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The Silver Maple
by Marian Keith
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Scotty stood and listened to these ecstatic outpourings, his head swimming. He was enveloped in a rose-coloured mist, a mist in which blue velvet and golden hair and dancing eyes surrounded and dazzled him. One moment he was a child again, and his little playmate had come back, and the next he was a man and Isabel was the lady of romance. And while he stood in this delightful daze someone came and took the vision away; he thought it was Mary Lauchie, but was not sure. When she had disappeared into the new house he awoke sufficiently to notice that Monteith was standing at the door regarding him with twinkling eyes, and for the second time that afternoon he blushed.

The crowd was beginning to gravitate towards the new house, and Scotty soon found an excuse to enter also. It hadn't been a dream after all, for she was there, sitting close by Kirsty, holding her hand, and surrounded by the people who made up the more genteel portion of society in the Oa and the Glen. A little space seemed to divide them from the common crowd, and she sat, the recognised centre of the group. Scotty noticed, too, that even Mrs. Cameron, the minister's wife, treated the young lady with bland deference, quite unlike her manner of kind condescension towards the MacDonald girls. As he watched the graceful gestures and easy well-bred air of his late comrade, Scotty was suddenly smitten with a sense of his own shortcomings; he was rough, uncouth, awkward. Isabel belonged to a different sphere; she was far removed from him and his people. It was the first time he had realised the difference, and he felt it just at the moment that it first had power to hurt him. He experienced a sudden return of the old wild ambition that used to shake him in his childhood when Rory played a warlike air. And then he wanted to slip out and go away from the wedding feast and never see Isabel again. He glanced at her again, and felt resentfully that she must surely be guilty of the sin of "pride," which so characterised the class to which she belonged.

But he had soon to change his mind. The blue eyes had been glancing eagerly about the room, and as soon as they spied him their owner arose and came crushing through the throng towards him. For though Scotty was distrustful, Isabel's frank simplicity of nature had not changed in her years of absence. Her happiest days had been spent in the Oa, and her return to her old home with its sense of welcome and freedom meant more to the lonely girl than he could realise. Practically she had been brought up among the MacDonalds, and at heart she was one of them.

Scotty saw her approach in combined joy and embarrassment, and just as he was trying to efface himself in a corner he found her at his side. She wanted to talk about the good old times, she whispered, as she pulled him down beside her on the low window sill. "They were just the loveliest old times, weren't they, Scotty? And don't you hate to be grown up?" she asked.

Hate it? Scotty gloried in it. It was a new birth. He tried to say so, but Isabel shook her head emphatically.

"Well, I don't, and you wouldn't in my place, for I can't run in the bush any more. Aunt Eleanor bewails me; she says I've been spoiled by Kirsty, for I can't settle down to a proper life in the city. The backwoods is the best place, isn't it, Scotty?"

He drew a long breath. "Do you mean you'd really like to come here and live with—with Kirsty again?" he asked.

"Oh, wouldn't I?" she cried, her eyes sparkling so that Scotty had to look away. "It was never dull here. Don't you wish I'd come back, too?"

Scotty felt his head reeling. "I—don't know," he faltered ungallantly.

"You don't know?" she echoed indignantly. "Scotty MacDonald, how can you say such a mean thing?"

Scotty looked up with a sudden desperate boldness.

"Because I wouldn't be doing any work if you were here," he exclaimed with a recklessness that appalled even himself.

Isabel laughed delightedly. "That's lovely," she cried. "Do you know, I was beginning to be afraid, almost, that you weren't just very glad to see me, and—and you always used to be. You are glad I came, aren't you, Scotty?"

Like a timid swimmer, who, having once plunged in, discovers his own strength and gains courage, Scotty struck out boldly into the conversational sea.

"It was the best thing that ever happened in all my life," he answered deliberately.

She was prevented from receiving this important declaration with the consideration it deserved by a sudden silence falling over the room. The minister was standing up in the centre of the room, clearing his throat and looking around portentously. The ceremony was about to commence, and all conversation was instantly hushed. Mothers quieted their babies, and the men came clumsily tiptoeing indoors. Whenever possible the more ceremonious precincts of the house were left to the more adaptable sex, the masculine portion of such assemblies always retiring to the greater freedom of the barn and outbuildings. Now they came crowding in, however, obviously embarrassed, but when the minister stood up, book in hand, and a hush fell over the room, the affair took on a religious aspect and everyone felt more at home.

Mr. Cameron moved to a little open space in the centre of the room, and bade Kirsty and Weaver Jimmie stand before him. Mary Lauchie, pale and drooping as she always was now, stood at Kirsty's side, and Jimmie had the much needed support of Roarin' Sandy's Archie, now the most fashionable young man in the Oa, who was resplendent in aromatic hair oil and a flaming tie. Jimmie was white and trembling, but Kirsty was calm. Only once did she show any emotion, when she had to search for her neatly-folded handkerchief in the pocket of her ample skirt to wipe away a tear—a tear that, all the sympathetic onlookers knew, was for the little mother who had said so confidently she had no fears for Kirsty's future.

At last the minister pronounced them one, and the friends gathered about them with their congratulations, and, to the delight of all, what should Miss Herbert do, after hugging the bride, but fling her arms about the bridegroom's neck also and give him a sounding kiss! If anything could have added to Jimmie's pride and joy at that moment, this treatment by Kirsty's little girl would certainly have done so.

And then came the wedding supper, the tables set out with the precious new china dishes and weighed down and piled up with everything good the MacDonald matrons knew how to cook. The bride and groom sat close together at the head of the long table, Jimmie's affectionate demonstrations partially hidden by the huge wedding cake. The minister sat at the foot, and after a long and fervent grace had been said everyone drew a deep breath and proceeded to enjoy himself.

There was a deal of clatter and noise and laughter and running to and fro of waiters. In the old house where the work was going on, and where there was no minister to put a damper on the proceedings, there were high times indeed; for Dan Murphy was there, and wherever Dan was there was sure to be an uproar. Scotty was responsible for the young man's presence; he had invited Mr. Murphy on the strength of his own relationship to both contracting parties, knowing a warm welcome was assured. So, with an apron tied round his waist, Dan was making a fine pretence of helping Betty Lauchie wash dishes, his chief efforts, however, being directed towards balancing pots of boiling water in impossible positions, twirling precious plates in the air, and other outlandish feats that added a great deal to the enjoyment, but very little to the competence, of the assembled cooks.

Scotty joined the army of workers in the shanty, but he had left the blue vision seated at the table between his grandparents, and his culinary efforts were not much more successful than Dan's. His chum tried to rally him on his absent looks, and made a sly allusion to the effusive greeting of the young lady from Lake Oro. But Scotty met his well-meant raillery with such unwonted ferocity that he very promptly subsided.

In the new house, where the elder guests were gathered about the table, affairs were much more ceremonious, for all the genteel folk the neighbourhood could boast were there, and Jimmie's face shone with pride as he glanced down the splendid array.

The bridegroom's joy seemed to permeate the whole feast. There was much talk and laughter, and, among the elder women, a wonderful clatter of Gaelic. For only on such rare occasions as this had they a chance to meet, and there were many lengthy recountings of sicknesses, deaths, and burials.

Long Lauchie, as usual, was full of vague and ominous prophecies. His remarks were chiefly concerning the wedding feast to which those who were bidden refused to come, with dark reference to the man who had not on the wedding garment; neither of which allusions, surely, pointed to either Weaver Jimmie or his marriage festivities. Near him, in a little circle where English was spoken, Praying Donald and the minister were leading a discussion on the evidences of Christianity. There was only one quarter in which there were signs of anything but perfect amity, and that was where a heated argument had arisen between Old Farquhar and Peter Sandy Johnstone upon the respective merits of Ossian and Burns; a discussion which, in spite of the age of the disputants, would certainly have ended in blows, had it been in the old days when a marriage was scarcely considered binding without a liberal supply of whiskey.

But Kirsty's wedding, happily, belonged to the new era, and the minister, glancing round the well conducted assemblage and recalling the days, not so far past, when most of the Highlanders enlivened any and every social function, from a barn-raising to a burial, with spirits, heaved a great sigh of gratitude. And Store Thompson unconsciously voiced his sentiments when he declared, in a neatly turned little speech, that the occasion was "jist an auspicious consummation-like."

