To Him That Hath by Ralph Connor
Chapter I. The Game
"Game! and Set. Six to two."
A ripple of cheers ran round the court, followed by a buzz of excited conversation.
The young men smiled at each other and at their friends on the side lines and proceeded to change courts for the next set, pausing for refreshments on the way.
"Much too lazy, Captain Jack. I am quite out of patience with you," cried a young girl whose brown eyes were dancing with mock indignation.
Captain Jack turned with a slightly bored look on his thin dark face.
"Too lazy, Frances?" drawled he. "I believe you. But think of the temperature."
"You have humiliated me dreadfully," she said severely.
"Humiliated you? You shock me. But how, pray?" Captain Jack's eyes opened wide.
"You, a Canadian, and our best player--at least, you used to be--to allow yourself to be beaten by a--a--" she glanced at his opponent with a defiant smile--"a foreigner."
"Oh! I say, Miss Frances," exclaimed that young man.
"A foreigner?" exclaimed Captain Jack. "Better not let Adrien hear you." He turned toward a tall fair girl standing near.
"What's that?" said the girl. "Did I hear aright?"
"Well, he's not a Canadian, I mean," said Frances, sticking to her guns. "Besides, I can't stand Adrien crowing over me. She is already far too English, don-che-know. You have given her one more occasion for triumph over us Colonials."
"Ah, this is serious," said Captain Jack. "But really it is too hot you know for--what shall I say?--International complications."
"Jack, you are plain lazy," said Frances. "You know you are. You don't deserve to win, but if you really would put your back into it--"
"Oh, come, Frances. Why! You don't know that my cousin played for his College at Oxford. And that is saying something," said Adrien.
"There you are, Jack! That's the sort of thing I have to live with," said Frances. "She thinks that settles everything."
"Well, doesn't it rather?" smiled Adrien.
"Oh, Jack, if you have any regard for your country, not to say my unworthy self, won't you humble her?" implored Frances. "If you would only buck up!"
"He will need to, eh, Adrien?" said a young fellow standing near, slowly sipping his drink.
"I think so. Indeed, I am quite sure of it," coolly replied the girl addressed. "But I really think it is quite useless."
"Ha! Ha! Cheer up, Jack," laughed the young man, Stillwell by name.
"Really, old chap, I feel I must beat you this set," said Captain Jack to the young Englishman. "My country's credit as well as my own is at stake, you see."
"Both are fairly assured, I should say," said the Englishman.
"Not to-day," said Stillwell, with a suspicion of a polite sneer in his voice. "My money says so."
"Canada vs. the Old Country!" cried a voice from the company.
"Now, Jack, Jack, remember," implored Frances.
"You have no mercy, Miss Frances, I see," said the Englishman, looking straight into her eyes.
"Absolutely none," she replied, smiling saucily at him.
"Vae victis, eh, old chap?" said Sidney, as they sauntered off together to their respective courts. "By the way, who is that Stillwell chap?" he asked in a low voice of Captain Jack as they moved away from the others. "Of any particular importance?"
"I think you've got him all right," replied Jack carelessly. The Englishman nodded.
"He somehow gets my goat," said Jack. The Englishman looked mystified.
"Rubs me the wrong way, you know."
"Oh, very good, very good. I must remember that."
"He rather fancies his own game, too," said Jack, "and he has come on the last year or two. In more ways than one," he added as an afterthought.
As they faced each other on the court it was Stillwell's voice that rang out:
"Now then, England!"
"Canada!" cried a girl's voice that was easily recognised as that of Frances Amory.
"Thumbs down, eh, Maitland?" said the Englishman, waving a hand toward his charming enemy.
Whatever the cause, whether from the spur supplied by the young lady who had constituted herself his champion or from the sting from the man for whom for reasons sufficient for himself he had only feelings of hostility and dislike, the game put up by Captain Jack was of quite a different brand from that he had previously furnished. From the first service he took the offensive and throughout played brilliant, aggressive, even smashing tennis, so much so that his opponent appeared to be almost outclassed and at the close the figures of the first set were exactly reversed, standing six to two in Captain Jack's favour.
The warmth of the cheers that followed attested the popularity of the win.
"My word, old chap, that is top-hole tennis," said the Englishman, warmly congratulating him.
"Luck, old boy, brilliant luck!" said Captain Jack. "Couldn't do it again for a bet."
"You must do it just once more," said Frances, coming to meet the players. "Oh, you dear old thing. Come and be refreshed. Here is the longest, coolest thing in drinks this Club affords. And one for you, too," she added, turning to the Englishman. "You played a great game."
