Under Sealed Orders
by H. A. Cody
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Now, that all depends. I need the money, God knows, but I must understand more about what is expected of me in connection with the care of the old man."

"I can easily settle that. You are first of all to get a good place for him to live, and, if possible, secure some dependable person to be his companion who will take a special interest in his welfare. You are to keep a detailed account of all expenses, and send the bill to me at the end of the month. This address will find me," and he drew forth a card and handed it to the young man.

There was nothing on the card to reveal to Jasper the identity of the man who was taking such a remarkable interest in old David. It simply told that the stranger's name was Robert Westcote, of 22 Princess Street, Woldun.

"I think everything is satisfactory now," and Jasper lifted his eyes to the stranger's face. "I am not likely to ask any questions, and as to telling people who you are, there will be no trouble about that. In fact, I am not intimate enough with any one here to wish to tell, even if I desired to do so."

"That is good," Mr. Westcote replied. "I could not have chosen a better person for my purpose."

"When do you want me to begin my work?" Jasper asked,

"At once, that is, if you can see your way to do so. But first of all, I should like to visit this old man. I am somewhat curious about him now that he is under my protection. How far is he from here?"

"About five miles, I should judge, though I have never been there myself. He is at Mrs. Bean's, and she lives on a back road."

"Very well, then, we shall go just as soon as the car is ready, and I should like for you to go with me."

It took the chauffeur some time to find out what was the matter with the car, and when the damage was repaired, the three started down the road at a fast rate. This was something new to Jasper, and he leaned back in the comfortable seat and gave himself up to the enjoyment of the moment. He need not worry any more for the present about his living, as he had a cheque for one hundred and fifty dollars safely stowed away in his pocket. As to the mystery connected with it all, he did not feel inclined to bother his head. In fact, he was becoming greatly interested, and was now quite anxious to see what the final outcome would be, and why this stranger had taken such an unusual interest in an old pauper.

It did not take them long to reach Mrs. Bean's house, where they drew up before the gate. It was a small, humble abode, but everything about the place was scrupulously neat and clean. Flowers bloomed in front of the house, while several large trees stood a short distance away. Under one of these they saw old David sitting in a rocking-chair with Betty by his side. She had been reading to him but had laid down her book to look at the car, which was an unusual thing in that settlement. Seeing Jasper, she sprang quickly to her feet with a cry of delight, and hurried toward the road. Her face was aglow with excitement, and Mr. Westcote thought that he had never beheld a more perfect picture of radiant health and beauty.

"This is the young woman I was speaking to you about," Jasper remarked, as he stepped from the car.

"I am delighted to meet you," and Mr. Westcote held out his hand. "I have heard about you, and have been quite anxious to see you. How are you making out with your new charge?"

"Great," and a smile wreathed the girl's face. "He is so happy here, and likes for me to read to him. But he is so funny at times, and interrupts me to ask questions."

"What about?" Mr. Westcote enquired.

"Oh, about Break Neck Falls. He wants to know if I can hear the water speaking, and, of course, I always do," she added with a slight laugh. "He wanted me to go there this morning, but as mother and the boys are away I could not leave, so I am trying to satisfy him by reading."

"Would your mother be willing to keep him for a time, do you think?" Jasper asked, "that is, if she were paid enough?"

"I'm afraid not," and the girl's eyes roamed in a thoughtful manner toward where David was sitting. "You see, our house is too small, and there is hardly room enough as it is. And besides, we are too far away from the Falls. Mr. David needs to be quite near so that he can visit the place whenever he takes the notion, which is quite often. That is the only thing which will make him happy."

"Quite right," Mr. Westcote assented. "He should live as near as possible. But may we see your charge?" he asked.

"Certainly," and Betty at once led the way across the field to the big shady tree.

Old David, seeing them coming, rose to meet them. He stood very erect and dignified as Jasper took his hand, and then introduced Mr. Westcote. He was visibly embarrassed that he did not have chairs for all, and offered his own to the stranger.

"Please keep your seat," Mr. Westcote told him. "I prefer to sit on the ground. What a delightful place you have here, sir," and he looked around upon the scenery.

"It is very beautiful," David assented, "and I can hear the Falls so plainly, especially at night."

An amused twinkle shone in Betty's eyes as she turned them upon Jasper's face. She knew very well that it was impossible to hear the sound of the falling waters, and that it was purely imagination on his part.

The stranger, however, did not smile. In fact, there was an expression of sadness upon his face as he watched David. He said very little, being content to let the others do the talking. But he observed the old man very carefully without apparently doing so. What his thoughts were he kept to himself, and when he arose to go, he took David's hand in almost a reverent manner, and looked searchingly into his eyes as if trying to find something there which he missed. He hardly spoke a word on the way back but seemed lost in deep thought. As Jasper alighted from the car in front of his cabin, Mr. Westcote laid his right hand upon his shoulder.

"Take good care of that old man," he said. "Let nothing interfere with your watchfulness until you hear from me again. Get the best place you can for him, no matter what it costs."

That was all, but the expression upon the stranger's face, and the impressive manner in which he uttered these words gave Jasper cause for deep thought during the remainder of the morning.



Jasper was now in a position to give up his entire time to old David's interests. No longer need he worry about working on the farm, nor how he was to obtain his daily food. He was provided for a month at least, and he was most anxious now to enter upon the odd task which had been assigned to him. Robert Westcote, the stranger, interested him greatly, and he felt sure that he should hear more about him later.

Having eaten his simple lunch, he started down the road. The village of Creekdale was about two miles away, and there he hoped to find a house suitable for David. The only man he knew in the place was the storekeeper, and from him he believed that he could secure some information, and at the same time get his cheque cashed.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and his heart was lighter than it had been for many a day. He walked along with the swing of a man who has a definite purpose in life, and from whose heart all gloomy thoughts have been banished. He did not try to account for this mood. It was sufficient for him that in some way a load had been for a time lifted from his mind. He would let the future look out for itself, and enjoy the present as far as it was possible for him to do so.

Reaching a clump of trees, he sat down by the side of the road to rest. The shade was refreshing, for he was quite warm as he had been walking fast. Birds sang in the branches above him, and fanned the air with their light wings. Butterflies zigzagged past, and honey-laden bees sped by like express trains. He watched them with much interest, and mused upon their activity. Each had a special work to do, and was performing it to the best of its ability. He was glad now that he was alive, and had something definite in view. It was far better than groping around in a haphazard way looking for work. Something seemed to tell him that he was entering upon the trail of a mystery and he was eager to follow the scent wherever it might lead. The spirit of adventure was in his blood, mingled with the nectar of romance. It had always been there, inherited from his ancestors. It was that same spirit which had caused him to leave the farm and enter college several years before. It had always been with him, and was stronger now than ever. He would follow the quest to the end, and see what the outcome would be.

Jasper was about to rise and proceed on his way when, glancing along the road, he saw Lois coming toward him. His heart beat fast when he saw her, and his first impulse was to get away out of sight. Why should he meet her? he asked himself. She had no use for him, and would not consider it worth while to talk to one of whom her brother and Sammie Dingle were always making fun.

As he hesitated, Lois drew nearer. She was walking very slowly as if in deep thought. She wore a simple white dress, and a light, broad-rimmed hat which partly shaded her face. To Jasper she seemed the very embodiment of grace and beauty as she moved toward him. In her all the charm of the glorious day, of bird and flower seemed to be combined. He was lifted out of himself, entranced, and by the time she was opposite the clump of trees he was standing by the side of the road, with hat in his hand, confused and abashed.

His sudden appearance startled Lois for an instant.

But when she saw who it was, she smiled, and held out her hand.

"I didn't notice you," she began, "as I was lost in thought. But I have wanted to see you to thank you for what you did for me yesterday. I shudder to think of what would have been the result if you had not been there. I hope you were not offended at Sammie's words."

"And you feel none the worse for your fall and wetting?" Jasper evasively replied.

"Oh, no, I am all right now. It takes more than that to knock me out. I was going over this morning to thank you, but——"

She paused, and looked thoughtfully across the fields.

"I know," Jasper hastened to explain. "You didn't like to come to my shack. It is only natural. It would have given people something to talk about."

Lois looked at him for an instant and a sudden fire of resentment shone in her eyes, while her face flushed.

"Do you consider me such a weak person as that?" she demanded. "Do you imagine that I care what people might say? I never let the frills and shams of life interfere with me when I am in the way of duty."

