In some way the ne'er-do-well was connected in her mind with another train of thought that, until now, had had "the right of way" in her inner consciousness. What had Jack Besmith to do with Nelson Haley's troubles? Janice Day was puzzled. Janice Day had no intention of avoiding what seemed, finally, to be a duty laid upon her.
"Yep. That's what he's done. It looks like his runners was scrapin' on bare ground when he'd do that. Course, I need a feller right in this store behind that sody-fountain. And a smart, nice appearin' one like Nelse Haley would be just the ticket 'nough sight better than Jack Besmith was. But I couldn't hire the schoolteacher, 'cause it would create so much talk.
"Sure enough!" went on Walky, "that's another thing that kin honestly be laid to Lem Parraday's openin' that bar at the Inn. That's where Jack got the liquor that twisted his brain, that led him astray, that made him a thief Jefers-pelters! sounds jest like 'The Haouse That Jack Built, don't it? But poor Jack Besmith has sartainly built him a purty poor haouse.
"Jack Besmith!" gasped the school teacher, the light dawning in his mind. "Yes," said Narnay. "Me and Trimmins has knowed it for a long time. We wormed it out o' Jack when he was drunk. But he was putting up for the stuff right along, so we didn't tell. He's got most of the money hid away somewhere we don't know where. "He told us he saw the stuff up at Massey's the night before he stole it.
And there's steel bars at the winders of it poor feller!" However, it was Nelson Haley himself who used the story of Jack Besmith most tellingly, and for the cause of temperance. As the young fellow had owned to the crime when taxed with it, and had returned most of the coins of the collection, he was recommended to the mercy of the court. But all of Polktown knew of the lad's shame.
"How are those men getting on in your wood lot, Elder?" "What men and what lot?" he asked smiling. "I don't know what lot it is; but I mean Mr. Trimmins and those others." "Oh! Trimmins and Jim Narnay and that Besmith boy?" "Yes." "Why, they are moving on slowly. This is their third job with me since Winter. Once or twice they've kicked over the traces and gone on a spree "
They've all got a sleight with the axe, I do allow; and the boy handles the team right well." "Is he Jack Besmith?" questioned Janice. "That's his name, I believe," said the elder. "Likely boy, I guess. But if I let 'em have any money before the job is done as Trimmins wants me to none of 'em would do much till the money was spent boy and all."
"Hullo! here's the buddy we're waitin' for. How long d'ye s'pose he'll last, loggin?" Janice saw the ex-drug clerk, Jack Besmith, mounting the hill with a pack on his back. Rough as the two lumbermen were, Besmith looked the more dissolute character, despite his youth. The trio went away together, bound evidently for one of Elder Concannon's pieces of woodland, over the mountain.
He pointed out, too, the present remorse and punishment of young Jack Besmith. Then he told them frankly that the blame for all for Jack's misdeed, his own suffering, and the criminal's final situation lay upon the consciences of the men who had made liquor selling in Polktown possible. It was an arraignment that stung.
Then the druggist came to the entrance, unbolted it and stuck his head out his gray hair all ruffled up in a tuft which made him, with his big beak and red-rimmed eyes, look like a startled cockatoo. "Who's this, now? Jack Besmith again? What did I tell you?" he snapped. Then he seemed to see that he was wrong, and the next moment exclaimed: "Wal!