"I told Ma and Pa a lot about you, and Pa says he'd like to know you. He's great on people what has a lot to put up with, and don't shout about it. And Ma she looks at Dolly, and says, 'God bless her,' meaning you.
"Jimmy Duggan, you remember I told you all about him, he wants to bring in some bills when the Provincial House meets, and he says to ask your father and the boys to think something up, because he says the city people have so many crazy schemes he's afraid to try anything for them. So ask them, please.
"My feet are tired chasing letters to you know who for Mister Whimple. She's a fine lady though, and I hope the boss will marry her. When I took a note up yesterday, she was talking to me about my visit, so I told her a lot of things I thought she's like and about your brother George going courting, and she says, 'It's a terrible thing this love, William,' and I asked her does she suffer much from it. So she blushes awful red, and looked prettier than ever, and says kind of like she didn't remember I was around, 'Most women do—most women do, and I never really knew until now what love was.' Now what do you think of that, and her married once before! Mister Simmons, he's Lucien's boss, he says her husband was an awful booze fighter right till he died, and my Pa says there ain't any man yet that's ever been able to win a fight against booze so long as he's willing to let booze get into his inwards.
"I guess this letter will make you awful tired, specially if it's a hot day, but there's seems to be so much I'd like to tell you. You remember the old man I told you about that I collect rent from, the fellow that has rheumatics. He's getting quite chummy with me now. I was there the other day, and he hardly swore at all. He says he's sorry he's wasted so many good cuss words on me when he's got so many relatives waiting for him to die so's they can get his money. Honest, the way he curses about those people is awful. I told Tommy Watson about him one day, and Tommy says the Good Book is dead against wasting anything. A man like that, he says, could make a great hit by saving all his curses for one year, and then letting them loose on one of the people he don't love. Whoever got them would never forget, and they'd think more of Mister Jonas than they do with him throwing curses around as though they were cheaper than newspapers.
"Tommy's got a great set of hired help in his store. One of them's from Aberdeen, and the other from London, England, and you ought to hear them. Say, they're fighting all the time about the battle of Bannock-Burn, a million years ago or so. I butted in one day, and says, 'Well, ain't that battle over long ago?' and I got what was coming to me all right, just like butters-in usually does. They got me in a corner and talked at me for half an hour straight. When one would stop to draw his breath, the other would go on talking. I began to feel sick—real sick—no joking, and all of a sudden I burst out laughing. I don't know what for, I didn't want to laugh, I felt more like crying, but, by ginger, I couldn't stop. I laughed, and laughed, and then some more, and the tears were running down my cheeks all the time, and I was rolling around like I had wheels for feet. So those two ninnies began to look solemn, and the Englishman shook me a bit, but I couldn't stop. Then he began to snicker like a chump, and first thing he knew he was hanging over one of Tommy's bargain bedsteads just laughing, laughing, laughing, though it was more like crying too. The Scotchman started next, and every time he laughed he rolled into something until he fell on the floor and just lay there laughing.
"I suppose we'd be laughing yet or else dead of it, only Tommy came in. He took one look around and his face got awful white. He asked me something, but I could only sputter, then he tried the Scotchman, but he only rolled some more—gee! it makes me giggle to think of it. So Tommy rushed to the 'phone and called up a doctor, and then he ran out of the store and got a cop, and when he gets him in he says to the cop, 'They're dying,' and the cop says, 'Like blazes they're dying,' he says. So that got me going worse than ever, and the cop was beginning to snicker too. So he pulls out his baton and he yells out, 'I'll knock the block off the first yap that lets out another laugh,' and he gives the Englishman a poke in the slats to show he meant it. And you bet we quit on the spot. Me, I made a grand sneak the minute I found I could stand straight, and just as I'm getting out, in rushes a doctor. Tommy told me after he had to give the doctor four dollars, but the money was nothing to the way he sweated trying to explain.
"The next time I write I hope it'll be better written. I've found a place where I can take night lessons three times a week in history and reading and writing, and you bet I'm taking them.
"With best wishes to everybody and hoping George is getting along all right with his courting.
"W. A. T.
"P.S.—Lucien is showing me how to box every chance we get."
William deliberately omitted from his letter a conversation with Miss Whimple regarding Sally. He had made a special journey to see the lady because he remembered hearing her say something about wonderful cures at a certain hospital to the work of which she had given time and money. She heard him through, touched by the depth of his feeling for the sufferer, and promised to make inquiries of the surgical staff as to what could be done.
"Don't be too hopeful, William," she said, kindly, "they cannot really tell until they see the patient. But they've done almost everything except furnish new spines; and goodness knows there are many people who ought to have them if they could be made. There are too many jellyfish men and women in the world to-day, William."
Reformations are slow—except when they're sudden. Some reformations—of individuals as well as nations—have followed upon years of effort, toil, and suffering: others have been materially accelerated by the use of the axe. William's acquaintance with the axe was limited to its use as an instrument for occasional spells of firewood-chopping: but at heart he was a reformer, and, unlike most reformers—judging them, of course, by the doubtful value of histories—he started upon himself. Tenacity was William's greatest asset; when he adopted a line of action he "stayed with it," to use his own expressive phraseology. Having found the place spoken of in the letter to Sally, where he could take night lessons in history, reading, and writing, William became an attentive and consistent attendant. Tommy Watson and Whimple were fearful lest he should undertake too much, finally tire of everything, and lapse into a drifter. Epstein ridiculed their fears and scorned their arguments. "Leave the boy alone," he said, "he knows what he wants, and he'll get it."
There were glorious nights when William longed for a trip on the Bay to the Island, or an hour's loafing in the parks, but when the longing took possession of him on lesson nights he fought it down with firmness, and he usually won. He confided in Epstein occasionally, and the wise old comedian let him talk as long as he wished about it, offering no suggestions or advice. He never went beyond, "Well done, boy," or "Stick to it," but to himself he often said, "He'll do; he'll do."
William neglected his lessons occasionally, as, for instance, once, in the first week of September, but it was in a good cause. He thus explained it to Lucien. "You shoulder seen the Turnpike bunch at the exhibition yesterday."
"So that's where you were. Mr. Whimple said he understood you were engaged on important private business matters."
"Well, he ain't far wrong the way I look at it."
"And were you——?"
"Yes," broke in William, "I was around when the lion broke outer the wild beast show—I'm coming to that soon. Pa took the whole bunch of us: he's been taking the whole family since I can remember, and we always have a good time.
"Well, of course it takes Ma about two hours to get the bunch ready—say, ain't kids the worst! I suppose she must have washed off Joey's and Bessie's face four times before we got started. After the second or third time, Pa takes 'em upstairs and makes 'em lie on the bed until the army is ready to advance. 'I've heard about machines for washin' dishes,' he says, 'but it takes a pair of hands and a lot of soap for washin' kiddies' faces, and hands is liable to get tired, so there you stays until Ma's had a chance to get cleaned up,' and they stayed.
"Well, we gets to the grounds about eleven o'clock, and all us kids had a lunch in a box, or a bag, or something, and Ma and Pa had two big baskets fuller grub besides. You'd thought there was enough to last a week. As soon as we gets inside, Pete says he's hungry, he's afraid he can't walk none unless he has something to eat right away. Pete always lays for the grub, you bet. So Pa he lets on he's considering something, but we all know what it is, because he's played it on us before, and he winds up by taking us down to a swell lunch place near the lake. Honest, it's as clean nearly as our house, and there's mighty few houses that's cleaner. So when Bill Thomson—the man what runs it—sees us coming, he looks mighty solemn, and we all knew what he's going to say, and he says it. 'Ah,' he says, 'there's the Turnpikes what's going to drink up me last drop of tea and all me gingerbeer. Well'—and then he heaves a great sigh—'let 'em come—let 'em all come: it'll ruin me, I know, but somebody always has-ter go under.'
"And Pa says to him to 'cheer up, and how's business?'