"Did I not? I was at the top of my form," said the Englishman gallantly. "But all in vain, as you see."
"Now for the final," cried Frances eagerly.
"Dear lady," said Captain Jack, affecting supreme exhaustion, "as you are mighty, be merciful! Let it suffice that we appear to have given you an exposition of fairly respectable tennis. I am quite done."
"A great win, Jack," said Adrien, offering her hand in congratulation.
"All flukes count, eh, Maitland?" laughed Stillwell, unable in spite of his laugh to keep the bite out of his voice.
"Fluke?" exclaimed the Englishman in a slow drawling voice. "I call it ripping good tennis, if I am a judge."
A murmur of approval ran through the company, crowding about with congratulations to both players.
"Oh, of course, of course," said Stillwell, noting the criticism of his unsportsmanlike remark. "What I mean is, Maitland is clearly out of condition. If he were not I wouldn't mind taking him on myself," he added with another laugh.
"Now, do you mean?" said Captain Jack lazily.
"We will wait till the match is played out," said Stillwell with easy confidence. "Some other day, when you are in shape, eh?" he added, smiling at Maitland.
"Now if you like, or after the match, or any old time," said Captain Jack, looking at Stillwell with hard grey, unsmiling eyes. "I understand you have come up on your game during the war."
Stillwell's face burned a furious red at the little laugh that went round among Captain Jack's friends.
"Frankly, I have had enough for to-day," said the Englishman to Jack.
"All right, old chap, if you don't really mind. Though I feel you would certainly take the odd set."
"Not a bit of it, by Jove. I am quite satisfied to let it go at that. We will have another go some time."
"Any time that suits you--to-morrow, eh?"
"To-morrow be it," said the Englishman.
"Now, then, Stillwell," said Captain Jack, with a curt nod at him. "Whenever you are ready."
"Oh, come, Maitland. I was only joshing, you know. You don't want to play with me to-day," said Stillwell, not relishing the look on Maitland's face. "We can have a set any time."
"No!" said Maitland shortly. "It's now or never."
"Oh, all right," said Stillwell, with an uneasy laugh, going into the Club house for his racquet.
The proposed match had brought a new atmosphere into the Club house, an atmosphere of contest with all the fun left out.
"I don't like this at all," said a man with iron grey hair and deeply tanned face.
"One can't well object, Russell," said a younger man, evidently a friend of Stillwell's. "Maitland brought it on, and I hope he gets mighty well trimmed. He is altogether too high and mighty these days."
"Oh, I don't agree with you at all," broke in Frances, in a voice coldly proper. "You heard what Mr. Stillwell said?"
"Well, not exactly."
"Ah, I might have guessed you had not," answered the young lady, turning away.
Edwards looked foolishly round upon the circle of men who stood grinning at him.
"Now will you be good?" said a youngster who had led the laugh at Edwards' expense.
"What the devil are you laughing at, Menzies?" he asked hotly.
"Why, don't you see the joke?" enquired Menzies innocently. "Well, carry on! You will to-morrow."
Edwards growled out an oath and took himself off.
Meantime the match was making furious progress, with the fury, it must be confessed, confined to one side only of the net. Captain Jack was playing a driving, ruthless game, snatching and employing without mercy every advantage that he could legitimately claim. He delivered his service with deadly precision, following up at the net with a smashing return, which left his opponent helpless. His aggressive tactics gave his opponent almost no opportunity to score, and he kept the pace going at the height of his speed. The onlookers were divided in their sentiments. Stillwell had a strong following of his own who expressed their feelings by their silence at Jack's brilliant strokes and their loud approval of Stillwell's good work when he gave them opportunity, while many of Maitland's friends deprecated his tactics and more especially his spirit.
At whirlwind pace Captain Jack made the first three games a "love" score, leaving his opponent dazed, bewildered with his smashing play and blind with rage at his contemptuous bearing.
"I think I must go home, Frances," said Adrien to her friend, her face pale, her head carried high.
Frances seized her by the arm and drew her to one side.
"Adrien, you must not go! You simply must not!" she said in a low tense voice. "It will be misunderstood, and--"
"I am going, Frances," said her friend in a cold, clear voice. "I have had enough tennis for this afternoon. Where is Sidney? Ah, there he is across the court. No! Let me go, Frances!"
"You simply must not go like that in the middle of a game, Adrien. Wait at least till this game is over," said her friend, clutching hard at her arm.
"Very well. Let us go to Sidney," said Adrien.
Together they made their way round the court almost wholly unobserved, so intent was the crowd upon the struggle going on before them. As the game finished Adrien laid her hand upon her cousin's arm.
"Haven't you had enough of this?" she said. Her voice carried clear across the court.
