Part 3 out of 8
pleased with himself and his success as peacemaker, but especially
delighted that he could now turn his face toward the minister's
pew, without shame. And as he took his place in the back seat,
with Peter Ruagh beside him, the glance of pride and gratitude that
flashed across the congregation to him from the gray-brown eyes
made Murdie feel more than ever pleased at what he had been able to
do. But he was somewhat disturbed to notice that neither Ranald
nor Don nor Aleck had followed him into the church, and he waited
uneasily for their coming.
In the meantime Straight Rory was winding his sinuous way through
Coleshill, the Gaelic rhythm of the psalm allowing of quavers and
turns impossible in the English.
In the pause following the second verse, Murdie was startled at the
sound of angry voices from without. More than Murdie heard that
sound. As Murdie glanced toward the pulpit he saw that the
minister had risen and was listening intently.
"Behold--the--sparrow--findeth--out--" chanted the precentor.
"You are a liar!" The words, in Aleck's fiery voice outside, fell
distinctly upon Murdie's ear, though few in the congregation seemed
to have heard. But while Murdie was making up his mind to slip
out, the minister was before him. Quickly he stepped down the
pulpit stairs, psalm-book in hand, and singing as he went, walked
quietly to the back door, and leaving his book on the window-sill,
passed out. The singing went calmly on, for the congregation were
never surprised at anything their minister did.
The next verse was nearly through, when the door opened, and in
came Don, followed by Aleck, looking somewhat disheveled and shaken
up, and two or three more. In a few moments the minister came in,
took his psalm-book from the window-sill, and striking up with the
congregation, "Blest is the man whose strength thou art," marched
up to the pulpit again, with only an added flash in his blue eyes
and a little more triumphant swing to his coat-tails to indicate
that anything had taken place. But Murdie looked in vain for
Ranald to appear, and waited, uncertain what to do. He had a
wholesome fear of the minister, more especially in his present
mood. Instinctively he turned toward the minister's pew, and
reading the look of anxious entreaty from the pale face there, he
waited till the congregation rose for prayer and then slipped out,
and was seen no more in church that day.
On the way home not a word was said about the disturbance. But
after the evening worship, when the minister had gone to his study
for a smoke, Hughie, who had heard the whole story from Don, told
it to his mother and Maimie in his most graphic manner.
"It was not Ranald's fault, mother," he declared. "You know Peter
would not let him alone, and Ranald hit him in the nose, and served
him right, too. But they made it all up, and they were just going
into the church again, when that Aleck McRae pulled Ranald back,
and Ranald did not want to fight at all, but he called Ranald a
liar, and he could not help it, but just hit him."
"Who hit who?" said Maimie. "You're not making it very clear,
"Why, Ranald, of course, hit Aleck, and knocked him over, too,"
said Hughie, with much satisfaction; "and then Aleck--he is an
awful fighter, you know--jumped on Ranald and was pounding him just
awful, the great big brute, when out came papa. He stepped up and
caught Aleck by the neck and shook him just like a baby, saying,
all the time, 'Would ye? I will teach you to fight on the Sabbath
day! Here! in with you, every one of you!' and he threw him nearly
into the door, and then they all skedaddled into the church, I tell
you, Don said. They were pretty badly scart, too, but Don did not
know what papa did to Ranald, and he did not know where Ranald
went, but he is pretty badly hurted, I am sure. That great big
Aleck McRae is old enough to be his father. Wasn't it mean of him,
Poor Hughie was almost in tears, and his mother, who sat listening
too eagerly to correct her little boy's ethics or grammar, was as
nearly overcome as he. She wished she knew where Ranald was. He
had not appeared at the evening Bible class, and Murdie had
reported that he could not find him anywhere.
She put Hughie to bed, and then saw Maimie to her room. But Maimie
was very unwilling to go to bed.
"Oh, auntie," she whispered, as her aunt kissed her good night, "I
cannot go to sleep!" And then, after a pause, she said, shyly, "Do
you think he is badly hurt?"
Then the minister's wife, looking keenly into the girl's face, made
light of Ranald's misfortune.
"Oh, he will be all right," she said, "as far as his hurt is
concerned. That is the least part of his trouble. You need not
worry about that. Good night, my dear." And Maimie, relieved by
her aunt's tone, said "good night" with her heart at rest.
Then Mrs. Murray went into the study, determined to find out what
had passed between her husband and Ranald. She found him lying on
his couch, luxuriating in the satisfaction of a good day's work
behind him, and his first pipe nearly done. She at once ventured
upon the thing that lay heavy upon her heart. She began by telling
all she knew of the trouble from its beginning in the church, and
then waited for her husband's story.
For some moments he lay silently smoking.
"Ah, well," he said, at length, knocking out his pipe, "perhaps I
was a little severe with the lad. He may not have been so much to
"Oh, papa! What did you do?" said his wife, in an anxious voice.
"Well," said the minister, hesitating, "I found that the young
rascal had struck Aleck McRae first, and a very bad blow it was.
So I administered a pretty severe rebuke and sent him home."
"Oh, what a shame!" cried his wife, in indignant tears. "It was
far more the fault of Peter and Aleck and the rest. Poor Ranald!"
"Now, my dear," said the minister, "you need not fear for Ranald.
I do not suppose he cares much. Besides, his face was not fit to
be seen, so I sent him home. Well, it--"
"Yes," burst in his wife, "great, brutal fellow, to strike a boy
"Boy?" said her husband. "Well, he may be, but not many men would
dare to face him." Then he added, "I wish I had known--I fear I
spoke--perhaps the boy may feel unjustly treated. He is as proud
"Oh, papa!" said his wife, "what did you say?"
"Nothing but what was true. I just told him that a boy who would
break the Lord's Day by fighting, and in the very shadow of the
Lord's house, when Christian people were worshiping God, was acting
like a savage, and was not fit for the company of decent folk."
To this his wife made no reply, but went out of the study, leaving
the minister feeling very uncomfortable indeed. But by the end of
the second pipe he began to feel that, after all, Ranald had got no
more than was good for him, and that he would be none the worse of
it; in which comforting conviction he went to rest, and soon fell
into the sleep which is supposed to be the right of the just.
Not so his wife. Wearied though she was with the long day, its
excitements and its toils, sleep would not come. Anxious thoughts
about the lad she had come to love as if he were her own son or
brother kept crowding in upon her. The vision of his fierce, dark,
stormy face held her eyes awake and at length drew her from her
bed. She went into the study and fell upon her knees. The burden
had grown too heavy for her to bear alone. She would share it with
Him who knew what it meant to bear the sorrows and the sins of
As she rose, she heard Fido bark and whine in the yard below, and
going to the window, she saw a man standing at the back door, and
Fido fawning upon him. Startled, she was about to waken her
husband, when the man turned his face so that the moonlight fell
upon it, and she saw Ranald. Hastily she threw on her dressing-
gown, put on her warm bedroom slippers and cloak, ran down to the
door, and in another moment was standing before him, holding him by
"Ranald!" she cried, breathlessly, "what is it?"
"I am going away," he said, simply. "And I was just passing by--
and--" he could not go on.
"Oh, Ranald!" she cried,, "I am glad you came this way. Now tell
me where you are going."
The boy looked at her as if she had started a new idea in his mind,
and then said, "I do not know."
"And what are you going to do, Ranald?"
"Work. There is plenty to do. No fear of that."
"But your father, Ranald?"
The boy was silent for a little, and then said, "He will soon be
well, and he will not be needing me, and he said I could go." His
voice broke with the remembrance of the parting with his father.
"And why are you going, Ranald?" she said, looking into his eyes.
Again the boy stood silent.
"Why do you go away from your home and your father, and--and--all
of us who love you?"
"Indeed, there is no one," he replied, bitterly; "and I am not for
decent people. I am not for decent people. I know that well
enough. There is no one that will care much."
"No one, Ranald?" she asked, sadly. "I thought--" she paused,
looking steadily into his face.
Suddenly the boy turned to her, and putting out both his hands,
burst forth, his voice coming in dry sobs: "Oh, yes, yes! I do
believe you. I do believe you. And that is why I came this way.
I wanted to see your door again before I went. Oh, I will never
forget you! Never, never, and I am glad I am seeing you, for now
you will know--how much--" The boy was unable to proceed. His
sobs were shaking his whole frame, and to his shy Highland Scotch
nature, words of love and admiration were not easy. "You will not
be sending me back home again?" he pleaded, anticipating her.
"Indeed, I cannot stay in this place after to-day."
But the minister's wife kept her eyes steadily upon his face
without a word, trying in vain to find her voice, and the right
words to say. She had no need of words, for in her face, pale, wet
with her flowing tears, and illumined with her gray-brown eyes,
Ranald read her heart.
"Oh!" he cried again, "you are wanting me to stay, and I will be
ashamed before them all, and the minister, too. I cannot stay. I
"And I cannot let you go, Ranald, my boy," she said, commanding her
voice to speech. "I want you to be a brave man. I don't want you
to be afraid of them."
"Afraid of them!" said the boy, in scornful surprise. "Not if they
were twice as more and twice as beeg."
Mrs. Murray saw her advantage, and followed it up.
"And the minister did not know the whole truth, Ranald, and he was
sorry he spoke to you as he did."
"Did he say that?" said Ranald, in surprise. It was to him, as to
any one in that community, a terrible thing to fall under the
displeasure of the minister and to be disgraced in his eyes.
"Yes, indeed, Ranald, and he would be sorry if you should go away.
I am sure he would blame himself."
This was quite a new idea to the boy. That the minister should
think himself to be in the wrong was hardly credible.
"And how glad we would be," she continued, earnestly, "to see you
prove yourself a man before them all."
Ranald shook his head. "I would rather go away."
"Perhaps, but it's braver to stay, and to do your work like a man."
And then, allowing him no time for words, she pictured to him the
selfish, cowardly part the man plays who marches bravely enough in
the front ranks until the battle begins, but who shrinks back and
seeks an easy place when the fight comes on, till his face fell
before her in shame. And then she showed him what she would like
him to do, and what she would like him to be in patience and in
courage, till he stood once more erect and steady.
"Now, Ranald," she said, noting the effect of her words upon him,
"what is it to be?"
"I will go back," he said, simply; and turning with a single word
of farewell, he sprang over the fence and disappeared in the woods.
The minister's wife stood looking the way he went long after he had
passed out of sight, and then, lifting her eyes to the radiant sky
with its shining lights, "He made the stars also," she whispered,
and went up to her bed and laid her down and slept in peace. Her
Sabbath day's work was done.
THE HOME-COMING OF THE SHANTYMEN
For some weeks Ranald was not seen by any one belonging to the
manse. Hughie reported that he was not at church, nor at Bible
class, and although this was not in itself an extraordinary thing,
still Mrs. Murray was uneasy, and Hughie felt that church was a
great disappointment when Ranald was not there.
In their visits to Macdonald Dubh the minister and his wife never
could see Ranald. His Aunt Kirsty could not understand or explain
his reluctance to attend the public services, nor his unwillingness
to appear in the house on the occasion of the minister's visits.
"He is busy with the fences and about the stables preparing for the
spring's work," she said; "but, indeed, he is very queer whatever,
and I cannot make him out at all." Macdonald Dubh himself said
nothing. But the books and magazines brought by the minister's
wife were always read. "Indeed, when once he gets down to his
book," his aunt complained, "neither his bed nor his dinner will
The minister thought little of the boy's "vagaries," but to his
wife came many an anxious thought about Ranald and his doings. She
was more disappointed than she cared to confess, even to herself,
that the boy seemed to be quite indifferent to the steadily
deepening interest in spiritual things that marked the members of
her Bible class.
While she was planning how to reach him once more, an event
occurred which brought him nearer to her than he had ever been
before. As they were sitting one evening at tea, the door
unexpectedly opened, and without announcement, in walked Ranald,
splashed with hard riding, pale, and dazed. Without a word of
reply to the greetings that met him from all at the table, he went
straight to the minister's wife, handed her an opened letter, and
stood waiting. It was addressed to Ranald himself, and was the
first he had ever received in his life. It was from Yankee Jim,
and read as follows:
Dear Ranald--The Boss aint feelin like ritin much and the rest of
the boys is all broke up, and so he told me to rite to you and to
tell you some purty bad news. I don't know how to go about it, but
the fact is, Mack Cameron got drownded yesterday tryin to pull a
little fool of a Frenchman out of the river just below the Lachine.
We'd just got through the rough water and were lyin nice and quiet,
gettin things together again when that ijit Frenchman got tite and
got tryin some fool trick or other walking a timber stick and got
upsot into the wet. I'd a let him go, you bet, but Mack cudn't
stand to see him bobbin up and down so he ripped off and in after
him. He got him too, but somehow the varmint gripped him round
the neck. They went down but we got em out purty quick and the
Frenchman come round all right, but somehow Mack wouldn't, choked
appearinly by that tarnel little fool who aint worth one of Mack's
fingers, and if killin him wud do any good, then he wudn't be livin
long. We are all feelin purty bad. We are comin' home on Thursday
by Cornwall, eight or ten of us. The rest will go on with the
rafts. The Boss says, better have rigs to meet us and Mack.
That's all. I haint no good at weepin', never was, wish I cud
somehow, it might ease off a feller a little, but tell you what,
Ranald, I haint felt so queer since I was a boy lookin at my mother
in her coffin. There was nothin mean about Mack. He was good to
the heart. He wud do his work slick and never a growl or a groan,
and when you wanted a feller to your back, Mack was there. I know
there aint no use goin on like this. All I say is, ther's a purty
big hole in the world for us to-night. Boss says you'd better tell
the minister. He says he's good stuff and he'll know what to do at
Mack's home. No more at present. Good-bye. Yours truely,
The minister's wife began reading the letter, wondering not a
little at Ranald's manner, but when she came to the words, "Mack
Cameron got drownded," she laid the letter down with a little cry.
Her husband came quickly to her, took up the letter, and read it to
"I will go at once," he said, and rang the bell. "Tell Lambert to
put Black in the buggy immediately, Jessie," he said, when the maid
appeared. "Do you think you ought to go, my dear?"
"Yes, yes, I shall be ready in a moment; but, oh, what can we do or
"Perhaps you had better not go. It will be very trying," said the
"Oh, yes, I must go. I must. The poor mother!" Then she turned
to Ranald as the minister left the room. "You are going home,
Ranald, I suppose," she said.
"No, I was thinking I would go to tell the people. Donald Ross
will go, and the Campbells, and Farquhar McNaughton's light wagon
would be best--for the--for Mack. And then I will go round by the
Ranald had been thinking things out and making his plans.
"But that will be a long round for you," said Mrs. Murray. "Could
not we go by the Campbells', and they will send word to Donald
"I think it would be better for me to go, to make sure of the
"Very well, then. Good by, Ranald," said the minister's wife,
holding out her hand to him.
But still Ranald lingered. "It will be hard on Bella Peter," he
said, in a low voice, looking out of the window.
"Bella Peter? Bella McGregor?"
"Yes," said Ranald, embarrassed and hesitating. "She was Mack's--
Mack was very fond of her, whatever."
"Oh, Ranald!" she cried, "do you say so? Are you sure of that?"
"Yes, I am sure," said Ranald, simply. "The boys in the shanty
would be teasing Mack about it, and one day Mack told me something,
and I know quite well."
"I will go to her," said Mrs. Murray.
"That will be very good," said Ranald, much relieved. "And I will
be going with you that way."
As Mrs. Murray left the room, Maimie came around to where Ranald
was standing and said to him, gently, "You knew him well, didn't
"Yes," replied Ranald, in an indifferent tone, as if unwilling to
talk with her about it.
"And you were very fond of him?" went on Maimie.
Ranald caught the tremor in her voice and looked at her. "Yes," he
said, with an effort. "He was good to me in the camp. Many's the
time he made it easy for me. He was next to Macdonald Bhain with
the ax, and, man, he was the grand fighter--that is," he added,
adopting the phrase of the Macdonald gang, "when it was a plain
necessity." Then, forgetting himself, he began to tell Maimie how
Big Mack had borne himself in the great fight a few weeks before.
But he had hardly well begun when suddenly he stopped with a groan.
"But now he is dead--he is dead. I will never see him no more."
He was realizing for the first time his loss. Maimie came nearer
him, and laying her hand timidly on his arm, said, "I am sorry,
Ranald"; and Ranald turned once more and looked at her, as if
surprised that she should show such feeling.
"Yes," he said, "I believe you are sorry."
Her big blue eyes filled suddenly with tears.
"Do you wonder that I am sorry? Do you think I have no heart at
all?" she burst forth, impetuously.
"Indeed, I don't know," said Ranald. "Why should you care? You do
not know him."
"But haven't you just told me how splendid he was, and how good he
was to you, and how much you thought of him, and--" Maimie checked
her rush of words with a sudden blush, and then hurried on to say,
"Besides, think of his mother, and all of them."
While Maimie was speaking, Ranald had been scanning her face as if
trying to make up his mind about her.
"I am glad you are sorry," he said, slowly, gazing with so searching
a look into her eyes that she let them fall.
At this moment Mrs. Murray entered ready for her ride.
"Is the pony come?" she asked.
"Indeed, it is the slouch I am," said Ranald, and he hurried off to
the stable, returning in a very short time with the pony saddled.
"You would not care to go with your uncle, Maimie?" said Mrs.
Murray, as Lambert drove up Black in the buggy.
"No, auntie, I think not," said Maimie. "I will take care of
Hughie and the baby."
"Good by, then, my dear," said Mrs. Murray, kissing her.
"Good by, Ranald," said Maimie, as he turned away to get his colt.
"Good by," he said, awkwardly. He felt like lifting his cap, but
hesitated to do anything so extremely unnatural. With the boys in
that country such an act of courtesy was regarded as a sign of
"pride," if not of weakness.
Their way lay along the concession line for a mile, and then
through the woods by the bridle-path to Peter McGregor's clearing.
The green grass ran everywhere--along the roadside, round the great
stump roots, over the rough pasture-fields, softening and smoothing
wherever it went. The woods were flushing purple, with just a
tinge of green from the bursting buds. The balsams and spruces
still stood dark in the swamps, but the tamaracks were shyly
decking themselves in their exquisite robes of spring, and through
all the bush the air was filled with soft sounds and scents. In
earth and air, in field and forest, life, the new spring life, ran
riot. How strangely impertinent death appeared, and how unlovely
in such a world of life!
As they left the concession road and were about to strike into
the woods, Mrs. Murray checked her pony, and looking upon the
loveliness about her, said, softly, "How beautiful it all is!"
There was no response from Ranald, and Mrs. Murray, glancing at his
gloomy face, knew that his heart was sore at the thought of the
pain they were bearing with them. She hesitated a few moments, and
then said, gently: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. And
there shall be no more death."
But still Ranald made no reply, and they rode on through the bush
in silence till they came to the clearing beyond. As they entered
the brule, Ranald checked his colt, and holding up his hand, said,
Through the quiet evening air, sweet and clear as a silver bell,
came the long, musical note of the call that brings the cows home
for the milking. It was Bella's voice: "Ko--boss, ko--boss,
Far across the brule they could see her standing on a big pine
stump near the bars, calling to her cows that were slowly making
toward her through the fallen timber, pausing here and there to
crop an especially rich mouthful, and now and then responding to
her call with soft lowings. Gently Bella chid them. "Come,
Blossom, come away now; you are very lazy. Come, Lily; what are
you waiting for? You slow old poke!" Then again the long, musical
note: "Ko--boss, ko--boss, ko--boss!"
Ranald groaned aloud, "Och-hone! It will be her last glad hour,"
he said; "it is a hard, hard thing."
"Poor child, poor child!" said Mrs. Murray; "the Lord help her. It
will be a cruel blow."
"That it is, a cruel blow," said Ranald, bitterly; so bitterly that
Mrs. Murray glanced at him in surprise and saw his face set in
"The Lord knows best, Ranald," she said, gravely, "and loves best,
"It will break her heart, whatever," answered Ranald, shortly.
"He healeth the broken in heart," said Mrs. Murray, softly. Ranald
made no reply, but let the colt take her way through the brule
toward the lane into which Bella had now got her cows. How happy
the girl was! Joy filled every tone of her voice. And why not?
It was the springtime, the time of life and love. Long winter was
gone, and soon her brothers would be back from the shanties. "And
Mack, too," she whispered to her happy heart.
"And are ye sure the news is true?
And are ye sure he's weel?
Is this a time to think o' wark?
Ye jades, fling by your wheel.
"For there's nae luck aboot the hoose,
There's nae luck ava,
There's little pleesure in the hoose
When oor gude man's awa."
So she sang, not too loud; for the boys were at the barn and she
would never hear the end of it.
"Well, Bella, you are getting your cows home. How are you, my
Bella turned with a scarlet face to meet the minister's wife, and
her blushes only became deeper when she saw Ranald, for she felt
quite certain that Ranald would understand the meaning of her song.
"I will go on with the cows," said Ranald, in a hoarse voice, and
Mrs. Murray, alighting, gave him her pony to lead.
Peter McGregor was a stern man to his own family, and to all the
world, with the single exception of his only daughter, Bella. His
six boys he kept in order with a firm hand, and not one of them
would venture to take a liberty with him. But Bella had no fear of
his grim face and stern ways, and "just twiddled her father round
her finger," as her mother said, with a great show of impatience.
But, in spite of all her petting from her big brothers and her
father, Bella remained quite unspoiled, the light of her home and
the joy of her father's heart. It had not escaped the father's
jealous eye that Big Mack Cameron found occasion for many a visit
to the boys on an evening when the day's work was done, and that
from the meetings he found his shortest way home round by the
McGregor's. At first the old man was very gruff with him, and was
for sending him about his business, but his daughter's happy face,
and the light in her eyes, that could mean only one thing, made him
pause, and after a long and sleepless night, he surprised his
daughter the next morning with a word of gentle greeting and an
unusual caress, and thenceforth took Big Mack to his heart. Not
that any word or explanation passed between them; it had not come
to that as yet; but Big Mack felt the change, and gave him
thenceforth the obedience and affection of a son.
The old man was standing in the yard, waiting to help with the
Ranald drove the cows in, and then, tying up the horses, went
straight to him.
"I bring bad news, Mr. McGregor," he said, anxious to get done with
his sad task. "There has been an accident on the river, and Mack
Cameron is drowned."
"What do you say, boy?" said Peter, in a harsh voice.
"He was trying to save a Frenchman, and when they got him out he
was dead," said Ranald, hurrying through his tale, for he saw the
two figures coming up the lane and drawing nearer.
"Dead!" echoed the old man. "Big Mack! God help me."
"And they will be wanting a team," continued Ranald, "to go to
The old man stood for a few moments, looking stupidly at Ranald.
Then, lifting his hat from his gray head, he said, brokenly: "My
poor girl! Would God I had died for him."
Ranald turned away and stood looking down the lane, shrinking from
the sight of the old man's agony. Then, turning back to him, he
said: "The minister's wife is coming yonder with Bella."
The old man started, and with a mighty effort commanding himself,
said, "Now may God help me!" and went to meet his daughter.
Through the gloom of the falling night Ranald could see the
frightened white face and the staring, tearless eyes. They came
quite near before Bella caught sight of her father. For a moment
she hesitated, till the old man, without a word, beckoned her to
him. With a quick little run she was in his arms, where she lay
moaning, as if in sore bodily pain. Her father held her close to
him, murmuring over her fond Gaelic words, while Ranald and Mrs.
Murray went over to the horses and stood waiting there.
"I will go now to Donald Ross," Ranald said, in a low voice, to the
minister's wife. He mounted the colt and was riding off, when
Peter called him back.
"The boys will take the wagon to-morrow," he said.
"They will meet at the Sixteenth at daylight," replied Ranald; and
then to Mrs. Murray he said, "I will come back this way for you.
It will soon be dark."
But Bella, hearing him, cried to her: "Oh, you will not go?"
"Not if you need me, Bella," said Mrs. Murray, putting her arms
around her. "Ranald will run in and tell them at home." This
Ranald promised to do, and rode away on his woeful journey; and
before he reached home that night, the news had spread far and
wide, from house to house, like a black cloud over a sunny sky.
The home-coming of the men from the shanties had ever been a time
of rejoicing in the community. The Macdonald gang were especially
welcome, for they always came back with honor and with the rewards
of their winter's work. There was always a series of welcoming
gatherings in the different homes represented in the gang, and
there, in the midst of the admiring company, tales would be told of
the deeds done and the trials endured, of the adventures on the
river and the wonders of the cities where they had been. All were
welcome everywhere, and none more than Big Mack Cameron. Brimming
with good nature, and with a remarkable turn for stories, he was
the center of every group of young people wherever he went; and at
the "bees" for logging or for building or for cradling, Big Mack
was held in honor, for he was second in feats of strength only to
Macdonald Bhain himself. It was with no common grief that people
heard the word that they were bringing him home dead.
At the Sixteenth next morning, before the break of day, Ranald
stood in the gloom waiting for the coming of the teams. He had
been up most of the night and he was weary in body and sore at
heart, but Macdonald Bhain had trusted him, and there must be no
mistake. One by one the teams arrived. First to appear was Donald
Ross, the elder. For years he had given over the driving of his
team to his boys, but to-day he felt that respect to the family
demanded his presence on such an errand as this; and besides, he
knew well that his son Dannie, Mack's special chum, would expect
him to so honor the home-coming of his dead friend. Peter
McGregor, fearing to leave his daughter for that long and lonely
day, sent his son John in his place. It was with difficulty that
Mack's father, Long John Cameron, had been persuaded to remain with
the mother and to allow Murdie to go in his stead.
The last to arrive was Farquhar McNaughton, Kirsty's Farquhar, with
his fine black team and new light wagon. To him was to be given
the honor of bearing the body home. Gravely they talked and
planned, and then left all to Ranald to execute.
"You will see to these things, Ranald, my man, said Donald Ross,
with the air of one giving solemn charge. "Let all things be done
decently and in order."
"I will try," said Ranald, simply. But Farquhar McNaughton looked
at him doubtfully.
"It is a peety," he said, "there is not one with more experience.
He is but a lad."
But Donald Ross had been much impressed with Ranald's capable
manner the night before.
"Never you fear, Farquhar," he replied; "Ranald is not one to fail
As Ranald stood watching the wagons rumbling down the road and out
of sight, he felt as if years must have passed since he had
received the letter that had laid on him the heavy burden of this
sad news. That his uncle, Macdonald Bhain, should have sent the
word to him brought Ranald a sense of responsibility that awakened
the man in him, and he knew he would feel himself a boy no more.
And with that new feeling of manhood stirring within him, he went
about his work that day, omitting no detail in arrangement for the
seemly conduct of the funeral.
Night was falling as the wagons rumbled back again from Cornwall,
bringing back the shantymen and their dead companion. Up through
the Sixteenth, where a great company of people stood silent and
with bared heads, the sad procession moved, past the old church, up
through the swamp, and so onward to the home of the dead. None of
the Macdonald gang turned aside to their homes till they had given
their comrade over into the keeping of his own people. By the time
the Cameron's gate was reached the night had grown thick and black,
and the drivers were glad enough of the cedar bark torches that
Ranald and Don waved in front of the teams to light the way up the
lane. In silence Donald Ross, who was leading, drove up his team
to the little garden gate and allowed the great Macdonald and
Dannie to alight.
At the gate stood Long John Cameron, silent and self-controlled,
but with face showing white and haggard in the light of the flaring
torches. Behind him, in the shadow, stood the minister. For a few
moments they all remained motionless and silent. The time was too
great for words, and these men knew when it was good to hold their
peace. At length Macdonald Bhain broke the silence, saying in his
great deep voice, as he bared his head: "Mr. Cameron, I have
brought you back your son, and God is my witness, I would his place
were mine this night."
"Bring him in, Mr. Macdonald," replied the father, gravely and
steadily. "Bring him in. It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth
Then six of the Macdonald men came forward from the darkness, Curly
and Yankee leading the way, and lifted the coffin from Farquhar's
wagon, and reverently, with heads uncovered, they followed the
torches to the door. There they stopped suddenly, for as they
reached the threshold, there arose a low, long, heart-smiting cry
from within. At the sound of that cry Ranald staggered as if
struck by a blow, and let his torch fall to the ground. The
bearers waited, looking at each other in fear.
"Whisht, Janet, woman!" said Long John, gravely. "Your son is at
"Ah, indeed, that he is, that he is! My son! My son!"
She stood in the doorway with hands uplifted and with tears
streaming down her face. "Come in, Malcolm; come in, my boy. Your
mother is waiting for you."
Then they carried him in and laid him in the "room," and retiring
to the kitchen, sat down to watch the night.
In half an hour the father came out and found them there.
"You have done what you could, Mr. Macdonald," he said, addressing
him for all, "and I will not be unmindful of your kindness. But
now you can do no more. Your wife and your people will be waiting
"And, please God, in good time they will be seeing us. As for me,
I will neither go to my home nor up into my bed, but I will watch
by the man who was my faithful friend and companion till he is laid
And in this mind he and his men remained firm, taking turns at the
watching all that night and the next day.
As Macdonald finished speaking, the minister came into the kitchen,
bringing with him the mother and the children. The men all rose to
their feet, doing respect to the woman and to her grief. When they
were seated again, the minister rose and said: "My friends, this
is a night for silence and not for words. The voice of the Lord is
speaking in our ears. It becomes us to hear, and to submit
ourselves to His holy will. Let us pray."
As Ranald listened to the prayer, he could not help thinking how
different it was from those he was accustomed to hear from the
pulpit. Solemn, simple, and direct, it lifted the hearts of all
present up to the throne of God, to the place of strength and of
peace. There was no attempt to explain the "mystery of the
Providence," but there was a sublime trust that refused to despair
even in the presence of impenetrable darkness.
