A Novel of Canadian Summer Life.
J. CAWDOR BELL.
Toronto The Williamson Book Co., Ltd. Entered, according to the Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year eighteen hundred and ninety-two, by the Williamson Book Company, Limited, in the office of the Minister of Agriculture.
The Publishers have extreme pleasure in placing this novel, by a new and promising native author, before the reading public of Canada. They will be greatly disappointed if it does not at once take its place among the best products of Canadian writers. While the work has peculiar interest for Torontonians and dwellers in the districts so graphically described, its admirable character drawings of many "sorts and conditions" of our people—its extremely clever dialect, representing Irish, Scotch, English, Canadian, French, Southern and Negro speech, and the working out of its story, which is done in such a way as would credit an experienced romancer—should insure the book a welcome in very many homes. The literary flavour is all that can be desired; the author evidencing a quite remarkable acquaintance with English Literature, especially with Wordsworth, the Poet of the Lake Country.
A Novel of Canadian Summer Life.
J. CAWDOR BELL.
The Friends—The Knapsacks—The Queen's Wharf—The Northern Railway—Belle Ewart—The Susan Thomas, Captain and Crew—Musical Performance—The Sly Dog—Misunderstanding—Kempenfeldt Bay.
Eugene Coristine and Farquhar Wilkinson were youngish bachelors and fellow members of the Victoria and Albert Literary Society. Thither, on Wednesday evenings, when respectable church-members were wending their way to weekly service, they hastened regularly, to meet with a band of like-minded young men, and spend a literary hour or two. In various degrees of fluency they debated the questions of the day; they read essays with a wide range of style and topic; they gave readings from popular authors, and contributed airy creations in prose and in verse to the Society's manuscript magazine. Wilkinson, the older and more sedate of the two, who wore a tightly-buttoned blue frock coat and an eyeglass, was a schoolmaster, pretty well up in the Toronto Public Schools. Coristine was a lawyer in full practice, but his name did not appear on the card of the firm which profited by his services. He was taller than his friend, more jauntily dressed, and was of a more mercurial temperament than the schoolmaster, for whom, however, he entertained a profound respect. Different as they were, they were linked together by an ardent love of literature, especially poetry, by scientific pursuits, Coristine as a botanist, and Wilkinson as a dabbler in geology, and by a firm determination to resist, or rather to shun, the allurements of female society. Many lady teachers wielded the pointer in rooms not far removed from those in which Mr. Wilkinson held sway, but he did not condescend to be on terms even of bowing acquaintance with any one of them. There were several young lady typewriters of respectable city connections in the offices of Messrs. Tyler, Woodruff and White, but the young Irish lawyer passed them by without a glance. These bachelors were of the opinion that women were bringing the dignity of law and education to the dogs.
It was a Wednesday evening in the beginning of July, and the heat was still great in the city. Few people ventured out to the evening services, and fewer still found their way to the Victoria and Albert hall; in fact, there was not a quorum, and, as the constitution stated that, in such a case, the meeting should be adjourned, it was adjourned accordingly. Coristine lit a cigar in the porch, and Wilkinson, who did not smoke, but said he liked the odour of good tobacco, took his arm for a walk along the well-lit streets. They agreed that it was time to be out of town. Coristine said: "Let us go together; I'll see one of the old duffers and get a fortnight's leave." Wilkinson had his holidays, so he eagerly answered: "Done! but where shall we go? Oh, not to any female fashion resort." At this Coristine put on the best misanthropic air he could call up, with a cigar between his lips, and then, as if struck by a happy thought, dug his elbow into his companion's side and ejaculated: "Some quiet country place where there's good fishing." Wilkinson demurred, for he was no fisherman. The sound of a military band stopped the conversation. It came into sight, the bandsmen with torches in their headgear, and, after it, surrounded and accompanied by all the small boys and shop-girls in the town, came the Royals, in heavy marching order. The friends stood in a shop doorway until the crowd passed by, and then, just as soon as a voice could be distinctly heard, the schoolmaster clapped his companion on the shoulder and cried, "Eureka!" Coristine thought the music had been too much for his usually staid and deliberate friend. "Well, old Archimedes, and what is it you've found? Not any new geometrical problems, I hope." "Listen to me," said the dominie, in a tone of accustomed authority, and the lawyer listened.
"You've heard Napoleon or somebody else say that every soldier of France carries a marshal's baton in his knapsack?"
"Never heard the gentleman in my life, and don't believe it, either."
"Well, well, never mind about that; but I got my idea out of a knapsack."
"Now, what's the use of your saying that, when its myself knows that you haven't got such a thing to bless yourself with?"
"I got it out of a soldier's—a volunteer's knapsack, man."
"O, you thief of the world! And where have you got it hid away?"
"In my head."
"O rubbish and nonsense—a knapsack in your head!"
"No, but the idea."
"And where's the knapsack?"
"On the grenadier's back."
"Then the grenadier has the knapsack, and you the idea: I thought you said the idea was in the knapsack."
"So it was; but I took it out, don't you see? My idea is the idea of a knapsack on a man's back—on two men's backs—on your back and on mine."
"With a marshal's baton inside?"
"No; with an extra flannel shirt inside—and some socks, and a flask, and some little book to read by the way; that's what I want."
"It'll be mortal heavy and hot this boiling weather."
"Not a bit. You can make one out of cardboard and patent cloth, just as light as a feather, and costing you next to nothing."
"And where will you be going with your knapsack? Will it be parading through the streets with the volunteers you would be after?"
"Go? We will go on a pedestrian tour through the finest scenery available." This was said correctly and with great dignity. It had the effect of sobering the incredulous Coristine, who said: "I tell ye, Farquhar, my boy, that's a fine idea of yours, barring the heat; but I suppose we can rest where we like and go when we like, and, if the knapsacks get to be a nuisance, express 'em through, C.O.D. Well, I'll sleep over it, and let you know to-morrow when I can get away." So the pair separated, to retire for the night and dream a knapsack nightmare.
Coristine's leave did not come till the following Tuesday, so that Friday, Saturday and Monday—or parts of them, at least—could be devoted to the work of preparation. Good, strong, but not too heavy, tweed walking suits were ordered, and a couple of elegant flannel shirts that would not show the dirt were laid in; a pair of stout, easy boots was picked out, and a comfortable felt hat, with brim enough to keep off the sun. Then the lawyer bought his cardboard and his patent cloth and straps, and spent Saturday evening with his friend and a sharp penknife, bringing the knapsacks into shape. The scientists made a mistake in producing black and shiny articles, well calculated to attract the heat. White canvas would have been far better. But Wilkinson had taken his model from the military, hence it had to be black. The folded ends of the patent cloth, which looked like leather, were next to the wearer's back, so that what was visible to the general public was a very respectable looking flat surface, fastened round the shoulders with becoming straps, equally dark in hue. "Sure, Farquhar, it's pack-men the ignorant hayseeds will be taking us for," said Coristine, when the prospective pedestrians had strapped on their shiny baggage holders. "I do not agree with you there," replied the schoolmaster; "Oxford and Cambridgemen, and the best litterateurs of England, do Wales and Cornwall, the Lakes and the Trossachs, to say nothing of Europe, dressed just as we are." "All right, old man, but I'm thinking I'll add a bandanna handkerchief and a blackthorn. They'll come in handy to carry the fossils over your shoulder. There now, I've forgot the printers' paper and the strap flower press for my specimens. True, there's Monday for that; but I'm afraid I'll have to shave the boards of the flower press down, or it'll be a sorry burden for a poor, tired botanist. Good night to you, my bouchal boy, and it's a pack you might throw into a corner of your sack." "Cards!" replied Wilkinson; "no sir, but my pocket chess box will be at your service." "Chess be hanged," said the lawyer; "but, see here, are they checkers when you turn them upside down? If they are, it's I'm your man."
On Tuesday morning, about eight o'clock, there appeared at the Brock Street Station of the Northern Railway, two well-dressed men with shiny knapsacks on their shoulders. They had no blackthorns, for Wilkinson had said it would be much more romantic to cut their own sticks in the bush, to which Coristine had replied that, if the bush was as full of mosquitos as one he had known, he would cut his stick fast enough. They were the astonishment, rather than the admiration, of all beholders, who regarded them as agents, and characterized the way in which they carried their samples as the latest thing from the States. For a commencement, this was humiliating, so that the jaunty lawyer twisted his moustache fiercely, and felt inclined to quarrel with the self-possessed, clean-shaven space between Wilkinson's elaborate side-whiskers. But the pedagogue, in his suavest manner, remarked that Cicero, in his De Natura Deorum, makes Cotta call the common herd both fools and lunatics, whose opinion is of no moment whatever. "Why, then," he asked, "should we trouble our minds with what it pleases them to think? It is for us to educate public opinion—to enlighten the darkness of the masses. Besides, if you look about, you will see that those who are doing the giggling are girls, sir, positively girls."
"Your hand on that, Farquhar, my boy; if it keeps the hussies off, I'll wear a knapsack every day of my life."
Coristine did not know where he was going, being subject to the superior wisdom and topographical knowledge of his companion, who appeared in the row that besieged the window of the ticket office. "Two for Belle Ewart," he demanded, when his turn came.
"Trains don't run to Belle Ewart now; you had better take Lefroy, the nearest point."
"All right; two for Lefroy."
The ticket agent looked at the attire of the speaker, and was about to produce the cardboard slips, then hesitated as he glanced at the straps and the top of the black erection on Wilkinson's shoulders, and enquired, "Second class, eh?" The dominie was angry, his face crimsoned, his hand shook with indignation. Being a moral man, he would not use bad language, but he roared in his most stentorian academic tone, a tone which appalled the young agent with rapid visions of unfortunate school days, "Second Tom-cats! Does the company put you there to insult gentlemen?" It was the agent's turn to redden, and then to apologize, as he mildly laid the tickets down, without the usual slap, and fumbled over their money. The feminine giggling redoubled, and Coristine, who had regained his equilibrium, met his friend with a hearty laugh, and the loud greeting, "O Lord, Wilks, didn't I tell you the fools would be taking us for bagmen?" But Wilkinson's irritation was deep, and he marched to the incoming train, ejaculating, "Fool, idiot, puppy; I shall report him for incivility, according to the printed invitation of the company. Second! ach! I was never so insulted in my life."
There was room enough inside the car to give the travellers a double seat, half for themselves and the other for their knapsacks. These impedimenta being removed the occupants of the carriage became aware that they were in the company of two good-looking men, of refined features, and in plain but gentlemanly attire. The lady passengers glanced at them, from time to time, with approbation not unmingled with amusement, but no responsive glance came from the bachelors. Wilkinson had opened his knapsack, and had taken out his pocket Wordsworth, the true poet, he said, for an excursion. Coristine had a volume of Browning in his kit, but left it there, and went into the smoking-car for an after breakfast whiff. The car had been swept out that morning by the joint efforts of a brakesman and the newsagent, so that it was less hideously repulsive than at a later stage in the day, when tobacco juice, orange peel, and scraps of newspapers made it unfit for a decent pig. The lawyer took out his plug, more easily carried than cut tobacco, and whittled it down with his knife to fill his handsome Turk's head meerschaum. When all was ready, he discovered, to his infinite disgust, that he had no matches nor pipe-lights of any description. The news agent, Frank, a well-known character on the road, supplied him with a box of Eddy's manufacture, for which he declined to receive payment. However, he pressed his wares upon the grateful Coristine, recommending warmly the Samantha books and Frank Stockton's stories. "Are there any women in them?" asked the smoker. "Full of them," replied Frank; "Why, Samantha is a woman." "Take them away, and bring me something different." The news agent returned with a volume made up of cartoons and other illustrations from Puck, and soon the Irishman was shaking his sides over the adventures of Brudder Sunrise Waterbury and similar fictitious characters. So absorbed was he in this trivial literature that he failed to notice the entrance of an old man, respectably dressed who took a seat on the opposite side of the aisle, and was preparing to smoke his three inches of clay. He was aroused by the salutation and request:—
"Good marnin', Sor, an' moight Oi be afther thrubblin' yeez for a loight to my poipe?"
"Certainly, with pleasure; glad to be of any use to a fellow countryman," replied Coristine, looking up, and perceiving that his new acquaintance, though old and stooped, had a soldierly air. "You have been in service?" he continued.
"Troth I have, puff, puff, now she's goin' aisy. Oi was in the Furren Laygion in South Ameriky, an' my cornel was the foinest man you iver see. It was Frinch he was by his anshesters, an' his name it was Jewplesshy. Wan toime we was foightin' wid the Spanyerds an' the poor deluded haythen Injuns, when a shpint bullet rickyshayed an' jumped into my mouth, knockin' out the toot' ye'll percaive is missin' here. Will, now, the cornel he was lookin' at me, an', fwhen Oi shput out the bullet and the broken toot' on the ground, he roides up to me, and says, says he, 'It's a brave bhoy, yeez are, Moikle Terry, an' here's a' suverin to get a new toot' put in whin the war is over, says he. Oh, that suverin wint to kape company wid a lot more that Oi'd be proud to see the face av in my owld age. But, sorra a toot' did the dintist put in for me, for fwhere wud the nate hole for the poipe have been thin, till me that, now?"
Mr. Coristine failed to answer this conundrum, but continued the conversation with the old soldier. He learnt that Michael had accompanied his colonel to Canada, and, after serving him faithfully for many years, had wept over his grave. One of the old man's sons was a sergeant in the Royal Artillery, and his daughter was married to a Scotch farmer named Carruthers, up in the County of Grey.
"She was a good gyurl, as nate an' swate as a picter, whin she lift the cornel's lady's sarvice, an' wint an' tuk up wid Carruthers, a foine man an' a sponsible, not a bit loike the common Scotch. Carruthers and her, they axed me wud Oi go an' pay thim a visit, an' say to the comfort av her young lady on the way."
"What young lady?" asked Coristine, and immediately repented the question.
"Miss Jewplesshy, to be sure, the cornel's darter, and an illigant wan she is, av she has to make her livin' by the wroitin'."
At this juncture, the lawyer, with lively satisfaction, hailed the arrival of Frank, who came straight towards him.
"Are you Mr. Coristine, the lawyer?" he half whispered. "Yes; that's my name," his victim replied, thinking that Wilkinson had sent him a message.
"Well, there's a lady in the rear car wanted to know, and I said I'd find out."
"Fwhat's that you'll be sayin' av a lady in the rare car, my lad?" questioned the old soldier, who had overheard part of the conversation.
"It's the tall girl in the travelling duster and the blue ribbons that wants to know if Mr. Coristine is here."
"Fwhat? my own dare young mishtress, Miss Ceshile Jewplesshy; shure it's her that do have the blue ribbins, an' the dushter. Do yeez know that swate young crathur, Sor?"
"I do not," replied Coristine abruptly, and added, sotto voce, "thank goodness!" Then he relit his pipe, and buried his head in the Puck book, from the contemplation of which the Irish veteran was too polite to seek to withdraw his attention. In a few minutes, the door opened and closed with a slam, and Wilkinson, pale and trembling, stood before him.
"Eugene, my dear friend," he stammered, "I'll never forgive myself for leading you and me into a trap, a confounded, diabolical, deep-laid trap, sir, a gin, a snare, a woman's wile. Let us get off anywhere, at Aurora, Newmarket, Holland Landing, Scanlans, anywhere to escape these harpies."
"What's the matter, old man?" enquired Coristine, with a poor attempt at calmness.
"Matter!" replied Wilkinson, "it's this matter, that they have found us out, and the girl with the cream coloured ribbons and crimson wrapper has asked that villainous news-agent if my name is not Wilkinson, and if I don't teach in the Sacheverell Street School. The rascal says her name is Miss Marjorie Carmichael, the daughter of old Dr. Carmichael, that was member for Vaughan, and that her friend, the long girl with the blue ribbons, knows you. O, my dear friend, this is awful. Better be back in Toronto than shut up in a railway car with two unblushing women."
"Stay here," said Coristine, making way for his friend, "they'll never dare come into this car after us." Yet his eye followed the retreating form of the South American warrior with apprehension. What if he should bring his 'dare young misthress' and her friend into the atmosphere of stale tobacco after their lawful game? Wilkinson sat down despairingly and coughed. "I feel very like the least little nip," he said faintly, "but it's in my knapsack, and I will not enter that car of foul conspiracy again for all the knapsacks and flasks in the world."
Now, Coristine had smoked two big pipes, and felt that it was dry work, but loyalty to his friend made him braver than any personal necessity would have done. "It's sick you're looking, Farquhar, my dear," he said, "and it's no friend of your's I'd be, and leave you without comfort in such a time of trouble. Here's for the knapsack, and woe betide the man or woman that stops me." So up he rose, and strode out of the car, glowering fiercely at the second-class passengers and all the rest, till he reached the vacated seats, from which he silently, and in deep inward wrath, gathered up the creations of cardboard and patent cloth, and retreated, grinding his teeth as he heard the veteran call out behind him, "Would yeez moind comin' this way a bit, Mishter?" He paid no attention to that officious old man, but hurried back to the smoking-car, where he extracted Wilkinson's flask from its flannel surroundings, removed the metal cup, poured out a stiff horn, and diluted it at the filter. "Take this, old man," he said sternly, pressing it to the lips of the sufferer, "it'll set you up like a new pin." So the schoolmaster drank and was comforted, and Coristine took a nip also, and they felt better, and laughed and joked, and said simultaneously, "It's really too absurd about these girls, ha, ha!"
Apprehension made the time seem long to the travellers, who gazed out of the windows upon a fine agricultural country, with rolling fields of grain, well-kept orchards and substantial houses and barns. They admired the church on the hill at Holland Landing, and the schoolmaster told his friend of a big anchor that had got stuck fast there on its way to the Georgian Bay in 1812. "I bet you the sailors wouldn't have left it behind if it had been an anchor of Hollands," said Coristine, whereupon Wilkinson remarked that his puns were intolerable. At Bradford the track crossed the Holland River, hardly flowing between its flat, marshy banks towards Lake Simcoe. "This," said the schoolmaster, "is early Tennysonian scenery, a Canadian edition of the fens of Lincolnshire," but he regretted uttering the words when the lawyer agreed with him that it was an of-fens-ive looking scene. But Lake Simcoe began to show up in the distance to the right, and soon the gentlemanly conductor took their tickets. "Leefroy," shouted the brakesman. They gathered up their knapsacks, dropped off the smoker, and sped inside the station, out of the windows of which they peered cautiously to see that no attempt at a pursuit was made by the ladies and their military protector. The train sped on its way northward, and feeling that, for a time, they were safe, the pedestrians faced each other with a deep-drawn sigh of relief. The station-master told them to walk back along the track till they met the old side-line that used to go to Belle Ewart. So they helped each other to strap on their knapsacks, and virtually began their pedestrian tour. The station-master would have liked to detain them for explanations, but they were unwilling to expose themselves to further misunderstanding. Walking on a railway track is never very pleasant exercise, but this old Belle Ewart track was an abomination of sand and broken rails and irregular sleepers. Coristine tried to step in time over the rotting cedar and hemlock ties, but, at the seventh step, stumbled and slid down the gravel bank of the road-bed. "Where did the seven sleepers do their sleeping, Wilks?" he enquired. "At Ephesus," was the curt reply. "Well, if they didn't efface us both, they nearly did for one of us." "Coristine, if you are going to talk in that childlish way, we had better take opposite ends of the track; there are limits, sir."
"That's just what's troubling me; there are far too many limits. If this is what you call pedestrianizing, I say, give me a good sidewalk or the loan of an uneven pair of legs. It's dislocation of the hip or inflammatory rheumatism of the knee-joint I'll be getting with this hop and carry one navigation." Wilkinson plodded on in dignified silence, till the sawmills of the deserted village came in sight, and, beyond it, the blue green waters of Lake Simcoe. "Now," he said, "we shall take to the water." "What?" enquired Coristine, "on our knapsacks?" to which his companion answered, "No, on the excellent steamer Emily May."
There was no excellent steamer Emily May; there had not been for a long time; it was a memory of the past. The railway had ruined navigation. What was to be done? It would never do to retrace their steps over the railroad ties, and the roads about Belle Ewart led nowhere, while to track it along the hot lake shore was not to be thought of. Wilkinson's plans had broken down; so Coristine left him at the village hostelry, and sallied forth on exploration bent. In the course of his wanderings he came to a lumber wharf, alongside which lay an ancient schooner.
"Schooner ahoy!" he shouted, when a shock-headed man of uncertain middle age poked his head up through a hatchway, and answered: "Ahoy yourself, and see how you like it." This was discouraging, but not to a limb of the law. Coristine half removed his wide awake, and said: "I have the pleasure of addressing the captain of the ship Susan Thomas," the name he had seen painted in gold letters on the stern.
"Not adzackly," replied the shock headed mariner, much mollified; "he's my mate, and he'll be along as soon as he's made up his bundle. I'm waitin' for him to sail this yere schooner."
"Where is the Susan Thomas bound for?"
"For Kempenfeldt Bay, leastways Barrie."
"Could you take a couple of passengers, willing to pay properly for their passage?"
"Dassent; it's agin the law; not but what I'd like to have yer, fer its lonesome, times. Here comes the old man hisself; try him."
A stout grizzled man of between fifty and sixty came walking along the wharf, with his bundle over his shoulder, and Coristine tried him. The Captain was a man of few words, so, when the situation was explained, he remarked: "Law don't allow freight boats to take money off passengers, but law don't say how many hands I have to have, nor what I'm to pay 'em or not to pay 'em. If you and your friend want to ship for the trip to Barrie, you'd better hurry up, for we're going to start right away."
Coristine was filled with the wildest enthusiasm. He dashed back to the hotel, the bar of which was covered with maps and old guide-books, partly the property of Wilkinson, partly of mine host, who was lazily helping him to lay out a route. "Hurry, hurry!" cried the excited lawyer, as he swept the maps into his friend's open knapsack. Then he yelled "hurroo!" and sang:—
For the ship, it is ready, and the wind is fair, And I am bound for the sea, Mary Ann.
Like a whirlwind he swept Wilkinson and the two knapsacks out of the hotel door, along the sawdust paths and on to the wharf just in time to see the first sail set. "What in the name of common sense is the meaning of this conduct?" asked the amazed schoolmaster as soon as he got his breath.
"Meaning! why, we're indentured, you and I, as apprentice mariners on board the good ship Susan Thomas, bound for Kempenfeldt Bay.
Brave Kempenfeldt is gone, His victories are o'er; And he and his eight hundred Shall plough the waves no more.
But we'll plough them, Wilks, my boy. We'll splice the spanker boom, and port the helm to starboard, and ship the taffrail on to the lee scuppers of the after hatch, and dance hornpipes on the mizzen peak. Hulloa, captain, here's my mate, up to all sorts of sea larks; he can box the compass and do logarithm sums, and work navigation by single or double entry." The schoolmaster blushed for his companion, at whose exuberant spirits the sedate captain smiled, while the shock-headed man, whom Coristine named The Crew, displayed a large set of fairly preserved yellowish teeth, and guffawed loud and long.
"Do I understand, Captain, that you are willing to take us to Barrie in your—ah—vessel?" asked Wilkinson, politely.
"Aye, aye, my man," answered the ancient mariner, "get your leg aboard, for we're going to sail right away. Hi, you, Sylvanus there, give another haul on them halliards afore you're too mighty ready to belay, with your stupid cackle."
So the indentured apprentices and their knapsacks got on board, while Sylvanus, alias The Crew, stopped laughing, and put a pound or two extra on to the halliards. "Wilks," said Coristine, "it'll puzzle the women to find us out on our ocean home."
Wilkinson saw the captain hauling at the halliards of the after-mainsail and went to his assistance, while Coristine, doffing his coat, lent a hand to The Crew, when, by their combined efforts, the sails were all hoisted and the schooner floated away from the pier. The lawyer walked over the deck with a nautical air, picking up all loose ends of rope and coiling them neatly over his left arm. The coils he deposited carefully about the feet of the masts, to the astonishment of Wilkinson, who regarded his friend as a born seaman, and to the admiration of the captain and The Crew. The schoolmaster felt that Wordsworth was not the thing for the water; he should have brought Falconer or Byron. So he stuck to the captain, who was a very intelligent man of his class, and discussed with him the perils and advantages of lake navigation. They neither of them smoked, nor, said the captain, did he often drink; when he did, he liked to have it good. Thereupon Wilkinson produced what remained in his flask, which his commanding officer took down neat at a gulp, signifying, as he ruefully gazed upon the depleted vessel, that a man might go long before he'd get such stuff as that. Then the conversation turned on the prohibitory Scott Act, which opened the vials of the old man's wrath, for making "the biggest lot of hypocrites and law-breakers and unlicensed shebeens and drunkards the country had ever seen." The schoolmaster, as in duty bound, tried to defend the Act, but all in vain, so he was glad to change the subject and discuss the crops, politics, and education. This conversation took place at what the captain called "the hellum", against the tiller of which he occasionally allowed his apprentice to lean his back while he attended to other work. Wilkinson was proud. This was genuine navigation, this steering a large vessel with your back; any mere landsman, he now saw, could coil up ropes like Coristine. The subject of this reflection was quite happy in the bow, chumming with The Crew. Smoking their pipes together, Sylvanus confided to his apprentice that a sailor's life was the lonesomest life out of jail, when the cap'n was that quiet and stand off like as one he knowed that wasn't far away, nuther. Coristine sympathized with him. "The bossest time that ever was on this yere old Susan Thomas," he continued, "was last summer wonst when the cap'n's niece, she come along fer a trip. There was another gal along with her, a regular stunner, she was. Wot her name was I raley can't tell, 'cos that old owl of a cap'n, whenever he'd speak to her, allers said Miss Do Please. I reckon that's what she used to say to him, coaxin' like, and he kep' it up on her. Well, we was becalmed three days right out on the lake, and I had to row the blessed dingy in the bilin' sun over to Snake Island to get bread and meat from the Snakes."
"From the snakes!" ejaculated Coristine, "why this beats Elijah's ravens all to nothing."
"Oh, the Snakes is Injuns, and Miss Carmichael, that's the cap'n's gal, says their rale name is Kinapick."
"Look here, Sylvanus, what did you say the captain's name is?"
"Oh, the old pill's name is Thomas, like the schooner, but, you see, he married one of the pretty Carruthers gals, and a good match it was; for, I tell ye, them Carruthers gals hold their heads mighty high. Why, the ansomest of them married Dr. Carmichael that was member, and, of they did say he married below him, there wasn't a prouder nor a handsomer woman in all the country. There's a brother of the Carruthers gals lives on a farm out in Grey, and he took up with a good lookin' Irish gal that was lady's maid or some such truck. That's marryin' below yourself ef you like, but, bless you, Miss Carmichael don't bear him no spite for it. She goes and stays with him times in the holidays, just like she does along o' the old man here. My! what a three days o' singin' and fun it was when them two gals was aboard; never see nothing like it afore nor sence."
"By George!" groaned the lawyer.
"What's up, Mister? turned sick, eh? smell o' the tar too much fer your narves? It do make some city folks a bit squarmish. Wish I'd a drop o' stuff for you, but we don't carry none; wouldn't do, you know." Coristine was touched by the good fellow's kindness, and opened his flask for their joint benefit, after which he felt better, and The Crew said it made him like a four-year-old.
"Hi, Sylvanus, come aft here to your dog watch," cried the captain, and The Crew retired, while his superior officer and Wilkinson came forward. The former went down into the hold, leaving the dominie free for conversation with his friend. "It's all up again, Wilks," said Coristine sadly; "those two girls were on board this very schooner, no later than last summer, and the one that spotted you is the captain's niece."
"I know," groaned Wilkinson; "did he not tell me that he had a niece, a wonderfully fine girl, if he did say it, in the public schools, and made me promise to look her up when I go back to town! This kind of thing will be the death of me, Corry. Tell me, is your friend at the helm another uncle?"
"Oh, no," laughed Coristine, "he's a simple-hearted, humble sort of creature, who worships the boards these girls trod upon. He has a tremendous respect for the Carmichaels. What a lucky thing it is they didn't come on board at Belle Ewart! Do you think they'll be on hand at Barrie?"
"I shouldn't wonder."
"Then, Wilks, I tell you what it is, we must slope. When it gets dark, I'll slip over the stern into the dingy and bring her round to the side for you; then we'll sail away for parts unknown."
"Corry, I am ashamed of you for imagining that I would lend myself to base treachery, and robbery, or piracy rather, on the high seas, laying us open, as you, a lawyer, must know, to penalties that would blast our reputations and ruin our lives. No, sir, we must face our misfortune like men. In the meanwhile, I will find out, from the captain, where his niece and her friend are likely to be."
Coristine walked aft to The Crew, and served his apprenticeship to sitting on the tiller and propelling the rudder thereby in the desired direction. When he went wrong, while The Crew was lighting his pipe, the flapping of the sails warned him to back the tiller to its proper place. When hauling at the halliards, he had sung to his admiring companion in toil the "Sailor's Shanty":—
My Polly said she'd marry me when I came home, Yo hee, yo ho, haul all together; But when I came I found she'd been and took my messmate Tom, Yo hee, yo ho, haul all together.
Now, therefore, The Crew was urgent for a song to cheer up the lonesomeness a bit, and the lawyer, nothing loath, sang with genuine pathos:—
A baby was sleeping; Its mother was weeping. For her husband was far on the wide rolling sea.
When he came to the sea-ee-ee-ee-ee at the end of the third line, The Crew, who had been keeping time with one foot on the deck and with one hand on the tiller, aided him in rolling it forth, and, when the singing was over, he characterized it as "pooty and suitin' like," by which he meant that the references to the howling tempest and the raging billow were appropriate to the present nautical circumstances. After much persuasion The Crew was induced to add to the harmony of the evening. His voice was strong, but, like many strong things, under imperfect control; his tune was nowhere, and his intended pathetic unction was simply maudlin. Coristine could recall but little of the long ballad to which he listened, the story of a niggardly and irate father, who followed and fought with the young knight that had carried off his daughter. Two verses, however, could not escape his memory, on account of the disinterested and filial light in which they made the young lady appear:—
"O stay your hand," the old man cried, A-lying on the ground, "And you shall have my daughter, And twenty thousand pound."
"Don't let him up, dear sweetheart, The portion is too small." "O stay your hand," the old man said, "And you shall have it all."
The lawyer was loud in his admiration of this classical piece, and what he afterwards found was The Crew's original and only tune. "That was the kind of wife for a poor man," remarked Sylvanus, meditatively; "but she was mighty hard on her old dad."
"They're a poor lot, the whole pack of them," said the lawyer, savagely, thinking of the quandary in which he and his friend were placed.
"Who is?" asked The Crew.
"Why, the women, to be sure."
"Look here, Mister, my name may be Sylvanus, but I know I'm pretty rough, for all that. But, rough as I am, I don't sit quiet and let any man, no, not as good friends as you and me has been, say a word agin the wimmen. When I think o' these yere gals as was in this blessed schooner last summer, I feel it my juty, bein' I'm one o' them as helped to sail her then, to stand up fer all wimmen kind, and, no offence meant. I guess your own mother's one o' the good sort, now wasn't she?"
"I should say she is," replied Coristine; "there are splendid women in the world, but they're all married."
"That don't stand to reason, nohow," said The Crew, with gravity, "'cos there was a time wonst when they wasn't married, and if they was good arter they was good afore. And, moreover, what was, is, and ever shall be, Amen!"
"All right, Sylvanus, we won't quarrel over them, and to show I bear no malice, I'll sing a song about the sex," whereupon he trolled out: "Here's to the Maiden of Bashful Fifteen." Wilkinson came running aft when he heard the strain, and cried: "Good heavens! Coristine, whatever has got into you, are you mad or intoxicated?"
"I'll bet you your boots and your bottom dollar that he ain't that, Mister," interposed The Crew, "fer you couldn't scare up liquor enough on this yere Susan Thomas to turn the head of a canary."
"We are exchanging musical treats," said Coristine in defence. "Sylvanus here favoured me with an old ballad, not in the Percy collection, and I have been giving him one of the songs from the dramatists."
"But about women!" protested the dominie.
"There ain't no songs that ain't got somethin' about women in 'em that's wuth a cent," indignantly replied The Crew, and Wilkinson sullenly retired to the bow.
When the captain emerged from the hold he was hardly recognizable. Instead of his common sleeved waist coat and overalls, he was attired in a dark blue suit of broadcloth, the vest and frock coat of which were resplendent with gilt buttons. These clothes, with a befitting peaked cap and a pair of polished boots, had evidently come out of the large bundle he had brought from Belle Ewart, where the garments had probably done Sunday duty, for a smaller bundle, which he now threw upon the deck, contained his discarded working dress. Wilkinson was confirmed, by the spectacle presented, in his dire suspicion that the captain's niece would appear at Barrie, and, then and there, begin an acquaintance with him that might have the most disastrous consequences. But hope springs eternal in the human breast, as the poet says, so the schoolmaster tackled the commander, congratulated him on his fine appearance, and began to pump him as to the whereabouts of Miss Carmichael. The old gentleman, for such he looked now, was somewhat vain in an off-hand sort of way, and felt that he was quite the dominie's equal. He was cheerful, even jovial, in spite of the contrary assertions of The Crew, as he replied to Wilkinson's interrogations.
"Ah, you sly young dog," he said, "I see what you're at now. You'd like to hear that the pair of them are waiting for us at Barrie; but they're not. They've gone to stay with my brother-in-law, Carruthers, in the County of Grey, where I'll go and see their pretty faces myself in a few days."
Wilkinson swallowed the "sly young dog" for the sake of the consolation, and, hurriedly making his way aft, communicated the joyful news to Coristine. That gentleman much amused The Crew by throwing an arm round the schoolmaster's waist and waltzing his unwilling partner over the deck. All went merry as a marriage bell till the waltzers struck a rope coil, when, owing to the dominie's struggles, they went down together. Recovering themselves, they sat on deck glaring at each other.
"You're a perfect idiot, Coristine."
"You're a regular old muff, Wilkinson."
The Crew, thinking this was a special pantomime got up impromptu for his benefit, roared with laughter, and applauded on the tiller. He was about to execute a hoedown within tiller limits to testify his sympathy with the fun, when the captain appeared in all his Sunday finery.
"Let her away, you laughing hyena," he yelled to the unlucky Sylvanus, who regained his mental balance and laid his back to the tiller the other way.
"Sorry I've no chairs for you gentlemen," he remarked to the seated travellers; "but I guess the deck's as soft as the wooden kind."
"Don't mention it, my dear captain," said Coristine, as he sprang to his feet; "we were only taking the latitude and longitude, but it's hard work on the bones."
"You allow yourself too much latitude, sir, both in your actions and in your unjustifiable remarks," muttered the pedagogue, more slowly assuming the perpendicular.
"Now, captain," cried the lawyer, "I leave it you, sir, as a judge of language, good and bad. What is the worst thing to call a man, a muff or an idiot!"
The captain toyed with the lanyard of his tortoise shell rimmed glasses, then put them deliberately across his nose, coughed judiciously, and gave his opinion:—
"An ijit is a man that's born without sense and can't keep himself, d'ye see? But a muff is that stupid, like Sylvanus here, that he can't use the sense he's got. That being the case, a muff is worse than an ijit."
"Mr. Wilkinson, I bow, as in duty bound, to the verdict of the court, and humbly apologize for having called you something worse than an idiot. In my poor opinion, sir, you are not worse than the unfortunate creature thus described."
Wilkinson was about to retort, when The Crew called out that the schooner was in the Bay, and that the lights of Barrie could be seen in the distance.
"Keep to your helm, Sylvanus," growled the captain; "there's three pair of eyes here as good as yourn, and I hope with more sense abaft 'em."
Sylvanus relapsed into silence of a modified kind, merely whistling in a soft way his original copyright tune. As the travellers had never seen Kempenfeldt Bay before, they admired it very much, and forgot their little misunderstanding, while arm in arm they leaned over the bulwarks, and quoted little snatches of poetry in one another's ears. The twinkling lights of the town upon the cliffs suggested many a pleasing passage, so that Wilkinson told his dear Corry he was more than repaid for the trouble incident on their expedition by the sweet satisfaction of gazing on such a scene in company with a kindred spirit of poesy. To this his comrade replied, "Wilks, my dear boy, next to my mother you're the best friend I ever hope to have."
"Let us cherish these sentiments for one another, kind friend, and the cloud on the horizon of our tour will never rise to darken its happy future," after which the learned dominie recited the words of Ducis:—
"Noble et tendre amitie, je te chante en mes vers."
"Murder!" cried Coristine, "Do you know that that Miss Jewplesshy, or Do Please, or whatever her name is, is French?"
"O, Corry, Corry, how could you break in upon a scene of purest friendship and nature worship like this with your wretched misses? O, Corry, be a man!"
"The anchor's agoin' out," remarked The Crew, as he passed by; so the travellers rushed to the capstan and got hold of the spikes. Out went the cable, as Coristine sang:—
Do! my Johnny Boker, I'm a poo-er sailor, Do! my Johnny Boker, Do!!!
The ship made fast, the captain said, "Sylvanus will take you gentlemen ashore in the dingy. It only holds three, so I'll wait till he comes back." The pedestrians protested, but in vain. Sylvanus should take them ashore first. So they bade the captain good-bye with many thanks and good wishes, and tumbled down into the dingy, which The Crew brought round. The captain shouted from the bulwarks in an insinuating way, "I'll keep my eye on you, Mr Wilkinson, trying to steal an old man's niece away from him," at which the victim shuddered. Away went the dingy some fifty yards or more, when Coristine called out, "Have you got the knapsacks, Farquhar, my dear?"
"Why, bless me, no," he answered. "I thought you had them." "Row back for your life, Sylvanus, to get the blessed knapsacks;" and Sylvanus, patient creature, did as he was told. The captain threw them over the side with another farewell speech, and then the dingy made for the bank, while Coristine sang in a rich voice:—
Pull for the shore, sailor, Pull for the shore.
They landed, and, much against The Crew's will, he was compelled to receive a dollar from each of his passengers.
"I'll see you again," he said, as he rowed back for the captain. "I'll see you again up in Grey, along of the old man and the gals, mark my word if I don't."
"Glad to see you, Sylvy, old fresh (he was going to say 'old salt,' but corrected himself in time), glad to see you anywhere," bawled the lawyer, "but we've made a vow to dispense with female society in our travels. Ta, ta!"
Barrie—Next of Kin—Nightmare—On the Road—Strawberries and Botany—Poetry and Sentiment—The Virago—Luncheon and Wordsworth—Waterplants, Leeches and Verse—Cutting Sticks—Rain, Muggins and Rawdon.
The travellers carried their knapsacks in their hands by the straps, to the nearest hotel, where, after brief delay, a special supper was set for them. Having discussed the frugal meal, they repaired to the combined reading and smoking room, separate from the roughish crowd at the bar. Wilkinson glanced over a Toronto paper, while his companion, professing an interest in local news, picked up an organ of the town and read it through, advertisements and all, in which painstaking effort he was helped by his pipe. Suddenly he grasped the paper, and, holding it away from his face, exclaimed, "Is it possible that they are the same?"
"Who, who?" ejaculated Wilkinson; "do not tell me that the captain was mistaken, that they are really here."
"Do you know old Carmichael's initials, the doctor's, that was member for Vaughan?" his friend asked, paying no attention to the schoolmaster's question.
"James D.," replied that authority; "I remember, because I once made the boys get up the members' names along with their constituencies, so as to give the latter a living interest."
"Now, listen to this: 'Next of kin; information wanted concerning the whereabouts of James Douglas Carmichael, or his heirs at law. He left the University of Edinburgh, where he was in attendance on the Faculty of Medicine, in the spring of 1848, being at the time twenty-one years of age. The only trace of his farther life is a fragment of a letter written by him to a friend two years later, when he was serving as a soldier in the military station of Barrief, Upper Canada. Reward offered for the same by P.R. MacSmaill, W.S., 19 Clavers Row, Edinburgh.' If James Douglas Carmichael, ex-medical student, wasn't the member and the father of that girl of yours, I'm a Dutchman."
"Mr. Coristine, I insist, sir, before another word passes between us, that you withdraw and apologize for the deeply offensive expression, which must surely have escaped your lips unperceived, 'that girl of yours.'"
"Oh, there, now, I'm always putting my foot in it. I meant the girl you are interested in—no, it isn't that other—the girl that's interested in you—oh, wirra wisha! it's not that at all—it's the girl the captain was joking you about."
"A joke from a comparatively illiterate man like the captain of the schooner, to whom we were under travelling obligations, and a joke from my equal, a scholar and a gentleman, are two distinct things. I wish the expression, 'that girl of yours,' absolutely and forever withdrawn."
"Well, well, I consent to withdraw it absolutely and apologize for saying it, but that 'forever' clause goes against my legal judgment. If the late Dr. Carmichael's heiress comes in for a fortune, we might repent that 'forever.'"
"What has that to do with me, sir, fortune or no fortune? Your insinuations are even more insulting than your open charges of infidelity to our solemn compact."
It was Coristine's turn to be angry. He rose from the table at which he had been sitting, with the paper still in his hand, and said: "You make mountains out of molehills, Wilkinson. I've made you a fair and full apology, and shall do no more, if you sulk your head off." So saying, he stalked out of the room, and Wilkinson was too much angered to try to stop him.
The lawyer asked the landlord if he would spare him the newspaper for an hour and supply him with pen and ink and a few sheets of paper. Then he took his lamp and retired to his room. "Poor old Farquhar," he soliloquized, as he arranged his writing materials; "he'll feel mighty bad at being left all alone, but it's good for his health, and business is business. Let me see, now. Barrie was never a military station, besides the letter had Barrief on it, a name that doesn't exist. But the letter was torn there, or the corner worn away in a man's pocket. By the powers, it's Barriefield at Kingston, and there's the military station for you. I'll write our correspondent there, and I'll set one of the juniors to work up Dr. Carmichael's record in Vaughan County, and I'll notify MacSmaill, W.S., that I am on the track, and—shall I write the girl, there's the rub?" The three letters were written with great care and circumspection, but not the fourth. When carefully sealed, directed and stamped, he carried them to the post-office and personally deposited them in the slit for drop-letters. Returning to the hotel, he restored the newspaper to the table of the reading-room, minus the clipped advertisement to the next of kin, which he stowed away in his pocketbook. This late work filled the lawyer with a satisfaction that crowned the pleasures of the day, and he longed to communicate some of it to his friend, but that gentleman, the landlord said, had retired for the night, looking a bit put out—he hoped supper had been to his liking. Coristine said the supper was good. "What was the number of Mr. Wilkinson's room?"
Mine host replied that it was No. 32, the next to his own. Before retiring, Coristine looked at the fanlight over the door of No. 32; it was dark. Nevertheless he knocked, but failed to evoke a response. "Farquhar, my dear," he whispered in an audible tone, but still there was no answer. So he heaved a sigh, and, returning to his apartment, read a few words out of his pocket prayer-book, and went to bed. There he had an awful dream, of the old captain leading Wilkinson by the collar and tail of his coat up to the altar, where Miss Carmichael stood, resplendent in pearls and diamonds, betokening untold wealth; of an attempt at rescue by himself and The Crew, which was nipped in the bud by the advent of the veteran, his daughter and Miss Jewplesshy. The daughter laid violent hands upon The Crew and waltzed him out of the church door, while the veteran took Coristine's palsied arm and placed that of his young mistress upon it, ordering them, with military words of command, to accompany the victims, as bridesmaid and groomsman. When the dreamer recovered sufficiently to look the officiating clergyman full in the face, he saw that this personage was no other than Frank, the news-agent, whereupon he laughed immediately and awoke.
"Corry, Corry, my dear fellow, are you able to get up, or shall I break the door in?" were the words that greeted his ear on awaking.
"The omadhaun!" he said to himself under the bedclothes; "it would be a good thing to serve him with the sauce of silence, as he did me last night." But better counsels prevailed in his warm Irish heart, and he arose to unlock the door, when suddenly it flew open, and Wilkinson, with nothing but a pair of trousers added to his night attire, fell backwards into his arms. It was broad daylight as each looked into the other's face for explanations.
"But you're strong, Wilks!" said the lawyer with admiration.
"Corry, when I heard you groan that way, I was sure you were in a fit."
"Oh, it was nothing," replied his friend, who found it hard to keep from laughing, "only a bad nightmare."
"What were you dreaming about to bring it on?"
Now, this was just what Coristine dared not tell, for the truth would bring up all last night's misunderstanding. So he made up a story of Wilkinson's teaching The Crew navigation and the use of the globes, when the captain interfered and threatened to kick master and pupil overboard. Then he, Coristine, interposed, and the captain fell upon him. "And you know, Wilks, he's a heavy man."
"Well, I am heartily glad it is no worse. Get a wash and get your clothes on, and come down to breakfast, like a good boy, for I hear the bell ringing."
Over their coffee and toast, eggs and sausages, the two were as kind and attentive to one another's wants, as if no dispute had ever marred their friendship. The dominie got out his sketch map of a route and opened it between them. "We shall start straight for the bush road into the north, if that suits you," he said, "and travel by easy stages towards Collingwood, where we shall again behold one of our inland seas. But, as it may be sometime before we reach a house of entertainment, it may be as well to fill the odd corners of our knapsacks with provisions for the way."
"I say amen to that idea," replied the lawyer, and the travellers arose, paid their bill, including the price of the door-lock, seized their knapsacks by the straps and sallied forth. They laid in a small stock of captain's biscuits, a piece of good cheese, and some gingersnaps for Wilkinson's sweet tooth; they also had their flask refilled, and Coristine invested in some pipe-lights. Then they sallied forth, not into the north as Wilkinson had said, it being a phrase he was fond of, but, at first, in a westerly, and, on the whole, in a north-westerly direction.
When the last house on the outskirts was left behind them, they helped each other on with their knapsacks, and felt like real pedestrians. The bush enclosed them on either side of the sandy road, so that they had shade whenever they wanted it. Occasionally a wayfarer would pass them with a curt "good morning," or a team would rattle by, its driver bestowing a similar salutation. The surface of the country was flat, but this did not hinder Wilkinson reciting:—
Mount slowly, sun! and may our journey lie Awhile within the shadow of this hill, This friendly hill, a shelter from thy beams!
"That reminds me," said Coristine, "of a fellow we had in the office once, whose name was Hill. He was a black-faced, solemn-looking genius, and the look of him would sink the spirits of a skylark down to zero. 'What's come over you?' said Woodruff to me one fine afternoon, when I was feeling a bit bilious. 'Oh,' said I, 'I've been within the shadow of this Hill,' and he laughed till he was black in the face."
"Corry, if I were not ashamed of making a pun, or, as we say in academic circles, being guilty of antanaclasis, I would say that you are in-corri-gible."
Coristine laughed, and then remarked seriously, "Here am I, with a strap-press full of printing paper in my knapsack, and paying no attention to science at all. We must begin to take life in airnest now, Wilks, my boy, and keep our eyes skinned for specimens. Sorry I am I didn't call and pay my respects to my botanical friend at the Barrie High School. He could have given us a pointer or two about the flowers that grow round here."
"Flowers are scarce in July," said the schoolmaster, "they seem to take a rest in the hot weather. The spring is their best time. Of course you know that song about the flowers in spring?"
"Never heard it in my life; sing it to us, Farquhar, like a darlin'."
Now, the dominie was not given to singing, but thus adjured, and the road being clear, he sang in a very fair voice:—
We are the flowers, The fair young flowers That come with the voice of Spring, Tra la la, la la la, la la, Tra la, tra la a a a.
Coristine revelled in the chorus, which, at the "a a a," went up to the extreme higher compass of the human voice and beyond it. He made his friend repeat the performance, called him a daisy, and tra la la'd to his heart's content. Then he sat down on a grassy bank by the wayside and laughed loud and long. "Oh, it's a nice pair of fair young flowers we are, coming with the voice of spring; but we're not hayseeds, anyway." When the lawyer turned himself round to rise, Wilkinson asked seriously, "Did you hurt yourself then, Corry?"
"Never a bit, except that I'm weak with the laughing; and for why?"
"Because there is some red on your trousers, and I thought it might be blood—that you had sat down on some sharp thing."
"It'll be strawberry blite, I'll wager, Blitum capitatum, and a fine thing it is. Mrs. Marsh, that keeps our boarding house, has a garden where it grows wild in among the peas. She wanted some colouring for the icing of a cake, and hadn't a bit of cochineal or anything of the kind in the house. She was telling me her trouble, for it was a holiday and the shops were shut, and she's always that friendly with me; when, says I, 'There is no trouble about that.' So I went to the garden and got two lovely stalks of Blitum capitatum. 'Is it poison?' said she. 'Poison!' said I; 'and it belonging to the Chenopodiaceae, the order that owns beets and spinach, and all the rest of them. Trust a botanist, ma'am,' I said. It made the sweetest pink icing you ever saw, and Mrs. Marsh is for ever deeply grateful, and rears that Blitum with fond and anxious care."
"I would like to see that plant," said Wilkinson. So they retraced their steps to the bank, over which Coristine leaned tenderly, picking something which he put into his mouth. "Come on, Wilks," he cried; "it isn't blite, but something better. It's wild strawberries themselves, and lashings of them. Sure any fool might have known them by the leaves, even if he was a herald, the worst fool of all, and only knew them from a duke's coronet."
For a time there was silence, for the berries were numerous, and, although small, sweet and of delicate flavour.
"Corry, they are luscious; this is Arcadia and Elysium."
"Foine, Wilks, foine," mumbled the lawyer, with his mouth full of berries.
"This folly of mine, sitting down on the blessings of Providence—turning my back upon them, so to speak," he remarked, after the first hunger was over, "reminds me of a man who took the gold medal in natural science. He had got his botany off by rote, so, when he was travelling between Toronto and Hamilton, a friend that was sitting beside him said, 'Johnson, what's in that field out there?' Johnson looked a bit put out, but said boldly, 'It's turnips.' There was an old farmer in the seat behind him, and he spoke up and said, 'Turmuts!' said he, 'them's hoats—ha, ha, ha!'"
As they tramped along, the botanist found some specimens: two lilies, the orange and the Turk's cap; the willow herb, the showy ladies' slipper, and three kinds of milkweed. He opened his knapsack, took out the strap press, and carefully bestowed his floral treasures between sheets of unglazed printers' paper. Wilkinson took a friendly interest in these proceedings, and insisted on being furnished with the botanical names of all the specimens.
"That willow-herb, now, Epilobium angustifolium, is called fire-weed," said the botanist, "and is an awful nuisance on burnt ground. There was a Scotchman out here once, about this time of the year, and he thought it was such a pretty pink flower that he would take some home with him. So, when the downy-winged seeds came, he gathered a lot, and, when he got back to Scotland, planted them. Lord! the whole country about Perth got full of the stuff, till the farmers cursed him for introducing the American Saugh."
"The American what?" demanded Wilkinson.
"Saugh; it's an old Scotch word for willow, and comes from the French saule, I suppose."
"I am not sorry for them," said Wilkinson; "they say that pest, the Canada thistle, came from the Old Country."
"Yes, that's true; and so did Pusley, which Warner compares with original sin; and a host of other plants. Why, on part of the Hamilton mountain you won't find a single native plant. It is perfectly covered, from top to bottom, with dusty, unwholesome-looking weeds from Europe and the Southern States. But we paid them back."
"How was that?"
