THE END OF THE RAINBOW
Author of "'Lisbeth of the Dale," "Treasure Valley," "Duncan Polite," etc.
McCLELLAND AND STEWART
PUBLISHERS : : TORONTO
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
I. THE GLEAM II. "THE GREATEST OF THE THREE" III. LIFE'S YOUNG MARINER IV. SIDE LIGHTS V. FOLLOWING THE GLEAM VI. LAUNCHING HIS VESSEL VII. "MOVING TO MELODY" VIII. "FLOATED THE GLEAM" IX. "DEAF TO THE MELODY" X. "THE LIGHT RETREATED" XI. "THE LANDSKIP DARKEN'D" XII. "THE MELODY DEADEN'D" XIII. "THE MASTER WHISPERED" XIV. "FOLLOW THE GLEAM"
THE END OF THE RAINBOW
All afternoon the little town had lain dozing under the lullaby of a June rain. It was not so much a rain as a gentle dewy mist, touching the lawns and gardens and the maple trees that lined each street into more vivid green, and laying a thick moist carpet over the dust of the highways. And the little town, ringed by forest and lake, and canopied by maple boughs, had lain there enjoying it, now blinking half-awake in the brief glimpses of sunlight, now curling up again and going to sleep.
In the late afternoon the silent tournament between sunshine and shadow resulted in a conquest for the sun. His victorious lances swept the enemy from the clean blue skies; they glanced over the lake, lodged in every treetop, and glittered from every church spire. The little town began to stir. The yellow dogs, that had slept all afternoon on the shop steps, roused themselves and resumed their fight in the middle of Main Street. Now and then a clerk ran across to a rival firm to get change for a customer. A few belated shoppers hurried homeward. A farmer's double-buggy backed out of the hotel yard with a scraping sound, and went rattling up the street towards the country. Everything seemed pervaded with an atmosphere of expectancy, a tense air of unrest, as though the whole place were holding itself in readiness for a summons.
And then it came: the great consummation of the day's work. From the tower of the fire-hall burst forth the loud peal of the town bell. Six o'clock! Like the castle of the Sleeping Beauty the town leaped into life. The whistles of the saw-mills down by the lake broke into shrieks of joy. The big steam pipe of Thornton's foundry responded with a delighted roar. The flour mill, the wheel-factory and the tannery joined in a chorus of yells. From factory and shop, office and store, came pouring forth the relieved workers, laughing and calling across the street to each other above the din. There was a noisy tramp, tramp of feet, a hurrying this way and that, a confusion of happy voices. And over all the clamour, the big bell in the tower continued to fling out far over the town and the lake and the woods the joyous refrain that the day's work was done, was done, was done.
Near the corner of Main Street, on a leafy thoroughfare that ran up into the region of lawns and gardens, stood a neat row of red-brick office buildings, with wide doors and shiny windows. Over the widest door and on the shiniest window, in letters of gold, was the legend: EDWARD BRIANS, Barrister, etc.
Never a man passed this door on his homeward way without saluting it.
"Hello, Ed! Coming home?"—"Hurrah, Ed! Will you be along if we wait ten minutes?"—"Ed! Hurry up and come along!"
No one appeared in response to the summons; but from within came refusals, roared out in a thunderous voice, each roar growing more exasperated than the last.
The streets were almost deserted when, at last, the owner of the big voice came to his door. He was a man of about thirty-five; of middle height, straight, strong and alert. His fair hair had a tendency towards red, and also towards standing on end, and his bright blue eyes had a tendency to blaze suddenly in wrath or shut up altogether in consuming laughter. He had practised law in Algonquin for ten years, and as he had been brought up in the town and was related to one-half the population, and loved by the whole of it, he was spoken of familiarly as Lawyer Ed.
A tall man, leading a little boy by the hand, followed him slowly down the steps. The man was not past middle age, but he was stooped and worn with a life of heavy toil.
"Well, Angus," Lawyer Ed was saying, his deep musical voice thrilling with sympathy, "that'll make you comfortable for a while now, until you're better, anyway. And there's no need for me, or any one, to tell you not to worry over it."
The older man smiled. "No, no. Tut, tut! Worry! That would be but a poor way to treat the Father's care, indeed." His dark eyes shone with an inner light. "If He needs my farm, He'll show me how to lift the mortgage. And if He needs me to do any more work for Him here, He'll give me back my health. But if not—" he paused and his hand went instinctively to the shoulder of the little boy looking up at him with big wondering eyes—"if not—well, well, never fear, He knows the way. He knows."
An old light wagon and a horse with hanging head were standing by the sidewalk. The man clambered slowly to the seat and gathered up the lines. Lawyer Ed picked up the little boy and swung him up beside his father. He shook him well before he set him down, boxed his ears, pulled his hair, and finally, diving into his pockets, brought out a big handful of pink "bull's-eyes" and showered them into his hat. The little fellow shouted with delight, and having crammed his mouth full, he doubled up his small fists and challenged his friend to another scuffle.
But Lawyer Ed shook his head.
"No! That's enough nonsense to-day, you young rascal! Good-bye, Angus, and—" his musical voice became low and soft—"and God bless you."
Angus McRae's smile, as he drove away, was like the sun breaking out over Lake Algonquin, and the lawyer felt as if their positions were reversed, and he had just put a mortgage on his farm and Angus were trying to comfort him.
He stood for a moment on the sidewalk, his bright eyes grown misty, and watched the pair drive down the hill. Then he looked across the street and saw Doctor Archibald Blair climbing into his mud-splashed buggy, satchel in hand. Lawyer Ed walked across to him, his shining boots sinking in the soft mud.
By descent Lawyer Ed was partly Scotch, by nature he was entirely Irish. He possessed a glib tongue of the latter order and his habit was to address every one he met, be he Indian, Highland Scot, or French Canadian, in the dialect which the person was supposed to favour. So he roared out in his magnificent baritone, as he picked his way among the puddles:
"Hoot! Losh! Is yon yersel', Aerchie mon?"
Doctor Blair glared down at him from under lowering brows.
"Dear me, Ed, you're an object of pity, when you try to get that clumsy tongue of yours, hampered as it is by a brogue from Cork, around the most musical sounds of the most musical language under heaven. Give it up, man! Give it up!"
"Haud yer whisht! Or whisht yer blethers!—whichever way that outlandish, heathenish gibberish your forebears jabbered, would have it. You see, Archie, one great advantage of being Irish—and it's not your fault that you're not, man, I don't blame you—one great advantage is that you can speak all languages with equal ease. Now a Scotchman's tongue is like his sense of humour and his brains—a bit hard to wiggle."
"'Beware a tongue that's smoothly hung, A heart that warmly seems to feel'"——
quoted Doctor Blair, who was always ready with his Burns. He shoved his black satchel under the seat, and hauled the muddy lap-robe over his knees.
"Do you want anything in the line of common sense, or did you just come over here to blather?"
"I came to see what you thought of Angus. Is he very sick?"
"Angus McRae? Yes he is, Ed, I'm sorry to say. I felt I ought to tell him to quit work altogether, but he can't afford it."
"Is it anything dangerous?"
"Well, if anything should happen—a shock or strain of any kind on his heart—he'd be laid up—maybe put out of business altogether."
"And to-day he put a mortgage on his place, to help pay the debts of Peter McDuff and a dozen other old leeches that live on him."
The two friends looked at each other and nodded silently.
"He's a wonderful man, that Angus McRae," said Dr. Blair.
"He's the finest man living!" cried Lawyer Ed, always enthusiastic. "I owe that man more than I can ever pay—not money, something more valuable—nearly everything I have that's worth while."
His friend nodded. There were few men in Algonquin who were not indebted to Angus McRae for something of value.
"Angus is rich in that sort of wealth," said Archie Blair.
"It's no in titles nor in rank; It's no in wealth like Lon'on bank, To purchase peace and rest. It's no in makin' muckle mair; It's no in books; it's no in lear; To make us truly blest.'"
"But Angus knows where it is, and he's not like most people who go to church and sing and pray one day in the week and cheat their neighbours the other six!"
The doctor cracked his whip and drove off in high good humour, for he had made a smart slap at the church, as he always loved to do in Lawyer Ed's presence, and had escaped before that glib Irishman could answer. He could catch something roared out behind him, about a man who could stay home from church so that he might be a hypocrite seven days in the week and half the nights too, but he pretended not to hear.
Meanwhile Angus McRae and his little son rattled away down one street and along another and out upon the country road. Just where the town and country met stretched a row of ragged, tumble-down buildings. There was an ill-smelling hotel, with two or three loungers smoking on the sagging veranda, a long fence covered with tattered and glaring circus posters, a half-dozen patched and weather-beaten houses and a row of abandoned sheds and barns.
Algonquin proper was a pretty little town, all orchards and gardens and winding hilly streets smothered in trees. And the dreary wretchedness of its back entrance, as it might be called, was all the more painful in contrast. Willow Lane, this miserable little street was named; but Angus McRae had long termed it, in his secret heart, the Jericho Road. For the old tavern at the end of it had proved the downfall of many a traveller on that highway, and many a man had Angus picked up, who had fallen there among thieves.
