BERT LLOYD'S BOYHOOD.
BERT LLOYD'S BOYHOOD
A Story from Nova Scotia
J. MACDONALD OXLEY, LL.D.
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. FINNEMORE
HODDER AND STOUGHTON
27, PATERNOSTER ROW
EDINBURGH: PRINTED BY LORIMER AND GILLIES. 31 ST. ANDREW SQUARE.
There is something so pleasing to the author of this volume—the first of several which have been kindly received by his American cousins—in the thought of being accorded the privilege of appearing before a new audience in the "old home," that the impulse to indulge in a foreword or two cannot be withstood.
And yet, after all, there would seem to be but two things necessary to be said:—Firstly, that in attempting a picture of boy life in Nova Scotia a fifth of a century ago, the writer had simply to fall back upon the recollections of his own school-days, and that in so doing he has striven to depart as slightly as possible from what came within the range of personal experience; and, Secondly, while it is no doubt to be regretted that Canada has not yet attained that stage of development which would enable her to support a literature of her own, it certainly is no small consolation for her children, however ardent their patriotism, who would fain enter the literary arena, that not only across the Border, but beyond the ocean in the Motherland, there are doors of opportunity standing open through which they may find their way before the greatest and kindliest audience in the world.
J. MACDONALD OXLEY.
OTTAWA, CANADA, 29th August, 1892.
I. BERT IS INTRODUCED, 5
II. FIREMAN OR SOLDIER, 11
III. NO. FIVE FORT STREET, 17
IV. OFF TO THE COUNTRY, 21
V. THE RIDE IN THE COACH, 29
VI. AT GRANDFATHER'S, 39
VII. COUNTRY EXPERIENCES, 47
VIII. TEMPTATION AND TRIUMPH, 57
IX. LOST AND FOUND, 67
X. BERT GOES TO SCHOOL, 81
XI. SCHOOL LIFE AT MR. GARRISON'S, 93
XII. A QUESTION OF INFLUENCE, 107
XIII. BERT AT HOME, 117
XIV. AN HONOURABLE SCAR, 127
XV. A CHANGE OF SCHOOL, 139
XVI. THE FIRST DAYS AT DR. JOHNSTON'S, 151
XVII. THE HOISTING, 163
XVIII. SCHOOL EXPERIENCES, 175
XIX. VICTORY AND DEFEAT, 187
XX. A NARROW ESCAPE, 203
XXI. LEARNING TO SWIM, 217
XXII. HOW HOISTING WAS ABOLISHED, 227
XXIII. PRIZE WINNING AND LOSING, 239
XXIV. A CHAPTER ON PONIES, 253
XXV. ABOUT TWO KINDS OF PONIES, 263
XXVI. VICTORY WON FROM DEFEAT, 273
XXVII. ABOUT LITERATURE AND LAW, 287
XXVIII. WELL DONE, BOYS! 301
XXIX. THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, 315
XXX. HOME MISSIONARY WORK, 325
XXXI. NOT DEAD, BUT TRANSLATED, 335
XXXII. A BOY NO LONGER, 349
BERT IS INTRODUCED.
If Cuthbert Lloyd had been born in the time of our great grandfathers, instead of a little later than the first half of the present century, the gossips would assuredly have declared that the good fairies had had it all their own way at his birth.
To begin with, he was a particularly fine handsome baby; for did not all the friends of the family say so? In the second place, he was an only son, which meant that he had no big brothers to bully him. Next, his birthplace was the stirring seaport of Halifax, where a sturdy, energetic boy, such as Cuthbert certainly gave good promise of being, need never lack for fun or adventure. Finally, he had plenty of relations in the country to whom he might go in the summer time to learn the secrets and delights of country life.
Now, when to all these advantages are added two fond but sensible parents in comfortable circumstances, an elder sister who loved little Cuthbert with the whole strength of her warm unselfish heart, and a pleasant home in the best part of the city, they surely make us as fine a list of blessings as the most benevolent fairy godmother could reasonably have been expected to bestow.
And yet there was nothing about Master Cuthbert's early conduct to indicate that he properly appreciated his good fortune. He was not half as well-behaved a baby, for instance, as red-headed little Patsey Shea, who, a few days after his first appearance, brought another hungry mouth to the already over-populated cottage of the milkwoman down in Hardhand's lane. As he grew older, it needed more whippings than the sum total of his own chubby fingers and toes to instil into him a proper understanding of parental authority. Sometimes his mother, who was a slight small woman, stronger of mind than of body, would feel downright discouraged about her vigorous, wilful boy, and wonder, half-despairingly, if she were really equal to the task of bringing him up in the way he should go.
Cuthbert was in many respects an odd mixture. His mother often said that he seemed more like two boys of opposite natures rolled into one, than just one ordinary boy. When quite a little chap, he would at one time be as full of noise, action, and enterprise as the captain of an ocean steamer in a gale, and at another time be as sedate, thoughtful, and absentminded as the ancient philosopher who made himself famous by walking into a well in broad daylight.
Cuthbert, in fact, at the age of three, attracted attention to himself in a somewhat similar way. His mother had taken him with her in making some calls, and at Mrs. Allen's, in one of his thoughtful moods, with his hands clasped behind him, he went wandering off unobserved. Presently he startled the whole household by tumbling from the top to the bottom of the kitchen stairs, having calmly walked over the edge in an absorbed study of his surroundings.
The other side of his nature was brilliantly illustrated a year later. Being invited to spend the day with a playmate of his own age, he built a big fire with newspapers in the bath room, turned on all the taps, pretending that they were the hydrants, and then ran through the hall, banging a dustpan and shouting "fire" at the top of his voice.
"He is such a perfect 'pickle,' I hardly know what to do with him, Robert," said Mrs. Lloyd to her husband, with a big sigh, one evening at dinner.
"Don't worry, my dear, don't worry. He has more than the usual amount of animal spirits, that is all. Keep a firm hand on him and he'll come out all right," answered Mr. Lloyd, cheeringly.
"It's easy enough to say, 'Keep a firm hand on him,' Robert, but my hand gets pretty tired sometimes, I can assure you. I just wish you'd stay at home for a week and look after Bert, while I go to the office in your place. You'd get a better idea of what your son is like than you can by seeing him for a little while in the morning and evening."
"Thank you, Kate, I've no doubt you might manage to do my work at the office, and that my clients would think your advice very good; but I'm no less sure that I would be a dismal failure in doing your work at home," responded Mr. Lloyd, with a smile, adding, more seriously: "Anyway, I have too much faith in your ability to make the best of Bert to think of spoiling your good work by clumsy interference."
"It's a great comfort to have you put so much faith in me," said Mrs. Lloyd, with a grateful look, "for it's more than Bert does sometimes. Why, he told me only this morning that he thought I wasn't half as good to him as Frankie Clayton's mother is to him, just because I wouldn't let him have the garden hose to play fireman with."
"Just wait until he's fifteen, my dear," returned Mr. Lloyd, "and if he doesn't think then that he has one of the best mothers in the world, why—I'll never again venture to prophesy, that's all. And here comes my little man to answer for himself," as the door opened suddenly and Bert burst in, making straight for his father. "Ha! ha! my boy, so your mother says you're a perfect pickle. Well, if you're only pickled in a way that will save you from spoiling, I shall be satisfied, and I think your mother may be, too."
Mrs. Lloyd laughed heartily at the unexpected turn thus given to her complaint; and Bert, seeing both his parents in such good humour, added a beaming face on his own account, although, of course, without having the slightest idea as to the cause of their merriment.
Climbing up on his father's knee, Bert pressed a plump cheek lovingly against the lawyer's brown whiskers and looked, what indeed he was, the picture of happy content.
"What sort of a man are you going to make, Bert?" asked Mr. Lloyd, quizzingly, the previous conversation being still in his mind.
"I'm going to be a fireman," replied Bert, promptly; "and Frankie's going to be one too."
"And why do you want to be a fireman, Bert?"
"Oh, because they wear such grand clothes and can make such a noise without anybody telling them to shut up," answered Bert, whose knowledge of firemen was based upon a torchlight procession of them he had seen one night, and their management of a fire that had not long before taken place in the near neighbourhood, and of which he was a breathless spectator.
Mr. Lloyd could not resist laughing at his son's naive reply, but there was no ridicule in his laugh, as Bert saw clearly enough, and he was encouraged to add:
"Oh, father, please let me be a fireman, won't you?"
"We'll see about it, Bert. If we can't find anything better for you to do than being a fireman, why we'll try to make a good fireman of you, that's all. But never mind about that now; tell me what was the best fun you had to-day." Thus invited, Bert proceeded to tell after his own fashion the doings of the day, with his father and mother an attentive audience.
It was their policy to always manifest a deep interest in everything Bert had to tell, and in this way they made him understand better perhaps than they could otherwise have done how thoroughly they sympathised with him in both the joys and sorrows of his little life. They were determined that the most complete confidence should be established between them and their only boy at the start, and Bert never appeared to such advantage as when, with eyes flashing and graphic gestures, he would tell about something wonderful in his eyes that had happened to him that afternoon.