"Forgive me," Jasper apologised, "if I have offended you. I spoke without due thought. But one hardly knows how to take people these days, and I am sorry that I judged you wrongly. I am so glad that you are not like others."

"We will forget all about it," Lois replied, with a smile. "Yes, I was going to see you this morning to thank you, no matter what people might say, but I was sent for by Mrs. Peterson who lives just back there, and I have been with her ever since. She is in great trouble, as her husband is an invalid, and she has no way of making a living. She is thinking of taking in summer boarders, and she wanted to talk to me about it."

"And what did you advise?" Jasper questioned.

"Nothing," was the emphatic reply. "It is a difficult problem, and I do not know what can be done. In the first place, the house is too small for more than two or three boarders, and she could not expect to have them for more than a few weeks at the most in the summer time. If she could have them all the year around it would be different. And besides, it would be very hard for Mrs. Peterson to look after them. It takes most of her time caring for her husband, who is quite weak, and not always very considerate, I am afraid."

As Lois was thus talking, Jasper was doing some serious thinking. He was greatly interested in what she told him, not so much about the Petersons as others he had in mind. He believed that here was the very place for old David.

"Do you mind going back with me to see Mrs. Peterson?" he asked.

"Why, no," Lois replied, turning her eyes to his, as if trying to comprehend why he should wish to meet Mrs. Peterson. "It will be better than standing here in the heat."

As they walked slowly along the road Jasper told her about David, how he and the girl had taken refuge in his cabin, where the old man was at present, and that he was looking for a suitable place where he could live. He said as little as possible about his own share in the matter, excepting that he had rescued David from Jim Goban and was going to see that he was well cared for. He did not say anything about Robert Westcote, remembering his obligation of silence.

Lois was much interested in what he told her, and her mind was very busy as she walked along by his side wondering where he was to get the money to carry out his plan.

"It will cost considerable," she remarked when he was through. "Do you think you can manage it?"

"I am quite certain that there will be no trouble," he replied. "Just why I am doing this I cannot explain now, but I assure you there will be no difficulty. David is to be well provided for, as far as money is concerned, and he is to have some one to look after him all the time."

"What, at Mrs. Peterson's, if she will take him?" Lois asked in surprise.

"Yes, that is my idea. If that girl Betty will come, she will be just the person."

They had paused now and were standing at the entrance of the lane leading up to the Peterson's house. It was a most beautiful spot, with tall trees lining both sides of the drive-way. They were on a gentle elevation with the village of Creekdale on their left but a few rods away. It was an interesting collection of snug country-homes of farmers, river boatmen, and several retired sea captains. All the people in Creekdale knew one another's business, and the women could see what their neighbours were doing, and some could easily talk from door to door about the events of the day.

It was only natural that Mrs. Raymond should leave her washing-tub long enough to watch Lois and Jasper as they stood for a few moments by the side of the road. She wondered what they were doing there, and her curiosity was so much aroused when they at length walked up the drive-way to the Peterson's house that she slipped over next door to discuss it with Mrs. Markham.

The people of Creekdale often talked about the Petersons, calling them stuck-up because they mingled but little in the social life of the place. "I have lived next door to them for nigh on to ten years," Mrs. Raymond once confided to a neighbour, "and only once have they been in my house. I guess Captain Peterson must have some money laid by, for he does nothing but work in his garden and look after his hens, cow and pig."

When, however, the Captain was stricken with partial paralysis and was unable to work, the belief became general that he certainly did have considerable money laid away.

The Petersons' house was as neat and cosy as hands could make it. A spacious verandah swept the front and south end of the building. Over this clambered a luxuriant growth of grape vines. Here Captain Peterson was lying in a large invalid's chair, puffing away at a short-stemmed corn-cob pipe. He was surprised to see Lois back so soon, and he looked with curiosity upon Jasper, wondering where he had come from.

"Couldn't leave us, eh?" he questioned, as he gazed with admiration upon the bright, animated face before him.

"No, I had to come back," Lois laughingly replied. "Your company is so attractive that I could not resist the temptation of bringing another to enjoy it. This is Mr. Jasper Randall, Captain Peterson. He has come to see you on special business."

"Glad to see you, sir," and the captain reached out his hand. "Have a chair; there's one right there. Do ye smoke?"

"Oh, yes," and Jasper thrust his hand at once into his pocket. "Do you mind?" he asked, turning toward Lois.

"Not at all," was the reply. "But you two smoke to your hearts' content while I have a chat with Mrs. Peterson. I suppose she's in the house, Captain?"

"Yes, in the kitchen. At least, I heard her there a short time ago."

Lois was absent for about twenty minutes and when she returned the two men were talking in the most friendly manner.

"This is the first good chat I've had with a man for a long time," the captain told her. "He has made me feel better already."

"I hope he hasn't forgotten the object of his visit in listening to your sea yarns," Lois laughingly replied.

"Tut, tut, girl," and the captain blew a great cloud of smoke into the air. "D'ye think that is all I talk about? We had something just as interesting to discuss to-day, and so I forgot all about the yarns."

"And so you are willing to take old David and Betty into your house, are you?"

"Sure. I'm satisfied if Julia is. She's in charge of the ship now since I've lost my sea-legs."

"Mrs. Peterson is delighted at the thought of having them," Lois replied. "Here she comes now, and can speak for herself."

Mrs. Peterson was a pleasant-faced little woman who appealed to Jasper at once. He felt quite sure that she was just the person to look after David. She appeared so motherly and sympathetic that it was easy for him to talk to her as she showed him the rooms David and Betty could have.

"Why, you will give them half of the house," Jasper exclaimed.

"Only three rooms." was the reply. "The old man can sleep downstairs, and he can have this big room adjoining. The girl can have a comfortable room right at the head of the stairs."

Jasper and Lois were both greatly pleased, and as they walked away from the house they discussed it like two animated children.

"How delighted David will be with the place," Lois remarked. "He will be so comfortable there, I feel sure, and Mrs. Peterson will take such good care of him."

"And he will be able to hear the falls so plainly," Jasper replied. "He can sit on the verandah or at the window of his room and listen to the waters as long as he likes. It is just the place for him."

"How much does Mrs. Peterson want a week for their board?" Lois enquired.

"I never asked her," was the quiet reply. "I shall find that out later, for it is a matter of minor importance."

Lois glanced up quickly into her companion's face. She longed to know where the money was to come from. Surely this man who was working digging potatoes did not intend to pay the entire amount. But Jasper volunteered not the slightest information. He continued to talk about David, and his surprise when he learned of what was being done for him.

"I am so grateful for your assistance this afternoon," Jasper told Lois as they at last paused at the gate leading to the Sinclair house. "I started forth uncertain what to do, and behold, everything has turned out as if by magic."

"I am thankful that I have been of some assistance," was the quiet reply. "My mind is greatly relieved, too, for I was much worried about the Petersons. Two heads are better than one after all, are they not?"



"Isn't this lovely!" Betty exclaimed, as she stood in the middle of the large room which had been assigned to David.

It was the second day since their arrival at the Petersons' house, and their delight at everything was not only amusing to Mrs. Peterson but somewhat pathetic as well. She could not account for the girl's remarkable care of the old man. She would allow nothing to interfere with her attention upon him, and she arranged a cosy spot by the big north window where he could sit and listen to the sound of his beloved falls.

"You will spoil him," Mrs. Peterson told her once when they were alone in the kitchen. "You will make him as helpless as a child. It is not good for men to be waited upon too much."

"Are you not afraid of spoiling your husband, then, Mrs. Peterson?" Betty replied. "You treat him just like a child."

"Oh, but he is an invalid, and can't help himself. That is the reason why I have to wait upon him."

"But Mr. David is a wonder," Betty insisted, "and he must not be neglected."

There was such an expression of admiration in the girl's eyes that Mrs. Peterson had not the heart to smile at her enthusiasm.

"In what way is he a wonder?" was all she asked, as she went on with her work.

"Oh, he has a great thing in his head, which he is thinking about all the time. It has to do with the falls, and he has told me a whole lot about it. He will be very rich some day, and we are going to have such a nice house of our own. You see, I am to be his housekeeper, and nurse him when he is sick."

It was a great pleasure for Captain Peterson to have David and Betty at the house. No longer did he have to sit alone for hours upon the verandah as he had an audience now to listen to his tales of the sea and the places he had visited. David was a good listener and enjoyed hearing the yarns, although he kept one ear open for the sound of the falls. Nothing must interfere with his interest up there.

One afternoon the captain was speaking about England, and mentioned Liverpool. David became unusually interested, and even let his pipe go out as he sat with his eyes fixed intently upon the captain's face.

"You seem to know Liverpool pretty well," he at length remarked, as the captain paused to re-light his pipe.

"Should say so," was the reply. "Guess I know about everything there worth knowing, especially along shipping lines."

"There must be some big firms there, eh?"

"Big! I should say so. Why, I could name a dozen right offhand, which have ships sailing around the world. Now, there's the Dockett concern, for instance. Holy smokes! but they're wealthy. If I told you the business they do you wouldn't believe me."

"No?" David laid his pipe upon the verandah railing. He had to do it because his hand was trembling so violently that he could hold it no longer.

"Indeed you wouldn't," the captain continued, not noticing his companion's agitation. "And you should see old Dockett himself, who owns it all, so I understand."

"What about him?" David asked in a voice scarcely above a whisper. For once he had forgotten his beloved falls.

"Ho, ho, I wish you could see him," and the captain leaned back and laughed as he had not laughed for months. "He certainly is a queer one."

"In what way?" David questioned.

"Well, it is hard to explain. He looks like a bear, and he acts like one, too. My, I've heard him get his tongue on men lots of times, and he is a holy terror. But he's a great business man, so I believe, and has made heaps of money."

"What does he do with it?" David asked.

"Piles it up, I guess. He hasn't a chick to leave it to, so I understand."

"Hasn't he a wife?"

"No, not when I last heard of him, which was five years ago. It isn't likely he's married since then."

David was unusually quiet the rest of the day. There was a far-away look in his eyes and nothing interested him, not even the voice of his falls. Betty was quite anxious, and confided her trouble to Mrs. Peterson.

"Do you think he is going to be sick?" she asked. "Suppose he should die, what will become of that great thing he has in his head?"

"Oh, I guess he is all right," Mrs. Peterson soothed. "Perhaps he is thinking out something else, and will surprise us with some new idea."

"Oh, do you think so?" and the girl's eyes grew big with wonder. "Won't it be great if he does!"

David was much brighter the next morning and sat for some time out upon the verandah. Betty had gone to the office for the mail, as Mrs. Peterson was too busy about the house. She did this nearly every day now, and enjoyed the walk. The captain was always anxious to get his daily paper, and sometimes there would be a letter from an old friend.

It was almost noon when Betty arrived. Her cheeks were flushed more than usual and she was greatly excited.

"What's up now?" the captain enquired. "Haven't been scared, have ye?"

"It's a letter for Mr. David!" she replied. "Just think of that!"

"H'm," and the captain gave a grunt of disgust. "Is that all. I thought maybe ye'd seen a ghost. Why should a letter so upset you?"

"Oh, but he never got a letter before since I've known him, and it must be very important."

While the two were talking David rose from his chair and stepped toward Betty.

"A letter for me?" he asked, in a somewhat doubtful voice.

"Yes, here it is. You had better open it at once."

The old man took it in his hand and stood studying it for a few seconds. Then he slowly opened the envelope, and drew forth the letter. As he scanned the contents, his eyes grew suddenly wide with astonishment and his hands trembled violently.

"Oh, Mr. David, what's the matter?" Betty cried as she observed his intense excitement. "Is it some bad news?"

But the old man did not seem to notice her. He stood there, shaking in every limb, staring upon the letter.

"Tell me what it is," the girl again demanded. "I want to know at once."

This imperious order brought David to his senses, and without a word he handed her the letter. Eagerly seizing it, she began to read. It took her longer than the old man to make out its meaning, and when the truth at last dawned upon her mind she gave a glad cry of joy, and her eyes beamed with delight as she turned them upon his face.

"Oh, isn't it great!" she exclaimed. "Five thousand dollars for that thing in your head, Mr. David. Won't you be rich. Now we can have a house of our very own, and I can be your housekeeper!"

"But that isn't all, Betty," David replied. "I am to be Honorary President of the company, just think of that. And they are to carry out my plans and do just what I wish. Girl, my dreams are to come true at last. I shall live to see my beautiful falls bringing a blessing to the entire country. I wonder if people will laugh at me now, and call me crazy."

It was only natural that intense excitement should reign at the Haven for the next few hours. The captain and his wife were greatly impressed by the good fortune which had come so suddenly to old David. They could hardly believe it possible, and they had the feeling that there had been some mistake. But Betty would not hear of such a thing. She was sure that it was all true, and it was due to the wonderful thing that David had in his head.

Dinner was late that day, and they had just finished when Jasper arrived. Then out upon the verandah he heard the remarkable story. It was Betty who told it, while David and the captain sat smoking near by. He was shown the letter as well, the cause of all the excitement. Jasper read it over several times, and then stepping over to David he grasped his hand.

"Allow me to congratulate you, sir," he began. "Such good luck does not come to many in this country. I am so thankful that your plans are to be carried out after all."

"And they are to consult me, and carry out my every wish," David replied. "It is so stated there," and he pointed to the letter.

The enthusiasm of the old man was so intense and childlike that Jasper had not the heart to say one word that would in any way dampen his joy. To him, however, the whole thing was a great puzzle. Was it a joke, he wondered, which some people were playing upon this simple-minded man? A company was mentioned, but its name was not given. And further, why should any company be willing to pay five thousand dollars for David's idea, which was not new? It had been successfully carried out in other localities. Surely a concern which was able to make such a liberal offer must have full and accurate knowledge about hydro-electric plants and what they had accomplished in the past. And why should David be made Honorary President of the company? Was Robert Westcote, the stranger, the cause of it all? He had not heard from him since the day of their visit to Mrs. Bean's, and but for the cheque which he had received he would have been inclined to consider the whole thing as a hoax.

Jasper kept his thoughts, however, to himself, and sat for some time on the verandah taking but little part in the conversation. Betty and the captain did most of the talking, while David sat near with a happy expression upon his face.

"When are you thinking of starting housekeeping on your own account?" the captain enquired. "You'll be so mighty important now that you won't want to stay with us any longer."

"Don't you worry, Captain," Betty laughingly replied. "We're not going to leave you just yet. You see, we haven't any house to go to, and it will take the rest of the summer to make arrangements."

When Jasper left the Haven he walked slowly down the road toward the post office thinking over carefully all that he had just heard. Every day he had been expecting news from Mr. Westcote, giving information as to what was expected of him. Hitherto he had been disappointed. But to-day he was rewarded when the postmaster, in addition to his daily paper, handed him out a letter. Jasper felt that this was the one he had been looking for, and he hurried out of the building and carted homeward. Reaching a shady tree by the side of the road, he sat down upon the ground and tore open the letter. A week of thought and inactivity had made him anxious to know something more of what was expected of him, and he was quite certain that now the veil was to be lifted and the mystery partly solved.

The letter was from Robert Westcote, and although it was somewhat brief it brought him considerable satisfaction. His eyes kindled with animation and his pulse quickened as he considered the message he had just received and meditated upon the possibilities of the future.



Never in the memory of the oldest inhabitant had Creekdale been so greatly excited. How the news first arrived no one could tell. But everybody seemed to have heard the rumor at once, and immediately there was much running to and fro among the villagers. The store was the principal place where the men gathered to discuss the report and to find out what was the latest bit of information. Men would find some excuse for leaving their work in the fields in order to drop into the store during the afternoon lest some choice morsel of news should be missed. Every evening they would gather there such as they had never done before in the summer months. It was always in the winter that they made the store their headquarters when work was not so pressing.

It was Andy Forbes, the storekeeper, who made it a point of keeping abreast of the times. What he didn't know of the events of the parish was not considered of any importance. He had a way of appearing to know more than he really did. But concerning this affair at the falls he was completely blocked.

"The whole thing stumps me," he acknowledged one night, after an animated discussion had taken place as to the purpose of it all. "I can understand about the engineers making the surveys to find out how much power can be obtained from the falls. That Light and Power Company in the city has been playing the hog too long, and robbing the people. It is something fierce what they charge. It is only natural that an opposition company should be formed to force down the prices. But the question is, Who is back of this new movement? and what has Crazy David to do with it?"

"And so you really think he knows something about at?" Ben Logan enquired.

"Sure. I could tell you a number of things but my position as postmaster compels me to be silent." This was merely another of Andy's methods, and it always impressed his hearers in a marked degree.

"But what about that chap who was working for old Squabbles?" Billy Dexter asked. "He seems to be mixed up somehow with the affair. He spends most of his time now at the falls with the engineers. I understand that he was the one who got the Petersons to take in Crazy David and that girl, Betty Bean."

