TO HIM THAT HATH
A NOVEL OF THE WEST OF TODAY
By Ralph Connor
I THE GAME
II THE COST OF SACRIFICE
III THE HEATHEN QUEST
V THE RECTORY
VI THE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
VII THE FOREMAN
VIII FREE SPEECH
IX THE DAY BEFORE
X THE NIGHT OF VICTORY
XI THE NEW MANAGER
XII LIGHT THAT IS DARKNESS
XIII THE STRIKE
XIV GATHERING CLOUDS
XV THE STORM
XVI A GALLANT FIGHT
XVII SHALL BE GIVEN
TO HIM THAT HATH
"Game! and Set. Six to two."
A ripple of cheers ran round the court, followed by a buzz of excited conversation.
The young men smiled at each other and at their friends on the side lines and proceeded to change courts for the next set, pausing for refreshments on the way.
"Much too lazy, Captain Jack. I am quite out of patience with you," cried a young girl whose brown eyes were dancing with mock indignation.
Captain Jack turned with a slightly bored look on his thin dark face.
"Too lazy, Frances?" drawled he. "I believe you. But think of the temperature."
"You have humiliated me dreadfully," she said severely.
"Humiliated you? You shock me. But how, pray?" Captain Jack's eyes opened wide.
"You, a Canadian, and our best player—at least, you used to be—to allow yourself to be beaten by a—a—" she glanced at his opponent with a defiant smile—"a foreigner."
"Oh! I say, Miss Frances," exclaimed that young man.
"A foreigner?" exclaimed Captain Jack. "Better not let Adrien hear you." He turned toward a tall fair girl standing near.
"What's that?" said the girl. "Did I hear aright?"
"Well, he's not a Canadian, I mean," said Frances, sticking to her guns. "Besides, I can't stand Adrien crowing over me. She is already far too English, don-che-know. You have given her one more occasion for triumph over us Colonials."
"Ah, this is serious," said Captain Jack. "But really it is too hot you know for—what shall I say?—International complications."
"Jack, you are plain lazy," said Frances. "You know you are. You don't deserve to win, but if you really would put your back into it—"
"Oh, come, Frances. Why! You don't know that my cousin played for his College at Oxford. And that is saying something," said Adrien.
"There you are, Jack! That's the sort of thing I have to live with," said Frances. "She thinks that settles everything."
"Well, doesn't it rather?" smiled Adrien.
"Oh, Jack, if you have any regard for your country, not to say my unworthy self, won't you humble her?" implored Frances. "If you would only buck up!"
"He will need to, eh, Adrien?" said a young fellow standing near, slowly sipping his drink.
"I think so. Indeed, I am quite sure of it," coolly replied the girl addressed. "But I really think it is quite useless."
"Ha! Ha! Cheer up, Jack," laughed the young man, Stillwell by name.
"Really, old chap, I feel I must beat you this set," said Captain Jack to the young Englishman. "My country's credit as well as my own is at stake, you see."
"Both are fairly assured, I should say," said the Englishman.
"Not to-day," said Stillwell, with a suspicion of a polite sneer in his voice. "My money says so."
"Canada vs. the Old Country!" cried a voice from the company.
"Now, Jack, Jack, remember," implored Frances.
"You have no mercy, Miss Frances, I see," said the Englishman, looking straight into her eyes.
"Absolutely none," she replied, smiling saucily at him.
"Vae victis, eh, old chap?" said Sidney, as they sauntered off together to their respective courts. "By the way, who is that Stillwell chap?" he asked in a low voice of Captain Jack as they moved away from the others. "Of any particular importance?"
"I think you've got him all right," replied Jack carelessly. The Englishman nodded.
"He somehow gets my goat," said Jack. The Englishman looked mystified.
"Rubs me the wrong way, you know."
"Oh, very good, very good. I must remember that."
"He rather fancies his own game, too," said Jack, "and he has come on the last year or two. In more ways than one," he added as an afterthought.
As they faced each other on the court it was Stillwell's voice that rang out:
"Now then, England!"
"Canada!" cried a girl's voice that was easily recognised as that of Frances Amory.
"Thumbs down, eh, Maitland?" said the Englishman, waving a hand toward his charming enemy.
Whatever the cause, whether from the spur supplied by the young lady who had constituted herself his champion or from the sting from the man for whom for reasons sufficient for himself he had only feelings of hostility and dislike, the game put up by Captain Jack was of quite a different brand from that he had previously furnished. From the first service he took the offensive and throughout played brilliant, aggressive, even smashing tennis, so much so that his opponent appeared to be almost outclassed and at the close the figures of the first set were exactly reversed, standing six to two in Captain Jack's favour.
The warmth of the cheers that followed attested the popularity of the win.
"My word, old chap, that is top-hole tennis," said the Englishman, warmly congratulating him.
"Luck, old boy, brilliant luck!" said Captain Jack. "Couldn't do it again for a bet."
"You must do it just once more," said Frances, coming to meet the players. "Oh, you dear old thing. Come and be refreshed. Here is the longest, coolest thing in drinks this Club affords. And one for you, too," she added, turning to the Englishman. "You played a great game."
"Did I not? I was at the top of my form," said the Englishman gallantly. "But all in vain, as you see."
"Now for the final," cried Frances eagerly.
"Dear lady," said Captain Jack, affecting supreme exhaustion, "as you are mighty, be merciful! Let it suffice that we appear to have given you an exposition of fairly respectable tennis. I am quite done."
"A great win, Jack," said Adrien, offering her hand in congratulation.
"All flukes count, eh, Maitland?" laughed Stillwell, unable in spite of his laugh to keep the bite out of his voice.
"Fluke?" exclaimed the Englishman in a slow drawling voice. "I call it ripping good tennis, if I am a judge."
A murmur of approval ran through the company, crowding about with congratulations to both players.
"Oh, of course, of course," said Stillwell, noting the criticism of his unsportsmanlike remark. "What I mean is, Maitland is clearly out of condition. If he were not I wouldn't mind taking him on myself," he added with another laugh.
"Now, do you mean?" said Captain Jack lazily.
"We will wait till the match is played out," said Stillwell with easy confidence. "Some other day, when you are in shape, eh?" he added, smiling at Maitland.
"Now if you like, or after the match, or any old time," said Captain Jack, looking at Stillwell with hard grey, unsmiling eyes. "I understand you have come up on your game during the war."
Stillwell's face burned a furious red at the little laugh that went round among Captain Jack's friends.
"Frankly, I have had enough for to-day," said the Englishman to Jack.
"All right, old chap, if you don't really mind. Though I feel you would certainly take the odd set."
"Not a bit of it, by Jove. I am quite satisfied to let it go at that. We will have another go some time."
"Any time that suits you—to-morrow, eh?"
"To-morrow be it," said the Englishman.
"Now, then, Stillwell," said Captain Jack, with a curt nod at him. "Whenever you are ready."
"Oh, come, Maitland. I was only joshing, you know. You don't want to play with me to-day," said Stillwell, not relishing the look on Maitland's face. "We can have a set any time."
"No!" said Maitland shortly. "It's now or never."
"Oh, all right," said Stillwell, with an uneasy laugh, going into the Club house for his racquet.
The proposed match had brought a new atmosphere into the Club house, an atmosphere of contest with all the fun left out.
"I don't like this at all," said a man with iron grey hair and deeply tanned face.
"One can't well object, Russell," said a younger man, evidently a friend of Stillwell's. "Maitland brought it on, and I hope he gets mighty well trimmed. He is altogether too high and mighty these days."
"Oh, I don't agree with you at all," broke in Frances, in a voice coldly proper. "You heard what Mr. Stillwell said?"
"Well, not exactly."
"Ah, I might have guessed you had not," answered the young lady, turning away.
Edwards looked foolishly round upon the circle of men who stood grinning at him.
"Now will you be good?" said a youngster who had led the laugh at Edwards' expense.
"What the devil are you laughing at, Menzies?" he asked hotly.
"Why, don't you see the joke?" enquired Menzies innocently. "Well, carry on! You will to-morrow."
Edwards growled out an oath and took himself off.
Meantime the match was making furious progress, with the fury, it must be confessed, confined to one side only of the net. Captain Jack was playing a driving, ruthless game, snatching and employing without mercy every advantage that he could legitimately claim. He delivered his service with deadly precision, following up at the net with a smashing return, which left his opponent helpless. His aggressive tactics gave his opponent almost no opportunity to score, and he kept the pace going at the height of his speed. The onlookers were divided in their sentiments. Stillwell had a strong following of his own who expressed their feelings by their silence at Jack's brilliant strokes and their loud approval of Stillwell's good work when he gave them opportunity, while many of Maitland's friends deprecated his tactics and more especially his spirit.
At whirlwind pace Captain Jack made the first three games a "love" score, leaving his opponent dazed, bewildered with his smashing play and blind with rage at his contemptuous bearing.
"I think I must go home, Frances," said Adrien to her friend, her face pale, her head carried high.
Frances seized her by the arm and drew her to one side.
"Adrien, you must not go! You simply must not!" she said in a low tense voice. "It will be misunderstood, and—"
"I am going, Frances," said her friend in a cold, clear voice. "I have had enough tennis for this afternoon. Where is Sidney? Ah, there he is across the court. No! Let me go, Frances!"
