Part 2 out of 8
before, the sweet sunlight and the crisp, fresh air, and all the
still beauty of the morning, working with the memory of their
saving, rebuked and soothed and comforted her, and when Ranald
turned back from the manse door, she said softly: "Our Father in
heaven was very good to us, Ranald, and we should be like him. He
forgives and loves, and we should, too."
And Ranald, looking into the sweet face, pale with the long night's
trials, but tinged now with the faintest touch of color from the
morning, felt somehow that it might be possible to forgive.
But many days had to come and go, and many waters flow over the
souls of Macdonald Dubh and his son Ranald, before they were able
to say, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."
A NEW FRIEND
The night race with the wolves began a new phase of life for
Ranald, for in that hour he gained a friend such as it falls to few
lads to have. Mrs. Murray's high courage in the bush, her skill in
the sick-room, and that fine spiritual air she carried with her
made for her a place in his imagination where men set their
divinities. The hero and the saint in her stirred his poetic and
fervent soul and set it aglow with a feeling near to adoration. To
Mrs. Murray also the events of that night set forth Ranald in a new
light. In the shy, awkward, almost sullen lad there had suddenly
been revealed in those moments of peril the cool, daring man, full
of resource and capable of self-sacrifice. Her heart went out
toward him, and she set herself to win his confidence and to
establish a firm friendship with him; but this was no easy matter.
Macdonald Dubh and his son, living a half-savage life in their
lonely back clearing, were regarded by their neighbors with a
certain degree of distrust and fear. They were not like other
people. They seldom mingled in the social festivities of the
community, and consequently were more or less excluded from
friendship and free intercourse with their neighbors. Ranald, shy,
proud, and sensitive, felt this exclusion, and in return kept
himself aloof even from the boys, and especially from the girls, of
his own age. His attendance at school was of a fragmentary and
spasmodic nature, and he never really came to be on friendly terms
with his fellow-pupils. His one friend was Don Cameron, whom the
boys called "Wobbles," from his gait in running, whose father's
farm backed that of Macdonald Dubh. And though Don was a year
older, he gave to Ranald a homage almost amounting to worship, for
in all those qualities that go to establish leadership among boys,
Ranald was easily first. In the sport that called for speed,
courage, and endurance Ranald was chief of all. Fleet of foot,
there was no runner from the Twelfth to the Twentieth that could
keep him in sight, and when he stood up to fight, the mere blaze of
his eyes often won him victory before a blow was struck. To Don,
Ranald opened his heart more than to any one else; all others he
kept at a distance.
It was in vain that Mrs. Murray, in her daily visits to Macdonald
Dubh, sought to find out Ranald and to come to speech with him.
Aunt Kirsty never knew where he was, and to her calls, long and
loud, from the back door and from the front, no response ever came.
It was Hughie Murray who finally brought Ranald once more into
touch with the minister's wife.
They had come one early morning, Hughie with Fido "hitched" in a
sled driving over the "crust" on the snow banks by the roadside,
and his mother on the pony, to make their call upon the sick man.
As they drew near the house they heard a sound of hammering.
"That's Ranald, mother!" exclaimed Hughie. "Let me go and find
him. I don't want to go in."
"Be sure you don't go far away, then, Hughie; you know we must
hurry home to-day"; and Hughie faithfully promised. But alas for
Hughie's promises! when his mother came out of the house with
Kirsty, he was within neither sight nor hearing.
"They will just be at the camp," said Kirsty.
"Aye, the sugaring camp down yonder in the sugar bush. It is not
far off from the wood road. I will be going with you."
"Not at all, Kirsty," said the minister's wife. "I think I know
where it is, and I can go home that way quite well. Besides, I
want to see Ranald." She did not say she would rather see him
"Indeed, he is the quare lad, and he is worse since coming back
from the shanties." Kirsty was evidently much worried about
"Never mind," said the minister's wife, kindly; "we must just be
patient. Ranald is going on fast toward manhood, and he can be
held only by the heart."
"Aye," said Kirsty, with a sigh, "I doubt his father will never be
able any more to take a strap to him."
"Yes," said Mrs. Murray, smiling, "I'm afraid he is far beyond
"Beyond it!" exclaimed Kirsty, astonished at such a doctrine.
"Indeed, and his father and his uncle would be getting it then,
when they were as beeg as they will ever be, and much the better
were they for it."
"I don't think it would do for Ranald," said the minister's wife,
smiling again as she said good by to Kirsty. Then she took her way
down the wood road into the bush. She found the camp road easily,
and after a quarter of an hour's ride, she heard the sound of an
ax, and soon came upon the sugar camp. Ranald was putting the
finishing touches to a little shanty of cedar poles and interwoven
balsam brush, and Hughie was looking on in admiration and blissful
"Why, that's beautiful," said Mrs. Murray; "I should like to live
in a house like that myself."
"Oh, mother!" shouted Hughie, "isn't it splendid? Ranald and Don
are going to live in it all the sugaring time, and Ranald wants me
to come, too. Mayn't I, mother? Aw, do let me."
The mother looked down upon the eager face, smiled, and shook her
head. "What about the night, Hughie?" she said. "It will be very
dark in the woods here, and very cold, too. Ranald and Don are big
boys and strong, but I'm afraid my little boy would not be very
comfortable sleeping outside."
"Oh, mother, we'll be inside, and it'll be awful warm--and oh, you
might let me!" Hughie's tears were restrained only by the shame of
weeping before his hero, Ranald.
"Well, we will see what your father says when he comes home."
"Oh, mother, he will just say 'no' right off, and--"
A shadow crossed his mother's face, but she only answered quietly,
"Never mind just now, Hughie; we will think of it. Besides," she
added, "I don't know how much Ranald wants to be bothered with a
wee boy like you."
Ranald gave her a quick, shy glance and answered:
"He will be no trouble, Mrs. Murray"; and then, noticing Hughie's
imploring face, he ventured to add, "and indeed, I hope you will
let him come. I will take good care of him."
Mrs. Murray hesitated.
"Oh, mother!" cried Hughie, seeing her hesitation, "just one night;
I won't be a bit afraid."
"No, I don't believe you would," looking down into the brave young
face. "But what about your mother, Hughie?"
"Oh, pshaw! you wouldn't be afraid." Hughie's confidence in his
mother's courage was unbounded.
"I don't know about that," she replied; and then turning to Ranald,
"How about our friends of the other night?" she said. "Will they
not be about?" Hughie had not heard about the wolves.
"Oh, there is no fear of them. We will keep a big fire all night,
and besides, we will have our guns and the dogs."
"Guns!" cried Mrs. Murray. This was a new terror for her boy.
"I'm afraid I cannot trust Hughie where there are guns. He might--"
"Indeed, let me catch him touching a gun!" said Ranald, quickly,
and from his tone and the look in his face, Mrs. Murray felt sure
that Hughie would be safe from self-destruction by the guns.
"Well, well, come away, Hughie, and we will see," said Mrs. Murray;
but Hughie hung back sulking, unwilling to move till he had got his
"Come, Hughie. Get Fido ready. We must hurry," said his mother
Still Hughie hesitated. Then Ranald turned swiftly on him. "Did
ye hear your mother? Come, get out of this." His manner was so
fierce that Hughie started immediately for his dog, and without
another word of entreaty made ready to go. The mother noted his
quick obedience, and smiling at Ranald, said: "I think I might
trust him with you for a night or two, Ranald. When do you think
you could come for him?"
"We will finish the tapping to-morrow, and I could come the day
after with the jumper," said Ranald, pointing to the stout, home-
made sleigh used for gathering the sap and the wood for the fire.
"Oh, I see you have begun tapping," said Mrs. Murray; "and do you
do it yourself?"
"Why, yes, mother; don't you see all those trees?" cried Hughie,
pointing to a number of maples that stood behind the shanty.
"Ranald and Don did all those, and made the spiles, too. See!" He
caught up a spile from a heap lying near the door. "Ranald made
"Why, that's fine, Ranald. How do you make them? I have never
seen one made."
"Oh, mother!" Hughie's voice was full of pity for her ignorance.
He had seen his first that afternoon.
"And I have never seen the tapping of a tree. I believe I shall
learn just now, if Ranald will only show me, from the very
Her eager interest in his work won Ranald from his reserve. "There
is not much to see," he said, apologetically. "You just cut a
natch in the tree, and drive in the spile, and--"
"Oh, but wait," she cried. "That's just what I wanted to see. How
do you make the spile?"
"Oh, that is easy," said Ranald. He took up a slightly concave
chisel or gouge, and slit a slim slab from off a block of cedar
about a foot long.
"This is a spile," he exclaimed. "We drive it into the tree, and
the sap runs down into the trough, you see."
"No, I don't see," said the minister's wife. She was too
thoroughgoing to do things by halves. "How do you drive this into
the tree, and how do you get the sap to run down it?"
"I will show you," he said, and taking with him a gouge and ax, he
approached a maple still untapped. "You first make a gash like
this." So saying, with two or three blows of his ax, he made a
slanting notch in the tree. "And then you make a place for the
spile this way." With the back of his ax he drove his gouge into
the corner of the notch, and then fitted his spile into the
incision so made.
"Ah, now I see. And you put the trough under the drip from the
spile. But how do you make the troughs?"
"I did not make them," said Ranald. "Some of them father made, and
some of them belong to the Camerons. But it is easy enough. You
just take a thick slab of basswood and hollow it out with the
Mrs. Murray was greatly pleased. "I'm very much obliged to you,
Ranald," she said, "and I am glad I came down to see your camp.
Now, if you will ask me, I should like to see you make the sugar."
Had her request been made before the night of their famous ride,
Ranald would have found some polite reason for refusal, but now
he was rather surprised to find himself urging her to come to a
sugaring-off at the close of the season.
"I shall be delighted to come," cried Mrs. Murray, "and it is very
good of you to ask me, and I shall bring my niece, who is coming
with Mr. Murray from town to spend some weeks with me."
Ranald's face fell, but his Highland courtesy forbade retreat. "If
she would care," he said, doubtfully.
