Theodore Goodridge Roberts
Author of "The Forest Fugitives," "The Wasp," etc.
THERE had been a streak of the devil for generations in the Seydons. Perhaps I should not put it as strongly as that. Divil, instead of devil, spells nearer to my exact meaning. But in recent years poverty and other misfortunes had embittered this trait in certain males of the family and changed it from a danger to themselves and their own affairs to a menace to the community at large.
Paul Seydon was weak, cunning and bad-tempered. His sons were “bad actors” and evil thinkers. They were stronger than Paul, and in them the cunning of the sire had developed into sly dishonesty and the bad temper into vice.
There was a daughter also; and the neighbours, who counted, included her in the scorn and distrust in which they held the males of the family. There were some “no-account” folk over on Musquash Brook, however, who could have spoken nothing but good of Kathleen Seydon if they had spoken of her at all. But they were not of a talkative race, being Maliseet Indians.
Throughout the year 1916 Kathleen Seydon lived alone with her father in a weather-beaten frame house at the northern end of Seydon’s Lake. Musquash Brook ran southward from the little lake for a distance of three miles into Racquet River, and about the junction of these two streams, on both sides of the larger, lay the fields and orchards and wood-lots, the grey barns and scattered farm-houses of Musquash Settlement.
Kathleen lived alone with her father for
the sufficient reasons that her mother had departed this life several years before and her two brothers were away. The brothers had gone away in a hurry in the early spring of 1914 to parts unknown; and few people except the game warden and his deputies cared a rap where they had gone. The country was well rid of them.
IUATHLEEN had attended * the little school at Musquash Settlement from her ninth year until the winter of 1911. Her father had been sent to the county jail for a month at that time, as a slight recognition of his activities as a retailer of gin and whisky to the crews of a number of lumber camps. The girl, then in her fifteenth year, had refused to face her school-mates after that humiliating incident in her father’s career. From that lime onward she kept very much to her own family and the poor Indians on Musquash Brook for human companionship. With her brothers she had nothing in common save kinship, the roof over their heads and the table at which they sat for their humdrum meals. She knew them for braggarts and knaves and could find nothing in the character of either to inspire even the mildest glow of affection. She scorned their selfishness and dishonesty. When their unseasonable activities among the big game of the country drew the attentions of the warden upon them and so led to their hurried departure, she felt no increase of loneliness. Towards her father, however, she entertained an affection that his unworthiness frequently dismayed but could not kill. She loved him, in spite of his faults, for the few virtues he possessed. And the chief of his virtues, and that which made the strongest appeal to her heart, was his very evident love for herself. And she did not fear him. Even his fits of bad temper did not daunt her, for they did not menace her. He was dishonest, weak and shiftless, but he was neither cruel nor selfish. He understood certain of her dearest interests in life, such as her love of books, of birds and little animals and her friendship for the poor Maliseets.
So, for several years, Kathleen and Paul Seydon lived by themselves in the house on Seydon’s Lake. Visitors never dropped in for a meal. One or another of the Indians from the brook called occasionally and smoked a pipe in the kitchen. Neither father nor daughter ever entered a house in Musquash Settlement.
ONE morning in June, 1916, Paul Seydon went to the store at Musquash Cross Roads for provisions. He returned at noon with an ill-tempered sneer on his weak and unpleasant face. He sat in silence by the kitchen door while the girl put the dinner on the table. Knowing him as she did, she asked no questions. He sat with the butt of a cheap cigar between his teeth, his hat tilted on the back of his head and his lips twisted. “Ready,” said the girl.
Paul spat the fagged stump of tobacco out of his mouth and took his seat at the table, having first removed his hat and tossed it to the floor. Uncouth as he was, he had never been known to wear his hat at table, even in his worst moods. His sons had not been so particular. On more than one occasion Paul had uncovered their heads by force.
“Saw Jim Bristow to-day,” he said, with a sneer that was almost a snarl.
Kathleen frowned slightly. She detested her father’s habit of sneering at better and more successful men than himself. When he raved and swore he was more dignified.
“Stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the store,” continued Seydon. “And did he pass the time of the day with me, d’ye think? Not on yer life! Didn’t so much as look at me. I might have been Lunt’s dog for all the notice he took of me.” “But why should Mr. Bristow pass the time of day with you, or even look at you?” asked the girl. “You two have been enemies for years—and it was you who began it. You have often told me so.”
