H.A. Cody.

Under Sealed Orders online

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E-text prepared by Al Haines




Author of
The Frontiersman, The Long Patrol, The Chief of the Ranges, etc.



To all "Spuds," successful or unsuccessful; to all "Fools," wise or
unwise; and to all of "The Devil's Poor," not forgetting authors, this
book is sympathetically dedicated.







It was evening and a late April wind was whipping down the valley. It
swayed the tops of the tall pine and spruce trees as they shouldered up
from the swift brook below. It tossed into driving spray the water of
Break Neck Falls where it leaped one hundred feet below with a
thundering roar and swirl. It tossed as well the thin grey hair, long
beard, and thread-bare clothes of an old man standing upon a large rock
which towered high above the stream.

The entire scene was wild and made weird by the approach of night. But
the old man did not seem to notice anything except the falling of the
waters. His eyes glowed with an intense light as he kept them fixed
upon the leaping and swirling columns below. His face was like the
face of a lover turned toward the object of his affection.

For some time the man stood there drinking in the scene before him.
Then he took a step forward which brought him perilously near the edge
of the steep rock. His lips moved though no sound could be heard for
the tumult of the falls which was rending the air. What connection had
such a man with his surroundings? No boor or clown was he, for the
simple dignity of face and manner marked him as one of Nature's true

It was almost dark when he at last reluctantly left the rock and
entered the thick woods where a trail led away from the falls. Along
this he moved with the unerring instinct of one who had travelled it
often and was sure of his bearings. But ever and anon he paused to
listen to the sound of the falling waters which followed him like the
voice of a loved one urging him to return.

"Yes, you want me," he at length cried, as he once more paused. "I
hear your voice calling, and I know its meaning. Others need you, too,
but they do not know it. You have been calling to them for years, but
they have not understood your language. It was left for me to listen
and take heed. They will some day, and then you will show your power.
I can see what you will do, beautiful falls, and the changes which will
come to this fair land when your luring voice is heeded."

He stood for awhile as if entranced after uttering these mystic words.
Then he continued on his way and night wrapped more closely about him
her dark mantle. He had to walk very cautiously now for the trail was
rough, and there were sharp stones and roots ready to strike his feet
and trip him up.

At length the trail ended and he reached the smooth surface of the
broad highway. Along this he sped with the quick elastic step of one
who has seen a vision. The fire of a great idea was burning fiercely
within him which caused him to take no heed to his surroundings.

He had not gone far, however, ere some strong impulse caused him to
pause again and listen to that fascinating sound of falling waters far
off in the distance. It was on an elevation in the road where he
stopped, and here the shadows which enwrapped the forest were not so
heavy. The lingering light of departing day was still in the west and
touched this part of the highway with its faint glow. It brought out
into clear relief the silhouette of the old man as he stood there with
his right hand placed to his ear so as not to miss the least sound
drifting down the valley.

So intent was he upon what he heard that he did not notice the sounds
of approaching footsteps, so when a man stopped a few yards away and
watched him curiously, he was completely unaware of his presence.
"Ring on, sweet waters," he cried. "Your voice follows me no matter
how far I go. I alone can understand your language, and know what you
are saying. All are deaf but me. They hear but do not know your
meaning." He ceased, and again listened for a few seconds.

A strange half-mocking laugh startled him, and caused him to look
quickly around. Seeing that he was observed, he was about to hurry
away, when a man stepped forward.

"Pardon me," he began. "I did not mean to offend you. But your words
seem so strange, that I could not help laughing."

"And were you listening to the voice?" the old man eagerly asked. "Do
the falling waters speak to you as they do to me? Is that why you are

"Yes, I hear them," was the reply. "But they do not bring any special
message to my mind."

"And they do not tell you of power, of the wonderful things they are
ready and willing to do when men will heed what they are saying?"

"No, I can't say that they do. They make a noise up there among the
trees, but I do not know what they are saying."

"Strange, strange," and the old man placed his hand to his forehead.
"You are like all the rest, then. You hear but you do not understand."

"What do you hear?" the newcomer asked, thinking that he was talking to
a weak-minded creature.

"I hear great things, which will be for the welfare of the whole
community. The waters tell me what they will do. They will make life
worth living. They will give light and power to the people all along
the river and revolutionise their daily tasks. Instead of hard labour
by the sweat of the brow, the waters will do the work. People will be
happy, and have time for the beautiful things of life. Grinding toil
and sorrow will be banished forever."

"Umph! So that is what you hear, eh? What is the good of hearing such
a voice, if you have no power to make it come true?"

"But the people will hear and understand," the old man insisted. "I am
telling them about it."

"Yes, I know you are, and they think you are a fool for your efforts.
They laugh at you, and call you crazy."

"But they will come to see that I am right. They, too, will hear the
voice, and then they will not be able to resist its pleadings."

"If you had the money they would listen to you, for that is the only
voice people will heed to-day. If you came here with an abundance of
gold, people would hear anything you asked them to in the falls up
yonder. But because you are poor, like myself, your ideas will have no
more weight with them than the lightest feather. Back your visions
with money and people will crowd around you, and you will be heeded.
But try to get along without money, and, bah! you are a fool."

Scarcely had these words left his lips ere a raucous honk up the road
startled him. Then an auto with blazing lights leaped out of the
night. The old man was standing right in its way, unconscious of his
danger. Almost instinctively two strong hands clutched him and hurled
him into the ditch as the car swept past. Shouts of merriment sounded
forth upon the night air from the occupants of the car. The fright
they had given the two by the side of the road evidently gave them much
amusement. Their laughter caused the rescuer to straighten suddenly
up, and clutch the old man fiercely by the arm.

"Did you hear them?" he asked, and his voice was filled with suppressed

"Yes," was the reply. "They are only thoughtless youths having a good
time, I suppose."

"It's just what money does, though. I know who they are, for I caught
a glimpse of them as they sped past. It's money that talks with them;
that is the only voice they hear. They will ride over the less
fortunate, and crush them down as worms beneath their feet. They have
been doing it for ages, and look upon it as their right. What do they
care about the meaning of the falling waters when they are always
listening to the voice of money. Curse them. Why should they revel
and sport with ill-got gains, when honest men can hardly get enough to
keep breath in their bodies."

The young man was standing erect now on the side of the road. His
companion shrank away somewhat fearful lest he should turn upon him and
smite him.

"You seem to have suffered," he at length remarked. "You appear to be
annoyed at people who have money."

"And why shouldn't I?" was the savage reply. "Haven't I suffered at
their hands, young as I am? Haven't I been scorned by them to the
limit of all endurance? Haven't they made a mock of me for years,
calling me names behind my back? And why? Just because I happen to be
poor, and have tried honestly to make my way in life. But there,
enough of this. What's the use of talking about such things? It will
do no more good than the voice of the waters which you are continually

Along the road the two walked in deep silence. The old man found it
hard to keep up with his companion, and he was at last forced to fall
behind. Soon he was alone, and then his thoughts went once more back
to the falls, and the glorious vision which was in his mind.

It was only when he reached a small building by the side of the road
that he stopped. Pushing open the door, he entered. All was dark and
silent within. The strange loneliness of the place would have smitten
any one else with the feeling of dread. But the old man never seemed
to mind it. Fumbling in his vest pocket, he found a match. This he
struck and lighted a tallow dip which was stuck into a rude
candle-stick upon a bare wooden table. One glance at the room revealed
by the dim light showed its desolate bareness. Besides the table there
were two small benches and a wash-stand, containing a granite-iron
basin. A small broken-down stove stood at one end of the room, by the
side of which was a couch. Not a scrap of mat or rug adorned the
floor. There were no blinds or curtains to the cheerless, windows, and
not a picture adorned the walls.

But the old man did not notice the desolation of the place. It was
quite evident that he was beyond the influence of earthly surroundings
for the moment. Going at once to the couch, he brought forth a roll of
paper hidden away beneath the pillow. Carrying this over to the table,
he sat down upon one of the benches and spread the paper out before
him. By the light of the candle it was easy for him to study the
carefully-made lines upon the large sheet. Eagerly he scanned the
drawings, and then placing the forefinger of his right hand upon one
central point, he moved it along one line extending farther than the
rest until it stopped at a small square in which was the word "City."
This action gave him much satisfaction and a pleased expression lighted
up his face. "Power, power," he murmured. "Ay, quicker than thought,
and bright as the sun shining in its strength. Great, wonderful! and
yet they do not realise it. But they shall know, and understand."

Along the other lines he also ran his finger, pausing at the end of
each where was marked "Town," "Village," or "Settlement." He talked
continually as he did so, but it was all about "glory" and "power."
Over and over again he repeated these words, now in a soft low voice,
and again in a loud triumphant manner.

At length he rose from the bench, crossed the room, opened the door,
and stepped outside. Not a star was to be seen, and the wind was
stronger than ever. It was keen, piercing. But the man heeded neither
the one nor the other. He was listening intently, and the faint sound
of Break Neck Falls drifting in from the distance was to him the
sweetest of music.

And as he stood there a sudden change took place. His dead drooped,
and he leaned against the side of the building for support. A shiver
shook his body, and as he turned and entered the house his steps were
slow, and he half-stumbled across the threshold. He looked at the
wood-box behind the stove, but there was not a stick in it. He next
opened the door of the little cupboard near by, but not a scrap of food
was there. Almost mechanically he thrust his hand into his pocket and
brought forth a purse. This he opened, but there was nothing inside.
Half-dazed he stood there in the centre of the room. Then he glanced
toward the paper with the drawings lying upon the table, and as he did
so a peculiar light of comprehension shone in his eyes.



There was an unusually large number of people gathered in front of
Thomas Marshall's store one morning about the last of May. Women were
there as well as men, and all were talking and laughing in a most
pleasant way. The cause of this excitement was explained by a notice
tacked on the store door.

"The Board, Lodging, and Clothing of David Findley, Pauper, will be let
to the lowest bidder for a period of one year, on Wednesday, May 30th
inst., at Thomas Marshall's store, Chutes Corner, at 10 o'clock A. M.


_Overseers of Poor_."

This notice had been posted there for about two weeks, and had
attracted the attention of all the people in the parish. It was out of
the ordinary for such a sale to take place at this season of the year.
Hitherto, it had occurred at the last of December. But this was an
exceptional case, and one in which all were keenly interested.

"I hear he is stark crazy," Mrs. Munson was saying to a neighbour,
Peter McQueen, "and that he has a funny notion in his head."

"Should say so," McQueen replied. "Any man who has lived as he has for
months must be pretty well off his base. Why, he didn't have a scrap
of food in the house when he was found by Jim Trask one morning the
last of April. Jim has been keeping him ever since."

"Isn't he able to work?" Mrs. Munson inquired.

"Seems not. I guess he's a scholar or something like that, and did
some book-keeping in the city until he drifted this way. He must have
had a little money to live as long as he has. He's always been a
mystery to me."

"And to everybody else, I guess."

"Yes, so it appears. But it's a great pity that we've got to be
burdened with the likes of him. Our taxes are heavy enough now without
having to take care of this strange pauper. We've got too many on our
hands already for our good."

"But do you know anything about that queer notion of his, Pete?" Mrs.
Munson asked.

"Ho, ho, I've heard about it, and I guess it's true all right. He's in
love with Break Neck Falls, and makes regular trips there every day,
and sometimes at night. Jim followed him once, and saw him standing
upon that high rock right by the falls. He kept waving his hands and
shouting to the water, though Jim could not make out what he was
saying. He has some writing on a piece of paper which he keeps very
close. He has told, though, that his plan will do wonderful things for
the city and the whole surrounding country. He once said that we don't
know what a valuable thing we have right in our midst. I guess we've
lived here longer than he has, and should know a thing or two. It is
not necessary for a half-cracked old man to come and tell us of our
possessions. But, say, here he is now, coming along in Jim Trask's
farm waggon."

As the team drew near, all eyes were turned in its direction, for the
first glimpse of "Crazy David," as he was generally called. There was
no difficulty about seeing him for he was sitting by Jim's side on the
rough board seat. He looked much older and careworn than the night he
had awakened from his dream, and found his wood-box, cupboard, and
pocket-book empty. He had sat huddled on the seat for most of the way
up the road, but when near the store he lifted his eyes and fixed them
curiously upon the people before him. There was something pathetically
appealing in the expression upon his face. He seemed like a man trying
to recall something to his mind. He appeared strangely out of place in
that rough farm waggon. Even his almost ragged clothes could not hide
the dignity of his bearing as he straightened himself up and tried to
assume the appearance of a gentleman. The people saw this effort on
his part, and several wondered and spoke about it afterwards.

At first the old man did not seem to realise the purpose of the
gathering. But when he saw the auctioneer mount a box alongside of him
and call for bids, the truth of the entire situation dawned upon him.
He was to be sold as a pauper to the lowest bidder, so he heard the
auctioneer say. For an instant a deep feeling of anger stirred within
his bosom, and he lifted his head as if to say something. But seeing
the eyes of all fixed upon him, he desisted.

"What am I offered for the keep of this old man?" the auctioneer cried.
"The lowest bid gets him."

"Two hundred dollars," came from a man not far off.

"Two hundred dollars!" and the auctioneer turned fiercely upon him.
"You're out for a bargain, Joe Tippits. Why, he's worth that to any
man for a year's work. He'll be able to do many an odd job. Come, you
can do better than that."

"One seventy-five," came from another.

"Too much," the auctioneer cried. "The parish can't stand that."

"One fifty, then."

"That's better, Joe. Try again. You're a long way off yet."

"I'll take the critter fer one hundred dollars, and not a cent less."

At these emphatic words all turned and stared hard at the speaker. A
perceptible shiver passed through the bystanders, while several
muttered protests were heard.

"Oh, I hope he won't get him, anyway," Mrs. Munson whispered to a
neighbour. "Jim Goban isn't a fit man to look after a snake, and if he
gets Crazy David in his clutches may God have mercy upon the poor old

"One hundred dollars I am offered," again the voice of the
auctioneer rang out. "Can any one do better than that? One
hundred dollars. Going at one hundred dollars. I shan't dwell.
One - hundred - dollars - and - sold to Jim Goban for one hundred dollars."

This inhuman traffic did not seriously affect the people who had
gathered for the auction. When it was over, they quickly dispersed, to
discuss with one another about the life Jim Goban would lead Crazy
David. It was an incident of only a passing moment, and mattered
little more to them than if it had been a horse or a cow which had been
sold instead of a poor feeble old man.

It was the custom which had been going on for years, and it was the
only way they could see out of the difficult problem of dealing with

When Jim Goban reached home with his purchase, dinner was ready. There
were five young Gobans who stared curiously upon David as he took his
seat at the table. Mrs. Goban was a thin-face, tired looking woman who
deferred to her husband in everything. There was nothing else for her
to do, as she had found out shortly after their marriage what a brute
he was.

David was pleased at the presence of the children and he often turned
his eyes upon them.

"Nice children," he at length remarked, speaking for the first time
since his arrival.

"So ye think they're nice, do ye?" Jim queried, leaning over and
looking the old man in the eyes.

"Why, yes," David replied, shrinking back somewhat from the coarse
face. "All children are nice to me, but yours are especially fine
ones. What nice hair they have, and such beautiful eyes. I suppose
the oldest go to school."

"Naw. They never saw the inside of a school house."

"You don't say so!" and David looked his astonishment. "Surely there
must be a school near here."

"Oh, yes, there's a school all right, but they've never gone. I don't
set any store by eddication. What good is it to any one, I'd like to
know? Will it help a man to hoe a row of pertaters, or a woman to bake
bread? Now, look at me. I've no eddication, an' yit I've got a good
place here, an' a bank account. You've got eddication, so I
understand, an' what good is it to you? I'm one of the biggest
tax-payers in the parish, an' you, why yer nothing but a pauper, the
Devil's Poor."

At this cruel reminder David shrank back as from a blow, and never
uttered another word during the rest of the meal. The iron was
entering into his soul, and he was beginning to understand something of
the ignominy he was to endure at this house.

"Now look here," Jim began when they were through with dinner, "I've a
big pile of wood out there in the yard, an' I want ye to tote it into
the wood-house an' pile it up. I'll show ye where to put it. I'm
gittin' mighty little fer yer keep, an' I expect ye to git a hustle on
to help pay fer yer grub an' washin'."

"Don't be too hard on him, Jim," Mrs. Goban remarked. "He doesn't look
very strong."

"Don't ye worry, Kitty, I'll attend to that. I know a wrinkle or two."

David was accordingly taken to the wood-house and Jim explained to him
how and where he was to pile the wood. "Ye needn't kill yerself," he
told him in conclusion. "But I want ye to keep busy, fer when that
job's through I've got something else on hand. Ye can sit down when ye
feel a little tired, but don't sit too long or too often, see?"

For about half an hour David worked patiently at the wood, piling it as
neatly as possible. The work was not hard, and he was quite satisfied
with his task. He was alone, anyway, and could think about his beloved
falls. His hands, however, were soft, and ere long they were bruised
and bleeding from the rough sticks. At length a sharp splinter entered
his finger, and he sat down upon a stick to pull it out. In trying to
do this, it broke off leaving a portion deeply embedded in the flesh,
which caused him considerable pain. Not knowing what to do, he sat
looking upon the finger in a dejected manner.

"What's the matter? You seem to be in trouble."

At these words David looked quickly around, and saw a young girl
standing by his side. Though her dress was old and worn, her face was
bright, and her eyes sparkled with interest.

"Here, let me take that splinter out," she ordered, as she sat down by
his side, and drawing forth a needle, began to probe into the flesh.
"There, I've got it!" she cried in triumph. "My! it's a monster.
You'll have to be more careful after this. You should have gloves."

"Thank you very much," David replied. "To whom am I indebted for this

"Oh, I'm Betty Bean, that's all."

"And you live here?"

"No. I'm just dying here."

"Dying!" David exclaimed in surprise. "Why, you don't look like a
dying person."

"Maybe I don't, but I am. I'm just staying here because I have to. My
mother's a widow, and I want to earn some money to help her, and as
this was the only place I could get I had to take it."

"So you do not like it, then?"

"Who would like any place where there is such a brute as Jim Goban?
My, I'm sorry for you. To think of any man getting into his clutches."

"But surely I won't be any worse off than you are."

"I'm not so sure about that. You see, I'm about boss here, and do and
say just what I like."

"How's that?"

"Well, I'm the only person Jim can get to work here. All the girls for
miles around know what kind of a creature he is, and they wouldn't come
for any amount of money. They're scared to death of him. But I'm not,
and I tell him right to his face what I think of him, and the way he
treats his poor wife. He would like to horsewhip me, but he knows that
if I leave no one else would come in my place. But I'm glad now that I
am here so I can look after you."

"Look after me!"

"Yes. I guess you'll need me all right. I know who you are, and I'm
sorry for you. I'm going to stand between you and Jim Goban. He's
scared to death of me, for I'm the only one who dares give him a

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Online LibraryH.A. CodyUnder Sealed Orders → online text (page 1 of 18)