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Title: The House of Cariboo and Other Tales from Arcadia
Author: Gardiner, A. Paul
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Illustration: “Lucy * * * watched intently a boat pushing out from
  a bay farther up the shore.” (Page 159.)]



  _The House of Cariboo

  AND OTHER

  Tales from Arcadia,

  BY

  A. PAUL GARDINER.

  Author of “Vacation Incidents,” “The Fifth
  Avenue Social Trust,” etc.

  Illustrated by Robert A. Graef.

  A. P. Gardiner, Publisher, New York.

  1900._



  COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY
  A. P. GARDINER.



  _CONTENTS._


                                                            PAGE

  THE ARCHIPELAGO,                                            11

  ALONG THE FRONT,                                            16

  THE HOUSE OF CARIBOO.

  CHAP.     I. THE CAMERONS AT THE FRONT,                     31

  CHAP.    II. BARBARA AND DAN AT HOME,                       43

  CHAP.   III. ON THE WAY TO THE GOLD FIELDS,                 46

  CHAP.    IV. INTO THE CARIBOO MOUNTAINS,                    50

  CHAP.     V. AT THE FOUR CORNERS,                           54

  CHAP.    VI. DONALD VISITS THE GOSSIP CLUB,                 63

  CHAP.   VII. IN THE MINING CAMP,                            72

  CHAP.  VIII. LECLARE’S STORY: THE INITIALED TREE,           80

  CHAP.    IX. LECLARE’S STORY: THE CHRISTMAS TREE,           89

  CHAP.     X. ADIEU TO THE MINING CAMP,                      96

  CHAP.    XI. NICK PERKINS THE MONEY LENDER,                101

  CHAP    XII. BARBARA IN THE CHILCOTEN VALLEY,              110

  CHAP.  XIII. THE MORTGAGE COMES DUE,                       115

  CHAP.   XIV. BLAKELY CONSULTS CAMERON’S LAWYER,            121

  CHAP.    XV. CAMERON’S RESOLVE,                            126

  CHAP.   XVI. THE RETURN OF THE GOLD DIGGERS,               131

  CHAP.  XVII. CAMERON OUTLINES HIS POLICY,                  136

  CHAP. XVIII. THE ICE RAFT,                                 143

  CHAP.   XIX. LECLARE TO PROSPECT IN ARCADIA,               153

  CHAP.    XX. LUCY VISITS THE ARCHIPELAGO,                  157

  CHAP.   XXI. UNDER THE INITIALED TREE,                     166

  CHAP.  XXII. THE MYSTERY OF THE CORNER STONES,             171

  CHAP. XXIII. FRASER CONFERS WITH PERKINS,                  175

  CHAP.  XXIV. PERKINS AGAIN OUTWITTED,                      182

  CHAP.   XXV. DONALD BAN AT THE FRONT,                      188

  CHAP.  XXVI. CAMERON’S TASK COMPLETED,                     195

  THE GROWING MASKINONGE,                                    200



  List of Full Page Illustrations.


  “Lucy * * * watched intently a boat pushing out
  from a bay farther up the shore.” (Page 159.)          _Frontispiece._


  “I had run across Jimmie, one day, while prospecting
  for water lilies,”                                                  22

  “‘Now, Nick Perkins, if you have got anything to
  say to me personally, just come down here in
  the road and I’ll talk to you,’”                                    68

  “‘Speak, Edmond!’ gasped Cameron. ‘What have
  you behind your back? It’s gold! gold!—I
  know it!’”                                                          76

  “As the hour of the sale approached, they assembled
  at the east end of the broad veranda,”                             188

  “‘Well, it’s pretty bad,’ said Du Ponté, ‘but Ribbon
  needs you the worst of any of us,’”                                212



_The Archipelago._


As the eagle stirs up her nest upon the crags and forces her young
over the confines of the inadequate abode, it is then that they spread
their wings and soar away to freedom and independence. So is it with
the great river of rivers, the St. Lawrence. Born among the Northwest
Lakes, and sheltered there for a time, resenting intrusion, it steals
away unnoticed from the watershed expanse. Threading its course through
the marshes and lowlands, it gathers momentum as it speeds onward,
till, the volume growing too great for its confining banks, its waters
rebel, and breaking from control, spread forth into the boisterous
storm-tossed Erie. Here they are disrupted and buffeted about, driven
by the winds and carried onward by a terrible undertow. Now drawn
through a narrow, deep channel, swiftly they pass the cities on the
shore. Too quickly they are speeding to heed or be disturbed longer
by the warring of the elements. Down to the very brink of the awful
precipice ahead they charge with ever-increasing speed, then over the
Niagara, pouring far beneath into the seething, boiling caldrons.

After surging still onward through jagged, walled raceways, then
emerging into a lake of whirling eddies, till finally fought out
to exhaustion, the once rampant waters of the tumultuous Erie flow
peacefully into the haven of the Lake of Ontario. Here at rest,
landlocked by the grape-bearing vineyards of the Niagara and the
peach groves of the Canadian Paradise of the West, the St. Lawrence
is again reinforced, and again its voyage onward to the sea is begun,
this time marked by the dignity of a well-organized body. The blue
waters, through their separate channels, glide majestically down their
course, passing the islands in their midst with a happy smile and
ripples of sunlight laughter. Touching at the wharfs of the numerous
cottagers and lapping the white shining sides of the pleasure craft
among the Thousand Islands, onward heedlessly flows the beautiful river
increasing in strength.

Once more before reaching the haven of the Archipelago, the water
channels of the great river are bidden to struggle with one another,
to fight for supremacy and swiftness, and demonstrate to the other
creatures of nature the mighty forces hidden at other times beneath the
tranquil surface of her smiling face. The rapids of the Sioux are now
left behind and we come to that part of the majestic river included
in these sketches, which territorial lines have placed within the
borders of our friendly Canadian ally, the Lake St. Francis. Beginning
immediately after the subsiding of the waters from their turbulent
passage through the rapids of the Sioux, the river spreads out till
its confining banks are in places ten miles apart. There in this wide
expanse stretching across toward the blue irregular mountain line of
the Adirondacks, far to the southward, then eastward till the vision
meets the water line, lie the islands grouped for beauty by nature’s
gardener, called by the writer the Arcadian Archipelago.

The very atmosphere of this enchanted region compels the thoughts of
peace and freedom. A restful idleness pervades the life of its people;
and while they fish and row about through the islands of the group,
picnicking with their friends of the Cameron or McDonald Clan from the
“Gore,” little do they care for the tending of the farm, the harvesting
of the crops, or the speeding of time. The only “walking delegate”
whose ruling they recognize, is the rising or setting sun. Upon the
interval of time, for them there are no restrictions.

Free from the cares of business, ignorant of the affairs of political
intriguing, and shielded by happiness from all social strife, these
primitive inhabitants of the Archipelago live on as does the flowering
plant-life of the district. They bask in the sun of the Spring and
Summer seasons, only to hide away again for months from the Winter’s
snows and the icy winds of December and March. As life among the people
of Glengarry and the settlers at the “Front” over on the mainland,
goes happily on, unchanged by the passing social fads of the century,
so also upon the St. Francis Islands nature still retains her original
tenants and social customs. The Indians from the tribe of St. Regis at
the reservation on the mainland guard with a jealous care their coveted
hunting grounds from possession by the white men; and neither thus far
has the woodsman’s axe nor the painted cottage of the “first settler”
succeeded in gaining an entree into the sacred confines of the St.
Francis Archipelago.



_Along the Front._

[Illustration: _ALONG THE FRONT_]


Along The Front the north bank of the river skirting the Arcadian
Archipelago is high and terraced up from the water’s edge to the
roadway, which follows the indentations of the shore line westward to
the county seat of Glengarry. Over this road the country folk from the
interior townships make their weekly pilgrimages to market the products
of their farms. Facing this road also, and looking out upon the broad
river, dotted with wooded islands, are the farm-houses, the small
church, and the dilapidated remains of what was once a prosperous boat
landing called The Front. In the palmy days of river freighting this
little weather-beaten hamlet had some excuse for a hope of life, but
now that river navigation all over the world has been paralleled with
the modern steel-winged carriers, time and neglect have stamped their
impress upon the deserted buildings and docks, which at one time in the
long ago had shown fair signs of a prolonged life.

From Castle Island, as we look across the boat channel and over the
intervening strips of rush banks to the mainland, the remains of the
business part of The Front present a deserted and uninviting appearance.

First we see the dilapidated dock; then a disheveled freight building;
near by in a small bay, is a broken-down boat house, sadly twisted by
the “ice shoves” in the Spring of the year. Next we can see the old
brown, weather-discolored tavern with an extension reaching out toward
the east. A dance hall it was, and below, the beaux of old Glengarry
stabled their horses, while they danced overhead to the music of the
bagpipes until dawn of day. Sad, as he views the scene, must be the
thoughts of one of these gallants returning to his native home. In the
palmy days of The Front he had proudly escorted the farmer’s comely
lassie through the corridors of the tavern and up the broad stairs
to the dance hall, pleased with his choice of a partner and happy in
the simplicity of his surroundings. To-day, the name on the sign-board
over the entrance is no longer readable. The plank steps, once strong
and unbending, have rotted away at the ends and the centre, until
now, for the use of the laborer’s family who occupy the old shell as
their living apartments, broken pieces of plank for steps are held up
by stones placed one upon the other. The dance hall in the extension
presents the sorriest appearance to the visitor approaching from the
water’s side. A woodyard with jagged, uncut logs and little heaps of
chips picked up here and there from the chopper’s axe, fills the yard
and what was once the stabling-shed for the chafing steeds of the
Glengarry lads. The gable end of the hall is all awry; the archways
beneath and the supporting posts have leaned over, tired as it were,
of the long, weary wait against the time when they will be no longer
asked to support their useless burden. Doves, unmolested, fly in and
out through the broken panes of the windows, and strut and coo along
the weather-checked vane of the roof. Where once the droning of the
bagpipes re-echoed through the full length of the building, it is now
the buzzing of the bumble-bee and the tenor singing wasps that we hear
as they swarm around their hive-nests suspended from the rafters.
Gone forever from the old tavern are the good times of yore, and like
the business prosperity at the landing, they have followed the noisy
rivermen down the stream to return again no more to The Front.

To describe the surviving enterprises at The Front—there are, first,
the government post-office; then the buckboard stage line plying
between The Front and the station to the railway two miles inland; and,
lastly, the boat builder’s plant in the bay. It would seem that the
traveling public were charitably inclined toward the ancient buckskin
mare and the driver of the mail coach, for daily the old nag is hitched
to the buckboard; the canvas mail-sack is rolled up and tucked into
the pocket of the driver’s linen-dusterlike coat, and without ever a
passenger to tax the strength of the old mare or the comfort of the
driver, they jog along together to the station, then back. The return
pouch is extracted from the folds of the accommodating coat, handed
over to the official postmaster, and the business event of the day at
The Front is closed.

Down by the water’s edge, with one corner of its base, as if from
a misstep, dipping down into the stream, is the plant of the boat
builder. Across at Castle Island each season his couple of boats,
the result of his Winter’s employment, are disposed of; then after
re-calking the two which he had sold the previous season, and had
re-purchased at secondhand prices, he awaits through the long Summer
days, the arrival of trade.

Each day as I looked across at The Front, my field glasses refused
to change the sameness of the scene or setting by even discovering
a venturesome pedestrian sauntering down the dusty road, or a child
running an errand for an industrious housewife to the post-office
or general store. Curiosity had about decided me to make a visit of
investigation, but before an opportunity to act came, I was told a
caller wished to see me.

“I am from The Front, aye, sir, just yonder acrost, and three farms
up from the post-office is where I live. Jimmie MacPherson—James T.
MacPherson is my right name, but they call me Jimmie around here. Of
course, I mean,” he added apologetically, “they do over at the cheese
factory and the wheelwright shop. You city folks here on the island,
from New York, don’t know me, so I’m telling you my full name, but you
can call me Jimmie, too, if you like that better.”

“All right, Jimmie,” said I, “that sounds more like getting on
together. Have a seat here on the veranda, or we will go down on the
dock, just as you say.” I thought the presence of ladies near by might
interfere with the free discussion of the subject about which Jimmie
had thought it necessary to call.

[Illustration: “I had run across Jimmie, one day, while prospecting for
water lilies.”]

“On the veranda,” replied Jimmie, and a mischievous twinkle was in
his eyes, as he shaded them from the glare of the morning sun with
the rough fingers of his right hand. “You will see by my complexion,”
he continued in a humorous strain, “that I am not used to being out
in the sun. The field corn grows so fast along The Front that we are
constantly in the shade while out promenading.” Then he turned his
shining countenance on me to confirm what he had said. An honest face
it was, covered with an unkempt, fiery red beard. His skin was burned
and blistered in spots extending from the shade mark on the forehead
made by his greasy felt hat till lost in perspective in the dense
undergrowth of the lower chin and neck.

I had run across Jimmie one day while prospecting for water lilies, at
the mouth of a small creek which emptied its waters by a circuitous
route into one of the channels of the large river, to be found over
in the region of Hoag Island and the Dead Channel. Jimmie on that
morning was cocked up in the stern seat of his flat-bottomed punt. Two
wooden pins acting as oar locks, stuck into the sides of the boat and
recently whittled to a whiteness of the wood, were the only relief in
color to that of the boat and crew. Jimmie was the captain and the
crew consisted of the spaniel dog, whose brown coat corresponded so
closely to the coloring of the metal and stock of the beautiful modern
shot gun, and the entire costume of Jimmie and his river craft, that as
he lay alongside of a reed-bank filled with dried cat-tail I had nearly
run him down before making the discovery.

“Good morning, stranger,” said Jimmie, in a calm, well-inflected voice.
A smile seemed to be playing all about his face. Bristling in the
sun was his red kinky beard, shining his face as though rubbed to a
polish, the shabby felt hat reaching out modestly to the line in the
middle of his forehead. He was perched on the seat, crowded back into
the stern of the boat, and the water spaniel, proud and important,
moved with ease between the rowing seat and the perch upon which his
master sat making observations. Looking more closely at my discovery
before making any reply to his salutation, I saw on his feet a pair
of “contract-made” shoes, rivets and buckles prominently in sight,
which had from long usage taken on a shape resembling an elephant’s
foot in miniature, all instep and few toes; a pair of blue jeans, a
negligee shirt, a leather strap making upward and diagonally across
the chest for a wire nail on the band of the trousers at the back, and
a four-in-hand tie of undefinable pattern, the quilting of which had
suffered a sad displacement and was clinging in shreds to the original
band encircling his neck, which had been tenderly preserved by the
spinach-fringe of unfading brightness.

“Hello,” said I, in return of salute. “Shooting out of season?”

At that instant I was not conscious of the significance of my remark,
which had popped out spontaneously with my first sight of Jimmie and
his crew.

“No,” he replied. “I heard up along The Front that there were some good
dory holes in this channel, so I thought I would come up in here and
see if I could find the fish weeds. Then I would know for myself.”

“Oh, I see!” said I. “Good scheme, isn’t it?” Then we each laughed a
little and seemed to understand each other better after that. My boat
had drifted up alongside, and curiosity led me to ask permission to
examine the modern gun of beautiful finish and workmanship, a striking
contrast to the attire, at least, of the owner.

“A good gun, stranger,” remarked Jimmie.

“Yes, and an expensive one, I should think, any way. What use have you
for such a gun?” I said, as I returned it to him.

“Well, you see,” began Jimmie, “a gun is like some other things. When
you need one, you need it pretty bad, and then you can’t have too good
a one, and that’s why I have one like this.” For an instant I imagined
I was out in the Pan Handle country of Texas and that the advice of
my friend would be good to follow. But, no! Here I was in a boat in
Arcadia on the peaceful Lake St. Francis. Then looking again quickly
toward the boat and crew at my left, I was met by a broad grin from its
occupant.

“Jimmie,” I said, “you’re the sort I always want to know. Come over to
Castle Island to-morrow and we will ‘talk it over.’”

Since meeting Jimmie down in the rush banks, I had heard more about him
from the guides on the Island, and I knew his call this morning would
prove both interesting and entertaining.

Jimmie, they told me, had at one time directed the political affairs
of the County Glengarry. That is, he had been employed as secretary
by the representative in Parliament from his district. This gentleman
could neither read nor write nor compose a speech to be delivered
before his constituents. With him Jimmie spent several months at the
Canadian Capital, where in his capacity as secretary, he had been
writing speeches for his chief which were supposed to be delivered
before the representatives in Parliament, but which instead, his wily
employer had directed should be sent home for publication in the county
newspaper for the edification of the voters who had made him their
representative. Jimmie had schooled his charge “The Member” in the
civilities and court etiquette necessary to be employed toward his
brother “members.” He had also trained him, the while exercising great
tact and patience, how to make use of the most approved mannerisms
and figures of speech while addressing the speaker of the house. The
extent of the oratorical effort, Jimmie insisted with his pupil, must
not exceed the few phrases necessary for the seconding of a motion put
by a colleague, or a perfunctory motion to adjourn.

Then with the “spread-eagle” speeches he had prepared for the press
agents of the counties which he and his employer were representing,
affairs at the Capital, Jimmie had congratulated himself, were going on
swimmingly.

One night, however, as the Quixotic member came to Jimmie’s room
for final directions as to his movements in Parliament for the next
day’s session, he found his instructor boisterously delivering before
an imaginary audience, one of his pet political speeches. Paying no
attention to his caller, Jimmie proceeded with the speech—the needed
appropriations which he demanded from the government to benefit the
industries situated in the great manufacturing town, The Front, which
he had the honor to represent, and the extensive dredging operations
which were necessary to widen the channel to accommodate the lake and
river craft, constantly increasing their volume of business, which
could be proven by the congested condition of the docks, to be seen any
day in the boating season at The Front, etc.

Poor Jimmie! The strain on his mental faculties had been too great.
“Crazy,” the doctors were cruel enough to say. So they took him back to
The Front, gentle of manner, but the enlarged idea he had created in
his brain of the condition of the business affairs at The Front never
parted company with him.

“I have come over this morning,” began Jimmie, after we had seated
ourselves by the woodbine, “to extend to you a welcome and the
courtesies of the people of The Front. I have been instructed by
the members of the Board of Trade to offer you and your friends the
free use of the docks of the port opposite here. The use of the
Assembly Hall attached to the Hustings has been unanimously granted
by the members of the Town Council, and also arrangements have been
consummated whereby passes can be secured to visit the extensive
boat-building plant situated directly opposite on the mainland. I
am also authorized to say that between the hours of ten and twelve,
morning, the cheese manufacturing industry, during week days, and
the church at Glen Water, Sundays, will be open to visitors from the
Island. Now, my friend,” continued Jimmie, rising and placing his
hand upon the back of the chair for good oratorical effect, “come
over to The Front. You are welcome, we are not too busy a people to
miss seeing you when you do come. In fact, I can assure you that you
will feel well repaid for the effort. Why, stop and think, my dear
sir,” he went on, his eyes snapping with excitement and his features
twitching with nervousness, “progress and prosperity are within our
grasp. The grandest water-way of the whole world passes our very door.
Manufactories are already at work in our midst, and the eye of Capital
is upon us. Great, I say, yes, wonderful are the inducements we offer
for visitors coming among us. Again I say, come over to The Front. You
will not find yourself alone. Leading capitalists from all over the
world have been to see us. The truth is you can’t tell whom you may
meet while you are over there.”

“Thank you, Jimmie, thank you. Good morning,” I said. “You can expect
me.” Then bowing and hesitating as though he had received an unexpected
check from the Speaker of the House of Parliament, he seemed to wish to
say more, but with a rare courtesy of manner, he bowed himself out of
my presence, then joining his brown spaniel dog, who awaited his master
on the shore, they got into their boat and rowed back to The Front.

[Illustration]



_The House of Cariboo._



CHAPTER I.

_The Camerons at the Front._


On a rise of ground at “The Front” called the “Nole” stands the Cariboo
House, conspicuously alone.

There, fronting the river channel which separates Castle Island from
the mainland, its tinned mansard roof and the golden ball on the summit
of the flag-staff blazing in the morning’s sun, the marble castle of
the Archipelago shares with the mighty St. Lawrence, the admiration of
the tourists.

Then as the guests at the Island gather upon the quay at sunset, the
tall marble columns and overhanging gables of the House of Cariboo,
frown down upon the waters of the placid river, casting shadows of
ugly proportions that reach across to the very pier upon which the
spectators are standing, and as they linger, fascinated by the glories
of nature, they look again, and behold! outlined against the gold and
copper edged clouds strewn over the horizon, they see projecting itself
heavenward, the green-latticed observatory, and from its vane reaching
up into the clouds is the gilded sphere on the flag-pole still blazing
from the setting sun, while all else on earth below has grown dark and
silent.

Years have passed since the older inhabitants of Glengarry paused
and looked in bewilderment as they traveled the roadway on The Front
past the House of Cariboo. Even now, after listening to the preceding
generation tell and retell stories of Aladdin interest of the House of
Cariboo, the children of the countryside pass hurriedly on their way to
the district school, never once turning to gaze at the mansion, brought
as if from fairyland and put down in the midst of their unpretentious
rural surroundings, till at a safe distance, when they loiter and,
looking backward, unconsciously relieve their disturbed little minds by
breaking off the heads of the bobbing daisies, till urged further along
on their way by the passing of time.

There are in Glengarry County, as you might reasonably suppose, many
families whose direct ancestors, if you cared to trace them, would lead
you at once to the lochs, lowlands or mountain passes of the Scottish
Isle. The Clans of the McDonalds, the Camerons and the MacPhersons,
have each sent a goodly representation to sustain in the new land of
the Canadas the glory of their families in the Scottish hills of their
fathers.

There were in the beginning, at The Front in Glengarry, one Andy
Cameron, and his two brothers, called “Andy’s Dan,” and “Laughing
Donald Cameron.” Many another family of Camerons lived in Glengarry,
but there was no mistaking these three brothers. Dan, who made his home
with Andy Cameron and his wife, never left the premises of the little
farm on the “Nole” unless Andy and his wife went along too, and this
becoming the understood thing among the neighbors at The Front and the
storekeepers at the county town of Glengarry, Dan Cameron came to be
known as Andy’s Dan. The distinction was understood, his pedigree was
recorded in the minds of the people of the neighborhood, and he was
forever out of danger of being confused with the other Dan Camerons of
his neighborhood. Simple Dan, kind-hearted Dan, and most of all Andy’s
Dan.

Laughing Donald had taken up a small farm from the government when he
and his timid, frail wife first came to Glengarry, and poor Donald
never seemed to be any more successful in getting clear from the taxes
levied each year upon him than he was in clearing the few acres he
possessed of the tree stumps, that were the bane of his life during
seed-time and harvesting.

A few years of land holding by Laughing Donald in Glengarry had been
an added expense to Andy, who loaned from his own little store of
savings each year to keep his brother from the long-reaching clutch of
the county tax gatherer; but always laughingly indifferent when he knew
his crop yield was miserably poor, Donald became known to the country
people, and at the village where he and his sickly wife went to trade
their dried apples and carpet-rags for groceries, as Laughing Donald
Cameron. He laughed if he was greeted kindly, and he also laughed with
the same apparent degree of happiness if a hard-hearted merchant told
him his produce was not worth the buying. So Laughing Donald filled
a niche, whose personality was all his own, and neither was he ever
confounded with others of his name in the County Glengarry.

Tilling the ground on his small farm on The Front seemed very hard
work to Donald Cameron. His gentle wife, since their coming to the new
land of the Canadas, had pined for the associations of her Scottish
hills; her health had failed with the broken spirit till she was now
pronounced an invalid. For her, the delicacies of life could not be
provided, and sickness and misfortune speedily came to their humble
home. Soon two of the children of Laughing Donald were buried in the
churchyard at The Front and the illness of his wife continued.

Andy Cameron had noted with increasing solicitude the inroads being
made by sickness and death into the home of his brother. Unpaid bills
were accumulating and the hand of misfortune was close upon the head of
the luckless Donald. Andy had seen his lawyer friend up at the county
village, then consulting his wife Barbara, a mortgage was first made on
his own farm at the “Nole,” and Donald’s obligations were paid in full.
But then the doctor’s bill came next to Donald, for weeks and months of
medical attendance upon his invalid wife, and, still laughing in his
childish way, he brought it, as if amused at the impossible amount, and
handed it to Andy.

“Go back home, Donald,” was Andy’s reply. “Take good care of your poor
wife. The doctor must be paid.” And then Andy made another trip up to
the village. At the lawyer’s he arranged for the money and then for
the mortgage which was this time to be placed upon Donald’s little farm.

That night, as Andy journeyed homeward from the town, he recalled how
he and his wife and Dan, his simple-minded brother, had struggled to
clear their little farm of debt; how they had stumped the land and
builded barns and stables, and fenced in the meadows for their cattle;
how happy they had been when they had paid off the last of the tax
debt; and how proudly he walked up the church aisle upon a Sunday,
and sat in the end of the pew at the head of his little family and
afterwards greeted his neighbors around the church door, as they stood
gossiping after service. But now to think what he had been compelled to
do. Donald was his brother, though, and was not poor Donald in trouble?
And his invalid wife—Andy well knew that if a few of the luxuries of
life and the tender care which her timid, shrinking nature cried out
for, could only be given to her in ever so slight a degree, she would
no longer be a suffering invalid.

“Two years,” Andy remarked to himself, “was the time set before the
lawyer could foreclose on his own homestead, and the same time was set
for his brother, Laughing Donald.” Andy recalled as he rode slowly
homeward, that the storekeeper hesitated as he gave him the pound of
tea to be charged as before, and when he had asked for a dollar’s worth
of brown sugar, he had only been given half that amount. It was to be
charged also.

“Who were they that dared to think a Cameron would not pay a just bill!
Was not he a Cameron, the eldest of his brothers, and from the proudest
clan of all the Highland Tartans?”

Andy felt as he had never felt before. The latent pride of his
forefathers was stirred within him. Should they take the farm from his
brother Donald? Should they take his farm and that of his wife and the
home of his simple-minded brother Dan? “No, never!” determined Andy,
“not while I live to protect the innocent,” the cry went up from his
very soul. There was money to be had, wealth to be gotten, for life
must be preserved. To the gold fields of California, to the mountain
passes of the Rockies, or the far British Columbias, he would go, and
before the expiration of the mortgages he would return, and in the eyes
of his neighbors in Glengarry and among the storekeepers of the town,
the name of Andy’s Dan, Laughing Donald or Andy Cameron would stand
good for a great deal more than the pound of tea or the paltry dollar’s
worth of sugar they had refused him this very night upon which he had
made his resolve.

A day or two following the last trip Andy had made to the county town
in the interest of procuring more money, he thought it next important
that he consult his loyal but none too assertive spouse concerning the
execution of the resolve he had settled upon, through which he hoped to
clear the good name of Cameron in the county from the insults which had
been offered him, even so slightly, by the storekeepers in the town.

Barbara Cameron, the faithful wife to whom Andy went for encouragement
when he found that the burdens heaped upon him by the unfortunate
members of his family were greater than the resources of the combined
farms could support, listened with a heart full of sympathy while her
husband unfolded the plan by which he hoped to retrieve their waning
fortunes. Quietly, at first, he began to tell of the circumstances
which compelled him to place a mortgage upon their own little farm and
homestead. Then, arising in his excitement, he proceeded to relate
to her the cruel indignities heaped upon his unfortunate brother by
the avaricious tax gatherer, who seemed to take a special delight in
hunting him to earth; and how, to satisfy his demands, and to meet the
bills of the doctors and druggists, he had last of all been compelled
to mortgage Donald’s home. For, he explained, as he sadly looked
from the window over in its direction, he could not remain a passive
onlooker while the cruel hand of fate still pursued the family of the
helpless Donald, and a low fever slowly burned out the wick of life in
the feeble frame of his gentle wife.

Finally, with a rising inflection in his voice and a righteous
indignation of manner, Andy explained to his wife the nature of the
insults which he had had offered to him in the town, and that he, as a
Cameron, and the head of their little colony must resent the wrongs,
and maintain the dignity and pride of his forefathers. He would leave
her for perhaps two years, he said—he was going to the gold fields of
the Canadian Rocky Mountains. There in the Cariboo Hills, in the Canons
of the Rockies and in the shifting river beds of the melting glaziers,
he would dig for gold. He would hunt the shining flecks of dust, the
gold colored nuggets, seeking the wealth by which he hoped to retrieve
his darkening fortunes.

“We will sell our cows, Barbara.” His voice was lowered almost to a
whisper. “You and Dan shall have the money. The team of roans we must
part with, too, Barbara. Laughing Donald and his frail wife, you will
be kind to—and poor Dan, tell him always, Barbara, that Andy is coming
back soon—coming soon.”

With confiding faith, though she did not quite understand, Barbara felt
that if her husband said all this, it must be right for her to believe
it. Andy had brushed away with the back of his hand the tears upon his
weather-beaten cheeks awaiting her reply. She in her characteristic
way, made only this comment: “When will you start, Andy, think ye?”

[Illustration]



CHAPTER II.

_Barbara and Dan at Home._


After wishing Godspeed to her venturesome husband, Barbara, with Andy’s
Dan, was returning to their little homestead. Barbara sat upright in
the wagon, now and then glancing backward over her shoulder toward
the railroad station they had just left behind. This act she quickly
excused by an attempt to arrange the shawl which she held tightly
clasped about her. No tears were in her eyes when she bade farewell
to her husband. Believing it to be her wifely duty to sustain him in
the extraordinary undertaking he was engaging in, she had strengthened
her courage to meet the final parting. From the neighbors’ gossip she
had come to understand that the chances were many that he might never
return to her alive, and she had said to him: “Do not stay to starve
in the mountains. Come away home, mun; there is nae place better than
Glengarry to dee in.” And he promised her to return.

Andy’s Dan, faithful in his simple devotion to his brother, had
understood only in a vague sort of way the cause for his leaving home
and the reasons which made it necessary to sell the stock of the farm,
which for years he had loved as his only companions. They were gone,
taken from him, and so was his brother and protector. For weeks after
Andy’s departure he would be seen each evening at sunset, leaning over
the pair of horse bars at the back of the house, gazing absently toward
the western horizon. In that silence, too sacred to be disturbed, the
expression upon his soulful face answered all questions of the curious.

Time wore slowly along at the farm on the “Nole.” Barbara each day
went industriously about her housework, and just as if her husband had
been home and the care of the dairy was still necessary, she washed
and rubbed to a polish the milk pans, and stood them on edge upon the
bench at the side of the woodshed, to glisten in the sun. At evening
time, Andy’s Dan would regularly take from its hiding-place on the
sill under the slanting roof of the milk-shed the crooked staff, and
whistling for his faithful collie dog, go down the lane to the pasture,
calling to the imaginary herd of cattle feeding upon the sloping
hills, then sadly return with the one lone cow reserved by Andy for
the faithful watchers left at home. The Summer advanced, and he mowed
the grass and weeds from the dooryards and dug down to the roots of
the pesky burdocks growing about the fences which inclosed the unused
farm-yards. Then as Autumn approached, poor Andy’s Dan silently awaited
the return of his beloved brother to commence again at harvest time the
duties of the husbandman.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER III.

_On the Way to the Gold Fields._


A year passed and no word came to the anxious hearts in the home
Cameron left behind when he went to hunt for gold in the far western
wilds of the British Columbias.

Taking from the small store of money received from the sale of the farm
stock, just enough to pay his passage to the terminus of the railroad,
still a few hundred miles distant from the mountain ranges across which
he was to make his way, he soon found himself thrown upon his resources
face to face with the difficulties of the undertaking. Arriving at the
mountain pass of Ashcroft from Winnipeg, whence he and several other
venturesome companions bent upon the same mission had come by wagon
train over the prairies of Northwestern Canada, his meagre supply of
money nearly gone, it looked as if he was about to experience a defeat
from the very first set of difficulties which arose to beset his way in
reaching the gold fields.

At Ashcroft, the most arduous and dangerous mountain climbing of the
entire trail presents itself. A supply of food for days must be carried
along, and pack mules and guides at an enormous wage are an absolute
necessity. Among the party of gold seekers which included Cameron,
was a young man of apparent culture and refinement, also from one of
the Eastern provinces. His reason for being found as a member of such
a daring and reckless band of prospectors, may have been simply for
the love of adventure, perhaps the healing of a broken heart, or for
the committing of a youthful indiscretion considered by his family a
sufficient reason for sending him to the undiscovered gold fields of
the far West. Thrown together during the tedious voyage of the pack
train across the plains, a natural inclination, a bond of sympathy,
had brought this young, inexperienced adventurer and Andy Cameron,
the tender hearted but determined emigrant farmer, into a congenial
acquaintance, and later into forming a partnership. The personal
capital of the new concern when inventoried showed these assets: that
put up by the latter, courage, strength, determination and honesty,
against that of his companion, money, mules, provisions, supplies,
and himself as a volunteer prospector. With this understanding, the
somewhat remarkable partnership was formed, and after the mules were
packed, the climb over the mountains began.

Following the leadership of the guides, the small company made their
way slowly over the mountain trails and around the edges of the
precipices, avoiding only by careful footing a plunge to certain death
below. Sore of foot and wearied from climbing, the two prospectors
arrived at Quesnell Forks, the first station in the long tramp to the
Cassiar district of the Cariboo Mountains. Joining here a wagon train,
they pushed on again through the Chilcoten country. Passing Horse Fly,
a village of a vascillating population, they then proceeded up Soda
Creek till the aid of the caravan came abruptly to an end. Travel
by that method being no longer possible, Cameron and his companion
shouldered their rough mining kit and taking with them what provisions
they could carry, struck off into the mountains for a hundred miles
more, down through ravines and along Slate Creek bottoms, always
heading for the Cariboo. Buoyed up by the secret motive which had
driven each to endure such hardships in their hunt for the golden
reward they hoped to find in quantities when they should reach the land
filled with Aladdin riches, they struggled fearlessly onward. At the
head of Soda Creek they had labeled their surplus supplies and stored
them with a friendly native, promising to pay for the shelter, should
they ever return that way again.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IV.

_Into the Cariboo Mountains._


Four days distant from this camp, Cameron and his companion unloosed
their mining kit for the first time. Nowhere had they found any
evidences that human beings had ever before penetrated into this
region. They climbed the steep mountain sides only to descend again
through the darkest ravines. Unaccustomed to the points of the
compass, they were obliged to watch their course by the sun. Each
with his secret burning within his heart, they encountered bravely
the difficulties of their task. Many times on this hazardous journey
they were almost overcome by fatigue, and often saved from instant
death over the side of some unseen precipice by only the margin of a
step. Finally, as they emerged from the forest-clad mountains upon a
slight plateau, they reached the first slate bottoms, which gave the
well-nigh disheartened prospectors new courage, and the first view of
the uninterrupted rays of the sun that they had encountered since their
hunt through the wilderness. Here on this promontory, which sloped
gently down westward to what seemed to be a dried-up water course, Andy
and his companion built their miners’ cabin. Water they had discovered
trickling down the face of a steep rock at one side of the site they
had chosen for their home. And game they knew in the mountains was
plentiful, for at their approach the flight of the wild fowl had shaken
the overhanging branches of the evergreens and strange-looking animals
scudded beneath the underbrush and sprang into hiding behind the rocks
and boulders.

Here at the close of the day, standing before the door of their
rudely-constructed hut, the two hopeful miners, already fast friends,
silently watched the setting of the sun. Neither had told of the
friends left at home; Andy had kept sacred within his heart the need,
the incentive, which drove him forward facing the desperate chances of
death by starvation or sickness, to discover the hidden treasures of
this almost impenetrable region, and his companion was equally reticent
as to his own counsels of the past. Willing to lead in the trail where
almost certain death seemed ahead, he had proved himself many times
in their short acquaintance a man of reckless daring. The look each
encountered in the other’s eyes upon this eve, as they watched the sun
go down behind the opposite hills, plainly said: “My secret is a sacred
one; ask me nothing.”

On the morrow they were to begin their task of digging for the yellow
nuggets, in the search for which thousands of others had gone into the
same ranges, many to join the bandit gangs of roving miners, never
again to return to their loved ones, others to sicken and die with
the malignant fevers of camp life, and a few—a very few—to realize
their dreams, and return again to their homes, bearing with them the
shining golden nuggets, at the sight of which a new army of inspired
prospectors would soon be started upon its way to repeat the same acts
in the great drama entitled “The Hunt for Gold.”

       *       *       *       *       *

And here we leave for the present, Andy and his youthful partner to
dig for the elusive golden specks which had drawn them onward with a
terrible fascination for thousands of miles. They are now securely
hidden away in the mountain fastnesses where never a human voice nor
the tread of man had yet fallen.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER V.

_At the Four Corners._


In the Arcadian neighborhood of our story, as is true of all rural
sections, there are at the four corners of the road the indispensable
blacksmith’s shop, the general store, the wheelwright’s place and the
creamery or the cheese factory. As places of business they always
flourish, not because of the enterprise or business tact of the
proprietors, but because, for the most part, of the natural demand
created by the wear and tear of implements used in pursuit of the
absolute necessities for the maintenance of life by the populace of the
district.

First, at the four corners of the road at The Front, and a short
distance from the Cameron farms, is Davy Simpson’s blacksmith shop.
Adjoining this is the wheelwright’s place. The front of this building
when new had been partly painted a dull red color, and then left,
as though the workman had become disgusted with the color effect,
and had abandoned the task as an artist might a shapeless daub on a
half-finished canvas. The general store, with its lean-to porch, up to
which the farmers’ wagons drive and unload their produce to exchange
for merchandise, occupies at the four corners a conspicuous frontage on
the main road.

Another industry of even greater moment to the community at The Front
is the cheese factory, which stands just past the corners and fronting
the road, jagged up on the side of a steep embankment, and resting
unsteadily upon crazy-looking standards. At the foot of the incline,
winding in its very uncertain course, is a small stream. Into this the
whey, escaping from the cheese vats, filters down the abutment spiles,
reeking in the Summer sun, to be gathered finally into the stream,
whose waters push quietly along beneath the overhanging weeds, then
crossing the roadway extending along its course, passes in the rear of
the farms of the adjoining township, The Gore.

Unpretentious and surely uninviting is the cheese factory at The Front,
but in local history, in the stories of the feuds waged between the
clans of the farmers at The Front and those at The Gore, it plays a
vitally important part, for through the lands of the latter flow the
waters of the whey-tainted creek, endangering the products of their
dairies by polluting the source of the cattle’s water supply.

At the close of each Summer’s day, regularly assembled in front of the
door to Davy Simpson’s blacksmith shop, the official gossips of the
neighborhood.

Easy is the task to picture in one’s mind this group of characters.
Seated around the doorway of the smithy, and perched upon the cinder
heap, an accumulation of years from Davy’s forge, they discussed the
affairs of their neighborhood. There in his accustomed place was
William Fraser, the country carpenter, a bent-over, round-shouldered
little man with a fringe of red whiskers extending from ear to ear and
a mustache chopped off even with the mouth as if done by a carpenter’s
adze; a pair of blue eyes peered out at you from overhanging eyebrows,
and when in motion he glided along with a walk of meekness. A long
service among the families in Glengarry, while building for them a new
barn or stable, had taught him that an agreeable opinion to whatever
were their politics or views would greatly facilitate his comfort and
pleasure. He listened intently to all that was told him of the family
troubles of his employers, and with equal interest retailed for their
entertainment the latest gossip of their neighbors. It was because of
this accomplishment that William Fraser, the carpenter, could always
be relied upon to add a few words of interest to any subject up for
discussion at the shop.

Another familiar figure was Angus Ferguson, he who had bought the
McDonald place, next to the cheese factory, a well-meaning and very
respectable man, whose wife insisted that he be back at the house each
night at eight o’clock, and she never hesitated, when he failed to
obey, to go out into the middle of the road fronting their house, and,
with her arms akimbo, call to him to “come away home.” Angus was tall,
slender and awkward. His features were kindly and the mutton-chop cut
to his whiskers and his high, bald forehead gave him more the look of a
clergyman than of a Glengarry farmer. Angus Ferguson was at all times
a listener only in the councils before the blacksmith’s. If he had
opinions, he never expressed them, and when his time would arrive to
go, without a good-night wish to his companions he slid down from the
plank placed upon the coal barrels, which was his particular seat, and,
crushing his straw hat down upon his head, started up the road, his
long, awkward arms and legs as he retreated through the darkness making
a pantomime figure in the gathering shadows.

Old Bill Blakely was the unique figure in these nightly councils of
the gossips. He came originally from no one knew where; was not of any
particular descent; knew no religious creed and respected no forms
of social etiquette. His remarks at the discussions held before the
blacksmith’s shop were always emphatic and punctuated with copious
expectorations from tobacco, followed by a line of adjectives admitting
of no uncertain meaning. Old Bill lived at quite a distance from
the meeting place of the gossip club and was always late in putting
in an appearance. He was never counted upon, though, as one of the
“regulars,” and only came when he thought there might be a chance of
picking a row with some visitor happening along from The Gore. He
would walk deliberately into the councils of the assembled habitues at
the shop, and, totally ignoring the courtesy due from a late arrival,
would proceed to act in direct violation of the club’s established
rules. Looking down upon the group of loungers, his blue eyes twinkling
and his tobacco-moistened lips quivering with a cynical smile, he
would steady himself by placing his legs at a wide angle apart, the
yellow-stained goatee of his chin bobbing an accompaniment to the
twitching of his tightly-compressed mouth.

“Well,” he would begin, “hae ye lied all there is to tell aboot your
neighbors, William Fraser? And you, Angus,” motioning with his head
toward down the road, “had better gang your way home, fer I’m goin’ to
lick the first red-head that comes over from The Gore; the night.”

Then Bill would let go a string of oaths that invariably brought the
frowning face of Davy Simpson from out of the darkness of the shop to
greet the newcomer. Dave at such times had nothing more to say than,
“Bill, that’s you, I see,”—but all was in the way he said it. The two
men appeared to understand each other very well, at least they did
since the time Dave ducked the incorrigible Bill head-first into the
puncheon of water by the side of the forge, just to show, as he said,
that there was no ill-feeling between them.

Bill’s hair was as white as that of any patriarch the county could
boast; as an excuse for a cap he wore a faded brown affair, whose
shapeless peak was as often pointed sidewise and backward as it was
straight ahead. Always blinking with a mischievous twinkle in his
eyes, his lips moistened with the tobacco he was so fond of chewing,
and quivering as though he were about to address a remark to you,
his hands pushed down deep into his pockets, his square shoulders and
well-rounded body supported by a stocky pair of legs,—imagine all this,
and you will see Bill Blakely.

For many Summers the feud of the creek existing between the men of the
two towns required the personal attention and made frequent claims
upon the fistic powers of Blakely. All the trouble had been caused by
the whey-tainted waters of the creek, which menaced the dairies of the
men at The Gore. Chuckling with great glee, old Bill would listen to
his neighbors repeat the story current over at The Gore, how upon a
certain dark night he (Blakely) had pulled the plug from the whey-tank
at the cheese factory on The Front and allowed its soured contents to
course slowly down through the stream. In the controversies with his
enemies following the perpetration of these midnight escapades at the
four corners Bill Blakely had heretofore by his convincing arguments
successfully combatted their charge. After one of these discussions
with him the men from The Gore returned to their clansmen bearing to
them, besides a pair of discolored optics, the best wishes of the men
at The Front.

But of late the tables seemed to be turning. A new condition of affairs
had developed, and the arguments which hitherto had stood Blakely in
critical times successfully failed now to give him the same degree of
satisfaction over his foes from The Gore.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VI.

_Donald Visits the Gossip Club._


Up to this time the absence of Andy Cameron from The Front formed only
a topic of minor discussion before the smithy’s. It was on one of the
evenings which marked the end of the outdoor sessions of the gossip
club when Laughing Donald presented himself shyly at the outskirts of
the group. Weeks had elapsed since he had appeared there before. Until
of late, each night of the weary months and years of waiting for the
return of the absent brother, he had haunted the blacksmith’s shop,
where the group of news-gatherers met to exchange notes. At first they
welcomed him as a valuable addition to their circle. William Fraser,
the carpenter, found in him an attentive listener to the “small talk”
he gathered from the country side. The remarks Donald overheard upon
his early visits at the four corners concerning his family he carried
to his invalid wife, and then to Barbara and Dan up at the Nole.

Upon this night he came slowly down the hill along the road which
partially hid the blacksmith’s shop from view. The group around the
smithy’s door was surprised at his coming. The timid nature of the man
showed itself in each hesitating step, while in his large, fawn-like
eyes was an appealing look, as if he were a pet animal wishing to be
taken by his master from the tormenting pranks of a gang of youthful
bandits. In his nervous excitement Donald always laughed—not loudly,
but in showing his perfect, white teeth, he gurgled softly the sound
which was responsible for the distinguishing feature of his name in
Glengarry, Laughing Donald.

“Well! if here ain’t Laughing Donald,” exclaimed Fraser, the carpenter,
in an insinuating whisper, and a hush fell upon the group. “I wonder
if he would like to know,” he continued, in an undertone, “that Nick
Perkins, the tax collector, says all the Camerons on The Front will be
working the ‘county farm’ in six months’ time?” At that moment a large,
curly head, crowned by the remnants of a straw hat, was protruded
through the jamb of the half-opened door of the shop.

“Well, now, you just be the first to tell that to Donald,” drawled
out Davy, the blacksmith, looking straight at the cringing little
carpenter, “and I’ll crimp your red whiskers with the hot tongs of my
forge.” Here was a friend to Donald and the missing Andy, till now
unannounced. No end of gossiping by the tattler of the neighborhood had
failed to prejudice the mind of the honest smith.

Angus Ferguson had already humped off from his seat upon the coal
puncheon, and with his awkward strides was making rapidly toward the
scared Donald, extending his hand in such an enthusiastic welcome
that the poor fellow nearly mistook the demonstration for one of
unfriendliness. “How de doo, Donald! I am a-goin’ to tell you I am
a-comin’ over to-morrow to help ye draw in that grain over yonder by
the woods. It’s been there now nigh onto two weeks in the sun.”

“Is it dry, Angus, think ye?” inquired Donald, brightening at the show
of friendship. Then an awkward silence followed.

“Got a new horse, Donald,” blurted out Angus.

“Aye,” returned Donald, the broad grin covering his face.

“Want to see him?” urged Angus. Then they both started down the road
like the two overgrown country lads that they were. This spontaneous
act of kindness by Ferguson was prompted by his heart’s sympathy,
which had been penned up for weeks, rebelling constantly against the
insinuating remarks repeated by the carpenter.

Fraser nursed his displeasure alone. Angus Ferguson, the silent, had
outwitted him. Davy Simpson had exposed his deceitfulness, and in a
short time his supposed strength as a member of the gossip club had
crumbled in a humiliating climax.

At that moment, as he was regretfully acknowledging to himself the
failure he had made in gaining the confidence and respect of his
associates, his attention was drawn to a familiar vehicle which had
approached silently in the gathering darkness, and now stood in the
roadway before the blacksmith’s shop. “Good-evening, William Fraser,”
began Nicholas Perkins (for it was the polite tax gatherer, who lived
near The Gore), and Fraser walked out with his meekest walk to the side
of the wagon. Perkins patronized the shop over at The Gore, and like
all the rest from his town, halting before Davy’s place, kept upon
neutral ground, remaining in the middle of the road.

“Fraser, I am told,” continued Perkins, as he hitched himself along to
the end of the wagon seat and leaned out over the wheel, to strike a
confidential attitude, “that there is no news from Cameron.”

“Well, that’s about true, Mr. Perkins; no news, and they say that the
mortgage time is about up, too.” A little more encouragement, and the
carpenter’s sympathies were at once enlisted with the newcomer.

“Well, it’s very bad, isn’t it, Fraser? They have been left to go to
the poorhouse. We didn’t think that of Cameron over at The Gore, but,
then, the expense will fall on your town, on The Front, of course,”
said Perkins, turning to get the full effect of his wise remark upon
Fraser.

The two deceitful maligners were unconscious of the presence of a
figure which had come stealthily upon them in the darkness, and
standing in the shadow of the vehicle, was now listening to the
conversation.

“Well, you ought to know, Mr. Perkins,” replied the carpenter in a
patronizing tone. “You will probably have the say in what will have to
be done,”—but before he could finish his remark, he had leaped into the
air, precipitated upon the toe of a heavy boot.

[Illustration: “‘Now, Nick Perkins, if you have got anything to say to
me personally, just come down here in the road and I’ll talk to you.’”]

“Oh, he _will_ have the say about whom they take to the county farm,
will he!” and Bill Blakely danced in a howling rage around the wagon of
his hated foe. “You hypocrite! You prowling tax-gatherer! You hunter of
the weak and homeless!” he yelled, and half climbing into the wagon, he
shook his fist in the face of the surprised tax collector, shouting
right into his ear, “Not while Bill Blakely lives and Andy Cameron is
away from The Front will you ever hitch your ring-boned and spavined
outfit to a post before the home of a Cameron on The Front! Now, Nick
Perkins, if you have got anything to say to me personally, just come
down here in the road and I’ll talk to you.” Bill was rolling up his
gingham shirt sleeves and again dancing around bear fashion, while the
discomfiture of the astonished Perkins was being hugely enjoyed by
the group, now enlarged by the return of Angus Ferguson and Laughing
Donald. Davy Simpson stood in the door of his shop watching the
proceedings over the rims of his spectacles.

“Oh, you ain’t a-comin’ down, be you! Well, I didn’t expect you,”
retorted Bill. “Your kind fight the women only. You’re sneaking around
now to see if they ain’t a-gettin’ hungry, some on ’em over here. But
we’ll fool you, Perkins. Laughing Donald is a better man dead than
anything you can produce alive in your hull county at The Gore. And
Andy Cameron won’t let the wind blow a whiff of ye to the lee side
of his place when he comes back, neither. And that won’t be long from
now,” and old Bill threw his quid of tobacco after the retreating
wheels of the vehicle as Perkins drove away amid the jeering laughter
of the group.

As soon as the tax gatherer was out of hearing distance, Bill turned to
Donald, and in a tone serious for him, said, “Donald, I am a-speakin’
fer you. The Camerons are from The Front. Your brother Andy is a good
man; he is a friend of mine. He will be back soon, for that I am
telling ye. William Fraser, the carpenter, he’s been telling ye what
‘_they say_.’ Tell yer wife, Donald, when ye go home, what I say,
what Davy says, and what Angus’ wife says for him to say, and don’t
you worry about the mortgage.” Then Bill went over to the shop door,
and they thought he was going to confide something to Davy, but he
hesitated, finally bit off an enormous quid of tobacco and sauntered
slowly down the road homeward.

Donald climbed the little hill by the shop, going away happier than he
had been in months. Angus Ferguson still stood in the road watching
him; then, looking behind him and catching sight of the carpenter
closing the door to the wheelwright shop, he turned his face to the
open meadow at the opposite side of the road, and slamming his straw
hat down upon his head, struck into his rapid circular gait down the
road, past the cheese factory toward his home.

The quietness outside seemed unusual. Davy looked out of his shop door,
scanned the cinder heap, glanced at the puncheon seat, then at the
wagon parts: nothing was moving, nothing was doing, all was darkness.
The club had gone. He closed the door, put the bar across the staple,
inserted the padlock, turned the key, then climbed the hillside to the
back door of his house; his day’s labors were done.



CHAPTER VII.

_In the Mining Camp._


Time has sped all too swiftly at the little mining camp in the Cariboo
Valley. There is now only a month left of the two years set by Andy
Cameron for his return to his family, and all indications thus far
point to a tragic ending for the ambitions and loves of the unfortunate
Glengarry farmer.

All this while the two persistent miners had worked with an unlessened
zeal at their unproductive diggings. Each night, by turn, one took from
the sluices the ore while the other climbed the hill overlooking the
scene of their daily toils and cooked before the cabin door the simple
evening meal. Many times since their coming into this mountain-locked
valley had the prospectors shifted the site of their gold diggings,
but to the little cabin, which stood at the foot of the steep rock
looking down into the gulch, they clung, held fast by many endearing
associations. Edmond LeClare,—for that was the name of Cameron’s
associate—had made a few excursions up the valley to another camp of
prospectors, who had come into the hills farther to the north, soon
after he and Cameron had settled upon their claim, now safely marked
from intruders by the evidence of their active operations. With these
new friends LeClare arranged that for an exchange in gold dust he was
to obtain from them the needed supplies of bacon and flour to replenish
from time to time the cuisine department of their household.

Each night before the door of their cabin the miners discussed the
possibilities of their undertaking. Perhaps it was that they builded
their hopes upon the returns from a certain new lead they had struck in
the mountain’s side. The deposits of gold taken from the sluices that
day, if they should continue to be found, would surely bring to them
the wealth each sought so diligently. But alas, upon exploiting to
the finish each newly discovered vein of ore, the hopes of the unlucky
miners tumbled as did the castles builded by them with the toy blocks
of their childhood.

Not a word of complaint was uttered by Andy in the presence of his
companion. His disappointment over the failure to obtain the coveted
wealth with which he had hoped to redeem his home and the happiness of
his wife and family was hidden within the recesses of his own breast,
though to the watchful eyes of the sympathetic Edmond the wretched
straits into which his friend had been thrust by the yet unprofitable
workings of their gold diggings were as easy to read as though they
had been in print upon the pages of an open book. While Andy toiled to
live and preserve his happiness, LeClare worked and courted hardships
and discouragements to deaden the misery of his soul. He had hidden his
secret well, but with Andy, as the end of the time of their compact
approached, the heart-breaking lack of success, the fading hope of his
cherished dream of wealth, the thought of having only a bitter tale of
failure to bear back to his faithful wife, Barbara,—each one of these
emotions had stamped their relentless impress upon his honest, bronzed
face, and while not a word had passed between the two prospectors on
the subject ever uppermost in the thoughts of each, yet for Edmond
LeClare, the unhappy plight of his companion was now the daily
inspiration which drove him on in renewed efforts.

A few days more, thought Cameron, and he should tell his friend all.
Then they must divide the paltry store of gold dust between them, and
sadly at their parting and with a broken heart he would retrace his
steps as best he could to his home at The Front, and there tell of his
disappointment.

[Illustration: “‘Speak. Edmond!’ gasped Cameron. ‘What have you behind
your back? It’s gold! gold!—I know it!’”]

Thus Cameron argued as he sat upon the wood block before the cabin
stirring the fire, cooking the evening meal. He had thrown upon the
coals some dry branches, and through the gray smoke which enveloped him
he saw the figure of his companion coming toward him up the hill. “He
is early,” thought Andy, and he looked again, stepping aside out of the
blinding smoke. Edmond had paused down the hill a few rods from the
cabin, his right hand behind him, his head thrown back and eyes wide
open, glaring with excitement.

“Speak, Edmond!” gasped Cameron. “Speak to me, boy. My God, speak!
What have you behind your back? It’s gold! gold!—I know it!” Rushing
together, the two companions sobbed in each other’s arms.

“Look, Andy!” cried LeClare, through his tears of joy. “There are two
of them,” and he held up nuggets of gold larger than their combined
fists, “and there are plenty more of them in the same spot where these
came from.”

Poor Andy sobbed in his happiness upon the shoulder of his mining
partner, and then, clutching him by the arm as though awakening from
a dream, he half sobbed, half cried: “He won’t get them now, Edmond;
he won’t get them now! Laughing Donald stays on where he is, and his
invalid wife will have a servant to wait on her. And Barbara—my wife,
Edmond, my wife, do you hear?—she shall have a new silk dress, a new
straw bonnet, Edmond, with red posies in it, and a new yarn carpet to
put in the parlor, my boy. And you shall come and live at The Nole.
You and Dan can go fishing, rain or shine, and I will get my lawyer
friend from the village to come out and see us; I’ll hire a carriage
for him, too, Edmond. And Nick Perkins, the tax collector——” Then, at
the mention of that name, Cameron slowly regained his composure, and a
stern, cold look passed over his features. “What day of the month did
you say it was, Edmond?” He had lowered his voice almost to a whisper.
Then, as LeClare answered, he continued: “The time will soon be up.
To-morrow, Edmond, to-morrow we must start for home—to-morrow we must
go.”

LeClare half carried his companion, who was exhausted by the excitement
over the discovery, to the seat by the cabin door. The sun had now
gone down behind the mountain opposite, and in the autumn glow of this
golden sunset, alone with their Maker, they offered a silent prayer
over their evening meal.

The miners sat facing each other at their scant repast. Their menu, at
all times limited, had now become stale and unappetizing. The salted
meats and hard, dried breadstuffs, to which was added the badly mixed
coffee, would no longer suffice.

“We are rich, Andy,” laughed LeClare. “We haven’t much to boast about
on top of the table, but there’s a hundred thousand beneath it, old
fellow, and in the morning I will show you a crevice in the rocks down
there on the side hill where there’s twice as much more as we have here
waiting for you to take it out.”

Cameron was at once happy and sad. Now that the great wealth in gold
had been found, his thoughts of home were strangely affecting him. “Two
years,” he murmured over and over again to himself. “Could his wife,
Barbara, have kept their little colony together during his absence? Had
Nick Perkins, the money lender, harassed his brother Donald or annoyed
Barbara for the payment of interest money, or could any of his beloved
have died?” A shudder at this thought shook his frame. Looking across
the table he encountered the kind, inquiring smile on the face of his
companion. “You are coming with me, my boy. Edmond, this is no place
for you;” but he saw the smile on the handsome, youthful face before
him fade into an expression of sorrow. “Cheer up,” he continued. “I
have no fine words for telling you what it’s in my heart to say, but,
though you never have told me why you came out here, I know you could
never have done wrong to anybody, and to Barbara’s home and mine you
are welcome as long as you can find it comfortable.” Tears were in the
eyes of the two strong men, but the darkness had hidden the signs of
their emotions.

“Why, Andy, my old friend, I have never told you, have I?” suddenly
exclaimed LeClare.

“No, I guess you never did,” replied Andy.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VIII.

_LeClare’s Story: The Initialed Tree._


“It’s only a boy and girl story, but, all the same, that’s why I’ve
been a gold digger. At our first meeting on the plains I said I was
from the Eastern provinces. That was all right for the time. The truth
happens to be, though, that our native homes are separated only by the
fifteen miles of intervening water channels of the Archipelago. When
you look to the southward from your farm on The Front, across the great
expanse of water, dotted here and there with wooded islands, and then
extend the view to the sloping sides of the irregular mountain range
which meets the eye, you may perhaps see there, reposing sleepily upon
the banks of the winding Salmon, a small American village. Four miles
down the river, after traversing for the full distance the cranberry
marshes of Arcadia, its waters are gathered into one of the nearest
channels of the St. Lawrence. The approach is so unpretentious that the
coming of its added volume is only recognized by the idler drifting in
his canoe along the shores of the Archipelago from the blue and gray
color line made by the mingling of the waters. For it is just here at
this line that the now docile mountain cataracts of the Adirondacks are
greeted by the turquoise-blue waters flowing seaward from the Great
Lakes.

“In Darrington, this village on the Salmon, lived Lucy Maynard. Two
miles to the eastward, upon one of the fertile farms in the valley of
the St. Lawrence, was my home. There I was taught the law of the Ten
Commandments, living in the midst of sunshine and happiness and blest
with the love of a devoted father and mother. This is only a childish
romance, Andy, and perhaps you don’t care to hear it.”

“Go on, Edmond,” came the reply. “You know my story. Now tell me
yours.”

“At the age of seventeen I had been considered by my parents a graduate
from the district school, and at the beginning of the Autumn term I was
entered in the intermediate grade of the high school up in the village
of Darrington. This was an auspicious event in my hitherto uneventful
career. Living always upon the farm, my playmates and acquaintances
were of the neighboring farm children. Tramping the same way to the
district school-house, we had pelted the croaking frogs in the ditches
by the roadside, and fired stones at the rows of swallows swinging
upon the telegraph wires, and in the season we picked the daisies from
the nearby fields, handing them roughly, almost rudely, to the girl of
our choice amongst the strolling group of school children; while in
the Autumn, in the groves by the roadside, we hurled sticks high into
the chestnut trees, then scrambled upon our hands and knees at a lucky
throw we had made, each to pocket his catch. Simple and healthful were
our sports. Barefooted we stubbed our toes in the game of ‘tag’ and at
ball games in ‘Three Old Cats,’ where ‘over the fence is out.’ We were
each a star player of the national game. Happy children of the country,
Andy, primitive in thought, with gentle rural manners, acquired in the
religious homes of a Scotch Presbyterian settlement. Once a week upon
the Sunday, since childhood, I attended with my father and mother the
church at Darrington, and there wistfully, shyly, I looked across the
high backs of the family pews at the children of the villagers. In my
childish mind their lot in life was greatly to be envied and admired,
compared with mine. Their ‘store’ clothes and their pert, familiar
manner placed them in my estimation so far above my station in the
social scale that my deference toward them amounted to something like
worship.

“In one of the family seats, across and several pews advanced from
ours, moving restlessly about between her father and mother, was a
handsome, large-eyed child, forever looking backward, and, of course
I fancied, often glancing in my direction. She was Lucy Maynard. For
years, and until I entered the village high school, we had seen each
other upon Sundays, across the backs of the seats, never a word
from either, nor a smile of recognition, Lucy’s large, brown eyes
looking toward me as she knelt on her knees upon the seat; then, as I
returned her wistful gaze, she would sink slowly down upon her mother’s
shoulder, burying her face from view. I saw her grow to be a young
lady, a village lady; she saw me an awkward country boy. In childhood I
dared to return her glances. As a boy of seventeen, when I found myself
that autumn in the village high school, in the same class with the girl
always before me in my youthful day dreams, I had not the courage even
to look in the direction of the seat which she occupied.

“Everything seemed strange to me, Andy. I knew nothing in common with
the village boys. They played ball differently; they called their game
of ‘hide and seek’ by another name, and they didn’t even throw stones
at a mark as we had done in the country. Some of the boys tolerated my
backwardness and others turned up their noses at my awkward attempts
at being agreeable. But one silent champion I felt I always had during
those first weeks of my introduction into that school. Standing near
in the hallways, with others girls in our class, at recess, Lucy
Maynard, with that soulful look from those large, brown eyes, reproved
the boy whose rude remark was aimed at the defenseless, or the one
slowest at repartee in the gossip under discussion.

“A few weeks of the Autumn term had passed, and the class in
mathematics had been requested to remain after the grades had been
dismissed, to receive further instruction from the professor. A board
walk extends the full length of the campus from the school-house,
ending in a turnstile at the street. The class dismissed, I hurried out
of the building. Rustling behind me in a quick step came a young lady.
I knew instinctively it was Lucy.

“‘Don’t you think it is about time you had something to say to me, Mr.
LeClare?’ she said, as she came beside me. ‘I won’t think you are a bit
nice if you go on like this.’ I felt my face turning red, and I forgot
everything I had learned a thousand times before to say to her. Then
I begged her pardon for nearly stepping upon her, and I felt that I
was about to collapse. The turnstile came to my assistance, and, as
Lucy lived in an opposite direction from that in which I had to go, we
parted. I had regained enough of my scattered senses, though, to thank
her for having spoken to me.

“The Winter term of school had come and gone, and the Summer closing
was at hand. The other boys in my class had soon overlooked my
misfortune, as they considered it, of having lived in the country, and
I was proud of the devotion of Lucy, whose name was now paired off with
mine, as were the other boys and girls paired off in our same class. To
celebrate the close of the school, the class proposed a basket party
to be held upon the bank of the St. Lawrence, each male member of the
party offering to row his share of the ladies in his separate boat down
the winding Salmon, a five miles jaunt. With Lucy at the helm, my craft
sped down stream propelled by a youthful spirit of pride and enthusiasm.

“Dinner under the trees on Tyno’s Point was quickly over, and the young
admirers soon found some interesting object to engage their attention
in pairs. Lucy and I, always quieter when alone, had realized that
very shortly we would not see each other as often, and that perhaps in
the next year we should be sent away to different colleges.

“And thus it came about that as we knelt carving our initials, one
above the other, on the trunk of a basswood tree, we queried: ‘Shall
we always grow up together in life as our names will always remain
together on this tree?’ Lucy said: ‘I will cut one stroke in the
frame to inclose our names which says we will,’ and she cut a strip
in the bark over the initials. Then she looked into my eyes with that
soul-pleading look, and I at once cut a line down one side. Lucy
immediately cut the mark for the opposite side, and three sides of the
frame were then formed. It was my turn, and I hesitated, for I knew
what it meant to both of us. I thought it too early for an engagement.
Lucy sank slowly down by the side of the tree, as she used to do from
the back of the seat in church upon her mother’s shoulder, and waited
for me to say something. I was wrong, Andy. I said we’d better wait
before we made the other stroke to complete the frame. There was an
awkward silence; Lucy toyed with the penknife she held in her hand, but
looked no more at the initials cut into the bark of the tree.”

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IX.

_LeClare’s Story: The Christmas Tree._


“The next Autumn she went away to the State Normal School, and
at vacation time a strange young man visited her at her home in
Darrington. Then, at the end of the Spring term, when she returned, one
of the boys in my class of the year before wrote me to the city where I
had gone to acquire a business training, that Lucy was engaged, and was
to be married in the fall. How many times I cannot tell you during my
first year in the city I had composed the letter to Lucy which I never
sent. At night, seated at the small stand I used as a writing table, in
the hall room, top floor, back, I went over for the thousandth time
the thought uppermost in my mind. Should I write to her and say, ‘Wait
for me, Lucy. I am working hard for the position in business which
will give me the right to claim you from the comfortable home of your
parents. You are my constant inspiration. For you I toil the whole day
with ceaseless energy. For you, to claim as my prize at the end, I have
sacrificed the associations of home, accepted the challenge thrown down
before me by the ambitious who, like myself, are striving to gain that
same position which would give to them the opportunity to say, “I have
won the race, I have reached the goal first, now I am entitled to the
prize.” For you, Lucy, one day I hope to return, and then to the music
of the old church organ, which we both have known from childhood, to
walk arm in arm from the scene of our innocent love-making to brave
together life’s voyage.’

“But no, Andy, I never sent this letter. Was it pride, I wonder,—were
my acts of silence dictated by an over-cautious mind, or were the
subtle workings of my heart’s emotions stayed by the reports which
had reached me that Lucy, my loved one, my ideal, could so doubt my
integrity, could so disregard the sacred ties of our friendship,
hallowed by the memories of sweet, childish innocence, as to accept the
attentions of another? I could not return at the Christmas holiday and
see another at the side of my beloved. At the summer vacation I still
clung to my work, mastering the details of the business with such an
alarming rapidity that the management would soon be forced to place
me in control of more important affairs. My incentive now for greater
efforts had changed from that which first had inspired me. Now I worked
to accomplish great successes, that, indirectly, Lucy might come to
hear my name mentioned, that she might be proud to say, if only in her
own heart, that she had once known me, and as boy and girl we had been
sweethearts.

“True enough, Andy, she was married that Autumn. My invitation to
their wedding came, and with it a short note saying to try and come if
possible, and if not, she wished me all success in business, and that
my share of happiness might be as great as she had heard my career
was proving successful. Love with pride was contending in my heart. I
should not attend the wedding, I finally decided. She had heard about
my success. Did she not know I had done all this for her sake? Why,
then, could she not have waited a short two years?

“Then love would steal quietly to the door of my troubled heart and
say, ‘You never told her of your resolves. You have never explained the
reason why you wished to postpone the carving of the line which would
have fully inclosed the initials in the bark upon the basswood tree
at Tyno’s Point. You have asked her to guess too much. You have been
unreasonable.’

“But pride would return, and, roughly pushing love out of the door,
proclaim in a loud, harsh voice, ‘She took up with another while I have
been true to her, and I am through. I have no care. One day she shall
hear, she shall know of my prominence, of my success.’ Then pride was
joined by selfishness within the chambers of my heart. The door closed,
and there they held control for a whole year.

“Lucy and her husband were now living in Darrington, at the home of her
parents. Mother wrote me that the Sunday school to which I had belonged
all the years I had spent at home would celebrate the eve of Christmas
with the unloading of a Christmas tree, and wouldn’t I come home for
that and gladden the hearts of my father and mother, now growing old so
fast without me? That evening, the same day upon which I had received
the letter, love came tapping again at the door of my heart. This time
I opened to welcome the timid caller. ‘We are going home together,’ it
said, ‘to mother and to father, to Lucy and her husband. We will bring
the good words of cheer. This Christmas shall see a reunion at the old
home. It will seem good to be there, and to meet Lucy with her husband
at the church, and to see them happy in their love for each other will
put my soul at rest, and give me another chance to meet happiness
should the fates favor me.’

“A three years’ absence from the old place had made changes, and
most of all in myself. The change of dress from country to city,
the mannerisms acquired by constant mingling with strangers, had
given me the air which in the country is interpreted as being akin to
presumptuousness. My school friends approached me with an uneasiness
of manner, while the conversation with the older members of families
was limited to a few questions concerning my arrival and departure.
The ladies of the committee in charge of the entertainment flitted
about the Christmas tree, which was placed in front of the pulpit at
the head of the main aisle and at the end of the edifice opposite the
entrance. I had not yet removed my great coat, and, hat in hand, was
strolling with mother up the aisle to the family pew. We were very
early, and but a few had taken their seats. Some one of the group of
ladies surrounding the tree had called the attention of her co-workers
to the approaching stranger. At the instant one of their number darted
down the aisle. A cry of joy had escaped her lips, and in a frenzy of
hysteria she fell into my arms. It was Lucy Maynard. Tenderly I placed
her in the very pew from where I had so often stolen the childish
glances at the same brown, curly head and beautiful eyes of my Lucy,
who now lay in a dead faint upon the cushions.

“‘You must care for her, mother,’ I said, as I turned hastily to leave.
‘I am going away; and, now that you know my secret, you must always
pray that my happiness may some time be returned.’”

[Illustration]



CHAPTER X.

_Adieu to the Mining Camp._


“Soon after I gave up my position in the city. The money which I had
accumulated I determined to spend in trying to forget, to stamp out of
my life the truth of the love which existed between Lucy and me. She
was married—I was a gentleman. It was too late. God might right the
wrong which had been done, but in the meantime two souls were to suffer
apart. For another two years I kept away from home, my dear old parents
never urging me to return. I was successful in my business ventures.
Then sad news again came to me. A fatal illness had attacked my father.
I reached his bedside in time to hear him say, ‘Edmond, I would have
done the same were I in your place.’ We buried him in a plot by the
church, in the shadow of the steeple at the bidding of whose bell he
had so many years come to meeting, and now from the old belfry tower it
tolled the last sad notes for the departed.

“Lucy and her husband had been traveling for her health, under the
advice of the old village doctor. A change of scene, he told her
husband, would do her good. A month I spent at the old homestead.
Mother had taken my hand in hers one evening, as we sat under the
porch, I in the same chair where, at the same time of the evening,
father read the weekly paper, and many a time, with his spectacles
pushed up on his forehead, and in his shirt sleeves, had engaged in a
heated discussion with mother over some editorial comment favorable
to his views on one of his pet subjects. ‘Stay with me, Edmond,’ she
said. ‘It won’t be long now. For nearly sixty years we have never been
separated for more than a day—your father from me. It—won’t—be—long.’
I felt her grasp of my hand loosen, and she sank back into her chair.
Her left hand lay limp in the folds of her dress, an ashy whiteness had
suffused her face, a sweet, heavenly smile rested over her features.
Then I knew she had joined my father. Side by side their bodies rest in
the shadow of the village church, while their spirits have joined the
angels and are looking down at us now.

“No one at the homestead nor in the village of Darrington knows of my
whereabouts, and to them I am as though I had joined my father and
mother. Now, Andy, you know my story. If you think I should return
with you to your home, I will—but on one condition—that my secret, my
identity, be sacred between us.”

Andy promised. They arose to seek their couch of cedar boughs, but a
strange gray light was creeping through the valley. “Look, Andy,” cried
LeClare. “It’s morning!”

       *       *       *       *       *

LeClare at once piloted his partner down to the cave-like opening in
the cliff. There he drew from a ledge in the shelving rocks at his
side, the loose earth and small stones he had placed there the night
before, covering from sight the rich deposits which were now plainly
to be seen fastened to the solid rock in great pockets of nearly pure
gold. Cameron was stunned at the sight. Wealth of such magnitude he
could not comprehend. Two days they worked to take from the ledge their
treasure. Then, having made ready, they bid adieu to the scenes of
their recent struggles and hastened on their way. They chose the same
direction through the mountains as that by which they had reached the
Cariboo Valley, heading, of course, for the house of the native at the
head of Soda Creek with whom they had left a part of their belongings
upon entering the ranges nearly two years previous.

Cameron had explained to his friend the necessity that haste govern
their every act in their exit from the mountainous district, that even
at great inconvenience to themselves they must hurry with all possible
speed, first to overtake the wagon trains going down through the valley
on the western side of the range to the passes at Ashcroft; then, after
crossing the Rockies to the eastern slope, to join the pack train, this
to carry them farther homeward, till at Winnipeg they would reach the
railway. Then upon fleeing steeds of winged steel they would soon reach
home.



CHAPTER XI.

_Nick Perkins the Money Lender._


There is in every rural community one individual who in himself
represents an institution hated alike by the rich and poor, a necessary
evil, so to speak, and one for whom the law has had to define the
limits to which he may carry his questionable practices. The going and
coming of such a man in the community in which he lives is tolerated by
one class of residents who are familiar with his tactics, because of
the fear that some day they may be compelled to ask assistance from him.

There is yet another class of the same populace by whom he is called
a great and good man; it is because of the power and influence the
possession of wealth has put in his hand, which he uses for his own
selfish advancement. Although these same people may at the very time
be paying him usury rates upon a valuation not half the true worth of
security, should they ask for a further advance, this suave citizen,
parading under the guise of a public benefactor, refuses them, and
continues subtly after the blight is upon them to weave his drag net
closer about the unwary victims, strangling them at last; then with a
well-feigned show of reluctance, he gathers in their property, which he
has obtained at one-half its correct value.

Nicholas Perkins was the worthy exponent of this system in the Arcadian
district of which we are writing, and it was from him, through his
friend, the lawyer, that Cameron secured the loans of money for which
both his farm and that of his brother were pledged.

Perkins lived over at The Gore, and through his office, as Government
tax collector for the county, he was afforded an excellent opportunity
to know of the business affairs of the people within his jurisdiction.
As a farmer at The Gore he was known to be prosperous. As a money
lender, there were many, both in his own town and through the county,
who had occasion to know of his shrewd bargaining, and as a Government
agent for the collection of the land-holders’ dues, his promptness and
diligence were unquestioned. He drove about the county in an open-back
light wagon, drawn by a bob-tailed, cream-colored nag. Behind the seat
a rope halter was traced diagonally across from side to side, fastening
to the iron braces which gave it support. A slightly corpulent man
was Perkins, and while jogging along the country roads his favorite
position was on the edge of the seat, one hand grasping the reins at
which he tugged at frequent intervals, and the other holding the iron
braces surmounting the seat’s back. He wore a faded brown derby hat,
and a few scattered reddish side-whiskers adorned his face. There was
no mustache which should have been there to hide the stingy, straight
lips, and an insinuating smile from which the children invariably
shrank played at the corners of his mouth.

A social call from Nick Perkins was not taken as a pleasant surprise
in any of the homes throughout the county, and least of all in those
of the families at the rival town to his own, The Front. Perkins had a
very bad way about him, the neighbors said, because of the circumstance
that when a note he held—or it might be a mortgage upon a farm—was
overdue, they were sure to see the cream-colored, bob-tailed nag and
its owner driving slowly past, taking note of the condition of the land
and out-buildings. They said he counted the fence-rails so that he
would be sure they were all there when he got possession. Close with
his family and servants, a gift for charity’s sake would have been
considered a huge joke with him. A diversion in which he seemed most
to delight was that of keeping alive the dissensions existing between
the farmers of his own village and those whose lands met the river at
The Front. He was not a participator in any of their Saturday night
brawls,—not he,—and but for the suave, insinuating remarks he dropped
artfully in the hearing of certain ones at the two towns, their feuds
would long before have died out for lack of fuel.

The rebuff administered to Perkins by Bill Blakely before the smithy
had smouldered in his mind, not dying out, but fanned by more recent
reverses to his plans till it had now blazed upward, determining to
consume for his personal satisfaction and the discomfiture of The
Front, the Camerons’ homesteads. With the head of the family away, and
no news of him in nearly two years, Laughing Donald unable at any time
to contend against him for his rights, and the stock and dairy sold
from the farms, he had figured, despite the fact that Barbara, the wife
of Andy Cameron, had paid the interest money promptly, that there could
be very little money left, and in a month more he himself would be in
possession. Thus he argued, but he reckoned alone and without a friend
of the absent Cameron, who lived a short distance from the smithy,
and to whose words of caution the self-important Perkins had given no
hearing.

Almost daily now since the beginning of the month which marked the
end of the two years of the mortgage and the absence of Cameron, Nick
Perkins and his horse and buggy, known to every school child in the
country, drove along The Front. Turning upon the edge of his seat,
his disengaged arm extended along the brace surmounting its back, he
would deliberately look about him with that insolent proprietary air
so common among men of his class. Barbara Cameron witnessed this scene
for about a week. Laughing Donald, in his innocent way, had come over
from his place and inquired of her if she had any business with Nick
Perkins, because, he said, he drove past so often, he thought he might
have some “dealin’s with her.”

[Illustration]

The next day Andy’s Dan, simple-minded, but scenting trouble when he
saw Perkins drive past, hurried down to the gate at the road, and
closed and latched it securely. Inside of the house at the kitchen
table sat the silent figure of Barbara. Spread out before her was a map
of the British Columbias, showing the ranges of the Rocky Mountains.
Two years before, her husband had studied the same map, and hundreds
of times within the last few weeks she had pointed out to herself the
mountain passes through which he said he would journey in going to the
gold fields. For the thousandth time the thought came to her, Was he
dead? If he were alive and had found the hidden treasures he would have
returned to her before now. The cruel rumors which had reached her from
the neighbors that her husband had deserted her, she never allowed a
place in her troubled mind. If dead, she argued, then she could not
live there and see the poverty which must come to their families. She
would be happier to live anywhere else. Yes, happier to know for a
certainty that he was dead.

Then the thought had come into her mind in a more definite form,—Why
not go to him? Perhaps, too, Andy were sick. A new thought this. A
strange light was now in the eyes of Barbara. Sickness she herself had
ever known, but the possibility of her husband’s robust constitution
succumbing to disease she had never imagined. Again she said over in
her mind. “He may have been on the way home. He may be lying with a
fever in one of those camps in the mountain passes he told me about,
which is here on the map.”

In her excitement she arose and paced the floor: her features, set and
always stern, were now drawn hard. Looking from the window down to the
road, there she saw Nick Perkins passing, and looking, as she was able
to tell her husband later, as though he owned the farm already. She
stopped in the middle of the floor. With a quick movement she untied
the strings to her gingham apron, hung it on the peg by the kitchen
stove, told Dan to watch the biscuits baking in the oven, then retired
to her room. Soon she reappeared. Dan saw she had put on her Sunday
bonnet and her best frock. She held a tightly-rolled bundle under her
arm. Glancing quickly at the clock, as though her time was short, she
hurriedly told Dan to care for their one cow, and when he needed more
biscuits, to go down to Laughing Donald’s. Then, casting another hasty
glance around the rooms of the house, she went out at the back door and
down the road which led to the station.

Dan did not watch her going. He knew where she had gone.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XII.

_Barbara in the Chilcoten Valley._


The Autumn rains had now set in, and all the way up through the
Chilcoten Valley from Quesnel, the wagon train groaned and pitched
from side to side. The wheels rolled in mud up to the very hubs, and
the horses lagged in their traces, wearied by the excessive burden
they were urged to drag. Sandwiched in with the baggage, providing for
their comfort as best they could, were the several passengers. Upon the
front seat with the driver sat the only woman passenger of the company.
A figure tall and spare, a face thin and drawn, lines that were deep
cut, marked the features of a determined character. Her manners
were not engaging, and her fellow travelers soon understood that she
preferred to be left alone, not to talk. But they had observed through
the tedious journey up from Quesnel to the terminus at the head of
Soda Creek, that she had at intervals questioned the driver, each time
making him confirm his answer by repeating it a second time.

“Yes,” said he, “I am sure that I brought your husband up this valley.
It must be nigh two years ago this Fall, and if I ain’t mistaken, him
and another man left some truck over at Dan Magee’s place, across the
bridge at the head of the trail. If ye want, mum, I’ll take ye over
that soon as I put the horses up.” They had now reached the end of the
wagon route and the passengers had dismounted in front of the building
which served as a lodging house, but Barbara sat awaiting the return
of the driver, who by his positive answers to her questionings, had
kindled the dying flame of hope in her heart, and already through her
weak frame new life coursed with a quickened throb. Up to this time,
over the trails by which she had come no definite information could
she obtain that her husband had passed that way. No encouragement had
she received to inspire within her that fortitude which would aid her
to withstand all fatigue, knowing that at the end of the journey she
should meet her beloved; and now she sat transfixed, afraid to discover
the truth of the report, fearing there might be a sudden ending of the
hopes she had allowed to spring up in her heart, that soon she should
see her husband, and the longing of her soul to be at his side would be
satisfied.

She was presently rejoined by the driver of the van, which was left
standing at the side of the hotel, the team of four horses having been
detached for stabling. Together they went toward the home of Magee. The
dim lights were beginning to show through the gathering darkness from
the cabins of the scattered settlement. A thin mist was rising from the
dampness, and but for the feeble rays which filtered through nothing
would have been visible to mark the exact location of the house. To one
of those lights, coming as if from out the side of the hill, Barbara
and her guide came.

“This is the place, mum. Dan Magee is a friend of mine, so you needn’t
be afraid to tell him what you have come about.” The door opened
cautiously in answer to the knock. “It’s all right, Dan,” said the
driver of the stage wagon. “Here’s somebody wants to see you.” The door
opened wide. Barbara and her friend advanced into the light.

Seated around a table at the side of the room opposite the door were
two men, one young, bronzed, but handsome, the other older and weather
beaten, his beard untrimmed and hair unkempt. They looked toward the
door as the strange visitor of the night entered, then quickly, as if
from a sudden impulse, the older man stood up. His hand shook, as it
rested upon the table, and his eyes stood out as if they would leap
from their sockets. The tall figure of this silent woman had advanced
to the middle of the room, her eyes fastened upon the man standing
by the table. Slowly her two arms were raised, and stepping quickly
forward, in a dreadful whisper she ejaculated, “Surely, Andy, it is
ye!” Cameron also had recognized his wife, but he caught her in his
arms only to lay her tenderly upon the couch, for she had swooned away.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIII.

_The Mortgage Comes Due._


On the first of October—at least so they said back at The Gore—Nick
Perkins was to take over as his own the Cameron farms at The Front.

Since the flight of Barbara early in September Perkins had patrolled
the roadway almost daily, surveying from his wagon, as was his custom,
the home of Laughing Donald. Then continuing his round of inspection,
he would ride along past the farm at The Nole. There at the closed
gate, mute but defiant, guarding the house like a faithful dumb animal
in the absence of his master, Perkins found Andy’s Dan each time that
he passed.

The cool evenings of the approaching Autumn had broken up the meetings
of the Gossip Club before the smithy, but the depression weighing upon
the sympathizers of their luckless neighbors at The Front was like the
ominous quiet preceding a storm which leaves disaster and despair in
its wake.

Angus Ferguson had frequently lent a helping hand in the putting
away of the Winter’s supply up at Laughing Donald’s, and of late the
silence existing between Davy the blacksmith and Bill Blakely, and
their intense thoughtfulness whenever they met at the shop, was proof
positive to the observer that they understood that the responsibility
of averting the approaching trouble to their neighbor—which was also an
indignity aimed at the clans at The Front—devolved wholly upon them. As
the days passed the confident look on the face of Perkins so asserted
itself that at length while passing the shop he stared into the
blackness of the open door with the insinuating smile of the hypocrite.
Davy watched him from the grimy window nearest the forge, and by one of
his severe quieting looks he persuaded Bill Blakely to let him drive on
unmolested. After Perkins and his cream-colored nag had disappeared
up the roadway along The Front, Bill walked uneasily around the shop,
kicking about the floor the loose horse-shoes and fire tongs lying
at the foot of the anvil. Davy glanced at his friend over the steel
rims of his spectacles, awaiting an expression on the subject each had
silently argued for weeks, as he rounded the while on the anvil’s arm
the curve of a shoe to fit the farm horse lazily resting in the corner.
During the last minute before leaving Davy, the frowning wrinkles in
the face and forehead of Old Bill had disappeared, and encountering
the smith as he carried in the tongs, grasping by the red hot toe cork
the shoe to fit to the mare in the corner, his lips were copiously
moistened from the weed to which he was a pronounced slave. His goatee
was moving rapidly up and down, and Davy halted, for he knew a decision
had been reached.

“To-morrow is the last day, Davy,” said Bill. “I’ll be on my way to
the town in the morning. If there’s no news from Andy Cameron it won’t
take you long to tell it to me when I’m passing.” Then he looked Davy
straight in the eye, winked his own blue eyes a few times, drew out
from his trousers pocket the plug of chewing tobacco, and was gone in
an instant. Davy made no remark to the neighbor who was the onlooker at
this little episode, the termination of a month of silent conferences
held between these two men, sturdy types of rural loyalty.

“I thought Bill would do it,” mused the smith to himself. “He’s got
the heart, and a whole lot of other things that the people round here
don’t know much about. But Bill knows I know it, and that’s why he’s
been a-hanging around here a-wantin’ of me to say something. But I
knowed he’d say it all right,” and in his pleasure Davy hammered the
nail-clinches with double energy into the hoofs of the docile mare.

Next morning, before the rays of the Autumn sun had changed the
whiteness of the hoar frost, shining like a coat of silver upon the
shingled roofs of the buildings, and covering with a mantel of gray the
green shrubbery and grass by the roadside, the smith unlocked the door
to his place, and stepped within its darkness. At the same early hour,
coming along by the cheese factory, down the side hill and through
the hollow, then over the plank bridge which crossed the whey-tainted
creek, the innocent cause of so much contention, now past the store at
the four corners, steadily there sounded in the early morning quiet the
echoing thump, thump, thump of the tread of Old Bill’s cowhide boots
on the hard roadbed. Davy recognized the step as it came nearer. Now
it was past the wheelwright’s place—he could see his old friend in the
roadway.

“He’s not a-goin’ to stop,” thought Davy, but when nearly up to the
rise of ground just to the west of the shop, Bill half turned, and
with his hands deep into his trousers pockets, the peak of his faded
cloth cap pushed to one side, he stood half listening, half looking
for a sign from Davy. Anticipating the man, the smith had in his
characteristic way upon critical moments thrust his head around the
side of the open door, and with a nod motioned Bill onward. There was
no word from Cameron.

Later in the day, driving along the road which turned at the four
corners into that which passed the smithy, was the familiar sight of
Nick Perkins and his bob-tailed horse. He sat as usual upon the edge
of the seat, his disengaged arm grasping the brace which formed its
back. He had put on his Sunday coat, and as he passed the door of the
shop Davy could see from his window by the forge the insolent smile of
triumph which Perkins cast in his direction.

“When he meets Bill Blakely up there at the lawyer’s,” thought Davy,
“perhaps he’ll change that smile.”

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIV.

_Blakely Consults Cameron’s Lawyer._


In rooms upon the second floor of a business block, whose windows
looked down on the main thoroughfare of the country town, were the
offices of Cameron’s lawyer friend. The ground floor of this building
was occupied by firms in various lines of business, and for the
accommodation of the occupants overhead there was on the outside of
the building a stairway leading up from the street. Standing upon the
landing at the head of this stairway, outlined in shadow by the morning
sun against the whitewashed bricks of the wall, was the picturesque
figure of Bill Blakely, awaiting the lawyer’s arrival.

“Ah, good morning, Bill!” said the latter as he reached the landing,
curiously eyeing his early caller.

“Mornin’, Donald Ban,” returned Bill, as he followed him through the
door. Donald Ban was curious as to the nature of the business which
prompted this unexpected call from Bill. Often, to the discomfort of
Blakely, this same lawyer had opposed his counsel in the settlement
in court of the encounters he had figured in while disposing of the
men who came over from The Gore to argue the cause for the tainted
condition of the creek. Donald Ban had many times convinced the judge
and jury that Blakely had been the offender and must pay the costs,
at least, of the litigation. The lawyer had been impressed with the
candid, matter-of-fact way in which Bill had accepted these verdicts.
His manner upon each occasion seemed to indicate,—“Well, if the judge
and jury say so, I’m willing to pay the fees of a lawyer smart enough
to make them say so. Besides, I have had my fun out of it, too.” Then
he paid up without an objection.

“Sit down, Bill,” said the lawyer in an encouraging tone, for down in
his heart he liked the man. Bill had removed his peaked cloth cap,
showing an intelligent head, covered with a heavy crop of unkempt,
straight, white hair. Donald Ban moved about the room making comments
on general topics, calculated to put his visitor at ease, but still
he was at a loss to account for the appearance of Bill at his office.
Suddenly Bill blurted out this question: “You are a friend of Andy
Cameron, ain’t you, Donald Ban?”

“Yes,” replied the lawyer. “He is a client, and a friend of mine, also.”

“Well, so am I a friend of Cameron, and you can write that in the
papers, too, when you make them out,” and Bill turned in his chair
facing the lawyer, who had now seated himself at the opposite side of
the office table. “Nick Perkins from The Gore,—you know him, too, I
suppose, don’t ye?”

“Yes, I know him,” answered the other, still waiting for his clue to
the situation. Bill during his last question had reached down into
the lining of his vest and had taken therefrom an oblong package,
inclosed in a wrapping which showed the signs of much handling and
tied about with a soiled string. He laid it on the table before him,
then continued: “Donald Ban, you are a good lawyer, and for that reason
I never wanted you on my side. Mine was always the wrong side, and I
was a-feared that you would make the jury say it was the right side,
when I knew all the time it wasn’t. This is the time, though, Donald
Ban, that I am here to see you the first thing.” Bill had risen and
was leaning forward, his two hands resting upon the table. “In these
papers,” he continued, “these papers that Nick Perkins holds against
Andy Cameron, do they mention ‘on or before,’ or only mention that it
is ‘on’ the certain day they are due?” The lawyer, noting the intense
earnestness and excitement of Blakely, answered at once that the form
of the mortgage held by Perkins against the Cameron properties read
that “on or before the first day of October of that year, they were due
and payable, and——”

“That’s enough, Donald Ban—all I wanted to know. It is now one day
before, and you write it down in the papers and tell Andy when he comes
back that a friend of his—you needn’t mind putting it down there as
who it was—put up the cash and beat the hypocrite Perkins out at his
own game. Count out what you want from that package, Donald Ban, and
give the rest to me. Perkins will be along pretty soon now, and when
he comes I want you to have it all ready for him to sign off his claim
against the Camerons on The Front.” The lawyer, taken so completely
by surprise, was at a loss to know what to say. “Cameron will be back
soon, mark what I am telling you,” Bill continued, “and if he has
made nothing, I will be a safer man for him to owe money to than Nick
Perkins.”



CHAPTER XV.

_Cameron’s Resolve._


It was the end of September. The wind blew violently, the faint light
of the pale moon, hidden every other instant by the masses of dark
clouds that were sweeping across the sky, whitened the faces of the two
silent watchers in the chamber of the sick. Under the same hospitable
roof where Barbara had fallen exhausted at the feet of her husband,
she now lay prostrated by a raging fever. Standing near the foot
of the couch, alert for a sign of returning consciousness, Cameron
watched by turns with his friend the passing of the life of his devoted
wife, which now hung in the balance by only a slight thread. In her
rational moments during the days when the burning fever would be
lowest, Barbara had told the story of the persecution of the Cameron
family by Nick Perkins, the insinuating gossip set afloat by Fraser,
the carpenter, the defense in their behalf made by Bill Blakely and
the kindnesses offered them by Angus Ferguson and Davy Simpson, the
blacksmith. LeClare had divined the truth long before his friend
Cameron, that the relentless fever raging in the brain and body of the
proud, determined woman must soon burn her life’s taper to the end.

All the available medical skill and the tenderest nursing would not
arrest the progress of the fever, and Cameron, too, at last despaired
of the life of his beloved. The doctors had told him that the end
was nearing, and now he sat by the side of the couch, never for a
moment removing his gaze from the face of the sick one. As the hour of
midnight approached, the eyes of the patient opened slowly, and the
look of intelligence brought a ray of joy to his heart. Feebly she
murmured as he bent over her to catch every precious syllable.

“I am going now, Andy,” she whispered. “Say good-bye to Dan for me. I
loved you too much to hear them say you had deserted me, and that’s why
I came to find you. You won’t blame me, will you?” and he answered her
by smoothing her feverish brow. “Make me only this promise, Andy,” she
continued with great difficulty, for her strength was quickly going,
“that you take me back with you. And if Nick Perkins has taken our home
from us, then go direct to the graveyard by the little church.”

Then the soft love light in her eyes faded out as she sank quietly
away into the pillows, her lips slightly parted and the long eyelashes
drooping from the half-closed lids. The proud spirit had taken its
flight. It was in the twilight of that mysterious country called
Death, and for a moment, as Cameron stood by the side of the cot, the
veil seemed to part from before the throne of Glory, and beckoning to
him to follow, he saw the spirit of his loved one borne safely hence
by the angels of peace. A great sob shook his frame, and as he stood
up, gazing at the lifeless form of his devoted wife, he exclaimed in
indignant agony: “Murdered! Their infernal gossip has done this, and
here, in the presence of the angel of death, I vow that I shall live to
avenge this innocent soul.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Together they journeyed homeward. LeClare was greatly concerned over
the change which had taken place in his friend. The transformation so
suddenly accomplished in the man reminded him of the instances told of
how, from a terrible fright at the sudden approach of danger, reason
had been restored to the unbalanced mind. In the case of Cameron,
however, where before he had been content to follow, acquiescing
without objection or comment to the conditions which surrounded
him, awaiting always a suggestion from his partner to act out the
inclination which had arisen in his own mind, he had now suddenly
assumed the rôle of leader, and so naturally, it appeared, that no
indecision was manifest because of his recent acquirement of the
office. That primitive charm of manner, that honest, simple style
of the Glengarry farmer, which had so won the confidence of LeClare
when traversing the same route in going to the gold fields, had now
upon their return trip given place to personal traits of even greater
significance. The new development of character in his friend showed
LeClare at every turn the master mind awakening. Grief had rudely torn
away the mask from the uncharitable, had laid bare the deceit of the
untrue and the wickedness of the hypocrite. The death of his wife,
Barbara, had removed the object of his unselfish love, and to LeClare
it was very evident that the future had in store for those who figured
in the events consequent to Cameron’s leaving The Front, a destiny more
or less happy, according as they should be judged upon the return of
the prospector to his home.



CHAPTER XVI.

_The Return of the Gold Diggers._


They were now nearing the station at a mile back from The Front.
Cameron had acquainted LeClare with the simple funeral arrangements
he wished carried out as soon after their arrival as possible. One
precaution he insisted must be taken, and that was, to allow no
indication to appear of their possession of wealth. The significance
of this request LeClare well understood. At the call of the station
stop for The Front, the two men alighted, and hurrying forward,
superintended the removal of the copper-lined casket beneath whose
sealed cover was the body of the courageous woman that so lately had
gone in search of the husband who now would live to do for those in
kind who had done for the departed.

Cameron stood by the side of the rough box upon the platform, as the
noise from the fast disappearing express train grew faint and died away
in the distance. For a moment he was lost in thought. Knowing him to
be in the company of Cameron, the keeper of the small depot approached
LeClare, and with a jerk of his head toward a farm wagon and driver
cautiously nearing, as if fearing to obtrude, he said in a hushed
voice,—

“It’s Andy’s Dan. He’s been a-waitin’ fer ’im.”

Twice a week and sometimes oftener during the October month, so Cameron
was afterward told by the neighbors, Andy’s Dan was seen regularly to
drive back to the railroad station, and there remaining at a respectful
distance, watch for a passenger who might alight from the through train
from the West. Then seeing no familiar face to reward his coming, he
would turn away and drive back to the farm at The Nole to come again
another day.

Startled from his reverie by the remark of the station master, Cameron
turned to see the conveyance drawn up by the platform at his side.
Andy’s Dan alighted from the vehicle and clasped the outstretched hand
of his bereaved brother in silence. Still without exchanging a word,
they walked over to the side of the long box. Then, as if suddenly
remembering, Dan looked into his brother’s face, a sad smile playing
upon his features.

“We can take her home, Andy,” he said. “Bill Blakely told me to tell ye
that when you come.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In the centre of the burying-ground, set back from the roadway and
raising its spire heavenward above the tombstones at either side,
the church at The Front reposes among the graves. One by one these
monuments had been reared, till now they marked a place where a loved
one had been taken to rest from each of the families at The Front.

A mound of freshly dug earth, thrown up upon the sod in one corner of
the inclosure, told of a newly made grave. A cold November rain had
been falling, accompanied by a chilling wind, which came in fitful
gusts. The over ripe, deadened stalks of the golden-rod beat against
the board fence, rapping at intervals like the weather strips upon a
deserted house. The drops of water fell aslant from the eaves of the
church roof, and a horse, meagrely covered, shivered beneath the shed
at the rear. Bill Blakely had placed in a convenient corner of the
shed the pick and shovel he had been using, then backing his horse
from under cover, he drove over to the farm at The Nole. Information
had spread among the neighbors that Cameron had returned to The Front
bringing with him the remains of his wife. No further news were they
able to gather, but to Davy Simpson, Angus Ferguson, Bill Blakely and a
few others, Cameron had sent a special message, saying that as friends
to himself and the departed he wished them to be present at the funeral
to take place from The Nole the following afternoon.

Meanwhile Cameron had also dispatched his friend LeClare with Dan
as his driver, bearing a note to his lawyer friend up at the county
village. To them the import of the note appeared to be nothing more
than a request for his friend to attend upon the following day, but
later, at the farm, as he saw the lawyer place upon the coffin in the
front room a beautiful wreath of the purest white lilies, LeClare
knew that Andy’s orders had been telegraphed to the city. The best
undertaker the county afforded was in charge of the details, with
instructions to slight nothing in the arrangements and the assurance
that his bill of expenses would be promptly met.

Cameron greeted his friends by a cordial grasp of the hand. A new
dignity of manner impressed itself upon his old neighbors. His bearing
at this time was that of a man of a great reserve force, softened
through the medium of sorrow. Kindly he thanked the few friends who
had come to him, and together upon the arrival of the clergyman
they assembled in the front room to fulfill the last request of the
departed—that, surrounded by her friends and family, her pastor should
offer a prayer, and then in the graveyard by the small church near her
home they should lay her at rest.



CHAPTER XVII.

_Cameron Outlines His Policy._


The Winter drew on apace. At Laughing Donald’s carpenters and workmen
had been busily employed within and without the house for weeks. Soon
the premises took on a finished look, and the workmen departed as
mysteriously as they had come. In the new home, the wife of Laughing
Donald presided, directing her servants with that natural grace and
dignity which is the certain indication of a lady born. Andy Cameron
since his return had not spent a night at his house at The Nole, and
now LeClare and Dan also joined the family at Laughing Donald’s.

Soon after the return of Cameron, Bill Blakely and he drove to the
county town and to Donald Ban’s, the lawyer’s. Together they climbed
the stairway to the office each had sought before. Bill leading the way.

“Morning to ye, Donald Ban,” said Bill, in a voice unusually soft for
him. The lawyer asked his callers to be seated. “You know, don’t ye,”
continued Bill, as he clutched his cloth cap, “that I said he’d be back
soon,”—nodding toward Cameron, who had seated himself comfortably by
the table, apparently having no uneasiness about the outcome of the
consultation.

“Yes, Bill,” answered Donald Ban. “You have the right stuff in you to
make any man proud to be called your friend, and you not only outwitted
your old acquaintance, Nick Perkins from The Gore, causing him the
most bitter disappointment of his unenviable career, but you performed
a service which, at the time, you did for a poor but honest neighbor.
We have all understood your motives thoroughly, and in acting for Mr.
Cameron, when I return to you the amount of money which you advanced
to save for him his home and good name, I can truthfully say that with
it you have the gratitude of the wealthiest and most distinguished
citizen of the County Glengarry.”

Blakely looked from one to the other, not knowing whether he had heard
or understood aright. Cameron smiled assuringly as he slapped his old
fighting friend upon the shoulder. “Bill,” he said, “we will be very
busy this Winter and all next Summer, you and I. We will let the waters
of the creek flow on to The Gore unmolested. We will let Fraser, the
carpenter, go on with his tattling about the neighbors. We will keep
them all guessing, Bill. My friend LeClare and I want to see you very
soon at Laughing Donald’s—and, by the way, Bill, don’t mention the
remark you heard Donald Ban make about some friend of yours having a
little spare money.”

Bill looked at Andy with the old mischievous twinkle in his eye, his
goatee began to move up and down, and he was in his old time mood
again. “Well, Andy,” he replied, “they say these lawyers often tell
more than the truth, but anyhow, when you and your friend run a little
short, you know where Bill Blakely lives,” and he went out of the door,
telling Cameron he could find him at the grocery when he was ready to
return.

Cameron and his friend were left to themselves for the first time since
their home-coming. His visit to the lawyer was for a twofold purpose:
the first, to fulfill the legal requirements necessary in discharging
his money obligations to Blakely; that disposed of, he proceeded to lay
before the lawyer the plans he intended at once to put into execution.

“Donald Ban, with your approval and under your suggestion, and also
urged by necessity, I made the venture against overwhelming odds which
fate has seen fit to reward by giving me the possession of a great
wealth in gold. You also know that in the obtaining of one coveted
means by which I am enabled to relieve the suffering and discomfort
of others, I have sacrificed the companionship of her through whom
the blessing to accrue from this new-found wealth would have been
dispensed; and now that my life has been clouded by sorrow, and
I shall no longer enjoy the home where together we strove in an
atmosphere hallowed by an unselfish love to help carry the burdens of
our fellow beings, this same injustice of things—the uncharitableness,
the unkindness from those of whom we expect comfort while in reverses,
only to be by them the most neglected—has aroused within me emotions
that have been the means of bringing before you to-day a different Andy
Cameron from the one who before was acting merely by the suggestion of
others. My purpose in the future at The Front and in Glengarry will be
to see justice charitably dispensed: the weak shall be made strong, and
from him at The Gore, who has grown powerful by his artful practices
against the unfortunates in our community, I will take and return to
them whom he has so oppressively wronged.”

Donald Ban was astonished at the change in the man before him, but he
was quick to recognize the genius of a quickly developing brain.

“I presume, Cameron, you have made reference to Nick Perkins, who has
been more or less successful in bringing a great deal of unhappiness
into the families residing in your neighborhood.”

“Remarkably true you have guessed, Donald Ban, and as my legal adviser,
you are entitled to my confidence in so far as it pertains to the
expenditures I have in contemplation at my homestead on The Nole and
among some of my neighbors at The Front. Roughly speaking, you have
deposited for me in the several banks down in the city three hundred
thousand dollars. As nearly as LeClare and myself can figure, that
amount represents our individual worth. Donald Ban,” continued Cameron,
thoughtfully tapping the leathern topped desk at which they sat, “Nick
Perkins has extracted from the people of our town at The Front in the
neighborhood of thirty thousand dollars. That amount he shall pay back
to these same farmers during the present Winter and the coming Summer.
With fifty thousand dollars I can erect a mansion upon the site of my
farmhouse at The Nole. Upon its completion Nick Perkins will buy this
palace. He shall buy it, Donald Ban!”—Cameron banged the table with his
clenched fist—“and eighty thousand dollars will be my price. At that
time thirty thousand of the amount will already be in the pockets of
the people whom he has harassed for years, and the actual cost of the
house you will deposit for me again in the bank from which we will draw
for expenses during construction. This much you are to know from me,
and I am aware my confidence in you leaves it a secret between us. I
will bid you good morning, and thank you, Donald Ban. My home is with
Laughing Donald.”

[Illustration: You know where Bill Blakely Lives.]



CHAPTER XVIII.

_The Ice Raft._


The beginning of Winter found Cameron and LeClare comfortably settled
in the refitted home of Laughing Donald; and under the gentle yet
queenly direction of his wife the members of the new household lived
amidst surroundings of comfort and domestic happiness.

In one end of the house a small room with windows looking out upon the
great river had been furnished as an office for business. In this room
many conferences with strangers to The Front had been held of late, and
here LeClare and the architect from the city carefully examined the
plans from which would be builded the House of Cariboo. To his friend
Cameron had given in charge that part of his project which required
the experience of one who was familiar with the accompaniments of homes
builded for beauty of architecture, displaying a refinement of taste;
but for himself, as he explained, he wished to reserve the privilege
of dispensing among his neighbors the expenditures for materials which
could be supplied from their farms while building the mansion as
proposed.

In this same little room during the Winter days Cameron and LeClare
often visited together. They talked of their plans for the future, of
the task before them in the Springtime, but never of the camp in the
Cariboo, nor their returning, which so sadly had been ended. At one
of these conferences, on a stormy day of early Winter, as LeClare,
seated before the fire in the grate, was reading from a selection of
new books he had bought while upon one of his recent trips to the city,
he was suddenly interrupted by his friend, who till then had been idly
standing, one hand upon the window pane, the other fumbling the watch
chain at his vest.

“I have just thought, Edmond,” he began, “as I have looked out upon
this icebound expanse, this great river which for months of the year
is the busy highway of so much traffic, that now it is bound, like
ourselves, to await the pleasure of the season, inactive, only waiting.
Perhaps you may think my deductions commonplace, Edmond; but hear me
through. Since the beginning of Glengarry’s history there have been,
to my knowledge at least, no innovations to disturb the serenity of
the established customs of our people, and these customs are few to
relate. In the Summer we labor a little and house our crops, that in
the Winter we may comfortably live to consume them. The following year,
and the years to come, the same highly exciting programme is certain to
be followed. For the coming Summer we have provided the diversion of
the building of our mansion, but for the lonesome days of our snowbound
season we have not provided. Why not advertise our Summer engagement at
The Nole, and interest our friends in advance?”

Soon after the conversation held in the library at Laughing Donald’s
a team hitched to a farmer’s sled was slowly passing in the roadway.
The driver, carefully selecting an opening between the deep snowdrifts
piled high on the river embankment, turned his horses abruptly to the
left and drove them down the incline and out upon the frozen river.
Quickly he dumped the load of cobblestones in a heap upon the snow and
ice. Thus returning at intervals of an hour each day, Bill Blakely
was engaged throughout the week, till irregular lines of stone heaps
covering a considerable area of the river fronting Cameron’s house
stood as monuments to his labors.

Since Cameron and LeClare had taken up their residence with Laughing
Donald speculation over their reported doings was at fever heat in
the neighborhood. Fraser, the carpenter, was frequently called on by
his friends from The Gore, but his own lack of information concerning
Cameron’s future plans aroused to a greater curiosity the contingent
from the adjoining town, of which Nick Perkins was the acknowledged
leader. Still smarting from the humiliating blow over his failure to
secure the Cameron homestead, Perkins nursed his wrath in silence.
A resolve had already formed in his evil mind to pursue even to the
finish the destinies of the Camerons at The Front, and already his
machinations could be seen at work in the questions he directed at
those he met as he drove along the snow-heaped roads.

It was on a Saturday, and Perkins was on his way to the county town,
when he met Bill Blakely coming up into the roadway, after having
deposited a load of stones upon the ice. Filled with wonderment at what
he saw, he inquired of Bill in his blandest tones what he was drawing
the stones for.

“Well, Perkins,” replied Bill, “to be truthful with you, it’s for a
dollar a load I am doing it principally, but another good reason is
that Cameron has asked me to do it. If you think you’d like the job,
go ask Cameron. They say his credit is good. Even you ought to know
that, Mr. Perkins,” and Bill passed on without saying good-day to him.
Perkins bit his lip and made no reply, but drove on to the village.

Other farmers from the neighborhood soon began hauling to the dumping
grounds on the river facing the farm at The Nole. Angus Ferguson had
hauled to Cameron’s ice raft, as he called it, the old stone wall which
had for so long disfigured the view in front of his house. Stopping
each evening at the little office at Laughing Donald’s, he received,
like the rest, a dollar a load for the number of trips he had made
during the day.

The work of the farmers whom Cameron had seen fit to employ, and who
seemed to vie one with another in quickly disposing of the useless
materials collected about their farm-yards and disfiguring their homes,
progressed so rapidly that ere long whole acres of the frozen river
front resembled a congested lumber yard. The fabulous prices paid to
them by Cameron for the worthless accumulations of their farm-yards,
which he had placed upon the ice to be carried away with the floods in
the Spring, caused a storm of comment, the echo of which came over from
The Gore in volumes of inquiries.

“Where did Cameron get his money?” they queried. “And why can’t we get
a share of it while it lasts?” For Nick Perkins was heard to remark
that “a fool from his money was soon parted.”

While the commotion among those engaged in hauling at The Front
was still in progress, Bill Blakely and Cameron were paying their
respects to certain residents of The Gore. To many of these gentlemen
favored by a call Bill was attached by tender recollections of former
fistic encounters at the four corners. His welcome, of course, was
not always the most cordial, but when Cameron announced very quietly
that Mr. Blakely wished to buy a few thousand of their best cedar
fence posts at a price which could not be disputed, they soon became
more communicative. “Deliver the posts at Mr. Blakely’s, beginning
to-morrow,” said Cameron, continuing without any further parleying:
“You will be paid by the hundred. We will drive, Bill,” and Cameron was
through with the bargaining.

During the next week or two, from his old-time enemies at The Gore,
Blakely had purchased for himself, for Angus Ferguson and for Davy
Simpson a supply of the best fence posts the county could boast.
“Enough,” as Bill said, “to keep Nick Perkins busy for three months
a-countin’ them, the next time he found a mortgage due on a Cameron’s
farm over by the way of The Front.”

In all the transactions of Cameron thus far since his return Nick
Perkins was able to discover a piercing dart, truly thrown at the
hypocrisy of his own career. The subjects he had chosen from among
the people upon whom to lavish such expenditures of money were always
certain to be those who had either been oppressed by him in the past
or else considered themselves his natural enemies. Perkins knew of
the housebuilding to commence in the Spring at The Nole, for already
Blakely was completing the contract he held to supply the stone for
the masonry of the foundation walls. Another fact which galled Perkins
to madness was that the farmers who had been kept constantly employed
were, in every case, those against whom he himself held a mortgage, and
he saw very plainly his prospects for eventually gaining their property
daily slipping more surely from his grasp.

The Spring season had now arrived, and up at The Nole a small army of
workmen were engaged in removing the buildings which had once been
occupied by Cameron as his home. The return of April’s hot sun and warm
winds had loosened the grip which for months held the icebound river
captive between the islands and shore, and suddenly one day, as the
workmen had quit for midday lunch, the long-delayed alarm was sounded
that the river was breaking up. Down the main boat channel, as far as
the eye could see, a forward movement was on. Great squares and chunks
of ice lunged and dipped, then plunged forward again like the wheeling
and turning of an army of soldiers. Over on the shores of Castle Island
mammoth cakes the size of the roofs of the buildings climbed upward
till they broke and toppled over by their own weight, crunching and
thumping and groaning, till a dull, rumbling noise like the approach of
an earthquake could plainly be heard.

Opposite to The Nole, extending in a zig-zag course through the piles
of debris, ran gaping cracks in the ice. All the Winter the irregular
heaps of ugliness which composed the freight on what was now called
“Cameron’s Charity Raft” had reminded those who passed that way of
the original methods employed by one man to relieve the condition of
his brother workers. The useless stone heaps served no purpose upon
the farms from whence they were taken, and the discarded wagon parts
and dilapidated farm implements which Cameron had purchased from his
neighbors had served them only as an encumbrance and nuisance. Now they
soon would be beyond annoying the sight, and their last opportunity for
usefulness had brought joy and peacefulness into many a home along The
Front. As the immense ice floe passed almost intact down the channel,
beating its way amidst the warring, jamming ice cakes, a ringing cheer,
led by old Bill Blakely and joined by the company of workmen, went up
for the man who had brought fortune and good cheer into their midst.



CHAPTER XIX.

_LeClare to Prospect in Arcadia._


In the early months of Spring, LeClare was busily engaged with the
architects and builders at work upon the mansion at The Nole. He viewed
the undertaking from day to day, which for weeks seemed but a shapeless
pile of board and scantling; but, as the work progressed, from out the
chaos and confusion could be seen the growing outlines of the stately
columns and the extending roofs of many gables.

Nature had spread her mantle of green abroad, and from the islands
of the Archipelago nearest the shore LeClare saw each evening, as he
strolled along The Front, the shadows of the dense foliage mirrored
upon the placid waters of the river. Then, as the sun sank lower in
the west, and in the gathering twilight, as the evening advanced, the
boats of the fishermen stole out from their sheltered coves and headed
for the spearing grounds away upon the shoals to the southward.

Andy’s Dan was little concerned about the building operations going
on upon the site of his former abode. He held aloof from the workmen,
who were strangers to him, and in his silent, reticent way he resented
the intrusion upon the quiet and primitiveness of the neighborhood. In
LeClare, however, he had found a congenial companion, and upon several
occasions he had confided to his new friend, whom he bound over to
secrecy, the exact spot over by the dead channel where he hooked the
shining maskinonge as he rowed near the rushes by the deep waters.

At this time in their undertaking LeClare was finished with the details
of the work upon the mansion which he had agreed with his friend to
superintend. A few days since a beautifully designed river skiff had
come up from the city, and as Cameron and LeClare stood talking upon
the veranda at Laughing Donald’s, they could see at a distance of a few
boat lengths from the shore Andy’s Dan rowing the new craft up and down
the channel. Now it flew through the waters in answer to the long, low
sweep of the spoon-shaped oars, and now like a race-horse, responding
to the spurs in his side, it sprang ahead in quick bounds as the short
strokes of the oarsman grappled with the surface of the water. After
they had viewed for a time the skill of the aquatic sportsman, LeClare
turned to his friend Cameron and thoughtfully said:

“Andy, should you wander over there to the southward, past the islands
of the Archipelago and the shoals of the marshes, and then follow
the mountain streams up their circuitous windings, you will come at
last to their head, the fountain from which continually spring the
waters, clear and pure, which unite to form the rivers. Down the course
toward the finish of their run sometimes the sparkling clearness
of these streams has become changed to a dullness of color by the
conditions of the country through which they have passed, and their
life and transparency are gone. So it must be with the streams of
life. At first the waters down which we glide are clear and bright,
but later our course perchance may lie through a troubled country,
and in the shallows we encounter the snags which wreck our pleasures
in passing. For a time we endeavor to clear the stream down which we
have been floating by throwing about us on every side that panacea to
unhappiness, speculation or adventure. With me, Andy, the fountain of
my happiness lies in the direction of the brooks from the mountains.
You are at home, and you have been drinking each day of the clear
waters from the springs of true life, and now it’s my turn. I’m going
back, following the stream up to that fountain where my first happiness
began. Out there on the river my craft awaits me, and with your Dan and
mine we will prospect this time in Arcadia.”



CHAPTER XX.

_Lucy Visits the Archipelago._


As the best laid plans of man fail often to succeed against the
inevitable, so, too, it is often that the intervention of time makes
possible what before Fate had willed otherwise.

Lucy Maynard still resided with her parents in the village of
Darrington. Her married existence had been punctuated by the fatal
illness of her husband, leaving her widowed while yet in the first year
of her wedded life. Seeking no new acquaintances, she sweetened the
atmosphere of her home, while her presence spread an angelic glow among
the circle of her friends. Hers was now a sad, sweet face, illumined
by a smile which ever quickly sprang to her lips and as fitfully died
away. In those large, hopeful eyes, so frankly turned upon you, was a
look of sadness, as of a love unrequited.

Early Summer had come again, the schools were closing, and with the
returning of friends who had been at colleges in distant cities a flood
of sweet recollections of years not so long past came to Lucy.

“It was down the winding Salmon,” she mused to herself. “Oh, how well I
remember, Edmond at the oars and I in the stern of the boat, trailing
my fingers in the water and thinking of the future—yes, that same
future which has brought me so much unhappiness already. But it was
of my own bringing. Pique and disappointment, they, too, played their
share in my short drama. That love which was the cause of urging me on
into the bonds that restrained me from turning back again to the object
of my only true affection is the same love which now is fanned into a
new life as often as the incidents arise which bring back the memories
of the past. On the morrow I will indulge my longing. It will be the
anniversary of that day when cruel fate changed love into foolish
resentment, so that we drifted apart, Edmond from me. With Caleb, our
old family servant, my confidant, my trusted friend, I will follow the
winding Salmon to the same point of land, and there, resting within the
basswood grove, as we did on that day, I will look to find again the
tree upon which we carved our initials as we sat beneath its shade.”

The sun shone bright upon this day in June, and as Caleb rounded the
point of land which lay in the shoals by the marshes he looked backward
over the shoulder nearest shore, carefully selecting a landing. Lucy
the while watched intently a boat pushing out from a bay farther up
the shore. A swiftly gliding boat it was, long and set low in the
water. Graceful lines swept from the bow, and, touching the waves at
the oar-locks, rose again to gently curve into the rudder posts at the
stern. Two men were occupants of the boat, which Caleb assured Lucy
was new in those waters. The man at the oars bent to his work, and in
response to his long, swinging strokes the boat quickly disappeared
from sight, passing through a line of thin rushes and making for an
island across the Schneil Channel.

Lucy appeared strangely affected. Caleb had now beached his skiff in a
sheltered cove, and was waiting, after having called to his mistress
the second time to step ashore. The man lounging in the boat of the
strangers, and guiding at the stem the craft as it stole swiftly away
from shore, Lucy followed, held by a strange fascination, till he was
lost to view.

Upon Tyno’s Point there was a small tavern run for the accommodation
of people fishing and hunting thereabouts, and a few cottages were set
back from the shore fronting out upon the expanse of water looking
toward the north bank of the Archipelago. Caleb went to exchange gossip
with the fishermen standing about the shore, while Lucy strolled alone
toward the basswood grove.

Still and quiet was everything in Nature. The bright beams of the
noonday sun fell in quivering rays across the sight. Out upon the river
not a ripple disturbed its glassy surface. From up the Schneil Channel
came the chattering noises of a water hen, and the piping of snipes,
who called from the rush beds farther up the river. Overhead in the
trees a pair of golden robins sang as they builded their nest far out
on an overhanging limb. The bumblebees hurried past on their way to the
blossoming clover patch, and the distant call of a loon came from over
the waters. Lucy stood beneath the high branching trees, and in the
distance, toward the village of Darrington, she saw the weather-vane of
the church steeple glistening in the sun.

“It must be near here,” she thought. “Yes, it was at a tree-trunk like
the one in yonder clump,” and thither she went, trailing her leghorn
hat by the ribbon strings through the tall grasses. Sweet was the
picture of grace and beauty left alone with her thoughts of love. “Yes,
it was here. Yes, yes, this is the tree, for there are the marks, the
initials we cut.”

Suddenly she paused in her delight, for she had made another discovery.
Some one had been before her. Around the foot of the very tree, and
leading away from it toward the river bank, the grass had been recently
trampled. Still in her surprise, curiosity led her to follow the path
through the grass to the shore. There she saw the fresh imprints upon
the sand. Immediately she recognized the small bay, whose extending
bank had partially concealed the strangers as they rowed away earlier
in the day.

A wistful, excited look had come over the childlike face of Lucy. One
hand pressed her heaving bosom, while with the other she clung for
support to a bending alder tree. Thoughts were in her mind that she
dared not entertain—an apprehension that she had but just missed seeing
the lover of her childhood, who possibly had returned like a spirit
from heaven to renew the anniversary of a time long past, but ever
fresh in memory. It was then as she stood, her frail figure swayed to
and fro by the flood of passionate recollections, that coming from
behind her sounded the voice of Caleb, her protector.

“We will row away by the Schneil Channel, Lucy,” he said, “and, going
by the rush banks, touch at the Caristitee Island. The old chief of the
tribe of the St. Regis will be glad at our coming, and once more he
will say to us that he is the friend of the palefaces.”

Caleb True lived quietly on in his way, which called for no criticism,
aroused no comment, enjoying the while the respect of those who knew
him. He might have been the miller, the town gardener or an unassuming
deacon in one of the churches, but, as it was, he had lived very long
in the family of Lucy’s father, tended the garden and cared for the
household during the week, and upon the Sunday he proudly officiated
as sexton in one of the village churches. To Lucy he had been a second
father, and to him in childhood she went for sympathy as she grieved
over some fancied injustice done her. Caleb had known the romance of
her school days, and he was now in full possession of the innermost
thoughts of her soul, although she had not confided to him that the
longing of the returned love of her girlhood was driving her forward in
a mad desire to discover his whereabouts.

While Caleb chatted with the fishing guides and river men at Tyno’s
Point he gained the information that for several days past the same
quickly speeding boat observed by Lucy had passed and re-passed
among the islands, going from place to place with a restlessness and
uncertainty of route altogether unusual among the frequenters of the
perch banks or the haunts of the wily pike. Once they had touched at
the Point, but only to inquire of the landlord for a lodging should
they wish to return. “Handsome and strong,” they said that he was, “and
with the air of a city stranger; but again swiftly they glided away,
and into the nearest rushes, where soon was hid from them the beautiful
skiff of the boatmen, but they saw over the tops of the swaying reeds
the heads of the wandering oarsmen as they crossed to the Caristitee,
and from there later, as the darkness came upon them, the light of
their camp fire shone on the point of the island.”

At once Caleb confided to Lucy the hopes which had risen within him,
and together they hurried to pursue them. Soon they had crossed the
Schneil Channel. Onward they sped, in their haste going through the
narrow passes cut by a current of swift running waters feeding the
expanse of a broad lagoon. Meanwhile Caleb, a poor match for the
fleet-winged oarsmen who unconsciously fled away in the distance, was
fast exhausting his strength.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXI.

_Under the Initialed Tree._


Coming at last to the island, they saw the remains of a camp fire,
and fluttering by the side of the charred rocks Lucy discovered among
the ashes the remains of a half-burnt parchment, upon which had been
written an address, and still upon the fragment, but discolored, was
a name which to Lucy had been lost but never forgotten. To Caleb in
breathless haste she ran with the paper.

“Look,” she cried, “‘tis the name of LeClare, of my Edmond! My heart
tells me truly, he is here in the lakes of St. Francis. Among the
islands of the Archipelago we must go search for him. True love will
seek out the path of his wanderings, and before the passing of another
sun two thirsting spirits shall unite, to wander no more in darkness.”

Among the trees on the point of the island, curling upwards in
ringlets of blue, rose the smoke from the tepees of the Indians. Old
and decrepit, but ever a friend to the white man, their chieftain,
Caristitee, sat in the smoke of his camp fire.

“Two suns gone by, my daughter, he sat where you are now reclining,
a paleface wearied of rowing, another sad-hearted and restless. At
dawn very early they departed. Down past the islands and marshes their
boat glides on like a phantom, and only at night are they seen, by the
blazing camp fires, as they rest from their endless going.”

Lucy listened, her heart filled with sweetness, to the sayings of the
good Caristitee. Overhead the skies shed a lustrous light, and out
on the waters around them a stillness had come with the darkness.
Filled was her heart with sweet dreams of love, and till the dawn of
the coming day Lucy slept, her head upon the shoulder of Caleb, not
awakening till the sun in the east came up in the midst of Arcadia. At
this early hour in the hazy light of dawn they saw a column of smoke
away on a distant island. Thither they headed their course. Drawing
nearer among the cluster of islands, they watched for the camp of the
strangers. Quickly the day was passing; no sight had they caught of the
boatmen, and Caleb had tired of the rowing. Lucy scanned closely every
island in passing, piercing with a searching look the rush banks that
lined the channels through which the boat silently glided. Hopefully
she encouraged poor Caleb, saying love would reward his exertions
and lighten the way of their going. At last they turned their boat
homeward, through lakes where myriads of water lilies swayed and dipped
with the waves as they came, then reaching the shoals of the Salmon,
the sand bars across which they were passing shone white through the
clear, limpid waters. Soon Caleb, wearied of rowing, threw himself down
at last to rest himself upon the banks of the Point of old Tyno.

Restless, still following her heart’s longing, Lucy sought out again
the grove and the tree where before she had missed her lover by only
a minute too late. In a moment of passionate abandon she threw herself
at the foot of the tree, held by memories strong, so closely were they
linked with the past.

Into the same bay, coming nearer, ever nearer, darted the boat which
moved so swiftly, urged on its course by the sinewy arms of the
oarsman. Lightly from the seat in the stern sprang the athletic figure
of the stranger. Hurriedly he looked about the shore, then leisurely
sauntered toward the grove, where upon another day he had come and gone
so mysteriously. Not far had he been when before him he saw, extended
at the foot of a basswood tree, the figure of a girlish maiden. One arm
encircled the tree trunk, while the other lay limp at her side.

