David Fleming's Forgiveness
by Margaret Murray Robertson
CHAPTER TWO. THE
CHAPTER SIX. A
VISIT TO YTHAN
THE TWO COUSINS.
TWO. POOR DAVIE.
FOUR. POOR OLD
CHAPTER ONE. A CANADIAN SETTLEMENT.
The first tree felled in the wilderness that lay to the south and
west of the range of hills of which Hawk's Head is the highest, was
felled by the two brothers Holt. These men left the thickly-settled New
England valley where they were born, passed many a thriving town and
village, and crossed over miles and miles of mountain and forest to
seek a home in a strange country. Not that they thought of it as a
strange country, for it was a long time ago, and little was known by
them of limits or boundary lines, when they took possession of the
fertile Canadian valley which had till then been the resort only of
trappers and Indians. They were only squatters, that is, they cut down
the great trees, and built log-houses, and set about making farms in
the wilderness, with no better right to the soil than that which their
labour gave. They needed no better right, they thought; at least, there
was no one to interfere with them, and soon a thriving settlement was
made in the valley. It turned out well for the Holts and for those who
followed them, for after a good many years their titles to their farms
were secured to them on easy terms by the Canadian Government, but they
had held them as their own from the first.
Within ten years of the coming of the brothers, the cluster of
dwellings rising around the saw-mill which Gershom Holt had built on
the Beaver Riverthe store, the school-house, the blacksmith's
shopbegan to be spoken of by the farmers as the village. Every year
of the ten that followed was marked by tokens of the slow but sure
prosperity which, when the settlers have been men of moral lives and
industrious habits, has uniformly attended the planting of the later
Gradually the clearings widened around the first log-houses, and the
unsightly stumps grew smaller and blacker under the frequent touch of
fire. The rough slash fences made of brushwood and fallen trees, gave
place to the no less ugly, but more substantial zigzag of cedar
rails. The low, log farm-houses began to be dwarfed by the great framed
barns which the increasing harvest rendered necessary, until a
succession of such harvests rendered possible and prudent the building
of framed dwellings as well.
As the clearings widened and the farms became more productive, the
prosperity of the village advanced. A grist-mill was added to the
saw-mill, and as every year brought move people to the place, new arts
and industries were established. The great square house of Gershom
Holt, handsome and substantial, was built. Other houses were made neat
and pretty with paint, and green window-blinds, and door-yard fences,
as time went on.
Primitive fashions and modes of life which had done for the early
days of the settlement, gave place by degrees to the more artificial
requirements of village society. The usual homespun suit, which even
the richest had considered sufficient for the year's wear, was
supplemented now by stuffs from other looms than those in the
farm-house garrets. Housewives began to think of beauty as well as use
in their interior arrangements. Boughten carpets took the place of
the yellow paint and the braided mats once thought the proper thing for
the spare room set apart for company, and articles of luxury, in the
shape of high chests of drawers and hard hair-cloth sofas, found their
way into the houses of the ambitious and well-to-do among them. The
changes which increasing means bring to a community were visible in the
village and beyond it before the first twenty years were over. They
were not all changes for the better, the old people declared; but they
still went on with the years, till Gershom, as the village came to be
called, began to be looked upon by the neighbouring settlements as the
centre of business and fashion to all that part of the country.
The Holts were both rather indifferent as regarded religious
matters, but they had the hereditary respect of their countrymen for
school and meeting privileges, and they were strong in the belief
that the ultimate prosperity of their community, even in material
things, depended mainly on the growing intelligence and morality of the
people; so it happened that much earlier than is usual in new
settlements, measures were taken to secure the means of secular and
religious instruction for the people. But it was not merely in material
wealth and prosperity that was evident the progress of which the
inhabitants of Gershom were becoming so justly proud.
As the Holts were the first comers to Gershom, so for a long time
they kept the first place in the town, both in social and in business
matters. The Holts had made Gershom, the Holts said, and other people
said it too, only sometimes it was added, that they had also made
themselves, and that all the pains they had taken had been to that
end. But this was saying too much, for all the Holts had great pride
in the place and its prosperity, and almost all the industries that
contributed to its growth, as time went on, had been commenced by one
or other of them.
Gershom Holt was the more successful of the two brothers, partly
because of his greater energy and capacity for business, and partly
because he had located at that point on the Beaver River where the
water-power could be made easily available for manufacturing purposes.
No time was lost by him in doing what skill and will could do with only
limited capital to make a beginning in that direction, and every new
artisan who came to the town, and did well for himself in it, did
something to increase the wealth of Gershom Holt also. So in course of
time he became the rich man of the place. He dealt closely in business
matters, he liked the best of a bargain, and, as a rule, got it; but he
was of a kindly nature, and was never hard to the poor, and many a man
in Gershom was helped to a first start in business through his means,
so that he was better liked and more entirely trusted than the one rich
man in a rising country place is apt to be.
His brother Reuben was not so fortunate, either in making money or
in winning favours. His farm bordered on the river, but the meadows
were narrow, and the land rose abruptly into round rocky hills, fit
only for pasture. Beyond the hills, on the higher level, the land was
fairly good, but the cultivation of it was difficult, and he had never
done much with it. He was neither strong nor courageous. Some of his
children died, and others went wrong, and he fell into misanthropic
ways, and for several years before his death he was seldom seen in the
For more than twenty years the Beaver River settlement, as it was at
first called, was occupied by people of American origin who had come in
with the Holts, or had followed after them. But about the time when the
land of which they had taken possession was secured to them by the
Government, a number of Scotch families came to settle in that part of
the town called North Gore, lying just under the morning shadows of
Hawk's Range. To these people, for whose land and ancestry they had a
traditional admiration and respect, the descendants of the Pilgrim
Fathers extended a warm welcome, and it was called a good day for the
town when they settled down in it.
With the best intentions on the part of all concerned, affairs will
go wrong in the history of towns as well as of individuals. Unhappily
the new settlers were not at first brought into contact with the best
and kindest of the people. Some of them suffered in purse, not from
bad men, but from men whose easy consciences did not refuse to take
advantage of their necessities, and of their ignorance of the country
and its ways; and some of them suffered in their feelings from what
they believed to be curiosity and meddlesomeness on the part of
neighbours, who in reality meant to be helpful and friendly.
So the North Gore folk kept themselves to themselves as they
expressed it, and struggled on through some hard years, which more
friendliness with their neighbour; might have made easier. The old
settlers watched with an interest, on the whole kindly, the patient
labour, the untiring energy which did not always take the shortest way
to success, but which made its ultimate attainment sure. But to them
the firm adherence of the Scotchmen to their own opinions and plans and
modes of life, looked like obstinacy and ignorance, and they spoke of
them as narrow and bigoted, and altogether behind the times, and the
last charge was the most serious in their estimation.
The new-comers refused to see anything admirable in the ease and
readiness with which most of the old settlers, disciplined by
necessity, could turn from one occupation to another, as circumstances
required. The farmer who made himself a carpenter to-day and a
shoemaker to-morrow was, in their estimation, a Jack-of-all-trades,
certainly not a farmer in the dignified sense which they had been
accustomed to attach to the name.
The strong and thrifty Scotchwomen, who thought little of walking
and carrying great baskets of butter and eggs the three or four miles
that lay between North Gore and the village, found matter for
contemptuous animadversion in the glimpses they got of their
neighbours' way of life, and spoke scornfully to each other of the
useless Yankee wives, who were content to bide within doors while
their husbands did not only the legitimate field-work, but the work of
the garden, and even the milking of the cows as well. The Yankee
wives in their turn shrugged their shoulders at the thought of what the
housekeeping must be that was left to children, or left altogether,
while the women were in the hay or harvest-field as regularly and
almost as constantly as their husbands and brothers. Of course they did
not speak their minds to one another about all this, but they knew
enough about one another's opinions to make them suspicious and shy
when they met.
And they did not meet often. The mistress of a new farm found little
time for visiting. Winter had its own work, and the snow and the bitter
cold kept them within doors. When winter was over they could only think
how best to turn to account the long days of the short Canadian summer
for the subduing of the soil, out of which must come food for their
hungry little ones. Every foot reclaimed from the swamp or the forest,
every unsightly thing burned out of the rough, new land, meant store of
golden grain and wholesome bread for the future. So, with brave hearts
and willing hands, the North Gore women laboured out of doors as well
as within, content to wait for the days when only the legitimate
woman's work should fall to their share. There were some exceptions, of
course, and friendly relations were established between individuals,
and between families, in the North Gore and the village; but a friendly
feeling was for a good many years by no means general, and two distinct
communities lived side by side in the town of Gershom.
Even the good people among themGod's own peoplewho have so much
in common that all lesser matters may well be made nothing of between
themeven they did not come together across the wall which ignorance
and prejudice and circumstances had raised. At least they did not for a
time. The Grants and the Scotts and the Sangsters travelled Sabbath by
Sabbath the four miles between the North Gore and the village, and,
passing the house where a good man preached the Gospel in the name of
the Lord Jesus, travelled four miles further still for the sake of
hearing one of their own kirk and country preach the same Gospel in the
name of the same Lord. And so the Reverend Mr Hollister, and Deacon
Moses Turner, and other good men among them, thought themselves
justified in setting them down as narrow-minded and bigoted, and
incapable of appreciating the privileges which had fallen to their lot.
There was really no good reason why they should not all have
worshipped together as one community, for in the doctrines which they
held, the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers differed little from those
who had been taught in Scottish kirks the truth for which their fathers
had fought and died. The little band who kept together, and held to the
form of church government which they had learned to revere in their
native land, were by reason of their isolation, practically as
independent in regard to the matters of their kirk as were their
Puritan neighbours who claimed this independence as their right.
In point of numbers, and in point of means, the older settlers were
the stronger of the two parties; in point of character and piety, even
they themselves were not sure that the superiority was on their side.
However that might be, all felt that the coming in among them of the
North Gore men and their families was much to be desired, and after a
time measures were taken to bring the subject of union before them in
the most favourable manner.
So, accompanied and encouraged by Deacon Turner, Mr Hollister, the
minister, visited the North Gore folk family by family, and was
respectfully and kindly received by them all, but he did not make much
progress in the good work he had undertaken. His remarks about
brotherly love and the healing of breaches were for the most part
listened to in silence, and so were Deacon Turner's cautious allusions
to the subscription-list for the dealing with current expenses. Nowhere
did they meet with much encouragement to hope that their efforts to
bring the two communities together would be successful. For several
years after this the North Gore folk continued to make their
Sabbath-day's journey past the village church. Then for a while they
had the monthly ministrations of a preacher of their own order in their
own neighbourhood, and on other days kept up meetings among themselves,
and did what they could in various ways to keep themselves to
themselves as of old.
But time wrought changes. The children who had come to the North
Gore grew up, and they did not grow up to be just such men and women as
their fathers and mothers had been. It is not necessary to say whether
they were worse men or better. They were different. There was not much
change in the manner of life in many of the homes. The Sabbath was as
strictly kept, and the young people were as strictly taught and
catechised and looked after in Scottish fashion as of old, and they
bade fair to grow up as cautious and as douce, and as much attached
to old ways and customs as if they had been brought up on the other
side of the sea, quite beyond the reach of Yankee innovations and
free-and-easy colonial ways. But even the most douce and cautious
amongst them were without the stiffness and strength of the old-time
prejudice, and the young people of the different sections of the
township, brought together in the many pleasant ways that are open to
young people in country places, no longer kept apart as their fathers
There were troubles in Gershom still of various kinds,
misunderstandings and quarrels, and violations of the golden rule
between individuals and between families, and some of them took colour,
and some of them took strength, from national feeling and national
prejudice; but there were no longer two distinct communities living
side by side in the town, as there once had been. And by and by, when
old Mr Grant and Deacon Turner, and some others of the good men who had
held with one or other of them on earth, were gone to sit down to eat
bread together in the kingdom of heaven, the good men they had left
behind them drew closer together by slow degrees. And when Mr Hollister
grew old and feeble, and unable to do duty as pastor of the village
church, all agreed that the chief consideration, in the appointment of
a successor, must be the getting of such a man as might be able to
unite the people of all sections into one congregation at last.
This was the state of things in Gershom when it began to be
whispered that there was serious trouble arising between Jacob Holt and
old Mr Fleming.
CHAPTER TWO. THE FLEMINGS.
There were already a good many openings in the North Gore woods when
the Flemings took possession of the partially cleared farm lying
half-way between it and the village, at a little distance from the
road. They built on it a house of grey, unhewn stone, long and low like
the home they had left on the other side of the sea. They called the
place Ythan Brae, and the clear shallow brook that ran down from their
rocky pastures, through the swamp to Beaver River, they called the
Ythan Burn because the familiar names were pleasant on their lips and
in their ears in a strange land; but it was a long time before it
seemed like home to them.
For a while the neighbours knew about them only what could be
learned from the fields visible from the North Gore road. That Mr
Fleming had experience, tireless industry, and some money, three things
to insure success in his calling, the canny Scotch farmers were not
slow to perceive in the change that gradually came over the
once-neglected land. Mr Fleming seemed a grave, silent man, with the
traces of some severe trouble showing in his face. And this trouble his
wife had shared, for, though she was still a young woman when she came
to Gershom, there were streaks of white in her brown hair, and on her
fair, serene face there was the look which tells of sorrow meekly
borne. The gloom and sternness which sometimes made people shrink from
coming in contact with her husband was never seen in her.
The eldest of their two sons was almost a man when they came to live
at Ythan Brae. He was a quiet, well-doing lad, reserved like his
father, but pleasant-spoken and friendly like his mother. His brother
Hugh had inherited his mother's good looks and sunny temper, and he
had, besides, the power which does not always accompany the possession
of personal beauty or clevernessthe power of winning love.
Long afterward, when the mention of Hugh's name was a sorrowful
matter, the people of the North Gore who knew him best used to speak of
him with a kind of wonder. He was such a bonny laddie, with eyes like
stars, and even at sixteen a head above his elder brother. He was so
blithe and kindly, and clever too. According to these people there was
nothing he could not do, and nothing that he would not trouble himself
to do to give pleasure to his friends. He was the apple of his
father's eye, the delight of his life; and that his mother's heart did
not break when she lost him, was only because, even at the worst of
times, God's grace is sufficient for help and healing to those who stay
themselves on Him.
For Hugh went wrong. Oh, sorrowful words! seeming so little and
meaning so much: care and fear, watching and waiting, sleepless nights
and days of dread to those who looked on with no power to bring him
back again. How he went wrong may be easily guessed. He had been led
astray by evil companions his mother always said. Not that to her
knowledge, or to the knowledge of any one, he had gone so very far
astray till the end came. There had been doubts and fears for him, and
earnest expostulations from those who loved him, but it was a great
shock and surprise to all the countryside when it came to be known that
he had gone away never to return.
What he had done was certainly known only to two or three. There
were whispers of forgery, and even robbery, and some said it was only
debt, which his father refused to pay. There were others involved in
the matter, and it was kept quiet. Some of the young Holts were among
the number. Jacob, Gershom's eldest son, went away for a while. It was
not known whether they had gone together, but Jacob soon came home
again, and as far as he was concerned, everything was as before.
But after a time there came heavy tidings to Ythan Brae. Hugh
Fleming was deadin the very flower of his youthwith all his sins
on his head; his father cried out in the agony of the knowledge. There
was only a word or two in a strange handwriting to say that, after
sharp and sudden illness, he had died among strangers.
The father and mother lived through the time that followed. How they
lived none knew, for they were alone at the Brae. They never passed the
bounds of their own farm through all that terrible winter, and the
neighbours, who sometimes went to see them, as a general thing only saw
Mrs Fleming. She stood between her husband and the sorrowful curiosity,
the real but painful sympathy which he could not have borne which
even she found it so hard to bear. Neither then, nor in all the years
that followed, did any one but his boy's mother hear him utter his
boy's name. They lived through it, but that winter was like the valley
of the shadow of death to them both.
When spring came, the worst was over, the neighbours said, and in
one way so it was. Their son James brought his wife home to live with
them, and they settled down to their changed life, making the best of
it. Mrs Fleming's cheerfulness came back in the midst of many cares,
for her son's wife was a delicate woman, and the little children came
fast to their home. Mrs Fleming governed the household still, and in a
sense began life anew in their midst.
But after his son came to live with them, Mr Fleming gave up to him
all that part of their affairs that would have taken him away from
home. He was a born farmer; his forefathers had been farmers for as
many generations as he could trace, and he had a hereditary reverence
for mother earth as the giver of bread to man. He took pleasure in the
work of the farm, labouring patiently and cheerfully to bring it to the
highest productiveness which the soil and the variable Canadian climate
would permit. Hollows were filled and heights were levelled, and the
wide stretch of lowland on either side of the Burn near its mouth, was
year by year made to yield. A road or two to be cleared and drained and
tilled, and one might have travelled a summer day through the fine
farming country without seeing a finer farm than he made it at last.
And all this time the farm, with his interest in it and his labour
on it, was doing a good work for him, and he grew to love the place as
his home, and the home of the little children who were growing up about
But just as a tranquil gloaming seemed to be closing over their
changeful day of life, a new and heavy sorrow fell upon them. Their son
James died, and the two old people found themselves left alone to care
for his delicate widow and her fatherless children. Other troubles
followed closely on this. James Fleming had never been a worldly-wise
man, and he died in debt. Some of the claims were just, some of them
were doubtful, none of them could have held against his father. But the
old man gave not a moment's hearing to those who made this suggestion.
The honour of his son's name and memory was at stake, and in his haste
and eagerness to settle all, and because he had so fallen out of
business ways, the best and wisest plans were not taken in the
arrangement of his affairs.
When the time of settlement came, it was found that most of the
claims against James Fleming had passed into the hands of the Holts. It
was Jacob alone who was to be dealt with, for his father was an old
man, and his connection with the business had long been merely nominal.
Jacob Holt had changed since the days when he had been, as Hugh
Fleming's father firmly believed, the ruin of his son. He had changed
from an ill-doing, idle lad, into a man, noted even in that busy
community for his attention to business, a man who took pains to seek a
fair reputation for honesty and generosity among his fellow-townsmen.
But Mr Fleming liked the man as little as he had liked the lad, and it
added much to the misery of his indebtedness that his obligation was to
him. He was growing an old man, conscious of his increasing weakness
and inability to cope with difficulties, and he believed his enemy,
as he called him, to be capable of taking advantage of these. His faith
failed him sometimes, and in his anxiety and unhappiness, he uttered
harder words than he knew.
Everybody in Gershom knew of his debt, but no one knew what made the
bitterness of his indebtedness to the old man. The part which Jacob
Holt had had in the trouble, that had come on him through his son, had
never been clearly understood, and was now well-nigh forgotten in the
place. But the father had not forgotten it. He would gladly have
mortgaged his farm, or even have given up half of it altogether, to any
friend who could have advanced him the money to pay his debt, but no
such friend was at hand, and it ended, as all knew it must end, in a
seven years' mortgage being taken by Jacob Holt, and the only thing the
old man could do now was to keep silence and hope for better days.
The little Flemings were growing up healthy and happy, a great
comfort and a great care to their grandparents. They were bright and
pretty children, and good children on the whole, the neighbours said,
and they said also, that there seemed to be no reason why the last days
of the old people should not be contented and comfortable,
notwithstanding their burden of debt. For the Holts would never be hard
on such old neighbours, and as the boys grew up, to take the weight of
the farm-work on them, the debt might be paid, and all would go well.
This was the hopeful view of the matter taken by Mrs Fleming also, but
the old man always listened in silence to such words.
When five years had past, no part of the debt had yet been paid.
Even the interest had been in part paid with borrowed money, and there
were other signs and tokens that the Flemings were going back in the
world. It was not to be wondered at; for Mr Fleming was an old man, and
the greater part of the farm-work had to be done by hired help, at a
cost which the farm could ill bear. And the chances were, that for a
while at least the state of affairs would be worse rather than better.
Then there came to Mr Fleming this proposal from Jacob Holt. If
twenty-five acres of the swampy land that bordered the Beaver River
just where the brook fell into it were given up to him the mortgage
should be cancelled, and the debt should be considered paid. He
declared that the proposal was made solely in the interest of the
Fleming family, and there were a good many people in Gershom who
To this proposal, however, Mr Fleming returned a prompt and brief
refusal. He said little about it, but it was known that he believed
evil of Jacob Holt with regard to the matter, and though he kept
silence, others spoke. The North Gore people took the matter up, and so
did the people of the village. Mr Fleming had friends in both sections
of the town, and some of them did not spare hard words in the
Jacob Holt was now the rich man of Gershom, one of the chief
supporters of the church and of every good cause encouraged in the
town, and all this did not promise well for the union in church matters
so earnestly desired by many good people in Gershom.
CHAPTER THREE. THE HOLTS.
Gershom Holt was to all appearance a hale old man, but for a long
time before this he had had little to do with the management of the
business of Holt and Son. He still lived in the great square house
which had succeeded the log-house built by him in the early days of the
settlement. Two of his children lived with himElizabeth, the youngest
child of his first wife, and Clifton, the only child of his second
wife, who had died in giving him birth.
Elizabeth was good, pretty, and clever, and still single at
twenty-four. The persons she loved best in the world were her father
and her younger brother. Her father loved and trusted her entirely, and
every passing day made him more dependent on her for comfort and for
counsel; for he was a very old man, and in many ways needed the care
which it was his daughter's first duty and pleasure to give. Her
brother loved and trusted her too in his way, but he was only a lad,
and too well contented with himself and his life to know the value of
her love as yet, and she was not without anxious thoughts about him. He
was supposed to be distinguishing himself in a New England College as
he had before distinguished himself in the High-School of the village,
and only spent his vacations at home.
There was a difference of nearly twenty years in the ages of Gershom
Holt's two sons, and they had little in common except their father's
name. Elizabeth loved them both, and respected the youngest most. Jacob
was a little afraid of his sister, and took pains to be on the best of
terms with her, and he could not forget sometimes in her presence that
he had done some things in his life which he was glad she did not know.
He had married, early in life, a pretty, commonplace woman, who had
grown thin and querulous in the years that had passed since then, and
who was not at all fitted to be the great lady of Gershom, as the rich
man's wife might have been. That place was filled by Elizabeth, who
filled it well and enjoyed it.
With its large garden and orchard, and its sloping lawn, shaded by
trees beginning to look old and venerable beside those of more recent
growth in the village street, the old square house looked far more like
the great house of the village than the finer mansion lately built by
Jacob further up the hill. Under Elizabeth's direction it had been
modernised and beautified by the throwing out of a bow-window and the
addition of a wide veranda on two sides. Everything about it, without
and within, indicated wealth moderately used, for comfort and not for
display. It was the pleasantest house in the village to visit at,
everybody said; for the squireso old Mr Holt was generally
calledwas very hospitable, and all sorts of people were made welcome
There were by this time people in Gershom who had outlived the
remembrance of the days when all the settlers, rich and poor alike,
were socially on a level, and who spoke smoothly and loftily about
station and position and the working classes, but the young Holts
were not among them. Elizabeth and Clifton deserved less credit than
was given them on account of their unassuming and agreeable manners
with the village people, for they did not need to assert themselves as
some others did. Miss Elizabeth, for all her unpretending ways, was the
great lady of the village, and liked it, and very likely would have
resented it had a rival appeared to call her right in question.
The Holts of the Hill were, in most respects, very different from
the Holts of the village. They lived and worked and dressed and
conducted themselves generally very much as they had been used to do in
the early days of the settlement. The old man had been long dead, and
his widow and her two daughters lived on the farm. One of the daughters
was a childless widow, Betsey, the other had never married. A good
woman with an uncertain temper, was the character which many of her
friends would have given her, and some of them might have added that
she had had a hard life and many cares, and no wonder that she was a
little hard and sour after all she had passed through. But this was by
no means all that could be said of Miss Betsey.
There was little intercourse between the Holts of the Hill and the
village Holts, and it was not the fault of Elizabeth. It was Betsey who
decidedly withdrew from any intimacy with her cousins. She was too
old-fashioned, too set in her way to fall in with all their new
notions, she said, and from the time that Elizabeth came home from
school to be the mistress of her father's house, and the most popular
person in Gershom, she had had but little to do with her. It hurt
Elizabeth that it should be so, for she respected her cousin and would
have loved her, and would doubtless have profitedby their intercourse
if it had been permitted. But she never got beyond a certain point in
the intimacy with her, at least she did not for a time.
The Hill Holts were much respected in the neighbourhood, and Miss
Betsey exerted an influence in its way almost as great as did Miss
Elizabeth. One or two persons who knew them both well, said they were
very much alike, though to people generally they seemed in temper, in
tastes, and in manner of life as different as well could be. They were
alike and they were different, and the chief difference lay in this,
that Miss Betsey was growing old and had passed through troubles in her
time, and Miss Elizabeth was young and had most of her troubles before
The village of Gershom Centre, as it was called, at this time lay
chiefly on the north bank of the Beaver River. Its principal street ran
north and south at right angles to the river, and the village houses
clustered closest at the end of the bridge that crossed it. At the
south end of the bridge another street turned west down the river, and
at a little distance became a pleasant country road which led to the
hill-farm of the Holts, and past it to the neighbouring township of
Fosbrooke. Another street went east, on the north side of the river a
few hundred yards, and then turned north to the Scotch settlement at
On this street, before it turned north, the new church stood. There
was a wide green common before it, shaded by young trees, and only the
inclosing fence and the road lay between this and the river, which was
broad and shallow, and flowed softly in this part of its course. The
church was a very pretty one of its kindwhite as snow, with
large-paned windows, and green Venetian blinds. It had a tall slender
spire, in which hung the first bell that had ever wakened the echoes in
that part of the country for miles around, and of the church and the
bell, and the pretty tree-shaded common before it, the Gershom people
were not a little proud.
Behind the church lay the graveyard, already a populous place, as
the few tall monuments and the many less pretentious slabs of grey or
white stone showed. It was inclosed by a white fence tipped with black,
and shaded by many young trees, and it was a quiet and pleasant place.
Between the church and the graveyard was a long row of wooden sheds.
They were not ornamental, quite the contrary; but they were very useful
as a shelter for the horses of the church-goers who came from a
distance, and they had been added by way of conciliating the North Gore
people when one and another of them began to come to the village
Toward the church one fair Sabbath morning in June, many Gershom
people were hastening. Already there were vehicles of great variety in
the sheds, and horses were tied here and there along the fences under
the trees. There were groups of people lingering in Gershom fashion on
the church steps and on the grass, and the numbers, and the air of
expectation over all, indicated that the occasion was one of more than
usual interest. All Gershom had turned out hoping to see and hear the
new minister, whose coming was to bean assurance of peace to the church
and to the congregation. They were to be disappointed for that day,
however, for the minister had not come. Squire Holt and his son and
daughter came with the rest. The old man lingered at the gate
exchanging greetings with his neighbours, and the young people went on
toward the door.
Gershom is the place after all, Lizzie, said her brother. It is
pleasant to see all the folks again. But I don't believe I'm going to
stay to see Jacob through this business. Well! never mind, Lizzie, he
added, as his sister looked grave. I'll see you through, if you say
so. And here come Ben and Cousin Betsey; let us wait and speak to
Clifton, said his sister, earnestly, Ben is Cousin Betsey's best
hand this summer. It won't do to beguile him from his work, dear. You
must not try it.
Nonsense, Elizabeth. It is rather soon to come down on a fellow
like that, before I have even spoken to him. I never made Ben idle,
quite the contrary.
Coming slowly up the green slope between the gate and the church
were the two persons recognised by Clifton as Ben and Cousin Betsey.
They moved along in a leisurely way, nodding to one and speaking to
another, so that there was time to discuss them as they approached.
Lizzie, said her brother, do you suppose you'll ever come to look
like Cousin Betsey?
I am quite sure I shall never wear such a bonnet, said Elizabeth,
pettishly. Why will she make a fright of herself?
It is as an offset to youso fine as you are, said Clifton,
laughing. She had that gown before Ben was born; I remember it
Miss Betsey Holt was a striking-looking person, notwithstanding the
oddness and shabbiness of her dress. Scantiness is a better word for it
than shabbiness, for her dress was of good material, neat and well
preserved, but it was without a superfluous fold or gather, and in
those days, when, even in country places, crinoline was beginning to
assert itself, she did look ludicrously straight and stiff. Miss
Elizabeth's dress was neither in material nor make of the fashion that
had its origin in the current year, and city people, wise in such
matters, might have set them both down as old-fashioned. But in
appearance, as they drew near one another, there was a great contrast
between them, though in feature there was a strong resemblance.
There was more than fifteen years' difference in their ages, and
Betsey looked older than her forty years. She was above the middle
height, thin and dark and wrinkled, and there were white streaks in the
brown hair brought down low and flat upon the cheek, but in every
feature the bright youthful beauty of the girl had once been hers. Some
of the neighbours, who were regarding them as they met, would have said
that once Miss Betsey had been much handsomer than ever Miss Elizabeth
would be. For Miss Betsey had been young at a time when there was
little danger that indolence or self-indulgence could injure the full
development of healthful beauty, and as yet Miss Elizabeth had fallen
on easy days, and was languid at times, and delicate, and if the truth
must be told, a little discontented with what life had as yet brought
her, and a little afraid of what might lie before her, and there was a
shadow of this on her fair face to-day.
They had not much to say to each other, and they stood in silence
watching the two lads. Clifton was considered in Gershom to have
learned very fine manners, since he went to college, but he had
forgotten them for the moment, and was as boyish and natural as his
less sophisticated cousin. They were only second cousins, Ben being the
only child of Reuben Holt's eldest son, who had died early. His Aunt
Betsey had brought the boy up, and had not had the best of luck in
doing it, she sometimes told him; but he was the dearest person in the
world to her, for all her pretended discontent with her success. She
watched the two lads as they went into the eager discussion of
something that pleased them, and so did Elizabeth, for it was a
pleasant sight to see.
Cousin, said Elizabeth, gently, I do not think you need fear that
my boy will harm yours.
I am not afraidnot much. Ben is the stronger of the two, morally,
if he isn't so bright. My boy is to be trusted, and she looked as
though she would have added, that is more than you can say for yours.
Elizabeth looked grave.
Cousin Betsey, you were always hard on my brother Clifton.
Betsey shrugged her shoulders.
You are harder on him this minute than I am. I don't suppose he has
done anything very bad this timeworse than usual, I mean.
Have you heard anything? Did you know he was sent home? asked
Elizabeth in dismay.
He sent a letter to Ben a spell ago, and I saw it lying round. You
needn't tell him so. If it is as he says, there aint much wrong this
time. Here is Hepsey Bean.
Miss Bean had come to inquire if anything had been heard of the
minister, but the cousins were too much occupied in watching the two
lads to answer her, and Hepsey's eyes followed theirs.
Are not they alike as two peas? said she. Not their fixings
exactly, I don't mean
Miss Elizabeth laughed, even Miss Betsey smiled, touched with a grim
sense of humour as she regarded the lads. Their fixings were
certainly different. Everything, from the tips of Clifton's shining
boots to the crown of his shining hat, declared him to be a dandy. His
collar, necktie, coat, and all the rest, were in the latest fashiona
fashion a sight of which, but for his coming home, the Gershom people
might not have been favoured with for a year to come. His compulsory
departure from the seat of learning had been delayed while the tailor
completed his summer outfit, so that there could be no mistake about
As for Ben, he was fine also, in a new suit of homespun, which,
since it came from the loom, and, indeed, before it went to the loom,
had passed through no hands but those of his Aunt Betsey. It was not
handsome. The home-made thick grey cloth of the country, which the
farmers' wives of those days took pride in preparing for the
winter-wear of their men folks, was an article of superior wearing
qualities, and handsome in its way. But it was the half-cotton fabric,
dingy and napless, considered good enough for summer wear, in which Ben
was arrayed. Made as a loose frock and overall to be worn in the
hay-field, or following the plough, it was well enough; but made into a
tight-fitting Sunday-suit, it was not handsome, certainly. As far as
fixings were concerned, the cousins were a contrast. Betsey looked
and laughed again, but Elizabeth did not laugh. She knew that Cousin
Betsey was sensitive where Ben was concerned.
Clothes don't amount to much anyway, said Betsey. Hepsey's right.
They are alike as two peas, but Ben is the strongest morally, because
he hasn't been spoiled by property, as Clifton has. Not that he is
altogether spoiled yet.
But about the minister? interrupted Miss Bean.
He has not come, it seems, said Elizabeth. There is to be a
sermon read to-day, but she did not say that her brother Jacob was to
The bell which had been delayed beyond the usual time pealed out,
and all faces were turned to the church door. Clifton and Ben lingered
till the last.
There is old Mr Fleming going off home, said Ben as he caught
sight of a figure on horseback turning the corner toward North Gore. I
expect he don't care about your brother Jacob's preaching, he added,
Isn't it his practice he don't care about? said Clifton, laughing.
I shouldn't wonder, said Ben.
Well, I can't say I care much about his preaching either. Come,
Ben, let us go down to the big elm and talk things over.
Ben shook his head, but followed.
It is not just the same as if the minister was there, said he,
But then what will Aunt Betsey say?
Oh, she won't care since it's only Jacob. And she needn't know it.
Oh, she's got to know it. But it is not any worse for us than for
old Mr Fleming. It's pleasant down here.
It was pleasant. The largest elm tree in Gershom grew on the river
bank, and its great branches stretched far over to the other side,
making cool shadows on the rippling water. The place was green and
still, a great deal more like Sunday than the inside of the
meeting-house, Clifton declared. But Ben shook his head.
That's one of the loose notions you've learned at college. Your
sister believes in going to meetings, and so does Aunt Betsey.
So did Clifton it seemed, for there was a good deal more said after
that, and they quite agreed that whether it was altogether agreeable or
not, it was quite right that people generally should go to church,
rather than to the river, as they had done. How it happened, Ben hardly
knew, but in a little while they found themselves in Seth Fairweather's
boat, and were paddling up the river, out and in among the shadows,
past the open fields and the cedar swamp to the point where the Ythan
Burn fell into the Beaver. They paddled about a while upon the Pool, as
a sudden widening of the channel of the river was called, till the heat
of the sun sent them in among the shadows again. Then Clifton leaned
back at his ease, while Ben waved about a branch of odorous cedar to
keep the little black flies away.
Now tell me all about it, Cliff, said he.
Clifton winced, but put a bold face on the matter, and told in as
few words as possible the story of his having been sent home. It was
not a pleasant story to tell, though he had been less to blame than
some others who had escaped punishment altogether. But sitting there in
the shadow of the cedars, with Ben's great eyes upon him, he felt more
sorry and ashamed, and more angry at himself, and those who had been
concerned with him in his folly, than ever he had felt before.
The fun didn't pay that time, did it, Cliff? said Ben. I don't
believe it ever doesthat kind of fun.
That's what Aunt Betsey says, eh? said Clifton. Well, she's about
And you'll never do so, any more; will you, Cliff?
But, Cliff, you are almost a man now, you are a man, and it don't
pay in the long run to drink and have a good time. It didn't pay in my
father's case, and Aunt Betsey says
There, that will do. I would rather hear Aunt Betsey's sermons from
her own lips, and I am going up to the Hill some time soon.
There was silence between them for a little while, then Ben said:
There's a meeting up in the Scott school-house 'most every Sunday
afternoon, Cliff; suppose we go up there, and then I can tell Aunt
Betsey all about it.
Clifton had no objections to this plan; so pushing the boat in among
the bushes that hung low over the water, they left it there and took
their way by the side of Ythan Burn. But he would not be hurried. As a
boy he had liked more than anything else in the world, loitering
through the fields and woods with Ben, and it gave him great
satisfaction to discover that he had not outgrown this liking. He
forgot his fine manners and fine clothes, his college friends and
pleasures and troubles; and Ben forgot Aunt Betsey, and that he was
doing wrong, and they wandered on as they had done hundreds of times
For though no one, not even his Aunt Betsey, thought Ben very
bright, Clifton would have taken his word about beast and bird and
creeping thing, and about all the growing life in the woods, rather
than the word of any other ten in Gershom. They made no haste, there
fore, in the direction of the Scott school-house, but wound in and out
among the wood paths, using eyes and ears in the midst of the rejoicing
life of which the forest was so full at that June season.
They kept along the side of the brook, and by and by came out of the
woods on the edge of the fine strip of land which old Mr Fleming had
made foot by foot from the swamp. There was no finer land in the
township, none that had been more faithfully dealt with than this. Ben
uttered an exclamation of admiration as he looked over it to the hill
beyond. Even Clifton, who knew less and cared less about land than he
did, sympathised with his admiration.
He might mow it now, and have a second crop before fall, said Ben,
with enthusiasm. It would be a shame to spoil so fine a meadow by
building a factory on it, wouldn't it?
It would spoil it for hay, but factories are not bad in a place, I
tell you. It might be a good thing to put one here.
Not for Mr Fleming. He don't care for factories. He made the meadow
out of the swamp, and nobody else has any business with it, whatever
they may say about mortgages and things.
But who is talking about mortgages and things? asked Clifton,
Oh, most everybody in Gershom is talking. I don't know much about
it myself. And Jacob's one of your folks, and you'd be mad if I told
you all that folks say.
Jacob isn't any more one of my folks than you arenor so much. Do
you suppose I would stay away from meeting to come out here with Jacob?
Not if I know it.
He wouldn't want you to, I don't suppose.
Not he. He doesn't care half so much about me as you do.
No, he don't. I think everything of you. And that's why Aunt Betsey
says you ought to be careful to set me a good example.
That's so, said Clifton, laughing. Now tell me about old
Ben never had the power of refusing to do what his cousin asked him,
but he had little to tell that Clifton had not heard before. There was
talk of forming a great manufacturing company in Gershom; but there had
been talk of that since ever Clifton could remember. The only
difference now was that a new dam was to be built further up the river
at a place better suited for it, and with more room for the raising of
large buildings than was the point where Mr Holt had built his first
saw-mill in earlier times. It was supposed to be for this purpose that
Jacob Holt was desirous to obtain possession of that part of the
Fleming farm that lay on the Beaver River; for, though a company was to
be formed, everybody knew that he would have the most to say and do
about it. But Mr Fleming had refused to sell, and folks had talked
round considerable, Ben said, and he went on to repeat a good deal
that was anything but complimentary to Jacob.
But I told our folks that you and Uncle Gershom would see Mr
Fleming through, and Aunt Betsey, she said if you were worth your salt
you'd stay at home and see to things for your father, and not let Jacob
disgrace the name. But I said you'd put it all straight, and Aunt
Betsey she said
Well, what did Aunt Betsey say? for Ben stopped suddenly.
She told me to shut up, said Ben, hanging his head.
Clifton laughed heartily.
And she doesn't think me worth my salt. Well, never mind. It is an
even chance that she is right. But I think she is hard on Jacob.
There was time for no more talk. They had skirted the little brook
till they came to a grove of birch and wild cherry-trees that had been
left to grow on a rocky knoll where the water fell over a low ledge on
its way from the pasture above. The sound of voices made them pause
before they set foot on the path that led upwards.
It's the Fleming children, I suppose, said Ben. They'll be
telling us, mayhap, that we're breaking the Sabbath, and I expect so we
David Fleming's Forgivenessby Margaret Murray Robertson
CHAPTER FOUR. THE FLEMING CHILDREN.
Instead of following the path, Clifton went round the knoll to the
brook, and paused again at the sight of a pair or two of little bare
feet in the water, and thus began his acquaintance with the Fleming
children. There were several of them, but Clifton saw first a beautiful
brown boyish face, and a pair of laughing eyes half hidden by a mass of
tangled curls, and recognised Davie. Close beside the face was another
so like it, and yet so different, that Clifton looked in wonder. The
features were alike, and the eyes were the same bonny blue, and the
wind was making free with the same dark curls about it. But it was a
more delicate face, not so rosy and brown, though the sun had touched
it too. There was an expression of sweet gravity about the mouth, and
the eyes that were looking up through the leaves into the sky had no
laughter in them. It was a fair and gentle face, but there was
something in it that made Clifton think of stern old Mr Fleming sitting
on the Sabbath-day among his neighbours in the church.
That must be sister Lizzie's wee Katie, said Clifton to himself.
The slender girlish figure leaned against the rock on which the boy
was lying so that the two faces were nearly on a level, and a pretty
picture they made together. Clifton had been making facetious remarks
to his sister about the old-fashioned finery of the dressed-up village
girls on their way to church, but he saw nothing to criticise in the
straight, scant dress, of one dim colour, unrelieved by frill or
collar, which Katie Fleming wore. He did not think of her dress at all,
but of the slim, graceful figure and the bonny girlish face turned so
gravely up to the sky. He was not sure whether it was best to go
forward and speak or not. Ben stood still, looking also.
I say, Katie, said the boy, lifting his head, what is the
Oh fie, Davie! to be thinking of propositions and such-like worldly
things, and this the Sabbath-day, said Katie, reprovingly.
Just as if you werena thinking of them yourself, Katie.
No, I'm no' thinking of them. They come into my head whiles. But
I'm no' fighting with them, or taking pleasure in them, as I do other
days. I'm just resting myself in this bonny quiet place, looking at the
sky and the bonny green grass. Eh, Davie, it's a grand thing to have
the rest and the quietness of the Sabbath-day.
The girl shook her head at the answer which Clifton did not hear,
and went on.
It gives us time to come to ourselves, and to mind that there is
something else in the world besides just cheese and butter-making, and
these weary propositions. Of course it's right to go to the kirk, and I
promised grannie I would go this afternoon to the Scott school-house
with the bairns. But I like to bide quiet here a while, too.
I would far rather bide here, said Davie.
Yes, but, Davie, we mustna think light of the Sabbath-day. Think
what it is to grandfather. He would like it better if we were better
bairns. I'm just glad of the rest.
You're tired of your books, said Davie, with a little brotherly
contempt in his voice. You're but a lassie, however, and it canna be
I canna do two things at once. I'm tired of making cheese and
keeping up with girls at the school too. And I'm glad it's the
Sabbath-day for the rest. And, Davie, she added, after a pause, I'm
not going to the school after you stop. Grannie needs me at home, and
I'm no' going.
Catch me staying at home if I could go, said Davie.
But, Davie, it is my duty to help grannie to make all the money we
can to pay the debt, and get grandfather out of the hands of those
avaricious Holts. What noise was yon, Davie?
Listeners seldom hear good of themselves, and the mention of the
avaricious Holts startled Clifton into the consciousness that he was
listening to that which was not intended for his ears, and he drew to
It's the little Flemings, said Ben; aint they Scotchy? That is
the way they always speak to one another at home.
They went round the knoll through the trees among the broken pieces
of rock scattered over the little eminence. Before they reached the
brook the other way a voice hailed them.
Hallo, Ben! Does your Aunt Betsey know that you're going about in
such company on Sunday?
If meeting's out she knows, or she mistrusts, said Ben, taking the
matter seriously. We're going over to the Scott school-house to
meeting. Aunt Betsey'll like that, anyhow.
They all laughed, for Ben and the Fleming children had long been
Here's Clif got home sooner than he expected to, and Jacob, he's
reading a sermon by himself because the minister didn't come, and
sowe came away. This is Clif.
The smile which had greeted Ben went out of Katie's eyes, and
surprise and a little offence took its place, as she met Clifton's
look. But she laughed merrily when the lad, stepping back, took off his
hat and bowed low, as he might have done to any of the fine ladies of
B, where he had been living of late.
But in a little while she grew shy and uncomfortable, and conscious
of her bare feet, and moved away. Clifton noticed the change, and said
to himself that she was thinking of the mortgage, and of those
Your grandfather did not go to meeting, either, said Ben, anxious
to set himself right in Katie's eyes. We saw him turning the corner as
we went down to the river.
Grandfather! repeated Katie. I wonder why?
I suppose it was because Jacob was going to read the sermon, said
Ben, reddening, and looking at his cousin.
Katie reddened too and turned to go.
Grandfather must be home, then, Davie; it's time to go in, and
Kate looked grave and troubled.
Davie, repeated she, it's time to come home.
Davie followed her a step or two, and they heard him saying:
There's no hurry, Katie; if my grandfather didna go to the kirk,
he'll be holding a meeting all by himself in Pine-tree Hollow, and
he'll not be at the house this while, and I want to speak to Ben.
Davie, said his sister, mind it's the Sabbath-day.
The chances were against his minding it very long. It was a good
while before he followed his sister to the house, and he brought the
Holts with him to share their dinners of bread and milk.
We're all going to the meeting together, grannie, said he, and
Kate, he added in a whisper, Clif Holt has promised to lend me the
book that the master gave you a sight of the other day, and I am to
keep it as long as I like; and he's not so proud as you would think
from his fine clothes and his fine manners; but he couldna tell me the
seven-and-twentieth, more shame to him, and him at the college.
He thinks much of himself, said Katie, for all that.
The little Flemings and their mother and the two Holts went to the
Scott school-house, as had been proposed, and the house was left to Mrs
Fleming as a general thing. This remarkable old lady, as the Gershom
people had got into the way of calling her to strangers, greatly
enjoyed the rare hours of rest and quiet that came at long intervals in
her busy life, but she did not enjoy them to-day. Her Bible lay open
upon the table, and Fourfold State and her Solitude Sweetened were
within reach of her hand, but she could not settle to read either of
them. She wandered from the door to the gate and back again in a
restless, anxious way, that made her indignant with herself at last.
As gin he wasna to be trusted out of my sight an hour past the set
time, said she, going into the house and sitting resolutely down with
her book in her hand. And it is not only to him, but to his master,
that my anxious thoughts are doing dishonour, as though I had really
anything to fear. But he was unco' downhearted when he went away.
She looked a very remarkable old lady as she sat there, still and
firm. She was straight as an arrow, small and slender, wrinkled indeed,
but with nothing of the weazened, sunken look which is apt to fall on
small women when they grow old. She was a beautiful old woman, with
clear bright eyes, and a broad forehead, over which the bands of hair
lay white as snow.
She had known a deal of trouble in her life, and, for the sake of
those she loved, had striven hard to keep her strength and courage
through it all, and the straight lines of her firmly-closed lips told
of courage and patience still. But a quiver of weakness passed over her
face, and over all her frame, as at last a slow, heavy footstep came up
to the door. She listened a moment, and then rising up, she said
Is this you, gudeman? You're late, arena you? Well, you're dinner
is waiting you.
She did not wait for an answer, nor did she look at him closely till
she had put food before him. Then she sat down beside him. He, too, was
remarkable-looking. He had no remains of the pleasant comeliness of
youth as she had, but there were the same lines of patience and courage
in his face. He was closely shaven, with large, marked features and
dark, piercing eyes. It was a strong face, good and true, but still it
was a hard face, and it was a true index of his character. He was firm
and just always, and almost always he was kind, slow to take offence,
and slow to give it; but being offended, he could not forgive. He
looked tired and troubled to-nighta bowed old man.
Where are the bairns? were the first words he uttered, and his
face changed and softened as he spoke. She told him where they had
gone, and that their mother had gone with them. Then she made some talk
about the bonny day and the people he had seen at church, speaking
quietly and cheerfully till he had finished his meal, and then, having
set aside the dishes, she came close to him, and, laying her hand on
his arm, said gently: David, we are o'er lane in the house. Tell me
what it is that's troubling you.
He did not answer her immediately.
Is it anything new? she asked.
No, no. Nothing new, said he, turning toward her. At the sight of
her fond wet eyes he broke down.
Oh, Katie! my woman, he groaned, it's ill with me this day. I hae
come to a strait bit o' the way and I canna win through. `Forgive, and
ye shall be forgiven,' the Book says, and this day I feel that I havena
Instead of answering, she bent over him till his grey head lay on
her shoulder and rested there. He was silent for a little.
When I saw him younder to-day, smooth and smiling, standing so well
with his fellow-men, my heart rose up against him; I daredna bide, lest
I should cry out in the kirk before them all and call God's justice in
questionGod that lets Jacob Holt go about in His sunshine, with all
men's good word on him, when our lad's light went out in darkness so
long ago. Is it just, Katie? Call ye it right and just?
She did not answer a word, but soothed him with hand and voice as
she might have soothed a child. She had done it many times before
during the forty years that she had been his wife, but she had never,
even in the time of their sorest troubles, seen him so moved. She sat
down quietly beside him and patiently waited.
Has anything happened, or is anything threatening that I dinna ken
of? asked she after a little.
No, nothing new has happened. But I am growing an old failed man,
Katie, and no' able to stand up against my ain fears.
Ay, we are growing old and failed; our day is near over, and so are
our fears. Why should we fear? Jacob Holt canna move the foundations of
the earth. And even though he could, we needna fear, for `God is our
refuge and strength.'
He was leaning back with closed eyes, tired and fainthearted, and he
did not answer.
There's no fear for the bairns, she went on, cheerfully. They are
good bairns. There are few that hae the sense and discretion of our
Katie, and her mother's no' without judgment, though she is but a
feckless body as to health, and has been a heavy handful to us. They'll
be taken care of. The Lord is ay kind.
And so she went on, gentle soothing alternating with more gentle
chiding, all the time keeping away from the sore place in his heart,
not daring for his sake and for her own to touch it till this rare
moment of weakness should be past.
You are wearied, and no wonder, with the heat and your long fast;
lie down on your bed and rest till it be time to catechise the bairns
though I'm no' for Sabbath sleeping as an ordinary thing. Will you no'
lie down? Well, you might step over as far as the pasture-bars and see
if all is right with old Kelso and her foal, for here come the bairns
and their mother, and there will be no peace with them till they get
their supper, and your head will be none the better for their noise.
And so she got him away, going with him a few steps up the field.
She turned in time to meet the troop of children who, in a state of
subdued mirthfulness suitable to the day and their proximity to their
grandfather, were drawing near. She had a gentle word of caution or
chiding to each, and then she said softly to Katie:
You'll go up the brae with your grandfather and help him if there
is anything wrong with old Kelso. And cheer him up, my lassie. Tell him
about the meeting, and the Sunday-school; say anything you think of to
hearten him. You ken well how to do it.
But, grannie, said Katie, startled, there is nothing wrong, is
Wrong, repeated her grandmother. Ken you anything wrong, lassie,
that you go white like that?
The brave old woman grew white herself as she asked, but she stood
between Katie and the rest, that none might see.
I ken nothing, grannie, only grandfather didna bide to the meeting
to-day, Ben told me.
Didna bide to the meeting? Where went he, then? He has only just
It was because of Jacob Holt, Ben said.
But Katie, my woman, you had no call surely to speak about the like
of that to Ben Holt?
I didna, grannie. I just heard him and came away. And, grannie, I
think maybe grandfather was at Pine-tree Hollow. It would be for a
while's peace, you ken, as the bairns were at home.
Pine-tree Hollow! Well, and why not? said grannie, too loyal to
the old man to let Katie see that she was startled by her words. It
has been for a while's peace, as you say. And now you'll run up the
brae after him, and take no heed, but wile him from his vexing
thoughts, like a good bairn as you are.
And there's nothing wrong, grannie? said Katie, wistfully.
Nothing more than usual; nothing the Lord doesna ken o', my bairn.
Run away and speak to him, and be blithe and douce, and he'll forget
his trouble with your hand in his.
Katie's voice was like a bird's as she called: Grandfather,
grandfather, bide for me.
The old man turned and waited for her.
Doesna your grandmother need you, nor your mother, and can you come
up the brae with that braw gown on?
Katie smiled and took his hand.
My gown will wash, and I'll take care, and grannie gave me leave to
And so the two went slowly up the hill, saying little, but content
with the silence. When they came back again Mrs Fleming, who was
waiting for them at the door, felt her burden lightened, for her first
glance at her husband's face told her he was comforted.
My bonny Katie, gentle and wise, a bairn with the sense of a
woman, said she to herself, but she did not let her tenderness
overflow. We have gotten the milking over without you, Katie, my
woman. And now haste you and take your supper, for it is time for the
bairns' catechism and we mustna keep your grandfather waiting.
That night when Ben Holt went home he found the house dark and
apparently forsaken. Miss Betsey sat rocking in her chair in solitude
and darkness, and she rocked on, taking no notice when Ben came in.
Have you got a sick headache, Aunt Betsey? said Ben after a
little; he did not ask for information, but for the sake of saying
something to break the ominous silence. He knew well Aunt Betsey always
had a sick headache and was troubled when he had been doing wrong.
I shall get over it, I expect, as I have before; talking won't help
Ben considered the matter a little. I don't know that, said he,
it depends some on what there is to say, and you don't need to have
sick headache this time, for I haven't been doing anything that you
would think bad.
Miss Betsey laughed unpleasantly.
What has that to do with it?
Well, I haven't been doing anything bad, anyhow.
Only just breaking Sunday in the face and eyes of all Gershom. You
are not a child to be punished now. Go to bed.
I don't know about breaking Sunday; I didn't any more than old Mr
Fleming. He didn't care about going to Jacob's meeting, and no more did
Clif and me. We went along a piece, and then we went to the Scott
school-house to meeting. It was a first-rate meeting.
What about Mr Fleming; has he and Jacob been having trouble? asked
Miss Betsey, forgetting in her curiosity her controversy with Ben.
Nothing new, I don't suppose. And Clif, he says that he don't
believe but what Jacob'll do the right thing, and he says he'll see to
There, that'll do, interrupted Miss Betsey. If Clifton Holt was
to tell you that white was black you'd believe him.
I'd consider it, said Ben, gravely.
If you want any supper it's in the cupboard, said Miss Betsey,
rising, I've had supper and dinner too, up to Mr Fleming's, and we
went to meeting at the Scott school-house. It wasn't Clif's fault this
time, Aunt Betsey, and we haven't done anything very bad either. And
Clif, he's going to be awful steady, I expect, and stick to his books
more than a little, and he sent his respects to you, Aunt Betsey, and
There, that'll do. Go to bed if you don't want to drive me crazy.
I'll go to bed right off if you'll come and take away my candle,
Aunt Betsey. No, I don't want a candle; but if you'll come in and tuck
me up as you used to, for I haven't been doing anything this time, nor
Clif either. Will you, Aunt Betsey?
Well, hurry up, then, said Aunt Betsey, with a break in her voice,
for this day has been long enough for two, and I'm thankful it's
done, and then she added to herself:
I sha'n't worry about him if I can help it. But it is so much more
natural for boys to go wrong than to go right, that I can't help it by
spells. After all I've seen, it isn't strange either.
Ben, said she, when she took his candle in a little while, you
mustn't think you haven't done wrong because the day turned out better
than it might have done. It only happened so. It was Sabbath-breaking
all the same to leave meeting and go up the river. There, I aint going
to begin again. But wrong is wrong, and sin is sin whichever way it
That's so, said Ben, penitently.
And there is only one way for sin to end, however it may look at
the beginning, and it won't help you to have Clif fall into the same
condemnation. There, good-night.
I don't know about that last, said Ben to himself. It would seem
kind o' good to have Clif round 'most anywhere. But he's going to work
straight this time, I expect, and I guess he'll have all the better
chance to walk straight too.
CHAPTER FIVE. THE MINISTER.
The event of the summer to the people of Gershom was the coming of
the new minister. It is not to be supposed that with a population of a
good many hundreds there was uniformity of opinion in religious matters
in the town. To say nothing of the North Gore people, the people of
Gershom generally believed in the right of private judgment, and
exercised it to such purpose that, within the limits of the township,
at least a half dozen denominations were represented. The greater
number of these, however, had not had much success in establishing
their own peculiar form of worship, except for a little while at a
time, and the greater part of the people were at this time more or less
closely identified with the village corporation. So that it is scarcely
an exaggeration to say, that all Gershom was moved to welcome the
Reverend William Maxwell among them.
Never, except perhaps in their most confidential whispers among
themselves, did the wise men of Gershom confess that they were
disappointed in their minister. They had not expected perfection, or
they said they had not, but each and every one of them had expected
some one very different from the silent, sallow, heavy-eyed young man
whom Jacob Holt, at whose home he was for the present to live,
introduced to them.
Something had been said of the getting up of a monster tea-meeting
to welcome him, but uncertainty in the time of his coming, because of
illness, had prevented this, and as soon as he was seen there was a
silent, but general decision among those in authority that this would
not have been a successful measure. So he was conducted from house to
house by Jacob Holt, or some other of the responsible people, and he
was praised to his flock, and his flock were praised to him, but there
was not much progress made toward acquaintance for a while, and even
the least observing of them could see that there were times when
contact with strangers, to say nothing of the necessity of making
himself agreeable to them, was almost more than the poor young man
Still, nobody confessed to disappointment. On the contrary, Jacob
Holt and the rest of the leaders of public opinion declared constantly
that he was the right man in the right place. Of Scottish parentage,
brought up from his boyhood in Canada, and having received his
theological education in the United States, if he were not the man to
unite the various contending national elements in Gershom society,
where was such a man to be found?
No man could have every gift, it was said, and whatever Mr Maxwell
might seem to lack as to social qualities, he was a preacher. All
agreed that his sermons were wonderful. It was the elaborately prepared
discourses of his seminary days, that the young man moved by a vague,
but awful dread of breaking down, gave to his people first. It was well
that the learned professor's opinion of them and of their author had
come to Gershom before him. There could be no doubt as to the sermons
after that testimony, so it was no uncertain sound that went forth
about his first pulpit efforts.
They were clear, they were logical, they were profound. Above all,
they were pronounced by the orthodox North Gore people to be sound.
It is true he read them, but even that did not spoil them; and it was a
decided proof that these people were sincere in their admiration, and
in earnest in their desire for union and the healing of breaches that
this was the case. In old times, that is, in the time of old Mr Grant,
and old Mr Sangster, to be a proper minister was in their opinion to
be a dumb dog that could not bark, and such a one had ever been an
object of compassion, not to say of contempt among them. But Mr
Maxwell's sermons were worth reading, they said, and they waited. And
so the first months were got safely over.
Safely, but, alas! not happily, for the young minister; scarcely
recovered from severe illness, weak in body and desponding in mind, he
had no power to accommodate himself to the circumstances toward which
all the preparation and discipline of his life had been tending. Over a
time of sickness and suffering he looked back to days of congenial
occupation and companionship, with a regret so painful that the future
seemed to grow aimless and hopeless in its presence. As men struggle in
dreams with unseen enemies, so he struggled with the sense of unfitness
for the work he had so joyfully chosen, and for which he had so
earnestly prepared, with the fear that he had mistaken his calling, and
that he might dishonour, by the imperfect fulfillment of his duty, the
Master that he loved.
He despised himself for the weakness which made it a positive pain
for him to come in contact with strangers with whom he had no power to
make friends. He began to regard the hopes that had sustained him
during the time of preparation, the pleasure he had taken in such
remnants of other people's work in the way of preaching as had fallen
to him as a student; and the encouragement which had been given to him
as to his gifts and talents, as so many temptations of Satan. It was
this sense of unfitness for his work that made him fall back at first
on the sermons of his student days, and which made the pulpit services,
praised by his hearers, seem to him like a mockery. It was a miserable
time to him. He distrusted himself utterly, and at all points; which
would not have been so bad a thing if he had not also distrusted his
But such a state of things could not continue long. It must become
either worse or better, and better it was to be. As Mr Maxwell's health
improved, he became less despondent, and more capable of enjoying
society. Clifton Holt was at home again, but no one, not even Miss
Elizabeth, could have anticipated that he would be almost the first one
in Gershom to put the minister for the moment at his ease.
Clifton had gone back to his college examinations at the appointed
time; and had so far retrieved his character for steadiness and
scholarship, that he was permitted to start fair another year, the last
in his college course. He was now at home for the regular vacation, and
was proving the sincerity and strength of his good resolutions to his
sister's satisfaction, by remaining in Gershom, and contenting himself
with the moderate enjoyments of such pleasures as village society, and
the neighbouring woods and streams afforded.
Miss Elizabeth had seconded Jacob's rather awkward attempts to bring
her brother and the young minister together, taking a vague comfort in
the idea that the intercourse must do Clifton good. But as a general
thing Clifton kept aloof a little more decidedly than she thought
either kind or polite, so that it was a surprise to her, as well as a
pleasure, when one night they came in together; and they had not been
long in the house, before she saw that whether the minister was to do
her brother good or not, her brother had already done good to the
minister. They were dripping wet from a summer shower, that had
overtaken them; but Mr Maxwell looked a good deal more like other
people, Miss Elizabeth thought, than ever she had seen him look before.
Mr Maxwell was in despair at the thought of venturing with muddy
boots into Mrs Jacob's `spick and span' house, so I brought him here,
said Clifton. We have been down at the Black Pool, and I have been
taking a lesson in fly-fishing. We have earned our tea, and we are
ready for it.
And you shall have it. But I thought we were towell, never mind.
Go up-stairs and make yourselves comfortable, and tea will be ready
when you come down.
No one knows how to do things quite so well as Lizzie, said
Clifton to himself, when they came down to find the tea-table laid, not
in the great chilly dining-room, but in the smaller sitting-room, on
the hearth of which a bright wood-fire was burning. The old squire had
been examining their fish, and listened with almost boyish interest to
his son's description of their sport. In the effort he made to
entertain the old gentleman Mr Maxwell looked still more like other
people, and Clifton's coat, which he wore, helped to the same effect.
I stumbled over him lying on his face in Finlay's grove, said
Clifton to his sister. He would have run away, if I had not been too
much for him. We borrowed Joe Finlay's rod, and he went fishing with
me. It is a great deal better for him than being stunned by women's
talk at Mrs Jacob's.
Yes, the sewing-circle! said Elizabeth, What will Mrs Jacob say?
Did he forget it? Of course he was expected home.
He said nothing about it, nor did I. Jacob asked me to go over in
the evening. Why are you not there?
I have been there all the afternoon. I came home to make father's
tea. I told Mrs Jacob I would go back. I am afraid Mr Maxwell's coming
here to-night will offend her.
Of course, but what if it does?
And do you like him? Does he improve on acquaintance?
He turns out to be flesh and blood, not a skin stuffed with logic,
and the odds and ends of other people's theological opinions. He is a
dyspeptic being, homesick and desponding, but he is a man. And look
here, Lizzie; if you really want to do a good work, you must take him
in hand, and not let Mrs Jacob, and the deacons, and all the rest of
them sit on him.
How am I to help it, if such be their pleasure?
I have helped it to-night. Don't say a word about the
sewing-circle, lest his conscience should take alarm. I hope I shall
see Mrs Jacob's face when she hears that he has spent the evening
I don't care for Mrs Jacob, but I am afraid the people may be
disappointed. For in Gershom the ladies met week by week in each
other's houses to sew for the benefit of some good cause, and their
husbands and brothers came to tea in the evening, and there was to be a
more than usually large gathering on this occasion, Elizabeth knew.
However, I am not responsible, thought she.
So she said nothing, and her father in a little while said rather
querulously, that he hoped she was not going out again.
Not if you want me, father. It will not matter much, I suppose.
You will not be missed, said her brother.
Mr Maxwell did not seem to think it was a matter with which he had
anything to do. He made no movement to go away when tea was over, and
Elizabeth put away all thought of the disappointment of the people
assembled, and of her sister-in-law's displeasure, and enjoyed the
evening. Mr Maxwell seemed to enjoy it too, though he did not say much.
Clifton kept himself within bounds, and was amusing without being
severe or disagreeable in his descriptions of some of the village
customs and characters, and though he said some things to the minister
that made his sister a little anxious and uncomfortable for the moment,
she could see that their interest in each other increased as the
evening wore on.
It came out in the course of the conversation that Mr Maxwell had
made the acquaintance of Ben Holt in his rambles, but he had never been
at the Hill-farm, and had very vague ideas as to the Hill Holts or
their circumstances, or as to their relationship to the Holts of the
village. Clifton professed to be very much surprised.
Has not Mrs Jacob introduced you to Cousin Betsey? Has she not told
you how many excellent qualities Cousin Betsey has? Only just a little
set in her ways, said Clifton, imitating so exactly Mrs Jacob's voice
and manner, that no one could help laughing.
Cousin Betsey is rather set in her ways, and not always agreeable
in her manners to Mrs Jacob, said Elizabeth. But you are not to make
Mr Maxwell suppose that there is any disagreement between them.
By no means. They are the best of friends when they keep apart, and
they don't meet often. Mrs Jacob has company when the sewing-circle is
to meet at the Hill, and when it meets at Mrs Jacob's, Betsey has a
great soap-making to keep her at home, or a sick headache, or
something. To tell the truth, Cousin Betsey does not care a great deal
about any of her village relations, except the squire. But she is a
good soul, and a pillar in the church, though she says less about it
than some people. I'll drive you over to the farm some day. Cousin
Betsey will put you through your catechism, I can tell you, if she
happens to be in a good humour.
Mr Maxwell laughed. I have had some experience of that sort of
thing already, said he. But I fear it has not been a satisfactory
affair to any one concerned.
Cousin Betsey will manage better, said Clifton.
They went to the Hill at the time appointed, and the visit, and some
others that they made, were so far successful that the minister took
real pleasure in them, and that was more than could be said of any
visit he had made before. Miss Betsey did not put him through his
catechism in Clifton's presence; that ceremony was reserved for a
future occasion. She was rather stiff and formal in her reception of
them, but she thawed out and consented to be pleased and interested
before the after noon was over. She smiled and assented with sufficient
graciousness when Clifton not only bespoke Ben's company, on an
expedition with gun and rod, which he and Mr Maxwell were going to make
further down the river, but he invited himself and the minister to tea
on their way home.
For you know, Cousin Betsey, that Ben and I won't be very likely to
get into mischief in the minister's company, and you can't object to
our going this time.
If anybody doesn't object to the minister's going in your company.
That is the thing to be considered, I should say, said Cousin Betsey,
Oh, cousin! do you mean that going fishing with me will compromise
the minister? No wonder that you are afraid to trust me with Ben. But I
say that a day in the woods with Ben and me will do Mr Maxwell more
good than two or three tea-meetings or sewing-circles. Only you have a
good supper ready for us, and I will bring him home hungry as a
Which hasn't happened very often to him of late, if one may judge
from his looks, said Miss Betsey.
No, he ought to be living here at the Hill. It would suit him
better than Jacob's. And when are you coming to see us? Lizzie wanted
to come with us to-day, but she was afraid you wouldn't be glad to see
her. You never come to our house, and she mustn't do all the visiting.
And, besides, you don't ask her.
It aint likely that she'll be so hard up for something to amuse
her, that she'll want to fall back on a visit to the Hill. But if she
should be, she can come along over, and try how it would seem to visit
with mother and Cynthy and me. She'll always find some of us here.
All right. I'll tell her you asked her, and she'll be sure to
The success of this visit encouraged Clifton to try more in the
minister's company. For a reason that it was not difficult to
understand, Jacob in his rounds had not taken him to visit at Mr
Fleming's, nor had any one else, and Clifton, remembering his own visit
there, took the introduction of Mr Maxwell at Ythan Brae into his own
hands, and Elizabeth went with him. They sailed up the river, and went
through the woods as he and Ben had done. It was a lovely autumn day,
but there were few tokens of decay in the woods and fields through
which they took their way, and they lingered in the sweet air with a
pleasure that made them unconscious of the flight of time, and the
afternoon was far spent before they sat down to rest on the rocky knoll
where Clifton in Ben's company had renewed his acquaintance with the
Fleming children. The remembrance of the time and the scene came back
so vividly, that he could not help telling his companions about it.
Elizabeth's face clouded as he repeated Katie's words about those
avaricious Holts which had brought him to a sense of the indiscretion
he was committing in listening.
The Flemings are hard upon Jacob. Mr Maxwell might have been more
fortunate in his escort, said she.
Nonsense, Lizzie! Mrs Fleming is far too sensible to confound us
with Jacob; and, Lizzie, you used to be a pet of hers.
Yes, said Elizabeth, long ago.
And as they lingered, she went on to tell them about the Flemings,
and their opinions and manner of life, and about the troubles which had
fallen on them. She grew earnest as she went on, telling about poor
Hugh whom everybody had loved so well, whom she herself remembered as
the handsomest, gentlest, and best of all those who had frequented
their house, when her brothel Jacob was young and she was a child; and
in her earnestness she said some things that surprised her brother as
My father and Mr Fleming were always friendly, and sometimes I went
with my father to their house. I did not often see Mr Fleming, but I
remember his coming into the room one day, when I was sitting on a low
stool, holding the first baby of his son's family in my lap. She was a
lovely little creature, little Katie, just beginning to coo, and
murmur, and smile at me with her bonny blue eyes, and I suppose the
child, and my pride and delight in her, must have been a pretty sight
to see, for the grandfather sat down beside us, and smiled as he looked
and listened, and made some happy, foolish talk with us both. My father
was very much surprised, he told me afterward; and in a little while,
when I went into another room, I found Mrs Fleming crying, with her
apron over her face. But they were happy tears, for she smiled when she
saw us, and clasped and kissed baby and me, with many sweet Scottish
words of endearment to us both. It was the first time she had seen her
husband smile since their troubles, she said. The dark cloud was
lifting, and wee Katie's smile would bring sunshine again. I was a
favourite with her a long time after that, but we have fallen out of
acquaintance of late.
Which is a great mistake on your part, said her brother.
Yes; I hope she will be glad to see us. She will be glad to see
you, Mr Maxwell.
She will be glad to see us all, said Clifton.
CHAPTER SIX. A VISIT TO YTHAN BRAE.
It was a great deal later in the afternoon than it ought to have
been for the first visit of the minister, and the chances were he would
have been told so in any other house in the parish. But Mrs Fleming
welcomed him warmly, and all the more warmly, she intimated, that he
came in such good company. The lateness of the hour made this
difference in the order of events: they had their tea first, and their
visit afterward; a very good arrangement, for their tramp through the
fields and woods had made them hungry, and Mrs Fleming's oat-cakes and
honey were delicious. There were plenty of other good things on the
table, but the honey and oat-cakes were the characteristic part of the
meal, never omitted in Mrs Fleming's preparations for visitors. She had
not forgotten the old Scottish fashion of pressing the good things upon
her guests, but there was not much of this needed now, and she looked
on with much enjoyment.
Will you go ben the house, or bide still where you are? asked she,
when tea was over and they still lingered. Ben the housein the
parlour there were tall candles burning, and other arrangements made,
but no one seemed inclined to move. The large kitchen in which they
were sitting was, at this time of the year, the pleasantest place in
the house. Later the cooking-stove, which in summer stood in the outer
kitchen would be brought in, and the great fire-place would be shut up,
but to-night there was a fire of logs on the wide hearth. It flickered
and sparkled, and lighted up the dark face of old Mr Fleming, and the
fair face of Miss Elizabeth, as they sat on opposite sides of the
hearth, and made shadows in the corners where the shy little Flemings
had gathered. It lighted, too, the beautiful old face of the
grandmother as she sat in her white cap and kerchief, with folded
hands, making, to the minister's pleased eye, a fair picture of the
And so they sat still. Katie and her mother moved about quietly for
a while, removing the tea-things and doing what was to be done about
the house. When all this was over, and they sat down with the rest,
Clifton, and even Elizabeth, awaited with a certain curiosity and
interest the discussion of some important matter of opinion or doctrine
between the old people and the minister, as was the way during the
minister's visits to most of the old Scotch houses of the place. But
Mrs Fleming had changed, and the times had changed, since the days when
old Mr Hollister and his friend went about to discuss the question of a
union with the good folks of North Gore, and the household had changed
also. The children sitting there so quiet, yet so observant, came in
for a share of the minister's notice, and when their grandmother
proposed that they should arrange themselves before him in the order of
their ages to be catechised by him, he entered into the spirit of the
occasion as nobody in Gershom had seen him enter into anything yet. He
knew all about it. He had been catechised in his youth in the orthodox
manner of his country, and he acquitted himself well. From What is the
chief end of man? until one after another of the children stopped, and
even Katie hesitated, he went with shut book. It was very creditable to
him in Mrs Fleming's opinion, quite as satisfactory as a formal
discussion would have been in assuring her of the nature and extent of
his doctrinal knowledge, and the soundness of his views generally.
He'll win through, said she to herself; he has been dazed with
books till he has fallen out of acquaintance with his fellow-creatures,
and he'll need to ken mair about them before he can do much good in his
work. But he'll learn, there is no fear.
The minister had other questions to ask at the bairns that had
never been written in any catechism, and he had new things to tell
them, and old things to tell them in a new way, and, as she looked and
listened, Mrs Fleming nodded to her husband and said to herself again,
He'll win through.
Bairns, said she impressively, you see the good of learning your
Bible and your catechism when you are young; take an example from the
And with this the bairns were dismissed from their position; for the
rest of the evening till bedtime it was expected that they were to be
seen and not heard, as was the way with bairns when their grandmother
was young. The two eldest, Katie and Davie, were put forward a little,
in a quiet way, and encouraged to display their book-learning to their
visitors. But Katie was shy and uncomfortable, and did not do herself
as much credit as usual. Her grandfather put her forward as a little
girl, and the visitors treated her as a grown woman, and she did not
like it, and at last took refuge with her knitting at her grandfather's
side, and left the field to Davie.
As for Davie, he was shy too, but in some things he was bold to a
degree that filled Katie with astonishment. He held his own opinion
about various things against the minister, who, to be sure, was only
just trying him. And he and young Mr Holt wrangled together over their
opinions and questions good-humouredly enough, but still very much in
earnest. Young Mr Holt was the better of the two as to the subjects
under discussion, but he was not so well up as he thought he was, or as
he ought to have been, considering his advantages, and Davie knew
enough to detect his errors, though not enough to correct them. The
minister, appealed to by both, would not interfere, but listened
smiling. Mr Fleming sat silent, as his manner was, sometimes smiling,
but oftener looking grave.
Softly, Davie. Take heed to your words, my laddie, said his
grandmother now and then, and Elizabeth listened well pleased to see
her brother, about whom she was sometimes anxious and afraid, taking
evident pleasure in it all.
By and by the Book was brought, and Mr Fleming, as head and priest
of the household, solemnly asked God's blessing on the Word they were
to read, before he gave it to the minister to conduct the evening
worship. It chanced that the chapter read was the one from which Mr
Maxwell's Sunday text had been taken; and in the pause that followed
the unwilling, but unresisting departure of the little ones to bed,
Clifton said so. Then he added that he wished Mrs Fleming had been
there to hear the sermon, as he would have liked to hear her opinion as
to some of the sentiments given in it by the minister. It was said with
the hope of drawing the old lady into one of the discussions of which
they had heard, Elizabeth knew, but it did not succeed.
I heard the sermon, and had no fault to find with it; had you?
said Mrs Fleming.
Fault! No. One would hardly like to find fault with it before the
minister, said Clifton, laughing. I am not very well up in theology
myself, but it struck me that the sermon was not just in the style of
old Mr Hollister's.
I doubt you werena in the way of taking much heed of Mr Hollister's
sermons, and you can ask Mr Maxwell the meaning of his words if you are
not satisfied. What was lacking in the sermon the years will supply to
those that are to follow it. It was written at the bidding of the
doctors o' divinity at the college, was it not?
Yes, said Mr Maxwell with some hesitation, it was written for
Oh! they would surely be pleased with it. It was sound and sensible
and conclusive; that is, you said in it what you set out to say, and
that doesna ay happen in sermons. You'll put more heart in your
ministrations when you have been a while among us, I hope.
There was a few minutes' silence.
There is a grave charge implied in your words, Mrs Fleming, and I
fear a true one, said the minister.
I meant none, said Mrs Fleming earnestly. As for your sermon,
what could you expect? It was all the work of your head, your heart had
little part in it. It was the doctors of divinity, and the lads, your
fellow-studentsilka ane o' them waiting to get a hit at youthat you
had in your mind when you were writing it, and no' the like of us poor
folk, who are needing to be guided and warned and fed. But it is a
grand thing to have a clear head, and to be able to put things in the
right way, and, according to the established rules: yon was a fine
discourse; though you seemed to take little pleasure in it yourself,
sir, I thought, as you went on.
Mr Maxwell smiled rather ruefully. I took little pleasure in it
I saw that. But you have no call to be discouraged. We have the
treasure in earthen vessels, as Paul says himself. But a clear head and
a ready tongue are wonderful gifts for the Master's use, when they go
with a heart that He has made His dwelling. Have patience with
yourself. If you are the willing servant of your Master, His word is
given for your success in His work. It is Him you are to look to, and
not to yourself.
Ay! there is comfort in that.
It must be a great change for you coming to a place like this from
the companionship of wise men, living and dead, and you are but young
and likely to feel it. But you'll come to yourself when the strangeness
wears off. Your work lies at your hand, and plenty of it. You'll have
thraward folk to counter you, and folk kind and foolish to praise you
and your words and works, whatever they may be. A few will give you
wholesome counsel, and a smaller few wholesome silence, and you must
take them as they come, and carry them one and all to His feet, and
there's no fear of you.
The minister said nothing. Clifton looked curiously at his grave
face over his sister's shoulder.
Wholesome silence! It's not much of that he is likely to get in
Gershom, said he.
But, said Mrs Fleming earnestly, you are not to put on a grave
face like that, or I shall think your visit hasna done you good, and
that would grieve me. You have no call to look doubtfully before you.
You have the very grandest of work laid ready to your hand, and you
have the will to do it, and I daresay you are no just that ill prepared
for it. At least you are prepared to learn in God's school that He has
put you in. And you have His promise that you cannot fail. It is
wonderful to think of.
Who is sufficient for these things? said the minister gravely.
Him that God sends He makes sufficient, said Mrs Fleming,
cheerfully. Put your trust in Him, and take good care of yourself, and
above all, I would have you to beware of Mrs Jacob Holt's Yankee pies
and cakes and hot bread, for they would be just the ruination of you,
health and temper, and all. But you needna say I told you.
Elizabeth and Clifton laughed heartily at the anticlimax. Mr Maxwell
laughed too, and hung his head, remembering Mrs Jacob's dainties, which
he had not yet been able to do justice to. Mrs Fleming might have
enlarged on the subject if time allowed, but they had a long walk
I hope you'll no be such a stranger now that you have found your
way back again, said Mrs Fleming, as Elizabeth was putting on her
shawl. I mind the old days, and you have ay been kind to my Katie, who
is growing a woman now, and more in need of kindness and counsel than
ever, added she, looking wistfully from the one to the other. For
answer, Elizabeth turned and kissed Katie, and then touched with her
lips the brown wrinkled hand of the grandmother.
God bless you and keep you, and give you the desire of your heart,
said Mrs Fleming, if it be the best thing for you, she added, moved
by a prudent after-thought, which came to her to-night more quickly
than such thoughts were apt to come to her. I'm no feared for you or
Katie. Why should I be? You are both in good keeping. And if you are no
dealt with to your pleasure, you will be to your profit, and that is
the chief thing.
They had a pleasant walk through the dewy fields in the moonlight,
and much to say to one another, but they had fallen into silence before
they paused at the gate to say good-night.
I suppose on the whole our visit may be considered a success, said
Clifton as they lingered.
Altogether a success, said Elizabeth.
I am glad I went in your company, said the minister.
Thank you, said Elizabeth.
Your are welcome, said her brother, and then he added, laughing,
I hope all the rest of the world will be as well pleased.
This was to be doubted. Mrs Jacob was by no means pleased for one.
She had said nothing to Elizabeth on the occasion when Mr Maxwell had
stayed away from the sewing-circle, but Elizabeth knew that her silence
did not imply either forgetfulness or forgiveness. She could wait long
for an opportunity to speak, and could then put much into a few words
for the hearing of the offender. It was a renewal of the offence that
the minister should have been taken to the hill-farm by Clifton, and
then to Ythan Brae by him and his sister, though why she could not have
easily explained. Whatever Clifton did was apt to take the form of an
indiscretion in her eyes, but neither her sharp words nor her soft
words were heeded by him, and she rarely wasted them upon him. But it
was different where his sister was concerned. She had turns now and
then of taking upon herself the responsibility of Elizabeth, as of a
young girl to whom she stood as the nearest female relation, and she
knew how to hurt her when she tried. Elizabeth rarely resented openly
her little thrusts, but all the same, she unconsciously armed herself
for defence in Mrs Jacob's presence, and an attitude of defence is
always uncomfortable where relations who meet often are concerned.
They had met a good many times, however, before any allusion was
made to the visits which had displeased her. She came one day into
Elizabeth's sitting-room to find Mr Maxwell there in animated
discussion with Clifton. She hardly recognised him in the new
brightness of his face, and the animation of his voice and manner. He
was as unlike as possible to the silent, constrained young man who
daily sat at her table, and who responded so inadequately to her
efforts for his entertainment. She liked the minister, and wished to
make him happy in her house, and there was real pain mingled with the
unreasonable anger she felt as she watched him. Her first few minutes
were occupied in answering the old squire's questions about Jacob and
the children. She had startled him from his afternoon's sleep, and he
was a little querulous and exacting, as was usual at such times. But in
a little she said:
Mr Maxwell had good visits at the Hill, and at Mr Fleming's, he
told us. It is a good thing you thought of going with him, Elizabeth.
You and Cousin Betsey have become reconciled.
Reconciled! repeated Elizabeth; we have never quarrelled.
Oh, of course not. That would not do at all. But you have never
been very fond of one another, you know.
I respect Cousin Betsey entirely, though we do not often see one
another, said Elizabeth. I did not go to the Hill the other day,
however. Clifton went with Mr Maxwell, and they enjoyed it, as you
The squire was a little deaf, and not catching what was said, needed
to have the whole matter explained to him.
Betsey is a good woman, said he; I respect Betsey. Her mother
isn't much of a business woman, and it is well Betsey is spared to her.
It'll be all right about the place; I'll make it all right, and Jacob
won't be hard on them.
And so the old man rambled on, till the talk turned to other
matters, and Mrs Jacob kept the rest of her remarks for Elizabeth's
I am so glad you like Mr Maxwell, Elizabeth. I was afraid you would
not; you are so fastidious, you know, and he seems to have so little to
say for himself.
I like him very much, and so does Clifton, said Elizabeth, waiting
I am very glad. He seems to be having a good influence on Clifton.
He hasn't been in any trouble this time, at all, has he? How thankful
you must be. Jacob is pleased. I only hope it may last.
The discussion of her younger brother's delinquencies, real or
supposed, was almost the only thing that irritated Elizabeth beyond her
power of concealment; and if she had been in her sister-in-law's house,
this would have been the moment when she would have drawn her visit to
a close. Now she could only keep silence.
I hope Clifton may do well next year, went on Mrs Jacob; you will
miss him, and so shall we.
We must do as well as we can without him. In summer he will be home
for good, I hope.
Yes, if he should conclude to settle down steadily to business.
Time will show, and this winter we have Mr Maxwell. It depends some on
Miss Martha Langden, I suppose, how long we shall have him in our
house. You have heard all about that, I suppose? said she, smiling
Elizabeth smiled too, but shook her head.
I have heard the name, said she.
Well, you must not ask me about her. I only know that she gets a
good many letters from Gershom about this time. It is not to be spoken
She rose to go, and Elizabeth went with her to the door, and she
laughed to herself as she followed her with her eye down the street.
She had heard Miss Martha Langden's name once. It was on the night when
Mr Maxwell called on his way from the Hill-farm. He had said that he
liked Miss Betsey, and that she reminded him of one of his best
friends, Miss Martha Langden, one who had been his mother's friend when
he was a child.
Miss Elizabeth laughed again as she turned to go into the house, and
she might have laughed all the same, if she had known that the frequent
letters to Miss Martha Langden never went without a little note to some
one very different from Miss Martha. But she did not know this till
Clifton Holt went back to college again, and Elizabeth prepared for
a quiet winter. She knew that, as in other winters, she would be held
responsible for a certain amount of entertainment to the young people
of the village in the way of gigantic sewing-circles, and no less
gigantic evening parties. But these could not fall often to her turn,
and they were not exciting affairs, even when the whole responsibility
of them fell on herself, as was the case when her brother was away. So
it was a very quiet winter to which she looked forward.
And because she did not dread the utter quiet, as she had done in
former winters, and because she was able to dismiss from her thoughts,
with very little consideration of the matter, a tempting invitation to
pass a month or two in the city of Montreal, she fancied she was
drawing near to that period in a woman's life, when she is supposed to
be becoming content with the existing order of things, when the dreams
and hopes, and expectations vague and sweet, which make so large a part
in girlish happiness, give place to graver and more earnest thoughts of
life and duty, to a juster estimate of what life has to give, and an
acquiescent acceptance of the lot which she has not chosen, but which
has come to her in it. It is not very often that so desirable a state
of mind and heart comes to girls of four-and-twenty. It certainly had
not come to Elizabeth. However, it gave her pleasureand a little pain
as wellto think so, and it was a good while before she found out that
she had made a mistake.
As for Mr Maxwell, he was coming to himself, as Mrs Fleming had
predicted. His health improved, and as he grew familiar with his new
circumstances, the despondency that had weighed him down was dispelled.
Before the snow came, he was making visits among the people, without
any one to keep him in countenance. Not regular pastoral visits, but
quite informal ones, to the farmer in his pasture or wood-lot, or as he
followed his oxen over the autumn fields. He dropped now and then into
the workshop of Samuel Green, the carpenter, and exchanged a word with
John McNider as he passed his forge, where he afterward often stopped
to have a talk. The first theological discussion he had in Gershom was
held in Peter Longley's shoe-shop, one morning when he found that
amiable sceptic alone and disposedas he generally wasfor a
declaration of his rather peculiar views of doctrine and practice; and
his first temperance lecture was given to an audience of one, as he
drove in Mark Varney's ox-cart over that poor man's dreary and
CHAPTER SEVEN. MINISTER AND PEOPLE.
In Gershom in these primitive days, a deep interest in the affairs
of their neighbours, private, personal and relative, and a full and
free discussion of the same, implied to the minds of people in general
no violation of any law of morals or expediency. It was a part of the
established order of things, which had its advantages and
disadvantages. Almost everybody had a measure of enjoyment in it, and
everybody had to submit to it.
Even those among the people who would have found little to interest
them in the comings and goings of their neighbours generally, took part
in the admiring discussion of the comings and goings of the minister.
There was a comfortable sense of duty about the matter, a feeling that
they were manifesting an interest in the cause, and holding up the
minister's hands on such occasions that was agreeable. There was a
sense of satisfaction in the frequent allusions made to the Sunday's
sermon, in the repetition of the text and heads, and in the admiring
remarks and comparisons which usually accompanied this, as if it were
religious conversation that was being carried on and enjoyed. The
pleasing delusion extended to the old people's endless talks about
subscription-lists, and ways and means of support and to the young
people's plans and preparations for a great fair to be held for the
purpose of obtaining funds for the future furnishing and adorning of
the parsonage. So it was a happy era in the history of the congregation
and the village. Everybody was interested, almost everybody was
If Mr Maxwell had heard half the kind and admiring things that were
said of him, or if he had known a tenth part of what he was expected to
accomplish by his sermons, his example, his influence, he would have
been filled with confusion and dismay. But happily a wholesome
silence with regard to these things was at first for the most part
preserved toward him, and he took his way among his people
unembarrassed by any over-anxious effort to meet expectations too
To tell the truth, he was getting a good deal more credit than he
deserved just at this time. His devotion to his work, his labours in
season and out of season, his zeal and energy, and kindness in the way
of visiting and becoming acquainted with the people, were due less to a
conscious desire to do them good, or to serve his Master, than to a
growing pleasure in friendly contact with his fellow-creatures. He was
entering on a new and wonderful branch of study, the study of living
men, and he entered upon it with earnestness and delight.
Hitherto his most intimate acquaintance had been with men, the
greater number of whom had been dead for hundreds of years. His living
friends had, for the most part, been men of one type, men of more or
less intelligence, educated on the same plan, holding the same
opinionsmen of whose views on most subjects he might have been sure
without a word from them. His intercourse with the greater number of
them had been formal and conventional; upon very few had he ever had
any special claim for sympathy or interest.
All this was different now. The interest of the Gershom people was
real and evident, and he had a right to it; and he owed to them, for
his Master's sake, both love and service. They were real men he had to
deal with, not mere embodiments of certain views and opinions. They
were men with feelings and prejudices; they were men who, like himself,
sinned and suffered, and were afraid. They had opinions also, on most
subjects, firmly held and decidedly expressed. Indeed, some of them had
a way of putting things which was a positive refreshment and stimulus
to him. It had, for the moment, the effect of genius and originality,
and in the first pleasure of contact, he was inclined to give to some
of his new friends a higher place intellectually than he gave them
afterward. Happily, he kept his opinions of men and things very much to
himself in these first days, and scandalised no one by declaring Peter
Longley to be a genius, or John McNider to be a hero, or by taking the
part of poor Mark Varney, as one more sinned against than sinning.
He owed his reputation for wisdom in these first months quite as
much to his silence as to his speech. His own superficial knowledge of
men and things got easily from books, seemed to himas indeed it
wasa poor thing in comparison with the wisdom which some of these
quiet, unpretending men had almost unconsciously been gathering through
the experience of years. But it did not seem so to them. When he did
speak, he could, through the discipline of education and training, put
into clear right words the thoughts which they found it not easy to
utter, and they gave him credit for the thought as his, when often he
was only giving back to them what he had received. And he listened
well, and he chose his subjects judiciously when he did talk. It was
iron with the blacksmith, and wood with the carpenter, and seeds and
soils and the rotation of crops with the farmer, and without at all
meaning to exalt himself thereby, he would put the reading of some
leisure hour into a few well-chosen words, which seemed like treasures
of wisdom to men who had gathered their knowledge by the slow process
of hearsay and observation; and what with one thing, and what with
another, the minister grew in favour with them all.
That there had ever been a latent sense of disappointment in the
minds of any great number of the people on his first appearance among
them would have been indignantly denied. Possibly, in the varied course
of events, some in the parish might have their eyes opened to see
failings and faults in him, but in the meantime there existed in the
congregation a wonderful unanimity of feeling with regard to him.
The cause was prospering in their midst, that was the usual
formula by which was expressed the satisfaction of the staid and
elderly people among them. It meant different things to different
people: that the church was well filled; that the weekly meetings were
well attended; that the subscription-list looked well; that the North
Gore folks were drawing in generally, and identifying themselves with
This last sign of prosperity was the one most generally seen and
rejoiced over. There had all along been a difference of opinion among
the wise men of the church as to the manner in which the desired union
was to be brought about. The bolder spirits, and the new-comers, who
did not remember the well-meant, but futile attempts of Mr Hollister
and Deacon Turner in that direction, were of opinion that formal
prospects for union should be made to the North Gore men; that matters
of doctrine and discipline should be discussed either publicly or
privately as might be decided, and that in some way the outsiders
should be made to commit themselves to a general movement in the
direction of union. But the more prudent and easy-going of the flock
saw difficulties in the way. It was not impossible, the prudent people
said, that in the course of discussion new elements of disagreement
might manifest themselves, and that the committing might be to the
wrong side. The easy-going souls among them were of opinion that it was
best just to let things kind o' happen along easysaying that after
a while the sensible people of the North Gore would realise their
privileges and avail themselves of the advantages which church
fellowship offered to true Christians, and all agreed, before a year
were over, that Mr Maxwell's influence and teaching would help to bring
about all that was so much desired.
And as time went on, one thing worked with another toward the
desired end. In the course of the winter, several of those who were
looked upon as leaders among the North Gore people, both for
intelligence and piety, cast in their lot with the village people by
uniting formally with the church. A good many more became constant
hearers without doing so; some hesitating for one reason, and some for
another. Among these were the Flemings, whose reason for keeping aloof
was supposed to be Jacob Holt, though no one had a right to speak by
their authority, of the matter.
Of course Mr Maxwell had been made acquainted with the peculiar
circumstances of the place, and he rejoiced with the rest at such
evidences of success in his work as the gathering in of the North Gore
implied, but no one had ever told him of any serious difficulty
existing between old Mr Fleming and Jacob Holt. It was Squire Holt who
first spoke to him about it, and the winter was nearly over before that
The squire in one of his retrospective moods went over the whole
story, speaking very kindly of the young lad who had gone astray, and
of his brother who had died. He spoke kindly, too, of the old man, with
whom he had always been on the most friendly terms, but he did not
hesitate to say that he thought him foolish and unreasonable in the
position he took toward Jacob.
It was because of something that happened when his son Hugh went
away, but Jacob was no more to blame than others; and it might have
been all right if the foolish young man had only stayed at home and
taken the risk. I tried at the time to talk things over with the old
man, but he never would hear a word. There are folks in Gershom who
think hard of Jacob, because of old Mr Fleming's opinion, though they
did not know a word about the matter. And I'm afraid it's going to do
mischief in the church.
It is strange that I should never have heard of all this before,
said Mr Maxwell, at a loss to decide how much of the regret and anxiety
evidently felt by Mr Holt was due to the weakness of age. During all
my visits to Mr Fleming, and you know I saw him frequently during his
illness, not a word was ever spoken that could have reference to any
trouble between the two, nor has your son
Mr Maxwell paused. He was not so sure of the exact correctness of
what he had been about to say. A good many hints and remarks of Jacob,
and of his wife also, which had seemed vague at the time, and which he
had allowed to pass without remark, occurred to him now as possibly
having reference to this trouble.
Probably there has been misunderstanding between them, said he
after a little.
Just so, said the old man eagerly. Jacob aint the man to be hard
on anybodyto say hard; he likes to have what is his own, and being a
good man of business he hates shiftless doings, and so shiftless folks
think and say hard things of him. But as to taking the advantage of an
old man like Mr Flemingwhy, it would be about as mean a thing as a
man could do, and Jacob aint the man to do it, whatever may be said of
Why, look here, Mr Maxwell. Just let me tell you all about it. And
the old man, with perfect fairness and sufficient clearness, went into
all particulars as to the state of Mr Fleming's affairs at the time of
his son's death, and of Jacob's claims upon him. His real respect and
friendship for the old man was evident in all he said, and when he
lamented that his old friend's unreasonableness should make a
settlement of his affairs so difficult, and should make unpleasant talk
and hard feelings in the community, Mr Maxwell could not but spare his
Why, look here, Mr Maxwell. There hasn't been a cent paid on the
principal yet, and not all the interest, though it is years ago now,
and some of that has been borrowed money. And there is little prospect
of its being any different for years to come. If it had been almost any
one else but Jacob, he'd have foreclosed long ago, and I don't know but
he had better when the right time comes.
It was on Mr Maxwell's lips to express assent to this, when a glance
at the face of Miss Elizabeth arrested his words. It wore a look which
he had sometimes seen on it when she wished to turn her father's
thoughts away from a subject which was becoming painful to him. There
was anxiety, even pain in her face as well, on this occasion, and these
deepened as her father went on.
Only the other day Jacob was talking to me about it. `Father,' says
he, `why can't you just say a word to the old man about letting me have
a piece of his land on the river, and settle matters all up. He'll hear
you,' says he. `I don't want to make hard feelings in the church, or
anywhere else,' says he. `It's as much for the old man's interest to
have his affairs all straightened out, as it is for me, and more. There
need be no trouble about it, if he'd only listen to reason.' I expect I
shall have to have a talk with Mr Fleming about it some time, added
the old man gravely. Or you might speak, Mr Maxwell. He would listen
Only, father, it would be as well to wait till the old gentleman is
quite well and strong again, said Elizabeth, rising and folding up her
work, and moving about as if to prevent the chance of more talk.
Well, I guess so, and then I don't suppose it would amount to much
anything I could say to him. I wouldn't like to say anything to vex or
worry him. He has had a deal of trouble one way and another, since he
came to the place, and it has kind of soured him, but he is always as
sweet as milk to me. You aren't going away, are you, Mr Maxwell? There,
I have tired you all out with my talk, and I've tired myself too. But
don't you hurry away. I'll go and step round a little to get the fresh
air, and then I'll lie down a spell, and rest. And, Lizzie, you find
`The Puritan' for Mr Maxwell, and he can take a look at that in the
Elizabeth did as she was bidden, and managed to make the minister
understand, without saying so, that she would like him not to go away.
So he sat down to the doubtful enjoyment of the paper while Elizabeth
followed her father from the room.
CHAPTER EIGHT. TAKING COUNSEL.
It was one of those soft, bright days of early March that might
beguile a new-comer to the country into a temporary belief that spring
had come at last, and Elizabeth, tying her cloud over her head,
followed her father out into the yard. To take a walk just for the sake
of the walk was not likely to suit old Mr Holt, or to do him much good.
But he and Elizabeth went about here and there, in the yard and up and
down the well-swept walk from the gate to the door, where the snow lay
still on either side as high as the squire's shoulder, and Elizabeth
talked to him about the great wood-pile, and praised the industry and
energy of Nathan Pell, the hired man, and of his team, Dick and Doll,
that were making it longer every day. She spoke of the great drifts
that must be cleared away before the thaw came, of the bough which last
night's wind had brought down from the elm in the corner, of the broken
bit of fence beyond the gate, of anything to lead his thoughts away
from the theme which for the last hour had occupied and excited him.
She succeeded so well, that he went away by himself, to get a hammer
and nails to mend the broken paling, and Elizabeth, leaning over the
little white gate while she waited for him to return, had an unexpected
pleasurea little chat with Mrs Jacob. It was not the chat which gave
her the pleasure, it was her own thought that amused her, and the
knowledge of her sister-in-law's thoughts as well.
She knew that though Mrs Jacob declined to come in now at her
invitation, she had come up the street with the full design of doing
so, and she knew that she was saying to herself that Mr Maxwell could
not be in the house, though Jacob had seen him going that way, or
Lizzie would never be standing so long at the gate, looking down the
I am waiting for father, said Elizabeth; he has gone in for the
hammer to drive some nails in the fence. I suppose Nathan must have
driven against it last night in the dark. She was hoping that Mr
Maxwell was enjoying The Puritan so well that he would not be tempted
to look out of the window so as to be seen.
Here is father; he will be glad to see you; it is a long time since
you were here. Won't you change your mind and come in?
Well, no, not to-day. I am going in to see Miss Ball a minute about
my bonnet, and I ought to hurry home.
Mrs Jacob knew that she would have to answer many questions about
Jacob and the children. Probably the squire had seen them all to-day
already, and would see them all again before the day was over.
I think I'll go, and not hinder him about the fence, since he
doesn't know I am here. Why don't you come up sometimes? Well,
good-bye; I guess I'll go.
Good-bye, said Elizabeth. And now when she finds out that Mr
Maxwell was here all the time, though I was standing at the gate, she
will make herself and Jacob, too, believe that I am a deceitful girl;
though why I should tell her, since she did not ask, I do not quite
She took the nail-box from her father's hand and followed him out of
the gate, giving him each nail as he wanted it, making suggestions and
praising his work as one might do with a child. It was soon finished to
the old man's satisfaction, and by that time his excitement and his
troubled thoughts were gone, and he was ready for his afternoon's rest.
You have something to say to me, Miss Holt, said the minister,
when she came again into the sitting-room.
NoI am not sure that I have, though a little ago I thought I
But, Miss Holt, I am almost sure you must have something to say,
said Mr Maxwell, after a pause. I have sometimes found that I have got
a clearer view of vexed questions in village politics, and even in
church matters, where there are no vexations as yet, after a little
talk with you, than after many and long talks with other people.
Thank you. The reason is, that all the rest are on one side or the
other of all vexed questions, and not being specially concerned in
them, at least not personally concerned in them, I can see all sides:
and usually there is little to see that might not as well be ignored.
Well, does not that hold good in this case also?
But in this case I may be supposed to take a side.
The minister smiled.
But not so as to prevent you from seeing clearly all sides. You are
not going to tire of the task of keeping me right in village matters?
Even when the sunshine is bright above the March air is keen and
cold, and so Elizabeth, chilled with lingering so long at the gate,
leaned toward the open fire, shading her face with her hand. She was
silent for some time, thinking of several things.
At least tell me that in this case, also, there is little to see,
or I shall begin to fear that your father may be right when he says
there may be danger of trouble arising out of this matter to us all.
No. There need be no trouble, if people would only not talk, said
Elizabeth, raising her head and turning so as to look at the minister.
I will tell you what I was thinking about before I went out; I was
sorry that my father had spoken to you about Mr Fleming's affairs, or
that he should have suggested the idea of your speaking to the old man
about them; I wanted you not to promise to speakI mean I do not think
it would do any good were you to do so.
Well, I did not promise.
No; and I think my father may forget that he has spoken to you
about it; he forgets many things now. And if you would forget all about
it too, it would be all the better.
I will be silent, and that will answer every purpose of
forgetfulness, or ignorance, will it not?
Elizabeth shook her head. Not quite; and since I have said so much,
I ought to say a little more. I can see all sides of this matter with
sufficient clearness to be aware that trouble to a good many people, or
at least discomfort and annoyance, might easily spring out of it. As to
the church, I am not sure. But if everybody would keep silence, there
need be no trouble. And to tell the truth, Mr Maxwell, I was not
thinking of Mr Fleming or of Jacob, or of what my father was telling
yon, except in its relation to you. It is a pity that you should have
been told any of those old grievances.
Elizabeth rose and took the brush from its hook, and swept up the
ashes and embers that had fallen upon the hearth. Then she seated
herself in her own low chair by the window, and took up her work, but
laid it down again, and folded her hands on her lap.
Mr Maxwell smiled. I see I am not expected to stay much longer. But
really, Miss Holt, I don't quite see `the pity' of it. Why am I not to
know all that is going on as well as the rest? Besides, if your father
had not told me, some one else would have done so.
And I might in such a case have committed myself to the doing or
saying of something foolish at a first hearing, as I should have done
to-day but that your face made me pause.
Did it? said Elizabeth, demurely.
And if silence is the thing to be desired, I shall be all the more
likely to keep silence to others, if you give me the right and true
version of troubles past, and of troubles possible in the future, with
regard to this matter. Will you take up your work again, and tell me
all? Or shall I come another time, Miss Elizabeth?
But Miss Elizabeth had little to add to the story which her father
had told. Jacob was hard, she supposed, just as business men were
obliged to be hard sometimes. But then Mr Fleming was not to be
regarded just as another man in the same position might be
regardedespecially he was not to be so regarded by her brother Jacob.
In the sore troubles that had come into the old man's life. Jacob had
had a part. What part Elizabeth did not know she did not even know the
nature of the trouble, but she knew, though she had only learned it
lately, that the very sight of her brother was like wormwood to Mr
Fleming; that even Mrs Fleming, friendly and sweet to all the world,
was cold and distant to Jacob. And all this seemed to Elizabeth a
sufficient reason why he should be more gentle and forbearing with them
than with others, that he should be willing to forego his just claims
rather than to lay himself open to the charge of wishing or even
seeming to be hard on them.
For what is a little land, more or less, to Jacob, who has so much?
And why should he wish to take even a small part of what old Mr Fleming
has worked so hard to improvehas put his life into, as one may say?
But does he want to take it? Have you ever spoken to your brother
He is supposed to want it for the site of the new buildings to be
put up for the manufacturing companyif it ever comes into existence.
But he does not want it without a sufficient allowance to the old man
for it. Only, I suppose, the debt would cover it all. But I have never
spoken about it to Jacob. It is not easy to speak to him about business
unless he wishes, said Elizabeth, hesitating. But Clifton, who is
quite inclined to be hard on Jacob, laughs at the idea of his doing
unjustly or even severely by Mr Fleming.
At least he has done nothing yet, it seems.
No, Clifton says that Mr Fleming's dislike of Jacob has become a
sort of mania with him, and that he would not yield to him even if it
were for his own advantagehe has brooded over his trouble so long and
so sadly, poor old man!
That is quite possible, said Mr Maxwell, gravely. And you think I
should not speak to him about his trouble?
Not about his trouble with Jacob. Indeed, it is said that he will
not speak of it, nor hear of it. It would do no good. And then he likes
you so much, Mr Maxwell, and comes to church as he did not always do,
and seems to take such pleasure in hearing you. It would be a pity to
risk disturbing these pleasant relations between you with so small a
chance of any good being done by it. And besides, Elizabeth made a
long pause before she added: besides, if trouble is before us because
of this, and if it should come to taking sides, as almost always
happens in the vexing questions of Gershom life, it would be far better
that you should know nothing about the matterthat at least you should
not have seemed to commit yourself to any decided opinion with regard
to it. I cannot bear to think that your comfort and usefulness may be
endangered through the affairs of those who should be your chief
supports. Not that I think this likely to happen, added Elizabeth,
colouring with the fear of having spoken too earnestly; I daresay,
after all, I am `making mountains of mole-hills.'
Mr Maxwell rose and took his hat.
Well, to sum up, said he.
Oh, to sum up! I believe the whole of what I wanted to say was
this, that I don't want you to be vexed or troubled about it, said
Elizabeth, rising also.
It is kind in you to say so.
Yes, kind to ourselves. And I daresay I may have given you a wrong
impression about the matter after all, and that it looks more serious
to you than it needs do. I had much better have kept silent, as I would
have other people do.
Don't say that, Miss Elizabeth. What should I do without you to set
me right, and to keep me right about so many matters? Be anything but
silent, my friend.
There was a good deal more said about Mr Fleming's affairs, and
about other affairs, though Mr Maxwell stood all the time with his hat
in his hand. But enough has been told to give an idea of the way in
which these young people talked to each other. Mr Maxwell never went
from the house without congratulating himself on the friendship of Miss
Holt. How much good she always did him! What a blessing it was for him
that there was one person in his congregation to whom he might speak
unreservedly, and who had sense and judgment to see and say just what
was best for him to do or to refrain from doing.
This was putting it rather strongly. Elizabeth was far from assuming
such a position in relation to the minister. But she had sense and
judgment, and frankness and simplicity of manner, and no doubt she
found it pleasant to be listened to, and deferred to, as Mr Maxwell was
in the habit of doing. And she knew she could help him, and that she
had helped him, many a time. He was inexperienced, to say nothing more,
and she gave him many a hint with regard to some of the doubtful
measures and crooked natures in Gershom society, which prevented some
stumbles, and guided him safely past some difficult places on his first
entrance into it. But she had done more and better than that for him
though she herself hardly knew it.
Squire Holt's house was a pleasant house to visit, and during the
first homesick and miserable days of his stay in Gershom, when he would
gladly have turned his back on his vocation and his duties, the bright
and cheerful welcome there that Elizabeth gave him on that first night
when Clifton took him home with him, and ever after that night, was
like a strengthening cordial to one who needed it surely. Miss
Elizabeth was several years younger than he, but she felt a great deal
older and wiser in some respects than the student whose experience of
life had been so limited and so different, and so it came to pass that,
at the very first, she had fallen into the way of advising him, and
even of expostulating with him on small occasions, and he had not
resented it, but had been grateful for it, and at last rather liked it.
He had brightened under her influence, and now the thought of her was
associated with all the agreeable and hopeful circumstances of his new
life and work.
He said to himself often, and he wrote to his friend Miss Martha
Langden, that the friendship of Miss Elizabeth Holt was one of his best
helps in the faithful performance of his pastoral duties, and that
excellent and venerable lady at once assigned to Mr Maxwell's friend
the same place in his regard, and in his parish generally, that she
herself had occupied in the regard of several successive pastors, and
in her native parish for forty years at least. It never occurred to
Miss Langden, and it certainly never occurred to Mr Maxwell, that this
friendship could be in any danger of interfering with the wishes and
plans of former years. That it might affect in any way his future
relations with the pretty and amiable young person whom Miss Langden
was educating to be his wife, and the model for all the ministers'
wives of the generation, never came into the mind of either. Miss
Elizabeth was a true and useful friend, and the satisfaction that this
afforded him was not to his consciousness incompatible with a happy and
just appreciation of his good fortune in having a claim on the
affection of Miss Langden's niece.
Elizabeth did not know at this time of the existence of Miss
Langden's niece. If she had known it, it is not at all likely that she
would have allowed such knowledge to interfere with the friendly
relations into which she had fallen with the minister. She would have
liked him none the less had she known of his tacit engagement to that
young lady, and would have manifested her friendliness none the less,
but rather the more because of it. And, on the whole, it was a pity
that she did not know it.
CHAPTER NINE. MASTER AND PUPILS.
At Ythan Brae the winter opened sadly. The grandfather had an
illness which kept both Davie and Katie at home from the school for a
while; and what was worse, when he grew better he would fain have kept
them at home still. This would have been a serious matter to Davie, and
he vexed Katie and his grandmother by suggesting possible and painful
consequences all round should his grandfather persist. For the lad had
been seized with a great hunger for knowledge. He desired it partly for
its own sake, but partly also because he had heard many a time and
implicitly believed that knowledge is power, which is true in a
certain sense, but not in the sense or to the extent that it seemed
true to Davie. His grandfather was afraid of the boy's eager craving,
and of what might come of it, and would far rather have seen him
content, as his father had been, to plod through the winter, busy with
the occupations which the season brought, than so eager to get away to
Mr Burnet and his books. The grandfather had his sorrowful reasons for
wishing to keep the lad in the quiet and safe paths which his father
had trod. The grandmother knew how it was with him, and Katie and Davie
guessed something of what his reasons might be. And, bairns, said
their grandmother, ye are no to doubt that your grandfather is right,
though he doesna see as ye do in this matter. For knowledge is whiles a
snare and a curse; and a true heart, and an honest life, and a will to
do your duty in the place in which your Maker has putten you are better
than a' the uncanny wisdom that men gather from books, whether you
believe it or not, Davie, my man. I canna say that I have any special
fear for you myself, but one can never ken. And your grandfather, he
canna forget; it's no' his nature. There was once one like you, Davie
lad, that lost himself through ill-doing folk, andI canna speak about
itand what must it be to him?
But, grannie, said Davie after a little, it's different. Nobody
will follow after me because I am so handsome and clever and kindly.
And folk say it needna have been so bad with him, if my grandfather
hadna been hard on him.
Whisht, laddie, said his grandmother, with a gasp. Katie looked at
him with beseeching eyes, and Davie hung his head.
Davie, my laddie, have patience, said his grandmother in a little;
what is a year or two out of a young life like yours compared with
giving a sore heart to an old man like your grandfather? He has had
sore trouble to thole in his lifetime, some that you can guess, and
some that you will never ken, and his heart is just set on Katie and
But, grannie, there's no fear of me. I'll have no time for ill
company. I'm no to be an idle gowk like Clifton Holt, to throw away my
chances. And here's Katie ay to take care of me and keep me out of
My lad, speak no ill of your neighbours. You'll need all the sense
you have before you get far through the world. And you'll need grace
and wisdom from above, as well, whether your work lie in high places
with the great men of the earth, or just sowing and reaping in Ythan
Brae. And as for Katie and her care of you, there's many a true word
spoken in jest, and you maun be a good laddie, Davie.
It was all settled with fewer words than the grandmother feared
would be needed, and a happy winter began to the brother and sister.
They were young and strong and hopeful. No serious trouble was pressing
on them or theirs. Just to be alive in such circumstances is happiness,
only it is a kind of happiness that is seldom realised while the time
is going on. When it is looked back upon over years of pain or care, it
is seen clearly and valued truely, and sometimesoh, how bitterly
They had their troubles. There was the mortgage about which they
fancied they were anxious and afraid. They were just enough anxious
about it to find in it an endless theme for planning and
castle-buildinga motive for the wonderful things they were to
accomplish in the way of making money for their grandfather, and as a
means of triumphing over Jacob Holt, whom they were inclined to regard
as the villain of their life-story.
From all the drawbacks common to the old-time schools in this part
of Canada, Gershom High-School had, to some extent, suffered. The
restraints of limited means, the value of the labour even of children
on a new farm, the frequent change of teachers, the endless variety of
text-books, the vexing elements of national prejudice and religious
differences, had told on its efficiency and success. Yet it had been a
power for good in Gershom and in all the country round. From the
earliest settlement of the place the leading men had taken pains to
encourage and support it. Its teachers had generally been college
students from the neighbouring States, who taught one year to get money
to carry them through the next, or graduates who were willing to pass a
year or two in teaching between their college course and their choice
or pursuit of a profession. Among them had come, now and then, a youth
of rare gifts, one, not only strong to govern and skilled to teach, but
who kindled in the minds of the pupils an eager desire for
self-improvement, an enthusiasm of mental activity which outlasted his
term of office, and which influenced for good a far greater number than
those whom he taught, or with whom he came personally in contact.
Mr Burnet, Davie's teacher, was not one of these. His college days
had long been over, before he crossed the sea. He had been unfortunate
in many ways, but most of all in this, that he had been brought up to
consider wise and right that which became sin and misery to him,
because of the strength of his appetite and the weakness of his will.
And so woeful days came to him and his, and he was sent over the sea,
as so many another has been sent, to be out of sight. But on this side
of the sea, too, woeful days awaited him, and after many a to and fro,
he was stranded, an utter wreck as it seemed, on the village of
Gershom. His wife was dead by this time, and his two forlorn little
daughters had been sent home in rags to their mother's sister, and
there was no visible reason why the wretched man should not die also,
except, as he said to them who tried to help him, that, after all, his
soul might have a chance to be saved.
He did not die; he lived a free man, and when the time came for
Davie and Katie to go back to die school, he had been its teacher for
more than a year. Not so good a teacher in some respects as two or
three of the orderly, methodical college lads, who were still
remembered with affection in Gershom; but in other respects he
surpassed any of them all of them together. It was said of him that
he had forgotten more than all the rest of Gershom ever knew; and that
he had a tongue that would wile the very birds from the trees. He was
an eloquent man, and he had not only words, but he had something to
say. From the treasures of a highly-cultivated mind he brought, for the
instruction of his pupils, and sometimes for the instruction and
delight of larger audiences, things new and old. As an orator he was
greatly admired, as a man he was much esteemed, as a teacher he was
regarded with the respect due to his great powers, and with the
tolerance which the defects accompanying them needed.
He had decided defects as a school-master. His government of his
school was imperfect; he took it up by fits and starts, having his
stern days, when the falling of a pin might be heard in his domain, and
days when the boys and girls were mostly left to their own devices; but
there were no idle days among them. No teacher who had ever ruled in
the High-School could compare with him in the power he had to make the
young people care for their books and their school-work, or to present
to the clever idle ones among them the most enticing motives to
exertion. He got them on, the fathers and mothers said, and though he
made no pretension to being a very good man, and sometimes used sharper
words than were pleasant to hear, he loved the truth and hated a lie,
and lived an honourable life among them, and all men regarded him with
respect, and most men with affection.
So, putting all things together, Davie and Katie and the other young
people of Gershom had a fair chance of a happy winter, and so it proved
to the brother and sister. There were plenty of amusements going on in
the village, but with these they had little to do. Their grandfather
fretted if they were not at home in the evening, and it was no
self-denial for them to stay away from all gay village doingsat least
it was none to Davie. Except the master's lectures, and those debates
and spelling-schools in which the reputation and honour of the
High-School were concerned, he scorned them all. Katie did not scorn
them. She would have enjoyed more of them than fell to her share, but
yet was willing to agree with her grandmother that more might not be
good for her, and was on the whole content without them.
Very rarely does there come in a lifetime a triumph so unmixed as
the boy enjoys who is not only declared first, but shows himself before
his whole world to be first in the village school. It does not matter
whether he distinguishes himself by the spelling of many-syllabled
words, and the repeating of rules and the multiplication table, or by
his proficiency in higher branches, which are mysteries to the greater
part of the admiring audience. It is all the same a triumph, pure,
unmixed, satisfying. At least it possesses all these qualities in a
higher degree than any future triumph can possibly possess them.
Such a triumph was Davie's. It was Katie's too in a way, but it was
Davie's chiefly on this occasion, because it was his for the first
time. But that did not spoil Katie's pleasure at all. Quite the
contrary. Davie's triumph was hers, and she almost forgot to answer
when her own name was called to receive her merited share of the
honours, so full was she of the thought of what her grandfather would
say when she should tell him about Davie.
And Katie had a little triumph all her own. It troubled her for a
while, and did not come to anything after all, but still it was a
triumph, and acknowledged to be such by all Gershom. She was chosen out
of all the girls who had been Mr Burnet's pupils during the winter, to
teach the village school. The village school stood next to the
High-School, and for Katie Fleming, not yet sixteen, to be chosen a
teacher, was a feather in her cap indeed. Her grandfather was greatly
pleased and so was Miss Elizabeth. Mrs Fleming, coveting for her good
and clever Katie advantages which in their circumstances she could only
hope to enjoy through her own exertions, would have been willing to
spare her from home, and Miss Elizabeth, who had come to love the girl
dearly, knew that she could often have her with her, should she be in
the village during the summer. But Katie never kept the village school,
nor any school. Her grandfather did not like the idea of it, nor did
Davie. Miss Betsey Holt set her face against it from the very first,
though why she should interest herself especially in the matter did not
clearly appear. The chances were that it would be but a poor school
that a child like Katie Fleming would keep, clever scholar though she
was, Miss Betsey said, which was very possibly quite true. But it was
on Katie's own account that she did not approve of the place.
Not that it would hurt her as it might some girls to `board round'
in the village houses, a week at a time, as she would have to do, and
leave her evenings free to spend with the idle young folks of the
place. It, maybe, wouldn't spoil that pretty pot of violets to have the
street dust blow on them for an hour or two, but you wouldn't care
about having them set out to catch it. And Katie Fleming is better at
home making butter for her grandmother than she would be anywhere else,
and happier too, if she only knew it.
Miss Betsey said this to Miss Elizabeth one day when she called,
having some business with the squire, and she said something like it to
the grandmother, which helped to a decision that Katie was to stay at
home. Katie was a little disappointed for the moment, but she
acknowledged that she might have failed with the school, and that she
was much needed at home; and Davie's satisfaction at the decision did
much to reconcile her to it. And all the rest were satisfied as well as
Davie, for Katie's being at home made a great deal of difference in the
Even Mrs Fleming, with her hopeful nature and her firm trust in God,
had times of great anxiety with regard to Davie. He was so like the son
who had gone so early astray, who had darkened all his father's life,
and nearly broken his heart, that she could not but anxiously watch his
words and his ways, attaching to them sometimes an importance that was
neither wise nor reasonable. His grandfather's discipline was strict,
not to say severe, and Davie's resistance, or rather his unwilling
submission and obedience, for he seldom resisted his grandfather's
will, made her afraid. Though she would not have acknowledged it to
Davie, she knew that his grandfather was hard on him sometimes, far
harder than, for such faults as Davie's, she herself would have been,
and she feared that unwilling or resentful obedience might in time
change to rebellion, and beyond such a possibility as that the anxious
grandmother did not dare to look.
But it was only once in a great while that she suffered herself to
contemplate the possibility of anything happening to Davie. The sore
troubles she had passed through had shaken her somewhat, and she was
growing old, but her bright and sunny nature generally asserted itself,
in spite of the weakness which troubles and old age bring. So when she
had occasion to speak to the old man about Davie, trying to make him
more hopeful concerning him, and more patient with his faults, she
could do so with a faith in the boy's future which could not fail
sometimes to inspire him with the same hopefulness.
And indeed Davie was not more wilful and wayward than is often the
case with lads of his age, nor was he idle, or inclined to do less than
his just share of what was to be done. On the contrary, he had great
good sense and perseverance in carrying out any plans of work which
suited his ideas of how work ought to be done. But unfortunately his
plans were not always exactly those of his grandfather. Of course he
did not hesitate to acknowledge his grandfather's right to do as he
pleased in his own place, when his grandmother put it to him in that
way, and he was quite as ready to acknowledge that his wisdom as to
matters in general, and as to farm-work in particular, was not to be
mentioned in the same day with that of his grandfather. But when the
work was to be done, he did not yield readily to suggestions, or even
to commands, and had a way of coming back to the disputed point, and
even of carrying it, to a certain extent, which looked to his
grandfather like sheer perversity.
And even when Davie's plans proved themselves to have been worthy of
consideration, because of the success that attended them now and then,
even success seemed a small matter to the stern old man, because of the
disobedience to his commands, or the ignoring of his known wishes which
the success implied.
So dear, bright, patient grannie had her own adoes between these
two whom she loved so well, and her best hope and comfort in all
matters which concerned them was Katie.
For Katie's first thought always was, her grandfather. That he
should have nothing to vex him, that his days should be brightened and
his cares lightened, seemed to Katie the chief thing there was to think
about. She had learned this from her grandmother, whose first thought
he had been for many a year and day, and Katie's many pretty ways of
doing good to grandfather did quite as much good to grannie.
As to Davie's fancies, as she called his many plans and projects,
she had great interest in some of them, and gave him good help in
carrying them out, but she had no sympathy or patience with any sign of
willfulness, or carelessness where their grandfather was concerned. But
she loved her brother dearly, and helped him through some difficulties
with others besides her grandfather, and Davie, having confidence in
her affections, submitted to her guidance, and was more influenced by
her opinions and wishes than he knew. And though she scolded him
heartily sometimes, and set her face against any disobedience or
seeming disrespect to their grandfather, she gave him good help often,
and so eagerly entered into all his plans, when she saw her way clearly
to the end of them, that he heeded her all the more readily when she
differed from him and refused her help.
So Mrs Fleming's dependence on Katie was not misplaced, and she
wondered at herself, when she had time to think about it, that she
should ever have supposed it possible that she could be spared from
But, oh, my dear! said she one day to Katie's mother, it's a
woeful thing to set up idols, and you must put me in mind, as I must
put you, that we're both in danger here. For who among them all is like
our Katie? Not but that she has her faults, added she, coming back to
the business of the moment, as she watched Katie letting her full pail
run over, while she enticed the kitten into a race after its tail:
Katie, my woman, you should leave the like of that to wee Nannie; I
think you'll need all your time till supper-time.But faults, did I
say? It is scarcely a fault to be lighthearted, and easily pleased. But
oh, Anne, my dear, we have need to take care.
CHAPTER TEN. KATIE'S FRIENDSHIPS.
The life which healthy, good-tempered, unsophisticated children may
live on a farm has in it more of the elements of true enjoyment than
can be found in almost any other kind of life. If poverty or the
necessity of constant work press too severely upon them, of course the
enjoyment is interfered with, but not even poverty or hard work can
spoil it altogether. There are always the sunshine and the sweet air;
there are the freshness and the beauty of the early morning, which not
one in ten of the dwellers in town know anything of by experience; the
dawn, the sunrise, the glitter of dewdrops, the numberless sweet sounds
and scents that belong to no other time. Young people with open eyes
and quick sympathies find countless sources of interest and enjoyment
in the beautiful growing things of the woods and fields, and in the
ceaseless changes going on among them. Almost unconsciously they gain
through all these a wisdom which is better than book lore, a discipline
of heart and mind and temper which tends to soften and elevate the
whole nature, leaving them less open to the temptations incident to
youth and evil companionships.
They were very happy together, these two fast and true friends, as
they never might have become had they had at this time more frequent
intercourse with other young people; and true friendship between
brother and sister is the perfect ideal of friendship. It does not
always exist even between brothers and sisters who love each other
dearly. It is something more than the natural affection which
strengthens (as children grow older) into brotherly and sisterly love.
It implies something that is not always found where the ties of blood
and kindred are most warmly cherished, not a blindness to each other's
faults or defects of character, but a full and loving appreciation of
all admirable qualities both of mind and heart, a harmony of feeling,
sentiments, and tastes which does not exist between brothers and
Day by day Mrs Fleming grew more and more at ease about Davie,
seeing the love between the brother and sister.
A year or two and the laddie's restless time will be over, and all
that makes us anxious about him now, his plans and fancies, his craze
for books, and his longing to put his hand to the guiding of his ain
life will be modified by the knowledge that comes with experience. But,
eh me! What is the use of speaking o' experience? If only the good
Father above would take him in hand! And who shall say that He is not
doing it even now, and making our bonny Katie the instrument of His
will for her brother's good? And, Dawvid, we mustna be hard on the
laddie, but just let him have his fancies about things, and let him
carry them out when they are harmless, and when they dinna cost ower
muckle money, added grannie, with prudent afterthought, for some of
Davie's fancies would have cost money if he had been allowed to go the
full length of his tether.
And after all is said, there is sense in his fancies. It would be a
grand thing to have a hundredweight or two of honey, as he says we
might, and never kill the bees. Think of that now! And nothing spent on
them, but all the blossom on the trees, and all the flowers of the
field theirs for the taking. And as for the new milk-house, with ice in
it, and running water, it would be a grand thing. And, as Katie says,
it's almost as easy to take care of the milk of ten cows as six, and
there is pasture enough. As to the churning, if it could be done by the
running water, wouldna that be a fine help? And we must just have
patience with him, as the Lord has had with us this many a year and
Mrs Fleming got no answer to all this. She did not expect one. This
was the way she took to familiarise the grandfather's mind with plans
that might come to something. The old man's habitual caution was
changing with the passing years into timidity and dread of change; and
his long dwelling on his state of indebtedness, and the subjection to
his enemy that it implied, made him afraid of anything that would
render it necessary to dispense the smallest sum for any other purpose
than the payment of this debt. His son James had let his money go from
him with a free hand, and though he might have got it back again had he
lived, his father could not but remember that it was through his plans,
through his desire to improve the fortunes of his family, which had
carried him beyond his means, that this debt, or a part of it, had been
left upon them.
As for Davie, what could a lad like him know about such things?
Fancies that would lead to nothing but waste and want! And yet his
wife's words told upon him as all her words did sooner or later.
Would you like it then, Katie, my woman? said he, as one night,
when all the work was over, he came on Katie sitting with Nannie and
Sandy on the bank of the burn. Davie was on the other side pacing up
and down, measuring out, as they had done together many times before,
the site of the new milk-house. Many thoughts and words had Davie
expended upon it, and so had Katie for that matter. So she rose and
walked with her grandfather along the burnside, out of Davie's hearing,
and then she answered brightly:
Ay, that I would, grandfather; not just now, ye ken, but after a
while, when it can be done without going into debt. It would be grand.
And I could sell twice as much butter as we make now, if we had it. I
like butter-making. And so on, touching on more of Davie's fancies
than her grandfather had heard of yet, till they came back to the lad,
still intent on his measurements, with his eyes fixed on a paper on
which he was industriously figuring.
The foundation must be of stone, Katie, because of the swelling of
the burn in spring and fall, but the stones are at hand, and cost no
money. And we might gather them on rainy days, grandfather, not to take
time from other work; I can make the frame myself, but the foundation
must be of stone.
Katie stood still, surprised and a little frightened. She was not
sure how all this might be taken, for though they had made much
enjoyment for themselves out of the new dairy that was to be, and had
spoken to grannie and their mother about it, this was the first
direct intimation they had given to their grandfather. He smiled
grimly, however; indeed he laughed, which did not often happen with
A foundation! and stone, too! I didna think you needed foundations
to your fancies, Davie, lad.
Well, maybe no' just as long as they are fancies, grandfather,
said Davie, looking outwardly a little sheepish, but with inward
triumph, as Katie knew quite well. For to get his grandfather to listen
to him was a great step. And now, Katie, I'll just ask grandfather
which is right, you or me. Come over here, grandfather, and tell us
which you think the best place for it. Katie thinks this is ower far
from the house, but I think not.
The grandfather actually crossed the burn, and went with him, Katie
following with a smiling face and joyful heart. They did not decide
much that night, but ever after the new milk-house was considered a
settled thing, and much good they got out of it before either stone or
stick was laid down beside the burn. For Davie got on better with his
grandfather after that, and fifteen-year lad as he was, did a grown
man's work from day to day, growing thin upon it for a while, but
growing tall also, and losing his pretty boyish looks, of which Katie
and his mother had been so proud.
So the summer work was done, and the summer pleasure, which was
greater than they knew, as the pleasure which comes with busy
uneventful days generally is. But it was a happy summer, and must have
been so even if the drawbacks had been more numerous and harder to
Katie had one pleasure which her brother could not share, but which
pleased her grandmother well: this was the friendship of Miss
Elizabeth. Ever since the night of her first visit with her brother and
the minister, Elizabeth had taken pains to renew her intimacy with Mrs
Fleming and Katie, to their mutual satisfaction. On stormy nights
during the winter, Elizabeth had sometimes sent for Katie to the
school, that she might be saved the long cold walk home, and Katie
liked to go. During the summer she could not be spared often, but she
went now and then, and their friendship grew apace.
On Katie's part it was more than friendship. It was like falling in
love. She did not say much about it, it was not her way. But she
thought of her friend's words and ways, and opinions, and seeing her
superiority to people in general, Miss Elizabeth became to her the
ideal of all womanly sweetness and excellence. Miss Elizabeth could not
but be touched and charmed by the affection which was thus rather
betrayed than expressed, and though she was sometimes amused by her
devotion, it greatly pleased her as well.
Yours must be such a happy life, Miss Elizabeth, said Katie one
night when she was visiting her friend, and they were sitting together
after Mrs Holt had gone to bed.
Elizabeth smiled and shook her head. Tell me what my life is like?
There was a pause, during which Katie considered.
You have a quiet life, and you are a comfort to your father, and
everybody loves you.
I am afraid there are some people who do not love me much. As to my
father, yes. I shall never be quite a useless person while he needs me.
But as to my life being a happy life
You have leisure, said Katie after a little, and you take
pleasure in so many thingsthings going on far away, and that happened
long ago. And you care for books, and you understand people. And you
believe in great principles of action, and you are not afraid. I cannot
say just what I mean.
But, Katie, all that is as true of you as it is of me, except
perhaps the leisure.
I am only a child almost, said Katie, with a little rising colour.
But when I am a woman I should like my life to be just like yours.
There was silence for a minute or two, then Katie went on:
I once heard Mr Burnet tell my grandfather that you did more by the
real interest you take in everything that is good and right, and by
your bright, unselfish ways, to keep up a healthy, happy state of
things among the young people of the place, than even the minister's
preaching. That was in old Mr Hollister's time, however, added the
truth-loving Katie reflectively.
Miss Elizabeth smiled. Mr Burnet is partial in his judgment.
But you are happy, Miss Elizabeth, said Katie wistfully.
Am I? I ought to be, I suppose; yes, I think so. I am content, and
that is better than happiness, they say.
This was something that required consideration.
`Godliness with contentment is great gain;' that is what Paul said.
Perhaps he thought it better than happiness too.
And Solomon says, `A contented mind is a continual feast,' said
Miss Elizabeth, smiling at her face of grave consideration.
I wonder what is the difference? said Katie. Folk are contented
without knowing it, I suppose. I have been contented all my life, and
if I had my wish about some things I would be happy.
If we had no debt, said Katie, decidedly. And if we had a little
more money, so that we would not need to consider about things so much,
and so that Davie could go to school all the year, and perhaps to the
college, and the rest too, Nannie and Sandy and all. And we should have
the dairy built over the burn, with a store of ice in it, and marble
shelves, like one grandmother saw at Braemar. Well, not marble perhaps.
That might be foolish, but we should have everything to make the work
light, and there would be time for other things. My grandfather should
plant trees, and graft them and prime them and work away at his
leisure, not troubling himself as to how it was all to come out at the
end of the year. And my mother should have a low carriage, just like
yours, Miss Elizabeth, and old Kelso should have nothing to do but draw
it for her pleasure. And grannieoh, grannie should wear a soft grey
gown every day of the year, and neck-kerchiefs of the finest lawn, as
she used to doand such sheets and table-cloths as she should have,
and she should never need to wet her fingersonly I am not sure that
she would be any happier for that, said Katie, pulling herself up
And what would you have for yourself? said Miss Elizabeth, wishing
to hear more.
I should have leisure, said Katie decidedly, as though she had
thought it over and made up her mind. I should have time for fine
sewing, and to learn thingsnot just making lessons of them, and
hurrying over them as they do at the school. I should have time to
think about them, and I should have books and music, and a room like
yours. Oh, dear me! What is the use of thinking about it, said Katie,
with a sigh.
And after all, contentment with things as they are, would answer
every purpose, said Miss Elizabeth.
Yes, but there are some things with which it is impossible to be
contentedwithout wishing to change them, I meandebt, and sickness,
and having too much to do. And there are some things in people's lives
that cannot be changed.
And with such things we must just try and content ourselves, said
Yes. And contentment depends more on ourselves, and less on other
folk, than happiness does. And so we are safer with just contentment,
said Katie, and in a little she added, Submission to God's will, that
would be contentment.
That would be happiness, said Elizabeth, and there was nothing
more said for a long time.
They were sitting in Miss Elizabeth's sitting-room, a perfect room
to Katie Fleming's mind, and the only light came from the red embers of
the wood-fire, now falling low. Miss Elizabeth was leaning back among
the cushions of her father's great arm-chair, and Katie sat on a low
chair opposite, with a book on her lap. Miss Elizabeth was seeing
things in the fire, Katie knew, by the look on her face, wondering
what she saw. She looked like a picture, sitting there in her pretty
dress, with her cheek upon her hand. What a soft white hand it was,
with its one bright ring sparkling in the firelight! Katie looked at
it, and then at her own. Hers was not very large, but it was red and
roughened, bearing traces of her daily work. She held it up and looked
at it in the firelight, not at all knowing why she did it, but with the
strangest feeling of discomfort. It was not the difference of the hands
that troubled her. Somehow she seemed to be looking, not at the two
hands, but at the two lives, hers and Miss Elizabeth's.
For Miss Elizabeth's was a pleasant life, though she had looked
grave when she said so. She had so many things to enjoyher music, her
reading, her flowers, with only pleasant household duties, and above
all she had leisure. Katie thought of her as she had seen her often,
sitting in the church, or in the garden among her flowers, or under the
trees in the village street, looking so fair and sweet, so different
from any one else, so very different from Katie herself, and a
momentary overpowering discontent seized herdiscontent with herself,
her home, her manner of life, with the constant daily work which seemed
to come to nothing but just a bare living. It was the same thing over
and over again, housework and dairy-work, and waking and sleeping, with
nothing to show for it all at the year's end. What was the good of it
Katie let her book fall on the floor as she put her hands together
with a sudden impatient movement, and the sound startled her out of her
What would grannie say, I wonder, if she knew? muttered she, as
she stooped to pick up the book. She felt her face grow hot, and then
she laughed at her foolishness, and looked up to meet Miss Elizabeth's
What is it, Katie? What are you thinking about?
I was thinking aboutgrannie, said Katie in confusion.
Well, what about her?
Oh! I don't know. I cannot tell you. Only I shall never be so good
a woman as grannie, I'm afraid.
But then you have a long time before you. I don't think you need to
be discouraged yet, said Miss Elizabeth, laughing.
But Katie was very much ashamed of herself, and did not forgive
herself till she had talked the matter over, first with her
grandmother, and then with Davie. Davie only laughed at her with a
little good-natured contempt. He did not share his sister's enthusiasm
about Miss Elizabeth, and did not quite approve of the great friendship
between them. But as to making a sin of a moment's envy of her friend,
and a moment's discontent with her own lifeDavie laughed at the idea.
But her grandmother did not laugh.
My dear lassie, it is the way with us all. We are ready to turn our
best helps into snares to catch our feet. Miss Elizabeth's kindness may
do you much good in many ways, but if it should make you envious, and
should fill you with discontent, that would be sad indeed. And I doubt
you'll need to watch yourself, and maybe punish yourself, by hiding
away from her for a while.
CHAPTER ELEVEN. GERSHOM
The possibility and desirableness of advancing the interests of the
town of Gershom by the still further utilising of the waters of the
Beaver River for manufacturing purposes, had long been a matter
earnestly discussed among the people. At various towns within the last
five years measures had been proposed, tending toward the
accomplishment of this object, but hitherto it had been with little
As a rule, the various industries which now gave prosperity and
importance to the place had grown out of small beginnings. On the spot
where now stood Cartwright's Carriage Factory, well known through all
the countryside, old Joshua Cartwright had faithfully and laboriously
spent his days in making tubs and stools, sugar-troughs, and axe-helves
for the early settlers. The shed where, in those days, Simon Horton had
shod their horses and oxen, had grown in the course of years into the
Gershom axe-factory, which bade fair to make a rich man of his
But the slow and sure process which had served their fathers in
their advances toward wealth were not likely to content the men of
Gershom now, and there had been much talk among them about the forming
of a company to be called The Gershom Manufacturing Company, the
object of which was to be the establishment of new industries in the
Meetings were held, and speeches were made. The enterprise and
public spirit of certain of our fellow-townsmen were highly lauded,
and a wonderful future of prosperity for the town of Gershom and the
surrounding country was foretold as the result of the step about to be
taken. The Beaver River was made the subject of long and laudatory
discussion. Its motive power was calculated and valued, and the long
running to waste of its waters deplored. A committee was appointed for
the arranging of preliminaries, and that was as far as the matter
progressed at that time.
Other attempts were made later in the same direction. Some of them
passed beyond preliminary arrangements, and more than once the more
sanguine among the promoters of these schemes made sure of a successful
issue, but all had failed when the practical part of the business had
The cause of this did not always clearly appear. Once at least it
was attributed by some of the disappointed towns-people to the
obstinacy and avarice of Jacob Holt. The old woollen-mill built by
Gershom Holt in the early days of the settlement had served a good
purpose in the country for a good many years. But it was time now, it
was thought, for the work to be carried on in Gershom on a larger
scale. The old building itself was of little value, and the
old-fashioned machinery it contained was of less, but the site was
considered to be the best in Gershom for a manufactory of the kind.
Jacob Holt professed to be quite ready to dispose of it to the company
on reasonable terms; but when it came to the point, no agreement could
be made as to what were reasonable terms, and so the old mill plodded
on in the old way for a while, and within a year a new mill was built
in the neighbouring township of Fosbrooke. There was much indignation
expressed with regard to this matter in Gershom, but Jacob troubled
himself little about it. The old mill had gone the way of most old
mills since then; it had caught fire one wintry night and burned to the
ground, and the Gershom paper-mill had been built on the site.
Jacob had not come down in his ideas as to the value he set upon it,
but he had been content to take shares in the building instead of the
cash down which he had demanded before. In this way, and in other
ways, he came by and by to be the largest shareholder in the concern,
and when later, partly through the inefficiency of the person who had
charge of the business, and partly for other reasons, paper-making
began to look like a losing concern, the value of the shares went down,
and in course of time most of them fell into his hands. So it was
Holt's Paper-mill now, and there was no other manufacturing company
as yet in existence in Gershom. The chances were, it was said, that had
the first company succeeded with the woollen-mill it might have fallen
into the same hands, and as far as the general property of the town was
concerned, it might as well have been Jacob Holt's hands as others'.
But those who had lost, or who fancied they had lost, by his part in
these two transactions, were watchful and suspicious of his movements
when once more the wise men of Gershom began to see visions of what
might be done by the combined powers of the Beaver River, the
enterprise of the people, and the use of a moderate amount of capital
to advance the prosperity of their town.
Their ideas had still advanced with the times. Their plans were not
limited to a woollen-mill now. Machine shops of all sorts, a match
factory, furniture-shops, even a cotton factory was spoken of. Indeed,
there were no limits to the manufacturing possibilities of the place,
as far as talk went. Money was needed, and a good deal of it, and the
people of Gershom wisely contemplated the propriety of making use of
other people's money in building up the town, and for this purpose it
was desirable that the company should embrace the rich men of other
towns as well. Some of those rich men came in an informal way and
looked about, and admired the Beaver River, and talked and thought a
good deal about the scheme. The banks of the river above and below the
town were examined with a view to deciding on the building of a new
dam, and Mr Fleming's refusal to sell any part of his land had been in
answer to Jacob Holt's offer on behalf of the prospective company.
All this had taken place about the time when Mr Maxwell came to
Gershom, and when he had been there a year no advance had been made in
the way of actual work.
The greater part of the land on the north side of the river, as far
up as Ythan Brae, had always belonged to the Holts. During the past
year the land of Mark Varney, on the south side, had also fallen into
their hands. For poor Mark's wife died, and any hope that his friends
were beginning to have that he might redeem his character was quite
lost for the time. He sold his place, already heavily burdened with
debt, to Jacob Holt; his mother became Mr Maxwell's housekeeper in the
new parsonage, taking her little grandchild with her, and poor Mark
went awaynone for a while knew whither.
But the chief thing that concerned the people of Gershom was that
Jacob Holt had got his land, and the conclusion at once arrived at was
that at the point on the river where his pasture and wood-lot met, the
new dam was to be made, and that on his land, and on the land opposite,
the new factories, and the new town that must grow out of them, were to
What Jacob ought to do now would be to go right on and make a good
beginning on his own account. If there is ever going to be anything
done in Gershom, that is the spot for it, and the company would have to
come to his terms at last.
So said Gershom folks, wondering that the rich man of the place
should kind o' hang back when such a chance of money-making seemed to
lie before him. But Jacob knew several things as yet only surmised by
Gershom folks in general. It was by no means certain after all that the
Gershom Manufacturing Company would come into existence immediately.
And even if it should, the chances were that among its members would be
more than one man who would be little likely to yield himself to the
dictation or even to the direction of Jacob Holt, as his townsmen had
fallen into the way of doing where the outlay of capital was concerned.
It would be easy to make a beginning, but Jacob looked further than a
Gershom was not the only place whose inhabitants cherished the
ambition to become a manufacturing community and there were other
rivers besides the Beaver running to waste, which might be made
available as a manufacturing power. A company, with sufficient amount
of stock subscribed and paid for, might agree to put Fosbrooke, or
Fairfax, or Crowsville down as the name, and carry their money, and
their influence, and the chance of acquiring wealth to either of their
thriving towns; and a beginning in Gershom would amount to very little
in such a case.
And then the river bank on the Varney place was not, in Mr Holt's
opinion, the best place for the new mills and the new village. It was
not to be compared to the point just below which Bear's Creek, or, as
the Flemings called it, Ythan Brae, flowed into the Beaver, and this
also belonged to Mr Fleming. Jacob would have liked to make his
beginning there. He knew, for he had taken advice on the matter, that
at the Varney place no dam of sufficient capacity to answer all the
purposes which were contemplated by the company could be made, without
at certain seasons of the year so flooding the land above it as to
render it useless for any purpose. He might have taken the risk of
probable lawsuits, and gone on with the work, if it had depended on him
alone to decide the matter. But it did not. Or he would have bought it,
but that it belonged to David Fleming, who would listen to no proposal
from his enemy.
It was not that Mr Fleming was not satisfied with the terms offered.
He would listen to no terms. Indeed he refused to discuss the matter
with his neighbours, not only with those who might be suspected of
wishing for one reason or another to convince him of the folly of not
taking advantage of a good offer for his land, but with those who
sympathised with him in his dislike to Jacob Holt, who went further
than he did even, and called the rich man not only avaricious, but
worse. He would listen to nothing about it, but rose and turned his
back on the bold man who ventured to approach the subject in his
In all this Jacob Holt felt himself to be hardly used. He declared
to himself that he wished to do the right thing by Mr Fleming. He was
willing to give him the full value of every foot of his land, and above
its value. That the advancement of the interests of the town and the
welfare of the whole community should be interfered with, because of an
obstinate old man's whim, seemed to him intolerable; he did not want
the land. Let Mr Fleming treat with the companythere was no company
as yet, howeverand let him pay him his just debt, that was all he
asked of him.
He did not speak often about this to any onenot a man in Gershom
but had more to say about it than he. But he thought about it
continually. If it had been any other man in Gershom who had so
withstood him, he would long ago have taken such measures as would have
brought him to his senses. He could do so lawfully, by and by. The law
had sustained him in dealing with much harder cases than Mr Fleming's,
though it was not altogether pleasant to remember some of them. But
there could be no question but that it would be for the interest of the
Flemings, old and young, were his terms agreed to. No one would have a
right to say a word, though he were to carry his point against the old
man, and claim what was his due.
All this he said to himself many times, but still he could not do
it, at least he could not bring himself to do it at once. His father,
though he acknowledged the unreasonableness of his friend, would yet be
grieved at the taking of extreme measures against him; his sister would
be indignant, and he was a little afraid of Elizabeth. The church
union, which he with all the rest of Gershom had earnestly desired,
would be endangered; for he knew by many tokens that some of the North
Gore men were hanging back because of him. Public opinion would not
sustain him in any steps taken against so old a man, and one who had
seen so much trouble since he came among them, and he did not wish to
take severe measures, he told himself many times. It is just possible
that the remembrance of the lad who had been his companion and friend,
who had been cut off in the flower of his youth, to the never-dying
sorrow of the old man who opposed him, had something to do with his
hesitation in this matter. But even to himself this was never
acknowledged; all he could do was to wait and see whether some sudden
turn of events might not serve to bring about his purpose better than
severity could do.
In the meantime, after many thoughts about it, when the few scanty
fields on the Varney place were harvested, he did make a beginning. He
brought old Joe Middlemas to the place, who walked about with all the
appliances for surveying it, and for laying it out in building lots. He
had some trees cut down, and some hillocks levelled, and kept several
men for a time employed in bringing loads of stone to the river's bank,
in a way that looked very much like making a beginning. But the heavy
autumn rains put an end to all this for a while, and as yet there
existed no manufacturing company in Gershom, nor was there any
immediate prospect that the hopes of the people with regard to it were
likely to be realised.
They're fine at speaking, grannie, said young Davie, who had been
keeping his eyes and his ears open to all that was going on in Gershom.
But grandfather and you may be at peace about the dam and the mischief
it might do for a while anyway. It may come in my day, but it winna
come in yours, unless that should happen which is not very likely to
happen, and all the rich men in the country should put their names and
their money at the disposal of King Jacob. He may measure his land, and
gather his sticks and his stones together, but that is all it will come
to, this while at any rate. Though why grandfather should be so
unwilling to part with a few acres of poor land to Jacob Holt is more
than I can understand.
It is a wonder to me, Davie lad, where you got such a conceit of
yourself. One would think you were in folks' secrets, and spoke with
authority. It will do here at home with Katie and your mother and me,
but I am thinking other folk would laugh to hear you.
But Mrs Fleming was relieved for all that, for Davie was, in her
opinion, a lad of sense and discretion for his years, though she did
not think it necessary to tell him so, and she took comfort in the
thought that her husband would have a while's peace, as little more
could be done till the spring opened again.
CHAPTER TWELVE. THE TWO COUSINS.
A great disappointment was preparing for Elizabeth. Her brother
completed his studies, and brought home his diploma, whether he
deserved it or not, and spent a pleasant six weeks at home, resting
from his labours, as he said, and then he announced his intention of
going to reside in the city of Montreal, to pursue there the study of
the law. It had always been taken for granted that when his studies
came to an end, he was to go into the business of the Holts, and settle
down in Gershom.
And what good should I do in the business? said he to his sister;
should I stand behind the counter in the store and sell yards of
calico and pounds of tea? Or should I take the tannery in hand, or the
paper-mill? Or should I go into the new company that Jacob seems so
bent on getting up? Now, Lizzie, do be reasonable and tell me what good
I should do in the business.
I know that few young men in the country could hope for such a
start in life. It is not necessary that you should sell tea or calico
either, except by the hands of those you may employthough if you were
to do it, it would be no discredit to youand no more than your father
did before you many a day.
Discredit! No, that is not the thing. But I can do something better
for myself than that; I am going to try at least.
If self is your first considerationBut, Clifton, whether you
think it or not, you could do much in the business, and you are needed
in it. Jacob has more on his hands than he can do well, and even if he
had not, it is your affair that the business should prosper as well as
his. All we have is in it, and what do any of us know as to how our
affairs stand? We are altogether in Jacob's hands.
Come, now, Lizzie! Let Cousin Betsey and the rest of them run down
Jacob. It is rather hard on him that his own sister should join them. I
believe he is an honest manas honesty among business men goes.
I am not speaking of honesty or dishonesty. But Jacob is not such a
man of business as our father was.
No, but with his chances, he cannot but be carrying on a prosperous
business. Oh, I'll risk Jacob.
But, Clifton, all that we have is in the business, and we ought to
Why, Lizzie! who ever thought before that you were mercenary and
suspicious, and I don't know what else besides? What has Jacob been
doing to `aggravate' you lately, that you should be down on him?
Clifton, you must not dismiss the matter so lightly. I am thinking
far more of you than of myself. You can never do better for yourself
anywhere, and why should you change your plans now, after all these
Have I ever said that I was to stay in Gershom? I don't say that I
won't come back for good, some time. Gershom does seem to be the place
for a halt but as to going into the business right away, no, I thank
I think you are wrong.
Nonsense! What do you suppose, now, Jacob would do if I were to
bring him to book, and claim a right to know all about his business
transactions, and his plans and prospects? It would be a mere farce my
making believe to go into the business.
Possibly you might make it so, but it need not be so. But I cannot
think it wise or right for you to go to Montreal. It is like setting
aside the plans of your whole life to leave Gershom.
No; you are mistaken. Though I have said nothing about it, I have
not this many a day meant to settle down here. I may ultimately `hang
out my shingle' here, or I may be appointed judge of the district by
and by, and then I'll come back and be a bigger man than Jacob, even.
But Elizabeth could not laugh at his nonsense. She was afraid for
her brother. She had longed for his return home, saying to herself that
home influence and a busy life would be better for him than the
careless life he had been living as a student; that with responsibility
laid upon him, he would forget his follies, and be all that she longed
to see him.
Think of our father's disappointment. How can you ever tell him
that you are going away?
While he has you he will be all right, and he will always be
looking forward to the time when I shall come home for good, for I
fully intend to settle here by and by. I confess it is hard for you to
be kept stationary here, Lizzie. It looks mean in me to go away and
leave you, doesn't it?
If it were going to be for your goodBut, Clifton I don't believe
I ought to give myself the best chance, ought I not? I must go to
Montreal. But, Lizzie, why don't you say at once that I am not to be
trusted in the city with its temptations? That is what you are thinking
Elizabeth did not deny it. She was thinking of it sadly enough.
That is one reason against it, said she.
Well, get rid of that fear. I am all right. I should be worse off
loafing round here with little to do, and I shall be home often. Now,
Lizzie, don't spoil the last days by fretting about what is not to be
helped. I'm bound to go.
And go he did. Elizabeth could only submit in silence. His father
missed him less than she had feared he might. He was home several times
during the autumn and winter, and always spoke of the time when he was
coming for good, and his father was content with that.
Whether her brother Jacob was really disappointed or not at
Clifton's decision, Elizabeth could not tell. Jacob had never counted
much on any help he would be likely to get from his brother, Mrs Jacob
said. She was quite inclined to make a grievance of his going away, as
she would probably have made a grievance of his staying, if he had
stayed. But Jacob said little about it, and everything went on as
Elizabeth had the prospect of a quieter winter than even the last
had been. Her father was less able to enjoy the company of his old
friends than he had been. He grew weary very soon now, and liked better
the quiet of the house when only Elizabeth was with him. His active
habits and his interest in the business had long survived any real
responsibility as to the affairs of the farm, but even these were
failing him now. When the weather was bright and fine he usually once a
day moved slowly down the village street, where every eye and voice
greeted him respectfully, and every hand was ready to guide his feeble
steps. He paid a daily visit to the store, or the tannery, or the
paper-mill, as he had done for so many years, but it was from habit
merely. He often came wearily home to slumber through the rest of the
He was querulous sometimes and exacting as to his daughter's care,
and she rarely left him for a long time. She looked forward to no
social duties in the way of merry-making for the young folks of the
place this year. Even Clifton's coming home now and then did not
enliven the house in this respect as it had done in former winters.
Many a quiet day and long, silent evening did she pass before the new
year came in, and she would have had more of them had it not been for
her Cousin Betsey.
Once or twice, when her father had suffered from some slight turn of
illness, Elizabeth had sent for her cousin, whose reputation as a nurse
had been long established, and Betsey had come at first, at some
inconvenience to herself, from a sense of duty. Afterward she came
because she knew she was welcome, and because she liked to come, and
all the work at home, most of which fell to her willing hands, was so
planned and arranged that she might at a moment's notice leave her
mother and her sister Cynthia to their own resources and the willing
and effective help of Ben. After a time, few weeks passed that she did
not look in upon them.
He may drop away most any time, mother, said she, and she hasn't
seen trouble enough yet to be good for much to help him or herself
either, at a time like that.
And you are so good in sickness. And your uncle Gershom's been a
good friend to us always, said her mother. I'm glad you should be
with him when you can, and with her too. And trouble may do Lizzie
Well, it may be. Some folks don't seem to need so much trouble as
others, at least they don't get so much, but Cousin Lizzie isn't going
to be let alone in that respect, I don't think. Well, I guess I'll go
along over, and I'll get back before night if nothing happens, and if I
am not, as it's considerable drifted between here and the corner, Ben
might come down after supper and see what is going on.
Trouble! repeated Miss Betsey, as she gathered up the reins and
laid the whip lightly on the back of old Samson.
Trouble is just as folks take it. I have had my own share in my
day, or I thought so, she added, with a sharp little laugh. I just
wonder what I should have done now if the Lord had let me have my own
way about some things.
Old Samson moved steadily along, past Joel Bean's, and the bridge,
and up the hill that brought Gershom in sight, and then she said aloud:
But then things might have been different, and then old Samson felt
the whip laid on with a little more decision this time, and this,
probably with the anticipation of the measure of oats awaiting him in
the squire's stable, quickened his movements; and in a few minutes Miss
Betsey was shaking the snow from her cloak in Sally Griffith's back
kitchen. It had been snowing heavily for a while, and the movement of
the sleigh had been unheard by Elizabeth, or she would have taken the
shaking of the snowy garments into her own hands.
Folks as usual? said Miss Betsey, as she came into the front
kitchen, where Sally reigned supreme, conscious of her value as help,
and careful of her dignity as a citizen of Gershom, as good as
Well, pretty much so, I guess. Kind of down these days, in
They had been youthful companions, these two, and had plenty to say
to each other. So Betsey warmed her feet at the oven door, and they
discussed several questions before she went into the sitting-room. She
went in softly, so as not to disturb the old man, should he have fallen
asleep in his chair, as he sometimes did after dinner; so she had a
chance to see Elizabeth's face before she knew that she was not alone.
It was grave and paler than Betsey had ever seen it, and there was a
weary, far-away look in her eyes that were following the grey clouds
just beginning to drift over the clearing sky. They brightened,
however, as they turned at the sound of the opening door.
Cousin Betsey! I'm so glad to see you. You have come to stay?
Friendly as they had become of late, Elizabeth did not often venture
to kiss her cousin. She did this time, however, repeating:
You have come to stay?
Well, yes. I came fixed so as to stay a spell if I was wanted. Joel
Bean's folks heard somewhere that Uncle Gershom hadn't been seen out in
the street these two days, and I thought I'd just come over and see how
he was keeping along.
That was good of you. He was not out yesterday, and to-day has been
so snowy. But he is no worse; a little better and brighter, if
anything. But all the same, I want you to stay.
Well, I don't care if I do a spell. You must be hard up for company
to be so glad to see me.
Miss Betsey sat down by the fire, and took her knitting from her
pocket. There were tears in Elizabeth's eyes which Betsey pretended not
to see, and which Elizabeth did her best to keep back. She went into
her father's room for a minute, and looked cheerful enough as she took
her seat on the other side of the hearth opposite her cousin, with her
work in her hand. But when she began to answer Betsey's questions about
her fatherhis appetite, his strength, his nights, his daysthe tears
came again, and this time they fell over her cheeks. For she found
herself sorrowfully telling that though he had comfortable days, and
days when he seemed just as he used to do, it was evident that his
strength was failing more rapidly than it had ever done during any
winter before. She let her work fall on her lap, and leaning her elbow
on the table, covered her face with her hands.
He is an old man, said Betsey, gravely.
Yes. But he is all I have got, said Elizabeth, speaking with
He is your father, but he is not all you've got. Don't say that.
There is no one else that cares very much about me. If I were sick
or in trouble, I think I would have a better right to come to you,
Cousin Betsey, than to any one else in the world.
Well, and why not? You ought to have had a sister, said Betsey.
Elizabeth laughed a little hysterically.
I haveJacob's wife, said she.
Humph, said Betsey. I'll tell you what's the matter with you;
you're nervous, and no wonder.
Oh, Cousin Betsey! don't be hard on me. I'll be all right in a
minute. I know I'm foolish, and it is a shame now that you are here not
to be better company.
You are nervous, repeated Betsey. And what you want is to feel
the fresh air blowing about you. See here, old Samson is right here in
the shed. You go and put on your things and have a drive. It will do
you all the good in the world.
And will you come with me?
No, I guess not. Then you'd want to hurry right home again, because
of your father. I'll stay with him, and then you won't worry. If he's
pretty well, I want to have a talk with him anyway, and now will be as
good a time as any. So don't you hurry back.
Well, I won't. But it doesn't seem worth while to go alone.
Yes, it does. And see here! You go over as far as Mrs Fleming's.
She'll do you good, and maybe she'll let Katie come home with you to
stay a day or two. What you want is to have somebody to look at besides
Sally Griffith, and I don't know anybody any better for that than
little Katie Fleming. Her grandmother will let her come, seeing you are
It was not a blight day even yet, though the snow had ceased to
fall, and the clouds were clearing away. Elizabeth looked out of the
If any one should come in, said she.
Well, I guess I could say all that need be saidunless it was
anybody very particular, and then I could keep them till you came home
Well, I'll go; and thank you, cousin, said Elizabeth, laughing.
She did not drive old Samson. He was safely stabled by this time.
She drove her own horse and sleigh with its pretty robes, and
acknowledged herself better the very first breath of wind that fanned
her cheek. The snow had fallen so heavily as to make it not easy to
drive rapidly, and so she enjoyed all the more the winter sights and
sounds that were about her. The whole earth was dazzlingly white. The
evergreen trees in the graveyard looked like pyramids of snow. The
trunks of the great maples under which she passed as she drew near Mr
Fleming's house, showed black and rugged, and so did the leafless
boughs that met each other overhead.
But even the great boughs were bending under their load of
new-fallen snow, and every now and then, as the wind stirred them, it
fell in great, soft masses silently to the ground. How still and
restful it was. The sleigh-bells tinkled softly, and there was a faint
rushing of the wind through the trees, and the sharp stroke of an axe
was heard now and then in the distance. That was all. Elizabeth put
away all troubled thoughts to enjoy it, and there were no traces of
tears, no signs of nerves visible, when she drove up to Mrs Fleming's
door. She had been there a good many times since the night she had made
the visit with Clifton and the minister, and she never came but that
she was heartily welcomed by them all.
Especially welcome to-day, when we never expected to see any one
after such a fall of snow. Come awa' ben, Miss Elizabeth, and when
Davie comes down with his load of wood, he'll put in the horse, and
you'll bide to your tea, and go home by light of the new moon.
But Elizabeth could not stay long. Betsey, who was with her father,
would be anxious to be home early, and she must not leave her father
alone, though she would like to stay.
Well, you know best, and we winna spoil the time you're here by
teasing you about staying longer. So sit you down here by the fire and
warm your hands, though you look anything but chilled and cold. Your
cheeks are like twin roses.
Elizabeth thought of Betsey's dismissal of her and laughed.
My drive has done me good.
She stayed a good while and enjoyed every minute of it. It was a
great rest and pleasure to listen to Mrs Fleming's cheerful talk, with
Katie's quiet mother putting in a word, and now and then Katie herself.
Neither Katie nor Davie were at the school this winter. The studies
that Davie liked best he would have had to go on with alone, even if he
had gone, and he liked as well to get a little help from the master now
and then and stay at home. But he had not much time for study. For he
had taken just a wonderful turn for work, his grandmother said, and
much was told of the land he was clearing and the cord-wood he was
piling for the market. Katie brought in a wonderful bee-hive he had
made, to show Miss Elizabeth, and told her how much honey they had had,
and how much more they were to have next year, because of Davie's
skill. Davie had made an ice-house too, for the summer buttera rather
primitive one it seemed to be as Katie described iton a plan of
Davie's own, and it had to be proved yet, but it gave great
satisfaction in the meantime. And the frame of the new dairy was lying
ready beside the burn to be put up as soon as the snow melted, and the
water was to be made to run round the milk-pans in the warm nights, and
Katie, under the direction of her grandmother, was to make the best
butter in the country. All this might not seem of much interest to any
one but themselves, but listening to them, and watching their happy,
eager faces, Elizabeth, who had more than the common power of enjoying
other people's happiness, felt herself to be refreshed and encouraged
as she listened, especially to what was said about Davie. The troubles
of the Flemings would soon be over should Davie prove to be a prop on
which, in their old age, they might lean.
He is wonderfully taken up about the work, and the best way of
doing it just now, and I only hope it may last, said Mrs Fleming, and
then Katie said, Oh, grannie! so deprecatingly that they all laughed
When Mr Fleming came in, and had heard all about the squire, and how
Cousin Betsey was staying with him while Elizabeth made her visit and
got a breath of fresh air, she took courage to present her petition
that Katie might be allowed to go home with her and stay a day or two.
It needed some courage to urge it, for she knew that her grandfather
was never quite at peace when Katie was not at home. It was Cousin
Betsey, Mrs Fleming, that bade me ask you for Katie for a little while.
She said her coming would do me good, and Katie no harm; and she said
you would be sure to let her come since I was so lonesome at home.
Katie looked with wistful eyes at her grandmother, and she looked at
the old man.
We might spare her a while to Miss Elizabeth, who is kept so close
at home with her father. And you must take your seam with you, Katie,
my lassie, added the old lady, as no dissenting frown from the
grandfather followed her first words. And maybe Miss Elizabeth has a
new stitch, or some other new thing to teach you. These things are easy
carried about with a person, and they ay have a chance to come in use
sometime. Oh, ay, you can take a while with a book, too, now and then
when Miss Elizabeth is occupied with her father. Only be reasonable,
and don't forget all else, as is awhiles the way with you. And you can
put on your bonny blue frock, but be sure and take good care o' it,
and many more last words the happy Katie heard, and then they went
CHAPTER THIRTEEN. TWO FRIENDS.
A day with Miss Elizabeth was one of Katie's chief pleasures, and it
was scarcely less a pleasure to Miss Elizabeth to have her with her; so
the faces of both were bright and smiling as they drove away from the
It's no' often that you see two like these two, said Mrs Fleming,
as they all stood looking after them for a minute. And it's only good
that they are like to do one another. May the Lord have them both in
His keeping. There is nothing else that can keep them safe and happy;
but that is enough, and I'm not afraid.
They drove slowly down the slope, and waited at the gate for a word
with Davie, who was coming from the wood with his great brown oxen,
with the last load for the night. He did not look more than half
pleased to see his sister at Miss Elizabeth's side.
You are not to grudge her to me, Davie, for a little while, said
Oh, she can please herself, said Davie, with a shrug. When will
you be home again, Katie?
Oh, in a day or two. I cannot just tell; but soon.
They had not time to linger, and the horse did not care to stand, so
with a hurried good-bye they were away and moved on rapidly for a
I don't think Davie likes me very well, said Miss Elizabeth.
Oh, it's not you he doesn't like, said Katie eagerly.
It is Jacob, I suppose?
It was not Jacob that Katie meant, but she said nothing.
Well, never mind; we are going to think and speak only of pleasant
things for the next three days, and that was a bad beginning.
Though the snow was deep it was light, and the horse, with the
prospect of home before him, was willing to go, and strong as well, so
they flew along, down the hill beneath the maples, past the graveyard
and the church, into the long street of the town; and then, though it
was growing late, Miss Elizabeth turned to the left over the bridge
instead of going up the hill toward home. They came into the road on
the other side of the bridge that brought most people to the town, and
the snow was already well beaten down, and they went on in perfect
enjoyment of the easiest of all movements.
It was neither sunlight nor moonlight, or rather it was both, for
the clouds had all cleared away, and a red glow lingered in the west,
and high above hung the moon, a silver crescent, and in the sky beyond
a bright star here and there; all the rest was white, with streaks of
black where the fences were and the wayside trees, and far in the
distance a long stretch of forest hid the line where the white of the
earth touched the blue of the sky.
In the light so faint, and yet so clear, that shone around them, all
things had an unfamiliar looka look of mystery, and it seemed, even
to the sensible Katie, as though almost any strange adventure might
happen to them to-night.
I could almost fancy that we were going away together into some
strange country, into the country of the `wraiths' maybe, that grannie
whiles tells the bairns about. Don't all things seem to have a strange
look to-night, Miss Elizabeth?
Miss Elizabeth started. She had fallen into thought, and Katie could
see when she turned her face that her thoughts had not been happy.
What were you saying, Katie? Going away together? Oh, how I wish we
were, away beyond the hills yonder, to leave all our troubles behind
That was to be considered. Katie was not so ready to assent to her
friend's words as usual.
But we should be leaving our comforts behind us too, all the people
who love us, and all those whom we love.
Ah, yes, I know; and all our work as well. And it would be no good,
for we should carry our troubles with us. It was a foolish thing to
say, Katie, dear. It must be time to turn back when such foolish words
come to one's lips.
Besides they had come to a place where turning was easy, and it
might be some time before they could get another chance, so deep was
the snow on either side. So they turned round toward home, and Katie
thought it more wonderful still, for the red glow in the sky was before
them now, and the new moon, and more stars shone as the glow faded.
But it would be fine to go away with you, Miss Elizabeth, to some
far country, to see strange sightsif we could be spared, I mean, and
with the thought of coming back again.
Wouldn't it be fine! said Miss Elizabeth, rousing herself. Some
day we'll goyou and I together, Katie. We'll cross the sea, and
wander through the countries that we read about in books, and among the
great cities that have stood for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Wouldn't you like to see Scotland, Katie, and the heather hills that
grannie tells us about; and the great castles that they used to hold
against all comers in the old times, and the parks, and the deer, and
the gardens full of wonderful flowers, and the lakes and the
mountainsonly we can see lakes and mountains at home.
And the moors and glens where they worshipped in the dark days.
And so they went on in turn, telling what they would like to
seethey were going slowly nowtill they came to the bridge again.
I like to think about it, but it could never be, said Katie
And why not? It might very easily be, I think.
But it could never be for me, untilthe saddest things had
happened. I could never leave my grandfather and my grandmother, and
all the rest; only the rest might live till I came back again; but
Yes, Katie, and it is as true for me as for you. Our work is here,
and our happiness too; and, after all, we have fallen into sad thoughts
again. But we are nearly home now.
There was no light in the minister's study to-night, said Katie,
as they went slowly up the hill. Nor in the dining-room either. He
must be away from home.
Elizabeth had noticed the darkened window, but she did not say so.
Indeed she said nothing. She was thinking: Perhaps he went in to see
my father, knowing I was away.
And so he had, for when they went into the hall they heard his
voice, indeed several voices in the sitting-room. But they went first
up-stairs to take off their wraps in Miss Elizabeth's room, and came
down just in time to find the tea-table ready, and the company waiting
for them. There was coffee on the table too, for Mr Burnet was there,
and Sally knew his tastes.
There! You feel better, don't you? said Miss Betsey, who was the
first to notice their entrance. You look better, anyway.
Like two roses, said Mr Burnet.
Elizabeth laughed and thanked him, and then shook hands with Mr
I hope you have had a good time, daughter. I have, said the
Yes. I see you have had company.
Yes, Betsey is always good company. Mr Maxwell came when he saw you
pass down the street. He didn't know Betsey was here, and he thought I
might be lonesome.
It was very kind, said Elizabeth.
All the rest sat down, but Mr Maxwell continued standing. The squire
would not listen to him, when he said that doubtless his tea would be
waiting for him at home, but urged him almost petulantly to remain.
Lizzie, why don't you ask the minister to stay?
For Elizabeth was listening to something that Mr Burnet was saying
to Katie, but she turned round when her father spoke to her.
We haven't Mr Burnet and Cousin Betsey here very often, Mr Maxwell.
You might stay to-night for their sakes.
So he stayed, and the squire had a good time still, and so had all
the rest, it seemed, for they were in no haste to leave the table till
Sally came to take the things away. When she came in again it was to
say that Ben had been waiting for his Aunt Betsey for the biggest part
of an hour, and it was getting on for nine o'clock. Even then Miss
Betsey seemed in no hurry to go, but when she went, Mr Burnet went
also, and Elizabeth went out of the room with her cousin, and did not
come back for what seemed to Katie a long time. Her father was tired
and she went out with him afterward. Mr Maxwell talked with Katie a
while, about her mother and her grandparents, about Davie and his bees,
and the work that had occupied him all the winter, and then he sat for
a long time looking into the fire in silence. When Miss Elizabeth came
in again he rose to go away.
It is not very late, said she.
Noand it is very pleasant here, said the minister, and he sat
Miss Elizabeth took her work, and they were all silent for a while,
and in the silence a sudden sense of embarrassment and discomfort
seized Katie Fleming. She had a book in her hand, but she was not sure
whether she ought to read or not. She would have liked to go with it to
the side-table, where Miss Elizabeth had carried the lamp before she
sat down, or even out into the kitchen to see Sally for a while.
Are you deep in your story already? Well, take your book to the
lamp, if you like, for a little while, said Miss Elizabeth, just as if
she had known her thoughts.
But Katie would not have liked her to know her thoughts. She was
glad to go to the lamp, but she did not care for her story. She was
thinking of something else, of a single word she had heard one day,
which put together significantly the names of the minister and her
friend. She had been indignant at first. They were just friends, she
had said to herself. Afterward she could not help giving them a good
many of her thoughts, and she was not sure about it. As she sat with
the book on the table before her, shading her eyes with her hands, she
felt a little guilty and greatly interested, for the story before her
was better than any story in a book.
Perhaps she ought to go away, she thought again. It was not right to
listen, and she could not help listening. But indeed there was nothing
said which all the world might not hear. Mrs Varney had burned her
hand. Old Mrs Lawrence was sick, and Miss Elizabeth promised to go and
see her. Then Mr Maxwell told her about a meeting he had attended in
Fairfax, and about another that he meant to attend, and so on.
It might be grannie and he, said Katie, with a little impatient
wonder. Only grannie would say it all a great deal better, and not
just `yes' and `no,' and `I hope so indeed,' like Miss Elizabeth. What
has come to her, I wonder? Mrs Stacy's rheumatism, and the mothers'
meeting at North Gore. That is not how people talk, surelywhen
Suddenly looking up she met Miss Elizabeth's eye, and reddened, and
hung her head. Then she rose as Miss Elizabeth beckoned to her, and
came to the fireside again, still holding her book in her hand.
After that Miss Elizabeth took a letter which she had that day
received from her brother Clifton, and read bits of it aloud. It was a
very amusing letter, she seemed to think, and so did the minister, but
Katie did not understand all the allusions in it, and missed the point.
And besides, Clifton Holt was not a favourite with her. She was a
little scornful of a lad who seemed to care so little for the
opportunities he had, and who did so little good work with them. He was
idle, she thought, and conceited, and she could not but wonder at Miss
Elizabeth's delight in him, and listened with some impatience to the
discussion of him and his affairs that followed the reading of the
To be sure he is her brother, and she must make the best of him,
By and by Mr Maxwell rose to go away, and Miss Elizabeth bade him
good-night in the sitting-room, and did not go with him to the hall, as
was her way usually with visitors who were going away. Then she said
she had to see Sally about something, and was so long away that Katie
had time to get fairly into her story, and so she read on after she
came in again, and it was a good while before she noticed that her
friend was gazing with a strange, fixed look into the embers, and that
her roses had paled sadly since Mr Burnet had praised them when they
first came in. But she smiled brightly enough when she turned and met
Katie's wistful look.
Well! How do you like it, Katie? But we must do something besides
reading to-morrow, dear, or grannie will not be pleased.
And then she went on to tell of some pretty fancy-work that they
were to learn together, and was so full of it, and of all they were to
do the next three days, that Katie forgot her grave looks for that
night. As the days went on, and she saw how feeble Mr Holt had become,
she did not wonder at her sadness, and it did not come into Katie's
mind that there could be any other cause for her sadness and her grave
looks than her father's illness gave.
Except, perhaps, her brother may not be doing so well as he ought.
And that is enough of itself to make her sad, said Katie. For what
should I do if it were our Davie?
Katie had a pleasant visit in many ways. The leisure was delightful
to her. They had a drive every day. Sometimes Mr Holt went with them,
and then they had the large sleigh and a pair of horses, and sometimes
Katie laughed, and made Miss Elizabeth laugh too, pretending that she
was a rich lady riding in her own sleigh, and taking her friends for a
drive. But she liked it best when Miss Elizabeth drove her own horse
Lion, and they went alone together. It seemed to Katie that the talks
they had at such times, in the keen, clear winter air, were different
from the talks they sometimes fell into sitting by the fireside, when
all the rest had gone to bed and they had the home to themselves. Under
the bright sunshine they seemed to get away from Gershom and its news
and its troubles and vexations, into a wider and brighter world, and
some of the things that Miss Elizabeth said to her then, Katie told
herself she would never forget while she lived.
There were visitors now and then, and at such times, if they were
strangers to her, Katie took her book into a corner, or into Sally's
bright kitchen, and read it there; but if the visitors were her friends
as well, she stayed and enjoyed their visits also. Just one thing
happened that it was not pleasant to think about afterward. Indeed it
had been very unpleasant at the time, and Katie had some trouble in
deciding whether or not she should say anything about it to grannie and
her mother when she went home.
This was a visit made one day to Elizabeth by Mrs Jacob Holt. Katie
did not go away this time, because she was afraid it might not please
her friend, but she did not join in the conversation. She sat beyond
the flower-stand in the bay-window, reading and knitting; but she was
not so interested in her book as not to hear something of what was
said. Mrs Jacob told some village news, and then spoke about Clifton,
and about a new dress that was to be finished for her to-day, and much
more of the same kind.
It was not Mrs Jacob's fault that the conversation took the turn it
did. It was the squire, who questioned her about Jacob, and about
various matters connected with their business; and then he said
something about Silas Bean, who had got hurt in his employment, and the
difficulty was to make him understand what Silas Bean should be doing
at the Varney place with two yoke of oxen, and what Jacob had to do
with it. Elizabeth reminded him that Jacob had bought the Varney place,
and that Mark Varney had gone away, and tried to end the discussion of
the matter. But Mrs Jacob went still on to remind him of the Gershom
Manufacturing Company, that would no doubt be formed by and by, and how
Jacob hated to have time lost, and was taking advantage of the snow to
have stones and timber drawn that would be needed in the building of
the new dam; and that was the way that Silas Bean came to be there with
And the company will take the timber off his hands, I suppose,
said she. Only it's likely Jacob will be pretty much the company
himself at least he will have most to say in it. He most generally
But it seems to me that Jacob should not have undertaken so much
without consulting me, said the squire, with some excitement. It
seems to me he's going ahead pretty fast, isn't he?
Oh! he's told you all about it, I expect. You've forgotten. Your
memory isn't what it once was, you know.
But the squire was inclined to resent the idea that he could have
forgotten a matter of such importance, and though Mrs Jacob assured him
that his son had gone away for the day to Fosbrooke, it was all that
his daughter could do to prevent him from going in search of him. She
almost regretted not permitting him to go, however, for he would not
leave the subject, and insisted on Mrs Jacob telling him all about the
matter. She, with less sense and more malice than Elizabeth could have
supposed possible, went on to tell of what was to be done, and went
over the old grievance as to Mr Fleming's obstinacy in refusing to come
to terms for a piece of land which was the best for the mill-site, and
good for very little else, just to spite Jacob.
We won't talk about that, said the squire, seeming to forget the
first cause of grievance. Jacob knows my mind about that matter. And
it is doubtful whether the company they talk about will ever amount to
much at least for a time.
Well, it isn't for me to say. But I must go. They'll think at home
that I am lost, and as she rose and pushed away her chair, she added
in a voice that the squire could not hear, It is not for me to say
much about it. But Jacob generally does get things fixed pretty much to
his mind, and I guess he sees his way clear to get this as well. Of
course it will be just as much for Mr Fleming's benefit as for the rest
of the town, and his land will be paid for, he needn't fear that.
At the first mention of her grandfather's name, Katie had risen, and
she was standing with burning cheeks and shining eyes when Mrs Jacob
turned toward her to say good-bye.
I hope you'll come and make me a visit before you go home. If
Lizzie can spare you I shall be pleased to have you come any daysay
to-morrow. Will you come?
No, said Katie, and then she sat down and put her book to her face
lest Mrs Jacob should see the angry tears which she feared would not be
kept back. For once in her life Mrs Jacob looked uncomfortable and
disconcerted in Elizabeth's presence. Elizabeth uttered not one of the
many angry words that had almost risen to her lips, but opened the door
and closed it again with only the usual words of good-bye.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN. THE MINISTER'S
When Mr Maxwell left Squire Holt's house that first night of Katie's
visit to Miss Elizabeth, he did not return directly to the parsonage.
He stood a moment at the gate considering which direction it would be
wisest for him to take for the long walk which he felt he must have
before he slept. For the minister to be seen walking at that hour of
the night to no particular place, and for no particular purpose, would
give matter for discussion among some of those who specially interested
themselves in his comings and goings, and though the interest might be
flattering, the discussion was to be avoided.
So he hastened up the street in the direction of Jacob Holt's, and
turning into the field to the right, he took the path made as a short
cut by such of the North Gore boys as were this winter attending the
High-School. He would not be likely to meet any one there, nor on the
North Gore road, to which it led, certainly not in the field-path. The
snow had fallen heavily during the first part of the day, and now the
wind had risen, and when he came higher up the hill, it was with
difficulty that he got through the drifts that were growing deeper with
every blast. He soon lost the path, indeed every trace of it had long
disappeared, and if it had not been, that the broken line of the woods
which skirted the field on the other side of the hill was visible even
in the darkness, he might have lost himself altogether in his
As it was he made a long journey of the fields that lay between the
two highways, and when he reached the North Gore road he found he had
had enough of it; and a little breathless, but glowing with the
pleasant warmth which the exercise had excited, and a good deal more
cheerful in spirits than when he left Squire Holt's gate, he turned
toward home. His buffet with the wind and the great drifts had done him
good. He would doubtless have a sounder sleep and a brighter waking
because of it.
But something had to be done before he slept, and for this, too, it
is possible that the buffet with the snow and the wind was a
That something had happened to disturb the friendly relations in
which he had from the first stood with regard to Miss Elizabeth he had
long felt, and he had never felt it more painfully than to-night. He
could scarcely make clear to himself the nature of the change that had
come to their intercourse, and he did not know the reason of itor he
had hitherto told himself that he did not. There was nothing in his
life, nor in his plans and prospects, that had not been there before
the friendliness of Miss Holt had been given him. There was nothing to
which he looked forward in the future which could interfere to make her
friendship less precious to himnothing which could be a sufficient
reason for its withdrawal on her partnothing which could compensate
him for its loss.
And yet it was slipping from him, or rather that which had made it
pleasant to him as no other friendship had ever been, and useful as no
other friendship in Gershom could ever be, was missed by him, to his
great loss and discomfort. Miss Holt was kind and frank and friendly
still. He would have used those very wordsindeed he had used themin
describing their relations to each other soon after their first
acquaintance, but there was a difference which, though it did not touch
the kindness and the friendliness, made itself felt still.
Was the change in Miss Holt or in himself? or was it caused by
circumstances which neither of them could help? This was the point
which Mr Maxwell proposed to settle that night before he slept. He must
see this clearly, he said to himself, and then he might also see a way
to prevent the pain and loss which estrangement from his friend must
It would be useless to follow him through all the troubled thoughts
and anxious questionings of the night. Out of them all came first a
doubt, and then a certainty, painful and not unmixed with shame, that
the friendship he feared to lose was more to him than was the love that
put it in jeopardy. Nay, that he had for many a month been mistaking
love for friendship, and friendship for love.
There were more troubled thoughts and anxious questionings, and they
ended in the conviction that he had made a great mistake for which
there seemed no remedy. He must suffer, but he knew that with God's
help he would overcome. For a time he must submit to the loss of that
society which had been so much to him since he came to Gershom. By and
by, when he should be wiser and stronger, and when other changes should
have come into his life, as they must come, his friendship with Miss
Holt might be renewed and strengthened, and through all his thoughts
and questionings it never came into his mind that the suffering might
not be his alone.
About three months before this time, when Mr Maxwell had been a
resident of Gershom for a year and a half, circumstances occurred which
made it advisable for him to pay a visit to the place which had been
his home during the last years of his mother's life, and during the
years which followed her death while his course of study continued. It
was a visit which he anticipated with lively pleasure, and much
enjoyed. His home while there was, of course, in the house of his
friend and his mother's friend, Miss Martha Langden; and visiting her
aunt at the same time, as had frequently happened in former years when
he had been this lady's guest, was her niece, Miss Essie. She was a
very pretty girl, and a good girl as well, eight or ten years younger
than Mr Maxwell, but not too young to be his wife, his mother and her
aunt had decided long ago when Miss Essie was a child. These loving and
rather romantic friends had set their hearts on a union in every way to
their view so suitable, and they had been at less pains than was quite
prudent to keep their hopes and their plans to themselves. Indeed, as
presented by a fond mother to a studious and utterly inexperienced lad,
such as young Maxwell was at twenty, the prospect of a wife so pretty
and winning and well dowered could not but be agreeable enough, and
though no formal engagement was entered into between them, they had
corresponded frequently, and to an engagement it was taken for granted
by all parties this correspondence was to lead when the right time
The idea that the time of this visit might be the right time had not
presented itself so clearly to Mr Maxwell as it had to his friend Miss
Martha. Still it was natural enough and pleasant enough for him to fall
into the old relations with the pretty and good Miss Essie. Not quite
the old relations, however, for Miss Essie was a child no longer, but
eighteen years of age, and a graduate of one of the most popular
ladies' seminaries of the State, and quite inclined to stand on her
dignity and claim due consideration for her years and acquirements. She
had been one of the model young ladies of the seminary, it seemed, and
in various pretty ways, and with words sufficiently modest, she sought
to make her admiring friends aware of the fact, and dwelt with untiring
interest on the trials and triumphs of the time. But she by no means
considered her education completed, she gravely assured Mr Maxwell. She
had a plan of study drawn out by the distinguished principal of the
seminary, which, after she should be quite rested from the work of the
last years, she intended steadily to pursue, to the further development
of her powers, and the acquisition of knowledge which should fit her
for usefulness in any sphere which she might be called to occupy. She
had much to say on these themes, her present self-improvement and her
future work and influence in the world, and Mr Maxwell sometimes smiled
in secret as he listened, but he liked to listen all the same. Her
views were not very clear to herself, nor very practical, but she was
very earnest in expressing them; and being perfectly sincere in her
beliefs and honest in her intentions, she had also perfect confidence
in the success of what she was pleased to call her life's work, and
never doubted that she should accomplish through her labours find see
with her eyes, all the good which she planned.
It was her earnestness and evident sincerity that charmed Mr
Maxwell, and though all this looked to him sometimes like a child's
mimic assumption of responsibilities and duties, with a child's power
of imagining what is desired, and ignoring all else, yet he was more
impatient of his own doubts than of her illusions.
But dare he speak or think of them as illusions? He recalled his own
early youththe plans he had formed, the hopes he had cherished of all
he was to dare and do for his Master's sake, the battles he was to win,
the souls he was to conquer, and he grew grave and self-reproachful at
the remembrance. He was young yet as to his work and his office, and
young in years, but in the presence of all his earnestness, this desire
to do good and true work in the world, he could not but acknowledge
that his own early zeal had cooled somewhat, that something had gone
from him in life, and in his discontent with himself his admiration for
the little enthusiast grew apace. And though he could not but smile now
and then, still as she made her modest little allusions to her private
diary and to certain resolutions written therein, and though he could
not always respond with sufficient heartiness to satisfy himself when
she showed him little letters on very thin paper that had come to her
from distant lands, and confessed to anxious thoughts as to the
claims which the foreign field and the dark places of the earth
might have upon her, yet listening to her, and meeting Aunt Martha's
admiring glances, and hearing her more extended accounts of her
self-devotion and self-denial, he could not but consider himself
fortunate in his relations to them both, and desire almost as earnestly
as Aunt Martha did that the young girl should consent to share his
life's work and make it hers. To this end all their intercourse tended,
and the course of love, in their case, promised to be as smooth as
could be desired for a time.
But an interruption occurred as the end of Mr Maxwell's visit drew
near, which, however, seemed hardly to be an interruption as they took
it, or rather, it should be said, as the young lady whom it was
specially designed to influence seemed to take it.
Up to this time Miss Martha had been permitted to do very much as
she chose with her pretty niece. Miss Essie's mother, a dear friend of
Miss Martha's, had died when her daughter was an infant, and the
child's home, even after the second marriage of her father, had been
almost as often with her aunt as with him. Her aunt had chosen her
teachers and her schools, and had introduced her to a social circle far
more refined and intellectual than she could have found in the large
manufacturing town where her father lived. She had formed the girl's
mind, and possessed her affections, and had come to look upon her as
her own child rather than as the child of her hitherto somewhat
indifferent father, who had another family growing up around him. It
certainly never came into Miss Martha's mind that the future she had
been planning for her darling might be regarded by the father with
unfavourable eyes. So that his decided refusal to permit his daughter
to enter into an engagement of marriage with the young man was a
surprise as well as a pain to her.
The father was not unreasonable in his objections. Mr Maxwell might
be all that his partial old friend declared him to be, worthy in all
respects of his daughter. But that a childhe called her a child
should ignorantly make a blind promise that must affect her whole
future life, he would not allow. A girl just out of school, who had
seen nothing of the world, who could not possibly know her own mind on
any matter of importance, must not be suffered to do herself this
wrong. He smiled a little when Aunt Martha, hoping to move him, dwelt
earnestly on her dear Essie's views of life, her plans of usefulness,
and her desire above all things to do some good in the world. It was
all right, he said, just what he should expect from a girl brought up
by a good woman like Aunt Martha. But all the same she was only a
child, and she could not know whether she cared enough for Mr Maxwell
to be happy in doing her life's work in his company.
Even when Miss Martha in her eagerness betrayed how long the thought
of her niece's engagement had been familiar to her, he only laughed,
though he saw that he had a good right to be angry, and he stood firm
to his first determination that for two years at least there should be
no engagement. Essie must have more experience of life; she must visit
her mother's relations, and see more of the world. He intended she
should spend the next winter with her aunt in New York, and he would
not have her hampered by any engagement, out of which, if she should
find that she had mistaken her own heart, trouble might spring. He was
firm, and poor Miss Martha was heart-broken at the turn which affairs
Not so her niece. She had no words with her father with regard to
the matter, but she gave her aunt to understand that she considered a
mere formal engagement a matter of little consequence where true and
loving hearts were concerned. She must not disobey her father, but time
would show that he had been mistaken and not she.
And after all, auntie, a year, or even two, does not make so much
difference, and I rather like the idea of spending the winter with Aunt
Esther in New York.
Aunt Martha sighed. She did not like the idea at all. She would miss
her darling, and she had no great confidence in her Aunt Esther, and
she dreaded some of the influences to which the child must be exposed,
for she was little more than a child, Aunt Martha acknowledged, a wise
and good child indeed, but one never could know what might come in the
course of two years to change her views of life. And altogether, the
dear old lady was not so hopeful as she felt she ought to be, knowing
as she so well did, that our days and our ways are all ordered by a
higher wisdom than our own.
Miss Essie was not downhearted; on the contrary, her sweetness and
resignation in the presence of her aunt's sorrow and anxiety were
beautiful to see. She acknowledged with a readiness that pleased her
father greatly, that he was quite right in thinking her too young and
inexperienced to take the decision of so serious a matter into her own
hands; and when she added that the years which might be supposed to
bring wisdom as well as experience would find her unchanged as to the
purpose of her life, he only smiled and nodded his head a good many
times, and let it pass.
Mr Maxwell may be said to have been resigned and hopeful also.
Indeed he had not expected to take the young lady to Gershom for a good
while to come. He acknowledged that Mr Langden's view of the case was
just and reasonable, and looking at it from a Gershom point of view, he
acknowledged to himself, though he did not think it necessary to say
anything of it to any one else, that a few more years and a wider
experience would be of advantage to a minister's wife in relation to
even the comparatively primitive community where his lot was cast. So
he went away cheerfully enough, content to wait.
It must be confessed that Miss Martha was the greatest sufferer of
the three at this time. She too was obliged to allow that her niece was
very young, and she did not doubt that the years would add to her many
gifts and graces. Nor did she doubt her constancy, or she believed she
did not, but she knew that a change had come to the means and
circumstances of her brother of late. He had always been a prosperous
man in a safe and quiet way, but of late he had become a rich man, and
though no decided change had as yet been made in the manner of life of
his family, she knew by various signs and tokens that Miss Essie at
least was to have the benefit of those advantages which wealth can
give. And though she told herself that she did not doubt that she would
be brought safely through the temptations to which wealth might expose
her, she sometimes thought of her picture with a troubled heart.
A short absence was just what Mr Maxwell had needed to prove to
himself how content he was to look upon Gershom as his home, and upon
his church and congregation and upon the people of the place generally,
as his friends. His visit had been so arranged as to include the New
England Thanksgiving Day, which falls in the end of November, and the
winter, which set in early this year, was beginning when he returned.
Winter is the time of leisure in Canada among farmers, and in country
places generally, for the long winter evenings give opportunity for
doing many things never undertaken at other seasons. So Gershom folks
were busy with special arrangements of one sort and another for
pleasure and profit, and Mr Maxwell made himself busy with the rest.
Winter was the time for special courses of lectures and sermons, for
social gatherings among the people of the congregation, and for a good
deal more of regular pastoral visiting than was ever undertaken by him
at other seasons, and it was with satisfaction, even with thankfulness,
that he found himself looking forward without dread to his work.
A quiet and busy winter lay before him. Of course there must be the
usual anxieties and vexations, he thought; and he also thought that he
would have the kindly counsel and sympathy of Miss Elizabeth. But after
his first visit to the squire's house a difference made itself apparent
in their intercourse. It was not that Miss Holt was less friendly or
less ready with counsel or encouragement when it was needed. But there
was something wanting, and what this might be he set himself to
consider on that night after his walk in the snowy fields.
He did not discover it, but he discovered something else which
startled himsomething which could neither be helped nor
hinderedsomething which could only be borne silently and patiently.
Through time and a loyal devotion to the work which his Master had
given him to do, the pain should wear away.
In one of the long letters which Mr Maxwell received about this time
from Miss Langden, there came, to his surprise and momentary
discomfiture, a little note to Miss Holt. He knew that Miss Essie was
very fond of writing little notes to her friends and also to the
friends of her friends, and when he came to think about it, the only
wonder was that she had not written to Miss Holt before.
For, of course, he had spoken to her of Miss Elizabeth, as he had
spoken of others who were his special friends among his parishioners.
Miss Martha had been set right as to her age and her place in the world
of Gershom, and he had answered many questions with regard to her. He
had answered questions about other people tooabout John McNider, and
the Flemings and Miss Betsey, and there might come a little letter to
one of them some day. He laughed when he thought of this, but he did
not laugh when he thought of giving the note to Miss Elizabeth.
He need not have been troubled. It was a very innocent little
letter, which Miss Elizabeth received without any expression of
surprise and read in his presence.
It is not the first letter I have received from Miss Essie Langden.
I heard from her while you were still away.
Miss Elizabeth's colour changed a little as she said this.
She did not tell me, said Mr Maxwell.
I was glad she wrote to me, said Miss Elizabeth.
There had not been much in the first letter, either. Miss Essie had
thanked Miss Holt for her goodness to her friend Will Maxwell, as she
called him. Then there was something about knowing and loving each
other at some future time, and something more about a common work and a
common purpose in life, and something about the tie that binds, and
that was all.
It might mean much or little according as it was read, and to
Elizabeth it had meant much. It did not find her altogether untroubled.
She had missed Mr Maxwell more than she had supposed possible, and had
been obliged to confess to herself that the winter in Gershom would be
a very different matter if he were not to be there. But then it would
be a different matter to all the rest of the people, as well as to her,
and so she had quieted herself till Miss Essie's letter came. It
startled her, but the pain it gave her made her glad of its coming. She
was frank with herself, or she meant to be so. She had been receiving
and enjoying more from Mr Maxwell's friendship than could possibly be
hers as time went on and circumstances changed, and then she might miss
it more than would be reasonable or pleasant. So she was very glad that
the letter had been written and awaited Mr Maxwell's return, expecting
to hear more, and preparing herself to be sympathetic and
But she had heard no more, and she could not but be surprised. For
though he might not for various reasons be ready to make known his
engagement to all Gershom, she thought he owed it to their friendship
to acknowledge it to her.
I have been longing to congratulate you, Mr Maxwellthough you
have told me nothing, said she as she folded the note and laid it
I have nothing to tell that would call for congratulationin the
way you mean, said the minister. But I would like to talk a little to
you, Miss Elizabeth, if you will be so kind as to listen to me.
It was growing dark, and there was only the firelight in the room,
and taking her knitting in her hands, Miss Elizabeth sat down to
listen. He made rather a long story of it, telling of the friendship
between his mother and Miss Essie's auntof their hopes and plans for
them, of their correspondence, and lastly of Mr Langden's interference
as to a positive engagement because of his daughter's youth. Of course
there was no chance for congratulation, he said.
But Miss Elizabeth had hopes to express and good wishes, and one
good thing came out of their talk: the coldness or distance, or
whatever it might be called, that had come between the friends for a
while, seemed to pass away, and they fell into their old ways again.
Miss Elizabeth counselled and encouraged, and discussed church
affairs and Gershom affairs very much as she had always done, and no
doubt the minister was as much the better through it as he had been
from the first. Miss Essie sent letters to Mr Maxwell, many and long,
and now and then a note to Miss Elizabeth, but that young lady's name
was not very often mentioned between them.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN. JACOB'S TROUBLES.
This was by no means so happy a winter in Gershom church and society
as last winter had been. The various circumstances that had been
thought causes for congratulation last year were to be rejoiced over
still. Mr Maxwell was holding his own among them. His sermons were
admired as much as ever. The various meetings were well attended; there
was no perceptible falling off in the subscription-list, and many of
the North Gore people were as regular in their attendance, and to all
appearance as loyal to church interests as could be desired. Still it
was not so pleasant or so prosperous a winter as the last had been.
There was not much said about it, even by the privileged grumblers
among them, for a while, and the people who made the best of things
generally saw only what was to be expected. In the best laid plans
there will be some points of doubtful excellence. In all new
arrangements there will be grating and friction which cannot even with
the best intentions be at first overcome. The only way was to have
patience and be ready with the oil of gentleness and the feather of
forbearance, so as to give a touch here or there as it was needed, and
everything would be sure to move smoothly after a while.
No special cause was assigned for this state of things. No one
thought of connecting Jacob Holt's name with it, but as the winter wore
over a good many eyes were turned toward him, and a good many tongues
were busy discussing his affairs, and chiefly his affairs as they had
reference to Mr Fleming. No one whose opinion or judgment he cared
about blamed him openly. It would have required some courage to do so.
For Jacob was the rich man of the church, as he was of the town, and
had much in his power in a community where voluntary offerings were
depended upon as a means of covering all expenses. But the work
commenced on the Varney place made matter for discussion among people
who had not the motive for silence that existed among Jacob's personal
friends and brethren.
That he meant to bring Mr Fleming to his own terms could not be
doubted. The mortgage on the farm had only another year to run. The
land above the Blackpool would be taken possession of, or if this
should be hindered in any way, the land would be ruined by the building
of the new dam at the Varney place. What would Jacob Holt care for the
bringing of a lawsuit against him by a poor man like Mr Fleming after
the dam should be built and operations commenced?
True, it was the Gershom Manufacturing Company which was to decide
as to the site of the mills, and which would be called upon to pay all
damages. But how was that to help Mr Fleming? Within the memory of the
oldest inhabitant no enterprise commenced or carried on in Gershom but
had, at one point or mother in its course, felt the guiding or
restraining touch of a Holt, and so it was not easy for lookers-on in
general to put Jacob out of the question when the mind and will of the
future manufacturing company was under discussion.
It is not to be supposed that all this time Mr Maxwell had heard no
other version of this trouble than that which the squire and Miss
Elizabeth had given him. He had heard at least ten corresponding
generally to theirs as to facts, but differing in spirit and colouring
according to the view of the narrator. He had not as yet found it
necessary to commit himself to any expression of opinion with regard to
it. He listened gravely, and often with a troubled heart, doubting that
evil to the people he had learned to love might grow out of it. But he
listened always as though he were listening for the first time.
The matter could not be brought before him as pastor of the church,
as between Jacob Holt and Mr Fleming, for Mr Fleming was not a church
member. He still kept aloof, as did others of the elderly people of his
neighbourhood; and though Mr Maxwell had spoken with several of them as
to their duty in the circumstances, he had never spoken to Mr Fleming.
He was on the most friendly terms with the family, and had always been
kindly received and respectfully treated by the old man, but as to
personal matters Mr Fleming was as reserved with him as with the rest
of the world. It would have seemed to Mr Maxwell an impertinence on his
part to seek either directly or indirectly to force the confidence of a
man like him. And indeed he felt that he might have little to say to
the purpose should his confidence be spontaneously given. He thought it
possible that it might do Mr Fleming good to freely and fully tell his
troubles, real and imaginary, to a sympathising and judicious listener,
but he was far from thinking himself the right man to hear him.
He had a strong desire to help and comfort him. In church, when he
saw, as he now and then did, the stern old face softening and
brightening under some strong sweet word of his Lord, like the face of
a little child, he had an unspeakable longing to do him good. In his
study the remembrance of the look came often back to him, and almost
unconsciously the thought of him, and his wants, and possible
experiences, influenced his preparations for the Sabbath. His thoughts
of him were always gentle and compassionate. That there is likely to be
wrong on both sides, where anger, or coldness, or contempt comes
between those who acknowledge the Lord of love and peace as their
Master, Mr Maxwell well knew, but in thinking of the trouble between
these two men, neither the sympathy nor the blame was equally awarded.
When he prayed that both might be brought to a better mind through
God's grace given and His word spoken, he almost unconsciously assumed
that this grace was to make the word a light, a guide, a consoler to
one, and to the other a fire and a hammer to break the rock in pieces.
It would not have been difficult at this time to bring back the old
state of things when two distinct communities lived side by side in
Gershom; and in the main the two communities would have stood in
relation to each other very much as the North Gore folk and the
villagers had stood in the old times. Not altogether, however. The
North Gore folk, as a general thing, sided with Mr Fleming, or they
would have done so if he had not been dumb and deaf to them and to all
others on the subject of his troubles, but all the towns-people would
not have been on the other side.
For Jacob lacked some of the qualities that during the past years
had made his father so popular in the town. He was not the man his
father had been in any respect. Jacob bored with a small auger, Mr
Green, the carpenter, used to say, and the miscellaneous company who
were wont to assemble in his shop for the discussion of things in
general did not differ from him in opinion. Jacob was small about small
matters, they said, and lost friends and failed to make money, where
his father would have made both friends and money safe. As a business
man he had not of late proved himself worthy of the respect of his
fellow-townsmen as his father had always done.
Things had gone well with the Holts for a long time. They had had a
share in most of the well-established business of the town. In helping
others, as they had certainly done, to a living, they had helped
themselves to wealth, and on many farms in the vicinity, and on some of
the village homes, they had held claims. In many cases these claims had
been paid in time; in others the property had passed from the hands of
the original owners into the hands of the Holts, father and son. Very
rarely in old Mr Holt's active days had this happened in a way to
excite the feeling of the community against the rich man; but of late
it had been said that Jacob had done some hard things, and some of
those who discussed his affairs were indignant because of the people
who suffered, and some who did not like Jacob for reasons of their own
joined in the cry; but it was to David Fleming and his affairs that
attention was chiefly turned when any one wanted to say hard things of
Jacob was having a hard time altogether. Not because men were saying
hard things of him. Few of these hard sayings would be likely to reach
his ears. Some of the men who growled and frowned behind his back,
before his face were mild and deprecatory, and listened to his words
and smiled at his jokes, and carried themselves in his company very
much as they had done in years past.
As for Mr Fleming's affairs, it was coming to that with Jacob, that
he would have done to him all the evil that he was accused of planning,
if he could have had his way; but, nevertheless, not with a desire to
harass and annoy the man who had always shunned him, and who now defied
him, as people sometimes declared.
It cannot be said that he had not felt and secretly resented what he
called the folly of the unreasonable old man. But Mordecai might have
sat stiff and stern at the gate all day long for him and every day of
the year, if the refusal to rise with the rest and do him reverence had
been all the trouble between them. He knew that Mr Fleming had bitter
thoughts against him because of all that had befallen his son long ago,
and though he believed himself to have been no more guilty toward him
than others had been, he knew that they had all been guilty together,
and he had therefore submitted quietly, if not patiently, to the
constant rebuke which he felt, and which all Gershom felt, the old
man's stern silence to be. He could understand how the sight of him and
his prosperity should be an aggravation to the sorrow of this man, who
did not seem to be able to forget, and he had a sort of compassion for
him in his lossnot merely of the handsome, kindly lad who had gone
away so long ago, but of the man to which the much-loved Hugh might by
this time have grown. His desire to resent the father's manner to
himself had never been more than a momentary feeling and if he could
have conferred upon him some great benefit, and placed him under such
obligation to him as should be seen and acknowledged by all Gershom, he
would gladly have done so. Indeed he believed that in the terms agreed
on by his father, with regard to Mr Fleming's mortgage, such a benefit
had been conferred, and as he thought about it his anger grew.
For now Mr Fleming's unreasonable obstinacy in refusing to dispose
of his land seemed the only hindrance in the way of the new enterprise
which promised so well. If he had had the power to make him yield, he
would have exerted it to the uttermost, even if it would have ruined
the old man, instead of placing him and the children dependent on him
above the fear of want forever. But as yet he had no power, and before
the year should be out, when the law would allow him to take possession
of the land, the ruin which men were saying might fall on Mr Fleming,
might, nay must, fall on himself.
Ruin? Well, that was putting it strongly perhaps. But the delay
would cause loss and trouble terrible to anticipatenot to him only,
but to the whole town of Gershomloss which years of common prosperity
would hardly make up for. Jacob rarely spoke of David Fleming or his
relations to him, but when he did so, this was the way he put it. The
prosperity of Gershom and of the country round was hindered by his
refusal to sell his land. But in his heart he knew that the prosperity
of Gershom was a very secondary consideration with him at the moment.
For Jacob was in trouble, had been in trouble a long time, though he
was only just beginning to confess it to himself. To no one else would
he confess it, till nothing else could be done. He ought never to have
come to any such determination. He was not strong enough to bear the
weight of such trouble alone, and he was not wise enough to see the
right means of getting through it.
There were times when he owned this to himself. He had not nerve for
great ventures. It made him sick to think of one or two transactions,
out of which he might have come triumphant as others had done, only
that his courage had failed to carry him through to the end. He needed
more courage, and less conscientiousness, he liked to add in his
thoughts, and perhaps he was not altogether without warrant in doing
so. At any rate, something had come between him and success where other
men had succeeded.
Mr Green and his friends were right in their opinion that he was not
such a man as his father. Even in conducting his Gershom business,
which had almost come to be mere routine with him, they could see that
he sometimes made mistakes. His persistent way of standing out against,
or apart from, any movement that was to benefit the whole community,
unless it was made in his way or to his evident advantage, was very
unlike his father. It is true, that in his father's day there had been
fewer men in Gershom to share either responsibility or power. But the
squire had known when to yield, and by judicious yielding it frequently
happened that he was allowed to hold all the faster to his own plans.
Jacob had to yield his own will also now and then, but at such times
he could not help seeing that his fellow-townsmen looked upon him as
having been beaten, and that they rather enjoyed it. Even when he
succeeded in getting his own way in some matters, it often happened
that his success was more in appearance than in reality. Still, if he
had kept to his legitimate business, he might have done well in it, and
kept the confidence of the community as being a man who knew what he
was about, and certainly he would have had an easier mind.
It was a little before this time that the discovery of the existence
of mineral wealth, and the speculation in mining property which has
since made a curious chapter in the history of this part of Canada,
were beginning to occupy the attention of moneyed men, and Jacob had
made his venture with the rest. But he had not come out of the affairs
so well as some others had done. A history of their operations as to
buying and selling would not interest. The result, as far as Jacob Holt
was concerned, was disastrous enough, for in one way and another he had
involved himself to an extent that to people generally would have
appeared incredible. But people generally knew little about it. Those
who did know were those who had been engaged with him, who had either
made much money or lost much in the course of their transactions, and a
prudent silence seemed to be considered best. Of course it could not
but be known in the country to some extent who were the gainers and who
the losers, but no one guessed that the Holts would be In for any
considerable amount. But in the giving up of much valuable property at
a great loss, in order to preserve his credit, Jacob was made to feel
his position bitterly.
Squire Holt had bought and held for many years large tracts of wild
lands in various parts of the country, content to sink the
purchase-money and to pay the taxes for the present, in the certain
knowledge that as new settlers came in, and the country was opened up
by the making of roads and the building of bridges, the value of the
lands would be greatly increased. Many of these tracts Jacob was at
this time obliged to sacrifice. He rather ruefully congratulated
himself on the fact that the transfer of such property to other names
might be done quietly, so that his difficulties need not be fully known
or discussed in the community, but it was a terrible blow to him, and
the necessity of keeping the knowledge of it from his father made it
all the harder.
For the squire had given his voice against all operations in mining
matters. He was conscious that he was no longer equal to a contest with
younger men in a new field of action, and his advice to his son, whose
powers he had measured, had been to let well alone, and leave to
those who had less to lose, the chance of being winners in the new
game. It would have been well if his words had been heeded, Jacob owned
to himself; and partly for his own sake and partly for the sake of his
father, he said little about his losses. He was willing to have him and
others believe that railroad matters were not prospering as he would
have liked, which indeed was true. The Hawkshead and Dunn Valley
railroad, which he had been chiefly instrumental in starting, and the
stock of which he held largely, had promised well for a time, and would
doubtless pay well in the end; but in the meantime, the big men of
Fosbrooke, who had been allowed to say less than they wished to say as
to the location of the road, were agitating the subject of another road
to connect more directly with the Grand Trunk, and with other lines on
the south side of the border, and Hawkshead and Dunn Valley stock had
So Jacob candidly acknowledged that the banks were crowding a
little, whenever he found it necessary to ask for the use of a
fellow-townsman's name to his paper. He found it necessary a good many
times these days, and he was not very often refused. For there were few
of the old settlers whom he or his father had not obliged in the same
way at one time or the other, as he took occasion to tell the sons of
some of them now and then. And besides this, giving one's name was a
mere form, very convenient in the way of business, which in those days
was supposed to be done more rapidly than had been the way in old
That any of the signers, joint and several, ever imagined that
they might, in the course of untoward events, be called upon to make
good the promise to pay that stood over their names, is not likely. Nor
did Jacob himself ever contemplate so painful a possibility. Serious as
he saw his difficulties to be, he saw a way out of themor he would
have done so, he said to himself bitterly, if the will of an
unreasonable old man had not stood in his way.
In the establishment and success of the new Company, so long the
subject of discussion in the town, lay his best chance of freeing
himself from his present embarrassment. If he might have had his way as
to the site, so that the building might have been commenced, there
would have been no trouble about the Company. A few good names with his
own, and a moderate amount of capital, with the dam and the buildings
commenced, there would have been no trouble about the rest. He felt
that he would then have been master of the situation. Every cottage
needed for the Mill hands and their families must be built on his land;
and the chances were that by judicious management as to building, every
one of them might become his tenant; and he had already in view certain
arrangements by which most of the materials for building, and many of
the supplies for the work-people, should be made to pass through his
hands. By these means, and by the combination of other favourable
circumstances, which he foresaw, he did not doubt that he could not
only escape from present embarrassments, but recover much of what he
had been obliged to sacrifice.
It is possible that he was quite mistaken in all this, but he
believed it all, and no wonder that his indignation grew and
strengthened as he thought of Mr Fleming.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN. JACOB'S EXPERIENCE.
Jacob spoke wonderfully little of all this, considering how much it
was in his mind. He sometimes spoke to his wife, but even to her he
said nothing of the losses that had fallen upon him, or of the fears
that were weighing him down; but he did allow the bitterness which was
gathering in his heart toward old Mr Fleming to overflow, once in a
while, in her hearing. He knew it was not a wise thing to do, for she
could only listen and add a word or two, which did no good, but harm.
She dropped bitter words to other people too, nay, poured them forth to
Elizabeth, and to Clifton when he came home, and to Miss Betsey, even,
when a rare opportunity occurred.
It did not matter much as far as they were concerned, for they knew
the value of her words, and did not repeat them; but she uttered them
to other people as well, and they were repeated, as all village talk is
repeated, and commented upon, and exaggerated, and no one did more
toward the stirring up of strife, and the making of two parties in
Gershom, than did Mrs Jacob. She did her husband no good, but she did
him less harm than she might have done had she been a woman of a higher
and stronger nature. He did not have perfect confidence in her sense
and judgment, and was apt to hesitate rather than yield to her
suggestions even when he would have liked to do so. But her intense
interest and sympathy were very grateful to him, and all the more that
he neither asked nor expected sympathy from any one else.
He often longed to ask it; there were several men in Gershom with
whom he would have liked to discuss his grievances, but he hardly dared
to enter upon the subject, lest in confessing how great a matter a six
months' delay was to him, he should betray how serious his losses had
been. He did not intend to make his wife aware of his embarrassments,
but she could not fail to see that all his anxiety could not spring
from doubts as to the company or indignation toward Mr Fleming. She
could not bring herself to speak of his losses while he remained
silent, but she was all the more bitter in speaking of the old man's
And there are people who call him a sincere and exemplary
Christian! The hard, selfish, sour old man!
Well, said Jacob, after a pause of consideration, I guess he is a
Christianas Christians go. There are few Christians who live up to
their light in all respects, I'm afraid.
That's so; but then there is a difference between failings and
shortcomings, or even open yieldings to sudden temptations, and this
keeping up of anger and uncharitableness, as he has been doing, year in
and year out, since ever I can remember, almost.
We cannot judge him; he has had great troubles, and he is an old
man, said Jacob, rising. Any allusion to Mr Fleming's disapproval of
him fretted him more than it used to do, and once or twice lately he
had allowed himself to say more than he would have liked to reach the
ears of his neighbours, and so he rose to go.
He has never done me any hurt that I know of, and I don't suppose
he'll do enough to speak of now. It will come all round right I guess,
and then if I can do him a good turn I will.
If he had stayed a minute longer, his wife would have told him that
he at least was showing a Christian spirit in thus saying, but being
left alone, it came into her mind that no better revenge could be taken
upon the hard old man than that his enemy should heap kindness upon
Not that such a thought was in Jacob's heart, she said to herself,
but I guess he's got some new notion in his head. I never can tell
just what he means by what he says; it will be queer if he doesn't get
his own way first or last.
It was no great stretch of charity on Jacob's part to allow that the
people who believed in the Christianity of Mr Fleming might be right,
notwithstanding the old man's unreasonable antipathy to himself. He had
never doubted it, and his wife's words had startled him.
If he is not a Christian, I am afraid some of the rest of us had
better be looking to our little deeds. I guess he has as fair a chance
as the most of us.
He did not get rid of his thoughts when he sat down in his office
and began the work of the afternoon. The remembrance of some things
that he would gladly never have remembered came back to him even while
he was busy with his writing, and he said to himself that if the
controversy between him and Mr Fleming were to be decided according to
his character, it would go hard with him, and for a moment it seemed as
if the sins of his youth were to be remembered against him, and that
his punishment was coming upon him after all those years. But he pulled
himself up when he got thus far, saying he was growing foolish and as
nervous as a woman, and then he rose and took his hat and went down to
He met his father on the way, and the old man turned back with him
down the street again. There was always something the squire wanted to
say to his son about business, and Jacob owed more than he
acknowledgedand he acknowledged that he owed muchto the keen
insight of his father. He seemed to be able to see all sides of a
matter at once, and though Jacob liked to manage his affairs himself,
and believed that he did so, yet there had been occasions when a few
words from his father had modified his plans, and changed the character
of important transactions to his profit. At the first glimpse he got of
him to-day, a great longing came over him to tell him all his trouble
and get the help of his judgment and advice.
It was possibly only a passing feeling which he might have acted on
in any circumstances. But his father's first querulous words made it
evident that he could not act upon it to-day. It is doubtful whether
any of Jacob's friends or acquaintances, whether even his wife or his
sister, would have believed in the sudden, sharp pain that smote
through Jacob's heart at the moment. He himself half believed that it
was disappointment because he could not get the benefit of his father's
experience and counsel at this juncture of affairs, but it was more
than that. He really loved his father and honoured him. He had been
proud of his abilities and his success, and of the respect in which he
was held by the community, both as a man of business and as a man. He
had tried since his manhood to atone to him for the sins of his youth,
and had striven as far as he knew how to be a dutiful son, and on the
whole he had satisfied his father, though doubtless a son with a larger
heart and higher capabilities would have satisfied him better. But they
loved one another, and the squire respected his son in a way, and they
had been much more to each other than people generally, knowing the two
men, would have supposed possible.
When Jacob saw his father so feeble and broken that afternoon, and
heard his querulous lament over this thing and that which had gone
wrong in the mill, the thought came home to him that he was failing
fast, and that the end could not be very far away, and the pain that
smote him was real and sharp. A sense of loss such as had never touched
him, though he had long known that his days were numbered, made him
sick for the moment, and left a weight of despondency on him that he
could not shake off. He spoke soothingly to him, and walked with him
over the mill, telling him of changes that might be made, and asking
him questions till he grew cheerful again, and more like his usual
self; then taking possession of Silas Bean's sleigh that was hitched
at the mill-door, he proposed to drive him home, because the March sun
had melted the new-fallen snow, leaving the street both slippery and
wet, as he took care to explain, so that he need not suspect that he
was more careful than usual about him.
When Elizabeth, a little startled, came to meet them at the door, he
repeated all this to her in cheerful tones, but when his father went
in, the look of care came back to his face as he said that he had been
afraid to let him try the long walk up the hill.
I was just thinking of going down to meet him, said Elizabeth. It
was very kind of you to bring him home.
Kind! repeated Jacob, and then he pulled his hat over his eyes and
Elizabeth looked after him a moment in surprise. Even Elizabeth, who
thought more kindly of him than any one, except perhaps his father, did
not imagine how much the sight of the old man's increasing weakness had
Jacob went to a prayer-meeting that night, and, as his custom was,
sat on a back seat near the door. The rich man of the village was not a
power in the church when one looked beyond material thingsthe regular
subscription-list, the giving of money, the exercise of
hospitalityand except in regularity of attendance, he was certainly
not a power in the prayer-meeting. But regularity of attendance is
something, and on nights when winter storms, or bitter cold, or
domestic contingencies of any sort, kept the regular stand-bys at
home, he could and did fill the place of one or other of them by
taking a part. But he had no gift in that way, and knew it, and
kept himself in the background. His neighbours knew it too, and some of
them said sharp things, and some of them said slighting things of him
because of this. But the diversity of gifts was pretty generally
acknowledged, and people generally were not hard on him because of
To-night there was no call on him. The school-room was well filled,
as there was a prospect of the winter roads breaking up early, so that
people from a distance could not come for a while. Besides, it was not
the usual prayer-meeting, but the preparatory lecture before the
communion, and Mr Maxwell had the meeting altogether in his own hands;
and perhaps there were others there as well as Jacob, who took the good
of the thought that there was no special responsibility resting upon
them for the night.
If it had been the regular meeting, it is possible that Jacob might
have sat in his corner as usual, supposing himself to be attending to
the words of Deacon Scott and old Mr Wainwright, and all the rest of
them, and through habit and the associations of time and place, he
might have fallen into old trains of thought which did not always
exclude a glance over the business of the day, or a glance toward the
business of to-morrow; and so the unwonted stir of fears and feeling
which had moved him in the afternoon might have been set at rest, and
the cloud of care and pain dissolved for the time. But Mr Maxwell had
the word, and still moved and troubled, Jacob could not but listen with
It was not the minister's usual way to give one of his elaborate
written discourses on such an occasion as the present. There might be a
difference of opinion among the people now and then, as to whether he
gave them something better, or something not so good. But to-night the
greater part of them did not remember to make any comparisons of that
kind, but found themselves wondering whether anything had happened to
the minister, so earnest and solemn was he both in word and manner
The words he spoke from were these, If ye then be risen with
Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the
right hand of God. I could not give the discourse, even if it would be
wise to do so. It was such an one as his hearers could not but listen
As he went on to tell them some of the wondrous things implied in
being risen with Christ, the Head, crowned and glorious of the
Church, His body, of which they were the members, and to insist on
the seeking the things above as the result and sole evidence of this
life from the dead, none listened more intently than did Jacob. And
perhaps because of the unusual experience of the afternoon, he did not
listen, as he was rather apt to do on common occasions, for the rest of
the congregation, this for Deacon Scott, that for Mr Wainwright, the
other for some one else, for whom it seemed a suitable portion; he
listened for himself, with his father all the while in his mind. And
when it came to the result and evidence, he had not, for the moment,
a word to say for himself.
As for his fatherwell, his father had never made a public
profession of faith in Christ. He had kept aloof, as the village
people said, whatever had been his reasons. But it came into Jacob's
mindmoved and stirred out of its usual dull acceptance of things as
they seemedthat to eyes looking deeper than the surface, his father's
life might count for more as evidence than his own profession could
do. And as the minister put it, would even his father's life count for
much as evidence of his being risen with Christ? Whose life would?
Mine would amount to just nothing! was Jacob's decision as he left
the house, when the meeting was over, and having got thus far it might
naturally be supposed that he would not rest until he got farther. He
had got thus far many a time before, but the cares of this world and
the deceitfulness of riches had done their part in the past to put the
thought away, and they did the same again.
But not so readily this time. For Jacob was unsettled and anxious,
longing for the help and counsel which his father could never give
morelonging also, but not always, for the help which he knew his
younger brother was capable of giving him if he would; and he asked
himself often, whether it paid even for this world, to wear one's self
out for the making of money which one might lose, as he had done, and
which all must leave, as his father was about to do.
But the day's work had to be done, and the day's cares met, and
Jacob found himself after a little moving on in the old paths, not
altogether satisfied with himself or his life, but pretty well
convinced that though it might be well to take higher ground as to some
things, both in his business and his religion, now was not the time for
the change. And besides, he also believed in the diversity of gifts,
as they were pleased to term it in Gershom. If he could not lead a
meeting, or speak a word in season in private, as some of the brethren
could do, he tried to use his influence on the right side in all moral
and religious questions; and though he knew that there were several
among the brethren who, if they could have seen their way clear, would
perhaps have called in question the character of certain business
transactions with which his name had got mixed up, he set over against
the unpleasant fact the other fact, that no three of these men gave so
much to sustain the cause of religion in the place as he did.
It might be considered doubtful whether the church itself would have
been built, if he had not taken hold of it as he did. That had helped
the coming in of the North Gore people, and that with other things had
brought Mr Maxwell to them as their minister. Gershom would have been a
different place, as to the state of morality and religion, if it had
not been for the Holtsand when Jacob said the Holts in this
connection, he meant himself, as far as the last ten years were
Of course he did not say, even to himself, that any amount of giving
or doing could make a man safe, either for this world or the next; but
he did say that doing and giving to the good cause must count for
something as evidence of one's state. And though he was not satisfied
that he was all that he ought to be, he thought that, taking all things
into account, he was as good as most of his neighbours, and with this
for the present he contented himself.
A visit from his brother Clifton gave him about this time something
to think about, and something to do as well. Clifton had heard, though
their father had not, of Jacob's mining speculations, and he had heard
of several transactions of so serious a nature that he could not but be
curious, not to say anxious, as to results. It cannot be said that he
got either information or satisfaction from his inquiries. Jacob, never
communicative, was altogether silent to his brother as to the extent of
his loans, and as to the property he had been obliged to sacrifice to
satisfy pressing claims.
To tell the truth, Clifton was disposed to take matters easily. The
Holts must expect their turn of reverses, as well as other people, and
they were better able to meet them, he imagined, than most people. If
Elizabeth at this time had pressed upon him the propriety of his making
himself aware of the exact state of their affairs, he might have
inquired to better purpose. As it was, he returned to his more
congenial pursuits in Montreal, not quite satisfied, but with no very
grave misgivings as to the state of their affairs.
His visit was not without result, however. Though Jacob had only
given him the vaguest kind of talk as to mining matters, and had blamed
his unfortunate railroad ventures for such pressure as to money as
could not be concealed, he had much to say about the new mills, which
at some future time must be a source of wealth to the Holts, and to the
town. He did not succeed in making his brother believe all that he
promised from them should they be built and in running order within the
year, but he did succeed in getting more of his sympathy than ever he
had got before, as to his loss through the obstinacy of old Mr Fleming.
As Jacob put it, it did seem a pity that so much should be lost to the
Holts, and the town through him, when so much might be gained to Mr
Fleming and his family, by yielding the point at once. Of course it
must come to Jacob's having the land in the end, he acknowledged, and
he had never acknowledged so much before.
As it seems to be personal spite that keeps him to his
resolutionfor of course a shrewd man like him must see the advantage
that the building of the mills so near his land must beyou should get
some one else to treat with him.
But that had been tried. The Gershom Manufacturing Company had as
little prospect of success as a company as Jacob had had as an
individual, and Clifton could only suggest that everybody concerned
should wait patiently for another year for the chance of getting rich
by the mills, which was easy for him to say, but hard for Jacob to
hear. The hint which renewed his hope, and gave him another chance, was
thrown to him over his brother's shoulder when he rose to go away.
What about this Mr Langden, whose name I hear mentioned by Mr
Maxwell and others as a rich man? Why don't you suggest to him that he
might do a good thing for himself by putting some of his money into the
new mills? It would be a better investment than this mining business
which our neighbours on the other side of the line seem so eager about.
If he were to offer the money down to Mr Fleming, ten to one he would
not refuse to sell. You need not appear in the business.
Jacob shook his head.
You might try it, anyway. It would not be a bad speculation for
him. It is up to-day and down to-morrow with some of these men over
there, and he might so manage it, that anything he put into mills in
Canada might be made secure to him in case of a smash on the other
side. It might be done, I suspect. If I were you I would make a move in
And then with a smile and a nod for good-bye, he went away, never
suspecting that he left his brother in a very different state of mind
from that in which he had found him. Jacob was not, as a general thing,
quick at taking up new ideas or in acting upon them, but this ought not
to have been a new idea to him, he said almost angrily to himself after
his brother was gone. Why had he not thought of Mr Langden and his
Some correspondence had passed between them with regard to certain
mining operations in which Mr Langden had, or hoped to have, an
interest. At the time Jacob had been much occupied with similar
transactions, and had hoped, through Mr Langden's means, to advance
their mutual interests. But things had gone wrong with him beyond hope
of help, and later he had with a clear conscience advised him to have
nothing to do with any venture in mining stock within the area of which
he had any personal knowledge, and then the correspondence had ceased.
Now he greatly regretted that he had not thought of proposing the other
investment to him.
After much consideration of the subject, and some rather indirect
discussion with Mr Maxwell as to Mr Langden's means, opinions, and
prejudices, he came to the conclusion that he could make the whole
matter clearer to him and more satisfactory to both if they were to
meet face to face, and so his plans were made for a visit to him. But
spring had come before this was brought about. He went south in May,
and was away from Gershom several weeks. When he returned nothing
transpired as to his success. Even to Clifton, who had come to Gershom
to accompany his father and sister to C. Springs, where the squire was
to spend a month or two, he only spoke of his intercourse with the rich
man as one of the pleasant circumstances attending his trip, and
Clifton took it for granted that there was not much to tell.
Nor was there; but the rich man had spoken of a possible visit to
Canada during the summer, and he had promised that if this took place
he should come to Gershom and discuss the matter of the mills on the
spot, and though Jacob said little about it, he permitted himself to
hope much from the visit.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. SUGARING-TIME.
The season opened cheerfully at Ythan Brae. It had been a peaceful
winter with them; there had been less frequent communication with the
village than usual. Davie had been both master and man for the most
part, and had had little time for anything else. Katie had been now and
then for a visit to Miss Elizabeth, and to other people too, for Katie
confessed to being fond of visiting, and above most things disliked the
idea of being called odd or proud, or whatever else one was liable to
be called in Gershom who set out to be different from her neighbours.
The younger children were not yet considered to be beyond such teaching
as they had at the Scott school-house, so that there had been little
coming and going to the village, and all the talk that had been
indulged in there as to their affairs had hurt no one at Ythan.
They had their own talks, that is, Davie and Katie had. Their
grandfather was as silent at home as elsewhere as to the ill that his
enemy meditated toward him, so silent that even hopeful grannie grew
first doubtful and then anxious, fearing more than she would have
feared any outburst of bitterness, this silent brooding over evils that
might be drawing near. She dropped a cheerful word now and then as to
the certainty that they would never be left in their old age to anxiety
and trouble; but though he usually assented to her words, it was almost
It is all in God's hands, he said once, and he never got beyond
But as for the young ones, there was no end to the talk they had as
to Jacob Holt and his plans, not that they knew much about them, or
were in the least afraid of them. Katie was troubled sometimes, but
Davie made light of her fears, and the rest followed Davie's lead.
Davie was of Mr Green's opinion:
It will never amount to anything, all that he'll do to my
grandfather. He'll stop before he gets to the end. Mind, I don't say
that he won't be as great a rogue as he knows how to be, but he is a
small man, is Jacob, and he'll make a muddle of it. He couldn't do his
worst with the eyes of all Gershom on him. He hasn't pluck to take even
what is his own against the general opinion.
But Katie thought him hard on Jacob.
He is not a fool, Davie; and surely he's not a rogue altogether.
But I'm not caring for him; I'm only thinking of grandfather.
And though Katie did not say it, she was thinking that her
grandfather's silence and gloom might do him more harm than even the
loss of half of Ythan. But Davie did not know her thoughts, and he
answered the words a little scornfully:
Of course it is grandfather that we all think of. Who thinks of
Jacob, or what may happen to him? And where is your faith, Katie lass?
What do you suppose the Lord would be thinking of to take sides with
Jacob Holt against such a man as our grandfather? `He will not suffer
his feet to be moved.' That's what the Psalm says, and after that we'll
just wait and see.
But, Davie, said Katie, her eyes wide with surprise and something
that felt like dismay, I doubt that it is not what it means. The Lord
doesna take sides that way. And do you think that grandfather would let
go his holdof the Lord even ifeven ifand what would become of him
then? added Katie, appalled.
But that is just what I am saying can never happen. We'll wait and
Katie was not satisfied.
But, Davie, even if trouble should comethe worst that could come,
it would not be the Lord taking sides against us. The Lord has let
trouble, great trouble, fall on grandfather already. And you mind the
`Therefore, although the earth remove,
We will not be afraid.'
We'll just wait and see, repeated Davie.
But, Davie, do you think it would be a sign that the Lord was
against grandfather if He should let Jacob Holt do his worst? I cannot
bear to hear you say such things, as though we were just trying him.
Well, and is not that just what we are bidden do? It's no' me that
is saying grandfather is to be forsaken in his old age.
And I'm sure its no' me. Grandfather forsaken! Never. And, Davie,
the loss of Ythan even wouldna mean that to grandfather. Do you no'
mind: `Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' What is Ythan, and
what are any of us to grandfather, in comparison to having the Lord
Himself? said Katie, with rising colour and shining eyes.
Well, it is no' me that say it. There are plenty of folk in Gershom
just waiting to see how it will turnto see which is going to
beatthe Lord oror the other side. I wouldna say that grandfather
himself is not among the number.
Davie, said Katie solemnly, my grandfather kens how it must end.
Do you think he puts his trust in God on a venture like that? You
Davie made no reply at this time. But they were never weary of the
theme, and sometimes went so far as to plan what it would be best to do
should they have to leave Ythan. Grannie sometimes watched with sad
eyes the shadow on the old man's face, but no one was more ready than
grannie to laugh to scorn the idea that any real harm could happen to
So the season opened cheerfully to them all. Davie was indeed the
chief dependence now, and went about his work in a way that must have
gladdened his grandfather's heart, though he said little about it.
There was no other man about the place. They got a day's work now and
then from a neighbour, and later they must have a man to help, or
perhaps two, when the heaviest of the work should come on. But in the
meantime, Davie and his brothers did all that was to be done in the
sugar-place, and sometimes Katie helped them.
Indeed, as far as sugaring-time was concerned, they might have had
help every day and all day. There was not so much sugar made in the
vicinity of Gershom as there used to be, and the idle lads of the place
enjoyed being in the Ythan woods, in the sweet spring air and sunshine,
even on days when working hard at carrying in the sap was all that
could be done. But there was always this drawback to Davie's pleasure
in their help or their company, that his grandfather did not like
either the one or the other. It was partly his own reserved nature that
made the presence of strangers distasteful to him, and it was partly,
too, because of painful remembrances of the time when one like Davie
had been led astray by the influence of such lads. So Davie did not
encourage his friends of the village to come, as he might have done in
On sugaring-off days there were usually plenty of visitors.
Sugaring-off is the final process of sugar-making, when the syrup into
which the sap has been made by long boiling down, is clarified and
skimmed and boiled still until it is clear as amber, ready, when
cooled, to become a solid mass of glittering sweetness. It is
astonishing what a quantity of the warm brown liquid can be consumed
with pleasure, and without satiety, and on sugaring-off days not even
the half-acknowledged dread of Mr Fleming and his stern looks and ways
prevented a gathering of young people larger than would have been
welcome to less open-handed folk. But the consumption of a few pounds
of warm sugar, more or less, was a small matter in the opinion of the
old people, provided all behaved themselves as they ought; and whatever
might have been likely to happen in Mr Fleming's absence, his presence
was a sufficient check on the most foolish among them. And even the
wild young lads of the village found the old man less grim and stern in
the spring woods, with the sunshine about them, than they had learned
to think him as they watched him sitting in the meeting-house on
Sugaring-time is a time of hard and unpleasant work, and this was a
more favourable year than usual. Davie had been too busy with other
things all the winter to be able to do much in the way of improving the
tools and utensils necessary in the making of sugar. By another year
there would be a change, he told Katie in confidence. But in the
meantime, the three great iron kettles that had been in use during his
father's lifetime made the only boiling apparatus; they hung over a
fire of great logs, on a strong pole the ends of which rested on the
crotch of two great logs or ports set up fifteen or twenty feet
apart, and there was no roof above them.
The camp or shanty used for shelter if it rained, was close by
the fire, made of boards, one end of which rested in the ground, while
the other end was raised to rest on a pole extended between the boughs
of two overhanging trees; but the young people rarely cared to enter
it. It held the syrup tubs and such stores of food as were needed from
day to day, but it was small and low, and out of doors suited them
better, even at night when their work detained them.
Into the great maple trees, scattered over an area of many acres,
small scooped spouts of cedar were fastened, and out of a tiny cutting,
made by a common axe above it, the sap flowed over these into a
primitive bucket of cedar, or a still more primitive trough placed
beneath. This sap was carried from all parts of the place in pails
sustained by a rough wooden yoke placed on the shoulders of the
carrier, and emptied into great wooden sap-holders beside the kettles.
This part of the work, to be done well, and with the smallest amount of
labour, had to be done in the early morning, before the sun had melted
the crust which the night's frost had made on the snow. For even when
the open fields were bare, the snow still lingered in the hollows of
the wood, and to carry full pails safely, when one's feet were sinking
into the mass made soft by the sunshine, was a feat not to be
This carrying of the sap and the cutting of the wood for fires, was
the hard part of the work; the boiling of the sap and all the rest of
it was considered by Davie and his brothers as only fun. When there was
a great run of sap, as usually happens several times in the season, the
boiling had to be carried on through the night, as well as during the
day, and when the weather was fine, this only made the fun the greater.
At such times Davie usually secured the companionship of a friend, and
the chances were the friend brought another friend or two with him; and
there were few things happening in Gershom or elsewhere that were not
freely discussed at such times.
Katie had less to do with sugar-making this year than ever she had
before, and was inclined to murmur a little because of it. But she was
less needed in the wood now, her grandmother said, when the other
bairns were growing able to help their brother, and Katie was needed in
the house. Early as it was, there were calves to be fed and milk to be
cared for, and this year it was understood that Katie was to be
responsible for all that was done in the dairy. There was plenty to do;
Katie's mother was not strong, and grannie confessed that she was
feeling herself not so young as she used to be, and Katie was the main
And, besides, Katie was too nearly a grown woman now to play herself
with the bairns in the wood, grannie went on to say, and it was far
better for Davie to get Ben Holt or some other lad to help, when help
was needed, than to take his sister from her work at home to do work
for which she was not fit. Of course Katie assented, and yielded her
own pleasure, as she always did at any word of grannie's; but grannie
herself felt a little uncomfortable about it. For it was not her
thought that Katie should be kept, as a general thing, out of the wood,
but Davie's. Between indignation and amusement, she had had some
difficulty in keeping her countenance when the lad had spoken.
I dinna need her, grannie, and she's better at home. Help! There's
no fear but I'll get help enough. Jim Miller will be over, and Moses
Green, and more besides, very likely, and I'm no' wanting Katie.
You're well off for helpers, it seems, Davie, my lad. But as for
Grannie, she's no' going. As for helpers, they may come and go, and
help or not help, as suits themselves. But the less they have to say
about our Katie in the town, the better. Helpers! Do you suppose,
grannie dear, that they all come to help me?
His grandmother looked at him in amazement.
I doubt, laddie, you hardly ken what you are saying.
I ken fine, grannie. If they want to see Katie, they must come to
the house here, to my mother and you. I'm no' to have the
Davie, lad, said grannie solemnly, if you kenned what you are
saying, you would deserve the tawse. Responsibility, indeed! A laddie
like you; and my bonnie simple-hearted Katie.
I'm saying nothing about Katie, grannie. I'm speaking about other
folk. Jim to-day and Moses to-morrow, and maybe young Squire Holtno
less, the nextwith their compliments and their nonsense. And as for
Katie, she likes it well enough, or she might come to like it; she's
but a lassie after all.
Oh, laddie, laddie! was all his astonished grandmother could say.
I'm no' needing her to-day, repeated Davie.
Davy, you are to say nothing of all this to your sister. I wouldna
for much that she would hear the like of that from you.
I thought it better to speak to you, grannie, said Davie with
Grannie would have liked to box his ears.
Grannie, you needna be angry at me. I'm no saying that Katie is
heeding; but other folk call her bonnie Katie as well as you, and she's
almost a woman now, and it canna be helped.
Whisht, Davie. Well, never mind; I'm no' angry. But say nothing to
Katie to put things in her head. A laddie like you. And grannie
laughed in spite of her indignation. But she kept her bonnie Katie at
home for the most part, unless there was some special reason for her
going with the rest.
There were many other visitors at the sugar-placevisitors whom
even Davie could not suspect of coming altogether for Katie's sake.
Most people who had a chance to do so, liked to go at least once into
the woods when the sugar-making was going on, and the Flemings' place
was not very far from the village, and lay high and dry and was easy of
access, so that few days passed without a visit from some one.
Sometimes they were visitors to mind and sometimes they were not,
but the laws of hospitality held good in the woods as in the house, and
they were welcomed civilly at least. Once or twice, when particular
friends of his came on sap-boiling days, Davie ventured on an impromptu
sugaring-off on his own responsibility. He made use of a small kettle
for the purpose, so that the important matter of boiling down the sap
need not be interfered with. He told himself that he was not disobeying
his grandfather, but he knew that probably it had never come into his
mind that such a thing would be attempted, and he did not enjoy it
much, though his visitors did. He acknowledged afterward to Katie, that
never in the course of his life had he felt so mean as he did on the
last occasion of the kind. The sugar was just coming to perfection,
when the eager barking of the dog proclaimed the approach of some one,
and Davie never doubted that it was his grandfather. It was all that he
could do to prevent himself from snatching the sugar from the fire and
putting it out of sight. He did not do it, however, and it was not his
grandfather. But Davie's feeling of discomfort stayed with him, though
he had no reason to suppose that any one of the party had noticed his
But in this he was mistaken. The very last person to whom he would
have liked to betray himself had observed him. Mr Maxwell had only been
a few minutes at the camp, and was not one of those for whose
entertainment Davie had prepared. Of course he knew that whoever came
to the place on regular sugaring-off days, was made welcome to all that
could be enjoyed on the occasion, but even with his knowledge that the
Flemings were open-handed on all occasions, he did feel somewhat
surprised that such special pains should be taken for the entertainment
of chance comers. But it was the anxious look that came over Davie's
face that struck him painfully.
That Davie, whose character for straightforwardness and courage no
one doubtedhis grandfather's right hand, the staff and stay of the
whole householdthat Davie should be found turning aside, ever so
little, from what was open and right, hurt the minister greatly. He
loved the lad too well to forbear from reproof, or at least a caution,
so he stayed till the others had left the wood to say a word to him.
This was not his first visit to the camp, for Davie and he were
friends, and Mr Maxwell had proved his friendship in a way that the boy
likedby lending him books, and by helping him to a right appreciation
of their contents. He had a book in his hand now, as he waited while
Davie filled the kettles and stirred the fire, and it troubled him to
think that he was going to prove his friendship this time in a way the
boy would not like so well. He did not know what to say, and had not
decided, when Davie, perhaps surprised at his unwonted silence, looked
up and met his eye.
Davie, lad, was it your grandfather that you expected to see when
Collie barked a little while ago?
Davie reddened and hung his head, and then looking up, said with a
touch of anger in his voice:
You are thinking worse of me than I deserve, Mr Maxwell.
Well, I shall be glad to be set right, Davie.
You don't suppose my grandfather would grudge a few pounds of sugar
in such a year as this? Why, there has been no such season since I can
remember, at least we have never made so much.
No, I did not suppose that. It would not be like him.
And there was no time lost; I was helped rather than hindered. And
anybody would do the same in any sugar-place in the country, only
It was not the sugar I thought of, it was the look that came over
your face when you thought your grandfather was coming, that accused
you. You accused yourself, Davie.
After a moment's silence, Davie said:
My grandfather is not just like other folks in all things, and
there were two or three here that he does not likeand he might have
spoken hastilybeing taken by surprise, andI didn't like the thought
The hesitation was longer this time.
The chances are, he wouldhave given mea blowing up, and that is
not so pleasant before folks.
Well, said the minister again.
Well, he might have been uneasy at the sight of Hooker and Piatt,
and he might have thought I was not to be trusted. And then it would
have vexed grannie and them all. My grandfather is queer about some
things I mean he is an old man, and has had trouble in his life, with
more ahead, if some folks get their way and so I would have been sorry
to see him just then.
And, Davie, should all this make you less careful to do his will,
or more, both as to the spirit and the letter?
But, Mr Maxwell, it was not that I thought I was doing wrong, only
I hoped grandfather might not come; and even grannie has whiles
toto No, I won't say it. Grannie is as true as steel. And I was
wrong to do anything to encourage Hooker and Piatt to stay, and I am
Davie, said the minister kindly and solemnly, be always loyal in
word and deed, as I know you are in heart, to your grandparents. You
are everything to them. I know of no nobler work than you have been
doing all winter. I beg your pardon if I have been hard on you; but it
hurt me dreadfully to see that doubtful look on your face. I did not
mean to be hard.
Davie told all this to Katie a few nights afterward, as they were
going home through the fields together. But he did not tell her that he
made an errand round behind the camp lest Mr Maxwell should see the
tears that came rushing to his eyes; nor did he tell her anything that
was said after that.
Indeed, there was but a word or two about the Lord and Master, whose
claims to a loving loyalty are supreme, words which Davie never forgot,
and only alluded to long afterward, when he and Katie found it easier
to talk together about such things. And that the minister had not put
their friendship in jeopardy, Katie plainly saw.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. MR FLEMING'S
A few days after the minister's talk with Davie, the squire and Miss
Elizabeth came to pay a visit at Ythan Brae. The squire's visits were
rare now, and his coming gave them all pleasure; and as the day was
fine, and the old man expressed a wish to go to the sugar-place, they
lost no time after dinner in setting out.
The squire and Mr Fleming went in Mr Holt's buggy, as far as it
could be taken, but Mrs Fleming went, with Miss Elizabeth and Katie,
the near way through the fields. It was an afternoon long to be
remembered. Katie could not tell which she liked best, the walk up the
hill with these two, or the walk home again with Davie when he told her
of Mr Maxwell's talk with him in the wood. It was pleasant sitting in
the sunshine too, and listening to the old squire, and grannie, and
them all, and if there had been nothing else to delight her, it would
have been enough to see Davie behave so well. For Davie did not think
so much of Miss Elizabeth's friendship as Katie did, and did not as a
general thing take so much pains as she thought he ought to do to be
polite to her friend. But to-day Davie, in his sister's opinion, was
kind and nice to them all. They heard the sharp ring of his axe as
they went up through the pasture, and when they came in among the trees
they heard him singing merrily to himself. He made much of grannie,
whose first visit it was for the season, and when he heard that his
grandfather and Mr Holt were coming by the road, he went off with great
strides, like a young giant, to meet them before they should reach a
certain hole in the wood road which was deeper than it looked, and
where possibly they might have to alight and leave the buggy. By and by
he came back with them, carrying the squire's great coat, which he had
found heavy in coming up the hill. Then with some boards and an old
buffalo-skin and quilt from the camp, he hastened to make comfortable
seats for them all.
I think, grandfather, said he, since the squire and Miss
Elizabeth have come so farto say nothing of granniewe should make
it worth their while. If Katie will wash out the little kettle, while I
make a place for it on the fire, we will have a sugaring-off in an hour
or two. If you had come to-morrow, Miss Elizabeth, you would have seen
us turning off a hundredweight and more.
If there will be time for it, said Mr Fleming doubtfully.
Plenty of time, grandfather. I will set it a-going, and Katie can
attend to it, for there are some buckets east yonder that I have not
seen to-day, and I must gather the sap and make an end of it to-night,
if I can.
I think I might be trusted to set it a-going myself, Davie, said
Katie, laughing and turning up her sleeves.
Davie had made his morning porridge in the kettle, having been busy
very early in the woods, and there were traces of former sugar-making
on it also, but of this Katie said nothing. It was pretty to see her
quick, light movements, as she busied herself with the work. Even the
washing of a porridge pot may be done in a way to interest on-lookers,
and well-pleased eyes followed her movements.
A tub of syrup which was to form part of to-morrow's batch stood
in the camp, and from this a portion was carefully taken that the
grounds need not be disturbed, a beaten egg and a cup of sweet milk
were added for clarifying purposes, and it was placed on the fire. As
it grew hot a dark scum rose to the top, which Katie with her skimmer
removed, and by and by there was nothing to be done but to see that the
clear, amber-coloured liquid did not boil over. All the help that her
brother gave her was by way of advice, and of this she made as much use
as suited her, and Miss Elizabeth listened to them much amused.
But neither Miss Elizabeth nor Katie lost a word of the quiet talk
that was going on between the old people. The squire and Mrs Fleming
had most of it to themselves, Mr Fleming putting in a word now and
then. Their talk was mostly of old times. If the squire had heard
anything new of his friend's trouble as to his debt to Jacob he had
forgotten it, as he forgot most things happening from day to day now.
It was of the old times in Gershom, even before Mr Fleming's coming,
that he was speaking; most of what he said he had said to them often
before. He called Davie Hughie, and did not notice that Elizabeth
looked anxious and tried to change the talk.
Davie did his part in setting things right by bringing up the
question which Ben and he had been discussing lately, as to the salmon
fishing on the Beaver River, before the building of the saw-mills had
kept the fish away. Then Davie went to his sap-gathering, and after
that the talk fell upon graver matters; and though all took part, it
was grannie who had most to say, and Elizabeth liked to think afterward
of the eager, childlike way in which her father had listened and
responded to it all.
He was very fond of telling of his early days, and of his success in
life, poor old man, but to-day he acknowledged that this life, if it
were all, would be but a poor thing.
I might have done differently in some things, and I wish I had,
though I don't know that it would have amounted to much, anything that
I could do.
And it is well that it is not our ain doings we have to trust to
when life is wearing over, said Mrs Fleming, gravely. I doubt the
best of us would find but poor comfort in looking back over our life,
when the end is drawing on; it is to Him who is able and willing to
save to the uttermost that we have, one and all, to look.
Yes, I know, there is no one else. And my life is most done, but I
haven't never confessed Him, not before men.
But it's no' too late for that even yet, said Mrs Fleming, gently;
and you have confessed Him in a way, for you have fed the
hungry and clothed the naked, and all men trust your word, which, God
forgive them, is more than can be said of some who have His name
oftenest on their lips.
Folks ought to get religion young, as Lizzie did here, and Jacob. I
hope it's all right with Jacob. I've seen the time when I would have
been glad to come forward and confess Him and do my part in the church,
before Lizzie's mother died. But when a man gets on in years it isn't
easy for him to come out before the world and do as he ought. I hope it
will be all right, and as I told Jacob the other day, when the time
does come for me to be judged I'd full as lief be standing on the same
platform with old David Fleming as with most any of the professors in
Eh, man! It would be but a poor place to stand in, said Mr
Fleming, with a startled movement. Mrs Fleming looked from one to the
other a little startled also.
It is just this, said she, quickly and softly. Do we love Him
best, and honour Him most? No professing or doing will stand to us
instead of that, either now or afterwards. And it is our life rather
than our lips that should have the telling of our love. Though they
should both speak, added she, gravely.
Ay! that should they, said her husband.
And if we love Him best and honour Him, that is so far an evidence
that we are His, and we need fear no evil.
I love Him; I know I love Him, said the squire gravely. As to
having honoured Him before the world all these yearsI have little to
say about that. And now my life is most gonemost gone
Davie came back for the last time with his full pails, and Miss
Elizabeth was glad that the talk should come to an end, for her father
was showing signs of weariness and weakness. There was a little
discussion about the propriety of boiling all the sap down to-night, so
that the morning's batch of sugar should be the larger. That was
Davie's plan, but his grandfather objected, and to Katie's intense
delight Davie yielded to his decision cheerfully enough. So he set to
work to build up the fires, that the process of boiling to syrup what
was now in the kettle might be hastened, for it must be taken from the
fire and strained and put safely into the camp before they went home.
Katie's sugar was by this time pronounced ready to be tested, and
Davie hastened to bring from some distant hollow a bucketful of the
snow which still lingered in shady places. Over this a spoonful or two
of the clear brown liquid from the kettle was spread, and as it
stiffened, and after a little became solid, it was pronounced to be
sugarthough to unaccustomed eyes it would have seemed only a brown
syrup still. But by the time it cooled it would be mostly solid sugar,
and when the remaining moist part should be drawn off, it would be
maple sugar of the very best, Squire Holt declared, and no one knew
better than be.
It is not to be supposed that the old people had cared much to have
the sugar made for them, or that they tasted it very freely now that it
was done. But they had enjoyed seeing it made, and had had a pleasant
afternoon. They did not fall into much talk after this. It was nearly
sunset, and time for the squire to be at home. So he and Elizabeth did
not return to the house, but took the buggy at the point where it had
been left, and went straight to the village. Mr and Mrs Fleming went
home together over the fields, and Katie was left to help Davie with
the straining of the syrup, which was nearly ready now.
We have had a pleasant afternoon, said Katie; I only wish the
minister had been here, and Miss Betsey, and Mr Burnet. If we had known
we might have sent for them.
It is better as it was. Grandfather liked it better, said Davie.
The minister was here the other day.
And you didna tell us!
WellI'm telling you now. And in a little he had told the whole
story, shamefacedly, but quite honestly. Katie did not say that she
thought the minister had been hard on himthought it for a while.
However, Davie did not think he had been hard, she could see, and no
harm was done.
In Katie's opinion Davie had been wonderfully good and thoughtful
all winter. He had very rarely laid himself open to his grandfather's
doubts or displeasure. But after this time there was a difference that
made itself apparent to eyes that were less watchful than Katie's.
Loving loyalty, that was just the name for it. In great things and
small, after this, the lad laid himself out to please his grandfather.
He was captious with his sisters whiles, she acknowledged in
secret; he was arbitrary with his little brothers when they neglected
tasks of his giving; and tried his mother and his grandmother, now and
then, as young lads always have, and always will try their mothers and
grandmothers, until old heads can be put on young shoulders.
But with his grandfather he was gentle, patient, and considerate, to
a degree that surprised even Katie, who had been gentle, patient, and
considerate with him all her life. She used to wonder whether her
grandfather noticed it. He never spoke of it, but he found fault less
frequently, and was less exacting as to times and seasons for work, and
as to the lad's comings and goings generally.
Mr Fleming had for a long time said little either of past troubles
or future fears, and it was on the past rather than the future that his
thoughts dwelt. The future looked dark enough in some of its aspects,
but it was by no means hopeless. Davie was more nearly right than Katie
was willing to believe, when he said that his grandfather, as well as a
good many others in Gershom, were waiting to see what the Lord was
going to do about it, whether it was to be a case of the righteous
never forsaken, or whether this time the race was to be to the swift,
and the battle to the strong.
It may be said of the old man, that on the whole he waited
hopefully, or, rather, he looked forward without any special anxiety as
to what might be the result of his long controversy with his enemy.
Nothing so terrible could happen as had come to him in the past, when
his boy had gone down to a dishonoured grave, beyond the reach of hope.
Nothing so terrible could happen to the bairns. Every summer and winter
passing over their heads, made them more able to meet hardship, if
hardship lay before them. Of Katie he had long been sure, and of Davie
he was growing surer every day. The rest were healthy, wholesome
bairns, with no special gift of beauty or cleverness to lay them open
to special temptation. They would do well by their mother, and by one
another, and God would guide them, the old man said.
As for himself and his Katie, his dear old wife, their time was
nearly over, and they would soon be at peace. At peace! That was the
way he put it to himself always. He did not dwell at this time on all
that has been promised of the glory to be revealed. He never said that
he shrank from the thought of entering through the gates into the
heavenly city, out of which his boy must be shut. That would have been
rebellion against God, and he would not rebel.
But he was walking in darkness. His eyes were turned away from His
face who is the light of the world, and even when he strove to lift
them up, there were clouds and shadows between, that grew darker for a
All this had come upon him gradually. After the utter darkness of
the winter that followed his son's death, he might have ceased to think
so constantly of his loss and his son's ruin if it had not been for the
sight of Jacob Holt. If Jacob had never returned, or if he had gone on
in his old ways till the end came to him also, he might have forgiven
him, at least he might have outlived the bitterness of his anger, and
in time might have been comforted for his son, and as other fathers are
But Jacob came home, and had another chance, and became a changed
man, or so it was said of him. As years passed he did well for himself,
and had power and influence in the town, as his father had had before
him. And when James Fleming died, and the old man fell into his enemy's
hand, as he thought, his whole life was made bitter to him.
It was not that he grudged to Jacob anything either of wealth or
consideration that he had won for himself. But with every thought of
him was joined the thought of the son who, in his father's eyes, had
been as much above him as one human being could well be above another,
in goodness, in cleverness, in beauty, in all that makes a man worthy
of love and honour from his fellows, and he grew sick sometimes with
the thought of it all.
But he never spoke much of all this even to his wife. It was years
before the old squire knew that it was not all right between Mr Fleming
and Jacob, and he never knew all the bitterness of the old man's
feelings. Gershom people generally knew that there was no love lost
between them, but even Mrs Fleming hardly knew how utterly her husband
had become possessed of the feelings which embittered his life.
All this hurt Jacob far less than it hurt himself. Indeed, it cannot
be said that it affected Jacob at all, in the way of making him ashamed
or remorseful. It affected in some measure the opinion of a few of his
fellow-townsmen, and gave to those who had a grudge against him for
other reasons, an opportunity of saying hard things against him. But
Jacob cared little for all this, and until he had been thwarted by him
in the matter of the land on the bank of the river, had given few of
his thoughts to Mr Fleming.
But who can say what the stern old man had endured all these years
while his silent anger, which was almost hatred, was living and
rankling in his heart? Even while he believed that it was the sin that
he hated, and not the sinner, it had been like a canker within him. His
conscience permitted the stern avoidance of this man, but it was not
always silent as to the neglect or the positive avoidance of duties,
which the presence of this man made distasteful, and at times even
impossible to him.
When Jacob, according to the hopeful verdict of his friends, became
a changed man, and cast in his lot with the people of God, it had
needed the utmost exercise of the strong restraint which he imposed on
himself, as far as outward acts were concerned, to keep him from crying
out against what seemed to him to be a profanation of God's ordinances.
After old Mr Hollister's death, when others fell in with the new order
of things, and one after another of his old friends found his place in
the church, he kept back and remained a spectator, even when he would
gladly have gone with them.
It was only his strong sense of the duty he owed to his family, that
took him to the new church at all, and it was to be feared that had it
not been for his personal interest in Mr Maxwell, and his real love for
the word of truth as presented by him to the people, he would, during
the winter which saw the work at Varney's farm commenced and carried on
at Jacob Holt's bidding, have absented himself from the house of God
He went, but he did not derive the good from it he might have done
in other circumstances, as he longed to do. He was like one bound or
blinded; like one striving vainly to reach a hand held out to him, to
see clearly a face of love turned toward him, indeed, but with a veil
Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, was his cry. And when this
word followed to his conscience, Your sins have hid His face from you
that He will not hear, he laid his hand on his mouth, acknowledging
that it might well be so; but it was not the sin of his anger against
Jacob Holt that came home to him. He told himself that it was the man's
daily hypocrisy that he hated. And if he could not always separate the
sinner from the sin in his thoughts, he yet could quiet himself, taking
refuge in the knowledge that never by word or deed had he pleaded his
own cause against him. He left it to God to deal with him.
But having waited long, and seeing many troubles drawing near, he
asked in moments of darkness whether God had indeed forgotten him.
And so the days went on through the spring, and Mrs Fleming watched
and waited, saying little, but growing sad at heart to see how rapidly
the signs of old age were growing visible upon him.
CHAPTER NINETEEN. KATIE'S WORD.
Grannie's brave heart did not fail her. She had much to comfort her
at this time of trouble.
Seldom had there been a more favourable spring for the getting in of
the crops, and never even at Ythan Brae had the spring work been done
better, or in better time.
Davie was far enough from being perfect yet in many respects, and
his grandmother did not consider it her duty, or for his good, to let
him forget his faults. But she made amends to herself, if not to him,
by rejoicing over him and his steadiness and goodness to his mother and
Katie. None of her rebukes or cautions were needed where his
grandfather was concerned, and she could not but wonder sometimes at
the lad's forbearance, for the old man's burden of care made him weary
and irritable often.
Katie's dairy, so long talked of and planned for, was in use now,
though it was not quite finished to her mind yet. Davie made use of his
spare minutes on rainy days to add to its conveniences. In the meantime
it was clean and cool. The Ythan burn rippled softly through it, and
with a free use of its limpid waters, and a judicious use of the
limited treasure of ice which they had secured during the last winter
months, Katie made such butter as bade fair to win her a reputation
which might in course of time rival that of her grandmother. They had
two more cows in the pasture than ever they had had before; but
ambitious to do much, and to make much money for their possible time of
need, and being perfectly healthy and strong, Katie laughed at the idea
of having too much to do, and could have disposed, in the village, of
twice as much of her delicious butter as her dairy could produce.
Everything seemed to promise a profitable summer, and a pleasant
summer too, notwithstanding the knowledge that whatever evil was to
come on them through Jacob Holt could not be long averted now.
Katie, said Davie, do you ken what they are saying about
grandfather now? They say that
But who are saying it? If you tell me who they are, I'll soon tell
you what they are saying. Though it matters little anyway.
Well, you needna fly out at me. I'm no' saying it, said Davie,
laughing. And as for they, I might as well say he, or
maybe she. It was Ben Holt who told me. He heard his Aunt Betsey
telling his grandmother. But it came from Mrs Jacob in the first place.
She says that poor old Mr Fleming is not right in his mind, and that
something will have to be done about it.
Davie! gasped Katie, how dare you?
Davie looked up startled. Katie's face crimsoned first, and then
went very white.
Oh, Davie, Davie! How could you say it? and her tears gushed
But, Katiesuch nonsense! I didna say it. Do be reasonable. I
shouldna have told you. But why should we heed what they say?
It took Katie a good while to get over the shock she had received,
and Davie sat watching her a little shamefaced and sorry, saying to
himself what queer creatures girls were, and what an especially queer
creature Katie was, and he wished heartily that he had said nothing
But Katie was not shocked in the way that Davie supposed. It was not
that she was indignant at Mrs Jacob for saying such a thing of her
grandfather. That there should be anything in her grandfather's words
or ways to make the saying of such things possible made the pain. For a
terrible fear had come upon Katie. Or rather, by the constant watching
of her grandmother's looks and words, she had come to the knowledge
that she feared for the old man something which she had never put into
It was Sunday afternoon, a lovely June day, and they were sitting at
the foot of the little knoll under the birch-tree, where the two Holts
had found them on that Sunday morning long ago. The rest of the bairns
had gone with their mother to the Sunday-school at the Scott
school-house as usual, and their grandfather and grandmother were
sitting together in the house. Davie had been sitting there too, with
his book in his hand, but he had not enjoyed it much; he had nodded
over it at last and dropped asleep, and then grannie had bidden him go
out to the air for a while and stretch himself, adding to his
grandfather as he went:
He's wearied with his week's work, poor laddie, and canna keep his
eyes open, and it will do him good to stroll quietly down the brae to
the burn. And Katie, lassie, you can go with him for a little till the
bairns and your mother come home.
So, her grandfather saying nothing, Katie went well pleased, and the
two soon found themselves at their favourite place of rest, at the
point where the Ythan begins to gurgle and murmur over the stones at
the foot of the birch knoll.
They had both changed a good deal since the day the Holts found them
sitting there. There seemed a greater difference in their ages than
there had seemed then, for Katie, as bonnie and fresh as ever, was
almost a woman now. Davie was a boy still, long and lank, and not
nearly so handsome as he used to be, but there was promise of strength
and good looks too, when a few years should be over. He had worked
constantly and hard for the last year, and he stooped a little
sometimes when he was tired, and Katie was beginning to fear lest he
should become round-shouldered and slouching, and was in the way of
giving him frequent hints about carrying himself uprightly, as he went
about the farm. But he was as fine a young fellow as one could wish to
see, and his looks promised well for the manhood that did not lie very
far before him.
They were silent for a good while after Katie's outburst. She sat on
the grass, her hands clasped round her knees, and her eyes fixed on the
rippling water of the burn. Davie lay back on the grass with his head
on his clasped hands regarding her. She turned round at last with a
I cannot understand it, Davie. I suppose Jacob Holt is not a good
man, and grandfather thinks he did him a great wrong long ago, and that
he is only waiting for an opportunity to do him still another. But yet
it seems strange to me that grandfather should care so much, and be so
hard on him. It should not matter so much to him, for Jacob Holt is but
a poor creature after all.
Davie looked at her in astonishment.
Is that the way you look at it? Do you know what happened long
I don't know, nor do you; but we can guess. And even grannie thinks
him hard on Jacob. Oh, Davie; it is a terrible thing not to be able to
Davie said nothing, and Katie went on:
I hate myself for thinking that grandfather may not be right in
everything, so good as he is, so upright and so true. He never did a
mean or unjust deed in all his life. If he is not one of God's people,
who is? And yet, Davie, the Bible says, `If ye forgive not men their
trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your
trespasses.' And to think that one like Jacob Holt should have the
power to harden a good man's heart like that!
What do you suppose grannie would think if she were to hear you?
said Davie in amazement.
Of course I wouldna speak to grannie, or to any one else but you.
And whiles I think that grannie herself is feared at his silence,
andand at his unchangeableness, said Katie, with an awed look. And
grandfather is growing an old man now, and what will it matter to him
in a little while about Jacob Holt or any other man?
Davie got up and walked about restlessly for a while, and when he
came and stood before her on the other side of the burn, Katie want on
Grandfather must ken that the Lord knows about it all, and that it
is sure `to work for good' to him, as the Bible says it must. `All
things,' it says. And the Lord knew grandfather's trouble long ago, and
grandfather knows that He knew it, and it is a wonder that he should
never be comforted.
It is something that we canna understand, said Davie gravely.
But, Katie, grandfather is not ay dwelling on it as you suppose. Did
he ever do an ill deed to Jacob Holt, or say an ill word of him? He
canna be friendly with him, because he canna trust him or respect him.
But as to not forgiving himthat is not likely.
But, Davie, he hasna spoken a word to Jacob Holt for years. He has
not heard his name spokenunless by the old squire, who forgets things
whiles. None of us name him in his hearing, nor the neighbours. And all
this about the land and the site for the mills is not natural, is it,
if he has forgiven and forgotten? And it is not Christian, if he has
not, added Katie with a sob.
And what you mean by all this is, thatthat something is the
matter with himas Mr Jacob said, and Davie turned angry eyes on his
Davie, I whiles think grannie is feared. She is ay longing for his
home-coming when he is away. And I hear her speaking softly to him when
they are alone. And I hear him often praying in the night; last night
it was for hours, I think. Oh, Davie! and then grannie went to him, and
he went back to his bed again, and grannie looked, oh, so white and
spent in the morning.
And he was at Pine-tree Hollow the other night, said Davie.
Yes! And grannie went to meet him, and my mother was waiting for
them at the gate, and she burst out crying when she saw them coming
home together through the gloaming.
They sat for a long time silent after that. Indeed, there was not
another word spoken till they heard the children's voices, and knew
that it was time to go to the house again. Then Katie stooped and laved
the water on her tear-stained face before she turned to go.
It will all work for good, Katie, you may be sure of that, said
her brother huskily, as they went up the brae together.
Yes, to those who love Him. So the promise is good for grannie and
himand, oh, Davie! if we were only sure for us all.
There were smiles on Katie's face when she said this, and tears too,
and it was doubtful which of them would have way, till her
grandfather's voice settled it. She had only smiles for him, as he came
out at the door with his staff in his hand, and looking as if he needed
it to lean upon, but looking, at the same time, brighter and more like
himself than Katie had seen him for a while. She turned and went with
him toward the pasture-bars, his favourite walk. They went slowly on
together, speaking few words, content to be silent in each other's
It was a bonny day, the old man said, and the grass was fine and
green; and Katie bade him look at the barley turning yellow already,
and at the purple shadows on the great hay-field as the wind passed
I like to watch them, said Katie, and, grandfather, doesna it
mind you of the waves of the sea?
Her grandfather shook his head.
It's a bonny sight, but it is no like the waves of the sea.
And thus a word dropped here and there till they came to the
pasture-bars. The sheep and the young lambs crowded together close to
the bars over which they leaned, expecting the usual taste of salt from
their hands, and old Kelso and her colt neighed their welcome. It was a
peaceful, pleasant scene, and would do her grandfather good, Katie said
to herself joyfully. But in a minute her heart gave a sudden throb, as
with a look at her face, from which neither the water of the burn, nor
the mild sweet air had quite effaced the traces of tears, he said
And what was it that Davie was saying to you as you came up the
Katie gave a quick look into his face, and her eyes fell, and she
could not utter a word.
Was he vexing you with his nonsense? Was he scolding you, my
Davie! Oh, grandfather! I would never heed Davie. And besides, it
is I who scolded Davie, added she with a laugh, much relieved.
I dare say he's no' out of the need of it whiles, though he maybe
needs it less than he once did.
Yes, indeed! grandfather. Is he not steady now? As good as gold?
As gold? Well, gold is good in its place, if it could be kept
there. And what were you two discoursing about, down yonder by the
It never came into Katie's mind that she could answer him otherwise
We were speakingabout you, grandfather, and aboutJacob Holt.
And Davie was saying how impossible it was that anything that that
man can do could hurt you, grandfather.
He thinks he kens, does he?
But he says everybody kens that, though Jacob is a greedy man, he
is but a poor creature, and wouldna dare to harm you, because all
Gershom would cry out against him if he were to do his will.
I'm no' sure of that. But, indeed, I think he has done his worst on
me already. And the look, the dark look, that always brought the
shadow to grannie's eyes came over his face as he said it. Katie's
heart beat hard, but her courage rose to the occasion, and she said
softly and reverently:
It was God's will, grandfather, and surely Jacob must be sorry
The old man uttered a sound between a groan and a cry.
Was it God's will? It was a great sin, and God has never punished
him for it. Lassie, you little ken.
No, grandfather, but God kens. And it was His will, repeated
Katie, not knowing what to say.
God's will! Ay, since He permitted it; we can say nothing else. But
that it should be God's will that yon man should have a name and a
place hereand it may be, hereafterpasses me.
Except to his wife, Mr Fleming had never spoken such words before,
and the pain and anger on his face it was sorrowful to see.
Grandfather, don't you mind how, at the very last, our Lord said,
`Father, forgive them'?
He had been sitting, with his face averted from her, but he turned
now with a strange, dazed look in his eyes:
Ay. And He said, `Love your enemies,' and `Forgive and ye shall be
forgiven.' And Katie, my bonny woman, I canna do it.
Katie slid down to the ground beside him, and laid her wet face on
his knee without a word. What was there to be said, only God comfort
him, God comfort him? and she said it many times in the silence that
By and by the clouds drifted toward the west and hid the sun, and it
seemed to grow dreary and chill around them.
We'll go to the house to your grandmother, said he at last in a
voice that to Katie seemed hard and strange.
Was he angry with her? Ought she not to have spoken? She dared not
ask him, but she touched his hand with her lips, and wet it with her
tears before she rose. He took no notice, but said again: We'll go
home to your grandmother; and no word was spoken till they reached the
house, and then Katie slipped away out of sight, lest her grandmother
should see her tears.
But as the days went on she knew that he was not angry. He was very
grave and silent, and grannie was never quite at rest when he was long
out of sight. But summer wore on, and nothing happened to make one day
different from another till haying-time came.
CHAPTER TWENTY. A DEMONSTRATION.
Mr Fleming's failing strength, and the high rate of wages paid for
farm labour, had for several years made it necessary for him to depart
from what seemed to him the best mode of farming, in order to save both
strength and wages. So there was a larger part of the place in hay and
pasture-land than there had been at first, a larger proportion than
there ought to be for really good farming on such land as his, he was
willing to acknowledge. Haymaking was, therefore, the most important
part of summer work at Ythan.
There was much to be done, both in the house and in the fields.
Several men were required to help for a month or more, and if they were
not of the right stamp, both as to character and capabilities, the
oversight of them became a trouble to the grandfather, and that, of
course, troubled them all. No choice could be exercised in the matter.
They were usually men who came along from the French country, either
before or after their own narrow fields were cut, in order to make a
little money by helping their English-speaking neighbours, and those
who hired them must take their chance.
As a general thing the men were good workers, and did well when
their employers worked with them. But they were for the most part
eye-servants, who took things easy when it might be done, and with
eye-service Mr Fleming had less patience than with most things.
But the good luck that had followed Davie and his doings on the
farm all the summer, followed him still. One night there came to Ythan
a stranger, who introduced himself as Ira Hemmenway, an American, sole
agent in Canada for the celebrated Eureka mowing-machine, and he
claimed the privilege of introducing this wonderful invention to the
notice of the discriminating and intelligent farmers of Gershom. He
asked nothing better for his own share of profit than a chance to show
what he could do with it on some of the smooth fields of Ythan.
If he had been aware of Mr Fleming's distaste for all things
untried, or new-fangled, it is likely he would have carried his
request elsewhere. But, greatly to Davie's surprise, his grandfather
listened to the proposition of Mr Hemmenway with no special signs of
disfavour, and he could only hope that the wonderful eloquence of their
Yankee friend might not hinder rather than help his cause.
With a fair start in the morning we calculate, with a middlin' span
of horses, to get over by noon as much ground as six men would get
over, if they worked from sunrise to sundown, if they didn't have to
stop to eat or drink or take a resting-spell. We cut clean and even.
There'll be a little clipping, maybe, round the stumps and stone piles,
but you don't seem to have many of them. You just see me go once round
your big field there with my team, and you'll never want to touch a
scythe again. Only give me the chance. The first day sha'n't cost you
nothing but my victuals and good feed of oats for my team. Now come,
what do you say?
Mr Fleming listened with patience and with some amusement, Davie
That is cheap enough surely, said he.
And nothing risked, continued Mr Hemmenway. It'll be good for you
and good for me, and it doesn't often happen that both sides get the
best of the bargain. Say yes, and I'll be along by sunrise, and if I
don't make this young man here open his eyes first time round, I shall
be some surprised.
The only difficulty seemed lest there might be too much grass cut to
be properly cared for, since they had not as yet engaged help.
Don't you fret about that. You'll have the whole neighbourhood here
looking on, and I don't suppose they'll stand still and do it. I'll
risk the making of the hay that'll be cut to-morrow.
The idea of the whole neighbourhood looking on, or even helping to
make hay, was not so agreeable to Mr Fleming as Mr Hemmenway might have
supposed, and Davie hastened to suggest that Ben Holt and two or three
others who had not yet commenced in their own fields might give help
for one day, and so the matter was arranged. Mr Hemmenway lost no time.
The machine was brought to Ythan that night, and when Mr Fleming came
out in the morning operations had long been commenced in Mr Hemmenway's
best style, and Davie was occupying his place on the high seat of the
machine, and driving the team steadily round the great square, which
was growing beautifully less at every turn.
Not quite the whole neighbourhood came to look on, but a good many
did. Among the rest was Deacon Scott, who was almost as much averse to
new-fangled notions as was Mr Fleming. But he engaged the machine for
the next day, and paid a good price for itwhich was all clear gain,
Mr Hemmenway admitted to Davie in confidence. Going about from field to
field for a few days in a neighbourhood was the company's way of
advertising. If it did not pay this year it would next, for half the
farmers in the country would have a machine by another year.
And I don't say it is any way among the impossibles that we should
conclude to give your little town a lift, by establishing a branch
factory in it. You've got a spry little stream here, and some good
land, and there'll be some handsome fields for the Eureka to operate
upon when the stumps get cleared out. But you are considerably behind
the times in the way of implements. You want to be put up to a dodge or
two, and we are the folks to do it, in the way of machinery, and so
Two more days of the Eureka at Ythan laid low the grass in every
field, and within eight days of the time when Mr Hemmenway made his
appearance there, all the hay was well made and safely housed, without
a drop of rain having fallen upon it.
Davie was tired, but triumphant. Providence is ay kind, said
grannie softly, and grandfather's assent, though silent as usual, was
pleased and earnest, and he was in better heart than he had been for
Davie had some good hard work in other hay-fields in return for the
help they had had at Ythan, and it was done gratefully and heartily.
And when most of the hay-fields in Gershom were bare and brown,
waiting for the showers that were to make them green and beautiful for
the fall pasture, in the short resting-spell that usually comes in
this part of Canada between the hay and grain harvest, thoughts of
pleasure seemed to take possession of young and old in Gershom.
It would be impossible to say to whom was due the honour of
originating the idea of assembling for a grand pleasure party of some
sort, all the people of Gershom and vicinity. A good many people
claimed it, and it is probable they all had a right to do so. For so
natural and agreeable a plan might well suggest itself to several minds
at the same time. It took different forms in different minds, however.
All were for pleasure, but there were various opinions as to how it
could best be secured.
The young people generally were in favour of an expedition to Hawk's
Head, or to the more distant, but more accessible wonders of Clough's
Chasm, where in a sudden deep division of the hills lay a clear, still
lake, whose depths it was said had never yet been sounded. Others
approved rather of some plan that would allow a far larger number to
participate in it, than such an expedition would allow. And while this
was being discussed in a manner that threatened the falling through of
the whole affair, it was taken up by that part of the community who
considered themselves chiefly responsible for the well-being of the
body politic, and who considered themselves also, on the whole,
eminently qualified to perform the duties which the responsibilities
implied. And by them it was declared that a great temperance
demonstration was at this time desirable.
Such a demonstration would do good in many ways. It would revive the
drooping spirits of those who were inclined to despond as to the
prosperity of the cause. It would rouse from slumber the consciences of
some who had once been its active friends, and it would strengthen the
hands of all faithful workers; it would bring on the field all the best
speakers of the country, and give an impulse to the cause generally.
All this was said with much energy and reiteration, and a good deal
of it was believed; at any rate, all other plans for pleasure were made
to give way before it. It did not so much matter what might be made the
occasion of the gathering, so that folks got together to have a good
time, said the young and foolish, who thought much of whatever would
give enjoyment for the time, and little of anything else. As to
listening to speech-makingthere need be no more of that than each
might choose; so in the end almost all fell in with the idea of the
great temperance demonstration, and notice was given to the country at
But it is only as far as two or three people concerned themselves
with it that we have anything to do with the matter, either as an
occasion for amusement or as a demonstration of principle. Davie
brought home to Katie the news of all that was intended, and added a
good deal as to his opinion of it, which he acknowledged he would have
liked to give at a meeting called to make arrangements, which he and
Ben had just attended.
You should have heard them, grannie, and then you would shake your
head at them and not at me.
And Davie gave them a specimen of the remarks that had been made and
the manner of them, that made even his grandfather smile. There had
been a great deal of inconsequent talking, as is usual on such
occasions, and the chances were that the meeting would have come to an
end without having definitely settled a single point which they had met
for the purpose of settling, if it had not happened that Clifton
Holtat home for his vacation, he saidstrayed into the school-house
toward the end.
And it must be acknowledged that Clif has a head, said Davie
discontentedly. He is a conceited fellow but he is smart. In ten
minutes they had decided on the place, the grove above Varney's place,
and had appointed committees for all manner of things. And he made them
all believe that the meeting had settled the whole and not himself. You
should have heard John McNider `moving,' and Sam Green `seconding,' and
Jim Scott `suggesting,' and every one of them believing that he was
doing it out of his own head. It is a good thing that Clif thinks
Gershom too small a place for him. He'd play the old squire in a new
way. He's got more gumption in his little finger than Jacob has in his
whole body; and remembering that his grandfather was present, he
paused, and then added: He'll make a spoon or spoil a horn, will Clif.
And, grannie, I'm hungry.
Well, there is milk and bread in the pantry. Bring it to your
brother, Katie, as he's tired. And we'll hope, Davie lad, that the
spoon will be made and the horn no' spoiled. You're over ready with
your judgments, I doubt.
When Katie brought the bread and milk she ventured to ask some
further particulars as to arrangements.
Oh, you'll hear all about it. You are on two or three committees at
least. No, I don't remember what they are. Setting tables, I think.
You'll hear all about it, and if you don't, then all the better, said
And what have they given you to do? Surely they didna neglect the
general interest so far as to overlook you.
For when Davie took that line with Katie, grannie considered that he
needed to be put down a bit. Davie laughed. He understood it quite
No, grannie dear, I'm on two or three of their committees as well
as Katieand so is half the town for that matter. And they think they
are doing it for `the cause,' added Davie, laughing. Grannie, I would
give something if I could write down every word just as it was spoken.
I never read anything half so ridiculous in a book.
My lad, things are just as folk look at them. I daresay your
friends Ben, and Sam and Jim Scott saw nothing ridiculous about it till
you made them see it. And the master was there, and John McNider
But the master didna bide long; and as for Johnif you give him a
chance to make a speech, that is all he needs
Whisht, Davie lad, and take the good of things. It is a good cause
Oh, grannie, grannie! as though the cause had anything to do with
it, at least with the most of them!
Well, never mind. You can take the good of the play without making
folk think it's for the cause. And you'll need to help the
preparations. As for Katie, I doubt I canna so well spare herexcept
for the day itself.
The last few words had been between these two when the others had
gone out of the room. Grannie had a little of the spirit of which Katie
had a good deal. She was sociably inclined, and, though it troubled her
little that she or those belonging to her should be called odd, she
know it troubled Katie, and she wanted her to have the harmless
enjoyment that other young girls had, and to take the good of them. And
she desired for Davie, also, that he should be able to do and to enjoy
something else besides the work of the farm, which was certainly his
first duty. But she knew that his grandfather's desire to keep him from
evil companionship might keep him also from such companionship as might
correct some faults into which he was in danger of falling, being left
too much to himself, and might do him good in other ways. So, whenever
a fair opportunity occurred to give the young people a taste of
amusement which seemed harmless and enjoyable, she quietly gave her
voice in favour of it. And in her opinion this was one of the
If we are to refuse to put a hand to any good work till all who
wish to help are models of discretion, we'll do little in this world,
Davie lad. And you'll do what you can to make the occasion what it
ought to be for the honour of the town, since it is to be in Gershom.
Oh, grannie, grannie! What would folk say to hear you? As though
the whole town werena agog for the fun of it, and as though I could
make a straw's difference.
You can make a difference to your mother and Katie and the bairns.
And I dinna like to hear you laughing at folk, as though you didna
believe in them and their doing. We canna all be among the wise of the
earth, and I would like Katie to get the good of thisshe who gets so
little in the way of pleasure.
Oh, Katie! She's better at home than holding sham committee
meetings with a parcel of idle folk. There's plenty to do it all
Oh, as to committee meetings, I doubt she could be ill spared to
many of them, but for the day itself, to hear the speaking and see the
show like the rest. And you are not to spoil it to her beforehand,
Well, I winna, grannie. It will be great fun I dare say.
And as it's a leisure time, you must do what you can to help with
the rest, and all the more as I canna spare Katie. And she will have
preparations to make at home. But we'll hear more about it, it is
Plenty more, grannie. Oh, yes; I'll help. It is to be a grand
But the preparing beforehand is the best of all, they say, said
But even her grandmother was as well pleased that Katie should have
nothing to do with general preparations. All sorts of young people were
to help, and it could hardly be but that some foolish things should be
said and done where there was so much to excite and nothing to
restrain, and her Katie's name was as well to be kept out of it all.
But she put no limit as to the preparations that were to be made at
home in the way of cakes and tartlets and little pats of butter, for it
was to be a great occasion for Gershom.
There had been demonstrations of this kind before in Gershom and the
vicinity. Indeed, this was a favourite way of promoting the cause of
temperance, as it has more recently become the favourite way of
promoting other causes in Canada. In some spot chosen for general
convenience a great many people assembled. The greater the number the
greater the good accomplished, it was supposed. The usual plan was for
parties of friends to keep together, and either before or after the
speech-makingwhich was supposed to be the chief interest of the day
to seek some suitable spot in field or grove for the enjoyment in
common of the many nice things stored in the baskets with which all
But Gershom folk aimed at something beyond the usual way. In Finlay
Grove, which had been chosen as the place of meeting, tables were to be
set up and covered for
Wellwe'll say five hundred people, Clifton Holt suggested at one
of the meetings for the settling of preliminaries. And let us show
them what Gershom can do.
Of course he did not know in the least what he was undertaking for
Gershom in this off-hand way, nor did any one else till it was too late
to change the plan. Not that there was any serious thought of changing
it. The honour of Gershom was at stake, and to spend and be spent for
thisto say nothing of the causeseemed to be the general desire.
Davie Fleming did his part well. He drew loads of boards from the
saw-mill, and loads of crockery from the various village stores. He
helped to fix the tables and many seats, and to build the platform for
the speakers from a distance, vaguely promised as a part of the day's
feast. Indeed, he distinguished himself by his zeal and efficiency, and
was in such request that he was obliged to promise that he would be on
the ground early in the morning of the day to help about whatever might
still have to be done.
He had got quite into the spirit of it by this time. It was great
fun, he said, and he was a little ashamed of the part he had taken in
keeping Katie out of it all. So he proposed that she should go with him
that morning and stay for an hour or two. She could go quite easily, he
said, for he could put her over the river on a raft which he had made
for his own convenience, to save the walk round by the bridge. But
Katie could not be spared. The children were all expected to go with
the Scott's Corner Sunday-school to the High-School, from thence to
walk with several other Sunday-schools in procession to the Grove, and
Katie must help to get them ready and see them off. When Davie came
back at noon he had some news to give her.
The squire and Miss Elizabeth have come home, and they have company
at Jacob'sfriends of Mr Maxwell's, they say; but it is likely they
would be staying at the parsonage if they were. They have come at a
good time. They'll see folks enough in their meeting-clothes for once.
Davie had come home to put on his own meeting-clothes, and
declined his dinner in his hurry to get away again. Katie took it more
quietly. In her joy at the prospect of seeing Miss Elizabeth again, the
prospect of seeing so many people in their meeting-clothes seemed a
secondary matter, and this was too openly acknowledged to please her
Katie, said he discontentedly, I think the less we have to do
with the Holts to-day the better.
Jacob and his wife, you mean, said Katie, laughing. Oh, I shall
have nothing in the world to do with them.
I mean Jacob and his wife and all the rest of them. However, there
will be so many there to-day for Clif to show his fine clothes and his
fine manners to, that he'll have no time for the like of you.
But I'll see his fine clothes and his fine manners too, as well as
the rest. And there are some things that look best a little way off,
That's so. And if it's Holts you want, you'd better stick to
Yes, and Ben, said Katie, laughing.
Bairns, said grannie gravely, you're no quarrelling, I hope. Are
you ready, Katie? And, Davie lad, are you sure it's quite safe for your
sister to go over the river on your raft? And will she no' be in danger
of wetting her clean frock? It would save her a long walk, and the day
is warm, if you are sure it's safe.
It has carried me safe enough, grannie dear, and Ben Holt and more
of us. I ken Katie's precious gear beside me, to say nothing of her
frock. But it's safe enough.
Well, go away, like good bairns, and dinna be late in coming home.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE. A TEMPERANCE
Both Katie and her frock got safely over the river on Davie's raft,
which was a very primitive affair. They had a field or two to cross
from the landing-place, and at the opening made in the fence for the
people from the village to pass through on their way to the Grove, she
found the squire and Miss Elizabeth. They were sitting in Miss
Elizabeth's low carriage, at a loss what to do, because they had been
told that the committee had decided that no carriage was to be admitted
within the grounds, and Miss Elizabeth did not like to set rules and
regulations at defiance, but neither did she like that her father
should have to walk up the hill to the Grove. In this dilemma she
appealed to Davie.
Oh, never mind the committee, Miss Elizabeth. Go ahead up the hill;
and, besides, I'm on that committee, and I'll give you a pass, said
Davie, appreciating the situation.
Miss Elizabeth laughed, and so did Katie; but when Miss Elizabeth
proposed that he should take her place in the carriage and drive her
father up to the stand where he was to sit, Katie laughed more than the
occasion required, Davie thought. Of course he could not refuse, and
yielded with a good grace.
The field was none of the smallest, and the carriage moved slowly,
so that Elizabeth and Katie reached the neighbourhood of the speakers'
stand almost as soon as the squire. They were in time to see Clifton
help his father up the steps to his place on the stand, where a good
many other gentlemen were seated. Then they saw him hand into the
carriage a very pretty young lady, a stranger, and drive away with her.
Davie looked after them with a grimace.
That is cool! Holts indeed.
I hope my brother is not committing an indiscretion, said Miss
Oh, I guess she likes it. And he is one of the managers; he may do
as he likes.
I am not so sure of that, said Miss Elizabeth.
But who is she? asked Katie; I think she is the prettiest girl I
ever sawand such a pretty dress!
Yes, she is very pretty. She is Miss Langden. She and her father
came last night. They are staying at my brother's. They are friends of
Mr Maxwell's, I hope Clifton has not done a foolish thing in taking her
The little carriage was making slow progress round the grounds, with
many eyes fixed upon it, and certainly the handsome young couple
sitting in it were a pleasant sight to see. Many a remark was passed
upon them by friends and strangers alike; admiring remarks generally
they were, and though they did not reach the ears of the young people,
Clifton could very easily imagine them. He enjoyed the situation, and
if his companion did not, as one observing lady remarked, her looks
belied her. By and by they came round to the stand again and stopped
to speak with Elizabeth.
I am glad you brought the carriage, Lizzie, said her brother. It
is a sight well worth seeing, and one gets the best view in going all
the way round.
It was a sight worth seeing. There were already many hundreds of
people on the ground. It was a large grassy field, sloping down
gradually nearly to the river. The Grove, where the speakers' stand had
been placed, and where many long tables were spread, was toward the
upper part of it, but there were trees scattered through all the field,
and groups of people were sitting and walking about here and there
through the whole of it, and more were arriving every moment.
There was a good deal of bright colour about the meeting-clothes
of some of them, and the effect at a distance was pleasing. In the
lower part of the field toward the right, where there were trees enough
for shade, but an open space also, many children were running about,
and their voices, possibly too noisy for the pleasure of those close
beside them, came up the hill with only a cheerful murmur that
heightened the effect of the scene.
I consider myself fortunate in being permitted to witness such a
gathering, said the young lady in the carriage. You must feel it to
be very encouraging to see so many people showing themselves to be on
the right side.
Yes, there is a very respectable gathering. There are a great many
from neighbouring towns, said Elizabeth; I am very glad we have so
fine a day.
We can make room for you, Miss Holt, said Miss Langden.
Yes, Lizzie, come; we will drive round again. You can have a far
better idea of the numbers when you see the whole field.
But Elizabeth declined. Indeed, she ventured to express a doubt
whether it were the right thing to do. But Clifton only laughed, and
asked her who she supposed would be likely to object.
All the same; I would rather not do what others are not permitted
to do, said Elizabeth gravely.
All right, Lizzie, said her brother.
The young lady at his side made no movement.
Shall we take another turn round the field? said Clifton. Oh,
yes, Lizzie, we shall be back before the speech-making begins. We would
not lose a word of that for a great deal, said Clifton, laughing.
Elizabeth stood looking after them, with a feeling of some
discomfort. It was very foolish for Clifton to make himself so
conspicuous, she thought, and then she turned at somebody's suggestion
to go and look at the tables before they were disturbed. Here she fell
in with Katie again, and with her cousin Betsey, and they all went
together round the tables.
They were twelve in number, and were capable of seating not quite
five hundred, but a great many people, and they were loaded with good
things of all sorts. The speakers' table was splendid with flowers and
glass and silver. The good and beautiful from all baskets, or a part of
whatever was best and most beautiful, had been reserved for it, and
Katie hoped that the stranger young lady had got a good view of it. The
other tables were leaded also. There did not seem to be a full supply
of plates and knives and things on some of them, but that would
doubtless be considered a secondary matter as long as the good things
lasted; and there seemed little chance of their failing.
The supply reserved for the second tables, and even for the third
and fourth tables, seemed to Miss Elizabeth to be inexhaustible.
Baskets of cookies and doughnuts, and little cakes of all kinds; great
trays of tartlets and crullers, boxes of biscuits, and buns and rolls
of all shapes and sizes, fruit-pies, and crackers, and loaves of bread:
there seemed to be no end of them.
End of them! If they hold out, we may be glad, said Miss Betsey.
Every child on the field is good for one of each thing, at least,
biscuits and cookies and all the rest, and there are hundreds of
children, to say nothing of the grown-up folks. They've been all
calculating to have the children come in at the last, but two or three
of us have concluded to fix it different.
The speaking was to come before the eating, and as the crowd who
would wish to hear would leave no room for the children, Miss Betsey's
plan was that they should have their good things while the speaking was
going on, at a sufficient distance to prevent their voices from being
troublesome, and that the tables should be left undisturbed. Some
dozens of young people were detailed to carry out this arrangement, and
Davie and Katie were among them. Miss Elizabeth would have liked to go
with them; but she was a little anxious about her father, who had been
made the chairman of the occasion, and did not wish to be far away from
The children's tea was the best part of the entertainment, David
said afterward. There was some danger that the third, or even the
second tables would have little to show, for it had been agreed by
those who served the children that while any of them could eat a
morsel, it should be supplied. And it was a good deal more than Miss
Betsey's one apiece all round of everything. The quantity that
disappeared was amazing.
Miss Betsey came out wonderfully in her efforts in behalf of the
young people. Miss Elizabeth had been rather surprised to find her in
the Grove at all, and had quite unintentionally allowed her surprise to
appear. It was not like her cousin Betsey to take part in this sort of
thing, on pretence of its being a duty, and her thought was answered as
if she had spoken it.
I told mother I wasn't going to set up to be any wiser than the
rest of the folks this time. It's a good cause, and if we don't help it
much, we can't do much harm. I mean the children shall have a good time
as far as victuals are concerned. And so they did.
Betsey sacrificed her chance of hearing some good speaking, which
was a greater disappointment to her than it would have been to some
others, and Katie stayed with her. But when the children were at last
satisfied, they turned their faces toward the stand, still hoping to
hear something. They passed along slowly, for there was a great crowd
of people, not half of whom were listening to what was said. At one
side of the stand, a little removed from it, but yet near enough to
hear if they cared to listen, they saw Miss Elizabeth and her brother,
and Miss Langden. Katie pointed her out to Miss Betsey.
How pretty she is, and such a pretty dress, and everything to
match! Look, Miss Betsey. Did you ever see anything prettier?
Why, yes. I don't know but I have. The dress is well enough, said
Which was faint praise. The dress was a marvel of elegant simplicity
in some light material of soft dim grey, with just enough of colour in
flowers and ribbons to make the effect perfect. It was worth while
coming a long way just to see it, more than one young person
acknowledged. The dress and the wearer made a very pretty picture to
many eyes. She was very modest and gentle in manner, and listened, or
seemed to listen, like the rest, but Clifton Holt claimed much of her
attention, smiling and whispering now and then in a way that made his
sister uncomfortable, she scarcely knew why, for the young lady herself
did not seem to resent it.
Betsey had not lost much, it was several times intimated to her
during her progress up the hill. The speakers from a distance had all
failed to appear except two. The forte of one of these seemed to be
statistics. He astonished his audience if he did not edify them,
putting into round numbers every fact connected with the temperance
cause that could possibly be expressed by figuresthe quantity of
spirits consumed in Canada, the money paid for it, the quantity of
grain employed in its manufacture, the loss in flour and meal to the
country, the money received for licences, the number of crimes caused
by its use, and the cost of these to the country. The other went in
for wit and humour, and there was much clapping of hands and laughter
from such of the audience as had not heard his funny stories before,
and his was generally pronounced a first-rate speech.
Squire Holt was in the chair, but the duty of introducing the
speakers was performed by Mr Maxwell, for the squire was feeble, and
not equal to all that devolved upon him. Indeed, he dropped asleep,
poor old gentleman, while the statistics were being given, and lost the
point of the stories and got very tired, as Elizabeth could see. But Mr
Maxwell did his part well, and just as Betsey settled herself to hear,
he introduced Mr Langden, a friend of the cause from the States.
Mr Langden gave them some statistics also, and expressed himself
delighted with the gathering, and the evidence of interest in the good
cause. He was delighted, too, with their little town and the
water-power, and with their country generally, which was a finer
country than he had imagined it to be, and not so far behind his own
section. He said a great many agreeable things, and though it did not,
in the opinion of the critical part of the audience, amount to much as
a temperance address, it was such a speech as it was pleasant to hear.
Then Mr Burnet came forward and charmed the audience with his grand
flowing periods. But though his words were splendid, they were few; for
Mr Burnet did not care to waste his words on a weary and hungry people.
And then came the speech of the day.
Just as Mr Maxwell was considering whether he should give the people
a ten minutes' address, as was of course expected, or dismiss them at
once to the tables, toward which some of them were already directing
their steps, Clifton Holt came on to the stand and whispered a few
words to him, and then came forward, asking leave, not to make a
speech, but to introduce a new speaker. He did make a speech, however,
short, but telling, and was cheered heartily; but the cheering rose to
its loudest and longest when Mark Varney came forward on the stand.
Was it Mark Varney? It was a very different man from the
down-looking, heartless poor fellow who had disappeared from Gershom
two years ago. Erect and broad and brown he stood, with a look of
strength and firmness on his face, though his lips trembled, that no
one remembered to have seen there since his early youth, before his foe
had mastered him.
In the silence that fell after the first shout of welcome, the
people pressed forward, eager to see and hear. A movement toward the
point of interest took place through all the field. Those who had grown
tired of listening, and those who had not cared to listen, drew near,
and several of those on the platform pressed forward the better to see
Mr Maxwell did not; he drew back rather, after a glance toward the
spot where Miss Holt and Miss Langden were sitting, and, resting his
elbow on the back of Squire Holt's chair, leaned his head on his hand.
Miss Langden did not see the glance, for she was listening to Clifton,
who had returned and was saying something to her. But Elizabeth saw
that there was a strange look, grave and glad, on his face, and that he
was very pale.
Gradually the rustle and movements which had given Mark time to
quiet the trembling of his lips came to an end, and then he and all the
throng were startled by a sudden cryloud and strong, though it was
but one man's voice:
Mark Varney, before all!
It might have terribly spoiled the effect, but it did not. It gave
poor Mark, who was no orator, and who, with his heart full, did not
find the right words ready, a beginning.
Yes, Tim Cuzner, it is Mark Varney, who hasn't been seen in these
parts for two years, nor for a good while before that, in his right
mindand you are the very man I want to talk to, Tim, you and a few
others. I've got something to tell you. A few others? Yes, I've got
something to say to every man in this Grove. I am not going in for a
temperance lecture, though it wouldn't be the first time. I was a
living temperance lecture in the streets of Gershom for a long while,
as Squire Holt and Jacob and all the folks here know.
But I want to say a word to every young man here because there
isn't a young man in this Grove, I don't care who he is, whose feelings
as to liquor I don't know all about. I know, and I remember this
minute, just how it feels never to have tasted a drop. I remember how
the first temptation to drink came to me, and I know how it feels after
the first glass, and the second, and the third. I know just how strong
and scornful a young man feels when folks begin to warn him, and how
impossible it looks to him that danger should be near. I know every
step of the dark way that leads down to the gates of deathto the very
gatesfor I have been there.
I don't know just how far down that road any of you young men may
have got by this time, but I know that some of you are on it somewhere.
I know where you used to be, Tim Cuzner, and you haven't been standing
still since then. No. Come now, don't get mad and go away. If my life
would help you to set your feet on solid ground in any other road, you
should have it and welcome. But it wouldn't; no, nor ten such lives.
But I'll tell you what will help you, and what every young man here
who feels the curse of strong drink needs as much as you do, and what
we all need to keep us safe from the temptations that are everywhere.
There is only one thing in the earth beneath or the heaven above that
will touch the spot, and that's the grace of God!
That doesn't seem much, does it? The grace of God! You've heard old
Mr Hollister tell about it time and again, and you've heard Mr Maxwell,
and the folks in conference meeting talk of it, and it has got to seem
to you just like a word, a name, and that's all. But I tell you, Tim
and boys, it is a power. I know it, for it has dealt with me and broken
me to pieces, and made me over new.
Mark was no orator, though he had the clear, firm, penetrating voice
of one; but his words, because of the surprise of his presence, and the
change which had been wrought in him, and because of his earnestness
and simplicity, had on his audience all the effect of the loftiest
eloquence. He had a great deal more to tell them of the darkness and
misery and sin through which he was passing, when the minister found
him and laid hands on him, and followed him day in and day out, and
never got tired of him, nor discouraged about him, but laboured with
him, and encouraged him, and gave him the hope that though he could not
save himself, God could save him.
He tried to say a word about the night which they two passed
together beside his wife's coffin, but he broke down there, and went on
to tell how he went away to give himself a chance, because it had
seemed to him then, that if he should stay among his old companions and
the daily temptations of his life nothing could save him.
He did not tell his mother, and he did not write to her, because at
first he never knew what day his enemy might overcome him, and then she
would have had to put away hope and take up her old burden again.
But he had fallen into good hands over yonder in the States, and he
had much to tell of the kindness shown him there, and the Lord had
stood by him and helped him, as He would help all who came to Him in
The people who heard all this were moved by it in a wonderful way.
It was like a miracle, they said to one another, that Mark Varney's
lips should be opened to speak as he was speaking. It was like life
from the dead to see him standing there, they said, as indeed it was.
And you must excuse me for saying so much about myself, because
that is just what I came here to do. I was coming home soon, at any
rate; but when I saw in a newspaper a notice of this gathering in
Finlay's Grove, I thought it would be as good a time as any to come and
show which side I am on now. And if I can, I mean to get back my farm
again. And if I can't, why, I shall have to get another, and if God
will let me help Him to save two or three such as I was when our
minister found me, I'll be content with my work. I can't talk. I don't
suppose I shall ever speak from a platform again as long as I live, but
I mean to help some poor souls I know of up out of the pit.
And I tell you, I'm glad to get home. I have only just seen mother
a minute and my little Mary. And I haven't seen Squire Holt yet to
speak to, nor the minister.
Then he turned his back on his audience, and a good many people
thought that was a lame ending to a good speech, but all did not think
so. At least it was good to see the old squire holding his hand, and to
hear him telling him that he had got to his right place at last. And it
was good to see how he and Mr Maxwell were shaking hands, and all the
rest of the people on the stand crowding round to have their turn.
Indeed, it seemed to be a general business, for Mr Burnet was shaking
hands with Mr Maxwell, and so was the old squire, and John McNider
clambered up on the stand on purpose to do the same thing, and so did
several other people.
By and by the minister came forward, and they all thought he was
going to make a speech. But he did not. He told them tea was ready, and
that all the elderly people were to go to the tables first, and that
the young people were to serve them. But nobody seemed in a hurry to
move, and then Squire Holt came forward, and instead of making a
speech, he asked them to sing the Doxology.
And didn't they sing it? Mark Varney, who had led the choir once on
a timeand a good many in the crowd vowed that he should lead it
again began in his wonderful, clear tenor, and then the sound rose up
like a mighty wind, till all the hills echoed again. And then they all
went to tea.
Elizabeth meant that her father should go home at this time, but
when Mr Maxwell brought him down to her, he declined to acknowledge
himself tired, and went to the table with the rest, and Elizabeth took
her place to serve. Miss Langden had a seat at the speakers' table,
and was well served, as was right. Clifton had the grace to deny
himself the pleasure of sitting down beside her, as there were more
than guests enough for all the seats, but he devoted himself to her
service, as every lady said, and enjoyed it as well as he would have
enjoyed his tea.
Davie was on the tea and coffee committee, and his business at
this time was to be one of several to carry great pitchers of one or
other of those beverages from mighty cauldrons, where they were being
made in a corner of the field, to a point where cups could be
conveniently filled and distributed at the tables.
But from the midst of the pleasant confusion that reigned supreme in
this department, Davie suddenly disappeared, leaving the zealous, but
less expert Ben to take his place.
He's got something else to do, I expect, Aunt Betsey, and you'll
have to get along with me somehow, for I saw him tearing down toward
the river like sixty, and there would be no catching him even if I was
going to try.
There was nothing the matter, was there, Ben? asked Katie; but so
little did she think it possible, that she did not even wait for the
answer which Ben was very ready to give.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO. POOR DAVIE.
It was not that Davie thought anything serious was the matter that,
as Ben said, he went tearing down the hill toward the river, but that
he feared there might be before all was done, unless there was some way
of preventing it.
Where are them boys? he heard one mother say to another, as he
passed with his empty pitcher in his hand, and the answer was
They've gone down to the river, I expect. But I don't suppose
there's any dangernot to Gershom boys, who swim there every summer
day of their lives.
But there were many boys and girls also on the grounds who did not
belong to Gershom, and to some of them a river big enough for a boat to
sail on, would have a charm which must certainly draw them to its
banks, and it would have been a good plan to appoint a committee to see
to such, Davie thought.
I'll just have a look down there, he said to himself, and as soon
as he was over the fence and out of sight, he ran rapidly toward the
river. There were all sorts of children there, some of whom had
wandered down to the mill-pond. There were two boats on the river, but
there were grown people as well as children in them, and there were
grown people walking on the bank who might justly be considered
responsible for the safety of those who could not take care of
themselves, and Davie was about to turn up the hill again, when a
little fellow hailed him.
I say, Davie, what do you suppose Dannie Green and Frankie Holt and
two more boys are doing? They have taken your raft and are going to
have a sail on the Black Poolso they said.
They could never do it, said Davie, with a sudden fear rising.
There was no turning up the hill after that. He ran across the two
fields to the point where the raft had been left. It was gone sure
enough, and he hastened on, stumbling over the stones and timber which
Jacob Holt had last winter accumulated on the Varney place. Then he
went through the strip of woods, and round the rocky point beyond,
thinking all the time that such little fellows never could have pushed
the raft so far up the stream, and that it was foolish for him to run.
But he was not a minute too soon. He could never tell afterward,
whether he saw the raft, or heard the frightened cry first, but he knew
that a boy had overbalanced and fallen into the water while trying to
reach bottom with his pole in the deeper waters of the pool; and the
next moment he had thrown off boots and coat, and was striking out
toward the spot where he had disappeared. The boy would rise in a
minute, he thought, and he could get hold of him.
But he did not rise for what seemed to Davie a very long time, and
might never rise of himself. There was not a particle of risk, Davie
knew, in diving to search for him, and if there had been, he would
hardly have considered it in the excitement of the moment. It would
have been the last of little Frank Holt if he had considered it long.
The little fellow had fallen head foremost, and possibly had struck his
head on one of the roots or sticks that had accumulated in the bottom
of the pool, for when Davie brought him to the surface, he seemed quite
insensible, and he struck out for the Ythan side of the pool. He did
what he could for the boy, letting the water flow from his mouth and
ears, and rubbing him rapidly for a time.
He caught sight of the other lads as they reached the opposite shore
with the raft, and saw them running at full speed in the direction of
the Grove. But he felt that he must not wait for the help they would be
sure to send, and gently lifting the boy in his arms, he went with him
with all speed through the wood and up the hill to the house.
A single sentence told the story, and in a minute little Frank was
in a warm bath and then in a warm bed. He soon showed such signs of
life as encouraged them to hope that there was not much the matter with
him; and then Davie thought of the consternation which the other lads
would cause when they carried the tale to the Grove.
I doubt you'll need to go as quick as you can, Davie. Think of the
poor father and mother if they should hear.
Ay, lad, make what haste you can, said his grandfather, and
neither of them were the less urgent that the child was the son of
So Davie went down the field again in his wet clothes, but that
mattered the less as he had the river to swim, the raft being on the
other side. He put on his dry coat over his wet garments, and no one
seemed to notice as he entered the Grove. No rumour of the accident had
as yet spread through the crowd, and Davie spoke only to Miss
Elizabeth, as he met her on the way home with her father. Happily the
father and mother knew nothing of the matter, till by and by the boy,
wrapped in one of Mrs Fleming's best blankets, was carried and set with
his bundle of wet clothes in the hall. It was his uncle Clifton who
took him home, and all that he could tell about the matter was that he
had fallen into the Black Pool, and somebody had taken him out.
Dan Green kept his own counsel, running straight home and putting
himself to bed. After his first sleep, however, he woke in such a
fright that he could keep the tale no longer, but told it to his mother
with many sobs and tears. His mother soothed and comforted him,
believing that he had been startled out of a troubled dream. But the
next day the story was told in Gershom at least a thousand times; and
when Davie went into the post-office for his grandfather's weekly
paper, he heard, with mingled amazement and disgust, extravagant
praises of his courage in saving the boy's life.
Courage? Nonsense! Risk? Stuff! He never bathed in Black Pool that
he did not dive in at one side and come out at the other. Why, his
little brother could do that. There was no more danger for them than
for a musk-rat, and Davie hurried away to escape more words about it,
and to avoid meeting Mr Maxwell and his friends, who were coming down
the street. In his haste he nearly stumbled over Jacob Holt, who held
him fast, and that was worse than all the rest. For Jacob could not
utter a word, but choked and mumbled and shook his hand a great many
times, and when David fairly got away, he vowed that he should not be
seen at the post-office again for a while, and he was not, but it was
for a better reason than he gave to himself then.
For Davie went about all next day with a heavy weight upon him, and
a dull aching at his bones, as new as it was painful. He refused his
dinner, and grew sick at the sight of his supper; and tossed, and
turned, and muttered all night upon his bed, longing for the day. But
the slow-coming light made him wish for the darkness again, for it
dazzled his heavy eyes, and put strange shapes on the most familiar
objects, and set them all in motion in the oddest way. A queer sort of
light it seemed to be, for though he closed his eyes he did not shut it
out, and the changes on things and the odd movements seemed to be going
on still within the lids.
So in a little he rose and dressed, and roused his brothers to bring
the cows into the yard, meaning to help as usual with the milking. But
the milking was done and the breakfast over, and worship, and no one
had seen Davie. He was lying tossing and muttering on the hay in the
big barn, and there at last, in the course of his morning's work, his
grandfather found him. He turned a dull, dazed look upon him as he
raised himself up, but he did not speak.
Are you no' well, Davie? Why did you no' come to your breakfast?
I'm coming, said Davie, but he did not move.
His grandfather touched his burning hand and his heart sank.
Come awa' to your grandmother.
Yes, we'll go to grannie, said Davie.
Blinded by the sunlight, he staggered on, and his grandfather put
his arm about him. Mrs Fleming met them at the door as they drew near.
What can ail the laddie? asked his grandfather, with terror in his
They made him sit down, and Katie brought some cold water. He drank
some and put some on his head, and declared himself better.
It is some trash that he has eaten at that weary picnic, said
No, grannie, I hadna a chance to eat.
And you have eaten little since. Well, never mind. You'll go to
your bed, and I'll get your mother to make you some of her herb tea.
And I'll be better the morn, grannie, said Davie, with an
He drank his mother's bitter infusion, and tossed and turned and
moaned and muttered, all day and all night, and for many days and
nights, till weeks had passed away, and a time of sore trial it was to
He was never very ill, they said. He was never many hours together
that he did not know those who were about his bed, and young Dr
Wainwright, who came every day to see him, never allowed that he was in
great danger. But as day after day went on, and he was no better, their
hearts grew sick with hope deferred. Grannie alone never gave way to
fear. She grew weak and weary, and could only sit beside him, little
able to help him; but he never opened his eyes but her cheerful smile
greeted him, and her cheerful words encouraged him. His mother waited
on him for a while, but she was not strong, and had no spring of hope
within her. Katie worked all day and watched all night, and scorned the
idea of weariness, but the Ythan water that trickled around her
milk-pans in the dairy, carried daily some tears of hers down to the
It is grandfather I'm thinking about, said she one day when she
burst out crying in Miss Betsey's sight. I am afraid I shall never be
able to keep from thinking that God has been hard on grandfather, if
anything should happen to Davie.
But God is not hard on your grandfather and there is nothing going
to happen to Davie, said Betsey, too honest to reprove the girl for
the expression of thoughts which she had not been able to keep out of
her own mind. It was the plunge into the Black Pool and the going about
afterward in his wet clothes that had brought on this illness, and that
it should be God's will that David Fleming's grandson, his hope and
stay, should lose his health, perhaps his life, in saving the son of
Jacob Holt, looked to Miss Betsey a terrible mystery. She did not say
that God was hard on him, as poor Katie was afraid of doing; but when,
now and then, there came a half hour when it seemed doubtful whether
Davie would get through, the thought that God would not afflict His
servant to the uttermost helped her to still hope for the lad. As far
as words and deeds went, she showed herself always hopeful for him, and
did more than even the doctor himself in helping him to pull through.
