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Charles Goff Thomson

  Produced by Marilynda Fraser-Cunliffe, Richard J. Shifferand the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was made using scans ofpublic domain works from the University of Michigan DigitalLibraries.)

  [Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this text asfaithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and otherinconsistencies. Text that has been changed to correct an obvious error bythe publisher is noted at the end of this ebook.]




  Late Lieut.-Colonel, U. S. Army. Formerly Assistant Director of Prisons for Philippine Government

  New York



  _All rights reserved_


  Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1921


  MR. E. J. B.



  The poem "Casey" used in Chapter IX was written by the late Arthur W.Ferguson, formerly Executive Secretary for the Philippine Government.It has been edited and amplified but is substantially as written byhim. A man of unusual facility, Mr. Ferguson composed the verses undercircumstances somewhat similar to those set down herein, and with likespontaneity.







  The frosty silence of the snow-mantled hills was rent by the viciouscrack of a high-powered, small-calibered rifle. The hunter sprang fromthe thicket in which he had lain concealed and crossed the gully to aknoll where a black furry bundle had dropped to the snow after oneconvulsive leap.

  Exultant, Terry bent down to examine the silky black coat.

  "Right through the ear. Well, Mister Fox, you're mine--though you didlead me a merry chase for twelve days! You laughed at me till the snowcame--knew I wouldn't bring you out of your hole with formalin, thatit was a square game we played. But to-day everything broke againstyou, boy,--sun and wind and snow. And perhaps hunger."

  The twinge of pain that stabs every true sportsman as he realizes thathe has extinguished a spark of life shadowed Terry's thin, sensitiveface. It was a face of singular appeal, dominated by a queer twist ofupper lip that stamped his mouth with a permanent wistfulness. Even inthe bracing cold of the winter morning his skin was white, but theclear pallor was belied by the swift energy with which he moved andthe eager sparkle of his dark gray eyes. He picked up the fluffybundle and stroked the sleek fur.

  "Hard luck, old boy! But now you'll never be hungry again, or cold.And I haven't hunted you all this time just for the sake of thesport." His face lighted. "You're going to be a proud little fox. Iffoxes have souls--and I don't see why we should deny you what we layselfish claims to for ourselves--yours will rejoice in the purpose ofyour end. Every night and every morning you--"

  He broke off as the distant pealing of church bells came to his ears,carried faintly but clearly by the light wind that whispered over thesnowy stretches of rolling meadowlands. For a long time Terry stoodfacing toward the invisible village, his face moody and inscrutable.As the sound of the bells died away he shook off the spell withconscious, humorous effort and picking up his rifle and the fox hewent into the thicket to secure and adjust his snowshoes.

  Ignoring paths and sleighroads he made his way toward the town. Thecrisp pine-laden air charged his muscles with exuberant excess of thefine energy of youth and he made his way swiftly across the sparklingsnow that blanketed the gentle landscape, through the thickets ofevergreens and across the tiny, ice-edged creeks that flowed in swiftescape from winter's frozen grip.

  Keen-eyed, he stopped a moment in study of a group of pheasants thathuddled in a clump of underbrush. They played possum till he passedon. A rabbit, reared up in nervous-nosed inquiry, watched himfurtively as he approached the rock behind which it had vainly soughtconcealment. Terry laughed at its ridiculous plight.

  "You'd better improve your strategy, you young scamp, or you'll windup in the pot of some one who hunts rabbits!"

  He watched its jumpy flight into a distant copse of young pines, thenwent on swiftly. In an hour he paused at the top of a last steepgrade. Lake Champlain stretched her flat-frozen bosom to the north andsouth of him. The more level timbered areas of the opposite shore werebroken here and there by clearings in which white farm houses and redbarns nestled like doll houses.

  At the foot of the slope directly beneath him a village lay primlyalong the lake shore. It was a square-built town, its limits almostrectangular, its breadth and width checkered into exact squares bywide, straight streets. It was an old town: a score of its flat-roofedstructures had been built while the Mohawks still guarded the WesternGate of the Long House, and many of the great, old-fashioned homes hadstood when Ethan Allen strutted through its streets.

  It was not a snug little town, there was no air of hospitality toencourage strangers to tarry within its gates, but seemed to promise"value received" for any who came, paid their way and attendedstrictly to their own affairs.

  Thus Terry saw the town in which he had been born and had spent allof his twenty-six years except the four at Princeton. He tarried, hiseyes fixed upon the cemetery which limited the eastern edge of thetown, to which his father and mother had been carried when he was aboy of eleven.

  He faced about in lingering appreciation of the blue-vaulted expanse,then descended toward the village. Whipping off his snowshoes at theborder of the village he entered the main street, which ran straightthrough town to the lake front. No one was in sight on the broadthoroughfare and he found a measure of relief in its emptiness, forthough he did not adhere to the rigid New England doctrine thatgoverned his neighbors, he found no pleasure in wanton violation oftheir stiff code. Realizing that with snowshoes, gun and fox he jarredheavily upon the atmosphere of the quiet Sunday morning, he hurrieddown the street.

  He encountered no one, but as he passed by the ice-incrusted wateringtrough at the central square and approached the block made up byCrampville's three churches, the big doors of his own church wereflung open and the congregation emerged. As the decorous crowd filedout Terry hesitated a moment, then kept on his way.

  The progress of the lone figure along the opposite side of the streetwas the topic of conversation at nearly every dinner table inCrampville that Sunday. It became a sort of small-town epic, so thatthey still tell how stern the elders looked, and how white Terry'sface against the background of black fur which he had thrown acrosshis shoulder in order to free his right hand that he might gravelyraise his
crimson hunting cap in respectful salutation of families hehad known from childhood. And they still tell, too, how Deane Hunter,flushed with mortification at her father's frigid refusal to recognizeTerry's greeting, checked the nudges and whisperings by calling out acheerful "Good Morning, Dick." Her courageous voice still rang in hisears as he entered the iron-fenced yard that surrounded the home ofhis fathers.

  Inside the great, high-ceilinged house Terry stood a while in somberreflection, then shrugged his trim shoulders and passed through theshadowy rooms out into the barn. In five minutes he had cleaned andoiled his rifle, but an hour passed while he carefully removed thepelt and tacked it taut upon a stretching board.

  He was in the library, reading, when his sister and brother-in-lawcame downstairs in response to the dinner bell. Susan and her husband,Ellis Crofts, had lived in the old mansion since their marriage twoyears previously, rather against Ellis' desires. He had wished to setup an establishment of his own, but had yielded to Susan's pleadingsand Terry's sincere letter from college asking him not to beinstrumental in closing up a house that had been lived in continuouslyby the Terrys of four generations.

  They had been among the last to emerge from church, but had come outin time to see Terry as he opened the gate, and had heard enough ofthe murmured comment to understand its significance. It had beendifficult for them to control their emotions as they kept slow stepwith the throng down the broad sidewalk. Susan, mortified but loyal tothe core, had set her face in defiant smile lest she burst into tears:Ellis, devoted to Terry but tickled by the situation, had smotheredhis snickers in protracted fits of coughing.

  Terry threw aside a handbook on the curing of pelts and rose at theirentrance, smiling:

  "Well, do you good folks think you are safe in sitting at the sametable with an unrepentant sinner?"

  Susan had been crying. "Oh, Dick! Why did you do it? How do you dosuch things?"

  He waved his hand in humorous deprecation. "Easy. It's the simplestthing I do. It isn't difficult if you have a knack for it."

  "But, Dick, it's no joke. I saw the three elders of ourchurch--Ballard, Remington and Van Slyke--talking about it, and theywere very bitter. And you know they can expel any church member."

  Terry made no answer save to put his arm around each and lead theminto the dining room. But Susan was not content.

  "Dick, I wish you would explain it to Ballard or Van Slyke. They areinfluential men and both are very religious."

  Ellis took a hand: "Their religion is all right, so far as itgoes--but they mix it up with their dyspepsia too much to suit me!"

  As his wife turned rebuking eyes upon him he pursued doggedly: "Notthat their dyspepsia and religion are always mixed; they have theirdyspepsia seven days in the week!"

  She joined in their laughter over Ellis' exaggerated defense, thenturned again to her brother.

  "What are you going to do with that nasty thing you shot, Dick?"

  "Nasty?" broke in Ellis in quick alarm. "You didn't shoot a skunk, didyou?"

  She ignored her husband and persisted: "Tell me why you shot that fox,Dick. You have been out hunting nearly every day for two weeks andhave shot nothing else, so I know you have a reason."

  "I'm not going to help eat it!" Ellis broke in. "I've heard they arestringy--and a bit smelly."