"You know, a good many years ago, sailing vessels began to go from the Toronto harbour across the Atlantic to British ports. There's a little water-plant that grows in Ashbridge's Bay, called the Anacharis, and this little weed got on to the bottom of the ocean vessels. Salt water didn't kill it, but it lived till the ships got to the Severn, and there it fell off and took root, and blocked up the canals with a solid mass of subaqueous vegetation that made the English canal men dredge night and day to get rid of it. I tell you we've got some pretty hardy things out here in Canada."
"Do you not think," asked Wilkinson, "that our talk is getting too like that of Charles and his learned father in Gosse's 'Canadian Naturalist'?"
"All right, my boy, I'll oppress you no longer with a tender father's scientific lore, but, with your favourite poet, say:—
"To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."
"That is because of their associations, a merely relative reason," said the dominie.
"It isn't though, at least not altogether. Listen, now, to what Tennyson says, or to something like what he says:—
Little flower in the crannied wall, Peeping out of the crannies, I hold you, root and all, in my hand; Little flower, if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is.
There's no association nor relation in that; the flower brings you at once face to face with infinite life. Do you know what these strawberries brought to me?"
"A pleasant feast I should say."
"No, they made me think how much better it would have been if I had had somebody to gather them for; I don't say a woman, because that's tabooed between us, but say a child, a little boy or girl. There's no association or relation there at all; the strawberries called up love, which is better than a pleasant feast."
"According to Wordsworth, the flower in the crannied wall and the strawberry teach the same lesson, for does he not say:—
That life is love and immortality.
* * * * *
Life, I repeat, is energy of love, Divine or human, exercised in pain, In strife and tribulation, and ordained, If so approved and sanctified, to pass Through shades and silent rest, to endless joy?
At any rate, that is what he puts into his Parson's lips.
"Farquhar, my boy, I think we'd better stop, for I'm weakening fast. It's sentimental the flowers and the fruit are making me. I mind, when I was a little fellow in the old sod, my mother gathering wild flowers from the hedges and putting them all round the ribbon of my straw hat. I can't pay her the debt of that mark of love the same way, but I feel I should pay it to somebody. You never told me about your mother."
"No, because she is dead and gone long ago, and my father married again, and brought a vixen, with two trollops of girls, to take the place of an angel. These three women turned my stomach at all the sex. Look, there's a pretty woman for you!"
They had reached a clearing in the bush, consisting of a corn patch and a potato field, in which a woman, with a man's hat on her head and a pair of top-boots upon her nether extremities, looking a veritable guy, was sprinkling the potato plants with well-diluted Paris green. The shanty pertaining to the clearing was some little distance from the road, and, hoping to get a drink of water there, Coristine prepared to jump the rail fence and make his way towards it. The woman, seeing what he was about, called: 'Hi, Jack, Jack!' and immediately a big mongrel bull-dog came tearing towards the travellers, barking as he ran.
"Come back, Corry, for heaven's sake, or he'll bite you!" cried Wilkinson.
"Never a fear," answered the lately sentimental botanist; "barking dogs don't bite as a rule." So he jumped the fence in earnest, and said soothingly, as if he were an old friend: "Hullo, Jack, good dog!" whereupon the perfidious Jack grovelled at his feet and then jumped up for a caress. But the woman came striding along, picking up a grubbing hoe by the way to take the place of the treacherous defender of the house.
"Hi, git out o' that, quick as yer legs'll take yer; git out now! we don't want no seeds, ner fruit trees, ner sewin' machines, ner fambly Bibles. My man's jist down in the next patch, an' if yer don't git, I'll set him on yer."
"Madam," said Coristine, lifting his hat, "permit me to explain—"
"Go 'long, I tell yer; that's the way they all begin, with yer madam an' explainin'; I'll explain this hoe on yer if yer take another step."
"We are not agents, nor tramps, nor tract distributors, nor collectors for missions," cried Coristine, as soon as he had a chance to speak. "My friend, here, is a gentleman engaged in education, and I am a lawyer, and all we want is a glass of water."
"A liyer, eh?" said the Amazon, in a very much reduced tone; "Why didn't yer say so at wonst, an' not have me settin' that good for nuthin' brute on yer? I never see liyers with a pack on their backs afore. Ef yer wants a drink, why don't yer both come on to the house?"
Wilkinson, at this not too cordial invitation, vaulted over the fence beside his companion, and they walked housewards, the woman striding on ahead, and the dog sniffing at Wilkinson's heels in the rear. A rather pretty red-haired girl of about fifteen was washing dishes, evidently in preparation for the mid-day meal. Her the woman addressed as Anna Maria, and ordered her to go and get a pail of fresh water for the gentlemen. But Wilkinson, who felt he must do something to restore his credit, offered to get the water if Anna Maria would show him the well or pump that contained it. The girl gave him a tin pail, and he accompanied her to the back of the house, where the well and a bucket with a rope were. In vain he tried to sink that bucket; it would not sink. At last the girl took it out of his hands, turned the bucket upside down, and, letting it fall with a vicious splash, brought it up full of deliciously cool water, which she transferred to the pail.
"You are very clever to do that the first time," remarked the schoolmaster, wishing to be polite to the girl, who looked quite pleasant and comely, in spite of her bare feet and arms.
"There ain't no cleverness about it," she replied, with a harsh nasal accent; "any fool most could do as much." Wilkinson carried the tin pail to the shanty disillusioned, took his drink out of a cup that seemed clean enough, joined his friend in thanking mother and daughter for their hospitality, and retired to the road.
"Do you find your respect for the fair sex rising?" he asked Coristine, cynically.
"The mother's an awful old harridan—"
"Yes, and when the daughter is her age she will be a harridan, too, the gentle rustic beauties have gone out of date, like the old poets. The schoolmaster is much needed here to teach young women not to compare gentlemen even if they are pedestrianizing, to 'any fool most.'"
"Oh, Wilks, is that where you're hit? I thought you and she were long enough over that water business for a case of Jacob and Rachel at the well, ha, ha!"
"Come, cease this folly, Coristine, and let us get along."
Sentiment had received a rude shock. It met with a second when Coristine remarked "I'm hungry." Still, he kept on for another mile or so, when the travellers sighted a little brook of clear water rippling over stones. A short distance to the left of the road it was shaded by trees and tall bushes, not too close together, but presenting, here and there, little patches of grass and the leaves of woodland flowers. Selecting one of these patches, they unstrapped their knapsacks, and extracted from them a sufficiency of biscuits and cheese for luncheon. Then one of the packs, as they had irreverently been called, was turned over to make a table. The biscuits and cheese were moistened with small portions from the contents of the flasks, diluted with the cool water of the brook. The meal ended, Wilkinson took to nibbling ginger snaps and reading Wordsworth. The day was hot, so that a passing cloud which came over the face of the sun was grateful, but it was grateful to beast as well as to man, for immediately a swarm of mosquitoes and other flies came forth to do battle with the reposing pedestrians. Coristine's pipe kept them from attacking him in force, but Wilkinson got all the more in consequence. He struck savagely at them with Wordsworth, anathematized them in choice but not profane language, and, at last, rose to his feet, switching his pocket handkerchief fiercely about his head. Coristine picked up the deserted Wordsworth, and laughed till the smoke of his pipe choked him and the tears came into his eyes.
"I see no cause for levity in the sufferings of a fellow creature," said the schoolmaster, curtly.
"Wilks, my darling boy, it's not you I'm laughing at; it's that old omadhaun of a Wordsworth. Hark to this, now:—
He said, ''Tis now the hour of deepest noon. At this still season of repose and peace, This hour, when all things which are not at rest Are cheerful; while this multitude of flies Is filling all the air with melody; Why should a tear be in an old man's eye?'
O Wilks, but this beats cock-fighting; 'Why should a tear be in an old man's eye?' Sorra a bit do I know, barring it's the multitude of flies. O Wordy, Wordy, bard of Rydal Mount, it's sick with laughing you'll be making me. All things not at rest are cheerful. Dad, if he means the flies, they're cheerful enough, but if it's my dear friend, Farquhar Wilkinson, it's a mistake the old gentleman is making. See, this is more like it, at the very beginning of 'The Excursion':—
Nor could my weak arm disperse The host of insects gathering round my face, And ever with me as I paced along.
That's you, Wilks, you to a dot. What a grand thing poetic instinct is, that looks away seventy years into the future and across the Atlantic Ocean, to find a humble admirer in the wilds of Canada, and tell how he looked among the flies. 'Why should a tear be in an old man's eye?' O, holy Moses, that's the finest line I've sighted in a dog's age. Cheer up, old man, and wipe that tear away, for I see the clouds have rolled by, Jenny."
"Man, clod, profaner of the shrine of poesy, cease your ignorant cackle," cried the irate dominie. Silently they bathed faces and hands in the brook, donned their knapsacks, and took to the road once more.
The clouds had not all passed by as the pedestrians found to their cost, for, where there are clouds over the bush in July, there also are mosquitoes. Physically as well as psychically, Wilkinson was thin-skinned, and afforded a ready and appetizing feast to the blood-suckers. His companion still smoked his pipe in defence, but for a long time in silence. "The multitude of flies" made him gurgle occasionally, as he gazed upon the schoolmaster, whose blue and yellow silk handkerchief was spread over the back of his head and tied under his chin. To quote Wordsworth then would have been like putting a match to a powder magazine. The flies were worst on the margin of a pond formed by the extension of a sluggish black stream. "Go on, Wilks, my boy, out of the pests, while I add some water plants to my collection;" but this, Wilkinson's chivalrous notions of friendship would not allow him to do. He broke off a leafy branch from a young maple, and slashed it about him, while the botanist ran along the edge of the pond looking for flowers within reach. As usual, they were just out of reach and no more. So he had to take off shoes and socks, turn up the legs of his trousers, and wade in after them. "Look at that now!" he said with pride as he returned with his booty, "Nymphaea odorata, Nuphar advena, and Brasenia peltata; aren't they beauties?"
"What is that black object on your leg?" the dominie managed to gasp.
"I'm thankful to you for saying that, my kind friend, for it's a murdering leech."
"Salt is the only thing to take them off with," remarked Wilkinson really interested; "and that is just what we are deficient in."
"I say, Wilks, try a drop of the crater on him; don't waste the blessings of Providence, but just let the least particle fall on his nose, while I scrape him off."
The surgical operation succeeded, and the schoolmaster half forgot his own troubles in doing good to his friend. While the latter was reclothing his feet, and pressing his specimens, the maple branch ceased working, and its owner finely apostrophized the field of white and yellow blossoms.
There sits the water lily like a sovereign, Her little empire is a fairy world, The purple dragon-fly above it hovering, As when her fragile ivory uncurled, A thousand years ago.
"Bravo, Wilks, if you are poaching on my preserves; but I wish that same purple dragon-fly would hover round here in thousands for a minute. It's a pleasure to see them sail along and gobble up the mosquitoes."
The dominie continued:—
To-day I saw the dragon-fly Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil Of his old husk; from head to tail Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew, Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew A living flash of light he flew.
"Hurroo!" cried Coristine, as with knapsack readjusted, he took his companion by the arm and resumed the journey; "Hurroo again, I say, it's into the very heart of nature we're getting now. Bless the mosquito and the leech for opening the well of English undefiled."
Wilkinson was wound up to go, and repeated with fine conversational effect:—
But now, perplexed by what th' old man had said, My question eagerly did I renew How is it that you live, and what is it you do?
He, with a smile, did then his words repeat; And said, that, gathering leeches far and wide, He travell'd; stirring thus about his feet The waters of the ponds where they abide. "Once I could meet with them on every side; But they have dwindled long by slow decay; Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."
"Dad, if the old man had been here, he might have made his fortune by this time. 'Stirring thus about his feet the waters of the ponds where they abide' may be fine employment, but the law's good enough for me, seeing they're bound to dwindle long by slow decay. You don't happen to have a scrap on a botanist, do you?"
"Yes," replied the schoolmaster, "and on a blind one, too:—
And he knows all shapes of flowers: the heath, the fox-glove with its bells, The palmy fern's green elegance, fanned in soft woodland smells; The milkwort on the mossy turf his nice touch fingers trace, And the eye-bright, though he sees it not, he finds it in its place."
"A blind botanist, and in the Old Country, too; well that's strange! True, a blind man could know the lovely wallflowers and hyacinths and violets and all these sweet-scented things by their smell. But to know the little blue milkwort and the Euphrasia by touch, bangs me. If it was our fine, big pitcher plant, or the ladies' slipper, or the giant-fringed orchis, or the May apple, I could understand it; but perhaps he knew the flowers before he got to be blind. I think I could find my way blindfolded to some spots about Toronto where special plants grow. I believe, Wilks, that a man couldn't name a subject you wouldn't have a quotation for; you're wonderful!"
Wilkinson was delighted. This flattery was meat and drink to him. Holding the arm of his admiring friend, he poured out his soul in verse, allowing his companion, from time to time, the opportunity of contributing a little to the poetic feast. The two virtually forgot to notice the level, sandy road and tame scenery, the clouded sun, the troublesome flies. For the time being, they were everything, the one to the other. By their own spirits were they deified, or thought they were, at the moment.
Though the schoolmaster was revelling in the appreciation of his friend, he could not fail to perceive that he limped a little. "You have hurt your foot, Corry, my dear fellow, and never told me."
"Oh, it's nothing," replied the light-hearted lawyer; "I trod on a stick in that pond where I got the Brasenia and things, and my big toe's a bit sore, that's all."
"Corry, we have forgotten the blackthorns. Now, in this calm hour, sacred to friendship, let us present each other with nature's staff, a walking-stick cut from the bush, humble tokens of our mutual esteem."
Coristine agreed, and the result was a separation and careful scrutiny of the underbrush on both sides of the road, which ended in the finding of a dogwood by the lawyer, and of a striped maple by the dominie—both straight above and curled at the root. These, having removed from the bush, they brought into shape with their pocket-knives. Then Coristine carved "F.W." on the handle of his, while Wilkinson engraved "E.C." on the one he carried. This being done, each presented his fellow with "this utterly inadequate expression of sincere friendship," which was accepted "not for its intrinsic worth, but because of the generous spirit which prompted the gift." "Whenever my eye rests on these letters by friendship traced," said the dominie, "my pleasant companion of this happy day will be held in remembrance."
"And when my fingers feel 'E.C.' on the handle," retorted the lawyer, "I'll be wishing that my dear friend's lot, that gave it me, may be easy too. Faith but that's a hard pun on an Irishman."
"Seriously, now, Corry, does it give you any satisfaction to be guilty of these—ah—rhetorical figures?"
"All the delight in the world, Wilks, my boy."
"But it lowers the tone of your conversation; it puts you on a level with common men; it grieves me."
"If that last is the case, Farquhar, I'll do my best to fight against my besetting sin. You'll admit I've been very tender of your feelings with them."
"How's your foot now?"
"Oh, splendid! This stick of yours is a powerful help to it.
Jog on, jog on, the footpath way, And merrily hent the stile-a: A merry heart goes all the day, Your sad tires in a mile-a.
Shakespeare's songs remind me of young Witherspoon. There was a party at old Tylor's, and a lady was singing 'Tell me where is fancy bred?' when young Witherspoon comes up to the piano in a hurry, and says: 'Why, don't you know?—at Nasmith's and Webb's.'
"Lord! how savage old Tylor was! I thought he would have kicked the young ass out."
"That is just what we lovers of literature have to endure from the Philistines. But, Corry, my dear fellow, here is the rain!"
The rain fell, at first drop by drop, but afterwards more smartly, forcing the pedestrians to take refuge under some leafy pines. There they sat quietly for a time, till their interest was excited by a deep growl, which seemed to come round a jog in the road just ahead.
"Is that a bear or a wolf, Corry?" the dominie asked in a whisper.
"More like a wild cat or a lynx," cheerfully responded his friend.
The growl was repeated, and then a human like voice was heard which quieted the ferocious animal.
"Whatever it is, it's got a keeper," whispered Coristine, "so we needn't be afraid."
Then the sun shone forth brightly and a rainbow spanned the sky.
"The rainbow comes and goes," said the lawyer, which gave the schoolmaster occasion to recite:—
My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky. So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old Or let me die! The child is father of the man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.
"Brayvo, well done, ancore!" cried a cheery and cheeky voice coming round the jog; "oo'd a thought of meetin' a play hactor 'ere in the bush! Down, Muggins, down," the latter to a largish and wiry-looking terrier, the author of the ominous growls.
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Wilkinson with dignity, "I have nothing to do with the stage, beyond admiring the ancient ornaments of the English drama."
"Hall right, no hoffence meant and none taken, I 'ope. But you did it well, sir, devilish well, I tell you. My name is Rawdon, and I'm a workin' geologist and minerologist hon the tramp."
The stranger, who had thus introduced himself, was short, about five feet five, fairly stout, with a large head covered with curly reddish hair, his whiskers and goatee of the same hue, his eyes pale grayish, his nose retrousse, and his mouth like a half-moon lying on its back. He was dressed in a tweed suit of a very broad check; his head was crowned with a pith hat, almost too large even for it; and he wore gaiters. But, what endeared him to the pedestrians was his knapsack made of some kind of ribbed brown waterproof cloth.
"Either of you gents take any hinterest in science?" he asked affably, whereupon the schoolmaster took it upon himself to reply.
"I, as an educationist, dabble a little in geology, mineralogy, and palaeontology. My friend is a botanist. You are Mr. Rawdon. Allow me, Mr. Rawdon, to introduce my friend Mr. Eugene Coristine, of Osgood Hall, Barrister, and my humble self, Farquhar Wilkinson, of the Toronto Schools."
Mr. Rawdon bowed and shook hands, then threw himself into a stage attitude, and said: "His it possible that I am face to face with Farquhar Wilkinson, the describer of a hentirely new species of Favosites? Sir, this is a perroud day for a workin' geologist. Your servant, Dr. Coristine!"
"I'm no doctor, Mr. Rawdon," replied the lawyer, a bit angrily; "I passed all my examinations in the regular way."
"Hif it's a fair question, gents, ware are you a goin'"? asked the working geologist.
"We intend, if nothing intervenes, to spend the night at the village of Peskiwanchow," answered Wilkinson, whose heart warmed to the knapsack man that knew his great discovery.
"Beastly 'ole!" remarked Mr. Rawdon; "but, as I'm a long way hoff Barrie, I'll go there with you, if Mr. Currystone is hagreeable. I don't want to miss the hopportunity of making your better hacquaintance, Dr. Wilkinson."
"I am sure that my friend and I will be charmed with your excellent society, as a man, a fellow pedestrian and a lover of science," the dominie effusively replied.
"Well, Muggins, we're a-goin' back, hold dog, along o' two gents as haint above keepin' company wi' you and me," whereat Muggins barked and sought to make friends with his new companions. Coristine liked Muggins, but he did not love Muggins' master. Sotto voce, he said: "A cheeky little cad!"
Mr. Rawdon and Wilkinson forged on ahead. Coristine and Muggins brought up the rear.
"What are you working at now, Mr. Rawdon?" asked the schoolmaster.
"I'm workin' hup the Trenton and Utica, the Udson River and Medina formations. They hall crop hup between 'ere and Collin'wood. It's the limestone I'm hafter, you know," he said, sinking his voice to a whisper, "the limestone grits, dolomites, and all that sort of thing. Wen I can get a good grinstun quarry, I'll be a made man."
"Grinstun?" queried Wilkinson, helplessly.
"Yes, you know, g, r, i, n, d, s, t, o, n, e, grinstun, for sharpenin' tools on; turn 'em with a handle and pour water on top. Now, sir, hevery farm 'ouse 'as got to 'ave a grinstun, and there's 'ow many farm 'ouses in Canidy? wy, 'undreds of thousands. You see, there's money in it. Let me find a grinstun quarry and I'm a made man. And wot's more, I've found the grinstun quarry."
"You have? Where?" asked the dominie.
The working geologist drew off, and playfully planted the forefinger of his right hand on the side of his upturned nose, saying "Walker!" Then he relented, and, reapproaching his companion, said: "Honour bright, now, you're no workin' geologist, lookin' out for the blunt? You're a collector of Favosites Wilkinsoma, Stenopora fibrosa, Asaphus Canadensis, Ambonychia radiata, Heliopora fragilis, and all that rot, ain't you now?"
"I certainly seek to make no money out of science, and am a lover of the fossil records of ancient life in our planet, but, above all, I assure you that I would no more think of betraying your confidence than of picking your pocket. If you have any doubts, do not make me your confidant."
"Hall right, hold cock, I mean, my dear sir. You're safe has a church. There's a 'undred hacre lot hup in the township of Flanders, has full of grinstuns as a hegg's full of meat. It belongs to a Miss Do Please-us, but who the dooce she is, I dunno. That's just wot I'm a-goin' to find hout. If she hain't paid her taxes, bein' hon the non-resident roll, I maybe hable to pick hup the land for less than ten dollars, and it'll bring me hin tens of thousands. Then I'll skip back to hold Hingland and cut it fat."
Coristine was not so taken up with Muggins that he failed to overhear the conversation. He did not catch it all, but he learned that a lady, a maiden lady, whose name mediated between Jewplesshy and Do Please, owned valuable mineral lands, of which the working geologist intended to deprive her by unfair means. Miss Do-Please-us was nothing to him, but justice was something, and the man Rawdon was an unutterable cad. How Wilkinson could take any pleasure in his society he could not understand. He had a good mind to chuck the dominie's stick into the next creek and let it float to Jericho. He did throw it away along the road, but Muggins brought it back. Deserted by his bosom friend for a common, low down cad like that; Oh, by Jove! He strode along in silence, while Muggins, his only friend, came and rubbed himself against his leg. No, he would not give in to fate in the shape of a Rawdon. He had important secrets regarding the welfare of two women, that Providence seemed to have thrown in his way, in his possession. If Wilks turned traitor, he could break the pact, and make one of these women happy. Pity he wasn't a Turk to take care of the pair of them. Night had fallen, but the moon shone out and the stars, and it was very pleasant walking, if only Wilkinson would give the least hint that he was conscious of his friend's existence. But the schoolmaster was happy with the mining adventurer, who knew his man well enough to mix a few fossils with the grinstuns.
Peskiwanchow Tavern—Bad Water—A Scrimmage and Timotheus—The Wigglers—Pure Water and Philosophy—Archaeology and Muggins—Mrs. Thomas and Marjorie—Dromore—Rawdon's Insolence and Checks—On the Road and Tramp's Song—Maguffin and the Pole-cart.
"Ere's this beastly 'ole of a Peskiwanchow," said Mr. Rawdon as the pedestrians came to a rather larger clearing than usual, prominent in which was the traditional country tavern.
"Is it clean?" asked Wilkinson.
"Well, there hain't hany pestilence that walketh hin darkness there, not to my knowledge; though they say hif you keep your lamp lit hall night, they won't come near you; but then, the blessed lamp brings the mosquitoes, don't you see?"
Mr. Wilkinson did see, but was glad of the information, as the look of the hotel was not reassuring.
"Ullo, Matt!" cried his new friend to the coatless landlord. "I'm back, you see, hand 'ave brought you a couple of guests. Look sharp with supper, for we're hall 'ungry as 'awks."
The ham which they partook of, with accompanying eggs and lukewarm potatoes, was very salt, so that in spite of his three cups of tea Wilkinson was thirsty. He went to the bar, situated in the only common room, except the dining-room, in the house, and asked for a glass of water. A thick, greenish fluid was handed to him, at which, as he held it to the light, he looked aghast. Adjusting his eye-glass, he looked again, and saw not only vegetable and minute animal organisms, but also unmistakable hairs.
"Where do you get this water?" he asked in a very serious tone.
"Out of the well," was the answer.
"Are you aware that it is one mass of animal and vegetable impurities, and that you are liable to typhoid and every other kind of disease as the natural effect of drinking such filth?"
The landlord stared, and then stammered that he would have the well cleaned out in the morning, not knowing what sort of a health officer was before him. But the crowd at the bar said it was good enough for them, as long as the critters were well killed off with a good drop of rye or malt. Wilkinson asked for a glass of beer, which came out sour and flat. "See me put a head on that," said the landlord, dropping a pinch of soda into the glass and stirring it in with a spoon. The schoolmaster tried to drink the mixture, but in vain; it did not quench the thirst, but produced a sickening effect. He felt like a man in a strange land, like a wanderer in the desert, a shipwrecked mariner. Oh, to be on the Susan Thomas, with miles of pure water all round! Or even at home, where the turning of a tap brought all Lake Ontario to one's necessities.
"Is there no other water than this about?" he asked in despair.
"Wy, yees," answered Matt; "thay's the crick a ways down the track, but it's that black and masshy I guess you wouldn't like it no better."
"Well, get us some from there, like a good man, to wash with if we cannot drink it, and have it taken up to our room," for it had appeared that the two pedestrians were to inhabit a double-bedded apartment.
"'Ere, you Timotheus, look spry and go down to the crick and fetch a pail of water for No. 6."
A shambling man, almost a hobbledehoy, of about twenty five, ran out to obey the command, and, when he returned from No. 6, informed Wilkinson civilly that the water was in his room. Something in his homely but pleasant face, in his shock head and in his voice, seemed familiar to the dominie, yet he could not place his man; when Coristine came along and said, "You've got a brother on the Susan Thomas, haven't you, and his name is Sylvanus?" The young man shuffled with his feet, opened a mouth the very counterpart of "The Crew's," and answered: "Yes, mister, he's my oldest brother, is Sylvanus; do you happen to know Sylvanus?"
"Know him?" said the unblushing lawyer, "like a brother; sailed all over Lake Simcoe with him."
The lad was proud, and went to his menial tasks with a new sense of the dignity of his family. He was called for on all sides, and appeared to be the only member of the household in perpetual request; but, though many liberties were taken with him personally, none were taken with his name, which was always given in full, "Ti-mo-the-us!" Wilkinson was too tired, thirsty and generally disgusted to do anything but sit, as he never would have sat elsewhere, on a chair tilted against the wall. Coristine would fain have had a talk with "The Crew's" brother, but that worthy was ever flitting about from bar-room to kitchen, and from well to stable; always busy and always cheerful.
The Grinstun man came swaggering up after treating all hands at the bar to whisky, in which treat the pedestrians were included by invitation, declined with thanks, and suggested a game of cards—any game they liked—stakes to be drinks; or, if the gents preferred it, cigars. Coristine somewhat haughtily refused, and Wilkinson, true to his principles, but in a more conciliatory tone, said that he did not play them. He was obliged, therefore, to get the landlord, Matt, and a couple of bar-room loafers to take hands with him.
"Wilks, my dear boy, get out your draft-board and I'll play you a game," said Coristine.
The board was produced, the flat, cardboard chessmen turned upside down, and the corner of a table, on which a few well-thumbed newspapers lay, utilized for the game. The players were so interested in making moves and getting kings that, at first, they did not notice the talk of the card players which was directed against them; for Matt, being called away to his bar, was replaced by a third loafer. Gradually there came to their ears the words, "conceited, offish, up-settin', pedlars, tramps, pious scum," with condemnatory and other adjectives prefixed, and then they knew that their characters and occupations were undergoing unfavourable review. Mr. Rawdon was too "hail fellow well met" with the loafers to offer any protest. He joined in the laugh that greeted each new sally of vulgar abuse, and occasionally helped his neighbours on by such remarks as, "We musn't be too 'ard on 'em, they hain't used to such company as hus," which was followed by a loud guffaw. Wilkinson was playing badly, for he felt uncomfortable. Coristine chewed his moustache and became red in the face. The landlord looked calmly on. At last the card players, having had their third drink since the game began, came over to the little table. One of the roughest and worst-tongued of the three picked up a pile of dirty newspapers, looked at one of them for a moment, pshawed as if there was nothing in them, and threw the pile down with a twist of his hand fair on to the draft-board, sweeping it half off the table and all the cardboard men to the floor. In a moment Coristine was up, and laid hold of the fellow by the shoulder. Pale but resolute, the schoolmaster, who had done physical duty by unruly boys, stood beside him. The working geologist and the landlord, Matt, looked on to see the fun of a fight between two city men and three country bullies.
"Get down there," said Coristine to his man, trembling with indignation, "get down there, and pick up all these chessmen, or I'll wring your neck for you." The fellow made a blow at him with his free hand, a blow that Coristine parried, and then the Irishman, letting go of his antagonist's arm, gave him a sounding whack with all the might of his right fist, that sent him sprawling to the ground.
"Pile in on 'im, boys!" cried the prostrate ruffian, who had lost a tooth and bled freely at the nose. The other two prepared to pile, when the schoolmaster faced one of them, and kept him off. It is hard to say how matters would have gone, had not a tornado entered the bar room in the shape of Timotheus. How he did it, no one could tell, but, in less than two minutes, the two standing bullies and the prostrate one were all outside the tavern door, which was locked behind them. Peace once more reigned in the hotel, and it was in order for Matt and the Grinstun man to congratulate Coristine on his knock down blow. He showed no desire for their commendation, but, with his friend, whom Timotheus helped to pick up the chessmen, retired to his room. The Crew's brother had disappeared before he had had a chance to thank him.
Before retiring for the night, the lawyer was determined to be upsides with Mr. Rawdon. He asked his roomfellow if he had any writing materials, and was at once provided with paper, envelopes, and a fountain pen.
"I hope I'm not depriving you of these, Wilks, my dear," he said, when the party thus addressed almost threw himself upon his neck, saying, "Corry, my splendid, brave fellow, everything I have is at your absolute disposal, 'supreme of heroes—bravest, noblest, best!'" for he could not forget his Wordsworth. Coristine wrote to the clerk of the municipality of Flanders, to know where Miss Jewplesshy or Do Please-us had a lot, and whether the taxes on it had been paid. He directed him to answer to his office in Toronto, and also wrote to his junior, instructing him how to act upon this reply. These letters being written and prepared for the post, he and the dominie read together out of the little prayer book, left the window open and the lamp burning, and went to bed. Before they fell asleep, they heard the barking of a dog. "It's that poor brute, Muggins," said Coristine; "I'll go, and let him in, if that brute of a master of his won't." So, in spite of Wilkinson's remonstrances, he arose and descended the stairs to the bar-room. Nobody was there but Timotheus sleeping in a back tilted chair. He slipped quietly along in his bare feet, but Timotheus, though sleeping, was on guard. The Crew's brother awoke, soon as he tried the door, and in a moment, was on his back. "It's I, my good Timotheus," said the lawyer, and at once the grip relaxed. "I want to let that poor dog, Muggins, in." Then Timotheus unlocked the door, and Coristine whistled, and called "Hi Muggins, Muggins, Muggy, Mug, Mug, Mug, Mug!" when the mongrel came bounding in, with every expression of delight. Coristine warmly thanked The Crew's brother, pressed a dollar on his acceptance, and then retired to No. 6. Muggins followed him, and lay down upon the rag carpet outside that apartment, to keep watch and ward for the rest of the night, entirely ignoring his owner, the Grinstun man.