"Oh, I am sure she would be very glad! She has never been outside
of the city, and I want her to learn all she can of the country and
the woods. It is positively painful to see the ignorance of these
city children in regard to all living things--beasts and birds and
plants. Why, many of them couldn't tell a beech from a basswood."
"Oh, mother!" protested Hughie, aghast at such ignorance.
"Yes, indeed, it is dreadful, I assure you," said his mother,
smiling. "Why, I know a grown-up woman who didn't know till after
she was married the difference between a spruce and a pine."
"But you know them all now," said Hughie, a little anxious for his
"Yes, indeed," said his mother, proudly; "every one, I think, at
least when the leaves are out. So I want Maimie to learn all she
Ranald did not like the idea any too well, but after they had gone
his thoughts kept turning to the proposed visit of Mrs. Murray and
"Maimie," said Ranald to himself. "So that is her name." It had a
musical sound, and was different from the names of the girls he
knew--Betsy and Kirsty and Jessie and Marget and Jinny. It was
finer somehow than these, and seemed to suit better a city girl.
He wondered if she would be nice, but he decided that doubtless she
would be "proud." To be "proud" was the unpardonable sin with the
Glengarry boy. The boy or girl convicted of this crime earned the
contempt of all self-respecting people. On the whole, Ranald was
sorry she was coming. Even in school he was shy with the girls,
and kept away from them. They were always giggling and blushing
and making one feel queer, and they never meant what they said. He
had no doubt Maimie would be like the rest, and perhaps a little
worse. Of course, being Mrs. Murray's niece, she might be
something like her. Still, that could hardly be. No girl could
ever be like the minister's wife. He resolved he would turn Maimie
over to Don. He remembered, with great relief, that Don did not
mind girls; indeed, he suspected Don rather enjoyed playing the
"forfeit" games at school with them, in which the penalties were
paid in kisses. How often had he shuddered and admired from a
distance, while Don and the others played those daring games! Yes,
Don would do the honors for Maimie. Perhaps Don would even venture
to play "forfeits" with her. Ranald felt his face grow hot at this
thought. Then, with sudden self-detection, he cried, angrily,
aloud: "I don't care; let him; he may for all I care."
"Who may what?" cried a voice behind him. It was Don himself.
"Nothing," said Ranald, blushing shamefacedly.
"Why, what are you mad about?" asked Don, noticing his flushed
"Who is mad?" said Ranald. "I am not mad whatever."
"Well, you look mighty like it," said Don. "You look mad enough to
But Ranald, ignoring him, simply said, "We will need to be
gathering the sap this evening, for the troughs will be full."
"Huh-huh," said Don. "I guess we can carry all there is to-day,
but we will have to get the colt to-morrow. Got the spiles ready?"
"Enough for to-day," said Ranald, wondering how he could tell Don
of the proposed visit of Mrs. Murray and her niece. Taking each a
bundle of spiles and an ax, the boys set out for the part of the
sugar bush as yet untapped, and began their work.
"The minister's wife and Hughie were here just now," began Ranald.
"Huh-huh, I met them down the road. Hughie said he was coming day
"Did Mrs. Murray tell you--"
"Tell me what?"
"Did she tell you she would like to see a sugaring-off?"
"No; they didn't stop long enough to tell me anything. Hughie
shouted at me as they passed."
"Well," said Ranald, speaking slowly and with difficulty, "she
wanted bad to see the sugar-making, and I asked her to come."
"You did, eh? I wonder at you."
"And she wanted to bring her niece, and--and--I let her," said
"Her niece! Jee-roo-sa-LEM!" cried Don. "Do you know who her
"Not I," said Ranald, looking rather alarmed.
"Well, she is the daughter of the big lumberman, St. Clair, and she
is a great swell."
Ranald stood speechless.
"That does beat all," pursued Don; "and you asked her to our camp?"
Then Ranald grew angry. "And why not?" he said, defiantly. "What
is wrong about that?"
"O, nothing much," laughed Don, "if I had done it, but for you,
Ranald! Why, what will you do with that swell young lady from the
"I will just do nothing," said Ranald. "There will be you and Mrs.
"Oh, I say," burst in Don, "that's bully! Let's ask some of the
boys, and--your aunt, and--my mother, and--some of the girls."
"Oh, shucks!" said Ranald, angrily. "You just want Marget Aird."
"You get out!" cried Don, indignantly; "Marget Aird!" Then, after
a pause, he added, "All right, I don't want anybody else. I'll
look after Mrs. Murray, and you and Maimie can do what you like."
This combination sounded so terrible to Ranald that he surrendered
at once; and it was arranged that there should be a grand sugaring-
off, and that others besides the minister's wife and her niece
should be invited.
But Mrs. Murray had noticed the falling of Ranald's face at the
mention of Maimie's visit to the camp, and feeling that she had
taken him at a disadvantage, she determined that she would the very
next day put herself right with him. She was eager to follow up
the advantage she had gained the day before in establishing terms
of friendship with Ranald, for her heart went out to the boy, in
whose deep, passionate nature she saw vast possibilities for good
or ill. On her return from her daily visit to Macdonald Dubh, she
took the camp road, and had the good fortune to find Ranald alone,
"rigging up" his kettles preparatory to the boiling. But she had
no time for kettles to-day, and she went straight to her business.
"I came to see you, Ranald," she said, after she had shaken hands
with him, "about our sugaring-off. I've been thinking that it
would perhaps be better to have no strangers, but just old friends,
you and Don and Hughie and me."
Ranald at once caught her meaning, but found himself strangely
unwilling to be extricated from his predicament.
"I mean," said Mrs. Murray, frankly, "we might enjoy it better
without my niece; and so, perhaps, we could have the sugaring when
I come to bring Hughie home on Friday. Maimie does not come till
Her frankness disarmed Ranald of his reserve. "I know well what
you mean," he said, without his usual awkwardness, "but I do not
mind now at all having your niece come; and Don is going to have a
party." The quiet, grave tone was that of a man, and Mrs. Murray
looked at the boy with new eyes. She did not know that it was her
own frank confidence that had won like confidence from him.
"How old are you, Ranald?" she said, in her wonder.
"I will be going on eighteen."
"You will soon be a man, Ranald." Ranald remained silent, and she
went on earnestly: "A strong, good, brave man, Ranald."
The blood rushed to the boy's face with a sudden flood, but still
he stood silent.
"I'm going to give you Hughie for two days," she continued, in the
same earnest voice; and leaning down over her pony's neck toward
him: "I want him to know strong and manly boys. He is very fond
of you, Ranald. He thinks you are better than any man in the
world." She paused, her lips parting in a smile that made Ranald's
heart beat quick. Then she went on with a shy hesitancy: "Ranald,
I know the boys sometimes drop words they should not and tell
stories unfit to hear"; the blood was beginning to show in her
cheek; "and I would not like my little boy--" Her voice broke
suddenly, but recovering quickly she went on in grave, sweet tones:
"I trust him to you, Ranald, for this time and afterward. He looks
up to you. I want him to be a good, brave man, and to keep his
heart pure." Ranald could not speak, but he looked steadily into
Mrs. Murray's eyes as he took the hand she offered, and she knew he
was pledging himself to her.
"You'll come for him to-morrow," she said, as she turned away. By
this time Ranald had found his voice.
"Yes, ma'am," he replied. "And I will take good care of him."
Once more Mrs. Murray found herself looking at Ranald as if seeing
him for the first time. He had the solemn voice and manner of a
man making oath of allegiance, and she rode away with her heart at
rest concerning her little boy. With Ranald, at least, he would be
* * * * *
Those two days had been for Hughie long and weary, but at last the
great day came for him, as all great days will come for those who
can wait. Ranald appeared at the manse before the breakfast was
well begun, and Hughie, with the unconscious egoism of childhood,
was for rushing off without thought of preparation for himself or
of farewell for those left behind. Indeed, he was for leaving his
porridge untasted, declaring he "wasn't a bit hungry," but his
mother brought him to his senses.
"No breakfast, no sugar bush to-day, Hughie," she said; "we cannot
send men out to the woods that cannot eat breakfast, can we,
Hughie at once fell upon his porridge with vigor, while Ranald, who
was much too shy to eat at the minister's table, sat and waited.
After breakfast was over, Jessie was called in for the morning
worship, without which no day was ever begun in the manse. At
worship in the minister's house every one present took part. It
was Hughie's special joy to lead the singing of the psalm. His
voice rose high and clear, even above his mother's, for he loved to
sing, and Ranald's presence inspired him to do his best. Ranald
had often heard the psalm sung in the church--
I to the hills will lift mine eyes,
From whence doth come mine aid;
and the tune was the old, familiar "French," but somehow it was all
new to him that day. The fresh voices and the crisp, prompt
movement of the tune made Ranald feel as if he had never heard the
psalm sung before. In the reading he took his verse with the
others, stumbling a little, not because the words were too big for
him, but because they seemed to run into one another. The chapter
for the day contained Paul's injunction to Timothy, urging him to
fidelity and courage as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
When the reading was done, Mrs. Murray told them a story of a young
man who had shed his blood upon a Scottish moor because he was too
brave to be untrue to his lord, and then, in a few words, made them
all see that still some conflict was being waged, and that there
was still opportunity for each to display loyal courage and
In the prayer that followed, the first thing that surprised Ranald
was the absence of the set forms and tones of prayer, with which he
was familiar. It was all so simple and real. The mother was
telling the great Father in heaven her cares and anxieties, and the
day's needs for them all, sure that he would understand and answer.
Every one was remembered--the absent head of the family and those
present; the young man worshiping with them, that he might be a
true man and a good soldier of Jesus Christ; and at the close, the
little lad going away this morning, that he might be kept from all
harm and from all evil thoughts and deeds. The simple beauty of
the words, the music in the voice, and the tender, trustful feeling
that breathed through the prayer awakened in Ranald's heart
emotions and longings he had never known before, and he rose from
his knees feeling how wicked and how cruel a thing it would be to
cause one of these little ones to stumble.
After the worship was over, Hughie seized his Scotch bonnet and
rushed for the jumper, and in a few minutes his mother had all the
space not taken up by him and Ranald packed with blankets and
"Jessie thinks that even great shanty-men like you and Don and
Hughie will not object to something better than bread and pork."
