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Duck Lake
Chapter III. Old Dave Dodge

AT the earliest blush of dawn Mrs. Brown relieved her pastor. He soon found his horse and was on his way home. He galloped along the little road, and as he turned into the bush the sun arose above the horizon and lit up one of the most beautiful scenes that man ever beheld. In his enthusiasm, Mr. Hewitt exclaimed—

"It's a pathway for a king!"

It was an autumn scene of rarest beauty. The wind had shaken the beeches, maples, and other trees that composed that bit of Muskoka woods, and their gorgeously coloured leaves covered the ground. In the night, a nipping frost and a passing cloud had joined their forces, and ere the morning sun cast his brilliant beams through the limbs of the trees they had dropped a light shower of snow upon the leafy carpet. The fall had been so light and the leaves so laid that it seemed as if thousands of little golden and crimson cups, of as many varied and antique shapes, were upturned, and in the morning sunbeams were filled with limpid pearl.

The rider reined his horse to a walk at this scene of entrancing beauty. With heart filled full of wonder, he exclaimed—

"Orion and Pleiades can hardly show a more beautiful scene than earth has prepared for me to-day. The curtains of tinted clouds that at sunset God hung in His western sky were beautiful, but His carpet this morning is fairer far. Truly He spreadeth out the heavens at His pleasure, and the earth clothes herself in rich apparel at His word. Might and art have concerted together to please and praise their Master. The fall of the leaf is in His knowledge, and the Frost King is but His servant. They make clouds for His garments, and wrap them up with the winds; they spread the snow as a carpet, and remove it at His command. They speak of His glory, His skill and His power; they call forth our wonder, our admiration, and our praise. But the love of Christ surpasses these. In Him, love as pure as the snow was nursed in a crimson bowl of suffering. His fingers moved the frost and guided the wind, but His arm and life brought salvation. May my life praise Him."

Dolly was restless under her master, even if he were singing a psalm of praise, and when the word was given she soon sprang into a gallop, bounding over the uneven bush road like a deer, and soon reached her home.

After seeing his horse carefully stabled and happily eating her breakfast, Mr. Hewitt went into his Parsonage and kindled a fire. He broiled a steak, and after eating it he threw himself upon the lounge for a rest. After a short nap he awoke. He went to the lake, and kneeling at the bank, had a refreshing wash. Then, returning to his house, where he finished his morning toilet, he bowed in thankfulness for his many blessings to God, rejoicing that He who had spread the heavens and set the sun in his place was his God, his Father and his Friend. Full of faith in His everlasting Friend, he set about to prepare himself to meet the Game-Warden and the Justice of the Peace at "Duck Lake Hotel."

The house that bore the name of "Duck Lake Hotel" was a medium-sized frame building, fitted up for a few summer boarders, with a bar-room at one end and a post-office at the other.

Dave Dodge, the proprietor and manager of this hotel, was a sour-hearted, scheming man of about fifty. Almost from the day of the arrival of Mr. Hewitt, he and the proprietor had altercations; both declaring that their motives were purely for the benefit of the community. The preacher had denounced the disgusting beer-parties and low dances that Dodge had got up in his bar-room. Dodge h^d, in his early days, seen the delight that many men in the city had taken in sparring-matches, and he was not going to have less attractions for his hotel. So, for the benefit of his summer guests, he got two of his lounging attaches, of whom he had quite a number, well "primed" with whisky, and set them to fighting. This brutal work Mr. Hewitt had denounced in scathing terms. To the credit of the boarders be it said, they took the next means of conveyance, and left Dodge's place. This action of the guests and the denunciation of the preacher made Dodge very angry.

The latest conflict that Mr. Hewitt had had with Dodge was over the night-school. Mr. Hewitt and the school teacher desired to open a night-school for the benefit of the young people in the neighbourhood, who had not had early opportunities to attend such places, and now had to work all day for their living. Dodge had managed to get himself elected as a school trustee. There were two other trustees; one was a parishioner of Mr. Hewitt's, and an open-minded decent man; the other was a good-natured sort of a settler, with no mind of his own, and no conscience.

Dodge had talked of the school and its expenses, until the people thought that he was going to work great reform on the score of economy. In carrying his point on these lines, he had reduced the school opportunities of the boys and girls to barely six months of the year.

Mr. Hewitt thought that this was outrageous, especially in view of the liberal grants that were given by the Government to encourage education.

When Mr. Hewitt and the school teacher had talked the matter over, they came to the conclusion that if the trustees would open the school, they would give lessons two nights a week.

The people thought that this was a generous offer ; and Dodge also agreed with them; for he reasoned that they were getting double the work out of the teacher, all for the same money. So the young men started the school. The teacher made his work so interesting that the school was popular from its inception. Dodge soon noticed that the school diminished the evening attendance at his bar-room ; and the amount spent in "drinks" and "treats" was correspondingly reduced. This must be rectified.