"Oh, he's a queer one," Sandy Morton replied. "I met him the other day on the road and asked him what was going on up at the falls and who were the men back of the work? My, you should have seen the look he gave me. It was 'Mind your own business,' as plain as if he had said it in words. I ought to have knocked him down, for it was a dead insult."

"Better not try anything like that, Sandy," Ben Logan laughingly gibed. "He'd wipe up the dust with you in no time, if I'm not much mistaken. Anyway, he minds his own business, and that's something in his favour."

"I believe he's working for the bunch," the store-keeper volunteered. "I cashed a cheque of his some time ago, and—— But, there, I must not let out secrets."

While the people of Creekdale were consumed with curiosity at what was taking place at the falls, Peter Sinclair was becoming filled with anxiety, which increased as the days passed into weeks. Lois found it harder than ever to get along with him, and she always dreaded his home-coming every evening from the city. Occasionally he travelled on the river steamer, but as a rule Dick drove him to the city in the morning in the car and brought him back at night. This was to the young man's liking, as he found it lonely in the country where he missed his boon companions. Lois was glad that this was so as she could have the days free to follow her own inclinations. But she was always careful to have dinner ready when her father and brother arrived, and to make their home-coming as bright and pleasant as possible.

Whether Mr. Sinclair appreciated this attention Lois did not know, as he never made any comment. At times, he treated her as if she were merely a housekeeper, and not his own daughter interested in his welfare. He ate and slept in the house and spent his Sundays there. But apart from paying the bills, which, were always light, he left everything else to his daughter.

The night when the men of Creekdale were talking so earnestly at the store, Mr. Sinclair was late reaching, home. Dinner had been waiting for over an hour, and Lois was reading on the verandah, for it was a beautiful evening, with not a ripple on the surface of the river. She longed to be out there in her little boat where of late she spent so much of her time.

To almost any one else this home-coming would have been a great pleasure, especially if the day in the city had been trying. He would have found the cool, quiet house with such a daughter waiting to receive him most comforting. But with Mr. Sinclair it was altogether different. He did not seem to notice the neatly-set dining-room table, with its snow-white linen and the fragrant flowers so artistically arranged in the centre. Neither did he pay any special attention to Lois, who, clad in a simple white dress, sat at the head of the table.

Lois intuitively realised that there was something out of the ordinary worrying her father. He was more silent than ever, and took no part in the conversation between his son and daughter. Dick related to Lois his experience that afternoon with a party of his friends who had motored over to the Sea Breeze Park, and had luncheon at the Sign of the Maple.

"It's a dandy place," Dick exclaimed, as he passed his plate for another helping of roast lamb. "They certainly do serve things up in style, and it is no wonder that so many city people go there. But you could never guess who came in while we were eating."

"Any one I know?" Lois asked.

"Sure; a special friend of yours," and Dick gave a knowing grin. "He's been under your care for years. I guess you know Spuds all right."

Lois' face flushed at these words, but she looked calmly at her brother.

"What is there remarkable about seeing Mr. Randall at such a place?" she enquired. "Why shouldn't he go there as well as you or any one else?"

"Oh, nothing in that, only I thought maybe you'd be interested."

"So I am in a way, as I thought that Mr. Randall was up at the falls. He seldom goes to the city, so I understand, but attends strictly to business."

"I guess he was doing that all right at the Sign of the Maple. He seemed to be so busy that he forgot to eat."

"Was he alone?"

"Oh, no. There was the prettiest girl I ever set eyes on. I tell you Spuds is a lucky fellow to know such a beauty. He's gone up a peg in my estimation since I saw him with her. You should have seen her eyes, especially when she smiled at something her father was saying."

"Her father, did you say?" Lois asked. It was somewhat of a relief for her to know that there was a father present and that she was not alone with Jasper.

"Well, I suppose he was her father," Dick replied, "though I am not positive. He was a fine looking man, anyway. I'd like to get acquainted with him, for it's worth knowing such a chap who has a daughter like that. I wonder how Spuds happened to meet him. By jingo! I've got it," and Dick brought his fist down upon the table with such a bang that the dishes rattled. "I'll bet you anything that he has something to do with that Break Neck Falls affair, for old Tim Parkin, the big lumber merchant, was along, too. He owns some fine timber tracts up this way, and no doubt there was a deal on. That confounded mysterious company will need a great amount of lumber, if rumours are correct."

As Dick uttered these words his father looked up. His interest had been suddenly aroused, and for the first time he joined in the conversation.

"Did you say that Tim Parkin was at the Sign of the Maple?" he growled.

"Yes, Dad," the young man replied. "He was looking bigger and more prosperous than ever. He seemed mighty pleased over something."

"Did you near what they were talking about?"

"No, I couldn't make out anything as we were on the opposite side of the room."

"But you could see the girl, though. If your ears had been half as good as your eyes you would have heard what was being said."

"But any one can see much farther than he can hear," Dick protested. "You surely don't expect the impossible from me, do you?"

"I don't expect anything from you, sir," and Mr. Sinclair glared at his son. "I have long since given up expecting. All you care for is to have a good time riding around in the car, attending parties, and looking for the prettiest girls. If you were as much interested in business as you are in pleasure you would be of some use to me. But I guess you'll have to get a hustle on mighty goon, though, from the look of things. I won't be able to indulge you in your idleness much longer."

"Why, Dad, what do you mean?" Dick enquired. "You're not going to throw me overboard, are you?"

"Oh, no, I won't do it. But there are others who will, or I'm very much mistaken."

"Who—why?" the young man stammered. "I don't understand you, Dad."

"I mean that new Light and Power Company which has been formed. That is what will do it."

"Oh, is that all?" and Dick breathed a sigh of relief. "You certainly did give me a jolt. I thought you were speaking of something real. But that company's all a hoax, isn't it? Tommy Flowers said it was nothing but a scare to force you to cut your rates. The whole thing is so mysterious, so people say, that they consider it a put up job to force your hand. Why, the names of the men who form the company are not even known."

"H'm, that's all that people know about what is going on," Mr. Sinclair retorted. "That company is no hoax, mark my word. It means business of a most serious nature, and it is getting to work, too. Don't you live in a fool's paradise, boy. If you do, there will be a rude awakening, and sooner perhaps than you expect."

"What, have you heard anything of late, Dad?" Dick asked.

"Well, I have heard enough, and it is more than hear-say at that. A strong company has been formed to utilise the water of Break Neck Falls for light and power to supply not only the city but the entire country. The scheme is a big one, almost gigantic, I should say. And there seems to be plenty of money back of it, too. It is an English concern which has recently opened an office in the city.

"What is the purpose of such a company working here?" Dick questioned. "One would naturally think that a city much larger than ours would offer more inducements."

Mr. Sinclair pushed back his chair from the table, and lighted a cigar.

"That is one of the things which puzzles me," he at length replied. "Why a company with large capital should build a big plant at the falls to supply light and power in such a limited locality, is more than I can understand. I cannot see how it will pay even if it gets full control."

"Who is in charge of the city office?" Dick asked.

"A man by the name of Westcote. He is an Englishman, so I believe. He seems to have full charge of everything. He must have been the man you saw at the Sign of the Maple with Tim Parkin, for he has a daughter with him, who recently came to the city."

"But what has Spuds to do with the concern, and how did he come to meet this man Westcote?"

"He is evidently in his employ. But where he met him I do not know. Perhaps Lois can tell us," and he glanced around upon his daughter.

Lois suddenly started and looked keenly at her father as if she had not heard aright. This was the first time that he had ever hinted at any interest on her part in Jasper. A feeling of resentment welled up in her heart.

"Why should I know?" she enquired, "and what reason have you for asking me such a question?"

Mr. Sinclair, however, did not deign to make any explanation, but puffed away at his cigar. Lois took this as a direct insult and started to leave the table. She wished to get away by herself that she might think it all over.

"And where does old Crazy David come in?" her father asked. "What interest has he in that concern?"

"I have not the slightest idea," Lois impatiently replied. "Why do you expect me to understand such things?"