“I began it, d’ye say?” exclaimed Paul. “I began it! And what about his old man, Nick Bristow? Now look here, girl, ye’d best get this business straight in yer mind! I’ve told ye all about it often enough—but for all that ye seem set on layin’ the blame on me.”
He glared across the table at her. She smiled back wearily, with amused pity in her proud, vivid young face. He placed his hands on the table.
“Look at these hands, Kathie Seydon!” he cried.
“They are not very clean, father,” she
He snatched them back to the edge of the table.
“They are gentleman’s hands, clean or dirty!" he exclaimed. “My father’s were the same shape, and his father's—and ye’ve got them, girl—the Seydon hands. If mine aint as white as my grandfather’s were, it’s because I work with them, I work with them because old Nick Bristow, the psalm-singing, penny-pinching blood-sucker ruined my father—yer own grandfather! Aye, that’s the truth—and yet ye sit there, Kathie Seydon, and side with that man’s son against yer own flesh and blood. Where’s the schooling that should be mine by rights and yours too, girl? Where are the timber-lands and farms that were granted to my greatgrandfather? The Bristows have them! And look at us!”
“I am tired of hearing about it,” said
the girl. “What good would all that land have been to us? You have more now than you can work—because you don’t try to work it. And you talk as if Nick Bristow had robbed grandfather. That is not true. Grandfather sold the timber and the farms to Mr. Bristow and spent the money like a fool—as you have told me yourself. He called himself a gentleman, and thought it a tine thing to drink too much and eat too much and ride his horses to death. He would have done better if he had worked in his fields with his wonderful hands—better for himself and better for his name. And why didn’t he spend some of his money on sending you to school, instead of letting you run wild as a partridge?”
PAUL SEYDON swore. It sounded very futile. Then he ate in silence for several minutes, swallowing the perfectly good food with an air of scorn and dislike. He needed it, however; and but for his temper, he would have enjoyed it.
“I wouldn’t stand for such talk from anyone else,” he said, at last. “But I've spoilt ye, my girl.”
Kathie smiled. Her father took heart. “And there was Jim Bristow bragging away to Lunt about that fool boy of his as if he was the whole British Army,” he continued, “and me standing there all the time without getting so much as a look— me, mind ye, whose grandfather raised a regiment and fought George Washington!”
The girl’s fine eyes seemed to at once brighten and darken.
“What did he say about Eric?” she asked.
“Eric?” queried Paul. “That’s the young pup’s name, is it? Well, the ups and downs of this world beat all ! He went to college in Fredericton, just like my boys should have done if they’d had their rights. I saw him once when he was home for his holidays—met him on the Mast Road—and a softer, sillier looking young dude I never set eyes on. It seems they made him an officer, quite a while back—if Jim Bristow aint lying about it.”
“Don't be silly, father!” exclaimed the girl. “You know that is true. We read it in the paper, copied from the Gazette. What else did his father say about him?”
“Ye seem almighty interested in him,” he sneered.
“Yes,” she answered, steadily. “He was a nice boy—kind boy—and now he is a brave man. Don’t you remember the day he drove me home from school, in that terrible snow-storm—long ago, when I was only twelve.”
“That was nothing,” said Paul. "Anyone would have done as much for any girl.”
“Anyone, perhaps—except either of your sons.” She retorted.
E banged his fist on the table.
“Ye’re right there!” he cried, with an oath. “But those boys are not human —and never were. Why, darn it all, yer
grandfather jumped into Racquet River once, when the ice was running, to pull out a little Injun girl; but those brothers of yours, Kath, wouldn’t risk their hides, nor a hair of their heads, to save yer life nor mine. They’ll run risks for money to spend on rum, but on nothing else under God's heaven. And here is Jim Bristow’s son—grandson of that store-keeping old money-lender, Nick—just had a medal pinned on to him by the King of England ! The Seydon family has gone to the dogs, that’s a sure thing. The Seydons are down and the Bristows are up.
The girl laughed.
“You are really absurd,” she said gaily. “You talk as if the world is so small that there isn’t room for the Seydons and Bristows to be up or down at the same time. We have sunk pretty low, I’ll admit; but you know in your heart that we’d have gone just as low if there had never been such a person as Nick Bristow.”
