To Him That Hath by Ralph Connor
Chapter VIII. Free Speech
Fifty years ago Blackwater town was a sawmill village on the Blackwater River which furnished the power for the first little sawmill set up by Grant Maitland's father.
Down the river came the sawlogs in the early spring when the water was high, to be caught and held by a "boom" in a pond from which they were hauled up a tramway to the saw. A quarter of a mile up stream a mill race, tapping the river, led the water to an "overshot wheel" in the early days, later to a turbine, thus creating the power necessary to drive the mill machinery. When the saw was still the water overflowed the "stop-logs" by the "spillway" into the pond below.
But that mill race furnished more than power to the mill. It furnished besides much colourful romance to the life of the village youth of those early days. For down the mill race they ran their racing craft, jostling and screaming, urging with long poles their laggard flotillas to victory. The pond by the mill was to the boys "swimming hole" and fishing pool, where, during the long summer evenings and through the sunny summer days, they spent amphibious hours in high and serene content. But in springtime when the pond was black with floating logs it became the scene of thrilling deeds of daring. For thither came the lumber-jacks, fresh from "the shanties," in their dashing, multi-colored garb, to "show off" before admiring friends and sweethearts their skill in "log- running" and "log-rolling" contests which as the spirit of venture grew would end like as not in the icy waters of the pond.
Here, too, on brilliant winter days the life of the village found its centre of vivid interest and activity. For then the pond would be a black and glittering surface whereon wheeled and curved the ringing, gleaming blades of "fancy" skaters or whereon in sterner hours opposing "shinny" teams sought glory in Homeric and often gory contest.
But those days and those scenes were now long since gone. The old mill stood a picturesque ruin, the water wheel had given place to the steam engine, the pond had shrunk to an insignificant pool where only pollywogs and minnows passed unadventurous lives, the mill race had dwindled to a trickling stream grown thick with watercress and yellow lilies, and what had once been the centre of vigorous and romantic life was now a back water eddy devoid alike of movement and of colour.
A single bit of life remained--the little log cottage, once the Manager's house a quarter of a century ago, still stood away up among the pines behind the old mill ruin and remote from the streets and homes of the present town. At the end of a little grassy lane it stood, solid and square, resisting with its well hewn pinelogs the gnawing tooth of time. Abandoned by the growing town, forgotten by the mill owner, it was re-discovered by Malcolm McNish, or rather by his keen eyed old mother on their arrival from the old land six months ago. For a song McNish bought the solid little cottage, he might have had it as a gift but that he would not, restored its roof, cleared out its stone chimney which, more than anything else, had caught the mother's eye, re-set the window panes, added a wee cunning porch, gave its facings a coat of paint, enclosed its bit of flower garden in front and its "kale yaird" in the rear with a rustic paling, and made it, when the Summer had done its work, a bonnie homelike spot which caught the eye and held the heart of the passer-by.
The interior more than fulfilled the promise of the exterior. The big living room with its great stone fireplace welcomed you on opening the porch door. From the living room on the right led two doors, each giving entrance to a tiny bedroom and flanking a larger room known as "the Room."
Within the living room were gathered the household treasures, the Lares and Penates of the little stone rose-covered cottage "at hame awa' ayont the sea." On the mantel a solid hewn log of oak, a miracle of broad-axe work, were "bits o' chiny" rarely valuable as antiques to the knowing connoisseur but beyond price to the old white-haired lady who daily dusted them with reverent care as having been borne by her mother from the Highland home in the far north country when as a bride she came by the "cadger's cairt" to her new home in the lonely city of Glasgow. Of that Glasgow home and of her own home later the walls of the log cottage were eloquent.
