by Margaret Murray Robertson
The Inglises, by Margaret Murray Robertson.
Margaret Robertson generally wrote about rather religion-minded
people, and this is no exception. The women in her stories tend to moan
on a good bit, and this book is also no exception to that. Having said
that, don't say I didn't warn you. However, like all novels of the
second half of the nineteenth century, they are about a bygone age, and
things were different then. For that reason it is worth reading books
of that period if you want to know more about how people lived in those
One very big difference was illness. Nowadays, you go to the doctor,
and very probably he or she will be able to cure you. In those days you
either died or were confined to your bed for a long time. If you died
but had been responsible for income coming into the house, in many
cases that stopped, too. The women-folk and the children would be left
without support. No wonder they moaned a lot, and turned to religion,
to comfort themselves. It is hard for us to realise what huge progress
has been made in social reforms. Reading this book, and others of that
period (this book was published in 1872) will teach a lot about how
lucky we are to live in the present age, despite all its other faults.
In the large and irregular township of Gourlay, there are two
villages, Gourlay Centre and Gourlay Corner. The Reverend Mr Inglis
lived in the largest and prettiest of the two, but he preached in both.
He preached also in another part of the town, called the North Gore. A
good many of the Gore people used to attend church in one or other of
the two villages; but some of them would never have heard the Gospel
preached from one year's end to the other, if the minister had not gone
to them. So, though the way was long and the roads rough at the best of
seasons, Mr Inglis went often to hold service in the little red
school-house there. It was not far on in November, but the night was as
hard a night to be out in as though it were the depth of winter, Mrs
Inglis thought, as the wind dashed the rain and sleet against the
window out of which she and her son David were trying to look. They
could see nothing, however, for the night was very dark. Even the
village lights were but dimly visible through the storm, which grew
thicker every moment; with less of rain and more of snow, and the
moaning of the wind among the trees made it impossible for them to hear
any other sound.
I ought to have gone with him, mamma, said the boy, at last.
Perhaps so, dear. But papa thought it not best, as this is Frank's
last night here.
It is quite time he were at home, mamma, even though the roads are
Yes; he must have been detained. We will not wait any longer. We
will have prayers, and let the children go to bed; he will be very
tired when he gets home.
How the wind blows! We could not hear the wagon even if he were
quite near. Shall I go to the gate and wait?
No, dear, better not. Only be ready with the lantern when he
They stood waiting a little longer, and then David opened the door
and looked out.
It will be awful on Hardscrabble to-night, mamma, said he, as he
came back to her side.
Yes, said his mother, with a sigh, and then they were for a long
time silent. She was thinking how the wind would find its way through
the long-worn great coat of her husband, and how unfit he was to bear
the bitter cold. David was thinking how the rain, that had been falling
so heavily all the afternoon, must have gullied out the road down the
north side of Hardscrabble hill, and hoping that old Don would prove
himself sure-footed in the darkness.
I wish I had gone with him, said he, again.
Let us go to the children, said his mother.
The room in which the children were gathered was bright with
fire-lighta picture of comfort in contrast with the dark and stormy
night out upon which these two had been looking. The mother shivered a
little as she drew near the fire.
Sit here, mamma.
No, sit here; this is the best place. The eagerness was like to
grow to clamour.
Hush! children, said the mother; it is time for prayers. We will
not wait for papa, because he will be very tired and cold. No, Letty,
you need not get the books, there has been enough reading for the
little ones to-night. We will sing `Jesus, lover of my soul,' and then
David will read the chapter.
Oh! yes, mamma, `Jesus, lover;' I like that best, said little
Mary, laying her head down on her mother's shoulder, and her little
shrill voice joined with the others all through, though she could
hardly speak the words plainly.
That's for papa, said she, when they reached the end of the last
line, While the tempest still is high.
The children laughed, but the mother kissed her fondly, saying
Yes, love; but let us sing on to the end.
It was very sweet singing, and very earnest. Even their cousin,
Francis Oswald, whose singing in general was of a very different kind,
joined in it, to its great improvement, and to the delight of the rest.
Then David read the chapter, and then they all knelt down and the
Not just with her lips, but with all her heart, as if she really
believed in the good of it, thought Francis Oswald to himself. Of
course we all believe in it in a general way, he went on thinking, as
he rose from his knees and sat down, not on a chair, but on the rug
before the fire; of course, we all believe in it, but not just as Aunt
Mary does. She seems to be seeing the hand that holds the thing she is
asking for, and she asks as if she was sure she was going to get it,
too. She hasn't a great deal of what people generally are most anxious
to have, he went on, letting his eyes wander round the fire-lighted
room, but then she is content with what she has, and that makes all
the difference. `A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the
things which he possesses,' she told me the other day, and I suppose
she believes that, too, and not just in the general way in which
we all believe the things that are in the Bible. Fancy Aunt Ellen and
my sister Louisa being contented in a room like this!
It was a very pleasant room, too, the lad thought, though they might
not like it, and though there was not an article in it which was in
itself beautiful. It was a large, square room, with an alcove in which
stood a bed. Before the bed was a piece of carpet, which did not extend
very far over the grey painted floor, and in the corner was a child's
cot. The furniture was all of the plainest, not matching either in
style or in material, but looking very much as if it had been purchased
piece by piece, at different times and places, as the means of the
owners had permitted. The whole was as unlike as possible to the
beautifully furnished room in which the greater part of the boy's
evenings had been passed, but it was a great deal pleasanter in his
eyes at the moment.
I have had jolly times here, better than I shall have at home,
unless they let me read againwhich I don't believe they will, though
I am so much better. I am very glad I came. I like Uncle and Aunt
Inglis. There is no `make believe' about them; and the youngsters are
not a bad lot, take them all together.
He sat upon the rug with his hands clasped behind his head, letting
his thoughts run upon many things. David had gone to the window, and
was gazing out into the stormy night again, and his brother Jem sat
with his face bent close over his book, reading by the fire-light. Not
a word was spoken for a long time. Violet laid the sleeping little Mary
in her cot, and when her mother came in, she said:
Don't you think, mamma, that perhaps papa may stay all night at the
Gore? It is so stormy.
No, dear; he said he would be home. Something must have detained
him longer than usual. What are you thinking about so earnestly
Since you went up-stairs? Oh! about lots of things. About the
chapter David was reading, for one thing.
The chapter David had read was the tenth of Numbersone not very
likely to interest young readers, except the last few verses. It was
the way with the Inglises, at morning and evening worship, to read
straight on through the Bible, not passing over any chapter because it
might not seem very interesting or instructive. At other times they
might pick and choose the chapters they read and talked about, but at
worship time they read straight on, and in so doing fell on many a word
of wonderful beauty, which the pickers and choosers might easily
overlook. The last few verses of the chapter read that night were one
of these, and quite new to one of the listeners, at least. It was
Moses' invitation to Hobab to go with the Lord's people to the promised
I wonder whether the old chap went, said Frank, after a pause.
What are you laughing at, Jem?
He thinks that is not a respectful way to speak of a Bible person,
I suppose, said Violet.
About the chapter David was reading, said Jem, mimicking his
cousin's tone and manner. That is for mamma. You don't expect me to
swallow that. Give mamma the result of your meditations, like a good
I said I was thinking of the chapter, for one thing, said Frank,
not at all angry, though he reddened a little. I was thinking,
besides, whether that was a proper book for you to be reading to-night,
`The Swiss Family,' is it not?
Sold, cried Jem, triumphantly; it is the `Pilgrim's Progress.'
You have read that before, said Violet.
Lots of times. It will bear it. But what about Hobab, Frank? Much
you care about the old chap, don't you? Davie, come here and listen to
If you would only give Frank a chance to speak, said his mother,
Did Hobab go, do you think, aunt? asked Frank.
He refused to go, said Jem. Don't you remember he said, `I will
not go, but I will depart into my own land, and to my kindred?'
Yes; but that was before Moses said, `Thou mayest be to us instead
of eyes, forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in this
wilderness.' You see, he had a chance of some adventures; that might
tempt him. Do you think he went, aunt?
I cannot tell; afterwards we hear of Heber the Kenite, who was of
the children of Hobab; and his wife took the part of the Israelites,
when she slew Sisera. But whether he went with the people at that time,
we do not hear. Very likely he did. I can understand how the people's
need of him as a guide, or a guard, might have seemed to him a better
reason for casting in his lot with the people, than even the promise
that Moses gave him, `Come with us and we will do thee good.'
That is to say, mamma, he would rather have a chance to help
others, than the prospect of a good time for himself. That is not the
way with people generally, said Jem, shaking his head gravely.
It is not said that it was the way with Hobab, said his mother;
but I am inclined to think, with Francis, that perhaps it might have
He must have been a brave man and a good man, or Moses would not
have wanted him, said David.
And if he went for the sake of a home in the promised land, he must
have been disappointed. He did not get there for forty years, if he got
there at all, said Jem.
But if he went for the fighting he may have had a good time in the
wilderness, for there must have been many alarms, and a battle now and
then, said Frank.
But, mamma, said Violet, earnestly, they had the pillar of cloud,
and the pillar of fire, and the Angel of the Covenant going before. Why
should we suppose they needed the help of Hobab?
God helps them that help themselves, Letty, dear, said Jem.
Gently, Jem, said his mother; speak reverently, my boy. Yes,
Letty, they were miraculously guarded and guided; but we do not see
that they were allowed to fold their hands and do nothing. God fought
for them, and they fought for themselves. And as for Hobab, he must
have been a good and brave man, as David says, and so the chances are
he went with the people, thinking less of what he could get for himself
than of what he could do for others, as is the way with good and brave
Like the people we read about in books, said Jem.
Yes; and like some of the people we meet in real life, said his
mother, smiling. The men who even in the eyes of the world are the
best and bravest, are the men who have forgotten themselves and their
own transitory interests to live or die for the sake of others.
Like Moses, when he pleaded that the people might not be destroyed,
even though the Lord said He would make him the father of a great
nation, said David.
Like Paul, said Violet, who `counted not his life dear to him,'
and who was willing `to spend and be spent,' though the more abundantly
he loved the people, the less he was loved.
Like Leonidas with his three hundred heroes.
Like Curtius, who leapt into the gulf.
Like William Tell and John Howard.
Like a great many missionaries, said Violet. And a great many more
But, aunt, said Frank, you said like a great many people we meet
in real life. I don't believe I know a single man like thatone who
forgets himself, and lives for others. Tell me one.
Papa, said David, softly. His mother smiled.
It seems to me that all true Christians ought to be like thatmen
who do not live to please themselveswho desire most of all to do
God's work among their fellow-men, said she, gravely.
Frank drew a long breath.
Then I am afraid I don't know many Christians, Aunt Inglis.
My boy, perhaps you are not a good judge, and I daresay you have
never thought much about the matter.
No, I have not. But now that I do think of it, I cannot call to
mind any onescarcely any one who would answer to that description. It
seems to me that most men seem to mind their own interests pretty well.
There is Uncle Inglis, to be sureBut then he is a minister, and doing
good is his business, you know.
Frank, said Jem, as his mother did not answer immediately, do you
know that papa might have been a banker, and a rich man now, like your
father? His uncle offered him the chance first, but he had made up his
mind to be a minister. His uncle was very angry, wasn't he, mamma?
But his mother had no wish that the conversation should be pursued
in that direction, so she said, Yes, Frank, it is his business to do
God's work in the world, but no more than it is yours and mine, in one
Mine! echoed Frank, with a whistle of astonishment, which Jem
Yours, surely, my dear boy, and yours, Jem; and your responsibility
is not lessened by the fact that you may be conscious that you are
refusing that personal consecration which alone can fit you for God's
service, or make such service acceptable.
There was nothing answered to this, and Mrs Inglis added, And being
consecrated to God's service, we do His work well, when we do well the
duty he has appointed us, however humble it may be.
But to come back to Hobab, mamma, said Jem, in a little while.
After all, do you really think it was a desire to do God's work in
helping the people that made him go with them, if he did go? Perhaps he
thought of the fighting and the possible adventures, as Frank says.
We have no means of knowing, except that it does not seem to have
been so much with the thought of his being a protector, that Moses
asked him, as of his being a guide. `Thou mayest be to us instead of
eyes,' said he.
Yes, said Jem, hesitatingly, I suppose so; but it must have been
something to him to think of leading such a host.
But he would not have led the host, said David. Yet it must have
been a grand thing to follow such a leader as Moses.
Aunt Mary, said Frank, if there is something for us all to do in
the world, as you say, I, for one, would much rather think of it as a
place to fight in than to work in.
The same here, said Jem.
Well, so it is, said Mrs Inglis.
`In the world's broad field of battle.' Don't you remember, Davie?
Yes, I remember, `Be a hero in the strife,' said David. And Paul
bids Timothy, `Fight the good fight of faith;' and in another place he
says, `That thou mayest war a good warfare;' which is better authority
than your poet, Violet.
Yes, and when he was an old manPaul, I meanhe said, `I have
fought the good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the
And is there not something about armour? asked Frank, who was not
very sure of his Bible knowledge.
Yes. `Put ye on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to
stand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.' That is Paul,
Yes, said Jem, slowly. That was to be put on against the wiles of
the devil. `Ye wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities and powers; against the rulers of the darkness of this
world; against spiritual wickedness in high places.'
Frank uttered an exclamation.
They needed armour, I think.
Not more than we do now, my boy. We have the same enemies, said
It was her way at such times to let the conversation flow on
according to the pleasure of the young people, only she put in a word
now and then as it was needed for counsel or restraint.
It sounds awful, don't it? said Jem, who was always amused when
his cousin received as a new thought something that the rest of them
had been familiar with all their lives. And that isn't all. What is
that about `the law in our members warring against the law in our
minds?' What with one thing and what with another, you stand a chance
to get fighting enough.
His mother put her hand on his arm.
But, mamma, this thought of life's being a battle-field, makes one
afraid, said Violet.
It need not, dear, one who takes `the whole armour.'
But what is the armour? said Frank. I don't understand.
Violet opened the Bible and read that part of the sixth chapter of
Ephesians where the armour is spoken of; and the boys discussed it
piece by piece. David, who had scarcely spoken before, had most to say
now, telling the others about the weapons and the armour used by the
ancients, and about their mode of carrying on war. For David had been
reading Latin and Greek with his father for a good while, and the rest
listened with interest. They wandered away from the subject sometimes,
or rather in the interest with which they discussed the deeds of
ancient warriors, they were in danger of forgetting the whole armour,
and the weapons which are not carnal but spiritual, and the warfare
they were to wage by means of these, till a word from the mother
brought them back again.
`And having done all to stand,' said Frank, in a pause that came
in a little while. That does not seem much to do.
It is a great deal, said his aunt. The army that encamps on the
battle-field after the battle, is the conquering army. To stand is
Yes, I see, said Frank.
It means victory to stand firm when an assault is made, but they
who would be `good soldiers of Jesus Christ' have more to do than that.
His banner must be carried to wave over all the nations. The world must
be subdued to Him. And when it is said, `Be strong,' it means be strong
for conquest as well as for defence.
And then, seeing that the boys were moved to eager listening, Mrs
Inglis put aside her anxious thoughts about her husband, and went on to
speak of the honour and glory of being permitted to fight under Him who
was promised as a Leader and Commander to the peopleand in such a
causethat the powers of darkness might be overthrown, the slaves of
sin set free, and His throne set up who is to reign in righteousness.
Though the conflict might be fierce and long, how certain the victory!
how high the reward at last! Yes, and before the last. One had not to
wait till the last. How wonderful it was, she said, and how sweet to
believe, that not one in all the numberless host, who were enduring
hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, but was known to Him, and
beloved by Him; known even by name; watched over and cared for; guided
and strengthened; never forgotten, never overlooked. Safe through
life, victorious in death, through Him that loved them, and gave
Himself for them, added the mother, and then she paused, partly
because these wonderful thoughts, and the eager eyes fastened on hers,
made it not easy to continue, and, partly, because she would fain put
into as few words as might be, her hopes and desires for the lad who
was going so soon to leave them.
Francis, said she, softly, would it not be something grand to be
one of such an army, fighting under such a leader?
Yes, Aunt Mary, if one only knew the way.
One can always offer one's self as His soldier.
Yes, if one is fit.
But one can never make one's self fit. He undertakes all
that. Offer yourself to be His. Give yourself to Him. He will appoint
you your place in the host, and make you strong to stand, patient to
endure, valiant to fight, and He will ensure the victory, and give you
the triumph at the end. Think of all this, Francis, dear boy! It is a
grand thing to be a soldier of the Lord.
Yes, Aunt Mary, said Frank, gravely. Then they were all silent for
a long time. Indeed, there was not a word spoken till Mr Inglis' voice
was heard at the door. Jem ran out to hold old Don till David brought
the lantern, and both boys spent a good while in making the horse
comfortable after his long pull over the hills. Mrs Inglis went to the
other room to attend to her husband, and Violet followed her, and Frank
was left alone to think over the words that he had heard. He did think
of them seriously, then and afterwards.He never quite forgot them,
though he did not act upon them and offer himself for a good soldier
of Jesus Christ for a long time after that.
In a little while Mr Inglis came in and sat down beside him, but
after the first minute or two he was quite silent, busy with his own
thoughts it seemed, and Frank said nothing either, but wondered what
his uncle's thoughts might be. The discomfort of cold and wind and of
the long drive through sleet and rain, had nothing to do with them, the
boy said to himself, as, with his hand screening his weak eyes from the
light and heat of the fire, he watched his changing face. It was a very
good face to watch. It was thin and pale, and the hair had worn away a
little from the temples, making the prominent forehead almost too high
and broad for the cheeks beneath. Its expression was usually grave and
thoughtful, but to-night there was a brightness on it which fixed the
boy's gaze; and the eyes, too often sunken and heavy after a day of
labour, shone to-night with a light at once so peaceful and so
triumphant, that Frank could not but wonder. In a little while Violet
came in, and she saw it too.
Has anything happened, papa? asked she, softly.
He turned his eyes to her, but did not speak. He had heard her voice
but not her question, and she did not repeat it, but came and sat down
on a low stool at his feet.
Are you very tired, papa? she asked at last.
Not more so than usual. Indeed, I have hardly thought of it
to-night, or of the cold and the sleet and the long drive, that have
moved my little girl's compassion. But it is pleasant to be safe home
again, and to find all well.
But what kept you so long, papa? said Jem, coming in with the
lantern in his hand. Was it Don's fault? Didn't he do his duty, poor
No. I was sent for to see Timothy Bent. That was what detained me
Poor old Tim! said Violet, softly.
`Poor old Tim' no longer, Violet, my child. It is well with Timothy
Bent now, beyond all fear.
Has he gone, papa?
Yes, he is safe home at last. The long struggle is over, and he has
gotten the victory.
The boys looked at one another, thinking of the words that had been
spoken to them a little while ago.
It is Timothy Bent, mamma, said Violet, as her mother came in. He
Is he gone? said her mother, sitting down. Did he suffer much?
Were you with him at the last?
Yes, he suffered, said Mr Inglis, a momentary look of pain passing
over his face. But that is all past now forever.
Did he know you?
Yes, he knew me. He spoke of the time when I took him up at the
corner, and brought him home to you. He said that was the beginning.
There was a pause.
The beginning of what? whispered Frank to Violet.
The beginning of a new life to poor Tim, said Violet.
The beginning of the glory revealed to him to-day, said Mr Inglis.
It is wonderful! I cannot tell you how wonderful it seemed to me
to-night to see him as he looked on the face of death. We speak about
needing faith in walking through dark places, but we need it more to
help us to bear the light that shines on the death-bed of a saved and
sanctified sinner. How glorious! How wonderful! For a moment it seemed
to me beyond belief. Now with us in that poor room, sick and suffering,
and sometimes afraid, even; then, in the twinkling of an eye, in the
very presence of his Lordand like himwith joy unspeakable and full
of glory! Does it not seem almost past belief? `Thanks be to God, who
giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!'
There was silence for a good while after that, and then David first,
and afterwards the others, answered the mother's look by rising and
saying softly, Good-night, and then they went away.
Papa does not feel it to-night, said Jem, as they went up-stairs;
but he'll be tired enough to-morrow, when he has time to think about
it. And so poor old Tim has gone!
`Poor old Tim, no longer,' as your father said, said Frank,
gravely. It does seem almost beyond belief, doesn't it?
What? asked Jem.
But Frank did not answer him directly.
I wonder what battles old Tim had to fight, said he. Your father
said he had gotten the victory.
Oh! just the battles that other people have to fight with the
world, the flesh, and the devil, and a hard time he has had, too, poor
old chap, said Jem.
Jem, said David, I think old Tim Bent was the very happiest old
man we knew.
Well, perhaps he was, after a fashion; but I am sure he had
trouble, of one kind or anothersickness, poverty, and his people not
very kind to himtired of him, at any rate. However, that don't matter
to him now.
He has gotten the victory, repeated Frank. The words seemed to
have a charm for him. It is wonderful, isn't it?
All this was said as the boys were undressing to go to bed. There
were two beds in the room they occupied, the brothers had one, and
Frank had the other. After the lamp was blown out, David reminded the
others that they must be up early in the morning, and that the sooner
they were asleep, the readier they would be to rise when the right time
came; so there was nothing said for a good while. Then Frank spoke:
What was all that you said about your father's being a banker and a
rich man? Are you asleep already, Jem?
Jem had been very near it.
Who? Papa? Oh! yes, he might have been; but you see he chose `the
better part.' I sometimes wonder whether he's ever sorry.
Jem, said David, it's not rightto speak in that way, I mean.
And as for papa's being sorrynot to-night, at any rate, added David,
with a sound that was like a sob in his voice.
And why not to-night? Ah! I understand. It was through him that old
Tim got the victory; and both the boys were surprised to see him
suddenly sit up in bed in the dark; and after a long silence he
repeated, as if to himself, I should think not to-night, indeed! and
then he lay down again.
Papa has never been sorrynever for a single moment, said David.
He has helped a great many besides old Tim to win the victory. And
besides, I dare say, he has had as much real enjoyment in his life as
if he had been a rich man like your father. He is not sorry, at any
rate, nor mamma.
Oh! that is all very well to say, interposed Jem; I dare say he
is not sorry that he is a minister, but I say it is a shame that
ministers should always be poor menas they always are!
Oh! well. People can't have everything, said David.
You've got to be very contented, all at once, said Jem, laughing.
You have said as much about it as ever I have, and more, too. Don't
you remember when the Hunters went away to M, to school, and you and
Violet couldn't go? You wanted to go, didn't you?
Nonsense, Jem. I never thought of such a thing seriously. Why, it
would have taken more than the whole of papa's salary to send us both!
But that is just what I said. Why should not papa be able to send
you, as well as Ned Hunter's father to send him?
It comes to the same thing, said David, loftily. I know more
Latin and Greek, too, than Ned Hunter, though he has been at M; and
as for Violetpeople can't have everything.
And you have grown humble as well as contented, it seems, said
Jem; just as if you didn't care! You'll care when mamma has to send
Debby away, and keep Violet at home from school, because she can't get
papa a new great coat, and pay Debby's wages, too. You may say what you
like, but I wish I were rich; and I mean to be, one of these days.
But it is all nonsense about Debby, Jem. However, mamma would not
wish us to discuss it now, and we had better go to sleep.
But, though there was nothing more said, none of them went to sleep
very soon, and they all had a great many serious thoughts as they lay
in silence in the dark. The brothers had often had serious thoughts
before; but to Francis they came almost for the first timeor rather,
for the first time he found it difficult to put them away. He had been
brought up very differently from David and Jem. He was the son of a
rich man, and the claims of business had left their father little time
to devote to the instruction of his children. The claims of society had
left as little to his mothershe was dead nowand, except at church
on Sundays, he had rarely heard a word to remind him that there was
anything in the world of more importance than the getting of wealth and
the pursuit of pleasure, till he came to visit the Inglises.
He had been ill before that, and threatened with serious trouble in
his eyes, and the doctor had said that he must have change of air, and
that he must not be allowed to look at a book for a long time. Mr
Inglis had been at his father's house about that time, and had asked
him to let the boy go home with him, to make the acquaintance of his
young people, and he had been very glad to let him go. Mr Inglis was
not Frank's uncle, though he called him so; he was only his father's
cousin, and there had never been any intimacy between the families, so
Francis had been a stranger to them all before he came to Gourlay. But
he soon made friends with them all. The simple, natural way of life in
the minister's house suited him well, and his visit had been lengthened
out to four months, instead of four weeks, as was at first intended;
and now, as he lay thinking, he was saying to himself that he was very
sorry to go.
This last night he seemed to see more clearly than ever he had seen
before what made the difference between their manner of life here in
his uncle's house, and the life they lived at home. It was a difference
altogether in favour of their life here, though here they were poor,
and at home they were rich. The difference went deeper than outward
circumstances, and must reach beyond thembeyond all the chances and
changes time might bring.
And then he thought about all his aunt had said about the good
fight and the whole armour, the great Leader, and the sure victory
at last. But strangely enough, and foolishly enough it seemed to him,
his very last thought was about Debby's going away; and before he had
satisfactorily computed the number of weeks' wages it would take to
make the sum which would probably be enough to purchase an overcoat, he
fell asleep, and carried on the computation in his dreams.
The next morning was not a very pleasant one to travel in. It was
cloudy and cold, and the ground was covered with snow. Mr Inglis had
intended to take Frank on the first stage of his journeythat was to
the railway station in D, a town eleven miles away. But, as Jem had
foretold, the weariness which he had scarcely felt when he first came
home, was all the worse now because of that, and he had taken cold
besides; so David and Jem were to take his place in conveying their
cousin on the journey.
The good-byes were all said, and the boys set off. They did not mind
the cold, or the snow, or the threatening rain, but were well pleased
with the prospect of a few more hours together. The roads were bad, and
their progress was slow; but that mattered little, as they had the day
before them, and plenty to say to one another to pass the time. They
discussed trees and fruits, and things in general, after the fashion of
boys, and then the last stories of hunters and trappers they had read;
and in some way which it would not be easy to trace, they came round to
Hobab and the battles he might have fought, and then to the whole
armour and the warfare in which it was intended to aid them who wore
I wish I understood it all better, said Frank. I suppose the
Bible means something when it speaks about the warfare, and the armour,
and all that; but then one would not think so, just to see the way
people live, and good people too.
One can't tell by just seeing the outside of people's lives, said
The outside of people's lives! repeated Frank. Why, what else can
I mean you are thinking of something quite different from mamma's
idea of battles, and warfare, and all that. She was not speaking about
anything that all the world, or people generally, would admire, or even
But you spoke of your father, David, and I can understand how he in
a certain way may be said to be fighting the battles of the Lord. He
preaches against sin, and bad people oppose him, and he stands up for
his Master; and when he does good to people, wins them over to God's
side, he may be said to make a conquestto gain a victory, as he did
when he rescued poor Tim. I can understand why he should be called a
soldier, and how his way of doing things may be called fighting; and
that may be the way with ministers generally, I suppose; but as for
other people, they ought to be the same, as the Bible says so; but I
don't see that they are, for all that. Do you, Jem?
It depends on what you mean by fighting, said Jem.
But whatever it is, it is something that can be seen, said Frank
impatiently, and what I mean is that I don't see it.
But then the people you know most about mayn't be among the
fighting men, even if you were a good judge of fighting, said Jem.
Your eyes mayn't be the best, you know.
Well, lend me your eyes, then, and don't mind the people I know.
Take the people you know, your father's right hand men, who
ought to be among the soldiers, if there are any. There is Mr Strong
and old Penn, and the man who draws the mill logs. And all the people,
women as well as men, ought to be wearing the armour and using the
weapons. There is your friend, Miss Bethia, Davie; is she a warrior,
Aunt Bethia certainly is, said Jem decidedly. She is not afraid
of well, of principalities and powers, I tell you. Don't she
fight greateh, Davie?
Aunt Bethia is a very good woman, and it depends on what you call
fighting, said David, dubiously.
Yes, Miss Bethia is a soldier. And as for old Mr Penn, I've seen
him fight very hard to keep awake in meeting, said Jem, laughing.
It is easy enough to make fun of it, but Aunt Mary was in earnest.
Don't you know about it, Davie?
About these people fighting, do you mean? Well, I once heard papa
say that Mr Strong's life was for many years a constant fight. And he
said, too, that he was using the right weapons, and that he would
doubtless win the victory. So you see there is one of them a soldier,
It must be a different kind of warfare from your father's, said
Frank. I wonder what Mr Strong fights for?
But I think he is fighting the very same battle, only in a
Well, said Frank, what about it?
Oh! I don't know that I can tell much about it. It used to be a
very bad neighbourhood where old Strong lives, and the neighbours used
to bother him awfully. And that wasn't the worst. He has a very bad
temper naturally, and he got into trouble all round when he first lived
there. And one day he heard some of them laughing at him and his
religion, saying there was no difference between Christians and other
people. And they didn't stop there, but scoffed at the name of our
Lord, and at the Bible. It all happened down at Hunt's Mills, and they
didn't know that Mr Strong was there; and when he rose up from the
corner where he had been sitting all the time, and came forward among
them, they were astonished, and thought they were going to have great
fun. But they didn't that time. Mr Hunt told papa all about it. He just
looked at them and said: `God forgive you for speaking lightly that
blessed name, and God forgive me for giving you the occasion.' And then
he just turned and walked away.
After that it didn't matter what they said or did to him, he
wouldn't take his own part. They say that for more than a year he
didn't speak a word to a man in the neighbourhood where he lives; he
couldn't trust himself. But he got a chance to do a good turn once in a
while, that told better than words. Once he turned some stray cattle
out of John Jarvis's grain, and built up the fences when there was no
one at Jarvis's house to do it. That wouldn't have been muchany good
neighbour would have done as much as that, you know. But it had
happened the day before that the Jarvis's boys had left down the bars
of his back pasture, and all his young cattle had passed most of the
night in his own wheat. It was not a place that the boys needed to go
to, and it looked very much as if they had done it on purpose. They
must have felt mean when they came home and saw old Strong building up
Then Jem took up the word.
And once, some of those fellows took off the nut from his wagon, as
it was standing at the store door, and the wheel came off just as he
was going down the hill by the bridge; and if it hadn't been that his
old Jerry is as steady as a rock the old man would have been pitched
into the river.
The village people took that up, and wanted him to prosecute them.
But he wouldn't, said David. It was a regular case of `turning the
other cheek.' Everybody wondered, knowing old Strong's temper.
And once they sheared old Jerry's mane and tail, said Jem. And
they say old Strong cried like a baby when he saw him. He wouldn't have
anything done about it; but he said he'd be even with them some time.
And he was even with one of them. One day when he was in the hayfield,
Job Steele came running over to tell him that his little girl had
fallen in the barn and broken her arm and hurt her head, and he begged
him to let him have Jerry to ride, for the doctor. Then Mr Strong
looked him right in the face, and said he, `No, I can't let you have
him. You don't know how to treat dumb beasts. I'll go myself for the
doctor.' And sure enough, he unyoked his oxen from the cart, though it
was Saturday and looked like rain, and his hay was all ready to be
taken in, and went to the pasture for Jerry, and rode to the village
himself, and let the doctor have his horse, and walked home.
And did he know that it was Job Steele who had ill-treated his
horse, asked Frank.
He never said so to anybody; and Job never acknowledged it. But
other people said so, and Job once told papa that Mr Strong's way of
doing `good for evil,' was the first thing that made him think that
there must be something in religion; and Mr Steele is a changed
And how did it all end with Mr Strong? asked Frank, much
Oh, it isn't ended yet, said David. Mr Strong is fighting against
his bad temper as hard as ever. It has ended as far as his trouble with
his neighbours is concerned. He made them see there is something in
religion more than they thought, as Job Steele said, and there is no
more trouble among them. But the old man must have had some pretty hard
battles with himself, before it came to that.
And so old Mr Strong is a soldier, anyway, said Frank.
Yes, and a conqueror, said Jem. Don't you remember, `He that
ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.'
Yes, said David, thoughtfully. Mr Strong is a soldier, and,
Frank, he is fighting the very same battle that papa is fightingfor
the honour of Christ. It is that they are all fighting for in one way
or other. It is that that makes it warring a good warfare, you know.
No, said Frank, I am afraid I don't know much about it. Tell me,
Oh, I don't pretend to know much about it, either, said David,
with a look at Jem. But Jem shrugged his shoulders.
You should have asked papa, said he.
Go ahead, Davie, said Frank.
Well, said David, with some hesitation, it is supposed that all
Christians are like their mastersmore or less. He was `holy,
harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;' and that is not an
easy thing for any man or boy to be, and so all have to fight with
themselves, and the world
And with the devil, said Jem. The principalities and powers, you
I suppose so, but we don't know much about that, only the end of it
all is that they may become like Christso that they may make Him
known to the world.
I've heard papa speak about it, said Jem.
Yes, it is one of papa's favourite themes. I have often heard him,
And then they went back to the discussion of old Mr Strong again,
and then of others; and there was scarcely one of their acquaintances
but they discussed in the new character of a soldier. Sometimes they
went quite away from the subject, and sometimes they said very foolish
things. It is not to be supposed that boys like them would judge very
justly, or discuss very charitably the character of people with the
outside of whose lives they were alone acquainted, and besides, as
David at last gravely acknowledged they could not understand all that
was implied in warring a good warfare, not being soldiers themselves.
There was silence for a good while after this, and then they went on
again, saying a good many things that could hardly be called wise; but
the conclusion to which they came was right and true in the main. It
was against `the world, the flesh, and the devil' that Christians were
to fight, and victory meant to become like Christ, and to win over
others to be like him, too. That was victory here, and afterwards there
would be glory, and the crown of righteousness that Paul spoke about,
in Heaven. They were all very grave by the time they got thus far.
Nothing else in the world seems worth while in comparison, when one
really thinks about it, said David.
The only wonder is that there are not more soldiers, and that they
are not more in earnest, said Frank.
All may be soldiers of Christ Jesus, said David, softly.
Even boys? said Frank.
Papa says so. Boys like you and me and Jem. Papa was a soldier in
the army of the Lord, long before he was my age. He told me all about
it one day, said David, with a break in his voice. And he said the
sooner we enlist the better `soldiers' we would be, and the more we
would accomplish for Him.
Yes, said Frank, if one only knew the way.
It is all in the Bible, Frank, said David.
Yes, I suppose so. It is a wonder you have not become a `soldier'
long ago, David. How glad your mother would be. It is the only
thing, she thinks.
All this last was said while Jem had gone to ask at a farm-house
door whether they had not taken the wrong turning up above, and nothing
more was said when he came back. Indeed, there was not time. The next
turn brought the station in sight, and they saw the train and heard the
whistle, and had only time for hurried good-byes before Frank took his
place. Jem and Davie stood for a little while looking after the train
that bore their friend away so rapidly, and then they turned rather
disconsolately to retrace their steps over the muddy roads in the
direction of home.
If any one had suddenly asked David Inglis to tell him what had been
the very happiest moments during all the fourteen happy years of his
life, he would probably have gone back in thought to the day, when on
the banks of a clear stream among the hills, his very first success as
a fisherman had come to him. Or the remembrance of certain signal
triumphs on the cricket ground, or at base-ball, might have come to his
mind. But that would only have been in answer to a sudden question. If
he had had time to think, he would have said, and truly too, that the
very happiest hours of all his life had been passed in their old wagon
at his father's side.
So when he found, next day, that instead of sitting down to his
lessons in a corner of the study, he was to drive his father over to
the Bass Neighbourhood, to attend old Mr Bent's funeral, you may be
sure he was well pleased. Not that he objected to books as a general
thing, or that any part of his pleasure rose out of a good chance to
shirk his daily lessons. Quite the contrary. Books and lessons were by
no means ignored between him and his father at such times. Almost
oftener than anything else, books and lessons came into their
discussions. But a lesson from a printed page, not very well
understood, and learned on compulsion, is one thing, and seldom a
pleasant thing to any one concerned. But lessons explained and
illustrated by his father as they went slowly through fields and woods
together, were very pleasant matters to David. Even the Latin Grammar,
over whose tedious pages so many boys have yawned and trifled from
generation to generation, even declensions and conjugations, and rules
of Syntax, and other matters which, as a general thing, are such
hopeless mysteries to boys of nine or ten, were made matters of
interest to David when his father took them in hand.
And when it came to other subjectssubjects to be examined and
illustrated by means of the natural objects around themthe rocks and
stones, the grass and flowers and treesthe worms that creep, and the
birds that flythe treasures of the earth beneath, and the wonders of
the heavens above, there was no thought of lesson or labour then. It
was pure pleasure to David, and to his father, too. Yes, David was a
very happy boy at such times, and knew ita circumstance which does
not always accompany to a boy, the possession of such opportunities and
advantages. For David firmly believed in his father as one of the best
and wisest of living men. This may have been a mistake on his part,
but, if so, his father being, what he wasa good man and trueit was
a mistake which did him no harm but good, and it was a mistake which
has never been set right to David.
So that day was a day to be marked with a white stone. Don got a
more energetic rubbing down, and an additional measure of oats, on the
strength of the pleasant prospect, for David was groom, and gardener,
and errand boy, and whatever else his mother needed him to be when his
younger brothers were at school, and all the arrangements about his
father's going away might be safely trusted to him.
It was a beautiful day. The only traces that remained of the
premature winter that had threatened them on Sunday night, were the
long stretches of snow that lingered under the shadows of the wayside
trees and fences, and lay in patches in the hollows of the broken
pastures. The leafless landscape, so dreary under falling rain or
leaden skies, shone and sparkled under sunshine so warm and bright,
that David thought the day as fine as a day could be, and gave no
regrets to the faded glories of summer. They set out early, for though
the day was fine, the roads were not, and even with the best of roads,
old Don took his frequent journeys in a leisurely and dignified manner,
which neither the minister nor David cared to interfere with unless
they were pressed for time.
They were not to go to the house where old Tim had died, for that
was on another road, and farther away than the red school-house where
the funeral services were to be held, but the school-house was full
seven miles from home, and they would need nearly two full hours for
David soon found that these hours must be passed in silence. His
father was occupied with his own thoughts, and by many signs which his
son had learned to interpret, it was evident that he was thinking over
what he was going to say to the people that day, and not a word was
spoken till they came in sight of the school-house. On both sides of
the road along the fences, many horses and wagons were fastened, and a
great many people were standing in groups about the door.
There will be a great crowd to hear you to-day, papa, said David,
as they drew near.
Yes, said his father. God give me a word to speak to some poor
He went in and the people flocked in after him, and when David,
having tied old Don to his place by the fence, went in also, it was all
that he could do to find standing-room for a while, there were so many
there. The plain coffin, without pall or covering, was placed before
the desk upon a table, and seated near to it were the few relatives of
the dead. Next to them were a number of very old people some of whom
could look back over all old Tim's life, then the friends and
neighbours generally, all very grave and attentive as Mr Inglis rose to
speak. There were some there who probably had not heard the Gospel
preached for years, some who, except on such an occasion, had not for
all that time, heard the Bible read or a prayer offered.
No wonder that papa wishes to have just the right word to say to
them, thought David, as he looked round on them all.
And he had just the right word for them, and for David, too, and for
all the world. For he set before them The glorious Gospel of the
blessed God. He said little of the dead, only that he was a sinner
saved by grace; and then he set forth the glory of that wondrous grace
to the living. Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ was his
themevictory over sin, the world, death. The Gospel of Christ full,
free, sufficient, was clearly set before the people that day.
David listened, as he was rather apt to listen to his father's
sermons, not for himself but for others. He heard all that was said,
and laid it up in his mind, that he might be able to tell it to his
mother at home, as she generally expected him to do; but, at the same
time, he was thinking how all that his father was saying would seem to
this or the other man or woman in the congregation who did not often
hear his voice. There was less wonder that he should do that to-day
because there were a great many strangers there, and for the most part
they were listening attentively. In the little pauses that came now and
then, you might have heard a pin fall, David said afterwards to his
mother, and the boy felt proud that his father should speak so well,
and that all the people should be compelled, as it were, to listen so
earnestly. This was only for a minute, however. He was ashamed of the
thought almost immediately. For what did it matter whether the people
thought well of his father or not? And then he tried to make himself
believe that he was only glad for their sakes, that, listening so
attentively to truths so important, they might get good. And then he
thought what a grand thing it would be, and how happy it would make his
father, if from this very day some of these careless people should
begin a new life, and if the old school-house should be crowded every
Sunday to hear his words. But it never came into his mind until the
very end, that all that his father was saying was just as much for him
as for any one there.
All through the sermon ran the idea of the Christian life being a
warfare, and the Christian a soldier, fighting under a Divine Leader;
and when, at the close, he spoke of the victory, how certain it was,
how complete, how satisfying beyond all that heart of man could
conceive, David forgot to wonder what all the people might be thinking,
so grand and wonderful it seemed. So when a word or two was added about
the utter loss and ruin that must overtake all who were not on the side
of the Divine Leader, in the great army which He led, it touched him,
too. It was like a nail fastened in a sure place. It could not be
pushed aside, or shaken off, as had happened so many times when fitting
words had been spoken in his hearing before. They were for him, too, as
well as for the restmore than for the rest, he said to himself, and
they would not be put away.
As was the custom in these country places at that time, there was a
long pause after the sermon was over. The coffin was opened, and one
after another went up and looked on the face of the dead, and it seemed
to David that they would never be done with it, and he rose at last and
went out of doors to wait for his father there. It was but a few steps
to the grave-yard, and the people stood only a minute or two round the
open grave. Then there was a prayer offered, and poor old Tim was left
to his rest.
`Poor old Tim,' no longer, said David to himself, when they were
fairly started on their homeward way again. Happy Tim, I ought to say.
I wonder what he is doing now! He is one of `the spirits of just men
made perfect' by this time. I wonder how it seems to him up there,
said David, looking far up into the blue above him. It does seem past
belief. I can't think of him but as a lame old man with a crutch, and
there he is, up among the best of them, singing with a will, as he used
to sing here, only with no drawbacks. It is wonderful. Think of
old Tim singing with John, and Paul, and with King David himself. It is
queer to think of it!
He had a good while to think of it, for his father was silent and
preoccupied still. It had often happened before, that his father being
busy with his own thoughts, David had to be content with silence, and
with such amusement as he could get from the sights and sounds about
him, and he had never found that very hard. But he had not been so much
with him of late because of Frank's visit, and he had so looked forward
to the enjoyment he was to have to-day, that he could not help feeling
a little aggrieved when half their way home had been accomplished
without a word.
Papa, said he, at last, I wish Frank had been here to-dayto
hear your sermon, I mean.
I did not know that Frank had an especial taste for sermons, said
his father, smiling.
Well, no, I don't think he has; but he would have liked that
oneabout the Christian warfare, because we have been speaking about
And then he went on to tell about the reading on Sunday night, and
about Hobab and all that had been said about the good warfare and
the whole armour, and how interested Frank had been. He told a
little, too, about their conversation on the way to the station, and Mr
Inglis could not but smile at their making soldiers of all the
neighbours, and at their way of illustrating the idea to themselves. By
and by David added:
I wish Frank had heard what you said to-day about victory. It would
have come in so well after the talk about the `soldiers' and fighting.
He would have liked to hear about the victory.
Yes, said his father, gravely; it is pleasanter to hear of the
victory than the conflict, but the conflict must come first, Davie, my
Yes, papa, I know.
And, my boy, the first step to becoming a `soldier' is the
enrolling of the name. And you know who said `He that is not for me is
against me.' Think what it would be to be found on the other side on
the day when even Death itself `shall be swallowed up in victory.'