"You simply must not go like that in the middle of a game, Adrien. Wait at least till this game is over," said her friend, clutching hard at her arm.
"Very well. Let us go to Sidney," said Adrien.
Together they made their way round the court almost wholly unobserved, so intent was the crowd upon the struggle going on before them. As the game finished Adrien laid her hand upon her cousin's arm.
"Haven't you had enough of this?" she said. Her voice carried clear across the court.
"What d'ye say? By Jove, no!" said her cousin in a joyous voice. "This is the most cheering thing I've seen for many moons, Adrien. Eh, what? Oh, I beg pardon, are you seedy?" he added glancing at her. "Oh, certainly, I'll come at once."
"Not at all. Don't think of it. I have a call to make on my way home. Please don't come."
"But, Adrien, I say, this will be over now in a few minutes. Can't you really wait?"
"No, I am not in the least interested in this—this kind of tennis," she said in a bored voice.
Her tone, pitched rather higher than usual, carried to the ears of the players who were changing ends at the moment. Both of the men glanced at her. Stillwell's face showed swift gratitude. On Jack's face the shadow darkened but except for a slight straightening of the line of his lips he gave no sign.
"You are quite sure you don't care?" said Sidney. "You don't want me? This really is great, you know."
"Not for worlds would I drag you away," said Adrien in a cool, clear voice. "Frances will keep you company." She turned to her friend. "Look after him, Frances," she said. "Good-bye. Dinner at seven to-night, you know."
"Right-o!" said Sidney, raising his hat in farewell. "By Jove, I wouldn't miss this for millions," he continued, making room for Frances beside him. "Your young friend is really somewhat violent in his style, eh, what?"
"There are times when violence is the only possible thing," replied Frances grimly.
"By the way, who is the victim? I mean, what is he exactly?"
"Mr. Stillwell? Oh, he is the son of his father, the biggest merchant in Blackwater. Oh, lovely! Beautiful return! Jack is simply away above his form! And something of a merchant and financier on his own account, to be quite fair. Making money fast and using it wisely. But I'm not going to talk about him. You see a lot of him about the Rectory, don't you?"
"Well, something," replied Sidney. "I can't quite understand the situation, I confess. To be quite frank, I don't cotton much to him. A bit sweetish, eh, what?"
"Yes, at the Rectory doubtless. I would hardly attribute to him a sweet disposition. Oh, quit talking about him. He had flat feet in the war, I think it was. Jack's twin brother was killed, you know—and mine—well, you know how mine is."
A swift vision of a bright-faced, cheery-voiced soldier, feeling his way around a darkened room in the Amory home, leaped to Sidney's mind and overwhelmed him with pity and self-reproach.
"Dear Miss Frances, will you forgive me? I hadn't quite got on to the thing. I understand the game better now."
"Now, I don't want to poison your mind. I shouldn't have said that—about the flat feet, I mean. He goes to the Rectory, you know. I want to be fair—"
"Please don't worry. We know all about that sort at home," said Sidney, touching her hand for a moment. "My word, that was a hot one! The flat-footed Johnnie is obviously bewildered. The last game was sheer massacre, eh, what?"
If Maitland was not in form there was no sign of it in his work on the court. There was little of courtesy, less of fun and nothing at all of mercy in his play. From first to last and without reprieve he drove his game ruthlessly to a finish. So terrific, so resistless were his attacks, so coldly relentless the spirit he showed, ignoring utterly all attempts at friendly exchange of courtesy, that the unhappy and enraged Stillwell, becoming utterly demoralized, lost his nerve, lost his control and hopelessly lost every chance he ever possessed of winning a single game of the set which closed with the score six to nothing.
At the conclusion of the set Stillwell, with no pretense of explanation or apology, left the courts to his enemy who stood waiting his appearance in a silence so oppressive that it seemed to rest like a pall upon the side lines. So overwhelming was Stillwell's defeat, so humiliating his exhibition of total collapse of morale that the company received the result with but slight manifestation of feeling. Without any show of sympathy even his friends slipped away, as if unwilling to add to his humiliation by their commiseration. On the other side, the congratulations offered Maitland were for the most part lacking in the spontaneity that is supposed to be proper to such a smashing victory. Some of his friends seemed to feel as if they had been called upon to witness an unworthy thing. Not so, however, with either Frances Amory or Sidney Templeton. Both greeted Captain Jack with enthusiasm and warmth, openly and freely rejoicing in his victory.
"By Jove, Maitland, that was tremendous, appalling, eh, what?"
"I meant it to be so," said Maitland grimly, "else I should not have played with him."
"It was coming to him," said Frances. "I am simply completely delighted."
"Can I give you a lift home, Frances?" said Maitland. "Let us get away. You, too, Templeton," he added to Sidney, who was lingering near the young lady in obvious unwillingness to leave her side.
"Oh, thanks! Sure you have room?" he said. "All right. You know my cousin left me in your care."
"Oh, indeed! Well, come along then, since our hero is so good. Really, I am uplifted to quite an unusual height of glorious exultation."
"Don't rub it in, Frank," said Jack gloomily. "I made an ass of myself, I know quite well."
"What rot, Jack. Every one of your friends was tickled to death."
"Adrien, for instance, eh?" said Jack with a bitter little laugh, taking his place at the wheel.
"Oh, Adrien!" replied Frances. "Well, you know Adrien! She is—just Adrien."
As he turned into the street there was a sound of rushing feet.
"Hello, Captain Jack! Oh, Captain Jack! Wait for me! You have room, haven't you?"
A whirlwind of flashing legs and windblown masses of gold-red hair, which realised itself into a young girl of about sixteen, bore down on the car. It was Adrien's younger sister, Patricia, and at once her pride and her terror.
"Why, Patsy, where on earth did you come from? Of course! Get in! Glad to have you, old chap."
"Oh, Captain Jack, what a game! What a wonderful game! And Rupert has been playing all summer and awfully well! And you have hardly played a game! I was awfully pleased—"
"Were you? I'm not sure that I was," replied Captain Jack.
"Well, you WERE savage, you know. You looked as if you were in a fight."
"Did I? That was very rotten of me, wasn't it?"
"Oh, I don't know exactly. But it was a wonderful game. Of course, one doesn't play tennis like a fight, I suppose."
"No! You are quite right, Pat," replied Captain Jack. "You see, I'm afraid I lost my temper a bit, which is horribly bad form I know, and—well, I wanted to fight rather than play, and of course one couldn't fight on the tennis court in the presence of a lot of ladies, you see."
"Well, I'm glad you didn't fight, Captain Jack. You have had enough of fighting, haven't you? And Rupert is really very nice, you know. He has a wonderful car and he lets me drive it, and he always brings a box of chocolates every time he comes."
"He must be perfectly lovely," said Captain Jack, with a grin at her.
The girl laughed a laugh of such infectious jollity that Captain Jack was forced to join with her.
"That's one for you, Captain Jack," she cried. "I know I am a pig where chocs are concerned, and I do love to drive a car. But, really, Rupert is quite nice. He is so funny. He makes Mamma laugh. Though he does tease me a lot."
Captain Jack drove on in silence for some moments.
"I was glad to see you playing though to-day, Captain Jack."
"Where were you? I didn't see you anywhere."
"Not likely!" She glanced behind her at the others in the back seat. She need not have given them a thought, they were too deeply engrossed to heed her. "Do you know where I was? In the crutch of the big elm—you know!"
"Don't I!" said Captain Jack. "A splendid seat, but—"
"Wouldn't Adrien be shocked?" said the girl, with a deliciously mischievous twinkle in her eye. "Or, at least, she would pretend to be. Adrien thinks she must train me down a bit, you know. She says I have most awful manners. She wants Mamma to send me over to England to her school. But I don't want to go, you bet. Besides, I don't think Dad can afford it so they can't send me. Anyway, I could have good manners if I wanted to. I could act just like Adrien if I wanted to—I mean, for a while. But that was a real game. I felt sorry for Rupert, a little. You see, he didn't seem to know what to do or how to begin. And you looked so terrible! Now in the game with Cousin Sidney you were so different, and you played so awfully well, too, but differently. Somehow, it was just like gentlemen playing, you know—"
"You have hit it, Patsy,—a regular bull!" said Captain Jack.
"Oh, I don't mean—" began the girl in confusion, rare with her.
"Yes, you do, Pat. Stick to your guns."
"Well, I will. The first game everybody loved to watch. The second game—somehow it made me wish Rupert had been a Hun. I'd have loved it then."
"By Jove, Patsy, you're right on the target. You've scored again."
"Oh, I'm not saying just what I want—but I hope you know what I mean."
"Your meaning hits me right in the eye. And you are quite right. The tennis court is no place for a fight, eh? And, after all, Rupert Stillwell is no Hun."
"But you haven't been playing this summer at all, Captain Jack," said the girl, changing the subject. "Why not?" The girl's tone was quite severe. "And you don't do a lot of things you used to do, and you don't go to places, and you are different." The blue eyes earnestly searched his face.
"Am I different?" he asked slowly. "Well, everybody is different. And then, you know, I am busy. A business man has his hours and he must stick to them."
"Oh, I don't believe you a bit. You don't need to be down at the mills all the time. Look at Rupert. He doesn't need to be at his father's office."
