Chapter II. Bitter Moments.
 

The serious accident that had befallen Mr. Dare was in reality a very simple one. The ladder that he had been ascending was covered with early morning dew, and when near the top his foot had slipped, and, being unable, on account of his rheumatism, to catch a quick hold, he had fallen on his side to the ground. No one had seen his fall, and he lay unconscious for full ten minutes before a fellow workman, who had been busy on the other side of the building, discovered him and summoned assistance.

The five or six men that were soon gathered did what they could to bring him to consciousness, but without success. One of them ran off to hunt up the doctor, and then the others took a door that had not yet been hung in the new house, and, fastening a heavy strip at either end for handles, covered it with their coats, and placed the wounded man upon it.

None of the men cared to face Mrs. Dare with such painful news, and it was only after repeated urging that Nicholas Boswell had been induced to go on ahead.

"My father, my poor father!" was all Richard could say, as he gazed at the motionless form upon the litter.

"Reckon he's hurt pretty bad," said Sandy Stone, a mason, who had been the first to be called to the scene of the accident. "'Tain't outside so much as it's in. Wait till we get him home."

For Richard was bending over his father, and trying his best to do something that would help the unconscious sufferer.

"Did you send for the doctor?"

"Yes; sent for Dr. Melvin first thing," replied one of the others, "But we don't know where he is."

"I think he is over at old Mrs. Brown's," returned the boy. "I saw him walking that way a while ago."

"I'll go and see," put in Nicholas Boswell. "Meanwhile you'd better go and tell your mother."

"My mother! what will she say? And Nancy and Grace and baby Madge! Oh, it's dreadful!" broke out Richard. "I'm sure none of them can stand it."

"I'll send my wife over soon as I can," said Sandy Stone. "She's as good as a doctor, and can quiet your mother, too. Be a brave boy, Dick, and go and tell her. It will be easier, coming from you, than it would from any of us."

So Richard returned to the house. His mother was dusting in the parlor, and going straight to her he said:

"Mother, the men are bringing father home. He slipped on the ladder and got hurt pretty badly. You had better get a bed ready for him, and some bandages, because he's got a cut or two on his head," and then, as the mother's breast began to heave: "Don't worry, mother; it may not be near as bad as we believe it is."

It was over in a moment, and when the men arrived Mrs. Dare was as calm as any of them.

In the cottage one of the bedrooms was situated upon the lower floor, and to this Mr. Dare was carried, and laid down as tenderly as these men were able to do such an unaccustomed task. He drew a deep breath when his head touched the pillow, and an instant later opened his eyes.

"Where am I?" were his first words.

"Home, John," replied his wife. "You had a fail, and--"

"Yes, I remember. Oh, how my side hurts!"

"Lie still. The doctor will soon be here. Would you like a drink?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Dare gave him some water, but he only drank a little, and then began to cough.

"It's inside!" he gasped. "My ribs are broken, I think."

Richard comforted his sisters as best he could. It was not long before Dr. Melvin arrived, and his coming inspired the little household with hope.

"Is it very serious?" asked Richard, after an examination into his father's condition had been made.

"I cannot tell yet. Two of his ribs are dislocated, but I dare not touch them until I find out the extent of his other internal injuries," replied the doctor. "He must keep quiet, and every ten minutes give him a tablespoonful of this mixture."

But, though Dr. Melvin gave these directions, it was fully an hour before he left, and then he promised to return late in the afternoon.

The whole family were gathered in the sick chamber, baby Madge, three years old, sitting on Richard's knee. Nancy and Grace had been frightened into almost absolute silence, and Mrs. Dare addressed herself to her husband, with an occasional remark to the boy as to what might further help the sufferer.

"Don't trouble yourself, Jane," said Mr. Dare feebly. "You've done enough already," and then the pain caused him to faint away.

When Dr. Melvin came back they all left the room but Mrs. Dare. A thorough examination was made that lasted nearly an hour. By the grave look on his face when the doctor called him, Richard knew that he was to receive no encouraging news.

"Your father is worse than I expected," were the doctor's words. "He has ruptured a blood vessel, and that is bad."

"Will he die, do you think?" faltered the boy.

"'While there is life there is hope,'" he responded evasively, after Richard had repeated his question.

"Then you are afraid it will be fatal?" cried the boy, terror-stricken. "Oh, Dr. Melvin, can't we do something?"

The doctor shook his head.

"I have done all I can. Such things are beyond our reach, and mere medicine does no good."

"Have you told my mother and my sisters?"

"I have told your mother. She expected it from the start," replied the doctor. "You had better go in now. Your father wishes to speak to you," he added.

Richard entered the front chamber at once. As he did so, his mother passed out, her eyes filled with tears.

"Did he tell you?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied, without being able to utter another word.

"Oh, Richard, I never, never thought that such a thing would happen! Where are Nan and the rest?"

"In the kitchen."

"I must tell them. It is hard on the poor girls."

"And hard on you," said Dick. "And me, too," he added, with a sigh.

The curtains of the windows had been drawn, and it was quite dark in the room. Richard approached the bed and grasped his father's hand.

"Is it you, Richard?" questioned the sufferer.

"Yes, father."

"I'm glad you've come. I want to talk to you."

"But it may hurt you to talk too much," said the boy feelingly.

"Never mind. It will all be over soon," replied Mr. Dare with a heavy cough. "I suppose the doctor has told you. He said he would."

The boy nodded his head.

"It is God's will, and we must bow to His judgment," continued the injured man. "But I want to talk to you about what to do when I am gone."

"Oh, father!"

"Hush! I feel that I am sinking, even faster than Dr. Melvin thinks. Listen then to what I have to say."

"I am listening."

"When I'm gone, Richard, you will have to take my place. Your mother is strong, and can do much; but she is a woman, and she, as well as your sisters, will need your help."

"They shall have all that I can possibly give them. I will work, and do all I can."

"I know you will, Richard. You have always been a good boy. I am sorry that I cannot leave you all better off than I'm doing."

"Never mind, father; we will get along."

"I suppose I might have done so if I'd had the courage to strike out," continued Mr. Dare, with a sigh. "I always calculated to do something for myself, but that's all over now. But you take after your mother, the same as your sister Grace, and if you make the right start I feel you will succeed."

"I shall remember what you say."

"Do so. But remember also to be always sober, industrious, and considerate of those around you. Be true to yourself, and to every one with whom you have dealings. You may not get along so fast, but people will respect you more, and your success will be ten times sweeter than it would have been had you risen by pushing others down."

"I shall try to deserve success, even if I don't rise very high, father."

"That's right." Mr. Dare paused for a moment. "I'm sorry that I cannot leave you more of a capital upon which to start in life."

"Never mind; I have a common school education and my health. What more can a boy wish?"

"It is as much as I had upon which to start. But I might have left you more. I deserve a pension as a soldier."

"You never pushed your claim, did you?"

"Yes, once. But I never told any of you, for fear of raising false hopes. I did apply, and it was all straight, but at the last moment the Department decided that I must have another witness to prove my identity, and this I could not get."

"You had one witness, then?"

"Yes. A man named Crawford, who was in our regiment. He was appointed an officer on the same day I was shot; but, as he was appointed after the occurrence they held that his single witnessing was not enough, and so I had to hunt for another."

"And you never found the other?"

"No, though I hunted high and low. Some who saw the affair must be still living, but I have not their addresses, nor do I know how to find them."

"Did you ever advertise in the papers?"

"Yes; I spent fifty dollars in the columns of the leading dailies, but without success."

"You have all the papers in the case?"

"They are in the trunk upstairs. If you can ever push the claim do so--for the others' sake as well as your own."

"I will, father."

"How much it will be worth I do not know, but it may be several thousands of dollars, and that, along with this house, which is free and clear, may suffice to keep the family many a year."

At this juncture a violent fit of coughing seized Mr. Dare, and by the time he had recovered, his wife and the three girls entered.