David made no answer. It was not Mr Inglis's way to speak often in
this manner to his children. He did not make every solemn circumstance
in life the occasion for a personal lesson or warning to them, till
they had got used to it, as children say, and so heard it without
heeding. So David could not just listen to his father's words, and let
them slip out of his mind again as words of course. He could not put
them aside, nor could he say, as some boys might have said at such a
time, that he wished to be a soldier of Christ and that he meant to
try. For in his heart he was not sure that he wished to be a soldier of
Christ in the sense his father meant, and though he had sometimes said
to himself that he meant to be one, it was sometime in the futurea
good while in the future, and he would have been mocking himself and
his father, too, if he had told him that he longed to enrol his name.
So he sat beside him without a word.
They had come by this time to the highest point of the road leading
to Gourlay Centre, at least the highest point where the valley through
which the Gourlay river flowed could be seen; and of his own accord old
Don stood still to rest. He always did so at this point, and not
altogether for his own pleasure, for Mr Inglis and David were hardly
ever so pressed for time but that they were willing to linger a minute
or two to look down on the valley and the hills beyond. The two
villages could be seen, and the bridge, and a great many fine fields
lying round the scattered farm-houses, and, beyond these, miles and
miles of unbroken forest. David might travel through many lands and see
no fairer landscape, but it did not please him to-night. There was no
sunshine on it to-night, and he said to himself that it always needed
sunshine. The grey clouds had gathered again, and lay in piled-up
masses veiling the west, and the November wind came sweeping over the
hills cold and keen. Mr Inglis shivered, and wrapped his coat closely
about him, and David touched Don impatiently. The drive had been rather
a failure, he thought, and they might as well be getting home. But he
had time for a good many troubled thoughts before they reached the
bridge over the Gourlay.
To enrol one's name. He had not done that, and that was the very
first step towards becoming a soldier. He that is not for me is
against me. He did not like that at all. He would have liked to
explain that so as to make it mean something else. He would have liked
to make himself believe that there was some middle ground. He that is
not against me is for me. In one place it said that, and he liked it
much better. He tried to persuade himself that he was not against
Christ. No, certainly he was not against Him. But was he for Him in the
sense his father meantin the sense that his father was for Him, and
his mother, and a good many others that came into his mind? Had he
deliberately enrolled his name as one of the great army whom Christ
would lead to victory?
But then how could he do this? He could not do it, he said to
himself. It was God's work to convert the soul, and had not his father
said within the hour, It is God that giveth the victory? Had he not
said that salvation was all of grace from beginning to endthat it was
a giftGod's gift. What more could be said?
But David knew in his heart that a great deal more could be said. He
knew great as this gift wasfull and free as it was, he had never
asked for itnever really desired it. He desired to be saved from the
consequences of sin, as who does not? but he did not long to be saved
from sin itself and its power in the heart, as they must be whom God
saves. He did not feel that he needed this. If he was not for Christ
in the sense his father and mother were for Him, still the thought came
backsurely he was not against Him; even though it might not be
pleasant for him to think of giving up all for Christto take up his
cross and follow Him, still he was not against Him.
Oh! if there only were some other way! If people could enlist in a
real army, and march away to fight real battles, as men used to do in
the times when they fought for the Cross and the possession of the holy
Sepulchre! Or, rather, as they seemed to be fighting for them, said
David, with a sigh, for he knew that pride and envy and the lust for
power, too often reigned in the hearts of them who in those days had
Christ's name and honour on their lips; and that the cause of the Cross
was made the means to the winning of unworthy ends. Still, if one could
only engage sincerely in some great cause with all their hearts, and
labour and strive for it for Christ's sake, it would be an easier way,
Or if he could have lived in the times of persecution, or in the
times when Christian men fought at once for civil and religious
freedom! Oh! that would have been grand! He would have sought no middle
course then. He would have fought, and suffered, and conquered like a
hero in such days as those. Of course such days could never come back
again, but if they could!
And then he let his mind wander away in dreams, as to how if such
times ever were to come back again, he would be strong and wise, and
courageous for the righthow he would stand by his father, and shield
his mother, and be a defence and protection to all who were weak or
afraid. Bad men should fear him, good men should honourhis name
should be a watchword to those who were on the Lord's side.
It would never do to write down all the foolish thoughts that David
had on his way home that afternoon. He knew that they were foolish, and
worse than foolish, when he came out of them with a start as old Don
made his accustomed little demonstration of energy and speed as they
came to the little hill by the bridge, not far from home. He knew that
they were foolish, and he could not help glancing up into his father's
face with a little confusion, as if he had known his thoughts all the
Are you tired, papa?and cold? asked he.
I am a little cold. But here we are at home. It is always good to
get home again.
Yes, said David, springing down. I am glad to get home.
He had a feeling of relief which he was not willing to acknowledge
even to himself. He could put away troubled thoughts now. Indeed they
went away of themselves without an effort, the moment Jem hailed him
from the house. They came again, however, when the children being all
in bed, and his father not come down from the study, his mother asked
him about old Tim's funeral, and the people who were there, and what
his father had said to them. He told her about it, and surprised her
and himself too, by the clearness and accuracy with which he went over
the whole address. He grew quite eager about it, and told her how the
people listened, and how you might have heard a pin fall in the
little pauses that came now and then. And when he had done, he said to
her as he had said to his father:
I wish Frank had been there to hear all that papa said about
victory, and then, remembering how his father had answered him, his
troubled thoughts came back again, and his face grew grave.
But it was good for you to hear it, Davie, said his mother.
Yes, said David, uneasily, thinking she was going to say more. But
she did not, and he did not linger much longer down-stairs. He said he
was tired and sleepy with his long drive in the cold, and he would go
to bed. So carrying them with him, he went up-stairs, where Jem was
sleeping quite too soundly to be wakened for a talk, and they stayed
with him till he went to sleep, which was not for a long time. They
were all gone in the morning, however. A night's sleep and a morning
brilliant with sunshine are quite enough to put painful thoughts out of
the mind of a boy of fourteenfor the time, at least, and David had no
more trouble with his, till Miss Bethia Barnes, coming to visit them
one afternoon, asked him about Mr Bent's funeral and the bearers and
mourners, and about his father's text and sermon, and then they came
back to him again.
Miss Bethia Barnes was a plain and rather peculiar single woman, a
good deal past middle age, who lived by herself in a little house about
half way between the two village's. She was generally called Aunt
Bethia by the neighbours, but she had not gained the title as some old
ladies do, because of the general loving-kindness of their nature. She
was a good woman and very useful, but she was not always very
agreeable. To do just exactly right at all times, and in all
circumstances, was the first wish of her heart; the second wish of her
heart was, that everybody else should do so likewise, and she had
fallen into the belief, that she was not only responsible for her own
well-being and well-doing, but for that of all with whom she came in
Of course it is right that each individual in a community should do
what may be done to help all the rest to be good and happy. But people
cannot be made good and happy against their own will, and Miss Bethia's
advances in that direction were too often made in a way which first of
all excited the opposition of the person she intended to benefit. This
was almost always the case where the young people of the village were
concerned. Those who had known her long and well, did not heed her
plain and sharp speaking, because of her kindly intentions, and it was
known besides that her sharpest words were generally forerunners of her
kindest deeds. But the young people did not so readily take these
things into consideration, and she was by no means a favourite with
So it is not surprising, that when she made her appearance one
afternoon at the minister's house, David, who was there alone with
little Mary, was not very well pleased to see her. Little Mary was
pleased. Even Aunt Bethia had only sweet words for the pet and baby;
and happily the child's pretty welcome, and then her delight over the
little cake of maple sugar that Miss Bethia had brought her, occupied
that lady's attention till David had time to smooth his face again. It
helped him a little to think that his father and mother being away from
home, their visitor might not stay long. He was mistaken, however.
I heard your father and mother had gone over to Mrs Spry's; but I
had made my calculations for a visit here just now, and I thought I'd
come. They'll be coming home to-night, I expect? added she, as she
untied her bonnet, and prepared herself to enjoy her visit.
Yes, said David, hesitating. They are coming home to-nightI
He spoke rather doubtfully. He knew they had intended to come home,
but it seemed to him just as if something would certainly happen to
detain them if Miss Bethia were to stay. And besides it came into his
mind that if she doubted about the time of their return, she would go
and visit somewhere else in the village, and come back another time.
That would be a much better plan, he thought, with a rueful glance at
the book he had intended to enjoy all the afternoon. But Miss Bethia
had quite other thoughts.
Well, it can't be helped. They'll be home to-morrow if they don't
come to-night; and I can have a visit with you and Violet. I shall
admire to! said Miss Bethia, reassuringly, as a doubtful look passed
over David's face.
Violet is at school, said he, and all the rest.
Best place for them, said Miss Bethia. Where is Debby?
She has gone home for a day or two. Her sister is sick.
She is coming back, is she? I heard your mother was going to try
and get along without her this winter. That won't pay. `Penny wise and
pound foolish' that would be, said Miss Bethia.
David said nothing to this.
Better pay Debby Stone, and board her, too, than pay the doctor.
Ambition ain't strength. Home-work, and sewing-machine, and parish
visitingthat's burning the candle at both ends. That don't ever
Mamma knows best what to do, said David, with some offence in his
She knows better than you, I presume, said the visitor. Ah! yes.
She knows well enough what is best. But the trouble is, folks can't
always do what they know is best. We've got to do the best we can in
this worldand there's none of us too wise to make mistakes, at
that. She got the washing done and the clothes sprinkled before she
went, did she? Pretty well for Debby, so early in the week. Letty ought
to calculate to do this ironing for her mother. Hadn't you better put
on the flats and have them ready by the time she gets home from
Mamma said nothing about it, said David.
No, it ain't likely. But that makes no difference. Letty ought to
know without being told. Put the flats on to heat, and I'll make a
beginning. We'll have just as good a visit.
David laughed. He could not help it. A good visit, said he to
himself. Aloud he said something about its being too much trouble for
Trouble for a friend is the best kind of pleasure, said she. And
don't you worry. Your mother's clothes will bear to be looked at.
Patches ain't a sin these days, but the contrary. Step a little spryer,
can't you! We can visit all the same.
It was Miss Bethia's way to take the reins in her own hand wherever
she was, and David could not have prevented her if he had tried, which
he did not. He could only do as he was bidden. In a much shorter time
than Debby would have taken, David thought, all preliminary
arrangements were made, and Miss Bethia was busy at work. Little Mary
stood on a stool at the end of the table, and gravely imitated her
movements with a little iron of her own.
Now this is what I call a kind of pleasant, said Miss Bethia. Now
let's have a good visit before the children come home.
Shall I read to you? said David, a little at a loss as to what
might be expected from him in the way of entertainment.
Wellno. I can read to myself at home, and I would rather talk if
you had just as lief.
And she did talk on every imaginable subject, with very little
pause, till she came round at last to old Mr Bent's death.
I'd have given considerable to have gone to the funeral, said she.
I've known Timothy Bent for over forty years, and I'd have liked to
see the last of him. I thought of coming up to ask your papa if he
wouldn't take me over when he went, but I thought perhaps your mamma
would want to go. Did she?
No, David said; he had driven his father over.
Your papa preached, did he? and then followed a great many
questions about the funeral, and the mourners, and the bearers, and
then about the text and the sermon. And then she added a hope that he
realised the value of the privileges he enjoyed above others in
having so many opportunities to hear his father preach. And when she
said this, David knew that she was going to give him the serious
talking to which she always felt it her duty to give faithfully to the
young people of the families where she visited.
They always expected it. Davie and Jem used to compare notes about
these talks, and used to boast to one another about the methods they
took to prevent, or interrupt, or answer them, as the case might be.
But when Miss Bethia spoke about Mr Bent and the funeral, it brought
back the sermon and what his father had said to him on his way home,
and all the troubled thoughts that had come to him afterwards. So
instead of shrugging his shoulders, and making believe very busy with
something else, as he had often done under Miss Bethia's threatening
lectures, he sat looking out of the window with so grave a face, that
she in her turn, made a little pause, of surprise, and watched him as
she went on with her work.
Yes, she went on in a little, it is a great privilege you have,
and that was a solemn occasion, a very solemn occasionbut you did not
tell me the text.
David told her the text and a good part of the sermon, too. He told
it so well, and grew so interested and animated as he went on, that in
a little Miss Bethia set down the flat-iron, and seated herself to
listen. Jem came in before he was through.
Well! well! I feel just as if I had been to meeting, said Miss
Well done, Davie! said Jem. Isn't our Davie a smart boy, Aunt
Bethia? I wish Frank could have heard that.
Yes, so I told papa, said David, gravely.
It is a great responsibility to have such privileges as you have,
boys began Miss Bethia.
As Davie has, you mean, Miss Bethia, said Jem. He goes with papa
And as you have, too. Take care that you don't neglect them, so
that they may not rise up in judgment against you some day
But Miss Bethia was obliged to interrupt herself to shake hands with
Violet, who came in with her little brother and sister. Jem laughed at
the blank look in his sister's face.
Miss Bethia has commenced your ironing for you, said he.
YesI see. You shouldn't have troubled yourself about it, Miss
I guess I know pretty well by this time what I should do, and what
I should let alone, said Miss Bethia, sharply, not pleased with the
look on Violet's face, or the heartiness of her greeting. It was your
mother I was thinking of. I expect the heft of Debby's work will fall
Debby will be back to-morrow or next day, I hope, said Violet.
But it was very kind of you to do it, Miss Bethia, and I will begin in
You had better go to work and get supper ready, and get that out of
the way; and by that time the starched clothes will be done, and you
can do the rest. I expect the children want their supper by this time,
said Miss Bethia.
Yes, I dare say it would be better.
Violet was very good-tempered, and did not feel inclined to resent
Miss Bethia's tone of command. And besides, she knew it would do no
good to resent it, so she went away to put aside her books, and her
out-of-door's dress, and Miss Bethia turned her attention to the boys
Yes, that was a solemn sermon, boys, and, David, I am glad to see
that you must have paid good attention to remember it so well. I hope
it may do you good, and all who heard it.
Our Davie won't make a bad preacher himself, will he, Miss Bethia?
said Jem. He has about made up his mind to it now.
His making up his mind don't amount to much, one way or the other,
said Miss Bethia. Boys' minds are soon made up, but they ain't apt to
stay made upnot to anything but foolishness. That's my belief, and
I've seen a good many boys at one time and another.
But that's not the way with our Davie, said Jem. You wouldn't
find many boys that would remember a sermon so well, and repeat it so
well as he does. Now would you, Aunt Bethia?
Nonsense, Jem, that's enough, said Davie. He's chaffing, Aunt
He's entirely welcome, said Miss Bethia, smiling grimly. Though I
don't see anything funny in the idea of David's being a minister, or
you either, for that matter.
Funny! No. Anything but funny! A very serious matter that would
be, said Jem. We couldn't afford to have so many ministers in the
family, Miss Bethia. I am not going to be a minister. I am going to
make a lot of money and be a rich man, and then I'll buy a house for
papa, and send Davie's boys to college.
They all laughed.
You may laugh, but you'll see, said Jem. I am not going to be a
minister. Hard work and poor pay. I have seen too much of that, Miss
He was chaffing her. Miss Bethia knew it quite well, and though
she had said he was entirely welcome, it made her angry because she
could not see the joke, and because she thought it was not respectful
nor polite on Jem's part to joke with her, as indeed it was not. And
besides this was a sore subject with Miss Bethiathe poverty of
ministers. She had at one time or another spent a great many of her
valuable words on those who were supposed to be influential in the
guidance of parish affairs, with a design to prove that their affairs
were not managed as they ought to be. There was no reason in the world,
but shiftlessness and sinful indifference, to prevent all being made
and kept straight between the minister and people as regarded salary
and support, she declared, and it was a shame that a man like their
minister should find himself pressed or hampered, in providing the
comforts sometimes the necessaries of lifefor his family.
That was putting it strong, the authorities thought and said, but
Miss Bethia never would allow that it was too strong, and she never
tired of putting it.
The labourer is worthy of his hire.
They that serve the temple must live by the temple. And with a
house to keep up and his children to clothe and feed, no wonder that Mr
Inglis might be troubled many a time when he thought of how they were
to be educated, and of what was to become of them in case he should be
There was no theme on which Miss Bethia was so eloquent as this, and
she was eloquent on most themes. She never tired of this one, and
answered all excuses and expostulations with a force and sharpness
that, as a general thing, silenced, if they did not convince. Whether
she helped her cause by this assertion of its claims, is a question.
She took great credit for her faithfulness in the matter, at any rate,
and as she had not in the past, so she had made up her mind that she
should not in the future be found wanting in this respect.
But it was one thing to tell her neighbours their duty with regard
to their minister, and it was quite another thing to listen to a lad
like Jem making disparaging remarks as to a minister's possessions and
prospects. Hard work and poor pay, said Jem, and she felt very much
like resenting his words, as a reflection on the people of whom she was
one. Jem needed putting down.
Your pa wouldn't say so. He ain't one to wish to serve two masters.
He ain't a mammon worshipper, said Miss Bethia, solemnly.
No! said Jem, opening his eyes very wide. And I don't intend to
be one either. I intend to make a good living, and perhaps become a
Don't, Jem, said Violet, softly. She meant Don't vex Miss
Bethia, as Jem very well knew, but he only laughed and said:
Don't do what? Become a rich man? or a worshipper of mammon? Don't
be silly, Letty.
Jem's going to be a blacksmith, said Edward. You needn't laugh.
He put a shoe on Mr Strong's old Jerry the other day. I saw him do it.
Pooh, said Jem. That's nothing. Anybody could do that. I am going
to make a steam-engine some day.
You're a smart boy, if we are to believe you, said Miss Bethia.
Did Mr Strong know that the blacksmith let you meddle with his horse's
shoes? I should like to have seen his face when he heard it.
One must begin with somebody's horse, you know. And Peter Munro
said he couldn't have done it better himself, said Jem, triumphantly.
Peter Munro knows about horseshoes, and that's about all he does
know. He ought to know that you might be about better business than
hanging about his shop, learning no good.
Horseshoes no good! said Jem, laughing.
Jem, dear! pleaded Violet.
But it's dreadful to hear Miss Bethia speak disrespectfully of
horseshoes, said Jem.
I think there's something more to be expected from your father's
son than horseshoes, said Miss Bethia.
But horseshoes may do for a beginning, said David. And by and by,
perhaps, it may be engines, and railways; who knows?
And good horseshoes are better than bad sermons, and they pay
better than good ones, said Jem. And I'm bound to be a rich man.
You'll see, Miss Bethia.
Then he went on to tell of the wonderful things that were to happen
when he became a rich man. Old Don was to be superannuated, and his
father was to have a new horse, and a new fur coat to wear when the
weather was cold. His mother and Violet were to have untold splendours
in the way of dress, and the children as well. Davie was to go to
college, and there should be a new bell to the church, and a new fence
to the grave-yard, and Miss Bethia was to have a silk gown of any
colour she liked, and a knocker to her front door. There was a great
deal of fun and laughter, in which even Miss Bethia joined, and when
Violet called them to tea, Jem whispered to David that they had escaped
her serious lecture for that time.
After tea, they all went again to the kitchen, which, indeed, was as
pleasant as many parlours, and while Violet washed the tea-dishes, Miss
Bethia went on with the ironing, and the boys went on with their
lessons. Just as they were all beginning to wonder what could be
delaying the return home of their father and mother, there came a
messenger to say that they had been obliged to go much farther than Mr
Spry's, to see a sick person, and that as they might not be home that
night, the children were not to wait for them past their usual time of
going to bed.
There were exclamations of disappointment from the younger ones, and
little Mary, who was getting sleepy and a little cross, began to cry.
I had a presentiment that we should not see them to-night, said
David, taking his little sister on his lap to comfort her. Never mind,
Polly. Mamma will be home in the morning, and we must be able to tell
her that we have all been good, and that nobody has cried or been
cross, but quite the contrary.
I wish your mother knew that I had happened along. It would have
set her mind at rest about you all, said Miss Bethia.
The young people were not so sure of that, but there would have been
no use in saying so.
Oh! mamma knows we can get on nicely for one night. But she will be
sorry to miss your visit, Miss Bethia, said Violet.
She won't miss it. I shall have a visit with her when she gets
home. And now hadn't you better put the children to bed before you set
But the children, except little Mary, were in the habit of putting
themselves to bed, and were not expected to do so till eight o'clock,
as they declared with sufficient decision. So nothing more was said
about it. If it had been any other child but little Mary. Miss Bethia
would have counselled summary measures with her, and she would have
been sent to bed at once. As it was the little lady had her own way for
a while, and kept her eyes wide open, while David comforted her for the
absence of mamma. He played with her and told her stories, and by and
by undressed her gently, kissing her hands and her little bare feet,
and murmuring such tender words, that baby grew good and sweet, and
forgot that there was any one in the world she loved better than Davie.
As for Miss Bethia, as she watched them she was wondering whether it
could be the rough, thoughtless schoolboy, to whom she had so often
considered it her duty to administer both instruction and reproof. She
was not, as a general thing, very tolerant of boys. She intended to do
her duty by the boys of her acquaintance in the matter of rebuke and
correction, and in the matter of patience and forbearance as well, and
these things covered the whole ground, as far as her relations with
boys were concerned. And so when she saw David kissing his little
sister's hands and feet, and heard him softly prompting her in her
good words as the eyelids fell over the sleepy little eyes, she
experienced quite a new sensation. She looked upon a boy with entire
approval. He had pleased her in the afternoon, when he had told her so
much about his father's sermon. But she had hardly been conscious of
her pleasure then, because of the earnestness of her desire to impress
him and his brother with a sense of their responsibility as to the use
they made of their privileges and opportunities. It came back to her
mind, however, as she sat watching him and his little sister, and she
acknowledged to herself that she was pleased, and that David was not a
common boy. David would never have guessed her thoughts by the first
words she spoke.
Put her to bed, said she. She'll take cold.
Yes, I will, said David, but he did not move to do it. Miss
Bethia, said he in a little, if wee Polly were to die to-night and go
to Heaven, do you suppose she would always stay a little child as she
Miss Bethia set down her flat-irons and looked at him in surprise.
What on earth put that into your head? said she, hastily.
Look at her, said David. It doesn't seem as though she could be
any sweeter even in Heaven, does it?
Violet came and knelt down beside her brother.
Is she not a precious darling? said she, kissing her softly.
It isn't much we know about how folks will look in heaven, said
Miss Bethia, gravely.
No, said David. Only that we shall be like Him, for we shall see
Him as He is.
If we ever get there, said Miss Bethia.
Yes, if we ever get there, said David. But if our little Polly
were to die to-night, she would be sure to get there, and what I would
like to know is, whether she would always be little Polly there, so
that when the rest of us get there, too, we should know her at once
without being told.
She would have a new name given her, said Violet.
Yes, and a crown and a harp, and a white robe, and wings, perhaps.
But she might have all that and be our little Polly still. I wonder how
it will be. What do you think, Miss Bethia?
I haven't thought about it. I don't seem to remember that there is
anything said about it in the Bible. And there is no other way of
knowing anything about itas I see.
No. Still one cannot but think of these things. Don't you remember,
Not as child shall we again behold her,
But when with rapture wild.
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child.
Yes. Violet remembered the words, and added:
But a fair maiden in our Father's mansion.
I don't like to think that may be the way.
But that ain't in the Bible, said Miss Bethia.
No, said David. And I like best the idea of there being little
children there. Of course there are children now, because they are
going there every day. But if they grow up thereafterwards, when the
end comes, there will be no little children.
How you talk! said Aunt Bethia. I don't more than half believe
that it's right for you to follow out such notions. If the Bible don't
say any thing about it, it is a sign it's something we needn't worry
about, for we don't need to know it.
No, we don't need to worry about it, said David. But one cannot
help having such thoughts in their minds sometimes.
There was nothing more said for some time. Violet still knelt by her
brother's side, and the eyes of both were resting on the baby's lovely
face. It was Miss Bethia who spoke first.
I was a twin. My sister died when she was three years old. I
remember how she looked as well as I remember my mother's face, and she
didn't die till I was over forty. I should know her in a minute if I
were to see her. It would seem queer to see us togethertwins
sowouldn't it?she a child and me an old woman, said Miss Bethia,
with something like a sob in her voice. It will be all in her
favourthe difference, I mean.
`Whom the gods love die young,' said David. But that is a Pagan
sentiment. Papa said, the other day, that victory must mean more to the
man who has gone through the war, than to him who has hardly had time
to strike a blow. Even before the victory it must be grand, he said, to
be able to say like Paul, `I have fought the good fight; I have kept
the faith.' And, perhaps, Miss Bethia, your crown may be brighter than
your little sister's, after all.
It will owe none of its brightness to me, said Miss Bethia, with
sudden humility. And I don't suppose I shall begrudge the brightness
of other folks' crowns when I get there, if I ever do.
In the pause that followed, David went and laid the baby in her cot,
and when he returned the children came with him, and the talk went on.
They all had something to say about what they should see and do, and
the people they should meet with when they got there. But it would not
bear repeating, all that they said, and they fell in a little while
into talk of other things, and Jem, as his way was, made the little
ones laugh at his funny sayings, and even Violet smiled sometimes. But
David was very grave and quiet, and Miss Bethia, for a good while, did
not seem to hear a word, or to notice what was going on.
But by and by something was said about the lessons of the next day,
and she roused herself up enough to drop her accustomed words about
privileges and responsibilities, and then went on to tell how
different every thing had been in her young days, and before she knew
it she was giving them her own history. There was not much to tell.
That is, there had been few incidents in her life, but a great deal of
hard work, many trials and disappointmentsand many blessings as well.
And, said Aunt Bethia, if I were to undertake, I couldn't always
tell you which was which. For sometimes the things I wished most for,
and worked hardest to get, didn't amount to but very little when I got
them. And the things I was most afraid of went clear out of sight, or
turned right round into blessings, as soon as I came near enough to
touch them. And I tell you, children, there is nothing in the world
that it's worth while being afraid of but sin. You can't be too much
afraid of that. It is a solemn thing to live in the world, especially
such times as these. But there's no good talking. Each one must learn
for himself; and it seems as though folks would need to live one life,
just to teach them how to live. I don't suppose there's any thing I
could say to you that would make much difference. Talk don't seem to
amount to much, any way.
I am sure you must have seen a great deal in your life, Miss
Bethia, and might tell us a great many things to do us good, said
Violet, but she did not speak very enthusiastically, for she was not
very fond of Miss Bethia's good advice any more than her brothers; and
little Jessie got them happily out of the difficulty, by asking:
What did you use to do when you were a little girl, Aunt Bethia?
Pretty much what other little girls did. We lived down in New
Hampshire, then, and what ever made father come away up here for, is
more than I can tell. I had a hard time after we came up here. I helped
father and the boys to clear up our farm. I used to burn brush, and
make sugar, and plant potatoes and corn, and spin and knit. I kept
school twenty-one seasons, off and on. I didn't know much, but a little
went a great way in those days. I used to teach six days in the week,
and make out a full week's spinning or weaving, as well. I was strong
and smart then, and ambitious to make a living and more. After a while,
my brothers moved out West, and I had to stay at home with father and
mother, and pretty soon mother died. I have been on the old place ever
since. It is ten years since father died. I've stayed there alone most
of the time since, and I suppose I shall till my time comes. And
children, I've found out that life don't amount to much, except as it
is spent as a time of preparationand for the chance it gives you to
do good to your neighbours; and it ain't a great while since I knew
that, only as I heard folks say it. It ain't much I've done of it.
There was nothing said for a minute or two, and then Ned made them
all laugh by asking, gravely:
Miss Bethia, are you very rich?
Miss Bethia laughed, too.
Why, yes; I suppose I may say I am rich. I've got all I shall ever
want to spend, and more, too. I've got all I want, and that's more than
most folks who are called rich can say. And I have earned all I've got.
But it ain't what one has got, so much as what one has done, that makes
life pleasant to look back upon.
It is pleasant to have plenty of money, too, however, said Jem.
And people can do good with their money, said Violet.
Yes, that is true; but money don't stand for everything, even to do
good with. Money won't stand instead of a life spent in God's service.
Money, even to do good with, is a poor thing compared with that. Money
won't go a great ways in the making of happiness, without something
Would you like to live your life over again, Miss Bethia? asked
NoI shouldn't. Not unless I could live it a great deal better.
And I know myself too well by this time to suppose I should do that. It
wouldn't pay, I don't believe. But oh! children, it is a grand thing to
be young, to have your whole life before you to give to the Lord. You
can't begin too young. Boys, and you, too, Violetyou have great
privileges and responsibilities.
This was Miss Bethia's favourite way of putting their duty before
them. She had said this about privilege and responsibility two or
three times to-night already, as the boys knew she would. It had come
to be a by-word among them. But even Jem did not smile this time, she
was so much in earnest, and Violet and David looked very grave.
`Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.' That's
what you've got to do. `Take the whole armour of God,' and fight His
The boys looked at each other, remembering all that had been said
about this of late.
Your father said right. It is a grand thing to come to the end of
life and be able to say, `I have fought the good fight; I have kept the
Like Mr Great Heart in the Pilgrim's Progress, said Ned.
Yes. Sometimes it's lions, and sometimes it's giants, but it's
fighting all the way through, and God gives the victory. Yes,
continued Miss Bethia, after a pause, it's fighting all the way
through, and it don't so much matter how it looks to other folks.
Horseshoes or sermons, it don't matter, so that it is done to the Lord.
Your father, he is a standard-bearer; and your mother, she helps the
Lord's cause by helping him, and so she fights the good fight, too.
There's enough for all to do, and the sooner you begin, the more you
can do, and the better it will beAnd I'm sure it's time these
children were in bed now.
Yes, it was more than time, as all acknowledged, but they did not go
very willingly for all that.
Obedience is the first duty of a soldier, Ned, boy, said Jem.
If we could only know that we were soldiers, said David, gravely;
and then he added to himself, The very first thing is to enrol one's
I wonder all the girls don't like Aunt Bethia more, said Jessie,
when Violet came up to take her candle in a little. I'm sure she's
Yes, she is always very good, and to-night she is pleasant, said
Violet. And I'm not at all sorry that she came, though mamma is away.
Good-night, dear, and pleasant dreams.
Upon the whole, Miss Bethia's visit was a success. Mr and Mrs Inglis
came home next day to find her and little Mary in possession of the
house. David was waiting to receive them at the gate, and all the
others had gone to school. Violet had proposed to stay at home to
entertain their guest, but this Miss Bethia would not hear of. The baby
and she were quite equal to the entertainment of one another, to say
nothing of David, upon whom Miss Bethia was evidently beginning to look
with eyes of favour. They had not got tired of one another when mamma
came to the rescue, and nothing mattered much either to David or his
little sister when mamma was at hand.
Mr Inglis was almost ill with a cold; too ill to care to go to his
study and his books that day, but not too ill to lie on the sofa and
talk withor rather listen to, Miss Bethia. This was a great pleasure
to her, for she had a deep respect for the minister, and indeed, the
respect was mutual. So they discussed parish matters a little; and all
the wonderful things that were happening in the world, they discussed a
good deal. There was a new book, too, which Miss Bethia had gota very
interesting book to read, but of whose orthodoxy she could not be quite
sure till she had discussed it with the minister. There were new
thoughts in it, and old thoughts clothed in unfamiliar language, and
she wanted his help in Comparing it with the only standard of truth in
the opinion of both.
So the first day was successful, and so were all the other days of
her visit, though in a different way. There were no signs of Debby's
return, but Mrs Inglis had, in the course of her married life, been too
often left to her own resources to make this a matter of much
consequence for a few days. The house was as orderly, and the meals
were as regular; and though some things in the usual routine were left
undone because of Debby's absence and Miss Bethia's presence in the
house, still everything went smoothly, and all the more so that Miss
Bethia, who had had a varied experience in the way of long visits, knew
just when to sit still and seem to see nothing, and when to put forth a
helping hand. Her visits, as a general thing, were not without some
drawbacks, and if Mrs Inglis had had her choice, she would have
preferred that this one should have taken place when Debby's presence
in the kitchen would have left her free to attend to her guest. But
this was a visit altogether pleasant. There was not even the little
jarring and uncomfortableness, rather apt to arise out of her interest
in the children, and her efforts in their behalf. Not that she
neglected them or their affairs. David, of whom she saw most, had a
feeling that her eye was upon him whenever he was in the house, but her
observation was more silent than usual, and even when she took him to
task, as she did more than once, he did not for some reason or other,
feel inclined to resent her sharp little speeches as he had sometimes
done. She did not overlook him by any means, but asked a great many
questions about his books, and lessons, and amusements, and about when
he was going to college, and about what he was to be afterwards, and
behind his back praised him to his mother as a sensible, well-behaved
boy, which, of course, pleased his mother, and made David himself laugh
heartily when he heard of it.
Still, though her visit had been most agreeable, it was pleasant to
be alone again, when it came to an end, and little Jessie expressed
what the others only thought when she said:
It's nice to have Miss Bethia come once in a while, and it's nice
to have her go away, too.
Debby did not come back, but everything went on as nearly as
possible as usual in her absence. They hoped to have her again, by and
by, so no effort was made to supply her place. If she could not come
back, Violet would possibly have to stay at home after the Christmas
holidays to help in the house, and in the meantime, David did what a
sensible, well-behaved boy might be expected to do, to supply her
place. And that was a great deal. David was a manly boy, and he was
none the less manly that he did a great many things for his mother,
that boys are not generally supposed to like to do. What those things
were, need not be told, lest boys not so sensible, should call his
manliness in question, and so lose their interest in him.
Indeed, it must be confessed that, sensible boy as he was, David
himself had some doubts as to the manliness of some of the work that
fell to him to do about this time, and did not care that his morning's
occupations should be alluded to often, before Jem and Ned. But he had
no doubt as to the help and comfort he was to his mother during these
days, when she needed both even more than he knew. It is a manly thing
in a boy to be his mother's right hand, and David was that, and more
than that, during these happy days, when they were so much alone
For they were happy days to them all. In spite of work and
weariness, and anxiety, and a sudden sharp dread of something else
harder to bear than these, that came now and then to one at least of
the household, they were very happy days to them all.
Winter came early this year. Even before November was out, the
sleigh-bells were merrily ringing through all the country, and during
December more snow fell than had fallen during that month at any time
within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. And after the snow came
the wind, tossing it hither and thither, and piling up mountainous
drifts in the hollows through which the North Gore road passed, before
it crossed Hardscrabble hill. It piled it up on Hardscrabble, too, and
on all the hills, so that even if Mr Inglis had been quite well, he
could hardly have made it the busiest season of the year in the way of
visiting his parishioners, as it was his custom to do.
For usually, at this time, the farmers may enjoy something besides
work, the busy season being over; and usually, too, the new farms and
back settlements are easy of access, when the ground is frozen and just
enough of snow has fallen to cover the roughness of the way. But this
year, too much snow had fallen, so that for weeks, there were in some
places, no roads at all; and over others, what with the drifts, and
what with the difficulty in the sleighs passing one another where the
roads were narrow, it would not have been pleasant, or even safe, to
go. Mr Inglis would have tried it, doubtless, if he had been quite
well, but the cold he had taken on the stormy night when old Mr Bent
died, had never quite left him. He did not call himself ill, though his
nights were restless, and his days languid, and if the weather had been
fine, he would have gone out as usual; but the snow that had fallen,
and was still falling, and the wind that roared and whistled, as it
piled it up in the hollows and on the hill-sides, helped to make him
content to stay at home and rest.
It was rest he needed. He was not illonly tired, so tired that he
did not care during this time of leisure, to pursue the studies that he
loved so well, and, for the most part, David read to him. These were
happy days to David. Generally in the quiet afternoons, when the
children were at school, they were down-stairs in mamma's room, and
mamma listened to the reading, too, with little Mary playing out and in
of the room beside them. But on the long evenings they usually sat
up-stairs in the study, with mamma coming up to see them only now and
then. Sometimes there was no reading, and David went on with his
lessons as usual, while his father lay on the sofa with closed eyes,
thinking over the wonderful truths he wished to speak to the people
when the Sabbath came round again.
Sometimes when the children, and even the mother, weary with the
day's cares and labours, had gone to rest, David sat with his father
far into the night. A prey to the restless wakefulness which, for the
time, seems worse to bear than positive illness, Mr Inglis dreaded his
bed, and David was only too glad to be allowed to sit with him.
Sometimes he read to him, but oftener they talked, and David heard a
great many things about his father's life, that he never would have
heard but for this time. His father told him about his early home, and
his brothers and sisters, and their youthful joys and sorrowshow
dearly they had loved one another, and how he had mourned their loss.
He told him about his mamma in her girlhood, as she was when he first
knew her, how they had loved one another, and how she had blessed all
his life till now, and nothing that his father told him filled David's
heart with such wonder and pleasure, as did this. And when he added,
one night, that to himher first-born sonhis mother must always
trust, as her strength and right hand, he could only find voice to
say Of course, papa, for the joyful throbbing of his heart. David
used to tell Violet and Jem some things that his father spoke about, at
such times, but this he never told. He mused over it often in the dark,
with smiles and happy tears upon his face, and told himself that his
mother's strength and right hand, he would ever be, but it never came
into his mind that the time might be drawing near which was to give
significance to his father's words.
And so the last weeks of the year passed slowly away. Mr Inglis
preached on Sunday as usual, every Sunday at the village, and every
alternate Sunday at the Mills and at North Gore. He was quite able to
do it, he thought, and though he had restless nights and languid days
still, he called himself much better at the beginning of the year, and
everything went on as usual in the house. In the village there began to
be whispers that it was time for the annual Donation Visit to the
minister's family, and certain worthy and wise people, upon whom much
of the prosperity of the town was supposed to depend, laid their heads
together to consult as to how this visit might be made successful in
every respecta visit to be remembered beyond all other visits, for
the pleasure and profit it was to bring. But before thisbefore the
old year had come to an end, something else had happenedsomething
that was considered a great event in the Inglis family. They had had
several letters from Frank Oswald since his going home, but one day
there came a parcel as well, and this, when opened, was found to
contain a good many things which were to be accepted by the young
Inglises as Christmas gifts. These were very nice, and very
satisfactory, as a general thing, but they need not be specified. That
which gave more satisfaction to each than all the other things put
together, was marked, With Frank's love to Aunt Mary. And if he had
searched through all the city for a gift, he could have found nothing
that would have pleased her half so well. For added to her pleasure in
receiving was the better pleasure of giving. The present was what she
had been wishing for two or three winters pasta fur coat for her
husband. It was not a very handsome coat. That is, it was not one of
those costly garments, which sometimes rich men purchase and wear,
quite as much for appearance as for comfort. It was the best of its
kind, however; well made and impervious to the cold, if a coat could be
made so; and when papa put it on and buttoned it round him, there were
many exclamations of admiration and delight.
We need not be afraid of Hardscrabble winds any more, papa, said
I should think not. `Blow winds and crack your cheeks,' said Jem,
Little Mary was more than half inclined to be afraid of her papa in
his unaccustomed garb, but Ned laughed at her, and made her look at
Violet, who was passing her hand over the soft fur, caressing it as if
she loved it; and Jessie made them all laugh by telling them that when
she became a rich woman, she meant to send a fur coat to all the
It is possible that some young people, and even some people not
young, may smile, and be a little contemptuous over the idea of so much
interest and delight in so small a matter. It can only be said of them,
that there are some things happening every day in the world, that such
people don't know of, and cannot be supposed to understand. That a good
woman should have to plan and wait one season, and then another, for
the garment much desiredabsolutely necessary for the health and
comfort of her husband, need not surprise any one. It has happened to
other than ministers' wives many a time, I suppose. I know it has
happened to some of them. It happened once, certainly, in the
experience of Mrs Inglis, and her delight in Frank's present was as
real, though not so freely expressed, as was that of her children. It
came with less of drawback than usually comes with the receiving of
such a present. It came from one whom they believed quite able to give
it, and from one whom they knew to be speaking the thought of his
heart, when he said that the pleasure of his son Frankwhose present
he wished it to be consideredwas greater in giving it than theirs
could possibly be in receiving it. Then there were thanks for their
kindness to his boy, and hopes expressed that the two families would
come to know more of each other in the future than had seemed possible
in the past, and, altogether, it was a nice letter to send and to
receive in the circumstances.
But few pleasures are quite unmixed in this world. Even while Mrs
Inglis was rejoicing over her husband's future comfort, and the removal
of her own anxiety with regard to it, she could not but say to herself,
as she watched his flushed face and languid movements, If it had only
come a little sooner! But she did not spoil the enjoyment of the rest
by uttering her thoughts. Indeed, she was displeased with herself,
calling herself unthankful and unduly anxious, and sought with
earnestness to put them out of her mind.
There was something else in the letter sent by Mr Oswald, which, for
the present, the father and mother did not think it necessary to
discuss with the children. This was the offer made to them for David,
of the situation as junior clerk in the bank of which Mr Oswald was
managing director. There was no immediate necessity of deciding about
the matter, as the place would not be vacant till spring, and the
father and mother determined to take time to look at the matter in all
its lights, before they said anything about it to David. He was already
nearly fitted to enter the university, and they hoped that some time or
other, means would be found to send him there; but he was too young to
enter at once, and, also, he was too young and boyish-looking, to hope
for a long time yet to be able to earn means to help himself, as so
many students are able to do, by teaching in the public schools. So it
seemed likely that this situation might be the very thing they could
wish for him for the next few years. However, there were many things to
be considered with regard to it. It might unsettle him from his eager
pursuit of his studies, and from the cheerful doing of his other
duties, were anything to be said about his leaving home just now. So
they were silent, and the old year went out, and the new year came in,
and everything went on as usual, till the time for the donation visit
Donation visits ought to be pleasant occasions to all concerned, for
we have the very highest authority as to the blessedness of giving, and
only mean and churlish natures will refuse to accept graciously what is
graciously bestowed. That they often fail to be so, arises less
frequently from the lack of graciousness on the part of either pastor
or people, than from the fact that the principle on which they are
often undertaken is a mistaken onethe design to thus supplement some
acknowledged deficiency in the matter of the minister's salary. It
often happens that the people regard as a gift, what their pastor and
his family accept as their right, and thus both parties are defrauded
of the mutual benefits which are the result of obligations cheerfully
conferred and gratefully received.
The parish of Gourlay was very much like other parishes, in regard
to these matters. They were not a rich people. The salary of their
minister was moderately liberal, considering their means, but it was
scant enough considering the requirements of the minister's family. It
was not very regularly, nor very promptly paid; still, in one form or
other, the stipulated amount generally found its way to the minister's
house in the course of the year. So that the donation visit was not
made for the purpose of making up a deficiency in the salary agreed on,
but rather as an acknowledgment on the part of some of the people that
the salary agreed upon was not sufficient, and as a token of good-will
on the part of all.
If it had occurred to the people to put their expression of
good-will in the form of increased salary, it would doubtless have been
more agreeable to Mr Inglis. Still, he knew that more could be done on
an occasion of this kind, with less inconvenience to that part of the
people who were most liberal, than could be done in the legitimate way
of annual subscriptions, and he had, on the whole, sufficient
confidence in their kindly feeling to prevent any very painful sense of
obligation in receiving their gifts, and no expression of any such
feeling was ever permitted to mar the enjoyment of the occasion, as far
as the people were concerned. In short, the minister and his wife had
come to consider the annual donation visit, as one of those
circumstances in life out of which pain or pleasure may be gotten,
according as they are made the worst or the best of by those most
concerned; and as they had been making the best of them for a good many
years now, they were justified in looking forward to a reasonable
amount of enjoyment from this one.