In country places like Gershom, where professional nurses were not
often to be found, when severe sickness comes into a family
necessitating constant attention by night as well as by day, the
neighbours, far and near, might be relied upon for help, as far as it
could be given by persons coming and going for a night or a day. The
Flemings had had severe sickness among them more than once, but they
had never called on their neighbours for help, and they could not bring
themselves to do so now, even for night-watching. That she should trust
Davie to any of the kind young fellows who night after night offered,
their services, was to grannie impossible. She did not doubt their
good-will, but she doubted their wisdom and their power to keep awake
after their long day's work. And it is no' our way, said Mrs Fleming,
and that ended the discussions, as it had ended them on former
But they never can get through it alone this time, said Miss
Betsey, and I don't know but it is my duty to see about it, as much as
It was just in the hot days in the beginning of August when Betsey
was wont to give up butter-making and set to the making of cheese, the
very worst time of the year for her to get away from home. But she saw
no help for it.
You must do the best you can, mother, you and Cynthy, and Ben will
give what help you need with the lifting. If I should never make
another cheese as long as I live, I can't let Mrs Fleming wear herself
out, and maybe lose her boy after all.
So Miss Betsey went over one morning to inquire, she said, and
some trifling help being needed for a minute, she took off her bonnet,
and concluded to stay a spell, and that night Ben brought her bag
over which she had packed in the morning, and she stayed as long as she
was needed, to the help and comfort of them all.
As for the grandfather, it went hard with him these days. He was
outwardly silent and grave as usual, giving no voice to the anxiety
that devoured him. But at night when his wife slumbered, worn out with
the day's watching, or when she seemed to slumber, and in Pine-tree
Hollow, which in the time of his former troubles had become to him a
refuge and a sanctuary, his cry ascended to God in an agony of
confession and entreaty. He, too, wondered that it should be God's will
that the child of his enemy should be saved, and his child's life made
the sacrifice; but he did not consciously rebel against that will. It
was God's doing; Davie had not even known whose child it was whom he
tried to save. This was God's doing from beginning to end.
Far be it from him to rebel against God, he said to his wife when,
fearing for him and all that he might be thinking, she spoke to him
about it. It was a terrible trouble, but it did not embitter him as
former trouble had done, and his enemy had fewer of his thoughts at
this time than might have been supposed.
But he had not forgiven him. He knew in his heart that he had not
forgiven him. When Jacob came with his wife, grateful and sorry, and
eager to do something to express it, he kept quiet in a corner of
Davie's room, into which they were not permitted to enter. Mrs Fleming
said all that was needful on the occasion, and when Jacob broke down
and could not speak of his boy who had been given back to them almost
from the dead, she laid her hand gently upon his arm and said, Let
God's goodness make a better man of you, and even Mrs Jacob did not
feel like resenting the words. But there was no one who could help them
in their present trouble, she repeated, as they went sorrowfully away.
No one except Miss Betsey, grannie felt gratefully, as she turned
into the house againMiss Betsey, who seemed made of iron, and never
owned to being tired. She slept one night in three, when Katie and her
mother kept the watching, and at other times she took catnaps in the
rocking-chair, or on Mrs Fleming's bed, when grannie was at her
brightest and could care for Davie in the early part of the day.
And poor Davie tossed and muttered through many days and nights,
never so delirious as to have forgotten the summer's work, but never
quite clear in his mind, and always struggling with some unknown power
that, against his will, kept him back from doing his part in it. Till
one day he looked into his grandfather's face with comprehending eyes,
and said weakly, but clearly:
It must be time for the cutting of the wheat, grandfather; I have
been sick a good while, surely?
Ay, have you; a good while. But you are better now, the doctor
says. But never heed about the cutting of the wheat. Mark Varney has
done all that, and more. We have had a good harvest, Davie.
Have we, grandfather? said Davie, looking with surprise and dismay
at the tears on his grandfather's face.
God has been good to us, laddie, said Mr Fleming, trying to speak
calmly, and then he rose and went out.
So we've had a good harvest, have we? And Mark Varney! I wonder
where he turned up. Oh, well! it's all right I daresayandI'm tired
already. And he turned his head on the pillow and fell asleep.
Yes, Mark Varney had taken Davie's work into his own hand. He came
over with Mr Maxwell as soon as he heard the lad was ill. He made no
formal offer of help, but just set himself to do what was to be done.
He had all his own way about it, for Mr Fleming was too anxious to take
much heed of the work, since some one else had taken it in hand; and no
one knew better how work should be done than Mark. He had all the help
he needed, for the neighbours were glad to offer help, and give it,
too, in this time of need. The harvest was got through and the grain
housed as successfully as the hay had been before Davie, lank and
stooping, crept out over the fields of Ythan.
It was Sunday afternoon again when Katie and he went slowly down the
brae toward the cherry-trees. Their grandfather and grandmother looked
after them with loving eyes.
The Lord is ay kind, said Mrs Fleming, and then she read the 103rd
Psalm in the old Scottish version, which she whiles liked to do. She
paused now and then because her voice trembled, and on some of the
verses she lingered, reading them twice over, seeking from her husband
audible assent to the comfort they gave:
`The Lord our God is merciful,
And He is gracious,
Long-suffering, and slow to wrath,
In mercy plenteous.'
Ay is He! as we ken well this day. And again:
`Such pity as a father hath
Unto his children dear,
Like pity shows the Lord to such
As worship Him in fear.'
`Such pity as a father hath.' We ken well what that means, Dawvid;
a father's pity; such pity and love as we felt for our Davie, when he
lay tossing in his bed, poor laddie. Andas we felt forhim that's
She could say no more at the moment, even if it would have been wise
to do so. But by and by she rose and came toward him, and standing half
behind him, laying her soft, wrinkled old hand on his grey head, she
If I could but hear you say that you forgiveJacob Holt!
Then there was a long silence in which she did not move.
BecauseI have been thinking that the Lord let our laddie do
that good turn for Histo put us in mind Again she paused. And I
would fain hear you say it, for His sake who has loved us, and forgiven
so much to us.
I wish him no ill. I wouldna hurt a hair of his head. I leave him
in God's hands.
He spoke huskily, with long pauses between the sentences. Whether he
would have said more or not she could not tell. There was no time for
more, for the bairns came in with their mother from the Sunday-school,
and quiet was at an end for the moment.
It was a long time before the subject was touched upon between them
again, and it was he who spoke first.
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE. POOR GRANNIE.
The Langdens had stayed ten days in Gershom. Half the time Miss
Langden had passed with Miss Holt, and they had both enjoyed the visit,
though not quite in the same way. Her father needed much of Elizabeth's
care and attention at this time, and it would not have been possible
for her to devote herself constantly to her visitor. But Miss Essie was
not a difficult person to entertainquite the contrary.
She took interest in many things. She had her journal to keep up,
and many letters to write. And then Mr Clifton Holt was at home, and at
her service. Mr Maxwell was a frequent visitor also; and when he came,
Miss Holt felt at liberty to attend to her own affairs, knowing that
they did not need her presence. Clifton was not so mindful of their old
friendship, or not so well aware of their present relation, for he did
not seem to think it was the thing to do to leave their visitors to
entertain each other; and certainly he was never made to feel himself
to be an intruder, though his sister often feared that he might be so.
Then Miss Langden had a great desire to see as much as possible of
this interesting country as she politely called Canada; and as much
of it as could be seen while driving about with Clifton in his sister's
low carriage, or in the larger carriage with Clifton and Mr Maxwell, or
her father, she saw, and professed herself delighted with it. She
admired the farm-houses and the farmers, and the farmers' wives and
daughters, and laid herself out to captivate them in a way that Clifton
declared to be wonderful. To Elizabeth it seemed natural enough.
They saw a good deal of company in a quiet way. The Holts took pains
to invite, at one time or another, the greater part of Mr Maxwell's
friends, in order that Mr Langden and his daughter might make their
acquaintance, and both in different ways won golden opinions among
The good people of Gershom were naturally well-disposed toward the
friends of their minister, and Mr Langden was a quiet, shrewd business
man, without a particle of pretence, whose company they would have
enjoyed under even less favourable circumstances. He took much interest
in listening to the very things they liked best to tell aboutthe
early settlement of that part of the country, its features and
resources, agricultural, mineral, commercial; the history of railroads,
manufactures, and business ventures generally. If there were anything
worth knowing about any of these matters that Mr Langden did not know
before his visit came to an end, it was not for want of questions
asked, Clifton Holt said, laughing, to his daughter. Which was quite
trueand he had asked some questions and received some answers which
neither Clifton nor Jacob had heard, and knew more about some things in
Gershom than Clifton himself knew at that time. Some hints that there
had been thoughts of business as well as pleasure in his mind in
visiting Gershom had transpired, and it would have been agreeable to
hear more about it, but Mr Langden was better at asking questions than
at answering them, and no one knew any more about his plans when he
went than when he came. But people liked him, and liked to talk about
him and his visit afterward.
And his daughter was very much admired also. That is to say, she was
admired in her character of visitor to Miss Elizabethas a pretty and
amiable and beautifully-dressed young lady from the States. But when
the discussion went farther, and her possible future as a resident of
Gershom was hinted at, all were not so sure about her. A minister's
wife! That was another affair. Would she fit into that spot? She did
not look much like the ministers' wives that the Gershom people knew
I suppose it comes as natural to her to have gloves, and boots, and
bonnets to match every gown she puts on, as it does for the most of
folk to wear one pair as long as they'll last, said Miss Smith from
Fosbrookea much more primitive place than Gershomand she looks as
if she set a value on such things, as even good folks will do till
they've learned better.
And the minister's salary isn't equal to all that, and wouldn't be,
not if it was raised to eight hundred dollars, which isn't likely yet a
spell, said Mrs Coleman, the new deacon's wife.
Not unless she has money of her own. And if she haswell,
ministers' folks are pretty much so, wherever they be, or whatever
they've got; and such articles of luxury are not the thing for
ministers' wivesnot in this wooden country.
I know one thing, said Miss Hall, the dressmaker. Her trunk was
never packed to come here short of five hundred dollars, to say nothing
of jewellery. I've handled considerable dry-goods in my time, and I
know that much.
Ah, well. I guess any one that's lived in `the States,' and that
talks as cool as a cucumber about going to travel in Europe, isn't very
likely to settle down in Gershomnot and be contented, said Myrilla
Green, who had lived in the States herself, and was supposed to know
Ah! I guess there's as good folks as her in Gershom; and so the
talk went on.
But it was the opinion of several of the ladies interested in the
discussion, that clothes, and even money, did not amount to much in
some cases. The young lady had the missionary spirit, as any one who
had heard her talk must see, and she was not likely to be influenced by
Of course the discussion of the possibility implied by all this was
inevitable in the circumstances, though no one in Gershom knew
anything about the matter; and the parties most concerned could have
given them little satisfactory information with regard to it. The first
of the two years of probation, which Mr Langden had insisted upon, had
not yet passed, and Mr Maxwell could not have renewed the question of
an engagement, if he had wished to do so, or if Miss Essie had given
him an opportunity, which she did not. Not a word was spoken between
them that all Gershom might not have heard, though nothing could be
more friendly and pleasant than their intercourse during these ten
But then Miss Essie was on friendly terms with every one. Nothing
could be more charming than her manners, it was said. She was not a
bit stuck up, the Gershom girls acknowledged. If she had any citified
airs they were not of the kind that are especially displeasing to
country people. She was friendly with every one, and before her visit
came to an end, it came into Elizabeth's mind that she was particularly
pleasant in words and ways with her brother Clifton.
It had come into Clifton's mind also, and Elizabeth longed to tell
him just how matters stood between Miss Langden and Mr Maxwell. But she
did not feel at liberty to do so, and she could only hope that
Clifton's devotion would be in this case, as it had been in others,
only transitory, and that he would not suffer more than was reasonable
for his folly. Of what passed between Mr Langden and Jacob Holt very
little was known. They went together over the ground which Jacob had so
long coveted, and Mr Langden saw the advantages which the locality
offered for the purpose proposed. He would have considered the purchase
of the land to be a good investment, but Jacob could not bring himself
to urge the unpleasant subject of sale on Mr Fleming, now that Davie
was so ill, and he knew that urging would avail nothing, but it was a
great disappointment to him.
He said little about it to Mr Langden; but that gentleman knew more
of the relations existing between him and Mr Fleming, and of other
things besides, than Jacob fancied. They saw a good many people who
were interested in the proposed enterprise, and got information which
would help him to decide about future investments, he said, but he took
no definite step with regard to the matter before he went away.
It had been understood that Mr Maxwell was to take his vacation at
this time, and that he was to go with his friends through a part of
their travels. But Davie Fleming was at the worst, and his mother and
his grandparents were in great trouble, and the minister could not
bring himself to leave them. Of course his friends were disappointed,
but not unreasonably so, for they could understand his feeling, and it
was agreed that if it were possible he should join them at some point
in their route, and so they said good-bye lightly.
Clifton Holt went with them to the city of Montreal, where they
stayed a few days, as all American tourists do. Then they sailed down
the Saint Lawrence to Quebec and farther, and up the Saguenay, and he
sailed with them, and doubtless added to their pleasure by the
information he was able to give as to events and places in which all
travellers are supposed to interest themselves.
Clifton enjoyed it, and would have enjoyed going farther with them.
But on their return to Montreal, they met with a party of friends whom
they found it expedient to join, and so Clifton returned to Gershom,
with the intention of remaining at home for a time. His father was
still feeble, and Clifton seemed inclined to take the advice which his
sister had long ago given him, to seek to obtain some knowledge of the
business which Jacob had hitherto been carrying on in his own name and
Elizabeth received a little note or two from Miss Langden before she
left Canada, in which much admiration was expressed for her friend's
interesting country, and much pleasure in her remembrance of the days
spent in Gershom; and she had another after her return to her aunt's
house, where she was to pass some time. And then she did not hear from
her again for a long time.
Davie got better, but not very rapidly. He remained gaunt and
stooping, and had little strength, and Miss Betsey, who still
considered herself responsible for his health, carried him away to the
Hill; and then giving Ben a holiday after his busy summer, sent them
both away to visit her cousin Abiah, who had a clearing and a saw-mill
ten miles away. There were partridges there, and rumours of a bear
having been seen, and there was fishing at any rate, and Davie was
assured that ten days of such sport as could be got there in the woods
ought to make a new man of him.
But Betsey had another reason for sending him away. On the day of
her visit, Mrs Fleming, who had acknowledged herself to be weak and
weary from anxiety and watching, knew herself to be ill; not very ill,
however. She had often, in her younger days, kept about the house, and
done all her work when she felt far worse than she did now, she said.
But she could not keep about now, and that was the difference. Davie
would be well away, for he would fret about his grandmother, and that
would do neither of them any good.
Davie's visit to the woods did not make a new man of him; but it did
him good, and he needed all his strength and courage when he came home
again, for grannie, who had been not just very well when he went
away, was no better when he returned.
And they never told me, grannie, said he, indignantly.
There was nothing to tell, my laddie, and you are better for going.
And now you must help Katie to cheer your grandfather, and keep your
brothers at their work.
And Davie saw that his grandfather needed to be cheered. He seemed
to have grown a very old man during the last few months, he thought. He
had gone about the farm, and kept the boys at their work, and had
helped sometimes, Katie said, while Davie was away. But now he gave all
that up to him. Mark Varney came now and then when there was anything
extra to be done; and though Davie was not so strong as before his
illness, they were as well on with their fall work as the neighbours
But except with a word of advice, or an answer to questions, which
Davie was pertinacious in asking, as to what was to be done, and what
left undone, the old man took little part in what had filled his life
before. He went about the house and barns, with his head bowed, and his
hands clasped behind him, making Katie wild with the wistful, helpless
longing of his face.
It is no good for grannie to see you so downcast, grandfather.
Courage is what is needed more than anything in a time of sickness,
Betsey says. And, grandfather, grannie is no' so very ill.
Is she no', think you, Katie? She says it, but oh, my heart fails
She says it, and I think she is right. And, grandfather, she often
says, you ken that the Lord is ay kind.
Ay, lass! but His kindest touch cuts sore whiles. And if He were to
deal with me after my sins
But, grandfather; He never does, and He hurts to healas I have
heard you say yourself.
Ay. I have said it with my lips, but I doubt I was carrying a sore
and angry heart whiles, when I was putting the folk in mind. And, oh,
Katie, lassie, He is far awa'. He has hidden His face from me.
But only for a moment, grandfather; don't you mind, `For a small
moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I visit thee'?
And grannie is no' so very ill.
She drew him gently from the room where grannie was slumbering, so
that she need not be disturbed. It seemed to her the strangest thing
that her grandfather should speak to her in this way, and that she
should have courage to answer him. He sat down on a seat by the door,
and leaned his chin on the hand that rested on his staff, and looked
away over Ythan fields to the hills beyond. But whether he saw them or
not was doubtful, for his eyes were dazed and heavy with trouble, and
Katie could not bear to see him so.
She is not so very ill, she repeated. She is sometimes better and
sometimes worse, but she has no thought that she is going to die. She
will be better soon.
She is a good ten years younger than I am. I should go first by
rights. But she has had much to weary her, and she would doubtless be
glad to rest.
No, grandfather, she would not. She is glad at the thought that she
will be spared a little while forall our sakes.
Who is that coming down the road? It is the minister, I think, and
The old man rose hastily.
I'll awa' up the brae, said he. No, it is no disrespect to the
minister, but I canna hear his words to-day.
And up the hill he went to the pasture-bars, and through the pasture
to Pine-tree Hollow, Katie thought, as her eyes followed him
But He may show him His face, up yonder, said Katie, with tears;
and I am sure, and so is Miss Betsey, that she is no' so very ill.
Grannie had never thought herself very ill. Even when all her days
were spent in bed, she only called herself weary at first. There had
been a very warm week about that time, and she had suffered from the
heat, and had kept herself quiet. But she did not think herself ill,
and certainly Katie did not think it. For though she was not strong,
she did not suffer much, except that she was feverish and restless now
and then, and she was always sweet and bright and easily pleased, and
not at all like the sick people that Katie had seen. It was a pleasure
to be with her, to wait on her, and to listen to her. For there were
times when she had much to say, soothing her own restlessness with
happy talk of many things which Katie liked to hear.
She told her about her fatherso grave and kind and
trustworthyand about Hughie, who was so good and clever, but who had
gone wrong, and been lost to them, leaving their life so dreary. And
once or twice she spoke of one over whom she had kept the silence of
many a year. It was Katie's own name she heardbut it was of another
bonnie Katie that her grandmother murmured so fondly, one who had
been beguiledwho had sinned and suffered, and died long ago. But she
always spoke brokenly of her when she was restless and feverish, and
Katie, though she would have liked to hear more, strove always to turn
her thoughts away.
But almost always her talk was happy and bright. In those days Katie
heard more of her grandmother's youthful days than she had ever heard
before. She spoke about her home, and her brothers and sisters, and
about the gowany braes and the silver Ythan, and the songs they
used to sing, before it had ever come into her mind that there was
trouble and care before her. She even tried to sing again, in her faint
sweet voice, some of the dear old songs, laughing softly at her own
But she never once spoke as though she thought she might not
recover; even when she gave Katie words of counsel or caution, it was
just in the way she used to do when they were going about their work
together, and the girl was sure that she would soon be well again, and
that that was Miss Betsey's thought too.
But seeing her as she stood looking down on her grandmother's
sleeping face that morning, Katie was not so sure of what Miss Betsey's
thoughts might be. Still, her grandmother's eyes opened and she smiled
her old cheerful smile, as she said she was glad to see them.
You must tell grandfather that the minister is come, Katie, said
Mr Maxwell had seen Mr Fleming stepping up the brae, and he knew
well that no words of his could comfort him. He could only hope as
Katie did, that his Lord and Master might show him His face in the
solitude he sought.
He had few words to say to Mrs Fleming, for she seemed inclined to
slumber through the afternoon.
I wish you could stay with us to-night, Miss Betsey, said Katie's
mother. I am afraid grandmother is not so well.
There is not much difference either way, I think. I would be glad
to stay, but Uncle Gershom has had another bad turn, and I promised
cousin Lizzie I would stay with her to-night. But I will come over
to-morrow morning before I go home if I can get away.
Do you think her very ill? asked Mr Maxwell as they walked down
the hill together.
I have not thought her very ill. I don't know that she is worse
to-day, but she is certainly no better. I suppose it depends on whether
her strength holds out. She is an old woman now.
These were anxious days to Katie; but her grandfather had more of
her thoughts than her grandmother.
And it is a wonder to me that he should be so broken down, a good
man like him, even by such sore trouble. Even the loss of grannie would
be but for a few days, and he has the Lord Himself in the midst of it
But this was a mistake on Katie's part. For all this time, strangely
and sadly enough, he was ringing the changes on his old complaint:
Thou art a God that hidest Thyself. He had not the Lord Himself in
those days. Even when he pleaded, as he did day and night, for Davie's
life, it was the cry of despair that came out of his sore trouble,
rather than the prayer of faith to which the promise of healing to
the sick is given.
And as he bowed himself down beneath the pines, it was the same. He
was in a maze of perplexity and fear. Had he been sinning against God
all this time? Had he been hating not the sin, but the sinner? Had it
been beneath God's hand that he had been refusing to bow? And now was
God leaving him to hardness of heart?
For he was utterly broken and spent, and in the weakness of mind
which exhaustion of body caused, he had almost lost the power to
discriminate or reason. He could not command his thoughts. The wind
moaned in the pines above him, and the sunshine came and went,
flickering and fading, and brightening again, and with the monotonous
sound and the ever-changing light, there came voices and visions, and
he seemed to listen as in a dream:
It was God's will, grandfather. God kens, and it was His will. I
would fain hear you say once that you have forgiven your enemy.
His enemy! Was Jacob Holt his enemy? And if he were, could even an
enemy bring evil on him or his without permission? What had it all come
tothe long pain, the persistent shrinking from this man, whom God
alone might judge? Had he been hating him all this timebringing
leanness to his own soul, and darkness, and all the evil that hatred
must ever bring? And where was it all to end? And what must he do, now
that his sin had found him out?
For his time was short, and the end near. And then his thoughts
wandered away to the old squire lying on his death-bedthe man who had
declared himself willing to stand on the same platform with old David
Fleming, when his time should come to be judged. And that time was
close at hand now, and his own time could not be far away, and then he
must stand face to face with Him whose last words were, Father,
forgive them!face to face with Him who had said, Love your
enemies, Forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you.
Over and over the same round his thoughts went, till, worn out with
anxiety and watching, and lulled unconsciously by the soft sough of
the wind in the pines, he fell asleep. Pine-tree Hollow was all in
shadow when he awoke, but when he had gone a few steps, he saw the
sunlight lying on the high hills to the east. His first thoughts were
of what might have been happening at home while he slept, and he
quickened his steps.
And as he walked he was conscious that his sleep had done him good.
He was stronger and calmer, and could command his thoughts again, and
he hurried eagerly on. The sight of Katie passing quietly out and in to
the dairy quieted him still more. It must be well with grannie or Katie
would not be there.
Well, my lassie?
Yes. Grannie has been sleeping, but she is awake now, and has been
asking for you. Mother is with her now.
He went into the house slowly and quietly. Katie's mother was
sitting by the bed, with her sad eyes fastened on the face of the
grandmother, who seemed to have fallen into slumber again.
She has been wandering a little, I think, said Mrs James.
Wandering? repeated Mr Fleming drearily.
Grannie opened her eyes, and looked first at one and then at the
No, my dear, it wasna that I was wandering. I was dreaming, I
thinka strange grand dreamof a far country. AndDawvidI saw our
Katie there, and her little bairnand I saw our Hughie, and James, and
many another. But I saw them first and best; and we have no cause to
Even as she spoke her eyes closed again. The old man sat down with a
sinking heart. Did not these sound like last words? Had she not got a
first glimpse of the far country to which she was hastening? How vain
to struggle against God, he thought. He never uttered a word. His
daughter-in-law looked at him with compassionate eyes that he could
hardly bear. Katie came in with a glass of milk in her hand.
She is not asleep again, is she? Well, I must waken her, because
she must take something. The sleeping is good for her, but she must
take something to keep up her strength. Grannie dear, take this, and
she raised her gently.
She opened her eyes and smiled.
Oh, ay! I'll take it. And I could take a bit of bread, I think.
Well, mother will bring a bit. But Katie was greatly surprised.
I think I'm better, if I were only stronger a bit, said grannie.
Over Katie's bright face Mr Fleming saw the grave face of her
mother, and though he knew that it was her way rather to fear than to
hope, his heart sank.
I'll soon be better, I think. Are you there, Dawvid? You ken I
couldna go and stand before the Lord and tell Him that you hadna
forgiven your enemy.
She is wandering, whispered Katie's mother.
No; I'm no wandering, but whiles I feelas if I were slipping
awa' and you'll give me your hand, Dawvid, and that will keep me
back. Ay. That will do, and her eyes closed again.
Katie followed her mother from the room.
It is not far away now.
Mother, don't say it. She is not going to die. Oh, mother! mother!
Surely God is not going to take her from us yet. No. I'm not going to
cry; I havena time, said Katie. And, mother, she says it herself, and
I don't think she is going to die. Oh, if Miss Betsey could have been
Katie resolutely put away her tears and her fears, and prepared for
a night of watching. First, she made her mother lie down with a warm
wrapper on her, so that she might be ready to come at any moment. Then
she sent the bairns to their beds, and wished that Davie would come
home. Then she remembered, with a pang of remorse, that her grandfather
had not had his supper, and she got his accustomed bowl of bread and
milk, and carried it into the room. Neither of them had moved, and
stooping and listening, it seemed to Katie that her grandmother was
sleeping naturally and sweetly. Her grandfather shook his head at the
sight of the food.
You must take it, grandfather, said Katie in a whisper.
She put the bowl on a chair, and knelt down beside him.
You need not move, she said softly, and she fed him as he had
often fed her when she was a little child.
My good Katie! said he, but it would not have been well for him to
try to say more.
Davie came in before the supper was over. Katie nodded cheerfully,
but did not speak till they were both in the kitchen.
Well? said Davie.
She is no worse. I think she seems better. She has eaten a wee bit
of bread, but mother says you cannot always tell by that. We must just
It was a long and anxious night to these two. It was well that
grannie should sleep, but in her utter weakness it was also necessary
that she should have nourishment often. She had grown sick of the sight
of everything in the way of food, and she had had her choice of
whatever the best housewives of Gershom could supply. For days she had
only taken a little milk, and to-night she seemed to take it with
relish. In a little she woke and spoke:
Are you no' coming to your bed, Dawvid? It is time surely.
Her clasp of his hand loosened as Katie offered the milk to her
lips. The old man rose, but he had been sitting in an uneasy posture,
and tottered as he moved to the door.
Grandfather, said Davie, lie down on the other side. It will be
better for you and grannie too. Come grandfather. Katie, lay the pillow
But I might disturb herand I might fall asleep.
But he yielded.
She would like it, grandfather, and we can waken you if you fall
So the two old people slumbered together, and Katie had to steal
away to weep a few tears in the dark while her brother watched beside
them, and they did not dare to ask themselves whether they hoped or
feared in the stillness that fell on them.
They say this is the old squire's last night, whispered Davie at
last. I saw Ben coming out as I passed.
Maybe no, said Katie, who was determined to be hopeful to-night.
They have said that before. Maybe he'll win through this time too.
Ay. But he is an old man, and it must come soon.
Now and then they exchanged a word or two, and Katie put the cup to
her grandmother's lips, and the night wore on. Whether their
grandfather slept or not they could not tell, but he made no movement
that could disturb her, and he still held her hand, to keep her from
slipping away, as she had said.
Once the mother came in and looked, but she only said she was
sleeping quietly, and they made her lie down again. Toward morning
Katie brought a quilt and a pillow, and Davie lay down on the floor
beside the bed, and Katie prayed and waited for the dawn.
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR. POOR OLD
Betsey Holt had not found the old squire so low as she expected to
find him when she went to his house after leaving Mr Fleming's, and
seeing him comfortable, and apparently no weaker than she had seen him
before, she hesitated as to what she ought to do.
There will be nights when you will need me more cousin, said she,
and I think
But Elizabeth's face made her pause.
Dear cousin, stay with me to-night. No, I do not think he is going
to die to-night, though Dr Wainwright thought it could not be long. But
do stay with me, cousin. I seem to be alone and good for nothing.
You are tired, and no wonder. You look sick. Yes, I'll stay. I
think, on the whole, I'd better.
Betsey did not say that it was Mrs Fleming she had been thinking of
when she hesitated. She took off her bonnet and prepared to stay.
I made up my mind to be here to-night as soon as I heard that your
father wasn't well. I thought once I'd go home and come back after
sundown, but it doesn't matter about going. They'll know why I stay,
and I guess likely Ben will come along over after milking is done.
Is there no one we could get to help your mother and Cynthia for a
few days? I would send anywhere for help to them if you could only stay
with me till
Oh, I guess they'll get along, and Hepsey Bean is near by. If they
get into a fix they can send for her. I'll stay anyway. Isn't your
brother Clifton round?
No, he went to the city yesterday; he left before we thought my
father worse. I hope he will be home to-morrow.
Well, I hope he will, and I guess he'd better stay a spell next
time he comes.
Elizabeth had been up for the night, and after a visit to her
father, who was still sleeping quietly, Betsey persuaded her to go and
lie down, promising to call her at the turn of the night, or sooner if
there should be any change. Elizabeth was glad to go, for she was very
I feel so safe in leaving him with you, cousin, said Elizabeth,
the tears starting in her eyes. You must not think that I am always
so downhearted, but I feel as if I might give wayas if I might lay
a little of my burden on you, and
And so you may, with no if about it, only there is a better
place to lay it, as you don't need me to tell you by this time. She
thinks she knows what trouble is, and perhaps she does, continued
Betsey as she followed Elizabeth with her thoughts. For trouble is
just as folks take it, and she has been pretty tenderly dealt with
hitherto. But I guess she is not one that trouble can do any real harm
to. The Lord sees it all, and she is in His hand, and I needn't worry
about her. She'll be kept safe through it all.
But she gave a good many thoughts to Elizabeth's possible troubles
as she sat there alone. Before the turn of the night Elizabeth came
down rested and refreshed, she said. Jacob came in and sat a while, but
scarcely a word was spoken. He offered to stay, but it was not
necessary, his sister said.
No! When is Clifton coming back? asked he.
To-morrow, I hope, said Elizabeth.
He must not go away again.
No. Not for a time.
Elizabeth's rest and refreshment did not seem to amount to much,
Betsey thought as she watched her sitting in the firelight after Jacob
went away. Not many people had ever seen on Elizabeth's face the look
it wore now. She seemed to have forgotten that there was any one to
see. Except that she raised her head now and then to listen for sounds
in her father's room, she sat perfectly motionless, limp and
hopeless, Betsey said to herself, and after a little she said aloud:
Cousin Lizzie, you are not going to be `swallowed up of overmuch
sorrow,' are you? That would be rebellion, and there is no deeper deep
of misery to a Christian than that.
Elizabeth looked up startled.
I don't think I rebel, but
You have been expecting this for a good while. Your father is a
very old man now, Lizzie.
He is all I have got.
You said that to me before, but that is not so. He isn't all you've
got by many.
He is the only one who has needed me ever. When he is gone, there
will not be one left in the world who might not do without me as well
as not, though perhaps there are one or two who might not think so for
a little while.
Well, that may be said of most folks, I guess, but of you with less
truth than of most.
Elizabeth made a movement of dissent.
You are young enough to make friends, and it is easy for you to
make them. I don't believe anybody ever saw your face who didn't want
to see it again. You want to do good in the world, and you have the
means and the natural gifts for doing it, and that is happiness.
Elizabeth raised herself up and looked at her in amazement.
How you talk, Cousin Betsey! said she.
Well, that's the way I feel about it. No matter what trouble you
may be going through now, there is the other side, and when you get
there you'll find good work to do, because you have the heart to do it.
And you'll get your wagesrest, and a quiet mind.
Elizabeth's eyes were on the red embers again, but the expression of
her face had changed a little. Betsey moved so that her own face would
be in the shadow, and then she went on:
You may think it an unnatural thing for me to say, cousin, but I
feel as if there would be more gone from my life than from yours, when
Uncle Gershom goes. More in comparison with what will be left.
Elizabeth said nothing to this.
Do you remember the two or three elms there are left on the side of
the hill, just beyond the Scott school-house? There were a great many
more there once, and we used to call it Elm Grove in old times. There
are only three or four left that are not dying. I hear the children
calling it the grove still. The young trees are growing up fast round
them, not elms, many of them but wild cherry-trees, and poplars, and a
few spruces but the poor old elms seem to be all the more alone because
of the second growth. When your father and my mother are gone, there
won't be a great many left to me. I suppose I shall find something to
do, however, till my time comes.
There was a long silence after that. Betsey went once or twice into
the sick-room, but the old man slept peacefully.
It will not be to-night, said she softly. Then she sat down again.
Cousin, said she gravely in a little, you are not worrying about
your father, as though it maynot be well with him now?
Elizabeth looked at her startled.
Betsey went on:
I have been exercised about him considerably myself, one time and
another. I have felt as if I must have him to come out and acknowledge
himself on the Lord's side, confess Him before men, by openly uniting
himself with the Church. But he has been hindered. I do not know where
has been the stumbling-block altogether. But the Lord knows, and
actions speak louder than words. He has lived a Christian life since
ever I can remember. And it is by their fruits ye shall know them.
Elizabeth's face had fallen on her hands again, and her tears were
falling fast, but she had no words with which to answer her.
A good many years ago, at communion seasons, I used to grieve over
him more than a little. I couldn't bear to have him miss the
privilege deprive himself of the privilege of remembering the Lord in
the way He appointed. He didn't consider himself worthy, he told me
once, when I said a word to him about itat the time my father died
I tell you, Lizzie, it made me feel poor and mean enougha
hypocrite, almost, when I heard him say it. Not that any one can be
worthy, in one sense. But out Lord said, `Except ye be converted and
become as little children,' and he had the heart of a little child
about some things, more than any one I ever knew.
Cousin, if I were to tell youbut I couldn't begin to tell you,
all he has done for usfor father and the boys when they were in
trouble, and for me. And the way he did it, as though it was his
business, that he needn't be thanked for. The patience he showed, and
the gentleness yes, and the strength and firmness, when these were
needed. I should have fallen down under my burden in those days, if it
hadn't been for Uncle Gershom. I have often wondered, Lizzie, if you
knew just what a man your father was.
Elizabeth turned her tearful face, smiling now, toward her cousin,
but she said nothing.
I never could tell younever! My father, for a good while, wasn't
easy to get along with. Well, he wasn't himself all the time, and if it
hadn't been for Uncle Gershom
But thereI mustn't talk about it, not to-night, she said, rising
and walking about the room. It kind of puts me off the balance to go
back to those days, and I'd better let it alone to-night.
Some time you will tell me, said Elizabeth.
Well, I don't promise. But if I could tell you just how like the
face of an angel your father's face has been to me many and many a
I think I know, said Elizabeth.
And I wish we were all as fit for heavenly places as he is. I don't
deny that I should have been glad for the sake of the cause, if he
could have seen his way clear to unite with the Church before he
wentto sit down at the Lord's table here on earth, before he goes to
sit down at it above, and I wish he might even yet.
I'll tell you what I would like. If he should revive a little, as
he may, and if the minister had no objections, a few might come in,
mother and Cynthia, and old Davie Fleming, and two or three others, and
take the cup and the bread with him, not that it would make any real
Betsey, said the squire's voice from the other room.
They were both with pale faces at his bedside in a moment.
Did I hear Betsey's voice? Or did you only say she was coming,
Lizzie? Oh, she is here, is she? Well, I've got something to say to
Betsey. It isn't best to put off these things too long.
Poor old squire! He had said almost the same words every time he had
seen Betsey for the last year or two, and it never occurred to either
of them that he would not forget the words as soon as they were
uttered. After taking some nourishment he was much revived and
Yes, I want to speak to Betsey about some business. Jacob isn't
here, is he? Because this is between Betsey and me. It was all over and
done with before Jacob knew anything about my business, and he needn't
know now. Go up-stairs, Lizzie, to the store-room where the old bureau
is, and your mother's little wheel, and you'll find what I wantthe
old saddle-bagin the left-hand, deep drawer. There are papers in it;
but you'd better bring the bag down.
Elizabeth waited a moment, thinking he might drop asleep again, but
he did not.
I feel rested. It won't hurt me, Lizzie. Better go now, and have it
Elizabeth looked at her cousin.
You'd better go, I guess. It will satisfy him, even if he cannot do
anything about it.
Elizabeth returned almost immediately, and spent a little time
brushing the dirt from the old bag, which she remembered as always
taken by her father on his journeys on horseback long ago, though she
had not seen it for years.
I brought it from Massachusetts with me well-nigh on fifty year
ago, said the old man, laying his hand on it. Where are my glasses?
But I guess you'll find what I want, Lizzie.
There was no lock to be opened. There were a number of folded
papers, laid loosely in the compartments. They were arranged with some
order, however, and Elizabeth read the few words written on the outside
of each as she lifted them out. They were a strange medley, notes of
hand, receipted accounts, the certificate of the squire's first
marriage, his wife's letter of dismissal from the Massachusetts church,
dated, as the squire said, well-nigh on fifty year ago. Then there
was a bundle of papers marked Brother Reuben.
That is it. I ought to look them all over myself. But you'll have
to do it, Lizzie.
There were several acknowledgments of money received, and notes of
hand to a large amount that had passed between the brothers. On one was
written, Paid for my Joe, and a date; on another, Lent to my son.
Parley, at the time he went west, and several more of the same kind.
The dates ran over many years, and the father had made himself
responsible for all to the squire.
He was very independent, was my brother Reuben, always, said the
squire. He wanted to mortgage his place to me, but I wouldn't have it.
I thought his notes good enough; more easily dealt with anyway than a
mortgage. He would have paid every cent if he could, and if he had it
would have all gone into the bank for the benefit of his womenfolk, who
have had a hard time mostly.
He seemed to have forgotten Betsey's presence, for he went on:
I want you to give them to Betsey. Jacob needn't hear of them. He
might think he had some claim on them, but he hasn't a mite. Betsey
shall have the satisfaction of knowing that at no time to come they can
be claimedthe value of them, I mean. Betsey knew about them, I guess,
though her father didn't mean she should. She is a good woman, Betsey,
if ever there was one, and she has had her share of trouble.
Father, I will burn them now; that will be best, said Elizabeth,
And not say anything to Betsey? But she knows there is something
due, and it might worry her, thinking that some time or other it might
be claimed. If you burn them I think you should let her see you do it.
Yes, father; Betsey is here, and we shall burn them together.
Well, that is pretty much all, I guess; and I'm tired now. Look out
the rest of them when you have time, and you'll know what to burn.
There is nothing there that Jacob or Clifton has anything to do with. I
often have been sorry that I didn't just take old Mr Fleming's note,
instead of the mortgage. It might have saved some hard feelings. There,
that's all. I feel better, I'll try and sleep again.
They sat beside him till he fell asleep, and then they moved into
the other room, Elizabeth carrying the bag with her.
Cousin Lizzie, said Betsey, wait a minute. I don't more than half
believe it's lawful to burn these notes and things.
It is quite lawful. My father told me to burn them.
But wait. Do you know that folks are beginning to say that your
brother Jacob is hard up, that he is pressed for money?
Yes, he told me so himself. He said the difficulty was only
temporary, and thatthat I should hear more about it soon.
They say it's pretty bad, and you know everything has been mixed up
in the business, and your share might have to go with the rest. There
is a good deal represented by the papers you have in your hands,
I see what you mean. All the more this must be made safe.
She rose, and going toward the hearth, dropped the papers one by one
into the fire.
Now, Cousin Betsey, that is done with. Forget all about it. We will
never speak of this again.
Elizabeth took the old bag to carry it away. Several papers fell
from the other side as she moved it. She looked at each one as she put
it in the bag again, reading aloud what was written on each. One was a
sealed letter, thick and folded as letters used to be before envelopes
were in use. It was addressed to her father in very beautiful
handwriting which she had seen somewhere before. She held it before her
cousin that she might see it.
It is Hughie Fleming's writing! I know it well, said Betsey.
It looks as if it had never been opened, Elizabeth said, turning
it over and over in her hand. How strange! My father must surely have
Who knows? It is possible he never did.
I wonder if I should keep it and speak to him about it?
Betsey shook her head.
It isn't likely he'd remember it, and it might trouble him. It is
about that old trouble likely.
Perhaps I should drop it into the embers?
It is hard to say. I should hate to know from it anything that
would make me think less of poor Hugh.
But it may be quite different. Ought I to open it? My father gave
all the papers to me to examine. I wonder if I should open it, cousin?
Miss Betsey took the letter in her hand and looked at it for a
minute or two.
It looks like a message from the dead, said she.
Open it, cousin. You remember him and his trouble better than I
can. Open it, and if there is nothing in it that his friends would be
glad to know, you shall burn it without a word.
Betsey still hesitated.
It comes from the dead, said she, but she opened it at last,
cutting round the large seal with a pair of scissors. But their
hesitation as to what they ought to do was not over. There was an
inclosure addressed to David Fleming, at which Betsey looked as
doubtfully as ever, and then she gave it to Elizabeth. There were only
a few words in the first letter:
Honoured Sir:I write to confess the sin I sinned against you,
though you must know it already. I ask your forgiveness, and I send
this money as the first payment of what I owe you, and if I live, full
restitution shall be made. If my father will read a letter of mine,
will you take the trouble to give him the lines I send with this?
And then was signed the name of Hugh Fleming. It was only a hint of
the sad story they knew something of before. There was an American bank
bill for a small sum, and the inclosure to his father, and that was
Poor Hughie! poor dear, bonnie laddie! said Betsey softly. Can it
be possible that your father never opened or read this? It was written
within a week of the poor boy's death, added she, looking at the date
on the letter.
My father never could have opened it or Mr Fleming would have had
this, said Elizabeth, holding up the inclosed note, I wonder how it
could have happened that it was overlooked.
She never knew, nor did any one. She tried next day to say something
to her father about it, but she could not make him understand. He said
nothing in reply that had any reference to the letter, or to poor Hugh,
or to his father. It must have been, by some unhappy chance, overlooked
and placed with other papers in the old saddle-bag, where it had lain
all these years.
And now what shall we do about this? asked Elizabeth, still
holding the other letter in her hand.
It was a single small leaf folded like a letter and one edge slipped
in as though it was to have been sealed or fastened with a wafer. But
it was open.
I don't know, the least in the world, said Betsey, much moved. It
might hold a medicine for the old man over there, but it might also be
But since he wrote to my father of confession and restitution, we
may hope that there is a confession in this also.
Yes, there is something in that. But it was a great while ago now,
and all the old misery would come back again. Not that he has ever
forgotten it. And now I fear there is more trouble before him.
They were greatly at a loss what to do.
If we could consult some one.
It would not help much. As it is not sealed you might just look at
it. If there is comfort in it the poor old father ought to have it.
There is no better time to give it.
Elizabeth opened it with trembling fingers.
I hope it is not wrong.
It would be too great a risk either to give it or to withhold it
without having known its nature. It was written so long ago, and it
would be terrible to have sorrow added to sorrow now.
A single glance was enough.
Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight.
Elizabeth read no more. That was enough. She burst into sudden
And he never saw his father again.
No. And the father never saw the words his son had written, said
Betsey, scarcely less moved.
Daylight was coming in by this time and there was the sound of
footsteps at the door. Then Jacob's voice was heard, and remembering
that the squire had said that the papers were for Elizabeth's eyes
alone, Betsey lifted the bag from the table and carried it into the
sick-room. Mr Maxwell was with Jacob, and other people were waiting to
hear how the night had been passed.
He has had a good night, and is still sleeping quietly, said
And he seemed quite revived when he was awake last, Betsey added,
as she came out of his room.
Mr Maxwell, Jacob, said Elizabeth, the strangest thing has
happened. Jacob, look at this, and she put into his hand the letter
with the red seal on it, on which his eyes had been fixed since ever he
He grew pale when he saw his father's name in the once familiar
handwriting, and when he saw the money, and read the words to his
father, written on the other side, he sat down suddenly without a word.
If Elizabeth had thought a moment, she might have hesitated about
giving it to him while others were looking on. Betsey was glad that she
had done it. Elizabeth took the letter which Jacob had laid down and
gave it to Mr Maxwell:
You have heard of Hugh Fleming, the lad who went wrong. Betsey can
tell you more than I can. I found the letter among some old papers of
my father's. I think he cannot have read it, for the seal was not
broken. There must have been some mistake.
Mr Maxwell read it in silence.
But it is this that has troubled us. A letter from Hugh to his
father. Think of it, Jacob. After all these years!
Yes. After all these years! Be sure your sin will find you out.
That is what Jacob was saying to himself. Even Betsey could have found
it in her heart to pity the misery seen in his face.
He can't be so cold-blooded as people suppose, thought she.
Should it be given to his father at once? I think the worst part of
the trouble to him has been the thought that his son was cut off so
suddenlythat he died unrepenting.
Mr Maxwell looked at the folded paper and then at Jacob.
It may trouble the old man, but I do not think we have a right to
Elizabeth was about to say that she had looked at the note, but
Betsey interrupted her:
He was sorry for his sinwhatever it was. His written words to
Uncle Gershom prove that. And if there is in it any kind of sorrow, or
any proof that others were more guilty than he, it might comfort the
Will you take it to him by and by, Mr Maxwell? said Elizabeth.
If I am the best person to take it. But he has never spoken to me
of his son.
He has never spoken a word to any one but the mother. And I feel
that there is comfort to him in this little letter, and you will be
glad to carry him comfort, I know.
Thank you. Well, I will take it at once. Some one will be up at
this early hour with the grandmother. I will go now.
Elizabeth put the folded paper in her father's letter with the money
and gave it to him.
I will go too, said Jacob, rising.
Had you better?
Both Elizabeth and Betsey spoke these words with a little
excitement. He turned a strange look from one to the other. Whether it
was of pain or anger, neither knew, and he went out with the minister.
Elizabeth watching, saw them turn into the path that led a near way to
the North Gore road.
Oh, Betsey! I hope we have done right. God comfort the poor father
by these words, cried Elizabeth, with a sudden rush of tears.
Amen! said Betsey, solemnly.
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE. FORGIVENESS.
The longed-for dawn came to Katie with a sudden chill and sinking of
the heart that felt for a minute like the utter failure of bodily
strength. When she put the lamp out, and put aside the curtain so that
the daylight fell on the two grey old faces lying on the same pillow,
her heart beat hard with sudden fear.
How wan and sunken and spent they looked! What if they were both to
die? The little gleam of red that had now and then, through all her
illness, showed itself on grannie's cheeks was quite gone now, and she
would never be whiter, Katie thought, as she bent down to catch the
sound of her breath coming and going so faintly. The two wrinkled,
toil-worn hands still clasped each other in sleep.
They should go together, said Katie, with a sob, but oh! not
She was not experienced enough to know whether this motionless
sleep, so different from the fitful, broken slumbers of the last few
weeks, was a hopeful sign or not; if her strength could be kept up, the
doctor had said, and so had Miss Betseyand perhaps she ought to wake
her and give her something. As she stood looking at her, her
grandfather opened his eyes.
Grannie's better, I think, said she, with a quick impulse to give
him comfort. She has been sleeping quietly, and her hand is cool and
moist. If you'll bide still beside her, I'll go and get a drop of warm
milk from Brownie, to be ready when she wakes.
If she had stayed a minute longer she must have cried at the sight
of the old man's face as he raised himself up and bent over that other
face so white and still. She did cry a little when she went out, and
shivered in the chill of the September morning, but she did not linger
over her task. When she came in she found her grandfather risen, and
standing by the bed. Her grandmother was awake now.
Are you there, Katie? Is your tea masket? Give a cup of tea to your
grandfather now; it will refresh him; and I think I could take a cup
All right, grannie dear, said Katie, cheerfully; and in the
meantime take a little milk, and she held the cup to her lips. And
now, if you should fall asleep, it will be all the better till the tea
Katie smoothed the pillows and put the bedclothes straight, and
touched her lips to the white cheek; then it was turned to rest on the
thin hand and grannie fell asleep. Davie rose up at Katie's bidding,
and went to get wood to kindle the fire. Katie let the curtain fall
again over the open window, and softly closed the door, as she followed
her grandfather out of the room.
We'll let her sleep, said the old man, and he went out with slow,
languid steps into the sunshine.
It was hardly sunshine yet, for though the light lay clear on the
hill-tops, all the valley was in shadow, and the mist lay low along the
course of Beaver River in great irregular masses, white, but with great
splatches of colour here and there where the sun touched it. The dew
lay heavy on the grass, and the garden bushes and the orchard trees,
and on Katie's flowers, and the sweet breath of green things came
pleasantly to his sense as he sat down on his accustomed seat by the
Birds were chirping in the orchard trees, and there was the scarcely
less pleasant sound of barn-door fowls near at hand. The sheep behind
the pasture-bars sent their greeting over the dewy fields, and the cows
in the yard mowed placidly as they stirred one another with soft,
slow movements. How fair and peaceful the place looked! How full of
calm and quiet, yet strong life!
The old man closed his eyes on it all. He was not thinking, he was
hardly feeling. The night had brought broken slumbers, but not rest,
and he was very weary. A wondering question, whether she could be going
to die on such a day as this, passed through his mind. It did not seem
And besides, she and he said she could not die till I had forgiven
But he was too weary to go over it all againthe long
heart-breaking story. He could only sit still with closed eyes,
And it was thus that the minister and Jacob Holt found him. They had
said little to one another as they passed through the dewy fields, and
under the long shadows of the wayside trees together. Mr Maxwell at
first had said a word as to the mission they had undertaken, and asked
a question or two as to how they had better make it known, but Jacob
had answered in monosyllables, or not at all.
The last part of their walk had been over the fields again, and they
came suddenly upon Mr Fleming sitting at the door. Katie had seen them
coming, and was standing at her grandfather's side, her hand laid on
his shoulder, and she looked at them as they drew near with
questioning, almost angry eyes. Mr Maxwell held out his hand to her.
Is he sleeping, Katie?
But as he spoke Mr Fleming looked up. He did not see Jacob for the
moment. He held out his hand and tried to rise.
No; sit still, and Mr Maxwell sat down beside him.
It is kind of you to come so early. Katie thinks herno worse this
morning. But you must think her dying to come so soon again, and at
No. I am glad she is no worse. It was not that I thought her dying.
I came for another reason.
Well, you are kindly welcome anyway.
I went to see Squire Holt this morning. Nohe is not dying, though
it cannot be long now.
Ay! ay! Well, he is an old man, and he is ending a useful life.
He spoke dreamily in his utter weariness, looking away over the
fields to the sunshiny hills beyond.
I have something to give you, Mr Fleming, said the minister
gently, something which Miss Holt found among her father's papers.
Well, well, said the old man, waiting quietly, almost
indifferently, for what might be said.
It is a letter, written long ago by one dead and gone, who was very
dear to you.
A change came over her grandfather's face, but whether it was
because of what Mr Maxwell had said, or because he saw Jacob Holt
standing before him, and quite near him, Katie could not tell. Jacob
moistened his dry lips, and tried twice to speak before a sound came.