"So Bill says it's rotten! the worst in years. So far as he can see he ain't even going to pay expenses, and he wishes he'd let the thing alone. And Pa don't say anything then, but when we've eaten till we can't eat any more, specially Pete, Pa says to Ma, 'Bill Thomson's been runnin' that lunch counter for twenty years, to my knowledge, and he's never made anything on it, to hear him talk. But I notice he's got three nice houses all his own, and a fine trotting horse, and him an express man, too, and I'll bet he ain't got all the money for them houses outer the express business,' he says.
"'It's a good business, though,' says Ma.
"And Pa says, 'You bet it is, Ma, it's been good to us anyway.'
"Say, maybe my Pa don't know where to take folks at the exhibition. There's mighty little we didn't see, I'm tellin' you; and chirpin' all the while Pa was too. He's better than a minstrel show to go anywhere with, my Pa is; he'd make even you laugh, Lucien. Well, anyway, along about four o'clock Pa thinks we'd better see oner two of the shows in the midway, so's we can get another meal in good time to see the night doings in fronter the grand stand. So, us to the midway, and we ain't more than half in when we runs across the wild beast show. There's a cage on the platform in front of the show, with a pretty fierce lookin' lion in it, and the spieler he's telling the folks how this lion has eaten four or five people, and he ain't never been sub-dued. 'But,' he says, 'Seenor'r Dan-rell-o will go into his cage at every performance,' he says, 'at the peril of his life.'
"So, a young fellow what's listenin', he says kinder flip, 'Is the peril much?'
"So the showman says he ain't answerin' no fool questions, but if anybody what looks like they had brains is asking in-tell-i-gent questions, he's ready to answer 'em.
"So the young fellow—he's a husky lookin' chap—he says the show's a fake, and the man on the platform gives him a wipe over the head with a whip he had. Then you'd oughter have seen things happen. That young fellow's pal grabs the showman by the legs and pulls him down to the ground and proceeds to hammer him some. The crowd's kinder excited and shovin' around and saying things to each other without knowing what they're doing, when the young fellow what really starts the row lets out a yell you could hear a mile away, and the crowd hushes up kinder sudden; I guess everybody got cold chills down their backs all at once. While they're wondering what's coming next, the fellow puts out his hand and grabs the bars in front of the lion's cage, pulls two or three of them out, and gives that lion the awfullest punch right on the stomach; honest, Lucien, you could hear it like somebody pounding beefsteak to make it tender. Well, everybody comes to their senses, or else loses 'em again, whichever you like, all of a sudden, and the women that don't faint gets screechin', and the men are hollerin' for the police, and all except them as are laying in faints begins to run. We were pretty well up to the front, and when Pa sees the young fellow pull out the bars he turns kinder white. Then he grabs Dolly and Joey, and says to the rest of us, 'Vamoose ahead quick,' he says, 'though I don't think there's much danger,' and Ma don't say much, but she ain't trying to get far ahead of Pa and we keep turnin' around. At last Pa says, 'No more runnin',' he says, and he puts Dolly and Joey down, takes their hands, and begins to walk back towards the show just as a lot of cops came running up, and so we all go back, and there's that young fellow has the lion by the tail and he's whipping it to beat the band, and making it walk slow up the steps. So, by and by, when things get calmed down again, Pa finds out that them cage bars is wooden ones, and the lion's about forty years old, and honest, Lucien, all its teeth are false, and so's most of its claws, and just about all it can do is to roar and roll around enough to make it look fierce with red lights and all that around it when Seenor Dan-rell-o goes into the cage. Don't you believe the yarns the newspapers had about that fellow taking his life in his hands and all that. If the police hadn't stopped him he'd likely have taken the lion home and kept it for his kiddies to play with, if he's married.
"Well, Pa says they're ain't much sense paying to see the wild beast show after that, 'cause the best of it is on the outside. The next thing we run across was a show of trained horses. They had a trick mule outside to attract the crowds, and the spieler says the man, woman, or child what can stay on the mule's back one minute gets a dollar and a free ticket to the show. So we watched a few minutes and saw quite a few fellows try, and the mule threw every one before the minute was up. Pa he was kinder fidgetin' and snorting like he thought the triers was a poor bunch, and Ma she says kinder scared like, 'Let's go, Pa;' but Pa he steps forward, and he says low to the man will he let our bunch in if he stays on the mule's back a minute. The man he lets out a blast of a laugh, and he says, 'Ladies and gents,' he says, 'here's a man wants to take a children's home into the show free if he can stay on the mule a minute,' he says. 'Oh, gather round and see the fun—oh, gather round.' Pete, he's for rushing at the man, but I holds him back, for I see Pa's eyes, and I know that mule's going to be pretty miserable in a few seconds, and the man's going to be worse if he gets off any more of his chin about the family. Of course the mule stands as meek as a sheep while Pa gets on—them trick mules is trained to do that—and the crowd's waitin' for him to throw Pa up in the air, or roll him off, but the second Pa's on that mule's back his hands has a grip on his neck near the jaw, and, b'lieve me, Lucien, that mule began to turn white in the face. It seemed no time before the beast was kinder staggerin' around like a drunk man, and the spieler hollerin' for Pa to let go. 'You win,' he says, 'you win—get off—you can have everything you want. Dang it, man, you're killing that mule.'
"So Pa's pretty busy keeping his grip, but he says, 'I'm trying a new hold,' he says, 'and I'll try it on you next, unless you apol-o-gises.'
"So the man begs Pa's pardon, and ours, and Pa got off, and we all went into the show. It wasn't so bad at that either: any old day any wise guinea thinks he can put one over my Pa's he's stacking up some trouble for himself.
"Well, we had another meal then, and we ate so much that even Pete was nearly satisfied. He got through the rest of the night on three bags of peanuts, some pop-corn, and some grapes; but that's easy for Pete, he can eat until he begins to shed buttons off his clothes so fast you'd think it was raining. Then he'll go to school, or out to play, for an hour or so, and back he comes ready for more.
"We saw the grand stand show and the fireworks. Well, it's a pretty good grand stand show this year; but you've seen it, so what's the use spielin' about it? I'm glad I got off to go with the bunch, for I cert'nly had one swell time."
The day before the marriage of Flo Dearmore and Tommy Watson, the latter's assistants in his auctioneering rooms signed a formal and formidable looking agreement, framed by Whimple, and copied in duplicate by one William Adolphus Turnpike. It was William's first piece of typewriting for his boss, and he was mightily proud of it, for it was neatly done, so neatly done in fact that it did not need a single correction. And William's pride was the greater because he was asked to accompany Whimple to the store, there to witness the signing of the agreement. The ceremony was a solemn one—too solemn almost for William—whose efforts to maintain a dignified bearing were almost too much for Tommy. Whimple had no difficulty in maintaining the pose of a lawyer engaged in a serious case, while the assistants were too frightened to be anything else but soberly sheepish. The main clause of the agreement was read over twice, the assistants affirming in timid tones that they knew what it meant, and believed they had sense enough to live up to it. And it ran something like this:—
"And we the parties hereinbefore and hereinafter referred to as assistants to Thomas Watson, auctioneer of the said city of Toronto, County of York, do hereby solemnly agree and bind ourselves on our honour to respect such agreement; that we will not during the absence of the said Thomas Watson from his lawful place of business during the period of four weeks dating from the date of this agreement, to which in the presence of witnesses we have signed our names, discuss, argue, talk of, whisper, or shout in the presence of each other, or write or read in the presence of each other, anything relating in any manner to the Battle of Bannockburn or any other battle fought in or out of Scotland or England or elsewhere between armies or forces or individuals of either of the countries named. We also agree that we will not in the presence of each other, by actions or other show that might be so construed, attempt to convey each to the other any thoughts we may have as to such battle, or battles, or conflicts. And we further declare that we know and understand and comprehend the meaning of the foregoing in all respects, that we are over twenty-one years of age respectively, and are not subject to the control or permission of parents or guardians in entering into the agreement as set forth in the foregoing, and in the succeeding clauses of this agreement."
They signed both copies solemnly, William signed them too, as a witness, and so did Whimple. One copy was nailed to the wall at the back of the store, the other was given to Whimple, who was also given power of attorney by the auctioneer during the absence of Tommy on his honeymoon.
The first wedding that William Adolphus Turnpike ever attended as a guest was that of Tommy Watson and Flo Dearmore. The formal invitation was a startling surprise to the lad. It arrived at his home one morning just as he was about to depart for the office. He read it through three times, and then handed it over to his mother. "Ma," he cried, "look at that!" She read it through, and a blush of pleasure tinged her cheeks as she did so. "A church wedding, Willie, and you invited; and then there's a—a—a de-jun-er. I guess that means a spread at the house of the bride's mother."
"But me! Ma: why, I'd feel like a fish outer water among the bunch that'll be there, unless," he added thoughtfully, "'Chuck' Epstein goes too, and I can hang onto him."
The time between the reception of the invitation and the wedding was a trying one for William. He worried about what he should wear—and his choice was rather limited—but he worried more about what he should give, "For," said his mother, "you'll have to give the bride something: everybody does that when they're invited to a wedding." In the crisis of his dilemma over this proposition William consulted "Chuck" Epstein, and the result of their deliberations was the sending to the prospective bride of a parrot "that could talk to beat the band," as William said. Epstein never told him that he had himself paid the original owner of the parrot a larger amount than William could spare, and had arranged with him to accept the sum that the boy offered. And of all the gifts that Flo Dearmore received from others but the man of her choice, that parrot pleased her most, "For," said she, "he is the slangiest bird imaginable, and sometimes he uses swear words—just like my Tommy."
The wedding, which took place at "high noon" in an Anglican church, was a wonderful experience for William. With "Chuck" Epstein, he had a good seat near the altar, and many were the smiles and knowing nods exchanged between other invited guests at the evident eagerness of the lad to take in all the proceedings. And yet no other person, perhaps, in the assembly—and it was a large one—felt more than William the real solemnity of the ceremony. He was not very clear as to his exact feelings, but the dignity of the rector, the simple beauty of the marriage ritual, the singing of the choir, the love light in the eyes of the bride and of Tommy, combined to impress him profoundly. He smiled once, in fact he scarcely suppressed a snicker, but a warning touch of Epstein's hand aided him to control himself.
The "dejeuner" almost put him "on the blink," he declared afterwards. He was conscious only of two things: first, that the bride, amid all the sweet confusion and merriment incidental to the occasion, found time to introduce him to several ladies as "the dearest and cleverest boy I know, next to Tommy," and that when the toasts were proposed he had to make a speech. Epstein assisted him to stand, for the lad was overwhelmed with embarrassment that amounted to fear. He never knew just what he said at first, but when he recovered sufficiently to realise that the faces turned toward him were kindly, and the smiles were encouraging, his self-possession returned. Observant always, and quick to see the right thing to do, William hoped that "Mister Watson and his wife would live happy ever after, and," he concluded, with a smile that was full of confidence, "I nearly snickered once when the marriage was on. That was when the minister says something about, 'Do you, Thomas Watson, take this woman for your wife?' or words something like that, and I says to myself, 'Does he! Gee! And him looney about——'" The rest was lost in a breeze of laughter and joyous acclamations.
Afterwards there was more hustle and bustle, and finally the bride and groom started for the railway station, with all the accompaniments considered so necessary to start newly wedded couples on such journeys. Others may have noticed, William certainly did, that though she smiled, there were tears in Mrs. Dearmore's eyes as she stood at the doorstep and waved her hands in farewell. And, as he left for the office, William was thinking of that. "It means a lot for her," he said to himself—"a lot. She—why—Flo will be—" he paused—"of course, of course, it's always the way. It'll never be the same again for Mrs. Dearmore, or Flo, or Tommy. This is a rummy world."
Later in the day he dropped into Tommy Watson's store and found the assistants engaged in the hottest kind of argument. They took no notice of him at all; indeed, they did not know he was there. He listened for a few minutes, wrathful and unhappy, because he felt that this was the time above all others when Tommy's business should be attended to with diligence and enthusiasm, and then, still unnoticed, he stole out of the store and ran back to the office. Whimple was not in, and William, hastily glancing over his employer's daily reminder, made a bee line for the county court. Here he found Whimple, having just successfully emerged from a case in which he had defended a man accused of theft, chatting with the county crown attorney.
"Excuse me, Mister Whimple," said William, abruptly, "but them guys are at it again."
"Meaning——?" began Whimple.
"In Tommy Watson's store," William went on hurriedly, "and, honest, it's fierce. I was in and outer the store, and neither of 'em even looked at me."
Whimple bade adieu to the crown attorney, and started away with William.
"What are they fighting about now, William?" said Whimple, disgustedly, as he hurried along the street with William by his side.
"Home r'rule fer I'r'r'reland or 'ome rule for Hireland! I don't know just which," answered William with a smile.
Some chronicles are so burdened with matters that are irrelevant as to cause to those who have an eye for the main story and nothing else much trouble and more annoyance. But in this, the true chronicle of events in one period of the life of William Adolphus Turnpike, only that which is of importance has been dealt with. This is almost a superfluous explanation, for the reader who has managed to keep awake thus far has long ago become seized of the fact. There lapses between what has gone before and what is here written a period of nearly five years. Happy years they had been to William and the Turnpike "bunch." The elder Turnpike's business prospered exceedingly, and William was well advanced towards his cherished goal. Whimple and Tommy had long ceased to worry over him, for the lad was developing into a sturdy and healthy youth, taller than the average, still on the slim side, but strong and sinewy. There was little grace about his movements, though he had developed in courtesy and consideration to a surprising degree. He sometimes worried over his lack of graceful movements. "I've stood in front of the glass many a time," he said to Epstein, "and practised trying to be graceful, but it's no go. I'm as awkward as a duck; what'll I do?"
"Nothing," said Epstein, gravely, "nothing, my boy. It will be best for you if you are always naturally as awkward as you are to-day. Many comedians have tried for years to acquire what you have as a gift of nature. It's a great asset." And William took the old man's word for it. "You know best," he said emphatically, "and whatever you say goes."
Epstein smiled happily. The old comedian did not seem to have aged very much in the five years. He declared he felt younger, in fact. Between him and William there had grown a friendship strong and complete. The lad trusted implicitly in the man: his gratitude to him was unbounded, he evinced it by his attention to the lessons, still continued, by every little thing he could do to show that the tuition, so unselfishly given, was bearing good fruit. It was hard drilling often: there were days and weeks when the heart of William was torn with doubts and fears, but always when it seemed that he could not bear the strain, he tackled his tasks once more with the determination his friends had so often noted, and the difficulties would fly, the rocky path become smooth, and the heart of William would rejoice in another victory.
Whimple's business had attained quite respectable proportions now. He was able to pay William a fairly good salary, and the lad was earning it, for he had adopted as his motto one of Tommy Watson's proverbs: "The man who earns what he gets is a dub; the fellow who always does more than he's paid for gets to the winning post first." Whimple himself, on the shrewd advice of his aunt, had bought and re-sold to excellent advantage pieces of property in the rapidly developing suburbs, and was beginning to be known as an expert on law in regard to property. He had also, on the advice of his heart, and without consulting any one but the lady herself, married Mrs. Stewart, and William was almost as proud of his "boss" for doing that as he was of his own ability to keep the books and do all the clerical work of the office.
There was a new Watson too—you have guessed that, of course. A one-year-old image of Tommy, who would have had half the doctors and all the trained nurses in town at the newcomer's advent, if his friends had not restrained him.
And Tommy, who, at the time of his marriage, had considered himself fairly well able to meet all current demands on his purse, and even to retire and live in reasonable comfort on what he had managed to put away, got cold feet as soon as he realised that he was a father. The first cry from Tommy junior brought the cold sweat to the brow of the auctioneer, who was sitting in his home "den" awaiting news from his wife's room. He stole softly downstairs and made his way to the verandah, in the belief that some of the neighbour's children were playing there, and bent upon driving them away. But there were no youngsters on the verandah, and Tommy, with a sudden realisation of the meaning of that cry, went back to the den, grinning foolishly, and hungrier than ever for news. When the doctor finally came to him with a hearty, "Well, Dad, there's a bouncing Tommy junior to look after now," Tommy asked first, "How is she?"
