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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 8

"Nae honest worthy man need care
To meet with noble, youthful Dare,
For he but meets a brither."

DOUGLAS was feeling a rankling sense of something unpleasant when he thought of Philip Maxwell, and not even the prospect of tons of yellow metal being opened up under his feet through Maxwell's agency could alter the growing wish that ' th' callant had gone further wi 's hammer 'n pack o' stanes," but as such views would, if uttered aloud, have been decidedly unpopular in both houses, he wisely kept them to himself. Philip had insensibly become a part of their daily life; in many ways he had really been of material assistance —he seemed to know about everything, even if he had once been doubtful about his practical qualifications as a cow-boy. Letters sent out to Rob by stragglers going up to the shanties were full of Mr. Maxwell's accomplishments.

The Duke of Kilmarnock had failed to arrive. Captain Leslie intimated that the attractions of New York had for the time deflected him. Phemie was not the only disappointed damsel: a score of young ladies in Perth had been practising steps, dressmakers had been driven wild with orders given, countermanded, and given again. The old Beaver had landed boxes small and boxes large at Oliver's Ferry, the contents of which had made, in many a Colonel's and Major's and Captain's purse, holes so large that many an army bad word was said in consequence. Still he came not, and the growing youth of Perth was glad thereat.

They had not been much afraid of Philip Maxwell, though he was "frae th' toun." In fact, he could be scarcely said to have the entree of the strictly upper circle. Captain Leslie had been heard to remark, when some one had asked him, "He's a deucedly fine fellow—a gentleman, begad! and may make whatever use he pleases of my house."

But as it was generally supposed that there might be a more or less intimate relationship between the gold yet resting on Nature's breast, and the gold in a bank vault, all this was looked at merely in the line of business on Captain Leslie's part, and not to be taken as a lead in matters social.

Some of the more frivolous youth, remembering the story of the pot of gold at the bottom of Rideau Lake, guarded by his Satanic Majesty; and of the man who came from Kingston with knowledge of another storehouse in the depths of the woods which would reveal itself when the right hocus pocus words were said ; averred that the bell on the old bank, which the factotum rang to call the banker from the enjoyment of outdoor sylvan delights to the more prosaic employment of handling specie on a salary—gave an extra shirl when Philip Maxwell crossed the threshold. If Philip knew any of this he did not care, and he was not in the village enough of the time to have availed himself of any social function, had the opportunity to do so otherwise been presented. He had rooms at Patterson's, which he locked when he went away and let himself into when he returned; they were littered with the specimens we have met on other occasions on the Scotch line, chemical apparatus, etc., but comfortable enough—the best the house afforded, in fact.

Out the "Line," he was as well received as the Duke himself would have been. Not a few boxes consigned to him were delivered at the Ferry. "Ony some more o' thae assay stuff;" but there was always space in each box for a book or two, and paper birds' nests filled with sugar eggs—blue, pink, yellow and white—for the bairns; the like was ne'er seen before on the line, and it is many a year since they were last seen.

A new buckboard came for him, and a high-stepping horse. Before going up the Ninth he filled inside the railing at the back of the buckboard with many things of many kinds, till his waggon looked "maist like a pedlar's pack." He did not blunderingly drive up to the houses with these; they were for school prizes. It was Friday, and he drove gaily up the line, reined up at the institution presided over by Mr. John Holiday (who had taught the mothers and fathers of his present pupils in Brockville when they wintered there en route to the Settlement in 1815-16), walked up to the Professors' desk, and gravely enquired as to the standing of each pupil for a week past; prizes were then and there distributed for all sorts of proficiency; in fact, it would seem to an impartial observer that in Mr.. Holiday's school, special prizes were given for general all-round mischievousness, for the prizes did not bear any relation whatever to the scholar's age or merits; the very worst scholar in the school carried home his arms full; books, weighty in avoirdupois and subject, were given to wee men and women, an admonition to study them well being received with a trembling almost to tears, until the birds' nests aforesaid were produced, and they were bidden —as a second thought—to carry the books home and read them whenever Mr. Holiday bade them do so; they had confidence in their ageing master to know this would only be when they could read them. The books were read and re-read by the older members of the family, who supposed that, as the master was a Government teacher, the prizes were provided from the same liberal source, perhaps in a spasm of contrition over the mouldy biscuits, and that Maxwell, lately from the "Old Country," was merely disbursing the said Government's "indulgence." When they afterwards came to know the real donor, even these independent, high-spirited Highlanders were proud and pleased that their friend had been so thoughtful for them.

Very patiently he waited, watching, when near her, every line in Jean's mobile face, revelling in her views of life and its problems told in her own way and in the tongue of the motherland. Not at all sure of his position, he could not, even in most sanguine moments, assure himself that Jean had ever encouraged him. She was always frankly pleased to see him, always willing to talk to or listen to him; too much so—he was beginning now to look eagerly for some signs of shyness in Jean's demeanor, such as Phemie displayed; not that Phemie ever turned a thought towards him in particular; to her all men were on a pedestal, to be looked at as a cat looks at a king.

To Jean they were simply bon camarades, and a great convenience in case of accidents. But while knowing this, as in the camaraderie she furnished her share of bonhomie, no one had as yet complained, though Philip was beginning to long for a time when he wouldn't be treated so much like Douglas and her father.

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