THE MAN FROM GLENGARRY
A TALE OF THE OTTAWA
By Ralph Connor
TO THE MEN OF GLENGARRY WHO IN PATIENCE, IN COURAGE AND IN THE FEAR OF GOD ARE HELPING TO BUILD THE EMPIRE OF THE CANADIAN WEST THIS BOOK IS HUMBLY DEDICATED
The solid forests of Glengarry have vanished, and with the forests the men who conquered them. The manner of life and the type of character to be seen in those early days have gone too, and forever. It is part of the purpose of this book to so picture these men and their times that they may not drop quite out of mind. The men are worth remembering. They carried the marks of their blood in their fierce passions, their courage, their loyalty; and of the forest in their patience, their resourcefulness, their self-reliance. But deeper than all, the mark that reached down to their hearts' core was that of their faith, for in them dwelt the fear of God. Their religion may have been narrow, but no narrower than the moulds of their lives. It was the biggest thing in them. It may have taken a somber hue from their gloomy forests, but by reason of a sweet, gracious presence dwelling among them it grew in grace and sweetness day by day.
In the Canada beyond the Lakes, where men are making empire, the sons of these Glengarry men are found. And there such men are needed. For not wealth, not enterprise, not energy, can build a nation into sure greatness, but men, and only men with the fear of God in their hearts, and with no other. And to make this clear is also a part of the purpose of this book.
I THE OPEN RIVER
II VENGEANCE IS MINE
III THE MANSE IN THE BUSH
IV THE RIDE FOR LIFE
V FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
VI A NEW FRIEND
VIII THE SUGARING-OFF
IX A SABBATH DAY'S WORK
X THE HOME-COMING OF THE SHANTYMEN
XI THE WAKE
XIII THE LOGGING BEE
XIV SHE WILL NOT FORGET
XV THE REVIVAL
XVI AND THE GLORY
XVII LENOIR'S NEW MASTER
XVIII HE IS NOT OF MY KIND
XIX ONE GAME AT A TIME
XX HER CLINGING ARMS
XXI I WILL REMEMBER
XXII FORGET THAT I LOVED YOU
XXIII A GOOD, TRUE FRIEND
XXIV THE WEST
XXV GLENGARRY FOREVER
THE MAN FROM GLENGARRY
THE OPEN RIVER
The winter had broken early and the Scotch River was running ice-free and full from bank to bank. There was still snow in the woods, and with good sleighing and open rivers every day was golden to the lumbermen who had stuff to get down to the big water. A day gained now might save weeks at a chute farther down, where the rafts would crowd one another and strive for right of way.
Dan Murphy was mightily pleased with himself and with the bit of the world about him, for there lay his winter's cut of logs in the river below him snug and secure and held tight by a boom across the mouth, just where it flowed into the Nation. In a few days he would have his crib made, and his outfit ready to start for the Ottawa mills. He was sure to be ahead of the big timber rafts that took up so much space, and whose crews with unbearable effrontery considered themselves the aristocrats of the river.
Yes, it was a pleasant and satisfying sight, some three solid miles of logs boomed at the head of the big water. Suddenly Murphy turned his face up the river.
"What's that now, d'ye think, LeNware?" he asked.
LeNoir, or "LeNware," as they all called it in that country, was Dan Murphy's foreman, and as he himself said, "for haxe, for hit (eat), for fight de boss on de reever Hottawa! by Gar!" Louis LeNoir was a French-Canadian, handsome, active, hardy, and powerfully built. He had come from the New Brunswick woods some three years ago, and had wrought and fought his way, as he thought, against all rivals to the proud position of "boss on de reever," the topmost pinnacle of a lumberman's ambition. It was something to see LeNoir "run a log" across the river and back; that is, he would balance himself upon a floating log, and by spinning it round, would send it whither he would. At Murphy's question LeNoir stood listening with bent head and open mouth. Down the river came the sound of singing. "Don-no me! Ah oui! be dam! Das Macdonald gang for sure! De men from Glengarrie, les diables! Dey not hout de reever yet." His boss went off into a volley of oaths—
"They'll be wanting the river now, an' they're divils to fight."
"We give em de full belly, heh? Bon!" said LeNoir, throwing back his head. His only unconquered rival on the river was the boss of the Macdonald gang.
Ho ro, mo nighean donn bhoidheach, Hi-ri, mo nighean donn bhoidheach, Mo chaileag, laghach, bhoidheach, Cha phosainn ach thu.
Down the river came the strong, clear chorus of men's voices, and soon a "pointer" pulled by six stalwart men with a lad in the stern swung round the bend into view. A single voice took up the song—
'S ann tha mo run's na beanntaibh, Far bheil mo ribhinn ghreannar, Mar ros am fasach shamhraidh An gleann fad o shuil.
After the verse the full chorus broke forth again—
Ho ro, mo nighean, etc.
Swiftly the pointer shot down the current, the swaying bodies and swinging oars in perfect rhythm with the song that rose and fell with melancholy but musical cadence. The men on the high bank stood looking down upon the approaching singers. "You know dem fellers?" said LeNoir. Murphy nodded. "Ivery divil iv thim—Big Mack Cameron, Dannie Ross, Finlay Campbell—the redheaded one—the next I don't know, and yes! be dad! there's that blanked Yankee, Yankee Jim, they call him, an' bad luck till him. The divil will have to take the poker till him, for he'll bate him wid his fists, and so he will—and that big black divil is Black Hugh, the brother iv the boss Macdonald. He'll be up in the camp beyant, and a mighty lucky thing for you, LeNoir, he is."
"Bah!" spat LeNoir, "Dat beeg Macdonald I mak heem run like one leetle sheep, one tam at de long Sault, bah! No good!" LeNoir's contempt for Macdonald was genuine and complete. For two years he had tried to meet the boss Macdonald, but his rival had always avoided him.
Meantime, the pointer came swinging along. As it turned the point the boy uttered an exclamation—"Look there!" The song and the rowing stopped abruptly; the big, dark man stood up and gazed down the river, packed from bank to bank with the brown saw-logs; deep curses broke from him. Then he caught sight of the men on the bank. A word of command and the pointer shot into the shore, and the next moment Macdonald Dubh, or Black Hugh, as he was sometimes called, followed by his men, was climbing up the steep bank.
"What the blank, blank, do these logs mean, Murphy?" he demanded, without pause for salutation.
"Tis a foine avenin' Misther Macdonald," said Murphy, blandly offering his hand, "an' Hiven bliss ye."
Macdonald checked himself with an effort and reluctantly shook hands with Murphy and LeNoir, whom he slightly knew. "It is a fery goot evening, indeed," he said, in as quiet a voice as he could command, "but I am inquiring about these logs."
"Shure, an' it is a dhry night, and onpolite to kape yez talking here. Come in wid yez," and much against his will Black Hugh followed Murphy to the tavern, the most pretentious of a group of log buildings—once a lumber camp—which stood back a little distance from the river, and about which Murphy's men, some sixty of them, were now camped.
The tavern was full of Murphy's gang, a motley crew, mostly French Canadians and Irish, just out of the woods and ready for any devilment that promised excitement. Most of them knew by sight, and all by reputation, Macdonald and his gang, for from the farthest reaches of the Ottawa down the St. Lawrence to Quebec the Macdonald gang of Glengarry men was famous. They came, most of them, from that strip of country running back from the St. Lawrence through Glengarry County, known as the Indian Lands—once an Indian reservation. They were sons of the men who had come from the highlands and islands of Scotland in the early years of the last century. Driven from homes in the land of their fathers, they had set themselves with indomitable faith and courage to hew from the solid forest, homes for themselves and their children that none might take from them. These pioneers were bound together by ties of blood, but also by bonds stronger than those of blood. Their loneliness, their triumphs, their sorrows, born of their common life-long conflict with the forest and its fierce beasts, knit them in bonds close and enduring. The sons born to them and reared in the heart of the pine forests grew up to witness that heroic struggle with stern nature and to take their part in it. And mighty men they were. Their life bred in them hardiness of frame, alertness of sense, readiness of resource, endurance, superb self-reliance, a courage that grew with peril, and withal a certain wildness which at times deepened into ferocity. By their fathers the forest was dreaded and hated, but the sons, with rifles in hand, trod its pathless stretches without fear, and with their broad-axes they took toll of their ancient foe. For while in spring and summer they farmed their narrow fields, and rescued new lands from the brule; in winter they sought the forest, and back on their own farms or in "the shanties" they cut sawlogs, or made square timber, their only source of wealth. The shanty life of the early fifties of last century was not the luxurious thing of to-day. It was full of privation, for the men were poorly housed and fed, and of peril, for the making of the timber and the getting it down the smaller rivers to the big water was a work of hardship and danger. Remote from the restraints of law and of society, and living in wild surroundings and in hourly touch with danger, small wonder that often the shanty-men were wild and reckless. So that many a poor fellow in a single wild carouse in Quebec, or more frequently in some river town, would fling into the hands of sharks and harlots and tavern-keepers, with whom the bosses were sometimes in league, the earnings of his long winter's work, and would wake to find himself sick and penniless, far from home and broken in spirit.
Of all the shanty-men of the Ottawa the men of Glengarry, and of Glengarry men Macdonald's gang were easily first, and of the gang Donald Bhain Macdonald, or Macdonald More, or the Big Macdonald, for he was variously known, was not only the "boss" but best and chief. There was none like him. A giant in size and strength, a prince of broad-axe men, at home in the woods, sure-footed and daring on the water, free with his wages, and always ready to drink with friend or fight with foe, the whole river admired, feared, or hated him, while his own men followed him into the woods, on to a jam, or into a fight with equal joyousness and devotion. Fighting was like wine to him, when the fight was worth while, and he went into the fights his admirers were always arranging for him with the easiest good humor and with a smile on his face. But Macdonald Bhain's carousing, fighting days came to an abrupt stop about three years before the opening of this tale, for on one of his summer visits to his home, "The word of the Lord in the mouth of his servant Alexander Murray," as he was wont to say, "found him and he was a new man." He went into his new life with the same whole-souled joyousness as had marked the old, and he announced that with the shanty and the river he was "done for ever more." But after the summer's work was done, and the logging over, and when the snap of the first frost nipped the leaves from the trees, Macdonald became restless. He took down his broad-axe and spent hours polishing it and bringing it to an edge, then he put it in its wooden sheath and laid it away. But the fever was upon him, ten thousand voices from the forest were shouting for him. He went away troubled to his minister. In an hour he came back with the old good humor in his face, took down the broad-axe again, and retouched it, lovingly, humming the while the old river song of the Glengarry men—
Ho ro mo nighean, etc.
He was going back to the bush and to the biggest fight of his life. No wonder he was glad. Then his good little wife began to get ready his long, heavy stockings, his thick mits, his homespun smock, and other gear, for she knew well that soon she would be alone for another winter. Before long the word went round that Macdonald Bhain was for the shanties again, and his men came to him for their orders.
But it was not to the old life that Macdonald was going, and he gravely told those that came to him that he would take no man who could not handle his axe and hand-spike, and who could not behave himself. "Behaving himself" meant taking no more whiskey than a man could carry, and refusing all invitations to fight unless "necessity was laid upon him." The only man to object was his own brother, Macdonald Dubh, whose temper was swift to blaze, and with whom the blow was quicker than the word. But after the second year of the new order even Black Hugh fell into line. Macdonald soon became famous on the Ottawa. He picked only the best men, he fed them well, paid them the highest wages, and cared for their comfort, but held them in strictest discipline. They would drink but kept sober, they would spend money but knew how much was coming to them. They feared no men even of "twice their own heavy and big," but would never fight except under necessity. Contracts began to come their way. They made money, and what was better, they brought it home. The best men sought to join them, but by rival gangs and by men rejected from their ranks they were hated with deepest heart hatred. But the men from Glengarry knew no fear and sought no favor. They asked only a good belt of pine and an open river. As a rule they got both, and it was peculiarly maddening to Black Hugh to find two or three miles of solid logs between his timber and the open water of the Nation. Black Hugh had a temper fierce and quick, and when in full flame he was a man to avoid, for from neither man nor devil would he turn. The only man who could hold him was his brother Macdonald Bhain, for strong man as he was, Black Hugh knew well that his brother could with a single swift grip bring him to his knees.
It was unfortunate that the command of the party this day should have been Macdonald Dubh's. Unfortunate, too, that it was Dan Murphy and his men that happened to be blocking the river mouth. For the Glengarry men, who handled only square timber, despised the Murphy gang as sawlog-men; "log-rollers" or "mushrats" they called them, and hated them as Irish "Papishes" and French "Crapeaux," while between Dan Murphy and Macdonald Dubh there was an ancient personal grudge, and to-day Murphy thought he had found his time. There were only six of the enemy, he had ten times the number with him, many of them eager to pay off old scores; and besides there was Louis LeNoir as the "Boss Bully" of the river. The Frenchman was not only a powerful man, active with hands and feet, but he was an adept in all kinds of fighting tricks. Since coming to the Ottawa he had heard of the big Macdonald, and he sought to meet him. But Macdonald avoided him once and again till LeNoir, having never known any one avoiding a fight for any reason other than fear, proclaimed Macdonald a coward, and himself "de boss on de reever." Now there was a chance of meeting his rival and of forcing a fight, for the Glengarry camp could not be far away where the big Macdonald himself would be. So Dan Murphy, backed up with numbers, and the boss bully LeNoir, determined that for these Macdonald men the day of settlement had come. But they were dangerous men, and it would be well to take all precautions, and hence his friendly invitation to the tavern for drinks.
Macdonald Dubh, scorning to show hesitation, though he suspected treachery, strode after Murphy to the tavern door and through the crowd of shanty-men filling the room. They were as ferocious looking a lot of men as could well be got together, even in that country and in those days—shaggy of hair and beard, dressed out in red and blue and green jerseys, with knitted sashes about their waists, and red and blue and green tuques on their heads. Drunken rows were their delight, and fights so fierce that many a man came out battered and bruised to death or to life-long decrepitude. They were sitting on the benches that ran round the room, or lounging against the bar singing, talking, blaspheming. At the sight of Macdonald Dubh and his men there fell a dead silence, and then growls of recognition, but Murphy was not yet ready, and roaring out "Dh-r-r-i-n-k-s," he seized a couple of his men leaning against the bar, and hurling them to right and left, cried, "Ma-a-ke room for yer betthers, be the powers! Sthand up, bhoys, and fill yirsilves!"
Black Hugh and his men lined up gravely to the bar and were straightway surrounded by the crowd yelling hideously. But if Murphy and his gang thought to intimidate those grave Highlanders with noise, they were greatly mistaken, for they stood quietly waiting for their glasses to be filled, alert, but with an air of perfect indifference. Some eight or ten glasses were set down and filled, when Murphy, snatching a couple of bottles from the shelf behind the bar, handed them out to his men, crying, "Here, ye bluddy thaves, lave the glasses to the gintlemen!"
There was no mistaking the insolence in his tone, and the chorus of derisive yells that answered him showed that his remark had gone to the spot.
Yankee Jim, who had kept close to Black Hugh, saw the veins in his neck beginning to swell, and face to grow dark. He was longing to be at Murphy's throat. "Speak him fair," he said, in a low tone, "there's rather a good string of 'em raound." Macdonald Dubh glanced about him. His eye fell on his boy, and for the first time his face became anxious. "Ranald," he said, angrily, "take yourself out of this. It is no place for you whatever." The boy, a slight lad of seventeen, but tall and well-knit, and with his father's fierce, wild, dark face, hesitated.
"Go," said his father, giving him a slight cuff.
"Here, boy!" yelled LeNoir, catching him by the arm and holding the bottle to his mouth, "drink." The boy took a gulp, choked, and spat it out. LeNoir and his men roared. "Dat good whiskey," he cried, still holding the boy. "You not lak dat, hey?"
"No," said the boy, "it is not good at all."
"Try heem some more," said LeNoir, thrusting the bottle at him again.
"I will not," said Ranald, looking at LeNoir straight and fearless.
"Ho-ho! mon brave enfant! But you have not de good mannere. Come, drink!" He caught the boy by the back of the neck, and made as if to pour the whiskey down his throat. Black Hugh, who had been kept back by Yankee Jim all this time, started forward, but before he could take a second step Ranald, squirming round like a cat, had sunk his teeth into LeNoir's wrist. With a cry of rage and pain LeNoir raised the bottle and was bringing it down on Ranald's head, when Black Hugh, with one hand, caught the falling blow, and with the other seized Ranald, and crying, "Get out of this!" he flung him towards the door. Then turning to LeNoir, he said, with surprising self-control, "It is myself that is sorry that a boy of mine should be guilty of biting like a dog."
"Sa-c-r-re le chien!" yelled LeNoir, shaking off Macdonald Dubh; "he is one dog, and the son of a dog!" He turned and started for the boy. But Yankee Jim had got Ranald to the door and was whispering to him. "Run!" cried Yankee Jim, pushing him out of the door, and the boy was off like the wind. LeNoir pursued him a short way and returned raging.
Yankee Jim, or Yankee, as he was called for short, came back to Macdonald Dubh's side, and whispering to the other Highlanders, "Keep your backs clear," sat up coolly on the counter. The fight was sure to come and there were seven to one against them in the room. If he could only gain time. Every minute was precious. It would take the boy fifteen minutes to run the two miles to camp. It would be half an hour before the rest of the Glengarry men could arrive, and much fighting may be done in that time. He must avert attention from Macdonald Dubh, who was waiting to cram LeNoir's insult down his throat. Yankee Jim had not only all the cool courage but also the shrewd, calculating spirit of his race. He was ready to fight, and if need be against odds, but he preferred to fight on as even terms as possible.
Soon LeNoir came back, wild with fury, and yelling curses at the top of his voice. He hurled himself into the room, the crowd falling back from him on either hand.
"Hola!" he yelled, "Sacre bleu!" He took two quick steps, and springing up into the air he kicked the stovepipe that ran along some seven feet above the floor.
"Purty good kicking," called out Yankee, sliding down from his seat. "Used to kick some myself. Excuse ME." He stood for a moment looking up at the stovepipe, then without apparent effort he sprang into the air, shot up his long legs, and knocked the stovepipe with a bang against the ceiling. There was a shout of admiration.
"My damages," he said to Pat Murphy, who stood behind the counter. "Good thing there ain't no fire. Thought it was higher. Wouldn't care to kick for the drinks, would ye?" he added to LeNoir.
LeNoir was too furious to enter into any contest so peaceful, but as he specially prided himself on his high kick, he paused a moment and was about to agree when Black Hugh broke in, harshly, spoiling all Yankee's plans.
"There is no time for such foolishness," he said, turning to Dan Murphy. "I want to know when we can get our timber out."
"Depinds intoirly on yirsilf," said Murphy.
"When will your logs be out of the way?"
"Indade an' that's a ha-r-r-d one," laughed Murphy.
"And will you tell me what right hev you to close up the river?" Black Hugh's wrath was rising.
"You wud think now it wuz yirsilf that owned the river. An' bedad it's the thought of yir mind, it is. An' it's not the river only, but the whole creation ye an yir brother think is yours." Dan Murphy was close up to Macdonald Dubh by this time. "Yis, blank, blank, yir faces, an' ye'd like to turn better than yirsilves from aff the river, so ye wud, ye black-hearted thaves that ye are."
This, of course, was beyond all endurance. For answer Black Hugh smote him sudden and fierce on the mouth, and Murphy went down.
"Purty one," sang out Yankee, cheerily. "Now, boys, back to the wall."
Before Murphy could rise, LeNoir sprang over him and lit upon Macdonald like a cat, but Macdonald shook himself free and sprang back to the Glengarry line at the wall.
"Mac an' Diabboil," he roared, "Glengarry forever!"
"Glengarry!" yelled the four Highlanders beside him, wild with the delight of battle. It was a plain necessity, and they went into it with free consciences and happy hearts.
"Let me at him," cried Murphy, struggling past LeNoir towards Macdonald.
"Non! He is to me!" yelled LeNoir, dancing in front of Macdonald.
"Here, Murphy," called out Yankee, obligingly, "help yourself this way." Murphy dashed at him, but Yankee's long arm shot out to meet him, and Murphy again found the floor.
"Come on, boys," cried Pat Murphy, Dan's brother, and followed by half a dozen others, he flung himself at Yankee and the line of men standing up against the wall. But Yankee's arms flashed out once, twice, thrice, and Pat Murphy fell back over his brother; two others staggered across and checked the oncoming rush, while Dannie Ross and big Mack Cameron had each beaten back their man, and the Glengarry line stood unbroken. Man for man they were far more than a match for their opponents, and standing shoulder to shoulder, with their backs to the wall, they taunted Murphy and his gang with all the wealth of gibes and oaths at their command.
"Where's the rest of your outfit, Murphy?" drawled Yankee. "Don't seem's if you'd counted right."
"It is a cold day for the parley voos," laughed Big Mack Cameron. "Come up, lads, and take a taste of something hot."
Then the Murphy men, clearing away the fallen, rushed again. They strove to bring the Highlanders to a clinch, but Yankee's voice was high and clear in command.
"Keep the line, boys! Don't let 'em draw you!" And the Glengarry men waited till they could strike, and when they struck men went down and were pulled back by their friends.
"Intil them, bhoys!" yelled Dan Murphy, keeping out of range himself. "Intil the divils!" And again and again his men crowded down upon the line against the wall, but again and again they were beaten down or hurled back bruised and bleeding.
Meantime LeNoir was devoting himself to Black Hugh at one end of the line, dancing in upon him and away again, but without much result. Black Hugh refused to be drawn out, and fought warily on defense, knowing the odds were great and waiting his chance to deliver one good blow, which was all he asked.
The Glengarry men were enjoying themselves hugely, and when not shouting their battle-cry, "Glengarry forever!" or taunting their foes, they were joking each other on the fortunes of war. Big Mack Cameron, who held the center, drew most of the sallies. He was easy-tempered and good-natured, and took his knocks with the utmost good humor.
"That was a good one, Mack," said Dannie Ross, his special chum, as a sounding whack came in on Big Mack's face. "As true as death I will be telling it to Bella Peter. Bella, the daughter of Peter McGregor, was supposed to be dear to Big Mack's heart.
"What a peety she could not see him the now," said Finlay Campbell. "Man alive, she would say the word queeck!"
"'Tis more than she will do to you whatever, if you cannot keep off that crapeau yonder a little better," said Big Mack, reaching for a Frenchman who kept dodging in upon him with annoying persistence. Then Mack began to swear Gaelic oaths.
"'Tain't fair, Mack!" called out Yankee from his end of the line, "bad language in English is bad enough, but in Gaelic it must be uncommon rough." So they gibed each other. But the tactics of the enemy were exceedingly irritating, and were beginning to tell upon the tempers of the Highlanders.
"Come to me, ye cowardly little devil," roared Mack to his persisting assailant. "No one will hurt you! Come away, man! A-a-ah-ouch!" His cry of satisfaction at having grabbed his man ended in a howl of pain, for the Frenchman had got Mack's thumb between his teeth, and was chewing it vigorously.
"Ye would, would you, ye dog?" roared Big Mack. He closed his fingers into the Frenchman's gullet, and drew him up to strike, but on every side hands reached for him and stayed his blow. Then he lost himself. With a yell of rage he jambed his man back into the crowd, sinking his fingers deeper and deeper into his enemy's throat till his face grew black and his head fell over on one side. But it was a fatal move for Mack, and overcome by numbers that crowded upon him, he went down fighting wildly and bearing the Frenchman beneath him. The Glengarry line was broken. Black Hugh saw Mack's peril, and knew that it meant destruction to all. With a wilder cry than usual, "Glengarry! Glengarry!" he dashed straight into LeNoir, who gave back swiftly, caught two men who were beating Big Mack's life out, and hurled them aside, and grasping his friend's collar, hauled him to his feet, and threw him back against the wall and into the line again with his grip still upon his Frenchman's throat.
"Let dead men go, Mack," he cried, but even as he spoke LeNoir, seeing his opportunity, sprang at him and with a backward kick caught Macdonald fair in the face and lashed him hard against the wall. It was the terrible French 'lash' and was one of LeNoir's special tricks. Black Hugh, stunned and dazed, leaned back against the wall, spreading out his hands weakly before his face. LeNoir, seeing victory within his grasp, rushed in to finish off his special foe. But Yankee Jim, who, while engaged in cheerfully knocking back the two Murphys and others who took their turn at him, had been keeping an eye on the line of battle, saw Macdonald's danger, and knowing that the crisis had come, dashed across the line, crying "Follow me, boys." His long arms swung round his head like the sails of a wind-mill, and men fell back from him as if they had been made of wood. As LeNoir sprang, Yankee shot fiercely at him, but the Frenchman, too quick for him, ducked and leaped upon Black Hugh, who was still swaying against the wall, bore him down and jumped with his heavy "corked" boots on his breast and face. Again the Glengarry line was broken. At once the crowd surged about the Glengarry men, who now stood back to back, beating off the men leaping at them from every side, as a stag beats off dogs, and still chanting high their dauntless cry, "Glengarry forever," to which Big Mack added at intervals, "To hell with the Papishes!" Yankee, failing to check LeNoir's attack upon Black Hugh, fought off the men crowding upon him, and made his way to the corner where the Frenchman was still engaged in kicking the prostrate Highlander to death.
"Take that, you blamed cuss," he said, catching LeNoir in the jaw and knocking his head with a thud against the wall. Before he could strike again he was thrown against his enemy, who clutched him and held like a vice.
VENGEANCE IS MINE
The Glengarry men had fought their fight, and it only remained for their foes to wreak their vengeance upon them and wipe out old scores. One minute more would have done for them, but in that minute the door came crashing in. There was a mighty roar, "Glengarry! Glengarry!" and the great Macdonald himself, with the boy Ranald and some half-dozen of his men behind him, stood among them. On all hands the fight stopped. A moment he stood, his great head and shoulders towering above the crowd, his tawny hair and beard falling around his face like a great mane, his blue eyes gleaming from under his shaggy eyebrows like livid lightning. A single glance around the room, and again raising his battle-cry, "Glengarry!" he seized the nearest shrinking Frenchman, lifted him high, and hurled him smashing into the bottles behind the counter. His men, following him, bounded like tigers on their prey. A few minutes of fierce, eager fighting, and the Glengarry men were all freed and on their feet, all except Black Hugh, who lay groaning in his corner. "Hold, lads!" Macdonald Bhain cried, in his mighty voice. "Stop, I'm telling you." The fighting ceased.
"Dan Murphy!" he cried, casting his eye round the room, "where are you, ye son of Belial?"
Murphy, crouching at the back of the crowd near the door, sought to escape.
"Ah! there you are!" cried Macdonald, and reaching through the crowd with his great, long arm, he caught Murphy by the hair of the head and dragged him forward.
"R-r-r-a-a-t! R-r-r-a-a-t! R-r-r-a-a-t!" he snarled, shaking him till his teeth rattled. "It is yourself that is the cause of this wickedness. Now, may the Lord have mercy on your soul." With one hand he gripped Murphy by the throat, holding him at arm's length, and raised his huge fist to strike. But before the blow fell he paused.
"No!" he muttered, in a disappointed tone, "it is not good enough. I will not be demeaning myself. Hence, you r-r-a-a-t!" As he spoke he lifted the shaking wretch as if he had been a bundle of clothes, swung him half round and hurled him crashing through the window.
"Is there no goot man here at all who will stand before me?" he raged in a wild, joyous fury. "Will not two of you come forth, then?" No one moved. "Come to me!" he suddenly cried, and snatching two of the enemy, he dashed their heads together, and threw them insensible on the floor.
Then he caught sight of his brother for the first time lying in the corner with Big Mack supporting his head, and LeNoir standing near.
"What is this? What is this?" he cried, striding toward LeNoir. "And is it you that has done this work?" he asked, in a voice of subdued rage.
"Oui!" cried LeNoir, stepping back and putting up his hands, "das me; Louis LeNoir! by Gar!" He struck himself on the breast as he spoke.
"Out of my way!" cried Macdonald, swinging his open hand on the Frenchman's ear. With a swift sweep he brushed LeNoir aside from his place, and ignoring him stooped over his brother. But LeNoir was no coward, and besides his boasted reputation was at stake. He thought he saw his chance, and rushing at Macdonald as he was bending over his brother, delivered his terrible 'lash'. But Macdonald had not lived with and fought with Frenchmen all these years without knowing their tricks and ways. He saw LeNoir's 'lash' coming, and quickly turning his head, avoided the blow.
"Ah! would ye? Take that, then, and be quate!" and so saying, he caught LeNoir on the side of the head and sent him to the floor.
"Keep him off a while, Yankee!" said Macdonald, for LeNoir was up again, and coming at him.
Then kneeling beside his brother he wiped the bloody froth that was oozing from his lips, and said in a low, anxious tone:
"Hugh, bhodaich (old man), are ye hurted? Can ye not speak to me, Hugh?"
"Oich-oh," Black Hugh groaned. "It was a necessity—Donald man—and—he took me—unawares—with his—keeck."
"Indeed, and I'll warrant you!" agreed his brother, "but I will be attending to him, never you fear."
Macdonald was about to rise, when his brother caught his arm.
"You will—not be—killing him," he urged, between his painful gasps, "because I will be doing that myself some day, by God's help."
His words and the eager hate in his face seemed to quiet Macdonald.
"Alas! alas!" he said, sadly, "it is not allowed me to smite him as he deserves—'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord,' and I have solemnly promised the minister not to smite for glory or for revenge! Alas! alas!"
Then turning to LeNoir, he said, gravely: "It is not given me to punish you for your coward's blow. Go from me!" But LeNoir misjudged him.
"Bah!" he cried, contemptuously, "you tink me one baby, you strike me on de head side like one little boy. Bon! Louis LeNware, de bes bully on de Hottawa, he's not 'fraid for hany man, by Gar!" He pranced up and down before Macdonald, working himself into a great rage, as Macdonald grew more and more controlled.
Macdonald turned to his men with a kind of appeal—"I hev given my promise, and Macdonald will not break his word."
"Bah!" cried LeNoir, spitting at him.
"Now may the Lord give me grace to withstand the enemy," said Macdonald, gravely, "for I am greatly moved to take vengeance upon you."
"Bah!" cried LeNoir again, mistaking Macdonald's quietness and self-control for fear. "You no good! Your brother is no good! Beeg sheep! Beeg sheep! Bah!"
"God help me," said Macdonald as if to himself. "I am a man of grace! But must this dog go unpunished?"
LeNoir continued striding up and down, now and then springing high in the air and knocking his heels together with blood-curdling yells. He seemed to feel that Macdonald would not fight, and his courage and desire for blood grew accordingly.
"Will you not be quate?" said Macdonald, rising after a few moments from his brother's side, where he had been wiping his lips and giving him water to drink. "You will be better outside."
"Oui! you strike me on the head side. Bon! I strike you de same way! By Gar!" so saying he approached Macdonald lightly, and struck him a slight blow on the cheek.
"Ay," said Macdonald, growing white and rigid. "I struck you twice, LeNoir. Here!" he offered the other side of his face. LeNoir danced up carefully, made a slight pass, and struck the offered cheek.
"Now, that is done, will it please you to do it again?" said Macdonald, with earnest entreaty in his voice. LeNoir must have been mad with his rage and vanity, else he had caught the glitter in the blue eyes looking through the shaggy hair. Again LeNoir approached, this time with greater confidence, and dealt Macdonald a stinging blow on the side of the head.
"Now the Lord be praised," he cried, joy breaking out in his face. "He has delivered my enemy into my hand. For it is the third time he has smitten me, and that is beyond the limit appointed by Himself." With this he advanced upon LeNoir with a glad heart. His conscience was clear at last.
LeNoir stood up against his antagonist. He well knew he was about to make the fight of his life. He had beaten men as big as Macdonald, but he knew that his hope lay in keeping out of the enemy's reach. So he danced around warily. Macdonald followed him slowly. LeNoir opened with a swift and savage reach for Macdonald's neck, but failed to break the guard and danced out again, Macdonald still pressing on him. Again and again LeNoir rushed, but the guard was impregnable, and steadily Macdonald advanced. That steady, relentless advance began to tell on the Frenchman's nerves. The sweat gathered in big drops on his forehead and ran down his face. He prepared for a supreme effort. Swiftly retreating, he lured Macdonald to a more rapid advance, then with a yell he doubled himself into a ball and delivered himself head, hands, and feet into Macdonald's stomach. It is a trick that sometimes avails to break an unsteady guard and to secure a clinch with an unwary opponent. But Macdonald had been waiting for that trick. Stopping short, he leaned over to one side, and stooping slightly, caught LeNoir low and tossed him clear over his head. LeNoir fell with a terrible thud on his back, but was on his feet again like a cat and ready for the ever-advancing Macdonald. But though he had not been struck a single blow he knew that he had met his master. That unbreakable guard, the smiling face with the gleaming, unsmiling eyes, that awful unwavering advance, were too much for him. He was pale, his breath came in quick gasps, and his eyes showed the fear of a hunted beast. He prepared for a final effort. Feigning a greater distress than he felt, he yielded weakly to Macdonald's advance, then suddenly gathering his full strength he sprang into the air and lashed out backward at that hated, smiling face. His boot found its mark, not on Macdonald's face, but fair on his neck. The effect was terrific. Macdonald staggered back two or three paces, but before LeNoir could be at him, he had recovered sufficiently to maintain his guard, and shake off his foe. At the yell that went up from Murphy's men, the big Highlander's face lost its smile and became keen and cruel, his eyes glittered with the flash of steel and he came forward once more with a quick, light tread. His great body seemed to lose both size and weight, so lightly did he step on tiptoe. There was no more pause, but lightly, swiftly, and eagerly he glided upon LeNoir. There was something terrifying in that swift, cat-like movement. In vain the Frenchman backed and dodged and tried to guard. Once, twice, Macdonald's fists fell. LeNoir's right arm hung limp by his side and he staggered back to the wall helpless. Without an instant's delay, Macdonald had him by the throat, and gripping him fiercely, began to slowly bend him backward over his knee. Then for the first time Macdonald spoke:
"LeNoir," he said, solemnly, "the days of your boasting are over. You will no longer glory in your strength, for now I will break your back to you."
LeNoir tried to speak, but his voice came in horrible gurgles. His face was a ghastly greenish hue, lined with purple and swollen veins, his eyes were standing out of his head, and his breath sobbing in raucous gasps. Slowly the head went back. The crowd stood in horror-stricken silence waiting for the sickening snap. Yankee, unable to stand it any longer, stepped up to his chief, and in a most matter of fact voice drawled out, "About an inch more that way I guess 'll do the trick, if he ain't double-jointed."
"Aye," said Macdonald, holding grimly on.
"Tonald,"—Black Hugh's voice sounded faint but clear in the awful silence—"Tonald—you will not—be killing—him. Remember that now. I will—never—forgive you—if you will—take that—from my hands."
The cry for vengeance smote Macdonald to the heart, and recalled him to himself. He paused, threw back his locks from his eyes, then relaxing his grip, stood up.
"God preserve me!" he groaned, "what am I about?"
For some time he remained standing silent, with head down as if not quite sure of himself. He was recalled by a grip of his arm. He turned and saw his nephew, Ranald, at his side. The boy's dark face was pale with passion.
"And is that all you are going to do to him?" he demanded. Macdonald gazed at him.
"Do you not see what he has done?" he continued, pointing to his father, who was still lying propped up on some coats. "Why did you not break his back? You said you would! The brute, beast!"
He hurled out the words in hot hate. His voice pierced the noise of the room. Macdonald stood still, gazing at the fierce, dark face in solemn silence. Then he sadly shook his head.
"My lad, 'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord.' It would have pleased me well, but the hand of the Lord was laid upon me and I could not kill him."
"Then it is myself will kill him," he shrieked, springing like a wildcat at LeNoir. But his uncle wound his arms around him and held him fast. For a minute and more he struggled fiercely, crying to be set free, till recognizing the uselessness of his efforts he grew calm, and said quietly, "Let me loose, uncle; I will be quiet." And his uncle set him free. The boy shook himself, and then standing up before LeNoir said, in a high, clear voice:
"Will you hear me, LeNoir? The day will come when I will do to you what you have done to my father, and if my father will die, then by the life of God [a common oath among the shanty-men] I will have your life for it." His voice had an unearthly shrillness in it, and LeNoir shrank back.
"Whist, whist, lad! be quate!" said his uncle; "these are not goot words." The lad heeded him not, but sank down beside his father on the floor. Black Hugh raised himself on his elbow with a grim smile on his face.
"It is a goot lad whatever, but please God he will not need to keep his word." He laid his hand in a momentary caress upon his boy's shoulder, and sank back again, saying, "Take me out of this."
Then Macdonald Bhain turned to Dan Murphy and gravely addressed him:
"Dan Murphy, it is an ungodly and cowardly work you have done this day, and the curse of God will be on you if you will not repent." Then he turned away, and with Big Mack's help bore his brother to the pointer, followed by his men, bloody, bruised, but unconquered. But before he left the room LeNoir stepped forward, and offering his hand, said, "You mak friends wit' me. You de boss bully on de reever Hottawa."
Macdonald neither answered nor looked his way, but passed out in grave silence.
Then Yankee Jim remarked to Dan Murphy, "I guess you'd better git them logs out purty mighty quick. We'll want the river in about two days." Dan Murphy said not a word, but when the Glengarry men wanted the river they found it open.
But for Macdonald the fight was not yet over, for as he sat beside his brother, listening to his groans, his men could see him wreathing his hands and chanting in an undertone the words, "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord." And as he sat by the camp-fire that night listening to Yankee's account of the beginning of the trouble, and heard how his brother had kept himself in hand, and how at last he had been foully smitten, Macdonald's conflict deepened, and he rose up and cried aloud:
"God help me! Is this to go unpunished? I will seek him to-morrow." And he passed out into the dark woods.
After a few moments the boy Ranald slipped away after him to beg that he might be allowed to go with him to-morrow. Stealing silently through the bushes he came to where he could see the kneeling figure of his uncle swaying up and down, and caught the sounds of words broken with groans:
"Let me go, O Lord! Let me go!" He pled now in Gaelic and again in English. "Let not the man be escaping his just punishment. Grant me this, O, Lord! Let me smite but once!" Then after a pause came the words, "'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord!' Vengeance is mine! Ay, it is the true word! But, Lord, let not this man of Belial, this Papish, escape!" Then again, like a refrain would come the words, "Vengeance is mine. Vengeance is mine," in ever-deeper agony, till throwing himself on his face, he lay silent a long time.
Suddenly he rose to his knees and so remained, looking steadfastly before him into the woods. The wind came sighing through the pines with a wail and a sob. Macdonald shuddered and then fell on his face again. The Vision was upon him. "Ah, Lord, it is the bloody hands and feet I see. It is enough." At this Ranald slipped back awe-stricken to the camp. When, after an hour, Macdonald came back into the firelight, his face was pale and wet, but calm, and there was an exalted look in his eyes. His men gazed at him with wonder and awe in their faces.
"Mercy on us! He will be seeing something," said Big Mack to Yankee Jim.
"Seein' somethin'? What? A bar?" inquired Yankee.
"Whist now!" said Big Mack, in a low voice. "He has the sight. Be quate now, will you? He will be speaking."
For a short time Macdonald sat gazing into the fire in silence, then turning his face toward the men who were waiting, he said: "There will be no more of this. 'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord!' It is not for me. The Lord will do His own work. It is the will of the Lord." And the men knew that the last word had been said on that subject, and that LeNoir was safe.
THE MANSE IN THE BUSH
Straight north from the St. Lawrence runs the road through the Indian Lands. At first its way lies through open country, from which the forest has been driven far back to the horizon on either side, for along the great river these many years villages have clustered, with open fields about them stretching far away. But when once the road leaves the Front, with its towns and villages and open fields, and passes beyond Martintown and over the North Branch, it reaches a country where the forest is more a feature of the landscape. And when some dozen or more of the crossroads marking the concessions which lead off to east and west have been passed, the road seems to strike into a different world. The forest loses its conquered appearance, and dominates everything. There is forest everywhere. It lines up close and thick along the road, and here and there quite overshadows it. It crowds in upon the little farms and shuts them off from one another and from the world outside, and peers in through the little windows of the log houses looking so small and lonely, but so beautiful in their forest frames. At the nineteenth cross-road the forest gives ground a little, for here the road runs right past the new brick church, which is almost finished, and which will be opened in a few weeks. Beyond the cross, the road leads along the glebe, and about a quarter of a mile beyond the corner there opens upon it the big, heavy gate that the members of the Rev. Alexander Murray's congregation must swing when they wish to visit the manse. The opening of this gate, made of upright poles held by auger-holes in a frame of bigger poles, was almost too great a task for the minister's seven-year-old son Hughie, who always rode down, standing on the hind axle of the buggy, to open it for his father. It was a great relief to him when Long John Cameron, who had the knack of doing things for people's comfort, brought his ax and big auger one day and made a kind of cradle on the projecting end of the top bar, which he then weighted with heavy stones, so that the gate, when once the pin was pulled out of the post, would swing back itself with Hughie straddled on the top of it.
It was his favorite post of observation when waiting for his mother to come home from one of her many meetings. And on this particular March evening he had been waiting long and impatiently.
Suddenly he shouted: "Horo, mamma! Horo!" He had caught sight of the little black pony away up at the church hill, and had become so wildly excited that he was now standing on the top bar frantically waving his Scotch bonnet by the tails. Down the slope came the pony on the gallop, for she knew well that soon Lambert would have her saddle off, and that her nose would be deep into bran mash within five minutes more. But her rider sat her firmly and brought her down to a gentle trot by the time the gate was reached.
"Horo, mamma!" shouted Hughie, clambering down to open the gate.
"Well, my darling! have you been a good boy all afternoon?"
"Huh-huh! Guess who's come back from the shanties!"
"I'm sure I can't guess. Who is it?" It was a very bright and very sweet face, with large, serious, gray-brown eyes that looked down on the little boy.
"Why, who can it be? Big Mack?"
"No!" Hughie danced delightedly. "Try again. He's not big."
"I am sure I can never guess. Whoa, Pony!" Pony was most unwilling to get in close enough to the gate-post to let Hughie spring on behind his mother.
"You'll have to be quick, Hughie, when I get near again. There now! Whoa, Pony! Take care, child!"
Hughie had sprung clean off the post, and lighting on Pony's back just behind the saddle, had clutched his mother round the waist, while the pony started off full gallop for the stable.
"Now, mother, who is it?" insisted Hughie, as Lambert, the French-Canadian man-of-all-work, lifted him from his place.
"You'll have to tell me, Hughie!"
"Yes, Ranald and his father, Macdonald Dubh, and he's hurted awful bad, and—"
"Hurt, Hughie," interposed the mother, gently.
"Huh-huh! Ranald said he was hurted."
"Hurt, you mean, Hughie. Who was hurt? Ranald?"
"No; his father was hurted—hurt—awful bad. He was lying down in the sleigh, and Yankee Jim—"
"Mr. Latham, you mean, Hughie."
"Huh-huh," went on Hughie, breathlessly, "and Yankee—Mr. Latham asked if the minister was home, and I said 'No,' and then they went away."
"What was the matter? Did you see them, Lambert?"
"Oui" ("Way," Lambert pronounced it), "but dey not tell me what he's hurt."
The minister's wife went toward the house, with a shadow on her face. She shared with her husband his people's sorrows. She knew even better than he the life-history of every family in the congregation. Macdonald Dubh had long been classed among the wild and careless in the community, and it weighed upon her heart that his life might be in danger.
"I shall see him to-morrow," she said to herself.
For a few moments she stood on the doorstep looking at the glow in the sky over the dark forest, which on the west side came quite up to the house and barn.
"Look, Hughie, at the beautiful tints in the clouds, and see the dark shadows pointing out toward us from the bush." Hughie glanced a moment.
"Mamma," he said, "I am just dead for supper."
"Oh, not quite, I hope, Hughie. But look, I want you to notice those clouds and the sky behind them. How lovely! Oh, how wonderful!"
Her enthusiasm caught the boy, and for a few moment she forgot even his hunger, and holding his mother's hand, gazed up at the western sky. It was a picture of rare beauty that lay stretched out from the manse back door. Close to the barn came the pasture-field dotted with huge stumps, then the brule where the trees lay fallen across one another, over which the fire had run, and then the solid wall of forest here and there overtopped by the lofty crest of a white pine. Into the forest in the west the sun was descending in gorgeous robes of glory. The treetops caught the yellow light, and gleamed like the golden spires of some great and fabled city.
"Oh, mamma, see that big pine top! Doesn't it look like windows?" cried Hughie, pointing to one of the lofty pine crests through which the sky quivered like molten gold.
"And the streets of the city are pure gold," said the mother, softly.
"Yes, I know," said Hughie, confidently, for to him all the scenes and stories of the Bible had long been familiar. "Is it like that, mamma?"
"Much better, ever so much better than you can think."
"Oh, mamma, I'm just awful hungry!"
"Come away, then; so am I. What have you got, Jessie, for two very hungry people?"
"Porridge and pancakes," said Jessie, the minister's "girl," who not only ruled in the kitchen, but using the kitchen as a base, controlled the interior economy of the manse.
"Oh, goody!" yelled Hughie; "just what I like." And from the plates of porridge and the piles of pancakes that vanished from his plate no one could doubt his word.
Their reading that night was about the city whose streets were of pure gold, and after a little talk, Hughie and his baby brother were tucked away safely for the night, and the mother sat down to her never-ending task of making and mending.
The minister was away at Presbytery meeting in Montreal, and for ten days his wife would stand in the breach. Of course the elders would take the meeting on the Sabbath day and on the Wednesday evening, but for all other ministerial duties when the minister was absent the congregation looked to the minister's wife. And soon it came that the sick and the sorrowing and the sin-burdened found in the minister's wife such help and comfort and guidance as made the absence of the minister seem no great trial after all. Eight years ago the minister had brought his wife from a home of gentle culture, from a life of intellectual and artistic pursuits, and from a circle of loving friends of which she was the pride and joy, to this home in the forest. There, isolated from all congenial companionship with her own kind, deprived of all the luxuries and of many of the comforts of her young days, and of the mental stimulus of that contact of minds without which few can maintain intellectual life, she gave herself without stint to her husband's people, with never a thought of self-pity or self-praise. By day and by night she labored for her husband and family and for her people, for she thought them hers. She taught the women how to adorn their rude homes, gathered them into Bible classes and sewing circles, where she read and talked and wrought and prayed with them till they grew to adore her as a saint, and to trust her as a leader and friend, and to be a little like her. And not the women only, but the men, too, loved and trusted her, and the big boys found it easier to talk to the minister's wife than to the minister or to any of his session. She made her own and her children's clothes, collars, hats, and caps, her husband's shirts and neckties, toiling late into the morning hours, and all without frown or shadow of complaint, and indeed without suspicion that any but the happiest lot was hers, or that she was, as her sisters said, "just buried alive in the backwoods." Not she! She lived to serve, and the where and how were not hers to determine. So, with bright face and brave heart, she met her days and faced the battle. And scores of women and men are living better and braver lives because they had her for their minister's wife.
But the day had been long, and the struggle with the March wind pulls hard upon the strength, and outside the pines were crooning softly, and gradually the brave head drooped till between the stitches she fell asleep. But not for many minutes, for a knock at the kitchen door startled her, and before long she heard Jessie's voice rise wrathful.
"Indeed, I'll do no such thing. This is no time to come to the minister's house."
For answer there was a mumble of words.
"Well, then, you can just wait until morning. She can go in the morning."
"What is it, Jessie?" The minister's wife came into the kitchen.
"Oh, Ranald, I'm glad to see you back. Hughie told me you had come. But your father is ill, he said. How is he?"
Ranald shook hands shyly, feeling much ashamed under Jessie's sharp reproof.
"Indeed, it was Aunt Kirsty that sent me," said Ranald, apologetically.
"Then she ought to have known better," said Jessie, sharply.
"Never mind, Jessie. Ranald, tell me about your father."
"He is very bad indeed, and my aunt is afraid that—" The boy's lip trembled. Then he went on: "And she thought perhaps you might have some medicine, and—"
"But what is the matter, Ranald?"
"He was hurted bad—and he is not right wise in his head."
"But how was he hurt?"
"I was not there—I am thinking it was something that struck him."
"Ah, a tree! But where did the tree strike him?"
"Here," pointing to his breast; "and it is sore in his breathing."
"Well, Ranald, if you put the saddle on Pony, I shall be ready in a minute."
Jessie was indignant.
"You will not stir a foot this night. You will send some medicine, and then you can go in the morning."
But the minister's wife heeded her not.
"You are not walking, Ranald?"
"No, I have the colt."
"Oh, that's splendid. We'll have a fine gallop—that is, if the moon is up."
"Yes, it is just coming up," said Ranald, hurrying away to the stable that he might escape Jessie's wrath and get the pony ready.
It was no unusual thing for the minister and his wife to be called upon to do duty for doctor and nurse. The doctor was twenty miles away. So Mrs. Murray got into her riding-habit, threw her knitted hood over her head, put some simple medicines into her hand-bag, and in ten minutes was waiting for Ranald at the door.
THE RIDE FOR LIFE
The night was clear, with a touch of frost in the air, yet with the feeling in it of approaching spring. A dim light fell over the forest from the half-moon and the stars, and seemed to fill up the little clearing in which the manse stood, with a weird and mysterious radiance. Far away in the forest the long-drawn howl of a wolf rose and fell, and in a moment sharp and clear came an answer from the bush just at hand. Mrs. Murray dreaded the wolves, but she was no coward and scorned to show fear.
"The wolves are out, Ranald," she said, carelessly, as Ranald came up with the pony.
"They are not many, I think," answered the boy as carelessly; "but—are you—do you think—perhaps I could just take the medicine—and you will come—"
"Nonsense, Ranald! bring up the pony. Do you think I have lived all this time in Indian Lands to be afraid of a wolf?"
"Indeed, you are not afraid, I know that well!" Ranald shrank from laying the crime of being afraid at the door of the minister's wife, whose fearlessness was proverbial in the community; "but maybe—" The truth was, Ranald would rather be alone if the wolves came out.
But Mrs. Murray was in the saddle, and the pony was impatient to be off.
"We will go by the Camerons' clearing, and then take their wood track. It is a better road," said Ranald, after they had got through the big gate.
"Now, Ranald, you think I am afraid of the swamp, and by the Camerons' is much longer."
"Indeed, I hear them say that you are not afraid of the—of anything," said Ranald, quickly, "but this road is better for the horses."
"Come on, then, with your colt"; and the pony darted away on her quick-springing gallop, followed by the colt going with a long, easy, loping stride. For a mile they kept side by side till they reached the Camerons' lane, when Ranald held in the colt and allowed the pony to lead. As they passed through the Camerons' yard the big black dogs, famous bear-hunters, came baying at them. The pony regarded them with indifference, but the colt shied and plunged.
"Whoa, Liz!" Liz was Ranald's contraction for Lizette, the name of the French horse-trainer and breeder, Jules La Rocque, gave to her mother, who in her day was queen of the ice at L'Original Christmas races.
"Be quate, Nigger, will you!" The dogs, who knew Ranald well, ceased their clamor, but not before the kitchen door opened and Don Cameron came out.
Don was about a year older than Ranald and was his friend and comrade.
"It's me, Don—and Mrs. Murray there."
Don gazed speechless.
"And what—" he began.
"Father is not well. He is hurted, and Mrs. Murray is going to see him, and we must go."
Ranald hurried through his story, impatient to get on.
"But are you going up through the bush?" asked Don.
"Yes, what else, Don?" asked Mrs. Murray. "It is a good road, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes, I suppose it is good enough," said Don, doubtfully, "but I heard—"
"We will come out at our own clearing at the back, you know," Ranald hurried to say, giving Don a kick. "Whist, man! She is set upon going." At that moment away off toward the swamp, which they were avoiding, the long, heart-chilling cry of a mother wolf quavered on the still night air. In spite of herself, Mrs. Murray shivered, and the boys looked at each other.
"There is only one," said Ranald in a low voice to Don, but they both knew that where the she wolf is there is a pack not far off. "And we will be through the bush in five minutes."
"Come, Ranald! Come away, you can talk to Don any time. Good night, Don." And so saying she headed her pony toward the clearing and was off at a gallop, and Ranald, shaking his head at his friend, ejaculated:
"Man alive! what do you think of that?" and was off after the pony.
Together they entered the bush. The road was well beaten and the horses were keen to go, so that before many minutes were over they were half through the bush. Ranald's spirits rose and he began to take some interest in his companion's observations upon the beauty of the lights and shadows falling across their path.
"Look at that very dark shadow from the spruce there, Ranald," she cried, pointing to a deep, black turn in the road. For answer there came from behind them the long, mournful hunting-cry of the wolf. He was on their track. Immediately it was answered by a chorus of howls from the bush on the swamp side, but still far away. There was no need of command; the pony sprang forward with a snort and the colt followed, and after a few minutes' running, passed her.
"Whow-oo-oo-oo-ow" rose the long cry of the pursuer, summoning help, and drawing nearer.
"Wow-ee-wow," came the shorter, sharper answer from the swamp, but much nearer than before and more in front. They were trying to head off their prey.
Ranald tugged at his colt till he got him back with the pony.
"It is a good road," he said, quietly; "you can let the pony go. I will follow you." He swung in behind the pony, who was now running for dear life and snorting with terror at every jump.
"God preserve us!" said Ranald to himself. He had caught sight of a dark form as it darted through the gleam of light in front.
"What did you say, Ranald?" The voice was quiet and clear.
"It is a great pony to run whatever," said Ranald, ashamed of himself.
"Is she not?"
Ranald glanced over his shoulder. Down the road, running with silent, awful swiftness, he saw the long, low body of the leading wolf flashing through the bars of moonlight across the road, and the pack following hard.
"Let her go, Mrs. Murray," cried Ranald. "Whip her and never stop." But there was no need; the pony was wild with fear, and was doing her best running.
Ranald meantime was gradually holding in the colt, and the pony drew away rapidly. But as rapidly the wolves were closing in behind him. They were not more than a hundred yards away, and gaining every second. Ranald, remembering the suspicious nature of the brutes, loosened his coat and dropped it on the road; with a chorus of yelps they paused, then threw themselves upon it, and in another minute took up the chase.
But now the clearing was in sight. The pony was far ahead, and Ranald shook out his colt with a yell. He was none too soon, for the pursuing pack, now uttering short, shrill yelps, were close at the colt's heels. Lizette, fleet as the wind, could not shake them off. Closer and ever closer they came, snapping and snarling. Ranald could see them over his shoulder. A hundred yards more and he would reach his own back lane. The leader of the pack seemed to feel that his chances were slipping swiftly away. With a spurt he gained upon Lizette, reached the saddle-girths, gathered himself in two short jumps, and sprang for the colt's throat. Instinctively Ranald stood up in his stirrups, and kicking his foot free, caught the wolf under the jaw. The brute fell with a howl under the colt's feet, and next moment they were in the lane and safe.
The savage brutes, discouraged by their leader's fall, slowed down their fierce pursuit, and hearing the deep bay of the Macdonalds' great deerhound, Bugle, up at the house, they paused, sniffed the air a few minutes, then turned and swiftly and silently slid into the dark shadows. Ranald, knowing that they would hardly dare enter the lane, checked the colt, and wheeling, watched them disappear.
"I'll have some of your hides some day," he cried, shaking his fist after them. He hated to be made to run.
He had hardly set the colt's face homeward when he heard something tearing down the lane to meet him. The colt snorted, swerved, and then dropping his ears, stood still. It was Bugle, and after him came Mrs. Murray on the pony.
"Oh, Ranald!" she panted, "thank God you are safe. I was afraid you—you—" Her voice broke in sobs. Her hood had fallen back from her white face, and her eyes were shining like two stars. She laid her hand on Ranald's arm, and her voice grew steady as she said: "Thank God, my boy, and thank you with all my heart. You risked your life for mine. You are a brave fellow! I can never forget this!"
"Oh, pshaw!" said Ranald, awkwardly. "You are better stuff than I am. You came back with Bugle. And I knew Liz could beat the pony whatever." Then they walked their horses quietly to the stable, and nothing more was said by either of them; but from that hour Ranald had a friend ready to offer life for him, though he did not know it then nor till years afterward.
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
Macdonald Dubh's farm lay about three miles north and west from the manse, and the house stood far back from the cross-road in a small clearing encircled by thick bush. It was a hard farm to clear, the timber was heavy, the land lay low, and Macdonald Dubh did not make as much progress as his neighbors in his conflict with the forest. Not but that he was a hard worker and a good man with the ax, but somehow he did not succeed as a farmer. It may have been that his heart was more in the forest than in the farm. He was a famous hunter, and in the deer season was never to be found at home, but was ever ranging the woods with his rifle and his great deerhound, Bugle.
He made money at the shanties, but money would not stick to his fingers, and by the time the summer was over most of his money would be gone, with the government mortgage on his farm still unlifted. His habits of life wrought a kind of wildness in him which set him apart from the thrifty, steady-going people among whom he lived. True, the shanty-men were his stanch friends and admirers, but then the shanty-men, though well-doing, could hardly be called steady, except the boss of the Macdonald gang, Macdonald Bhain, who was a regular attendant and stanch supporter of the church, and indeed had been spoken of for an elder. But from the church Macdonald Dubh held aloof. He belonged distinctly to the "careless," though he could not be called irreligious. He had all the reverence for "the Word of God, and the Sabbath day, and the church" that characterized his people. All these held a high place in his esteem; and though he would not presume to "take the books," not being a member of the church, yet on the Sabbath day when he was at home it was the custom of the household to gather for the reading of the Word before breakfast. He would never take his rifle with him through the woods on the Sabbath, and even when absent from home on a hunting expedition, when the Sabbath day came round, he religiously kept camp. It is true, he did not often go to church, and when the minister spoke to him about this, he always agreed that it was a good thing to go to church. When he had no better excuse, he would apologize for his absence upon the ground "that he had not the clothes." The greater part of the trouble was that he was shy and proud, and felt himself to be different from the church-going people of the community, and shrank from the surprised looks of members, and even from the words of approving welcome that often greeted his presence in church.
It was not according to his desire that Ranald was sent to the manse. That was the doing of his sister, Kirsty, who for the last ten years had kept house for him. Not that there was much housekeeping skill about Kirsty, as indeed any one might see even without entering Macdonald Dubh's house. Kirsty was big and strong and willing, but she had not the most elemental ideas of tidiness. Her red, bushy hair hung in wisps about her face, after the greater part of it had been gathered into a tight knob at the back of her head. She was a martyr to the "neuralagy," and suffered from a perennial cold in the head, which made it necessary for her to wear a cloud, which was only removed when it could be replaced by her nightcap. Her face always bore the marks of her labors, and from it one could gather whether she was among the pots or busy with the baking. But she was kindhearted, and, up to her light, sought to fill the place left empty by the death of the wife and mother in that home, ten years before.
When the minister's wife opened the door, a hot, close, foul smell rushed forth to meet her. Upon the kitchen stove a large pot of pig's food was boiling, and the steam and smell from the pot made the atmosphere of the room overpoweringly fetid. Off the kitchen or living-room were two small bedrooms, in one of which lay Macdonald Dubh.
Kirsty met the minister's wife with a warm welcome. She helped her off with her hood and coat, patting her on the shoulder the while, and murmuring words of endearment.
"Ah, M'eudail! M'eudail bheg! and did you come through the night all the way, and it is ashamed that I am to have sent for you, but he was very bad and I was afraid. Come away! come away! I will make you a cup of tea." But the minister's wife assured Kirsty that she was glad to come, and declining the cup of tea, went to the room where Macdonald Dubh lay tossing and moaning with the delirium of fever upon him. It was not long before she knew what was required.
With hot fomentations she proceeded to allay the pain, and in half an hour Macdonald Dubh grew quiet. His tossings and mutterings ceased and he fell into a sleep.
Kirsty stood by admiring.
"Mercy me! Look at that now; and it is yourself that is the great doctor!"
"Now, Kirsty," said Mrs. Murray, in a very matter-of-fact tone, "we will just make him a little more comfortable."
"Yes," said Kirsty, not quite sure how the feat was to be achieved. "A little hot something for his inside will be good, but indeed, many's the drink I have given him," she suggested.
"What have you been giving him, Kirsty?"
"Senny and dandylion, and a little whisky. They will be telling me it is ferry good whatever for the stomach and bow'ls."
"I don't think I would give him any more of that; but we will try and make him feel a little more comfortable."
Mrs. Murray knew she was treading on delicate ground. The Highland pride is quick to take offense.
"Sick people, you see," she proceeded carefully, "need very frequent changes—sheets and clothing, you understand."
"Aye," said Kirsty, suspiciously.
"I am sure you have plenty of beautiful sheets, and we will change these when he wakes from his sleep."
"Indeed, they are very clean, for there is no one but myself has slept in them since he went away last fall to the shanties."
Mrs. Murray felt the delicacy of the position to be sensibly increased.
"Indeed, that is right, Kirsty; one can never tell just what sort of people are traveling about nowadays."
"Indeed, and it's true," said Kirsty, heartily, "but I never let them in here. I just keep them to the bunk."
"But," pursued Mrs. Murray, returning to the subject in hand, "it is very important that for sick people the sheets should be thoroughly aired and warmed. Why, in the hospital in Montreal they take the very greatest care to air and change the sheets every day. You see so much poison comes through the pores of the skin."
"Do you hear that now?" said Kirsty, amazed. "Indeed, I would be often hearing that those French people are just full of poison and such, and indeed, it is no wonder, for the food they put inside of them."
"O, no, " said Mrs. Murray, "it is the same with all people, but especially so with sick people."
Kirsty looked as doubtful as was consistent with her respect for the minister's wife, and Mrs. Murray went on.
"So you will just get the sheets ready to change, and, Kirsty, a clean night-shirt."
"Night-shirt! and indeed, he has not such a thing to his name." Kirsty's tone betrayed her thankfulness that her brother was free from the effeminacy of a night-shirt; but noting the dismay and confusion on Mrs. Murray's face, she suggested, hesitatingly, "He might have one of my own, but I am thinking it will be small for him across the back."
"I am afraid so, Kirsty," said the minister's wife, struggling hard with a smile. "We will just use one of his own white shirts." But this scandalized Kirsty as an unnecessary and wasteful luxury.
"Indeed, there is plenty of them in the chist, but he will be keeping them for the communion season, and the funerals, and such. He will not be wearing them in his bed, for no one will be seeing him there at all."
"But he will feel so much better," said Mrs. Murray, and her smile was so sweet and winning that Kirsty's opposition collapsed, and without more words both sheets and shirt were produced.
As Kirsty laid them out she observed with a sigh: "Aye, aye, she was the clever woman—the wife, I mean. She was good with the needle, and indeed, at anything she tried to do."
"I did not know her," said Mrs. Murray, softly, "but every one tells me she was a good housekeeper and a good woman."
"She was that," said Kirsty, emphatically, "and she was the light of his eyes, and it was a bad day for Hugh when she went away."
"Now, Kirsty," said Mrs. Murray, after a pause, "before we put on these clean things, we will just give him a sponge bath."
"Mercy sakes! He will not be needing that in the winter, and he will be getting a cold from it. In the summer-time he will be going to the river himself. And how will you be giving him a bath whatever?"
Mrs. Murray carefully explained the process, again fortifying her position by referring to the practices of the Montreal hospital, till, as a result of her persuasions and instructions, in an hour after Macdonald had awakened from his sleep he was lying in his Sabbath white shirt and between fresh sheets, and feeling cleaner and more comfortable than he had for many a day. The fever was much reduced, and he fell again into a deep sleep.
The two women watched beside him, for neither would leave the other to watch alone. And Ranald, who could not be persuaded to go up to his loft, lay on the bunk in the kitchen and dozed. After an hour had passed, Mrs. Murray inquired as to the nourishment Kirsty had given her brother.
"Indeed, he will not be taking anything whatever," said Kirsty, in a vexed tone. "And it is no matter what I will be giving him."
"And what does he like, Kirsty?"
"Indeed, he will be taking anything when he is not seek, and he is that fond of buckwheat pancakes and pork gravy with maple syrup over them, but would he look at it! And I made him new porridge to-night, but he would not touch them."
"Did you try him with gruel, Kirsty?"
"Mercy me, and is it Macdonald Dubh and gruel? He would be flinging the 'feushionless' stuff out of the window."
"But I am sure it would be good for him if he could be persuaded to try it. I should like to try him."
"Indeed, and you may try. It will be easy enough, for the porridge are still in the pot."
Kirsty took the pot from the bench, with the remains of the porridge that had been made for supper still in it, set it on the fire, and pouring some water in it, began to stir it vigorously. It was thick and slimy, and altogether a most repulsive-looking mixture, and Mrs. Murray no longer wondered at Macdonald Dubh's distaste for gruel.
"I think I will make some fresh, if you will let me, Kirsty—in the way I make it for the minister, you know."
Kirsty, by this time, had completely surrendered to Mrs. Murray's guidance, and producing the oatmeal, allowed her to have her way; so that when Macdonald awoke he found Mrs. Murray standing beside him with a bowl of the nicest gruel and a slice of thin dry toast.
He greeted the minister's wife with grave courtesy, drank the gruel, and then lay down again to sleep.
"Will you look at that now?" said Kirsty, amazed at Macdonald Dubh's forbearance. "He would not like to be offending you."
Then Mrs. Murray besought Kirsty to go and lie down for an hour, which Kirsty very unwillingly agreed to do.
It was not long before Macdonald began to toss and mutter in his sleep, breaking forth now and then into wild cries and curses. He was fighting once more his great fight in the Glengarry line, and beating back LeNoir.
"Back, ye devil! Would ye? Take that, then. Come back, Mack!" Then followed a cry so wild that Ranald awoke and came into the room.
"Bring in some snow, Ranald," said the minister's wife; "we will lay some on his head."
She bathed the hot face and hands with ice-cold water, and then laid a snow compress on the sick man's head, speaking to him in quiet, gentle tones, till he was soothed again to sleep.
When the gray light of the morning came in through the little window, Macdonald woke sane and quiet.
"You are better," said Mrs. Murray to him.
"Yes," he said, "I am very well, thank you, except for the pain here." He pointed to his chest.
"You have been badly hurt, Ranald tells me. How did it happen?"
"Well," said Macdonald, slowly, "it is very hard to say."
"Did the tree fall on you?" asked Mrs. Murray.
Macdonald glanced at her quickly, and then answered: "It is very dangerous work with the trees. It is wonderful how quick they will fall."
"Your face and breast seem very badly bruised and cut."
"Aye, yes," said Macdonald. "The breast is bad whatever."
"I think you had better send for Doctor Grant," Mrs. Murray said. "There may be some internal injury."
"No, no," said Macdonald, decidedly. "I will have no doctor at me, and I will soon be round again, if the Lord will. When will the minister be home?"
But Mrs. Murray, ignoring his attempt to escape the subject, went on: "Yes, but, Mr. Macdonald, I am anxious to have Doctor Grant see you, and I wish you would send for him to-morrow."
"Ah, well," said Macdonald, not committing himself, "we will be seeing about that. But the doctor has not been in this house for many a day." Then, after a pause, he added, in a low voice, "Not since the day she was taken from me."
"Was she ill long?"
"Indeed, no. It was just one night. There was no doctor, and the women could not help her, and she was very bad—and when it came it was a girl—and it was dead—and then the doctor arrived, but he was too late." Macdonald Dubh finished with a great sigh, and the minister's wife said gently to him:
"That was a very sad day, and a great loss to you and Ranald."
"Aye, you may say it; she was a bonnie woman whatever, and grand at the spinning and the butter. And, oich-hone, it was a sad day for us."
The minister's wife sat silent, knowing that such grief cannot be comforted, and pitying from her heart the lonely man. After a time she said gently, "She is better off."
A look of doubt and pain and fear came into Macdonald's eyes.
"She never came forward," he said, hesitatingly. "She was afraid to come."
"I have heard of her often, Mr. Macdonald, and I have heard that she was a good and gentle woman."
"Aye, she was that."
"And kind to the sick."
"You may believe it."
"And she loved the house of God."
"Aye, and neither rain nor snow nor mud would be keeping her from it, but she would be going every Sabbath day, bringing her stockings with her."
"Aye, to change her feet in the church. What else? Her stockings would be wet with the snow and water."
Mrs. Murray nodded. "And she loved her Saviour, Mr. Macdonald."
"Indeed, I believe it well, but she was afraid she would not be having 'the marks.'"
"Never you fear, Mr. Macdonald," said Mrs. Murray. "If she loved her Saviour she is with him now."
He turned around to her and lifted himself eagerly on his elbow. "And do you really think that?" he said, in a voice subdued and anxious.
"Indeed I do," said Mrs. Murray, in a tone of certain conviction.
Macdonald sank back on his pillow, and after a moment's silence, said, in a voice of pain: "Oh, but it is a peety she did not know! It is a peety she did not know. For many's the time before—before—her hour came on her, she would be afraid."
"But she was not afraid at the last, Mr. Macdonald?"
"Indeed, no. I wondered at her. She was like a babe in its mother's arms. There was a light on her face, and I mind well what she said." Macdonald paused. There was a stir in the kitchen, and Mrs. Murray, glancing behind her, saw Ranald standing near the door intently listening. Then Macdonald went on. "I mind well the words, as if it was yesterday. 'Hugh, my man,' she said, 'am no feared' (she was from the Lowlands, but she was a fine woman); 'I haena the marks, but 'm no feared but He'll ken me. Ye'll tak' care o' Ranald, for, oh, Hugh! I ha' gi'en him to the Lord. The Lord help you to mak' a guid man o' him.'" Macdonald's voice faltered into silence, then, after a few moments, he cried, "And oh! Mistress Murra', I cannot tell you the often these words do keep coming to me; and it is myself that has not kept the promise I made to her, and may the Lord forgive me."
The look of misery in the dark eyes touched Mrs. Murray to the heart. She laid her hand on Macdonald's arm, but she could not find words to speak. Suddenly Macdonald recalled himself.
"You will forgive me," he said; "and you will not be telling any one."
By this time the tears were streaming down her face, and Mrs. Murray could only say, brokenly, "You know I will not."
"Aye, I do," said Macdonald, with a sigh of content, and he turned his face away from her to the wall.