Every one on the Jericho Road knew him well, and went to him for help in time of trouble and, though they did not realise it, he was indeed their neighbour in precisely the way his Master meant him to be.
The lane turned into the country road, and once more all was fragrance and beauty. It curved around the southern shore of Lake Algonquin; on one side the forest, dark and cool, its dim floor splashed with golden light, its arches ringing with the call of the Canada bird, on the other side the blue and white of the lake, laughing and tumbling beneath the blue and white of the sky.
When the gleam of the water came into view, the little boy clapped his hands and churned up and down in delight. The fresh, damp wind fanned his face, and he shouted to the white-winged gulls dipping and soaring out there in their free ocean of air. He looked up laughingly into his father's face, but quickly became grave. His father's eyes were wistful; he had not spoken for a long time. The child remembered vague hints of trouble that afternoon in Lawyer Ed's office.
"You won't have to work when I get a big man, Daddy," he said comfortingly. "I'll work for you. An' I'll get rich, an' you'll have lots an' lots of money."
His father smiled down at him lovingly. "Och, indeed, it's your father will be the happy man when Roderick grows up. He'll have nothing to do at all at all."
"What was Lawyer Ed doing?" queried the child, after a moment's thought. "Is he goin' to let Jock McPherson take away our house?"
"No, no, child. You must not be troubling your head with such thoughts. It was just some business Roderick is not old enough to understand."
The little fellow sat swinging his short legs and gazing out over the lake, struggling with a vague sense of danger. He had been brought up on the edge of poverty, but had been joyously unconscious of the fact. His father, Aunt Kirsty, Collie, his dog, and the farm had been his world, a world of love and enjoyment and plenty. But now he felt the nearness of some unseen foe, something that had made Lawyer Ed and Doctor Blair look so grave, and was now keeping his father quiet and thoughtful. He had a notion that it all had something to do with money.
"If you only had a pot o' gold," he said at last, still staring out over the lake.
"A pot of gold!" repeated his father, with a laugh. "And what would be putting that into your foolish little head?"
"A pot o' gold would buy anything you wanted, Peter says. He told me about it, Peter Fiddle did. Once a boy found a pot o' gold hangin' on to the end of a rainbow. There's always one there, Daddy. Yes, there is, Peter Fiddle says so. An' a boy travelled a long, long way to the end of a rainbow, an' he found it—the pot o' gold. An' he was rich, an' he gave money to all the poor people an' made them happy."
"And so Peter's been telling you more fairy-tales, eh? Well, well, it will be a pretty one. And now, I suppose the first rainbow you see, you'll be off to get that pot of gold."
He nodded excitedly. "Wouldn't I just!" he cried.
Angus McRae was not despondent over the mortgage which his ill health and his extravagant expenditure for oil and wine and inn-fees had compelled him to put on his little farm. He was one of those glad souls, with such a perfect faith in his Father, that he could not but believe that what might seem to be a bane was in reality a blessing. But he was a little puzzled and thoughtful. The solution of the problem was in his Father's hands, of course, but he could not help wondering just how it would be worked out, and if he himself were using his every faculty for the best ends.
The greatest part of his problem was the Lad. His boy had been the very centre of all his thoughts since the day She had left him, with only faith in God and the Lad's baby hands to hold him up from despair. She had always hoped that the Lad would have an education, and Angus had planned that he should. But if the little farm was to go, the Lad would have to work for his father and Aunt Kirsty just as soon as he was big enough. And She had always hoped he should be a minister some day, or even, perhaps, a missionary to a heathen land.
And next to the Lad was his ministry to his neighbours. What was to become of that? Ministry was not the word Angus McRae would have used in speaking of his humble calling,—the mere working of a little market garden farm and the selling of what it produced. And yet he had made it a real and beautiful ministry to both God and his fellow-man. He considered the selling of sweet turnips and sound cabbage and unspotted potatoes to his customers as much a religious rite, as did the most devout Israelite the offering of that which was perfect on the altar of Jehovah. For indeed everything Angus sent off his little farm, whether sold for a legitimate price or given away, as it so often was, to a needy neighbour, was truly an offering to the Most High.
So he was a little puzzled, though not at all saddened, by the thought that his ministry was to be curtailed, perhaps stopped. He had hoped to be always able to give a bag of potatoes to a poor neighbour, or to bring to his home any one who had fallen on the Jericho Road. But then, if the Father wanted him to stop that, He surely had other work for him. So he flapped his old horse with the lines and, leaning forward, hummed the hymn that was his watchword in times of stress:
"My soul, be on thy guard, Ten thousand foes arise, The hosts of sin are pressing hard, To draw thee from the skies!"
The Lad interrupted constantly with eager questions about this flower and that tree, and his old horse demanded much attention, to keep her from turning off the road and regaling herself on the green grass. He flapped her at regular intervals with the lines, saying in a tone of gentle remonstrance, "Tut, tut, Betsy, get up now, get up."
Betsy had had so many years' intimate acquaintance with her master that this encouragement to greater speed had long ago lost its real meaning to her. She had come to regard its gentle reiteration as a sort of pleasant lullaby, and jogged along more peacefully than ever.
They slowly rounded a curve in the road and came into view of their home, the little weather-beaten house facing the lake, with Aunt Kirsty's garden a glory of sweet-peas, the long rows of neat vegetable beds sloping down to the water, the straggling lane with the big oak at the gate. And there was Collie bounding down the lane, uttering yelping barks and twisting himself almost out of joint in his efforts to wag his tale hard enough to express his welcome. The Lad leaped down and ran to open the gate; Collie knocked him over in his ecstasy, and his father smiled indulgently as the two rolled over and over on the grass.
"Run away in to Aunt Kirsty and tell her we are home, Lad," he cried, as he drove past to the barn. The boy put the pin in the old gate and went frolicking along the lane, the dog circling about him. The lane ran straight past the house down to the water, hedged by an old rail fence and fringed with raspberry and alder bushes. From it a little gate led into Aunt Kirsty's garden, which surrounded the house. The boy paused with his hand on the latch of the gate, looking down at the water. And then he gave a loud, ecstatic "Oh!" that made Collie bark, and stood perfectly still. He could see Lake Algonquin spread out before him, stretching away to the north in lovely curves like a great river. Its gleaming floor was dotted with green, feathery islands. To the west, in a silver haze, lay the town; to the east, a low, wooded shore where the spire of the little Indian church pointed up like a shining finger out of the green. Great masses of clouds were piled high in the west, where the sunset was turning all the world into glory. But it was not the beauty of the scene that was holding the little boy spellbound. Down there, straight ahead of him, was a most marvellous thing, the fulfilment of his dreams. Across the radiant water, stretching from some fairy island in the heavens, far over to the opposite shore, hung a rainbow! And more wonderful still, right down there at its foot, just beyond Wanda Island, gleaming and beckoning, hung the pot of gold!
The Lad's heart gave a great leap. There it was, just as Peter Fiddle had described it! Why should he not go after it, right now, and bring it home to his father? He went tearing down the hill, Collie leaping at his side. Peter Fiddle had said that the reason more folks did not get the rainbow gold and be rich and happy ever after, was because they did not go after it right at once. For the pot of gold did not hang there very long, and might slip into the water with a big splash any minute, and be gone forever. So the Lad ran in frantic haste, and the dog bounded ahead and nearly rushed into the water, in his mistaken idea that he was to catch the gulls that came swooping so near and were off and away before he could snap. The old green boat belonging to his father was lying on its side half in the water; the Lad tugged at it madly without moving it an inch. He glanced about him and spied with delight Peter Fiddle's canoe lying upside down under the birches. Peter worked for his father, when not away fishing or playing the fiddle or spinning yarns; and when he went away by land his canoe was always at home, and sometimes the Lad had paddled out in it alone. He pulled and tugged at it manfully, and after great exertions that left him panting, he managed to launch it. Collie, just returned from a mad charge after the gulls, leaped in beside him. The boy seized the paddle and pushed off hurriedly. He seated himself on the thwart and looked out to get his direction. Yes, there it still hung, away out there at the end of the island, gleaming bigger and brighter than ever. The canoe was large, and the paddle clumsy, but he was filled with such a passion to get that gold that he made wonderful progress. He leaned far over the side, splashing the heavy paddle into, the water, until, what with his unsteady stroke, his dangerous position on the thwart, and Collie's mad attempts to catch the passing gulls, the wonder was that the rainbow expedition did not come to grief as soon as it was launched. But the Lad had been brought up on the water, and had already had many a lesson in canoeing from Peter Fiddle, and, after the first excitement, he realised his mistake. So he slid to his knees and ordered Collie to the bottom of the canoe in front of him. Then, gazing intently ahead, he paddled, in a zigzag course, out towards the wonderful golden haze.