"Fine," answered the doctor.
"And the kiddo's a boy?"
"Yes," said the doctor, "and he's a dandy; you can see 'em both soon," he added, as he left the room.
"Me a father!" said Tommy to himself. "Me! Oh, joy—and a boy!" He seized the cushions on the lounge and threw them up to the ceiling joyously. "If I was at the store," he said aloud, and addressing the cushions, "I'd use you to smash something with."
Then he took a writing pad and began to cover it with figures, and the more he figured, the less pleased he seemed to be with the results. Finally, "Ahem," said Tommy, "I've got to work now: this'll never do; can't let the wife and kiddy want for anything. Wonder what we'll have to get for him first?" And after more figuring, "Well, it's no good getting cold feet over the proposition: it's me with me nose to the grindstone, and I guess I can stand it for some years yet."
There was joy in his store when he arrived there the next morning, proudly happy. Epstein and Whimple were there, and they greeted him with dignified pleasure. The Scottish and English assistants, who were still at loggerheads over the battle of Bannockburn, were no less sincere in their congratulations. When Jimmy Duggan, M.P.P., called to add the compliments of the People's Party, Tommy was fairly beaming. Oh, but it was good to have such friends. But the congratulations that touched him most of all were those of William and Lucien, who called together. The youths were embarrassed, they hardly knew what to say, and what they did say was incoherent. But Tommy knew the kindliness of the hearts that had prompted the call, and he blew his nose and shuffled his feet uneasily as the boys, after an awkward silence, departed.
Lucien and William were fast friends now. The former was still with Simmons, the architect, who, like Whimple, was beginning to achieve success, and now occupied a separate office suite. He was growing fast; was stouter than William, much slower in action and speech, and was giving promise of developing into a successful business man. William had confided his plans to Lucien long ago, and had been delighted with the real interest with which they had been received. They often talked about them, and Lucien had even given some suggestions that William had acted upon and found to be good. And one day Lucien had completed his conquest of the coming comedian by a simple remark. William, in a more than usual friendly outburst of confidence, had built castles in the air, based on his conviction of attaining success.
"And if," said Lucien, "you should become a famous and wealthy actor, and have a theatre of your own—I—I——" he looked at William wistfully.
"Wouldn't it be nice if—if—I was architect enough to design it for you? I—I would like——"
"Oh, Lucien!" That was all William said, but Lucien laughed happily.
Jimmy Duggan, too, had been doing things during the years. In the early days of his first session of the legislature Jimmy was regarded as something of a joke by government and opposition sides alike, and by the press of both parties. He was constantly referred to in the newspapers as "Mr. Duggan, the People's Party," and when it came to recording votes on various questions there was sure to be a note to the effect that "The People's Party voted solidly" for or against the proposal, or Bill, or amendment, as the case might be. And Jimmy rather liked it. In the course of time he became thoroughly acquainted with "all the boys" in the press gallery. The embarrassment of his detachment from either of the straight political parties was a strong factor in ripening his friendship with the "gallery," and very soon the reporters began to welcome his advent to the writing room, a well-like structure between the actual press gallery and one of the galleries used by the public. For Jimmy had an amazing fund of stories, and knew how to tell them, and he also knew that there were times when silence was imperative, and on such occasions he smoked his pipe and marvelled while the reporters turned out reams of copy for their newspapers.
To the leaders of the respective parties Jimmy was a real puzzle. They made overtures to him, by proxy, of course. Far be it from any leader of any political party to ever care one red cent whether an independent, real or imitation, would consider throwing in his lot with a party. Far be it, but—well, the overtures were made, and Jimmy received the envoys who bore them on separate occasions with cordiality. One envoy reported that Jimmy would support his party through thick and thin, and the other reported, "We have him, hide and boot and all." He was no chicken—Jimmy.
There was some curiosity as to when Jimmy would make his first speech in the House, and on what subject. The press gallery, to a man, was willing to bet that it would be interesting, and not one-hundredth part so long as the first speech made by "The Big Wind." Attempts to pump Jimmy were of no avail, for he declared with emphatic words and gestures that he didn't know. "All I'm sure of," he said, "is that I'll make one some day, if I don't drop dead of heart disease when I get up to speak. I hope it'll be some nice quiet afternoon; there's too many folks here at nights to suit me."
"Well, but you addressed far larger audiences during your campaign," said one of the reporters.
"Yes," answered Jimmy, "but it was a different crowd; most of the bunch that comes to the galleries here at nights are pretty keen politicians. Lots of 'em have been coming for years. They know all the points of order, and everything like that, and because I'd know that they knew I was tearing holes in the rules of the House, and the English language, I'd likely feel that I'd better not take a fling. But, what's the use of talking?—I don't know what I'll say or do. Did any of you fellows know Father LeRoy, down our way, who died a little while ago?"
Some of them had known him.
"Well, fifteen years or so ago, there was a gang of housebreakers and burglars that got on people's nerves. They pulled off many a robbery, beat up a number of people, and had the whole district terrorised. The police didn't seem able to get on to any good clues, though goodness knows they worked hard. Well, it got so that people were afraid to leave anything worth while in their houses when they went to church services. So they stayed at home more frequently than usual. Father LeRoy felt pretty bad about his own people who did this, and prayed for an end to 'the plague,' as he called it. He was sorrowful, too, about the robberies, because he had a sneaking suspicion that some of his own parishioners were mixed up in them, and he was right.
"He wasn't much of a man for size, the Father, and was never known to have displayed any great strength, but he had a bright, keen eye, a firm step, and a hearty hand-shake that showed he was healthful, anyway.
"After mass one Sunday, I shook hands with him at the door—he was always there for a word before we went—and I says to him, 'Father, you'll be having the gang breaking into your house first thing you know.'
"He laughed kind of easy, and says, 'Well, if they come, I hope they'll be peaceable, for, above all things, I am a man of peace.'
"'And if they're not?' I says.
"And he shrugged his shoulders—that was the French of him from his father—and says, 'I don't know what I'd do, but I'd do the best I could.'
"Sure enough, they did break into the Father's house the next night, three of them, and they got into his room on the second floor, and woke him up from his sleep, because they couldn't find anything worth stealing. They stood beside his bed, three hulking brutes they were, and threatened him with fearful things if he didn't at once get up and show them the gold and silver plate they believed was in the house. So he got up kinder quietly, and put some of his clothes on, and all the while they were saying very soft-like awful things about the church, and Father LeRoy wasn't saying anything, but all of a sudden he turns the key easily in the door, locking it on the inside, you see, and slips the key in his pocket. Then he looks at them, and they're very close to him and very fierce, and one of 'em says, 'We smashed old Tom's head'—that was the Father's servant—'just because he opened his mouth to yell, and now we'll pound yours to a pulp,' and the next minute that fellow went down with a broken jawbone and a stomach that never got well again, I guess. The others threw themselves upon the Father, and a few minutes afterwards the whole neighbourhood was awakened by the yells and shoutings from the house. People and police were soon there: they broke into the house and burst into the Father's room, and there he was, a little pale and breathing heavy, and the three men piled on the floor in a heap, moaning and groaning, and all covered with blood. I was one of them that rushed in with the police, and when things got quietened down a bit I found old Tom in the kitchen with a pretty sore head, but not in danger. Well, one of the police inspectors and me stayed the rest of the night with the Father, though he didn't want us to.
"The inspector shook the Father's hand about a million times, and he says to him, 'Sir,' he says, 'what did you think when you locked that door?'
"And Father LeRoy said very slow, 'I thought to myself, I don't know what I'll do, but I'll do the best I can.'
"'You can take it from me,' says the inspector, 'and I'm an Ulster Orangeman at that, there isn't a man on the force to-day could have done better,' and he shook the Father's hand again.
"Maybe," concluded Jimmy, "nobody'll ever want to shake my hand after my first speech, and give me praise, but I'll do the best I can, anyway."
The Honorable the Provincial Secretary gave Jimmy his first chance in the annual statement on the hospitals, charities, and prisons of the province. The Secretary dilated at some length on the reasonable prices at which supplies had been obtained, particularly coal and wood. The opposition attacked the Secretary's statement on general grounds. They always did that, anyway: obviously, anything that the government did must be wrong, and the debate that followed dragged along for two or three days, until even the most incompetent men in the House had said something about it, and had kicked because their speeches did not get more space in the newspapers. The House was tired to death of the discussion, and there was a joyous trooping in of members when the whips sent word that a vote was in sight on an opposition resolution that the salary list of the Provincial Secretary's Department should be cut in half. But the end was not yet. Just as the Speaker began to put the question Jimmy rose. A half-suppressed groan rose with him, for the members were really tired. Jimmy heard it, but he only smiled.
"On behalf of the People's Party," he said, "I would like to ask the Honorable the Provincial Secretary a question or two before the vote is taken, and I presume he'll answer them."
"Cheerfully," said the Honorable, who was smiling.
"I would like to ask then, Mr. Speaker," said Jimmy, "if the honorable gentleman knows anything about coal, or the coal business."
"I do not."
"He is advised by his officials, I presume?"
"I am"—no one was paying any attention to the Speaker now—the questions and answers were being exchanged straight across the floor of the House.
"The honorable gentleman stated," went on Jimmy, "that at last the Toronto coal ring had been checkmated, and he had made a thoroughly good bargain with Howilton dealers."
"Does he happen to know that the Howilton men turned over their contract to the Toronto ring?"
There was a pause. The Provincial Secretary looked his surprise, but sat still.
"Because that is the case," proceeded Jimmy, calmly. "In fact, the Howilton companies that got the contract are owned by the Toronto ring, anyway."
The Provincial Secretary rose hastily, and as hastily expressed the opinion that the honorable member for Mid-Toronto was mistaken. "It is a grave charge he makes," he said, "and I do not think it has any real foundation."
Jimmy ignored for a moment the challenge as to his veracity. "The Howilton companies," he said, "are owned by the Toronto ring. But if the Provincial Secretary had known it, he could have been independent of the ring." He paused, but the Provincial Secretary was sitting gloomily silent. "There are at least three new coal firms in this city," said Jimmy, "that are out of the ring, and they could have filled the orders at still smaller prices than the government paid. But the government chose to send out circulars on its old lists, on which the names of the new companies do not appear, instead of advertising for tenders, and giving all a chance, and the government has been stung—that's all."
The opposition members were pounding their desks as Jimmy sat down. The government side was silent. The Provincial Secretary rose and declared in solemn tones that he would ask "to-morrow" that a committee of the House be named to investigate the whole matter, and he hoped the honorable gentleman would bring all the facts in his possession before it.
"I will," said Jimmy, laconically, and he did, with the result that the government got a rare black eye that set it rolling down the Hill of Overthrow, at the bottom of which, a few years later, it landed, and landed hard.
"I did my best, anyway," said Jimmy, when, the House having risen, the reporters gathered around him to compliment him on his maiden speech.
Sally Miller was able to walk a little now—a very little—but firmly, and without the effort and the pain that the journey around the table had cost her in the old days. She was living with Miss Whimple, who had insisted on it from the day the doctors had declared the girl fit to be removed from the hospital. There was no certainty of an absolute cure: the doctors could not promise that, but, with every month, the hope of ultimate recovery strengthened. She had been a long time in the hospital, nearly two years, before the signs of improvement were marked enough to admit of encouragement. She was a good patient, Sally: her cheerfulness and animation, her belief and trust in the doctors and the nurses won their hearts. There were many black hours for her; home-sickness, pain, doubt, these were hard things to bear. In the still of the night she often lay sleepless, fighting with the sorrow and longing that oppresses, and striving to repress the exclamations that pain brought to her lips. And she won. "She always was a winner," William used to say, "and always will be."
There were no lack of visitors to Sally during her stay in the hospital. Her own relations made frequent trips to the city to see her. Miss Whimple was her most constant caller, and the next was—not William. He did manage to call often, but not so often as Lucien, and, somehow, Sally began to look forward to Lucien's visits with delightful thrills of anticipation. Miss Whimple smiled about it, and William laughed. Sally smiled, too, but, such a smile! She enjoyed William's visits immensely. He was seldom serious with her, and he always had funny stories to tell. In fact, he clothed the most commonplace incidents of the day with humour when he spoke of them, and shamelessly invented stories when he had no actual foundations on which to build them. And Sally always knew when he was spinning yarns, and William knew that she did. Miss Whimple was rather disappointed over William's attitude toward the girl, and so expressed herself to Epstein one day. The old comedian displayed unwonted heat in his answer. "Such foolishness," he said sharply, "give the lad a chance. There is a great career before William. If he begins thinking of love, or thinks he is thinking seriously of love now, it will be the end for him. I hope you have not been trying to put any such nonsensical ideas into his head."
Miss Whimple did not answer. The gruffness of the old man hurt a little. He was quick to understand her silence, and after a while said gently, "I beg your pardon: I did not mean to be angry, I—I—the boy and his future are very dear to me—you—I——"
She laid a hand on his arm. "I know—I know," she said. "I'm a foolish old maid. You are right about William, but, sometimes, those who have lost much dream pleasant dreams and build fairy castles for those who help to make their sorrow easier to bear." And then they talked of other things, of William's future, of Epstein's success, of Tommy Watson's boy.
Meanwhile, Sally was sitting on the verandah of Miss Whimple's home, going over again to herself all the memories of her first meeting with Lucien. She had been three months in the hospital when William had brought him to her, and was sitting up in bed dressing dolls for a Christmas-tree for the infant patients in the institution. William came to the bedside with his usual easy air. Lucien hung back a little, shy, embarrassed, and blushing. William took hold of his sleeve and dragged him forward. "Allow me, Miss Sally Miller," he said, with a smile, "to introduce to you Lucien Torrance—Lucien Wellington Torrance, to give him his full name. Mister Torrance—Miss Miller."
They shook hands gravely, and eyed each other in silence.
"This," went on William, in a more serious tone, "this, Sally, is the chap I used to think was a mutt—honest—until I woke up one day and found that I was it. I was the M-U-T-T," he spelled out the word, "and Lucien had me beaten a mile for brains and bravery."
Lucien was blushing furiously now. "Don't," he pleaded.
William ignored the remark, and smiling, again proceeded, "Honest, Sally, he's a pippin, is Lucien. Why, first thing we know he'll be the boss architect of Canada, and the real thing in inventions too. He's always trying his hand at something; and he'll come out ahead, will Lucien."
Sally murmured a hope that he would.
"Oh, you needn't be afraid to speak up, Sally," said William, gaily. "You can't phase Lucien. He'll listen to you until the cows come home—he's a good listener, and," he laid one arm affectionately on Lucien's shoulder, "he's a good doer, too, is my friend Lucien."
Lucien came frequently after that, and often alone. He never had much to say, and yet Sally felt after his visits as though he had said a great deal. He thought much of her, and the first practical outcome of his thinking was the invention of an ingenious little table that could be mounted on the bed, and moved easily by the patient, so that she could use it as a book support, or a table on which to lay the trifles she made for the little children. William saw it the first day Sally used it, questioned her closely, took the table back to Lucien, and gave him no rest until there had been a consultation with Whimple and the first steps had been taken toward patenting the invention. It is in use by every hospital almost in the world now, but few recall that a boy then barely seventeen years of age invented it.