The character giving bit of furniture, however, in the living room was a book-case that stood in a corner. Its beautiful inlaid cabinet work would in itself have attracted attention, but not the case but the books were its distinction. The great English poets were represented there in serviceable bindings showing signs of use, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Browning, Keats, and with them in various editions, Burns. Beside the poets Robert Louis had a place, and Sir Walter, as well as Kipling and Meredith and other moderns. But on the shelf that showed most wear were to be found the standard works of economists of different schools from the great Adam Smith to Marx and the lot of his imitators and disciples. This was Malcolm's book-case. There was in another corner near the fire-place a little table and above it hung a couple of shelves for books of another sort, the Bible and The Westminster Confession, Bunyan and Baxter and Fox's Book of Martyrs, Rutherford and McCheyne and Law, The Ten Years' Conflict, Spurgeon's Sermons and Smith's Isaiah, and a well worn copy of the immortal Robbie. This was the mother's corner, a cosy spot where she nourished her soul by converse with the great masters of thought and of conscience.
In this "cosy wee hoosie" Malcolm McNish and his mother passed their quiet evenings, for the days were given to toil, in talk, not to say discussion of the problems, the rights and wrongs of the working man. They agreed in much; they differed, and strongly, in point of view. The mother was all for reform of wrongs with the existing economic system, reverencing the great Adam Smith. The son was for a new deal, a new system, the Socialistic, with modifications all his own. All, or almost all, that Malcolm had read the mother had read with the exception of Marx. She "cudna thole yon godless loon" or his theories or his works. Malcolm had grown somewhat sick of Marx since the war. Indeed, the war had seriously disturbed the foundations of Malcolm's economic faith, and he was seeking a readjustment of his opinion and convictions, which were rather at loose ends. In this state of mind he found little comfort from his shrewd old mother.
"Y'e have nae anchor, laddie, and ilka woof of air and ilka turn o' the tide and awa' ye go."
As for her anchor, she made no bones of announcing that she had been brought up on the Shorter Catechism and the Confession and in consequence found a place for every theory of hers, Social and Economic as well as Ethical and Religious, within the four corners of the mighty fabric of the Calvinistic system of Philosophy and Faith.
One of the keen joys of her life since coming to the new country she found in her discussions with the Rev. Murdo Matheson, whom, after some considerable hesitation, she had finally chosen to "sit under." The Rev. Murdo's theology was a little narrow for her. She had been trained in the schools of the Higher Critics of the Free Kirk leaders at home. She talked familiarly of George Adam Smith, whom she affectionately designated as "George Adam." She would wax wrathful over the memory of the treatment meted out to Robertson Smith by a former generation of Free Kirk heresy hunters. Hence she regarded with pity the hesitation with which her Minister accepted some of the positions of the Higher Critics. Although it is to be confessed that the war had somewhat rudely shattered her devotion to German theology.
"What d'ye think o' yere friend Harnack the noo?" her son had jibed at her soon after the appearance of the great manifesto from the German professors.
"What do A think o' him?" she answered, sparring for time. "What do A think o' him?" Then, as her eye ran over her son's uniform, for he was on leave at the time, she blazed forth, "A'll tell ye what A think o' him. A think that Auld Hornie has his hook intil him and the hale kaboodle o' them. They hae forsaken God and made tae themselves ither gods and the Almichty hae gi'en them ower tae a reprobate mind."
But her Canadian Minister's economic positions satisfied her. He had specialised in Social and Economic Science in his University Course and she considered him sound "in the main."
She had little patience with half baked theorists and none at all with mere agitators. It was therefore with no small indignation that she saw on a Sunday morning Mr. Wigglesworth making his way up the lane toward her house door.
"The Lord be guid tae us!" she exclaimed. "What brings yon cratur here--and on a Sabbath mornin'? Mind you, Malcolm," she continued in a voice of sharp decision, "A'll hae nane o' his 'rights o' British citizens' clack the morn."
"Who is it, Mother?" enquired her son, coming from his room to look out through the window. "Oh, dinna fash ye're heid ower yon windbag," he added, dropping into his broadest Doric and patting his mother on the shoulder.
"He disna fash me," said his mother. "Nae fears. But A'll no pairmit him to brak the Sabbath in this hoose, A can tell ye." None the less she opened the door to Mr. Wigglesworth with dignified courtesy.