"But you should know. You see that old man every day, and are so interested in his welfare. Surely he must have told you something, and if he did not you should have tried to find out. Remember, you are my daughter, and my interest should be your first concern. Both you and Dick think that you have no responsibilities in life, and that I will always provide for you. If we are not careful that new company will put us out of business; so you two must do all you can to help me. Something must be done to cheek that concern and I want you to assist me. As it is, I am working in the dark and do not know what to expect next, or who are the ones working against me. Is it old David who is merely acting the part of a fool, or is it that young man who pretended to be a hired hand, who worked awhile for Simon Squabbles? There is something queer about the whole thing, and I am nearly crazy trying to puzzle it all out."

To these words Lois made no reply. She quietly left the table and made her way out of the house and walked down to the shore. Here she felt more at home, and the stillness which reigned over land and water soothed her, bringing a restful peace to her heart and mind.



A good home, plenty of well-cooked food, and proper attention did much for old David. His strength, and health improved, and although he lost nothing of his interest in the falls, he was quite content to listen more to the sound drifting down the valley instead of visiting the place as often as formerly. The spot he liked best of all was the cosy corner on the verandah, just outside the window of his room. Here the vines clambered up over the sides, forming a shelter from the burning sun and a refuge from the wind when the days were cool.

Jasper was a frequent visitor at the Haven, and he was not slow to notice the change that had come over David. Hitherto the old man had been content to listen to the voice of the falls and utter brief and almost mystic words about what the water would do. But latterly he had given greater vent to his thoughts and enlarged upon the plans he had been revolving in his mind.

It was a beautiful evening not long after Jasper had been at the Sign of the Maple, that he was sitting with David and Betty in the accustomed place. The captain had retired, and Mrs. Peterson was busy in the kitchen. Jasper told of the progress that had been made at the falls and how the engineers had finished their preliminary work, and had declared the undertaking most feasible. The definite start of building would not begin until the next spring, though in the meantime necessary preparations would be made so that the work could be pushed forward then as rapidly as possible. Logs would be needed for building purposes, and many large poles suitable for carrying the wires to the city and throughout the country.

"I have been requested to undertake this work," Jasper told them, "and so will be busy all the fall and winter. In a few weeks I hope to have a number of men and teams at work in the woods. It will be a fine thing for Creekdale as it will put so much money in circulation by giving employment to all available men during the winter when as a rule little is going on, so I understand."

"Oh, won't that be nice," Betty exclaimed, while her eyes danced with animation. "My brother will be able to earn money right at home. Jimmy has been planning to go to the city next winter to earn some money to help pay off the mortgage on our place. Mother doesn't want him to go as he is only sixteen, but he thinks he should be earning something."

"You have some fine trees on your place, have you not?" Jasper asked in reply.

"Oh, yes, lots of them. You see, our farm is part of the old Dinsmore Manor, and no logs have been cut on it for years as they have not been worth much. My father said before he died that they would bring a lot of money some day, and they would make us rich. That's why mother has been holding on to the place and trying to pay off the mortgage. But she finds it hard work. Jimmy works for the neighbours, but Steve and Dora can't earn anything yet. I am helping all I can."

"Those trees are very valuable now," Jasper remarked.

"Have you seen them?" Betty asked, in surprise.

"Yes, I have been all over the place, and there are acres of the finest trees I have ever seen. We shall need many of them, that is, if your mother will sell."

"Won't that be great!" and the girl clapped her hands with delight. "I know she will sell if she can get a fair price for them."

"There should be no trouble about that, Betty. Logs are higher than they have been for years, and those who own them are fortunate. The company wants only the best and is willing to pay a good price, so I believe. But there is something I would advise your mother to do."

"What is that?"

"Keep a sharp look-out upon those trees. The city Light and Power Company, of which Mr. Sinclair is manager and principal owner, has land right next to yours. Most of the best trees have been cut there for poles, and it is only natural that envious eyes should be east upon your mother's valuable property. Mr. Sinclair does quite a lumbering business on his own account, so I understand."

"Oh, do you think that Mr. Sinclair would do anything like that?" Betty asked in surprise.

"I trust not," was the reply. "Nevertheless, it is just as well to be on guard in case something does happen. You might speak to your mother about it when you see her."

The next day David and Betty paid a visit to the falls. They had not been there for over a week, which was a most unusual thing. It was a beautiful afternoon, and a complete harmony seemed to reign everywhere. David was in excellent spirits and he talked much about the wonderful improvements which were to come to the country. He pointed out a number of the stakes the engineers had driven into the ground, and explained where the power house would be built.

"A year from now," he told her, "there will be wires running to the city and all through the country. The city people will have light for their houses and power for their machinery at cheap rates. The farmers will have electric lights right in their homes and barns; they will have power to saw their wood, churn their butter, thresh and grind their grain, besides doing so many other things. It will make a wonderful change in the lives of all. Young people will not want to leave the farms and go to the city. It will be a joy for them to remain, and so much of the drudgery will be taken away."

"Won't that be splendid!" Betty replied. "How did you ever think of all those things? Why, the people didn't know you were thinking so much about their welfare when you were living all alone, and when they said you were crazy."

"No, girl, they did not know," and the old man gazed thoughtfully off into space. "They believed that I was a fool, and perhaps they had reason for so thinking. You see, I was very poor and had no means of carrying out my plans. It has always been the way, and why should I have expected anything different from thousands of others who have tried to help their fellow men? But now things have changed, and they will soon learn that old David was not so crazy after all."

They were seated upon the bank of the stream as they thus talked. On a bough of a near-by tree a squirrel was scolding, and off in the distance several crows were lifting up their raucous voices. Betty picked up a stone and tossed it into the water below, and then watched with interest as it fell with a splash.

"I can throw farther than you, Mr. David," she bantered. "I can throw a stone to that big rock over there."

"I haven't thrown a stone in a long time, my child," was the reply.

"Well, try it then," was the command. "Here is a nice smooth one."

Rising to his feet, David took the stone and with a wide sweep of his long arm hurled it far down the stream almost to the base of the rock.

"You didn't do it," Betty shouted with delight. "I can beat that, see if I can't."

She half turned to pick up another stone when she suddenly paused as her eyes rested upon a man coming toward them. It was Peter Sinclair, and as he drew near and spoke to them, it seemed to Betty that the atmosphere had changed, and the day was not as fine as it had been but a few seconds before. She wanted to get away, for this man's presence seemed to weigh upon her in an ominous manner. The reason why she could not explain.

"Having a nice time here, eh?" Mr. Sinclair remarked, as he sat down upon the bank. "That walk has puffed me. Do you come up here often?" he asked, turning toward Betty.

"Whenever Mr. David takes the notion," was her reply. "I always come with him, and we have such a pleasant time."

"And do you always stop here and spend your time in throwing stones at that rock? Are you not wasting your time?"

"We might be doing worse, though," Betty replied, somewhat nettled at the man's words. "We might be throwing stones at you or somebody else."

"At me!" and Mr. Sinclair looked surprised.

"Yes, at you. But perhaps it's safer to throw them at that rock over there. It doesn't mind for it knows we're only in fun. It's a special friend of mine, and that's why I like to be near it. You would never believe that it saved half my father's farm several years ago."

"What, that rock?"

"It certainly did, and I shall never forget what it did for us."

"Tell me about it," and Mr. Sinclair sat down upon the ground. The mention of the Bean farm had suddenly aroused his interest, and made him willing to listen to this country girl's story.

"It was a long time ago," Betty began, "just after my father was married. He had bought a piece of land off of the Dinsmore Manor, about one hundred acres, I think it was. After he had paid for the place there was some trouble about the line between him and the man who had bought another piece of the manor next to him. They agreed to have the line run over again. I don't understand all about it, but, anyway, when the line was run it cut my father's place almost in two, and he was afraid he was going to lose all that land where those fine logs are now. It was a funny mistake, but it was soon settled."

"What had that rock to do with it?" Mr. Sinclair enquired.

"Oh," and the girl gave a slight laugh. "I forgot that part. You see, the surveyor was to start running the line from the big pyramid rock on this brook. It is called that because of its shape. Father happened to be away from home the day the line was run and the surveyor started from another rock farther down the brook, which looks something like that one over there. Wasn't it funny? So you see that is why I am so fond of that big rock and come here as often as I can to be near my good friend."

As Betty finished, a peculiar expression might have been detected in Peter Sinclair's eyes, and for a few seconds he gazed steadily at the rock before him. It seemed that the girl's story had greatly interested him and started him off on a new line of thought. Just what it was he kept to himself and with an apparent effort turned his attention once more to Betty.

"You will not come here as often, I suppose, when the company gets to work," he remarked. "Things will be much changed along this brook, and perhaps your old friend, the rock, may be disturbed."

"You are right, sir," David replied, speaking for the first time. "There will certainly be marvellous changes all over this country in a year or two. You will hardly know the place then."

"That is interesting. And can you tell me who will perform these wonders of which you speak so confidently?"

"The falls will do it," and David stretched out his right arm. "Light and power will come from there to transform city and country. Living will be made far more tolerable in both."

"But who are the men back of all this?" Mr. Sinclair asked. He felt sure now that he was on the verge of a new discovery.

"I am the man," and David stood proudly erect. "It was my plan which suggested the movement."

"I know all that," and Mr. Sinclair rose impatiently to his feet. "But where does the money come from? and, who are the men who form the company? That is what I want to know."

"That I cannot tell you, sir. And why should it matter? I am concerned about the improvements and not where the money comes from."

"H'm, that's a queer way to do business," was the disgusted reply. "Well, I must be off up the brook. I've wasted too much time already. Look out for your big rock, little girl, and see that no one disturbs it."

"Oh, I guess it'll stay there all right," Betty replied with a laugh. "My friends never leave me."

They stood and watched Mr. Sinclair until the tree hid him from view.

"I don't like that man," and Betty stamped her small foot upon the ground. "He makes me feel creepy all over just like I always do when I see a snake or a rat. Let's go home."

About an hour after they had left the place, Peter Sinclair drew near, and stood looking at the big rock across the brook. Then he walked along the bank until he came to the smaller rock of which Betty had spoken. He next turned his eyes northward and pointed with the forefinger of his right hand as if tracing an imaginary boundary line. As he did so a smile of satisfaction lighted his face, and when he left the brook and started homeward, his step was quicker and more elastic than it had been for many a day.



It took Jasper longer than he had expected to get everything ready for his fall and winter lumbering operations. He found it hard to obtain as many teams as he needed, and greater difficulty still to procure the right kind of men. He offered good wages, but the choppers held out for more. Although such matters had been left to Jasper, yet he did not feel inclined to pay such wages as were demanded. At length, however, he succeeded in rounding together a band of men upon whom he felt he could depend, and he hoped in a few days to begin work upon the building of the cabins for the men and the stables for the horses.

Jasper often mused upon the peculiar situation in which he was placed. Everything seemed to depend upon him. The engineers, having made their surveys, had departed, leaving him in charge. The buying of the food supplies devolved upon him, though the bills were sent to the city office for payment. He had not seen Robert Westcote since the day he had luncheon with him at the Sign of the Maple. He had merely received specific information as to the various kinds of logs required, their length and size, as well as the places where they were to be hauled near the falls.

During these busy days Jasper had seen nothing of Lois. He knew that she visited the Haven regularly, and Betty always had a great deal to tell him about her. But somehow he had missed meeting her, and every time he left he felt disappointed, and made his way back to his lonely cabin which seemed to become more lonely as the days passed. Sometimes he would stand on the hill and look down upon the Sinclair house, hoping that he might catch a glimpse of her who was so much in his mind. He would scan the river, thinking he might see her out there. At length a great longing came upon him to see her before he should go into the woods. He knew that in a few weeks at the most she would be leaving for the city with her father, and then all hope of meeting her again for months would have to be abandoned. Somehow he could not bear the thought of her going. As long as she was near he could work better, and her presence in the place was like an inspiration. He felt that she knew what he was doing, and took an interest in his welfare. But in the city she would be far away, and taken up with so many interests she would have no time to give any thought to him.

All preparations had now been made for the lumbering operations and work would begin on Monday morning. Saturday found Jasper with nothing to do. He spent the forenoon in packing up his belongings to take with him into the woods. They were very few, and one small grip would contain his scanty library which he could not bear to leave behind. The next time he went to the city he intended to purchase a number of books upon which he had set his heart. He would have the long winter evenings for reading in the little cabin he was to erect for his own special use.

About the middle of the afternoon he decided to pay a visit to the Haven. He wished to see David and Betty before going away, and learn how they were making out. But the hope that he might see Lois was the real reason why he decided to go. Several times he had thought of visiting her at her own home. But as he had never been there and had received no invitation, he did not feel inclined to go where perhaps he was not wanted, and where his presence might be looked upon as an intrusion. He often upbraided himself for thinking about her at all. What hope had he that she would ever deign to look upon him with favour? What had he to offer her? He was poor, and he had no guarantee that his employment with this mysterious company would be permanent. In a few months he might again be seeking for work.

But no matter what resolutions Jasper made he could not banish Lois from his mind. It was she who several years before had unconsciously inspired him to launch out into the world and make something of himself. The thought of her had always urged him on when most depressed and discouraged. In his darkest hours of gloom he had seen her eyes filled with sympathy fixed upon him as on that day he had first met her and had fled disgraced from her father's house.

Such impressions were not easy to banish in an instant, and so as he knocked at the door of the haven he fervently hoped that Lois might be there. But as he entered David's room other interests engaged his attention. Hitherto all had been peace there. The old man was generally seated by the open window listening to the voice of his beloved falls. But now there was a distinct atmosphere of excitement. Mrs. Bean was there, and her face had a most worried expression. Betty had been crying, but seeing Jasper she brushed away her tears and sprang to her feet.

"Oh, Mr. Jasper," she cried, "isn't it awful! Have you heard the news?"

"What news?" Jasper asked in surprise, as he took a chair by David's side. "I haven't heard anything of special importance."

"It's about Mr. Sinclair, that's who it is. Just think, he wants to take all of our logs!"

"Take your logs!"

"Yes, that's what he's going to do. Mother got a letter from him and she has just read it to us. He says there is a mistake about the line between his place and ours, and that all those fine logs belong to him. He says he had a new line run last week and that the old line is wrong. He warns mother not to touch or sell a log there, for if she does he will sue her."

Betty was excited, and her words rushed forth like a torrent. For a few minutes Jasper could hardly believe that he had heard aright.

"Do you mean to tell me," and he turned to Mrs. Bean, "that what your daughter says is true? Surely there must be some serious mistake."

"I'm afraid not," was the reply. "There is the letter, which you can read for yourself."

It took Jasper but a few seconds to scan the brief note, and when he was through he sat staring at it as if he had not seen aright. Was it possible, he asked himself, that Peter Sinclair was stooping to such a contemptible piece of business? And to do it to a widow at that added to his meanness. What justification did he have for doing such a thing? he wondered.

"Was there ever any dispute about the line?" Jasper asked.

"None at all," Mrs. Bean replied. "A mistake was made years ago just after we were married. The surveyor started from the wrong rock up the brook, and the line then run cut off that part which Mr. Sinclair is now claiming. But it was rectified just as soon as my husband came home, and there has been no trouble since until now."

"Did Mr. Sinclair notify you that he was going to have a new line run?" Jasper enquired.

"No, I knew nothing about what was taking place until I received that letter."

"I wonder what suggested such a thing to him?" Jasper mused as if to himself. "There must have been something."

"Why, I think I know." Betty exclaimed. "I do not believe he ever thought about it until that day he was talking to Mr. David and me up the brook. We were near Pyramid Rock, and I told him about the mistake the surveyor had made years ago in running the line. He seemed to be very much interested then. Maybe that was what started it. Just think, it was all my fault. Oh, if I could only hold my tongue once in a while how much good it would do."

At that instant a knock sounded upon the door, and when Betty had opened it Lois entered. She looked surprised when she saw the visitors in the room, and at once noticed the worried expression upon Mrs. Bean's face.

"This must be your special afternoon for receiving company," she remarked with a smile, as she took David's hand. "It isn't often you have Mrs. Bean and Mr. Randall to see you on the same day, is it?"

"Mr. Randall has been here before," was the reply, "but this is the first time that Mrs. Bean has favoured me with a call. It was special business which brought her here to-day."

"You're not going to take Betty away from Mr. David, are you?" Lois asked, turning to Mrs. Bean.

"Oh, no; it is something far different from that. It is a very serious matter, I assure you."

"What, no one ill at home, I hope?"

"No. The boys were well when I left."

An awkward silence followed, and Lois felt that there was something of a private nature which these people were discussing, and that she had interrupted their conversation.

Jasper, who had risen to his feet as Lois entered the room, divined the thoughts which were passing through her mind, and came to her assistance.

"Let Miss Sinclair see the letter, Mrs. Bean," he suggested. "Perhaps it will explain matters better than we can."

Without a word Mrs. Bean complied with this request, and then leaned back in her chair with a deep sigh.

Much mystified, Lois ran her eyes over the letter, and as she did so her face underwent a marvellous transformation. The sunny expression departed and the colour faded from her cheeks, leaving them very white. The words seemed to fascinate her, and for a while she stood staring upon them. Then a tremor shook her body, and her right hand closed, crushing the letter within it. With a strong effort she regained her composure and turned toward the widow.

"I cannot understand this," she began. "I had no idea that my father would do such a thing. There must be some mistake. I shall go now and think it all over. Will you come with me, Mr. Randall? I would like to speak with you."

Without another word the two left the house and walked slowly down the lane leading to the road. Presently Lois stopped and turned to her companion.

"I am almost heartbroken over what my father has done," she began. "I have stood by him, and have tried to shield him all I could, but what is the use of doing so any longer?"

"Could you not speak to him, and induce him to change his mind?" Jasper asked.

"I can do nothing. He has even turned against me. He believes that I am his enemy, and that I know more about the affairs of the new company than I am willing to tell him. He is becoming more unbearable every day. Only last night he told me that I could leave him whenever I wanted to as he could get along better without me. He said that he did not want a traitor in his house. Oh, it is terrible! I cannot understand what has come over him. He was always hard and unsympathetic, but never like this."

"And will you go?" Jasper enquired.

"At first I thought I would. But after thinking it all over very carefully I have decided to remain with him. He needs me now more than ever. You have no idea what a helpless man he is. I shudder to think what would become of him should I leave him at the present time."

"But it might teach him a lesson if you should leave him for a while," Jasper urged. "It is not right that your life should be made so miserable."

He was looking into her downcast face as he said this. Her hands were clasped before her, and how he longed to seize them in his, and tell her all that was in his heart; how he would look after her and bestow upon her that love which her father denied her.

"I must not forsake him," was her low reply. "He is my father, and I must remain by his side. I promised my mother that I would. We shall leave for the city next week, and I dread the thought of going."

"But you will be able to forget much of your trouble there, will you not? Your social life will be so different, and——"

"Don't speak of such a thing," she interrupted. "You little realise how I despise so many of the social gatherings held there. What do they amount to? What good do they do? I enjoy amusements, but I think people should not make them the sole object in life. But that seems to me to be just what so many do. I want to be of some use in the world, and I believe the best way to be happy is to help others."

They were walking slowly along as Lois uttered these words. She spoke deliberately as if she had considered them carefully, and was not speaking under the influence of the moment.

"You are right, Miss Sinclair," Jasper replied. "I, too, have come to realise that he who thinks only of self finds unhappiness, while he who forgets self in seeking to help and uplift others will find the greatest joy."

The tone of certainty in his voice caused Lois to glance up into his face. She liked his words, especially as she felt they were real.

"And you were not always like that?" Lois asked.

"Oh, no. Only recently have I come to view things in a different light."

"What caused the change?"

"It was old David."

"Old David! I am surprised to hear you say that. I had no idea that he was able to influence any one except Betty Bean."

"He has influenced me as well, though it was all done unconsciously. I have been watching him closely for some time, and ever since I have known him he has been so happy. Even when he had not a cent and was sold to the lowest bidder, he did not lose heart. And why? Because he was thinking of others, and what his plans would do for the people both in the city and in the country. He was willing to endure poverty and taunts that those around him might be benefited. He was misunderstood, but it made little or no difference to him. He was happy in the thought that he was going to do good. To me he is a wonder, and I believe I can do no better than endeavour to follow his example and think less of myself. When I entered into the employ of this new company I did it merely for the money I was to get out of it, and a certain spirit of curiosity as to the outcome. Now, however, I am working with a far higher motive. I begin to see what a benefit this undertaking will be to the entire community and a blessing to so many, even though at present they may not realise it."

They had reached the gate leading to the Sinclair house by the time Jasper had finished. The colour had returned to Lois' cheeks, and her eyes were now filled with animation.

"Oh, I am so glad to hear you speak as you do," she replied. "It strengthens my own convictions to hear you express yourself that way, and I feel that I shall bear my part more bravely in the city than otherwise I would have done."

Jasper's pulse beat quicker at these words. So she would think of him, then, in the midst of her active city life. There was a great comfort to him in the thought.

"You will return next summer, I suppose," he remarked. "We shall miss you very much in the meantime."

"I hope to do so, and it will be something to look forward to. But you will surely come to see us when you visit the city. I shall be so anxious to hear all the news from Creekdale."

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure," Jasper replied. "But I do not expect to leave the woods before spring. Even if business should take me to the city, I should not feel like making a social call. I should frighten you and your friends who might happen to be with you by my rough clothes and hard hands. Oh, no, it would not be proper, so I had better stay away."

Lois was not slow in detecting the note of bitterness an his voice as he uttered these words. She was aggrieved that he should think that his rough appearance would make any difference to her. And yet she understood his feelings. His sensitiveness would make him most unwilling to go to a place where he would be looked upon with ridicule, and at the same time embarrass the ones he happened to visit.

"You need not worry about your appearance when you visit me, Mr. Randall," and her eyes met his as she spoke. "I shall think all the more of you if your hands are rough and your face weather-beaten. I shall never be ashamed of the marks of honest toil. I must go now, but I shall expect to see you before spring."

To Jasper that was one of the happiest times of his whole life. He believed that she was interested in him, while the look in her eyes and the words she uttered were to him an inspiration during the following days and weeks of weary work in the woods.



Although Lois preferred to remain in the country, yet she did not waste her days in repining over her life in the city. She at once looked about for opportunities of usefulness. These she found in St. Saviour's, the church she attended. Her musical abilities made her a welcomed member of the choir. But she was not satisfied with merely singing. She wished to do more, and she soon found an outlet in assisting the unfortunate ones in the parish. It was through "The Helping Hand Society" that she found she could do the most effective work, and she never tired of going from house to house where her services were most needed.

Dick often upbraided her for giving so much of her time to Church work, and said that she should go with him to dances and whist parties.

"I have no interest in such things," she told him over and over again. "There is too much to be done around us in helping others, to spend all of one's time upon such gaieties."

"But think what people are saying," her brother protested. "They call you unsociable and stuck-up, and it is hard for me to listen to such things."

Lois laughed at Dick's fears and told him not to worry. She said that she was quite able to look after herself, and did not mind what people were saying so long as she was doing what was right.

When Christmas season came around Lois found herself more busy than ever. There were so many baskets to be provided for the needy, and this year they were going to send a number to poor families out in the country districts. It was just when she was in the midst of this work that Dick asked her to attend a dance with him on Thursday night.

"If you don't go this time I shall never ask you again," he told her. "It's to be at Mrs. Dingle's, and you know how cut up she will feel if you refuse her. Sammie, too, is expecting you, and he will never visit us again if you do not go."

"But how am I to leave my work, Dick?" Lois questioned. "We are so busy every night packing the boxes, which we must get off as soon as possible. I am more interested in them than I am in what Mrs. Dingle and Sammie might think. They surely know by this time that I do not care for them."

"Well, come for my sake, then," Dick pleaded.

"That is a better reason why I should go," and Lois smiled upon her brother.

"And you will go?" Dick was all eagerness now. "There's to be a jolly crowd there. Sammie told me that he has invited a crack-a-jack of an artist he met at the club. He is an English chap and has been out here only a short time. He puts out some great stuff in the way of pictures, so I understand. Then, that Westcote girl is to be there. My, I'm anxious to meet her. She is worth while if what I hear about her is true."

The mention of the Westcote girl gave Lois more interest in the dance than she had hitherto taken. She did want to see her as well as Dick, for she had often thought about her since she had heard that Jasper had luncheon with her and her father at the Sign of the Maple. It was unusual for her to take an interest in a stranger. But this was different, and so she decided to accompany her brother.

Mrs. Dingle was delighted to have Lois at her party, principally on her son's account. She had chosen her for Sammie from all the eligible girls she knew, and the idea that Lois might object to becoming Mrs. Sammie Dingle never once entered her mind. There were financial reasons as well, for was not Peter Sinclair manager and chief owner of the City Light and Power Company?

Lois had not been long in the room, ere she felt herself affected by some unknown influence. She could not account for this feeling as she had never experienced, anything like it before. Even when on the floor in the midst of a dreamy waltz, a sense of dread almost overwhelmed her. A weight seemed suddenly to press upon her heart, as if some terrible disaster were near. Hers was not a mind to be easily disturbed by such things, and she was not naturally of a superstitious nature. She tried to shake off the feeling, but all in vain. What was the cause of it? she asked herself over and over again.

That waltz was the longest she had ever experienced; and most thankful was she when Sammie at last led her off the floor. As she was about to sit down she happened to glance to her right, and as she did so her eyes met those of a man standing not far away. Intuitively she realised that there was the source of her strange agitation. It was only for an instant that their eyes met, but it was long enough for Lois to realise that some subtle influence had come upon her which would affect her whole life.

With as much composure as possible she resumed her seat. She longed to be alone that she might think it all over, and endeavour to cast off the spell which was depressing her. She tried to reason it out, but her thoughts were interrupted by Mrs. Dingle who stood suddenly before her.

"Lois, dear," she heard her say, "I want you to meet my famous guest, Mr. Sydney Bramshaw, the noted English artist, who has favoured us with his presence to-night. I have been waiting this opportunity ever since you arrived, but could not get you and Sammie separated long enough to do so until now."

These closing words annoyed Lois and she longed more than ever to leave the room, especially so when Bramshaw sat down by her side and began to talk to her in a familiar manner.

"I wanted to meet you as soon as I saw you enter the room," he told her, "and I almost despaired of obtaining an opportunity."

"Why should you be so anxious to meet me?" Lois replied. "I am sure that I have done nothing to merit your special attention."

"Oh, but you are so decidedly superior to the rest, don't you know. I am somewhat gifted with a discerning mind, and am able at a glance to tell the gold from the dross."

If Bramshaw imagined that his companion was susceptible to such flattery he was greatly mistaken. His words disgusted Lois, and yet she must remember that he was Mrs. Dingle's guest and that she must be agreeable as far as it was possible.

"You are an artist, so I understand," she replied.

"Yes, in a way. I am fond of observing the beautiful in the common things of Nature, and placing them upon canvas. So many go through life with their eyes shut. They have eyes but do not see. With me it is different, and because of my ability to see and depict the real things of life, I have received considerable recognition."

"That must give you satisfaction," Lois murmured.

She tried to seem interested, but it was a difficult undertaking.

"It does in a way," and Bramshaw assumed an air of careless indifference. He was a little man, and his effort made him seem ridiculous. "But, it is so seldom that one meets with kindred spirits, don't you know. There are so few who are able to discuss the finer points of art. I would not mind in the least enlightening those around me, but they, as a rule, are so unwilling to listen. With you, however, it is different. You have a trained mind, and that makes such a vast difference."

Lois was about to make some half-hearted reply, when her eyes rested upon the face of a girl on the opposite side of the room. It was the most beautiful and perfect face she had ever seen, and she wondered who she was and where she had come from. She tried to listen to what Bramshaw was saying and at the same time watch the girl before her. She was talking to Dick, and she noted the animated expression upon her face as she smiled at something he was saying. It must have been about her for she suddenly turned and their eyes met. For an instant only the girl hesitated, and then with a graceful movement swept swiftly across the room and stood before Lois.

"Pardon me," she began, as she took Lois' hand, "I could not help coming to you as soon as I saw you. Your brother was telling me what a hard time he had to get you away from your Church work to come to the party. When I heard that I wanted to meet you at once. I am Margaret Westcote, and have been in this country but a short time, and everything is so new and interesting to me."

"Ducedly tame, I call it," Bramshaw interposed before Lois had time to say a word. "I can't for the life of me see what you find congenial in a land like this, Miss Westcote."

"It all depends upon what you call tame, Mr. Bramshaw," was the somewhat sarcastic reply. "If you spend your time thinking only about yourself it is no wonder you are bored. I haven't heard of your doing anything worth while since you came to this city."

"Come, come, Miss Westcote," Bramshaw protested, as he stroked his silky moustache with the soft white fingers of his right hand. "Artists, you should realise, are generally misunderstood. You cannot judge us according to ordinary standards. We are often most intensely busy when we seem to be inactive. Our apparent idleness is the time when valuable impressions are being imbibed to be produced later in masterpieces for the benefit and admiration of the whole world. It is utterly impossible for ordinary minds to grasp this, but it is true, nevertheless."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Bramshaw," and the girl made him a slight graceful bow, "I really forgot that you are an artist. Appearances are so deceptive, you know. I shall leave you now to carry on your imbibing process. Perhaps Miss Sinclair will come with me, so that you can have the imbibing time all to yourself. It would be a pity to spoil your great masterpiece."

Lois was surprised at Miss Westcote's sarcasm, and, she fully expected that Bramshaw would be angry. But he did not appear to mind in the least. On the contrary, he smiled all the time she was speaking, as if her words greatly amused him. Lois was glad of any excuse to leave this man whose very presence depressed her in a remarkable manner. When at last alone with Miss Westcote in an adjoining room, she sank into a comfortable chair in a cosy corner. Her face was unusually pale, and this her companion at once noted.

"You are tired," she sympathetically remarked, taking a seat by her side. "You seem to be greatly upset."

"It is that man," Lois replied with considerable emphasis. "I never had any one to affect me as he does. I cannot understand it. I am not superstitious, and I have always prided myself upon my self-confidence, but I cannot account for the feeling that has come over me to-night."

"Oh, that man would upset almost any one," Miss Westcote replied. "I can not endure him."

"You do not evidently mind speaking plainly to him," Lois remarked.

"Certainly not. When I take a dislike to any person I generally say just what I think, especially to such a cad as that."

"You know something about him, then?"

"All I want to. He has been trying to get my father to give him the position of looking after an old man up the river. Mr. Randall has been doing it, and Bramshaw wants to have him discharged so he can get the job. Just think of that."

"Why should he wish to do that?" Lois asked in great surprise. "If he is an artist why should he want to take care of old David?"

"So you know the old man?" Miss Westcote enquired.

"Oh, yes. And I know Mr. Randall, too. He is so good to old David."

"I know he would be. I met him once at the Sign of the Maple with my father, and he seemed to be so different from most men. He was so manly and had such a strong face. I liked him as soon as I saw him."

"He deserves great credit, Miss Westcote. He is a self-made man, and his life has been a hard one. He has had to struggle against many obstacles. But he will win and make a name for himself, I feel quite sure."

It was impossible for these two to be long alone in such a quiet spot. Just when the conversation was becoming interesting, they were sought for by their partners for the next dance, and reluctantly they were forced to forego the many things they wished to say to each other.



The meeting with Margaret Westcote was a great event in Lois' life. Hitherto, her lot had been somewhat of a lonely one, with no special girl friend to share her confidences. Her interests had always been so different from others that she was not looked upon by any as a boon companion. She often reasoned with them and asked why they should make selfish pleasure the principal motive of living when they could have more enjoyment by putting self last and others first.

With Margaret Westcote, however, it was different. She was after Lois' own heart, and the two were as one in their interests. Each supplied what the other lacked; one her vivaciousness, and the other her calmness of mind. Their friendship was not a growth but a fusing at the first meeting. They were now very much together, and Margaret took a keen interest in the work of getting the Christmas supplies ready for needy families.

Dick was delighted that this beautiful girl was so much at the house, and for the first time in his life he found Church work most interesting. He was always ready to help, but was generally in the way. It was quite evident that he was greatly in love with Margaret, though she on her part treated him as a mere boy and not as a lover. He could not seem to realise that she was an excellent judge of character, and preferred men who did things instead of spending their time in idleness. Lois understood the girl's feelings, and the truth began to dawn upon her that Jasper Randall was Margaret's ideal type of a man. One who could battle and overcome was the man who appealed to her. Whenever Jasper's name was mentioned Margaret's eyes would sparkle with animation, and she never tired of talking about him and the struggle he had made in life.

The week before Christmas Lois became more enthusiastic than ever with the work of getting the boxes ready to be sent to the various families. She longed to interest her father, and one morning before he left for his office she asked him if he would not do something for the families of the men who were working for him in the woods on the old Dinsmore Manor. She had never spoken to him about the letter he had written to Mrs. Bean, feeling sure that it would be of no avail. But she had learned through a letter from Betty that the choppers had not yet crossed the line, and for this Lois was thankful. Perhaps he did not intend to take the logs, she reasoned, but had written the letter during one of his cranky moods, with no intention of putting his threat into practice.

"Why should we send anything to country families?" her father asked her. "They earn good money, and why should we help them?"

"But there are some very poor families," Lois replied, "and I know they can hardly make a living. There is Mrs. Bean, for instance. She hasn't the bare necessities of life at times, and a present this Christmas would be a blessing to her."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse