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Duck Lake
Chapter IV. The New Suit

THE September day that had dawned | was one of rarest beauty. The meadows, with their cattle slowly moving about and grazing, hung as in an azure haze; while the trees of the forest were painted in their autumnal colours. A little stream ran past Mr. Millers barn, and it shone like a band of silver in the morning light. Dave Dodge saw all this from his bed, and wondered if something new had not come into the world. It seemed changed, and it was in a way inexpressible to him.

While he was thus looking and wondering, his wife came in with some breakfast. She had lost her fear; but her face was very pale, and her nose was cruelly marked. In their interview the previous evening, the light was so dim that Dodge had not noticed the effects of his cruelty. Now, in the morning light he saw, and his heart smote him.

‘Here’s some breakfast, Dave.' said his wife, with a smile; ‘I fixed it all myself.’

Dave turned to speak; but he choked.

‘Oh, Dave,’ exclaimed his wife, for fear had not been driven very far from her heart, ‘don’t look at me like that!’

Then a tear glistened in each of Dodge’s eyes.

‘What’s the matter, Dave?’ asked the woman, tenderly, putting down the tray and coming to the man’s side.

‘You said you forgave me all, Mary,’ stammered the man.

‘Yes, I did, Dave, I’m so glad to. Now, won’t you eat your breakfast?’

‘Does it hurt you yet?' asked Dodge.


‘Why, your nose!’

'I haven’t thought much about it, I’ve been so happy after what you said last night. Never mind the nose, Dave, if the heart’s in the right place.’

‘Do you think it can be healed?’

‘It doesn’t make much matter.’

‘It will always remind me of my cruelty.’

‘And keep us both humble, eh, Dave?’

'Well, Mary, I guess that you’re getting on faster than I am in the good way, and I’m glad.’

‘Now, Dave, eat your breakfast, or it’ll be cold.’

So he ate his breakfast with much relish, while his wife fixed up his bedclothes and waited upon him with her heart full of a new hope and a new joy.

The day passed quietly. The teacher read again the eighth chapter of Romans, and regretted the illness that prevented the preacher from coming to explain things; but Dave’s strong mind was in keen sympathy with that of the Apostle Paul, and the Word itself was sufficient for him.

Mr. Miller put in a very poor day, for his pain was great. The doctor came again, and his face darkened. When Dodge found out the truth, he begged and pleaded that he might be allowed to rise.

‘Can’t you rig me up a suit out of Mr. Miller’s clothes?’ he asked of the teacher. ‘He and I are near of a size.’

‘But your burns would be chafed?'

‘Let them be.’

'And spoil the clothes?’

‘Bring that doctor in here,’ demanded Dodge. The doctor came.

‘Doctor, I’m going to get up, and if you can fix my wounds so as to save the clothes, I’ll be obliged.’

‘You are better in bed, but if you will get up I’ll fix your burns.’

‘I will get up—so go ahead.'

The doctor anointed the wounds afresh, put some absorbent cotton gently upon them, and bound the wounds more tightly than he had previously done. The teacher got some of Mr. Miller’s garments, and made Dodge fairly presentable.

The doctor almost expected to see Dodge sink back into bed from pain and dizziness, or at least to hear him groan, but none of these things happened. Whatever agony he suffered his attendants were not made aware of it.

‘Now I’m fit,’ exclaimed Dodge; and he stood up and walked to the door. ‘Where’s John Miller?’

When he was shown into Mr. Miller’s room he found Mrs. Miller ready to serve him some tea.

‘You look tired, Mrs. Miller. Let me wait on John, and you take a rest.' said Dodge, with a courtesy and a kindliness, and also with a steadiness of body, that surprised the spectators.

‘Why, Dave, are you so well?’ exclaimed Mrs. Miller. She had refused to let any one else, not even the teacher, wait upon her husband; but she unhesitatingly handed the tea-things over to Dodge.

When on his best behaviour, Dodge knew as well as any one how to wait upon and serve with courtesy his hotel guests, and now when his love and reverence were awakened, he was all that could have been demanded by the most fastidious.

‘He won’t eat much,’ wailed Mrs. Miller, as she watched Dodge coddling up her husband.

‘You get some nice things once in a while,’ replied Dodge, ‘and leave the rest to me.’

‘And so I will, Dave,’ she declared, ‘for I see you can do more with John than I can.’

And then she left the room, while the doctor and the teacher, who were at the door, went downstairs with her, leaving the two men alone.

With his left arm tenderly under Mr. Miller’s head, Dodge coaxed him to sip his tea. Mr. Miller was supremely happy in that embrace, while his new self-constituted nurse, with set lips, was determined to do his duty whichever way it lay.

‘Do you think you can talk a little, John?' asked Dodge, very quietly, after he had induced his patient to take all the broth.

‘I’m most too happy for anything, Dave. Bless the Lord!’

'What makes you so happy? You must be most racked to death with pain!'

‘Not all the pain in the world can separate me from the love of Christ, Dave; and then He has given you to me. That makes me happy. Just to have you here. I’ve been wondering when you’d come. Oh, how kind and tender you are, Dave, and I love you! My prayers for you are answered.’

Dodge sat down on a low chair by the bedside and buried his face in the bedclothes. He wept. Perhaps from weakness and his sudden exertion, but also from the welling up of his heart in response to the all-conquering love of Christ, as he saw it and felt it in John Miller. It was some time before he spoke again. Mr. Miller lifted his hands in praise to God, and then let his right one fall with his blessing upon Dodge’s head. Dodge let it lie there for a few minutes. It sent seraphic thrills through his whole being. Then he removed it to his lips and kissed it.

He rose quickly and washed his tear-stained face, for he heard a tap on the door. Then he opened it, and met the teacher.

‘Lanky has returned with your new clothes, and here’s a letter from Thompson to you.’

He quickly tore open the envelope and read amongst other things—

‘I am very glad to send you a suit, and I also enclose a hundred dollars, which may be serviceable to you just now.’

'Bless his heart, that was thoughtful of him!’ exclaimed Dodge. ‘I wonder if he has been converted.’

‘That’s not impossible,’ replied the teacher. ‘Lanky was telling your wife of a wonderful revival down that way when I left.’

‘That’s it. It takes the grace of God to make men considerate.’

The next morning, Dodge put on his new suit, and renewed his attentions to his patient.

After giving him his breakfast, Dave was reading the Bible to Mr. Miller, as well as his full heart and overflowing tears would let him. At that moment Mrs. Miller ushered in Warden Fitzgerald. Dodge rose quickly and brushed away his tears with his coat-sleeve.

‘I am very sorry to see you here, Mr. Miller.' he said kindly, as he pressed Mr. Miller’s hand.

‘I have my reward, bless God!’ replied Mr. Miller.

‘What’s that?’ asked the Warden, with a smile.

‘Dave. God has given me Dave’s love.'

The Warden turned and beheld a new man. The coarse, villainous look and defiant eyes had disappeared with the dirty, greasy clothes. A man with earnest demeanour, but eyes full of tenderness, even tears, and clad in clean new clothes, stood before him. He gazed with intense, even critical scrutiny; but Dodge did not resent that now. He coveted such examination, and wished that every bit of his wickedness might be exposed and purged away.

‘This is wonderful! ’ exclaimed the Warden.

Dave smiled through the tears in his eyes.

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Miller, ‘it is wonderful, praise be to our Lord. He can do wonders.’

‘Your week was up yesterday, Dodge.' said the Warden, with mock imperiousness, 'I should like to stay to nurse Mr. Miller back to health.’

‘Nurse Mr. Miller back!’ exclaimed the Warden.

‘Yes, he’s John’s nurse,’ put in Mrs. Miller; ‘and he’s a good one too. He can make John eat, and do things I can’t. I hope you won’t send him away now, Mr. Fitzgerald. Whatever would I do without him?’

‘Dodge, you have a better and more successful advocate here than any lawyer you ever had. May God continue to bless you, and make you a blessing, is all that I can say, except to add a hope that He may extend His mercy to me.’

‘He will, bless Him!’ said Mr. Miller.

‘And that order to leave, Mr. Fitzgerald?’ put in Dodge, not quite satisfied.

‘It hangs over old Dave Dodge’s head,’ said the Warden, with a significant smile, ‘and if he ever comes back to these parts, woe betide him!’

‘He’ll never come back,’ said Dave. ‘Amen,’ said Mr. Miller.


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