And as Sally thought of the past, she saw Lucien coming steadily up the pathway toward her. He greeted her with a quiet, "How are you?" and sat beside her on the verandah. It was almost dark, but warm, and a gentle breeze tempered the atmosphere that throughout the day had been oppressive. From the verandah the central portion of the city to the Bay was stretched out in long regular streets, marked by the glimmering of electric lights. Beyond the wharves the lights of the Island, sentinel like, marked the indented shore facing the city, and beyond that again there flickered faintly from Lake Ontario the lights of a few steamers, some of them pleasure craft, others bearing burdens of freight from, or toward, the sea-ports.
In silence they watched for a long time. It was Lucien who spoke first. "Toronto is growing fast," he said, "it will soon be all built up around here: and it is a fine city—I—I love it—I love it. Some day—I'm foolish, though——"
"Some day," she echoed.
"Some day—I—I—hope I may do something to help to make it a greater city still. Work for one's self isn't everything. Father often talks to me of 'the public good.' 'Every man,' he says, 'should take an intelligent interest in the affairs of his own municipality, and any man who can serve his city in even a humble capacity should be proud to do it.'"
"And you will, Lucien—I know you will." He took one of her hands and held it in his own, and again they sat silent.
"I must go," he said, at last. "Good-night, Sally."
"Good-night," she said, gently.
He rose, and, looking down at her, he said abruptly, "William's going soon; did you know?"
"Mr. Epstein said he thought it would be soon."
"He told me to-day that Mr. Epstein had found a place for him in a good company that will go on the road this fall, after a two weeks' engagement here. He has only a small part, of course, but he regards it as his chance, and he's quite delighted. Next summer he'll come back to give all his time to study again. Good-night."
He turned after he reached the pathway, and called, "It'll be slow without William, won't it?"
"Yes," she answered, and to herself, "but it would be slower without you, Lucien."
On his way to the street car he passed Miss Whimple and Epstein and exchanged greetings with them. When they resumed their walk toward Miss Whimple's house, the old comedian asked her, "Did you notice what he was whistling as he came along?"
"Listen: there he is again." And faint, but clear and sweet, she heard it.
"'Sally in our Alley,'" she said, laughingly.
"Yes," answered Epstein with a chuckle.
"The dear lad," said Miss Whimple, "he's a fine fellow. And the dear girl, the dear girl, God help her to a perfect cure."
William was William, the fun lover, still; you must not think otherwise. True, he regarded his work more seriously than in the days when he first engaged himself as office boy to Whimple, and his persistency, determination, and devotion to his studies under the tuition of Epstein were beginning, as hereinbefore chronicled, to bear fruit. But William was William still: you read that before; it is necessary, perhaps, to emphasise it. An irrepressible love of fun, and a cheerful temper, continued to be his great assets; he radiated sunshine as of yore. But back of all was a tender heart; a heart that was rich in sympathy, and was ever responsive to appeals for help or comfort. To his mother he continued to be a sort of puzzle; she never really understood him, in fact, and his successes always came as a surprise to her. Pete, curly-headed and sturdy, with his fondness for fighting, his love of schoolboy sports, and his healthy appetite, she could understand. But William; she used to look at him sometimes when he was "cheering up the bunch," and wonder if she would ever just know how much of it was earnest and just what was put on.
This attitude of his mother's troubled William more than anything else at this period. His love for her was unalloyed by any feeling toward any other woman or girl of his acquaintance; he often called her his "sweetheart." He was more gentle toward her than any other member of the household, with the exception of little deaf and dumb Dorothy, and he continually sought her advice in matters of family interest. Yet he knew that she brooded over him often; and because he knew the reason of it, so keen was his intuition, he tried to reveal the real William to her more completely than to any one else.
Miss Whimple came nearer to "diagnosing" William than any of the women who knew him at this time.
"I've seen that boy," she said to Sally, "give his last cent to help people in distress: I've known him to go to trouble that would worry a grown man in order to assist some shiftless body to get a position, for his trust in people is not easily shaken. But we'll never know the real William until—until——"
Sally waited, and in a little while Miss Whimple went on. "Just now, and for a long time to come, I think, his mind will be so strongly set upon success on the stage that he will not allow anything to come between. And, if his health remains good, it seems to me that our fondest hopes for him in that direction will fall far short of the realisation. But one day, Sally Miller, there will come to William that which comes to every one of us sooner or later."
"Yes," said Miss Whimple, so low that the girl hardly caught the words, "yes—love will come to William. It will have to fight its way over many barriers, but in the end his heart will be carried by storm. Then we will know a new William Adolphus Turnpike, or some of you younger folks will, for I'm too old to be expecting that the good Lord will let me live to see that, and William in love will be worth seeing. You know," she continued in a lighter tone, "I asked him one day just a little while ago if he had a sweetheart, and he looked at me with that gleam in his eyes we all know so well as he answered, 'Sure!'
"'Who is it?' I asked.
"'You'd know as much as I do if I told you,' he said.
"That made me angry, of course, and I told him he was lucky enough to be too big for me to thrash, as I tried to do the first time I saw him; and you should have seen him grin.
"'Miss Whimple,' said he, 'I'll never forget you and the parasol as long as I live. Say, it was——' but I broke in with, 'Now, who is your sweetheart, William?' and what do you think he said?"
"Exactly! And I knew he was serious about it, too, though, like a foolish old woman, I must needs go on to tell him that a boy of his age ought to have a real sweetheart. Well, presently he became very quiet, his mouth set firmly, as it does when he is thinking hard, and he looked straight at me. 'Miss Whimple, you know what real love is,' he said. 'I hope when it comes to me I'll be as worthy of it and as true as you have been,' and then—why, he was the real William again in a flash. 'Say,' he said, 'why don't you go out to a ball game once in a while? Lots of ladies go, and the way the Torontos are playing this season it looks like they'd be champions again for the second time in four years. Honest, they've got me wild, and Tommy Watson's crazier than I am. He can't go to the games as often as he used to, because he's looney about his wife and little Tommy too. So, when I go and he doesn't I have to tell the whole story of the game to him, and—say, excuse me, I'll just have time to get to the grounds to see the last four innings,' and away he went.
"Once I asked Whimple if William had a girl, and he told me the boy was too busy. That's the kind of a fool answer a man makes when he either doesn't know, or does know and won't tell. Then he told me about a trick that Tommy Watson and himself played on William, only it didn't work out in the way they expected. It puzzles me to know how men find time to go into such silliness. Between them they wrote a letter, in a disguised hand, of course, and supposedly from a girl to William. He had been taking part in one of the amateur performances that Epstein arranged for the Children's Hospital, and the letter declared that the writer had been so touched by the wonderful ability displayed by William that she felt she might be forgiven if she did so unmaidenly a thing as to ask for a personal interview. William got the letter—the over-grown boys saw to that—read it through carefully, stowed it away in one of his pockets, and—well, as Tommy Watson says, he just sat tight.
"A few days afterwards they wrote another, to which William was to send a reply to a certain post-office box. But there was no sign of an answer. A third letter was written, imploring the recipient to have mercy, or words to that effect, and two days afterwards a detective called on Whimple and Tommy Watson. He found them together in Tommy's store and opened the conversation with the hope that they were not writing any more love letters. They were dumbfounded. Before they could even think of an explanation the detective warned them in his most official manner that the gentleman whom they were annoying by their devotion to the art of letter-writing had decided that on receipt of further epistles he would institute proceedings, and start with a full statement to the press on the matter, including the names of the letter writers.
"They had sense enough to take the hint, anyway, and enough sense left over to keep from talking to William about it. I asked Whimple if William had ever referred to the subject, and he said not directly. But one afternoon he found one of the letters lying on his desk. He took it to Tommy Watson, who told him he had found one on his desk too."
"I wonder what Tommy said about it?" said Sally.
"Oh! he had one of his made-to-order proverbs on hand, to be sure. He said, 'Well, you know what our old friend Shakespeare said, "It's a wise old one that gets ahead of a bright young one."'"
"He's really clever, is William," commented Sally.