She left her chair and went around the table to her father’s side. She laid one of her slender brown hands on his shoul-
“Now cheer up, father, and tell me why the King gave a medal to Eric Bristow,” she said.
Paul glanced around at her and the sneer faded from his weak mouth.
“I’m not altogether a fool,” he said, slowly-—“that is, not in my mind. I know what I am—and I know that ye’re too good a girl to be my daughter. Ye’re the real thing. I don’t understand it, but I thank God for it I wonder how ye put
up with my miserable ways—how ye can stand the sight of me, day after day—and my mean temper. Why, Kathie, ye’re like the Seydons were a hundred years ago—only better.”
Her eyes dimmed. She kissed him tenderly on the cheek.
“I lead you a dog’s life—a regular squaw’s life,” he continued, turning his head away and staring straight to his front. “I—I got a low streak in me, girl —a yellow streak. The devil only knows where I got it from.”
He squared his shoulders and laughed.
“Ye’d like to Know aoout young Bristow, is that it?” he continued. “Well, from what I heard his father saying to Lunt, he was in a big fight one day and put it all over the Germans. They were shooting people up with a machine-gun and he got in on top of them and did them in. There ye have it, Kathie; but why are ye so darned curious about that young Eric Bristow? What’s he got to do with you? Poor as I am, and low as I have fallen, no Bristow on top of God’s earth is worth ye bothering yer head about. Let him get his medals! Let Jim Bristow brag and stick out his chest. Medals are all luck.”
The girl smiled to herself. Her eyes and cheeks were very bright; but her father did not see. She put an arm about his neck.
“I am glad he has won honor,” she said. “I had a feeling that he would. I have been interested in him ever since he was so kind to me in that s n o w s t o rm, when I was twelve years old.”
Paul looked around at her enquiringly.
SH E stood very straight then and met and held his glance with her ,• beautiful, fear1 e s s eyes,
Her cheeks were very pink.
“And since then—I have seen him since then,” she conti n u ed. “I often meant to tell you, father —and then I always changed m y mind, knowing that you would only sneer and swear.”
“How often?" he asked.
“Just three times ! Pd think yer pride would keep ye from having any truck with a Bristow.”
“My shame did,” said the girl. “Soon after
I stopped going to the school he met me and asked me why. It was when you were in jail, father. He said I was the nicest girl in the settlement. And once when he was home from college he met me—-and then he told me I was the nicest girl in the whole province. And he wanted me to write to him. But— but how could I? He said that breaking the game laws wasn’t really a very great crime; but I knew' that he said that only to be kind to me. And just before he went aw'ay, to go to the war, I met him on the Mast Road. He said, then, I was the nicest girl in Canada—and he asked me to write to him. But I wouldn’t.”
“As he thought ye so darned nice, why didn’t he come courting ye openly and honestly?” demanded Paul, with the sneer suddenly on his lips again and the wicked, silly anger like a fire in his eyes.
“He begged me to let him,” she answered steadily, “but I refused. My shame made it impossible.”
“No, it was yer pride!” exclaimed Paul. “Then pride and shame are but two names for the same thing,” she said.
The sneer faded again from the father’s lips and the fire went out of his eyes. He sat hunched in his chair, looking curiously miserable and subdued. He had been right when he said that he was not altogether a fool in his mind And there wras still some sanity in his heart, too.
HE seasons w'ore on, ripening to autumn and freezing to winter; but they brought n o word of the Seydon boys to the game warden and his deputies, who were the only people in the country anxious to hear of them.
Early i n September, James Bristow was officially advised that his son had been seriously wounded. Many people heard of it immediately, from him, and others saw it later in the newspaper.
K a t h 1 e en Seydon read it in the news-
In October, Musquash Settlement and the country around learned that Eric Bristow was out of danger of death; and in November the word got about that he had been granted three months’ leave to Can-
Early in December Paul
Seydon received a letter from a small town across the border, signed by his son Tom, demanding a postal-order for twenty-five dollars by return. It was a brief letter, but menacingly worded. It was intended to frighten Paul; but, for a wonder it didn’t. His sons had been away for so long that he had lost his old fear of them. So, instead of being frightened by the letter, he was filled with a stubborn anger. His first impulse was to show' the communication to Kathie and expound to her, with sneers and oaths, his views on the character and manners of his son Tom ; but, on second thought, he tucked the letter into the front of the kitchen stove. Then he went to his room and dug his pocket-book from the interior of the straw mattress of his bed. He had first learned the wisdom of keeping it there when Tom was twelve years of age. It contained eight five-dollar bills. He put six of these in his pocket and returned the others to the hiding-place. Then he told Kathie that he was going to the Cross Roads to buy some tobacco. She gave him a list of groceries to buy also. He harnessed a horse into the red pung and drove away.
