AS A MAN TO HIS FRIEND
W. MERRIMAN ROUSE
JOHNNY PETERS and Big Bill Stone had been friends for nearly a dozen years, since they first met as stripling river drivers. They smoked each other’s pipes, and, after a time, they began to save for the purpose of buying a farm together. Nothing had happened to strain the bonds of their friendship and they had no thought but that the years would bring them peace and independence upon their own soil.
All up and down the Ottawa river the friendship was accepted as one of the facts of nature, and held to be mildly amusing; for Big Bill was a tall, thick-chested man who could shoulder a barrel of flour by the chin, while people called Johnny Peters not .much bigger than a pint of cider. But Johnny was as 'grave and earnest about the matter of living as Bill was careless, and won respect from his fellows in a country where muscle is usually the measure of man. It was Johnny Peters who carried the five hundred dollars they had saved to make the first payment on their farm.
Late in*the spring, when the five hundred dollars had been saved, the log drive drew' nearer to Mountain Falls, a village well up the river. The calk-booted gang of drivers was again at Old Dan Harmon’s boarding-house; and again tobacco smoke and vivid curses filled the dog-house, old Dan’s basement den, where the men gathered in the evenings. The first day that the drivers put their legs under the boarding-house tables Mountain Falls had a visitation.
Miss Tina Larue was the visitation. She sent malice and envy hissing through the veins of every woman not too old or ill to care for things of this world, and she made stir the pulses of every male in the village. Albert Murrin, the barber, saw her coming out of the post-office, just at dusk, and with bulging eyes he ran down to the dog-house. A poker game stopped when he flung himself breathlessly, in.
“Whose house has ketched afire?” asked old Dan, holding his cards face down against his venerable stomach.
“It aint fire,” answered Murrin. “It’s a girl!”
Harmon snorted and called for three cards; but the other men pricked up their ears. Big Bill Stone, who had been watching the game, was interested.
“This aint a Mountain Falls girl, I tell you!” The barber directed his remarks to Dan. “She’s a better looker than I’veseen since I was down to Mon’real las’ time. And clothes! Say!”
The draw had become confused and somebody asked for a new deal. With a sigh Harmon put down his cards.
“Let’s get the girl off our minds so’s we can ’tend to business,” he said. “She’s been an actress and she aint as young as she looks. Her name is Tina Larue and she’s come here to start a millinery store. She boards here and eats with my old woman after the boys get done.
Now go ahead and deal!”
Dan Harmon, cooled by sixty winters, might dismiss her thus; but not Albert Murrin. He had once ventured as far a-field as Quebec City, he wore patent leather shoes and a white collar every day.
After a little fidgeting Murrin went out.
Bill Stone, with a wink and a nod to Johnny Peters, rose up and followed.
THEY trailed along fifteen or twenty feet behind the barber. It was where the lights shone out from Aiken’s store that they saw him straighten up and lift his hat with a flourish, as he stepped aside for a young woman who could be no other than Miss Tina Larue. Murrin got for his pains a sidelong glance from eyes that gleamed bigger and darker than any of the eyes in Mountain Falls. Stone crowded behind Peters on the narrow board sidewalk; there was a whiff of some strange smell in his nostrils, and the vision was
“Great guns, Johnny! She’s a regular picture off a circus poster, aint she?” Johnny Peters did not reply at once. He had turned full around and was staring after the woman, with the natural gravity of his face changed by an emotion that Big Bill had never seen there before. Dusk swallowed up the slender figure. The little man drew in his breath sharply.
“I wouldn’t call her a circus poster if I was you, Bill,” he said. “She the prettiest looking woman that I ever saw.”
Without another word Peters made off toward the boarding-house and Big Bill followed, too astonished to speak. He knew the signs, both from experience and observation, but ten minutes before he would have bet his share of the farm money that no woman in the world could ripple the even current of his partner’s life. And now it had been done by one who, instinct told him, was no fit mate for any earnest man. But Stone wisely forebore to speak his thoughts and he let Johnny go to bed without mentioning Tina Larue, or womankind.
The next day there was restraint between them as they worked, growing more marked as the day wore on. They broke a jam together with no more than half a dozen words. And that night Johnny clumped up to their room immediately after supper. Bill followed, for he hoped that somehow there could come a chance to say part of what was in his mind about the play actress. He sat down on the bed and pretended to be busy with a shoe-lace, Peters went to his trunk and carefully laid out a stiff-bosomed shirt and white-collar. Five minutes later he stood with creaking shoes and shirt bosom and plastering his dripping hair into an elaborate cowlick. Big Bill could stand it no longer.
“I didn’t know they was a wedding to-night,” he remarked in the wrong tone. His partner wheeled quickly.
“What do you care whether they is or not?” he demanded
Stone grunted and held his peace; but when Johnny set forth for the lower regions of the boarding-house, he walked behind despite discouraging backward glances.
It was in the hall that Peters found old Dan Harmon, and stopped before him, fairly wriggling with embarrassment.
He swallowed hard.
“Dan, I want you to introduce me to Miss Larue!”
Old Dan had the poker face, and seldom did its lines change. But now his mouth hung open for an instant, and little wrinkles of amusement gathered about his eyes.
“Sure, Johnny!” he cried, to the flaming countenance before him. “You come along with me—
I guess she’s in the parlor now.”
Peters stabbed his partner with a look that halted him, and followed the old man down the corridor and through a chenilledraped doorway.
There came out the even tones of Dan and then a flat little feminine voice that was not without allure-
ment. In a moment Harmon was back, wearing a frank grin.
“Little Johnny has ketched it as hard as Bert Murrin,” he said. “The fools aint all dead yet!”
Big Bill turned on him a level glance, keen and cold. He
“Is it any of your business?”
Harmon turned away with a growl and went heavily down into the basement. Bill Stone flung open the front door and took himself out into the spring night. Now he knew to a certainty that trouble had sought out Johnny Peters and himself. But he thought less of their future and the farm than of what Tina Larue could do to a man like Johnny Peters, who had been saving up emotion all his life. Bill felt worse rather than better when, after half an hour’s tramp, he went back to the boarding-house.
TPHE voice of Peters came out of the parlor, speaking -*• more words in five minutes than he was wont to use in an hour.
“We got five hundred dollars,” Johnny was saying, “and the farm picked out. After we get paid off on the drive we’ll have money enough extra to buy a hoss, and a cow, and some tools.”
“Oh, how I should love a farm, Mr. Peters!” The exclamation made Bill snort in disgust. “But I’m afraid it won’t ever be my fate to have one.”
“You—you can’t tefl, Miss Larue.” The voice of Johnny quivered with hope.
“All that money saved up!” She threw no small degree of admiration into the words. “Of course, you’ve got it in the bank, where it’s safe?”
“Not much we aint!” Johnny was secretly proud of his trustworthiness, “I carry it sewed inside my shirt. Banks bust up sometimes, and once in a while Bill Stone, my partner, he gets kind of thirsty and goes and spends all he’s got. So I carry the money.”
“You’re a real level-headed man, Mr. Peters,” she cooed.
Bill felt that he could endure no more. He went upstairs and kicked a chair across his room.
“The damn little fool,” he growled. “Something’s got to be done for him, and done quick!”
Through two hours of waiting Bill thought his hardest, but no solution would come. There seemed to be only one obvious course, so when the creaking footsteps of his partner sounded, he braced himself to to take it. Johnny Peters’ whole being had expanded, and his face glowed with an elation that made him seem five years younger as he came into the room.
“I want to talk about the Larue girl,” began Bill.
Instantly Peters, mouth set in hard lines.
“You better call her Miss Larue!” he warned.
“All right, then, ‘Miss Larue.’ Do you figure marrying that girl?” Johnny hesitated a moment.
“If you wan’t my partner, I guess you know what I’d say to that question. But I’ll tell you this much, Bill. I don’t believe a fine, eddicated girl like her would have a critter like me; but if she will, I’m going to marry her!”
' “Aint it struck you, Johnny, that maybe she might like the idee of your having some money saved up? And that you don’t know anything about who she is, or what she’s been?”
Bill was standing now. Peters seemed to increase in stature. He
stepped across the room and, reaching up, shoved a fist under his partner’s nose.
“You take that back or fight, you big hog,” he grated, through clenched teeth. “Take it back or fight right here and now!”
Big Bill actually wobbled on his feet before the sudden alternative. He had never taken anything back for any man before, but the idea of fighting his little partner seemed to reek of murder and treachery and all other hideous things.
He looked at the fist, and the fighting light in Peters’ eye.
“I take it all back,” said Bill, quietly. “Most likely it was just jealousy, or something that made me talk that way,
Johnny. I don’t want you to have any hard feelings.”