"Yes, and like all clever people he is sometimes taken in. But I'll say this much for him, he isn't easily gold-bricked, and he learns the lessons of experience thoroughly. He's like his 'Pa' in that respect, and he's as loyal to his 'Pa' as ever. In all the time I have known him he's looked upon his 'Pa' as the smartest man he knows."
"Yes," said Sally, smiling. "Whenever he wants to impress one as to the cleverness of some other person he brings in 'Pa,' and he always adds, 'It's a wise guinea who can put one over on my Pa.'"
"It is, too," said Miss Whimple. 'Pa' Turnpike is one of the shrewdest men I ever met, and one of the kindliest too. William and 'the bunch'—can't you imagine you hear him saying it, Sally?—'the bunch' are proud of 'Pa,' and they have a right to be."
What should be left out of a chronicle dealing with the actual events and sayings of real people? This chronicler does not know, and, as a consequence, omissions from the true and unvarnished record of the people hereinbefore dealt with are the consequences of guesses rather than of deliberate and judicious or injudicious selections. Readers may argue that out for themselves. Nothing has been said, for instance, of the triumph of Pete Turnpike over the mules owned by his father, and the day he rode them, circus fashion, with a foot on each mule, down one of the principal streets; the charge of "obstructing" that followed; the hearing of the same in the police court, and Pete's dismissal with a warning on account of his tender years, which latter, however, did not save him from chastisement by Turnpike pater. Nor has anything been said of Pete's conversion during a revival meeting; his exhortations to the family to follow his course, until he almost drove them insane, and his fall from grace when a new boy at the school declared he could lick Pete with one hand tied behind his back. He loudly, and willingly, changed his opinion after Pete got through with him; nay, he admitted that if Pete had been hobbled and blind of one eye he would not have stood a chance against him. But, somewhere, there should be found room to tell of William's encounter and subsequent relations with a judge of the Common Pleas Division of the High Court of Justice, because, in after years—well, never mind that part of it.
In the course of his work William was frequently in the law courts, and one sultry September afternoon, this was in the first year of his engagement with Whimple, he got into an argument with the office boy of another lawyer on the merits of the Toronto baseball team. William bore himself tolerably well, until he was told that he knew as much about baseball as a hog's foot, and was, without doubt, the sassiest "four-flusher" in the city of Toronto. "I may be a four-flusher," said William, calmly, "but I ain't allowing any pie-face loafer your size to say it," and he smacked the boy's cheek. A hot encounter followed, the contestants being so determined to rub each other's head through the stone flooring of the corridor that they did not notice his lordship, the judge, with the officials of the court around him, come from the court room. They noticed nothing, in fact, until a deputy sheriff fell over them as they rolled on the floor. The deputy sheriff rose hastily, and angrily, and drew one foot back to plant a kick on the first part of boyish anatomy that he could reach, when the judge, robes and all, stooped down, grasped each boy by the neck, and placed him on his feet. Still retaining his hold, he looked at the boys somewhat sternly—if the mouth was an index of his thoughts, but if his eyes—anyway, William saw his eyes first, and smiled.
The judge was a surprisingly young man for a judge. In his day he had been a champion boxer and football player. It was whispered, indeed, that no boxing bout of importance since his appointment had been without his presence as a spectator. He regarded William gravely. "He smiles," he said solemnly, "smiles in the presence of the august court whose serenity he has seen fit to disturb." The other boy was blubbering, and to him the judge said, "This coming man realises the enormity of his crime. He weeps the bitter tears of one discovered. He repents his misdeeds. Officer," to the deputy sheriff, "take the names of these disturbers of the peace. Upon their fitting punishment I will ponder." He relaxed his hold and passed on.
A day or two later he ran across William in the corridor. This time his lordship was without the robes, and in street attire looked younger than ever. His smile of recognition brought an answering smile from William. The lad would have passed on, but the judge stopped him. "Still at liberty, I see," he said.
"Um—see that you remain worthy of it: it's a precious thing, liberty." Then, "And now, in my unofficial capacity, would you mind telling me the cause of the desperate encounter of the other day?"
The twinkle in the judge's eyes reassured William. "Well, sir," he said, "that fellow said the Torontos was selling games. He said they had it all fixed about who was to win the pennant before the season started."
The judge, himself a baseball fan, looked up and down the corridor, and thus addressed William. "Did—er—that is to say—did you——" he paused.
William, one palm outspread, the other falling on it in rhythm to the words, his eyes sparkling, asserted—"Honest, judge, I walloped him for fair. When we got outside he starts all over again, so I herds him into a lane and we had it out. Gee!" reflectively, "he was tough, but I did him up all right."
His lordship waved a hand deprecatingly. "Enough, enough, boy," he said, solemnly. Then, in a lighter tone, "Didn't I see you at the game a week ago Saturday?"
"You did, you did, sir, I sat right behind you, and—and——"
"I guess I slapped your back when you got kinder excited in the——"
"Seventh innings, with the score three to nothing for Montreal, Torontos with two men on bases and nobody out"—the judge was talking rapidly now—"big Bill Hannigan at the bat, and——"
"What did Hannigan do to the ball," William broke in, "but slam it over the fence for a home run, bringing in the two on bases and tying the score! Oh, joy!" A clerk of the court who came out of his office at this moment snickered audibly at the sight of a boy doing a little war dance in the corridor and a judge smiling approvingly.
Throughout the years that followed, the judge and William maintained a friendly relationship. His lordship was eventually admitted into the secret of William's ambition, though it was not until their acquaintanceship had lasted three years that he took it seriously, and then he never failed to urge William to "stick to it." From Whimple, and later from "Chuck" Epstein, he obtained further light, and, on the comedian's invitation, attended two or three of the amateur entertainments in which William had a part.
Epstein was chary in consenting to William appearing in the cast of such entertainments, and William could not be persuaded to do anything in this regard unless Epstein favoured it. Afterwards, they would go over the performance together, Epstein in the role of critic, and the old man's suggestions and advice and William's own observations and descriptions of his emotions, and his reasons for this or that slight departure from the lines and action originally mapped out, aided in the making of the William Adolphus Turnpike so beloved of the theatre-goers to-day.
The judge enjoyed those performances, and he rather surprised Epstein and William both by making suggestions in respect to some of them that were valuable and illuminating. "How did you come to think of that?" asked Epstein curiously, in regard to one idea advanced by the judge.
"I think," answered his lordship, slowly, "that a court is the best of dramatic schools. It is so real, too; there is much of tragedy and a great deal of comedy too—unconscious, a lot of it. I have always been rather keenly interested in the study of the people who came before me, particularly in criminal cases. It seems to me that there is still a wide field for a play."
There was a long pause. Epstein, who was looking keenly at the judge, broke in. "There is," he said, "there is—and you could write it, your lordship."
The judge started. "Do you think so?" he asked, somewhat sharply.
Epstein nodded. And now, of course, the reader of this chronicle has guessed the identity of the author of the play in which William made his first appearance as a "Star." Yes—a judge—hiding under a nom-de-plume, a judge of the High Court, no less, wrote Our High Court, that most delightful of the comedies of our own times. There followed, a few days afterwards, a long talk between William and the judge, in the latter's room in the court house. William had called at the court house on business, and the judge, who had espied him in the corridor, had called him in. For a time their conversation was of the stage and William's prospective future thereon, and then, very quietly, the judge began to talk about William himself. Presently William began to lean toward the talker, intent, earnest; no one had spoken to him before just like this. His father had tried once or twice, but his evident embarrassment, his halting sentences, and his fear lest William should misunderstand, had frightened, rather than impressed, the boy. But the judge was saying the things William knew his father had tried to say, and he was losing none of them. The sacredness of the body, his lordship was emphasising this, and dilating upon it: the purity of the heart and mind; respect of woman; the honour of a man; reverence to God. William afterwards wrote the words out almost as fully as though he had taken them all down at the time. Nothing had so moved him as this talk. When he stood at the door to go, the judge placed one hand on his shoulder, and said simply, "My boy, it has cost me something to say these things. I am a husband and a father. God knows how much he has to forgive in me—God—knows. Those I love best—my wife—my little girl—they could never dream. But—will you try to remember, sometimes, some of these things?"