PAUL got back in time for supper. He stabled the horse and entered the kitchen with his arms full of parcels. He placed everything on the floor. One parcel was big and soft and flat.
“Well, I’ve spent a mint of money,” he said. “And I enjoyed spending it.”
Kathie looked at him anxiously, but saw that he had not been drinking. Also, she saw that he was very well pleased with himself.
‘What have you bought?” she asked, removing the paper shade from the lamp so as to illuminate the parcels.
“Well, I bought the groceries,” he said. “Then I bought a curry-comb. Then I blew myself to a new pipe and some tobacco. Then I found I had twenty-five dollars left in my pocket.”
“Twenty-five dollars," repeated Kathie. “Why did you take so much money with you?”
“Well, you see, Tom wrote me to send him that sum of money,” replied her father. “It was a real sharp letter. He wasn’t going to stand for any nonsense from his poor, worthless, cowardly old man. So in I went—and spent it on a present for you. There it is Kathie—that big, flat one. I reckon it will fit, because Susan Lunt tried it on in the store, and she is just about yer size.”
She knelt and opened the parcel, then sprang to her feet with a coon-skin coat in her hands. She slipped it on; and it fitted her slender body to a wish.
“It cost more than twenty-five dollars, I know,” she said.
“A load of hay more,” admitted Paul. “I’ll haul the hay in to Lunt to-morrow.”
“But why did you buy it for me?” sh« asked.
“Well, because I knew ye’d like it—and to show Tom where he gets off at and tc show young Bristow that he’s not the onlj person who knows a fine girl when h< sees her,” he replied.
She put her arms around his neck anc kissed him.
“I love it,” she said.
ERIC BRISTOW reached home a weel later. In the afternoon of the nex' day Gabe Solis, a twelve-year-old India: boy, arrived at the house on Seydon’ll Lake and • found Kathie alone in th; kitchen. He removed his mittens an warmed his hands at the stove. Then hj produced an envelope from somewher
among his clothes and gave it to Kathie.
“A man gimme a dollar to fetch this to ye,” he said.
The envelope was addressed briefly “Miss Seydon.”
Something of the sort was not entirely unexpected by the girl; she guessed the origin of it and the nature of its contents at a glance; and yet she held it limp in her hands for a full half-minute, staring at it dully, her eyes, her nerves and her wits alike shocked to confusion by stress of emotion. At last she turned away. With trembling fingers she tore the envelope open and drew out the folded sheet of paper.
Knowing that the kindness of your heart is greater than your pride (just as it is more sane), I send this to tell you that I shall patrol the Mast Road to-night from ten o’clock until I meet you. A great deal of foolishness is going on here; but I shall run away from it before ten o'clock. I have lived for this—to see you again! And I have something very important to tell you.Eric.
She read it and reread it again and again. Now the words merged as if they had been written in running water, now they stood clear and block, but “I have lived for this” glowed always in letters of fire. Her mind was overwhelmed with the phrase.
He had lived for this—for a sight of her! Through weariness and peril, in the midst of despair and pain and death, he had lived for a meeting on the Mast Road. Her imagination glimpsed something of it, then lost the light. She went trembling from the kitchen to her own room, pressing the letter to her face, leaving the little Indian boy warming his hands unconcernedly at the stove.
In her room she stood motionless for a little while, now pressing the letter against her young breast.
“He knows it is not pride,” she whispered. “But it is like him—in his dear kindness—to pretend it is pride.” And then, “God, do not let my shame break my heart!”
She went back to the kitchen and gave the boy something to eat and a bag of apples and cakes to take home to his brothers and sisters.
During supper, Paul talked about almost everything except the excitement in Musquash Settlement caused by Eric Bristow’s return. He was really trying to be agreeable to his daughter. He had suddenly realized her loneliness and the emptiness of her life, and he felt both pity and remorse. He looked at her there in the light of the poor lamp and hated the Bristows and their heroics and prosperity: and he scorned himself. But for him, this girl would be on her way to the party even now—to that party and all it stood for. But she sat alone with him, an outcast like himself and his sons.