"Indeed, we will not," said Ranald, heartily.
Then Hughie suddenly remembered that he was actually leaving home,
and climbing out of the jumper, he rushed at his mother.
"Oh, mother, good by!" he cried.
His mother stooped and put her arms about him. "Good by, my
darling," she said, in a low voice; "I trust you to be a good boy,
and, Hughie, don't forget your prayers."
Then came to Hughie, for the first time, the thought that had been
in the mother's heart all the morning, that when night came he
would lie down to sleep, for the first time in his life, without
the nightly story and her good-night kiss.
"Mother," whispered the little lad, holding her tight about the
neck, "won't you come, too? I don't think I like to go away."
He could have said no more comforting word, and the mother, whose
heart had been sore enough with her first parting from her boy, was
more than glad to find that the pain was not all on her side; so
she kissed him again, and said, in a cheery voice: "Now have a
good time. Don't trouble Ranald too much, and bring me back some
sugar." Her last word braced the lad as nothing else could.
"Oh, mother, I'll bring you heaps!" he cried, and with the vision
of what he would bring home again shining vividly before his eyes,
he got through the parting without tears, and was soon speeding
down the lane beside Ranald, in the jumper.
The mother stood and watched the little figure holding tight to
Ranald with one hand, and with the other waving frantically his
bonnet by the tails, till at last the bush hid him from her sight.
Then she turned back again to the house that seemed so empty, with
her hand pressed hard against her side and her lip quivering as
with sharp pain.
"How foolish!" she said, impatiently to herself; "he will be home
in two days." But in spite of herself she went again to the door,
and looked long at the spot where the bush swallowed up the road.
Then she went upstairs and shut her door, and when she came down
again there was that in her face that told that her heart had had
its first touch of the sword that, sooner or later, must pierce all
Before Hughie came back from the sugar camp, the minister had
returned from the presbytery, bringing with him his wife's niece,
Maimie St. Clair, who had come from her home in a Western city to
meet him. Her father, Eugene St. Clair, was president of Raymond
and St. Clair Lumber Company. Nineteen years before this time he
had married Mrs. Murray's eldest sister, and established his home
with every prospect of a prosperous and happy life, but after three
short, bright years of almost perfect joy, his young wife, his
heart's idol, after two days' illness, fluttered out from her
beautiful home, leaving with her broken-hearted husband her little
boy and a baby girl two weeks old. Then Eugene St. Clair besought
his sister to come out from England and preside over his home and
care for his children; and that he might forget his grief, he gave
himself, heart and mind, to his business. Wealth came to him, and
under his sister's rule his home became a place of cultured
elegance and a center of fashionable pleasure.
Miss Frances St. Clair was a woman of the world, proud of her
family-tree, whose root disappeared in the depths of past centuries,
and devoted to the pursuit and cultivation of those graces and
manners that are supposed to distinguish people of birth and
breeding from the common sort. Indeed, from common men and things
she shrank almost with horror. The entrance of "trade" into the
social sphere of her life she would regard as an impertinent
intrusion. It was as much as she could bear to allow the approach
of "commerce," which her brother represented. She supposed, of
course, there must be people to carry on the trades and industries
of the country--very worthy people, too--but these were people one
could not be expected to know. Miss St. Clair thanked heaven that
she had had the advantages of an English education and up-bringing,
and she lamented the stubborn democratic opinions of her brother,
who insisted that Harry should attend the public school. She was
not surprised, therefore, though greatly grieved, that Harry chose
his friends in school with a fine disregard of "their people." It
was with surprise amounting to pain that she found herself one day
introduced by her nephew to Billie Barclay, who turned out to be the
son of Harry's favorite confectioner. To his aunt's remonstrance it
seemed to Harry a sufficient reply that Billy was a "brick" and a
shining "quarter" on the school Rugby team.
"But, Harry, think of his people!" urged his aunt.
"Oh, rot!" replied her irreverent nephew; "I don't play with his
"Yes, but Harry, you don't expect to make him your friend?"
"But he is my friend, and I don't care what his people are.
Besides, I think his governor is a fine old boy, and I know he
gives us jolly good taffy."
"But, Harry," answered his aunt, in despair, "you are positively
dreadful. Why can't you make friends in your own set? There is
Hubert Evans and the Langford boys."
"Evans!" snorted Harry, with contempt; "beastly snob, and the
Langfords are regular Mollies!" Whereupon Miss St. Clair gave up
her nephew as impossible. But Billie did not repeat his visit to
his friend Harry's home. Miss Frances St. Clair had a way of
looking through her pince-nez that even a boy could understand and
would seek to avoid.
With Maimie, Miss St. Clair achieved better results. She was a
gentle girl, with an affectionate, yielding disposition, tending
towards indolence and self-indulgence. Her aunt's chief concern
about her was that she should be frocked and mannered as became her
position. Her education was committed to a very select young
ladies' school, where only the daughters of the first families ever
entered. What or how they were taught, her aunt never inquired.
She felt quite sure that the lady principal would resent, as indeed
she ought, any such inquiry. Hence Maimie came to have a smattering
of the English poets, could talk in conversation-book French, and
could dash off most of the notes of a few waltzes and marches from
the best composers, her piece de resistance, however, being "La
Priere d'une Vierge." She carried with her from school a portfolio
of crayons of apparently very ancient and very battered castles; and
water-colors of landscapes, where the water was quite as solid as
the land. True, she was quite unable to keep her own small
accounts, and when her father chanced to ask her one day to do for
him a simple addition, he was amazed to find that only after the
third attempt did she get it right; but, in the eyes of her aunt,
these were quite unimportant deficiencies, and for young ladies she
was not sure but that the keeping of accounts and the adding of
figures were almost vulgar accomplishments. Her father thought
otherwise, but he was a busy man, and besides, he shrank from
entering into a region strange to him, but where his sister moved
with assured tread. He contented himself with gratifying his
daughter's fancies and indulging her in every way allowed him by her
system of training and education. The main marvel in the result was
that the girl did not grow more selfish, superficial, and ignorant
than she did. Something in her blood helped her, but more, it was
her aunt's touch upon her life. For every week a letter came from
the country manse, bringing with it some of the sweet simplicity of
the country and something like a breath of heaven.
She was nearing her fifteenth birthday, and though almost every
letter brought an invitation to visit the manse in the backwoods,
it was only when the girl's pale cheek and languid air awakened her
father's anxiety that she was allowed to accept the invitation to
spend some weeks in the country.
* * * * *
When Ranald and Hughie drove up to the manse on Saturday evening in
the jumper the whole household rushed forth to see them. They were
worth seeing. Burned black with the sun and the March winds, they
would have easily passed for young Indians. Hughie's clothes were
a melancholy and fluttering ruin; and while Ranald's stout homespun
smock and trousers had successfully defied the bush, his dark face
and unkempt hair, his rough dress and heavy shanty boots, made him
appear, to Maimie's eyes, an uncouth, if not pitiable, object.
"Oh, mother!" cried Hughie, throwing himself upon her, "I'm home
again, and we've had a splendid time, and we made heaps of sugar,
and I've brought you a whole lot." He drew out of his pockets
three or four cakes of maple sugar. "There is one for each," he
said, handing them to his mother.
"Here, Hughie," she replied, "speak to your cousin Maimie."
Hughie went up shyly to his cousin and offered a grimy hand.
Maimie, looking at the ragged little figure, could hardly hide her
disgust as she took the dirty, sticky little hand very gingerly in
her fingers. But Hughie was determined to do his duty to the full,
even though Ranald was present, and shaking his cousin's hand with
great heartiness, he held up his face to be kissed. He was much
surprised, and not a little relieved, when Maimie refused to notice
his offer and turned to look at Ranald.
She found him scanning her with a straight, searching look, as if
seeking to discover of what sort she was. She felt he had noticed
her shrinking from Hughie, and was annoyed to find herself blushing
under his keen gaze. But when Mrs. Murray presented Ranald to her
niece, it was his turn to blush and feel awkward, as he came
forward with a triangular sort of movement and offered his hand,
saying, with an access of his Highland accent, "It is a fine day,
ma'am." It required all Maimie's good manners to keep back the
laugh that fluttered upon her lips.
Slight as it was, Ranald noticed the smile, and turning from her
abruptly to Mrs. Murray, said: "We were thinking that Friday would
be a good day for the sugaring-off, if that will do you."
"Quite well, Ranald," said the minister's wife; "and it is very
good of you to have us."
She, too, had noted Maimie's smile, and seeing the dark flush on
Ranald's cheek, she knew well what it meant.
"Come and sit down a little, Ranald," she said, kindly; "I have got
some books here for you and Don to read."
But Ranald would not sit, nor would he wait a moment. "Thank you,
ma'am," he said, "but I will need to be going."
"Wait, Ranald, a moment," cried Mrs. Murray. She ran into the next
room, and in a few moments returned with two or three books and
some magazines. "These," she said, handing him the books, "are
some of Walter Scott's. They will be good for week-days; and
these," giving him the magazines, "you can read after church on
The boy's eyes lighted up as he thanked Mrs. Murray, and he shook
hands with her very warmly. Then, with a bow to the company, and
without looking at Maimie again, he left the room, with Hughie
following at his heels. In a short time Hughie came back full of
enthusiastic praise of his hero.
"Oh, mother!" he cried, "he is awful smart. He can just do anything.
He can make a splendid bed of balsam brush, and porridge, and
"A bed of balsam brush and porridge! What a wonderful boy he must
be, Hughie," said Maimie, teasing him. "But isn't he just a little
"He's not a bit queer," said Hughie, stoutly. "He is the best,
best, best boy in all the world."
"Indeed! how extraordinary!" said Maimie; "you wouldn't think so to
look at him."
"I think he is just splendid," said Hughie; "don't you, mother?"
"Indeed, he is fery brown whatever," mocked Maimie, mimicking
Ranald's Highland tongue, a trick at which she was very clever,
"and--not just fery clean."
"You're just a mean, mean, red-headed snip!" cried Hughie, in a
rage, "and I don't like you one bit."
But Maimie was proud of her golden hair, so Hughie's shot fell
"And when will you be going to the sugaring-off, Mistress Murray?"
went on Maimie, mimicking Ranald so cleverly that in spite of
herself Mrs. Murray smiled.
It was his mother's smile that perfected Hughie's fury. Without a
word of threat or warning, he seized a dipper of water and threw it
over Maimie, soaking her pretty ribbons and collar, and was
promptly sent upstairs to repent.
"Poor Hughie!" said his mother, after he had disappeared; "Ranald
is his hero, and he cannot bear any criticism of him."
"He doesn't look much of a hero, auntie," said Maimie, drying her
face and curls.
"Very few heroes do," said her aunt, quietly. "Ranald has noble
qualities, but he has had very few advantages."
Then Mrs. Murray told her niece how Ranald had put himself between
her and the pursuing wolves. Maimie's blue eyes were wide with
"But, auntie," she cried, "why in the world do you go to such
"What places, Maimie?" said the minister, who had come into the
"Why, those awful places where the wolves are."
"Indeed, you may ask why," said the minister, gravely. He had
heard the story from his wife the night before. "But it would need
a man to be on guard day and night to keep your aunt from 'those
"Yes, and your uncle, too," said Mrs. Murray, shaking her head at
her husband. "You see, Maimie, we live in 'those places'; and
after all, they are as safe as any. We are in good keeping."
"And was Hughie out all night with those two boys in those woods,
"Oh, there was no danger. The wolves will not come near a fire,
and the boys have their dogs and guns," said Mrs. Murray; "besides,
Ranald is to be trusted."
"Trusted?" said the minister; "indeed, I would not trust him too
far. He is just wild enough, like his father before him."
"Oh, papa, you don't know Ranald," said his wife, warmly; "nor his
father either, for that matter. I never did till this last week.
They have kept aloof from everything, and really--"
"And whose fault is that?" interrupted the minister. "Why should
they keep aloof from the means of grace? They are a godless lot,
that's what they are." The minister's indignation was rising.
"But, my dear," persisted Mrs. Murray, "I believe if they had a
"Chance!" exclaimed the minister; "what more chance do they want?
Have they not all that other people have? Macdonald Dubh is rarely
seen at the services on the Lord's day, and as for Ranald, he comes
and goes at his own sweet will."
"Let us hope," said his wife, gently, "they will improve. I
believe Ranald would come to Bible class were he not so shy."
"Shy!" laughed the minister, scornfully; "he is not too shy to
stand up on the table before a hundred men after a logging and
dance the Highland fling, and beautifully he does it, too," he
"But for all that," said his wife, "he is very shy."
"I don't like shy people," said Maimie; "they are so awkward and
dreadful to do with."
"Well," said her aunt, quietly, "I rather like people who are not
too sure of themselves, and I think all the more of Ranald for his
shyness and modesty."
"Oh, Ranald's modesty won't disable him," said the minister. "For
my part, I think he is a daring young rascal; and indeed, if there
is any mischief going in the countryside you may be sure Ranald is
not far away."
"Oh, papa, I don't think Ranald is a BAD boy," said his wife,
"Bad? I'm sure I don't know what you call it. Who let off the dam
last year so that the saw-mill could not run for a week? Who
abused poor Duncie MacBain so that he was carried home groaning?"
"Duncie MacBain!" exclaimed his wife, contemptuously; "great, big,
soft lump, that he is. Why, he's a man, as big as ever he'll be."
"Who broke the Little Church windows till there wasn't a pane
left?" pursued the minister, unheeding his wife's interruption.
"It wasn't Ranald that broke the church windows, papa," piped
Hughie from above.
"How do you know, sir? Who did it, then?" demanded his father.
"It wasn't Ranald, anyway," said Hughie, stoutly.
"Who was it, then? Tell me that," said his father again.
"Hughie, go to your room and stay there, as I told you," said his
mother, fearing an investigation into the window-breaking episode,
of which Hughie had made full confession to her as his own
particular achievement, in revenge for a broken window in the new
"I think," continued Mr. Murray, as if closing the discussion,
"you'll find that your Ranald is not the modest, shy, gentle young
man you think him to be, but a particularly bold young rascal."
"Poor Ranald," sighed his wife; "he has no mother, and his father
has just let him grow up wild."
"Aye, that's true enough," assented her husband, passing into his
But he could have adopted no better means of awakening Maimie's
interest in Ranald than by the recital of his various escapades.
Women love good men, but are interested in men whose goodness is
more or less impaired. So Maimie was determined that she would
know more of Ranald, and hence took every opportunity of encouraging
Hughie to sing the praises of his hero and recount his many
adventures. She was glad, too, that her aunt had fixed the
sugaring-off for a time when she could be present. But neither at
church on Sunday nor during the week that followed did she catch
sight of his face, and though Hughie came in with excited reports
now and then of having seen or heard of Ranald, Maimie had to
content herself with these; and, indeed, were it not that the
invitation had already been given, and the day fixed for her visit
to the camp, the chances are that Maimie's acquaintance with Ranald
would have ended where it began, in which case both had been saved
many bitter days.
The sugar time is, in many ways, the best of all the year. It is
the time of crisp mornings, when "the crust bears," and the boys go
crunching over all the fields and through the woods; the time, too,
of sunny noons and chilly nights. Winter is still near, but he has
lost most of his grip, and all his terror. For the earth has heard
the call of spring from afar, and knows that soon she will be seen,
dancing her shy dances, in the sunny spaces of the leafless woods.
Then, by and by, from all the open fields the snow is driven back
into the fence corners, and lies there in soiled and sullen heaps.
In the woods it still lies deep; but there is everywhere the tinkle
of running water, and it is not long till the brown leaf carpet
begins to show in patches through the white. Then, overhead, the
buds begin to swell and thrill with the new life, and when it is
broad noon, all through the woods a thousand voices pass the glad
word that winter's day is gone and that all living things are free.
But when night draws up over the treetops, and the shadows steal
down the forest aisles, the jubilant voices die down and a chill
fear creeps over all the gleeful, swelling buds that they have been
too sure and too happy; and all the more if, from the northeast,
there sweeps down, as often happens, a stinging storm of sleet and
snow, winter's last savage slap. But what matters that? The very
next day, when the bright, warm rays trickle down through the
interlacing branches, bathing the buds and twigs and limbs and
trunks and flooding all the woods, the world grows surer of its new
joy. And so, in alternating hope and fear, the days and nights go
by, till an evening falls when the air is languid and a soft rain
comes up from the south, falling all night long over the buds and
trees like warm, loving fingers. Then the buds break for very joy,
and timid green things push up through the leaf-mold; and from the
swamps the little frogs begin to pipe, at first in solo, but soon
in exultant chorus, till the whole moist night is vocal, and then
every one knows that the sugar time is over, and troughs and spiles
are gathered up, and with sap-barrels and kettles, are stored in
the back shed for another year.
But no rain came before the night fixed for the sugaring-off. It
was a perfect sugar day, warm, bright, and still, following a night
of sharp frost. The long sunny afternoon was deepening into
twilight when the Camerons drove up to the sugar-camp in their big
sleigh, bringing with them the manse party. Ranald and Don, with
Aunt Kirsty, were there to receive them. It was one of those rare
evenings of the early Canadian spring. The bare woods were filled
with the tangled rays of light from the setting sun. Here and
there a hillside facing the east lay in shadow that grew black
where the balsams and cedars stood in clumps. But everywhere else
the light fell sweet and silent about the bare trunks, filling the
long avenues under the arching maple limbs with a yellow haze.
In front of the shanty the kettles hung over the fire on a long
pole which stood in an upright crutch at either end. Under the big
kettle the fire was roaring high, for the fresh sap needed much
boiling before the syrup and taffy could come. But under the
little kettle the fire burned low, for that must not be hurried.
Over the fire and the kettles Ranald presided, black, grimy, and
silent, and to Don fell the duty of doing the honors of the camp;
and right worthily did he do his part. He greeted his mother with
reverence, cuffed his young brother, kissed his little sister
Jennie, tossing her high, and welcomed with warm heartiness Mrs.
Murray and her niece. The Airds had not yet come, but all the rest
were there. The Finlaysons and the McKerachers, Dan Campbell's
boys, and their sister Betsy, whom every one called "Betsy Dan,"
redheaded, freckled, and irrepressible; the McGregors, and a dozen
or more of the wildest youngsters that could be found in all the
Indian Lands. Depositing their baskets in the shanty, for they had
no thought of fasting, they crowded about the fire.
"Attention!" cried Don, who had a "gift of the gab," as his mother
said. "Ladies and gentlemen, the program for this evening is as
follows: games, tea, and taffy, in the order mentioned. In the
first, all MUST take part; in the second, all MAY take part; but in
the third, none NEED take part."
After the laughter and the chorus of "Ohs" had subsided, Don
proceeded: "The captains for the evening are, Elizabeth Campbell,
better known as 'Betsy Dan,' and John Finlayson, familiar to us all
as 'Johnnie the Widow,' two young people of excellent character,
and I believe, slightly known to each other."
Again a shout went up from the company, but Betsy Dan, who cared
not at all for Don's banter, contented herself with pushing out her
lower lip at him with scorn, in that indescribable manner natural
to girls, but to boys impossible.
Then the choosing began. Betsy Dan, claiming first choice by
virtue of her sex, immediately called out, "Ranald Macdonald."
But Ranald shook his head. "I cannot leave the fire," he said,
blushing; "take Don there."
But Betsy demurred. "I don't want Don," she cried. "Come on,
Ranald; the fire will do quite well." Betsy, as indeed did most of
the school-girls, adored Ranald in her secret heart, though she
scorned to show it.
But Ranald still refused, till Don said, "It is too bad, Betsy, but
you'll have to take me."
"Oh, come on, then!" laughed Betsy; "you will be better than
Then it was Johnnie the Widow's choice: "Maimie St. Clair."
Maimie hesitated and looked at her aunt, who said, "Yes, go, my
dear, if you would like."
"Marget Aird!" cried Betsy, spying Marget and her brothers coming
down the road. "Come along, Marget; you are on my side--on Don's
side, I mean." At which poor Marget, a tall, fair girl, with sweet
face and shy manner, blushed furiously, but, after greeting the
minister's wife and the rest of the older people, she took her
place beside Don.
The choosing went on till every one present was taken, not even
Aunt Kirsty being allowed to remain neutral in the coming games.
For an hour the sports went on. Racing, jumping, bear, London
bridge, crack the whip, and lastly, forfeits.
Meantime Ranald superintended the sap-boiling, keeping on the
opposite side of the fire from the ladies, and answering in
monosyllables any questions addressed to him. But when it was time
to make the tea, Mrs. Cameron and Kirsty insisted on taking charge
of this, and Mrs. Murray, coming round to Ranald, said: "Now,
Ranald, I came to learn all about sugar-making, and while the
others are making tea, I want you to teach me how to make sugar."
Ranald gladly agreed to show her all he knew. He had been feeling
awkward and miserable in the noisy crowd, but especially in the
presence of Maimie. He had not forgotten the smile of amusement
with which she had greeted him at the manse, and his wounded pride
longed for an opportunity to pour upon her the vials of his
contempt. But somehow, in her presence, contempt would not arise
within him, and he was driven into wretched silence and self-
abasement. It was, therefore, with peculiar gratitude that he
turned to Mrs. Murray as to one who both understood and trusted
"I thank you for the books, Mrs. Murray," he began, in a low,
hurried voice. "They are just wonderful. That Rob Roy and
Ivanhoe, oh! they are the grand books." His face was fairly
blazing with enthusiasm. "I never knew there were such books at
"I am very glad you like them, Ranald," said Mrs. Murray, in tones
of warm sympathy, "and I shall give you as many as you like."
"I cannot thank you enough. I have not the words," said the boy,
looking as if he might fall down at her feet. Mrs. Murray was
greatly touched both by his enthusiasm and his gratitude.
"It is a great pleasure to me, Ranald, that you like them," she
said, earnestly. "I want you to love good books and good men and
Ranald stood listening in silence.
"Then some day you will be a good and great man yourself," she
added, "and you will do some noble work."
The boy stood looking far away into the woods, his black eyes
filled with a mysterious fire. Suddenly he threw back his head and
said, as if he had forgotten Mrs. Murray's presence, "Yes, some day
I will be a great man. I know it well."
"And good," softly added Mrs. Murray.
He turned and looked at her a moment as if in a dream. Then,
recalling himself, he answered, "I suppose that is the best."
"Yes, it is the best, Ranald," she replied. "No man is great who
is not good. But come now and give me my lesson."
Ranald stepped out into the bush, and from a tree near by he lifted
a trough of sap and emptied it into the big kettle.
"That's the first thing you do with the sap," he said.
"How? Carry every trough to the kettle?"
"Oh, I see," laughed Ranald. "You must have every step."
"Yes, indeed," she replied, with determination.
"Well, here it is."
He seized a bucket, went to another tree, emptied the sap from the
trough into the bucket, and thence into the barrel, and from the
barrel into the big kettle.
"Then from the big kettle into the little one," he said, catching
up a big dipper tied to a long pole, and transferring the boiling
sap as he spoke from one kettle to another.
"But how can you tell when it is ready?" asked Mrs. Murray.
"Only by tasting. When it is very sweet it must go into the little
Her eager determination to know all the details delighted him
"Then you must be very careful indeed, or you will lose all your
day's work, and your sugar besides, for it is very easy to burn."
"But how can you tell when it is ready?"
"Oh, you must just keep tasting every few minutes till you think
you have the syrup, and then for the sugar you must just boil it a
"Well," said Mrs. Murray, "when it is ready what do you do?"
"Then," he said, "you must quickly knock the fire from under it,
and pour it into the pans, stirring it till it gets nearly cool."
"And why do you stir it?" she asked.
"Oh, to keep it from getting too hard."
"Now I have learned something I never knew before," said the
minister's wife, delightedly, "and I am very grateful to you.
We must help each other, Ranald."
"Indeed, it is little I can do for you," he said, shyly.
"You do not know how much I am going to ask you to do," she said,
lightly. "Wait and see."
At that moment a series of shrieks rose high above the shouting and
laughter of the games, and Maimie came flying down toward the camp,
pursued by Don, with the others following.
"Oh, auntie!" she panted, he's going to--going to--" she paused,
with cheeks burning.
"It's forfeits, Mrs. Murray," explained Don.
"Hoot, lassie," said Mrs. Cameron; "it will not much hurt you,
anyway. They that kiss in the light will not kiss in the dark."
"She played, and lost her forfeit," said Don, unwilling to be
jeered at by the others for faint-heartedness. "She ought to pay."
"I'm afraid, Don, she does not understand our ways," said Mrs.
"Be off, Don," said his mother. "Kiss Marget there, if you can--it
will not hurt her--and leave the young lady alone."
"It's just horrid of them, auntie," said Maimie, indignantly, as
the others went back to their games.
"Indeed," said Mrs. Cameron, warmly, "if you will never do worse
than kiss a laddie in a game, it's little harm will be coming to
But Maimie ignored her.
"Is it not horrid, auntie?" she said.
"Well, my dear, if you think so, it is. But not for these girls,
who play the game with never a thought of impropriety and with no
shock to their modesty. Much depends on how you think about these
But Maimie was not satisfied. She was indignant at Don for
offering to kiss her, but as she stood and watched the games going
on under the trees--the tag, the chase, the catch, and the kiss--
she somehow began to feel as if it were not so terrible after all,
and to think that perhaps these girls might play the game and still
be nice enough. But she had no thought of going back to them, and
so she turned her attention to the preparations for tea, now almost
complete. Her aunt and Ranald were toasting slices of bread at the
big blazing fire, on forks made out of long switches.
"Let me try, auntie," she said, pushing up to the fire between her
aunt and Ranald. "I am sure I can do that."
"Be careful of that fire," said Ranald, sharply, pulling back her
skirt, that had blown dangerously near the blaze. "Stand back
further," he commanded.
Mamie looked at him, surprise, indignation, and fear struggling
for the mastery. Was this the awkward boy that had blushed and
stammered before her a week ago?
"It's very dangerous," he explained to Mrs. Murray, "the wind blows
out the flames."
As he spoke he handed Maimie his toasting stick and retired to the
other side of the fire, and began to attend to the boiling sap.
"He needn't be such a bear," pouted Maimie.
"My dear," replied her aunt, "what Ranald says is quite true. You
cannot be too careful in moving about the fire."
"Well, he needn't be so cross about it," said Maimie. She had
never been ordered about before in her life, and she did not enjoy
the experience, and all the more at the hands of an uncouth country
boy. She watched Ranald attending to the fire and the kettles,
however, with a new respect. He certainly had no fear of the fire,
but moved about it and handled it with the utmost sang-froid. He
had a certain grace, too, in his movements that caught her eye, and
she wished he would come nearer so that she could speak to him.
She had considerable confidence in her powers of attraction. As if
to answer her wish, Ranald came straight to where her aunt and she
"I think it will be time for tea now," he said, with a sudden
return of his awkward manner, that made Maimie wonder why she had
ever been afraid of him. "I will tell Don," he added, striding off
toward the group of boys and girls, still busy with their games
under the trees.
Soon Don's shout was heard: "Tea, ladies and gentlemen; take your
seats at the tables." And speedily there was a rush and scramble,
and in a few moments the great heaps of green balsam boughs
arranged around the fire were full of boys and girls pulling,
pinching, and tumbling over one another in wild glee.
The toast stood in brown heaps on birch-bark plates beside the
fire, and baskets were carried out of the shanty bulging with
cakes; the tea was bubbling in the big tin tea-pail, and everything
was ready for the feast. But Ranald had caught Mrs. Murray's eye,
and at a sign from her, stood waiting with the tea-pail in his
"Come on with the tea, Ranald," cried Don, seizing a plate of
"Wait a minute, Don," said Ranald, in a low tone.
"What's the matter?"
But Ranald stood still, looking silently at the minister's wife.
Then, as all eyes turned toward her, she said, in a gentle, sweet
voice, "I think we ought to give thanks to our Father in heaven for
all this beauty about us and for all our joy."
At once Ranald took off his hat, and as the boys followed his
example, Mrs. Murray bowed her head and in a few, simple words
lifted up the hearts of all with her own in thanksgiving for the
beauty of the woods and sky above them, and all the many gifts that
came to fill their lives with joy.
It was not the first time that Ranald had heard her voice in
prayer, but somehow it sounded different in the open air under the
trees and in the midst of all the jollity of the sugaring-off.
With all other people that Ranald knew religion seemed to be
something apart from common days, common people, and common things,
and seemed, besides, a solemn and terrible experience; but with the
minister's wife, religion was a part of her every-day living, and
seemed to be as easily associated with her pleasure as with
anything else about her. It was so easy, so simple, so natural,
that Ranald could not help wondering if, after all, it was the
right kind. It was so unlike the religion of the elders and all
the good people in the congregation. It was a great puzzle to
Ranald, as to many others, both before and since his time.
After tea was over the great business of the evening came on.
Ranald announced that the taffy was ready, and Don, as master of
ceremonies, immediately cried out: "The gentlemen will provide the
ladies with plates."
"Plates!" echoed the boys, with a laugh of derision.
"Plates," repeated Don, stepping back to a great snowbank, near a
balsam clump, and returning with a piece of "crust." At once there
was a scurry to the snowbank, and soon every one had a snow plate
ready. Then Ranald and Don slid the little kettle along the pole
off the fire, and with tin dippers began to pour the hot syrup upon
the snow plates, where it immediately hardened into taffy. Then
the pulling began. What fun there was, what larks, what shrieks,
what romping and tumbling, till all were heartily tired, both of
the taffy and the fun.
Then followed the sugar-molding. The little kettle was set back on
the fire and kept carefully stirred, while tin dishes of all sorts,
shapes, and sizes--milk-pans, pattie-pans, mugs, and cups--well
greased with pork rind, were set out in order, imbedded in snow.