William put out his hand and the judge shook it warmly. The boy was late getting back to the office, and Whimple was testy. "Where on earth have you been, William?" he asked, sharply; "there's a good deal of work to do, and we can hardly catch up to it to-day."
"I'm sorry. I've been listening to a man," said William, quietly.
"Must have been a preacher, and a mighty solemn one at that, judging from your sober face," said Whimple, more gently.
"Not exactly a preacher, but I never heard a better sermon," answered William, quietly, "never;" and then he started on his work, and kept at it to such effect that, when they closed up for the night, Whimple declared, as he had often done before, "You're certainly a wonder, William."
William made his first professional appearance in Toronto in the autumn of that year with Joe Mertle's Company in Old Etobicoke, a rural comedy-drama that was immensely popular in its day and had a long run. The company was two weeks in the old Academy of Music before taking the road, and from the first night drew large audiences. William had two parts. In the first and second acts he merely "appeared," describing himself to his friends as "part of the scenery." In the third and fourth acts he had a speaking part, and in the latter a chance for a little bit of comedy that, short as it was, gave him a real opportunity. The whole Turnpike family was there, from Dorothy up, so was Whimple, Miss Whimple, Tommy Watson, both his assistants, Sally Miller, Lucien Torrance, and "Chuck" Epstein of course. They all sat together, occupying two boxes. The old comedian was too happy to say much even between the acts. He watched William keenly, and often nodded approval, though he frowned once or twice when the youth made little "breaks." When the curtain fell, he waited with the others for William, and, as they stood in the lobby, the dean of the dramatic critics, a life-long friend of the old comedian, approached him. "Not bad, Epstein," he said.
"It will make a hit on the road," Epstein answered.
"Know any of the cast outside of Mertles?"
"Who is the kid with the funny name—'William Adolphus Turnpike'?"
"He's the pick of the new ones. There's a great promise in that lad. If he doesn't get swelled head early in the game he'll soon be shining."
The old comedian smiled happily. "He's a friend of mine: a pupil, in a way—I'm glad you like him."
"You're a rare one to pick out the good ones, 'Chuck,'" said the critic, warmly. "The lad will be a credit to you if——"
"If," echoed Epstein.
"If he doesn't get swelled head, as I said before. That's the trouble with a lot of the promising ones," he added, as he walked away.
"He may get swelled head," said Epstein to himself, as William joined the waiting group, "but it won't last long, I'm sure of that." He greeted William affectionately. "You'll do, boy," he said kindly, "you'll do. There are some things about your part I'd like to discuss with you, but I'm proud of you, William."
The little supper for William and "the bunch," arranged by Tommy Watson, was a rather gloomy affair. Pa and Ma Turnpike were not used to such affairs; the younger Turnpikes were timid. William was silent, and all were under the depressing spell of the knowledge that they would soon part with him.
The morning papers the next day were very kindly in their criticism of the play and of the company, but only one of them, that for which the dean of critics wrote, had any special mention of William. "His part was a small one: until the fourth act he had no real chance, and then he made the most of it. There is rare promise in the youth, but there are many pitfalls for those who go on the stage. The next few years will be a time of testing for him: if he emerges successfully there is no reason to doubt that he will win his way to the front rank as a comedian." Epstein's eyes were tear-dimmed as he read the words: William cut them out of his own copy of the paper and kept them stowed away with other precious belongings that he carried on his travels for years.
The company left Toronto on a Sunday morning for a five months' tour. Pa and Ma Turnpike and William did not go to bed after he reached home from the theatre on the Saturday night. There was no trunk packing to do; that had been attended to hours before. But there was much to be said between those three, and none could say it without tears and broken voices. And so at last they sat together, Pa Turnpike on one side and William on the other side of Ma's easy chair. She held one of William's hands tightly in her own, and when she could, she talked to him the mother talk that so many have heard and heeded not, and would give all they have to hear again. And William made promises to keep his feet dry; to watch his throat; to be careful of the food he ate; to take all the sleep he could, and then, fifty times at least, to leave liquor alone, and to write home as often as he could. Pa Turnpike backed his wife strongly on the liquor question. "Leave it alone, boy," he said, "leave it alone: it never was, and never will be, any good." And William nodded assuringly. "Don't be afraid of that," he said confidently, "I've got no use for it."
At eight o'clock in the morning there was a hurried call to the bedrooms occupied by the younger Turnpikes, and William kissed them gently, for all but Pete were fast asleep. Pete jumped out of bed and dressed hurriedly. "I'm going to the station with 'Mister Actor Man,'" he announced, and a few minutes later William, Pete, and Pa Turnpike, in one of the latter's express wagons, with one trunk containing William's stock of clothes, proceeded briskly down the street. William's mother stood at the door answering with her own the waving of William's handkerchief until the wagon turned a corner. . . . Then she went back to weep.
Inside the Union Station—that horror of horrors that still appals the train-borne visitors to a great city—William and his escorts were met by Lucien, Whimple, and Epstein. There was much affected gaiety, but the hopes for William's future were almost overwhelmed in the deep regret at his departure. Tommy Watson was an absentee, and William felt this keenly, although he said nothing of it. Pa Turnpike made a shrewd guess at the cause of his boy's furtive glances around the station, and murmured to Epstein, "I thought Mr. Watson would have been down."
"So did I," answered the old comedian, a little apologetically, "but perhaps——" and then he looked around sharply as the music of a brass band echoed along the vaulted roof of the station. And what think you the band was playing? "Will ye no come back again." Yes, and playing it well, too. As the band came into view from one of the arched crossings, the faces of the group around William lit up with smiles, for, marching proudly in front, and carrying an enormous bunch of roses, was Tommy Watson, his head erect, his shoulders well back, his face aglow. To his signal the band aligned in front of the little group, and broke into a new tune, a lilting march, written around a then popular song, now almost forgotten, "Bill, our Bill." Perhaps there are some who still remember the chorus:—
"Bill, our Bill, see him smile, On fair days and dull days, Oh, it's well worth while, To watch him at work, To see him at his play; Bill, our Bill; see him smile."
After they had played the chorus several times, the bandsmen sang it, William's friends joining in.
"Rotten verse," said Lucien Torrance, when they were through, "but it fits you, William Adolphus Turnpike—our Bill."
"Where did you get the band, Tommy?" asked Epstein.
"Minstrel show; arrived in Toronto before daylight for a week's engagement," retorted Tommy, proudly, and in curt sentences; "know the leader; copped him at breakfast; arranged terms in five minutes; great send-off to the coming world-famous comedian. Sorry couldn't bring Tommy junior down; sleeping; would have enjoyed it."
Then to William he handed the roses. "Boy," he said gravely, and with a touch of tenderness in his tone, "a lady, a young lady, gave me these with this message, 'Please tell Mr. Turnpike I wish him success.'"
Some say William blushed. William still stoutly denies it; but he could not speak for a moment. His heart was beating wildly; his hands trembled as he took the roses and held them a second or two to his face. He looked up again, self-possessed and quiet. "Thank you, Tommy," he said, simply.
"Is there a——" began Lucien, eagerly.
William broke in gently, "Don't, Lucien," he said, "my career is first—yet. I dare not hope—what sometimes I have dared to hope. I——"
"All aboard!" The hoarse cry of the train despatcher rolled out the words, and the clanging of the station bell followed. As the train began to slowly draw out of the station the band again struck up "Bill, our Bill." William stood on the rear platform of the train, the roses in one hand, the other waving farewell until the train disappeared, the while the band played on.
Then his friends slowly left the station, Lucien walking with Tommy Watson. "Roses for William," said Lucien, "and from a young lady!"
"Yes—and a charming young lady, too, my boy."
"Who is she, Tommy?" Lucien ventured, diffidently.
Tommy shook his head slowly. "Not now, Lucien; not now. The dreams of youth do not always come true, but," with a happy laugh, "William has such a way of making his come true. Who knows?"