Johnny’s fist dropped and he drew away with a riot of emotions chasing each other across his face.
“Huh!” he stared. “Jealousy or something, hey?”
“I was kind of stirred up,”
Stone admitted. Then he began to peel off his clothes, for he wanted to let the incident end without any more dangerous argument. They went to bed in silence.
With morning a change seemed to come upon Peters. He ate morosely and went away from the boarding-house muttering to himself and dragging his clanking cant hook. It was an hour or more before Stone saw him again. Detailed to work in opposite directions, clearing the bank of stranded logs, they came together above the village. At sight of Big Bill,
Johnny dropped his cant hook and walked toward him, with a face that seemed to have been wiped clean of all that had darkened it that morning. He held out a cracked and stubby
“Bill, I acted like a skunk,” he said. “I’m mighty sorry for it. I didn’t guess at first that you—you liked Miss Larue, too. Liking a girl kind of upsets a feller. I didn’t guess until you said you was jealous.”
Mechanically Big Bill Stone wrapped a great paw around the hand of his partner. Mechanically, he opened his mouth to reply, but for the moment no words would come.
Things seemed to have turned bottom side up. Then he understood. In making his apologies to Peters he had mentioned jealousy, meaning that he was jealous of their long-cherished friendship. And Johnny had thought that he, also, had fallen victim to the powdery charms of Miss Tina Larue. He gathered himself.
“Sure. That’s all right,
Johnny,” he answered. “I hadn’t ought to poked my nose into your business.”
“I don’t blame you a bit,
Bill.” Peters was determined to leave no word of reparation unspoken. “It come to me in the night what you meant, and if you can get her they won’t be no hard feelings between us. I don’t want you to thiftk about me being your partner at all. Only I hope it will be one of-us, and not Bert Murrin that gets her. A girl that don’t know about men is liable to be fooled by a soft spoken feller like him.”
Even as Big Bill swallowed a laugh at the thought of Tina Larue being fooled by anybody, inspiration came over him. Words had formed for a denial of any desire to marry the woman, but he choked them back. Here was a chance to save Johnny Peters from himself. Bill Stone resolved to court Miss Larue and risk the damage to her heart and his own. He did not believe it would be great.
“You’re all right, Johnny,” he said, slowly. “You’re fair and square about it."
THEIR hands gripped once more, and fell apart. It was not in either of them to talk much of emotions, and Bill turned to his work with a slight feeling of sheepishness.
But the big logs of pine and spruce and hemlock rolled easily for him that day and when night came he put himself to the task of donning his best clothes with all the care that Johnny gave to that process. Together, but in silence, they went downstairs to the parlor.
The room was dark. The men drew back and looked at each other in the dim light of the hall lamp. Peters scratched his head and shifted from one foot to the other.
“Miss Larue said she’d be here to-night,” he blurted apologetically. “I don’t figure she’d break her word. Mebbe we’d better wait around and come in again pretty quick.”
“Sure, she’ll be here if she said she would,” growled Bill, “but I guess I’ll go outside and get some air while I’m waiting.”
He bolted before Johnny could offer to go with him, for a suspicion was gaining strength in his mind. He hurried toward the one-story, two-room building where Albert Murrin had his barber shop and living quarters. Inasmuch as Mountain Falls regarded a barber as a Saturday night luxury, it was not strange to find the place dark. But light came from a window of the living room at the back. This was the condition Stone had thought he would find.
With care he approached the window and caught, as he did so, the murmur of voices. The curtain had been pulled down, but it fell short by a few inches. And the sash had
been raised slightly so that what was said in the room came out with distinctness. Bill knelt and saw Tina Larue and Albert Murrin facing each other across the table. A bottle and a package of cigarettes lay between them. Miss Larue blew a smoke ring.
“The boob is so easy it’s no fun,” she said. “He’ll pass over his money the minute I snap the whip. What’s the matter with you? Scared?”
_ “Not much,” blustered Murrin. He helped himself to a drink. “It would take more than a little runt like him to scare me—more than him and that Big Bill Stone together. But what I can’t see, Tiny, is why you want me in on this. Why don’t you get his money and light out? A woman like you don’t need no help.”
The eyes of Miss Tina Larue narrowed as she thoughtfully inhaled from her cigarette.
“You’re right, bo,” she answered slowly, “I don’t need any help to turn a trick like that. When I got canned out of the chorus of ‘The Greeneyed Girl’ in Montreal, for being soused, I drifted up to Ottawa with a couple of twenties. There was nothin’ doin’ there and I quick hit the trail for this dump. Honest, I thought I would open a millinery shop, or something like that on tick. But when I see that the boobs was ninety-nine per cent, strong, I couldn’t work anything but them. Now we get this little guy’s roll, and then we take that three hundred you say you’ve got and throw a big front in Montreal. That’s where I need help. Say, there’s a big slob up there with five thousand cool frogskins. He’s soft on me, and he’s just waiting to be trimmed.”
CHE drove out the last words ^ leaning over the table. Doubt, greed, admiration and timidity played across the face of Murrin. He cleared his throat.
“Well, Tiny, if you don’t believe you could get that Montreal feller’s money without
“Solid wood,” she cut in, and reaching out, rapped his head with her knuckles. “Maybe I’d like to have you help me, whether I need it or not. Money aint everything.”
She flashed a smile that revealed many marvelously white teeth and the persuasion of Albert Murrin was complete.
“Say, you look good to me!” He started to get up. Miss Larue was on her feet first, and going toward the door.
“Can the spoony stuff for now,” she exclaimed. “I got to hurry back and throw some jnore farm and fireside stuff into my five-hundred-dollar
Big Bill Stone had but a moment in which to fling himself around the corner. The woman came out. She passed the corner where he was crouching and he heard a little, half-suppressed laugh.
“This smart guy is easier than the other one,” she giggled to herself. “A couple of days more, and I’ll be on my way to old N’ York, eight hundred to the good, and they’ll be rubbing the sore spots.”
Then she was gone, tripping toward the boarding-house. Bill followed, now with a clear understanding of her intent, despite the strange language in which it had been spoken.
Stone found the parlor brightly lighted. With flaming face Johnny Peters sat at one end of the ratty sofa; Miss Tina Larue demurely at the other. A moment of embarrassment, and then Johnny rose loyally to the promise of the morning.
“Bill, shake hands with Miss Larue,” he said, and turned to her. “Bill Stone is my partner and him and me are going to get the farm I told you about.”
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 23
Miss Larue was polite, whatever restraint it cost her. In the presence of a woman who was all Johnny thought this one to be, Bill Stone would have become silent and clumsy. But knowing Tina Larue, he found it easy to talk. He outdid his previous tales of log jams that were broken at the risk of sudden death, and of fights in camps where strength of the boss’s arm was the only law. At the end of an hour Peters was wrapped in a heavy gloom from which no effort of the now uneasy Tina could draw him. Bill perceived it was time to go, and he departed, well satisfied so far. In his room he smoked and meditated until Johnny came up, more cheerful, and yet by no means buoyant.
"I wish I had your gift of gab,” he sighed as he struggled out of his stiff collar.
“Shucks!” answered Bill, dismissing the compliment. Then he plunged toward the thing that he had in mind. “Johnny, will you do something for me and not ask any questions?”
“Sure, I will,” replied Peters. “You know that, Bill.”
“What I want is for you to let me keep
that five hundred dollars for a week. Then I’ll give it back to you.”
'T'HE eyes of his partner, wide with -*• astonishment, were upon him.
“You’re sure you aint going to have a spell of thirst come on?”
“Certain sure. I promise not to drink a drop or go away from here till I give the money back—every cent!”
“If you promise, it’s all right!” With many grunts Johnny dug inside his shirt and ripped out the pocket that held their capital. He handed over the thin package of bills, but there was a shade of misgiving in his voice as he said: “You want to be almighty careful of that, Bill.”
Stone answered with a rumble of assent as his fingers closed eagerly over the money. Things were going as he wanted them to go. He grinned into the darkness as he went to sleep that night.
Through the next morning Bill Stone waited impatiently for some break in the work, but it was not until close to noon that one came. With a word to the boss he drove the peevie end of his cant-hook into
the~ground and set off at a half trot for Dan Harmon’s boarding-house, throwing a backward glance to see that Johnny, whose forenoon had plainly been one of unhappy thought, was not in sight.
Big Bill was just in time, for Tina Larue was coming down the steps of the boardinghouse. He stopped, pulled off his cap, and smiled with all the amiability of which he was capable. She hesitated, and astutely he saw that she was debating whether it was worth while to waste some moments on him.
“I wonder if maybe I couldn’t walk along a little ways with you, Miss Larue,” he asked. Most earnestly he wanted to let her know that he was now the bearer of the farm money.