By the time Bert had exhausted his budget and been rewarded with a lump of white sugar, the nurse appeared with the summons to bed, and after some slight demur he went off in good humour, his father saying, as the door closed upon him:
"There's not a better youngster of his age in Halifax, Kate, even if he hasn't at present any higher ambition than to be a fireman."
FIREMAN OR SOLDIER.
Halifax has already been mentioned as a particularly pleasant place for a boy to be born in; and so indeed it is. Every schoolboy knows, or ought to know, that it is the capital of Acadia, one of the Maritime Provinces of the Dominion of Canada. It has a great many advantages, some of which are not shared by any other city on the continent. Situated right on the sea coast, it boasts a magnificent harbour, in which all the war vessels of the world, from the mightiest iron-clad to the tiniest torpedo boat, might lie at anchor. Beyond the harbour, separated from it by only a short strait, well-named the "Narrows," is an immense basin that seems just designed for yachting and excursions; while branching out from the harbour in different directions are two lovely fiords, one called the Eastern Passage, leading out to the ocean again, and the other running away up into the land, so that there is no lack of salt water from which cool breezes may blow on the torrid days.
The city itself is built upon the peninsula that divides the harbour from the north-west arm, and beginning about half-a-mile from the point of the peninsula, runs northward almost to the Narrows, and spreads out westward until its farthest edge touches the shore of the arm. The "Point" has been wisely set aside for a public park, and except where a fort or two, built to command the entrance to the harbour, intrudes upon it, the forest of spruce and fir with its labyrinth of roads and paths and frequent glades of soft waving grass, extends from shore to shore, making a wilderness that a boy's imagination may easily people with Indians brandishing tomahawk and scalping knife, or bears and wolves seeking whom they may devour.
Halifax being the chief military and naval station for the British Colonies in America, its forts and barracks are filled with red-coated infantry or blue-coated artillery the whole year round. All summer long great iron-clads bring their imposing bulks to anchor off the Dockyard, and Jack Tars in foolish, merry, and alas! too often vicious companies, swagger through the streets in noisy enjoyment of their day on shore.
On either side of the harbour, on the little island which rests like an emerald brooch upon its bosom, and high above the city on the crown of the hill up which it wearily climbs, street beyond street, stand frowning fortresses with mighty guns thrusting their black muzzles through the granite embrasures. In fact, the whole place is pervaded by the influences of military life; and Cuthbert, whose home overlooked a disused fort, now serving the rather ignoble purpose of a dwelling-place for married soldiers, was at first fully persuaded in his mind that the desire of his life was to be a soldier; and it was not until he went to a military review, and realised that the soldiers had to stand up awfully stiff and straight, and dare not open their mouths for the world, that he dismissed the idea of being a soldier, and adopted that of being a fireman.
Yet there were times when he rather regretted his decision, and inclined to waver in his allegiance. His going to the Sunday school with his sister had something to do with this. A favourite hymn with the superintendent—who, by the way, was a retired officer—was—
"Onward, Christian soldiers."
The bright stirring tune, and the tremendous vigour with which the scholars sang it, quite took Cuthbert's heart. He listened eagerly, but the only words he caught were the first, which they repeated so often:
"Onward, Christian soldiers."
Walking home with his sister, they met a small detachment of soldiers, looking very fine in their Sunday uniforms:
"Are those Christian soldiers, Mary?" he asked, looking eagerly up into her face.
"Perhaps so, Bert, I don't know," Mary replied. "What makes you ask?"
"Because we were singing about Christian soldiers, weren't we?" answered Bert.
"Oh! is that what you mean, Bert? They may be, for all I know. Would you like to be a Christian soldier?"
"Yes," doubtfully; then, brightening up—"but couldn't I be a Christian fireman, too?"
"Of course you could, Bert, but I'd much rather see you a Christian soldier. Mr. Hamilton is a Christian soldier, you know."
This reply of his sister's set Bert's little brain at work. Mr. Hamilton, the superintendent of the Sunday school, was a tall, erect handsome man, with fine grey hair and whiskers, altogether an impressive gentleman; yet he had a most winning manner, and Bert was won to him at once when he was welcomed by him warmly to the school. Bert could not imagine anything grander than to be a Christian soldier, if it meant being like Mr. Hamilton. Still the fireman notion had too many attractions to be lightly thrown aside, and consequently for some time to come he could hardly be said to know his own mind as to his future.
The presence of the military in Halifax was far from being an unmixed good. Of course, it helped business, gave employment to many hands, imparted peculiar life and colour to society, and added many excellent citizens to the population. At the same time it had very marked drawbacks. There was always a great deal of drunkenness and other dissipation among the soldiers and sailors. The officers were not the most improving of companions and models for the young men of the place, and in other ways the city was the worse for their presence.
Mrs. Lloyd presently found the soldiers a source of danger to her boy. Just around the corner at the entrance to the old fort, already mentioned, was a guardhouse, and here some half-dozen soldiers were stationed day and night. They were usually jolly fellows, who were glad to get hold of little boys to play with, and thereby help to while away the time in their monotonous life. Cuthbert soon discovered the attractions of this guardhouse, and, in spite of commands to the contrary, which he seemed unable to remember, wandered off thither very often. All the other little boys in the neighbourhood went there whenever they liked, and he could not understand why he should not do so too. He did not really mean to defy his parents. He was too young for that, being only six years old. But the force of the example of his playmates seemed stronger than the known wishes of his parents, and so he disobeyed them again and again.
Mrs. Lloyd might, of course, have carried her point by shutting Bert up in the yard, and not allowing him out at all except in charge of somebody. But that was precisely what she did not wish to do. She knew well enough that her son could not have a locked-up world to live in. He must learn to live in this world, full of temptations as it is, and so her idea was not so much to put him out of the way of temptation, as to teach him how to withstand it. Consequently, she was somewhat at a loss just what to do in the matter of the guardhouse, when a letter that came from the country offered a very timely and acceptable solution of the difficulty.
NO. FIVE FORT STREET.
Cuthbert Lloyd's home was a happy one in every way. The house was so situated that the sunshine might have free play upon it all day, pouring in at the back windows in the morning and flooding the front ones with rich and rare splendour at evening. A quiet little street passed by the door, the gardens opposite being filled with noble trees that cast a grateful shade during the dog days. At the back of the house was the old fort, its turfed casemates sloping down to a sandy beach, from whose centre a stone wharf projected out into the plashing water. Looking over the casemates, one could see clear out to the lighthouse which kept watch at the entrance to the harbour, and could follow the ships as they rose slowly on the horizon or sped away with favouring breeze.
A right pleasant house to live in was No. Five Fort Street, and right pleasant were the people who lived in it. Cuthbert certainly had no doubt upon either point, and who had a better opportunity of forming an opinion? Mr. Lloyd, the head of the household, was also the head of one of the leading legal firms in Halifax. His son, and perhaps his wife and daughter, too, thought him the finest-looking man in the city. That was no doubt an extravagant estimate, yet it was not without excuse; for tall, erect, and stalwart, with regular features, large brown eyes that looked straight at you, fine whiskers and moustache, and a kindly cordial expression, Mr. Lloyd made a very good appearance in the world. Especially did he, since he never forgot the neatness and good taste in dress of his bachelor days, as so many married men are apt to do.
Cuthbert's mother was of quite a different type. Her husband used to joke her about her being good for a standard of measurement because she stood just five feet in height, and weighed precisely one hundred pounds. Bert, one day, seemed to realise what a mite of a woman she was; for, after looking her all over, he said, very gravely:
"What a little mother you are! I will soon be as big as you, won't I?"
Brown of hair and eyes, like Mr. Lloyd, her face was a rare combination of sweetness and strength. Bert thought it lovelier than any angel's he had ever seen in a picture. Indeed, there was much of the angelic in his mother's nature. She had marvellous control over her feelings, and never by any chance gave way to temper openly, so that in all his young life her boy had no remembrance of receiving from her a harsh word, or a hasty, angry blow. Not that she was weak or indulgent. On the contrary, not only Bert, but Bert's playmates, and some of their mothers, too, thought her quite too strict at times, for she was a firm believer in discipline, and Master Bert was taught to abide by rules from the outset.
The third member of the household was the only daughter, Mary, a tall, graceful girl, who had inherited many of her father's qualities, together with her mother's sweetness. In Bert's eyes she was just simply perfect. She was twice as old as he when he had six years to his credit, and the difference in age made her seem like a second mother to him, except that he felt free to take more liberties with her than with his mother. But she did not mind this much, for she was passionately fond of her little brother, and was inclined to spoil him, if anything.
As for Bert himself—well, he was just a stout, sturdy, hearty boy, with nothing very remarkable about him, unless, perhaps, it was his superabundant health and spirits. Nobody, unless it was that most partial judge, Mary, thought him handsome, but everybody admitted that he was good-looking in every sense of the term. He promised to be neither tall, like his father, nor short, like his mother, but of a handy, serviceable medium height, with plenty of strength and endurance in his tough little frame. Not only were both eyes and hair brown, as might be expected, but his face, too, as might also be expected, seeing that no bounds were placed upon his being out of doors, so long as the day was fine, and he himself was keeping out of mischief.
Father, mother, daughter, and son, these four made up a very affectionate and happy family, pulling well together; and, so far as the three older ones were concerned, with their faces and hearts set toward Jerusalem, and of one mind as to taking Bert along with them. Mr. Lloyd and his wife were thoroughly in accord with Dr. Austin Phelps as to this:—That the children of Christians should be Christian from the cradle. They accordingly saw no reason why the only son that God had given them should ever go out into sin, and then be brought back from a far off land. Surely, if they did their duty, he need never stray far away. That was the way they reasoned; and although, of course, little Bert knew nothing about it, that was the plan upon which they sought to bring him up. The task was not altogether an easy one, as succeeding chapters of Bert's history will make plain. But the plan was adhered to, and the result justified its wisdom.
OFF TO THE COUNTRY.
The letter which came in such good time to relieve Mrs. Lloyd from the difficulty about Bert's fondness for the guardroom and its hurtful influences, was from her father, and contained an invitation so pressing as to be little short of a demand, for her to pay him a long visit at the old homestead, bringing Bert with her.
Mrs. Lloyd very readily and gladly accepted the invitation. Midsummer was near at hand. She had not visited her old home for some years. Her father and mother were ageing fast; and then, naturally enough, she was eager to show them what a fine boy Bert was growing to be.
When Bert heard of it he showed the utmost delight. Three years before, he had spent a summer at grandfather's; but, then, of course, he was too young to do more than be impressed by the novelty of his surroundings. The huge oxen, the noisy pigs, the spirited horses, even the clumsy little calves, bewildered, if they did not alarm him. But now he felt old enough to enjoy them all; and the very idea of going back to them filled him with joy, to which he gave expression after his own boisterous fashion.
"Mother, are we going to grandfather's to-morrow?" he would eagerly ask, day after day, his little heart throbbing with impatience.
"We're going soon, Bert dear. You must be patient, you know," his mother would gently reply; and the little fellow would make a very heroic effort to control himself.
At length the day of departure arrived. Too full of importance and great expectations to manifest a proper amount of sorrow at leaving his father and sister, who felt very reluctant, indeed, to part with him, Master Bert took his place in the cab and drove up to the railway station. Hardly had he entered it than he made a dash for the train, climbed up on the rear platform with the agility of a monkey, much to the amusement of the conductor, whose proffer of assistance he entirely ignored; and when Mr. Lloyd entered the train a minute later, he found his enterprising son seated comfortably upon a central seat, and evidently quite ready for the train to start.
"Would you go away without saying good-bye to your father and to Mary?" asked Mr. Lloyd, in a deeply reproachful tone.
Bert blushed violently on being thus reminded of his apparent selfishness and, with the threat of a tear in his eye, was about to make some sort of a defence, when his father put him all right again by saying brightly:
"Never mind, my boy. It isn't every day you go off on a hundred-and-fifty-miles' journey. Mary and I will forgive you for forgetting us this time, won't we, Mary?"
The lunch basket, the wraps, and their other belongings were placed on the seat, the engine whistled, "all aboard," the bell rang, the conductor shouted, affectionate farewells were hastily exchanged, and presently the train rolled noisily out of the dark station into the bright sunshine; and Bert, leaning from the window, caught a last glimpse of his father and sister as they stood waving the handkerchiefs which one of them, at least, could not refrain from putting to another use, as the last car swept round the turn and vanished.
But Bert was in no mood for tears. In fact, he never felt less like anything of the kind. He felt much more disposed to shout aloud for very joy, and probably would have done so, but for the restraining influence exercised by the presence of the other passengers, of whom there were a good many in the carriage. As it was, he gave vent to his excited feelings by being as restless as a mosquito, and asking his mother as many questions as his active brain could invent.
"You'll be tired out by mid-day, Bert, if you go on at this rate," said his mother, in gentle warning.
"Oh, no, I won't, mother; I won't get tired. See! What's that funny big thing with the long legs in that field?"
"That's a frame for a hay stack, I think. You'll see plenty of those at grandfather's."
"And what's that queer thing with arms sticking out from that building?"
"That's a wind-mill. When the wind blows hard those arms go round, and turn machinery inside the barn."
"And has grandpapa got a wind-mill, mother?"
"Yes; he has one on his big barn."
"Oh, I'm so glad; I can watch it going round, and stand quite close, can't I?"
"Yes, but take care not to go too close to the machinery. It might hurt you very much, you know."
And so it went on all through the morning. Mrs. Lloyd would have liked very much to read a little in an interesting book she had brought with her, but what with watching Bert's restless movements, and answering his incessant questions, there seemed slight hope of her succeeding in this until, after they had been a couple of hours on their journey, a good-natured gentleman on the opposite seat, who had finished his paper, and had nothing particular to do, took in the situation and came to her relief.
"Won't you come over and keep me company for a while, my little man?" he said, pleasantly, leaning across the seat. "I will try and answer all your questions for you."
Bert looked curiously at the speaker, and then, the inspection proving satisfactory, inquiringly at his mother. She nodded her assent, so forthwith he ran over to his new friend, and climbed up beside him. He was given the corner next the window, and while his bright eyes took in everything as the train sped on, his tongue wagged no less swiftly as question followed question in quick succession. Mrs. Lloyd, thoroughly at ease now, returned to her book with a grateful sigh of relief, and an hour slipped away, at the end of which Bert's eyes grew heavy with sleep. He no longer was interested in the scenery; and at last, after a gallant struggle, his curly head fell over on the cushion, and he went into a deep sleep, from which he did not waken until at mid-day the train drew up at the station, beyond which they could not go by rail.
"Come, Bert, wake up! We must get out here," cried his mother, shaking him vigorously.
Rubbing his eyes hard, yawning as though he would put his jaws out of joint, and feeling very uncomfortable generally, Bert nevertheless managed to pull himself together sufficiently to thank the gentleman who had been so kind to him, before he followed his mother out of the car.
They had dinner at Thurso, and by the time it was ready Bert was ready too. He had been altogether too much excited at breakfast time to eat much then, but he made up for it now. Mrs. Lloyd laughed as he asked again and again for more, but she did not check him. She knew very well that the contented frame of mind produced by a good dinner was just the right thing with which to enter upon the second part of their journey. This was to be by coach, and as even the best of coaches is a pretty cramped sort of an affair unless you have it all to yourself, the quieter Bert was disposed to be the better for all concerned.
"What are we to ride in now, mother?" asked Bert, after the vacancy underneath his blue blouse had been sufficiently filled to dispose him to conversation.
"In a big red coach, dear, with six fine horses to draw us," answered Mrs. Lloyd.
"Oh, mother, won't that be splendid? And may I sit up with the driver?"
"Perhaps you may, for a little while, anyway, if he will let you."
"Hooray!" cried Bert, clapping his hands with delight; "I'm sure the driver will let me, if you'll only ask him. You will, won't you, mother?"
"Yes, I will, after we get out of the town. But you must wait until I think it's the right time to ask him."
"I'll wait, mother, but don't you forget."
Forget! There was much likelihood of Mrs. Lloyd forgetting with this lively young monkey before her as a constant reminder.
They had just finished dinner, when, with clatter of hoofs, rattle of springs, and crush of gravel under the heavy wheels, the great Concord coach drew up before the hotel door in dashing style.
Bert was one of the first to greet it. He did not even wait to put on his hat, and his mother, following with it, found him in the forefront of the crowd that always gathers about the mail coach in a country town, gazing up at the driver, who sat in superb dignity upon his lofty seat, as though he had never beheld so exalted a being in his life before.
There was something so impassive, so indifferent to his surroundings, about this big, bronzed, black-moustached, and broad-hatted driver, that poor Bert's heart sank within him. He felt perfectly sure that he could never in the world muster up sufficient courage to beg for the privilege of a seat beside so impressive a potentate, and he doubted if his mother could, either.
Among the passengers Bert was glad to see the gentleman who had befriended him on the train, and when this individual, after having the audacity to hail the driver familiarly with, "Good-morning, Jack; looks as if we were going to have a pleasant trip down," sprang up on the wheel, and thence to the vacant place beside Jack Davis, just as though it belonged to him of right, a ray of hope stole into Bert's heart. If his friend of the train, whose name, by the way, he told Bert, was Mr. Miller, was on such good terms with the driver, perhaps he would ask him to let a little boy sit up in front for a while.
Taking much comfort from this thought, Bert, at a call from his mother, who was already seated, climbed up into the coach, and being allowed the corner next the window, with head thrust forth as far as was safe he awaited eagerly the signal to start.
THE RIDE IN THE COACH.
The last passenger had taken his seat, the last trunk been strapped on behind, and the canvas covering drawn tightly over it, the mail bags safely stowed away in the capacious boot; and then big Jack Davis, gathering the reins of his six impatient steeds skilfully into one hand, and grasping the long-lashed whip in the other, sang out to the men who stood at the leaders' heads:
"Let them go!"
The men dropped the bridles and sprang aside, the long lash cracked like a pistol shot, the leaders, a beautiful pair of grey ponies, perfectly matched, reared, curvetted, pranced about, and then would have dashed off at a wild gallop had not Jack Davis' strong hands, aided by the steadiness of the staider wheelers, kept them in check: and soon brought down to a spirited canter, they led the way out of the town.
The coach had a heavy load. It could hold twelve passengers inside, and every seat was occupied on top. Besides Mr. Miller, who had the coveted box seat, there were two other men perched upon the coach top, and making the best of their uncomfortable position; and there was an extra amount of baggage.
"Plenty of work for my horses to-day, Mr. Miller," said Jack Davis, looking carefully over the harnessing to make sure that every strap was securely buckled, and every part in its right place.
"Yes, indeed; you'll need to keep the brake on hard going down the hills," replied Mr. Miller.
Bending over, so that those behind could not hear him, the driver said, under his breath:
"Don't say anything; but, to tell the truth, I'm a little shaky about my brake. It is none too strong, and I won't go out with it again until it's fixed; but it can't be mended this side of Riverton, and I'm going to push through as best I can."
"Well, if anything happens, just let us know when to jump," returned Mr. Miller, with a reassuring smile, for he felt no anxiety, having perfect confidence in Davis' ability to bring his coach safely to the journey's end.
It was a lovely summer day, and in the early afternoon the coach bowled smoothly along over the well-kept road, now rolling over a wooden bridge on whose timbers the rapid tramp of the horses' feet sounded like thunder, climbing the slope on the other side, then rattling down into the valley, and up the opposite hill, almost at full speed, and so on in rapid succession. Bert, kneeling at the window, with arms resting on the ledge, and just able to see the three horses on his side, was so engrossed in watching them, or peering into the forest through which the road cut its way, that he quite forgot his desire to be up on top of the coach.
Having gone fifteen miles at a spanking pace, the coach drove into a long—covered barn for the horses to be changed, and everybody got out to stretch their legs; while this was being done, Bert's longing came back in full force. As he stood watching the tired foam-flecked horses being led away, and others, sleek, shining, and spirited put in their places, who should pass by but Mr. Miller. Recognising at once his little acquaintance of the morning, he greeted him with a cheery:
"Hallo! my little man, are we fellow-travellers still? And how do you like riding in a coach?"
"I think it's just splendid, sir," replied Bert; and then, as a bright thought flashed into his mind,—"but I do so want to be up where the driver is."
Mr. Miller looked down at the little face turned up to his, and noting its eager expression asked, kindly:
"Do you think your mother would let you go up there?"
"Oh, yes; she said I might if I would only wait a little, and it is a good deal more than a little while now."
"Very well, Bert, you run and ask her if you may get up now, and I'll try and manage it," said Mr. Miller.
Bert was not long in getting his mother's sanction, and when he returned with beaming face, Mr. Miller taking him up to Jack Davis, said:
"Jack, this little chap is dying to sit up with us. He wants to see how the best driver in Acadia handles his horses, I suppose."
There was no resisting such an appeal as this. Tickled with the compliment, Jack said, graciously:
"All right, Mr. Miller, you can chuck him up, so long as you'll look after him yourself."
And so when the fresh horses were harnessed, and the passengers back in their places, behold Cuthbert Lloyd, the proudest, happiest boy in all the land, perched up between the driver and Mr. Miller, feeling himself as much monarch of all he surveyed, as ever did Robinson Crusoe in his island home. It was little wonder if for the first mile or two he was too happy to ask any questions. It was quite enough from his lofty, but secure position, to watch the movements of the six handsome horses beneath him as, tossing their heads, and making feigned nips at one another, they trotted along with the heavy coach as though it were a mere trifle. The road ran through a very pretty district; well-cultivated farms, making frequent gaps in the forest, and many a brook and river lending variety to the scene. After Bert had grown accustomed to the novelty of his position, his tongue began to wag again, and his bright, innocent questions afforded Mr. Miller so much amusement, that with Jack Davis' full approval, he was invited to remain during the next stage also. Mrs. Lloyd would rather have had him with her inside, but he pleaded so earnestly, and Mr. Miller assuring her that he was not the least trouble, she finally consented to his staying up until they changed horses again.
When they were changing horses at this post, Mr. Miller drew Bert's attention to a powerful black horse one of the men was carefully leading out of the stable. All the other horses came from their stalls fully harnessed, but this one had on nothing except a bridle.
"See how that horse carries on, Bert," said Mr. Miller.
And, sure enough, the big brute was prancing about with ears bent back and teeth showing in a most threatening fashion.
"They daren't harness that horse until he is in his place beside the pole, Bert. See, now, they're going to put the harness on him."
And as he spoke another stable hand came up, deftly threw the heavy harness over the horse's back, and set to work to buckle it with a speed that showed it was a job he did not care to dally over. No sooner was it accomplished than the other horses were hastily put in their places, the black wheeler in the meantime tramping upon the barn floor in a seeming frenzy of impatience, although his head was tightly held.
"Now, then, 'all aboard' as quick as you can," shouted Jack Davis, swinging himself into his seat. Mr. Miller handed up Bert and followed himself, the inside passengers scrambled hurriedly in, and then with a sharp whinny the black wheeler, his head being released, started off, almost pulling the whole load himself.
"Black Rory does not seem to get over his bad habits, Jack," remarked Mr. Miller.
"No," replied Jack; "quite the other way. He's getting worse, if anything; but he's too good a horse to chuck over. There's not a better wheeler on the route than Rory, once he settles down to his work."
After going a couple of miles, during which Rory behaved about as badly as a wheeler could, he did settle down quietly to his work and all went smoothly. They were among the hills now, and the steep ascents and descents, sharp turns, and many bridges over the gullies made it necessary for Davis to drive with the utmost care. At length they reached the summit of the long slope, and began the descent into the valley.
"I'd just as soon I hadn't any doubts about this brake," said Davis to Mr. Miller, as he put his foot hard down upon it.
"Oh, it'll hold all right enough, Jack," replied Mr. Miller, reassuringly.
"Hope so," said Davis. "If it doesn't, we'll have to run for it to the bottom."
The road slanted steadily downward, and with brake held hard and wheelers spread out from the pole holding back with all their strength, the heavy coach lumbered cautiously down. Now it was that Black Rory proved his worth, for, thoroughly understanding what was needed of him, he threw his whole weight and strength back upon the pole, keeping his own mate no less than the leaders in check.
"We'll be at Brown's Gully in a couple of minutes," said the driver. "Once we get past there, all right; the rest won't matter."
Brown's Gully was the ugliest bit of road on the whole route. A steep hill, along the side of which the road wound at a sharp slant, led down to a deep, dark gully crossed by a high trestle bridge. Just before the bridge there was a sudden turn which required no common skill to safely round when going at speed.
As they reached the beginning of the slant, Jack Davis' face took on an anxious look, his mouth became firm and set, his hand tightened upon the reins, and his foot upon the brake, and with constant exclamation to his horses of "Easy now!—go easy!—hold back, my beauties!" he guided the great coach in its descent.
Mr. Miller put Bert between his knees, saying:
"Stick right there, my boy; don't budge an inch."
Although the wheelers, and particularly Black Rory, were doing their best, the coach began to go faster than Davis liked, and with a shout of "Whoa there! Go easy, will you!" he had just shoved his foot still harder against the brake, when there was a sharp crack, and the huge vehicle suddenly sprang forward upon the wheelers' heels.
"God help us!" cried Jack, "the brake's gone. We've got to run for it now."
And run for it they did.
It was a time of great peril. Mr. Miller clung tightly to the seat, and Bert shrank back between his knees. Davis, with feet braced against the dashboard, and reins gathered close in his hands, put forth all his great strength to control the horses, now flying over the narrow road at a wild gallop. Brown's Gully, already sombre with the shadows of evening, showed dark and deep before them. Just around that corner was the bridge. Were they to meet another carriage there, it would mean destruction to both. Davis well knew this, and gave a gasp of relief when they swung round the corner and saw that the road was clear. If they could only hit the bridge, all right; the danger would be passed.
"Now, Rory, now," shouted Davis, giving a tremendous tug at the horse's left rein, and leaning far over in that direction himself.
Mr. Miller shut his eyes; the peril seemed too great to be gazed upon. If they missed the bridge, they must go headlong into the gully. Another moment and it was all over.
As the coach swung round the corner into the straight road beyond, its impetus carried it almost over the edge, but not quite. With a splendid effort, the great black wheeler drew it over to the left. The front wheels kept the track, and although the hind wheels struck the side rail of the bridge with a crash and a jerk that well-nigh hurled Bert out upon the horses' backs, and the big coach leaned far over to the right, it shot back into the road again, and went thundering over the trembling bridge uninjured.
"Thank God!" exclaimed Mr. Miller, fervently, when the danger was passed.
"Amen!" responded Jack Davis.
"I knew He would help us," added Bert.
"Knew who would, Bert?" inquired Mr. Miller, bending over him tenderly, while something very like a tear glistened in his eye.
"I knew God would take care of us," replied Bert, promptly. "The driver asked Him to; and didn't you ask Him, too?"
"I did," said Mr. Miller, adding, with a sigh, "but I'm afraid I had not much right to expect Him to hear me."
They had no further difficulties. The road ran smoothly along the rest of the way, and shortly after sundown the coach, with great noise and clatter, drove into the village of Riverton, where grandpapa was to meet Mrs. Lloyd and Bert, and take them home in his own carriage.
Easily distinguished in the crowd gathered to welcome the coach, whose arrival was always the event of the evening, was Bert's grandfather, Squire Stewart, a typical old Scotchman, from every point of view. As the passengers got out, he stood watching them in silent dignity, until Mrs. Lloyd, catching sight of him, ran impulsively up, and taking his face between her two hands, gave him a warm kiss on each cheek, saying:
"Dear father, I'm so glad to see you looking so well."
"And I'm well pleased to see you, Kate," responded the Squire, in a tone of deep affection, adding: "And is this your boy?" as Bert, who in the meantime had been lifted down from his place, came to his mother's side.
"He's a fine big boy, and not ill-looking, either. I trust his manners have not been neglected."
"You'll have to judge of that for yourself, father," replied Mrs. Lloyd. "He's by no means perfect, but he's pretty good, upon the whole."
"Well, daughter, I'll go and get the carriage, if you'll just wait here a moment," said Mr. Stewart, going off toward the stables.
Presently he returned, driving an elegant carriage with a fine pair of well-matched bays, which, old man though he was, he held in complete control.
"We won't mind the trunks now, Kate; I will send in for them in the morning," said he, as he helped them into their seats.
Maplebank, Squire Stewart's place, was situated about four miles from Riverton, and on the way out father and daughter had much to say to one another. As for Bert, he sat in silence on his seat. He felt very much awed by his grandfather. There was something so stern and severe about his time-worn countenance, he seemed so stiff in his bearing, and his voice had such a deep, rough tone in it, that, to tell the truth, Bert began to feel half sorry he had come. But this feeling disappeared entirely when, on arriving at Maplebank, he found himself in the arms of Aunt Sarah before he had time to jump out of the carriage, and was then passed over to his grandmother, who nearly smothered him with kisses.
If his grandfather filled him with awe, his grandmother inspired him with love, from the very start. And no wonder, indeed, for she was the very poetry of a grandmother. A small woman, with slender frame, already stooping somewhat beneath the burden of years, her snow-white hair and spotless cap framed one of the sweetest faces that ever beamed on this earth. Bert gave her his whole heart at once, and during all the days he spent at Maplebank she was his best loved friend.
Yet he did not fail to be very fond of his two aunts, likewise. With an uncle, who remained at home, assisting his father in the management of the property, they comprised the household, and the three apparently conspired to do their best to spoil Master Bert during that summer. Bert took very kindly to the spoiling, too, and under the circumstances it was a wonder he did not return to Halifax quite demoralised, as regards domestic discipline. But of this further.
They were a merry party sitting down to tea that evening, and Bert, having appeased his hunger and found his tongue, amused them all very much by his account of what he had seen from the coach top. The narrow escape they had had at Brown's Gully was of course much discussed. Squire Stewart had nothing but censure for the driver.
"The man had no business to go out with anything likely to break. Better for you to have waited a day than run any such risks. I shall certainly bring the matter to the attention of Mr. Lindsay," he said.
Nobody ventured to say anything to the contrary; but Bert, who was sitting by his mother, turned an anxious face up to hers, and whispered: "Grandpapa won't hurt Mr. Davis, will he? He was so good to me, and he asked God to save us; and He did."
"It will be all right, dear," his mother whispered back. "Don't worry yourself about it." And Bert, reassured, said nothing more.
Bedtime for him soon came, and then, to his great delight, he found that instead of being banished to a room somewhere away upstairs, he was to be put in a curious bed, that filled a corner of the parlour in which the family sat. Bert had never seen anything like that bed before. It looked just like a closet, but when you opened the closet door, behold, there was a bed, and a very comfortable one, too. Just behind the parlour, with a door between, was the best bedroom, which his mother would have, and there Bert undressed, returning in his night-gown to say goodnight to all before tumbling into bed.
With the closet door wide open, he could see everything that went on in the room; and it was so delightful to lie there watching the family reading or talking, until at last, sleep came to claim him.
"Now, if you're a good boy, and don't attempt to talk after your head's on the pillow, I'll leave the door open, so you can see us all," said Aunt Sarah, as she tucked Bert snugly in; and he had sense enough to be a good boy, so that not a sound came from him ere his brown eyes closed for the night.
Many a night after that did he lie there luxuriously, watching his grandfather reading the newspaper, with a candle placed between his face and the paper, in such close proximity to both, that Bert's constant wonder was that one or the other of them never got burned; his grandmother, whose eyes no longer permitted her to read at night, knitting busily in her arm-chair, or nodding over her needles; Aunt Sarah, reading in the book that always lay at hand for leisure moments; Aunt Martha, stitching away, perhaps on some of his own torn garments; his mother writing home to Mr. Lloyd, or to Mary; while from the kitchen, outside, came the subdued sound of the servants' voices, as they chattered over their tasks. Bert thought it a lovely way to go to sleep, and often afterward, when at home, going up alone to bed in his own room, wished that he was back at grandfather's again.
Bert slept late the next morning, for he was a very tired boy when he went to bed; and for this once he was indulged. But as he entered the dining-room, his grandfather, who had finished breakfast a full hour before, looking at him with that stern expression which was habitual to him, said:
"City boys must keep country hours when they come to the country. Early to bed, early to rise, is the rule of this house, my boy."
Poor Bert was rather disconcerted by this reception, but managed to say:
"All right, grandpapa, I'll try," as he took his seat.
The day was full of novelty and delight to the city boy, as, under Uncle Alec's guidance, he went about the farm, and visited the horses in the stable, the cattle in the pasture, the pigs in the stye; and then, with Aunt Martha, inspected the dairy, a big cool room in a small building, well shaded by trees, where long rows of shallow pans stood filled with rich milk or golden cream; while just before tea, Aunt Sarah claimed him for a walk in the garden, where tiger lilies, hollyhocks, mock oranges, peonies, and other old-fashioned flowers grew in gay profusion.
Grandmother was too much engrossed with her daughter to pay much attention to Bert that day. Yet he had more than one token of affection at her hands; and, taken altogether, it was a very happy day.
After tea, Mrs. Lloyd took her son off for a little chat alone, wishing to draw him out as to his first impressions.
"Have you had a happy day, Bert?" she asked.
"Yes, indeed, mother. It has been just splendid. I think grandmamma and uncle and my aunties are lovely, but"—and here Bert hesitated as if afraid to finish his remark.
"But what, Bert?" asked Mrs. Lloyd. "What were you going to say when you stopped?"
"I don't like grandpapa, mother," said Bert, after a little pause, bringing the words out slowly, and then adding, almost in a whisper, "I'm afraid of grandpapa, mother."
"Hush, Bert. You shouldn't say that you don't like your grandfather. But, tell me, why are you afraid of him?"
"Oh, because he seems so cross, and isn't kind to me like the others."
"But he isn't really cross, Bert. He loves you quite as much as the others do, but then he is an old man and has a great deal to think about. Now, Bert darling, I want you to learn to love your grandpapa, and to try and never be any bother to him. You will, won't you?"
"I'll try not to be a bother to him, mother, but I don't think it's much use my trying to love him unless he stops looking so cross."
"Well, try your best, at all events, Bert," said Mrs. Lloyd, giving her son a tender kiss. "And now come, let's see if we can find grandmother."
Bert had come to Maplebank just in time for the haying season. The long slopes of upland and the level stretches of intervale waved before the breeze their russet and green wealth, awaiting the summons of the scythe and reaper. A number of extra hands had been hired to help in gathering the crop, which this year was unusually abundant, and a few days after Bert's coming the attack was begun.
The mowing machine had not yet reached Maplebank. The papers were talking about it a good deal, but Squire Stewart was not the man to quickly adopt new inventions, and nobody else in the neighbourhood could afford to do so. Consequently, the West River Valley still continued to witness the good, old-fashioned way of mowing with the scythe; and Bert, accompanying Uncle Alec to the field, was filled with admiration for the stalwart "Rorys" and "Donalds" and "Sandys" as they strode along through the thick grass, cutting a wide swath before them. There was something in the work that appealed to the boy's bump of destructiveness, and filled him with eagerness to join in it.
"Oh, Uncle Alec, mayn't I mow?" he asked.
"Certainly, Bert, if you know how; but if you don't, I wouldn't advise you to try it," was the smiling reply.
Not at all discouraged, Bert waited patiently until one of the mowers stopped to sharpen his scythe, and then stepping to him, asked, in his most engaging way:
"Please, sir, won't you let me mow a little?"
The man looked down at him in surprise.
"You couldn't hold a scythe, sonny," he said, with a grin of amusement.
"Oh, yes, I could. Please let me try; won't you?" pleaded Bert.
The man yielded, and placing his scythe in Bert's hands, told him to go ahead.
With much difficulty Bert succeeded in grasping the two short handles which projected from the long curved shaft, and, summoning all his strength, he tried to move the scythe in the way the mowers were doing. But at the first attempt the sharp point stuck in the turf, and instantly the long handle flew up, turned over, and hit him a hard crack, square between the eyes, that felled him to the ground.
The stars were dancing before his eyes, and the next moment the tears would have been there too, had he not, as he picked himself up, caught sight of the men laughing heartily over his mishap.
"They shan't see me cry," said he to himself; and, putting forth a heroic effort, he swallowed his tears, though the gulping them down was positively painful, and, standing up straight, looked bravely about him. Uncle Alec saw it all and understood just how Bert felt.
"Well done, my little hero," said he, clapping him on the back. "You have the right stuff in you."
"That he has, sir," said Big Sandy, with an admiring look. "He would make a right good laddie for the farm."
Bert's heart was filled with joy at these praises, and he determined that nobody on the farm should ever see him cry, unless he really couldn't at all help it.
The scythe handle gave him quite an ugly bruise, which caused many a question when he went back to the house; and Aunt Sarah, who was as nervous as she was loving and sympathetic, made much ado over it, and insisted on a bandage, which made Bert look like a little soldier who had been in action. Mrs. Lloyd took the matter much more quietly. She knew her son had to get his share of bumps and bruises, and that each one would bring wisdom with it; so she contented herself with a kiss of sympathy, and the hope that he would have better fortune next time.
The succeeding days were full of surprises and enjoyments to Bert.
His mother gave him full liberty to go and come as he pleased, so long as he did not roam beyond the borders of the homestead, except when with Uncle Alec. The hay mows, the carriage loft, the sheep pens, the cattle stalls, were all explored; and ever so many cosy little nooks discovered, that seemed just made for "hide and seek" or "I spy." Squire Stewart had three barns on his homestead; one very large double barn, and two smaller ones. Each of these had its own attractions; but the big barn, that stood to your left, half way between the red gate and the house, was the best of all. It contained great hay mows, in which vast quantities of hay could be stored; a row of stalls where the horses stood when not out at pasture; queer dark pens, into which the sheep were gathered at winter time; and then, down underneath, great ranges of uprights, between which the patient cattle were fastened, and fed with hay, in the months when the snow lay deep upon their accustomed pastures. There was an air of shadowy mystery about this huge, rambling structure, with its lichen-patched roof, that fascinated Bert, and that even the saucy chirpings of the sparrows, which boldly built their nests in its dusty corners, could not dispel.
Bert often wished that his city playmates could come and share with him the enjoyments of "grandfather's." He was not without companions, however. Cameron, the big blacksmith at the cross-roads, had three freckle-faced boys that were very glad to play with the little gentleman at Squire Stewart's, when they could get away from the numerous duties they were required to do at home; and other playmates soon turned up. Bert was at first not very much inclined to be sociable with them. Not only did they seem to have no shoes and stockings, but their entire clothing was usually limited to a battered straw hat, an unbleached cotton shirt, and a pair of rough homespun trousers; and the city boy was inclined to look upon the country lads with some contempt, until his Aunt Martha cured him effectually one day by a remark made in a quiet way.
Bert had been making some unflattering comments upon the barefooted youngsters, when Aunt Martha interrupted him:
"You had better not make fun of those boys, Bert," said she, with a curious smile. "They may look as though they were poor, but remember that their fathers have all of them their own carriage and horses, and your father has not."
Bert saw the point at once, and never again ventured to ridicule boys who were the sons of "real carriage folk." Not only so, but he began at once to feel a respect for them, which wrought such a change in his bearing toward them, that they, who were not at all favourably impressed at first, changed their minds and decided that he was a "right smart little fellow."
It was while playing "hide and seek" in the big barn with half-a-dozen of these youngsters, that Bert had a narrow escape from serious injury, if not, indeed, from death. The great, gaping mows were being filled with hay, which was pitched in any way, and not, of course, packed firmly. Consequently, it was in some places like snow upon the Alpine slopes—ready to fall in an avalanche, at the slightest temptation.
In endeavouring to reach a far corner of the barn, where he felt sure no one could possibly find him, Bert tried to cross a hill of hay, that had piled up in one division of the mow. His hasty movements were just what was needed to bring the whole mass toppling down in confusion to the bottom of the mow. Unfortunately for him, he was involved in the overthrow, and without a moment's warning was buried beneath a huge mass of hay. As he went sliding helplessly down he uttered a cry of terror, which startled little Rory Chisholm, who sprang out from his hiding-place just in time to see poor Bert disappear.
"Hi! Hi! boys—come here; Bert Lloyd's under the hay."
The boys quickly gathered, and with eager hands set to work, to rescue their imperiled playmate. But, vigorously though they toiled, it was slow progress they made; and in the meantime the little fellow, pressed upon by many hundredweight of hay, was fast losing breath and consciousness. He could hear them very indistinctly, but could not make a sound himself.
By a fortunate accident, one of the men happened along, just as the boys were near giving up the task as too great for them.
"Donald! Donald! Quick! Bert Lloyd's under the hay. Dig him out, or he'll die," cried Rory, at the top of his voice.
Seizing a pitchfork, Donald attacked the hay like a giant, getting more and more careful as he drew near the bottom of the mow, until at last, with a shout of "I've got him," he stooped down and dragged the senseless form of Bert from the very bottom of the pile. Taking him in his arms, he ran with him to the house, and gave Aunt Sarah a great fright by suddenly plumping him into her lap, as she sat on the verandah reading, saying, breathlessly:
"Here, miss, bring him to, and he'll be none the worse for it."
Aunt Sarah screamed for hartshorn, spirits of wine, and the dear knows what, but Mrs. Lloyd, bringing a glass of water, dashed it freely over her boy's pale face, and in a minute or two he opened his eyes again. As Donald said, he was none the worse for his experience, for no bones were broken, nor muscles strained; yet all felt thankful that he had escaped so well.
It was not long after this that Bert had another adventure, which also came near costing him his life. He was not only very fond of water, but as fearless about it as a Newfoundland puppy. The blue sea, calm as a mirror or flecked with "white caps," formed part of his earliest recollections. He would play at its margin all day long, building forts out of sand for the advancing billows of the tide to storm and overwhelm. He was never happier than when gliding over it in his father's skiff. It was the last thing in nature he looked upon before lying down at night, and the first thing to which he turned on awaking in the morning. Thus he got so used to the great salt sea, that when he came to Maplebank and looked at the quiet stream, which glided along so noiselessly at the bottom of the slope before the house, he thought it a mere plaything, and could hardly be made to understand that, innocent as the river appeared, there was water enough in it to drown him ten times over.
One day some of the village folk came out to spend the day at Maplebank, and the weather being decidedly warm, Uncle Alec proposed that the men of the party should go with him for a bathe. They gladly assented, and Bert having begged to accompany them was given leave to do so. Uncle Alec took them to a lovely spot for a bath—a tempting nook in which one might almost have expected to surprise a water nymph or two, if you drew near quietly enough. On one side, the bank rose high and steep, affording perfect seclusion; a narrow beach of gravel made a fine place for undressing. The river rolled gently along with plenty of depth, and beyond it was another beach, and then the swelling intervale.
Amid much laughter and excitement the men undressed, Uncle Alec allowing Bert to do the same, as he had promised to carry him across the river on his back. So soon as they were ready the bathers dived in; and, with much splashing and noise, swam races to the opposite bank, leaving Bert alone upon the shore. Skylarking with one another there they quite forgot their little companion until Uncle Alec looking across, gave a start, and cried out:
"Hallo! What's become of the boy?"
Not a sign of Bert was to be seen. His little pile of clothes, with hat placed carefully on top, was plain enough but no Bert. Full of anxiety, Uncle Alec sprang into the water, and with great sweeping strokes made for the other side. The water fairly foamed about his broad, white shoulders as he tore through it. He steered straight for the spot where he had seen Bert last. Three-fourths of the distance had been covered, when suddenly he stopped, and reaching down into the water, pulled up—What do you think? Why, Bert, of course, whose big brown eyes had startled him as they looked up at him through the clear, cool water. But how did Bert get there? Well, easily enough. He had got tired waiting for his uncle to come back for him. He wanted to be over there where the men were all having such fun. He could not swim across, so he just coolly accepted the only alternative, and started to walk across! When Uncle Alec found him there was a clear foot of water over his head. A step or two more and he would certainly have lost his footing, been carried away by the current, and drowned perhaps before Uncle Alec could have found him.
The men all voted him a young hero when they were told of his attempt, and Uncle Alec vowed he'd teach him to swim the next time he paid a visit to Maplebank.
Aunt Sarah was greatly excited when she heard of her darling Bert's second escape, and had Mrs. Lloyd taken her advice the poor boy would have been tied to somebody's apron strings for the rest of the summer. But Mrs. Lloyd thought it better to do no more than caution Bert, and trust to the Providence that protects children to keep him from harm. He would have to learn to take care of himself sooner or later, and the sooner the better.
TEMPTATION AND TRIUMPH.
The one day in the week that Bert did not like at Maplebank was Sunday; and, indeed, under the circumstances, he was not without excuse. At home, the Lord's Day was always made as bright and cheerful as possible. The toys and playthings of the week-days were of course put aside, and wading by the seashore or coasting down the lane was not to be thought of, but in their place Bert had his father's company, of which he never had enough, and Mr. Lloyd made it a point, whether he really felt in good spirits himself or not, to appear to be so to Bert; and, in consequence, the little chap never thought his father quite so delightful as on the day of rest, that was so welcome to the lawyer, tired by a week's toil at his profession.
Then mother had more leisure, too; and besides the pleasure of going with his parents to church, dressed in his best clothes, a privilege Bert fully appreciated, there was the enjoyment of having her read to him wonderfully interesting stories from the Bible or Pilgrim's Progress, and explaining to him whatever puzzled his brain.
If the day was fine, Mary would take him with her to the Sunday school, where, with a number of youngsters like himself, the hour would pass quickly enough, as Miss Brightley entertained them with song and story, and pictures bearing upon the lesson. And then, after Sunday school, in summer time, his father would lead him off to the old fort, where they would sit on the grassy ramparts, watching the white sailed ships cleaving the blue waters, that never seemed more beautiful than on Sunday afternoon.
But at Maplebank it was all very different. Squire Stewart was a Presbyterian of the stern old Covenanter stock. To him the Lord's Day meant a day to be spent in unsmiling strictness of conversation and demeanour. No laughter, no bright talk, no semblance of joyousness was sanctioned; nor, indeed, could have existed within the range of his solemn countenance. He was a grave and silent man at any time, but on Sunday the gravity of his appearance was little short of appalling. One meeting him for the first time would certainly have thought that he had just been visited by some overwhelming affliction. Bert, on the morning of his first Sunday, coming out of his mother's room, after receiving the finishing touches to his dress, and dancing along the hall, in joyous anticipation of the drive in the big carriage to the village, ran right into his grandfather. Laying a strong hand on the boy's shoulder, Squire Stewart looked down at him, with disapproval written on every line of his stern face.
"My boy," said he, in his deepest tones, "know you not that this is the Sabbath day, and that you are to keep it holy, and not be dancing along the hall?"
Poor Bert shrank away, with a trembling, "I didn't mean to, sir," and thenceforth avoided his grandfather as completely as though he were a criminal and the Squire was a policeman.
Not only at the house, but at the church, did Bert find Sunday a day of dreariness. And here again, who could blame him? He was only a boy and a very restless, active boy, at that, to whom one half-hour's sitting still was about as much as he could endure. How, then, could he be expected to be equal to four whole hours of stillness? Yet that was what his grandfather required of him whenever he went to church.
The order of the day was as follows:—Leaving the house about ten o'clock in the big covered carriage, of which the Squire felt duly proud, as being the only one in the county, they drove leisurely into the village, where the horses were put up, and after the ladies had dropped in at a friend's to make sure their bonnets and dresses were as they ought to be, they wended their way to the church, which, standing right in the centre of the village, was noisily summoning its worshippers to its seats as the big bell swung to and fro high up in the steeple.
The church service began at eleven o'clock, and was of the most old-fashioned orthodox type. No organ had yet profaned the sanctity of that holy place, but instead thereof, a quartette of singers, selected seemingly more for the strength than the sweetness of their voices, occupied a large box right under the pulpit, and thence led the congregation by a whole bar at least, in the rendering of Tate and Brady's metrical version of the Psalms. Very weird and sorrowful were many of the tunes. None were bright and inspiring like those Bert was wont to hear at home, and as choir and congregation vied with one another in the vigour of their singing, the little fellow was sometimes half-frightened at the bewildering noise they made.
A saintlier pastor than the Reverend Mr. Goodman, D.D., few congregations possessed; but only those members of his audience who were of like age with himself thought him a good preacher. He had, indeed, some gifts in expounding the Bible, and even Bert would be interested if the lesson happened to be one of those stirring stories from the Old Testament which seem so full of life and truth. But when it came to preaching a sermon—well, it must be confessed there were then few dryer preachers throughout the whole Province of Acadia. Bending low over his manuscript, for his eyesight was poor, and lifting his head only now and then to wipe his brow, or relieve his throat, with a dry, hard cough, Mr. Goodman pursued his way steadily and monotonously from "firstly" to "lastly" every Sunday.
And not only once, but twice on every Sunday. For be it understood, that although many of the congregation lived too far away from the church to make two trips to it from their homes, they were not thereby going to be deprived of two services. Accordingly, after the morning service—which usually lasted until one o'clock—was over, a recess of one hour for lunch and fresh air followed, and at two o'clock a second service, precisely similar in character, was entered upon, which occupied two hours more. And then, having thus laid in a supply of sound theology for the rest of the week, the good people of Calvin church, after indulging in a little harmless gossiping at the church door—of which indulgence, by the way, Squire Stewart strongly disapproved, and would have prohibited, had he been able—harnessed up their horses and drove away home.
Four hours of church service of so unattractive a character, and that in mid-summer! Poor little Bert! He did not want to shock his grandfather, or bring his mother's discipline into condemnation; but really, how could he be all that the Squire, who, if he ever had been a boy himself, must have quite forgotten about it, expected him to be? If he went to sleep, Aunt Sarah or Aunt Martha, in obedience to signals from grandfather, shook or pinched him awake again. If he stayed awake, he felt that he must wriggle or die. Sometimes the temptation to scream out loud was so strong that it seemed little short of a miracle he did not yield to it. Mrs. Lloyd fully sympathised with her son's troubles, but accustomed from infancy to obey her father unquestioningly, she would not venture to do more than softly plead for Bert, now and then, when he was more restless than usual. Her pleadings were not altogether vain, and frequently they had the result of securing for Bert a boon that he highly appreciated.
Squire Stewart was bothered by a troublesome chronic cough. He did not mind it very much when at home, but at church he felt it to be a nuisance both to himself and his neighbours. To ease it somewhat he always carried to church with him a number of black currant lozenges, a supply of which he kept in his big mahogany desk at home. Occasionally, either as encouragement to him to try and be a better boy, or as a token of relenting for being over severe, he would pass Bert one of these lozenges, and Bert thought them the most delicious and desirable sweetmeat ever invented. Not that they were really anything wonderful, though they were very expensive; but the circumstances under which he received them gave them a peculiar relish; and it was in regard to them that Bert fought and won the sharpest battle with the tempter of all his early boyhood. It happened in this way:
As already mentioned, Squire Stewart kept a supply of these lozenges in his big mahogany desk, that had a table to itself in the parlour. This desk was always kept locked, and Bert had many a time, when alone in the room, gone up to it, and passed his hand over its polished surface, thinking to himself how nice it would be if the package of lozenges was in his pocket instead of shut up in there where nobody could get at it.
One morning, as Bert was playing about the house, a message came that the Squire was wanted at once at the farthest barn, as one of the horses had been hurt by another. He went out hastily, and shortly after, Bert, going into the parlour, saw the desk wide open, his grandfather having been looking for a paper when so suddenly called away. The moment his eyes fell upon the open desk, a thought flashed into his mind that set every nerve tingling. As though the old desk exerted some strange and subtle fascination, he drew near it; slowly, hesitatingly, almost on tiptoe, yet steadily. His heart beat like a trip-hammer, and his ears were straining to catch the slightest sound of any one's approach. The house was wonderfully quiet. He seemed to be quite alone in it; and presently he found himself close beside the desk. Although open, the inner lids were still shut, and ere Bert put out his hand to lift the one under which he thought the package of lozenges lay, the thought of the wrong he was doing came upon him so strongly as well-nigh to conquer the temptation. For a moment he stood there irresolute; and then again the hand that had dropped to his side was stretched forth. As it touched the desk lid a thrill shot through his heart; and again he hesitated and drew back.
It was really a tremendous struggle, and one upon which great issues hung, so far as that boy, alone in that room with the tempter, was concerned. Bert fully realized how wrong it would be for him to touch the lozenges; but, oh! what a wonderful fascination they had for him!
Reaching forward again, he lifted up the desk lid, and there, fully exposed to view, lay the package temptingly wide open, displaying its toothsome contents. The crisis of the temptation had come. An instant more, and Bert would have yielded; when suddenly his better nature got the upper hand, and with a quick resolution, the secret of which he never fully understood, he cried out:
"No, I won't." And slamming down the desk lid, he tried to run out of the room, and ran right into the arms of his grandfather, who, unseen and unsuspected, had witnessed the whole transaction from the door.
Overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and terror at having been detected by the one person of all others whom he dreaded most, Bert sank down on the floor, sobbing as though his heart would break. But, strange to say, the stern old man had no harsh words for him now. On the contrary, he bent down and lifting the little fellow gently to his feet said, in tones of deepest tenderness:
"No tears, laddie; no tears. You've fought a grand fight, and glad am I that I was there to see you win it. God grant you like success to the end of your days. I'm proud of you, Bert boy; I'm proud of you."
Scarce able to believe his ears, Bert looked up through his tears into his grandfather's face. But there was no mistaking the expression of that rugged old countenance. It fairly beamed with love and pride, and throwing himself into his arms, Bert for the first time realised that his grandfather loved him.
He never forgot that scene. Many a time after it came back to him, and helped him to decide for the right. And many a time, too, when grandfather seemed unduly stern, did the remembrance of his face that morning in the parlour drive away the hard feelings that had begun to form against him.
LOST AND FOUND.
The summer days passed very quickly and happily for Bert at Maplebank, especially after the surprising revelation of the love and tenderness that underlay his grandfather's stern exterior. No one did more for his comfort or happiness than his grandmother, and he loved her accordingly with the whole strength of his young heart. She was so slight and frail, and walked with such slow, gentle steps, that the thought of being her protector and helper often came into his mind and caused him to put on a more erect, important bearing as he walked beside her in the garden, or through the orchard where the apples were already beginning to give promise of the coming ripeness.
Mrs. Stewart manifested her love for her grandson in one way that made a great impression upon Bert. She would take him over to the dairy, in its cool place beneath the trees, and, selecting the cooler with the thickest cream upon it, would skim off a teaspoonful into a large spoon that was already half filled with new oatmeal, and then pour the luscious mixture into the open mouth waiting expectantly beside her.
"Is not that fine, Bertie boy?" she would say, patting him affectionately upon the head; and Bert, his mouth literally too full for utterance, would try to look the thanks he could not speak.
Maplebank had many strange visitors. It stood a little way back from the junction of three roads, and the Squire's hospitality to wayfarers being unbounded, the consequence was that rarely did a night pass without one or more finding a bed in some corner of the kitchen. Sometimes it would be a shipwrecked sailor, slowly finding his way on foot to the nearest shipping port. Sometimes a young lad with pack on back, setting out to seek his fortune at the capital, or in the States beyond. Again it would be a travelling tinker, or tailor, or cobbler, plying his trade from house to house, and thereby making an honest living.
But the most frequent visitors of all—real nuisances, though, they often made themselves—were the poor, simple folk, of whom a number of both sexes roamed ceaselessly about. Not far from Maplebank was what the better class called a "straglash district"—that is, a settlement composed of a number of people who had by constant intermarriage, and poor living, caused insanity of a mild type to be woefully common. Almost every family had its idiot boy or girl, and these poor creatures, being, as a rule, perfectly harmless, were suffered to go at large, and were generally well treated by the neighbours, upon whose kindness they were continually trespassing.
The best known of them at the time of Bert's visit, was one called "Crazy Colin," a strange being, half wild, half civilised, with the frame of an athlete, and the mind of a child. Although more than thirty years of age, he had never shown much more sense than a two-year-old baby. He even talked in a queer gibberish, such as was suitable to that stage of childhood. Everybody was kind to him. His clothes and his food were given him. As for a roof, he needed none in summer save when it stormed, and in winter he found refuge among his own people. His chief delight was roaming the woods and fields, talking vigorously to himself in his own language, and waving a long ash staff that was rarely out of his hands. He would thus spend whole days in apparent content, returning only when the pangs of hunger could be borne no longer.
Bert took a great deal of interest in these "straglash" people, and especially in Crazy Colin, who was a frequent visitor at the Squire's kitchen, for Mrs. Stewart never refused him a generous bowl of porridge and milk, or a huge slice of bread and butter. At first he was not a little afraid of Crazy Colin. But soon he got accustomed to him, and then, boy-like, presuming upon acquaintance, began to tease him a bit when he would come in for a "bite and sup." More than once the idiot's eyes flashed dangerously at Bert's prank; but, fool though he was, he had sense enough to understand that any outbreak would mean his prompt expulsion and banishment, and so he would restrain himself. One memorable day, however, when Bert least expected or invited it, the demon of insanity broke loose in a manner that might have had serious consequences.
It was on a Sunday. The whole family had gone off to church, except Bert, who had been left at home in the charge of the cook. She was a strapping big Scotch lassie, and very fond of Bert. About an hour after the family left, Crazy Colin sauntered along and took his seat in the kitchen. Neither Kitty nor Bert was by any means pleased to see him, but they thought it better to keep their feelings to themselves. Bert, indeed, made some effort to be entertaining, but Crazy Colin seemed in rather a sulky mood, an unusual thing for him, so Bert soon gave it up, and went off into the garden.
The roses were blooming beautifully there, and he picked several before returning to the kitchen. When he came back, he found the unwelcome visitor alone, Kitty having gone into the other part of the house. He was sitting beside the table with his head bent forward upon his hands, apparently in deep dejection. Upon the table was a large knife which Kitty had just been using in preparing the meat for dinner. Thinking it would please poor Colin, Bert selected the finest rose in his bunch and handed it to him, moving off toward the door leading into the hall as he did so. Colin lifted his head and grasped the rose rudely. As his big hand closed upon it, a thorn that hid under the white petals pierced deep into the ball of his thumb. In an instant the sleeping demon of insanity awoke. With eyes blazing and frame trembling with fury, he sprang to his feet, seized the knife, and with a hoarse, inarticulate shout, turned upon Bert, who, paralysed with terror, stood rooted to the spot half-way between the idiot and the door. It was a moment of imminent peril, but ere Crazy Colin could reach the boy, his hoarse cry was echoed by a shrill shriek from behind Bert, and two stout arms encircling him, bore him off through the door and up the stairs, pausing not until Squire Stewart's bedroom was gained and the door locked fast. Then depositing her burden upon the floor, brave, big Kitty threw herself into a chair, exclaiming, breathlessly:
"Thank God, Master Bert, we're safe now. The creature darsen't come up those stairs."
And Kitty was right; for although Crazy Colin raged and stormed up and down the hall, striking the wall with the knife, and talking in his wild, unintelligible way, he did not attempt to set foot upon the stairs. Presently he became perfectly quiet.
"Has he gone away, Kitty?" asked Bert, eagerly, speaking for the first time. "He's not making any noise now."
Kitty stepped softly to the door, and putting her ear to the crack, listened intently for a minute.
"There's not a sound of him, Master Bert. Please God, he's gone, but we hadn't better go out of the room until the folks come home. He may be waiting in the kitchen."
And so they stayed, keeping one another company through the long hours of the morning and afternoon until at last the welcome sound of wheels crushing the gravel told that the carriage had returned, and they might leave their refuge.
The indignation of Squire Stewart when he heard what had occurred was a sight to behold. Sunday though it was, he burst forth into an unrestrained display of his wrath, and had the cause of it ventured along at the time, he certainly would have been in danger of bodily injury.
"The miserable trash!" stormed the Squire. "Not one of them shall ever darken my threshold again. Hech! that's what comes of being kind to such objects. They take you to be as big fools as themselves, and act accordingly. The constable shall lay his grip on that loon so sure as I am a Stewart."
There were more reasons for the Squire's wrath, too, than the fright Crazy Colin had given Bert and Kitty, for no dinner awaited the hungry church-goers, and rejoiced as they all were at the happy escape of the two who had been left at home, that was in itself an insufficient substitute for a warm, well-cooked dinner. But Kitty, of course, could not be blamed, and there was nothing to be done but to make the best of the situation, and satisfy their hunger upon such odds and ends as the larder afforded.
As for poor Crazy Colin, whether by some subtle instinct on coming to himself he realised how gravely he had offended, or whether in some way or other he got a hint of the Squire's threats, cannot be said. Certain it was, that he did not present himself at Maplebank for many days after, and then he came under circumstances, which not only secured him complete forgiveness, but made him an actual hero, for the time, and won him a big place in the hearts of both Bert and his mother.