As for the children, they did not think of anything but enjoyment in
connection with it. To them the overturning of all things in the house,
up-stairs and down, which was considered a necessary part of the
preparations, was great fun. Some overturning was absolutely necessary
for the entertainment of about a third more people than the house could
conveniently hold. So there was the putting aside all brittle articles,
the shoving of tables and bureaus into corners, the taking down of
beds, and the arranging of seats over all the house. For all the house
must be thrown open, and the result was confusion, certainly not so
delightful to the mother as to the children. The prospect of the crowd
was delightful to them, too, and so were the possibilities in the way
of presents. Besides the staples, butter, cheese, flannel, oats, and
Indian meal, there was a possibility of something particular and
personal to every one of themchickens, or mittens, or even a book.
Once Jem had got a jack-knife, and David a year of The Youth's
Companion. Last year Violet had got a new dress from Mrs Smith, and
Jem a pair of boots. Very good boots they had beenthey were not bad
yet, but the thought of them was not altogether agreeable to Jem.
However nice the boots, the being reminded of the gift by Master Smith,
and that before all the boys at school, and more than once, was not at
all nice; and Jem had to look back with mingled shame and triumph on a
slight passage of arms that had been intended to put an end to that
sort of thing on Master Smith's part. There was no danger, he thought,
of getting any more boots from Mrs Smith, and all the people were not
like her and her son.
Out of this trouble about the boots had arisen in Jem's mind some
serious misgivings as to the entire desirableness of donation visits.
David and Violet had had them before, but they were not so ready to
speak of these things as Jem was; or rather as Jem would have been if
his conscience had been quite clear as regarded the matter of Master
There would be no good in troubling mamma with it, said Jem, and
so there had been no exciting of one another by foolish talking; and,
indeed, their misgivings had neither been of a depth nor of a nature to
spoil the prospect of the visit to them. Great fun was anticipated as
usual. Debby, though her sister was by no means well yet, came back to
assist in the general confusion.
There shall be no talk of `allowances' this time, said Debby; and
cellar and garret, pantry, cupboard, and closet, were all put through
such a process of purifying and arranging, that not the neatest
house-keeper in Gourlay could have the least chance or excuse for
hinting that any allowances were needed. Debby's honour as a
house-keeper was at stake, to say nothing of the honour of Mrs Inglis.
It seems as natural as possible to get back to the old spot, said
Debby; and I wish to goodness sister Serepta would get well, or do
something else. I mean, I wish she would go and stay to Uncle Jason's,
or have Aunt Myra come and stay with her. I'm thankful your ma's got
along so far, without any of those shiftless Simmses or Martins in to
help her. But she's looking a kind of used up, ain't she? And it beats
all how your pa's cold hangs on, don't it?
Oh! papa is much better, said David, eagerly, and mamma is quite
well. She is tired, but now you are here, she just lets things go, and
rests. She knows it will be all right.
That's so, said Debby, and she can't do better.
And, indeed, she could not. Her affairs were in good hands. Debby
was as smart as a trap, and capable of anything in the way of
house-keeping duties. And though not blessed with the mildest temper
people as smart as traps seldom areshe had the faculty of adapting
herself to circumstances, and of identifying herself with the family in
which she lived, in a way that stood in stead of a good deal. She was
quite too smart for the patient endurance of the whims of a nervous
invalid, and found positive refreshment in the present bustle and
hurry, and was inclined not only to be agreeable, but confidential on
It's to be hoped it will amount to something this time, said she.
All this fuss and worry ought not to go for nothing, that's a fact. It
would suit better all round, if they'd pay your pa at first, and have
done with it. I don't believe in presents myselfnot till folks' debts
are paid at any rate, said Debby, looking at the subject from the
minister's family's point of view. But I ain't going to begin on that.
Miss Bethiashe's been letting in the light on some folks' mind, but
as this visit has got to be, I only hope we'll get enough to pay us for
our trouble; and I wish it were well over.
The eventful evening came at last. It would be quite impossible to
give here a full and clear account of all that was said and done, and
given and received that night. It was a very successful visit, whether
considered socially, or with reference to the results in the way of
donations. Afterwardsa good while afterwardsthey all used to think
and speak of it as a delightful visit indeed. It was not without its
little drawbacks, but on the whole, it was a delightful visit even at
the time, and afterwards all drawbacks were forgotten. Jem had a little
encounter with Mrs Smith, which he did not enjoy much at the moment,
but which did not spoil the remembrance of it to him. She did not seem
to resent his conduct about the boots. On the contrary, she placed him
under still further obligations to her by presenting him with the
makings of a jacket, which Jem accepted shamefacedly, but still
gratefully enough, quite forgetting the dignified resolution he had
confided to David, to decline all further favours from her with thanks.
David enjoyed the evening for the same reasons that all the rest
enjoyed it, and so did Violet, and for another reason besides. For the
very first time, she was spoken to, and treated as if she were a
grown-up young lady, and a little girl no longer. This was delightful
to Violet, who, though she was nearly sixteen, was small of her age,
and had always been one of the children like all the rest. It was old
Mrs Kerr, from the Gore Corner, who spoke to her about it first.
A great help you must be to your mother with the house-keeping, and
with the children and all, said that nice old lady. It's a fine thing
to have a grown-up daughter in the house. Only the chances are you'll
just go and leave her, as mine have done.
Violet smiled, and blushed, and was conscience-stricken, not at the
thought of going away to leave her mother one day, as Mrs Kerr's
daughters had done, but because she knew she had never really been much
help to her mother either at the sewing or the house-keepingnot half
so much as Davie had been since Debby went away. For Letty was very
fond of her books, and, indeed, her duty as well as her inclination had
encouraged her devotion to them, at least until lately; but she was
inclined to confess her faults to the old lady, lest she should think
of her what was not true.
Never mind. It will come in good time. And there's small blame to
you for liking the books best, since you're your father's child, as
well as your mother's, said Mrs Kerr, kindly. And, indeed, they say
folk can make hard work at the books, as well as at other things, and
there's no fear of you, with your mother to teach you the other things,
and you growing so womanly and big withal.
It was a very successful visit in every way. There never had been so
many people present on such an occasion before; there never had been so
many nice things brought and eaten. The coffee was good, and so was the
tea, and the singing. The young people had a good time together, and so
had the old people. The donations were of greater value than usual, and
when he presented the money part of it to Mr Inglis, Mr Spry made a
speech, which would have been very good if he had known when he had
done, and stopped, Debby said, and the rest thought it was not bad as
it was. And the minister certainly made a good speech when he received
He did not use many words in thanking the people for their gifts,
but they were just the right words, and touched the spot, Debby said
to Miss Bethia, who agreed. And then he went on to say what proved to
these two, and to them all, that there was something for which he cared
more than he cared for what they had to give. And they all remembered
afterwards, though no one missed them at the time, that the few playful
words that he was wont to address to the young men and maidens of the
congregation on such occasions, were not spoken, but the words he did
speak to them were such as some of them will never forget while they
It was all over at last, and the tired household was left to rest,
and they awoke to a comfortless house next day. The boys helped to take
out the boards and benches that had been used as seats, and to move
back to their places the furniture that had been removed, and then the
children went to school. Violet offered to stay at home and help to
arrange the house, but Debby declared herself equal to the clearing up,
and was not complimentary in her remarks as to her skill and ability in
such matters, so Letty, nothing loth, went away with the rest. It was
an uncomfortable day. Mr Inglis had taken more cold, at least his cough
was worse, and he stayed up-stairs in his study, and David was glad
when the time came that he could stay there too. However, there came
order out of the confusion at last. It was a good job well over, Debby
declared, and all agreed with her.
I hate to go as bad as you hate to have me, said she, in answer to
Letty's lamentations over her departure. I don't know but your mother
had better have one of those shiftless Simmses than nobody at all.
There's considerable many steps to be taken in this house, as nobody
knows better than me; and I hadn't the responsibility of mother's
meetings, and worrying over your pa, as she has. If I were you, I'd
take right hold and help, and never mind about going to school, and
examination, and such, for your ma's got more than she ought to do. I
must try and doctor Serepta up, so as to get back again, or there'll be
something to pay. Well, good-bye! I'll be down next week, if I can fix
it so, to see how you're getting along.
Letty stood looking after her disconsolately. To stay at home from
school, and give up all thoughts of prizes at the coming examination,
were among the last things she would like to do, to say nothing of the
distasteful housework. Still, if her mother needed her, she ought to do
it, and she made up her mind to do it cheerfully if it must be. But she
did not need to do it. It was of more importance that she should get on
with her studies, so as to be ready to do her duty as a teacher by and
by, than that she should help at home just now, her mother thought, and
so for a few weeks longer, everything went on as before.
David helped his mother still, doing with skill and success a great
many things which at first he had not liked to do at all. He did not
get on with his studies as he would have wished, partly because he had
less time than usual, and partly because his father was less able to
interest himself in what he was doing. David sometimes grumbled a
little to Jem about it, because he feared he should not find himself so
far before Ned Hunter at the end of the year, as he wished to be; and
once he said something of the kind to his mother. But that was a very
small matter, in her opinion.
For after all, Davie, my boy, the Greek, and Latin, and mathematics
you are so eager for, are chiefly valuable to you as a means of
discipline as a means of preparing you for the work that is before
you in the world. And I am not sure but that the discipline of little
cares and uncongenial work that has come upon you this winter, may
answer the purpose quite as well. At any rate, the wish to get on with
your studies for the sake of excelling Ned Hunter, is not very
No, mamma. But still I think it is worth something to be able to
keep up with one who has had so much money spent on him, at the best
schools, and I here at home all the time. Don't you think so, mamma?
Well!perhaps so. But the advantages are not all on Ned's side.
Your father's help and interest in all you have been doing, has been
worth more to you than any school could have been.
That's true, mamma, said Davie, heartily. And it is not like
having lessonstasks, I meanto study with papa. It is pure pleasure.
And that is more than Ned can say, I am afraid, added he, laughing.
And, besides, I don't think these things would have troubled you
much under any circumstances; and, as I said before, the self-denial
you have had to exercise, may be better for you than even success in
your studies would be.
Self-denial, mamma! Why, I think we have had a very happy winter,
Indeed, we have! even with some things that we might have wished
different. And, Davie, you must not think you have been losing time. A
boy cannot be losing time, who is being a comfort to his father and
mother. And self-denial is a better thing to learn even than Greek. If
you live long, you will have more use for the one than for the other, I
have no doubt.
David laughed, and blushed with pleasure at his mother's words.
I am glad that you think soI mean that I have been a comfort. But
as for the self-denial, I don't believe any of the boys have had a
better time than I have had this winter. If papa were only well! But he
is better now, mamma?
Yes; I hope so. If it were May instead of January, I should not be
Have you been afraid, mamma? Are you afraid? asked David,
Nonot really afraid, only anxious, and, indeed, I am becoming
less so every day.
And there seemed less cause. Wrapped in his wonderful coat of fur
and driven by David, the minister went here and there among his people,
just as usual, and had a great deal of satisfaction in it, and was not
more tired at such times than he had often been before. He preached on
Sunday always at the village, and generally at his other stations as
well, and David might well say these were happy days.
Yes, they were happy days, and long to be remembered, because of the
sorrowful days that came after them. Not but that the sorrowful days
were happy days, too, in one sense; at least, they were days which
neither David nor his mother would be willing ever to forget.
Young people do not like to hear of sorrowful days, and sometimes
think and say, that at least all such should be left out of books. I
should say so, too, if they could also be kept out of one's life, but
sorrowful days will not be kept away by trying to forget them. And
besides, life itself would not be better by their being left out, for
out of such have come, to many a one, the best and most enduring of
blessings. It does not need any words of mine to prove that God does
not send them in anger to his people, but in love. We have His own word
for that, repeated again and again. And if we did but know it, there
are many days to which we look forwardwhich we hail with joyful
welcome, of which we have more cause to be afraid, than of the days of
trouble that are sent us by God.
February came in with wind and raina sudden thaw, levelling the
great drifts, and sending down through all the hollows swift rushes of
snow-water to cover the ice on the riverto break it up in some
places, to fill the channel full till all the meadows above the
millpond were quite overflowed. It did not last long. It cleared the
third night, and so sudden and sharp was the coming of the cold, that
not a murmur of water was to be heard where it had rushed in torrents
the day before, and the millpond, and the meadows above, lay in the
sunshine like a sheet of molten silver.
In this sudden change, Mr Inglis took cold. It had been like that
all winter. His illness had been very severe, but just as he seemed
ready to throw it off and be himself again, he always seemed to take
more cold, and went back again. It was very tryingvery discouraging.
This was what David and Jem were saying to one another one afternoon,
as they took their way down to the mill-dam where many of their
companions had gone before them. It quite spoiled David's pleasure to
think about it, and even Jem looked grave as they went on together.
However, there are few troubles that a pair of skates, and a mile,
more or less, of shining ice, have not power to banish, for a time, at
least, from the minds of boys of twelve and fourteen; and so when they
came home, and their mother met them at the door, telling Jem that he
was to go and ask Dr Gore to come up again, it gave them both a new
shock of pain, and David asked, Is papa worse, mamma? with such a
sinking of the heart, as he had never felt before.
Not seriously worse, I hope, said his mother. Still the doctor
may as well come up. It will be safest.
Just a little fresh cold, the doctor said, and Mr Inglis must take
care of himself for a few days. The remedies which he prescribed had
the desired effect. In a day or two he was as well as usual; but on
Sunday, when he was nearly through with the morning service, his voice
failed so utterly that his last words were lost to all.
Of course there was no possibility of his going to the Gore in the
afternoon. He could only rest at home, hoping and believing that he
would be well in a little while. Indeed, the thought of the
disappointment to the congregation who would assemble in the afternoon,
was more in his thoughts than any future danger to himself. There need
be no disappointmentat least, the people need not be made to wait;
and David and Jem were sent to tell them that their father was not able
to come, and that they were to read a sermon, and Mr Spry was to
conduct the service as he had sometimes done before.
They took with them a sermon chosen by their father; but Mr Spry was
not there, nor Mr Fiske, nor any one who thought himself capable of
reading it as it ought to be read.
Suppose you give them Miss Bethia's sermon, Davie, said Jem,
Don't, Jem, said David, huskily. Something rising in his throat
would hardly let him say it, for the remembrance of old Tim, and that
fair day, and of his father's face, and voice, and words, came back
upon him with a rush, and the tears must have come if he had spoken
Is there no one here that can read? Papa will be disappointed,
said he, in a little.
No. There seemed to be no one. One old gentleman had not brought his
glasses; another could not read distinctly, because of the loss of his
front teeth; no one there was in the habit of reading aloud.
Suppose you read it, David? You will do it first-rate, said old Mr
Wood. We'll manage the rest.
David looked grave. Go ahead, Davie, said Jem.
What would papa say? said David.
He would be pleased, of course. Why not? said Jem, promptly.
So when the singing and prayers were over, some one spoke to him
again, and he rose and opened the book with a feeling that he was
dreaming, and that he would wake up by and by, and laugh at it all. It
was like a dream all through. He read very well, or the people thought
he did; he read slowly and earnestly, without looking up, and happily
forgot that Jem was there, or he might have found it difficult to keep
from wondering how he was taking it, and from looking up to see.
But Jem had the same dreamy feeling on him, too. It seemed so
strange to be there without his father, and to be listening to Davie's
voice; and nothing was farther from his mind than that there was
anything amusing in it all. For sitting there, with his head leaning on
his hands, a very terrible thought came to Jem. What if he were never
to hear his father's voice in this place again? What if he were never
to be well?what if he were going to die!
He was angry with himself in a minute. It was a very foolish
thought, he said; wrong even, it seemed to him. Nothing was going to
happen to his father. He was not very ill. He would be all right again
in a day or two. Jem was indignant with himself because of his
thoughts; and roused himself, and by and by began to take notice how
attentively all the people were listening, and thought how he would
tell them all about it at home, and how pleased his father and mother
would be. He did not try to listen, himself, but mused on from one
thing to another, till he quite forgot his painful thoughts, and in a
little the book was closed and David sat down.
They hurried away as quickly as they could, but not before they had
to repeat over and over again to the many who crowded round them to
inquire, that their father was not ill, at least not worse than he had
been, only he had taken cold and was hoarse and not able to speakthat
But the thought that perhaps it might not be all, lay heavy on their
hearts all the way home, and made their drive a silent one. It never
came into Jem's mind to banter Davie about the new dignity of his
office as reader, as at first he had intended to do, or, indeed, to say
anything at all, till they were nearly home. As for David, he was going
over and over the very same things that had filled his mind when he
drove his father from old Tim's funeralA good soldier of Jesus
Christ, and all that was implied in the name, and his father's words
about the enrolling of one's name; and he said to himself that he
would give a great deal to be sure that his name was enrolled,
forgetting that the whole world could not be enough to buy what God had
promised to him freelya name and a place among His people.
I hope we shall find papa better, said Jem, as old Don took his
usual energetic start on the hill near the bridge.
Oh! he is sure to be better, said David. But he did not feel at
all sure of it, and he could not force himself to do anything for old
Don's comfort till he should see what was going on in the house. The
glimpse he got when he went in was re-assuring. Violet was laying the
table for tea, and singing softly to herself as she went through the
house. His father and mother were in the sitting-room with the rest of
the children, and they were both smiling at one of little Polly's wise
speeches as he went in.
Well, Davie, you are home again safely, said his mother.
All right, mamma. I will tell you all about it in a minute, said
David. All right, he repeated, as he went out again to Jem, lifting a
load from his heart, and from his own, too, with the word.
But was it really all right? Their father's face said it plainly,
they thought, when they went in, and their mother's face said it, too,
with a difference. A weight was lifted from Jem's heart, and his
spirits rose to such a happy pitch that, Sunday as it was, and in his
father's presence, he could hardly keep himself within quiet bounds, as
he told them about the afternoon, and how David had read so well, and
what all the people had said. David's heart was lightened, too, but he
watched the look on his mother's face, and noticed that she hardly
spoke a wordnot even to check Jem, when the laughter of the children
and Letty grew too frequent, and a little noisy, as they sat together
before the lamp was lighted.
It is all right, I hope, said he, a little doubtfully. It would
be all right for papa, whichever way it were to endand for mamma,
too, in one senseand for all of us, added he, with a vague idea of
the propriety of submission to God's will under any circumstances. But
papa is not worseI think he is not worse, and it will be all right by
and by when summer comes again. But he still watched his mother's
face, and waited anxiously for her word to confirm his hope.
It was all right, because nothing which is God's will can be
otherwise to those who put their trust in Him. But it was not all right
in the sense that David was determined to hope. Though he found them
sitting so calmly there when he came home that night, and though the
evening passed so peacefully away, with the children singing and
reading as usual, and the father and mother taking interest in it all,
they had experienced a great shock while the boys were away.
Gradually, but very plainly, the doctor had for the first time
spoken of danger. Absolute rest for the next three months could alone
avert it. The evidence of disease was not very decided, but the utter
prostration of the whole system, was, in a sense, worse than positive
disease. To be attacked with serious illness now, or even to be
over-fatigued might be fatal to him.
It was not Dr Gore who spoke in this way, but a friend of his who
was visiting him, and whom he had brought to see his patient. He was a
friend of the minister, too, and deeply interested in his case, and so
spoke plainly. Though Dr Gore regretted the abruptness of his friend's
communication, and would fain have softened it for their sakes, he
could not dissent from it. But both spoke of ultimate recovery provided
three months of restabsolute rest, as far as public duty was
concerned, were secured. Or it would be better still, if, for the three
trying months that were before him, he could go away to a milder
climate, or even if he could get any decided change, provided he could
have rest with it.
The husband and wife listened in silence, at the first moment not
without a feeling of dismay. To go away for a change was utterly
impossible, they put that thought from them at once. To stay at home in
perfect rest, seemed almost impossible, too. They looked at one another
in silence. What could be said?
We will put it all out of our thoughts for to-day, love, said Mr
Inglis, in his painful whisper, when they were left alone. At least we
will not speak of it to one another. We must not distrust His loving
care of us, dear, even now.
They did not speak of it to one another, but each apart spoke of it
to Him who hears no sorrowful cry of his children unmoved. He did not
lift the cloud that gloomed so darkly over them. He did not by a sudden
light from Heaven show them a way by which they were to be led out of
the darkness, but in it He made them to feel His presence. Fear not,
for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God! and lo! the
darkness was light about them!
So when the boys came home the father's face said plainly what both
heart and lip could also say, It is all right. And the mother's said
it, too, with a difference.
Of course, all that the doctors had said was not told to the
children. Indeed the father and mother did not speak much about it to
each other for a good many days. Mr Inglis rested, and in a few days
called himself nearly well again, and but for the doctor's absolute
prohibition, would have betaken himself to his parish work as usual. It
was not easy for him to submit to inactivity, for many reasons that
need not be told, and when the first Sabbath of enforced silence came
round, it found him in sore trouble, knowing, indeed, where to
betake himself, but feeling the refuge very far away.
That night he first spoke to David of the danger that threatened
him. They were sitting together in the twilight. The mother and the
rest were down-stairs at the usual Sunday reading and singing, which
the father had not felt quite able to bear, and now and then the sound
of their voices came up to break the stillness that had fallen on these
two. David had been reading, but the light had failed him, and he sat
very quiet, thinking that his father had fallen asleep. But he had not.
Davie, said he, at last, what do you think is the very hardest
duty that a soldier may be called to do?
David was silent a minute, partly from surprise at the question, and
partly because he had been thinking of all that his father had been
suffering on that sorrowful silent day, and he was not quite sure
whether he could find a voice to say anything. For at morning worship,
the father had quite broken down, and the children had been awed and
startled by the sight of his sudden tears. All day long David had
thought about it, and sitting there beside him his heart had filled
full of love and reverent sympathy, which he never could have spoken,
even if it had come into his mind to try. But when his father asked him
that question, he answered, after a little pause:
Not the fighting, papa, and not the marching. I think perhaps the
very hardest thing would be to stand aside and wait, while the battle
is going on.
Ay, lad! you are right there, said his father, with a sigh.
Though why you should look on it in that way, I do not quite see.
I was thinking of you, papa, said David, very softly; and in a
little he added: This has been a very sad day to you, papa.
And I have not been giving you a lesson of trust and cheerful
obedience, I am afraid. Yes, this has been a sad, silent day, Davie,
lad. But the worst is over. I trust the worst is over now.
David answered nothing to this, but came closer, and leaned over the
arm of the sofa on which his father lay, and by and by his father said:
My boy, it is a grand thing to be a soldier of Jesus Christ,
willing and obedient. And whether it is marching or fighting, or only
waiting, our Commander cannot make a mistake. It ought to content us to
know that, Davie, lad.
Yes, papa, said David.
Yes, added his father, in a little. It is a wonderful thing to
belong to the great army of the Lord. There is nothing else worth a
thought in comparison with that. It is to fight for Right against
Wrong, for Christ and the souls of men, against the Devilwith the
world for a battle ground, with weapons `mighty through God to the
pulling down of strongholds'under a Leader Divine, invincible, and
with victory sure. What is there beyond this? What is there besides?
He was silent, but David said nothing, and in a little while he went
But we are poor creatures, Davie, for all that. We grow weary with
our marching; turned aside from our chosen paths, we stumble and are
dismayed, as though defeat had overtaken us; we sit athirst beside our
broken cisterns, and sicken in prisons of our own making, believing
ourselves forgotten. And all the time, our Leader, looking on, has
patience with usloves us even, holds us up, and leads us safe through
all, and gives us the victory at the end. `Thanks be to God who giveth
us the victory!' said Mr Inglis, and in a minute he repeated the words
Then he lay still for a long time, so long that it grew dark, except
for the light of the new moon, and David, kneeling at the head of the
sofa, never moved, thinking that his father slumbered now, or had
forgotten him. But by and by he spoke again:
When I was young, just beginning the conflict, I remember saying to
myself, if God will give me twenty years in which to fight His battles,
I will be content. The twenty years are almost over now. Ah! how little
I have gained for Him from the enemy! Yet I may have to lay down my
armour now, just as you are ready to put it on, Davie, my son.
Papa! I am not worthy said David, with a sob.
Worthy? No. It is a gift He will give youas the crown and the
palm of the worthiest will be His free gift at last. Not worthy, lad,
but willing, I trust.
PapaI cannot tell. I am afraid
He drew nearer, kneeling still, and laid his face upon his father's
Of what are you afraid, Davie? There is nothing you need fear,
except delay. You cannot come to Him too soon. David, when you were the
child of an hour only, I gave you up to God to be His always. I asked
Him to make you a special messenger of His to sinful men. His minister.
That may be if He wills. I cannot tell. But I do know that He will that
you should be one of His `good soldiers.'
There was a long silence, for it tired him to speak, and David said
nothing. By and by his father said:
How can I leave your mother to your care, unless I know you safe
among those whom God guides? But you must give yourself to Him. Your
mother will need you, my boy, but you may fight well the battles of the
Lord, even while working with your hands for daily bread. And for the
rest, the way will open before you. I am not afraid.
Papa, said David, raising himself up to look into his father's
face, why are you saying all this to me to-night?
I am saying it to you because you are your mother's first-born son,
and must be her staff and stay always. And to-night is a good time to
But, papa, said the boy with difficulty, it is not because you
think you are going to die? Does mamma know?
I do not know, my son. Death has seemed very near to me to-day. And
it has been often in your mother's thoughts of late, I do not doubt. My
boy! it is a solemn thing to feel that death may be drawing near. But I
am not afraid. I think I have no cause to be afraid.
He raised himself up and looked into the boy's face with a smile, as
DavidI have no cause to fearsince Jesus died.
No, papa, said David, faintly. But mammaandall of us.
Yes, it will be sad to leave you, and it will be sad for you to be
left. But I am not afraid. `Leave thy fatherless children; I will
preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.' He has said it,
and He will bring it to pass. The promise is more to me, to-night, than
untold wealth could be. And Davie, I leave them to your care. You must
take my place with them, and comfort your mother, and care for your
brothers and sisters. And David you must be a better soldier than I
have ever been.
David threw himself forward with a cry.
Oh papa! how can I? how can I? I am afraid, and I do not even know
that my name is enrolled, and that is the very first
My boy! But you may know. Have you ever given yourself to our great
leader? Have you asked him to enrol your name? Ask Him now. Do not I
love you? His love is greater far than mine!
There had been moments during that day when the Lord had seemed very
far away from His servant, but he felt Him to be very near Him now, as
he poured out his heart in prayer for his son. He did not use many
words, and they were faintly and feebly uttered, but who shall doubt
but they reached the ear of the Lord waiting to hear and answer. But
they brought no comfort to David that night. Indeed he hardly heard
them. There was only room in his heart for one thought. Death may be
drawing near! his father had said, and beyond that he could not look.
It was too terrible to believe. He would not believe it. He would not
have it so.
By and by when there came the sound of footsteps on the stairs, he
slipped unseen out of the room, and then out of the house, and seeking
some place where he might be alone, he went up into the loft above old
Don's crib, and lay down upon the hay, and wept and sobbed his heart
out there. He prayed, too, asking again for the blessing which his
father had asked for him; and for his father's life. He prayed
earnestly, with strong crying and tears; but in his heart he knew that
he cared more for his father's life and health than for the better
blessing, and though he wept all his tears out, he arose uncomforted.
The house was still and dark when he went in. His mother had thought
that he had gone to bed, and Jem that he was sitting in the study as he
often did, and he was fast asleep when David lay down beside him, and
no one knew the pain and dread that was in his heart that night.
But when he rose in the morning, and went down-stairs, and heard the
cheerful noise of the children, and saw his mother going about her work
as she always did, all that had happened last night seemed to him like
a dream. By and by his father came among them, no graver than in other
days, and quite as well as he had been for a long time, and everything
went on as usual all day, and for a good many days. Nobody seemed
afraid. His mother was watchful, and perhaps a little more silent than
usual, but that was all. As for his father, the worst must have been
past that night, as he had said, for there was no cloud over him now.
He was cheerful alwayseven merry, sometimes, when he amused himself
with little Polly and the rest. He was very gentle with them all, more
so than usual, perhaps, and David noticed that he had Violet and Jem
alone with him in the study now and then. Once when this happened with
Jem, David did not see him again all day, and afterwardsa long time
afterwardsJem told him that he had spent that afternoon in the
hay-loft above old Don's crib.
At such times he used to wonder whether their father spoke to them
as he had spoken to him that night, when he told him how Death might
be drawing near. But they never spoke to one another about it. And,
indeed, it was not difficult during those cheerful quiet days, to put
such thoughts out of their minds. The people came and went, looking
grave sometimes, but not as though they had any particular cause for
fear. The minister went out almost every fine day with David or his
mother, or with Jem if it was Saturday, for the children were growing
almost jealous of one another, as to opportunities for doing things for
papa, and Jem must have his turn, too.
How kind all the people were! Surely there never was anything like
it before, the children thought. Some among them whom they had not much
liked, and some whom they had hardly known, came out in a wonderful way
with kind words and kinder deeds, and if kindness and thoughtfulness,
and love that was almost reverence, would have made him well, he would
soon have been in his old place among them again. His place on Sunday
was supplied as often as possible from abroad, and when it could not
be, the people managed as well as they could, and that was better than
usual, for all hearts were softened and touched by the sorrow that had
come on them as a people, and nothing was allowed to trouble or annoy
the minister that could be prevented by them. They would have liked him
to go away as the doctor had advised, and the means would have been
provided to accomplish it, but the minister would not hear of being
sent away. He felt, he said, that he would have a better chance for
recovery at home. Not that there was any chance in that, according to
his thought. It was all ordered, and it would all be well, whichever
way it was to end, and he was best and happiest at home.
And so the time passed on, and then, and afterwards, no one ever
thought or spoke of these days but as happy days. And yet, in the
secret heart of every one of them, of the mother and the children, and
of the kind people that came and went, there was a half-conscious
waiting for something that was drawing near. It was a hope, sometimes,
and sometimes it was a dread. The neighbours put it into words, and the
hopeful spoke of returning health and strength, and of the lessons of
faith and love they should learn by and by, through the experience of
the minister in the sick room; and those who were not hopeful, spoke of
other lessons they might have to learn through other means. But in the
house they only waited, speaking no word of what the end might be.
At last there came a day, when no words were needed, to tell what
messenger of the King was on his way. The hushed voices of the
children, the silence in the house, told it too plainly. The laboured
breathing of the sick man, the feverish hand, the wandering eye, were
visible tokens that death was drawing near. The change came suddenly.
They were not prepared for it, they said. But there are some things for
which we cannot make ourselves ready, till we feel ourselves shuddering
under the blow.
Ah! well. He was ready, and the rest mattered little. Even the
mother said that to herself and to him, with the sobbing of their
children in her ears. She did not sob nor cry out in her pain, but kept
her face calm and smiling for him till the very last. And because, with
his laboured breathing, and the pain which held him fast, he could not
say to her that which was in his heart, she said it all to himhow
they had loved one another, and how God had cared for them always, and
how happy they had been, and how, even in the parting that was before
them, God's time was best, and she was not afraid.
And she was not afraid! Looking into those triumphant eyes,
glad with the brightness of something that she could not see, how could
she be afraid? For neither life nor death, nor principalities nor
powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of
God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, she murmured, comforting him
with her words. He was dying! He was leaving her and their children
alone, with God's promise between them and poverty, and nothing else.
Nothing else! Is not that enough? Think of it! God's promise!
I am not afraid! She said the words over and over again. Why
should I be afraid? There are things far worse than poverty to bear.
`Our bread shall be given us, and our water sure.' I might be afraid
for our children without you, had they the temptations of wealth to
struggle with. Their father's memory will be better to them than lands
or gold. Put it all out of your thoughts, dear love. I am not afraid.
Afterwards the doubt might comethe care, the anxiety, the painful
reckoning of ways and means, to her who knew that the roof that covered
them and the daily bread of her children, depended on the dear life now
ebbing so fast away. But now, seeingnot Heaven's light, indeed, but
the reflection of its glory on his face, she no more feared life than
he feared death, now drawing so near. The children came in, at times,
and looked with sad, appealing eyes from one face to the other to find
comfort, and seeing her so sweet and calm and strong, went out to
whisper to one another that mamma was not afraid. All through these
last days of suffering the dying father never heard the voice of
weeping, or saw a token of fear or pain. Just once, at the very first,
seeing the sign of the coming change on his father's face, David's
heart failed him, and he leaned, for a moment, faint and sick upon his
mother's shoulder. But it never happened again till the end was near.
Seeing his mother, he grew calm and strong, trying to stand firm in
this time or trouble that she might have him to lean on when the time
of weakness should come. The others came and went, but David never left
his mother's side. And she watched and waited, and took needful rest
that she might keep calm and strong to the very end; and the dying eyes
never rested on her face but they read there, God is good, and I am
And so the time wore on till the last night came. They did not know
it was the last night; and the mother lay down within call, for an hour
or two, and David watched alone. Will he ever forget those hours, so
awful yet so sweet?
It is `the last evening,' Davie, lad! said his father, in gasps,
between his hard-drawn breaths. Strong, but not invincible! Say
something to me, dear.
`He, also, Himself likewise took part of the same, that through
death He might destroy him that hath the power of death.' David
Go on, dear, said his father.
`And deliver them who through fear of death were all their
life-time subject to bondage.'
I am notafraid! Tell me more.
`I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept
the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not
to me only, but to all them also that love His appearing.'
His gift, dear boy, His gift! Say something more.
`In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that
loved us' went on David, but he had no power to add another word,
and his father murmured on:
Loved us! Wonderful!wonderful! And gaveHimselffor us.
And then he seemed to slumber for awhile, and when he awoke David
was not sure that he knew him, for his mind seemed wandering, and he
spoke as if he were addressing many people, lifting his hand now and
then as if to give emphasis to his words. But his utterance was
laboured and difficult, and David only caught a word here and there. A
good fightthe whole armourmore than conquerors. Once he said,
Are you one of them, Davie? And are you to stand in my place and
take up the weapons that I must lay down?
David felt that he knew Him then, and he answered:
Papa, with God's help, I will.
And then there came over his father's face a smile, oh! so radiant
and so sweet, and he said:
Kiss me, Davie! And then he murmured a word or twoThanks! and
Victory! and these were the very last words that David heard his
father utter; for, when he raised himself up again, his mother was
beside him, and the look on her face, made bright to meet the dying
eyes, was more than he could bear.
Lie down a little, Davie. You are quite worn out, said she,
softly, soothing him with hand and voice.
But he could not go away. He sat down on the floor, and laid his
face on the pillow of little Mary's deserted cot, and by and by his
mother came and covered him with a shawl, and he must have fallen
asleep, for when he looked up again there were others in the room, and
his mother's hand was laid on his father's closed eyes.
Of the awe and stillness that filled the house for the next three
days of waiting, few words need be spoken.
I must have three days for my husband, and then all my life shall
be for my children, said their mother. Davie, you and Letty must help
one another and comfort the little ones.
So for the most part she was left alone, and David and Letty did
what they could to comfort the rest, through that sorrowful time. The
neighbours were very kind. They would have taken the little ones away
for awhile, but they did not want to go, and David and Violet said to
one another it was right that even the little ones should have these
days to remember afterwards.
How long the days of waiting seemed! Sudden bursts of crying from
the little ones broke now and then the stillness too heavy to be borne,
and even Violet sometimes gave way to bitter weeping. But they thought
of their mother, and comforted one another as well as they could; and
David stood between her closed door and all that could disturb her in
her sorrow, with a patient quiet at which they all wondered. Just once
it failed him. Some one came, with a trailing mass of black garments,
which it was thought necessary for her to see, and Violet said so to
her brother, very gently, and with many tears. But David threw up his
hands with a cry.
What does it matter, Letty? What can mamma care for all that now?
She shall not be troubled.
And she was not. Even Miss Bethia could not bring herself to put
aside the words of the boy who lay sobbing in the dark, outside his
He's right, said she. It don't matter the least in the world.
There don't anything seem to matter much. She sha'n't be worried. Let
it go, said Miss Bethia, with a break in her sharp voice. It'll fit,
I dare say, well enoughand if it don't, you can fix it afterwards.
Let it go now.
But David came down, humble and sorry, in a little while.
I beg your pardon, Miss Bethia, said he. I don't suppose mamma
would have cared, and you might have gone in. Only His voice failed
Don't worry a mite about it, said Miss Bethia, with unwonted
gentleness. It don't matterand it is to you your mother must look
But this was more than David could bear. Shaking himself free from
her detaining hand, he rushed away out of sightout of the houseto
the hay-loft, the only place where he could hope to be alone. And he
was not alone there; for the first thing he heard when the sound of his
own sobbing would let him hear anything, was the voice of some one
crying by his side.
Is it you, Jem? asked he, softly.
And though they lay there a long time in the darkness, they did not
speak another word till they went into the house again.
But there is no use dwelling on all these sorrowful days. The last
one came, and they all went to the church together, and then to the
grave. Standing on the withered grass, from which the spring sunshine
was beginning to melt the winter snow, they listened to the saddest
sound that can fall on children's ears, the fall of the clods on their
father's coffin-lid, and then they went back to the empty house to
begin life all over again without their father's care.
Mr Oswald, Frank's father, came home with them. He had been written
to when Mr Inglis died, and had reached Gourlay the day before the
funeral, but he had not stayed at their house, and they had hardly seen
him till now. They were not likely to see much of him yet, for he was a
man with much business and many cares, and almost the first words he
said when he came into the house, were, that he must leave for home
that night, or at the latest the next morning.
And that means whatever you want to say to me, must be said at
once, and the sooner the better, said Miss Bethia, as she took Mrs
Inglis's heavy crape bonnet and laid it carefully in one of the deep
drawers of the bureau in her room. I haven't the least doubt but I
know what he ought to say, and what she ought to say, better than they
know themselves. But that's nothing. It ain't the right one that's put
in the right spot, not more than once in ten timesat least it don't
look like it, added she, with an uncomfortable feeling that if any one
were to know her thoughts he might accuse her of casting some
reflections on the Providential arrangement of affairs. They don't
realise that I could help them any, and it will suit better if I leave
them. So I'll see if I can't help Debby about getting tea.
There was not much said for a time, however. Mrs Inglis evidently
made a great effort to say something, and asked about Frank and the
family generally, and then said something about his journey, and then
about the sudden breaking-up of the winter roads. Mr Oswald felt it to
be cruel to make her speak at all, and turned to the children.
Which is Davie? asked he, in a little.
David rose and came forward.
I thought you had been older. Frank seemed to speak as if you were
almost a man, said he, holding out his hand.
I am past fourteen, said David.
And are you ready for the university, as Frank thought, or is that
a mistake of his, too?
Yes, said David. I am almost ready.
Oh! he was ready long ago, said Jem, coming to the rescue. Frank
said he was reading the same books that his brother read in the second
Indeed! said Mr Oswald, smiling at his eagerness. And you are
Jem? You are neither of you such giants as I gathered from Frank, but
perhaps the mistake was mine. But when one hears of horse-shoeing and
Homer you know one thinks of young men.
And this is Violet, only we call her Letty; and this is Ned, and I
am Jessie, and this is wee Polly, said Jessie, a sturdy little maiden
of eight, looking with her honest grey eyes straight into Mr Oswald's
face. He acknowledged her introduction by shaking hands with each as
she named them.
I find I have made another mistake, said he. I thought Letty was
a little girl who always stood at the head of her class, and who could
run races with her brothers, and gather nuts, and be as nice as a boy.
That was Frank's idea.
And so she can, said Ned.
And so she is, said Jem.
That was so long ago, said Violet, in confusion.
It seemed ages ago to all the children.
And Violet has grown a great deal since then, said Jem. And are
Frank's eyes better?
They are no worse. We hope they are better, but he cannot use them
with pleasure, poor fellow.
And so they went on talking together, till they were called to tea.
Miss Bethia was quite right. He did not in the least know how to begin
to say what he knew must be said before he went away.
After tea, the younger children went to bed, and Miss Bethia betook
herself to the kitchen and Debby, thinking, to herself, it would be
well for all concerned if it should fall to her to straighten out
things after all; for Mr Oswald had been walking up and down the room
in silence for the last half-hour, looking as black as thunder, Miss
Bethia said, in confidence, to Debby, and no one else had spoken a
word. It was a very painful half-hour to Mr Oswald. He had only begun
his walk when it seemed to him impossible that he could sit and look at
the pale, patient face and drooping figure of the widow a single moment
more. For he was in a great strait. He was in almost the saddest
position that a man not guilty of positive wrong can occupy. He was a
poor man, supposed to be rich. For years, his income had scarcely
sufficed for the expenses of his family; for the last year it had not
sufficed. It was necessary for the success of his business, or, he
supposed, it was necessary that he should be considered a rich man; and
he had harassed himself and strained every nerve to keep up
appearances, and now he was saying to himself that this new claim upon
him could not possibly be met. He was not a hard man, though he had
sometimes been called so. At this moment, his heart was very tender
over the widow and her children; and it was the thought that, in strict
justice, he had no right to do for them as he wished to do, that gave
him so much pain. Waiting would not make it better, however, and in a
little while he came and sat down by Mrs Inglis, and said:
It seems cruel that I should expect you to speak aboutanything
to-night. But, indeed, it is quite necessary that I should return home
to-morrow, and I might be able to advise you, if you would tell me your
But, as yet, Mrs Inglis had no plans.
It came so suddenly, said she, speaking with difficulty; andyou
are very kind.
Will you tell me just how your affairs stand? Unless there is some
one else who can do it better, I will gladly help you in your
arrangements for the future.
There was no one else, and it was not at all difficult to tell him
the state of their affairs. They were not at all involved. There were
no debts. The rent of the house was paid till the next autumn; there
were some arrears of salary, and Mrs Inglis had a claim on a minister's
widow's fund in connection with the branch of the church to which her
husband had belonged, but the sum mentioned as the possible annual
amount she would receive was so small, that, in Mr Oswald's mind, it
counted for nothing. And that was all! Mr Oswald was amazed.
Was there not something done at one timeabout insuring your
husband's life? asked he, gently.
Yes; a good many years ago. He could not manage it thennor since.
Our income has never been large. And she named the sum.
Mr Oswald rose suddenly, and began his walk about the room again. It
was incredible! A scholar and a gentleman like his cousin to rest
contented all these years with such a pittance! He knew that he had
been earnest and full of zeal in the cause to which he had devoted his
lifemore than content. Valuing money for the sake of what it could
do, he had yet envied no man who had more than fell to his lot. He must
have known that his children must be left penniless! How could he have
And how should I leave mine, if I were to die to-night? said Mr
Oswald to himself, with a groan. I who have lived a life so
He came and sat down again. But what could he say? Mrs Inglis spoke
I have made no plans as yet. There has been no time. But I am not
afraid. The way will open before us.
Yes, you must have good courage. And you will tell me in what way I
can be of use to you.
You are very kind, said Mrs Inglis, speaking quickly. You may be
sure I shall gladly avail myself of your advice. I am not afraid. My
boys are strong and willing to work. We love one another, and there are
worse things than poverty.
And, for the present, you will remain here at any rate. In a few
weeks I shall see you again; and, in the meantime, you must permit me
to supply anything you may require.
You are very kind. You may be quite sure we shall apply to you if
it be necessary. Just now it is not; and when we have had time to
consider our plans, we shall write to youif you cannot come.
Mrs Inglis paused; and, perhaps, becoming conscious that she had
spoken with unnecessary decision, she added, gently:
You are very kind. I believe you are a true friend, and that you
will do what you can to enable us to help ourselves. That will be the
best the only way to aid us effectually. With my two brave boys and
God's blessing, I don't think I need fear.
She spoke, looking, with a smile, at her sons, who were leaning over
her chair. Somehow her smile moved Mr Oswald more than her tears could
have done, and he said nothing for a minute or two. There was nothing
clearer than that she did not intend to lay the burden of her cares on
him or anyone. But what could a delicate woman, unused to battle with
the world, do to keep the wolf from the door, let her courage be ever
Will you promise me one thing? said he, rising to prepare to go.
Will you promise me to let me know how I can help youwhen your plans
are madeeither by advice or by money? I have a right. Your husband
was my relative as well as my friend.
I promise faithfully you shall be the first person to whom I shall
apply in any strait, said Mrs Inglis, rising also, and offering her
And what did your husband think of my proposal to take his son into
He thought well of it, as he wrote to you. But nothing has been
said about it yet. Can you give us a little time still? and I will
write. Believe me, I am very grateful for your kindness.
If you will only give me an opportunity to be kind. Certainly, I
can wait. A month hence will be time enough to decide.
And then, when he had bidden them all good-bye, he went away.
What did he mean by a situation, mamma? asked Jem. Is it for
Davie? Did papa know?
But Mrs Inglis could enter into no particulars that night. She had
kept up to the end of her strength.
I am very tired. I will tell you all about it another day. We must
have patience, and do nothing rashly. The way will open before us. I am
All the sadness of the next few weeks need not be told. They who
have suffered the same loss, and lived through the first sorrowful days
of bereavement, will know how it was with the mother and her children,
and they who have not could never be made to understand. Anxieties as
to the future could not but press on the heart of the mother, but they
could scarcely be said to deepen her sadness. She was not really
afraid. She knew they would not be forsakenthat their father's God
would have them in His keeping. But the thought of parting from them
of sending any of them awaywas very hard to bear.
If she could have seen it possible to stay in Gourlay, she would
have had fewer misgivings; but there was nothing in Gourlay she could
do to help to keep her children together. There was no room in so small
a place for any but the public schools, long established, and, at
present, prosperous; and teaching seemed the only thing in which she
could engage with even moderate hopes of success.
If a multitude of counsellors could have helped her, she would
have been helped. Every one had something to say, which proved that the
earnest desire of all was that she should stay in Gourlay; but no one
was so happy as to suggest a way in which she could do so without
involving some measure of dependence on the kindness of friends; and
though this might do for a little while, it could not do long, and they
would have to go at last. Still she was in no haste to go, or very
eager to make plans for the future.
The way will open before us! I am not afraid! was the end of many
an anxious discussion during these days; and thought of sending David
away from her, gave her more real pain through them all than did the
consideration of what might befall them in the future; for David was
going away to be junior clerk in the bank of Singleton, at a salary
which seemed very large to him. It was more than a third of what his
father's salary had been when it was at the best. There would not be
much left for his mother and the rest by the time he had clothed and
kept himself; but it was a beginning, and David was glad to begin, Jem
would fain have done something, too, but his mother justly felt that
the next six months at school would be of greater value to him than all
he would be likely to earn, and he was to stay at home for the present.
But the mother did not have to send David away alone. The way, for
which she had so patiently and confidently waited, opened to them
sooner than she had dared to hope. It did not open very brightly. An
opportunity to let their house to one of the new railway people made
her think first of the possibility of getting away at once; and various
circumstances, which need not be told, induced her to look to the town
of Singleton as their future place of residence. David was to be there
for a year, at least, and they could all be together, and his salary
would do something toward keeping the house, and, in a place like
Singleton, there might be more chance for getting for herself and
Violet such employment as might suit them than they could have in
It was not without some doubts and fears that this arrangement was
decided upon; but there seemed nothing better to do, and delay would
make departure none the easier. But the doubts and fears came only now
and thenthe faith in God was abiding; and if she was sorrowful in
those days, it was with a sorrow which rose from no distrust of Him who
had been her confidence all her life-long. She knew that help would
come when it was needed, and that He would be her confidence to the
Towards the end of April, they had a visit from a gentleman, who
announced himself as Mr Caldwell, senior clerk in the bank where David
was to be junior. He had come to transact business at the quarries,
several miles beyond Gourlay, and had called at the request of Mr
Oswald, and also because he wished to make the acquaintance of the
Inglis family, especially of David, whom he expected soon to have under
his immediate care. He had known Mr Inglis when he was a boy, having
been then in the employment of his uncle. The children had heard of him
often, and their mother had seen him more than once in the earlier
years of her married life, and they were not long in becoming friendly.
He was a small, dark man, slow of speech, and with some amusing
peculiarities of manner, but, evidently, kindly-disposed toward them
His first intention had been to go on to the quarries that night,
but he changed his mind before he had been long in the house, and
accepted Mrs Inglis's invitation to stay to tea; and soon, to her own
surprise, the mother found herself telling their plans to a very
attentive listener. He looked grave, when he heard of their
determination to leave Gourlay, and go and live in Singleton.
It was a warm, bright afternoon, and they were sitting on the
gallery in front of the house. The snow was nearly all gone; a soft
green was just beginning to make itself visible over the fields and
along the roadsides, and buds, purple and green and brown, were showing
themselves on the door-yard trees. The boys were amusing themselves by
putting in order the walks and flower-borders in the garden, where
there were already many budding things, and the whole scene was a very
pleasant one to look on.
Singleton is very different from this place, said he. You will
never like to live there.
But there are many things that people must endure when they cannot
like them; and there seemed to be no better way, as he acknowledged,
when he had heard all. He entered with kindly interest into all their
plans, and it was arranged that, when David went to Singleton, he
should go directly to his house, and, between them, no doubt, a
suitable house for the family would be found. And Mrs Inglis thanked
God for the new friend He had raised up for them, and took courage.
The next day, Mr Caldwell went to the quarries, and David and Jem
went with him, or rather, it should be said, Mr Caldwell went with the
boys, for they had old Don and the wagon, and made a very pleasant day
of it, going one way and coming home the other, for the sake of showing
the stranger as much of the beautiful country as possible in so short a
time. They all enjoyed the drive and the view of the country, and Mr
Caldwell enjoyed something besides. He was a quiet man, saying very
little, and what he did say came out so deliberately that any one else
would have said it in half the time. But he was a good listener, and
had the faculty of making other people talk, and the boys had a great
deal to say to him and to one another. Unconsciously they yielded to
the influence of the sweet spring air and the sunshine, and the new
sights that were around them, and the sadness that had lain so heavily
on them since their father's death lightened, they grew eager and
communicative, and, in boyish fashion, did the honours of the country
to their new friend with interest and delight. Not that they grew
thoughtless or seemed to forget. Their father's name was often on their
lips,on Jem's, at least,David did not seem to find it so easy to
utter. They had both been at the quarries before with their father, and
Jem had a great deal to say about what he had heard then, and at other
times, about the stones and rocks, the formations and strata; and he
always ended with That was what papa said, eh, Davie? as though that
was final, and there could be no dissent; and David said, Yes, Jem,
or, perhaps, only nodded his head gravely. He never enlarged or went
into particulars as Jem did; and when once they were fairly on their
way home, Jem had it all to do, for they came home by the North Gore
road, over which David had gone so many, many times; and even Jem grew
grave as he pointed out this farm and that, as belonging to one of our
people; and the grave-yard on the hill, and the red school-house
where papa used to preach. And when they came to the top of the hill
that looks down on the river, and the meadows, and the two villages,
they were both silent, for old Don stood still of his own accord, and
David, muttering something about a buckle and a strap, sprang out to
put them right, and was a long time about it, Mr Caldwell thought.
We will let the poor old fellow rest a minute, said Jem, softly;
and David stood with his face turned away, and his arm thrown over old
There was not much said after that, but they all agreed that they
had had a very pleasant day; and Mr Caldwell said to Mrs Inglis, in his
slow way, that he had enjoyed the drive, and the sight of the fine
country, and the quarries, but he had enjoyed the company of her two
boys a great deal more than all. And you may be sure it was a pleasure
to her to hear him say it.
The breaking-up of what has been a happy home, is not an easy or
pleasant thing under any circumstances. It involves confusion and
fatigue, and a certain amount of pain, even when there is an immediate
prospect of a better one. And when there is no such prospect, it is
very sad, indeed. The happy remembrances that come with the gathering
together, and looking over of the numberless things, useless and
precious, that will, in the course of years, accumulate in a house,
change to regrets and forebodings, and the future seems all the more
gloomy because of the brightness of the past.
There were few things in Mrs Inglis's house of great value; but
everything was precious to her, because of some association it had with
her husband and their past life; and how sad all this was to her, could
never be told.
The children were excited at the prospect of change. Singleton was a
large place to them, which none of them, except David and Violet, had
ever seen. So they amused one another, fancying what they would see and
do, and what sort of a life they should live there, and made a holiday
of the overturning that was taking place. But there was to the mother
no pleasing uncertainty with regard to the kind of life they were to
live in the new home to which they were going. There might be care, and
labour, and loneliness, and, it was possible, things harder to bear;
and, knowing all this, no wonder the thought of the safe and happy days
they were leaving behind them was sometimes more than she could bear.
But, happily, there was not much time for the indulgence of
regretful thoughts. There were too many things to be decided and done
for that. There were not many valuable things in the house, but there
were a great many things of one kind and another. What was to be taken?
What to be left? Where were they all to be bestowed? These questions,
and the perplexities arising out of them, were never for a long time
together suffered to be out of the mother's thoughts; and busy tongues
suggesting plans, and busy hands helping or hindering to carry them
out, filled every pause.
The very worst day of all, was the day when, having trusted Jem to
drive the little ones a few miles down the river to pay a farewell
visit, Mrs Inglis, with David and Violet, went into the study to take
down her husband's books. And yet that day had such an ending, as to
teach the widow still another lesson of grateful trust.
It was a long time before they came to the books. Papers, magazines,
pamphletsall such things as will, in the course of years, find a
place on the shelves or in the drawers of one who interests himself in
all that is going on in the worldhad accumulated in the study; and
all these had to be moved and assorted, for keeping, or destroying, or
giving away. Sermons and manuscripts, hitherto never touched but by the
hand that had written them, had to be disturbed; old letterssome from
the living and some from the deadwere taken from the secret places
where they had lain for years, and over every one of these Mrs Inglis
lingered with love and pain unspeakable.
Never mind, Davie! Take no notice, Violet, love! she said, once or
twice, when a sudden cry or a gush of tears startled them; and so very
few words were spoken all day. The two children sat near her, folding,
arranging and putting aside the papers as she bade them, when they had
passed through her hands.
Wouldn't it have been better to put them together and pack them up
without trying to arrange them, mamma? said David, at last, as his
mother paused to press her hands on her aching temples.
Perhaps it would have been better. But it must have been done some
time; and it is nearly over now.
And the books? Must we wait for another day? We have not many days
Not many! Still, I think, we must wait. I have done all I am able
to do to-day. Yes, I know you and Violet could do it; but I would like
to help, and we will wait till to-morrow.
And, besides, mamma, said Letty, from the window, here is Miss
Bethia coming up the street. And, mamma, dear, shouldn't you go and lie
down now, and I could tell her that you have a headache, and that you
ought not to be disturbed?
But Mrs Inglis could hardly have accomplished that, even if she had
tried at once, for almost before Violet had done speaking, Miss Bethia
was upon them. Her greetings were brief and abrupt, as usual; and then
Well! There! I was in hopes to see this place once more
before everything was pulled to pieces! and she surveyed the
disordered room with discontented eyes. Been looking them over to see
what you can leave behind or burn up, haven't you? And you can't make
up your mind to part with one of them. I know pretty well how that
is. The books ain't disturbed yet, thank goodness! Are you going to
take Parson Grantly's offer, and let him have some of them?
Mrs Inglis shook her head.
Perhaps I ought, said she. And yet I cannot make up my mind to do
No! of course, not! Not to him, anyhow! Do you suppose he'd ever
read them? No! He only wants them to set up on his shelf to look at. If
they've got to go, let them go to some one that'll get the good of
them, for goodness sake! Well! There! I believe I'm getting profane
about it! said Miss Bethia catching the look of astonishment on
David's face. But what I want to say is, What in all the world should
you want to go and break it up for? There ain't many libraries like
that in this part of the world.
And, indeed, there was not. The only point at which Mr Inglis had
painfully felt his poverty, was his library. He was a lover of books,
and had the desire, which is like a fire in the bones of the earnest
student, to get possession of the best books of the time as they came
from the press. All his economy in other things had reference to this.
Any overplus at the year's end, any unexpected addition to their means,
sooner or later found its way into the booksellers' hands. But neither
overplus nor unexpected addition were of frequent occurrence in the
family history of the Inglises; and from among the best of the
booksellers' treasures only the very best found their way to the
minister's study except as transitory visitors. Still, in the course of
years, a good many of these had been gathered, and he had, besides,
inherited a valuable library, as far as it went, both in theology and
in general literature; and once or twice, in the course of his life, it
had been his happy fortune to have to thank some good rich man for a
gift of books better than gold. So Miss Bethia was right in saying that
there were in the country few libraries like the one on which she stood
gazing with regretful admiration.
I can't make it seem right to do it, continued she gravely.
Just think of the book he thought so much of lying round on common
folks' shelves and tables? Why! he used to touch the very outsides of
them as if they felt good to his hands.
I remember. I have seen him, said David.
And so have I, said Violet.
If you were going to sell them all together, so as not to break it
up, it would be different, said Miss Bethia.
But I could not do that, even if I wished. Mr Grantly only wants a
small number of them, a list of which he left when he was here.
The best-looking ones on the outside, I suppose. He could tell
something about them, it's likely, by looking at the names on the
title-page, said Miss Bethia, scornfully.
But, Miss Bethia, why should you think he would not care for the
books for themselves, and read them, too? asked Violet, smiling. Mr
Grantly is a great scholar, they say.
Oh, well, child, I dare say! There are books enough. He needn't
want your pa's. But, Mrs Inglis, said Miss Bethia, impressively, I
wonder you haven't thought of keeping them for David. It won't be a
great while before he'll want just such a library. They won't eat
It will be a long time, I am afraid, said David's mother. And I
am not sure that it would not be best to dispose of them,some of
them, at least,for we are very poor, and I scarcely know whether we
shall have a place to put them. They may have to be packed up in boxes,
and of that I cannot bear to think.
No. It ain't pleasant, said Miss Bethia, meditatively. It ain't
pleasant to think about. Then rising, she added, speaking rapidly and
eagerly, Sell them to me, Mrs Inglis. I'll take good care of
them, and keep them together.
Mrs Inglis looked at her in astonishment. The children laughed, and
Do you want them to read, Miss Bethia? Or is it only for the
outside, or the names on the first page, like Mr Grantly?
Never you mind. I want to keep them together; and I expect I shall
read some in them. Mrs Inglis, I'll give you five hundred dollars down
for that book-case, just as it stands. I know it's worth more than
that, a great deal; but the chances are not in favour of your getting
more here. Come, what do you say?
If Miss Bethia had proposed to buy the church, or the grave-yard, or
the village common, or all of them together, it would not have
surprised her listeners more.
Miss Bethia, said Mrs Inglis, gently, I thank you. You are
thinking of the good the money would do to my children.
No, Mrs Inglis, I ain'tnot that alone. And that wasn't my
first thought either. I want the books for a reason I have.
But what could you do with them, Miss Bethia? asked Violet.
Do with them? I could have the book-case put up in my square room,
or I could send them to the new theological school I've heard tell
they're starting, if I wanted to. There's a good many things I could do
with them, I guess, if it comes to that.
But, Aunt Bethia, five hundred dollars is a large sum, said David.
It ain't all they're worth. If your ma thinks so, she can take
less, said Miss Bethia, prudently. O, I've got itif that's what you
mean and enough more where that came from! Some, at any rate.
David looked at her, smiling and puzzled.
I've got itand I want the books, said Miss Bethia. What do you
say, Mrs Inglis?
Miss Bethia, I cannot thank you enough for your kind thoughts
toward me and my children. But it would not be right to take your
money, even if I could bear to part with my husband's books. It would
be a gift from you to us.
No, it wouldn't. It would cost me something to part with my money,
I don't deny; but not morenot so much as it would cost you to part
with your books. And we would be about even there. And I would take
first-rate care of themand be glad to.
Mrs Inglis sat thinking in silence for a minute or two.
Miss Bethia, you are very kind. Will you let me leave the books
awhile in your care? It is quite possible we may have no place in which
to keep them safely. Children, if Miss Bethia is willing, shall we
leave papa's precious books a little while with her?
I shouldn't feel willing to get the good of your books for
Mrs Inglis smiled.
You would take care of them.
Miss Bethia hesitated, meditating deeply.
There would be a risk. What if my house were to take fire and burn
down? What should I have to show for your books, then?
But the risk would not be greater with you than with me, nor so
great. Still, of course, I would not wish to urge you.
I should like to have them, first-rate, if I could have them just
in the way I want torisk or no risk.
Violet and David laughed; even Mrs Inglis smiled. That was so
exactly what was generally asserted with regard to Miss Bethia. She
must have things in just the way she wanted them, or she would not have
them at all.
We could fix it as easy as not, all round, if you would only take
my way, said she, with a little vexation.
They all sat thinking in silence for a little.
See here! I've just thought of a plan, said she, suddenly. Let me
take the books to take care of, and you needn't take the five hundred
dollars unless you want to. Let it be in Mr Slight's hands, and while I
have the books you will have the interest. I don't suppose you know it,
but he had that much of me when he built his new tannery, eight years
ago, and he has paid me regular ten per cent, ever since. It looks like
usury, don't it? But he says it's worth that to him; and I'm sure, if
it is, he's welcome to it. Now, if you'll take that while I have the
books, I'll call it evenrisk or no risk; and you can give it up and
have the books when you want them. I call that fair. Don't you?
Did ever so extraordinary a proposal come from so unexpected a
quarter? The mother and children looked at one another in astonishment.
Miss Bethia, said Mrs Inglis, gravely, that is a large sum of
Wellthat's according as folks look at it. But don't let us worry
any more about it. There is no better way to fix it that I know of than
Mrs Inglis did not know how to answer her.
Mrs Inglis, said Miss Bethia, solemnly, I never thought you was a
difficult woman to get along with before.
But, Miss Bethia, said Violet, mamma knows that you wish to do
this for our sakes and not at all for your own.
No she doesn't, neither! And what about it, any way? It's my own,
Miss Bethia, said David, are you very rich?
Miss Bethia gave a laugh, which sounded like a sob.
Yes; I'm rich, if it comes to that! I've got more than ever I'll
spend, and nobody has got any claim on meno blood relation except
cousin Ira Barnes's folksand they're all better off than I be, or
they think so. Bless you! I can let your ma have it as well as not,
even if I wasn't going to have the books, which I am, I hope.
Miss Bethia, I don't know what to say to you, said Mrs Inglis.
Well, don't say anything, then. It seems to me you owe it to your
husband's memory to keep the books together. For my part, I don't see
how you can think of refusing my offer, as you can't take them with
To care for the booksyes
See here, David! said Miss Bethia, what do you say about it? You
are a boy of sense. Tell your ma there's no good being so contraryI
meanI don't know what I mean, exactly, added she. I shall have to
think it over a spell.
David turned his eyes toward his mother in wonderin utter
perplexity, but said nothing.
There! I'll have to tell it after all; and I hope it won't just
spoil my pleasure in it; but I shouldn't wonder. The money ain't
minehasn't been for quite a spell. I set it apart to pay David's
expenses at college; so it's his, or yours till he's of age, if you're
a mind to claim it. Your husband knew all about it.
My husband! repeated Mrs Inglis.
Yes; and now I shouldn't wonder if I had spoiled it to you, too. I
told him I was going to give it for that. As like as not he didn't
believe me, said Miss Bethia, with a sob. I've had my feelings
considerably hurt, one way and another, this afternoon. There wouldn't
any of you have been so surprised if any one else had wanted to do you
a kindnessif you will have that it's a kindness. I know some folks
have got to think I'm stingy and mean, because
Aunt Bethia, said David, taking her hand in both his, that is not
what we think here.
No, indeed! We have never thought that, said Violet, kissing her.
Then David kissed her, too, reddening a little, as boys will who
only kiss their mothers when they go to bed, or their very little
Miss Bethia, said Mrs Inglis, my husband always looked upon you
as a true friend. I do not doubt but that your kindness in this matter
comforted him at the last.
Well, then, it's settledno more need be said. If I were to die
to-night, it would be found in my will all straight. And you wouldn't
refuse to take it if I were dead, would you? Why should you now? unless
you grudge me the pleasure of seeing it. Oh! I've got enough more to
keep meif that's what you meanif I should live for forty years,
which ain't likely.
So what could Mrs Inglis do but press her hand, murmuring thanks in
the name of her children and her husband.
Miss Bethia's spirits rose.
And you'll have to be a good boy, David, and adorn the doctrine of
your Saviour, so as to fill your father's place.
Miss Bethia, I can never do that. I am not good at all.
Well, I don't suppose you are. But grace abounds, and you can have
it for the asking.
But, Miss Bethia, if you mean this becauseyou expect me to be a
minister, like papa, I am not sure, and you may be disappointedand
There ain't much one can be sure of in this world, said
Miss Bethia, with a sigh. But I can wait. You are youngthere's time
enough. If the Lord wants you for His service, He'll have you, and no
mistake. There's the money, at any rate. Your mother will want you for
the next five years, and you'll see your way clearer by that time, I
And do you mean that the money is to be minefor the university
whether I am to be a minister or not? I want to understand, Miss
Well, it was with the view of your being a minister, like your
father, that I first thought of it, I don't deny, said Miss Bethia,
gravely. But it's yours any way, as soon as your mother thinks best to
let you have it. If the Lord don't want you for his minister, I'm very
sure I don't. If He wants you, He'll have you; and that's as
good a way to leave it as any.
There was nothing more to be said, and Miss Bethia had her way after
all. And a very good way it was.
And we'll just tell the neighbours that I am to take care of the
books till you know where you are to put themfolks take notice of
everything so. That'll be enough to say. And, David, you must make out
a list of them,two, indeed,one to leave with me and one to take,
and I'll see to all the rest.
And so it was settled. The book-case and the books were never moved.
They stand in the study still, and are likely to do so for a good while
This is as good a place as any to tell of Miss Bethia's good
fortune. She was disposed, at first, to think her fortune anything but
good; for it took out of her hands the house that had been her home for
the last thirty years of her lifewhere she had watched by the
death-bed of father, mother, sister. It destroyed the little
twenty-acre farm, which, in old times, she had sowed and planted and
reaped with her own hands, bringing to nothing the improvements which
had been the chief interest of her life in later years; for, in spite
of her determined resistance, the great Railway Company had its way, as
great companies usually do, and laid their plans, and carried them out,
for making the Gourlay Station there.
So the hills were levelled, and the hollows filled up; the fences
and farming implements, and the house itself, carried out of the way,
and all the ancient landmarks utterly removed.
Just as if there wasn't enough waste land in the country, but they
must take the home of a solitary old woman to put their depots, and
their engines, and their great wood-piles on, said Miss Bethia, making
a martyr of herself.
But, of course, she was well paid for it all, and, to her
neighbours, was an object of envy rather than of pity; for it could not
easily be understood by people generally, how the breaking-up of her
house seemed to Miss Bethia like the breaking-up of all things, and
that she felt like a person lost, and friendless, and helpless for a
little while. But there, was a bright side to the matter, she was, by
and by, willing to acknowledge. She knew too well the value of
moneyhad worked too hard for all she had, not to feel some come
complacency in the handsome sum lodged in the bank in her name by the
It is a great thing to have money, most people think, and Miss
Bethia might have had a home in any house in Gourlay that summer if she
chose. But she knew that would not suit anybody concerned long; so,
when it was suggested to her that she should purchase the house which
the departure of Mrs Inglis and her children left vacant, she
considered the matter first, and then accomplished it. It was too large
for her, of course, but she let part of it to Debby Stone, who brought
her invalid sister there, and earned the living of both by working as a
tailoress. Miss Bethia did something at that, too, and lived as
sparingly as she had always done, and showed such shrewdness in
investing her money, and such firmness in exacting all that was her
due, that some people, who would have liked to have a voice in the
management of her affairs, called her hard, and a screw, and wondered
that an old woman like her should care so much for what she took so
little good of.
But Miss Bethia took a great deal of good out of her money, or out
of the use she made of it, and meant to make of it; and a great many
people in Gourlay, and out of it, knew that she was neither hard nor a
And the book-case still stood up-stairs, and Miss Bethia took
excellent care of the books, keeping the curtains drawn and the room
dark, except when she had visitors. Then the light was let in, and she
grew eloquent over the books and the minister, and the good he had done
her in past days; but no one ever heard from her lips how the books
came to be left in her care, or what was to become of them at last.
May has come again, and the Inglises had been living a whole year in
Singleton; or, rather, they had been living in a queer little house
just out of Singleton. The house itself was well enough, and the place
had been a pretty place once; but Miss Bethia's enemiesthe great
Railway Companyhad been at work on it, and about it, and they had
changed a pretty field of meadow-land, a garden and an orchard, into a
desolate-looking place, indeed. There was no depot or engine-house in
the immediate neighbourhood, but the railway itself came so close to
it, and rose so high above it, that the engine-driver might almost have
looked down the cottage chimney as he passed.
Just beyond the town of Singleton, the highway was crossed by the
railway, and, in one of the acute angles which the intersection made,
the little house stood. On the side of the house, most distant from the
crossing, were two bridges (one on the railway and the other on the
high road), both so high and so strong as to seem quite out of place
over the tiny stream that, for the greater part of the year, ran
beneath them. It was a large stream at some seasons, however, and so
was the Single River into which it fell; and the water from the Single
sometimes set back under the bridges and over the low land till the
house seemed to stand on an island. The Single River could not be seen
from the house, although it was so near, because the railway hid it,
and all else in that direction, except the summit of a distant
mountain, behind which, at midsummer-time, the sun went down. From the
other side, the road was seen, and a broken field, over which a new
street or two had been laid out, and a few dull-looking houses built;
and to the right of these streets lay the town.
It was not a pretty place, but it had its advantages. It was a far
better home to which to bring country-bred children than any which
could have been found within their means in the town. They could not
hesitate between it and the others which they went to see; and, as Mr
Oswald had something to do with the Railway Company, into whose hands
it had fallen, it was easily secured. There were no neighbours very
near, and there was a bit of garden-groundthe three-cornered piece
between the house and the crossing, and a strip of grass, and a hedge
of willows and alders on the other side, on the edge of the little
stream between the two bridges, and there was no comparison between the
house and any of the high and narrow brick tenements with doors opening
right upon the dusty street.
And so the mother and the children came to make a new home there,
and they succeeded. It was a happy home. Not in quite the same way that
their home in Gourlay had been happy. No place could ever be quite like
that again; but when the first year came to an end, and the mother
looked back over all the way by which they had been led, she felt that
she had much cause for gratitude and some cause for joy. The children
had, in the main, been good and happy; they had had all the necessaries
and some of the comforts of life; they had had no severe illness among
them, and they had been able to keep out of debt.
To some young people, all this may not seem very much in the way of
happiness, but, to Mrs Inglis, it seemed much, and to the children too.
Mrs Inglis had not opened a school. The house was too small for that,
and it was not situated in a part of the town where there were likely
to be many pupils. She had taught three or four little girls along with
her own children, but the number had not increased.
During the first six months of their stay in Singleton, Violet had
been house-keeper. The change had not been altogether pleasant for her,
but she had submitted to it cheerfully, and it had done her good. She
had become helpful and womanly in a way that would have delighted old
Mrs Kerr's heart to see. To her mother and her brothers she was one of
the children still, but strangers were beginning to look upon her as a
grown-up young lady, a good many years older than David or Jem.
To Jem, for whom his mother had feared most, the change had been
altogether advantageous. He had come to Singleton with the avowed
intention of going regularly to school, as his mother wished, for six
months, and then he was going to seek his fortune. But six months
passed, and the year came to an end, and Jem was still a pupil in the
school of Mr Anstruthera man among a thousand, Jem thought. He was a
great mathematician, at any rate, and had a kind heart, and took
interest and pleasure in the progress of one who, like himself, went to
his work with a will, as Jem certainly did in these days.
Jem's wish to please his mother brought him this reward, that he
came to take great pleasure in his work, and all the more that he knew
he was laying a good foundation for success in the profession which he
had chosen, and in which he meant to excel. For Jem was going to be an
engineer, and work with his hands and his head too; and though he had
no more chances of shoeing horses now, he had, through a friend of his,
many a good chance of handling iron, both hot and cold, in the great
engine-house at the other side of the town. So Jem had made great
advance toward manliness since they had come to Singleton.
Greater than David had made, some of the Gourlay people thought, who
saw both the lads about this time. Even his mother thought so for a
while. At least she thought that Jem had changed more than Davie, and
more for the better. To be sure, there had been more need, for Davie
had always been a sensible, well-behaved lad, and even the most
charitable and kindly-disposed among the neighbours could not always
say that of Jem. Davie was sensible and well-behaved still, but there
was none of the children about whom the mother had at first so many
anxious thoughts as about David.
To none of them had the father's death changed everything so much as
to him. Not that he had loved his father more than the others, but for
the last year or two he had been more with him. Both his work and his
recreation had been enjoyed with him, and all the good seemed gone from
everything to him since his father died. His new work in Singleton was
well done, and cheerfully, and the knowledge that he was for the time
the chief bread-winner of the family, would have made him do any work
cheerfully. But it was not congenial or satisfying work. For a time he
had no well defined duty, but did what was to be done at the bidding of
any one in the office, and often he was left irritable and exhausted
after a day, over which he could look back with no pleasure because of
anything that he had accomplished.
He could not fall back for recreation on his books, as his mother
suggested. He tried it oftener than she knew, but the very sight of the
familiar pages, over which he used to ponder with such interest,
brought back the study, and the old happy days, and his father's face
and voice, and made him sick with longing for them all. There was no
comfort to be got from his books at this time. Nor from anything else.
The interest in which the little ones took in their new home and their
new companions, Jem's enthusiasm over his new master and his school
work, Violet's triumphs in her little house-keeping successes, filled
him with wonder which was not always free from anger and contempt. Even
his mother's gentle cheerfulness was all read wrong by Davie. He said
to himself that his father had been more to him than to the other
children, and that he missed him more than they, but he could not say
this of his mother; and daily seeing her patient sweetness, her
constant care to turn the bright side of their changed life to her
children, it seemed to him almost like indifferencelike a willingness
to forget. He hated himself for the thought, and shrunk from his
mother's eye, lest she should see it and hate him too.
But all this did not last very long. It must have come to an end
soon, in one way or other, for youth grows impatient of sorrow, and
lays it down at last, and thanks to his mother's watchful care, it
ended well for David.
He had no hay-loft to which he could betake himself in these days
when he wished to be alone; but when he felt irritable and impatient,
and could not help showing it among his brothers and sisters, he used
to go out through the strip of grass and the willows into the dry bed
of the shrunken stream that flowed beneath the two bridges, and sitting
down on the large stones of which the abutment of the railroad bridge
was made, have it out with himself by the bank of the river alone. And
here his mother found him sitting one night, dull and moody, throwing
sticks and stones into the water at his feet. She came upon him before
he was aware.
Mamma! you here? How did you come? On the track?
No; I followed you round by the willows and below the bridge. How
quiet it is here!
The high embankment of the railway on one side, and the river on the
other, shut in the spot where David sat, and made it solitary enough to
suit him in his moodiest moments, and his mother saw that he did not
look half glad at her coming. But she took no notice. The great stones
that made the edge of the abutment were arranged like steps of stairs,
and she sat down a step or two above him.
Did the sun set clear? Or were there clouds enough about to make a
picture to-night? asked she, after a little.
Yes, it was clear, I think. At least not very cloudy. I hardly
noticed, said Davie, confusedly.
I wish we could see the sun set from the house.
Yes, it is very pretty sometimes. When the days were at the
longest, the sun set behind the highest part of the mountain just in a
line with that tall elm on the other side of the river. It sets far to
the left now.
Yes, the summer is wearing on, said his mother. And so they went
on talking of different things for a little while, and then there was
Mamma, said David, by and by, are you not afraid of taking cold?
It is almost dark.
No. I have my thick shawl. And moving down a step, she so arranged
it that it fell over David too.
Ah! never mind me. I am not so delicate as all that, mamma, said
David, laughing, but he did not throw the shawl off, but rather drew a
little nearer, and leaned on her lap.
See the evening star, mamma. I always think
David stopped suddenly.
Of papa, said his mother, softly.
Yes, and of the many, many times we have seen it together. We
always used to look for it coming home. Sometimes he saw it first, and
sometimes I did; and oh! mamma, there don't seem to be any good in
anything now, said he, with a breaking voice.
Instead of speaking, his mother passed her hand gently over his
Will it ever seem the same, mamma?
Never the same, Davie! never the same! We shall never see his face,
nor hear his voice, nor clasp his hand again. We shall never wait for
his coming home in all the years that are before us. It will never,
never be the same.
Mamma! how can you bear it?
It was God's will, and it is well with him, and I shall see him
again, said his mother, brokenly. But when she spoke in a minute her
voice was clear and firm as ever.
It will never be the same to any of us again. But you are wrong in
one thing. All the good has not gone out of life because of our loss.
It seems so to me, mamma.
But it is not so. We have our work in the world just as before, and
you have your preparation for it.
But I cannot make myself care for anything as I used to do.
There must be something wrong then, Davie, my boy.
Everything is wrong, I think, mamma.
If one thing is wrong, nothing can be right, David, said
his mother, stooping down and kissing him softly. What did your father
wish first for his son?
That I should be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. I know that,
And you have been forgetting this? That hast not changed, Davie.
No, mammabutI am so good for nothing. You don't know
Yes, I know. But then it is not one's worth that is to be
considered, dear. The more worthless and helpless we are, the more we
need to be made His who is worthy. And Davie, what do we owe to `Him
who loved us, and gave Himself for us?'
Ourselves, mamma, our life, our love
And have you given Him these?
I don't know, mamma.
And are you content not to know?
I am not contentbut how am I to know, mamma, said David, rising
and kneeling down on the broad stone beside her. May I tell you
something? It was that nightat the very lastpapa asked me if I was
ready to put on the armour he was laying down; and I said yes; and,
mamma, I meant it. I wished to do so, oh, so much!but everything has
been so miserable since then
And don't you wish it still, my son?
Mamma, I know there is nothing else that, is any good, but I cannot
make myself care for it as I did then.
David, said his mother, do you love Jesus?
Yes, mamma, indeed I love Him. I know Him to be worthy of my love.
And you desire to be His servant to honour Him, and do His will?
Yes, mamma, if I only knew the way.
David, it was His will that papa should be taken from us; but you
are angry at our loss.
Angry! oh, mamma!
You are not submissive under His will. You fail to have confidence
in His love, or His wisdom, or in His care for you. You think that in
taking him He has made a mistake or been unkind.
I know I am all wrong, mamma.
David, my boy, perhaps it is this which is standing between you and
a full consecration to His service.
And then she spoke to him of his father, and of his work, and how
blessed he had been in it, and of the rest and reward to which he had
A little sooner than we would have chosen for our own sakes, Davie,
but not too soon for him, or for his Master.
A great deal more she said to him of the life that lay before him,
and how he might help her and his brothers and sisters. Then she spoke
of his work for Christ, and of his preparation for it, and how
hopeful nay, how sure she was, that happy and useful days were before
himall the more happy and useful because of the sorrow he had been
passing through. As one whom his mother comforteth, came into David's
mind as he listened.
And it is I who ought to be comforting you, mamma. I know I am all
wrong said he, with tears.
We will comfort one another. And indeed, it is my best comfort to
comfort you. And, Davie, my love, we will begin anew.
There was more said after thatof the work that lay ready at his
hand, of how he was to take out his books again, lest he should fall
back on his studies, and do discredit to his father's teaching, and of
how he was to help his brothers and sisters, especially Violet and Jem.
Only, mamma, I think they have been getting on very well without me
all this time, said Davie, ruefully.
Not so well as they will with you, however, said his mother.
Everything will go better now.
Everything did go better after that with David. His troubles were
not over. His books gave him pain rather than pleasure, for a while,
and it needed a struggle for him to interest himself in the plans and
pursuits of Jem, and even of Violet. But he did not grow moody over his
failures, and by and by there came to be some good in life to him
again, and his mother's heart was set at rest about him, for she began
to hope that it was well with David in the best sense now.
During the first summer they saw very little of the Oswalds. They
lived quite at the other end of the town, in a house very different
from the bridge house, as their cottage was called, and for the
greater part of the summer, the young people of the family had been
away from home. But in the autumn it was so arranged that Violet at
least, was to see a great deal of some of them. Mr Oswald had six
children, four daughters and two sons. His eldest daughter Ame had been
mistress of the house since her return from school, at the time of her
mother's death. This had happened several years ago. She was
twenty-four years of age, very clever and fond of society. She was
engaged to be married, but she did not intend to leave home
immediately, from which indeed she could not easily have been spared.
They had much company always, and she had a great deal to do in
entertaining them, and led a very busy and, as she thought, a very
useful life in her father's house.
The next in age was Philip, but he was not at home. He was in his
last year at MUniversity, and was to be home in the Spring. Selina
came next. She was one year younger than Violet, and would fain have
considered herself a grown-up young lady, and her education finished,
if her father and sister had agreed. Then came Frank, who was not very
strong, and whose eyes were still weak, and then Charlotte and Sarah,
girls of ten and twelve. It was to teach these two that Violet was to
go to Mr Oswald's house.
Mrs Inglis felt that the proposal had been made by Mr Oswald quite
as much with the thought of helping them as of benefiting his children,
who had before this time gone to a day-school in the neighbourhood. But
she did not refuse to let Violet go on that account. She believed her
to be fitted for the work. She knew her to be gentle and affectionate,
yet firm and conscientious, that she would be faithful in the
performance of her duties towards the little girls, and that they would
be the gainers in the end by the arrangement. And so it proved.
The first intention was that Violet should return home every night,
but as the season advanced and the weather broke, the distance was
found to be too great, and besides, Violet's slumbering ambition was
awakened by the proposal that she should share in the German and French
lessons which Selina received from Professor Olendorf, and so she
stayed in the house with her pupils, only going home on Friday night to
spend the Sunday there.
She had very little share in the gay doings for which Miss Oswald
was ambitious that her father's house should be distinguished. For Miss
Oswald had strong opinions as to the propriety of young girls like
Violet and Selina keeping themselves to their lessons and their
practising, and leading a quiet life, and so had her father. Even if he
had not, it is likely that Miss Oswald's opinion would have decided the
matter. As it was, Selina became content to stay at home in Violet's
company when her sister went out, and Violet was more than content. She
enjoyed her work both of teaching and learning, and the winter passed
happily and profitably away.
Of course she was missed at home, but not painfully so. There were
no pupils for her mother to teach in the winter. Ned went to school,
and there was only Jessie to teach, and a good many of the lessons she
received was in the way of household work, and she soon began to take
pride and pleasure in it as Violet had done before.
And so the winter passed quietly and happily to them all. There was
need for constant carefulness, for rigid economy even, but want never
came near them. How to make the most of their small means, was a
subject at this time much in Mrs Inglis's thoughts. How to obtain the
necessary amount of the simplest and most wholesome food, at the
smallest cost, was a problem solved over and over again, with greater
or less satisfaction, according to the circumstances at the moment.
There was a certain amount of care and anxiety involved, but there was
pleasure too, and all the more that they knew the exact amount of their
means, and what they had to come and go upon.
They had some pleasant surprises in the shape of kind gifts of
remembrance from Gourlay friends, gladly given and gladly received,
less because of present necessities than because of old friendship.
Want! no, it never came near themnever even threatened to come near
them. When the winter was over, they could look back to what Jem called
a tight spot or two in the matter of boots and firewood, but on
nothing very serious after all.
The boots and the firewood were the worst things. No one can tell
till she has really tried, how much beyond the natural turn of
existence almost any garment may be made to last and wear to preserve
an appearance of respectability by a judicious and persevering use of
needle and thread. But boots, especially boys' boots, are unmanageable
in a woman's hands, and, indeed, in any hands beyond a certain stage of
dilapidation; and every one knows, that whatever else may be old, and
patched, and shabby, good boots are absolutely indispensable to the
keeping up of an appearance of respectability, and, indeed, one may
say, with some difference, to the keeping of a lad's self-respect. The
boots were matters of serious consideration.
As to the firewood, there is a great difference as to the comfort to
be got out of the same quantity of firewood, depending on the manner in
which it is used, but even with the utmost care and economy, it will
consume away, and in a country where during seven months of the year
fires are needed, a great deal must consume away. Even more than the
consideration given to the boots, the wood had to be considered, and it
was all the more a matter of difficulty, as economy in that direction
was a new necessity. Boots had always been a serious matter to the
Inglises, but wood had been plentiful at Gourlay. However, there were
boots enough, and wood enough, and to spare, and things that were
vexing to endure, were only amusing to look back upon, and when Spring
came, none of the Inglises looked back on the winter with regret, or
forward to the summer with dread, and so their first year in Singleton
came happily to an end.
It was Saturday afternoon and a holiday with the schoolboys, of
course. It was a holiday to them all, for Mrs Inglis and Violet were
out of doors too, sitting on the gallery in the sunshine, and Davie was
coming home. He was at the moment crossing the bridge at a great pace,
and so eager to be among them, that instead of going soberly round by
the gate, as he was accustomed to do, he took Jem's fashion and swung
himself first over the side of the bridge, and then over the fence into
the garden. They might well look surprised, and all the more so that it
was high water, and he had to scramble along the unsteady fence and
through the willows before he could get to the grass dry shod.
Well done, Davie! you are growing young again, said Jem.
David sat down on the steps at his mother's feet laughing and
Is it a half holiday? asked his mother.
Yes; Frank came to the bank and begged Mr Caldwell to let me go out
in the boat with him and his brother this afternoon.
And he was willing to let you go, I suppose?
Yes; he was not quite sure about the boat, and he said I must come
first and ask you, mamma.
A long walk and a short sail. It won't pay, Davie, said Jem. You
would not have cared, would you, mamma?
But I must have come at any rate to change my clothes. We shall
very likely get wet.
How very prudent! said Jem.
Very proper, said his mother.
Well, be quick, or you'll keep them waiting. It is well to be you,
said Jem. I wish the high and mighty Phil Oswald would ask me to sail
Perhaps he may; he is bringing the boat here. Mamma, I have some
The children gathered round to listen.
That is why you came jumping over the fence, instead of coming
round by the gate, said Ned.
Violet knows it! said Jessie; look at her face.
No, I don't know it. I might, perhaps, guess it.
It was no very wonderful news. Only that Mr Caldwell had reminded
David that he had that day been a year in the office, and that next
year his salary was to be raised. Not much. It did not seem a great sum
even to Ned and Jessie. But it was worth a great deal more than the
mere money value, because it implied that David was getting to
understand his work, and that his employer knew it, and had confidence
in him. The mother said something like this to him and to them all, and
she was very much pleased.
Our Davie will be a rich man some day! said Jem. I thought I was
to be the rich man of the family, but it don't look like it now.
It will be a while first, said David.
You will be a banker, said Ned.
I am afraid I ought to be gardener this afternoon, said David,
looking round on the garden.
No use. The water is rising. We shall be flooded yet, said Jem.
There is no time lost yet, said his mother.
It is better that we should be a little late, than that the water
should cover the earth after the seeds are sown.
The broad, shallow channel at the end of the garden was full, and
the willows that fringed the bit of green grass were far out into the
water. The water almost touched the bridge across the road, and filled
the hollow along the embankment.
And, besides, you are going to sail, said Jem.
I think it would be quite as pleasant to stay here.
They were all sitting on the little gallery before the house. It
must have been a charming place once, when the river could be seen from
it, and the pretty view beyond. At present, nothing could be seen on
that side but the high embankment, and the few rods of garden-ground.
On the other side were the willows, already green and beautiful, and
some early-budding shrubs and the grass. Then there was the water,
flowing down between the two bridges, and, over all, the blue sky and
the sweet spring air. It was a charming place still, or it seemed so to
David and them all.
The garden-beds had already been made, and a great many green things
were springing here and there, and, on a rugged old apple-tree and on
some plum and cherry trees, the buds were beginning to show themselves.
The children were eager to be at work, but, for the present, that was
not to be thought of. However, there was much to be said about the
garden, and about the seeds which were to be sown, and Jessie was eager
about a plan for covering the high embankment with squash-vines and
scarlet-runners. Fred wanted to keep bees, and ducks if they could have
them, but bees certainly; and amid the happy clamour which their voices
made there came a shout, and, from under the railway bridge from the
river, a boat was seen advancing.
Here we are at last! called out Frank Oswald; and it looks very
much as if here we must stay. We cannot get any further, Phil.
The Inglis children were soon as near the boat as the willows and
the water would permit. There seemed to be no way of getting the boat
to the bank, for the willows were far out into the water, and through
them it could not be forced.
You'll have to land on the other side and go round by the bridge,
They were not using oars. That would have been impossible in a
channel so narrow. They were pushing the boat through the water by
means of a long pole, but it was not very easily managed, because of
the shallowness of the water and the bushes that grew on the margin.
Jem is right; we must go to the other side, said Frank.
Not I, said his brother, as he planted his pole firmly on the
bank, measuring the distance with his eye. Then throwing himself
forward with a sudden spring, he was over the willows and over the
water beyond, landing safely on the nicely-prepared onion-bed.
Well done! cried Jem.
Not at all well done, said Frank, who had only saved himself from
being overturned into the water by grasping a branch near him.
Philip only laughed, as he shook hands with Mrs Inglis and Violet.
Take my place in the boat and have a row on the river, said he, as
he sat down on the steps near them. I have had enough of it for
Jem was nothing loth, but he looked at his mother for permission.
Is it quite safe, do you think? asked she hesitating.
Oh! quite safe. Frank understands all about it; and so does Jem, I
Mamma! entreated Ned.
And mamma! entreated Jessie.
On the Gourlay river the boys had paddled about at their own
pleasure, and their mother was not inclined to be unreasonably anxious
about them. She knew it would be a great delight to them all to be
permitted to go.
But there is not room for all; and Mr Oswald will not care to be
troubled with so many children.
Let them go with the boysthere is no danger, and I will wait
here, said Philip. Only you must promise to come back within a
reasonable time, Jem.
All right! said Jem. I promise. Come along Violet. There is room
for you, and Polly too.
But Mr Philip thought there was not room for all, and Mrs Inglis
would not trust little Mary with them, so they went without them.
This was Mr Philip's first visit to the bridge house. Mrs Inglis had
seen him at church, and David had seen him a good many times at the
bank. He had been at home a week or two, and Violet had, of course,
seen him every day. David had acknowledged that he did not like him
very much, and Jem called him a swell, and spoke contemptuously of
his fine clothes and fine manners. Violet had taken his part, and said
he was just like other people. He was very kind to his little sisters,
she said. There had been a good deal said about him in one way or
another, and Mrs Inglis regarded him with curiosity and interest. He
was a good-looking lad, with a pleasant face and manner. Just like
other people, did not quite do him justice. Mrs Inglis could not help
thinking Jem's idea of a swell did not suit him certainly. He was not
fine, on the present occasion, either in dress or manners. David had
said very little about about him, but he had not approved of him, and,
seeing the young man now so frank and friendly, she could not but
They did not go into the house, and by and by they all crossed the
garden and went up on the railway track to watch the boat; and, being a
little behind the others, leading little Mary between them, his mother
asked David what was the reason of his dislike.
Dislike! mamma, said David, in surprise. I don't dislike him. I
don't know him very well. He has had very little to say to me. Why
should you think that I dislike him?
Perhaps dislike is too strong a word. But I fancied that you did
not quite approve of him, David.
Approve of him! Wellhe is not one of usof our kind of people, I
mean. He does not look at things as we do. I don't dislike him, mamma,
but I don't care about him.
Which means he doesn't care about you? said his mother, smiling.
He certainly does not. He is much too great a man to have anything
to say to me. But I don't think that is the reason that I don't
`approve' of him, as you say. He is not in earnest about anything. He
is extravaganthe spends a great deal of money foolishly. But I ought
not to speak of that. Mr Caldwell told me, and he seemed quite as well
pleased that we should have little to say to one another. He said Frank
was the better companion for Jem and me.
I dare say that is true, said his mother.
But all this did not prevent the young people from having a very
pleasant afternoon together. The boat came back after a reasonable
time, and then the others went for a sail, and David acknowledged that
Mr Philip was in earnest about his rowing, at any rate, and permitted
himself to admire his activity and skill. When the boat was brought in
among the willows again, it was almost dark.
Suppose we leave it here? said Frank. It will be quite safe, and
we can send for it on Monday.
It would not be a bad place to leave it here altogether, said his
Jem was delighted with the idea, and said so; but David gave his
mother a doubtful look.
Come in to tea, said she, and you can decide about it
The Oswalds had not dined, but they did not refuse the invitation,
as, for a single minute, Violet hoped they might. The simple
arrangements of her mother's table were not at all like those which
Miss Oswald considered necessary in her father's house, but they were
faultless in their way, and Violet was ashamed of her shame almost as
soon as she was conscious of it.
Aunt Mary, said Frank, after they were seated at the table, won't
you ask me to spend the afternoon here to-morrow? I like your Sundays.
Mrs Inglis did not answer for a moment, but Jem answered for her.
All right, Frank! Come straight from church. Your father will let
you, won't he?
If Aunt Mary were to ask me, he would. I am not sure, otherwise,
said Frank. What do you say, Aunt Mary?
Philip looked at him in astonishment.
Never mind, Phil, said Frank. Aunt Mary and I understand.
We are old friends, said Mrs Inglis, smiling.
I think he is very bold, said his brother. What if I were to
insist on being invited in that persistent way?
That would be quite different, said Frank. You are a stranger. I
was often here last winter. I am one of the children when I am here.
Aunt Mary does not make a stranger of me.
But, Frank, said Jessie, David is away now on Sunday afternoon,
and Violet and Jem. And, perhaps, mamma will let us all go, and go
herself, if there are any more children.
Where? asked Frank.
At Sunday-schooldown on Muddy Lane. Mr Caldwell's Sunday-school.
Old Caldwell! said Frank. That's the way, is it? How do you like
Sunday-school is not a new thing to us, you know, said David.
But it is a new thing for you to be a teacher, said Jem. Oh! he
likes it. Davie's a great man on Sunday, down in Muddy Lane.
I went once, said Jessie, and it is very nice. Letty sings, and
the children sing too. And one of the girls broke Letty's parasol
And Mrs Inglis's attention being occupied for the moment, Jessie gave
other particulars of the school, quite unmindful of her sister's
attempts to stop her.
Ned had something to tell, too, and entered into minute particulars
about a wager between two of the boys, as to whether Mr Caldwell wore a
wig or not, and the means they took to ascertain the truth about it.
They must be rather stupid not to know that, said Frank.
Do you like it? asked Philip of Violet.
Yes, indeed! I like it very much. But I don't like Ned's telling
tales out of school, nor Jessie, either.
But mine are not bad tales. I like it too, said Jessie.
But I should think it would be very unpleasant. And what is the
good of it? Muddy Lane of all places! said Philip, making an
That shows that you don't know Aunt Mary and her children, said
Frank, laughing. You would never ask what is the good, if you did.
I know, of course, there must be good to the children, but I should
think it would be decidedly unpleasant for you. Muddy Lane cannot be a
nice place at any time, and now that the warm weather is coming
You don't suppose Violet is one of the people who is afraid of a
little dust, or bad odours, and all that, do you? asked Frank.
She rather likes itself-denial and all that, said Jem. And as
Nonsense, Jem! Self-denial indeed! There is very little of that,
said David. You know better than that, if Frank does not.
And old Caldwell, of all people in the world, said Philip,
laughing; I did not suppose he could speak to any one younger than
fiftyexcept Davie. What can he have to say to children, I wonder?
Oh, he has enough to say. You ought to hear him, said Jem.
Thank you. I'll come and hear himto-morrow, perhaps.
Mr Caldwell did not like the new hymn-book at first, said Jessie.
But the children like them, and Letty teaches them to sing, and it is
very nice. I hope we can go to-morrow.
I hope so, said Mr Philip.
But you don't care about such things, do you? asked Jessie.
I ought to care, ought I not?
Yes; but you ought not just to make believe care.
Mr Philip laughed a little.
There is no make believe about it. I shall like to go to-morrow
They were all away from the table by this time, and Frank sat down
with David on the window seat. He put his arm round his shoulder,
boyish fashion, and laid his head down upon it.
Is it military duty you are doing, Davie, down in Muddy Lane? said
All the talk that had been going on had put David out a good deal,
and he did not answer for a minute. It seemed to him that a great deal
had been made of a little matter, and he was not well pleased.
Don't you remember about the `armour,' said Frank.
Don't Frank? said David. It hurt him to think that Frank should
make a jest of that.
Indeed I am not jesting, Davie. That is one way of fighting the
good fightis it not? And I want to have a good long talk about it
With mamma, you mean.
Yes, and with you. Don't you remember Hobab and old Tim?
David did not answer in words, and both the boys sat silent, while
the others grew eager in discussing quite other things. It was growing
dark, and Philip decided that it would be better to leave the boat and
walk home. Then something was said about future sails, and then Philip
told them of a friend of his who was going to be one of a party who
were to explore the country far west. He was going to try and persuade
his father to let him join it. It was an exploring company, but a good
many were to join it for the sake of the hunting and fishing, and the
adventures that might fall in their way. They were to be away for
months, perhaps for the whole summer, and a great deal of enjoyment was
anticipated. Jem listened intently.
That would just suit me, mamma, said he, with a sigh.
I dare say it would be pleasant for a while, said she, smiling.
It would hardly suit you to lose a summer out of your life, Jem,
said David, sharply.
You are there! are you, David? No, that wouldn't suit me, exactly.
Lose a year out of his life! What can you mean? said Mr Philip, in
What would come out of such a summer, except just the pleasure of
it? said David.
Well! there would be a great deal of pleasure. What else would you
David made no answer.
Davie means that there is something besides one's pleasure to be
considered in this world, said Frank.
David means that Jem can find pleasure and profit without going so
far for them, said Mrs Inglis.
David is a young prig, said Mr Philip to himself, and as they were
going home he said it to his brother in decided terms.
That's your idea of it, is it? said Frank. You know just about as
much of Davie and Aunt Mary, and that sort of people, as I know about
the Emperor of China. I know there is such a person, and that is
all I do know.
It is never too late to learn, and if they have no objection, I
mean to know them better.
They are not your kind of people, said Frank, decidedly.
You mean they are very good and religious and all. I am not a
heathen or a Turk, Frank, my boy.
I could never make you understand the difference, said Frank,
Never make you understand! said Philip, mimicking his voice and
manner. I think I can understand them pretty well without your help.
Don't trouble yourself. They are just like other people. It is true
that Mrs Inglis looks just as much of a lady in her plain gown and in
that shabby room as she could in any of the fine drawing-rooms, and
that is more than could be said of some of the ladies I know. She is a
good woman, too, I am sure. As for Davie, he is a young prigthough he
is good, too, I dare say. Violet is a little modest flower. They are
very nice, all of them, but they are not beyond my powers of
comprehension, I fancy, Frank, lad.
All right, if you think so, said Frank.
Philip was amused and a little vexed at his brother's persistency.
Do you know them, Frank,`understand' them, as you call it?
I know they are very different from us, and from all the people we
know most about, and I think I know what makes the difference, though I
don't quite understand it. You would know what I mean if you had seen
Mr Inglis and knew the kind of life he lived.
I have seen, and I know what his character was. He was an unworldly
sort of man, I believe.
He did not live for his own pleasure, said Frank, gravely. He
wasn't his own. He lived to serve his Master. I can't tell you. You
should speak to Davie or Violet about him, or to Aunt Mary.
Well, so I will, some day, said Philip.
Frank made no reply.
In the meantime Mr Philip was being just as freely discussed by the
young people they had left. Jem was delighted with their new friend. He
was a fine fellow, not at all swell, as he had supposed. Jem grew
enthusiastic over his friendliness, his boat, his rowing, and hoped he
might come often. So did the little ones.
David does not like him, said Violet.
I liked him this afternoon well enough, said David.
Yes, he was nice this afternoon; but he is not always nice with his
sisters. He is good to the little ones, said Violet.
I dare say his sisters are not very good to him. I can easily
believe it, said Jem.
He is not like the people we have been taught to admire, said
He always thinks of himself first, said Violet. And he is not
really in earnest about anything.
Mamma, listen to Davie and Letty speaking evil of their
neighbours, said Jem.
Not speaking evil, I hope, said Mrs Inglis, but still not
speaking with charity, I am afraid.
I was not speaking evil of him, mamma, said Violet. I only meant
that he does not care for anything very much, except to amuse himself.
I think he is rather foolish, but I would not speak evil of him.
See that you don't, then, said Jem.
He made himself very agreeable this afternoon, that is all we need
say, said Mrs Inglis. We are not likely to see very much of him in
Nothing more was said at that time. They saw a good deal of both
brothers during the next few weeks. But they saw nothing for a good
while that inclined either Violet or Davie to change their opinion of
the elder one.
The next day Frank came home with them from church. He was the only
one of the family at church that day, for it had rained in the morning,
and they were not very regular churchgoers at the best of times.
Papa said I might go home with you, if Aunt Mary asked me, said
Frank, as he joined them at the door.
Come on, then, said Jem. Mamma doesn't approve of Sunday
visiting, as a general thing, but you are one of ourselves by this
time. Mamma, ask Frank to come.
Mrs Inglis smiled.
Come and read with the children, Frank, said she.
Frank was only too happy to go. He did not go to the Sunday-school
with the others, but chose to stay at home with Mrs Inglis and little
Mary. But the first person the others saw when they came to Muddy Lane
was Mr Philip, waiting for them at the corner, as though it were the
most natural and proper thing in the world for him to be there.
I came to hear what your friend Mr Caldwell has to say to-day,
Jem, said he.
All right! said Jem. He will have something appropriate to say
about Sabbath-breaking, I dare say.
I am sure I don't know why, said Philip, laughing.
He'll tell you why, said Jem.
David did not say it was all right, nor think it. Indeed, it proved
to his mind to be all wrong, for Mr Caldwell did not make his
appearance at all.
To think of his failing to-day, of all days, said David.
They waited for him a long time, till the children became restless
We ought to begin, Davie, said Violet.
Yes. I wouldn't mind if we were by ourselves.
Why should you mind now? Go ahead, Davie. If he laughs, I'll knock
him down, said Jem.
It was very foolish in Violet to laugh, and very wrong, too, she
knew; but she could not help it. Jem's idea of the way to keep order
was so absurd. David did not laugh. He looked anxious, and at a loss,
and a little indignant at his sister's amusement.
I beg your pardon, Davie. Let us just go on us usual, she
entreated. Why should you mind?
And so they did go on. They sung a hymn very well; at least, they
sung with a great deal of spirit. There were some clear, sweet voices
among the children, and they all seemed to enjoy singing so much it
could not be otherwise than agreeable to those who were listening, and
Violet did her best. Then David, very reverently, but not very firmly,
took Mr Caldwell's duty upon himself, and offered a few words of
prayer; and then the children repeated together the Lord's Prayer, and
after that everything went well enough. David and Violet took their
usual places, with their classes round them, and Jem suggested to Mr
Philip that he should take Mr Caldwell's rough-looking boys in hand
and give them a talk.
Hear them repeat their verses, and tell them a story. You can do it
as well as Mr C. Shall I tell them that you are the new minister?
Thank you. I will introduce myself. I ought to be able to say
something to these young rascals. I hope they won't find me out.
He seemed to get on very well. Jem would have liked to get rid of
the three little fellows for whom he was responsible, so as to hear
what he was saying. The boys liked it, evidently; at least they
listened with great interest; and one would have thought that Mr Philip
was quite accustomed to the work, he did it so easily. The boys laughed
more than once, and grew eager and a little noisy; but their teacher
was perfectly grave and proper, and did not give Jem the shadow of an
excuse for wishing to knock him down. He congratulated him when it
was all over.
Yes; I flatter myself it was the right man in the right place this
time, said Mr Philip. You didn't think I could do as well as old
Caldwell, did you.
Jem shrugged his shoulders.
Yes, you could do it, once in a way, after a fashion, at any rate.
But though Jem spoke so coldly to Philip himself, he was
enthusiastic in his praises of him when they were giving their mother
the history of the afternoon after Frank had gone home.
He can do anything, I think, said he. He was not at a loss for a
moment. I believe, if he had been put to it, he could have done the
whole business as well as Davie did, and he did it very well.
David said nothing, but Violet repeated her opinion as to their new
friend's want of earnestness.
If it had been the most foolish thing in the world, he would have
done it just as well, and just as willingly, if he had thought it was
expected of him to do it.
Are you not a little severe on him? said her mother.
No, mamma; I don't mean to be severe. He would think it a great
compliment paid to him, though you don't think it nice. He does not
look seriously at life. He amuses himself with everything. Just compare
him with our Davie.
David had gone out before she said this.
Nonsense! Letty. Our Davie is a boy still, and Mr Philip is a man.
He has completed the course at the university, you know quite well.
Our Davie is far more manly than he, for all that. And so are you,
Jem. Davie is worth two of him.
A great deal more than two of him to us, Letty, said her mother,
laughing. Still, I am inclined to think with Jem, that you are a
little hard on him.
Yes, she does not like him, said Jem. And it is odd, too, for he
likes her, and you, mamma, and all of us.
Oh! yes; I dare say he does. We amuse him for the moment. I know
him better than you do, Jem. I have seen him every day for a fortnight,
you know. I like him very well, but I don't think he is reliable. He is
not in earnest, repeated Violet, solemnly. And Sunday-school teaching
is not a proper thing to amuse one's self with. It would spoil all the
pleasure of it to have him come there always. However, there is no
danger. He will find something else to amuse him.
Violet was right, as far as Philip's coming to Muddy Lane was
concerned. He did not make his appearance there again for a very long
time after that Sunday. But, having nothing better to do, he seemed
quite inclined to cultivate the acquaintance of the young Inglises, and
came to the bridge house a good deal. Once or twice he brought his
little sisters and Violet down in the boat to tea, and several times he
came there after having been down the river fishing. Once or twice
David, coming home earlier than the others, found him sitting quietly
with his mother and little Mary, to all appearance perfectly satisfied
with the entertainment he was receiving; and his entertainers seemed
satisfied too. David began to consider these frequent visits as an
infliction to be borne patiently, and Violet adhered to her first
opinion; but, with Jem and the children, he was a great favourite. Even
the mother was inclined to make excuses for his faults, and was very
kind to him when he came. The mother knew more about him than the rest
did, for he told her a great deal about himself and his past life
during the quiet afternoons he passed with her and little Mary. And
having seen more, and suffered more, she was inclined to have more
patience with his weaknesses than they.
It had been understood all along, that, as soon as Philip's course
at the university was over, he was to take his place in his father's
office, and to give all his time and thoughts to his father's business.
He had never been quite pleased with the idea, and had all along hoped
that something might happen to render unnecessary a step so distasteful
to him. Nothing had happened, and he was inclined to fancy that he was
making a sacrifice to his father's business and his father's desire for
wealth, and to claim sympathy because of this.
And would you be a great help to your father? asked Mrs Inglis,
one day, when he had got thus far.
I don't know. I am sure I don't think so, hating business as I do.
But he must think so, or he would not be so bent on my coming to the
office and tying myself down. It will come to that, I dare say, said
he, with a sigh.
Mrs Inglis smiled.
Is it not possible that he may wish it for your sake rather than
his own? And how do you know that you hate business? You have never
given it a fair trial, have you?
No, I have not tried it steadily, said he, answering her last
question first. But then one can tell what one does not like without
trying it very long. I dare say my father thinks it would be a good
thing for me to fix myself at the bank. But a man must judge for
himself before he submits to be tied down for life.
But is it not possible that it is the tying down which is
distasteful? And every man must submit to be tied down to something.
What would you like to do better.
Oh! almost anything. I should like the profession of the law
better. And then he added, after a little, I should like it better
for one thing. I need not enter an office till the autumn.
I am afraid it is the tying down that is the trouble, after all,
No, I assure younot altogetherthough, I acknowledge, it would
be a fine thing to let business slideto have nothing at all to do.
I do not agree with you. I think it would be the very worst thing
that could happen to you to have nothing to do, said Mrs Inglis,
To me, especially, do you mean? Well, I don't quite mean that; but
I think Mr Caldwell was right when he told my father that, if he had
meant me for business, he should have put me to it long ago.
Do you mean that you regret having been sent to the university?
I mean that I should have been fit for my work by this time, and,
probably, content with it. A university is not needed there.
You must not be angry with me if I say you are talking foolishly,
said Mrs Inglis, and, indeed, ungratefully, when you say that. Do you
mean that your education will be a disadvantage to you?
No; except by making business distasteful to me. I mean, it has
given me other interests and other tastessomething beyond the desire
to make money.
Doubtless, that was your father's intentionto make you an
intelligent man as well as a bankernot a mere money-maker. And his
wish ought to decide you to give the business of his office a fair
trial, since you do not seem to have a preference for any other.
I have a very decided preference for a trip across the country.
Don't look grave, Aunt Mary. These are my holidays. By and by will be
time to settle down to work.
I thought you were no longer a schoolboy?
No, I am not; but I should like to goto the Red River, perhaps.
It would be a fine trip for Davie in his vacation, too, and its cost
would be littlecomparatively.
Davie does not expect a vacationor only a week or two.
Davie is quite a steady old gentleman, said Philip.
Mrs Inglis smiled.
I don't suppose you mean that quite as a compliment to my boy. I am
very glad it is true, nevertheless.
You don't suppose I would venture to say anything not complimentary
to your boy to you, do you? Or that I would wish to say it to any one?
But he does take life so seriously. He is so dreadfully in
earnest. One would think that Davie was years and years older than I
Yes, in some things.
But, Aunt Mary, such precocious sobriety and wisdom are unnatural
and unwholesome. Davie is too wise and grave for his years.
He is not too wise to do very foolish things sometimes; and he is
the merriest among the children at home, though we don't hear his voice
quite so often as Jem's. And you must remember that Davie's experience
has been very different from yours.
Yes, Aunt Mary, I know. Frank has told me how happy you all were,
and how Davie was always so much with his father. It must have been
very terrible for you all.
And, Philip, Davie has tried to take his father's place among us.
Davie is our bread-winner, in a measure. We have had many cares and
anxieties together. No wonder that he seems to you to be grave and
older than his years.
Aunt Mary, what an idle, good-for-nothing fellow you must think
me, said Philip, putting down little Mary, who had been sitting on his
knee, and standing before his aunt.
Not good-for-nothing, certainly. Perhaps, a little idle and
thoughtless. There is time for improvement androom. Let us hope you
will know your own mind soon, which you certainly do not now.
Let us hope so, said Philip, with a sigh. Here comes Davie! Now,
observe him! He will not look in the least glad to see me.
Where are all the rest? said Davie, coming in.
Davie, do you know, I have been persuading your mother to let you
go with me to the Red River, said Philip. Wouldn't you like it?
It is very good of you. Yes, I dare say I would like it. What does
She thinks you are too useful a man to be spared so long. What
would Mr Caldwell do without you?
When are you coming to help him? said David.
After I come home in the autumn. I cannot bring myself to Davie's
standard of steadiness all at once, Aunt Mary. I must have a little
There is none to lose, said Mrs Inglis gravely.
About this time it was announced to the world in general, that Miss
Oswald's marriage was to take place immediately. Her friends thought
she had been very kind and considerate to stay with her father and her
brothers and sisters so long. Miss Oswald was a discreet young lady,
and knew how to manage her own affairs to her own satisfaction. Perhaps
the knowledge that her own establishment must be in a different style
from that of her father's, helped her considerateness a little, and
made her more willing to continue at home. However that might be, when
her father set before her certain reasons for economy in household
matters, for decided retrenchment indeed, she very considerately
suggested that her Aunt Livy would be a very suitable person to see her
father's wishes in this direction carried out, and advised that she
should be sent for, and then she set about her own preparations. With
these, of course, no one at the bridge house had anything to do, except
Violet. But for the glimpses that she had behind the scenes, she might
have been a little dazzled and unsettled by the gaiety and splendour in
the midst of which she found herself. For Miss Oswald's arrangements
were on the grandest scale. Everything that she considered proper on
the occasion, she exacted to the uttermost, with no thoughts of
necessary economy. There were fine clothes, fine presents, a fine
wedding breakfast, and the proper number of fine brides-maids, of whom
Violet was one.
Even the wise and sensible Letty was not above a feeling of girlish
delight in being prettily dressed and admired as one of the gay
company; but the knowledge that she was only chosen at the last minute
to supply the place of a young lady whose illness had disarranged Miss
Oswald's plans, and a few other drawbacks, kept her from being unduly
elated with the honour and pleasure, and she was very glad when it was
all over, and so was everybody concerned. So Miss Oswald went away. Mrs
Mavor and Miss Livy came to the big house to reign in her stead, and
all in it were beginning to settle down to a quiet and happy summer
But trouble came first. Scarlet fever had broken out in the
neighbourhood of the bridge house, and in other parts of the town, and
first little Polly took it, and then Jessie and Ned, and Violet came
home to help her mother to nurse them. They were not very illthat is,
the fever did not run very high, and at no time did the doctor suppose
them to be in danger, but there was much anxiety and fatigue in taking
care of them. The weather was very hot, too, and the bridge house stood
too low to catch the infrequent breeze, and though they were soon able
to be up and even to be out of doors, the children did not get strong.
In the meantime both Charlotte and Sarah Oswald had taken the
disease, and Mr Oswald himself came to the bridge house to entreat that
Violet might be permitted to come to them. Their sister Selina had gone
away after the wedding to visit in a distant city, and as she had never
had the disease, her father did not like to send for her to come home.
The children did not take to their aunt. It had been possible to get on
when they were very ill, but when they began to be better they were
peevish and fretful, and Aunt Livy could not please them, and nothing
would do but Violet must come to them again. It did not seem possible
that she could leave home, but David was to be spared as much as
possible to help with the little ones, and so she went.
But between her anxiety for the children at home, and her weariness
with the little Oswalds, she had rather a hard time of it. Frank helped
her for a while, but he was not very well, and was threatened with the
old trouble in his eyes, so that he was not a very cheerful companion,
either for her or the children. Mr Philip had commenced an irregular
sort of attendance at the bank, but he had a good deal of time still at
his disposal, and kindly bestowed a share of it on his little sisters.
Philip could be very nice when he liked, they agreed, and he very
often liked about this time.
He went sometimes to the bridge house, too, and was as popular as
ever among the little people there. They were not getting well very
fast. Charlotte and Sarah were up and out in the garden, and able to
amuse themselves with their dolls and their games, when Violet, going
home one day, found Jessie and Ned languid and fretful, and poor wee
Polly lying limp and white in her cot. Her mother looked worn and
anxious, David came home with a headache, and Jem was the only one
among them whose health and spirits were in a satisfactory condition.
I cannot stay to-night, mamma, because they expect me back, said
Violet. But I shall come home to-morrow. They don't need me half as
much as you do, and I must come. You are sick yourself, mamma.
No, I am tired, that is all; and the weather is so warm. Don't come
till the children are well. It is your proper place there, and even you
cannot help us here while the weather is so warm.
It was very hot and close, and Violet fancied that from the low
fields beyond, where there was water still standing, a sickly odour
No wonder they don't get strong, said she.
Mr Oswald had spoken in the morning about sending his little girls
to the country, or to the seaside. The doctor had suggested this as the
best thing that could be done for them. Violet thought of their large
house, with its many rooms, and of the garden in which it stood, and
looked at her little sisters and brothers growing so pale and languid
in the close air, which there was no hope of changing, with a feeling
very like envy or discontent rising in her heart.
Mamma, said she, it is a dreadful thing to be poor; and then she
told of the plan for sending the Oswalds away for change of air, and
how they were already well and strong in comparison to their own poor
darlings, and then she said, again, It is a dreadful thing to be so
We are not so poor as we might be? said her mother, gravely.
Think how it would have been if we had lost one of them, dear. God has
been very good to us, and we must not be so ungrateful as to murmur
because we have not all that others have, or all that we might wish
I know it, mamma. But look at these pale cheeks. Poor wee Polly!
she is only a shadow of our baby. If we could only send her to Gourlay
for a little while.
Do you think her looking so poorly? I think it is the heat that is
keeping them all so languid. Don't look so miserable. If it is
necessary for them to go to the country, we shall manage to send them
in some way. But we are quite in the country here, and when we have had
rain the air will be changed, and the heat may be less, and then they
will all be better.
Have you made any plan about going to the country? asked Violet,
No, my dear. I trust it will not be necessary. It could not be
easily managed, said Mrs Inglis, with a sigh.
If we were only not quite so poor, said Violet.
I say, Letty, don't you think mamma has trouble enough without your
bother? said Jem, sharply, as his mother went out of the room. Violet
looked at him in astonishment.
If we were only not quite so poor! repeated Jem, in the doleful
tone she had used. You have said that three times within half an hour.
You had better stay up at the big house, if that is all the good you
can do by coming home.
That will do, Jem! Don't spoil your sermon by making it too long,
said David, laughing.
Sermon! No, I leave that to you, Davie. But what is the use of
being so dismal? And it isn't a bit like Letty.
But, Jem, it is true. The children look so ill, and if they could
only get a change of air
And don't you suppose mamma knows all that better than you can tell
her? What is the good of telling her? She has been looking all day for
you to come and cheer us up and brighten us a little, and now that you
have come you are as dismal asI don't know what. You have been having
too easy times lately, and can't bear hardness, said Jem, severely.
Have I? said Violet, with an uncertain little laugh.
Softly, Jem, lad! said his mother, who had come in again. I think
she has been having a rather hard time, only it will not do her much
good to tell her so.
I dare say Jem is right, mamma, and I am cross.
Not cross, Letty, only dismal, which is a great deal worse, I
think, said Jem.
Well, I won't be dismal any more to-night, if I can help it. Davie,
take Polly, and, mamma, lie down on the sofa and rest while I make the
tea. Jem, you shall help me by making up the fire. We will all have tea
to-night, because I am a visitor.
All right! said Jem. Anything to please all round; and the hot
tea will cool us nicely, won't it?
It will refresh us at any rate.
And so the little cloud passed away, and Violet's cheerfulness
lasted through the rest of the visit, and up to the moment that she
bade Jem good-bye at Mr Oswald's gate. It did not last much longer,
however. It was nearly dark, and Mr Oswald and his sister and Frank
were sitting on the lawn to catch the faint breeze that was stirring
among the chestnut trees.
I thought you were not coming home to-night, said Miss Livy, in an
I was detained, said Violet. How are the children?
They are in bed at last. You should not have told them that you
would be home before their bed-time, unless you had intended to come.
However, they are in bed now. Pray don't go and disturb them again.
Philip had to go to them at last. He is up-stairs now. They are
Violet dropped down in the nearest chair.
How are the children at home? asked Mr Oswald, kindly.
They arenot better.
I hope they are not spoiled, said Frank, laughing. Did they cry
when you came away, Violet?
They were rather fretful. They are not strong.
You are not very well yourself, to-night, said Mr Oswald. The
change will do you as much good as any of them.
I am quite well, said Violet.
We have been speaking about sending the girls to the country for a
change of air, went on Mr Oswald. Will you go with them? Betsey will
go too, of course, but they will scarcely be happy without you, and the
change will do you good.
Thank you. You are very kind. But the children need me at home. I
could not think of leaving mamma while they are so poorly to go away
It would not be quite all pleasure, I fancy, said Mr Philip. They
are asleep at last. It cannot be a very easy thing to keep them amused
all day, as they are just now.
They are quite spoiled, said Aunt Livy.
Oh! no. Not quite. They are good little things in general, as
children go. You can't judge now, aunt, said Philip. Miss Inglis, are
you not a little dismal to-night?
So Jem told me. I am tired. I think I shall say good-night and go
It should be settled at once about the children, where they are to
go, and who is to go with them, said Aunt Livy.
There is no haste, said Mr Oswald. Perhaps the children at home
may be better able to spare you in a day or two, Miss Violet.
Thank you. It would be very pleasant, but
Why not send all together? said Philip. Ned and Jessie and wee
Polly, with Charlotte and Sarah? I dare say they would all be better of
a change, poor little souls!
I dare say they can do without it, thank you, said Violet,
For what? My suggestion? They would like it, I am sure.
People cannot get all they like in this world.
Violet, said Frank, solemnly, I believe you are cross.
I am almost afraid I am, said Violet, laughing uneasily.
For the first time in your life. Something dreadful must have
happened at the bridge house to-day!
No; nothing happened.
The children are not better, that is what is the matter, said
Philip; though it ought not to make you cross, only sorry. Depend on
it, it is change they want, said Philip, with the air of a doctor.
It is worth thinking about; and it would be very nice if they could
all go together, with you to take care of them, said Mr Oswald. Very
nice for our little girls, I mean. Think of it, and speak to your
Thank you; I will, said Violet.
Much they know about it, said she to herself, as she went
up-stairs in the dark. An extra orange or a cup of strawberries for
the little darlings has to be considered in our house, and they speak
of change as coolly as possible. And I didn't know better than to
trouble mamma with just such foolish talk. We must try and have mamma
and Polly go to Gourlay for a week or two. June not half over, and how
shall we ever get through the two not months! Oh, dear! I am so tired!
Violet was so tired in the morning that she slept late, and a good
many things had happened next morning before she came down-stairs. When
she opened the dining-room door she thought, for a minute, she must be
sleeping still and dreaming; for, instead of the usual decorous
breakfast-table, Aunt Livy seemed to be presiding at a large children's
party. Everybody laughed at her astonished face, and little Mary held
out her arms to be taken.
My precious wee Polly! Have you got a pair of wings? said she,
clasping and kissing her little sister.
We are to stay all day, if we are good. You are to tell mamma how
we behave, said Jessie. We came in a carriage, with Mr Philip and
Violet looked a little anxiously from Aunt Livy to Mr Oswald, and
saw nothing to make her doubt the children's welcome. Mr Oswald smiled;
Miss Livy nodded.
They seem very well-behaved children, said she. Not at all
We haven't been here long, said Jessie, gravely. But we are going
to be good, Letty. We promised mamma.
And they were very good, considering all things. Still, it was a
fatiguing day to Violet. She followed them out and she followed them
in; and when they grew tired, and their little legs and their tempers
failed, she beguiled them into the wide gallery, shaded by vines, and
told them stories, and comforted them with toys and picture-books and
something nice to eat. It would have been a better day, as far as the
visitors were concerned, if there had been less to see and to admire.
But the great house and garden were beautiful and wonderful to their
unaccustomed eyes, and they had tired themselves so utterly that they
grew fretful and out of sorts, and were glad when it came night and
time to go home; and so was Violet.
The next day they came they were stronger and better, but they
needed constant attention, lest mischief should happen among them; and,
on the third morning, Violet was not sorry to hear the rain pattering
on the window. Not that she would have minded ten times the trouble for
herself, so that the children were the better for it, but it was as
well not to try Miss Livy's forbearance too far. Miss Livy had had very
little to do with children since she was a child herself, and that
little led her decidedly to agree with the generally-received opinion
that the children of the present day are not so well brought up as
children used to be. This opinion did not make her more patient with
them, but rather less so; and so Violet was not sorry for the rain that
kept her little sisters at home.
At breakfast, the subject of sending the little girls, Charlotte and
Sarah, to the country for awhile was again brought up by their aunt,
and, in the afternoon, Violet, at Mr Oswald's request, went home to
speak to her mother about it; but she had fully determined beforehand
how the matter was to be decided, as far as she was concerned.
However, everything was put out of her mind by the surprise that
awaited her; for, at the bridge house, they were entertaining an angel
unawares, in the person of Miss Bethia Barnes. And was not Violet glad
to see her? So glad that she put her arms round her neck and kissed
her, and then laughed and then cried a little, not quite knowing what
It is good to see you, Aunt Bethia, said she.
You are the only one of the family who looks better for Singleton,
said Miss Bethia, regarding her with pleased wonder.
Miss Bethia had considered Violet a little girl when she left
Singleton; but she was a little girl no longer, but a young woman, and
a very pretty young woman, too, Miss Bethia acknowledged. If Violet had
not been so glad to see her, and shown it so plainly as to disarm her,
she must, even at the first moment, have uttered some word of counsel
or warning, for to be pretty, and not aware of it, or vain of it, was a
state of things that she could not believe in. However, she reserved
her advice for a future occasion, and, in the meantime, drew her own
conclusions from the brightening of the mother's face at the coming of
her eldest daughter, and from the eager way in which little Mary clung
to her, and the others claimed her attention.
You must stay at home to-night, Letty, said Jem.
May I, mamma? I am to be sent for later; but may I not send a
message that Miss Bethia has come, and that you cannot spare me?
But I can spare you all the better that Miss Bethia is here, said
her mother, smiling.
Yes, I know mamma; but I want to stay so much.
You would not think it polite in her to go away to-night? Now,
would you? Aunt Bethia, said Jem.
Politeness ain't the only thing to think of, said Miss Bethia.
Violet is not quite at our disposal just now, said Mrs Inglis;
and I am afraid you will be missed up there, dear, by the children.
They have had the fever, too, poor little things, and their sister is
away, and they hardly know this aunt yet, and Violet has charge of
them. They are fond of Violet.
Oh, yes! they are all fond of Violet up there; but so are we, said
Jem. Let her stay, mamma.
And how do you like earning your living? asked Miss Bethia.
Oh, I like it. When did you come, Miss Bethia? You are not looking
I haven't been wellhad a sharp turn of rheumatism. I had some
business, and I came yesterday.
And how are all the Gourlay people? And you live in our house now.
How strange it must seem! And what a shame that your old place is
I thought so at the time, but it might have been worse.
And then Violet had a great many questions to ask, and listened with
many exclamations of wonder and pleasure to all that she heard; and
Miss Bethia, pleased with the interest she displayed, made no pause
till Ned called out that young Mr Oswald was driving Davie over the
bridge, and that now Violet would have to go.
Mamma, said Violet, I have not told you why I came yet. Mr Oswald
sent me, and I cannot tell it all at once. Let me stay till after tea,
and Jem can take me home.
All right, said Jem. I have no objections, if nobody else has
There was a little pleasant confusion after Mr Philip and David came
in, two or three speaking at once, and all eager to be heard, and then
Mr Philip was introduced to the visitor. There was no mistaking the
look she bent upon him. It was searching and critical, admiring, but
not altogether approving.
You have never been out Gourlay way? said she.
No, I never have, as yet.
He did not know what nice people the Gourlay people are, or he
would have been, said Jem.
I expect so, said Miss Bethia. It ain't too late to go yet.
Thank you, Miss Barnes. I shall be happy to accept your kind
invitation, said Philip.
In the meantime, Violet had been telling her mother of Mr Oswald's
proposal. It was a matter of too great importance to be dismissed with
a single word of refusal, as Violet would have liked, and time must be
taken to consider it.
Violet is not going with you, Mr Philip, said Jessie. She is
going to stay and take tea with Miss Bethia.
I am sorry you should have had the trouble of coming round this way
for nothing, Mr Philip, said Mrs Inglis. We want Violet a little
while to-night. Miss Barnes does not know how soon she may go, and
Violet thinks she can be spared to-night, perhaps.
Of course, she can be spared. And it was no trouble, but a
pleasure, to come round. Shall I come back again?
Pray, do not. Jem will go with me. I shall like the walk.
All right! said Jem. I consider myself responsible for her. She
will be up there at the proper time.
All right! said Philip cheerfully. Aunt Mary, you might ask me to
have tea too.
You haven't had your dinner yet, said Jessie.
And you could not keep your horse standing so long, said Ned.
And, besides, I am not to be invited, said Philip, laughing.
They all watched him and his fine horse as they went over the bridge
and along the street. Then Violet said:
Now, mamma, you are to sit down and I am to get tea. I can do all
And, so tying on an apron over her dress, she made herself very busy
for the next half-hour, passing in and out, pausing to listen or put in
her word now and then, sometimes claiming help from Jem or Davie in
some household matter to which she put her hand. At last, with an air
of pride and pleasure that Miss Bethia thought pretty to see, she
called them to tea.
You have got to be quite a house-keeper, said Miss Bethia, as they
sat down to the table.
Hasn't she? said Jem and Davie in a breath.
I mean to be, at any rate, said Violet, nodding and laughing
gaily. I like it a great deal better than teaching children, only, you
know, it doesn't pay quite so well.
I guess it will, in the long run, said Miss Barnes.
I am going to be house-keeper for the next two months. Sarah and
Charlotte are to have no lessons for that time, and Betsey can take
care of them in the country quite as well as Ibetter, indeed. Mamma
needs me at home. Don't you think so, Davie? I can find enough to do at
home; can't I?
But, as you say, it wouldn't pay so well.
In one way, perhaps, it wouldn't, but in another way it would. But
mamma doesn't say anything, added Violet, disconsolately.
We must sleep upon it, mamma thinks, said Jem.
We need not be in haste to decide upon it for a day or two, said
I am afraid we must, mamma. The sooner the better, Mr Oswald says;
and that is why I came to-day.
I wish you would come and keep house for me. I am getting tired of
it, said Miss Bethia.
I should like it wellwith mamma and the children.
Of course, that is understood, said Miss Bethia. And you could
take these others with you, couldn't you? And what their father would
pay for them would help your house-keeping.
Miss Bethia spoke as coolly as if she had been speaking about the
stirring up of a Johnny cake, Jem said. Violet looked eagerly from her
to her mother. There was a little stir and murmur of excitement went
round the table, but all awaited for their mother to speak. But she
said nothing, and Miss Bethia went on, not at all as if she were saying
anything to surprise anybody, but just as she would have told any piece
I've thought of it considerable. Serepta Stone has concluded to go
away to a water-cure place in the States. If Debby should conclude to
go to another place, I shouldn't care about staying in that big house
alone. I can let it next fall, I expect. But this summer, Mrs Inglis,
if you say so, you can have the house as well as not. It won't cost you
a cent, and it won't be a cent's loss to me. And I don't see why that
won't suit pretty well all round.
A chorus of ohs, and ahs, and dear mammas, went round the
It wouldn't cost more than living here, said David.
Not so much, said Miss Bethia.
And I am sure Mr Oswald would be delighted to have Charlotte and
Sarah go, mamma, said Violet.
He would pay you the same as he'd pay to them at the other place,
and he might be sure he would get the worth of his money, said Miss
And I would keep house, and save you the trouble, mamma, said
You and Debby Stone, said Miss Bethia, who seemed to consider that
it was as much her affair as theirs, and so put in her word between the
Davie, you'll have to lend me your fishing rod, to take to Gourlay
with me, said Ned.
Bless the child! there's fishing rods enough, said Miss Bethia.
It's mamma's turn to speak now, said Jessie. And yes, mamma! and
oh! dear mamma! were repeated again, eagerly.
