With that he laid himself down prone upon the mound again, his face in the grass, sobbing brokenly, "Oh, mother, mother dear, I have got you once more; I have got you once more!"
His sister stood, her hands clasped upon her heart—a manner she had—her tears, unnoted, flowing down her cheeks, waiting till her brother should let her into his joy, as she had waited for entrance into his grief. His griefs and his joys were hers, and though he still held her a mere child, it was with a woman's self-forgetting love she ministered to him, gladly accepting whatever confidence he would give, but content to wait until he should give more. So she stood waiting, with her tears flowing quietly, and her face alight with wonder and joy for him. But as her brother's sobbing continued, this terrible display of emotion amazed her, startled her, for since their mother's death none of them had seen Allan weep. At length he raised himself from the ground and stood beside her.
"Oh, Moira, lassie, I never knew how terrible it was till now. I had lost everything, my friends, you, and," he added in a low voice, "my mother. This cursed thing shut me out from all; it got between me and all I ever loved. I have not for these months been able to see her face clear, but do you know, Moira," here his voice fell and the mystic light grew in his eyes, "I saw her again just now as clear as clear, and I know I have got her again; and you, too, Moira, darling," here he gathered his sister to him, "and the people! and the Glen! Oh! is it not terrible what a crime can do? How it separates you from your folk, and from all the world, for, mind you, I have felt myself a criminal; but I am not! I am not!" His voice rose into an exultant shout, "I am clear of it, I am a man again! Oh, it is good! it is good! Here, read the letter, it will prove to you."
"Oh, what does it matter at all, Allan," she cried, still clinging to him, "as if it made any difference to me. I always knew it."
Her brother lifted her face from his breast and looked into her eyes. "Do you tell me you don't want to know the proof of it?" he asked in wonder. "No," she said simply. "Why should I need any proof? I always knew it."
For a moment longer he gazed upon her, then said, "Moira, you are a wonder, lassie. No, you are a lassie no longer, you are a woman, and, do you know, you are like mother to me now, and I never saw it."
She smiled up at him through her tears. "I should like to be," she said softly. Then, because she was truly Scotch, she added, "for your sake, for I love you terribly much; and I am going to lose you."
A quiver passed through her frame, and her arms gripped him tight. In the self-absorption in his grief and pain he had not thought of hers, nor considered how with his going her whole life would be changed.
"I have been a selfish brute," he muttered. "I have only thought of my own suffering; but, listen Moira, it is all past; thank God, it is all past. This letter from Mr. Rae holds a confession from Potts (poor Potts! I am glad that Rae let him off): it was Potts who committed the forgery. Now I feel myself clean again; you can't know what that is; to be yourself again, and to be able to look all men in the face without fear or shame. Come, we must go; I must see them all again. Let us to the burn first, and put my face right."
A moment he stood looking down upon his mother's grave. The hideous thing that had put her far from him, and that had blurred the clear vision of her face, was gone. A smile soft and tender as a child's stole over his face, and with that smile he turned away. As they were coming back from the burn, Martin and the schoolmaster saw them in the distance.
"Bless me, man, will you look at him?" said the master in an awestruck tone, clutching Martin's arm. "What ever is come to him?"
"What's up," cried Martin. "By Jove! you're right! the Roderick Dhu and Black Douglas business is gone, sure!"
"God bless my soul!" said Maclise in an undertone. "He is himself once more."
He might well exclaim, for it was a new Allan that came striding up the high road, with head lifted, and with the proud swing of a Highland chieftain.
"Hello, old man!" he shouted, catching sight of Martin and running towards him with hands outstretched, "You are welcome"—he grasped his hands and held them fast—"you are welcome to this Glen, and to me welcome as Heaven to a Hell-bound soul."
"Maclise," he cried, turning to the master, "this letter," waving it in his hand, "is like a reprieve to a man on the scaffold." Maclise stood gazing in amazement at him.
"They accused me of crime!"
"Of crime, Mr. Allan?" Maclise stiffened in haughty surprise.
"Yes, of base crime!"
"But this letter completely clears him," cried Martin eagerly.
Maclise turned upon him with swift scorn, "There was no need, for anyone in this Glen whatever." The Highlander's face was pale, and in his light blue eyes gleamed a fierce light.
Martin flashed a look upon the girl standing so proudly erect beside her brother, and reflecting in her face and eyes the sentiments of the schoolmaster.
"By Jove! I believe you," cried Martin with conviction, "it is not needed here, but—but there are others, you know."
"Others?" said the Highlander with fine scorn, "and what difference?"
The Glen folk needed no clearing of their chief, and the rest of the world mattered not.
"But there was myself," said Allan. "Now it is gone, Maclise, and I can give my hand once more without fear or shame."
Maclise took the offered hand almost with reverence, and, removing his bonnet from his head, said in a voice, deep and vibrating with emotion,
"Neffer will a man of the Glen count it anything but honour to take thiss hand."
"Thank you, Maclise," cried Allan, keeping his grip of the master's hand. "Now you can tell the Glen."
"You will not be going to leave us now?" said Maclise eagerly.
"Yes, I shall go, Maclise, but," with a proud lift of his head, "tell them I am coming back again."
And with that message Maclise went to the Glen. From cot to cot and from lip to lip the message sped, that Mr. Allan was himself again, and that, though on the morrow's morn he was leaving the Glen, he himself had promised that he would return.
That evening, as the gloaming deepened, the people of the Glen gathered, as was their wont, at their cottage doors to listen to old piper Macpherson as he marched up and down the highroad. This night, it was observed, he no longer played that most heart-breaking of all Scottish laments, "Lochaber No More." He had passed up to the no less heart-thrilling, but less heartbreaking, "Macrimmon's Lament." In a pause in Macpherson's wailing notes there floated down over the Glen the sound of the pipes up at the big House.
"Bless my soul! whisht, man!" cried Betsy Macpherson to her spouse. "Listen yonder!" For the first time in months they heard the sound of Allan's pipes.
"It is himself," whispered the women to each other, and waited. Down the long avenue of ragged firs, and down the highroad, came young Mr. Allan, in all the gallant splendour of his piper's garb, and the tune he played was no lament, but the blood-stirring "Gathering of the Gordons." As he came opposite to Macpherson's cottage he gave the signal for the old piper, and down the highroad stepped the two of them together, till they passed beyond the farthest cottage. Then back again they swung, and this time it was to the "Cock of the North," that their tartans swayed and their bonnets nodded. Thus, not with woe and lamentation, but with good hope and gallant cheer, young Mr. Allan took his leave of the Glen Cuagh Oir.
WILL HE COME BACK?
It was the custom in Doctor Dunn's household that, immediately after dinner, his youngest son would spend half an hour in the study with his father. It was a time for confidences. During this half hour father and son met as nearly as possible on equal terms, discussing, as friends might, the events of the day or the plans for the morrow, school work or athletics, the latest book or the newest joke; and sometimes the talk turned upon the reading at evening prayers. This night the story had been one of rare beauty and of absorbing interest, the story, viz., of that idyllic scene on the shore of Tiberias where the erring disciple was fully restored to his place in the ranks of the faithful, as he had been restored, some weeks before, to his place in the confidence of his Master.
"That was a fine story, Rob?" began Doctor Dunn.
"That it was," said Rob gravely. "It was fine for Peter to get back again."
"Just so," replied his father. "You see, when a man once turns his back on his best Friend, he is never right till he gets back again."
"Yes, I know," said Rob gravely. For a time he sat with a shadow of sadness and anxiety on his young face. "It is terrible!" he exclaimed.
"Terrible?" inquired the Doctor. "Oh, yes, you mean Peter's fall? Yes, that was a terrible thing—to be untrue to our Master and faithless to our best Friend."
"But he did not mean to, Dad," said Rob quickly, as if springing to the fallen disciple's defence. "He forgot, just for a moment, and was awfully sorry afterwards."
"Yes, truly," said his father, "and that was the first step back."
For a few moments Rob remained silent, his face sad and troubled.
"Man! It must be terrible!" at length he said, more to himself than to his father. The Doctor looked closely at the little lad. The eager, sensitive face, usually so radiant, was now clouded and sad.
"What is it, Rob? Is it something you can tell me?" asked his father in a tone of friendly kindness.
Rob moved closer to him. The father waited in silence. He knew better than to force an unwilling confidence. At length the lad, with an obvious effort at self-command, said:
"It is to-morrow, Daddy, that Cameron—that Mr. Cameron is going away."
"To-morrow? So it is. And you will be very sorry, Rob. But, of course, he will come back."
"Oh, Dad," cried Rob, coming quite close to his father, "it isn't that! It isn't that!"
His father waited. He did not understand his boy's trouble, and so he wisely refrained from uttering word that might hinder rather than help. At length, with a sudden effort, Rob asked in a low, hurried voice:
"Do you think, Dad, he has—got—back?"
"Got back?" said his father. "Oh, I see. Why, my boy? What do you know of it? Did you know there was a letter from a man named Potts, that completely clears your friend of all crime?"
"Is there?" asked the boy quickly. "Man! That is fine! But I always knew he could not do anything really bad—I mean, anything that the police could touch him for. But it is not that, Dad. I have heard Jack say he used to be different when he came down first, and now sometimes he—" The lad's voice fell silent. He could not bring himself to accuse his hero of any evil. His father drew him close to his side.
