Robert Turner's Revenge by Lucy Maud
When Robert Turner came to the green, ferny triangle where the station
road forked to the right and left under the birches, he hesitated as
to which direction he would take. The left led out to the old Turner
homestead, where he had spent his boyhood and where his cousin still
lived; the right led down to the Cove shore where the Jameson property
was situated. Since he had stopped off at Chiswick for the purpose of
looking this property over before foreclosing the mortgage on it he
concluded that he might as well take the Cove road; he could go around
by the shore afterward—he had not forgotten the way even in forty
years—and so on up through the old spruce wood in Alec Martin's
field—if the spruces were there still and the field still Alec
Martin's—to his cousin's place. He would just about have time to make
the round before the early country supper hour. Then a brief visit
with Tom—Tom had always been a good sort of a fellow although
woefully dull and slow-going—and the evening express for Montreal. He
swung with a businesslike stride into the Cove road.
As he went on, however, the stride insensibly slackened into an
unaccustomed saunter. How well he remembered that old road, although
it was forty years since he had last traversed it, a set-lipped boy of
fifteen, cast on the world by the indifference of an uncle. The years
had made surprisingly little difference in it or in the surrounding
scenery. True, the hills and fields and lanes seemed lower and smaller
and narrower than he remembered them; there were some new houses along
the road, and the belt of woods along the back of the farms had become
thinner in most places. But that was all. He had no difficulty in
picking out the old familiar spots. There was the big cherry orchard
on the Milligan place which had been so famous in his boyhood. It was
snow-white with blossoms, as if the trees were possessed of eternal
youth; they had been in blossom the last time he had seen them. Well,
time had not stood still with him as it had with Luke Milligan's
cherry orchard, he reflected grimly. His springtime had long gone by.
The few people he met on the road looked at him curiously, for
strangers were not commonplace in Chiswick. He recognized some of the
older among them but none of them knew him. He had been an awkward,
long-limbed lad with fresh boyish colour and crisp black curls when he
had left Chiswick. He returned to it a somewhat portly figure of a
man, with close-cropped, grizzled hair, and a face that looked as if
it might be carved out of granite, so immobile and unyielding it
was—the face of a man who never faltered or wavered, who stuck at
nothing that might advance his plans and purposes, a face known and
dreaded in the business world where he reigned master. It was a cold,
hard, selfish face, but the face of the boy of forty years ago had
been neither cold nor hard nor selfish.
Presently the homesteads and orchard lands grew fewer and then ceased
altogether. The fields were long and low-lying, sloping down to the
misty blue rim of sea. A turn of the road brought him in sudden sight
of the Cove, and there below him was the old Jameson homestead, built
almost within wave-lap of the pebbly shore and shut away into a lonely
grey world of its own by the sea and sands and those long slopes of
He paused at the sagging gate that opened into the long, deep-rutted
lane and, folding his arms on it, looked earnestly and scrutinizingly
over the buildings. They were grey and faded, lacking the prosperous
appearance that had characterized them once. There was an air of
failure about the whole place as if the very land had become
disheartened and discouraged.
Long ago, Neil Jameson, senior, had been a well-to-do man. The big
Cove farm had been one of the best in Chiswick then. As for Neil
Jameson, Junior, Robert Turner's face always grew something grimmer
when he recalled him—the one person, boy and man, whom he had really
hated in the world. They had been enemies from childhood, and once in
a bout of wrestling at the Chiswick school Neil had thrown him by an
unfair trick and taunted him continually thereafter on his defeat.
Robert had made a compact with himself that some day he would pay Neil
Jameson back. He had not forgotten it—he never forgot such
things—but he had never seen or heard of Neil Jameson after leaving
Chiswick. He might have been dead for anything Robert Turner knew.
Then, when John Kesley failed and his effects turned over to his
creditors, of whom Robert Turner was the chief, a mortgage on the Cove
farm at Chiswick, owned by Neil Jameson, had been found among his
assets. Inquiry revealed the fact that Neil Jameson was dead and that
the farm was run by his widow. Turner felt a pang of disappointment.
What satisfaction was there in wreaking revenge on a dead man? But at
least his wife and children should suffer. That debt of his to Jameson
for an ill-won victory and many a sneer must be paid in full, if not
to him, why, then to his heirs.
His lawyers reported that Mrs. Jameson was two years behind with her
interest. Turner instructed them to foreclose the mortgage promptly.
Then he took it into his head to revisit Chiswick and have a good look
at the Cove farm and other places he knew so well. He had a notion
that it might be a decent place to spend a summer month or two in. His
wife went to seaside and mountain resorts, but he liked something
quieter. There was good fishing at the Cove and in Chiswick pond, as
he remembered. If he liked the farm as well as his memory promised him
he would do, he would bid it in himself. It would make Neil Jameson
turn in his grave if the penniless lad he had jeered at came into the
possession of his old ancestral property that had been owned by a
Jameson for over one hundred years. There was a flavour in such a
revenge that pleased Robert Turner. He smiled one of his occasional
grim smiles over it. When Robert Turner smiled, weather prophets of
the business sky foretold squalls.
Presently he opened the gate and went through. Halfway down the lane
forked, one branch going over to the house, the other slanting across
the field to the cove. Turner took the latter and soon found himself
on the grey shore where the waves were tumbling in creamy foam just as
he remembered them long ago. Nothing about the old cove had changed;
he walked around a knobby headland, weather-worn with the wind and
spray of years, which cut him off from sight of the Jameson house, and
sat down on a rock. He thought himself alone and was annoyed to find a
boy sitting on the opposite ledge with a book on his knee.
The lad lifted his eyes and looked Turner over with a clear, direct
gaze. He was about twelve years old, tall for his age, slight, with a
delicate, clear-cut face—a face that was oddly familiar to Turner,
although he was sure he had never seen it before. The boy had oval
cheeks, finely tinted with colour, big, shy blue eyes quilled about
with long black lashes, and silvery-golden hair lying over his head in
soft ringlets like a girl's. What girl's? Something far back in Robert
Turner's dreamlike boyhood seemed to call to him like a note of a
forgotten melody, sweet yet stirring like a pain. The more he looked
at the boy the stronger the impression of a resemblance grew in every
feature but the mouth. That was alien to his recollection of the face,
yet there was something about it, when taken by itself, that seemed
oddly familiar also—yes, and unpleasantly familiar, although the
mouth was a good one—finely cut and possessing more firmness than was
found in all the other features put together.
"It's a good place for reading, sonny, isn't it?" he inquired, more
genially than he had spoken to a child for years. In fact, having no
children of his own, he so seldom spoke to a child that his voice and
manner when he did so were generally awkward and rusty.
The boy nodded a quick little nod. Somehow, Turner had expected that
nod and the glimmer of a smile that accompanied it.
"What book are you reading?" he asked.
The boy held it out; it was an old Robinson Crusoe, that classic of
"It's splendid," he said. "Billy Martin lent it to me and I have to
finish it today because Ned Josephs is to have it next and he's in a
hurry for it."
"It's a good while since I read Robinson Crusoe," said Turner
reflectively. "But when I did it was on this very shore a little
further along below the Miller place. There was a Martin and a Josephs
in the partnership then too—the fathers, I dare say, of Billy and
Ned. What is your name, my boy?"
"Paul Jameson, sir."
The name was a shock to Turner. This boy a Jameson—Neil Jameson's
son? Why, yes, he had Neil's mouth. Strange he had nothing else in
common with the black-browed, black-haired Jamesons. What business had
a Jameson with those blue eyes and silvery-golden curls? It was
flagrant forgery on Nature's part to fashion such things and label
them Jameson by a mouth.
Hated Neil Jameson's son! Robert Turner's face grew so grey and hard
that the boy involuntarily glanced upward to see if a cloud had
crossed the sun.
"Your father was Neil Jameson, I suppose?" Turner said abruptly.
Paul nodded. "Yes, but he is dead. He has been dead for eight years. I
don't remember him."
"Have you any brothers or sisters?"
"I have a little sister a year younger than I am. The other four are
dead. They died long ago. I'm the only boy Mother had. Oh, I do so
wish I was bigger and older! If I was I could do something to save the
place—I'm sure I could. It is breaking Mother's heart to have to
"So she has to leave it, has she?" said Turner grimly, with the old
hatred stirring in his heart.
"Yes. There is a mortgage on it and we're to be sold out very soon—so
the lawyers told us. Mother has tried so hard to make the farm pay but
she couldn't. I could if I was bigger—I know I could. If they would
only wait a few years! But there is no use hoping for that. Mother
cries all the time about it. She has lived at the Cove farm for over
thirty years and she says she can't live away from it now.
Elsie—that's my sister—and I do all we can to cheer her up, but we
can't do much. Oh, if I was only a man!"
The lad shut his lips together—how much his mouth was like his
father's—and looked out seaward with troubled blue eyes. Turner
smiled another grim smile. Oh, Neil Jameson, your old score was being
Yet something embittered the sweetness of revenge. That boy's face—he
could not hate it as he had accustomed himself to hate the memory of
Neil Jameson and all connected with him.
"What was your mother's name before she married your father?" he
"Lisbeth Miller," answered the boy, still frowning seaward over his
Turner started again. Lisbeth Miller! He might have known it. What
woman in all the world save Lisbeth Miller could have given her son
those eyes and curls? So Lisbeth had married Neil Jameson—little
Lisbeth Miller, his schoolboy sweetheart. He had forgotten her—or
thought he had; certainly he had not thought of her for years. But the
memory of her came back now with a rush.