There were several other speakers besides the minister and Store Thompson, and each made the kindliest allusions to both bride and groom; but, like the true Scots they were, carefully refrained from paying compliments. There were songs and stories, too, stirring Scottish choruses, and tales of the early days and of the great doings in the homeland. Then Big Malcolm's Farquhar, who had long ago come to regard himself in the light of the old itinerant bards, sang, like Chibiabos, to make the wedding guests more contented. He had but a single English song in his repertoire, one which he rendered with much pride, and only on state occasions. This was a flowery love-lyric, entitled "The Grave of Highland Mary," and was Farquhar's one tribute to the despised Burns. It consisted of a half-dozen lengthy stanzas, each followed by a still lengthier refrain, and was sung to an ancient and erratic air that rose and fell like the wail of the winter winds in the bare treetops. The venerable minstrel sang with much fervour, and only in the last stanza did the swelling notes subside in any noticeable degree. This was not because the melancholy words demanded, but because the singer was rather out of breath. So he sang with some breathless hesitation:

"Yet the green simmer saw but a few sunny mornings Till she, in the bloom of her beauty and pride, Was laid in her grave like a bonnie young flower In Greenock kirkyard on the banks of the Clyde."

But, when he found himself launched once more upon the familiar refrain, he rallied his powers and sang out loudly and joyfully:

"Then bring me the lilies and bring me the roses, And bring me the daisies that grow in the dale, And bring me the dew of the mild summer evening, And bring me the breath of the sweet-scented gale; And bring me the sigh of a fond lover's bosom, And bring me the tear of a fond lover's e'e, And I'll pour them a' doon on thy grave, Highland Mary, For the sake o' thy Burns who sae dearly loved thee!"

It did not seem the kind of song exactly suited to a hymeneal feast, but everyone listened respectfully until the old man had wavered through to the end and called, for the last time, for the lilies, the roses and the daisies; and before he had time to start another Fiddlin' Archie struck up "Scots Wha Hae," and the whole company joined.

When everyone, even to the last waiter in the old shanty, had been fed and the tables were all cleared away, Scotty deserted Monteith, and once more took up his station on the window sill where he could catch glimpses of Isabel's golden head through the crowd. He could see she was the object of many admiring glances; the MacDonald girls stood apart whispering wondering remarks concerning the beauty of her velvet gown, and even Betty Lauchie seemed shy of her old playmate. Nevertheless, when, upon spying him in his corner, Isabel came again and seated herself beside him, Scotty forgot all differences between them and blossomed out into friendliness under the light of her eyes. For she had clear, honest eyes that looked beneath the rough exterior of her country friends and recognised the true, leal hearts beneath. Yes, she was the same old Isabel, Scotty declared to himself, and something more, something he hardly dared think of yet.

He sat and chatted freely with her of all that had happened since they had last met, her life in a ladies' boarding school and his progress under Monteith's instruction, and he found that with all her schooling he was far ahead of her in book knowledge. Then there were past experiences to recall; the playhouse they had built beneath the Silver Maple, the mud pies they had made down by the edge of the swamp, the excursions down the Birch Creek, and the part they had played in poor Callum's sad romance.

"And what are you going to be, Scotty?" she asked. "Don't you remember it was always either an Indian or a soldier, a 'Black Watcher' you used to call it? You ought to go to college, you must be more than prepared for it since you've learned so much from Mr. Monteith."

Scotty's eyes glowed. A college course was the dream of his life, sleeping or waking. But he shook his head.

"I'd like it," he said, trying to keep the gloom out of his voice, "but there's not much chance."

"Oh, dear," sighed the girl, "things seem to be all wrong in this world. There's Harold now; Uncle Walter fairly begged him to go to college, but he went only one year."

"Where is your cousin now?"

"He's in the English navy, and poor Uncle frets for him. He's an officer too. I can't imagine Hal making anybody mind him. I always used to be the 'party in power,' as Uncle Walter used to say when Hal was home."

Scotty laughed. "I expect he'd have a hard time if he didn't let you have your own way," he said slyly.

"Now, Scotty, you know you didn't let me have my own way, now, did you? But somehow, I think I was always in a better humour at Kirsty's here, I didn't have anyone to bother me."

"I know what I'd like most to be," said Scotty, with a sudden burst of feeling.

"What?"

"A Prince!"

"A Prince! Why, in all the world?"

"Because you are just like all the Princesses I have ever read about." Scotty was making headlong progress in a subject to which he had never been even introduced by Monteith.

The girl looked up at him with an expression of half-amused wonder in her eyes.

"Why, Scotty," she declared, "you're as bad as any society man for paying compliments. But you will be something great some day, I know. Mr. Monteith says so."

Scotty's face lit up. "If I'm ever worth anything I'll owe it all to him," he exclaimed enthusiastically. "Isn't he fine?"

"He's just a dear. If it hadn't been for his help I should never have been able to come for this visit. But he told Aunt Eleanor that we would elope if I wasn't allowed to come. Isn't he funny? And just think, Scotty, I'm going to stay a whole month, perhaps two!"

Scotty was speechless.

"Now, I'm sure you're glad! Yes, I'm to stay at the manse for about two weeks, until poor Jimmie and Kirsty have a little honeymoon by themselves, and then I'm coming here. Auntie and Uncle have been invited to spend a month with friends in Toronto, and I didn't want to go because"—she hesitated and then laughed softly—"well, because I have to be so horribly proper all the time, so I begged to come here instead, and as Mrs. Cameron had invited me and Mr. Monteith coaxed too, Uncle Walter consented. And there's a possibility they might not be back till Christmas. Oh, I wish they wouldn't! Am I not wicked?"

"I've got a colt of my own," Scotty burst forth with apparent irrelevance, "he's a fine driver."

Isabel seemed to understand.

"I hope Mrs. Cameron will let me go," she said, though there had been no invitation. She glanced around the room and found that lady making rather anxious motions in her direction.

The minister's wife had been taking note of the fact that Miss Herbert and one of the young MacDonald men had been renewing their acquaintance in a rather headlong fashion. Mrs. Cameron was a lady who had an eye for the fitness of things, and, being responsible for young Miss Herbert, she decided it was high time to take her home. So, when the girl looked up her hostess beckoned her, and announced rather sedately that they must be going, as the minister had already begun his round of handshaking.

"And when will I see you again?" Scotty asked forlornly, as the girl came downstairs dressed for her drive.

Isabel was intent on buttoning her glove. "I—I suppose you sometimes come to the Glen?" she suggested, without looking up.

Scotty hastened to asseverate that he spent almost all his waking hours there, and that he was a daily visitor at the Manse; and before Mrs. Cameron could get through bidding the neighbours good-bye, he had secured permission to come with his black colt the next day, and with Mrs. Cameron's consent they would drive up to the Oa to see how the Silver Maple looked in its autumn dress.

No sooner had the minister and the elder guests turned their backs, than the young folk who remained made a joyous rush for the furniture. Chairs and benches were piled helter-skelter in the corners and a unanimous demand arose for Fiddlin' Archie's Sandy to bestir his lazy bones and tune up!

Thus importuned, the musician, who had fearfully concealed his unholy instrument from the minister's eyes all afternoon, mounted upon a table, and after much screwing up and letting down and strumming of notes, now high and squeaky, now low and buzzing, banged his bow down upon all the strings at once, and in stentorian tones gave forth the electrifying command: "Take—yer—partners!"

This was the signal for a general stampede, not out upon the floor, but back to the walls, leaving a clear space down the middle of the room; for dancing before company was a serious business not to be entered upon lightly, and it required no small courage to be the first to step out into the range of the public eye.

Balls were generally opened by a couple of agile young men dashing madly into the middle of the floor to execute a clattering step dance opposite each other, and under cover of this sortie the whole army would sweep simultaneously into the field.

Dan Murphy and Roarin' Sandy's Archie were the two who this night first ventured into the jaws of public opinion. Jimmie's best man, as became the dandy of the countryside, could disport himself with marvellous skill on the terpsichorean floor, and Dan Murphy was at least warranted to make plenty of noise. The two young men flung aside their coats and went at their task, heel and toe, with a right good will and a tremendous clatter. They pranced before each other, stepping high, like thoroughbred horses, they slapped the floor with first one foot, then the other, they reeled, they twirled, they shuffled and double-shuffled, and pounded the floor, as though they would fain tramp their way through to Kirsty's new cellar; while, in his efforts to keep pace with them, the fiddler nearly sawed his instrument asunder.

But just when they were in the midst of the most intricate part of the gyrations, the spirit of the dance seized the spectators, and the next moment the performers were engulfed in the whirl of the oncoming flood.

But Roarin' Sandy's Archie was not the sort to lose his identity in the vulgar throng. He was the most famous "caller-off" in the township of Oro, as everyone knew; and staggering out of the maelstrom, he seized Betty Lauchie and was soon in the midst of his double task, his face set and tense, for it was no easy matter to manage one's own feet and at the same time guide the reckless movements of some twenty heedless and bouncing couples who acted as though a dance was an affair of no moment whatever.

Scotty did not remain for the dance, but accompanied his uncle home. He wanted to be alone to think over the wonderful events of the day and of the joys of the morrow. There were not many youths who followed his example. When the dance broke up the majority of them merely retired to the edge of the clearing to return half an hour later armed with guns, horns, tin pans, old saws from the mill, and all other implements warranted to produce an uproar and annihilate peace. With these they proceeded to make the night hideous by serenading the bridal pair until the late autumn dawn chased them to the cover of the woods. This last festivity gave no offence, however, being quite in accordance with the custom of the country and the expectations of the bride and groom.

And so Weaver Jimmie's wedding passed off just as, through the long years of waiting, he had dreamed it would; and one young man, who had been a guest at their marriage feast, entered that day upon a new life, as surely as did the bride and groom.



XII

A WELL-MEANT PLOT

O, Love will build his lily walls, And Love his pearly roof will rear,— On cloud or land, or mist or sea— Love's solid land is everywhere! —ISABELLE VALANCY CRAWFORD.

The minister and his wife had been on a pastoral visitation to the Oa, and, having had an early tea at Long Lauchie's, were driving homeward.

The first snow had fallen a few days before and had been succeeded by rain, which, freezing as it fell, formed a hard, glassy "crust" on the top of the snow. This glimmering surface reflected the radiant evening skies like a polished mirror. The surrounding fields were a sea of glass mingled with fire, and the whole earth had become an exact copy of heaven. Away ahead stretched the road like two polished, golden bars that gradually melted into the violet and mauve tints of the dusky pines. Through the frequent openings in the purple forest they could see, far over hill and valley, a marvellous vista, all enveloped in the wondrous glow, the patches of woodland looking like fairy islands floating in a sea of gold. Overhead, the delicately green heavens shone through the marvellous tracery of the bare branches. The horse's bells echoed far into the woods, the only sound in the winter stillness, for the whole world seemed silent and wondering before the beauty of the dying day.

The two travellers had not spoken for some time; the minister was lost in contemplation of the glorious night, and the minister's wife, alas, was absorbed in a subject that had been worrying her for more than a month, the subject of Miss Isabel Herbert.

Before her visit at the manse had terminated, Mrs. Cameron had come to consider her invitation to that young lady as the great mistake of her hitherto well-ordered life. For no sooner had the guest been settled than that young MacDonald, who was such a friend of Mr. Monteith, began to appear with alarming frequency. Now, though there might have been no harm in Captain Herbert's niece playing in the backwoods with Big Malcolm's grandson when they were children, Mrs. Cameron mentally declared that, now they were grown up, such a thing as intimacy between them was absolutely out of the question. Miss Herbert, she well knew, would be horrified at the thought, and she set herself sternly to discourage the young man's attentions.

But she found this no easy task. One of her greatest obstacles was the minister himself. The good man had long yearned to bring Monteith and his friend into the church and now hailed Scotty's visits as special opportunities sent him by Providence. To his wife's dismay he warmly welcomed the young man, pressed him to come again speedily, and was, in his innocent goodness of heart, as much a trial to his wife as Isabel herself.

And Isabel certainly was a handful. In Captain Herbert's niece one surely might have looked for a model, but the young lady did not conduct herself with the exact propriety her hostess expected. Mrs. Cameron was quietly proud of the fact that she had been very well brought up herself and knew what was due one's station in life. But Miss Isabel was an anomaly. She belonged to one of the best families in the County of Simcoe and had been educated in a select school for young ladies; but, in spite of these advantages, she would much rather tear around the house with the dog, her hair flying in the wind, than sit in the parlour with her crocheting, as a young lady should. Moreover, if she could be persuaded to settle for a moment with a piece of sewing, at the sound of a horse's hoofs at the gate, or the whirl of a buggy up the driveway, she would jump from her seat, scattering spools, scissors and thimble in every direction and go dancing out to the door, joyfully announcing to everyone within the house that here was "dear old Scotty!"

And yet, she was so charmingly deferential, and, in spite of her high spirits, so anxious to please, that her hostess had not the heart to chide her. Her whole-hearted innocence had begun to disarm the lady's suspicions when, at the end of a week, the watchful eye noted signs of an alarming change in her troublesome charge. Isabel ceased entirely to mention Scotty's name. She did not talk, either, as had been her wont, of the delightful times they had had together in their childhood. Neither did she run to meet him any more when he came, but would sit demurely at her sewing until he entered, or even fly upstairs when his horse appeared at the gate.

These were the worst possible symptoms, and Mrs. Cameron appealed to the minister. But he, good man, was not at all perturbed. He saw nothing to worry about, he declared. Probably the young lady had discovered that she did not care for her old comrade as much as when they were children and was taking this tactful way of showing him the fact. Mrs. Cameron was in a state of mingled indignation and despair over such masculine obtuseness, and vowed that if young MacDonald were not politely requested to discontinue his attentions to Captain Herbert's niece, she would feel it her duty to send the aforesaid niece home.

But the minister would consider neither project. When he had a man's soul in view everything else must be made subordinate. The young man was showing signs of an awakening conscience, he affirmed; he had displayed wonderful interest in the sermons lately and had asked some very hopeful questions during their last conversation. And beside all this the young lady was having a good influence on him, for the lad had missed neither church nor prayer meeting since she came. Indeed, she was a fine lassie, and wonderfully clear on the essentials; though, of course, she had a few unsound Anglican doctrines. But Kirsty John's mother had trained her well in her childhood and she was not far astray. No, it would be interfering with the inscrutable ways of Providence to separate these two now, they must just let them be.

So Scotty and Isabel had things all their own way; and, when, at last, Weaver Jimmie and his wife came and carried the young lady off to the Oa, her late hostess declared she washed her hands of the whole affair.

But her guest's departure did not bring her entire relief from responsibility. She could not get away from the suspicion that Miss Herbert would blame her, and the rumours that came from the Oa were not calculated to allay her fears. Kirsty John's little lady from the Grange and Big Malcolm's Scot were always together, the gossips said, and indeed it was a great wonder the black colt wasn't driven to death.

So to-night Mrs. Cameron was too much worried to notice the beauty of the landscape. Nearly a month had slipped past since Isabel had left her; the Herberts had returned to the Grange, and still the young lady showed no signs of departing. The minister's wife looked out sharply as they approached Weaver Jimmie's place. If she could catch sight of her late guest she would delicately hint that propriety demanded that she go home.

As they entered a little evergreen wood that bordered Weaver Jimmie's farm, there arose the sound of singing from the road ahead.

A turn around a cedar clump brought into view a solitary figure a few yards before them—the figure of a little old man, wearing a Scotch bonnet and wrapped in a gay tartan plaid. It was a bent, homely figure, but one containing a soul apparently lifted far above earthly things, for he was pouring forth a psalm, expressive of his joy in the glory of the evening, and with an ecstasy that might have befitted Orpheus greeting the dawn.

His voice was high, loud, and cracked; but the words he had chosen showed that Old Farquhar discerned the divine in nature, a revelation that comes only to the true artist:

"Ye gates, lift up your heads on high; Ye doors that last for aye, Be lifted up that so the King Of Glory enter may. But who is He that is the King Of Glory? Who is this? The Lord of Hosts, and none but He The King of Glory is!"

The minister smiled tenderly, there was a mist before his eyes when he paused to shake the old man's withered hand.

"Yes, it is a wonderful night, Farquhar," he said. "Truly the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork."

The old man smiled ecstatically, and after a halting greeting in English to the minister's wife, dropped into Gaelic. Mrs. Cameron did not understand the language of her husband's people, and while the two men conversed she looked about her. Kirsty's house was just beyond the grove, Isabel might be near. A narrow, dim pathway led from the road across the woods to the house, an alluring pathway bordered thickly with firs, and now all in purple shadows, except when occasionally the golden light sifted through the velvety branches and touched the snow. Something was moving away down the shadowy aisle. She looked sharply, it moved out into a lighter space and resolved itself into two figures going slowly, so very slowly, down the path in the direction of the Weaver's house. There was no mistaking Isabel's long, grey coat, or young MacDonald's stalwart figure. They paused at the bars that led into the yard, they were evidently saying good-night....

Mrs. Cameron did not wait even to take off her bonnet, upon her return home, before sitting down to write Miss Herbert, of the Grange, a letter, a letter which evidently alarmed the recipient, for before many days Miss Isabel packed her trunk with a very sober face and took her leave.

It was partly this sudden manner of her departure that made Monteith resolve to visit his friends at Lake Oro. He wanted to see Captain Herbert on important business—business which, he felt, had been too long delayed, and besides he was anxious to discover, if possible, what the people of the Grange had done to offend Ralph on the day he had taken Isabel home.

That he had been mortally offended by someone Monteith could not help seeing; but whether by Isabel herself, or another, Scotty's reticence prevented his discovering.

"I'm going up to the Captain's to-morrow," he remarked casually, as he sat and smoked by Big Malcolm's fire one evening. He glanced at Scotty, and that young man arose and began to cram the red-hot stove with wood, until his grandfather shouted to him that he must be gone daft, for was he wanting to roast them all out?

"Oh, indeed," said Mrs. MacDonald, suspending her knitting with a look of pleased interest. "And you will be seeing the little lady. Eh, it is herself will be the fine girl, not a bit o' pride, with all her beautiful manners and her learning, indeed."

"She will be jist the same as when she used to run round this house in her bare feet with Scotty," declared Big Malcolm enthusiastically. "It is a great peety indeed that she will belong to that English upstart!"

Scotty had settled down in deep absorption to whittle a stick and was apparently taking no notice of the conversation.

Monteith regarded Big Malcolm curiously. He had been long enough in the settlement to understand that the ordinary pioneer had no love for the more privileged class that had settled along the waterfronts. Socially the latter belonged to a different sphere from the farmers; and having often been able, in the early days, to secure from the Government concessions not granted to all, they were regarded by the common folk with some resentment. But the difference between the two classes, like all other differences, was fast dying out, and the schoolmaster well knew that Big Malcolm had other and deeper reasons for his dislike of a man so popular as Captain Herbert. He longed to know, before he visited the Grange, just how much his friend had sinned against the old man.

"Oh, I suppose he's no worse than many of his kind," he said tentatively.

"Aye, but that is jist where you will be mistaken," said Big Malcolm, a dangerous light beginning to leap up in his eye. "If this place would be knowing the kind of a man he is, indeed it would not be Parliament he would be thinking about next fall, but——" He stopped suddenly. "Och, hoch, the Lord forgive me, and he will be your friend, too, Mr. Monteith," he added hastily, with a return of his natural courtesy. "Indeed I would be forgetting myself."

"Why does your grandfather hate the Captain so?" inquired Monteith, as Scotty walked with him to the gate.

"I'll not know," said Scotty morosely. "I think they had some quarrel long ago, about land or something, when they came here first."

"And did he never give any hint of what the trouble was?"

"Not to us boys. It was one of those things he would always be fighting against, and Granny kept him back, too. He would be often going to speak of the Captain, when she would stop him." Scotty's tone was gloomy. This last surviving feud of his warlike grandfather weighed heavily upon his soul. For, indeed, matters had gone sadly wrong in Scotty's world lately, and life was proving a very hard and sordid business.

Monteith said no more, but the next morning he set off for his friend's house, determined to settle once for all those questions which had been troubling him ever since he had learned that young Ralph Stanwell lived. Something must be done with Ralph, and that right away. He had taught him as far as he could, and the boy must not be allowed to waste his talents in the backwoods.

The Grange, Captain Herbert's residence on the shore of Lake Oro, was a different building from the homes of the people among whom the schoolmaster lived; for its owner belonged to the fortunate class for whom life during the early settlement of the country had been made easy by money and political influence.

The house, a long, low, white stone building with plenty of broad verandahs, stood close to the water's edge, sheltered by a stately oak grove. It was surrounded by wide lawns and a garden, all now covered with their winter blanket.

As Monteith went up the broad, well-shovelled path, a crowd of dogs of all sizes came tearing round the house from the rear with a tumult of barking. He stooped to fondle a little terrier, and when he looked up the master of the house was coming down the steps with outstretched hands.

"By Jove, Archie!" he cried, his face shining with pleasure, "I'd almost come to the conclusion that the Fighting MacDonalds had eaten you alive! Why, we haven't seen you since October, and I've been blue-moulding for somebody to talk to. Well, I am glad to see you. Get down, you confounded brute! Come in. Come in. Why, you certainly are a stranger. And just at the right moment, too! I'm all alone. Brian drove Eleanor and Belle to Barbay this morning. Get out, you infernal curs! Those dogs all ought to be shot!"

And so, talking loud and fast, as was his manner, the hearty Captain led the way into the house. A small room at the left of the hall, with two windows looking out upon the ice-bound lake, constituted the Captain's private den. A bright wood fire blazed in the open grate. The host drew up a couple of arm-chairs before it.

"So you've decided to immure yourself in the backwoods for another year, I hear," he said, when his guest was comfortably seated and supplied with a cigar. "Come, Archie, this will never do. Two years was the limit you set when you took the school, and there's no more the matter with you than there is with me. You're actually getting fat, man!"

"Why, I do believe I am," said the other apologetically. "I shall probably grow corpulent and lazy, and settle down in Glenoro to a peaceful old age."

"Not a bit of you! You look like a new man, and you ought to get back to your law books."

Monteith drew his hand over his grey hair with a meaning smile. "It seems rather foolish at my age, but I believe I shall; the Oro air has really made a new man of me, as you say. I believe I should have gone long ago if I hadn't been interested in a certain young person there."

"A young person! Thunder and lightning, Archie, don't tell me you've gone and fallen in love!"

Monteith laughed. "Upon my word I believe I have," he asserted, "but don't look so aghast, the object of my devotion is six feet high, and is cultivating a moustache."

"Oh, that young MacDonald chum of yours. You gave me quite a shock." The guest noticed that his friend's face changed at the mention of Scotty; there was a moment's rather awkward silence.

"So the ladies are away," said Monteith at last. "I am unfortunate."

Captain Herbert burst into a hearty laugh. "Why, bless my soul, you've had the escape of your life! Eleanor has it in for you, for shifting your responsibility and sending little Bluebell home with your young MacDonald; an uncommonly handsome young beggar he is too, with the airs of a Highland chieftain, quite the kind calculated to be dangerous, Eleanor thinks. I'm afraid she wasn't as cordial to the boy as she might have been, and probably lost me a couple of good MacDonald votes."

Monteith looked enlightened. "Why, I must apologise," he said, "but I did not dream I was transgressing. Miss Herbert surely knows that they have been like brother and sister since their baby days?"

"Oh, that's just the trouble. Eleanor's scared they're not going to remain like brother and sister. She and your minister's wife down there have got it into their busy heads that the little monkey's inclined to think too much about this old chum of hers. Bluebell's the right sort, I assure you, Archie, never forgets an old friend. Harold's just the same. Every time he writes he sends his love to every old codger that chopped down a tree on this place. It's a fine quality. It's Irish. We get it from my mother's side, though I'm more English than Irish myself, praise the Lord. Well, it seems this loyalty is out of place in this case, and Eleanor thinks the less Belle sees of this young man the better. All perfect bosh and unthinkable nonsense, you know; but you can never account for the mental workings of some people. A woman's mind picks up an idea, particularly if it concerns matrimony in the remotest degree, as a hen does a piece of bread, and runs squawking all round this earthly barnyard advertising the matter until she convinces herself and all the rest of the human fowl that she's got a whole baking in her bill. Eleanor has snatched up some such notion about Isabel and this young MacDonald, and the youngster hardly out of short dresses yet! But there it is. She'll never let go. All rubbish!"

He burst into a hearty laugh, and poked the fire until it crackled and roared. "Now, Archie, what sort of figure do you think I shall cut running for Parliament next fall? Think the Oa 'll run me off the face of the earth?"

"Just one moment, Captain, before you leave this subject, and we'll talk politics all day afterwards. Far be it from me to even glance into the dark mysteries of matchmaking, but I'd like to know why Miss Herbert should object so strongly to my young friend on so short an acquaintance?"

Captain Herbert looked surprised. He drew himself up with a slight access of dignity. "Oh, come now, Monteith!" he exclaimed, "you are surely worldly wise enough to understand that, though this young Scotty may be the most exemplary inhabitant of that excellent section where you teach, he would scarcely be a match for my niece."

"I understand perfectly. And if Ralph were one of the ordinary young men of the place I should most heartily agree with you. But you don't know him. He is an exceptionally fine fellow; he has had as much education as I have been able to guide him to since I came here, and indeed he is a thorough gentleman at heart."

Captain Herbert shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose that's all true, but what difference does that make? You don't want me to offer him my niece, I hope."

Monteith paid no attention to such frivolity. He turned squarely upon his host.

"Then I suppose you know he's the equal in birth to anyone in this part of the country. You know, of course, that his name is not really MacDonald?"

Captain Herbert seized the poker and attacked the fire again. He seemed waiting for Monteith to proceed, but as he did not, he answered rather shortly, "So I believe."

There was a long silence. The host sat back again, swung one foot over the other impatiently, and at last turned upon his silent companion.

"Go on!" he cried. "Out with it! I know what you want to say!"

Monteith slowly turned his eyes from the fire and looked into his host's face.

"I don't want to say anything disagreeable, Captain," he said courteously.

Captain Herbert arose and walked to the window.

"I knew this would come some day, when I saw you were getting so infernally chummy with all the MacDonald clan. That dear friend of mine, old Firebrand Malcolm, has been telling you tales, I see."

"On the contrary, he has scarcely ever mentioned your name to me. Big Malcolm is not that sort," said Monteith, with some dignity. "But it was impossible for me not to remember Ralph Stanwell, Senior; it all came to me the moment the boy told me his name."

There was a moment of intense silence, and at last the man turned from the window.

"Well," he said, coming to the fireside, "why don't you speak? What have you got to say about it?" His manner was half-defiant.

"I don't know that you'll think it's my place to say anything, Captain. But—well, since you ask my opinion, I must confess that, though I am not in possession of all the facts, the thing does not look exactly—straight."

Captain Herbert glared at him. "You are the only man in Ontario who would dare to say that to me, Archibald Monteith!" he cried.

Monteith arose, smiling. "Well, Captain, be thankful you have at least one honest friend in Ontario. And," he added, with a sudden change of tone, "look here, I haven't come to you about this in anger. I am Ralph's friend, but I am yours, too, and have many debts of kindness owing you. But, honestly now, is it or is it not true that you jumped a claim and appropriated the boy's property, perhaps unwittingly?"

"It was unwittingly, Archie," burst out the other, with a look of relief. "I know the affair must look nasty to you; but, as sure as I stand here, I didn't know the child was alive until he was nearly seven years old."

"But the grandfather? Did he never interfere in the child's interests?"

"That old fire-eater! If he hadn't been such a maniac, I should never have made the mistake I did. I tell you the whole thing was misrepresented to me. Stanwell and his wife and, as I was told, his child too, died just before I landed here. This property of his was partially cleared, but was represented to me as totally unclaimed. You know that as well as I do. Don't you remember the day I left Toronto to come up here? Well, after I had spent hundreds of dollars on the place that old Lord of the Isles got wind of it away back there in the bush, and came down on me like a deposed king. He talked so loud and so fast, and half of it in Gaelic, that I paid no attention to him, and at last ordered him off the place. My brother Harold had been instrumental in getting the place for me, so I wrote him and asked if it was possible that anyone connected with Captain Stanwell could have any claim on my property. He wrote back to say that Stanwell and everyone belonging to him were dead, but that he would come up soon and see about it. Well, you know he died the next week, and little Bluebell was left to me. Those were hard times for me, Archie, as you know. Maud was taken next, and I was left alone with two helpless children on my hands and my finances in the very deuce of a state. I forgot all about everything but the troubles that had come upon me. Then I sent for Eleanor to look after my family, and after she came I had other reasons you know nothing about for keeping silent concerning Captain Stanwell. And so the years slipped away, and there it is, you see. If I had given up the property when I settled here first I should have been almost destitute. Now, I ask you, is there any living man could blame me?"

Monteith answered warily. "There are not many men who would have acted differently in your place, I fear, only—it's rather hard on the boy."

"Pshaw, I don't believe the boy's claim was worth a brass farthing. If it was, why couldn't his old grandfather have gone to law about it?"

Monteith shook his head. "You don't know those Highlanders; they would sooner be bereft of every stick or stone they possess than enter a law court. Besides, you can't deny, Captain, that even had Big Malcolm wished to take such measures, he well knew that in those days a man of his class hadn't much chance against one of yours."

Captain Herbert tramped up and down the little room. Monteith sat silent, waiting. He was able to guess with some degree of accuracy the workings of his friend's mind. Captain Herbert was a man who believed in letting circumstances take care of themselves, particularly if they were of the disagreeable variety; but he would willingly do no man a wrong; and Monteith well knew that his warm heart was a prey to regret, and he was therefore full of hope for Ralph. But the Captain had a stormy journey to traverse before arriving at any conclusion.

"If the matter were taken into a law court now, no fool would say for a moment that I wasn't the owner of this place after all these years. It was a howling wilderness when I came here."

"But a court might say you were under some obligation to that boy, Captain."

"Nonsense! Do you want me to present him with a deed of all my property?"

"Not at all, but I want you to act fairly by him, as I am sure you will."

The steady tramp ceased at last, and as Monteith had expected his host came and stood before the fire.

"It's a mean business, the whole thing, I know, Archie; and I've hated the thought of it all these years. But what could I do? It was too late to mend matters when I found my mistake."

"It's never too late to mend," quoted the imperturbable guest. "And you're comfortably well off now, Captain, with that last legacy."

Captain Herbert evidently did not hear him. "I'm sorry about that boy," he said, staring into the grate with brows knit, "I'm truly sorry."

Monteith felt that now was his opportunity, and he put Scotty's case forward strongly. He was careful not to press the boy's legal claims, but made much of the moral obligation. Here was a young man with marked ability and no worldly resources, his high ambitions fettered by poverty. He had already spent two winters in the lumber camps; he was getting to be a famous river pilot, and, as matters stood, there seemed nothing better ahead of him. Ralph was a youth who would probably make his way in the world somehow, but just now he needed a helping hand. A little assistance at present would make his fortune, and who so fitted to give that assistance as Captain Herbert?

The appeal was received in silence. Captain Herbert sat, his brows drawn together, his eyes fixed upon the fire. "There's another reason, stronger than any you suspect for my sister's antipathy for the young man," he said suddenly without looking up. Monteith's eyebrows rose.

"It is a very unpleasant subject to refer to, but it seems necessary that you should know. When Captain Stanwell came to this country he was engaged to marry my sister. He came out here, presumably to make a home for her. A pretty face among the emigrants took his fancy, and he married shortly after he landed. So you may imagine I am not likely to have any warm feeling for the rascal's son."

Monteith sat staring. He had come to represent Scotty's righteous cause, to uphold him as the wronged, and here were the tables turned upon him.

"All these years, Eleanor never dreamed that the child lived. Indeed, I am not sure that she knew Stanwell had a child, and of course she never guessed who little Bluebell's Scotty was. And I naturally didn't see any reason for enlightening her. She nearly discovered it once, the first time I saw the boy. But when he brought Bluebell here she saw the resemblance at once—he's the image of his father—she asked him his name, and it all came out, and you can imagine the scene. She sent him off, and ordered the youngster never to speak to him again, and the poor little monkey's been fairly sick over it. There couldn't possibly be anything between them, but she liked him; they were chums. Now don't you see how difficult it is for me to show him any kindness, even if I wanted to? And I'm sure I don't owe his scoundrel father much consideration, anyway."

The ambassador had nothing to say. Scotty's chances for redress were very poor. He looked into the fire in deep disappointment. Monteith was not a religious man, but at that moment he remembered vaguely a passage from the Bible about the fathers having eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth being set on edge.

But for all his talk, Captain Herbert had not settled the affair to his own satisfaction. He was blustering up and down the room again, trying to work off his Indignation against fate. He paused once more in front of his visitor.

"I tell you what, Archie," he cried for the fifth time, "I hate the whole business. It's been grinding at me for nearly fifteen years. I've got a son of my own about that boy's age. His mother died when he was a baby, and he's everything to me; and when I think that if I had been taken too, he might have fared badly,—well—it's—— Look here, what kind of ability has young Stanwell?"

Monteith gasped. "He's as bright as a steel trap; all brains."

"Well,"—the Captain was thoughtful—"what does he want?"

"He wants a chance to earn some money in a hurry so that he can go to college. He's determined to get an education, but the money isn't forthcoming."

"Well, if I should see him through——"

Monteith shook his head smilingly. "He wouldn't accept it. You must remember, the boy has the real old Highland pride. No, give him some position where he can earn some money, or think he is earning it, in a short time."

"You're a Jew at a bargain, Archie Monteith, and a Scotch Jew, at that, which is the worst kind. What sort of aptitude would he have for figures?"

"He seems to display a special aptitude for almost anything he undertakes."

"Well,—I might,—pshaw, why not? Eleanor needn't know. There's Raye & Hemming. They want a young man in their office. It means a responsible position, though, Archie, with good pay, and I'm depending entirely upon your recommendation. He ought to know something about lumber surely."

"Raye & Hemming!" Monteith started. "I'd be delighted to see the boy get such a good opportunity, but the name of that particular lumber company isn't absolutely synonymous with fair-dealing. Remember, Ralph's been very strictly brought up, Captain."

"Pshaw, they're supposed to muddle a little with politics, but what's the difference? If your paragon is so squeamish you'd better keep him in the bush. I can't think of anything else I could do for him half so good. Those fellows are sharp, I'll admit, but they know how to make money."

Monteith considered for a moment, then stood up and held out his hand. "I knew you would do the square thing, Captain," he said heartily.

"Well, to be honest, I confess I'm not entirely disinterested. That young Carruthers the Grits are bringing out will be sure to rake up this story if I run next fall; and those MacDonalds are double-dyed Grits already. I don't want to give them a handle against me. Young Stanwell will make a better friend than an enemy. I can clear my tender conscience and get him out of the road, and save myself a great deal of future trouble all in one stroke. So there you are, you see."

Monteith laughed. There was something irresistible about the candour of the man.

"He certainly is an Irishman all through," was the Scotchman's mental comment.

"And by the way, Archie, does he know anything about this?"

"Not a word. Big Malcolm never told anybody, I fancy. That's a gentleman for you!"

Captain Herbert looked slightly embarrassed.

"I suppose you'd better tell the boy—everything?"

"I think it would be better. He's very fair-minded, and, besides," Monteith smiled, "he is not likely to feel any resentment against Miss Isabel's uncle."

"That brings up a very important item in our bargain," said the Captain frowningly, "and one upon which everything depends."

"Yes?"

"He'll have to understand that there's to be nothing between him and Bluebell. It seems absurd to talk about such a thing already, but Eleanor seems certain of danger. So you'll have to put the matter plainly to the young man, and explain that if he's so much as caught speaking to her, his position is gone as quick as a gunshot. I owe that much to my sister. She couldn't stand the sight of him, and neither of the youngsters is old enough to be hurt."

Monteith looked dubious, but he did not hesitate to comply. Ralph would soon forget when he got away into the world, he told himself, and Miss Herbert would probably make the keeping of the bargain very easy for him.

"And now," cried Captain Herbert, rising with an expression of relief, "that's over. It's been an abominable tangle all through, a perfect mess, with everyone in the family mixed up in it, and it's a relief to have it settled. Come along, let's go out and breathe some fresh air and look at the dogs!"



XIII

THE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS

Out of the strife of conflict, Out of the nightmare wild, Thou bringest me, spent and broken, Like the life of a little child.

Like the spume of a far-spent wave, Or a wreck cast up from the sea, Out of the pride of being, My soul returns to Thee. —WILLIAM WILFRED CAMPBELL.

Raye & Hemming, managers of that branch of the Great Lake Lumber Company that had its headquarters in the town of Barbay, soon learned that their new clerk was a young man of no mean parts. For beside an unusual ability, young Stanwell brought to his work that tenacity of purpose and tendency to unremitting toil which is the product of the farm.

Scotty found himself treated with every consideration by his chiefs. Captain Herbert's protege was evidently a person of some importance, and he guessed that his generous salary was largely due to his patron's influence. Though his feelings towards his benefactor were naturally somewhat mixed, since hearing how he had defrauded him of his birthright, nevertheless Scotty could find small room in his heart for any ill-will against Isabel's uncle. He had ill-used him, no doubt, but he was making reparation, and what more could any man do? And, indeed, Scotty's affairs were turning out so much better than his fondest hopes had pictured, that he could not wish the past different. A few years with Raye & Hemming, he felt assured, would open the golden gates of college to him, and there he would vindicate himself.

For the young man was in happy ignorance of the fact that his present good fortune depended upon his separation from Isabel. Monteith had not seen fit to apprise him of that item in Captain Herbert's bargain. The shrewd schoolmaster had a suspicion that the foolish young man might throw up his hopeful prospects in a fit of romantic gallantry, and determined to run no risks until all danger was past.

So the boy did not know how hopeless was the love he and his golden-haired sweetheart had pledged beneath the pines at Kirsty's gate. Miss Herbert strongly objected to him, he knew, but she could be overcome in time. They must be separated for a time, but Captain Herbert was his friend, surely, and Isabel—well, he was certain of her, anyway—Isabel would never forget, for had she not promised that she would think of him always, no matter how far apart they might be, and how could anyone doubt Isabel?

His life in the town was beneficial in many ways. Socially he learned as much as he did in the office of Raye & Hemming, knowledge which he knew would stand him in good stead when that longed-for day would come when he would be permitted to visit Isabel in her home. He was received in Barbay society in spite of his rural training, for was he not Captain Herbert's friend, and the only son of that dashing Captain Stanwell whom the best people knew in the early days. And was there not the chance that he might be a young man of property some day?

And so, though Isabel and home were far away, Scotty worked away blithely, determined to show Captain Herbert that he was worthy of the trust reposed in him, and resolved to win in spite of all odds.

But as he grew more accustomed to the business, and more intimate with the inner workings of Raye & Hemming's office, there slowly spread over his rosy hopes a shadow of misgiving. He found it impossible to shut his eyes to the fact that the men with whom he was employed, and from whom he was to learn, were adepts at many of the small, sharp practices which he had been taught to despise. Scotty had been brought up with no hazy ideas of right and wrong. Though Big Malcolm had left the boy's training almost entirely to his wife, still, as much by example as precept, he had instilled into his grandson's very soul a proud contempt for anything resembling a lie. Any form of deceit, sharp dealing or trickery came under one despised category, and within Scotty's earliest memory had been looked upon by all his household with supreme scorn.

And now in his new environment he found himself a daily witness of a dozen little petty transactions such as he had been taught to loathe. Sometimes, when he was compelled to assist in the sharp tricks of his employers and received afterwards their laughing congratulations upon his success, he turned away from them with a feeling of nausea. He tried to picture his grandfather in similar circumstances, but could not. Well he knew Big Malcolm would not stoop from his lofty height to touch the business of Raye & Hemming with his finger-tips.

And yet they were not absolutely dishonest; perhaps this was only what the world considered being "sharp" in business, he argued. But he could not quite convince himself, and in his perplexity hinted at his troubles in a letter to Monteith.

The schoolmaster's answer did not succeed in putting his mind at rest. "I know those fellows have the name of doing some slippery things," he wrote, "and personally I wish you had hit upon men who had a better reputation, but there's no denying they know how to make money, and the shareholders are naturally rather fond of them. You must just learn to shut your eyes to little things that don't exactly suit you and go ahead. Your chance in life depends upon your ability to please those fellows. Don't lose it, my boy, it means everything."

Scotty was rather bewildered by this advice, coming from one whom he had long regarded as an infallible authority. In his backwoods simplicity he felt himself at sea. Was there, then, a different code of honour in the country from that which was adhered to in the town?

Not since the days when Granny had had to chide him for childish naughtiness had he been greatly troubled over the vexed question of right and wrong. Looking back now, he could see that he had been hedged about by what he chose to call circumstances. First there had been the influences of that home beneath the Silver Maple, and the strong, gentle control of his grandmother. And when his high spirits had been in danger of taking him beyond the "borderland dim," Monteith had come, and there had been no more trouble. Monteith's training had been quite different from that which he had received at home. The schoolmaster despised as a fool anyone who did not walk the straight and narrow path. Wrong-doing was idiotic, he declared; it didn't "pay." But Monteith's creed did not hold here. It did pay, as far as Scotty could see. And here he was with no hedging circumstances to keep him in the right path, standing at the parting of the ways.

And yet he did not for a moment consider the possibility of drawing back. There was too much at stake. As Monteith had said, everything depended upon his faithfully filling his post. To lose the favour of Raye & Hemming meant to lose everything he had set his heart upon, Captain Herbert's friendship, his education, Isabel herself.

No, he could not dream of giving up. And so he took Monteith's advice and went forward doggedly. But all the enjoyment in his new work was soon gone, his happy, sanguine days gradually changed to a season of worry and humiliation; until he sometimes longed with all his soul to fling all the unclean business aside, take an axe and go back to the bush.

He struggled on through the winter, morose and plodding, until the spring came with scented breezes and the songs of birds calling him to come away. Barbay was situated picturesquely on an arm of Lake Simcoe. From the office window he could catch enchanting glimpses of sapphire lake and emerald hill, and he was seized with an intense longing to return to his outdoor life. If he could only get back to his old environment for even a day, he felt he could readjust his ideas and see things more clearly. The 24th of May, the birthday of the good Queen, brought him the longed-for holiday. The office claimed him for a few hours in the morning, but early in the afternoon he hired a canoe, and, supplied with a gun and rod, a blanket and plenty of bread and meat, he paddled away into the blue expanse. He would go on until he came to the forest, he determined, and there he would camp for the night.

His spirits rose like a freed bird as, with long, steady strokes, hour after hour, he glided smoothly up the low, green shore. He was some distance from any human habitation when the steady dip, dip of his paddle echoed farther inland than usual. He paused and peered into the woods. He was on the edge of a forest whose tangled fringe of birch and elm hung over the greening water. But just behind this fringe was a little clearing, all smothered in riotous undergrowth. Scotty ran his canoe up on the sandy beach, her bow sweeping aside the drooping elm branches, and leaped ashore. He plunged into the little tangled circle of undergrowth, and at the first sight gave a boyish whoop of delight.

In the centre of the space, facing the water, stood an old log shanty, a temporary structure erected in the lumbering days. It contained bunks filled with straw. Here was the very place to spend the night; it seemed waiting for him. He set to work to make camp with the skill of a lifelong practice. A splendid black bass that responded hungrily to his bait made a fine addition to his larder. He soon had a merry fire in front of the cabin, sending a blue column of smoke straight into the treetops, and when it burned down to a bed of coals he cooked his fish. Supper was soon over, the canoe stowed safely high up on the shore, and he had nothing to do but enjoy the silence and peace of the wild, lonely spot. He built up his fire again, partly because the May night was cool and partly to keep off the mosquitoes, and stretched himself full length upon the ground before it. It was the first time in months that he had been absolutely at peace. Around him was the encircling forest, which bulked largely in his earliest memories, and always gave him the sensation of being at home. The sweet pungent odour of burning evergreens filled the air, mingling with the scents of the forest. Above the dark ring of wild, luxuriant growth the sky shone a clear transparent crystal, with faint illusive suggestions of rose and orange, for out there in the wide world the sun was setting, and Lake Simcoe glinted between the tree trunks flushed and smiling. The little breeze of the afternoon had died away, and not a leaf stirred; only where the subsiding waves disturbed the shells and pebbles on the beach could be heard a soft whispering rustle.

But as the night fell, from the darkening forest there arose the evening chorus of the birds. Each tall pine tree, silhouetted sharply against the crystal sky, was soon ringing with the transporting vespers of the veery. Away back on a hill, far above the little clearing, a whip-poor-will stationed himself in a treetop to complain over and over of the darkness and loneliness of the world. Just at Scotty's right hand, from behind a screen of scented basswood, came a sudden discordant sound, the rasping "meyow" of the cat-bird; a moment's silence followed and then arose a burst of delirious, bubbling melody, as though the naughty songster, hidden within his aromatic curtains, were laughing impudently at having deceived his hearers into thinking he was only a cat. A loon arose with a splash from the reedy shore of an island opposite and sailed away through the amber air; his wild, derisive laugh echoed back from the glimmering sunset bay where he had joined his comrades. Far above, the "scree-ak, scree-ak" of the night-hawks whirling in the heavens echoed away into the green depths; up the long dark aisles came the sweet "hoo, hoo" of the owl, and the clear ringing notes of the whitethroat "calling across the dusk." The frogs, down by the whispering water's edge, joined their chorus to the night music; and on every side, keeping at a respectful distance from the smoke of the fire, the mosquitoes "all in a wailful choir" uttered their little, thin, doleful tunes. And always, far up in the dark pinetops, like bells in a cathedral tower, rang out the clear, enchanting, metallic notes; the long liquid carol of the veery.

Scotty drew a great sigh of content; he was home again. The magic spirit of the woods, with its sense of peace and freedom, enfolded his very soul. Those things of earth, the sordid meannesses of his everyday life, faded away; they were as far removed as that diamond star he was watching twinkling on the sharp peak of a dark fir. He lay on his back, his hands clasped beneath his head, and gazed up into the tender blue of heaven until the night began to deepen. The crackling embers of the fire slowly smouldered down, the chorus in the treetops began to subside. Gradually a great stillness settled over the velvet darkness of the woods, and still lying motionless and content he could hear only the soft stir of a leaf or the occasional "hush, hush!" that the waters and the shells whispered, as though they were telling each other that the world was going to sleep.

Scotty forgot his bed in the shanty, a soft balsam limb made a fragrant pillow, and mother earth was the best couch. His senses floated away.

He was at home, lying under the Silver Maple; the sound of Granny's spinning-wheel came drowsily through the doorway. The pathway across the swamp to Kirsty's clearing was blue with violets; a white figure was flitting down it,—coming to him with the sunshine on her golden hair and the violets at her feet.

Suddenly he was wide awake; not startled, but with all his keen, woodsman senses alert. Instinctively he reached for his gun. Something strange in his surroundings had aroused him, he knew. What was it? He lay listening intently.

And then out of the depths of the darkness came the answer,—a sound, dim and far off, but echoing melodiously through the leafy arches, a voice as of an angel, singing:

"The Lord thee keeps, the Lord thy shade On thy right hand doth stay: The moon by night thee shall not smite, Nor yet the sun by day."

Scotty raised himself upon his elbow; the sound of the old psalm, coming without warning out of the uninhabited darkness, struck him with awe. Had the forest taken voice, or was it all but a part of his dream? He listened breathlessly until the psalm was finished and the silence had again fallen. There seemed something too sweetly mysterious about the singing to come from a human source. There was an intense silence for a few moments, then the voice rose again, this time nearer and more distinct,

"The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want, He makes me down to lie In pastures green, He leadeth me The quiet waters by."

Scotty was overwhelmed with a sudden rush of memory. He was reminded of that day so long ago when the awesome shadows of the winter woods had terrified him with the first conception of death, and sent him with unerring instinct to the true refuge.

Who could be wandering in this wild, lonely place at night singing,—singing the very things calculated to touch the depths of his soul?

The sound was coming nearer, growing in power, as though the singer felt the sublime confidence of the words.

"Yea, though I walk through death's dark vale, Yet will I fear no ill, For Thou art with me and Thy rod And staff me comfort still."

And then Scotty recognised the voice. It was one which, once heard, was not easily forgotten. It belonged to the great preacher, Mr. McAlpine, the man who years before had come to the Glen, and with his message from the Eternal roused the place to a better life. But he was an old man now, and retired from his labours, and how came he to be wandering in this trackless wilderness after nightfall?

The voice had ceased, and now the sound of footsteps in the crackling underbrush could be heard. Scotty could discern a dim figure coming towards his fire. He stood up as it approached. The old man with his long white beard, his bare silver head, for he carried his hat reverently, his tall, gaunt figure and piercing eye gave the young man the impression of one of the great men of Bible times, Isaiah, or that one who preached in the wilderness beyond Jordan and called to his hearers to make straight the paths for the coming of the Messiah.

With the mutual feeling of friendship that arises between men in the lonely places of the earth, the two met with outstretched hands.

A smile of pleasure at the open face and fine physique of his unexpected host flashed over the old man's face.

"Big Malcolm MacDonald's grandson!" he cried, when Scotty had introduced himself. "Oh, yes, indeed, I know Big Malcolm well,"—he shook the young man's hand once more: "Ah yes, it was his eldest son's funeral that first took me to the Oa. God moves in a mysterious way, indeed. And you were but a child then, and now you are a man. And it is a good thing to be standing upon the threshold of life, is it not?"

A good thing? Scotty would have given a most emphatic affirmative in response some months before, but now he was doubtful.

"Yes," he said hesitatingly, "in some ways. But how do you happen to be away back here alone, Mr. McAlpine?"

The minister explained his presence. He had been asked to go to Barbay to assist with the sacrament on the following Sabbath, and had intended to spend the night with a friend and take the stage out in the morning.

"But I could not wait," he concluded, "I was constrained to come on." There was that strange gleam in his eye which had always so filled Scotty with awe in his childhood. The young man understood. Mr. McAlpine's burning restlessness, his erratic way of making arrangements to be driven to certain places, and then suddenly setting out in the dead of night to walk prodigious distances had been the wondering talk of the Oa since he was a child. For this man carried a burden of souls that gave him no rest day or night, and that even now, when he was broken and aged, sometimes drove him to stupendous labour.

"But you will surely stay here to-night!" cried Scotty, feeling in the capacity of host even in this wild tangle of forest growth. "I am camping, but there is plenty of room in the shanty, and I can cook you some supper."

The old man accepted the hospitality gratefully. He appeared worn and exhausted, and seemed to have suddenly lost his restless energy, as though the spur which had driven him forth in the night had been removed.

Scotty made a comfortable seat for him of cedar boughs placed against a large tree trunk, and stirred up the fire to a blaze. Its rays danced forth, lighting up the worn face and white hair of the old man seated before it, and the strong frame of the young one standing erect in splendid contrast. The light made the log walls of the old shanty stand forth, touched here and there the fantastic heaps of dead brushwood and misshapen stumps, illumined the underside of the adjacent trees and danced away down the dim avenues to be lost among the ghostly shadows.

And while his host prepared supper, the minister beguiled the time by asking after all his friends in the Oa and the Glen, especially the Highlanders, for Mr. McAlpine was not above possessing a little weakness for anyone who spoke the Gaelic. And then he must know what the young man was doing, and how he came to be there.

Scotty answered his questions in the distantly respectful manner that all the Glenoro youth had been wont to show this man. He explained his sudden excursion to the woods as merely a natural desire to be out of doors. He told something too of his life with Raye & Hemming in Barbay, but he had all the reticence of his class and kin, and the minister learned little from what he said.

And while they conversed the elder man was watching the younger with the keen eye of a detective. For to old John McAlpine every soul with whom he came in contact was a burden to be carried until it was laid safely at the foot of the cross, and he was yearning to know if this young man, so respectful and kindly of manner, had yet had his heart touched by Divine love.

He tried to read the dark, young face in the light of the dancing flames, noting every feature—the intellectual brow, the kind, bright eyes, the mouth, still boyish, and showing some wilfulness and impatience of rule; the resolute chin. A good face, the man concluded, with rare possibilities. But he was convinced before the conversation closed that its owner was not a follower of the meek and lowly One.

For the minister was a marvellous reader of character, and in spite of Scotty's reserve, before the evening was gone he had allowed his guest to discover that he intended to carve out his own destiny as he desired, fearless of consequences.

When everything was in readiness for the night, and the young man had returned from making up a second bed in the shanty, the minister drew up close to the fire and took from his pocket a Bible.

He slowly turned over the leaves, praying earnestly that he might be guided in his choice to something that would touch this young man's soul. The 139th Psalm caught his eye, and the deep voice slowly and solemnly read:

"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thoughts afar off.... Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me."

Leaning back against a fallen tree trunk, his face partially hidden in shadow, Scotty listened intently. Had this man been sent out of the darkness of the forest to show him how foolhardy were his attempts to escape from God? For had he not been saying to himself all these past months that surely the darkness of secrecy would cover his wrongdoing; that somehow he would escape from God.

He had not read the Bible since he left home, and the old familiar words, coming like a long-lost friend, struck him with their inevitable truth. His rest in the lap of nature had brought him to himself; he saw things with a clearer vision, and he realised now that the fierce yearning to be away which had driven him to the forest had been really the desire to escape the Eye that never sleeps. The longing to take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea had been upon him, and here God's messenger had met him, and he stood like a hunted animal at bay.

The minister read on without pause almost to the end, and then stopped.

There were two more verses, Scotty well knew; he and Isabel had learned that Psalm years ago at Granny's knee. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." He looked up half-inquiringly as the voice ceased. The minister smiled comprehendingly.

"I see you know what follows," he said; "it is a great thing to be grounded in the Scriptures in youth. Do you know why I stopped?"

"No," said Scotty, in a whisper.

"Because the next is a verse I hardly dare to read. It is a fearful thing to ask the Almighty God to search the heart, for there are wicked ways in us, many and deep." He began slowly turning over the leaves again, and Scotty waited with a strange dread of what was coming.

The passage was from the challenging words that came to Job out of the whirlwind, and like a whirlwind they swept over the young man's soul.

"Who is this that darkeneth counsel, by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins, like a man, for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me."

He paused a moment and his listener held his breath. To him the words did not seem to be spoken by man, but seemed to come out of the whispering darkness of the great forest.

"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.... Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof; when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

Scotty's heart suddenly swelled. This great Jehovah was speaking directly to him; the Jehovah whose inexorable laws were written in man's very being, as well as in His Book. And he, His creature, was about to set them aside, declaring that he would walk as seemed right in his own eyes.

But the minister was still reading. "Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the day-spring to know his place?... Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?... Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?"

Scotty listened with heart and ears, and when the minister came at last to Job's confession, he felt he could echo the words, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."

The amber column of smoke rising straight to the circle of sky was suddenly touched with a silver radiance. Up from behind the dark island the moon had arisen, radiant and burnished, and was sending a long shimmering pathway across the deep blue of Lake Simcoe. Scotty's eyes followed its glint between the tree trunks and the words came over him again, "Now mine eye seeth thee." But when the minister paused he came back to realities. Another picture rose before him, the sweet face of the girl he loved, the one whom he was to win by keeping in the path wherein he now walked. A look of defiance flitted across his face. No. He would go on. He could never give up now!

But the leaves had rustled again, and now the minister had resumed his word pictures. This time they were not of the mighty Jehovah, just, unapproachable, omnipotent; but of the lonely Man of Nazareth standing by the lakeside and calling the fishermen to Him, and then on to Calvary when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The elder man's keen eyes saw the tokens of a conflict in the other's face, and he was too wise to address him directly. His occasional remarks had the effect of soliloquies, but they plunged Scotty's soul in the valley of shadows.

He was thinking how all his life he had been compassed about. He knew now that what he had called hedging circumstances had been God's very Hand. His grandmother's faithful teachings had guided his careless boyish feet; his grandfather's falls from the high position he had set himself were graphic object-lessons to teach the value of righteousness; Monteith's influence had kept him in the right way, and now how dared he turn aside of his own will?

But what was the minister reading now? What but the story of a young man, one so goodly and commendable in person and character that the Master had regarded him with an especial feeling of comradeship; but there was one thing he refused to give up, and he turned his back upon the Saviour of mankind and went away sorrowful, "for his possessions were very great." And Scotty's possessions were great also—those he was about to reach out and seize, infinitely beyond the value of gold and silver, and he wanted to turn away, too, but something held him.

The minister glanced at the young man's face, and knew his heart had been touched. He closed the Book. "Let us pray," he said, and rising, knelt by the side of a moss-grown log. But Scotty did not kneel; he sat erect, staring with desperate eyes into the fire, and striving with all the force of his will to harden his heart. To his relief the old man made no remark upon his strange conduct when he arose from his knees, but at once went to his bed in the shanty. Some subtle instinct told him the young man would be better alone.

Long after he had retired Scotty walked up and down before the fire, fighting out the old, weary battle; but now with a fury as if for life.

To go on with his work at Raye & Hemming's now in the light of what had come to him this night would be, he knew, to cast aside all the teachings of his lifetime—the teachings of Granny, of experience, yes, even of Monteith, for he realised now they had all come from God, and were one. He was down in the valley of the shadows, and the rod and staff were of no comfort to him, for they meant pain and renunciation.

He could not give up Captain Herbert's friendship and Isabel; he could not go on. The fire had died down to a red eye looking sullenly out of the smoky darkness, the moon had sunk behind the forest ring, and out of the blackness of night came a sensation of approaching change, a hint that the dawn was near. As Scotty, pale and haggard, stood looking into the dying fire, a step aroused him and the minister was by his side.

"Why, sir," he cried in surprise, "you will surely not be getting up yet. It is quite dark."

"I was not sleeping," said the old man. "I could not but watch you," he added gently, "for I cannot but see you are carrying a burden; one heavy for your time of life, my lad, and I wondered if I could be of any help."

All Scotty's mental attitude of defiance melted away before this gentle sympathy. He was silent, simply through the inability to speak, and the minister continued, "Do not speak of it if you would rather not. I would not force your confidence, but just come and we will pray about it, and you will tell the Father and He will be making it right."

Scotty turned with a gesture of defeat. To pray was the last thing he desired to do, it meant surrender; but this time he knelt obediently at the minister's side by the dying fire.

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