“Why, I’m sorry.” She flashed a brilliant, consoling smile. “If it wasn’t that I’m going to stop in at two or three places to see about getting a shop, you could.”
She swept on and left Bill disgruntled but helpless. He turned, at a medley of voices, and saw the river men streaming in to dinner. Johnny Peters, with a funereal face, was at his side.
“Come around the corner a minute, Bill,” said Johnny. “I want to tell you something almighty important.”
Stone followed him with sinking spirits. Caught in his attempt to cultivate the woman, he now feared that Peters would believe him taking unfair advantage. It was not until the little man was well on with what he had to say that his fear passed.
“I just found out why you wanted the money last night,” Johnny’s face remained inscrutable. “Albert Murrin come hanging around me this morning when you was down the river, and he let the cat out of the bag. Some way he’s found out about me carrying our money around with me. He talked like he wanted to find out if it was really true. Anyway, Bill, I’m dead sure the skunk is planning to rob me. You knew that last night, Bill Stone, and the reason you asked for the money was so I wouldn’t get whacked over the head.”
JOHNNY PETERS’ eyes were accusing, and Bill, whose understanding had been following a sentence or two behind the news, suddenly realized that chance and Johnny’s unmistakable loyalty were playing into his hand.
“I aint afraid to take chances myself,” went on Peters, his face lighting with affection, “but I sure do like the kind of a partner you are.”
“Did you let him know I had the money?” demanded Stone.
“Yes, like a lunk-head.” The little man was deeply self-reproachful. “I blurted it out before I knew he was trying to pump me. And, anyway, it didn’t come to me that he was planning anything like robbing us till after he’d gone.”
“Don’t you worry about that, Johnny!” Big Bill laughed with more pleasure than his partner knew. “I can eat up seven or eight fellows like Bert Murrin. Let’s go and grub now—I’ll be careful how I go out nights.”
It was a cheerful meal for Bill Stone, and he chuckled to himself at intervals. Murrin had the kind of mind that would doubt everything except what he ought to doubt, and so he had gone investigating for himself the story of the partnership money. Of course, he would report his findings to Tina Larue.
Bill went back to his work that afternoon, still with little chuckles welling up within him. And while he was trying to shape plans for his next move, the initiative was taken from him. He was crossing the boom that held five thousand logs banked up in the gorge below the falls when he saw a ragged youngster wave to him from shore. With a grin the boy gave him a small pink envelope. Stone drew in a whiff of that perfume which Miss Larue used so unsparingly, and then he read:
“Sorry I had to turn you down today. I will have a nice little lunch on top of the gorge across from the village to-night, if you want to come and see the sunset with me, instead of your supper.”
It was signed “Tina Larue.” Bill turned to the waiting boy.
“You go back and say, ‘Sure, as quick as I can get cleaned up after work.’ Scamper.”
Albert Murrin had reported and Tina Larue was turning the battery of her attentions upon Big Bill. Already he tasted the satisfaction of his coming triumph, when he could prove to his friend that the woman was false.
WHILE the river gang ate supper that night Bill struggled into his best clothes. With complete belief in his own strength and cunning he had sewed the money into his shirt and was patting it affectionately as he passed Johnny, standing dejectedly out in the front of the doghouse. Peters said nothing, but the look of him cut Bill to the heart. Little men who kept straight and did not talk much took things the hardest, he reflected, and hurried on, wishing earnestly that he could lessen the pain to his partner.
Stone crossed the bridge and followed along the river bank until lie found himself above the deepest part of the gorge and just below the little cluster of buildings that was Mountain Falls. There, in a small, natural clearing, waited Tina Larue; with a white cloth spread over a rock and a dainty lunch that Bill could have swept into him as a mere appetizer. She used her smile, and waved a hand indefinitely at the mountains.
% She had chosen her setting well. Purple and pink and gold spread up over half the heavens from the peaks of the Laurentian hills. The valley of the village was filled with the light greens of spring. Behind the trysting-place was a dark background of spruce and jack-pine; and from their feet the rock wall of the gorge went down sheer for more than fifty feet to the log-filled river, where already dusk was falling.
“Some place, what?” She spoke in the flat tone of that conversation in Albert Murrin’s room; but the next moment she had caught herself up sharply and was using the honeyed accents of the boardinghouse parlor. “Isn’t it delightful, Mr. Stone?”