So he at once started an agitation about the expense the young men were putting the community to in the way of lamps and oil. The teacher put the statement of expense before the parents of some of the young people who had been attending the school instead of the bar, and had, therefore, been showing marked improvement in their general home-conduct. They at once started a subscription, and this expense was quickly met.

When this objection was overcome, Dodge agitated about the reckless wear and tear of the school property; the desks were only made for children, not for "grown-ups." The Old Dave Dodge whole of them would soon be "busted." and they would be put to the expense of getting new ones. Public sentiment was against Dodge, and he was angry—in secret. So he took another tack. The school trustees had the handling of the school. He knew that he could not manage Mr. Hewitt's friend; but he, with the other trustee, would be the majority. So he determined to "work" him; which he succeeded in doing when he put his figure high enough.

To try and win back popular favour, and to make amends for closing the school against the wishes of the majority of the people, Dodge came out with this "generous" offer.

"It is a good thing, and no mistake, to help the grown-ups to a bit more schoolin". But the school-house is no place for 'em; the seats were never meant for 'em. Let 'em come to my bar-room. It is a good large place, well lighted, and I'll lend you some tables, chairs, and all—all free."

The people saw through the ruse. Mr. Hewitt publicly denounced Dodge and his scheme to entrap the young, and to tempt them with the fumes of destruction. His real motive was to get them into his hotel, and then he would induce them to "treat" at his bar. The young preacher said he would not advise his young men and maidens to go there, any more than he would ask them to swim around Niagara"s whirlpool.

"Well," said Dodge, "you come to my bar, or your good-for-nothing night meetings 'll stop."

"The meetings shall be held, sir, and our young people will not be tempted by the dangerous fumes of your dirty bar," was Mr. Hewitt's reply.

The young preacher, the school teacher, and many others were much disappointed in the third trustee. They coaxed, pleaded and argued; but all in vain. He didn't see any harm in their falling in with old Dodge's scheme, and it would be a mighty saving to the community. He was not to be moved.

"Well," said Mr. Hewitt, "the upshot of the thing is, we'll have to hold the night-school outside of the schoolhouse. But where can we go?"

That was a grave question, where the homes of the people were so small, and where even these were widely scattered.

While wrestling with this problem, Mr. Hewitt visited a lumberman across the portage, about three miles from the hotel. This man had increased the number of the workmen in his saw-mill, and having to find a suitable place in which to house them, had built a commodious boarding-house with a good-sized dining-room.

Mr. Hewitt made bold to ask for this, and to his delight received not only a hearty consent, but also sympathetic co-operation. The fact was at once made known, and the school reopened with brighter prospects of success.

The removal of the school to a distance had caused a few of the men who lived around the hotel to drop off; but their places were taken by many who were nearer the saw-mill. Some people who had been tenants on Dodge's land threw up their property, and found better accommodation, with school opportunities for their children, across the portage.

Taking the thing altogether, while Dodge had won his point in closing the school, he was by far the loser in the end ; and as he placed most of the success of his opponents to the tact and energy of Mr. Hewitt, he was exceedingly angry with that young man, and also very desirous of humbling or getting rid of him.

This was how matters stood between them when Mr. Hewitt set out on that eventful morning to meet the Justice at his place.

After the Game-Warden had left Mr. Hewitt and Jonas in the woods, he went to the "Duck Lake Hotel." Here he was met by Dodge, who said—

"The Justice will be here to-morrow."

"So he wrote me," replied the Warden.

"Have you any business with him?" cautiously inquired Dodge.

"Yes, I have caught a poacher. I am going to clean up this part of the country of poaching. See if I don't."

"Who have you caught?" asked Dodge, within tense interest.

"That young preacher across the bay."

At this Dave gave a low whistle of surprise, and also of relief, for fear had risen at the mention of bringing a poacher to justice. Then a Satanic grin came over his face, and he assumed a most knowing air.

"Do you know anything about this fellow?" asked the Warden.

"Know him? Yes, I know him like a book. It's just what I expected—you'd find him up to some devilment."

"What do you know about him?" asked the Warden, ready for any information that would assist him in prosecuting his case.

"He's the veriest hypocritable preacher that ever struck these parts. He had some dirty schemes on hand, I knew, when he wouldn't board with a settler, though there was a many what would a taken him in. He lives in his log-house alone. Laws only knows what he's a doin' there. Just as like done most of the poachin' around here. He's been seen going home late at night, whistlin' when he thought no one was around—like as not had a deer in front of him, over his horse. Then he's keeping company with that sly sneakin' Indian, that pretends to catch fish for a living, but, between you and me, he and the preacher schemes and does a lot of devilment." The Warden was prejudiced against the young preacher because of his stubborn denials of "facts," as he called them; and as he knew nothing detrimental to Dodge, he was quite ready to accept these lies and innuendoes, almost without questioning. He, however, asked—

"Will you swear to your statements? Can you prove them?"

"Prove 'em! Well I should say! Lanky, call Huddy out of the bar, and come here."

The man addressed was a tall, thin man, who was at that moment leaning against the bar-room door. He did as he was bidden. As the two men came up Dodge told them that the young missionary had been summoned for poaching, and also what he had said about the young man; and then added that the Warden wanted some one to back up his statements.

The men were ready to corroborate anything that Dodge said, and followed his words as well as they could.

The Warden gravely thanked Dodge for his information, and asked him to be on hand on the morrow, and to have these "gentlemen" there, as their statements might be of some assistance to him.

When he was gone, Dodge led the men into the bar. He poured out a stiff glass of brandy for himself and drank it. Then, with a leer, he asked the men what they would have. Each took a glass of whisky; and as they were drinking Dodge hissed—

"We've got that preachin' cur by the throat now. What a gull that new Warden is! If we can only load the moose all on the preacher, eh! Get him out; then the Warden will go out for a rest; and we can get to work again.'

"He may be a gull, Davey," said Lanky, "but he's evidently a weasel after poachers. I wonder he hasn't got on to the two you bagged last week. I'll bet they're in your cellar now, and 'll spoil before you get "em out. But however has he got hold of the preacher? I never knowed him to fire a gun. He's no sport: though he's a cocky little fighter, and he's a brave preacher on the school question, ain't he, Davey?"

This sally made Dodge very angry, and he would have hit Lanky, had not Huddy stopped him, saying—

"Don't be a fool, Dave! Now you've got the lad on the hip; get your yarns down pat; and let us hear 'em. The Justice may ask us stiff questions, and get us muddled if you don't."

This answer cooled Dodge's anger a little, and the men set to work to gather fictitious proof for the statements made, and see if they could not add other damaging accusations.

The Warden noted the points that Dodge and his men had given him, and carefully wove them into his indictment, which he prepared with elaborate care to deliver to the Justice at the trial.

As Mr. Hewitt hurried along the bush road to his trial, he was so assured of his innocence, of meeting Jonas and Horace Fitzgerald, and of having the matter easily cleared up, that he was quite light-hearted. He had made no efforts to bring friends to uphold him, or to testify to his good character; the necessity of such a thing never entered into his mind. The morning was beautiful; the sunshine glistened and played with the dewdrops; and the forest seemed full of gladness.

As the young preacher was walking along, drinking in the beauty and song of Nature, he was attracted by a little scene that presented itself to him. He was walking on the brow of a little hill that abruptly descended to his right. At one time, perhaps, a stream had run along the bottom of the valley; but now it was dry and partly filled with leaves. The root of a large tree had elbowed its way out of the side of the hill. This made a delightful place for a rabbit's home. A pretty bunny had burrowed her nest under the root; and just as Mr. Hewitt came along she had her little brood out for a frolic in the leaves, while she, with pleased and matronly contentment, watched their gambols.

The wind was blowing from them to Mr. Hewitt, so they did not catch his scent as he paused a moment to see them. He had not watched them long before he became aware that there was another watcher. A sly old fox had his eyes upon the mother, and was cautiously creeping up until he could get within springing distance. He was intent upon his prey, and being lower than the young preacher, he was unaware of his presence. The actions of the fox were so sly and quick, that it seemed but a moment from the time that Mr. Hewitt first observed him, till he was ready to spring upon the rabbit.

With his promptness to help, Mr. Hewitt shouted, snatched up a stick, and jumped to rescue the mother. The fox, startled and taken completely by surprise, abandoned his purpose and turned and fled. Mr. Hewitt threw his stick, and although he struck the fox he did not stop him, and he was soon lost in the forest. When the preacher looked around, the rabbits had also disappeared.

Mr. Hewitt felt pleased that he had been permitted to save a mother to her little ones. He might have taken warning that he, the pastor of a flock, was also watched by a veritable fox; but in his faith and light-heartedness such a lesson did not impress itself upon him. On he went, whistling, and thinking more of the beauties of Nature, and the majesty and power of Nature's God, than of his trial and his defence.

As he turned the road, and the hotel came into view, the young preacher, for the first time, thought that his old enemy, Dodge, the proprietor, might influence the Justice against him. Still, he hoped that the administrator of the laws of the country would be above such influence.

The Warden was awaiting his coming in the bar-room of the hotel, where Dodge had placed a table and some benches for the trial. The Justice, accompanied by a sworn constable, had also arrived, and was anxious to get through the business as quickly as possible, so that he might fulfil another appointment.

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