A SURPRISE FOR MR. JACK
 LIFE at the Holly farmhouse was not what it had been. The coming
of David had introduced new elements that promised complications.
Not because he was another mouth to feed—Simeon Holly was not
worrying about that part any longer. Crops showed good promise,
and all ready in the bank even now was the necessary money to
cover the dreaded note, due the last of August. The complicating
elements in regard to David were of quite another nature.
To Simeon Holly the boy was a riddle to be sternly solved. To
Ellen Holly he was an ever-present reminder of the little boy of
long ago, and as such was to be loved and trained into a
semblance of what that boy might have become. To Perry Larson,
David was the "derndest checkerboard of sense an' nonsense
goin' "—a game over which to chuckle.
At the Holly farmhouse they could not understand a boy who would
leave a supper for a
 sunset, or who preferred a book to a toy
pistol—as Perry Larson found out was the case on the Fourth of
July; who picked flowers, like a girl, for the table, yet who
unhesitatingly struck the first blow in a fight with six
antagonists; who would not go fishing because the fishes would
not like it, nor hunting for any sort of wild thing that had
life; who hung entranced for an hour over the "millions of lovely
striped bugs" in a field of early potatoes, and who promptly and
stubbornly refused to sprinkle those same "lovely bugs" with
Paris green when discovered at his worship. All this was most
perplexing, to say the least.
Yet David worked, and worked well, and in most cases he obeyed
orders willingly. He learned much, too, that was interesting and
profitable; nor was he the only one that made strange discoveries
during those July days. The Hollys themselves learned much. They
learned that the rose of sunset and the gold of sunrise were
worth looking at; and that the massing of the thunderheads in the
west meant more than just a shower. They learned, too, that the
green of the hilltop and of the far-reaching meadow was more than
 that the purple haze along the horizon was more than
the mountains that lay between them and the next State. They were
beginning to see the world with David's eyes.
There were, too, the long twilights and evenings when David, on
the wings of his violin, would speed away to his mountain home,
leaving behind him a man and a woman who seemed to themselves to
be listening to the voice of a curly-headed, rosy-cheeked lad who
once played at their knees and nestled in their arms when the day
was done. And here, too, the Hollys were learning; though the
thing thus learned was hidden deep in their hearts.
It was not long after David's first visit that the boy went again
to "The House that Jack Built," as the Gurnseys called their tiny
home. (Though in reality it had been Jack's father who had built
the house. Jack and Jill, however, did not always deal with
realities.) It was not a pleasant afternoon. There was a light
mist in the air, and David was without his violin.
"I came to—to inquire for the cat—Juliette," he began, a little
bashfully. "I thought I'd rather do that than read to-day," he
explained to Jill in the doorway.
 "Good! I'm so glad! I hoped you'd come," the little girl welcomed
him. "Come in and—and see Juliette," she added hastily,
remembering at the last moment that her brother had not looked
with entire favor on her avowed admiration for this strange
Juliette, roused from her nap, was at first inclined to resent
her visitor's presence. In five minutes, however, she was purring
in his lap.
The conquest of the kitten once accomplished, David looked about
him a little restlessly. He began to wonder why he had come. He
wished he had gone to see Joe Glaspell instead. He wished that
Jill would not sit and stare at him like that. He wished that she
would say something—anything. But Jill, apparently struck dumb
with embarrassment, was nervously twisting the corner of her
apron into a little knot. David tried to recollect what he had
talked about a few days before, and he wondered why he had so
enjoyed himself then. He wished that something would
happen—anything!—and then from an inner room came the sound of
David raised his head.
 "It's Jack," stammered the little girl—who also had been wishing
something would happen. "He plays, same as you do, on the
"Does he?" beamed David. "But—" He paused, listening, a quick
frown on his face.
Over and over the violin was playing a single phrase—and the
variations in the phrase showed the indecision of the fingers and
of the mind that controlled them. Again and again with irritating
sameness, yet with a still more irritating difference, came the
succession of notes. And then David sprang to his feet, placing
Juliette somewhat unceremoniously on the floor, much to that
petted young autocrat's disgust.
"Here, where is he? Let me show him," cried the boy; and at the
note of command in his voice, Jill involuntarily rose and opened
the door to Jack's den.
"Oh, please, Mr. Jack," burst out David, hurrying into the room.
"Don't you see? You don't go at that thing right. If you'll just
let me show you a minute, we'll have it fixed in no time!"
The man with the violin stared, and lowered
 his bow. A slow red
came to his face. The phrase was peculiarly a difficult one, and
beyond him, as he knew; but that did not make the present
intrusion into his privacy any the more welcome.
"Oh, will we, indeed!" he retorted, a little sharply. "Don't
trouble yourself, I beg of you, boy."
"But it is n't a mite of trouble, truly," urged David, with an
ardor that ignored the sarcasm in the other's words. "I want to
Despite his annoyance, the man gave a short laugh.
"Well, David, I believe you. And I'll warrant you'd tackle this
Brahms concerto as nonchalantly as you did those six hoodlums
with the cat the other day—and expect to win out, too!"
"But, truly, this is easy, when you know how," laughed the boy.