The last act of all was the making of "hens' nests." A dozen or so
of hens' eggs, blown empty, and three goose eggs for the grown-ups,
were set in snow nests, and carefully filled from the little
kettle. In a few minutes the nests were filled with sugar eggs,
and the sugaring-off was over.
There remained still a goose egg provided against any mishap.
"Who wants the goose egg?" cried Don, holding it up.
"Me!" "me!" "me!" coaxed the girls on every side.
"Will you give it to me, Don, for the minister?" said Mrs. Murray.
"Oh, yes!" cried Maimie, "and let me fill it."
As she spoke, she seized the dipper, and ran for the kettle.
"Look out for that fire," cried Don, dropping the egg into its
snowbed. He was too late. A little tongue of flame leaped out
from under the kettle, nipped hold of her frock, and in a moment
she was in a blaze. With a wild scream she sprang back and turned
to fly, but before she had gone more than a single step Ranald,
dashing the crowd right and left, had seized and flung her headlong
into the snow, beating out the flames with his bare hands. In a
moment all danger was over, and Ranald lifted her up. Still
screaming, she clung to him, while the women all ran to her. Her
aunt reached her first.
"Hush, Maimie; hush, dear. You are quite safe now. Let me see
your face. There now, be quiet, child. The danger is all over."
Still Maimie kept screaming. She was thoroughly terrified.
"Listen to me," her aunt said, in an even, firm voice. "Do not be
foolish. Let me look at you."
The quiet, firm voice soothed her, and Maimie's screams ceased.
Her aunt examined her face, neck, and arms for any signs of fire,
but could find none. She was hardly touched, so swift had been her
rescue. Then Mrs. Murray, suddenly putting her arms round about
her niece, and holding her tight, cried: "Thank God, my darling,
for his great kindness to you and to us all. Thank God! thank
Her voice broke, but in a moment, recovering herself, she went on,
"And Ranald, too! noble fellow!"
Ranald was standing at the back of the crowd, looking pale,
disturbed, and awkward. Mrs. Murray, knowing how hateful to him
would be any demonstrations of feeling, went to him, and quietly
held out her hand, saying: "It was bravely done, Ranald. From my
heart, I thank you."
For a moment or two she looked steadily into his face with tears
streaming down her cheeks. Then putting her hands upon his
shoulders, she said, softly:
"For her dear, dead mother's sake, I thank you."
Then Maimie, who had been standing in a kind of stupor all this
while, seemed suddenly to awake, and running swiftly toward Ranald,
she put out both hands, crying: "Oh, Ranald, I can never thank you
He took her hands in an agony of embarrassment, not knowing what to
do or say. Then Maimie suddenly dropped his hands, and throwing
her arms about his neck, kissed him, and ran back to her aunt's
"I thought you didn't play forfeits, Maimie," said Don, in a
grieved voice. And every one was glad to laugh.
Then the minister's wife, looking round upon them all, said: "Dear
children, God has been very good to us, and I think we ought to
give him thanks."
And standing there by the fire, they bowed their heads in a new
thanksgiving to Him whose keeping never fails by day or night. And
then, with hearts and voices subdued, and with quiet good nights,
they went their ways home.
But as the Cameron sleigh drove off with its load, Maimie looked
back, and seeing Ranald standing by the fire, she whispered to her
aunt: "Oh, auntie! Isn't he just splendid?"
But her aunt made no reply, seeing a new danger for them both,
greater than that they had escaped.
A SABBATH DAY'S WORK
The Sabbath that followed the sugaring-off was to Maimie the most
remarkable Sabbath of her life up to that day. It was totally
unlike the Sabbath of her home, which, after the formal "church
parade," as Harry called it, in the morning, her father spent in
lounging with his magazine and pipe, her aunt in sleeping or in
social gossip with such friends as might drop in, and Harry and
Maimie as best they could.
The Sabbath in the minister's house, as in the homes of his people,
was a day so set apart from other days that it had to be approached.
The Saturday afternoon and evening caught something of its
atmosphere. No frivolity, indeed no light amusement, was proper
on the evening that put a period to the worldly occupations and
engagements of the week. That evening was one of preparation. The
house, and especially the kitchen, was thoroughly "redd up." Wood,
water, and kindlings were brought in, clothes were brushed, boots
greased or polished, dinner prepared, and in every way possible the
whole house, its dwellers, and its belongings, made ready for the
morrow. So, when the Sabbath morning dawned, people awoke with a
feeling that old things had passed away and that the whole world was
new. The sun shone with a radiance not known on other days. He was
shining upon holy things, and lighting men and women to holy duties.
Through all the farms the fields lay bathed in his genial glow, at
rest, and the very trees stood in silent worship of the bending
heavens. Up from stable and from kitchen came no sounds of work.
The horses knew that no wheel would turn that day in labor, and the
dogs lay sleeping in sunny nooks, knowing as well as any that there
was to be no hunting or roaming for them that day, unless they chose
to go on a free hunt; which none but light-headed puppies or
dissipated and reprobate dogs would care to do.
Over all things rest brooded, and out of the rest grew holy
thoughts and hopes. It was a day of beginnings. For the past,
broken and stained, there was a new offer of oblivion and healing,
and the heart was summoned to look forward to new life and to hope
for better things, and to drink in all those soothing, healing
influences that memory and faith combine to give; so that when the
day was done, weary and discouraged men and women began to feel
that, perhaps after all they might be able to endure and even to
hope for victory.
The minister rose earlier on Sabbath than on other days, the
responsibility of his office pressing hard upon him. Breakfast was
more silent than usual, ordinary subjects of conversation being
discouraged. The minister was preoccupied and impatient of any
interruption of his thoughts. But his wife came to the table with
a sweeter serenity than usual, and a calm upon her face that told
of hidden strength. Even Maimie could notice the difference, but
she could only wonder. The secret of it was hidden from her. Her
aunt was like no other woman that she knew, and there were many
things about her too deep for Maimie's understanding.
After worship, which was brief but solemn and intense, Lambert
hurried to bring round to the front the big black horse, hitched up
in the carryall, and they all made speed to pack themselves in,
Maimie and her aunt in front, and Hughie on the floor behind with
his legs under the seat; for when once the minister was himself
quite ready, and had got his great meerschaum pipe going, it was
unsafe for any one to delay him a single instant.
The drive to the church was an experience hardly in keeping with
the spirit of the day. It was more exciting than restful. Black
was a horse with a single aim, which was to devour the space that
stretched out before him, with a fine disregard of consequence.
The first part of the road up to the church hill and down again to
the swamp was to Black, as to the others, an unmixed joy, for he
was fresh from his oats and eager to go, and his driver was as
eager to let him have his will.
But when the swamp was reached, and the buggy began to leap from
log to log of the corduroy, Black began to chafe in impatience of
the rein which commanded caution. Indeed, the passage of the swamp
was always more or less of an adventure, the result of which no one
could foretell, and it took all Mrs. Murray's steadiness of nerve
to repress an exclamation of terror at critical moments. The
corduroy was Black's abomination. He longed to dash through and
be done with it; but, however much the minister sympathized with
Black's desire, prudence forbade that his method should be adopted.
So from log to log, and from hole to hole, Black plunged and
stepped with all the care he could be persuaded to exercise, every
lurch of the carryall bringing a scream from Maimie in front and a
delighted chuckle from Hughie behind. His delight in the adventure
was materially increased by his cousin's terror.
But once the swamp was crossed, and Black found himself on the firm
road that wound over the sand-hills and through the open pine
woods, he tossed his great mane back from his eyes, and getting his
head set off at a pace that foreboded disaster to anything trying
to keep before him, and in a short time drew up at the church
gates, his flanks steaming and his great chest white with foam.
"My!" said Maimie, when she had recovered her breath sufficiently
to speak, "is that the church?" She pointed to a huge wooden
building about whose door a group of men were standing.
"Huh-huh, that's it," said Hughie; "but we will soon be done with
the ugly old thing."
The most enthusiastic member of the congregation could scarcely
call the old church beautiful, and to Maimie's eyes it was
positively hideous. No steeple or tower gave any hint of its
sacred character. Its weather-beaten clapboard exterior, spotted
with black knots, as if stricken with some disfiguring disease, had
nothing but its row of uncurtained windows to distinguish it from
an ordinary barn.
They entered by the door at the end of the church, and proceeded
down the long aisle that ran the full length of the building, till
they came to a cross aisle that led them to the minister's pew at
the left side of the pulpit, and commanding a view of the whole
congregation. The main body of the church was seated with long box
pews with hinged doors. But the gallery that ran round three sides
was fitted with simple benches. Immediately in front of the pulpit
was a square pew which was set apart for the use of the elders, and
close up to the pulpit, and indeed as part of this structure, was a
precentor's desk. The pulpit was, to Maimie's eyes, a wonder. It
was an octagonal box placed high on one side of the church on a
level with the gallery, and reached by a spiral staircase. Above
it hung the highly ornate and altogether extraordinary sounding-
board and canopy. There was no sign of paint anywhere, but the
yellow pine, of which seats, gallery, and pulpit were all made, had
deepened with age into a rich brown, not unpleasant to the eye.
The church was full, for the Indian Lands people believed in going
to church, and there was not a house for many miles around but was
represented in the church that day. There they sat, row upon row
of men, brawny and brown with wind and sun, a notable company,
worthy of their ancestry and worthy of their heritage. Beside them
sat their wives, brown, too, and weather-beaten, but strong, deep-
bosomed, and with faces of calm content, worthy to be mothers of
their husbands' sons. The girls and younger children sat with
their parents, modest, shy, and reverent, but the young men, for
the most part, filled the back seats under the gallery. And a
hardy lot they were, as brown and brawny as their fathers, but
tingling with life to their finger-tips, ready for anything, and
impossible of control except by one whom they feared as well as
reverenced. And such a man was Alexander Murray, for they knew
well that, lithe and brawny as they were, there was not a man of
them but he could fling out of the door and over the fence if he so
wished; and they knew, too, that he would be prompt to do it if
occasion arose. Hence they waited for the word of God with all due
reverence and fear.