"You mean that he has fallen into bad ways—drink, and things like that?"
The boy hung his head; he was keenly ashamed for his friend. After a few moments' silence he said:
"And he is going away to Canada to-morrow, and I wonder, Dad, if he has—got—back? It would be terrible—Oh, Dad, all alone and away from—!"
The boy's voice sank to a whisper, and a rush of tears filled his eyes.
"I see what you mean, my boy. You mean it would be terrible for him to be in that far land, and away from that Friend we know and love best."
The lad looked at his father through his tears, and nodded his head, and for some moments there was silence between them. If the truth must be told, Doctor Dunn felt himself keenly rebuked by his little son's words. Amid the multitude of his responsibilities, the responsibility for his sons' best friend he had hardly realised.
"I am glad that you spoke of it, Rob; I am glad that you spoke of it. Something will be done. It is not, after all, in our hands. Still, we must stand ready to help. Good-night, my boy. And remember, it is always good to hurry back to our best Friend, if ever we get away from Him."
The boy put his arms around his father's neck and kissed him good-night; then, kissing him again, he whispered: "Thank you, Daddy."
And from the relief in his tone the father recognised that upon him the lad had laid all the burden of his solicitude for his friend.
Later in the evening, when his elder son came home, the father called him in, and frankly gave him the substance of the conversation of the earlier part of the evening.
Jack laughed somewhat uneasily. "Oh, Rob is an awfully religious little beggar; painfully so, I think, sometimes—you know what I mean, Sir," he added, noticing the look on his father's face.
"I am not sure that I do, Jack," said his father, "but I want to tell you, that as far as I am concerned, I felt distinctly rebuked at the little chap's anxiety for his friend in a matter of such vital import. His is a truly religious little soul, as you say, but I wonder if his type is not more nearly like the normal than is ours. Certainly, if reality, simplicity, sincerity are the qualities of true religious feeling—and these, I believe, are the qualities emphasised by the Master Himself—then it may indeed be that the boy's type is nearer the ideal than ours."
At this point Mrs. Dunn entered the room.
"Anything private?" she enquired with a bright smile at her husband.
"Not at all! Come in!" said Doctor Dunn, and he proceeded to repeat the conversation with his younger son, and his own recent comment thereupon.
"I am convinced," he added, "that there is a profundity of meaning in those words, 'Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein,' that we have not yet fathomed. I suspect Wordsworth is not far astray when he suggests that with the passing years we grow away from the simplicity of our faith and the clearness of our vision. There is no doubt that to Rob, Jesus is as real as I am."
"There is no doubt of that," said his wife quickly.
"Not only as real, but quite as dear; indeed, dearer. I shall never forget the shock I received when I heard him one day, as a wee, wee boy, classifying the objects of his affection. I remember the ascending scale was: 'I love Jack and Daddy just the same, then mother, then Jesus.' It was always in the highest place, Jesus; and I believe that the scale is the same to-day, unless Jack," she added, with a smile at her son, "has moved to his mother's place."
"Not much fear of that, mother," said Jack, "but I should not be surprised if you are quite right about the little chap. He is a queer little beggar!"
"There you are again, Jack," said his father, "and it is upon that point I was inclined to take issue with you when your mother entered."
"I think I shall leave you," said the mother. "I am rather tired, and so I shall bid you good-night."
"Yes," said the father, when they had seated themselves again, "the very fact that to you, and to me for that matter, Rob's attitude of mind should seem peculiar raises the issue. What is the normal type of Christian faith? Is it not marked by the simplicity and completeness of the child's?"
"And yet, Sir," replied Jack, "that simplicity and completeness is the result of inexperience. Surely the ideal faith is not that which ignores the facts and experiences of life?"
"Not exactly," replied his father, "yet I am not sure but after all, 'the perfect love which casteth out fear' is one which ignores the experiences of life, or, rather, classifies them in a larger category. That is, it refuses to be disturbed by life's experiences, because among those experiences there is a place for the enlarged horizon, the clearer vision. But I am not arguing about this matter; I rather wish to make a confession and enlist your aid. Frankly, the boy's words gave me an uneasy sense of failure in my duty to this young man; or, perhaps I should say, my privilege. And really, it is no wonder! Here is this little chap actually carrying every day a load of intense concern for our friend, as to whether, as he puts it himself, 'he has come back.' And, after all, Jack, I wonder if this should not have been more upon our minds? The young man, I take it, since his mother's death has little in his home life to inspire him with religious faith and feeling. If she had been alive, one would not feel the same responsibility; she was a singularly saintly woman."
"You are quite right, Sir," said Jack quickly, "and I suspect you rather mean that I am the one that should feel condemned."
"Not at all! Not at all, Jack! I am thinking, as every man must, of my own responsibility, though, doubtless, you have yours as well. Of course I know quite well you have stuck by him splendidly in his fight for a clean and self-controlled life, but one wonders whether there is not something more."
"There is, Sir!" replied his son quickly. "There undoubtedly is! But though I have no hesitation in speaking to men down in the Settlement about these things, you know, still, somehow, to a man of your own class, and to a personal friend, one hesitates. One shrinks from what seems like assuming an attitude of superiority."
"I appreciate that," said his father, "but yet one wonders to what extent this shrinking is due to a real sense of one's own imperfections, and to what extent it is due to an unwillingness to risk criticism, even from ourselves, in a loyal attempt to serve the Master and His cause. And, besides that, one wonders whether from any cause one should hesitate to do the truly kind and Christian thing to one's friend. I mean, you value your religion; or, to put it personally, as Rob would, you would esteem as your chief possession your knowledge of the Christ, as Friend and Saviour. Do not loyalty to Him and friendship require that you share that possession with your dearest friend?"
"I know what you mean, Sir," said Jack earnestly. "I shall think it over. But don't you think a word from you, Sir—"
His father looked at his son with a curious smile.
"Oh, I know what you are thinking," said his son, "but I assure you it is not quite a case of funk."
"Do you know, Jack," said his father earnestly, "we make our religion far too unreal; a thing either of forms remote from life, or a thing of individualistic emotion divorced from responsibility. One thing history reveals, that the early propagandum for the faith was entirely unprofessional. It was from friend to friend, from man to man. It was horizontal rather than perpendicular."
"Well, I shall think it over," said Jack.
"Do you know," said his father, "that I have the feeling of having accepted from Rob responsibility for our utmost endeavour to bring it about that, as Rob puts it, 'somehow he shall get back'?"
It was full twenty minutes before train time when Rob, torn with anxiety lest they should be late, marched his brother on to the railway platform to wait for the Camerons, who were to arrive from the North. Up and down they paraded, Dunn turning over in his mind the conversation of the night before, Rob breaking away every three minutes to consult the clock and the booking clerk at the wicket.
"Will he come to us this afternoon, Jack, do you think?" enquired the boy.
"Don't know! He turned down a football lunch! He has his sister and his father with him."
"His sister could come with him!" argued the boy.
"What about his father?"
Rob had been close enough to events to know that the Captain constituted something of a difficulty in the situation.
"Well, won't he have business to attend to?"
His brother laughed. "Good idea, Rob, let us hope so! At any rate we will do our best to get Cameron and his sister to come to us. We want them, don't we?"
"We do that!" said the boy fervently; "only I'm sure something will happen! There," he exclaimed a moment later, in a tone of disappointment and disgust, "I just knew it! There is Miss Brodie and some one else; they will get after him, I know!"
"So it is," said Dunn, with a not altogether successful attempt at surprise.
"Aw! you knew!" said Rob reproachfully.
"Well! I kind of thought she might turn up!" said his brother, with an air of a convicted criminal. "You know she is quite a friend of Cameron's. But what is Sir Archibald here for?"
"They will just get him, I know," said Rob gloomily, as he followed his brother to meet Miss Brodie and her uncle.
"We're here!" cried that young lady, "to join in the demonstration to the hero! And, my uncle being somewhat conscience-stricken over his tardy and unwilling acceptance of our superior judgment in the recent famous case, has come to make such reparation as he can."
"What a piece of impertinence! Don't listen to her, Sir!" cried Sir Archibald, greeting Dunn warmly and with the respect due an International captain. "The truth is I have a letter here for him to a business friend in Montreal, which may be of service. Of course, I may say to you that I am more than delighted that this letter of Potts has quite cleared the young man, and that he goes to the new country with reputation unstained. I am greatly delighted! greatly delighted! and I wish the opportunity to say so."
"Indeed, we are all delighted," replied Dunn cordially, "though, of course, I never could bring myself to believe him guilty of crime."
"Well, on the strength of the judgment of yourself and, I must confess, of this young person here, I made my decision."
"Well," cried Miss Brodie, "I gave you my opinion because it was my opinion, but I confess at times I had my own doubts—"
Here she paused abruptly, arrested by the look on young Rob's face; it was a look of surprise, grief, and horror.
"That is to say," continued Miss Brodie hastily, answering the look, and recognising that her high place in Rob's regard was in peril, "the whole thing was a mystery—was impossible to solve—I mean," she continued, stumbling along, "his own attitude was so very uncertain and so unsatisfactory—if he had only been able to say clearly 'I am not guilty' it would have been different—I mean—of course, I don't believe him guilty. Don't look at me like that, Rob! I won't have it! But was it not clever of that dear Mr. Rae to extract that letter from the wretched Potts?"
