"That was very fine of your son to stand up for his father like that. You can't say that your foes were those of your own household. In such cases, young people must do one of two things, despise their parents or despise the preacher; and, when the parents go to church, the children, unless they are young hypocrites, uniformly despise such preachers."
"Yes, and to think I had never told Rufus a word about the 'Gospel Sonnets of the Sesayders!' It's a great pleasure, sir, to an old man like me to smoke a pipe with a gentleman like yourself."
Coristine replied that it afforded him equal satisfaction, and they puffed away with occasional remarks on the surrounding scenery.
Meanwhile, Wilkinson was striving to draw out the somewhat offended mistress.
"Your husband tells me, Mrs. Hill, that you are of German parentage," he remarked blandly.
"Yes," she replied; "my people were what they call Pennsylvania Dutch. Do you know German, sir?"
"I have a book acquaintance with it," remarked the dominie.
"Do you recognize this?
Yo een fayter in der ayvig-eye, Yo een fayter in der ayvig-eye, Meen fayter rue mee, Ee moos gay Tsoo lowwen in der ayvig-eye."
"No; I distinctly do not, although it has a Swabian sound."
"That is the Pennsylvania Dutch for 'I have a Father in the Promised Land,' a Sunday School hymn."
"Were you brought up on hymns like that?"
"Oh, no; I can still remember some good German ones sung at our assemblies, like:—
Christi Blut und Gerechtigkeit, das ist mein Schmuck und Ehrenkleid, damit will ich vor Gott besteh'n, wenn ich in Himmel werd 'eingeh'n.
Do you know that?" asked the old lady, proud of her correct recitation.
"Yes; that is Count Zinzendorff's hymn, which Wesley translated:—
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head.
The translation is wonderfully free, and takes unpardonable liberties with the original."
"Graf Zinzendorff revived our Brethren when persecution had almost destroyed them. He was in America, too, and had his life saved by a rattlesnake. The Indians were going to kill him, when they saw him sleeping with the snake by his side, and thought it was his Manitou."
"I hope that is not a snake-story, Mrs. Hill. I had a boy once in my school who came from Illinois, and who said that his mother had seen a snake, which had stiffened itself into a hoop, and taken its thorny tail in its mouth, trundling along over the prairie after a man. The man got behind a tree just in the nick of time, for the hoop unbent, and sent the thorny tail into the tree instead of into the man. Then the man came out and killed it. That was a snake story."
"I give the story as I heard it from our people; you know, I suppose, that there is a Moravian Indian Mission on the borders of the counties of Kent and Middlesex. I once thought of going there as a missionary, before I fell in with Mr. Hill."
"I knew a lady who married a clergyman, with the express understanding that he was to become a foreign missionary. His church missionary societies refused to accept him, because of some physical defect, so he had to settle down to a home charge. But his wife never went to hear him conduct service. She said she could not listen to a fraud who had married her under false pretences."
"It is a great pity he married such a woman. If a wife has not the missionary spirit in her own house, how can she expect to acquire it by going abroad? Besides, there is so much mission work to be done in a new country like this. A few years ago, this place was almost as bad as Peskiwanchow, but now it has greatly improved."
"There was a young man we met there, Mrs. Hill, in whom my friend and I were much interested," said the dominie, and proceeded to give an account of the exploit of Timotheus. He also narrated what Coristine had told him of his hero's attitude towards the catechism, as accounting for his present position. The old lady relented in her judgment of the younger Pilgrim, thought that Saul, perhaps, was too severe, and that the catechism could stand revision. Wilkinson agreed, and, the ice being completely broken between them, they also proceeded to view the scenery in a poetic light, or rather in two, the dame's a Cowperish, and the dominie's a Wordsworthian reflection. Suddenly, the latter saw the father of Tryphena and Tryphosa open a gate, and turn into a side road, along which the lawyer seemed not quite disposed to accompany him. The elder smoker, therefore, came back to the gate, and waited for Wilkinson and the old lady to come forward.
"Mother!" said the old man, as the pair came up to the halting place, "you've got a soft blarneying Lutherian tongue in your head—"
"Henry Cooke," she replied sharply, "how often must I tell you that Lutherian is wrong, and that I am not a Lutheran, and have ceased even to be a United Brother since I cast in my lot with you; moreover, it is not pleasant for an old woman like me to be accused of blarneying, as if I were a rough Irishman with a grin on his broad face."
"Well, well, mother, I don't care a snuff if you were a Sesayder or even a Tommykite—"
"A Tommykite?" cried Coristine, anxious to extend his knowledge and increase his vocabulary.
"It's a man called Thomas," answered the interrupted husband, "that made a new sect out our way, and they call his following Tommykites; I dunno if he's a relation of the captain or not. Give a dog a bad name, they say, and you might as well hang him; but the Tommykites are living, in spite of their name."
"Henry Cooke, your remarks are very unnecessary and irrevelant," said his wife, falling into bad English over a long adjective.
"I was just going to say, mother, that I wanted you to try and keep these gentlemen from going beyond our house to-night, because you can put it so much better than I can."
The old lady, thereupon, so judiciously blended coaxing with the apology of disparagement, that the only alternative left the pedestrians was that of remaining; for to go on would have been to treat the disparagement as real, and a sufficient cause for their seeking other shelter. The house they entered was small but neat. It consisted almost altogether of one room, called a living room, which answered all the purposes of eating, sleeping and sitting. Outside were a summer kitchen and a dairy or milk-house, and, a short distance off, were the barn and the stable, the sole occupant of the latter at the time being a cow that spent most of its leisure out of doors. Supper did not take long preparing, and the travellers did ample justice to a very enjoyable meal. The dominie engaged the hostess in conversation about German cookery, Sauer Kraut, Nudeln and various kinds of Eierkuchen, which she described with evident satisfaction.
"Mrs. Hill and Wilkinson are regular Deipnosophists," remarked Coristine to the host.
"That's too deep for me," he whispered back. "But tell it to the mistress now; she's that fond of jawbreakers she'll never forget it."
"We were remarking, Mrs. Hill, that you and Wilkinson are a pair of Deipnosophists."
The old man looked quizically at his wife, and she glanced in a questioning way at the dominie.
"My friend is trying to show off his learning at our expense," the latter remarked. "One Athenaeus, who lived in the second century, wrote a book with that name, containing conversations, like those in 'Wilson's Noctes Ambrosianae,' but upon gastronomy."
"I was not aware," said the hostess, "that they had gas so far back as that."
Wilkinson bit his lip, but dared not explain, and the lawyer looked sheepish at the turn affairs were taking.
"It's aisy remembered, mother," put in the quondam schoolmaster.
"Think of astronomy, and that'll give you gastronomy; and a gastronomer is a deipnosophist. That's two new words in one day and both meaning the same thing."
The hostess turned to the dominie, with a little shrug of impatience at her husband, and remarked: "The life of a deipnosophist in gastromical works must be a very trying one, from the impure air and the soft coal dust; do you not think so, Mr. Wilkinson?"
That gentleman thought it must, and the lawyer first chewed his moustache, and then blew his nose severely and long. Fortunately, the meal was over, the host returned thanks, and the party left the table. The old man took a pail and went to water the stock, which seemed to consist of the cow, while the wife put away the supper things, and prepared for the evening's milking.
The pedestrians, being told there was nothing they could do, strolled out into the neighbouring pasture, and pretended to look among the weeds and stones, at the end of the fence farthest away from the stock-waterer for botanical and geological specimens; but, in reality, they were having a battle royal.
"Corry, you ass, whatever put it into your stupid head to make a fool of that kind little woman?"
"Sauer Kraut and Speck Noodle, what did you begin with your abominable Dutch dishes for?"
"I had a perfect right to talk German and of German things with Mrs. Hill. I did not insult her, like an ungrateful cur, I know."
"I never insulted her, you blackguard, wouldn't do such a thing for my life. I had a perfect right, too, to talk Greek to the old man, and it was you put your ugly foot in it with your diabolical gastronomy. I wonder you don't pray the ground to open up and swallow you."
"I consider, sir, an apology from you to our host and hostess absolutely necessary, and to be made without any delay."
"I'll apologize, Wilks, for the deipnosophist part of it, but I'll be jiggered if I'll be responsible for your nasty gastronomy."
"That means that you are going to put all the onus of this hideous and cruel misunderstanding on my shoulders, when I explained your expression in charity to all parties, and to help you out."
"Help me out, is it? I think it was helping me into the ditch and yourself, too."
"Will you or will you not accept the responsibility of this whole unfortunate business? Here is my ultimatum: Decline to accept it, and I return to Collingwood this very night."
"Wilks, my boy, that would never do. It's dead tired you'd be, and I'd hear of you laid up with fever and chills from the night air, or perhaps murdered by tramps for the sake of your watch and purse."
"It matters nothing. Right must be done. Fiat justitia, ruat coelum. Every law of gratitude for hospitality cries aloud: 'Make restitution ere the sun goes down.' I understand, sir, that you refuse." So saying, the offended dominie moved rapidly towards the house to resume his knapsack and staff.
"Wilks, if you don't stop I'll stone you to death with fossils," cried the repentant lawyer, throwing a series of trilobites from his tobacco-less pocket at his retreating friend. The friend stopped and said curtly: "What is it to be?"
"Wilks, you remind me of an old darkey woman that had a mistress who was troubled with sneezing fits. The mistress said: 'Chloe, whenever I sneeze in public, you, as a faithful servant, should take out your handkerchief, and pretend that it was you; you should take it upon yourself, Chloe.' So, one day in church, the old lady made a big tis-haw, when Chloe jumped up and cried out: 'I'll take dat sneeze my ole missus snoze on mysef,' waving her handkerchief all around."
"I did not delay my journey to listen to negro stories, Mr. Coristine."
"It has a moral," answered the lawyer; "it means that I am going to take all this trouble on myself, and hinder you making a bigger ass of yours. I'll apologize to the pair of them for me and you."