After the minister had gone, Macdonald Bhain took Ranald aside and
asked him as to the arrangements for the funeral. When Ranald had
explained to him every detail, Macdonald laid his hand on his
nephew's shoulder and said, kindly, "It is well done, Ranald. Now
you will be going home, and in the morning you will see your aunt,
and if she will be wishing to come to the wake to-morrow night,
then you will bring her."
Then Ranald went home, feeling well repaid for his long hours of
anxiety and toil.
The wake was an important feature in the social life of the people
of Indian Lands. In ancient days, in the land of their forefathers,
the wake had been deemed a dire necessity for the safeguarding of
the dead, who were supposed to be peculiarly exposed to the
malicious attacks of evil spirits. Hence, with many lighted
candles, and with much incantation, friends would surround the body
through the perilous hours of darkness. It was a weird and weary
vigil, and small wonder if it appeared necessary that the courage
and endurance of the watchers should be fortified with copious
draughts of "mountain dew," with bread and cheese accompaniments.
And the completeness of their trust in the efficacy of such supports
was too often evidenced by the condition of the watchers toward the
dawn of the morning. And, indeed, if the spirits were not too
fastidious, and if they had so desired, they could have easily flown
away, not only with the "waked," but with the "wakers" as well.
But those days and those notions had long passed away. The wake
still remained, but its meaning and purpose had changed. No longer
for the guarding of the dead, but for the comfort of the living,
the friends gathered to the house of mourning and watched the weary
hours. But Highland courtesy forbade that the custom of refreshing
the watchers should be allowed to die out, and hence, through the
night, once and again, the whisky, bread, and cheese were handed
around by some close friend of the family, and were then placed
upon the table for general use. It was not surprising that, where
all were free to come and welcome to stay, and where anything like
scantiness in providing or niggardliness in serving would be a
matter of family disgrace, the wake often degenerated into a
frolic, if not a debauch. In order to check any such tendency, it
had been the custom of late years to introduce religious services,
begun by the minister himself and continued by the elders.
As the evening fell, a group of elders stood by the back door of
Long John Cameron's sorrow-stricken home, talking quietly over the
sad event and arranging for the "exercises" of the night. At a
little distance from them sat Yankee, with Ranald beside him, both
silent and listening somewhat indifferently to the talk of the
others. Yankee was not in his element. He was always welcome in
the homes of his comrades, for he was ready with his tongue and
clever with his fingers, but with the graver and religious side of
their lives he had little in common. It was, perhaps, this feeling
that drew him toward Macdonald Dubh and Ranald, so that for weeks
at a time he would make their house his home. He had "no use for
wakes," as he said himself, and had it not been that it was one of
the gang that lay dead within, Yankee would have avoided the house
until all was over and the elders safely away.
Of the elders, only four were present as yet: Donald Ross, who was
ever ready to bring the light of his kindly face to cheer the
hearts of the mourners; Straight Rory, who never, by any chance,
allowed himself to miss the solemn joy of leading the funeral
psalm; Peter McRae, who carried behind his stern old face a heart
of genuine sympathy; and Kenny Crubach, to whom attendance at
funerals was at once a duty and a horror.
Donald Ross, to whom all the elders accorded, instinctively, the
place of leader, was arranging the order of "the exercises."
"Mr. McCuaig," he said to Straight Rory, "you will take charge of
the singing. The rest of us will, in turn, give out a psalm and
read a portion of Scripture with a few suitable remarks, and lead
in prayer. We will not be forgetting, brethren," said old Donald,
"that there will be sore hearts here this night.'
Straight Rory's answer was a sigh so woeful and so deep that Yankee
looked over at him and remarked in an undertone to Ranald, "He
ain't so cheerful as he might be. He must feel awful inside."
"It is a sad and terrible day for the Camerons," said Peter McRae.
"Aye, it is sad, indeed," replied Donald Ross. "He was a good son
and they will be missing him bad. It is a great loss."
"Yes, the loss is great," said Peter, grimly. "But, after all,
that is a small thing."
Straight Rory sighed again even more deeply than before. Donald
Ross said nothing.
"What does the old duck mean, anyhow?" said Yankee to Ranald.
The boy made no reply. His heart was sick with horror at Peter's
meaning, which he understood only too well.
"Aye," went on Peter, "it is a terrible, mysterious Providence, and
a heavy warning to the ungodly and careless."
"He means me, I guess," remarked Yankee to Ranald.
"It will perhaps be not amiss to any of us," said Kenny Crubach,
"Indeed, that is true," said Donald Ross, in a very humble voice.
"Yes, Mr. Ross," said Peter, ignoring Kenny Crubach, "but at times
the voice of Providence cannot be misunderstood, and it will not do
for the elders of the church to be speaking soft things when the
Lord is speaking in judgment and wrath."
Donald was silent, while Straight Rory assented with a heartrending
"Aye, aye," which stirred Yankee's bile again.
"What's he talkin' about? He don't seem to be usin' my language,"
he said, in a tone of wrathful perplexity. Ranald was too
miserable to answer, but Kenny was ready with his word.
"Judgment and wrath," he echoed, quickly. "The man would require
to be very skillful whatever in interpreting the ways of Providence,
and very bold to put such a meaning into the death of a young man
such as Malcolm yonder." The little man's voice was vibrating with
Then Yankee began to understand. "I'll be gol-blamed to a cinder!"
he exclaimed, in a low voice, falling back upon a combination that
seemed more suitable to the circumstances. "They ain't sendin' him
to hell, are they?" He shut up the knife with which he had been
whittling with a sharp snap, and rising to his feet, walked slowly
over to the group of elders.
"Far be it from me to judge what is not to be seen," said Peter.
"But we are allowed and commanded to discern the state of the heart
by the fruits."
"Fruits?" replied Kenny, quickly. "He was a good son and brother
and friend; he was honest and clean, and he gave his life for
another at the last."
"Exactly so," said Peter. "I am not denying much natural goodness,
for indeed he was a fine lad; but I will be looking for the
evidence that he was in a state of grace. I have not heard of any,
and glad would I be to hear it."
The old man's emotion took the sharpness out of Kenny's speech, but
he persisted, stoutly, "Goodness is goodness, Mr. McRae, for all
"You will not be holding the Armenian doctrine of works, Mr.
Campbell?" said Peter, severely. "You would not be pointing to
good works as a ground of salvation?"
Yankee, who had been following the conversation intently, thought
he saw meaning in it at last.
"If I might take a hand," he said, diffidently, "I might contribute
somethin' to help you out."
Peter regarded him a little impatiently. He had forgotten the
concrete, for the moment, in the abstract, and was donning his
armor for a battle with Kenny upon the "fundamentals." Hence he
was not too well pleased with Yankee's interruption. But Donald
Ross gladly welcomed the diversion. The subject was to him
"We will be glad," he said to Yankee, "to hear you, Mr. Latham."
"Well," said Yankee, slowly, "from your remarks I gathered that you
wanted information about the doings of--" he jerked his head toward
the house behind him. "Now, I want to say," he continued,
confidentially, "you've come to the right shop, for I've ate and
slept, I've worked and fought, I've lived with him by day and by
night, and right through he was the straightest, whitest man I ever
seen, and I won't except the boss himself." Yankee paused to
consider the effect of this statement, and to allow its full weight
to be appreciated; and then he continued: "Yes, sir, you may just
bet your--you may be right well sure," correcting himself, "that
you're safe in givin'"--here he dropped his voice, and jerked his
head toward the house again--"in givin' the highest marks, full
value, and no discount. Why," he went on, with an enthusiasm rare
in him, "ask any man in the gang, any man on the river, if they
ever seen or heard of his doin' a mean or crooked thing, and if you
find any feller who says he did, bring him here, and, by"--Yankee
remembered himself in time--"and I give you my solemn word that
I'll eat him, hat and boots." Yankee brought his bony fist down
with a whack into his hand. Then he relapsed into his lazy drawl
again: "No, siree, hoss! If it's doin's you're after, don't you
be slow in bankin' your little heap on HIS doin's."
Donald Ross grasped Yankee's hand and shook it hard. "I will be
thanking you for that word," he said, earnestly.
But Peter felt that the cause of truth demanded that he should
speak out. "Mr. Latham," he said, solemnly, "what you have been
saying is very true, no doubt, but if a man is not 'born again he
cannot see the kingdom of God.' These are the words of the Lord
"Born again!" said Yankee. "How? I don't seem to get you. But I
guess the feller that does the right thing all round has got a
purty good chance."
"It is not a man's deeds, we are told," said Peter, patiently, "but
"There you are," said Yankee, warmly, "right again, and that's what
I always hold to. It's the heart a man carries round in his
inside. Never mind your talk, never mind your actin' up for people
to see. Give me the heart that is warm and red, and beats proper
time, you bet. Say! you're all right." Yankee gazed admiringly at
the perplexed and hopeless Peter.
"I am afraid you are not remembering what the Apostle Paul said,
Mr. Latham," said Peter, determined to deal faithfully with Yankee.
"'By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.'"
It was now Yankee's turn to gaze helplessly at Peter. "I guess you
have dropped me again," he said, slowly.
"Man," said Peter, with a touch of severity, "you will need to be
more faithful with the Word of God. The Scriptures plainly declare,
Mr. Latham, that it is impossible for a man to be saved in his
Yankee looked blank at this.
"The prophet says that the plowing and sowing, the very prayers, of
the wicked are an abomination to the Lord."
"Why, now you're talkin', but look here." Yankee lowered his tone.
"Look here, you wouldn't go for to call"--here again he jerked his
head toward the house--"wicked, would you? Fur if you do, why,
there ain't any more conversation between you and me."
Yankee was terribly in earnest.
"'There is none righteous, no, not one,'" quoted Peter, with the
air of a man who forces himself to an unpleasant duty.
"That's so, I guess," said Yankee, meditatively, "but it depends
some on what you mean. I don't set myself up for any copy-book
head-line, but as men go--men, say, just like you here--I'd put--
I'd put him alongside, wouldn't you? You expect to get through
yourself, I judge?"
This was turning the tables somewhat sharply upon Peter, but
Yankee's keen, wide-open eyes were upon him, and his intensely
earnest manner demanded an answer.
"Indeed, if it will be so, it will not be for any merit of my own,
but only because of the mercy of the Lord in Christ Jesus."
Peter's tone was sincerely humble.
"Guess you're all right," said Yankee, encouragingly; "and as for--
as for--him--don't you worry about that. You may be dead sure
about his case."
But Peter only shook his head hopelessly. "You are sorely in need
of instruction, Mr. Latham," he said, sadly. "We cannot listen to
our hearts in this matter. We must do honor to the justice of God,
and the word is clear, 'Ye must be born again.' Nothing else
avails." Peter's tone was final.
Then Yankee drew a little nearer to him, as if settling down to
"Now look here. You let me talk awhile. I ain't up in your side
of the business, but I guess we are tryin' to make the same point.
Now supposin' you was in for a hoss race, which I hope ain't no
offense, seein' it ain't likely but suppose, and to take first
money you had to perdoose a two-fifteen gait. 'Purty good lick,'
says you; 'now where will I get the nag?' Then you sets down and
thinks, and, says you, 'By gum, which of course you wouldn't, but
supposin' says you, 'a Blue Grass bred is the hoss for that gait';
and you begin to inquire around, but there ain't no Blue Grass bred
stock in the country, and that race is creepin' up close. One day,
just when you was beginnin' to figure on takin' the dust to the
hull field, you sees a colt comin' along the road hittin' up a
purty slick gait. 'Hello,' says you, 'that looks likely,' and you
begin to negotiate, and you finds out that colt's all right and her
time's two-ten. Then you begin to talk about the weather and the
crops until you finds out the price, and you offer him half money.
Then, when you have fetched him down to the right figure, you pulls
out your wad, thinkin' how that colt will make the rest look like a
line of fence-posts. 'But hold on,' says you, 'is this here colt
Blue Grass bred?' 'Blue Grass! Not much. This here's Grey Eagle
stock, North Virginny' says he. 'Don't want her,' says you.
'What's the matter with the colt?' says he. 'Nothin', only she
ain't Blue Grass. Got to be Blue Grass.' 'But she's got the gait,
ain't she?' 'Yes, the gait's all right, action fine, good-looking,
too, nothing wrong, but she ain't Blue Grass bred.' And so you
lose your race. Now what kind of a name would you call yourself?"
Peter saw Yankee's point, but he only shook his head more
hopelessly than before, and turned to enter the house, followed by
Straight Rory, still sighing deeply, and old Donald Ross. But
Kenny remained a moment behind the others, and offering his hand to
Yankee, said: "You are a right man, and I will be proud to know
Yankee turned a puzzled face to Kenny. "I say," he inquired, in an
amazed voice, "do you think he didn't catch on to me?"
Kenny nodded. "Yes, he understood your point."
"But look here," said Yankee, "they don't hold that--that he is--"
Yankee paused. The thought was too horrible, and these men were
experts, and were supposed to know.
"It's hard to say," said Kenny, diplomatically.
"See here," said Yankee, facing Kenny squarely, "you're a purty
level-headed man, and you're up in this business. Do you think
with them? No monkeying. Straight talk now." Yankee was in no
mood to be trifled with. He was in such deadly earnest that he had
forgotten all about Ranald, who was now standing behind him,
waiting, with white face and parted lips, for Kenny's answer.
"Whisht!" said Kenny, pointing into the kitchen behind. Yankee
looked and saw Bella Peter and her father entering. But Ranald was
determined to know Kenny's opinion.
"Mr. Campbell," he whispered, eagerly, and forgetting the respect
due to an elder, he grasped Kenny's arm, "do you think with them?"
"That I do not," said Kenny, emphatically, and Yankee, at that
word, struck his hand into Kenny's palm with a loud smack.
"I knew blamed well you were not any such dumb fool," he said,
softening his speech in deference to Kenny's office and the
surrounding circumstances. So saying, he went away to the stable,
and when Ranald and his uncle, Macdonald Bhain, followed a little
later to put up Peter McGregor's team, they heard Yankee inside,
swearing with a fluency and vigor quite unusual with him.
"Whisht, man!" said Macdonald Bhain, sternly. "This is no place
or time to be using such language. What is the matter with you,
But Macdonald could get no satisfaction out of him, and he said to
his nephew, "What is it, Ranald?"
"It is the elders, Peter McRae and Straight Rory," said Ranald,
sullenly. "They were saying that Mack was--that Mack was--"
"Look here, boss," interrupted Yankee, "I ain't well up in
Scriptures, and don't know much about these things, and them elders
do, and they say--some of them, anyway--are sending Mack to hell.
Now, I guess you're just as well up as they are in this business,
and I want your solemn opinion." Yankee's face was pale, and his
eyes were glaring like a wild beast's. "What I say is," he went
on, "if a feller like Mack goes to hell, then there ain't any. At
least none to scare me. Where Mack is will be good enough for me.
What do you say, boss?"
"Be quiet, man," said Macdonald Bhain, gravely, but kindly. "Do
you not know you are near to blasphemy there? But I forgive you
for the sore heart you have; and about poor Mack yonder, no one
will be able to say for certain. I am a poor sinner, and the only
claim I have to God's mercy is the claim of a poor sinner. But I
will dare to say that I have hope in the Lord for myself, and I
will say that I have a great deal more for Mack."
"I guess that settles it all right, then," said Yankee, drawing a
big breath of content and biting off a huge chew from his plug.
"But what the blank blank," he went on, savagely, "do these fellers
mean, stirring up a man's feelin's like that? Seem to be not a bad
sort, either," he added, meditatively.
"Indeed, they are good men," said Macdonald Bhain, "but they will
not be knowing Mack as I knew him. He never made any profession at
all, but he had the root of the matter in him."
Ranald felt as if he had wakened out of a terrible nightmare, and
followed his uncle into the house, with a happier heart than he had
known since he had received Yankee's letter.
As they entered the room where the people were gathered, Donald
Ross was reading the hundred and third psalm, and the words of love
and pity and sympathy were dropping from his kindly lips like
healing balm upon the mourning hearts, and as they rose and fell
upon the cadences of "Coleshill," the tune Straight Rory always
chose for this psalm, the healing sank down into all the sore
places, and the peace that passeth understanding began to take
possession of them.
Softly and sweetly they sang, the old women swaying with the music:
"For, as the heaven in its height
The earth surmounteth far,
So great to those that do him fear,
His tender mercies are."
When they reached that verse, the mother took up the song and went
bravely on through the words of the following verse:
"As far as east is distant from
The west, so far hath he
From us removed, in his love,
All our iniquity."
As she sang the last words her hand stole over to Bella, who sat
beside her quiet but tearless, looking far away. But when the next
words rose on the dear old minor strains,
"Such pity as a father hath
Unto his children dear,"
Bella's lip began to tremble, and two big tears ran down her pale
cheeks, and one could see that the sore pain in her heart had been
a little eased.
After Donald Ross had finished his part of the "exercises," he
called upon Kenny Crubach, who read briefly, and without comment,
the exquisite Scottish paraphrase of Luther's "little gospel":
"Behold the amazing gift of love
The Father hath bestowed
On us, the sinful sons of men,
To call us sons of God--"
and so on to the end.
All this time Peter McRae, the man of iron, had been sitting with
hardening face, his eyes burning in his head like glowing coals;
and when Donald Ross called upon him for "some words of exhortation
and comfort suitable to the occasion," without haste and without
hesitation the old man rose, and trembling with excitement and
emotion, he began abruptly: "An evil spirit has been whispering to
me, as to the prophet of old, 'Speak that which is good,' but the
Lord hath delivered me from mine enemy, and my answer is, 'As the
Lord liveth, what the Lord said unto me, that will I speak'; and it
is not easy."
As the old man paused, a visible terror fell upon all the company
assembled. The poor mother sat looking at him with the look of one
shrinking from a blow, while Bella Peter's face expressed only
"And this is the word of the Lord this night to me," the elder went
on, his voice losing its tremor and ringing out strong and clear:
"'There is none righteous, no, not one, for all have sinned and
come short of the glory of God. He that believeth shall be saved,
and he that believeth not shall be damned.' That is my message,
and it is laid upon me as a sore burden to hear the voice of the
Lord in this solemn Providence, and to warn one and all to flee
from the wrath to come."
He paused long, while men could hear their hearts beat. Then,
raising his voice, he cried aloud: "Woe is me! Alas! it is a
grievous burden. The Lord pity us all, and give grace to this
stricken family to kiss the rod that smites."
At this word the old man's voice suddenly broke, and he sat down
amid an awful silence. No one could misunderstand his meaning. As
the awful horror of it gradually made its way into her mind, Mrs.
Cameron threw up her apron over her head and rocked in an agony of
sobs, while Long John sat with face white and rigid. Bella Peter,
who had been gazing with a fascinated stare upon the old elder's
face while he was speaking his terrible words, startled by Mrs.
Cameron's sobs, suddenly looked wildly about as if for help, and
then, with a wild cry, fled toward the door. But before she had
reached it a strong hand caught her and a great voice, deep and
tender, commanded her: "Wait, lassie, sit down here a meenute."