Somehow it had a strange, elusive way of seeming to be in one place and then appearing in another. The canoeist grew hot, and panting with his efforts. The perspiration stood out on his round, rosy face, and the curls on his forehead became wet. He flung off his hat, and redoubled his efforts. He bent his head to his task, as his paddle bumped and splashed its way into the water. When he looked up again, he found, to his dismay, that Wanda Island lay right between him and his shining goal.
This little garden of spruce and cedar had heretofore marked the bounds of his excursions. His father had often allowed him to go out alone in the boat or Peter's canoe, but only when he was watching from the fields or the shore, and then he was permitted to go only up and down in the shelter of the island. But he did not hesitate to go farther, fearing the magic gold might vanish while he lingered. He revived his flagging energies by picturing his father's joy and wonder when he returned and came staggering up the path with the money. And then his father could wear his Sunday blacks every day in the week, and never work any more, but just ride to and from town all day long in a new buggy, a painted one like Doctor Blair's. And they would hire Peter Fiddle and young Peter every day in the year to hoe the fields, and they would give away everything they grew. And the people in Willow Lane would all be good and happy ever after. Oh, there would never be any trouble of any kind when he came home with that pot of gold!
He paddled manfully round the island, pushing through the reeds of the little bay and just skimming the rocks at the western extremity. But his arms ached so, that he had to pause a moment to rest. As he did so, he heard a loud whistle, and the steamer, Inverness, came round a far point and turned her long bowsprit towards the town, lying off to the left in a shining mist. The boy grabbed his paddle again and redoubled his efforts. Peter had gone down to Barbay that morning on the Inverness, and was in all likelihood on board, and although the young adventurer intended to reward Peter liberally for the use of his canoe, he felt it would be safer for him to have it on shore before its owner returned. He took one tremendous splashing stroke, and, as he did so, he felt a strange, sharp pain in his right arm. It made him cry out so loud that Collie turned quickly to him with a whine of grieved sympathy. The boy dropped the paddle across his knee and caught his arm. Gradually the pain left and he took up the paddle again. But somehow the glory of the expedition seemed to have vanished. He wanted Aunt Kirsty when that pain came into his arm, more than he wanted all the gold of all the rainbows he had ever seen. He bent to his paddle with much less vim, and slowly and painfully round the island he came, and out into the open lake. And then,—where, oh, where, was the pot of gold? And where was the rainbow? He seemed to have come out with one stroke of his paddle from a world that was all colour and light to one that was cold, grey and dreary. He looked about him amazed. All the beauty of the lake had faded into mist. The rainbow was gone! A chill, damp breeze fanned his hot face, coming down from the north, where the clouds had grown black. The little mariner sat on his heels in the bottom of his canoe and looked about him in dismay. Surely the pot of gold had not gone. Perhaps it was hidden away behind those dark clouds and would come gleaming out again right in front of him. But though he sat and waited, the world only grew greyer and darker. Collie stood up again and barked defiance at a heron that sailed away overhead, but his little master sharply bade him lie down. The pain in his arm gave another twinge, and slowly and sadly he took up his paddle and turned his canoe homeward.
As he did so he felt a light breeze lift him. It came from the north, where those dark clouds had swallowed up his rainbow. A strange, weird thing was happening up there in those clouds, and the boy paused to watch. Down the shimmering floor of the lake, sweeping slowly towards him, came a great army. Stealthy, hurrying shapes, with bent, grey-cowled heads, and trailing garments, rank on rank they stole forward, mystery and fear in their every movement. Many a time, on an autumn evening, the boy had watched the fog start away up the lake and come stealing down, until the islands and the town and the forest were covered as with a blanket. But he had never seen anything so awesome as this. The strange shapes into which the light gusts of wind had driven the mist made them look like an army of ghosts driven out of the haunts of night. They were bringing night in their train, too. For as they swept silently onward, everything in earth and lake and sky was blotted out. One by one the islands vanished; the far-off eastern shore was wiped away as if by some magic hand. The tower of the little Indian church stood out for a moment above the flood and then sank engulfed; and the next moment the great host had swept over the little sailor and he was walled in and cut off from land and water, alone in a cloudy sea with neither shore nor sky nor surface. The boy turned swiftly towards his home, and when he saw that it, too, was gone, he uttered a cry of terror. "Daddy, oh, Daddy!" he wailed. Collie came close and licked his face and whined, then looked about him and growled disapprovingly at the weird thing that surrounded them. The boy put his arms tight around the dog's neck and hugged him. "Oh, Collie!" he cried, "we're lost, and I don't know where home is and where Daddy is." It was not the loss of gold that troubled him now. He stared about him in the greyness, striving to make out some object. The fog was so thick that he could see only the length of the canoe, but a big, darker mass of shadow in a world of shadows, told him where Wanda Island lay, and grasping his paddle, he started in what he believed to be the direction of home. He paddled until he was out of breath, rested a moment, then went at it again with all his might. The pain in his arm returned, but he dared not stop. And as he worked madly in his efforts to reach home, the gentle wind was slowly but surely carrying him out to the open lake.
Every few minutes the thought of his father would overcome him and he would drop his paddle and, sinking down beside Collie, would sob aloud. Then he would rise again bravely and go at his task, but each time with feebler efforts. The pain in his arm, which kept returning at intervals, was sometimes so bad he had to stop and nurse it. He was wet to the skin now, and Collie's hair was dripping. Whenever he rested, he spent the interval calling loudly for his father, while Collie helped him by barking, but though he listened till his ears were strained, only the soft lap, lap, of the waves against the canoe answered. As night came on the thick pall grew heavier and blacker, and at last he could not see even the length of the canoe.
The sore arm became almost helpless at last, and he could paddle only a few strokes at long intervals. He slipped down beside Collie, hugging him close, and sobbed out on his sympathetic head his sorrow for the rash venture. He even confessed that he wished he had left his friend at home. "Aunt Kirsty and Daddy will be that lonesome, Collie," he wailed, "without either of us. But I couldn't do without you at all, Collie!" he added. And Collie licked his face again, and whined his appreciation of the compliment. They seemed to drift on and on for hours and hours. The boy's imagination, fed by the wild tales from Peter Fiddle—tales of shipwrecks at sea, and dead men's bones cast upon haunted islands—, became a prey to every terror. There were ghosts and goblins out here, and water fairies, that might spirit you away to a land whence there was no returning; and there were those other creatures so terrible that Peter had not dared even to describe them, called "Bawkins." He shivered at the thought of them, and clung to the dog, too frightened to cry out. He had been trying to pray in broken snatches, but now, in his extremity of fear, he felt he must put up a petition of more force. He scrambled to his knees and tried to get Collie to join him by bowing his head. But Collie seemed of an altogether irreverent nature, and only licked his little master's face all the more. So the Lad gave it up, and, putting his hands together behind the dog's head, whispered: "Oh, dear Lord, we're lost, me and Collie. Please send Father and Peter Fiddle with the boat to find us. Please don't let us get drownded or don't let the Bawkins get us. And please don't mind Collie not prayin' right, 'cause he's only a dog, but he's lost, too; and please bring us safe home. And oh, Dear Jesus, I'm sorry I came out alone to hunt for the pot o' gold, but I didn't know it was so far, and please won't you make Daddy and Peter Fiddle hurry, 'cause I'm so cold and so hungry and my arm's awful sore and I can't paddle no more. And please, if Peter Fiddle ain't home yet and has gone off and got drunk, won't you please send young Peter with Daddy. And please send them in a hurry." He paused, but felt he must end in a more becoming way. It was his first extemporaneous prayer of any length, and he scarcely knew how to close. Then he remembered how Dr. Leslie, in the church where he went every Sabbath with his father, was wont to bring his morning petition to a close, so he added, "Only please, please, don't let Peter Fiddle get drunk to-night—world wifout end. Amen."
There were some more tears after that, but not such bitter ones; for Angus McRae's son could not but believe that God heard prayer, and he waited for his answer in a child's faith. "He's sure to send Daddy soon, Collie," he said comfortingly; and then, quaveringly, after a few moments of intense listening and waiting, "It wouldn't be like God not to, now, would it, Collie?"
There was another period of calling into the darkness and of silent waiting, broken only by the wash of the little ripples against the canoe. And then there was a spasmodic attempt at paddling, followed by another season of prayer and a piteous plea for haste. Then the Lad bethought himself of his father's hymn, the one he sang so often when he was in danger; though the son often was puzzled as to what sort of danger it was that assailed his father. There was no doubt about his own danger just now, so the child lifted a tremulous voice and tried to sing:—
"My soul, be on thy guard, Ten thousand foes arise, The hosts of sin are pressing hard, To draw thee from the skies!"
But the singing was a failure. He was hoarse with crying and shouting, and fearful that the "Bawkins" would hear, and come and carry his canoe through the air, away, away, to the land of mists and dead people. And the poor sounds he managed to make seemed to strike Collie as the most grievous thing of all this disastrous voyage, for he put back his head and howled dismally. So the Lad gave it up and took to praying again, sure that though Father and Aunt Kirsty and Peter Fiddle were far away, that God was near. He was wet and chilled through now, and was so exhausted that at last his head sank on Collie's neck. He was lying there, half asleep, when the dog suddenly gave a leap and a loud bark that roused him in terror. He clutched Collie and held him down with stern threats. But his terror changed to wild hope. Away behind him was a dim yellow light making a long tunnel through the fog. And down it a far, far voice was calling, "Roderick! Roderick, my son, where are you?"