It is a letterand before you read itI beg you to forgive me for
any harm I may ever have doneto you or yours.
The little Flemings had gathered about the door, but their mother
drew them away into the house. Katie kept her place by her grandfather,
and so did Davie, but he was out of sight in the porch. Mr Fleming
rose, and stood face to face with his enemy; but when he spoke it was
to Mr Maxwell that he turned.
She said, she could never goup yondertill I have forgiven
himand I am an old man, now.
He tottered a little as he turned to Jacob, but he held out his
God forgive you. And God help me to forgive you. And God forgive me
too, for I doubt it has been rebellion with me all this time.
Amen, said Jacob, and then he moved away, and Mr Fleming sank down
on the seat again. He seemed to have forgotten that there was anything
more to be said, and after a moment's hesitation, Mr Maxwell put the
letter into Katie's hand.
The letter, grandfather, said she softly.
Ay, the letter.
He took it, holding it out at arm's length that he might see, but
when his eye rested on the familiar characters he uttered a sharp,
inarticulate cry and let it fall. The blood rushed to his face till it
was crimson, and then receding, left him pale as death.
Grandfather, come into grannie, said Katie, putting her arms about
him. Davie, come and help our grandfather.
Grannie's better, grandfather, said Davie; come.
But the letter, said the old man, faintly. Oh, ay! Grandmother
will like to see the letter!
But he did not rise.
The letter. Where's the letter?
Jacob Holt stooped and lifted it from the grass where it had fallen,
and Davie looked at him with amazed and angry eyes, as he opened it and
taking out the folded slip of paper, offered it to him, while he kept
the squire's letter and the money in his hand.
Read that first, said Jacob hoarsely, and then he went away round
the corner of the house out of sight, and Mr Maxwell followed him.
Read it, Katie, lassie.
With trembling fingers Davie opened the letter and gave it to his
sister. Kneeling beside him, Katie read:
Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no
more worthy to be called thy son.
There was more written, but she got no further, for a cry burst from
his lipswhether of joy or pain they could not telland his head fell
on Katie's shoulder.
Whisht, Davie. Lay him down gently, and get a little water. Be
quiet, man. Grannie will hear you.
For Davie had cried out in his terror at the sight of his
grandfather's deathlike face. The cry brought out his mother, and Mr
Maxwell and Jacob hurried back again. He was better in a minute, and
they led him into the house, and made him lie down. In a little while
Katie brought him some tea.
Grannie bade me, grandfather, and you must take it you ken.
She knelt beside him, holding the cup for him, and by coaxing and
entreating made him take a little food.
And now you must just rest a while.
They had brought him into the front room for quiet, Katie said, as
he looked round in surprise; rest and think about it, she whispered,
hardly venturing to say more. Gradually it came back to him that
something had happened. By this time breakfast was over, and worship,
and Katie brought Mr Maxwell in and left him there.
Jacob Holt would not stay to breakfast, though Davie and his mother
had asked him to stay. Before he went he gave the squire's letter to
Give it to your grandfather, but do not read it, said he.
He had something to say to Mr Maxwell also.
I don't know just how much Mr Fleming knows of what happened long
ago. Hugh Fleming, after much entreaty from several of us, signed my
father's name where he ought not. He alone had the skill to do it. It
was to savesome of us from much trouble. He was not in the scrape. He
was not to be benefited personally by it, except that he was persuaded
that some foolish deed of his could be more easily kept from his
father's knowledge if he helped to screen the rest by yielding. If he
had stayed at home and met it, it would have been well; my father made
no trouble about it. But he went awayand died. And you must tell his
Jacob turned his back upon the minister for a full minute, and then
without another word went away.
It was Mr Maxwell who read the letter to Mr Fleming after all. There
were only a few lines more than Katie read: I trust God has forgiven
me, and that He will keep me safe from sin. Forgive me, dear father and
mother and James.
And then his name and another line: I will make up to you, dear
father, for all you suffer now for me.
And He has kept him safe, said the minister, all these years.
Katie came now and then, and looked in, but she did not speak,
except once to say that grannie was sleeping still. Even Katie never
knew how the minister and her grandfather passed the long morning. It
was noon when she went in and told them that dinner was nearly ready,
and that grannie was awake and asking for them. Afterward Mr Maxwell
told Miss Elizabeth something about it.
How as it gradually became clear to the father that his dear son's
light had not gone out in darkness, but that he had repented of his
sin, and confessed it, and had been as he trusted forgiven, his grief
and shame and penitence were even deeper than his joy.
To think that I should have been misdoubting the Lord all this
time, as though He had broken His promise to me! And how patient He has
been long-suffering and full of compassion. I have been hard on Jacob
Holt. If God had dealt with me as I have in my heart dealt with him!
The minister did not always know whether he was speaking to him, or
to himself. By and by, when he got calmer, and better acquainted with
the thought of the new joy, he told the minister, in broken words, the
story of his love for his son, and the bitterness of his loss, and his
wonder and sympathy grew as he listened.
What depths of woe the old man had sounded! With what agonies of
bitterness and anger which had grown to be hatred almost, as the years
went on, had he struggled. And he had sometimes yielded to the misery
of doubt of God's care. He had thought the struggle vain.
He had never been quite at peace with himself through it all. God
had never left him to an easy conscience, where Jacob Holt was
concerned, even at his quietest time, and when things were at their
best with him. He had never left him to himself, and now the evil
spirit was cast out.
The patience He has had with me. It is wonderful! he said again
and again. And now I ask nothing but that He may do His will with me
and mine, he added, as Katie came in.
I think grannie is no worse, though she is very weak and cannot
bear much, was Katie's gentle caution, lest she should be excited
He did not answer her, but turned to Mr Maxwell and repeated his
I ask nothing but that God may do His will with me and mine.
That is always best, said the minister.
Katie looked from one to the other.
Come, grandfather, said she.
He went slowly out, touching the door and the walls to steady
himself by, and when he went in to grannie, Katie softly shut the door.
There was no one to tell what was said there between the two. If Mr
Fleming had needed anything utterly to break his heart with loving
shame, and thankfulness, and sorrow, the glad serenity and trust of his
dear old wife would have done it. He put restraint upon himself lest he
should excite her beyond her strength, but she smiled at him.
Joy seldom does harm, and I am better, though I am but weak and
feckless. I'll soon mend now.
And are you really better? I could almost find it in my heart to
let you go to Him, nay, I canna say gladly, but God's will be done,
whether you be to stay or go.
Surely. And in His good time He'll take me, but no' just yet. You
canna spare me yet.
The old man laughed a glad, tremulous laugh, but the tears were not
very far from his eyes, and he patted gently the wrinkled hand, grown
thin and limp.
And you'll just go to your dinner with the minister and the bairns,
and I'll rest myself a wee while, for, oh! I have little strength. But
I'll soon have more.
After dinner Mr Maxwell came in to say a few words to Mrs Fleming,
and to give thanks, as she said, and then the old people were left
alone together again. Whether they slept or not, grannie could not
But we didna think long, my dear, said she to Katie, with her
faint, glad smile.
Mr Maxwell would have liked to lie all the afternoon on the orchard
grass, with Davie and his mother sitting near, and Katie and the rest
coming and going, as the work permitted, for it was sweet and restful
there. But the old squire might wish to see him. He had visited him
almost daily for a while, and so after a little he rose and said he
And grannie is better, but Miss Elizabeth will have no glad
morning. Oh, if we could comfort her, said Katie, gravely.
And don't you think that all that has comforted you all to-day,
will comfort her also? said Mr Maxwell.
Miss Elizabeth has always rejoiced with the joyful, and sympathised
with those who were in sorrow, said Katie's mother.
And that is why she is loved so dearly, said Katie.
And she was ay fond of grannie, said Davie.
She will be comforted, said the minister.
And Miss Betsey had her wish. One day her mother and Cynthia came
down, and Ben went over for Mr Fleming, and old Mrs Wainwright, and
Deacon Stone, and two or three others, and the minister, and they all
remembered their Lord together. The cup of blessing was passed from
the trembling hands of Mr Fleming to the hands of Jacob Holt, which
trembled also, and so the very last drop of bitterness passed out of
the old man's heart forever.
The end was drawing near now, and the old squire, looking glad and
solemn too, held his daughter's hand, and welcomed them all by name as
they came, and bade them farewell as they went away, hoping to see
them again, he said, but knowing, as did they all, that it must be on
the other side. Mr Fleming stayed when the others went away, and
Elizabeth gave him her seat by her father for a little while. They had
not much to say to one another. In all their intercourse the squire had
been the talker, but he was past all that now. But he was not past
noticing the peaceful look that had already come to the face of his
You feel better, don't you? It has done you good? meaning
doubtless the communion they had enjoyed together with their Lord and
Mr Fleming hardly knew what he meant, but he said gently, Ay, it
has done me good.
For a moment it came into his thoughts to speak to the squire about
the letter, and the joy it had brought to him at last. But he was tired
and his thoughts were beginning to wander, and he doubted whether he
could make him understand.
He'll ken where he is going, said he to himself, but to the dying
man he said nothing but Fare ye well; and the Lord be with you in the
valley. And then he went away.
But not without a word from Elizabeth.
Dear Mr Fleming, said she, holding his hand when they were at the
door, you must let me say how glad I am for you and for his mother.
Ay, that you are, I am very sure.
If only it had comelong ago, said Elizabeth.
A momentary shadow passed over his face.
Ay. It seems strange to us. There is only one thing sureHis time
Then Elizabeth sent her love to Mrs Fleming and to Katie, and her
mother, and then she touched with her lips the old man's furrowed
cheek, and some who saw him leave his old friend's house could not but
wonder at the peaceful brightness of his face that day.
There was another day of watching and waiting, and then a few days
of silence in the darkened house, and then the old squire was laid in
his grave with such marks of honour as his fellow-townsmen could give.
People from other towns, and from all the country round, came to
Gershom that day, and many a kindly word was spoken of the dead, and
many a tale told of good deeds done in secret, of friendly help and
counsel given in time of need, and all agreed that a good man and true
had gone to his rest from among them, and that not many like him were
And though all that great multitude could not see the open grave and
Elizabeth and Clifton and Jacob at the head, and Betsey and her mother
and Ben and all the rest standing near, no man left Gershom that day
who had not heard how, when the first clods fell on the coffin-lid, and
Jacob shuddered and grew white as death, old David Fleming, one of the
bearers, went forward and gave him his arm to lean upon till the grave
was filled and the last word spoken. Of course these strangers did not
know all that this implied to both these men, but every one in Gershom
knew and was glad for them both.
And then when all was over, and Mr Maxwell, in a voice that was not
quite firm, had, in the name of the mourners, thanked the assembled
friends for their presence and sympathy on the solemn occasion,
Elizabeth and Clifton and Jacob went home with the feeling strong upon
them that the old life was at an end forever, and it was truer for them
all than either of them knew.
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX. BUSINESS.
It would have been no longer possible for Clifton Holt to refuse all
active interest in the business that had hitherto been carried on by
Jacob in the name of himself and father. The brothers had long known
the arrangements made by their father with regard to the division of
his property among his children after his death, and this division made
it necessary that Clifton should give both time and pains to a right
understanding of how affairs stood.
Elizabeth was to have the house in the village and the home farm,
together with a certain sum of money, part of which was invested in the
business. She was not to be a partner in the business. It would be
wrong, her father said, at least it would be uncomfortable for her to
be made in that way responsible for risks of which she knew nothing. If
all should agree that her money should be retained in the business,
then of course her brothers would give her the same security that they
would give to any one else who intrusted property to them. The sum was
a large one, but, had all things been going well with them during the
last few years, not larger than was right as her share of her father's
For the rest, the business was to be equally in the hands of the two
brothers, and the real estate equally divided between them. All this
had been arranged at the time when Jacob was formally received as his
father's partner. It was a just arrangement, giving the younger brother
no undue advantage, though it might seem to do so, for Jacob had before
that time spent a large part of the share of the property to which,
according to Canadian law, he had a claim at his father's second
marriage. He had acknowledged the arrangement to be just at the time it
was made, and still acknowledged it, although the fact that his brother
had not, as was expected, come to take his share of the work and risks
of the business when he came of age might have given him some cause to
He might have complained if all this time he had been prospering in
his management of their affairs; but as it was, he said little, and
allowed Clifton to come gradually to a knowledge of how it was with
Up to a late date Clifton's plan had been, either to remain as a
sort of sleeping partner in the business, thus securing a certain
income to himself without trouble; or to claim a division of the
property, and take his share, leaving Jacob to carry on the business in
his own name. This was the course which his sister foresaw and feared,
knowing that such a course must bring trouble and loss to them all.
But within the last few months Clifton's idea and plans had
undergone a change. By the way in which he set himself to work, intent
on mastering the details of the business in all its branches, it became
evident that before many years were over he would stand fair to take
his father's place as the first man in that part of the country.
The more Clifton looked into the state of their affairs, the less
satisfaction he felt with regard to them. When, in the course of his
investigation, he discovered the extent of the sacrifice of real estate
which had attended the settling up of the mining operations, it is
scarcely too much to say that he was for the moment utterly appalled.
He was, upon the whole, moderate in his expression of surprise and
vexation at the state of things, and whatever he said which went beyond
moderation, his brother did not often resent, at least he rarely
answered otherwise than mildly. But Jacob's cool way of answering
questions and suggesting expedients that might serve for a time, as
though he had been freed by his brother's presence from any special
responsibility with regard to their present straits, amazed and
provoked Clifton. Of course he could not now abandon the concern
without dishonour to the name, and without the sacrifice of plans and
projects to which he had of late been giving many of his thoughts.
No, there was nothing to be done but to make the best of matters as
If you had come into the firm two years ago, as you should have
done, said Jacob one day, returning, as his manner was, to matters
discussed and dismissed too often already, in his brother's opinion;
if you had thrown yourself right into it, you might have made the
Gershom Manufacturing Company go. I hadn't the time to give to it. And
I haven't the power of talking folks over to see a thing, as you have.
It was all square with us then, as far as folks generally knew, and if
the company had been formed, and the mills put right up and set
a-going, it would have made all the difference in the world to us.
It's too late to talk now, said Clifton, shortly, and he rose and
left the room.
But he recognised the fact. If he had been in the business for the
last two years, he knew that he would now have been in a far better
position for carrying out the plans, which more than anything else had
brought him back to Gershom; and it was toward the forming of such a
company or, rather, it was toward the commencing and carrying on of
the work which such a company might be expected to do, that all his
plans now pointed.
Business had not been a secondary consideration with Mr Langden when
he paid his visit to Gershom. The success which had been almost the
uniform result of his undertakings during the last ten years had been
very pleasant to him, and had made it difficult for him to resist the
temptation to engage in still other enterprises which offered fairly
for the making of money. It was not that he loved money for its own
sake, or for the sake of what it might bring. He parted with it readily
enough, and held himself responsible for more liberal giving in
proportion as his means increased.
There was nothing added to the enjoyment of his life by the
luxurious appliances which wealth can command. He took a certain pride
in being regarded as a man who had built up his own fortune, and who
had benefited his native place and the community generally, by his
increasing wealth. But the highest enjoyment he had was in the actual
doing of workin the beginning and carrying on to a successful end any
enterprise which it required skill and will and a strong hand to guide.
It was not the passion for speculationthe passion of the gambler
which may take possession of the man of business as of the man of
pleasure. He made no daring ventures and took no special risks. He
investigated patiently and saw clearly, and then he acted. His
weakness, if it could be called weakness, lay in this, that he found it
difficult to refrain from entering into new schemes when opportunity
A less clear-sighted man than he might during a ten days' visit to
Gershom have seen enough of the state of affairs there, and enough of
Jacob Holt himself, to prevent him from entering into any serious
business relations with him. He had disappointed Jacob by his apparent
indifference to the evident advantages offered for the establishment of
new industries, and the opening of new sources of wealth to himself,
and of prosperity to Gershom. But he was not indifferent in the matter.
He saw the opportunity clearly enough, but he did not see in Jacob
Holt, or in any other man he met in Gershom, the right sort of agent by
whom to make the opportunity available.
He changed his opinion as to this, however, when he came to know
more of Clifton. Their long sail together, down the Saint Lawrence, and
up the Saguenay, gave time for much talk between them. Jacob was right
when he said that Clifton had his father's head for business, and the
shrewd and observing Mr Langden was not long in discovering his powers.
Squire Holt had been engrossed with business during the boyhood of his
younger son, and Clifton had been on too familiar terms with him, not
to have acquired much knowledge with regard to the details of business
matters without any effort on his part. His views and opinions,
modified and enlarged by contact with others during the two years'
residence in the city of Montreal, commended themselves to the judgment
of his new friend, and Mr Langden expressed surprise that he should not
have preferred entering on such a business as that left by his father,
rather than to take a new and untried path.
From one thing they went to another, till the capabilities of the
Beaver River as a water-power, and the chances of Gershom as a
manufacturing town, were fully discussed between them. The result was
that Clifton almost decided to give up for the present his legal
studies, and take up his abode in Gershom as Mr Langden's partner in
such a business as it had been Jacob's hope that the Gershom
Manufacturing Company might establish. Such an enterprise need not
prevent him from going on as Jacob's partner. On the contrary, his
position in such a case would be an advantage to him, and from his
share of his father's wealth he expected to obtain the means necessary
as his part in the investment of which Mr Langden was to supply the
larger part. And so, to the surprise and joy of Elizabeth, and of Jacob
as well, Clifton came home for good. Mr Langden did not see, or did not
seem to see, one of the chief motives that had influenced the young man
in considering this step. Clifton at first did not acknowledge to
himself that his interest in Mr Langden's daughter had much to do with
the decision. There were good reasons enough for it to fall back upon
without this, and these were so clearly and earnestly dwelt on in his
talks with his sister, that he went far toward convincing himself that
to settle in Gershom and do as his father had done before him was the
most reasonable course to take.
He had greatly admired Miss Langden everybody saw, and a good many
people had seemed to see that the admiration was mutual. But if their
intercourse had ended when they left Gershom, it would hardly have gone
further than admiration between them. Up to that time Clifton had
shared the general opinion that Miss Essie would at some future day
probably become a resident of the parsonage, and he had his doubts, as
some others in Gershom had, whether that might prove the most suitable
place for the dainty little lady.
But the sail together down the Saint Lawrence changed his opinion,
and set his doubts at rest. Mr Maxwell was almost her dearest friend,
as his mother had been the dearest friend of her Aunt Martha. He was
like a cousin or an elder brother, she said, admiring and praising him
quite openly, as no young lady would be likely to speak of her lover.
And as for the parsonage, well, the intimations, quite frankly given,
as to what she meant to see and to do in the future, did not point that
way. And Clifton told himself, as he listened to her, that having seen
them so much together, he might have known from the nature of their
intercourse that there was nothing but friendship between them.
In the comparative isolation of the sail on the two great rivers,
these young people became more intimate than they could have become in
so short a time in almost any other circumstances, and Miss Essie was a
pretty and winning little creature. She was very frank and friendly
with him, and an occasional touch of shyness and reserve made her
frankness and friendliness all the more charming. What with the one way
and the other, she bewitched the happy young fellow, and she had
bewitched several others since the Thanksgiving visit of Mr Maxwell.
Clifton scarcely knew what had happened to him till he stood in the
desolate station in Montreal, watching the train that carried her and
her friends to meet the upward-bound boat at Lachine. After that there
came with the thought of the pretty, bright little girl, the thought of
her father, who was a rich man, and who would not, he feared, be easily
approached in any matter that had reference to his daughter. Clifton
forth with came to what was probably the wisest resolution that he
could have taken in the circumstances, to keep silence at present, and
to do what might be done, at least to put himself in the way of
becoming a rich man also.
A good deal had passed between the gentlemen as to possible future
business relations, but nothing had been definitely settled while Mr
Langden was in Canada. That is, Clifton had not fully decided whether
he should change his plans and settle in Gershom. But there had been a
full discussion of all that was to follow should he do so.
The unsatisfactory state into which their own affairs had fallen
under his brother's management was doubly vexing to him, because of the
difficulties which were thus thrown in the way of the new enterprise.
Not only must there be delay, there must be a new plan of operations.
There was far more than enough of property of one kind or another in
their possession still to cover all the liabilities of the firm, but
money was needed and the banks were pressing. An honourable settlement
might be made, and their good name preserved, and even their fortunes
retrieved to some extentprovided that time should be given them, and
provided also the settlement of their affairs should be left in their
own hands. An extensive and varied country business like theirs might
be carried on through years of ill-success without an utter breakdown,
and years of care and labour would be required, if the sacrifice of
much valuable property was to be avoided, and this care and labour he
saw must fall on him. He could no longer hope for a partnership with Mr
Langden in the new enterprise. It seemed even doubtful whether,
occupied as he must be with their own affairs for the next year or two,
Mr Langden would consider the question of making him his agent in
carrying out his plans.
You can but lay the matter before him, said his sister Elizabeth.
To her alone had Clifton permitted himself to speak of Mr Langden's
plans, and of the disappointment that threatened his own hopes because
of the losses that had come upon them.
That is easily said, said he, impatiently. A statement of our
affairs; such as it would be necessary to put before him, would be
almost impossible at the present moment, at least in writing.
Why don't you go and see him, then?
Clifton looked at her a moment in silence.
The matter ought to be settled in one way or another, at once,
said his sister. You would feel quite differently about Jacob's
troubles and your own if you were not in suspense.
And so it came about that Clifton found his opportunity, and went.
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN. CHANGES.
A surprise awaited the people of Gershomindeed a series of
surprises. But the greatest of all was this, David Fleming not only
sold that part of his farm which bordered on the Black Pool and lay
beyond it, higher up the river, but he sold it to the Holts. He sold it
on such terms that the longstanding debt to them was more than
cancelled, and in so doing did well for himself and for the Holts also.
When the winter had fairly set in, and there was snow enough for
good winter roads, the stones and timber which Jacob Holt had
accumulated on the Varney place last year were all removed higher up
the river, and preparations on a larger scale than ever Jacob had
attempted, commenced for the making of the new dam, at the point long
ago decided upon as the best on the river for such a purpose. And the
building of the dam was to be but the beginning of what was to be done.
Clifton Holt did not say much to any one, except his sister
Elizabeth, of all that was to be undertaken soon in Gershom. But the
good people took too much interest in him and his undertakings not to
give much time and talk to them. Clifton Holt's undertakings, they were
always called, though he was but the agent of Mr Langden, the
complications in the old business with which he had still to do making
it wiser for him to occupy that position for the present. But that he
was to be at the head of all that was to be done, as far as buildings
were concerned, was easily seen.
And Mark Varney was to be one of his right hands. It was Mark who
had the immediate oversight of the numerous workmen who were employed
during the winter collecting the materials required. It was he who,
when the spring opened, superintended the digging and levelling, the
cutting and carting that were being carried on, on a scale and with a
rapidity that surprised even Jacob Holt, who in imagination had seen
something like it done a hundred times over. It was in Mark's pastures,
once again his own, that the horses and oxen used in the work found
rest when it was needed, and it was he who had all to say that was to
be said of them, and of much besides. And the surprise, as far as he
was concerned, was that he should be capable of taking all this in
hand, and that being trusted with it he should so quickly and clearly
show that he was capable of doing it all well.
No one was surprised at Clifton. He had the old squire's head for
business, they said, as Jacob had said before, and he had such an
education as the squire had never had, which must tell in the long run.
Then he had so good an opinion of his own powers, that he would never
think any work too great to undertake, and being backed by Mr
Langden, and by several other rich men, both at home and at a distance,
to whom Mr Langden's movement in the matter of the new mills had given
confidence, the chances were, everybody said, that he would do what he
had set out to do.
And so he did, as far as the new dam on the Beaver River, and the
mills and workshops, and many other works besides, which he put his
hand to for the benefit of Gershom and his own benefit, were concerned.
And so he did in the course of years in his own businessthat is, he
and Jacob together did much to recover that which had been lost, and to
make once more the name of the firm a power in Gershom, and in all the
countryside. But a good many years passed before all that was brought
Mr Fleming parted with a portion of his farm, not without regret,
indeed; but with none of the bitterness of feeling which in former days
had always risen within him at the thought of possibly having to do so;
and Davie was triumphant. Katie grieved over the prospect of having the
bonny quiet place spoiled with mills and shops and other folks'
houses, and the clatter of looms and factory-bells. Grannie thought as
Katie did, and would have grieved over this also if anything except a
fear of the wrong-doing of any of the bairns could have moved her from
the sweet content which, since the joyful ending of her long illness,
had rested in her heart, and made itself evident in every word and
But still grannie found much that was to be rejoiced over in that
which made Katie grieve. It was a fine thing to be free of debt, and it
was well that since they must part with the land it was to be put to a
As for grandfather there was no sign of grumbling in him. Indeed,
when the spring opened, and the work at the Pool made progress, he
began to take much interest in all that was going on there, and his
evening walk often took him in that direction. It was a silent, and not
always an approving interest. But there was neither bitterness nor
anger in his thoughts now. He was content, like his dear old wife, to
let the world move on and take its way, since he had so nearly done
with it all.
There was for Davie a constant fascination in the skill and power
displayed by those employed in directing the work that was going on. He
haunted the place at every spare moment, and even did a day's work
there, at leisure times, for the sake of getting an insight into the
principles of things of which he had read, but which he had never had
an opportunity of seeing applied. The engineer employed about the dam,
a scientific man, capable of doing far higher work than fell to him in
Gershom, well pleased with the lad's eager interest, gave him many a
hint that went beyond the work in hand, and lent him books, and
encouraged him in various other ways to educate himself in the
direction toward which his tastes and inclinations seemed to lead. He
claimed his help on occasions when intelligence and skill rather than
strength were needed, and Davie, well pleased, did his best. The end of
it all was, that the lad's vulgar wishes for other work and another
kind of life than that which had fallen to him on the farm, took a
definite form, and as usual his confidence was given to his sister, and
as usual, also, Katie's first thought was:
But, Davie, think of grandfather.
Oh, there is no special hurry about it, and we'll break it to him
easily. And you must mind that there is less land now, and Sandy and
Jamie are coming on. There is not room for so many of us here, Katie.
And I'll be first to slip out of the nest, that is all.
But that you should be so glad to think about it, Davie, said
Oh, as to that, I'm no' awa' yet. You needna fear that I'll do
anything that grandfather will take to heart. And besides, Katie,
grandfather is different now.
Davie said these last words with a little hesitation, because he had
been taken up rather sharply on a former occasion when he had said
something of the same kind. Katie seemed to have forgotten her old
unhappy thoughts about her grandfather and Jacob Holt, and how hard it
had been for her grandfather to forgive his enemy, and it almost seemed
like reflection on his past life when it was said how greatly he was
It is not so much that he is changed, said Katie; it is just the
`shining more and more unto the perfect day.' It is that he is becoming
more like the `little child' our Lord speaks about, and so more fit for
the kingdom of heaven as the time draws nearer. For grandfather is
growing an old man now, Davie, said Katie, not without tears.
Yes, that's so. Well, I'll never grieve him, Katie, you needna
fear. There is no hurry, and I am not losing time while Mr Davenport is
here. And I don't despair of being a civil engineer, as good as the
best of them yet.
Shining more and more unto the perfect day. Yes, that was so. Mr
Fleming was almost as silent in these days as had been his way all his
life, but it was a different silencea silence serene and peaceful,
that told better than words could have done, of the joy and confidence
with which he was waiting for all that life had to bring him, and for
all that lay beyond.
One Sabbath-day in the beginning of the winter, when Mrs Fleming had
gathered a little strength after her illness, grandfather and she, with
Davie and Katie and their mother, went to the village church and sat
down together at the table of our Lord. Jacob Holt was there too, and a
good many more who had sympathised with one or the other of them when
trouble was between them, and every one who saw the old man's bowed
head, and the childlike look on his face as he sat there among them
all, knew that all hard feelings had passed out of his heart forever.
Jacob Holt's head was bowed also, but his face did not tell of peace
as yet. That might come later, but Jacob was now in the midst of his
troubles, and was having a hard time. But there was peace between him
and Mr Fleming. In former days the old man's eyes had never lighted on
his enemy, either in church or market, as all the world knew. But
to-day it was Jacob who tied old Kelso in the shed, Davie not being at
hand. He helped Mrs Fleming up the steps too, Cousin Betsey and a good
many other people being there to see, and then the two men walked up
the church aisle together.
It was as good to Jacob as Mr Fleming's name to a note for a
thousand dollars, Mr Green said afterward. And that was quite true.
For a thousand dollars, more or less, would have made little difference
to him in the present state of affairs, and the open friendliness of
the man who had so long shunned and slighted him, was good and pleasant
to him to-day.
And it was done on purpose, Betsey told her mother afterward, for
Mr Fleming was not accustomed to say much to any one by salutation on
Sunday, and had passed several of his friends, Betsey herself among the
number, without a word or even a nod of recognition. But he seemed glad
of the chance to say a word to Jacob before them all.
And it was a good day for Gershom, people said. There was no
longer any question as to union now in church matters, and in other
matters as well. No one had said less about union and brotherly love
and a Christian spirit among brethren than Mr Fleming; but his silent
influence had always been stronger than most men's loudly-spoken
reasons, either for or against the union so much desired, and now his
open adherence to the church in the village did much to decide those
who had long hung back, and it was acknowledged to be a good day by
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT. CLIFTON'S
Jacob Holt was having a hard time, and it did not for the moment
make his troubles any lighter that his younger brother seemed likely,
by and by, to show him a way out of them all. Indeed, it was rather an
aggravation to his troubles to see Clifton's success. He was carrying
out with apparent ease an enterprise on which he had spent time and
strength in vain, and with fewer drawbacks than would have been likely
to come to him had the Gershom Manufacturing Company been formed when
he moved in the matter years ago.
Of course success was for Jacob's benefit, and by and by he would be
able to appreciate and take advantage of it. But in the meantime it was
not a pleasant thing to find himself supersededleft on one sideas
he said to himself often. It was not pleasant to be second where he had
so long been first.
On the whole, Clifton carried himself with as much moderation as
could have been expected toward his elder brother, and he made him
useful in various ways that told for the good of both.
Elizabeth rejoiced greatly, as each month passed over, that her
brother not only showed himself equal to the duties of the position in
which he was placed, but that he seemed to enjoy them, and would,
therefore, not be likely to be tempted to seek other work elsewhere.
Of his work and his plans, and all he meant to do and be in the
future, Clifton said more to his sister than to all the rest of Gershom
put together. He was as frank and free in his talk, and as eagerly
claimed her sympathy and approval as ever he had done in his boyish
days about less important matters, and the chief interest of her life
now, as then, was in throwing herself heartily into all his plans and
But on one subject he was for the most part silent, and his sister
could only guess at the motives that had chiefly decided him in
returning to Gershom, and at the hopes he might be cherishing with
regard to Miss Langden, and of both motives and hopes she was afraid.
She was afraid that disappointment awaited him, and that the end of it
would be to unsettle him again, and to disgust him with the life he had
Elizabeth's knowledge of the tacit engagement existing between Miss
Essie and Mr Maxwell made her anxious and unhappy about her brother,
and at the same time it made it difficult for her to say anything that
might incline him to speak more freely to her. For Clifton's first
successful visit to Mr Langden had by no means been his last. Business
took him southward several times during the year, and more than one
visit united business with pleasure. Once he had seen Miss Langden in
her aunt's house in New York, and once he had turned aside to one of
the fashionable summer resorts in the mountains where she was staying
with her aunt's family. He enjoyed both visits, as may be supposed.
Miss Essie was as bright and sweet as ever, and doubtless enjoyed them
Even Mrs Weston, who had seen a good deal more of society, and of
the world in general, than her niece, acknowledged that the young
Canadian carried himself well, and held his place among the idle
gentlemen who were helping them and their friends to spend their summer
days agreeably. Mrs Weston would have been as well pleased if he had
not carried himself so well, or made himself so agreeable, as far as
her niece was concerned, though she did not allow him to suspect any
such feelings, and had self-respect enough to say nothing to her niece
till after their visitors had departed.
She did not say much to her even then. She laughed a little at her
and the conquest she had made, declaring that if she were determined to
spend her life in the far North, it would be wise to give up all
thoughts of the parsonage, and make good her claim to be the great lady
of Gershom. Mrs Weston had always laughed at the idea of the parsonage,
and had no thought of allowing her pretty niece to betake herself to
the far North in any circumstances. But she did not express herself
very openly with regard to this. For, with all Miss Essie's gentleness
and sweetness, and her willingness to submit to guidance when nothing
of particular importance to herself was depending upon it, she had a
mind and will of her own, and did not hesitate to assert herself on
occasion, and her aunt had seen enough of this to make her cautious in
dealing with her when their opinions differed. Upon the whole, however,
she thought she had reason to congratulate herself on the success that
had hitherto attended her efforts on her niece's behalf.
Miss Langden, who could hold her own among the scores of fine
people the fashionable and elegant ladies and gentlemen who formed
the circle in which they moved at presentwas a very different
creature from the quaint and prudish little school-girl whom her father
had brought to New York a year and a half ago.
Improved! Yes, indeed, she said to herself, and Mr Langden agreed
with his sister in the main, but on all points was not so sure.
However, he doubted nothing less than that in all essential respects
his good and pretty daughter would come out right in the end. Whether
that might mean the parsonage and the far North, either or both, he did
not say to himself or any one else. He had exchanged no words with his
daughter on the subject, though they had been at Gershom together.
Mrs Weston was not afraid of Mr Maxwell and the parsonage, but,
after his summer visit, she was a little afraid of Clifton Holt. She
knew how high he stood both as to character and capabilities in the
opinion of Essie's father, and though he had not liked the idea of his
daughter's marriage with the minister, she thought it possible that he
might not object seriously a second time, should Essie indeed prefer
the new aspirant to her favour.
But all the same her aunt did not intend that either of them should
have her pretty niece if she could manage matters so as to prevent it.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE. CONCLUSION.
Clifton went southward again not long after his summer visit to the
mountains, and on his return he had more to say about what he had seen
and done and enjoyed than was usual with him. Whether he was led into
doing so by the fact that Mr Maxwell had come in for the evening, and
took pleasure in hearing about old friends and familiar scenes, or
whether he spoke with intention, Elizabeth could not afterward decide.
He had not seen Miss Langden at this time. She was paying a visit to
friends at a distance. If she had been visiting her Aunt Maltha, he
would have gone there to see her, he said, as though it were quite his
right to do so, and a matter of course. Elizabeth listened to all this
with much discomfort, and glanced at Mr Maxwell now and then to see how
it was taken. The minister met her glance frankly and smilingly, and
certainly did not seem to have any thought of resenting the young man's
tone and manner.
He is sure of his ground, thought Elizabeth; and he can wait;
but, my poor Clifton, I fear he has disappointment before him.
She knew that such a disappointment might be got over, and he be
none the worse, but rather the better, for what he might have to pass
through. But it hurt her beforehand to think of his suffering, and to
think that it must come to him through his friend. Even as the talk
went on between them, she was trying to bring her courage to the point
of asking Mr Maxwell to tell her brother how matters stood between him
and Miss Langden. It was only that they were waiting for the end of the
two years of probation, she supposed, and they were nearly over now.
She came out of her own thoughts in time to hear Mr Maxwell say:
Yes, I mean to get away for a week or two by and by, and I mean to
pass Thanksgiving either there or with Miss Martha at New B. If I
cannot get away at that time I shall certainly go later, but I should
like to be there on Thanksgiving Day for various reasons.
Elizabeth looked from one to the other with some surprise. Mr
Maxwell spoke, and Clifton listened, with faces that were grave enough,
but the eyes of both were smiling as they met hers.
Mr Maxwell ought to tell him, thought she, with a touch of anger
at her heart.
But he did not need to be told. When Mr Maxwell was gone, and
Clifton had returned from seeing him to the gate, he said to his
Did you know, Lizzie, that Mr Maxwell had once asked Miss Langden
to marry him?
Elizabeth was moving about the room, putting things in order, as was
her way before going up-stairs for the night. She removed the lamp to
the side-table, and sat down before she answered him.
Yes, I have long known it. I have often, often wished to tell you,
but I did not feel at liberty to do so.
And why not, pray? One may surely repeat a rumour of that kind
without a breach of confidence.
But I did not hear it as a rumour, and I had no permission to
repeat it. And besides, it was Mr Maxwell who told me.
Rather queerhis telling you, wasn't it?
No. In the circumstances it was natural enough. I knew it, or I had
guessed it before he told me.
And then she went on to tell of the first note that Miss Essie had
sent her, because she was one of the Gershom friends of her friend
Will Maxwell, as she called him. But it is a long time now since one
of her pretty notes has come to me. But they correspond, and have
always done so, since he came to Gershom.
Clifton said nothing, and his sister was silent for a time. Then she
Who told you of their engagement?
Engagement! There is no engagement, said Clifton shortly.
No formal engagement, but that was only because her father thought
Miss Essie too young; but the time of waiting is nearly over now.
Lizzie, if I had been asked who had been most in Mr Maxwell's
thoughts for the last year I should not certainly have said it was Miss
Well, your penetration would have been at fault, that is all.
And I should not have said that Miss Langden had been giving many
of her thoughts to him, for the last year at least.
Of that I can say nothing. But who told you of the proposal? Not Mr
No. Mr Langden told me.
Mr Langden! exclaimed Elizabeth, and by and by she added: Is that
all I am to hear, brother?
It is all I have to tell at present. Perhaps I may have more by and
Or perhaps it may be Mr Maxwell who may have something to tell,
said Elizabeth gravely, when he comes home from Thanksgiving.
Possibly he maybut
Clifton, I cannot bear to think that Mr Maxwell and you may not
always be friends.
Well, you needn't fret about it beforehand, need you? and then he
rose and went away.
They both had something to tell before Thanksgiving Day, but it was
not just what Elizabeth had expected to hear. Clifton did not tell his
part before Thanksgiving, however. Indeed, he never told it. He was
away a good deal about that time; and was so much occupied when he was
at home, that Elizabeth saw less of him, and heard less from him than
had ever been the case before during the same length of time, and she
could only wait till it should be his pleasure to speak. But Mr Maxwell
lost no time in saying to his friend what he had to say.
One fair September morning, about a year after her father's death,
Elizabeth saw the minister coming in at the gate with an open letter in
his hand, and though she could give no reason for the thought, she told
herself at once to prepare for tidings. Her first impulse was to go
away, so as to gain time, for a sharp and sudden pain, which she could
not but fear was not all for her brother, smote her heart as she caught
sight of Mr Maxwell's moved and smiling face. But she felt that it was
better not to go, so she rose and met him at the door.
Well, she said, smiling and preparing to be glad for him, at
Her face was moved out of its usual quiet too, as Mr Maxwell could
not but see, and he said:
Have you heard anything? Has your brother anything to tell?
Clifton is not at home; I have heard nothing.
Ah, well! All in good time, I suppose.
Mr Maxwell did not sit down, though Elizabeth did, but walked about
the room, looking out first at one window and then at the other in a
way that startled her.
Well, she said after a little, I am waiting for your news.
News? I have no newsyes, I have something to say. I have been
waiting these two years to say itmay I speak, Elizabeth?
And then he sat down on the sofa beside her. To that which he had to
say Elizabeth listened with a surprise which would have been painful to
her friend if something more than surprise had not soon appeared.
In a few words he told her of the discovery he had made soon after
his return home two years ago, and how he had thought nothing else
right or possible but to wait patiently till the two years of probation
were over to see what might befall. He had not always waited patiently,
he acknowledged. He had had little hope that Miss Holt had more than
friendship to give him, and believed himself to be content with that
for the present, till he had known how, after her father's death, some
one else was asking for the hand for which he had no right to ask, and
then it had gone hard with him.
He had not been blind to Clifton's hopes and pretensions, and he had
been for some time quite aware that whatever Miss Langden might have to
give to Clifton, she had only friendship to give to him. But he had
remained silent because he believed himself bound not to speak to
Elizabeth till the two years were over. And now they were over.
Mr Langden, knowing that his plan was to visit them soon, considered
that he ought to know how he was to be received, and had insisted that
his daughter should tell him her mind distinctly as to her future. It
is not be supposed that she did that altogether, but she acknowledged
that her views of life and duty had somewhat changed, and she feared it
would not be for their mutual happiness to renew her engagement with Mr
Maxwell. A little note to that effect was inclosed in her father's
letter which had reached him this morning, and certainly the minister
had lost no time.
If Elizabeth hesitated to answer the question which came next, it
was not for a reason that seemed to trouble the questioner much. She
was not sure that she would make a good minister's wifeand especially
she was not sure that she would make a good minister's wife for
Gershom. But all that was put aside for the present. She was not afraid
to trust her happiness in the hands of her friend. She was willing to
share his life and his labours, and to do what she could to aid him in
his work. And with that her friend was well content.
When he said something of the inequality of their relations to each
other, because of that which she possessed, she declared herself
willing to let all that pass into the hands of her brothers, and to
share the parsonage and comparative poverty with him. Whether she was
showing her usual wisdom and prudence in making such a declaration,
there was no one there to decide, and when the right time came for the
decision it was not left in her hands.
Clifton did not return home triumphant, as Elizabeth had never
doubted that he would. He was well pleased to hear all she had to tell
him of the new happiness that had come into her life; but he had
nothing to tell her in return. By and by she heard, through Mr Maxwell,
that Miss Langden had gone with her aunt to pass at least a year in
Europe, and then Clifton told her that he had known her plans all
along. He said little about his disappointment, indeed he did not
acknowledge himself disappointed. But he did not succeed in concealing
it from Elizabeth. He went on as usual with all that he had to do, with
no less interest and energy, and with no less success than before.
Mr Langden paid a visit to Gershom in the following spring, and
there was perfect confidence and satisfaction between him and Clifton
as far as business relations were concerned. And hearing his daughter's
name frequently mentioned by him, and taking some other things into
consideration, Elizabeth could not but hope that in good time all
things would end as her brother desired, and since he was silent, she
did not think it would be right for her to speak.
But it did not all end as Clifton wished it to end. Miss Langden
returned with her aunt at the close of the year, as had been expected,
but she returned engaged to marry a New York gentleman whom they had
met abroad. She and Clifton had never been engaged. Her father had
forbidden the young man to speak to her till the two years of Mr
Maxwell's waiting were over, and before that time the European trip was
decided on and close at hand.
This meeting and parting at that time had been all that Clifton
could desire, except that she had refused to bind herself by a promise
to him, and her aunt had sustained her in this, as was perhaps right,
knowing all that she knew. Without her promise Clifton had trusted her
entirely, and doubtless she meant to be true to him.
But temptation came in the form of wealth and family and fashion,
and her aunt was at hand to show her the advantages of these things.
Indeed, it must be said the young lady saw them for herself only too
clearly, and was glad that she had no promise to break to secure them.
If there was any comfort in the knowledge that her father was
disappointed and indignant at what she had done without his knowledge
or consent, Clifton had that comfort, but it possibly did not go far to
help him. He said little about it, but it went hard with him for a
However, he did not make his misery an excuse for neglecting his
duty. He was past the age for such folly now and besides, he was too
really interested in his work not to find it a resource in the time of
his trouble, and the changes which his sister had feared might follow
such disappointment, did not come.
And after all, she said, comforting herself, he will get over it
in time. Which was perfectly true.
The new dam and the new establishments of various sorts, which
followed its completion, did much for Gershom. That is to say, they
increased the population and the wealth of the place, and made it more
than ever the centre of the surrounding country as to all business
transactions. But it is a question whether it made it a pleasanter
place of residence for any of our friends there. A state of transition
from a country village to a country town of some importance is never
pleasant for the old residents for a time. But progress is to be
desired for all that, and Gershom is now an incorporated town with a
mayor and council-men of its own, and on the whole it may be considered
that its prosperity is established on a good foundation.
Changes came to the people also, some of them to be rejoiced over,
and some of them not. The High-School lost Mr Burnet as a teacher,
which, considering his utter inability to fall in with certain
new-fangled notions as to schools and schoolmasters, which the influx
of new-comers brought with it, was not a bad thing for him, whatever it
might be for the school. He went home to Scotland to take possession of
some money left to him by an elder brother, who had been a rich man. He
came back, however, to make his home in Canada, as people who have
lived in it for any length of time are almost sure to do.
He brought back with him his two daughters, bonnie lassies of
fifteen and sixteen, and took up his abode with them in the house that
had been the parsonage. The big house on the hill answered the purpose
of a parsonage now. His daughters were nice, merry girls, but they were
quite ignorant of housekeeping matters, and they did not get on very
well with the new ways of the place for a while. They had, perhaps,
been too much restrained by the friends who had brought them up, for
some of the staid people of Gershom thought that they did not know how
to use their liberty wisely.
Perhaps their father thought so too, and that he needed help to
guide them; at any rate, to the surprise of most people, he asked Miss
Betsey Holt to come and take care of them, and of himself also, and
after some hesitation, caused by doubt as to how mother and Cynthy and
Ben would get along without her, she consented.
All eyes were on the household for a time, for dutiful submission on
the part of the young step-daughters was considered doubtful by a good
many of their friends. It is likely that Betsey had her own troubles
with them till they knew her better, but no one in Gershom was the
wiser for anything that she told them, and things righted themselves in
time, as they always do where good and sensible people are concerned.
Mark Varney redeemed his farm and moor, and carried his mother and
his little daughter home again when Mr Maxwell was married. His farm
was not so large after a time, for a part of it was laid out in
building lots for the new village, and Mark, as the neighbours
declared, was soon well-to-do, and doing well.
And though he never made so good a speech again as he made that day
at the picnic, he has done for many a suffering and miserable man what
in the first days of his coming to Gershom, Mr Maxwell did for him. He
has followed, and comforted, and brought back to life and hope more
than one or two poor besotted wretches, whom the rising prosperity of
Gershom drew thither in the hope of getting bread. And he has never
grown weary of the work, though sometimes he has had to grieve over
It would be going beyond the truth to say that all Gershom was
satisfied when the engagement of Miss Holt and the minister was
announced, because there are some people who are never satisfied. But
they whose opinion they valued most were satisfied. Mrs Fleming and
Cousin Betsey had been hoping for italmost expecting it all along,
and one or two of Elizabeth's special old-lady friends acknowledged
that they had been praying for such a marriage all the while. As for
Katie, it was in her eyes the only fitting end to the romance which she
had guessed at long ago, and which she had been secretly and silently
watching all these years.
As to whether or not she made a good minister's wife, Elizabeth was
never quite sure. But the minister was content, and so were most of the
people. And even those who were never quite contented with anything,
acknowledged that she did as well as she knew how, and that would be
high praise for the most of us.
Clifton lived in the old home with them, for his good and their
pleasure, till the time came when he made a home of his own, which,
considering all things, was not so very long a time after all.
Although Jacob's change from the first place to the second both in
the business and in the town was not pleasant to him, it was wholesome.
He had never been equal to the role of the great man of the
place, and after the first feelings of humiliation wore away, and their
affairs began to look prosperous again, the fact that two heads are
better than one made itself apparent to him even more clearly than had
been the case in the days when he found his father unable, and his
brother unwilling, to give him help and counsel.
He came to be much better liked by his neighbours than he used to
be, and was really a better man. He had fewer worries and fewer
temptations, and though he was not what might be called a shining
light either in the church or in the world, it was the opinion of his
brethren and townsmen that his troubles had been blessed to him, and
that he was getting alongnot very fast, but in the right direction.
But that which did most for Jacob in his time of trouble was the
knowledge of Mr Fleming's forgiveness and friendship. It is not likely
that he had ever acknowledged, even to himself, that he had sinned
against him through his son more than others had done, but a sense of
the old man's silent anger had always been in him, and had been painful
and humiliating to himhow painful he knew by the sense of relief he
experienced whenever they came in contact afterward. He no longer
stepped aside when he saw him approaching, so that the neighbours
should not remark about the old man's steadily averted face. They had
never much to say to each other, but they met and exchanged kindly
greetings as other men did, and all Gershom saw the change that had
come over them both. Even his cousin Betsey grew friendly and frank in
her intercourse with him and his wife, and that was a change certainly.
Few people ever knew just what had brought about this changed state
of feeling. There was nothing to tell which Jacob cared to repeat. It
would have done no good to bring up the old, sad story again, he well
knew, and he said little about it even to his wife.
As for Mr Flemingand indeed all the Flemingsthe joyful tidings
that the letter brought on that fair September morning were too sacred
and sweet to be discussed much even among themselves. Katie always held
that her grandfather would have forgiven Jacob Holt all the same if the
letter had never come, because there was the Lord's command clear and
plain, Forgive and ye shall be forgiven, and it must have come to
that at last.
And, indeed, Davie, it was near at hand before the letter came. The
Lord had touched him. First there was the fear of losing you, and then
the fear of losing grannie, and then the letter came from the son he
had lost so long, and that was the last touch for which the rest had
made him ready. Oh! how good He has been to us! Surely, surely, Davie,
we can never through all our lives forget.
Mrs Fleming thought as Katie did, though they had never spoken
together of the subject. In her innermost heart she had
believedthough even to herself she had hardly put the thought into
wordsthat on the subject of Jacob Holt's past misdeeds her husband
was hardly responsible for his thoughts. The misery of his son's loss,
not for this brief life only, but forever and ever, as he could not but
believe, had taken such full possession of him as to leave him no power
to struggle against the bitterness which became almost hatred as time
went on. If he had died unforgiving, the Lord would have still received
him, she had believed, and she had striven to content herself with this
belief in silence, feeling how vain were spoken words to him.
Only a miracle would make him see God's will in this; and I have no
right to ask for that.
No miracle was wrought. The letter came, and was the last touch of
the loving Hand which even at the worst times had wounded but to heal;
and lying with his lips in the dust, but with eyes looking upward, the
cloud parted, and he saw the face of God, and was at peace.
After this there came nothing to trouble these two old people as
they moved softly down the hill together. Grannie was never very strong
again after her long illness, and no longer took the lead in all that
was done in the housethat was Katie's part in life for several years
to come; but she was quite content to rest and to look at other folk
busy with the work which had once been hers, and that does not always
happen in the last days of a life so active and so full as hers had
And what was true of the grandmother was true of the grandfather as
well. He seemed to have no more anxious thoughts about anything. He did
not need to have while Davie stayed at home; but even after Davie went
away, and the management of the farm fell for the most part into the
less skillful hands of the younger brothers, their grandfather took
things easy, the lads said, and rarely found fault.
And so they had still a peaceful gloaming, these two old people,
when their changeful day of life was drawing to a close. Only it was
like the dawn rather than the gloaming, Katie said, because of the soft
brightness that shone on them both. It was light at evening time, and
their last days were their best to themselves and to all by whom they
For the last days were days of waiting for the change of which they
spoke often to the bairns so dear, and to one another. Once, as Katie
sat with her grandfather at the pasture-bars on Sabbath afternoon, she
said to himafter many other words had been spoken between themthat
she would like to put that verse on his grave-stone after he was gone:
At evening time it shall be light.
But her grandfather said:
Na, na, my lassie! If I have a grave-stonewhich matters
littleand if any verse at all be put upon it, let it be this:
`Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.' Then Katie stooped and
touched his hand with her lips, as she had done once long ago, and said
softly: Yes, grandfather, so it shall be. And so it was.