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HOME > Inspiring Novel > A Son of Courage > CHAPTER XVI BILLY MEETS A DIVINITY
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 Billy spent the days preceding the reopening of the Valley School much as a criminal awaiting execution might spend his last hours of life. The fact that Trigger Finger Tim had always accepted the inevitable sentence of fate with calm and undaunted spirit was the one buoy to which he might cling in a turbulent sea of uncertainty. There had been so much to do; so little had been done. The hiding place of old Scroggie's will was still a secret; no check had been put upon the preparations of the interloper who claimed to be the heir of the Scroggie estate; the mystery surrounding the store robbery remained a mystery; his friend Frank Stanhope was growing thin and pale from secret suffering. And on Monday morning the Valley School would open!  
It was tough! Billy felt sure that had he been allowed a little more time he might have solved one or more of the problems which weighed him down. He felt like a man who was being cut suddenly off from his usefulness. Saturday he spent roaming the big woods alone. On Saturday evening Maurice came over and the two went down to Levee Creek, set sail in the old punt and steered up-bay towards the light-house.
Arriving they found Hinter there, so did not remain long. It was while Erie Landon was preparing a lunch for them that Billy got an opportunity to whisper something in her ear. The girl's cheeks flushed and her blue eyes grew deep with feeling.
"You tell him, Billy Boy, that the light he feels is my promise of fidelity," she said softly, "my love, my prayers, my hope. And tell him that I know all will be well."
That night, after separating from Maurice, Billy went over to the Stanhope cottage. It was late but Frank Stanhope was standing beside the white gate, his arms folded on its top, his chin upon them.
He raised his face at sound of the boy's step. "Ho, Billy!" he called cheerfully. "Is it you?"
"Yes, teacher." Billy came close to him and the two stood for a long time in the silence of mute understanding. Then the boy delivered the message just as Erie had whispered it. Stanhope did not speak. He simply lifted his face to the stars, eyes streaming, lips moving dumbly. Billy moved softly away through the shadows.
Next day was Sunday and Billy did not like Sundays. They meant the scrubbing of his face, ears and neck with "Old Brown Windsor" soap until it fairly cracked if he so much as smiled, and being lugged off with his parents and Anse to early forenoon Sunday School in the little frame church in the Valley. There was nothing interesting about Sunday School; it was the same old hum-drum over and over again—same lessons, same teachers, same hymns, same tunes; with Deacon Ringold's assertive voice cutting in above all the other voices both in lessons and singing and with Mrs. Scraff's shrill treble reciting, for her class's edification, her pet verse: "Am I nothing to thee, all ye who pass by?"—only Mrs. Scraff always improvised more or less on the scriptures, and usually threw the verse defiantly from her in this form: "You ain't nuthin to me, all you who pass me by."
Billy knew exactly what he was going to hear at Sunday School, and what he was going to see, and there wasn't much of interest in that for a live boy. Consequently he was quite unprepared for the unexpected shock he received on this particular morning, when he trailed dejectedly into the Sunday School room behind his mother and Anson.
As he passed up the aisle something strange and mysterious seemed to draw his eyes toward a certain spot. He looked and there, gazing at him from eyes of blue, rose-bud lips half parted in a smile, was a girl—and such a girl!
Billy stood stock still in the aisle and stared at the vision of loveliness. She was dressed in white and her hair was curly and as golden as that of the pictured angel in his mother's Bible. Never before had he seen such a gloriously beautiful creature.
He became conscious that the droning hum of teachers and classes had given place to hushed calm; that all eyes were turned upon him, standing there in the aisle and staring at this picture of absolute perfection. With an effort he drew his eyes away and stumbled forward to his place in elass.
Several times during the next half hour Billy, allowing his gaze to wander across the church, caught those blue eyes fastened upon him and his heart began to flutter strangely. An ungovernable desire to misbehave himself took possession of him. Never in his life had his head felt so light—unless it was the night when he and Maurice had inadvertently mistaken hard cider for sweet and had nearly disgraced themselves. He was not even aware of who was beside him on his seat, until a pair of stubby fingers pinched his leg and he came down to earth to look into Jim Scroggie's grinning face.
"Oh, hello," he whispered, coldly. He was irritated at such unwarranted interruption of his soul-feast. He settled low in his seat and pretended to give his attention to the teacher, Cobin Keeler.
Tim nudged him. "What you think of her?" he asked proudly.
Billy frowned. "Who?"
Jim nodded across to the girl in white. "That's Lou," he informed Billy, "my sister."
Billy gave such a perceptible start that he knocked the "Sunday Lesson Helps" sheet out of the hands of Elgin Scraff, on his left. That this snub-nosed, flat-faced, beefy boy beside him could possibly be a brother to the dainty, angelic creature who had caused his heart to turn such violent flip-flops and disorganize his whole mental poise was inconceivable.
And still, it must be true. Immediately his manner towards Scroggie underwent a change. All the antipathy that a woods-born boy can feel toward a city-bred one vanished suddenly at the intelligence imparted to him. It was the look of true comradeship, the smile that always won him confidence and fidelity, that he gave Jim now, as he whispered: "Any time you want'a borrie my shot-gun, Jim, jest let me know."
Scroggie beamed. Being the son of his father he lacked nothing in astuteness. He realized, as all brothers realize sooner or later, that a pretty sister is an asset.
"An' the punt too?" he asked.
Billy nodded. Jim, had he but known it, might have had everything Billy owned, including Croaker, Ringdo, Moll and the pups.
Mr. Keeler had finished the reading of the lesson, skipping most of the big words and laying particular stress on those he was sure of, and had stood up facing his class of boys, to ask them certain questions pertaining to the lesson, thereby bringing all whispered conversation to a halt. He cleared his throat and ran a critical eye down the line of upturned faces. When Mr. Keeler asked a question it was in a booming voice that carried from pulpit to ante-room of the building.
"Kin any boy in this here class tell me why Christ walked on the sea of Galilee?" he now asked.
Nobody answered. Billy, casting a quick glance across the aisle, found Lou Scroggie's blue eyes watching him intently. They seemed to say "Surely, you can answer that."
Billy shifted uneasily in his seat. He was sorry now that he had not paid closer attention to the reading of the lesson.
"Why did Christ walk on the sea of Galilee?" repeated Mr. Keeler, folding his arms impressively and looking hard at Billy, who once more shot a side-long glance across the room. The blue eyes were wide open with wonder and astonishment now, that he could not answer so simple a question as that. Billy's mind worked with lightning speed. He would answer that question if it cost him his life. Promptly he stood up.
Mr. Keeler looked surprised; so did Billy's class-mates; so did all members of all the classes and the teachers. So did Billy himself. The drowsy hum of reciting voices died suddenly and a great stillness succeeded it. It seemed to Billy that he was standing alone on top of a flimsy scaffold, hundreds of feet in the air, waiting............
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