Little Lisbeth—pretty little Lisbeth—merry little Lisbeth! How
clearly he remembered her! The old Miller place had adjoined his
uncle's farm. Lisbeth and he had played together from babyhood. How he
had worshipped her! When they were six years old they had solemnly
promised to marry each other when they grew up, and Lisbeth had let
him kiss her as earnest of their compact, made under a bloom-white
apple tree in the Miller orchard. Yet she would always blush furiously
and deny it ever afterwards; it made her angry to be reminded of it.
He saw himself going to school, carrying her books for her, the envied
of all the boys. He remembered how he had fought Tony Josephs because
Tony had the presumption to bring her spice apples: he had thrashed
him too, so soundly that from that time forth none of the schoolboys
presumed to rival him in Lisbeth's affections—roguish little Lisbeth!
who grew prettier and saucier every year.
He recalled the keen competition of the old days when to be "head of
the class" seemed the highest honour within mortal reach, and was
striven after with might and main. He had seldom attained to it
because he would never "go up past" Lisbeth. If she missed a word, he,
Robert, missed it too, no matter how well he knew it. It was sweet to
be thought a dunce for her dear sake. It was all the reward he asked
to see her holding her place at the head of the class, her cheeks
flushed pink and her eyes starry with her pride of position. And how
sweetly she would lecture him on the way home from school about
learning his spellings better, and wind up her sermon with the frank
avowal, uttered with deliciously downcast lids, that she liked him
better than any of the other boys after all, even if he couldn't spell
as well as they could. Nothing of success that he had won since had
ever thrilled him as that admission of little Lisbeth's!
She had been such a sympathetic little sweetheart too, never weary of
listening to his dreams and ambitions, his plans for the future. She
had always assured him that she knew he would succeed. Well, he had
succeeded—and now one of the uses he was going to make of his success
was to turn Lisbeth and her children out of their home by way of
squaring matters with a dead man!
Lisbeth had been away from home on a long visit to an aunt when he had
left Chiswick. She was growing up and the childish intimacy was
fading. Perhaps, under other circumstances, it might have ripened into
fruit, but he had gone away and forgotten her; the world had claimed
him; he had lost all active remembrance of Lisbeth and, before this
late return to Chiswick, he had not even known if she were living. And
she was Neil Jameson's widow!
He was silent for a long time, while the waves purred about the base
of the big red sandstone rock and the boy returned to his Crusoe.
Finally Robert Turner roused himself from his reverie.
"I used to know your mother long ago when she was a little girl," he
said. "I wonder if she remembers me. Ask her when you go home if she
remembers Bobby Turner."
"Won't you come up to the house and see her, sir?" asked Paul
politely. "Mother is always glad to see her old friends."
"No, I haven't time today." Robert Turner was not going to tell Neil
Jameson's son that he did not care to look for the little Lisbeth of
long ago in Neil Jameson's widow. The name spoiled her for him, just
as the Jameson mouth spoiled her son for him. "But you may tell her
something else. The mortgage will not be foreclosed. I was the power
behind the lawyers, but I did not know that the present owner of the
Cove farm was my little playmate, Lisbeth Miller. You and she shall
have all the time you want. Tell her Bobby Turner does this in return
for what she gave him under the big sweeting apple tree on her sixth
birthday. I think she will remember and understand. As for you, Paul,
be a good boy and good to your mother. I hope you'll succeed in your
ambition of making the farm pay when you are old enough to take it in
hand. At any rate, you'll not be disturbed in your possession of it."
"Oh, sir! oh, sir!" stammered Paul in an agony of embarrassed
gratitude and delight. "Oh, it seems too good to be true. Do you
really mean that we're not to be sold out? Oh, won't you come and tell
Mother yourself? She'll be so happy—so grateful. Do come and let her
"Not today. I haven't time. Give her my message, that's all. There,
run; the sooner she gets the news the better."
Turner watched the boy as he bounded away, until the headland hid him
"There goes my revenge—and a fine bit of property eminently suited
for a summer residence—all for a bit of old, rusty sentiment," he
said with a shrug. "I didn't suppose I was capable of such a mood. But
then—little Lisbeth. There never was a sweeter girl. I'm glad I
didn't go with the boy to see her. She's an old woman now—and Neil
Jameson's widow. I prefer to keep my old memories of her
undisturbed—little Lisbeth of the silvery-golden curls and the
roguish blue eyes. Little Lisbeth of the old time! I'm glad to be able
to have done you the small service of securing your home to you. It is
my thanks to you for the friendship and affection you gave my lonely
boyhood—my tribute to the memory of my first sweetheart."
He walked away with a smile, whose amusement presently softened to an
expression that would have amazed his business cronies. Later on he
hummed the air of an old love song as he climbed the steep spruce road