"He gets off whenever he wants to."
"Looks like it."
"And why can't you?"
"Well, you see, I am not Rupert," said Captain Jack, grinning at her.
"Now you are horrible. Why don't you do as you used to do? You know you could if you wanted to."
"Yes, I suppose, if I wanted to," said Captain Jack, suddenly grave.
"You don't want to," said the girl, quick to catch his mood.
"Well, you know, Patsy dear, things are different, and I suppose I am too. I don't care much for a lot of things."
"You just look as if you didn't care for anything or anybody sometimes, Captain Jack," said Patricia quietly. Then after a few moments she burst forth: "Oh, don't you remember your hockey team? Oh! oh! oh! I used to sit and just hold my heart from jumping. It nearly used to choke me when you would tear down the ice with the puck."
"That was long ago, Pat dear. I guess I was—ah—very young then, eh?"
"Yes, I know," nodded the girl. "I feel the same way—I was just a kid then."
"Ah, yes," said Captain Jack, with never a smile. "You were just—let's see—twelve, was it?"
"Yes, twelve. And I felt just a kid."
"And now?" Captain Jack's voice was quite grave.
"Now? Well, I am not exactly a kid. At least, not the same kind of kid. And, as you say, a lot of things are different. I think I know how you feel. I was like that, too—after—after—Herbert—" The girl paused, with her lips quivering. "It was all different—so different. Everything we used to do, I didn't feel like doing. And I suppose that's the way with you, Captain Jack, with Andy—and then your Mother, too." She leaned close to him and put her hand timidly on his arm.
Captain Jack, sitting up very straight and looking very grave, felt the thrill of the timid touch run through his very heart. A rush of warm, tender emotion such as he had not allowed himself for many months suddenly surprised him, filling his eyes and choking his throat. Since his return from the war he had without knowledge been yearning for just such an understanding touch as this child with her womanly instinct had given him. He withdrew one hand from the wheel and took the warm clinging fingers tight in his and waited in silence till he was sure of himself. He drove some blocks before he was quite master of his voice. Then, releasing the fingers, he turned his face toward the girl.
"You are a real pal, aren't you, Patsy old girl?" he said with a very bright smile at her.
"I want to be! Oh, I would love to be!" she said, with a swift intake of breath. "And after a while you will be just as you were before you went away."
"Hardly, I fear, Patsy."
"Well, not the same, but different from what you are now. No, I don't mean that a bit, Captain Jack. But perhaps you know—I do want to see you on the ice again. Oh, it would be wonderful! Of course, the old team wouldn't be there—Herbert and Phil and Andy. Why! You are the only one left! And Rupert." She added the name doubtfully. "It WOULD be different! oh, so different! Oh! I don't wonder you don't care, Captain Jack. I won't wonder—" There was a little choke in the young voice. "I see it now—"
"I think you understand, Patsy, and you are a little brick," said Captain Jack in a low, hurried tone. "And I am going to try. Anyway, whatever happens, we will be pals."
The girl caught his arm tight in her clasped hands and in a low voice she said, "Always and always, Captain Jack, and evermore." And till they drew up at the Rectory door no more was said.
Maitland drove homeward through the mellow autumn evening with a warmer, kindlier glow in his heart than he had known through all the dreary weeks that had followed his return from the war. For the war had wrought desolation for him in a home once rich in the things that make life worth while, by taking from it his mother, whose rare soul qualities had won and held through her life the love, the passionate, adoring love of her sons, and his twin brother, the comrade, chum, friend of all his days, with whose life his own had grown into a complete and ideal unity, deprived of whom his life was left like a body from whose raw and quivering flesh one-half had been torn away.
The war had left his life otherwise bruised and maimed in ways known only to himself.
Returning thus from his soul-devastating experience of war to find his life desolate and maimed in all that gave it value, he made the appalling discovery that he was left almost alone of all whom he had known and loved in past days. For of his close friends none were left as before. For the most part they were lying on one or other of the five battle fronts of the war. Others had found service in other spheres. Only one was still in his home town, poor old Phil Amory, Frances' brother, half-blind in his darkened room, but to bring anything of his own heart burden to that brave soul seemed sacrilege or worse. True enough, he was passing through the new and thrilling experience of making acquaintance with his father. But old Grant Maitland was a hard man to know, and they were too much alike in their reserve and in their poverty of self-expression to make mutual acquaintance anything but a slow and in some ways a painful process.
Hence in Maitland's heart there was an almost extravagant gratitude toward this young generous-hearted girl whose touch had thrilled his heart and whose voice with its passionate note of loyal and understanding comradeship still sang like music in his soul, "Always and always, Captain Jack, and evermore."
"By Jove, I have got to find some way of playing up to that," he said aloud, as he turned from the gravelled driveway into the street. And in the months that followed he was to find that the search to which he then committed himself was to call for the utmost of the powers of soul which were his.
THE COST OF SACRIFICE
Perrotte was by all odds the best all-round man in the planing mill, and for the simple reason that for fifteen years he had followed the lumber from the raw wood through the various machines till he knew woods and machines and their ways as no other in the mill unless it was old Grant Maitland himself. Fifteen years ago Perrotte had drifted down from the woods, beating his way on a lumber train, having left his winter's pay behind him at the verge of civilisation, with old Joe Barbeau and Joe's "chucker out." It was the "chucker out" that dragged him out of the "snake room" and, all unwitting, had given him a flying start toward a better life. Perrotte came to Maitland when the season's work was at its height and every saw and planer were roaring night and day.
"Want a job?" Maitland had shouted over the tearing saw at him. "What can you do?"
"(H)axe-man me," growled Perrotte, looking up at him, half wistful, half sullen.
"See that slab? Grab it, pile it yonder. The boards, slide over the shoot." For these were still primitive days for labor-saving devices, and men were still the cheapest thing about a mill.
Perrotte grabbed the slab, heaved it down to its pile of waste, the next board he slid into the shoot, and so continued till noon found him pale and staggering.
"What's the matter with you?" said Maitland.
"Notting—me bon," said Perrotte, and, clutching at the door jamb, hung there gasping.
Maitland's keen blue eyes searched his face. "Huh! When did you last eat? Come! No lying!"
"Two day," said Perrotte, fighting for breath and nerve.
"Here, boy," shouted Maitland to a chore lad slouching by, "jump for that cook house and fetch a cup of coffee, and be quick."
The boss' tone injected energy into the gawky lad. In three minutes Perrotte was seated on a pile of slabs, drinking a cup of coffee; in five minutes more he stood up, ready for "(h)anny man, (h)anny ting." But Maitland took him to the cook.
"Fill this man up," he said, "and then show him where to sleep. And, Perrotte, to-morrow morning at seven you be at the tail of the saw."
"Oui, by gar! Perrotte be dere. And you got one good man TOO-day, for sure."
That was fifteen years ago, and, barring certain "jubilations," Perrotte made good his prophecy. He brought up from the Ottawa his Irish wife, a clever woman with her tongue but a housekeeper that scandalised her thrifty, tidy, French-Canadian mother-in-law, and his two children, a boy and a girl. Under the supervision of his boss he made for his family a home and for himself an assured place in the Blackwater Mills. His children fell into the hands of a teacher with a true vocation for his great work and a passion for young life. Under his hand the youth of the rapidly growing mill village were saved from the sordid and soul-debasing influences of their environment, were led out of the muddy streets and can-strewn back yards to those far heights where dwell the high gods of poesy and romance. From the master, too, they learned to know their own wonderful woods out of which the near-by farms had been hewn. Many a home, too, owed its bookshelf to Alex Day's unobtrusive suggestions.
The Perrotte children were prepared for High School by the master's quiet but determined persistence. To the father he held up the utilitarian advantages of an education.
"Your boy is quick—why should not Tony be a master of men some day? Give him a chance to climb."
"Oui, by gar! Antoine he's smart lee'le feller. I mak him steeck on his book, you mak him one big boss on some mill."
To the mother the master spoke of social advantages. The empty-headed Irish woman who had all the quick wit and cleverness of tongue characteristic of her race was determined that her girl Annette should learn to be as stylish as "them that tho't themselves her betters." So the children were kept at school by their fondly ambitious parents, and the master did the rest.
At the Public School, that greatest of all democratic institutions, the Perrotte children met the town youth of their own age, giving and taking on equal terms, sharing common privileges and advantages and growing into a community solidarity all their own, which in later years brought its own harvest of mingling joy and bitterness, but which on the whole made for sound manhood and womanhood.
With the girl Annette one effect of the Public School and its influences, educational and social, was to reveal to her the depth of the educational and social pit from which she had been taken. Her High School training might have fitted her for the teaching profession and completed her social emancipation but for her vain and thriftless mother, who, socially ambitious for herself but more for her handsome, clever children, found herself increasingly embarrassed for funds. She lacked the means with which to suitably adorn herself and her children for the station in life to which she aspired and for which good clothes were the prime equipment and to "eddicate" Tony as he deserved. Hence when Annette had completed her second year at the High School her mother withdrew her from the school and its associations and found her a place in the new Fancy Box Factory, where girls could obtain "an illigant and refoined job with good pay as well."
This change in Annette's outlook brought wrathful disappointment to the head master, Alex Day, who had taken a very special pride in Annette's brilliant school career and who had outlined for her a University course. To Annette herself the ending of her school days was a bitter grief, the bitterness of which would have been greatly intensified had she been able to measure the magnitude of the change to be wrought in her life by her mother's foolish vanity and unwise preference of her son's to her daughter's future.
The determining factor in Annette's submission to her mother's will was consideration for her brother and his career. For while for her father she cherished an affectionate pride and for her mother an amused and protective pity, her great passion was for her brother—her handsome, vivacious, audacious and mercurial brother, Tony. With him she counted it only joy to share her all too meagre wages whenever he found himself in financial straits. And a not infrequent situation this was with Tony, who, while he seemed to have inherited from his mother the vivacity, quick wit and general empty-headedness, from his father got nothing of the thrift and patient endurance of grinding toil characteristic of the French-Canadian habitant. But he did get from his father a capacity for the knowing and handling of machinery, which amounted almost to genius. Of the father's steadiness under the grind of daily work which had made him the head mechanic in the Mill, Tony possessed not a tittle. What he could get easily he got, and getting this fancied himself richly endowed, knowing not how slight and superficial is the equipment for life's stern fight that comes without sweat of brain and body. His cleverness deceived first himself and then his family, who united in believing him to be destined for high place and great things. Only two of those who had to do with him in his boyhood weighed him in the balance of truth. One was his Public School master, who labored with incessant and painful care to awaken in him some glimmer of the need of preparation for that bitter fight to which every man is appointed. The other was Grant Maitland, whose knowledge of men and of life, gained at cost of desperate conflict, made the youth's soul an open book to him. Recognising the boy's aptitude, he had in holiday seasons set Tony behind the machines in his planing mill, determined for his father's sake to make of him a mechanical engineer. To Tony each new machine was a toy to be played with; in a week or two he had mastered it and grown weary of it. Thenceforth he slacked at his work and became a demoralizing influence in his department, a source of anxiety to his steady-going father, a plague to his employer, till the holiday time was done.
"Were you my son, my lad, I'd soon settle you," Grant Maitland would say, when the boy was ready to go back to his school. "You will make a mess of your life unless you can learn to stick at your job. The roads are full of clever tramps, remember that, my boy."
But Tony only smiled his brilliant smile at him, as he took his pay envelope, which burned a hole in his pocket till he had done with it. When the next holiday came round Tony would present himself for a job with Jack Maitland to plead for him. For to Tony Jack was as king, to whom he gave passionate loyalty without stint or measure. And thus for his son Jack's sake, Jack's father took Tony on again, resolved to make another effort to make something out of him.
The bond between the two boys was hard to analyse. In games at Public and High School Jack was always Captain and Tony his right-hand man, held to his place and his training partly by his admiring devotion to his Captain but more by a wholesome dread of the inexorable disciplinary measures which slackness or trifling with the rules of the game would inevitably bring him. Jack Maitland was the one being in Tony's world who could put lasting fear into his soul or steadiness into his practice. But even Jack at times failed.
Then when both were eighteen they went to the War, Jack as an Officer, Tony as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the same Battalion, Jack hating the bloody business but resolute to play this great game of duty as he played all games for all that was in him, Tony aglow at first with the movement and glitter and later mad with the lust for deadly daring that was native to his Keltic Gallic soul. They returned with their respective decorations of D. S. O. and Military Medal and each with the stamp of war cut deep upon him, in keeping with the quality of his soul.
The return to peace was to them, as to the thousands of their comrades to whom it was given to return, a shock almost as great as had been the adventure of war. In a single day while still amid the scenes and with all the paraphernalia of war about them an unreal and bewildering silence had fallen on them. Like men in the unearthly realities of a dream they moved through their routine duties, waiting for the orders that would bring that well-known, sickening, savage tightening of their courage and send them, laden like beasts of burden, up once more to that hell of blood and mud, of nerve-shattering shell, of blinding glare and ear-bursting roar of gun fire, and, worse than all, to the place where, crouching in the farcical deceptive shelter of the sandbagged trench, their fingers gripping into the steel of their rifle hands, they would wait for the zero hour. But as the weeks passed and the orders failed to come they passed from that bewildering and subconscious anxious waiting, to an experience of wildly exultant, hysterical abandonment. They were done with all that long horror and terror; they were never to go back into it again; they were going back home; the New Day had dawned; war was no more, nor ever would be again. Back to home, to waiting hearts, to shining eyes, to welcoming arms, to peace, they were going.
Thereafter, when some weeks of peace had passed and the drums of peace had fallen quiet and the rushing, crowding, hurrahing people had melted away, and the streets and roads were filled again with men and women bent on business, with engagements to keep, the returned men found themselves with dazed, listless mind waiting for orders from someone, somewhere, or for the next movie show to open. But they were unwilling to take on the humdrum of making a living, and were in most cases incapable of initiating a congenial method of employing their powers, their new-found, splendid, glorious powers, by means of which they had saved an empire and a world. They had become common men again, they in whose souls but a few weeks ago had flamed the glory and splendour of a divine heroism!
Small wonder that some of these men, tingling with the consciousness of powers of which these busy, engaged people of the streets and shops knew nothing, turned with disdain from the petty, paltry, many of them non-manly tasks that men pursued solely that they might live. Live! For these last terrible, great and glorious fifty months they had schooled themselves to the notion that the main business of life was not to live. There had been for them a thing to do infinitely more worth while than to live. Indeed, had they been determined at all costs to live, then they had become to themselves, to their comrades, and indeed to all the world, the most despicable of all living things, deserving and winning the infinite contempt of all true men.
While the "gratuity money" lasted life went merrily enough, but when the last cheque had been cashed, and the grim reality that rations had ceased and Q. M. Stores were not longer available thrust itself vividly into the face of the demobilised veteran, and when after experiencing in job hunting varying degrees of humiliation the same veteran made the startling and painful discovery that for his wares of heroic self-immolation, of dogged endurance done up in khaki, there was no demand in the bloodless but none the less strenuous conflict of living; and that other discovery, more disconcerting, that he was not the man he had been in pre-war days and thought himself still to be, but quite another, then he was ready for one of two alternatives, to surrender to the inevitable dictum that after all life was really not worth a fight, more particularly if it could be sustained without one, or, to fling his hat into the Bolshevist ring, ready for the old thing, war—war against the enemies of civilisation and his own enemies, against those who possessed things which he very much desired but which for some inexplicable cause he was prevented from obtaining.
The former class, to a greater or less degree, Jack Maitland represented; the latter, Tony Perrotte. From their war experience they were now knit together in bonds that ran into life issues. Together they had faced war's ultimate horror, together they had emerged with imperishable memories of sheer heroic manhood mutually revealed in hours of desperate need.
At Jack's request Tony had been given the position of a Junior Foreman in one of the planing mill departments, with the promise of advancement.
"You can have anything you are fit for, Tony, in any of the mills. I feel that I owe you, that we both owe you more than we can pay by any position we can offer," was Grant Maitland's word.
"Mr. Maitland, neither you nor Jack owes me anything. Jack has paid, and more than once, all he owed me. But," with a rueful smile, "don't expect too much from me in this job. I can't see myself making it go."
"Give it a big try. Do your best. I ask no more," said Mr. Maitland.
"My best? That's a hard thing. Give me a bayonet and set some Huns before me, and I'll do my best. This is different somehow."
"Different, yet the same. The same qualities make for success. You have the brains and with your gift for machinery—Well, try it. You and Jack here will make this go between you, as you made the other go."
The door closed on the young man.
"Will he make good, Jack?" said the father, anxiously.
"Will any of us make good?"
"You will, Jack, I know. You can stick."
"Yes, I can stick, I suppose, but, after all—well, we'll have a go at it, anyway. But, like Tony, I feel like saying, 'Don't expect too much.'"
"Only your best, Jack, that's all. Take three months, six months, a year, and get hold of the office end of the business. You have brains enough. I want a General Manager right now, Wickes is hardly up to it. He knows the books and he knows the works but he knows nothing else. He doesn't know men nor markets. He is an office man pure and simple, and he's old, too old. The fact is, Jack, I have to be my own Manager inside and outside. My foremen are good, loyal, reliable fellows, but they only know their orders. I want someone to stand beside me. The plant has been doubled in capacity during the war. We did a lot of war work—aeroplane parts. We got the spruce in the raw and worked it up, good work, too, if I do say it myself. No better was done."
"I know something about that, Dad. I had a day with Badgley in Toronto. I know something about it, and I know where the money went, too, Dad."
"The money? Of course, I couldn't take the money—how could I with my boys at the war, and other men's boys?"
"Rather not. My God, Dad, if I thought—! But what's the use talking? They know in London all about the Ambulance Equipment and the Machine Gun Battery, and the Hospital. Do you know why Caramus took a job in the Permanent Force in England? It was either that or blowing out his brains. He could not face his father, a war millionaire. My God, how could he?"
The boy was walking about his room with face white and lips quivering.
"Caramus was in charge of that Machine Gun Section that held the line and let us get back. Every man wiped out, and Caramus carried back smashed to small pieces—and his father making a million out of munitions! My God! My God!"
A silence fell in the room for a minute.