"Daddy! Oh, Daddy!" the boy answered with a hoarse scream. "Here I am in the canoe with Collie!" There was no need to announce the dog's presence, for Collie was barking madly and leaping so his little master could hardly hold him. But he was not nearly so careful as he would have been a few minutes before, for it did not seem to matter even if the canoe did upset, when his father was near!
The next moment a boat swept alongside with a blinding glare of light, and such a crowd of people!—Peter Fiddle at the oars, and young Peter at the rudder, and Lawyer Ed! And there seemed to be lights suddenly appearing on every side, and the whole lake was ringing with shouts! But the boy heard only his father's voice, saw only his outstretched arms. He fairly tumbled out of the canoe into them, and there sobbed out all his terror and exhaustion, while Collie leaped and barked and tried his best to upset the boat.
"Oh, Daddy," the little boy sobbed, with the wisdom born of adversity, "I didn't get the gold—but—I—don't want anything ever—if I've just got you!"
Angus McRae had been an intimate friend of Edward Brians, ever since the days when the latter was a little boy and the former a young man living on adjoining farms. Angus had, early in life, taken upon himself the role of Good Samaritan, watching with especial care over this young neighbour, and many a time the headlong lad might have fallen among thieves had a friend's example and assistance not been always at hand.
And now Lawyer Ed's mind was busy with schemes for returning a little of that life-long assistance, as he set out for his office the morning after young Roderick's rainbow expedition. "I've got to get some money, and I will get it," he announced to the blooming syringa bush at his door, "if I have to take it by assault and battery."
He had come home very late the night before, but he was astir none the less early for that. For though he was usually the last man in the town to go to bed, and often worked nearly all night, he always appeared in good time the next morning, looking as fresh and well-groomed as though he had just come home from a month's vacation.
Like all the other professional folk of Algonquin, Lawyer Ed lived up on the hill to the north of the town. His widowed sister kept his house and wondered, with all the rest of the town, why on earth Ed didn't get married. Her brother answered all enquiries on the subject according to the age and sex of the enquirer; and had nearly every young lady in the place convinced that he was secretly pining for her. He came swinging down his steps this bright June morning humming a tune in his deep melodious voice. He picked a rosebud and fastened it in his button-hole and strode down the street, stopping at the gate of every one of his friends—and who wasn't his friend?—to hail the owner and summon him to his work. He ran into "Rosemount," the big brick house where the handsome Miss Armstrongs lived, to make arrangements for a Choral Society practice, he drummed up a half-dozen recreant Sunday-school teachers within the space of two blocks, and he roared across the street to Doctor Archie Blair to be sure not to forget that thae bit bills for the Scotchmen's picnic maun be gotten oot that week. For Lawyer Ed belonged to every organisation of the town in church or state, except the Ladies' Aid—and he often attended even its meetings when he wanted something, and always got what he wanted, too. So, although he had started early, it was rather late when at last he reached the home of his special friend, J. P. Thornton, and hammered loudly on the gate. So late, in fact, that J. P. had gone. He went on alone very much disappointed. When any one in Algonquin was in trouble he went to Lawyer Ed, but when Lawyer Ed was in trouble himself, he went to his old chum, J. P. Thornton. And he was in trouble this morning, none the less deep that it was another's. He looked down the street towards his office, knowing a big day's work awaited him there.
"You can just wait," he remarked to the trim red brick building. "I've got to get Angus off my mind;" and he whirled in at the Manse gate and went up the steps in two springs.
The Manse was a broad-bosomed, wide-armed house, opposite the church, looking as if it wanted to embrace every one who approached its big doorway. Its appearance was not deceiving. No matter at what hour one went inside its gate, one found at least half the congregation there, the sad ones sitting in the doctor's study, the happy ones spread out over the lawn. As Lawyer Ed remarked, the Lord had purposely given the Leslies no children, so that they might adopt the congregation and bring it up in the way it should go.
Mrs. Leslie was at the other end of the garden, cutting roses; she waved a spray at him, heavy with dew, and he took off his hat and made her a profound bow. He would have shouted a greeting to any other woman in Algonquin, but he never roared at Mrs. Leslie. There was something In the stately old-world atmosphere surrounding the lady of the Manse, that made even Lawyer Ed treat her with deference.
The door was open and he went straight in and along the hall towards the minister's study. As he did so a door at the opposite end of the hall opened suddenly and admitted a round black face and an ample red-aproned figure.
"Good mawnin', Missy Viney!" drawled the visitor. "I done wanta see de ministah, bress de Lawd!"
Viney's white eyeballs and shining teeth flashed him a welcome.
"Laws-a-me, Lawya Ed! Is you-all gwine get marrit?"
Viney was a fat, jolly young woman, whom Mrs. Leslie had lured from the little negro settlement in the township of Oro, a few miles from Algonquin. She felt the responsibility of her position fully, and showed a marked interest in the affairs of every one of the congregation. But of all living things she loved Lawyer Ed most. His presence never failed to put her in the highest spirits, and his bachelorhood was her perennial joke.
"Yassum," he answered, hanging his head shyly, "if you done hab me, Viney. I bin wantin' you for years, but I bin too bashful."
Viney screamed and flapped her red apron at him. "You go 'long, you triflin' lawya-man!" she cried, going off into a gale of giggles; but just then the study door opened, the minister's head came out, and the cook's vanished.
"Ah, I thought it was you, Edward, by the joyful noise," said Dr. Leslie, smiling. He took his visitor by the hand and drew him in.
"Come away, come. I was hoping you would drop in this morning."
They sat down, the minister in his arm-chair before his desk. Lawyer Ed balanced on the arm of another, protesting that he must not stay. It was his way when he dropped in at the Manse and remained a couple of hours or so, to bustle about, hat and stick in hand, changing from one chair to another, to assure himself that he was just going. Dr. Leslie understood, and did not urge him to sit down.
Though not an old man, the minister had seen Lawyer Ed grow up from the position of a scholar in his Sabbath School, and quite the most riotous and mischievous one there, to the superintendency of it, and to a seat in the session; and he had a special fatherly feeling towards his youngest elder. Dr. Leslie was the only man in Algonquin, too, folk said, whom Lawyer Ed feared, and to whose opinion he deferred without argument.
"And have you heard from Angus this morning,—or the wee lad?"
"Archie came home about an hour ago. The little rascal's all right, except for a sore arm. I guess he nearly put it out of joint, paddling. Angus was better, too; but I'm bothered about Angus, Dr. Leslie. That's what I came in for."
He moved about the room, fingering ornaments, picking up books and laying them down again.
"Archie Blair says the anxiety was so bad for his heart, that he's got to stop work right away, for all summer anyway, and perhaps longer. And his place is all planted, and yesterday, at my advice, he put a mortgage on it."
He stopped before his minister and looked at him with appealing, troubled eyes. "I feel as if I shouldn't have let him, but I didn't anticipate this."
Dr. Leslie sat drumming his fingers on the table, his face very grave.
"We can't see Angus McRae want, Edward. We're all indebted to him for something—every one of the session, and the minister most of all."
"The session!" Lawyer Ed jumped off the arm of the sofa where he had just perched. "There's an idea. If you laid it before them, they'd do something; and J. P. and I'll push it and Archie Blair will help."
The minister shook his head. "The session is a big body, Edward, and—" he smiled,—"it has wives and daughters. This must not be talked about. If we help Angus, we mustn't kill him at the same time by hurting his Highland pride."
Lawyer Ed whacked a sofa cushion impatiently with his cane.
"There it is, of course! Hang Scotchmen, anyway! You can't treat them like human beings. That abominable thing they call their pride—always clogs your wheels whichever way you go."
"Don't revile the tree from which you sprung, Edward," said the Scotchman, smiling.
"Thank the Lord, the limb I grew on had a few good green Irish shamrocks mixed with the thistles. If Angus had been as fortunate we'd have him out of distress to-morrow."
"Angus McRae will be the least distressed of us all. I thought of Paul last night when I saw him, 'troubled on every side, yet not distressed, perplexed but not in despair.' We must think of some way in which we can help him quietly—so quietly he may not know it himself. Who has the mortgage?"
"Jock McPherson, of course, who else?"
The minister's face brightened. "Jock McPherson! Well, well, that is fortunate, Edward. Jock's heart is big enough to put the whole church inside provided you find the right key."
"Yes, but it's a ticklish job fitting it when you do find it. Some small item in the business will strike him the wrong way and he will get slow and stiff and arise to the occasion with, 'I feel, Mister Moterator, that it is my juty to object.'"
His imitation of Mr. McPherson's deliberate manner, when in his sadly frequent role of objector in the session, could not but bring a smile to the minister's face.
"I have no fear of your not being able to overcome his objections, should any arise. Now, sit down just a few minutes, and let us see what is to be done."