In the square pew in front of the pulpit sat the elders, hoary,
massive, and venerable. The Indian Lands Session were worth
seeing. Great men they were, every one of them, excepting,
perhaps, Kenneth Campbell, "Kenny Crubach," as he was called, from
his halting step. Kenny was neither hoary nor massive nor
venerable. He was a short, grizzled man with snapping black eyes
and a tongue for clever, biting speech; and while he bore a
stainless character, no one thought of him as an eminently godly
man. In public prayer he never attained any great length, nor did
he employ that tone of unction deemed suitable in this sacred
exercise. He seldom "spoke to the question," but when he did
people leaned forward to listen, and more especially the rows of
the careless and ungodly under the gallery. Kenny had not the look
of an elder, and indeed, many wondered how he had ever come to be
chosen for the office. But the others all had the look of elders,
and carried with them the full respect and affection of the
congregation. Even the young men under the gallery regarded them
with reverence for their godly character, but for other things as
well; for these old men had been famous in their day, and tales
were still told about the firesides of the people of their prowess
in the woods and on the river.
There was, for instance, Finlay McEwen, or McKeowen, as they all
pronounced it in that country, who, for a wager, had carried a
four-hundred-pound barrel upon each hip across the long bridge over
the Scotch River. And next him sat Donald Ross, whose very face,
with its halo of white hair, bore benediction with it wherever he
went. What a man he must have been in his day! Six feet four
inches he stood in his stocking soles, and with "a back like a barn
door," as his son Danny, or "Curly," now in the shanty with
Macdonald Bhain, used to say, in affectionate pride. Then there
was Farquhar McNaughton, big, kindly, and good-natured, a mighty
man with the ax in his time. "Kirsty's Farquhar" they called him,
for obvious reasons. And a good thing for Farquhar it was that he
had had Kirsty at his side during these years to make his bargains
for him and to keep him and all others to them, else he would never
have become the substantial man he was.
Next to Farquhar was Peter McRae, the chief of a large clan of
respectable, and none too respectable, families, whom all alike
held in fear, for Peter ruled with a rod of iron, and his word ran
as law throughout the clan. Then there was Ian More Macgregor, or
"Big John Macgregor," as the younger generation called him, almost
as big as Donald Ross and quite as kindly, but with a darker,
sadder face. Something from his wilder youth had cast its shadow
over his life. No one but his minister and two others knew that
story, but the old man knew it himself, and that was enough. One
of those who shared his secret was his neighbor and crony, Donald
Ross, and it was worth a journey of some length to see these two
great old men, one with the sad and the other with the sunny face,
stride off together, staff in hand, at the close of the Gaelic
service, to Donald's home, where the afternoon would be spent in
discourse fitting the Lord's day and in prayer.
The only other elder was Roderick McCuiag, who sat, not in the
elders' pew, but in the precentor's box, for he was the Leader of
Psalmody. "Straight Rory," as he was called by the irreverent, was
tall, spare, and straight as a ramrod. He was devoted to his
office, jealous of its dignity, and strenuous in his opposition to
all innovations in connection with the Service of Praise. He was
especially opposed to the introduction of those "new-fangled
ranting" tunes which were being taught the young people by John
"Alec" Fraser in the weekly singing-school in the Nineteenth, and
which were sung at Mrs. Murray's Sabbath evening Bible class in the
Little Church. Straight Rory had been educated for a teacher in
Scotland, and was something of a scholar. He loved school
examinations, where he was the terror of pupils and teachers alike.
His acute mind reveled in the metaphysics of theology, which made
him the dread of all candidates who appeared before the session
desiring "to come forward." It was to many an impressive sight to
see Straight Rory rise in the precentor's box, feel round, with
much facial contortion, for the pitch--he despised a tuning-fork--
and then, straightening himself up till he bent over backwards,
raise the chant that introduced the tune to the congregation. But
to the young men under the gallery he was more humorous than
impressive, and it is to be feared that they waited for the
precentor's weekly performance with a delighted expectation that
never flagged and that was never disappointed. It was only the
flash of the minister's blue eye that held their faces rigid in
preternatural solemnity, and forced them to content themselves with
winks and nudges for the expression of their delight.
As Maimie's eye went wandering shyly over the rows of brown faces
that turned in solemn and steadfast regard to the minister's pew,
Hughie nudged her and whispered: "There's Don. See, in the back
seat by the window, next to Peter Ruagh yonder; the red-headed
He pointed to Peter McRae, grandson of "Peter the Elder." There
was no mistaking that landmark.
"Look," cried Hughie, eagerly, pointing with terrible directness
straight at Don, to Maimie's confusion.
"Whisht, Hughie," said his mother softly.
"There's Ranald, mother," said the diplomatic Hughie, knowing well
that his mother would rejoice to hear that bit of news. "See,
mother, just in front of Don, there."
Again Hughie's terrible finger pointed straight into the face of
the gazing congregation.
"Hush, Hughie," said his mother, severely.
Maimie knew a hundred eyes were looking straight at the minister's
pew, but for the life of her she could not prevent her eye
following the pointing finger, till it found the steady gaze of
Ranald fastened upon her. It was only for a moment, but in that
moment she felt her heart jump and her face grow hot, and it did
not help her that she knew that the people were all wondering at
her furious blushes. Of course the story of the sugaring-off had
gone the length of the land and had formed the subject of
conversation at the church door that morning, where Ranald had to
bear a good deal of chaff about the young lady, and her dislike of
forfeits, till he was ready to fight if a chance should but offer.
With unspeakable rage and confusion, he noticed Hughie's pointing
finger. He caught, too, Maimie's quick look, with the vivid blush
that followed. Unfortunately, others besides himself had noticed
this, and Don and Peter Ruagh, in the seat behind him, made it the
subject of congratulatory remarks to Ranald.
At this point the minister rose in the pulpit, and all waited with
earnest and reverent mien for the announcing of the psalm.
The Rev. Alexander Murray was a man to be regarded in any company
and under any circumstances, but when he stood up in his pulpit and
faced his congregation he was truly superb. He was above the
average height, of faultless form and bearing, athletic, active,
and with a "spring in every muscle." He had coal-black hair and
beard, and a flashing blue eye that held his people in utter
subjection and put the fear of death upon evil-doers under the
gallery. In every movement, tone, and glance there breathed
"Let us worship God by singing to His praise in the one hundred and
'I to the hills will lift mine eyes,
From whence doth come mine aid.'"
His voice rang out over the congregation like a silver bell, and
Maimie thought she had never seen a man of such noble presence.
After the reading of the psalm the minister sat down, and Straight
Rory rose in his box, and after his manner, began feeling about for
the first note of the chant that would introduce the noble old tune
"St. Paul's." A few moments he spent twisting his face and
shoulders in a manner that threatened to ruin the solemnity of the
worshipers under the gallery, till finally he seemed to hit upon
the pitch desired, and throwing back his head and closing one eye,
he proceeded on his way. Each line he chanted alone, after the
ancient Scottish custom, after which the congregation joined with
him in the tune. The custom survived from the time when psalm-
books were in the hands of but few and the "lining" of the psalm
was therefore necessary.
There was no haste to be done with the psalm. Why should there be?
They had only one Sabbath in the week, and the whole day was before
them. The people surrendered themselves to the lead of Straight
Rory with unmistakable delight in that part of "the exercises" of
the day in which they were permitted to audibly join. But of all
the congregation, none enjoyed the singing more than the dear old
women who sat in the front seats near the pulpit, their quiet old
faces looking so sweet and pure under their snow-white "mutches."
There they sat and sang and quavered, swaying their bodies with the
tune in an ecstasy of restful joy.
Maimie had often heard St. Paul's before, but never as it was
chanted by Straight Rory and sung by the Indian Lands congregation
that day. The extraordinary slides and slurs almost obliterated
the notes of the original tune, and the "little kick," as Maimie
called it, at the end of the second line, gave her a little start.
"Auntie," she whispered, "isn't it awfully queer?"
"Isn't it beautiful?" her aunt answered, with an uncertain smile.
She was remembering how these winding, sliding, slurring old tunes
had affected her when first she heard them in her husband's church
years ago. The stately movement, the weird quavers, and the
pathetic cadences had in some mysterious way reached the deep
places in her heart, and before she knew, she had found the tears
coursing down her cheeks and her breath catching in sobs. Indeed,
as she listened to-day, remembering these old impressions, the
tears began to flow, till Hughie, not understanding, crept over to
his mother, and to comfort her, slipped his hand into hers, looking
fiercely at Maimie as if she were to blame. Maimie, too, noticed
the tears and sat wondering, and as the congregation swung on
through the verses of the grand old psalm there crept into her
heart a new and deeper emotion than she had ever known.
"Listen to the words, Maimie dear," whispered her aunt. And as
Maimie listened, the noble words, borne on the mighty swing of St.
Paul's, lifted up by six hundred voices--for men, women, and
children were singing with all their hearts--awakened echoes from
great deeps within her as yet unsounded. The days for such singing
are, alas! long gone. The noble rhythm, the stately movement, the
continuous curving stream of melody, that once marked the praise
service of the old Scottish church, have given place to the light,
staccato tinkle of the revival chorus, or the shorn and mutilated
skeleton of the ancient psalm tune.
But while the psalm had been moving on in its solemn and stately
way, Ranald had been enduring agony at the hands of Peter Ruagh
sitting just behind him. Peter, whose huge, clumsy body was a
fitting tabernacle for the soul within, labored under the impression
that he was a humorist, and indulged a habit of ponderous joking,
trying enough to most people, but to one of Ranald's temperament
exasperating to a high degree. His theme was Ranald's rescue of
Maimie, and the pauses of the singing he filled in with humorous
comments that, outside, would have produced only weariness, but in
the church, owing to the strange perversity of human nature, sent a
snicker along the seat. Unfortunately for him, Ranald's face was so
turned that he could not see it, and so he had no hint of the wrath
that was steadily boiling up to the point of overflow.
They were nearing the close of the last verse of the psalm, when
Hughie, whose eyes never wandered long from Ranald's direction,
uttered a sharp "Oh, my!" There was a shuffling confusion under
the gallery, and when Maimie and her aunt looked, Peter Ruagh's
place was vacant.
