Chapter II. Giving and Receiving
 

The baby awoke bright and early the next morning, in fact too early for Mr. and Mrs. Royal. The former, especially, enjoyed the hour from six to seven, when, as he once said, he obtained his "beauty sleep." But the little stranger of the night was no respecter of persons. He lifted up his voice at the unnatural hour of five, and by means of a series of gurgles, whoops, and complaints, drove all sleep from drowsy eyes. He was not in the least abashed in the presence of strangers, but standing in his crib, he rattled the side, and yelled shouts of baby defiance at the other occupants of the room.

"I didn't know that he could stand alone," the parson remarked as he first saw Rodney scramble to his feet. "How old do you suppose he is?"

"About fourteen months, I should judge, Daniel," his wife replied. "He may be older, though. One can't always tell."

"He's a stirring lad, anyway, Martha, and we shall have our hands full. Won't you need some help, dear? How would it do to get a woman in occasionally to assist with the work, as the baby will take so much of your time?"

"That will not be necessary, Daniel. By the look of things now we shall be up earlier each morning, and one hour then is worth two later in the day."

After the parson had lighted the fire in the cooking-stove, and also the one in the living-room, he went to the barn to milk. He kept one Jersey cow which supplied enough milk for the house. This was a fine animal, and the pride of the neighbourhood, as it had taken the first prize at the large Exhibition held that very fall in the city.

The rectory was situated upon land known as "The Glebe," about fifty acres in extent, which had been granted to the Church by the Crown in Loyalist days. About one-third of this was under cultivation, producing hay and oats for the horse and cow, as well as all the vegetables needed for the table. Several acres were given up to pasturage, while the remainder was wooded. The Royals were, therefore, most comfortably situated, and quite independent. A small orchard provided them with apples, the taste of which was well known to every person in the parish, especially the children, for Parson Dan seldom started forth without his pockets filled with Russets, Pippins, or Fameuse. Mrs. Royal had her hens, and no eggs seemed as large and fresh as the ones she often sent to some sick or aged person, in the parish.

While Mrs. Royal was looking after the baby, the parson fed his horse, "Sweepstakes," and milked "Brindle," the cow. He then turned the latter loose, and drove her down the lane to the feeding-ground beyond.

"There is a stray cow out in the pasture," the clergyman informed his wife as he sipped his coffee.

"Whose is it?" was the somewhat absent-minded reply, for Mrs. Royal's attention was upon Rodney, who was creeping gaily about the floor, examining every nook, and making himself perfectly at home.

"I don't know whose it is," the parson retorted, a little nettled at his wife's question. "I can tell you about every man, woman, and child in this parish; I know all the horses and dogs, and can give you their pedigrees. But I draw a line at cows, pigs, hens, and cats. I am fond enough of them, but there is a limit to the things I can remember. I forget too much as it is. And, by the way, that reminds me that I must go to Hazlewood to-day. Joe Bradley told me last night that his mother is ill, and wishes to see me. He came all the way to the meeting on purpose to tell me, and to think that I nearly forgot all about it! It was that young rascal, though, who did it," and the parson turned his eyes upon the baby. "Do you think that you can make out alone with him, Martha? I fear that I shall be away all day, as there are several other calls I must make at Hazlewood."

"Oh, I shall make out all right," was the reply. "But there are several things you might bring me from the store on your way home. I will make out a list for you, as you would be sure to forget them."

It was almost dusk when Parson Dan returned from his long journey, tired and hungry.

"How is the boy?" he asked as he entered the house, after having stabled Sweepstakes.

"He's as good as gold, Daniel," Mrs. Royal replied. "But I am worried about Brindle. She hasn't come in yet, and I cannot see her anywhere in the pasture."

"She's with that strange cow, no doubt, Martha, and I shall go after her at once. It will be too dark if I wait until supper is over."

Parson Dan was absent for about an hour, and it was dark when he returned to the rectory. He looked disappointed.

"Brindle is gone," was the news he imparted to his wife. "I found where the fence was broken down. That strange cow must have done it, for I never knew Brindle to do such a thing. I wonder how that cow got in there, anyway. It is a complete mystery to me. I tried to follow the cows through the woods, but it got so dark that I was forced to give up the search. I must be off early in the morning or there will be no milk for the wee lad's breakfast."

"And none for our coffee, Daniel," was his wife's reminder. "Milk will be a very poor substitute for cream, but it will be better than nothing."

