The Fighting Starkleys; or, The Test of Courage

The Fighting Starkleys; or, The Test of Courage

Author:
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
Author:
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
Format:
epub
language:
English

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Author: Goodridge Roberts, Theodore, 1877-1953
World War
1914-1918 — Juvenile fiction
The Fighting Starkleys; or, The Test of Courage


THE FIGHTING STARKLEYS


STORIES BY
Captain
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
Comrades of the Trails $1.50
The Red Feathers 1.65
Flying Plover 1.35
The Fighting Starkleys 1.65
THE PAGE COMPANY
53 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass.


“HE SAW HIS BOMB BURST BESIDE THE STUMP OF CHIMNEY.” (See page 194)


The FIGHTING
STARKLEYS
Or, THE TEST OF COURAGE


BY
Captain THEODORE GOODRIDGE ROBERTS
Author of
“Comrades of the Trails,” “Red Feathers,” “Flying Plover,” etc.


ILLUSTRATED BY
GEORGE VARIAN



BOSTON
THE PAGE COMPANY
MDCCCCXXII


Copyright, 1920,
By Perry Mason Company

Copyright, 1922,
By The Page Company

All rights reserved
Made in U.S.A.
First Impression, April, 1922
PRINTED BY C. H. SIMONDS COMPANY
BOSTON, MASS., U.S.A.


CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE
I. The Call Comes to Beaver Dam 1
II. Jim Hammond Does not Return to Duty 29
III. The Veterans of Other Days 56
IV. Private Sill Acts 80
V. Peter’s Room Is Again Occupied 109
VI. Dave Hammer Gets His Commission 131
VII. Peter Writes a Letter 155
VIII. The 26th “Mops Up” 178
IX. Frank Sacobie Objects 203
X. Dick Obliges His Friend 225


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE
He saw his bomb burst beside the stump of chimney” (See page 194) Frontispiece
‘I can’t make you out,’ said the sergeant23
‘I’m hit, boys!’ he said50
‘Here’s one of them, sir; and there’s more coming,’ said the man of mud150
Standing in the doorway of the compartment, Dick saluted240


The Fighting Starkleys

CHAPTER I
THE CALL COMES TO BEAVER DAM

BEAVER DAM was a farm; but long before the day of John Starkley and his wife, Constance Emma, who lived there with their five children, the name had been applied to and accepted by a whole settlement of farms, a gristmill, a meetinghouse, a school and a general store. John Starkley was a farmer, with no other source of income than his wide fields. Considering those facts, it is not to be wondered at that his three boys and two girls had been bred to an active, early-rising, robust way of life from their early childhood.
The original human habitation of Beaver Dam had been built of pine logs by John’s grandfather, one Maj. Richard Starkley, and his friend and henchman, Two-Blanket Sacobie, a Malecite sportsman from the big river. The present house had been built only a few years before the major’s death, by his sons, Peter and Richard, and a son of old Two-Blanket, of hand-hewn timbers, whipsawn boards and planks and hand-split shingles. But the older house still stands solid and true and weather-tight on its original ground; its lower floor is a tool house and general lumber room and its upper floor a granary.
Soon after the completion of the new house the major’s son Richard left Beaver Dam for the town of St. John, where he found employment with a firm of merchants trading to London, Spain and the West Indies. He was sent to Jamaica; and from that tropic isle he sent home, at one time and another, cases of guava jelly and “hot stuff,” a sawfish’s saw and half a dozen letters. From Jamaica he was promoted to London; and as the years passed, his letters became less and less frequent until they at last ceased entirely. So much for the major’s son Richard.
Peter stuck to the farm. He was a big, kind-hearted, quiet fellow, a hard worker, a great reader of his father’s few books. He married the beautiful daughter of a Scotchman who had recently settled at Green Hill—a Scotchman with a red beard, a pedigree longer and a deal more twisted than the road to Fredericton, a mastery of the bagpipes, two hundred acres of wild land and an empty sporran. Of Peter Starkley and his beautiful wife, Flora, came John, who had his father’s steadfastness and his mother’s fire. He went farther afield for his wife than his father had gone—out to the big river, St. John, and down it many miles to the sleepy old village and elm-shaded meadows of Gagetown. It was a long way for a busy young farmer to go courting; but Constance Emma Garden was worth a thousand longer journeys.
When Henry, the oldest of the five Starkley children, went to college to study civil engineering, sixteen-year-old Peter, fourteen-year-old Flora, twelve-year-old Dick and eight-year-old Emma were at home. Peter, who was done with school, did a man’s work on the farm; he owned a sorrel mare with a reputation as a trotter, contemplated spending the next winter in the lumber woods and planned agriculture activities on a scale and of a kind to astonish his father.
On a Saturday morning in June Dick and Flora, who were chums, got up even earlier than usual. They breakfasted by themselves in the summer kitchen of the silent house, dug earthworms in the rich brown loam of the garden and, taking their fishing rods from behind the door of the tool house, set out hurriedly for Frying Pan River. When they were halfway to the secluded stream they overtook Frank Sacobie, the great-grandson of Two-Blanket Sacobie, who had helped Maj. Richard Starkley build his house.
The young Malecite’s black eyes lighted pleasantly at sight of his friends, but his lips remained unsmiling. He was a very thin, small-boned, long-legged boy of thirteen, clothed in a checked cotton shirt and the cut-down trousers of an older Sacobie. He did not wear a hat. His straight black hair lay in a fringe just above his eyebrows.
“Didn’t you bring any worms?” asked Flora.
“Nope,” said Frank.
“Or any luncheon?” asked Dick.
“Nope,” said Frank. “You two always fetch plenty worms and plenty grub.”
He led the way along a lumbermen’s winter road, and at last they reached the Frying Pan. Baiting their hooks, they fell to fishing.
The trout were plentiful in the Frying Pan; they bit, they yanked, they pulled. The three young fishers heaved them ashore by main force and awkwardness—as folk say round Beaver Dam—and by noon the three had as many fish as they could comfortably carry. So, winding up their lines, they washed their hands and sat down in a sunny place to lunch. All were wet, for all had fallen into the river more than once. Dick had his left hand in a bandage by that time; he had embedded a hook in the fleshy part of it and had dug it out with his jack-knife.
“That’s nothing! Just a scratch!” he said in the best offhand military manner. “My great-grandfather once had a Russian bayonet put clean through his shoulder.”
“Guess my great-gran’father did some fightin’, too,” remarked Frank Sacobie. “He was a big chief on the big river.”
“No, he didn’t,” said Dick. “He was a chief, all right; but there wasn’t any fighting on the river in his day. He was Two-Blanket Sacobie. I’ve read all about him in my great-grandfather’s diary.”
“Don’t mean him,” said Frank. “I mean Two-Blanket’s father’s father’s father. His name was just Sacobie, and his mark was a red canoe. He fought the English and the Mohawks. All the Malecites on the big river were his people, and he was very good friend to the big French governors. The King of France sent him a big medal. My gran’mother told me all about it once. She said how Two-Blanket got his name because he sold that medal to a white man on the Oromocto for two blankets; and that was a long time ago—way back before your great-gran’father ever come to this country. I tell you, if I want to be a soldier, I bet I would make as good a soldier as Dick.”
“Bet you wouldn’t,” retorted Dick.
“All right. I’m goin’ to be a soldier—and you’ll see. I’m going into the militia as soon as I’m old enough.”
“So’m I.”
Flora laughed. “Who will you fight with you when you are in the militia?” she asked.
The boys exchanged embarrassed glances.
“I guess the militia could fight all right if it had to,” said Dick.
“Of course it could,” said Frank.


For four years after the conversation that took place on the bank of Frying Pan River Flora and Dick and the rest of the Starkley family except Henry lived on in the quiet way of the folk at Beaver Dam. The younger children continued to go daily to school at the Crossroads, to take part in the lighter tasks of farm and house, to play and fish and argue and dream great things of the future.
Peter spent each winter in the lumber woods. In his nineteenth year he invested his savings in a deserted farm near Beaver Dam and passed the greater part of the summer of 1913 in repairing the old barn on his new possession, cutting bushes out of the old meadows, mending fences and clearing land.
That was only a beginning he said. He would own a thousand acres before long and show the people of Beaver Dam—including his own father—how to farm on a big scale and in an up-to-date manner.
Henry, the eldest Starkley of this generation, had completed his course at college and got a job with a railway survey party in the upper valley of the big river. He proved himself to be a good engineer.
In the spring of 1914 Frank Sacobie, now seventeen years of age, left Beaver Dam to work in a sawmill on the big river. Peter Starkley invested his winter’s wages in another mare, two cows and a ton of chemical fertilizers. He ploughed ten acres of his meadows and sowed five with oats, four to buckwheat, and planted one to potatoes. The whole family was thrilled with the romance of his undertaking. His father helped him to put in his crop; and Dick and Flora found the attractions of Peter’s farm irresistible. The very tasks that they classed as work at home they considered as play when performed at “Peter’s place.” In the romantic glow of Peter’s agricultural beginning Dick almost resigned his military ambitions. But those ambitions were revived by Peter himself; and this is how it happened.
Peter planned to raise horses, and he felt that the question what class of horse to devote his energies to was very important. One day late in June he met a stranger in the village of Stanley, and they “talked horse.” The stranger advised Peter to visit King’s County if he wanted knowledge on that subject.
“Enlist in the cavalry,” he said—”the 8th, Princess Louise, New Brunswick Hussars. That will give you a trip for nothin’—two weeks—and a dollar a day—and a chance to see every sort of horse that was ever bred in this province, right there in the regiment. Bring along a horse of your own, and the government will pay you another dollar a day for it—and feed it. I do it every year, just for a holiday and a bit of change.”
It sounded attractive to Peter, and two weeks later he and his black mare set off for King’s County to join the regiment in its training camp. In his absence Dick and Flora looked after the sorrel mare, his cows and his farm. Two weeks later Peter and the mare returned; the mare was a little thinner than of old, and Peter was full of talk of horses and soldiering. Dick’s military ambitions relit in him like an explosion of gunpowder.
Then came word of the war to Beaver Dam.
The folk of Beaver Dam, and of thousands of other rural communities, were busy with their haying when Canada offered a division to the mother country, for service in any part of the world. Militia officers posted through the country, seeking volunteers to cross the ocean and to bear arms against terrific Germany.
Peter, now in his twentieth year, wished to join.
“And what about your new farm and all your great plans?” asked John Starkley.
“Dick and I will look after his farm for him,” said Flora. “We can harvest his crops and—”
Just then she looked at her mother and suddenly became silent. Mrs. Starkley’s face was very white.
“If the need for men from Canada is great, other divisions will be called for,” said the father. “At present, only one division has been asked for—and I think that can easily be filled with seasoned militiamen.”
“Some one drove past the window!” exclaimed Flora.
The door opened and a young man, in the khaki service uniform of an officer, entered the room. He halted, removed his cap and grinned broadly at the astonished family.
“Henry!” cried Mrs. Starkley, pressing a hand swiftly and covertly to her side.
Her husband found nothing to say just then. Dick and Flora and Emma ran to Henry and began asking questions and examining and fingering his belt, the leather strapping of his smart riding breeches, even his high, brown boots and shining spurs.
“What are you, Henry?” asked Flora.
“A sapper—an engineer.”
“Are you an officer?” asked Dick.
“Lieutenant, 1st Field Company, Canadian Engineers—that’s what I am. Hope you approve of my boots.”
“Are you going, Henry?” asked Peter, with a noticeable hitch in his voice and a curious expression of disappointment and relief in his eyes.
“Yes, I’m to join my unit at the big mobilization camp in Quebec in ten days,” replied Henry.
John Starkley put a hand on Peter’s shoulders. “Then you will wait, Peter,” he said.
“You’re needed here—and we must keep you as long as we can. One at a time is enough.”
“I’ll wait now, but I will go with the next lot,” said Peter.
Henry had nine days in which to arrange his affairs, and no affairs to arrange. He was in high spirits and proud of his commission, but he put on an old tweed suit the next morning and helped with the last of the haying on the home farm and on Peter’s place. When the nine days were gone he donned his uniform again and drove away to the nearest railway station with his mother and father and little Emma. He wrote frequent entertaining letters from the big camp at Valcartier. On the 29th day of September he embarked at Quebec; the transports gathered in Gaspé Basin and were joined there by their escort of cruisers; the great fleet put out to sea—the greatest fleet that had ever crossed the Atlantic—bearing thirty-three thousand Canadian soldiers to the battlefields of Europe instead of the twenty thousand that had been originally promised.
At Beaver Dam Peter worked harder than ever, but with a look in his eyes at times that seemed to carry beyond the job in hand. A few weeks ago he had experienced a pardonable glow of pride and self-satisfaction when people had pointed him out as the young fellow who had bought the old Smith place and who was going to farm in a big way; now it seemed to him that the only man worth pointing out was the man who had enlisted to fight the swarming legions of Germany.
He did not invest in any more live stock that fall. He sold all of the oats and straw that he did not need for the wintering of his two mares and two cows. He did not look for a job in the lumber woods. His potatoes were a clean and heavy crop; and he went to Stanley to sell them. That was early in October.
The storekeeper there was a man named Hammond, who dealt in farm produce on a large scale and who shipped to the cities of the province. He engaged to take Peter’s crop at a good price, then talked about the war. One of his sons, a lieutenant in the militia, had sailed with the first contingent. They talked of that young man and Henry and others who had gone.
“I am off with the next lot,” said Peter.
“That will be soon enough,” said the merchant thoughtfully. “My daughter, Vivia, has been visiting in Fredericton, and she tells me there is talk of a second division already. Jim says he is going with the next lot, too. That will leave me without a son at all, but I haven’t the face to try to talk him out of it.”
Peter accepted an invitation to have dinner with the Hammonds. He knew the other members of the family slightly—Mrs. Hammond, Vivia and Jim. Jim, who was a year or two older than Peter, was a thickset, dull-looking young man with a reputation as a shrewd trader. He was his father’s chief assistant in the business. Patrick, the son who had sailed with the first contingent, had a reputation as a fisherman and hunter, which meant that he was considered as frivolous and that he had no standing at all as a business man. Vivia, the daughter, resembled Patrick rather than Jim. She was about seventeen years old. Peter, who had not seen her for twelve months, wondered how such a heavy duffer as Jim Hammond came by such a sister.
During the meal Peter paid a great deal of attention to everything Vivia Hammond said, and Vivia did more talking than anyone else at the table; and yet by the time Peter was on the road for Beaver Dam he could not remember a dozen words of all the hundreds she had spoken. Likewise, he attended her with his eyes as faithfully as with his ears; and yet by the time he was halfway home his mind’s picture of her was all gone to glimmering fragments. The more he concentrated his thoughts upon her the less clearly could he see her.
He laughed at himself. He could not remember ever having been in a like difficulty before. Well, he could afford to laugh, for, after all, he lived within a reasonable distance of her and could drive over again any day if his defective memory troubled him seriously. And that is exactly what he did,—and on the very next day at that,——half believing even himself that he went to talk about enlisting, and the war in general, with her heavy brother. He did not see Jim on that occasion, and during a ten-minutes’ interview with Vivia he did not say more than a dozen words.
On the 4th of November Peter read in the Fredericton Harvester that recruiting had begun in the city of St. John for the 26th Infantry Battalion, a newly authorized unit for overseas service. The family circle at Beaver Dam sat up late that night. Peter talked excitedly, and the others listened in silence. Dick’s eyes shone in the lamplight.
Peter drove over to Stanley early the next morning and there took the train to Fredericton, and from Fredericton to St. John. He felt no military thrill. Loneliness and homesickness weighed on him already—loneliness for his people, for the wide home kitchen and bright sitting-room, for his own fields.
He reached the big city by the sea after dark. The traffic of the hard streets, the foggy lights and the heedless, hurrying crowds of people added bewilderment to his loneliness. With his baggage at his feet, he stood in the station and gazed miserably around.
Peter Starkley did not stand there unnoticed. Dozens of the people who pushed past him eyed him with interest and wondered what he was waiting for. He was so evidently not of the city. He looked at once rustic and distinguished. But no one spoke to him until a sergeant in a khaki service uniform caught sight of him.
“I can’t make you out,” said the sergeant, stepping up to him.

“‘I CAN’T MAKE YOU OUT,’ SAID THE SERGEANT.”

“I can place you,” he said. “You’re a sergeant.”
“Right,” returned the other. “And you’re from the country. Your big felt hat tells me so—and your tanned face. But I can see that you’re a person of some importance where you come from.”
Peter blushed. “I am a farmer and a trooper in the 8th Hussars, and I have come here to enlist for overseas with the new infantry battalion,” he said.
“That’s what I hoped!” exclaimed the sergeant. “Come along with me, lad. You are for the 26th Canadian Overseas Infantry Battalion.”
The sergeant, whose name was Hammer, was a cheery, friendly fellow. He was also a very keen soldier and entertained a high opinion of the military qualities of the new b

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