Sowing Seeds in Danny
Nellie L. McClung
This story is lovingly dedicated to my dear mother.
"SO MANY FAITHS—SO MANY CREEDS,— SO MANY PATHS THAT WIND AND WIND WHILE JUST THE ART OF BEING KIND,— IS WHAT THE OLD WORLD NEEDS!"
People of the Story
MRS. BURTON FRANCIS—a dreamy woman, who has beautiful theories.
MR. FRANCIS—her silent husband.
CAMILLA ROSE—a capable young woman who looks after Mrs. Francis's domestic affairs, and occasionally helps her to apply her theories.
THE WATSON FAMILY, consisting of—
JOHN WATSON—a man of few words who works on the "Section."
MRS. WATSON—who washes for Mrs. Francis.
PEARL WATSON—an imaginative, clever little girl, twelve years old, who is the mainstay of the family.
MARY WATSON—a younger sister.
ROBERT ROBLIN WATSON, known as "Bugsey."
DANIEL MULCAHEY WATSON—"Wee Danny."
"Teddy will be fourteen on St. Patrick's Day and Danny will be four come March."
MRS. McGUIRE—an elderly Irishwoman of uncertain temper who lives on the next lot.
DR. BARNER—the old doctor of the village, clever man in his profession, but of intemperate habits.
MARY BARNER—his beautiful daughter.
DR. HORACE CLAY—a young doctor, who has recently come to the village.
REV. HUGH GRANTLEY—the young minister.
SAMUEL MOTHERWELL—a well off but very stingy farmer.
MRS. MOTHERWELL—his wife.
TOM MOTHERWELL—their son.
ARTHUR WEMYSS—a young Englishman who is trying to learn to farm.
JIM RUSSELL—an ambitious young farmer who lives near the Motherwells.
JAMES DUCKER—a retired farmer, who has political aspirations.
I. Sowing Seeds in Danny II. The Old Doctor III. The Pink Lady IV. The Band of Hope V. The Relict of the Late McGuire VI. The Musical Sense VII. "One of Manitoba's Prosperous Farmers" VIII. The Other Doctor IX. The Live Wire X. The Butcher Ride XI. How Pearl Watson Wiped out the Stain XII. From Camilla's Diary XIII. The Fifth Son XIV. The Faith that Moveth Mountains XV. "Inasmuch" XVI. How Polly Went Home XVII. "Egbert and Edythe" XVIII. The Party at Slater's XIX. Pearl's Diary XX. Tom's New Viewpoint XXI. The Crack in the Granite XXII. Shadows XXIII. Saved XXIV. The Harvest XXV. Cupid's Emissary XXVI. The Thanksgiving Conclusion: Convincing Camilla
Sowing Seeds in Danny
SOWING SEEDS IN DANNY
In her comfortable sitting room Mrs. J. Burton Francis sat, at peace with herself and all mankind. The glory of the short winter afternoon streamed into the room and touched with new warmth and tenderness the face of a Madonna on the wall.
The whole room suggested peace. The quiet elegance of its furnishings, the soft leather-bound books on the table, the dreamy face of the occupant, who sat with folded hands looking out of the window, were all in strange contrast to the dreariness of the scene below, where the one long street of the little Manitoba town, piled high with snow, stretched away into the level, white, never-ending prairie. A farmer tried to force his tired horses through the drifts; a little boy with a milk-pail plodded bravely from door to door, sometimes laying down his burden to blow his breath on his stinging fingers.
The only sound that disturbed the quiet of the afternoon in Mrs. Francis's sitting room was the regular rub-rub of the wash-board in the kitchen below.
"Mrs. Watson is slow with the washing to-day," Mrs. Francis murmured with a look of concern on her usually placid face. "Possibly she is not well. I will call her and see."
"Mrs. Watson, will you come upstairs, please?" she called from the stairway.
Mrs. Watson, slow and shambling, came up the stairs, and stood in the doorway wiping her face on her apron.
"Is it me ye want ma'am?" she asked when she had recovered her breath.
"Yes, Mrs. Watson," Mrs. Francis said sweetly. "I thought perhaps you were not feeling well to-day. I have not heard you singing at your work, and the washing seems to have gone slowly. You must be very careful of your health, and not overdo your strength."
While she was speaking, Mrs. Watson's eyes were busy with the room, the pictures on the wall, the cosey window-seat with its numerous cushions; the warmth and brightness of it all brought a glow to her tired face.
"Yes, ma'am," she said, "thank ye kindly, ma'am. It is very kind of ye to be thinkin' o' the likes of me."
"Oh, we should always think of others, you know," Mrs. Francis replied quickly with her most winning smile, as she seated herself in a rocking-chair. "Are the children all well? Dear little Danny, how is he?"
"Indade, ma'am, that same Danny is the upsettinest one of the nine, and him only four come March. It was only this morn's mornin' that he sez to me, sez he, as I was comin' away, 'Ma, d'ye think she'll give ye pie for your dinner? Thry and remimber the taste of it, won't ye ma, and tell us when ye come home,' sez he."
"Oh, the sweet prattle of childhood," said Mrs. Francis, clasping her shapely white hands. "How very interesting it must be to watch their young minds unfolding as the flower! Is it nine little ones you have, Mrs. Watson?"
"Yes, nine it is, ma'am. God save us. Teddy will be fourteen on St. Patrick's Day, and all the rest are younger."
"It is a great responsibility to be a mother, and yet how few there be that think of it," added Mrs. Francis, dreamily.
"Thrue for ye ma'am," Mrs. Watson broke in. "There's my own man, John Watson. That man knows no more of what it manes than you do yerself that hasn't one at all at all, the Lord be praised; and him the father of nine."
"I have just been reading a great book by Dr. Ernestus Parker, on 'Motherhood.' It would be a great benefit to both you and your husband."
"Och, ma'am," Mrs. Watson broke in, hastily, "John is no hand for books and has always had his suspicions o' them since his own mother's great-uncle William Mulcahey got himself transported durin' life or good behaviour for havin' one found on him no bigger'n an almanac, at the time of the riots in Ireland. No, ma'am, John wouldn't rade it at all at all, and he don't know one letther from another, what's more."
"Then if you would read it and explain it to him, it would be so helpful to you both, and so inspiring. It deals so ably with the problems of child-training. You must be puzzled many times in the training of so many little minds, and Dr. Parker really does throw wonderful light on all the problems that confront mothers. And I am sure the mother of nine must have a great many perplexities."
Yes, Mrs. Watson had a great many perplexities—how to make trousers for four boys out of the one old pair the minister's wife had given her; how to make the memory of the rice-pudding they had on Sunday last all the week; how to work all day and sew at night, and still be brave and patient; how to make little Danny and Bugsey forget they were cold and hungry. Yes, Mrs. Watson had her problems; but they were not the kind that Dr. Ernestus Parker had dealt with in his book on "Motherhood."
"But I must not keep you, Mrs. Watson," Mrs. Francis said, as she remembered the washing. "When you go downstairs will you kindly bring me up a small red notebook that you will find on the desk in the library?"
"Yes ma'am," said Mrs. Watson, and went heavily down the stairs. She found the book and brought it up.
While she was making the second laborious journey down the softly padded stairs, Mrs. Francis was making an entry in the little red book.
Dec. 7, 1903. Talked with one woman to-day RE Beauty of Motherhood. Recommended Dr. Parker's book. Believe good done.
Then she closed the book with a satisfied feeling. She was going to have a very full report for her department at the next Annual Convention of the Society for Propagation of Lofty Ideals.
In another part of the same Manitoba town lived John Watson, unregenerate hater of books, his wife and their family of nine. Their first dwelling when they had come to Manitoba from the Ottawa Valley, thirteen years ago, had been C. P. R. box-car No. 722, but this had soon to be enlarged, which was done by adding to it other car-roofed shanties. One of these was painted a bright yellow and was a little larger than the others. It had been the caboose of a threshing outfit that John had worked for in '96. John was the fireman and when the boiler blew up and John was carried home insensible the "boys" felt that they should do something for the widow and orphans. They raised one hundred and sixty dollars forthwith, every man contributing his wages for the last four days. The owner of the outfit, Sam Motherwell, in a strange fit of generosity, donated the caboose.
The next fall Sam found that he needed the caboose himself, and came with his trucks to take it back. He claimed that he had given it with the understanding that John was going to die. John had not fulfilled his share of the contract, and Sam felt that his generosity had been misplaced.
John was cutting wood beside his dwelling when Sam arrived with his trucks, and accused him of obtaining goods under false pretences. John was a man of few words and listened attentively to Sam's reasoning. From the little window of the caboose came the discordant wail of a very young infant, and old Sam felt his claims growing more and more shadowy.
John took the pipe from his mouth and spat once at the woodpile. Then, jerking his thumb toward the little window, he said briefly:
"Twins. Last night."
Sam Motherwell mounted his trucks and drove away. He knew when he was beaten.
The house had received additions on every side, until it seemed to threaten to run over the edge of the lot, and looked like a section of a wrecked freight train, with its yellow refrigerator car.
The snow had drifted up to the windows, and entirely over the little lean-to that had been erected at the time that little Danny had added his feeble wail to the general family chorus.
But the smoke curled bravely up from the chimney into the frosty air, and a snug pile of wood by the "cheek of the dure" gave evidence of John's industry, notwithstanding his dislike of the world's best literature.
Inside the floor was swept and the stove was clean, and an air of comfort was over all, in spite of the evidence of poverty. A great variety of calendars hung on the wall. Every store in town it seems had sent one this year, last year and the year before. A large poster of the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibition hung in the parlour, and a Massey-Harris self-binder, in full swing, propelled by three maroon horses, swept through a waving field of golden grain, driven by an adipose individual in blue shirt and grass-green overalls. An enlarged picture of John himself glared grimly from a very heavy frame, on the opposite wall, the grimness of it somewhat relieved by the row of Sunday-school "big cards" that were stuck in around the frame.
On the afternoon that Mrs. Watson had received the uplifting talk on motherhood, and Mrs. Francis had entered it in the little red book, Pearlie Watson, aged twelve, was keeping the house, as she did six days in the week. The day was too cold for even Jimmy to be out, and so all except the three eldest boys were in the kitchen variously engaged. Danny under promise of a story was in the high chair submitting to a thorough going over with soap and water. Patsey, looking up from his self-appointed task of brushing the legs of the stove with the hair-brush, loudly demanded that the story should begin at once.
"Story, is it?" cried Pearlie in her wrath, as she took the hair-brush from Patsey. "What time have I to be thinkin' of stories and you that full of badness. My heart is bruck wid ye."
"I'll be good now," Patsey said, penitently, sitting on the wood-box, and tenderly feeling his skinned nose. "I got hurt to-day, mind that, Pearlie."
"So ye did, poor bye," said Pearlie, her wrath all gone, "and what will I tell yez about, my beauties?"
"The pink lady where Jimmy brings the milk," said Patsey promptly.
"But it's me that's gettin' combed," wailed Danny. "I should say what ye'r to tell, Pearlie."
"True for ye," said Pearlie, "Howld ye'r tongue, Patsey. What will I tell about, honey?"
"What Patsey said'll do" said Danny with an injured air, "and don't forget the chockalut drops she had the day ma was there and say she sent three o' them to me, and you can have one o' them, Pearlie."
"And don't forget the big plate o' potatoes and gravy and mate she gave the dog, and the cake she threw in the fire to get red of it," said Mary, who was knitting a sock for Teddy.
"No, don't tell that," said Jimmy, "it always makes wee Bugsey cry."
"Well," began Pearlie, as she had done many times before. "Once upon a time not very long ago, there lived a lovely pink lady in a big house painted red, with windies in ivery side of it, and a bell on the front dure, and a velvet carpet on the stair and—"
"What's a stair?' asked Bugsey.
"It's a lot of boxes piled up higher and higher, and nailed down tight so that ye can walk on them, and when ye get away up high, there is another house right farninst ye—well anyway, there was a lovely pianny in the parlow, and flowers in the windies, and two yalla burds that sing as if their hearts wud break, and the windies had a border of coloured glass all around them, and long white curtings full of holes, but they like them all the better o' that, for it shows they are owld and must ha' been good to ha' stood it so long. Well, annyway, there was a little boy called Jimmie Watson"—here all eyes were turned on Jimmy, who was sitting on the floor mending his moccasin with a piece of sinew. "There was a little boy called Jimmy Watson who used to carry milk to the lady's back dure, and a girl with black eyes and white teeth all smiley used to take it from him, and put it in a lovely pitcher with birds flying all over it. But one day the lady, herself, was there all dressed in lovely pink velvet and lace, and a train as long as from me to you, and she sez to Jimmy, sez she, 'Have you any sisters or brothers at home,' and Jim speaks up real proud-like, 'Just nine,' he sez, and sez she, swate as you please, 'Oh, that's lovely! Are they all as purty as you?' she sez, and Jimmy sez, 'Purtier if anything,' and she sez, 'I'll be steppin' over to-day to see yer ma,' and Jim ran home and told them all, and they all got brushed and combed and actin' good, and in she comes, laving her carriage at the dure, and her in a long pink velvet cape draggin' behind her on the flure, and wide white fer all around it, her silk skirts creakin' like a bag of cabbage and the eyes of her just dancin' out of her head, and she says, 'These are fine purty childer ye have here, Mrs. Watson. This is a rale purty girl, this oldest one. What's her name?' and ma ups and tells her it is Rebecca Jane Pearl, named for her two grandmothers, and Pearl just for short. She says, 'I'll be for taking you home wid me, Pearlie, to play the pianny for me,' and then she asks all around what the children's names is, and then she brings out a big box, from under her cape, all tied wid store string, and she planks it on the table and tearin' off the string, she sez, 'Now, Pearlie, it's ladies first, tibby sure. What would you like to see in here?' And I says up quick—'A long coat wid fer on it, and a handkerchief smellin' strong of satchel powder,' and she whipped them out of the box and threw them on my knee, and a new pair of red mitts too. And then she says, 'Mary, acushla, it's your turn now.' And Mary says, 'A doll with a real head on it,' and there it was as big as Danny, all dressed in green satin, opening its eyes, if you plaze."
"Now, me!" roared Danny, squirming in his chair.
"'Daniel Mulcahey Watson, what wud you like?' she says, and Danny ups and says, 'Chockaluts and candy men and taffy and curren' buns and ginger bread,' and she had every wan of them."
"'Robert Roblin Watson, him as they call Bugsey, what would you like?' and 'Patrick Healy Watson, as is called Patsey, what is your choice?' says she, and—"
In the confusion that ensued while these two young gentlemen thus referred to stated their modest wishes, their mother came in, tired and pale, from her hard day's work.
"How is the pink lady to-day, ma?" asked Pearlie, setting Danny down and beginning operations on Bugsey.
"Oh, she's as swate as ever, an' can talk that soft and kind about children as to melt the heart in ye."
Danny crept up on his mother's knee "Ma, did she give ye pie?" he asked, wistfully.
"Yes, me beauty, and she sent this to you wid her love," and Mrs. Watson took a small piece out of a newspaper from under her cape. It was the piece that had been set on the kitchen table for Mrs. Watson's dinner. Danny called them all to have a bite.
"Sure it's the first bite that's always the best, a body might not like it so well on the second," said Jimmy as he took his, but Bugsey refused to have any at all. "Wan bite's no good," he said, "it just lets yer see what yer missin."
"D'ye think she'll ever come to see us, ma?" asked Pearlie, as she set Danny in the chair to give him his supper. The family was fed in divisions. Danny was always in Division A.
"Her? Is it?" said Mrs. Watson and they all listened, for Pearlie's story to-day had far surpassed all her former efforts, and it seemed as if there must be some hope of its coming true. "Why och! childer dear, d'ye think a foine lady like her would be bothered with the likes of us? She is r'adin' her book, and writin' letthers, and thinkin' great thoughts, all the time. When she was speakin' to me to-day, she looked at me so wonderin' and faraway I could see that she thought I wasn't there at all at all, and me farninst her all the time—no childer, dear, don't be thinkin' of it, and Pearlie, I think ye'd better not be puttin' notions inter their heads. Yer father wouldn't like it. Well Danny, me man, how goes it?" went on Mrs. Watson, as her latest born was eating his rather scanty supper. "It's not skim milk and dhry bread ye'd be havin', if you were her child this night, but taffy candy filled wid nuts and chunks o' cake as big as yer head." Whereupon Danny wailed dismally, and had to be taken from his chair and have the "Little Boy Blue" sung to him, before he could be induced to go on with his supper.
The next morning when Jimmy brought the milk to Mrs. Francis's back door the dark-eyed girl with the "smiley" teeth let him in, and set a chair beside the kitchen stove for him to warm his little blue hands. While she was emptying the milk into the pitcher with the birds on it, Mrs. Francis, with a wonderful pink kimono on, came into the kitchen.
"Who is this boy, Camilla?" she asked, regarding Jimmy with a critical gaze.
"This is Master James Watson, Mrs. Francis," answered Camilla with her pleasant smile. "He brings the milk every morning."
"Oh yes; of course, I remember now," said Mrs. Francis, adjusting her glasses. "How old is the baby, James?"
"Danny is it?" said Jim. "He's four come March."
"Is he very sweet and cunning James, and do you love him very much?"
"Oh, he's all right," Jim answered sheepishly.
"It is a great privilege to have a little brother like Daniel. You must be careful to set before him a good example of honesty and sobriety. He will be a man some day, and if properly trained he may be a useful factor in the uplifting and refining of the world. I love little children," she went on rapturously, looking at Jimmy as if he wasn't there at all, "and I would love to train one, for service in the world to uplift and refine."
"Yes ma'am," said Jimmy. He felt that something was expected of him, but he was not sure what.
"Will you bring Daniel to see me to-morrow, James?" she said, as Camilla handed him his pail. "I would like to speak to his young mind and endeavour to plant the seeds of virtue and honesty in that fertile soil."
When Jimmy got home he told Pearlie of his interview with the pink lady, as much as he could remember. The only thing that he was sure of was that she wanted to see Danny, and that she had said something about planting seeds in him.