"That's quite true, Martha. It's been a long time since we've been without milk or cream in the house. But we can stand it better than the baby. Poor little chap, he must not starve, even if we have to borrow some from our neighbours. I hope Rodney has not tired you too much to-day, dear. It has been years since you had the care of a baby."

"It has been a great joy, Daniel, to have the laddie with me. He slept several hours, and when he woke he was so good and full of fun. At times I imagined he was Alec playing on the floor with his blocks. He was very sweet when I put him to bed to-night. He never misses his mother. How soon a baby forgets."

"But I venture to say that his mother hasn't forgotten him," and the parson's face grew serious as he recalled that sob of the night before. "I have been thinking of her all through the day, and wondering who she is, and why she left her baby at our door."

"And so have I, Daniel. I had the idea that she would return, and several times I started at the least noise, expecting to see her at the door."

"I do not wish to deprive the mother of her baby," the parson thoughtfully mused, "but how I should like to keep him! He seems to belong to us. In fact, he has made himself perfectly at home already."

Parson Dan was astir unusually early the next morning. He stood before the rectory looking up and down the road, uncertain which course to take in search of the missing Brindle.

"Let me see," he considered, "that fence is down on the upper side, and most likely those cows have made their way up the road. I guess I had better hunt there first."

As he stood there his eyes roamed over the scene before him. The rectory was situated upon a gentle elevation, surrounded by tall, graceful elms, and large branching maples. Below the road was the parish church, standing where it had stood for almost one hundred years, amid its setting of elms, maples, and oaks. Nearby was the cemetery, where the numerous shafts of marble and granite could be plainly seen from the road. To the right and left were pretty cottages, for the most part closed, as they belonged to people from the city, who, like the swallows, having spent their summer in this beautiful spot, had flitted at the approach of winter. Beyond stretched the St. John River, one of the finest sheets of water in the province, or even in Eastern Canada. This morning it appeared like a magic mirror, with not a breath of wind ruffling its placid surface.

Parson Dan's heart filled with pride and peace as he gazed upon the entrancing scene. Seldom had it looked so beautiful, and he believed that the early morning hour had much to do with its attractiveness.

"Glorious, glorious!" he murmured, "and so few abroad to see it. How the spirit of peace is brooding over river and land! Marvellous are Thy works, O Lord, and Thy mercies are renewed every morning."

He was aroused from his meditation by the sound of foot-steps upon the road. Glancing quickly around, he saw a tall, powerfully-built man approaching, carrying in his right hand a large stick, which he brought down upon the ground with a resounding thump. His clothes were rough; a heavy pair of boots encased his feet, while an old soft felt hat covered a head crowned with a wealth of iron-grey hair. He seemed like a veritable patriarch of ancient Hebrew days, and this likeness was intensified by his aquiline nose, keen eagle-like eyes, and a long beard sweeping his expansive chest. A smile lightened his face as he approached.

"Good mornin', parson," was his cheery greeting. "Ye're abroad early."

"Oh, good morning, captain," was the hearty reply. "We seem to be the only persons astir, eh?"

"More's the pity, parson. Don't see the like of that every day," and the captain waved his stick through the air. "Fine sight, that."

"It certainly is," the clergyman assented, "and how few are abroad to see it. But say, captain, you haven't seen anything of my cow, have you?"

"Ho, ho, that's a sudden jump, isn't it, parson?"

"A sudden what?"

"A sudden jump from the sublime to the ridiculous; from a scene like that to a cow."

"Not when you have no milk or cream, captain. Brindle has broken out of the pasture, and I have no idea where she can be."

"Did ye pray this mornin' that ye might find her, parson?"

"No, I can't say that I did," was the somewhat reluctant reply, for Parson Dan was well accustomed to Captain Josh's thrusts.

"Ah, that's too bad. The missionary said night before last that we must pray if we expect to receive, didn't he?"

"Yes, captain, he did."

"And he told us more'n that, parson. He said that we couldn't expect to receive unless we gave."

"Yes, he said that also."

"And by jingo, he was right, too," and the captain brought his stick down upon the road with a bang. "I've tried it, and it has turned out just as the missionary said it would."

"You have!" and the clergyman looked his astonishment. "I am so glad, captain, to know that you have come to view things in a different light. I was pleased to see you at the missionary meeting, and I am so thankful that you were benefited by what you heard. Won't you tell me how you proved Mr. Dicer's words to be true?"

"Would ye like to know, parson?" and a sly twinkle shone in the captain's eyes as he asked the question.

"Certainly. Go ahead."

"And ye won't feel hurt?"

"Feel hurt! Why should I?"

"Well, ye see, it concerns yer cow, and no matter how a man might feel about the welfare of others, when it comes to himself and his own personal property, it makes a great difference."

"I do not understand your meaning, captain," and the clergyman's voice had a note of sharpness. "What has the missionary meeting to do with my cow?"

"Considerable, parson, considerable. When I went home from that meetin', sez I to my wife, 'Betsey, I have learned a new wrinkle to-night, which may be of much use to us.' She asked me what I meant, so I up and told her what the missionary had said about givin' and receivin'. He laid it down very plain that unless a man gave to the Lord's work, he couldn't expect to prosper. Now, didn't he?"

"That's what he said," and the clergyman nodded his assent.

"Well, then, sez I to Betsey, 'Betsey, we've never prospered, because we've never given anything.'

"'But what have we to give?' sez she.

"'Nothin' much,' sez I, 'except our old cow Bess.'

"'Oh, we can't give her,' sez she. 'We'll have no milk if we do.'

"'But we'll get more in return,' sez I. 'The missionary said so, and I want to prove his words.' Well, the long and short of it is, that I took Bess early the next mornin' and turned her into your pasture afore you were up. Betsey was lookin' pretty glum when I got back home, but I told her to cheer up, fer the Lord would prosper us as we had given Him our cow."

"Captain Josh Britt!" the parson exclaimed. "I am astonished at you! How could you think of doing such a thing?"

"Why, what's wrong with that?" and the captain tried to look surprised. "Isn't it scriptural? I thought by givin' Bess to you, I was givin' her to the Church, and in that way she could be used fer the Lord's work."

"Oh, I see," and the clergyman stroked his chin in a thoughtful manner.

"Yes, and I tell ye it succeeded like a charm," the captain continued. "I gave up Bess, and, lo and behold, she came back last sight bringin' another cow with her."

"My cow, eh?" the parson queried.

"Sure. But didn't it prove the missionary's words to be true: 'Give, and ye'll receive more in return?' We gave up our only cow and now we have two."

Parson Dan made no immediate reply, for he was too deeply grieved to speak. His faint hope that a change had come over Captain Josh was now dispelled. For years he had mocked at church-going, and all things connected with religion. And so this was but another of his many tricks. But he must not let this scoffer off without a word of rebuke.

"Captain Josh," and the parson's voice was stern, "when you put your cow into my pasture you knew that she would come back, didn't you?"

"Why, what makes ye think so, parson?"

"Didn't you know that she would break down almost any fence?"

"Yes, I suppose I did."

"And that she would naturally take my cow with her?"

As the captain did not answer, the parson continued.

"You did it merely to make a scoff at religion, and have a joke to tell at the store for others to laugh at. Oh, I know your tricks well enough. I have striven to live peaceably with all men, but you have sorely tried me on various occasions. Whatever good I have done in this parish, you have endeavoured to undo it by your scoffs and actions. I often wonder why you do such things to oppose me."

Into the captain's face came an expression of surprise mingled with anger. He had never heard the clergyman speak to him so plainly before, and he resented it.

"You have had your say, parson, and I have the cow," he retorted, "so we are quits. Come and take her out of my yard if ye dare."

"I don't intend to try, captain. If you wish to injure your own soul by stealing Brindle you may do so. I can get another, only it will be hard on the little chap not to get his milk. I see it is no use for us to continue this conversation any further," and the clergyman turned to go.

"Hold on, parson," the captain cried, as he took a quick step forward. "D'ye mean the wee lad which was left at yer door t'other night?"

"Why, yes," the clergyman replied, in surprise, as he turned around. "How did you hear about him?"

"H'm, ye can't keep anything in this place a secret fer twenty-four hours. Trust the women to find out, especially about a baby, ha, ha!"

"Well, what of it?" and the parson looked keenly into the captain's eyes.

"Ob, nothin', except that if the wee chap has to go without his milk because I have Brindle, it makes all the difference in the world, see?"

"And you will let me have the cow without any fuss?"

"Sure. I'll bring her right over, and milk her fer ye, too. And, see here, parson, I didn't mean to offend ye. I know that I am a queer cranky cuss, but I never meant to keep Brindle. I only wanted to have a little fun, that's all. You've gone up a peg in my estimation since I heard that ye'd taken in that poor little waif. Shake on it, and let bygones be bygones."

So there in the middle of the road on this peaceful morning, the two neighbours clasped hands, and as Parson Dan walked slowly back to his house there was a sweet peace in his heart, and his eyes were a little misty as he opened the door.