizes the ball, passes
it to Fusie, who rushes, passes back to Hughie, who has arrived in the
vicinity of the enemy's goal, and shoots, swift and straight, a goal.
Time, 30 seconds.

"Again and again my little demons pierce the heavy, solid line of the
Front defense, and score, the enemy, big and bewildered, being chiefly
occupied in watching them do it. By six o'clock that evening I had them
safe at the manse in a condition of dazed jubilation, quite unable to
realize the magnificence of their achievement. They had driven twelve
miles down, played a two hours' game of shinny, score eight to two,
and were back safe and sound, bearing with them victory and some broken
shins, equally proud of both.

"There is a big supper at the manse, prepared, I believe, with the view
of consolation, but transformed into a feast of triumph, the minister
being enthusiastically jubilant over the achievement of his boys, his
wife, if possible, even more so. The heroes feed themselves to fullness,
amazing and complete, the minister holds a thanksgiving service, in
which I have no doubt my little demons most earnestly join, after which
they depart to shed the radiance of their glory throughout the section.

"And now I have to recount another experience of mine, quite unique and
altogether inexplicable. It appears that in this remarkable abode--I
would call it 'The Saint's Rest' were it not for the presence of others
than saints, and for the additional fact that there is little rest for
the saint who makes her dwelling here--in this abode there prevails the
quaint custom of watching the death of the old year and the birth of the
new. It is made the occasion of religious and heart-searching rite. As
the solemn hour of midnight draws on, a silence falls upon the family,
all of whom, with the exception of the newest infant, are present. It is
the family festival of the year.

"'And what will they be doing at your home, Mr. Craven?' inquires the
minister. The contrast that rose before my mind was vivid enough, for
having received my invitation to a big dance, I knew my sweet sisters
would be having a jolly wild time about that moment. My answer, given I
feel in a somewhat flippant tone, appears to shock my shinny captain of
the angelic face, who casts a honor-stricken glance at his mother, and
waits for the word of reproof that he thinks is due from the padre's
lips.

"But before it falls the mother interposes with 'They will miss
you greatly this evening.' It was rather neatly done, and I think I
appreciated it.

"The rite proceeds. The initial ceremony is the repeating of a verse of
Scripture all round, and to save my life nothing comes to my mind but
the words, 'Remember Lot's wife.' As I cannot see the appropriateness of
the quotation, I pass.

"Five minutes before the stroke of twelve, they sing the Scottish
paraphrase beginning, 'O God of Bethel.' I do not suppose you ever heard
it, but it is a beautiful hymn, and singularly appropriate to the
hour. In this I lend assistance with my violin, the tune being the very
familiar one of 'Auld Lang Syne,' associated in my mind, however, with
occasions somewhat widely diverse from this. I assure you I am thankful
that my part is instrumental, for the whole business is getting onto my
emotions in a disturbing manner, and especially when I allow my eyes to
linger for a moment or two on the face of the lady, the center of the
circle, who is deliberately throwing away her fine culture and her
altogether beautiful soul upon the Anakim here, and with a beautiful
unconsciousness of anything like sacrifice, is now thanking God for the
privilege of doing so. I have some moments of rare emotional luxury,
those moments that are next to tears.

"Then the padre offers one of those heart-racking prayers of his that,
whether they reach anything outside or not, somehow get down into
one's vitals, and stir up remorses, and self-condemnings, and longings
unutterable. Then they all kiss the mother and wish her a Happy
New-Year.

"My boy, my dear boy, I have never known deeper moments than those.
And when I went to shake hands with her, she seemed so like a queen
receiving homage, that without seeming to feel I was making a fool
of myself, I did the Queen Victoria act, and saluted her hand. It is
wonderful how great moments discover the lady to you. She must have
known how I was feeling, for with a very beautiful grace, she said, 'Let
me be your mother for to-night,' and by Jove, she kissed me. I have been
kissed before, and have kissed some women in my time, but that is the
only kiss I can remember, and s'help me Bob, I'll never kiss another
till I kiss my wife.

"And then and there, Maitland, I swore by all that I knew of God, and by
everything sacred in life, that I'd quit the past and be worthy of her
trust; for the mischief of it is, she will persist in trusting you, puts
you on your honor noblesse oblige business, and all that. I think I told
you that I might end in being a saint. That dream I have surrendered,
but, by the grace of heaven, I'm going to try to be a man. And I am
going to play shinny with those boys, and if I can help them to win that
match, and the big game of life, I will do it.

"As witness my hand and seal, this first day of January, 18--

"J. C."



CHAPTER XIV

THE FINAL ROUND


After the New-Year the school filled up with big boys, some of whom had
returned with the idea of joining the preparatory class for college,
which the minister had persuaded John Craven to organize.

Shinny, however, became the absorbing interest for all the boys, both
big and little. This interest was intensified by the rumors that came up
from the Front, for it was noised through the Twentieth section that Dan
Munro, whose father was a cousin of Archie Munro, the former teacher,
had come from Marrintown and taken charge of the Front school, and that,
being used to the ice game, and being full of tricks and swift as
a bird, he was an exceedingly dangerous man. More than that, he was
training his team with his own tricks, and had got back to school some
of the old players, among whom were no less renowned personages than Hec
Ross and Jimmie "Ben." Jimmie Ben, to wit, James son of Benjamin McEwen,
was more famed for his prowess as a fighter than for his knowledge
of the game of shinny, but every one who saw him play said he was "a
terror." Further, it was rumored that there was a chance of them
getting for goal Farquhar McRae, "Little Farquhar," or "Farquhar Bheg"
(pronounced "vaick"), as he was euphoniously called, who presumably had
once been little, but could no longer claim to be so, seeing that he was
six feet, and weighed two hundred pounds.