"Poor old Caramus! I saw him in the City a month ago," said the father. "I pitied the poor wretch. He was alone in the Club, not a soul would speak to him. He has got his hell."
"He deserves it—all of it, and all who like him have got fat on blood money. Do you know, Dad, when I see those men going about in the open and no one kicking them I get fairly sick. I don't wonder at some of the boys seeing red. You mark my words, we are going to have bad times in this country before long."
"I am afraid of it, boy. Things look ugly. Even in our own works I feel a bad spirit about. There are some newcomers from the old country whom I can't say I admire much. They grouch and they won't work. Our production is lower than ever in our history and our labor cost is more than twice what it was in 1914."
"Well, Dad, give them a little time to settle down. I have no more use for a slacker than I have for a war millionaire."
"We can't stand much of that thing. Financially we are in fairly good shape. We broke even with our aeroplane work. But we have a big stock of spruce on hand—high-priced stuff, too—and a heavy, very heavy overhead. We shall weather it all right. I don't mind the wages, but we must have production. And that's why I want you with me."
"You must not depend on me for much use for some time at least. I know a little about handling men but about machinery I know nothing."
"Never fear, boy, you've got the machine instinct in you. I remember your holiday work in the mill, you see. But your place is in the office. Wickes will show you the ropes, and you will make good, I know. And I just want to say that you don't know how glad I am to have you come in with me, Jack. If your brother had come back he would have taken hold, he was cut out for the job, but—"
"Poor old Andy! He had your genius for the business. I wish he had been the one to get back!"
"We had not the choosing, Jack, and if he had come we should have felt the same about you. God knows what He is doing, and we can only do our best."
"Well, Dad," said Jack, rising and standing near his father's chair, "as I said before, I'll make a go at it, but don't count too much on me."
"I am counting a lot on you. You are all I have now." The father's voice ended in a husky whisper. The boy swallowed the rising lump in his throat but could find no more words to go on with. But in his heart there was the resolve that he would make an honest try to do for his father's sake what he would not for his own.
But before a month had gone he was heartily sick of the office. It was indoors, and the petty fussing with trivial details irked him. Accuracy was a sine qua non of successful office work, and accuracy is either a thing of natural gift or is the result of long and painful discipline, and neither by nature nor by discipline had Jack come into the possession of this prime qualification for a successful office man. His ledger wellnigh brought tears to old Wickes' eyes and added a heavy load to his day's work. Not that old Wickes grudged the extra burden, much less made any complaint; rather did he count it joy to be able to cover from other eyes than his own the errors that were inevitably to be found in Jack's daily work.
Had it seemed worth while, Jack would have disciplined himself to accuracy. But what was the end of it all? A larger plant with more machines to buy and more men to work them and to be overseen and to be paid, a few more figures in a Bank Book—what else? Jack's tastes were simple. He despised the ostentation of wealth in the accumulation of mere things. He had only pity for the plunger and for the loose liver contempt. Why should he tie himself to a desk, a well appointed desk it is true, but still a desk, in a four-walled room, a much finer room than his father had ever known, but a room which became to him a cage. Why? Of course, there was his father—and Jack wearily turned to his correspondence basket, sick of the sight of paper and letter heads and cost forms and production reports. For his father's sake, who had only him, he would carry on. And carry on he did, doggedly, wearily, bored to death, but sticking it. The reports from the works were often ominous. Things were not going well. There was an undercurrent of unrest among the men.
"I don't wonder at it," said Jack to old Wickes one day, when the bookkeeper set before him the week's pay sheet and production sheet, side by side. "After all, why should the poor devils work for us?"
"For us, sir?" said the shocked Wickes. "For themselves, surely. What would they do for a living if there was no work?"
"That's just it, Wickes. They get a living—is it worth while?"
"But, sir," gasped the old man, "they must live, and—"
"Why must they?"
"Because they want to! Wait till you see 'em sick, sir. My word! They do make haste for the Doctor."
"I fancy they do, Wickes. But all the same, I don't wonder that they grouch a bit."
"'Tis not the grumbling, sir, I deplore," said Wickes, "if they would only work, or let the machines work. That's the trouble, sir. Why, sir, when I came to your father, sir, we never looked at the clock, we kept our minds on the work."
"How long ago, Wickes?"
"Thirty-one years, sir, come next Michaelmas. And glad I was to get the job, too. You see, sir, I had just come to the country, and with the missus and a couple of kids—"
"Thirty-one years! Great Caesar! And you've worked at this desk for thirty-one years! And what have you got out of it?"
"Well, sir, not what you might call a terrible lot. I hadn't the eddication for much, as you might say—but—well, there's my little home, and we've lived happy there, the missus and me, and the kids—at least, till the war came." The old man paused abruptly.
"You're right, Wickes, by Jove," exclaimed Jack, starting from his seat and gripping the old man's hand. "You have made a lot out of it—and you gave as fine a boy as ever stepped in uniform to your country. We were all proud of Stephen, every man of us."
"I know that, sir, and he often wrote the wife about you, sir, which we don't forget, sir. Of course, it's hard on her and the boys—just coming up to be somethin' at the school."
"By the way, Wickes, how are they doing? Two of them, aren't there? Let's see—there's Steve, he's the eldest—"
"No, sir, he's the youngest, sir. Robert is the eldest—fourteen, and quite clever at his books. Pity he's got to quit just now."
"Quit? Not a bit of it. We must see to that. And little Steve—how is the back?"
"He's twelve. The back hurts a lot, but he is happy enough, if you give him a pencil. They're all with us now."
"Ah, well, well. I think you have made something out of it after all, Wickes. And we must see about Robert."
Thirty-one years at the desk! And to show for it a home for his wife and himself, a daughter in a home of her own, a son dead for his country, leaving behind him a wife and two lads to carry the name—was it worth while? Yes, by Jove, it was worth it all to be able to give a man like Stephen Wickes to his country. For Stephen Wickes was a fine stalwart lad, a good soldier, steady as a rock, with a patient, cheery courage that nothing could daunt or break. But for a man's self was it worth while?
Jack had no thought of wife and family. There was Adrien. She had been a great pal before the war, but since his return she had seemed different. Everyone seemed different. The war had left many gaps, former pals had formed other ties, many had gone from the town. Even Adrien had drifted away from the old currents of life. She seemed to have taken up with young Stillwell, whom Jack couldn't abide. Stillwell had been turned down by the Recruiting Officer during the war—flat feet, or something. True, he had done great service in Red Cross, Patriotic Fund, Victory Loan work, and that sort of thing, and apparently stood high in the Community. His father had doubled the size of his store and had been a great force in all public war work. He had spared neither himself nor his son. The elder Stillwell, high up in the Provincial Political world, saw to it that his son was on all the big Provincial War Committees. Rupert had all the shrewd foresight and business ability of his father, which was saying a good deal. He began to assume the role of a promising young capitalist. The sources of his income no one knew—fortunate investments, people said. And his Hudson Six stood at the Rectory gate every day. Well, not even for Adrien would Jack have changed places with Rupert Stillwell. For Jack Maitland held the extreme and, in certain circles, unpopular creed that the citizen who came richer out of a war which had left his country submerged in debt, and which had drained away its best blood and left it poorer in its manhood by well-nigh seventy thousand of its noblest youth left upon the battlefields of the various war fronts and by the hundreds of thousands who would go through life a burden to themselves and to those to whom they should have been a support—that citizen was accursed. If Adrien chose to be a friend of such a man, by that choice she classified herself as impossible of friendship for Jack. It had hurt a bit. But what was one hurt more or less to one whom the war had left numb in heart and bereft of ambition? He was not going to pity himself. He was lucky indeed to have his body and nerve still sound and whole, but they need not expect him to show any great keenness in the chase for a few more thousands that would only rank him among those for whom the war had not done so badly. Meantime, for his father's sake, who, thank God, had given his best, his heart's best and the best of his brain and of his splendid business genius to his country, he would carry on, with no other reward than that of service rendered.
THE HEATHEN QUEST
They stood together by the open fire in the study, Jack and his father, alike in many ways yet producing effects very different. The younger man had the physical makeup of the older, though of a slighter mould. They had the same high, proud look of conscious strength, of cool fearlessness that nothing could fluster. But the soul that looked out of the grey eyes of the son was quite another from that which looked out of the deep blue eyes of the father—yet, after all, the difference may not have been in essence but only that the older man's soul had learned in life's experience to look out only through a veil.
The soul of the youth was eager, adventurous, still believing, yet with a certain questioning and a touch of weariness, a result of the aftermath of peace following three years of war. There was still, however, the out-looking for far horizons, the outreaching imagination, the Heaven given expectation of the Infinite. In the older man's eye dwelt chiefly reserve. The veil was always there except when he found it wise and useful to draw it aside. If ever the inner light flamed forth it was when the man so chose. Self-mastery, shrewdness, power, knowledge, lay in the dark blue eyes, and all at the soul's command.
But to-night as the father's eyes rested upon his son who stood gazing into and through the blazing fire there were to be seen only pride and wistful love. But as the son turned his eyes toward his father the veil fell and the eyes that answered were quiet, shrewd, keen and chiefly kind.
The talk had passed beyond the commonplace of the day's doings. They were among the big things, the fateful thing—Life and Its Worth, Work and Its Wages, Creative Industry and Its Product, Capital and Its Price, Man and His Rights.