"What d'ye say? By Jove, no!" said her cousin in a joyous voice. "This is the most cheering thing I've seen for many moons, Adrien. Eh, what? Oh, I beg pardon, are you seedy?" he added glancing at her. "Oh, certainly, I'll come at once."
"Not at all. Don't think of it. I have a call to make on my way home. Please don't come."
"But, Adrien, I say, this will be over now in a few minutes. Can't you really wait?"
"No, I am not in the least interested in this--this kind of tennis," she said in a bored voice.
Her tone, pitched rather higher than usual, carried to the ears of the players who were changing ends at the moment. Both of the men glanced at her. Stillwell's face showed swift gratitude. On Jack's face the shadow darkened but except for a slight straightening of the line of his lips he gave no sign.
"You are quite sure you don't care?" said Sidney. "You don't want me? This really is great, you know."
"Not for worlds would I drag you away," said Adrien in a cool, clear voice. "Frances will keep you company." She turned to her friend. "Look after him, Frances," she said. "Good-bye. Dinner at seven to-night, you know."
"Right-o!" said Sidney, raising his hat in farewell. "By Jove, I wouldn't miss this for millions," he continued, making room for Frances beside him. "Your young friend is really somewhat violent in his style, eh, what?"
"There are times when violence is the only possible thing," replied Frances grimly.
"By the way, who is the victim? I mean, what is he exactly?"
"Mr. Stillwell? Oh, he is the son of his father, the biggest merchant in Blackwater. Oh, lovely! Beautiful return! Jack is simply away above his form! And something of a merchant and financier on his own account, to be quite fair. Making money fast and using it wisely. But I'm not going to talk about him. You see a lot of him about the Rectory, don't you?"
"Well, something," replied Sidney. "I can't quite understand the situation, I confess. To be quite frank, I don't cotton much to him. A bit sweetish, eh, what?"
"Yes, at the Rectory doubtless. I would hardly attribute to him a sweet disposition. Oh, quit talking about him. He had flat feet in the war, I think it was. Jack's twin brother was killed, you know--and mine--well, you know how mine is."
A swift vision of a bright-faced, cheery-voiced soldier, feeling his way around a darkened room in the Amory home, leaped to Sidney's mind and overwhelmed him with pity and self-reproach.
"Dear Miss Frances, will you forgive me? I hadn't quite got on to the thing. I understand the game better now."
"Now, I don't want to poison your mind. I shouldn't have said that--about the flat feet, I mean. He goes to the Rectory, you know. I want to be fair--"
"Please don't worry. We know all about that sort at home," said Sidney, touching her hand for a moment. "My word, that was a hot one! The flat-footed Johnnie is obviously bewildered. The last game was sheer massacre, eh, what?"
If Maitland was not in form there was no sign of it in his work on the court. There was little of courtesy, less of fun and nothing at all of mercy in his play. From first to last and without reprieve he drove his game ruthlessly to a finish. So terrific, so resistless were his attacks, so coldly relentless the spirit he showed, ignoring utterly all attempts at friendly exchange of courtesy, that the unhappy and enraged Stillwell, becoming utterly demoralized, lost his nerve, lost his control and hopelessly lost every chance he ever possessed of winning a single game of the set which closed with the score six to nothing.
At the conclusion of the set Stillwell, with no pretense of explanation or apology, left the courts to his enemy who stood waiting his appearance in a silence so oppressive that it seemed to rest like a pall upon the side lines. So overwhelming was Stillwell's defeat, so humiliating his exhibition of total collapse of morale that the company received the result with but slight manifestation of feeling. Without any show of sympathy even his friends slipped away, as if unwilling to add to his humiliation by their commiseration. On the other side, the congratulations offered Maitland were for the most part lacking in the spontaneity that is supposed to be proper to such a smashing victory. Some of his friends seemed to feel as if they had been called upon to witness an unworthy thing. Not so, however, with either Frances Amory or Sidney Templeton. Both greeted Captain Jack with enthusiasm and warmth, openly and freely rejoicing in his victory.
"By Jove, Maitland, that was tremendous, appalling, eh, what?"
"I meant it to be so," said Maitland grimly, "else I should not have played with him."
"It was coming to him," said Frances. "I am simply completely delighted."
"Can I give you a lift home, Frances?" said Maitland. "Let us get away. You, too, Templeton," he added to Sidney, who was lingering near the young lady in obvious unwillingness to leave her side.
"Oh, thanks! Sure you have room?" he said. "All right. You know my cousin left me in your care."
"Oh, indeed! Well, come along then, since our hero is so good. Really, I am uplifted to quite an unusual height of glorious exultation."
