AT THE CHURCH BAZAAR
Two days later brought Tom Chepstow's church
bazaar. Dave had not yet had the opportunity of
interceding with Betty and her uncle on behalf of
Jim, but to-day he meant to fulfil his obligations as
Tom's chief supporter in church affairs, and, at the
same time, to do what he could for the man he had
promised to help.
The whole morning the valley was flooded with
a tremendous summer deluge. It was just as though
the heavens had opened and emptied their waters
upon the earth. Dave viewed the prospect with no
very friendly eye. He knew the summer rains only
too well; the possibilities of flood were well
grounded, and just now he had no desire to see the
river rise higher than it was at present. Still, as
yet there was no reason for alarm. This was the
first rain, and the glass was rising.
By noon the clouds broke, and the barometer's
promise was fulfilled, so that, by the time he had
clad himself in his best broadcloth, he left his office
under a radiant sky. In spite of the wet under foot
it was a delight to be abroad. The air was fresh
and sparkling; the dripping trees seemed to be
studded with thousands of diamonds as the poising
rain-drops glistened in the blazing sun. The valley
rang with the music of the birds, and the health-giving
scent of the pine woods was wafted upon the
gentlest of zephyrs. Dave's soul was in perfect
sympathy with the beauties about him. To him
there could be no spot on God's earth so fair and
beautiful as this valley.
Passing the mill on his way out of the yards he
was met by Joel Dawson, whose voice greeted him
with a note of satisfaction in it.
"She's goin' full, boss," he said. "We set the
last saws in her this mornin' an' she's steaming
hard. Ther' ain't nothin' idle. Ther' ain't a' band'
or 'gang' left in her."
And Dave without praise expressed his satisfaction
at the rapidity with which his orders had been
carried out. This was his way. Dawson was an
excellent foreman, and his respect for his "boss"
was largely based on the latter's capacity to extract
work out of his men. While praise might have
been pleasant to him, it would never have fallen in
with his ideas of how the mills should be run. His
pride was in the work, and to keep his respect at
concert pitch it was necessary that he should feel
that his "boss" was rather favoring him by entrusting
to him the more important part of the work.
Dave passed out of the yards certain that nothing
would be neglected in his absence. If things
went wrong Dawson would receive no more consideration
than a common lumber-jack, and Dawson
had no desire to receive his "time."
The Meeting House stood slightly apart from the
rest of the village. It was a large, staring frame
building, void of all pretentiousness and outward
devotional sign. The weather-boarding was painted;
at least, it had been. But the winter snows had
long since robbed it of its original terra-cotta coloring
and left its complexion a drab neutral tint.
The building stood bare, with no encompassing
fence, and its chief distinctive features were a large
doorway, a single row of windows set at regular
intervals, and a pitched roof.
As Dave drew near he saw a considerable gathering
of men and horses about the doorway and tie-post.
He was greeted cordially as he came up.
These men were unfeignedly glad to see him, not
only because he was popular, but in the hopes that
he would show more courage than they possessed,
and lead the way within to the feminine webs being
woven for their enmeshing.
He chatted for some moments, then, as no one
seemed inclined to leave the sunshine for the tempting
baits so carefully set out inside the building, he
turned to Jenkins Mudley—
"Are you fellows scared of going in?" he inquired,
with his large laugh.
Jenkins shook his head shamefacedly, while
Harley-Smith, loud and vulgar, with a staring
diamond pin gleaming in his necktie, answered for
"'Tain't that," he said. "His wife's kind o'
dep'ty for him. She's in ther' with his dollars."
"And you?" Dave turned on him quickly.
"Me? Oh, I ain't no use for them cirkises. Too
much tea an' cake an' kiddies to it for me. Give
me a few of the 'jacks' around an' I kind o' feel it
"Say, they ain't got a table for 'draw' in there,
have they?" inquired Checks facetiously. "That's
what Harley-Smith needs."
Dave smilingly shook his head.
