Part 1 out of 10
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A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST,
OF THE LIFE OF A MAN OF TO-DAY
IS OFFERED IN THE HOPE THAT IN CLEANLINESS,
POETIC TEMPERMENT, AND MENTAL FORCE,
A LIKENESS WILL BE SEEN
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
I. Belshazzar's Decision
II. The Effect of a Dream
III. Harvesting the Forest
IV. A Commission for the South Wind
V. When the Harvester Made Good
VI. To Labour and to Wait
VII. The Quest of the Dream Girl
VIII. Belshazzar's Record Point
IX. The Harvester Goes Courting
X. The Chime of the Blue Bells
XI. Demonstrated Courtship
XII. ``The Way of a Man with a Maid''
XIII. When the Dream Came True
XIV. Snowy Wings
XV. The Harvester Interprets Life
XVI. Granny Moreland's Visit
XVII. Love Invades Science
XVIII. The Better Man
XIX. A Vertical Spine
XX. The Man in the Background
XXI. The Coming of the Bluebird
DAVID LANGSTON, A Harvester of the Woods.
RUTH JAMESON, A Girl of the City.
GRANNY MORELAND, An Interested Neighbour.
DR. CAREY, Chief Surgeon of the Onabasha Hospital.
MRS. CAREY, Wife of the Doctor.
DR. HARMON, Who Concludes to Leave the City.
MOLLY BARNET, A Hospital Nurse with a Heart.
HENRY JAMESON, A Trader Without a Heart.
ALEXANDER HERRON, Who Made a Concession.
MRS. HERRON, A Gentle Woman.
THE KENNEDYS, Philadelphia Lawyers.
``Bel, come here!''
The Harvester sat in the hollow worn in the
hewed log stoop by the feet of his father and
mother and his own sturdier tread, and rested his head
against the casing of the cabin door when he gave the
command. The tip of the dog's nose touched the gravel
between his paws as he crouched flat on earth, with
beautiful eyes steadily watching the master, but he did
not move a muscle.
``Bel, come here!''
Twinkles flashed in the eyes of the man when he
repeated the order, while his voice grew more imperative as
he stretched a lean, wiry hand toward the dog. The
animal's eyes gleamed and his sensitive nose quivered, yet
he lay quietly.
``Belshazzar, kommen Sie hier!''
The body of the dog arose on straightened legs and his
muzzle dropped in the outstretched palm. A wind
slightly perfumed with the odour of melting snow and
unsheathing buds swept the lake beside them, and lifted
a waving tangle of light hair on the brow of the man, while
a level ray of the setting sun flashed across the water and
illumined the graven, sensitive face, now alive with keen
interest in the game being played.
``Bel, dost remember the day?'' inquired the Harvester.
The eager attitude and anxious eyes of the dog betrayed
that he did not, but was waiting with every sense alert
for a familiar word that would tell him what was
``Surely you heard the killdeers crying in the night,''
prompted the man. ``I called your attention when the
ecstasy of the first bluebird waked the dawn. All day
you have seen the gold-yellow and blood-red osiers, the
sap-wet maples and spring tracing announcements of her
arrival on the sunny side of the levee.''
The dog found no clew, but he recognized tones he
loved in the suave, easy voice, and his tail beat his sides
in vigorous approval. The man nodded gravely.
``Ah, so! Then you realize this day to be the most
important of all the coming year to me; this hour a solemn
one that influences my whole after life. It is time for
your annual decision on my fate for a twelve-month.
Are you sure you are fully alive to the gravity of the
The dog felt himself safe in answering a rising inflection
ending in his name uttered in that tone, and wagged
``Well then,'' said the man, ``which shall it be? Do I
leave home for the noise and grime of the city, open an
office and enter the money-making scramble?''
Every word was strange to the dog, almost breathlessly
waiting for a familiar syllable. The man gazed
steadily into the animal's eyes. After a long pause he
``Or do I remain at home to harvest the golden seal,
mullein, and ginseng, not to mention an occasional hour
with the black bass or tramps for partridge and cotton-
The dog recognized each word of that. Before the
voice ceased, his sleek sides were quivering, his nostrils
twitching, his tail lashing, and at the pause he leaped up
and thrust his nose against the face of the man. The
Harvester leaned back laughing in deep, full-chested
tones; then he patted the dog's head with one hand and
renewed his grip with the other.
``Good old Bel!'' he cried exultantly. ``Six years you
have decided for me, and right----every time! We are of
the woods, Bel, born and reared here as our fathers before
us. What would we of the camp fire, the long trail, the
earthy search, we harvesters of herbs the famous chemists
require, what would we do in a city? And when the sap
is rising, the bass splashing, and the wild geese honking
in the night! We never could endure it, Bel.
``When we delivered that hemlock at the hospital
to-day, did you hear that young doctor talking about his
`lid'? Well up there is ours, old fellow! Just sky and clouds
overhead for us, forest wind in our faces, wild perfume in
our nostrils, muck on our feet, that's the life for us. Our
blood was tainted to begin with, and we've lived here so
long it is now a passion in our hearts. If ever you sentence
us to life in the city, you'll finish both of us, that's
what you'll do! But you won't, will you? You realize
what God made us for and what He made for us, don't
As he lovingly patted the dog's head the man talked and
the animal trembled with delight. Then the voice of the
Harvester changed and dropped to tones of gravest
``Now how about that other matter, Bel? You always
decide that too. The time has come again. Steady now!
This is far more important than the other. Just to be
wiped out, Bel, pouf! That isn't anything and it concerns
no one save ourselves. But to bring misery into
our lives and live with it daily, that would be a
condition to rend the soul. So careful, Bel! Cautious
The voice of the man dropped to a whisper as he asked
``What about the girl business?''
Trembling with eagerness to do the thing that would
bring more caressing, bewildered by unfamiliar words
and tones, the dog hesitated.
``Do I go on as I have ever since mother left me,
rustling for grub, living in untrammelled freedom? Do
I go on as before, Bel?''
The Harvester paused and waited the answer, with
anxiety in his eyes as he searched the beast face. He
had talked to that dog, as most men commune with their
souls, for so long and played the game in such intense
earnest that he felt the results final with him. The
animal was immovable now, lost again, his anxious eyes
watching the face of the master, his eager ears waiting
for words he recognized. After a long time the man
continued slowly and hesitantly, as if fearing the outcome.
He did not realize that there was sufficient anxiety in his
voice to change its tones.
``Or do I go courting this year? Do I rig up in
uncomfortable store-clothes, and parade before the country and
city girls and try to persuade the one I can get,
probably----not the one I would want----to marry me, and
come here and spoil all our good times? Do we want
a woman around scolding if we are away from home,
whining because she is lonesome, fretting for luxuries
we cannot afford to give her? Are you going to let us in
for a scrape like that, Bel?''
The bewildered dog could bear the unusual scene no
longer. Taking the rising inflection, that sounded more
familiar, for a cue, and his name for a certainty, he
sprang forward, his tail waving as his nose touched the
face of the Harvester. Then he shot across the driveway
and lay in the spice thicket, half the ribs of one
side aching, as he howled from the lowest depths of
``You ungrateful cur!'' cried the Harvester. ``What
has come over you? Six years I have trusted you, and
the answer has been right, every time! Confound your
picture! Sentence me to tackle the girl proposition! I
see myself! Do you know what it would mean? For
the first thing you'd be chained, while I pranced over the
country like a half-broken colt, trying to attract some
girl. I'd have to waste time I need for my work and
spend money that draws good interest while we sleep, to
tempt her with presents. I'd have to rebuild the cabin
and there's not a chance in ten she would not fret the life
out of me whining to go to the city to live, arrange for her
here the best I could. Of all the fool, unreliable dogs that
ever trod a man's tracks, you are the limit! And you
never before failed me! You blame, degenerate pup,
The Harvester paused for breath and the dog subsided
to a pitiful whimper. He was eager to return to the
man who had struck him the first blow his pampered
body ever had received; but he could not understand a
kick and harsh words for him, so he lay quivering with
anxiety and fear.
``You howling, whimpering idiot!'' exclaimed the
Harvester. ``Choose a day like this to spoil! Air to
intoxicate a mummy! Roots swelling! Buds bursting! Harvest
close and you'd call me off and put me at work
like that, would you? If I ever had supposed
lost all your senses, I never would have asked you.
Six years you have decided my fate, when the first
bluebird came, and you've been true blue every time.
If I ever trust you again! But the mischief is done
``Have you forgotten that your name means `to protect?'
Don't you remember it is because of that, it is
your name? Protect! I'd have trusted you with my
life, Bell! You gave it to me the time you pointed that
rattler within six inches of my fingers in the blood-root
bed. You saw the falling limb in time to warn me. You
always know where the quicksands lie. But you are
protecting me now, like sin, ain't you? Bring a girl
here to spoil both our lives! Not if I know myself!
The man arose and going inside the cabin closed the
door. After that the dog lay in abject misery so deep
that two big tears squeezed from his eyes and rolled down
his face. To be shut out was worse than the blow. He
did not take the trouble to arise from the wet leaves
covering the cold earth, but closing his eyes went to sleep.
The man leaned against the door and ran his fingers
through his hair as he anathematized the dog. Slowly his
eyes travelled around the room. He saw his tumbled bed
by the open window facing the lake, the small table with
his writing material, the crude rack on the wall loaded
with medical works, botanies, drug encyclopaedias, the
books of the few authors who interested him, and the bare,
muck-tracked floor. He went to the kitchen, where he
built a fire in the cook stove, and to the smoke-house, from
which he returned with a slice of ham and some eggs. He
set some potatoes boiling and took bread, butter and milk
from the pantry. Then he laid a small note-book on the
table before him and studied the transactions of the
10 lbs. wild cherry bark 6 cents $ .60
5 `` wahoo root bark 25 `` 1.25
20 `` witch hazel bark 5 `` 1.00
5 `` blue flag root 12 `` .60
10 `` snake root 18 `` 1.80
10 `` blood root 12 `` 1.20
15 `` hoarhound 10 `` 1.50
``Not so bad,'' he muttered, bending over the figures.
``I wonder if any of my neighbours who harvest the
fields average as well at this season. I'll wager they don't.
That's pretty fair! Some days I don't make it, and then
when a consignment of seeds go or ginseng is wanted the
cash comes in right properly. I could waste half of it on
a girl and yet save money. But where is the woman who
would be content with half? She'd want all and fret
because there wasn't more. Blame that dog!''
He put the book in his pocket, prepared and ate his
supper, heaped a plate generously, placed it on the floor
beneath the table, and set away the food that remained.
``Not that you deserve it,'' he said to space. ``You get
this in honour of your distinguished name and the faithfulness
with which you formerly have lived up to its import.
If you hadn't been a dog with more sense than some
men, I wouldn't take your going back on me now so
hard. One would think an animal of your intelligence
might realize that you would get as much of a dose as I.
Would she permit you to eat from a plate on the kitchen
floor? Not on your life, Belshazzar! Frozen scraps
around the door for you! Would she allow you to sleep
across the foot of the bed? Ho, ho, ho! Would she have
you tracking on her floor? It would be the barn, and
growling you didn't do at that. If I'd serve you right, I'd
give you a dose and allow you to see how you like it. But
it's cutting off my nose to spite my face, as the old adage
goes, for whatever she did to a dog, she'd probably do
worse to a man. I think not!''
He entered the front room and stood before a long shelf
on which were arranged an array of partially completed
candlesticks carved from wood. There were black and
white walnut, red, white, and golden oak, cherry and
curly maple, all in original designs. Some of them were
oddities, others were failures, but most of them were
unusually successful. He selected one of black walnut,
carved until the outline of his pattern was barely
distinguishable. He was imitating the trunk of a tree with
the bark on, the spreading, fern-covered roots widening
for the base, from which a vine sprang. Near the top was
the crude outline of a big night moth climbing toward
the light. He stood turning this stick with loving hands
and holding it from him for inspection.
``I am going to master you!'' he exulted. ``Your
lines are right. The design balances and it's graceful. If
I have any trouble it will be with the moth, and I think
I can manage. I've got to decide whether to use cecropia
or polyphemus before long. Really, on a walnut, and in
the woods, it should be a luna, according to the eternal
fitness of things----but I'm afraid of the trailers. They
turn over and half curl and I believe I had better not
tackle them for a start. I'll use the easiest to begin on,
and if I succeed I'll duplicate the pattern and try a luna
then. The beauties!''
The Harvester selected a knife from the box and began
carving the stick slowly and carefully. His brain was
busy, for presently he glanced at the floor.
``She'd object to that!'' he said emphatically. ``A
man could no more sit and work where he pleased than
he could fly. At least I know mother never would have
it, and she was no nagger, either. What a mother she
was! If one only could stop the lonely feeling that will
creep in, and the aching hunger born with the body, for
a mate; if a fellow only could stop it with a woman like
mother! How she revelled in sunshine and beauty!
How she loved earth and air! How she went straight to
the marrow of the finest line in the best book I could
bring from the library! How clean and true she was and
how unyielding! I can hear her now, holding me with
her last breath to my promise. If I could marry a girl
like mother----great Caesar! You'd see me buying an
automobile to make the run to the county clerk. Wouldn't
that be great! Think of coming in from a long, difficult
day, to find a hot supper, and a girl such as she must have
been, waiting for me! Bel, if I thought there was a woman
similar to her in all the world, and I had even the ghost of
a chance to win her, I'd call you in and forgive you. But
I know the girls of to-day. I pass them on the roads, on
the streets, see them in the cafe's, stores, and at the library.
Why even the nurses at the hospital, for all the gravity
of their positions, are a giggling, silly lot; and they never
know that the only time they look and act presentably to
me is when they stop their chatter, put on their uniforms,
and go to work. Some of them are pretty, then.
There's a little blue-eyed one, but all she needs is feathers
to make her a `ha! ha! bird.' Drat that dog!''
The Harvester took the candlestick and the box of
knives, opened the door, and returned to the stoop. Belshazzar
arose, pleading in his eyes, and cautiously advanced
a few steps. The man bent over his work and
paid not the slightest heed, so the discouraged dog sank to
earth and fixedly watched the unresponsive master. The
carving of the candlestick went on steadily. Occasionally
the Harvester lifted his head and repeatedly sucked his
lungs full of air. Sometimes for an instant he scanned
the surface of the lake for signs of breaking fish or splash
of migrant water bird. Again his gaze wandered up the
steep hill, crowned with giant trees, whose swelling buds
he could see and smell. Straight before him lay a low
marsh, through which the little creek that gurgled and
tumbled down hill curved, crossed the drive some distance
below, and entered the lake of Lost Loons.
While the trees were bare, and when the air was clear as
now, he could see the spires of Onabasha, five miles away,
intervening cultivated fields, stretches of wood, the long
black line of the railway, and the swampy bottom lands
gradually rising to the culmination of the tree-crowned
summit above him. His cocks were crowing warlike
challenges to rivals on neighbouring farms. His hens
were carolling their spring egg-song. In the barn yard
ganders were screaming stridently. Over the lake and the
cabin, with clapping snowy wings, his white doves circled
in a last joy-flight before seeking their cotes in the
stable loft. As the light grew fainter, the Harvester
worked slower. Often he leaned against the casing, and
closed his eyes to rest them. Sometimes he whistled
snatches of old songs to which his mother had cradled
him, and again bits of opera and popular music he had
heard on the streets of Onabasha. As he worked, the
sun went down and a half moon appeared above the wood
across the lake. Once it seemed as if it were a silver bowl
set on the branch of a giant oak; higher, it rested a tilted
crescent on the rim of a cloud.
The dog waited until he could endure it no longer, and
straightening from his crouching position, he took a few
velvet steps forward, making faint, whining sounds in his
throat. When the man neither turned his head nor gave
him a glance, Belshazzar sank to earth again, satisfied
for the moment with being a little closer. Across Loon
Lake came the wavering voice of a night love song.
The Harvester remembered that as a boy he had shrunk
from those notes until his mother explained that they
were made by a little brown owl asking for a mate to
come and live in his hollow tree. Now he rather liked
the sound. It was eloquent of earnest pleading. With
the lonely bird on one side, and the reproachful dog eyes
on the other, the man grinned rather foolishly.
Between two fires, he thought. If that dog ever
catches my eye he will come tearing as a cyclone, and I
would not kick him again for a hundred dollars. First
time I ever struck him, and didn't intend to then. So
blame mad and disappointed my foot just shot out before
I knew it. There he lies half dead to make up, but I'm
blest if I forgive him in a hurry. And there is that
insane little owl screeching for a mate. If I'd start out
making sounds like that, all the girls would line up and
compete for possession of my happy home.
The Harvester laughed and at the sound Belshazzar
took courage and advanced five steps before he sank belly
to earth again. The owl continued its song. The Harvester
imitated the cry and at once it responded. He
called again and leaned back waiting. The notes came
closer. The Harvester cried once more and peered across
the lake, watching for the shadow of silent wings. The
moon was high above the trees now, the knife dropped in
the box, the long fingers closed around the stick, the head
rested against the casing, and the man intoned the cry
with all his skill, and then watched and waited. He had
been straining his eyes over the carving until they were
tired, and when he watched for the bird the moonlight
tried them; for it touched the lightly rippling waves of
the lake in a line of yellow light that stretched straight
across the water from the opposite bank, directly to the
gravel bed below, where lay the bathing pool. It made
a path of gold that wavered and shimmered as the water
moved gently, but it appeared sufficiently material to
resemble a bridge spanning the lake.
``Seems as if I could walk it,'' muttered the Harvester.
The owl cried again and the man intently watched the
opposite bank. He could not see the bird, but in the
deep wood where he thought it might be he began to
discern a misty, moving shimmer of white. Marvelling,
he watched closer. So slowly he could not detect motion
it advanced, rising in height and taking shape.
``Do I end this day by seeing a ghost?'' he queried.
He gazed intently and saw that a white figure really
moved in the woods of the opposite bank.
``Must be some boys playing fool pranks!'' exclaimed
He watched fixedly with interested face, and then
amazement wiped out all other expression and he sat
motionless, breathless, looking, intently looking. For
the white object came straight toward the water and at
the very edge unhesitatingly stepped upon the bridge of
gold and lightly, easily advanced in his direction. The man
waited. On came the figure and as it drew closer he could
see that it was a very tall, extremely slender woman,
wrapped in soft robes of white. She stepped along
the slender line of the gold bridge with grace unequalled.