"Don't rub it in, Frank," said Jack gloomily. "I made an ass of myself, I know quite well."
"What rot, Jack. Every one of your friends was tickled to death."
"Adrien, for instance, eh?" said Jack with a bitter little laugh, taking his place at the wheel.
"Oh, Adrien!" replied Frances. "Well, you know Adrien! She is-- just Adrien."
As he turned into the street there was a sound of rushing feet.
"Hello, Captain Jack! Oh, Captain Jack! Wait for me! You have room, haven't you?"
A whirlwind of flashing legs and windblown masses of gold-red hair, which realised itself into a young girl of about sixteen, bore down on the car. It was Adrien's younger sister, Patricia, and at once her pride and her terror.
"Why, Patsy, where on earth did you come from? Of course! Get in! Glad to have you, old chap."
"Oh, Captain Jack, what a game! What a wonderful game! And Rupert has been playing all summer and awfully well! And you have hardly played a game! I was awfully pleased--"
"Were you? I'm not sure that I was," replied Captain Jack.
"Well, you were savage, you know. You looked as if you were in a fight."
"Did I? That was very rotten of me, wasn't it?"
"Oh, I don't know exactly. But it was a wonderful game. Of course, one doesn't play tennis like a fight, I suppose."
"No! You are quite right, Pat," replied Captain Jack. "You see, I'm afraid I lost my temper a bit, which is horribly bad form I know, and--well, I wanted to fight rather than play, and of course one couldn't fight on the tennis court in the presence of a lot of ladies, you see."
"Well, I'm glad you didn't fight, Captain Jack. You have had enough of fighting, haven't you? And Rupert is really very nice, you know. He has a wonderful car and he lets me drive it, and he always brings a box of chocolates every time he comes."
"He must be perfectly lovely," said Captain Jack, with a grin at her.
The girl laughed a laugh of such infectious jollity that Captain Jack was forced to join with her.
"That's one for you, Captain Jack," she cried. "I know I am a pig where chocs are concerned, and I do love to drive a car. But, really, Rupert is quite nice. He is so funny. He makes Mamma laugh. Though he does tease me a lot."
Captain Jack drove on in silence for some moments.
"I was glad to see you playing though to-day, Captain Jack."
"Where were you? I didn't see you anywhere."
"Not likely!" She glanced behind her at the others in the back seat. She need not have given them a thought, they were too deeply engrossed to heed her. "Do you know where I was? In the crutch of the big elm--you know!"
"Don't I!" said Captain Jack. "A splendid seat, but--"
"Wouldn't Adrien be shocked?" said the girl, with a deliciously mischievous twinkle in her eye. "Or, at least, she would pretend to be. Adrien thinks she must train me down a bit, you know. She says I have most awful manners. She wants Mamma to send me over to England to her school. But I don't want to go, you bet. Besides, I don't think Dad can afford it so they can't send me. Anyway, I could have good manners if I wanted to. I could act just like Adrien if I wanted to--I mean, for a while. But that was a real game. I felt sorry for Rupert, a little. You see, he didn't seem to know what to do or how to begin. And you looked so terrible! Now in the game with Cousin Sidney you were so different, and you played so awfully well, too, but differently. Somehow, it was just like gentlemen playing, you know--"
"You have hit it, Patsy,--a regular bull!" said Captain Jack.
"Oh, I don't mean--" began the girl in confusion, rare with her.
"Yes, you do, Pat. Stick to your guns."
"Well, I will. The first game everybody loved to watch. The second game--somehow it made me wish Rupert had been a Hun. I'd have loved it then."
"By Jove, Patsy, you're right on the target. You've scored again."
"Oh, I'm not saying just what I want--but I hope you know what I mean."
"Your meaning hits me right in the eye. And you are quite right. The tennis court is no place for a fight, eh? And, after all, Rupert Stillwell is no Hun."
"But you haven't been playing this summer at all, Captain Jack," said the girl, changing the subject. "Why not?" The girl's tone was quite severe. "And you don't do a lot of things you used to do, and you don't go to places, and you are different." The blue eyes earnestly searched his face.
"Am I different?" he asked slowly. "Well, everybody is different. And then, you know, I am busy. A business man has his hours and he must stick to them."
"Oh, I don't believe you a bit. You don't need to be down at the mills all the time. Look at Rupert. He doesn't need to be at his father's office."
"He gets off whenever he wants to."
"Looks like it."
"And why can't you?"
"Well, you see, I am not Rupert," said Captain Jack, grinning at her.
"Now you are horrible. Why don't you do as you used to do? You know you could if you wanted to."