There would be no use in telling all that Mrs Inglis said, or all
that Miss Bethia and the rest said. It was not quite decided that night
that they were to pass a part of the summer in Gourlay, but it looked
so much like it that Violet held a little private jubilation with
little Polly, as she undressed her for bed, before she went away,
promising her, with many kisses and sweet words, that she would be rosy
and strong, and as brown as a berry before she should see the bridge
house again. Before she was done with it, Jem called out.
It is time to be going, Letty, if I am to be responsible for you at
the big house.
Perhaps if you wait, Mr Philip will come for you. He said he
would, said Jessie.
And, just at the minute, he meant it, but we won't put him to the
trouble, even if he remembers, which is doubtful, said Violet. Come,
Jem, I am ready.
He seems a pretty likely young man, don't he?young Mr Oswald, I
mean, said Miss Bethia.
The question was not addressed to any one in particular. Jem looked
at Letty, and Letty looked at Davie, and they all laughed merrily.
Likely, in Miss Bethia's vocabulary, meant well-intentioned,
agreeable, promising, all in a moderate degree, and the description
fell so far short of Mr Philip's idea of himself and his merits, and
indeed of their idea of him that they could not help it.
He seems to be a pleasant-spoken youth, and good-natured, said
Oh, yes! he is very good-natured, said Violet.
Everybody had something to say in his praise. The little ones were
quite enthusiastic. Jem said he was smart as well as good-natured,
and David, though he said less, acknowledged that he was very clever,
and added Mr Caldwell's opinion, that Mr Philip had all his father's
talent for business, and would do well if he were really in earnest
about it, and would settle down to it. Several instances of his
kindness to the children and to his own little sisters were repeated,
and Mrs Inglis spoke warmly in his praise.
Only, mamma, said Violet, with some hesitation, all these things
are agreeable to himself. He does such things because he likes to do
And ain't that to be put to his credit, said Miss Bethia. It is
well when one does right things and likes to do them, ain't it?
Yes; but people ought to do right things because they are right,
and not just because they are pleasant. If very different things were
agreeable to him, he would do them all the same.
Stuff, Letty! with your buts and your ifs. Mr Phil, is just like
other people. It is only you and Davie that have such high-flown
notions about right and wrong, and duty, and all that.
Our ideas of `duty and all that' are just like other people's, Jem,
I think, said David. They are just like Miss Bethia's, at any rate,
And like Jem's own ideas, though not like Mr Philip's said Violet.
Violet means that if he had to choose between what is right and
what is pleasant, the chances are he would choose to do what is
pleasant, said Davie.
He would not wait to choose, said Violet, gravely. He would just
do what was pleasant without at all thinking about the other.
Mamma, do you call that charitable? said Jem.
I think Violet meansand Daviethat his actions are, as a general
thing, guided and governed by impulse rather than by principle, said
Mrs Inglis; and you know, Jem, the same reliance cannot be placed on
such a person as on
On a steady old rock, like Mr Caldwell or our Davie, said Jem.
Yes, I know; still I like Phil.
So we all like him, said Violet. But, as mamma says, we do not
rely on him. He likes us and our ways, and our admiration of him, and
he likes to come here and talk with mamma, and get good advice, and all
that. But he likes to go to other places, and to talk with other
people, who are as different from mamma as darkness is from daylight.
He is so careless and good-tempered that anything pleases him for the
moment. He has no stability. One cannot help liking him, but one cannot
Everybody looked surprised. Jem whistled.
Why don't you tell him so? It might do him good.
It wouldn't change his nature, said Violet, loftily. And then she
bade them all good-night, and she and Jem went away, and Miss Bethia
improved the occasion.
I expect that his nature has got to be changed before he amounts to
much that is good. I hope, David, you will not let this frivolous young
man lead you away from the right path.
Mrs Inglis had gone out of the room, and David prepared himself for
what he knew would come sooner or later, Miss Bethia's never-failing
You are none too wise to be drawn away by a pleasant-spoken,
careless youth like that. His company might easily become a snare to
you, and to Jem too.
Oh! he has very little to say to me, Miss Bethia. He is older than
Jem or I. He likes to talk to mamma, and you mustn't think ill of him
from what was said to-night.
I suppose the trouble is in his bringing up, said Miss Bethia.
From all I hear, I should fear that his father hasn't a realising
sense of the importance of religion for himself or his family, and what
can be expected of his son?
David did not like the turn the conversation had taken, and he did
not like the next better.
There is a great responsibility resting on you, David, with regard
to the people among whom your lot is cast. It is to be hoped they'll be
led to think more, and not less, of the Master you serve from your walk
David made no answer.
David, said Miss Bethia, have you been living a Christian life
since you came here? Such a life as would have given comfort to your
father, if he had been here to see it? Have you been keeping your
armour bright, David?
I have been trying, Miss Bethia, said David.
Well, it is something to have been trying. It is something not to
be led away. But have you been content with that? You have a battle to
fighta work to do in just the spot you stand in, and if you are
faithful, you may help that unstable youth to stand on firmer ground
than his feet have found yet.
David shook his head.
You don't know me, Miss Bethia, nor him, or you would not say
Your father would have made it his business to do him good.
But I am not like my father, very far from that.
Well, your father was nothing by himself. You are bound to do the
same work, and you can have the same help. And it will pay in the long
run. Oh, yes! it will pay!
I have been telling David that he may do that pleasant-spoken youth
much good, if he is faithful to him and to himself, added she, as Mrs
Inglis came into the room.
And I have been telling Miss Bethia that she does not know me, or
him, or she wouldn't say that, mamma, said David.
She must know you by this time, I think, Davie, said his mother,
I used to know him pretty well, and he seems to be getting along
pretty much so. I don't know as I see any change for the worse in him.
He has had great privileges, and he has great responsibility.
Yes, said his mother, gravely; and I quite agree with you, Miss
Bethia, he may do Mr Philip good by a diligent and faithful performance
of his daily duties, if in no other way. He has done so already.
Oh, mamma! said David, Miss Bethia will think you are growing
No, I sha'n't. But he must be faithful in word as well as in deed.
Oh! I guess he'll get along pretty wellDavid, I mean, not young Mr
Jem came home while they were still talking.
Mamma, said he, as he followed his mother out of the room, we saw
Philip going into Dick's saloon as we were going up the street and
Violet said he'd be just as pleased and just as popular there as in our
own home among the children, and she said he was as weak as water. That
is all she knows! Violet is hard on Phil.
She cannot think it right for him to spend his evenings in such a
place, said his mother.
But he sees no harm in it, and I don't suppose there is much.
I should think it great harm for one of my boys, said his mother,
All right, mamma! said Jem. But, then, as Miss Barnes says, our
bringing up has been different.
When it was fairly decided that Miss Bethia's pleasant plan for the
summer was possible, there was little time lost in preparation. Miss
Bethia went away at once, to have all things ready for their coming,
and in a few days Mrs Inglis and Violet and the children followed. The
little Oswalds went with them, and Jem and possibly Frank Oswald were
to follow when their holidays commenced. Whether David was to go or
not, was to be decided later, but he did not let the uncertainty with
regard to his own prospects of pleasure interfere with his in all that
the others were to enjoy. He helped cheerfully in all the arrangements
for their departure, and made light of his mother's anxiety and doubts
as to the comfort of those who were to be left behind.
But when they were gone, and Jem and David left in the deserted
house alone, they were neither of them very cheerful for a while. They
were quite alone, for Mrs Lacy, the neighbour whom Mrs Inglis had
engaged to care for their comfort, had a home of her own and little
children to care for, and could only be there a part of the day. The
unwonted silence of the house pressed heavily upon their spirits.
It's queer, too, said Jem, who had been promising himself great
enjoyment of the quiet time so that he might the better prepare for the
school examinations that were coming on. I used to think the children
bothered with their noise and their chatter, but the stillness is ten,
times more distracting, I think.
David nodded assent.
They will be in Gourlay long ago, said he. I wonder how it will
seem to mamma to go back again.
Jem looked grave.
It won't be all pleasure to her, I am afraid.
No; she will have many things to remember; but I think she would
rather have gone to Gourlay than anywhere else. I wish I could have
gone with her.
Yes; but she has Violet and the children; and mamma is not one to
fret or be unhappy.
She will not be unhappy; but all the same it will be a sorrowful
thing for her to go there now.
Yes; but I am glad she is there; and I hope I may be there, too,
before the summer is over.
Jem's examinations passed off with great credit to himself; but he
did not have the pleasure of telling his triumph, or showing his prizes
to his mother and the children till after their return to Singleton;
for Jem did not go to Gourlay, but in quite another direction.
When an offer was made to him, through one of his friends at the
great engine-house, to accompany a skillful machinist to a distant part
of the country where he was to superintend the setting up of some
valuable machinery in a manufacturing establishment, he gave a few
regretful thoughts to his mother and Gourlay, and the long anticipated
delights of boating and fishing; but it did not take him long to decide
to go. Indeed, by the time his mother's consent reached him, his
preparations were far advanced, and he was as eager to be gone as
though the sole object of the trip had been pleasure, and not the hard
work which had been offered him. But, besides the work, there was the
wages, which, to Jem seemed magnificent, and there was the prospect of
seeing new sights far from home; so he went away in great spirits, and
David was left alone.
He was not in great spirits. Jem had left him no earlier than he
must have done had it been to join his mother and the children in
Gourlay. But, somehow, when he thought of his brother out in the
wonderful, strange world, about which they had so often spoken and
dreamed, David had to struggle against a feeling which, indulged, might
very easily have changed to discontent or envy of his brother's happier
Happier fortune, indeed! How foolish his thoughts were! David
laughed at himself when he called up the figure of Jem, with bared arms
and blackened face, busy amidst the smoke and dust of some great
work-shop, going here and theredoing this and that at the bidding of
his master. A very hard working world Jem would no doubt find it; and,
as he thought about him, David made believe content, and congratulated
himself on the quiet and leisure which the summer evenings were
bringing, and made plans for doing great things in the way of reading
and study while they lasted. But they were very dull days and evenings.
The silence in the house grew more oppressive to him than even Jem had
found it. The long summer evenings often found him listless and dull
over the books that had been so precious to him when he had only stolen
moments to bestow on them.
There had been something said at first about his going to the
Oswald's to stay, when the time came when he should be alone in the
house. Mr Philip had proposed it at the time when they were making
arrangements for the going away of his little sisters. But the
invitation had not been repeated. Mr Philip had gone away long before
Jem. He had, at the last moment, joined an exploring party who were
goingnot, indeed, to Red River, but far away into the woods. Mr
Oswald had forgotten the invitation, or had never known of it, perhaps,
and David went home to the deserted house not very willingly sometimes,
and, with a vague impatience of the monotony of the days, wished for
something to happen to break it. Before Jem had been gone a week,
something did happen. Indeed, it had happened a good while before, but
it only came to David's knowledge at that time.
Mr Caldwell had just returned from one of his frequent business
journeys, and one night David lingered beyond the usual hour that he
might see him and walk down the street with him as far as their way lay
in the same direction; and it was while they were going towards home
together that Mr Caldwell told him of something very unpleasant that
had occurred in the office. A small sum of money had been missed, and
the circumstances connected with its loss led Mr Caldwell to believe
that it had been taken by some one belonging to the office. Mr Caldwell
could not give his reasons for this opinion, nor did he say much about
it, but he questioned David closely about those who had been coming and
going, and seemed troubled and annoyed about the affair. David was
troubled, too, and tried to recall anything that might throw light upon
the painful matter. But he did not succeed.
The circumstances, as David learned them then and afterwards, were
these: Mr Oswald, as treasurer for one of the benevolent societies of
the town, had, on a certain day of the preceding month, received a sum
of money, part of which could not be found or accounted for. The rest
of the sum paid into his hands was found in that compartment of his
private safe allotted to the papers of the society. A receipt for the
whole sum was in the hands of the person who had paid the money, and an
entry in the society's books corresponded to the sum named in this
receipt. Mr Oswald was certain that he had not made use of any part of
it, because such was never his custom. The accounts of the society were
kept quite distinct from all others, and all arrangements with regard
to them were made by Mr Oswald himself. It did not make the loss a
matter of less importance that the sum missed was small. Nor did it
make Mr Oswald and Mr Caldwell less anxious to discover what had become
The loss had not been discovered until some time after it had taken
place, when the quarterly making up of the society's accounts had been
taken in hand, and Mr Oswald could not remember much about the
circumstances. The date of the receipt showed the time. The person who
paid the money remembered that part of it had been in small silver
coins, made up in packets, and this was the part that had disappeared.
All this was not told by Mr Caldwell that first afternoon. It came
to David's knowledge, little by little, as it was found out. The matter
was not, at first, discussed by the clerks in the office. Mr Caldwell
had asked David not to speak of it to them, or to any one.
When Mr Caldwell told him that nothing had been said to them of the
loss, he thought it was strange; but it never came into his mind that
the reason was that Mr Oswald feared that he was the person guilty, and
wished to keep it from the knowledge of the rest. But, as time went on,
he began to notice a change in Mr Oswald's manner toward him. He had
never said many words to him in the course of the day. It was not his
way with those in his employment, except with Mr Caldwell. He said less
than ever to him now, but David fancied that he was more watchful of
him, that he took more note of his comings and goings, and that his
manner was more peremptory and less friendly when he gave him
directions as to his work for the day.
Mr Caldwell did not remain long in Singleton at this time, and
having no one to speak to about the mysterious affair of the missing
money, David, after a day or two, began to think less about it than he
might otherwise have done. Once he ventured to speak to Mr Oswald about
Have you heard anything about the lost money, sir? said he, one
night, when there were only they two in the office.
Mr Oswald answered him so briefly and sharply that David was
startled, changing colour and looking at him in astonishment.
No, I have not. Have you anything to tell me about it? The
sooner the better, said Mr Oswald.
I know only what Mr Caldwell has told me, said David.
You may go, said Mr Oswald.
And David went away, very much surprised both at his words and his
manner. He did not think long about it, but every day he became more
certain that all was not right between them. He had no one to speak to,
which made it worse. He could not write to his mother or even to
Violet, because there was nothing to tell. Mr Oswald was sharp and
short in his manner of speaking to him, that was all, and he had never
said much to him at any time. No; there was nothing to tell.
But he could not help being unhappy. The time seemed very long. The
weather became very warm. All that he had to do out of the office was
done languidly, and he began to wish for the time of his mother's
return. He received little pleasure from his books, but he faithfully
gave the allotted time to them, and got, it is to be hoped, some
He made himself busy in the garden, too, and gave little Dick Lacy
his accustomed lesson in writing and book-keeping as regularly as
usual. But, through all his work and all his amusements, he carried
with him a sense of discomfort. He never could forget that all was not
right between him and his master, though he could not guess the reason.
He seemed to see him oftener than usual these days. He sometimes
overtook him on his way home; and, once or twice, when he was working
in the garden, he saw him cross the bridge and pass the house. Once he
came at night to the house about some business, which, he said, had
been forgotten. David was mortified and vexed, because he had not heard
him knock, and because, when he entered, he found him lying asleep with
his head on his Greek dictionary, and he answered the questions put to
him stupidly enough; but he saw that business was only a pretence.
Next day, kind, but foolish Mrs Lacy told him that Mr Oswald had
been at her house asking all manner of questions about him; what he
did, and where he went, and how he passed his time; and though David
was surprised, and not very well pleased to hear it, it was not because
he thought Mr Oswald had begun to doubt him. Indeed, it came into his
mind, that, perhaps, he was going to be asked at last to pass a few
days at the big house with Frank, who had returned home not at all
well. He was, for a moment, quite certain of this, when he carried in
the letters in the morning, for Mr Oswald's manner was much kinder, and
he spoke to him just as he used to do. But he did not ask him, and
Frank did not come down to see him at the bank, as David hoped he
That night, Mr Caldwell returned to Singleton. He did not arrive
till after the bank was closed, but he came down to see David before he
went home. The first words he spoke to him were concerning the lost
money; and, how it came about, David could never very well remember.
Whether the accusation was made in words, or whether he caught the idea
of suspicion in his friend's hesitating words and anxious looks, he did
not know, nor did he know in what words he answered him. It was as if
some one had struck him a heavy blow, and then he heard Mr Caldwell's
Have patience, David. You are not the first one that has been
falsely accused. Anger never helped any one through trouble yet. What
would your mother say?
His mother! David uttered a cry in which there was both anger and
pain. Was his mother to hear her son accused as a thief?
David, said his friend solemnly, it is at a time like this that
our trust in God stands us in stead. There is nothing to be dismayed
at, if you are innocent.
If! said David, with a gasp.
Ay! `if!' Your mother herself might say as much as that. And you
have not said that the charge is a false one yet.
I did not think I should need to say so to you!
But you see, my lad, I am not speaking for myself. I was bidden ask
you the question point blank, and I must give your answer to him that
sent me. My word is another matter. You must answer to him.
To Mr Oswald, I suppose? Why should he suspect me? Has he been
suspecting me all these weeks? Was that the reason he wished nothing
said about it in the office?
That was kindly meant, at any rate; and you needna' let your eyes
flash on me, said Mr Caldwell, severely. Don't you think it has
caused him much unhappiness to be obliged to suspect you?
But why should he suspect me?
There seemed to be no one else. But he must speak for himself. I
have nothing to say for him. I have only to carry him your answer.
I will answer him myself, said David, rising, as though he were
going at once to do it. But he only walked to the window and stood
David, said Mr Caldwell, put away your books, and come home with
No, I cannot do that, said David, shortly.
He did not turn round to answer, and there was not another word
spoken for a while. By and by Mr Caldwell rose, and said, in his slow
David, my lad, the only thing that you have to do in this matter is
to see that you bear it well. The accusation will give but small
concern to your mother, in comparison with the knowledge that her son
has been indulging in an angry and unchristian spirit. And then he
He did not go very far, however. It was getting late, and, in the
gathering darkness, and the unaccustomed silence of the place, the
house seemed very dreary and forsaken to him, and he turned back before
he reached the gate.
David, said he kindly, opening the door, come away home with me.
But David only answered as he had done before.
No, I cannot do that.
He said it in a gentler tone, however, and added:
No, I thank you, Mr Caldwell, I would rather not.
It will be dreary work staying here with your sore and angry heart.
You need not be alone, however. You don't need me to tell you where you
are to take all this trouble to. You may honour Him by bearing
it well, said his friend.
Bear it well! No, he did not do that; at least, he did not at
When Mr Caldwell had gone, and David had shut the doors and windows
to keep out the rain that was beginning to fall, the tears, which he
had kept back with difficulty when his friend was there, gushed out in
a flood. And they were not the kind of tears that relieve and refresh.
There was anger in them, and a sense of shame made them hot and bitter
as they fell. He had wild thoughts of going that very night to Mr
Oswald to answer his terrible question, and to tell him that he would
never enter his office again; for, even to be questioned and suspected,
seemed, to him, to bring dishonour, and his sense of justice made him
eager to defend himself at whatever cost. But night brought wiser
counsels; and David knew, as Mr Caldwell had said, where to betake
himself with his trouble; and the morning found him in quite another
As for Mr Caldwell, he did not wait till morning to carry his answer
to Mr Oswald. He did not even go home first to his own house, though he
had not been there for a fortnight.
For who knows, said he to himself, what that foolish lad may go
and say in his anger, and Mr Oswald must hear what I have to say first,
or it may end badly for all concerned.
He found Mr Oswald sitting in the dining-room alone, and, after a
few words concerning the business which had called him away during the
last few weeks, he told him of his visit to David, and spoke with
decision as to the impossibility of the lad's having any knowledge of
the lost money.
It seems impossible, certainly, said Mr Oswald; and yet how can
its disappearance be accounted for? It must have been taken from the
table or from the safe on the very day it was brought to me, or I must
have seen it at night. There can be no doubt it was brought to me on
that day, and there can be no doubt it was after all the others, except
young Inglis and yourself were gone. I was out, I remember, when it was
time to go home. When I came in, there was no one in the outer office.
You had sent David out, you said. He came in before I left And he
went over the whole affair again, saying it was not the loss of the
money that vexed him. Though the loss had been ten times as great, it
would have been nothing in comparison with the vexation caused by the
loss of confidence in those whom he employed.
For some one must have taken the money, even if David Inglis be not
Here they were both startled by a voice from the other end of the
David Inglis, papa! What can you mean? and Frank came hurriedly
forward, stumbling against the furniture as he shaded his eyes from the
My boy! are you here? What would the doctor say? You should have
been in bed long ago.
But, papa, what is it that is lost? You never could blame Davie,
papa. You could not think Davie could take money, Mr Caldwell?
No, I know David Inglis better, said Mr Caldwell, quietly.
And, papa, you don't think ill of Davie? You would not if you knew
him. Papa! you have not accused him? Oh! what will Aunt Mary think?
cried the boy in great distress. Papa, how could you do it?
Mr Oswald was asking himself the same question. The only thing he
could say was that there was no one else, which seemed a foolish thing
to say in the face of such perfect confidence as these two had in
David. But he could not go over the whole matter again, and so he told
Frank it was something in which he was not at all to meddle, and in his
discomfort and annoyance he spoke sharply to the boy, and sent him
But I shall go to Davie the first thing in the morning, papa. I
would not believe such a thing of Davie, though a hundred men declared
it. I would sooner believe it ofof Mr Caldwell, said Frank,
Be quiet, Frank, said his father; but Mr Caldwell laughed a little
and patted the boy on the shoulder as he passed, and then he, too, said
good-night and went away. And Mr Oswald was not left in a very pleasant
frame of mind, that is certain.
True to his determination to see David, Frank reached the bank next
morning before his father. He reached it before David, too, and he
would have gone on to meet him, had it not been that the bright
sunshine which had followed the rain had dazzled his poor eyes and made
him dizzy, and he was glad to cover his face and to lie down on the
sofa in his father's office for a while. He lay still after his father
came in, and only moved when he heard David's voice saying
Mr Caldwell told me you wished to see me, sir.
Then Frank started up and came feeling his way towards his friend.
He does not mean it, Davie! he cried. Papa knows you never could
have done such a thing. Don't be angry, old fellow.
And then he put out his hand to clasp David's, and missed it partly
because of their natural dimness and partly because of the tears that
rushed to them. David regarded him in dismay.
Are they so bad as that, Frank? Are they worse again? said David,
forgetting his own trouble in the heavier trouble of his friend. They
were bad enough, and there was more wrong with the boy besides his
eyes. He was ill and weak, and he burst out crying, with his head on
David's shoulder, but his tears were not for himself.
You were wrong to come out to-day, Frank, said his father,
surprised and perplexed at his sudden break-down; you must go home
Papa, tell Davie that you do not believe he took the money, cried
the boy. He could not do it, papa.
Indeed, I did not, sir, said David. I know nothing about the
matter except what Mr Caldwell has told me. You may believe me, sir.
I do not know what to believe, said Mr Oswald. It seems unlikely
that you should be tempted to do so foolish and wrong a thing. But I
have been deceived many a time. Who could have taken it?
It was not I, said David, quietly, and while he said it he was
conscious of a feeling of thankfulness that he had not seen Mr Oswald
in the first angry moment after he had known of his suspicion. An angry
denial, he felt now, would have availed little.
Papa, begin at the beginning and tell Davie all about it. Perhaps
he will think of something you have forgottensomething that may help
you to find out where the money has gone, said Frank, earnestly.
But Mr Oswald would do nothing of the sort. He was tired and
perplexed with the matter, and he had come to the determination to pay
the lost money, and wait till time should throw light on the
circumstances of its loss, or until the guilty person should betray
You must go, Frank. You are not fit to be here, said he.
I want to hear you tell Davie that you don't believe he is a
A thief! That is a very ugly word, and David winced as it was
spoken. Mr Oswald winced too.
Money has been taken from this room, and until the manner of its
disappearance be discovered, all who had access to the place must, in a
sense, be open to suspicion. Let us hope that the guilty person will be
found out, and in the meantime, let nothing more be said about it.
But why did you not tell me at once that you suspected me? said
David, in some excitement.
It was not a pleasant thing to tell.
No, but it is not pleasanter to hear it now. There is less chance
that the guilty person may be traced now, than if the loss had been
declared at once. And must I lie under the suspicion always? I do not
think you have been just to me.
That will do. The less said the better, said Mr Oswald. Frank,
you must go home.
You will not go away, Davie? said Frank.
Not if I may stay. Where could I go? said David.
You will stay, of course. Let us hope the truth about this
unpleasant business may come out at last. We must all be uncomfortable
until it does.
If you had only spoken to David about it sooner, said Frank,
But Mr Oswald would neither say nor hear more. Entreated by Frank,
however, he asked David to go and stay at his house, till his mother
returned home. But David refused to go even for a day, and no
entreaties of Frank could move him.
I don't wonder that you will not come, said Frank. I don't blame
you for refusing. And oh! what will Aunt Mary think of us all?
She will know that you are all right, Frank, said David,
trying to look cheerful as he bade his friend good-bye at the door. He
did not succeed very well, nor did Frank; and David, thinking of it
afterwards, was by no means sure that he had been right in refusing to
go to stay with him for a while, and thinking of his friend's troubles
did him some good, in that it gave him less time to think of his own.
But he could not make up his mind to go to Mr Oswald's house, and he
did not see Frank again for a good while after that.
David had rather a hard time for the next few days. A great trouble
had fallen on him. He could have borne anything else better he
sometimes thought. His good name was in danger, for even a false
accusation must leave a stain on it, he thought. Every day that passed
made it less likely that the mysterious matter of the lost money could
be cleared up, and until this happened, Mr Oswald would never perfectly
trust him again; and David said to himself, sometimes sadly and
sometimes angrily, that he could not stay where he was not trusted. Nor
was it likely that Mr Oswald would wish him to stay. They might have to
leave the bridge house and Singleton, and where could they go?
Of course a constant indulgence in such thoughts and fears was very
foolish on David's part, and almost always he knew it to be foolish. He
knew that all this trouble had not fallen on him by chance, and that
out of it some good must come. He said to himself that he had been
growing proud of his good name, of being his mother's right hand, and
of having the confidence of Mr Oswald, and perhaps this had been
permitted to happen to him to remind him that he must be watchful and
humble, and that he could do nothing good of himself. Gradually David
came to see how right Mr Caldwell had been when he said that it was a
very great matter how he bore his trial, and he grew ashamed of his
anger and impatience and distrust.
Just as if the Lord who loved him, and whom he loved, were not
caring for him all this time! Just as though this were a matter that
could not be committed to His caretrusted altogether to Him! Yes, he
acknowledged himself very foolish and wrong. A great many times every
day he asked that his good name might be cleared from the stain that
seemed to rest on it; but as often he asked, that whether it was to be
so or not, he might have grace and strength given to bear his trouble
He did bear it pretty well, Mr Caldwell thought, and he watched him
closely through these days. Mr Oswald thought so, top, and wondered a
little. He could not really believe David Inglis to be guilty of theft,
but it seemed strange to him that he should be so cheerful and patient
under a false accusation. The only way in which he showed that he
resented his suspicion, was by being firm in continuing to refuse the
invitation to his house, which he again renewed. Frank told his father
that he did not wonder at the refusal; he tried all the same to shake
David's resolution, but he did not succeed.
David did not think he bore his trial well. In his heart, he was
angry and desponding often. And, oh! how he wanted his mother! It would
not have been half so bad if she had been at home, he thought, and yet
he could not bring himself to write to her about it. When it should be
made clear where the lost money had goneso clear that even Mr Oswald
would not have a doubtful thought, then he would tell his mother, and
get the sympathy which would be so ready and so sweet. It would spoil
her happy summer to know that he was in trouble, he thought, and,
besides, he could not bear that she should know that any one had dared
to speak of him as dishonest. This was foolish, too, but he could not
tell her till afterwards.
His mother was not quite at ease about him. She knew he was in
trouble. She had gathered that from the changed tone of his weekly
letter, and an inadvertent word, now and then, led her to believe that
there was something more the matter than the loneliness to which he
confessed after Jem went away. So, when an opportunity occurred for
Violet to go to Singleton for a day or two, she was very glad that she
should go, to see how Davie was getting on, and to give him an account
of their manner of life in Gourlay.
And when David came home one night, to find Violet making tea
instead of Mrs Lacy, was he not glad to see her! He was more glad to
see her than he would have been to see his mother. He knew he never
could have talked half an hour with his mother without telling her all
that was in his heart, and he could keep it from Violet. At least, so
he said to himself. But when tea was over, and Violet had told him all
they were doing at Gourlay, and all they were enjoying there, she began
to ask him questions in return, and, before he knew it, he was telling
all the sad story of the last few weeks, and was looking with wonder at
his sister's astonished and indignant face. For astonishment was
Violet's first feelingastonishment that such a thing could have
happened to Davie, and for a little, it was stronger even than her
And haven't you the least idea what may have become of the money,
Davie? Don't you have any suspicion of any one? asked she, after she
had said a good many angry words that need not be repeated. Have they
not been trying to discover something?
They have been trying, I suppose.
And what do you think, Davie? There must be some clue,
But David was silent.
You do suspect some one? said Violet, eagerly.
No, said he, slowly; I have no sufficient reason for suspecting
Tell me, Davie.
No; I have no right to tell my suspicions, or to suspect any one.
It came into my head one night; but I know it is foolish and wrong, and
I have nothing to tell.
When did it happen? asked Violet, after a little.
David could not tell her the exact time. He had never been told the
date of the receipt which Mr Oswald had given; but he thought it could
not have been very long after his mother went away, though he had not
heard of the loss till after Jem had gone.
Violet went here and there putting things to rights in the room, and
said nothing for a good while. By and by she came and leaned over the
chair in which David was sitting, and asked:
David, when did Philip Oswald go away?
David turned round and looked at her uneasily.
A good while ago. Soon after you all went away to Gourlay. No,
Violetdon't say it, said he, eagerly, as he met her look. He could
not do it. Why should he? He has all the money he wants. And, besides,
he could not do such a thing.
David, said Violet, gravely, was it Philip that you were thinking
Don't, Violet! It came into my mindI couldn't help that, but it
is wrong to speak of it. It could not have been he.
I don't know. It does not seem possible. He is foolish and
frivolousand not to be relied on; but I do not think he would do such
a thing astake moneyunless
Violet! Don't speak of it. A false accusation is a terrible thing.
I am not accusing him. There does not seem to be a sufficient
motive for such an act. The sum was so smalland then
Dear Violet! said David, in great distress, don't speak of it any
Well, I will notbut Mr Oswald accused you. You are a great deal
better than I am, Davie, said his sister, softly.
David laughed an uncertain laugh.
That is all you know about it, said he.
When Violet went up next day to speak to Miss Oswald about the
little girls, the first word that Frank said to her was:
Has Davie told you? Oh! Violet, what will Aunt Mary think of papa?
But Violet could not trust herself to speak of Davie's trouble to
him. She was too angry with his father; and, besides, she was too
startled by Frank's pale looks to be able to think, for the moment, of
any one but him.
Are you ill, Frank? Are your eyes worse? What have you been doing
For Frank had dropped his head down on his hands again.
Yes, they are worse. I was out in the rain, and caught cold. I was
not strong enough to go, I suppose. Phil, sent me back with some people
who were coming down. He would have come himself, but, of course, I
couldn't let him.
You would have done better to come to Gourlay with us, said
Yes, even without Jem or Davie. I wish I had gone.
Come with me to-morrow, said Violet, earnestly. Mamma will be
very glad to see you.
But Frank shook his head sadly.
I cannot, Violet. I should be ashamed to look Aunt Mary in the
You need not, Frank. Mamma will know. And you don't suppose that
anything they say can really hurt our Davie?
No; not in the end. Butthere's no use in talking.
I am not afraid! said Violet. And mamma will not fret about it; I
am sure of that?
There was nothing more said for some time, and then Violet asked:
Where is your brother now?
He must be far across the country by this time. He was enjoying the
trip very much when I left him.
And when will he be home?
I don't know. Not for a good while yet. Why are you asking?
Frank raised himself up, and peered with his dim eyes into Violet's
Why are you asking? he repeated.
But Violet did not answer him. As she looked at his poor, pale face,
the tears started in her eyes.
Frank, dear boy, you must come home with me. You want mamma again.
She will do you more good than the doctor.
Violet, tell me one thing! Does Davie blame Philabout the missing
money, I mean. Tell me!
Davie blame your brother! Why should you say so? Davie would be
shocked at such a question from you. What reason could he have to blame
But Violet was very glad that he did not pursue the subject, for she
was afraid to let him know all her thoughts about Davie's trouble. She
did not give him an opportunity to return to the subject. She wished
very much for Frank's sake that he should return to Gourlay with her,
and she hastened to propose the plan to his aunt. Miss Oswald was, by
no means, disposed to hinder him, though she doubted if his father
would let him go. She was not very much accustomed to the society of
young people, and she had been at a loss what to do with the boy, who,
though not very ill, was disinclined, and, indeed, unable to amuse
himself, or to enter into any of the plans which were made for his
pleasure, so she promised to speak to his father, and to have his
things ready should he be permitted to go. Violet took care to avoid
being alone with Frank while she stayed in the house, and nothing more
was said about Philip.
It was all arranged as Violet desired it might be. Mr Oswald made no
serious objections to his son's going to Gourlay. Frank himself
objected, but the prospect of going with Violet was too pleasant to
make his refusal very firm, and the thought of the loneliness of his
own home decided him to go.
Violet, said David, when the time came to say good-bye, you must
not tell mamma about all this vexation. It would only make her unhappy,
and do no good.
But Violet would not promise.
I cannot, Davie. I cannot keep anything from mamma when she wishes
to know it; and she will be sure to ask everything about you. But you
need not be afraid. Mamma will not fret. She will know that it will all
be right in the end.
And the end of David's trouble, as far as the missing money was
concerned, was nearer than either of them thought when they bade each
other good-bye. He had a few days more of anxiety and discomfort, in
the midst of which came a letter from his mother, which made it seem to
him a very small trouble indeed. He read it over and over again, and
laughed at himself for supposing that he was acting wisely in keeping
the knowledge of all that was making him so unhappy from his mother.
Mamma always knows just what to say and how to say it, said he to
himself; and, of course, she is not going to fret about a matter which
is sure to come right in the end.
And so the days that followed were better days, though the hot
weather, and the close confinement in the office through the day, and
the loneliness of the deserted house at home, were beginning to tell on
him, and he was by no means well. He did his best to do well all that
was given him to do, but the days were long and dull and the evenings
lonely, and he began to count the days that must pass before they
should all come home.
There was something going on in the town one afternoon, a cricket
match or a match at football, and all the clerks had left the bank at
the earliest possible moment, intent on seeing all that was to be seen
of it. David would have gone with, the rest, but Mr Caldwell, who was
at the moment engaged with Mr Oswald in his private room, had asked him
to remain till he came out to him again. David waited, not caring that
he lost the amusement that the others sought, not caring very much for
anything just at that moment, for he was tired and getting a little
unhappy again, and very much ashamed of himself because of it.
For when he had read his mother's letter only the other day, he had
taken all the comfort of her cheerful, trustful words, and acknowledged
how foolish and wrong it had been for him to let Mr Oswald's doubts and
suspicions dismay him. He had said then that it was all past now, and
that he could wait God's time for the clearing of his name, without
being unhappy or afraid again. And now here he was wondering anxiously
whether Mr Oswald and Mr Caldwell were speaking about the lost money,
and whether any thing more was known that he had not heard. He was
tired waiting, and wanted to go home, and yet the thought of the empty
house and the long dull evening was not pleasant, and he was saying to
himself that it did not matter whether he stayed or went, when a hand
was laid on his shoulder, and a familiar voice said
Well, Davie, my boy, have you been standing here ever since I went
David turned and saw Philip Oswald. In his surprise, and because of
the many thoughts that came upon him at the sight of him, he did not
utter a word. He forgot to take the hand which Philip held out to him.
Have you, Davie? I declare you look as if you had not seen the
light of the sun for a month! What is the matter with you, Davie?
He might well ask it, for David had grown very pale, and his heart
was beating fast. In spite of his judgment, he had, since his talk with
Violet, associated Philip with the thought of the lost money, and now
as he looked at his frank, handsome face, he said how impossible it was
that he should have taken it, or that he should know anything about it.
No, Philip Oswald could not help him out of his trouble.
When did you come, Philip? said he. I should scarcely have known
you, if you hadn't spoken.
Philip had changed more than seemed possible in two months' time. He
was brown with the sun and much more manly-looking. He even seemed to
David to have grown taller in these two months.
I have improved, haven't I? I can't say as much for you. What is
the trouble, Davie?
Philip laid his hand on his shoulder again, and brought his laughing
brown face close to David's. But David drew himself away. He hated
himself for the feeling of anger and envy that rose in his heart as he
looked at Philip. Why should life be so easy to him? Why should the
summer have passed so differently to them? At the moment he was very
miserable, tired of his trouble and of his laborious life, faithless
and afraid. So he withdrew from the young man's touch, and turned away
Is it as bad as that? Can't I help you? Frank seemed to think I
might, though I could not make out from his letter what was the trouble
or how I could help you out of it. Is it about money, Davie? Have you
got into a scrape at last?
A scrape! repeated David. No you cannot help me, I am afraid. I
should be sorry to trouble you.
Trouble! Nonsense! I have come a fortnight sooner than I wanted to
come, because of Frank's letter. He seemed to think I could put you
through. What has my father to do with it? Halloo! Here is old
Caldwell. Must it be kept dark, Davie?
David made him no answer. Unconsciously he had been looking forward
to the time of Philip's coming home, with hope that in some way or
other light might be thrown on the matter that had darkened all the
summer to him, but Philip evidently knew nothing of it, and all must be
as before. If he could have got away without being questioned, he would
have gone, for he was by no means sure that he might not disgrace
himself by breaking into angry words, or even into tears. He certainly
must have done one or other if he had tried to speak, but he did not
need to answer.
So you have come home! said Mr Caldwell, as he came forward. You
have not been in haste.
I beg your pardon. I have been in haste. I did not intend to
come home for ten days yet, if I had been allowed to have my own way
And what hindered you? Matters of importance, doubtless.
You may be sure of that. Has my father gone home? I will just see
him a minute, and then I'll go home with you, Davie, said Philip,
turning towards his father's door. David has important business with
me, added he, looking over his shoulder with his hand on the
David shook his head.
Your father will tell you all about it, said he, hoarsely.
Philip whistled and came back again.
That is the way, is it?
Or I will tell you, said Mr Caldwell, gravely. Young man, what
did your brother Frank say to you in the letter he wrote to you a while
Philip looked at him in surprise.
What is that to you, sir? He saidI don't very well know what he
said. It was a mysterious epistle altogether, and so blurred and
blotted that I could hardly read it. But I made out that Davie was in
trouble, and that I was expected home to bring him through.
Searching through his many pockets, he at last found his brother's
letter and held it out to David. Perhaps you can make it out, said
Blurred and blotted it was, and the lines were crooked, and in some
places they ran into each other, and David did not wonder that Philip
could not read it very well. He saw his own name in it and Violet's,
and he knew of course that what Frank had to say was about the lost
money, but he could see also that the story was only hinted at, and the
letter was altogether so vague and indefinite, that it might well seem
mysterious to Philip.
Can you make it out? Philip asked.
I know what he means, though perhaps I should not have found it out
from this. Your father will tell you, or Mr Caldwell.
All right! Fire away, and the sooner the better, for I am tired. If
I can help you out of the scrape, I will.
That is to be seen yet, said Mr Caldwell.
Then he told the story of the lost money, using as few words as
possible, as was his way. He only told the facts of the case, how the
money had been brought to Mr Oswald and its receipt acknowledged by
him, and how a part of it had never been found or accounted for, and
how Mr Oswald had first suspected, and then openly accused David Inglis
of having taken it. He did not express any opinion as to whether Mr
Oswald was right or wrong, nor offer any suggestion as to what might
have become of the missing money, and one might not have thought from
his way of telling it, that he was particularly interested in the
matter. But he never removed his eyes from Mr Philip's face, and his
last words were
And it seems your brother thought you might have some knowledge of
the matter. Is that what he says in his letter?
Philip's face was well worth looking at as the story went on. At
first he whistled and looked amused, but his amusement changed to
surprise, and then to consternation, as Mr Caldwell proceeded. When he
ceased speaking he exclaimed without heeding his question
What could my father mean? To blame Davie, of all people!
There was no one else, he thought, said David.
No one else! repeated Philip. Nonsense! There was Mr Caldwell and
all the rest of them in the office, and there was me. I took the
If you had acknowledged it a little sooner, it would have been a
wiser thing for yourself, and it would have saved your father much
vexation, and a deal of unhappiness to David Inglis and the rest of
them, said Mr Caldwell, severely. You had best tell your father about
it now, added he, as Mr Oswald came out of his room.
Acknowledge it! Of course, I acknowledge it. Papa, did you not get
the note I left on your table for you the day I went away?
The note! repeated his father. I got no note from you.
David, my man, whispered Mr Caldwell, do you mind the word that
says, `He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy
judgment as the noonday?' The Lord doesna forget.
The story as they gathered it from Philip's explanations and
exclamations was this: He had come to the office to see his father
directly from the train that had brought him home from C. He had not
found him in, but he had written a note to explain that through some
change of plan the company of explorers were to set out immediately,
and that he must return to Cwithout a moment's delay, in order that
all arrangements might be completed by the time that the boat sailed.
He was almost sure he had acknowledged taking the small rolls of silver
that were on the table; he was quite sure that he had left the full
value in paper money in exchange. There could be no mistake about it,
and he had never doubted but his father had received it.
And, papa! the absurdity of suspecting Davie, said Philip, not
very respectfully, when his story was done.
And now the matter lies between him and you, said his father. For
the money is not forthcoming. You may have neglected to leave it after
But Philip was certain as to that point. He had enclosed it with his
note and closed the envelope, leaving it on an open ledger that was
lying on the table. There could be no mistake about that.
And we are just where we were before, said Mr Caldwell. But don't
be cast down, David. There must be a way out of this.
But nothing astonishes me so much as that my father should have
doubted Davie. That was too absurd, you know. If I had been you, Davie,
I would have cut the whole concern, said Philip.
There would have been much wisdom in that, said Mr Caldwell dryly.
There is no fear of David Inglis.
David said nothing. He stood folding and unfolding the letter that
Philip had given him, struck dumb by the thought that nothing had
really been discovered of the missing money, and that the suspicion of
Mr Oswald might still rest on him I wonder you did not think of me,
father, went on Philip. Frank did, I dare say, though I could not
make out what he meant. But the money must be somewhere. Let us have a
He went into his father's room, and the others followed. Philip
looked about as though he expected everything might be as he left it
two months ago. There were loose papers on the table, and some letters
and account-books. The morning paper was there, and Mr Oswald's hat and
cane, and that was all.
The big book lay just here, said Philip. I laid my note on it, so
that it need not be overlooked.
There are more big books in the office than one, said Mr Caldwell,
crossing the room to a large safe, of which the doors were still
standing open. One by one he lifted the large account-books that were
not often disturbed, and turned over the leaves slowly, to see whether
any paper might have been shut in them. As soon as Philip understood
what he was doing, he gave himself to the same work with a great deal
more energy and interest than Mr Caldwell displayed. But it was Mr
Caldwell who came upon that for which they were lookingPhilip's note
to his fathersafe between the pages of a great ledger, which looked
as though it might not have been opened for years.
I mind well; I was referring back to Moses Cramp's account of past
years on the very day that brought us all our trouble. And now, David
Inglis, your trial is over for this time, and he handed the note to Mr
Provided Mr Philip has made no mistake, added he, cautiously, as
the note was opened.
