Herewith, book 6, was a surreal pleasure for me to leisurely peruse. I’m fond of Frozen North and tales of the oblique lumbering wilderness, if and when written in a carefree manner. Roberts captures your imagination between the pages of “The Lure of Piper’s Glen,” admirably writing what in all views may be tagged as a young adult’s novel. Told from the perspective of a man coming-of-age, Jim Todhunter packs his belongings, and instead of heading off to college, heads North, to seek adventure and learn a business education in the vast wildernesses of the Frozen North. Seeking a business partner, his father, somehow-or-other, sets up him with an unscrupulous vulture of iniquity hiding behind the veil of a righteous God-fearing man. The man, one Amos Hammond, owns a small business in the wilderness community, a general store, essentially, in which Todhunter, should he be interested, will invest his meager funds and become a business partner.
However, on arriving at the rail depot, he is not picked up in time by the sinisterly duplicitous Hammond, but, rather, greeted, eventually, by the rail ticket man, whom introduces him to a game of cards. Hammond finally arrives, very late, and immediately rails on the non-virtues of playing cards and gambling. Not one to back down, Todhunter rallies and informs that they were not gambling, merely playing cards, and if anything, Hammond should not have been unduly late.
Not used to having anyone brook argument with him, Hammond lapses into silence for most of the journey to his homestead. There, Todhunter meets son Mel, of equal age to himself, a daughter, and Amos’ wife. To varying degrees, all live in mortal terror of Amos and are starkly amazed that Todhunter has the gall to put him in his place.
Fed up one day of playing “shop”-keeper to a business that did zero all day, he closes and goes for a walk up the trail. Hence, he comes across another youth, some years older than he, whom accosts him and throws down a challenge. The two duke it out while the challenger’s sister watches in awe as Todhunter dispatches her unbeatable brother, Mark Ducat, self-proclaimed cock of the river.
Once Mark is situated to walking again, they shake and Mark is impressed with Todhunter. They fast become friends and the sister, Flora, is clearly enamored of the newcomer
Developments arise in which Amos kicks a widow out of her home after her husband dies and she can’t meet the interest payments, and Todhunter, in the winter, crosses her path one day. She begs ammo of him, and he surrenders a few. He later gets into a blistering fight with Amos after the man makes unkind accusations against him and the Ducat clan. Leaving the man beaten and battered in his sleigh (also obtained from another poor soul that could not “pay-up”) our youthful Todhunter rides away, but not before in the distance he hears a gun’s report. He assumes that Amos took one last parting shot at his back but keeps riding.
He arrives at the Ducat home and sleeps there. Next day, word arrives that Amos was shot and wounded, and that another had seen Todhunter leave the scene shortly before the shot was fired. The sheriff is due to collect Todhunter for attempted murder. Todhunter, not caring the least, says he’ll stand trial, for he is innocent, and they can’t prove anything. Flora wrongfully believes that he in fact DID shoot Amos and convinces him to run, but only after tricking him. When he refuses to run, she confesses that it was actually HER that shot Amos.
He flees, then, in order to protect her, but when the sheriff arrives and the widow also arrives, announcing (proudly) that she shot Amos, and only wished it had been buckshot and not rabbit pellet that Todhunter had given her, Flora realizes her mistake and sets out to find Todhunter.
With both out of the picture, enter now another character, whose position in the story is never really concretely established….Homer. Unaware that the widow had accepted full responsibility, all he hears is that Todhunter is on the lam. For some odd reason, he hates Todhunter and while dressing to chase the boy down, the grand-elder Ducat quickly slices open the bullets and empties the shells, leaving them to be harmless blanks. As a jest against Homer, for they think him a fool, they prank the four empty bullets on him and when he eventually does capture Todhunter, he fires and the gun fails to properly discharge!
Todhunter, with the aid of Flora, take him down. Sadly, they need Homer’s assistance, since Todhunter had injured himself the night prior with an ax upon his leg. Tricking Homer (after he revives) Flora helps to bind Todhunter and they drag him back to the Ducat home for eventual trial. But, the real trial was getting him brought in. Tuckered from the ordeal, Homer collapses at the end, and Flora unties Todhunter. They quickly explain to him the truth, and, embarrassed, Homer saddles up at night and rides away, likely to never be seen from again…..
The tale originates within the 25 May 1922 issue of Short Stories magazine. I am not sure which issue sported the cover art, since it has not been uploaded to the FictionMags database. If anyone can supply the original cover data to me, and an image, for the site, that would be wonderful. The cover art was rendered by Edgar Franklin Wittmack, dated 1922.
The cover has little to do with the content, but, it comes damn close, given that Homer does go after Todhunter, so, one could make that cover argument.
I highly recommend this tale to anyone that wishes to wallow away the nighttime hours, as I do, in pleasure-reading without straining the brain.