"I don't think there's any gambling about this—unless
it's the bran tub. But that is scarcely a
gamble. It's a pretty sure thing you get bested
over it. Still, there might be a raffle, or an auction.
How would that do you, Harley-Smith?"
The saloon-keeper laughed boisterously. He
liked being the object of interest; he liked being
noticed so much by Dave. It tickled his vulgar
vanity. But, to his disappointment, the talk was
suddenly shifted into another channel by Checks.
The dry-goods merchant turned to Dave with very
"Talking of 'draw,'" he said pointedly, "you
know that shanty right opposite me. It's been
empty this year an' more. Who was it lived there?
Why, the Sykeses, sure. You know it, it's got a
shingle roof, painted red."
"Yes, I know," replied Dave. "It belongs to
me. I let Sykes live there because there wasn't
another house available at the time. I used to
keep it as a storehouse."
"Sure, that's it," exclaimed Checks. "Well,
there's some one running a game there at night.
I've seen the boys going in, and it's been lit up.
Some guy is running a faro bank, or something of
the sort. My wife swears it's young Jim Truscott.
She's seen him going in for the last two nights.
She says he's always the first one in and the last to
"Psha!" Jenkins Mudley exclaimed, with fine
scorn. "Jim ain't no gambler. I'd bet it's some
crook in from Calford. There's lots of that kidney
coming around, seeing the place is on the boom.
The bees allus gets around wher' the honey's
"Grows," suggested Checks amiably.
Harley-Smith laughed loudly.
"Say, bully for you," he cried sarcastically.
"Young Jim ain't no gambler? Gee! I've see
him take a thousand of the best bills out of the boys
at 'craps' right there in my bar. Gambler? Well,
And he illustrated his remark loudly and long.
Dave had dropped out of the conversation at the
mention of Jim Truscott's name. He felt that he
had nothing to say. And he hoped to avoid being
again brought into it. But Jenkins had purposely
told him. Jenkins was a rigid churchman, and he
knew that Dave was also a strong supporter of
Parson Tom's. His wife had been very scandalized
at the opening of a gambling house directly opposite
their store, and he felt it incumbent upon him
to fall in with her views. Therefore he turned again
"Well, what about it, Dave?" he demanded.
"What are you going to do?"
The lumberman looked him straight in the eye
"Do? Why, what all you fellows seem to be
scared to do. I'm going into this bazaar to do my
duty by the church. I'm going to hand them all
my spare dollars, and if there's any change coming,
I'll take it in dry-goods."
But the lightness of his tone and smile had no
inspiration from his mood. He was angry; he was
disappointed. So this was the worth of Jim's
promises! This was the man who, in a perfect
fever of passion, had said that the old life of gambling
and debauchery was finished for him. And
yet he had probably left his (Dave's) office and gone
straight to a night of heavy gaming, and, if Checks
were right, running a faro bank. He knew only
too well what that meant. No man who had graduated
as a gambler in such a region as the Yukon
was likely to run a faro bank straight.
Then a light seemed to flash through his brain,
and of a sudden he realized something that fired
the blood in his veins and set his pulses hammering
feverishly. For the moment it set his thoughts
chaotic; he could not realize anything quite clearly.
One feeling thrilled him, one wild hope. Then,
with stern self-repression, he took hold of himself.
This was neither time nor place for such weakness,
he told himself. He knew what it was. For the
moment he had let himself get out of hand. He
had for so long regarded Betty as belonging to Jim;
he had for so long shut her from his own thoughts
and only regarded her from an impersonal point of
view, that it had never occurred to him, until that
instant, that there was a possibility of her engagement
to Jim ever falling through.
This was what had so suddenly stirred him.
Now, actuated by his sense of duty and honor, he
thrust these things aside. His loyalty to the girl,
the strength of his great love for her, would not,
even for a moment, permit him to think of himself.
Five years ago he had said good-bye to any
hopes and thoughts such as these. On that day he
had struggled with himself and won. He was not
going to destroy the effects of that victory by any
selfish thought now. His love for the girl was
there, nothing could alter that. It would remain
there, deep down in his heart, dormant but living.