The interest with which David looked on may be imagined. It took Mr
Oswald a good while to read the note; at least, it was a good while
before he laid it down, and Mr Caldwell, claiming Mr Philip's help, set
about putting the big books in their places again. David never thought
of offering to help.
It has been a very unfortunate mistake, said Mr Oswald, at last.
All's well that ends well, said his son lightly.
I am very sorry that you should have been made unhappy about it,
David. I might have known that you were not to blame, but there
seemed to be no one else. I beg your pardon sincerely, said Mr Oswald.
I am very glad it is all right, sir, said David, quietly.
I should like to know one thing, said Philip. How came Frank to
write to me? He must have thought I was the thiefthe young rascal.
Did you think so, Davie?
No, said David, I never thought you took it. I don't know what
Frank thought. I never spoke to him about it, nor to any one, added
David, after a moment's hesitation.
Well! never mind. I'll sift that matter by and by. Come up to the
house with me, Davie. I am very sorry for all the pain you have had
about this business. Come home with me to-night.
No; I am going home by myself. I have a headache. You were not to
Yes, he was to blame, said Mr Oswald. It was a very
unbusiness-like way of doing things, and it might have ended badly for
It has been bad enough all through for David Inglis. Mr Philip, if
you wish to make amends to him, you should offer to take his place and
let him go to the country to amuse himself with the rest for a few
Philip opened his eyes.
I am afraid I could not fill David's place in the office, said he.
I am afraid of that, too. But you would be better than nobody, and
we would have patience with you. And David must go for awhile, whether
you take his place or no.
Yes, assented Mr Oswald, rather absently. He might as well have a
holiday now as any time. And, Philip, I expect you to take your own
place in the office after this regularly.
Philip shrugged his shoulders, when his father was not looking to
I'll give it a trial, said he.
And can I go to-morrow, Mr Caldwell? said David. I have no
preparations to make, and I should like to take them by surprise.
By all means. I should like to go with you and see it, said
Philip. But, I suppose, that would hardly dojust at present.
David bade them good-night, and went down the street with Mr
I am much obliged to you, sir. I am very glad to get away from the
office for awhile, to say nothing of going to Gourlay and seeing them
David's eyes sparkled at the thought.
Well! You have borne your trouble not so ill, said Mr Caldwell;
and you may tell your mother I said so.
David laughed; but he looked grave in a moment.
I don't think you would say I bore it well, if you knew all the
angry thoughts I had. But I am very glad and thankful now, and I am
sure mamma will thank you for all your kindness. I know now you never
thought me capable of doing so wrong a thing.
We are all poor creatures, David, my man. There is no saying what
we mightna' do if we were left to ourselves. Be thankful and humble,
and pray for grace to keep in the right way; and mind that yon young
man's eyes are upon you, and that you are, in a measure, responsible
for his well-doing or his ill-doing, for awhile, at least; and may the
Lord guide you, said Mr Caldwell, solemnly, and then he went away.
David stood gazing after him with astonished eyes.
I responsible for him! That can hardly be. I am nothing to him. I
wonder what mamma would say? I shall have nothing to do with him for
awhile, at least. I like Frank much the best. Oh! isn't it good to be
David had one thing to do with Philip Oswald before he went away. He
came to the station with a parcel which he wished him to take to his
little sisters, and to see him off. He was merry and good-humoured,
though he pretended to be dreadfully afraid of not being able to fill
David's place in the office to the satisfaction of Mr Caldwell.
If Aunt Mary will ask me, I will come to Gourlay and spend some
Sunday with you, said he. I have a settlement to make with Master
Frank. I did not think that he and Violet would have called me a
dishonest person, even to clear you. I am very angry with them both.
He did not look very angry, for he said it with laughing lips. But
David was shocked.
Violet never thought that of you. She only said thatthat
Well! What did she say? demanded Philip.
She said it was quite impossible, went on David. She said there
was no motiveI meanShe said you were foolish, and frivolous, and
thought first of your own pleasurebut
There was not time for another word, if David would not lose the
train. He was indignant with himself. Why could he not have kept
silence for two minutes longer? And yet, as he caught a glimpse of
Philip's astonished face as the train swept past him on the platform,
he could not help laughing a little, and hoping that the truth might do
him good. For it was true, and Philip did not hear unpleasant truths
too often for his welfare.
At any rate, I am not going to vex myself about it now, said
David. And he was quite right.
And were they not glad to see David in Gourlay? Almost always
something happens to mar, a little, the pleasure of a surprise that has
been planned beforehand; but nothing happened to mar David's. He
travelled to Gourlay in a late train; and as he went up the familiar
road, and saw the lights gleaming through the trees, as he had seen
them so often in the old days, a great many thoughts crowded upon him,
and, if the truth must be told, there were tears in his eyes and on his
cheeks, too, when he opened the door and went in among them.
They were all there. Even little Polly, by some happy chance, was up
at the unusual hour. Was there ever music so sweet, as the glad cry
that greeted him? There were tears on more cheeks than David's; but his
mother did not ask if his trouble was over; she knew by his face,
though it was wet,that he was at peace with himself, and troubles
from without, do not hurt much, when the heart's peace is undisturbed.
The words that rose to Violet's lips were kept back, as she looked from
her mother's face to David's. But Frank could see nobody's face, and
his own was very pale and anxious, as he listened to the happy tumult
of voices around him.
Has Philip come home? asked he, after a little. Did he get my
letter? Is it all right, Davie?
Oh, yes! it's all right. He got your letter, but I am afraid he
couldn't read it very well. It brought him home a fortnight sooner than
he meant to come, however.
And is it all right? asked Frank, anxiously.
All right! Only I am afraid he will be sorry he came, for he has
taken my place in the office for ten days at least, and he will be very
sick of it before that time is over. Oh, yes! it is all right as right
can be. Mamma, you were right. I need never have fretted, about it at
all. But Philip has something to say to you, Frank, and to Violet,
added David, laughing a little at the remembrance of his last glimpse
of Philip's astonished face.
But there was no more said then. Of course, the story of David's
troubled summer was all told afterwards, to his mother first, and then
to Frank and Violet. It was told to his mother before he slept, when
she went to say good-night and take his lamp, as she used to do, long
ago, in that very room. If David had had to tell the story of Mr
Oswald's suspicions, before Philip's return had proved their injustice,
he might have grown angry as he went on with it, and indulged in bitter
words, as he had sometimes indulged in bitter thoughts. He had no
temptation now to do this, and he did not seek to conceal from her how
angry he had been at first, and how faithless and unhappy afterwards.
He ended by giving Mr Caldwell's message to her, that he had borne his
trouble not so ill, and his mother agreed with Mr Caldwell, though she
said less than she felt with regard to the whole matter.
You should have written to me, Davie, said she.
I wished you were there a thousand times, mamma, but I thought it
would only make you unhappy to know about my trouble, since you
couldn't help it. And for a long time there was nothing to tell. When I
got your letter, after Violet came, I was sorry I hadn't told you
There was a good deal more said before Mrs Inglis went down-stairs,
but not much more about this matter. Sitting in the dark, with now and
then a quiver in her voice, and tears on her cheeks, the mother told
her son how it had been with her since they parted. The coming back to
the old home and to her husband's grave had not been altogether
sorrowful. Indeed, after the very first, it had been more joyful than
sorrowful. The memory of the just is blessed.
They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. How
clear this had been made to her during these days! The results of her
husband's teaching and influence and example were visible now, as they
had not been in former days. That which then had been as the hidden
seed, or the shooting germ, had in some lives sprung up to blossom, or
bear fruit an hundred fold. She told David of one and another who had
spoken to her of his father, blessing his memory, because of what he
had done for them and theirs, in the service of his Master, and then
It is the only true and worthy life, Daviea life of work for the
Master. Is it to be yours, my boy?
Yes, mamma. In one way or another, it is to be mine. Whether it is
to be as papa's was, I cannot tell.
That may come, dear. It is so blessed to feel that our times are in
His hands. It would be great happiness to know that my son might give
himself to the work of preaching the Gospel as his father did. But that
must be as God wills. You may be his soldier and servant, whatever may
be your calling; but we gave you to His work as soon as He gave you to
us, and I pray God you may yet stand in your father's place.
A soldier of Christto gird on the armour that my father has laid
down, said David, softly. I do wish it, mamma, if only it
might be. But it must be a long time first.
Who knows? And it does not matter whether the time may be long or
sort, if it is God's time. And all your life till it comes may be made
It was not often that Mrs Inglis spoke on this subject to her son.
She had not done so more than once or twice since his father died. But
it was, as she told him, the cherished wish of her heart, and the
burden of her prayers for him that he should live and die in the work
that had been his father's. The fulfillment of her hope did not seem
very near, or possible, but David was young and she could wait, and, in
the meantime, it was her pleasure and her duty to encourage him.
Afterwards, when David looked back on this time, it was of his
mother and these quiet talks with her that he always thought. Not that
these two had much of these pleasant weeks to themselves or many
opportunities to indulge in conversation which all could not share.
Once they went to the North Gore together, and oh, how vividly came
back to David the many times which during the last year of his father's
life he had gone there with him! The memories awakened were sad, but
they were sweet, for all the bitterness had gone out of his grief for
his father, and he told his mother many things about those drives, and
of all his father had said, and of the thoughts and feelings his words
had stirred in his heart. And she had some things to tell as well.
Once they lingered behind the others on their way home from church,
and turned aside into the grave-yard for a little while. The moonlight
was brightening in the east, and the evening star shone clear in the
west, and in the soft uncertain light, the white grave-stones, and the
waving trees, and the whole place looked strangely beautiful and
peaceful to the boy's eyes. There were not many words spoken. There was
no need of many words between these two. In the heart of the widow, as
she sat there in the spot dearest to her on earth, because of the
precious dust it held, was no forgetfulness of past sorrow, but there
was that perfect submission to God's will, which is the highest and
most enduring happiness. There was trust for the future, such as left
no room for doubt or for discouragement; and so there was peace for the
present, which is better than happiness. She did not speak of all this
to David, but he knew by many tokens what was passing in her heart, and
he shared both the sadness and the gladness of the peaceful hour.
There was a great deal of enjoyment of another kind crowded into the
time of David's stay in Gourlay. There was only one thing to regret,
and that was the absence of Jem. There were few familiar faces or
places that he did not see. Sometimes Frank went with him, and
sometimes Violet, and sometimes they all went together, but neither
Frank nor Violet quite filled Jem's place to his brother. Though David
had generally been regarded as much wiser and steadier than his
brother, when they lived in Gourlay, they had had enough interests and
amusements and tastes in common to make David miss him and regret him
at every turn. And he missed him and wished for him all the more that
he himself was regarded and treated by the people now as a man of
business and a person of consideration. Of course, he could not object
to the respect and deference shown to him in this character, but they
were sometimes embarrassing, and sometimes they interfered with his
plans for passing his much prized holiday. Jem would have made all
things right, David thought, and it would have been far more agreeable
to follow his leadership in the way of seeking amusement, as he used to
do, than to have to sustain his reputation for gravity and steadiness
among his elders. Still they all enjoyed these weeks thoroughly, though
not in the way they would have done in Jem's company.
Miss Bethia was paying a visit to a friend in a neighbouring town
when David first came to Gourlay, which was upon the whole a
circumstance not to be regretted, he thought, as they had a few days to
themselves just at first. He was very glad to see her, when she came,
however, and she was as glad to see him. Of course, she manifested her
interest in him in the old way, by giving him good advice, and
reminding him of his privileges, but to his mother she very decidedly
signified her approval of him, and her satisfaction in regard to his
walk and conversation generally, and spoke of his future professionof
his entering upon his father's work, as if it were a settled matter
accepted by them all. But David was shy of responding to her
expressions of interest on this subject. It was one thing to speak to
his mother of his hopes, and quite another to listen to Miss Bethia's
plans and suggestions, especially as she did not confine the discussion
to themselves, but claimed the sympathy and congratulations of friends
and neighbours, in view of his future work and usefulness.
They did not fall out about it, however, and there was one matter of
interest and discussion which they enjoyed entirely. This was the
minister's much valued library. It was to be David's at some future
time. That was quite settled, and in the meantime it had to be looked
over and dusted and re-arranged, or rather arranged exactly as it had
been left, and David handled the books just as his father used to do,
Miss Bethia said, just as if he liked the feel of them in his hands,
which he doubtless did. He liked them altogether, and no day of that
happy month passed without at least one hour passed in the quiet of his
David's coming home was especially good for Frank. He had been more
anxious and unhappy about David's affairs than he had confessed, and
about Philip's possible share in themmore anxious than he was able to
believe possible, after he had talked it all over with David and
Violet. That he had been really afraid that Philip had done any wrong,
he would not allow to himself. To the others he never spoke of what his
fears had been. But it was a great relief and satisfaction that it was
all past, and no one worse for it, and as far as Frank was concerned,
there was nothing to interfere with the enjoyment of the days as they
There had been one thing very terrible to him before he came to
Gourlay to tell it to Aunt Marythe fear of blindness. It had been all
the worse for him at home, because he never spoke of his fears
thereno one could bear to think of anything so sad, and fears brooded
over in silence increase in power. But he could speak of it to Mrs
Inglis, and the mere telling his fears had done something to allay
them. Mrs Inglis's judicious words did more. It was foolish and wrong,
she said, to go half way to meet so great a trouble. And since the
physicians all declared that only time and an improved state of health
were needed to restore perfectly his sight, to wait patiently and
hopefully was his duty.
It was easier for him to do so than it had been at home, and
something better than patient waiting, better even than the hope of
fully restored sight, came to Frank as the summer days went on. He and
David enjoyed much, after the manner of lads of their age, in the
agreeable circumstances in which they were placed; but their chief
enjoyment was of a kind which lads of their age do not usually prize
David was boyish in many ways still, but the discipline of the last
two years had wrought well with him, and Frank saw a great difference
in him in one respect, at least. He had always been thoughtful, and he
had always been earnest in the grave discussions into which they had
sometimes fallen during his first visit, but there was this difference
in him now, Frank saw. He spoke now, not doubtfully and wistfully as
they all used to do, about the whole armour and the Christian's
weapons and warfare, but with firmness and assurance, as of
something with which he had to do; and, though he said little about
himself at such times, it gradually became clear to Frank that David
was no longer his ownthat his name had been enrolled among the names
of those whose honour and glory it is that they are the soldiers of the
It sometimes happens that young persons who have been carelessly
brought up, or whose religious teaching has been merely formal, have
less hesitation in speaking about personal religion than others who
have had their consciences, if not their hearts, touched by the earnest
and loving appeals of those who watch for their souls as they who must
give account. And so, when David, sometimes unconsciously, and
sometimes with intention, made it clear to him how the aim and purpose
of his life were changed, and how he longed and meant to live in future
as the servant and soldier of Christ, Frank listened and questioned
with interest. And when David went further, and ventured on a gentle
word or two of entreaty or counsel to him personally, he not only
listened patiently, but responded frankly to all. And it was not always
David who was first to turn the conversation to serious subjects. Frank
had never forgotten the lessons learned during his first visit. He had
often, in his own mind, compared the life his father was living with
the life Mr Inglis had lived, and he did not think his father's life
was the wisest or the happiest. Labour for that which satisfieth not,
told best the story of his father's life to him. He had thought that
often during the last year, for he knew a little of his sister's
exacting demands, of his brother's careless expenditure, and of the
anxieties which troubled his father's days and nights because of them,
and because of other things. And now, when in Gourlay he heard of the
fruit already gathered and still to gather from the good seed sown in
past years by the minister, he thought it still the more. Even for this
life, the minister had had the best portion. True, he had lived and
died a poor man; but, to Frank, it seemed that more was to be enjoyed
in such poverty than ever his father had enjoyed from his wealth.
Frank had many unhappy thoughts about his father and the rest, and
some about himself. For himself and for them he desired nothing so much
as that they might all learn the secret of perfect contentment which Mr
Inglis had known, which made Mrs Inglis cheerful and not afraid, though
there was little between her and utter povertythe secret which David
knew and Violet. And so, when David, in his not very assured way, spoke
to him of the true riches, and of how they were to be obtained, he was
more than willing to listen, and pleased and surprised his friend by
his eagerness to learn.
It was with no design or expectation of teaching on David's part,
but it happened because they both cared about those things, that
whenever they were alone togetheron their way to or from any of their
many visiting-places, or in the fields or woods, or while sailing on
the river, the conversation almost always turned on graver matters than
young lads usually care to discuss. It was often the same when Violet
was with them or the mother, and Frank had reason to remember this
time; for out of all these earnest talks and happy influences, there
sprang up in his heart a strong desire to be, as they were, a follower
of Christ a wish to give himself to Him and to His serviceto be His
in life and His in death. And by and by the desire was granted. He who
never refuses to receive those who come to Him in sincerity, received
him, and henceforth he and David were more than friendsthey were
brothers, by a bond stronger than that of blood, being joined in heart
to Him, of whom it is said, He is not ashamed to call His people
Philip did not come to Gourlay, though an invitation was sent him by
Mrs Inglis, and accepted by him. He was very busy in the office in
David's absence, he wrote, but he would avail himself of the first
leisure to come to them. He did not come, however, and they could only
suppose that he was too useful in the office to be spared. They were
very sorry, of course, for his sake and theirs, but the days passed
happily with them. The time to leave came only too soon. Mrs Inglis
decided that it would be better for them all to return to Singleton
together, as the autumn days were becoming short, and it was time to be
thinking of winter arrangements in many things.
The last night came. It was not a night like the last one of Frank's
former visit; but Frank was reminded of that night all the same.
Instead of the rain, and wind, and sleet, that had made that night so
dismal without, and the lights and the fire so pleasant within, there
was a cloudless sky, flooded with the light of the harvest moon, and
the air was so still that it did not stir the leaves of the trees
beneath which they lingered. And yet Frank was in some way reminded of
the night when they read about Hobab, and waited so long for Mr Inglis
to come home. David must have been reminded of it, too, for, by and by,
they heard him speaking to Miss Bethia of old Tim, and about his going
with his father when he preached his funeral sermon at the North Gore.
And an excellent sermon it was, said Miss Bethia. Don't you
remember telling me about it that night when I was helping Letty to do
the week's ironing when Debby was away?
Yes, said David, laughing a little, I remember it quite well.
But, he added, gravely in a minute, I think that must have been the
very last time my father preached when he was quite well.
I am afraid he was not quite well then, said Miss Bethia, though
the sermon was good enough to have been his last. The night you
repeated it to me was the first time I thought you had better be a
minister. You might tell it over now, if you haven't forgotten it.
David said to himself that he would be past remembering most things
when he should forget what his father had said that day, and all that
grew out of it. But he did not tell Miss Bethia so. He would not speak
of the sermon, howeverhe would not go over it as a mere trial of
memory; and, besides, it was not to be supposed that the children would
listen patiently on this last night, when there was so much to be said.
So, after that, the talk was mostly left to the little ones, and
wandered away in various directions. Sometimes it was guided past
week-day subjects by the mother, and sometimes it was gently checked,
but, for the most part, this was not needed. The feeling that it was
the last night was on them, and they were very quiet and a little sad.
Miss Bethia was sad, too, and said little. She did not so far forget
her duty as to omit her usual words of caution and counsel to each and
all; but she did not mete it with her usual decision, and very nearly
broke down in the middle of it.
Aunt Bethia, why don't you come home with us? said Polly. Mamma,
why don't you ask Aunt Bethia to come home and stay with us till next
Where should we put her? There is no room in our house, said the
practical Jessie, before her mother could answer.
That's so, said Miss Bethia. Old as I have got to be, there ain't
room for me in anybody's house but my own. I guess Debby and I will
have to get along the best way we can till next summer, and then you
must all come back again.
We don't know what may happen before next year, said Jessie.
And it is no good making plans so far ahead, said Ned.
And we shall hope to see Miss Bethia before summer, and then we can
make our plans. Our house is not very large, Aunt Bethia, but there
will always be room enough in it for such a friend as you have been to
And you have promised to come, Aunt Bethia, said Violet.
If all is well, said Miss Bethia, gravely.
But we are poor creatures, at the best, as I don't need to tell
you; and I don't feel as if I could count on much time or strength for
my part. But it ain't best to worry.
We have had a good time here this summer, whether we come again or
not, said Sarah Oswald. I would like to stay here all winter, if
Violet would stay too. It would be a great deal pleasanter than going
back to Aunt Livy.
Only it is not quite the right thing to say so, Sally, said Frank.
It would be pleasant to stay for some things, said Violet. But I
am glad we are going home now. We shall come again in the summer, if
Aunt Bethia will have us.
You are glad you came, mamma? said David.
Very glad. It has been a happy summer to us all. The leaving you
alone was the only thing to be regretted; but I don't think you are
really the worse for being left.
No, said David, with a long breath. But I am very glad we are all
going home together. I only wish Aunt Bethia was not going to be left
In her heart Miss Bethia knew that it was quite as well for all
concerned that she was to be left behind, still it pleased her to hear
David's wish. She had had a pleasant summer as well as the rest; but
she was not so strong as she used to be, and needed quiet.
Debby and I will tough it out together through the winter, said
she; and, like as not, those of us who are spared will have to make
all their plans all over again. It will be all right, whichever way it
Violet and David looked at Miss Bethia and at each other in
surprise, not so much at her words, as at her manner of saying them.
She looked as though it needed an effort to speak calmly, and she was
very pale; and when she put up her hands to gather her shawl closer
about her, they both noticed that they were trembling and uncertain.
Miss Bethia is growing old, whispered David.
And there is something more the matter with her than she will
acknowledge, I am afraid, said Violet.
It is time to go into the house. The dew is beginning to fall.
Come, children, said the mother, rising.
David and Violet came last with Miss Bethia. She smiled, well
pleased, when, with boyish gallantry, David offered her his arm.
I've gone alone all my life, said she, and now I am most at the
end of it. I've taken a great many steps, too, at one time and another,
but they don't seem to amount to much to look back upon.
And you have a good many more to take, I hope, said Violet, hardly
knowing how to answer her.
But Miss Bethia shook her head.
It ain't likely. But the next six months seem longer to look
forward to than a great many years do to look back upon. It is all
right, anyhow. And, children, if I should never see you againI want
you to remember to consider your mother always. You must never forget
No, said David, wondering a little at her earnestness.
And, David, and you too, Violet, don't you get to thinking too much
about property. It is a good thing to have, I'll allow, but it ain't
the best thing by considerable. Some get to love it, by having too
much, and some by having too little; but it ain't a satisfying portion
any way that it can be fixed, and the love of it makes one forget
everything else. And be sure and be good children to your mother, if I
shouldn't ever see you again. I don't suppose I need to tell you so;
but it's about as good a thing to say for a last word as any, except
thisFollow the Lord always, and keep your armour bright.
They answered her gravely and earnestly, as she seemed to expect,
but it was with no thought that they were listening to her last words.
They would see her, doubtless, many a time again; and they said so to
her, as she repeated them in the morning when it was time to go. But
Violet never saw her again; David saw her, when she was almost past
words, and then she could only, with labouring breath, repeat the very
same to him.
It would have been a very sorrowful leave-taking if the children
could have known that it was their last Good-bye to Miss Bethia. But
it never came into the minds of any of them that the next time they saw
the pleasant house in Gourlay, she would be sleeping by their father's
side in the grave-yard over the hill.
The next winter passed at the bridge house very much as former
winters had done. Violet was in her old place at Mr Oswald's. It was
much quieter there than it had ever been before, for Selina was
spending the winter with her sister, and Mr Philip had gone to a
situation in the city of M, his father hoping that the stricter and
more constant attention to his duties, that would be required from him
there, would tell better in his business education than irregular work
in the office at home could be supposed to do. Frank's eyes were
better, but he was not permitted to use them much yet. It was part of
Violet's duty to read to him, and a judicious selection of a course of
historical reading made the winter pleasant and profitable to both. Jem
was at school no longer. There is no royal road to the attainment of
knowledge and skill in the profession he had chosen, even when the
means and appliances of wealth are at one's disposal; and, having no
money, there was nothing for Jem but to work with his hands as well as
his head, and so he was adding his quota to the clamour made all day in
the great engine-house at the other side of the town. Indeed, he worked
a good deal more with his hands than his head for a time, and it needed
some persuasion on his mother's part, and the exercise of some
authority to keep him, during a reasonable time, every evening at his
For Jem was a little unsettled by the new circumstances in which he
found himself. His friendly ways and bright good temper made him
popular among his fellow-workmen, and his popularity and his love of
fun, together, the more exposed him to the power of temptations
inseparable from the place, and but for his mother's kindness and
firmness, judiciously mingled, it might have gone ill with Jem that
winter. But he settled down after a little, and, with Mr Anstruther's
help, devoted himself as zealously as ever to those branches of study
absolutely necessary to advancement in the profession of an engineer.
It was rather an anxious winter to Mrs Inglis on Jem's account, but it
was, on the whole, a satisfactory winter to look back on, as far as he
Affairs were not going on so smoothly in the bank as they used to
do. There were changes there. One clerk was removed to another branch
of the concern, and the services of another were dispensed with
altogether. David gained a step or two in consequence, and worked hard
in acquiring the knowledge necessary for a right performance of his
Mr Oswald was away often, and did not seem to be in good health or
spirits when he was at home. In spring, he resigned his office of
acting director of the bank, and another was appointed in his place. Mr
Caldwell, who had come into the bank with him, left with himnot
because his services were no longer required there, but because Mr
Oswald needed him, and he chose to give his services to him.
For there were signs of coming trouble to the Oswalds. It began to
be whispered in the town that the affairs of Mr Oswald were not in a
prosperous condition, and that the resignation of his position in the
bank had not been voluntary on his part, but demanded of him by those
who were responsible for the successful carrying on of its affairs. Not
that anything had gone wrong as yet, but he was extensively engaged in
other business, and had other interests. He had to do with the
quarries, and with lumbering affairs, and he had had something to do
with the building of a railway, and had not prospered in all these
things; and it could not be doubted that trouble was before him.
There had been some anxiety lest David's place in the bank might not
be permanent in the midst of so many changes, but no change was made in
his case, and except that his work was somewhat different, and that
more responsibility rested on him with regard to some matters, all went
on as before. He missed Mr Oswald's face in the inner office, and he
greatly missed the comings and goings of Mr Caldwell; but all went on
in the bank with the same system and order as it had ever done.
But troubles were thickening around the Oswalds. Mrs Mavor was ill
and Selina was sent for to be with her. Mr Philip lost his situation in
M, and came home. Rumours had reached David, before this time, that
his manner of life had not been satisfactory to his employers or to his
friends, and Jem had heard more than David about him. Except to their
mother, neither of them had spoken of this, but no one seemed surprised
at his return.
Before his return, Mr Oswald had been taken very ill, and his
inability to attend to his business involved it in difficulties, which
threatened to hasten the unhappy crisis, which even Mr Caldwell
acknowledged must have come sooner or later on him. There was trouble
in the house, it may well be supposed. Violet had many cares, for Miss
Oswald was entirely occupied with her brother in his illness, and Frank
devoted himself to his father in a way that was a help and a comfort to
As for Mr Philip, it was very difficult to believe that it could
have come to this pass with his father. It seemed impossible to him
that, after so many years of successful business-life, his father
should be in danger of being left penniless; and he insisted to Frank
and David, and even to Mr Caldwell, that there must have been
mismanagementprobably dishonestyon the part of some of those with
whom he held business relations; and that this unhappy illness had been
taken advantage of to bring matters to the painful crisis they had
reached. So fully was he convinced of this, that it was, with
difficulty, he could be prevented from applying to his father to obtain
information with regard to certain affairs. But the doctor was
imperative as to his not being disturbed by allusions to business now,
or for some time to come.
It might cost his life or his reason, Dr Ward says, repeated
Frank. And even if he could be spoken to, it would do no good while he
is unable to leave his room or even his bed. We must wait patiently. I
don't suppose it will make any real difference in the end.
Even Frank knew more about his father's affairs than Philip did.
If I had only staid in the office, instead of going to Mlast
year, said he.
I don't suppose it would have made much difference. You would have
known something about the books, perhaps, and papa might not have had
to pay out so much money for you. I don't know, though. It is easy
enough to spend money anywhere.
Philip walked about impatiently.
What I have spent is not a drop in the bucket, said he.
But the thought of the money he had spent and the money he owed made
him very miserable.
You know best about that, said Frank. Here is something that Mr
Caldwell left to-day. It is addressed to papa, so he opened it, but he
found that it is meant for you. I am very glad papa did not see it.
Philip glanced at the paper his brother put in his hand.
Have you examined it? asked he, sharply.
I looked at the sum total, not at the items.
Well! a gentleman must spend something on such things, if he is in
If he have it of his own to spend, you mean. I don't see the
necessity. I'll venture to say that some of these items did not make
you more like a gentleman, but less, said Frank.
That is for me to decide, said Philip, angrily.
I don't know that. However, you'll have to consult Mr Caldwell
about itthe paying of it, I mean. Though the chances are, he will
neither be able nor inclined to help you.
It is no great affair, anyway.
The helping you? or the sum total? It is more than half of David
Inglis's yearly salary, and Aunt Mary has only that to keep house for
them allat least, she can't have much besides. It depends on how you
look at a sum of money, whether it seems large or small.
Philip had no answer ready. He walked about the room angry and
miserable. Frank went on:
If you had not lost your situation, you might have paid it
yourself, in time, I suppose. As it is you will have to fail too, or
your creditor must make up his mind to wait. Are there more of them?
Frank asked the question coolly, as though it were a trifling matter
they were discussing, and his manner throughout the whole discussion
seemed intended, Philip thought, to exasperate him.
And it is not like Frank, the least in the world, said he to
himself, as he uttered an exclamation at his words.
However, repeated Frank, it is only a drop in the bucket, as you
Philip stood still and looked at him, vexation and astonishment
struggling with some other feeling, showing in his face.
Frank, said he, it isn't like you to hit a fellow when he is
You need not be so very far down. I would not be down, if I were
like you and could do anything, said Frank, with something like a sob
in his voice.
It is precious little I can do, even if I knew what were needed.
Talk with Mr Caldwell.
Mr Caldwell! The thought of him gives me a chill; and I don't
suppose he would talk with me. He hasn't a very high opinion of me,in
the way of business, or in any way.
He'd talk with you fast enough, if you would talk reasonably. Try
him. He wants some one to go to Qabout the timber that has been lying
there some weeks now. Papa spoke about it too. It would have paid well,
if he had been able to attend to the sale of it himself. But he has not
perfect confidence in Donnelly the agent, and the time is passing. It
must be sold soon, and Mr Caldwell can't be everywhere. I told him to
send Davie Inglis, but he must not take him from the bank he thinks;
and, besides he is so young and so boyish-looking. You would do quite
as well, I dare say. At any rate, you would be better than no one.
Philip looked as though he thought he was being hit again, but he
One thing is certain, continued Frank, if you are going to do any
good in our present fix, you can only do it by knuckling down to old
Caldwell. Nobody knows so much about papa's affairs as he does.
Whether Philip knuckled down to Mr Caldwell or not, he never told
Frank, but he did tell him that he was going in a day or two to Q, to
make arrangements for the sale of timber accumulated there for
ship-building purposes, or for exportation. He did not know much about
the matter and did not speak very hopefully. The sting of it was that
he might have known if he had done as his father had had a right to
expect him to do. However, Mr Caldwell sent him away none the less
willingly because of his low spirits.
You will do better than nobody, said he, as Frank had said before.
You can have an eye on the books and on all the papers. Don't let
Donnelly be too much for you.
It would not do to enter into all the particulars of Philip's first
business venture. It is enough to say, he was successful in
circumstances where failure would not have been surprising; and the
very first time he saw his father after he was a little better, he had
the satisfaction of hearing Mr Caldwell telling him of the successful
termination of the sale of the timber. He had the greater satisfaction
of prompting that slow-spoken gentleman where his memory or his
information failed, and of giving all details to his father, who was
both relieved and pleased with the turn this affair had taken.
But success in this his first independent attempt at doing business
could not avert the troubles that had been long hanging over his
father. If Mr Oswald had been in perfect health, it might have been
different. With time granted to continue his business relations, or
even to settle up his own affairs, he might have been able to give
every man his own. But his health came very slowly back, and affairs in
the meantime wrought to a crisis. Philip strove hard to obtain time,
and pledged himself to the full payment of all his father's liabilities
within a limited period. Even Mr Caldwell was influenced by his
earnestness and hopefulness, and by the good sense and business ability
manifested by him in several transactions with which he had had to do,
and joined with him in representing Mr Oswald's affairs to be in such a
condition that care and time, and close attention alone were needed to
set them right, and to satisfy all just claims at last. But Philip was
young and inexperienced, and those of his father's creditors who knew
him best, knew nothing in his past life to give them confidence either
in his principles or his judgment, and they could not be induced to
yield to him in this matter.
So it only remained for Mr Oswald to give up all that he possessed,
to satisfy as far as possible all just demands. It was a very bitter
experience for him to pass through, but he was in a state of health too
weak and broken fully to realise all that it involved. For the time it
was worse for his sons than for him. Frank devoted himself all the more
earnestly to his father's care and comfort, and his doing so made this
time of trouble more endurable for both. Philip saw little of his
father. His place was to act for him wherever he could do so, so as to
spare him as much as possible the details of the painful business.
It was a very miserable time to him. He made up his mind to get away
as soon as possible to California or British Columbia, or anywhere
else, so that it was far enough away. But he did not go. He did far
better than that would have been. He staid at home, not very willingly,
still he staid, and tried to do his duty as he had never tried before,
and there were times when it was not easy to do.
Mr Caldwell, as one in whom the creditors had perfect confidence,
both as to his conscientiousness and his knowledge of affairs, was
appointed by them to settle up Mr Oswald's business, and with their
permission Philip Oswald was requested to act as his assistant for the
time. It was not the thing he would have chosen for himself, but if he
had gone away now, it must have been without his father's consent, and
if he staid at home it was absolutely necessary that he should earn
money for the payment of his own debts. There was nothing better
offered for his acceptance, and Mr Caldwell's terms were such as even
Philip considered liberal.
Though I know quite well he would much rather have had Davie
Inglis, said he to Frank, when it was quite settled that he was to
stay. I don't believe he thinks I shall be much good. However, I must
take it and make the best of it.
You are quite wrong. Davie wouldn't suit him half so well as you in
this business, though of course he has perfect confidence in Davie, and
you have to be tried yet. But he knows you will make it a point of
honour to do your best in the circumstances.
If these people in Mhad not been such fools as to force matters
on, there might have been some inducement to do one's best in
straightening out things. And it would have been better for them and
for us too. I wish I were a thousand miles away from it all.
No, you don't, unless you could take the rest, of us out of it too.
For my part, I think you have a grand opportunity to exercise courage
and patience, and to win honour and glory as a true hero. Just you go
down and speak to Aunt Mary and Violet about it.
I think I see myself doing it! said Philip, as though it were a
thing utterly impossible and not to be considered for a moment.
However, before many days were over, he found himself at the bridge
house, enjoying Mrs Inglis's kindly sympathy, and the delighted welcome
of the children, more than he would have imagined possible. He had seen
very little of any of them for a long time, and was ashamed of his
defection, conscious as he was of the cause. It was not comfortable for
him to talk with Mrs Inglis, or to share in the pursuits and amusements
of her young people, with the consciousness of wrong-doing upon him.
Wrong-doing according to their standard of right and wrong, he
meant, of course. According to his standard, there were many
things he could do, and many things he could leave undone, quite
innocently, of which they would not approve. Several of such
questionable incidents had occurred in his manner of life about the
time of their return from Gourlay last year, and he had kept away from
them. He had been too busy since his coming back from Mto see much of
any of his friends, and this was his first visit to the bridge house
for a long time.
Why did you not come before? said little Mary.
I have been very busy. Are you glad to see me now?
Yes, very glad, and so is mamma and all of us. I want to show you
something. And the child went on to make confidences about her own
personal affairs, into which Mr Philip entered with sufficient
interest, as his manner was. He had only time for a word or two with
the mother before Jem and David came in.
Your father is really improving, I am glad to hear, said Mrs
Inglis when the children left them.
Philip's face clouded.
Is he better? It hardly seems to me that he gains at all. He is
very much discouraged about himself.
Frank thinks him better. It is a great relief to him, he says, that
you are here.
I ought never to have gone away, said Philip, sighing.
But your father wished it, did he not? Perhaps it would have been
better had you been here. However, you are here now. Frank says he
begun to improve the very day you consented to assist Mr Caldwell in
the settlement of his affairs.
Philip hung his head.
Don't be hard on me, Aunt Mary.
Am I hard on you? I am sure I don't know how. That is Frank's idea
of the matter.
Aunt Mary! if you only knew what a good-for-nothing fellow I have
been! I am sure I cannot see why my father should have confidence in
In whom should he have confidence, if not in you? said Mrs Inglis,
Philip had nothing to answer. A feeling of shame, painful but
wholesome, kept him silent. Even according to his own idea of right, he
had been undutiful in his conduct to his father. He had accepted all
from him, he had exacted much, and he had given little in return,
except the careless respect to his wishes in little things, which he
could not have refused to any one in whose house he was a guest. They
had been on friendly terms enough, as a general thing, but there had
been some passages between them which he did not like to remember. That
his father should have had any satisfaction in him or his doings,
except indeed in the case of the transaction of the timber at Q, was
not a very likely thing. The very supposition went deeper than any
reproaches could have gone and filled him with pain and regret.
Frank is a good fellow, but he does not know everything, said he,
I think he must know about your father, however, he is with him so
constantly, and he says he is better. It will be some time before he is
able for business again, I am afraid. In the meantime he has perfect
confidence in Mr Caldwell and in you, which must be a comfort to him.
Philip shook his head.
Aunt Mary, the business is no longer his, and what we are doing is
for the benefit of others. He has lost everything.
He has not lost everything, I think, said Mrs Inglis, smiling,
while he has you and Frank and your sisters. He would not say so.
Philip rose and came and stood before her.
Mrs Inglis, I cannot bear that you should think of me as you do. It
makes me feel like a deceiver. I have not been a good son to my father.
I am not like your Davie.
Mrs Inglis smiled as though she would have said, There are not many
like my Davie. But she looked grave in a minute and said
There is one thing in which you differ. Davie is an avowed servant
of the Lord Jesus Christ. He professes to desire to live no longer to
himself, but to Him.
And you think that is everything, Aunt Mary?
I think it is the chief thing.
Well, I am not like that. I am very far from that.
But this ought to be the chief thing for you as well as for David,
ought it not?
I have not thought about it, Aunt Mary.
You have not taken time. You have fallen on easy days hitherto. It
would have been difficult to convince you that, to be a servant of God,
a follower of the Lord Jesus is the chief thingthe only thing, while
each day brought with it enough to satisfy you. This trouble, which has
come upon you all, may have been neededto make you think about it.
Philip answered nothing, but sat gazing at the clouds, or at the
leaves which rustled at the window, with his cheek upon his hand. There
is a time to keep silence and a time to speak, and Mrs Inglis could not
be sure on which of these she had fallen. She longed to say just the
right word to him, but hitherto her words had fallen like water on the
rock, which, in the first gleam of sunshine, disappears. He always
listened, grave or smiling, as the occasion seemed to demand. He
listened with eagerness, pleased at her interest in him, pleased to be
treated like one of the children, to be praised or chidden, and, for
all that she could see, as well pleased with the one as with the other.
As she sat watching him in silence, Mrs Inglis thought of Violet's
complaint against him. He is not in earnest. He cares only for his own
Ah! well! The Master knows how to deal with him, though I do not,
she said to herself. Aloud, she said, You must not suppose that I mean
that religion is for a time of trouble, more than for a time of
prosperity. It is the chief thing alwaysthe only thing. But, in a
time of trouble, our need of something beyond what is in ourselves, or
in the world, is brought home to us. Philip, dear lad, it is a
wonderful thing to be a soldier and servant of the Lord Jesus. It is a
service which satisfieswhich ennobles. All else may fail us, or
fetter us, or lead us astray. But, belonging to Christbeing one with
Himnothing can harm us truly. Are you to lose all this, Philip?
Letting it pass by younot thinking about it?
She had no time to add more, nor had he time to answer her, even if
he could have found the words. For first David came in, and then Jem,
all black and dirty from the forge, and, proud of it, evidently. His
greeting was rather noisy, after the free-and-easy manner which Jem
affected about this time. David's greeting was quiet enough, but a
great deal more frank and friendly, than his greetings of Philip had
usually been, his mother was pleased to see. Jem made a pretence of
astonishment at the sight of him, meaning that he might very well have
come to see his mother sooner; but David fell into eager discussion of
some matter interesting to both, and then Jem went away to beautify
himself, as he called the washing off the marks of his day's work. When
tea-time came, Philip hesitated about accepting Mrs Inglis's invitation
You may as well, said Ned; for I saw Violet up-town and I told
her you were here, so they will be sure not to wait.
So he staid, and made good his place among them after his long
Something had been said in the early spring about Mrs Inglis and the
children going to spend the summer in Gourlay again. But there was not
the same necessity for a change that there had been last year, and the
matter was not at once decided. While Mrs Inglis hesitated, there came
tidings that decided it for her. There came, from Miss Bethia, a
letter, written evidently with labour and difficulty. She had been
poorly, off and on by spells, she said, all winter; and now, what she
had long feared, had become evident to all her friends. A terrible and
painful disease had fastened upon her, which must sooner or later prove
fatal. Later, she feared it might be; for, through long months, which
grew into years before they were over, she had nursed her mother in the
same disease, praying daily that the end might come.
I am not afraid of the end, she wrote; but remembering my poor
mother's sufferings, I am afraid of what must come before the
end. It would help pass the time to have you and the children here this
summer; but it might not be the best thing for them or you, and you
must judge. I should like to see David, but there will be time enough,
for I am afraid the end is a long way off. I am a poor creetur not to
feel that the Lord knows best what I can bear. It don't seem as though
I could suffer much more than I used to, seeing my mother's suffering.
And I know the Lord is kind and pitiful, though I sometimes
Mrs Inglis's answer to this letter was to go to Gourlay without loss
of time. At the first sight of Miss Bethia, she did not think her so
very ill. She thought her fears had magnified her danger to herself.
But she changed her opinion when she had been there a day or two. The
Angel of Death was drawing near, and all that made his coming terrible
was that he came so slowly. At times she suffered terribly, and her
sufferings must increase before the end.
The coming of the children was not to be thought of, Mrs Inglis
could see. She would fain have staid to nurse her, but this could not
be while they needed her at home. She promised to return if she were
needed, and begged to be sent for if she could be a comfort to her. All
that care and good nursing could do to alleviate her suffering, Miss
Bethia had. Debby Stone was still with her, and Debby's sister Serepta,
whose health had much improved during the year. The neighbours were
very kind and considerate, and Mrs Inglis felt that all that could be
done for her would be done cheerfully and well.
So she went home; but through the summer they heard often how it was
with their old friend. But first one thing and then another hindered
Mrs Inglis from going to see her till September had well begun. Then
there came a hasty summons for David and his mother, for there were
signs and tokens that the coming of the King's messenger was to be
sooner, and not later, as she had feared. So Violet came home
because they could not tell how long the mother might have to stay, and
their departure was hastened.
But the King's messenger had come before them. They saw his presence
in the changed face of their friend. They did not need her whispered
assurance, that she need not have been afraidthat it was well with
her, and the end was come.
David, she said, brokenly, as her slow, sobbing breath came and
went, you'll care for your mother always, I know; and you must follow
the Lord, and keep your armour bright.