At a respectful distance stood the stranger. “She is asleep—it is
Lucy,” he stammered, “and under this tree! What can it mean? Lucy, I
love you! My darling! why can’t I tell it you now?” he exclaimed, and
unconsciously he outstretched his arms.

By the angel of love she had been awakened and told that her lover was
near. In an instant his manly form was before her. “It is I, Lucy. Be
not afraid, but first tell me, why are you here?”

“I am free, Edmond,” she cried, “and I love you, and I came here to
tell it alone, that I should wait for you now and forever.” With a
great flood of joy, Edmond clasped to the heart his Lucy. Then they
knelt as on that day of yore, and the stroke which then was omitted now
they cut in the frame on the tree.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXII.

_The Mystery of the Corner Stones._


Blakely, with the neighbors whom he employed, had completed the
excavations for the foundation walls and hauled the stone and mortar in
readiness for the masons. Four squares of granite had been drawn to The
Nole from the railroad station, and it was whispered among the workmen
that their employer would personally direct the setting of the corner
stones.

For several days, four of the master masons were engaged in carefully
cutting into the center of each of the squares of granite a bowl-shaped
cavity. Cameron, who had usually busied himself in other things which
kept him away from The Nole, came frequently now to inspect the
mysterious hollows being made in the granite boulders.

Soon the work of the masons was completed; then by the aid of crane
and derrick, they lowered into position the corner stones just as the
hour arrived for labor to cease. Cameron remained till the last man had
gone, examining the granite blocks, which he found were placed securely
in position, resting upon their cement foundation.

Next morning when the men came to resume work, they saw two others
there before them, Cameron and the tall, erect figure of Donald Ban,
his lawyer friend. The wonder at finding their employer so early at the
works was quickly followed by a second surprise, more startling than
the first. The cavities in the corner stones had been filled during the
night and a layer of cement covered the tops of the hollow openings and
was spread evenly with the surface of the granite rock.

“Lay the wall, men,” Cameron ordered in his calm, inflexible voice. “We
wish to remain here till the corner stones have been walled under.”

At noon hour the burden of the discussion among the assembled laborers
was to ascribe a reason for Cameron and the lawyer being among them in
the morning. In the midst of the debate, an exclamation of delight came
from one of their number, who had been apart from his fellows in the
basement, and he held up to view a ten-dollar gold piece he had found
in the dirt at his feet. Immediately a mad hunt was in progress around
the foundation walls, and particularly at the corner stones. Other gold
pieces were discovered, and among them a twenty-dollar gold piece was
taken from the miniature gold diggings.

When the excitement had abated somewhat, the foreman of the gang
of laborers, with a wise and important look on his face, the while
assuming a dramatic pose, pointed to the corner stones, and in tragic
tones, he said: “Boys, they are full of ’em!” and a quiet akin to that
resting over a haunted house fell upon the superstitious laborers.

The trick had worked well, for very soon the whole county would hear
that their mysterious neighbor had buried a fortune in gold in each
corner stone of the House of Cariboo. Cameron quickly heard of the
gold finds made up at the works at The Nole and he smiled with great
pleasure when he thought of the look of blank despair which would
come over the face of Nick Perkins, on his finding that the worthless
bits of scrap iron which filled the cavities of the four corners of
the mansion were all that represented the vast sums in gold that he
imagined reposed in the foundation walls of his purchase.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXIII.

_Fraser Confers with Perkins._


The eccentric methods which Cameron had employed since his return to
The Front had put the people of Glengarry into a state of excitement
and wild speculation, which was greatly interfering with the wonted
quiet and decorum of its peaceably inclined citizens. While the House
of Cariboo, as it was now generally called, neared completion, and
the majestic columns which supported the high arched domes of its
rotunda stood out in bold relief against the scaffolding surrounding
the unfinished parts, extravagant reports were being circulated abroad
in Glengarry, even reaching to the distant city, of the enormous
expenditures made by Cameron on the mansion he was about to occupy.

As the undertakings of Cameron assumed form, and the motive for many
of his peculiar trades with his neighbors became apparent, another
individual of whom we have frequently spoken also began to figure
conspicuously before the people of the county.

The purposes of Nick Perkins for the past few months had suffered so
many humiliating defeats before his constituents at The Gore and his
enemies at The Front, that even his sympathizers and old time henchmen
of his town, of late had shunned meeting him as he went about at his
home. Every note and mortgage which he held against the farmers and
neighbors of the two towns had been paid back to him with interest to
date, and in every case the proceeds had come to his debtors through
the liberal wages paid by Cameron for work upon the undertakings he had
put under way. Thirty thousand dollars had been paid out for various
kinds of work done, either directly by Cameron, or through his friends,
Blakely, Simpson or Ferguson. Happiness reigned supreme in the
families of the two towns, and each neighbor felt that he could look
the other full in the face with a frankness which meant freedom from
the depressing coils of debt.

Perkins, they said, could no longer impose himself upon them. His
money-getting, money-lending and hypocritical pose among the people of
the two towns would no longer be tolerated. By Cameron, the man whom he
had sought so diligently to enclose in his net, he had been thrown from
his pedestal of deceit, and at present he was the object of ridicule
throughout the county.

William Fraser, the carpenter, still continued to employ himself in
the capacity of the official gossip of Glengarry, but the interested
listeners among his neighbors who would bid him welcome had become so
few that like his patron, Nick Perkins, he found the vocation which
once had placed him in popular demand, was at present in rank disfavor.
His neighbors had remarked that even though great activity was apparent
in the building trades at The Front, Fraser remained unemployed. Bill
Blakely sarcastically queried of him one day, as a number of men of
a like occupation from an adjoining town stood about the door to Davy
Simpson’s busy forge, “Whether he didn’t think that in balancing on the
top rail, speculating on the return of Cameron from the gold fields,
he had jumped off upon the wrong side of the fence? Of course,” Bill
added with a chuckle as his goatee moved up and down, “you had the hull
county with you, for Perkins had jumped the same way before you.”

As near as could be observed, the shrine to which Fraser had come with
his troubles, and the confession of the failure of his accomplishments
to charm as of yore his susceptible hearers, was the Court of Perkins.
Deserted as he knew it to be, nevertheless here we find him come again,
but this time a smile, a grin, covered his face, for he had a choice
bit of gossip for Perkins—a pretty little ambush arranged by Cameron
into which Fraser and Perkins fell without the least suspicion. Perkins
bade his caller welcome, and in his usual cringing, insinuating manner,
noiselessly sliding in his peculiar gait about the room, he finally
sat down on the edge of his chair, tipping it forward.

“Mr. Perkins,” he said, rubbing his hands together in glee, “our time
has come. It’s all up with Cameron. Just as you said, Mr. Perkins, just
as you always said, a fool from his money is easy to part, and that’s
what it’s come to now, and I come right over to tell you, Mr. Perkins,
for I knew they would have to come to you yet.”

Meanwhile Perkins drew a chair to the centre of the room and seated
himself before his caller. Every movement he made showed the intense
interest Fraser had aroused. “Is it something about Cameron’s finances
giving out, you have heard, Fraser, or is it something else we both
ought to know? We are alone in this, Fraser—alone, you understand.”

“Yes, yes, Mr. Perkins,” eagerly replied the tattling carpenter. “I
heard it by a mere chance. Why, they don’t think I know a word about
it. You see,” he went on, leaning farther forward toward his eager
listener, “I heard that some mouldings for the new house were coming
up from the city last night, and I thought I would go back to the
station and see what they looked like. Well, a couple of tall city men
got off the train, and while I was looking over the cabinet work which
come up to the station, one of them comes over and reads the tag on the
bundles, and says he to the other one, ‘Well, here is some more of our
firm’s stuff sent up for this job of Cameron’s, but I guess we will
cabbage this lot,’ says he, ‘till we see the color of his money for
what he’s already put into that house,’ and the other chap up and says,
‘The best thing we can do is to get this man Cameron to consent to a
public sale of this house to satisfy the claims of his creditors. There
will be no one here except a few of the largest creditors who will have
money enough to bid on the property, and some one of us will get a
beautiful house cheap. We can keep this thing quiet, and there will be
at least thirty thousand dollars to divide up between us.’”

“Where did they go?” asked Perkins, eagerly.

“Well, they come over to The Front in one of Cameron’s wagons and the
last I see of them was down by Laughing Donald’s. They weren’t there
this morning, so I guess they went up to the town last night.”

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXIV.

_Perkins Again Outwitted._


For several minutes after Fraser the carpenter had finished telling
his story, Perkins was silent. From force of habit he ran his fingers
upward through the scant growth of reddish side whiskers upon his
face, and by the changes in expression passing continually over his
countenance, Fraser was aware that the information he brought had
greatly interested him.

“There can be no doubt, I suppose, Fraser,” began Perkins, very slowly
pronouncing his words, “about there being a large amount of gold
deposited in the foundations of the house?”

“There is no doubt of it, Mr. Perkins,” eagerly answered Fraser, again
tipping forward upon the front legs of the chair. “Cameron didn’t want
it known, you see, but it’s the gold pieces they lost in the cellar
that spoiled his plan, and now it seems he isn’t worth the half he
thought he was.”

“That’s it, Fraser, about as I thought it would be,” continued
Perkins, well satisfied with the turn Cameron’s affairs seemed to
have taken. “His gold that he brought back from the Cariboo Mountains
has not turned out at the government mint to be near what he thought,
so his creditors in the city are going to close in on him quick and
get what they can. That’s about the case as I see it, Fraser, and
I think our turn has come, just as you have said. Oh, by the way,
Fraser,” as if suddenly recollecting, “where is the young friend of
Cameron—LeClare—the city chap who came back with him?”

“Oh, he’s gone. Went away to see his people, they say over at The
Front, but I guess he’s a wise one, eh, Perkins? Saw what was coming
and got out in time.”

“It has been pretty rough sailing for us, Fraser, since Cameron
returned, and although I have gotten back through him from the farmers
around here over thirty thousand dollars, yet I am poorer by not being
able to let the loans rest. You understand?”

“Yes, I see, Mr. Perkins. Bill Blakely says you have lost fifty
thousand by being beat out on foreclosing, and they all seem to be
laughing about it.”

“Yes, and they think they had a big joke on you and me, eh, Fraser?
Well, now we will see who will laugh loudest and the last.”

With this last thrust Perkins bounded up, and hurrying to the door in
his waddling gait, he shaded his eyes with his hands and scanned the
cloudless sky. Turning again to Fraser, he said: “I will have that
Cameron house before the week is out. My reputation has been hurt by
Cameron. My business is gone, and he has made me a joke for the whole
county. Now I’ll turn the laugh on him. I will go up to the county
clerk at once, and if there have been arrangements made for a sale of
the property or a transfer to his creditors, I will soon know it. Now
you go back to The Front, Fraser, and find out what you can. I will
meet you at the four corners on my return.”

The twilight of the June evening had faded into the darkness of night
and Fraser still waited by the door to his shop. Presently a familiar
rattle of the wheels of an approaching wagon announced the coming of
Perkins. Fraser advanced from the door of his carpenter shop and met
the tardy Perkins in the road.

“Ah, good evening, Fraser,” began the money lender in his blandest
tones, and Fraser knew his trip to the county town had placed him
in possession of favorable facts concerning the supposed financial
embarrassment of Cameron. “Anything new, Fraser?”

“Nothing much, Mr. Perkins, but more strangers were hanging about The
Nole to-day. I couldn’t get near enough to hear what was up. They
looked over the new house and then went down the road to Laughing
Donald’s. They are staying there to-night.”

“Very good, very good, Fraser. Now about LeClare. Have you seen him, or
do you know where he is?”

“I don’t know exactly, Mr. Perkins, but I am told that Andy’s Dan is
away with him.”

“There is a doubt there, Fraser, the only weak spot in our scheme.
Up at the county seat I see where they have arranged for a quick
sale. They were to do it on the quiet. They have advertised according
to law, and with the consent of Cameron’s lawyer, Donald Ban, the
city creditors are to meet at The Nole, and by an arrangement among
themselves, will bid in the house, and just enough to cover current
bills on hand. Now Cameron is in a pinch. They have sprung this thing
on him suddenly. He can’t locate his friend LeClare, and these city
chaps are after his house at half the cost. Here is our plan, Fraser.
Say not a word of what we know. The sale is on Thursday at ten in
the morning. This is Tuesday. I want the house. These men from the
city want about thirty thousand between them as their share of their
slick game. I can afford to overbid that amount because it is in the
foundation and they don’t know it. I have found that a receipt is on
file in the government mint down in the city, that this amount was
drawn out by Cameron and we have evidence that it was placed there. It
is a sure thing, Fraser, that I get Cameron’s house Thursday morning.
His only hope is that his friend LeClare may turn up before the sale.
You must be careful and quiet, Fraser, and leave the rest to me. I will
meet you at The Nole Thursday morning a few minutes only before ten.”

They bade each other a half-whispered good night, but as their shadows
retreated in the darkness, another dark object jumped up out of the
ditch at the opposite side of the roadway. It was the figure of a man,
cloth cap in hand, who, waiting only long enough to take an enormous
chew out of a plug of tobacco, then sauntered at a safe distance from
the others down the roadway, past the store, the cheese factory, and on
toward home.



CHAPTER XXV.

_Donald Ban at The Front._


Meanwhile, at Laughing Donald’s, Cameron had carefully concealed the
accomplices he had brought up from the city to aid him in fulfilling
the most delicate part of his whole undertaking. Through Bill Blakely
he knew positively of the moves to be made by Perkins that morning at
the sale, and further, he had arranged with LeClare, who, accompanied
by Andy’s Dan, was spending the night upon the accommodating banks of
Castle Island, opposite The Front in the Archipelago about a quarter of
a mile distant from the mainland. By a signal from Blakely, displayed
at The Nole, LeClare was to pull over in haste to The Front or remain
where he was till the sale had been completed.

[Illustration: “As the hour of the sale approached, they assembled at
the east end of the broad veranda.”]

Thursday morning had arrived and the strangers from the city,
representing the supposed creditors who had forced Cameron into
premature bankruptcy, were roaming at large over the House of Cariboo.
Then as the hour of the sale approached, they assembled at the east end
of the broad veranda, from whence an uninterrupted view of the river
and islands of the expanse of the Lake St. Francis stretches away to
the eastward.

Gathered about the house and standing in groups around the veranda were
the workmen who were still engaged at The Nole. They talked in a hushed
undertone, and as Cameron and the tall, erect figure of Donald Ban came
slowly up the hill, the hum of their voices died away entirely. A few
of the near neighbors were present, and as Donald Ban, who was to act
as the referee agreed upon by both sides, took up his position upon the
veranda, he saw nearing the outskirts of the assembled group our worthy
friend Nicholas Perkins and his companion Fraser, the carpenter. Mr.
Cameron had selected an inconspicuous place from where he could easily
witness the proceedings without himself being too much in evidence.

Baring his head, beginning his introductory remarks, Donald Ban spoke
quietly: “Gentlemen, neighbors, and friends:—I am here before you
in the capacity of my profession as a lawyer. I am here also as the
confidant of one of the most interested parties to this proceeding, and
I am also come to see justice fairly dispensed. We in Glengarry are
more familiar with the circumstances which have led up to the building
of this magnificent structure, than those among us who are recently
come from a distant city. The motives which my worthy friend Cameron
may have had in mind while rearing before the public gaze this house
of stately proportions, he has succeeded pretty well in keeping to
himself. However unfortunate and disappointing the termination of his
project may seem, we, who have carefully watched the workings of the
heart which has dictated the directions in which these expenditures
have gone, must easily have discovered the philanthropic intent of Mr.
Cameron, who has been to us the greatest benefactor our county has
ever known. Now, gentlemen, the facts I have the honor to put before
you this morning I hope will inspire within you the spirit of fairness
and of charity toward a brother. I am authorized to sell this house to
the highest bidder. For the benefit of those wishing to bid I will read
the following inventory: For material, labor, trucking, etc., expended
in Glengarry for the constructing of this house, and which has been
paid, thirty thousand dollars. For fixtures, decorating and furnishing,
forty thousand dollars. One-half of this amount has also been paid. You
will readily see, gentlemen, that Cameron has a paid-up equity of fifty
thousand dollars in this property, and you are easily secured on the
twenty thousand dollars unpaid amount, and we hope your bidding will
indicate that you have this fact in mind. Now, what is your first bid?”

“Forty thousand,” came in a clear set voice from the centre of a group
of strangers on the left, and a stillness settled upon the group of men
surrounding the lawyer. As soon as Donald Ban had allowed sufficient
time to pass in which to recover naturally from what ought to seem
an unexpectedly high offer, he continued: “It is to be presumed,
gentlemen, that a figure covering the indebtedness of the individual
firms which you represent should satisfy your employers.”

“Fifty thousand,” yelled the man with the high silk hat standing
over in the midst of an excited group, and Perkins again drew up his
shoulders as at the first bid and moved out to the edge of interested
bidders. Almost immediately another bid was recorded, a new contestor
with a sixty thousand offer, and Perkins looked badly discouraged, for
he pulled his side whiskers continually. Then sixty-five and seventy,
and seventy-five thousand were finally recorded from the same three
strangers, and the bidding seemed to be over. A slight commotion in the
neighborhood of Perkins was noticed by Donald Ban, and inclining his
head in his direction, the lawyer forced out his first bid, making it
now seventy-six thousand. An excited movement was noticeable throughout
the assembled company. Donald Ban repeated the offer, and while the
crowd surged about the money lender, Donald Ban added a few remarks to
stimulate the interest already at the snapping tension.

“Gentlemen, to those of us who know, this property is exceedingly cheap
at eighty thousand dollars.” Perkins and Fraser had caught at once the
trend of Donald Ban’s remarks, and they feared the disclosure of the
contents of the corner stones. “Another unfortunate happening at this
time is the absence from The Front of the former partner and friend of
Mr. Cameron, whose presence here would be an assurance of this house
never passing under the hammer for less than a hundred thousand.”
Another thousand was added by the man wearing the high silk hat.
Seventy-eight quickly followed from his rival bidder, and the lawyer
turned again to Perkins.

At that instant Fraser had pushed quickly through the crowd and
whispered something in the ear of Perkins. Blakely had displayed the
signal, and coming across the Channel, speeding on toward The Nole, was
seen the long, low, swiftly-going boat of LeClare making straight for
the landing.

“Eighty thousand, gentlemen, we must have. Who says the price, and the
house goes to him!”

“I do,” came in a defiant voice, and Perkins pranced into the space
about the end of the veranda where stood Donald Ban, and the crowd fell
back from him in awe. “Here’s your deposit, and I’ll sign the bill of
sale at once. Now then, who is there here to oppose Nicholas Perkins
again at The Front?” He turned with this challenge to survey the crowd,
and for his answer he met a chill of distrust which struck at the
very vitals of life, for he saw there, smilingly before him, standing
shoulder to shoulder, as if greatly pleased at the outcome of the sale,
his tormentors, Blakely, Cameron and LeClare.



CHAPTER XXVI.

_Cameron’s Task Completed._


No sooner had the lawyers completed the legal details for the transfer
of the House of Cariboo to the purchaser, Nick Perkins, than rumors
were afloat that all was not as it seemed about Cameron’s having to
sell the mansion to satisfy his creditors. Strange, if it were so,
mused Fraser the carpenter, for the day following the sale he saw from
his wheelwright’s place the strangers from the city grouped before
the door of the smithy, around Bill Blakely and Laughing Donald. The
jesting and laughter which he could plainly hear were joined in by
Blakely and even Davy Simpson, who left his blazing forge to appear at
the door of the shop to witness the pleasure of his friends.

A feeling of uneasiness took possession of the little undersized
carpenter, and he drew back from the door and shuffled around among
the shavings upon the floor of his workshop. Fear and apprehension had
closed in around him so surely that there was no chance of evading the
awful certainty of the truth that Perkins had been most artistically
duped, and that he had been the one through whom the scheme was
so successfully worked. Nick Perkins had acted entirely upon the
information he had carried to him, and now as he looked through the
dimmed window panes of his workshop and recognized the same men who had
so flippantly discussed the affairs of Cameron back from The Front at
the station, the extent of the humiliation and expense he had forced
upon Perkins, and the extreme satisfaction he had given his enemies,
dawned unmercifully upon him.

Again he squirmed in his peculiar sliding fashion around the extent of
his place. Stopping at the carpenter’s bench, he took up his plane and
tried to forget his predicament in violent muscular exertions. Soon a
knock came at the door. At first he paid no attention to it, thinking
Bill Blakely had come over to poke fun at him in his very provoking
manner. Another knock followed, and the door opened to admit the
short, officious personage of Perkins. At sight of his caller, Fraser
collapsed into a frightened, shrinking heap, sorrowful to see. Slamming
to the door, Perkins glared at the cringing object before him.

“A nice mess you have made of it, Fraser! It’s a wonder you were not
in the trick with the rest of them, but they wanted you where you
were to do just what you have done—to ruin me, to put every dollar I
am worth in the world into that useless house, a monument to Cameron.
Every dollar I ever made in the county I have given to Cameron, and
he has paid it back to the same people I got it from. The entire
cost of that house is not more than fifty thousand. I have paid that
back to Cameron. He did not owe a cent to those people you said
were representing his creditors in the city, and what is more, I am
satisfied now that the talk of the gold in the corner stones is a hoax,
like all the rest put up by Cameron to use me in carrying out his
philanthropy, which has not cost him a dollar. Yet he has the glory,
while I am ridiculed!”

Poor Fraser, confronted by such a terrible arraignment of what he knew
to be facts, was utterly confounded. He made no answer, but as Perkins
turned in resentment and disgust to go, Fraser, in a weak, thin voice,
like a wail of despair, said: “I thought I was doing you a service,
Mr. Perkins.” Again Perkins turned, but with a look of dark hatred and
disgust cast in his direction, he went out, slamming the door to after
him.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was possibly a week or ten days later when Cameron and LeClare stood
again upon the veranda at Laughing Donald’s. Andy’s Dan awaited his
passenger at the boat landing for the leave taking of the two friends.

“Lucy and I will expect you, Andy,” earnestly pleaded LeClare. “With
you present we shall want for nothing to make our wedding a union of
complete happiness.”

Mr. Cameron grasped the extended hand of his faithful associate and
friend, saying in his quiet, determined way, “LeClare, we have faced
disappointment together, we have endured hardships of a kind to test
the merits of our friendship many times before. Defeat we have never
acknowledged; sorrow we have borne together side by side in the
valley of death. Success and wealth are ours, and happiness, sweetest
happiness, Edmond, is yours. Wherever I may be at the call of your
wedding bells I will go to add one more good wish for a long journey of
life and joy to you.”

At another conference held in the office of Donald Ban, Mr. Cameron had
told of his plans for the future. Addressing his friend the lawyer, he
had said: “My mission at The Front is finished. The death of Barbara
has been avenged. The hypocrites, her tormentors, have been brought
very low, the weak are much stronger in person, and justice at last has
prevailed. I ask for no thanks or recognition but from our children in
Arcadia; in the generations to come may they look awe-inspired as they
pass the strange mansion, and be mindful of the moral which was taught
when we builded the House of Cariboo.”



THE GROWING MASKINONGE


[Illustration]



It was Sunday morning at the “Point.” And over across the bay the last
of the phantoms in “Ghost Hollow” had crept up the lampless posts
of the walk through “Spook Grove,” and, vaulting in an uncanny way,
reached cover in the branches of the birch trees that were thickly
clustered around the cottages lining “Spirit Lane” west to the bowling
alley. It was through “Ghost Hollow” that the cottagers living to the
westward passed while going to and returning from the boat landing and
the hotel over at the Point.

At the misty dawn on this Sunday morning the forlorn spectres of the
spirits which frequented the small bay were stalking from the water,
answering from the hidden abode among the dark cottages of the lane
the homing call of the doleful strains of a “chella.” In obedience to
their spirit queen they wafted wearily through the rushes and ferns
upon the bank; borne by the receding shades of darkness, they sought
their resting places under the rafters and the eaves of the gruesome
roof of the bowling alley, which crouched along by the vine-covered
wall at the brow of the hill. It was then an Indian, from the tribe of
St. Regis, on the mainland, stole unnoticed upon the scene and beached
his canoe upon the east shore of the bay. He looked about for signs of
the awakening day, then stealthily he dropped on his knees, and from
beneath a covering in the bow of his “dug-out” dragged up upon the bank
a forty-pound maskinonge.

“Hi! hi!” he cackled in the weird voice of his race. “Hotel man like
much Injun.” Then disappearing to the rear of the out buildings, life
to him soon became brighter by visions of “fire water” and a warm
breakfast—he had sold the fish.

There was an ominous quiet hanging upon the early sunlight. The
suppressed calm was something greater than that inspired by the sight
of a few devout people starting out upon the yacht for early mass. The
guests were appearing singly upon the broad verandas of the hotel.
Each in turn as he appeared seemed possessed of the same apprehension,
a nervousness of manner. The sleep of this Sunday morning was the
closing of a week of wild and reckless dissipation among the guests.
Such intense excitement at the island had not been experienced in many
summers. From the wharf of the castle across the bay at the other side
of “Ghost Hollow” the gramophone had sung “coon songs” and recited at
length for several evenings in succession, and a music box in the main
corridor of the hotel had given a continuous performance from twelve to
twelve, till the nerves of the martyred guests had reached a state fit
to be recited in a patent medicine advertisement.

“What’s that I don’t know, a big fish?” And Mr. Hot Water, dressed
in his new bicycle suit, strode excitedly a few steps forward on the
veranda, then backed up, balanced himself and side-stepped a little to
get a fresh start. Then he came on again, with his meerschaum pipe
tightly grasped in his right hand.

“By Gum! That’s a terror. If it isn’t a pickerel it’s a maskinonge.
It’s either one, anyway, if it isn’t a maskinonge. Who caught it?”
Then he looked at the three individuals before him for the first time.
What he saw made him change the meerschaum quickly from the right
to the left hand, and then he blinked his eyes till recalled by Mr.
Du Ponté. When Mr. Hot Water (a regular patron of the hotel, known
to be threatened musically, and also as a local weather authority)
comprehended the outfit before him he saw a large fish, of the
maskinonge family, strung on an inch pole suspended between two trees
eight feet apart. He saw, also, three of his fellow guests at the Point
strangely arrayed before him, one dressed in white duck trousers,
with a red silk scarf tightly knotted above the knee, another with
hand and fore-arm wound with linen handkerchiefs and hung in a sling
across his breast, while the third, Mr. Du Ponté, was, aside from his
loquaciousness, apparently in his normal condition, i. e., he had
escaped from the terrible catastrophe that had overtaken his friends
with no severe injuries to his person.

Mr. Hot Water, being somewhat of a “sport” himself, was led to inquire
for the particulars of the landing of the large fish. After stepping
cautiously around the group for a few minutes, he placed the meerschaum
between his teeth again and began to mutter questions which showed him
to be in a credulous state of mind. “By Gum! I don’t know, by Gum! Now,
I have been here, and I’ve been down to my club fishin’, fishin’; I’ve
been down to Kitskees Island, too. That’s right. My guide—my guide
rowed me down there and all the way back, too. I had out a thousand
feet of line, but I never caught anything like that.” He looked
cunningly out of the corner of his eye toward Mr. Du Ponté and inquired
again what the fish weighed. Three other guests filled with curiosity
had now joined the group, and Ponté began to explain.

“Fifty-seven pounds is the weight of this fish. He has just been
weighed in the ice-house around there back of the hotel, near the
landing.” (Thirty-seven pounds had been the original quotation.) “You
see, Mr. Hot Water, this is no ordinary maskinonge. Take, for instance,
the back extension from shoulder to shoulder, which denotes a terrible
propelling force, and then if you notice these spots (pointing with a
twig he had cut for the purpose) they are not the marks of a common
fish. This ‘ere fish was a leader of his tribe; a king, so to speak,
among his fellows.”

“Perhaps he’s a ‘King Fish’,” suggested Mr. Hot Water, with apparent
concern, at the same time winking both eyes at the “cottager” with the
red handkerchief tied about the trousers at the knee.

“No,” returned Du Ponté; “we have looked him up and we find that having
those spots, and the second bicuspid tooth being black, prove him to be
a regular ‘King Filipino’ maskinonge.”

“By Gum! that’s funny—I wonder how he got here. Must have followed the
‘line boat’ up the Suez Canal, I guess, or p’raps he didn’t. He must
weigh more than fifty-seven pounds—though I don’t know. I guess not,
though those fish grow, those Filipino fish grow very fast. They say
they do, though I couldn’t say myself. I should think he would weigh
more, though, being a king. Here’s Mr. Mac, he ought to know a ‘King
Filipino,’ he goes to the market every day,” continued Mr. Hot Water.
Again he blinked both eyes at the “cottager” with the red handkerchief
about the knee, and the laugh didn’t seem to be on Mr. Hot Water.

Mr. Mac was another weekly visitor at the Island, spending the half
holiday about the rush beds and channels in quest of the sly “Wall
Eye.” For many seasons he had been doing this sort of thing. The
distinguishing mark of the pickerel, the pike and the maskinonge were
as familiar to him as were the quotations on the Exchange, upon which
he was an active operator six days of the week. The responsibility of
Mac’s habit of listening courteously to what a fellow had to say, for
the time carefully concealing his final verdict, dates back for its
origin to the conservative atmosphere of old Glengarry County, where he
had spent the days of his boyhood.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” said Mr. Mac, in a slow, deliberate voice,
slightly pitched, as he reached the inner circle surrounding the
fish suspended between the two small hickory trees. The peak of his
blue yachting cap was pulled well down over his nose, which shielded
from the principals in the “fish game” the twinkle in the eye which
would have been the only clue detectable upon his imperturbable
features to indicate his belief, skeptical or otherwise, concerning
the proceedings. “Well, now, that is a pretty good morning’s catch,
that one fish is. Where did you get him, might I ask?” and Mac raised
his head slowly backward till his eyes from under the shield of his
cap rested on the level of the faces of the three bandaged principals
guarding the fish. “Must have had some trouble, too, in landing him,”
and he indicated with an inclination of the yachting cap toward the red
bandage around the white duck trousers at the knee of the “cottager.”

“Yes,” quickly responded Du Ponté, “I hooked him on a small perch line
out there,” indicating the spot near shore, “in front of my friend’s
cottage, not more than three rods from shore. He can tell you”—nodding
to the “cottager”—“he saw me from his gallery, which is over the small
dock near where I was fishing, throw the pole overboard and heard me
shout for help. Now, friend,” nodding to the man with the wounded limb,
“tell Mr. Mac how we got him ashore.”

“There isn’t much to say about what we did,” began the “cottager,” “but
it’s what the fish did to us. Look at Ribbon Gibbon! His hand lacerated
to the wrist; Du Ponté, here, with a dislocated shoulder, while I have
a jagged wound at the knee.” Mac viewed them as requested, his features
at the time screwed up as though a bright sunlight were shining on his
face.

“I had just finished dressing,” the “cottager” continued, “and had
stepped out on the balcony to see what the weather was to be, before
I went into the tower to run up the flag. Then it was I saw Du Ponté
at his regular trick of fishing the perch bank dry before anybody else
was up and stirring. The next instant I heard a despairing yell, and,
looking in the direction from whence it came, I saw Du Ponté making
frantic efforts to raise the stone anchor to his boat, and calling at
the same time for help to capture his fishing pole, which was making
down stream in a zig-zag course at lightning speed. As I watched the
pole it came, now and then, to the surface. I saw that its mysterious
kidnapper was making for the small bay which lay where you see, there,
between my cottage and the hotel here. An idea seized me, and, with
swiftness born only of excitement, I sped down the stairs, out into the
roadway which leads through ‘Ghost Hollow,’ shouting as I ran to Ribbon
Gibbon, who had just emerged from the hotel, to meet me at the bend of
the bay in ‘Ghost Hollow.’

“‘Who’s drowning?’ said Ribbon.

“‘Nobody,’ said I, all out of breath with excitement; ‘Du Ponté has
hooked a sturgeon, and he made off into the bay here with his pole and
line. Look!’ says I. ‘There it goes again,’ and the bamboo pole shot
inward a couple of rods nearer shore. Ribbon saw the pole this time,
and we set out together to capture the fish.

“‘Let’s take that boat lying over there on the other shore,’ said he,
and we made a run for it. I jumped at once into the boat in my haste
to reach the runaways, but Ribbon stopped to push off from the rocks.
I lost my balance and fell over the sharp end of the oar-lock, and
that’s how I cut my leg. Before I had got righted up again I heard a
terrible splashing, and, looking over the end of the boat into the
bay, I saw Ribbon with an oar striking wildly at something in the
water, a boat length from shore. ‘We’ve got him, we’ve got him!’ he
wailed, hysterically, but suddenly losing his footing he fell full
length upon the monster as he lay struggling to free himself from the
maze of twisted fishlines with which he found himself securely tied.
Immediately a cry of pain came from the water, and Ribbon held up a
bleeding hand. In his fall he had encountered the sharp teeth of the
fish you see here before you in full view.”

At this point in the narrative Ribbon groaned, and, holding his injured
arm at the elbow, turned slowly away. “Stunned by the beating he had
received from Ribbon with the oar,” continued the “cottager,” “and
exhausted by his efforts to free himself from the coils of the line,
Mr. Fish gave up the struggle, and with the aid of Ponté, who had now
reached the shore, we rolled him up upon the beach. We have weighed him
over at the ice-house, and he tips the scales at exactly eighty-seven
pounds and one-quarter.”

The “cottager” then limped to the side of Du Ponté, Ribbon Gibbon edged
up beside the “cottager,” then Mac, after placing his thumbs in the
sleeve-holes of his vest and elevating his head till his eyes had a
chance from under the peak of his cap, a cunning smile o’erspreading
his face, spoke quietly and deliberately.

“Well, gentlemen,” said he, “it is remarkable, and only that I have
the honor of knowing you three chaps, and know you to be absolutely
truthful, I might say to you that you are the best trio of liars I have
ever met.” Then he made a catlike grin at the “cottager,” and, keeping
his thumbs in the arm-holes of his vest, he turned and sauntered out of
the group.

The number of people who now stood gaping with undisguised wonder
pictured on their faces edged in closer, forming a compact circle
surrounding the terrible monster of the deep, and viewing the disabled
subjects of his vicious attack.

Du Ponté was about to order the fish returned to the ice-house, when he
espied emerging from the doorway of the stairs leading to the sleeping
apartments in the annex the tall, graceful figure of Harry Weiner
Sneitzel. “Here is a rare chance,” thought Du Ponté to himself. “Why,
boys,” in an undertone, aside, “the fun is only beginning; now, Ribbon,
it’s your turn. Give it to him good.”

Harry Weiner Sneitzel was a general favorite at the “Point.” He was
endowed with a liberal share of good looks, a fine form, with graceful
movements, and possessed of a rare interpretation of what a courteous
manner should be. His bearing, too, was further dignified by a three
years’ course at a medical college. When Harry stepped out upon the
gravel walk in front of the hotel that Sunday morning, his white canvas
shoes shining with a fresh coat of pipe clay, and his tall, erect
figure swaying to his easy strides, he truly looked “a winner.”

[Illustration: “‘Well, it’s pretty bad,’ said Du Ponté, ‘but Ribbon
needs you the worst of any of us.’”]

As he turned toward the group surrounding the suspended fish and saw
his friends in such evident distress, he hastened his steps in their
direction. An expression of deep sympathy and concern had o’erspread
his classic features, and he elbowed himself quickly to the side of
his companions. “By Jove, old man, it’s pretty tough! Where have you
been?” Ribbon was speaking in an accusing tone, holding his bandaged
arm tenderly to his breast. Harry quickly looked from Du Ponté to the
“cottager” for an explanation. “Well, it’s pretty bad,” said Du Ponté,
“but Ribbon needs you the worst of any of us; his hand is in a bad
shape.” “Oh, you don’t tell me!” replied Harry, sorrowfully. “Can I do
anything for you?” he eagerly inquired.

“By Jove, old chap,” went on Ribbon, with apparent difficulty, “I
thought you had gone away last night on the ‘liner,’ or I would have
been after you sooner. I’m all done up. My hand is in a bad way. This
confounded fish has chewed me up. The fellows here tied this bandage
all about, but it hurts like the deuce, and I’m afraid of blood
poisoning.” “Better do something for him,” muttered Du Ponté. Harry
was deeply impressed with the responsibility that was being heaped
upon him. He placed the palms of his hands over his hips and drew up
his shoulders till they rested akimbo, and then he was completely
confused by the suddenness of the call upon his professional skill.
“Quick, Harry,” snapped the “cottager,” “that hand needs to be dressed
immediately, then afterward you can take a look at the cut in my
leg.” “Say, old chap,” complained Ribbon, “mother will be down here
in a minute; then there will be a deuced row if she sees this.” And
he gingerly handled the bandaged arm for effect. “But I have no—no
medicines,” stammered Harry, just recovering his composure. “Medicine!”
shouted Du Ponté. “Don’t need medicines; get some cotton batting, get
lint, get any old thing—but hustle; there’ll be trouble here soon!”
“That’s right, Harry,” spoke the “cottager” assuringly. “Find the
cotton batting; then we’ll get to work.” “Cotton batting will be good
for that—first rate for a wound,” replied Harry, suddenly awakening.
“Why, we had some yesterday over at your cottage, fixing up your rig
for the masquerade. It’s in the extension; I know where to get it,” and
he bolted through the crowd over the side hill and down through “Ghost
Hollow,” up again on the opposite rise of ground, and fled through the
white birch grove, disappearing into the grounds of the castle across
the bay. Before the arch conspirators could hold a conference as to
their further conduct of the “fish case,” which was now assuming an
alarming aspect, Harry was flying back through “Spirit Lane,” his arms
flapping up and down, his long legs dangling, in his haste resembling
the flight of a water crane startled from a reed bank.

“Spread it out here,” suggested Du Ponté, and he guided Harry to
the edge of the veranda, where he unfolded the roll of cotton. The
“cottager” had limped to the veranda and seated himself. Ribbon
followed him reluctantly. “Go lightly now, old chap; I am afraid it’s
pretty bad,” said Ribbon. “Better dampen that cotton in witch hazel or
Pond’s extract,” suggested the “cottager,” “for, if it’s blood poison
you need an antiseptic.” “Excuse me, old chap, won’t you,” interrupted
Ribbon; “this is quite serious, I fear. Would you mind getting that
bottle of Pond’s extract up on your dresser? It would be safer for you
to use it, don’t you know.” “Oh, of course, I never thought of that.”
And Harry was off again, up the stairway this time, four steps at a
bound, out again on the gravel walk, the bottle of extract clinched
in his excited grasp. As Harry hurried to the side of his suffering
patient to proceed with the bandaging, Mr. Mac had quietly reached the
front. “If you will allow me to offer a suggestion,” he began, in his
cautious, convincing way, “my family physician will arrive here in
half an hour from the city; he will have all the necessaries, which I
believe you require for this job, and it might be safer all around to
postpone this operation till he comes.” “Quite right, quite right,”
Du Ponté replied at once. “Mind you,” continued Mac, “I only wish to
suggest; I am not interfering with your case, Harry.” “Oh, that’s all
right, Mr. Mac,” said Harry; “the doctor probably has antiseptics, and
that will be very necessary in this case.” “You had better go in to
your breakfast, Harry,” suggested Ribbon; “I can stand this for half an
hour, and the other doctor will need you when he comes.” Harry, still
under the mesmeric spell, obeying orders, hurried into the hotel for
breakfast.

The principals fell back, again surrounding the maskinonge, which was
now stiffening in the sun. They were considering the plan of their
escape from the Island in whispered consultation. In the meantime Harry
Weiner Sneitzel had swallowed his first cup of coffee, and began to
think. At the second thought he looked out of the window toward the
suspended fish, then he sank back in his chair; an expression of fear
and incredulity was forming upon his countenance.

“Scamps,” he was heard to remark, as he gazed for the second time out
through the window at the group upon the lawn. Then, quickly rising, he
headed for the office. Hatless he sprang out upon the veranda. Grabbing
up a sabre which was thrown aside by a masquerader of the night before,
he bore down upon the three conspirators who had made him the victim of
their practical joke. As he leaped in one mad stride from the piazza to
the ground his long, thin front locks stood straight up in the wind
like the scalp feathers of an Indian.

“Sneak!” yelled Du Ponté. In a flash the conspirators were out of the
crowd which surrounded the fish. Over the side hill they scampered,
Harry in pursuit, swinging the flashing sabre in the air. Down through
the Hollow they sped, and in their flight, as did the ghost spirits
of the bay, they mysteriously disappeared into the mazes of the dark
cottages, amidst the white birch grove in “Spirit Lane.”

[Illustration]



Transcriber’s Notes:

Quotation marks have been standardized.

  Page   7. Chap. VIII _changed to_
            Chap. VIII.

  Page   8. Chap. XVIX. LeClare to _changed to_
            Chap. XIX. LeClare to

  Page  14. the group, picnicing with their friends _changed to_
            the group, picnicking with their friends

  Page  54. the wheelright’s place _changed to_
            the wheelwright’s

  Page  60. just to show, as he said that there _changed to_
            just to show, as he said, that there

  Page 108. Barbara Sickness she herself had ever known _changed to_
            Barbara. Sickness she herself had ever known

  Page 139. the fulfill the legal requirements _changed to_
            to fulfill the legal requirements

  Page 201. dark cottages of the lane the homeing _changed to_
            dark cottages of the lane the homing

  Page 206. and the laught didn’t seem to be _changed to_
            and the laugh didn’t seem to be

  Page 213. “Better do something for him.” _changed to_
            “Better do something for him,”

  Page 214. at the cut in my leg,” “Say, old chap,” _changed to_
            at the cut in my leg.” “Say, old chap,”

  Page 215. it’s pretty bad.” said Ribbon. _changed to_
            it’s pretty bad,” said Ribbon.





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