"Guid mornin', Mr. Wigglesworth," she said cordially. "Ye're airly on yere way tae the Kirk."
"Yes--that is--yes," replied Mr. Wigglesworth in some confusion, "I am a bit (h)early. Fact is, I was (h)anxious to catch Malcolm before 'e went aht. I 'ave a rather (h)important business on 'and with 'im, very (h)important business, I might say."
"'Business,' did ye say, Mr. Wigglesworth?" Mrs. McNish stood facing him at the door. "Business! On the Lord's Day?"
Mr. Wigglesworth gaped at her, hat in hand.
"Well, Mrs. McNish, not (h)exactly business. That is," he said with an apologetic smile, "(h)it depends, you see, just w'at yeh puts (h)into a word, Mrs. McNish."
Mr. Wigglesworth's head went over to one side as if in contemplation of a new and striking idea.
"A pit nae meaning into a word that's no in it on its ain accoont," she replied with uncompromising grimness. "Business is just business, an' my son diz nae business on the Lord's Day."
There was no place for casuistry in the old Scotch lady's mind. A thing was or was not, and there was an end to that.
"Certainly, Mrs. McNish, certainly! And so sez I. But there might be a slight difference of (h)opinion between you and I, so to speak, as to just w'at may constitute 'business.' Now, for (h)instance--" Mr. Wigglesworth was warming to his subject, but the old lady standing on her doorstep fixed her keen blue eyes upon him and ruthlessly swept away all argumentation on the matter.
"If it is a matter consistent with the Lord's Day, come in; if not, stay oot."
"Oh! Yes, thank you. By the way, is your son in, by (h)any chance? Per'raps 'e's shavin' 'isself, eh?" Mr. Wigglesworth indulged in a nervous giggle.
"Shavin' himsel!" exclaimed Mrs. McNish. "On the Sawbath! Man, d'ye think he's a heathen, then?" Mrs. McNish regarded the man before her with severity.
"An 'eathen? Not me! I should consider it an 'eathenish practice to go dirty of a Sunday," said Mr. Wigglesworth triumphantly.
"Hoots, man, wha's talkin' about gaein' dirty? Can ye no mak due preparation on the Saturday? What is yere Saturday for?"
This was a new view to Mr. Wigglesworth and rather abashed him.
"What is it, Mother?" Malcolm's voice indicated a desire to appease the wrath that gleamed in his mother's eye. "Oh, it is Mr. Wigglesworth. Yes, yes! I want to see Mr. Wigglesworth. Will you come in, Mr. Wigglesworth?"
"Malcolm, A was jist tellin' Mr. Wigglesworth--"
"Yes, yes, I know, Mother, but I want--"
"Malcolm, ye ken what day it is. And A wull not--"
"Yes, Mother, A ken weel, but--"
"And ye ken ye'll be settin' oot for the Kirk in half an oor--"
"Half an hour, Mother? Why, it is only half past nine--"
"A ken weel what it is. But A dinna like tae be fashed and flustered in ma mind on ma way till the Hoose o' God."
"I shall only require a very few moments, Madam," said Mr. Wigglesworth. "The matter with w'ich I am (h)entrusted need not take more than a minute or two. In fact, I simply want to (h)announce a special, a very special meetin' of the Union this (h)afternoon."
"A releegious meetin', Mr. Wigglesworth?" enquired Mrs. McNish.
"Well--not exactly--that is--I don't know but you might call it a religious meetin'. To my mind, Mrs. McNish, you know--"
But Mrs. McNish would have no sophistry.
"Mr. Wigglesworth," she began sternly.
But Malcolm cut in.
"Now, Mother, I suppose it's a regular enough meeting. Just wait till I get my hat, Mr. Wigglesworth. I'll be with you."
His mother followed him into the house, leaving Mr. Wigglesworth at the door.
"Malcolm," she began with solemn emphasis.