Jimmy and Pearlie thought it best not to mention Danny's proposed visit to their mother, for they knew that she would be fretting about his clothes, and would be sitting up mending and sewing for him when she should be sleeping. So they resolved to say "nothin' to nobody."
The next day their mother went away early to wash for the Methodist minister's wife, and that was always a long day's work.
Then the work of preparation began on Danny. A wash-basin full of snow was put on the stove to melt, and Danny was put in the high chair which was always the place of his ablutions.
Pearlie began to think aloud. "Bugsey, your stockin's are the best. Off wid them, Mary, and mend the hole in the knees of them, and, Bugsey, hop into bed for we'll be needin' your pants anyway. It's awful stylish for a little lad like Danny to be wearin' pants under his dresses, and now what about boots? Let's see yours, Patsey. They're all gone in the uppers, and Billy's are too big, even if they were here, but they're off to school on him. I'll tell you what Mary, hurry up wid that sock o' Ted's and we'll draw them on him over Bugsey's boots and purtind they're overstockin's, and I'll carry him all the way so's not to dirty them."
Mary stopped her dish-washing, and drying her hands on the thin towel that hung over the looking glass, found her knitting and began to knit at the top of her speed.
"Isn't it good we have that dress o' his, so good yet, that he got when we had all of yez christened. Put the irons on there Mary; never mind, don't stop your knittin'. I'll do it myself. We'll press it out a bit, and we can put ma's handkerchief, the one pa gev her for Christmas, around his neck, sort o' sailor collar style, to show he's a boy. And now the snow is melted, I'll go at him. Don't cry now Danny, man, yer going' up to the big house where the lovely pink lady lives that has the chocaklut drops on her stand and chunks of cake on the table wid nuts in them as big as marbles. There now," continued Pearlie, putting the towel over her finger and penetrating Danny's ear, "she'll not say she can plant seeds in you. Yer ears are as clean as hers," and Pearlie stood back and took a critical view of Danny's ears front and back.
"Chockaluts?" asked Danny to be sure that he hadn't been mistaken.
"Yes," went on Pearlie to keep him still while she fixed his shock of red hair into stubborn little curls, and she told again with ever growing enthusiasm the story of the pink lady, and the wonderful things she had in the box tied up with store string.
At last Danny was completed and stood on a chair for inspection. But here a digression from the main issue occurred, for Bugsey had grown tired of his temporary confinement and complained that Patsey had not contributed one thing to Danny's wardrobe while he had had to give up both his stockings and his pants.
Pearlie stopped in the work of combing her own hair to see what could be done.
"Patsey, where's your gum?" she asked. "Git it for me this minute," and Patsey went to the "fallen leaf" of the table and found it on the inside where he had put it for safe keeping.
"Now you give that to Bugsey," she said, "and that'll make it kind o' even though it does look as if you wuz gettin' off pretty light."
Pearlie struggled with her hair to make it lie down and "act dacint," but the image that looked back at her from the cracked glass was not encouraging, even after making allowance for the crack, but she comforted herself by saying, "Sure it's Danny she wants to see, and she won't be lookin' much at me anyway."
Then the question arose, and for a while looked serious— What was Danny to wear on his head? Danny had no cap, nor ever had one. There was one little red toque in the house that Patsey wore, but by an unfortunate accident, it had that very morning fallen into the milk pail and was now drying on the oven door. For a while it seemed as if the visit would have to be postponed until it dried, when Mary had an inspiration.
"Wrap yer cloud around his head and say you wuz feart of the earache, the day is so cold."
This was done and a blanket off one of the beds was pressed into service as an outer wrap for Danny. He was in such very bad humour at being wrapped up so tight that Pearlie had to set him down on the bed again to get a fresh grip on him.
"It's just as well I have no mitts," she said as she lifted her heavy burden. "I couldn't howld him at all if I was bothered with mitts. Open the dure, Patsey, and mind you shut it tight again. Keep up the fire, Mary. Bugsey, lie still and chew your gum, and don't fight any of yez."
When Pearlie and her heavy burden arrived at Mrs. Francis's back door they were admitted by the dark-haired Camilla, who set a rocking-chair beside the kitchen stove for Pearlie to sit in while she unrolled Danny, and when Danny in his rather remarkable costume stood up on Pearlie's knee, Camilla laughed so good humouredly that Danny felt the necessity of showing her all his accomplishments and so made the face that Patsey had taught him by drawing down his eyes, and putting his fingers in his mouth. Danny thought she liked it very much, for she went hurriedly into the pantry and brought back a cookie for him.
The savoury smell of fried salmon, for it was near lunch time, increased Danny's interest in his surroundings, and his eyes were big with wonder when Mrs. Francis herself came in.
"And is this little Daniel!" she cried rapturously. "So sweet; so innocent; so pure! Did Big Sister carry him all the way? Kind Big Sister. Does oo love Big Sister?"
"Nope," Danny spoke up quickly, "just like chockaluts."
"How sweet of him, isn't it, really?" she said, "with the world all before him, the great untried future lying vast and prophetic waiting for his baby feet to enter. Well has Dr. Parker said; 'A little child is a bundle of possibilities and responsibilities.'"
"If ye please, ma'am," Pearlie said timidly, not wishing to contradict the lady, but still anxious to set her right, "it was just this blanket I had him rolled in."
At which Camilla again retired to the pantry with precipitate haste.
"Did you see the blue, blue sky, Daniel, and the white, white snow, and did you see the little snow-birds, whirling by like brown leaves?" Mrs. Francis asked with an air of great childishness.
"Nope," said Danny shortly, "didn't see nothin'."
"Please, ma'am," began Pearlie again, "it was the cloud around his head on account of the earache that done it."
"It is sweet to look into his innocent young eyes and wonder what visions they will some day see," went on Mrs. Francis, dreamily, but there she stopped with a look of horror frozen on her face, for at the mention of his eyes Danny remembered his best trick and how well it had worked on Camilla, and in a flash his eyes were drawn down and his mouth stretched to its utmost limit.
"What ails the child?" Mrs. Francis cried in alarm. "Camilla, come here."
Camilla came out of the pantry and gazed at Danny with sparkling eyes, while Pearlie, on the verge of tears, vainly tried to awaken in him some sense of the shame he was bringing on her. Camilla hurried to the pantry again, and brought another cookie. "I believe, Mrs. Francis, that Danny is hungry," she said. "Children sometimes act that way," she added, laughing.
"Really, how very interesting; I must see if Dr. Parker mentions this strange phenomenon in his book."
"Please, ma'am, I think I had better take him home now," said Pearlie. She knew what Danny was, and was afraid that greater disgrace might await her. But when she tried to get him back into the blanket he lost every joint in his body and slipped to the floor. This is what she had feared—Danny had gone limber.
"I don't want to go home" he wailed dismally. "I want to stay with her, and her; want to see the yalla burds, want a chockalut."
"Come Danny, that's a man," pleaded Pearlie, "and I'll tell you all about the lovely pink lady when we go home, and I'll get Bugsey's gum for ye and I'll—"
"No," Danny roared, "tell me how about the pink lady, tell her, and her."
"Wait till we get home, Danny man." Pearlie's grief flowed afresh. Disgrace had fallen on the Watsons, and Pearlie knew it.
"It would be interesting to know what mental food this little mind has been receiving. Please do tell him the story, Pearlie."
Thus admonished, Pearlie, with flaming cheeks began the story. She tried to make it less personal, but at every change Danny screamed his disapproval, and held her to the original version, and when it was done, he looked up with his sweet little smile, and said to Mrs. Francis nodding his head. "You're it! You're the lovely pink lady." There was a strange flush on Mrs. Francis's face, and a strange feeling stirring her heart, as she hurriedly rose from her chair and clasped Danny in her arms.
"Danny! Danny!" she cried, "you shall see the yellow birds, and the stairs, and the chocolates on the dresser, and the pink lady will come to-morrow with the big parcel."
Danny's little arms tightened around her neck.
"It's her," he shouted. "It's her."
When Mrs. Burton Francis went up to her sitting-room, a few hours later to get the "satchel" powder to put in the box that was to be tied with the store string, the sun was shining on the face of the Madonna on the wall, and it seemed to smile at her as she passed.
The little red book lay on the table forgotten. She tossed it into the waste-paper basket.
THE OLD DOCTOR
Close beside Mrs. Francis's comfortable home stood another large house, weather-beaten and dreary looking, a house whose dilapidated verandas and broken fence clearly indicated that its good days had gone by. In the summer-time vines and flowers grew around it to hide its scars and relieve its grimness, pathetic as a brave smile on a sad face.
Dr. Barner, brilliant, witty and skilful, had for many years been a victim of intemperance, but being Scotch to the backbone, he never could see how good, pure "Kilmarnock," made in Glasgow, could hurt anyone. He knew that his hand shook, and his brain reeled, and his eyes were bleared; but he never blamed the whiskey. He knew that his patients sometimes died while he was enjoying a protracted drunk, but of course, accidents will happen, and a doctor's accidents are soon buried and forgotten. Even in his worst moments, if he could be induced to come to the sick bed, he would sober up wonderfully, and many a sufferer was relieved from pain and saved from death by his gentle and skilful, though trembling, hands. He might not be able to walk across the room, but he could diagnose correctly and prescribe successfully.
When he came to Millford years ago, his practice grew rapidly. People wondered why he came to such a small place, for his skill, his wit, his wonderful presence would have won distinction anywhere.
His wife, a frail though very beautiful woman, at first thought nothing of his drinking habits—he was never anything but gentlemanly in her presence. But the time came when she saw honour and manhood slowly but surely dying in him, and on her heart there fell the terrible weight of a powerless despair. Her health had never been robust and she quickly sank into invalidism.
The specialist who came from Winnipeg diagnosed her case as chronic anaemia and prescribed port wine, which she refused with a queer little wavering cry and a sudden rush of tears. But she put up a good fight nevertheless. She wanted to live so much, for the sake of Mary, her beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter.
Mrs. Barner did not live to see the whole work of degeneration, for the end came in the early spring, swift and sudden and kind.
The doctor's grief for his wife was sincere. He always referred to her as "my poor Mildred," and never spoke of her except when comparatively sober.
Mary Barner took up the burden of caring for her father without question, for she loved him with a great and pitying love, to which he responded in his best moments. In the winter she went with him on his drives night and day, for the fear of what might happen was always in her heart. She was his housekeeper, his office-girl, his bookkeeper; she endured all things, loneliness, poverty, disgrace, without complaining or bitterness.
One day shortly after Mrs. Barner's death big John Robertson from "the hills" drove furiously down the street to the doctor's house, and rushed into the office without ringing the bell. His little boy had been cut with the mower-knives, and he implored the doctor to come at once.
The doctor sat at his desk, just drunk enough to be ugly-tempered, and curtly told Mr. Robertson to go straight to perdition, and as the poor man, wild with excitement, begged him to come and offered him money, he yawned nonchalantly, and with some slight variations repeated the injunction.
Mary hearing the conversation came in hurriedly.
"Mary, my dear," the doctor said, "please leave us. This gentleman is quite forgetting himself and his language is shocking." Mary did not even look at her father. She was packing his little satchel with all that would be needed.
"Now pick him up and take him," she said firmly to big John. "He'll be all right when he sees your little boy, never mind what he says now."
Big John seized the doctor and bore him struggling and protesting to the wagon.
The doctor made an effort to get out.
"Put him down in the bottom with this under his head"—handing Big John a cushion—"and put your feet on him," Mary commanded.
Big John did as she bid him, none too gently, for he could still hear his little boy's cries and see that cruel jagged wound.
"Oh, don't hurt him," she cried piteously, and ran sobbing into the house. Upstairs, in what had been her mother's room, she pressed her face against her mother's kimono that still hung behind the door. "I am not crying for you to come back, mother," she sobbed bitterly, "I am just crying for your little girl."
The doctor was asleep when John reached his little shanty in the hills. The child still lived, his Highland mother having stopped the blood with rude bandaging and ashes, a remedy learned in her far-off island home.
John shook the doctor roughly and cursed him soundly in both English and Gaelic, without avail, but the child's cry so full of pain and weakness roused him with a start. In a minute Dr. Frederick Barner was himself. He took the child gently from his mother and laid him on the bed.
For two days the doctor stayed in John's dirty little shanty, caring for little Murdock as tenderly as a mother. He cooked for the child, he sang to him, he carried him in his arms for hours, and soothed him with a hundred quaint fancies. He superintended the cleaning of the house and scolded John's wife soundly on her shiftless ways; he showed her how to bake bread and cook little dishes to tempt the child's appetite, winning thereby her undying gratitude. She understood but little of the scolding, but she saw his kindness to her little boy, for kindness is the same in all languages.
On the third day, the little fellow's fever went down and, peeping over the doctor's shoulder, he smiled and chattered and asked for his "daddy" and his "mathar."
Then Big John broke down utterly and tried to speak his gratitude, but the doctor abruptly told him to quit his blubbering and hitch up, for little Murdock would be chasing the hens again in a week or two.
The doctor went faithfully every day and dressed little Murdock's wound until it no longer needed his care, remaining perfectly sober meanwhile. Hope sprang up in Mary's heart—for love believeth all things.
At night when he went to bed and she carefully locked the doors and took the keys to her room, she breathed a sigh of relief. One more day won!
But alas for Mary's hopes! They were built upon the slipping, sliding sands of human desire. One night she found him in the office of the hotel; a red-faced, senseless, gibbering old man, arguing theology with a brother Scotchman, who was in the same condition of mellow exhilaration.
Mary's white face as she guided her father through the door had an effect upon the men who sat around the office. Kind-hearted fellows they were, and they felt sorry for the poor little motherless girl, sorry for "old Doc" too. One after another they went home, feeling just a little ashamed.
The bartender, a new one from across the line, a dapper chap with diamonds, was indignant. "I'll give that old man a straight pointer," he said, "that his girl has to stay out of here. This is no place for women, anyway"—which is true, God knows.
Five years went by and Mary Barner lived on in the lonely house and did all that human power could do to stay her father's evil course. But the years told heavily upon him. He had made some fatal mistakes in his prescribing, and the people had been compelled to get in another doctor, though a great many of those who had known him in his best days still clung to the "old man" in spite of his drinking. They could not forget how he had fought with death for them and for their children.
Of all his former skill but little remained now except his wonderful presence in the sick-room.
He could still inspire the greatest confidence and hope. Still at his coming a sick man's fears fell away from him, and in their stead came hope and good cheer. This was the old man's good gift that even his years of sinning could not wholly destroy. God had marked him for a great physician.
THE PINK LADY
When Mrs. Francis decided to play the Lady Bountiful to the Watson family, she not only ministered to their physical necessity but she conscientiously set about to do them good, if they would be done good to. Mrs. Francis's heart was kind, when you could get to it; but it was so deeply crusted over with theories and reflections and abstract truths that not very many people knew that she had one.
When little Danny's arms were thrown around her neck, and he called her his dear sweet, pink lady, her pseudo-intellectuality broke down before a power which had lain dormant. She had always talked a great deal of the joys of motherhood, and the rapturous delights of mother-love. Not many of the mothers knew as much of the proper care of an infant during the period of dentition as she. She had read papers at mothers' meetings, and was as full of health talks as a school physiology.
But it was the touch of Danny's soft cheek and clinging arms that brought to her the rapture that is so sweet it hurts, and she realised that she had missed the sweetest thing in life. A tiny flame of real love began to glimmer in her heart and feebly shed its beams among the debris of cold theories and second-hand sensations that had filled it hitherto.
She worried Danny with her attentions, although he tried hard to put up with them. She was the lady of his dreams, for Pearl's imagination had clothed her with all the virtues and graces.
Hers was a strangely inconsistent character, spiritually minded, but selfish; loving humanity when it is spelled with a capital, but knowing nothing of the individual. The flower of holiness in her heart was like the haughty orchid that blooms in the hothouse, untouched by wind or cold, beautiful to behold but comforting no one with its beauty.
Pearl Watson was like the rugged little anemone, the wind flower that lifts its head from the cheerless prairie. No kind hand softens the heat or the cold, nor tempers the wind, and yet the very winds that blow upon it and the hot sun that beats upon it bring to it a grace, a hardiness, a fragrance of good cheer, that gladdens the hearts of all who pass that way.
Mrs. Francis found herself strongly attracted to Pearl. Pearl, the housekeeper, the homemaker, a child with a woman's responsibility, appealed to Mrs. Francis. She thought about Pearl very often.
Noticing one day that Pearl was thin and pale, she decided at once that she needed a health talk. Pearl sat like a graven image while Mrs. Francis conscientiously tried to stir up in her the seeds of right living.
"Oh, ma!" Pearl said to her mother that night, when the children had gone to bed and they were sewing by the fire. "Oh, ma! she told me more to-day about me insides than I would care to remember. Mind ye, ma, there's a sthring down yer back no bigger'n a knittin' needle, and if ye ever broke it ye'd snuff out before ye knowed what ye was doin', and there's a tin pan in yer ear that if ye got a dinge in it, it wouldn't be worth a dhirty postage stamp for hearin' wid, and ye mustn't skip ma, for it will disturb yer Latin parts, and ye mustn't eat seeds, or ye'll get the thing that pa had—what is it called ma?"
Her mother told her.
"Yes, appendicitis, that's what she said. I never knowed there were so many places inside a person to go wrong, did ye, ma? I just thought we had liver and lights and a few things like that."
"Don't worry, alannah," her mother said soothingly, as she cut out the other leg of Jimmy's pants. "The Lord made us right I guess, and he won't let anything happen to us."
But Pearl was not yet satisfied. "But, oh ma," she said, as she hastily worked a buttonhole. "You don't know about the diseases that are goin' 'round. Mind ye, there's tuberoses in the cows even, and them that sly about it, and there's diseases in the milk as big as a chew o' gum and us not seein' them. Every drop of it we use should be scalded well, and oh, ma, I wonder anyone of us is alive for we're not half clean! The poison pours out of the skin night and day, carbolic acid she said, and every last wan o' us should have a sponge bath at night—that's just to slop yerself all up and down with a rag, and an oliver in the mornin'. Ma, what's an oliver, d'ye think?"
"Ask Camilla," Mrs. Watson said, somewhat alarmed at these hygienic problems. "Camilla is grand at explaining Mrs. Francis's quare ways."
Pearl's brown eyes were full of worry.
"It's hard to git time to be healthy, ma," she said; "we should keep the kittle bilin' all the time, she says, to keep the humanity in the air—Oh, I wish she hadn't a told me, I never thought atin' hurt anyone, but she says lots of things that taste good is black pison. Isn't it quare, ma, the Lord put such poor works in us and us not there at the time to raise a hand."
They sewed in silence for a few minutes.
Then Pearl said: "Let us go to bed now, ma, me eyes are shuttin'. I'll go back to-morrow and ask Camilla about the 'oliver.'"
THE BAND OF HOPE
Mary Barner had learned the lesson early that the only easing of her own pain was in helping others to bear theirs, and so it came about that there was perhaps no one in Millford more beloved than she. Perhaps it was the memory of her own lost childhood that caused her heart to go out in love and sympathy to every little boy and girl in the village.
Their joys were hers; their sorrows also. She took slivers from little fingers with great skill, beguiling the owners thereof with wonderful songs and stories. She piloted weary little plodders through pages of "homework." She mended torn "pinnies" so that even vigilant mothers never knew that their little girls had jumped the fence at all. She made dresses for concerts at short notice. She appeased angry parents, and many a time prevented the fall of correction's rod.
When Tommy Watson beguiled Ignatius McSorley, Jr., to leave his mother's door, and go swimming in the river, promising faithfully to "button up his back"—Ignatius being a wise child who knew his limitations—and when Tommy Watson forgot that promise and basely deserted Ignatius to catch on the back of a buggy that came along the river road, leaving his unhappy friend clad in one small shirt, vainly imploring him to return, Ignatius could not go home, for his mother would know that he had again yielded to the siren's voice; so it was to the Barner back door that he turned his guilty steps. Miss Barner was talking to a patient in the office when she heard a small voice at the kitchen door full of distress, whimpering:
"Please Miss Barner, I'm in a bad way. Tommy Watson said he'd help me and he never!"
Miss Barner went quickly, and there on the doorstep stood a tiny cupid in tears, tightly clasping his scanty wardrobe to his bosom.
"He said he'd help me and he never!" he repeated in a burst of rage as she drew him in hastily.
"Never mind, honey," she said, struggling to control her laughter. "Just wait till I catch Tommy Watson!"
Miss Barner was the assistant Band of Hope teacher. On Monday afternoon it was part of her duty to go around and help the busy mothers to get the children ready for the meeting. She also took her turn with Mrs. White in making taffy, for they had learned that when temperance sentiment waned, taffy, with nuts in it, had a wonderful power to bind and hold the wavering childish heart.
There was no human way of telling a taffy day—the only sure way was to go every time. The two little White girls always knew, but do you think they would tell? Not they. There was secrecy written all over their blond faces, and in every strand of their straw-coloured hair. Once they deliberately stood by and heard Minnie McSorley and Mary Watson plan to go down to the creamery for pussy-willows on Monday afternoon—there were four plates of taffy on their mother's pantry shelf at the time and yet they gave no sign—Minnie McSorley and Mary Watson went blindly on and reaped a harvest of regrets.
There was no use offering the White girls anything for the information. Glass alleys, paint cards or even popcorn rings were powerless to corrupt them. Once Jimmy Watson became the hero of an hour by circulating the report that he had smelled it cooking when he took the milk to Miss Barner's; but alas, for circumstantial evidence.
Every child went to Band of Hope that Monday afternoon eager and expectant; but it was only a hard lesson on the effect of alcohol on the lining of the stomach that they got, and when Mrs. White complimented them on their increased attendance and gave out the closing hymn,
Oh, what a happy band are we!
the Hogan twins sobbed.
When the meeting was over, Miss Barner exonerated Jimmy by saying it was icing for a cake he had smelled, and the drooping spirits of the Band were somewhat revived by her promise that next Monday would surely be Taffy Day.
On the last Monday of each month the Band of Hope had a programme instead of the regular lesson. Before the programme was given the children were allowed to tell stories or ask questions relating to temperance. The Hogan twins were always full of communications, and on this particular Monday it looked as if they would swamp the meeting.
William Henry Hogan (commonly known as Squirt) told to a dot how many pairs of shoes and bags of flour a man could buy by denying himself cigars for ten years. During William Henry's recital, John James Hogan, the other twin, showed unmistakable signs of impatience. He stood up and waved his hand so violently that he seemed to be in danger of throwing that useful member away forever. Mrs. White gave him permission to speak as soon as his brother had finished, and John James announced with a burst of importance:
"Please, teacher, my pa came home last night full as a billy-goat."
Miss Barner put her hand hastily over her eyes. Mrs. White gasped, and the Band of Hope held its breath.
Then Mrs. White hurriedly announced that Master James Watson would recite, and Jimmy went forward with great outward composure and recited:
As I was going to the lake I met a little rattlesnake; I fed him with some jelly-cake, Which made his little—
But Mrs. White interrupted Jimmy just then by saying that she must insist on temperance selections at these programmes, whereat Pearlie Watson's hand waved appealingly, and Miss Barner gave her permission to speak.
"Please ma'am," Pearl said, addressing Mrs. White, "Jimmy and me thought anything about a rattlesnake would do for a temperance piece, and if you had only let Jimmy go on you would have seen what happened even a snake that et what he hadn't ought to, and please ma'am, Jimmy and me thought it might be a good lesson for all of us."
Miss Barner thought that Pearlie's point was well taken, and took Jimmy with her into the vestry from which he emerged a few minutes later, flushed and triumphant, and recited the same selection, with a possible change of text in one place:
As I was going to the lake I met a little rattlesnake; I fed him on some jelly-cake, Which made his little stomach ache.
The musical committee then sang:
We're for home and mother, God and native land, Grown up friend and brother, Give us now your hand.
and won loud applause. Little Sissy Moore knew only the first verse, but it would never have been known that she was saying dum—dum—dum—dum—dum—dum—dum—dum dum-dum-dum, if Mary Simpson hadn't told.
Wilford Ducker, starched as stiff as boiled and raw starch could make him, recited "Perish, King Alcohol, we will grow up," but was accorded a very indifferent reception by the Band of Hopers. Wilford was allowed to go to Band of Hope only when Miss Barner went for him and escorted him home again. Mrs. Ducker had been very particular about Wilford from the first.
Then the White girls recited a strictly suitable piece. It was entitled "The World and the Conscience."
Lily represented a vain woman of the world bent upon pleasure with a tendency toward liquid refreshment. Her innocent china-blue eyes and flaxen braids were in strange contrast to the mad love of glittering wealth which was supposed to fill her heart:
Give to me the flowing bowl, And Pleasure's glittering crown; The path of Pride shall be my goal, And conscience's voice I'll drown!
Then Blanche sweetly admonished her:
Oh! lay aside your idle boasts, No Pleasure thus you'll find; The flowing bowl a serpent is To poison Soul and Mind.
Oh, sign our pledge, while yet you can, Nor look upon the Wine When it is red within the Cup, Let not its curse be thine!
Thereupon the frivolous creature repents of her waywardness, and the two little girls join hands and recite in unison:
We will destroy this giant King, And drive him from our land; And on the side of Temp-er-ance We'll surely take our stand!
and the piece was over.
Robert Roblin Watson (otherwise known as Bugsey), who had that very day been installed as a member of the Band of Hope, after he had avowed his determination "never to touch, taste nor handle alcoholic stimulants in any form as a beverage and to discourage all traffic in the same," was the next gentleman on the programme. Pearlie was sure Bugsey's selection was suitable. She whispered to him the very last minute not to forget his bow, but he did forget it, and was off like a shot into his piece.
I belong to the Band of Hope, Never to drink and never to smoke; To love my parents and Uncle Sam, Keep Alcohol out of my diaphragm; To say my prayers when I go to bed, And not put the bedclothes over my head; Fill up my lungs with oxygen, And be kind to every living thing.
There! I guess there can't be no kick about that, Pearl thought to herself as Bugsey finished, and the applause rang out loud and louder.
Pearlie had forgotten to tell Bugsey to come down when he was done, and so he stood irresolute, as the applause grew more and more deafening. Pearl beckoned and waved and at last got him safely landed, and when Mrs. White announced that to-day was Taffy Day, owing to Miss Barner's kindness, Bugsey's cup of happiness was full. Miss Barner said she had an extra big piece for the youngest member, Master Danny Watson. Pearlie had not allowed any person to mention taffy to him because Danny could not bear to be disappointed.
But there were no disappointments that day. Taffy enough for every one, amber-coloured taffy slabs with nuts in it, cream taffy in luscious nuggets, curly twists of brown and yellow taffy. Oh look, there's another plateful! and it's coming this way. "Have some more, Danny. Oh, take a bigger piece, there's lots of it." Was it a dream?
When the last little Band of Hoper had left the vestry, Mary Barner sat alone with her thoughts, looking with unseeing eyes at the red and silver mottoes on the wall. Pledge cards which the children had signed were gaily strung together with ribbons across the wall behind her. She was thinking of the little people who had just gone—how would it be with them in the years to come?—they were so sweet and pure and lovely now. Unconsciously she bowed her head on her hands, and a cry quivered from her heart. The yellow sunlight made a ripple of golden water on the wall behind her and threw a wavering radiance on her soft brown hair.
It was at that moment that the Rev. Hugh Grantley, the new Presbyterian minister, opened the vestry door.
THE RELICT OF THE LATE MCGUIRE
Close beside the Watson estate with its strangely shaped dwelling stood another small house, which was the earthly abode of one Mrs. McGuire, also of Irish extraction, who had been a widow for forty years. Mrs. McGuire was a tall, raw-boned, angular woman with piercing black eyes, and a firm forbidding jaw. One look at Mrs. McGuire usually made a book agent forget the name of his book. When she shut her mouth, no lips were visible; her upturned nose seemed seriously to contemplate running up under her sun bonnet to escape from this wicked world with all its troubling, and especially from John Watson, his wife and his family of nine.
One fruitful cause of dispute between Mrs. McGuire and the Watsons was the boundary line between the two estates. In the spring Mrs. Watson and the boys put up a fence of green poplar poles where they thought the fence should be, hoping that it might serve the double purpose of dividing the lots and be a social barrier between them and the relict of the late McGuire. The relict watched and waited and said not a word, but it was the ominous silence that comes before the hail.
Mrs. McGuire hated the Watson family collectively, but it was upon John Watson, the man of few words, that she lavished the whole wealth of her South of Ireland hatred, for John Watson had on more than one occasion got the better of her in a wordy encounter.
One time when the boundary dispute was at its height, she had burst upon John as he went to his work in the morning, with a storm of far-reaching and comprehensive epithets. She gave him the history of the Watson family, past, present, and future—especially the future; every Watson that ever left Ireland came in for a brief but pungent notice.
John stood thoughtfully rubbing his chin, and when she stopped, not from lack of words, but from lack of breath, he slowly remarked:
"Mistress McGuire, yer a lady."
"Yer a liar!" she snapped back, with a still more eloquent burst of invectives.
John lighted his pipe with great deliberation, and when it was drawing nicely he took it from his mouth and said, more to himself than to her:
"Stay where ye are, Pat McGuire. It may be hot where ye are, but it would be hotter for ye if ye were here, and ye'd jist have the throuble o' movin'. Stay where ye are, Pat, wherever ye are." He walked away leaving Mrs. McGuire with the uncomfortable feeling that he had some way got the best of her.
The Watsons had planted their potatoes beside the fence, and did not dream of evil. But one morning in the early autumn, the earliest little Watson who went out to get a basin of water out of the rain barrel, to wash the "sleeps" out of his eyes, dropped the basin in his astonishment, for the fence was gone—it was removed to Mrs. McGuire's woodpile, and the lady herself was industriously digging the potatoes.
Bugsey, for he was the early little bird, ran back into the house screaming:
"She's robbed us! She's robbed us! and tuk our fence."
The Watson family gathered as quickly as a fire brigade at the sound of the gong, but in the scramble for garments some were less fortunate than others. Wee Tommy, who was a little heavier sleeper than the others, could find nothing to put on but one overshoe and an old chest protector of his mother's, but he arrived at the front, nevertheless. Tommy was not the boy to desert his family for any minor consideration such as clothes.
Mrs. McGuire leaned on her hoe and nonchalantly regarded the gathering forces. She had often thought out the scene, and her air of indifference was somewhat overdone.
The fence was on her ground, so it was, and so were two rows of the potatoes. She could do what she liked with her own, so she could. She didn't ask them to plant potatoes on her ground. If they wanted to stand there gawkin' at her, they wur welcome. She always did like comp'ny; but she was afraid the childer would catch cowld, they were dressed so loight for so late in the season. She picked up the last pailful as she spoke, and retired into her own house, leaving the Watson family to do the same.
Mrs. Watson counselled peace. John ate his breakfast in silence; but the young Watsons, and even Pearlie, thirsted for revenge. Bugsey Watson forgot his Band of Hope teaching of returning good for evil, and standing on the disputed territory, he planted his little bare legs far apart and shouted, dancing up and down to the rhythm:
Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, Spit, spit, spit! Old McGuire, old McGuire, Nit, nit, nit!
Mrs. McGuire did occasionally draw comfort from an old clay pipe—but Bugsey's punishment was near.
A long shadow fell upon him, and turning around he found himself face to face with Mary Barner who stood spellbound, listening to her lately installed Band of Hoper!
Bugsey's downfall was complete! He turned and ran down the road and round behind an elevator, where half an hour later Pearl found him shedding penitential tears, not alas! because he had sinned, but because he had been found out.
The maternal instinct was strong in Pearlie. Bugsey in tears was in need of consolation; Bugsey was always in need of admonition. So she combined them:
"Don't cry, alannah. Maybe Miss Barner didn't hear yez at all at all. Ladies like her do be thinkin' great thoughts and never knowin' what's forninst them. Mrs. Francis never knows what ye'r sayin' to her at the toime; ye could say 'chew tobacco, chew tobacco' all ye liked before her; but what for did ye sass owld lady McGuire? Haven't I towld ye time out of mind that a soft answer turns away wrath, and forbye makes them madder than anything ye could say to them?"
Bugsey tearfully declared he would never go to Band of Hope again. Taffy or no taffy, he could not bear to face her.
"Go tell her, Bugsey man," Pearlie urged. "Tell her ye'r sorry. I w'uldn't mind tellin' Miss Barner anything. Even if I'd kilt a man and hid his corp, she's the very one I'd git to help me to give me a h'ist with him into the river, she's that good and swate."
The subject of this doubtful compliment had come down so early that morning believing that Mrs. McGuire was confined to her bed with rheumatism. Seeing the object of her solicitude up and about, she would have returned without knowing what had happened; but Bugsey's remarkable musical turn decided her that Mrs. McGuire was suffering from worse than a rheumatic knee. She went into the little house, and heard all about it.
When she went home a little later she found Robert Roblin Watson, with resolute heart but hanging head, waiting for her on the back step. What passed between them neither of them ever told, but in a very few minutes Robert Roblin ran gaily homeward, happy in heart, shriven of his sin, and with one little spot on his cheek which tingled with rapture. Better still, he went, like a man, and made his peace with Mrs. McGuire!
THE MUSICAL SENSE
Mrs. Francis, in the sweetest of tea gowns, was intent upon Dr. Ernestus Parker's book on "Purposeful Motherhood." It was the chapter dealing with the "Musical Sense in Children" which engrossed Mrs. Francis's attention. She had just begun subdivision C in the chapter, "When and How the Musical Sense Is Developed," when she thought of Danny. She fished into the waste-paper basket for her little red note-book, and with her silver mounted pencil she made the following entry:
DANIEL WATSON, AGED 4. MUS. SENSE. DEVELOPED. IF SO, WHEN. IF NOT, HOW, AND AT ONCE.
She read on feverishly. She felt herself to be in the throes of a great idea.
Then she called Camilla. Camilla is always so practical, she thought.
To Camilla she elaborated the vital points of Dr. Parker's theory of the awakening of the musical sense, reading here and there from the book, rapidly and unintelligibly. She was so excited she was incoherent. Camilla listened patiently, although her thoughts were with her biscuits in the oven below.
"And now, Camilla," she said when she had gone all over the subject, "how can we awaken the musical sense in Daniel? You know I value your opinion so much."
Camilla was ready.
"Take him to hear Professor Welsman play," she said. "The professor will give his recital here on the 15th."
Mrs. Francis wrote rapidly. "I believe," she said looking up, "your suggestion is a good one. You shall have the credit of it in my notes."
Plan of awakening mus. sense suggested by C—.
Camilla smiled. "Thank you, Mrs. Francis. You are very kind."
When Camilla went back to the kitchen and took the biscuits from the oven, she laughed softly to herself.
"This is going to be a good time for some further suggestions. Pearl must go with Danny. What a treat it will be for poor little Pearl! Then we must have a new suit for Danny, new dress for Pearl, new cap for D., new hat for P., all suggested by C. There are a few suggestions which C. will certainly make."
On the evening of the professor's recital there were no two happier people in the audience than Pearlie Watson and her brother Daniel Mulcahey Watson; not because the great professor was about to interpret for them the music of the masters—that was not the cause of their happiness—but because of the good supper they had had and the good clothes they wore, their hearts were glad. They had spent the afternoon at Mrs. Francis's (suggested by C.). Danny's new coat had a velvet collar lovely to feel (suggested by C.). Pearl had a wonderful new dress—the kind she had often dreamed of—made out of one of Mrs. Francis's tea gowns. (Not only suggested but made by C.). It had real buttons on it, and there was not one pin needed. Pearl felt she was just as well dressed as the little girl on the starch box. Her only grief was that when she had on her coat—which was also new, and represented one-half month of Camilla's wages—the velvet on her dress did not show. But Camilla, anticipating this difficulty, laid back the fronts in stunning lapels, and to complete the arrangement, put one of her own lace collars around the neck of the coat, the ends coming down over the turned-back fronts. When Pearl looked in the glass she could not believe her eyes!
Mr. Francis did not attend piano recitals, nor the meetings of the Browning Club. Mrs. Francis was often deeply grieved with James for his indifference in regard to these matters. But the musical sense in James continued to slumber and sleep.
The piano recital by Professor Welsman was given under the auspices of the Ladies' Aid of the Methodist Church, the proceeds to be given toward defraying the cost of the repairs on the parsonage.
The professor was to be assisted by local talent, it said on the programmes. Pearl was a little bit disappointed about the programmes. She had told Danny that there would be a chairman who would say: "I see the first item on this here programme is remarks by the chair, but as yez all know I ain't no hand at makin' a speech we'll pass on to the next item." But there was not a sign of a chairman, not even a chair. The people just came up themselves, without anybody telling them, and did their piece and went back. It looked sort of bold to Pearl.
First the choir came in and sang: "Praise Waiteth for Thee, O Lord, in Zion." Pearl did not like the way they treated her friend Dr. Clay. Twice when he began to sing a little piece by himself, doing all right, too, two or three of them broke in on him and took the words right out of his mouth. Pearl had seen people get slapped faces for things like that. Pearl thought it just served them right when the doctor stopped singing and let them have it their own way.
When the professor came up the aisle everybody leaned forward to have a good look at him. "He is just like folks only for his hair," Pearl thought. Pearl lifted Danny on her knee and told him to look alive now. She knew what they were there for.
Then the professor began to play. Indifferently at first after the manner of his kind, clever gymnastics to limber up his fingers perhaps, and perhaps to show how limber they are; runs and trills, brilliant execution, one hand after the other in mad pursuit, crossing over, back again, up and down in the vain endeavour to come up with the other hand; crescendo, diminuendo, trills again!
Danny yawned widely.
"When's he goin' to begin?" he asked, sleepily.
Mrs. Francis watched Danny eagerly. The musical sense was liable to wake up any minute. But it would have to hurry, for Daniel Mulcahey was liable to go to sleep any minute.
Pearl was disgusted with the professor and her thoughts fell into vulgar baseball slang:
"Playin' to the grand stand, ain't ye? instead o' gettin' down to work. That'll do for ketch and toss. Play the game! Deliver the goods!"
Then the professor began the full arm chords with sudden fury, writhing upon the stool as he struck the angry notes from the piano. Pearl's indignation ran high.
"He's lost his head—he's up in the air!" she shouted, but the words were lost in the clang of musical discords.
But wait! Pearl sat still and listened. There was something doing. It was a Welsh rhapsodie that he was playing. It was all there—the mountains and the rivers, and the towering cliffs with glimpses of the sea where waves foam on the rocks, and sea-fowl wheel and scream in the wind, and then a bit of homely melody as the country folk drive home in the moonlight, singing as only the Welsh can sing, the songs of the heart; songs of love and home, songs of death and sorrowing, that stab with sudden sweetness. A child cries somewhere in the dark, cries for his mother who will come no more. Then a burst of patriotic fire, as the people fling defiance at the conquering foe, and hold the mountain passes till the last man falls. But the glory of the fight and the march of many feet trail off into a wailing chant—the death song of the brave men who have died. The widow mourns, and the little children weep comfortless in their mountain home, and the wind rushes through the forest, and the river foams furiously down the mountain, falling in billows of lace over the rocks, and the sun shines over all, cold and pitiless.
"Why, Pearlie Watson, what are you crying for?" Mrs. Francis whispered severely. Pearl's sobs had disturbed her. Danny lay asleep on Pearl's knees, and her tears fell fast on his tangled curls.
"I ain't cryin', I ain't cryin' a bit. You leave me alone," Pearl blubbered rudely, shaking off Mrs Francis's shapely hand.
Mrs. Francis was shocked. What in the world was making Pearl cry?
The next morning Mrs. Francis took out her little red book to enter the result of her experiment, and sat looking long and earnestly at its pages. Then she drew a writing pad toward her and wrote an illuminative article on "Late Hours a Frequent and Fruitful Cause of Irritability in Children."
"ONE OF MANITOBA'S PROSPEROUS FARMERS"
Mr. Samuel Motherwell was a wealthy farmer who lived a few miles from Millford. Photographs of Mr. Motherwell's premises may be seen in the agricultural journals, machinery catalogues, advertisements for woven wire, etc.—"the home of one of Manitoba's prosperous farmers."
The farm buildings were in good repair; a large red barn with white trimmings surmounted by a creaking windmill; a long, low machine shed filled with binders, seeders, disc-harrows—everything that is needed for the seed-time and harvest and all that lies between; a large stone house, square and gray, lonely and bare, without a tree or a shrub around it. Mr. Motherwell did not like vines or trees around a house. They were apt to attract lightning and bring vermin.
Potatoes grew from the road to the house; and around the front door, as high as the veranda, weeds flourished in abundance, undisturbed and unnoticed.
Behind the cookhouse a bed of poppies flamed scarlet against the general sombreness, and gave a strange touch of colour to the common grayness. They seemed out of place in the busy farmyard. Everything else was there for use. Everybody hurried but the poppies; idlers of precious time, suggestive of slothful sleep, they held up their brazen faces in careless indifference.
Sam had not planted them—you may be sure of that. Mrs. Motherwell would tell you of an English girl she had had to work for her that summer who had brought the seed with her from England, and of how one day when she sent the girl to weed the onions, she had found her blubbering and crying over what looked to Mrs. Motherwell nothing more than weeds. The girl then told her she had brought the seed with her and planted it there. She was the craziest thing, this Polly Bragg. She went every night to see them because they were like a "bit of home," she said. Mrs. Motherwell would tell you just what a ridiculous creature she was!
"I never see the beat o' that girl," Mrs. Motherwell would say. "Them eyes of hers were always red with homesickness, and there was no reason for it in the world, her gettin' more wages than she ever got before, and more'n she was earnin', as I often told her. Land! the way that girl would sing when she had got a letter from home, the queerest songs ye ever heard:
Down by the biller there grew a green willer, Weeping all night with the bank for a piller.
Well, I had to stop her at last," Mrs. Motherwell would tell you with an apologetic swallow, which showed that even generous people have to be firm sometimes in the discharge of unpleasant duties.
"And, mind you," Mrs. Motherwell would go on, with a grieved air, "just as the busy time came on didn't she up and take the fever—you never can depend on them English girls—and when the doctor was outside there in the buggy waitin' for her—he took her to the hospital—I declare if we didn't find her blubberin' over them poppies, and not a flower on them no mor'n nothing."
Sam Motherwell and his wife were nominally Presbyterians. At the time that the Millford Presbyterian Church was built Sam had given twenty-five dollars toward it, the money having been secured in some strange way by the wiles of Purvis Thomas, the collector. Everybody was surprised at Sam's prodigality. The next year, a new collector—for Purvis Thomas had gone away—called on Mr. Motherwell.
The grain was just beginning to show a slight tinge of gold. It was one of those cloudless sunshiny days in the beginning of August, when a faint blue haze lies on the Tiger Hills, and the joy of being alive swells in the breast of every living thing. The creek, swollen with the July rain, ran full in its narrow channel, sparkling and swirling over its gravelly bed, and on the green meadow below the house a herd of shorthorns contentedly cropped the tender after-grass.
In the farmyard a gigantic turkey-gobbler marched majestically with arched neck and spreading wings, feeling himself very much the king of the castle; good-natured ducks puddled contentedly in a trough of dirty water; pigeons, white winged and graceful, circled and wheeled in the sunshine; querulous-voiced hens strutted and scratched, and gossiped openly of mysterious nests hidden away.
Sam stood leaning on a pitchfork in front of the barn door. He was a stout man of about fifty years of age, with an ox-like face. His countenance showed the sullen stolidity of a man who spoke little but listened always, of a man who indulged in suspicious thoughts. He knew everything about his neighbours, good and bad. He might forget the good, but never the evil. The tragedies, the sins, the misdeeds of thirty years ago were as fresh in his memory as the scandal of yesterday. No man had ever been tempted beyond his strength but Sam Motherwell knew the manner of his undoing. He extended no mercy to the fallen; he suggested no excuse for the erring.
The collector made known his errand. Sam became animated at once.
"What?" he cried angrily, "ain't that blamed thing paying yet? I've a good notion to pull my money out of it and be done with it. What do you take me for anyway?"
The collector ventured to call his attention to his prosperous surroundings, and evident wealth.
"That's like you town fellows," he said indignantly. "You never think of the hired help and twine bills, and what it costs to run a place like this. I pay every time I go, anyway. There ain't a time that I let the plate go by me, when I'm there. By gosh! you seem to think I've money to burn."
The collector departed empty-handed.
The next time Sam went to Millford he was considerably surprised to have the young minister, the Reverend Hugh Grantley, stop him on the street and hand him twenty-five dollars.
"I understand, sir, that you wish to withdraw the money that you invested in the Lord's work," he said as he handed the money to Sam, whose fingers mechanically closed over the bills as he stared at the young man.
The Rev. Hugh Grantley was a typical Scotchman, tall and broad shouldered, with an eye like cold steel. Not many people had contradicted the Rev. Hugh Grantley, at least to his face. His voice could be as sweet as the ripple of a mountain stream, or vibrate with the thunder of the surf that beats upon his own granite cliffs.
"The Lord sends you seed-time and harvest," he said, fixing his level gray eye on the other man, who somehow avoided his gaze, "has given you health of body and mind, sends you rain from heaven, makes his sun to shine upon you, increases your riches from year to year. You have given Him twenty-five dollars in return and you regret it. Is that so?"
"I don't know that I just said that," the other man stammered. "I don't see no need of these fine churches and paid preachers. It isn't them as goes to church most that is the best."
"Oh, I see," the young man said, "you would prefer to give your money for the relief of the poor, for hospitals or children's homes, or something like that. Is that so?"
"I don't know as there's any reason for me givin' up the money I work hard for." Sam was touched on a vital spot.
"Well, I'll tell you the reason," the minister said; his voice was no louder, but it fell with a sledge-hammer emphasis. He moved a step nearer his companion, and some way caught and held his wavering vision. "God owns one-tenth of all that stuff you call your own. You have cheated Him out of His part all these years, and He has carried you over from year to year, hoping that you will pay up without harsh proceedings. You are a rich man in this world's goods, but your soul is lean and hungry and naked. Selfishness and greed have blinded your eyes. If you could see what a contemptible, good-for-nothing creature you are in God's sight, you would call on the hills to fall on you. Why, man, I'd rather take my chances with the gambler, the felon, the drunkard, than with you. They may have fallen in a moment of strong temptation; but you are a respectable man merely because it costs money to be otherwise. The Lord can do without your money. Do not think for a minute that God's work will not go on. 'He shall have dominion from sea to sea,' but what of you? You shall lie down and die like the dog. You shall go out into outer darkness. The world will not be one bit better because you have passed through it."
Sam was incoherent with rage. "See here," he sputtered, "what do you know about it? I pay my debts. Everybody knows that."
"Hold on, hold on," the young man said gently, "you pay the debts that the law compels you to pay. You have to pay your hired help and your threshing bills, and all that, because you would be 'sued' if you didn't. There is one debt that is left to a man's honour, the debt he owes to God, and to the poor and the needy. Do you pay that debt?"
"Well, you'll never get a cent out of me anyway. You have a mighty poor way of asking for money—maybe if you had taken me the right way you might have got some."
"Excuse me, Mr. Motherwell," the young man replied with unaffected good humour, "I did not ask you for money at all. I gave you back what you did give. No member of our congregation will ask you for any, though there may come a time when you will ask us to take it."
Sam Motherwell broke into a scornful laugh, and, turning away, went angrily down the street. The fact that the minister had given him back his money was a severe shock to some of his deep-rooted opinions. He had always regarded churches as greedy institutions, looking and begging for money from everyone; ministers as parasites on society, living without honest labour, preying on the working man. Sam's favourite story was the old one about the woman whose child got a coin stuck in its throat. She did not send for the doctor, but for the minister! Sam had always seen considerable truth in this story and had told it to every minister he had met.
He told himself now that he was glad to get back the money, twenty-five dollars was not picked up every day. But he was not glad. The very touch of the bills was distasteful to him!
He did not tell his wife of the occurrence. Nor did he put the money in the black bag, where their money was always kept in the bureau drawer, safe under lock and key. He could not do that without telling his wife where it came from. So he shoved it carelessly into the pocket of the light overcoat that he was wearing. Sam Motherwell was not a careless man about money, but the possession of this particular twenty-five dollars gave him no pleasure.
THE OTHER DOCTOR
The young minister went down the street with a thoughtful face.
"I wonder if I did right," he was thinking. "It is a hard thing to talk that way to a human being, and yet it seems to be the only thing to do. Oh, what it would mean for God's work if all these rich farmers were saved from their insatiable greed."
He turned into Dr. Clay's office.
"Oh, Clay!" he burst out when he had answered the young man's friendly greeting, "it is an awful thing to lay open a mean man's meanness, and tell him the plain truth about himself."
"It is, indeed," the young doctor answered, "but perhaps it is heroic treatment your man needed, for I would infer that you have been reading the law to someone. Who was it?"
"Sam Motherwell," the minister answered.
"Well, you had a good subject," the doctor said gravely. "For aggravated greed, and fatty degeneration of the conscience, Mr. Motherwell is certainly a wonder. When that poor English girl took the fever out here, it was hard to convince Sam that she was really sick. 'Look at them red cheeks of hers,' he said to me, 'and her ears ain't cold, and her eyes is bright as ever. She's just lookin' for a rest, I think, if you wuz to ask me.'"
"How did you convince him?"
"I told him the girl would have to have a trained nurse, and would be sick probably six weeks, and then they couldn't get the poor girl off their hands quick enough. 'I don't want that girl dyin' round here,' Sam said."
"Is Mrs. Motherwell as close as he is?" the minister asked after a pause.
"Some say worse," the doctor replied, "but I don't believe it. She can't be."
The minister's face was troubled. "I wish I knew what to do for them," he said sadly.
"I'll tell you something you can do for me," the doctor said sitting up straight, "or at least something you may try to do."
"What is it?" the minister asked.
"Devise some method, suggest some course of treatment, whereby my tried and trusty horse Pleurisy will cease to look so much like a saw-horse. I'm afraid the Humane Society will get after me."
The minister laughed.
Everybody knew Dr. Clay's horse; there was no danger of mistaking him for any other. He was tall and lean and gaunt. The doctor had bought him believing him to be in poor condition, which good food and good care would remedy. But as the months went by, in spite of all the doctor could do, Pleurisy remained the same, eating everything the doctor brought him, and looking for more, but showing no improvement.
"I've tried everything except egg-nog," the doctor went on, "and pink pills, and I would like to turn over the responsibility to someone else. I think perhaps his trouble must be mental—some gnawing sorrow that keeps him awake at night. I don't mind driving Pleurisy where people know me and know that I do feed him occasionally, but it is disconcerting when I meet strangers to have kind-looking old ladies shake their heads at me. I know what they're thinking, and I believe Pleurisy really enjoys it, and then when I drive past a farmhouse to see the whole family run out and hold their sides is not a pleasure. Talk about scattering sunshine! Pleurisy leaves a trail of merriment wherever he goes."
"What difference does it make what people think when your conscience is clear. You do feed your horse, you feed him well, so what's the odds," inquired the Rev. Hugh Grantley, son of granite, child of the heather, looking with lifted brows at his friend.
"Oh, there you go!" the doctor said smiling. "That's the shorter catechism coming out in you—that Scotch complacency is the thing I wish I had, but I can't help feeling like a rogue, a cheat, an oppressor of the helpless, when I look at Pleurisy."
"Horace," the minister said kindly, with his level gray eyes fixed thoughtfully on his friend's handsome face, "a man in either your calling or mine has no right to ask himself how he feels. Don't feel your own pulse too much. It is disquieting. It is for us to go on, never faltering and never looking behind."
"In other words, to make good, and never mind the fans," the doctor smiled. Then he became serious. "But Grantley, I am not always so sure I am right as you are. You see a sinner is always a sinner and in danger of damnation, for which there is but one cure, but a sick man may have quinsy or he may have diphtheria, and the treatment is different. But oh! Grantley, I wish I had that Scotch-gray confidence in myself that you have. If you were a doctor you would tell a man he had typhoid, and he'd proceed to have it, even if he had only set out to have an ingrowing toe-nail. But my patients have a decided will of their own. There's young Ab Cowan—they sent for me last night to go out to see him. He has a bad attack of quinsy, but it is the strangest case I ever saw."
The gaiety had died out of the young man's face, and he looked perplexed and anxious.
"I do wish the old doctor and I were on speaking terms," he concluded.
"And are you not?" the minister asked in surprise. "Miss Barner told me that you had been very kind—and I thought—" There was a flush on the minister's face, and he hesitated.
"Oh, Miss Barner and I are the best of friends," the doctor said. "I say, Grantley, hasn't that little girl had one lonely life, and isn't she the brave little soul!"
The minister was silent, all but his eyes.
The doctor went on:
"'Who hath sorrow, who hath woe, who hath redness of eyes?' Solomon, wasn't it, who said it was 'they who tarry long at the wine'? I think he should have added 'those who wait at home.' Don't you think she is a remarkably beautiful girl, Grantley?" he asked abruptly.
"I do, indeed," the minister answered, giving his friend a searching glance. "But how about the doctor, why will he not speak to you?" He was glad of a chance to change the subject.
"I suppose the old man's pride is hurt every time he sees me. He evidently thinks he is all the medical aid they need around here. But I do wish he would come with me to see this young Cowan; it's the most puzzling case I've ever met. There are times, Grantley, when I think I should be following the plough."
The minister looked at him thoughtfully.
"A man can only do his best, Horace," he said kindly.
THE LIVE WIRE
"Who is this young gentleman or lady?" Dr. Clay asked of Pearlie Watson one day when he met her wheeling a baby carriage with an abnormally fat baby in it.