From the water arose a shining mist, and behind the
advancing figure a wall of light outlined and rimmed her
in a setting of gold. As she neared the shore the
Harvester's blood began to race in his veins and his lips parted
in wonder. First she was like a slender birch trunk, then
she resembled a wild lily, and soon she was close enough
to prove that she was young and very lovely. Heavy
braids of dark hair rested on her head as a coronet. Her
forehead was low and white. Her eyes were wide-open
wells of darkness, her rounded cheeks faintly pink, and
her red lips smiling invitation. Her throat was long,
very white, and the hands that caught up the fleecy robe
around her were rose-coloured and slender. In a panic
the Harvester saw that the trailing robe swept the undulant
gold water, but was not wet; the feet that alternately
showed as she advanced were not purple with cold, but
warm with a pink glow.
She was coming straight toward him, wonderful,
alluring, lovely beyond any woman the Harvester ever
had seen. Straightway the fountains of twenty-six years'
repression overflowed in the breast of the man and all
his being ran toward her in a wave of desire. On she
came, and now her tender feet were on the white gravel.
When he could see clearly she was even more beautiful
than she had appeared at a distance. He opened his lips,
but no sound came. He struggled to rise, but his legs
would not bear his weight. Helpless, he sank against
the casing. The girl walked to his feet, bent, placed a
hand on each of his shoulders, and smiled into his eyes.
He could scent the flower-like odour of her body and
wrapping, even her hair. He struggled frantically to
speak to her as she leaned closer, yet closer, and softly
but firmly laid lips of pulsing sweetness on his in a
The Harvester was on his feet now. Belshazzar shrank
into the shadows.
``Come back!'' cried the man. ``Come back! For
the love of mercy, where are you?''
He ran stumblingly toward the lake. The bridge of
gold was there, the little owl cried lonesomely; and did
he see or did he only dream he saw a mist of white vanishing
in the opposite wood?
His breath came between dry lips, and he circled the
cabin searching eagerly, but he could find nothing, hear
nothing, save the dog at his heels. He hurried to the
stoop and stood gazing at the molten path of moonlight.
One minute he was half frozen, the next a rosy glow
enfolded him. Slowly he lifted a hand and touched his
lips. Then he raised his eyes from the water and swept
the sky in a penetrant gaze.
``My gracious Heavenly Father,'' said the Harvester
reverently. ``Would it be like that?''
THE EFFECT OF A DREAM
Fully convinced at last that he had been dreaming,
the Harvester picked up his knives and
candlestick and entered the cabin. He placed
them on a shelf and turned away, but after a second's
hesitation he closed the box and arranged the sticks
neatly. Then he set the room in order and carefully
swept the floor. As he replaced the broom he thought
for an instant, then opened the door and whistled softly.
Belshazzar came at a rush. The Harvester pushed the
plate of food toward the hungry dog and he ate greedily.
The man returned to the front room and closed the door.
He stood a long time before his shelf of books, at last
selected a volume of ``Medicinal Plants'' and settled
to study. His supper finished, Belshazzar came scratching
and whining at the door. Several times the man
lifted his head and glanced in that direction, but he only
returned to his book and read again. Tired and sleepy,
at last, he placed the volume on the shelf, went to a
closet for a pair of bath towels, and hung them across a
chair. Then he undressed, opened the door, and ran
for the lake. He plunged with a splash and swam vigorously
for a few minutes, his white body growing pink
under the sting of the chilled water. Over and over he
scanned the golden bridge to the moon, and stood an
instant dripping on the gravel of the landing to make sure
that no dream woman was crossing the wavering floor!
He rubbed to a glow and turned back the covers of his
bed. The door and window stood wide. Before he lay
down, the Harvester paused in arrested motion a second,
then stepped to the kitchen door and lifted the latch.
As the man drew the covers over him, the dog's nose
began making an opening, and a little later he quietly
walked into the room. The Harvester rested, facing
the lake. The dog sniffed at his shoulder, but the man
was rigid. Then the click of nails could be heard on the
floor as Belshazzar went to the opposite side. At his
accustomed place he paused and set one foot on the bed.
There was not a sound, so he lifted the other. Then
one at a time he drew up his hind feet and crouched as
he had on the gravel. The man lay watching the bright
bridge. The moonlight entered the window and flooded
the room. The strong lines on the weather-beaten face
of the Harvester were mellowed in the light, and he
appeared young and good to see. His lithe figure stretched
the length of the bed, his hair appeared almost white,
and his face, touched by the glorifying light of the moon,
was a study.
One instant his countenance was swept with ultimate
scorn; then gradually that would fade and the lines soften,
until his lips curved in child-like appeal and his eyes
were filled with pleading. Several times he lifted a
hand and gently touched his lips, as if a kiss were a material
thing and would leave tangible evidence of having
been given. After a long time his eyes closed and he
scarcely was unconscious before Belshazzar's cold nose
touched the outstretched hand and the Harvester lifted
and laid it on the dog's head.
``Forgive me, Bel,'' he muttered. ``I never did that.
I wouldn't have hurt you for anything. It happened
before I had time to think.''
They both fell asleep. The clear-cut lines of manly
strength on the face of the Harvester were touched to
tender beauty. He lay smiling softly. Far in the night
he realized the frost-chill and divided the coverlet with
the happy Belshazzar.
The golden dream never came again. There was no
need. It had done its perfect work. The Harvester
awoke the next morning a different man. His face was
youthful and alive with alert anticipation. He began
his work with eager impetuosity, whistling and singing
the while, and he found time to play with and talk to
Belshazzar, until that glad beast almost wagged off his
tail in delight. They breakfasted together and arranged
the rooms with unusual care.
``You see,'' explained the Harvester to the dog, ``we
must walk neatly after this. Maybe there is such a
thing as fate. Possibly your answer was right. There
might be a girl in the world for me. I don't expect it,
but there is a possibility that she may find us before we
locate her. Anyway, we should work and be ready.
All the old stock in the store-house goes out as soon as
we can cart it. A new cabin shall rise as fast as we
can build it. There must be a basement and furnace,
too. Dream women don't have cold feet, but if there is
a girl living like that, and she is coming to us or waiting
for us to come to her, we must have a comfortable home
to offer. There should be a bathroom, too. She couldn't
dip in the lake as we do. And until we build the new
house we must keep the old one clean, just on the chance
of her happening on us. She might be visiting some
of the neighbours or come from town with some one
or I might see her on the street or at the library or
hospital or in some of the stores. For the love of mercy,
help me watch for her, Bel! The half of my kingdom
if you will point her for me!''
The Harvester worked as he talked. He set the rooms
in order, put away the remains of breakfast, and started
to the stable. He turned back and stood for a long time,
scanning the face in the kitchen mirror. Once he went
to the door, then he hesitated, and finally took out his
shaving set and used it carefully and washed vigorously.
He pulled his shirt together at the throat, and hunting
among his clothing, found an old red tie that he knotted
around his neck. This so changed his every-day appearance
that he felt wonderfully dressed and whistled gaily
on his way to the barn. There he confided in the old
gray mare as he curried and harnessed her to the spring
``Hardly know me, do you, Betsy?'' he inquired.
``Well, I'll explain. Our friend Bel, here, has doomed me
to go courting this year. Wouldn't that durnfound you?
I was mad as hornets at first, but since I've slept on the
idea, I rather like it. Maybe we are too lonely and dull.
Perhaps the right woman would make life a very different
matter. Last night I saw her, Betsy, and between
us, I can't tell even you. She was the loveliest, sweetest
girl on earth, and that is all I can say. We are going to
watch for her to-day, and every trip we make, until
we find her, if it requires a hundred years. Then some
glad time we are going to locate her, and when we do, well,
you just keep your eye on us, Betsy, and you'll see how
courting straight from the heart is done, even if we lack
Intoxicated with new and delightful sensations his
tongue worked faster than his hands.
``I don't mind telling you, old faithful, that I am in
love this morning,'' he said. ``In love heels over, Betsy,
for the first time in all my life. If any man ever was a
bigger fool than I am to-day, it would comfort me to
know about it. I am acting like an idiot, Betsy. I know
that, but I wish you could understand how I feel. Power!
I am the head-waters of Niagara! I could pluck down
the stars and set them in different places! I could twist
the tail from the comet! I could twirl the globe on my
palm and topple mountains and wipe lakes from
the surface! I am a live man, Betsy. Existence is over.
So don't you go at any tricks or I might pull off your
head. Betsy, if you see the tallest girl you ever saw,
and she wears a dark diadem, and has big black eyes and
a face so lovely it blinds you, why you have seen Her, and
you balk, right on the spot, and stand like the rock of
Gibraltar, until you make me see her, too. As if I wouldn't
know she was coming a mile away! There's more I
could tell you, but that is my secret, and it's too precious
to talk about, even to my best friends. Bel, bring Betsy
to the store-room.''
The Harvester tossed the hitching strap to the dog and
walked down the driveway to a low structure built on
the embankment beside the lake. One end of it was a
dry-house of his own construction. Here, by an arrangement
of hot water pipes, he evaporated many of the barks,
roots, seeds, and leaves he grew to supply large concerns
engaged in the manufacture of drugs. By his process
crude stock was thoroughly cured, yet did not lose in
weight and colour as when dried in the sun or outdoor
So the Harvester was enabled to send his customers
big packages of brightly coloured raw material, and the
few cents per pound he asked in advance of the catalogued
prices were paid eagerly. He lived alone, and never
talked of his work; so none of the harvesters of the fields
adjoining dreamed of the extent of his reaping. The
idea had been his own. He had been born in the cabin
in which he now lived. His father and grandfather
were old-time hunters of skins and game. They had
added to their earnings by gathering in spring and fall
the few medicinal seeds, leaves, and barks they knew.
His mother had been of different type. She had
loved and married the picturesque young hunter, and
gone to live with him on the section of land taken
by his father. She found life, real life, vastly different
from her girlhood dreams, but she was one of those
changeless, unyielding women who suffer silently, but
never rue a bargain, no matter how badly they are
cheated. Her only joy in life had been her son. For
him she had worked and saved unceasingly, and when
he was old enough she sent him to the city to school
and kept pace with him in the lessons he brought home
Using what she knew of her husband's work as a guide,
and profiting by pamphlets published by the government,
every hour of the time outside school and in
summer vacations she worked in the woods with the boy,
gathering herbs and roots to pay for his education and
clothing. So the son passed the full high-school course,
and then, selecting such branches as interested him,
continued his studies alone.
From books and drug pamphlets he had learned every
medicinal plant, shrub, and tree of his vicinity, and for
years roamed far afield and through the woods collecting.
After his father's death expenses grew heavier and the
boy saw that he must earn more money. His mother
frantically opposed his going to the city, so he thought out
the plan of transplanting the stuff he gathered, to the
land they owned and cultivating it there. This work
was well developed when he was twenty, but that year
he lost his mother.
From that time he went on steadily enlarging his
species, transplanting trees, shrubs, vines, and medicinal
herbs from such locations as he found them to similar
conditions on his land. Six years he had worked
cultivating these beds, and hunting through the woods on
the river banks, government land, the great Limberlost
Swamp, and neglected corners of earth for barks and
roots. He occasionally made long trips across the
country for rapidly diminishing plants he found in the
woodland of men who did not care to bother with a few
specimens, and many big beds of profitable herbs,
extinct for miles around, now flourished on the banks of
Loon Lake, in the marsh, and through the forest rising
above. To what extent and value his venture had grown,
no one save the Harvester knew. When his neighbours
twitted him with being too lazy to plow and sow, of
``mooning'' over books, and derisively sneered when they
spoke of him as the Harvester of the Woods or the
Medicine Man, David Langston smiled and went his way.
How lonely he had been since the death of his mother
he never realized until that morning when a new idea
really had taken possession of him. From the store-
house he heaped packages of seeds, dried leaves, barks,
and roots into the wagon. But he kept a generous supply
of each, for he prided himself on being able to fill all
orders that reached him. Yet the load he took to
the city was much larger than usual. As he drove
down the hill and passed the cabin he studied the
``The drainage is perfect,'' he said to Belshazzar beside
him on the seat. ``So is the situation. We get the cool
breezes from the lake in summer and the hillside warmth
in winter. View down the valley can't be surpassed. We
will grub out that thicket in front, move over the driveway,
and build a couple of two-story rooms, with basement
for cellar and furnace, and a bathroom in front of
the cabin and use it with some fixing over for a dining-
room and kitchen. Then we will deepen and widen
Singing Water, stick a bushel of bulbs and roots and
sow a peck of flower seeds in the marsh, plant a hedge
along the drive, and straighten the lake shore a little. I
can make a beautiful wild-flower garden and arrange
so that with one season's work this will appear very
well. We will express this stuff and then select and fell
some trees to-night. Soon as the frost is out of the
ground we will dig our basement and lay the foundations.
The neighbours will help me raise the logs; after that I
can finish the inside work. I've got some dried maple,
cherry, and walnut logs that would work into beautiful
furniture. I haven't forgotten the prices McLean offered
me. I can use it as well as he. Plain way the best
things are built now, I believe I could make tables
and couches myself. I can see plans in the magazines
at the library. I'll take a look when I get this off. I
feel strong enough to do all of it in a few days and I am
crazy to commence. But I scarcely know where to begin.
There are about fifty things I'd like to do. But to fell
and dry the trees and get the walls up come first, I believe.
What do you think, old unreliable?''
Belshazzar thought the world was a place of beauty
that morning. He sniffed the icy, odorous air and with
tilted head watched the birds. A wearied band of ducks
had settled on Loon Lake to feed and rest, for there was
nothing to disturb them. Signs were numerous everywhere
prohibiting hunters from firing over the Harvester's
land. Beside the lake, down the valley, crossing
the railroad, and in the farther lowlands, the dog was a
nervous quiver, as he constantly scented game or saw
birds he wanted to point. But when they neared the
city, he sat silently watching everything with alert
eyes. As they reached the outer fringe of residences
the Harvester spoke to him.
``Now remember, Bel,'' he said. ``Point me the
tallest girl you ever saw, with a big braid of dark hair,
shining black eyes, and red velvet lips, sweeter than wild
crab apple blossoms. Make a dead set! Don't allow
her to pass us. Heaven is going to begin in Medicine
Woods when we find her and prove to her that there
lies her happy home.
``When we find her,'' repeated the Harvester softly
and exultantly. ``When we find her!''
He said it again and again, pronouncing the words with
tender modulations. Because he was chanting it in
his soul, in his heart, in his brain, with his lips, he had a
hasty glance for every woman he passed. Light hair,
blue eyes, and short figures got only casual inspection:
but any tall girl with dark hair and eyes endured rather
close scrutiny that morning. He drove to the express
office and delivered his packages and then to the hospital.
In the hall the blue-eyed nurse met him and cried gaily,
``Good morning, Medicine Man!''
``Ugh! I scalp pale-faces!'' threatened the Harvester,
but the girl was not afraid and stood before him laughing.
She might have gone her way quite as well. She could
not have differed more from the girl of the newly begun
quest. The man merely touched his wide-brimmed hat
as he walked around her and entered the office of the
A slender, gray-eyed man with white hair turned from
his desk, smiled warmly, pushed a chair, and reached a
``Ah good-morning, David,'' he cried. ``You bring
the very breath of spring with you. Are you at the
``Begin to-morrow,'' was the answer. ``I want to get
all my old stock off hands. Sugar water comes next,
and then the giddy sassafras and spring roots rush me,
and after that, harvest begins full force, and all my land
is teeming. This is going to be a big year. Everything
is sufficiently advanced to be worth while. I have
decided to enlarge the buildings.''
``Store-room too small?''
``Everything!'' said the Harvester comprehensively.
``I am crowded everywhere.''
The keen gray eyes bent on him searchingly.
``Ho, ho!'' laughed the doctor. `` `Crowded everywhere.'
I had not heard of cramped living quarters
before. When did you meet her?''
``Last night,'' replied the Harvester. ``Her home is
already in construction. I chose seven trees as I drove
here that are going to fall before night.''
So casual was the tone the doctor was disarmed.
``I am trying your nerve remedy,'' he said.
Instantly the Harvester tingled with interest.
``How does it work?'' he inquired.
``Finely! Had a case that presented just the symptoms
you mentioned. High-school girl broken down
from trying to lead her classes, lead her fraternity, lead
her parents, lead society----the Lord only knows what
else. Gone all to pieces! Pretty a case of nervous
prostration as you ever saw in a person of fifty. I began
on fractional doses with it, and at last got her where she
can rest. It did precisely what you claimed it would,
``Good!'' cried the Harvester. ``Good! I hoped it
would be effective. Thank you for the test. It will
give me confidence when I go before the chemists with it.
I've got a couple more compounds I wish you would
try when you have safe cases where you can do no harm.''
``You are cautious for a young man, son!''
``The woods do that. You not only discover miracles
and marvels in them, you not only trace evolution and the
origin of species, but you get the greatest lessons taught
in all the world ground into you early and alone----
courage, caution, and patience.''
``Those are the rocks on which men are stranded as a
rule. You think you can breast them, David?''
The Harvester laughed.
``Aside from breaking a certain promise mother rooted
in the blood and bones of me, if I am afraid of anything,
I don't know it. You don't often see me going head-
long, do you? As to patience! Ten years ago I began
removing every tree, bush, vine, and plant of medicinal
value from the woods around to my land; I set and sowed
acres in ginseng, knowing I must nurse, tend, and cultivate
seven years. If my neighbours had understood
what I was attempting, what do you think they would
have said? Cranky and lazy would have become adjectives
too mild. Lunatic would have expressed it better.
That's close the general opinion, anyway. Because I
will not fell my trees, and the woods hide the work I do,
it is generally conceded that I spend my time in the sun
reading a book. I do, as often as I have an opportunity.
But the point is that this fall, when I harvest that ginseng
bed, I will clear more money than my stiffest detractor
ever saw at one time. I'll wager my bank account won't
compare so unfavourably with the best of them now.
I did well this morning. Yes, I'll admit this much:
I am reasonably cautious, I'm a pattern for patience,
and my courage never has failed me yet, anyway. But
I must rap on wood; for that boast is a sign that I probably
will meet my Jonah soon.''
``David, you are a man after my own heart,'' said the
doctor. ``I love you more than any other friend I have
I wouldn't see a hair of your head changed for the world.
Now I've got to hurry to my operation. Remain as
long as you please if there is anything that interests you;
but don't let the giggling little nurse that always haunts
the hall when you come make any impression. She is
not up to your standard.''
``Don't!'' said the Harvester. ``I've learned one of
the big lessons of life since last I saw you, Doc. I have
no standard. There is just one woman in all the world
for me, and when I find her I will know her, and I will
be happy for even a glance; as for that talk of standards,
I will be only too glad to take her as she is.''
