It was the forenoon of a hazy, breathless
day, and Dan Phillips was trouting up one of the back
creeks of the Carleton pond. It was somewhat
cooler up the creek than out on the main body of water,
for the tall birches and willows, crowding down to
the brim, threw cool, green shadows across it and
shut out the scorching glare, while a stray breeze
now and then rippled down the wooded slopes, rustling
the beech leaves with an airy, pleasant sound.
Out in the pond the glassy water creamed
and shimmered in the hot sun, unrippled by the faintest
breath of air. Across the soft, pearly tints
of the horizon blurred the smoke of the big factory
chimneys that were owned by Mr. Walters, to whom the
pond and adjacent property also belonged.
Mr. Walters was a comparative stranger
in Carleton, having but recently purchased the factories
from the heirs of the previous owner; but he had been
in charge long enough to establish a reputation for
sternness and inflexibility in all his business dealings.
One or two of his employees, who had
been discharged by him on what they deemed insufficient
grounds, helped to deepen the impression that he was
an unjust and arbitrary man, merciless to all offenders,
and intolerant of the slightest infringement of his
Dan Phillips had been on the pond
ever since sunrise. The trout had risen well
in the early morning, but as the day wore on, growing
hotter and hotter, they refused to bite, and for half
an hour Dan had not caught one.
He had a goodly string of them already,
however, and he surveyed them with satisfaction as
he rowed his leaky little skiff to the shore of the
“Pretty good catch,” he
soliloquized. “Best I’ve had this
summer, so far. That big spotted one must weigh
near a pound. He’s a beauty. They’re
a good price over at the hotels now, too. I’ll
go home and get my dinner and go straight over with
them. That’ll leave me time for another
try at them about sunset. Whew, how hot it is!
I must take Ella May home a bunch of them blue flags.
They’re real handsome!”
He tied his skiff under the crowding
alders, gathered a big bunch of the purple flag lilies
with their silky petals, and started homeward, whistling
cheerily as he stepped briskly along the fern-carpeted
wood path that wound up the hill under the beeches
He was a freckled, sunburned lad of
thirteen years. His neighbours all said that
Danny was “as smart as a steel trap,” and
immediately added that they wondered where he got
his smartness from certainly not from his
The elder Phillips had been denominated
“shiftless and slack-twisted” by all who
ever had any dealings with him in his unlucky, aimless
life one of those improvident, easygoing
souls who sit contentedly down to breakfast with a
very faint idea where their dinner is to come from.
When he had died, no one had missed
him, unless it were his patient, sad-eyed wife, who
bravely faced her hard lot, and toiled unremittingly
to keep a home for her two children Dan
and a girl two years younger, who was a helpless cripple,
suffering from some form of spinal disease.
Dan, who was old and steady for his
years, had gone manfully to work to assist his mother.
Though he had been disappointed in all his efforts
to obtain steady employment, he was active and obliging,
and earned many a small amount by odd jobs around
the village, and by helping the Carleton farmers in
planting and harvest.
For the last two years, however, his
most profitable source of summer income had been the
trout pond. The former owner had allowed anyone
who wished to fish in his pond, and Dan made a regular
business of it, selling his trout at the big hotels
over at Mosquito Lake. This, in spite of its
unattractive name, was a popular summer resort, and
Dan always found a ready market for his catch.
When Mr. Walters purchased the property
it somehow never occurred to Dan that the new owner
might not be so complaisant as his predecessor in
the matter of the best trouting pond in the country.
To be sure, Dan often wondered why
it was the pond was so deserted this summer.
He could not recall having seen a single person on
it save himself. Still, it did not cross his
mind that there could be any particular reason for
He always fished up in the cool, dim
creeks, which long experience had taught him were
best for trout, and came and went by a convenient wood
path; but he had no thought of concealment in so doing.
He would not have cared had all Carleton seen him.
He had done very well with his fish
so far, and prices for trout at the Lake went up every
day. Dan was an enterprising boy, and a general
favourite with the hotel owners. They knew that
he could always be depended on.
Mrs. Phillips met him at the door when he reached
“See, Mother,” said Dan
exultantly, as he held up his fish. “Just
look at that fellow, will you? A pound if he’s
an ounce! I ought to get a good price for these,
I can tell you. Let me have my dinner now, and
I’ll go right over to the Lake with them.”
“It’s a long walk for
you, Danny,” replied his mother pityingly, “and
it’s too hot to go so far. I’m afraid
you’ll get sun-struck or something. You’d
better wait till the cool of the evening. You’re
looking real pale and thin this while back.”
“Oh, I’m all right, Mother,”
assured Dan cheerfully. “I don’t mind
the heat a bit. A fellow must put up with some
inconveniences. Wait till I bring home the money
for these fish. And I mean to have another catch
tonight. It’s you that’s looking tired.
I wish you didn’t have to work so hard, Mother.
If I could only get a good place you could take it
easier. Sam French says that Mr. Walters wants
a boy up there at the factory, but I know I wouldn’t
do. I ain’t big enough. Perhaps something
will turn up soon though. When our ship comes
in, Mother, we’ll have our good times.”
He picked up his flags and went into
the little room where his sister lay.
“See what I’ve brought
you, Ella May!” he said, as he thrust the cool,
moist clusters into her thin, eager hands. “Did
you ever see such beauties?”
“Oh, Dan, how lovely they are!
Thank you ever so much! If you are going over
to the Lake this afternoon, will you please call at
Mrs. Henny’s and get those nutmeg geranium slips
she promised me? Just look how nice my others
are growing. The pink one is going to bloom.”
“I’ll bring you all the
geranium slips at the Lake, if you like. When
I get rich, Ella May, I’ll build you a big conservatory,
and I’ll get every flower in the world in it
for you. You shall just live and sleep among
posies. Is dinner ready, Mother? Trouting’s
hungry work, I tell you. What paper is this?”
He picked up a folded newspaper from the table.
“Oh, that’s only an old
Lake Advertiser,” answered Mrs. Phillips,
as she placed the potatoes on the table and wiped
her moist, hot face with the corner of her gingham
apron. “Letty Mills brought it in around
a parcel this morning. It’s four weeks old,
but I kept it to read if I ever get time. It’s
so seldom we see a paper of any kind nowadays.
But I haven’t looked at it yet. Why, Danny,
what on earth is the matter?”
For Dan, who had opened the paper
and glanced over the first page, suddenly gave a choked
exclamation and turned pale, staring stupidly at the
sheet before him.
“See, Mother,” he gasped,
as she came up in alarm and looked over his shoulder.
This is what they read:
Anyone found fishing on my
pond at Carleton after date will be
prosecuted according to law,
without respect of persons.
“Oh, Danny, what does it mean?”
Dan went and carefully closed the
door of Ella May’s room before he replied.
His face was pale and his voice shaky.
“Mean? Well, Mother, it
just means that I’ve been stealing Mr. Walters’s
trout all summer stealing them.
That’s what it means.”
“Oh, Danny! But you didn’t know.”
“No, but I ought to have remembered
that he was the new owner, and have asked him.
I never thought. Mother, what does ’prosecuted
according to law’ mean?”
“I don’t know, I’m
sure, Danny. But if this is so, there’s
only one thing to be done. You must go straight
to Mr. Walters and tell him all about it.”
“Mother, I don’t dare
to. He is a dreadfully hard man. Sam French’s
father says ”
“I wouldn’t believe a
word Sam French’s father says about Mr. Walters!”
said Mrs. Phillips firmly. “He’s got
a spite against him because he was dismissed.
Besides, Danny, it’s the only right thing to
do. You know that. We’re poor, but
we have never done anything underhand yet.”
“Yes, Mother, I know,”
said Dan, gulping his fear bravely down. “I’ll
go, of course, right after dinner. I was only
scared at first. I’ll tell you what I’ll
do. I’ll clean these trout nicely and take
them to Mr. Walters, and tell him that, if he’ll
only give me time, I’ll pay him back every cent
of money I got for all I sold this summer. Then
maybe he’ll let me off, seeing as I didn’t
know about the notice.”
“I’ll go with you, Danny.”
“No, I’ll go alone, Mother.
You needn’t go with me,” said Dan heroically.
To himself he said that his mother had troubles enough.
He would never subject her to the added ordeal of
an interview with the stern factory owner. He
would beard the lion in his den himself, if it had
to be done.
“Don’t tell Ella May anything
about it. It would worry her. And don’t
cry, Mother, I guess it’ll be all right.
Let me have my dinner now and I’ll go straight
Dan ate his dinner rapidly; then he
carefully cleaned his trout, put them in a long basket,
with rhubarb leaves over them, and started with an
assumed cheerfulness very far from his real feelings.
He had barely passed the gate when
another boy came shuffling along a tall,
raw-boned lad, with an insinuating smile and shifty,
cunning eyes. The newcomer nodded familiarly
“Hello, sonny. Going over
to the Lake with your catch, are you? You’ll
fry up before you get there. There’ll be
nothing left of you but a crisp.”
“No, I’m not going to
the Lake. I’m going up to the factory to
see Mr. Walters.”
Sam French gave a long whistle of surprise.
“Why, Dan, what’s taking
you there? You surely ain’t thinking of
trying for that place, are you? Walters wouldn’t
look at you. Why, he wouldn’t take me!
You haven’t the ghost of a chance.”
“No, I’m not going for
that. Sam, did you know that Mr. Walters had a
notice in the Lake Advertiser that nobody could
fish in his pond this summer?”
“Course I did the
old skinflint! He’s too mean to live, that’s
what. He never goes near the pond himself.
Regular dog in the manger, he is. Dad says ”
“Sam, why didn’t you tell me about that
“Gracious, didn’t you
know? I s’posed everybody did, and here
I’ve been taking you for the cutest chap this
side of sunset fishing away up in that
creek where no one could see you, and cutting home
through the woods on the sly. You don’t
mean to tell me you never saw that notice?”
“No, I didn’t. Do
you think I’d have gone near the pond if I had?
I never saw it till today, and I’m going straight
to Mr. Walters now to tell him about it.”
Sam French stopped short in the dusty
road and stared at Dan in undisguised amazement.
“Dan Phillips,” he ejaculated,
“have you plum gone out of your mind? Boy
alive, you needn’t be afraid that I’d peach
on you. I’m too blamed glad to see anyone
get the better of that old Walters, smart as he thinks
himself. Gee! To dream of going to him and
telling him you’ve been fishing in his pond!
Why, he’ll put you in jail. You don’t
know what sort of a man he is. Dad says ”
“Never mind what your dad says,
Sam. My mind’s made up.”
“Dan, you chump, listen to me.
That notice says ’prosecuted according to law.’
Why, Danny, he’ll put you in prison, or fine
you, or something dreadful.”
“I can’t help it if he
does,” said Danny stoutly. “You get
out of here, Sam French, and don’t be trying
to scare me. I mean to be honest, and how can
I be if I don’t own up to Mr. Walters that I’ve
been stealing his trout all summer?”
Dan, I used to think you were a chap with some sense,
but I see I was mistaken. You ain’t done
no harm. Walters will never miss them trout.
If you’re so dreadful squeamish that you won’t
fish no more, why, you needn’t. But just
let the matter drop and hold your tongue about it.
That’s my advice.”
“Well, it isn’t my mother’s,
then. I mean to go by hers. You needn’t
argue no more, Sam. I’m going.”
“Go, then!” said Sam,
stopping short in disgust. “You’re
a big fool, Dan, and serve you right if Walters lands
you off to jail; but I don’t wish you no ill.
If I can do anything for your family after you’re
gone, I will, and I’ll try and give your remains
Christian burial if there are any remains.
So long, Danny! Give my love to old Walters!”
Dan was not greatly encouraged by
this interview. He shrank more than ever from
the thought of facing the stern factory owner.
His courage had almost evaporated when he entered
the office at the factory and asked shakily for Mr.
“He’s in his office there,”
replied the clerk, “but he’s very busy.
Better leave your message with me.”
“I must see Mr. Walters himself,
please,” said Dan firmly, but with inward trepidation.
The clerk swung himself impatiently
from his stool and ushered Dan into Mr. Walters’s
“Boy to see you, sir,”
he said briefly, as he closed the ground-glass door
Dan, dizzy and trembling, stood in
the dreaded presence. Mr. Walters was writing
at a table covered with a businesslike litter of papers.
He laid down his pen and looked up with a frown as
the clerk vanished. He was a stern-looking man
with deep-set grey eyes and a square, clean-shaven
chin. There was not an ounce of superfluous flesh
on his frame, and his voice and manner were those
of the decided, resolute, masterful man of business.
He pointed to a capacious leather
chair and said concisely, “What is your business
with me, boy?”
Dan had carefully thought out a statement
of facts beforehand, but every word had vanished from
his memory. He had only a confused, desperate
consciousness that he had a theft to confess and that
it must be done as soon as possible. He did not
“Please, Mr. Walters,”
he began desperately, “I came to tell you your
notice I never saw it before and
I’ve been fishing on your pond all summer but
I didn’t know honest I’ve
brought you all I caught today and I’ll
pay back for them all some time.”
An amused, puzzled expression crossed
Mr. Walters’s noncommittal face. He pushed
the leather chair forward.
“Sit down, my boy,” he
said kindly. “I don’t quite understand
this somewhat mixed-up statement of yours. You’ve
been fishing on my pond, you say. Didn’t
you see my notice in the Advertiser?”
Dan sat down more composedly.
The revelation was over and he was still alive.
“No, sir. We hardly ever
see an Advertiser, and nobody told me.
I’d always been used to fishing there, and I
never thought but what it was all right to keep on.
I know I ought to have remembered and asked you, but
truly, sir, I didn’t mean to steal your fish.
I used to sell them over at the hotels. We saw
the notice today, Mother and me, and I came right
up. I’ve brought you the trout I caught
this morning, and if only you won’t
prosecute me, sir, I’ll pay back every cent I
got for the others every cent, sir if
you’ll give me time.”
Mr. Walters passed his hand across
his mouth to conceal something like a smile.
“Your name is Dan Phillips,
isn’t it?” he said irrelevantly, “and
you live with your mother, the Widow Phillips, down
there at Carleton Corners, I understand.”
“Yes, sir,” said Dan,
wondering how Mr. Walters knew so much about him,
and if these were the preliminaries of prosecution.
Mr. Walters took up his pen and drew
a blank sheet towards him.
“Well, Dan, I put that notice
in because I found that many people who used to fish
on my pond, irrespective of leave or licence, were
accustomed to lunch or camp on my property, and did
not a little damage. I don’t care for trouting
myself; I’ve no time for it. However, I
hardly think you’ll do much damage. You
can keep on fishing there. I’ll give you
a written permission, so that if any of my men see
you they won’t interfere with you. As for
these trout here, I’ll buy them from you at
Mosquito Lake prices, and will say no more about the
matter. How will that do?”
“Thank you, sir,” stammered
Dan. He could hardly believe his ears. He
took the slip of paper Mr. Walters handed to him and
rose to his feet.
“Wait a minute, Dan. How
was it you came to tell me this? You might have
stopped your depredations, and I should not have been
any the wiser.”
“That wouldn’t have been
honest, sir,” said Dan, looking squarely at
There was a brief silence. Mr.
Walters thrummed meditatively on the table. Dan
Finally the factory owner said abruptly,
“There’s a vacant place for a boy down
here. I want it filled as soon as possible.
Will you take it?”
“Mr. Walters! Me!”
Dan thought the world must be turning upside down.
“Yes, you. You are rather
young, but the duties are not hard or difficult to
learn. I think you’ll do. I was resolved
not to fill that place until I could find a perfectly
honest and trustworthy boy for it. I believe
I have found him. I discharged the last boy because
he lied to me about some trifling offence for which
I would have forgiven him if he had told the truth.
I can bear with incompetency, but falsehood and deceit
I cannot and will not tolerate,” he said, so
sternly that Dan’s face paled. “I
am convinced that you are incapable of either.
Will you take the place, Dan?”
“I will if you think I can fill
it, sir. I will do my best.”
“Yes, I believe you will.
Perhaps I know more about you than you think.
Businessmen must keep their eyes open. We’ll
regard this matter as settled then. Come up tomorrow
at eight o’clock. And one word more, Dan.
You have perhaps heard that I am an unjust and hard
master. I am not the former, and you will never
have occasion to find me the latter if you are always
as truthful and straightforward as you have been today.
You might easily have deceived me in this matter.
That you did not do so is the best and only recommendation
I require. Take those trout up to my house and
leave them. That will do. Good afternoon.”
Dan somehow got his dazed self through
the glass door and out of the building. The whole
interview had been such a surprise to him that he
was hardly sure whether or not he had dreamed it all.
“I feel as if I were some person
else,” he said to himself, as he started down
the hot white road. “But Mother was right.
I’ll stick to her motto. I wonder what
Sam will say to this.”