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Chapter 19

  • Of course, the Stirlings had not left the poor maniac alone all this time o_efrained from heroic efforts to rescue her perishing soul and reputation.
  • Uncle James, whose lawyer had helped him as little as his doctor, came one da_nd, finding Valancy alone in the kitchen, as he supposed, gave her a terribl_alking to—told her she was breaking her mother's heart and disgracing he_amily.
  • "But  _why_?" said Valancy, not ceasing to scour her porridge pot decently.
  • "I'm doing honest work for honest pay. What is there in that that i_isgraceful?"
  • "Don't quibble, Valancy," said Uncle James solemnly. "This is no fit place fo_ou to be, and you know it. Why, I'm told that that jail-bird, Snaith, i_anging around here every evening."
  • "Not  _every_  evening," said Valancy reflectively. "No, not quite ever_vening."
  • "It's—it's insufferable!" said Uncle James violently. "Valancy, you  _must_ome home. We won't judge you harshly. I assure you we won't. We will overloo_ll this."
  • "Thank you," said Valancy.
  • "Have you no sense of shame?" demanded Uncle James.
  • "Oh, yes. But the things  _I_  am ashamed of are not the things  _you_  ar_shamed of." Valancy proceeded to rinse her dishcloth meticulously.
  • Still was Uncle James patient. He gripped the sides of his chair and groun_is teeth.
  • "We know your mind isn't just right. We'll make allowances. But you  _must_ome home. You shall not stay here with that drunken, blasphemous ol_coundrel—"
  • "Were you by any chance referring to  _me_ ,  _Mister_  Stirling?" demande_oaring Abel, suddenly appearing in the doorway of the back verandah where h_ad been smoking a peaceful pipe and listening to "old Jim Stirling's" tirad_ith huge enjoyment. His red beard fairly bristled with indignation and hi_uge eyebrows quivered. But cowardice was not among James Stirling'_hortcomings.
  • "I was. And, furthermore, I want to tell you that you have acted an iniquitou_art in luring this weak and unfortunate girl away from her home and friends, and I will have you punished yet for it—"
  • James Stirling got no further. Roaring Abel crossed the kitchen at a bound, caught him by his collar and his trousers, and hurled him through the doorwa_nd over the garden paling with as little apparent effort as he might hav_mployed in whisking a troublesome kitten out of the way.
  • "The next time you come back here," he bellowed, "I'll throw you through th_indow—and all the better if the window is shut! Coming here, thinkin_ourself God to put the world to rights!"
  • Valancy candidly and unashamedly owned to herself that she had seen few mor_atisfying sights than Uncle James' coat-tails flying out into the asparagu_ed. She had once been afraid of this man's judgment. Now she saw clearly tha_e was nothing but a rather stupid little village tin-god.
  • Roaring Abel turned with his great broad laugh.
  • "He'll think of that for years when he wakes up in the night. The Almight_ade a mistake in making so many Stirlings. But since they are made, we've go_o reckon with them. Too many to kill out. But if they come here bothering yo_'ll shoo 'em off before a cat could lick its ear."
  • The next time they sent Dr. Stalling. Surely Roaring Abel would not throw hi_nto asparagus beds. Dr. Stalling was not so sure of this and had no grea_iking for the task. He did not believe Valancy Stirling was out of her mind.
  • She had always been queer. He, Dr. Stalling, had never been able to understan_er. Therefore, beyond doubt, she was queer. She was only just a littl_ueerer than usual now. And Dr. Stalling had his own reasons for dislikin_oaring Abel. When Dr. Stalling had first come to Deerwood he had had a likin_or long hikes around Mistawis and Muskoka. On one of these occasions he ha_ot lost and after much wandering had fallen in with Roaring Abel with his gu_ver his shoulder.
  • Dr. Stalling had contrived to ask his question in about the most idioti_anner possible. He said, "Can you tell me where I'm going?"
  • "How the devil should I know where you're going, gosling?" retorted Abe_ontemptuously.
  • Dr. Stalling was so enraged that he could not speak for a moment or two and i_hat moment Abel had disappeared in the woods. Dr. Stalling had eventuall_ound his way home, but he had never hankered to encounter Abel Gay again.
  • Nevertheless he came now to do his duty. Valancy greeted him with a sinkin_eart. She had to own to herself that she was terribly afraid of Dr. Stallin_till. She had a miserable conviction that if he shook his long, bony finge_t her and told her to go home, she dared not disobey.
  • "Mr. Gay," said Dr. Stalling politely and condescendingly, "may I see Mis_tirling alone for a few minutes?" Roaring Abel was a little drunk—just drun_nough to be excessively polite and very cunning. He had been on the point o_oing away when Dr. Stalling arrived, but now he sat down in a corner of th_arlour and folded his arms.
  • "No, no, mister," he said solemnly. "That wouldn't do—wouldn't do at all. I'v_ot the reputation of my household to keep up. I've got to chaperone thi_oung lady. Can't have any sparkin' going on here behind my back."
  • Outraged Dr. Stalling looked so terrible that Valancy wondered how Abel coul_ndure his aspect. But Abel was not worried at all.
  • "D'ye know anything about it, anyway?" he asked genially.
  • "About  _what_?"
  • "Sparking," said Abel coolly.
  • Poor Dr. Stalling, who had never married because he believed in a celibat_lergy, would not notice this ribald remark. He turned his back on Abel an_ddressed himself to Valancy.
  • "Miss Stirling, I am here in response to your mother's wishes. She begged m_o come. I am charged with some messages from her. Will you"—he wagged hi_orefinger—"will you hear them?"
  • "Yes," said Valancy faintly, eyeing the forefinger. It had a hypnotic effec_n her.
  • "The first is this. If you will leave this—this—"
  • "House," interjected Roaring Abel. "H-o-u-s-e. Troubled with an impediment i_our speech, ain't you, Mister?"
  • "—this  _place_  and return to your home, Mr. James Stirling will himself pa_or a good nurse to come here and wait on Miss Gay."
  • Back of her terror Valancy smiled in secret. Uncle James must indeed regar_he matter as desperate when he would loosen his purse-strings like that. A_ny rate, her clan no longer despised her or ignored her. She had becom_mportant to them.
  • "That's  _my_  business, Mister," said Abel. "Miss Stirling can go if sh_leases, or stay if she pleases. I made a fair bargain with her, and she'_ree to conclude it when she likes. She gives me meals that stick to my ribs.
  • She don't forget to put salt in the porridge. She never slams doors, and whe_he has nothing to say she don't talk. That's uncanny in a woman, you know, Mister. I'm satisfied. If she isn't, she's free to go. But no woman comes her_n Jim Stirling's pay. If any one does"—Abel's voice was uncannily bland an_olite—"I'll spatter the road with her brains. Tell him that with A. Gay'_ompliments."
  • "Dr. Stalling, a nurse is not what Cissy needs," said Valancy earnestly. "Sh_sn't so ill as that, yet. What she wants is companionship—somebody she know_nd likes just to live with her. You can understand that, I'm sure."
  • "I understand that your motive is quite—ahem—commendable." Dr. Stalling fel_hat he was very broad-minded indeed—especially as in his secret soul he di_ot believe Valancy's motive  _was_  commendable. He hadn't the least ide_hat she was up to, but he was sure her motive was not commendable. When h_ould not understand a thing he straightway condemned it. Simplicity itself!
  • "But your first duty is to your mother.  _She_  needs you. She implores you t_ome home—she will forgive everything if you will only come home."
  • "That's a pretty little thought," remarked Abel meditatively, as he groun_ome tobacco up in his hand.
  • Dr. Stalling ignored him.
  • "She entreats, but I, Miss Stirling,"—Dr. Stalling remembered that he was a_mbassador of Jehovah—" _I command._  As your pastor and spiritual guide, _ommand you to come home with me—this very day. Get your hat and coat and com_now_."
  • Dr. Stalling shook his finger at Valancy. Before that pitiless finger sh_rooped and wilted visibly.
  • "She's giving in," thought Roaring Abel. "She'll go with him. Beats all, th_ower these preacher fellows have over women."
  • Valancy  _was_  on the point of obeying Dr. Stalling. She must go home wit_im—and give up. She would lapse back to Doss Stirling again and for her fe_emaining days or weeks be the cowed, futile creature she had always been. I_as her fate—typified by that relentless, uplifted forefinger. She could n_ore escape from it than Roaring Abel from his predestination. She eyed it a_he fascinated bird eyes the snake. Another moment—
  • _"Fear is the original sin,"_  suddenly said a still, small voice awa_ack—back—back of Valancy's consciousness.  _"Almost all the evil in the worl_as its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something."_
  • Valancy stood up. She was still in the clutches of fear, but her soul was he_wn again. She would not be false to that inner voice.
  • "Dr. Stalling," she said slowly, "I do not at present owe  _any_  duty to m_other. She is quite well; she has all the assistance and companionship sh_equires; she does not need me at all. I  _am_  needed here. I am going t_tay here."
  • "There's spunk for you," said Roaring Abel admiringly.
  • Dr. Stalling dropped his forefinger. One could not keep on shaking a finge_orever.
  • "Miss Stirling, is there  _nothing_  that can influence you? Do you remembe_our childhood days—"
  • "Perfectly. And hate them."
  • "Do you realise what people will say? What they  _are_  saying?"
  • "I can imagine it," said Valancy, with a shrug of her shoulders. She wa_uddenly free of fear again. "I haven't listened to the gossip of Deerwoo_eaparties and sewing circles twenty years for nothing. But, Dr. Stalling, i_oesn't matter in the least to me what they say—not in the least."
  • Dr. Stalling went away then. A girl who cared nothing for public opinion! Ove_hom sacred family ties had no restraining influence! Who hated her childhoo_emories!
  • Then Cousin Georgiana came—on her own initiative, for nobody would hav_hought it worth while to send her. She found Valancy alone, weeding th_ittle vegetable garden she had planted, and she made all the platitudinou_leas she could think of. Valancy heard her patiently. Cousin Georgiana wasn'_uch a bad old soul. Then she said:
  • "And now that you have got all that out of your system, Cousin Georgiana, ca_ou tell me how to make creamed codfish so that it will not be as thick a_orridge and as salt as the Dead Sea?"
  • * * * * * * * *
  • "We'll just have to  _wait_ ," said Uncle Benjamin. "After all, Cissy Ga_an't live long. Dr. Marsh tells me she may drop off any day."
  • Mrs. Frederick wept. It would really have been so much easier to bear i_alancy had died. She could have worn mourning then.