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 A CURIOUS strength seemed to have come to the man. With almost
steady hands he took down the photographs and the Sistine
Madonna, packing them neatly away in a box to be left. From
beneath his bunk he dragged a large, dusty traveling-bag, and in
this he stowed a little food, a few garments, and a great deal of
the music scattered about the room.
David, in the doorway, stared in dazed wonder. Gradually into his
eyes crept a look never seen there before.
"Father, where are we going?" he asked at last in a shaking
voice, as he came slowly into the room.
"Back, son; we're going back."
"To the village, where we get our eggs and bacon?"
"No, no, lad, not there. The other way. We go down into the
valley this time."
"The valley—my valley, with the Silver Lake?"
 "Yes, my son; and beyond—far beyond." The man spoke dreamily. He
was looking at a photograph in his hand. It had slipped in among
the loose sheets of music, and had not been put away with the
others. It was the likeness of a beautiful woman.
For a moment David eyed him uncertainly; then he spoke.
"Daddy, who is that? Who are all these people in the pictures?
You've never told me about any of them except the little round
one that you wear in your pocket. Who are they?"
Instead of answering, the man turned faraway eyes on the boy and
"Ah, David, lad, how they'll love you! How they will love you!
But you must n't let them spoil you, son. You must
remember—remember all I've told you."
Once again David asked his question, but this time the man only
turned back to the photograph, muttering something the boy could
After that David did not question any more. He was too amazed,
too distressed. He had never before seen his father like this.
With nervous haste the man was setting the little
 room to rights,
crowding things into the bag, and packing other things away in an
old trunk. His cheeks were very red, and his eyes very bright. He
talked, too, almost constantly, though David could understand
scarcely a word of what was said. Later, the man caught up his
violin and played; and never before had David heard his father
play like that. The boy's eyes filled, and his heart ached with a
pain that choked and numbed—though why, David could not have
told. Still later, the man dropped his violin and sank exhausted
into a chair; and then David, worn and frightened with it all,
crept to his bunk and fell asleep.
In the gray dawn of the morning David awoke to a different world.
His father, white-faced and gentle, was calling him to get ready
for breakfast. The little room, dismantled of its decorations,
was bare and cold. The bag, closed and strapped, rested on the
floor by the door, together with the two violins in their cases,
ready to carry.
"We must hurry, son. It's a long tramp before we take the cars."
"The cars—the real cars? Do we go in those?" David was fully
"And is that all we're to carry?"
"Yes. Hurry, son."
"But we come back—sometime?"
There was no answer.
"Father, we're coming back—sometime?" David's voice was
The man stooped and tightened a strap that was already quite
tight enough. Then he laughed lightly.
"Why, of course you're coming back sometime, David. Only think of
all these things we're leaving!"
When the last dish was put away, the last garment adjusted, and
the last look given to the little room, the travelers picked up
the bag and the violins, and went out into the sweet freshness of
the morning. As he fastened the door the man sighed profoundly;
but David did not notice this. His face was turned toward the
east—always David looked toward the sun.
"Daddy, let's not go, after all! Let's stay here," he cried
ardently, drinking in the beauty of the morning.
"We must go, David. Come, son." And the
 man led the way across
the green slope to the west.
It was a scarcely perceptible trail, but the man found it, and
followed it with evident confidence. There was only the pause now
and then to steady his none-too-sure step, or to ease the burden
of the bag. Very soon the forest lay all about them, with the
birds singing over their heads, and with numberless tiny feet
scurrying through the underbrush on all sides. Just out of sight
a brook babbled noisily of its delight in being alive; and away
up in the treetops the morning sun played hide-and-seek among the
And David leaped, and laughed, and loved it all, nor was any of
it strange to him. The birds, the trees, the sun, the brook, the
scurrying little creatures of the forest, all were friends of
his. But the man—the man did not leap or laugh, though he, too,
loved it all. The man was afraid.
He knew now that he had undertaken more than he could carry out.
Step by step the bag had grown heavier, and hour by hour the
insistent, teasing pain in his side had increased until now it
was a torture. He had forgotten
 that the way to the valley was so
long; he had not realized how nearly spent was his strength
before he even started down the trail. Throbbing through his
brain was the question, what if, after all, he could not—but
even to himself he would not say the words.
At noon they paused for luncheon, and at night they camped where
the chattering brook had stopped to rest in a still, black pool.
The next morning the man and the boy picked up the trail again,
but without the bag. Under some leaves in a little hollow, the
man had hidden the bag, and had then said, as if casually:—
"I believe, after all, I won't carry this along. There's nothing
in it that we really need, you know, now that I've taken out the
luncheon box, and by night we'll be down in the valley."
"Of course!" laughed David. "We don't need that." And he laughed
again, for pure joy. Little use had David for bags or baggage!
They were more than halfway down the mountain now, and soon they
reached a grass-grown road, little traveled, but yet a road.
Still later they came to where four ways crossed, and two of them
bore the marks of
 many wheels. By sundown the little brook at
their side murmured softly of quiet fields and meadows, and David
knew that the valley was reached.
David was not laughing now. He was watching his father with
startled eyes. David had not known what anxiety was. He was
finding out now—though he but vaguely realized that something
was not right. For some time his father had said but little, and
that little had been in a voice that was thick and
unnatural-sounding. He was walking fast, yet David noticed that
every step seemed an effort, and that every breath came in short
gasps. His eyes were very bright, and were fixedly bent on the
road ahead, as if even the haste he was making was not haste
enough. Twice David spoke to him, but he did not answer; and the
boy could only trudge along on his weary little feet and sigh for
the dear home on the mountain-top which they had left behind them
the morning before.
They met few fellow travelers, and those they did meet paid scant
attention to the man and the boy carrying the violins. As it
chanced, there was no one in sight when the man, walking
 in the grass at the side of the road, stumbled and fell heavily to the
David sprang quickly forward.
"Father, what is it? What is it?"
There was no answer.
"Daddy, why don't you speak to me? See, it's David!"
With a painful effort the man roused himself and sat up. For a
moment he gazed dully into the boy's face; then a half-forgotten
something seemed to stir him into feverish action. With shaking
fingers he handed David his watch and a small ivory miniature.
Then he searched his pockets until on the ground before him lay a
shining pile of gold-pieces—to David there seemed to be a
hundred of them.
"Take them—hide them—keep them. David, until you—need them,"
panted the man. "Then go—go on. I can't."
"Alone? Without you?" demurred the boy, aghast. "Why, father, I
could n't! I don't know the way. Besides, I'd rather stay with
you," he added soothingly, as he slipped the watch and the
miniature into his pocket; "then we can both go." And he dropped
himself down at his father's side.
 The man shook his head feebly, and pointed again to the
"Take them, David,—hide them," he chattered with pale lips.
Almost impatiently the boy began picking up the money and tucking
it into his pockets.
"But, father, I'm not going without you," he declared stoutly, as
the last bit of gold slipped out of sight, and a horse and wagon
rattled around the turn of the road above.
The driver of the horse glanced disapprovingly at the man and the
boy by the roadside; but he did not stop. After he had passed,
the boy turned again to his father. The man was fumbling once
more in his pockets. This time from his coat he produced a pencil
and a small notebook from which he tore a page, and began to
write, laboriously, painfully.
David sighed and looked about him. He was tired and hungry, and
he did not understand things at all. Something very wrong, very
terrible, must be the matter with his father. Here it was almost
dark, yet they had no place to go, no supper to eat, while far,
far up on the mountain-side was their own dear home sad and
lonely without them. Up there, too, the sun
 still shone,
doubtless,—at least there were the rose-glow and the Silver Lake
to look at, while down here there was nothing, nothing but gray
shadows, a long dreary road, and a straggling house or two in
sight. From above, the valley might look to be a fairyland of
loveliness, but in reality it was nothing but a dismal waste of
gloom, decided David.
David's father had torn a second page from his book and was
beginning another note, when the boy suddenly jumped to his feet.
One of the straggling houses was near the road where they sat,
and its presence had given David an idea. With swift steps he
hurried to the front door and knocked upon it. In answer a tall,
unsmiling woman appeared, and said, "Well?"
David removed his cap as his father had taught him to do when one
of the mountain women spoke to him.
"Good evening, lady; I'm David," he began frankly. "My father is
so tired he fell down back there, and we should like very much to
stay with you all night, if you don't mind."
The woman in the doorway stared. For a moment she was dumb with
 eyes swept the plain, rather rough garments of the
boy, then sought the half-recumbent figure of the man by the
roadside. Her chin came up angrily.
"Oh, would you, indeed! Well, upon my word!" she scouted. "Humph!
We don't accommodate tramps, little boy." And she shut the door
It was David's turn to stare. Just what a tramp might be, he did
not know; but never before had a request of his been so angrily
refused. He knew that. A fierce something rose within him—a
fierce new something that sent the swift red to his neck and
brow. He raised a determined hand to the doorknob—he had
something to say to that woman!—when the door suddenly opened
again from the inside.
"See here, boy," began the woman, looking out at him a little
less unkindly, "if you're hungry I'll give you some milk and
bread. Go around to the back porch and I'll get it for you." And
she shut the door again.
David's hand dropped to his side. The red still stayed on his
face and neck, however, and that fierce new something within him
bade him refuse to take food from this woman.... But
 there was his father—his poor father, who was so tired; and there was his
own stomach clamoring to be fed. No, he could not refuse. And
with slow steps and hanging head David went around the corner of
the house to the rear.
As the half-loaf of bread and the pail of milk were placed in his
hands, David remembered suddenly that in the village store on the
mountain, his father paid money for his food. David was glad,
now, that he had those gold-pieces in his pocket, for he could
pay money. Instantly his head came up. Once more erect with
self-respect, he shifted his burdens to one hand and thrust the
other into his pocket. A moment later he presented on his
outstretched palm a shining disk of gold.
"Will you take this, to pay, please, for the bread and milk?" he
The woman began to shake her head; but, as her eyes fell on the
money, she started, and bent closer to examine it. The next
instant she jerked herself upright with an angry exclamation.
"It's gold! A ten-dollar gold-piece! So you're a thief, too, are
you, as well as a tramp? Humph! Well, I guess you don't need this,
 then," she finished sharply, snatching the bread and the pail of
milk from the boy's hand.
The next moment David stood alone on the doorstep, with the sound
of a quickly thrown bolt in his ears.
A thief! David knew little of thieves, but he knew what they
were. Only a month before a man had tried to steal the violins
from the cabin; and he was a thief, the milk-boy said. David
flushed now again, angrily, as he faced the closed door. But he
did not tarry. He turned and ran to his father.
"Father, come away, quick! You must come away," he choked.
So urgent was the boy's voice that almost unconsciously the sick
man got to his feet. With shaking hands he thrust the notes he
had been writing into his pocket. The little book, from which he
had torn the leaves for this purpose, had already dropped
unheeded into the grass at his feet.
"Yes, son, yes, we'll go," muttered the man. "I feel better now.
And he did walk, though very slowly, ten, a dozen, twenty steps.
From behind came the sound of wheels that stopped close beside
 "Hullo, there! Going to the village?" called a voice.
"Yes, sir." David's answer was unhesitating. Where "the village"
was, he did not know; he knew only that it must be somewhere away
from the woman who had called him a thief. And that was all he
cared to know.
"I'm going 'most there myself. Want a lift?" asked the man, still
"Yes, sir. Thank you!" cried the boy joyfully. And together they
aided his father to climb into the roomy wagon-body.
There were few words said. The man at the reins drove rapidly,
and paid little attention to anything but his horses. The sick
man dozed and rested. The boy sat, wistful-eyed and silent,
watching the trees and houses flit by. The sun had long ago set,
but it was not dark, for the moon was round and bright, and the
sky was cloudless. Where the road forked sharply the man drew his
horses to a stop.
"Well, I'm sorry, but I guess I'll have to drop you here,
friends. I turn off to the right; but 't ain't more 'n a quarter
of a mile for you now," he finished cheerily, pointing with his
whip to a cluster of twinkling lights.
 "Thank you, sir, thank you," breathed David gratefully, steadying
his father's steps. "You've helped us lots. Thank you!"
In David's heart was a wild desire to lay at this good man's feet
all of his shining gold-pieces as payment for this timely aid.
But caution held him back: it seemed that only in stores did
money pay; outside it branded one as a thief!
Alone with his father, David faced once more his problem. Where
should they go for the night? Plainly his father could not walk
far. He had begun to talk again, too,—low, half-finished
sentences that David could not understand, and that vaguely
troubled him. There was a house near by, and several others down
the road toward the village; but David had had all the experience
he wanted that night with strange houses, and strange women.
There was a barn, a big one, which was nearest of all; and it was
toward this barn that David finally turned his father's steps.
"We'll go there, daddy, if we can get in," he proposed softly.
"And we'll stay all night and rest."