"Yes, I suppose, if I wanted to," said Captain Jack, suddenly grave.
"You don't want to," said the girl, quick to catch his mood.
"Well, you know, Patsy dear, things are different, and I suppose I am too. I don't care much for a lot of things."
"You just look as if you didn't care for anything or anybody sometimes, Captain Jack," said Patricia quietly. Then after a few moments she burst forth: "Oh, don't you remember your hockey team? Oh! oh! oh! I used to sit and just hold my heart from jumping. It nearly used to choke me when you would tear down the ice with the puck."
"That was long ago, Pat dear. I guess I was--ah--very young then, eh?"
"Yes, I know," nodded the girl. "I feel the same way--I was just a kid then."
"Ah, yes," said Captain Jack, with never a smile. "You were just-- let's see--twelve, was it?"
"Yes, twelve. And I felt just a kid."
"And now?" Captain Jack's voice was quite grave.
"Now? Well, I am not exactly a kid. At least, not the same kind of kid. And, as you say, a lot of things are different. I think I know how you feel. I was like that, too--after--after--Herbert--" The girl paused, with her lips quivering. "It was all different-- so different. Everything we used to do, I didn't feel like doing. And I suppose that's the way with you, Captain Jack, with Andy--and then your Mother, too." She leaned close to him and put her hand timidly on his arm.
Captain Jack, sitting up very straight and looking very grave, felt the thrill of the timid touch run through his very heart. A rush of warm, tender emotion such as he had not allowed himself for many months suddenly surprised him, filling his eyes and choking his throat. Since his return from the war he had without knowledge been yearning for just such an understanding touch as this child with her womanly instinct had given him. He withdrew one hand from the wheel and took the warm clinging fingers tight in his and waited in silence till he was sure of himself. He drove some blocks before he was quite master of his voice. Then, releasing the fingers, he turned his face toward the girl.
"You are a real pal, aren't you, Patsy old girl?" he said with a very bright smile at her.
"I want to be! Oh, I would love to be!" she said, with a swift intake of breath. "And after a while you will be just as you were before you went away."
"Hardly, I fear, Patsy."
"Well, not the same, but different from what you are now. No, I don't mean that a bit, Captain Jack. But perhaps you know--I do want to see you on the ice again. Oh, it would be wonderful! Of course, the old team wouldn't be there--Herbert and Phil and Andy. Why! You are the only one left! And Rupert." She added the name doubtfully. "It would be different! oh, so different! Oh! I don't wonder you don't care, Captain Jack. I won't wonder--" There was a little choke in the young voice. "I see it now--"
"I think you understand, Patsy, and you are a little brick," said Captain Jack in a low, hurried tone. "And I am going to try. Anyway, whatever happens, we will be pals."
The girl caught his arm tight in her clasped hands and in a low voice she said, "Always and always, Captain Jack, and evermore." And till they drew up at the Rectory door no more was said.
Maitland drove homeward through the mellow autumn evening with a warmer, kindlier glow in his heart than he had known through all the dreary weeks that had followed his return from the war. For the war had wrought desolation for him in a home once rich in the things that make life worth while, by taking from it his mother, whose rare soul qualities had won and held through her life the love, the passionate, adoring love of her sons, and his twin brother, the comrade, chum, friend of all his days, with whose life his own had grown into a complete and ideal unity, deprived of whom his life was left like a body from whose raw and quivering flesh one-half had been torn away.
The war had left his life otherwise bruised and maimed in ways known only to himself.
Returning thus from his soul-devastating experience of war to find his life desolate and maimed in all that gave it value, he made the appalling discovery that he was left almost alone of all whom he had known and loved in past days. For of his close friends none were left as before. For the most part they were lying on one or other of the five battle fronts of the war. Others had found service in other spheres. Only one was still in his home town, poor old Phil Amory, Frances' brother, half-blind in his darkened room, but to bring anything of his own heart burden to that brave soul seemed sacrilege or worse. True enough, he was passing through the new and thrilling experience of making acquaintance with his father. But old Grant Maitland was a hard man to know, and they were too much alike in their reserve and in their poverty of self-expression to make mutual acquaintance anything but a slow and in some ways a painful process.
Hence in Maitland's heart there was an almost extravagant gratitude toward this young generous-hearted girl whose touch had thrilled his heart and whose voice with its passionate note of loyal and understanding comradeship still sang like music in his soul, "Always and always, Captain Jack, and evermore."
"By Jove, I have got to find some way of playing up to that," he said aloud, as he turned from the gravelled driveway into the street. And in the months that followed he was to find that the search to which he then committed himself was to call for the utmost of the powers of soul which were his.