"That being the case, in spite of the objectionable words, 'bigger ass,' which you will live to repent, I shall stay."
Mrs. Hill was proceeding to milk the cow, and her husband was busy at the wood-pile. Coristine sauntered up to the old lady, and carried the milking pail and stool for her, the latter being of the Swiss description, with one leg sharp enough to stick into the ground. The lawyer adroitly remarked:—
"Turning to the subject of language, Mrs. Hill, one who has had your experience in education must have observed fashion in words as in other things, how liable speech is to change at different times and in different places."
Yes; Mrs. Hill had noticed that.
"You will, I trust, not think me guilty of too great a liberty, if I say, in reference to my friend's remark at the supper table, that gastronomy, instead of meaning the art of extracting gas from coal, has now come to denote the science of cookery or good living, and that the old meaning is now quite out of date. I thought you would like to know of the change, which, I imagine, has hardly found its way into the country yet."
"Certainly, sir, I am much obliged to you for setting me right so kindly. Doubtless the change has come about through the use of gas stoves for cooking, which I have seen advertised in our Toronto religious paper."
"I never thought of that," said the perfidious lawyer. "The very uncommon word deipnosophist, hardly an English word at all, when employed at the present day, always means a supper philosopher, one who talks learnedly at supper, either about cookery or about other things."
"I see it very clearly now. In town, of course, supper is taken by gas light, so that the talker at supper is a talker by gas-light?"
"Yes, but the word gas, even the idea of it, has gone out of fashion, through its figurative use to designate empty, vapouring talk; therefore, when deipnosophist and gastronomer are spoken, the former is employed to denote learned talkers at supper, such as we were half an hour ago, and the latter, to signify one who enjoys the culinary pleasures of the table."
"I am sure I am very much indebted to you, sir, for taking the trouble to correct an old woman far behind the age, and to save her the mortification of making mistakes in conversation with those who might know better."
"Do not mention it, I beg. Should I, do you think, say anything of this to Mr. Hill?"
"Oh, no," replied the old lady, laughingly; "he has forgotten all about these new words already; and, even if he had not, he would never dare to make use of them, unless they were in Shakespeare or the Bible or the School Readers."
By this time the milking was over, and the lawyer, relieved in part, yet with not unclouded conscience, carried pail and stool to the milkhouse.
The old man and Coristine sat down on a bench outside the house and smoked their pipes. Mrs. Hill occupied a rocking-chair just inside the doorway, and the dominie sat on the doorsill at her feet.
"Mother," called Mr. Hill to his spouse, "whatever has become of Rufus?"
"You know very well, Henry Cooke, that Rufus is helping Andrew Hislop with his bee, and will not be back before morning. The young people are to have a dance after the bee, and then a late supper, at which the deipnosophists will do justice to Abigail's gastronomy." This was said with an approving side glance at the lawyer. When Wilkinson looked up, his friend perceived at once that his offence was forgiven. The husband, without removing the pipe from between his teeth, mumbled, "Just so, to be sure."
"Is your son's name William Rufus, Mrs. Hill?" enquired the dominie.
"No; it is simply Rufus. William, you know, is not a Scripture name. We thought of baptizing him Narcissus, which comes just before Tryphena, but my husband said, as he was the youngest, he should come lower down in the chapter, and after Persis, which is my name."
"I was tayching school, and a bachelor," put in the said husband, "when there was a county meeting—they call them conventions now—that Persis was at. They called her Miss Persis Prophayt, but it was spelled like the English Prophet. She was that pretty and nice-spoken then I couldn't kape my eyes off her. She's gone off her nice looks and ways a dale since that time. Then I went back to the childer and the Scripture readins, with a big dictionary at my elbow for the long names. 'The beloved Persis' was forever coming up, till the gyurls would giggle and make my face as red as a turkey cock. So I had this farrum and some money saved, and I sent to ask the beloved Persis to put me out of my misery and confusion of countenance."
"Indeed he did," said the old lady, with a merry laugh, "and what do you think was his way of popping the question?"
"Oh, let us hear, Mrs. Hill," cried Coristine.
"Mother, if you do," interposed the old man, "I'll put my foot down on your convention of retired taychers at Owen Sound." But mother paid no attention to the threat.
"He asked if I knew the story of Mahomet and the mountain, and how Mahomet said, if the mountain will not come to the prophet, the prophet must go to the mountain. So, said he, you are the prophet and must come to my house under the mountain, and be a Hill yourself. It was so funny and clever that I came; besides I was glad to change the name Prophet. People were never tired making the most ridiculous plays upon it. The old Scotch schoolmistress, who taught me partly, was named Miss Lawson, so they called us Profit and Loss; and they pronounced my Christian name as if it was Purses, and nicknamed me Property, and took terrible liberties with my nomenclature." At this the whole company laughed heartily, after which the dominie said: "I see your pipe is out, Corry; you might favour our kind friends with a song." The lawyer did not know what to sing, but took his inspiration, finally, from Wilkinson's last question, and sang the ballad of William Rufus, as far as:—
Men called him William Rufus because of his red beard, A proud and naughty king he was, and greatly to be feared; But an arrow from a cross-bow, sirs, hit him in the middell, And, instead of a royal stag that day, a king of England fell.
Then the correct ear and literary sense of the dominie were offended, and he opened out on his friend.
"I think, Corry, that you might at least have saved our generous hosts the infliction of your wretched travesties. The third line, Mrs Hill, is really:—
But an arrow from a cross-bow, sirs, the fiercest pride can quell.
There is nothing so vulgar as hitting in the verse, and your ear for poetry must tell you that middle cannot rhyme with fell, even if it were not a piece of the most Gothic barbarity. Thus a fine English song, such as I love to hear, is murdered."
"My opinion," said the host, "my opinion is that you could'nt quell a man's pride better than by hitting him fair in the middle. It might be against the laws of war, but it would double him up, and take all the consayt out of him sudden. I mind when Rufus was out seeing his sisters, there was a parson got him to play cricket, and aggravated the boy by bowling him out, and catching his ball, and sneering at him for a good misser and a butter-fingers; so, when he went to the bat again, he looked carefully at the ball and got it on the tip of his bat, and, the next thing he knowed, the parson was doubled up like a jack knife. He had been hit fair in the middle, where the bad boy meant to do it. There was no sarvice next Sunday, no, nor for two weeks."
"That was very wrong of Rufus," said the old lady with a sigh, "however, he did offer to remunerate Mr. Perrowne for his medical expenses, but the gentleman refused to accept any equivalent, and said it was the fortune of war, which made Rufus feel humiliated and sorry."
Night had fallen, and the coal oil lamp was lit. The old lady deposited a large Bible on the table, to which her husband drew in a chair, after asking each of his guests unsuccessfully to conduct family worship. He read with emphasis and feeling the 91st Psalm, and thereafter, falling on his knees, offered a short but comprehensive prayer, in which the absent children were included, and the two wayfarers were not forgotten. While the good wife went out to the dairy to see that the milk was covered up from an invisible cat, the men undressed, and the pedestrians turned into a double bed, the property of the missing Rufus. The head of the household also turned in upon his couch, and coughed, the latter being a signal to his wife. She came in, blew out the lamp, and retired in the darkness. Then four voices said "good-night"; and rest succeeded the labours of the day. "No nightmares or fits to-night, Corry, an' you love me," whispered the dominie; but the lawyer was asleep soon after his head touched the pillow. They knew nothing till morning, when they were awakened by the old man's suppressed laughter. When they opened their eyes, the wife was already up and away to her outdoor tasks; and a well-built, good-looking young fellow of the farmer type was staring in astonishment at the two strangers in his bed. The more he stared, the more the father laughed. "There's not a home nor a place for you, Rufus, with you kapin' such onsaysonable hours. It's a sesayder you'll be becoming yourself, running after Annerew Hislop's pretty daughter, and dancing the toes out of your stockings till broad daylight. So, if you're going to sesayde, your mother and me, we're going to take in lodgers."
"What are they selling?" asked the Baby.
"Whisht! Rufus, whisht! come here now; it's not that they are at all, but gentlemen from the city on a pedestrian tower," the father replied in an audible whisper.
"What do they want testering the beds for! Is that some new crank got into the guvment?"
"Rufus, Rufus, you'll be the death of your poor old father yet with your ignorance. Who said anything about testing the beds? It's a pedestrian tower, a holiday walking journey for the good of their healths, the gentlemen are taking. Whisht, now, they're waking up. Good morning to you, sirs; did I wake you up laughing at the Baby?"
The roused sleepers returned the salutation, and greeted the new comer, apologizing for depriving him of his comfortable bed. Rufus replied civilly, with a frank, open manner that won their respect, and, when they had hastily dressed, led them to the pump, where he placed a tin basin, soap and towels, at their disposal. After ablutions, they questioned him as to the events of last evening, and were soon in nominal acquaintance with all the country side. He was indignant at the free and easy conduct of a self-invited guest called Rodden, who wanted to dance with all the prettiest girls and to play cards. "But when he said cards, Annerew, that's a sesayder, told him to clare, although it was only four in the morning, and he had to clare, and is on his way to Flanders now."
"I suppose you did not hear him make any enquiries regarding us?" asked the dominie.
"But I did, and it was only when he hard that you hadn't been past the meetin'-house, that he stopped and said 'ee'd 'ave a lark. Do you know him?"
"Yes," said Coristine, "he is the Grinstun man," whereat they all laughed; and the old lady, coming in with her milking, expressed her pleasure at seeing them such good friends.
After prayers and breakfast, the pedestrians prepared to leave, much to the regret of the household.
"Where are you bound for now?" asked Mr. Hill, to which Wilkinson replied, with the air of a guide-book, "for the Beaver River." The Baby, nothing the worse of last night's wakefulness, volunteered to show them the way by a shorter and pleasanter route than the main road, and they gladly availed themselves of his services. As the party walked on, the guide said to Coristine, "I hard fayther say that you were a lawyer, is that true?" Coristine answered that he was.