The two talked far into the morning, and laid their plans well. Mr. McPherson was to be persuaded to remove the mortgage, and instead, as Angus was in need of the money, to rent the farm. Lawyer Ed was to see that it was let for a goodly sum that would keep its owner beyond anxiety, and whatever Jock stood to lose by the bargain was to be returned to him in whole or part by a little circle of friends. It was a great scheme, worthy of a legal mind, Dr. Leslie said, and Lawyer Ed went away well pleased with it.
He went two blocks out of his way, so that he could reach J. P. Thornton's office without passing his own, and spent another hour laying the scheme before him.
So, when he finally got to his place of business, irate clients were buzzing about it like angry bees. But little cared Lawyer Ed. He laughed and joked them all into good humour and dropping into the chair at his desk, he drove through a mass of business in an incredibly short time, telephoning, writing notes, hailing passers-by on the street, and attending to his correspondence, all while he was holding personal interviews,—doing half-a-dozen things at once and doing them as though they were holiday sport.
The rush of the day's business kept him from speaking to Jock McPherson until late in the evening, when, at the end of the session meeting, he found himself walking away from the church with Mr. McPherson on one side and his friend, J. P. Thornton, on the other. He felt just a little anxious over the outcome of the interview. He had no fear that Jock would be unwilling to help Angus McRae, but he had every fear, and with good reason, that he would want to do it in his own way. If Jock were in a good humour, he would fall in with the plan, if not, he would do exactly as he pleased and spoil everything.
And, as ill-luck would have it, when they were coming down the steps under the checkered light from the arc-lamp shining through the leaves, Lawyer Ed made the most unfortunate remark he could have chosen.
He was carrying home a Book of Praise under his arm and was humming a psalm in a rich undertone. And the unwise thing he said was: "I'd like to sing the Amen at the end of the psalms, as well as the hymns. What do you say, J. P.?"
"An excellent idea, Ed," said Mr. Thornton heartily. "The psalms would sound much more finished—" He stopped suddenly, realising that they had made a fatal mistake. Mr. McPherson had overheard, and uttered a disgusted snort. For he hated the new appendage to the hymns, and looked upon its importation into the church service much as if the use of incense had been introduced. He was a little man, with a shrewd eye and a slow tongue—but a tongue that could give a deadly thrust when he got ready to use it.
"The Aye-men," he said with great deliberation, and when he was most deliberate, he was most to be feared. "Inteet, and you'll be putting that tail to the end o' the psawlms too." He tapped Lawyer Ed on the arm with his spectacle case. "Jist be waiting a bit till you get permission, young man. You and John Thornton are not jist awl the session."
Mr. McPherson was the senior elder, the champion of all things orthodox, and he was inclined to regard Lawyer Ed and J. P. as irresponsible boys.
"Hoot toot, mon," shouted Lawyer Ed jovially. "What's wrong wi' a bit Aye-men foreby? It's in the Scriptur', 'Let all the people say Amen'—and here you would forbid them!"
Jock was a Highlander, and Lawyer Ed's habit of addressing him in a Lowland dialect was particularly irritating as the mischievous young elder well knew.
"Yus. You know the Scriptures ferry well indeed, but if you would be reading a little farther you will find that it will be saying, 'How shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen?'"
This tickled Lawyer Ed and he laughed loudly. "Tut, tut, Jock! It's a small thing to make a fuss about. You and Jimmie McTavish and a lot more of you fellows are dead set against all sorts of things that you accept in the end. Why, man, I can remember the day when you two objected to the little organ in the old church, and you got used to it and liked it."
"I liked it? Indeed, and when would that be?"
"Well, you stopped kicking, anyway, until we got the big one, which was clean unreasonable, whatefer."
"No, sir." Mr. McPherson's spectacle case tapped the younger man's arm peremptorily. "I was perfectly logical then, as I am now. I objected when the wee squeaking thing was brought in, and I objected more when you and the weemin filled up the end o' the church with a machine to turn us all deef. As I say, I was perfectly logical, the greater the organ, the greater the objection."
J. P. hid a smile in the darkness and hastened to interpose, for when Jock once got riding his objection hobby he would agree with nothing under the sun.
"There's an article in the British Weekly on the evolution of the church service—" he began; but his impetuous friend was bent on setting Jock right in his own way, and hastened to his destruction.
"And on the same principle, the more Amen, the more objection, eh?" he cried laughingly. "But now, look here, if you'll only consider this thing with a fair mind you can't help seeing that, as J. P. says, a hymn or a psalm sounds unfinished without an Amen at the end. Take any hymn for example—"
They had reached the McPherson gate by this time, where an arc light, high up in its leafy perch, was sputtering away shedding a white glow over the side-walk and embroidering it with an exquisite pattern worked out in leaf-shadows. Lawyer Ed paused under the lamp and opened the Book of Praise.
"I defy you to find one that isn't improved and finished and rounded off by an Amen at the end." He selected a hymn at random, and sang a stanza in his rich voice that poured itself out gloriously on the evening air.
"Faith and hope and love we see Joining hands in unity, But the greatest of the three And the best is love. Amen."
The beautiful words, sung in Lawyer Ed's melodious voice, were enough to move even Jock's orthodox heart. He was silent for a moment, then the noise of a window being raised above their heads interrupted.
Mrs. McPherson was accustomed to after-session meetings, and noisy ones too, at her gate. But when they were accompanied by singing and shouting, at the disgraceful hour of eleven P. M. she felt it time to interfere. So she opened the window noisily and enquired if there was a fire anywhere.
There was. It blazed up in Lawyer Ed's heart, so enraged was he at this very inopportune interruption, coming just when he thought he saw Jock wavering. He shouted at her to go in and mind her own business.
No one in Algonquin heeded what Lawyer Ed said when he was angry, but Mr. McPherson was in no mood to put up with even him. He became deadly slow and deliberate. He turned his back on the turbulent young man, and addressed the open window:
"No, it will not be a fire, Mary," he called. "It's just an Eerishman got loose, and we'll haf to let him talk off his noise. He reminds me," he continued, still addressing the window, though it had closed with a bang, "he reminds me of that Chersey cow, my Cousin McNabb had in Islay. She wasn't much for giffin' milk, and it was vurry thin at that, but she was a great musician. You could hear her bawlin' across two concessions."
J. P. Thornton was a jolly young Englishman, very prone to mirth, and this was too much for him. He turned traitor and laughed aloud. Lawyer Ed glared angrily at him; but Jock's face underwent a peculiar twist. He had had no notion of saying anything witty, he had been too angry for that; but he had learned by experience that he never knew when he was going to make a joke. He was often surprised in the midst of a speech by a burst of laughter from his friends, Lawyer Ed generally first. Then he would pause and survey the path he had travelled, to find that all unconsciously he had stumbled upon a humorous vein. So when J. P. laughed he stopped to consider. The enemy flew to defend his "bawlin'" and there was no time to see if he really had made a joke. But he was suspicious, and the suspicion put him into a good humour. A sudden inspiration seized him; he caught the book Lawyer Ed was brandishing and, opening it, laid it carefully on the top of the gate-post.
"It's more feenished and rounded off, with the 'Aye-men, is it?" he enquired with deep sarcasm. "But you would not be feenishing it after all. If ye're bound and deturmined to put a tail on the end o' the hime, why don't ye sing awl that's in the book. You would be leaving out a bit."
He took his glasses from their case, fitted them on, and held the book carefully towards the electric light.
"If ye want it feenished, this is the way it should be sung."
Now, not even Mrs. Jock, who believed her husband the cleverest man in Algonquin, could say he was a singer, and it was with a terribly discordant wail that he lifted his voice in the melancholy words of the hymn before him:
"There are no pardons in the toomb, And brief is mercy's day. A-m-e-n-T-h-o-m-a-s-H-a-s-t-i-n-g-s—"
The awful "Amen," drawled out to an indefinite length, with the author's name, on the end, was irresistible. J. P. broke into a shout of laughter. For a moment, Lawyer Ed's eyes gleamed in the darkness, but only for a moment, then he too gave way, and when Lawyer Ed laughed, a really good hearty laugh, it was a musical performance that did not stop until every one within hearing was joining in the chorus.
And then Jock began to realise that he had been witty again. He paused and bethought himself of what he had done, and he too saw how funny it was. He did not laugh right out at first. Jock's mirth, like his wit, was too deliberate for that. He began by uttering a low subterranean sort of chuckle, which finally worked to the surface in a rhythmic shaking of his whole sturdy little body. By this time J. P. was leaning against a tree wiping his eyes, and everybody up and down the street was smiling and saying, "That's Lawyer Ed's laugh. What's he up to now, I wonder?" Jock checked his mirth quickly; it was not seemly to rejoice too heartily over one's own humour, but before the joy of it had left, by an adroit turn, J. P. had sent the conversation into its proper channel.
"A good joke on you, Ed!" he cried. "I must tell that to Angus McRae. Angus doesn't love the 'Amen' too much either, Jock."