  "Ellis, will you stop being ridiculous? Dick, why have you hunted thatfox so long?"

  Ellis had seen that Terry was not to be pumped, that this was anotherof his queer quests. He tried again to shunt Susan away.

  "Maybe it was a personal matter between him and the fox, Sue."

  She turned on him a look she endeavored to make disdainful, but onlysucceeded in raising another laugh from both. But she was not to bedeterred. Her eyes lit with sudden inspiration.

  "I'll bet--I'll bet anything--" she began.

  "Susan Terry Crofts! Even Dick would not bet on Sunday!"

  "I will bet anything," she insisted, "that it is something forDeane--for Christmas!"

  In the slight flush that rose in her brother's face Susan learnedthat she had hit the mark. But she was instantly sorry that she hadpressed the issue, as she had learned long before to respect what wasto her his queer reticence.

  Ellis hurried into the breach: "Wonder what Bruce will give Deane thisChristmas? He is about due to present her with something really worthwhile--like a patent mop!"

  Even Terry laughed. The struggle for Deane's favor between BruceBallard and Terry had been in progress nearly ten years and had becomeone of the town's institutions. The first formal offerings tendered bythe two boys on the occasion of her graduation from high schooltypified the contrasting characters of the rivals: Terry, idealistic,impressionable, reserved, had sent her a beautiful copy of the "LoveLetters of a Musician," while Bruce, sincere, obvious and practical,had given her a hat-pin.

  On her succeeding birthday Terry, after a six-hour climb, had won forher a box of trailing arbutus from Mount Defiance's cool top; Brucehad sent her candy. From his medical college at Baltimore Bruce hadsent, as succeeding Christmas gifts, an ivory toilet set, a thermosbottle, a reading lamp and a chafing dish.

  Terry's offerings on those occasions had been a Japanese kimonoembroidered with her favorite flower--a wondrous thing secured bycorrespondence with the American consul at Kobe: a pair of Siamesekittens which he named Cat-Nip and Cat-Nap: a sandal-wood fan out ofIndia; and a little, triple-chinned, ebony god of Mirth, its impisheyes rolled back in merriment, mouth wrinkled with utter joy of theworld.

  The rivalry had divided the town into two camps. The pro-Brucefaction, composed largely of men folk, claimed for their protege asplendid common sense in selection of his gifts: but the women andgirls, who made up the other group, envied Deane not only the giftsTerry gave her, but also--and more so--the rarefied romantic spirit ofthe youth who conceived and offered them.

  Deane realized that both Bruce and Terry stayed on in the dull oldtown principally to be near her. This was true of Bruce particularly,as he was a young surgeon of such promise that he had twice beeninvited into junior association with Albany's greatest specialist. Shehad strongly urged him to embrace the increased opportunity forservice and profit which the city afforded.

  But Terry was only six months out of college, a six months spent infutile effort to adjust himself to the theme of the village, to findappropriate outlet for that urgent desire to be of use in the worldwhich dominated his character. As the Terrys were of those familiestermed "comfortable" in Crampville, he felt no need of devotinghimself to adding to an already ample estate. At his sister's request,he had undertaken to manage a shoe store that represented one of theirholdings but at the end of a couple of months had given it up--also inaccord with her wishes. Higgins, their old clerk, had come to her withtearful warnings that Terry's unwillingness to refuse credit to anyone who came in with a tale of hard-luck was ruining the business:and Terry had lost the custom of several good families by declining tohumor their crotchety unreasonableness.

  But Higgins did not know how they came to lose the trade of the Hunterfamily. At the end of a trying day of insistent demand for smallershoes than feminine feet could accommodate, of viewing bunions andflat arches and wry-jointed toes, he had written Deane:


  I used to think that the true glory of Trilby rested in the wondrous mesmeric voice--but after a month in the shoe business I know better. Between perfect vocal cords and perfect feet, give me the feet.

  The word "shoe" used to bring to my mind thoughts of calfskin, kid, patent leather. But no more! Now I think of--well, many things.

  I am glad that your family is not among those who favor this establishment with its patronage. I am very happy in this, as it is good to think that your dear shoes are but a part of you, are incidental to your being, and not a consequence of drear barter and "fitting."

  I will not be over to-night. But I will be thinking of you.


  A bit puzzled, she had shown the note to her father. Irate, he hadissued a mandate that produced the effect Terry had asked. Mr. Hunterwas acutely sensitive about twin corns which had been a part of histoes so long that he honestly thought them congenital.

