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   Chapter 3 No.3

Westways By S. Weir Mitchell Characters: 31274

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The difficult lessons on the use of snow-shoes took up day after day, until weary but at last eager he followed her tireless little figure far into the more remote woods. "What's that?" he said.

"I wanted you to see it, John." It was an old log cabin. "That's where the first James Penhallow lived. Uncle Jim keeps it from tumbling to pieces, but it's no use to anybody."

"The first Penhallow," said John. "It must be very old."

"Oh! I suppose so-I don't know-ask Uncle Jim. They say the Indians attacked it once-that first James Penhallow and his wife fought them till help came. I thought you would like to see it."

He went in, kicking off his snow-shoes. She was getting used to his silences, and now with some surprise at his evident interest followed him. He walked about making brief remarks or eagerly asking questions.

"They must have had loop-holes to shoot. Did they kill any Indians?"

"Yes, five. They are buried behind the cabin. Uncle Jim set a stone to mark the place."

He made no reply. His thoughts were far away in time, realizing the beleaguered cabin, the night of fear, the flashing rifles of his ancestors. The fear-would he have been afraid?

"When I was little, I was afraid to come here alone," said the girl.

"I should like to come here at night," he returned.

"Why? I wouldn't. Oh! not at night. I don't see what fun there would be in that."

"Then I would know-"

"Know what, John? What would you know?"

"Oh! no matter." He had a deep desire to learn if he would be afraid.

"Some day," he added, "I will tell you. Let's go home."

"Are you tired?"

"I'm half dead," he laughed as he slipped on his snow-shoes.

A long and heavy rain cleared away the snow, and the more usual softness of the end of November set in. Their holiday sports were over for a time, to John's relief. On a Monday he went through the woods with Leila to the rectory. Mark Rivers, who had only seen John twice, made him welcome. The tall, thin, pale man, with the quiet smile and attentive grey eyes, made a ready capture of the boy. There were only two other scholars, the sons of the doctor and the Baptist preacher, lads of sixteen, not very mannerly, rather rough country boys, who nudged one another and regarded John with amused interest. In two or three days John knew that he was in the care of an unusually scholarly man, who became at once his friend and treated the lazy village boys and him with considerate kindliness. John liked it. To his surprise, no questions were asked at home about the school, and the afternoons were often free for lonely walks, when Leila went away on her mare and John was at liberty to read or to do as best pleased him. At times Leila bored him, and although with his well-taught courteous ways he was careful not to show impatience, he had the imaginative boy's capacity to enjoy being alone and a long repressed curiosity which now found indulgence among people who liked to answer questions and were pleased when he asked them. Very often, as he came into easier relations with his aunt, he was told to take some query she could not answer to Uncle James or the rector. A rather sensitive lad, he soon became aware that his uncle appeared to take no great interest in him, and, too, the boy's long cultivated though lessening reserve kept them apart. Meanwhile, Ann watched with pleasure his gain in independence, in looks and in appetite. While James Penhallow after his game of whist at night growled in his den over the bitter politics of the day, North and South, his wife read aloud to the children by the fireside in her own small sitting-room or answered as best she could John's questions, confessing ignorance at times or turning to books of reference. It was not always easy to satisfy this restless young mind in a fast developing body. "Were guinea pigs really pigs? What was the hematite iron-ore his uncle used at the works?" Once he was surprised. He asked one evening, "What was the Missouri Compromise?" He had read so much about it in the papers. "Hasn't it something to do with slavery? Aunt Ann, it must seem strange to own a man." His eager young ears had heard rather ignorant talk of it from his mother's English friends.

His aunt said quietly, "My people in Maryland own slaves, John. It is not a matter for a child to discuss. The abolitionists at the North are making trouble. It is a subject-we-I do not care to talk about."

"But what is an abolitionist, aunt?" he urged.

She laughed and said gaily, "I will answer no more conundrums; ask your uncle."

Leila who took no interest in politics fidgeted until she got her chance when Mrs. Ann would not answer John. "I want to hear about that talking oak, John."

She was quicker than he to observe her aunt's annoyance, and Ann, glad to be let off easily, found the needed book, and for a time they fell under the charm of Tennyson, and then earlier than usual were sent to bed.

The days ran on into weeks of school, and now there were snow-shoe tramps or sleigh rides to see some big piece of casting at the forge, where persistently-curious John did learn from some one what hematite was. The life became to him steadily more and more pleasant as he shed with ease the habits of an over regulated life, and living wholesome days prospered in body and mind.

Christmas was a disappointment to Leila and to him. There was an outbreak of measles at Westways and there would be no carols, nor children gathered at Grey Pine. Ann's usual bounty of toys was sent to the village. John's present from his uncle was a pair of skates, and then Leila saw a delightful chance to add another branch of education. Next morning, for this was holiday-week, she asked if he would like to learn to skate. They had gone early to the cabin and were lazily enjoying a rest after a snow-shoe tramp. He replied, in an absent way, "I suppose I may as well learn. How many Indians were there?"

"I don't know. Who cares now?"

"I do."

"I never saw such a boy. You can't ride and you can't skate. You are just good for nothing. You're just fit to be sold at a rummage-sale."

He was less easily vexed than made curious. "What's a rummage-sale?"

"Oh! we had one two years ago. Once in a while Aunt Ann says there must be one, so she gathers up all the trash and Uncle Jim's old clothes (he hates that), and the village people they buy things. And Mr. Rivers sells the things at auction, you know-and oh, my! he was funny."

"So they sell what no one wants. Then why does any one buy?"

"I'm sure, I don't know."

"I wonder what I would fetch, Leila?"

"Not much," she said.

"Maybe you're right." He had one of the brief boy-moods of self-abasement.

Leila changed quickly. "I'll bid for you," she said coyly.

He laughed and looked up, surprised at this earliest indication of the feminine. "What would you give?" he asked.

"Well, about twenty-five cents."

He laughed. "I may improve, Leila, and the price go up. Let us go and learn to skate-you must teach me."

"Of course," said Leila, "but you will soon learn. It's hard at first."

At lunch, on Christmas day, John had thanked his uncle for the skates in the formal way which Ann liked and James Penhallow did not. He said, "I am very greatly obliged for the skates. They appear to me excellent."

"What a confoundedly civil young gentleman," thought Penhallow. "I have been thinking you must learn to skate. The pond has been swept clear of snow."

"Thank you," returned the boy, with a grin which his uncle thought odd.

"Leila will teach you."

John was silent, regarding his uncle with never dying interest, the soldier of Indian battles, the perfect rider and good shot, adored in the stables and loved, as John was learning, in all the country side. John was in the grip of a boy's admiration for a realized ideal-the worship, by the timid, of courage. Of the few things he did well, he thought little; and an invalid's fears had discouraged rough games until he had become like a timorous girl. He had much dread of horses, and was alarmingly sure that he would some day be made to ride. Once in Paris he had tried, had had a harmless accident and, willingly yielding to his mother's fears, had tried no more.

Late in the afternoon, Leila, with her long wake of flying hair, burst into the Squire's den. "What the deuce is the matter?" asked Penhallow.

"Oh! Uncle Jim, he can skate like-like a witch. I couldn't keep near him. He skated an 'L' for my name. Uncle Jim, he's a fraud."

Penhallow knew now why the boy had grinned at him. "I think, Leila, he will do. Where did he learn to skate?"

"At Vevey, he says, on the Lake."

"Yes, of Geneva."

"Tom McGregor was there and Bob Grace. We played tag. John knows a way to play tag on skates. You must chalk your right hand and you must mark with it the other fellow's right shoulder. It must be jolly. We had no chalk, but we are to play it to-morrow. Isn't it interesting, Uncle John?"

Penhallow laughed. "Interesting, my dear? Oh! your aunt will be after you with a stick."

"Aunt Ann's-stick!" laughed Leila.

"My dear Leila," he said gravely, "this boy has had all the manliness coddled out of him, but he looks like his father. I have my own ideas of how to deal with him. I suppose he will brag a bit at dinner."

"He will not, Uncle Jim."

"Bet you a pound of bonbons, Leila."

"From town?"

"Yes."

"All right."

"Can he coast? I did not ask you."

"Well! pretty well," said Leila. For some unknown reason she was unwilling to say more.

"Doesn't the rector dine here, to-day, Leila?"

"Yes, but-oh! Uncle Jim, we found a big hornets' nest yesterday on the log cabin. They seemed all asleep. I told John we would fight them in the spring."

"And what did he say?"

"He said: 'Did they sting?'-I said: 'That was the fun of it!'"

"Better not tell your aunt."

"No, sir. I'm an obedient little girl."

"You little scamp! You were meant to be a boy. Is there anything you are afraid of?"

"Yes, algebra."

"Oh! get out," and she fled.

At dinner John said no word of the skating, to the satisfaction of Leila who conveyed to her uncle a gratified sense of victory by some of the signs which were their private property.

Leaving the cousins to their game of chess, Penhallow followed his wife and Mark Rivers into his library. "Well, Mark," he said, "you have had this boy long enough to judge; it is time I heard what you think of him. You asked me to wait. The youngster is rather reticent, and Leila is about the only person in the house who really knows much about him. He talks like a man of thirty."

"I do not find him reticent," remarked Mrs. Ann, "and his manners are charming-I wish Leila's were half as good."

"Well, let's hear about him."

"May I smoke?" asked the rector.

"Anywhere but in my drawing-room. I believe James would like to smoke in church."

"It might have its consolations," returned Penhallow.

"Thanks," said Rivers smiling. Neither man took advantage of her unusual permission. "But you, Squire, have been closer than I to this interesting boy. What do you make of him?"

"He can't ride-he hardly knows a horse from a mule."

"That's not his fault," said Mrs. Penhallow, "he's afraid of horses."

"Afraid!" said her husband. "By George! afraid of horses."

"He speaks French perfectly," said Mark Rivers.

"He can't swim. I got that out of Leila. I understand he tried it once and gave it up."

"But his mother made him, James. You know Susan. She was as timid as a house-fly for herself, and I suppose for him."

"I asked him," said Rivers, "if he knew any Latin. He answered me in Latin and told me that at Budapest where he was long at school the boys had to speak Latin."

"And the rest, Rivers. Is he well up in mathematics?"

"No, he finds that difficult. But, upon my word, Squire, he is the most doggedly persistent fellow I have ever had to teach and I handled many boys when I was younger. I can take care of my side of the boy."

"He can skate, James," said Mrs. Ann.

"Yes, so I hear. I suppose that under Leila's care and a good out-of-door life he will drop his girl-ways-but-"

"But what, James?"

"Oh! he has been taught that there is no shame in failure, no disgrace in being afraid."

"How do you know he is afraid, my dear James?"

"Oh! I know." Leila's unwillingness to talk had given him some suspicion of the truth. "Well, we shall see. He needs some rough boy-company. I don't like to have the village boys alone with Leila, but when she has John with her it may be as well to ask Dr. McGregor's son Tom to coast and play with them."

"He has no manners," said Mrs. Penhallow.

"Then he may get some from John. He never will from Leila. I will take care of the rest, Rivers. He has got to learn to ride."

"You won't be too hard on him, James?" said his wife.

"Not unless he needs it. Let us drop him."

"Have you seen yesterday's papers?" asked Rivers. "Our politics, North and South, look to me stormy."

Penhallow shook his head at the tall rector. The angry strife of sections and parties was the one matter he never discussed with Ann Penhallow. The rector recalled it as he saw Mrs. Ann sit up and drop on her lap the garment upon which her ever industrious hands were busy. Accepting Penhallow's hint, Rivers said quickly, "But really there is nothing new," and then, "Tom McGregor will certainly be the better for our little gentleman's good manners, and he too has something to learn of Tom."

"I should say he has," said Penhallow.

"A little dose of West Point, I suppose," laughed Mrs. Ann. "It is my husband's one ideal of education."

"It must once, I fancy, have satisfied Ann Grey," retorted the Squire smiling.

"I reserve any later opinion of James Penhallow," she said laughing, and gathering up her sewing bag left them, declaring that now they might smoke. The two men rose, and when alone began at once to talk of the coming election in the fall of 1856 and the endless troubles arising out of the Fugitive Slave Act.

The boy who had been the subject of their conversation was slowly becoming used to novel surroundings and the influence they exerted. Ann talked to him at times of his mother, but he had the disinclination to speak of the dead which most children have, and had in some ways been kept so much of a child as to astonish his aunt. Neither Leila nor any one could have failed to like him and his gentle ways, and as between him and the village boys she knew Leila preferred this clever, if too timid, cousin. So far they had had no serious quarrels. When she rode with the Squire, John wandered in the woods, enjoying solitude, and having some appreciative relation to nature, the great pine woods, the strange noises of the breaking ice in the river, the sunset skies.

Among the village boys with whom at the rector's small school and in the village John was thrown, he liked least the lad McGregor, who had now been invited to coast or skate with the Grey Pine cousins. Tom had the democratic boy-belief that very refined manners imply lack of some other far more practical qualities, and thus to him and the Westways boys John Penhallow was simply an absurd Miss Nancy kind of lad, and it was long after the elders of the little town admired and liked him that the boys learned to respect him. It was easy to see why the generous, good-tempered and pleasant lad failed to satisfy the town boys. John had been sedulously educated into the belief that he was of a class to which these fellows did no

t belong, and of this the Squire had soon some suspicion when, obedient as always, John accepted his uncle's choice of his friend the doctor's son as a playmate.

He was having his hair cut when Tom McGregor came into the shop of

Josiah, the barber. "Wait a minute," said John. "Are you through, Mr.

Josiah?"

Tom grinned, "Got a handle to your name?"

"Yes, because Master John is a gentleman."

"Then I'll call you Mister too."

"It won't ever make you Mister," said the barber, "that kind's born so."

John disliked this outspoken expression of an opinion he shared. "Nonsense," he said. "Come up, Tom, this afternoon. Don't forget the muskrat traps, Mr. Josiah."

"No, sir. Too early yet."

"All right," returned Tom. "I'll come."

March had come and the last snow still lay on the land when thus invited

Tom joined John and Leila in the stable-yard. "Let's play tag," cried

Leila. Tom was ready.

"Here's a stick." They took hold of it in turn. Tom's hand came out on top. "I'm tagger. Look out!" he cried.

They played the game. At last he caught Leila, and crying out, "You're tagged," seized her boy-cap and threw it up on to the steep slope of the stable roof.

"Oh! that's not fair," cried the girl. "You are a rude boy. Now you've got to get it."

"No, indeed. Get the stable-man to get it."

She turned to John, "Please to get it."

"How can I?" he said.

"Go up inside-there's a trap door. You can slide down the snow and get it."

"But I might fall."

"There's your chance," said Tom grinning. John stood, still irresolute.

Leila walked away into the stable.

"She'll get a man," said Tom a little regretful of his rudeness, as she disappeared.

In a moment Leila was up in the hayloft and out on the roof. Spreading out arms and thin legs she carefully let herself slide down the soft snow until, seizing her cap, she set her feet on the roof gutter, crying out, "Get a ladder quick." Alarmed at her perilous position, they ran and called out a groom, a ladder was brought, and in a moment she was on the ground.

Leila turned on the two lads. "You are a coward, Tom McGregor, and you too, John Penhallow. I never-never will play with you again."

"It was just fun," said Tom; "any of the men could have poked it down."

"Cowards," said the girl, tossing back her dark mass of hair and moving away without a look at the discomfited pair.

"I suppose now you will go and tell the Squire," said Tom. He was alarmed.

She turned, "I-a tell-tale!" Her child-code of conduct was imperative. "I am neither a tell-tale nor a coward. 'Tell-tale pick a nail and hang him to a cow's tail!'" and with this well-known declaration of her creed of playground honour, she walked away.

"She'll tell," said Tom.

"She won't," said John.

"Guess I'll go home," said Tom, and left John to his reflections.

They were most disagreeable.

John went into the woods and sat down on a log. "So," he said aloud, "she called me a coward-and I am-I was-I can't bear it. What would my uncle say?" His eyes filled. He brushed away the tears with his sleeve. A sudden remembrance of how good she had been to him, how loyally silent, added to his distress. He longed for a chance to prove that he was not that-that-Eager and yet distrustful, he got up and walked through the melting snow to the cabin, where he lay on the floor thinking, a prey to that fiend imagination, of which he had a larger share than is always pleasant when excuses are needed.

Leila was coldly civil and held her tongue, but for a few days would not go into the woods with him and rode alone or with her uncle. Tom came no more for a week, until self-assured that the Squire had not heard of his behaviour, as he met him on the road with his usual hearty greeting. Ann Penhallow saw that the boy was less happy than usual and suspected some mild difficulty with Leila, but in her wise way said nothing and began to use him for some of her many errands of helpfulness in the village and on the farms, where always he made friends. Seeing at last that the boy was too silent and to her eye unhappy, she talked of it to Mark Rivers. The next day, after school, he said to John, "I want to see that old cabin in the woods. Long as I have lived here I have never been that far. Come and show me the way. I tried once to find it and got lost. We can have a jolly good talk, you and I."

The word of kindly approach was timely. John felt the invitation as a compliment, and was singularly open to the approval his lessons won from this gentle dark-eyed man. "Oh!" he said, "I should like that."

After lunch, Leila, a little penitent, said with unwonted shyness, "The woods are very nice to-day, and I found the first arbutus under the snow."

When John did not respond, she made a further propitiatory advance, "It will soon be time for that hornets' nest, we must go and see."

"What are you about?" said Mrs. Ann; "you will get stung."

"Pursuit of natural history," said Penhallow smiling.

"You are as bad as Leila, James."

"Won't you come?" asked the girl at last.

"Thank you. I regret that I have an engagement with Mr. Rivers," said

John, with the prim manner he was fast losing.

"By George!" murmured Penhallow as he rose.

John looked up puzzled, and his uncle, much amused, went to get his boots and riding-dress. "Wait till I get you on a horse, my Lord Chesterfield," he muttered. "He and Leila must have had a row. What about, I wonder." He asked no questions.

With a renewal of contentment and well-pleased, John called for the rector. They went away into the forest to the cabin.

"And so," said Rivers, "this is where the first Penhallow had his Indian fight. I must ask the Squire."

"I know about it," said John. "Leila told me, and"-he paused, "I saw it."

"Oh! did you? Let's hear." They lay down, and the rector lazily smoked.

"Well, go ahead, Jack, I like stories." He had early rechristened him

Jack, and the boy liked it.

"Well, sir, they saw them coming near to dusk and ran. You see, it was a clearing then; the trees have grown here since. That was at dusk. They barred the door and cut loop-holes between the logs. Next morning the Indians came on. She fired first, and she cried out, 'Oh! James, I've killed a man.'"

"She said that?" asked Rivers.

"Yes, and she wouldn't shoot again until her man was wounded, then she was like a raging lioness."

"A lioness!" echoed Rivers.

"By evening, help came."

"How did you know all this?"

"Oh! Leila told me some-and the rest-well, sir, I saw it. I've been here often."

The rector studied the excited young face. "Would you like to have been there, Jack?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I should have been afraid, and-" Then quickly, "I suppose he was; she was; any one would have been."

"Like as not. He for her, most of all. But there are many kinds of fear,

Jack."

John was silent, and the rector waited. Then the boy broke out, "Leila told me last week I was a coward."

"Indeed! Leila told you that! That wasn't like her, Jack. Why did she say it?"

This was a friendly hearer, whose question John had invited. To-day the human relief of confession was great to the boy. He told the story, in bits, carefully, as if to have it exact were essential. Mark Rivers watched him through his pipe smoke, trying to think of what he could or should say to this small soul in trouble. The boy was lying on the floor looking up, his hands clasped behind his head. "That's all, sir. It's dreadful."

The young rector's directness of character set him on the right path. "I don't know just what to say to you, Jack. You see, you have been taught to be afraid of horses and dogs, of exposure to rain, and generally of being hurt, until-Well, Jack, if your mother had not been an invalid, she would not have educated you to fear, to have no joy in risks. Now you are in more wholesome surroundings-and-in a little while you will forget this small trouble."

The young clergyman felt that in his puzzle he had been rather vague, and added pleasantly, "You have the courage of truth. That's moral courage. Tom would have explained or denied, or done anything to get out of the scrape, if the Squire had come down on him. You would not."

"Oh! thank you," said John. "I'm sorry I troubled you."

"You did in a way; but you did not when you trusted a man who is your friend. Let us drop it. Where are those Indian graves?"

They went out and wandered in the woods, until John said, "Oh! this must be that arbutus Leila talks about, just peeping out from under the snow." They gathered a large bunch.

"It is the first breath of the fragrance of spring," said Rivers.

"Oh! yes, sir. How sweet it is! It does not grow in Europe."

"No, we own it with many other good and pleasant things."

When they came to the house, Leila was dismounting after her ride. John said, "Here Leila, I gathered these for you."

When she said, "Thank you, John," he knew by her smiling face that he was forgiven, and without a word followed her into the hall, still pursued by the thought; but I was afraid. He put aside this trouble for a time, and the wood sports with Leila were once more resumed. What thought of his failure the girl still kept in mind, if she thought of it at all, he never knew, or not for many days. He had no wish to talk of it, but fearfully desired to set himself right with her and with John Penhallow.

One day in early April she asked him to go to the stable and order her horse. He did so, and alone with an unpleasant memory, in the stable-yard he stood still a moment, and then with a sudden impulse threw his cap up on to the roof. He took a moment to regret it, and then saying, "I've got to do it!" he went into the stable and out of the hay-loft on to the sloping roof. He did not dare to wait, but let himself slide down the frozen snow, seized his cap, and knew of a sudden that the smooth ice-coating was an unsuspected peril. He rolled over on his face, straightened himself, and slid to the edge. He clutched the gutter, hung a moment, and dropped some fifteen feet upon the hard pavement. For a moment the shock stunned him. Then, as he lay, he was aware of Billy, who cried, "He's dead! he's dead!" and ran to the house, where he met Mrs. Ann and Leila on the porch. "He's killed-he's dead!"

"Who? Who?" they cried.

"Mr. John, he's dead!"

As Billy ran, the dead got his wits about him, sat up, and, hearing Billy howling, got on his feet. His hands were torn and bleeding, but he was not otherwise damaged. He ran after Billy, and was but a moment behind him.

Mrs. Ann was shaking the simple fellow, vainly trying to learn what had happened. Leila white to the lips was leaning against a pillar. John called out, "I'm all right, aunt. I had a fall-and Billy, do hold your tongue."

Billy cried, "He's not dead!" and fled as he had come.

"My poor boy," said Mrs. Ann, "sit down." He gladly obeyed.

At this moment James Penhallow came downstairs. "What's all this row about, Ann? I heard Billy-Oh, so you're the dead man, John. How did you happen to die?"

"I fell off the stable roof, sir."

"Well, you got off easily." He asked no other questions, to John's relief, but said, "Your hands look as if you had fought our big tom-cat."

John had risen on his uncle's approach. Now Penhallow said, "Sit down. Put some court-plaster on those scratches, Ann, or a postage stamp-or-so-Come, Leila, the horses are here. Run upstairs and get my riding-whip. That fool brought me down in a hurry. When the chimney took fire last year he ran through the village yelling that the house was burned down. Don't let your aunt coddle you, John."

"Do let the boy alone, James."

"Come, Leila," he said.

"I think I won't ride to-day, Uncle Jim."

A faint signal from his wife sent him on his way alone with, "All right,

Leila. Any errands, my dear?"

"No-but please call at the grocer's and ask him why he has sent no sugar-and tell Mrs. Saul I want her. If Pole is in, you might mention that when I order beef I do not want veal."

While John was being plastered and in dread of the further questions which were not asked, Leila went upstairs, and the Squire rode away to the iron-works smiling and pleased. "He'll do," he murmured, "but what the deuce was my young dandy doing on the roof?" The Captain had learned in the army the wisdom of asking no needless questions. "Leila must have been a pretty lively instructor in mischief. By and by, Ann will have it out of the boy, and-I must stop that. Now she will be too full of surgery. She is sure to think Leila had something to do with it." He saw of late that Ann was resolute as to what to him would be a sad loss. Leila was to be sent to school before long-accomplishments! "Damn accomplishments! I have tried to make a boy out of her-now the inevitable feminine appears-she was scared white-and the boy was pretty shaky. I am sure Leila will know all about it." That school business had already been discussed with his wife, and then, he thought, "There is to come a winter in the city, society, and-some nice young man, and so good-bye, my dear comrade. Get up, Brutus." He dismissed his cares as the big bay stretched out in a gallop.

After some surgical care, John was told to go to his room and lie down. He protested that he was in no need of rest, but Ann Penhallow, positive in small ways with every one, including her husband, sent John away with an imperative order, nor on the whole was he sorry to be alone. No one had been too curious. He recognized this as a reasonable habit of the family. And Leila? He was of no mind to be frank with her; and this he had done was a debt paid to John Penhallow! He may not have so put it, but he would not admit to himself that Leila's contemptuous epithet had had any influence on his action. The outcome was a keen sense of happy self-approval. When he had dressed for dinner, feeling pretty sore all over, he found Leila waiting at the head of the stairs.

"John Penhallow, you threw your cap on the roof and went up to get it, you did."

"I did, Leila, but how did you know?"

She smiled and replied, "I-I don't know, John. I am sorry for what I said, and oh! John, Uncle Jim, he was pleased!"

"Do you think so?"

"Yes." She caught his hand and at the last landing let it fall. At dinner, the Squire asked kindly: "Are you all right, my boy?"

"Yes, sir," and that was all.

Mark Rivers, who had heard of this incident from Mrs. Penhallow, and at last from Leila, was alone in a position to comprehend the motives which combined to bring about an act of rashness. The rector had some sympathy with the boy and liked him for choosing a time when no one was present to witness his trial of himself. He too had the good sense like the Squire to ask no questions.

Meanwhile, Tom McGregor came no more, feeling the wound to his pride, but without the urgent need felt by John to set himself in a better position with himself. He would have thought nothing of accepting Leila's challenge, but very much wanted to see the polite girl-boy brought to shame. In fact, even the straightforward Squire, with all his ready cordiality, at times found John's extreme politeness ridiculous at his age, but knew it to be the result of absurd training and the absence of natural association with other and manly boys. To Tom it was unexplained and caused that very common feeling of vague suspicion of some claim to superiority which refined manners imply to those who lack manners altogether.

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