``David! I supposed what you said about enlarged
buildings was nonsense or applied to store-rooms.''
``Go to your operation!''
``David, if you send me in suspense, I may operate
on the wrong man. What has happened?''
``Nothing!'' said the Harvester. ``Nothing!''
``David, it is not like you to evade. What happened?''
``Nothing! On my word! I merely saw a vision and
dreamed a dream.''
``You! A rank materialist! Saw a vision and
dreamed a dream! And you call it nothing. Worst
thing that could happen! Whenever a man of common-
sense goes to seeing things that don't exist, and dreaming
dreams, why look out! What did you see? What did
``You woman!'' laughed the Harvester. ``Talk about
curiosity! I'd have to be a poet to describe my vision,
and the dream was strictly private. I couldn't tell it,
not for any price you could mention. Go to your operation.''
The doctor paused on the threshold.
``You can't fool me,'' he said. ``I can diagnose you
all right. You are poet enough, but the vision was
sacred; and when a man won't tell, it's always and forever
a woman. I know all now I ever will, because I know
you, David. A man with a loose mouth and a low mind
drags the women of his acquaintance through whatever
mire he sinks in; but you couldn't tell, David, not even
about a dream woman. Come again soon! You are
my elixir of life, lad! I revel in the atmosphere you bring.
Wish me success now, I am going to a difficult, delicate
``I do!'' cried the Harvester heartily. ``I do! But
you can't fail. You never have and that proves you
Down the street went the Harvester, passing over city
pave with his free, swinging stride, his head high, his
face flushed with vivid outdoor tints, going somewhere
to do something worth while, the impression always left
behind him. Men envied his robust appearance and
women looked twice, always twice, and sometimes
oftener if there was any opportunity; but twice at least
was the rule. He left a little roll of bills at the bank and
started toward the library. When he entered the reading
room an attendant with an eager smile hastily came toward him.
``What will you have this morning, Mr. Langston?'' she
asked in the voice of one who would render willing service.
``Not the big books to-day,'' laughed the Harvester.
``I've only a short time. I'll glance through the magazines.''
He selected several from a table and going to a corner
settled with them and for two hours was deeply engrossed.
He took an envelope from his pocket, traced lines, and
read intently. He studied the placing of rooms, the
construction of furniture, and all attractive ideas were
noted. When at last he arose the attendant went to
replace the magazines on the table. They had been
opened widely, and as she turned the leaves they
naturally fell apart at the plans for houses or articles
The Harvester slowly went down the street. Before
every furniture store he paused and studied the designs
displayed in the windows. Then he untied Betsy and
drove to a lumber mill on the outskirts of the city and
made arrangements to have some freshly felled logs of
black walnut and curly maple sawed into different sizes
and put through a course in drying.
He drove back to Medicine Woods whistling, singing,
and talking to Belshazzar beside him. He ate a hasty
lunch and at three o'clock was in the forest, blazing and
felling slender, straight-trunked oak and ash of the
HARVESTING THE FOREST
The forest is never so wonderful as when spring
wrestles with winter for supremacy. While
the earth is yet ice bound, while snows occasionally
fly, spring breathes her warmer breath of
approach, and all nature responds. Sunny knolls,
embankments, and cleared spaces become bare, while shadow
spots and sheltered nooks remain white. This perfumes
the icy air with a warmer breath of melting snow. The
sap rises in the trees and bushes, sets buds swelling, and
they distil a faint, intangible odour. Deep layers of
dead leaves cover the frozen earth, and the sun shining
on them raises a steamy vapour unlike anything else in
nature. A different scent rises from earth where the
sun strikes it. Lichen faces take on the brightest colours
they ever wear, and rough, coarse mosses emerge in rank
growth from their cover of snow and add another perfume
to mellowing air. This combination has breathed a
strange intoxication into the breast of mankind in all
ages, and bird and animal life prove by their actions that
it makes the same appeal to them.
Crows caw supremacy from tall trees; flickers, drunk
on the wine of nature, flash their yellow-lined wings
and red crowns among trees in a search for suitable
building places; nut-hatches run head foremost down
rough trunks, spying out larvae and early emerging insects;
titmice chatter; the bold, clear whistle of the cardinal
sounds never so gaily; and song sparrows pipe from every
wayside shrub and fence post. Coons and opossums
stir in their dens, musk-rat and ground-hog inspect the
weather, while squirrels race along branches and bound
from tree to tree like winged folk.
All of them could have outlined the holdings of the
Harvester almost as well as any surveyor. They understood
where the bang of guns and the snap of traps
menaced life. Best of all, they knew where cracked
nuts, handfuls of wheat, oats, and crumbs were scattered
on the ground, and where suet bones dangled from bushes.
Here, too, the last sheaf from the small wheat field at the
foot of the hill was stoutly fixed on a high pole, so that
the grain was free to all feathered visitors.
When the Harvester hitched Betsy, loaded his spiles
and sap buckets into the wagon, and started to the
woods to gather the offering the wet maples were pouring
down their swelling sides, almost his entire family came
to see him. They knew who fed and passed every day
among them, and so were unafraid.
After the familiarity of a long, cold winter, when it had
been easier to pick up scattered food than to search for
it, they became so friendly with the man, the dog, and
the gray horse that they hastily snatched the food offered
at the barn and then followed through the woods. The
Harvester always was particular to wear large pockets,
for it was good company to have living creatures flocking
after him, trusting to his bounty. Ajax, a shimmering
wonder of gorgeous feathers, sunned on the ridge pole
of the old log stable, preened, spread his train, and uttered
the peacock cry of defiance, to exercise his voice or to
express his emotions at all times. But at feeding hour
he descended to the park and snatched bites from the
biggest turkey cocks and ganders and reigned in power
absolute over ducks, guineas, and chickens. Then he
followed to the barn and tried to frighten crows and
jays, and the gentle white doves under the eaves.
The Harvester walked through deep leaves and snow
covering the road that only a forester could have
distinguished. Over his shoulder he carried a mattock,
and in the wagon were his clippers and an ax. Behind
him came Betsy drawing the sap buckets and big evaporating
kettles. Through the wood ranged Belshazzar,
the craziest dog in all creation. He always went wild
at sap time. Here was none of the monotony of trapping
for skins around the lake. This marked the first full
day in the woods for the season. He ranged as he pleased
and came for a pat or a look of confidence when he grew
lonely, while the Harvester worked.
At camp the man unhitched Betsy and tied her to the
wagon and for several hours distributed buckets. Then
he hung the kettles and gathered wood for the fire. At
noon he returned to the cabin for lunch and brought back
a load of empty syrup cans, and barrels in which to
collect the sap. While the buckets filled at the dripping
trees, he dug roots in the sassafras thicket to fill orders
and supply the demand of Onabasha for tea. Several
times he stopped to cut an especially fine tree.
``You know I hate to kill you,'' he apologized to the
first one he felled. ``But it certainly must be legitimate
for a man to take enough of his trees to build a
home. And no other house is possible for a creature of
the woods but a cabin, is there? The birds use of the
material they find here; surely I have the right to do the
same. Seems as if nothing else would serve, at least for
me. I was born and reared here, I've always loved
you; of course, I can't use anything else for my home.''
He swung the ax and the chips flew as he worked on
a straight half-grown oak. After a time he paused an
instant and rested, and as he did so he looked speculatively
at his work.
``I wonder where she is to-day,'' he said. ``I wonder
what she is going to think of a log cabin in the woods.
Maybe she has been reared in the city and is afraid of a
forest. She may not like houses made of logs. Possibly
she won't want to marry a Medicine Man. She may
dislike the man, not to mention his occupation. She may
think it coarse and common to work out of doors with
your hands, although I'd have to argue there is a little
brain in the combination. I must figure out all these
things. But there is one on the lady: She should have
settled these points before she became quite so familiar.
I have that for a foundation anyway, so I'll go on cutting
wood, and the remainder will be up to her when I find
her. When I find her,'' repeated the Harvester slowly.
``But I am not going to locate her very soon monkeying
around in these woods. I should be out where people
are, looking for her right now.''
He chopped steadily until the tree crashed over, and
then, noticing a rapidly filling bucket, he struck the ax
in the wood and began gathering sap. When he had
made the round, he drove to the camp, filled the kettles,
and lighted the fire. While it started he cut and scraped
sassafras roots, and made clippings of tag alder, spice
brush and white willow into big bundles that were ready
to have the bark removed during the night watch, and
then cured in the dry-house.
He went home at evening to feed the poultry and
replenish the ever-burning fire of the engine and to
keep the cabin warm enough that food would not freeze.
With an oilcloth and blankets he returned to camp and
throughout the night tended the buckets and boiling
sap, and worked or dozed by the fire between times.
Toward the end of boiling, when the sap was becoming
thick, it had to be watched with especial care so it would
not scorch. But when the kettles were freshly filled
the Harvester sat beside them and carefully split tender
twigs of willow and slipped off the bark ready to be
spread on the trays.
``You are a good tonic,'' he mused as he worked,
``and you go into some of the medicine for rheumatism.
If she ever has it we will give her some of you, and
then she will be all right again. Strange that I should
be preparing medicinal bark by the sugar camp fire,
but I have to make this hay, not while the sun shines,
but when the bark is loose, while the sap is rising. Wonder
who will use this. Depends largely on where I sell it.
Anyway, I hope it will take the pain out of some poor
body. Prices so low now, not worth gathering unless
I can kill time on it while waiting for something else.
Never got over seven cents a pound for the best I ever
sold, and it takes a heap of these little quills to make a
pound when they are dry. That's all of you----about
twenty-five cents' worth. But even that is better than
doing nothing while I wait, and some one has to keep the
doctors supplied with salicin and tannin, so, if I do,
other folks needn't bother.''
He arose and poured more sap into the kettles as it
boiled away and replenished the fire. He nibbled a twig
when he began on the spice brush. As he sat on the
piled wood, and bent over his work he was an attractive
figure. His face shone with health and was bright with
anticipation. While he split the tender bark and slipped
out the wood he spoke his thoughts slowly:
``The five cents a pound I'll get for you is even less,
but I love the fragrance and taste. You don't peel so
easy as the willow, but I like to prepare you better,
because you will make some miserable little sick child well
or you may cool some one's fevered blood. If ever she
has a fever, I hope she will take medicine made from my
bark, because it will be strong and pure. I've half a
notion to set some one else gathering the stuff and tending
the plants and spend my time in the little laboratory
compounding different combinations. I don't see what
bigger thing a man can do than to combine pure, clean,
unadulterated roots and barks into medicines that will
cool fevers, stop chills, and purify bad blood. The
doctors may be all right, but what are they going to do
if we men behind the prescription cases don't supply them
with unadulterated drugs. Answer me that, Mr. Sapsucker.
Doc says I've done mighty well so far as I
have gone. I can't think of a thing on earth I'd rather
do, and there's money no end in it. I could get too rich
for comfort in short order. I wouldn't be too wealthy
to live just the way I do for any consideration. I don't
know about her, though. She is lovely, and handsome
women usually want beautiful clothing, and a quantity
of things that cost no end of money. I may need all I
can get, for her. One never can tell.''
He arose to stir the sap and pour more from the barrels
to the kettles before he began on the tag alder he had
``If it is all the same to you, I'll just keep on chewing
spice brush while I work,'' he muttered. ``You are
entirely too much of an astringent to suit my taste and
you bring a cent less a pound. But you are thicker and
dry heavier, and you grow in any quantity around the
lake and on the marshy places, so I'll make the size of
the bundle atone for the price. If I peel you while I wait
on the sap I'm that much ahead. I can spread you on
drying trays in a few seconds and there you are. Howl
your head off, Bel, I don't care what you have found. I
wouldn't shoot anything to-day, unless the cupboard was
bare and I was starvation hungry. In that case I think
a man comes first, and I'd kill a squirrel or quail in season,
but blest if I'd butcher a lot or do it often. Vegetables
and bread are better anyway. You peel easier even than
the willow. What jolly whistles father used to make!
``There was about twenty cents' worth of spice, and
I'll easy raise it to a dollar on this. I'll get a hundred
gallons of syrup in the coming two weeks and it will
bring one fifty if I boil and strain it carefully and can
guarantee it contains no hickory bark and brown sugar.
And it won't! Straight for me or not at all. Pure is
the word at Medicine Woods; syrup or drugs it's the same
thing. Between times I can fell every tree I'll need for
the new cabin, and average a dollar a day besides on spice,
alder, and willow, and twice that for sassafras for the
Onabasha markets; not to mention the quantities I
can dry this year. Aside from spring tea, they seem
to use it for everything. I never yet have had enough.
It goes into half the tonics, anodyne, and stimulants;
also soap and candy. I see where I grow rich in spite of
myself, and also where my harvest is going to spoil
before I can garner it, if I don't step lively and double
even more than I am now. Where the cabin is to come
in----well it must come if everything else goes.
``The roots can wait and I'll dig them next year and
get more and larger pieces. I won't really lose anything,
and if she should come before I am ready to start to find
her, why then I'll have her home prepared. How long
before you begin your house, old fire-fly?'' he inquired
of a flaming cardinal tilting on a twig.
He arose to make the round of the sap buckets again,
then resumed his work peeling bark, and so the time
passed. In the following ten days he collected and
boiled enough sap to make more syrup than he had
expected. His earliest spring store of medicinal twigs,
that were peeled to dry in quills, were all collected and
on the trays; he had digged several wagon loads of sassafras
and felled all the logs of stout, slender oak he would
require for his walls. Choice timber he had been curing
for candlestick material he hauled to the saw-mills to
have cut properly, for the thought of trying his hand
at tables and chairs had taken possession of him. He
was sure he could make furniture that would appear
quite as well as the mission pieces he admired on display
in the store windows of the city. To him, chairs and
tables made from trees that grew on land that had
belonged for three generations to his ancestors, trees among
which he had grown, played, and worked, trees that
were so much his friends that he carefully explained
the situation to them before using an ax or saw, trees
that he had cut, cured, and fashioned into designs of his
own, would make vastly more valuable furnishings in his
home than anything that could be purchased in the city.
As he drove back and forth he watched constantly
for her. He was working so desperately, planning far
ahead, doubling and trebling tasks, trying to do everything
his profession demanded in season, and to prepare
timber and make plans for the new cabin, as well as to
start a pair of candlesticks of marvellous design for her,
that night was one long, unbroken sleep of the thoroughly
tired man, but day had become a delightful dream.
He fed the chickens to produce eggs for her. He
gathered barks and sluiced roots on the raft in the lake,
for her. He grubbed the spice thicket before the door
and moved it into the woods to make space for a lawn,
for her. His eyes were wide open for every woven case
and dangling cocoon of the big night moths that propagated
around him, for her. Every night when he left
the woods from one to a dozen cocoons, that he had
detected with remarkable ease while the trees were bare,
were stuck in his hat band. As he arranged them in a
cool, dry place he talked to them.
``Of course I know you are valuable and there are
collectors who would pay well for you, but I think not.
You are the prettiest thing God made that I ever saw,
and those of you that home with me have no price on
your wings. You are much safer here than among the
crows and jays of the woods. I am gathering you to
protect you, and to show to her. If I don't find her by
June, you may go scot free. All I want is the best pattern
I can get from some of you for candlestick designs.
Of everything in the whole world a candlestick should
be made of wood. It should be carved by hand, and
of all ornamentations on earth the moth that flies to
the night light is the most appropriate. Owls are not
so bad. They are of the night, and they fly to light,
too, but they are so old. Nobody I ever have known
used a moth. They missed the best when they neglected
them. I'll make her sticks over an original pattern;
I'll twine nightshade vines, with flowers and berries
around them, and put a trailed luna on one, and what
is the next prettiest for the other? I'll think well before
if decide. Maybe she'll come by the time I get to carving
and tell me what she likes. That would beat my taste
or guessing a mile.''
He carefully arranged the twigs bearing cocoons in a
big, wire-covered box to protect them from the depredations
of nibbling mice and the bolder attacks of the
saucy ground squirrels that stored nuts in his loft and
took possession of the attic until their scampering
sometimes awoke him in the night.
Every trip he made to the city he stopped at the
library to examine plans of buildings and furniture and
to make notes. The oak he had hauled was being hewed
into shape by a neighbour who knew how, and every
wagon that carried a log to the city to be dressed at
the mill brought back timber for side walls, joists, and
rafters. Night after night he sat late poring over his
plans for the new rooms, above all for her chamber.
With poised pencil he wavered over where to put the
closet and entrance to her bath. He figured on how wide
to make her bed and where it should stand. He remembered
her dressing table in placing windows and a space
for a chest of drawers. In fact there was nothing the
active mind of the Harvester did not busy itself with
in those days that might make a woman a comfortable
home. Every thought emanated from impulses evolved
in his life in the woods, and each was executed with
A killdeer sweeping the lake close two o'clock one
morning awakened him. He had planned to close the
sugar camp for the season that day, but when he heard
the notes of the loved bird he wondered if that would
not be a good time to stake out the foundations and
begin digging. There was yet ice in the ground, but the
hillside was rapidly thawing, and although the work
would be easier later, so eager was the Harvester to have
walls up and a roof over that he decided to commence.
But when morning came and he and Belshazzar
breakfasted and fed Betsy and the stock, he concluded to
return to his first plan and close the camp. All the sap
collected that day went into the vinegar barrel. He
loaded the kettles, buckets, and spiles and stopped at
the spice thicket to cut a bale of twigs as he passed. He
carried one load to the wagon and returned for another.
Down wind on swift wing came a bird and entered the
bushes. Motionless the Harvester peered at it. A
mourning dove had returned to him through snow,
skifting over cold earth. It settled on a limb and began
dressing its plumage. At that instant a wavering, ``Coo
coo a'gh coo,'' broke in sobbing notes from the deep
wood. Without paying the slightest heed, the dove
finished a wing, ruffled and settled her feathers, and
opened her bill in a human-like yawn. The Harvester
smiled. The notes swelled closer in renewed pleading.
The cry was beyond doubt a courting male and this
an indifferent female. Her beady eyes snapped, her
head turned coquettishly, a picture of self-possession,
she hid among the dense twigs of the spice thicket.
Around the outside circled the pleading male.