But it was something more than a mere human
passion, it was something purer, loftier; something
that crystallized the human clay of his thought into
the purest diamonds of unselfishness.
In the few moments that it took him to pass into
the Meeting House and launch himself upon his
task of furthering the cause of Tom Chepstow's
church, his mind cleared. He could not yet see
the line of action he must take if the gossip of Mr.
Addlestone Checks were true. But one thing was
plain, that gossip must not influence him until its
truth were established. Just as he was seized upon
by at least half a dozen of the women who had
wares to sell, and were bent on morally picking his
pockets, he had arrived at his decision.
The hall was ablaze with colored stuffs. There
were festoons and banners, and rosettes and evergreen.
Every bare corner was somehow concealed.
There were drapings of royal blue and
staring white, and sufficient bunting to make a
suit of flags for a war-ship.
All the seats and benches had been removed, and
round the walls had been erected the stalls and
booths of the saleswomen. One end of the room
was given up to a platform, on which, in the evening,
the most select of the local vocalists would
perform. Beside this was a bran tub, where one
could have a dip for fifty cents and be sure of winning
a prize worth at least five. Then there was a
fortune-telling booth on the opposite side, presided
over by a local beauty, Miss Eva Wade, whose
father was a small rancher just outside the valley.
This institution was eyed askance by many of the
women. They were not sure that fortune-telling
could safely be regarded as strictly moral. Parson
Tom was responsible for its inception, and his lean
shoulders were braced to bear the consequences.
Dave was by no means new to church bazaars.
Any one living in a small western village must
have considerable experience of such things. They
are a form of taxation much in favor, and serve
multifarious purposes. They are at once a pleasant
social function where young people can safely meet
under the matronly eye; they keep all in close
touch with religion; they give the usually idle
something to think of and work for, and the busy
find them an addition to their burdens. They
create a sort of central bureau for the exchange of
scandal, and a ready market for trading useless
articles to people who do not desire to purchase,
but having purchased feel that the moral sacrifice
they have made is at least one step in the right
direction to make up for many backslidings in the
Dave doubtless had long since considered all
this. But he saw and appreciated the purpose underlying
it. He knew Tom Chepstow to be a
good man, and though he had little inspiration as a
churchman, he spared no pains in his spiritual
labors, and the larger portion of his very limited
stipend went in unobtrusive charity. No sick bed
ever went uncheered by his presence, and no poor
ever went without warm clothing and wholesome
food in the terrible Canadian winter so long as he
had anything to give. Therefore Dave had come
well provided with money, which he began at once
to spend with hopeless prodigality.
The rest of the men followed in the lumberman's
wake, and soon the bustle and noise waxed furious.
They all bought indiscriminately. Dave started on
Mrs. Checks' "gentlemen's outfitters" stall. His
heart rejoiced when he sighted a pile of handkerchiefs
which the lady had specially made for him,
and which she now thrust at him with an exorbitant
price marked upon them. He bought them
all. He bought a number of shirts he could not
possibly have worn. He bought underclothing
that wouldn't have been a circumstance on his
cumbersome figure. He passed on to Louisa
Mudley's millinery stall and bought several hats,
which he promptly shed upon the various women
in his vicinity. He did his duty royally, and
bought dozens of things which he promptly gave
away. And his attentions in this matter were
quite impartial. He did it with the air of some
great good-natured schoolboy that set everybody
delighted with him, with themselves, with everything;
and the bazaar, as a result, went with a
royal, prosperous swing. Here, as in his work, his
personality carried with it the magic of success.
At last he reached Betty's stall. She was presiding
over a hideous collection of cheap bric-�-brac.
With her usual unselfishness and desire to promote
harmony amongst the workers, and so help the
success of the bazaar, she had sacrificed herself on
the altar of duty by taking charge of the most unpopular
stall. Nobody wanted the goods she had
to sell; consequently Dave found her deserted.