"There's the train!" cried Dunn. "Here, Rob, you stay here with me! Where has the young rascal gone!"
"Look! Oh, look!" cried Miss Brodie, clutching at Dunn's arm, her eyes wide with terror. There before their horrified eyes was young Rob, hanging on to the window, out of which his friend Cameron was leaning, and racing madly with the swiftly moving train, in momentary danger of being dragged under its wheels. With a cry, Dunn rushed forward.
"Merciful heavens!" cried Miss Brodie. "Oh! he is gone!"
A porter, standing with his back towards the racing boy, had knocked his feet from under him. But as he fell, a strong hand grabbed him, and dragged him to safety through the window.
Pale and shaking, the three friends waited for the car door to be opened, and as Rob issued in triumphant possession of his friend, Miss Brodie rushed at him and, seizing him in her strong grasp, cried:
"You heartless young rascal! You nearly killed me—not to speak of yourself! Here," she continued, throwing her arms about him, and giving him a loud smack, "take that for your punishment! Do you hear, you nearly killed me! I had a vision of your mangled form ground up between the wheels and the platform. Hold on, you can't get away from me! I have a mind to give you another!"
"Oh, Miss Brodie, please," pleaded Cameron, coming forward to Rob's rescue, "I assure you I was partly to blame; it is only fair I should share his punishment."
"Indeed," cried Miss Brodie, the blood coming back into her cheeks that had been white enough a moment before, "if it were not for your size, and your—looks, I should treat you exactly the same, though not with the same intent, as our friend Mr. Rae would say. You did that splendidly!"
"Alas! for my size," groaned Cameron—he was in great spirits—"and alas! for my ugly phiz!"
"Who said 'ugly'?" replied Miss Brodie. "But I won't rise to your bait. May I introduce you to my uncle, Sir Archibald Brodie, who has a little business with you?"
"Ah! Mr. Cameron," said that gentleman, "that was extremely well done. Indeed, I can hardly get back my nerve—might have been an ugly accident. By the way, Sir," taking Cameron aside, "just a moment. You are on your way to Canada? I have a letter which I thought might be of service to you. It is to a business friend of mine, a banker, in Montreal, Mr. James Ritchie. You will find him a good man to know, and I fancy glad to serve any—ah—friend of mine."
On hearing Sir Archibald's name, Cameron's manner became distinctly haughty, and he was on the point of declining the letter, when Sir Archibald, who was quick to observe his manner, took him by the arm and led him somewhat further away.
"Now, Sir, there is a little matter I wish to speak of, if you will permit. Indeed, I came specially to say how delighted I am that the—ah—recent little unpleasantness has been removed. Of course you understand my responsibility to the Bank rendered a certain course of action imperative, however repugnant. But, believe me, I am truly delighted to find that my decision to withdraw the—ah—action has been entirely justified by events. Delighted, Sir! Delighted! And much more since I have seen you."
Before the overflowing kindliness of Sir Archibald's voice and manner, Cameron's hauteur vanished like morning mist before the rising sun.
"I thank you, Sir Archibald," he said, with dignity, "not only for this letter, but especially for your good opinion."
"Very good! Very good! The letter will, I hope, be useful," replied Sir Archibald, "and as for my opinion, I am glad to find not only that it is well founded, but that it appears to be shared by most of this company here. Now we must get back to your party. But let me say again, I am truly glad to have come to know you."
HO FOR THE OPEN!
Mr. James Ritchie, manager of the Bank of Montreal, glanced from the letter in his hand to the young man who had just given it to him. "Ah! you have just arrived from the old land," he said, a smile of genial welcome illuminating his handsome face. "I am pleased to hear from my old friend, Sir Archibald Brodie, and pleased to welcome any friend of his to Canada."
So saying, with fine old-time courtesy, the banker rose to his splendid height of six feet two, and shook his visitor warmly by the hand.
"Your name is—?"
"Cameron, Sir," said the young man.
"Yes, I see! Mr. Allan Cameron—um, um," with his eyes on the letter. "Old and distinguished family—exactly so! Now, then, Mr. Cameron, I hope we shall be able to do something for you, both for the sake of my old friend, Sir Archibald, and, indeed, for your own sake," said the banker, with a glance of approval at Cameron's upright form.
"Sit down, Sir! Sit down! Now, business first is my motto. What can I do for you?"
"Well, first of all," said Cameron with a laugh, "I wish to make a deposit. I have a draft of one hundred pounds here which I should like to place in your care."
"Very well, Sir," said the banker, touching a button, "my young man will attend to that."
"Now, then," when the business had been transacted, "what are your plans, Mr. Cameron? Thirty-five years ago I came to Montreal a young man, from Scotland, like yourself, and it was a lonely day for me when I reached this city, the loneliest in my life, and so my heart warms to the stranger from the old land. Yes," continued Mr. Ritchie, in a reminiscent tone, "I remember well! I hired as errand boy and general factotum to a small grocer down near the market. Montreal was a small city then, with wretched streets—they're bad enough yet—and poor buildings; everything was slow and backward; there have been mighty changes since. But here we are! Now, what are your plans?"
"I am afraid they are of the vaguest kind," said Cameron. "I want something to do."
"What sort of thing? I mean, what has been the line of your training?"
"I am afraid my training has been defective. I have passed through Edinburgh Academy, also the University, with the exception of my last year. But I am willing to take anything."
"Ah!" said the banker thoughtfully. "No office training, eh?"
"No, Sir. That is, if you except a brief period of three or four months in the law office of our family solicitor."
"Law, eh?—I have it! Denman's your man! I shall give you a letter to Mr. Denman—a lawyer friend of mine. I shall see him personally to-day, and if you call to-morrow at ten I hope to have news for you. Meantime, I shall be pleased to have you lunch with me to-day at the club. One o'clock is the hour. If you would kindly call at the bank, we shall go down together."
Cameron expressed his gratitude.
"By the way!" said Mr. Ritchie, "where have you put up?"
"At the Royal," said Cameron.
"Ah! That will do for the present," said Mr. Ritchie. "I am sorry our circumstances do not permit of my inviting you to our home. The truth is, Mrs. Ritchie is at present out of the city. But we shall find some suitable lodging for you. The Royal is far too expensive a place for a young man with his fortune to make."
Cameron spent the day making the acquaintance of the beautiful, quaint, if somewhat squalid, old city of Montreal; and next morning, with a letter of introduction from Mr. Ritchie, presented himself at Mr. Denman's office. Mr. Denman was a man in young middle life, athletic of frame, keen of eye, and energetic of manner; his voice was loud and sharp. He welcomed Cameron with brisk heartiness, and immediately proceeded to business.
"Let me see," he began, "what is your idea? What kind of a job are you after?"
"Indeed," replied Cameron, "that is just what I hardly know."
"Well, what has been your experience? You are a University man, I believe? But have you had any practical training? Do you know office work?"
"No, I've had little training for an office. I was in a law office for part of a year."
"Ah! Familiar with bookkeeping, or accounting? I suppose you can't run one of these typewriting machines?"
In regard to each of these lines of effort Cameron was forced to confess ignorance.
"I say!" cried Mr. Denman, "those old country people seriously annoy me with their inadequate system of education!"
"I am afraid," replied Cameron, "the fault is more mine than the system's."
"Don't know about that! Don't know about that!" replied Mr. Denman quickly; "I have had scores of young men, fine young men, too, come to me; public school men, university men, but quite unfit for any practical line of work."
Mr. Denman considered for some moments. "Let us see. You have done some work in a law office. Now," Mr. Denman spoke with some hesitation; "I have a place in my own office here—not much in it for the present, but—"
"To tell the truth," interrupted Cameron, "I did not make much of the law; in fact, I do not think I am suited for office work. I would prefer something in the open. I had thought of the land."
"Farming," exclaimed Mr. Denman. "Ah!—you would, I suppose, be able to invest something?"
"No," said Cameron, "nothing."
Denman shook his head. "Nothing in it! You would not earn enough to buy a farm about here in fifteen years."
"But I understood," replied Cameron, "that further west was cheaper land."
"Oh! In the far west, yes! But it is a God-forsaken country! I don't know much about it, I confess. I know they are booming town lots all over the land. I believe they have gone quite mad in the business, but from what I hear, the main work in the west just now is jaw work; the only thing they raise is corner lots."
On Cameron's face there fell the gloom of discouragement. One of his fondest dreams was being dispelled—his vision of himself as a wealthy rancher, ranging over square miles of his estate upon a "bucking broncho," garbed in the picturesque cowboy dress, began to fade.
"But there is ranching, I believe?" he ventured.
"Ranching? Oh yes! There is, up near the Rockies, but that is out of civilization; out of reach of everything and everybody."
"That is what I want, Sir!" exclaimed Cameron, his face once more aglow with eager hope. "I want to get away into the open."
Mr. Denman did not, or could not, recognise this as the instinctive cry of the primitive man for a closer fellowship with Mother Nature. He was keenly practical, and impatient with everything that appeared to him to be purely visionary and unbusiness-like.