With shining eyes the Harvester watched. These
were of the things that made life in the woods most worth
while. More insistent grew the wavering notes of the
lover. More indifferent became the beloved. She was
superb in her poise as she amused herself in hiding. A
perfect burst of confused, sobbing notes broke on the
air. Then away in the deep wood a softly-wavering,
half-questioning ``Coo-ah!'' answered them. Amazement
flashed into the eyes of the Harvester, but his face
was not nearly so expressive as that of the bird. She
lifted a bewildered head and grew rigid in an attitude of
tense listening. There was a pause. In quicker measure
and crowding notes the male called again. Instantly
the soft ``Coo!'' wavered in answer. The surprised
little hen bird of the thicket hopped straight up and
settled on her perch again, her dark eyes indignant as
she uttered a short ``Coo!'' The muscles of the
Harvester's chest were beginning to twitch and quiver.
More intense grew the notes of the pleading male. Softly
seductive came the reply. The clapping of his wings
could be heard as he flew in search of the charmer. ``A'gh
coo!'' cried the deserted female as she tilted off the branch
and tore through the thicket in pursuit, with wings hastened
by fright at the ringing laugh of the Harvester.
``Not so indifferent after all, Bel,'' he said to the dog
standing in stiff point beside him. ``That was all `pretend!'
But she waited just a trifle too long. Now she
will have to fight it out with a rival. Good thing if
some of the flirtatious women could have seen that.
Help them to learn their own minds sooner.''
He laughed as he heaped the twigs on top of the wagon
and started down the hill chuckling. Belshazzar followed,
leading Betsy straight in the middle of the road by the
hitching strap. A few yards ahead the man stopped
suddenly with lifted hand. The dog and horse stood
motionless. A dove flashed across the road and settled
in sight on a limb. Almost simultaneously another
perched beside it, and they locked bills in a long caress,
utterly heedless of a plaintive ``Coo'' in the deep wood.
``Settled!'' said the Harvester. ``Jupiter! I wish my
troubles were that nearly finished! Wish I knew where
she is and how to find my way to her lips! Wonder if
she will come when I call her. What if I should find her,
and she would have everything on earth, other lovers,
and indifference worse than Madam Dove's for me.
Talk about bitterness! Well I'd have the dream left
anyway. And there are always two sides. There is
just a possibility that she may be poor and overworked,
sick and tired, and wondering why I don't come. Possibly
she had a dream, too, and she wishes I would hurry.
The Harvester began to perspire as he strode down
the hill. He scarcely waited to hang the harness properly.
He did not stop to unload the wagon until night,
but went after an ax and a board that he split into pegs.
Then he took a ball of twine, a measuring line, and
began laying out his foundation, when the hard earth
would scarcely hold the stakes he drove into it. When
he found he only would waste time in digging he put
away the neatly washed kettles, peeled the spice brush,
spread it to dry, and prepared his dinner. After that
he began hauling stone and cement for his basement
floor and foundation walls. Occasionally he helped at
hewing logs when the old man paused to rest. That afternoon
the first robin of the season hailed him in passing.
``Hello!'' cried the Harvester. ``You don't mean
to tell me that you have beaten the larks! You really
have! Well since I see it, I must believe, but you are
early. Come around to the back door if crumbs or wheat
will do or if you can make out on suet and meat bones!
We are good and ready for you. Where is your mate?
For any sake, don't tell me you don't know. One case
of that kind at Medicine Woods is enough. Say you
came ahead to see if it is too cold or to select a home and
get ready for her. Say anything on earth except that
you love her, and want her until your body is one quivering
ache, and you don't know where she is.''
A COMMISSION FOR THE SOUTH WIND
The next morning the larks trailed ecstasy all
over the valley, the following day cuckoos were
calling in the thickets, a warm wind swept
from the south and set swollen buds bursting, while
the sun shone, causing the Harvester to rejoice. Betsy's
white coat was splashed with the mud of the valley road;
the feet of Belshazzar left tracks over lumber piles;
and the Harvester removed his muck-covered shoes at
the door and wore slippers inside. The skunk cabbage
appeared around the edge of the forest, rank mullein and
thistles lay over the fields in big circles of green, and
even plants of delicate growth were thrusting their
heads through mellowing earth and dead leaves, to reach
light and air.
Then the Harvester took his mattock and began to
dig. His level best fell so far short of what he felt capable
of doing and desired to accomplish that the following day
he put two more men on the job. Then the earth did
fly, and so soon as the required space was excavated the
walls were lined with stone and a smooth basement
floor was made of cement. The night the new home stood,
a skeleton of joists and rafters, gleaming whitely on the
banks of Loon Lake, the Harvester went to the bridge
crossing Singing Water and slowly came up the driveway
to see how the work appeared. He caught his breath
as he advanced. He had intended to stake out generous
rooms, but this, compared with the cabin, seemed like
a big hotel.
``I hope I haven't made it so large it will be a burden,''
he soliloquized. ``It's huge! But while I am at it I
want to build big enough, and I think I have.''
He stood on the driveway, his arms folded, and looked
at the structure as he occasionally voiced his thoughts.
``The next thing is to lay up the side walls and get
the roof over. Got to have plenty of help, for those
logs are hewed to fourteen inches square and some of
them are forty feet long. That's timber! Grew with
me, too. Personally acquainted with almost every
tree of it. We will bed them in cement, use care with
the roof, and if that doesn't make a cool house in the
summer, and a warm one in winter, I'll be disappointed.
It sets among the trees, and on the hillside just right.
We must have a wide porch, plenty of flowers, vines,
ferns, and mosses, and when I get everything finished
and she sees it----perhaps it will please her.''
A great horned owl swept down the hill, crossed
the lake, and hooted from the forest of the opposite
bank. The Harvester thought of his dream and turned.
``Any women walking the water to-night? Come if
you like,'' he bantered, ``I don't mind in the least. In
fact, I'd rather enjoy it. I'd be so happy if you would
come now and tell me how this appears to you, for it's
all yours. I'd have enlarged the store-room, dry-houses
and laboratory for myself, but this cabin, never! The
old one suited me as it was; but for you----I should have
a better home.''
The Harvester glanced from the shining skeleton to
the bridge of gold and back again.
``Where are you to-night?'' he questioned. ``What
are you doing? Can't you give me a hint of where to
search for you when this is ready? I don't know but I
am beginning wrong. My little brothers of the wood
do differently. They announce their intentions the
first thing, flaunt their attractions, and display their
strength. They say aloud, for all the listening world to
hear, what is in their hearts. They chip, chirp, and sing,
warble, whistle, thrill, scream, and hoot it. They are
strong on self-expression, and appreciative of their
appearance. They meet, court, mate, and THEN build their
home together after a mutual plan. It's a good way,
too! Lots surer of getting things satisfactory.''
The Harvester sat on a lumber pile and gazed questioningly
at the framework.
``I wish I knew if I am going at things right,'' he said.
``There are two sides to consider. If she is in a good
home, and lovingly cared for, it would be proper to court
her and get her promise, if I could----no I'm blest if I'll
be so modest----get her promise, as I said, and let her
wait while I build the cabin. But if she should be poor,
tired, and neglected, then I ought to have this ready when
I find her, so I could pick her up and bring her to it,
with no more ceremony than the birds.''
The Harvester's clear skin flushed crimson.
``Of course, I don't mean no wedding ceremony,''
he amended. ``I was thinking of a long time wasted in
preliminaries when in my soul I know I am going to marry
my Dream Girl before I ever have seen her in reality.
What would be the use in spending much time in courting?
She is my wife now, by every law of God. Let
me get a glimpse of her, and I'll prove it. But I've got
to make tracks, for if she were here, where would I put
her? I must hurry!''
He went to the work room and began polishing a table
top. He had bought a chest of tools and was spending
every spare minute on tables, chair seats, and legs.
He had decided to make these first and carve candlesticks
later when he had more time. Two hours he
worked at the furniture, and then went to bed. The
following morning he put eggs under several hens that
wanted to set, trimmed his grape-vines, examined the
precious ginseng beds, attended his stock, got breakfast
for Belshazzar and himself, and was ready for work when
the first carpenter arrived. Laying hewed logs went
speedily, and before the Harvester believed it possible
the big shingles he had ordered were being nailed on the
roof. Then came the plumber and arranged for the
bathroom, and the furnace man placed the heating pipes.
The Harvester had intended the cabin to be mostly the
work of his own hands, but when he saw how rapidly
skilled carpenters worked, he changed his mind and
had them finish the living-room, his room, and the
upstairs, and make over the dining-room and kitchen.
Her room he worked on alone, with a little help if
he did not know how to join the different parts. Every
thing was plain and simple, after plans of his own, but
the Harvester laid floors and made window casings,
seats, and doors of wood that the big factories of Grand
Rapids used in veneering their finest furniture. When
one of his carpenters pointed out this to him, and
suggested that he sell his lumber to McLean and use
pine flooring from the mills the Harvester laughed
``I don't say that I could afford to buy burl maple,
walnut, and cherry for wood-work,'' said the Harvester.
``I could not, but since I have it, you can stake your life
I won't sell it and build my home of cheap, rapidly
decaying wood. The best I have goes into this cabin
and what remains will do to sell. I have an idea that when
this is done it is going to appear first rate. Anyway, it
will be solid enough to last a thousand years, and with
every day of use natural wood grows more beautiful.
When we get some tables, couches, and chairs made
from the same timber as the casings and the floors, I
think it will be fine. I want money, but I don't want it
bad enough to part with the BEST of anything I have for
it. Go carefully and neatly there; it will have to be
changed if you don't.''