To his surprise, the man found himself relinquishing the violin
and bow into the slim, eager hands that reached for them. The
next moment he fell back in amazement. Clear, distinct, yet
connected like a string of rounded pearls fell the troublesome
notes from David's
 bow. "You see," smiled the boy again, and
played the phrase a second time, more slowly, and with deliberate
emphasis at the difficult part. Then, as if in answer to some
irresistible summons within him, he dashed into the next phrase
and, with marvelous technique, played quite through the rippling
cadenza that completed the movement.
"Well, by George!" breathed the man dazedly, as he took the
offered violin. The next moment he had demanded vehemently: "For
Heaven's sake, who are you, boy?"
David's face wrinkled in grieved surprise.
"Why, I'm David. Don't you remember? I was here just the other
"Yes, yes; but who taught you to play like that?"
" 'Father'!" The man echoed the word with a gesture of comic
despair. "First Latin, then jiujitsu, and now the violin! Boy,
who was your father?"
David lifted his head and frowned a little. He had been
questioned so often, and so unsympathetically, about his father
that he was beginning to resent it.
 "He was daddy—just daddy; and I loved him dearly."
"But what was his name?"
"I don't know. We did n't seem to have a name like—like yours
down here. Anyway, if we did, I did n't know what it was."
"But, David,"—the man was speaking very gently now. He had
motioned the boy to a low seat by his side. The little girl was
standing near, her eyes alight with wondering interest. "He must
have had a name, you know, just the same. Did n't you ever hear
any one call him anything? Think, now."
"No." David said the single word, and turned his eyes away. It
had occurred to him, since he had come to live in the valley,
that perhaps his father did not want to have his name known. He
remembered that once the milk-and-eggs boy had asked what to call
him; and his father had laughed and answered: "I don't see but
you'll have to call me 'The Old Man of the Mountain,' as they do
down in the village." That was the only time David could
recollect hearing his father say anything about his name. At the
time David had not thought much about it. But since then, down
 where they appeared to think a name was so important, he had
wondered if possibly his father had not preferred to keep his to
himself. If such were the case, he was glad now that he did not
know this name, so that he might not have to tell all these
inquisitive people who asked so many questions about it. He was
glad, too, that those men had not been able to read his father's
name at the end of his other note that first morning—if his
father really did not wish his name to be known.
"But, David, think. Where you lived, was n't there ever anybody
who called him by name?"
David shook his head.
"I told you. We were all alone, father and I, in the little house
far up on the mountain."
Again David shook his head.
"She is an angel-mother, and angel-mothers don't live in houses,
There was a moment's pause; then gently the man asked:—
"And you always lived there?"
"Six years, father said."
"And before that?"
 "I don't remember." There was a touch of injured reserve in the
boy's voice which the man was quick to perceive. He took the hint
"He must have been a wonderful man—your father!" he exclaimed.
The boy turned, his eyes luminous with feeling.
"He was—he was perfect! But they—down here—don't seem to
know—or care," he choked.
"Oh, but that's because they don't understand," soothed the man.
"Now, tell me—you must have practiced a lot to play like that."
"I did—but I liked it."
"And what else did you do? and how did you happen to come—down
Once again David told his story, more fully, perhaps, this time
than ever before, because of the sympathetic ears that were
"But now," he finished wistfully, "it's all so different, and I'm
down here alone. Daddy went, you know, to the far country; and he
can't come back from there."
"Who told you—that?"
 "Daddy himself. He wrote it to me."
"Wrote it to you!" cried the man, sitting suddenly erect.
"Yes. It was in his pocket, you see. They—found it." David's
voice was very low, and not quite steady.
"David, may I see—that letter?"
The boy hesitated; then slowly he drew it from his pocket.
"Yes, Mr. Jack. I'll let you see it."
Reverently, tenderly, but very eagerly the man took the note and
read it through, hoping somewhere to find a name that would help
solve the mystery. With a sigh he handed it back. His eyes were
"Thank you, David. That is a beautiful letter," he said softly.
"And I believe you'll do it some day, too. You'll go to him with
your violin at your chin and the bow drawn across the strings to
tell him of the beautiful world you have found."
"Yes, sir," said David simply. Then, with a suddenly radiant
smile: "And now I can't help finding it a beautiful world, you
know, 'cause I don't count the hours I don't like."
"You don't what?—oh, I remember," returned
 Mr. Jack, a quick
change coming to his face.
"Yes, the sundial, you know, where my Lady of the Roses lives."
"Jack, what is a sundial?" broke in Jill eagerly.
Jack turned, as if in relief.
"Hullo, girlie, you there?—and so still all this time? Ask
David. He'll tell you what a sundial is. Suppose, anyhow, that
you two go out on the piazza now. I've got—er—some work to do.
And the sun itself is out; see?—through the trees there. It came
out just to say 'good-night,' I'm sure. Run along, quick!" And he
playfully drove them from the room.
Alone, he turned and sat down at his desk. His work was before
him, but he did not do it. His eyes were out of the window on the
golden tops of the towers of Sunnycrest. Motionless, he watched
them until they turned gray-white in the twilight. Then he picked
up his pencil and began to write feverishly. He went to the
window, however, as David stepped off the veranda, and called
"Remember, boy, that when there's another
 note that baffles me,
I'm going to send for you."
"He's coming anyhow. I asked him," announced Jill.
And David laughed back a happy "Of course I am!"
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics