Away from the house, however, where Nature had her own way, the farm stretched field after field on each side of the snake fenced lane to the line of woods in the distance, a picture of rich and varied beauty. From the rising ground on which the house was situated a lovely vista swept right from the kitchen door away to the remnant of the forest primeval at the horizon. On every field the signs of coming harvest were luxuriantly visible, the hay fields, grey-green with blooming "Timothy" and purple with the deep nestling clover, the fall wheat green and yellowing into gold, the spring wheat a lighter green and bursting into head, the oats with their graceful tasselated stalks, the turnip field ribboned with its lines of delicate green on the dark soil drills, back of all, the "slashing" where stumps, blackened with fire, and trunks of trees piled here and there in confusion, all overgrown with weeds, represented the transition stage between forest and harvest field, and beyond the slashing the dark cool masses of maple, birch, and elm; all these made a scene of such varied loveliness as to delight the soul attuned to nature.
Upon this scene of vivid contrasts, on one side house and barn and yard, and on the other the rolling fields and massive forest, Cameron stood looking in the early light of his first morning on the farm, with mingled feelings of disgust and pleasure. In a few moments, however, the loveliness of the far view caught and held his eye and he stood as in a dream. The gentle rolling landscape, with its rich variety of greens and yellows and greys, that swept away from his feet to the dark masses of woods, with their suggestions of cool and shady depth, filled his soul with a deep joy and brought him memory of how the "Glen of the Cup of Gold" would look that morning in the dear home-land so far away. True, there were neither mountains nor moors, neither lochs nor birch-clad cliffs here. Nature, in her quieter mood, looked up at him from these sloping fields and bosky woods and smiled with kindly face, and that smile of hers it was that brought to Cameron's mind the sunny Glen of the Cup of Gold. It was the sweetest, kindliest thing his eye had looked on since he had left the Glen.
A harsh and fretful voice broke in upon his dreaming.
"Pa-a-w, there ain't a stick of wood for breakfast! There was none last night! If you want any breakfast you'd best git some wood!"
"All right, Mother!" called Haley from the barn yard, where he was assisting in the milking. "I'm a comin'."
Cameron walked to meet him.
"Can I help?" he enquired.
"Why, of course!" shouted Haley. "Here, Ma, here's our new hand, the very man for you."
Mrs. Haley, who had retired to the kitchen, appeared at the door. She was a woman past middle age, unduly stout, her face deep lined with the fret of a multitude of cares, and hung with flabby folds of skin, browned with the sun and wind, though it must be confessed its color was determined more by the grease and grime than by the tan upon it. Yet, in spite of the flabby folds of flesh, in spite of the grime and grease, there was still a reminiscence of a one-time comeliness, all the more pathetic by reason of its all too obvious desecration. Her voice was harsh, her tone fretful, which indeed was hardly to be wondered at, for the burden of her life was by no means light, and the cares of the household, within and without, were neither few nor trivial.
For a moment or two Mrs. Haley stood in silence studying and appraising the new man. The result did not apparently inspire her with hope.
"Come on now, Pa," she said, "stop yer foolin' and git me that wood. I want it right now. You're keepin' me back and there's an awful lot to do."
"But I ain't foolin', Ma. Mr. Cameron is our new hand. He'll knock yeh off a few sticks in no time." So saying, Haley walked off with his pails to the milking, leaving his wife and the new hand facing each other, each uncertain as to the next move.
"What can I do, Mrs. Haley?" enquired Cameron politely.
"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Haley wearily. "I want a few sticks for the breakfast, but perhaps I can get along with chips, but chips don't give no steady fire."
"If you would show me just what to do," said Cameron with some hesitation, "I mean, where is the wood to be got?"
"There," she said, in a surprised tone, pointing to a pile of long logs of ash and maple. "I don't want much." She gathered her apron full of chips and turned away, all too obviously refusing to place her hope of wood for the breakfast fire upon the efforts of the new man. Cameron stood looking alternately at the long, hard, dry logs and at the axe which he had picked up from the bed of chips. The problem of how to produce the sticks necessary to breakfast by the application of the one to the other was one for which he could see no solution. He lifted his axe and brought it down hard upon a maple log. The result was a slight indentation upon the log and a sharp jar from the axe handle that ran up his arm unpleasantly. A series of heavy blows produced nothing more than a corresponding series of indentations in the tough maple log and of jars more or less sharp and painful shooting up his arms. The result was not encouraging, but it flashed upon him that this was his first attempt to make good at his job on the farm. He threw off his coat and went at his work with energy; but the probability of breakfast, so far as it depended upon the result of his efforts, seemed to be growing more and more remote.
"Guess ye ain't got the knack of it," said a voice, deep, full, and mellow, behind him. "That axe ain't no good for choppin', it's a splittin' axe."
Turning, he saw a girl of about seventeen, with little grace and less beauty, but strongly and stoutly built, and with a good-natured, if somewhat stupid and heavy face. Her hair was dun in colour, coarse in texture, and done up loosely and carelessly in two heavy braids, arranged about her head in such a manner as to permit stray wisps of hair to escape about her face and neck. She was dressed in a loose pink wrapper, all too plainly of home manufacture, gathered in at the waist, and successfully obliterating any lines that might indicate the existence of any grace of form, and sadly spotted and stained with grease and dirt. Her red stout arms ended in thick and redder hands, decked with an array of black-rimmed nails. At his first glance, sweeping her "tout ensemble," Cameron was conscious of a feeling of repulsion, but in a moment this feeling passed and he was surprised to find himself looking into two eyes of surprising loveliness, dark blue, well shaped, and of such liquid depths as to suggest pools of water under forest trees.
"They use the saw mostly," said the girl.
"The saw?" echoed Cameron.
"Yes," she said. "They saw 'em through and then split 'em with the axe."
Cameron picked up the buck-saw which lay against a rickety saw horse. Never in his life had he used such an instrument. He gazed helplessly at his companion.
"How do you use this thing?" he enquired.
"Say! are you funny," replied the girl, flashing a keen glance upon him, "or don't ye know?"
"Never saw it done in my life," said Cameron solemnly.
"Here!" she cried, "let me show you."
She seized the end of a maple log, dragged it forward to the rickety saw horse, set it in position, took the saw from his hands, and went at her work with such vigour that in less than a minute as it seemed to Cameron she had made the cut.
"Give me that axe!" she said impatiently to Cameron, who was preparing to split the block.
With a few strong and skillful blows she split the straight-grained block of wood into firewood, gathered up the sticks in her arms, and, with a giggle, turned toward the house.
"I won't charge you anything for that lesson," she said, "but you'll have to hustle if you git that wood split 'fore breakfast."
"Thank you," said Cameron, grateful that none of the men had witnessed the instruction, "I shall do my best," and for the next half hour, with little skill, but by main strength, he cut off a number of blocks from the maple log and proceeded to split them. But in this he made slow progress. From the kitchen came cheerful sounds and scents of cooking, and ever and anon from the door waddled, with quite surprising celerity, the unwieldy bulk of the mistress of the house.
"Now, that's jest like yer Pa," Cameron heard her grumbling to her daughter, "bringin' a man here jest at the busy season who don't know nothin'. He's peckin' away at 'em blocks like a rooster peckin' grain."
"He's willin' enough, Ma," replied the girl, "and I guess he'll learn."
"Learn!" puffed Mrs. Haley contemptuously. "Did ye ever see an old-country man learn to handle an axe or a scythe after he was growed up? Jest look at 'im. Thank goodness! there's Tim."
"Here, Tim!" she called from the door, "best split some o' that wood 'fore breakfast."
Tim approached Cameron with a look of pity on his face.
"Let me have a try," he said. Cameron yielded him the axe. The boy set on end the block at which Cameron had been laboring and, with a swift glancing blow of the axe, knocked off a slab.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Cameron admiringly, "how did you do that?"
For answer the boy struck again the same glancing blow, a slab started and, at a second light blow, fell to the ground.
"I say!" exclaimed Cameron again, "I must learn that trick."
"Oh, that's easy!" said Tim, knocking the slabs off from the outside of the block. "This heart's goin' to be tough, though; got a knot in it," and tough it proved, resisting all his blows.
"You're a tough sucker, now, ain't yeh?" said Tim, through his shut teeth, addressing the block. "We'll try yeh this way." He laid the end of the block upon a log and plied the axe with the full strength of his slight body, but the block danced upon the log and resisted all his blows.
"Say! you're a tough one now!" he said, pausing for breath.
"Let me try that," said Cameron, and, putting forth his strength, he brought the axe down fairly upon the stick with such force that the instrument shore clean through the knot and sank into the log below.
"Huh! that's a cracker," said Tim with ungrudging admiration. "All you want is knack. I'll slab it off and you can do the knots," he added with a grin.
As the result of this somewhat unequal division of labor, there lay in half an hour a goodly pile of fire wood ready for the cooking. It caught Haley's eye as he came in to breakfast.
"I say, Missus, that's a bigger pile than you've had for some time. Guess my new man ain't so slow after all."
"Huh!" puffed his wife, waddling about with great agility, "it was Tim that done it."
"Now, Ma, ye know well enough he helped Tim, and right smart too," said the daughter, but her mother was too busy getting breakfast ready for the hungry men who were now performing their morning ablutions with the help of a very small basin set upon a block of wood outside the kitchen door to answer.
There were two men employed by Haley, one the son of a Scotch-Canadian farmer, Webster by name, a stout young fellow, but slow in his movements, both physical and mental, and with no further ambition than to do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. He was employed by the month during the busier seasons of the year. The other, Perkins, was Haley's "steady" man, which means that he was employed by the year and was regarded almost as a member of the family. Perkins was an Englishman with fair hair and blue eyes, of fresh complexion, burned to a clear red, clean-cut features, and a well knit, athletic frame. He was, as Tim declared, a terror to work; indeed, his fame as a worker was well established throughout the country side. To these men Cameron was introduced as being from Scotland and as being anxious to be initiated into the mysteries of Canadian farm life.
"Glad to see you!" said Perkins, shaking him heartily by the hand. "We'll make a farmer of you, won't we, Tim? From Scotland, eh? Pretty fine country, I hear—to leave," he added, with a grin at his own humour. Though his manner was pleasant enough, Cameron became conscious of a feeling of aversion, which he recognised at once as being as unreasonable as it was inexplicable. He set it down as a reflection of Tim's mental attitude toward the hired man. Perkins seized the tin basin, dipped some water from the rain barrel standing near, and, setting it down before Cameron, said:
"Here, pile in, Scotty. Do they wash in your country?"
"Yes," replied Cameron, "they are rather strong on that," wondering at the same time how the operation could be performed successfully with such a moderate supply of water. After using a second and third supply, however, he turned, with hands and face dripping, and looked about for a towel. Perkins handed him a long roller towel, black with dirt and stiff with grease. Had his life depended upon it Cameron could not have avoided a shuddering hesitation as he took the filthy cloth preparatory to applying it to his face.
"'Twon't hurt you," laughed Perkins. "Wash day ain't till next week, you know, and this is only Wednesday." Suddenly the towel was snatched from Cameron's hands.
"Gimme that towel!" It was the girl, with face aflame and eyes emitting blue fire. "Here; Mr. Cameron, take this," she said.
"Great Jerusalem, Mandy! You ain't goin' to bring on a clean towel the middle of the week?" said Perkins in mock dismay. "Guess it's for Mr. Cameron," he continued with another laugh.
"We give clean towels to them that knows how to use 'em," said Mandy, whisking wrathfully into the house.
"Say, Scotty!" said Perkins, in a loud bantering tone, "guess you're makin' a mash on Mandy all right."
"I don't know exactly what you mean," said Cameron with a quick rising of wrath, "but I do know that you are making a beastly cad of yourself."
"Oh, don't get wrathy, Scotty!" laughed Perkins, "we're just having a little fun. Here's the comb!" But Cameron declined the article, which, from its appearance, seemed to be intended for family use, and, proceeding to his room, completed his toilet there.
The breakfast was laid in the kitchen proper, a spacious and comfortable room, which served as living room for the household. The table was laden with a variety and abundance of food that worthily sustained the reputation of the Haleys of being "good feeders." At one end of the table a large plate was heaped high with slices of fat pork, and here and there disposed along its length were dishes of fried potatoes, huge piles of bread, hot biscuits, plates of butter, pies of different kinds, maple syrup, and apple sauce. It was a breakfast fit for a lord, and Cameron sat down with a pleasurable anticipation induced by his early rising and his half hour's experience in the fresh morning air with the wood pile. A closer inspection, however, of the dishes somewhat damped the pleasure of his anticipation. The food was good, abundant, and well cooked, but everywhere there was an utter absence of cleanliness. The plates were greasy, the forks and knives bore the all too evident remains of former meals, and everywhere were flies. In hundreds they swarmed upon the food, while, drowned in the gravy, cooked in the potatoes, overwhelmed in the maple syrup, buried in the butter, their ghastly carcasses were to be seen. With apparent unconcern the men brushed aside the living and picked out and set aside the remains of the dead, the unhappy victims of their own greed or temerity, and went on calmly and swiftly with their business. Not a word was spoken except by Cameron himself, who, constrained by what he considered to be the ordinary decencies of society, made an effort to keep up a conversation with Mr. Haley at the head of the table and occasionally ventured a remark to his wife, who, with Mandy, was acting as a waiter upon the hungry men. But conversation is a social exercise, and Cameron found himself compelled to abandon his well meant but solitary efforts at maintaining the conventions of the breakfast table. There was neither time nor occasion for conversation. The business of the hour was something quite other, namely, that of devouring as large a portion of the food set before them as was possible within the limits of time assigned for the meal. Indeed, the element of time seemed to be one of very considerable importance, as Cameron discovered, for he was still picking his way gingerly and carefully through his pork and potatoes by the time that Perkins, having completed a second course consisting of pie and maple syrup, had arrived at the final course of bread and butter and apple sauce.
"Circulate the butter!" he demanded of the table in general. He took the plate from Cameron's hand, looked at it narrowly for a moment, then with thumb and forefinger drew from the butter with great deliberation a long dun-coloured hair.
"Say!" he said in a low voice, but perfectly audible, "they forgot to comb it this morning."
Cameron was filled with unspeakable disgust, but, glancing at Mrs. Haley's face, he saw to his relief that both the action and the remark had been unnoticed by her. But on Mandy's face he saw the red ensign of shame and wrath, and in spite of himself he felt his aversion towards the ever-smiling hired man deepen into rage.
Finding himself distanced in his progress through the various courses at breakfast, Cameron determined to miss the intermediate course of pie and maple syrup and, that he might finish on more even terms with the others, proceeded with bread and butter and apple sauce.
"Don't yeh hurry," said Mrs. Haley with hearty hospitality. "Eat plenty, there's lots to spare. Here, have some apple sauce." She caught up the bowl which held this most delicious article of food.
"Where's the spoon?" she said, glancing round the table. There was none immediately available. "Here!" she cried, "this'll do." She snatched a large spoon from the pitcher of thick cream, held it dripping for a moment in obvious uncertainty, then with sudden decision she cried "Never mind," and with swift but effective application of lip and tongue she cleansed the spoon of the dripping cream, and, stirring the apple sauce vigourously, passed the bowl to Cameron. For a single moment Cameron held the bowl, uncertain whether to refuse or not, but before he could make up his mind Mandy caught it from his hands.
"Oh, Ma!" she exclaimed in a horrified tone.
"What's the matter?" exclaimed her mother. "A little cream won't hurt."
But Mandy set the bowl at the far end of the table and passed another to Cameron, who accepted it with resolute determination and continued his breakfast.
But Perkins, followed by Webster and Tim, rose from the table and passed out into the yard, whence his voice could be heard in explosions of laughter. Cameron in the meantime was making heroic attempts to cover up the sound by loud-voiced conversation with Haley, and, rendered desperate by the exigencies of the situation, went so far as to venture a word of praise to Mrs. Haley upon the excellence and abundance of her cooking.
"She ain't got no chance," said her husband. "She's got too much to do and it's awful hard to get help. Of course, there's Mandy."
"Of course, there's Mandy," echoed his wife. "I guess you'd just better say, 'There's Mandy.' She's the whole thing is Mandy. What I'd do without her goodness only knows."
But Mandy was no longer present to enjoy her mother's enconiums. Her voice could be heard in the yard making fierce response to Perkins' jesting remarks. As Cameron was passing out from the kitchen he heard her bitter declaration: "I don't care, it was real mean of you, and I'll pay you for it yet, Mr. Perkins—before a stranger, too." Mandy's voice suggested tears.
"Oh, pshaw, Mandy!" remonstrated Perkins, "it was all a joke, and who cares for him anyway, unless it's yourself?"
But Mandy, catching sight of Cameron, fled with fiery face behind the kitchen, leaving Perkins gazing after her with an apologetic grin upon his countenance.
"She's rather hot under the collar," he confided to Cameron, "but she needn't get so, I didn't mean nothin'."
Cameron ignored him. He was conscious mainly of a resolute determination that at all costs he must not yield to his almost uncontrollable desire to wipe off the apologetic smile with a well directed blow. Mr. Denman's parting advice was in his mind and he was devoting all his powers to the business of adjusting himself to his present environment. But to his fastidious nature the experiences of the morning made it somewhat doubtful if he should be able to carry out the policy of adjustment to the extreme of schooling himself to bear with equal mind the daily contact with the dirt and disorder which held so large a place in the domestic economy of the Haley household. One thing he was firmly resolved upon, he would henceforth perform his toilet in his own room, and thereby save himself the horror of the family roller towel and the family comb.
Breakfast over, the men stood waiting orders for the day.
"We'll have to crowd them turnips through, Tim," said his father, who seemed to avoid as far as possible giving direct orders to his men. "Next week we'll have to git at the hay." So to the turnip field they went.
It is one of the many limitations of a city-bred boy that he knows nothing of the life history and the culture of the things that grow upon a farm. Apples and potatoes he recognises when they appear as articles of diet upon the table; oats and wheat he vaguely associates in some mysterious and remote way with porridge and bread, but whether potatoes grow on trees or oats in pods he has no certain knowledge. Blessed is the country boy for many reasons, but for none more than this, that the world of living and growing things, animate and inanimate, is one which he has explored and which he intimately knows; and blessed is the city boy for whom his wise parents provide means of acquaintance with this wonder workshop of old mother Nature, God's own open country.
Turnip-hoeing is an art, a fine art, demanding all the talents of high genius, a true eye, a sure hand, a sensitive conscience, industry, courage, endurance, and pride in achievement. These and other gifts are necessary to high success. Not to every man is it given to become a turnip-hoer in the truest sense of that word. The art is achieved only after long and patient devotion, and, indeed, many never attain high excellence. Of course, therefore, there are grades of artists in this as in other departments. There are turnip-hoers and turnip-hoers, just as there are painters and painters. It was Tim's ambition to be the first turnip-hoer of his district, and toward this end he had striven both last season and this with a devotion that deserved, if it did not achieve, success. Quietly he had been patterning himself upon that master artist, Perkins, who for some years had easily held the championship for the district. Keenly Tim had been observing Perkins' excellencies and also his defects; secretly he had been developing a style of his own, and, all unnoted, he had tested his speed by that of Perkins by adopting the method of lazily loafing along and then catching up by a few minutes of whirlwind work. Tim felt in his soul the day of battle could not be delayed past this season; indeed, it might come any day. The very thought of it made his slight body quiver and his heart beat so quickly as almost to choke him.
To the turnip field hied Haley's men, Perkins and Webster leading the way, Tim and Cameron bringing up the rear.
"You promised to show me how to do it, Tim," said Cameron. "Remember I shall be very slow."
"Oh, shucks!" replied Tim, "turnip-hoeing is as easy as rollin' off a log if yeh know how to do it."
"Exactly!" cried Cameron, "but that is what I don't. You might give me some pointers."
"Well, you must be able to hit what yeh aim at."
"Ah! that means a good eye and steady hand," said Cameron. "Well, I can do billiards some and golf. What else?"
"Well, you mustn't be too careful, slash right in and don't give a rip."
"Ah! nerve, eh!" said Cameron. "Well, I have done some Rugby in my day—I know something of that. What else? This sounds good."
"Then you've got to leave only one turnip in one place and not a weed; and you mustn't leave any blanks. Dad gets hot over that."
"Indeed, one turnip in each place and not a weed," echoed Cameron. "Say! this business grows interesting. No blanks! Anything else?" he demanded.
"No, I guess not, only if yeh ever git into a race ye've got to keep goin' after you're clear tuckered out and never let on. You see the other chap may be feelin' worse than you."
"By Jove, Tim! you're a born general!" exclaimed Cameron. "You will go some distance if you keep on in that line. Now as to racing let me venture a word, for I have done a little in my time. Don't spurt too soon."
"Eh!" said Tim, all eagerness.
"Don't get into your racing stride too early in the day, especially if you are up against a stronger man. Wait till you know you can stay till the end and then put your best licks in at the finish."
"By Jimminy! you're right," he cried, a glad light in his eye, and a touch of colour in his pale cheek, and Cameron knew he was studying war.
The turnip field, let it be said for the enlightening of the benighted and unfortunate city-bred folk, is laid out in a series of drills, a drill being a long ridge of earth some six inches in height, some eight inches broad on the top and twelve at the base. Upon each drill the seed has been sown in one continuous line from end to end of the field. When this seed has grown each drill will discover a line of delicate green, this line being nothing less than a compact growth of young turnip plants with weeds more or less thickly interspersed. The operation of hoeing consists in the eliminating of the weeds and the superfluous turnip plants in order that single plants, free from weeds, may be left some eight inches apart in unbroken line, extending the whole length of the drill. The artistic hoer, however, is not content with this. His artistic soul demands not only that single plants should stand in unbroken row from end to end along the drill top, but that the drill itself should be pared down on each side to the likeness of a house roof with a perfectly even ridge.
"Ever hoe turnips?" enquired Perkins.
"Never," said Cameron, "and I am afraid I won't make much of a fist at it."
"Well, you've come to a good place to learn, eh, Tim! We'll show him, won't we?"
Tim made no reply, but simply handed Cameron a hoe and picked up his own.
"Now, show me, Tim," said Cameron in a low voice, as Perkins and Webster set off on their drills.
"This is how you do it," replied Tim. "Click-click," forward and back went Tim's sharp shining instrument, leaving a single plant standing shyly alone where had boldly bunched a score or more a moment before. "Click-click-click," and the flat-topped drill stood free of weeds and superfluous turnip plants and trimmed to its proper roof-like appearance.
"I say!" exclaimed Cameron, "this is high art. I shall never reach your class, though, Tim."
"Oh, shucks!" said Tim, "slash in, don't be afraid." Cameron slashed in. "Click-click," "Click-click-click," when lo! a long blank space of drill looked up reproachfully at him.
"Oh, Tim! look at this mess," he said in disgust.
"Never mind!" said Tim, "let her rip. Better stick one in though. Blanks look bad at the END of the drill." So saying, he made a hole in Cameron's drill and with his hoe dug up a bunch of plants from another drill and patted them firmly into place, and, weeding out the unnecessary plants, left a single turnip in its proper place.
"Oh, come, that isn't so bad," said Cameron. "We can always fill up the blanks."
"Yes, but it takes time," replied Tim, evidently with the racing fever in his blood. Patiently Tim schooled his pupil throughout the forenoon, and before the dinner hour had come Cameron was making what to Tim appeared satisfactory progress. It was greatly in Cameron's favor that he possessed a trained and true eye and a steady hand and that he was quick in all his movements.
"You're doin' splendid," cried Tim, full of admiration.
"I say, Scotty!" said Perkins, coming up and casting a critical eye along Cameron's last drill, "you're going to make a turnip-hoer all right."
"I've got a good teacher, you see," cried Cameron.
"You bet you have," said Perkins. "I taught Tim myself, and in two or three years he'll be almost as good as I am, eh, Tim!"
"Huh!" grunted Tim, contemptuously, but let it go at that.
"Perhaps you think you're that now, eh, Tim?" said Perkins, seizing the boy by the back of the neck and rubbing his hand over his hair in a manner perfectly maddening. "Don't you get too perky, young feller, or I'll hang your shirt on the fence before the day's done."
Tim wriggled out of his grasp and kept silent. He was not yet ready with his challenge. All through the afternoon he stayed behind with Cameron, allowing the other two to help them out at the end of each drill, but as the day wore on there was less and less need of assistance for Cameron, for he was making rapid progress with his work and Tim was able to do, not only his own drill, but almost half of Cameron's as well. By supper time Cameron was thoroughly done out. Never had a day seemed so long, never had he known that he possessed so many muscles in his back. The continuous stooping and the steady click-click of the hoe, together with the unceasing strain of hand and eye, and all this under the hot burning rays of a June sun, so exhausted his vitality that when the cow bell rang for supper it seemed to him a sound more delightful than the strains of a Richter orchestra in a Beethoven symphony.
On the way back to the field after supper Cameron observed that Tim was in a state of suppressed excitement and it dawned upon him that the hour of his challenge of Perkins' supremacy as a turnip-hoer was at hand.
"I say, Tim, boy!" he said earnestly, "listen to me. You are going to get after Perkins this evening, eh?"
"How did you know?" said Tim, in surprise.
"Never mind! Now listen to me; I have raced myself some and I have trained men to race. Are you not too tired with your day's work?"
"Tired! Not a bit," said the gallant little soul scornfully.
"Well, all right. It's nice and cool and you can't hurt yourself much. Now, how many drills do you do after supper as a rule?"
"Down and up twice," said Tim.
"How many drills can you do at your top speed, your very top speed, remember?"
"About two drills, I guess," replied Tim, after a moment's thought.
"Now, listen to me!" said Cameron impressively. "Go quietly for two and a half drills, then let yourself out and go your best. And, listen! I have been watching you this afternoon. You have easily done once and a half what Perkins has done and you are going to lick him out of his boots."
Tim gulped a moment or two, looked at his friend with glistening eyes, but said not a word. For the first two and a half drills Cameron exerted to the highest degree his conversational powers with the two-fold purpose of holding back Perkins and Webster and also of so occupying Tim's mind that he might forget for a time the approaching conflict, the strain of waiting for which he knew would be exhausting for the lad. But when the middle of the second last drill had been reached, Tim began unconsciously to quicken his speed.
"I say, Tim," called Cameron, "come here! Am I getting these spaces too wide?" Tim came over to his side. "Now, Tim," said Cameron, in a low voice, "wait a little longer; you can never wear him out. Your only chance is in speed. Wait till the last drill."
But Tim was not to be held back. Back he went to his place and with a rush brought his drill up even with Webster, passed him, and in a few moments like a whirlwind passed Perkins and took the lead.
"Hello, Timmy! where are you going?" asked Perkins, in surprise.
"Home," said Tim proudly, "and I'll tell 'em you're comin'."
"All right, Timmy, my son!" replied Perkins with a laugh, "tell them you won't need no hot bath; I'm after you."
"Click-click," "Click-click-click" was Tim's only answer. It was a distinct challenge, and, while not openly breaking into racing speed, Perkins accepted it.
For some minutes Webster quickened his pace in an attempt to follow the leaders, but soon gave it up and fell back to help Cameron up with his drill, remarking, "I ain't no blamed fool. I ain't going to bust myself for any man. THEY'RE racing, not me."
"Will Tim win?" enquired Cameron.
"Naw! Not this year! Why, Perkins is the best man in the whole country at turnips. He took the Agricultural Society's prize two years ago."
"I believe Tim will beat him," said Cameron confidently, with his eyes upon the two in front.
"Beat nothing!" said Webster. "You just wait a bit, Perkins isn't letting himself out yet."
In a short time Tim finished his drill some distance ahead, and then, though it was quitting time, without a pause he swung into the next.
"Hello, Timmy!" cried Perkins good-naturedly, "going to work all night, eh? Well, I'll just take a whirl out of you," and for the first time he frankly threw himself into his racing gait.
"Good boy, Tim!" called out Cameron, as Tim bore down upon them, still in the lead and going like a small steam engine. "You're all right and going easy. Don't worry!"
But Perkins, putting on a great spurt, drew up within a hoe-handle length of Tim and there held his place.
"All right, Tim, my boy, you can hold him," cried Cameron, as the racers came down upon him.
"He can, eh?" replied Perkins. "I'll show him and you," and with an accession of speed he drew up on a level with Tim.
"Ah, ha! Timmy, my boy! we've got you where we want you, I guess," he exulted, and, with a whoop and still increasing his speed, he drew past the boy.
But Cameron, who was narrowly observing the combatants and their work, called out again:
"Don't worry, Tim, you're doing nice clean work and doing it easily." The inference was obvious, and Perkins, who had been slashing wildly and leaving many blanks and weeds behind him where neither blanks nor weeds should be, steadied down somewhat, and, taking more pains with his work, began to lose ground, while Tim, whose work was without flaw, moved again to the front place. There remained half a drill to be done and the issue was still uncertain. With half the length of a hoe handle between them the two clicked along at a furious pace. Tim's hat had fallen off. His face showed white and his breath was coming fast, but there was no slackening of speed, and the cleanness and ease with which he was doing his work showed that there was still some reserve in him. They were approaching the last quarter when, with a yell, Perkins threw himself again with a wild recklessness into his work, and again he gained upon Tim and passed him.
"Steady, Tim!" cried Cameron, who, with Webster, had given up their own work, it being, as the latter remarked, "quitting time anyway," and were following up the racers. "Don't spoil your work, Tim!" continued Cameron, "don't worry."
His words caught the boy at a critical moment, for Perkins' yell and his fresh exhibition of speed had shaken the lad's nerve. But Cameron's voice steadied him, and, quickly responding, Tim settled down again into his old style, while Perkins was still in the lead, but slashing wildly.
"Fine work, Tim," said Cameron quietly, "and you can do better yet." For a few paces he walked behind the boy, steadying him now and then with a quiet word, then, recognising that the crisis of the struggle was at hand, and believing that the boy had still some reserve of speed and strength, he began to call on him.
"Come on, Tim! Quicker, quicker; come on, boy, you can do better!" His words, and his tone more than his words, were like a spur to the boy. From some secret source of supply he called up an unsuspected reserve of strength and speed and, still keeping up his clean cutting finished style, foot by foot he drew away from Perkins, who followed in the rear, slashing more wildly than ever. The race was practically won. Tim was well in the lead, and apparently gaining speed with every click of his hoe.
"Here, you fellers, what are yeh hashin' them turnips for?" It was Haley's voice, who, unperceived, had come into the field. Tim's reply was a letting out of his last ounce of strength in a perfect fury of endeavour.
"There—ain't—no—hashin'—on this—drill—Dad!" he panted.
The sudden demand for careful work, however, at once lowered Perkins' rate of speed. He fell rapidly behind and, after a few moments of further struggle, threw down his hoe with a whoop and called out, "Quitting time, I guess," and, striding after Tim, he caught him by the arms and swung him round clear off the ground.
"Here, let me go!" gasped the boy, kicking, squirming, and trying to strike his antagonist with his hoe.
"Let the boy go!" said Cameron. The tone in his voice arrested Perkins' attention.
"What's your business?" he cried, with an oath, dropping the boy and turning fiercely upon Cameron.
"Oh, nothing very much, except that Tim's my candidate in this race and he mustn't be interfered with," replied Cameron in a voice still quiet and with a pleasant smile.
Perkins was white and panting; in a moment more he would have hurled himself at the man who stood smiling quietly in his face. At this critical moment Haley interposed.
"What's the row, boys?" he enquired, recognising that something serious was on.
"We have been having a little excitement, Sir, in the form of a race," replied Cameron, "and I've been backing Tim."
"Looks as if you've got him wound up so's he can't stop," replied Haley, pointing to the boy, who was still going at racing pace and was just finishing his drill. "Oh, well, a boy's a boy and you've got to humour him now and then," continued Haley, making conversation with diplomatic skill. Then turning to Perkins, as if dismissing a trivial subject, he added, "Looks to me as if that hay in the lower meadow is pretty nigh fit to cut. Guess we'd better not wait till next week. You best start Tim on that with the mower in the mornin'." Then, taking a survey of the heavens, he added, "Looks as if it might be a spell of good weather." His diplomacy was successful and the moment of danger was past. Meantime Cameron had sauntered to the end of the drill where Tim stood leaning quietly on his hoe.
"Tim, you are a turnip-hoer!" he said, with warm admiration in his tone, "and what's more, Tim, you're a sport. I'd like to handle you in something big. You will make a man yet."
Tim's whole face flushed a warm red under the coat of freckles. For a time he stood silently contemplating the turnips, then with difficulty he found his voice.
"It was you done it," he said, choking over his words. "I was beat there and was just quittin' when you came along and spoke. My!" he continued, with a sharp intake of his breath, "I was awful near quittin'," and then, looking straight into Cameron's eyes, "It was you done it, and—I—won't forget." His voice choked again, but, reading his eyes, Cameron knew that he had gained one of life's greatest treasures, a boy's adoring gratitude.
"This has been a great day, Tim," said Cameron. "I have learned to hoe turnips, and," putting his hand on the boy's shoulder, "I believe I have made a friend." Again the hot blood surged into Tim's face. He stood voiceless, but he needed no words. Cameron knew well the passionate emotion that thrilled his soul and shook the slight body, trembling under his hand. For Tim, too, it had been a notable day. He had achieved the greatest ambition of his life in beating the best turnip-hoer on the line, and he, too, had found what to a boy is a priceless treasure, a man upon whom he could lavish the hero worship of his soul.
A RAINY DAY
It was haying time. Over the fields of yellowing fall wheat and barley, of grey timothy and purple clover, the heat shimmered in dancing waves. Everywhere the growing crops were drinking in the light and heat with eager thirst, for the call of the harvest was ringing through the land. The air was sweet with scents of the hay fields, and the whole country side was humming with the sound of the mowers. It was the crowning time of the year; toward this season all the life of the farm moved steadily the whole year long; the next two months or three would bring to the farmer the fruit of long days of toil and waiting. Every minute of these harvest days, from the early grey dawn, when Mandy called the cows in for the milking, till the long shadows from the orchard lay quite across the wide barley field, when Tim, handling his team with careless pride, drove in the last load for the day, every minute was packed full of life and action. But though busy were the days and full of hard and at times back-breaking and nerve-straining work, what of it? The colour, the rush, the eager race with the flying hours, the sense of triumph, the promise of wealth, the certainty of comfort, all these helped to carry off the heaviest toil with a swing and vim that banished aches from the body and weariness from the soul.
To Cameron, all unskilled as he was, the days brought many an hour of strenuous toil, but every day his muscles were knitting more firmly, his hands were hardening, and his mastery of himself growing more complete.
In haying there is no large place for skill. This operation, unlike that of turnip-hoeing, demands chiefly strength, quickness, and endurance, and especially endurance. To stand all day in the hay field under the burning sun with its rays leaping back from the super-heated ground, and roll up the windrows into huge bundles and toss them on to the wagon, or to run up a long line of cocks and heave them fork-handle high to the top of a load, calls for something of skill, but mainly for strength of arm and back. But skill had its place, and once more it was Tim who stood close to Cameron and showed him all the tricks of pitching hay. It was Tim who showed him how to stand with his back to the wagon so as to get the load properly poised with the least expenditure of strength; it was Tim who taught him the cunning trick of using his thigh as a fulcrum in getting his load up, rather than doing it by "main strength and awkwardness"; it was Tim who demonstrated the method of lifting half a cock by running the end of the fork handle into the ground so that the whole earth might aid in the hoisting of the load. Of course in all this Cameron's intelligence and quickness stood him in the place of long experience, and before the first day's hauling was done he was able to keep his wagon going.
But with all the stimulus of the harvest movement and colour, Cameron found himself growing weary of the life on the Haley farm. It was not the long days, and to none on the farm were the days longer than to Cameron, who had taken upon himself the duty of supplying the kitchen with wood and water, no small business, either at the beginning or at the end of a long day's work; it was not the heavy toil; it was chiefly the continuous contact with the dirt and disorder of his environment that wore his body down and his spirit raw. No matter with how keen a hunger did he approach the dinner table, the disgusting filth everywhere apparent would cause his gorge to rise and, followed by the cheerful gibes of Perkins, he would retire often with his strength unrecruited and his hunger unappeased, and, though he gradually achieved a certain skill in picking his way through a meal, selecting such articles of food as could be less affected than others by the unsavoury surroundings, the want of appetising and nourishing food told disastrously upon his strength. His sleep, too, was broken and disturbed by the necessity of sharing a bed with Webster. He had never been accustomed to "doubling up," and under the most favourable circumstances the experience would not have been conducive to sound sleep, but Webster's manner of life was not such as to render him an altogether desirable bed-fellow. For, while the majority of farm lads in the neighbourhood made at least semi-weekly pilgrimages to the "dam" for a swim, Webster felt no necessity laid upon him for such an expenditure of energy after a hard and sweaty day in the field. His ideas of hygiene were of the most elementary nature; hence it was his nightly custom, when released from the toils of the day, to proceed upstairs to his room and, slipping his braces from his shoulders, allow his nether garments to drop to the floor and, without further preparation, roll into bed. Of the effeminacy of a night robe Webster knew nothing except by somewhat hazy rumour. Once under the patchwork quilt he was safe for the night, for, heaving himself into the middle of the bed, he sank into solid and stertorous slumber, from which all Cameron's prods and kicks failed to arouse him till the grey dawn once more summoned him to life, whereupon, resuming the aforesaid nether garments, he was once more simply, but in his opinion quite sufficiently, equipped for his place among men. Many nights did it happen that the stertorous melody of Webster's all too odourous slumbers drove Cameron to find a bed upon the floor. Once again Tim was his friend, for it was to Tim that Cameron owed the blissful experience of a night in the hay loft upon the newly harvested hay. There, buried in its fragrant depths and drawing deep breaths of the clean unbreathed air that swept in through the great open barn doors, Cameron experienced a joy hitherto undreamed of in association with the very commonplace exercise of sleep. After his first night in the hay mow, which he shared with Tim, he awoke refreshed in body and with a new courage in his heart.
"By Jove, Tim! That's the finest thing I ever had in the way of sleep. Now if we only had a tub."
"Tub! What for?"
"A dip, my boy, a splash."
"To wash in?" enquired Tim, wondering at the exuberance of his friend's desires. "I'll get a tub," he added, and, running to the house, returned with wash tub and towel.
"Tim, my boy, you're a jewel!" exclaimed Cameron.
From the stable cistern they filled the vessel full and first Cameron and, after persuasion and with rather dubious delight, Tim tasted the joy of a morning tub. Henceforth life became distinctly more endurable to Cameron.
But, more than all the other irritating elements in his environment put together, Cameron chafed under the unceasing rasp of Perkins' wit, clever, if somewhat crude and cumbrous. Perkins had never forgotten nor forgiven his defeat at the turnip-hoeing, which he attributed chiefly to Cameron. His gibes at Cameron's awkwardness in the various operations on the farm, his readiness to seize every opportunity for ridicule, his skill at creating awkward situations, all these sensibly increased the wear on Cameron's spirit. All these, however, Cameron felt he could put up with without endangering his self-control, but when Perkins, with vulgar innuendo, chaffed the farmer's daughter upon her infatuation for the "young Scotty," as he invariably designated Cameron, or when he rallied Cameron upon his supposed triumph in the matter of Mandy's youthful affections, then Cameron raged and with difficulty kept his hands from his cheerful and ever smiling tormentor. It did not help matters much that apparently Mandy took no offense at Perkins' insinuations; indeed, it gradually dawned upon Cameron that what to him would seem a vulgar impertinence might to this uncultured girl appear no more than a harmless pleasantry. At all costs he was resolved that under no circumstances would he allow his self-control to be broken through. He would finish out his term with the farmer without any violent outbreak. It was quite possible that Perkins and others would take him for a chicken-hearted fool, but all the same he would maintain this attitude of resolute self-control to the very end. After all, what mattered the silly gibes of an ignorant boor? And when his term was done he would abandon the farm life forever. It took but little calculation to make quite clear that there was not much to hope for in the way of advancement from farming in this part of Canada. Even Perkins, who received the very highest wage in that neighbourhood, made no more than $300 a year; and, with land at sixty to seventy-five dollars per acre, it seemed to him that he would be an old man before he could become the owner of a farm. He was heart sick of the pettiness and sordidness of the farm life, whose horizon seemed to be that of the hundred acres or so that comprised it. Therefore he resolved that to the great West he would go, that great wonderful West with its vast spaces and its vast possibilities of achievement. The rumour of it filled the country side. Meantime for two months longer he would endure.
A rainy day brought relief. Oh, the blessed Sabbath of a rainy day, when the wheels stop and silence falls in the fields; and time tired harvest hands recline at ease upon the new cut and sweet smelling hay on the barn floor, and through the wide open doors look out upon the falling rain that roars upon the shingles, pours down in cataracts from the eaves and washes clean the air that wanders in, laden with those subtle scents that old mother earth releases only when the rain falls. Oh, happy rainy days in harvest time when, undisturbed by conscience, the weary toilers stretch and slumber and wake to lark and chaff in careless ease the long hours through!
In the Haleys' barn they were all gathered, gazing lazily and with undisturbed content at the steady downpour that indicated an all-day rest. Even Haley, upon whose crops the rain was teeming down, was enjoying the rest from the toil, for most of the hay that had been cut was already in cock or in the barn. Besides, Haley worked as hard as the best of them and welcomed a day's rest. So let it rain!
While they lay upon the hay on the barn floor, with tired muscles all relaxed, drinking in the fragrant airs that stole in from the rain-washed skies outside, in the slackening of the rain two neighbours dropped in, big "Mack" Murray and his brother Danny, for a "crack" about things in general and especially to discuss the Dominion Day picnic which was coming off at the end of the following week. This picnic was to be something out of the ordinary, for, in addition to the usual feasting and frolicking, there was advertised an athletic contest of a superior order, the prizes in which were sufficiently attractive to draw, not only local athletes, but even some of the best from the neighbouring city. A crack runner was expected and perhaps even McGee, the big policeman of the London City force, a hammer thrower of fame, might be present.
"Let him come, eh, Mack?" said Perkins. "I guess we ain't afraid of no city bug beating you with the hammer."
"Oh! I'm no thrower," said Mack modestly. "I just take the thing up and give it a fling. I haven't got the trick of it at all."
"Have you practised much?" said Cameron, whose heart warmed at the accent that might have been transplanted that very day from his own North country.
"Never at all, except now and then at the blacksmith's shop on a rainy day," replied Mack. "Have you done anything at it?"
"Oh, I have seen a good deal of it at the games in the north of Scotland," replied Cameron.
"Man! I wish we had a hammer and you could show me the trick of it," said Mack fervently, "for they will be looking to me to throw and I do not wish to be beaten just too easily."
"There's a big mason's hammer," said Tim, "in the tool house, I think."
"Get it, Tim, then," said Mack eagerly, "and we will have a little practise at it, for throw I must, and I have no wish to bring discredit on my country, for it will be a big day. They will be coming from all over. The Band of the Seventh is coming out and Piper Sutherland from Zorra will be there."
"A piper!" echoed Cameron. "Is there much pipe playing in this country?"
"Indeed, you may say that!" said Mack, "and good pipers they are too, they tell me. Piper Sutherland, I think, was of the old Forty-twa. Are you a piper, perhaps?" continued Mack.
"Oh, I play a little," said Cameron. "I have a set in the house."
"God bless my soul!" cried Mack, "and we never knew it. Tell Danny where they are and he will fetch them out. Go, Danny!"
"Never mind, I will get them myself," said Cameron, trying to conceal his eagerness, for he had long been itching for a chance to play and his fingers were now tingling for the chanter.
It was an occasion of great delight, not only to big Mack and his brother Danny and the others, but to Cameron himself. Up and down the floor he marched, making the rafters of the big barn ring with the ancient martial airs of Scotland and then, dropping into a lighter strain, he set their feet a-rapping with reels and strathspeys.
"Man, yon's great playing!" cried Mack with fervent enthusiasm to the company who had gathered to the summons of the pipes from the house and from the high road, "and think of him keeping them in his chest all this time! And what else can you do?" went on Mack, with the enthusiasm of a discoverer. "You have been in the big games, too, I warrant you."
Cameron confessed to some experience of these thrilling events.
"Bless my soul! We will put you against the big folk from the city. Come and show us the hammer," said Mack, leading the way out of the barn, for the rain had ceased, with a big mason's hammer in his hand. It needed but a single throw to make it quite clear to Cameron that Mack was greatly in need of coaching. As he said himself he "just took up the thing and gave it a fling." A mighty fling, too, it proved to be.
"Twenty-eight paces!" cried Cameron, and then, to make sure, stepped it back again. "Yes," he said, "twenty-eight paces, nearly twenty-nine. Great Caesar! Mack, if you only had the Braemar swing you would be a famous thrower."
"Och, now, you are just joking me!" said Mack modestly.
"You can add twenty feet easily to your throw if you get the swing," asserted Cameron. "Look here, now, get this swing," and Cameron demonstrated in his best style the famous Braemar swing.
"Thirty-two paces!" said Mack in amazement after he had measured the throw. "Man alive! you can beat McGee, let alone myself."
"Now, Mack, get the throw," said Cameron, with enthusiasm. "You will be a great thrower." But try though he might Mack failed to get the swing.
"Man, come over to-night and bring your pipes. Danny will fetch out his fiddle and we will have a bit of a frolic, and," he added, as if in an afterthought, "I have a big hammer yonder, the regulation size. We might have a throw or so."
"Thanks, I will be sure to come," said Cameron eagerly.
"Come, all of you," said Mack, "and you too, Mandy. We will clear out the barn floor and have a regular hoe-down."
"Oh, pshaw!" giggled Mandy, tossing her head. "I can't dance."
"Oh, come along and watch me, then," said Mack, in good humour, who, with all his two hundred pounds, was lightfooted as a girl.
The Murrays' new big bank barn was considered the finest in the country and the new floor was still quite smooth and eminently suited to a "hoe-down." Before the darkness had fallen, however, Mack drew Cameron, with Danny, Perkins, and a few of the neighbours who had dropped in, out to the lane and, giving him a big hammer, "Try that," he said, with some doubt in his tone.
Cameron took the hammer.
"This is the right thing. The weight of it will make more difference to me, however, than to you, Mack."
"Oh, I'm not so sure," said Mack. "Show us how you do it."
The first throw Cameron took easily.
"Twenty-nine paces!" cried Mack, after stepping it off. "Man! that's a great throw, and you do it easy."
"Not much of a throw," laughed Cameron. "Try it yourself."
Ignoring the swing, Mack tried the throw in his own style and hurled the hammer two paces beyond Cameron's throw.
"You did that with your arms only," said Cameron. "Now you must put legs and shoulders into it."
"Let's see you beat that throw yourself," laughed Perkins, who was by no means pleased with the sudden distinction that had come to the "Scotty."
Cameron took the hammer and, with the easy slow grace of the Braemar swing, made his throw.
"Hooray!" yelled Danny, who was doing the measuring. "You got it yon time for sure. Three paces to the good. You'll have to put your back into it, Mack, I guess."
Once more Mack seized the hammer. Then Cameron took Mack in hand and, over and over again, coached him in the poise and swing.
"Now try it, and think of your legs and back. Let the hammer take care of itself. Now, nice and easy and slow, not far this time."
Again and again Mack practised the swing.
"You're getting it!" cried Cameron enthusiastically, "but you are trying too hard. Forget the distance this time and think only of the easy slow swing. Let your muscles go slack." So he coached his pupil.
At length, after many attempts, Mack succeeded in delivering his hammer according to instructions.
"Man! you are right!" he exclaimed. "That's the trick of it and it is as smooth as oil."
"Keep it up, Mack," said Cameron, "and always easy."
Over and over again he put the big man through the swing till he began to catch the notion of the rhythmic, harmonious cooperation of the various muscles in legs and shoulders and arms so necessary to the highest result.
"You've got the swing, Mack," at length said Cameron. "Now then, this time let yourself go. Don't try your best, but let yourself out. Easy, now, easy. Get it first in your mind."
For a moment Mack stood pondering. He was "getting it in his mind." Then, with a long swing, easy and slow, he gave the great hammer a mighty heave. With a shout the company crowded about.
"Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven! Hooray! bully for you, Mack. You are the lad!"
"Get the line on it," said Mack quietly. The measuring line showed one hundred and eleven and a half feet. The boys crowded round him, exclaiming, cheering, patting him on the back. Mack received the congratulations in silence, then, turning to Cameron, said very earnestly:
"Man! yon's as easy as eating butter. You have done me a good turn to-day."
"Oh, that's nothing, Mack," said Cameron, who was more pleased than any of them. "You got the swing perfectly that time. You can put twenty feet to that throw. One hundred and eleven feet! Why, I can beat that myself."
"Man alive! Do you tell me now!" said Mack in amazement, running his eyes over Cameron's lean muscular body.
"I have done it often when I was in shape."
"Oh, rats!" said Perkins with a laugh. "Where was that?"
Cameron flushed a deep red, then turned pale, but kept silent.
"I believe you, my boy," said Mack with emphasis and facing sharply upon Perkins, "and if ever I do a big throw I will owe it to you."
"Oh, come off!" said Perkins, again laughing scornfully. "There are others that know the swing besides Scotty here. What you have got you owe to no one but yourself, Mack."
"If I beat the man McGee next week," said Mack quietly, "it will be from what I learned to-night, and I know what I am saying. Man! it's a lucky thing we found you. But that will do for just now. Come along to the barn. Hooray for the pipes and the lassies! They are worth all the hammers in the world!" And, putting his arm through Cameron's, he led the way to the barn, followed by the others.
"If Scotty could only hoe turnips and tie wheat as well as he can play the pipes and throw the hammer," said Perkins to the others as they followed in the rear, "I guess he'd soon have us all leaning against the fence to dry."
"He will, too, some day," said Tim, whose indignation at Perkins overcame the shyness which usually kept him silent in the presence of older men.
"Hello, Timmy! What are you chipping in for?" said Perkins, reaching for the boy's coat collar. "He thinks this Scotty is the whole works, and he is great too—at showing people how to do things."
"I hear he showed Tim how to hoe turnips," said one of the boys slyly. The laugh that followed showed that the story of Tim's triumph over the champion had gone abroad.
"Oh, rot!" said Perkins angrily. "Tim's got a little too perky because I let him get ahead of me one night in a drill of turnips."
"Yeh done yer best, didn't he, Webster?" cried Tim with indignation.
"Well, he certainly was making some pretty big gashes in them drills," said Webster slowly.
"Oh, get out!" replied Perkins. "Though all the same Tim's quite a turnip-hoer," he conceded. "Hello! There's quite a crowd in the barn, Danny. I wish I had my store clothes on."
At this a girl came running to meet them.
"Come on, Danny! Tune up. I can hardly keep my heels on my boots."
"Oh, you'll not be wanting my little fiddle after you have heard Cameron on the pipes, Isa."
"Never you fear that, Danny," replied Isa, catching him by the arm and hurrying him onward.
"Wait a minute. I want you to meet Mr. Cameron," said Danny.
"Come away, then," replied Isa. "I am dying to get done with it and get the fiddle going."
But Cameron was in the meantime engaged, for Mack was busy introducing him to a bevy of girls who stood at one corner of the barn floor.
"My! but he's a braw lad!" said Isa gayly, as she watched Cameron making his bows.
"Yes, he is that," replied Danny with enthusiastic admiration, "and a hammer-thrower, too, he is."
"What! yon stripling?"
"You may say it. He can beat Mack there."
"Mack!" cried Isa, with scorn. "It's just big lies you are telling me."
"Indeed, he has beaten Mack's best throw many a time."
"And how do you know?" exclaimed Isa.
"He said so himself."
"Ah ha!" said Isa scornfully. "He is good at blowing his own horn whatever, and I don't believe he can beat Mack—and I don't like him a bit," she continued, her dark eyes flashing and the red colour glowing in her full round cheek.
"Come, Isa!" cried Mack, catching sight of her in the dim light. "Come here, I want Mr. Cameron to meet you."
"How do you do?" said the girl, giving Cameron her hand and glancing saucily into his face. "I hear you are a piper and a hammer-thrower and altogether a wonderful man."
"A wonderfully lucky man, to have the pleasure of meeting you," said Cameron, glancing boldly back at her.
"And I am sure you can dance the fling," continued Isa. "All the Highlanders do."
"Not all," said Cameron. "But with certain partners all Highlanders would love to try."
"Oh aye," with a soft Highland accent that warmed Cameron's blood. "I see you have the tongue. Come away, Danny, now, strike up, or I will go on without you." And the girl kilted her skirts and began a reel, and as Mack's eyes followed her every step there was no mistaking their expression. To Mack there was only one girl in the barn, or in all the world for that matter, and that was the leal-hearted, light-footed, black-eyed Isa MacKenzie. Bonnie she was, and that she well knew, the belle of the whole township, driving the men to distraction and for all that holding the love of her own sex as well. But her heart was still her own, or at least she thought it was, for all big Mack Murray's open and simple-hearted adoration, and she was ready for a frolic with any man who could give her word for word or dance with her the Highland reel.
With the courtesy of a true gentleman, Danny led off with his fiddle till they had all got thoroughly into the spirit and swing of the frolic, and then, putting his instrument back into its bag, he declared that they were all tired of it and were waiting for the pipes.
"Not a bit of it!" cried Isa. "But we will give you a rest, Danny, and besides I want to dance a reel with you myself—though Mr. Cameron is not bad," she added, with a little bow to Cameron, with whom she had just finished a reel.
Readily enough Cameron tuned his pipes, for he was aching to get at them and only too glad to furnish music for the gay company of kindly hearted folk who were giving him his first evening's pleasure since he had left the Cuagh Oir.
From reel to schottische and from schottische to reel, foursome and eightsome, they kept him playing, ever asking for more, till the gloaming passed into moonlight and still they were not done. The respite came through Mandy, who, solid in weight and heavy of foot, had laboured through the reels as often as she could get a partner, and at other times had sat gazing in rapt devotion upon the piper.
"Whoop her up again, Scotty!" cried Perkins, when Cameron paused at the end of a reel.
"Don't you do it!" said Mandy sharply, her deep voice booming through the barn. "He's just tired of it, and I'm tired looking at him."
There was a shout of laughter which covered poor Mandy with wrathful confusion.
"Good for you, Mandy," cried Perkins with a great guffaw. "You want some music now, don't you? So do I. Come on, Danny."
"No, I don't," snapped Mandy, who could understand neither the previous laugh nor that which greeted Perkins' sally.
"Allan," she said, sticking a little over the name, "is tired out, and besides it's time we were going home."
"That's right, take him home, Mandy, and put the little dear to bed," said Perkins.
"You needn't be so smart, Joe Perkins," said Mandy angrily. "Anyway I'm going home. I've got to be up early."
"Me too, Mandy," said Cameron, packing up his pipes, for his sympathy had been roused for the girl who was championing him so bravely. "I have had a great night and I have played you all to death; but you will forgive me. I was lonely for the chanter. I have not touched it since I left home."
There was a universal cry of protest as they gathered about him.
"Indeed, Mr. Cameron, you have given us all a rare treat," cried Isa, coming close to him, "and I only wish you could pipe and dance at the same time."
"That's so!" cried Mack, "but what's the matter with the fiddle, Isa? Come, Danny, strike up. Let them have a reel together."
Cameron glanced at Mandy, who was standing impatiently waiting. Perkins caught the glance.
"Oh, please let him stay, Mandy," he pleaded.
"He can stay if he likes," sniffed Mandy scornfully. "I got no string on him; but I'm goin' home. Good-night, everybody."
"Good-night, Mandy," called Perkins. "Tell them we're comin'."
"Just a moment, Mandy!" said Cameron, "and I'm with you. Another time I hope to do a reel with you, Miss MacKenzie," he said, bidding her good-night, "and I hope it will be soon."
"Remember, then," cried Isa, warmly shaking hands with him. "I will keep you to your promise at the picnic."
"Fine!" said Cameron, and with easy grace he made his farewells and set off after Mandy, who by this time was some distance down the lane.
"You needn't come for me," she said, throwing her voice at him over her shoulder.
"What a splendid night we have had!" said Cameron, ignoring her wrath. "And what awfully nice people."
Mandy grunted and in silence continued her way down the lane, picking her steps between the muddy spots and pools left by the rain.
After some minutes Cameron, who was truly sorry for the girl, ventured to resume the conversation.
"Didn't you enjoy the evening, Mandy?"
"No, I didn't!" she replied shortly. "I can't dance and they all know it."
"Why don't you learn, Mandy? You could dance if you practised."
"I can't. I ain't like the other girls. I'm too clumsy."
"Not a bit of it," said Cameron. "I've watched you stepping about the house and you are not a bit clumsy. If you only practised a bit you would soon pick up the schottische."
"Oh, you're just saying that because you know I'm mad," said Mandy, slightly mollified.
"Not at all. I firmly believe it. I saw you try a schottische to-night with Perkins and—"
"Oh, shucks!" said Mandy. "He don't give me no show. He gets mad when I tramp on him."
"All you want is practise, Mandy," replied Cameron.
"Oh, I ain't got no one to show me," said Mandy. "Perkins he won't be bothered, and—and—there's no one else," she added shyly.
"Why, I—I would show you," replied Cameron, every instinct of chivalry demanding that he should play up to her lead, "if I had any opportunity."
"When?" said Mandy simply.
"When?" echoed Cameron, taken aback. "Why, the first chance we get."
As he spoke the word they reached the new bridge that crossed the deep ditch that separated the lane from the high road.
"Here's a good place right here on this bridge," said Mandy with a giggle.
"But we have no music," stammered Cameron, aghast at the prospect of a dancing lesson by moonlight upon the public highway.
"Oh, pshaw!" said Mandy. "We don't need music. You can just count. I seen Isa showin' Mack once and they didn't have no music. But," she added, regarding Cameron with suspicion, "if you don't want to—"
"Oh, I shall be glad to, but wouldn't the porch be better?" he replied in desperation.
"The porch! That's so," assented Mandy eagerly. "Let's hurry before the rest come home." So saying, she set off at a great pace, followed by Cameron ruefully wondering to what extent the lesson in the Terpsichorean art might be expected to go.
As soon as the porch was reached Mandy cried—
"Now let's at the thing. I'm going to learn that schottische if it costs a leg."
Without stopping to enquire whose leg might be in peril, Cameron proceeded with his lesson, and he had not gone through many paces till he began to recognise the magnitude of the task laid upon him. The girl's sense of time was accurate enough, but she was undeniably awkward and clumsy in her movements and there was an almost total absence of coordination of muscle and brain. She had, however, suffered too long and too keenly from her inability to join with the others in the dance to fail to make the best of her opportunity to relieve herself of this serious disability.
So, with fierce industry she poised, counted and hopped, according to Cameron's instructions and example, with never a sign of weariness, but alas with little indication of progress.
"Oh, shucks! I can't do it!" she cried at length, pausing in despair. "I think we could do it better together. That's the way Mack and Isa do it. I've seen them at it for an hour."
Cameron's heart sank within him. He had caught an exchange of glances between the two young people mentioned and he could quite understand how a lesson in the intricacies of the Highland schottische might very well be extended over an hour to their mutual satisfaction, but he shrank with a feeling of dismay, if not disgust, from a like experience with the girl before him.
He was on the point of abruptly postponing the lesson when his eye fell upon her face as she stood in the moonlight which streamed in through the open door. Was it the mystic alchemy of the moon on her face, or was it the glowing passion in her wonderful eyes that transfigured the coarse features? A sudden pity for the girl rose in Cameron's heart and he said gently, "We will try it together, Mandy."
He took her hand, put his arm about her waist, but, as he drew her towards him, with a startled look in her eyes she shrank back saying hurriedly:
"I guess I won't bother you any more to-night. You've been awfully good to me. You're tired."
"Not a bit, Mandy, come along," replied Cameron briskly.
At that moment a shadow fell upon the square of moonlight on the floor. Mandy started back with a cry.
"My! you scairt me. We were—Allan—Mr. Cameron was learnin' me the Highland schottische." Her face and her voice were full of fear.
It was Perkins. White, silent, and rigid, he stood regarding them, for minutes, it seemed, then turned away.
"Let's finish," said Cameron quietly.
"Oh! no, no!" said Mandy in a low voice. "He's awful mad! I'm scairt to death! He'll do something! Oh! dear, dear! He's awful when he gets mad."
"Nonsense!" said Cameron. "He can't hurt you."
"No, but you!"
"Oh, don't worry about me. He won't hurt me."
Cameron's tone arrested the girl's attention.
"But promise me—promise me!" she cried, "that you won't touch him." She clutched his arm in a fierce grip.
"Certainly I won't touch him," said Cameron easily, "if he behaves himself." But in his heart he was conscious of a fierce desire that Perkins would give him the opportunity to wipe out a part at least of the accumulated burden of insult he had been forced to bear during the last three weeks.
"Oh!" wailed Mandy, wringing her hands. "I know you're going to fight him. I don't want you to! Do you hear me?" she cried, suddenly gripping Cameron again by the arm and shaking him. "I don't want you to! Promise me you won't!" She was in a transport of fear.
"Oh, this is nonsense, Mandy," said Cameron, laughing at her. "There won't be any fight. I'll run away."
"All right," replied the girl quietly, releasing his arm. "Remember you promised." She turned from him.
"Good night, Mandy. We will finish our lesson another time, eh?" he said cheerfully.
"Good night," replied Mandy, dully, and passed through the kitchen and into the house.
Cameron watched her go, then poured for himself a glass of milk from a pitcher that always stood upon the table for any who might be returning home late at night, and drank it slowly, pondering the situation the while.
"What a confounded mess it is!" he said to himself. "I feel like cutting the whole thing. By Jove! That girl is getting on my nerves! And that infernal bounder! She seems to—Poor girl! I wonder if he has got any hold on her. It would be the greatest satisfaction in the world to teach HIM a few things too. But I have made up my mind that I am not going to end up my time here with any row, and I'll stick to that; unless—" and, with a tingling in his fingers, he passed out into the moonlight.
As he stepped out from the door a dark mass hurled itself at him, a hand clutched at his throat, missed as he swiftly dodged back, and carried away his collar. It was Perkins, his face distorted, his white teeth showing in a snarl as of a furious beast. Again with a beast-like growl he sprang, and again Cameron avoided him; while Perkins, missing his clutch, stumbled over a block of wood and went crashing head first among a pile of pots and pans and, still unable to recover himself and wildly grasping whatever chanced to be within reach, fell upon the board that stood against the corner of the porch to direct the rain into the tub; but the unstable board slid slowly down and allowed the unfortunate Perkins to come sitting in the tub full of water.
"Very neatly done, Perkins!" cried Cameron, whose anger at the furious attack was suddenly transformed into an ecstasy of delight at seeing the plight of his enemy.
Like a cat Perkins was on his feet and, without a single moment's pause, came on again in silent fury. By an evil chance there lay in his path the splitting axe, gleaming in the moonlight. Uttering a low choking cry, as of joy, he seized the axe and sprang towards his foe. Quicker than thought Cameron picked up a heavy arm chair that stood near the porch to use it as a shield against the impending attack.
"Are you mad, Perkins?" he cried, catching the terrific blow that came crashing down, upon the chair.
Then, filled with indignant rage at the murderous attack upon him, and suddenly comprehending the desperate nature of the situation, he sprang at his antagonist, thrusting the remnants of the chair in his face and, following hard and fast upon him, pushed him backward and still backward till, tripping once more, he fell supine among the pots and pans. Seizing the axe that had dropped from his enemy's hand, Cameron hurled it far beyond the wood pile and then stood waiting, a cold and deadly rage possessing him.
"Come on, you dog!" he said through his shut teeth. "You have been needing this for some time and now you'll get it."
"What is it, Joe?"
Cameron quickly turned and saw behind him Mandy, her face blanched, her eyes wide, and her voice faint with terror.
"Oh, nothing much," said Cameron, struggling to recover himself. "Perkins stumbled over the tub among the pots and pans there. He made a great row, too," he continued with a laugh, striving to get his voice under control.
"What is it, Joe?" repeated Mandy, approaching Perkins. But Perkins stood leaning against the corner of the porch in a kind of dazed silence.
"You've been fighting," she said, turning upon Cameron.
"Not at all," said Cameron lightly, "but, if you must know, Perkins went stumbling among these pots and pans and finally sat down in the tub; and naturally he is mad."
"Is that true, Joe?" said Mandy, moving slowly nearer him.
"Oh, shut up, Mandy! I'm all wet, that's all, and I'm going to bed."
His voice was faint as though he were speaking with an effort.
"You go into the house," he said to the girl. "I've got something to say to Cameron here."
"You are quarreling."
"Oh, give us a rest, Mandy, and get out! No, there's no quarreling, but I want to have a talk with Cameron about something. Go on, now!"
For a few moments she hesitated, looking from one to the other.
"It's all right, Mandy," said Cameron quietly. "You needn't be afraid, there won't be any trouble."
For a moment more she stood, then quietly turned away.
"Wait!" said Perkins to Cameron, and followed Mandy into the house. For some minutes Cameron stood waiting.
"Now, you murderous brute!" he said, when Perkins reappeared. "Come down to the barn where no girl can interfere." He turned towards the barn.
"Hold on!" said Perkins, breathing heavily. "Not to-night. I want to say something. She's waiting to see me go upstairs."
Cameron came back.
"What have you got to say, you cur?" he asked in a voice filled with a cold and deliberate contempt.
"Don't you call no names," replied Perkins. "It ain't no use." His voice was low, trembling, but gravely earnest. "Say, I might have killed you to-night." His breath was still coming in quick short gasps.
"You tried your best, you dog!" said Cameron.
"Don't you call no names," panted Perkins again. "I might—a—killed yeh. I'm mighty—glad—I didn't." He spoke like a man who had had a great deliverance. "But don't yeh," here his teeth snapped like a dog's, "don't yeh ever go foolin' with that girl again. Don't yeh—ever—do it. I seen yeh huggin' her in there and I tell yeh—I tell yeh—," his breath began to come in sobs, "I won't stand it—I'll kill yeh, sure as God's in heaven."
"Are you mad?" said Cameron, scanning narrowly the white distorted face.
"Mad? Yes, I guess so—I dunno—but don't yeh do it, that's all. She's mine! Mine! D'yeh hear?"
He stepped forward and thrust his snarling face into Cameron's.
"No, I ain't goin' to touch yeh," as Cameron stepped back into a posture of defense, "not to-night. Some day, perhaps." Here again his teeth came together with a snap. "But I'm not going to have you or any other man cutting in on me with that girl. D'yeh hear me?" and he lifted a trembling forefinger and thrust it almost into Cameron's face.
Cameron stood regarding him in silent and contemptuous amazement. Neither of them saw a dark form standing back out of the moonlight, inside the door. At last Cameron spoke.
"Now what the deuce does all this mean?" he said slowly. "Is this girl by any unhappy chance engaged to you?"
"Yes, she is—or was as good as, till you came; but you listen to me. As God hears me up there"—he raised his shaking hand and pointed up to the moonlit sky, and then went on, chewing on his words like a dog on a bone—"I'll cut the heart out of your body if I catch you monkeying round that girl again. You've got to get out of here! Everything was all right till you came sneaking in. You've got to get out! You've got to get out! D'yeh hear me? You've got to get out!"
His voice was rising, mad rage was seizing him again, his fingers were opening and shutting like a man in a death agony.
Cameron glanced towards the door.
"I'm done," said Perkins, noting the glance. "That's my last word. You'd better quit this job." His voice again took on an imploring tone. "You'd better go or something will sure happen to you. Nobody will miss you much, except perhaps Mandy." His ghastly face twisted into a snarling smile, his eyes appeared glazed in the moonlight, his voice was husky—the man seemed truly insane.
Cameron stood observing him quietly when he had ceased speaking.
"Are you finished? Then hear me. First, in regard to this girl, she doesn't want me and I don't want her, but make up your mind, I promise you to do all I can to prevent her falling into the hands of a brute like you. Then as to leaving this place, I shall go just when it suits me, no sooner."
"All right," said Perkins, his voice low and trembling. "All right, mind I warned you! Mind I warned you! But if you go foolin' with that girl, I'll kill yeh, so help me God."
These words he uttered with the solemnity of an oath and turned towards the porch. A dark figure flitted across the kitchen and disappeared into the house. Cameron walked slowly towards the barn.
"He's mad. He's clean daffy, but none the less dangerous," he said to himself. "What a rotten mess all this is!" he added in disgust. "By Jove! The whole thing isn't worth while."
But as he thought of Mandy's frightened face and imploring eyes and the brutal murderous face of the man who claimed her as his own, he said between his teeth:
"No, I won't quit now. I'll see this thing through, whatever it costs," and with this resolve he set himself to the business of getting to sleep; in which, after many attempts, he was at length successful.
HOW THEY SAVED THE DAY
There never was such a Dominion Day for weather since the first Dominion Day was born. Of this "Fatty" Freeman was fully assured. Fatty Freeman was a young man for whose opinion older men were accustomed to wait. His person more than justified his praenomen, for Mr. Harper Freeman, Jr., was undeniably fat. "Fat, but fine and frisky," was ever his own comment upon the descriptive adjective by which his friends distinguished him. And fine and frisky he was; fine in his appreciation of good eating, fine in his judgment of good cattle and fine in his estimate of men; frisky, too, and utterly irrepressible. "Harp's just like a young pup," his own father, the Reverend Harper Freeman, the old Methodist minister of the Maplehill circuit, used to say. "If Harp had a tail he would never do anything but play with it." On this, however, it is difficult to hold any well based opinion. Ebullient in his spirits, he radiated cheeriness wherever he went and was at the bottom of most of the practical jokes that kept the village of Maplehill in a state of ferment; yet if any man thought to turn a sharp corner in business with Mr. Harper Freeman, Jr., he invariably found that frisky individual waiting for him round the corner with a cheery smile of welcome, shrewd and disconcerting. It was this cheery shrewdness of his that made him the most successful cattle buyer in the county and at the same time secretary of the Middlesex Caledonian Society. As secretary of this society he was made chiefly responsible for the success of the Dominion Day picnic and, as with everything that he took hold of, Fatty toiled at the business of preparation for this picnic with conscientious zeal, giving to it all his spare hours and many of his working hours for the three months preceding.
It was due solely to his efforts that so many distinguished county magnates appeared eager to lend their patronage. It needed but a little persuasion to secure the enthusiastic support of the Honourable J. J. Patterson, M.P.P., and, incidentally, the handsome challenge cup for hammer-throwing, for the honourable member of Parliament was a full-blooded Highlander himself and an ardent supporter of "the games." But only Fatty Freeman's finesse could have extracted from Dr. Kane, the Opposition candidate for Provincial Parliamentary honours, the cup for the hundred yards race, and other cups from other individuals more or less deeply interested in Dominion, Provincial, and Municipal politics. The prize list secured, it needed only a skillful manipulation of the local press and a judicious but persistent personal correspondence to swell the ranks of the competitors in the various events, and thus ensure a monster attendance of the people from the neighbouring townships and from the city near by.
The weather being assured, Fatty's anxieties were mostly allayed, for he had on the file in his office acceptance letters from the distinguished men who were to cast the spell of their oratory over the assembled multitude, as also from the big men in the athletic world who had entered for the various events in the programme of sports. It was a master stroke of diplomacy that resulted in the securing for the hammer-throwing contest the redoubtable and famous Duncan Ross of Zorra, who had at first disdained the bait of the Maplehill Dominion Day picnic, but in some mysterious way had at length been hooked and landed. For Duncan was a notable man and held the championship of the Zorras; and indeed in all Ontario he was second only to the world-famous Rory Maclennan of Glengarry, who had been to Braemar itself and was beaten there only by a fluke. How he came to agree to be present at the Maplehill picnic "Black Duncan" could not quite understand, but had he compared notes with McGee, the champion of the London police force and of various towns and cities of the western peninsula, he would doubtless have received some enlightenment. To the skill of the same master hand was due the appearance upon the racing list of the Dominion Day picnic of such distinguished names as Cahill of London, Fullerton of Woodstock, and especially of Eugene La Belle of nowhere in particular, who held the provincial championship for skating and was a runner of provincial fame.
In the racing Fatty was particularly interested because his young brother Wilbur, of whom he was uncommonly proud, a handsome lad, swift and graceful as a deer, was to make his first essay for more than local honours.
The lists for the other events were equally well filled and every detail of the arrangements for the day had passed under the secretary's personal review. The feeding of the multitude was in charge of the Methodist Ladies' Aid, an energetic and exceptionally businesslike organization, which fully expected to make sufficient profit from the enterprise to clear off the debt from their church at Maplehill, an achievement greatly desired not only by the ladies themselves but by their minister, the Reverend Harper Freeman, now in the third year of his incumbency. The music was to be furnished by the Band of the Seventh from London and by no less a distinguished personage than Piper Sutherland himself from Zorra, former Pipe Major of "The old Forty-twa." The discovery of another piper in Cameron brought joy to the secretary's heart, who only regretted that an earlier discovery had not rendered possible a pipe competition.
Early in the afternoon the crowds began to gather to MacBurney's woods, a beautiful maple grove lying midway between the Haleys' farm and Maplehill village, about two miles distant from each. The grove of noble maple trees overlooking a grassy meadow provided an ideal spot for picnicking, furnishing as it did both shade from the sun and a fine open space with firm footing for the contestants in the games. High over a noble maple in the centre of the grassy meadow floated the Red Ensign of the Empire, which, with the Canadian coat of arms on the fly, by common usage had become the national flag of Canada. From the great trees the swings were hung, and under their noble spreading boughs were placed the tables, and the platform for the speech making and the dancing, while at the base of the encircling hills surrounding the grassy meadow, hard by the grove another platform was placed, from which distinguished visitors might view with ease and comfort the contests upon the campus immediately adjacent.
Through the fence, let down for the purpose, the people drove in from the high road. They came in top buggies and in lumber wagons, in democrats and in "three seated rigs," while from the city came a "four-in-hand" with McGee, Cahill, and their backers, as well as other carriages filled with good citizens of London drawn thither by the promise of a day's sport of more than usual excellence or by the lure of a day in the woods and fields of God's open country. A specially fine carriage and pair, owned and driven by the honourable member of Parliament himself, conveyed Piper Sutherland, with colours streaming and pipes playing, to the picnic grounds. Warmly was the old piper welcomed, not only by the frisky cheery secretary, but by many old friends, and by none more warmly than by the Reverend Alexander Munro, the douce old bachelor Presbyterian minister of Maplehill, a great lover of the pipes and a special friend of Piper Sutherland. But the welcome was hardly over when once more the sound of the pipes was heard far up the side line.
"Surely that will be Gunn," said Mr. Munro.
Sutherland listened for a minute or two.
"No, it iss not Gunn. Iss Ross coming? No, yon iss not Ross. That will be a stranger," he continued, turning to the secretary, but the secretary remained silent, enjoying the old man's surprise and perplexity.
"Man, that iss not so bad piping! Not so bad at all! Who iss it?" he added with some impatience, turning upon the secretary again.
"Oh, that's Haley's team and I guess that's his hired man, a young fellow just out from Scotland," replied the secretary indifferently. "I am no great judge of the pipes myself, but he strikes me as a crackajack and I shouldn't be surprised if he would make you all sit up."
But the old piper's ear was closed to his words and open only to the strains of music ever drawing nearer.
"Aye, yon's a piper!" he said at length with emphasis. "Yon's a piper!"
"I only wish I had discovered him in time for a competition," said Fatty regretfully.
"Aye," said Sutherland. "Yon's a piper worth playing against."
And very brave and gallant young Cameron looked as Tim swung his team through the fence and up to the platform under the trees where the great ones of the people were standing in groups. They were all there, Patterson the M.P.P., and Dr. Kane the Opposition candidate, Reeve Robertson, for ten years the Municipal head of his county, Inspector Grant, a little man with a massive head and a luminous eye, Patterson's understudy and generally regarded as his successor in Provincial politics, the Reverend Harper Freeman, Methodist minister, tall and lank, with shrewd kindly face and a twinkling eye, the Reverend Alexander Munro, the Presbyterian minister, solid and sedate, slow to take fire but when kindled a very furnace for heat. These, with their various wives and daughters, such as had them, and many others less notable but no less important, constituted a sort of informal reception committee under Fatty Freeman's general direction and management. And here and there and everywhere crowds of young men and maidens, conspicuous among the latter Isa MacKenzie and her special friends, made merry with each other, as brave and gallant a company of sturdy sun-browned youths and bonnie wholesome lassies as any land or age could ever show.
"Look at them!" cried the Reverend Harper Freeman, waving his hand toward the kaleidoscopic gathering. "There's your Dominion Day oration for you, Mr, Patterson."
"Most of it done in brown, too," chuckled his son, Harper Freeman, Jr.
"Yes, and set in jewels and gold," replied his father.
"You hold over me, Dad!" cried his son. "Here!" he called to Cameron, who was standing aloof from the others. "Come and meet a brother Scot and a brother piper, Mr. Sutherland from Zorra, though to your ignorant Scottish ear that means nothing, but to every intelligent Canadian, Zorra stands for all that's finest in brain and brawn in Canada."
"And it takes both to play the pipes, eh, Sutherland?" said the M.P.P.
"Oh aye, but mostly wind," said the piper.
"Just like politics, eh, Mr. Patterson?" said the Reverend Harper Freeman.
"Yes, or like preaching," replied the M.P.P.
"One on you, Dad!" said the irrepressible Fatty.
Meantime Sutherland was warmly complimenting Cameron on his playing.
"You haf been well taught," he said.
"No one taught me," said Cameron. "But we had a famous old piper at home in our Glen, Macpherson was his name."
"Macpherson! Did he effer play at the Braemar gathering?"
"Yes, but Maclennan beat him."
"Maclennan! I haf heard him." The tone was quite sufficient to classify the unhappy Maclennan. "And I haf heard Macpherson too. You iss a player. None of the fal-de-rals of your modern players, but grand and mighty."
"I agree with you entirely," replied Cameron, his heart warming at the praise of his old friend of the Glen Cuagh Oir. "But," he added, "Maclennan is a great player too."
"A great player? Yes and no. He has the fingers and the notes, but he iss not the beeg man. It iss the soul that breathes through the chanter. The soul!" Here he gripped Cameron by the arm. "Man! it iss like praying. A beeg man will neffer show himself in small things, but when he will be in communion with his Maker or when he will be pouring out his soul in a pibroch then the beegness of the man will be manifest. Aye," continued the piper, warming to his theme and encouraged by the eager sympathy of his listener, "and not only the beegness but the quality of the soul. A mean man can play the pipes, but he can neffer be a piper. It iss only a beeg man and a fine man and, I will venture to say, a good man, and there are not many men can be pipers."
"Aye, Mr. Sutherland," broke in the Reverend Alexander Munro, "what you say is true, but it is true not only of piping. It is true surely of anything great enough to express the deepest emotions of the soul. A man is never at his best in anything till he is expressing his noblest self."