They were frank with each other. The war had done that for them. For ever since the night when his eighteen-year-old boy had walked into his den and said, "Father, I am eighteen," and stood looking into his eyes and waiting for the word that came straight and unhesitating, "I know, boy, you are my son and you must go, for I cannot," ever since that night, which seemed now to belong to another age, these two had faced each other as men. Now they were talking about the young man's life work.
"Frankly, I don't like it, Dad," said the son.
"Easy to see that, Jack."
"I'm really sorry. I'm afraid anyone can see it. But somehow I can't put much pep into it."
"Why?" asked the father, with curt abruptness.
"Why? Well, I hardly know. Somehow it hardly seems worth while. It is not the grind of the office, though that is considerable. I could stick that, but, after all, what's the use?"
"What would you rather do, Jack?" enquired his father patiently, as if talking to a child. "You tried for the medical profession, you know, and—"
"I know, I know, you are quite right about it. You may think it pure laziness. Maybe it is, but I hardly think so. Perhaps I went back to lectures too soon after the war. I was hardly fit, I guess, and the whole thing, the inside life, the infernal grind of lectures, the idiotic serious mummery of the youngsters, those blessed kids who should have been spanked by their mothers—the whole thing sickened me in three months. If I had waited perhaps I might have done better at the thing. I don't know—hard to tell." The boy paused, looking into the fire.
"It was my fault, boy," said the father hastily. "I ought to have figured the thing out differently. But, you see, I had no knowledge of what you had gone through and of its effect upon you. I know better now. I thought that the harder you went into the work the better it would be for you. I made a mistake."
"Well, you couldn't tell, Dad. How could you? But everything was so different when I came back. Mere kids were carrying on where we had been, and doing it well, too, by Jove, and we didn't seem to be needed."
"Needed, boy?" The father's voice was thick.
"Yes, but I didn't see that then. Selfish, I fear. Then, you know, home was not the same—"
The older man choked back a groan and leaned hard against the mantel.
"I know, Dad, I can see now I was selfish—"
"Selfish? Don't say that, my lad. Selfish? After all you had gone through? No, I shall never apply that word to you, but you—you don't seem to realise—" The father hesitated a few moments, then, as if taking a plunge:
"You don't realise just how big a thing—how big an investment there is in that business down there—." His hand swept toward the window through which could be seen the lights of that part of the town which clustered about the various mills and factories of which he was owner.
"I know there is a lot, Dad, but how much I don't know."
"There's $250,000 in plant alone, boy, but there's more than money, a lot more than money—" Then, after a pause, as if to himself, "A lot more than money—there's brain sweat and heart agony and prayers and tears—and, yes, life, boy, your mother's life and mine. We worked and saved and prayed and planned—"
He stepped quickly toward the window, drew aside the curtain and pointed to a dark mass of headland beyond the twinkling lights.
"You see the Bluff there. Fifty years ago I stood with my father on that Bluff and watched the logs come down the river to the sawmill—his sawmill, into which he had put his total capital, five hundred dollars. I remember well his words, 'My son, if you live out your life you will see on that flat a town where thousands of men and women will find homes and, please God, happiness.' Your mother and I watched that town grow for forty years, and we tried to make people happy—at least, if they were not it was no fault of hers. Of course, other hands have been at the work since then, but her hands and mine more than any other, and more than all others together were in it, and her heart, too, was in it all."
The boy turned from the window and sat down heavily in a deep armchair, his hands covering his face. His heart was still sick with the ache that had smitten it that day in front of Amiens when the Colonel, his father's friend, had sent for him and read him the wire which had brought the terrible message of his mother's death. The long months of days and nights heavy with watching, toiling, praying, agonising, for her twin sons, and for the many boys who had gone out from the little town wore out her none too robust strength. Then, the sniper's bullet that had pierced the heart of her boy seemed to reach to her heart as well. After that, the home that once had been to its dwellers the most completely heart-satisfying spot in all the world became a place of dread, of haunting ghosts, of acutely poignant memories. They used the house for sleeping in and for eating in, but there was no living in it longer. To them it was a tomb, though neither would acknowledge it and each bore with it for the other's sake.
"Honestly, Dad, I wish I could make it go, for your sake—"
"For my sake, boy? Why, I have all of it I care for. Not for my sake. But what else can we do but stick it?"
"I suppose so—but for Heaven's sake give me something worth a man's doing. If I could tackle a job such as you and"—the boy winced—"you and mother took on I believe I'd try it. But that office! Any fool could sit in my place and carry on. It is like the job they used to give to the crocks or the slackers at the base to do. Give me a man's job."
The father's keen blue eyes looked his son over.
"A man's job?" he said, with a grim smile, realising as his son did not how much of a man's job it was. "Suppose you learn this one as I did?"
"What do you mean, Dad, exactly? How did you begin?"
"I? At the tail of the saw."
"All right, I'm game."
"Boy, you are right—I believe in my soul you are right. You did a man's job 'out there' and you have it in you to do a man's job again."
The son shrugged his shoulders. Next morning at seven they were down at the planing mill where men were doing men's work. He was at a man's job, at the tail of a saw, and drawing a man's pay, rubbing shoulders with men on equal terms, as he had in the trenches. And for the first time since Armistice Day, if not happy or satisfied, he was content to carry on.
Sam Wigglesworth had finished with school, which is not quite the same as saying that he had finished his education. A number of causes had combined to bring this event to pass. First, Sam was beyond the age of compulsory attendance at the Public School, the School Register recording him as sixteen years old. Then, Sam's educational career had been anything but brilliant. Indeed, it might fairly be described as dull. All his life he had been behind his class, the biggest boy in his class, which fact might have been to Sam a constant cause of humiliation had he not held as of the slightest moment merely academic achievements. One unpleasant effect which this fact had upon Sam's moral quality was that it tended to make him a bully. He was physically the superior of all in his class, and this superiority he exerted for what he deemed the discipline of younger and weaker boys, who excelled him in intellectual attainment.
Furthermore, Sam, while quite ready to enforce the code of discipline which he considered suitable to the smaller and weaker boys in his class, resented and resisted the attempts of constituted authority to enforce discipline in his own case, with the result that Sam's educational career was, after much long suffering, abruptly terminated by the action of the long-suffering head, Alex Day.
"With great regret I must report," his letter to the School Board ran, "that in the case of Samuel Wigglesworth I have somehow failed to inculcate the elementary principles of obedience to school regulations and of adherence to truth in speech. I am free to acknowledge," went on the letter, "that the defect may be in myself as much as in the boy, but having failed in winning him to obedience and truth-telling, I feel that while I remain master of the school I must decline to allow the influence of this youth to continue in the school. A whole-hearted penitence for his many offences and an earnest purpose to reform would induce me to give him a further trial. In the absence of either penitence or purpose to reform I must regretfully advise expulsion."
Joyfully the School Board, who had for months urged upon the reluctant head this action, acquiesced in the course suggested, and Samuel was forthwith expelled, to his own unmitigated relief but to his father's red and raging indignation at what he termed the "(h)ignorant persecution of their betters by these (h)insolent Colonials," for "'is son 'ad 'ad the advantages of schools of the 'ighest standin' in (H)England."
Being expelled from school Sam forthwith was brought by his father to the office of the mills, where he himself was employed. There he introduced his son to the notice of Mr. Grant Maitland, with request for employment.
The old man looked the boy over.
"What has he been doing?"
"Nothin'. 'E's just left school."
"Naw. Public School." Wigglesworth Sr.'s tone indicated no exalted opinion of the Public School.
"Public School! What grade, eh?"
"Grade? I dinnaw. Wot grade, Samuel? Come, speak (h)up, cawn't yeh?"
"Uh?" Sam's mental faculties had been occupied in observing the activities and guessing the probable fate of a lumber-jack gaily decked in scarlet sash and blue overalls, who was the central figure upon a flaming calendar tacked up behind Mr. Maitland's desk, setting forth the commercial advantages of trading with the Departmental Stores of Stillwell & Son.
"Wot grade in school, the boss is (h)askin'," said his father sharply.
"Grade?" enquired Sam, returning to the commonplace of the moment.
"Yes, what grade in the Public School were you in when you left?" The blue eyes of the boss was "borin' 'oles" through Sam and the voice pierced like a "bleedin' gimblet," as Wigglesworth, Sr., reported to his spouse that afternoon.
Sam hesitated a bare second. "Fourth grade it was," he said with sullen reluctance.
"'Adn't no chance, Samuel 'adn't. Been a delicate child ever since 'is mother stopped suckin' 'im," explained the father with a sympathetic shake of his head.
The cold blue eye appraised the boy's hulking mass.
"'E don't look it," continued Mr. Wigglesworth, noting the keen glance, "but 'e's never been (h)able to bide steady at the school. (H)It's 'is brain, sir."
"His—ah—brain?" Again the blue eyes appraised the boy, this time scanning critically his face for indication of undue brain activity.
"'Is brain, sir," earnestly reiterated the sympathetic parent. "'Watch that (h)infant's brain,' sez the Doctor to the missus when she put 'im on the bottle. And you know, we 'ave real doctors in (H)England, sir. 'Watch 'is brain,' sez 'e, and, my word, the care 'is ma 'as took of that boy's brain is wunnerful, is fair beautiful, sir." Mr. Wigglesworth's voice grew tremulous at the remembrance of that maternal solicitude.
"And was that why he left school?" enquired the boss.
"Well, sir, not (h)exackly," said Mr. Wigglesworth, momentarily taken aback, "though w'en I comes to think on it that must a been at the bottom of it. You see, w'en Samuel went at 'is books of a night 'e'd no more than begin at a sum an' 'e'd say to 'is ma, 'My brain's a-whirlin', ma', just like that, and 'is ma would 'ave to pull 'is book away, just drag it away, you might say. Oh, 'e's 'ad a 'ard time, 'as Samuel." At this point the boss received a distinct shock, for, as his eyes were resting upon Samuel's face meditatively while he listened somewhat apathetically, it must be confessed, to the father's moving tale, the eye of the boy remote from the father closed in a slow but significant wink.
The boss sat up, galvanised into alert attention. "Eh? What?" he exclaimed.
"Yes, sir, 'e's caused 'is ma many a (h)anxious hour, 'as Samuel." Again the eye closed in a slow and solemn wink. "And we thought, 'is ma and me, that we would like to get Samuel into some easy job—"
"An easy job, eh?"
"Yes, sir. Something in the office, 'ere."
"But his brain, you say, would not let him study his books."
"Oh, it was them sums, sir, an' the Jography and the 'Istory an' the Composition, an', an'—wot else, Samuel? You see, these 'ere schools ain't a bit like the schools at 'ome, sir. They're so confusing with their subjecks. Wot I say is, why not stick to real (h)eddication, without the fiddle faddles?"
"So you want an easy job for your son, eh?" enquired Mr. Maitland.
"Boy," he said sharply to Samuel, whose eyes had again become fixed upon the gay and daring lumber-jack. Samuel recalled himself with visible effort. "Why did you leave school? The truth, mind." The "borin'" eyes were at their work.
"Fired!" said Sam promptly.
Mr. Wigglesworth began a sputtering explanation.
"That will do, Wigglesworth," said Mr. Maitland, holding up his hand. "Sam, you come and see me tomorrow here at eight. Do you understand?"
Sam nodded. After they had departed there came through the closed office door the sound of Mr. Wigglesworth's voice lifted in violent declamation, but from Sam no answering sound could be heard.
The school suffered no noticeable loss in the intellectual quality of its activities by the removal of the whirling brain and incidentally its physical integument of Samuel Wigglesworth. To the smaller boys the absence of Sam brought unbounded joy, more especially during the hours of recess from study and on their homeward way from school after dismissal.
More than any other, little Steve Wickes rejoiced in Sam's departure from school. Owing to some mysterious arrangement of Sam's brain cells he seemed to possess an abnormal interest in observing the sufferings of any animal. The squirming of an unfortunate fly upon a pin fascinated him, the sight of a wretched dog driven mad with terror rushing frantically down a street, with a tin can dangling to its tail, convulsed him with shrieking delight. The more highly organised the suffering animal, the keener was Sam's joy. A child, for instance, flying in a paroxysm of fear from Sam's hideously contorted face furnished acute satisfaction. It fell naturally enough that little Steve Wickes, the timid, shrinking, humpbacked son of the dead soldier, Stephen Wickes, afforded Sam many opportunities of rare pleasure. It was Sam that coined and, with the aid of his sycophantic following never wanting to a bully, fastened to the child the nickname of "Humpy Wicksy," working thereby writhing agony in the lad's highly sensitive soul. But Sam did not stay his hand at the infliction of merely mental anguish. It was one of his favorite forms of sport to seize the child by the collar and breeches and, swinging him high over head, hold him there in an anguish of suspense, awaiting the threatened drop. It is to be confessed that Sam was not entirely without provocation at the hands of little Steve, for the lad had a truly uncanny cunning hidden in his pencil, by means of which Sam was held up in caricature to the surreptitious joy of his schoolmates. Sam's departure from school deprived him of the full opportunity he formerly enjoyed of indulging himself in his favourite sport. On this account he took the more eager advantage of any opportunity that offered still to gratify his taste in this direction.
Sauntering sullenly homeward from his interview with the boss and with his temper rasped to a raw edge by his father's wrathful comments upon his "dommed waggin' tongue," he welcomed with quite unusual eagerness the opportunity for indulging himself in his pastime of baiting Humpy Wicksy whom he overtook on his way home from school during the noon intermission.
"Hello, Humpy," he roared at the lad.
Like a frightened rabbit Steve scurried down a lane, Sam whooping after him.
"Come back, you little beast. Do you hear me? I'll learn you to come when you're called," he shouted, catching the terrified lad and heaving him aloft in his usual double-handed grip.
"Let me down, you! Leave me alone now," shrieked the boy, squirming, scratching, biting like an infuriated cat.
"Bite, would you?" said Sam, flinging the boy down. "Now then," catching him by the legs and turning him over on his stomach, "we'll make a wheelbarrow of you. Gee up, Buck! Want a ride, boys?" he shouted to his admiring gallery of toadies. "All aboard!"
While the unhappy Steve, shrieking prayers and curses, was struggling vainly to extricate himself from the hands gripping his ankles, Annette Perrotte, stepping smartly along the street on her way from the box factory, came past the entrance to the lane. By her side strode a broad-shouldered, upstanding youth. Arrested by Steve's outcries and curses she paused.
"What are those boys at, I wonder?" she said. "There's that big lout of a Wigglesworth boy. He's up to no good, I bet you."
"Oh, a kids' row of some kind or ither, a doot," said the youth. "Come along."
"He's hurting someone," said Annette, starting down the lane. "What? I believe it's that poor child, Steve Wickes." Like a wrathful fury she dashed in upon Sam and his company of tormentors and, knocking the little ones right and left, she sprang upon Sam with a fierce cry.
"You great brute!" She seized him by his thatch of thick red hair and with one mighty swing she hurled him clear of Steve and dashed him head on against the lane fence. Sheer surprise held Sam silent for a few seconds, but as he felt the trickle of warm blood run down his face and saw it red upon his hand, his surprise gave place to terror.
"Ouw! Ouw!" he bellowed. "I'm killed, I'm dying. Ouw! Ouw!"
"I hope so," said Annette, holding Steve in her arms and seeking to quiet his sobbing. But as she saw the streaming blood her face paled.
"For the love of Mike, Mack, see if he's hurt," she said in a low voice to her companion.
"Not he! He's makin' too much noise," said the young man. "Here, you young bull, wait till I see what's wrang wi' ye," he continued, stooping over Sam.
"Get away from me, I tell you. Ouw! Ouw! I'm dying, and they'll hang her. Ouw! Ouw! I'm killed, and I'm just glad I am, for she'll be hung to death." Here Sam broke into a vigorous stream of profanity.
"Ay, he's improvin' A doot," said Mack. "Let us be going."
"'Ello! Wot's (h)up?" cried a voice. It was Mr. Wigglesworth on his way home from the mill. "Why, bless my living lights, if it bean't Samuel. Who's been a beatin' of you, Sammy?" His eye swept the crowd. "'Ave you been at my lad?" he asked, stepping toward the young man, whom Annette named Mack.
"Aw, steady up, man. There's naethin' much wrang wi' the lad—a wee scratch on the heid frae fa'in' against the fence yonder."
"Who 'it 'im, I say?" shouted Mr. Wigglesworth. "Was it you?" he added, squaring up to the young man.
"No, it wasn't, Mr. Wigglesworth. It was me." Mr. Wigglesworth turned on Annette who, now that Sam's bellowing had much abated with the appearance of his father upon the scene, had somewhat regained her nerve.
"You?" gasped Mr. Wigglesworth. "You? My Samuel? It's a lie," he cried.
"Hey, mon, guairrd y're tongue a bit," said Mack. "Mind ye're speakin' to a leddy."
"A lidy! A lidy!" Mr. Wigglesworth's voice was eloquent of scorn.
"Aye, a leddy!" said Mack. "An' mind what ye say aboot her tae. Mind y're manners, man."
"My manners, hey? An' 'oo may you be, to learn me manners, you bloomin' (h)ignorant Scotch (h)ass. You give me (h)any of your (h)imperance an' I'll knock y're bloomin' block (h)off, I will." And Mr. Wigglesworth, throwing himself into the approved pugilistic attitude, began dancing about the young Scot.
"Hoot, mon, awa' hame wi' ye. Tak' yon young tyke wi' ye an' gie him a bit wash, he's needin' it," said Mack, smiling pleasantly at the excited and belligerent Mr. Wigglesworth.
At this point Captain Jack, slowly motoring by the lane mouth, turned his machine to the curb and leaped out.
"What's the row here?" he asked, making his way through the considerable crowd that had gathered. "What's the trouble, Wigglesworth?"
"They're knockin' my boy abaht, so they be," exclaimed Mr. Wigglesworth. "But," with growing and righteous wrath, "they'll find (h)out that, wotsomever they do to a kid, w'en they come (h)up agin Joe Wigglesworth they've struck somethin' 'ard—'ard, d'ye 'ear? 'Ard!" And Mr. Wigglesworth made a pass at the young Scot.