She smiled up at him a little pathetically as he
came over to her.
"Are you coming as a friend or as a customer?
Most of the visits I have received have been purely
friendly." She laughed, but Dave could see that
the natural spirit of rivalry was stirred, and she was
a little unhappy at the rush of business going on
everywhere but at her stall.
"I come as both," he said, with that air of frank
kindliness so peculiarly his own.
The girl's eyes brightened.
"Then let's get to work on the customer part of
your visit first," she said at once; "the other can
wait. Now here I have a nice plate. You can
hang it in your office on the wall. You see it's
already wired. It might pass for old Worcester if
you don't let in too much light. But there, you
never have your windows washed, do you? Then
I have," she hurried on, turning to other articles,
"this. This is a shell—at least I suppose it is,"
she added na�vely. "And this is a Toby jug; and
this is a pipe-rack; this is for matches; this is for a
whisk brush; and these two vases, they're real fine.
Look at them. Did you ever see such colors?
No, and I don't suppose anybody else ever did."
She laughed, and Dave joined in her laugh.
But her laugh suddenly died out. The man
heard a woman, only a few feet away, mention Jim
Truscott's name, and he knew that Betty had heard
it too. He knew that her smiling chatter, which
had seemed so gay, so irresponsible, had all been
pretense, a pretense which had suddenly been
swept aside at the mere mention of Jim's name.
At that moment he felt he could have taken the
man up in his two strong hands and strangled him.
However, he allowed his feelings no display, but at
once took up the challenge of the saleswoman.
"Say, Betty, there's just one thing in the world
I'm crazy about: it's bits of pots and things such as
you've got on your stall. It seems like fate you
should be running this stall. Now just get right to
it, and fetch out some tickets—a heap of 'em—and
write 'sold' on 'em, and dump 'em on all you like.
How much for the lot?"
"What do you mean, Dave?" the girl cried, her
eyes wide and questioning.
"How much? I don't want anybody else buying
those things," Dave said seriously. "I want
Betty's eyes softened almost to tears.
"I can't let you do it, Dave," she said gently.
"Not all. Some."
But the man was not to be turned from his purpose.
"I want 'em all," he said doggedly. "Here.
Here's two hundred dollars. That'll cover it." He
laid four bills of fifty dollars each on the stall.
"There," he added, "you can sell 'em over again
if any of the boys want to buy."
Betty was not sure which she wanted to do, cry
or laugh. However, she finally decided on the latter
course. Dave's simple contradiction was quite
too much for her.
"You're the most refreshing old simpleton I ever
knew," she said. "But I'll take your money—for
the church," she added, as though endeavoring to
quiet her conscience.
Dave sighed in relief.
"Well, that's that. Now we come to the friendly
side of my visit," he said. "I've got a heap to say
to you. Jim Truscott's been to me."
He made his statement simply, and waited. But
no comment was forthcoming. Betty was stooping
over a box, collecting cards to place on the articles
on her stall. Presently she looked up, and her look
was an invitation for him to go on.
The man's task was not easy. It would have
been easy enough had he not spoken with Checks
outside, but now it was all different. He had
promised his help, but in giving it he had no clear
He propped himself against the side-post of her
stall, and his weight set the structure shaking
"I've often wondered, Betty," he said, in a rumbling,
confidential tone, "if there ever was a man,
or for that matter a woman, who really understood
human nature. We all think we know a lot about
it. We size up a man, and we reckon he's good,
bad, or indifferent, and if our estimate happens to
prove, we pat ourselves, and hold our heads a shade
higher, and feel sorry for those who can't read a
man as easy as we can."
Betty nodded while she stuck some "Sold" cards
about her stall.
"A locomotive's a great proposition, so long as
it's on a set track. It's an all-fired nuisance without.
Guess a locomotive can do everything it
shouldn't when it gets loose of its track. My word,
I'd hate to be around with a loco up to its fool-tricks,
running loose in a city. Seems to me that's
how it is with human nature."
Betty's brown eyes were thoughtfully contemplating
the man's ugly features.
"I suppose you mean we all need a track to run
"Why, yes," Dave went on, brightening.
"Some of us start out in life with a ready-made
track, with 'points' we can jump if we've a notion.
Some of us have a track without 'points,' so there's
no excuse for getting off it. Some of us have to
lay down our own track, and keep right on it, building
it as we go. That's the hardest. We're bound to
have some falls. You see there's so much ballasting
needed, the ground's so mighty bumpy. I seem
to know a deal about that sort of track. I've had
to build mine, and I've fallen plenty. Sometimes
it's been hard picking myself up, and I've been
bruised and sore often. Still, I've got up, and I
don't seem no worse for falling."
Betty's eyes were smiling softly.
"But <i>you</i> picked yourself up, Dave, didn't you?"
she asked gently.
"Well—not always. You see, I've got a mother.
She's helped a whole heap. You see, she's mostly
all my world, and I used to hate to hurt her by letting
her see me down. She kind of thinks I'm the
greatest proposition ever, and it tickles my vanity.
I want her to go on thinking it, as it keeps me hard at
work building that track. And now, through her,
I've been building so long that it comes easier, and
thinking of her makes me hang on so tight I don't
get falling around now. There's other fellows
haven't got a mother, or—you see, I've always had
her with me. That's where it comes in. Now, if
she'd been away from me five years, when I was
very young; you see——"
Dave broke off clumsily. He was floundering in
rough water. He knew what he wanted to say, but
words were not too easy to him.
"Poor Jim!" murmured Betty softly.
Dave's eyes were on her in a moment. Her
manner was somehow different from what he had
expected. There was sympathy and womanly
tenderness in her voice; but he had expected——
Then his thoughts went back to the time when
they had spoken of Jim on the bridge. And,
without knowing why, his pulses quickened, and
a warmth of feeling swept over him.
"Poor Jim!" he said, after a long pause, during
which his pulses had steadied and he had become
master of his feelings again. "He's fallen a lot,
and I'm not sure it's all his fault. He always ran
straight when he was here. He was very young to
go away to a place like the Yukon. Maybe—maybe
you could pick him up; maybe you could
hold him to that track, same as mother did for me?"
Betty was close beside him. She had moved
out of her stall and was now looking up into his
"Does he want me to?" she asked wistfully.
"Do <i>you</i> think I can help him?"
The man's hands clenched tightly. For a moment
"You can," he said at last. "He wants you;
he wants your help. He loves you so, he's nearly
The girl gazed up at him with eyes whose question
the man tried but failed to read. It was some
seconds before her lips opened to speak again.
But her words never came. At that moment
Addlestone Checks hurried up to them. He drew
Dave sharply on one side. His manner was mysterious
and important, and his face wore a look of
"Something's got to be done," he said in a stage
whisper. "It's the most outrageous thing I've
seen in years. Right here—right here in the house
where the parson preaches the Word! It sure
is enough to set it shakin' to its foundation.
Drunk! That's what he is—roarin', flamin',
fightin' drunk! You must do something. It's up
"What do you mean? Who is drunk?" cried
Dave, annoyed at the man's Pharisaical air.
Before he could get a reply there was a commotion
at the far end of the bazaar. Voices were
raised furiously, and everybody had flocked in that
direction. Once Dave thought he heard Chepstow's
voice raised in protest. Betty ran to his side
directly the tumult began.
"Oh, Dave, what's the matter down there? I
thought I heard Jim's voice?"
"So you did, Miss Betty," cried Checks, with sanctimonious
spleen. "So you did—the drunken——"
"Shut up, or I'll break your neck!" cried Dave,
threatening him furiously.
The dry-goods dealer staggered back just as
Betty's hand was gently, but firmly, laid on Dave's
"Don't bother, Dave," she said piteously. "I've
seen him. Oh, Jim—Jim!" And she covered her
face with her hands.