"But, my dear fellow," he said, "a ranch means cattle and horses; and cattle and horses means money, unless of course, you mean to be simply a cowboy—cowpuncher, I believe, is the correct term—but there is nothing in that; no future, I mean. It is all very well for a little fun, if you have a bank account to stand it, although some fellows stand it on someone's else bank account—not much to their credit, however. There is a young friend of mine out there at present, but from what I can gather his home correspondence is mainly confined to appeals for remittances from his governor, and his chief occupation spending these remittances as speedily as possible. All very well, as I have said, for fun, if you can pay the shot. But to play the role of gentleman cowboy, while somebody else pays for it, is the sort of thing I despise."
"And so do I, Sir!" said Cameron. "There will be no remittance in my case."
Denman glanced at the firm, closed lips and the stiffening figure.
"That is the talk!" he exclaimed. "No, there is no chance in ranching unless you have capital."
"As far as I can see," replied Cameron gloomily, "everything seems closed up except to the capitalist, and yet from what I heard at home situations were open on every hand in this country."
"Come here!" cried Denman, drawing Cameron to the office window. "See those doors!" pointing to a long line of shops. "Every last one is opened to a man who knows his business. See those smokestacks! Every last wheel in those factories is howling for a man who is on to his job. But don't look blue, there is a place for you, too; the thing is to find it."
"What are those long buildings?" inquired Cameron, pointing towards the water front.
"Those are railroad sheds; or, rather, Transportation Company's sheds; they are practically the same thing. I say! What is the matter with trying the Transportation Company? I know the manager well. The very thing! Try the Transportation Company!"
"How should I go about it?" said Cameron. "I mean to say just what position should I apply for?"
"Position!" shouted Denman. "Why, general manager would be good!"
Then, noting the flush in Cameron's face, he added quickly, "Pardon me! The thing is to get your foot in somehow, and then wire in till you are general manager, by Jove! It can be done! Fleming has done it! Went in as messenger boy, but—" Denman paused. There flashed through his mind the story of Fleming's career; a vision of the half-starved ragged waif who started as messenger boy in the company's offices, and who, by dint of invincible determination and resolute self-denial, fought his way step by step to his present position of control. In contrast, he looked at the young man, born and bred in circles where work is regarded as a calamity, and service wears the badge of social disfranchisement. Fleming had done it under compulsion of the inexorable mistress "Necessity." But what of this young man?
"Will we try?" he said at length. "I shall give you a letter to Mr. Fleming."
He sat down to his desk and wrote vigourously.
"Take this, and see what happens."
Cameron took the letter, and, glancing at the address, read, Wm. Fleming, Esquire, General Manager, Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company.
"Is this a railroad?" asked Cameron.
"No, but next thing to it. The companies are practically one. The transition from one to the other is easy enough. Let me know how you get on. Good-by! And—I say!" cried Mr. Denman, calling Cameron back again from the door, "see Mr. Fleming himself. Remember that! And remember," he added, with a smile, "the position of manager is not vacant just yet, but it will be. I give you my word for it when you are ready to take it. Good-by! Buck up! Take what he offers you! Get your teeth in, and never let go!"
"By George!" said Denman to himself as the door closed on Cameron, "these chaps are the limit. He's got lots of stuff in him, but he has been rendered helpless by their fool system—God save us from it! That chap has had things done for him ever since he was first bathed; they have washed 'em, dressed 'em, fed 'em, schooled 'em, found 'em positions, stuck 'em in, and watched that they didn't fall out. And yet, by George!" he added, after a pause, "they are running the world to-day—that is, some of them." Facing which somewhat puzzling phenomenon, Denman plunged into his work again.
Meantime Cameron was making his way towards the offices of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company, oppressed with an unacknowledged but none the less real sense of unfitness, and haunted by a depressing sense of the deficiency of his own training, and of the training afforded the young men of his class at home. As he started along he battled with his depression. True enough, he had no skill in the various accomplishments that Mr. Denman seemed to consider essential; he had no experience in business, he was not fit for office work—office work he loathed; but surely there was some position where his talents would bring him recognition and fortune at last. After all, Mr. Denman was only a Colonial, and with a Colonial's somewhat narrow view of life. Who was he to criticise the system of training that for generations had been in vogue at home? Had not Wellington said "that England's battles were first won on the football fields of Eton and Rugby," or something like that? Of course, the training that might fit for a distinguished career in the British army might not necessarily insure success on the battle fields of industry and commerce. Yet surely, an International player should be able to get somewhere!
At this point in his cogitations Cameron was arrested by a memory that stabbed him like a knife-thrust; the awful moment when upon the Inverleith grounds, in the face of the Welsh forward-line, he had faltered and lost the International. Should he ever be able to forget the agony of that moment and of the day that followed? And yet, he need not have failed. He knew he could play his position with any man in Scotland; he had failed because he was not fit. He set his teeth hard. He would show these bally Colonials! He would make good! And with his head high, he walked into the somewhat dingy offices of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company, of which William Fleming, Esquire, was manager.
Opening the door, Cameron found himself confronted by a short counter that blocked the way for the general public into the long room, filled with desks and chairs and clicking typewriting machines. Cameron had never seen so many of these machines during the whole period of his life. The typewriter began to assume an altogether new importance in his mind. Hitherto it had appeared to him more or less of a Yankee fad, unworthy of the attention of an able-bodied man of average intelligence. In Edinburgh a "writing machine" was still something of a new-fangled luxury, to be apologised for. Mr. Rae would allow no such finicky instrument in his office. Here, however, there were a dozen, more or less, manipulated for the most part by young ladies, and some of them actually by men; on every side they clicked and banged. It may have been the clicking and banging of these machines that gave to Cameron the sense of rush and hurry so different from the calm quiet and dignified repose of the only office he had ever known. For some moments he stood at the counter, waiting attention from one of the many clerks sitting before him, but though one and another occasionally glanced in his direction, his presence seemed to awaken not even a passing curiosity in their minds, much less to suggest the propriety of their inquiring his business.
As the moments passed Cameron became conscious of a feeling of affront. How differently a gentleman was treated by the clerks in the office of Messrs. Rae & Macpherson, where prompt attention and deferential courtesy in a clerk were as essential as a suit of clothes. Gradually Cameron's head went up, and with it his choler. At length, in his haughtiest tone, he hailed a passing youth:
"I say, boy, is this Mr. Fleming's office?"
The clicking and banging of the typewriters, and the hum of voices ceased. Everywhere heads were raised and eyes turned curiously upon the haughty stranger.
"Eh?" No letters can represent the nasal intonation of this syllabic inquiry, and no words the supreme indifference of the boy's tone.
"Is Mr. Fleming in? I wish to see him!" Cameron's voice was loud and imperious.
"Say, boys," said a lanky youth, with a long, cadaverous countenance and sallow, unhealthy complexion, illumined, however, and redeemed to a certain extent by black eyes of extraordinary brilliance, "it is the Prince of Wales!" The drawling, awe-struck tones, in the silence that had fallen, were audible to all in the immediate neighbourhood.
The titter that swept over the listeners brought the hot blood to Cameron's face. A deliberate insult a Highlander takes with calm. He is prepared to deal with it in a manner affording him entire satisfaction. Ridicule rouses him to fury, for, while it touches his pride, it leaves him no opportunity of vengeance.
"Can you tell me if Mr. Fleming is in?" he enquired again of the boy that stood scanning him with calm indifference. The rage that possessed him so vibrated in his tone that the lanky lad drawled again in a warning voice:
"Slide, Jimmy, slide!"
Jimmy "slid," but towards the counter.
"Want to see him?" he enquired in a tone of brisk impertinence, as if suddenly roused from a reverie.
"I have a letter for him."
"All right! Hand it over," said Jimmy, fully conscious that he was the hero of more than usual interest.
Cameron hesitated, then passed his letter over to Jimmy, who, reading the address with deliberate care, winked at the lanky boy, and with a jaunty step made towards a door at the farther end of the room. As he passed a desk that stood nearest the door, a man who during the last few minutes had remained with his head down, apparently so immersed in the papers before him as to be quite unconscious of his surroundings, suddenly called out, "Here, boy!"
Jimmy instantly assumed an air of respectful attention.
"A letter for Mr. Fleming," he said.
"Here!" replied the man, stretching out his hand.
He hurriedly glanced through the letter.
"Tell him there is no vacancy at present," he said shortly.
The boy came back to Cameron with cheerful politeness. The "old man's" eye was upon him.
"There is no vacancy at present," he said briefly, and turned away as if his attention were immediately demanded elsewhere by pressing business of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company.
For answer, Cameron threw back the leaf of the counter that barred his way, and started up the long room, past the staring clerks, to the desk next the door.
"I wish to see Mr. Fleming, Sir," he said, his voice trembling slightly, his face pale, his blue-gray eyes ablaze.
The man at the desk looked up from his work.
"I have just informed you there is no vacancy at present," he said testily, and turned to his papers again, as if dismissing the incident.
"Will you kindly tell me if Mr. Fleming is in?" said Cameron in a voice that had grown quite steady; "I wish to see him personally."
"Mr. Fleming cannot see you, I tell you!" almost shouted the man, rising from his desk and revealing himself a short, pudgy figure, with flabby face and shining bald head. "Can't you understand English?—I can't be bothered—!"
"What is it, Bates? Someone to see me?"
Cameron turned quickly towards the speaker, who had come from the inner room.
"I have brought you a letter, Sir, from Mr. Denman," he said quietly; "it is there," pointing to Bates' desk.
"A letter? Let me have it! Why was not this brought to me at once, Mr. Bates?"
"It was an open letter, Sir," replied Bates, "and I thought there was no need of troubling you, Sir. I told the young man we had no vacancy at present."
"This is a personal letter, Mr. Bates, and should have been brought to me at once. Why was Mr.—ah—Mr. Cameron not brought in to me?"
Mr. Bates murmured something about not wishing to disturb the manager on trivial business.
"I am the judge of that, Mr. Bates. In future, when any man asks to see me, I desire him to be shown in at once."
Mr. Bates began to apologise.
"That is all that is necessary, Mr. Bates," said the manager, in a voice at once quiet and decisive.
"Come in, Mr. Cameron. I am very sorry this has happened!"
Cameron followed him into his office, noting, as he passed, the red patches of rage on Mr. Bates' pudgy face, and catching a look of fierce hate from his small piggy eyes. It flashed through his mind that in Mr. Bates, at any rate, he had found no friend.
The result of the interview with Mr. Fleming was an intimation to Mr. Bates that Mr. Cameron was to have a position in the office of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company, and to begin work the following morning.
"Very well, Sir," replied Mr. Bates—he had apparently quite recovered his equanimity—"we shall find Mr. Cameron a desk."
"We begin work at eight o'clock exactly," he added, turning to Cameron with a pleasant smile.
Mr. Fleming accompanied Cameron to the door.
"Now, a word with you, Mr. Cameron. You may find Mr. Bates a little difficult—he is something of a driver—but, remember, he is in charge of this office; I never interfere with his orders."
"I understand, Sir," said Cameron, resolving that, at all costs, he should obey Mr. Bates' orders, if only to show the general manager he could recognise and appreciate a gentleman when he saw one.
Mr. Fleming was putting it mildly when he described Mr. Bates as "something of a driver." The whole office staff, from Jimmy, the office boy, to Jacobs, the gentle, white-haired clerk, whose desk was in the farthest corner of the room, felt the drive. He was not only office manager, but office master as well. His rule was absolute, and from his decisions there was no appeal. The general manager went on the theory that it was waste of energy to keep a dog and bark himself. In the policy that governed the office there were two rules which Mr. Bates enforced with the utmost rigidity—the first, namely, that every member of the staff must be in his or her place and ready for work when the clock struck eight; the other, that each member of the staff must work independently of every other member. A man must know his business, and go through with it; if he required instructions, he must apply to the office manager. But, as a rule, one experience of such application sufficed for the whole period of a clerk's service in the office of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company, for Mr. Bates was gifted with such an exquisiteness of ironical speech that the whole staff were wont to pause in the rush of their work to listen and to admire when a new member was unhappy enough to require instructions, their silent admiration acting as a spur to Mr. Bates' ingenuity in the invention of ironical discourse.
Of the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of Mr. Bates' system, however, Cameron was quite ignorant; nor had his experience in the office of Messrs. Rae & Macpherson been such as to impress upon him the necessity of a close observation of the flight of time. It did not disturb him, therefore, to notice as he strolled into the offices of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company the next morning that the hands of the clock showed six minutes past the hour fixed for the beginning of the day's work. The office staff shivered in an ecstasy of expectant delight. Cameron walked nonchalantly to Mr. Bates' desk, his overcoat on his arm, his cap in his hand.
"Good morning, Sir," he said.
Mr. Bates finished writing a sentence, looked up, and nodded a brief good morning.
"We deposit our street attire on the hooks behind the door, yonder!" he said with emphatic politeness, pointing across the room.
Cameron flushed, as in passing his desk he observed the pleased smile on the lanky boy's sallow face.
"You evidently were not aware of the hours of this office," continued Mr. Bates when Cameron had returned. "We open at eight o'clock."
"Oh!" said Cameron, carelessly. "Eight? Yes, I thought it was eight! Ah! I see! I believe I am five minutes late! But I suppose I shall catch up before the day is over!"
"Mr. Cameron," replied Mr. Bates earnestly, "if you should work for twenty years for the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company, never will you catch up those five minutes; every minute of your office hours is pledged to the company, and every minute has its own proper work. Your desk is the one next Mr. Jacobs, yonder. Your work is waiting you there. It is quite simple, the entry of freight receipts upon the ledger. If you wish further instructions, apply to me here—you understand?"
"I think so!" replied Cameron. "I shall do my best to—"
"Very well! That is all!" replied Mr. Bates, plunging his head again into his papers.
The office staff sank back to work with every expression of disappointment. A moment later, however, their hopes revived.
"Oh! Mr. Cameron!" called out Mr. Bates. Mr. Cameron returned to his desk. "If you should chance to be late again, never mind going to your desk; just come here for your cheque."
Mr. Bates' tone was kindly, even considerate, as if he were anxious to save his clerk unnecessary inconvenience.
"I beg your pardon!" stammered Cameron, astonished.
"That is all!" replied Mr. Bates, his nose once more in his papers.
Cameron stood hesitating. His eye fell upon the boy, Jimmy, whose face expressed keenest joy.
"Do you mean, Sir, that if I am late you dismiss me forthwith?"
"What?" Mr. Bates' tone was so fiercely explosive that it appeared to throw up his head with a violent motion.
Cameron repeated his question.
"Mr. Cameron, my time is valuable; so is yours. I thought that I spoke quite distinctly. Apparently I did not. Let me repeat: In case you should inadvertently be late again, you need not take the trouble to go to your desk; just come here. Your cheque will be immediately made out. Saves time, you know—your time and mine—and time, you perceive, in this office represents money."
Mr. Bates' voice lost none of its kindly interest, but it had grown somewhat in intensity; the last sentence was uttered with his face close to his desk.
Cameron stood a moment in uncertainty, gazing at the bald head before him; then, finding nothing to reply, he turned about to behold Jimmy and his lanky friend executing an animated war pantomime which they apparently deemed appropriate to the occasion.
With face ablaze and teeth set Cameron went to his desk, to the extreme disappointment of Jimmy and the lanky youth, who fell into each other's arms, apparently overcome with grief.
For half an hour the office hummed with the noise of subdued voices and clicked with the rapid fire of the typewriters. Suddenly through the hum Mr. Bates' voice was heard, clear, calm, and coldly penetrating:
The old, white-haired clerk started up from Cameron's desk, and began in a confused and gentle voice to explain that he was merely giving some hints to the new clerk.
"Mr. Jacobs," said Mr. Bates, "I cannot hear you, and you are wasting my time!"
"He was merely showing me how to make these entries!" said Cameron.
"Ah! Indeed! Thank you, Mr. Cameron! Though I believe Mr. Jacobs has not yet lost the power of lucid speech. Mr. Jacobs, I believe you know the rules of this office; your fine will be one-quarter of a day."
"Thank you!" said Mr. Jacobs, hurriedly resuming his desk.
"And, Mr. Cameron, if you will kindly bring your work to me, I shall do my best to enlighten you in regard to the complex duty of entering your freight receipts."
An audible snicker ran through the delighted staff. Cameron seized his ledger and the pile of freight bills, and started for Mr. Bates' desk, catching out of the corner of his eye the pantomime of Jimmy and the lanky one, which was being rendered with vigor and due caution.
For a few moments Cameron stood at the manager's desk till that gentleman should be disengaged, but Mr. Bates was skilled in the fine art of reducing to abject humility an employee who might give indications of insubordination. Cameron's rage grew with every passing moment.
"Here is the ledger, Sir!" he said at length.
But Mr. Bates was so completely absorbed in the business of saving time that he made not the slightest pause in his writing, while the redoubled vigor and caution of the pantomime seemed to indicate the approach of a crisis. At length Mr. Bates raised his head. Jimmy and the lanky clerk became at once engrossed in their duties.
"You have had no experience of this kind of work, Mr. Cameron?" inquired Mr. Bates kindly.
"No, Sir. But if you will just explain one or two matters, I think I can—"
"Exactly! This is not, however, a business college! But we shall do our best!"
A rapturous smile pervaded the office. Mr. Bates was in excellent form.
"By the way, Mr. Cameron—pardon my neglect—but may I inquire just what department of this work you are familiar with?"
"Ah! The position of general manager, however, is filled at present!" replied Mr. Bates kindly.
Cameron's flush grew deeper, while Jimmy and his friend resigned themselves to an ecstasy of delight.
"I was going to say," said Cameron in a tone loud and deliberate, "that I had been employed with the general copying work in a writer's office."
"Writing? Fancy! Writing, eh? No use here!" said Mr. Bates shortly, for time was passing.
"A writer with us means a lawyer!" replied Cameron.
"Why the deuce don't they say so?" answered Mr. Bates impatiently. "Well! Well!" getting hold of himself again. "Here we allow our solicitors to look after our legal work. Typewrite?" he inquired suddenly.
"I beg your pardon!" replied Cameron. "Typewrite? Do you mean, can I use a typewriting machine?"
"Yes! Yes! For heaven's sake, yes!"
"No, I cannot!"
"Good Lord! What have I got?" inquired Mr. Bates of himself, in a tone, however, perfectly audible to those in the immediate neighbourhood.
"Try him licking stamps!" suggested the lanky youth in a voice that, while it reached the ears of Jimmy and others near by, including Cameron, was inaudible to the manager. Mr. Bates caught the sound, however, and glared about him through his spectacles. Time was being wasted—the supreme offense in that office—and Mr. Bates was fast losing his self-command.
"Here!" he cried suddenly, seizing a sheaf of letters. "File these letters. You will be able to do that, I guess! File's in the vault over there!"
Cameron took the letters and stood looking helplessly from them to Mr. Bates' bald head, that gentleman's face being already in close proximity to the papers on his desk.
"Just how do I go about this?—I mean, what system do you—"
"Jim!" roared Mr. Bates, throwing down his pen, "show this con—show Mr. Cameron how to file these letters! Just like these blank old-country chumps!" added Mr. Bates, in a lower voice, but loud enough to be distinctly heard.
Jim came up with a smile of patronising pity on his face. It was the smile that touched to life the mass of combustible material that had been accumulating for the last hour in Cameron's soul. Instead of following the boy, he turned with a swift movement back to the manager's desk, laid his sheaf of letters down on Mr. Bates' papers, and, leaning over the desk, towards that gentleman, said:
"Did you mean that remark to apply to me?" His voice was very quiet. But Mr. Bates started back with a quick movement from the white face and burning eyes.
"Here, you get out of this!" he cried.
"Because," continued Cameron, "if you did, I must ask you to apologise at once."
All smiles vanished from the office staff, even Jimmy's face assumed a serious aspect. Mr. Bates pushed back his chair.
"A-po-pologise!" he sputtered. "Get out of this office, d'ye hear?"
"Be quick!" said Cameron, his hands gripping Mr. Bates' desk till it shook.
"Jimmy! Call a policeman!" cried Mr. Bates, rising from his chair.
He was too slow. Cameron reached swiftly for his collar, and with one fierce wrench swept Mr. Bates clear over the top of his desk, shook him till his head wobbled dangerously, and flung him crashing across the desk and upon the prostrate form of the lanky youth sitting behind it.
"Call a policeman! Call a policeman!" shouted Mr. Bates, who was struggling meantime with the lanky youth to regain an upright position.
Cameron, meanwhile, walked quietly to where his coat and cap hung.
"Hold him, somebody! Hold him!" shouted Mr. Bates, hurrying towards him.
Cameron turned fiercely upon him.
"Did you want me, Sir?" he inquired.
Mr. Bates arrested himself with such violence that his feet slid from under him, and once more he came sitting upon the floor.
"Get up!" said Cameron, "and listen to me!"
Mr. Bates rose, and stood, white and trembling.
"I may not know much about your Canadian ways of business, but I believe I can teach you some old-country manners. You have treated me this morning like the despicable bully that you are. Perhaps you will treat the next old-country man with the decency that is coming to him, even if he has the misfortune to be your clerk."
With these words Cameron turned upon his heel and walked deliberately towards the door. Immediately Jimmy sprang before him, and, throwing the door wide open, bowed him out as if he were indeed the Prince of Wales. Thus abruptly ended Cameron's connection with the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company. Before the day was done the whole city had heard the tale, which lost nothing in the telling.
Next morning Mr. Denman was surprised to have Cameron walk in upon him.
"Hullo, young man!" shouted the lawyer, "this is a pretty business! Upon my soul! Your manner of entry into our commercial life is somewhat forceful! What the deuce do you mean by all this?"
Cameron stood, much abashed. His passion was all gone; in the calm light of after-thought his action of yesterday seemed boyish.
"I'm awfully sorry, Mr. Denman," he replied, "and I came to apologise to you."
"To me?" cried Denman. "Why to me? I expect, if you wish to get a job anywhere in this town, you will need to apologise to the chap you knocked down—what's his name?"
"Mr. Bates, I think his name is, Sir; but, of course, I cannot apologise to him."
"By Jove!" roared Mr. Denman, "he ought to have thrown you out of his office! That is what I would have done!"
Cameron glanced up and down Mr. Denman's well-knit figure.
"I don't think so, Sir," he said, with a smile.
"Why not?" said Mr. Denman, grasping the arms of his office chair.
"Because you would not have insulted a stranger in your office who was trying his best to understand his work. And then, I should not have tried it on you."
"Well, I think I know a gentleman when I see one."
Mr. Denman was not to be appeased.
"Well, let me tell you, young man, it would have been a mighty unhealthy thing for you to have cut up any such shine in this office. I have done some Rugby in my day, my boy, if you know what that means."
"I have done a little, too," said Cameron, with slightly heightened colour.
"You have, eh! Where?"
"The Scottish International, Sir."
"By Jove! You don't tell me!" replied Mr. Denman, his tone expressing a new admiration and respect. "When? This year?"
"No, last year, Sir—against Wales!"
"By Jove!" cried Mr. Denman again; "give me your hand, boy! Any man who has made the Scottish Internationals is not called to stand any cheek from a cad like Bates."
Mr. Denman shook Cameron warmly by the hand.
"Tell us about it!" he cried. "It must have been rare sport. If Bates only knew it, he ought to count it an honour to have been knocked down by a Scottish International."
"I didn't knock him down, Sir!" said Cameron, apologetically; "he is only a little chap; I just gave him a bit of a shake," and Cameron proceeded to recount the proceedings of the previous morning.
Mr. Denman was hugely delighted.
"Serves the little beast bloody well right!" he cried enthusiastically. "But what's to do now? They will be afraid to let you into their offices in this city."
"I think, Sir, I am done with offices; I mean to try the land."
"Farm, eh?" mused Mr. Denman. "Well, so be it! It will probably be safer for you there—possibly for some others as well."
A MAN'S JOB
Cameron slept heavily and long into the day, but as he awoke he was conscious of a delightful exhilaration possessing him. For the first time in his life he was a free man, ungoverned and unguided. For four dreary weeks he had waited in Montreal for answers to his enquiries concerning positions with farmers, but apparently the Canadian farmers were not attracted by the qualifications and experience Cameron had to offer. At length he had accepted the advice of Martin's uncle in Montreal, who assured him with local pride that, if he desired a position on a farm, the district of which the little city of London was the centre was the very garden of Canada. He was glad now to remember that he had declined a letter of introduction. He was now entirely on his own. Neither in this city nor in the country round about was there a soul with whom he had the remotest acquaintance. The ways of life led out from his feet, all untried, all unknown. Which he should choose he knew not, but with a thrill of exultation he thanked his stars the choosing was his own concern. A feeling of adventure was upon him, a new courage was rising in his heart. The failure that had hitherto dogged his past essays in life did not dampen his confidence, for they had been made under other auspices than his own. He had not fitted into his former positions, but they had not been of his own choosing. He would now find a place for himself and if he failed again he was prepared to accept the responsibility. One bit of philosophy he carried with him from Mr. Denman's farewell interview—"Now, young man, rememer," that gentleman had said after he had bidden him farewell, "this world is pretty much made already; success consists in adjustment. Don't try to make your world, adjust yourself to it. Don't fight the world, serve it till you master it." Cameron determined he would study adjustments; his fighting tendency, which had brought him little success in the past, he would control.
At this point the throb of a band broke in upon his meditations and summoned him from his bed. He sprang to the window. It was circus day and the morning parade, in all its mingled and cosmopolitan glory, was slowly evolving its animated length to the strains of bands of music. There were bands on horses and bands on chariots, and at the tail of the procession a fearful and wonderful instrument bearing the euphonious and classic name of the "calliope," whose chief function seemed to be that of terrifying the farmers' horses into frantic and determined attempts to escape from these horrid alarms of the city to the peaceful haunts of their rural solitudes.
Cameron was still boy enough to hurry through his morning duties in order that he might mix with the crowd and share the perennial delights which a circus affords. The stable yard attached to his hotel was lined three deep with buggies, carriages, and lumber waggons, which had borne in the crowds of farmers from the country. The hotel was thronged with sturdy red-faced farm lads, looking hot and uncomfortable in their unaccustomed Sunday suits, gorgeous in their rainbow ties, and rakish with their hats set at all angles upon their elaborately brushed heads. Older men, too, bearded and staid, moved with silent and self-respecting dignity through the crowds, gazing with quiet and observant eyes upon the shifting phantasmagoria that filled the circus grounds and the streets nearby. With these, too, there mingled a few of both old and young who, with bacchanalian enthusiasm, were swaggering their way through the crowds, each followed by a company of friends good-naturedly tolerant or solicitously careful.
Cameron's eyes, roving over the multitude, fell upon a little group that held his attention, the principal figure of which was a tall middle aged man with a good-natured face, adorned with a rugged grey chin whisker, who was loudly declaiming to a younger companion with a hard face and very wide awake, "My name's Tom Haley; ye can't come over me."
"Ye bet yer life they can't. Ye ain't no chicken!" exclaimed his hard-faced friend. "Say, let's liquor up once more before we go to see the elephant."
With these two followed a boy of some thirteen years, freckled faced and solemn, slim and wiry of body, who was anxiously striving to drag his father away from one of the drinking booths that dotted the circus grounds, and towards the big tent; but the father had been already a too frequent visitor at the booth to be quite amenable to his son's pleading. He, in a glorious mood of self-appreciation, kept announcing to the public generally and to his hard-faced friend in particular—
"My name's Tom Haley; ye can't come over me!"
"Come on, father," pleaded Tim.
"No hurry, Timmy, me boy," said his father. "The elephants won't run away with the monkeys and the clowns can't git out of the ring."
"Oh, come on, dad, I'm sure the show's begun."
"Cheese it, young feller," said the young man, "yer dad's able to take care of himself."
"Aw, you shut yer mouth!" replied Tim fiercely. "I know what you're suckin' round for."
"Good boy, Tim," laughed his father; "ye giv' 'im one that time. Guess we'll go. So long, Sam, if that's yer name. Ye see I've jist got ter take in this 'ere show this morning with Tim 'ere, and then we have got some groceries to git for the old woman. See there," he drew a paper from his pocket, "wouldn't dare show up without 'em, ye bet, eh, Tim! Why, it's her egg and butter money and she wants value fer it, she does. Well, so long, Sam, see ye later," and with the triumphant Tim he made for the big tent, leaving a wrathful and disappointed man behind him.
Cameron spent the rest of the day partly in "taking in" the circus and partly in conversing with the farmers who seemed to have taken possession of the town; but in answer to his most diligent and careful enquiries he could hear of no position on a farm for which he could honestly offer himself. The farmers wanted mowers, or cradlers, or good smart turnip hands, and Cameron sorrowfully had to confess he was none of these. There apparently was no single bit of work in the farmer's life that Cameron felt himself qualified to perform.
It was wearing towards evening when Cameron once more came across Tim. He was standing outside the bar room door, big tears silently coursing down his pale and freckled cheeks.
"Hello!" cried Cameron, "what's up old chap? Where's your dad, and has he got his groceries yet?"
"No," said Tim, hastily wiping away his tears and looking up somewhat shyly and sullenly into Cameron's face. What he saw there apparently won his confidence.
"He's in yonder," he continued, "and I can't git him out. They won't let him come. They're jist making 'im full so he can't do anything, and we ought to be startin' fer home right away, too!"
"Well, let's go in anyway and see what they are doing," said Cameron cheerfully, to whom the pale tear-stained face made strong appeal.
"They won't let us," said Tim. "There's a feller there that chucks me out."
"Won't, eh? We'll see about that! Come along!"
Cameron entered the bar room, with Tim following, and looked about him. The room was crowded to the door with noisy excited men, many of whom were partially intoxicated. At the bar, two deep, stood a line of men with glasses in their hands, or waiting to be served. In the farthest corner of the room stood Tim's father, considerably the worse of his day's experiences, and lovingly embracing the hard-faced young man, to whom he was at intervals announcing, "My name's Tom Haley! Ye can't git over me!"
As Cameron began to push through the crowd, a man with a very red face, obviously on the watch for Tim, cried out—
"Say, sonny, git out of here! This is no place fer you!"
Tim drew back, but Cameron, turning to him, said,
"Come along, Tim. He's with me," he added, addressing the man. "He wants his father."
"His father's not here. He left half an hour ago. I told him so."
"You were evidently mistaken, for I see him just across the room there," said Cameron quietly.
"Oh! is he a friend of yours?" enquired the red-faced man.
"No, I don't know him at all, but Tim does, and Tim wants him," said Cameron, beginning to push his way through the crowd towards the vociferating Haley, who appeared to be on the point of backing up some of his statements with money, for he was flourishing a handful of bills in the face of the young man Sam, who apparently was quite willing to accommodate him with the wager.
Before Cameron could make his way through the swaying, roaring crowd, the red-faced man slipped from his side, and in a very few moments appeared at a side door near Tom Haley's corner. Almost immediately there was a shuffle and Haley and his friends disappeared through the side door.
"Hello!" cried Cameron, "there's something doing! We'll just slip around there, my boy." So saying, he drew Tim back from the crowd and out of the front door, and, hurrying around the house, came upon Sam, the red-faced man, and Haley in a lane leading past the stable yard. The red-faced man was affectionately urging a bottle upon Haley.
"There they are!" said Tim in an undertone, clutching Cameron's arm. "You get him away and I'll hitch up."
"All right, Tim," said Cameron, "I'll get him. They are evidently up to no good."
"What's yer name?" said Tim hurriedly.
"Come on, then!" he cried, dragging Cameron at a run towards his father. "Here, Dad!" he cried, "this is my friend, Mr. Cameron! Come on home. I'm going to hitch up. We'll be awful late for the chores and we got them groceries to git. Come on, Dad!"
"Aw, gwan! yer a cheeky kid anyway," said Sam, giving Tim a shove that nearly sent him on his head.
"Hold on there, my man, you leave the boy alone," said Cameron.
"What's your business in this, young feller?"
"Never mind!" said Cameron. "Tim is a friend of mine and no one is going to hurt him. Run along, Tim, and get your horses."
"Friend o' Tim's, eh!" said Haley, in half drunken good nature. "Friend o' Tim's, friend o' mine," he added, gravely shaking Cameron by the hand. "Have a drink, young man. You look a' right!"
Cameron took the bottle, put it to his lips. The liquor burned like fire.
"Great Caesar!" he gasped, contriving to let the bottle drop upon a stone. "What do you call that?"
"Pretty hot stuff!" cried Haley, with a shout of laughter.
But Sam, unable to see the humour of the situation, exclaimed in a rage, "Here, you cursed fool! That is my bottle!"
"Sorry to be so clumsy," said Cameron apologetically, "but it surely wasn't anything to drink, was it?"
"Yes, it jest was something to drink, was it?" mocked Sam, approaching Cameron with menace in his eye and attitude. "I have a blanked good notion to punch your head, too!"
"Oh! I wouldn't do that if I were you," said Cameron, smiling pleasantly.
"Say, Sam, don't get mad, Sam," interposed Haley. "This young feller's a friend o' Tim's. I'll git another bottle a' right. I've got the stuff right here." He pulled out his roll of bills. "And lots more where this comes from."
"Let me have that, Mr. Haley, I'll get the bottle for you," said Cameron, reaching out for the bills.
"A' right," said Haley. "Friend o' Tim's, friend o' mine."
"Here, young feller, you're too fresh!" cried the red-faced man, "buttin' in here! You make tracks, git out! Come, git out, I tell yeh!"
"Give it to him quick," said Sam in a low voice.
The red-faced man, without the slightest warning, swiftly stepped towards Cameron and, before the latter could defend himself, struck him a heavy blow. Cameron staggered, fell, and struggled again to his knees. The red-faced man sprang forward to kick him in the face, when Haley interposed—
"Hold up there, now! Friend o' Tim's, friend o' mine, ye know!"
"Hurry up," said Sam, closing in on Haley. "Quit fooling. Give 'im the billy and let's get away!"
But Haley, though unskilled with his hands, was a man of more than ordinary strength, and he swung his long arms about with such vigour that neither Sam, who was savagely striking at his head, nor the red-faced man, who was dancing about waiting for a chance to get in with the "billy," which he held in his hand, was able to bring the affair to a finish. It could be a matter of only a few moments, however, for both Sam and his friend were evidently skilled in the arts of the thug, while Haley, though powerful enough, was chiefly occupying himself in beating the air. A blow from the billy dropped one of Haley's arms helpless. The red-faced man, following up his advantage, ran in to finish, but Haley gripped him by the wrist and, exerting all his strength, gave a mighty heave and threw him heavily against Sam, who was running in upon the other side. At the same time Cameron, who was rapidly recovering, clutched Sam by a leg and brought him heavily to earth. Reaching down, Haley gripped Cameron by the collar and hauled him to his feet just as Sam, who had sprung up, ran to the attack. Steadied by Haley, Cameron braced himself, and, at exactly the right moment, stiffened his left arm with the whole weight of his body behind it. The result was a most unhappy one for Sam, who, expecting no such reception, was lifted clear off his feet and hurled to the ground some distance away. The exhilaration of his achievement brought Cameron's blood back again to his brain. Swiftly he turned upon the red-faced man just as that worthy had brought Haley to his knees with a cruel blow and was preparing to finish off his victim. With a shout Cameron sprang at him, the man turned quickly, warded off Cameron's blow, and then, seeing Sam lying helpless upon the ground, turned and fled down the lane.
"Say, young feller!" panted Haley, staggering to his feet, "yeh came in mighty slick that time. Yeh ain't got a bottle on ye, hev yeh?"
"No!" said Cameron, "but there's a pump near by."
"Jest as good and a little better," said Haley, staggering towards the pump. "Say," he continued, with a humourous twinkle in his eye, and glancing at the man lying on the ground, "Sam's kinder quiet, ain't he? Run agin something hard like, I guess."
Cameron filled a bucket with water and into its icy depths Haley plunged his head.
"Ow! that's good," he sputtered, plunging his head in again and again. "Fill 'er up once more!" he said, wiping off his face with a big red handkerchief. "Now, I shouldn't wonder if it would help Sam a bit."
He picked up the bucket of water and approached Sam, who meantime had got to a sitting position and was blinking stupidly around.