By this time the minister was standing up for prayer. His eye,
too, caught the movement in the back seat.
"Young men," he said, sternly, "remember you are in God's house.
Let me not have to mention your names before the congregation. Let
As the congregation rose for prayer, Mrs. Murray noticed Peter
Ruagh appear from beneath the book-board and quietly slip out by
the back door with his hand to his face and the blood streaming
between his fingers; and though Ranald was standing up straight and
stiff in his place, Mrs. Murray could read from his rigid look the
explanation of Peter's bloody face. She gave her mind to the
prayer with a sore heart, for she had learned enough of those wild,
hot-headed youths to know that before Peter Ruagh's face would be
healed more blood would have to flow.
The prayer proceeded in its leisurely way, indulging here and there
in quiet reverie, or in exultant jubilation over the "attributes,"
embracing in its worldwide sweep "the interests of the kingdom" far
and near, and of that part of humanity included therein present and
to come, and buttressing its petitions with theological argument,
systematic and unassailable. Before the close, however, the
minister came to deal with the needs of his own people. Old and
young, absent and present, the sick, the weary, the sin-burdened--
all were remembered with a warmth of sympathy, with a directness of
petition, and with an earnestness of appeal that thrilled and
subdued the hearts of all, and made even the boys, who had borne
with difficulty the last half-hour of the long prayer, forget their
The reading of Scripture followed the prayer. In this the minister
excelled. His fine voice and his dramatic instinct combined to
make this an impressive and beautiful portion of the service. But
to-day much of the beauty and impressiveness of the reading was
lost by the frequent interruptions caused by the entrance of late
comers, of whom, owing to the bad roads, there were a larger number
than usual. The minister was evidently annoyed, not so much by the
opening and shutting of the door as by the inattention of his
hearers, who kept turning round their heads to see who the new
arrivals were. At length the minister could bear it no longer.
"My dear people," he said, pausing in the reading, "never mind
those coming in. Give you heed to the reading of God's Word, and
if you must know who are entering, I will tell you. Yes," he
added, deliberately, "give you heed to me, and I will let you know
who these late comers are."
With that startling declaration, he proceeded with the reading, but
had not gone more than a few verses when "click" went the door-
latch. Not a head turned. It was Malcolm Monroe, slow-going and
good-natured, with his quiet little wife following him.
The minister paused, looking toward the door, and announced: "My
dear people, here comes our friend Malcolm Monroe, and his good
wife with him, and a long walk they have had. Come away, Malcolm;
come away; we will just wait for you."
Malcolm's face was a picture. Surprise, astonishment, and confusion
followed each other across his stolid countenance; and with quicker
pace than he was ever known to use in his life before, he made his
way to his seat. No sooner had the reading began again when once
more the door clicked. True to his promise, the minister paused and
cheerfully announced to his people: "This, my friends, is John
Campbell, whom you all know as 'Johnnie Sarah,' and we are very glad
to see him, for, indeed, he has not been here for some time. Come
away, John; come away, man," he added, impatiently, "for we are all
waiting for you."
Johnnie Sarah stood paralyzed with amazement and seemed uncertain
whether to advance or to turn and flee. The minister's impatient
command, however, decided him, and he dropped into the nearest seat
with all speed, and gazed about him as if to discover where he was.
He had no sooner taken his seat than the door opened again, and
some half-dozen people entered. The minister stood looking at them
for some moments and then said, in a voice of resignation:
"Friends, these are some of our people from the Island, and there
are some strangers with them. But if you want to know who they
are, you will just have to look at them yourselves, for I must get
on with the reading."
Needless to say, not a soul of the congregation, however consumed
with curiosity, dared to look around, and the reading of the
chapter went gravely on to the close. To say that Maimie sat in
utter astonishment during this extraordinary proceeding would give
but a faint idea of her state of mind. Even Mrs. Murray herself,
who had become accustomed to her husband's eccentricities, sat in
a state of utter bewilderment, not knowing what might happen next;
nor did she feel quite safe until the text was announced and the
sermon fairly begun.
Important as were the exercises of reading, praise, and prayer,
they were only the "opening services," and merely led up to the
event of the day, which was the sermon. And it was the event, not
only of the day, but of the week. It would form the theme of
conversation and afford food for discussion in every gathering of
the people until another came to take its place. To-day it lasted
a full hour and a half, and was an extraordinary production. Calm,
deliberate reasoning, flights of vivid imagination, passionate
denunciation, and fervid appeal, marked its course. Its subject
was the great doctrine of Justification by Faith, and it contained
a complete system of theology arranged with reference to that
doctrine. Ancient heresies were attacked and exposed with
completeness amounting to annihilation. Modern errors, into which
our "friends" of the different denominations had fallen, were
deplored and corrected, and all possible misapplications of the
doctrine to practical life guarded against. On the positive side
the need, the ground, the means, the method, the agent, the
results, of Justification, were fully set forth and illustrated.
There were no anecdotes and no poetry. The subject was much too
massive and tremendous to permit of any such trifling.
As the sermon rolled on its majestic course, the congregation
listened with an attentive and discriminating appreciation that
testified to their earnestness and intelligence. True, one here
and there dropped into a momentary doze, but his slumber was never
easy, for he was harassed by the terrible fear of a sudden summons
by name from the pulpit to "awake and give heed to the message,"
which for the next few minutes would have an application so
personal and pungent that it would effectually prevent sleep for
that and some successive Sabbaths. The only apparent lapse of
attention occurred when Donald Ross opened his horn snuff-box, and
after tapping solemnly upon its lid, drew forth a huge pinch of
snuff and passed it to his neighbor, who, after helping himself in
like manner, passed the box on. That the lapse was only apparent
was made evident by the air of abstraction with which this
operation was carried on, the snuff being held between the thumb
and forefinger for some moments, until a suitable resting-place in
the sermon was reached.
When the minister had arrived at the middle of the second head, he
made the discovery, as was not frequently the case, that the
remotest limits of the alloted time had been passed, and announcing
that the subject would be concluded on the following Sabbath, he
summarily brought the English service to a close, and dismissed the
congregation with a brief prayer, two verses of a psalm, and the
When Maimie realized that the service was really over, she felt as
if she had been in church for a week. After the benediction the
congregation passed out into the churchyard and disposed themselves
in groups about the gate and along the fences discussing the sermon
and making brief inquiries as to the "weal and ill" of the members
of their families. Mrs. Murray, leaving Hughie and Maimie to
wander at will, passed from group to group, welcomed by all with
equal respect and affection. Young men and old men, women and
girls alike, were glad to get her word. To-day, however, the young
men were not at first to be seen, but Mrs. Murray knew them well
enough to suspect that they would be found at the back of the
church, so she passed slowly around the church, greeting the people
as she went, and upon turning the corner she saw a crowd under the
big maple, the rendezvous for the younger portion of the congregation
before "church went in." In the center of the group stood Ranald
and Don, with Murdie, Don's eldest brother, a huge, good-natured
man, beside them, and Peter Ruagh, with his cousin Aleck, and others
of the clan. Ranald was standing, pale and silent, with his head
thrown back, as his manner was when in passion. The talk was mainly
between Aleck and Murdie, the others crowding eagerly about and
putting in a word as they could. Murdie was reasoning good-humoredly,
Aleck replying fiercely.
"It was good enough for him," Mrs. Murray heard Don interject, in a
triumphant tone, to Murdie. But Murdie shut him off sternly.
"Whisht, Don, you are not talking just now."
Don was about to reply when he caught sight of Mrs. Murray.
"Here's the minister's wife," he said, in a low tone, and at once
the group parted in shamefaced confusion. But Murdie kept his face
unmoved, and as Mrs. Murray drew slowly near, said, in a quiet
voice of easy good-humor, to Aleck, who was standing with a face
like that of a detected criminal: "Well, we will see about it to-
morrow night, Aleck, at the post-office," and he faced about to
meet Mrs. Murray with an easy smile, while Aleck turned away. But
Mrs. Murray was not deceived, and she went straight to the point.
"Murdie," she said, quietly, when she had answered his greeting,
"will you just come with me a little; I want to ask you about
something." And Murdie walked away with her, followed by the winks
and nods of the others.
What she said Murdie never told, but he came back to them more
determined upon peace than ever. The difficulty lay, not with the
good-natured Peter, who was ready enough to settle with Ranald, but
with the fiery Aleck, who represented the non-respectable section
of the clan McRae, who lived south of the Sixteenth, and had a
reputation for wildness. Fighting was their glory, and no one
cared to enter upon a feud with any one of them. Murdie had
interfered on Ranald's behalf, chiefly because he was Don's friend,
but also because he was unwilling that Ranald should be involved in
a quarrel with the McRaes, which he knew would be a serious affair
for him. But now his strongest reason for desiring peace was that
he had pledged himself to the minister's wife to bring it about in
some way or other. So he took Peter off by himself, and without
much difficulty, persuaded him to act the magnanimous part and drop
With Ranald he had a harder task. That young man was prepared to
see his quarrel through at whatever consequences to himself. He
knew the McRaes, and knew well their reputation, but that only made
it more impossible for him to retreat. But Murdie knew better than
to argue with him, so he turned away from him with an indifferent
air, saying: "Oh, very well. Peter is willing to let it drop.
You can do as you please, only I know the minister's wife expects
you to make it up."
"What did she say to you, then?" asked Ranald, fiercely.
"She said a number of things that you don't need to know, but she
said this, whatever, 'He will make it up for my sake, I know.'"
Ranald stood a moment silent, then said, suddenly: "I will, too,"
and walking straight over to Peter, he offered his hand, saying, "I
was too quick, Peter, and I am willing to take as much as I gave.
You can go on."
But Peter was far too soft-hearted to accept that invitation, and
seizing Ranald's hand, said, heartily: "Never mind, Ranald, it was
my own fault. We will just say nothing more about it."
"There is the singing, boys," said Murdie. "Come away. Let us go
He was all the more anxious to get the boys into the church when he
saw Aleck making toward them. He hurried Peter in before him, well