At half-past nine Kathie put on her hood and fur coat. A half moon and a thousand stars lit the frosty world out-
“I am going for a walk,” she said.
As this was not unusual, Paul made no protest and asked no questions.
KATHIE followed the sled-track over the white expanse of the frozen, snowburied lake. She followed it to the lower end of the lake, then up the bank to the left and through the heavy woods of spruce and fir. This was the old Mast Road. Now it was beaten only by the runners of Paul Seydon’s sled and the hoofs of his horses; but in the old days before the great pines had all been cut out of that country it had often been as busy as a highway.
Kathie rounded a curve in the road and halted suddenly at the sight of two human figures. One, almost a hundred yards away, approached, walking in the middle of the moonlit track between the black walls of shadows. The other stood in the shadow beside the track, not twenty yards away. The girl also stepped into the shadow. She moved forward cautiously. She saw that the man in the shadow was her brother Tom; and looking beyond she knew the man who approached, walking honestly in the middle of the track, was Eric Bristow. She drew off the mitten from her right hand and slipped the hand deep into the side-pocket of her coat.
Eric Bristow halted, staring into the shadow ; but not at the girl.
“Is that you, Kathie?” he asked.
Then Tom Seydon stepped into the
“No, it aint Kathie,” he said. “But it’s one of the family. She couldn’t come; but I got something from her for ye.”
The girl saw a short, heavy stick in his right hand, held close against his leg. She drew her hand from her pocket and darted into the white road.
“Turn around, Tom Seydon!” she cried. He turned with a jump.
“Do you remember the automatic pistol you left behind you?” she asked. “Well, this is it. And I can shoot. Throw that stick down and get out—or I’ll show you!”
Tom glared at her, speechless. Young Bristow drew near.
“Keep away from him!” she cried. “He is dangerous as a snake. He may have a knife. Drop that club !”
Tom let it fall to his feet.
“This is my brother Tom,” said the girl, bitterly. “I have not seen him till now since he ran away from the law long ago; but I know that he has come back to try to frighten money out of his father. But he saw you ; and he meant to club you and rob you. Oh, I know him ! He is my brother!”
Bristow fumbled in the front of his overcoat, then moved close up to the dumbfounded Seydon. “Here is some money,” he whispered. “But for the respect Î have for your family I’d hand you
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over to the law. If you ever cross my track again I’ll do you in. Now beat it!— all the way back to where you came
'T'OM SEYDON looked at the money in
A his hand, pocketed it, then moved quickly along the road, away from his father’s house. Eric watched him out of sight; but the girl stood with her face hidden in her hands. Eric turned and ran to her. He stood close to her but did not touch her with his hands.
“I want to tell you that things like that mean nothing to me,” he said, his voice harsh with emotion. “I have seen too much to care at all, one way or another, for such things. Kathie, I only know that you are the dearest girl in the world. I have seen you always, and wanted you, awake or asleep. No other woman’s face has come between me and my longing for you. When I was happy I thought of you. When I was near death I thought of you. What does it matter to me—or to you—that your father and your brothers have broken the little laws of this country? What does it matter that one of your brothers was ready to club me for a few dollars? Kathie, speak to me!”
But she did not move, nor lower her hands from her face.
He took off his gloves and placed his hands tenderly on her wrist.
“Dear,” he said, “you love me—but this beastly pride keeps you from telling me so. Listen to me. One day my regiment got a draft of new men, and twelve of them came to my platoon. I knew one of them the moment I saw him, though he called himself Davis. I made a good soldier of him. It was in his blood. His eyes were something like yours, Kathie, and I loved him for that He died on the Somme, fighting. His name wasn’t Davis, but David Seydon—as good a soldier as anyone—but he was killed.”
Kathie’s hands slipped down from her tear-wet face; but he continued to hold her wrists.
“David went out—and fought—and was killed?” she queried.
“It is God’s truth!” he said. “As true as the stars shine!—as true as I love you, Kathie Seydon.”
She did not move; but her eyes shone upon him brighter than star-shine reflected from still waters.
He put his arms about her shoulders then he drew her close to him.
“Tell me,” he said. “I have told you so often.”
“I have loved you ever since I was twelve years old,” she whispered.