"Hold on, Wigglesworth," said Captain Jack quietly, catching his arm. "Were you beating up this kid?" he asked, turning to the young man.
"Nae buddie's beatin' up the lad," said Mack quietly.
"It was me," said the girl, turning a defiant face to Captain Jack.
"You? Why! great Scot! Blest if it isn't Annette."
"Yes, it's me," said the girl, her face a flame of colour.
"By Jove, you've grown up, haven't you? And it was you that—"
"Yes, that big brute was abusing Steve here."
"What? Little Steve Wickes?"
"He was, and I pitched him into the fence. He hit his head and cut it, I guess. I didn't mean—"
"Served him right enough, too, I fancy," said Captain Jack.
"I'll 'ave the law on the lot o' ye, I will. I'm a poor workin' man, but I've got my rights, an' if there's a justice in this Gawd forsaken country I'll 'ave protection for my family." And Mr. Wigglesworth, working up a fury, backed off down the lane.
"Don't fear, Wigglesworth, you'll get all the justice you want. Perhaps Sam will tell us—Hello! Where is Sam?"
But Sam had vanished. He had no mind for an investigation in the presence of Captain Jack.
"Well, well, he can't be much injured, I guess. Meantime, can I give you a lift, Annette?"
"No, thank you," said the girl, the colour in her cheeks matching the crimson ribbon at her throat. "I'm just going home. It's only a little way. I don't—"
"The young leddy is with me, sir," said the young Scotchman quietly.
"Oh, she is, eh?" said Captain Jack, looking him over. "Ah, well, then—Good-bye, Annette, for the present." He held out his hand. "We must renew our old acquaintance, eh?"
"Thank you, sir," said the girl.
"'Sir?' Rot! You aren't going to 'sir' me, Annette, after all the fun and the fights we had in the old days. Not much. We're going to be good chums again, eh? What do you say?"
"I don't know," said Annette, flashing a swift glance into Captain Jack's admiring eyes. "It depends on—"
"I didn't say so." Her head went up a bit.
"I didn't say so."
"Well, let it go. But we will be pals again, Annette, I vow. Good-bye." Captain Jack lifted his hat and moved away.
As he reached his car he ran up against young Rupert Stillwell.
"Deucedly pretty Annette has grown, eh?" said Stillwell.
"Annette's all right," said Jack, rather brusquely, entering his car.
"Working in your box factory, I understand, eh?"
"Don't really know," said Jack carelessly. "Probably."
The crowd had meantime faded away with Captain Jack's going.
"Did na know the Captain was a friend of yours, Annette," said Mack, falling into step beside her.
"No—yes—I don't know. We went to Public School together before the war. I was a kid then." Her manner was abstracted and her eyes were far away. Mack walked gloomily by her on one side, little Steve on the other.
"Huh! He's no your sort, A doot," he said sullenly.
"What do you say?" cried Annette, returning from her abstraction. "What do you mean, 'my sort'?" Her head went high and her eyes flashed.
"He would na look at ye, for ony guid."
"He did look at me though," replied Annette, tossing her head.
"No for ony guid!" repeated Mack, stubbornly.
Annette stopped in her tracks, a burning red on her cheeks and a dangerous light in her black eyes.
"Mr. McNish, that's your road," she said, pointing over his shoulder.
"A'll tak it tae," said McNish, wheeling on his heel, "an' ye can hae your Captain for me."
With never a look at him Annette took her way home.
"Good-bye, Steve," she said, stooping and kissing the boy. "This is your corner."
"Annette," he said, with a quick, shy look up into her face, "I like Captain Jack, don't you?"
"No," she said hurriedly. "I mean yes, of course."
"And I like you too," said the boy, with an adoring look in his deep eyes, "better'n anyone in the world."
"Do you, Steve? I'm glad." Again she stooped swiftly and kissed him. "Now run home."
She hurried home, passed into her room without a word to anyone. Slowly she removed her hat, then turning to her glass she gazed at her flushed face for a few moments. A little smile curved her lips. "He did look at me anyway," she whispered to the face that looked out at her, "he did, he did," she repeated. Then swiftly she covered her eyes. When she looked again she saw a face white and drawn. "He would na look at ye." The words smote her with a chill. Drearily she turned away and went out.
The Rectory was one of the very oldest of the more substantial of Blackwater's dwellings. Built of grey limestone from the local quarries, its solid square mass relieved by its quaint dormer windows was softened from its primal ugliness by the Boston ivy that had clambered to the eaves and lay draped about the windows like a soft green mantle. Built in the early days, it stood with the little church, a gem of Gothic architecture, within spacious grounds bought when land was cheap. Behind the house stood the stable, built also of grey limestone, and at one side a cherry and apple orchard formed a charming background to the grey buildings with their crowding shrubbery and gardens. A gravelled winding drive led from the street through towering elms, a picturesque remnant from the original forest, to the front door and round the house to the stable yard behind. From the driveway a gravelled footpath led through the shrubbery and flower garden by a wicket gate to the Church. When first built the Rectory stood in dignified seclusion on the edge of the village, but the prosperity of the growing town demanding space for its inhabitants had driven its streets far beyond the Rectory demesne on every side, till now it stood, a green oasis of sheltered loveliness, amid a crowding mass of modern brick dwellings, comfortable enough but arid of beauty and suggestive only of the utilitarian demands of a busy manufacturing town.
For nearly a quarter of a century the Rev. Herbert Aveling Templeton, D.D., LL.D., for whom the Rectory had been built, had ministered in holy things to the Parish of St. Alban's and had exercised a guiding and paternal care over the social and religious well-being of the community. The younger son of one of England's noble families, educated in an English Public School and University, he represented, in the life of this new, thriving, bustling town, the traditions and manners of an English gentleman of the Old School. Still in his early sixties, he carried his years with all the vigour of a man twenty years his junior. As he daily took his morning walk for his mail, stepping with the brisk pace of one whose poise the years had not been able to disturb, yet with the stately bearing consistent with the dignity attaching to his position and office, men's eyes followed the tall, handsome, white-haired, well set up gentleman always with admiration and, where knowledge was intimate, with reverence and affection. Before the recent rapid growth of the town consequent upon the establishment of various manufacturing industries attracted thither by the unique railroad facilities, the Rector's walk was something in the nature of public perambulatory reception. For he knew them all, and for all had a word of greeting, of enquiry, of cheer, of admonition, so that by the time he had returned to his home he might have been said to have conducted a pastoral visitation of a considerable proportion of his flock. Even yet, with the changes that had taken place, his walk to the Post Office was punctuated with greetings and salutations from his fellow-citizens in whose hearts his twenty-five years of devotion to their well-being, spiritual and physical, had made for him an enduring place.
The lady of the Rectory, though some twenty years his junior, yet, by reason of delicate health due largely to the double burden of household cares and parish duties, appeared to be quite of equal age. Gentle in spirit, frail in body, there seemed to be in her soul something of the quality of tempered steel, yet withal a strain of worldly wisdom mingled with a strange ignorance of the affairs of modern life. Her life revolved around one centre, her adored husband, a centre enlarged as time went on to include her only son and her two daughters. All others and all else in her world were of interest solely as they might be more or less closely related to these, the members of her family. The town and the town folk she knew solely as her husband's parish. There were other people and other communions, no doubt, but being beyond the pale they could hardly be supposed to matter, or, at any rate, she could not be supposed to regard them with more than the interest and spasmodic concern which she felt it her duty to bestow upon those unfortunate dwellers in partibus infidelium.
Regarding the Public School of the town with aversion because of its woefully democratic character, she was weaned from her hostility to that institution when her son's name was entered upon its roll. Her eldest daughter, indeed, she sent as a girl of fourteen to an exclusive English school, the expense of which was borne by her husband's eldest brother, Sir Arthur Templeton, for she held the opinion that while for a boy the Public School was an excellent institution with a girl it was quite different. Hence, while her eldest daughter went "Home" for her education, her boy went to the Blackwater Public and High Schools, which institutions became henceforth invested with the highest qualifications as centres of education. Her boy's friends were her friends, and to them her house was open at all hours of day or night. Indeed, it became the governing idea in her domestic policy that her house should be the rallying centre for everything that was related in any degree to her children's life. Hence, she quietly but effectively limited the circle of the children's friends to those who were able and were willing to make the Rectory their social centre. She saw to it that for Herbert's intimate boy friends the big play room at the top of the house, once a bare and empty room and later the large and comfortable family living room, became the place of meeting for all their social and athletic club activities. With unsleeping vigilance she stood on guard against anything that might break that circle of her heart's devotion. The circle might be, indeed must be enlarged, as for instance to take in the Maitland boys, Herbert's closest chums. She was wise enough to see the wisdom of that, but nothing on earth would she allow to filch from her a single unit of the priceless treasures of her heart.
To this law of her life she made one glorious, one splendid exception. When her country called, she, after weeks of silent, fierce, lonely, agonised struggle gave up her boy and sent him with voiceless, tearless pride to the War.
But, when the boy's Colonel wrote in terms of affectionate pride of her boy's glorious passing, with new and strange adaptability her heart circle was extended to include her boy's comrades in war and those who like herself had sent them forth. Thenceforth every khaki covered lad was to her a son, and every soldier's mother a friend.