"Now, now, Mother, surely you know me well enough by this time to trust my judgment in a matter of this kind," said her son, hurriedly searching for his hat.
"Ay, but A'm no sae sure o' yon buddie--"
"Hoot, toot," said her son, passing out. "A'll be back in abundant time for the Kirk, Mither. Never you fear."
"Weel, weel, laddie, remember what day it is. Ye ken weel it's no day for warldly amusement."
"Ay, Mither," replied her son, smiling a little at the associating of Mr. Wigglesworth with amusement of any sort on any day.
In abundance of time Malcolm was ready to allow a quiet, unhurried walk with his mother which would bring them to the church a full quarter of an hour before the hour of service.
It happened that the Rev. Murdo was on a congenial theme and in specially good form that morning.
"How much better is a man than a sheep," was his text, from which with great ingenuity and eloquence he proceeded to develop the theme of the supreme value of the human factor in modern life, social and industrial. With great cogency he pressed the argument against the inhuman and degrading view that would make man a mere factor in the complex problem of Industrial Finance, a mere inanimate cog in the Industrial Machine.
"What did you think of the sermon, Mother?" asked Malcolm as they entered the quiet lane leading home.
"No sae bad, laddie, no sae bad. Yon's an able laddie, especially on practical themes. Ay, it was no that bad," replied his mother with cautious approval.
"What about his view of the Sabbath?"
"What about it? Wad ye no lift a sheep oot o' the muck on the Sawbath?"
"A would, of course," replied Malcolm.
"A was jist thinkin' o' Mr. Wigglesworth this morning."
"You were rather hard on him this morning', eh, Mither?"
"Hard on him? He's no a sheep, nor in some ways as guid's a sheep, A grant ye that, but such as he is was it no ma duty to pull him oot o' the mire o' Sawbath desecration and general ungodliness?"
"Aw, Mither, Mither! Ye're incorrigible! Ye ought to come to the meeting this afternoon and give them all a lug out."
"A wull that then," said his mother heartily. "They need it, A doot."
"Hoots! Nonsense, Mither!" said her son hastily, knowing well how thoroughly capable she was of not only going to a meeting of Union workers but also of speaking her mind if in her judgment they were guilty of transgressing the Sabbath law. "The meeting will be just as religious as Mr. Matheson's anyway."
"A'm no sae sure," said his mother grimly.
Whether religious in the sense understood by Mrs. McNish, the meeting was not wanting in ethical interest or human passion. It was a gathering of the workers in the various industries in the town, Trade Unionists most of them, but with a considerable number who had never owed allegiance to any Union and a number of disgruntled ex-Unionists. These latter were very vociferous and for the most part glib talkers, with passions that under the slightest pressure spurted foaming to the surface. Returned soldiers there were who had taken on their old jobs but who had not yet settled down into the colourless routine of mill and factory work under the discipline of those who often knew little of the essentials of discipline as these men knew them. A group of French-Canadian factory hands, taken on none too willingly in the stress of war work, constituted an element of friction, for the soldiers despised and hated them. With these there mingled new immigrants from the shipyards and factories of the Old Land, all members or ex-members of Trade Unions, Socialists in training and doctrine, familiar with the terminology and jargon of those Socialistic debating schools, the Local Unions of England and Scotland, alert, keen, ready of wit and ready of tongue, rejoicing in wordy, passionate debate, ready for anything, fearing nothing.
The occasion of the meeting was the presence of a great International Official of the American Federation of Labour, and its purpose to strengthen International Unionism against the undermining of guerilla bands of non-Unionists and very especially against the new organizations emanating from the far West, the One Big Union.
At the door of the hall stood Mr. Wigglesworth, important, fussy and unctuously impressive, welcoming, directing, introducing and, incidentally but quite ineffectively, seeking to inspire with respect for his august person a nondescript crowd of small boys vainly seeking entrance. With an effusiveness amounting to reverence he welcomed McNish and directed him in a mysterious whisper toward a seat on the platform, which, however, McNish declined, choosing a seat at the side about half way up the aisle.
A local Union official was addressing the meeting but saying nothing in particular, and simply filling in till the main speaker should arrive. McNish, quite uninterested in the platform, was quietly taking note of the audience, with many of whom he had made a slight acquaintance. As his eye travelled slowly from face to face it was suddenly arrested. There beside her father was Annette Perrotte, who greeted him with a bright nod and smile. They had long ago made up their tiff. Then McNish had another surprise. At the door of the hall appeared Captain Jack Maitland who, after coolly surveying the room, sauntered down the aisle and took a seat at his side. He nodded to McNish.
"Quite a crowd, McNish," he said. "I hear the American Johnnie is quite a spouter so I came along to hear."
McNish looked at him and silently nodded. He could not understand his presence at that kind of a meeting.
"You know I am a Union man now," said Captain Jack, accurately reading his silence. "Joined a couple of months ago."
But McNish kept his face gravely non-committal, wondering how it was that this important bit of news had not reached him. Then he remembered that he had not attended the last two monthly meetings of his Union, and also he knew that little gossip of the shops came his way. None the less, he was intensely interested in Maitland's appearance. He did Captain Jack the justice to acquit him of anything but the most honourable intentions, yet he could not make clear to his mind what end the son of his boss could serve by joining a Labour Union. He finally came to the conclusion that this was but another instance of an "Intellectual" studying the social and economic side of Industry from first-hand observation. It was a common enough thing in the Old Land. He was conscious of a little contempt for this dilettante sort of Labour Unionism, and he was further conscious of a feeling of impatience and embarrassment at Captain Jack's presence. He belonged to the enemy camp, and what right had he there? From looks cast in their direction it was plain that others were asking the same question. His thought received a sudden and unexpected exposition from the platform from no less a person than Mr. Wigglesworth himself to whom as one of the oldest officials in Unionised Labour in the town had been given the honour of introducing the distinguished visitor and delegate.
In flowing periods and with a reckless but wholly unauthorised employment of aspirates he "welcomed the (h)audience, (h)especially the ladies, and other citizens among 'oom 'e was delighted to (h)observe a representative of the (h)employing class 'oo was for the present 'e believed one of themselves." To his annoyed embarrassment Captain Jack found himself the observed of many eyes, friendly and otherwise. "But 'e would assure Captain Maitland that although 'e might feel as if 'e 'ad no right to be 'ere--"
"'Ere! 'Ere!" came a piercing voice in unmistakable approval, galvanising the audience out of its apathy into instant emotional intensity.
"(H)I want most (h)emphatically to (h)assure Captain Maitland," continued Mr. Wigglesworth, frowning heavily upon the interrupter, "that 'e is as welcome--"
"No! No!" cried the same Cockney voice, followed by a slight rumbling applause.
"I say 'e is," shouted Mr. Wigglesworth, supported by hesitating applause.
"No! No! We don't want no toffs 'ere." This was followed by more definite applause from the group immediately surrounding the speaker.
Mr. Wigglesworth was much affronted and proceeded to administer a rebuke to the interrupter.
"I (h)am surprised," he began, with grieved and solemn emphasis.
"Mr. Chairman," said the owner of the Cockney voice, rising to his feet and revealing himself a small man with large head and thin wizened features, "Mr. Chairman, I rise to protest right 'ere an' naow against the presence of (h)any representative of the (h)enemy class at--"
"Aw, shut up!" yelled a soldier, rising from his place. "Throw out the little rat!"
Immediately there was uproar. On every side returned soldiers, many of whom had been in Captain Jack's battalion, sprang up and began moving toward the little Cockney who, boldly standing his ground, was wildly appealing to the chair and was supported by the furious cheering of a group of his friends, Old Country men most of whom, as it turned out, were of the extreme Socialist type. By this time it had fully been borne in upon Captain Jack's mind, somewhat dazed by the unexpected attack, that he was the occasion of the uproar. Rising from his place he tried vainly to catch the Chairman's attention.