So the work progressed rapidly. When the carpenters
had finished the last stroke on the big veranda
they remained a day more and made flower boxes, and a
swinging couch, and then the greedy Harvester kept
the best man with him a week longer to help on the
``Ain't you going to say a word about her, Langston?''
asked this man as they put a mirror-like surface on a
curly maple dressing table top.
``Her!'' ejaculated the Harvester. ``What do you
``I haven't seen you bathe anywhere except in the
lake since I have been here,'' said the carpenter. ``Do
you want me to think that a porcelain tub, this big
closet, and chest of drawers are for you?''
A wave of crimson swept over the Harvester.
``No, they are not for me,'' he said simply. ``I don't
want to be any more different from other men than I
can help, although I know that life in the woods, the
rigid training of my mother, and the reading of only
the books that would aid in my work have made me
individual in many of my thoughts and ways. I suppose
most men, just now, would tell you anything you want
to know. There is only one thing I can say: The
best of my soul and brain, the best of my woods and
store-house, the best I can buy with money is not good
enough for her. That's all. For myself, I am getting
ready to marry, of course. I think all normal men do
and that it is a matter of plain common-sense that they
should. Life with the right woman must be infinitely
broader and better than alone. Are you married?''
``Yes. Got a wife and four children.''
``Are you sorry?''
``Sorry!'' the carpenter shrilled the word. ``Sorry!
Well that's the best I ever heard! Am I sorry I married
Nell and got the kids? Do I look sorry?''
``I am not expecting to be, either,'' said the Harvester
calmly. ``I think I have done fairly well to stick to my
work and live alone until I am twenty-six. I have
thought the thing all over and made up my mind. As
soon as I get this house far enough along that I feel I can
proceed alone I am going to rush the marrying business
just as fast as I can, and let her finish the remainder to
``Well this ought to please her.''
``That's because you find your own work good,''
laughed the Harvester.
``Not altogether!'' The carpenter polished the board
and stood it on end to examine the surface as he talked.
``Not altogether! Nothing but good work would suit
you. I was thinking of the little creek splashing down
the hill to the lake; and that old log hewer said that in
a few more days things here would be a blaze of colour
``Almost all the drug plants and bushes leaf beautifully
and flower brilliantly,'' explained the Harvester.
``I studied the location suitable to each variety before I
set the beds and planned how to grow plants for continuity
of bloom, and as much harmony of colour as possible.
Of course a landscape gardener would tear up some of
it, but seen as a whole it isn't so bad. Did you ever
notice that in the open, with God's blue overhead and
His green for a background, He can place purple and
yellow, pink, magenta, red, and blue in masses or any
combination you can mention and the brighter the colour
the more you like it? You don't seem to see or feel that
any grouping clashes; you revel in each wonderful
growth, and luxuriate in the brilliancy of the whole.
Anyway, this suits me.''
``I guess it will please her, too,'' said the carpenter.
``After all the pains you've taken, she is a good one if
``I'll always have the consolation of having done my
best,'' replied the Harvester. ``One can't do more!
Whether she likes it or not depends greatly on the way
she has been reared.''
``You talk as if you didn't know,'' commented the
``You go on with this now,'' said the Harvester hastily.
``I've got to uncover some beds and dig my year's supply
of skunk cabbage, else folk with asthma and dropsy who
depend on me will be short on relief. I ought to take
my sweet flag, too, but I'm so hurried now I think I'll
leave it until fall; I do when I can, because the bloom
is so pretty around the lake and the bees simply go wild
over the pollen. Sometimes I almost think I can detect
it in their honey. Do you know I've wondered often
if the honey my bees make has medicinal properties
and should be kept separate in different seasons. In
early spring when the plants and bushes that furnish
the roots and barks of most of the tonics are in bloom,
and the bees gather the pollen, that honey should partake
in a degree of the same properties and be good medicine.
In the summer it should aid digestion, and in the fall
cure rheumatism and blood disorders.''
``Say you try it!'' urged the carpenter. ``I want a
lot of the fall kind. I'm always full of rheumatism by
October. Exposure, no doubt.''
``Over eating of too much rich food, you mean,''
laughed the Harvester. ``I'd like to see any man expose
his body to more differing extremes of weather than I do,
and I'm never sick. It's because I am my own cook
and so I live mostly on fruits, vegetables, bread, milk,
and eggs, a few fish from the lake, a little game once in
a great while or a chicken, and no hot drinks; plenty of
fresh water, air, and continuous work out of doors. That's
the prescription! I'd be ashamed to have rheumatism
at your age. There's food in the cupboard if you grow
hungry. I am going past one of the neighbours on my
way to see about some work I want her to do.''
The Harvester stopped for lunch, carried food to
Belshazzar, and started straight across country, his
mattock, with a bag rolled around the handle, on his
shoulder. His feet sank in the damp earth at the foot
of the hill, and he laughed as he leaped across Singing
``You noisy chatterbox!'' cried the man. ``The
impetus of coming down the curves of the hill keeps you
talking all the way across this muck bed to the lake.
With small work I can make you a thing of beauty.
A few bushes grubbed, a little deepening where you
spread too much, and some more mallows along the
banks will do the trick. I must attend to you soon.''
``Now what does the boy want?'' laughed a white-
haired old woman, as the Harvester entered the door.
``Mebby you think I don't know what you're up to!
I even can hear the hammering and the voices of the men
when the wind is in the south. I've been wondering
how soon you'd need me. Out with it!''
``I want you to get a woman and come over and spend
a day with me. I'll come after you and bring you back.
I want you to go over mother's bedding and have what
needs it washed. All I want you to do is to superintend,
and tell me now what I will want from town for your
``I put away all your mother's bedding that you were
not using, clean as a ribbon.''
``But it has been packed in moth preventives ever
since and out only four times a year to air, as you told
me. It must smell musty and be yellow. I want
it fresh and clean.''
``So what I been hearing is true, David?''
``Quite true!'' said the Harvester.
``Whose girl is she, and when are you going to jine
The Harvester lifted his clear eyes and hesitated.
``Doc Carey laid you in my arms when you was born,
David. I tended you 'fore ever your ma did. All
your life you've been my boy, and I love you same as my
own blood; it won't go no farther if you say so. I'll
never tell a living soul. But I'm old and 'til better
weather comes, house bound; and I get mighty lonely.
I'd like to think about you and her, and plan for you,
and love her as I always did you folks. Who is she,
David? Do I know the family?''
``No. She is a stranger to these parts,'' said the
``David, is she a nice girl 'at your ma would have
``She's the only girl in the world that I'd marry,'' said
the Harvester promptly, glad of a question he could
answer heartily. ``Yes. She is gentle, very tender
and----and affectionate,'' he went on so rapidly that
Granny Moreland could not say a word, ``and as soon
as I bring her home you shall come to spend a day and
get acquainted. I know you will love her! I'll come
in the morning, then. I must hurry now. I am working
double this spring and I'm off for the skunk cabbage
``You are working fit to kill, the neighbours say.
Slavin' like a horse all day, and half the night I see your
``Do I appear killed?'' laughingly inquired the Harvester.
``You look peart as a struttin' turkey gobbler,'' said
the old woman. ``Go on with your work! Work don't
hurt a-body. Eat a-plenty, sleep all you ort, and you
CAN'T work enough to hurt you.''
``So the neighbours say I'm working now? New
story, isn't it? Usually I'm too lazy to make a living,
if I remember.''
``Only to those who don't sense your purceedings,
David. I always knowed how you grubbed and slaved
an' set over them fearful books o' yours.''
``More interesting than the wildest fiction,'' said the
man. ``I'm making some medicine for your rheumatism,
Granny. It is not fully tested yet, but you get ready
for it by cutting out all the salt you can. I haven't
time to explain this morning, but you remember what I
say, leave out the salt, and when Doc thinks it's safe
I'll bring you something that will make a new woman
He went swinging down the road, and Granny Moreland
looked after him.
``While he was talkin','' she muttered, ``I felt full of
information as a flock o' almanacs, but now since he's
gone, 'pears to me I don't know a thing more 'an I did
to start on.''
``Close call,'' the Harvester was thinking. ``Why
the nation did I admit anything to her? People may
talk as they please, so long as I don't sanction it, but I
have two or three times. That's a fool trick. Suppose
I can't find her? Maybe she won't look at me if I can.
Then I'd have started something I couldn't finish.
And if anybody thinks I'll end this by taking any girl I
can get, if I can't find Her, why they think wrongly.
Just the girl of my golden dream or no woman at all
for me. I've lived alone long enough to know how to do
it in comfort. If I can't find and win her I have no
intention of starting a boarding house.''
The Harvester began to laugh. `` `I'd rather keep
bachelor's hall in Hell than go to board in Heaven!' ''
he quoted gaily. ``That's my sentiment too. If you
can't have what you want, don't have anything. But
there is no use to become discouraged before I start.
I haven't begun to hunt her yet. Until I do, I might as
well believe that she will walk across the bridge and take
possession just as soon as I get the last chair leg polished.
She might! She came in the dream, and to come actually
couldn't be any more real. I'll make a stiff hunt of
it before I give up, if I ever do. I never yet have made a
complete failure of anything. But just now I am hunting
skunk cabbage. It's precisely the time to take it.''
Across the lake, in the swampy woods, close where the
screech owl sang and the girl of the golden dream walked
in the moonlight the Harvester began operations. He
unrolled the sack, went to one end of the bed and
systematically started a swath across it, lifting every other