"Angus is in great trouble," exclaimed Lawyer Ed, wiping his eyes and trying to look serious. "Did you hear about it, Jock?"
Jock had not heard, so the story of little Roderick's rainbow expedition and his father's consequent heart affection was quickly told. And when the splendid plan to help was adroitly unfolded, Jock was quick to respond. It was the psychological moment; Thomas Hastings had driven away all dourness and Angus McRae's case was safe.
The two friends walked homeward under the shadows of the maples, the night-air sweet with the perfume of many gardens. They were both very happy, so happy indeed, that, as usual, they walked miles before they finally settled for the night.
First, J. P. recollected again that fine article in the British Weekly, and strolled up the hill with his friend while he gave a synopsis of it. When they reached the gate, Lawyer Ed remembered that he should have told J. P. about old man Cassidy's will and the trouble Mike was in over it, and so returned to J. P.'s gate. The Cassidy will was finished and J. P. in the midst of another fascinating article on Imperial Federation, when they reached there, and Lawyer Ed made him come up the hill again so that he might hear it. It was their usual manner of going home after a session meeting.
"And may I ask," said J. P., when their personal part in the financing of Angus's affairs had been finally settled, and they stood at his gate for the third and last time, "may I ask, if it is not too curious on my part, if you intend to appropriate church funds for your contribution, or just rob the bank?" For J. P. knew well that Lawyer Ed's extravagant generosity always kept him on the edge of poverty.
"Well, neither. Jock mightn't think the first was orthodox. I don't believe he'd object so strongly to the second, but it mightn't be successful. I think,—yes, I'm afraid, I must draw on the Jerusalem Fund again."
"Of course, I knew you would. Let me see; that's seven times we've stayed home from the Holy Land, isn't it?—the perfect number. A person naturally thinks of sevens in connection with Bible places."
Lawyer Ed laughed light-heartedly. Ever since the days when these two had tried to sit together in Sunday-school, and been separated by Doctor Leslie, they had planned that some time, they would make a visit together to Bible lands. Many a time since the trip had almost materialised, but Lawyer Ed's money would fade away, or J. P.'s business interfere or some other contingency arise to make them stay at home. The final plans had been laid for the coming autumn, and now it was again to be postponed.
But J. P. was not deceived into supposing Lawyer Ed was merely drawing upon a holiday fund.
"I believe you have somewhere about five dollars laid away for that trip, haven't you?"
"Four-and-a-half, to be correct," said his friend brazenly.
"I thought so. And where's the rest going to spring from?" He was accustomed to keeping a stern eye on Ed's affairs or the extravagant young man would have given away his house and office and all their contents long ago.
Lawyer Ed did not answer for a moment. He looked like a naughty schoolboy caught In a foolish prank. The confession came out at last.
"I'd almost decided not to go in with Will Graham's scheme. I don't see how I can leave here just now, that's a fact."
"Ed!" cried his friend, half-admiring, half-impatient. "Why, man, it's the chance of your life. Bill's making money so fast he can't keep count of it. You'll be a rich man and a famous one too in a few years if you go in with him, do you realise that?"
"Oh, there are lots more chances."
"Yes, and they'll slip away like this one. I,—can't I help a little more?"
"No. And don't talk any more about it. It's just this way, Jock, I've no choice in the matter. If it was my last cent, and I knew I'd go to jail for it to-morrow, I'd help Angus. I just couldn't see him want. It's all right. I'll stay on in Algonquin a few more years, and we'll see what'll happen. Good-night."
"Yes, and good-night to all your ambitions and the Holy Land too."
"Not a bit of it! Ambition be hanged. I don't care about that. But we're going to the Holy Land yet, if we put it off until seventy times seven. We'll wait till young Roderick's grown up and pays us back, and then we'll go. Indeed, I'm going to refuse positively to go to the New Jerusalem until I've seen the old!"
He swung away up the street as bright and gay as though he had just accepted a fine new position instead of refusing one. He was so happy that he softly sang the hymn that had opened the good work of the evening. It was very appropriate:
"Faith and hope and love we see Joining hands in unity, But the greatest of the three And the best is love."
He was passing near Jock's house so he roared out the "Amen" in the hope that the elder had not yet gone to sleep. And Mrs. Leslie's Viney declared the next morning that she done heah dat Lawyah Ed and J. P. Thornton gwine home straight ahead all de bressed night, and she did 'clar dey was still goin' when she put on de oatmeal mush for de breakfus!
LIFE'S YOUNG MARINER
On a hazy August afternoon the little steamer Inverness,—Captain, James McTavish—came sailing across Lake Simcoe with her long white bowsprit pointing towards the cedar-fringed gates opening into Lake Algonquin. She was a trim little craft, painted all blue and white like the water she sailed. Captain McTavish, who was also her owner, had named her after his birthplace. He loved the little steamer, and pronounced her name with a tender lingering on the last syllable, and a softening of the consonants, that no mere Sassenach tongue could possibly imitate.
There were not many passengers to-day; the majority were mothers with their children, the latter chasing each other about the deck or clambering into all forbidden and dangerous places, the former sitting in the shade, darning or sewing or embroidering according to their station in life. A few young ladies sat in groups, and chatted and ate candies, or read and ate candies while one young man, in white flannels and a straw hat waited upon them with stools and wraps and drinks of water, and magazines, fetching and carrying in a most abject manner. There was always a sad dearth of young men on the Inverness, except on a public holiday; but as the girls said, they could always depend on Alf. He was Algonquin's one young gentleman of leisure, and beside having a great deal of money to spend on ice-cream and bon-bons, had also an unlimited amount of good nature to spend with it.
He seemed to be the only one on board who had much to do. Down below, old Sandy McTavish, the engineer and the captain's brother, was seated on a nail keg smoking and spinning yarns to a couple of young Indians. His assistant, Peter McDuff the younger, who did such work as had to be done to make the Inverness move, was lounging against the engine-room door, listening.
Up in the little pilot house in the bow, the captain was also at leisure. He was perched upon a stool watching, with deep interest and admiration, the young man who was guiding the wheel.
"Ah, ha! ye haven't forgotten, I see!" he exclaimed proudly, as the strong young hands gave the vessel a wide sweep around a little reedy island. "I was wondering if you would be remembering the Sand Bar, indeed."
"I've taken the Inverness on too many Sunday-school picnics to forget your lessons, Captain. There's the Pine Point shoal next, and after you round that, you head her for the Cedars on the tip of Loon Island, and then straight as the crow flies for the Gates and then Home! Hurrah!"
He shook his straight broad shoulders with a boyish gesture of impatience, as though he would like to jump overboard and swim home.
"Eh, well, well! It's your father will be the happy man, and to think you are coming home to stay, too." The captain rubbed his hands along his knees, joyfully.
The young man smiled, but did not answer. His eager, dark eyes were turned upon the scene ahead, marking every dearly familiar point. Already he could see, through an opening in the forest, the soft gleam of Lake Algonquin. There was Rock Bass Island where he and his father and Peter Fiddle used to fish, and the slash in the middle of it whither he rowed Aunt Kirsty every August to help harvest the blackberries. A soft golden haze hung over the water, reminding him of that illusive gleam he had followed, one evening so long ago, when he set out to find the treasure at the foot of the rainbow.
He smiled at the recollection of his childish fancy. For he was a man now, with a university degree, and far removed from any such folly. Nevertheless there was something in the quick movement of his strong brown hands, and the look of impulsive daring in his bright eyes, that hinted that he might be just the lad to launch his canoe on life's waters and paddle away in haste towards the lure of a rainbow gleam.
When Captain McTavish had answered a stream of questions regarding all and sundry in Algonquin, he left him in charge of the wheel and went rambling over the deck on a hospitable excursion, for he regarded every one on board as his especial guest. He had aged much in the eighteen years since he had joined the search party for young Roderick McRae. The Inverness had been overhauled and painted and made smart many times in the years that had elapsed, but her captain had undergone no such renewing process. But he was still famous from one end of the lakes to the other for the hospitality of the Inverness. For though his eye had grown dim, it was as kindly as ever, and if his step was not so brisk as in former years, his heart was as swift to help as it had ever been.
He pulled the Algonquin Chronicle out of his pocket, smoothed it out carefully, and moving with his wide swaying stride across the deck to where a young girl was seated alone, he offered it to her as "the finest weekly paper in Canada, whatefer, and a good sound Liberal into the bargain."
The girl smiled her thanks, and, taking the paper, glanced over it with an indifferent eye. She was the only stranger on board, and had sat apart ever since she had left Barbay. Of course every one in Algonquin knew that a new teacher had been appointed for the East Ward. And as school opened the next day, the passengers on the Inverness had rightly guessed that this must be she. She had been the subject of much discussion amongst the young ladies, for she was very pretty, and her blue cloth suit was cut after the newest city fashion, and the one young man seemed in danger of presenting himself, and begging to be allowed to fetch and carry for her also. Several of the older women, with motherly hearts, had spoken to her, but she had continued to sit aloof, discouraging all advances. It was not because she was of an unsociable nature, but the struggle to keep back the tears of homesickness took all her attention. There was no place on the little steamer where one might be alone, so she had sat all afternoon, with her back to every one gazing over the water. Nevertheless many a pretty sight had passed her unnoticed. Sometimes the Inverness had slipped so close to the shore that the overhanging birches bent down and touched her fair hair with a welcoming caress, and again she ran away out over the tumbling blue waves, where the gulls soared and dipped with a flash of white wings. But the strange girl's mind was far away. She was fairly aching with longing for home—the home that was no more. And she was longing too for that other home—the beautiful dream home which was to have been hers, but which was now only a dream. Again and again the tears had gathered, but she had forced them back, striving bravely to give her attention to the passing beauties of land and lake.
Captain Jimmie's kindly eye had noted the stranger as soon as she had come on board, and he had set himself to make the drooping little figure and the big sad eyes look less forlorn.
He had helped her on board, as she came down from the railway station, her trunk wheeled behind her, and had shaken hands and welcomed her warmly to Algonquin, saying she would be sure to like the school and he knew the Miss Armstrongs would be very kind indeed.
She had looked up in surprise, not yet knowing the wisdom of Algonquin folk concerning the doings of their neighbours.
"Och, indeed I will be knowing all about you," the captain said, smiling broadly. "You will be Miss Murray, the young leddy that's to teach. Lawyer Ed—that's Mr. Brians, you know—would be telling me. And you will be boarding at the Miss Armstrongs'. They told me I was to be bringing you up," he added, with an air of proprietorship, that made her feel a little less lonely. "And indeed," he added, with the gallant air, which was truly his own, "it is a fortunate pair of ladies the Miss Armstrongs will be, whatefer."
Many times during the afternoon he had stopped beside her with a kindly word. And once he sat by her side and pointed out places of interest, while some uncertain pilot at the wheel sent the Inverness unheeded on a happy zigzag course. Yon was Hughie McArthur's farm they were passing now. Hughie had done well. He was own nephew to the captain, as his eldest sister had married on Old Archie's Hughie. Old Archie had been the first settler in these parts, and him and his wife had it hard in the early days. His father had told him many a time that Old Archie's wife had walked into where Algonquin now stood—they called it the Gates in those days,—twenty mile away if it was one, with a sack of wheat on her back to be ground at the mill, and back again with the flour, while the eldest girl, then only fifteen, looked after the family and the stock. That was when Archie was away at the front the time of the rebellion. Yes, it was hard times for the women folk in those days. Times was changed now to be sure. Take Hughie, now, his sister's son. That was his new silo over yonder, that she could see. Hughie had a gasoline engine and it did everything, Hughie said, but get the hired man up in the morning, and he was going to have it fixed so it would do that. The captain paused, pleased to see that Hughie's wit was appreciated. They had the engine fixed to run the churn and the washer, and Hughie's woman hadn't anything to do but sit and play the organ or drive herself to town. And just behind yon strip of timber was where his father had settled first when they came out from Inverness. All that land she could see now, up to the topmost hill was the township of Oro, and a great place for Highlanders it was in the early days, though he feared it had sadly deteriorated. Folks said you could scarcely hear the Gaelic at all now.
The captain looked at her now, trying to fix her attention on the little newspaper and he suddenly bethought himself of something else he could do for her and bustled away down the little steep stair. Whenever the Inverness sighted the entrance to Lake Algonquin of a summer afternoon, Captain Jimmie went immediately below and brewed tea for the whole passenger list. He had always done it, and this mid-voyage refreshment had come to be one of the institutions of the trip, as indispensable as the coal to run the engine. He appeared shortly with a huge teapot in one hand and a jug of hot water in the other, calling hospitably, "Come away, and have a cup-a-tea, whatefer. Come away."
Mr. Alfred Wilbur, the young man in the white flannels ran to help him. The fact that he was given to rendering his services at all functions in Algonquin where tea was poured, had brought upon him an ignominious nickname. His title in full as engraved on his visiting cards, was Alfred Tennyson Wilbur, and a rude young man of the town had taken liberties with the initials, and declared they stood for Afternoon Tea Willie.
It must be confessed that, while Afternoon Tea Willie was the most obliging young man in all Canada, he was not entirely disinterested in his desire to assist the captain to-day. He saw in that big tea-pot a chance to serve the handsome young lady with the city hat and the smart suit. He secured a second teapot and was heading her way in bustling haste when the captain, all unconscious, slipped in ahead of him, and the unkind young ladies whom poor Alf had slaved for all afternoon, laughed aloud over his discomfiture.
As soon as the cup-a-tea had been served the captain went back to the pilot house. They had entered the Channel, a toy river, low-banked and reed-fringed, that led by many a pretty curve into Lake Algonquin. Two bridges spanned the Channel at its narrowest part, which was named the Gates, and Captain Jimmie allowed no one but himself, however expert, to take the Inverness through here.
Relieved from his duties, Roderick strolled away. Like the strange girl, he, too, had attracted much attention, especially among the young ladies, and at their bidding Alfred Tennyson had several times attempted to lure him into joining their circle. But Roderick was shy and constrained in the presence of young ladies. He had had no time to cultivate their acquaintance in his school and college days, and had admired them only from afar in a diffident way; so when Alfred approached him and begged him once more to come and be introduced he slipped away downstairs to talk with his old boyhood friend, the fireman.
"Hello, Pete, we'll soon be in Lake Algonquin!" he cried joyfully, as he leaned over the low door and watched the young man heaving coal into the Inverness's hot jaws.
Young Peter slammed the furnace door and came up to get a breath of cool air. He put a black hand on Roderick's arm, "Say, I'm awful glad you're home, Rod," he said, smiling broadly.
"And I'm just as awful glad to be home, Pete, old boy. I say, do you do all the work while the Ancient Mariner there smokes and orders you round?"
The crew of the Inverness, consisting of an engineer and a fireman, was, whether in port or on the high seas, in a state of frank mutiny. The Ancient Mariner, as every one called Sandy McTavish, was the captain's elder brother, and he made no secret of the fact that he intended to run the Inverness as he pleased, if he ran her to Davy Jones. Accordingly he smoked and spun yarns all day long in true nautical fashion, and young Peter McDuff did the work.
But Peter looked at Roderick puzzled, and grinned good naturedly. He did not understand that there was anything unjust in the arrangement old Sandy had made of the work. Poor Peter had been born to injustice. His father was a drunkard and the boy had started life dull of brain and heavy of foot. His slow mind had not questioned why the burdens of life should have been so unevenly divided.
But Roderick McRae felt something of the tragedy of Peter's handicapped life. He put his hands affectionately on the young man's heavy shoulders. They had been brought up side by side on the shores of Lake Algonquin, but how different their lots had been!
"Ah, it's all a hard job for you, Pete, old boy!" he cried.
Peter's dull eyes lit up.
"Oh, no, it ain't! It will be a great job, Rod. Your father would be getting it for me. Your father's been awful good to us, Rod. Say, tell me about the city. Is it an awful big place?"
Roderick studied the young man's heavy face, as he talked. Here was one of his father's neighbours of the Jericho Road. For twenty years or more, he could remember his father struggling to bring Peter Fiddle to a life of sobriety and righteousness and to bring up his son in the same. And what had he to show for it all? Old Peter was a worse drunkard than he had been twenty years ago, and poor Young Peter was the hopeless result of that drinking. Roderick's kindly heart sympathised with his father's efforts, but his head pronounced judgment upon them. He confessed he could see very little use in bothering with the sort of folk that were forever stumbling on the Jericho Roads of life.
Peter went back reluctantly to the engine-room, and Roderick ran up on deck to see the Inverness enter the Gates. He had not been home for a whole long year, and he was eager as a child to get the first glimpse of Algonquin and the little cove where the old farm lay.
As he was passing round to the wheel-house, he noticed again the young stranger who had come on board at Barbay. He had been puzzled then by the recollection of having seen her before, and he walked slowly, looking at her and trying to recall where and when it could have been. As he approached, she turned in his direction, her eyes following the sweep of a gull's white wing, and he recognised her. He remembered her quite distinctly, for he could count on his fingers the number of young ladies he had met in his busy college days, and Miss Murray was not one that could be easily forgotten. He stood at the railing and recalled the scene. It had been at the home of Mrs. Carruthers, Billy Parker's aunt. That kind lady made it a blessed habit to invite hungry students to her home on Sunday nights. And the suppers she gave! Billy had taken Roderick that evening, and there were a half-dozen more. And this Miss Murray had dropped in after church with Richard Wells. Wells was a medical in his last year, and Roderick had met him often before. Miss Murray had worn some sort of soft white dress, he remembered, and a big white hat, and she had been very bright and gay then, not sad and pensive as she seemed now.
He did not realise that he was staring intently at her, while he recalled all this, until she turned and looked at him. She gave a start of surprised recognition mingled with something of dismay. For an instant she looked irresolute; then she bowed, and Roderick came quickly forward. She gave him her hand, a vague look in her deep grey-blue eyes. She remembered him; Roderick's appearance was too striking to be easily forgotten; but it was plain she could not recall where.
"It was a Sunday evening, last fall—at Mrs. Carruthers'," he stammered. She smiled reassuringly.
"Oh, yes, it was stupid of me to forget. You were in law, weren't you?"
"Yes, in my last year. I'm just on my way home now, to practise in Algonquin. Are you going to visit friends here?"
"No, I'm going to teach." She did not seem to want to speak of herself. "Algonquin is a very pretty place, I hear."
"It's is the most lovely place in Canada," said Roderick enthusiastically. He was not as shy in her presence as he usually was with young women. He could not help seeing, that for some unaccountable reason, she was embarrassed at meeting him, and her distress made him forget himself. He tried to put her at her ease in a flurried way.
"How people scatter! The half-dozen that were at Mrs. Carruthers' that night are all over the world. Billy Parker's gone to Victoria to practise law, and Withers is in Germany, and Wells,—he graduated with honours, didn't he? Where did Dick Wells go?"
Roderick had no sooner uttered the name than he saw he had made a mistake. The girl's face flushed; a slow colour creeping up over neck and brow and dyeing her cheeks crimson. But she looked up at him with brave steady eyes as she answered quietly:
"I am not sure where he is. I heard he had gone to Montreal." And when she had said it she became as white as the dainty lawn blouse she wore.
Roderick made a blundering attempt to apologise for something, he scarcely knew what, and only made matters worse.
"I—I beg your pardon," he said, "I shouldn't have asked—but I thought—we understood—at least I mean Billy said," he floundered about hopelessly, and she came to his aid.
"That Dr. Wells and I were engaged?" She was looking at him directly now, sitting erect with a sparkle in her eye.
"Yes," he whispered.
"It was true—then. But it is not now."
"I am so sorry I spoke—" faltered Roderick.
"You need not be," she broke in. "It was quite natural—only—" she looked at him keenly for a moment as though taking his measure. "May I ask a favour of you, Mr. McRae?"
"Oh, yes, I should be so glad," he broke out, anxious to make amends.
"Then if you would be so good as to make no mention of—of this. I shall be living in Algonquin now for some time probably."
She stopped falteringly. She could not confess to this strange young man that she had come away to this little town where no one knew her just to escape the curiosity and pity of acquaintances and friends, and that she was dismayed at meeting one on its very threshold who knew her secret. She was relieved to find him more anxious to keep it than she herself.
He assured her that he would not even think of it again, and then he stumbled upon a remark about the fishing in Lake Algonquin, and the duck-shooting, two things, he recollected afterwards, in which she could not possibly be interested, and finally he made his escape. He leaned over the bow, watching the channel opening out its green arms to the Inverness, and tried to recall all that he had heard about Dick Wells. Billy Parker, who knew all college gossip, had told him much to which he had scarcely listened. But he remembered something concerning a broken engagement. Wells was to have been married in June to the pretty Miss Murray, Billy had said. She had her trousseau all ready, and then Dick had gone on a trip to the Old Country alone. No one knew the reason, though Billy had declared it was the same old reason—"Another girl."
Roderick McRae's chivalry had never before been called into action where young women were concerned. Now he felt something new and strong rising within him. He was suddenly filled with the old spirit which sent a knight out upon the highway to do doughty deeds for the honour of a lady, or to right her wrongs. His warm heart was filled with conflicting emotions, rage at himself for having brought the hurt look into those soft blue eyes, rage at Wells for being the primary cause of it, and underneath all a strange, quite unreasonable, feeling of exhilaration over the fact that he and the girl with the golden hair and the sad eyes had a secret between them.
They were in the Gates now, passing slowly through the railroad bridge. The softly tinted glassy water of Lake Algonquin, with the green islands mirrored in its clear depths was opening out to view. The channel too, was clear and still like crystal, save where the swell from the bows of the Inverness rolled away to the low shore and set the bulrushes nodding a stately welcome. The echoes of the little engine clattered away into the deep woods, startlingly clear. An ugly brown bittern, with a harsh exclamation of surprise at the intrusion into his quiet domain, shot across the bow and disappeared into the swamp. A great heron sailed majestically down the channel ahead of the boat, his broad blue wings gleaming in the sunlight. It was all so still and beautiful that a sense of peace and content awoke in Roderick's heart.
The Inverness was making her way slowly towards the second bridge. The channel was very narrow and shallow here and the captain's little whistle that communicated with the powers below was squeaking frantically. Just as the bridge began to turn, a man in a mud-splashed buggy dashed up, a moment too late to cross, and stood there holding his horse, which went up indignantly on its heels every time the Inverness snorted. His fair face was darkened with anger, his blue eyes were blazing. He leaned over the dashboard and shook his fist at the little wheel-house which held the captain.
"Get along there you, Jimmie McTavish!" He roared in a voice that was rich and musical even in its anger. "Can't you see I'm in a hurry, you thundering old mud-turtle? I could sail a ship across the Atlantic while you are dawdling here. Get out of my road, I tell you! I've got to be in town before that five train goes out, and here's that old dromedary of yours stuck in the mud.—How? What? Oh, what in the name of—?" He choked, spluttering with wrath, for with a final squeak the Inverness stopped altogether.
The captain darted out of the wheel-house to call down an indignant enquiry of the Ancient Mariner as to the cause of the delay. Much sailing in all weathers in the keen air of the northern lakes had ruined Captain McTavish's voice, which, at best, had never been intended for any part but a high soprano. And now it was almost inaudible with anger. It ill became the dignity of a sea captain to be thus publicly berated in the presence of his passengers.
"If ye'd whisht ye're noise," he screamed, "I'd be movin' queek enough. Come away, Sandy! Come away, Peter, man!"
For all his sailing, the captain was a true landsman, and when under pressure his thin nautical veneer slipped off him, and his language was not of the sea.
"Come away, Sandy," he called artlessly, "and gee her a bit. Gee!"
"I can have the law on you for obstructing the King's Highway!" thundered the man on the bridge.
"The water will be jist as much the King's Highway as the road!" retorted the captain indignantly. "If you would be leafing other folks' business alone, and attending to your own, you would be knowing the law better. It is a rule of the sea that effery vessel—"
"The sea!" the enemy burst in with an overwhelming roar. "The sea! A vessel! A miserable fish pond, and an old tub like that, the sea and a vessel! Get away with you! Get out of my sight!"
He waved a hand as if he would wipe the Inverness from off the face of the waters.
During the altercation, Roderick McRae had been leaning far over the railing, striving to attract the attention of the madman in the buggy. But his voice was drowned in the laughter and cheers of the passengers who were enjoying the battle immensely. At this moment he put his fingers to his teeth and uttered a long, sharp whistle. "Ho! Lawyer Ed!" he shouted. The man on the bridge started. His angry face, with the quickness of lightning, broke into radiance.
"Roderick!—Rod! Are you there? Hooray!" He caught off his hat and waved it in the air. "Come on home with me! I dare you to jump it!"
The Inverness was at a perilous distance from the bridge, but the young man did not hesitate a moment before the half-laughing challenge. He leaped lightly upon the railing, poised a moment and, with a mighty spring, landed upon the bridge. The onlookers gave a gasp and then a relieved and admiring cheer.
Another spring put Roderick into the buggy, where his friend hammered him on the back, and they laughed like a couple of school-boys. And that was what they really were, for though Roderick McRae was nearly twenty-four, he was feeling like a boy in his home-coming joy, and as for Lawyer Ed he hadn't grown an hour older, either in feeling or appearance, but lived perennially somewhere near the joyous age of eighteen.
Meanwhile the real captain of the Inverness had begun to bestir himself. The Ancient Mariner cared not the smallest lump of coal that went into the furnace door for the command of his brother-captain; but he had a wholesome fear of Lawyer Ed, and doubted the wisdom of rousing him again. So he gave an order to Peter, and with a great deal of boiling and churning of the water the Inverness slowly began to move. The bridge, worked by a dozen youngsters who always roosted there, began to turn into place. With a defiant yell of her whistle, the Inverness sailed out of the Gates, and the buggy dashed across the bridge and away down the dusty road. But though Lawyer Ed was bubbling over with good humour now, he turned, Marmion like, to shake his gauntlet of defiance at the retreating vessel, and to call out insulting remarks to which the captain responded with spirit.
"Well inteet," said the Ancient Mariner, as he settled once more to his pipe, "it will be a great peety that Lawyer Ed has neither the Gawlic nor the profanity, for when he will be getting into a rage he will jist be no use at all, at all!"
All unconscious of his verbal deficiencies, and uproariously happy, Lawyer Ed sped away down the Pine Road towards town. He had been looking forward for a long time to this day, when Roderick should come back to Algonquin to be his partner.
"It's great to see you again, Lad," he exclaimed joyfully, surveying the young man's fine figure and frank face with pride. "I was getting nervous for fear you were going West after all."
"I can't pretend I didn't want to go," he confessed, "though I didn't like the idea of another fellow in my place in your office. You see I'm a good bit of a dog in the manger, and when Father's last letter arrived I felt I must come."