She fell into a troubled sleep, and waking, said the same words over
again, only with more difficult utterance. She spoke to his mother now
and then in her painful whisper, sending messages to Violet and Jem and
all the rest; and once she asked her if she had a message for the
minister, whom she was sure so soon to see. But the only words that
David heard her speak were these, and he answered:
I will try, Aunt Bethia; but he had not voice for more.
It was like a dream to him to be there in the very room where he had
watched that last night with his father. It seemed to be that night
again, so vividly did it all come back.
Mamma, he whispered, can you bear it?
By and by they went up-stairs, and into the study, which was still
kept as they had left it two years ago.
Mamma, said David, again, it is like a dream. Nothing in the
whole world seems worth a thoughtstanding where we stood just now.
Except to keep one's armour bright, my David, said his mother.
Happy Miss Bethia! She will soon be done with all her trouble now.
They watched that night and the next day, scarcely knowing whether
she recognised them, or whether she were conscious of what seemed
terrible suffering to those who were looking on; and then the end came.
It was all like a dream to David, the coming and going of the
neighbours, the hush and pause that came at last, the whispered
arrangements, the moving to and fro, and then the silence in the house.
He seemed to be living over the last days of his father's life, so well
rememberedliving them over for his mother, too, with the same sick
feeling that he could not help or comfort her, or bear her trouble for
her, or lighten it. And yet, seeing her there so calm and peaceful in
every word and deed; so gentle, and helpful, and cheerful, he knew that
she was helped and comforted, and that it was not all sorrow that the
memory of the other death-bed stirred.
When he went out into the air again, he came to himself, and the
dazed, dreamy feeling went away. It was their good and kind old friend
who had gone to her rest, and it would be wrong to regret her. There
were many who would remember her with respect and gratitude, and none
more than he and his mother and the children at home. But her death
would leave no great gap, that could never be filled as his father's
had done. She had been very kind to them of late years, and they would
miss her; and thenit suddenly came into David's mind about his
father's books, and about the sum that had three times been paid to his
mother since they had been in Miss Bethia's care. He was ashamed
because of it; but he could not help wondering whether it would be paid
still, or whether they would take the books away or leave them where
they were. He did not like to speak to his mother. It seemed selfish
and ungrateful to think about it even; but he could not keep it out of
There was another day of waiting, and then the dead was carried away
to her long home.
There were none of her blood to follow her thither. The place of
mourners was given to Mrs Inglis and David, and then followed Debby and
her sister. A great many people followed them; all the towns-folk
joined in doing honour to Miss Bethia's memory, and a few old friends
dropped over her a tear of affection and regret. But there was no
bitter weepingno painful sense of loss in any heart because she had
David sat in the church, and walked to the grave, and came back
again to the empty house, with the same strange, bewildered sense upon
him of having been through it all before. It clung to him still, as one
after another of the neighbours came dropping in. He sat among them,
and heard their eager whispers, and saw their curious and expectant
looks, and vaguely wondered what else was going to happen that they
were waiting to see.
Debby and her sister were in the other room, seemingly making
preparations for tea; and once Debby came and looked in at the door,
with a motion as if she were counting to see how many places might be
needed, and by and by Serepta came and looked, too, and David got very
tired of it all. His mother had gone up-stairs when she first came in,
and he went in search of her.
Mamma, I wish we could have gone home to-night, said he, when, in
answer to his knock, she had opened the door.
It was late, dear, and Mr Bethune said he would like to see me
before we went away.
About the books, mamma? I wish I knew about them.
You will know soon. I have no doubt they will be yours, as Miss
Bethia intimated before we left them here. There may be some
I wonder what all the people are waiting for? Are you not very
tired, mamma? Debby is getting tea ready.
Debby came in at the moment to make the same announcement.
Tea is ready now, said she. I'd as lief get tea for the whole
town once in a while as not. But it ain't this tea they're waiting for,
and if I was them I'd go.
What are they waiting for? asked David.
Don't you know? Oh, I suppose it's to show good-will. Folks
generally do at such times. But I'll ring the tea-bell, and that'll
scare some of them home may be. Some of them'll have to wait till the
second table, if they all stay, that's one thing. And I hope they'll
think they've heard enough to pay them before they go.
They did not hear very much, certainly. Mr Bethune from Singleton
was there, but the interest of the occasion was not in his hands.
Deacon Spry had it all his own way, and opened and read with great
deliberation a paper which had been committed to him. It was not Miss
Bethia's will, as every one hoped it might be, but it was a paper
written by her hand, signifying that her will, which was in Mr
Bethune's keeping, was to be opened just a year from the day of her
death. In the meantime Deborah Stone was to live in her house and take
care of it and what property there was about it. Her clothes and
bedding were in part for Debby, and the rest to be divided among
certain persons named. Mrs Inglis was requested to leave her late
husband's library where it was for one year, unless she should see some
good reason for taking it away. And that was all.
Everybody looked surprised, except Debby, who had known the contents
of the paper from Miss Bethia.
I suppose it'll be Mr Bethune's business to look up Bethia's
relations within the year. Folks generally do leave their
property to their relations, even if they don't know much about them.
But I rather expected she'd do something for the cause among us, said
Deacon Spry, in a slightly aggrieved tone.
I thought she'd at least new paint the meeting house, said Sam
Or put a new fence round the grave-yard.
Well! may be she has! We'll see when the year's out.
No, folks most always leave their property to their own relations.
They seem nearest, come toward the end.
I don't suppose she's left a great deal besides the house, anyway.
I wonder just how much Debby Stone knows?
It was not pleasant to listen to all this. Debby had nothing to
tell, not knowing anything; nor Mr Bethune, though he doubtless knew
all. So there was nothing better to do than just wait till the right
I suppose we may count upon the books, mamma, or she would not have
asked you to leave them here? said David.
Yes, I think so. She never called them hers, you know. She will
have explained it to Mr Bethune, I suppose. I think you may count on
Another year passed quietly over the Inglis household. Jem and David
both did good service, each in his special calling, and made some
progress in other things besides. David kept the plan of his life
steadily before him, but this year did not, to all appearance, bring
its fulfillment any nearer. It did not seem impossible to him that
their life should go on in the same quiet routine, without break or
change, for a long time, nor did this seem impossible to his mother.
There was this difference in their thoughts, however. While Davie,
with the impatience of youth, grew anxious now and then, as though the
sowing time were passing with no seed being put in, his mother knew
that there was nothing lost to his future work as yet, that the
discipline of early care and self-denial, the constant and willing
giving of himself to work, which in itself was not congenial, was a
better preparation than he knew. She felt that if the Master had a
special work for him to do, He would provide a way for special
preparation, and that His time was best. David knew this too, and was
on the whole content to look forward a good way yet, for the change
that must come, when his wish with regard to this one thing should be
granted. He was more than content. Life went very quietly and happily
with them this year, and it was a profitable time in many ways.
Jem's work agreed with him, it seemed, for he was growing tall and
strong. His gay and careless temper brought him into some difficulties
this year, and being at that age when a young lad making his own way is
apt to become tenacious about little things which concern his dignity,
and impatient of the open exercise of restraint acknowledged to be
lawful and right, he needed to be gently and carefully managed. But
happily this uncomfortable period did not last long with Jem. He grew
manly in character as well as in appearance, and grew more, rather than
less, open to home influence as he grew older.
David's fair face and quiet manner gave Jem an appearance of
advantage over him as far as manliness was concerned, and strangers
often took Jem to be the eldest of the brothers. Jem himself, in a
laughing way, claimed to be beyond him in a knowledge of the worldon
its hard side and made merry pretence and promise of advising and
protecting him in certain supposed circumstances of difficulty or
danger. But in his heart he deferred to his brother, as in all things
far wiser and better than he.
As to David's plans and their carrying out, Jem saw neither doubt
nor difficulty. In a few yearsnot very distinctly specifiedJem was
to become the head and bread-winner of the house, and David was to go
his own way to honour and usefulness. Jem was still to be the rich man
of the family, though the time and manner of winning his wealth he
could not make very clear; and David laughed and accepted his freedom
from care and his brother's gifts very gratefully, and professed to
have no scruples as to his future claims upon him.
When Mr Oswald's household was broken up, Violet returned home. But
happily an opportunity occurred for her to obtain what she had long
secretly coveted, a chance to improve herself, in some branches of
study, under better masters than Singleton could afford. She passed the
greater part of the year as pupil-teacher in a superior school in M,
and returned home in the end of June. The year was of great advantage
to her in many ways, though the children at home could not see it. She
was just the same as ever, they said, which was a high compliment,
though not intended as such.
She had not changed, but she had made advances in several directions
her mother was pleased to discover. Her return was a great pleasure to
her brothers, but Jem was critical now and then, and spoke of airs and
graces, and fine manners, as though she were not quite innocent of
those on occasion. David was indignant, but Violet laughed at them
both, and proved that whatever change had come to her manners, none had
come to her temper, which was a blessing, Jem acknowledged.
Mr Oswald's household was broken up about the time of Miss Bethia's
death. Selina remained with her sister, and the little girls went with
their aunt to her former home. Mr Oswald had been induced to take the
sea voyage, and the entire rest from business, which his physicians
declared absolutely necessary to his entire restoration to health.
Frank accompanied him to England, where they both remained during the
year. His health had improved, and there was some expectation that they
would return at the close of the summer.
His house had been sold, and was now used as a hospital for the poor
and sick of the town. The extensive grounds around it had been cut up
by the opening of several new streets in that direction, and one could
scarcely have recognised the place that used to be so beautiful in the
eyes of the Inglis children. However, the only Oswald left in Singleton
took the sale of the house, in which he had been born and brought up,
very philosophically. The opening of the new streets had increased the
value of the land immensely, and under the careful hands of Mr
Caldwell, that and all other property belonging to Mr Oswald was being
so disposed of that his creditors had a good prospect of losing nothing
Philip Oswald still asserted, that but for the faint-heartedness
which illness had brought upon his father, and the untimely pressure of
the creditors because of it, there needed have been no failure. He
asserted it indignantly enough some-times, but he did not regret the
disposal of the house or the spoiling of the beautiful grounds as he
might have been supposed to do.
The sudden change in the circumstances of the family had not hurt
Philip. The year's discipline of constant employment, and limited
expenditure, had done him good, and, as he himself declared to Jem and
David, not before it was time. The boyish follies which had clung to
him as a young man, because of the easy times on which he had fallen,
must have grown into something worse than folly before long, and but
for the chance of wholesome hard work which had been provided for him,
and his earnest desire to work out the best possible result for his
father's good name, he might have gone to ruin in one way or other. But
these things, with the help of other influences, had kept him from
evil, and encouraged him to good, and there were high hopes for Philip
He had not been in Singleton all the year, but here and there and
everywhere, at the bidding of the cautious, but laborious and
judicious, Caldwell, who had daily increasing confidence in his
business capacity, and did not hesitate to make the utmost use of his
youthful strength. When he was in Singleton, his home was in Mr
Caldwell's house. He had gone there for a day or two, till other
arrangements could be made. But no other arrangements were needed. He
stayed there more contentedly than he could at the beginning of the
year have supposed possible, and it grew less a matter of self-denial
to Mr and Mrs Caldwell to have him there as time went on. He had a
second home in the house of Mrs Inglis; and this other good had come to
him out of his father's troubles, and the way he had taken to help
them, that he made a friend of David Inglis. He had supposed himself
friendly enough with him before, but he knew nothing about him. That is
to say, he knew nothing about that which made David so different from
himself, so different from most of the young men with whom he had had
In one thing he is different, Mrs Inglis had said, He is a
servant of God. He professes to wish to live no longer to himself.
With this in his thought, he watched David at home and abroad, at first
only curiously, but afterwards with other feelings. David was shy of
him for a time, and kept the position of mere lad, which Philip had
at first given him, long after his friendship was sought on other
terms. But they learned to know each other in a little, and they did
each other good. Mrs Inglis saw clearly how well it was for David to
have some one more ready and better fitted to share his pleasures and
interests than Jem, because of his different tastes and pursuits, could
possibly do. And she saw also that David's influence could not fail to
have a salutary effect on his friend, and she encouraged their
intercourse, and did all in her power to make it profitable to them
both. Violet and the children spent a month in Gourlay; but Mrs Inglis,
not liking to leave David and Jem alone, only went for a day or two.
They returned early in August. Mr Oswald and Frank were expected soon.
Mr Philip's spirits did not rise as the time of their coming drew near.
He dreaded for his father the coming back to find no home awaiting him.
He consulted with Mrs Inglis as to the preparations he should make for
him; but, when it was talked over among them, it was found that he did
not know enough about his father's future plans to make it possible for
him to make arrangements for more than a day or two. He did not even
know whether he was to remain in Singleton. He did not even know
whether he should remain in Singleton himself. He could decide nothing
till they came. He was altogether too anxious and troubled, Mrs Inglis
told him; he had not been like himself for some time.
Well, it ought to be all the more agreeable to the rest because of
that, said he, laughing.
It has not been. And you must let me say that I think you are
troubling yourself more than enough with regard to the coming of your
But it is about myself, partly, you know.
Well, I think the trouble is uncalled for in either case. It will
not be so bad for your father as you fear.
Do you know what is the news in town to-day, Philip? asked Jem.
That you and old Caldwell are going into the produce business
together. A queer team you would make!
We have drawn very well together for the last year, said Philip.
Jem shrugged his shoulders, and made a grimace.
Singleton might suit Mr Caldwell to do business in, but I wouldn't
fix myself in Singleton if I were you.
Nonsense, Jem, said David. There is no better place than
Singleton for that business, everybody knows.
And, besides, Philip is well-known here, said Mrs Inglis.
I am not sure that it is a better place for me because of that,
Aunt Mary; but it is as good a place as any, I suppose, in which to
begin with a small capital.
Pooh! about capital! The only men in the country worth their salt
began life without a dollar. Which of us has capital? And we are all
bound to be rich men before we die, said Jem.
Yes, I dare say. If I were a boy of fifteen, I might say the same,
said Philip, with a sigh.
Hear him! You would think him fifty, at least. And if you mean me,
said Jem loftily, I am nearly seventeen. I only wish I were
twenty-three, with the world before me.
They all laughed at his energy.
There is no hurry, Jem. You will need all the years that are before
you. Violet, put away your work, and play, and the children will sing.
Violet rose and opened the piano, and there was no more said at that
time. While the children were singing, David went out, and, in a
little, called Philip from the window. Philip rose and went out also,
and they passed down the garden together. By and by they had enough of
music, and Violet shut the piano, and sat down beside the window with
her work again. Jem had the grace to wait till the children went out,
and then he said:
Mamma, you said I was to tell you the next time, and here it is.
You must have noticed yourselfViolet's manner, I mean. Philip noticed
it, I could see. She was as stiff and dignified as Mrs Mavor herself. I
wouldn't put on airs with Phil, when he is down as he is to-night, if I
Violet looked from him to her mother in astonishment.
Do you know what he means, mamma?
You don't need mamma to tell you.
Tell me, then, Jem. What did I say or do?
You didn't say or do anything. You were stiff and stupid. Mamma
must have seen it.
No, Jem, I did not. If you mean that Violet's manner to Mr Philip
is not the same as to you and Daviewhy, you know, it can't quite be
No, because Violet made up her mind long ago that Philip Oswald was
a foolish young man`not in earnest,' as she used to say. Letty can't
bear people that are not quite perfect, said Jem.
Letty laughed, and so did her mother.
Thank you, Jem. That is as much as saying that I consider myself
Oh! you may laugh, said Jem, loftily; but if Phil, hasn't proved
himself steady enough by this time, I don't know what you would have!
There are not many would have staid it out, under old Caldwell, and
have done as he has done. To say nothing about the business not being a
very pleasant one.
He has improved very much, said Mrs Inglis.
And, now, when he and Davie are such friends, went on Jem, who did
not know when he had said enough. I think if Davie approves of him,
that ought to be enough for Violet.
Quite enough, I acknowledge, Jem, said Violet. I wonder where
Davie has gone; and she rose and went to the door as if to see.
She did not find him, if she looked for him, for David and Philip,
after walking up and down the railway track for some time, went down to
David's favourite seat on the stones of the abutment of the bridge
close by the water. They were silent for some time after they went
there. David sat gazing at the bright clouds that lingered after the
sunset, while his friend moved up and down and flung stones into the
water. By and by he sat down by David's side, saying
And so I am all at sea again.
I don't see why you should be `at sea again,' as you call it, said
David. Mr Caldwell's offer was made without any reference to me, and
my refusal can make no real difference.
It will make all the difference in the world to me.
Philip, promise me one thing. Don't decide till your father comes
and Frank. I don't know when I was so glad. See how pleased your father
Nonsense, Davie! It is no such great thing as all thata
partnership with old Caldwell.
Hear what your father will say. I can't say how fine a thing it
will be to be his partner, but your father will think it a high
compliment that he should have wished it. It will be good for youand
for him too. I don't know which I congratulate most.
David was growing enthusiastic.
It would do, I think, if you were coming with us. A clerkship now,
and a partnership afterwards. There is no hope of making you change
your mind, Davie?
Would you wish me to change my mind, Philip? said David laying his
arm over his friend's shoulder, in a way that would have satisfied
Violet of his interest and affection.
I don't know. I am not sure. I don't understand it.
Yes, you do, Philipor you will sometime. I mean, you will
understand why this should be the best thing for me to do. You cannot
quite understand all I feel about it, because you never knew my
Tell me about him, said Philip.
It is not what I could tell you that would make you understand.
But we speak about aspirations and ambitions, Philip; but if I had my
choice what I should do, or what I should be, I should choose the life,
and work, and character of my father.
David's voice faltered.
Since when has that been your choice? asked Philip.
Always! I mean, always since he died. And, before that, he was my
ideal of wisdom and goodness, though I did not particularly wish or try
to be like him then?
And it was his wish that you should choose his profession, and live
his life, and do his work?
He wished it,yes. And now I wish it, not merely because of his
wish, but becauseI love my Lord and Master, and because I wish to
honour Him as His soldier and servant
David did not find it easy to say all this to Philip, and there was
silence for a minute or two.
But haven't you been losing time? said Philip.
No. Mamma does not think so. Time should try a decision so
important, she thinks. I am young yet, and I have been keeping up my
reading pretty well. And, besides, she thinks the care, and the steady
work, and our life altogether,having to manage with just enough, you
know, has been good discipline for me, and a sort of preparation.
I see! And when is the other sort of preparation to begin?
I don't know. The way will open, mamma always says. When we came
here first, mamma and Violet meant to keep a school; but, after Violet
went to teach your sisters, we could get on without it, and it was so
much better for us to have mamma all to ourselves. She may think of it
again, and Violet is better able to help her now.
It is a slave's life.
No; I don't think mamma objects to it on that ground. But there is
no haste about it. I always remember what mamma said to me once`If
your master has a special work for you to do, He will provide the means
for special preparation.'
What a wonderful woman your mother is! said Philip.
David laughed, such a happy laugh.
Is she? She does not think so.
I wonder if she would be on my side if I were to tell her all about
old Caldwell's plans, and how much good you could do with usand a
future partnership, and all that. Why, Davie, you might, when you are a
rich man, educate any number of ministers. Wouldn't that do as well as
to be one yourself?
That will be something for you to do. No; I don't think mamma would
be on your side.
But you are her bread-winner, as I have heard her say. How can she
And I shall always be so while she needs me. I can wait a long time
patiently, I think. But I cannot give it up now. It would be `looking
back,' after putting my hand to the plough.
They were silent for a good while, and then Philip said:
Tell me about your father.
David doubted whether he had anything new to tell, for, as they had
come to care more for each other's company, he had often spoken to
Philip of his father. But if he had nothing new to tell, he told it all
over in a new waya way that made Philip wonder. He told him all that
I have told you, and more,of his father's life and workhow wise and
strong he washow loving and beloved. He told him of his love for his
Master, of his zeal for His service. He told him of his own lessons
with him, of how he used to go with him to the North Gore and other
places, and of what he used to say, and how happy the days used to be.
He told him of his last days, and how, when it came to the end, he was
so joyful for himself and so little afraid for them, though he was
going to leave them alone and poorhow sure he was that God would care
for them and keep them safe until they all should meet again. Sometimes
he spoke with breaking voice, and sometimes, though it had grown dark
by this time, Philip could see that his cheeks flushed and his eyes
shone as he went on, till he came to the very last, and then he said:
He told me then, at the very lasteven after he had spoken about
mamma, that I was to take up the armour that he was laying down. And,
God helping me, so I will, said David, with a sob, laying down his
face, to hide his tears, on the shoulder of his friend. But, in a
little, he raised it again, and said, quietly:
I couldn't go back after that, Philip.
No, said Philip; and he said nothing more for a long time, nor did
David. Philip spoke first:
And so it must be `Good-bye,' Davie?
Good-bye? repeated David. I don't understand?
You are to take one way and I another; so we part company.
David was silent from astonishment.
As our fathers did, said Philip. They were friends once, as we
are, Davie, but their paths divided, as ours must, I fear.
It need not be so.
It is curious to think of it, went on Philip. If my father were
to die to-night, he would leave his children as poor as your father
left his when he died. Not that it would matter; but then my father has
lost his whole life, too. No, Davie, I fear the end will be that we
must go different ways.
Dear Philip, said David, standing before him, and speaking with
much earnestness, there is only one thing that can separate usyour
serving one master and I another; and that need not be. Your work may
be as much for Him as mine. Philip, dear friendis He your Lord and
Master, as He is mine?
Philip shook his head.
I do not know. I fear not, Davie. What am I saying? I know He is
not. I have never done a stroke of work for Him, or for any one at His
bidding, or for His sake, and that is the whole truth, Davie.
But that is not to be the end! His soldier and servant! There is
nothing in all the world to be compared with that! Have you offered
yourself to Him? Will you not offer yourself to Him? Oh, Philip! there
is nothing else.
Davie, said Philip, hoarsely, you don't begin to know what a bad
fellow I have been.
No; nor do you. But He knows, and the worse you are the more you
need to come to Him. Have you never asked Him to forgive you and take
you for His own? It is for Him to do it. Ask Him now!
David threw his arms round the neck of his friend. It was a sudden
act, boyish and impulsivenot at all like David. Philip was much
Ask Him, Davie, said he, huskily.
Kneeling beside him on the stone, David did ask Him, using simple
words and fewsuch words as Philip never forgotwords that he uttered
in his own heart many a time afterwards, and not in vain.
They lingered a good while, but there was not much said between them
after that, and when David went into the house, where his mother and
Violet were waiting for him, he told them that Philip had gone home. By
and by he said:
The story Jem heard was true, mamma. Mr Caldwell wants Philip to
become his partner in a new business. It seems he has saved something,
and he is willing to put his capital against Philip's youth and energy
and business talents. It will be very good for Philip and for Mr
It shows great confidence on Mr Caldwell's part, said Mrs Inglis.
Yes; but, mamma, you said it as if you were surprised, as if his
confidence might be misplaced.
I am surprised, dear, but the other idea I did not mean to convey.
My surprise was because of Mr Caldwell's well-known deliberation and
Yes; the offer, even if it go no further, is a feather in Phil's
cap, said Jem. But Mr Caldwell is a shrewd old gentleman, though he
be a little slow. He knows what he is about.
You look as though you expected to be contradicted, Jem, said
Is Philip pleased with the prospect? Will the thing go on? asked
I think so. I hope so. It will be decided when Mr Oswald returns.
Philip would have liked me to go with theminto their service, I mean,
with the prospect of something better by and by.
And what did you say to him? asked his mother.
Of course you refused? said Violet.
I don't know about that, said Jem. Davie had better think twice
before he refuses such an offer. But Davie never did appreciate
David laughed at Jem, and answered his mother.
I told him all about it, mamma. He was disappointed, but he
understood, I think.
There was no more said that night. Jem would gladly have entered
into a discussion of the subject, but David did not stay to listen, and
Violet would not respond, and what he had to say would not have been
the best thing to say to his mother, so he kept his opinion for the
hearing of Philip against the time he should see him again.
When Philip came, which was not for a day or two, the first words he
said to Mrs Inglis were
I think you ought to be a very happy woman, Aunt Mary.
I think so too. But what has given you new light on the subject?
asked Mrs Inglis, smiling.
And you ought all to be very happy children, said Philip, lifting
little Mary, who was not so very little now, to his knee.
And so we are, said Violet.
And you ought to be very good, too.
And so we are, said Jem.
Well, then, no more need be said on the subject at present, except
that I wish that I were one of you.
Tell us about the new partnership, said Jem.
It is not to be spoken of yet. It is a secret.
Davie told us, said Violet.
Oh, I don't mean it is to be a secret here! But it is not to be
decided till my father comes home. Though I suppose he will let me do
as I like.
If you are quite sure that you know what you would like.
I am quite sure I know what I would like, but I am not to
have that, it seems.
Is it Davie? said Violet. But you don't mean that you would like
him to change his mind and his plans, I hope?
It would be selfish, wouldn't it, and wrong? No, upon the whole I
wouldn't like Davie to be different, or to do differently. But I should
like to be more like him.
But you are pretty good now, aren't you, said Mary. Davie is very
fond of you and mamma and all of us. I suppose you are not quite so
good as our Davie.
They all laughed.
I will try to be good, indeed I will, Polly, said Philip.
Well that is right, said Mary. You should speak to mamma. She
would help you.
Yes, I think she would. I mean to speak to her.
And so they chatted on till David came in. Philip had made good a
place among them. It was quite clear that they all liked him, as little
Polly had said. They had always liked him from the very first, but he
was more worthy of their liking now.
Mr Oswald and Frank came home in due time. There was nothing in Mr
Oswald's plans for his son to prevent the carrying out of the plan for
the new partnership, as proposed by Mr Caldwell. He was greatly pleased
with the compliment to his son, which Mr Caldwell's proposal implied,
and entered into the discussion of preliminaries with great, interest.
As for himself he had returned home with no design of engaging
immediately in business, except the business of an Insurance Company of
which he had been made the agent. He was to wait for a year or two at
Frank, whose health and eyesight were quite restored, was offered
the place in the new business, which Philip would so gladly have given
to David. Of course he was as yet not so well qualified to perform the
duties of the position as David would have been, but he possessed some
qualities likely to insure success that David did not have, and he had
that which was the source and secret of David's goodness, so firmly
believed in by little Mary and them all. He was learning to live, not
to himself, but to his Masterto do His will and make known His name,
and in all things to honour Him in the eyes of the world, and so he had
also David's secret of peace. But for a time he had little to do, as
the new firm was not publicly announced till later in the year, and in
the meantime he accepted Mrs Inglis's invitation, and made himself one
of the children of the bridge house, to his great pleasure and theirs.
One morning as Mr Philip sat at breakfast reading the paper, as was
his custom, he heard Mr Caldwell say
This is the twenty-second of September.
The days and nights are of equal length, said Mrs Caldwell. Dear!
dear! how soon the days will be drawing in!
This day last year Miss Bethia Barnes died.
Well, she was a good body. I trust she went to a better place.
And to-day her will is to be read, went on Mr Caldwell.
Is it indeed? Had she much property? She was a decent saving body.
And who is to get it? Not that you can know, however, till the will is
I know, having been consulted about the making of it; but that is
neither here nor there at the present moment. What I mean to say is
this: Being one of the executors of that will, I shall have to be in Mr
Bethune's office this morning, and so, Mr Philip, you will need to
attend to the business we were speaking of last night yourself, in case
I should be detained beyond my time.
All right! said Philip, looking up from his paper.
And you were consulted about the making of the poor body's will,
were you? said Mrs Caldwell, who was by no means so silent a member of
the family as her husband. And you were made executor, and alland
you never mentioned it. Not that that is a matter for surprise,
however, added she, reconsidering the subject. I dare say he will be
ready to tell us all about it by dinner time, though no mortal power
could make him open his lips this morning. Well, I hope whoever gets
the money will get the good of it, though why they should have been
kept out of it a whole year, I cannot see. I hope that was not by your
advice. But dear! dear! money often does more harm than good, for all
so hard as we strive for it.
It will do good this timethere is no fear, said Mr Caldwell,
rising. It has not been striven for, nor expected, and there is not
too much of it just for comfort, andit will open the way.
The last words struck Philip as familiar, and looking up he caught
the eye of Mr Caldwell, who nodded and smiled, as though he ought to
understand the whole matter by this time.
There need be no more waiting now, said he, but whether he meant
for himself or for Mr Philip, or for some one else, he did not say.
All right! said Philip, at a venture; and though he heard no more
of the matter, and was too busy all day to give it a thought, he was
not surprised, when he went, at night, to the bridge house, to hear
that there was news awaiting him; but he was a little surprised at the
nature of the news. It was Violet who told him. The children were gone
out, and David was, for the moment, in his mother's room, and only
Frank was with Violet when Philip came in. For this time she was quite
free from the proper and dignified air of which Jem used to accuse
her where Philip was concerned. She was smiling and eager when,
prompted by Frank, she told him there was something he would like to
It is about Davie, isn't it? said Philip. Davie is Miss Bethia's
But it was not Davie. Davie had his father's library and the five
hundred dollars which Miss Bethia had offered for it as well, to do
what he liked with; there were some legacies to relatives, to remember
her by, Miss Bethia had written, and there was something to Debby
Stone. But the house and garden in Gourlay, and all else that had been
Miss Bethia's, she had bequeathed unconditionally to Mrs Inglis. It was
not a large property, but it was a good deal more than Miss Bethia
could have been supposed to possess, considering her way of life. It
was not quite independence to Mrs Inglis and her children, but it would
be a great help toward it.
And, said Violet, with a smile and a sigh, it opens the way to
Yes; that is what Mr Caldwell said this morning. But you don't seem
so delighted as he was at the thought.
I am very glad for Davie. But it will be a sad breaking-up for the
rest of us to have him go away. And it will be at once, I suppose, if,
at this late day, arrangements can be made for his going this year to
But the sooner the better, I should think, Violet, said Frank,
Yesthe sooner the better for him; but think of mamma and the rest
of us. However, I know it is very foolish to look at that side of the
matter, and, indeed, I am very glad.
And, besides, if you go to Myou will see him often, said Frank.
We shall be rather dismal without you both, I am afraid.
Dismal enough! echoed Mr Philip.
And if you all go to Gourlay to live, as Miss Bethia seemed to
think you would, what will become of us?
What, indeed! said Philip. That is the plan, is it? It is cruel
of Aunt Mary, and I shall tell her so.
We have made no plans as yet. I hope it will be all for the best.
We have been very happy here. It could not have lasted much longer for
Davie. He is very glad, and so is mamma; and, I suppose, we shall all
be glad, when we have time to think about it.
Philip was not so sure of that, nor Frank either, as far as their
going away to Gourlay was concerned. But mamma was glad and Davie.
There was no doubt of that, Philip saw, as soon as they appeared. They
were rather silent for a time, and Philip saw, what he had never seen
before in all his intercourse with her, the traces of tears on Mrs
Inglis's face. He was not sure that there was not the shine of tears in
David's eyes too. His congratulations were given very quietly, and as
But I am afraid it is the beginning of bad days to us, Aunt Mary,
if we have to say good-bye to you all.
It would be bad days for us, too, if that were to happen; but I
hope nothing so sad as that is to follow our good fortune.
Good-bye! exclaimed Frank. That is the last thing we shall think
of, Aunt Mary. But, I suppose, we shall lose Davie for awhile. Eh,
I shall be away for awhile, if you call that losing me; but I shall
be home soon, and often.
It happened just at the right time, didn't it? said Ned. Just as
Davie is ready to go to college.
Davie has been ready for that any time these three years; and what
I wonder is, that mamma did not hear of this at once, said Jem.
This is the right time, I think, said Mrs Inglis.
I am very glad it did not happen this time last year, said Philip.
Why? said Violet.
I will tell you another time, said Philip.
After all, mamma, money is a very good thing to have, said Ned,
after there had been more discussion of Miss Bethia's will, and all
that was to be done in consequence of it.
A very good thing, in certain circumstances.
But, mamma, you have always spoken as if it did not matter whether
we had money or notmuch money, I mean. And now see how pleased
everybody is because Miss Bethia gave her's to you. I don't think
anything ever happened before that pleased every one of us so well.
I cannot say that for myself, said his mother.
And there is not much money of it, said Frank.
And everybody is glad because of Davie, said Jessie. I think Miss
Bethia meant it for Davie to go to college and be a minister like papa,
and that is why mamma is so glad, and all of us.
Nonsense! Miss Bethia meant it for mamma and all of us. She would
have said it was for Davie, if she had meant it for him. Do you think
Miss Bethia meant it for you, Davie? Do you, mamma? said Ned, as he
saw a smile exchanged between them.
She meant it for mamma, of course, said David.
Davie, said his mother, read Miss Bethia's letter to Philip and
David looked at his mother, and round on the rest, then back again
to his mother, a little surprise and hesitation showing in his face.
Do you think so, mamma? said he, colouring.
They will like to hear it, and I shall like them to hear it. Shall
I read it for you? said his mother, smiling.
David rose and went into his mother's room, and came back with the
letter in his hand. Giving it to her without a word, he sat down in a
corner where the light could not fall on his face. Mrs Inglis opened
the letter and read:
Dear David Inglis,It is a solemn thing to sit down and write a
letter which is not to be opened till the hand that holds the pen is
cold in death; and so I feel at this time. But I want you to know all
about it, and I must put it in as few words as possible. I will begin
at the beginning.
I never had much hope of your father after that first hard cold he
took about the time that Timothy Bent died. I worried about him all
winter, for I couldn't make it seem right that his life and usefulness
should be broken off short, just when it seemed he had got ready to do
the most good. I would have put it right, in my way, if I could have
done it. But it was not the Lord's way, and I had to give it up. It
never was easy for me to give up my own way, even to the Lord. But He
is long-suffering and slow to anger; and by and by He showed me how I
might help make up your father's loss to the church and the world.
But I wasn't in any hurry about it, because I didn't know just how
it would be with you, and whether you would keep your armour bright,
and stand in the day of trial. So I waited, and went to Singleton, and
talked with Mr Caldwell, and came home feeling pretty well; and all the
more when I heard from your mother how she and you felt about your
taking up your father's work. Still I was not in any hurry, for I
thought you were not losing your time. You seemed to be learning, what
many a minister gets into trouble for not knowing, how business is
done, and how far a little money may be made to go. And I thought, if
it were just a notion of yours to be a minister, because you had
thought so much of your father, and to please your mother, you would
find it out pretty soon, and get into other business. But I knew, if
the Lord had called you to the work, you wouldn't be tired waiting, and
you weren't losing time.
Well, I have thought of it, and planned for it considerable, one
way and another; and, lately, I have begun to think that I shall not
have much more time for planning or doing either. This summer, I have
seemed to see my way clear. There are not many women in the world like
your mother, I can tell you, David; and she will know how to go to work
better than I can tell her. So I have made up my mind to leave what I
have got to her. The time you have been working to keep the family
together has not been lost, so far. But, when your mother don't need
you, you will be free to help yourself. I thought first I would leave
you money enough to take you through college, and all that; but, as far
as I have had a chance to judge, those who have had to work hard to get
an education, have come out best in the end. Your mother will know what
to do, as one thing follows another in your life, better than I could
put it down on paper. She'll help you all you need, I am not afraid;
and if the Lord shouldn't have called you to His work after all, I
would rather your mother had the property I have worked for than that
you should have it to put into other business. I hope it will come all
round right in the end.
There is a good deal more I wanted to say to you, but I don't seem
to know just how to put it down on paper as I want to, so I shall not
try. When you read this, I shall be where your father is; and I pray
the Lord to lead you in the way you should go, and make you a faithful
minister of His word, as he was. Amen.
There was nothing said for several minutes, after she had ceased
reading; then she only said:
And so, now, children, you see what it was that our old friend
Mr Caldwell must have known it all along, said Philip. Well, he
told me there was not much chance of Davie's accepting my offer. I
should think not!
Are you sorry? asked Violet.
I am not sure. I must think about it.
I sha'n't seem to care so much about being a rich man now, said
Jem, since Davie is provided for.
There are plenty more of us, Jem, said Ned.
And mamma, too, went on Jem dolefully. If Miss Bethia had given
it all to Davie, I might have done for mamma.
They all laughed at Jem's trouble, and they grew eager and a little
noisy and foolish after that, laughing and making impossible plans, as
though Miss Bethia's money had been countless. David said nothing, and
Mrs Inglis said little, and the confusion did not last long, for,
beneath all their lightness, there was among the children a deeper and
graver feeling than they wished to show, and they grew quiet in a
There were no plans made that night, however; but, by degrees, it
was made plain to Mrs Inglis what it was best for them to do. David
went almost immediately to M, and was admitted into the university,
passing the examinations for the second year; and Violet went back to
her place in Mrs Lancaster's school. Mrs Inglis decided to remain in
Singleton for the winter, partly for Jem's sake, and partly that Ned
might still have the benefit of school. Frank was also to be with them.
Mr Oswald was not to be in Singleton constantly, and Miss Oswald was to
remain at her own home all winter, and the little girls were to remain
So Frank took David's place, though he did not quite fill it, and Mr
Philip came and went almost as often as when the others were at home.
His visits were for the pleasure of all, and for his own profit; and
when the time came that they were to say good-bye for a little while,
it was spoken by Mrs Inglis with feelings far different from those she
would have had a year ago; for she knew that the discipline of changed
circumstances, of care, and of hard work that had fallen upon him, had
strengthened him in many ways; and, better still, she could not but
hope that the influence and teaching to which he had so willingly
submitted during the last year and more, had wrought in him for good,
and that now he was being taught by Him who teacheth to profit, and
guided by Him in the right way.
Jem had an opportunity to play at being head of the house for
once; and it was, by no means, all play, for the care and
responsibility of acting for his mother in all that pertained to making
necessary arrangements, to the disposal of such things as they did not
care to take with them, and to the removal of such things as they
wished to keep, fell on him. He did his work well and cheerfully,
though with a little unnecessary energy, and he would gladly have staid
to settle them all in Gourlay. But he was needed for his legitimate
work; and amid much cause for gratitude, Mrs Inglis had this cause for
anxiety, that Jem must henceforth be removed from the constant happy
influence of home life, and left to prove the strength and worth of his
principles among strangers. If he had been more afraid for himself, it
is likely his mother would have been less afraid for him. But there was
no help for it. It is the mother's common lot.
The young birds cannot always stay in the parent nest, mother,
dear, said Jem; and I must go as the rest do. But I shall come home
for a week in the summer, if it be a possible thing; and, in the
meantime, I am not going to forget my mother, I hope.
Nor your mother's God, I trust, dear Jem, said Mrs Inglis, as she
let him go.
Who could tell all the labour and pains bestowed on the arrangement
and adornment of the house they had never ceased to love? David came
home early in May, and did his part. Ten times a day Jessie wished for
Violet to help with her willing and skillful hands. They had Debby for
all that required strength. She had fallen very easily into her old
place, and was to stay in it, everybody hoped.
Sarah and Charlotte Oswald were to form part of their family for the
next year, and Violet's work was to be to teach them and her sisters,
and two little orphan girls who had been committed by their guardian to
Mrs Inglis's care. But Violet's work was not to be begun till
September, and after the house was in perfect order, ready to receive
expected visitors, there were two months for happy leisure before that
Violet and Jem were coming home together, and Sarah and Charlotte
were expected at the same time. Jem was to stay for ten days only. By
dint of some planning on their part, and much kindness on the part of
Mr Caldwell, Philip and Frank were to have their holiday together, and
they were to accompany the rest to Gourlay. At first it was intended to
make their coming a surprise, but mindful of certain possible
contingencies in Debby's department, Violet overruled this, and the
people at home were permitted to have the pleasure of expecting and
preparing for them, as well as the pleasure of receiving them, and
wonderful things were accomplished to that end.
The last night had come. The children had gone away to the woods to
get some sprigs from a beautiful vine, without which Jessie did not
consider her floral decorations perfect, and Mrs Inglis and David were
awaiting them alone. They were in the garden, which was a very pretty
place, and never prettier than on that evening, David thought. Ned's
gardening was a great improvement on his of the old days, he willingly
acknowledged. Indeed, since their coming back to Gourlay, Ned had given
himself to the arranging and keeping of the garden, in a way that
proved the possession of true artistic taste, and also of that which is
as rare, and as necessary to success in gardening and in other
thingsgreat perseverance. His success was wonderful, and all the more
so that for the last few years the flower-garden, at least, had been
allowed to take its own way as to growing and blossoming, and bade fair
when they came to be a thicket of balsam, peonies, hollyhocks, and
other hardy village favourites. But Ned saw great possibilities of
beauty in it, compared with the three-cornered morsel that had been the
source of so much enjoyment in Singleton, and having taken Philip into
his confidence, there came from time to time seeds, roots, plants and
cuttings to his heart's content.
He had determined to have the whole in perfect order by the time of
the coming of Violet and the rest, and by dint of constant labour on
his part, and the little help he got from David or any one else who
could be coaxed into his service for the time, he had succeeded
wonderfully, considering all things. It was perfect in neatness, and it
was rich in flowers that had never opened under a Gourlay sun till now.
It was to be a surprise to Violet and Jem, and looking at it with their
eyes, David exclaimed again and again in admiration of its order and
But they won't see it to-night, unless they come soon, said he.
However, it will look all the better with the morning sun upon it.
Does it seem like home to you, mamma?the old home?
Yeswith a difference, said his mother.
Ah, yes! But you are glad to be here, mamma? You would rather have
your home in Gourlay than anywhere else?
Yes, I am glad our home is here. God has been very good to us,
Mamma, it is wonderful! If our choice had been given us, we could
not have desired anything different.
His mother smiled.
God's way is best, and this will seem more like home than any other
place could seem to those who must go away. I cannot expect to keep my
Any place would be home to us where you were, mamma. But I am glad
you are hereand you don't grudge us to our work in the world?
No, truly. That would be worse than ungrateful. May God give you
all His work to do, and a will and strength to do it!
And you will have the children a long time yet; and Violet David
hesitated and looked at his mother with momentary embarrassment. Only
mamma, added he, I am afraid Philip wants Violet.
Mrs Inglis started.
Has he told you so, Davie? said she, anxiously.
Nonot quitenot exactly. But I thinkI know you wouldn't be
grieved, mamma? Philip is just what you would like him to be now.
Philip is a true Christian gentleman. I expect great things from
Philip. And mamma, you can never surely mean that you are surprised.
Not altogether surprised, perhaps. Butwe will not speak of it,
Until Philip does. Well, I don't think that will be very long. But,
mamma, I cannot bear that you should be unhappy because of this.
Unhappy? No, not unhappy! ButI could never make you understand.
We will not speak about it.
They went on in silence along the walk till they came to the garden
gate, and there they lingered for a while.
Mamma, said David, do you remember one night, a very stormy
night, when you and I watched for papa's coming home? I don't know why
I should always think of that night more than of many others, unless it
was almost the last time he ventured forth to meet the storm. I think
you were afraid even then, mamma?
I remember. Yes, I was afraid. David stood silent beside her. The
voices of the children on their homeward way came through the
stillness. In a minute they could see them, moving in and out among the
long shadows, which the last gleam of sunshine made, their hands and
laps filled with flowers and trailing greena very pretty picture. The
mother stood watching them in silence till they drew near. Then the
face she turned to David was bright with both smiles and tears.
David, she said, when I remember your father's life and death,
and how gently we have been dealt with since then, how wisely guided,
how strongly guarded, and how the way has opened before us, my heart
fills full and my lips would fain sing praises. I do not think there
can come into my life anything to make me afraid any more.
David's answer was in words not his own: Thou wilt keep him in
perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in