“It’s pretty, all right,” answered Bill, as he sat down beside the stone table. “Kind of makes a feller feel as though everybody in the world has just got to be good— looking at the mountains makes you feel that way.”
He caught a little glint in her eyes and when she replied he thought it was with a tinge of contempt.
“Oh, yes; and I suppose pretty soon you and Mr. Peters will have a place where you can see such things every night.”
BILL enthused over the coming farm;
and then he let himself blunder along after the woman’s deft questions, telling her how he had taken the money from Johnny for safe keeping, because he was the stronger and how at that very moment ten fifty-dollar bills were sewed into his undershirt. It began to grow dusk, so that Miss Larue’s face was a somewhat blurred oval. Her voice grew sharper. Big Bill answered placidly and waited, with a sense of enjoyment in the adventure, to see what her next move would be.
The dénouement came with startling swiftness. Suddenly Tina Larue coughed. Even as it struck her companion that her cough had an artificial sound, she repeated it. Then he saw her turn her head so that she was looking behind him. A vague sense of danger tensed his muscles, but before he could rise a million little points of fire dotted his vision, and he fell forward, rolling toward the edge of the cliff. The next instant he was on his knees, swaying, and he heard the woman fling out an angry exclamation.
“I told you to strike hard, you fool!” she cried. “He’s an ox! Give it to him again, quick!”
But Big Bill was on his feet now, and an upflung arm struck away the club that was swinging down toward his head. He threw himself into a clinch with the man who had aimed the blow. The indefinable smell of the barber shop told him that it was Albert Murrin whose arm had been nerved by Tina Larue. They swayed back and forth, feeling for holds. At the moment Bill Stone was no more than half himself, and so Murrin’s fresh and not inconsiderable strength gave him trouble.
They staggered nearer the precipice. Bill felt the woman clawing at his back; bringing her fists up behind his ears with what strength she could muster. But now his head had cleared, and power came sweeping back into his muscles. Hebraced his legs. With a mighty heave of his shoulders he shook himself free of both man and woman.
Then, before his eyes the hand of death was stretched out. Albert Murrin, with hands clutching at the air, tottered on the very brink of the gorge. The woman was carried forward by the fury of her last attack on Stone until she came within reach of Murrin. Each grasped at the other. For an instant they were silhouetted against the pale sky and then they disappeared, plunging down toward the blackness of the log-filled river.
Bill had sprung to save them, but they fell even as his arm was stretched out. He stood there a moment, numbed by the tragedy. Then broken cries came from behind and he turned.
Johnny Peters, shaken by dry, deep sobs, grasped his partner’s arm.
“I seen it, Bill! I seen it!” he cried.
“I suspicioned Murrin and so I followed.
I seen her trying to save you! And now she’s dead! Oh, my God, Bill! How you must feel!”
STUPIDLY Bill stared down into the face lifted to his. Without speaking, he let himself be dragged along the river bank and over the bridge to the village. Then he and Johnny and old Dan Harmon were at the head of a posse of men, picking their way carefully by lantern light over
the mass of logs in the gorge. When they found what they sought, lying broken and still at the foot of the rock wall, the men gathered in a hushed circle. Johnny had told, in fragments, the story as he believed it to be. Dan Harmon was the first to speak.
“Be you sure, Peters,” he began, “that this Larue girl wasn’t playing in all the time with—”
The great fist of Big Bill Stone came down upon the old man’s shoulder and closed with a grip that gathered up a mighty handful of doth and flesh.
“I’m sure,” he said, “an’ I don’t want to hear anybody say I aint!”
It was after others had taken care of what had been Tina Larue and Albert Murrin that Big Bill and Johnny Peters walked slowly towards the boarding-house.
“It makes a better feller to have knowed
a girl like that,” said Johnny Peters. “It kind of gives him something to remember and tie to—and I’m glad I done right by you, Bill, while she was alive. I guess I couldn’t stand it If it wasn’t for thinking of how she’d like to have a feller act.”
Bill Stone knew now to a certainty that all his life he would have to mourn for a love that had never been; that always he would have to seem to cherish a memory that he loathed. He must keep the faith of Johnny pure and unwavering, for it was the breath of life to him. Bill took his resolution to do this joyously, for suddenly it had come to him that he was blessed with one of the choicest gifts of God—the friendship of a true man. Johnny Peters would never seem little to him again. And as Big Bill comprehended the fullness of his riches, he felt himself standing upon the heights of the Spirit.