"Then, sir, you ought to know something about that man Rodden; he's a bad lot."
"What makes you think so?"
"He knows all the doubtfullest and shadiest settlers about, and has long whispers with them, and gets a lot of money from them. His pocketbook is just bulging out with bank bills."
"Perhaps it is the payment of his grindstones, Rufus."
"You don't tell me that a lawyer, a clever man like you, believe in his grindstones?"
"Why not? Doesn't he make and sell them?"
"Yes; he makes them and sells them in bundles of half-a-dozen, but the buyer of a bundle only has two to show, and they're no good, haven't grit enough to sharpen a wooden spoon."
"How do you know all this?"
"Mostly out of big Ben Toner. He used to be a good sort of fellow, but is going all to ruination with the drink. I saw his grindstones and what came between 'em. It's more like a barl than anything else, but Ben kept me off looking at it close."
"Where does Toner live?"
"Down at the river where you're going. There's a nice, quiet tavern there, where you'll likely put up, and he'll be round it, likely, and pretty well on by noon. He don't drink there, though, nor the tavern-keeper don't buy no grindstones like he does. Well, here you are on the track, and I must get back to help dad. Keep right on till you come to the first clearing, and then ask your way. Good-bye, wishing you a good time, and don't forget that man Rodden." They shook the Baby warmly by the hand, and reciprocated his good wishes, Coristine promising to keep his eyes and ears open for news of the Grinstun man.
"Did you overhear our talk, Wilks, my boy?" he asked his friend.
"No; I thought it was private, and kept in the background. I do not consider it honourable to listen to a conversation to which one is not invited, and doubtless it was of no interest to me."
"But it is, Wilks; listen to this now," and volubly the lawyer poured forth the information and his suspicions concerning Mr. Rawdon. That gentleman's ears would have tingled could he have heard the pleasant and complimentary things that Coristine said about him.
The first clearing the pedestrians reached, after an hour's walk since parting with Rufus, was a desolate looking spot. Some fallow fields were covered with thistles, docks, fire-weed and stately mulleins, with, here and there, an evening primrose, one or two of which the lawyer inserted in his flower-press. There was hardly any ground under cultivation, and the orchard bore signs of neglect. They saw a man in a barn painfully rolling along a heavy cylindrical bundle which had just come off a waggon. As they advanced to ask him the way, he left his work and came to meet them, a being as unkempt as his farm, and with an unpleasant light in his bloodshot eye.
"What are you two spyin' around fer at this time o' day, stead o' tendin' to your work like the rest o' folks? Ef you want anything, speak out, 'cause I've no time to be foolin' round."
"We were directed to ask you, sir, the way to the Beaver River," said the dominie, politely. The man sulkily led them away out of view of the barn, and then pointed out a footpath through his farm, which he said would lead them to the highroad. As they were separating, Wilkinson thanked the man, and Coristine asked him casually:—
"Do you happen to know if a Mr. Rawdon, who makes and sells grindstones, has passed this way lately?"
"No," cried the sluggard farmer; "who says he has?" Then, in a quieter tone, he continued: "I heern tell as he passed along the meetin'-house way yesday. What do you want of Rawdon?"
"My friend, here, is a geologist, and so is that gentleman."
"Rawdon a geologist!" he cried again, with a coarse laugh. "Of course he is; allers arter trap rock, galeny, quartz and beryl. O yes, he's a geologist! Go right along that track there. Good day." Then he rapidly retraced his steps towards the barn, as if fearful lest some new visitor should interrupt him before his task was completed.
"It may be smuggling," said the lawyer, "but it's liquid of some kind, for that dilapidated granger has given his friend away. What do hayseeds know about galena, quartz and beryl? These are Grinstun's little mineralogical jokes for gallon, quart and barrel, and trap rock is another little mystery of his. What do you think of the farmer that doesn't follow the plough, Wilks?"
"I think he drinks," sententiously responded the schoolmaster.
"Then he and Ben Toner are in the same box, and both are friends or customers of the workin' geologist. I believe it's whiskey goes between the grindstones, and that it's smuggled in from the States, somewhere up on the Georgian Bay between Collingwood and Owen Sound. The plot is thickening."
When the pedestrians emerged from the path on a very pretty country road the first objects that met their view were three stout waggons, drawn by strong horses and driven by bleary eyed men, noisy and profane of speech. Their waggon loads were covered with buffalo robes and tarpaulins, which, however, did not effectually conceal the grindstones beneath. The drivers eyed the pedestrians with suspicion, and consigned them to the lower regions and eternal perdition.
"Wilks, my dear," said the lawyer, in a sort of cool fever heat, "there's a revolver and a box of cartridges in my pack that I'd like to have in my right hand pocket for that kind of cattle."
"I have one, too," said the dominie, quietly, "but we had better pass on and not heed them. See, they are armed as well."
Just as he spoke there was a report; a pistol in the hand of the first teamster smoked, and a poor little squirrel, that had been whirring on the limb of a basswood, dropped to the ground dead.
"I'd as lief as not put a hole into the back of them d——d packs," said the second teamster, whereupon the others swore at him to shut up and save his cartridges.
"Wilks, I could once hit a silver dollar at twenty yards. Dad, I'll get the thing out anyway." The lawyer sat down, undid his knapsack and primed his revolver, which he then placed with the box of cartridges in the pocket out of which he had thrown the fossils. The dominie did the same, all the time saying: "No violence! my dear friend; in this world we must pretend not to see a great many things that we cannot help seeing." The teamsters went by, and no further use for the revolver appeared. Wilkinson would not allow his companion to shoot at birds or chipmunks, and, on being expostulated with, the kindly lawyer confessed that it would have been a shame to take their innocent young lives. At last they saw a gray paper-like structure of large size on the limb of an oak pretty high up. "I'll bet you can't hit that, Wilks," said the lawyer. "I shall try," replied the dominie. They fired simultaneously and both struck the grey mass, and then the warriors ran, ran as they had hardly done since they were boys, for a hundred wasps were after them, eager to take vengeance on the piercers of their communal home. After two hundred yards had been done in quick time, they stopped and faced each other.
"I've killed three that got down my back, but the beggar that stung me on the lip escaped," said Coristine.
"I have one sting on the left hand and another on the right temple," replied Wilkinson.
"Is it safe to stop yet, Wilks?"
"Yes; they have given up the pursuit."
"Then, my poor boy, let us go into hospital." So he produced his flask and bathed the dominie's temple and hand with the cooling spirit, after which Wilkinson loosened his friend's flannel shirt and applied the same remedy to his afflicted back, down which the three dead wasps slid to the ground. The lawyer healed his own lip by allowing a little of the cratur, as he termed it, to trickle over into his mouth.
"It seems to me, Wilks, that, when a man is looking for war, he's bound to get it."
"Yes; I suppose that that is what is meant by 'they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.'"
"Bad luck to these wasps; they revolved on us."
As the travellers continued their journey, Coristine turned to his friend and asked him for counsel.
"You've studied casuistry, Wilks, and I want you, as a judge of what a loyal citizen should do, to say what is our duty in regard to the Grinstun man."
"What are you, Corry, a lawyer in general practice or a revenue detective?"
"A lawyer, of course, but a citizen too."
"Have you, as lawyer or as citizen, a case against Mr. Rawdon?"
"As a contributor to the revenue of the country, I think I have."
"Well, he is making money by cheating the Government."
"Where is your proof?"
"Look at what Rufus said, at the doings of that bogus farmer, at these three teams on the road."
"Mere inferences based on circumstantial evidence."
"They're things that should be looked into, though."
"Perhaps so, but is it your business to do so? Are you a whiskey informer?"
"Come now, Wilks, that's a pretty bad name to call a man."
"That may be, but it seems to denote the role you have set before yourself."
"I'd like to run that brute into the ground."
"Worse and worse; you are going to prosecute, not from principle, but from malice."
"I'm going to show up a scoundrel."
"If that is your work you will never lack employment. But, seriously, Corry, cui bono?"
"To keep him off Miss Du Plessis' land, to prevent him marrying her, to hinder him corrupting the farmers and causing their farms to go to waste with smuggled liquor."
"As you like, but Wordsworth says:—
Whatever be the cause, 'tis sure that they who pry and pore Seem to meet with little gain, seem less happy than before."
"A fig for Wordsworth, and his tear in the old man's eye! I'll not be happy till I bring that murdering thief of the world to justice."
Further conversation was checked by the view of the river from the top of the hill, challenging the admiration of the two lovers of scenery, and they began their descent towards the hamlet that lay on either side of the bridge which crossed the swiftly-flowing stream. Then the lawyer commenced the recitation of a poem in one of the old Irish readers:—
River, river, rapid river,
in which the dominie sharply interrupted him, recommending his tall, mustachioed friend to put a stick of candy in his mouth and go back to petticoats and pinafores.
"Wilks, you remind me of a picture I saw once, in Punch or somewhere else, of a nigger sandwich man advertising baths, and a sweep looking at him, and saying: 'It's enough to tempt one, he looks so jolly clean hisself.' That's the way with you, always firing out Wordsworth's silly twaddle, and objecting to a piece of genuine poetry because it's in a reader. The pig-headed impudence of you birchers beats all."
The Maple Inn—Mr. Bigglethorpe's Store—Dinner—Worms—Ben Toner—The Dugout—Fishing in the Beaver River—The Upset Suckers—The Indignant Dominie Propitiated and Clothed—Anecdotes of Mr. Bulky—A Doctor Wanted.
A very clean and attractive hostelry received the travellers, and compelled the dominie to remark cheerfully, "Now shall I take mine ease in mine inn," which led to his lately indignant friend's response:—
Who'er has travell'd life's dull round, Where'er his stages may have been, May sigh to think he still has found The warmest welcome at an inn.
P. Lajeunesse was the name on the sign, which displayed a vegetable wonder of the painter's art meant for a maple tree, for Madame Lajeunesse kept the Maple Inn. That lady, a portly brunette, with a pleasant smile and a merry twinkle in her eye, received the distinguished guests in person. Wilkinson replied to her bow and curtsey with a dignified salutation, but the lawyer shook hands with her, saying: "I hope you're very well, Madame; it's a lovely place you have here." Madame replied that it was lofely when the moustique was not, and summoned Pierre to help the dominie off with his knapsack, saying "permettit me," as she unfastened the straps of Coristine's, and removed that burden, which she deposited upon a table in the sitting-room adjoining the hall. Pierre, a bald-headed French-Canadian, hiding his lack of hair under a red tuque, and sporting a white moustache of large dimensions, arrived too late to help the schoolmaster, but he elevated his eyebrows, grimaced, rubbed his hands, and slid his feet apart, in pleased welcome.
"Ze chentlemans ave come to feesh lika many in ze springa monses? Feeshing not so coot as zen, bot in ze cool place vare is oles onder ze trees feesh lorrik. Is zat spoken correct, zat vord lorrik? I ave learn it from Meestare Bulky. O, a ver great feesherman."
Wilkinson replied that lurk was an excellent word, and very expressive of the conduct of fish in warm weather, explaining that he was no fisherman himself, but that his friend was attached to that kind of sport.
"Dinnare, Messieu, in one hour," remarked Madame, as she returned to her duties.
"Where can I get fishing tackle, landlord?" asked the lawyer.
"At ze store, zare is onelly one. You vill not lose yourself long in zisa city," replied mine host with an attempt at wit.
Wilkinson remained in the cool parlour, inspecting the plates on the walls and a few books on a side table. The latter were chiefly poor novels in English, left by former guests as not worth taking home, but among them was a thoroughly French paper-bound copy of Alphonse Karr's Voyage autour de mon Jardin. Falling into an easy chair, the schoolmaster surrendered himself to the charming style and subtle humour of this new found treasure.
The lawyer went straight to Mr. Bigglethorpe's store, and found himself, at the time, its sole customer. The proprietor was an Englishman of some five and thirty years, tall and thin, wearing a long full beard and overhanging moustache. He sold fishing tackle and was himself a fisherman, the latter being the reason why he had come to the Beaver River and set up store. It occupied him when fishing was poor, and helped to check the consumption of his capital. Before he married, he locked the door, when the fishing was good, and put the key in his pocket, but now Mrs. Bigglethorpe minded the shop in his absence. Having supplied Coristine with hooks and lines, and recommended him what kind of a rod to cut out of the bush for ordinary still fishing, he offered to lend him one of his own fly rods, and opened his fly book for his inspection. Soon the pair were deep in all kinds of artificial flies and their manufacture, Black and Red and White Hackles, Peacock Fly, Mackerel, Green Grasshopper, Black Ant, Governor, Partridge, and a host more. The lawyer declined the rod, as the storekeeper informed him that, so late in the season and in the day, it was utterly useless to look for trout. He had better get old Batiste at the Inn to dig him up some earthworms, and go fishing with them like the boys. He would find a canoe moored near the bridge which he could use. Who it belonged to Mr. Bigglethorpe didn't know, but it was of no consequence, for everybody took it that wanted it for a morning or afternoon. If Mr. Coristine heard of any new kind of fly, perhaps he'd be good enough to remember him and let him know, something killing for autumn use, or, as people say here, for fall fishing. Mr. Coristine promised to remember him, and departed with his purchases, just as a voice, feminine but decided, called to Mr. Bigglethorpe by name to come and hold the baby, while its owner dished the dinner. "Talk about Hackles," said the lawyer to himself on the way Inn-wards, "I imagine he has somebody in there that can hackle him, long beard and all."
The dinner bell at the Maple was ringing vigorously. Monsieur Lajeunesse had taken off his coat to ring it, and stood in the doorway in a flaming red waistcoat, the companion of his tuque, over a spotlessly white shirt, to let all who dwelt on the Beaver River know that the hour of noon had arrived. The dinner, over which Madame presided, was excellent. With the soup and the fish there was white wine, and good sound beer with the entrees and solids. The schoolmaster spoke French to the hostess, chiefly about the book he had been reading, and the lawyer discussed fishing with Pierre, who constantly referred to his great authority, Meestare Bulky. Madame, charmed that her guest could converse with her in her mother tongue, generously filled his glasses, and provided his plates with the most seductive morsels. Monsieur Veelkeenson was the white-haired boy at that table, and he felt it, yielded to the full satisfaction of it. He had dined royally, and was fit for anything. When his friend asked him if he would go fishing, he replied jauntily, and in a way quite unlike himself: "Why, suttenly, which would you rather do or go fishin'?"
"O Wilks," cried the lawyer, "you're a patent pressed brick! I feel like old Isaac Walton's Coridon, that said, d'ye mind, 'Come, hostess, give us more ale, and let's drink to him,' which is natural, seeing I'm called Corry."
The companions had a glass of ale after dinner, which was quite indefensible, for they had had a sufficiency at that bounteous repast. Evidently, the dominie was in for a good time. A wizened old fellow, named Batiste, with a permanent crick in his back, dug the worms, and presented them to the lawyer in an empty lobster tin, the outside of which was covered with texts of Scripture. "It seems almost profane," remarked the recipient, "to carry worms inside so much Bible language." But the merry schoolmaster remarked that it was turn about, for he had heard a Scotch preacher, who seemed to know the whole Bible by heart, say in prayer, on behalf of himself and his people, "we are all poor wurrums of the airth." "Probably, however," he continued, "he would have objected to be treated as a worm."
"They say even a worm will turn, which, if your parson was a large man, might be serious enough," replied the lawyer. "I remember, when I was a small boy, thinking that the Kings of Israel kept large men for crushing their enemies, because they used to say, 'Go and fall upon him, and he fell upon him and he died.' That might be the way with the human wurrum. It's not always safe to trust these humble men."
"Corry, you're a profane man; your treatment of sacred things is scandalously irreverent," said the dominie.
"Who began it?" retorted the victim.
"You did, sir, with your textual lobster can," replied the reprover.
"The ancient Hebrews, in the height of their pride and glory, knew not the luxury of lobster salad," Coristine remarked, gravely, as if reciting a piece.
"How do you know that?"
"Because, if I offer a prize of a Trip to the Dark Continent to the first person buying a copy of our published travels, who finds the word lobster in the Bible, I shall never have occasion to purchase the ticket."
As they moved in the direction of the river, Pierre came after them and asked:—
"You make your feeshing off ze bord or in ze vatars!"
"I prefer the board," replied Coristine, "if it's as good of its kind as that you gave us at dinner."
"Keep quiet, you do not understand him," interposed the schoolmaster; "he means the shore, the bank of the river by the bord. N'est ce pas, Monsieur?"
"Oui, oui, M'syae, le bord, le rivauge de la riviere."
"Non, Monsieur Pierre, nous allons prendre le bateau," answered Wilkinson, with a dignity that his companion envied.
The red-nightcapped host called Baptiste.
"Vau t-en donc, Bawtiste, depeche twa, trouve deux petits bouts de plaunche pour le canot."
Batiste soon returned with two boards.
"Canot 'ave no seat, you placea zem over two ends for seet down," said Pierre, relapsing into English.
Wilkinson assumed the responsibility of the boards and the fishermen proceeded to the river bank near the bridge to find the canoe. It was long, and, for a dug-out, fairly wide, but ancient and black, and moist at the bottom, owing to an insufficiently caulked crack. Its paddles had seen much service, and presented but little breadth of blade.
"I should like to place these boards," said Wilkinson, as he surveyed first them and then the dug-out; "I should like to place these boards, one across the bow and the other across the stern, but I really cannot decide which is the bow and which is the stern."
"She's a sort of a fore and after, Wilks, like the slip-ferry steamboats. I think, if you could find a bit of chalk or charcoal, and write bow on one plank and stern on the other, it would make her ship-shape and settle the business."
"I have no sympathy, Corry, with makeshifts and factitious devices. I wish to arrive at the true inwardness of this boat. At what end of a boat is the anchor let down?"
"In the Susan Thomas it was pretty near the bow, and I think I've seen yachts riding at anchor that way in Toronto harbour."
"In the time of St. Paul, however, there were four anchors, if I remember aright, cast out of the stern."
"I don't see how the anchor is going to help us. This long Tom Coffin has nothing of the kind."
"You are sadly deficient in observation, Corry, or you would have observed a rope, very much abraded indeed, but still a rope, by which the vessel may be said, even though figuratively, to be anchored to this stake."
"It's you're the clever man, Wilks; education has done wonders for you. Now, I remember that rope is the painter; that's what The Crew called it on the dingy, and of course it was fastened to the bow."
"But to the stern of the larger vessel."
"Yes, but here there is no larger vessel. If you want one, for argument sake, you'll have to imagine the post to be it. The coffin is bow on to the shore."
"Corry, I insist, if I am to trust myself to this craft, that you call it by some other name."
"Were you ever in anything of the kind before, Wilks?"
"Nor I." These simple words had in them a depth of meaning.
A young man came on to the bridge and leaned over the rail, looking at the fishermen. He was respectably clad in a farmer's holiday suit, was tall, strongly built, and with good features that bore unmistakable marks of dissipation. "I'll bet you that's Ben Toner," whispered the lawyer, who was examining the new-found bow prior to depositing his boards.
"Goin' fishin'?" asked the new comer, in a not unpleasant voice.
"Yes," replied Coristine; "we're going in this—what do you call it?"
"Dug-out, and mighty poor at that. Fishin's no good here now. River was a pardise for Trontah folks wunst, but it's clean fished out. I seen fellers go to a ho-ul up thayer," said the supposed Ben, pointing in the opposite direction, "and take out a hull barl-ful afore sundown. 'Taint to be did, not now, wuss luck! Wait to I come down, and I'll haylp you off with that kinew."
The speaker descended, untied the frayed painter, and hauled the dug-out to a point where, the bank being higher, embarkation was more easy. He dissuaded the navigators from sitting on the boards placed over the gunwales, as likely to be, what he called, parlous, and recommended that the boards be placed on the floor of the craft to keep the water off their "paants." The fishermen consented, and sat down safely at each end facing one another, with his assistance to hold the dug-out steady, the dominie in the bow and the lawyer in the stern. They thanked their ally, bade him good afternoon, and proceeded to paddle. Ben Toner laughed, and cried to Coristine: "I'll lay two to one on you, Mister, for you've got the curnt to haylp you." The dugout, in spite of the schoolmaster's fierce paddling, was moving corkscrew-like in the opposite direction, owing largely to the current, but partly to the superior height of the lawyer, which gave his paddle a longer sweep. Still, he found progress slow, till a happy thought struck him.
"Wilks, my boy, it's paddling our own canoe we are, but too much that way. We're a house divided against itself, Wilks. Either you must turn round or I must, and, if I do, then you'll be the stern and I the bow."
"I thought there was something wrong, Corry, but the excitement incident on a new sensation absorbed my attention. Of course, I shall move, as it would be very confusing, not to say ridiculous, to invert the relative positions of the boat."
"Then, Wilks dear, wait till I paddle her near the bank, for fear of accidents."
When the bank was reached, the dominie landed, picked up his board and placed it farther back, then sat down gingerly, with his legs spread out before him, and began paddling on the same side as his companion, which zigzagged the frail craft more than ever, and finally brought it to the shore. Ben Toner, who had been laughing at the city innocents, ran down to a point opposite the dug-out, and told them to paddle on opposite sides, giving directions how to steer with one of the emaciated propellers. After that, the course of the vessel was a source of continual self-commendatory remark by the voyageurs.
After a while, they came to a wooden bridge, built upon piles resting in the stream. "This," said the schoolmaster, "is the Pons sublicius, like that which Ancus Martius built over the Tiber. Shall we shoot it, Corry, or shall we call a halt and proceed to fish?"
The dug-out bumped on the piles, and the navigators trembled, but Wilkinson, bravely gathering his legs under him and rising to his knees on the board, threw his arms round a pile, when, in spite of Coristine's efforts, the craft slewed round and the stern got under the bridge ahead of the bow.
"Hold on, Wilks," the lawyer cried; "another bump like that and the old thing'll split in two. Now, then, we'll drop the paddles and slip her along the bridge to the bank. There's a hole under that birch tree there, and some fine young birches that will do for rods back of it. Doesn't the birch make you feel like England, home and duty, Wilks?"
"The quotation, sir, is incorrect, as usual; it is England, home and beauty."
"Well, that's a beauty of a birch, anyway."
They got ashore, and fastened the painter to a sapling on the bank, because it was not long enough to go round a pile. Then they produced their knives, and, proceeding to the place where the young birches grew, cut down two famous rods, to which they attached lines with white and green floats and small hooks with gut attachments. The lobster can was produced, and wriggling worms fixed on the hooks. "A worm at one end and a fool at the other," said the lawyer. "Speak for yourself, sir," replied the dominie. The next thing was to get into the canoe, which was safely effected. Then, the question arose, how was she to be moored in the current? Wilkinson suggested a stake driven into the bottom for the deep-sea mooring, and an attachment to the exposed root of the lovely overhanging birch for that to landward. So Coristine sprang ashore, cut a heavier birch, and trimmed one end to a point. Bringing this on board, he handed it to his companion, and, paddling up stream, brought him opposite the overarching tree. The dominie drove the stake deep into the river mud and pressed it down. The stake was all that could be desired for a deep-sea mooring, and to it the painter was attached.
"What are you going to do about your end of the vessel, Corry?" he asked.
"That's all right," replied the lawyer, who, forthwith, took off coat and waistcoat.
"You are not going to undress, I hope," remarked his friend; "there is a bare possibility that people, even ladies, might be walking this way, sir, and I do not wish to be disgraced."
"Never fear, Wilks, my boy, it's my braces I am after." With this, Coristine took off these articles, and, fastening a button hole over a rusty nail in the stern, tied the other end about a root of the birch. The dug-out was securely fastened, so that the current only rocked it a little, causing the lawyer to sing "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep." Then they sat down on their boards and began fishing.
They had a very pleasant hour hooking shiners and chub, and an occasional perch that looked at a distance like a trout. The dominie, apropos of his friend's braces, told Alphonse Karr's story of the bretellier in the Jardin des Plantes, and the credulous sceptic who did not believe that a suspender tree existed. He knew that cotton grew on a shrub, and that caoutchouc exuded from a tree, and admitted the possibility of their natural combination, but thought his deceivers had reference to braces with metal attachments.
"That reminds me," said the lawyer, "of a man from Lanark that came into our office asking where he'd find a mining geologist. He had some grey-looking cork and leather wrapped up in a newspaper, and said he had dug them out of the ground where there was lots more of both of them. I told him he had likely come on the remains of an old picnic, and that the leather was the skin of the ham they had taken out to make sandwiches of; but the impudent creature laughed in my face, as if any child doesn't know that leather is the skin of beasts, and cork, of a tree!"
"Nevertheless, Corry, he was no doubt right, and you were wrong in your scepticism. What are called mountain cork and mountain leather are forms of asbestos. They are of no use, unless it be for the lining of safes. The fibrous asbestos can be made into fire-proof clothes."
"So, old Leather Corks had the laugh on me there! Dad, I'll apologize for sending him to the marines next time he comes in. What a thing it is to have the larnin' like you, Wilks!"
"A mere mineralogical trifle, my dear Corry, nothing more."
"Wilks, do you mind the 'Fisher's Song,' composed by the late Mr. William Bass, that's in the 'Complete Angler'? I don't suppose it would scare the fish much. It goes to the tune of 'The Pope, he leads a happy life,' like this:—
Of recreation there is none So free as fishing is alone; All other pastimes do no less Than mind and body both possess; My hand alone my work can do, So I can fish and study too.
I care not, I, to fish in seas— Fresh rivers best my mind do please, Whose sweet calm course I contemplate, And seek in life to imitate: In civil bounds I fain would keep, And for my past offences weep.
And when the timorous trout I wait To take, and he devours my bait. How poor a thing, sometimes I find, Will captivate a greedy mind; And when none bite, I praise the wise, Whom vain allurements ne'er surprise.
But yet, though while I fish I fast, I make good fortune my repast; And thereunto my friend invite, In whom I more than that delight: Who is more welcome to my dish Than to my angle was my fish."
"Well done, Corry—a very good song and very well sung,
Jolly companions every one.
Why will these wretched rhymsters couple such words as sung and one? It is like near and tears in the American war-song, 'The Old Camp-Ground.' Some people are like these fish; they have no ear at all. A practical joker, like you, Corry, once corrected a young lady who was singing:—
Golden years ago, In a mill beside the sea, There dwelt a little maiden, Who plighted her troth to me.
He suggested Floss for sea, because of George Eliot's Mill on the Floss, and, you would hardly believe it, did I not vouch for its truth, she actually rhymed Floss and me. It was excruciating."
"I can beat that, Wilks. I was out in the country on business, and stopped at our client's house, a farmer he was. The man that led the music in his church, an old Yank, who drawled out his words in singing, like sweeowtest for sweetest, was teaching the farmer's daughter to play the organ. He offered to sing for my benefit, in an informal way, one of my national melodies; and he did. It was 'The harp that once through Tara's halls,' and—O Wilks—he sang it to a tune called Ortonville, an awful whining, jog-trot, Methodistical thing with a repeat. My client asked me privately what I thought of it, and I told him that, if Mr. Sprague had said he was going to sing it in an infernal way, he would have been nearer the truth."
"Your language is strong, my friend. The late Mr. William Basse, as you designate him, would not have condescended to the use of such terms."
"Faith, the language isn't made that's too bad for Ortonville. You've got a big one this time, Wilks, my boy—play him!"
The dominie succeeded in bringing in his fish, a big fellow, between a pound and a-half and two pounds in weight, on which he gazed with delight, as the lawyer unhooked it, and deposited it, with a smart rap on the head, at the bottom of the canoe.
"Is that a trout, Corry?" the Dominie asked with eager pride.
"No; it's not a brook or speckled trout, for it has no speckles, and it's not a relative of the late William Basse, for it isn't deep enough in the body, nor a perch, for it's too big and has no stripes. It's either a salmon trout or a pickerel, Wilks."
"Is there not some fable about the latter fish?"
"Yes; old Isaac says that it's produced from the pickerel weed, the Pontederia, that should be coming into flower about now. I haven't seen any yet. There's another, for me this time—ugh, it's only a perch."
The schoolmaster, emboldened by success, declared that he was too cramped, and, gathering his legs together, while he held on to the sides of the dug-out, succeeded in grasping the top of the deep-sea mooring. Then, with the other hand, he raised the board, and transferred it to the gunwale. Sitting upon the improvised seat with his back to the bow, he expressed satisfaction at facing his companion, for one thing, and at being out of the way of the fish in the canoe, for another. Coristine followed suit, and, when his plank was in position, said he felt something like old Woodruff in a small way.
"How is that?" asked the inquisitive dominie.
"He's a director in ever so many institutions, and is always out, sitting on boards. I have only one so far; as Shakespeare says, it's a poor one, but mine own."
"Tut, tut," replied his disgusted friend; "more desecration."
Nevertheless he smiled, as a thought came into his mind, and he remarked that the vessel was rather a small concern to have two boards of direction; to which the lawyer answered that it was no worse off in that respect than the Province of Quebec, or the Church, or the universities, which could not trust one governing body to do their work.
"I have another, a large fish," shouted the schoolmaster, wildly excited and rising to his feet. The fish pulled hard up stream till the whole extent of line and rod combined was out at arm's length. Eager to secure the prey, and thinking nothing of the precarious foundation on which he stood, he placed a foot upon the gunwale in order to reach still farther out.
"Look out, Wilks!" cried Coristine, as he also rose and grasped an overhanging branch of the birch; but it was too late. The dug-out tipped, the boards slid into the water, and with them went the dominie, rod, fish, and all. When the canoe recovered its equilibrium, Wilkinson, minus his wide awake, which was floating down the stream, was seen apparently climbing the deep-sea mooring post, like a bear on a pole, his clothes dripping where they were out of the water, his hair plastered over his eyes, and his face flushed with anger. The lawyer could not restrain his mirth, although he knew the vengeance it would excite in the dominie's breast.
"O Wilks, Wilks, my poor drowned rat of a friend, ha! ha! ha! O Moses! but it's too comical you are; the nuns couldn't help it, Wilks, no, nor the undertaker's drum-major, nor a hired butler, even. Howld on, just one second more, till I'm fit to steady this divil of a dug-out for you to get in. If I only had a kodak, Wilks, you would be immortal, and the expenses of our trip would be paid. Oh, garrahow, ha! ha!"
The dominie climbed on to the bow of the dug-out, while Coristine balanced it, and made his silent way to the shore end, from which he gained the bank. There he shook himself like a Newfoundland dog, and brushed the wet hair out of his eyes. He muttered a great deal, but said nothing loud enough to be intelligible; his tone, however, was far from reassuring to his companion. The lawyer unmoored the dug-out at both ends, and set forth to recover the missing articles. He found the hat and the two boards on the shore, a short way down the river, and, in the middle of the stream, recaptured the fishing-rod. To his great delight, the fish was still on the hook, and he imparted the joyful news to his shivering friend, but got no single word in reply. It was another salmon trout, or pickerel, or some such fish, and he deposited it gleefully in the bottom of the canoe with the others, which had not escaped in the tip-over. Returning, he handed Wilkinson his hat, and hoped he was none the worse of his ducking. The schoolmaster took the wide-awake, but gave no answer. Then the lawyer invited him to take his place in the boat, when the storm burst.
"Am I a fool, Mr. Coristine, an abject, unthinking, infatuated fool, to entrust my comfort, my safety, my life, to a man without the soul of a man, to a childish, feeble-minded, giggling and guffawing player of senseless, practical jokes, to a creature utterly wanting in heart, selfish and brutal to a degree?"
"Oh, Wilks, my dear boy, this is too bad. I had nothing in the mortal world to do with your tumbling out of the old dug-out, 'pon my honour I hadn't."
"Kindly keep your silence, sir, and do not outrage my sufficiently harrowed feelings by adding worse to bad. I shall go to the inn on terra firma, and leave you in charge of what you seem so able to manage in your own clownish, pantomimic way. Be good enough to bring my fish, and do not distinguish yourself by upsetting them into their native element." With these words, and in great apparent scorn, the draggled dominie took his course along the bank and soon disappeared from view. The lawyer followed in the canoe, but more slowly, as the current was against him, and often turned the boat round. By dint of strenuous efforts he gained the bridge, and found the supposed Ben leaning over it.
"I see you've drownded your man," he remarked with a laugh.
"Yes," replied Coristine; "we had a spill."
"Had any luck?"
"Pretty fair," the lawyer answered, exhibiting his treasures.
"Perch, and chub, and shiners, and them good-for-nawthun tag ends of all creation, suckers."
"Is that what they are?" asked the disappointed fisherman, holding up the spoil of Wilkinson's rod.
"That's jest what they are, flabby, bony, white-livered, or'nary suckers. Niggers and Injuns won't touch 'em, ony in the spring; they'd liefer eat mudcats."
The lawyer tied his dug-out to the stake, while Ben, who informed him that his name was Toner, got a willow twig with a crotch at the thick end, and strung his fish on it through the gills.
"I guess you'd better fire them suckers into the drink," he said, but Coristine interposed to save them from such a fate.
"They are my friend's catch," he said, "and I'll let him do what he likes with them."
Then, attended by Mr. Toner, carrying the string of fish, suckers included, he bent his steps towards the Maple Inn.
When they arrived, they found Madame standing in the doorway. She admired the fish, and complimented Coristine on his success. He, however, disclaimed most of them in favour of his friend, for whose health and whereabouts he enquired with much earnestness.
"Ze pauvre Meestare Veelkeensen retires himselfa in ze chomber to shongje his vet habillement vit datta o' Pierre. I 'opes he catcha no cold."
"Better mix him a hot drink, Madame," said Mr. Toner.
"I 'ave fear, Ben, you lofe too moch hot dreenks," replied Madame.
"That's jest where you're out, Missus; I take my little tods cold."
"Hot or cold, you take nossing in our salon."
"Naw, not so long as I can get better stuff, real white wheat that ain't seen the water barl."
The lawyer noticed this unguarded saying of Toner's, but this did not hinder his asking if Madame had hot water, and could mix some real Irish punch for his afflicted friend. Madame had no Irish, but she had some good Scotcha veesky, which Coristine said would do, only, instead of Irish punch, the mixture would be Scotch toddy. The toddy procured, he sprang up-stairs, two steps at a time, meeting Monsieur Lajeunesse, descending with an armful of wet clothes. Bursting into the room to which the dominie had been led, he found him on a chair drying himself by detachments. Already his upper man had been rubbed by Pierre, and clothed with a shirt, vest and velveteen coat from his wardrobe. Now he was polishing his nether extremities with a towel, preparatory to adding a pair of gaudy striped trousers to his borrowed gear. Striding up to him with a ferocious air, the lawyer presented the smoking glass, exclaiming: "Drink this down, Wilks, or I'll kill you where you sit."
"What is it?" feebly asked the schoolmaster, feeling the weakness of his kilted position.
"It's toddy, whiskey toddy, Scotch whiskey toddy, the only thing that'll save your life," cried Coristine, with firmness amounting to intimidation. The dominie sipped the glass, stirred it with the spoon, and gradually finished the mixture. Then, laying the tumbler on the table beside his watch and pocketbook, he finished his rubbing-down, and encased his legs in Pierre's Sunday trousers. As he turned up the latter, and pulled on a pair of his own socks, he remarked to his friend that he felt better already, and was much obliged to him for the toddy.
"Don't mention it, my boy, I'm so glad it's done you good."
"I fear, Corry, that I was hasty and unjust to you when I came out of the water."
"Oh well, Wilks darlin', let us say no more about it, or, like the late Mr. William Basse, I'll for my past offences weep. I don't know what it is exactly you're like now. If you had the faytures, you would do for one of the Peoplesh. You and the grinstun man could hunt in couples. With a billy cock-hat on the side of your head, you'd make a sporting gent. Are you feeling pretty well, Wilks, as far as the clothes will let you?"
"Yes; I am all right again, I think."
"Then I must damp the ardour of ingenuous youth,
And dash the cup of joy to earth Ere it be running o'er.
Wilks, prepare yourself for a blow."
"Quick, Corry, make no delay—has the colonel fallen from his horse? Has his niece accepted Mr. Rawdon?"
"No; my dear friend, but those big fish, one of which you risked your precious life after, are—suckers. Ben Toner wanted to fire them into the drink, but I restrained his sucker-cidal hand. You seem to bear the news with resignation."
The lawyer accompanied his resuscitated friend down stairs. The velveteen waistcoat exhibited an ample shirt-front, and had pockets with flaps like the coat. The dominie's own blue and yellow silk handkerchief was tied in a sailor's knot round a rakish collar, that compromised between a turn-down and a stand-up; and his nether garments began with the dark and light blue broad-striped trousers and ended in a large pair of felt slippers, admirable footgear, no doubt, for seasons of extreme cold. Thus attired, Wilkinson occupied the sitting-room, and returned to the study of Alphonse Karr. Mr. Toner had left the string of fish by the door, where it was quite safe. There seemed to be no boys, no dogs, no cats, about the quiet Beaver River. Once in a long while, a solitary figure might be perceived going to or returning from the store. The only possible thief of the fish would have been a stray mink or otter prospecting for a new home, unless, indeed, Madame's fowls had escaped from the poultry yard. Coristine brought the string to his disguised companion, just as the hostess arrived to enquire after his health and renew the French conversation. Having replied politely to her questions, the schoolmaster expressed his regret that the fish were so poor and especially that he had been deceived in the "suceurs." Madame did not comprehend, and said "Plait il?" whereupon he called his friend near and pointed out the offending fish. "Aw oui, M'syae, ce sont des mulets de l'eau douce, un petit peu trop tawrd dons la saison, autrement un morceau friaund." Then she proceeded to say that the smaller fish could be cooked for supper, "comme les eperlans de law baw," pointing with her finger eastward, to designate, by the latter words, the Gulf of St. Lawrence. She would boil the mullets, if Monsieur did not object, and give them to the fowls; did Monsieur take an interest in fowls? Generously the dominie handed over all the fish, through Coristine, for Madame to do what she liked with, and expressed an interest in various descriptions of poultry, the names of which he was entirely ignorant of. The interview over, he returned to his book, and the lawyer went to look for his civil acquaintance, Mr. Toner. Him he found on the bridge, and in a somewhat sulky humour, apparently by no means pleased at being sought out. Not wishing to intrude, Coristine made an excuse for his appearance in the bits of board, which he professed to have forgotten to take out of the dug-out. "That sort of lumber don't count for much in these parts," remarked Ben, suspiciously, and his intending companion retired, feeling that, though a limb of the law, he was a miserable sham.
While in the chamber which witnessed the dominie's transformation, the lawyer had perceived that its window commanded the bridge and the adjoining parts of the river. Leaving his friend in the enjoyment of his book, he ascended to the room, and watched like a detective. Soon he saw a waggon roll up to the bridge, and, almost simultaneously, a large punt in which was Ben Toner, come from nowhere. Three bundles of apparent grindstones were laboriously conveyed from the waggon to the punt, after which the waggon went back and the punt went forward, both becoming lost to sight in the foliage of road and river. Once more the bell of the Maple Inn sounded loudly, to inform the general public that the hour of six had arrived, and to summon guests to the early supper. Descending to the sitting-room, the amateur detective found his friend there, and escorted him, with much unnecessary formality, to the tea table. The fish were there, betrayed, even afar off, by their not unpleasant odour, and there also was an attractive looking ham, flanked by plates of hot cakes and other evidences of culinary skill on Madame's part. She poured out a good cup of tea for the table quartette, while Pierre aided in distributing the solids. The conversation turned on fish, and, as before, the dominie spoke French to the hostess, while M. Lajeunesse made the lawyer acquainted with some piscatorial exploits of Mr. Bulky. Mr. Bulky had once been upset from the canoe, but, unlike Mr. Wilkinson, he could not swim. The case might have been a very serious one, destructive to the reputation of L'Erable ("zatta ees maybole in ze Fraynsh langwitch," the host explained) and of city visits to the Beaver River.
"How was he saved?" enquired the lawyer.
"He vas save by potting 'is foot to ze bottom," replied the host.
"I've heard of a man putting a stone on his head and walking through a river under water, but haven't believed it yet," continued Coristine.
"He had not necessity of a stone; 'is head was op; ze rivare vas not so 'igh zan ze jouldares of Meestare Bulky," answered Pierre quite seriously.
"Then he saved himself?"
"No, sare, 'is foot save 'im; Meestare Bulky 'ave a veray 'eavy foot. Eef 'is foot hadda been also leetle as ze foot of M'syae, Meestare Bulky vould 'ave drown."
Madame's sharp ears overheard this conversation while carrying on that with Wilkinson, and broke in upon her erring spouse:—
"Teh twa, Pierre! c'n'est paw trop poli d'se moquer des pieds d'un bon pawtron."
"Mez, Angelique, mwa, me moquer, mwa? et de M'syae Bulky? Aw, ma bonne Angelique, fi donc!" and M. Lajeunesse withdrew from the table, overwhelmed with the mere suspicion of such foul treachery and base ingratitude.
Batiste had put out three wooden arm chairs, and a rocker for Madame, on the verandah, whither the party of the tea table retired. Coristine asked her permission to smoke, when it appeared that Pierre had been waiting for a sign that either of his guests indulged in the weed. As he also filled his pipe, he remarked to his fellow smoker that "Meestare Bulky vare good shentleman, and rest 'ere longatimes, bot ze perfume of ze 'bonne pipe,' same of ze cigawr makea 'im seek."
"Does that interfere with your liberty to smoke?" Wilkinson asked.
"Aw, preciselly; zen most I go to ze stebble and tekka ze younga guestes zat smoke not in chombres bouchees, vat you call zat?"
"Literally, it means corked," replied the dominie; "but I presume you mean, with door and window closed, as it were, hermetically sealed."
"Preciselly; ve 'ave ze vord in ze Fraynsh langwitch, eremitique, zat ees as a religious oo leeves all alone, vis person zere bot 'imselluf. I tekka ze guestes zat lofe not ze eremitique life to ze stebble, vare ve smale ze stingy tawbawc of Bawtiste. M'syae parle Francea, meh peutehtre ne conneh le tawbawc puant, en Anglah stingy, de Bawtiste. C'n'est paws awgreable, M'syae. Aw, non, paw de tout, je vous asshere!"
"That is very considerate of you," remarked the schoolmaster, approvingly. "I wish all users of the narcotic were as mindful of the comfort and health of their neighbours. Regard for the feelings of others is perhaps the chief distinguishing mark of a gentleman."
"Meestare Bulky ees a shentleman, bot he 'ave no sharitay for smokinga men," replied Pierre, ruefully.
"That's where the shoe pinches, not your feet, Wilks," said the lawyer, with a laugh. "You could touch bottom, like Mr. Bulky, with these gunboats, but on all your privileged classes. Why should Bulky bulk so large in any place of entertainment as to send everybody else to a stable? Catch me smoking with that old garlic-perfumed Batiste! How about the garlic, and peppermint, and musk, and sauer-kraut, and all the other smells. Any smells about Mr. Bulky, Pierre?"
"Aw yehs; 'ees feeshing goat smale, aw, eet smale an' smale of som stoff he call ass-afeetiter, ze feesh liike ze smale, bot I am not a feesh."
"See that now, Wilks. This selfish pig of a Bulky, as Monsieur says, has no charity. He drives clean, wholesome smoke out of the hotel, and stinks the place up with as nasty a chemical mixture as disgusting science ever invented. He reminds me of a Toronto professor of anatomy who wouldn't allow the poor squeamish medicals to smoke in the dissecting room, because, he said, one bad smell was better than two. If I had my way with Bulky I'd smoke him blue in the face, if for nothing but to drown his abominable assafoetida, the pig!"
"Aw, non, M'syae," interrupted Pierre, to protect the idol of the Maple Inn; "Meestare Bulky ees not a peeg, but assafeetiter is vorse zan a peeg-stye. N'est ce paw, Angelique?"
"I 'ave no vord to say of M'syae Bulky," replied Madame, taking up her mending and entering the house. She was at once recalled to the verandah by a juvenile voice that called "Mrs. Latchness!" The speaker soon appeared in the person of a small boy, about twelve years old, who, hatless, coatless, and shoeless, ran up from the river bank. "Vat you vant vis me, Tommee?" asked Madame. "I come from Widder Toner's—Ben's dyin', she says, and can't move a stir. She wants to know if they's anybody here as knows anything about doctorin', and, she says, hurry awful quick!" cried the breathless youngster.
"I 'ear you spick of medical, M'syae Coristine; do you know it? Can you 'elp ze pauvre vidow?" asked Madam.
"It's mighty little I know, Madame, but I'll go. Wait till I get my flask," said the lawyer, going after his knapsack in the sitting room. Returning, he handed it to the hostess with the request that she would fill it with the best, and add any remedy she had in the house. Soon she came out of the railed-off bar with a filled flask and a bottle of St. Jacob's Oil. Pocketing them both, the lawyer said, "Come on, Tommy," and, with his guide, set out for Widow Toner's.
Ben's Sudden Sickness—The Spurious Priest—Coristine as Doctor—Saved by the Detective—Anxiety at the Maple—A Pleasant Evening—Sunday Morning and Ben—The Lawyer Rides—Nash and the Dominie Talk Theology on the Road—At the Talfourds—Miss Du Plessis the Real—The False Meets Mr. Rawdon—Mr. Terry and Wilkinson at the Kirk.
"What is the matter with Ben?" asked Coristine, as they single-filed along the narrow path by the river.
"He's tumbled down over some grindstones, and hurt himself, and fainted right away," replied the youthful Tommy, pulling up handfuls of tall grass and breaking an occasional twig from a bush as he stumbled along.
"What are you to the Toners?"
"I ain't nuthun' to the Toners."
"How did you come to be their messenger, then?"
"I was runnin' to the farm to tell the widder that the priest was comin', when she come out cryin' and sent me off. Guess the priest's there by now."
"What priest is it you saw?"
"I didn't see no priest. Old Mum Sullivan, she saw him, and sent and told mother to tell widder Toner, 'cos she's a Roman, too. She said it was a new priest, not Father McNaughton, the old one, and she guessed he was all right, but she didn't like his looks as well as t'other's."
"Then you are not a Roman."
"Naw, what are you givin' us? I play a fife on the Twelfth."
"Oh, you are an Orangeman?"
"Yum, Young Briton, same thing."
"So, you Orangemen run to help the Roman Catholics when they are sick or want to know if the priest is coming, and then, on the Twelfth, you feel like cutting each other's throats."
"I don't want to cut nobody's throat, but we've got to sass 'em on the Twelfth to keep up the glorious, pious and immortal memory, and to whistle 'em down 'The Protestant Boys.' We've got three fifes and three drums in our lodge."
After more of this edifying conversation, the pair arrived at a clearing on the river, containing a house and some out buildings, not far from its bank. These communicated by a private road with the public one, which crossed the stream about an eighth of a mile farther on. Turning the corner of the barn, Coristine saw a gray-haired woman, and a clean shaven man in clerical garb, leaning over the prostrate figure of Ben.
"Are you a doctor, sir?" asked the tearful woman, rising and coming towards him.
"Not exactly, Ma'am," replied the lawyer; "but perhaps I may be of use."
He then leaned over the sick man, and saw that he not only breathed, but had his eyes open upon the world in quite a sensible way. "What is the matter?" he asked the reverend gentleman, who was also contemplating the recumbent Toner.
"He says his back is sore, paralyzed, and that he can't move a limb," replied the priest in an unprofessional tone.
"How did it happen, Mr. Toner?" enquired the lawyer; and Ben, in a feebly and husky voice, replied:—
"I was rollin' quite a loaud on the slaant, when I got ketched with a back sprain, and the loaud slipped and knocked me down, and rolled over my stummick. That's all."
"Quite enough for one time," said Coristine; "is there such a thing as a loose door, or some boards we can make into a stretcher, anywhere about?" Ben called to his mother to show the doctor where the door was that he was going to put on the hen-yard. This was soon found, and, a blanket or two being laid upon it, the clergyman and the improvised doctor transferred the groaning patient to it, and so carried him into the house, where they undressed him and put him to bed on his face. "Say, doctor, I'll choke like this," came from the bed in the sick man's muffled voice, to the lawyer, who was ordering the widow to get some hot water and provide herself with towels or cotton cloths. "No you won't, Toner; turn your head to one side," he called. "That's better," remarked the patient, as he took advantage of the permission, and then continued: "I'd like ef you'd call me Ben, doctor, not Toner; seems as ef I'd git better sooner that way." Coristine answered, "All right, Ben," and withdrew to a corner with the priest for consultation. "What's the matter?" asked the priest, in a businesslike, unsympathetic tone.
"So, you give me back my question. Well, as the water will be some time getting ready, and it will do our man no harm to feel serious for a few minutes more, I'll go into it with your reverence homeopathically. The root of his trouble is a whiskey back. That accidentally led to a muscular strain, involving something a little more paralyzing than lumbago. He has no bones broken in that strong frame of his, but the grindstones have bruised him abdominally. I hope my treatment for the root of the disease will be more successful than that of the oriental physician, who prescribed for a man that had a pain in his stomach, caused by eating burnt bread. The physician anointed him with eye salve, because he said the root of the disease lay in his eyes; had they been all right, he would not have eaten the burnt bread, and consequently would not have had the pains."
The priest chuckled beneath his breath over the story; then, with earnestness, asked, or rather whispered: "Will he get well soon?"
"Well enough, I think, to sit up in half-an-hour," replied the doctor of the moment.
"My dear sir, may I ask you to delay your treatment until I perform a religious office with your patient? This is a favourable time for making an impression," said the hitherto callous priest.
"Certainly, Father, only be short, for he is suffering physically, and worse from apprehension."
"I shall require all persons, but the one to whom I give the comforts of religion, to leave the room," called the priest aloud.
"It isn't the unction, Father?" cried Ben, piteously.
"Oh, doctor, the boy's not going to die?" besought the mother, at the boiler on the stove.
"I can answer for his reverence and myself," replied the lawyer; "he will not administer the last rites of the Church to the living, nor will I let my patient die."
Then he and the widow retired, as the priest took out a book, knelt by the bedside, and opened it. The reverend gentleman, however, was in too great a hurry to begin, and too little sensible how far his penetrating voice would carry, for, at the first words of the prayer, Coristine made an indignant start and frowned terribly. The words he heard were, "Oratio pro sickibus, in articulo mortis, repentant shouldere omnes transgressores et confessionem makere——"
He felt inclined to rush in and turn the impudent impostor and profaner of the sacred office out of the house neck and crop, especially as the poor mother took him by the arm, and, with broken voice through her tears, said: "O, doctor, doctor, it's the last words he's taking!" But his legal training acted as a check on his impetuosity, and, standing where he was, he answered the grief-stricken woman: "Never fear, Mrs. Toner, you and I will pull him through," which greatly comforted the widow's heart.
Five minutes passed by Coristine's watch, and then he determined to stand the nonsense no longer. He coughed, stamped his feet, and finally walked in at the door, followed by the widow. The pseudo priest was sitting on a chair now, listening to the penitent's confidences. "Time is up," said the lawyer fiercely, and the impostor arose, resumed his three-cornered black wideawake, pocketed his book, which really was a large pocket book full of notes in pencil, and expressed his regret at leaving, as he had another family, a very sad case, to visit that night. As he passed Coristine, the latter refused his proffered hand and hissed in his ear: "You are the most damnable scoundrel I ever met, and I'll serve you out for this with the penitentiary." The masquerader grinned unclerically, his back being to the other occupants of the house, and whispered back, "Not much you won't, no nor the halfpenny tentiary either; bye-bye!"
"How are you feeling, Ben?" the lawyer asked the sick man, as he approached his bedside.
"Powerful weak and so-er," replied the patient.
Coristine called the mother, poured some St. Jacob's Oil into the palm of her hand, and bade her rub down her son's back at the small. "Rub hard!" he said; and she rubbed it in. Three or four more doses followed, till the back was a fine healthy colour.
"How does that work, Ben?"
"It smarts some, but I can wriggle my back a bit."
Then the doctor poured some whiskey out of his flask in the same way and it was applied.
"Do you think you can turn round now?" he asked; and, at once, the patient revolved, lying in a more convenient and seemly position.
"Bring the hot clothes, Mrs. Toner, and lay them on the bruised part, as hot as he can stand it. The patient growled a little when the clothes were abdominally applied, one after the other, but they warmed him up, and even, as he said, 'haylped his back.'"
"Now, Ben, when did you take whiskey last?"
"I ain't had nary a drop the hull of this blessed day."
"Is that true?"
"Gawspel truth, doctor, so haylp me."
"If you don't promise me to quit drinking, I can do nothing for you."
"But he will promise, doctor; won't you now, Benny dear?" eagerly asked the mother.
"Yaas!" groaned the sufferer, with a new hot cloth on him; "yaas; I guess I'll have to."
Then, the perfidious doctor emptied his flask into a glass, and poured in enough oil to disguise its taste. Adding a little water, he gave the dose as medicine to the unconscious victim, who took it off manfully, and naturally felt almost himself again.
"Have you plenty coal-oil in the house, Mrs. Toner?" enquired the family physician; and the widow replied that she had. "Rub the afflicted parts with it, till they will absorb no more; then let him sleep till morning, when he can get up and go about light work. But, mind, there's to be no lifting of heavy weights for three days, and no whiskey at all."
With these words, Coristine received the woman's warm expressions of gratitude, and departed.
Tommy had gone, so the lawyer had to go back to the Inn alone, and in the dark. He turned the barn, before which one bundle of grindstones still lay, the one, apparently, that had floored Ben. Then he made his way along a path bordered with dewy grass, that did not seem quite familiar, so that he rejoiced when he arrived at the road and the bridge. But, both road and bridge were new to him, and there was no Maple Inn. He now saw that he had taken the wrong turning at the barn, and was preparing to retrace his steps, when a sound of approaching wheels and loud voices arrested him. On came the waggons, three in number, the horses urged to their utmost by drunken drivers, in whom he recognized the men that he and Wilkinson had met before they took the road to the Inn. Coristine was standing on the road close by the bridge as they drove up, but, as the man with the first team aimed a blow at him with his whip, he drew back towards the fence. "Shoot the d——d spy, boys," the ruffian cried to the fellows behind him, and, as they slacked their speed, the lawyer jumped the fence to put some solid obstacle between himself and their revolvers, which, he knew, they were only too ready to use. At that moment a horseman rode towards the party from the other side of the bridge, and, while aiming a blow with a stout stick at the first scoundrel, a blow that was effectual, called to the others, in a voice of authority, to put up their pistols "O Lord, boys, it's Nash; drive on," called one, and they whipped up their patient animals and rattled away in a desperate hurry. "You can come out now, Mr. Coristine," said the horseman; "the coast is clear."
"You have the advantage of me, sir," remarked the lawyer, as he vaulted back again into the road.
"No I have not," replied the other; "you called me a damnable scoundrel, and threatened me with the penitentiary, a little while ago. How's Toner?"
"I am obliged for your interference just now on my behalf, but must decline any intercourse with one who has been guilty of what I regard as most dishonourable conduct, profaning the sacred name of religion in order to compass some imfamous private end."
"My ends, Mr. Coristine, are public, not private, nor are they infamous, but for the good of the community and the individuals composing it. I know your firm, Tylor, Woodruff and White, and your firm knows me, Internal Revenue Detective Nash."
"What! are you the celebrated Mr. Nash of the Penetang Bush Raid?" asked the lawyer, curiosity, and admiration of the man's skill and courage, overcoming his aversion to the latest detective trick.
"The same at your service, and, as the best thing I can do for you is to take you to your Inn, a dry way out of the dew, you can get on my beast, and I'll walk for a rest," replied the detective, alighting.
Coristine was tired, so, after a little pressing, he accepted the mount, and, of course, found it impossible to refuse his confidence to the man whose horse he was riding.
"What did you do with your clerical garb?" he asked.
"Have it on," replied Nash; "it's a great make up. This coat of black cord has a lot of turned up and turned down tag ends, the same with the vest, and the soft hat can be knocked into any shape with a dift of the fist. With these, and three collars, and moustache, beard, and whiskers, that I carry in my pocket, I can assume half-a-dozen characters and more."
"How do you justify your assumption of the priestly character?"
"I want information, and assume any character to get it, in every case being guilty of deception. You think my last role unjustifiable because of the confessional. Had I simulated a Methodist parson, or a Presbyterian minister, or a Church of England divine, you would have thought much less of it; and yet, if there is any bad in the thing, the one is as bad as the other. Personally, I regard the confessional as a piece of superstitious ecclesiastical machinery, and am ready to utilize it, like any other superstition, for the purpose of obtaining information. Talk about personating the clergy; I have even been bold enough to appear as a lawyer, a quaker, a college professor, a sailor, and an actress."
"You have certainly led me to modify my opinion of your last performance."
"Which nearly gave me away. So you won't send me to the penitentiary; thanks! And now, as I said at first, how's Toner?"
"Oh, Toner's all right, with the fieriest skin on him that ever lay between two sheets. He has promised to give up drinking."
"It's very likely he'll have to."
"They don't allow refreshments so strong in gaol."
"Be as easy as you can with the poor fellow, Mr. Nash."
"All depends on his future behaviour, and, in some other capacity, I shall let him know his danger."
As the two figures came down the road toward the Inn, a voice hailed them, the voice of the dominie. "Is Mr. Coristine there?" it shouted.
"Yes; here am I," came from the back of the horse.
"What bones are broken or wounds received?" was the pitiful but correct question.
"Not a bone nor a wound. Mr. Nash has treated me to a ride."
"Aw ca!" ejaculated Pierre, "M'syae Nasha homme treh subtil, treh ruse, conneh tout le monde, fait pear aux mauveh sujah."
"What is he?" asked the schoolmaster, speaking English, in his eagerness; and the landlord replied in the same.
"Ee is vat you call detecteur, police offisare vis no close on 'im. Anysing vas to go in ze custom house and goes not, he find it out. O, a veray clevaire mann!"
Coristine dismounted for the purpose of introducing his companion. Personally, he would as readily have performed this office on horseback, but he knew that the schoolmaster was a stickler for ceremony. While the introduction was going on, Pierre took Mr. Nash's horse by the bridle, and led the procession home. There, Madame stood in the porch eagerly waiting for news of "ce jeune homme si courageux, si benveillont," and was delighted to hear that he was safe, and that Mr. Nash, an old acquaintance, was with him. When the party entered the house, Wilkinson looked at the detective, and then, with a start, said: "Why, you are Dowling, the Dowling who came to the Sacheverell Street School, with a peremptory letter from the trustees, to take the lower division boys, and disappeared in ten days."