"Come up to the platform," said a voice in his ear. He turned and saw McNish shouldering his way through the excited crowd toward the front. After a moment's hesitation he shrugged his shoulders and followed. The move caught the eye and apparently the approval of the audience, for it broke into cheers which gathered in volume till by the time that McNish and Captain Jack stood on the platform the great majority were wildly yelling their enthusiastic approval of their action. McNish stood with his hand raised for a hearing. Almost instantly there fell a silence intense and expectant. The Scotchman stood looking in the direction of the excited Cockney with cold steady eye.
"A'm for freedom! The right of public assembly! A'm feart o' nae enemy, not the deevil himself. This gentleman is a member of my Union and he stays r-r-right he-e-r-re." With a rasping roll of his r's he seemed to be ripping the skin off the little Cockney's very flesh. The response was a yell of savage cheers which seemed to rock the building and which continued while Mr. Wigglesworth in overflowing effusiveness first shook Maitland's limp hand in a violent double-handed pump handle exercise and then proceeded to introduce him to the distinguished visitor, shouting his name in Maitland's ear, "Mr 'Oward (H)E. Bigelow," adding with a sudden inspiration, "(H)Introduce 'im to the (h)audience. Yes! Yes! Most (h)assuredly," and continued pushing both men toward the front of the platform, the demonstration increasing in violence.
"I say, old chap," shouted Captain Jack in the stranger's ear, "I feel like a fool."
"I feel like a dozen of 'em," shouted Mr. Bigelow in return. "But," he added with a slow wink, "this old fool is the daddy of 'em all. Go on, introduce me, or they'll bust something loose."
Captain Jack took one step to the front of the platform and held up his hand. The cheering assumed an even greater violence, then ceased in sudden breathless silence.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said in a slightly bored voice, "this gentleman is Mr. Howard E. Bigelow, a representative of the American Federation of Labour, whom as a member of the Woodworkers' Union, Local 197, I am anxious to hear if you don't mind."
He bowed to the visitor, bowed to the audience once more swaying under a tempest of cheers, and, followed by McNish, made his way to his seat.
From the first moment of his speech Mr. Howard E. Bigelow had to fight for a hearing. The little Cockney was the centre of a well- organised and thoroughly competent body of obstructers who by clever "heckling," by points of order, by insistent questioning, by playing now upon the anti-American string, now upon the anti-Federation string, by ribald laughter, by cheering a happy criticism, completely checked every attempt of the speaker to take flight in his oratory. The International official was evidently an old hand in this sort of game, but in the hands of these past masters in the art of obstruction he met more than his match. Maitland was amazed at his patience, his self-control, his adroitness, but they were all in vain. At last he was forced to appeal to the Chairman for British fair play. But the Chairman was helplessly futile and his futility was only emphasised by Mr. Wigglesworth's attempts now at browbeating which were met with derision and again at entreaty which brought only demands for ruling on points of order, till the meeting was on the point of breaking up in confused disorder.
"McNish, I think I'll take a hand in this," said Captain Jack in the Scotchman's ear. "Are you game?"
"Wait a wee," said McNish, getting to his feet. Slowly he once more made his way to the platform. As the crowd caught on to his purpose they broke into cheering. When he reached the side of the speaker he spoke a word in his ear, then came to the front with his hand held up. There was instant quiet. He looked coolly over the excited, disintegrating audience for a moment or two.
"A belonged tae the Feefty-fir-rst Diveesion," he said in his richest Doric. "We had a rare time wi' bullies over there. A'm for free speech! Noo, listen tae me, you Cockney wheedle doodle. Let another cheep out o' yere trap an' the Captain there will fling ye oot o' this room as we did the Kayser oot o' France."
"You said it, McNish," said Maitland, leaping to the aisle. With a roar a dozen returned men were on their feet.
"Steady, squad!" rang out Captain Jack's order. "Fall into this aisle! Shun!" As if on parade the soldiers fell into line behind their captain.
"Macnamara!" he said, pointing to a huge Irishman.
"Sir!" said Macnamara.
"You see that little rat-faced chap?"
"Take your place beside him."
With two steps Macnamara was beside his man.
"Mr. Chairman, I protest," began the little Cockney fiercely.
"Pass him up," said the Captain sharply.
With one single motion Macnamara's hand swept the little man out of his place into the aisle.
"Chuck him out!" said Captain Jack quietly.
From hand to hand, with never a pause, amid the jeers and laughter of the crowd the little man was passed along like a bundle of old rags till he disappeared through the open door.
"Who's next?" shouted Macnamara joyfully.
"As you were!" came the sharp command.
At once Macnamara stood at attention.
Captain Jack nodded to the platform.
"All right," he said quietly.
Mr. Howard E. Bigelow finished his speech in peace. He made appeal for the closing up of the ranks of Labour in preparation for the big fight which was rapidly coming. They had just finished with Kaiserism in Europe but they were faced with only another form of the same spirit in their own land. They wanted no more fighting, God knew they had had enough of that, but there were some things dearer than peace, and Labour was resolved to get and to hold those things which they had fought for, "which you British and especially you Canadians shed so much blood to win. We are making no threats, but we are not going to stand for tyranny at the hands of any man or any class of men in this country. Only one thing will defeat us, not the traditional enemies of our class but disunion in our own ranks due to the fool tactics of a lot of disgruntled and discredited traitors like the man who has just been fired from this meeting." He asked for a committee which would take the whole situation in hand. He closed with a promise that in any struggle which they undertook under the guidance of their International Officers the American Federation of Labour to their last dollar would be behind them.
Before the formal closing of the meeting Maitland slipped quietly out. As he reached the sidewalk a light hand touched his arm. Turning he saw at his elbow Annette, her face aglow and her black eyes ablaze with passionate admiration.
"Oh, Captain Jack," she panted, her hands outstretched, "you were just wonderful! Splendid! Oh! I don't know what to say! I--" She paused in sudden confusion. A hot colour flamed in her face. Maitland took her hands in his.
"Hello, Annette! I saw you there. Why! What's up, little girl?"
A sudden rush of tears had filled her eyes.
"Oh, nothing. I am just excited, I guess. I don't know what--" She pulled her hands away. "But you were great!" She laughed shrilly.
"Oh, it was your friend McNish did the trick," said Captain Jack. "Very neat bit of work that, eh? Very neat indeed. Awfully clever chap! Are you going home now?"
"No, I am waiting." She paused shyly.
"Oh, I see!" said Captain Jack with a smile. "Lucky chap, by Jove!"
"I am waiting for my father," said Annette, tossing her head.
"Oh, then, if that's all, come along with me. Your father knows his way about." The girl paused a moment, hesitating. Then with a sudden resolve she cried gaily,
"Well, I will. I want to talk to you about it. Oh, I am so excited!" She danced along at his side in gay abandon. As they turned at the first corner Maitland glanced over his shoulder.
"Hello! Here's McNish," he cried, turning about. "Shall we wait for him?"
"Oh, never mind Malcolm," cried the girl excitedly, "come along. I don't want him just now. I want--" She checked herself abruptly. "I want to talk to you."
"Oh, all right," said Captain Jack. "He's gone back anyway. Come along Annette, old girl. I have been wanting to see you for a long time."
"Well, you see me," said the girl, laughing up into his eyes with a frank, warm admiration in hers that made Captain Jack's heart quicken a bit in its steady beat. He was a young man with a normal appreciation of his own worth. She, young, beautiful, unspoiled, in the innocence of her girlish heart was flinging at him the full tribute of a warm, generous admiration with every flash of her black eyes and every intonation of her voice. Small wonder if Captain Jack found her good to look at and to listen to. Often during the walk home he kept saying to himself, "Jove, that McNish chap is a lucky fellow!" But McNish, taking his lonely way home, was only conscious that the evening had grown chilly and grey.