It behooved the Twentieth team, therefore, to bestir themselves with all
diligence, and in this matter Hughie gave no rest either to himself or
to any one else likely to be of use in perfecting his team. For Hughie
had been unanimously chosen captain, in spite of his protests that the
master or one of the big boys should hold that place. But none of the
big boys knew the new game as perfectly as Hughie, and the master had
absolutely refused, saying, "You beat them once, Hughie, and you can do
it again." And as the days and weeks went on, Hughie fully justified the
team's choice of him as captain. He developed a genius for organization,
a sureness of judgment, and a tact in management, as well as a skill and
speed in play, that won the confidence of every member of his team. He
set himself resolutely to banish any remaining relics of the ancient
style of play. In the old game every one rushed to hit the ball without
regard to direction or distance, and the consequence was, that from end
to end of the field a mob of yelling, stick-waving players more or less
aimlessly followed in the wake of the ball. But Hughie and the master
changed all that, forced the men to play in their positions, training
them never to drive wildly forward, but to pass to a man, and to keep
their clubs down and their mouths shut.

The striking characteristic of Hughie's own playing was a certain
fierceness, amounting almost to fury, so that when he was in the attack
he played for every ounce there was in him. His chief weakness lay in
his tempestuous temper, which he found difficult to command, but as he
worked his men from day to day, and week to week, the responsibility of
his position and the magnitude of the issues at stake helped him to a
self-control quite remarkable in him.

As the fateful day drew near the whole section was stirred with an
intense interest and excitement, in which even the grave and solemn
elders shared, and to a greater degree, the minister and his wife.

At length the day, as all days great and small, actually arrived. A big
crowd awaited the appearance of "the folks from the Front." They were
expected about two, but it was not till half-past that there was heard
in the distance the sound of the bagpipes.

"Here they are! That's Alan the cooper's pipes," was the cry, and
before long, sure enough there appeared Alphonse le Roque driving his
French-Canadian team, the joy and pride of his heart, for Alphonse was
a born horse-trainer, and had taught his French-Canadians many
extraordinary tricks. On the dead gallop he approached the crowd till
within a few yards, when, at a sudden command, they threw themselves
upon their haunches, and came almost to a standstill. With a crack of
his long whip Alphonse gave the command, "Deesplay yousef!" At once his
stout little team began to toss their beautiful heads, and broke into
a series of prancing curves that would not have shamed a pair of
greyhounds. Then, as they drew up to the stopping-point, he gathered
up his lines, and with another crack of his whip, cried, "Salute ze
ladies!" when, with true equine courtesy, they rose upon their hind legs
and gracefully pawed the empty air. Finally, after depositing his load
amid the admiring exclamations of the crowd, he touched their tails with
the point of his whip, gave a sudden "Whish!" and like hounds from the
leash his horses sprang off at full gallop.

One after another the teams from the Front swung round and emptied their
loads.

"Man! what a crowd!" said Hughie to Don. "There must be a hundred at
least."

"Yes, and there's Hec Ross and Jimmie Ben," said Don, "and sure enough,
Farquhar Begh. We'll be catching it to-day, whatever," continued Don,
cheerfully.

"Pshaw! we licked as big men before. It isn't size," said Hughie, with
far more confidence than he felt.

It was half an hour before the players were ready to begin. The rules of
the game were few and simple. The play was to be one hour each way,
with a quarter of an hour rest between. There was to be no tripping,
no hitting on the shins when the ball was out of the scrimmage, and all
disputes were to be settled by the umpire, who on this occasion was the
master of the Sixteenth school.

"He's no good," grumbled Hughie to his mother, who was even more excited
than her boy himself. "He can't play himself, and he's too easy scared."

"Never mind," said his mother, brightly; "perhaps he won't have much to
do."

"Much to do! Well, there's Jimmie Ben, and he's an awful fighter, but
I'm not going to let him frighten me," said Hughie, savagely; "and
there's Dan Munro, too, they say he's a terror, and Hec Ross. Of course
we've got just as good men, but they won't fight. Why, Johnnie 'Big
Duncan' and Don, there, are as good as any of them, but they won't
fight."

The mother smiled a little.

"What a pity! But why should they fight? Fighting is not shinny."

"No, that's what the master says. And he's right enough, too, but it's
awful hard when a fellow doesn't play fair, when he trips you up or
clubs you on the shins when you're not near the ball. You feel like
hitting him back."

"Yes, but that's the very time to show self-control."

"I know. And that's what the master says."

"Of course it is," went on his mother. "That's what the game is for, to
teach the boys to command their tempers. You remember 'he that ruleth
his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.'

"O, it's all right," said Hughie, "and easy enough to talk about."

"What's easy enough to talk about?" asked the master, coming up.

"Taking a city," said Mrs. Murray, smiling at him.

The master looked puzzled.

"Mother means," said Hughie, "keeping one's temper in shinny. But I'm
telling her it's pretty hard when a fellow clubs you on the shins when
you're away from the ball."

"Yes, of course it's hard," said the master, "but it's better than being
a cad," which brought a quick flush to Hughie's face, but helped him
more than anything else to keep himself in hand that day.

"Can't understand a man," said the master, "who goes into a game and
then quits it to fight. If it's fighting, why fight, but if it's shinny,
play the game. Big team against us, eh, captain?" he continued, looking
at the Front men, who were taking a preliminary spin upon the ice, "and
pretty swift, too."

"If they play fair, I don't mind," said Hughie. "I'm not afraid of them;
but if they get slugging--"

"Well, if they get slugging," said the master, "we'll play the game and
win, sure."

"Well, it's time to begin," said Hughie, and with a good by to his
mother he turned away.

"Remember, take a city," she called out after him.

"All right, muzzie, I'll remember."

In a few moments the teams were in position opposite each other. The
team from the Front made a formidable show in weight and muscle. At the
right of the forward line stood the redoubtable Dan Munro, the stocky,
tricky, fierce captain of the Front team, and with him three rather
small boys in red shirts. The defense consisted of Hec Ross, the
much-famed and much-feared Jimmie Ben, while in goal, sure enough, stood
the immense and solid bulk of Farquhar Bheg. The center was held by four
boys of fair size and weight.

In the Twentieth team the forward line was composed of Jack Ross, Curly
Ross's brother, Fusie, Davie Scotch, and Don Cameron. The center was
played by Hughie, with three little chaps who made up for their lack of
weight by their speed and skill. The defense consisted of Johnnie "Big
Duncan," to wit, John, the son of Big Duncan Campbell, on the left hand,
and the master on the right, backed up by Thomas Finch in goal, who much
against his will was in the game that day. His heart was heavy within
him, for he saw, not the gleaming ice and the crowding players, but "the
room" at home, and his mother, with her pale, patient face, sitting in
her chair. His father, he knew, would be beside her, and Jessac would be
flitting about. "But for all that, she'll have a long day," he said to
himself, for only his loyalty to the school and to Hughie had brought
him to the game that day.

When play was called, Hughie, with Fusie immediately behind him, stood
facing Dan in the center with one of the little Red Shirts at his back.
It was Dan's drop. He made a pass or two, then shot between his legs
to a Red Shirt, who, upon receiving, passed far out to Red Shirt number
three, who flew along the outer edge and returned swiftly to Dan, now
far up the other side. Like the wind Dan sped down the line, dodged
Johnnie Big Duncan easily, and shot from the corner, straight, swift,
and true, a goal.

"One for the Front!" Eleven shinny-sticks went up in the air, the
bagpipes struck up a wild refrain, big Hec Ross and Jimmie Ben danced a
huge, unwieldy, but altogether jubilant dance round each other, and then
settled down to their places, for it was Hughie's drop.

Hughie took the ball from the umpire and faced Dan with some degree of
nervousness, for Dan was heavy and strong, and full of confidence. After
a little manoeuvering he dropped the ball between Dan's legs, but Dan,
instead of attending to the ball, charged full upon him and laid him
flat, while one of the Red Shirts, seizing the ball, flew off with
it, supported by a friendly Red Shirt on either side of him, with Dan
following hard.

Right through the crowd dodged the Red Shirts till they came up to the
Twentieth line of defense, when forth came Johnnie Big Duncan in swift
attack. But the little Red Shirt who had the ball, touching it slightly
to the right, tangled himself up in Johnnie Big Duncan's legs and sent
him sprawling, while Dan swiped the ball to another Red Shirt who had
slipped in behind the master, for there was no such foolishness as
off-side in that game. Like lightning the Red Shirt caught the ball, and
rushing at Thomas, shot furiously at close quarters. Goal number two for
the Front!

Again on all sides rose frantic cheers. "The Front! The Front! Murro
forever!" Two games had been won, and not a Twentieth man had touched
the ball. With furtive, uncertain glances the men of the Twentieth
team looked one at the other, and all at their captain, as if seeking
explanation of this extraordinary situation.

"Well," said Hughie, in a loud voice, to the master, and with a careless
laugh, though at his heart he was desperate, "they are giving us a
little taste of our own medicine."

The master dropped to buckle his skate, deliberately unwinding the
strap, while the umpire allowed time.

"Give me a hand with this, Hughie," he called, and Hughie skated up to
him.

"Well," said Craven, smiling up into Hughie's face, "that's a good,
swift opening, isn't it?"

"Oh, it's terrible," groaned Hughie. "They're going to lick us off the
ice."

"Well," replied the master, slowly, "I wouldn't be in a hurry to say
so. We have a hundred minutes and more to win in yet. Now, don't you see
that their captain is their great card. Suppose you let the ball go for
a game or two, and stick to Dan. Trail him, never let him shake you. The
rest of us will take care of the game."

"All right," said Hughie, "I'll stick to him," and off he set for the
center.

As the loser, Hughie again held the drop. He faced Dan with
determination to get that ball out to Fusie, and somehow he felt in his
bones that he should succeed in doing this. Without any preliminary he
dropped, and knocked the ball toward Fusie.

But this was evidently what Dan expected, for as soon as Hughie made the
motion to drop he charged hard upon the waiting Fusie. Hughie, however,
had his plan as well, for immediately upon the ball leaving his stick,
he threw himself in Dan's way, checking him effectually, and allowing
Fusie, with Don and Scotchie following, to get away.

The Front defense, however, was too strong, and the ball came shooting
back toward the line of Reds, one of whom, making a short run, passed
far out to Dan on the right. But before the latter could get up speed,
Hughie was upon him, and ignoring the ball, blocked and bothered and
checked him, till one of the Twentieth centers, rushing in, secured it
for his side.

"Ha! well done, captain!" came Craven's voice across the ice, and
Hughie felt his nerve come back. If he could hold Dan, that deadly Front
combination might be broken.

Meantime Don had secured the ball from Craven, and was rushing up his
right wing.

"Here you are, Hughie," he cried, shooting across the Front goal.

Hughie sprang to receive, but before he could shoot Dan was upon him,
checking so hard that Hughie was sent sprawling to the ice, while Dan
shot away with the ball.

But before he had gone very far Hughie was after him like a whirlwind,
making straight for his own goal, so that by the time Dan had arrived at
shooting distance, Hughie was again upon him, and while in the very act
of steadying himself for his try at the goal, came crashing into him
with such fierceness of attack that Dan was flung aside, while Johnnie
Big Duncan, capturing the ball, sent it across to the master.

It was the master's first chance for the day. With amazing swiftness
and dexterity he threaded the outer edge of the ice, and with a sudden
swerve across, avoided the throng that had gathered to oppose him, and
then with a careless ease, as if it were a matter of little importance,
he dodged in between the heavy Front defense, shot his goal, and skated
back coolly to his place.

The Twentieth's moment had come, and both upon the ice and upon the
banks the volume and fierceness of the cheering testified to the
intensity of the feeling that had been so long pent up.

That game had revealed to Hughie two important facts: the first, that he
was faster than Dan in a straight race; and the second, that it would be
advisable to feed the master, for it was clearly apparent that there was
not his equal upon the ice in dodging.

"That was well done, captain," said Craven to Hughie, as he was coolly
skating back to his position.

"A splendid run, sir," cried Hughie, in return.

"Oh, the run was easy. It was your check there that did the trick.
That's the game," he continued, lowering his voice. "It's hard on you,
though. Can you stand it?"

"Well, I can try for a while," said Hughie, confidently.

"If you can," said the master, "we've got them," and Hughie settled down
into the resolve that, cost what it might, he would stick like a leech
to Dan.

He imparted his plan to Fusie, adding, "Now, whenever you see me tackle
Dan, run in and get the ball. I'm not going to bother about it."

Half an hour had gone. The score stood two to one in favor of the Front,
but the result every one felt to be still uncertain. That last attack of
Hughie's, and the master's speedy performance, gave some concern to the
men of the Front, and awakened a feeling of confidence in the Twentieth
team.

But Dan, wise general that he was, saw the danger, and gave his commands
ere he faced off for the new game.

"When that man Craven gets it," he said to the men of the center, "make
straight for the goal. Never mind the ball."

The wisdom of this order became at once evident, for when in the
face-off he secured the ball, Hughie clung so tenaciously to his heels
and checked him so effectually, that he was forced to resign it to the
Reds, who piercing the Twentieth center, managed to scurry up the ice
with the ball between them. But when, met by Craven and Johnnie Big
Duncan, they passed across to Dan, Hughie again checked so fiercely that
Johnnie Big Duncan secured the ball, passed back to the master, who with
another meteoric flash along the edge of the field broke through the
Front's defense, and again shot.

It was only Farquhar Bheg's steady coolness that saved the goal. It was
a near enough thing, however, to strike a sudden chill to the heart of
the Front goal-keeper, and to make Dan realize that something must be
done to check these dangerous rushes of Craven.

"Get in behind the defense there, and stay there," he said to two of his
centers, and his tone indicated that his serene confidence in himself
and his team was slightly shaken. Hughie's close checking was beginning
to chafe him, for his team in their practice had learned to depend
unduly upon him.

Noticing Dan's change in the disposition of his men, Hughie moved up two
of his centers nearer to the Front defense.

"Get into their way," he said "and give the master a clear field."

But this policy only assisted Dan's plan of defense, for the presence
of so many players before the Front goal filled up the ice to such an
extent that Craven's rushes were impeded by mere numbers.

For some time Dan watched the result of his tactics well satisfied,
remaining himself for the time in the background. During one of the
pauses, when the ball was out of play, he called one of the little Reds
to him.

"Look here," he said, "you watch this. Right after one of those rushes
of Craven's, don't follow him down, but keep up to your position. I'll
get the ball to you somehow, and then you'll have a chance to shoot.
No use passing to me, for this little son of a gun is on my back like a
flea on a dog." Dan was seriously annoyed.

The little Red passed the word around and patiently waited his chance.
Once and again the plan failed, chiefly because Dan could not get the
ball out of the scrimmage, but at length, when Hughie had been tempted
to rush in with the hope of putting in a shot, the ball slid out of the
scrimmage, and Dan, swooping down upon it, passed swiftly to the waiting
Red who immediately shot far out to his alert wing, and then rushing
down the center and slipping past Johnnie Big Duncan, who had gone forth
to meet Dan coming down the right, and the master who was attending to
the little Red on the wing, received the ball, and putting in a short,
swift shot, scored another goal for the Front, amid a tempest of
hurrahings from the team and their supporters.

The game now stood three to one in favor of the Front, and up to the end
of the first hour no change was made in this score.

And now there was a scene of the wildest enthusiasm and confusion. The
Front people flocked upon the ice and carried off their team to their
quarter of the shanty, loading them with congratulations and refreshing
them with various drinks.

"Better get your men together, captain," suggested Craven, and Hughie
gathered them into the Twentieth corner of the shanty.

In spite of the adverse score Hughie found his team full of fight. They
crowded about him and the master, eager to listen to any explanation of
the present defeat that might be offered for their comfort, or to any
plans by which the defeat might be turned into victory. Some
minutes they spent in excitedly discussing the various games, and in
good-naturedly chaffing Thomas Finch for his failure to prevent a score.
But Thomas had nothing to say in reply. He had done his best, and he had
a feeling that they all knew it. No man was held in higher esteem by the
team than the goal-keeper.

"Any plan, captain?" asked the master, after they had talked for some
minutes, and all grew quiet.

"What do you think, sir?" said Hughie.

"O, let us hear from you. You're the captain."

"Well," said Hughie, slowly, and with deliberate emphasis, "I think we
are going to win." (Yells from all sides.) "At any rate we ought to
win, for I think we have the better team." (More yells.) "What I mean is
this, I think we are better in combination play, and I don't think they
have a man who can touch the master."

Enthusiastic exclamations, "That's right!" "Better believe it!" "Horo!"

"But we have a big fight before us. And that Dan Munro's a terror. The
only change I can think of is to open out more and fall back from their
goal for a little while. And then, if I can hold Dan--"

Cries of "You'll hold him all right!" "You are the lad!"

"Everybody should feed the master. They can't stop him, any of them.
But I would say for the first while, anyway, play defense. What do you
think, sir?" appealing to the master.

"I call that good tactics. But don't depend too much upon me; if any man
has a chance for a run and a shot, let him take it. And don't give up
your combination in your forward line. The captain is quite right in
seeking to draw them away from their goal. Their defense territory is
too full now. Now, what I have noticed is this, they mainly rely upon
Dan Munro and upon their three big defense men. For the first fifteen
minutes they will make their hardest push. Let us take the captain's
advice, fall back a little, and so empty their defense. But on the
whole, keep your positions, play to your men, and," he added, with a
smile, "don't get too mad."

"I guess they will be making some plans, too," said Thomas Finch,
slowly, and everybody laughed.

"That's quite right, Thomas, but we'll give them a chance for the first
while to show us what they mean to do."

At this point the minister came in, looking rather gloomy.

"Well, Mr. Craven, rather doubtful outlook, is it not?"

"O, not too bad, sir," said the master, cheerfully.

"Three to one. What worse do you want?"

"Well, six to one would be worse," replied the master. "Besides, their
first two games were taken by a kind of fluke. We didn't know
their play. You will notice they have taken only one in the last
three-quarters of an hour."

"I doubt they are too big for you," continued the minister.

"Isn't altogether size that wins in shinny," said Mr. Craven. "Hughie
there isn't a very big man, but he can hold any one of them."

"Well, I hope you may be right," said the minister. "I am sorry I have
to leave the game to see a sick man up Kenyon way."

"Sorry you can't stay, sir, to see us win," said Craven, cheerfully,
while Hughie slipped out to see his mother before she went.

"Well, my boy," said his mother, "you are playing a splendid game, and
you are getting better as you go on."

"Thanks, mother. That's the kind of talk we like," said Hughie, who
had been a little depressed by his father's rather gloomy views. "I'm
awfully sorry you can't stay."

"And so am I, but we must go. But we shall be back in time for supper,
and you will ask all the team to come down to celebrate their victory."

"Good for you, mother! I'll tell them, and I bet they'll play."

Meantime the team from the Front had been having something of a
jollification in their quarters. They were sure of victory, and in spite
of their captain's remonstrances had already begun to pass round the
bottle in the way of celebration.

"They're having something strong in there," said little Mac McGregor.
"Wish they'd pass some this way."

"Let them have it," said Johnnie Big Duncan, whose whole family ever
since the revival had taken a total abstinence pledge, although this
was looked upon as a very extreme position indeed, by almost all the
community. But Big Duncan Campbell had learned by very bitter experience
that for him, at least, there was no safety in a moderate use of "God's
good creature," as many of his fellow church-members designated the
"mountain dew," and his sons had loyally backed him up in this attitude.

"Quite, right!" said the master, emphatically. "And if they had any
sense they would know that with every drink they are throwing away a big
chance of winning."

"Horo, you fellows!" shouted big Hec Ross across to them, "aren't you
going to play any more? Have you got enough of it already?"

"We will not be caring for any more of yon kind," said Johnnie Big
Duncan, good-naturedly, "and we were thinking of giving you a change."

"Come away and be at it, then," said Hec, "for we're all getting cold."

"That's easily cured," said Dan, as they sallied forth to the ice again,
"for I warrant you will not be suffering from the cold in five minutes."

When the teams took up their positions, it was discovered that Dan had
fallen back to the center, and Hughie was at a loss to know how to meet
this new disposition of the enemy's force.

"Let them go on," said the master, with whom Hughie was holding a
hurried consultation. "You stick to him, and we'll play defense till
they develop their plan."

The tactics of the Front became immediately apparent upon the drop of
the ball, and proved to be what the master had foretold. No sooner had
the game begun than the big defense men advanced with the centers to the
attack, and when Hughie followed up his plan of sticking closely to Dan
Munro and hampering him, he found Jimmie Ben upon him, swiping furiously
with his club at his shins, with evident intention of intimidating
him, as well as of relieving Dan from his attentions. But if Jimmie Ben
thought by his noisy shouting and furious swiping to strike terror to
the heart of the Twentieth captain, he entirely misjudged his man; for
without seeking to give him back what he received in kind, Hughie played
his game with such skill and pluck, that although he was considerably
battered about the shins, he was nevertheless able to prevent Dan from
making any of his dangerous rushes.

Craven, meantime, if he noticed Hughie's hard case, was so fully
occupied with the defense of the goal that he could give no thought to
anything else. Shot after shot came in upon Thomas at close range,
and so savage and reckless was the charge of the Front that their big
defense men, Hec Ross and Jimmie Ben, abandoning their own positions,
were foremost in the melee before the Twentieth goal.

For fully fifteen minutes the ball was kept in the Twentieth territory,
and only the steady coolness of Craven and Johnnie Big Duncan, backed
by Hughie's persistent checking of the Front captain and the magnificent
steadiness of Thomas in goal, saved the game.

At length, as the fury of the charge began to expend itself a little,
Craven got his chance. The ball had been passed out to Dan upon the left
wing of the Front forward line. At once Hughie was upon him, but Jimmie
Ben following hard, with a cruel swipe at Hughie's skates, laid him
flat, but not until he had succeeded in hindering to some degree Dan's
escape with the ball. Before the Front captain could make use of his
advantage and get clear away, the master bore down upon him like a
whirlwind, hurled him clear off his feet, secured the ball, dashed up
the open field, and eluding the two centers, who had been instructed to
cover the goal, easily shot between the balsam-trees.

For a few moments the Twentieth men went mad, for they all felt that a
crisis had been passed. The failure of the Front in what had evidently
been a preconcerted and very general attack was accepted as an omen of
victory.

The Front men, on the other hand, were bitterly chagrined. They had come
so near it, and yet had failed. Jimmie Ben was especially savage. He
came down the ice toward the center, yelling defiance and threats of
vengeance. "Come on here! Don't waste time. Let us at them. We'll knock
them clear off the ice."

It was Dan's drop. As he was preparing to face off, the master skated up
and asked the umpire for time. At once the crowd gathered round.

"What's the matter?" "What's up?" "What do you want?" came on all sides
from the Front team, now thoroughly aroused and thirsting for vengeance.

"Mr. Umpire," said the master, "I want to call your attention to a bit
of foul play that must not be allowed to go on"; and then he described
Jimmie Ben's furious attack upon Hughie.

"It was a deliberate trip, as well as a savage swipe at a man's shins
when the ball was not near."

At once Jimmie Ben gave him the lie, and throwing down his club, slammed
his cap upon the ice and proceeded to execute a war-dance about it.

For a few moments there was a great uproar, and then the master's voice
was heard again addressing the umpire.

"I want to know your ruling upon this, Mr. Umpire"; and somehow his
voice commanded a perfect stillness.

"Well," said the umpire, hesitating, "of course--if a man trips it is
foul play, but--I did not see any tripping. And of course--swiping at
a man's shins is not allowed, although sometimes--it can't very well be
helped in a scrimmage."

"I merely want to call your attention to it," said the master. "My
understanding of our arrangements, Mr. Munro," he said, addressing the
Front captain, "is that we are here to play shinny. You have come up
here, I believe, to win the game by playing shinny, and we are here to
prevent you. If you have any other purpose, or if any of your men have
any other purpose, we would be glad to know it now, for we entered this
game with the intention of playing straight, clean shinny."

"That's right!" called out Hec Ross; "that's what we're here for." And
his answer was echoed on every side, except by Jimmie Ben, who continued
to bluster and offer fight.

"O, shut your gab!" finally said Farquhar Bheg, impatiently. "If you
want to fight, wait till after the game is done."

"Here's your cap, Jimmie," piped a thin, little voice. "You'll take cold
in your head." It was little French Fusie, holding up Jimmie's cap on
the end of his shinny club, and smiling with the utmost good nature, but
with infinite impudence, into Jimmie's face.

At once there was a general laugh at Jimmie Ben's expense, who with a
growl, seized his cap, and putting it on his head, skated off to his
place.

"Now," said Hughie, calling his men together for a moment, "let us crowd
them hard, and let's give the master every chance we can."

"No," said the master, "they are waiting for me. Suppose you leave Dan
to me for a while. You go up and play your forward combination. They are
not paying so much attention to you. Make the attack from your wing."

At the drop Dan secured the ball, and followed by Fusie, flew up the
center with one of the Reds on either hand. Immediately the master
crossed to meet him, checked him hard, and gave Fusie a chance, who,
seizing the ball, passed far up to Hughie on the right.

Immediately the Twentieth forward line rushed, and by a beautiful hit
of combined play, brought the ball directly before the Front goal, when
Don, holding it for a moment till Hughie charged in upon Farquhar Bheg,
shot, and scored.

The result of their combination at once inspired the Twentieth team with
fresh confidence, and proved most disconcerting to their opponents.

"That's the game, boys," said the master, delightedly. "Keep your heads,
and play your positions." And so well did the forward line respond that
for the next ten minutes the game was reduced to a series of attacks
upon the Front goal, and had it not been for the dashing play of their
captain and the heavy checking of the Front defense, the result would
have been most disastrous to them.

Meantime, the Twentieth supporters, lined along either edge, became more
and more vociferous as they began to see that their men were getting the
game well into their own hands. That steady, cool, systematic play of
man to man was something quite new to those accustomed to the old style
of game, and aroused the greatest enthusiasm.

Gradually the Front were forced to fall back into their territory, and
to play upon the defensive, while the master and Johnnie Big Duncan,
moving up toward the center, kept their forward line so strongly
supported, and checked so effectually any attempts to break through,
that thick and fast the shots fell upon the enemy's goal.

There remained only fifteen minutes to play. The hard pace was beginning
to tell upon the big men, and the inevitable reaction following their
unwise "celebrating" began to show itself in their stale and spiritless
play. On the other hand, the Twentieth were as fresh as ever, and
pressed the game with greater spirit every moment.

"Play out toward the side," urged Dan, despairing of victory, but
determined to avert defeat, and at every opportunity the ball was
knocked out of play. But like wolves the Twentieth forwards were upon
the ball, striving to keep it in play, and steadily forcing it toward
the enemy's goal.

Dan became desperate. He was wet with perspiration, and his breath was
coming in hard gasps. He looked at his team. The little Reds were fit
enough, but the others were jaded and pumped out. Behind him stood
Jimmie Ben, savage, wet, and weary.

At one of the pauses, when the ball was out of play, Dan dropped on his
knee.

"Hold on there a minute," he cried; "I want to fix this skate of mine."

Very deliberately he removed his strap, readjusted his skate, and began
slowly to set the strap in place again.

"They want a rest, I guess. Better take off the time, umpire," sang out
Fusie, dancing as lively as a cricket round Jimmie Ben, who looked as if
he would like to devour him bodily.

"Shut up, Fusie!" said Hughie. "We've got all the time we need."

"You have, eh?" said Jimmie Ben, savagely.

"Yes," said Hughie, in sudden anger, for he had not forgotten Jimmie
Ben's cruel swipe. "We don't need any more time than we've got, and we
don't need to play any dirty tricks, either. We're going to beat you.
We've got you beaten now."

"Blank your impudent face! Wait you! I'll show you!" said Jimmie Ben.

"You can't scare me, Jimmie Ben," said Hughie, white with rage. "You
tried your best and you couldn't do it."

"Play the game, Hughie," said the master, in a low tone, skating round
him, while Hec Ross said, good-naturedly, "Shut up Jimmie Ben. You'll
need all your wind for your heels," at which all but Jimmie Ben laughed.

For a moment Dan drew his men together.

"Our only chance," he said, "is in a rush. Now, I want every man to make
for that goal. Never mind the ball. I'll get the ball there. And then
you, Jimmie Ben, and a couple of you centers, make right back here on
guard."

"They're going to rush," said Hughie to his team. "Don't all go back.
Centers fall back with me. You forwards keep up."

At the drop Dan secured the ball, and in a moment the Front rush came.
With a simultaneous yell the whole ten men came roaring down the ice,
waving their clubs and flinging aside their lightweight opponents. It
was a dangerous moment, but with a cry of "All steady, boys!" Hughie
threw himself right into Dan's way. But just for such a chance Jimmie
Ben was watching, and rushing upon Hughie, caught him fairly with his
shoulder and hurled him to the ice, while the attacking line swept over
him.

For a single moment Hughie lay dazed, but before any one could offer
help he rose slowly, and after a few deep breaths, set off for the
scrimmage.

There was a wild five minutes. Eighteen or twenty men were massed in
front of the Twentieth goal, striking, shoving, yelling, the solid
weight of the Front defense forcing the ball ever nearer the goal. In
the center of the mass were Craven, Johnnie Big Duncan, and Don fighting
every inch.

For a few moments Hughie hovered behind his goal, his heart full of
black rage, waiting his chance. At length he saw an opening. Jimmie Ben,
slashing heavily, regardless of injury to himself or any others, had
edged the ball toward the Twentieth left. Taking a short run, Hughie,
reckless of consequences, launched himself head first into Jimmie Ben's
stomach, swiping viciously at the same time at the ball. For a moment
Jimmie Ben was flung back, and but for Johnnie Big Duncan would have
fallen, but before he could regain his feet, the ball was set free of
the scrimmage and away. Fusie, rushing in, had snapped it up and had
gone scuttling down the ice, followed by Hughie and the master.

Before Fusie had got much past center, Dan, who had been playing in the
rear of the scrimmage, overtook him, and with a fierce body check upset
the little Frenchman and secured the ball. Wheeling, he saw both Hughie
and Craven bearing down swiftly upon him.

"Rush for the goal!" he shouted to Jimmie Ben, who was following Hughie
hard. Jimmie Ben hesitated.

"Back to your defense!" yelled Dan, cutting across and trying to escape
between Hughie and Craven.

It was in vain. Both of the Twentieth men fell upon him, and the master,
snatching the ball, sped like lightning down the ice.

The crowd went wild.

"Get back! Get back there!" screamed Hughie to the mob crowding in upon
the ice. "Give us room! Give us a show!"

At this moment Craven, cornered by Hec Ross and two of the Red Shirts,
with Dan hard upon his heels, passed clear across the ice to Hughie.
With a swift turn Hughie caught the ball, dodged Jimmie Ben's fierce
spring at him, and shot. But even as he shot, Jimmie Ben, recovering his
balance, reached him and struck a hard, swinging blow upon his ankle.
There was a sharp crack, and Hughie fell to the ice. The ball went wide.

"Time, there, umpire!" cried the master, falling on his knees beside
Hughie. "Are you hurt, Hughie?" he asked, eagerly. "What is it, my boy?"

"Oh, master, it's broken, but don't stop. Don't let them stop. We must
win this game. We've only a few minutes. Take me back to goal and send
Thomas out."

The eager, hurried whisper, the intense appeal in the white face and
dark eyes, made the master hesitate in his emphatic refusal.

"You can't--"

"Oh, don't stop! Don't stop it for me," cried Hughie, gripping the
master's arm. "Help me up and take me back."

The master swore a fierce oath.

"We'll do it, my boy. You're a trump. Here, Don," he called aloud,
"we'll let Hughie keep goal for a little," and they ran Hughie back to
the goal on one skate.

"You go out, Thomas," gasped Hughie. "Don't talk. We've only five
minutes."

"They have broken his leg," said the master, with a sob in his voice.

"Nothing wrong, I hope," said Dan, skating up.

"No; play the game," said the master, fiercely. His black eyes were
burning with a deep, red glow.

"Is it hurting much?" asked Thomas, lingering about Hughie.

"Oh, you just bet! But don't wait. Go on! Go on down! You've got to get
this game!"

Thomas glanced at the foot hanging limp, and then at the white but
resolute face. Then saying with slow, savage emphasis, "The brute beast!
As sure as death I'll do for him," he skated off to join the forward
line.

It was the Front knock-off from goal. There was no plan of attack, but
the Twentieth team, looking upon the faces of the master and Thomas,
needed no words of command.

The final round was shot, short, sharp, fierce. A long drive from
Farquhar Bheg sent the ball far up into the Twentieth territory. It was
a bad play, for it gave Craven and Thomas their chance.

"Follow me close, Thomas," cried the master, meeting the ball and
setting off like a whirlwind.

Past the little Reds, through the centers, and into the defense line
he flashed, followed hard by Thomas. In vain Hec Ross tried to check,
Craven was past him like the wind. There remained only Dan and Jimmie
Ben. A few swift strides, and the master was almost within reach of
Dan's club. With a touch of the ball to Thomas he charged into his
waiting foe, flung him aside as he might a child, and swept on.

"Take the man, Thomas," he cried, and Thomas, gathering himself up in
two short, quick strikes, dashed hard upon Jimmie Ben, and hurled him
crashing to the ice.

"Take that, you brute, you!" he said, and followed after Craven.

Only Farquhar Bheg was left.

"Take no chances," cried Craven again. "Come on!" and both of them
sweeping in upon the goal-keeper, lifted him clear through the goal and
carried the ball with them.

"Time!" called the umpire. The great game was won.

Then, before the crowd had realized what had happened, and before they
could pour in upon the ice, Craven skated back toward Jimmie Ben.

"The game is over," he said, in a low, fierce tone. "You cowardly
blackguard, you weren't afraid to hit a boy, now stand up to a man, if
you dare."

Jimmie Ben was no coward. Dropping his club he came eagerly forward, but
no sooner had he got well ready than Craven struck him fair in the face,
and before he could fall, caught him with a straight, swift blow on the
chin, and lifting him clear off his skates, landed him back on his head
and shoulders on the ice, where he lay with his toes quivering.

"Serve him right," said Hec Ross.

There was no more of it. The Twentieth crowds went wild with joy and
rage, for their great game was won, and the news of what had befallen
their captain had got round.

"He took his city, though, Mrs. Murray," said the master, after the
great supper in the manse that evening, as Hughie lay upon the sofa,
pale, suffering, but happy. "And not only one, but a whole continent of
them, and," he added, "the game as well."

With sudden tears and a little break in her voice, the mother said,
looking at her boy, "It was worth while taking the city, but I fear the
game cost too much."

"Oh, pshaw, mother," said Hughie, "it's only one bone, and I tell you
that final round was worth a leg."



CHAPTER XV

THE RESULT


"How many did you say, Craven, of those Glengarry men of yours?"
Professor Gray was catechizing his nephew.

"Ten of them, sir, besides the minister's son, who is going to take the
full university course."

"And all of them bound for the ministry?"

"So they say. And judging by the way they take life, and the way, for
instance, they play shinny, I have a notion they will see it through."

"They come of a race that sees things through," answered the professor.
"And this is the result of this Zion Hill Academy I have been hearing so
much about?"

"Well, sir, they put in a good year's work, I must say."

"You might have done worse, sir. Indeed, you deserve great credit, sir."

"I? Not a bit. I simply showed them what to do and how to do it. But
there's a woman up there that the world ought to know about. For love of
her--"

"Oh, the world!" snorted the professor. "The world, sir! The Lord
deliver us! It might do the world some good, I grant."

"It is for love of her these men are in for the ministry."

"You are wrong, sir. That is not their motive."

"No, perhaps it is not. It would be unfair to say so, but yet she--"

"I know, sir. I know, sir. Bless my soul, sir. I know her. I knew her
before you were born. But--yes, yes--" the professor spoke as if to
himself--"for love of her men would attempt great things. You have
these names, Craven? Ah! Alexander Stewart, Donald Cameron, Thomas
Finch--Finch, let me see--ah, yes, Finch. His mother died after a long
illness. Yes, I remember. A very sad case, a very sad case, indeed."

"And yet not so sad, sir," put in Craven. "At any rate, it did not
seem so at the time. That night it seemed anything but sad. It was
wonderful."

The professor laid down his list and sat back in his chair.

"Go on, sir," he said, gazing curiously at Craven. "I have heard a
little about it. Let me see, it was the night of the great match, was it
not?"

"Did you know about that? Who told you about the match, sir?"

"I hear a great many things, and in curious ways. But go on, sir, go
on."

Craven sat silent, and from the look in his eyes his thoughts were far
away.

"Well, sir, it's a thing I have never spoken about. It seems to me, if I
may say so, something quite too sacred to speak of lightly."

Again Craven paused, while the professor waited.

"It was Hughie sent me there. There was a jubilation supper at
the manse, you understand. Thomas Finch, the goal-keeper, you
know--magnificent fellow, too--was not at the supper. A messenger had
come for him, saying that his mother had taken a bad turn. Hughie was
much disappointed, and they were all evidently anxious. I offered to
drive over and inquire, and of course the minister's wife, though she
had been on the go all day long, must needs go with me. I can never
forget that night. I suppose you have noticed, sir, there are times
when one is more sensitive to impressions from one's surroundings than
others. There are times with me, too, when I seem to have a very vital
kinship with nature. At any rate, during that drive nature seemed to get
close to me. The dark, still forest, the crisp air, the frost sparkling
in the starlight on the trees--it all seemed to be part of me. I fear I
am not explaining myself."

Craven paused again, and his eyes began to glow. The professor still
waited.

"When we reached the house we found them waiting for death. The
minister's wife went in, I waited in the kitchen. By and by Billy Jack,
that's her eldest son, you know, came out. 'She is asking for you,' he
said, and I went in. I had often seen her before, and I rather think
she liked me. You see, I had been able to help Thomas along pretty well,
both in school and with his night work, and she was grateful for what I
had done, absurdly grateful when one considers how little it was. I had
seen death before, and it had always been ghastly, but there was nothing
ghastly in death that night. The whole scene is before me now, I suppose
always will be."

His dead, black eyes were beginning to show their deep, red fire.

The professor looked at him for a moment or two, and then said,
"Proceed, if you please," and Craven drew a long breath, as if recalling
himself, and went on.

"The old man was there at one side, with his gray head down on the
bed, his little girl kneeling beside him with her arm round his neck,
opposite him the minister's wife, her face calm and steady, Billy Jack
standing at the foot of the bed--he and little Jessac the only ones in
the room who were weeping--and there at the head, Thomas, supporting
his mother, now and then moistening her lips and giving her sips of
stimulant, and so quick and steady, gentle as a woman, and smiling
through it all. I could hardly believe it was the same big fellow who
three hours before had carried the ball through the Front defense. I
tell you, sir, it was wonderful.

"There was no fuss or hysterical nonsense in that room. The mother lay
there quite peaceful, pain all gone--and she had had enough of it in
her day. She was quite a beautiful woman, too, in a way. Fine eyes,
remarkable eyes, splendidly firm mouth, showing great nerve, I should
say. All her life, I understand, she lived for others, and even now her
thought was not of herself. When I came in she opened her eyes. They
were like stars, actually shining, and her smile was like the sudden
breaking of light through a cloud. She put out her hand for mine, and
said--and I value these words, sir--'Mr. Craven, I give you a mither's
thanks and a mither's blessing for a' you have done for ma laddie.' She
was Lowland Scotch, you know. My voice went all to pieces. I tried to
say it was nothing, but stuck. Thomas helped me out, and without a shake
or quiver in his voice, he answered for me.

"'Yes, indeed, mother, we'll not forget it.'

"'And perhaps you can help him a bit still. He will be needing it,' she
added.

"I assure you, sir, that quiet steadiness of Thomas and herself braced
me up, and I was able to make my promise. And then she said, with a look
that somehow reminded me of the deep, starlit night outside, through
which I had just come, 'And you, Mr. Craven, you will give your life to
God?'

"Again my voice failed me. It was so unexpected, and quite overwhelming.
Once more Thomas answered for me.

"'Yes, mother, he will, sure,' and she seemed to take it as my promise,
for she smiled again at me, and closed her eyes.

"I had read of triumphant death-bed scenes, and all that before, without
taking much stock in them, but believe me, sir, that room was full of
glory. The very faces of those people, it seemed to me, were alight. It
may be imagination, but even now, as I think of it, it seems real. There
were no farewells, no wailing, and at the very last, not even tears.
Thomas, who had nursed her for more than a year, still supported her,
the smile on his face to the end. And the end"--Craven's voice grew
unsteady--"it is difficult to speak of. The minister's wife repeated the
words about the house with many mansions, and those about the valley
of the shadow, and said a little prayer, and then we all waited for the
end--for myself, I confess with considerable fear and anxiety. I had
no need to fear. After a long silence she sat up straight, and in her
Scotch tongue, she said, with a kind of amazed joy in her tone, 'Ma
fayther! Ma fayther! I am here.' Then she settled herself back in her
son's arms, drew a deep breath, and was still. All through the night
and next day the glory lingered round me. I went about as in a strange
world. I am afraid you will be thinking me foolish, sir."

The stern old professor was openly wiping his eyes. He seemed quite
unable to find his voice. At length he took up the list again, and began
to read it mechanically.

"What! What's this?" he said, suddenly, pointing to a name on the list.

"That, sir, is John Craven."

"Do you mean that you, too--"

"Yes, I mean it, if you think I am fit."

"Fit, Jack, my boy! None of us are fit. But what--how did this come?"
The professor blew his nose like a trumpet.

"That I can hardly tell myself," said Craven, with a kind of wonder
in his voice; "but at any rate it is the result of my Glengarry School
Days."





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Glengarry School Days: a story of early days in Glengarry" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home