It was Macdonald Bhain. He stood a short space silent before the
people, then, in a voice low, deep, and thrilling, he began: "You
have been hearing the word of the Lord through the lips of his
servant, and I am not saying but it is the true word; but I believe
that the Lord will be speaking by different voices, and although I
hev not the gift, yet it is laid upon me to declare what is in my
heart, and a sore heart it is, and sore hearts hev we all. But I
will be thinking of a fery joyful thing, and that is that 'He came
to call, not the righteous, but sinners,' and that in His day many
sinners came about Him and not one would He turn away. And I will
be remembering a fery great sinner who cried out in his dying hour,
'Lord, remember me,' and not in vain. And I'm thinking that the
Lord will be making it easy for men to be saved, and not hard, for
He was that anxious about it that He gave up His own life. But it
is not given me to argue, only to tell you what I know about the
lad who is lying yonder silent. It will be three years since he
will be coming on the shanties with me, and from the day that he
left his mother's door, till he came back again, never once did he
fail me in his duty in the camp, or on the river, or in the town,
where it was fery easy to be forgetting. And the boys would be
telling me of the times that he would be keeping them out of those
places. And it is not soon that Dannie Ross will be forgetting who
it was that took him back from the camp when the disease was upon
him and all were afraid to go near him, and for seex weeks, by day
and by night, watched by him and was not thinking of himself at
all. And sure am I that the lessons he would be hearing from his
mother and in the Bible class and in the church were not lost on
him whatever. For on the river, when the water was quiet and I
would be lying in the tent reading, it is often that Mack Cameron
would come in and listen to the Word. Aye, he was a good lad"--the
great voice shook a little--"he would not be thinking of himself,
and at the last, it was for another man he gave his life."
Macdonald stood for a few moments silent, his face working while he
struggled with himself. And then all at once he grew calm, and
throwing back his head, he looked through the door, and pointing
into the darkness, said: "And yonder is the lad, and with him a
great company, and his face is smiling, and, oh! it is a good land,
a good land!" His voice dropped to a whisper, and he sank into his
"God preserve us!" Kenny Crubach ejaculated; but old Donald Ross
rose and said, "Let us call upon the name of the Lord." From his
prayer it was quite evident that for him at least all doubts and
fears as to poor Mack's state were removed. And even Peter McRae,
subdued not so much by any argument of Macdonald Bhain's as by his
rapt vision, followed old Donald's prayer with broken words of hope
and thanksgiving; and it was Peter who was early at the manse next
morning to repeat to the minister the things he had seen and heard
the night before. And all next day, where there had been the
horror of unnamable fear, hope and peace prevailed.
The service was held under the trees, and while the mother and
Bella Peter sat softly weeping, there was no bitterness in their
tears, for the sermon breathed of the immortal hope, and the hearts
of all were comforted. There was no parade of grief, but after the
sermon was over the people filed quietly through the room to take
the last look, and then the family, with Bella and her father, were
left alone a few moments with their dead, while the Macdonald men
kept guard at the door till the time for "the lifting" would come.
After Long John passed out, followed by the family, Macdonald Bhain
entered the room, closed the lid down upon the dead face, and gave
the command to bear him forth.
So, with solemn dignity, as befitted them, they carried Big Mack
from his home to Farquhar McNaughton's light wagon. Along the
concession road, past the new church, through the swamp, and on to
the old churchyard the long procession slowly moved. There was no
unseemly haste, and by the time the last words were spoken, and the
mound decently rounded, the long shadows from the woods lay far
across the fields. Quietly the people went their ways homeward,
back to their life and work, but for many days they carried with
them the memory of those funeral scenes. And Ranald, though he
came back from Big Mack's grave troubled with questions that
refused to be answered, still carried with him a heart healed of
the pain that had torn it these last days. He believed it was well
with his friend, but about many things he was sorely perplexed, and
it was this that brought him again to the minister's wife.
The day after Big Mack's funeral, Ranald was busy polishing
Lizette's glossy skin, before the stable door. This was his
favorite remedy for gloomy thoughts, and Ranald was full of gloomy
thoughts to-day. His father, though going about the house, was
still weak, and worse than all, was fretting in his weakness. He
was oppressed with the terrible fear that he would never again be
able to do a man's work, and Ranald knew from the dark look in his
father's face that day and night the desire for vengeance was
gnawing at his heart, and Ranald also knew something of the
bitterness of this desire from the fierce longing that lay deep in
his own. Some day, when his fingers would be feeling for LeNoir's
throat, he would drink long and fully that sweet draught of
vengeance. He knew, too, that it added to the bitterness in his
father's heart to know that, in the spring's work that every warm
day was bringing nearer, he could take no part; and that was partly
the cause of Ranald's gloom. With the slow-moving oxen, he could
hardly hope to get the seed in in time, and they needed the crop
this year if ever they did, for last year's interest on the
mortgage was still unpaid and the next installment was nearly due.
As he was putting the finishing touches upon Lisette's satin skin,
Yankee drove up to the yard with his Fox horse and buckboard. His
box was strapped on behind, and his blankets, rolled up in a
bundle, filled the seat beside him.
"Mornin'," he called to Ranald. "Purty fine shine, that, and purty
fine mare, all round," he continued, walking about Lisette and
noting admiringly her beautiful proportions.
"Purty fine beast," he said, in a low tone, running his hands down
her legs. "Guess you wouldn't care to part with that mare?"
"No," said Ranald, shortly; but as he spoke his heart sank within
"Ought to fetch a fairly good figure," continued Yankee,
meditatively. "Le's see. She's from La Roque's Lisette, ain't
she? Ought to have some speed." He untied Lisette's halter.
"Take her down in the yard yonder," he said to Ranald.
Ranald threw the halter over Lisette's neck, sprang on her back,
and sent her down the lane at a good smart pace. At the bottom of
the lane he wheeled her, and riding low upon her neck, came back to
the barn like a whirlwind.
"By jings!" exclaimed Yankee, surprised out of his lazy drawl;
"she's got it, you bet your last brick. See here, boy, there's
money into that animal. Thought I would like to have her for my
buckboard, but I have got an onfortunit conscience that won't let
me do up any partner, so I guess I can't make any offer."
Ranald stood beside Lisette, his arm thrown over her beautiful
neck, and his hand fondling her gently about the ears. "I will not
sell her." His voice was low and fierce, and all the more so
because he knew that was just what he would do, and his heart was
sick with the pain of the thought.
"I say," said Yankee, suddenly, "cudn't bunk me in your loft, cud
you! Can't stand the town. Too close."
The confining limitations of the Twentieth, that metropolitan
center of some dozen buildings, including the sawmill and
blacksmith shop, were too trying for Yankee's nervous system.
"Yes, indeed," said Ranald, heartily. "We will be very glad to
have you, and it will be the very best thing for father."
"S'pose old Fox cud nibble round the brule," continued Yankee,
nodding his head toward his sorrel horse. "Don't think I will do
much drivin' machine business. Rather slow." Yankee spent the
summer months selling sewing-machines and new patent churns.
"There's plenty of pasture," said Ranald, "and Fox will soon make
friends with Lisette. She is very kind, whatever."
"Ain't ever hitched her, have you?" said Yankee.
"Well, might hitch her up some day. Guess you wudn't hurt the
"Not likely," said Ranald, looking at the old, ramshackle affair.
"Used to drive some myself," said Yankee. But to this idea Ranald
did not take kindly.
Yankee stood for a few moments looking down the lane and over the
fields, and then, turning to Ranald, said, "Guess it's about ready
to begin plowin'. Got quite a lot of it to do, too, ain't you?"
"Yes," said Ranald, "I was thinking I would be beginning to-morrow."
"Purty slow business with the oxen. How would it do to hitch up
Lisette and old Fox yonder?"
Then Ranald understood the purpose of Yankee's visit.
"I would be very glad," said Ranald, a great load lifting from his
heart. "I was afraid of the work with only the oxen." And then,
after a pause, he added, "What did you mean about buying Lisette?"
He was anxious to have that point settled.
"I said what I meant," answered Yankee. "I thought perhaps you
would rather have the money than the colt; but I tell you what, I
hain't got money enough to put into that bird, and don't you talk
selling to any one till we see her gait hitched up. But I guess a
little of the plow won't hurt for a few weeks or so."
Next day Lisette left behind her forever the free, happy days of
colthood. At first Ranald was unwilling to trust her to any other
hands than his own, but when he saw how skillfully and gently
Yankee handled her, soothing her while he harnessed and hitched her
up, he recognized that she was safer with Yankee than with himself,
and allowed him to have the reins.
They spent the morning driving up and down the lane with Lisette
and Fox hitched to the stone-boat. The colt had been kindly
treated from her earliest days, and consequently knew nothing of
fear. She stepped daintily beside old Fox, fretting and chafing in
the harness, but without thought of any violent objection. In the
afternoon the colt was put through her morning experience, with the
variation that the stone-boat was piled up with a fairly heavy load
of earth and stone. And about noon the day following, Lisette was
turning her furrow with all the steadiness of a horse twice her
Before two weeks were over, Yankee, with the horses, and Ranald,
with the oxen, had finished the plowing, and in another ten days
the fields lay smooth and black, with the seed harrowed safely in,
waiting for the rain.
Yankee's visit had been a godsend, not only to Ranald with his
work, but also to Macdonald Dubh. He would talk to the grim,
silent man by the hour, after the day's work was done, far into the
night, till at length he managed to draw from him the secret of his
"I will never be a man again," he said, bitterly, to Yankee. "And
there is the farm all to pay for. I have put it off too long and
now it is too late, and it is all because of that--that--brute
beast of a Frenchman."
"Mean cuss!" ejaculated Yankee.
"And I am saying," continued Macdonald Dubh, opening his heart
still further, "I am saying, it was no fair fight, whatever. I
could whip him with one hand. It was when I was pulling out Big
Mack, poor fellow, from under the heap, that he took me unawares."
"That's so," assented Yankee. "Blamed lowdown trick."
"And, oh, I will be praying God to give me strength just to meet
him! I will ask no more. But," he added, in bitter despair,
"there is no use for me to pray. Strength will come to me no
"Well," said Yankee, brightly, "needn't worry about that varmint.
He ain't worth it, anyhow."
"Aye, he is not worth it, indeed, and that is the man who has
brought me to this." That was the bitter part to Macdonald Dubh.
A man he despised had beaten him.
"Now look here," said Yankee, "course I ain't much good at this,
but if you will just quit worryin', I'll undertake to settle this
little account with Mr. LeNware."
"And what good would that be to me?" said Macdonald Dubh. "It is
myself that wants to meet him." It was not so much the destruction
of LeNoir that he desired as that he should have the destroying of
him. While he cherished this feeling in his heart, it was not
strange that the minister in his visits found Black Hugh
unapproachable, and concluded that he was in a state of settled
"hardness of heart." His wife knew better, but even she dared not
approach Macdonald Dubh on that subject, which had not been
mentioned between them since the morning he had opened his heart to
her. The dark, haggard, gloomy face haunted her. She longed to
help him to peace. It was this that sent her to his brother,
Macdonald Bhain, to whom she told as much of the story as she
"I am afraid he will never come to peace with God until he comes to
peace with this man," she said, sadly, "and it is a bitter load
that he is carrying with him."
"I will talk with him," answered Macdonald Bhain, and at the end of
the week he took his way across to his brother's home.
He found him down in the brule, where he spent most of his days
toiling hard with his ax, in spite of the earnest entreaties of
Ranald. He was butting a big tree that the fire had laid prone,
but the ax was falling with the stroke of a weak man.
As he finished his cut, his brother called to him, "That is no work
for you, Hugh; that is no work for a man who has been for six weeks
in his bed."
"It is work that must be done, however," Black Hugh answered,
"Give me the ax," said Macdonald Bhain. He mounted the tree as his
brother stepped down, and swung his ax deep into the wood with a
mighty blow. Then he remembered, and stopped. He would not add to
his brother's bitterness by an exhibition of his mighty, unshaken
strength. He stuck the ax into the log, and standing up, looked
over the brule. "It is a fine bit of ground, Hugh, and will raise
a good crop of potatoes."
"Aye," said Macdonald Dubh, sadly. "It has lain like this for
three years, and ought to have been cleared long ago, if I had been
doing my duty."
"Indeed, it will burn all the better for that," said his brother,
cheerfully. "And as for the potatoes, there is a bit of my
clearing that Ranald might as well use."
But Black Hugh shook his head. "Ranald will use no man's clearing
but his own," he said. "I am afraid he has got too much of his
father in him for his own good."
Macdonald Bhain glanced at his brother's face with a look of
mingled pity and admiration. "Ah," he said, "Hugh, it's a proud
man you are. Macdonalds have plenty of that, whatever, and we come
by it good enough. Do you remember at home, when our father"--and
he went off into a reminiscence of their boyhood days, talking in
gentle, kindly, loving tones, till the shadow began to lift from
his brother's face, and he, too, began to talk. They spoke of
their father, who had always been to them a kind of hero; and of
their mother, who had lived, and toiled, and suffered for her
family with uncomplaining patience.
"She was a good woman," said Macdonald Bhain, with a note of
tenderness in his voice. "And it was the hard load she had to
bear, and I would to God she were living now, that I might make up
to her something of what she suffered for me."
"And I am thankful to God," said his brother, bitterly, "that she
is not here to see me now, for it would but add to the heavy burden
I often laid upon her."
"You will not be saying that," said Macdonald Bhain. "But I am
saying that the Lord will be honored in you yet."
"Indeed, there is not much for me," said his brother, gloomily,
"but the sick-bed and six feet or more of the damp earth."
"Hugh, man," said his brother, hastily, "you must not be talking
like that. It is not the speech of a brave man. It is the speech
of a man that is beaten in his fight."
"Beaten!" echoed his brother, with a kind of cry. "You have said
the word. Beaten it is, and by a man that is no equal of mine.
You know that," he said, appealing, almost anxiously, to his
brother. "You know that well. You know that I am brought to
this"--he held up his gaunt, bony hands--"by a man that is no equal
of mine, and I will never be able to look him in the face and say
as much to him. But if the Almighty would send him to hell, I
would be following him there."
"Whisht, Hugh," said Macdonald Bhain, in a voice of awe. "It is a
terrible word you have said, and may the Lord forgive you."
"Forgive me!" echoed his brother, in a kind of frenzy. "Indeed, he
will not be doing that. Did not the minister's wife tell me as
"No, no," said his brother. "She would not be saying that."
"Indeed, that is her very word," said Black Hugh.
"She could not say that," said his brother, "for it is not the Word
"Indeed," replied Black Hugh, like a man who had thought it all
out, "she would be reading it out of the Book to me that unless I
would be forgiving, that--that--" he paused, not being able to find
a word, but went on--"then I need not hope to be forgiven my own
"Yes, yes. That is true," assented Macdonald Bhain. "But, by the
grace of God, you will forgive, and you will be forgiven."
"Forgive!" cried Black Hugh, his face convulsed with passion.
"Hear me!"--he raised his hand to heaven.--"If I ever forgive--"
But his brother caught his arm and drew it down swiftly, saying:
"Whisht, man. Don't tempt the Almighty." Then he added, "You
would not be shutting yourself out from the presence of the Lord
and from the presence of those he has taken to himself?"
His brother stood silent a few moments, his hard, dark face swept
with a storm of emotions. Then he said, brokenly: "It is not for
me, I doubt."
But his brother caught him by the arm and said to him, "Hear me,
Hugh. It is for you."
They walked on in silence till they were near the house. Ranald
and Yankee were driving their teams into the yard.
"That is a fine lad," said Macdonald Bhain, pointing to Ranald.
"Aye," said his brother; "it is a pity he has not a better chance.
He is great for his books, but he has no chance whatever, and he
will be a bowed man before he has cleared this farm and paid the
debt on it."
"Never you fear," said his brother. "Ranald will do well. But,
man, what a size he is!"
"He is that," said his father, proudly. "He is as big as his
father, and I doubt some day he may be as good a man as his uncle."
"God grant he may be a better!" said Macdonald Bhain, reverently.
"If he be as good," said his brother, kindly, "I will be content;
but I will not be here to see it."
"Whisht, man," said his brother, hastily. "You are not to speak
such things, nor have them in your mind."
"Ah," said Macdonald Dubh, sadly, "my day is not far off, and that
I know right well."
Macdonald Bhain flung his arm hastily round his brother's shoulder.
"Do not speak like that, Hugh," he said, his voice breaking
suddenly. And then he drew away his arm as if ashamed of his
emotion, and said, with kindly dignity, "Please God, you will see
many days yet, and see your boy come to honor among men."
But Black Hugh only shook his head in silence.
Before they came to the door, Macdonald Bhain said, with seeming
indifference, "You have not been to church since you got up, Hugh.
You will be going to-morrow, if it is a fine day?"
"It is too long a walk, I doubt," answered his brother.
"That it is, but Yankee will drive you in his buckboard," said
"In the buckboard?" said Macdonald Dubh. "And, indeed, I was never
in a buckboard in my life."
"It is not too late to begin to-morrow," said his brother, "and it
will do you good."
"I doubt that," said Black Hugh, gloomily. "The church will not be
doing me much good any more."
"Do not say such a thing; and Yankee will drive you in his
His brother did not promise, but next day the congregation received
a shock of surprise to see Macdonald Dubh walk down the aisle to
his place in the church. And through all the days of the spring
and summer his place was never empty; and though the shadow never
lifted from his face, the minister's wife felt comforted about him,
and waited for the day of his deliverance.
THE LOGGING BEE
Macdonald Bhain's visit to his brother was fruitful in another way.
After taking counsel with Yankee and Kirsty, he resolved that he
would speak to his neighbors and make a "bee," to attack the brule.
He knew better than to consult either his brother or his nephew,
feeling sure that their Highland pride would forbid accepting any
such favor, and all the more because it seemed to be needed. But
without their leave the bee was arranged, and in the beginning of
the following week the house of Macdonald Dubh was thrown into a
state of unparalleled confusion, and Kirsty went about in a state
of dishevelment that gave token that the daily struggle with dirt
had reached the acute stage. From top to bottom, inside and
outside, everything that could be scrubbed was scrubbed, and then
she settled about her baking, but with all caution, lest she should
excite her brother's or her nephew's suspicion. It was a good
thing that little baking was required, for the teams that brought
the men with their axes and logging-chains for the day's work at
the brule brought also their sisters and mothers with baskets of
provisions. A logging bee without the sisters and mothers with
their baskets would hardly be an unmixed blessing.
The first man to arrive with his team was Peter McGregor's Angus,
and with him came his sister Bella. He was shortly afterward
followed by other teams in rapid succession--the Rosses, the
McKerachers, the Camerons, both Don and Murdie, the Rory McCuaigs,
the McRaes, two or three families of them, the Frasers, and others--
till some fifteen teams and forty men, and boys, who thought
themselves quite men, lined up in front of the brule.
The bee was a great affair, for Macdonald Bhain was held in high
regard by the people; and besides this, the misfortune that had
befallen his brother, and the circumstances under which it had
overtaken him, had aroused in the community a very deep sympathy
for him, and people were glad of the opportunity to manifest this
sympathy. And more than all, a logging bee was an event that
always promised more or less excitement and social festivity.
Yankee was "boss" for the day. This position would naturally have
fallen to Macdonald Bhain, but at his brother's bee, Macdonald
Bhain shrank from taking the leading place.
The men with the axes went first, chopping up the half-burned logs
into lengths suitable for the burning-piles, clearing away the
brushwood, and cutting through the big roots of the fire-eaten
stumps so that they might more easily be pulled. Then followed the
teams with their logging-chains, hauling the logs to the piles,
jerking out and drawing off the stumps whose huge roots stuck up
high into the air, and drawing great heaps of brush-wood to aid in
reducing the heavy logs to ashes. At each log-pile stood a man
with a hand-spike to help the driver to get the log into position,
a work requiring strength and skill, and above all, a knowledge of
the ways of logs which comes only by experience. It was at this
work that Macdonald Bhain shone. With his mighty strength he could
hold steady one end of a log until the team could haul the other
into its place.
The stump-pulling was always attended with more or less interest
and excitement. Stumps, as well as logs, have their ways, and it
takes a long experience to understand the ways of stumps.
In stump-hauling, young Aleck McGregor was an expert. He rarely
failed to detect the weak side of a stump. He knew his team, and
what was of far greater importance, his team knew him. They were
partly of French-Canadian stock, not as large as Farquhar
McNaughton's big, fat blacks, but "as full of spirit as a bottle of
whisky," as Aleck himself would say. Their first tentative pulls
at the stump were taken with caution, until their driver and
themselves had taken the full measure of the strength of the enemy.
But when once Aleck had made up his mind that victory was possible,
and had given them the call for the final effort, then his team put
their bodies and souls into the pull, and never drew back till
something came. Their driver was accustomed to boast that never
yet had they failed to honor his call.
Farquhar's handsome blacks, on the other hand, were never handled
after this fashion. They were slow and sure and steady, like their
driver. Their great weight gave them a mighty advantage in a pull,
but never, in all the solemn course of their existence, had they
thrown themselves into any doubtful trial of strength. In a slow,
steady haul they were to be relied upon; but they never could be
got to jerk, and a jerk is an important feature in stump-hauling
tactics. To-day, however, a new experience was awaiting them.
Farquhar was an old man and slow, and Yankee, while he was unwilling
to hurry him, was equally unwilling that his team should not do a
full day's work. He persuaded Farquhar that his presence was
necessary at one of the piles, not with the hand-spike, but simply
to superintend the arranging of the mass for burning. "For it ain't
every man, Yankee declared, "could build a pile to burn." As for his
team, Yankee persuaded the old man that Ranald was unequaled in
handling horses; that last winter no driver in the camp was up to
him. Reluctantly Farquhar handed his team over to Ranald, and stood
for some time watching the result of the new combination.
Ranald was a born horseman. He loved horses and understood them.
Slowly he moved the blacks at their work, knowing that horses are
sensitive to a new hand and voice, and that he must adapt himself
to their ways, if he would bring them at last to his. Before long
Farquhar was contented to go off to his pile, satisfied that his
team was in good hands, and not sorry to be relieved of the
necessity of hurrying his pace through the long, hot day, as would
have been necessary in order to keep up with the other drivers.
For each team a strip of the brule was marked out to clear after
the axes. The logs, brush, and stumps had to be removed and
dragged to the burning-piles. Aleck, with his active, invincible
French-Canadians, Ranald with Farquhar's big, sleek blacks, and
Don with his father's team, worked side by side. A contest was
inevitable, and before an hour had passed Don and Aleck, while
making a great show of deliberation, were striving for the first
place, with Aleck easily leading. Like a piece of machinery, Aleck
and his team worked together. Quickly and neatly both driver and
horses moved about their work with perfect understanding of each
other. With hardly a touch of the lines, but almost entirely by
word of command, Aleck guided his team. And when he took up the
whiffletrees to swing them around to a log or stump, his horses
wheeled at once into place. It was beautiful to see them,
wheeling, backing, hauling, pulling, without loss of time or
With Don and his team it was all hard work. His horses were
willing and quick enough, but they were ill-trained and needed
constant tugging at the lines. In vain Don shouted and cracked his
whip, hurrying his team to his pile and back again; the horses only
grew more and more awkward, while they foamed and fretted and tired
Behind came Ranald, still humoring his slow-going team with easy
hand and quiet voice. But while he refrained from hurrying his
horses, he himself worked hard, and by his good judgment and skill
with the chain, and in skidding the logs into his pile, in which
his training in the shanty had made him more than a match for any
one in the field, many minutes were saved.
When the cowbell sounded for dinner, Aleck's team stepped off for
the barn, wet, but fresh and frisky as ever, and in perfect heart.
Don's horses appeared fretted and jaded, while Ranald brought in
his blacks with their glossy skins white with foam where the
harness had chafed, but unfretted, and apparently as ready for work
as when they began.
"You have spoiled the shine of your team," said Aleck, looking over
Ranald's horses as he brought them up to the trough. "Better turn
them out for the afternoon. They can't stand much more of that
Aleck was evidently trying to be good-natured, but he could not
hide the sneer in his tone. They had neither of them forgotten the
incident at the church door, and both felt that it would not be
closed until more had been said about it. But to-day, Ranald was
in the place of host, and it behooved him to be courteous, and
Aleck was in good humor with himself, for his team had easily led
the field; and besides, he was engaged in a kind and neighborly
undertaking, and he was too much of a man to spoil it by any
private grudge. He would have to wait for his settlement with
During the hour and a half allowed for dinner, Ranald took his
horses to the well, washed off their legs, removed their harness,
and led them to a cool spot behind the barn, and there, while they
munched their oats, he gave them a good hard rub-down, so that when
he brought them into the field again, his team looked as glossy and
felt as fresh as before they began the day's work.
As Ranald appeared on the field with his glossy blacks, Aleck
glanced at the horses, and began to feel that, in the contest for
first place, it was Ranald he had to fear, with his cool, steady
team, rather than Don. Not that any suspicion crossed his mind
that Farquhar McNaughton's sleek, slow-going horses could ever hold
their own with his, but he made up his mind that Ranald, at least,
was worth watching.
"Bring up your gentry," he called to Ranald, "if you are not too
fine for common folks. Man, that team of yours," he continued,
"should never be put to work like this. Their feet should never be
"Never you mind," said Ranald, quietly. "I am coming after you,
and perhaps before night the blacks may show you their heels yet."
"There's lots of room," said Aleck, scornfully, and they both set
to work with all the skill and strength that lay in themselves and
in their teams.
For the first hour or two Ranald was contented to follow, letting
his team take their way, but saving every moment he could by his
own efforts. So that, without fretting his horses in the least, or
without moving them perceptibly out of their ordinary gait, he
found himself a little nearer to Aleck than he had been at noon;
but the heavy lifting and quick work began to tell upon him. His
horses, he knew, would not stand very much hurrying. They were too
fat for any extra exertion in such heat, and so Ranald was about to
resign himself to defeat, when he observed that in the western sky
clouds were coming up. At the same time a cool breeze began to
blow, and he took fresh heart. If he could hurry his team a little
more, he might catch Aleck yet; so he held his own a little longer,
preserving the same steady pace, until the clouds from the west had
covered all the sky. Then gradually he began to quicken his
horses' movements and to put them on heavier loads. Wherever
opportunity offered, instead of a single log, or at most two, he
would take three or four for his load; and in ways known only to
horsemen, he began to stir up the spirit of his team, and to make
them feel something of his own excitement.
To such good purpose did he plan, and so nobly did his team respond
to his quiet but persistent pressure, that, ere Aleck was aware,
Ranald was up on his flank; and then they each knew that until the
supper-bell rang he would have to use to the best advantage every
moment of time and every ounce of strength in himself and his team
if he was to win first place.
Somehow the report of the contest went over the field, till at
length it reached the ears of Farquhar. At once the old man,
seized with anxiety for his team, and moved by the fear of what
Kirsty might say if the news ever reached her ears, set off across
the brule to remonstrate with Ranald, and if necessary, rescue his
team from peril.
But Don saw him coming, and knowing that every moment was precious,
and dreading lest the old man would snatch from Ranald the victory
which seemed to be at least possible for him, he arrested Farquhar
with a call for assistance with a big log, and then engaged him in
conversation upon the merits of his splendid team.
"And look," cried he, admiringly, "how Ranald is handling them!
Did you ever see the likes of that?"
The old man stood watching for a few moments, doubtfully enough,
while Don continued pouring forth the praises of his horses, and
the latter, as he noticed Farquhar's eyes glisten with pride,
ventured to hint that before the day was done "he would make Aleck
McRae and his team look sick. And without a hurt to the blacks,
too," he put in, diplomatically, "for Ranald is not the man to hurt
a team." And as Farquhar stood and watched Ranald at his work, and
noted with surprise how briskly and cleverly the blacks swung into
their places, and detected also with his experienced eye that Aleck
was beginning to show signs of hurry, he entered into the spirit of
the contest, and determined to allow his team to win victory for
themselves and their driver if they could.
The ax men had finished their "stent." It wanted still an hour of
supper-time, and surely if slowly, Ranald was making toward first
place. The other teams were left far behind with their work, and
the whole field began to center attention upon the two that were
now confessedly engaged in desperate conflict at the front. One by
one the ax men drew toward the end of the field, where Ranald and
Aleck were fighting out their fight, all pretense of deliberation
on the part of the drivers having by this time been dropped. They
no longer walked as they hitched their chains about the logs or
stumps, but sprang with eager haste to their work. One by one the
other teamsters abandoned their teams and moved across the field to
join the crowd already gathered about the contestants. Among them
came Macdonald Bhain, who had been working at the farthest corner
of the brule. As soon as he arrived upon the scene, and understood
what was going on, he cried to Ranald: "That will do now, Ranald;
it will be time to quit."
Ranald was about to stop, and indeed had checked his horses, when
Aleck, whose blood was up, called out tauntingly, "Aye, it would be
better for him and his horses to stop. They need it bad enough."
This was too much for even Farquhar's sluggish blood. "Let them
go, Ranald!" he cried. "Let them go, man! Never you fear for the
horses, if you take down the spunk o' yon crowing cock."
It was just what Ranald needed to spur him on--a taunt from his foe
and leave from Farquhar to push his team.
Before each lay a fallen tree cut into lengths and two or three
half-burned stumps. Ranald's tree was much the bigger. A single
length would have been an ordinary load for the blacks, but their
driver felt that their strength and spirit were both equal to much
more than this. He determined to clear away the whole tree at a
single load. As soon as he heard Farquhar's voice, he seized hold
of the whiffletrees, struck his team a sharp blow with the lines--
their first blow that day--swung them round to the top of the tree,
ran the chain through its swivel, hooked an end round each of the
top lengths, swung them in toward the butt, unhooked his chain,
gathered all three lengths into a single load, faced his horses
toward the pile, and shouted at them. The blacks, unused to this
sort of treatment, were prancing with excitement, and when the word
came they threw themselves into their collars with a fierceness
that nothing could check, and amid the admiring shouts of the
crowd, tore the logs through the black soil and landed them safely
at the pile. It was the work of only a few minutes to unhitch the
chain, haul the logs, one by one, into place, and dash back with
his team at the gallop for the stumps, while Aleck had still
another load of logs to draw.
Ranald's first stump came out with little trouble, and was borne at
full speed to the pile. The second stump gave him more difficulty,