"Here, ye blamed hog, hev a wash, ye need it bad!" So saying, Haley flung the whole bucket of water over Sam's head and shoulders. "Fill 'er up again," he said, but Sam had had enough, and, swearing wildly, gasping and sputtering, he made off down the lane.
"I've heard o' them circus toughs," said Haley in a meditative tone, "but never jest seen 'em before. Say, young feller, yeh came in mighty handy fer me a' right, and seeing as yer Tim's friend put it there." He gripped Cameron's hand and shook it heartily. "Here's Tim with the team, and, say, there's no need to mention anything about them fellers. Tim's real tender hearted. Well, I'm glad to hev met yeh. Good-bye! Living here?"
"Not exactly," replied Cameron. "The truth is I'm looking for a position."
"A position? School teachin', mebbe?"
"No, a position on a farm."
"On a farm? Ha! ha! good! Position on a farm," repeated Haley.
"Yes," replied Cameron. "Do you know of any?"
"Position on a farm!" said Haley again, as if trying to grasp the meaning of this extraordinary quest. "There ain't any."
"No positions?" enquired Cameron.
"Nary one! Say, young man, where do you come from?"
"Scotland," replied Cameron.
"Scotland! yeh don't say, now. Jest out, eh?"
"Yes, about a month or so."
"Well, well! Yeh don't say so!"
"Yes," replied Cameron, "and I am surprised to hear that there is no work."
"Oh! hold on there now!" interposed Haley gravely. "If it's work you want there are stacks of it lying round, but there ain't no positions. Positions!" ejaculated Haley, who seemed to be fascinated by the word, "there ain't none on my farm except one and I hold that myself; but there's lots o' work, and—why! I want a man right now. What say? Come along, stay's long's yeh like. I like yeh fine."
"All right," said Cameron. "Wait till I get my bag, but I ought to tell you I have had no experience."
"No experience, eh!" Haley pondered. "Well, we'll give it to you, and anyway you saved me some experience to-day and you come home with me."
When he returned he found Haley sitting on the bottom of the wagon rapidly sinking into slumber. The effects of the bucket were passing off.
"What about the groceries, Tim?" enquired Cameron.
"We've got to git 'em," said Tim, "or we'll catch it sure."
Leaving Cameron to wonder what it might be that they were sure to catch, Tim extracted from his father's pocket the paper on which were listed the groceries to be purchased, and the roll of bills, and handed both to Cameron.
"You best git 'em," he said, and, mounting to the high spring seat, turned the team out of the yard. The groceries secured with Cameron's help, they set off for home as the long June evening was darkening into night.
"My! it's awful late," said Tim in a voice full of foreboding. "And Perkins ain't no good at chores."
"How far is it to your home?" enquired Cameron.
"Nine miles out this road and three off to the east."
"And who's Perkins?"
"Perkins! Joe Perkins! He's our hired man. He's a terror to work at plowin', cradlin', and bindin', but he ain't no good at chores. I bet yeh he'll leave Mandy to do the milkin', ten cows, and some's awful bad."
"And who's Mandy?" enquired Cameron.
"Mandy! She's my sister. She's an awful quick milker. She can beat Dad, or Perkins, or any of 'em, but ten cows is a lot, and then there's the pigs and the calves to feed, and the wood, too. I bet Perkins won't cut a stick. He's good enough in the field," continued Tim, with an obvious desire to do Perkins full justice, "but he ain't no good around the house. He says he ain't hired to do women's chores, and Ma she won't ask 'im. She says if he don't do what he sees to be done she'd see 'im far enough before she'd ask 'im." And so Timothy went on with a monologue replete with information, his high thin voice rising clear above the roar and rattle of the lumber wagon as it rumbled and jolted over the rutty gravel road. Those who knew the boy would have been amazed at his loquacity, but something in Cameron had won his confidence and opened his heart. Hence his monologue, in which the qualities, good and bad, of the members of the family, of their own hired man and of other hired men were fully discussed. The standard of excellence for work in the neighbourhood, however, appeared to be Perkins, whose abilities Tim appeared greatly to admire, but for whose person he appeared to have little regard.
"He's mighty good at turnip hoeing, too," he said. "I could pretty near keep up to him last year and I believe I could do it this year. Some day soon I'm going to git after 'im. My! I'd like to trim 'im to a fine point."
The live stock on the farm in general, and the young colts in particular, among which a certain two-year-old was showing signs of marvellous speed, these and cognate subjects relating to the farm, its dwellers and its activities, Tim passed in review, with his own shrewd comments thereon.
"And what do you play, Tim?" asked Cameron, seeking a point of contact with the boy.
"Nothin'," said Tim shortly. "No time."
"Don't you go to school?"
"Yes, in fall and winter. Then we play ball and shinny some, but there ain't much time."
"But you can't work all the time, Tim? What work can you do?"
"Oh!" replied Tim carelessly, "I run a team."
"Run a team? What do you mean?"
Tim glanced up at him and, perceiving that he was quite serious, proceeded to explain that during the spring's work he had taken his place in the plowing and harrowing with the "other" men, that he expected to drive the mower and reaper in haying and harvest, that, in short, in almost all kinds of farm work he was ready to take the place of a grown man; and all this without any sign of boasting.
Cameron thought over his own life, in which sport had filled up so large a place and work so little, and in which he had developed so little power of initiative and such meagre self-dependence, and he envied the solemn-faced boy at his side, handling his team and wagon with the skill of a grown man.
"I say, Tim!" he exclaimed in admiration, "you're great. I wish I could do half as much."
"Oh, pshaw!" exclaimed Tim in modest self-disdain, "that ain't nothin', but I wish I could git off a bit."
"Get off? What do you mean?"
The boy was silent for some moments, then asked shyly:
"Say! Is there big cities in Scotland, an' crowds of people, an' trains, an' engines, an' factories, an' things? My! I wish I could git away!"
Then Cameron understood dimly something of the wander-lust in the boy's soul, of the hunger for adventure, for the colour and movement of life in the great world "away" from the farm, that thrilled in the boy's voice. So for the next half hour he told Tim tales of his own life, the chief glory of which had been his achievements in the realm of sport, and, before he was aware, he was describing to the boy the great International with Wales, till, remembering the disastrous finish, he brought his narrative to an abrupt close.
"And did yeh lick 'em?" demanded Tim in a voice of intense excitement.
"No," said Cameron shortly.
"Oh, hedges! I wisht ye had!" exclaimed Tim in deep disappointment.
"It was my fault," replied Cameron bitterly, for the eager wish in the boy's heart had stirred a similar yearning in his own and had opened an old sore.
"I was a fool," he said, more to himself than to Tim. "I let myself get out of condition and so I lost them the match."
"Aw, git out!" said Tim, with unbelieving scorn. "I bet yeh didn't! My! I wisht I could see them games."
"Oh, pshaw! Tim, they are not half so worth while as plowing, harrowing, and running your team. Why, here you are, a boy of—how old?"
"Thirteen," said Tim.
"A boy of thirteen able to do a man's work, and here am I, a man of twenty-one, only able to do a boy's work, and not even that. But I'm going to learn, Tim," added Cameron. "You hear me, I am going to learn to do a man's work. If I can," he added doubtfully.
"Oh, shucks!" replied Tim, "you bet yeh can, and I'll show yeh," with which mutual determination they turned in at the gate of the Haley farm, which was to be the scene of Cameron's first attempt to do a man's work and to fill a man's place in the world.
A DAY'S WORK
The Haley farm was a survival of an ambitious past. Once the property of a rich English gentleman, it had been laid out with an eye to appearance rather than to profit and, though the soil was good enough, it had never been worked to profit. Consequently, when its owner had tired of Colonial life, he had at first rented the farm, but, finding this unsatisfactory, he, in a moment of disgust, advertised it for sale. Pretentious in its plan and in its appointments, its neglected and run down condition gave it an air of decayed gentility, depressing alike to the eye of the beholder and to the selling price of the owner. Haley bought it and bought it cheap. From the high road a magnificent avenue of maples led to a house of fine proportions, though sadly needing repair. The wide verandahs, the ample steps were unpainted and falling into ruin; the lawn reaching from the front door to the orchard was spacious, but overgrown with burdocks, nettles and other noxious weeds; the orchard, which stretched from the lawn to the road on both sides of the lane, had been allowed to run sadly to wood. At the side of the house the door-yard was littered with abandoned farm implements, piles of old fence rails and lumber and other impedimenta, which, though kindly Nature, abhorring the unsightly rubbish, was doing her utmost to hide it all beneath a luxuriant growth of docks, milkweed, and nettles, lent an air of disorder and neglect to the whole surroundings. The porch, or "stoop," about the summer kitchen was set out with an assortment of tubs and pails, pots and pans, partially filled with various evil looking and more evil smelling messes, which afforded an excellent breeding and feeding place for flies, mosquitoes, and other unpleasant insects. Adjoining the door yard, and separated from it by a fence, was the barn yard, a spacious quadrangle flanked on three sides by barns, stables, and sheds, which were large and finely planned, but which now shared the general appearance of decrepitude. The fence, which separated one yard from the other, was broken down, so that the barn yard dwellers, calves, pigs, and poultry, wandered at will in search of amusement or fodder to the very door of the kitchen, and so materially contributed to the general disorder, discomfort, and dirt.