It was the custom in Doctor Dunn's
household that, immediately after dinner, his youngest son would spend
half an hour in the study with his father. It was a time for
confidences. During this half hour father and son met as nearly as
possible on equal terms, discussing, as friends might, the events of the
day or the plans for the morrow, school work or athletics, the latest
book or the newest joke; and sometimes the talk turned upon the reading
at evening prayers. This night the story had been one of rare beauty and
of absorbing interest, the story, viz., of that idyllic scene on the
shore of Tiberias where the erring disciple was fully restored to his
place in the ranks of the faithful, as he had been restored, some weeks
before, to his place in the confidence of his Master.
"That was a fine story, Rob?" began Doctor
"That it was," said Rob gravely. "It was
fine for Peter to get back again."
"Just so," replied his father. "You see,
when a man once turns his back on his best Friend, he is never right
till he gets back again."
"Yes, I know," said Rob gravely. For a
time he sat with a shadow of sadness and anxiety on his young face. "It
is terrible!" he exclaimed.
"Terrible?" inquired the Doctor. "Oh, yes,
you mean Peter's fall? Yes, that was a terrible thing—to be untrue to
our Master and faithless to our best Friend."
"But he did not mean to, Dad," said Rob
quickly, as if springing to the fallen disciple's defence. "He forgot,
just for a moment, and was awfully sorry afterwards."
"Yes, truly," said his father, "and that
was the first step back."
For a few moments Rob remained silent, his
face sad and troubled.
"Man! It must be terrible!" at length he
said, more to himself than to his father. The Doctor looked closely at
the little lad. The eager, sensitive face, usually so radiant, was now
clouded and sad.
"What is it, Rob? Is it something you can
tell me?" asked his father in a tone of friendly kindness.
Rob moved closer to him. The father waited
in silence. He knew better than to force an unwilling confidence. At
length the lad, with an obvious effort at self-command, said:
"It is to-morrow, Daddy, that Cameron—that
Mr. Cameron is going away."
"To-morrow? So it is. And you will be very
sorry, Rob. But, of course, he will come back."
"Oh, Dad," cried Rob, coming quite close
to his father, "it isn't that! It isn't that!"
His father waited. He did not understand
his boy's trouble, and so he wisely refrained from uttering word that
might hinder rather than help. At length, with a sudden effort, Rob
asked in a low, hurried voice:
"Do you think, Dad, he has—got—back?"
"Got back?" said his father. "Oh, I see.
Why, my boy? What do you know of it? Did you know there was a letter
from a man named Potts, that completely clears your friend of all
"Is there?" asked the boy quickly. "Man!
That is fine! But I always knew he could not do anything really bad—I
mean, anything that the police could touch him for. But it is not that,
Dad. I have heard Jack say he used to be different when he came down
first, and now sometimes he—" The lad's voice fell silent. He could not
bring himself to accuse his hero of any evil. His father drew him close
to his side.
"You mean that he has fallen into bad
ways—drink, and things like that?"
The boy hung his head; he was keenly
ashamed for his friend. After a few moments' silence he said:
"And he is going away to Canada to-morrow,
and I wonder, Dad, if he has—got—back? It would be terrible—Oh, Dad, all
alone and away from—!"
The boy's voice sank to a whisper, and a
rush of tears filled his eyes.
"I see what you mean, my boy. You mean it
would be terrible for him to be in that far land, and away from that
Friend we know and love best."
The lad looked at his father through his
tears, and nodded his head, and for some moments there was silence
between them. If the truth must be told, Doctor Dunn felt himself keenly
rebuked by his little son's words. Amid the multitude of his
responsibilities, the responsibility for his sons' best friend he had
"I am glad that you spoke of it, Rob; I am
glad that you spoke of it. Something will be done. It is not, after all,
in our hands. Still, we must stand ready to help. Good-night, my boy.
And remember, it is always good to hurry back to our best Friend, if
ever we get away from Him."
The boy put his arms around his father's
neck and kissed him good-night; then, kissing him again, he whispered:
"Thank you, Daddy."
And from the relief in his tone the father
recognised that upon him the lad had laid all the burden of his
solicitude for his friend.
Later in the evening, when his elder son
came home, the father called him in, and frankly gave him the substance
of the conversation of the earlier part of the evening.
Jack laughed somewhat uneasily. "Oh, Rob
is an awfully religious little beggar; painfully so, I think,
sometimes—you know what I mean, Sir," he added, noticing the look on his
"I am not sure that I do, Jack," said his
father, "but I want to tell you, that as far as I am concerned, I felt
distinctly rebuked at the little chap's anxiety for his friend in a
matter of such vital import. His is a truly religious little soul, as
you say, but I wonder if his type is not more nearly like the normal
than is ours. Certainly, if reality, simplicity, sincerity are the
qualities of true religious feeling—and these, I believe, are the
qualities emphasised by the Master Himself—then it may indeed be that
the boy's type is nearer the ideal than ours."
At this point Mrs. Dunn entered the room.
"Anything private?" she enquired with a
bright smile at her husband.
"Not at all! Come in!" said Doctor Dunn,
and he proceeded to repeat the conversation with his younger son, and
his own recent comment thereupon.
"I am convinced," he added, "that there is
a profundity of meaning in those words, 'Whosoever shall not receive the
kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein,' that we
have not yet fathomed. I suspect Wordsworth is not far astray when he
suggests that with the passing years we grow away from the simplicity of
our faith and the clearness of our vision. There is no doubt that to
Rob, Jesus is as real as I am."
"There is no doubt of that," said his wife
"Not only as real, but quite as dear;
indeed, dearer. I shall never forget the shock I received when I heard
him one day, as a wee, wee boy, classifying the objects of his
affection. I remember the ascending scale was: 'I love Jack and Daddy
just the same, then mother, then Jesus.' It was always in the highest
place, Jesus; and I believe that the scale is the same to-day, unless
Jack," she added, with a smile at her son, "has moved to his mother's
"Not much fear of that, mother," said
Jack, "but I should not be surprised if you are quite right about the
little chap. He is a queer little beggar!"
"There you are again, Jack," said his
father, "and it is upon that point I was inclined to take issue with you
when your mother entered."
"I think I shall leave you," said the
mother. "I am rather tired, and so I shall bid you good-night."
"Yes," said the father, when they had
seated themselves again, "the very fact that to you, and to me for that
matter, Rob's attitude of mind should seem peculiar raises the issue.
What is the normal type of Christian faith? Is it not marked by the
simplicity and completeness of the child's?"
"And yet, Sir," replied Jack, "that
simplicity and completeness is the result of inexperience. Surely the
ideal faith is not that which ignores the facts and experiences of
"Not exactly," replied his father, "yet I
am not sure but after all, 'the perfect love which casteth out fear' is
one which ignores the experiences of life, or, rather, classifies them
in a larger category. That is, it refuses to be disturbed by life's
experiences, because among those experiences there is a place for the
enlarged horizon, the clearer vision. But I am not arguing about this
matter; I rather wish to make a confession and enlist your aid. Frankly,
the boy's words gave me an uneasy sense of failure in my duty to this
young man; or, perhaps I should say, my privilege. And really, it is no
wonder! Here is this little chap actually carrying every day a load of
intense concern for our friend, as to whether, as he puts it himself,
'he has come back.' And, after all, Jack, I wonder if this should not
have been more upon our minds? The young man, I take it, since his
mother's death has little in his home life to inspire him with religious
faith and feeling. If she had been alive, one would not feel the same
responsibility; she was a singularly saintly woman."
"You are quite right, Sir," said Jack
quickly, "and I suspect you rather mean that I am the one that should
"Not at all! Not at all, Jack! I am
thinking, as every man must, of my own responsibility, though,
doubtless, you have yours as well. Of course I know quite well you have
stuck by him splendidly in his fight for a clean and self-controlled
life, but one wonders whether there is not something more."
"There is, Sir!" replied his son quickly.
"There undoubtedly is! But though I have no hesitation in speaking to
men down in the Settlement about these things, you know, still, somehow,
to a man of your own class, and to a personal friend, one hesitates. One
shrinks from what seems like assuming an attitude of superiority."
"I appreciate that," said his father, "but
yet one wonders to what extent this shrinking is due to a real sense of
one's own imperfections, and to what extent it is due to an
unwillingness to risk criticism, even from ourselves, in a loyal attempt
to serve the Master and His cause. And, besides that, one wonders
whether from any cause one should hesitate to do the truly kind and
Christian thing to one's friend. I mean, you value your religion; or, to
put it personally, as Rob would, you would esteem as your chief
possession your knowledge of the Christ, as Friend and Saviour. Do not
loyalty to Him and friendship require that you share that possession
with your dearest friend?"
"I know what you mean, Sir," said Jack
earnestly. "I shall think it over. But don't you think a word from you,
His father looked at his son with a
"Oh, I know what you are thinking," said
his son, "but I assure you it is not quite a case of funk."
"Do you know, Jack," said his father
earnestly, "we make our religion far too unreal; a thing either of forms
remote from life, or a thing of individualistic emotion divorced from
responsibility. One thing history reveals, that the early propagandum
for the faith was entirely unprofessional. It was from friend to friend,
from man to man. It was horizontal rather than perpendicular."
"Well, I shall think it over," said Jack.
"Do you know," said his father, "that I
have the feeling of having accepted from Rob responsibility for our
utmost endeavour to bring it about that, as Rob puts it, 'somehow he
shall get back'?"
It was full twenty minutes before train
time when Rob, torn with anxiety lest they should be late, marched his
brother on to the railway platform to wait for the Camerons, who were to
arrive from the North. Up and down they paraded, Dunn turning over in
his mind the conversation of the night before, Rob breaking away every
three minutes to consult the clock and the booking clerk at the wicket.
"Will he come to us this afternoon, Jack,
do you think?" enquired the boy.
"Don't know! He turned down a football
lunch! He has his sister and his father with him."
"His sister could come with him!" argued
"What about his father?"
Rob had been close enough to events to
know that the Captain constituted something of a difficulty in the
"Well, won't he have business to attend
His brother laughed. "Good idea, Rob, let
us hope so! At any rate we will do our best to get Cameron and his
sister to come to us. We want them, don't we?"
"We do that!" said the boy fervently;
"only I'm sure something will happen! There," he exclaimed a moment
later, in a tone of disappointment and disgust, "I just knew it! There
is Miss Brodie and some one else; they will get after him, I know!"
"So it is," said Dunn, with a not
altogether successful attempt at surprise.
"Aw! you knew!" said Rob reproachfully.
"Well! I kind of thought she might turn
up!" said his brother, with an air of a convicted criminal. "You know
she is quite a friend of Cameron's. But what is Sir Archibald here for?"
"They will just get him, I know," said Rob
gloomily, as he followed his brother to meet Miss Brodie and her uncle.
"We're here!" cried that young lady, "to
join in the demonstration to the hero! And, my uncle being somewhat
conscience-stricken over his tardy and unwilling acceptance of our
superior judgment in the recent famous case, has come to make such
reparation as he can."
"What a piece of impertinence! Don't
listen to her, Sir!" cried Sir Archibald, greeting Dunn warmly and with
the respect due an International captain. "The truth is I have a letter
here for him to a business friend in Montreal, which may be of service.
Of course, I may say to you that I am more than delighted that this
letter of Potts has quite cleared the young man, and that he goes to the
new country with reputation unstained. I am greatly delighted! greatly
delighted! and I wish the opportunity to say so."
"Indeed, we are all delighted," replied
Dunn cordially, "though, of course, I never could bring myself to
believe him guilty of crime."
"Well, on the strength of the judgment of
yourself and, I must confess, of this young person here, I made my
"Well," cried Miss Brodie, "I gave you my
opinion because it was my opinion, but I confess at times I had my own
Here she paused abruptly, arrested by the
look on young Rob's face; it was a look of surprise, grief, and horror.
"That is to say," continued Miss Brodie
hastily, answering the look, and recognising that her high place in
Rob's regard was in peril, "the whole thing was a mystery—was impossible
to solve—I mean," she continued, stumbling along, "his own attitude was
so very uncertain and so unsatisfactory—if he had only been able to say
clearly 'I am not guilty' it would have been different—I mean—of course,
I don't believe him guilty. Don't look at me like that, Rob! I won't
have it! But was it not clever of that dear Mr. Rae to extract that
letter from the wretched Potts?"
"There's the train!" cried Dunn. "Here,
Rob, you stay here with me! Where has the young rascal gone!"
"Look! Oh, look!" cried Miss Brodie,
clutching at Dunn's arm, her eyes wide with terror. There before their
horrified eyes was young Rob, hanging on to the window, out of which his
friend Cameron was leaning, and racing madly with the swiftly moving
train, in momentary danger of being dragged under its wheels. With a
cry, Dunn rushed forward.
"Merciful heavens!" cried Miss Brodie.
"Oh! he is gone!"
A porter, standing with his back towards
the racing boy, had knocked his feet from under him. But as he fell, a
strong hand grabbed him, and dragged him to safety through the window.
Pale and shaking, the three friends waited
for the car door to be opened, and as Rob issued in triumphant
possession of his friend, Miss Brodie rushed at him and, seizing him in
her strong grasp, cried:
"You heartless young rascal! You nearly
killed me—not to speak of yourself! Here," she continued, throwing her
arms about him, and giving him a loud smack, "take that for your
punishment! Do you hear, you nearly killed me! I had a vision of your
mangled form ground up between the wheels and the platform. Hold on, you
can't get away from me! I have a mind to give you another!"
"Oh, Miss Brodie, please," pleaded
Cameron, coming forward to Rob's rescue, "I assure you I was partly to
blame; it is only fair I should share his punishment."
"Indeed," cried Miss Brodie, the blood
coming back into her cheeks that had been white enough a moment before,
"if it were not for your size, and your—looks, I should treat you
exactly the same, though not with the same intent, as our friend Mr. Rae
would say. You did that splendidly!"
"Alas! for my size," groaned Cameron—he
was in great spirits—"and alas! for my ugly phiz!"
"Who said 'ugly'?" replied Miss Brodie.
"But I won't rise to your bait. May I introduce you to my uncle, Sir
Archibald Brodie, who has a little business with you?"
"Ah! Mr. Cameron," said that gentleman,
"that was extremely well done. Indeed, I can hardly get back my
nerve—might have been an ugly accident. By the way, Sir," taking Cameron
aside, "just a moment. You are on your way to Canada? I have a letter
which I thought might be of service to you. It is to a business friend
of mine, a banker, in Montreal, Mr. James Ritchie. You will find him a
good man to know, and I fancy glad to serve any—ah—friend of mine."
On hearing Sir Archibald's name, Cameron's
manner became distinctly haughty, and he was on the point of declining
the letter, when Sir Archibald, who was quick to observe his manner,
took him by the arm and led him somewhat further away.
"Now, Sir, there is a little matter I wish
to speak of, if you will permit. Indeed, I came specially to say how
delighted I am that the—ah—recent little unpleasantness has been
removed. Of course you understand my responsibility to the Bank rendered
a certain course of action imperative, however repugnant. But, believe
me, I am truly delighted to find that my decision to withdraw
the—ah—action has been entirely justified by events. Delighted, Sir!
Delighted! And much more since I have seen you."
Before the overflowing kindliness of Sir
Archibald's voice and manner, Cameron's hauteur vanished like morning
mist before the rising sun.
"I thank you, Sir Archibald," he said,
with dignity, "not only for this letter, but especially for your good
"Very good! Very good! The letter will, I
hope, be useful," replied Sir Archibald, "and as for my opinion, I am
glad to find not only that it is well founded, but that it appears to be
shared by most of this company here. Now we must get back to your party.
But let me say again, I am truly glad to have come to know you."