  After quitting the store Terry had turned his attention to their farmproperties but, as a careful investigation covering three months haddemonstrated them to be in capable hands, he had returned them to thefull management of the old tenants at the end of the harvest. He hadthen studied the possibilities of enlarging their only other business,a small pulp plant, but after satisfying himself that the meager waterpower was being fully utilized and that the location of the mill atCrampville precluded competition with those more favorably locatedthat were operated with steam power, he had abandoned the project. Fora month he had been seeking outlet for his restless energy.

  Deane, anxiously watching his endeavor to fit himself into one ofCrampville's narrow grooves and vaguely understanding his unvoicedcraving for wider horizons, dreaded the break she knew would take himaway. Susan, studying him with the uneasy solicitude of an oldersister, saw in Deane an anchor which would hold him to the town. Ellishad been less concerned, as he had recognized that Terry's intoleranceof the village was but the outcropping of a sane young spirit thatgauged the peaks and sought real service. He had been trying lately toprepare his wife for Terry's departure to other fields, as he thoughtit inevitable. It was a word to this effect that had precipitated thetears with which she had greeted her brother before dinner.

  Ellis plagued Susan throughout the leisurely meal, Terry adding anoccasional word whenever the flow of affectionate badgering lagged.Fanny, who had served them since they were children, bustled in andout, redfaced, wholesome, fruitlessly trying to press upon Terry anexcess of the over-ample dinner. It was a sort of unwritten law inCrampville that the Sunday dinner should be sufficiently heavy todrive the menfolk to a long digestive nap.

  Ellis lingered at the table after Terry had excused himself and goneout into the barn again. Susan helped Fanny clear the old mahoganytable, then sank into a chair beside her abstracted husband.

  "Sue," he said finally, "Dick hasn't said anything lately aboutaccepting that position in the Philippines, has he?"

  A worried look crept into her smooth face: "No. I supposed he haddecided against it."

  He patted her hand consolingly: "Don't be too confident about hisstaying home, Sue. He wants to see things--do things! There isn't muchin this town to hold one of his nature."

  "There's--Deane," she said, hopefully.

  "Sue, don't be so sure of that, either. You know that you and I holddifferent theories about that. Don't bank too heavily on yours." Hedrummed the polished table a moment before continuing: "He receivedanother telegram from Washington yesterday--I thought he might havementioned it to you."

  "No," she quavered.

  "Nor to me. Guess he doesn't want to worry you."

  She was close to tears again: "I wish he had never met that youngBronner in college--he gave Dick all these crazy ideas about going tothose horrid islands where his brother is!"

  "Well, Sue, he made me feel the same way--and I'm a fat married man! Ienjoyed his stories of his brother's experiences with the wild peopleover there. It must be an interesting life."

  "You don't talk like that to Dick, do you?" she implored.

  "Of course not. But I think you've been too sure that he would stay onhere indefinitely--I think it will take very little to tip the scalesthe other way."

  He yawned prodigiously, rousing Susan to an ire that stemmed the flowof tears which had threatened to overflow her blue eyes. Then, contentwith his tactics, he went upstairs for his traditional nap.

  * * * * *

  Later, Terry came into the big living room and stood in front of thefireplace a long time, his lean face grave and thoughtful. Decisionmade, he wrote a note of sincere apology to Doctor Mather, his pastor.He also wrote Deane that he would not be over in the evening but wouldsee her during the week, and made the delivery of the notes an excuseto get the faithful Fanny out into the crisp December afternoon.

  The light in the Terry library burned long after Crampville's otherlights had winked out. He had been picked up by Stevenson and carriedby that pathetic master into the far places of the earth.

  * * * * *

  The next morning he was in the barn, his gay mood revealed by therunning talk addressed to the pelt on which he worked.

  "Well, old boy, only four days to get you into shape for yourdedication, but the book says it can be done. So you might as wellsoften up now--"he vigorously rubbed the dried bare side with someoily preparation--"as later."

  "What a destiny, old chap! Surely no other fox ever born to lady-foxcan be as happy as you're going to be!" He rubbed industriously."You're not for me, you know. No, sir! I wouldn't bring you out of thehills into this burg--where they kill ambition by preaching contentwith your lot, where the hoarders of pennies are venerated and thepluggers canonized--I wouldn't bring you here just for me. For I'm notworthy of you. No, sir-ree! Don't you know I'm no good--didn't you seethat yesterday? Why, Old Samuel Terwilliger said I'm an atheistbecause I quoted Ingersoll's graveside oration--said no Christianwould repeat anything that man ever said, even if his watch is abargain at a dollar!... Samuel likes bargains."

  Working rapidly, with no lost motions, he rambled on, congratulatory,reproachful, whimsical. Having carried the curing to a point where atwenty-four-hour time process was the next essential factor, hecarefully pegged the skin to the barn door.

  * * * * *

  That evening Susan came running home excitedly, having learned thatone of the elders had asked that a meeting be called to considerDick's case, and that the young pastor had very promptly and veryemphatically vetoed the proceeding. It seemed that Bruce had heard ofthe move and persuaded his father not to support it, after a stormyscene in which he had threatened to resign his own membership if theymoved against Terry.

  Ellis looked long at Terry: "Nothing small about Bruce, Dick. Somefellows, under the circumstances--all the circumstances--might havelet you have it to the hilt."

  Terry smiled gravely. "Good old Bruce," he said.

  He left the room, slowly, and sat alone in the library. It had struckdeep, that even one God-fearing but not God-loving old man shouldthink him unfit to sit in the church in which his father and motherhad been married, from which they had been carried side by side fortheir long rest. It was midnight when he went up the broad staircaseto his room.

  The following afternoon he dropped in to see Father Jennings, thegentle little priest who had been beloved by two generations of alldenominations--and those of none. Terry loved the old study, which inforty years had taken on something of the priest's character. It was acomfortable room; cheerful in its wide windows, warm with a brighthearthfire, and well worn with long years of service.

  Terry had found friendship and counsel here since his boyhood, hadbeen one of the procession that passed through the door in search ofwisdom and cheer. All the gossip of the town came to the priest: heknew of Terry's hunting trip and of the climax which had scandalizedthe sterner factions of the community. He was of those who knew Terrybest, and entertained no misgivings about the state of his immortalsoul.

  They talked fitfully, as intimate friends do. The old man knew that itwas worry over the town's harsh reaction to the Sunday fox hunt thathad brought Terry to him. He broached the subject.

  "Dick, I have wanted to see you since Sunday morning. I had a questionto ask you nobody else could answer."

  As Terry turned to him with somber mien he concluded, his eyestwinkling: "I wanted to know if it was the best fox ever!"

  And that was all, though Terry stayed to sup with him. Till nineo'clock they sat before the fire, the priest in a worn rocker drawn upclose to the hearth: the single log burning glorified
his fine oldface as he placidly rocked and pondered.

  He had spent the morning among his foreign parishioners, who lived inthe squalid section of the town, across the river. A frugal,law-abiding lot, they furnished the brawn needed in the three pulpfactories and lived a life apart from the balance of the towns-people,bitterly but voicelessly resenting the villagers' careless ostracismof all who came under the easy classification of the term "wop." Thereexisted a tacit agreement among property owners that no house north ofthe river should be sold or leased to a foreigner, and that no garlicmight taint the atmosphere their children breathed in school, they haderected a small schoolhouse upon the southside. So, sequestered sixdays in the week in a settlement that was entirely foreign,communicating their thoughts in the tongues of the Mediterranean andthe Balkans, the southsiders mingled with Americans only during thebrief hours of Sunday worship.

  In his morning visit Father Jennings had again met with severalevidences of Terry's curious influence over the foreigners. Terryunderstood them instinctively, grasped their viewpoints and ideals,and was the only layman on the northside in whom they confided, calledin to settle knotty problems and to partake of the hospitality theylavished upon appropriate occasions of weddings, christenings and theneverending procession of days of patron saints. Subtle, romantic,circumscribed by alien environment, they recognized in him a kindredspirit and opened their hearts wide to him. Terry, his ardent youngpastor--Dr. Mather--and Father Jennings were the only northsiders whomthey called friends. None of the three had been named on the town's"Committee on Americanization." ...

  The priest roused from his revery and for a long time contemplated thequiet, thoughtful lad who sat beside him. Gradually a deep concernspread across his comfortably aged features, a presentiment ofimpending loss shadowed his pleasant eyes. He reached out to lay hishand on Terry's forearm.

  "Dick," he said, "there is plenty for you to do right here inCrampville--what is this I hear about your going to the Philippines?"